Two criminal cases — one in China, one in Taiwan Show Huge Differences In Legal Systems

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE LOS ANGLES TIMES)

 

Two criminal cases — one in China, one in Taiwan — show a deeper rift between the political systems

Ralph Jennings

Courts in China and Taiwan, rivals for 70 years, each took a criminal state-security case this week involving a suspect from the other side, and outcomes so far are baring schisms between the political systems that will complicate already strained relations.

A court in China’s Hunan province heard the case Monday against Lee Ming-che, a Taiwanese activist charged with subversion of state power. He faces 10 years in a Chinese prison if convicted of using social media since 2012 to advocate multiparty democracy for the Communist country.

On Friday, the district court in Taipei sentenced Chinese national Zhou Hongxu to 14 months in prison for endangering state security. The 29-year-old MBA holder tried to bribe a government worker to pass information to China, a court statement says.

These cases are reminders of the festering divide between Taiwan — with its 30-year democracy — and China’s Communist rule. In Taiwan, it raises support for its autonomy from Beijing and frustrates China’s goal of uniting the two lands. China claims sovereignty over self-ruled Taiwan.

“These cases will remind people China’s not a free country ruled by law — maybe politically motivated — and people will ask the government here how to handle that,” said Gratiana Jung, senior political researcher with the Taipei think tank Yuanta-Polaris Research Institute.

Lee, a 42-year-old philosophy major who went missing on a trip to China in March, would not face prosecution in Taiwan for advocating a different type of government. China, however, regards vocal democracy advocates as threats to Communist rule.

“This is an issue about which the [Communist] Party is hyper-sensitive and maximally heavy-handed,” said Denny Roy, senior fellow at the East-West Center think tank in Honolulu. “Mr. Lee unfortunately walked into a merciless buzz saw.”

The hearing, which produced video footage shown outside court, could worry Taiwanese tourists in China as well as the 1 million to 3 million people who live there long term, usually for business, said Shane Lee, political scientist with Chang Jung Christian University in Taiwan. “I think it’s getting harder and harder to see why these things happen,” he said.

The Chinese spy case, though hardly a first for the two sides, could stir concern that Beijing is trying to undermine Taiwan further during a low point in overall relations.

China resents Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen for rejecting Beijing’s condition for dialogue. That condition holds that both sides belong to a single country called China. China sees dialogue, which happened regularly from 2008 to 2015, as a conduit to eventual unification.

The two sides have been ruled separately since Chiang Kai-shek’s Nationalists rebased in Taiwan after losing the Chinese civil war in the 1940s.

“The biggest thing people will take away this week is awareness of the legal process,” Taiwan lawmaker Lee Chun-yi said. The Taiwanese activist’s hearing will be regarded as a “show” rather than a legal process, he said, and “they’ll trust China less.”

The bribery case, he said, raises questions about how many more people like the man sentenced Friday are still operating in Taiwan.

Most Taiwanese have said in government surveys over the past two years they oppose unification with China. Many prefer their democratic freedoms, which China cannot offer.

Washington-based advocacy group Freedom House gave China a score of 15 and Taiwan a 91 in this year’s rankings of the strongest political rights and civil liberties.

Since Tsai took office in May 2016, Beijing has sent an aircraft carrier near the island about 100 miles away, persuaded two allies to cut diplomatic ties with Taiwan and scaled back Taiwan-bound tourism.

The Taiwan government’s Mainland Affairs Council, a China policymaking body, anticipated the Lee case would affect relations with China.

“The Mainland Affairs Council appeals to mainland China after today’s court hearing to respond appropriately to the common hope from all circles and carefully act in accordance with universal values as well as trends in the just handling of human rights,” it said in a statement Monday.

The Chinese national’s sentence, about a quarter of the maximum for his crime, will show that Taiwan is not using the case to punish China, analysts say. The Tsai government has avoided directly offending Beijing even as talks have ended in a stalemate.

“It’s a very funny period of time to watch cross-Strait relations,” Shane Lee said, referring to China-Taiwan ties. “We’ve been trying to show goodwill toward China.”

India’s Supreme Court Strikes Down Islamic ‘Instant Divorces’

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE NEW YORK TIMES)

 

NEW DELHI — India’s highest court struck down a legal provision on Tuesday that allowed Muslim men to instantly divorce their wives, taking a stand against a practice increasingly deemed unacceptable in the Muslim world.

In India, Muslim men have been able to end their marriages by saying the word “talaq” — Arabic for divorce — three times. They could do this in person, by letter or even over the phone. By contrast, a Muslim woman in India seeking a divorce must generally gain the permission of her husband, a cleric or other Islamic authorities.

The method of divorce was available only to men, who in many cases ousted their wives from their homes without alimony or other financial support. The practice is frowned on by many Muslims worldwide, and the case was being closely watched in India.

On Tuesday, by a 3-to-2 vote, a Supreme Court panel declared the provision that had allowed for Muslims’ instant divorce unlawful. Of those who voted against, two said the practice was unconstitutional and one said it went against Islamic law.

One of the dissenters was a Muslim judge; the other was the court’s chief justice, who urged Parliament to come up with a new provision.

Continue reading the main story

The Muslim women plaintiffs had argued that the provision violated their fundamental right to equality under the Constitution. And while India’s prime minister, Narendra Modi, hailed the court decision as a “powerful measure for women’s empowerment,” some legal analysts were not so sure, saying the all-male panel had used language that was quite degrading toward women.

“The patronizing tone towards Muslim women in all the opinions is quite breathtaking,” Ratna Kapur, a law professor and author of a forthcoming book on gender and human rights, wrote on Facebook. “Women are talked about as if they are in need of protection, not in terms of their rights.”

She added, “Nearly every reference to the Muslim woman in the majority and dissenting opinions reduces Muslim women to ‘suffering victims.’ ”

The Supreme Court has often taken the lead in making landmark changes to Indian law. It has demanded that all states reshape their justice systems to make law enforcement independent from political interference. It has forced taxis in the capital to use compressed natural gas as fuel, to reduce pollution. Last year, it banned the sale of fireworks in the capital region to fight smog, and it required movie theaters to play the national anthem.

India is predominantly Hindu, but it has a sizable Muslim population. Many Hindus, seeing the practice of ending a marriage by uttering three words as an insult to women, welcomed the decision on Tuesday. Several Muslim groups, however, had been intent on preserving it, suspicious of any government efforts to chip away at what they see as their fundamental religious rights.

In recent years, the governing Hindu nationalist party, the Bharatiya Janata Party, has been accused of tolerating Hindu vigilantes who have attacked people for trading cattle and eating beef, and of trying to shut down many of the slaughterhouses that produce buffalo meat. The cow is a revered animal for a large section of Hindus, and many of the those attacked have been Muslim.

Against this backdrop, some Muslim groups saw the instant divorce judgment as yet another setback. “This matter is not just about triple talaq but also about the religious sentiments of the minorities of this country,” said Arshad Madani, president of the Muslim group Jamiat Ulama-i-Hind. “Muslims should be ready.”

There are no official statistics on the prevalance of instant divorce in India, but one study found that among a sample of more than 4,700 women, 525 had divorced, 404 of them through triple talaq.

The Quran makes no mention of the talaq method. The practice is outlined in the hadiths, or sayings attributed to the Prophet Muhammad, which are regarded as less authoritative than the Quran but are influential in shaping Islamic doctrine.

Instant divorce is fading in most parts of the Muslim world. In many predominantly Muslim countries, religious leaders frown upon the practice, noting that the Quran recommends that couples make a genuine effort to reconcile and resolve their differences before parting ways.

Ishrat Jahan, a plaintiff in the Indian case, said she had been crushed when her husband divorced her over the phone from Dubai, in the United Arab Emirates.

“Then he remarried in the village and snatched my children from me,” said in a television interview.

She said she was extremely happy with the court decision. “I never thought this would happen,” she said. “My lawyers are also very happy.”

Ohio Judge Has Been Shot Several Times Outside Courthouse, Shooter Is Dead

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF CNN)

 

(CNN) A judge was shot and wounded Monday in a deliberate “ambush-style” assault outside a courthouse in Steubenville, Ohio, and a suspect died during a shootout, a local sheriff told reporters.

Common Pleas Judge Joseph J. Bruzzese Jr. received medical attention after being shot about 8 a.m. outside the Jefferson County Courthouse in the eastern Ohio city more than 38 miles west of Pittsburgh.
“Fran and I are praying for Judge Bruzzese and his family at this difficult time,” Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine said, referring to his wife.
He said it appears the suspect walked up to the judge as he approached the courthouse and shot him several times.
Abdalla said the suspect’s gun was in point-blank range, near the judge’s stomach.
He said the shooter was hit three times and his body remains at the scene. The judge was carrying a weapon and may have shot the suspect at least once.
However, Abdalla said, a probation officer on the scene also shot the suspect. Once the bullet slugs are removed from the body, it will be determined who shot the suspect.
One person was being flown by medical helicopter to a Pittsburgh-area hospital, according to Steubenville Fire Chief Carlo Capaldi. He would not disclose the person’s identity.
The Bureau of Criminal Investigation at the Ohio attorney general’s office is investigating the shooting.

Forced Out: When Leaving the Country Means Leaving Your Kids Behind

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF KQED NEWS)

 

Forced Out: When Leaving the Country Means Leaving Your Kids

Maria Mendoza-Sanchez, a Highland Hospital nurse in Oakland, and her husband this week ended their fight to remain in the U.S. after federal immigration authorities denied a last-ditch plea to stay.

Maria, her husband Eusebio Sanchez, and their 12-year-old son, Jesus, boarded a flight at San Francisco International Airport for Mexico City less than an hour before a federal deportation order expired late Wednesday for the couple — leaving behind their three daughters, two of them adults and one a teenager.

Maria Mendoza-Sanchez sits on a couch in her Oakland home on Aug. 16, 2017, hours before she, her husband and son leave Oakland for Mexico City. Her daughter, Melin Sanchez, 21, cries as she watches her mother with concern. (Deborah Svoboda/KQED)

Sanchez spent her last day in the U.S. doing somewhat routine things: She took her daughter, Elizabeth, 16, to her first day of school as a sophomore and she went to the bank.

But she did some out-of-the-ordinary things, too: She granted power of attorney to her eldest daughter, Vianney, 23. She packed her belongings. And she put her nursing uniforms into a storage box.

“I’m sorry I won’t be there to serve them anymore,” she said of her patients in the oncology and cardiology unit of Highland Hospital, Alameda County’s trauma center. “But one day I will be back, that’s for sure.”

Eusebio Sanchez supports his wife, Maria Mendoza-Sanchez, in their Oakland home on Aug. 16, 2017, hours before they leave for Mexico City after federal immigration authorities denied their request for a reprieve. (Deborah Svoboda/KQED)

The couple came to the U.S. more than 20 years ago, settling in Oakland in 1994. Maria graduated from Holy Names University with a nursing degree while raising their children. Eusebio worked in construction and eventually became a truck driver.

The couple have no criminal records, and have been undocumented during their time in the U.S. Vianney is protected under Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, while their three younger kids are U.S. citizens.

“Fighting an immigration case when you are a Mexican is really three times as difficult as it is other communities,” Maria said as she tried to hold back tears. “It doesn’t matter how hard you work. It doesn’t matter what you do.”

Melin Sanchez, 21, cries as she hugs a neighbor who lives across the street. People drop by the Oakland home on Aug. 16, 2017, hours before Melin’s mother and father leave for Mexico City after federal immigration authorities rejected their last-ditch appeal to stay. (Deborah Svoboda/KQED)

Under the Obama administration, the couple received two stays, along with legal work visas, to remain in the U.S. But when they applied for another stay in May 2017, federal immigration officials limited it to 90 days — after which they would be deported.

The family was hoping for a reprieve with the help of Sen. Dianne Feinstein. But on Tuesday afternoon, Feinstein called to tell them that federal immigration agents had denied their request for another stay, the senator’s office said.

“All possible avenues to delay their departure have been denied by the Trump administration in what I believe is an act utterly devoid of humanity,” Feinstein said in a statement. “This is a travesty, plain and simple, and evidence that Donald Trump’s immigration ‎policy is nothing more than a hateful deportation program targeting law-abiding families. It’s shameful and stands against the very ideals upon which this country was founded.”

Melin Sanchez, right, is comforted by a friend as they listen to Sanchez’s mother, Maria Mendoza-Sanchez, talk to the press hours before she, her husband and their son leave for Mexico City on Aug. 16, 2017. (Deborah Svoboda/KQED)

In a statement to KQED from  Immigration and Customs Enforcement, Western Region, the agency confirmed the denial. But ICE added that it gave the couple enough time “to get their personal affairs in order and make preparations for their departure.”

Sanchez said she and her husband prepared their three daughters for life without them in the U.S.: Vianney, a graduate of UC Santa Cruz, will be the legal guardian of Elizabeth as she finishes high school. Their middle daughter, Melin, 21, will stay to finish her last year at UC Santa Cruz.

In Maria’s last hours before flying to Mexico City, Elizabeth came home from her first day of school. She sat on the couch next to her mom and rested her head on her mom’s shoulder.

The two discussed her first day of school — knowing moments like these were coming to an end.

Maria said she also had a conversation with her kids that a parent doesn’t ever think they’ll have.

“Yes, indeed, you separate from your parents but you don’t have to worry about rent, you don’t have to worry about food, and then you’ll be able to finish school,” she recalled telling her daughters.

Luggage for Maria Mendoza-Sanchez, her husband Eusebio, and their 12-year-old son, Jesus, stacked near the door of their Oakland home on Aug. 16, 2017. They left for Mexico City late Wednesday after living in the U.S. for more than 20 years. (Deborah Svoboda/KQED)

Though she is having to leave, Sanchez said what she’s taking with her to Mexico — her memories — no one can take away.

“Because it’s in my heart and it’s in my mind,” she said.

Photos of the Sanchez family and a sign about nursing decorate a shelf in their home in Oakland on Aug. 16, 2017. (Deborah Svoboda/KQED)

This Long shot Bill Would Encourage States to Legalize Marijuana

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF TIME.COM NEWS)

This Long shot Bill Would Encourage States to Legalize Marijuana

11:46 AM ET

Sen. Cory Booker is introducing a longshot bill to incentive states to legalize marijuana.

Legislation unveiled Tuesday from the New Jersey Democrat, who hasn’t ruled out running for president in 2020, would remove cannabis from the federal scheduling system, which currently classifies the substance in the same regulatory class as heroin.

While this would end marijuana’s status as an illegal drug on the federal level, it could still be prohibited on a state or local level. Booker’s bill, called the Marijuana Justice Act, would cut federal money from states with disproportionate marijuana arrest rates for minorities and the poor.

“This is the single most far-reaching marijuana bill that’s ever been filed in either chamber of Congress,” Tom Angell, head of the pro-legalization Marijuana Majority, said in a statement. “More than just getting the federal government out of the way so that states can legalize without DEA harassment, this new proposal goes even further by actually punishing states that have bad marijuana laws.”

Congress is currently under control by Republicans, many of whom adamantly oppose marijuana legalization. In addition, President Trump appointed Attorney General Jeff Sessions, who has made it clear that he intends to ramp up punishment for marijuana possession and use.

But Booker’s legalization bill should be an encouraging sign for advocates. It reflects the country’s changing views on the substance. A CBS News poll in April found that 61% of Americans think marijuana should be legal, 71% think the federal government shouldn’t intervene with states that have legalized it on their own, and 88% support medical use.

If Trump Pardons, It Could Be a Crime

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE NEW YORK TIMES)

 

President Trump with Vice President Mike Pence, right, and Kris Kobach, left, at the White House on Wednesday. Credit Stephen Kushner
Crowley/The New York Times

President Trump and his lawyers have discussed whether he could pardon his relatives and aides to undercut, or even end, the special counsel’s investigation into charges that his campaign colluded with Russia to influence the 2016 election, The Washington Post reported on Thursday night.

There’s no question that with a stroke of his pen, Mr. Trump can shield his son Donald Trump Jr., his son-in-law, Jared Kushner, and other close associates from potential prosecution. Despite the uproar that would set off, we know by now that Mr. Trump loves the grand gesture, whatever the consequences. Besides, his family is at stake.

While his authority to pardon is crystal clear, a crucial, threatening, legal ambiguity should make him think twice about using this authority.

The Constitution gives the president “power to grant reprieves and pardons for offenses against the United States, except in cases of impeachment.” The framers had sound reasons for bestowing that authority. As Alexander Hamilton explained, criminal law in the late 18th century was so severe that without the pardon power to soften it, “justice would wear a countenance too sanguinary and cruel.”

Consistent with the framers’ design, the Supreme Court has interpreted the president’s pardon power broadly. The president can pardon anyone for any crime at any time — even before a suspect has been charged. Congress cannot withdraw presidential pardons, and prosecutors and courts cannot ignore them.

But could a pardon be a criminal abuse of power? Some would argue that would contradict the founders’ vision of unlimited pardon authority. If a president sold pardons for cash, though, that would violate the federal bribery statute. And if a president can be prosecuted for exchanging pardons for bribes, then it follows that the broad and unreviewable nature of the pardon power does not shield the president from criminal liability for abusing it.

The Justice Department and the F.B.I. proceeded on this premise in 2001 when they opened an investigation into possible bribery charges arising out of President Bill Clinton’s pardon of the fugitive financier Marc Rich, whose former wife had donated $450,000 to Clinton’s presidential library. The investigation lasted until 2005, though no charges resulted.

Of course, bribery would not be the relevant crime. No one thinks that Donald Jr. or Jared Kushner — or anyone else involved in the Russia scandal — would pay the president for a pardon.

Yet federal obstruction statutessay that a person commits a crime when he “corruptly” impedes a court or agency proceeding. If it could be shown that President Trump pardoned his family members and close aides to cover up possible crimes, then that could be seen as acting “corruptly” and he could be charged with obstruction of justice. If, as some commentators believe, a sitting president cannot be indicted, Mr. Trump could still face prosecution after he leaves the White House.

There is strong support for the claim that the obstruction statutes apply to the president.

In 1974, when the House Judiciary Committee voted to impeach President Richard Nixon, members on both sides of the debate acknowledged that presidential obstruction of justice was not only impeachable but also criminal. A quarter century later, the Senate split 50-50 on whether to remove President Clinton from office on obstruction charges, but senators from both parties agreed that the obstruction laws applied to the president.

There is a broad consensus that a president exercises the pardon power properly — not “corruptly” — when he grants clemency based on considerations of mercy or the public welfare. President Gerald Ford invoked both of those values when he pardoned Nixon: He said that a prosecution of the former president would be too divisive and that Nixon had suffered enough. President George H.W. Bush gestured to both valueswhen he pardoned former Reagan administration officials for their involvement in the Iran-contra scandal.

In Trump’s case, the question would be whether he was acting out of the goodness of his heart, or covering up for his family, his associates and himself.

We expect — and hope — that prosecutors and courts would give wide latitude to a president in evaluating his pardon decisions. Only in the most egregious cases should a president face criminal liability for actions taken while in office.

While the law on this subject is unsettled, that in itself should be unsettling to the president as he considers whether to grant clemency. Not only might the pardons constitute obstruction, but the pardoned individuals might be compelled to testify against Mr. Trump without any recourse to the Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination, since they would no longer have any concern about incriminating themselves.

He could ensure that his family members and aides get off scot-free for any crimes they may have committed during the 2016 campaign. But by extricating those individuals from a legal predicament, he might make his own predicament worse.

CONGRESS AND SENATE PASS BILL PUTTING NEW SANCTIONS ON RUSSIA–TRUMP HATES IT

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF CNN)

CONGRESS AND SENATE PASS BILL PUTTING NEW SANCTIONS ON RUSSIA

 

(CNN) The House and Senate reached a deal Saturday to slap Russia with fresh sanctions and give Congress new veto power to block any easing of those sanctions — an agreement that could send a new bill to President Donald Trump’s desk before the end of the month.

House and Senate negotiators announced an agreement was reached Saturday morning for a bill that would include new sanctions against Russia, Iran, and North Korea.
Despite the White House lobbying for changes to the measure, the legislation will give Congress a new ability to block the administration from easing sanctions on Moscow. Democrats and some Republicans have expressed concerns that Trump is considering giving Russia back two compounds in Maryland and New York that were seized by the Obama administration in December.
“Given the many transgressions of Russia, and President Trump’s seeming inability to deal with them, a strong sanctions bill such as the one Democrats and Republicans have just agreed to is essential,” Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer said in a statement. “I expect the House and Senate will act on this legislation promptly, on a broad bipartisan basis and send the bill to the President’s desk.”
The House will vote on the bill on Tuesday, according to House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy’s schedule, and the Senate is likely to take it up after that, although Senate leaders haven’t said when they will bring it to the floor. Congressional aides say they expect Trump will sign the bill because it will likely pass both chambers with strong, veto-proof majorities.
In a text message to CNN, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said he sees the agreement “quite negatively.”
The agreement on the sanctions was the result of an often contentious, month-long back-and-forth between the House and Senate after the Senate passed a bill for new sanctions against Russia and Iran 98 to 2 in June.
The bill faced a so-called blue slip constitutional problem that revenue generating legislation must originate in the House. That was fixed after a negotiation between the two chambers, but then House Democrats objected to another tweak that removed their ability to force a vote to stop the easing of sanctions.
McCarthy then said he wanted to add North Korean sanctions legislation that the House passed in May to the measure, prompting Democrats to accuse Republicans of stalling the bill on behalf of the White House, which was lobbying against the congressional review provision.
Numerous US companies also wanted changes over concerns the bill could inadvertently impact their businesses.
“My preference over the last month had been for the House to take up and adopt the legislation that passed the Senate 98-2; however I welcome the House bill, which was the product of intense negotiations,” said Maryland Sen. Ben Cardin, the top Democrat on the Senate foreign relations committee. “I believe the proposed changes to the bill have helped to clarify the intent of members of Congress as well as express solidarity with our closest allies in countering Russian aggression and holding the Kremlin accountable for their destabilizing activities.”
CNN reported Friday that the deal addressed some of the concerns of US companies while keeping in the congressional review portion, besides making technical changes. To address House Democrats’ complaints, the bill gives any House member the ability to force a vote to disapprove of sanctions if the Senate passes it first.
“The legislation ensures that both the majority and minority are able to exercise our oversight role over the administration’s implementation of sanctions,” House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer said in a statement Saturday. “I look forward to seeing this legislation on the Floor next week, where I’m confident it will receive strong, bipartisan support.”
The bill was also changed to ensure that it didn’t affect a major pipeline used to transport oil from Kazakhstan through Russia to Ukraine as well as a natural gas pipeline that goes between Russia and Germany.
The revised bill also clarifies that American companies cannot do business with already-sanctioned defense interests in Russia, as there were concerns US companies that want to finalize transportation deals could be barred from doing so under the initial bill’s restrictions.

Trump: Jeff Sessions Has Treated Me Very Unfairly When He Recused Himself From Russia Investigation

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF ‘THE HILL’ NEWS)

Trump: Sessions recusal 'unfair' to me
© Greg Nash

President Trump said on Wednesday that he would not have picked Jeff Sessions as his attorney general had he known Sessions would recuse himself from the investigations into Russian election meddling.

That Sessions would recuse himself from overseeing the probe, Trump told The New York Times in an interview, is “very unfair to the president.”

“Sessions should have never recused himself, and if he was going to recuse himself, he should have told me before he took the job and I would have picked somebody else,” Trump said.

“How do you take a job and then recuse yourself? If he would have recused himself before the job, I would have said ‘thanks, Jeff, but I’m not going to take you,” he continued. “It’s extremely unfair – and that’s a mild word – to the president.”

Sessions recused himself from the law enforcement investigation into Russia’s role in the 2016 election and possible collusion between the Trump campaign and Moscow in March, after it was revealed that he failed to disclose to the Senate two meetings with Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak while he was a surrogate for Trump’s campaign.

The announcement that Sessions would step back from the investigation surprised Trump, who told the Times on Wednesday that the attorney general gave him “zero” warning before recusing himself.

Trump’s young administration has been dogged by ongoing investigations into whether members of his campaign coordinated with Russian officials to help swing the election in his favor.

Trump has repeatedly denied any wrongdoing or improper activity, and has called the probe a “witch hunt.

New GOP health care bill could allow cheaper plans with fewer benefits

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF CNN)

New GOP health care bill could allow cheaper plans with fewer benefits

  • Cruz’s so-called Consumer Freedom amendment is contentious among Republicans
  • The amendment would allow insurers to sell cheaper plans with fewer benefits

Washington (CNN) Senate Republicans unveiled their newest health care bill Thursday as they continue to search for the majority needed to repeal and replace Obamacare.

Now, it’s up to senators to decide if they like it.
The new bill includes major changes to the original. One of the most significant was the inclusion of an amendment by Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, which would allow insurers offering Obamacare plans to also offer cheaper, bare-bones policies. The amendment was included in an effort to earn more conservative support, but could also drive away some moderates who fear the amendment could drive up premiums for those with pre-existing conditions.
It also contains significant new funding for opioid treatment and money for states meant to lower premiums for high-cost enrollees. But it would keep two Obamacare-era taxes on the wealthy and maintains significant cuts to Medicaid, meaning 15 million fewer people could insured by the program by 2026.
Majority Leader Mitch McConnell is still in search of the 50 votes he needs to pass the bill — he can only afford to lose two senators — but the hope for leadership is that a few changes may be able to finally get Republicans on a path to repeal and replace Obamacare after seven years of campaign promises.
Already on Thursday Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky said he wouldn’t even support the motion to debate the bill on the floor.
Sen. Susan Collins, a Republican from Maine, also told reporters that she would not vote for the motion to proceed unless she saw significant signs from the nonpartisan scoring agency — the Congressional Budget Office — that the cuts to Medicaid would be less severe than she anticipated.
“The only thing that can change that is if the CBO announcement, which come out on Monday, indicates that there would be far fewer in Medicaid than I believe there are now,” Collins said.
Emerging from a meeting with fellow senators Thursday, Republicans were cautiously optimistic with many saying they needed to sit down to read the bill before they made any final decisions.
Sen. Jeff Flake, an Arizona Republican, said he was “still thinking” as reporters swarmed him.
Sen. Bill Cassidy of Louisiana said “I always want to say I criticized Nancy Pelosi for saying ‘we got to pass the bill to know what’s in it.’ I want to know what’s in it before I say I’m gonna pass the bill.”
Moderates from Medicaid expansion states continued to voice their concerns about the new bill. West Virginia Republican Sen. Shelley Moore Capito said she was “very much undecided” and would meet once again with McConnell this afternoon.
“I still think there’s a lot of unanswered questions particularly coming from a state that has a high percent of people with pre-exiting conditions,” she said.
Alaska Sen. Lisa Murkowski, one of the GOP holdouts, was unhappy that reporters had seen a summary distributed to lobbyists before she had seen the bill.
Asked if she was upset by how the process unfolded, she said “yes.”
“I think that as a courtesy to those of us who are actually making the decisions that we would actually have an opportunity to see it first,” Murkowski added.
A major question remains whether President Donald Trump can use his bully pulpit to actually move senators.
Trump has lobbied for Republicans to move quickly. The President said Wednesday he would be “very angry” if Republicans can’t pass the bill.
“I don’t even want to talk about it because I think it would be very bad,” Trump said in an interview with the Christian Broadcasting Network. “I will be very angry about it and a lot of people will be very upset.”

What’s new?

The revised legislation has $45 billion in opioid treatment funding — a top request from senators like Rob Portman of Ohio and Shelley Moore Capito of West Virginia — as well as in state stabilization money aimed at lowering premiums for high-cost enrollees.
But another concern for moderate senators — that the Senate bill makes steep cuts to Medicaid funding — was not addressed in the new version. The original bill calls for slashing $772 billion from Medicaid by 2026, compared to current law, leaving 15 million fewer people insured by the program.
In a retreat from a key GOP promise, the bill would also keep two Obamacare-era taxes on the wealthy. That came as members said they worried about the optics of cutting taxes for the rich while also slashing funding for subsidies that go to help low-income people to buy insurance. Retaining the taxes, which saves the federal government $230 billion over 10 years, provides McConnell money to help boost the stabilization fund, sources said. But it is also likely to infuriate conservative lawmakers and lobbying groups.
The legislation would allow consumers to use their health savings accounts to pay their premiums for the first time, which Cruz called “very significant.”

Graham plan

Also Thursday, GOP Sens. Cassidy and Lindsey Graham of South Carolina proposed an alternative approach to replacing Obamacare that would keep much of the federal taxes in place and sending that money to the states to control.
They say that one of the primary reasons Republicans are having such a hard time agreeing is because they are working from the Obamacare template — particularly federal control of health insurance.

Cruz amendment

Cruz’s so-called Consumer Freedom amendment is considered contentious among Republican senators with some moderates having raised concerns that it could hurt those with pre-existing conditions. The amendment would allow insurers that offer Obamacare plans on the exchanges to also sell policies that are exempt from certain of the law’s mandates. That could allow carriers to provide less comprehensive plans with lower premiums, which would likely attract younger and healthier Americans.
But that would leave the sicker, more expensive consumers in the Obamacare plans, causing their premiums to spike.
Offering Obamacare plans will also make insurers eligible for new federal funding aimed at helping insurers pay for high-cost enrollees.
Sen. Mike Lee — a Utah Republican and close Cruz ally — tweeted Thursday morning to say that he has not seen the newest version of the Cruz amendment included in leadership’s health care bill and was unsure if he could support it.
There’s also no guarantee the Cruz amendment — in whatever form — will even get a Senate vote. It could be stripped from bill at any time as GOP leaders negotiate and work their way through Senate rules.
Insurers, who have largely stayed on the sideline in the health care debate, voiced strong opposition to the amendment, saying it would destabilize the individual market. Two major lobbying groups said this week that it would create two sets of rules and make coverage unaffordable to those who are sick.
“I’m writing to make clear my view on how the ‘Consumer Freedom Option’ is unworkable as it would undermine pre-existing condition protections, increase premiums and destabilize the market,” Scott Serota, CEO of Association of Independent Blue Cross Blue Shield Plans, wrote to Senators Cruz and Lee earlier this week.

The Trump Family: Are They Guilty Of Treason And Tax Evasion/Fraud?

 

This question unfortunately could be directed at the Clinton family or even the Bush family but today I am asking this question about the President and his family. I am not a fan of any of these families as they have all proven to be power-hungry, money hungry habitual liars. I believe that most Americans knew that Hillary Clinton has had real trouble in her life with finding out a way to not lie when she opens her mouth and I believe that this is one of the many reasons that people like myself could not vote for her last November. By what I hear from other folks they said that they were willing to give Donald Trump a chance to see if he would tell the truth on domestic and foreign agendas. I know that a lot of us are now very unhappy with his ability to ever tell the truth. Part of the Presidents issues are his King Kong size ego, and his peanut size brain. During the campaign he often spoke of how intelligent he was, how he knew more that most everyone on every thing, like how he knew more than the Generals concerning the Middle-East. Now that he has been in Office for about six months he has proven to the whole world that he is pretty much nothing but an idiot, and an ass. The whole world has learned that there is no way they can trust anything that he says. Another issue with our President is his constant lying and the fact that he tells so many lies each day that he can’t remember one line of BS he has told from one morning till the afternoon. Yet this article today isn’t about his massive ignorance of almost every issue on the planet, it is about if he and his family have committed treason concerning Russia and if he is guilty of massive tax evasion and tax fraud.

 

 

These are not accusations, they are questions, very important questions that ‘We The People’ absolutely need to know the whole truth about very, very soon. To me it appears there is no doubt about President Trump and several in his inner circle have lied many times about their connections with the Russian government which in Russia means President Putin. They have tried to hide many meetings with Russian officials, lying to the Congress and the American people about those meeting and connections. There are reasons that these people have collective memory loss when it concerns Russia. Even our Attorney General who is supposed to be Americas top ‘law enforcement’ officer lied to Congress and the people more than once on this issue. Folks, do you really think that all of these folks have Dementia? I don’t, there are reasons that these people are lying to us. Just like Attorney General Jeff Sessions who is such a hardliner about putting as many poor people as possible in prisons for as long as possible, is there another reason he is like this? Turns out that Mr. Sessions has a lot of stock in the two largest ‘Prison for Profit” companies in the Country. When Mr. Sessions was confirmed to be the new AG his own personal fortune in these two stocks skyrocketed. And to think, he is the ‘top Cop’ in our Country. As you most likely noticed I said putting poor people in jail, if he was really doing his job he would have to arrest the President and several of his personal staff then resign at once and put himself in one of his own prisons. I know that I am like most folks in that I am sick and tired of these crooked habitual lying “Leaders.”

 

In the years before Mr. Trump officially announced that he was going to run for President again and even early in the campaign he used to openly brag about all of his investments in Russia and business deals he had with well-connected Russians here in the States. Remember, he used to even brag on national television how he had met President Putin before but once elected denied that he ever said that. Maybe if he could learn to be truthful all of the time then maybe his peanut brain could at least remember events correctly then, but I personally doubt it. During these past couple of days there is news coming out from the New York Times about a meeting last June at the New York Trump Tower where Donald Trump Jr., Son-in-law Jarred Kushner, and then Campaign Manager Paul Manafort had an arranged meeting with a Russian lawyer who is well-connected to the Russian government. This meeting seemed to be ‘forgotten’ by all of the Trump ‘team’ that attended, what a coincidence. Paul Manafort is extremely well-connected to the deposed President of UKraine whom was nothing but a Putin proxy who now lives in Moscow. Since Mr. Manafort was forced to step down from being Trumps Campaign Manager he has since registered as a ‘Foreign Agent going all the way back to 2012’ because of his Russian ties just like their former Nation Security Director Michael Flynn had to step down because of lies about his financial ties with the Russian government and with the Dictator Erdogan of Turkey, Flynn has also now registered as a foreign agent.

 

Last fall Jared Kushner met with the Chief Executive of the Russian State owned (VNB) in Moscow. This Bank has been sanctioned by the U.S. and NATO and once this is done we are not supposed to inner act with Officials of sanctioned banks. O, also, Mr. Kushner forgot to mention this meeting too. To me I have an issue concerning Donald Trumps tax returns. With all of these secret meetings with Russian Officials that all these folks lied about under oath it is getting more difficult to believe any thing except this President and his family are simply doing what they have always done they are putting “the Trump Bank Accounts first”, not the American people. Mr. Trump used to brag about his Florida Golf Club being worth one hundred million dollars to his guests yet on his taxes he valued it as being worth one million dollars. Just to be a member there the cost was one hundred thousand dollars per year, when he became President he upped the fee to two hundred thousand per year. If an average citizen of this Country pulled something like that on our taxes we would quickly be convicted of tax evasion and thrown into a Federal Prison for the rest of our lives. I do believe that the Congress and the Senate should do what ever they have to do to make all of the Trump advisers and the President himself required to immediately be forced to release their tax returns for the past ten years. ‘We The People’ have the absolute right to know who our Leaders serve and to know if they are the criminals they appear to be. It does appear that Mr. Trumps slogan should not have been “putting America first” as it should have been “putting the Trump family first, and only.”