(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF CNN AND THE NEW YORK TIMES)
(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF REUTERS NEWS AGENCY)
The U.S. Senate could soon approve a major overhaul of the federal bureaucracy and make lasting changes to regulation of the environment, education, banks and other areas.
On Wednesday a Senate committee sent a bill on to the full chamber that, supporters say, will make regulators more accountable to lawmakers and provide greater understanding of how rules affect the economy.
The next step, debating the bill on the Senate floor, has not been scheduled. The House of Representatives approved companion legislation in January.
Critics say the bill, the Regulatory Accountability Act, creates so many new requirements that it would paralyze regulators working to establish even the most basic rules and standards. They also say it makes cutting industry and banks’ costs a higher priority than protecting public health and safety.
For decades the political parties have been starkly divided over regulation and Republicans are currently winning their battle to lessen the red tape they say ties up business and hurts the economy. Republicans also say former President Barack Obama, a Democrat, pushed regulators to go beyond their duties of executing laws passed by Congress to create policy on their own.
Democrats say regulation, which touches nearly every part of American life, shields average people from health, financial and other threats and is needed to accomplish the goals set in laws.
The Senate bill would require more cost-benefit and other analyses, give courts and the White House greater checks on rulemaking, classify regulations by potential economic impact, and lengthen rulemaking processes.
One progressive group, Public Citizen, estimates it would add 53 steps to major rulemaking, possibly doubling the average amount of time it takes to finalize a regulation – currently four years.
The bill has pitted the powerful business group, the Chamber of Commerce, against progressive ones such as the Natural Resources Defense Council.
Senator Heidi Heitkamp broke ranks with her fellow Democrats to write the accountability act, indicating some members of the party may support the bill when the closely-divided Senate votes.
Also, Senator Claire McCaskill, a Democrat, is working on alternative legislation that her party could find more palatable and could keep some of the bill’s measures.
Since Republicans swept Congress and the White House in November’s elections they have moved swiftly against regulation.
Using the Congressional Review Act, lawmakers killed 14 Obama-era regulations in the span of three months.
Trump’s efforts have yielded mixed results. His order to cut two existing regulations for every new one has stalled during a legal challenge. Meanwhile, the Environmental Protection Agency was jammed with thousands of pleas to maintain regulations when it asked for public comment on Trump’s order to look into repealing or rewriting current rules. The comment period closed Monday.
(Reporting by Lisa Lambert; Editing by Nick Zieminski)
(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF CNN)
Donald Trump thinks he invented the phrase ‘priming the pump.’ That’s telling.
(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE NEW YORK TIMES)
PARIS — A milestone in French politics was reached in the country’s verbally violent presidential debate Wednesday night, but not the expected one.
The shock in the post-debate commentaries, in print and across the airwaves, was revealing: France had never witnessed such a brutal political confrontation in real time.
The consensus was that, far from being the knockout blow Marine Le Pen needed and many anticipated, the result was the opposite. The candidate of the far-right National Front had not improved her already difficult position against the centrist former economy minister Emmanuel Macron.
With her sneering mockery of Mr. Macron, her aggressive tone, and her use of epithets, she had revealed something essential about herself despite years of effort to soften her party’s image, in the view of commentators.
“I was myself surprised, as she revealed herself as what is worst about the far right in France,” Gérard Grunberg, a veteran political scientist at the Institut d’Études Politiques, known as Sciences-Po, said in an interview.
Even her own father, the National Front patriarch and founder Jean-Marie Le Pen, declared that she “wasn’t up to it” during the two-and-half-hour debate, though he still supports her election. A poll taken immediately after for BFMTV found that 63 percent of viewers thought Mr. Macron had carried the day. His polling lead in the election Sunday is around 20 points.
Most significantly, many saw in Ms. Le Pen’s principal debate tactic an unwelcome guest: the big lie.
Mr. Macron repeatedly called her a liar during the debate, and newspaper commentaries on Thursday backed him up. “Marine Le Pen: The Strategy of the Lie,” was the banner headline on Le Monde’s front page, which went on to say that the “deliberate tactic was largely inspired by what Donald Trump practiced in the American campaign.”
The newspaper detailed “The 19 lies of Marine Le Pen” during the debate about topics including “Brexit,” the euro, the European Union and terrorism. On all these subjects the newspaper demonstrated that Ms. Le Pen had put forward half-truths and outright falsehoods.
She was revealed as “the heir of a practice of politics that has always been based on denigration and threat,” Le Monde said in its front-page editorial. “The imitator, besides, of Donald Trump, piling on, just like the American president, lying insinuation.”
Mr. Macron’s campaign has been quick to pick up on the (negative) parallel between President Trump and Ms. Le Pen, posting a video on Twitter in which American and British citizens express regret about voting for Mr. Trump and for Brexit, and warning that “this Sunday France will have to make a choice. The worst is not impossible.”
Ms. Le Pen herself has significantly backed away from her early enthusiastic declarations in favor of Mr. Trump since his chaotic beginnings. Meanwhile, former President Barack Obama announced Thursday he was supporting Mr. Macron, in a video posted on Mr. Macron’s Twitter feed.
One “insinuation” from Ms. Le Pen in the Wednesday debate may wind up costing her. At the end she suggested that Mr. Macron might have “an offshore account,” later acknowledging she had no proof.
Such an accusation is extremely serious for public figures in France, especially in the court of public opinion. The Paris prosecutor has opened an investigation into whether fake news is being used to influence the election, and Mr. Macron has announced a lawsuit against right-wing websites over the suggestion.
Ms. Le Pen’s tactics on Wednesday, eschewing any kind of detailed exposition of policies and instead relying on epithet-slinging — Mr. Macron was “the privileged child of the system and the elites,” and the “representative of subjugated France” — would have been familiar to anyone attending her rallies across France this election season. Her supporters roar at these verbal sallies.
But such language is not normally part of mainstream political discourse in France. And that fact set up the collision of Wednesday night, and the tone of dismay and shock in the commentaries on Thursday.
The second-round presidential debate has become almost a sacred ritual in French politics. Fifteen years ago, Jacques Chirac, the former president, refused to dignify Ms. Le Pen’s father in a debate when he unexpectedly made the second round. That Ms. Le Pen was not given that treatment in 2017, commentators suggested, meant that she had been accepted as a legitimate partner in the democratic process.
But on Thursday, French media and academic commentators suggested she had violated that trust by her “violence,” as many put it. “Maybe she wanted to reassure her electorate,” Marc Lazar, a historian, said in an interview, “or maybe she was just showing her true nature.”
“She has wanted to show that she has ‘undemonized’ the party,” Mr. Lazar continued, referring to the effort Ms. Le Pen has undertaken to distance the National Front from the hate-filled declarations of her father. “But in the end, she just proved that she is her father’s daughter. I think there were a lot of people who were surprised, because they thought she had really changed.”
Even experienced Front-watchers were taken aback by Ms. Le Pen’s actions on Wednesday night. “It was transformed into a fight, not a debate,” said Valérie Igounet, the Front’s leading historian. “The way she spoke was pretty unsettling. I was astonished, too. She was so aggressive.”
Numerous political figures said the debate had made a big voter turnout for Mr. Macron all the more urgent. It was not expected to come from the far left, which continues to evince extreme hostility to Mr. Macron, seeing him as the hated representative of capitalism and finance — precisely Ms. Le Pen’s depiction of him.
The far-left leader, Jean-Luc Mélenchon, has suggested that there is an equivalence between the two candidates. Some two-thirds of his voters will cast blank votes or abstain on Sunday, according to an internal party survey.
On Thursday, one of Mr. Mélenchon’s more prominent supporters, a filmmaker named François Ruffin, wrote in an op-ed in Le Monde addressed to Mr. Macron in the wake of the debate: “You are detested already, before even having set foot in the Élysée,” referring to the presidential residence.
Mr. Ruffin, who made a film that tracked the corporation-mocking efforts of Michael Moore, continued: “You are hated” by those whom Mr. Mélenchon represents “because they see in you, and they are right, the arrogant elite,” Mr. Ruffin wrote. “You are hated, you are hated, you are hated.”
More typical of Thursday’s reactions, though, was that of the editorial in the southern La Dépêche du Midi, in Toulouse. “The ‘decisive’ debate was above all a revelatory debate. Through lies and incessant interruptions, striking proof was given last night that it is difficult, if not impossible, to debate with the far right, in conditions of minimal democratic respect.”
Trump Needs To Stop Treating The Purple Heart Like A Game Show Prize
On Saturday afternoon, President Donald Trump took to Twitter to let the country know how excited he was to be heading to Walter Reed Medical Center to meet with wounded warriors.
When he arrived, Trump held a brief ceremony to award a Purple Heart medal to Army Sgt. 1st Class Alvaro Barrientos, who was wounded in Afghanistan on March 17.
“When I heard about this … I wanted to do it myself,” Trump said during the ceremony. “Congratulations on behalf of Melania and myself and the entire nation. Tremendous.”
😑 😑 😑
Shakin’ my damn head.
There’s nothing congratulatory about receiving a Purple Heart. No service member signs up for the military hoping to get a leg blown off, or a bullet lodged inside them. No service member is banking on ending up paralyzed for the rest of their life, or left with chronic pain that they have to cope with on a daily basis.
Sgt. 1st Class Alvaro Barrientos doesn’t think he’s won something. But, when he signed up for the Army, he knew it was a possibility that he could be injured, or even killed, and he did it anyway. Every service member knows the risk and they choose to put themselves in harm’s way regardless.
Trump still doesn’t seem to get that.
This isn’t the first time he has treated the Purple Heart like some kind of prize you get at the bottom of a cereal box. In August 2016, after retired Lt. Col. Louis Dorfman handed him his own Purple Heart, Trump said, “I always wanted to get the Purple Heart. This was much easier.”
Trump doesn’t seem to understand that no one wants a Purple Heart, because you don’t earn it without giving something up in return. As Elana Duffy wrote last year, “I didn’t want the award because I knew it meant at least a piece of me would be left behind. We didn’t get the award; we each traded something for it. We traded our brains, our limbs, and many times our lives for that piece of metal.”
Until Trump acquires some awareness of what military service actually entails, he should just smile and nod and stick to these five words, “Thank you for your service.” Once he masters those, then he can move onto more complex phrases like, “You have inspired the future generation with your courage and sacrifice.”
But, for now, he needs to keep it simple before he ends up chest-bumping a combat veteran for “winning” the Medal of Honor.
(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE HUFFINGTON POST)
Rep. Warren Davidson (R-Ohio) told the mother of a service industry worker who has benefited from the Affordable Care Act’s Medicaid expansion that her son should get a better job if he wants decent insurance when Obamacare is repealed.
The woman, a constituent of Davidson’s in former House Speaker John Boehner’s old district, explained to Davidson at a town hall in Enon, Ohio on Tuesday night first covered by ShareBlue that her grown son lacked health insurance for four years, because his job in the service industry did not provide it. He received coverage through Medicaid when Obamacare expanded the program by offering to pick up almost all of the costs for states that lowered their eligibility thresholds.
She is now worried about President Donald Trump’s plan to rollback the landmark law’s Medicaid expansion, fearing it will leave her son with the bare-bones catastrophic health insurance, which, she said, is “basically no insurance at all.”
“Can you explain why my son and millions of others in his situation are not deserving of affordable, decent health care that has essential benefits so that he can stay healthy and continue working?” she asked.
Her son’s best route to getting decent insurance without Medicaid is to find work in an industry where employers provide it, according to Davidson.
“OK, I don’t know anything about your son, but as you described him, his skills are focused in an industry that doesn’t have the kind of options that you want him to have for health care. So, I don’t believe that these taxpayers here are entitled to give that to him. I believe he’s got the opportunity to go earn those health benefits,” he responded, eliciting boos from the crowd.
You can watch their full exchange at the 37-minute mark in the video above.
The woman’s reference to “essential benefits” alludes to the fact that House Republican leaders at one point tried to win over hardline conservatives by removing federal regulations requiring insurance plans to cover 10 basic benefits, including trips to the emergency room, as well as maternity and newborn care. In lieu of these benefits, low-premium, high-deductible catastrophic plans could cover even fewer procedures than they do now.
But Davidson implied that finding a better plan was as simple as shopping for a higher-quality consumer product like a cellphone.
“If he doesn’t want a catastrophic care plan, don’t buy a catastrophic care plan. If you don’t want a flip-phone, don’t buy a flip-phone,” Davidson said, eliciting loud groans from the audience.
“I’m sorry, health care is much different than a cell phone and I’m tired of people using cell phone analogies with health care,” the woman responded, before walking away from the microphone.
Davidson’s metaphor resembled remarks by Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah), who suggested in March that people should not buy iPhones if they wanted the money to pay for health insurance.
But as Davidson’s constituent noted at the town hall ― and many observers pointed out when Chaffetz said it ― buying health insurance is completely different than shopping for everyday consumer products.
Consumers do not have the same power to command lower prices for health care, since it is not a product they can choose to not have. People also often lack the information and resources to choose a health care provider based on its cost value.
Those are just a couple reasons why health insurance is wildly more expensive than paying for a phone bill ― and obtaining coverage would remain perilously out of reach for millions of Americans without help from the government.
That’s a big deal, because unlike phones, Americans’ lives would be at risk if they did not have health care.
Although President Trump and House Republicans have already failed to negotiate an Obamacare replacement bill at least twice, the White House is dead-set on trying again as part of negotiations to continue funding the government. The latest idea floated by budget director Mick Mulvaney would involve trading Democrats a dollar in Obamacare funding for every dollar they approve for construction of the wall.
THE WEEKEND ROUNDUP
In an era of profound cultural transformation, elections and referendums have very real consequences ― such as the repeal of environmental regulations or crackdowns on press freedom. But as much as they reveal how markedly divided societies are at this historical moment, they settle little. For those who are nostalgic for an ideal past, the challenges of a complex future wrought by globalization, digital disruption and increasing cultural diversity remain unresolved. For those looking ahead, there is no going back. The present political reaction is only the first act, not the last. It is the beginning, not the end, of the story of societies in fluid transition.
The recent Turkish referendum, like Brexit and U.S. President Donald Trump’s election, fits a pattern of a territorial divide. Residents in large cities and coastal zones linked to global integration and cosmopolitan culture represented just under half of the vote; rural, small-town and Rust Belt regions linked more to the traditions and economic structures of the past were just over half. But there is also a major difference. The populist, nationalist narrative that won the day in Great Britain and the United States championed the “left behind” and splintered the unresponsive mainstream political parties. In Turkey, the day was won by a conservative, pious and upwardly mobile constituency already empowered by some 15 years of rule by President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s Justice and Development Party. The cultural duel there, backed up by neo-Islamist and nationalist statism, will thus be more intense than elsewhere.
In an interview following the historic vote in her country, novelist Elif Shafak says, “The referendum has not solved anything. If anything, it deepened the existing cultural and ideological divisions.” She also laments the decline of Turkey’s long experiment as a majority-Muslim country attempting to balance culture, secularism and Western democracy. “This is the most significant turning point in Turkey’s modern political history,” she declares. “It is a shift backwards; the end of parliamentary democracy. It is also a dangerous discontinuation of decades of Westernization, secularism and modernization; the discontinuation of Atatürk’s modern Turkey.”
Writing from Istanbul, Behlül Özkan explains the details of the constitutional referendum, how the playing field was tilted in Erdoğan’s favor and how it will have massive implications for Turkey’s future. He also emphasizes the historic importance of Turkey’s reverse. Özkan cites the political theorist Samuel Huntington who, in an essay decades ago on transitions from authoritarian rule, once defined Turkey as a clear example of a one-party system becoming more open and competitive under the constitution put in place by Mustafa Kemal Atatürk. It is rare in history to move in the other direction, as Erdoğan has now accomplished.
Also writing from Istanbul, Alev Scott believes Turkey is in for “a decade of paranoia under a modern-day Sultan” who was unnerved by the slim margin of his victory. Noting a widely circulated photograph of the president at his moment of triumph, she saw a man not “celebrating victory” but “a man alarmed by near-defeat.”
Even as critics within Turkey and others abroad expressed concern over the extinguishing of democracy, Trump again showed his affinity for strongman politics by calling to congratulate Erdoğan on his victory. Yet, as with other countries from India to Argentina, there is likely another element as well to this potentially budding bromance. Sam Stein and Igor Bobic report on ethical issues raised by Trump’s business ties with Turkey. In 2012, Erdoğan joined Trump and his family to mark the opening of Trump Towers Istanbul.
(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF CNN)
(CNN) A presidential election in France is not usually the sort of thing that I would tell you to pay attention to. After all, it’s hard enough to convince people that they should pay attention to elections in this country.
- Opinion: The stakes for the French election just got higher
- Marine Le Pen, French presidential candidates salute police
- French candidate publicizes Obama call before Sunday vote
- The beginner’s guide to the French elections
- Emmanuel Macron: The next surprise president?
- French election: Le Pen, Macron… or Mélenchon?
- Opinion: The frightening similarities between the US and French elections
(I GOT THIS ARTICLE FROM FACEBOOK)
President Trump started his White House press conference by reading from a prepared speech. He should have stayed on script. (Video below.)
“Through the ages, your country has been a beacon of artistic and scientific achievement,” Trump read aloud.
“From Venice to Florence, from Verdi to Pavarotti,” he continued before looking away from his script, and adding “friend of mine. Great friend of mine.”
Many in attendance, along with Prime Minister Paolo Gentiloni, certainly knew that Italian opera legend Luciano Pavarotti is not Trump’s friend, as he has been dead for ten years.
Pavarotti, a national treasure for Italians, was considered one of the greatest voices of all times, was a legendary tenor who mastered both opera and popular music. For the President of the United States to claim him as a current friend is the equivalent of Italy’s Prime Minister announcing that he had just had a lovely time with Abraham Lincoln or Muhammad Ali.
Enjoy the latest example of Trump showing the world he doesn’t know what he’s talking about. At least no one got hurt this time.
(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE HINDUSTAN TIMES NEWS)
Syrian president Bashar al-Assad says news of gas attack ‘100% fabrication’
WORLD Updated: Apr 13, 2017 20:51 IST
In the interview, Assad asked: “We don’t know whether those dead children were killed in Khan Sheikhun. Were they dead at all?”(AFP)
The interview on Wednesday was his first since a suspected chemical weapons attack that killed dozens of civilians in the rebel-held town of Khan Sheikhun.
“Definitely, 100 percent for us, it’s fabrication,” he said of the incident.
“Our impression is that the West, mainly the United States, is hand-in-glove with the terrorists. They fabricated the whole story in order to have a pretext for the attack,” added Assad, who has been in power for 17 years.
At least 87 people, including 31 children, were killed in the alleged attack, according to the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights monitor.
But Assad said evidence came only from “a branch of Al-Qaeda,” referring to a former jihadist affiliate that is among the groups that control Idlib province, where Khan Sheikhun is located.
Images of the aftermath, showing victims convulsing and foaming at the mouth, sent shockwaves around the world.
But Assad insisted it was “not clear whether it happened or not, because how can you verify a video? You have a lot of fake videos now.”
“We don’t know whether those dead children were killed in Khan Sheikhun. Were they dead at all?”
He said Khan Sheikhun had no strategic value and was not currently a battle front.
“This story is not convincing by any means.”
The Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) has begun an investigation into the alleged attack, but Russia on Wednesday blocked a UN Security Council resolution demanding Syria cooperate with the probe.
And Assad said he could “only allow any investigation when it’s impartial, when we make sure that unbiased countries will participate in this delegation in order to make sure that they won’t use it for politicised purposes.”
He insisted several times that his forces had turned over all chemical weapons stockpiles in 2013, under a deal brokered by Russia to avoid threatened US military action.
“There was no order to make any attack, we don’t have any chemical weapons, we gave up our arsenal a few years ago,” he said.
“Even if we have them, we wouldn’t use them, and we have never used our chemical arsenal in our history.”
The OPCW has blamed Assad’s government for at least two attacks in 2014 and 2015 involving the use of chlorine.
The Khan Sheikhun incident prompted the first direct US military action against Assad’s government since the war began, with 59 cruise missiles hitting the Shayrat airbase three days after the suspected chemical attack.
Assad said more US attacks “could happen anytime, anywhere, not only in Syria.”
But he said his forces had not been diminished by the US strike.
“Our firepower, our ability to attack the terrorists hasn’t been affected by this strike.”