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HeadlinesMarch 14, 2017

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CBO on Republican Health Plan: 24 Million to Lose Health Insurance

Mar 14, 2017

Twenty-four million people would lose health insurance within 10 years under a plan by House Republicans to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act. That was the conclusion of the Congressional Budget Office in a highly anticipated report released Monday. The CBO estimates the legislation would shave about a third of a trillion dollars from budget deficits by 2026, after combining the end of a program to expand Medicaid with tax cuts that strongly favor the wealthiest Americans. Republican lawmakers and the Trump administration quickly dismissed the findings. This is Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price.

Dr. Tom Price: “We disagree strenuously with—with the report that was put out. We believe that our plan will cover more individuals at a lower cost and give them the choices that they want for the coverage that they want for themselves and for their family, not that the government forces them to buy.”

Democrats seized on the CBO’s findings to argue against repealing the Affordable Care Act. This is House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi.

Rep. Nancy Pelosi: “This is a remarkable figure. It speaks so eloquently to the cruelty of the bill that the speaker calls an 'act of mercy'. … OK, so they’re taking 24 million people, pushing them off their coverage. And as they do so, they are implementing the biggest transfer of wealth in our history: $600 billion going from working families to the richest people and corporations in our country.”

The House plan to repeal and replace Obamacare will meet its biggest challenge so far on Thursday, when it’s up for consideration in the House Budget Committee. At least seven Republican members of the committee have said they feel the legislation doesn’t go far enough toward repealing Obamacare.

States File Federal Lawsuit to Halt Trump’s “Muslim Ban 2.0”

Mar 14, 2017

President Trump’s second attempt to ban refugees and travelers from six majority-Muslim countries got a fresh legal challenge Monday, when several states filed a joint challenge to the ban in federal court. The suit was filed by Washington state and joined by California, Maryland, Massachusetts, New York and Oregon. It seeks to halt Trump’s ban before it takes effect on Thursday. The executive order would bar refugees from entering the country for 120 days and would bar all travelers from Iran, Libya, Syria, Somalia, Sudan and Yemen for 90 days. This is Georgetown law professor Arjun Sethi.

Arjun Sethi: “I believe this executive order violates the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment, because it favors one religion or multiple religions over another, namely Islam.”

A separate legal challenge by Hawaii’s attorney general also seeks to suspend Trump’s ban on refugees and Muslim travelers.

Fearing Travel Ban, Girl Guides of Canada to End U.S. Travel

Mar 14, 2017

Meanwhile, the Canadian sister organization of the Girl Scouts said Monday it will suspend all travel to the U.S. over concerns about Trump’s travel ban. A spokesperson for the Girl Guides of Canada said she feared some members could get detained when a group tries to enter the U.S. The decision follows a series of incidents in which Muslim Canadians were detained by U.S. border guards.

Oregon Man Shouts “Go Back to Your Country, Terrorist!” During Assault

Mar 14, 2017

In Salem, Oregon, police arrested a 52-year-old man Saturday after he allegedly entered a Middle Eastern restaurant and shouted racist epithets while beating an employee with a pipe. Jason Kendall told investigators he entered the Al Aqsa restaurant near the state Capitol building and decided to assault a “Saddam Hussein-looking guy,” shouting, “Go back to your country, terrorist! Get out of America!”

Rep. Luis Gutiérrez Among Activists Handcuffed at ICE Sit-in Protest

Mar 14, 2017

In Chicago, federal police handcuffed and detained Democratic Congressmember Luis Gutiérrez along with activists and lawyers Monday, after they held a sit-in protest at a federal immigration office.
Gutiérrez says the group refused to leave the Chicago office of Immigration and Customs Enforcement—or ICE—after the agency’s regional director refused to answer his questions about the Trump administration’s plans for immigration sweeps and mass deportation.

Rep. Luis Gutiérrez: “We’ve accomplished our goal today. We stood up to the Department of Homeland Security and to Donald Trump’s hatred, bigotry today against refugees, against Muslims, against our immigrant community. And we stood up and said, 'Your policies are morally bankrupt.'”

Monday’s meeting was Gutiérrez’s first with ICE officials since Donald Trump’s inauguration. Last month, Gutiérrez and fellow Congressional Hispanic Caucus member Norma Torres of California said Republican lawmakers had them thrown out of a meeting with a top ICE official.

Trump Administration Walks Back Wiretap Claims as DOJ Misses Deadline

Mar 14, 2017

In Washington, D.C., the Justice Department failed to meet a Monday deadline to hand over evidence in support of Donald Trump’s claims that President Obama ordered the wiretapping of Trump Tower last year, asking leaders of the House Intelligence Committee for more time to comply. The delay came as senior Trump administration officials backpedaled from the claims. At the White House, Press Secretary Sean Spicer said President Trump didn’t literally mean wiretapping when he tweeted about “wire tapping.”

Press Secretary Sean Spicer: “The president used the word 'wiretapped' in quotes to mean, broadly, surveillance and other activities during that. And that is again something—it is interesting how many news outlets reported that this activity was taking place during the 2016 election cycle and now are wondering where the proof is. It is many of the same outlets in this room that talked about the activities that were going on back then.”

Spicer’s claim directly contradicts a March 4 tweet by the president in which the wiretap claim is made without quotation marks. The tweet read, “How low has President Obama gone to tapp [sic] my phones during the very sacred election process. This is Nixon/Watergate. Bad (or sick) guy!” Meanwhile, White House senior adviser Kellyanne Conway drew ridicule over her comments on surveillance in an interview Sunday with the Bergen Record as she attempted to walk back Trump’s wiretapping claims.

Kellyanne Conway: “There was an article this week that talked about how you can surveil someone through their phones, through their—certainly through their television sets, any number of different ways, and microwaves that turn into cameras, etc.”

Conway’s claim became the butt of jokes on late-night television and prompted Wired magazine to publish a piece entitled “No, Microwave Ovens Cannot Spy on You—for Lots of Reasons.”

Jared Kushner’s Family to Get $400 Million Payout from Chinese Firm

Mar 14, 2017

A company owned by President Trump’s senior adviser and son-in-law Jared Kushner will receive more than $400 million from a Chinese firm in a real estate deal that many experts are calling unusually favorable. The payout from the Anbang Insurance Group is part of a $4 billion deal at Kushner’s Manhattan office tower at 666 Fifth Avenue. Bloomberg reports Anbang has links to the Chinese power structure and that past investments by the company in New York real estate have drawn federal review. Lawrence Noble of the Campaign Legal Center said of the deal, “At the very least, this raises serious questions about the appearance of a conflict that arises from the possibility that the Kushners are getting a sweetheart deal. A classic way you influence people is by financially helping their family.”

Former Exxon CEO Tillerson Used Alias to Discuss Climate Change

Mar 14, 2017

In climate news, New York prosecutors said Monday that former ExxonMobil CEO Rex Tillerson used a separate email address and an alias when discussing climate change. The disclosure came in court documents filed by New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman as part of a criminal probe into charges Exxon knew that fossil fuels cause global warming as early as the 1970s, but hid that information from the public. Tillerson, who retired from Exxon shortly before becoming President Trump’s secretary of state, used the alias “Wayne Tracker” on a separate email account when discussing global warming between 2008 and 2015. Exxon now faces questions about whether it complied with a subpoena requiring it turn over all records relevant to Schneiderman’s investigation.

Yemen: Aid Officials in “Race Against Time” to Prevent Famine

Mar 14, 2017

In Yemen, aid officials said Monday they’re in a race against time to prevent a famine brought on by a U.S.-backed, Saudi-led war and blockade. The executive director of the World Food Programme said her agency had just three months’ worth of food stored and that officials were only able to provide hungry Yemenis with about a third of the rations they need.

20 Million at Risk of Famine In U.N.’s “Largest Humanitarian Crisis”

Mar 14, 2017

The Yemen warning came after the top U.N. humanitarian official told the Security Council that the risk of famine in Yemen, Nigeria, South Sudan and Somalia is unprecedented. This is U.N. Emergency Relief Coordinator Stephen O’Brien.

Stephen O’Brien: “We stand at a critical point in our history. Already at the beginning of the year, we are facing the largest humanitarian crisis since the creation of the United Nations. Now, more than 20 million people across four countries face starvation and famine. Without collective and coordinated global efforts, people will simply starve to death.”

The U.N. says it needs to raise $4.4 billion by July in order to avert famine.

Far-Right Dutch Politician Surging Ahead of National Election

Mar 14, 2017

In the Netherlands, Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte sparred with far-right politician Geert Wilders in a debate Monday night ahead of Wednesday’s national elections. Wilders hopes to withdraw the Netherlands from the European Union in a “Nexit” vote similar to Britain’s “Brexit.”

Geert Wilders: “Nexit is the best thing that could happen to us. We’d become, once again, the bosses in our country. Once again, we would get the keys to our own front door. How many people at home would find it unpleasant to not even have the keys to their own homes so they can see which guests they let in and which not?”

The far-right Wilders has called for the “de-Islamization” of the Netherlands and was found guilty by a Dutch court last year of inciting racial discrimination against Moroccans. Nevertheless, he’s running a close second in national polls. Ahead of Monday’s debate, Prime Minister Mark Rutte compared Geert Wilders to Donald Trump.

Prime Minister Mark Rutte: “This is a time to be realistic and not to rely on the polls that tricked us before. Remember the Brexit. We all thought that would never happen. Remember the U.S. elections. So, let’s not make that mistake again. These elections are crucial. Let us stop the domino effect, right here, this week, this Wednesday.”

Wilders hopes to capitalize on rising tensions with Turkey, which on Monday suspended most diplomatic ties with the Netherlands after Dutch authorities barred Turkish ministers from campaigning among expatriates.

Israeli-American Activist Jeff Halper Detained over BDS Materials

Mar 14, 2017

And in Israel, police detained Israeli-American activist Jeff Halper last Wednesday on charges of suspected incitement, after they received a tip he was carrying materials supporting a campaign to boycott and divest from Israel over its treatment of the Palestinians. Halper was held after leading a tour of observers at the illegal E1 Jewish-only settlement in the occupied West Bank.

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