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Protective Life
21 марта, 23:42

Daily Press Briefing by the Press Secretary - #25

James S. Brady Press Briefing Room  1:56 P.M. EDT MR. SPICER:  Hi, guys.  The hearing is still -- Judge Gorsuch’s hearing is ongoing, and considering the significant attention, I'm going to try to keep this a little on the shorter side today. The President is making a full day of progress towards some of his biggest promises that he’s made to the American people.  This morning he met with the House Republican Conference members on Capitol Hill, ahead of the House’s scheduled vote on the American Health Care Act, which is currently scheduled for Thursday. During the meeting, the President reminded members of the House Conference that repealing and replacing Obamacare has been a promise that Republicans have been making to voters for years. Members have made it clear that if voters put a Republican in the White House and continue Republican majorities in the House and the Senate that we would repeal and replace this ill-advised legislation. And for every member who pledged to the American people that they would deliver on this promise, this is really their chance. This is the repeal of Obamacare that Republicans have been working on for years, and voters have been waiting for this for some time. On Thursday, as the House gathers on the floor and casts their votes for the ACH, it will be exactly seven years after President Obama had signed Obamacare into law.  We’re hoping to make this the last anniversary Americans will have to endure Obamacare.  Republicans have been working to repeal and replace this misguided law ever since.  And now, under President Trump, we will finally be able to take this step towards fundamental reform of our healthcare system.  I think most Americans remember the lines that were used to sell Obamacare seven years ago:  “If you like your doctor, you can keep your doctor.”  “If you like your healthcare plan, you’ll be able to keep your healthcare plan.”  But for millions of Americans, those lines proved to be nothing more than empty promises.  Plans that their families had relied on for years were suddenly cancelled.  Premiums and deductibles skyrocketed, leaving many who had plans unable to actually use them.  And insurers fled the marketplace.  Nearly one in five Americans only have one insurer offering plans on their Obamacare exchange. President Trump and Republicans in Congress will keep their promise by reforming the system once and for all.  And that’s exactly what we’re doing with the American Health Care Act, which, along with the additional legislative and administrative action that is part of the three-prong approach that we continue to outline, will finally give all Americans the healthcare system they deserve, where market-based competition leads to more affordable, higher-quality care opportunities. This is an ongoing process, and the President has made it clear to Congress that they should be open to incorporating some of the common-sense policy proposals that have been suggested by members in both chambers who share their commitment to improving the healthcare system.  To that end, the House introduced several technical and policy amendments to the legislation last night, which the President acknowledged on Capitol Hill this morning.  They include:  Delivering more immediate relief from Obamacare’s taxes, accelerating the repeal of these taxes from 2017 rather than from 2018, and ensuring that millions of Americans who paid Obamacare’s penalties or taxes can reclaim their hard-earned dollars from the IRS. It's making it easier for Americans to deduct more of the costs of their medical expenses.   Protecting life by prohibiting taxpayer dollars from being used to help purchase insurance plans that currently cover abortion. Giving states additional flexibility for their Medicaid program covering traditional adult and children populations, while maintaining baseline funding for elderly and disabled populations. Giving states the ability to implement optional, reasonable work requirements for able-bodied adults without dependents as part of their Medicaid programs. Freezing Obamacare’s Medicaid expansion while allowing for a responsible unwinding, so that people who enroll before 2020 will continue to be supported by the program. And providing a more generous reimbursement for elderly and disabled Medicaid enrollees, recognizing that those populations have unique needs that must be taken care of. After a return to the White House from the House -- speaking to the House Republican Conference, the President received his Daily Intelligence Briefing.  Then the President signed S.442, the NASA Administration Transition Authorization Act for 2017, acting on another of the President’s most ambitious promise to the American people.  Many may recall in his joint address, the President said of a dream.” And with this bill, he is taking the latest step towards making that dream a reality by reiterating NASA’s mission to ensure America remains a leader in space exploration.  This bipartisan, bicameral legislation provides NASA with the full support it needs to fulfill this and many other important missions, including:  supporting NASA’s plan to explore deep space and sending astronauts to Mars, including an endorsement of launching the Mars 2020 Rover.  The rover will explore a site that is likely to have been habitable, seeking signs of past life and testing compelling samples and techniques for future robotic and eventual human exploration of Mars. Reaffirming that NASA remains a fully multi-mission agency with a balanced set of core missions in space science, space technology, aeronautics, human space flight, exploration, and education.   Endorsing NASA’s continued progress towards launching the James Webb Telescope, which will be a giant leap forward in our ever-evolving quest to understand the universe, and establishing an astronaut occupational healthcare program, something that NASA has considered a priority for years. After the bill signing, the Vice President also announced that the President will be taking action shortly to relaunch the National Space Council, which the Vice President will chair.  The President was honored to sign this new bill into law so that NASA can continue its work towards making America the world leader in space exploration once again. Also this morning, the President -- the Vice President, rather, hosted a breakfast meeting with Prime Minister al-Abadi of Iraq.  We provided a readout on the President’s meeting with the Prime Minister yesterday as well, and I believe there has been a readout of the Vice President’s as well. At 3:00 p.m. this afternoon, the President will meet with members of Congress who are part of the House Tuesday Group to discuss the American Health Care Act.  And this evening, the President will speak at the National Republican Congressional Committee March Dinner. Over on the Senate side of the Hill, the President’s pick for the Supreme Court, Judge Neil Gorsuch has been doing a phenomenal job in the Senate today during his first day of questioning.  The judge’s eloquent testimony yesterday was widely praised from both sides of the aisle, and it’s clear that everyone agrees, from a broad spectrum, that Judge Gorsuch is a very qualified person to serve on the Supreme Court. As the Judge noted today, “a judge is there to make sure that every person, poor or rich, mighty or meek, gets equal protection of [under] the law.”  His records show that he has lived up to this commitment throughout his entire career, and he’s continuing to prove that he is exactly the type of jurist we need on the Supreme Court throughout the questioning that’s started today. Today is also National Agriculture Day, for those who are keeping note.  The world needs America’s farmers and ranchers to lead, just as the world needs America to lead.  Global food demand is expected to increase by 50 to 97 percent by 2050.  The world can’t afford for America’s farmers and ranchers to retreat, but the agriculture industry has met its share of challenges in recent years.  While our farmers are the most efficient in the world, margins have been tightening, regulations have been multiplying, and exports, which have historically counted for over one-fifth of U.S. farm production, have been declining due to unwise trade policies. The President promised the many people in the agriculture industry and throughout rural America that he would not allow this to continue, and he will continue to pursue policy changes that will reverse this disturbing trend. Quickly, in terms of follow-up from yesterday, I was asked about North Korea, and I wanted to provide an update from the NSC: “The United States, in coordination with our allies, is exploring a new range of diplomatic, security, and economic measures in response to the grave and escalating threat posed by North Korea’s nuclear and ballistic missile programs.” And before I open it up for questions, let me run through a few scheduling updates.  Tomorrow, the President will stop by the Women in Healthcare panel hosted by CMS Administrator Seema Verma.  There will also be a series of meetings with members of Congress tomorrow.  In the morning, the President will meet with members to discuss the American Health Care Act.  And in the afternoon he will meet with congressional -- members of the Congressional Black Caucus. On Thursday, the President will have lunch with Secretary of the Treasury Mnuchin before hosting a meeting with truckers and representatives from trucking companies on healthcare that we discussed yesterday.  In many states throughout the country, trucking happens to be one of the largest employers, and it’s important to understand the impact of healthcare legislation on this important industry. I’ll have updates on the weekend schedule for you hopefully tomorrow.  And finally, yesterday, pursuant to the President’s executive order on interior enforcement that he signed on January 25th, the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement Agency, ICE, released its first weekly list of detainee requests, which local law enforcement agencies have failed to comply with.  These examples where criminal illegals who have been arrested or convicted, in many cases, of serious and violent crimes threaten public safety.  In each instance, local law enforcement is refusing to cooperate with ICE in its efforts to remove illegal immigrants who have committed a crime.  It is part of the President’s continued efforts to keep our communities safe. A copy of this report is available on the ICE website that details all of the municipalities where there has been an issue and the crime that has been committed, and the person -- not necessarily the person’s name, but the offense in which they were convicted for. And with that, I’d be glad to take a few questions.  Since we’re talking Supreme Court -- John Roberts.  (Laughter.)  Come on.  That was good. Q    Unless there’s an Alito in the audience.  On healthcare, the President came away from Capitol Hill sounding pretty positive about where he was going to go on Thursday, but then at the same time, Heritage Action came out and said it was going to encourage members to vote “no.”  Club for Growth is taking out ads attacking this bill.  Jim Jordan said the President’s great, but it’s still a bad bill.  This is going to go to a vote day after tomorrow.  What gives the President the sense of optimism that he can get this through, and might he request more changes from Speaker Ryan before it goes to a vote? MR. SPICER:  Well, we’ve talked about this for days.  There’s been a lot of input from members of Congress, and I think that the meeting this morning really was a huge sign of support. There was a lot of enthusiasm and optimism, not just for the bill itself but for something that, as I noted, conservatives and Republicans and a lot of Democrats, frankly, have been fighting for for a while, which is a more patient-centric healthcare system. I think the President is continuing to engage with members. He will continue to do that all the way through Thursday.  But as I also noted, there were a lot of changes that were made by the Speaker last night, additional legislation -- the three-pronged approach that we’ve talked about in the past has been put forward to actually make sure that members understood the comprehensive nature of this. This is one vehicle. There’s a huge administrative piece that Secretary Price will administer through administrative action that was given to them when they passed this bill and gave that authority to Kathleen Sebelius, then the Secretary of Health and Human Services, to implement pieces that they couldn’t get done legislatively. We can now unwind a lot of that and add a lot of consumer-based and competition measures through the administrative thing. But then the third prong, all the other stuff that we've talked about for years as Republicans -- buying across state lines, expanding health savings accounts, et cetera, et cetera -- all of that has now been introduced as well.  And I think that he continues to meet with members and walk away with a very, very optimistic view of where the bill is headed.  I think a lot of the measures that have been changed and tweaked and updated have assuaged members who had concerns or wanted to see some additional tightening.   But keep in mind, if you are a conservative who has been fighting for repeal and replace, this is your chance.  If you are a conservative who has been looking to address out-of-control entitlement spending, this is the first attempt -- this is the first reform of an entitlement program in terms of Medicaid in 30 years.  These are a truly conservative set of principles that we are fighting for.  The competition that's in the bill, the ability to allow prices to come down and choice to go up, there is nothing more conservative than there is in this bill.  And I think as members continue to talk about ideas that have been included in this bill, and the principles of it, we feel very good going into the final stretch. Q    But may he seek more changes in order to further assuage some -- MR. SPICER:  It's possible.  But I think that we've made some very positive steps forward.  So I don’t want to rule anything out, but I will say that I feel very good about this where it stands now.  And I think the more and more that members meet with the President, the more they understand how important this is to the overall agenda that we're seeking to pass.  And I think if we can -- as the President noted this morning to members, if you can repeal Obamacare, replace it with a healthcare system that does what conservatives and independents, and, frankly, some Democrats have talked about it for years, that does exactly that kind of thing -- instill choice, drive down costs, allows people to actually get care that they've been promised, and then get on to things like tax reform -- we will have an amazing first year in office. And I think the President reminded them this is the first step in an amazing agenda that he set forth and that we can work together on. Eamon. Q    Thanks, Sean.  Members of this administration have talked about the stock market as a real-time barometer for how the administration is performing.  But this afternoon, though, the stock market has been off as much as 200 points on the Dow.  Some commentators on Wall Street are suggesting that's because traders are starting to sense a lack of progress in the Trump legislative agenda, worried that he might not be able to accomplish everything he set out to do.  Does the President believe that today's dip in the Dow is the result of his performance as President of the United States? MR. SPICER:  Well, I think to look at any one day is nothing that we've ever -- we've always cautioned.  I think overall it still continues to be up tremendously.  And I think when you look at not just that one indicator -- I think if you want to get a -- I mean, you probably know better than anybody in terms of what you guys cover -- that you can't look at one indices and say that that is the benchmark of an entire economy.  But you see confidence levels, both in small business and in other surveys, that show that there is continued confidence in the market and optimism in the market.  You see manufacturers coming back to America, talking about investment; major CEOs and small businesses trying to grow the economy and talking about job creation.  Those are the real indicators.   And again, I think the numbers that we saw last month -- again, one month doesn’t make a record.  But I think that it was very promising, not just because of what the number was, but what it had been forecast to be -- right?  So it was expected to be 200,000; it came in at 235,000.  So, again, when you're over-performing, I think that shows a sign of optimism and confidence in the market. I think -- again, I just want to make sure that we're clear before we go into -- as we continue through the months.  One report does not make something to base an entire record off of.  But I think that we feel very good about where things are headed and the direction things are going, not just in terms of the indices and the ups and downs in the market, but also in terms of the number of manufacturers that are walking in and restating their commitment to grow jobs, expand, et cetera, in the market.   Q    -- feel confidence that President Trump will be able to get a tax cut done this year that would be in place for next year, is that something we should worry about at all? MR. SPICER:  Look, I think we're well on our way to seeing this agenda done.  The President has rolled out the budget, which I think reaffirmed his commitment to fiscal austerity and to the priorities he set out of defending this country, making the increases in national defense and homeland security that he promised, prioritizing other things in the budget.  We've got Obamacare done, on immigration, executive order-wise.   And I think that when you're doing big things -- Obamacare, tax reform -- I mean, the healthcare system is a fifth of the economy; that's not small fee.  And I think in terms of what you've seen so far -- going through three committees, moving along -- the Senate ready to take it up, his pick of Neil Gorsuch -- the agenda is moving along at a very brisk pace in terms of what his priorities were and where I think we're headed. Q    Sean, last month, I guess, you talked to us about the consideration, potentially, of the carbon tax, which I guess was discussed in a meeting at the White House.  We're hearing some reports that there's a pretty lively internal debate.  Gary Cohn might be someone who's more prone to that.  Can you just discuss, is the President considering a carbon tax?  And what are sort of the various things that are going on in the White House with that? MR. SPICER:  I think there's a robust debate going on with respect to comprehensive tax reform.  And as we've mentioned, I mean, our goal right now is to get through Thursday, and that's what the President has talked about very publicly.  We need to get Obamacare repealed and replaced, and move on to tax reform and some of the other trade reviews that we've talked about -- immigration.  There's a lot of things on the agenda.  But I'm not going to comment on specific prongs of that.  I will just tell you that obviously there's a lot of people who recognize that we haven’t have comprehensive tax reform since 1986, and that there’s a lot of pieces in this that we need to examine and get to and there’s a lot of voices and opinions that get shared with him. So I’m not in a position where I’m going to get into commenting piecemeal on where it is, but I will say that’s even more reason that we -- let’s get past Thursday.  When you look at the week ahead real quick, Glenn, in terms of this, the repeal-and-replace aspect and Gorsuch, I think, from a legislative standpoint -- going back to Eamon’s question -- I think it’s a pretty big week for the White House to seeing all this done. Hunter. Q    Thank you, Sean.  President Trump has previously indicated that he wanted to appoint pro-life judges who would be willing to overturn Roe vs. Wade, yet in his testimony today Judge Gorsuch said he would have walked out the door if President Trump asked if he had this position.  Is President Trump still confident that Judge Gorsuch would be willing to overturn Roe vs. Wade?  And is this position still important to him? MR. SPICER:  I think the President’s comments speak for themselves.  I think the President’s list that he’s put out on 20 are jurists that both the Federalist Society and Heritage have deemed to be people who interpret the Constitution as originalists, as people who aren’t looking to legislate from the bench.  And I’m not going to take the bait during a live hearing to comment on that but I appreciate the effort. Ronika. Q    Thank you, Sean.  I have two questions on the same story.  Recently a 14-year-old girl, she was raped in the boy’s bathroom of her high school.  A 17- and 18-year-old boy have been charged.  One of the boys we know unlawfully entered the country; both of them have outstanding orders with ICE.  So here’s my first question about it:  Currently, schools are prohibited from denying access to public education based on immigration status.  Does the President hear a story like that and think that it should change or be addressed in a future executive order? MR. SPICER:  I think first, let me just say that this is a tragic event, and it’s horrendous and horrible and disgusting what this young woman in Rockville went through.  I can’t possibly imagine.  So first of all, let’s remember the human side of this, that this is a tragic event that no child, no person, no parent should ever have to deal with.  Schools should be a place where a parent puts their child on a bus or drops them off or sees them off and knows that they’re safe.  And the idea that this occurred is shocking, disturbing, horrific, and whatever other words that come to mind that someone can think of. Because this is not -- schools should be a safe place where children are there to learn and to feel safe.  In that kind of environment -- to know that this happened and the circumstances  -- this young women in particular fought to come to this country legally because of the freedoms and the treasures of this nation. And to think that this kind of tragedy would occur to someone who’s personally endured that kind of struggle to come to this nation and then face this is reprehensible.  And it is not who we are as a country.   I think it is troubling, and I think further, to your question, the President recognizes that education is a state-run and a local-run issue.  But I think it is pause for concern what happened there, and I think the city should look at its policies. And I think that this is something that authorities are going to have to look at. I think from an immigration standpoint, clearly to see somebody -- there are so many facets of this case that deserve question -- why was there a -- I think he was 17 or 18 years old -- 18, thank you -- and how does that person get put into the ninth grade?  Why was -- there are so many issues that come up in this case. I will leave it to authorities to get to, but I think that we are in the early stages of this and there’s a lot that needs to get addressed with respect to this case in particular.   Q    So I hear you about it being a state issue.  Let’s talk about something, though, that the President has implemented and introduced VOICE -- VOICE, Victims of Immigration Crime Enforcement -- is that enough to support a -- MR. SPICER:  No, it’s one piece.  The President understands that victims need a voice, which is why he brought it in there, to help them when they’re specifically targeted or victims of a crime by people who are here illegally.  But I think part of the reason that the President has made illegal immigration and crackdown such a big deal is because of tragedies like this. We act so many times when we talk about this and say -- how is the President going to -- why is the President dealing with this -- because of this priority.  Well, part of the reason is because of the tragedy that this young girl dealt with, had inflicted upon her, whatever the word is -- this is why he’s passionate about this, because people are victims of these crimes in terms of them -- they’re victims of the economic pieces, there’s a national security.  But immigration pays its toll on our people if it’s not done legally. And this is another example, and it’s why the President is so passionate about this.  But he recognizes that it’s multifaceted, why we have to be tough at the border, why I just read off that this executive order is dealing with people who have committed crimes who local enforcement agencies, our municipalities of -- at the state level are not dealing with it. And if you go to the ICE website and download this, you’ll see it’s over 30-something pages of cases where there’s a person that is convicted of a crime that local people -- local municipal law enforcement, for whatever reason -- and in some cases they’re prohibited but for one reason or another are not enforcing the law and not turning that individual over to federal authorities to be deported.  And I think this is another example of why this issue needs to be addressed.   Jon.   Q    Sean, is the President going to hold Republicans who vote against healthcare accountable?  Are they going to pay a price if they vote against this bill? MR. SPICER:  I think they’ll probably pay a price at home, meaning I think that you can’t go promise over and over again, since 2010 -- in the case the member has been there that long, but at least for those who have been there that long and at least -- and even the new ones -- this was a major component of the last election.  And I think there is probably not a single Republican member in itself who went out and talked about this.   And I think when you realize the components of this bill and that the President worked with the House and the Senate to put something together that achieved a promise that was made to voters, yeah, I think there’s going to be a price to be paid, but it’s going to be with their own voters.  And they’re going to have to go back and explain to them why they made a commitment to them and then didn’t follow through. And one of the things that’s interesting that people who agree or don’t agree with the President in terms of legislative agenda, at least give him high remarks regardless of whether or not they subscribe to his agenda, for keeping his word and his promises.  And I think that’s one of the things that he’s made very clear this morning. We pledged to the American people at the congressional level, at the Senate level, at the presidential level to go do something.  And this bill, while probably not everybody got everything they wanted, does exactly what we said.  It’s repealing it and replacing it with all of the principles and the aspects that we discussed throughout not only last cycle but in a lot of these cases back through 2010. Margaret. Q    Will he campaign against those Republicans? MR. SPICER:  Let’s get through the vote.  I think one of the things that he made clear this morning was that he was going to make sure that the people who did support this, he would be out there supporting them.  And so I’m not going to focus on the negative as much as the positive today.  And he made it clear to members that for those of you who go out there and keep your word and support it, we’re going to make sure that we remember those who stood by us and who stood by the word that they gave to their voters. Margaret. Q    Thanks.  Okay, so I was actually -- that’s one I was going to ask, but let me try to -- MR. SPICER:  Oh. Q    No, that’s okay, I’ve got another one, don’t worry.  So my other one -- but I’m going to go back to that -- is on the laptop restrictions by the U.S. and now the UK, it certainly sounds like that may have been in response to some kind of a specific security threat.  What can you talk about from the podium in as much specificity as you can, and if you can’t do specifics at least to help us to understand -- are there multiple threats, is there one threat, what is going on here? MR. SPICER:  So yesterday the TSA announced new enhanced measures on flights inbound to the United States from 10 of more than the 250 countries that have flights coming into the United States that serve as the last point of departure.  I think even ranking member of the House Intelligence Committee, Adam Schiff, who we’ve not always shared the same point of view with, even agreed by saying, “These steps are both necessary and proportional to the threat.” Elevated [Evaluated] intelligence that we’re aware of indicates that terrorist groups continue to target commercial aviation and are aggressive in pursuing innovative methods to undertake their attacks to include smuggling an explosive device in various consumer objects.  Base on this information, the Secretary of Homeland Security and the TSA administrator determined that it’s necessary to enhance security procedures for passengers at certain last-point-of-departure airports.   That being said, I’m not going to go any further than that, and I would refer any further comment to the TSA. Q    Can I try what I was going to try out earlier then?  Mark Meadows -- seems like a nice guy -- and the President seemed like he was kind of joking, but has the President decided in his own mind yet whether he thinks it would be appropriate potentially to mount primary opposition, to campaign for primary opposition in Republican congressional midterms? MR. SPICER:  Mark Meadows is a long-time early supporter of the President.  He had some fun at his expense this morning during the conference meeting, and I think he continued to express hope that Congressman Meadows, who’s the head of the Freedom Caucus, would continue to see the efforts that have been made to make this better and address a lot of the concerns out there. But he has made it very clear that he was having fun with him.  The President is committed to making sure that this gets passed.  We’ll go from there. Vivian. Q    Thanks, Sean.  First a follow-up to Margaret’s question.  Why wait for the new aviation regulations 96 hours to implement it?  Isn’t the President’s mantra on counterterrorism that we have to kind of sneak up on our enemies, not let them know our tactics? MR. SPICER:  So I’m going to ultimately you refer you back to TSA, but I will tell you that -- remember that these are 10 airports of last point of departure to the United States out of 250 that come here.  Part of it is to allow -- you have to provide appropriate notification to the host country, to the host airlines, and give them opportunity to get those procedures in place. I’m not going to comment any further about the security measures that have been taking place or are taking place just to continue to refer you back to TSA.  But I will tell you that I think that implementing something of this nature in that timeframe is pretty darn quick. Q    Okay, and one more -- sorry, I had a follow-up -- MR. SPICER:  Of course. Q    Sorry.  Something totally unrelated.  I wanted to ask, has the White House Counsel approved Ivanka Trump getting a West Wing office and clearance?  And so what is the administration’s thinking behind this?  What is she going to do as the -- MR. SPICER:  I don’t think the counsel actually approves office space, but I get your questions. Q    Right. MR. SPICER:  Ivanka has taken on several measures to promote high standards of ethical conduct.  Even though she’s not a federal employee, she’ll follow the restrictions that would apply if she were.  She’s taking these steps with advice of counsel and in consultation with the Office of Government Ethics. Hallie. Q    Two for you.  One on healthcare, to follow up on the follow-ups.  You’ve made very clear that the President was going to be supporting those who supported the bill.  And I want to talk about the flip side of that, but when he talked this morning in the closed-door meeting about people paying a price, losing seats, not get the majority -- is that an implied threat from the President to the members that don't back this bill MR. SPICER:  No, I think it's a political reality.  I think if you go out and promise the American people something and your voters something, especially on a scale like this -- and, frankly, as I said, there’s obviously members that have been there one term, two terms, three terms, but this is something that as a party we've made very clear -- if you give us this, American people, we will get this done.  And I think that to go and make a promise and a pledge of this magnitude and not to follow it through, I'm sure that voters would be upset. And we've seen this in the past.  And it's something that I think the President, as I mentioned earlier, has staked -- has earned high marks for, is keeping his word.  And I think the President was stating a political reality -- if we go out there and make these pledges to the American people and don't do what we've said we've done on these big things, then I don't think they’re going to continue to want to see us in the majority and they’re going to look for an alternative. Q    And the second, just about -- will he remember the names of those who don't back the bill?   MR. SPICER:  (Laughter.)  We’ll see. John Gizzi. Q    Actually, on yesterday, I just wanted to clarify that. MR. SPICER:  -- on counting -- it's like CBO.  (Laughter.)  Sorry.  Come on, that was -- Q    Do you want to elaborate on that one? MR. SPICER:  No, I don't.  Please go ahead. Q    I do want to ask about the Russia testimony from yesterday.  I know you obviously addressed it from the podium hours ago, but there was sort of this interesting moment that happened a little bit after the briefing, where Director Comey was asked about the live tweets coming from the President in his account at the same time that the hearing was happening.  And Director was fact-checking the President in real time, essentially saying he was incorrect in what he was tweeting.  Is there concern on the part of the White House about the President’s credibility in that situation, that his own Director is correcting his tweets and what he’s saying in real time? MR. SPICER:  Well, I mean, let’s just be clear.  I mean, he was answering questions.  I mean, it's not like he was out there -- he was responding to a question.  But again, I think it's important to note, with respect to this -- and I saw a couple comments yesterday -- Senator Coons took issue with a couple of the comments that we made.  Let me just read you -- I know you guys love this when I do this, so I'm just going to entertain you for a second -- Senator Chris Coons -- this is his quote, direct quote -- “I have no hard evidence of collusion.”  Director Clapper, “Not to my knowledge.”  Senator Tom Cotton, “Not that I've seen and not that I'm aware of.”  This is in reference to any type of collusion with Russia that occurred. Obama’s Acting CIA Director Morell, “There’s smoke but there’s no fire.”  Senator Chuck Grassley after the Comey briefing -- I can say #POTUS and #Clapper are both right, no evidence of Trump collusion with the Russians. So we've now gone over this on multiple occasions, but at some point there is a distinction between an investigation that goes into Russia’s involvement in 2016 and this continued narrative that falsely tries to link the Trump -- the President or the White House into any of it.  They continue to see that there is nothing there.  Every single person who has been briefed who has come out and publicly talked about it -- Republican, Democrat, former DNI, former CIA directors, Obama appointees -- have said no evidence. And so I get that -- we keep getting asked -- Q    That's not my question. MR. SPICER:  But my point is, is that -- that was one of the tweets, though, that he addressed.  He said, former DNI continues to note -- and that was actually true.  These are their quotes.  This is what they’ve said.  So it's not a question -- I think sometimes you come back to us -- at some point, the question has to be to the individuals who said this -- whether it's Chris Coons from Delaware, or former Director Clapper, or former CIA Acting Director Morell -- they’re the ones who’ve said these things on the record.  They’re the ones who’ve been briefed by the intelligence community, by the FBI, and come out and said there is no collusion. And so, at some point, to fact-check the President for merely quoting them is not -- the question should be directed at them, not us.  But over and over again, it's come to the same conclusion.   So, Kaitlan.  All right, John.  Then Kaitlan.  That was very nice of you.  It's National Ag Day afterwards -- Q    Thank you, Sean.  Thank you, Kaitlan.  I have two questions.  First, the author David Horowitz, in his book, The Big Agenda, writes of what he calls “a deep state,” in which he said these are Obama holdovers in government who are trying to undercut the President’s agenda.  This has been widely repeated on social media.  Does the President himself believe in this deep state? MR. SPICER:  Well, I've been asked this question before and I'll give you the same answer I've given before, which is I think there are people that burrow into the government after an administration -- this is going back since the beginning of time. They used to call it ramspecking -- it's suddenly no longer permitted in terms of that same way.  But this has been going on since the country was -- country came to be, where people burrow in after an administration into a civil servant job.  But, sure, there’s people, after eight years of Obama that found their way into government, so it should be no huge secret. Okay? Q    Yes.  Another question on --  Q    What was that again? Q    -- that word? MR. SPICER:  Ramspecking?  Oh, Google it. Q    I remember -- I remember when -- Q    How do you spell it? MR. SPICER:  You ever seen my spelling?  Come on.  (Laughter.)  Ramspecking.  It was named after -- we're going to go through a history lesson here, guys. Q    My other question was, over the weekend, Governor Graco Ramirez, the head of the Mexican Governors Association, was again in Washington, and in a much publicized statement said that Mexico had scored its first victory over the proposed wall.  He said that in the President’s budget there’s a line item for $2.6 billion -- MR. SPICER:  In FY’18. Q    -- in tax dollars, and no mention of Mexico paying for the wall in any way.  He’s claimed a victory in that.  Your response to Governor Graco Ramirez? MR. SPICER:  It's a little early to be claiming victory.  I think the President has made it clear that he was going to use the current process to start the construction of the wall and that there would be ways that that fulfillment of that pledge would come true. Kaitlan. Q    Thank you.  The administration and the President have repeatedly said that over the next few weeks they will present evidence that he was wiretapped.  And last week he said it would be coming this week and he may speak on it this week.  Can we expect the President to, this week, present evidence that he was wiretapped by Barack Obama?  Or will he speak about it?  Because he didn’t mention it last night in his rally. MR. SPICER:  Let’s see how the week goes.   Margaret. Q    Sean, when we heard from the President before talk about the need for this healthcare plan to pass, he’s talked about the important steps of tax reform and the rest.  At what point do you think that his agenda could be imperiled as you look at the vote count?  Because you're also going to have a further fight, of course, to get any of this through the Senate. MR. SPICER:  So, at what point will the vote count -- Q    This seems to be such a centerpiece of the rest of the President’s agenda.  So given that it’s still not any -- there’s no certainty in terms of passage at this point, how concerned are you that Thursday could imperil the President’s agenda? MR. SPICER:  Well, I think it’s -- the President’s visit this morning was very well received.  I think we continue down the path to get the votes.  We got a ways to go.  We got to get to the Senate next.  But I think members understand that this is something that has been at the heart of what Republicans have campaigned, and I feel we -- I feel very good headed into this.  The President continues to talk to members, and we're going to make sure that we grow the vote as much as we can. But with respect to the rest of the agenda, I think all of the issues that the President campaigned on are things that the House and the Senate both look forward to taking up.  Whether it’s trade or immigration or comprehensive tax reform, all of these issues are stuff that many Republicans have campaigned on for a long time and are eager to get going. The President has made it very clear, as he did last night, as well, that, look, part of the -- we've got to keep moving along if we want to get big things done.  There’s a lot that can be done during this administration, during the first term, and he wants to get as much of it done as possible.  And so the quicker we get repeal and replace done, and put the American Health Care Act in place, the better.  I mean that's just the nature of it. But I think when you look at the speed in which we've moved, it’s been very responsible.  We've allowed the committees to work their will.  The House has taken up the amendments.  It’s been online.  So this is -- there’s always a balance between jamming it down and getting it done and over with, which is how the Democrats operated at one point when they finally moved on their bill versus how this is done.  But I think we've stricken a very nice balance on this. Q    At which point will be it Trumpcare?  The President said today it could happen when we asked during the photo spray. MR. SPICER:  We’ll have to see.  Right now it’s the American Health Care Act, and we're trying to get it done. Anita. Q    Two questions.  First, the Kansas legislature is on the verge of possibly passing a Medicaid expansion, and the current version of the healthcare bill does not allow states to pass that.  And so I’m wondering -- as you know most legislatures are currently meeting across the country.  Will there be an exception for states if they expand before any new bill comes to -- MR. SPICER:  It would have to be addressed in the legislation.  I don't believe there’s an exception clause, so I don't -- but I also don't -- it would be -- far be it from me to say at this point, the bill is getting ready to move to the House, the legislation is meeting.  I don't want to prejudge the outcome yet.  But I don't believe from my understanding that there is any kind of like clause that says “if.”  Q    And secondly, tomorrow -- you mentioned the Congressional Black Caucus.  Is there a specific topic -- healthcare, five topics?  What can you tell us about the President’s message to them?  And how did it come about?  I know there’s been some back and forth on getting a meeting going, how did that come about?   MR. SPICER:  (Laughter.)  April is -- okay, don't drag April into that.  (Laughter.)   Q    Didn't say a name, didn't say a name. MR. SPICER:  This has been something that the President has talked about for a while.  He met with Congressman Elijah Cummings.  He started off in a phone call probably a month or so ago where they discussed prescription drugs and the need to get it down; and then the conversation continued.  Our legislation affairs team early on went to some of their meetings and started having a dialogue with them, and that dialogue continued.  And there was a desire to have a meeting.  The President wanted to have them down. I think there’s going to be a range of issues that get discussed that range from drug prices to infrastructure, investment in education, HBCUs.  There will be a range, and I think that's part of it.  There’s no set agenda to say we must talk about these things.  And obviously, I think healthcare is going to come up, too.  The President wants to get their idea. Before April jumps out her seat, we'll give her --  Q    Thank you for giving a follow-up.  I want to follow up on the CBC, and I have another question on another subject.  So with the CBC, since you're saying you went through all of this prior to the fact that he became President, that there was an effort to reach out to the CBC.  So with all of this understanding that they are an important to deal with in handling some of the issues, the urban issues, or issues that pertain to their community, how does the President plan to move forward in working with them, particularly as some just don’t see eye-to-eye with him? MR. SPICER:  I think part of it is it continues to have a dialogue, April.  I mean, it's simply sitting down with people, talking about issues, talking about common ground.  I think if you look at the conversation that he began and continued with Congressman Elijah Cummings, they found common ground.  The President talked about areas where, despite some of the narratives that are out there, there were issues that they probably both share concern for and that they can work on together.  And maybe they won't agree on 100 percent or 60 percent, but maybe there's 15, 20, or 30 percent of the issues.  Maybe there's one bill in particular that they can work on.  But there's a willingness to sit down and talk, and I think that's the first step in the process of any of these.  It's not just your own party -- and the President has shown this on several of these meetings -- where it's not just business leaders.  He's brought in the union leaders.  We talked about healthcare; yesterday, he had Dr. Zeke Emanuel in.  It's not about just bringing in people who agree with you, it's about people across the spectrum who can offer ideas.  And the President -- and I get it that inner cities aren’t exclusive, the rebuilding of inner cities aren’t the only issue.  But he's talked about -- he's elevated the status of Historically Black Colleges and Universities, bringing that office into the White House to help coordinate some of the federal government activities.  He's talked about rebuilding the inner cities.  He's talked about school choice.  A lot of issues that -- Q    Law and order. MR. SPICER:  Law and order, and healthcare.  And there's issues that impact urban areas, minority communities, whether they live in rural areas or urban areas.  But I think that that dialogue needs to continue because it can only help, and I think that that's what we look forward to tomorrow. Q    And the second subject -- as you're talking about bringing in groups, you're also bringing in truckers.  And there is a concern in the trucking industry about something like e-logs that's going to happen at the end of the year, where truckers -- be it truckers with commercial trucks, or mom-and-pop businesses -- all of them are going to have computers to log in, to monitor the time you drive, the stop and speed, et cetera.  And many people are saying that it cuts into their income.  Where does the President stand on that?   MR. SPICER:  Yeah, I think let's see if that comes up in the meeting, and I'll have a readout.  But I know -- Q    But even whether it comes up in the meeting -- MR. SPICER:  I understand.  That's more of a DOT issue, so I would refer you to the Department of Transportation. Q    They're very concerned about it.  Would he at least -- MR. SPICER:  I understand that.  And I hope that that comes up. Jeff Mason. Q    Just a follow-up on the DHS airline issue.  If there is a danger to Americans or to fliers generally with having laptops or things that are bigger than a cellphone in planes from those 10 countries, why would that also not be a danger from other countries? MR. SPICER:  As you can imagine, I can't talk about the intelligence that we have.  I can just tell you that the steps that are being taken are appropriate and commensurate with the intelligence that we have.  And I'd refer you to the Department of Homeland Security and, specifically, the Transportation Security Administration. Q    One other question.   MR. SPICER:  One out of two. Q    Okay.  The President has traditionally issued a greeting to those celebrating the Iranian New Year, Nowruz.  Will President Trump be doing that today?   MR. SPICER:  Let me get back to you.  I know that -- I don’t want to get ahead of myself on that, but we may have something for you later.  I've got to check on that. But thank you, guys, very much.  Let's get back to watching Neil Gorsuch.  And I will see you tomorrow.  We're going to have a week full of briefings.  I'm excited.  And, by the way, I am very happy that the individual in the press corps who took Tom Brady's jersey -- (laughter) -- that that has been returned properly.  Another bad on the press, but we have righted that wrong.  Thank you. END   2:41 P.M. EDT

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21 марта, 19:32

Health Care Bill Restores Pro-Life Principles

The American Health Care Act (AHCA) fulfills a lot of promises. It repeals Obamacare—the taxes, the mandates, the subsidies. It replaces Obamacare with a conservative system—one that empowers the individual and utilizes the free market. Here’s one more important thing that the AHCA does: It defunds Planned Parenthood. That’s right, the AHCA blocks more than $500 million of federal dollars currently going to Planned Parenthood, the largest abortion provider in the country, for one year, and instead sends money to community health centers, which far outnumber Planned Parenthood clinics. That's why the National Right to Life—the oldest and largest pro-life organization in the U.S.—expressed its support in a letter to Congress last week. Women’s health will not be neglected. Instead, the AHCA will redirect $422 million to community health centers around the United States—ones that do not perform abortions and have a proven record of helping women. The AHCA restores pro-life principles to the health care system—a system that should inherently protect life, not seek to destroy it. House Republicans have made a commitment to life. The time is now to make that commitment a reality. RELATED: National Right to Life Sends Letter of Support for American Health Care Act Conservative Health Care Reform House to Vote to Protect Taxpayers from Funding Abortion FACT: The American Health Care Act restores pro-life principles to our health care system. #PassTheBill https://t.co/vSAD1nTKD5 pic.twitter.com/CGX4MEd7sm— Paul Ryan (@SpeakerRyan) March 21, 2017

01 февраля, 04:21

Gorsuch pick affirms Trump vow to pick 'pro-life' justice

Judge Neil Gorsuch has never ruled directly on abortion rights, but he has decided twice against Obamacare’s contraception coverage requirement and written a book on the value of human life — signs that he conforms to President Donald Trump’s pledge to appoint “pro-life” justices.The choice of Gorsuch for the Supreme Court was immediately praised by anti-abortion groups and chastised by supporters of abortion rights.“President Trump has kept his promise to nominate only pro-life judges to the Supreme Court,” Susan B. Anthony List President Marjorie Dannenfelser said in a statement. “Judge Gorsuch is a distinguished jurist with a strong record of protecting life and religious liberty, as evidenced by his opinions in the Hobby Lobby and Little Sisters of the Poor cases, and in his doctoral dissertation in which he wrote that ‘human life is fundamentally and inherently valuable.’”If confirmed by the Senate, Gorsuch would not change the high court's balance on abortion because he would replace the late Justice Antonin Scalia — a consistent vote against abortion rights. But with three justices over the age of 78, Trump may have the opportunity to fill additional seats and change the balance of the court on abortion and other issues for decades.Gorsuch wrote an extensive defense of the “inherently valuable” human life in a 2006 book, “The Future of Assisted Suicide and Euthanasia.” The book provides a moral and legal argument against assisted suicide, arguing that all intentional killing is wrong, and includes an analysis of the Supreme Court’s major abortion rulings.Gorsuch said the Roe v. Wade decision created a “new right” to abortion access, a suggestion that the court crafted the right out of the 14th Amendment's privacy protection, a criticism frequently leveled by anti-abortion groups. Indeed, anti-abortion groups cite the book as proof of his support for their cause.But he also seemed to suggest the court’s 1992 Planned Parenthood v. Casey decision — which upheld the right to abortion but created a more clear framework for state regulation — repaired the mistakes in Roe, making it settled law.“The plurality in Casey expressly sought to provide a firmer basis for the abortion right and to shore up the reasoning behind Roe’s result,” Gorsuch wrote. “In doing so, the Casey plurality purposefully eschewed any effort to examine the history of abortion regulation, stressing instead the importance of ‘reasoned judgment’ in assessing whether to continue recognizing the constitutional right to abortion.”The book will surely be examined in the run-up to Gorsuch’s confirmation hearings.Trump pledged to appoint "pro-life" judges and while he did not directly commit to getting the 1973 Roe v. Wade decision on abortion overturned, he insinuated that if the Supreme Court did so, the question of whether abortion is legal would go back to the states to decide. Supporters of abortion rights immediately decried his selection."Gorsuch represents an existential threat to legal abortion in the United States and must never wear the robes of a Supreme Court justice," NARAL Pro-Choice America president Ilyse Hogue said in a statement. "With a clear track record of supporting an agenda that undermines abortion access and endangers women, there is no doubt that Gorsuch is a direct threat to Roe v. Wade and the promise it holds for women's equality."Gorsuch ruled twice on the Affordable Care Act’s contraception coverage requirement, both times siding with the challengers, who argued that it violated their religious freedoms.Gorsuch ruled in 2013 in support of Hobby Lobby Stores, which protested the requirement that it provide no-cost access to contraception in its health insurance plans. Gorsuch and his colleagues on the 10th Circuit issued an injunction to block the government from fining the store and its owners for not complying with the controversial provision.Gorsuch, in a concurring opinion, wrote that the owners of the store had a right to challenge the requirement, which forced them to decide whether to provide contraception or face fines. “This sort of governmental pressure to compromise an article of religious faith is surely sufficient to” give the owners the right to sue, he wrote.When the related Little Sisters of the Poor case came before him two years later, Gorsuch doubled down on his opposition to the contraception mandate, signing on to a dissenting opinion that said the mandate imposed a “substantial burden” on the nuns’ religious rights.Gorsuch also weighed in on a case involving the funding of Planned Parenthood.Last year, Utah Gov. Gary Herbert tried to cut off state funding to the organization in the wake of the sting videos by the Center for Medical Progress, which argued the organization was selling fetal tissue. Gorsuch said he would have allowed the funding blockade to proceed. But a majority of his colleagues on the 10th Circuit let stand a lower-court decision to block the governor's order. They argued that Herbert was taking retaliatory action against Planned Parenthood because he was a long-time opponent of abortion. The majority of the court “inferred that he wanted to punish the group for its lawful abortion advocacy,” Gorsuch wrote in his dissent defending the governor’s decision as legal. “But it is undisputed that the governor has held office since 2009 and had taken no action against [Planned Parenthood] until shortly after the release of the videos in 2015.”One anti-abortion activist, Andrew Schlafly, a lawyer at the Legal Center for Defense of Life and the son of a late conservative activist Phyllis Schlafly, has waged a shadow campaign against Gorsuch. Schlafly argues that the selection of Gorsuch would “break Trump’s pro-life pledge," arguing that he doesn't use "pro-life" language and is too beholden to precedent to undo the Roe decision.“Neil Gorsuch is NOT pro-life,” he wrote in a newsletter last week. “His selection would violate Trump's pledge to nominate a pro-life justice to the Supreme Court. Roe v. Wade won't be overturned for 40 years if the 49-year-old Gorsuch is picked.” However, Schlafly’s blog posts have been discredited by former Scalia law clerk Ed Whelan and haven’t picked up support among mainstream anti-abortion groups.Conservative groups have already pledged to back Gorsuch’s nomination. The Judicial Crisis Network announced a $10 million ad buy before the nominee was announced.Susan B. Anthony List said that it would be mobilizing support as well. “Should pro-abortion Democratic senators choose to filibuster this immensely qualified nominee, they do so at their own political peril,” Dannenfelser said.

28 января, 00:59

Women At March For Life Are Deeply Conflicted About Donald Trump

function onPlayerReadyVidible(e){'undefined'!=typeof HPTrack&&HPTrack.Vid.Vidible_track(e)}!function(e,i){if(e.vdb_Player){if('object'==typeof commercial_video){var a='',o='m.fwsitesection='+commercial_video.site_and_category;if(a+=o,commercial_video['package']){var c='&m.fwkeyvalues=sponsorship%3D'+commercial_video['package'];a+=c}e.setAttribute('vdb_params',a)}i(e.vdb_Player)}else{var t=arguments.callee;setTimeout(function(){t(e,i)},0)}}(document.getElementById('vidible_1'),onPlayerReadyVidible); WASHINGTON ― Abortion opponents descended on the National Mall Friday for the annual “March for Life,” with many women saying they struggled to reconcile their strong views on abortion with their distaste for President Donald Trump.  The crowd at the anti-abortion rally was far smaller than last weekend’s Women’s March on Washington, which may have been the largest protest in American history. “I almost didn’t want to come, because I knew I would be continuing to group myself with some people that I’m not proud to be grouped with,” said Miranda Malone, a 21-year old senior at University of Dayton in Ohio.   “I don’t like the way he acts,” Mary Ryback, 52, of Milwaukee, said of Trump. “I do like that he is a pro-life president, and I did vote for him because of life, but it was very difficult.”  For many women at the march, the issue of “life” is not just about abortion. Malone held a sign that said “Protect ALL Life,” including immigrants, LGBTQ+ individuals, refugees, the poor and unemployed, Latinos, the environment, and “the unborn.” A self-described “pro-life Democrat,” she voted for Hillary Clinton and traveled to the March for Life to ensure people like her have a voice in the anti-abortion movement, too.  “I think that if were talking about eliminating abortion and protecting life, we need to provide more resources, like education and contraceptives for women,” Malone said. “I feel that a lot of people in this movement focus on shaming women for decisions they make, and I don’t agree with that way of thinking.”  Maddy Buschur, a young Republican who attends Ohio State University, described herself as a “pro-life feminist” and “reluctant” Trump voter. She opposes some of his cabinet selections and was offended by many of comments he’s made about women, including his recorded boast that he can “grab them by the pussy” because he’s a celebrity. “It breaks my heart that that’s the point we’re at in society, that this is our leader, and that people are finding ways to defend his comments,” Buscher said. “I wasn’t sure if I should vote or not on the president, because I wasn’t sure I believe in the whole concept of ‘vote for the lesser of two evils.’ But at the end of the day, I think Hillary would have done more damage to women as feminists.”  Buscher said she believes abortion rights are counterproductive to women’s equality. “It’s completely illogical to tell a woman that in order to succeed in our society, she needs to become more like a man by taking away her pregnancy,” she said.  Trump has had mixed views on abortion over the years. He once described himself as “very pro-choice” and enthusiastically praised Planned Parenthood. Then, facing a backlash from conservatives on the campaign trail, he overcorrected by saying women should “face some sort of punishment” for having abortions ― a comment that made even anti-abortion groups cringe. In the weeks leading up to his election, Trump went out of his way to appease social conservatives on the issue, notably choosing anti-abortion warrior Mike Pence as his running mate. Pence led the fight against reproductive rights in Congress, and as governor of Indiana, throughout Barack Obama’s presidency. One of Trump’s first moves as president was to reinstate the so-called global gag rule implemented by President Ronald Reagan, which bans recipients of U.S. foreign aid money from referring patients to abortion providers or giving women information about abortions.   Anti-abortion activists on Friday still seemed skeptical of Trump’s sincerity. “Do I trust him?” asked Ryback. “I trust in God, and I pray that God will use [Trump] and our representatives to make abortion illegal.”  “I was a big fan of the [global gag rule], because I don’t think that’s where our funding should be going,” said Buschur. “As for the rest, I’ve just been holding my breath to see where it goes.” Other attendees were more vehemently opposed to the president. One woman from Fargo, North Dakota, stood on a bench on the National Mall holding a banner that said, “Pro-Life/Pro-Environment.” She said she cannot accept Trump’s policies on climate change or his approval of the controversial Dakota Access Pipeline threatening Native American lands. She said the president cannot be “pro-life” without also protecting the earth.  “I’m horrified and frightened and terrified,” she said of Trump. “He needs to be impeached immediately.” -- This feed and its contents are the property of The Huffington Post, and use is subject to our terms. It may be used for personal consumption, but may not be distributed on a website.

19 января, 22:23

Memorandum: Federal Civilian Hiring Freeze Guidance

M-17-18 MEMORANDUM FOR HEADS OF EXECUTIVE DEPARTMENTS AND AGENCIES FROM:    MARK SANDY                 ACTING DIRECTOR, OFFICE OF MANAGEMENT AND BUDGET                 KATHLEEN McGETTIGAN                 ACTING DIRECTOR, OFFICE OF PERSONNEL MANAGEMENT SUBJECT: Federal Civilian Hiring Freeze Guidance Purpose. This memorandum provides additional guidance regarding the freeze on the hiring of Federal civilian employees as directed by the President on January 23, 2017, via Presidential Memorandum (PM) entitled "Hiring Freeze." This guidance is in addition to the initial implementation guidance issued by the Acting Director of the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) on January 25, 2017. This guidance provides information on the types of exemptions authorized under this hiring freeze as well as instructions on how departments and agencies can request exemptions from the Director of the Office of Personnel Management (OPM) for critical situations where additional exemptions may be warranted. Coverage. This memorandum applies to all Executive departments and agencies regardless of the sources of their operational and programmatic funding and to all types of Federal civilian appointments, regardless of the length of the appointment, except as provided for below or otherwise provided in law. No vacant positions existing at noon on January 22, 2017, may be filled and no new positions may be created, except in limited circumstances. For the purposes of this memorandum, a position is not considered vacant if an individual has been given an offer of employment prior to noon on January 22, 2017, has accepted the position, and has a designated start date on or before February 22, 2017. Contracting outside the Government to circumvent the intent of the PM shall not be permitted. For example, agencies shall not acquire by contract with a commercial vendor services that are substantially similar to those that would have been provided by a Federal civilian in a vacancy covered by the PM. However, nothing in this memorandum is intended to restrict agencies from continuing, modifying, or entering into service contracts for other purposes, consistent with law, regulation, and any applicable management direction. The guidance in this memorandum should be implemented consistent with any lawful collective bargaining obligations that may apply. Exemptions. The following exemptions to the Federal civilian hiring freeze are permitted: Military personnel in the armed forces and all Federal uniformed personnel, including the U.S. Coast Guard, the Commissioned Corps of the U.S. Public Health Service, and the Commissioned Officer Corps of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. Filling of positions under programs where limiting the hiring of personnel would conflict with applicable law. Nomination and appointment of officials to positions requiring Presidential appointment, with or without Senate confirmation. Appointment of officials to non-career positions in the Senior Executive Service or to Schedule C appointments in the Excepted Service, or the appointment of any other officials who serve at the pleasure of the appointing authority (i.e., "appointed" positions of a political/non-career nature). Appointment of seasonal employees and short-term temporary employees necessary to meet traditionally recurring seasonal workloads, provided that the agency informs its OMB Resource Management Office in writing in advance of its hiring plans. Hiring by the U.S. Postal Service. Federal civilian personnel hires made by the Office of the Director of National Intelligence (ODNI) and the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA). Appointments made under the Pathways Internship and Presidential Management Fellows programs (this does not include the Recent Graduates program). Agencies should ensure that such hires understand the provisional nature of these appointments and that conversion is not guaranteed. Conversions in the ordinary course to the competitive service of current agency employees serving in positions with conversion authority, such as Veteran's Recruitment Act (VRA) and Pathways programs. Appointments made under 5 C.F.R. § 213.3102(r) (time limited positions in support of fellowship or professional/industry exchange programs) provided that the total number of individuals employed under this authority does not exceed the number of employees onboard (hired under this authority) on January 22, 2017. Placement of persons with restoration rights accorded by law, such as restoration after absence with injury compensation and restoration after military duty. Job offers made prior to January 22, 2017, for which the individual has a confirmed start date on or before February 22, 2017. Those individuals should report to work according to their respective designated start dates. Job offers made prior to January 22, 2017, but for which the individual has a confirmed start date that is later than February 22, 2017 (or does not have a confirmed start date), should be decided on a case-by-case basis and must go through an agency-head review. The agency head should review each position to determine whether the job offer should be revoked, or whether the hiring process should continue. Agency heads should consider essential mission priorities, current agency resources, and funding levels when making determinations about whether or not to revoke job offers. Internal career ladder promotions. Reallocations (i.e., noncompetitive reassignments and details) of current Federal civilian employees within an agency to meet the highest priority needs (including preservation of national security and other essential services) are not affected. Details (reimbursable and non-reimbursable) between agencies are also not affected; however, agency leadership should ensure that any reimbursable details between agencies are not being used to circumvent the intent of the hiring freeze. Term and temporary appointments of existing Federal employees may be extended up to the maximum allowable time limit, consistent with the conditions/requirements of the legal authority originally used to appoint the employee. A limited number of voluntary transfers of current SES between agencies, as necessary to secure the leadership capacity of agencies, and where needs cannot be met by reallocation of resources within an agency's current workforce; however, filling of such vacancies is subject to OPM approval in accordance with section 4 below. The head of any agency may exempt any positions that it deems necessary to: Meet national security (including foreign relations) responsibilities, or Meet public safety responsibilities (including essential activities to the extent that they protect life and property). Agencies may refer to longstanding guidance, which provides examples of such activities in OMB Memorandum. Agency Operations in the Absence of Appropriations. dated 11/17/1981 [see examples 3(a) to 3(k)]. Agency heads should consult with appropriate personnel, including the agency Chief Human Capital Officer (CHCO) or equivalent and agency counsel when determining what positions to exempt from the hiring freeze. Agency heads are also required to consult with OPM and the agency's OMB Resource Management Office on their intent to exempt positions using their agency head authority before implementing these exemptions. Note that in the case of an Inspector General's (IG) office, the Inspector General is considered the agency head for the purposes of determining which positions in the IG office are exempt based on the definitions above, as well as for the purposes of the agency-head review of job offers in the IG office that either do not have a start date or have a designated start date beyond February 22, 2017. Exemptions Granted by the Director of OPM. The Director of OPM may grant additional exemptions from the hiring freeze for critical situations. Accordingly, if an agency head assesses that circumstances warrant additional exemptions to the hiring freeze other than those specified above, a request must be made in writing to the Director of OPM and signed by the agency head. The request must: Explain the critical need and how it relates to essential services or critical mission requirements. Explain why reallocation (reassignment/detail) of existing staff within the agency is not possible to meet the needs outlined in the request. Explain the urgency of the need and the consequences of not filling the position within a 3 to 6 month timeline. Agencies must also notify their respective OMB Resource Management Office of exemption requests to OPM under this provision. Effective Dates. The guidance in this memorandum is effective immediately. Within 90 days of the publication of the PM issued on January 23, 2017, the Director of OMB, in consultation with the Director of OPM, shall recommend a long-term plan to reduce the size of the Federal Government's workforce through attrition. The hiring freeze will expire upon implementation of the OMB plan. Inquiries. Questions from departments and agencies regarding the instructions and guidance in this memorandum should be addressed to agency OMB Resource Management Officers and OPM contacts provided to Chief Human Capital Officers and HR Directors.

10 января, 18:38

The Fight To Save Entitlement Programs In Trumplandia

What Is a Country For? Cross-posted with TomDispatch.com Many of the folks I know are getting ready to play serious defense in 2017, and they’re not wrong. Before we take up our three-point stance on the national line of scrimmage, however, maybe we should ask ourselves not only what we’re fighting against, but what we’re fighting for. What kind of United States of America do we actually want? Maybe, in fact, we could start by asking: What is a country for? What should a country do? Why do people establish countries in the first place? Playing Defense There is, without question, much that will need defending over the next four years, so much that people fought and died for in the twentieth century, so much that is threatened by the ascendancy of Donald Trump, the white nationalist right, and the Republican Party. The twentieth century saw the introduction of many significant laws, regulations, and -- yes -- entitlements: benefits to which we have a right by virtue of living in, and in many cases being citizens of, this country. We could start earlier, but let’s begin with the 1935 National Labor Relations Act. It established the right of workers to collectively negotiate wages and working conditions with their employers and made collective bargaining the official “policy of the United States.” This policy faces an immediate threat. Identical Republican-sponsored bills in the House and Senate would end the right of unions to require the workers they represent to pay union dues.  These bills would, in other words, reproduce at the federal level the so-called right-to-work (more accurately, right-to-starve) laws already in place in more than half the states. If -- or as seems likely, when -- they pass, millions of workers will face the potential loss of the power of collective bargaining and find themselves negotiating with employers as lonely individuals. Then there was the 1938 Fair Labor Standards Act, which guaranteed a minimum wage and overtime pay to many workers (although not, notably, those laboring in agricultural fields or inside other people’s homes -- workplaces then occupied primarily by African Americans, and later by other people of color as well). Andrew F. Puzder, Donald Trump’s pick for secretary of labor, opposes the very idea of a minimum wage. This shouldn’t be too surprising, since his current day job is as CEO of the parent company of two fast-food franchise operations, Hardee’s and Carl’s Jr. We could mention other New Deal-era victories under threat: Social Security, unemployment insurance, food stamps (now called the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP), and Aid to Families with Dependent Children (now known as TANF for Temporary Aid to Needy Families, or more commonly simply as “welfare”), which was created to promote the wellbeing of children in families facing poverty. In the coming Trump years, we can expect predation on all these programs -- from renewed efforts to “privatize” Social Security to further restrictions on welfare. Indeed, former Dallas Mayor Tom Leppert, Trump’s transition team point man on Social Security, is a firm believer in “privatization,” the idea that the federal government should encourage people to gamble on the stock market rather than rely on a guaranteed government pension. The one entitlement program that will probably survive unscathed is SNAP, because its primary beneficiaries are not the people who use it to buy groceries but the giant agricultural corporations it indirectly subsidizes. It’s no accident that, unlike other entitlement programs, SNAP is administered by the Department of Agriculture. Then there was the 1937 Housing Act, designed to provide financial support to cities so they could improve the housing stock of poor people, which eventually led to the creation of the department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). In Ben Carson we are about to have a HUD secretary who, in addition to having announced that he’s not qualified to head a federal agency, doesn’t believe in the very programs HUD exists to support. And so it goes with the victories of the second half of the twentieth century. In Jeff Sessions, for instance, we have a potential attorney general staunchly opposed to the civil and voting rights won by African Americans (and women of all races, in the case of the 1964 Civil Rights Act). In Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt, we’ll have a climate-change denier and fossil-fuel advocate running the Environmental Protection Agency. Medicare entitles -- there’s that word again -- older people and some with chronic illnesses to federally subsidized healthcare. Its introduction in 1965 ended the once-common newspaper and TV stories about senior citizens eating pet food because they couldn’t afford both medicine and groceries.  That program, too, will reportedly be under threat. There’s more to defend. Take widespread access to birth control, now covered by health insurance under Obamacare. I’m old enough to remember having to pretend I was married to get a doctor to prescribe The Pill, and being grateful for the Supreme Court’s 1973 decision in Roe v. Wade that guaranteed me a legal abortion, when a gynecologist told me I couldn’t conceive.  (He was wrong.) Then there are the guarantees of civil rights for LGB (if not yet T) people won in the 1990s, culminating in the astonishing 2015 Supreme Court decision in Obergefell v. Hodges granting marriage rights to same-sex couples. All of this could be wiped out with a couple of Trumpian Supreme Court picks. Nor should we forget that in addition to people’s rights, there are actual people to defend in the brave new world of Trumplandia, or at least to help defend themselves: immigrants, Muslims, African Americans -- especially young black men -- as well as people facing poverty and homelessness. One potentially unexpected benefit of the coming period: so many of us are likely to be under attack in one way or another that we will recognize the need for broad-based coalitions, working at every level of society and throughout its institutions. Such groups already exist, some more developed than others. I’m thinking, for example, of United for Peace and Justice, which came together to oppose Bush-era wars and domestic policies, the Grassroots Global Justice Alliance, a national coalition of community organizations led by people of color, and National People’s Action, another effective coalition of community organizations, to name just three. On the state level, there is the powerful work of the Moral Mondays project, led by the North Carolina NAACP and its president, the Reverend William J. Barber II. In my own backyard, there are the many community groups that make up San Francisco Rising and Oakland Rising. Such multi-issue organizations can be sources of solidarity for people and groups focused on important single issues, from the Fight for Fifteen (dollars an hour minimum wage) to opposing the bizarrely-named First Amendment Defense Act, which would protect the right of proprietors of public accommodations to refuse service to people whose presence in their establishments violates “a religious belief or moral conviction that: (1) marriage is or should be recognized as the union of one man and one woman, or (2) sexual relations are properly reserved to such a marriage.” Defense Matters, But We Need More  As important as such defensive actions will be, we're going to need something beyond a good defense: a coherent reason why all these disparate things are worth defending. We need to be able to say why black lives, women’s lives, workers’ lives, brown and immigrant lives matter in the first place. We need a vision of a society in which not only do all people’s lives matter, but where they all have the possibility of being good lives. We need a picture of what a country is for, so that as we fight, we understand not only the horrors we oppose, but what it is we desire. Fortunately, we don’t have to start any description of what a good human life consists of from scratch. People have been discussing the subject for at least as long as they’ve left written records, and probably far longer. In the third century BCE, for example, Aristotle proposed that the good life -- happiness -- consists of developing and using both our intellectual and moral capacities to the fullest possible extent across an entire lifetime. The good life meant learning and then practicing wisdom, courage, justice, and generosity -- along with some lesser virtues, like being entertaining at a dinner party. Aristotle wasn’t an idiot, however. He also knew that people need the basics of survival -- food, clothing, shelter, health, and friendship -- if they are to be happy. Not surprisingly, he had a distinctly limited idea about which human beings could actually achieve such happiness.  It boiled down to men of wealth who had the leisure to develop their abilities. His understanding of the good life left a lot of people, including women, slaves, and children, out of the circle of the fully human. Although it may sound strange to twenty-first-century American ears, Aristotle also thought that the purpose of government was to help people (at least those he thought were capable of it) to live happy lives, in part by making laws that would guide them into developing the capacities crucial to that state. Who nowadays thinks that happiness is the government’s business? Perhaps more of us should. After all, the Founding Fathers did. “We Hold These Truths...” Where should we who seek to defend our country against the advance of what some are now going so far as to call “fascism” enter this conversation about the purpose of government? It might make sense to take a look at a single sentence written by a group of white men, among them slaveholders, who also thought happiness was the government’s business. I’m referring, of course, to the men who wrote the Declaration of Independence. Its much-quoted second sentence reads in full: “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness, -- That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, -- That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness.” Political philosopher Danielle Allen has pointed out that modern versions of the Declaration’s text “update” the original punctuation with a period after “happiness.” But that full stop obscures the whole point of the sentence. Not only do people self-evidently possess “unalienable” rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness, but the very reason we form governments in the first place is to “secure” those rights. Furthermore, when a government -- rather than protecting life, liberty, and happiness -- “becomes destructive” of them, we have the right to abolish it and put a better one in its place, always keeping in mind that the purpose of any new government should be to “effect” the people’s safety and happiness.  Of course, beginning any conversation with those words from the Declaration raises the obvious question: “Who’s ‘we’?” Can those of us who are women, people of color, descendants of slaves and/or slaveholders, all claim participation in that “we”? Should we want to? Allen, who describes herself as biracial and a feminist, addresses the contradictions inherent in claiming this document for our own in her valuable book Our Declaration. She concludes that we not only can, we must. There is too much at stake for us to cede equality to a white, male minority. Life, Liberty... What would it mean to take seriously the idea that people create governments so they can enjoy life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness? What would the United States look like if that were its purpose? Let’s start with life. It’s reasonable to think that the Declaration’s authors were following the ideas of another dead white man, John Locke, who believed that people create governments so that they don’t have to spend all their time and energy preventing other people from hurting them, or taking revenge when they’ve been hurt. Instead, people delegate this authority to governments. But what has the U.S. government done with those delegated powers? Over the last 15 years of what we still call the “war on terror,” Americans have been told repeatedly that we have to choose between life and liberty, between “security” and freedom. We can’t have both. Do we want to be safe from terrorists? Then we must allow mass collection of our telephone and Internet-use data. And we must create a registry of Muslims living in this country. Do we want to be safe on our streets? Then we must allow federal and state governments to keep 2.2 million people locked up and another 4.5 million on probation or parole. Ours is the largest prison population in the world, in raw numbers and in proportion to our population. Safety on the street, we’re told, also demands an increase in the amount of daily video surveillance Americans experience.  And that’s just to start down a long list of the ways our liberties have been curtailed in these years. At the same time, successive Congresses and administrations have cut the programs that once helped sustain life in this country. Now, with the threatened repeal of Obamacare (and so the potential loss of medical insurance for at least 20 million Americans), the Republicans may literally cut off the lives of people who depend on that program for treatments that help them survive. The preamble of the Constitution also establishes the importance of life, liberty, and happiness, with slightly different language. In it, “We the people” establish that Constitution for the following purposes: “to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity…” Is it possible that our common “defence” is not, in fact, aided by maintaining the world’s most powerful military, garrisoning the planet, and endlessly projecting power across the globe? After all, the United States is protected by an ocean off each coast and friendly countries on our northern and southern borders (although we may not always deal with them as friends should be treated). Certainly, I want my government to defend me from invading armies; on the other hand, I’m not convinced my safety is increased when the United States does the invading. It’s useful, too, as we think about the purpose of government, to consider the idea of the “general Welfare.” This phrase implies something important: my welfare, my good life, is bound up with yours. The people established the Constitution to promote the welfare of all of us, and not of a tiny, mega-rich minority, which is now running our government. We could do worse than reclaim the importance of the general welfare, with its suggestion that it is the primary business of any decent government to promote our wellbeing. ...And the Pursuit of Happiness Surely the definition of the good life, of happiness itself, is such a personal thing that it can’t be the subject of legislation or the object of government. Perhaps that’s true, but I’d like to introduce one more thinker here, also white, and, sadly, deceased: the political philosopher Iris Marion Young. In her Justice and the Politics of Difference, she offered a definition of a good human life. We can say, she argued, that a society is more or less a just one depending on the degree to which it satisfies basic physical needs, and equally importantly (as Aristotle also believed), “supports the institutional conditions necessary” for people to participate in self-development.  To her, that means “learning and using satisfying and expansive skills,” as well as the expression of “our experience, feelings, and perspective on social life in contexts where others can listen.” But self-development and expression, she says, are not sufficient for a good life. We also need self-determination -- that is, participation in the decisions that affect our lives and how we live them. We have much to defend, but we also should have a vision to advance. As we fight against a secretary of education who abhors public schools, we should also be fighting for the right of all of us to develop and use those “expansive and satisfying skills” -- from reading and writing to creating and doing -- that make life worth living. In a society with less and less demand for non-robotic workers, education will be more important than ever, not just so people can earn their livings, but also so that their lives are valuable and valued. As we fight against an administration of generals and billionaires, we should also be fighting for a country where we are free to express ourselves in language, dress, song, and ritual, without fear of finding ourselves on a registry or all our communications in the files of a spy agency. As we fight against a president elected by a minority of voters, we fight for a country in which we can take part in the decisions that affect all aspects of our lives. For many years I’ve opposed most of what my country stands for in the world. As a result, I often tended to see its founding documents as so many beautiful but meaningless promises spoken in our time to convince us and the world that the coups, invasions, and occupations we engaged in do represent life and liberty. But what if we were actually to take those words at face value? Not naively, but with the bitter nuance of the black poet Langston Hughes who, recognizing both the promise and the sham, wrote: “ O, let America be America again --   The land that never has been yet -- And yet must be -- the land where every man is free. The land that’s mine -- the poor man’s, Indian’s, Negro’s, ME -- Who made America, Whose sweat and blood, whose faith and pain, Whose hand at the foundry, whose plow in the rain, Must bring back our mighty dream again.” Maybe it’s not so strange that, in these dismal times, I find my hope in a dream, now hundreds of years old, of a country dedicated to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. I guess it’s time to develop those satisfying and expansive skills of thinking, organizing, and acting to bring back that mighty dream again, that dream of a land that never has been yet -- but will be. Rebecca Gordon, a TomDispatch regular, teaches in the philosophy department at the University of San Francisco. She is the author of American Nuremberg: The U.S. Officials Who Should Stand Trial for Post-9/11 War Crimes. Her previous books include Mainstreaming Torture: Ethical Approaches in the Post-9/11 United States and Letters from Nicaragua.  Follow TomDispatch on Twitter and join us on Facebook. Check out the newest Dispatch Book, John Feffer's dystopian novel Splinterlands, as well as Nick Turse’s Next Time They’ll Come to Count the Dead, and Tom Engelhardt's latest book, Shadow Government: Surveillance, Secret Wars, and a Global Security State in a Single-Superpower World. -- This feed and its contents are the property of The Huffington Post, and use is subject to our terms. It may be used for personal consumption, but may not be distributed on a website.

10 января, 18:38

Fighting For The Good Life In Trumplandia

What Is a Country For? Cross-posted with TomDispatch.com Many of the folks I know are getting ready to play serious defense in 2017, and they’re not wrong. Before we take up our three-point stance on the national line of scrimmage, however, maybe we should ask ourselves not only what we’re fighting against, but what we’re fighting for. What kind of United States of America do we actually want? Maybe, in fact, we could start by asking: What is a country for? What should a country do? Why do people establish countries in the first place? Playing Defense There is, without question, much that will need defending over the next four years, so much that people fought and died for in the twentieth century, so much that is threatened by the ascendancy of Donald Trump, the white nationalist right, and the Republican Party. The twentieth century saw the introduction of many significant laws, regulations, and -- yes -- entitlements: benefits to which we have a right by virtue of living in, and in many cases being citizens of, this country. We could start earlier, but let’s begin with the 1935 National Labor Relations Act. It established the right of workers to collectively negotiate wages and working conditions with their employers and made collective bargaining the official “policy of the United States.” This policy faces an immediate threat. Identical Republican-sponsored bills in the House and Senate would end the right of unions to require the workers they represent to pay union dues.  These bills would, in other words, reproduce at the federal level the so-called right-to-work (more accurately, right-to-starve) laws already in place in more than half the states. If -- or as seems likely, when -- they pass, millions of workers will face the potential loss of the power of collective bargaining and find themselves negotiating with employers as lonely individuals. Then there was the 1938 Fair Labor Standards Act, which guaranteed a minimum wage and overtime pay to many workers (although not, notably, those laboring in agricultural fields or inside other people’s homes -- workplaces then occupied primarily by African Americans, and later by other people of color as well). Andrew F. Puzder, Donald Trump’s pick for secretary of labor, opposes the very idea of a minimum wage. This shouldn’t be too surprising, since his current day job is as CEO of the parent company of two fast-food franchise operations, Hardee’s and Carl’s Jr. We could mention other New Deal era victories under threat: Social Security, unemployment insurance, food stamps (now called the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP), and Aid to Families with Dependent Children (now known as TANF for Temporary Aid to Needy Families, or more commonly simply as “welfare”), which was created to promote the wellbeing of children in families facing poverty. In the coming Trump years, we can expect predation on all these programs -- from renewed efforts to “privatize” Social Security to further restrictions on welfare. Indeed, former Dallas Mayor Tom Leppert, Trump’s transition team point man on Social Security, is a firm believer in “privatization,” the idea that the federal government should encourage people to gamble on the stock market rather than rely on a guaranteed government pension. The one entitlement program that will probably survive unscathed is SNAP, because its primary beneficiaries are not the people who use it to buy groceries but the giant agricultural corporations it indirectly subsidizes. It’s no accident that, unlike other entitlement programs, SNAP is administered by the Department of Agriculture. Then there was the 1937 Housing Act, designed to provide financial support to cities so they could improve the housing stock of poor people, which eventually led to the creation of the department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). In Ben Carson we are about to have a HUD secretary who, in addition to having announced that he’s not qualified to head a federal agency, doesn’t believe in the very programs HUD exists to support. And so it goes with the victories of the second half of the twentieth century. In Jeff Sessions, for instance, we have a potential attorney general staunchly opposed to the civil and voting rights won by African Americans (and women of all races, in the case of the 1964 Civil Rights Act). In Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt, we’ll have a climate-change denier and fossil-fuel advocate running the Environmental Protection Agency. Medicare entitles -- there’s that word again -- older people and some with chronic illnesses to federally subsidized healthcare. Its introduction in 1965 ended the once-common newspaper and TV stories about senior citizens eating pet food because they couldn’t afford both medicine and groceries.  That program, too, will reportedly be under threat. There’s more to defend. Take widespread access to birth control, now covered by health insurance under Obamacare. I’m old enough to remember having to pretend I was married to get a doctor to prescribe The Pill, and being grateful for the Supreme Court’s 1973 decision in Roe v. Wade that guaranteed me a legal abortion, when a gynecologist told me I couldn’t conceive.  (He was wrong.) Then there are the guarantees of civil rights for LGB (if not yet T) people won in the 1990s, culminating in the astonishing 2015 Supreme Court decision in Obergefell v. Hodges granting marriage rights to same-sex couples. All of this could be wiped out with a couple of Trumpian Supreme Court picks. Nor should we forget that in addition to people’s rights, there are actual people to defend in the brave new world of Trumplandia, or at least to help defend themselves: immigrants, Muslims, African Americans -- especially young black men -- as well as people facing poverty and homelessness. One potentially unexpected benefit of the coming period: so many of us are likely to be under attack in one way or another that we will recognize the need for broad-based coalitions, working at every level of society and throughout its institutions. Such groups already exist, some more developed than others. I’m thinking, for example, of United for Peace and Justice, which came together to oppose Bush-era wars and domestic policies, the Grassroots Global Justice Alliance, a national coalition of community organizations led by people of color, and National People’s Action, another effective coalition of community organizations, to name just three. On the state level, there is the powerful work of the Moral Mondays project, led by the North Carolina NAACP and its president, the Reverend William J. Barber II. In my own backyard, there are the many community groups that make up San Francisco Rising and Oakland Rising. Such multi-issue organizations can be sources of solidarity for people and groups focused on important single issues, from the Fight for Fifteen (dollars an hour minimum wage) to opposing the bizarrely-named First Amendment Defense Act, which would protect the right of proprietors of public accommodations to refuse service to people whose presence in their establishments violates “a religious belief or moral conviction that: (1) marriage is or should be recognized as the union of one man and one woman, or (2) sexual relations are properly reserved to such a marriage.” Defense Matters, But We Need More  As important as such defensive actions will be, we're going to need something beyond a good defense: a coherent reason why all these disparate things are worth defending. We need to be able to say why black lives, women’s lives, workers’ lives, brown and immigrant lives matter in the first place. We need a vision of a society in which not only do all people’s lives matter, but where they all have the possibility of being good lives. We need a picture of what a country is for, so that as we fight, we understand not only the horrors we oppose, but what it is we desire. Fortunately, we don’t have to start any description of what a good human life consists of from scratch. People have been discussing the subject for at least as long as they’ve left written records, and probably far longer. In the third century BCE, for example, Aristotle proposed that the good life -- happiness -- consists of developing and using both our intellectual and moral capacities to the fullest possible extent across an entire lifetime. The good life meant learning and then practicing wisdom, courage, justice, and generosity -- along with some lesser virtues, like being entertaining at a dinner party. Aristotle wasn’t an idiot, however. He also knew that people need the basics of survival -- food, clothing, shelter, health, and friendship -- if they are to be happy. Not surprisingly, he had a distinctly limited idea about which human beings could actually achieve such happiness.  It boiled down to men of wealth who had the leisure to develop their abilities. His understanding of the good life left a lot of people, including women, slaves, and children, out of the circle of the fully human. Although it may sound strange to twenty-first-century American ears, Aristotle also thought that the purpose of government was to help people (at least those he thought were capable of it) to live happy lives, in part by making laws that would guide them into developing the capacities crucial to that state. Who nowadays thinks that happiness is the government’s business? Perhaps more of us should. After all, the Founding Fathers did. “We Hold These Truths...” Where should we who seek to defend our country against the advance of what some are now going so far as to call “fascism” enter this conversation about the purpose of government? It might make sense to take a look at a single sentence written by a group of white men, among them slaveholders, who also thought happiness was the government’s business. I’m referring, of course, to the men who wrote the Declaration of Independence. Its much-quoted second sentence reads in full: “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness, -- That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, -- That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness.” Political philosopher Danielle Allen has pointed out that modern versions of the Declaration’s text “update” the original punctuation with a period after “happiness.” But that full stop obscures the whole point of the sentence. Not only do people self-evidently possess “unalienable” rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness, but the very reason we form governments in the first place is to “secure” those rights. Furthermore, when a government -- rather than protecting life, liberty, and happiness -- “becomes destructive” of them, we have the right to abolish it and put a better one in its place, always keeping in mind that the purpose of any new government should be to “effect” the people’s safety and happiness.  Of course, beginning any conversation with those words from the Declaration raises the obvious question: “Who’s ‘we’?” Can those of us who are women, people of color, descendants of slaves and/or slaveholders, all claim participation in that “we”? Should we want to? Allen, who describes herself as biracial and a feminist, addresses the contradictions inherent in claiming this document for our own in her valuable book Our Declaration. She concludes that we not only can, we must. There is too much at stake for us to cede equality to a white, male minority. Life, Liberty... What would it mean to take seriously the idea that people create governments so they can enjoy life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness? What would the United States look like if that were its purpose? Let’s start with life. It’s reasonable to think that the Declaration’s authors were following the ideas of another dead white man, John Locke, who believed that people create governments so that they don’t have to spend all their time and energy preventing other people from hurting them, or taking revenge when they’ve been hurt. Instead, people delegate this authority to governments. But what has the U.S. government done with those delegated powers? Over the last 15 years of what we still call the “war on terror,” Americans have been told repeatedly that we have to choose between life and liberty, between “security” and freedom. We can’t have both. Do we want to be safe from terrorists? Then we must allow mass collection of our telephone and Internet-use data. And we must create a registry of Muslims living in this country. Do we want to be safe on our streets? Then we must allow federal and state governments to keep 2.2 million people locked up and another 4.5 million on probation or parole. Ours is the largest prison population in the world, in raw numbers and in proportion to our population. Safety on the street, we’re told, also demands an increase in the amount of daily video surveillance Americans experience.  And that’s just to start down a long list of the ways our liberties have been curtailed in these years. At the same time, successive Congresses and administrations have cut the programs that once helped sustain life in this country. Now, with the threatened repeal of Obamacare (and so the potential loss of medical insurance for at least 20 million Americans), the Republicans may literally cut off the lives of people who depend on that program for treatments that help them survive. The preamble of the Constitution also establishes the importance of life, liberty, and happiness, with slightly different language. In it, “We the people” establish that Constitution for the following purposes: “to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity…” Is it possible that our common “defence” is not, in fact, aided by maintaining the world’s most powerful military, garrisoning the planet, and endlessly projecting power across the globe? After all, the United States is protected by an ocean off each coast and friendly countries on our northern and southern borders (although we may not always deal with them as friends should be treated). Certainly, I want my government to defend me from invading armies; on the other hand, I’m not convinced my safety is increased when the United States does the invading. It’s useful, too, as we think about the purpose of government, to consider the idea of the “general Welfare.” This phrase implies something important: my welfare, my good life, is bound up with yours. The people established the Constitution to promote the welfare of all of us, and not of a tiny, mega-rich minority, which is now running our government. We could do worse than reclaim the importance of the general welfare, with its suggestion that it is the primary business of any decent government to promote our wellbeing. ...And the Pursuit of Happiness Surely the definition of the good life, of happiness itself, is such a personal thing that it can’t be the subject of legislation or the object of government. Perhaps that’s true, but I’d like to introduce one more thinker here, also white, and, sadly, deceased: the political philosopher Iris Marion Young. In her Justice and the Politics of Difference, she offered a definition of a good human life. We can say, she argued, that a society is more or less a just one depending on the degree to which it satisfies basic physical needs, and equally importantly (as Aristotle also believed), “supports the institutional conditions necessary” for people to participate in self-development.  To her, that means “learning and using satisfying and expansive skills,” as well as the expression of “our experience, feelings, and perspective on social life in contexts where others can listen.” But self-development and expression, she says, are not sufficient for a good life. We also need self-determination -- that is, participation in the decisions that affect our lives and how we live them. We have much to defend, but we also should have a vision to advance. As we fight against a secretary of education who abhors public schools, we should also be fighting for the right of all of us to develop and use those “expansive and satisfying skills” -- from reading and writing to creating and doing -- that make life worth living. In a society with less and less demand for non-robotic workers, education will be more important than ever, not just so people can earn their livings, but also so that their lives are valuable and valued. As we fight against an administration of generals and billionaires, we should also be fighting for a country where we are free to express ourselves in language, dress, song, and ritual, without fear of finding ourselves on a registry or all our communications in the files of a spy agency. As we fight against a president elected by a minority of voters, we fight for a country in which we can take part in the decisions that affect all aspects of our lives. For many years I’ve opposed most of what my country stands for in the world. As a result, I often tended to see its founding documents as so many beautiful but meaningless promises spoken in our time to convince us and the world that the coups, invasions, and occupations we engaged in do represent life and liberty. But what if we were actually to take those words at face value? Not naively, but with the bitter nuance of the black poet Langston Hughes who, recognizing both the promise and the sham, wrote: “ O, let America be America again --   The land that never has been yet -- And yet must be -- the land where every man is free. The land that’s mine -- the poor man’s, Indian’s, Negro’s, ME -- Who made America, Whose sweat and blood, whose faith and pain, Whose hand at the foundry, whose plow in the rain, Must bring back our mighty dream again.” Maybe it’s not so strange that, in these dismal times, I find my hope in a dream, now hundreds of years old, of a country dedicated to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. I guess it’s time to develop those satisfying and expansive skills of thinking, organizing, and acting to bring back that mighty dream again, that dream of a land that never has been yet -- but will be. Rebecca Gordon, a TomDispatch regular, teaches in the philosophy department at the University of San Francisco. She is the author of American Nuremberg: The U.S. Officials Who Should Stand Trial for Post-9/11 War Crimes. Her previous books include Mainstreaming Torture: Ethical Approaches in the Post-9/11 United States and Letters from Nicaragua.  Follow TomDispatch on Twitter and join us on Facebook. Check out the newest Dispatch Book, John Feffer's dystopian novel Splinterlands, as well as Nick Turse’s Next Time They’ll Come to Count the Dead, and Tom Engelhardt's latest book, Shadow Government: Surveillance, Secret Wars, and a Global Security State in a Single-Superpower World. -- This feed and its contents are the property of The Huffington Post, and use is subject to our terms. It may be used for personal consumption, but may not be distributed on a website.

15 декабря 2016, 18:26

The Conservative Conscience of the People’s House

Recently, Speaker Ryan took part in an event on Capitol Hill honoring Rep. Joe Pitts (R-PA), who is retiring at the end of this Congress. Rep. Pitts has given his life to public service. A teacher. An Air Force captain. Three tours in Vietnam. Ten terms in Congress. Founder of the Values Action Team. Chairman of the Energy and Commerce Health Subcommittee. But more than any title or tenure, Joe Pitts’ greatest legacy may be his devotion to the principle that every life matters. He has spoken out for political prisoners and used his platform to fight human rights abuses. He has promoted religious freedom and helped start prayer breakfasts all around the world. And he has been a champion of the unborn, waging battle after battle to protect life and defend the conscience rights of taxpayers. At the event, Speaker Ryan called Rep. Pitts the conservative conscience of the people’s House. A man of faith and a leader of action, we are grateful for his service.      

11 ноября 2016, 14:33

Russia’s 3rd-generation Ratnik combat gear to feature exoskeleton

Designers say outfit will enhance physical capabilities of infantryRussian designers are to present the third-generation Ratnik ("Warrior") combat gear to the world in seven years, the TASS news agency has reported (in Russian), citing the press service of the Central Research Institute for Precision Machine Building (TsNIITochMash, a subsidiary of the Rostec state corporation). According to the designers, the armor will feature an active exoskeleton, which will significantly increase the physical power of soldiers wearing it. "An active exoskeleton is a mechanism whose hinges are equipped with electric and hydraulic drives, to enhance the possibilities of the musculoskeletal system," said the report. The passive exoskeleton, which also will be one of the components of the new gear, will not contain wire and will not be connected to the body of the serviceman. Photo: 'Ratnik' modern military garment. Source: Mikhail Voskresenskiy/RIA Novosti The passive exoskeleton, which also will be one of the components of the new gear, will not contain wire and will not be connected to the body of the serviceman. It, in turn, will serve to reduce the load on joints and will reduce the likelihood of injury. As TsNIITochMash's CEO Dmitry Semizorov previously noted (in Russian), the next, third-generation Ratnik outfit will appear in five to seven years. According to him, all the components of the system (protection, life support, power supply, etc.) will reach a fundamentally new level of technology. In addition to exoskeletal structures, designers will create systems to display information and target designation on the visor or goggles. Read more: Russia developing new robot sapper>>> Subscribe to get the hand picked best stories every week

13 октября 2016, 17:37

Executive Order -- Coordinating Efforts to Prepare the Nation for Space Weather Events

EXECUTIVE ORDER - - - - - - - COORDINATING EFFORTS TO PREPARE THE NATION FOR SPACE WEATHER EVENTS By the authority vested in me as President by the Constitution and the laws of the United States of America, and to prepare the Nation for space weather events, it is hereby ordered as follows: Section 1. Policy. Space weather events, in the form of solar flares, solar energetic particles, and geomagnetic disturbances, occur regularly, some with measurable effects on critical infrastructure systems and technologies, such as the Global Positioning System (GPS), satellite operations and communication, aviation, and the electrical power grid. Extreme space weather events -- those that could significantly degrade critical infrastructure -- could disable large portions of the electrical power grid, resulting in cascading failures that would affect key services such as water supply, healthcare, and transportation. Space weather has the potential to simultaneously affect and disrupt health and safety across entire continents. Successfully preparing for space weather events is an all-of-nation endeavor that requires partnerships across governments, emergency managers, academia, the media, the insurance industry, non-profits, and the private sector. It is the policy of the United States to prepare for space weather events to minimize the extent of economic loss and human hardship. The Federal Government must have (1) the capability to predict and detect a space weather event, (2) the plans and programs necessary to alert the public and private sectors to enable mitigating actions for an impending space weather event, (3) the protection and mitigation plans, protocols, and standards required to reduce risks to critical infrastructure prior to and during a credible threat, and (4) the ability to respond to and recover from the effects of space weather. Executive departments and agencies (agencies) must coordinate their efforts to prepare for the effects of space weather events. Sec. 2. Objectives. This order defines agency roles and responsibilities and directs agencies to take specific actions to prepare the Nation for the hazardous effects of space weather. These activities are to be implemented in conjunction with those identified in the 2015 National Space Weather Action Plan (Action Plan) and any subsequent updates. Implementing this order and the Action Plan will require the Federal Government to work across agencies and to develop, as appropriate, enhanced and innovative partnerships with State, tribal, and local governments; academia; non-profits; the private sector; and international partners. These efforts will enhance national preparedness and speed the creation of a space-weather-ready Nation. Sec. 3. Coordination. (a) The Director of the Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP), in consultation with the Assistant to the President for Homeland Security and Counterterrorism and the Director of the Office of Management and Budget (OMB), shall coordinate the development and implementation of Federal Government activities to prepare the Nation for space weather events, including the activities established in section 5 of this order and the recommendations of the National Science and Technology Council (NSTC), established by Executive Order 12881 of November 23, 1993 (Establishment of the National Science and Technology Council). (b) To ensure accountability for and coordination of research, development, and implementation of activities identified in this order and in the Action Plan, the NSTC shall establish a Space Weather Operations, Research, and Mitigation Subcommittee (Subcommittee). The Subcommittee member agencies shall conduct activities to advance the implementation of this order, to achieve the goals identified in the 2015 National Space Weather Strategy and any subsequent updates, and to coordinate and monitor the implementation of the activities specified in the Action Plan and provide subsequent updates. Sec. 4. Roles and Responsibilities. To the extent permitted by law, the agencies below shall adopt the following roles and responsibilities, which are key to ensuring enhanced space weather forecasting, situational awareness, space weather preparedness, and continuous Federal Government operations during and after space weather events. (a) The Secretary of Defense shall ensure the timely provision of operational space weather observations, analyses, forecasts, and other products to support the mission of the Department of Defense and coalition partners, including the provision of alerts and warnings for space weather phenomena that may affect weapons systems, military operations, or the defense of the United States. (b) The Secretary of the Interior shall support the research, development, deployment, and operation of capabilities that enhance the understanding of variations of the Earth's magnetic field associated with solar-terrestrial interactions. (c) The Secretary of Commerce shall: (i) provide timely and accurate operational space weather forecasts, watches, warnings, alerts, and real-time space weather monitoring for the government, civilian, and commercial sectors, exclusive of the responsibilities of the Secretary of Defense; and (ii) ensure the continuous improvement of operational space weather services, utilizing partnerships, as appropriate, with the research community, including academia and the private sector, and relevant agencies to develop, validate, test, and transition space weather observation platforms and models from research to operations and from operations to research. (d) The Secretary of Energy shall facilitate the protection and restoration of the reliability of the electrical power grid during a presidentially declared grid security emergency associated with a geomagnetic disturbance pursuant to 16 U.S.C. 824o-1. (e) The Secretary of Homeland Security shall: (i) ensure the timely redistribution of space weather alerts and warnings that support national preparedness, continuity of government, and continuity of operations; and (ii) coordinate response and recovery from the effects of space weather events on critical infrastructure and the broader community. (f) The Administrator of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) shall: (i) implement and support a national research program to understand the Sun and its interactions with Earth and the solar system to advance space weather modeling and prediction capabilities applicable to space weather forecasting; (ii) develop and operate space-weather-related research missions, instrument capabilities, and models; and (iii) support the transition of space weather models and technology from research to operations and from operations to research. (g) The Director of the National Science Foundation (NSF) shall support fundamental research linked to societal needs for space weather information through investments and partnerships, as appropriate. (h) The Secretary of State, in consultation with the heads of relevant agencies, shall carry out diplomatic and public diplomacy efforts to strengthen global capacity to respond to space weather events. (i) The Secretaries of Defense, the Interior, Commerce, Transportation, Energy, and Homeland Security, along with the Administrator of NASA and the Director of NSF, shall work together, consistent with their ongoing activities, to develop models, observation systems, technologies, and approaches that inform and enhance national preparedness for the effects of space weather events, including how space weather events may affect critical infrastructure and change the threat landscape with respect to other hazards. (j) The heads of all agencies that support National Essential Functions, defined by Presidential Policy Directive 40 (PPD-40) of July 15, 2016 (National Continuity Policy), shall ensure that space weather events are adequately addressed in their all-hazards preparedness planning, including mitigation, response, and recovery, as directed by PPD-8 of March 30, 2011 (National Preparedness). (k) NSTC member agencies shall coordinate through the NSTC to establish roles and responsibilities beyond those identified in section 4 of this order to enhance space weather preparedness, consistent with each agency's legal authority. Sec. 5. Implementation. (a) Within 120 days of the date of this order, the Secretary of Energy, in consultation with the Secretary of Homeland Security, shall develop a plan to test and evaluate available devices that mitigate the effects of geomagnetic disturbances on the electrical power grid through the development of a pilot program that deploys such devices, in situ, in the electrical power grid. After the development of the plan, the Secretary shall implement the plan in collaboration with industry. In taking action pursuant to this subsection, the Secretaries of Energy and Homeland Security shall consult with the Chairman of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission. (b) Within 120 days of the date of this order, the heads of the sector-specific agencies that oversee the lifeline critical infrastructure functions as defined by the National Infrastructure Protection Plan of 2013 -- including communications, energy, transportation, and water and wastewater systems -- as well as the Nuclear Reactors, Materials, and Waste Sector, shall assess their executive and statutory authority, and limits of that authority, to direct, suspend, or control critical infrastructure operations, functions, and services before, during, and after a space weather event. The heads of each sector-specific agency shall provide a summary of these assessments to the Subcommittee. (c) Within 90 days of receipt of the assessments ordered in section 5(b) of this order, the Subcommittee shall provide a report on the findings of these assessments with recommendations to the Director of OSTP, the Assistant to the President for Homeland Security and Counterterrorism, and the Director of OMB. The assessments may be used to inform the development and implementation of policy establishing authorities and responsibilities for agencies in response to a space weather event. (d) Within 60 days of the date of this order, the Secretaries of Defense and Commerce, the Administrator of NASA, and the Director of NSF, in collaboration with other agencies as appropriate, shall identify mechanisms for advancing space weather observations, models, and predictions, and for sustaining and transitioning appropriate capabilities from research to operations and operations to research, collaborating with industry and academia to the extent possible. (e) Within 120 days of the date of this order, the Secretaries of Defense and Commerce shall make historical data from the GPS constellation and other U.S. Government satellites publicly available, in accordance with Executive Order 13642 of May 9, 2013 (Making Open and Machine Readable the New Default for Government Information), to enhance model validation and improvements in space weather forecasting and situational awareness. (f) Within 120 days of the date of this order, the Secretary of Homeland Security, through the Administrator of the Federal Emergency Management Agency and in coordination with relevant agencies, shall lead the development of a coordinated Federal operating concept and associated checklist to coordinate Federal assets and activities to respond to notification of, and protect against, impending space weather events. Within 180 days of the publication of the operating concept and checklist, agencies shall develop operational plans documenting their procedures and responsibilities to prepare for, protect against, and mitigate the effects of impending space weather events, in support of the Federal operating concept and compatible with the National Preparedness System described in PPD-8. Sec. 6. Stakeholder Engagement. The agencies identified in this order shall seek public-private and international collaborations to enhance observation networks, conduct research, develop prediction models and mitigation approaches, enhance community resilience and preparedness, and supply the services necessary to protect life and property and promote economic prosperity, as consistent with law. Sec. 7. Definitions. As used in this order: (a) "Prepare" and "preparedness" have the same meaning they have in PPD-8. They refer to the actions taken to plan, organize, equip, train, and exercise to build and sustain the capabilities necessary to prevent, protect against, mitigate the effects of, respond to, and recover from those threats that pose the greatest risk to the security of the Nation. This includes the prediction and notification of space weather events. (b) "Space weather" means variations in the space environment between the Sun and Earth (and throughout the solar system) that can affect technologies in space and on Earth. The primary types of space weather events are solar flares, solar energetic particles, and geomagnetic disturbances. (c) "Solar flare" means a brief eruption of intense energy on or near the Sun's surface that is typically associated with sunspots. (d) "Solar energetic particles" means ions and electrons ejected from the Sun that are typically associated with solar eruptions. (e) "Geomagnetic disturbance" means a temporary disturbance of Earth's magnetic field resulting from solar activity. (f) "Critical infrastructure" has the meaning provided in section 1016(e) of the USA Patriot Act of 2001 (42 U.S.C. 5195c(e)), namely systems and assets, whether physical or virtual, so vital to the United States that the incapacity or destruction of such systems and assets would have a debilitating impact on security, national economic security, national public health or safety, or any combination of those matters. (g) "Sector-Specific Agency" means the agencies designated under PPD-21 of February 12, 2013 (Critical Infrastructure Security and Resilience), or any successor directive, to be responsible for providing institutional knowledge and specialized expertise as well as leading, facilitating, or supporting the security and resilience programs and associated activities of its designated critical infrastructure sector in the all-hazards environment. Sec. 8. General Provisions. (a) Nothing in this order shall be construed to impair or otherwise affect: (i) the authority granted by law to an agency, or the head thereof; or (ii) the functions of the Director of OMB relating to budgetary, administrative, or legislative proposals. (b) This order shall be implemented consistent with applicable law and subject to the availability of appropriations. (c) This order is not intended to, and does not, create any right or benefit, substantive or procedural, enforceable at law or in equity by any party against the United States, its departments, agencies, or entities, its officers, employees, or agents, or any other person.   BARACK OBAMA   THE WHITE HOUSE, October 13, 2016.

06 октября 2016, 00:26

Why Some Christians Say The Clinton-Kaine Ticket Is More 'Pro-Life'

Virginia Sen. Tim Kaine and Indiana Gov. Mike Pence are two religious men who care strongly about protecting life. But how this affects their politics differs greatly. In a surprisingly sincere and personal moment in Tuesday night’s vice presidential debate, the politicians discussed their religious backgrounds and how their faith impacts their views on the sanctity of life. In their responses, the men epitomized a divide that has historically separated Democrats and Republicans. Kaine discussed his moral opposition to the death penalty, while Pence decried abortion as “anathema” to him. A majority of Republicans would agree with Pence, but not all Christians are satisfied with the Republican ticket’s promise on this issue. People frequently use the term “pro-life” to reflect a stance that favors strict abortion legislation and seeks to protect the rights of individuals starting in the womb. But as many have noted, this stance is more aptly described as “anti-abortion” to reflect the efforts on both sides of the aisle to promote life.  For some Christians, the more “pro-life” stance in this election is actually one championed by Kaine and presidential nominee Hillary Clinton. In an op-ed published Monday on Christian Post, titled “Hillary Clinton Is the Best Choice for Voters Against Abortion,” Christian political consultant Eric Sapp argued that being “pro-life” should entail more than opposing abortion. “Here’s the question pro-life Christians must ask,” Sapp wrote. “Do we care more about talking about the unborn, or do we actually want to do something to prevent abortions?” Preventing abortions means supporting the women and families who are most likely to have them, Sapp continued, including those who are poor and facing an unexpected pregnancy. And when it comes to supporting women and low-income families, Hillary Clinton is the obvious choice.  “Want to guess which political party is more effective at reducing poverty and unwanted pregnancies?” Sapp wrote. “I’ll give you a hint. It’s not the ‘pro-life’ Party that in this last Congressional session alone fought to cut medical care for poor mothers and children, food programs for kids, and contraception coverage and access for women.” Sapp isn’t alone among Christians in holding these views. Anti-abortion Christian blogger Shannon Dingle discussed her reasons for voting for Hillary Clinton in a article over the summer. Being pro-life can’t just be about ensuring that babies are born without also affirming their value after birth through our words, actions, and policies.” Reducing the rate of abortions, she wrote, starts with addressing the “underlying causes” that lead women to choose the procedure, including poverty and lack of access to healthcare. Beyond abortion, she said, upholding the sanctity of life should include standing up for the lives of all those marginalized in our society ― including women, immigrants, people with disabilities, the LGBTQ community, and religious and racial minorities. “To me,” Dingle wrote, “being pro-life can’t just be about ensuring that babies are born without also affirming their value after birth through our words, actions, and policies.” Prominent Christian writer Rachel Held Evans published a blog shortly after Dingle’s expressing similar views and outlining her reasons for choosing the Clinton-Kaine ticket. “I believe the sacred personhood of an individual begins before birth and continues throughout life,” she wrote. “And I believe that sacred personhood is worth protecting, whether it’s tucked inside a womb, waiting on death row, fleeing Syria in search of a home, or playing beneath the shadow of an American drone.” For these Christians, choosing a pro-abortion rights ticket doesn’t represent a rejection of their religious convictions. On the contrary, they see Clinton and Kaine’s commitment to social justice and to upholding the lives of marginalized communities as precisely what it means to be “pro-life.” -- This feed and its contents are the property of The Huffington Post, and use is subject to our terms. It may be used for personal consumption, but may not be distributed on a website.

05 октября 2016, 20:11

On Abortion, A Surprising Number Of Catholics Side With Tim Kaine

Despite the Catholic Church’s clear and consistent teaching that having an abortion ― and in fact, using all forms of artificial contraception ― is wrong, American Catholics are very much divided on the issue.  This division was on display during Tuesday’s vice presidential debate between Senator Tim Kaine of Virginia and Gov. Mike Pence of Indiana ― two men of deep faith and two very different kinds of Catholics. Quoting scripture, Pence defended his party’s line on the “sanctity of life” and said that the idea of late-term abortions were “anathema” to him. On the other hand, Kaine, who has personally opposed abortion in the past, said he believes that women should be able to make their own decisions about pregnancy.  “That’s something we trust American women to do,” Kaine said during the debate. Many American Catholics agree with Kaine. In fact, according to a survey conducted by the Public Religion Research Institute in 2015, a very slim majority of all Catholics in the country (51 percent) think that abortion should be legal in all or most cases. Forty-five percent of all Catholics think it should be illegal in all or most cases. About 4 percent didn’t know how they felt, or refused to answer. Catholics who attended services weekly or more were more likely to support the church’s official anti-abortion stance.  A Pew Research Center survey conducted in 2014 found about the same breakdown ― 48 percent of Catholics said abortion should be legal in all or most cases, while 47 percent said that it should be illegal in all or most cases. Five percent didn’t know. The numbers are telling, especially given the fact that the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops has been so adamant in its stance against all forms of artificial contraception and against abortion in all circumstances ― often leading the charge in lawsuits that attempt to block women’s access to contraception.  The stats suggest that despite what they’re hearing from pulpits, a good number of Catholics disagree with their bishops about a woman’s choice to make their own decisions about pregnancy. In other words, some Catholics are looking outside of the church for moral guidance.  It’s a reflection of a tradition that is embedded within the catechism of the Catholic Church, which emphasizes the importance of Catholics’ individual consciences when it comes to navigating faith and family life. In fact, the word “conscience” was mentioned by both vice presidential candidates during their discussion about abortion. Pence said that he couldn’t “conscience about” a party that supported partial-birth abortion. Kaine said that he supports the right of American women to “consult their own conscience” when making choices about their reproductive care. Studies show that above the Bible, the pope, and the Catholic Church’s teachings, the majority of American Catholics (73 percent) look first and foremost to their own conscience for guidance on difficult moral questions.  For Catholics, protecting life is important ― but so is following your conscience.  -- This feed and its contents are the property of The Huffington Post, and use is subject to our terms. It may be used for personal consumption, but may not be distributed on a website.

05 октября 2016, 18:28

Poland May Walk Back Anti-Abortion Plans After Massive Protest

WARSAW (Reuters) - Poland’s ruling Law and Justice (PiS) party has looked firmly in control since sweeping to power a year ago but it may have pressed its conservative agenda too far by initially backing a virtual ban on abortion. Now, rattled by nationwide protests on Monday by up to 100,000 women dressed in black, Prime Minister Beata Szydlo’s government is trying to distance itself from a draft proposal backed by the powerful Roman Catholic Church. Worryingly for PiS, the protesters included women who voted for the party in last October’s election but say they may no longer do so over its attempt to tighten the abortion law. Ola, a 29-year-old woman who works in public administration, said she had voted for PiS but now felt “very deceived” by the government. “I still think liberalism isn’t always right. But I wore black on Monday and went to the protests,” said Ola, who declined to give her surname. “I don’t support slogans such as ‘my pussy, not your issue’ and I don’t support abortion on demand but we don’t protect life by prohibitions but by supporting women who are pregnant or have problems,” she said. Echoing such sentiments, Natalia, a 30-year-old landscape designer from the western city of Poznan, described herself as a practicing Catholic but said women should be allowed to exercise their personal choice on such important matters. “What’s important for me is a situation when I would be pregnant or have to have prenatal testing. I would like to have a choice. Even if I am religious, I still think it’s a personal decision, a considered decision. The original rules were optimal,” she said. RESTRICTIVE Poland already has restrictive rules on abortion that allow it only in cases of rape, incest or if the mother or baby have serious health problems. The new proposal, brainchild of the anti-abortion campaign group Ordo Iuris, would limit abortion to cases where the mother’s life was deemed in direct danger. Women and doctors could face prison if convicted of causing what the proposed rules call “death of a conceived child”. Critics say doctors would be discouraged from doing prenatal testing, particularly if that carried the risk of miscarriage. “There is nothing in that proposal that women can support,” said Sylwia, 21, who took part in the protest in Warsaw and said she may not vote for PiS again. “PiS keeps coming up with ideas which are just unsupportable.” Such criticism matters for PiS, whose appeal is based on a blend of Polish nationalism, Catholic piety and promises to help poorer Poles who have not benefited much from a decade of heady economic growth. Some 40 percent of women backed the party last year, compared to 38 percent of the wider population. “I want to state very clearly that the PiS government is not working on any legislation changing the rules on abortion in Poland,” Szydlo told a news conference on Tuesday. “There are too many emotions surrounding this issue. The public and politicians should tone them down,” she said. Underlining the confusion, the speaker of the upper house Senate, Stanislaw Karczewski, said on Wednesday that PiS lawmakers had dropped plans to push their own draft proposal that would ban abortion of fetuses with Down Syndrome while retaining the other current exceptions. “We will now see how the Ordo Iuris proposal fares in parliament,” said Karczewski. function onPlayerReadyVidible(e){'undefined'!=typeof HPTrack&&HPTrack.Vid.Vidible_track(e)}!function(e,i){if(e.vdb_Player){if('object'==typeof commercial_video){var a='',o='m.fwsitesection='+commercial_video.site_and_category;if(a+=o,commercial_video['package']){var c='&m.fwkeyvalues=sponsorship%3D'+commercial_video['package'];a+=c}e.setAttribute('vdb_params',a)}i(e.vdb_Player)}else{var t=arguments.callee;setTimeout(function(){t(e,i)},0)}}(document.getElementById('vidible_1'),onPlayerReadyVidible); An opinion poll for the liberal OKO.press showed half of Poles supported Monday’s protests against the abortion proposal. “PiS realises this is an important issue that could have meaningful impact on their government and how long it governs,” said Aleksander Smolar, a liberal political analyst with the Stefan Batory Foundation. “They could lose the two sections of the electorate that helped them succeed,” he said, referring to women and to younger Poles who helped PiS broaden its traditional electorate last year and win a parliamentary majority. But PiS also does not want to antagonize the Catholic Church, which has lost some of its sway among Poles after more than two decades of democratization and free market capitalism but remains an influential institution. “For PiS, its relations with the Church hierarchy mean that it cannot agree to any easing of abortion restrictions. It will waver between the status quo and some tightening,” said Rafal Chwedoruk, a political scientist at Warsaw University. -- This feed and its contents are the property of The Huffington Post, and use is subject to our terms. It may be used for personal consumption, but may not be distributed on a website.

15 сентября 2016, 06:00

Ten Signs You Might Be a Libertarian

Gary Johnson, the Libertarian Party’s presidential candidate, likes to say that most Americans are libertarians but don’t know it yet. So why can't Libertarians (and other third parties) gain more political traction? The post Ten Signs You Might Be a Libertarian appeared first on Freakonomics.

13 сентября 2016, 00:25

New Zealand Firefighters Honor 9/11 Victims With A Powerful Haka

On Sunday, almost 9,000 miles away from New York City, more than 160 New Zealand firefighters performed a powerful and emotional haka to honor their colleagues who were killed in the line of duty at the World Trade Center on September 11, 2001. The haka, a traditional Maori war dance that is often used to honor a person or express collective emotion, was performed during the annual Memorial Firefighter Stair Climb, held at the Sky Tower in Auckland, New Zealand. Steven San Filippo, a New York firefighter and Battalion Chief who was a part of rescue efforts at Ground Zero, was a guest of honor at the event. He said the ceremony was a “tremendous honor to be commemorating our guys here on the other side of the world,” according to local newspaper Stuff. During the two hour ceremony, event organizers read aloud the names of all 343 New York City firefighters who died on the tragic day 15 years ago, along with the names of 56 New Zealand firefighters who have died while serving their country. After the performance, the New Zealand firefighters, donning full fire gear, climbed up the 1,000-step staircase of Auckland’s Sky Tower while carrying special tags bearing the names of the fallen FDNY servicemen. Some firefighters completed the climb twice, according to trade magazine Firefighter Nation. “This spreads the word of the tremendous effort that the New York City firefighters made on 9/11, 2001,” Filippo said during the ceremony. “They were protecting life and property in the city of New York,” he added. “And you know what? Any department anywhere in the world would have done the same thing.” You can watch the entire ceremony below. -- This feed and its contents are the property of The Huffington Post, and use is subject to our terms. It may be used for personal consumption, but may not be distributed on a website.

31 августа 2016, 17:28

FACT SHEET: At Lake Tahoe Summit, Obama Administration Underscores the Importance of Strong Partnerships and Innovation in Tackling our Shared Climate and Conservation Challenges

Today, President Obama will speak at the 20th Anniversary of the Annual Lake Tahoe Summit about the importance of partnerships and innovation in tackling our shared climate and conservation challenges. The visit builds on other recent announcements, including the 100th anniversary of America’s National Park Service, last week’s designation of the Katahdin Woods and Waters National Monument in north-central Maine, and the expansion of the Papahanaumokuakea Marine National Monument to create the world’s largest marine protected area off the coast of Hawaii. Like the President’s visit to the Alaskan Arctic last summer and Yosemite National Park earlier this summer, this visit to the Lake Tahoe region provides another vivid example of the new challenges we face as climate change threatens communities and ecosystems through impacts like increasingly frequent and severe drought and wildfires. In 2015, Lake Tahoe experienced its warmest average surface water temperature ever recorded and the west struggled with what may be the worst drought in more than 1,500 years.  In keeping with the unique history of collaborative and innovative conservation efforts that have surrounded the Lake Tahoe region for more than two decades, today’s announcements include a series of commitments to build upon the successful conservation legacy at Lake Tahoe, boost innovative approaches to conservation, and address threats to vulnerable communities at another of the region’s key water bodies, the Salton Sea. After the Summit, the President will travel to Hawaii to address leaders from the Pacific Island Conference of Leaders and the IUCN World Conservation Congress, and Midway Atoll to highlight first-hand how the threat of climate change makes protecting our lands and waters more important than ever. BUILDING ON A SUCCESSFUL CONSERVATION LEGACY AT LAKE TAHOE At the first Lake Tahoe Summit in 1997, President Bill Clinton – joined by Senator Reid as well as other key leaders from Nevada and California – jumpstarted a two-decades-long, successful partnership to restore Lake Tahoe’s legendary water quality, and strengthen the region’s economy for future generations. Since then, Federal, State, and local government partners have invested more than $1.8 billion into projects to restore wetlands, build transit facilities, upgrade roads to reduce polluted runoff, and reduce fire risks from nearby forests. Today, the Administration is building on this commitment with a number of conservation-focused actions impacting Lake Tahoe: Providing Hazardous Fuel Reduction Funding and Reducing Wildfire Risk:  The Department of the Interior is announcing $29.5 million dedicated for hazardous fuels reduction projects to improve forest health and protect life and property from the threat of catastrophic wildfires. The funding will be used on public and private lands to support the removal of standing dead and dying hazard trees along roads and in campgrounds, administrative sites, communication sites, and the wildland urban interface – adjacent to community infrastructure – in or adjacent to the Tahoe Basin.  Since 2002, the Department of the Interior has invested more than $400 million in funding for over 400 projects in the Lake Tahoe Basin that support hazardous fuels treatments, restoration work and the acquisition of environmentally-sensitive lands. Investing in a Public-Private Partnership to Improve Watershed Health: The National Forest Foundation – working together with the Department of Agriculture’s Forest Service and local community partners – is announcing that it has raised over $4 million for forest health, sustainable recreation and creek restoration projects throughout the Truckee River Watershed. This investment will increase the pace and scale of restoration in the region by expanding this effort to include adjoining watersheds as well as providing assistance in forming and facilitating the Tahoe West Collaborative.  Supporting Improvements in Clean Water Infrastructure and Invasive Species Prevention: The Environmental Protection Agency is announcing more than $230,000 in grant funding for infrastructure to manage and reduce stormwater runoff in the region. The money will improve water quality in Lake Tahoe, which has been degraded by pollution from decades of uncontrolled stormwater runoff. In addition, the Fish and Wildlife Service is announcing nearly $1 million for eight projects to prevent the spread of invasive zebra and quagga mussels from nearby water bodies to Lake Tahoe. These invasive mussels could disrupt the natural balance of the Tahoe Basin ecosystem by degrading water quality and significantly reducing habitat for native species. BOOSTING INNOVATION FOR CONSERVATION AND CLIMATE CHANGE America’s lands and waters face growing challenges and increasing importance, especially from the impacts of climate change.  In order to increase conservation efforts and meet these challenges, we must strengthen partnership and boost innovation – and, in turn, bring private capital off the sidelines. Built on the spirit of collaboration and innovation that first catalyzed Lake Tahoe’s historic conservation efforts, the Administration is: Outlining a Strategy focused on “Leveraging Innovation to Boost Private Investment in America’s Natural Resources”: Today, the Administration released a strategy document outlining the potential for increased private investment in conservation to complement existing efforts to tackle the Nation’s climate and conservation challenges, and opportunities for increasing investment by innovating across three areas: policy, finance, and technology.  The strategy focuses on promoting policies that reward flexibility and outcome-focused conservation, financing methods to kick start new conservation markets, and technologies to unlock low-cost measurement and verification of conservation outcomes and enable collaboration across previously incomplete landscape-scales. Consistent with the strategy, the Administration is: Setting a New Goal to Achieve $10 Billion Per Year in Support for Conservation from Private and Philanthropic Impact Investment: Estimated at approximately $230 million per year at the beginning of this Administration, private and philanthropic impact investment in conservation is increasing rapidly.  In fact, a low estimate of current calendar year investment in the United States is approximately $1 billion.  By focusing on the innovation strategy laid out by the Administration today, this investment stream can continue to scale. Issuing New Guidance on Mitigating Impacts of Development and Incentivizing Greater Conservation: Building on President Obama’s November 2015 memorandum that called for our economic development, infrastructure, and national security goals to be aligned with environmental preservation, the Department of the Interior’s Fish and Wildlife Service released a draft compensatory mitigation policy to help address the impacts of development on the nation’s most at-risk species.  The policy is the first comprehensive treatment of compensatory mitigation under authority of the Endangered Species Act (ESA) to be issued by the Service. Announcing Progress on First-of-a-Kind, Market-Based Conservation Approach: This week, the Department of the Interior signed an agreement with Newmont Mining Company to advance a first-of-its-kind mitigation credit system that will protect and restore sage grouse habitat. Along with an agreement signed with Barrick Gold Corporation earlier this year, these agreements highlight ways to enable important economic development while meeting our Nation’s commitment to conservation. Expanding Sensor Technology Challenge: The Environmental Protection Agency in collaboration with NOAA and USGS, is extending the Nutrient Sensor Challenge to include transitioning new sensors, developed under the program, into the hands of state, local, academic and other users.  Additionally, the agencies announced that they will expand the Challenge to include sensors for detection of harmful algal blooms in surface waters that are a direct result of excess nutrients next year. Continuing to Support Innovative Finance for Water Infrastructure: Consistent with the goals outlined in the strategy issued today, EPA announced that it will publish a new playbook for financing non-traditional wastewater projects, like green infrastructure, water conservation, energy efficiency and nonpoint source protection. The playbook will describe examples of innovative financing currently utilized in some states and will highlight various financing options, such as State Revolving Fund assistance, fee programs, issuance of green bonds, watershed financing, interstate assistance, “pay for success” programs, and innovative partnerships. Making Progress through the National Drought Resilience Partnership: Today, the National Drought Resilience Partnership (NDRP), a cross-agency Federal partnership, released its first progress report. As of August 1, moderate to exceptional drought is impacting 20% of the United States and nearly 92.9 million people. In 2016, Secretary Vilsack issued Secretarial Drought Designations for all the counties in the Lake Tahoe Basin.  The report outlines the work of the Federal partnership, such as co-investing $47 million through USDA and DOI to improve the water efficiency of farms an irrigation districts, and identifying rural communities most at risk for compromised drinking-water supplies as a result of drought, support of the National Rural Water Association (NRWA) and Rural Community Assistance Partnership (RCAP), providing technical assistance to rural communities and the water and wastewater utilities that serve them, including rural water services in California and Nevada. BUILDING A PATH FORWARD FOR THE SALTON SEA AND CLEAN ENERGY NATIONWIDE Today, the Administration is also announcing a package of actions to marshal strong partnership and innovation in support of the communities surrounding the Salton Sea, California’s largest lake, which is facing a tipping point in environmental degradation. A 2014 study from the Pacific Institute, a global water think-tank, found that Californians could face $70 billion in costs, ranging from lower property values to dramatically higher health care costs for respiratory illness, if action is not taken to save the Sea. The actions today, in close partnership with the State of California, will support implementation of the State’s Salton Sea Task Force Agency Action plan, help boost the region’s climate resilience through innovative conservation approaches, spur economic growth by developing new clean energy resources, improve public health and provide a path forward for the Sea.  The Administration is: Establishing a New Partnership Between the Federal Government and California to Accelerate Conservation in the Salton Sea: The State of California and the Department of the Interior (DOI) announced a new partnership that prioritizes long-term coordination between the State and Federal government that will facilitate prompt and informed decision-making regarding the future of the Salton Sea.  This agreement will help to catalyze appropriate state and federal actions in addressing the natural resources and regional interests associated with the Salton Sea while recognizing the critical role that the Colorado River plays in providing water security for the State of California. Southern California relies on water from the Colorado River and from Northern California to augment limited local supplies.  Consequently water supply reliability for a major part of America's economy is interconnected on progress in addressing long term drought on the Colorado River, environmental conditions at the Salton Sea and environmental conditions in California's Bay-Delta region.  Each of these critical interconnected areas require a joint state and federal response to ensure success. Announcing a $10 Million Goal for Salton Sea Efforts with the Water Funder Initiative Foundations: Today, the Water Funder Initiative, a collaborative of leading philanthropic foundations including the S.D. Bechtel, Jr. Foundation, the Energy Foundation, the Rockefeller Foundation, and the Walton Family Foundation, announced a goal to provide $10 million over five years to support implementation of a comprehensive plan to protect public health and the environment, enhance drought resilience, and promote renewable energy and restoration at the Salton Sea. The funding could include loan guarantees, civil society support, private sector engagement, economic diversification programs, and other initiatives that benefit wildlife habitats and local communities. Advance Collaboration on Renewable Energy Development in the Imperial Valley/Salton Sea Area: The Department of Energy’s (DOE) Federal Energy Management Program (FEMP) has published a Request for Information (RFI) on identifying pathways for aggregating a power purchase between 100 and 250 MW of new geothermal energy from around the Imperial Valley's Salton Sea. The Imperial Valley is home to world-class renewable energy resources, with an existing capacity of over 6000 MW of renewables, and an estimated 1200 MW of additional geothermal resources that are currently untapped. This RFI will serve as a critical first step in exploring how Federal partners could aggregate demand to harness this existing and additional potential for meeting the nation’s clean energy and sustainability goals, while ensuring that development balances with state and federal efforts to conserve the critical wildlife habitats in and around the Salton Sea. In addition, the Department of the Interior will soon finalize the Desert Renewable Energy Conservation plan, which will include provisions to help facilitate permitting of renewable energy and transmission projects in the Imperial Valley. Focusing on Technology Adoption and Breakthroughs to Boost the Salton Sea Economy and Clean Energy Generation: In addition to evaluating approaches to purchase clean power from the region, DOE is advancing technology adoption and breakthroughs by: Convening Key Geothermal Experts for First-Ever Forum on Salton Sea Renewable Potential: DOE will lead a targeted, technical forum with the State of California, and the Geothermal Resources Council in October 2016 to accelerate development of geothermal energy resources in California, particularly around the Imperial Valley’s Salton Sea. The forum will convene a diverse group of stakeholders from government, industry, and research to lay out solutions for new geothermal development while remaining consistent with critical Federal and state conservation planning efforts at the Salton Sea. Investing in New Sources of Renewable Energy in the Region: DOE is announcing two projects selected for a total of up to $29 million for the pioneering Frontier Observatory for Research in Geothermal Energy (FORGE). Dedicated to cutting-edge research on enhanced geothermal systems (EGS), this field lab could unlock homegrown, geographically diverse, and carbon-free source of clean energy. After a competitive first phase of research, Sandia National Laboratories’ Fallon, NV candidate site, and the University of Utah’s candidate site in Milford, UT were selected for further development. The breakthroughs supported by this research can help improve the technical and economic feasibility of geothermal energy nationwide, including in the Salton Sea area, which features vast geothermal energy potential. Developing Innovative Partnerships Around Critical Watersheds: Today, the Department of Agriculture’s Natural Resources Conservation Service is announcing that partnership agreements are being finalized with the Sierra Valley Conservation Planning Program and the Salton Sea Authority totaling more than $17 million for innovative partnerships that will help spur critical air, water, and wildlife habitat conservation planning for the Sierra Valley as well as the Salton Sea, in California.  Partners to these agreements propose to contribute another $60 million, more than tripling the Federal investment. 

12 июля 2016, 21:55

Conscience Protection Act: What It Is and Why It’s Needed

This week, the House will consider legislation to protect health care providers that decline to be involved in abortions as a matter of conscience. Introduced by Rep. Diane Black (R-TN), it’s called the Conscience Protection Act and here’s what you need to know about it. Why is the Conscience Protection Act so important? There is a law on the books known as the Weldon Amendment, which prevents the government from discriminating against hospitals, doctors, nurses, and insurance plans that decline to provide or pay for abortions. It is meant to guard against exactly what happened in California, where all employers—including churches—are now required to cover abortions.  There have also been cases in recent years where nurses have been forced to take part in abortions. Last week, at a forum led by Rep. Joe Pitts (R-PA), Fe Vinoya, a nurse from New Jersey said, “Participating in the destruction of human life is not only a violation of my religious convictions, it conflicts with my calling as a medical professional to protect life, not to end it.” No one and no organization should be forced to violate their conscience. Here’s how Speaker Ryan put it in an interview with EWTN last Thursday, when he first announced that the House would take up this legislation: “This is something that I’m really worried about, which is the government is using its power to deny people their First Amendment conscience rights. And so, next Wednesday, we’re bringing legislation to the floor offered by Diane Black—the Conscience Protection Act—to give private citizens like health care workers…to protect their conscience rights. … This is something we feel very strongly about. I really worry that our conscience and our religious freedom is under attack in America by our government.” What does the Conscience Protection Act do? The way it works right now, those who face discrimination for exercising their conscience have only one recourse: to file a complaint with the Department of Health and Human Services. Through the Conscience Protection Act, health care providers would have the ability to file a civil suit to seek relief from discrimination. Of note, victims would not have to file a complaint with the government before filing a lawsuit. In addition, the legislation codifies the Weldon Amendment and the Hyde Amendment, which prohibits federal funding of abortion.  What happens next? The House is scheduled to vote on the Conscience Protection Act on Wednesday.

28 июня 2016, 22:08

Reclaim Our Domestic Tranquility: Putting The First Amendment Before the Second Amendment

It's 1791 and people write by candlelight with quill-tipped pens and no one has indoor toilets. There are only a handful of personal firearms in existence, and they are all complicated to operate. To load a musket, you have to put gunpowder in a pan, put a musket ball down the front of the barrel, and use a ramrod to jam the musket ball down for every single shot. There are many other steps before you can fire this musket, but if you are good at it, you might manage to get off a few shots in a minute. These are the only personal firearms our Founding Fathers knew when they wrote the Second Amendment in 1791, "A well regulated militia being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the People to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed." Because the musket of 1791 requires so many complex coordinated steps to fire it, one cannot easily shoot someone on impulse or by accident. One person could never kill four or more people before being overpowered, even by unarmed people. By contrast, modern firearms can be discharged by a flick of a finger, killing people by accident and impulse. Toddlers can operate modern guns, yet they could never have discharged a musket. For this reason, modern guns scare the heck out of so many of us. It is a perfectly rational fear. Yet, one commentator on my last blog wrote, "you don't have a right to not be a scared baby I do have the right to a gun (sic)." A gunman with an easily purchased civilian assault rifle with a high capacity magazine can fire 12-15 times a minute, and keep going 100 times without reloading, and even a highly trained "good guy with a gun" can do little to stop him, as we've seen in Orlando. Would the Founding Fathers have written something different if they could have imagined modern weapons? If they knew their words are behind the statistics that Americans are ten times more likely to be killed by guns than people of every other developed country? Could the Founders have imagined their words would be a reason why the US now leads the world in firearms per capita and owns 35-50% of all the world's civilian-owned guns? The Founding Fathers created our constitution in 1789 in part in order to "insure domestic tranquility," after declaring our independence to protect "life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness." They created the First Amendment to ensure "the right of the people peaceably to assemble." Then they added the Second Amendment. One reason guns are scary is because of the patchwork of laws in the US regulating who can buy firearms, with very few states requiring a license and some not even requiring a permit. If I knew that everyone carrying a gun were well-trained, responsible, and not prone to angry or impulsive acts, I would not be so scared of guns or people with guns. A number of common mental health conditions -- including certain personality disorders, unmet mental health needs, depression, and substance abuse -- tend to be associated with the high-risk mix of impulsive anger with gun access, according to a 2013 report on gun violence from the American Psychological Association. (See CNN's summary). Research shows that a large number of individuals in the US self-report patterns of impulsive angry behavior AND own firearms at home (8.9%) or carry guns outside the home (1.5%)."Because only a small proportion of persons with this risky combination have ever been involuntarily hospitalized for a mental health problem, most will not be subject to existing mental health-related legal restrictions on firearms." This does not even include people on terrorist watch lists and people associated with hate groups. Ideally there were would be a psychological screening process tailored to potential gun owners to look for these traits and disqualify potential buyers at risk, but at the least, universal background checks and minimal licensure requirements make sense. And, while I can see why some responsible gun owners enjoy using assault rifles, there can be no justifiable reason to purchase magazines over ten rounds. This is why the sight of guns destroys my domestic tranquility. With so few national restrictions on who can buy and operate these lethal weapons, I do not want to be sitting next to a civilian concealing a gun on their person or openly carrying one. I don't want to live in a society where civilians feel the need to carry a gun. No gun safety class is going to reassure me that a stranger next to me isn't going to accidentally, impulsively, or intentionally fire a gun in my direction. I don't believe that carrying a gun will make me safer, and statistics sadly bear me out. Research highlighted in the APA report show that women handgun owners have a 55% increased chance of becoming a homicide victim, and gun owners of both genders have much higher suicide rates in the six years after purchase. Only male handgun owners have a lower risk of becoming a homicide victim (by 31%). Very few US gun deaths are at the hands of terrorists. Nearly all of the 13,432 gun violence deaths from 2015 are just from everyday gun owners. These days, the First and Second Amendments are clearly in conflict. Our nation was founded on the right to domestic tranquility, and the right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. Ten times the gun deaths of every other developed country cannot be what our Founders had in mind when they imagined a peaceful society. Living in a world where everyone is increasingly armed takes away all those rights, and puts us into a domestic war-zone not of our choosing. The Founders put the First Amendment before the Second Amendment. Let's take back our domestic tranquility and our First Amendment right to peaceful assembly. -- This feed and its contents are the property of The Huffington Post, and use is subject to our terms. It may be used for personal consumption, but may not be distributed on a website.

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23 июня 2016, 20:00

‘A comprehensive overhaul of the health care system’: Praise for A Better Way to Fix Health Care

Republicans have put forward a plan containing more than 48 ideas to repeal and replace Obamacare with a system in which every American has access to quality, affordable health care. This is the fifth plank of A Better Way—a bold agenda to tackle some of our country’s biggest challenges. Here is a look at what experts around the country are saying about our plan: “In sum, the plan would be a very large net tax cut from current law. The plan is also designed to be a net spending cut and a net deficit cut from current law. That’s the triple crown for limited government conservatives.” (Ryan Ellis, Conservative Reform Network) “Today, House Republicans unveiled their blueprint for patient-centered health care reform. The proposal includes several policy recommendations and conservatives priorities promoted by the Republican Study Committee (RSC). . . . The shared priorities between the RSC’s policy recommendations on private insurance market reforms and the House’s health care proposal include: Repealing Obamacare. . . . Reforming the Market to Improve Choice. . . . Expanding Consumer-Directed Health Care. . . . Protecting Those with Pre-Existing Conditions. . . . [and] Protecting Life.” (Chairman Bill Flores, Republican Study Committee) “The House Republican Health Care Task Force’s report shows that Republicans understand that a better health care system requires the repeal of Obamacare. Admirably, it proposes a number of patient-centered reforms to the employer and individual market, as well as a fundamental rethinking of the health entitlement programs—Medicare and Medicaid—that are driving our country deeper into debt and failing seniors and low income Americans.” (Michael Needham, Heritage Action) “The core of the new proposal is structured around the long-proclaimed GOP goal to ‘repeal and replace’ the president’s Affordable Care Act. By eliminating the ‘knot of regulations, taxes and mandates’ ushered in by Obamacare, and instead focusing on a ‘patient-centered reform’ approach, Republican lawmakers plan to foster an environment in which individuals would no longer be forced into an ill-fitting insurance plan, according to a draft of the new agenda. Rather, the GOP health plan would create a system in which insurance companies would compete against each other to offer the most affordable and expansive coverage to citizens.” (Evan Smith, Opportunity Lives) “A Better Way proposal on health care is a welcome policy agenda to tackle some of the biggest challenges for employers and employees under the Affordable Care Act. . . . Any relief from the employer mandate will empower the economic engine driven by America’s restaurant industry. We look forward to working with Congress as these proposals develop.” (Robin Goracke, National Restaurant Association) “Notably, the Ryan plan is not merely a replacement for Obamacare, but instead strives to be a comprehensive overhaul of the health care system. Good, because so many parts of government health care need improvement. . . . We ought to commend Paul Ryan and his team for putting pen to paper, and for being willing to be held accountable for their ideas. They’ve done the country an important service.” (Avik Roy, Forbes) “This is a major step forward. Republicans are endorsing a vision of health care in which people can make their own decisions, manage more of their own health care in which people can make their own decisions, manage more of their own health care dollars and reap the benefits of competition in the marketplace. The ultimate goal should be to treat everyone the same. People should get the same tax relief regardless of where they obtain their insurance—at work, in the marketplace or in an exchange.” (John Goodman, Goodman Institute of Public Policy Research)

10 июня 2016, 16:03

Trump’s blunders start to catch up to him

While Clinton basks in a very good week, Trump’s campaign is in disarray.