Trump Administration Supports Health Programs That Will Sabotage Treaty Rights

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF ‘INDIAN COUNTRY TODAY’ NEWS AGENCY)

 

Trump Administration Supports Changing Indian Health Programs That Will Sabotage Treaty Rights

Trump administration maintains tribes are a race rather than sovereign governments and Indian Health should not be exempt from Medicaid’s ‘race-based’ work rules

The Trump administration is supporting a major policy shift on Indian health programs which could result in a loss of millions of dollars to the Indian Health Service while also sabotaging treaty rights.

A story in Politico Sunday raised the issue. It said, “the Trump administration contends the tribes are a race rather than separate governments, and exempting them from Medicaid work rules — which have been approved in three states and are being sought by at least 10 others — would be illegal preferential treatment. ‘HHS believes that such an exemption would raise constitutional and federal civil rights law concerns,’ according to a review by administration lawyers,” Politico said.

Seema Verma, administrator for the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services confirmed in January that the Health and Human Services contends that tribes are a race as opposed to a separate sovereign government, thus not exempt from Medicaid work rules.

Administrator Seema Verma

@SeemaCMS

This survey is very insightful. Doctors know that helping individuals rise out of poverty can be the best medicine! https://twitter.com/merritthawkins/status/981252838239154178 

The Trump administration has allowed Arkansas, Kentucky and Indiana to institute work-requirements in order to eligible for Medicaid. Other states are in the process of seeking similar requirements where Medicaid participants would have to work some 20 to 80 hours each month in order to continue receiving the health insurance.

A graphic on Medicaid expansion by state.

Screen capture via ‘Families USA’

A graphic on Medicaid expansion by state.

The new policy on Medicaid work requirements “does not honor the duty of the federal government to uphold the government-to-government relationship and recognize the political status enshrined in the Constitution, treaties, federal statutes, and other federal laws,” said Jacqueline Pata, executive director of the National Congress of American Indians. “Our political relationship is not based upon race.”

“The United States has a legal responsibility to provide health care to Native Americans,” Mary Smith, who was acting head of the Indian Health Service during the Obama administration and is a member of the Cherokee Nation, told Politico. “It’s the largest prepaid health system in the world — they’ve paid through land and massacres — and now you’re going to take away health care and add a work requirement?”

Medicaid has become a key funding stream for the Indian health system — especially in programs managed by tribes and non-profits. Medicaid is a state-federal partnership and public insurance. The Affordable Care Act expanded Medicaid eligibility, but the Supreme Court ruled that each state could decide whether or not to expand. Since the expansion of Medicaid some 237,000 American Indians and Alaska Natives in 19 states have become insured.

Officially Medicaid represents 13 percent of the Indian Health Service’s $6.1 billion budget (just under $800 million).

But even that number is misleading because it does not include money collected from third-party billing from tribal and non-profit organizations. In Alaska, for example, the entire Alaska Native health system is operated by tribes or tribal organizations and the state says 40 percent of its $1.8 billion Medicaid budget is spent on Alaska Native patients. That one state approaches the entire “budgeted” amount for Medicaid.

Other states report similar increases. In 2016, Kaiser Family Foundation found that in Arizona, half of one tribally-operated health system’s patient visits were covered by Medicaid. And, an urban Indian Health program reported that its uninsured rate at one clinic fell from 85 percent before the Affordable Care Act to under 10 percent due to Medicaid enrollment.

Those Medicaid (and all insurance) dollars are even more significant because by law they remain with local service units where the patient is treated (and the insurance is billed). In Alaska more than two-thirds of those dollars are spent on private sector doctors and hospitals through purchased care for Alaska Native patients. And, unlike IHS funds, Medicaid is an entitlement. So if a person is eligible, the money follows.

A recent report by Kaiser Health News looked at Census data and found that 52 percent of residents in New Mexico’s McKinley County have coverage through the Medicaid.  That’s the highest rate among U.S. counties with at least 65,000 people. “The heavy concentration of Medicaid in this high-altitude desert is a result of two factors: the high poverty rate and the Indian Health Service’s relentless work to enroll patients in the program,” Kaiser reported. Most of McKinley County is located on the Navajo and Zuni reservations.

Kaiser Health News said Medicaid has opened up new opportunities for Native patients to “get more timely care, especially surgery and mental health services. It has been vital in combating high rates of obesity, teen birth, suicide and diabetes, according to local health officials.”

However the growth of Medicaid is resulting in unequal care for patients in the Indian health system. The benefits in some states, including those that expanded Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act, are more generous. Other states not only refused to expand Medicaid and have been adding new restrictions such as requiring “able-bodied” adults to have their Medicaid eligibility contingent on work.

But the Indian health system — the federal Indian Health Service and tribally and nonprofit operated programs — are in a special case because there is a 100 percent federal match for most services. So states set the rules, but do not have to pay the bill. (Medicaid is often the second largest single item in a state budget behind public schools.)

Medicaid is the largest health insurance program in America, insuring one in five adults, and many with complex and long-term chronic care needs. The Trump administration and many state legislatures controlled by Republicans see Medicaid as a welfare program. While most Democrats view it simply as a public health insurance program.

Work rules are particularly challenging for Indian Country. Unlike other Medicaid programs, patients in the Indian health system will still be eligible to receive basic care. So stricter rules will mean fewer people will sign up for Medicaid and the Indian Health Service — already significantly underfunded — will have to pick up the extra costs from existing appropriations. That will result in less money, and fewer healthcare services, across the board.

A letter from the Tribal Technical Advisory Group for Medicare and Medicaid said American Indians and Alaska Natives “are among the nation’s most vulnerable populations, and rely heavily on the IHS for health care. However, the IHS is currently funded at around 60 percent of need, and average per capita spending for IHS patients is only $3,688.” The latest per person cost for health care nationally is $10,348 (totalling $3.3 trillion, nearly 20 percent of the entire economy).

Uninsured rate for nonelderly American Indians and Alaska Natives from 2013-2015.

Screen capture Kaiser Family Foundation

Uninsured rate for nonelderly American Indians and Alaska Natives from 2013-2015.

The tribal advisory group said it is “critically important” that there be a blanket exemption for IHS beneficiaries from the mandatory work requirements.

A report in September by the Kaiser Family Foundation showed that the majority of American Indians and Alaska Natives on Medicaid already work, yet continue to face high rates of poverty. It said over three-quarters of American Indians and Alaska Natives are in working families, but that’s a gap of about 8 percent compared to other Americans (83 percent).

Income and work status for nonelderly American Indians and Alaska Natives from 2015

Screen capture Kaiser Family Foundation

Income and work status for nonelderly American Indians and Alaska Natives from 2015

The Trump administration’s characterization of tribal health programs as “race-based” is particularly troubling to tribal leaders because it would reverse historical precedence.

A memo last month from the law firm of Hobbs, Straus, Dean & Walker said the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services “has ample legal authority to single out IHS beneficiaries for special treatment in administering the statutes under its jurisdiction if doing so is rationally related to its unique trust responsibility to Indians. Under familiar principles of Indian law, such actions are political in nature, and as a result do not constitute prohibited race based classifications. This principle has been recognized and repeatedly reaffirmed by the Supreme Court and every Circuit Court of Appeals that has considered it, and has been extended to the actions of Administrative Agencies like the Department of Health and Human Services even in the absence of a specific statute.”

(The National Congress of American Indians is the owner of Indian Country Today and manages its business operations. The Indian Country Today editorial team operates independently as a digital journalism enterprise.)

Mark Trahant is editor of Indian Country Today. He is a member of the Shoshone-Bannock Tribes. Follow him on Twitter 

Taiwan is a Nation of Mature, Consolidated Democracy

(FOLKS THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF TAIWAN’S ‘THE LIBERTY.COM’ NEWS AGENCY)

 

Taiwan is a Nation of Mature, Consolidated Democracy

An Interview with Dr. Lo Chih-cheng, the Democratic Progressive Party Legislator in Taiwan

 

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Lo Chih-cheng

Taiwanese politician, Legislator, Director for the Department of International Affairs, the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP). Associate professor of Political Science at Soochow University.

Last year Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) was elected as the president of Taiwan. This made big changes from the previous government. The former president Ma Ing-jong (馬英九) and his Chinese Nationalist Party government was relatively close to the Chinese Communist Party in China. Regarding the “One China” policy, there remains some controversy among the U.S., China and Taiwan. The following interview with Dr. Lo Chih-cheng (羅致政) will benefit us for a better understanding of these issues. He is in charge of international affairs for the ruling Democratic Progressive Party.

 

The Meaning of Peaceful Transition of Power

Interviewer: How did you see the change of government in Taiwan last year? It was a transition from the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT or Kuomintang) to the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP).

Lo: This is the third time we had a peaceful transition of power from one party to another. In 2000, we had a transition from the KMT to the DPP. In 2008, we had the DPP to the KMT. Now we are coming back to power. So, this is further evidence of consolidation of democracy in Taiwan. In other words, democracy is the rule of the game. That is, whoever is in power has to respect the will of the people. That’s very important. That makes a big difference between Taiwan, the People’s Republic of China (PRC), and Hong Kong as well. Democracy is a very important mechanism for making policies in Taiwan, such as the Cross Strait policy, foreign policies or even defence policies. When it comes to the future of Taiwan, everybody including the leaders in parties will have to respect the will of the people. Taiwan now has a mature, consolidated democracy.

Secondly, we are in absolute control of the government. Last time, the DPP administration did not control the majority in the legislature. This time, we control the Executive Branch and also the Legislative Branch. So in general, we can get things done all by ourselves.

Thirdly, there is a difference between the first time in power and the second time. For the past eight years from 2008 to 2016, the KMT was in power and created a situation that was quite unique from the previous DPP administration. Taiwan had become very dependent on China, economically, politically and even militarily. That’s a new situation.

When Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁) was in power, the interaction between Taiwan and China was very limited in general. We didn’t have that kind of dependency. As a matter of fact, when the Lee Teng-hui (李登輝) administration was in power, their policy was “no haste, be patient, go slow”. But when Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) was in power, they very much depended on China. That puts our DPP administration in a much more difficult situation, because we hadn’t reversed this kind of dependency on China. That’s quite a different situation. We should not depend too much on China.

 

Mr. Lee, a NGO Activist Caught in China

Interviewer: Regarding China, there was an incident in March where Mr. Lee Ming-cheh (李哲明), a human rights activist, disappeared in China. He was also known as a former DPP worker.

Lo: Unfortunately Mr. Lee, a NGO activist, has been caught in China. So far, we have very limited information about his whereabouts and situation. This is further evidence that China is not a democratic country and not under the rule of law. More importantly, that will damage the mutual trust between Taiwan and China. Some Western media – the U.S. media and the European media – covered the story. I don’t know how much coverage you have in Japan.

Interviewer: I think there are very few.

Lo: I don’t think that kind of thing just happened to Taiwan. It happened to Hong Kong. That could also happen to other countries. I don’t think it’s an isolated case only for the Taiwanese people to pay attention to. It’s an incident that everybody living in free democratic countries should pay close attention to. In the past, when the DPP was in power, there was a direct hot line between our government and the counterparts in China. But when this was took place, the hot line was cut off. So, there was no direct contact. The very purpose of having the hot line is that when there was an incident, we could connect ourselves to solve the problem. But the opposite is happening. That’s an unfortunate development.

 

The U.S-Taiwan Relation in the Trump Administration

Interviewer: What is your view on U.S-Taiwan relations? Last December, the Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen had a phone call with Trump. That was a surprising move.

Lo: First of all, the direct phone call that happened last December was between President Tsai and President-elect Trump. That was a very unique development. After President Trump was sworn in, that kind of phone call with a direct hot line did not happen again. We know the situation is quite tough and Trump needs cooperation from China, so they want to play down the importance of this kind of direct hot line between our president and her counterpart in the United States. Having said that, our direct contacts between our representatives and his counterparts in the United States are very direct and personal. We do have a very solid, robust relationship between Taiwan and the United States.

Interviewer: In June, the Trump Administration approved a 1 billion dollar arms sale to Taiwan.

Lo: The arms sale package is a very good case in point. We welcome the arms sale to Taiwan. That’s a very important decision. The timing of the decision was very important, because there were rumours about the U.S. Navy postponing it. According to the reports, the U.S. had concerns about a possible reaction from China. I think obviously, the U.S. cared too much about any possible negative response from China. As a matter of fact, after the announcement of the arms sale package, China did not react too strongly about it. So, we hope this deal can be implemented very smoothly. More importantly, we hope that our defence cooperation can be further enhanced.

The U.S. Congress has passed several resolutions. For instance, the National Defence Authorization Act (NDAA), encouraged the interaction between our high-level defence officials and their counterparts in the United States. So, that’s a good development. That’s also up to the administration to decide how to implement the NDAA. Let’s just wait and see. When it comes to the relationship with the United States, it takes two to tango. Our goal is to increase interactions between the two countries – to enhance our ties. But it is also up to the United States to respond to our requests.

There are two general questions about the future of the U.S. policy towards Taiwan in particular and to Asia in general. We don’t know who’s in charge and what Trump’s doctrine is. The people in charge change very quickly. They just changed the Chief of Staff. Who’s in charge of the East Asian policy? We don’t know. When it comes to daily operations, we need someone in charge in that particular position.

 

The Differences of the “One China” Policy Between the U.S and China

Interviewer: After conversation between Tsai and Trump, the “One China” policy became controversial again. There are different views between the U.S and China.

Lo: There’s a big difference between the “One China” policy and the “One China” principle. China insists on the so-called “One China” principle. According to that principle, Taiwan’s a part of the PRC. That’s something we can’t accept. The U.S. “One China” policy has some ambiguities. There’s some room for developing the idea that Taiwan is an independent country. The very reason that the U.S. can maintain military ties with Taiwan is because of this One China policy. It is somewhat ambiguous.

At some point in time, according to President Trump, the so-called One China policy isn’t negotiable. If that’s the case, we do have concerns about that. So, Taiwan doesn’t want to be bound by the One China policy. Taiwan wants to be separated from these interactions between the two big powers. We hope to develop a very solid, robust relationship between Taiwan and the U.S. regardless of what happened between the U.S. and China. But obviously China always wants to bring Taiwan into the dialogues between the U.S. and China.

Interviewer: On a January article for The Wall Street Journal, John Bolton, the former U.S. ambassador to the U.N., advocated that the U.S. army should station in Taiwan.

Lo: When John Bolton said that, he was not in the government. He said that because he was a scholar who had freedom of speech. He’s a very good friend of Taiwan. He has been very supportive of Taiwan. So, we appreciate those kinds of comments. But when it comes to actual policies, I don’t think that kind of policy is feasible in the near future. Of course, there were rumours last year that he may be joining the government. At the end of the day, we haven’t seen that yet.

 

Rising China’s Strategy Against Taiwan

Interviewer: Last year there was another incident. Chinese fighter jets circled Taiwan.

Lo: China is becoming stronger economically and militarily. China would definitely show their muscles to their neighbouring countries that they are stronger. Sending their aircraft carriers and their fighter jets to circle Taiwan is evidence to show that they can kick Taiwan into orbit. They don’t want Taiwan to lead the way from their sphere of influence.

Secondly, if there’s a military crisis in the Taiwan Strait, Taiwan is always hoping that we can sustain our survivability until other countries, especially the United States, come to our assistance. The China’s strategy is the Anti-Access Area-Denial (A2/AD). Circling Taiwan is the way to show that they have the A2/AD capabilities. That’s reasonable.

Thirdly, the Taiwan Strait is an international waters for freedom of navigation for all the ships. But to send aircraft carriers and fighter jets to circle Taiwan is the way the Chinese are hoping to show the world that the Taiwan Strait is in their sea and that it’s not international waters. It is a symbolic and political gesture.

Finally, it’s one way to substantiate their One China policy or One China principle. Taiwan will never accept the so-called One China principle. But China wants to show the world that there’s de facto One China principle, “Taiwan is a part of China” and “It is under our control”. Although it is very symbolic, it’s quite important for China.

 

The Disputed Island in the South China Sea

Interviewer: Last year, the Taiping Island in the South China Sea was disputed at the International Tribunal court of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea. After its ruling denied Taiwan’s claim, you paid a visit. Could you give us tips on how to defend territorial rights?

Lo: It’s quite easy because we already control the island. We have controlled it for decades. We sent our marine guards. We continuously occupy and control it. There’s no way that other countries can ignore our actual occupation and control of it. There’s no way that we need to prove further that we have the territorial rights on the Taiping Island.

But when it comes to other islands, we claim that issues should be settled in a very peaceful way. We don’t want to use force to solve the problem. So, we are urging all the neighbouring claimant countries that we should put aside our differences. But unfortunately, when China and other claimant countries talk about the Code of Conduct in South China Sea, Taiwan has not been invited although we occupy the biggest island in the area. Taiwan is not even consulted about the issue. That’s a very unfortunate development, because Taiwan is a very important claimant of those disputed islands.

 

Disappearing Freedom in Hong Kong

Interviewer: What do you think of the situation in Hong Kong on the human rights issue? In July, the memorial event was held there.

Lo: When Beijing introduced the “One Country, Two Systems”, the goal was to make it appeal to the people in Taiwan. It’s the very reason that China used Hong Kong as a model for Taiwan. When China began to realize there was no use of using the Hong Kong model, then the importance of Hong Kong started disappearing. That’s why Beijing is tightening their control there for freedom of the press, freedom of association and so on. That’s why they began to wage some of the demonstrations on the streets.

A lot of people learned what happened in Taiwan for the past few decades. You start with the opposition movement and the opposition party. Then, you have this kind of democratic transition of power. Hong Kong is quite different. It is already controlled by China. It is a part of China. There’s not much room that can be negotiated about the future of Hong Kong. That’s why there are more and more Hong Kong people immigrating to Taiwan. They can enjoy much more freedom and democracy in Taiwan.

 

Japan and Taiwan Share Common Interests

Interviewer: What do you think the Japan-Taiwan relation should be like? The Japanese government has not recognized Taiwan as a nation.

Lo: On the bilateral relation between Taiwan and Japan, we have to start with the discussion about the nature of our relationship. I have to say that Taiwan and Japan are natural partners. We are facing many similar challenges. We have many common interests. For instance, Taiwan and Japan are both democracies. We share some of the philosophies behind our democracies, human rights, freedom, free market economy, etc. So, the two nations share some universal values. That’s a very important foundation for our bilateral relationship.

Secondly, there is a historical connection between Taiwan and Japan. We were under the colonial rule of Japan for fifty years, but there are some legacies of this kind of historical connection, for better or for worse. Especially for the older generations, people feel connected to Japan when something happens. For instance, when the tsunami and the earthquake happened in Japan, Taiwanese mobilized themselves to give some support to their Japanese friends. When asked which is the most friendly country to the Taiwanese, Japan is the number one country. The same thing can be said about the Japanese. So, we have this kind of strong people to people connection.

Both Japan and Taiwan are facing a rising China. I’m not saying that China is a threat already, but China’s increase in power in the region has put pressures on both of them. Japan and Taiwan cannot fight against the rising China by themselves. We need cooperation and coordination between the two countries in the face of the rising China. That’s very important. We have come up with a strategic interest. Having said that, we know there are some political obstacles, difficulties that we need to overcome to fully enhance our relationship.

Japan doesn’t recognize Taiwan as a sovereign country in all the difficulties, in all the impossibilities. Short of this formal diplomatic recognition, there are so many things that can be done. In other words, why don’t we try our best to enhance our de facto ties between the two countries? For instance, military cooperation between the two sides. We probably can’t come to the point of a direct, joint military exercise. There is no way for now. Some sort of dialogue between our two militaries should be feasible. Probably not in public, but at least in private. As you know, Taiwan and the United States have all levels of dialogue. Starting from strategic dialogue, defence dialogue, arms sale dialogue or people to people, and military to military on a daily basis.

We don’t have that kind of thing between Taiwan and Japan. For us, we have no reservation about having this kind of dialogue. It is Japan that is more reluctant or more reserved about having this kind of dialogue. Of course, you would be under a lot of pressure from China. However, it’s about common national interests. We have overlapped national interests. So, if that is the right thing to do, we should do it. We can start with the engagement of dialogues between the two governments and the two militaries. It will require a very strong political will to do it. We do have the political will to do it. We know there’s subtlety of doing these kinds of things. We need substantial cooperation between the two countries. We should get the things done in a more substantial way.

 

How to Deal with North Korea

Interviewer: My last question is on North Korea. Kim Jong-un is continuously launching ICBMs especially in recent months.

Lo: First of all, we welcome Japan to play a more proactive role in the regional security issues. Secondly, we welcome the enhancement of the relationship between the U.S. and Japan. We welcome Japan being proactive in many regional issues. As you know, China has always been very proactive in setting some agendas in the region. In the past, you had several Six-Party Talks to solve the North Korea nuclear issue. But now they have gone.

I think the Trump administration has a very naive expectation from China to help them to solve the North Korean issue. Personally, I don’t think China is sincere in helping other countries such as Japan, South Korea and the U.S., because North Korea is China’s bargaining chip. What China really wants is to contain the situation. They don’t want the escalation of crisis, but I don’t think they will help us to solve the problem. North Korea is a troublemaker. However, once the problem is solved, China will not have this bargaining chip.

Interviewer: What do you think our next move should be?

Lo: Japan, South Korea, the U.S. and Taiwan should intensify their dialogues to come up with a coordinated strategy towards North Korea. North Korea’s and China’s policy is always the “divide and defeat” strategy – “divide and conquer” strategy. They want to divide the alliance countries, Japan, South Korea and the U.S. That will give them room for manoeuvring. If they can come up with an orchestrated, coordinated policy and work together with a unified position, then I don’t think North Korea can have anything to play with.

But that’s not happening now. Trump is talking to China directly, bypassing Japan and South Korea. Trump did not consult its allies before then. They think China is the only country that can help the U.S. solve the problem. I don’t think that’s the case. The U.S., Japan and South Korea should come up with a coordinated policy in a unified position. That is the only way you can counter them.

North Korea: Otto Warmbier Has “Sever Neurological Damage”

(COMMENTARY: FOR THE SAKE OF THE PEOPLE OF NORTH KOREA IT IS TIME FOR THE GOVERNMENTS OF THE WORLD TO REMOVE THE ANIMAL KIM JONG UN FROM POWER “BY ANY MEANS NECESSARY”)(TRS)

 

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF CNN)

Recently released North Korea detainee Otto Warmbier has suffered severe neurological damage, and his family flatly rejects the regime’s explanation for his condition, reporters were told Thursday in his Ohio hometown.

Warmbier, a 22-year-old college student who returned Tuesday to the United States after 17 months in detention, is in stable condition at University of Cincinnati Medical Center but has a “severe neurological injury,” hospital spokeswoman Kelly Martin said.
Martin declined to elaborate, saying doctors will share more information about Warmbier’s condition in a separate news conference Thursday afternoon.
But Warmbier’s father left no doubt he blames North Korea, blasting the secretive regime in a 23-minute news conference at his son’s alma mater, Wyoming High School, north of Cincinnati.

Student freed from North Korea lands in US

Student freed from North Korea lands in US
The family doesn’t believe North Korea’s explanation that Otto fell into a coma after contracting botulism and taking a sleeping pill shortly after he was sentenced in March 2016, Fred Warmbier said.
“Even if you believe their explanation of botulism and a sleeping pill causing a coma — and we don’t — there is no excuse for any civilized nation to have kept his condition a secret and denied him top-notch medical care for so long,” Warmbier said.
The father, wearing the cream sport coat his son wore during his televised trial in North Korea, stopped short of saying how he believed his son was injured.
“We’re going to leave that to the doctors (to explain) today,” he said.

Why does North Korea detain some US citizens?

Why does North Korea detain some US citizens?
He called on North Korea to release other American detainees.
“There’s no excuse for the way the North Koreans treated our son. And no excuse for the way they’ve treated so many others,” he said. “No other family should have to endure what the Warmbiers have.”

Conviction and release

Otto Warmbier was a University of Virginia student when he was detained in January 2016 at the airport in Pyongyang while on his way home. He had been on a tour of the reclusive country, his parent said.
North Korean authorities claimed they had security footage of him trying to steal a banner containing a political slogan that was hanging from a wall of his Pyongyang hotel.
That was used as evidence in his hourlong trial. He was found guilty of committing a “hostile act” against the country and sentenced in March 2016 to 15 years of hard labor. It was the last time he was seen publicly before this week.
His parents learned of their son’s condition — what North Korea called a coma — only last week, they said in a statement.

Critical of Obama administration

Fred Warmbier appeared critical of the Obama administration’s handling of Otto’s detention, saying the family heeded the US government’s initial advice to take a low profile “without result.”
In contrast, he praised the Trump administration’s efforts: “They have our thanks for bringing Otto home.”
When asked whether then-President Barack Obama could have done more, Fred Warmbier replied, “I think the results speak for themselves.”

Three other US detainees

Warmbier’s release coincided with basketball star Dennis Rodman’s latest visit to North Korea, though Michael Anton, a US national security spokesman, told CNN there is no connection between the two.

CNN on the ground: Waiting for Dennis Rodman

CNN on the ground: Waiting for Dennis Rodman
Fred Warmbier said the same Thursday.
“Dennis Rodman had nothing to do with Otto,” he said.
Rodman was asked by reporters Tuesday if he would bring up the cases of Warmbier and three other Americans detained in North Korea. “That’s not my purpose right now,” he said. “My purpose is to go over there and try to see if I can keep bringing sports to North Korea.”
The other Americans held by Pyongyang are Kim Sang Duk and Kim Hak-song, academics who worked at the Pyongyang University of Science and Technology, and businessman named Kim Dong Chul.

Trump: New Rules Put Most Undocumented Immigrants At Risk Of Deportation!!!

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF TIME)

Sweeping New Trump Administration Rules Put Most Undocumented Immigrants at Risk of Deportation

11:32 AM Eastern

A sweeping set of memos released Tuesday make clear that the vast majority of undocumented immigrants in the United States are at risk of deportation.

Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly unveiled a set of memos directed at each of the department’s agencies which instruct agents to detain and deport every undocumented immigrant they come across, with few exceptions.

Immigrations and Customs Enforcement “will not exempt classes or categories of removal aliens from potential enforcement,” notes a DHS fact sheet. “All of those present in violation of the immigration laws may be subject to immigration arrest, detention, and, if found removable by final order, removal from the United States.”

The memos are essentially instruction manuals for the sweeping executive orders issued by President Trump in late January. The orders themselves call for the hiring of more immigration enforcement officials, empowering local officers to act as immigration enforcement and expediting the deportation of the millions of undocumented immigrants living in the U.S.

An early draft of the memos reported by the Associated Press called for the mobilization of up to 100,000 National Guard troops for immigration enforcement, though that was not included in these memos.

But the memos do make clear that the Department considers any and every undocumented immigrant that crosses paths with enforcement officials to be eligible for removal, a vast shift from Obama Administration policy, which prioritized the removal of criminals and threats to national security. Homeland Security will also expand the list of immigrants who are subject to speedy removal from the U.S. when caught crossing the border illegally. The memos also allow agents to send people who cross from Mexico and Canada back to either nation, regardless of their home country.

While the Trump Administration has made clear it will be tough on immigrants caught in the U.S., it has yet to take action against the class of migrants known as “dreamers” or those who were brought to the U.S. as children by their parents. The memos do not apply to children who received Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or DACA, under the Obama Administration.

New Hampshire House Committee Approves Decriminalization Of Marijuana

 

MPP Blog


New Hampshire House Committee Approves Decriminalization Bill

Posted: 09 Feb 2017 11:37 AM PST

The New Hampshire House Criminal Justice and Public Safety Committee overwhelmingly voted to pass HB 640, a bill that would decriminalize possession of one ounce or less of marijuana. The vote, 14-2, was overwhelming, and it appears very likely that the House will pass HB 640 with a huge margin of support.

The Committee also voted to “retain” HB 656, a bill that would make marijuana legal for adult use. This is a good thing because it means the Committee will be able to study the issue more thoroughly this summer and fall before they vote on the bill in early 2018.

The post New Hampshire House Committee Approves Decriminalization Bill appeared first on MPP Blog.

Adult Use Bills Introduced in Maryland Senate

Posted: 09 Feb 2017 11:28 AM PST

This week, two companion bills that would legalize and regulate personal use amounts of cannabis for adults 21 and up were introduced in the Maryland Senate.

SB 928 would allow adults to possess up to one ounce of cannabis and to grow up to six plants, and would set up regulated businesses that would cultivate, process, and sell cannabis, including a “craft cultivator” category for small businesses. SB 927 sets a $30 per ounce excise tax and 9% sales tax (the same as alcohol). Half of the proceeds would go to high-poverty schools.

Much of the cannabis discussion in the General Assembly is about Maryland’s continuing failure to properly implement its medical program. The Maryland Cannabis Policy Coalition strongly supports making medical cannabis available as soon as possible, but this bill would not impact the medical program — it would set up a parallel system for adults. Every year as the General Assembly waits to pass these reforms, thousands more people are searched, fined, and often arrested for using a substance safer than alcohol.

If you are a Maryland resident, please let your lawmakers know the time has come to allow adults to use cannabis.

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Jeff Sessions Confirmed as Attorney General

Posted: 09 Feb 2017 09:48 AM PST

On Wednesday, Alabama Sen. Jeff Sessions was narrowly confirmed as the new Attorney General in a 51-47 vote, split largely along party lines.

MPP released the following statement from its federal policies director, Robert Capecchi:

“MPP remains cautiously optimistic that the Trump administration will refrain from interfering in state marijuana laws. When asked about his plans for marijuana enforcement, Attorney General Sessions said he ‘echo[es]’ the position taken by Loretta Lynch during her confirmation hearings. He repeatedly acknowledged the scarcity of enforcement resources, and he said he would ensure they are used as effectively as possible to stop illicit drugs from being trafficked into the country.

“President Trump has consistently said that states should be able to determine their own marijuana laws, and his spokesperson made it clear that the attorney general will be implementing the Trump agenda. We are hopeful that Mr. Sessions will follow the president’s lead and respect states’ rights on marijuana policy.

“A strong and growing majority of Americans think marijuana should be made legal, and an even stronger majority think the federal government should respect state marijuana laws. Eight states have adopted laws that regulate and tax marijuana for adult use, and 28 states now have laws that regulate marijuana for medical use. It would be shocking if the Trump administration attempted to steamroll the citizens and governments in these states to enforce an increasingly unpopular federal policy.”

Sessions was asked about marijuana policy on multiple occasions during the confirmation process. During his oral testimony, he conspicuously refrained from committing to enforce federal marijuana prohibition laws in states that are regulating marijuana for medical and adult use, noting the scarcity of resources available. In his written testimony, he said he “echo[es]” the comments made by former Attorney General Loretta Lynch, when she was asked about marijuana enforcement during her confirmation hearing.

President Donald Trump has consistently said that he supports legal access to medical marijuana and believes states should be able to determine their own marijuana policies. During a January appearance on Fox News Channel, Trump spokesman Sean Spicer signaled that Sessions would adhere to Trump’s position that states should be able to establish their own marijuana policies. “When you come into a Trump administration, it’s the Trump agenda you’re implementing and not your own,” he said. “I think Senator Sessions is well aware of that.”

 

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It Is Naive To Think That Illegal Aliens Aren’t Voting

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF ‘JUDICIAL WATCH)

It’s Naive To Think Illegal Aliens Aren’t Voting
For many years we have fought to restore integrity to elections in the United States, fighting both the Obama Justice Department and its leftist allies, such as the well-funded ACLU. You can sample our efforts here.  Finally the issue of election integrity has new national prominence thanks to President Donald Trump’s call for an investigation into illegal voting.I wrote about this for The Daily Caller:

Leftists and their media outlets have been all too eager to dismiss President Donald Trump’s charge that as many as 5 million illegal aliens voted in the 2016 presidential election, enough to easily swing the popular vote to Hillary Clinton.

Many of these pundits, backed by an army of so-called “fact-checkers,” would have you believe that the number of illegals who are registering to vote and voting is insignificant. Oh, there may be the occasional, misguided “undocumented worker” who inadvertently wanders into the election booth, they seem to suggest. But, surely, not enough to make any difference.

Anyone who thinks that needs to think again.

There are a total of 43 million non citizens currently living within U.S. borders. Of these, approximately 12 million are illegal aliens. Not only are there well-documented  reasons to believe that many of them may be violating election integrity, the fact is many on the left are more than happy to see them do so. A Rasmussen Reports poll last year found that 53 percent of the Democratic Party supports allowing illegal aliens to vote.

Part of the problem is that election laws in the United States are a complicated hodgepodge of federal, state, and local rules, regulations, and red tape. Generally speaking, it is illegal for any non citizens to cast a vote in any election, and those who do are at least theoretically subject to criminal penalties if they are caught.

But many states do not have a voter ID requirement. Worse yet, many states do not even have a requirement to certify citizenship, other than saying out loud that you are a citizen. All too many of the systems that are in place to prevent unlawful voting are either nonexistent or are so weak that they are useless. We are naïve to think that the millions of people who are present in the United States illegally are all resisting the temptation to cast unlawful votes, especially when so much is at stake – including their being able to continue illegally residing within our borders.

As I point out in my book, Clean House,  in 2014 a disturbing study by political scientists at Old Dominion found that 6.4 percent of foreign nationals residing in the United States voted in the 2008 presidential election. If the key Old Dominion study results on the 2008 election were applied to 2016 — 1.41 million aliens may have voted illegally, with probably 1.13 million voting for Democrats.

Add to that the 2012 Pew Research Center study noting that “approximately 2.75 million people have active registrations in more than one state.” On top of that, the study revealed, more than “1.8 million deceased individuals are listed as active voters.” Combine those figures with the number of aliens the Old Dominion study cites, and the Trump allegations may not be so far out of line.

A full-scale, non-partisan federal voter fraud investigation is long overdue.  I’m not aware of any systematic federal investigation of voter fraud – ever.  Initially, such an investigation would be a simple matter of analyzing voter registration databases against federal databases of aliens and deceased individuals. Judicial Watch’s Election Integrity team, headed up by Robert Popper, former Deputy Chief of the Voting Section in the Civil Rights Division of the Department of Justice, would be more than happy to help.

Of course we’ll keep you updated on our efforts and those of the Trump administration.