June 9, 2017

Posted by orrinj at 10:40 PM


Trump nominates new round of federal and district judges (JOSH DELK AND LYDIA WHEELER, 6/08/17, The Hill)
Carrie Severino, chief counsel and policy director of the Judicial Crisis Network, complimented Trump's latest round of judicial nominations, writing in the conservative National Review that "it's a fantastic list, again drawing from his previous success from his Supreme Court list... many of the nominees are well known in the conservative legal movement..." Severino said that these nominations are a "major victory" for Americans concerned with constitutionalism in the judiciary.
Trump also nominated University of Pennsylvania Law Professor Stephanos Bibas for the 3rd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. The White House called Bibas "one of the nation's leading experts in criminal law and procedure." Also nominated is Ralph Erickson of North Dakota for the 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.
Eid and Bibas are both listed by the conservative Federalist Society as "legal experts."
Jonathan Alder, a professor at Case Western Reserve University School of Law, stated "President Trump continues to put forward superlative judicial nominees with sterling credentials and impressive intellects."

Posted by orrinj at 4:02 PM



In a paper published Wednesday in The New England Journal of Medicine, Yale University scientists analyzed invasive tumor data from hundreds of thousands of breast cancer patients nationwide. The researchers divided the tumors according biological features--how closely they resembled normal breast cells and whether they had certain hormone receptors. Turns out those features could predict whether a small tumor would grow into a big one. Most don't. And those that do become problematic grow so quickly that mammograms rarely identified them before patients could feel a lump.

"For 100 years we thought that small cancers had a better prognosis because we caught them earlier," says surgeon and study co-author Donald Lannin. "But it turns out small cancers have better outcomes because they're fundamentally different in their composition." [...]

Until recently, the prevailing theory among cancer researchers was that most breast cancers have a lead time of three to four years, give or take. (Lead time being the time between when a mammogram can discern a tumor, and when that tumor becomes problematic.) But Lannin's study showed that most aggressive cancers progress to life-threatening within just a year or two. On the other hand, a large proportion of small cancers grow so slowly that they have a lead time of as long as 20 years. Since breast cancer is most frequently diagnosed among women aged 55 to 64, that means that some patients may never actually get cancer. These women could avoid the expense and side effects of chemotherapy, hormone therapies, and mastectomies, all of which remain blunt instruments of disease control.

Nothing better illustrates the overlap of comedy and tragedy than cancer "survivors" who insist that their surgery worked because they didn't develop cancer. 

Posted by orrinj at 3:32 PM


This former GOP congressman voted to impeach Clinton. He thinks Trump's transgressions are worse. (Becca Stanek, 6/09/17, The Week)

House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) claims he still wouldn't be calling for impeachment even if a Democrat were in President Trump's shoes, but former GOP congressman Bob Inglis isn't buying it. In a tweet Friday morning, Inglis chided Ryan, writing, "You know this isn't true."

.@SpeakerRyan you know this isn't true. You know that you would be inquiring into impeachment if this were a D. https://t.co/mBFn4aCGi4

-- Bob Inglis (@bobinglis) June 9, 2017

When CNN's Jake Tapper retweeted Inglis' post insisting that Ryan "would be inquiring into impeachment" if a Democrat's conversations with a fired FBI director were the topic of a congressional hearing, Tapper noted that Inglis was once a Republican congressman. Inglis responded, reminding Tapper what else he once was: a member of the Judiciary Committee that voted to impeach former President Bill Clinton.

Posted by orrinj at 1:01 PM


Did Comey violate privilege by leaking memo? Trump's lawyer will reportedly file complaint (DEBRA CASSENS WEISS, 6/09/17, ABA Journal)

Trump lawyer Marc Kasowitz will reportedly file a complaint over the leaked memo, report NBC News, CNN, Fox News and Reuters. The stories are based on an anonymous source. According to Reuters, Kasowitz will file a complaint with the Justice Department's inspector general and will make a "submission" to the Senate Judiciary and Senate Intelligence committees.

But the memo does not appear to be illegal or to violate executive privilege, according to University of Texas law professor Steve Vladeck in a Washington Post article. Other experts interviewed by the Los Angeles Times and ABC News agree with that view.

CNN also points out that the Justice Department has limited jurisdiction over former employees. If the department finds wrongdoing it can make a note in Comey's file to be used if he seeks employment there in the future.

The only apparent qualification required to work with Donald is that you be entirely unfamiliar with the Constitution and the law.

Posted by orrinj at 12:27 PM


The Health Care Debate Is Moving Left : How single-payer went from a pipe dream to mainstream. (Reihan Salam, 6/09/17, Slate)

[M]y guess is that support for single-payer will keep increasing in the months and years to come. This is despite the fact that I believe creating a single-payer system would be a costly mistake, for reasons ably outlined by Chris Pope in National Review and Megan McArdle in Bloomberg View.

Why do I think single-payer health care will keep growing more popular? Part of it is the availability heuristic. The more familiar the idea of a single-payer health care system becomes, and the more mainstream Democratic politicians embrace it, the "safer" it will be for people to support the idea. A single-payer system is no longer seen as a crazily socialistic idea relegated to the fringes of the political debate. It's an idea that is taken seriously by serious people.

Indeed, a key part of the new push for single-payer health care is branding it "Medicare for all." Medicare is a single-payer system that offers coverage to every American over the age of 65. Though no one would describe Medicare as perfect, it's pretty popular. So naturally the idea of opening Medicare to everyone has a lot of appeal. Of course, there's a case to be made that Medicare has in some ways made America's health system worse by serving the interests of politically powerful hospitals over those of patients, but I digress.

The single-payer cause also benefits from the fact that Obamacare has been a mixed bag. While coverage expansion via Medicaid appears to have gone fairly smoothly in the states that have signed up for it, the move to expand coverage via Obamacare's new state-based insurance exchanges has been far rockier. If the exchanges represent the best managed competition can do, it's no wonder many have concluded that the smarter move is to further expand public insurance programs, as we've been doing for decades under Democratic and Republican administrations alike. Medicare for all is, according to this line of thinking, simply the next logical step. Here too there is another way of looking at things: Had Obamacare used the exchanges more narrowly as a vehicle for insuring the uninsurable, not as a means of transforming the entire individual insurance market, it might have proven more popular and effective.

But the most important reason behind the single-payer boomlet, I believe, is the health policy failures of Republicans. While the GOP has spent years attacking Obamacare, it has proven utterly incapable of offering an attractive alternative. If the GOP had such an alternative, it would nudge centrist Democrats in its direction. But as long as the right doesn't have a workable plan for fixing America's health system, it should come as no surprise that the center of gravity on health policy is shifting left.

Americans, like the citizens of every developed democracy, consider health care a right, so it is one.  The argument is over how universal health care will be delivered, but the GOP is still stuck on whether.

Posted by orrinj at 6:31 AM


For Trump, the 'Cloud' Just Grew That Much Darker (PETER BAKER, JUNE 8, 2017, NY Times)

While delivered in calm, deliberate and unemotional terms, Mr. Comey's testimony on Thursday was almost certainly the most damning j'accuse moment by a senior law enforcement official against a president in a generation. In a Capitol Hill hearing room, the astonishing tableau unfolded of a former F.B.I. director accusing the White House of "lies, plain and simple" and asserting that when the president suggested dropping an investigation into his former national security adviser, "I took it as a direction." [...]

"This was a devastating day for the Trump White House, and when the history of the Trump presidency is written, this will be seen as a key moment," said Peter H. Wehner, who was White House adviser to President George W. Bush. "My takeaway is James Comey laid out facts and was essentially encouraging Mueller to investigate Trump for obstruction. That's a huge deal." [...]

Washington has not seen a spectacle quite like this since the days of Watergate, Iran-contra or President Bill Clinton's impeachment. Whatever the controversies under Mr. Bush and President Barack Obama, neither was ever accused of personal misconduct by a current or former law enforcement official in such a public forum.

Indeed, Mr. Comey highlighted the difference by noting that he had never taken notes of his conversations with either of those presidents because he trusted their basic integrity, but he did write memos about each of his one-on-one encounters with Mr. Trump because "I was honestly concerned that he might lie about the nature of our meeting."

In any other presidency, the events laid out by Mr. Comey -- Mr. Trump asking for "loyalty" from the F.B.I. director who was investigating the president's associates, then asking him to drop an investigation into a former aide and ultimately firing him when he did not -- might have spelled the end.

But Mr. Trump has tested the boundaries of normal politics and upended the usual rules. To his supporters, the inquiries are nothing more than the elite news media and political establishment attacking a change agent who threatens their interests.

"This is like an explosive presidency-ending moment," said John Q. Barrett, a law professor at St. John's University in New York and an associate independent counsel during the Iran-contra investigation in Ronald Reagan's presidency. "But we have a different context now."

The articles of impeachment drafted against President Richard M. Nixon and Mr. Clinton both alleged obstruction of justice, in effect making clear that such an action could qualify under the "high crimes and misdemeanors" clause of the Constitution. The "smoking gun" tape that doomed Mr. Nixon in 1974 recorded him ordering his chief of staff to have the C.I.A. block the F.B.I. from investigating the Watergate burglary. Critics said that Mr. Trump's comments to Mr. Comey effectively cut out the middle man.

The House impeached Mr. Clinton in 1998 for lying under oath and obstructing justice to cover up his affair with Monica Lewinsky, a former White House intern, during a sexual harassment lawsuit. The obstruction alleged in Mr. Clinton's case was persuading Ms. Lewinsky to give false testimony, advising her to hide gifts he had given her to avoid any subpoena and trying to find her a job to keep her happy. After a trial, the Senate acquitted him.

As a political matter, both Mr. Nixon and Mr. Clinton faced a House under control of the opposition party, while Mr. Trump has the benefit of a Republican House that would be far less eager to open an impeachment inquiry.  [...]

Tellingly, the Republicans on the Senate Intelligence Committee paid no heed to the talking points distributed in advance by the Republican National Committee at the behest of the White House. Instead of attacking Mr. Comey's credibility, as the R.N.C. and Donald Trump Jr. did, the Republican senators praised him as a patriot and dedicated public servant. They largely accepted his version of events, while trying to elicit testimony that would cast Mr. Trump's actions in the most innocent light possible.

Posted by orrinj at 6:05 AM


Why a Top Republican Wants to Keep Paying the Obamacare Insurers (Rob Garver, June 8, 2017, Fiscal Times)

[R]epublicans in the House of Representatives filed a lawsuit seeking to have the payments declared illegal, and the Trump administration has repeatedly refused to commit to their continued payment.

The result is that insurance firms across the country are warning that they will either have to hit customers with large rate increases to make up for the risk of payments being cut off, or will have to stop serving all or part of the exchange system entirely.

Republicans have insisted that the ACA is a flawed system that is collapsing under its own weight, but repeated statements from nonpartisan analysts and from insurers themselves indicate that the biggest problem facing the marketplace right now is uncertainty about the government's position when it comes to supporting the exchanges.

In prepared remarks delivered before a House Ways and Means Committee hearing on the Department of Health and Human Services' budget request Thursday, Chairman Kevin Brady came out and called for Congress to specifically allocate money for the CSR payments. [...]

"As the Senate considers the AHCA, we must work together to deliver an expedited solution to help stabilize the insurance market and help lower premiums for Americans trapped in Obamacare today. We should act within our constitutional authority now to temporarily and legally fund Cost Sharing Reduction payments as we move away from Obamacare and toward a patient-centered system that truly works for the American people."

He also indicated that he accepts the claim of insurance firms that uncertainty about government support for the ACA is part of the problem with the market right now.

"Insurers have made clear the lack of certainty is causing 2018 proposed premiums to rise significantly," he said. "When these payments are funded by Congress, families trapped in Obamacare should expect these proposed premiums to be reduced significantly."

Brady's statement seems, at least implicitly, to suggest that the effort to replace the ACA with the GOP-sponsored American Health Care Act may not come to fruition in time to rescue the health insurance markets.

If you break it, you own it.

Posted by orrinj at 6:02 AM


Goodbye doctors, hello robots (TRISTAN GREENE, 6/08/17, Next Web)

The future of healthcare isn't more Doctors: it's more programmers. The Stanford University AI Lab has been making the tech-site rounds with 'Woebot' a new offering that uses Facebook messenger to check in with patients. It asks questions and plays games until it has collected enough data to make treatment suggestions.

That may not quite be on par with the traditional image of a soft-spoken head-shrinker directing you through a breakthrough about your mother - or the fistful of pills approach that many psychiatrists advocate today. It is, however, a pretty cool start; even if it is a little basic.

Elsewhere in the field researchers have used AI bots like Ellie to learn about PTSD by observing veterans as they responded to specific questions. The data collected wasn't then converted into a treatment program as is the intent of Woebot, but it helps advance the study of trauma-related stress and anxiety disorders.

When I got my smartphone it started tracking my steps, which allows me to the perform most basic of real-time analysis concerning my daily fitness trends. Take that idea, a fitness tracker like Samsung Health, and expand it infinitely.

Sensors and user input only go so far, the current return is nothing more than anecdotal research with only a modest amount of personalization. Artificial intelligence could be used to find a non-invasive treatment plan tailored to fit me -- without drugs or mountains of insurance paperwork. I need a real-time treatment plan that adjusts to me, not a therapist who will see me on Tuesday.

Posted by orrinj at 5:40 AM


Comey Testimony Raises New Questions About Jeff Sessions And Russia (Arnie Seipel, 6/08/17, NPR)

Comey said in his opening statement that his leadership team at the FBI agreed not to share this with Sessions for the following reason: "We concluded it made little sense to report it to Attorney General Sessions, who we expected would likely recuse himself from involvement in Russia-related investigations."

Comey also pointed out that they were right - Sessions recused himself from the Russia investigation less than two weeks later.

The question is why Sessions recused himself.

Democrats on the Senate Intelligence Committee took advantage of Comey's mention of this in his opening statement to raise such questions about Sessions' recusal on Thursday.

"What was it about the attorney general's interactions with the Russians or his behavior with regard to the investigation that would have led the entire leadership of the FBI to make this decision?" asked Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore.

Comey responded, "He was very close to and inevitably going to recuse himself for a variety of reasons. We also were aware of facts that I can't discuss in an open setting that would make his continued engagement in a Russia-related investigation problematic."

Posted by orrinj at 5:14 AM


James Comey Came Prepared : From the moment Comey met Trump, he understood the man and started building his case. (William Saletan, 6/08/17, Slate)

At Thursday's hearing, Comey offered more detail and explanation about why he created this paper trail. He said he documented the Jan. 6 conversation based on a "gut feeling" about "the nature of the person" he had just met. "I was honestly concerned he might lie about the nature of our meeting," said the former FBI director. So he wrote it all down.

In his written testimony, Comey described extensive discussions with his FBI leadership team after a Feb. 14 meeting in which Trump, after clearing the room of other officials, asked Comey to lay off Trump's recently ousted national security adviser, Michael Flynn. Comey wrote a memo on the encounter and made sure the memo was unclassified, so it could be more easily shared. At the hearing, Comey said he and his team "decided the best move would be to hold [the memo], keep it in a box." He suggested that he had concealed Trump's improper request from other people in the White House in part because Trump or his aides might become FBI targets. "I wouldn't want to alert the White House it had happened," Comey said of Trump's request about Flynn, "until we figured out what we were going to do with it investigatively."

Comey didn't just stow memos at the FBI. He gave at least one copy to Daniel Richman, a friend who teaches at Columbia Law School. On May 12, when Trump tweeted a warning that "James Comey better hope that there are no 'tapes' of our conversations before he starts leaking to the press," Comey was ready. He asked Richman, by his own admission, "to share the content of the memo with a reporter." Comey explicitly testified that he did this to trigger an escalation: "I asked him to because I thought that might prompt the appointment of a special counsel."

Posted by orrinj at 5:08 AM


Catalonia sets vote on independence from Spain for Oct. 1 (Reuters, 6/09/17)

Catalonia will hold a referendum on splitting from Spain on October 1, the head of the regional government said on Friday, setting the stage for several month of heightened confrontation with the central government which says such a vote is illegal and will not take place.