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TBR News April 9, 2018

Apr 09 2018

The Voice of the White House 

Washington, D.C. April 9, 2018: “Since 148 a silent and often deadly war has been raging between the CIA and the FBI over territory. The CIA is mandated to handle foreign intelligence while the FBI has domestic. The CIA tried to slip into domestic at one point and FBI Director Hoover stopped them. Moving ahead to present times, Trump, whose business and personal lives are not above reproach, discovered that the FBI was investigating some of his activities long before he bought the White House and as a result, he has been determined to put them out of business and grant the subservient CIA dearest wish: to become the sole intelligence agency for the United States. In this matter, as in so many more, Trump has made a terrible mistake. He made a worse mistake when he pressured Bolivia to deny Julian Assange the use of a computer. Why did Trump do this? Because he feared that Assange and WikiLeaks would to to him what his people paid WikiLeaks to Hillary Clinton. Assange does not own, nor control WikiLeaks. Trump made clandestine deals with the people who do and if he reneges  on his promises to them, there will be devastating artillery fire from Sweden.”

Table of Contents

  • Trump: Is He Stupid or Dangerously Crazy?
  • Is Something Neurologically Wrong With Donald Trump?
  • FBI raided offices of Trump’s lawyer: New York Times
  • Trump lawyer Michael Cohen’s office raided by FBI
  • The Iraq War: In the beginning was the lie
  • Forward Base Falcon Disaster: A cover-up
  • MV Iran Deyanat: A disaster averted
  • Exclusive: As elections near, many older, educated, white voters shift away from Trump’s party
  • In key Kentucky House race, healthcare anxieties loom large
  • Facebook suspends Cubeyou over harvesting data claims

 Trump: Is He Stupid or Dangerously Crazy?

He’s both!

April 9, 2018

by Justin Raimondo

AntiWar

A child could see through the fake “chemical attack” supposedly launched by Bashar al-Assad just as his troops defeated the jihadists and Trump said he wanted out of Syria. But our President can’t, which raises the question: is he as stupid or stupider than George W. Bush? Or is he crazy?

The bad news is: possibly both. And no, there is no good news.

It was 6 in the morning this Sunday when the President of the United States sent out this tweet:

“Many dead, including women and children, in mindless CHEMICAL attack in Syria. Area of atrocity is in lockdown and encircled by Syrian Army, making it completely inaccessible to outside world. President Putin, Russia and Iran are responsible for backing Animal Assad. Big price…”

We are expected to believe that the Assad regime committed a horrific atrocity against mostly women and children at the very moment when Syrian forces have decisively defeated the Islamist rebels and Trump declared he wanted US troops out of Syria. Days before this fake attack, the Russian Defense Ministry warned that a false flag provocation was in the making.

“Big price,” eh? The person paying that price is going to be Trump himself: his deplorables didn’t vote for him so we could establish an Islamic Sunni state in Syria, as John Bolton has long advocated. If he gets into a war – and the longer we stay in Syria, the bigger are the chances that we’ll be pulled into yet another quagmire – his presidency is doomed.

So let’s get down to brass tacks, as they used to say: doesn’t this prove I was wrong about Trump and his movement all along? Weren’t all the smarty-pants NeverTrumpers right from the very beginning?

I was very wrong to discount the role of character, personality, and intelligence: Trump is simply not fit to be President. The foreign policy he seemed to be promising, summed up in the slogan “America First,” was and is the right path for this country – but life is not about policies divorced from individuals. People like me – writers, journalists, and publicists – think in terms of ideas, but these cannot exist apart from the people who hold them, or pretend to hold them. Trump is a very imperfect vessel for a very good policy – and that is definitely an understatement.

Yet that has nothing to do with what I said and wrote about Trump’s various foreign policy pronouncements right up until very recently: as I’ve pointed out repeatedly, and exhaustively, the very fact that a successful presidential candidate criticized the Iraq war (“they lied”) and our policy of global intervention – e.g., questioned NATO’s existence – was and still is a great step forward. That Trump isn’t living up to his campaign promises and his post-election rhetoric is another matter entirely. The “deplorables” are in open rebellion against this new turn: Trump is losing his base.

So here’s the question: is he stupid, like George W. Bush, or is he crazy, in the tradition of, say, Richard M. Nixon?

The case for stupidity is fairly strong: after all, where’s the evidence that Assad launched a chemical attack? Like the series of fake “attacks” touted by the jihadist rebels over the years, this one lacks verification – but that doesn’t bother the War Party. Since when do they need evidence? Last time Trump fell for this routine it turned out that his own Secretary of Defense admitted – well after the US bombing raid – that there was “no evidence” that the Syrian government had launched a chemical attack. The same dodgy “proof” beleaguers the Skripal “poisoning” case in Britain – and, what a coincidence, the same villains are being blamed – Putin & Co. The idea that Assad had anything to gain from launching such an attack is not even worth refuting: he’d already won the war. So what would be the point? It isn’t hard to understand this, yet our President is clueless – or pretends to be.

The case for craziness – a real mental affliction – is even stronger, in my opinion. When President Obama was confronted with the same phony “attacks,” as reported by jihadist “activists” and “medics,” Trump urged him to stay out of it. Yet now that’s he’s in the Oval Office, he’s doing what he urged Obama not to do. This is the classic behavior pattern of a schizoid nutjob with multiple personalities: it’s “The Three Faces of the Donald,” and the big question is which one will emerge today?

Another issue I was apparently dead wrong about is the ascension of John Bolton as National Security Advisor: no big deal, I said. Wrong! I refuse to believe that Trump is caving in to the War Party on Syria just as Bolton gets the keys to his new office. And here’s another non-coincidence: this new turn comes just after Trump got into an argument with his generals over Syria. He wanted out: they insisted we stay. It didn’t take him long to find an excuse – this bogus “attack” – to cave.

So he’s not just stupid, and crazy – he’s also a coward. He refuses to confront the War Party head on, despite his campaign trail rhetoric. Just the other day he was telling crowds in Ohio how we were on the way out of Syria because “we have to take care of our own country.” The crowd cheered. Would he go back to that same audience and tell them we need to intervene in a country that’s been wracked by warfare for years, with no real hope of a peaceful settlement? Of course not.

He’s a Beta male masquerading as an Alpha.

The top three most powerful foreign lobbies in Washington are pushing the US to not only stay in Syria but to expand the role of US troops: the Saudis, who directly support the jihadist rebels, the Israelis, who have long sought to overthrow Assad, and the British, who are behind the maniacal anti-Russian propaganda campaign, starting with the shenanigans of Christopher Steele. Trump’s craven capitulation to these “allies” is yet more evidence of his cowardice under fire. And there’s no doubt that his blaming Russia – and naming Putin – as supposedly responsible for this “gas attack” is a ploy to get Robert Mueller off his back.

I have to say that the future looks grim. This puts Trump’s entire foreign policy agenda up for grabs, including the once-promising Korean peace initiative. Will he sabotage what might have been his greatest accomplishment – peace on the Korean peninsula?

It’s entirely possible.

We are now entering uncharted territory – although, come to think of it, that’s been true since Election Day, 2016. Hold on to your hats, folks, and get a grip on your nerves – because it’s going to be a long, scary ride.

 

Is Something Neurologically Wrong With Donald Trump?

It is best not to diagnose the president from afar, which is why the federal government needs a system to evaluate him up close.

January 3, 2018

by James Hamblin

The Atlantic

President Donald Trump’s decision to brag in a tweet about the size of his “nuclear button” compared with North Korea’s was widely condemned as bellicose and reckless. The comments are also part of a larger pattern of odd and often alarming behavior for a person in the nation’s highest office.

Trump’s grandiosity and impulsivity has made him a constant subject of speculation among those concerned with his mental health. But after more than a year of talking to doctors and researchers about whether and how the cognitive sciences could offer a lens to explain Trump’s behavior, I’ve come to believe there should be a role for professional evaluation beyond speculating from afar.

I’m not alone. Viewers of Trump’s recent speeches have begun noticing minor abnormalities in his movements. In November, he used his free hand to steady a small Fiji bottle as he brought it to his mouth. Onlookers described the movement as “awkward” and made jokes about hand size. Some called out Trump for doing the exact thing he had mocked Senator Marco Rubio for during the presidential primary—conspicuously drinking water during a speech.

By comparison, Rubio’s movement was smooth, effortless. The Senator noticed that Trump had stared at the Fiji bottle as he slowly brought it to his lips, jokingly chiding that Trump “needs work on his form. Has to be done in one single motion, and eyes should never leave the camera.”

Then in December, speaking about his national-security plan in Washington, D.C., Trump reached under his podium and grabbed a glass with both hands. This time he kept them on the glass the entire time he drank, and as he put the glass down. This drew even more attention. The gesture was like that of an extremely cold person cradling a mug of cocoa. Some viewers likened him to a child just learning to handle a cup.

Then there was an incident of slurred speech. Announcing the relocation of the American embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem—a dramatic foreign-policy move—Trump became difficult to understand at a phonetic level, which did little to reassure many observers of the soundness of his decision.

Experts compelled to offer opinions on the nature of the episode were vague: The neurosurgeon Sanjay Gupta described it as “clearly some abnormalities of his speech.” This sort of slurring could result from anything from a dry mouth to a displaced denture to an acute stroke.

Though these moments could be inconsequential, they call attention to the alarming absence of a system to evaluate elected officials’ fitness for office—to reassure concerned citizens that the “leader of the free world” is not cognitively impaired, and on a path of continuous decline.

Proposals for such a system have been made in the past, but never implemented. The job of the presidency is not what it used to be. For most of America’s history, it was not possible for the commander in chief to unilaterally destroy a continent, or the entire planet, with one quick decision. Today, even the country’s missileers—whose job is to sit in bunkers and await a signal—are tested three times per month on their ability to execute protocols. They are required to score at least 90 percent. Testing is not required for their commander in chief to be able to execute a protocol, much less testing to execute the sort of high-level decision that would set this process in motion.

The lack of a system to evaluate presidential fitness only stands to become more consequential as the average age of leaders increases. The Constitution sets finite lower limits on age but gives no hint of an upper limit. At the time of its writing, septuagenarians were relatively rare, and having survived so long was a sign of hardiness and cautiousness. Now it is the norm. In 2016 the top three presidential candidates turned 69, 70, and 75. By the time of the 2021 inauguration, a President Joe Biden would be 78.

After age 40, the brain decreases in volume by about 5 percent every decade. The most noticeable loss is in the frontal lobes. These control motor functioning of the sort that would direct a hand to a cup and a cup to the mouth in one fluid motion—in most cases without even looking at the cup.

These lobes also control much more important processes, from language to judgment to impulsivity. Everyone experiences at least some degree of cognitive and motor decline over time, and some 8.8 percent of Americans over 65 now have dementia. An annual presidential physical exam at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center is customary, and Trump’s is set for January 12. But the utility of a standard physical exam—knowing a president’s blood pressure and weight and the like—is meager compared with the value of comprehensive neurologic, psychological, and psychiatric evaluation. These are not part of a standard physical.

Even if they were voluntarily undertaken, there would be no requirement to disclose the results. A president could be actively hallucinating, threatening to launch a nuclear attack based on intelligence he had just obtained from David Bowie, and the medical community could be relegated to speculation from afar.

Even if the country’s psychiatrists were to make a unanimous statement regarding the president’s mental health, their words may be written off as partisan in today’s political environment. With declining support for fact-based discourse and trust in expert assessments, would there be any way of convincing Americans that these doctors weren’t simply lying, treasonous “liberals”—globalist snowflakes who got triggered?

The downplaying of a president’s compromised neurologic status would not be without precedent. Franklin Delano Roosevelt famously disguised his paralysis from polio to avoid appearing “weak or helpless.” He staged public appearances to give the impression that he could walk, leaning on aides and concealing a crutch. Instead of a traditional wheelchair, he used an inconspicuous dining chair with wheels attached. According to the FDR Presidential Library, “The Secret Service was assigned to purposely interfere with anyone who tried to snap a photo of FDR in a ‘disabled or weak’ state.”

Documenting the reality of Roosevelt’s health status fell to journalists, who had been reporting on his polio before his first term. A 1931 analysis in Liberty magazine asked “Is Franklin D. Roosevelt Physically Fit to Be President?” and reported on his paralysis: “It is an amazing possibility that the next president of the United States may be a cripple.” Once he was elected, Time described the preparation of the White House: “Because of the president-elect’s lameness, short ramps will replace steps at the side door of the executive offices leading to the White House.”

Today much more can be known about a person’s neurological status, though little of it is as observable as paraplegia. Unfortunately, the public medical record available to assuage global concerns about the current president’s neurologic status is the attestation of Harold Bornstein, America’s most famous Upper Manhattan gastroenterologist, whose initial doctor’s note described the 71-year-old Trump as “the healthiest individual ever elected to the presidency.”

The phrasing was so peculiar for a medical record that some suggested that Trump had written or dictated the letter himself. Indeed, as a key indicator of neurologic status, Trump’s distinctive diction has not gone without scrutiny. Trump was once a more articulate person who sometimes told stories that had beginnings, middles, and ends, whereas he now leaps from thought to thought. He has come to rely on a small stable of adjectives, often involving superlatives. An improbably high proportion of what he describes is either the greatest or the worst he’s ever seen; absolutely terrible or the best; tiny or huge.

The frontal lobes also control speech, and over the years, Donald Trump’s fluency has regressed and his vocabulary contracted. In May of last year, the journalist Sharon Begley at Stat analyzed changes in his speech patterns during interviews over the years. She noted that in the 1980s and 1990s, Trump used phrases like “a certain innate intelligence” and “These are the only casinos in the United States that are so rated.” I would add, “I think Jesse Jackson has done himself very proud.”

He also more frequently finished sentences and thoughts. Here he is with Larry King on CNN in 1987:

King: Should the mayor of the city be someone who knows business?

Trump: Well, what we need is competence. We don’t have that. We have a one-line artist. That’s all he is …

Or on Oprah in 1988:

Winfrey: What do you think of this year’s presidential race, the way it’s shaping up?

Trump: Well, I think it’s going to be very interesting. I think that probably George Bush has an advantage, in terms of the election. I think that probably people would say he’s got, like, that little edge in terms of the incumbency, etcetera, etcetera. But I think Jesse Jackson has done himself very proud. I think Michael Dukakis has done a hell of a job. And George Bush has done a hell of a job. They all went in there sort of as semi-underdogs—including George Bush—and they’ve all come out. I think people that are around all three of those candidates can be very proud of the jobs they’ve done.

Compare that with the meandering, staccato bursts of today. From an interview with the Associated Press:

“People want the border wall. My base definitely wants the border wall, my base really wants it—you’ve been to many of the rallies. Okay, the thing they want more than anything is the wall. My base, which is a big base; I think my base is 45 percent. You know, it’s funny. The Democrats, they have a big advantage in the Electoral College. Big, big, big advantage … The Electoral College is very difficult for a Republican to win, and I will tell you, the people want to see it. They want to see the wall.”

Ben Michaelis, a psychologist who analyzes speech as part of cognitive assessments in court cases, told Begley that although some decline in cognitive functioning would be expected, Trump has exhibited a “clear reduction in linguistic sophistication over time” with “simpler word choices and sentence structure.”

This is evident even off camera, as in last week’s post-golf sit-down with The New York Times at his resort in Florida:

“The tax cut will be, the tax bill, prediction, will be far bigger than anyone imagines. Expensing will be perhaps the greatest of all provisions. Where you can do something, you can buy something … Piece of equipment … You can do lots of different things, and you can write it off and expense it in one year. That will be one of the great stimuli in history. You watch. That’ll be one of the big … People don’t even talk about expensing, what’s the word “expensing.” [Inaudible.] One-year expensing. Watch the money coming back into the country, it’ll be more money than people anticipate. But Michael, I know the details of taxes better than anybody. Better than the greatest CPA. I know the details of health care better than most, better than most. And if I didn’t, I couldn’t have talked all these people into doing ultimately only to be rejected. Now here’s the good news. We’ve created associations, millions of people are joining associations. Millions. That were formerly in Obamacare or didn’t have insurance. Or didn’t have health care. Millions of people. That’s gonna be a big bill, you watch. It could be as high as 50 percent of the people. You watch. So that’s a big thing …”

The paper said that the transcript was “lightly edited for content and clarity.”

If Trump’s limited and hyperbolic speech were simply a calculated political move—he repeated the phrase “no collusion” 16 times in the Times interview, which some pundits deemed an advertising technique—then we would also expect an occasional glimpse behind the curtain. In addition to repeating simplistic phrases to inundate the collective subconscious with narratives like “no collusion,” Trump would give at least a few interviews in which he strung together complex sentences, for example to make a case for why Americans should rest assured that there was no collusion.

Though it is not possible to diagnose a person with dementia based on speech patterns alone, these are the sorts of changes that appear in early stages of Alzheimer’s. Trump has likened himself to Ronald Reagan, and the changes in Trump’s speech evoke those seen in the late president. Reagan announced his Alzheimer’s diagnosis in 1994, but there was evidence of linguistic change over the course of his presidency that experts have argued was indicative of early decline. His grammar worsened, and his sentences were more often incomplete. He came to rely ever more on vague and simple words: indefinite nouns and “low imageability” verbs like have, go, and get.

After Reagan’s diagnosis, former President Jimmy Carter sounded an alarm over the lack of a system to detect this sort of cognitive impairment earlier on. “Many people have called to my attention the continuing danger to our nation from the possibility of a U.S. president becoming disabled, particularly by a neurologic illness,” Carter wrote in 1994 in the Journal of the American Medical Association. “The great weakness of the Twenty-Fifth Amendment is its provision for determining disability in the event that the president is unable or unwilling to certify to impairment or disability.”

Indeed, the 1967 amendment laid out a process for transferring power to the vice president in the event that the president is unable to carry out the duties of the office due to illness. But it generally assumed that the president would be willing to undergo diagnostic testing and be forthcoming about any limitations.

This may not happen with a person who has come to be known for denying any hint of weakness or inability. Nor would it happen if a president had a psychiatric disorder that impaired judgment—especially if it was one defined by grandiosity, obsession with status, and intense aversion to being perceived as weak.

Nor would it happen if the only person to examine the president was someone like Harold Bornstein—whose sense of objective reality is one in which Donald Trump is healthier than the 42-year-old Theodore Roosevelt (who took office after commanding a volunteer cavalry division called the Rough Riders, and who invited people to the White House for sparring sessions, and who after his presidency would sometimes spend months traversing the Brazilian wilderness).

It was for these reasons that in 1994, Carter called for a system that could independently evaluate a president’s health and capacity to serve. At many companies, even where no missiles are involved, entry-level jobs require a physical exam. A president, it would follow, should be more rigorously cleared. Carter called on “the medical community” to take leadership in creating an objective, minimally biased process—to “awaken the public and political leaders of our nation to the importance of this problem.”

More than two decades later, that has not happened. But questions and concern around Trump’s psychiatric status have spurred proposals anew. In December, also in the Journal of the American Medical Association, mental-health professionals proposed a seven-member expert panel “to evaluate presidential fitness.” Last April, representative Jamie Raskin introduced a bill that would create an 11-member “presidential capacity” commission.

The real-world application of one of these systems is complicated by the fact that the frontal lobes also control things like judgment, problem-solving, and impulse control. These metrics, which fall under the purview of psychiatrists and clinical psychologists, can be dismissed as opinion. In a hospital or doctor’s office, a neurologist may describe a patient with Parkinson’s disease as having “impaired impulse control.” The National Institute on Aging lists among the symptoms of Alzheimer’s “poor judgment leading to bad decisions.”

These are phrases that can and do appear in a person’s medical record. In the public sphere, however, they’re easily dismissed as value judgments motivated by politics. The Harvard law professor Noah Feldman recently accused mental-health professionals who attempt to comment on Trump’s cognition of “leveraging their professional knowledge and status to ‘assess’ his mental health for purposes of political criticism.”

Indeed thousands of mental-health professionals have mobilized and signed petitions attesting to Trump’s unfitness to hold office. Some believe Trump should carry a label of narcissistic personality disorder, antisocial personality disorder, or both. The largest such petition has more than 68,000 signatures—though there is no vetting of the signatories’ credentials. Its author, psychologist John Gartner, told me last year that in his 35 years of practicing and teaching, “This is absolutely the worst case of malignant narcissism I’ve ever seen.”

Many other mental-health professionals are insistent that Trump not be diagnosed from afar by anyone, ever—that the goal of mental-health care is to help people who are suffering themselves from disabling and debilitating illnesses. A personality disorder is “only a disorder when it causes extreme distress, suffering, and impairment,” argues Allen Frances, the Duke University psychiatrist who was a leading author of the third edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual, which was the first to include personality disorders.

This is consistent with the long-standing, widely misunderstood rule in the profession that no one should ever be diagnosed outside of the confines of a one-on-one patient-doctor relationship. The mandate is based on a legal dispute that gave rise to the American Psychiatric Association’s (APA) “Goldwater Rule,” which was implemented after the politician Barry Goldwater sued Fact magazine for libel because a group of mental-health professionals speculated about Goldwater’s thought processes in its pages.

The rule has protected psychiatrists both from lawsuits and from claims of subjectivity that threaten trust in the entire enterprise.

After more than a year of considering Trump’s behavior through the lens of the cognitive sciences, I don’t think that labeling him with a mental illness from afar is wise. A diagnosis like narcissistic personality disorder is too easily played off as a value judgment by an administration that is pushing the narrative that scientists are enemies of the state. Labeling is also counterproductive to the field in that it presents risks to all the people who deal with the stigma of psychiatric diagnoses. To attribute Trump’s behavior to mental illness risks devaluing mental illness.

Judiciousness in public statements is only more necessary as the Trump administration plays up the idea of partisan bias in its campaign against “the media.” The consistent message is that if someone is saying something about the president that depicts or reflects upon him unfavorably, the statement must be motivated by an allegiance to a party. It must be, in a word, “fake”—coming from a place of spite, or vengeance, or allegiance to some team, creed, or party. Expertise is simply a guise to further a hidden political cause. Senator Lindsey Graham recently told CNN that the media’s portrayal of President Donald Trump is “an endless, endless attempt to label the guy as some kind of kook not fit to be president.”

Of course, Graham himself has called Trump a “kook” who is “not fit to be president.” That was in 2016, though, during the Republican presidential primary, when the two were not yet allies.)

That sort of breathless indictment—followed by a reversal and condemnation of others for making the same statement—may not be rare among politicians, but it is a leap to assume that doctors and scientists would similarly lie and abandon their professional ethics out of allegiance to a political party. When judgment is compromised with bias, it tends to be more subtle, often unconscious. Bias will color any assessment to some degree, but it needn’t render science useless in assessing presidential capacity.

The idea that the president should not be diagnosed from afar only underscores the point that the president needs to be evaluated up close.

A presidential-fitness committee—of the sort that Carter and others propose, consisting of nonpartisan medical and psychological experts—could exist in a capacity similar to the Congressional Budget Office. It could regularly assess the president’s neurologic status and give a battery of cognitive tests to assess judgment, recall, decision-making, attention—the sorts of tests that might help a school system assess whether a child is suited to a particular grade level or classroom—and make the results available.

Such a panel need not have the power to unseat a president, to undo a democratic election, no matter the severity of illness. Even if every member deemed a president so impaired as to be unfit to execute the duties of the office, the role of the committee would end with the issuing of that statement. Acting on that information—or ignoring or disparaging it—would be up to the people and their elected officials.

Of course, the calculations of the Congressional Budget Office can be politicized and ignored—and they recently have been. Almost every Republican legislator voted for health-care bills this year that would have increased the number of uninsured Americans by 20-some million, and they passed a tax bill that will add $1.4 trillion to the federal deficit. A majority of Americans did not support the bill—in part because a nonpartisan source of information like the CBO exists to conduct such analyses.

That math and polling can be ignored or disputed, or the CBO can be attacked as a secretly subversive entity, but at least some attempt at a transparent analysis is made. The same cannot be said of the president’s cognitive processes. We are left only with the shouts of experts from the sidelines, demeaning the profession and the presidency.

 

FBI raided offices of Trump’s lawyer: New York Times

April 9, 2018

Reuters

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The Federal Bureau of Investigation on Monday raided the offices of U.S. President Donald Trump’s personal lawyer Michael Cohen, The New York Times reported.

Cohen has been at the center of a controversy surrounding payment to a porn star who has alleged that she had sex once in 2006 with Trump and was paid money shortly before the 2016 election to keep quiet about it.

Stephen Ryan, Cohen’s lawyer, confirmed that a raid had taken place and that certain “communications” had been seized.

“I have been advised by federal prosecutors that the New York action is, in part, a referral by the Office of Special Counsel, Robert Mueller,” Ryan said in a statement that was identical to what he provided The New York Times. “The decision by the U.S. Attorney’s Office in New York to conduct their investigation using search warrants is completely inappropriate and unnecessary,” he added.

Cohen did not immediately respond to Reuters for a request for comment. A spokesman for Special Counsel Robert Mueller had no comment.

Mueller is investigating allegations that Russia meddled in the U.S. presidential election in 2016, and investigating possible collusion between Russia and the Trump campaign. Russia has denied allegations that it interfered in the election, and Trump and the White House have repeatedly said there was no collusion.

Ryan said in his statement that Cohen has cooperated with authorities and turned over thousands of documents to congressional investigators for their own probes into Moscow’s alleged efforts to influence the U.S. election.

A source said the FBI seized emails, tax documents and business records, The New York Times reported.

Reporting by Makini Brice; Additional reporting by Mark Hosenball, Karen Freifeld and Warren Stroebel; Editing by Eric Beech and Leslie Adler

 

Trump lawyer Michael Cohen’s office raided by FBI

April 9, 2018

BBC News

The FBI has raided the offices of Michael Cohen, the long-time personal lawyer for US President Donald Trump.

Law enforcement acted on a “referral” from Special Counsel Robert Mueller, who is investigating suspected Russian meddling in the 2016 election.

Officials in New York seized “privileged communications” between Mr Cohen and his clients, his lawyer said in a statement after the raid.

Documents regarding a payment to a porn actress were also seized, US media say.

Mr Cohen has come under increasing public scrutiny since he admitted to making a $130,000 (£92,000) payment to adult film star Stormy Daniels just days before the 2016 presidential election.

Ms Daniels – who claims that she had a sexual encounter with Mr Trump shortly after his wife Melania gave birth to their son – says she was paid to keep quiet about the affair.

“Today the US Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York executed a series of search warrants and seized the privileged communications between my client, Michael Cohen, and his clients,” Mr Cohen’s lawyer Stephen M Ryan said in a statement.

“I have been advised by federal prosecutors that the New York action is, in part, a referral by the Office of Special Counsel, Robert Mueller.”

Mr Ryan called the raid “inappropriate and unnecessary”.

“It resulted in the unnecessary seizure of protected attorney client communications between a lawyer and his clients. These government tactics are also wrong because Mr Cohen has co-operated completely with all government entities, including providing thousands of non-privileged documents to the Congress and sitting for depositions under oath,” the statement said.

Last week, Mr Trump said he was unaware of the payment to Ms Daniels.

 

The Iraq War: In the beginning was the lie

On April 9, 2003, US soldiers toppled the statue of Saddam Hussein in Baghdad. Fifteen years later we know that this war cost hundreds of thousands of lives, plunged the Middle East into chaos — and was based on lies.

April 9, 2018

by Matthias von Hein

DW

The statue of Saddam Hussein was toppled in Baghdad, and on millions of TV screens around the world, less than three weeks after the start of the US-led invasion of Iraq. Those pictures from April 9, 2003, are etched on our collective memory. Yet even 15 years later, many questions remain unanswered. We still don’t know, for example, exactly how many Iraqis died as a result of the war and in the chaos that followed.

Most sources estimate the number of dead at anything from 150,000 to half a million. Some reliable investigations have concluded that the number was actually far higher. As early as 2006, the respected medical journal The Lancet calculated that there had been more than 650,000 “additional deaths.” As well as from direct violence, this figure also takes into account the consequences of the bombed-out infrastructure and the collapse of the health system.

What we do know for sure is that the rationale for going to war was based on lies. There is a second picture associated with the Iraq War that is also ingrained in our collective memory: US Secretary of State Colin Powell giving his speech to the UN Security Council on February 5, 2003. Six weeks before the war began, Powell spent 76 minutes influencing international public opinion in favor of war. The core of his speech was that Saddam Hussein possessed biological and chemical weapons of mass destruction, that his regime was supporting international terrorism, and that it aimed to build nuclear weapons.

‘Mobile chemical weapons laboratory’

The presentation culminated in a claim, backed up by detailed illustrations, that in order to evade strict controls by UN weapons inspectors Iraq had converted a fleet of trucks into mobile chemical and biological weapons labs. We remember Powell’s speech primarily because all of these claims turned out to be false. In 2005 Powell himself described the speech as a lasting “blot” on his career.

Ray McGovern is a security services veteran. He worked for the CIA for 27 years, and held senior positions within it. In 2003, he and some colleagues from the CIA and other intelligence services founded the organization Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity (VIPS), which critically examines US policy. McGovern told DW, “The intelligence was not mistaken; it was fraudulent — and they knew it.” And a significant part of Powell’s presentation was based on intelligence provided by Germany.

Codename ‘Curveball’

In 1999 the Iraqi chemist Rafid Ahmed Alwan al-Janabi came to Germany as a refugee. Alerted to his presence, Germany’s foreign intelligence service (the BND) interrogated him. They were hoping for information about Saddam Hussein’s weapons of mass destruction. Al-Janabi — referred to by his codename, “Curveball” — realized that the more information he provided, the more his status improved. He was given a German passport, money and his own apartment.

This continued until the BND tracked down al-Janabi’s former boss, who picked apart his web of lies. The German intelligence services then informed their American partners of this development. Nonetheless, there was renewed interest in “Curveball” after the attacks of September 11, 2001. Citing former BND head August Hanning, the daily newspaper Die Welt reported in August 2011 that the Americans had demanded a binding commitment from the Germans in 2001 assuring that Curveball’s statements were correct. Hanning refused to provide it, writing instead to the head of the CIA, George Tenet, “attempts to verify the information have been unsuccessful” and that it “must therefore be considered unconfirmed.”

Despite other, more explicit warnings about the veracity of Curveball’s testimony, it became the centerpiece of Powell’s war propaganda. Ray McGovern is certain: “They didn’t care whether Curveball knew what he was talking about. What they had was something they could put on the record, that they could give to these very imaginative and very professional graphics people working for the CIA, and they in turn could render drawings of these nonexistent mobile chemical weapons labs, which of course they did and which Colin Powell featured during his speech.”

Britain has doubts – but nothing comes of it

The US’s allies in Britain were brought into line early on. In May 2005 The Sunday Times of London reported the contents of what had been, until then, a strictly confidential memo. The subject: a meeting with the then British Prime Minister Tony Blair on July 23, 2002, to discuss Iraq. Those present included new Foreign Minister Jack Straw, Defense Minister Geoff Hoon, Attorney General Lord Goldsmith, and the head of the foreign intelligence agency MI6, Sir Richard Dearlove, referred to, according to tradition, as “C”, in what became known as the “Downing Street Memo.”

Dearlove later spoke of a meeting in Washington just beforehand with the head of the CIA, George Tenet: “Military action was now seen as inevitable. Bush wanted to remove Saddam, through military action, justified by the conjunction of terrorism and WMD. But the intelligence and facts were being fixed around the policy.” Foreign Minister Straw rightfully objected that “the case was thin. Saddam was not threatening his neighbors, and his WMD capability was less than that of Libya, North Korea or Iran.”

And Attorney General Goldsmith is on record as saying that “the desire for regime change was not a legal base for military action.” None of these reservations, however, stopped Blair from going to war in the interests of the “special relationship” between the US and the UK.

 

Forward Base Falcon Disaster: A cover-up

by Brian Harring

Late on the evening of October 10, 2006, Iraqi resistance groups lobbed mortar and rocket rounds into the immense ‘Forward Base Falcon,’ the largest American military base in Iraq, located 13 km south of the Green Zone in Baghdad. In addition to accurate mortar fire, Grad and Katyusha rockets were also used.

Falcon base was designed to house a large contingent of American troops, mostly drawn from the 4th Infantry Division, stationed at Fr. Bliss, Texas. At the time of the attack, there were approximately 3000 men inside the camp, which also was filled with ammunition supplies, fuel, tanks and vehicles.

Iraqi contractors had assisted in the construction of the camp, which occupied nearly a square mile and was surrounded with guard tower-studded high concrete walls, and it is now apparent that the Resistance movement had been given important targets from “sources familiar with the layout” of the base.

After the initial shelling, fuel and ammunition stores began to erupt with massive explosions that could be heard, and seen, miles away inside the Green Zone where U.S. military and diplomatic units were heavily guarded.

The explosions, all of them termed “immense” by BBC reporters, continued throughout the night.

In response, US aircraft indiscriminately rocketed and bombed various parts of the city, BBC and AFP correspondents eported, trying to knock out the launch sites of the rockets

The BBC’s Andrew North, in Baghdad, said the explosions started at about 2300 (2100 BST) and were becoming “ever more frequent” as the huge fires spread throughout the base, punctuated by tremendous explosions as more fuel and ammunition dumps ignited.

“Intelligence indicates that civilians aligned with a militia organization were responsible for last night’s mortar attack,” said Lieutenant Colonel Jonathan Withington, spokesman for the U.S. 4th Infantry Division.

An after action report, issued by the Department of Defense, stated that: “On October 10, 2006, at approximately 10:40 p.m., a 82mm mortar round, fired by militia forces from a residential area in Abu T-Shir, caused a fire at an Ammunition Supply Point (ASP) at FOB Falcon. The ASP, containing tank and artillery rounds, in addition to smaller caliber ammunition, set off a series of large explosions. About 100 troops from the 4th Infantry Division were reported to be stationed at the base at the time, but no injuries were reported.”  (Emphasis added.) “The damage to the area will not degrade the operational capability of MND-B (Multinational Division Baghdad),”

When the flames had been brought under control on the morning of the 11th of October, primarily because the entire camp had been gutted, nine large American military transports with prominent Red Cross markings were observed by members of the foreign media taking off, laded with the dead and the wounded.

Over 300 American troops, including U.S. Army and Marines, CIA agents and U.S. translators were casualties and there also were 165 seriously injured requiring major medical attention and 39 suffering lesser injuries  122 members of the Iraqi armed forces were killed and 90 seriously injured members of same, were also evacuated to the U.S. military hospital at al-Habbaniyah located some 70km west of Baghdad.

Satellite pictures and aerial photographs from neutral sources showed that Camp Falcon suffered major structural damage and almost all the U.S. military’s supply of small arms ammunition, artillery and rocket rounds, tons of fuel, six Apache helicopters, an uncounted but large number of soft-skinned vehicles such as Humvees and supply trucks were damaged or totally destroyed. Foreign press observers noted “an endless parade” of military vehicle recovery units dragging burnt-out heavy tanks and armored personnel carriers to another base outside Baghdad.

Many of the walls and towers of the camp were damaged or leveled as were many of  the barracks, maintenance depots, and there was considerable damage to the huge mess halls that could hold 3000 soldiers, the huge recreation center with its basketball courts and indoor swimming pools and all the administration buildings

Although official U.S. DoD statements indicated that there were no deaths; that only a hundred men were inside the base guarding billions of dollars of vital military equipment and that there were “only two minor injuries to personnel,” passes belief and certainly reality is more painful than propaganda.

Not only has the U.S. military machine lost much of its armor and transport, and its entire reserves of ammunition and special fuel, but the casualty list for only the first day is over 300..

 

 MV Iran Deyanat: A disaster averted

 

Washington, D.C., October 9, 2008: “This heavily-suppressed story about the Iranian ship laden with highly radioactive waste, bound for the eastern end of the Mediterranean, is typical of how the government sits on inconvenient stories. They imposed a silence on the Forward Base Falcon disaster and have not posted all the U.S.dead in Iraq and now we have the interrupted saga of the MV Iran Deyanat being blocked from all regular media sites. The story, cut off initially by a dismissive article in late September in the ‘Long War Journal,’ a “very friendly government (DoD) entity” was renewed by an article by Brian Harring at the beginning of October. It then got a tremendous reading around the world…in the millions…but never a word in our controlled press, or government-controlled sites like ‘Wikipedia’ basically controlled in toto by the CIA.

On August 21st, 2008, the Iranian MV Iran Deyanat, a 44468 dead weight tonnage carrier. that is  owned and operated by the Islamic Republic of Iran Shipping Lines (IRISL) – a state-owned company run by the Iranian military that was sanctioned by the U.S. Department of the Treasury for its false manifests and traffic in forbidden nuclear materials, was seized by Somali pirates to be held for their usual ransom.

The ship had set sail from Nanjing, China, July 28, 2008

The Old Nanking Port of Nanjing is the largest inland port in China, yearly reaching 108.59 million tons in 2007. The port area is 98 kilometers (61 mi) in length and has 64 berths including 16 berths for ships with a tonnage of more than 10,000. Nanjing is also the biggest container port along the Yangtze River; in March 2004, the one million container-capacity base, Longtan Containers Port Area opened, further consolidating Nanjing as the leading port in the region.

During her stay at Nanjing,  the MV Iran Deyanat was loaded primarily with eight cargo containers, lined with lead and with electronic locks. The 20 ft containers are  8’ wide, and carry a load of 48,060 lb per container. This special container cargo had a total load of 384,480 pounds which consisted of packaged of nuclear waste that originated at the Tianwan 1&2 Atomic plants from Jiangsu Province (built in 2007) Once the radiation death of many of the pirates (16) became known, reporters attempting to contact responsible officials in the Pentagon and the Department of State were told these officials refused to comment on any of the implications of the cargo. The ship’s manifest was falsified but the deadly cargo was supposed to be headed for Rotterdam and an unspecified “German client.”

Much of the story was covered in a London Times article which was subsequently removed from that paper’s archive and the initial story was tailored by the ‘Long War Journal,’ a website with close connections to the Department of Defense and the CIA. It tended to dismiss the entire question of a radioactive cargo and instead, discussed unspecified chemicals.

Vice Adm. Bill Gortney, Commander, US Fifth Fleet based in Bahrain Combined Maritime Forces,  said the U.S.-led coalition patrolling the Gulf of Aden “does not have the resources to provide 24-hour protection for the vast number of merchant vessels in the region,”

Russia said it will soon join international efforts to fight piracy off the Somalia coast.However, it will conduct its operations independently, RIA-Novosti news agency reports Navy commander Adm. Vladimir Vysotsky as saying . “We are planning to participate in international efforts to fight piracy off the Somalia coast, but the Russian warships will conduct operations on their own,” he said.

Russian nationals are frequently among the crews of civilian ships hijacked by pirates off the Somalia coast, notes RIA-Novosti.

At the beginning of June, the UN Security Council passed a resolution permitting countries to enter Somalia’s territorial waters to combat “acts of piracy and armed robbery at sea.”

The American media has given no coverage of any kind to this incident,

Russian sources have disclosed that when American Naval personnel, attached to the U.S. Fifth Fleet,  finally boarded the MV Iran Deyanat and took all of her crew, including the Iranian captain, into what was called “protective custody,” and while the opened cargo container containing Chinese atomic waste was being sealed and decontaminated, the bridge and the captain’s quarters were thoroughly searched.  An “intensive” interrogation of the initially recalcitrant captain plus documents obtained from his safe showed a truly horrifying picture to the trained naval intelligence people.

The Deynant was not the only cargo ship to load containers of radioactive waste at Nanjing; and  two others had preceded her July, 2008 visit. The problem is that the captain did not know either the names of the two Iranian -controlled ships nor their destinations.

His destination was the eastern end of the Mediterranean but it now appears that the ship was not intended to be blown up. Instead, the eight cargo containers were to be taken to the Israeli port of Haifa on the Mediterranean. Haifa is the largest of Israel’s three major international seaports, which include the Port of Ashdod, and the Port of Eilat. It has a natural deep water harbor which operates all year long, and serves both passenger and cargo ships. Annually, 22 million tons of goods pass through the port..In 2007, the U.S. DHS’ CBP initiated a joint security agreement with Israel whereby U.S. agents, working with Israel, would develop and install programs to protect the ports from terrorist attacks..

CBP’s Container Security Initiative, (CSI), is a cooperative effort with host country governments to identify and screen high-risk shipments before they leave participating ports. More than 80 percent of all cargo containers destined for U.S. shores originate in or are transshipped through 55 CSI ports in North, South and Central America, Europe, Asia, Africa and the Middle East.

CSI addresses the threat to border security and global trade posed by the potential for terrorist use of a maritime container to deliver a weapon. CSI proposes a security regime to ensure all containers that pose a potential risk for terrorism are identified and inspected at foreign ports before they are placed on vessels destined for the United States.

The initiative seeks to:

Identify high-risk containers. CBP uses automated targeting tools to identify containers that pose a potential risk for terrorism, based on advance information and strategic intelligence.

Prescreen and evaluate containers before they are shipped. Containers are screened as early in the supply chain as possible, generally at the port of departure.

Use technology to prescreen high-risk containers to ensure that screening can be done rapidly without slowing down the movement of trade. This technology includes large-scale X-ray and gamma ray machines and radiation detection devices.

If a cargo container ship sails from another port that has the U.S. –controlled CBP system, and does not stop at another port enroute, it is able to enter another port equipped with the CBP system and unload its cargo without interference.

Let us say that a mythical ship, the Extreme Venture, picks up a cargo at an approved port and sails off to another port that is also approved. Again, if a country or entity wanting to take a dangerous cargo to the same port, it need only paint out its name, change its radio call signs, and using the methodology instituted by the U.S., enter, for example, the port of Haifa a day in advance of the real Extreme Venture. Having passed all the approved requirements, it can enter the harbor, proceed to an assigned dock, unload its containers onto waiting trucks and sail out of the harbor without let or hindrance. And the next day when the real Extreme Venture arrives, one can expect that the security people would be in a state of frenzy. By that time, the fake Extreme venture has put yet another name on her bows and stern, run up another flag and using shipping information easily available on the internet, become another innocent cargo ship among many.

The American view, known to several other countries, is that as both the United States and Israel have been at the forefront of violent verbal attacks against, and threats of violence to, Iran, they are now the prime targets of what, at the worst case scenario, could amount to a commercial delivery of least 16 containers of deadly radioactive material, mixed with high explosives.

One of the largest cargo container ports in America, Long Beach, California, has DHS inspection teams at work on a round the clock basis but because of the huge volume of traffic, only 2% of the cargo containers can be checked thoroughly at any given time. This means that should another Iranian cargo container, sailing under a false flag and with a false manifest, dock at Long Beach and offload her deadly cargo, there is a 98% chance that it could avoid any kind of inspection, be loaded onto waiting trucks and shipped to destinations all over the United States.

It is extremely doubtful if the Bush administration would attack Iran but because they have been in loud support of an even louder and more threatening Israel, our useless President, [fully responsible for the deliberate removal of  vital controls over the American banking industry that has caused the boom-and-bust we are now paying for,] has, by his loud but empty threats against Iran, put millions of Americans at potential risk of a terrible death by radiation poisoning.

This explains the stunned silence on the subject of the Deyanat affair and the tight blackout imposed on any news of her or the purpose of her cargo of powdered death.”

Exclusive: As elections near, many older, educated, white voters shift away from Trump’s party

April 9, 2018

by Sharon Bernstein and Chris Kahn

Reuters

Nationwide, whites over the age of 60 with college degrees now favor Democrats over Republicans for Congress by a 2-point margin, according to Reuters/Ipsos opinion polling during the first three months of the year. During the same period in 2016, that same group favored Republicans for Congress by 10 percentage points.

Senior switch

Older, educated Americans, especially whites, are more likely to favor Democrats over Republicans in November’s Midterm elections. That’s a big swing from 2016, when they were more supportive of Republicans.

The 12-point swing is one of the largest shifts in support toward Democrats that the Reuters/Ipsos poll has measured over the past two years. If that trend continues, Republicans will struggle to keep control of the House of Representatives, and possibly the Senate, in the November elections, potentially dooming President Donald Trump’s legislative agenda.

“The real core for the Republicans is white, older white, and if they’re losing ground there, they’re going to have a tsunami,” said Larry Sabato, a University of Virginia political scientist who closely tracks political races. “If that continues to November, they’re toast.”

Asked about the swing, Republican National Committee Chairwoman Ronna McDaniel cited robust fund-raising and said the party would field strong campaigns in battleground states. “We are not taking a single vote for granted,” she said in a statement.

John Camm has been a Republican since the Nixon Administration, but the 63-year-old Tucson accountant says he will likely support a Democrat for Congress in November. He is splitting with his party over access to health insurance as well as its recent overhaul of the nation’s income tax system. He also supports gun control measures that the party has rejected.

“I’m a moderate Republican, and yet my party has run away from that,” Camm said. “So give me a moderate Democrat.”

Camm is not alone in his worries about healthcare. The number of educated older adults choosing “healthcare” in the Reuters/Ipsos poll as their top issue nearly tripled over the past two years, from 8 percent to 21 percent. The poll did not ask respondents precisely what their concerns about healthcare were.

Typically though, voters’ concerns are varied. Some fear the repealing of the Affordable Care Act, former President Barack Obama’s signature effort to offer subsidized health insurance to millions of Americans and expand healthcare to the poor. Others cite high prescription drug costs and the high cost of healthcare in general.

GRAY VOTE MAGNIFIED

The potential impact of any swing to Democrats is magnified given that older, educated adults are reliable voters. They also make up a sizeable portion of the voting population in many districts where elections are close.

How they vote could decide elections in as many as 26 competitive congressional districts where Democrats have a shot at winning a seat. A Reuters analysis of U.S. Census data shows highly educated older voters make up about 5-10 percent of the population in those areas. Democrats need to pick up 24 seats to win control of the House of Representatives.

More broadly, older white Americans, regardless of their level of education, are still more likely to vote for Republicans than Democrats, but the Republican advantage with this group has been trimmed by about 5 percentage points when comparing the first quarter of 2018 with the first quarter of 2016.

DISPROPORTIONATE POWER

Older, educated voters have even more clout in the Arizona’s 2nd Congressional District, where John Camm lives.

They make up about 10 percent of the population there, the analysis shows. Adjacent to the University of Arizona Tucson campus and including some of Arizona’s few liberal pockets, it is Arizona’s most competitive district, said Paul Bentz, an Arizona strategist and pollster who has worked on numerous Republican campaigns.

Older voters in the 2nd district – both with and without college degrees – were 40 percent of voters in the 2016 election that kept Congress in Republican hands and brought Trump to power, Arizona voter data reviewed by Reuters shows.

Bentz said the shift toward Democrats in the Tucson area could be enough to determine the outcome, but he cautioned against reading too much into the increased concern about healthcare. He said Republicans could still win voters with arguments focusing on immigration and support for the military.

Older, educated voters are also nearly 10 percent of the adult population in northern New Jersey’s hotly contested 11th Congressional District, three hotly contested Southern California districts, and highly competitive seats in Illinois, Texas and Virginia’s 10th.

RAISING ANXIETY

Nationally, Democrats plan to campaign strongly for older voters, focusing on issues such as taxes, healthcare and the economy as campaigns heat up later this year, party strategists said. Republicans, meanwhile, are touting the benefits of their tax cuts and the improved economy.

In an ad that began rolling out last week in Indiana, Priorities USA Action, the largest Democratic Party fundraising group, highlights increases to the federal deficit caused by Republican tax cuts. “Now there’s a plan to cut Medicare to pay for it,” the ad says, a line designed to raise older Americans’ anxiety about the government healthcare program for over 65s.

Priorities spokesman Josh Schwerin said it plans to spend $50 million on such ads in several states, including Arizona, Pennsylvania and Ohio.

Voters between the ages of 60 and 65 are particularly worried about healthcare, said Brigid Harrison, a political scientist at Montclair State University in New Jersey, because they are paying ever higher private health insurance premiums and are not yet eligible for Medicare.

Kenneth Johnston, 82 and a registered Republican who was shopping with his wife on a recent day at a Sprouts Farmers Market store in Green Valley, south of Tucson, said he is unhappy with his party and has mixed feelings about Trump.

But he hasn’t yet decided how he’s going to vote. “I’m worried about healthcare, but sometimes I just worry about everything,” he said. “I’m old.”

—The Reuters/Ipsos daily tracking poll provides a snapshot of public opinion by surveying more than 65,000 adults during the first three months of 2016 and 2018, including more than 15,000 people over the age of 60.

Reporting by Sharon Bernstein and Chris Kahn. Additional reporting by Grant Smith in New York, Howard Schneider in Washington, and Paul Ingram and Joe Ferguson in Tucson, Arizona.; Editing by Damon Darlin and Ross Colvin

 

In key Kentucky House race, healthcare anxieties loom large

April 9, 2018

by Yasmeen Abutaleb and Jason Lange

Reuters

BEREA, Kentucky (Reuters) – Andy Barr, a Republican lawmaker representing central Kentucky, won his last three elections promising to repeal and replace Obamacare. This year, his Democratic challengers for Congress in Kentucky’s sixth district are betting that message will ring hollow.

Their hopes lie with voters like Joyell Anderson, who went for President Donald Trump in 2016 and said she generally votes Republican. This year, she is not sure who to support for Congress, but she knows what her top priority is: healthcare.

The 43-year-old stay-at-home mother, who suffers from diabetes, anxiety and depression, is one of more than 400,000 low-income Kentucky residents who obtained Medicaid coverage under President Barack Obama’s 2010 Affordable Care Act. Barr’s vote last year to repeal Obamacare scared Anderson.

In 2016, she said, her top concerns were jobs and the economy, having grown up in a family of coal miners. Now, she worries about losing Medicaid and about work requirements introduced by the state’s Republican governor.

Kentucky’s sixth congressional district, where two well-funded Democrats are running in a May primary to see who will stand against Barr in November, has in recent years gone solidly Republican. Barr won 61 percent of the vote in 2016.

Republicans say they are confident that Barr’s support will remain solid this year. “Both Democratic candidates are currently too busy fighting each other over who’s the biggest progressive — a surefire way to lose in a district where voters don’t subscribe to their liberal brand of politics,” said Jesse Hunt, spokesperson for the National Republican Congressional Committee.

But many analysts see enthusiasm for the party weakening in the district and have identified it as one of several dozen seats Democrats might be able to pick up in the House of Representatives.

Democrats believe that voter concerns over rising medical costs and Republican plans to cut Medicare and Medicaid will assist them in their fight to retake the House and are urging candidates to emphasize the issue, particularly in swing districts.

Republican strategists are encouraging their candidates to focus more on the economy in November’s election. When they do talk about healthcare, many Republican candidates, including Barr, are warning voters that a Democratic majority would usher in socialized medicine.

PROTECTORS OF HEALTHCARE

Residents of Kentucky’s sixth district, home to both the city of Lexington and to rural towns struggling with the loss of coal jobs, have reason to focus on healthcare. People there suffer from lung disease at rates that far outstrip those in the rest of the country and drug overdose rates in parts of the district are among the highest in the nation.

Obamacare has deeply affected the area, mostly due to Medicaid’s expansion. After the health law took effect, the share of district residents with health insurance rose by 8.1 percentage points, nearly twice the national average, according to a Reuters analysis of Census Bureau data.

“Obamacare is a good thing,” said Jerry Harris, 66, who likes the job Trump is doing but describes himself as a Democrat. He relied on an Obamacare exchange plan before he was eligible for Medicare and has a daughter on Medicaid.

“I want to hear candidates talking about bringing down costs,” he said.

Democratic candidates nationwide are being encouraged by the party to cast themselves as protectors of healthcare. Last month, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi urged congressional Democrats headed home for the spring recess to focus on “Republicans’ relentless efforts to dismantle the health care of seniors and families across America.”

Barr’s main Democratic challengers feature healthcare as a top concern on their campaign websites. One of them, Lexington Mayor Jim Gray, says his number one issue is protecting and fixing healthcare.

“We cannot go back to a time when the insurance companies called the shots and denied coverage for pre-existing conditions,” he writes.

The Democrats’ other top contender, former Marine fighter pilot and mother of three, Amy McGrath, says Barr has failed to deliver meaningful healthcare reform. For years, she says, Republicans promised to repeal Obamacare and replace it with something better.

“That’s the reason I’m running; I’m tired of the lies,” she said in an interview.

Barr’s campaign website focuses on themes Republicans are emphasizing this year: cutting government spending, balancing the federal budget and creating jobs. His “vision” section does not mention healthcare.

His most important message this year, he says, is economic. “When the people that I represent sent me to Washington, they wanted me to focus on growing the economy,” Barr said in an interview. “We’ve done that in a dramatic way.”

On healthcare, Barr said he believes voters are still angry over rising health insurance costs under Obamacare and that his message that the program has failed still resonates.

Barr also warns voters that, with Democrats in control, “bureaucrats in Washington D.C. will be in charge of your personal healthcare.”

‘LENS OF THEIR OWN LIVES’

Since Trump took office more than a year ago, Americans increasingly cite healthcare as the nation’s biggest problem, ahead of the economy, immigration and crime. A March Reuters/Ipsos survey of more than 12,000 adults found that healthcare was the top concern of more respondents than any other issue.

Recent Reuters/Ipsos polling and data analysis has also found that healthcare concerns of older, white, educated voters could tip the scales toward Democrats in tight congressional races.

More than two dozen Republicans and Democrats interviewed in Kentucky’s sixth said they were dissatisfied with current policies, but their ideas for reform did not necessarily dovetail with their parties’ platforms.

Former horse trainer Mary Bennett, 45, for example, said she voted for Trump but has not decided whether she will vote at all in November. Like many Republicans, she says Congress should get rid of Obamacare. But her ideal solution is one embraced by the most liberal of Democrats: Put everyone on Medicare.

Both Democratic and Republican strategists acknowledge that views on healthcare are complicated.

“I don’t think people generally look at healthcare and regurgitate the Republican view or Democratic view,” said Matt Mackowiak, a Republican consultant. “They look at it through the lens of their own lives.”

Additional reporting by Chris Kahn; Editing by Michele Gershberg and Sue Horton

 

Facebook suspends Cubeyou over harvesting data claims

Case of New York company’s alleged information collection under guise of academic research echoes Cambridge Analytica scandal

April  9, 2018

by Alex Hern

The Guardian

Facebook has suspended a company from its site while it investigates claims it harvested user information under the guise of academic research, in a case with echoes of the Cambridge Analytica scandal

Cubeyou, a New York-based data analytics firm that offers “fast, easy and accurate consumer insights” to customers, gathered some of its user data with Facebook quizzes developed in conjunction with the University of Cambridge. The quizzes carrying the disclaimer that information gathered would be used “for non-profit academic research”.

According to CNBC, which first reported Cubeyou’s data harvesting techniques, the company used an app called You Are What You Like – a “one-click personality test” – to harvest data from users and build up a psychometric profile of them. Users were told the app was “developed by University of Cambridge Psychometrics Centre, in collaboration with Cubeyou”.

The discovery suggests that collecting data for marketing purposes under the guise of academic research may have been a common practice, and not simply isolated to Cambridge Analytica.

Aleksandr Kogan, the University of Cambridge academic who was contracted to gather data from millions of Facebook users, has long maintained that his work was standard practice. “Honestly we thought we were acting perfectly appropriately,” he had told the Guardian. “We thought we were doing something that was really normal.”

Facebook said it would suspend Cubeyou from its platform while it investigated the claims. “If they refuse or fail our audit, their apps will be banned from Facebook,” Ime Archibong, Facebook vice president of product partnerships, told CNBC. “In addition, we will work with the UK ICO [Information Commissioner’s Office] to ask the University of Cambridge about the development of apps in general by its Psychometrics Centre given this case and the misuse by Kogan.”

The University of Cambridge said in a statement to the TV channel that “we have not collaborated with [Cubeyou] to build a psychological prediction model – we keep our prediction model secret and it was already built before we started working with them.

“Our relationship was not commercial in nature and no fees or client projects were exchanged,” the University continued. “They just designed the interface for a website that used our models to give users insight on their data. Unfortunately collaborators with the University of Cambridge sometimes exaggerate their connection to Cambridge in order to gain prestige from its academics’ work.”

Cubeyou said that its link with Cambridge was only active from 2013 to 2015, and that since then it has not had access to information from new quiz-takers.

 

 

 

 

 

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