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Originally Published: 9/23/2017

Graham-Cassidy:  This is the latest version of Trumpcare. According to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, it’s not much different from the original “repeal and replace” bill that failed last July. (TWW, Senate Bill, 7/1/17) American Progress estimated that the impact on people would be similar to the failed legislation. For that bill the CBO estimated that it would have resulted in tens of millions more uninsured in 2026 and that Medicaid would cover 19 million fewer people and the individual market, with so few insureds, would disappear. But, American Progress estimated that this bill would be worse because it “completely eliminates ACA coverage funding in 2027” and “makes cuts to the Medicaid program outside the ACA expansion.” Instead, Graham-Cassidy relies on block grants (TWW, Obamacare, 9/9/17), which do not respond to market conditions. It will reduce federal funding to the states by $215 billion over the next decade, “and more than $4 trillion over a 20-year period.” By 2026 34 states and the District of Columbia would experience cuts, 7 of those seeing cuts above $10 billion. 16 states would get an increase. Check out the map. (Avalere) 15 of the states that would get an increase voted for Trump. (Washington Post) The proposal would “increase the number of aging, sick, and low-income veterans without insurance and put pressure on an overburdened Veterans Affairs system” (Stars & Stripes) and it would allow insurance companies to increase premiums when someone gets sick. (Think Progress) The Hill pointed out that this bill “could lead to insurer rules being waived in some states; it defunds Planned Parenthood; it does not include funding to fight the opioid crisis; and “it would set up a huge fiscal cliff.” New York Magazine pointed out that the bill eliminates protections for pre-existing conditions and it would probably result in the devastation to rural hospitals. (Think Progress) A bipartisan group of governors and “powerful” healthcare groups - like AARP and the American Hospital Association - came out against the proposal. (Washington Post) And 56% of Americans prefer Obamacare to the new GOP plan. (Washington Post)


The Truth:  Charlie Pierce, writing at Esquire, noted that the Republicans aren’t even pretending that this is about healthcare anymore. “What we are hearing now from a number of people is the open admission that the goal of the Republican Party, a death-cult based on human suffering, is to strip healthcare from those people who do not vote for them, and from people the conservative mind has adjudged are unworthy of its benefits.”


The Vote:  The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) has yet to score the bill and they won’t get it done before the Senate votes on it. So senators will be voting with no knowledge of the bill’s effects. And the bill is going to proceed through the reconciliation process, which only requires 50 votes to pass but they need to show that it offers a budgetary savings. So CBO announced that it would rush analysis that will include whether the bill will increase or decrease deficits, but nothing else. (Washington Post) Also, Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R, KY) is not sending the bill to a committee and will only allow 2 minutes of floor debate before taking the vote. Watch what Stephen Colbert has to say about the bill. (You Tube) Arizona Senator John McCain (R) said on Friday he didn’t think he could vote for this bill. (The Hill)


UN:  Trump made his debut at the United Nations’ General Assembly with a bellicose speech threatening to “totally destroy” North Korea and referring to Kim Jong-un as “Rocket Man.” He called the Iran nuclear deal “an embarrassment” and promised to “crush the loser terrorists in the Middle East. He said the U.S. was prepared to confront Venezuela’s authoritarian government. Watch the video. (NY Times) He also announced he wants to reopen the nuclear agreement with Iran “to toughen its provisions.” (NY Times) No wonder North Korea wants nuclear weapons. Apparently U.S. agreements are no longer valid. Kim responded to Trump’s remarks, saying: “I will surely and definitely tame the mentally deranged U.S. dotard with fire.” (Washington Post) Trump retaliated by called Kim a “madman” who would be “tested like never before.” (Washington Post)


Paul Manafort:  We now know that the investigation team run by special counsel Robert Mueller, looking into the Trump Russian connection, wiretapped Manafort, Trump’s former campaign chair, before and after the election, right up to 2017 when he was known to be speaking with Trump after the inauguration. Mueller used a FISA warrant, which is secret, after Manafort became the subject of an FBI investigation in 2014. “It centered on work done by a group of Washington consulting firms for Ukraine’s former ruling party.” The surveillance was discontinued sometime last year for lack of evidence, but the FBI restarted it “after obtaining a new FISA warrant that extended at least into early this year.” (CNN) Among the documents already turned over is evidence that, less than 2 weeks before Trump accepted the Republican nomination, Manafort “offered to provide briefings on the race to a Russian billionaire closely aligned with the Kremlin.” In an email to an overseas intermediary, Manafort asked that this message be sent to Oleg Deripaska, “an aluminum magnate with whom Manafort had done business.” Manafort wrote: “If he needs private briefings we can accommodate.” (Washington Post)


Russian Investigation:  Mueller has asked Trump for documents about some of his “most scrutinized actions since taking office, including the firing of his national security adviser and FBI director.” He also wants documents related to an Oval Office meeting with Russian officials “in which he said the dismissal of the FBI director had relieved ‘great pressure’ on him.” (NY Times)


Trump’s Administration:  An analysis by the Guardian found that 80% of Trump’s nominations for top jobs have gone to men, “putting Donald Trump on track to assemble the most male-dominated federal government in nearly a quarter-century.” 


Lunching:  A NY Times reporter, lunching at a steakhouse, realized that 2 men sitting near him were part of the Trump legal team and that they were discussing the investigation. He described his experience in this piece. (NY Times)


Michael Cohen:  The Senate Intelligence Committee postponed its interview with Trump’s lawyer “shortly after the publication of his opening statement, which asserted his innocence and defended the president.” (NY Times)


Charities:  According to Mark Summer, published in AlterNet, Trump has taken $107 million promised to charities “and kept it.” This is complicated so I won’t attempt to summarize it. Read it for yourselves.


Legal Fees:  Trump is using money from the Republican National Committee (RNC) to pay his legal fees in the Russian probe. “2 payments totaling $231,250 have already been made and will be disclosed on federal election forms.” According to Reuters, although using this money is legal, Trump is the first president in modern history to use it to cover the costs of a criminal probe. He has also used money from his re-election campaign coffers. (MSN)


Michael Dourson:  Trump has picked him to head the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) Chemical Safety and Pollution Prevention. (USA Today) Dourson is a toxicologist “under intense scrutiny for his extensive ties to the chemical industry and a résumé dotted with some of the biggest names in the field: Koch Industries, Inc., Chevron Corp., Dow AgroSciences, DuPont, and Monsanto.” (Truth-Out) He’s been called the “voice of the chemical industry.” (Guardian)


Sam Clovis:  Trump has nominated him for the Department of Agriculture’s undersecretary of research, education, and economics, “a post that serves as the agency’s chief scientist.” Clovis has no scientific background “but is notable primarily for having been a conservative talk-radio host.” (ARS Technica)


Agriculture:  Trump’s appointees to jobs at the Agriculture Department (USDA) “include a long-haul truck driver, a country club cabana attendant, and the owner of a scented-candle company.” Politico reviewed dozens of résumés from political appointees to USDA. They found that the agency has been stocked with Trump campaign staff and volunteers “who in many cases demonstrated little to no experience with federal policy, let alone deep roots in agriculture.” Of the 42 résumés they reviewed, 22 cited Trump campaign experience. “Some of those appointees appear to lack credentials, such as a college degree, required to qualify for higher government salaries.”


Snowden FilesThe Intercept published the most documents ever released at once from the Snowden cache, 294 articles from an internal NSA news site, SIDtoday, many of them classified. Here is an overview of the documents, which include how U.S. spies misused a covert network for personal business and the many ways the U.S. tried to bug Iraq after removing Saddam Hussein. (The Intercept) One of The Intercept’s contributors gave an overview of how the NSA helped a regime in Ethiopia expand its surveillance network. And investigative reporter Ryan Gallagher shows how the NSA secretly operated drones from a base in the English countryside. (The Intercept


Nuclear Weapons:  More than 50 nations at the UN General Assembly signed on to the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons. Who didn’t sign? No surprise. It was all the countries that have nuclear weapons: U.S., Russia, China, UK, France, Israel, Pakistan, India, and North Korea. These countries also “declined to participate in the entire treaty process, from its negotiations to its adopting vote.” (District Sentinel)


Brazil:  8 to 10 members of a remote indigenous group in the Amazon rainforest were killed by men working for illegal gold prospectors in the Iavari Valley. Brazil is investigating. (Guardian)


North Korea:  Trump issued an Executive Order placing new financial sanctions on North Korea and foreign companies or individuals that do business with it. The Order grants the Treasury Department additional authority “to target any individual or entity that conducts trade in goods, services, or technology” with the country and also includes measures designed to “disrupt critical North Korean shipping and trade networks.” (The Hill)


Syria:  Russia has warned the U.S. that it will target areas in Syria where our special forces and U.S.-backed militia are operating “if its own forces came under fire from them, something it said had already happened twice.” (Reuters)


Arizona:  The state supreme court unanimously held that “married same-sex female couples are entitled to the same rights that opposite-sex married couples enjoy with regard to children and parenting.” (Rewire)


California:  The state legislature passed a bill “that would limit how local and state police can interact with federal immigration agents. The bill is intended to bolster immigrant protections in the state that are already among the toughest in the nation.” It is expected that Governor Jerry Brown (D) will sign it. (CBS)


Maine:  Cumberland County Sheriff Kevin Joyce became the first county sheriff in the state “to announce he wouldn’t honor Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) detainer requests.” He says he has concerns about the constitutionality of ICE operations. He will honor ICE requests to hold inmates beyond their release date “but only if the agency gets an arrest warrant beforehand from a judge.” (District Sentinel)


Travel Ban:  If you remember, when Trump first came out with his travel ban he stated that it was only for 90 days until they could come up with a policy. That policy was released this week and will go into effect tomorrow. There will be more targeted restrictions on visits to the U.S. that will vary by country. People from the original 6 countries that were banned “could be prevented from traveling to the United States or could face increased scrutiny as they seek to obtain a visa.” The new restrictions are aimed at preventing security threats from entering the U.S. (NY Times)


Sanctuary Cities:  U.S. District Judge Harry Leinenweber blocked part of Attorney General Jeff Sessions’ new policy to withhold federal law enforcement grants from sanctuary cities. The ruling was in a suit brought by Chicago challenging the policy. Judge Leinenweber concluded that the requirements that Department of Homeland Security (DHS) officials must have access to any detention facility “to determine the immigration status of any aliens being held” and the one that gives DHS 48 hours notice before a jail or prison can release a person when DHS has sent a detention request are illegal because they were never authorized by Congress. (Washington Post)


Voting:  The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) has launched “a new effort to expand voting rights in all 50 states that top officials hope will finally let liberals play offense on an issue that has long bedeviled them.” They’re rolling out the attack on October 1st in Lawrence, Kansas, the home state of Kris Kobach. (TWW, Voting Commission, 9/2/17; Operation Crosscheck, 7/8/17; Voting, 7/1/17; Voting, 5/13/17; Transition Team, 11/19/16; Arizona’s New Law, 5/1/10) The campaign is called “Let People Vote” and it will pressure each state “to adopt individually tailored plans, including proposals such as creating independent redistricting commissions and restoring voting access for convicted felons.” (McClatchy) ‘Bout time.


DREAM Act:  The Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals Act (DACA) has, since 2012, helped nearly 800,000 young people “gain a temporary reprieve from deportation and a work permit.” If Congress passes the DREAM Act, it would “provide permanent protection and a pathway to citizenship to unauthorized immigrants who came to the country as children.” American Progress calculated the economic impact of the DREAM Act. It calculated that it would add a total of $22.7 billion annually to the GDP. “Because the gains from legalization grow each year, the cumulative increase in GDP over 10 years would be $281 billion. If just half of those immediately eligible complete the educational requirements, the annual gains could be even higher, as much as $728.4 billion over the next decade. If other circumstances exist, the gains could be even higher.


Refugees:  A draft report by the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), which found that refugees “brought in $63 billion more in government revenues over the past decade than they cost,” has been rejected by the Trump administration, which is looking for a rationale to reduce the number of refugees allowed into the U.S. next year. (NY Times)


Campus Sexual Assault:  Education Secretary Betsy DeVos, as expected, rescinded Obama-era guidelines for investigating campus sexual assault cases “because it placed too much pressure on school administrators, favored alleged victims, and lacked due process for people who had been accused of sexual assault.” The new rules emphasize providing the same rights and opportunities to both the victims and alleged assaulters. They also allow schools to “facilitate an informal resolution process if both parties agree, rather than adjudicate every case, as currently required.” Guidelines calling for a decision within 60 days were removed. “And the new guidance gives schools more flexibility for the standard of evidence used to investigate these cases.” Formerly the guidance suggested a “preponderance of evidence.” (LA Times)


Coal Mining:  The U.S. Court of Appeals for the 10th Circuit told the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) “to redo its math on greenhouse gas emissions from coal leases.” It also sent BLM’s approval for these leases back to a lower court to be reviewed. “Under the National Environmental Policy Act, federal agencies have to consider how a given proposal both affects climate change and is affected by climate change. The 10th Circuit is the highest court to rule on climate change accounting so far, and its opinion undercuts President Donald Trump’s efforts to resuscitate the dying U.S. coal industry.” (Vox)


Paris Agreement:  Nicaragua has decided to enter the Paris climate agreement (TWW, Paris Accord, 6/3/17), leaving the United States and Syria the only countries not in the agreement. (Newsweek)


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