June 6, 2018

Posted by orrinj at 7:03 PM


Trump Defends Wife, Melania, and Spreads Conspiracies About Her in the Process (Katie Rogers, June 6, 2018, NY Times)

Mr. Trump marked the event by repeating and denying rumors about the first lady that have spread throughout social media.

"The Fake News Media has been so unfair, and vicious, to my wife and our great First Lady, Melania," the president wrote on Twitter. "During her recovery from surgery they reported everything from near death, to facelift, to left the W.H. (and me) for N.Y. or Virginia, to abuse. All Fake, she is doing really well!"

Wasn't the assumption that she'd fled to a sanctuary city?
Posted by orrinj at 6:50 PM


GOP congressman blasts Trump over spy claim (KYLE CHENEY and RACHAEL BADE, 06/06/2018, Politico)

Rep. Tom Rooney, a top Republican lawmaker on the House Intelligence Committee, is ripping President Donald Trump's unsupported claim that the FBI inserted a spy inside his campaign.

"What is the point of saying that there was a spy in the campaign when there was none?" Rooney said in an interview on Wednesday. "You know what I'm saying? It's like, 'Lets create this thing to tweet about knowing that it's not true.' ... Maybe it's just to create more chaos but it doesn't really help the case."

Though Rooney isn't the first GOP lawmaker to question Trump's assertion, his comments were the most forceful repudiation to date from a Republican lawmaker. Rooney, a three-term Florida Republican who is retiring at the end of the year, was one of three GOP House members to lead the Intelligence Committee's year-long Russia probe after Chairman Devin Nunes stepped aside.

Posted by orrinj at 4:58 PM


DOJ watchdog finds James Comey defied authority as FBI director, sources say (MIKE LEVINE, Jun 6, 2018, ABC News)

The draft of Horowitz's wide-ranging report specifically called out Comey for ignoring objections from the Justice Department when he disclosed in a letter to Congress just days before the 2016 presidential election that FBI agents had reopened the Clinton probe, according to sources. Clinton has said that letter doomed her campaign.

Before Comey sent the letter to Congress, at least one senior Justice Department official told the FBI that publicizing the bombshell move so close to an election would violate longstanding department policy, and it would ignore federal guidelines prohibiting the disclosure of information related to an ongoing investigation, ABC News was told.

In an interview in April, ABC News Chief Anchor George Stephanopoulos asked Comey: "If Attorney General Lynch had ordered you not to send the letter, would you have sent it?"

"No," Comey responded. "I believe in the chain of command."

But in backing Trump's ultimate decision to fire Comey last year, Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein slammed Comey's letter to Congress and said it "was wrong" for Comey "to usurp the Attorney General's authority" when he announced in July 2016 that the FBI would not be filing charges against Clinton or her aides.

"It is not the function of the Director to make such an announcement," Rosenstein said in a letter to Trump recommending Comey be fired. "At most, the Director should have said the FBI had completed its investigation and presented its findings to federal prosecutors."

Horowitz's draft report cited Comey for failing to consult with Lynch and other senior Justice Department officials before making his announcement on national TV.

You can believe that Comey made a couple massive mistakes without thinking that the predominantly Republican and conservative FBI was conspiring to help Donald.

Posted by orrinj at 4:54 PM


Posted by orrinj at 4:40 PM


A Growing Drive to Get Homelessness to Zero (David Bornstein, June 5, 2018, NY Times)

The Gulf Coast of Southern Mississippi, a Continuum-of-Care community that spans six counties, is another region that reached functional zero for veteran homelessness in 2015. Today, any veterans who fall into homelessness there are linked almost immediately to service providers who help them get Veterans Affairs benefits and into housing in less than 30 days. "We're working to get back to our 2015 average of 11 days," said Mary Simons, the executive director of Open Doors Homeless Coalition, which leads collaborative efforts in the region.

In the Built for Zero methodology, after communities build a local team and are sharing real-time data, the next milestones are achieving steady reductions in homelessness, getting to zero and sustaining it. As they work more effectively, they also focus on other dimensions like youth and family homelessness, which are very different problems and require different responses.

The Gulf Coast community has been sustaining zero homelessness for veterans for two years. It has had to be continually vigilant. "In the middle of 2016, we noticed that some of the veterans who had been housed in the big push in 2015 were starting to experience difficulties," Ms. Simons said. "We saw names starting to come back on the list. 'My gosh, how do we figure out how to prevent homelessness from someone who's recently been housed?' If we didn't have real-time data, we wouldn't have known so quickly. We started looking at other parts of our system to see if people started showing up at the food bank or a day shelter before they became homeless."

Sure enough, they did. That allowed them to notify case managers across agencies to do checkups to try to stem the inflow. "Often times those checkups were the difference between that person falling back into homelessness or getting additional assistance," Ms. Simons said. "Preventing homelessness costs so much less and is less devastating for the person."

Another region that has ended veterans' homelessness and is closing in on ending chronic homelessness is Montgomery County, Md. Homeless advocates there have also been using name lists not just to identify people who are experiencing chronic homelessness but also to catch people who are on the verge of becoming chronically homeless.

They have also taken the unusual step of identifying people in permanent supportive housing who don't want to be there and would be safe in regular housing, which is less intrusive and less expensive. To make the change happen, however, they needed to persuade the county housing authority to approve funding. "In order to make a successful budget ask, we needed to show that we had looked at programs and found efficiencies," said Nili Soni, the continuum-of-care coordinator for Montgomery County's Department of Health and Human Services. The person-level data helped them make the case.

All of these local successes get turned into mini case studies and are logged in Built for Zero's menu of strategies. So if a community partner wants to know how to do effective street outreach or improve housing retention or get more landlords to accept people who have been homeless as tenants, there's an inventory of proven ideas to draw from. For example, when Ms. Jaeger and Ms. Walker, in Rockford, were looking for ways to encourage landlords to accept higher-risk clients, they read about a community that had created a fund that could reduce the financial risk for l andlords. Then they got the local community foundation to do the same.

When it comes to ending homelessness, the natural questions are: "Isn't this about resources? Having enough housing dollars?" Mr. Maguire said. "Yes, more resources are definitely needed, especially in high-cost housing markets. But that won't get you all the way. Many of our communities already have the resources they need to end veteran homelessness, and the thing holding them back is the challenge of developing a smarter, faster, more coordinated housing system for that money to flow through."

"If you look at what led to the eradication of smallpox," Ms. Haggerty of Community Solutions said, "it was the construction of a surveillance system -- a culture of iteration, habits of ongoing problem solving, understanding that it needs to be a team, data to keep you connected and focused. We're finding that that's at the core of ending homelessness, too. There will always be people having housing emergencies, but we can shrink it to a totally manageable number so that homelessness becomes rare, brief when it happens, and doesn't recur."

The solution to homelessness turns out to be housing.

Posted by orrinj at 3:20 PM


Kim Jong-un's next summits will apparently be with Vladimir Putin and Bashar al-Assad (Kelly Kasulis, June 06, 2018, GlobalPost)

Posted by orrinj at 1:31 PM


Sanders-Backed Candidate Comes Up Short in Iowa Primary ( Haris Alic, June 6, 2018, Free Beacon)

A former top aide to Sen. Bernie Sanders' (I., Vt.) faltered in his bid for a U.S. House of Representatives seat on Tuesday, despite receiving extensive political backing from the self-described Democratic socialist.

Posted by orrinj at 1:23 PM


Ivanka Trump Was In Contact With A Russian Who Offered A Trump-Putin Meeting (Anthony Cormier (BuzzFeed News Reporter) Jason Leopold (BuzzFeed News Reporter) Emma Loop (BuzzFeed News Reporter), 6/06/18, BuzzFeed News)

Amid intense scrutiny of contacts between Donald Trump's inner circle and representatives of Vladimir Putin, Ivanka Trump's name has barely come up. But during the campaign, she connected her father's personal lawyer with a Russian athlete who offered to introduce Donald Trump to Putin to facilitate a 100-story Trump tower in Moscow, according to emails reviewed by BuzzFeed News and four sources with knowledge of the matter. [...]

The contacts reveal that even as her father was campaigning to become president of the United States, Ivanka Trump connected Michael Cohen with a Russian who offered to arrange a meeting with one of the US's adversaries -- in order to help close a business deal that could have made the Trump family millions.

Posted by orrinj at 1:17 PM


What's the real reason Jared Kushner lost his security clearance? (Cockburn, 6 June 2018, Spectator USA)

A retired member of a US intelligence agency tells Cockburn there was another reason for revoking the temporary clearance. This source, having spoken to former colleagues still serving, says Kushner would habitually put in a stream of RFIs - Requests For Information - after he had seen the PDB or other briefings. These RFIs often related to places where his family or the Trump Organisation had business interests, or wanted to have them. There were instances, our source says, when this sensitive information was echoed back in US monitoring of calls between senior figures in the Middle East. One prince would be telling another prince secrets that the US intelligence agencies had only just gathered and passed to the White House. 

Posted by orrinj at 1:07 PM


After malpractice caps, doctors ordered fewer invasive tests to diagnose heart attacks (ELIZABETH COONEY, JUNE 6, 2018, STAT)

Heart attack symptoms can be ambiguous, and there are no clear guidelines on which test to try when. But a new study published Wednesday in JAMA Cardiology has found one factor that appears to sway a doctor's behavior when diagnosing a heart attack: whether the state where he or she is practicing has enacted a law capping malpractice damages. These laws limit payments made to compensate plaintiffs for "pain and suffering."

A research team from George Washington University showed that in nine states with new malpractice damage caps, physicians ordered 24 percent fewer angiographies as a first test than physicians in 20 states without such caps. In those new-cap states, doctors also ordered 21 percent fewer coronary angiographies as a follow-up and 23 percent fewer coronary procedures such as stenting, which other research says is sometimes an overused procedure.

Health care reform is about reducing consumption.

Posted by orrinj at 4:45 AM


Trump's Travel Ban Is in Trouble at the Supreme Court: Justice Kennedy's ruling in the Masterpiece Cakeshop case suggests the court's next big decision might go badly for the president. (RICHARD PRIMUS June 04, 2018, Politico)

[B]y framing the case as it did, the Court made its limited decision in Masterpiece Cakeshop v. Colorado Civil Rights Commission a warm-up act for another decision expected later this month--one at least as anticipated as Monday's wedding-cake decision. That other case is Hawaii v. Trump, the case about the executive order banning entry into the United States by nationals of several countries, most of them majority-Muslim. That case, like the wedding-cake case, is about the First Amendment's Free Exercise Clause. The author of Monday's decision, Justice Anthony Kennedy, is generally assumed to be the swing vote in the entry-ban case. And over and over in Monday's decision, Justice Kennedy articulated positions directly relevant to the entry ban--all of them running against the Trump administration's position.

At issue in Hawaii v. Trump is whether the entry ban order results from anti-Muslim animus--that is, a kind of religious prejudice. Much of the fight is about whether courts should ignore President Trump's Islamophobic statements when reasoning about the purpose of the entry ban. In Monday's decision, Justice Kennedy made plain that it is appropriate to consider the prejudice in things government officials say when analyzing claims that those officials' actions are unconstitutionally discriminatory: The key to the Masterpiece Cakeshop decision, for Kennedy, was a series of statements by two members of the Colorado Civil Rights Commission that displayed, or might have suggested, a prejudicial attitude toward the baker's religious beliefs.

Just because the sole excuse for the travel ban was Islamophobia is no reason to believe that he'll follow that framework.

Posted by orrinj at 4:43 AM


The Soros obsession: Why far-right conspiracy theories prevail (Patrick Strickland , 6/06/18, Al Jazeera)

Despite widespread condemnation by civil society groups and international watchdogs, the bill is the latest, and perhaps most concerning, realisation of the vast number of conspiracy theories surrounding the Hungarian-American Holocaust survivor. 

Soros's long-standing advocacy for liberal democracy and the acceptance of refugees in Europe and beyond is an ongoing source of contention in Hungary and several other countries on the continent. 

Alexander Reid Ross, author of Against the Fascist Creep, explained that "Soros conspiracies have always been a marker for the radical right as opposition to mainstream conservatism".

Explaining that such theories found currency among some leftists in the past, Ross noted that Soros has been blamed for economic crises, the tanking of currencies worldwide and backing an uprising against Serbia's former ultra-nationalist ruler Slobodan Milosevic, who was toppled in 2001.

The far right's narrative, however, has anti-Semitic undertones.

"In a way, he fits the perfect sort of historic epistemological category in the national socialist tradition," Reid Ross told Al Jazeera.

"It used to be Rothschild, but today, Rothschild conspiracy theories are much easier to debunk than they were back then.

"Now you have George Soros filling that space that those conspiracy theories used to occupy."

Posted by orrinj at 4:36 AM


Democrats Must Reject Howard Schultz and His Radical Centrist Ideology (Eric Levitz, 6/06/18, New York)

In recent interviews, Schultz has argued that progressive Democrats have grown so rigidly ideological, they can no longer recognize basic political and policy realities.

He has also contended that the wealthiest nation in human history can't afford to provide public health insurance to all of its citizens; that the national debt is a bigger threat to the United States than climate change; and that Democrats would be wise to demonstrate "leadership" to the electorate - by calling for cuts to Social Security and Medicare.

"It concerns me that so many voices within the Democratic Party are going so far to the left," Schultz told CNBC Tuesday. "I say to myself, 'How are we going to pay for these things,' in terms of things like single payer [and] people espousing the fact that the government is going to give everyone a job. I don't think that's realistic."

Schultz went on to say, "I think the greatest threat domestically to the country is this $21 trillion debt hanging over the cloud of America and future generations...The only way we're going to get out of that is we've got to grow the economy, in my view, 4 percent or greater. And then we have to go after entitlements."

In an interview with Time Magazine earlier this year, Schultz argued that any fair-minded Democrat - or Republican - would reach this same conclusion, if they only left "their ideology outside the room and recognized that we're here to walk in the shoes of the American people."

Balancing the budget is silly as economic policy, but it's not ideological.  People just, understandably, find deficits visually unpleasing.

Posted by orrinj at 4:33 AM


McDonald's Kiosks Are The New Cashiers (Venessa Wong, 6/05/18, BuzzFeed News)

McDonald's will roll out self-order kiosks to 1,000 stores every quarter for the next two years, according to CEO Steve Easterbrook.

The kiosks were already in roughly 3,500 US McDonald's restaurants as of March, or about one-fourth of its domestic stores. They will be in about half of US restaurants by the end of 2018 and in all stores by 2020. McDonald's locations in Australia, Canada, and the UK are even further along in kiosk usage.

Posted by orrinj at 4:24 AM


A decade after entering service, the first A380s are being stripped and sold for parts (Oliver Smith, 6 JUNE 2018, The Telegraph)

Fresh doubts have been cast on the future of the world's largest passenger plane after a German leasing company said it plans to break up two A380s that nobody wants. [...]

The travails of the A380 have become something on an aviation soap opera in recent years. The model was launched to much fanfare in 2005 with commentators declaring it the future of air travel. But airlines were harder to convince and sales slowly ground to a halt. Just two new orders were received in 2015 and none in either 2016 or 2017.

Posted by orrinj at 4:22 AM


Why Is Trump Mad at Sessions? A Tweet Provides the Answer (Peter Baker, June 5, 2018, NY Times)

For nearly a year, President Trump has been relentlessly attacking his handpicked attorney general for recusing himself from the Russia investigation that has so nettled him. And so in that sense, his tweet on Tuesday morning was simply the latest in a long string.

"The Russian Witch Hunt Hoax continues, all because Jeff Sessions didn't tell me he was going to recuse himself," Mr. Trump wrote. "I would have quickly picked someone else. So much time and money wasted, so many lives ruined ... and Sessions knew better than most that there was No Collusion!"

But what made this tweet so striking was that it encapsulated the essential contradictions of Mr. Trump's arguments. In fewer than 280 characters, he acknowledged perhaps as explicitly as he ever has that the reason he is mad at Mr. Sessions is that the attorney general did not shut down the investigation into Mr. Trump's campaign. 

Posted by orrinj at 4:01 AM


N.J. Races Go the Way Democratic Leaders Hoped (Steve Peoples And Michael R. Blood, 6/05/18, Associated Press)

A Democratic former Navy pilot earned the chance to take on a well-funded GOP state lawmaker in the suburbs of south New Jersey as a night of primaries across the country drew political battle lines for the November fight for control of Congress.

Mikie Sherrill, a former federal prosecutor, Navy pilot, and current Democratic establishment favorite bested a field of party rivals in the race to replace retiring Republican Rep. Rodney Frelinghuysen.

She'll take on Assemblyman Jay Webber in one of several races Democrats view as opportunities to pick up seats in their effort to retake the House.

Posted by orrinj at 3:58 AM


The Progressive Challenge That Wasn't (JOSH VOORHEES, JUNE 06, 2018, Slate)

The left may not love Dianne Feinstein, but California voters like her just fine. The five-term Democratic senator coasted to a first-place finish Tuesday in her state's "jungle" primary, in the process easily beating back a high-profile progressive challenge from state Senate leader Kevin de León.

Feinstein led the field by more than 30 percentage points in the early returns, and was quickly declared the winner by the Associated Press. The race for second in the nonpartisan primary--which will advance the top-two candidates to the general election, regardless of party--remained too close to call early Wednesday morning.

With nearly 20 percent of precincts reporting, de León was in a distant second place with just under 10 percent--running neck and neck with Republican James Bradley, a first-time candidate who was "shocked" to finish third in a poll a little more than a month ago.