Originally Published: 10/14/2017
Association Health Plans: Trump issued an Executive Order rolling back health insurance regulations put in place by the Affordable Care Act (ACA). This Order will allow small businesses and organizations to form “associations” to buy health insurance for its members, paving the way for those low-premium, high deductible plans that cover virtually nothing - something the ACA outlawed. The plans will not be regulated as Obamacare rules will not apply, “meaning they can drop coverage for things like maternity care, mental health services, and prescriptions.” And this could open the door for people with pre-existing conditions to be charged higher rates. “This could leave behind a disproportionately sicker, and thus more expensive, group that needs the protections of Obamacare, driving up prices for those still on the small group or individual markets.” And these associations could “self-select” by accepting only businesses with healthy employes. “If a business has enough employees that require expensive health care, premiums for everyone in that workplace could be jacked up. By doing this, associations can keep their prices down and price out the most expensive workers.” (Buzz Feed) He was so excited about all the attention he was getting while destroying healthcare for millions of people that he walked away without signing the Order. (He’s done this before.) VP Pence was heard telling him: “Mr. President, you need to sign it. (NY Daily News) It is expected that someone will challenge this in the courts. Let Cenk Uygur of the Young Turks explain it. (You Tube)
ACA Cost-Sharing: Trump is ending Obamacare cost-sharing payments to insurance companies “that help pay out-of-pocket costs of low-income people.” Officials said the cutoff would be immediate. Without these subsidies, and with the creation of Association Health Plans (see above), we can count on health insurance premiums soaring and many companies leaving the marketplace. The cost-sharing payments total about $9 billion this year. (NY Times) California Attorney General Xavier Becerra has said he is suing, arguing that “withholding cost-sharing subsidies is unlawful and violates a mandate in the law.” He’s being joined by attorneys general from Kentucky, Connecticut, and Massachusetts. (McClatchy)
Google: It uncovered evidence “that Russian operatives exploited [Google’s] platforms in an attempt to interfere in the 2016 election.” They found tens of thousands of dollars were spent on ads by Russian agents “who aimed to spread disinformation across Google’s many products, which include YouTube, as well as advertising associated with Google search, Gmail, and the company’s DoubleClick ad network.” According to the Washington Post, Google runs the world’s largest online advertising business, and YouTube is the world’s largest online video site.
NFL: A few days ago someone asked me what was Trump’s problem with the NFL. As I was explaining the history it dawned on me that many of you may not know it either. So I thought I’d fill you in - just in case. Back in the 1980s Trump owned the New Jersey Generals, a United States Football League (USFL) team. (Remember them? If not, you can check it out on Wikipedia.) Trump pushed for a lawsuit against the NFL - which they won but were only awarded $3 in damages. The USFL went out of business. Hostility between Trump and the NFL continued to escalate. Then Trump tried to buy the Buffalo Bills. In 2014 he lost out in a bidding war to a local businessman. According to USA Today, “Trump thinks the NFL sucks, and he didn’t even want the Bills anyway.” His hatred for the NFL has been decades in the making.
Don Willett: This Texas Supreme Court justice is Trump’s nominee to the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals. As the Deputy Texas Attorney General, Willett defended the Ten Commandments monument on the grounds of the state capital. (National Review) “In a 2015 opinion laden with libertarian tropes and selective history, Willett called upon his court to revive a defunct doctrine once used to strike down minimum wage laws and gut workers’ right to organize.” There’s more, and it’s not good. (Think Progress)
Kirstjen Nielsen: Trump is appointing her to head up the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to replace John Kelly who left to serve as Trump’s chief of staff. She had been Kelly’s chief of staff and had gone with him to the White House. Some of the White House staff described her appointment “as a solution to a toxic personnel situation.” (NY Times)
Barry Myers: Trump has chosen the CEO of AccuWeather, a private weather forecasting company, to head up the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). Myers, is a businessman and lawyer - no scientist - and “breaks from the recent precedent of scientists leading the agency.” (Washington Post)
Torture: An exposé at the Guardian profiles the CIA’s black site torture room in Afghanistan. 2 contract psychologists who designed the CIA’s “enhanced interrogation techniques,” were sued by some of the prisoners. While the suit was settled, out of it came 274 documents “the CIA and Pentagon were forced to declassify and release.” The documents “provide the fullest picture yet” of what went on in the “secret CIA dungeon.” What I found shocking is that Congress had been fully apprised of the atrocities.
UNESCO: Trump has withdrawn the U.S. from membership in the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization. “The U.S. stopped paying its dues to the Paris-based organization in 2011 after UNESCO voted to include the Palestinian Authority as a member.” Trump withdrew our membership saying the organization had an anti-Israel bias. (Washington Post)
Catalonia: The Catalan leader Carles Puigdemont, while confirming that the region has “earned the right” to independence from Spain (TWW, Spain, 10/7/17), has suspended the process “to allow for talks” with Spain. (NY Times)
Gaza: Hamas and Fatah signed a reconciliation deal “that aims to end their decade-old rivalry, with provisions for a joint administration that will control Gaza’s borders, including a key crossing point with Egypt.” Fatah will “lift a series of punitive sanctions that it imposed on Hamas-controlled Gaza.” In return Hamas will join a new unity government “scheduled to start work on December 1st.” (NY Times)
Iran: Trump announced that he will decertify the Iran nuclear deal, “declaring the Obama-era pact not in U.S. interests and launching a congressional review period on the accord.” He said Iran has not “lived up” to “the spirit of the deal” and that it is “a supporter of terror and violence.” (CNN) Middle East Eye reported that Iran warned us “against designating its Revolutionary Guards” as a militant group and said that “U.S. regional military bases would be at risk if further sanctions were passed.” So, Trump announced that he won’t certify the deal but he won’t unravel it - yet. (NY Times)
North Korea: The Air Force flew 2 strategic bombers over the Korean peninsula “in a show of force.” (Reuters) Good grief.
California: Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) Acting Director Tom Homan criticized California’s new law that created a statewide sanctuary policy (TWW, California, 9/23/17), saying the federal government will be forced to “conduct at-large arrests in local neighborhoods and work sites” of undocumented immigrants. Governor Jerry Brown (D) shot back that the bill does not interfere with ICE operations. (San Francisco Chronicle)
Puerto Rico: Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) officials say that the U.S. and its partners are only providing 200,000 meals a day “to meet the needs of more than 2 million people.” That’s a daily shortfall of between 1.8 million and 5.8 million meals. “The scale of the food crisis dwarfs the more widely publicized challenges of restoring power and communications. More than a third of Puerto Ricans are still struggling to live without drinking water.” (Guardian)
Disaster Relief: The House of Representatives passed a $35.5 billion disaster relief package on Tuesday, “intended to pay for relief and rebuilding efforts for the floods, hurricanes, and wildfires of the past several months.” The bill contains $16 billion for debt relief - just not for Puerto Rico. It gets only $5.05 billion and it’s only a loan, “increasing the amount of money the island will eventually need to pay back.” There’s no set interest rate and the bill allows the Departments of Homeland Security and Treasury “to decide to cancel the loan, but that’s no guarantee.” (The Intercept)
Police Killings: A Harvard study on police killings has found that over half of all such killings in 2015 “were wrongly classified as not having been the result of interactions with officers.” This means that the database maintained by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) misclassified 55.2% of all police killings, “with the errors occurring disproportionately in low-income jurisdictions.” (Guardian) If you remember, The Counted had a final count of 1,154 people killed by police in 2015 (TWW, The Counted, 1/2/16). I guess this means there were really about 1,760.
DACA: Trump released a list of “hard-line immigration demands” that will derail the deal he cut with the Democrats. (TWW, DACA, 9/16/17) In order to follow his agreement that would allow the younger immigrants in the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program to remain in the United States, he wants funding for his border wall, a “crackdown” on admittance of children from Central America, and to withhold federal grants from so-called sanctuary cities. He also wants to tighten up immigration laws and cut legal immigration. (Guardian) But he also signaled that he would extend the March 5th deadline for Congress to act (TWW, DACA, 9/9/17) before he ends the program. (Washington Post)
Travel Ban: The U.S. Supreme Court dismissed the case against Trump’s travel ban. (Washington Post) The ban is no longer in place (TWW, Travel Ban, 9/30/17) so it doesn’t make any difference.
MCR-1: This is a gene found in bacteria “which confers resistance to antibiotics.” Scientists are reporting that it has “spread round the world at an alarming rate since its original discovery less than 2 years ago. . . In one area of China, it was found that 25% of hospital patients now carried the gene.” The antibiotic colistin has been the “antibiotic of last resort,” but mcr-1 is making bacteria resistant to it. England’s chief medical officer, Sally Davies, said: “The world is facing an antibiotic apocalypse.” She added: “Unless action is taken to halt the practices that have allowed antimicrobial resistance to spread and ways are found to develop new types of antibiotics, we could return to the days when routine operations, simple wounds, or straightforward infections could pose real threats to life.” Much of the resistance has come from Asia, where the “widespread use” of colistin “as a growth promoter in pigs encouraged the evolution of resistant strains which have spread to humans.” (Guardian)
Clean Power Act: The destruction of Obama’s environmental agenda continues. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) chief Scott Pruitt formally proposed a rule to repeal the 2015 Clean Power Plan (CPP) which was designed to slow global warming. Pruitt stated: “The war on coal is over.” (District Sentinel) I didn’t know there was one. The repeal fulfills Pruitt’s long-term goal. Pruitt, as Oklahoma’s attorney general, “helped lead more than 2 dozen states in challenging the rule in the courts.” (TWW, Coal Regulations, 1/23/16) “In announcing the repeal, Mr. Pruitt made many of the same arguments that he had made for years to Congress and in lawsuits: that the Obama administration exceeded its legal authority in an effort to limit greenhouse gas emissions from power plants.” (NY Times) If you remember, last April the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia granted Trump’s request to halt the lawsuit over CPP. (TWW, Clean Power Act, 4/29/17) Ben Tracy at CBS pointed out that China is phasing out coal and going solar. In northern China they installed nearly 200,000 solar panels in the heart of their coal country. And in the south they’re building “the world’s largest floating solar installation - built on top of a lake created by an abandoned coal mine.” Nearly half of all the solar installations in the world are happening in China, “and they’re doing it quickly.” China now produces two-thirds of the world’s solar panels “and has become a major competitor for the U.S. solar industry.” We’re being left in the dust, but it’s still a growing industry here. As of 2016 there were 260,077 solar workers in the U.S. (Solar Foundation) Investopedia wrote that, as of last April, there were about 50,300 people employed in the coal industry, approximately 0.03% of the labor force. Check out the chart. Employment in coal has been decreasing for decades.
Yellowstone: The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) is considering allowing fracking in the Normally Pressured Lance gas field on public land in Wyoming just south of Yellowstone National Park. The Center for Biological Diversity and the Sierra Club have lodged formal complaints saying the fracking would “destroy wildlife habitat and worsen ozone pollution.” (EcoWatch)
Attack on the Environment: The Center for American Progress has a list of actions taken by Trump since his inauguration that “weaken clean air and water protections, block action on climate change, and sell out our public lands to the fossil fuel industry.” They will continue to keep this list updated so you can check back and keep track of the destruction.