January 6, 2020

Posted by orrinj at 6:31 PM


Finland ends homelessness and provides shelter for all in need (Scoop.me, November 14, 2019)

The policy applied in Finland is called "HousingFirst". It reverses conventional homeless aid. More commonly, those affected are expected to look for a job and free themselves from their psychological problems or addictions. Only then they get help in finding accommodation.

"Housing First", on the other hand, reverses the path: Homeless people get a flat - without any preconditions. Social workers help them with applications for social benefits and are available for counselling in general. In such a new, secure situation, it is easier for those affected to find a job and take care of their physical and mental health.

The result is impressive: 4 out of 5 homeless people will be able to keep their flat for a long time with "Housing First" and lead a more stable life.

In the last 10 years, the "Housing First" programme provided 4,600 homes in Finland. In 2017 there were still about 1,900 people living on the streets - but there were enough places for them in emergency shelters so that they at least didn't have to sleep outside anymore.

Creating housing for people costs money. In the past 10 years, 270 million euros were spent on the construction, purchase and renovation of housing as part of the "Housing First" programme. However, Juha Kaakinen points out, this is far less than the cost of homelessness itself. Because when people are in emergency situations, emergencies are more frequent: Assaults, injuries, breakdowns. The police, health care and justice systems are more often called upon to step in - and this also costs money.

In comparison, "Housing First" is cheaper than accepting homelessness: Now, the state spends 15,000 euros less per year per homeless person than before.

Posted by orrinj at 6:25 PM


Pompeo reportedly tells McConnell he won't run for Kansas Senate seat (Zachary Basu, 1/06/20, Axios)

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo met with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) Monday to inform him that he will not be running for Kansas' open Senate seat in 2020, the New York Times first reported and the Wall Street Journal confirmed.

Posted by orrinj at 6:15 PM


Romney wants 'to hear from John Bolton' in impeachment trial (JORDAIN CARNEY, 01/06/2020, The Hill)
Sen. Mitt Romney (R-Utah) said on Monday that he wants to hear from John Bolton after the former White House national security adviser offered to testify in President Trump's impeachment trial if subpoenaed.

Romney told reporters at the Capitol that he wants to hear from Bolton and find out "what he knows" about Trump's dealings with Ukraine.

Posted by orrinj at 6:12 PM


Jason Moran is making jazz history. Don't miss it. (Chris Richards, Jan. 2, 2020, Washington Post)

When was the last time you visited the observation deck of the Washington Monument? Amazing view, but what's the rush to see it? Same for browsing the shelves of the Library of Congress or dropping by the National Archives to catch a glimpse of that Constitution that everyone keeps talking about. In a city that constantly beckons us to check out its most astonishing perma-stuff, it's easy to put things off forever.

I'm ashamed to admit that I thought of Jason Moran the same way. As the Kennedy Center's artistic director for jazz, the New York-based pianist graces our town nearly a dozen times a year, routinely proving he's one of the most sensitive and inventive musicians alive. And while Moran has been working intensely with the Kennedy Center since 2011, it was only recently that I realized I was suffering a bad case of the I'll-catch-him-next-times.

To remedy that, I resolved to hear him as often as possible in 2019, and here's one thing I learned very quickly: Moran isn't like all those other Washington monuments. He changes. From show to show, he adapts to the contours of the moment, and his flexibility sparks big questions about how artists square bold vision with deep empathy.

Moran grew up in Houston listening to Thelonious Monk and hip-hop, and by the time he turned 22, he was one of jazz music's brightest rising stars. He won a MacArthur "genius" grant in 2010 and became Kennedy Center's artistic adviser for jazz in 2011 before being promoted to artistic director in 2014. Now, at 44, Moran is a towering figure in this music of endless possibility, and he appears to be taking those possibilities more seriously than ever.

The New York Times recently declared that the work Moran has undertaken in 2019 ranks among the decade's most significant achievements in jazz. His performances in Washington were only a part of it. Moran opened a solo exhibition at the Whitney Museum in New York in September, blending live performance and installation to enthusiastic reviews. Before that, the pianist and his wife, vocalist Alicia Hall Moran, had assembled "Two Wings," an ambitious musical program about the Great Migration that they toured from Carnegie Hall to the Kennedy Center to Berlin. It's been a massive year for sure.

And when an aesthetic proposition feels as broad as Jason Moran's, the best way to understand it is to experience as much of it as you can. I tried.

Posted by orrinj at 6:06 PM


ICE Detention Center Captain Was on a Neo-Nazi Website and Wanted to Start a White Nationalist Group (Tess Owen, Jan 6 2020, Vice)

A senior employee at a for-profit immigrant detention center in Nevada was active on the neo-Nazi site Iron March and aspired to establish a white nationalist chapter in his area.

Travis Frey, 31, is currently employed as a captain at the Nevada Southern Detention Center, which is run by private prison behemoth CoreCivic and contracted with ICE.

Frey joined Iron March in 2013, and posted at least a dozen times between 2016 and 2017 while he was working as head of security at a CoreCivic jail in Indianapolis, which was also authorized to house detainees on behalf of ICE.

The archives of the now-defunct website were leaked online in November, offering a glimpse into the early organizational efforts driving the modern, international white nationalist movement. The foundations of violent neo-Nazi groups such as Atomwaffen were established in Iron March chats, and white nationalist leaders like Matthew Heimbach have said they were radicalized by the time they spent on the site.

Posted by orrinj at 6:00 PM


America should neither fear nor envy the Chinese economic model (James Pethokoukis, January 6, 2020, AEIdeas)

That decline in total factor productivity -- a rough measure of growth due to technological and organizational innovation -- is particularly noteworthy given China's massive program of industrial subsidy. From that Economist piece: "There is evidence that China's heavy-handed intervention is becoming increasingly ineffective. Total factor productivity growth in China in recent years has been a third of what it was before the 2008 global financial crisis. Productivity has also slowed in other countries, but the World Bank, in a recent book about Chinese innovation, notes that China's slowdown has been unusually sharp." 

Or as The Wall Street Journal's Greg Ip wrote of China last year, "... the country's state-led growth model is running out of gas. ... Absent a change in direction, China may never become rich."

Posted by orrinj at 5:58 PM


How Trump's Trade War Is Making Lobbyists Rich And Slamming Small Businesses (Lydia DePillis,  Jan. 6, 2020, ProPublica)

Overall, Trump's tariffs have not had the effect that the self-described "Tariff Man" promised. Companies have moved manufacturing out of China -- and it has mostly gone to Vietnam, Taiwan and Mexico. Tariffs are chiefly behind a months-long decline in domestic manufacturing, Federal Reserve researchers have found. The total loss of jobs across the economy may be as high as 300,000.

But constantly up-in-the-air trade agreements and the byzantine, opaque exclusion process has been a blessing for one set of players: Washington's influence industry, including the firms of former Trump officials and allies like inauguration committee chief Brian Ballard, former White House chief of staff Reince Priebus and Trump fundraiser Marc Lampkin.

Ballard was once Trump's lobbyist in Florida. He's since been dubbed "the most powerful lobbyist in Trump's Washington." A cancer therapy firm, Varian Medical Systems, paid Ballard and a colleague $540,000 to lobby the White House, the trade office and Vice President Mike Pence on trade issues, filings show. The outreach included a meeting with Trump's director of trade and manufacturing policy, Peter Navarro.

Since then, four of Varian's five exclusion requests have been approved -- which, the company said in an SEC filing, boosted revenues by $23 million. (Navarro said he doesn't intervene in the exclusion process.)

Priebus' firm, Michael Best Strategies, was hired by a Wisconsin company, Primex, to handle exemptions for its timekeeping and temperature measurement devices. "You're not gonna do it on your own," Primex CEO Paul Shekoski said in an interview. "It's suicide actually."

Shekoski said he wanted help understanding the process and making sure all the requests were filed correctly. With Michael Best's guidance, he personally wrote letters to and met with his representatives in Washington.

The collective effort may have made it all the way to the Oval Office. Shekoski said in an email last fall that he heard from his lobbyist at Michael Best, Denise Bode, that Sen. Ron Johnson, R-Wis. cited Primex as an example of a Wisconsin company suffering from tariffs when the senator took the issue to the president. "He not only called USTR, he was able to bring our specific case up to Trump directly," Shekoski said. Bode did not respond to a request for comment, and a Johnson spokesman did not respond to questions about the Trump contact, saying only that Johnson had advocated for many Wisconsin companies.

Days before this story was published, Shekoski denied knowing whether Johnson brought up the issue with Trump. He said he was just trying to give his elected representatives concrete stories about small businesses struggling with tariffs that they could use to advocate for tariff relief.

Lobbying records show that Primex paid Priebus' firm, Michael Best Strategies, $85,000 in 2018 and 2019 for its services. "I'm not selling access," Priebus once told Politico. "I'm merely providing strategic advice and helping them handle their problems."

Posted by orrinj at 5:54 PM


Planned Parenthood's New Annual Report Proves Abortion Is Its Mission (ALEXANDRA DESANCTIS, January 6, 2020, National Review)

Based on the CDC statistics, then, Planned Parenthood clinics perform more than half of the total reported abortions in the U.S. and, based on Guttmacher's reporting, well over one-third of the estimated annual abortions each year. Planned Parenthood executives ritually insist that abortion is just 3 percent of group's "services" -- a carefully manufactured statistic that has been deemed inaccurate and misleading by left-leaning outlets such as Slate and the Washington Post -- even as the group performs somewhere between one-third and half the total abortions in the U.S. every year.

Contrast Planned Parenthood's 345,672 abortions in 2018 with the other actual services the group's facilities offered. According to the report, the group offered 9,798 prenatal-care services and made 4,279 adoption referrals, which means that its facilities performed 35 abortions for every instance of prenatal care and 81 abortions for every adoption referral.

Posted by orrinj at 5:52 PM


Obamacare looks surprisingly sturdy after the individual mandate's repeal (Dylan Scott,  Jan 6, 2020, Vox)

Insurers are doing just fine, according to new data from the Kaiser Family Foundation. The margins they're seeing per individual customer (the difference between the premiums they're paid and the medical claims they pay out) look as healthy as they have in years. Despite fears the lack of the mandate would drive healthier people out of the market, there is little evidence that's actually happened.

Instead, the individual market continues to go through a soft attrition: Premiums continue to increase, but only slightly, and enrollment is shrinking, again slightly. It's not a death spiral, but the market is slowly being winnowed to a core customer base: People who get federal assistance to cover their premiums, and unsubsidized customers who don't receive that help but need good health insurance.

"Before the ACA, a lot of people who were sick or low-income were unable to buy their own coverage on the individual market," Cynthia Cox, who studies the Obamacare markets for KFF, says. "Now we are seeing that the market is working for low and moderate-income people who are able to get a subsidy, but prohibitively expensive for some upper-middle income people who do not qualify for financial help."

Posted by orrinj at 2:27 PM


Here's What Americans Think About Trump's Iran Policy (Ariel Edwards-Levy, 1/06/19, HuffPo)

Forty-three percent of Americans approve of the decision to order the airstrike that killed Iranian military commander Qassem Soleimani, according to the poll, with 38% disapproving and 19% unsure.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Hamas leader praises Soleimani at Tehran funeral in show of support for Iran (The Times of Israel, 1/06/20)

The leader of the Hamas terror group spoke at the Tehran funeral of Iranian general Qassem Soleimani on Monday, crediting the Quds Force leader  with building his and other Palestinian groups.

What Soleimani "provided to Palestine and the resistance has brought them to the position they are in today in terms of power and steadfastness," Haniyeh said.

Dubbing Soleimani "the martyr of Jerusalem," Haniyeh said his death would not deter Palestinian terror groups from fighting Israel.

Because they don't consider Muslims to be human, they expect their demands for self-government to end from Lebanon to Yemen, just because one guy is dead.  It's like thinking blacks would accept Jim Crow once MLK was murdered.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Iraqi prime minister says Qassem Soleimani was in Iraq to 'discuss de-escalating tensions between Iran and Saudis' when he was killed - and claims Trump had asked for help mediating talks after embassy attack (ARIEL ZILBER FOR DAILYMAIL.COM and ASSOCIATED PRESS and AFP, 5 January 2020, Daily Mail)

Adel Abdul Mahdi, Iraq's caretaker prime minister, told his parliament on Sunday that President Trump called him to ask for help in mediating with Iran after the American embassy in Baghdad was attacked. [...]

Abdul Mahdi said he worked hard to defuse tensions outside the embassy.

He said he went so far as to threaten to resign if the crowds did not disperse, according to Axios. 

Abdul Mahdi even told Iraq's parliament that Trump thanked him for his efforts. He expressed disappointment that while the American president was grateful, he was also simultaneously planning an attack on Soleimani. 

Soon after Trump made his request to Abdul Mahdi for mediation, US forces launched their drone strike on Friday killing Soleimani, the Iraqi leader was quoted as saying by National Public Radio.

Abdul Mahdi slammed the Americans on Sunday for what he called a 'political assassination' in targeting Soleimani.

Abdul Mahdi suggested that the Iranian military leader was in Baghdad as part of Iraqi-mediated negotiations with Iran's main regional rival, Saudi Arabia.

He said that Soleimani was going to meet him on the same day that he was killed.

'He came to deliver me a message from Iran, responding to the message we delivered from Saudi Arabia to Iran,' Abdul Mahdi told The Washington Post.