Fox News Was Attacking Barack Obama for Using Dijon Mustard at This Point in His Presidency

Newsweek

Fox News Was Attacking Barack Obama for Using Dijon Mustard at This Point in His Presidency

Chris Riotta, Newsweek      June 9, 2017 

Donald Trump isn’t the only president to have faced harsh criticisms just months into office. At this point in former President Barack Obama’s tenure as the leader of the free world, right-wing news outlets were condemning his use of Dijon mustard as a condiment. Yes, really.

In news from eight years ago that appears to be from some alternate reality, Obama left the White House and went out for a local bite to eat with vice president and BFF Joe Biden in May. The two politicians ordered hamburgers, MSNBC journalist Andrea Mitchell reported at the time, with the sitting president requesting mustard on his red meat.

The story was featured on Sean Hannity’s show, Hannity’s America, as a screen showed a photoshopped image of Obama surrounded by bottles of mustard with the words “PRESIDENT POUPON” plastered on a red and white banner.

Let that soak in for a minute. Trump tweeted his support for Fox News Friday, commending them for the network’s morning show Fox And Friends’ “great reporting” job on ex-FBI Director James Comey’s Thursday testimony. The network’s rejection of Obama’s taste palette compared to its incredible support of the embattled Trump White House was seen by Twitter users as shocking at best, and propagandistic at worst.

Reporters Dominic Holden and Sahil Kapur from BuzzFeed and Bloomberg both shared similar tweets reflecting on Fox News’ coverage of Obama’s presidency just months after his first inauguration following the highly anticipated hearing. Comey’s testimony provided details on his nine conversations with Trump before the president fired him in an effort he says was to ease pressure off of the administration from the ongoing federal investigation into Russia’s meddling in last year’s election.

Trump reportedly described his former FBI director as a “nut job” in a conversation with Russia’s top diplomats in the Oval Office, explaining his reasoning for firing Comey before allegedly revealing top secret intelligence to Russian Ambassador to the U.S. Sergey Kislyak and Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov.

Fox News has spent the last five months strongly supporting Trump’s conservative agenda, defending the president against ongoing controversies enveloping his White House and accusations of collusion with the Russian Kremlin. The network has also continued to push fake news about former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s health, following a televised commencement speech critical of Trump.

Compare Fox’s defense of the Trump/Russia investigation to the mustard scandal its conservative TV personalities were decrying Obama’s presidency over just eight years ago. Then remind yourself that, yes, this is the new normal.

Obama criticized Fox News and Sean Hannity at the time in an interview with Fox News’ former anchor Bill O’Reilly, noting the extremism and hate he was facing from the right during his short time in the Oval Office.

Was a Georgia Congressional Candidate Responsible for Purging Korean American, Latino and African American Voters?

Was a Georgia Congressional Candidate Responsible for Purging Korean American, Latino and African American Voters?

Greg Palast, on the Thom Hartmann Program with Thom Hartmann  May 30, 2017

Was a Georgia Congressional Candidate Responsible for Purging Voters? Greg Palast Reports From Georgia’s 6th Congressional District for the Thom Hartmann Program

As Secretary of State, Karen Handel was the one who signed Georgia up to Crosscheck and started implementing the racially-biased-by-design Kris Kobach / Donald Trump program. They were really going after the Asian-American voters in the 6th, who statistically are far more likely to vote blue. She removed thousands of voters from the rolls to whitewash her own district. She actually never arrested anyone for voting twice, she just made the accusation to get the non-white voters off the rolls…

They began a criminal investigation of the Asian-American voter registration group AALAC. They grabbed all their files, their computers, they intimidated them, and so the Korean-American registration drive came to a dead halt. Then all charges and allegations were dropped.

Then they made similar allegations against another major group, The New Georgia Project, who were registering African-Americans and Latinos in the district. That investigation is still going on. The Georgia Bureau of Investigation kicked in the door of the group, and again took computers and files and threatened criminal charges for illegally registering voters — whatever the heck that is. Again, no charges, just intimidation in an attempt to shut down the African-American group as they did the Asian-American group…

You had thousands of Asian-Americans who were not allowed to register in the Sixth, and you have to understand, Jon Ossoff only lost by 3,700 votes in April.

Support our investigation into Crosscheck and the theft of the 2016 election by making a tax-deductible donation here: palastinvestigativefund.org/?stolenelectioninvestigation

To find out how the GOP is whitewashing the voter rolls ahead of the 2018 and 2020 elections visit: http://www.gregpalast.com

Greg Palast (Rolling Stone, Guardian, BBC) is the author of The New York Times bestsellers, The Best Democracy Money Can Buy and Billionaires & Ballot Bandits, now out as major motion non-fiction movie — available to view worldwide from just $2.99: the bestdemocracymoneycanbuy.com/dvd-streaming/

Grandmother Who Lost Her Home Because Her Son Sold Marijuana Wins Pennsylvania Supreme Court Case

Forbes

Grandmother Who Lost Her Home Because Her Son Sold Marijuana Wins Pennsylvania Supreme Court Case

Institute for Justice

The national law firm for liberty.

Opinions expressed by Forbes Contributors are their own.

Nick Sibilla, Contributor May 30, 2017

Without ever being charged with a crime, a West Philadelphia grandmother had her home and her car confiscated because her son sold less than $200 worth of marijuana. Elizabeth Young, now 72, is just one of thousands of victims of civil forfeiture, which allows police and prosecutors to confiscate property, even if the owner has not been convicted or accused of any wrongdoing.

But on Thursday, more than seven years after her legal nightmare began, Young scored a major victory at the Pennsylvania Supreme Court. In a meticulous and unanimous decision, the court rejected the government’s confiscation, and issued more stringent safeguards for property owners. Writing for the court, Justice Debra Todd held that this ruling would ensure that “innocent property owners are not dispossessed of what may be essential possessions…without rigorous scrutiny by the courts.”

Property owners desperately needed greater protections, especially in Philadelphia, where law enforcement has confiscated over 1,000 homes, more than 3,000 vehicles and $44 million in cash over 11 years. Thanks in part to a separate, class action-lawsuit by the Institute for Justice (which also filed an amicus brief for Young’s case), Philadelphia’s “forfeiture machine” has become notorious nationwide for its abuses, and has even been showcased on CNN and Last Week Tonight with John Oliver.

Young’s case began in 2009 after she allowed her adult son, Donald Graham, and his children to live with her, but only after Graham claimed he no longer used drugs. Previously, when Young learned Graham was using, she refused to speak to him and shunned her son entirely. With her son back in her life, Young relied on Graham for assistance, who drove his mother to church, to run errands and to meet appointments. (Young has been hospitalized for two blood clots in her lungs.)

But unbeknownst to Young, Graham was a small-time dealer. Beginning in November 2009, Philadelphia police conducted seven controlled buys with confidential informants against Graham. That effective use of taxpayer’s money netted just 19 grams of marijuana, with an estimated street value of around $190.

In January 2010, police arrested Graham, who later pled guilty to possession of marijuana with intent to deliver. Graham was sentenced to 11 to 23 months of house arrest, and faced no fine. But the even bigger penalty was to come.

Prosecutors filed petitions to forfeit Young’s car, a 1997 Chevrolet Venture minivan, and her home, where she had lived since the 1970s. Incredibly, Young was never charged with a crime. Instead, the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania argued that her house and car must be confiscated because they “facilitated” Graham’s drug sales, which happened inside or around the minivan and house.

Young argued that she was an “innocent owner” under Pennsylvania law, because she did not know of or consent to her son’s illegal activity. She also claimed that the forfeiture was an unconstitutional “excessive fine” because she would lose her car and $54,000 house over a crime for which her son paid no fine.

Unfortunately for her, a Philadelphia trial court rejected both of her claims in May 2012, and ordered her to forfeit her residence and primary mode of transportation. The trial court claimed Young had turned “a blind eye to her son’s illegal conduct on the property”—despite evidence to the contrary—and reasoned that the forfeiture was “not grossly disproportional” because Graham could have theoretically faced $80,000 in criminal penalties, even though he wasn’t actually fined.

On appeal, a divided Commonwealth Court ruled in favor of Young in December 2014, prompting an appeal by prosecutors, before her case reached the Pennsylvania Supreme Court. The court’s decision primarily involved the Eighth Amendment’s ban on “excessive fines,” with Justice Todd clarifying the standard for determining when forfeitures would be unconstitutional.

First, the property must be “an instrumentality of the criminal conduct” to be forfeited. That designation depends on a variety of factors, including if the property was used deliberately and repeatedly, and not incidentally, and was “integral to the commission of the offense.”

Second, even if a property were an instrumentality, the forfeiture may still be unconstitutional if “the value of the property sought to be forfeited is grossly disproportional to the gravity of the underlying offense.”

For this prong, the court relied on a 1998 U.S. Supreme Court decision. In United States v. Bajakajian, the Court ruled that it “would be grossly disproportional to the offense” to force a man to forfeit $357,144 when he pled guilty to a crime that triggered a maximum $5,000 fine.

Although Bajakajian involved criminal forfeiture, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court noted that in civil forfeiture cases, “the owner of the property and the offender may not be the same” and so “we must be wary of forfeiture imposing greater punishment than appropriate for the underlying crime itself.” The court even compared civil forfeiture to a “‘super criminal’ proceeding…without all the safeguards associated with criminal proceedings,” since property owners do not have a right to court-appointed counsel and lack the presumption of innocence.

In other words, courts must evaluate “the potential harshness of a forfeiture against a property owner with no alleged criminal conduct, or minor culpability,” when it comes to claims involving excessive fines.

An owner’s knowledge and culpability, along with the “actual penalty imposed upon the criminal offender” and specific instances of harm, are also key to determine “the gravity of the offense” for this gross disproportionality test. “Even a property owner, while not wholly without knowledge or granting consent,” Justice Todd noted, “may lack full knowledge of criminal activity, or may bear only nominal or token blame for the illegal conduct serving as the foundation for the forfeiture.”

As for determining the value of a seized property, this may extend beyond “simple market value” and include “a subjective non-pecuniary evaluation.” For instance, judges need to consider “whether the forfeiture would deprive the property owner of his or her livelihood, i.e., his current or ‘future ability to earn a living.’” Ever since Magna Carta, many English and later American jurists wanted to spare defendants from “such onerous fines that would deprive one of his or her means of living.” This factor would be particularly helpful to owners in vehicle forfeiture cases, since in this car-centered country, owning a car is crucial for many people to get to work and keep their jobs.

In addition, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court ruled that forfeiture cases involving family residences deserve “rigorous consideration.” As Justice Todd explained, “the home is where one expects the greatest freedom from governmental intrusion; it not only occupies a special place in our law, but the most exacting process is demanded before the government may seize it.”

Moreover, the court addressed the state’s innocent-owner defense. In Pennsylvania, along with more than 30 other states, property owners, and not the government, must bear the burden of proof. Flipping the presumption of innocence straight on its head, owners must prove they did not know or consent to their property being used in connection with criminal activity.

Acknowledging that owners are tasked with a “virtually impossible” burden, Justice Todd ruled that for innocent-owner claims, courts “must recognize the difficult burden on a property owner to establish a negative—that he or she had no knowledge or gave no consent.”

After this “exacting review” of civil forfeiture, Justice Todd remanded the case, but not before rebuking the trial court:

…the court did not address [Young’s] past dealings with her son when she discovered drug usage; her contention that she did not see any drugs in her home or van; her explanation that she only allowed her son to return home due to her belief that he had stopped using illegal drugs; her assertions that, if she had found drugs in her home, she would have evicted her son; that no neighbors or the block captain reported knowledge of drug dealing from the home or problems with [Young’s] son; that she requested from police some proof that her son was selling drugs, but that no proof was ever proffered; and the failure of the police to arrest her son after executing a search warrant on the home in November 2009. All of these circumstances should have been accounted for and considered by the trial court in rendering its decision. Furthermore, the prospect of evicting [Young’s] son needed to be contemplated in the context of an elderly widow with serious health challenges who relied upon her son for living assistance. The trial court should have considered what was reasonable under these circumstances.

With a more robust standard in place, property owners throughout Pennsylvania will be better protected against the grasping hand of the government.  Young, for one, is “glad” her case is finally coming to a close. “I never did anything wrong and I have been out of my house long enough,” she told the Philadelphia Inquirer.

“This is one of the most important civil forfeiture decisions issued by a court and the most important ever issued in Pennsylvania,” said Jason Leckerman, a Partner at Ballard Spahr, which handled the case. “The court has set forth a comprehensive constitutional framework for analyzing forfeiture claims that should substantially curb forfeiture proceedings in Pennsylvania and is likely to influence other state courts considering these issues.”

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I Agree With Mr. Trump, For Probably the Very First Time.

John Hanno    May 23, 2017

I Agree With Mr. Trump, For Probably the Very First Time.

Donald Trump responded to the deadly suicide terrorist bomb attack at the Ariana Grande concert in Manchester, England, where at least 22 people were killed and at least 59 more were injured; and like everyone, he had a difficult time putting his shock and anger into words.

“I would like to begin by offering my prayers to the people of Manchester,” Trump said this morning during a news conference with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas. “I extend my deepest condolences to those so terribly injured in this terrorist attack and to the many killed, and the families, so many families, of the victims.

“We stand in absolute solidarity with the people of the United Kingdom.”

“So many young, beautiful, innocent people living and enjoying their lives murdered by evil losers in life,” Trump said. “I won’t call these people monsters, because they would like that term. They would think that’s a great name.

“I will call them, from now on, losers. Because that’s what they are: They’re losers.”

“Our society can have no tolerance for this continuation of bloodshed,” “We can not stand a moment longer for the slaughter of innocent people, and in today’s attack it was mostly innocent children.”

“This wicked ideology must be obliterated, and I mean completely obliterated, and the innocent life must be protected.”

Trump was obviously trying to avoid giving any little bit of credibility to 22-year-old suicide bomber Salman Abedi, who died in the attack and who Manchester Police believe could have acted alone, or to ISIS, who later claimed responsibility for the explosion, by labeling them as desperate “losers.”

Police subsequently arrested another 23-year-old suspect, possibly a brother, in South Manchester. The Islamic State group claimed responsibility through its social media channels and claimed “one of the caliphate’s soldiers placed bombs among the crowds;” and they also threatening more attacks.

An obviously distraught Ariana Grande tweeted: broken.
from the bottom of my heart, i am so so sorry. i don’t have words.

Scooter Braun, Grande’s manager, released a statement:  “We mourn the lives of children and loved ones taken by this cowardly act,” he wrote. “We are thankful for the selfless service tonight of Manchester’s first responders who rushed towards danger to help save lives.”

Grande’s world tour is scheduled to have appearances in London, Belgium, Poland, Germany and Switzerland before heading to South America and Asia, but the tour may be put on hold.

Twelve children under the age of 16 were seriously injured and an 8-year-old girl named Saffie Rose Roussos was killed. Chris Upton, Saffie’s primary school head-teacher, described Saffie as, “a beautiful little girl in every sense of the word.”

18-year-old Georgina Callander, who was studying health and social care, was one of Ariana’s super-fans.

I’m sure in the days ahead, we’ll learn more about the innocents who’s young lives were cut short by Mr. Trump’s vile “losers.”

United Kingdom Prime Minister Theresa May called the attack “appalling sickening cowardice” and condemned the attacker for deliberately targeting children and young people, who should have been enjoying one of the most memorable nights of their lives.”

“We struggle to comprehend the warped and twisted mind that sees a room packed with young children not as a scene to be cherished but as an opportunity for carnage,” Theresa May said.

London Mayor Sadiq Kahn tweeted: My statement on the barbaric and sickening attack in Manchester last night. London stands with Manchester today.

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Tradeau tweeted: Canadians are shocked by the news of the horrific attack in Manchester tonight. Please keep the victims & their families in your thoughts.

Dozens of musical and sports celebrities, who understand first hand, the terrorist threat to them and their fans, when they entertain in a public arena, tweeted their heartfelt sympathies.

The Late Late Show’s James Corden sent a message to Manchester from his show:

“It shocks me every time we hear this sort of news that attacks like this can happen, but especially when there will be so many children at this concert tonight,” Corden said.

“Many of you won’t ever have been to Manchester, but you’ll definitely have heard of it,” he continued. “It’s famous all over the world for so many wonderful things. Great football teams — Man City, Man United. It’s famous for incredible music, Oasis and Joy Division. It was the birthplace of the leader of the suffragettes. It’s the home of the inventor of the first computer. It’s a place full of comedies and curries and character. But when I think of Manchester, the place that I know, I think of the spirit of the people there. And I’m telling you, a more tight-knit group of people you will be hard-pressed to find. Strong, proud, caring people with community at its core. And if it was even possible, the spirit of the people of Manchester will grow even stronger this evening.”

“My thoughts and prayers are with everyone in Manchester tonight,” he concluded. “All of the staff at the Man Arena, all of the security teams, all of the emergency services, Ariana and her team and all of those families affected by tonight. We’ll all go to bed holding our little ones even tighter this evening.”

Mr. Trump calls these terrorists “losers,” trying to name the unnameable. I would use the word “inhuman,” being unable to understand how a thinking, feeling human being could even contemplate such vial acts; targeting innocent and defenseless children, at the beginning of their young entry into adulthood, by venturing to see someone they admire and find pure joy listening too. These “inhumans” are void of anything we recognize as a human thought or feeling. They’ve relinquished any right to live among the rest of society. And anyone who supports them financially or otherwise, or who tolerates their “inhuman” conduct, no matter the twisted reasoning, has done likewise.  John Hanno

Esquire

The Morning After Manchester

Hatred is not blind; hatred sees very well.

By Charles P. Pierce     May 23, 2017

Nothing about it was unprecedented.

It was a mass casualty terrorist attack in Manchester, in the northwest of England. That is not unprecedented. In 1996, the Irish Republican Army set off a truck bomb in Manchester that injured 200 people and did damage estimated at 700 million pounds. There were no fatalities because the IRA phoned in a warning and 75,000 people were evacuated.

Still…

It was a mass casualty terrorist attack that targeted children. This, also, is not unprecedented. Timothy McVeigh set off his truck bomb at the Murrah Federal Building even though he knew the building’s day-care center would be open and full. The separatists who took over the school in Beslan in 2004 certainly knew they were targeting children, and the Russian forces who stormed the place with overwhelming force certainly knew there were children in there. And, if you want to stretch the terrorist designation to fit, Adam Lanza certainly knew who he was shooting when he walked into Sandy Hook Elementary School that day shortly before Christmas in 2012.

Still…

There is nothing unprecedented about the darkness in the human heart that causes young people to dress in explosives and murder people on a grand scale. It is that same darkness that encompasses both the Manchester Arena and the bus stop in Maryland where the life of Lt. Richard Collins III ended over the weekend. Hatred is not blind. That’s a lie we tell ourselves so we can sleep at night. Hatred sees very well. Hatred can see several streets over. Hatred can see across seas and across continents. Hatred can see down the block to a bus stop in Maryland as clearly as it can see all the way from a cave in Afghanistan to the streets of lower Manhattan. When it looks for its victims, hatred can see like a hawk.

Hatred is a constant in the human condition, all the way back to Cain, if you believe in that sort of thing. Hatred is part of the connective tissue of human evolution, stretching from the savannas of east Africa to the streets of Manchester. Hatred walked upright as soon as we learned how to do so. Hatred is part of what has bound us to our prehistoric ancestors. The human is a predatory animal. It hunts to feed its appetites. Hatred is an appetite. It demands to be fed.

Its only true rival in the long march of the species is the ability to reason, to think beyond our appetites. It is a constant struggle and it is not always a fair fight. Think of the slaughters over which god to worship, and how, and where. Think of the books and the witches burning. Think of lynching, and of 600,000 Americans slaughtering each other over the self-evident fact that one human being should not be able to purchase another one. Hatred is powerful. So is reason. But sometimes, it seems that reason is Prometheus, chained to a rock, and that hatred is the eagle that comes to feed on its viscera, day after day. Then again, reason is an appetite, too. It demands to be fed. We are better for it when it is satisfied.

None of this is meant to diminish the awful reality of what happened on Monday night in Manchester. The horror is genuine and the pain and loss, all too real. But the surprise at that horror ought not to prevail. We do these things to each other. We always do these things to each other. We gussy them up with political or philosophical camouflage. We anoint them with the preferred incense of whatever faith we pretend to follow. But we do these things to each other because we always do these things to each other, and because, over time and throughout history, hatred and reason have fought each other over the fundamental human impulse to satiate themselves. They fight to no better than a draw, one bloody night at a time.

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Esquire   Related Story

There Is Only One Way to Defeat ISIS

We must hold accountable our Middle Eastern “allies”—the states and bankers and political elites—who persist in funding mass murder.

By Charles P. Pierce    Nov 14, 2015

There was a strange stillness in the news on Saturday morning, a Saturday morning that came earlier in Paris than it did in Des Moines, a city in Iowa, one of the United States of America. The body count had stabilized. The new information came at a slow, stately pace, as though life were rearranging itself out of quiet respect for the dead. The new information came at a slow and stately pace and it arranged itself in the way that you suspected it would arrange itself when the first accounts of the mass murder began to spread out over the wired world. There has been the predictable howling from predictable people. (Judith Miller? Really? This is an opinion the world needed to hear?) There has been the straining to wedge the events of Friday night into the Procrustean nonsense of an American presidential campaign. There will be a debate among the three Democratic candidates for president in Des Moines on Saturday night. I suspect that the moderators had to toss out a whole raft of questions they already had prepared. Everything else is a distraction. It is the stately, stillness of the news itself that matters.

The attacks were a brilliantly coordinated act of war. They were a brilliantly coordinated act of pure terrorism, beyond rhyme but not beyond reason. They struck at the most cosmopolitan parts of the most cosmopolitan city in the world. They struck out at assorted sectors of western popular culture. They struck out at sports, at pop music, and at simple casual dining. They stuck out at an ordinary Friday night’s entertainment. The attacks were a brilliantly coordinated statement of political and social purpose, its intent clear and unmistakable. The attacks were a brilliantly coordinated act of fanatical ideological and theological Puritanism, brewed up in the dark precincts of another of mankind’s monotheisms. They were not the first of these. (The closest parallel to what happened in Paris is what happened in Mumbai in 2008. In fact, Mumbai went on alert almost immediately after the news broke.) They, alas, are likely not going to be the last.

The stillness of the news is a place of refuge and of reason on yet another day in which both of these qualities are predictably in short supply. It is a place beyond unfocused rage, and beyond abandoned wrath, and beyond unleashed bigotry and hate. It is a place where Friday night’s savagery is recognized and memorialized, but it is not put to easy use for trivial purposes. The stillness of the news, if you seek it out, is a place where you can think, sadly and clearly, about what should happen next.

These are a few things that will not solve the terrible and tangled web of causation and violence in which the attacks of Friday night were spawned. A 242-ship Navy will not stop one motivated murderous fanatic from emptying the clip of an AK-47 into the windows of a crowded restaurant. The F-35 fighter plane will not stop a group of motivated murderous fanatics from detonating bombs at a soccer match. A missile-defense shield in Poland will not stop a platoon of motivated murderous fanatics from opening up in a jammed concert hall, or taking hostages, or taking themselves out with suicide belts when the police break down the doors. American soldiers dying in the sands of Syria or Iraq will not stop the events like what happened in Paris from happening again because American soldiers dying in the sands of Syria or Iraq will be dying there in combat against only the most obvious physical manifestation of a deeper complex of ancient causes and ancient effects made worse by the reach of the modern technology of bloodshed and murder. Nobody’s death is ever sacrifice enough for that.

Abandoning the Enlightenment values that produced democracy will not plumb the depths of the vestigial authoritarian impulse that resides in us all, the wish for kings, the desire for order, to be governed, and not to govern. Flexing and posturing and empty venting will not cure the deep sickness in the human spirit that leads people to slaughter the innocent in the middle of a weekend’s laughter. The expression of bigotry and hatred will not solve the deep desperation in the human heart that leads people to kill their fellow human beings and then blow themselves up as a final act of murderous vengeance against those they perceive to be their enemies, seen and unseen, real and imagined. Tough talk in the context of what happened in Paris is as empty as a bell rung at the bottom of a well.

Francois Hollande, the French president who was at the soccer game that was attacked, has promised that France will wage “pitiless war” against the forces that conceived and executed the attacks. Most wars are pitiless, but not all of them are fought with the combination of toughness and intelligence that this one will require. This was a lesson that the United States did not learn in the aftermath of the attacks of September 11, 2001. There are things that nations can do in response that are not done out of xenophobic rage and a visceral demand for revenge. There are things that nations can do in response that do not involve scapegoating the powerless and detaining the innocent.  There is no real point in focusing a response on the people whose religion makes us nervous. States should retaliate against states.

It is long past time for the oligarchies of the Gulf states to stop paying protection to the men in the suicide belts. Their societies are stunted and parasitic. The main job of the elites there is to find enough foreign workers to ensla…er…indenture to do all the real work. The example of Qatar and the interesting business plan through which that country is building the facilities for the 2022 World Cup is instructive here. Roughly the same labor-management relationship exists for the people who clean the hotel rooms and who serve the drinks. In Qatar, for people who come from elsewhere to work, passports have been known to disappear into thin air. These are the societies that profit from terrible and tangled web of causation and violence that played out on the streets of Paris. These are the people who buy their safety with the blood of innocents far away.

It’s not like this is any kind of secret. In 2010, thanks to WikiLeaks, we learned that the State Department, under the direction of then-Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, knew full well where the money for foreign terrorism came from. It came from countries and not from a faith. It came from sovereign states and not from an organized religion. It came from politicians and dictators, not from clerics, at least not directly. It was paid to maintain a political and social order, not to promulgate a religious revival or to launch a religious war. Religion was the fuel, the ammonium nitrate and the diesel fuel. Authoritarian oligarchy built the bomb. As long as people are dying in Paris, nobody important is dying in Doha or Riyadh.

Saudi Arabia is the world’s largest source of funds for Islamist militant groups such as the Afghan Taliban and Lashkar-e-Taiba – but the Saudi government is reluctant to stem the flow of money, according to Hillary Clinton. “More needs to be done since Saudi Arabia remains a critical financial support base for al-Qaida, the Taliban, LeT and other terrorist groups,” says a secret December 2009 paper signed by the US secretary of state. Her memo urged US diplomats to redouble their efforts to stop Gulf money reaching extremists in Pakistan and Afghanistan. “Donors in Saudi Arabia constitute the most significant source of funding to Sunni terrorist groups worldwide,” she said. Three other Arab countries are listed as sources of militant money: Qatar, Kuwait and the United Arab Emirates. The cables highlight an often ignored factor in the Pakistani and Afghan conflicts: that the violence is partly bankrolled by rich, conservative donors across the Arabian Sea whose governments do little to stop them. The problem is particularly acute in Saudi Arabia, where militants soliciting funds slip into the country disguised as holy pilgrims, set up front companies to launder funds and receive money from government-sanctioned charities.

It’s time for this to stop. It’s time to be pitiless against the bankers and against the people who invest in murder to assure their own survival in power. Assets from these states should be frozen, all over the west. Money trails should be followed, wherever they lead. People should go to jail, in every country in the world. It should be done state-to-state. Stop funding the murder of our citizens and you can have your money back. Maybe. If we’re satisfied that you’ll stop doing it. And, it goes without saying, but we’ll say it anyway – not another bullet will be sold to you, let alone advanced warplanes, until this act gets cleaned up to our satisfaction. If that endangers your political position back home, that’s your problem, not ours. You are no longer trusted allies. Complain, and your diplomats will be going home. Complain more loudly, and your diplomats will be investigated and, if necessary, detained. Retaliate, and you do not want to know what will happen, but it will done with cold, reasoned and, yes, pitiless calculation. It will not be a blind punch. You will not see it coming. It will not be an attack on your faith. It will be an attack on how you conduct your business as sovereign states in a world full of sovereign states.

And the still, stately progress of the news from Paris continues. There are arrests today in Brussels, of alleged co-conspirators. The body count has stabilized. New information comes at its own pace, as if out of respect for the dead. In the stillness of the news itself, there is refuge and reason and a kind of wounded, ragged peace, as whatever rolled up from the depths of the sickness of the human heart rolls back again, like the tide and, like the tide, one day will return.

 

Christian Science Monitor Commentary

Comfort for Manchester, England

A Christian Science perspective: Praying to find strength and comfort in the wake of the bombing in Manchester, England.

Rosalie E. Dunbar    May 24, 2017

When I heard about the bombing in Manchester, England, these words from the Bible came to me: “Comfort ye, comfort ye my people, saith your God” (Isaiah 40:1). As the news unfolded, it became clear how much comforting was needed.

As I reached out with an earnest desire to help, it struck me that the Latin root of the word “comfort” means “with strength.” How could I offer strength to those so far away? For me, strength, hope, and courage are found through prayer, and so many of my life experiences have shown prayer to be a deep comfort and help. As I prayed for those in Manchester and beyond, I thought of all the ways that strength could be apparent – as the courage to help people who were injured or terrified, as tenderness toward those who had lost loved ones, and as the mental clarity the authorities needed to establish and maintain calm.

I have come to see that these qualities come from God, so it must be that all the strength, love, and anything else that was needed would be present. My study of the Bible and of Christian Science has shown me that God is ever present for all of us, all the time, and that we are made by God. In times of crisis, this means we are made to resist being overwhelmed. It means we can let God inform us what to do and how to do it.

I recalled the strength and peace Jesus was said to have had during times of great danger and loss. The Bible speaks of Christ Jesus being a shepherd – guiding those who are lost, offering healing and comfort, and stilling storms both mental and physical. He knew God as a loving and faithful Father, ever present to help His children, and this enabled him to say “Blessed are they that mourn: for they shall be comforted” (Matthew 5:4).

You and I can also experience this comfort, even in the face of tragic situations today. This is possible, not because we are ignoring the danger and suffering that occur, but because we understand – at least to a degree – God’s power to help and save us. Rather than be overwhelmed by evil, we can instead hold on with all our hearts to God as the supreme power, caring for and loving all of us.

God is Love. This means that whenever there is an evil event, it could never have come from God or been motivated in any way by Love. By the same token, it means that all the powers of good are motivating those seeking to establish peace, neighborliness among nations and within communities. As we trust in divine Love’s power to lead all people into peace, we will surely experience the comfort that is always available to us.

In the words of the Monitor’s founder, “May the great Shepherd that ‘tempers the wind to the shorn lamb,’ and binds up the wounds of bleeding hearts, just comfort, encourage, and bless all who mourn” (Mary Baker Eddy, “Miscellaneous Writings 1883-1896,” p.275).

An Open Letter to Rev. Franklin Graham from a “Small Church” Pastor

Trinity’s Portico

“A place where prophets, apostles and poets meet in the lessons for each Sunday of the church year”

An Open Letter to Rev. Franklin Graham from a “Small Church” Pastor

Dear Frank

Can I call you Frank? This is just pastor to pastor. Feel free to call me Peter. Anyway, I have to say I was flattered when I learned that your Decision America Tour took a detour off the beaten path to call upon us “small community churches.” We are nothing if not small. We seat 30-40 on a good Sunday. And we are a century old fixture of our small community. Most often we are overlooked and overshadowed by mega-churches and politically influential religious voices like your own. We don’t hold a candle to an auditorium filled with the music of a one hundred voice choir led by professional musicians. We probably will never be recognized in any nationally syndicated media. After all, we don’t do anything really “newsworthy.” We just preach the good news of Jesus Christ; love one another the best we can (which sometimes isn’t very well); feed the hungry that come to our doors; care for the sick; comfort the dying; and bury the dead. So thanks for thinking of us. Rest assured, we are ready to respond to your calls to prayer and action.

I have to say, though, that I was a little confused by your summons. Of all the things that worry me, loss of religious freedom for Christians in America isn’t one of them. I can’t say I have ever experienced anything in this country that could reasonably be called a restriction on my religious liberty, much less persecution.  When you started talking about attacks on Christianity, I thought you might have been referring to the racially motivated slaying of pastors and lay people at Mother Emmanuel church in Charlotte some time back. Or I figured you were referring to the slaughter of Coptic Christians in Egypt this past Palm Sunday. That’s what I call persecution. But having to pay a judgment for refusing to bake a cake for a same sex couple in violation of the law against discrimination? This you call persecution?

There’s a letter in the Bible, written by the Apostle Peter (ever heard of him?). He’s an expert on persecution, having been on the receiving end of it more than once. He says you don’t get divine kudos from suffering the consequences of breaking the law-even if you are a Christian. Moreover, there is a Christian fellow named Paul (aka Saul) who wrote a letter to a church in Rome nearly two thousand years ago. He said that if your enemy is hungry you should feed him (that’s in the Bible too). So wouldn’t it have been the Christian way to have baked a cake for the same sex couple in your example, even if you deem them enemies (another assertion I don’t quite understand)? I’m confused.

But in any event, Frank, let’s get over this persecution complex. Stop with the drama already! You are not under attack just because you have to follow the rules like everyone else. Look, I understand the owners of this establishment you mention in your speech don’t approve of gay and lesbian people getting married. They don’t have to approve of them. But if they are going to do business in this country, they have to follow the law against discrimination-just like the rest of us. If you don’t like the rules, don’t join the game. It’s that simple. Furthermore, I don’t understand why baking a cake for people whose conduct you find personally offensive is such a big deal. Heck, Frank, if all of us small church pastors refused to bury everyone whose conduct we didn’t approve of, the country would be ten feet deep in corpses!

I am struggling, too, with your claim that Donald Trump is a champion (albeit an unlikely one) for religious freedom. What freedoms are we talking about here, Frank? The freedom to lie with impunity? The freedom to grab young girls by the genitals? The freedom to discriminate against people of color in the sale and rental of real estate? The freedom to refer to women as “dogs,” “fat pigs,” and “ugly”? The freedom to call your opponents “idiots,” “losers,” “liars” and “frauds”? The freedom to slander people with accusations of criminal conduct based on absolutely no evidence? By my count, the above violate at least four of the Ten Commandments (you will find those in the books of Exodus and Deuteronomy-both in the Bible). If Donald Trump is the champion of American Christianity, God save it from its enemies!

All kidding aside, you might be right about God putting Donald Trump in the White House-though your reasons for so believing are probably different from what I might conjecture. Still, how do you know that? Where did you get this info? I have to hand it to you, Frank, you sure do have the connections. As I am sure you know, God does not consult with us small church pastors on weighty issues of that kind. So it was kind of you to leak this classified intelligence to all of us who are evidently a good deal further away from the divine pipeline.

So let me see if I have this figured out correctly: God doesn’t give a flying fruitcake if we deprive twenty-million people, most of them poor, of access to health care. Nor is God particularly concerned about how men treat women in the workplace, how people of color are treated in the real estate market, how the hungry and homeless are cared for (or not), but God flips out if we bake a cake for a same sex couple to celebrate their wedding? I have to be honest with you, Frank. I’m just not seeing it. Not in the Bible, not in the realm of rational common sense.

Here’s the thing, Frank. At the last judgment, Jesus doesn’t ask anyone about who they voted for, how many times they have been divorced, what their sexual history or orientation is or for whom they did or did not bake wedding cakes. His sole concern is for how we treated the hungry, the thirsty, the naked, the imprisoned, those deemed “least” among us. No, I didn’t get that from any private chat with God. We small church pastors have to rely on the Bible for our intel. I got this stuff from the Gospel of Matthew, 25th Chapter to be precise. As I said, that, too, is in the Bible. (It’s a great book, Frank. You should read it sometime.)

You know, Frank, I would like to think that we are brothers. I would like to believe that we are on the same side. I would like to believe that, beneath our differences, we worship the same God and follow the same Savior. But quite honestly, I don’t recognize the Jesus I learned from my parents, my Sunday School teachers, my pastors or my years of study and reflection on the Bible in your angry, fearful rhetoric. Yes, I will answer your call for prayer. But I will be praying for the real victims of persecution-the victims of racial discrimination, sexual violence and bullying.

I will answer your call to action. But I will be acting to establish health care as a right for all people; making the college campus and the workplace spaces where women and girls need not fear being called “pigs,” “dogs” or “ugly” nor will they need to fear rich, white celebrity males who feel entitled to grab them by the genitals. I will respond to your call for action by working for a society in which no one needs to worry about where she will sleep at night or where the next meal is coming from. You want prayer? You want action? You’ve got it.

Well, thanks again, Frank, for thinking about us small church folk. I appreciate your concern about our being persecuted and under attack. But don’t worry about us. We don’t have your money, your access to the halls of power or your seeming direct connection to the Almighty. But we have the scriptures, we have prayer, and we are learning every day what it means to love God with all our hearts, souls, minds and strength and to love our neighbors as ourselves. That’s all we need. You can keep your champion in the White House, thanks just the same.

Christ’s servant and yours,

Peter

Pastor Olsen (revolsen)  Bogota, New Jersey

Pastor Olsen was ordained in 1982. He served as pastor of Our Saviour’s Lutheran Church in Teaneck, New Jersey from 1982 until 1987 when he resigned to pursue a law degree at Rutgers Law School in Newark, New Jersey. Following graduation in 1990, he began practicing law full time at the firm of Francis & Berry in Morristown, New Jersey. In 1994 Pastor Olsen accepted a call as assistant to the Pastor at Church of the Savior in Paramus, New Jersey where he served as a part time minister and supply preacher for churches throughout Bergen County. Pastor Olsen left the full time practice of law and his pastorate at Church of the Savior in October of 2008 to accept the call to serve as pastor of Trinity Evangelical Lutheran Church in Bogota.

Pastor Olsen is a graduate of Luther Seminary in St. Paul, Minnesota. He obtained his bachelor’s degree from Valparaiso University, Valparaiso Indiana. Pastor Olsen and his wife, Sesle, have three adult children, Sarah, Emily and Benjamin.

Pastor Olsen’s sermons are uploaded to Trinity’s Website on a weekly basis.

U.S. judge finds that Aetna deceived the public about its reasons for quitting Obamacare

LA Times

U.S. judge finds that Aetna deceived the public about its reasons for quitting Obamacare

Michael Hiltzik, Contact Reporter   May 12, 2017

Aetna claimed this summer that it was pulling out of all but four of the 15 states where it was providing Obamacare individual insurance because of a business decision — it was simply losing too much money on the Obamacare exchanges.

Now a federal judge has ruled that that was a rank falsehood. In fact, says Judge John D. Bates, Aetna made its decision at least partially in response to a federal antitrust lawsuit blocking its proposed $34-billion merger with Humana. Aetna threatened federal officials with the pullout before the lawsuit was filed, and followed through on its threat once it was filed. Bates made the observations in the course of a ruling he issued on Monday blocking the merger.

Aetna executives had moved heaven and earth to conceal their decision-making process from the court, in part by discussing the matter on the phone rather than in emails, and by shielding what did get put in writing with the cloak of attorney-client privilege, a practice Bates found came close to “malfeasance.”

Aetna tried to leverage its participation in the exchanges for favorable treatment from DOJ regarding the proposed merger. — U.S. District Judge John D. Bates

The judge’s conclusions about Aetna’s real reasons for pulling out of Obamacare — as opposed to the rationalization the company made in public — are crucial for the debate over the fate of the Affordable Care Act. That’s because the company’s withdrawal has been exploited by Republicans to justify repealing the act. Just last week, House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) cited Aetna’s action on the “Charlie Rose” show, saying that it proved how shaky the exchanges were.

Bates found that this rationalization was largely untrue. In fact, he noted, Aetna pulled out of some states and counties that were actually profitable to make a point in its lawsuit defense — and then misled the public about its motivations. Bates’ analysis relies in part on a “smoking gun” letter to the Justice Department in which Chief Executive Mark Bertolini explicitly ties Aetna’s participation in Obamacare to the DOJ’s actions on the merger, which we reported in August. But it goes much further.

Among the locations where Aetna withdrew were 17 counties in three states where the Department of Justice asserted that the merger would produce unlawfully low levels  of competition on the individual exchanges. By pulling out, Aetna could say that it wasn’t competing in those counties’ exchanges anyway, rendering the government’s point moot: “The evidence provides persuasive support for the conclusion that Aetna withdrew from the on-exchange markets in the 17 complaint counties to improve its litigation position,” Bates wrote. “The Court does not credit the minimal efforts of Aetna executives to claim otherwise.”

Indeed, he wrote, Aetna’s decision to pull out of the exchange business in Florida was “so far outside of normal business practice” that it perplexed the company’s top executive in Florida, who was not in the decision loop.

“I just can’t make sense out of the Florida decision],” the executive, Christopher Ciano, wrote to Jonathan Mayhew, the head of Aetna’s national exchange business. “Based on the latest run rate data . . . we are making money from the on-exchange business. Was Florida’s performance ever debated?” Mayhew told him to discuss the matter by phone, not email, “to avoid leaving a paper trail,” Bates found. As it happens, Bates found reason to believe that Aetna soon will be selling exchange plans in Florida again.

As for Aetna’s claimed rationale for withdrawing from all but four states, Bates accepted that the company could credibly call it a “business decision,” since the overall exchange business was losing money; he just didn’t buy that that was its sole reason. He observed that the failings in the marketplace existed before Aetna decided to withdraw, but that as late as July 19, the company was still planning to expand its footprint to as many as 20 states. In April, top executives had told investors that Aetna had a “solid cost structure” in Florida and Georgia, two states it dropped.

While the Department of Justice was conducting its investigation of the merger plans but before the DOJ lawsuit was filed, “Aetna tried to leverage its participation in the exchanges for favorable treatment from DOJ regarding the proposed merger,” Bates observed. During a May 11 deposition of Bertolini, an Aetna lawyer said that if the company “was not ‘happy’ with the results of an upcoming meeting regarding the merger, ‘we’re just going to pull out of all the exchanges.’”

Not such a veiled threat? Aetna’s Mark Bertolini tells the DOJ what will happen if it blocks the Humana merger. After the DOJ sued to kill the deal, Aetna cut back even more.

In private talks with the DOJ, Aetna executives continually linked the two issues, even while they were telling Wall Street that the merger was “a separate conversation” from the exchange business. Bertolini seemed almost to take the DOJ’s hostility to the merger personally: “Our feeling was that we were doing good things for the administration and the administration is suing us,” he said in a deposition.

Bates found “persuasive evidence that when Aetna later withdrew from the 17 counties, it did not do so for business reasons, but instead to follow through on the threat that it made earlier.”

The threat certainly was effective in terms of its impact on the Affordable Care Act, since Aetna’s withdrawal has become part of the Republican brief against the law. That it says so much more about Aetna executives’ honesty and integrity probably won’t get cited much by GOP functionaries trying to repeal the law. Aetna is at least partially responsible for placing the health coverage of more than 20 million Americans in jeopardy; that it did so at least partially to promote a merger that would bring few benefits, if any, to its customers is an additional black mark.

If there’s a saving grace in this episode, it’s that the company’s goal to protect the merger hasn’t worked, so far. The DOJ brought suit, and Bates has now thrown a wrench into the plan. Aetna has said it’s considering an appeal, but the merger is plainly in trouble, as it should be.

The EPA isn’t focused on environmental protection. So does it need a new name?

CNN Politics

The EPA isn’t focused on environmental protection. So does it need a new name?

By John D. Sutter, CNN     May 9, 2017

John D. Sutter is a columnist for CNN who focuses on climate change and social justice.  

The US Environmental Protection Agency’s mission in the era of President Donald Trump seems to have very little to do with, well, protecting the environment.

Consider a few of the most recent news items:

  • EPA head Scott Pruitt recently dismissed half of the members from an important science advisory board; an EPA spokesperson told CNN the agency wants scientists from various backgrounds, including those from industry.
  • The EPA has removed many references to “climate change” on its website, replacing real, science-based information with a note saying the site is “being updated.”
  • And the Trump administration has called for a 31% cut to the EPA’s budget.

Also consider the rhetoric and history of EPA administrator Scott Pruitt, who let a fossil fuel company essentially write a letter he sent to the EPA when he was Oklahoma attorney general, according to emails released through a public records request. (Pruitt did not comment at the time and an EPA spokesman said the agency would not be commenting).

Pruitt has repeatedly made a mockery of the role of fossil fuels and carbon dioxide pollution in causing global warming, and before he took the helm at EPA, he sued the agency repeatedly in an effort to combat environmental regulations.

“The war on coal is over; the war on fossil fuel is over, ” Pruitt said outside a power plant in April. Never mind that coal and fossil fuels contribute to global warming, which is expected to raise sea levels, worsen droughts, contribute to crop failure and threaten our very existence.

Yeah, none of this looks good. “They are not just isolated acts,” said David Doniger, director and senior attorney of the climate and clean air program at the Natural Resources Defense Council, or NRDC, an environmental group. “On any one thing, (Pruitt) might have deserved … the benefit of the doubt. But there are so many of these things that there is no doubt where this is headed.”

Rename the EPA?

Given that, it seems reasonable to ask a provocative question: Is the Environmental Protection Agency still worthy of its name? Maybe, given the sweeping changes in the  agency’s apparent focus, the EPA needs a new and more-accurate acronym. I realize that’s an unlikely if not impossible request.

Yes, I would rather see the Environmental Protection Agency simply live up to its mandate. And no, I wouldn’t want the name change to reflect poorly on the EPA as an enduring institution or on its many smart, hardworking scientists and policy experts.

But there is risk in doing nothing.

Namely: We move further into “1984” territory. That George Orwell novel, which is a best seller again these days, highlights the absurdity of government bodies whose names belie their actual purposes.

The fictional Ministry of Truth promotes propaganda, for example. The Ministry of Plenty, oversees rationing programs. The Ministry of Peace, is actually waging war. By continuing to call the EPA the Environmental Protection Agency, we risk further sapping those words of their meaning. We might enter a world not only of “alternative facts” but alternative reality.

‘It was bold’

These shifts are especially troubling when you know the history of the EPA — and its name.

Republican President Richard Nixon chose the name for the Environmental Protection Agency in 1970, the year of its creation, according to Richard “Pete” Andrews, an emeritus professor of public policy at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. I called up Andrews because he is an expert on the history of the EPA and author of “Managing the Environment, Managing Ourselves: A History of American Environmental Policy.”

The agency came into existence, Andrews told me, essentially because of a “nonpartisan outcry” demanding protection for the environment. “Silent Spring “ had highlighted the horrors of DDT and other chemicals in the environment; a river in Ohio caught on fire; Lake Erie was feared “dead.” Something had to be done.

That something, in part, was the EPA. “It was bold,” Andrews said of the agency and its name. Inherent in its creation was a desire to set minimum federal environmental protections so that “if you travel from one state to another you’re not going to endanger your health by breathing the air.”

Pruitt misrepresents this history, Andrews told me, by insisting that the original mandate of environmental law was to give states the power to police themselves. (Pruitt, meanwhile, says he wants to “restore the EPA’s essential mission of keeping our air and our water clean and safe.” Let’s assume that’s true. It still wouldn’t be enough in 2017, when climate change is an overarching concern.)

The EPA was cobbled together from other agencies — a clearing house, so to speak, for environmental monitoring, education and regulation. It gained authority through landmark laws, including the Clean Air Act and Clean Water Act. And it showed that the public could drive action.

“Nixon was seeing a mob coming at him — and jumping in front of it and calling it a parade,” Andrews said, referring to the first Earth Day demonstrations, which also occurred in 1970. “He had no prior background in this. But he saw this was a big issue and so he seized it.” If only the same could happen with Trump and Pruitt.

‘Department of Catastrophic Myopia …’

Out of curiosity, I asked Twitter and my newsletter subscribers to suggest a few (more accurate?) names for the Trump-and-Pruitt-era Environmental Protection Agency.

Among the most interesting: the Exxon Protection Agency; the Coal and Oil Management Agency, or COMA; the Environmental Destruction Agency; Enrich Pruitt’s Allies; and the Department of Catastrophic Myopia Fueled by Anti-Scientific Foolishness, or DCMFASF for short.

I don’t particularly want to see the EPA renamed DCMFASF. I’d like to see Trump learn from the public the way Nixon did. I’d like to believe the agency can return to its mission of protecting public health and the environment at a time when climate change policy, especially, is critical to the very future of humanity.

I bet Trump saw footage of the thousands of protestors who gathered at the People’s Climate March in Washington DC recently, demanding an end to the fossil fuel era.

And I hope he and Pruitt are aware of the history of EPA overhauls. Doniger, the director and senior attorney from NRDC, told me this moment feels chillingly similar to the start of President Ronald Reagan’s administration. Reagan appointed Anne Gorsuch –mother of Trump’s Supreme Court justice pick, — as his first administrator of the EPA.

“She cut the budget and dismantled the laws, fired the scientists — or at least ignored them, etc.,” Doniger said. “What happened with Gorsuch is that she got about two years into this mission of destroying the agency and there was a broad rebellion that manifested in the media and in public opinion and in the Democratically-controlled Congress,” he continued. After “a number of scandals, Reagan sacked her,” Doniger said. (Her obituary in the Washington Post says she “resigned under fire. “)

This history shows that the public — and the courts — still matter. The very creation of the EPA, remember, emerged from public outcry. Yes, things can change. But if they don’t, the EPA’s name should.

What the last Nuremberg prosecutor alive wants the world to know

CBS News 60 Minutes

What the last Nuremberg prosecutor alive wants the world to know

Correspondent Lesley Stahl,  May 7, 2017   

http://www.cbsnews.com/news/what-the-last-nuremberg-prosecutor-alive-wants-the-world-to-know/

At 97, Ben Ferencz is the last Nuremberg prosecutor alive and he has a far-reaching message for today’s world

  • Twenty-two SS officers responsible for the deaths of 1M+ people would never have been brought to justice were it not for Ben Ferencz.
  • The officers were part of units called Einsatzgruppen, or action groups. Their job was to follow the German army as it invaded the Soviet Union in 1941 and kill Communists, Gypsies and Jews.
  • Ferencz believes “war makes murderers out of otherwise decent people” and has spent his life working to deter war and war crimes.  

CBS News

It is not often you get the chance to meet a man who holds a place in history like Ben Ferencz.  He’s 97 years old, barely 5 feet tall, and he served as prosecutor of what’s been called the biggest murder trial ever. The courtroom was Nuremberg; the crime, genocide; the defendants, a group of German SS officers accused of committing the largest number of Nazi killings outside the concentration camps — more than a million men, women, and children shot down in their own towns and villages in cold blood.

Ferencz is the last Nuremberg prosecutor alive today. But he isn’t content just to be part of 20th century history — he believes he has something important to offer the world right now.

27-year-old Ben Ferencz became the chief prosecutor of 22 Einsatzgruppen commanders at Nuremberg.

“If it’s naive to want peace instead of war, let ’em make sure they say I’m naive. Because I want peace instead of war.”

Lesley Stahl: You know, you– have seen the ugliest side of humanity.

Benjamin Ferencz: Yes.

Lesley Stahl: You’ve really seen evil. And look at you. You’re the sunniest man I’ve ever met. The most optimistic.

Benjamin Ferencz: You oughta get some more friends.

Watching Ben Ferencz during his daily swim, his gym workout and his morning push-up regimen is to realize he isn’t just the sunniest man we’ve ever met — he may also be the fittest. And that’s just the beginning.

Ferencz made his opening statement in the Nuremberg courtroom 70 years ago. Ben Ferencz in court: “The charges we have brought accuse the defendants of having committed crimes against humanity.”

The Nuremberg trials after World War II were historic — the first international war crimes tribunals ever held. Hitler’s top lieutenants were prosecuted first. Then a series of subsequent trials were mounted against other Nazi leaders, including 22 SS officers responsible for killing more than a million people — not in concentration camps — but in towns and villages across Eastern Europe. They would never have been brought to justice were it not for Ben Ferencz.

Lesley Stahl: You look so young.

Benjamin Ferencz: I was so young.  I was 27 years old.

Lesley Stahl: Had you prosecuted trials before?

Benjamin Ferencz: Never in my life. I don’t—

Lesley Stahl: Come on.

Benjamin Ferencz: –recall if I’d ever been in a courtroom actually.

Ferencz had immigrated to the U.S. as a baby, the son of poor Jewish parents from a small town in Romania. He grew up in a tough New York City neighborhood where his father found work as a janitor.

Benjamin Ferencz: When I was taken to school at the age of seven, I couldn’t speak English– spoke Yiddish at home. And I was very small. And so they wouldn’t let me in.

Lesley Stahl: So you didn’t speak English ’til you were eight?

Benjamin Ferencz: That’s correct.

Lesley Stahl: Could you read?

Benjamin Ferencz: No, on the contrary. The silent movies always had writing on it. And I would ask my father, “Wazukas,” in Yiddish, “What does it say? What does it say?” He couldn’t read it, either.

But Ferencz learned quickly. He became the first in his family to go to college, then got a scholarship to Harvard Law School. But during his first semester, the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor, and he, like many classmates, raced to enlist. He wanted to be a pilot, but the Army Air Corps wouldn’t take him.

Benjamin Ferencz:  They said, “No, you’re too short. Your legs won’t reach the pedals.” The Marines, they just looked at me and said, “Forget it, kid.”

So he finished at Harvard then enlisted as a private in the Army. Part of an artillery battalion, he landed on the beach at Normandy and fought in the Battle of the Bulge. Toward the end of the war, because of his legal training, he was transferred to a brand new unit in General Patton’s Third Army, created to investigate war crimes.  As U.S. forces liberated concentration camps, his job was to rush in and gather evidence. Ferencz told us he is still haunted by the things he saw. And the stories he heard in those camps.

Benjamin Ferencz: A father who, his son told me the story. The father had died just as we were entering the camp. And the father had routinely saved a piece of his bread for his son, and he kept it under his arm at… He kept it under his arm at night so the other inmates wouldn’t steal it, you know.  So you see these human stories which are not — they’re not real.  They’re not real.  But they were real.

Ferencz came home, married his childhood sweetheart and vowed never to set foot in Germany again.  But that didn’t last long. General Telford Taylor, in charge of the Nuremberg trials, asked him to direct a team of researchers in Berlin, one of whom found a cache of top-secret documents in the ruins of the German foreign ministry.

Benjamin Ferencz: He gave me a bunch of binders, four binders. And these were daily reports from the Eastern Front– which unit entered which town, how many people they killed. It was classified, so many Jews, so many gypsies, so many others–

Ferencz had stumbled upon reports sent back to headquarters by secret SS units called Einsatzgruppen, or action groups. Their job had been to follow the German army as it invaded the Soviet Union in 1941, and kill Communists, Gypsies and especially Jews.

Benjamin Ferencz: They were 3,000 SS officers trained for the purpose, and directed to kill without pity or remorse, every single Jewish man, woman, and child they could lay their hands on.

Lesley Stahl: So they went right in after the troops?

Benjamin Ferencz: That was their assignment, come in behind the troop, round up the Jews, kill ’em all.

Only one piece of film is known to exist of the Einsatzgruppen at work.  It isn’t easy viewing…

Benjamin Ferencz: Well, this is typical operation.  Well, see here, this– they rounded ’em up. They all have already tags on ’em. And they’re chasing them.

Lesley Stahl: They’re making them run to their own death?

Benjamin Ferencz: Yes. Yes. There’s the rabbi coming along there. Just put ’em in the ditch. Shoot ’em there. You know, kick ’em in.

Lesley Stahl: Oh, my God. Oh, my God.

This footage came to light years later. At the time, Ferencz just had the documents, and he started adding up the numbers.

Benjamin Ferencz: When I reached over a million people murdered that way, over a million people, that’s more people than you’ve ever seen in your life, I took a sample. I got on the next plane, flew from Berlin down to Nuremberg, and I said to Taylor, “General, we’ve gotta put on a new trial.”

But the trials were already underway, and prosecution staff was stretched thin. Taylor told Ferencz adding another trial was impossible.

Benjamin Ferencz: And I start screaming. I said, “Look. I’ve got here mass murder, mass murder on an unparalleled scale.”  And he said, “Can you do this in addition to your other work?” And I said, “Sure.” He said, “OK. So you do it.”

And that’s how 27-year-old Ben Ferencz became the chief prosecutor of 22 Einsatzgruppen commanders at trial number 9 at Nuremberg.

Judge: How do you plead to this indictment, guilty or not guilty?

Defendant: Nicht schuldig.

Benjamin Ferencz: Standard routine, nicht schuldig.  Not guilty.

Judge: Guilty or not guilty?

Defendant: Nicht schuldig.

Lesley Stahl: They all say not guilty.

Benjamin Ferencz: Same thing, not guilty.

But Ferencz knew they were guilty and could prove it. Without calling a single witness, he entered into evidence the defendants’ own reports of what they’d done. Exhibit 111: “In the last 10 weeks, we have liquidated around 55,000 Jews.”  Exhibit 179, from Kiev in 1941: “The city’s Jews were ordered to present themselves… about 34,000 reported, including women and children. After they had been made to give up their clothing and valuables, all of them were killed, which took several days.” Exhibit 84, from Einsatzgruppen D in March of 1942: Total number executed so far: 91,678. Einsatzgruppen D was the unit of Ferencz’s lead defendant Otto Ohlendorf. He didn’t deny the killings — he had the gall to claim they were done in self-defense.

Benjamin Ferencz: He was not ashamed of that. He was proud of that. He was carrying out his government’s instructions.

Lesley Stahl: How did you not hit him?

Benjamin Ferencz: There was only one time I wanted to– really. One of these– my defendants said– He gets up, and he says, “[GERMAN],” which is, “What? The Jews were shot? I hear it here for the first time.”  Boy, I felt if I’d had a bayonet I woulda jumped over the thing, and put a bayonet right through one ear, and let it come out the other. You know? You know?

Lesley Stahl: Yeah.

Benjamin Ferencz: That son of a bitch.

Lesley Stahl: And you had his name down on a piece of—

Benjamin Ferencz: And I’ve got– I’ve got his reports of how many he killed. You know? Innocent lamb.

Lesley Stahl: Did you look at the defendants’ faces?

Benjamin Ferencz: Defendants’ face were blank, all the time. Defendants– absolutely blank. They could– like, they’re waiting for a bus.

Lesley Stahl: What was going on inside of you?

Benjamin Ferencz: Of me?

Lesley Stahl: Yeah.

Benjamin Ferencz: I’m still churning.

Lesley Stahl: To this minute?

Benjamin Ferencz: I’m still churning.

All 22 defendants were found guilty, and four of them, including Ohlendorf, were hanged. Ferencz says his goal from the beginning was to affirm the rule of law and deter similar crimes from ever being committed again.

Lesley Stahl: Did you meet a lot of people who perpetrated war crimes who would otherwise in your opinion have been just a normal, upstanding citizen?

“War makes murderers out of otherwise decent people. All wars, and all decent people.”

Benjamin Ferencz: Of course, is my answer. These men would never have been murderers had it not been for the war. These were people who could quote Goethe, who loved Wagner, who were polite–

Lesley Stahl: What turns a man into a savage beast like that?

Benjamin Ferencz: He’s not a savage. He’s an intelligent, patriotic human being.

Lesley Stahl: He’s a savage when he does the murder though.

Benjamin Ferencz: No. He’s a patriotic human being acting in the interest of his country, in his mind.

Lesley Stahl: You don’t think they turn into savages even for the act?

Benjamin Ferencz: Do you think the man who dropped the nuclear bomb on Hiroshima was a savage? Now I will tell you something very profound, which I have learned after many years. War makes murderers out of otherwise decent people. All wars, and all decent people.

So Ferencz has spent the rest of his life trying to deter war and war crimes by establishing an international court – like Nuremburg. He scored a victory when the international criminal court in The Hague was created in 1998.  He delivered the closing argument in the court’s first case.

“If they tell me they want war instead of peace, I don’t say they’re naive, I say they’re stupid.”

Lesley Stahl: Now, you’ve been at this for 50 years, if not more. We’ve had genocide since then.

Benjamin Ferencz: Yes.

Lesley Stahl: In Cambodia—

Benjamin Ferencz: Going on right this minute, yes.

Lesley Stahl: Going on right this minute in Sudan.

Benjamin Ferencz: Yes.

Lesley Stahl: We’ve had Rwanda, we’ve had Bosnia. You’re not getting very far.

Benjamin Ferencz: Well, don’t say that. People get discouraged. They should remember, from me, it takes courage not to be discouraged.

Lesley Stahl: Did anybody ever say that you’re naive?

Benjamin Ferencz: Of course. Some people say I’m crazy.

Lesley Stahl: Are you naive here?

Benjamin Ferencz: Well, if it’s naive to want peace instead of war, let ’em make sure they say I’m naive. Because I want peace instead of war. If they tell me they want war instead of peace, I don’t say they’re naive, I say they’re stupid. Stupid to an incredible degree to send young people out to kill other young people they don’t even know, who never did anybody any harm, never harmed them. That is the current system. I am naive? That’s insane.

Ferencz is legendary in the world of international law, and he’s still at it. He never stops pushing his message and he’s donating his life savings to a Genocide Prevention Initiative at the Holocaust Museum. He says he’s grateful for the life he’s lived in this country, and it’s his turn to give back.

Lesley Stahl: You are such an idealist.

Benjamin Ferencz: I don’t think I’m an idealist.  I’m a realist. And I see the progress.  The progress has been remarkable. Look at the emancipation of woman in my lifetime. You’re sitting here as a female. Look what’s happened to the same-sex marriages. To tell somebody a man can become a woman, a woman can become a man, and a man can marry a man, they would have said, “You’re crazy.” But it’s a reality today. So the world is changing. And you shouldn’t– you know– be despairing because it’s never happened before. Nothing new ever happened before.

Lesley Stahl: Ben—

Benjamin Ferencz: We’re on a roll.

Lesley Stahl: I can’t—

Benjamin Ferencz: We’re marching forward.

Lesley Stahl: Ben? I’m sitting here listening to you. And you’re very wise. And you’re full of energy and passion.  And I can’t believe you’re 97 years old.

Benjamin Ferencz: Well, I’m still a young man.

Lesley Stahl: Clearly, clearly.

Benjamin Ferencz: And I’m still in there fighting.  And you know what keeps me going? I know I’m right.

Produced by Shari Finkelstein and Nieves Zuberbühler.

The History Of The Kentucky Derby And Black Jockeys

Always Dreaming wins the 143rd running of the Kentucky Derby.

Yahoo News     May 6, 2017

Jockey John Velazquez guided Always Dreaming (5) across the finish line to win the 143rd running of the Kentucky Derby at Churchill Downs on May 6, 2017 in Louisville, Kentucky.

International Business Times

The History Of The Kentucky Derby And Black Jockeys

Katherine Mooney, International Business Times  May 6, 2017

When the horses enter the gate for the 143rd Kentucky Derby, their jockeys will hail from Louisiana, Mexico, Nebraska and France. None will be African-American. That’s been the norm for quite a while. When Marlon St. Julien rode the Derby in 2000, he became the first black man to get a mount since 1921.

It wasn’t always this way. The Kentucky Derby, in fact, is closely intertwined with black Americans’ struggles for equality, a history I explore in my book on race and thoroughbred racing. In the 19th century – when horse racing was America’s most popular sport – former slaves populated the ranks of jockeys and trainers, and black men won more than half of the first 25 runnings of the Kentucky Derby. But in the 1890s – as Jim Crow laws destroyed gains black people had made since emancipation – they ended up losing their jobs.

From slavery to the Kentucky Derby

On May 17, 1875, a new track at Churchill Downs ran, for the first time, what it hoped would become its signature event: the Kentucky Derby.

Prominent thoroughbred owner H. Price McGrath entered two horses: Aristides and Chesapeake. Aristides’ rider that afternoon was Oliver Lewis, who, like most of his Kentucky Derby foes, was African-American. The horse’s trainer was an elderly former slave named Ansel Williamson.

Lewis was supposed to take Aristides to the lead, tire the field, and then let Chesapeake go on to win. But Aristides simply refused to let his stablemate pass him. He ended up scoring a thrilling victory, starting the Kentucky Derby on its path to international fame.

Meanwhile, men like Lewis and Williamson had shown that free blacks could be accomplished, celebrated members of society.

‘I ride to win’

To many black Americans, Isaac Murphy symbolized this ideal. Between 1884 and 1891, Murphy won three Kentucky Derbys, a mark unequaled until 1945.

Born a slave in Kentucky, Murphy, along with black peers like Pike Barnes, Soup Perkins and Willie Simms, rode regularly in integrated competition and earned big paychecks. Black jockeys were even the subjects of celebrity gossip; when Murphy bought a new house, it made the front page of The New York Times. One white memoirist, looking back on his childhood, remembered that “every little boy who took any interest in racing…had an admiration for Isaac Murphy.” After the Civil War, the Constitution guaranteed black male suffrage and equal protection under the law, but Isaac Murphy embodied citizenship in a different way. He was both a black man and a popular hero.

When Murphy rode one of his most famous races, piloting Salvator to victory over Tenny at Sheepshead Bay in 1890, the crusading black journalist T. Thomas Fortune interviewed him after the race. Murphy was friendly, but blunt: “I ride to win.”

Fortune, who was waging a legal battle to desegregate New York hotels, loved that response. It was that kind of determination that would change the world, he told his readers: men like Isaac Murphy, leading by example in the fight to end racism after slavery.

Destined to disappear?

Only a few weeks after the interview with Fortune, Murphy’s career suffered a tremendous blow when he was accused of drinking on the job. He would go on to win another Kentucky Derby the next spring, riding Kingman, a thoroughbred owned by former slave Dudley Allen, the first and only black man to own a Kentucky Derby winner. But Murphy died of heart failure in 1896 at the age of 35 – two months before the Supreme Court made segregation the law of the land in Plessy v. Ferguson.

Black men continued to ride successfully through the 1890s, but their role in the sport was tenuous at best. A Chicago sportswriter grumbled that when he went to the track and saw black fans cheering black riders, he was uncomfortably reminded that black men could vote. The 15th Amendment and Isaac Murphy had opened the door for black Americans, but many whites were eager to slam it shut.

After years of success, black men began getting fewer jobs on the racetrack, losing promotions and opportunities to ride top horses. White jockeys started to openly demand segregated competition. One told the New York Sun in 1908 that one of his black opponents was probably the best jockey he had ever seen, but that he and his colleagues “did not like to have the negro riding in the same races with them.” In a 1905 Washington Post article titled “Negro Rider on Wane,” the writer insisted that black men were inferior and thus destined to disappear from the track, as Native Americans had inevitably disappeared from their homelands.

Black jockey Jimmy Winkfield shot to stardom with consecutive Kentucky Derby victories in 1901 and 1902, but he quickly found it difficult to get more mounts, a pattern that became all too common. He left the United States for a career in Europe, but his contemporaries often weren’t so fortunate.

Their obituaries give us glimpses of the depression and desperation that came with taking pride in a vocation, only to have it wrenched away. Soup Perkins, who won the Kentucky Derby at 15, drank himself to death at 31. The jockey Tom Britton couldn’t find a job and committed suicide by swallowing acid. Albert Isom bought a pistol at a pawnshop and shot himself in the head in front of the clerk.

The history of the Kentucky Derby, then, is also the history of men who were at the forefront of black life in the decades after emancipation – only to pay a terrible price for it.

Katherine Mooney, Assistant Professor of History, Florida State University

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

Thoughts From a Hospital Bed

Esquire

Thoughts From a Hospital Bed

And what it means to be healthy, or unhealthy, in the United States of 2017.

By Charles P. Pierce    May 3, 2017

I wasn’t awake for 30 minutes Wednesday morning before the panel on MSNBC’s Morning Zoo Crew made me wish that there was a procedure by which they could put my gallbladder back, just so they could take it out again. The subject was Hillary Rodham Clinton’s appearance at a woman’s conference on Tuesday. First, Harold Ford came on—and who’s more of an expert of losing winnable elections than Harold Ford, Jr.?—and said that, instead of talking about the election just passed, HRC should be out there talking about “what she would be doing as president.”

Just thinking about the reactions in many quarters, from this bunch, from The New York Times’ Washington Bureau, if she actually did this—She’s Delusional! She Thinks She’s President!—made me long to be back on Toradol again. (By the way, if you know anyone who wonders why NFL players do what they call “riding the T train” before every game, send that person to me. Toradol is very good at its job.) Then, Mika informed us that one of the major blunders of the Clinton campaign was that it didn’t realize that the arrival of Donald Trump “changed the moral calculus” of the race and would sideline Bill Clinton as a political asset. That got me longing to start the whole process again, perhaps with a rusty lawnmower blade.

I can’t leave you alone for a minute, America.

So anyway, this happened. Last Tuesday, I awoke in the middle of the night feeling as though I’d swallowed an ankylosaurus, spiked tail and all. (It was a good day for dinosaur news, because it’s always a good day for dinosaur news, but it wasn’t a good day for metaphorical dinosaur news.) That brought me to the emergency room. The next afternoon, I felt as though someone was pounding a railroad spike into my right side. After a series of tests that covered 14 hours and included an endoscopy, an ultrasound, an MRI, and a more elaborate MRI, it was determined that the ol’ gallbladder had run the race, that it had to come out, but that it had not made the argument for its removal in a conventional way. I had, as they said, “an atypical presentation of a common condition.”

New title for the memoirs!

So, anyway, this happened. Before relieving me of the offending organ, the surgeon and I were chatting, and he mentioned that, in college, he’d played defensive tackle at Trinity College in Connecticut, in which capacity he annually ran into a plucky offensive lineman named…Bill Belichick. So that was weird.

The staff at Newton-Wellesley Hospital, all of them, will always have my thanks and prayers. But although Jimmy Kimmel beat me to this by a couple of days, what continued to strike me over the past week was the fact that the critical element in my care was that I could afford it.

The critical element in my care was that I could afford it.

After a while, the Toradol and I conjured up a guy in Mississippi who worked in a plastics plant. (He also works at the local Piggly Wiggly to make ends meet.) Last Tuesday, he wakes up in the middle of the night with the anklyosaurus in his gullet. He probably downs an over-the-counter stomach medicine. The next day, at work, he feels the railroad spike’s being driven in. He has to make calculations in currencies with which I am not familiar and in which I am not fluent. Antibiotics exchanged for food, school fees bartered for an ultrasound. Or maybe he just soldiers through, day after day, until a chronic condition becomes catastrophic and the ankylosaurus breaks through into his life like the critter from Alien leaping from John Hurt’s chest. I really got to like this guy. I wished him well.

From this standpoint, with my Mississippi plastics worker hanging out at the side of my bed, I watched the Republicans fall all over themselves trying to destroy the Affordable Care Act while pretending they weren’t doing that very thing. (An atypical presentation of a common condition.) For a good, long, healthy while, I was completely one of The American People, my privileged view of our democratic follies clouded for a moment by more than just the pharmaceuticals. I was looking through a haze of frustration and pain, and considerable anger, for me and for my phantom pal from the plastics plant. Human health is not a commodity, to be bargained and sold and traded as though it were any other consumer good.

I was lying in a hospital, doped to the gills, chatting in my mind with an imaginary fellow citizen, and I could figure that out. Why in bloody hell can’t they? They’re out to wreck the only piece of effective legislation that made this a little easier for me and for my pal that has emerged in the last half-century. Everything about the proposed replacement is cruelly inadequate, because that’s what it was designed to be. The pre-existing conditions protections are cheesecloth; the high-risk pools are guaranteed to bring us back to the days of generally unaffordable premiums. It’s still a tax bill dressed up as healthcare reform, which is like calling a crop subsidy a law enforcement measure.

And hand things back to the states? To Sam Brownback’s Kansas, or Scott Walker’s Wisconsin, or even my phantom companion’s Mississippi? Somehow, doing this, bringing millions of Americans back to the brink of a cliff they’d almost forgotten over eight years, makes those Americans more free? This is crazy. I turned on the hockey game.

Human health is not a commodity, to be bargained and sold and traded as though it were any other consumer good.

The debate on the essential American political identity—which I contend began in all modern contexts with the belated acknowledgement of the rights granted to African-American citizens in the wake of the Civil War—has not even half-begun. The question of who we are as a nation is as unresolved as it ever has been. The value of the political commons—and the distribution of the benefits thereof—is still in a perilous place. The notion that the American republic is an ongoing experiment in self-government is one to which I still subscribe, but, dammit, these days, we seem to be closer than ever to the moment when that experiment turns to one of complete devolution, as we walk the republic back through all the mistakes of the past from which we’d thought we learned. Hell, the Greeks knew that social inequality was the route through which democracy turns to oligarchy. We were supposed to have learned that in 1787.

Also, in case you haven’t noticed, the president* of the United States is bughouse bananas and he’s getting worse.

So, anyway, all this happened. My family and I would like to thank you magnificent bastids, one and all, for the great outpouring of thoughts, prayers, good wishes, and raisings of the glass that came to us from all across the Intertoobz. There’s something stirring out in the land, I swear to god there is, and I’m glad we’re all here in this thing called life together.

So, anyway, that all happened. The shebeen is open again, praise be. God bless all here!

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A look at the House Republican health care bill

Associated Press May 4, 2017

WASHINGTON (AP) — House Republicans on Thursday passed legislation to roll back much of former President Barack Obama’s health care law. The legislation would rework subsidies for private insurance, limit federal spending on Medicaid for low-income people and cut taxes on upper-income individuals used to finance Obama’s overhaul.

The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office estimates that the Republican bill would result in 24 million fewer people having health insurance by 2026, compared to Obama’s 2010 statute.

Here are key elements of the bill:

__Ends tax penalties Obama’s law imposes on individuals who don’t purchase health insurance and on larger employers who don’t offer coverage to workers.

__Halts extra payments Washington sends states to expand Medicaid to additional poorer Americans, and forbids states that haven’t already expanded Medicaid to do so. Changes Medicaid from an open-ended program that covers beneficiaries’ costs to one that gives states fixed amounts of money annually.

__Erases Obama’s subsidies for people buying individual policies based mostly on consumers’ incomes and premium costs. Replaces them with tax credits that grow with age that must be used to defray premiums. The credits are refundable, which means they can go to people with little or no tax liability. Credits may not be used to buy policies that provide abortion coverage.

__Repeals Obama’s taxes on people with higher incomes and on insurance companies, prescription drugmakers, some medical devices, expensive employer-provided insurance plans and tanning salons. Obama’s law has used the revenue to help pay for expanded coverage.

__Requires insurers to apply 30 percent surcharges to customers who’ve let coverage lapse for more than 63 days in the past year. This would include people with pre-existing medical conditions.

__Lets states get federal waivers allowing insurers to charge older customers higher premiums than younger ones by as much as they’d like. Obama’s law limits the difference to a 3-1 ratio.

__States can get waivers exempting insurers from providing consumers with required coverage of specified health services, including hospital and outpatient care, pregnancy and mental health treatment.

__States can get waivers from Obama’s prohibition against insurers charging higher premiums to people with pre-existing health problems, but only if the person has had a gap in insurance coverage. States could get those waivers if they have mechanisms like high-risk pools that are supposed to help cover people with serious, expensive-to-treat diseases. Critics say these pools are often under-funded and ineffective.

___Provides $8 billion over five years to help states finance their high-risk pools. This late addition, aimed at winning over votes, is on top of $130 billion over a decade in the bill for states to help people afford coverage.

__Retains Obama’s requirement that family policies cover grown children to age 26, and its prohibition against varying premiums because of a customer’s gender.

___

Sources: U.S. Congress, The Associated Press, Kaiser Family Foundation