May 12, 2017

Posted by orrinj at 6:33 PM


Posted by orrinj at 6:10 PM


My Dinner With Comey: Clapper, Others Dispute Trump Account of Meeting With FBI Director (KEN DILANIAN and PETE WILLIAMS, 5/12/17, NBC)

Trump gave Holt an entirely different account of the dinner, saying that Comey requested it to seek job security, and told the president he was not under investigation.

None of that is true, Comey's associates insist.

A former senior FBI official said Comey would never have told the president he was not under investigation -- contradicting what Trump said.

"He tried to stay away from it [the Russian-ties investigation]," said the former official, who worked closely with Comey and keeps in touch with him. "He would say, 'Look sir, I really can't get into it, and you don't want me to.'"

A current FBI official and others close to Comey confirmed that the director did not request the one-on-one dinner, which happened at the White House a few days after Trump was sworn in.

In his interview with Holt Thursday, Trump said twice that he believed Comey requested the dinner. Trump said Comey asked that Trump keep him on as FBI director, and told the president on three occasions that he was not under investigation as part of the FBI's inquiry into Russian election interference.

"The president is not correct," the former official said. "The White House called [Comey] out of the blue. Comey didn't want to do it. He didn't even want the rank and file at the FBI to know about it."

But in the end, "He's still the commander-in-chief. He's your boss. How do you say no?"


Posted by orrinj at 4:53 PM


Democrats demand Trump release the alleged Comey tapes -- or admit he made them up (Jeva Lange, 5/12/17, The Week)
Nobody has any idea what President Trump meant when he tweeted that former FBI Director James Comey "better hope that there are no 'tapes' of our conversations before he starts leaking to the press," but if such tapes do actually exist, the Democrats want to see them.

Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Calif.), the ranking member of the House Intelligence Committee, said in a statement that the president "should immediately provide any such recordings to Congress or admit, once again, to have made a deliberately misleading -- and in this case threatening -- statement."

...poor Richard Nixon deserves better than comparison to Donald.

Posted by orrinj at 4:49 PM


White House Social Media Director Says Trump Will Travel To 'Palestine' (Aiden Pink, 5/12/17, Forward)

President Trump's upcoming foreign tour later this month, his first trip abroad since his inauguration, will take him to many locations, including Saudi Arabia, Israel and the Vatican. Also on his agenda, according to the White House's director of social media: "Palestine."

Posted by orrinj at 3:38 PM


The Problems With The FBI's Email Investigation Went Well Beyond Comey (Pro Publica, May 12, 2017)

[B]y the time Comey elected, on Oct. 28, to speak, rather than conceal, he and his senior aides had actually known for more than three weeks that agents sifting through files on a laptop belonging to the former congressman Anthony Weiner, as part of a sex-crimes investigation, had stumbled across emails sent by Clinton when she was secretary of state. The agents had been unable, legally, to open the emails, because they fell outside the bounds of their investigation of Weiner.

FBI officials kept the discovery to themselves. Without consulting or even informing the Justice Department lawyers who had worked on the email inquiry, FBI officials concluded that they lacked the evidence to seek a search warrant to examine the emails right away. Several legal experts and Justice Department officials I spoke to now say that this conclusion was unnecessarily cautious. FBI officials also ruled out asking Weiner or his wife, Huma Abedin, one of Clinton's closest aides, to allow access to the laptop -- permission their lawyers told me they would have granted.

Instead, New York agents working the Weiner investigation, which centered on allegations of an explicit online relationship with a 15-year-old girl, were told to continue their search of his laptop as before but to take note of any additional Clinton emails they came across.

In the days that followed, investigators slowly sorted through the laptop's contents, following standard protocols in a case that was anything but standard, and moving with surprisingly little dispatch to assess the significance of the emails.

After weeks of work, the agents concluded that the laptop contained thousands of Clinton messages, a fact they waited at least three more days to share with Comey. Finally, as Comey recounted before Congress last week, the FBI director convened his top aides in his conference room at Bureau headquarters to weigh the political and institutional consequences of what to do next.

At this point, Comey and his deputies were venturing far beyond their typical purview as criminal investigators. Under normal circumstances, department policies discouraged public discussion of developments in ongoing cases of any kind; with the election fast approaching, there was the added sensitivity of avoiding even the perception of interference with the political process. But FBI officials worried that agents in New York who disliked Clinton would leak news of the emails' existence. Like nearly everyone in Washington, senior FBI officials assumed that Clinton would win the election and were evaluating their options with that in mind. The prospect of oversight hearings, led by restive Republicans investigating an FBI "cover-up," made everyone uneasy.

One more misjudgment informed Comey's decision. FBI officials estimated that it would take months to review the emails. Agents wound up completing their work in just a few days. (Most of the emails turned out to be duplicates of messages collected in the previous phase of the Clinton investigation.) Had FBI officials known that the review could be completed before the election, Comey likely wouldn't have said anything before examining the emails. Instead, he announced that nothing had changed in the Clinton case -- on Nov. 6, just two days before the election, and after many millions had already cast their ballots in early voting.

Posted by orrinj at 5:58 AM


An Algorithm Summarizes Lengthy Text Surprisingly Well : Training software to accurately sum up information in documents could have great impact in many fields, such as medicine, law, and scientific research. (Will Knight  May 12, 2017, MIT Technology Review)

An algorithm developed by researchers at Salesforce shows how computers may eventually take on the job of summarizing documents. It uses several machine-learning tricks to produce surprisingly coherent and accurate snippets of text from longer pieces. And while it isn't yet as good as a person, it hints at how condensing text could eventually become automated.

Posted by orrinj at 5:52 AM


Health care costs are bankrupting us (H. Gilbert Welch and Elliott Fisher, May 11, 2017, CNN)

High and rising prices are the most obvious problem. Americans pay much higher prices for specific services than those in other countries. Obscene price increases for selected drugs are familiar: think $600EpiPens and the Turing Pharmaceutical decision to raise Daraprim from $13.50 to $750 a tablet.

But the problem is more general: Among 54 prescription drugs commonly used by older Americans, Medicare pays nearly twice as much per dose as do the government systems in Canada, England and Norway. That's why the President wants to bring our drug prices "way down."

And the price problem extends well beyond drugs: Open heart surgery is 70% more than the next highest country; an appendectomy over two times more. And the price for a day in the hospital is about five times more in the US than other developed countries.

Why are prices so high? An important part is administrative costs: our complicated insurance system requires an army of billing clerks -- employed by hospitals and physicians on one side and private insurance companies on the other. Another is that we use more technology (tests, devices) and labor (nurses) to deliver a "visit" or provide a hospital stay. Plus, some providers simply charge more for a service because they can get away with it.

If lower prices were all that was needed, increased competition might be a plausible solution. But market forces cause medical care to expand: both to provide more services to patients and to produce more patients to serve. While some of this increased volume may be beneficial, much of it produces more mixed effects -- and some is outright harmful.
Excess volume is most relevant at the extremes of medical care: care for the dying and care for those who are well.

There is excessive medical care at the end of life. Most Americans want to die peacefully at home. But most die with a costly hospitalization at the end of life -- one that often involves painful procedures and interventions.

Most Americans want to preserve resources to pass on to their children. But many will die after an extended stay in a long-term care facility -- one that can involve shuttling back and forth from the hospital. Pneumonia used to be considered a friend of the elderly, now it's just another problem to fix. Maybe such efforts lengthen life, but whether they improve quality of life is much more debatable. They certainly work to impoverish our children.

There is also excess at the other extreme: medical care for the well. In the past, people sought medical care because they were sick. Now we encourage people to be evaluated to make sure nothing is wrong.

Posted by orrinj at 5:48 AM


Comey reportedly refused to pledge loyalty to Trump (JULIE PACE, EILEEN SULLIVAN AND JAKE PEARSON May 12, 2017, AP) 

In a private dinner just a week after the election, James Comey refused to pledge his loyalty to US President Donald Trump, close confidants of the former FBI director told The New York Times in a Thursday report.

Comey instead promised Trump "honesty." Trump repeated the request, and Comey repeated his answer. When Trump then pressed for "honest loyalty," Comey told the president, "you will have that," said the associates, who told the newspaper they agreed to keep the story confidential while Comey was FBI director.

Posted by orrinj at 5:40 AM


Trump's attempt to fix the Comey crisis made it worse : The president's interview contradicting the explanation his aides have given for the FBI director's firing raised more questions than it answered. (JOSH DAWSEY , ANNIE KARNI , ELIANA JOHNSON and TARA PALMERI 05/11/17, Politico)

Speaking to NBC's Lester Holt, Trump said he'd planned to fire James Comey "regardless" of whether the Department of Justice recommended it, undermining the claims made by his spokesman, vice president and every other senior aide to the contrary. [...]

Inside the White House, the mood was dour. Several White House officials said aides who didn't need to see the president stayed away from the Oval Office -- and kept their doors closed. [...]

"They're hostages," said longtime political consultant Mark Corallo, who served as Attorney General John Ashcroft's spokesman under President George W. Bush.

In the span of a dizzying few hours, the president contradicted the vice president and his press secretary, who had maintained for two days that Trump fired Comey because Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein suggested it. Trump instead said the department was in "turmoil" even though he'd previously offered praise for Comey, even blowing him a kiss.

The president, whose campaign and transition officials remain under the scrutiny of a congressional probe into potential collusion in Russian government's interference in the 2016 election, also added that he had determined that the controversy over Russian election interference was simply a "made-up story."

Earlier in the day, the acting FBI director contradicted the president and his spokespeople, testifying in the Senate that the investigation into Russian contacts with Trump's campaign is "highly significant" -- though Trump has called for the probe to end immediately and labeled it a taxpayer-funded "charade."

He is why there's a 5th Amendment.
Posted by orrinj at 5:33 AM


Trump follows Obama's lead on natural gas exports (Amy Harder, 5/11/17, Axios)

With the China move, Trump is mostly doubling down on what President Obama got started. The Obama administration approved roughly two dozen natural-gas export applications to countries the U.S. doesn't have free-trade agreements with, according to Energy Department data. The Obama administration also rejiggered the federal review process in 2014 to make it go faster for most companies waiting for approval.