August 11, 2017

Posted by orrinj at 7:55 PM


Posted by orrinj at 7:49 PM



The Statue of Liberty continues to inspire controversy, the latest being its appearance on the September cover of fashion magazine Vogue, serving as the backdrop to a portrait of movie star Jennifer Lawrence.

Breitbart economics and finance editor John Carney complained in a tweet about the cover and proposed a new fashion section for Breitbart's news website. "We're going to have to create a full #MAGA shadow cultural industry because the Opposition Media can't even do fashion without attacking us," he wrote on Thursday.

Do you really want to whinge about how Lady Liberty stands for everything you oppose?

Posted by orrinj at 7:36 PM



IF YOU ASK Steve Bannon how he got the idea that Muslims in the Middle East are a civilizational threat to America, he will say that his eyes were first opened when he served on a Navy destroyer in the Arabian Sea. At least that's what he told the journalist Joshua Green, whose new book about President Donald Trump's senior counselor is a best-seller.

 "It was not hard to see, as a junior officer, sitting there, that [the threat] was just going to be huge," Bannon said. He went on:

We'd pull into a place like Karachi, Pakistan - this is 1979, and I'll never forget it - the British guys came on board, because they still ran the port. The city had 10 million people at the time. We'd get out there, and 8 million of them had to be below the age of fifteen. It was an eye-opener. We'd been other places like the Philippines where there was mass poverty. But it was nothing like the Middle East. It was just a complete eye-opener. It was the other end of the earth.

That's Bannon's version. There are a few problems with it, however.

The port of Karachi was not run by the British in 1979. Karachi, which is the commercial hub of Pakistan, had a population that was well short of 10 million (it was about half that) and is not usually considered part of the Middle East. But the biggest problem is that the destroyer Bannon served on, the USS Paul F. Foster, never visited Karachi while Bannon was aboard.

Posted by orrinj at 2:54 PM


Freedom Caucus leader is flirting with saving Obamacare (Tara Golshan and Dylan Scott,  Aug 11, 2017, Vox)

Freedom Caucus Chair Rep. Mark Meadows has started negotiating a deal with a top House moderate, Rep. Tom MacArthur (R-NJ), which would work to stabilize Obamacare's individual markets, funding key payments to insurers while giving states more flexibility for their own health care programs.

The outline of the emerging deal is pretty simple, per the aide:

* Congress would authorize cost-sharing reduction payments, which compensate insurers for providing discounts on out-of-pocket costs for lower-income customers.

* In exchange, states would be given more flexibility under an existing Obamacare waiver program to pursue their own health care policies.

Posted by orrinj at 2:31 PM


How America Forged Philip Glass (MARK JUDGE, 8/11/17, Liberty & Law)

At age 15, Glass was admitted to a special, accelerated program at the University of Chicago. He recalled that on a train to the Windy City, hearing the rhythm of the train's movement on the tracks, "the sounds of daily life were entering me almost unnoticed." In Words Without Music, Glass cites Chicago itself as a major influence on his work. Glass went to symphonies that only cost 50 cents, visited modern art exhibits, and was exposed to bebop jazz greats, including Charlie Parker, whose brilliant and wild soloing broke established rules of harmony. At the University of Chicago, Glass was also required to read the Western canon in a program begun by philosopher and educator Mortimer Adler. It had a profound and lasting effect on the young composer:

I mentioned earlier the influence of the Great Books on the curriculum, but it extended far beyond that. Whenever possible, which turned out to be all the time, the books we studied would be first hand, primary sources. . . . The same primary-source method was carried out in social science, history and philosophy. Learning American history meant reading the Federalist papers and other late-eighteenth century essays by the men who wrote the Constitution. Of course, humanities meant theater and literature from ancient to modern. Poetry, same thing. The effect on me was to cultivate and understand in a  firsthand way the lineage of culture. The men and women who created the stepping-stones from earliest times became familiar to us--not something "handed down" but actually known in a most immediate and personal way.

Glass's eclectic subject matter and primary source immersion included the study of science. This would be the subject of his breakthrough opera, 1976's Einstein on the Beach, which was based on the life of Albert Einstein and would establish Glass as a major cultural figure. [...]

Early in life and in fact right up until the late 1970s, when he was an established composer and even a celebrity, Glass worked blue-collar jobs to pay the bills. In the 1950s, during summer breaks as a Julliard student, he punched the clock at Bethlehem Steel in Baltimore. He also worked as a plumber. At the time that Einstein on the Beach premiered in the Metropolitan Opera House, he was driving a taxi, in which job he once picked up a criminal and was almost murdered by the man. Asked by director Martin Scorsese if he had seen Scorsese's film Taxi Driver, Glass replied that he had been too busy actually being one.

Glass's experience in the real world might explain why the composer never developed a taste for the brand of European nihilism that became fashionable after World War II. He was unimpressed when he came across the French Existentialists:

Their work was heavily nihilistic and oddly narcissistic, and these sentiments simply did not play well to the aspirations of a new and powerful generation of Americans who came up after World War II. Their books struck me as full of self-pity and despair at the meanness of their lives and the inability to find meaning therein, and my generation was impatient with all that.

By the same token, Glass gave short shrift to the criticism he faced in 1982 for appearing in a Cutty Sark whiskey ad. He was accused of selling out. "I called it 'selling in,' because the money went right into my work," writes the composer. "It seemed to me that people who didn't have to sell out, or in, must have had rich parents."

Posted by orrinj at 11:53 AM


Kaiser Health Tracking Poll - August 2017: The Politics of ACA Repeal and Replace Efforts (Ashley Kirzinger, Bianca DiJulio, Bryan Wu, and Mollyann Brodie, 8/11/17, Kaiser)

The August Kaiser Health Tracking Poll finds that the majority of the public (60 percent) say it is a "good thing" that the Senate did not pass the bill that would have repealed and replaced the ACA. Since then, President Trump has suggested Congress not take on other issues, like tax reform, until it passes a replacement plan for the ACA, but six in ten Americans (62 percent) disagree with this approach, while one-third (34 percent) agree with it.

A majority of the public (57 percent) want to see Republicans in Congress work with Democrats to make improvements to the 2010 health care law, while smaller shares say they want to see Republicans in Congress continue working on their own plan to repeal and replace the ACA (21 percent) or move on from health care to work on other priorities (21 percent). However, about half of Republicans and Trump supporters would like to see Republicans in Congress keep working on a plan to repeal the ACA.

A large share of Americans (78 percent) think President Trump and his administration should do what they can to make the current health care law work while few (17 percent) say they should do what they can to make the law fail so they can replace it later. About half of Republicans and supporters of President Trump say the Trump administration should do what they can to make the law work (52 percent and 51 percent, respectively)...

Posted by orrinj at 9:34 AM


Fired Google engineer compares high-paid tech job to Soviet forced labor (T.C. Sottek,  Aug 10, 2017, The Verge)

In what appears to be his new Twitter account, Damore can be seen wearing a shirt with the word "Goolag," a play on "Google" that means to suggest the Silicon Valley search company is something like the infamous Soviet camps where prisoners were worked and starved to death as part of one of the 20th century's worst genocides.

Posted by orrinj at 9:30 AM


Is Saudi Arabia waging war on its Shiite minority? (Deutsche-Welle, 8/11/17)

Largely ignored by the rest of the world, heavy fighting has been going on in the tiny city of Awamiya in eastern Saudi Arabia for three months: Satellite images show that entire sections of the city have been destroyed. Images of firefights and flattened buildings are making the rounds on social media. Independent reporting is not possible because the government has denied foreign journalists access to the area.

The center of the fighting appears to be Al-Masora, the city's old quarter. Militant Shiites are engaged in firefights with Saudi security forces there, in the neighborhood's narrow alleys. Heavy artillery is being used in the fighting and at least 15 people are said to have been killed so far. After images of Canadian-made armored vehicles being deployed against civilians became public, Ottawa reportedly began considering a halt of arms sales to Saudi Arabia.

The conflict arose in part from Saudi plans to demolish areas of the historic city in order to build a new shopping mall - something that the city's residents strongly opposed. In April, the United Nations called for Saudi Arabia to halt forced relocations and the demolition of the old quarter. UN Special Rapporteur in the field of cultural rights, Karima Bennoune, fears "the planned demolition would erase this unique regional heritage in an irreversible manner." [...]

Repression and marginalization are the deeper roots of the conflict. Some 10 percent of Saudi Arabia's 30 million citizens are Shiites. They mostly live in the east of the country - where much of its oil is located. But Shiites have profited little from the country's wealth, and they have been denied access to participation in political life in the kingdom. They are also put under increased pressure by the fact that the majority of Saudis are adherents of Wahhabism - and therefore view Shiites as apostates.

Minority Shiites last voiced their strong displeasure with the government during the so-called Arab Spring in 2011. Awamiya became a center of protest - especially after the revolt of the Shia minority in neighboring Bahrain was crushed by its Sunni king, with military help from Saudi Arabia. Awamiya was also the home of Nimr al-Nimr, a popular Shiite sheikh who became a figurehead during protests in eastern Saudi Arabia. Al-Nimr paid for the stand he made against the discrimination of Shiites with his life when he was executed, supposedly for being a terrorist, in early 2016.

Posted by orrinj at 9:17 AM


Nikki Haley: Trump's Cabinet Superstar (Suzanne Fields, August 11, 2017, RCP)

[S]he has prospered at the U.N., working hard to build close relationships with other delegations, particularly those of America's European allies. Over the first months of her tenure, she earned the respect of other delegates that enabled her to rally support for American positions on Syria and North Korea.

Her frequent and aggressive scolding of Russian support for Syrian President Bashar Assad earned her a reputation for leading, as well as following, American policy. She squelched the long-standing Russian goal of making Russia the moral actor in the Syrian civil war. And she still won Russian support for the sanctions vote.

Little more than a year ago, she seemed unlikely to be a part of a Trump administration. She clashed with then-candidate Trump on the eve of the South Carolina primary, having said sharp things about him and endorsed Sen. Mario Rubio. "During anxious times," she said, "it can be tempting to follow the siren call of the angriest voices. We must resist that temptation."

Trump unleashed a Twitter attack. "The people of South Carolina are embarrassed by Nikki Haley!" he tweeted angrily. But that was forgotten by both of them when Trump assembled his Cabinet. He needed someone who knew how to speak up, even to him. She learned in South Carolina, as only a governor can, how to twist arms to rally support.

Someone asked her the other day whether she had to twist a lot of arms to bring Russia and China along on the sanctions vote. She replied: "Yes, we did."

Posted by orrinj at 9:02 AM


President Likes Tweet About Trump Sex-Trafficking Conspiracy Theory (Margaret Hartmann, 8/11/17, New York)

 While President Trump is fan of conspiracy theories, the idea floated by @AHamiltonSpirit is basically the opposite of Pizzagate. The accompanying thread suggests that Trump, Kim Jong-un, and Vladimir Putin are coordinating to distract from looming indictments for underage sex trafficking at Trump's former modeling agency.

Posted by orrinj at 8:54 AM


Here's the Memo That Blew Up the NSC  (Jana Winter and Elias Groll, 8/11/17, Foreign Policy)

After the memo was discovered, McMaster's deputy, Ricky Waddell, summoned Higgins, who was told he could resign -- or be fired, and risk losing his security clearance, according to two sources.

Higgins, who agreed to resign, was escorted out of the building. He later learned from his colleagues still at the NSC that his association to this now-infamous memo was the reason he was removed.

Following Higgins's departure, McMaster set out to clean house, a source close the White House said -- getting rid of NSC staffers linked to the memo, perceived as loyal to his predecessor, Michael Flynn, or simply those with whom he'd butted heads over foreign policy. Among those fired was Ezra Cohen-Watnick, the NSC's top intelligence official, and Derek Harvey, who handled the NSC's Middle East portfolio.

In the meantime, however, the memo had been working its way through the Trump White House. Among those who received the memo, according to two sources, was Donald Trump Jr.

Trump Jr., at that time in the glare of media scrutiny around his meeting with a Russian lawyer at Trump Tower during the presidential campaign, gave the memo to his father, who gushed over it, according to sources.

In a comedy of errors, Trump later learned from Sean Hannity, the Fox News host and close friend of the president, that the memo's author had been fired. Trump was "furious," the senior administration official said. "He is still furious."

The memo lays out what it described as a concerted campaign to undermine the president.

"The administration has been maneuvered into a constant back-pedal by relentless political warfare attacks structured to force him to assume a reactive posture that assures inadequate responses," it reads. "The president can either drive or be driven by events; it's time for him to drive them."

Posted by orrinj at 8:51 AM


Reformists Unanimously Elect Next Tehran Mayor (Asharq Al-Awsat, 8/11./17)

Tehran's municipal council named on Thursday the final candidate for mayor behind closed doors, replacing incumbent Mohammad Bagher Ghalibaf with a pronounced reformist.

The reformist majority council agreed to elect presidential economic advisor Mohammad-Ali Najafi instead of the current conservative mayor Ghalibaf. The incoming mayor is expected to boost Tehran social programs. [...]

The reformist bloc won a majority of the council's seats, with the most outstanding winners being the son of former Iranian President Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani and Mohsen Hashemi, as well as the culture minister of the reformist government Ahmed Masjid Jamami.

Iranian media reported that Najafi , a former education minister, will formally submit necessary documents for the post to the interior ministry, followed by the swearing in after the official vote in the Tehran municipality.

The post of mayor of Iran's biggest city, which has a population of more than 12m, has often been used as a platform to launch more ambitious political careers: Mahmoud Ahmadi-Nejad, the populist president who was in power from 2005 to 2013, was Qalibaf's predecessor as Tehran's mayor.

Posted by orrinj at 8:49 AM


Donald Trump's "brain" Stephen Miller is also obsessed with Muslims and Mexicans (MEHDI HASAN, 8/11/17, New Statesman)

In the teeming cast of White House grotesques, the dead-eyed Miller - "He looks like the hitchhiker other hitchhikers stay away from," joked the late-night talk show host Seth Meyers - stands out as a paradoxical figure. Though he is Jewish and was born and raised in liberal Los Angeles County, Miller has the most extensive ties to the white nationalist movement of any White House adviser, Steve Bannon included.

It would not be an exaggeration to call Miller an extremist - and one whose extremism goes back to his teenage years. "He believes multiculturalism is a weakness, that when we celebrate our differences we are ignoring our 'American culture'," his former high school classmate Nick Silverman recalled on Facebook in February. "He didn't like someone from El Salvador celebrating their homeland, or someone from Vietnam bringing in food from their country of origin. He wanted everyone to celebrate one culture. One country."

Other former classmates told the US Spanish-language news network Univision that Miller "used to make fun of the children of Latino and Asian immigrants who did not speak English well". One student, Jason Islas, claims that Miller told him they could not be friends because of the former's "Latino heritage".

In a high school newspaper column written three months after 9/11 and entitled "A Time to Kill", Miller also mocked the idea of Islam as "peaceful" or "benign" and demanded a violent response to "millions of radical Muslims". Later, he worked with David Horowitz - dubbed an "anti-Muslim extremist" by the Southern Poverty Law Center - to organise "Islamofascism Awareness Week" on college campuses.

To recap: for more than a decade, Miller's biggest obsessions have been race and culture; Mexicans and Muslims. Who does that remind you of? The truth is that his boss - who has retweeted neo-Nazis and received the official endorsement of the Ku Klux Klan - has recruited a motley crew of far-right nativists to serve in his White House. Bannon, the chief strategist, has bragged about how he turned Breitbart News into "the platform for the alt-right". Sebastian Gorka, who serves as a "deputy assistant" to the president, is alleged to have once been a member of a far-right Hungarian group.

Miller is a former university pal of the white supremacist Richard Spencer, who has called for "peaceful ethnic cleansing". Spencer referred to himself as a "mentor" to Miller, telling the Daily Beast that he "spent a lot of time with him at Duke [University]... I hope I expanded his thinking."

Posted by orrinj at 7:28 AM


Moqtada al-Sadr: We don't Want Two Armies in Iraq (Sa'ed Al-Abyadh, 8/11/17, Al Monitor)

Moqtada al-Sadr, the leader of Iraq's Sadrist movement, underlined the importance to integrate government forces with the fighters of the Popular Mobilization Forces under the leadership of the prime minister and the commander of the armed forces, pointing out that he refuses to have two armies in the country.

"The presence of the Popular Mobilization Forces outside the state is causing many problems," he said in an interview with Asharq Al-Awsat.

Sadr did not rule out allying with Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi and the head of the National Coalition Ammar al-Hakim in the upcoming elections, saying: "I have no objection to the alliance (with them), not as a person, but as the Sadrist movement, especially as we are about to form a bloc of independent technocrats to take Iraq to safety while providing services to citizens."

Posted by orrinj at 7:24 AM


Can a Crowdsourced AI Medical Diagnosis App Outperform Your Doctor? : The Human Dx platform aims to improve the accuracy of individual physicians (Jeremy Hsu on August 11, 2017, Scientific American)

Human Dx advocates the use of machine learning--a popular AI technique that automatically learns from classifying patterns in data--to crowdsource and build on the best medical knowledge from thousands of physicians across 70 countries. Physicians at several major medical research centers have shown early interest in the app. Human Dx on Thursday announced a new partnership with top medical profession organizations including the American Medical Association and the Association of American Medical Colleges to promote and scale up Human Dx's system. The goal is to provide timely and affordable specialist advice to general practitioners serving millions of people worldwide, in particular so-called "safety net" hospitals and clinics throughout the U.S. that offer access to care regardless of a patient's ability to pay.

"We need to find solutions that scale the capacity of existing doctors to serve more patients at the same or cheaper cost," says Jay Komarneni, founder and chair of Human Dx. Roughly 30 million uninsured Americans rely on safety net facilities, which generally have limited or no access to medical specialists. Those patients often face the stark choice of either paying out of pocket for an expensive in-person consultation or waiting for months to be seen by the few specialists working at public hospitals, which receive government funding to help pay for patient care, Komarneni says. Meanwhile studies have shown that between 25 percent and 30 percent (pdf) of such expensive specialist visits could be conducted by online consultations between physicians while sparing patients the additional costs or long wait times.

Komarneni envisions "augmenting or extending physician capacity with AI" to close this "specialist gap." Within five years Human Dx aims to become available to all 1,300 safety net community health centers and free clinics in the U.S. The same remote consultation services could also be made available to millions of people around the world who lack access to medical specialists, Komarneni says.