The Wires

The Ledes

Sunday, September 24, 2017.

Weather Channel: Hurricane Maria, a Category 2 hurricane, is increasingly likely to bring a brush of at least tropical storm-force winds and rain to parts of the East Coast later this week, in addition to its more certain impacts of coastal flooding, high surf, and rip currents."

Public Service Announcement

September 9: The New York Times reports that Equifax is doing nothing to protect you if hackers to its system gained access to your personal information. In fact, Equifax has a plan to make money on your misfortune. Reporter Ron Lieber has some suggestions about what you can do to protect yourself from Equifax & its hackers. Equifax is providing no good way to find out if you've been affected; it is apparently just trying to hook as many suckers as it can into getting a "free" account, but you can bet it won't stay free. Read the story if you'd like to feel helpless & enraged.

The New Yorker has links to Lillian Ross's stories here. The New Yorker is subscription-only but allows non-subscribers to read six stories a month, so if you're not a subscriber, you may want to open the page in a private window.

Mrs. McCrabbie: When the Emmy folks are looking to give out prizes next year, they should think Jimmy Kimmel.

Some highlights of the Emmys:

... To watch the whole monologue, go to YouTube & type something like "stephen colbert monologue emmys". There are quite a few pirated copies up right now, but CBS will certainly take them down, so none will be posted here. The Washington Post has some of the transcript here.

Former star of "The Apprentice" finally gets his Emmy:

Kim Weeks in the Washington Post: "Hillary Clinton revealed this week she turned to an esoteric breathing technique popular among yogis to heal from her devastating election loss.... By bringing this kind of breath work into the mainstream, Clinton has introduced the world to a practice that has both proven mental and physical health benefits.... In nadi shodhana, the process of literally alternating breathing between the right and left nostril also helps balance the right and left brain, the right and left lungs, and the right and left sides of the body. Alternate nostril breathing has been shown to slow down a rapid heart rate and to lower blood pressure." ...

... Mrs. Bea McCrabbie: Okay, I tried it. I can do the left nostril but not the right. That stressed me out.

Hill: "Melissa McCarthy brought home an Emmy this weekend for her memorable impression of former press secretary Sean Spicer on Saturday Night Live. The actress won an Emmy for best comedy actress on a comedy series at the Emmy’s creative arts awards Sunday, according to the Associated Press. The awards are a precursor to the main show next weekend." Spicer panned McCarthy's impression.

New York Times: "Graydon Carter, the editor of Vanity Fair, plans to step down from the magazine in December after a 25-year tenure, leaving the role that established him as a ringmaster of the Hollywood, Washington and Manhattan power elite. Mr. Carter’s influence stretched from the magazine and entertainment worlds into finance, literature and politics, where President Trump, a target of Mr. Carter’s poison pen for decades, still bristles at the mention of his name. One of the few remaining celebrity editors in an industry whose fortunes have faded, Mr. Carter — famous for double-breasted suits, white flowing hair and a seven-figure salary — is a party host, literary patron, film producer and restaurateur whose cheeky-yet-rigorous brand of reporting influenced a generation of journalists.... Spy[a magazine Carter co-founded,] took special glee in attacking Mr. Trump, whom the magazine memorably deemed a 'short-fingered vulgarian.' (The insult stuck: just last week, Mr. Trump referred to his 'too big' hands during a visit to Houston.)"

New York Times: "Tronc, the publisher of The Los Angeles Times and The Chicago Tribune, announced on Monday that it had acquired The Daily News, the nearly 100-year-old tabloid that for decades set the city’s agenda with its gossip, sports and city coverage. The deal represents the end of an era for The News, which was long a voice for New York’s working class. It may also signal the end of the political influence of its owner, the real estate magnate Mortimer B. Zuckerman, who often used the paper’s bold, front-page headline — known as 'the wood' — for commentary about candidates and politicians, locally and nationally."

Guardian (Sept. 4): "The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge are expecting a third child, Kensington Palace has announced. The announcement was made as the duchess was forced to cancel an engagement on Monday because of extreme morning sickness, or hyperemesis gravidarum."

Speaking of Finland, as we were in relation to Donald Trump's complete lack of concern about Russian aggression, a remark he repeated in front of President Sauli Niinistö of neighboring Finland, because who cares?, the Finnish police procedural "Bordertown," which is streaming on Netflix is pretty good. Not sure if it comes dubbed, but Mr. McCrabbie & I like to listen to languages, so we were fine with subtitles. The "bordertown" borders Russia. -- Mrs. Bea McCrabbie 

The only thing I’d be impartial about is what prison this guy goes to. -- Prospective Juror, Martin Shkreli trial ...

... Harper's republishes some of the jury selection proceedings in the Martin Shkreli case.

Constant Comments

Sunday
Sep242017

The Commentariat -- September 25, 2017

Late Morning/Afternoon Update:

Well, of Course She Did. Brandon Carter & Megan Wilson of the Hill: "Ivanka Trump used a personal email account to communicate with a member of President Trump’s administration, a watchdog group said Monday. American Oversight obtained documents through the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) that show Ivanka Trump, a senior White House adviser to her father, used a personal email account to contact Small Business Administration (SBA) Administrator Linda McMahon in February."

Rick Gladstone & David Sanger of the New York Times: "North Korea threatened on Monday to shoot down American warplanes even if they are not in the country’s airspace, as its foreign minister declared that President Trump’s threatening comments about the country and its leadership were 'a declaration of war.' 'The whole world should clearly remember it was the U.S. who first declared war on our country,' the foreign minister, Ri Yong-ho, told reporters as he was leaving the United Nations after a week of General Assembly meetings in New York.”

Rachel Roubein of the Hill: "Senate Finance Committee Chairman Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) was forced to briefly recess the chamber's first hearing on an ObamaCare repeal bill, after protestors refused to stop chanting, leading police to drag several out. 'No cuts to Medicaid, save our liberty,' attendees chanted. Police surrounded the protesters and escorted them out of the room."

Frank Rich writes a brief history of Watergate & compares it to how Trumpgate is unfolding. It's a great refresher course, or a lesson for the many of us too young to remember, to how Watergate happened & an encouraging note on how Trumpgate may come down. Many thanks to PD Pepe for the link. This is one to read, not scan.

Philip Bump of the Washington Post: "Of course Trump’s outrage at the NFL protests had to do with race.... The reason for [the players'] protests ... are one of the endpoints of a years-long racial divide that Trump leveraged explicitly as part of his 2016 campaign.... The demonstrations by NFL players (which expanded outward more rapidly after Trump’s rebukes) originated with former 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick. He began to kneel during the national anthem at games as a way of drawing attention to incidents in which black Americans were targeted and sometimes killed by law enforcement officials. It’s not, as some have argued, a protest of the anthem itself. It’s a continuation of the argument that powers the Black Lives Matter movement: that there is a systemic problem in how police officers treat black suspects.... Trump’s campaign stoked Republican frustration at Black Lives Matter, racial tensions and a black president who was seen as hostile to police officers. In addition to his explicit racial arguments (starting with his disparagement of immigrants from Mexico), Trump repeatedly insisted that he would stand behind and defend America’s police — leveraging hostility to Black Lives Matter for his own purposes.... Trump’s entire campaign was about race, explicitly — whether he realizes it or not. So, too, was his fervent insistence about the NFL over the weekend." ...

     ... Mrs. McCrabbie: If you needed a tell, and I'm sure you don't, it was Trump's argument that "If a player wants the privilege of making millions of dollars in the NFL, or other leagues, he or she should not be allowed to disrespect.... our Great American Flag (or Country) and should stand for the National Anthem. If not, YOU'RE FIRED." This was a human-whistle from a billionaire to his base of whitey-white ne'er-do-wells: "These black guys are making millions! And you're not. They don't 'deserve' to whup you. Fire them!" BTW, if you're wondering how Trump launched these attacks, which appeared to come up out of the blue at a campaign rally for a U.S. Senate candidate, I expect he was still smarting from Jemele Hill's calling out his racism. Perhaps at the insistence of his chief-of-staff, all Trump did at the time was demand an apology from Hill's network, ESPN. But days later, he was still smarting, it was Friday night, & Trump couldn't stop himself from taking out his ire on black sports figures. Calling Trump a racist is a waste of time; it just causes him to double-down on racist spittle.

Benjamin Weiser of the New York Times: "Anthony D. Weiner, the disgraced former New York congressman who became caught up in a scandal over his exchange of lewd texts with a 15-year-old girl, was sentenced on Monday to 21 months in prison. Mr. Weiner, 53, had pleaded guilty to one count of transferring obscene material to a minor, and had faced up to 10 years in prison." Mrs. McC: So will they let him have his cellphone while he's in prison with nothing to do?

*****

Washington Post: "The Trump administration announced new restrictions Sunday on visitors from eight countries — an expansion of the pre-existing travel ban which has spurred fierce legal debates over security, immigration, and discrimination. Officials had said they wanted the new rules to be both tough and targeted. The move comes as the key portion of Trump’s travel ban, which bars the issuance of visas to citizens of six majority-Muslim countries, is set to expire.... Three new nations were added to the list of countries whose citizens will face the restrictions: Chad, North Korea, and Venezuela — though the restrictions on Venezuela target that country’s leadership and family members. One country, Sudan, fell off the travel ban list issued at the beginning of the year. Senior administration officials said a review of Sudan’s cooperation with their national security concerns and information-sharing showed that it was appropriate to remove them from the list." At 7:45 pm ET Sunday, the story was breaking news.

Peter Baker of the New York Times: "Over the course of just 17 hours this weekend, President Trump assailed John McCain, Chuck Schumer, Stephen Curry, the National Football League, Roger Goodell, Iran and Kim Jong-un — the 'Little Rocket Man.' And that was on his day off. While football players knelt, locked arms or stayed in their locker rooms during the national anthem in protest on Sunday, any notion that Mr. Trump may soften his edge, even under the discipline of a new chief of staff, seemed fanciful. While he has restrained himself for brief stretches, his penchant for punching eventually reasserts itself.... In his brief career as president and a candidate for president, Mr. Trump has attacked virtually every major institution in American life: Congress, the courts, Democrats, Republicans, the news media, the Justice Department, Hollywood, the military, NATO, the intelligence agencies, the cast of 'Hamilton,' the cast of 'Saturday Night Live,' the pope and now professional sports. He has attacked the Trump administration itself, or at least selected parts of it (see Sessions, Jeff), and even the United States of America ('you think our country’s so innocent?'). ...

     ... Mrs. Bea McCrabbie: Baker's analysis is remarkable for the fact that Baker is a high priest of Both-Sides-Do-It. ...

...Juan Cole: "Trump’s dreary tweetstorm on Saturday was intended to gain him popularity with white supremacists and the covert racists on the right of the Republican Party, through beating up on uppity black athletes and impudent yellow peril Orientals...That was a great day for Trump. The politics of racial division were on full display...Trump goes after everyone but the white supremacists and Vladimir Putin. Why?" --safari...

... Julie Davis of the New York Times: "When President Trump gave a fiery campaign speech in Huntsville, Ala., on Friday evening, he drew a rapturous roar by ridiculing Kim Jong-un, the North Korean leader, as 'Little Rocket Man.' Among diplomats and national security specialists, the reaction was decidedly different. After Mr. Trump repeated his taunt in a tweet late Saturday and threatened that Mr. Kim and his foreign minister 'won’t be around much longer' if they continue their invective against the United States, reactions ranged from nervous disbelief to sheer terror. Mr. Trump’s willingness to casually threaten to annihilate a nuclear-armed foe was yet another reminder of the steep risks inherent in his brute-force approach to diplomacy. His strengths as a politician — the ability to appeal in a visceral way to the impulses of ordinary citizens — are a difficult fit for the meticulous calculations that his own advisers concede are crucial in dealing with Pyongyang.” ...

     ... Mrs. McCrabbie: If these two front-page NYT analyses don't alarm you, you're either not paying attention or have a remarkably thick skin. The New York Times, however, does want you to know that that the POTUS* is a dangerous loon. ...

... Jonathan Chait: "It may seem pedantic, in the face of a threat as radical as the Trump presidency, to quibble over terminological distinctions between different varieties of odious people [i.e. Nazis; Fascists; White supremacists; Racists]. But the language we use organizes our political thinking. And one of the terrible things Trump has done to this country has been to warp the terms and categories — and, hence, the character — of the political opposition through the exertion of sheer terror. Seemingly harmless changes have crept into our political lexicon, which may have dangerous consequences...To flatten the language we use to describe different kinds of right-wing politics is to bludgeon our capacity to make vital distinctions...This danger may sound hypothetical, but it is already playing out before us." --safari

Medlar's Sports Report:

Pro Football v. Trump. Benjamin Hoffman, et al., of the New York Times: "N.F.L. players across the country demonstrated during the national anthem on Sunday in a show of solidarity against President Trump, who scolded the league and players on Twitter this weekend. With the support of owners, some of whom joined their teams on the field, dozens of players knelt in silent protests, while Tom Brady and others opted to stand and lock arms. The Seattle Seahawks and Tennessee Titans both stayed in their respective locker rooms during the anthem in Nashville. The Steelers also skipped the anthem in Chicago. After the demonstrations began, Trump weighed in once again, saying he approved of players locking arms, but declaring that kneeling during the anthem was 'not acceptable.' Every N.F.L. game today has carried some level of demonstration by players, with some teams going as far as not appearing on the field for the national anthem. But nearly nine hours after the games had begun, President Trump once again took to Twitter to condemn the players who choose not to stand for the anthem, and the league that allows it. It was his 12th sports-related tweet or retweet in a 36-hour period.”...

... Jacqueline Thomsen of The Hill: "Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Alex Smith questioned why President Trump was condemning NFL players more strongly than he did white supremacists last month...'It’s the same guy who couldn’t condemn violent neo-Nazis. And he’s condemning guys taking a knee during the anthem,' Smith said." --safari...

Watch to the end:

... Les Carpenter of the Guardian: "All Colin Kaepernick ever asked was for his country to have a conversation about race. This, he warned, would not be easy. Such talks are awkward and often end in a flurry of spittle, pointed fingers and bruised feelings. But from the moment the former San Francisco 49ers quarterback first spoke about his decision to kneel or sit during the national anthem, he said was willing to give up his career to make the nation talk. In one speech on Friday night, Donald Trump gave Kaepernick exactly what he wanted...'I think this is something that can unify this country,' Kaepernick said in the summer of 2016, at his first press conference about his protest...Nothing has given Kaepernick’s protest fuel like Trump’s words...The discourse might not be civil. It probably isn’t reasoned or rational. But it’s discourse. And, really, that’s the reason Kaepernick took his knee." --safari ...

... Jonathan Chait: “... rather than seize the mantle of patriotism, Trump has oafishly ceded it to his opponents. He has set off a firestorm of race, sports, and patriotism that is going to end up burning him. Trump began his foray into the matter with one of his man-on-a-barstool rants, lamenting how football has gotten too soft.... It was odd to hear a defense of football from the only American president — indeed, the only American, period — who single-handedly destroyed a viable professional football league. Trump pushed his argument into utter derangement by challenging players’ very right to protest.... [Trump's] comments had two swift effects, each disastrous for the president. First, it turned the question away from the style of the protest to the right to conduct it.... Second, it turned the pregame drama into an anti-Trump protest. The pregame kneel has now become a spectacle of resistance, with dramatic gestures of white players joining black ones to oppose the crude attacks from the great orange bigot.” ...

... Henry Gomez of BuzzFeed: “A political group with close ties to … Donald Trump is amplifying his attack on professional athletes who kneel during the national anthem as a form of protest. 'Turn off the NFL,' reads a digital ad produced by the nonprofit America First Policies, which planned to begin spreading the message on social media Sunday afternoon. The ad includes a photo with Trump, hand over his heart, and a #TakeAStandNotAKnee hashtag. It follows Trump’s recent remarks, first delivered during a Friday night speech in Alabama, aimed at football players who have protested police brutality and other causes.”


Josh Dawsey
of Politico: "... Jared Kushner has corresponded with other administration officials about White House matters through a private email account set up during the transition last December, part of a larger pattern of Trump administration aides using personal email accounts for government business. Kushner uses his private account alongside his official White House email account, sometimes trading emails with senior White House officials, outside advisers and others about media coverage, event planning and other subjects, according to four people familiar with the correspondence. Politico has seen and verified about two dozen emails.... The decision to set up new, private accounts as Kushner was preparing to enter the White House came in the wake of a bitter election campaign in which Trump routinely excoriated his Democratic rival Hillary Clinton for using a personal email account to handle government business when she was secretary of state. There is no indication that Kushner has shared any sensitive or classified material on his private account, or that he relies on his private email account more than his official White House account to conduct government business.... Kushner and his wife, Ivanka Trump, set up their private family domain ... at the time Kushner ... was expected to be named to a White House role...." ...

... Maggie Haberman & Sharon LaFraniere of the New York Times: Abbe Lowell, Kushner's lawyer, "said the emails were all forwarded to Mr. Kushner’s official account, creating a record." ...

     ... Benjamin Hart of New York: "The news is a jaw-dropper because — though it’s all mostly been forgotten — Hillary Clinton’s usage of a private email server played just a tiny role in the coverage of the 2016 election. Coming on the heels of his father-in-law’s vicious attacks on Clinton over the issue, Kushner’s private communications may strike some as a wee bit hypocritical. But Trump partisans have shown again and again that the administration’s hypocrisy matters little to them, and the people who bray 'lock her up' at the president’s rallies are unlikely to care that Kushner and his co-workers may have violated the Presidential Records Act."

Capitalism Is Awesome, Ctd. Zuckerberg Knows Best. Adam Entous, et al., of the Washington Post: "... huddled in a private room on the sidelines of a meeting of world leaders in Lima, Peru, two months before Trump’s inauguration, [President] Obama made a personal appeal to [Facebook CEo Mark] Zuckerberg to take the threat of fake news and political disinformation seriously. Unless Facebook and the government did more to address the threat, Obama warned, it would only get worse in the next presidential race. Zuckerberg acknowledged the problem posed by fake news. But he told Obama that those messages weren’t widespread on Facebook and that there was no easy remedy.... Like the U.S. government, Facebook didn’t foresee the wave of disinformation that was coming and the political pressure that followed. The company then grappled with a series of hard choices designed to shore up its own systems without impinging on free discourse for its users around the world. One outcome of those efforts was Zuckerberg’s admission on Thursday that Facebook had indeed been manipulated and that the company would now turn over to Congress more than 3,000 politically themed advertisements that were bought by suspected Russian operatives."

Eric Schmitt of the New York Times: "At the ... White Sands Missile Range in New Mexico earlier this year, nearly a dozen military contractors armed with laser guns, high-tech nets and other experimental systems met to tackle one of the Pentagon’s most vexing counterterrorism conundrums: how to destroy the Islamic State’s increasingly lethal fleet of drones. The militant group has used surveillance drones on the battlefield for more than two years. But an increase in deadly attacks since last fall — mostly targeting Iraqi troops and Syrian militia members with small bombs or grenades, but also threatening American advisers — has highlighted the terrorists’ success in adapting off-the-shelf, low-cost technology into an effective new weapon. The Pentagon is so alarmed by this growing threat ... that it has launched a $700 million crash program overseen by two senior Army generals to draw on the collective know-how and resources of all branches of the armed services, Silicon Valley and defense industry giants like Boeing and Raytheon to devise tactics and technology to thwart the menace. In the meantime, the Pentagon has rushed dozens of technical specialists to Iraq, Syria and Afghanistan to help protect American troops and to train and, in some cases, equip local allies against the drone threat, which has killed more than a dozen Iraqi soldiers and wounded more than 50."

Thomas Kaplan of the New York Times: "... the latest plan to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act teetered closer to collapse on Sunday, even as the White House and the proposal’s backers tried to win over reluctant Republican senators. Senator Susan Collins of Maine made clear that she was all but certain to oppose the proposal. Senator Ted Cruz of Texas said he had not yet been won over and suggested that Senator Mike Lee of Utah had the same stance. And Senator Rand Paul of Kentucky once again criticized the bill in blunt terms, despite pressure from President Trump to rethink his opposition." ...

... Wooing Lisa. M. J. Lee, et al., of CNN: "As the Republican Party's last-ditch effort to repeal Obamacare hangs by a thread, a revised version of the Graham-Cassidy bill was circulated to Senate Republicans on Sunday with the aim of winning over key votes. Even with the new changes, the task ahead is daunting. GOP Sens. Rand Paul and John McCain have already publicly opposed the bill, and leadership can't afford to lose one more. Plenty of others, including Lisa Murkowski of Alaska and Susan Collins of Maine have made known their deep reservations -- Collins went as far as to say on CNN Sunday morning that it was 'very difficult' for her to envision getting to a 'yes.'... In an important nod to Murkowski, the revised bill says Native Americans and Alaska Natives enrolled in Medicaid expansion prior to 2020 could continue to be eligible after that point, according to documents circulated Sunday night to senior Senate aides and obtained by CNN.... In one new provision particularly beneficial to Alaska, the state would receive a 25% boost in federal matching funds for Medicaid due to its defined high-level of poverty.... The updated bill would also allow states to design some of their own insurance rules. This would wipe away many of Obamacare's protections not only for those with pre-existing conditions, but also for those who get medical care." ...

Wooing All the Hold-outs. Caitlin Owens of Axios: “Sens. Lindsey Graham and Bill Cassidy have revised their health-care bill, allowing states to loosen more of the Affordable Care Act's regulations while diverting more money to the states whose senators hold the deciding votes on the legislation. They will formally release the revised measure tomorrow.... The deadline to pass a bill with just 50 votes is Saturday. The Congressional Budget Office is expected to release preliminary estimates this week of the initial — and now outdated — version of the bill. With the clock ticking and little time for independent economic analyses, Graham and Cassidy are making a last-minute play for senators who have been critical not only of the bill's contents, but of the rushed process, too.... According to Graham and Cassidy's analysis, the revised bill would direct more money to Alaska, Arizona, Kentucky and Maine, compared with earlier versions. But it would still reduce overall federal funding to those states — whose Republican senators are, for now, opposed to the bill or undecided.... The revisions also ramped up some of the regulatory rollbacks needed to help win conservative votes. Sen. Ted Cruz said earlier today that he's not yet on board with the legislation.

GOP Seeking Ways to Make Tax Bill Look Less Like a Giant Gift to the Rich. Damian Paletta of the Washington Post: "White House officials and Republican leaders are preparing a set of broad income and corporate tax cuts.... Party leaders are quietly circulating proposals to lower the corporate tax rate from 35 percent to 20 percent and lower the top individual income tax rate from 39.6 percent to 35 percent, according to the people familiar with the plan. White House advisers are divided over whether to cut the top individual tax rate, and Republican leaders, aware the plan could be construed as a huge giveaway to the wealthy, are trying to design features to the package that would ensure that the rich don't get too large a share of the plan's tax relief. Top White House negotiators and key GOP leaders have agreed on those targets, but apparently President Trump has not. On Sunday, as he was about to board Air Force One in New Jersey, Trump told reporters he hoped to see the corporate tax rate lowered to 15 percent, a level that his own negotiators had privately dismissed weeks ago.... The lack of agreement, days before the plan is set to be unveiled more broadly, underscore the difficult Republicans face in uniting behind a tax bill.” ...

     ... Mrs. McCrabbie: I hope I'm wrong, but I predict that whatever bonanza these wretched schemers come up with will pass with flying colors. These guys don't care about deficits & they definitely don't care about middle-class taxpayers. The tax cut bill will be all about making sure their big-bucks donors are happy. ...

... Paul Krugman: "... the bill for cynicism seems to be coming due. For years, flat-out lies about policy served Republicans well, helping them win back control of Congress and, eventually, the White House. But those same lies now leave them unable to govern."

Edward-Isaac Dovere of Politico: "Democratic attorneys general, aiming to take on the Trump administration on a growing number of fronts, are planning to spend $10 million to $15 million to elect more of their own next year.... It’s also part of a longer-term effort to build a bigger and more diverse bench for the party to draw on in gubernatorial and Senate races over the next decade. The hope, according to sources familiar with the effort, is to catch up to the Republican Attorneys General Association, which ramped up its legal and political work during the Obama years, notching major successes on both counts. RAGA put $23 million into races in the past two years, helping win and hold 29 of the country's attorneys general offices."

Annals of Journalism, Ctd. Gail Collins welcomes Michelle Goldberg to the NYT op-ed page. Mrs. McC: I can't believe the NYT went to Slate to find a columnist for its august opinion section, & not only that, but a columnist whose work I know & admire. Their usual search takes them to the Wall Street Journal (Brett Stephens) or the Weekly Standard (Bill Kristol). Maybe it took President* Trump for them to realize that confederate "balance" was a big mistake.

Way Beyond the Beltway

The Center Holds. Steven Erlanger & Melissa Eddy of the New York Times: "Angela Merkel won a fourth term as chancellor in elections on Sunday, placing her in the front ranks of Germany’s postwar leaders, even as her victory was dimmed by the entry of a far-right party into parliament for the first time in more than 60 years, according to preliminary results. The far-right party, Alternative for Germany, or AfD, got some 13 percent of the vote — nearly three times the 4.7 percent it received in 2013 — a significant showing of voter anger over immigration and inequality as support for the two main parties sagged from four years ago. Ms. Merkel and her center-right Christian Democrats won, the center held, but it was weakened."

Juan Cole: "The Kurdistan referendum held today is probably not as likely to produce immediate turmoil in the Middle East as some pundits would have it. The “Domino Theory” that if the Kurds secede from Iraq then they will secede from Turkey, Iran and Syria as well, may be as incorrect as the idea that a Communist victory in Vietnam would lead to Communist domination throughout Asia and the world. Iraqi Kurds have a particular history that has led to today’s referendum that is not exactly replicated in other countries with large Kurdish minorities (Iran, Turkey and Syria)." --safari: A history lesson by Prof. Cole.

Saturday
Sep232017

The Commentariat -- September 24, 2017

Football v. Trump. Ken Belson, et al., of the New York Times: "N.F.L. players across the country demonstrated during the national anthem on Sunday in a show of defiance against President Trump, who scolded the league and players on Twitter this weekend. With the support of team owners, players knelt, while others opted to stand and lock arms in a show of solidarity.... President Trump doubled down on his criticism of N.F.L. players who take a knee during the national anthem, saying fans should boycott games unless the players are fired or suspended.... N.F.L. owners, most of them conservative and many of them large donors to President Trump..., backed their players’ rights to protest during the national anthem and condemned Trump’s criticism. Stay here for live updates."

*****

Carol Morello of the Washington Post: "North Korea’s foreign minister warned Saturday that a strike against the U.S. mainland is 'inevitable' because President Trump mocked leader Kim Jong Un with the belittling nickname 'little rocketman.' U.S. bombers escorted by fighter jets flew off the North Korean coast in a show of force shortly before Foreign Minister Ri Yong Ho strode to the podium to address the United Nations General Assembly in New York, capping an extraordinary week of militaristic threats from both nations before an organization founded to maintain international peace and security. Ri said that Trump’s bombast had made 'our rockets' visit to the entire U.S. mainland inevitable,' and linked it to the Trump's insulting shorthand references to Kim.”

Medlar's Sports Report

Ken Belson & Julie Davis of the New York Times: "President Trump took aim at two of the world’s most powerful sports leagues and some of their most popular athletes.... In a speech and a series of tweets, he urged N.F.L. owners to fire players who do not stand for the national anthem, suggested the league is declining because it is not as violent as it once was and seemed to disinvite the N.B.A. champion Golden State Warriors from the traditional White House visit, over their star player Stephen Curry’s public opposition to him.... On Friday night, Mr. Trump said: 'Wouldn’t you love to see one of these N.F.L. owners, when somebody disrespects our flag, to say, "Get that son of a bitch off the field right now, out, he’s fired,’” the president said at a rally for Senator Luther Strange, who was appointed to the Senate this year and is facing Roy Moore in a Republican primary runoff.... the reaction from many athletes was immediate and impassioned, particularly among African-American football and basketball players who have criticized Mr. Trump on race.... In an unusually strong rebuke of the president on Saturday, Roger Goodell, the commissioner of the N.F.L., said the president failed to understand how the league and its players work together to 'create a sense of unity in our country and our culture.'” ...

     ... Mrs. Bea McCrabbie: You know you're a son of a bitch, as Trump would have it, when you need morals lessions from Roger Goodell. Funny how the President of All the People is always directing his rage at the people who just happen to be minorities. And wasn't it way last week that we were all disgusted that a press secretary would weigh in on the employability of a black sports commentator? Well, ha ha, fire all the black people, her boss sez. Anyway, dissing black athletes & Tom Price are nice distractions from the Russia scandal. ...

... Ramona Shelburne of ESPN: "The Golden State Warriors plan to meet as a team this fall to discuss whether they'll celebrate their NBA championship at the White House, team and league officials told ESPN. 'We will meet as a team to discuss it and make a decision,' Warriors head coach Steve Kerr told ESPN." ...

... ** David Remnick of the New Yorker: "Every day, and in countless and unexpected ways, Donald Trump ... finds new ways to divide and demoralize his country and undermine the national interest.... In the midst of an eighty-minute speech intended to heighten the reëlection prospects of Senator Luther Johnson Strange III, Trump turned his attention to N.F.L. players, including the former 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick, and asked a mainly white crowd if 'people like yourselves' agreed with his anger at 'those people,' players who take a knee during the national anthem to protest racism. 'Wouldn’t you love to see one of these N.F.L. owners, when somebody disrespects our flag, to say, "Get that son of a bitch off the field right now, out, he’s fired!’”... This was the same sort of racial signalling that followed the Fascist and white-supremacist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia. It is no longer a matter of 'dog whistling.' This is a form of racial demagoguery broadcast at the volume of a klaxon.... In these performances, Trump is making clear his moral priorities. He is infinitely more offended by the sight of a black ballplayer quietly, peacefully protesting racism in the United States than he is by racism itself."


Price to Temporarily Stop Gouging Taxpayers to Concentrate on Depriving Them of Health Insurance. Dan Diamond
of Politico: "Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price told Fox News on Saturday that he’ll stop his taxpayer-funded travel on private jets, pending a formal review by his department’s inspector general.... Price continued to take charter jets after a Politico investigation identified that the HHS secretary had been chartering private planes to conduct official business for months. The cost of his trips this past week was $56,500, according to a federal contract.... Politico has now identified more than $400,000 in charter jet spending for Price’s travels since May." ...

... Mrs. McCrabbie: Maybe you thought I was kidding in that headline. Read on:

... Time for Some Traffic Problems on Healthcare.gov. Phil Galewicz of Kaiser Health News on CNN: "The Trump administration plans to shut down the federal health insurance exchange for 12 hours during all but one Sunday in the upcoming Obamacare open enrollment season. The shutdown will occur from midnight until noon every Sunday except Dec. 10. The Department of Health and Human Services will also shut down the federal exchange -- healthcare.gov -- overnight on the first day of open enrollment, Nov. 1. More than three dozen states use that exchange for their marketplaces. HHS officials disclosed this information Friday during a webinar with community groups that help people enroll in Obamacare.... The Trump administration has ... cut the enrollment period, slashed money for advertising by 90% and sliced the budget for navigators to help people shop for plans. The fact that HHS is now closing the site for a portion of each weekend upset many consumer advocates. Many working Americans — the prime target group for ACA insurance — might be shopping at just that time."


Adam Davidson
of the New Yorker: "Ty Cobb, the White House lawyer in charge of representing President Trump in matters related to the Russia investigation, told Bloomberg’s Margaret Talev, 'It would be truly shocking' if [Paul] Manafort 'tried to monetize his relationship with the President.' Cobb’s shock is, surely, of the 'Casablanca' variety.... It has become clear that allowing hangers-on to monetize their relationship with him was, essentially, Trump’s business model.... The Trump Organization ... seemed willing to do business with pretty much anybody, no matter his background.... When the company began aggressively pursuing international deals, over the past decade, it relied on a loose grouping of people who were authorized — formally or not — to travel around the world seeking deals in Trump’s name. Pocketing a little for themselves on the side was part of the arrangement."  ...

     ... Mrs. McCrabbie: Not sure if Trump named his business the "Trump Organization" because (a) he aggrandizes & lies about everything, the name was designed to pretend he headed an actual organized company; (b) he wanted to emphasize his connection to & affinity for organized crime; or (c) it was just unintended irony.

Battle of the Deplorables. Jonathan Swan of Axios: "Steve Bannon is heading to Alabama Sunday night to rally for Judge Roy Moore on Monday night with Phil Robertson of Duck Dynasty.... This rally is three days after President Trump ... was in Alabama rallying for Moore's opponent — Mitch McConnell's favored candidate Luther Strange. For Bannon to make a rare public appearance in such close proximity to Trump shows how invested he is in this race specifically, and attacking McConnell more generally. Another former White House adviser, Sebastian Gorka, rallied with Sarah Palin for Moore on Thursday." Mrs. McC: The only fun part is that Bannon has to spend some time with the Duck Dick. But these are the bedfellows he chose, so he deserves it.

Beyond the Beltway

Scott Destroys Evidence. Jim DeFede of CBS Miami: "The voicemail messages left on Gov. Rick Scott’s personal cellphone by a Hollywood nursing home where at least 11 people have died following Hurricane Irma, were deleted, according to the governor’s office. There were a total of four voicemails left during the 36 hours before the first patient died, and they would have been a critical piece of evidence in the ongoing investigation into the patient deaths. Natasha Anderson, a vice president with The Rehabilitation Center at Hollywood Hills, says she called the governor’s cellphone to say the nursing home needed 'immediate assistance' in restoring the power to their air conditioning system. Scott said at no time did anyone from the nursing home suggest there was a crisis or that patients were in danger.... The governor’s office said the voicemails were deleted in accordance with the state’s public records law." ...

     ... Mrs. McCrabbie: Sounds as if Florida's public records law reads, "Don't keep 'em."

Benjamin Oreskes & Javier Panzar of the Los Angeles Times: "Organizers of a far-right festival planned for the UC Berkeley campus have informed school officials that all speaking events scheduled for the coming week have been canceled, the university said Saturday. Representatives of the student group Berkeley Patriot informed the school that Free Speech Week, which was scheduled to kick off Sunday, will not take place, Dan Mogulof, a campus spokesman, said in a statement. There was no reason given for the cancellation."

Friday
Sep222017

The Commentariat -- September 23, 2017

** Jordain Carney of the Hill: "Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) announced on Friday that he will vote against the latest GOP effort to repeal ObamaCare, potentially dooming the legislation. 'I cannot in good conscience vote for the Graham-Cassidy proposal. I believe we could do better working together, Republicans and Democrats, and have not yet really tried,' he said in a statement, referring to the legislation spearheaded by GOP Sens. Lindsey Graham (S.C) and Bill Cassidy (La.)." (Also linked yesterday afternoon.) ...

... Thomas Kaplan & Robert Pear of the New York Times: "Senator John McCain of Arizona announced on Friday that he would oppose the latest proposal to repeal the Affordable Care Act, leaving Republican leaders with little hope of succeeding in their last-ditch attempt to dismantle the health law and fulfill their longstanding promise to conservative voters. For Mr. McCain, it was a slightly less dramatic reprise of his middle-of-the-night thumbs-down that killed the last repeal effort in July. This time, the senator, battling brain cancer and confronting his best friend in the Senate, Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, issued a statement saying that he could not 'in good conscience' support the proposal by Senators Graham and Bill Cassidy of Louisiana.... A spokeswoman for the Senate majority leader, Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, declined to comment on whether he would press forward with a vote." ...

... Seung Min Kim, et al., of Politico: "Senate Republicans failed on their last Obamacare repeal attempt in July when McCain, Murkowski and Collins teamed up to tank the so-called 'skinny repeal' plan. But unlike then, it’s not clear whether McConnell could even open debate on the bill this time. More than a half-dozen senators were not committal or non-responsive to inquiries Friday about how they would vote for the motion to proceed to the House-passed repeal bill." ...

... Alicia Cohn of the Hill: In a series of tweets, "President Trump on Saturday said Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) 'let down' his party, the people of Arizona and 'his best friend' by opposing the GOP’s latest attempt to repeal and replace ObamaCare.... Trump alleged that McCain had been influenced in his decision by Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.).... 'Sad,' Trump wrote." Trump also suggested that Rand Paul & Lisa Murkowski ultimately would back the bill. ...

... Can't wait for trump's Saturday morning toilet tweets about John McCain. Will he be despicable, dotard, reprehensible or trump's favorite, the one he can spell, 'sad'. -- Forrest M., the Oracle of Reality Chex, in yesterday's Comments thread

... Louis Nelson of Politico: "... Donald Trump warned Republicans Friday morning to fall in line behind last-ditch legislation in the Senate to repeal and replace Obamacare, writing online that any GOP lawmaker who votes against the bill will be remembered as 'the Republican who saved Obamacare. Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.), one of the repeal-and-replace bill’s loudest opponents in the Senate, was singled out by the president’s Friday morning warning. 'Rand Paul, or whoever votes against Hcare Bill, will forever (future political campaigns) be known as "the Republican who saved ObamaCare,’” Trump wrote on Twitter." ...

... Nolan McCaskill of Politico: "Rand Paul, a definitive 'no' on Senate Republicans’ last-ditch effort to repeal and replace Obamacare, 'won’t be bribed or bullied' into supporting the bill, the Kentucky Republican said Friday.” (Also linked yesterday afternoon.) ...

... Joe Lawlor of the Portland (Maine) Press Herald: "U.S. Sen. Susan Collins all but said she would vote 'no' on an Affordable Care Act repeal bill on Friday morning at an event in Portland. 'I’m leaning against the bill,' the Maine Republican said after listing a series of serious deficiencies in the Graham-Cassidy repeal bill." (Also linked yesterday afternoon.) ...

     ... Mrs. McCrabbie: In theory, there are now three GOP votes against Graham-Cassidy if Collins keeps a-leaning till she topples over. That's all they need. But I'd feel a lot better if Murkowski & several other Republican senators announced "no" votes. ...

...Ian Millhiser of ThinkProgress: "In one of the more surreal chapters in the ongoing Trumpcare saga, the Independent Journal Review’s Haley Byrd reports that some of Sen. Lisa Murkowski’s (R-AK) Republican colleagues hope to entice her into supporting their latest effort to repeal Obamacare by letting Alaska keep much of Obamacare.... If Murkowski ultimately is offered the deal described by Byrd, however, it would raise serious constitutional concerns. According to Georgetown law professor Brian Galle, the Alaska Purchase probably runs afoul of a provision of the Constitution requiring the U.S. tax code to have a degree of uniformity." -- safari...

Donors are furious. We haven’t kept our promise. -- Sen. Cory Gardner (R-Colo.) on why Republicans had to repeal ObamaCare ...

... Carl Hulse of the New York Times: "The backlash from big donors as well as the grass roots panicked Senate Republicans and was part of the motivation behind the sudden zeal to take one last crack at repealing the health care law before the end of the month.... As more than 40 subdued Republican senators lunched on Chick-fil-A at a closed-door session last week, Senator Cory Gardner of Colorado painted a dire picture for his colleagues. Campaign fund-raising was drying up, he said, because of widespread disappointment among donors over the inability of the Republican Senate to repeal the Affordable Care Act or do much of anything else. Mr. Gardner is in charge of his party’s midterm re-election push, and he warned that donors of all stripes were refusing to contribute another penny until the struggling majority produced some concrete results.” ...

     ... Mrs. McCrabbie: Okay, okay, Republicans are bent on denying health security to millions of Americans in service of their own narrow self-interest. But Chick-fil-A? Really? That's a whole 'nother political statement. Chick-fil-A is an anti-gay, family-owned company whose CEO spoke out forecefully against gay marriage. And despite its CEO's promise to quit bankrolling anti-LGBTQ groups, is still doing so. You could not shove a Chick-fil-A nugget down my throat (not sure if they sell nuggets, but whatever)...

... Matt Zoller Seitz of New York: "Countless pundits and talk-show hosts have been warning viewers about the ramifications of the hastily written bill, which is opposed by every reputable health-care group in the country. But only [JimmyKimmel managed to communicate why that was, to millions of people, in language everybody could understand.... Kimmel and his writing staff have done a better job of explaining the health-care battle in a handful of broadcasts than most of the supposed professionals who have been decrying or defending it since January, when President Donald Trump and the GOP made repealing Obamacare a top priority. Mainstream news outlets, Kimmel’s more politically focused late-night competitors, and the entire spectrum of the American left would do well to study what happened on ABC this week and steal pages from the host’s playbook." --safari ...

... Paul Waldman in the Week: "Most [Senate Republicans] barely know what's in [the Graham-Cassidy bill], and couldn't care less. As such, it is the perfect and final expression of the GOP's nihilism and cruelty on this issue.... 'If there was an oral exam on the contents of the proposal, graded on a generous curve, only two Republicans could pass it. And one of them isn't Lindsey Graham,' a senior GOP aide told Axios' Caitlin Owens."


Ben Jacobs
 of the Guardian: "Donald Trump gave one of his signature stream of consciousness speeches in Hunstville on Friday night as he tried to get out the vote for embattled Alabama Republican senator Luther Strange. During an address inside the Wernher Von Braun Center that lasted an hour and 20 minutes, the president called North Korean dictator Kim Jong-un “Little Rocket Man”, said NFL owners should cut players who kneel for the national anthem and returned to familiar targets like John McCain and Hillary Clinton.... He talked at length about the wall he hopes to build on the Mexican border, insisting it needed to be see-through. Trump said this was because drug dealers are currently using catapults to send 100 pound bags of drugs over the existing concrete wall and they are landing on people’s heads in the United States. He also responded the familiar cheers of 'lock her up' directed at Hillary Clinton." --safari...

... So Unpresidential. Judd Legum of ThinkProgress: "During a 90-minute speech in Alabama, purportedly to support Senator Luther Strange who faces a special primary election next Tuesday, Trump diverted into an extended rant on the NFL. His ire was focused primarily on Colin Kaepernick and other NFL players who have participated in silent protests during the national anthem. 'Wouldn’t you love to see one of these NFL owners, when somebody disrespects our flag, to say, ‘get that son of a bitch off the field right now. He is fired. He’s fired!,'' Trump shouted to a cheering audience....Some NFL players are responding to Trump on social media." Includes some responses. --safari ...

... Abby Phillip of the Washington Post: Trump's endorsement in the Louisiana GOP primary of Sen. Luther Strange was less than ringing. At one point Trump said, "I’ll be honest, I might have made a mistake.” Meanwhile, "Housing and Urban development Secretary Ben Carson issued a statement on Friday backing [Mrs. McC: despicable Judge Roy] Moore’s candidacy, an extraordinary endorsement that came just hours before Trump was set to arrive in Alabama to campaign for Strange."

Michael Shear & Ron Nixon of the New York Times: "President Trump’s ban on travelers from six majority-Muslim countries is set to be replaced as soon as this weekend with more targeted restrictions on visits to the United States that would vary by country, officials familiar with the plans said on Friday. The new restrictions, aimed at preventing security threats from entering the United States, could go into effect on Sunday after the conclusion of a 90-day policy review undertaken as part of the administration’s original travel ban. Though the restrictions would differ for each country, people living in the targeted nations could be prevented from traveling to the United States or could face increased scrutiny as they seek to obtain a visa." (Also linked yesterday afternoon.) ...

     ... Mrs. McCrabbie: Hard to tell at this point, but the move looks a bit like part of the de-Bannonization of the White House.

Brian Bennett of the Los Angeles Times: "Senior aides to President Trump repeatedly warned him not to deliver a personal attack on North Korea’s leader at the United Nations this week, saying insulting the young despot in such a prominent venue could irreparably escalate tensions and shut off any chance for negotiations to defuse the nuclear crisis. Trump’s derisive description of Kim Jong Un as 'Rocket Man' on 'a suicide mission' and his threat to 'totally destroy' North Korea were not in a speech draft that several senior officials reviewed and vetted Monday, the day before Trump gave his first address to the U.N. General Assembly, two U.S. officials said. Some of Trump’s top aides, including national security advisor H.R. McMaster, had argued for months against making the attacks on North Korea’s leader personal, warning it could backfire. But Trump, who relishes belittling his rivals and enemies with crude nicknames, felt compelled to make a dramatic splash in the global forum.... As predicted, Kim took Trump’s jibes personally and especially chafed at the fact that Trump mocked him in front of 200 presidents, prime ministers, monarchs and diplomats at the U.N."

Geoff Mulvihill & Jake Pearson of the AP: "The federal government on Friday told election officials in 21 states that hackers targeted their systems before last year’s presidential election.The notification came roughly a year after U.S. Department of Homeland Security officials first said states were targeted by hacking efforts possibly connected to Russia. The states that told The Associated Press they had been targeted included some key political battlegrounds, such as Florida, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Virginia and Wisconsin. The AP contacted every state election office to determine which ones had been informed that their election systems had been targeted. The others confirming were Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Illinois, Iowa, Maryland, Minnesota, North Dakota, Oklahoma, Oregon, Texas and Washington. Being targeted does not mean that sensitive voter data was manipulated or results were changed.... Even so, the widespread nature of the attempts and the yearlong lag time in notification from Homeland Security raised concerns among some election officials and lawmakers."...

...Luke Barnes of ThinkProgress: "After previously saying it was “crazy” to suggest Facebook helped Donald Trump become president, Mark Zuckerberg announced on Thursday that the social media giant will hand over 3,000 Russia-linked ads to Congress to help with their investigation into the Kremlin’s election interference...But the 470 fake accounts, and the 3,000 ads purchased for $100,000 seem like strangely small numbers...Senator Mark Warner, who is leading the investigation into Russian interference, also thinks that the 470 accounts show only a fragment of Russia’s Facebook presence. 'By the time the French elections happened in the Spring, Facebook worked with the French and took down 50,000 accounts they felt were related to Russian activity,' he told CNN. 'In America, Facebook has only identified 470 accounts. To me, that doesn’t pass the smell test.'" --safari

Tommie & the Jets. Dan Diamond of Politico: "The HHS inspector general's office is reviewing HHS Secretary Tom Price’s taxpayer-funded travel on private jets, a spokesperson told Politico. 'We take this matter very seriously, and when questions arose about potentially inappropriate travel, we immediately began assessing the issue,' the spokesperson said. 'I can confirm that work is underway and will be completed as soon as possible.' Politico first reported on Tuesday that Price had been taking private jets to conduct official business for months. Democrats on Wednesday formally requested an investigation. The review focuses on whether Price complied with Federal Travel Regulations but may address related issues, the spokesperson said. Those regulations expressly advise officials that 'taxpayers should pay no more than necessary for your transportation.'” (Also linked yesterday afternoon.) ...

... Dan Diamond: "HHS Secretary Tom Price has been taking private jets because an unreliable commercial flight once forced him to cancel an important meeting, a Department of Health and Human Services spokesperson says, part of his agenda to meet with average Americans outside of Washington. But the flight in question — to a two-day industry conference at a Ritz-Carlton hotel in Southern California — didn't get off the ground on a day when storms virtually shut down air traffic in the Washington region, preventing even private jets from getting out.... Charmaine Yoest, HHS spokeswoman..., did not respond to Politico’s questions about why Price chose to make a two-day trip to a California industry conference and what the value was for taxpayers. She also declined to confirm that the scrapped April trip was the impetus for Price's subsequent travel." ...

... Washington Post Editors: "Mr. Price for years styled himself as a warrior against waste, fraud and abuse. By excelling at waste and abuse, he seems determined to prove himself the fraud."

Steven Mufson & Juliet Eilperin of the Washington Post: "Environmental Protection Agency chief Scott Pruitt has met regularly with corporate executives from the automobile, mining and fossil fuel industries — in several instances shortly before making decisions favorable to those interest groups, according to a copy of his schedule obtained by The Washington Post. There were, by comparison, only two environmental groups and one public health group on the schedule, which covers the months of April through early September. It is the first time Pruitt’s schedule has been made public and it adds to understanding about how he makes decisions."

Stephanie Saul & Kate Taylor of the New York Times: "Education Secretary Betsy DeVos on Friday scrapped a key part of government policy on campus sexual assault, saying she was giving colleges more freedom to balance the rights of accused students with the need to crack down on serious misconduct. The move, which involved rescinding two sets of guidelines several years old, was part of one of the fiercest battles in higher education today, over whether the Obama administration, in trying to get colleges to take sexual assault more seriously, had gone too far and created a system that treated the accused unfairly." ...

     ... Mrs. McCrabbie: But she flies around in her own plane(s) & doesn't charge the government. Well, maybe mostly. As Maxwell pointed out in yesterday's thread, her accountant may have figured out a way to take tax deductions for the costs of the flights.

(Way) Beyond the Beltway

Amy Davidson Sarkin of The New Yorker: "Angela Merkel... [is] busy campaigning for what could—and almost certainly will—be her fourth term as Chancellor of Germany, keeping her post as the most powerful woman in a world filled with unstable men. The German election is on Sunday." --safari: Good article on implications of Merkel's potential 4th term.  

Thursday
Sep212017

The Commentariat -- September 22, 2017

 

Afternoon Update:

** Jordain Carney of the Hill: "Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) announced on Friday that he will vote against the latest GOP effort to repeal ObamaCare, potentially dooming the legislation. 'I cannot in good conscience vote for the Graham-Cassidy proposal. I believe we could do better working together, Republicans and Democrats, and have not yet really tried,' he said in a statement, referring to the legislation spearheaded by GOP Sens. Lindsey Graham (S.C) and Bill Cassidy (La.)."

 

Louis Nelson of Politico: "... Donald Trump warned Republicans Friday morning to fall in line behind last-ditch legislation in the Senate to repeal and replace Obamacare, writing online that any GOP lawmaker who votes against the bill will be remembered as 'the Republican who saved Obamacare. Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.), one of the repeal-and-replace bill’s loudest opponents in the Senate, was singled out by the president’s Friday morning warning. 'Rand Paul, or whoever votes against Hcare Bill, will forever (future political campaigns) be known as "the Republican who saved ObamaCare,’” Trump wrote on Twitter." ...

... Nolan McCaskill of Politico: "Rand Paul, a definitive 'no' on Senate Republicans’ last-ditch effort to repeal and replace Obamacare, 'won’t be bribed or bullied' into supporting the bill, the Kentucky Republican said Friday.” ...

... Joe Lawlor of the Portland (Maine) Press Herald: "U.S. Sen. Susan Collins all but said she would vote 'no' on an Affordable Care Act repeal bill on Friday morning at an event in Portland. 'I’m leaning against the bill,' the Maine Republican said after listing a series of serious deficiencies in the Graham-Cassidy repeal bill." ...

     ... Mrs. McCrabbie: In theory, there are now three GOP votes against Graham-Cassidy if Collins keeps a-leaning till she topples over. That's all they need. But I'd feel a lot better if Murkowski & several other Republican senators announced "no" votes.

Michael Shear & Ron Nixon of the New York Times: "President Trump’s ban on travelers from six majority-Muslim countries is set to be replaced as soon as this weekend with more targeted restrictions on visits to the United States that would vary by country, officials familiar with the plans said on Friday. The new restrictions, aimed at preventing security threats from entering the United States, could go into effect on Sunday after the conclusion of a 90-day policy review undertaken as part of the administration’s original travel ban. Though the restrictions would differ for each country, people living in the targeted nations could be prevented from traveling to the United States or could face increased scrutiny as they seek to obtain a visa." ...

     ... Mrs. McCrabbie: Hard to tell at this point, but the move looks a bit like part of the de-Bannonization of the White House.

Tommie & the Jets. Dan Diamond of Politico: "The HHS inspector general's office is reviewing HHS Secretary Tom Price’s taxpayer-funded travel on private jets, a spokesperson told Politico. 'We take this matter very seriously, and when questions arose about potentially inappropriate travel, we immediately began assessing the issue,' the spokesperson said. 'I can confirm that work is underway and will be completed as soon as possible.' Politico first reported on Tuesday that Price had been taking private jets to conduct official business for months. Democrats on Wednesday formally requested an investigation. The review focuses on whether Price complied with Federal Travel Regulations but may address related issues, the spokesperson said. Those regulations expressly advise officials that 'taxpayers should pay no more than necessary for your transportation.'”

Greg Sargent elaborates on the "statement from the National Association of Medicaid Directors that sharply criticizes Cassidy-Graham as unworkable and deeply destructive."

*****

David Nakamura & Abby Phillip of the Washington Post: "President Trump on Thursday announced an executive order to grant additional authority to the Treasury Department to enforce economic sanctions on North Korea and countries that do business with the rogue nation in Northeast Asia. The president also said that Chinese President Xi Jinping had ordered Chinese banks to cease conducting business with North Korean entities. Trump called the move 'very bold' and 'someone unexpected,' and he praised Xi. 'I must tell you this is a complete denuclearization of North Korea that we seek,' Trump said in brief public remarks during a meeting with the leaders of South Korea and Japan to discuss strategy to confront Pyongyang over its nuclear and ballistic missile tests. Trump said the United States had been working on the North Korea problem for 25 years, but he asserted that previous administrations had 'done nothing, which is why we are in the problem we are in today.'" (Also linked yesterday afternoon.) ...

     ... Reuters: "China’s central bank has told banks to strictly implement United Nations sanctions against North Korea, four sources told Reuters, amid U.S. concerns that Beijing has not been tough enough over Pyongyang’s repeated nuclear tests.... The sources said banks were told to stop providing financial services to new North Korean customers and to wind down loans with existing customers, following tighter sanctions against Pyongyang by the United Nations." ...

... Choe Sang-Hun of the New York Times: "Responding directly for the first time to President Trump’s threat at the United Nations to destroy nuclear-armed North Korea, its leader called Mr. Trump a 'mentally deranged U.S. dotard' on Friday and vowed the “highest level of hard-line countermeasure in history. The rejoinder by the leader, Kim Jong-un, who is about half as old as Mr. Trump, 71, added to the lexicon of Mr. Kim’s choice of insults in the escalating bombast between the two.” ...

     ... Chaucer! Shakespeare! Mrs. Bea McCrabbie: I was wondering what a dotard was, so

President Trump fired back at North Korean leader Kim Jong Un on Friday after Kim stated the U.S. would 'pay dearly' for threats Trump made in his speech at the United Nations. 'Kim Jong Un of North Korea, who is obviously a madman who doesn't mind starving or killing his people, will be tested like never before!' Trump tweeted." ...

... Margaret Talev & Jennifer Jacobs of Bloomberg: "... Donald Trump heaped praise on Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan Thursday, comments that came amid international condemnation of Erdogan’s crackdown on political dissent and just months after Turkish security officials beat up protesters during a visit to the U.S.... 'Frankly he’s getting very high marks,' Trump said, sparing Erdogan any public admonition over international concerns about election violations and human-rights abuses. 'He’s also been working with the United States,' Trump said. 'We have a great friendship and the countries -- I think we’re right now as close as we’ve ever been.' Trump added that 'a lot of that has to do with a personal relationship.'" ...

... Forever Deplorable. In "Diplomatic" Meeting Trump Insults Clinton, Obama, South Korea. David Nakamura: "As he's shown repeatedly, Trump just can't seem to let go of his 2016 opponent, and Trump made a joke at her expense during a meeting with Moon on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly here. An interpreter for [South Korean President] Moon [Jae-in] used the word 'deplorable' in translating his remarks about the North's provocations, prompting Trump to cut in: 'I'm happy you used the world 'deplorable.' I was very interested in that word,' [he said, referring to Hillary Clinton's campaign remark].... As people in the room chuckled, Trump added in front of television cameras and reporters, 'I promise, I did not tell them to use that word. That's been a very lucky word for me and many millions of people.' Moon, waiting for a translator to repeat Trump's remarks, appeared uncomfortable but did not say anything. Wrapping up the introductory remarks, Trump also bashed the bilateral trade pact signed by President Barack Obama in 2011 as 'so bad for the United States and so good for Korea.'” (Also linked yesterday afternoon.) ...

... Mrs. McCrabbie: So Trump insults a strong ally but "heaps praise on" an autocratic leader, one who reportedly sanctioned his "security team" to beat up Americans in the U.S. capital, which he sat in a limo & watched.


Scott Shane & Mike Isaac
of the New York Times: "Under growing public pressure to reveal more about the spread of covert Russian propaganda on its site, Facebook said on Thursday that it was turning over more than 3,000 Russia-linked ads to Congressional committees investigating the Kremlin’s influence operation during the 2016 presidential election. 'I care deeply about the democratic process and protecting its integrity,' Facebook’s chief executive, Mark Zuckerberg, said during an appearance on Facebook Live, the company’s video service. He added that he did not want anyone 'to use our tools to undermine democracy.'... Facebook had previously shown Congressional staffers a sample of the ads — some of which attacked Hillary Clinton or praised Donald J. Trump — but had not shared the entire collection.... Twitter, which has kept a low profile since Facebook’s disclosure of the Russian intrusion, said it will brief the Senate Intelligence Committee next Wednesday behind closed doors.” ...

... "Russia Hoax," Ctd. Brooke Seipel of the Hill: "President Trump early Friday called reports of Kremlin-linked groups buying Facebook ads to sway the 2016 election part of a 'Russia hoax.' 'The Russia hoax continues, now it's ads on Facebook. What about the totally biased and dishonest Media coverage in favor of Crooked Hillary?'..." ...

... Josh Dawsey of Politico: In addition to requesting written records, "Special counsel Robert Mueller has sought phone records concerning the statement written aboard Air Force One defending a meeting between Trump campaign officials and Russians at Trump Tower last year that was set up by Donald Trump Jr., according to two people familiar with the investigation. Mueller has also asked the White House for documents and emails connected to a May 3 press briefing where Sean Spicer said the president had confidence in James Comey as FBI director, these people said. The request seeks to determine what White House officials – particularly Spicer – knew about the president’s plans to fire Comey in the days before it happened, according to one of the people familiar with it." ...

... Ken Vogel & Andrew Kramer of the New York Times: "Five years ago, Paul Manafort arranged for a prominent New York-based law firm to draft a report that was used by allies of his client, Viktor Yanukovych, the Russia-aligned president of Ukraine, to justify the jailing of a political rival.... The Justice Department, according to two people with direct knowledge of the situation, recently asked the firm, Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom, for information and documents related to its work on behalf of Mr. Yanukovych’s government, which crumbled after he fled to Russia under pressure.... As part of [Robert] Mueller’s investigation, prosecutors last month issued grand jury subpoenas seeking testimony from officials from at least two lobbying and public relations firms that worked on the team Mr. Manafort assembled to plead Mr. Yanukovych’s case in Washington — Mercury Public Affairs and the Podesta Group.... In a recent interview, John E. Herbst, a former United States ambassador to Ukraine..., said that Skadden 'should have been ashamed' of the report, calling it 'a nasty piece of work.'” ...

... Secret Agent. Noor Al-Sibai of the Raw Story: “'It’s possible that Russia actually sent and dispatched Paul Manafort to the Trump campaign,' Jeremy Bash, who formerly served as chief of staff for the Defense Department and the CIA, told MSNBC’s Nicolle Wallace. 'Or at least that once Paul Manafort attached himself to the Trump campaign, the Russians said, okay, now our agent is inside.' The Kremlin, Bash argued, might have 'manipulated the campaign not just through propaganda…but also through agents of influence.'... 'The ultimate question,' he continued, 'is whether or not Trump himself knew about it … and once he found out that the bureau was investigating them, why did he try to shut down that investigation?'” (Also linked yesterday afternoon.)  ...

... Sometimes Conspiracy Theories Make Sense. Martin Longman in the Washington Monthly: "I wasn’t surprised to see that ex-CIA chief of staff Jeremy Bash was on television yesterday saying that it is quite possible that Paul Manafort was sent to the Trump campaign by the Russians. That had been my first thought ever since I read that Manafort had applied for the job unsolicited and with the promise that he would require no pay. All I knew about Manafort at the time was that he had been a partner with Roger Stone in an epically cynical influence-peddling consulting and lobbying firm during the 1980s. He’d worked for some of the most notorious dictators in the world and had a business model based on his ability to win the votes of the candidates he helped to elect. In other words, if I thought I knew anything about Manafort it was that he, like Roger Stone, lacked any core principles and would do unconscionable things for a buck. He was the opposite of the kind of ideologically committed person who offers to work for free." (Also linked yesterday afternoon.) ...

... Josh Dawsey of Politico: "... Paul Manafort used his presidential campaign email account to correspond with a Ukrainian political operative with suspected Russian ties, according to people familiar with the correspondence. Manafort sent emails to seek repayment for previous work he did in Ukraine and to discuss potential new opportunities in the country, even as he chaired Trump’s presidential campaign, these people said." (Also linked yesterday afternoon.) ...

... Aaron Blake of the Washington Post: "... Robert S. Mueller III is clearly building a case against Paul Manafort.... The inescapable conclusion from that is that he is hoping Manafort will cut a deal — that he'll 'flip' on Trump and spill whatever beans he might have to spill.... And if the initial response to the latest Manafort news is any indication, the White House is preparing to fight Manafort head-on.... [Wednesday the Post reported on some e-mails Manafort wrote. In one, he] discusses his newfound high profile as a Trump strategist and asks an employee, 'How do we use [this] to get whole?' — apparently referring to debts he believed he was owed but had been unable to collect. The White House is now seizing on that latter email. In comments to Bloomberg's Margaret Talev late Wednesday, White House lawyer Ty Cobb said that 'it would be truly shocking. if Manafort .tried to monetize his relationship with the president.'” ...

     ... Mrs. McCrabbie: Cobb's "shock" is of course hilarious. Never in history has a president so actively "monetized" the office as has Cobb's boss Donald $$$ Trump.


Spicey Unfriends Mike Allen
of Axios: Allen writes, "Now we can tell you about another potential honey pot for Mueller. Former colleagues of Sean Spicer tell Axios that he filled 'notebook after notebook' during meetings at the Republican National Committee, later at the Trump campaign, and then at the White House.... When we texted Spicer for comment on his note-taking practices, he replied: 'Mike, please stop texting/emailing me unsolicited anymore.' When I replied with a '?' (I have known Spicer and his wife for more than a dozen years), he answered: 'Not sure what that means. From a legal standpoint I want to be clear: Do not email or text me again. Should you do again I will report to the appropriate authorities.'" About an hour later, after Allen emailed Spicer again, Spicer wrote back, in part, that if Allen sent him any more "unsolicited" message, "I will contact the appropriate legal authorities to address your harassment." (Also linked yesterday afternoon.) ...

... Spicey Lies about Lying. Rebecca Morin of Politico: "In an interview broadcast Thursday on 'Good Morning America...,' Spicer said he doesn't think he's lied to the American people. 'I made mistakes, there's no question. Some of them I tried to own very publicly,' Spicer said.... Correspondent and weekend host Paula Faris also asked Spicer whether Trump had ever asked him to lie, to which Spicer said 'no,' without elaborating." (Also linked yesterday afternoon.)

Dan Diamond of Politico: "Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price has taken at least 24 flights on private charter planes at taxpayers’ expense since early May, according to people with knowledge of his travel plans and a review of HHS documents. The frequency of the trips underscores how private travel has become the norm — rather than the exception — for the Georgia Republican during his tenure atop the federal health agency, which began in February. The cost of the trips identified by Politico exceeds $300,000, according to a review of federal contracts and similar trip itineraries. Price’s use of private jets represents a sharp departure from his two immediate predecessors, Sylvia Mathews Burwell and Kathleen Sebelius, who flew commercially in the continental United States." Price could easily have made many of flights on commercial carriers. Mrs. McC: Price, of course, promised to eliminate "waste fraud & abuse" at HHS. ...

     ... Margaret Hartmann's Headlines Are So Funny: "HHS Explains Tom Price Spent $300K on Private Jets Because He’s a Man of the People." Mrs. McC: The story justifies the headline. BTW, Betsy DeVos, when on official business, also travels the country on a private plane or planes. She owns them, & she doesn't charge the taxpayer for her trips. DeVos is dimwitted, but apparently she's rich enough not to try to stiff the Treasury to accommodate her personal comfort. Unlike her boss.

"Cruelty, Incompetence & Lies" -- The Essence of Graham-Cassidy

This is by far the most radical of any of the Republican health care bills that have been debated this year. And the reason for that is that this would be the biggest devolution of federal money and responsibility to the states for anything, ever. -- Larry Levitt, a senior vice president with the nonpartisan Kaiser Family Foundation, on the Graham-Cassidy ACA-Medicaid repeal bill ...

... Kate Zernike, et al., of the New York Times: The Graham-Cassidy bill "dismantles the Medicaid expansion and the system of subsidies to help people afford insurance. It gives the states the right to waive many of the consumer protections under President Obama’s landmark health law. And it removes the guaranteed safety net that has insured the country’s poorest citizens for more than half a century.... The legislation would turn over more than $1 trillion that would have been spent on ... Obamacare over the next seven years — everything from the funds for the expansion of Medicaid to the subsidies to help people buy private insurance — to states as 'block grants' with very few strings attached. They would then use the money to set up their own health care programs. Congress would have to reauthorize the money after 2026 or it would go away.” ...

... ** Paul Krugman: "Graham-Cassidy, the health bill the Senate may vote on next week, is stunningly cruel. It’s also incompetently drafted: The bill’s sponsors clearly had no idea what they were doing when they put it together. Furthermore, their efforts to sell the bill involve obvious, blatant lies. Nonetheless, the bill could pass. And that says a lot about today’s Republican Party, none of it good." ...

... Gene Robinson: "Motivated by the cynical aims of fulfilling a bumper-sticker campaign promise and lavishing tax cuts on the wealthy, Republicans are threatening to pass a health-care bill they know will make millions of Americans sicker and poorer. Do they think we don’t see what they’re doing?... The GOP’s efforts to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act have undergone a process of devolution, with each new bill worse than the last.... It is tempting to let the Republican Party drive itself, Thelma-and-Louise style, off this cliff. But the human impact of the latest repeal-and-replace measure would be too tragic. Call your senator. Make a deafening noise." ...

... "Senator Cassidy, Please Stop Lying about Health Care." David Leonardt of the New York Times: "Here’s a giveway about how bad the new Senate health care bill is: Bill Cassidy, one of its authors, keeps trying to sell it by telling untruths. 'The relatively new phenomenon of just "up is down" lying about your bill’s impacts is jarring,' says Loren Adler of the USC-Brookings-Schaeffer Initiative on Health Policy. Most egregiously, Cassidy is claiming that the bill would not ultimately deprive sick people of health insurance. That’s false, as NPR calmly explained when Cassidy said otherwise.... In the least surprising development of all, President Trump is now repeating Cassidy’s falsehoods." (Also linked yesterday afternoon.) ...

... Margot Sanger-Katz of the New York Times: The Graham-Cassidy bill "would require all the states in the country to make a ... soup-to-nuts evaluation of how they’d like their health care systems to work, to build such a system and be ready to open their doors in ... just over two years[: half the time it took Massachusetts to get RomneyCare up & running].... The Obamacare coverage programs would disappear everywhere in 2020, and any state unable to make a plan and submit an application would be ineligible for the new grant funding. If a state succeeds in obtaining the funding but doesn’t have a functioning new system on Jan. 1, 2020, consumers and markets would be thrown into chaos." ...

     ... Update. The Week: "On Thursday, the National Association of Medicaid Directors (NAMD), a group representing the Medicaid directors from all 50 states, joined other medical and patient advocacy groups in opposing the latest Senate Republican bill to repeal the Affordable Care Act, named after sponsors Sens. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) and Bill Cassidy (R-La.). The bill would scrap ObamaCare's subsidies for consumers and Medicaid expansion and redistribute that money as state grants, in what the NAMD board of directors calls 'the largest intergovernmental transfer of financial risk from the federal government to the states in our country's history.' The Medicaid directors said they don't want that risk, especially without being consulted first, and they called a Congressional Budget Office score — which Graham-Cassidy won't have before voting — 'the bare minimum required for beginning consideration.' Setting up entire new health-care programs in 50 states requires an enormous amount of work and resources, NAMD said, and 'the vast majority of states will not be able to do so within the two-year timeframe envisioned here, especially considering the apparent lack of federal funding in the bill to support these critical activities.'" ...

... Dylan Scott of Vox: "The Alaska auction is on.... Over the past two days, it's become clear that Senate Republicans are doing everything they can to funnel more money to Alaska and persuade [Sen. Lisa] Murkowski that this is the Obamacare repeal bill she should back. Take a look: Business Insider eyed an oddity in Sen. Bill Cassidy's spreadsheets that suggests Alaska could end up receiving an additional bump to its block grants under the bill. Politico noticed that Alaska could also end up being exempted from the bill's Medicaid spending caps. Now IJR is reporting that the plan might be revised to allow Alaska (along with Hawaii) to keep the Obamacare tax subsidies, while also still receiving block grant money. Nothing is baked in until we see a final bill — the rumor mill in Washington is working overtime right now.... But remember: Every outside analysis we've seen estimates that Alaska would lose funding under Graham-Cassidy." ...

... Caitlin Owens of Axios: "A new estimate obtained by Axios from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) projects that Alaska, home to key swing vote Sen. Lisa Murkowski, would lose 38% of federal funding for premium subsidies and Medicaid by 2026 under the Graham-Cassidy proposal. John McCain's home state of Arizona would also lose funding (-9% in 2026).... Even though the CMS numbers are rosier than other estimates, they still show states like Alaska and Arizona would be worse off under Graham-Cassidy, making it that much harder to wrangle the votes needed to pass the last-gasp Republican plan." ...

... Margaret Hartmann: "Some of the [CMS] figures are almost unbelievable, like Connecticut’s loss of 52 percent of its federal health dollars by 2026, and Mississippi’s 347 percent funding increase." ...

     ... Update: Amy Goldstein & Juliet Eilperin of the Washington Post: "An internal analysis by the Trump administration concludes that 31 states would lose federal money for health coverage under Senate Republicans’ latest effort to abolish much of the Affordable Care Act, with the politically critical state of Alaska facing a 38 percent cut in 2026. The report, produced by the federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, focuses on the final year of a block grant that states would receive under the Cassidy-Graham legislation. It shows that government funding for such health insurance would be 9 percent lower overall in 2026 under the plan than under current law. The predicted loss is less than that forecast by three independent analyses of the bill’s impact in recent days, but the internal numbers show a similar checkerboard of states that would be big winners and equally big losers." ...

... Greg Sargent: "... there is one scenario in which the Cassidy-Graham repeal bill could ... go down in spectacular fashion.... The Senate parliamentarian still may rule on whether key aspects of the bill can pass by a simple majority under reconciliation rules [which allow a simple majority vote]. If she strips out one of its most important features — the one allowing states to waive some of the Affordable Care Act’s regulations — it could suddenly upend the deliberations of undecided senators. It would force a rapid vote on a measure that has changed dramatically with only a few days left, rendering this whole process even more abysmally absurd. And it would make failure — spectacular failure — more likely.... Some health policy analysts think there’s a decent chance that the parliamentarian will strike those deregulatory features under the Byrd Rule, because they don’t have a direct budgetary component." Stripped of some of its major components, Senators would vote next week on a very different bill from the current one. ...

... BUT Joan Walsh of the Nation looks at Senate political dynamics & makes a very good case that the bill will pass. Mrs. McC: In fact, if Graham-Cassidy comes to the floor, it is almost guaranteed to pass, as McConnell has said he'll only bring it up if he has the 50 votes to pass it. ...

     ... Mrs. McCrabbie: I'd add these factors to Walsh's analysis. (1) GOP senators -- as Chuck Grassley made clear a couple of days ago -- campaigned on ObamaCare repeal, so by cracky, they're gonna keep that promise, no matter how; and (2) as Joy Reid said on Lawrence O'Donnell's show last night, wealthy donors are telling GOP senators that they will withold campaign contributions if the senators don't vote for Graham-Cassidy -- these rich people know that gutting & eventually ending Medicaid will free up billions of dollars to be converted to tax cuts for the wealthy. It's all about the money, Reid said. ...

... Charles Pierce notes that Graham-Cassidy's block grants to states were Rick Santorum's idea. The words "shameless" & "asshole" come up in Pierce's report. ...

... Dan Boyd of the Albuquerque Journal: New Mexico "Gov. Susana Martinez [R] has waded into the debate on the latest Republican-backed Obamacare repeal plan — and she’s not sold on the bill’s merits. 'While it’s encouraging that Congress is working on a healthcare solution, the governor is concerned this bill could hurt New Mexico and still needs some work,' Martinez spokesman Joseph Cueto told the Journal.... That’s likely because any loss of federal dollars — the federal government currently pays 95 percent of the cost of those receiving benefits under Medicaid expansion — could hit New Mexico particularly hard." (Also linked yesterday afternoon.)

Medlar's Sports Report

Ken Belson of the New York Times: "Aaron Hernandez, the former New England Patriots tight end who committed suicide in April while serving a life sentence for murder, was found to have a severe form of C.T.E., the degenerative brain disease linked to repeated head trauma that has been found in more than 100 former N.F.L. players. Researchers who examined the brain determined it was 'the most severe case they had ever seen in someone of Aaron’s age,' said a lawyer for Hernandez in announcing the result at a news conference on Thursday. Hernandez was 27. C.T.E., or chronic traumatic encephalopathy, can be diagnosed only posthumously. Hernandez is the latest former N.F.L. player to have committed suicide and then been found to have C.T.E., joining Dave Duerson, Junior Seau, Andre Waters, Ray Easterling and Jovan Belcher, among others. Seau and Duerson shot themselves in the chest, apparently so that researchers would be able to examine their brain." ...

     ... Mrs. McCrabbie: This is a case in which at least two people died as a result of playing football. (Hernandez was acquitted of two other murders besides the one for which he was convicted.) So maybe four people died because of Hernandez's brain damage. Please stop watching or otherwise supporting football.

Beyond the Beltway

Christopher Ingraham of the Washington Post: "The fertility rate in Flint, Mich., dropped precipitously after the city decided to switch to lead-poisoned Flint River water in 2014, according to a new working paper. That decline was primarily driven by what the authors call a 'culling of the least healthy fetuses' resulting in a 'horrifyingly large' increase in fetal deaths and miscarriages."

News Ledes

Washington Post: "Tens of thousands of people in northwestern Puerto Rico were ordered to evacuate Friday afternoon after floodwaters from Hurricane Maria damaged the Guajataca Dam, which the National Weather Service said is in "imminent" danger of failing. The dam, built by the Army Corps of Engineers in 1929, suffered a "fissure," Gov. Ricardo Rosselló said in a news conference Friday. An estimated 70,000 people in the municipalities of Quebradillas, Isabela and part of San Sebastian could be affected if the dam collapses, he said. A failure would likely send a massive amount of water from an inland lake along the Guajataca River, which flows north through coastal communities toward the ocean."

New York Times: "As Hurricane Maria plowed on from a stricken and sodden Puerto Rico, residents on Friday faced the arduous work of rebuilding that awaited them, a task made all the more formidable by the fact that, for now, the island has no power. With cell service spotty and roads tough to access across the island, communication with family members and among Puerto Rican officials was sparse, making it difficult to assess the extent of the damage. Flash flooding from the storm’s trailing rain bands persisted on parts of the island and in the Dominican Republic, according to the National Hurricane Center."