Solarbird (solarbird) wrote,

  • Mood:

good morning, it's 3 may 2017

Pettiness, but only a particularly petty example thereof, in "A Woman Is On Trial For Laughing During A Congressional Hearing." Lots of protesters are being prosecuted. "Robert Reich: Now Trump Is Threatening the Independence of Judges" - gosh, you noticed? From "Historian Timothy Snyder: “It’s pretty much inevitable” that Trump will try to stage a coup and overthrow democracy," which is pretty gloom-and-doomy, but we're going to see how deep the Republican absolutist/only-Repulicans-are-citizens thought runs. "This is Amazing" is a column which seems to lack a headline for this particular entry, but it's about Ivanka's new foundation, most likely to be another money pump.

Don't count any of the white supremacists and neofascists out until they're actually gone; "Rotating players is a typical authoritarian PR tactic," notes Sarah Kendzior‏ on Twitter. And don't even think you'll get internal reflection or accountability; "Trump walks away in middle of @CBSNews interview as soon as he gets pressed on his bogus Obama wire-tapping claims."

I'm mad at Seattle Weekly for the headline of "A Brief, Ugly Altercation at the May Day Anti-Communist March" because it's not an "anti-Communist march," it's a Trump rally and pretty fascist, as you'll see if you watch the videos. It's literally a circle of Trumpist bros getting off on trapping and physically restraining a woman. "The 'Alt-Right' Is Scaring Some Students Away From a Liberal College in Washington" crowd, pretty much.

War on Blue States: "Trump will test Democrats' tax patriotism: Glenn Reynolds." Reynolds is a Trumpist, and what the actual proposal is actually about is shifting even more of the tax burdon over onto blue states, because apparently red states - which are massively subsidised by blue states, on the whole, now - need to be subsidised even more. Understand this: _this is yet more economic war on Democratic-controlled states_, a form of looting and provision to reward Trumpists.

Looting is always part of this kind of agenda, of course. "Congress to rent Secret Service space at Trump Tower as part of security spending bill" is just a small sample. "Trump Adviser Kushner’s Undisclosed Partners Include Goldman and Soros," says the Wall Street Journal. "Man Trump Named to Fix Mortgage Markets Figured in Infamous Financial Crisis Episode" - by helping create some of the most toxic CDOs.

"US ISPs claim to love net neutrality while praising death of net neutrality rules," of course. Here are "5 Things to Know About the Next Battle Over Net Neutrality."

Civil rights are being thrown into the dumpster as quickly as possible. African-Americans are getting the worst of it, as always. "Justice Department will not charge Baton Rouge officers in fatal shooting of Alton Sterling," "Family angry at reports of DOJ decision in police shooting death of Alton Sterling." Alton Sterling was legally selling CDs outside a store with the store owner's permission. He did this all the time. Cops showed up, attacked him, and shot him dead. Nothing; the Sessions era will be one of legal law-enforcement lynchings.

"White House aims for Thursday signing of religious liberty executive order" would be the anti-LGBT order leaked in February, reportedly, letting any fundamentalist asshole refuse to do their jobs for any reason if they decide they don't like who they're supposed to be serving. Queers are nr. 1 on that agenda, but women doing The Wrong Things and racial minorities will be a close nr. 2. "Trump Administration Reverses Course on Obamacare’s Civil Rights Protections" ends a fleet of executive protections for pregnant people and for transgendered people.

"Trump’s Family Planning Pick Believes ‘Contraception Doesn’t Work’." Not even in some greater-social-good sense, she's a contraception denialist. This is pretty common in fundamentalist circles, mostly amongst people who want to _ban_ contraception, so this is very much a worst-case appointee. Meanwhile, "Trump Army secretary pick gave a lecture arguing against the theory of evolution."

Finally, "New changes to essential benefits in GOP health bill could jeopardize protections against catastrophic costs, even for people with job-based coverage." Don't think you're safe just because you've got employer coverage. "The Whole Grain Terror In School Lunches Is About To End" deals with weakening standards for school lunch nutrition. Finally, "How a Professional Climate Change Denier Discovered the Lies and Decided to Fight for Science" and "EPA website removes climate science site from public view after two decades."

Good luck out there.

----- 1 -----
A Woman Is On Trial For Laughing During A Congressional Hearing
Activist was arrested by a rookie cop after laughing at a claim that Jeff Sessions treated "all Americans equally."
By Ryan J. Reilly | 2 March 2017

WASHINGTON ― The U.S. Capitol Police officer who decided to arrest an activist because she briefly laughed during Attorney General Jeff Sessions’ confirmation hearing in January is a rookie cop who had never conducted an arrest before nor worked at a congressional hearing. Nevertheless, prosecutors persisted this week in pursuing charges against the 61-year-old woman the rookie had taken into custody.

Katherine Coronado of the U.S. Capitol Police was in her second week on the job when she was assigned to keep watch over Sessions’ confirmation hearing on Jan. 10. Coronado was involved in the arrest of Desiree Fairooz, an activist affiliated with the group Code Pink, after Fairooz laughed when Sen. Richard Shelby (R-Ala.) said that Sessions’ record of “treating all Americans equally under the law is clear and well-documented.” (Sessions had been rejected as a federal judge in the 1980s because of concerns about his views on race, and back when he was still a Democrat, Shelby himself actually ran an ad suggesting Sessions had called the Ku Klux Klan “good ole boys.”)

Fairooz was seated in the back of the room, and her laugh did not interrupt Shelby’s introductory speech. But, according to the government, the laugh amounted to willful “disorderly and disruptive conduct” intended to “impede, disrupt, and disturb the orderly conduct” of congressional proceedings. The government also charged her with a separate misdemeanor for allegedly parading, demonstrating or picketing within a Capitol, evidently for her actions after she was being escorted from the room.

A video shot by a HuffPost reporter that shows Fairooz being arrested was included as evidence in the trial, which will continue at Superior Court in D.C. on Tuesday. The video jurors saw Monday shows Coronado taking Fairooz into custody as she’s assisted by fellow officers.

----- 2 -----
Robert Reich: Now Trump Is Threatening the Independence of Judges
Newsweek Opinion | By Robert Reich On 4/27/17

[Note: He's been going after judicial independence the whole time, but]

One way dictators take over democracies is by threatening the independence of a nation’s courts. Donald Trump is doing just this.

Connect the following dots:

1. In January, Trump blasted a federal judge for staying his travel ban. “The opinion of this so-called judge, which essentially takes law-enforcement away from our country, is ridiculous and will be overturned!” he tweeted.

2. In February, after the judge made the stay permanent, Trump issued a veiled threat: “Just cannot believe a judge would put our country in such peril. If something happens blame him and court system. People pouring in. Bad!”

3. Last week, after another federal judge issued a nationwide injunction blocking Trump’s travel ban, Trump’s Attorney General, Jeff Sessions, said “I really am amazed that a judge sitting on an island in the Pacific can issue an order that stops the president of the United States from what appears to be clearly his statutory and constitutional power.”

4. On Tuesday, after another federal judge blocked the Trump administration from enforcing a threat to take away funds from sanctuary cities, the White House issued a statement condemning the judge as “unelected.”

----- 3 -----
Historian Timothy Snyder: “It’s pretty much inevitable” that Trump will try to stage a coup and overthrow democracy
Yale historian and author of the new book "On Tyranny" says we may have one year left to save American democracy
Salon | 1 May 2017 | Chauncey DeVega

American democracy is in crisis. The election of Donald Trump feels like a state of emergency made normal.

Trump has threatened violence against his political enemies. He has made clear he does not believe in the norms and traditions of American democracy — unless they serve his interests. Trump and his advisers consider a free press to be enemies of his regime. Trump repeatedly lies and has a profoundly estranged relationship with empirical reality. He uses obvious and naked racism, nativism and bigotry to mobilize his voters and to disparage entire groups of people such as Latinos and Muslims.

Trump is threatening to eliminate an independent judiciary and wants to punish judges who dare to stand against his illegal and unconstitutional mandates. In what appears to be a violation of the emoluments clause of the Constitution, Trump is using the office of the presidency to enrich himself, his family and his inner circle by peddling influence and access to corporations, foreign countries and wealthy individuals. Trump and his representatives also believe that he is above the law and cannot be prosecuted for any crimes while in office.

What can the American people do to resist Donald Trump? What lessons can history teach about the rise of authoritarianism and fascism and how democracies collapse? Are there ways that individuals can fight back on a daily basis and in their own personal lives against the political and cultural forces that gave rise to Trump’s movement? How long does American democracy have before the poison that Donald Trump and the Republican Party injected into the country’s body politic becomes lethal?

In an effort to answer these questions, I recently spoke with Timothy Snyder, a professor of history at Yale University. He is the award-winning author of numerous books including the recent “Black Earth: The Holocaust as History and Warning” and “Bloodlands: Europe Between Hitler and Stalin.” Snyder’s new book, “On Tyranny: Twenty Lessons from the Twentieth Century,” explores how the American people can fight back against Donald Trump’s incipient authoritarian regime.

Our conversation has been edited for length and clarity. A longer version can be heard on my podcast, available on Salon’s Featured Audio page.

----- 4 -----
This is Amazing
Talking Points Memo
By Josh Marshall Published April 26, 2017

This is really quite astounding. In this morning’s edition of Mike Allen’s not-Playbook from Axios he introduces what seems to be Ivanka Trump setting up something that sounds a lot like the Clinton Foundation, only in this case run from within the White House by a top presidential aide who is also the President’s daughter, who also runs her own large international company and who also has two brothers who are currently running the President/Father’s company and trying to rake in as much money as possible on the fame and power of the presidency. Also, let’s be honest, the Trumps are a notoriously corrupt family, especially when it comes to running foundations.

No less astounding is that Allen never mentions that there’s anything problematic about this or that it doesn’t mimic in a wildly more corrupt way what President Trump nominally ran most of the 2016 campaign against.

----- 5 -----
US ISPs claim to love net neutrality while praising death of net neutrality rules
ISPs say they support net neutrality—but oppose FCC's authority to enforce it.
Jon Brodkin (US) - Apr 26, 2017

The nation's biggest home Internet and mobile broadband providers say they're big fans of net neutrality—but they're also really glad that the Federal Communications Commission is preparing to dismantle its net neutrality rules.

"We continue to strongly support a free and open Internet and the preservation of modern, strong, and legally enforceable net neutrality protections," Comcast CEO Brian Roberts said in a statement today. "We don’t block, throttle, or discriminate against lawful content delivered over the Internet, and we are committed to continuing to manage our business and network with the goal of providing the best possible consumer experience.”

Comcast's blocking of BitTorrent traffic in 2007 helped start a decade-long debate over how the FCC should enforce net neutrality. Net neutrality rules were issued by the FCC in 2010, but they were struck down by a federal appeals court in 2014 after a lawsuit was filed by Verizon. The court said that the FCC could not enforce its net neutrality rules against blocking, throttling, and paid prioritization without reclassifying ISPs as common carriers under Title II of the Communications Act.

An FCC decision in 2015 reinstated the net neutrality rules by reclassifying ISPs under Title II. Now, ISPs claim they support net neutrality rules but not the use of the legal authority that allows the FCC to enforce those net neutrality rules.

"We fully support reversal of Title II classification, a 1930s statute that is outdated and harms consumers by creating a cloud over broadband investment decisions and innovation," Roberts wrote today. Roberts said he wants "a fresh constructive dialogue," but he did not say exactly how net neutrality should be enforced.

----- 6 -----
A Brief, Ugly Altercation at the May Day Anti-Communist March
A debate between an older woman and several male Trump supporters escalated to shouting and shoving.
Casey Jaywork | Seattle Weekly | Tue May 2nd, 2017

Marti McKenna is 5’4” and 52 years old. She spent yesterday afternoon with her daughter at the peaceful May Day rally at Judkins Park, petting dogs in raincoats and giggling at a toddler playing peek-a-boo with a stranger.

Then she went by herself to Westlake Park, where she thought that same May Day march was headed. It wasn’t. Instead, a couple hundred Trump supporters purporting to protect free speech from black bloc (who, incidentally, were nearly absent) were milling around, sporadically chanting “USA! USA!”

“She didn’t know she was walking into a Trump-supporter counter rally,” said her daughter, Jessie McKenna (who has written for Seattle Weekly in the past), “and her miscalculation would be almost comical if it weren’t for the events that would later occur.”

McKenna was debating a rallier about immigrants when another rallier told her to “Let this man talk.” She did not appreciate the interruption, and said so. Fifteen seconds later, she was spinning around looking for an exit, shouting, “Get the fuck away from me! Do not get in a circle around me and act like you’re intimidating, because you’re not fucking intimidating!” Several men had formed a circle around her, blocking her exit.

“Public property,” replied a young man wearing camo and a helmet.

“Don’t pay attention to her,” said an older man in a leather biker vest. Then: “Shut the hell up.”

“Get away from me!” yelled McKenna.

“You want the attention, don’t you?” said a man.

“Yeah, she does,” said a man. “Yeah! She does!”

----- 7 -----
Trump will test Democrats' tax patriotism: Glenn Reynolds
Glenn Harlan Reynolds Published 12:56 p.m. ET May 1, 2017
USA Today

[The writer is a Trumpist. The actual - and specific - intent is to shift _even more_ tax burden onto blue states, who already are (in almost all cases) large tax exporters, and off of red states. This is more economic warfare against Democratic-controlled states and Democratic voters, and is a form of shared looting to benefit their supporters.]

Democrats have been saying for years that we need tax increases, and that paying taxes is one of the greatest forms of patriotism. Now it looks like President Trump is going to put their beliefs to the test.

Trump’s new tax plan would hit blue states hardest, by eliminating the federal deductibility of state income and property taxes. That’s going to make it harder for blue states to maintain the high tax rates they’ve traditionally levied.

Right now, if you pay state property or income taxes, you can deduct them against your federal income taxes. In effect, it means that if you’re in a high federal bracket, your state taxes may be offset by that federal deduction to the tune of 40% or more.

End the federal deduction, though, and high state taxes come straight out of taxpayers’ pockets with no offset. As economist Nicole Kaeding told The Hill, by allowing deductions for state taxes, “the federal government is essentially subsidizing high tax rates in states like California and New York.”

----- 8 -----
Congress to rent Secret Service space at Trump Tower as part of security spending bill
Eric Lutz | | 2 May 2017

[See also: ]

Later this week, Congress is expected to approve a spending measure that will provide $120 million to protect President Donald Trump and his family — a hefty expenditure that reportedly includes money for the Secret Service to rent space at Trump Tower.

According to the New York Times, an additional $23 million is earmarked for the costs of outfitting Trump Tower, the office and residential building owned by the president, with "the necessary equipment and personnel, as well as to rent space inside the building for agency personnel."

About half of the $120 million will be allocated toward the cost of protecting Trump on his frequent travels and additional security for first lady Melania Trump, who continues to live in Trump Tower with the couple's son, Baron.

The other $60 million will reimburse localities like New York City and Florida's Palm Beach County in "recognition of the extraordinary costs borne by a small number of jurisdictions in which a residence of the president is located," according to the legislation as reported by the Times.

----- 9 -----
Trump Adviser Kushner’s Undisclosed Partners Include Goldman and Soros
Investments show ties to major finance and technology names
By Jean Eaglesham, Juliet Chung and Lisa Schwartz
Updated May 3, 2017 | The Wall Street Journal

[also here: ]

Jared Kushner, the president’s son-in-law and senior adviser, is currently in business with Goldman Sachs Group Inc. and billionaires George Soros and Peter Thiel, according to people familiar with the matter and securities filings.

The previously undisclosed business relationships with titans of the financial and technology worlds are through a real-estate tech startup called Cadre that Mr. Kushner cofounded and currently partly owns.

Goldman and Messrs. Soros and Thiel, as well as other billionaires' firms, also have stakes in the company, which is based in a Manhattan building owned by the Kushner family's company, according to people close to Cadre.

----- 10 -----
The 'Alt-Right' Is Scaring Some Students Away From a Liberal College in Washington
The University of Washington, one of the United States’ top educational institutions, has been in the news recently for reasons other than academic success. In January, a protester was shot in the stomach outside an on-campus event for a featured “alt-right” guest speaker, Milo Yiannopoulos.
Charles Davis | 30 April 2017 | attn:

[This is my old neighbourhood. I've posted about finding white supremacist flyers and such near my old house.]

Now, while the national conversation focuses on the free speech rights of right-wing speakers, some are concluding the school is incapable of providing a safe and welcoming environment to those — the undocumented, the non-white, and anyone on the left — who are so often the targets of right-wing speech.

Over 44,700 students attended UW in 2015, of which 43.3 percent identify as white, 27.6 percent as Asian, 7.1 percent as Latino, and 3.5 percent as African-American. That makes the school significantly more diverse than Washington state as a whole, where whites make up more than 80 percent of the population, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.

The diverse student population doesn’t exist in a vacuum, however.

According to the school’s Bias Incident Advisory Committee, there have been “two significant upticks” in reported bias incidents since November 2016. “The first occurred immediately after the U.S. presidential election,” it said in a March 1 report, “and the second occurred after the presidential inauguration.”

The day of the inauguration is when UW College Republicans planned to have Yiannopoulous, a figurehead of the alt-right movement who created a “whites-only” college scholarship, speak on campus. The invitation itself was controversial: thousands signed a petition calling on UW President Ana Mari Cauce to cancel the talk, citing a school policy against “discriminatory harassment” and concerns Milo was “inciting his followers to engage in similar acts of harassment.”

----- 11 -----
Rotating players is a typical authoritarian PR tactic.
Sarah Kendzior‏ - on Twitter - 2 May 2017

Seriously, people, ignore the breathless press on rotating players. Look at 1) clearance 2) access 3) admin condemnation or lack thereof. I've been explaining to you since November that rotating players is a typical authoritarian PR tactic.
[More at link]

----- 12 -----
Man Trump Named to Fix Mortgage Markets Figured in Infamous Financial Crisis Episode
Former Morgan Stanley banker once dumped "shitbag" CDOs on clients
By Matt Taibbi | Rolling Stone | 29 April 2017

In early 2007, a group of Morgan Stanley bankers bundled a group of subprime mortgage instruments into a package they hoped to sell to investors. The only problem was, they couldn't come up with a name for the package of mortgage-backed derivatives, which they all knew were doomed.

The bankers decided to play around with potential names. In a series of emails back and forth, they suggested possibilities. "Jon is voting for 'Hitman,'" wrote one. "How about 'Nuclear Holocaust 2007-1?'" wrote another, adding a few more possible names: Shitbag, Mike Tyson's Punchout and Fludderfish.

Eventually they stopped with the comedy jokes, gave the pile of "nuclear" assets a more respectable name – "Stack" – and sold the $500 million Collateralized Debt Obligation with a straight face to the China Development Industrial Bank. Within three years, the bank was suing a series of parties, including Morgan Stanley, to recover losses from the toxic fund.

The name on the original registration document for Stack? Craig S. Phillips, then president of Morgan Stanley's ABS (Asset-Backed Securities) division. Phillips may not have written the emails in question, but he was the boss of this sordid episode, and it was his name on the comedy-free document that was presented to Chinese investors.

This is just another detail in the emerging absurd narrative that is Donald Trump naming Phillips, of all people, to head up the effort to reform the Government-Sponsored Entities, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac.

----- 13 -----
Trump walks away in middle of @CBSNews interview as soon as he gets pressed on his bogus Obama wire-tapping claims
CBS News, posted by Aaron Vallely | 1 May 2017 on Twitter
[Video at link]

----- 14 -----
Justice Department will not charge Baton Rouge officers in fatal shooting of Alton Sterling
The Washington Post | By Matt Zapotosky and Wesley Lowery May 2, 2017

The Justice Department has decided not to bring charges against the officers involved in the death of Alton Sterling, whose videotaped shooting by police in Baton Rouge last summer prompted unrest across the city, and is planning to reveal in the next 24 hours that it has closed the probe, according to four people familiar with the matter.

As of Tuesday afternoon, the Sterling family had yet to be informed by the Justice Department of the decision, and it is unclear how and when the department will announce its findings.

“We have not heard nor received an update and are unaware of any charges that may or may not be filed,” said Ryan Julison, a spokesman for the Sterling family’s attorneys. “We have not received word, nor has the family been given any notice of upcoming updates regarding this case.”

The case will be the first time under Attorney General Jeff Sessions that the department has publicly declined to prosecute officers investigated for possible wrongdoing in a high-profile case, and officials in Baton Rouge have been girding for a possible reaction there.

----- 15 -----
Family angry at reports of DOJ decision in police shooting death of Alton Sterling
By Steve Almasy, Azadeh Ansari and Eliott C. McLaughlin, CNN
Wed May 3, 2017

(CNN)The family of Alton Sterling was angry after media reports surfaced indicating a decision had been made on whether to prosecute two Louisiana police officers in his death.

Sterling was outside a Baton Rouge convenience store on July 5 when officers responded to a report of a man with a gun outside the store. A bystander's video shows the police pinning Sterling, a black man, to the ground before shooting him -- leading to widespread criticism and renewed "Black Lives Matter" protests.

The Washington Post and The New York Times first reported Tuesday that multiple sources told them the US Justice Department, which led the investigation into the shooting, will close its investigation and not seek charges against the officers.

----- 16 -----
White House aims for Thursday signing of religious liberty executive order
By Timothy Alberta and Shane Goldmacher | Politico | 05/02/17

President Donald Trump has invited conservative leaders to the White House on Thursday for what they expect will be the ceremonial signing of a long-awaited—and highly controversial—executive order on religious liberty, according to multiple people familiar with the situation.

Two senior administration officials confirmed the plan, though one cautioned that it hasn’t yet been finalized, and noted that lawyers are currently reviewing and fine-tuning the draft language. Thursday is the National Day of Prayer, and the White House was already planning to celebrate the occasion with faith leaders.

The signing would represent a major triumph for Vice President Mike Pence—whose push for religious-freedom legislation backfired mightily when he served as governor of Indiana—and his allies in the conservative movement.

The original draft order, which would have established broad exemptions for people and groups to claim religious objections under virtually any circumstance, was leaked to The Nation on Feb. 1—the handiwork, many conservatives believed, of Ivanka Trump and Jared Kushner, who have sought to project themselves as friendly to the LGBT community. Liberals blasted the draft order as government-licensed discrimination, and the White House distanced itself from the leaked document in a public statement.

Pence and a small team of conservative allies quickly began working behind the scenes to revise the language, and in recent weeks have ratcheted up the pressure on Trump to sign it. The new draft is being tightly held, but one influential conservative who saw the text said it hasn’t been dialed back much—if at all—since the February leak. “The language is very, very strong,” the source said.

----- 17 -----
Trump Administration Reverses Course on Obamacare’s Civil Rights Protections
The latest move heightens the Trump administration's stealth campaign against LGTBQ people and regulatory power against health-care benefits for vulnerable populations.
May 2, 2017, 6:08pm Christine Grimaldi | Rewire

The Trump administration plans to roll back sweeping federal nondiscrimination provisions enacted under the Affordable Care Act (ACA) that protect transgender people and pregnant people.

The U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) filed a motion for what’s known as a voluntary remand and stay. Doing so will pause ongoing litigation in a conservative Texas federal district court that had temporarily blocked the Section 1557 regulations and send the regulations back to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS)—presumably to gut them.

DOJ officials in March decided not to challenge District Court Judge Reed O’Connor’s injunction, which will remain in place while the regulations are remanded back to HHS.

Section 1557 of the ACA prohibits entities receiving federal funds from discrimination on the basis of race, skin color, national origin, sex, age, or disability. A person’s sex includes discrimination based on pregnancy, gender identity, and sex stereotyping in all such health-care programs and activities. That means even religious and religiously affiliated providers that accept money from the federal government can’t deny patients health care or health coverage. If they do, Section 1557 provides a legal vehicle to sue for, say, people seeking sterilization, those seeking abortion care, or transgender patients seeking any health-care services. Connor’s ruling blocked enforcement of Section 1557 broadly, though people can still sue for discrimination under the provision.

----- 18 -----
Trump’s Family Planning Pick Believes ‘Contraception Doesn’t Work’
May 1, 2017, 1:20pm Ally Boguhn & Christine Grimaldi | Rewire

“It is a cruel irony to appoint an opponent of birth control to oversee the nation’s only federal program dedicated to family planning,” said Dawn Laguens, executive vice president of Planned Parenthood Federation of America. “Teresa Manning’s appointment is unacceptable."

President Trump will reportedly appoint a notorious birth control foe to helm the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ (HHS) office charged with ensuring people with low incomes have access to family planning services.

Politico first reported that Teresa Manning is Trump’s top pick to run the Office of Population Affairs (OPA). Rewire confirmed Manning is listed as deputy assistant secretary for population affairs in the HHS employee directory.

According to its webpage, OPA “administers the Title X program and serves as the focal point to advise the secretary and the assistant secretary for health on a wide range of reproductive health topics, including family planning, adolescent pregnancy, sterilization, and other population issues.” But Manning’s publicly stated views on contraception undercut her duty to administer about $286 million in federal Title X family planning funds to assist some of the nation’s most vulnerable populations.

In a 2003 interview with NPR-affiliate WBUR, Manning, who went by Teresa Wagner at the time, dismissed pro-choice advocates who point out that offering access to comprehensive contraceptive care can reduce the number of abortions. The segment examined “pro-life views” in the shadow of Roe v. Wade. “There really is no evidence to support that,” Manning falsely claimed, later adding that “contraception doesn’t work” and that “its efficacy is very low.”

----- 19 -----
Trump Army secretary pick gave a lecture arguing against the theory of evolution
By Andrew Kaczynski and Chris Massie, CNN | May 2, 2017

(CNN)President Donald Trump's pick to be secretary of the Army, former army doctor Mark Green, is a self-identified "creationist" who delivered a lecture arguing against the theory of evolution.

Green's views and past statements are facing scrutiny ahead of his confirmation hearing, which has yet to be scheduled. If confirmed, Green wouldn't be the only prominent doctor and member of the Trump administration to reject evolution. HUD Secretary Ben Carson has also made similar arguments and once said the theory of evolution was encouraged by Satan.

Green, a Tennessee state senator, has faced opposition from Democrats and LGBT groups over his past anti-LGBT comments. In one comment, from September, Green said, "If you poll the psychiatrists, they're going to tell you that transgender is a disease."


Green claims that the theory of evolution violates physical law, using the example of a lawn mower left out in a backyard.

"The evolutionists have their bad argument, too," Green said. They say, 'Well, I can't explain how it went from this to incredibly complex, so it must have been billions of years.' That's kind of where they put their faith. The truth of the matter is is the second law of thermo fluid dynamics says that the world progresses from order to disorder not disorder to order.

"If you put a lawn mower out in your yard and a hundred years come back, it's rusted and falling apart. You can't put parts out there and a hundred years later it's gonna come back together. That is a violation of a law of thermodynamics. A physical law that exists in the universe."

[Leaving aside the asinine - and inapplicable - analogy, this is a common abuse of thermodynamics by fundamentalists; what he's referencing applies to closed systems; the Earth is not a closed system; it has an external power source called "the sun."]

----- 20 -----
5 Things to Know About the Next Battle Over Net Neutrality
Ted Johnson | Variety | April 26, 2017

The last time that net neutrality was one of the raging policy debates in D.C., protesters routinely appeared outside FCC headquarters, demonstrators blocked the FCC chairman’s home driveway to prevent him from getting to work, and John Oliver helped ignite an outcry that led to almost 4 million comments to the agency.

Based on the remarks of current FCC Chairman Ajit Pai, who wants to reverse the regulatory foundation for the rules, more than likely weakening them, he is expecting the battle ahead. Known for a rather sunny disposition, he actually was a bit pugnacious on Wednesday as he announced his plans, telling the group from FreedomWorks that “this is a fight that we intend to wage and it is a fight we are going to win.”

By all indications, it will be a fight. DemandProgress, which was involved in the last battle, is planning to “drive over one million grassroots actions” this time around. Another group, Free Press, handed out fliers outside of Pai’s speech.

Here’s what to watch out for in the coming months:

----- 21 -----
New changes to essential benefits in GOP health bill could jeopardize protections against catastrophic costs, even for people with job-based coverage
Matthew Fiedler Friday, March 24, 2017 | The Brookings Institute

Editor's Note:
This analysis is part of The Leonard D. Schaeffer Initiative for Innovation in Health Policy, which is a partnership between the Center for Health Policy at Brookings and the USC Schaeffer Center for Health Policy & Economics. The Initiative aims to inform the national health care debate with rigorous, evidence-based analysis leading to practical recommendations using the collaborative strengths of USC and Brookings.

One of the core functions of health insurance is to protect people against financial ruin and ensure that they get the care they need if they get seriously ill. To help ensure that insurance plans met that standard, the Affordable Care Act (ACA) required plans to limit enrollees’ annual out-of-pocket spending and barred plans from placing annual or lifetime limits on the total amount of care they would cover.

These protections against catastrophic costs apply to almost all private insurance plans, including the plans held by the roughly 156 million people who get their coverage through an employer. A provision added Thursday night to American Health Care Act (AHCA), the health care legislation currently being debated in the House of Representatives, could jeopardize those protections—not just for people with individual market plans, but also for those with employer coverage.

Specifically, the Thursday’s manager’s amendment would modify the “essential health benefit” standards that govern what types of services must be covered by individual and small group market insurance plans. The intent of the amendment is reportedly to eliminate the federal benefit standards that currently exist and instead allow each state to define its own list of essential health benefits. While some have suggested that the drafting of the amendment makes its actual impact unclear, this blog post examines the consequences if the amendment achieved its reported intent.

Much analysis of potential changes to essential health benefits has focused on the potentially severe consequences that could befall a state’s individual health insurance market in the absence of effective essential health benefit requirements. However, weakening essential health benefit standards could also have important negative consequences for the coverage offered by employers of all sizes because it would weaken the ACA’s guarantee of protection against catastrophic costs. That is because the ACA’s ban on annual and lifetime limits and its requirement that plans limit enrollees’ annual out-of-pocket spending only apply to spending on essential health benefits. Thus, as the definition of essential health benefits narrows, the scope of the ACA’s guarantee of protection against catastrophic costs shrinks as well. In the absence of any essential health benefit standards at all, these protections would effectively disappear because they would apply to an empty set of health benefits.

In practice, the House proposal appears likely to seriously weaken the definition of essential health benefits and thereby seriously weaken the ACA’s guarantee of protection against catastrophic costs.

----- 22 -----
The Whole Grain Terror In School Lunches Is About To End
Trump's agriculture secretary wants to "make school meals great again."
Posted on May 01, 2017, 21:07 GMT | Buzzfeed
Molly Hensley-Clancy

A week into the tenure of agriculture secretary Sonny Perdue, the Trump administration is scrapping parts of Michelle Obama's initiative to make school lunches healthier— a costly and at times unpopular program that has for years been the target of intense industry lobbying.

The Trump administration said Monday that it would allow schools flexibility when it came to rules about the inclusion of whole grains, flavored milk, and salt in the National School Lunch Program, which is administered by USDA. Some schools will be granted exemptions from the whole grain requirement in the upcoming year; lunches won't be required to get less salty; and cafeterias will be allowed to offer flavored 1% milk again.

"We all know that meals can’t be nutritious if they’re not consumed — if they’re put in the trash," said Perdue in an announcement at a school in Virginia, where he ate a balanced meal of chicken nuggets and salad.

The Obama regulations, meant to combat childhood obesity, required chocolate or strawberry-flavored milk to be nonfat and mandated that at least 51% of grains be whole. Such rules were initially unpopular and sparked social media outrage when they were introduced in 2014. Teens tweeted photographs of their sparse meals, devoid of things like french fries and other carbohydrates, with the hashtag #thanksmichelleobama.

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How a Professional Climate Change Denier Discovered the Lies and Decided to Fight for Science
Sharon Lerner | The Intercept | 2017-04-28

The hardest part of reversing the warming of the planet may be convincing climate change skeptics of the need to do so. Although scientists who study the issue overwhelming agree that the earth is undergoing rapid and profound climate changes due to the burning of fossil fuels, a minority of the public remains stubbornly resistant to that fact. With temperatures rising and ice caps melting — and that small minority in control of both Congress and the White House — there seems no project more urgent than persuading climate deniers to reconsider their views. So we reached out to Jerry Taylor, whose job as president of the Niskanen Center involves turning climate skeptics into climate activists.

It might seem like an impossible transition, except that Taylor, who used to be staff director for the energy and environment task force at the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) and vice president of the Cato Institute, made it himself.

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EPA website removes climate science site from public view after two decades
The Washington Post | By Chris Mooney and Juliet Eilperin April 29 2017

The Environmental Protection Agency announced Friday evening that its website would be “undergoing changes” to better represent the new direction the agency is taking, triggering the removal of several agency websites containing detailed climate data and scientific information.

One of the websites that appeared to be gone had been cited to challenge statements made by the EPA’s new administrator, Scott Pruitt. Another provided detailed information on the previous administration’s Clean Power Plan, including fact sheets about greenhouse gas emissions on the state and local levels and how different demographic groups were affected by such emissions.

The changes came less than 24 hours before thousands of protesters were set to march in Washington and around the country in support of political action to push back against the Trump administration’s rollbacks of former president Barack Obama’s climate policies.

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Tags: #thanksmichelleobama, fascism watch, politics
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