May 26, 2017

The flip side of Montana

Political Line : Trump won MT 57-36. Quist only lost by 6 points but somehow this is bad news for Dems nationally?

Word: Trump's trip

Borowitz Report, New Yorker - Donald J. Trump’s foreign trip hit a snag when the remaining countries on his itinerary announced that they would rather “wait a month” and meet with the next President instead.

“It makes no sense for us to roll out the red carpet for Trump when there is going to be a completely different guy in the White House in a month,” Hendrik van der Valde, a travel minister for the Belgian government, said. “We very much look forward to hosting the next U.S. President, be it Mike Pence or Paul Ryan or whoever.”

Word: Travel ban

Jonas Werner - Why are we still talking about a travel ban? Trump's original ban was for 60 days and according to Trump, the purpose was to shore up the immigration system. It has been 120 days and the incredible Trump and Company should have the bugs worked out by now. I'm beginning to think the ban was a farce all along.

Tiny homes in Detroit

 

Tree Hugger - Much has been said about how tiny homes will help make housing and home ownership more affordable and accessible to a larger number of people. But access to land and the slow pace of zoning reform have always been two of the biggest barriers. Nevertheless, things are gradually changing, as we can see from the recent efforts to get tiny houses written into the international residential building code, and from this inspiring rent-to-own tiny house project in Detroit that aims to make home ownership accessible to low-income folks.

Local non-profit Cass Community Social Services  kicked off a fundraising event that welcomed the public to tour the first six completed tiny homes, out of the approximately 25 tiny homes in total that are slated to be built in the two vacant blocks. Each home will look different, ranging in size from 250 to 400 square feet and will be erected on its own foundation.

The structures are being built with the permission of the city, and with the help of professional tradespeople and volunteers. The project is using a rent-to-own model, with rental prices set at $1 per square foot, meaning that a 300-square-foot house would cost $300 in rent per month.

Polls

National Institute for Latino Policy

Russian officials discussed how to exert influence over Trump

NY Times -  American spies collected information last summer revealing that senior Russian intelligence and political officials were discussing how to exert influence over Donald J. Trump through his advisers, according to three current and former American officials familiar with the intelligence.

The conversations focused on Paul Manafort, the Trump campaign chairman at the time, and Michael T. Flynn, a retired general who was advising Mr. Trump, the officials said. Both men had indirect ties to Russian officials, who appeared confident that each could be used to help shape Mr. Trump’s opinions on Russia.

Some Russians boasted about how well they knew Mr. Flynn. Others discussed leveraging their ties to Viktor F. Yanukovych, the deposed president of Ukraine living in exile in Russia, who at one time had worked closely with Mr. Manafort.

Single payer is cheaper than what we've got

Shadowproof -The Lewin Group, a health care consulting firm owned by United Health Group, has repeatedly concluded that single-payer would cut health care costs. For example, they analyzed a single-player plan for Minnesota and concluded, “that the single-payer plan would achieve universal coverage while reducing total health spending for Minnesota by about $4.1 billion, or 8.8 percent.” It reached the same basic conclusion looking at a national single-payer plan in years past.

Similarly, the Congressional Budget Office studied allowing a small group of people to buy into Medicare like a public option. They concluded this public plan would have premiums 7-8 percent cheaper than private insurance, so it would immediately cut health care spending.

The simple fact is large government health care programs like Medicare and Medicaid are much better at negotiating lower prices from providers than private insurance companies. The incredibly high rates private insurance pays providers is the main reason American health care is so expensive.

As a result, any reasonable shift of a large number of people from private insurance to public insurance will cut health care spending.

This overwhelming belief among hospital CEO’s that single-payer would reduce their revenue is what makes single-payer so politically difficult.

Hospitals don’t like dealing with hundreds of different private insurance companies, each with different pay rates. It creates a massive administrative burden for hospitals compared to hospitals in single-payer countries. Hospitals put up with this administrative headache because they know can charge private insurers so much more for the same services.

The Lewin group also found that if you simply allowed all companies to buy into Medicare, the vast majority of companies would abandon private insurance for it and, as a result, hospitals would see a major drop in revenue.

FBI refuses to release documents in underage sex case of Clinton friend

Radar - In court documents filed on May 25 in U.S. District Court, lawyers for Radar contend that the FBI illegally ignored a Freedom of Information Act request filed on April 20, 2017, by The National ENQUIRER.

That FOIA demanded “all documents relating to the investigation and prosecution of [Jeffrey] Epstein.”

The FBI and Palm Beach, Fla. police began probing billionaire Epstein, now 64, in 2005, for allegedly trafficking dozens of underage women for the purposes of performing sex acts on him and his pals.

“Mr. Epstein enjoyed close ties to numerous prominent political figures, including former President Bill Clinton and Prince Andrew of the British Royal Family,” reads Radar’s lawsuit.

“Despite the gravity of his offenses, The Department of Justice allowed Epstein to plead guilty to a single count of soliciting prostitution from a minor under Florida state law, and serve only 13 months in prison.”

“In addition,” the Radar suit explained, “prosecutors agreed not to bring charges against Epstein’s alleged co-conspirators.”

By law, the FBI, or any government agency petitioned by a FOIA request, has 20 business days to produce the requested documents, or explain why they cannot be reasonably produced.

In this case, the FBI flat-out ignored The Enquirer’s demand.

As Radar previously reported, Clinton traveled on Epstein’s private jet— allegedly equipped with an “orgy bed” and nicknamed the “Lolita Express” — to the Islamic state of Brunei, where he dined with a notorious Sultan accused of doping women into “white slavery.”

What’s more, Clinton also visited Epstein’s private, 78-acre Caribbean island, officially called Little St. James but better known as “Orgy Island.”

Why the FBI is interested in Kushner

Washington Post - FBI investigators have a simple reason for believing Jared Kushner can help them determine whether President Trump's campaign helped Russia influence the presidential election: Kushner met with senior Russians during the campaign.

And while it's not weird for presidential campaigns to meet with foreign officials, under this context, it was.

Right around the time Trump's son-in-law and top adviser held a meeting with the Russian ambassador to the United States last spring, the CIA director started to notice something weird: The Russians were talking about actively, aggressively trying to influence the U.S. presidential election against Hillary Clinton.

Guardian -  It emerged last year that executives of Vnesheconombank, a Russian bank, had talks with Kushner. The White House aide also held a meeting with Sergey Kislyak, the Russian ambassador to the US. Former national security adviser Michael Flynn resigned in February after it emerged that he had misled vice-president Mike Pence about the nature of his conversations with Kislyak.

The FBI’s investigation is also reportedly continuing to focus on Flynn and Trump’s former campaign chairman, Paul Manafort, who has had extensive business dealings for Russian proxies in Ukraine. Manafort has denied wrongdoing. Flynn is facing subpoenas from the US House and Senate and has refused requests for documents by invoking his fifth amendment right against self-incrimination.

Last month, the New York Times reported that Kushner omitted meeting with Russians on security clearance forms.

America's hidden wars in Africa

Global Research - Much of their work is classified. However, a Freedom of Information Act request by the New York-based Vice News has revealed extensive deployment of US Special Forces in Africa in recent times.

Information provided to Vice News by the USSOCOM appears to show that operations by US Special Forces in Africa have seen dramatic growth in recent years, possibly more than any other region of the globe.

According to documents, US Special Forces in Africa represented just over 1 percent of all US Special Forces personnel stationed abroad in 2006. By 2010, that number had risen to approximately 3 percent —a significant increase but still relatively low in comparison to USSOCOM deployment in other regions of the world. But by 2016, over 17 percent of US Special Forces stationed abroad were based in Africa. Information unearthed by Vice News shows that 1,700 US Special Forces troops were stationed in 20 different African countries in 2016.

This number indicates that there are now more US Special Forces troops stationed in Africa than in any other region of the world barring the Middle East.

Vice News said it obtained a report by US Special Operations Command Africa (SOCAFRICA), which states that US Special Forces were deployed in “at least 32 African nations in the 12 months of 2016”. Only the Middle East saw more deployments of US Special Forces than Africa.

How the Trump budget would hurt older Americans

Jazz break

Mose Allison: Your Mind is on Vacation