October 12, 2017

Posted by orrinj at 6:37 PM


Trump says aid to Puerto Rico can't last 'forever.' Here's what the island is without. (Luis Gomez, 10/12/17, San Diego Union-Tribune)

The latest figures, as of Thursday, tell a clear picture of Puerto Rico's need for continued aid and support.

83 percent are without power
36 percent are without potable water
About half still don't have cell phone service
21 percent are without access to gasoline

Puerto Rico after Hurricane Maria: The Public's Knowledge and Views of Its Impact and the Response (Bianca DiJulio, Cailey Muñana, and Mollyann Brodie, 10/12/17, Kaiser)'

Most of the public (62 percent) says that most people in Puerto Rico affected by Hurricane Maria are not yet getting the help they need, while about a third say they are (32 percent). However, views vary by party with majorities of Democrats (80 percent) and independents (61 percent) saying people are not yet getting the help they need, compared to 56 percent of Republicans who feel they are getting the help they need.

Posted by orrinj at 4:28 PM


Gay Coffee Shop Owner Kicks Out Pro-Life Customers (Amber Randall, October 12, 2017, Daily Signal)

The gay owner of a coffee shop in Seattle kicked a group of Christians out of his coffee shop Sunday after declaring in obscene terms that he would like to sodomize Jesus Christ.

The owner heatedly tells the Christians to leave his shop immediately in a video posted to Facebook by Abolish Human Abortion, a Christian group seeking to end the practice of abortion.

"I'm gay, you have to leave," the owner tells the group. "This is offensive to me. I own the place. I have the right to be offended."

...that there are other coffee shops in the area not owned by decent people.

Posted by orrinj at 4:22 PM


San Juan mayor excoriates Trump for condemning Puerto Ricans 'to a slow death' (The Week, 10/12/17)
The mayor of San Juan, Puerto Rico, issued a scathing statement against President Trump on Thursday and begged for international aid for the U.S. territory. "I ask every American ... to stand with Puerto Rico and let this president know WE WILL NOT BE LEFT TO DIE," Mayor Carmen Yulin Cruz wrote. "I ask the United Nations and UNICEF and the world to stand with the people of Puerto Rico and stop the genocide that will result from the lack of appropriate action of a president that just does not get it because he has been incapable of looking in our eyes and seeing the pride that burns fiercely in our hearts and souls."

Earlier Thursday, Trump appeared to tell Puerto Rico that its federal relief effort has a pending expiration date. "Electric and all infrastructure was disaster before hurricanes," Trump tweeted. "Congress to decide how much to spend. We cannot keep FEMA, the military, [and] the first responders, who have been amazing (under the most difficult circumstances) in P.R. forever!"

Thirty-five percent of Puerto Rico residents still don't have drinking water, and just 10 percent have electricity.

Posted by orrinj at 12:17 PM


Posted by orrinj at 12:14 PM


'He threw a fit': Trump's anger over Iran deal forced aides to scramble for a compromise (Anne Gearan, October 11, 2017, Washington Post)

President Trump was livid. Why, he asked his advisers in mid-July, should he go along with what he considered the failed Obama-era policy toward Iran and prop up an international nuclear deal he saw as disastrous?

He was incensed by the arguments of Secretary of State Rex ­Tillerson, Defense Secretary Jim Mattis and others that the landmark 2015 deal, while flawed, offered stability and other benefits. He did not want to certify to Congress that the agreement remained in the vital U.S. national security interest and that Iran was meeting its obligations. He did not think either was true.

"He threw a fit," said one person familiar with the meeting. ". . . He was furious. Really furious. It's clear he felt jammed."

So White House national security adviser H.R. McMaster and other senior advisers came up with a plan -- one aimed at accommodating Trump's loathing of the Iran deal as "an embarrassment" without killing it outright. [...]

As a practical matter, Trump's expected move will place the onus on Congress to decide what to do next. Working with Sen. Tom Cotton (R-Ark.), a leading congressional hawk on Iran, the White House would refrain from recommending that Congress reimpose nuclear sanctions that were suspended under the deal.

Posted by orrinj at 11:56 AM


Isis 'White Widow' Sally Jones is killed by US drone strike (Deborah Haynes, Defence Editor | Fiona Hamilton | Francis Elliott, October 12 2017, The Times)

Sally Jones, one of the world's most wanted terrorists, has been killed in a US drone strike in Syria, it was revealed last night.

The former punk rocker from Kent, who converted to Islam and became a leading recruiter for Islamic State, died in June close to Syria's border with Iraq, US spy chiefs are understood to have told their British counterparts. It is likely that her son Jojo, 12, was also killed.

A Whitehall source told The Times: "The premise that Sally Jones and her son are dead is probably accurate."

Jones, 50, a mother of two, followed the same fate as her husband, Junaid Hussain, 21.

Hussain, a computer hacker from Birmingham who was another senior Isis member, was killed in a drone strike in the terrorist group's former stronghold of Raqqa, northern Syria, in August 2015. British intelligence assisted in helping to locate him.

Posted by orrinj at 8:10 AM


No tax cut for the wealthy? Easier said than done (BRIAN FALER 10/11/2017, Politico)

They are confronting a tax system where the tax burden is increasingly bunched up at the top of the income spectrum, thanks to huge earnings gains by the rich and the fact that the U.S. has one of the most progressive income tax systems in the world.

The top 0.1 percent of earners projected to pay more to the IRS than the bottom 80 percent combined. This year, official government data show, the top 20 percent will pay 95 percent of all income taxes.

The top 1 percent -- about 1 million families earning at least $379,000 -- will pay 45 percent of all individual income taxes collected this year, and almost one-third of taxes overall, including corporate, payroll, estate and excise taxes.

Meanwhile, more modest income gains among average Americans, as well as repeated efforts by Congress to cut taxes on low- and middle-income people, mean those groups are shouldering a declining share of the tax burden.

The average federal tax rate for people whose earnings put them in the 21st to 80th percentile of incomes has fallen by 30 percent since 1979 to 13.8 percent, according to the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office. Rates on low-income people have declined even further, by 57 percent, to 3.3 percent.

"The fact that they don't pay very much in taxes means that it's very hard to provide them with a large tax cut," said Looney, now a fellow at the Brookings Institution.

We need tax reform, not cuts. Instead of taxing income, profits and investments--which we want--we should be taxing consumption.

Posted by orrinj at 7:48 AM


Abbas hails 'final agreement' with Hamas to end Palestinian split (Times of Israel, October 12, 2017)

An official from Abbas's Fatah movement said the Palestinian president was now planning to travel to the Gaza Strip within a month as part of the unity bid in what would be his first visit in a decade.

Sanctions taken by Abbas against Hamas-controlled Gaza will also soon be lifted, the Fatah official said.

The deal includes 3,000 members of the West Bank-based Palestinian Authority's police force redeploying to Gaza, a member of the negotiating team told AFP on condition of anonymity.

The figure is however a fraction of the more than 20,000 police officers employed separately by Hamas.

Another party to the negotiations, speaking on condition of anonymity, said the agreement would see Palestinian Authority forces take control of the Rafah border crossing between Gaza and Egypt.

He added that all Palestinian factions would begin wider negotiations on the formation of a unity government in the coming two weeks.

One of the key issues has been punitive measures taken by Abbas against Gaza in recent months, including reducing electricity payments that left the territory's residents with only a few hours of power a day.

"All the measures taken recently will end very shortly," Zakaria al-Agha, a senior Fatah leader in the Gaza Strip, told AFP.

Posted by orrinj at 7:36 AM


UK Reaffirms Commitment to Iran Nuclear Deal (Asharq Al-Awsat, 10/12/17)

A statement from May's office following the call with Trump on Tuesday evening said: "The (prime minister) reaffirmed the UK's strong commitment to the deal alongside our European partners, saying it was vitally important for regional security."

May "stressed that it was important that the deal was carefully monitored and properly enforced."

Allowing the allies to trade with Iran without any competition from our businesses would be a strange sort of foreign aid.

Posted by orrinj at 7:15 AM


Is the American Idea Doomed? : Not yet--but it has precious few supporters on either the left or the right. (YONI APPELBAUM, NOVEMBER 2017, The Atlantic)

The American idea, [Theodore Parker, the radical preacher and abolitionist]Parker declared in an 1850 speech, comprised three elements: that all people are created equal, that all possess unalienable rights, and that all should have the opportunity to develop and enjoy those rights. Securing them required "a government of all the people, by all the people, for all the people," Parker said. [...]

As a vision, it was bold and improbable--but the magazine these men launched that November, 160 years ago, helped spur the nation to redefine itself around the pursuit of the American idea. And as the United States grew and prospered, other peoples around the globe were attracted to its success, and the idea that produced it.

Now, though, the idea they articulated is in doubt. America no longer serves as a model for the world as it once did; its influence is receding. At home, critics on the left reject the notion that the U.S. has a special role to play; on the right, nationalists push to define American identity around culture, not principles. Is the American idea obsolete?

From the first, the idea provoked skepticism. It was radical to claim that a nation as new as America could have its own idea to give the world, it was destabilizing to discard rank and station and allow people to define their own destinies, and it bordered on absurd to believe that a nation so sprawling and heterogeneous could be governed as a democratic republic. By 1857, the experiment's failure seemed imminent.

Across Europe, the 19th century had dawned as a democratic age, but darkened as it progressed. The revolutions of 1848 failed. Prussia busily cemented its dominance over the German states. In 1852, France's Second Republic gave way to its Second Empire. Spain's Progressive Biennium ended in 1856 as it began, with a coup d'état. Democracy was in full retreat. Even where it endured, the right to vote or hold office was generally restricted to a small, propertied elite.

On the surface, things appeared different in Boston, where The Atlantic's eight founders--Emerson, Lowell, Moses Dresser Phillips, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, John Lothrop Motley, James Elliot Cabot, Francis H. Underwood, and Oliver Wendell Holmes Sr.--dined in May 1857. Almost all adult males in Massachusetts, black and white alike, could vote, and almost all did. Almost all were literate. And they stood equal before the law. The previous Friday, the state had ratified a new constitutional amendment stripping out the last significant property qualifications for running for state Senate.

But even in Boston, democracy was embattled. The state's government was in the grip of the nativist Know-Nothings, who resented recent waves of immigrants. That same Friday, voters had ratified an amendment imposing a literacy test for voting, a mostly symbolic effort at exclusion. But slavery, the diners believed, posed an even greater threat to democracy. Most of them had been radicalized three years before by the Anthony Burns case, when federal troops marched into their commonwealth to return Burns, an escaped slave then living and working in Boston, to bondage in Virginia--inspiring protests and lethal violence on his behalf. To the west, Kansas was bloodied by fighting between pro- and antislavery elements; to the south, politicians had begun defending slavery not as a necessary evil but as a positive ideal.

The fight against slavery had become a struggle for the American idea; the two could not coexist.

The Know-Nothings, Realists and Isolationists are always with us and yet we just keep diversifying and globalizing.  It seems especially odd to put the fight for the American Idea in historical perspective but then pretend that it is in trouble when you consider the Civil War, WWI, WWII and the Cold War.  

Posted by orrinj at 7:10 AM


Don't Freak Out About the Clean Power Plan Repeal (Jake Bullinger, Oct 11, 2017, Outside)

Amid the recent hubbub over the Clean Power Plan, it's important to remember the law never actually went into effect. When the Obama Administration proposed it in 2014, the goal was to cut greenhouse-gas emissions from existing power plants by 30 percent. But 28 states immediately sued the federal government in response, preventing the plan's implementation. (One attorney general who lead that initial charge? Oklahoma's Scott Pruitt, now administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency, who on Tuesday gleefully kicked off the process to repeal the CPP.)

The other point to remember about Obama's signature climate-change regulation is that it was written in tandem with another protection that remains in effect today: the New Source Rule, which limits emissions from new or modified power plants. Despite the current administration's best efforts to achieve otherwise, that regulation is working with broader economic forces to brush coal-fired energy aside.

The New Source Rule caps emissions for natural gas plants at 1,000 pounds of carbon dioxide per megawatt-hour of electricity produced. The limit for coal plants is 1,400 pounds. "That regulation essentially set a limit that allowed modern-technology natural gas plants to be permissible," says Ashley Lawson, a senior fellow at the Center for Climate and Energy Solutions. "But new coal-fired power plants were going to need to use some very new technology to meet the regulations."

That new technology is carbon capture and storage--the process of taking carbon dioxide from emissions, liquefying it, then pumping it underground. The most efficient coal-fired plants emit about 1,700 tons of carbon dioxide per megawatt hour, meaning any new or updated plants would have to employ carbon capture to meet the benchmark. It's an expensive process no American utility-scale plant has yet deployed.

Posted by orrinj at 7:07 AM


Netanyahu at odds with security team over Iran deal (JOSEF FEDERMAN, October 12, 2017, tIMES OF iSRAEL)

[T]here is a strong sense among his own security establishment that there are few good alternatives, that the deal has benefited Israel, and that US credibility could be squandered in the turbulent Middle East in ways that could harm Israel itself. [...]

"It seems to me that the less risky approach is to build on the existing agreement, among other reasons because it does set concrete limitations on the Iranians," said Uzi Arad, a former national security adviser to Netanyahu. "It imposes ceilings and benchmarks and verification systems that you do not want to lose. Why lose it?"


Posted by orrinj at 7:00 AM


Indiana vague about reasons for withholding Pence's emails (bRIAN sLODYSKO, 10/12/17, AP)

Indiana officials are refusing to release an indeterminate number of emails from private AOL.com accounts Mike Pence used as governor, and they're not saying whether the vice president's lawyers influenced which messages should be withheld.