June 28, 2016

Posted by orrinj at 8:48 PM


With the supply of homes slight, US prices surged in April (JOSH BOAK, 6/28/16,AP)

U.S. home prices scaled new heights in April, with seven cities -- Boston, Charlotte, Dallas, Denver, San Francisco, Seattle and Portland, Oregon -- setting highs.

The Standard & Poor's/Case-Shiller 20-city home price index rose 5.4 percent in April compared with a year earlier, just below the 5.5 percent year-over-year gain posted in March.

Home values are now just 9.6 percent below their peak set nearly a decade ago, according to the report released Tuesday.

Posted by orrinj at 8:45 PM


Congress Has a New Plan to Rein In Military Spending. Soldiers Are Going to Hate It. (MAX J. ROSENTHALJUN. 28, 2016, Mother Jones)

Over the objections of the Pentagon, the Senate passed a military budget in mid-June that changes the housing allowances given to soldiers, denying them a widespread source of supplemental income.

Service members who don't live in barracks receive a monthly stipend called Basic Allowance for Housing (BAH). Right now, it's a simple, flat-rate (and tax-free) cash payment that's handed out according to soldiers' rank, the cost of housing where they live, and whether or not they have dependents. Under current rules, service members are free to rent cheap apartments and pocket the leftover cash, or they can share housing while each getting a full allowance--a popular way for single soldiers and "dual military" couples to offset low military pay. The stipends range from a little over $600 a month for an unmarried private to more than $5,000 a month for a high-ranking officer with dependents.

The measure in the Senate bill, which passed with approval from the Armed Services Committee, would make the housing stipend cover only soldiers' actual bills. (The committee did not respond to requests for comment about which members specifically backed the housing changes.) Soldiers would provide copies of their rents or mortgages and get reimbursed only for what they spent, up to a maximum payable limit. Soldiers sharing housing would have their allowances divided by the number of service members sharing the space. The changes would cost many soldiers hundreds of dollars of a month. The Congressional Budget Office estimates the move would save $2 billion over the next five years.

Posted by orrinj at 8:41 PM


Really Want to Lower Healthcare Costs? Stay Away From Your Doctor (Eric Pianin, June 28, 2016, Fiscal Times)

It can be as simple as a patient's brief phone call or Skype chat with a clinician about an earache or skin rash. Or as routine as hooking up to a phone and  transmitting heart rates, blood pressure and other vital signs to a doctor's office a little too distant to visit.

Or it could be something as dramatic as Doctors Without Borders relaying tough medical treatment questions about victims of terrorist violence or rare diseases in the Sudan, Iraq and other war-torn regions to a network of 280 experts around the globe.

Not all that long ago, the notion of obtaining medical advice and treatment over the phone, email or video seemed exotic and risky. There were too many confusing questions about state regulations, which services would be covered by Medicare, Medicaid or private health insurance, and whether patients were actually receiving quality care.

But as Melinda Beck of The Wall Street Journal wrote on Monday, many of those obstacles and concerns have been surmounted, and the era of the "virtual doctor" is upon us.

"Driven by faster internet connections, ubiquitous smartphones and changing insurance standards, more health providers are turning to electronic communications to do their jobs - and it's upending the delivery of health care," Beck wrote.

As the American Telemedicine Association defines it, telemedicine involves the remote delivery of health care services and clinical information often using the most basic of telecommunications technology - including the internet, wireless, satellite feeds and telephone lines.

There are at present roughly 200 "telemedicine networks" with 3,500 service sites operating throughout the United States. More than 15 million Americans annually receive some type of medical care remotely. One of the most common practices is cardiac monitoring - a service currently provided to about one million Americans.

Posted by orrinj at 8:31 PM


After Brexit, Paul Ryan Calls for 'Special' Trade Deal With Britain (Josh Siegel, June 28, 2016, Daily Signal)

House Speaker Paul Ryan is calling for the United States to engage in a free trade agreement with the United Kingdom once it completes the process of separating from the European Union.

Seeking to preserve the "special relationship" between the two nations, Ryan, R-Wis., said the U.S. should pursue a unique trade partnership with the U.K.

In interviews Friday with Wisconsin media, Ryan said this deal should be negotiated on a "parallel track" with current U.S. negotiations with the European Union on a pact known as the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership.

Ryan said the agreement with Britain would be easier to implement than the European Union trade deal.

But open it to all the other Anglospheric/Scandinavian nations too.
Posted by orrinj at 8:23 PM


Detroit's Children, More School Choice but Not Better Schools (Kate Zernike, 6/28/16, NY Times)

Michigan leapt at the promise of charter schools 23 years ago, betting big that choice and competition would improve public schools. It got competition, and chaos.

Detroit schools have long been in decline academically and financially. But over the past five years, divisive politics and educational ideology and a scramble for money have combined to produced a public education fiasco that is perhaps unparalleled in the United States.

While the idea was to foster academic competition, the unchecked growth of charters has created a glut of schools competing for some of the nation's poorest students, enticing them to enroll with cash bonuses, laptops, raffle tickets for iPads and bicycles. Leaders of charter and traditional schools alike say they are being cannibalized, fighting so hard over students and the limited public dollars that follow them that no one thrives.

Detroit now has a bigger share of students in charters than any American city except New Orleans, which turned almost all its schools into charters after Hurricane Katrina. But half the charters perform only as well, or worse than, Detroit's traditional public schools.

"The point was to raise all schools," said Scott Romney, a lawyer and board member of New Detroit, a civic group formed after the 1967 race riots here. "Instead, we've had a total and complete collapse of education in this city."

The city has emerged almost miraculously fast from the largest municipal bankruptcy in American history. Downtown Detroit hums with development -- a maze of detours around construction sites with luxury apartments, a new Nike store along a stretch of prime but empty storefronts. Even where blight resumes a few blocks out, farm-to-table restaurants and modern design stores sprout hopefully. Last year, the city had its smallest population decline since the 1950s.

But the city's residents -- many of them stranded here after whites and middle-class blacks fled in waves -- will not share in any renaissance as long as only 10 percent of rising high school seniors score "college ready" on reading tests.

School choice was a worthwhile experiment that didn't work.  It's long past time to move families out of cities to where good schools and neighborhoods already exist.
Posted by orrinj at 7:57 PM


Republicans' Benghazi goose chase comes up empty (Editorial Board, June 28, 2016, Washington Post)

 Unable to turn the events to their advantage when they occurred, during the 2012 election campaign, Republicans have persisted in attempting to milk the "scandal" for the past four years. They have done so even though repeated previous investigations -- including by a GOP-led House intelligence panel -- found nothing to contradict the Obama administration's basic account. Diplomatic security, intelligence and other preparation were inadequate in hindsight; but the violence in Benghazi was over before any effective U.S. military intervention could have been organized. Government failures before, during and after the attacks, such as they were, resulted from a combination of understandable confusion and good-faith mistakes -- not conspiracy, coverup, politics or deliberate "abandonment" of U.S. personnel, as the Republican right has so often and so feverishly insinuated.

And now, after two years and $7 million, comes Tuesday's final report of a Republican-led House select committee, which adds exactly nothing substantial to the story. It's true that the panel's investigation did, along the way, help trigger the revelation of then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton's private email server, which is a real issue. On the most sensitive point, however -- Ms. Clinton's personal culpability for what happened in Benghazi -- the committee came up empty. Its report contains dozens of pages on the now-famous early statements from the administration implying the attacks were motivated by Arab-world reaction to an anti-Islamic video on the Internet. But even this exhaustive review produces no proof that this messaging resulted from a politically motivated attempt to play down terrorism, as opposed to a genuine factual dispute among State Department and CIA officials, compounded by faulty verbal formulations by then-Ambassador to the United Nations Susan Rice and other hastily briefed administration spokesmen.

The only new information they developed is that Ms Clinton thought it was safe enough that she planned on visiting herself.

Posted by orrinj at 7:20 PM


Labour Leader Corbyn Loses No-Confidence Vote As Brexit Crisis Deepens (REUTERS,  06/28/16)

Britain's Brexit political crisis deepened Tuesday when lawmakers in the opposition Labour Party passed a motion of no confidence in its leader Jeremy Corbyn by an overwhelming margin, but Corbyn said he would not resign.

In the nonbinding vote, Labour lawmakers voted 172-40 against Corbyn, the 67-year old left-wing activist behind a socialist rebranding of Britain's main opposition party. [...]

"It is now clear that Jeremy Corbyn has lost the support of the overwhelming majority of the Parliamentary Labour Party," Labour lawmaker Wes Streeting told Reuters.

"He's now just got to do the decent thing and accept he is not up to the job and resign with dignity so we can move on and draw a line under this sorry episode," Streeting said.

If the bitter-clinging advocates of the First and Second Ways had any dignity they'd all retire from the field. Mr. Corbyn wanted to drag Labour back to the party it was prior to Tony Blair.

Posted by orrinj at 7:09 PM


Why Americans Trust Clinton More Than Trump On Terrorism (Teo Armus, June 28, 2016, nATIONAL mEMO)

More Americans trust Hillary Clinton than Donald Trump to handle issues of terrorism and national security, a new ABC News/Washington Post poll found.

While Clinton has maintained an upper hand on this issue since November, her lead over Trump is up eight points against a similar poll on June 19 -- in no small part because of the two candidates' radically different responses to the shooting at Orlando's Pulse gay nightclub.

Indeed, as Clinton promoted gun control policies, Trump issued one of the most most xenophobic, Islamophobic speeches of his campaign to date.

Posted by orrinj at 7:00 PM


Obama Cautions Against 'Hysteria' Over Brexit Vote (Jessica Taylor, 6/28/16, NPR)

Ultimately, Obama said, he doesn't "anticipate that there is going to be major cataclysmic changes as a consequence of this."

"Keep in mind that Norway is not a member of the European Union, but Norway is one of our closest allies," Obama added. "They align themselves on almost every issue with Europe and us. They are a place that is continually supporting the kinds of initiatives internationally that we support, and, if over the course of what is going to be at least a two-year negotiation between England and Europe, Great Britain ends up being affiliated to Europe like Norway is, the average person is not going to notice a big change."

Posted by orrinj at 6:54 PM


Pharmacy Managers Unleash Big Data (Zachary Tracer, 6/27/16, Bloomberg Businessweek)

OptumRx was doing a routine analysis of a client's prescription-drug claims when it noticed something odd. The company's spending on acne medicine seemed high compared with those of other customers. Digging into the usage data for clues, the pharmacy arm of the health insurer, UnitedHealth Group, found that employees had been prescribed newer brand-name acne drugs that were, for the most part, combinations of older generic medicines. OptumRx began requiring patients to begin treatment with the cheaper remedies and switch to the pricier ones only if the others proved ineffective. Within six months, the 60,000-employee company had saved more than $70,000, OptumRx says.

Historically, pharmacy benefit managers (PBMs) have been known more for their relentless supply efficiency than their tech chops. But with the easiest savings already in the past, OptumRx and rivals such as CVS Health and Express Scripts have begun mining their huge troves of prescription data in search of economies. "Lowering costs now means having to make really difficult decisions about having to cover one drug vs. another," says Walid Gellad, who heads the Center for Pharmaceutical Policy and Prescribing at the University of Pittsburgh. "They've had to become more sophisticated in how they make these decisions."

The only way to keep prices high is to keep consumers separate from the cost of consumption.

Posted by orrinj at 1:02 PM

Source: WalletHub

2016's Most Patriotic States (Richie Bernardo, Wallet Hub)
Posted by orrinj at 8:21 AM


House Benghazi report: Clinton was planning a trip to Libya before the attacks (Josh Rogin June 28, 2016, Washington Post)

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton was planning to visit Libya in 2012, but those plans were upended when terrorists attacked the U.S. diplomatic mission in Benghazi on Sept. 11 and 12 of that year, according to newly revealed testimony given to the House Select Committee on Benghazi, which is set to release its highly anticipated report Tuesday.

June 27, 2016

Posted by orrinj at 8:29 PM


Why so many of Israel's security hawks have become doves (Mazal Mualem, June 27, 2016, Al Monitor)

[W]hy do so many senior officers who devotedly served the state of Israel for decades, in the most sensitive and critical positions in the security establishment -- even those who had a hawkish worldview -- moderate politically during their time in the job? Is it logical that so many good people exposed to so much intelligence could be wrong? And what do they discover that causes them to change? 

We can safely assume that most leaders of the Shin Bet, Mossad and the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) were not radical right-wingers when they started their service in the various security organizations -- not even Dagan, who was the head of the election-day headquarters for former Prime Minister Ariel Sharon in 2002, when he ran for leadership of the Likud. 

Dagan, like most chiefs of staff and intelligence heads, was on the center-left politically. Historically, the vast majority of generals who entered politics found their home in Labor. The list is long: former Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin, former Prime Minister Ehud Barak, and such military leaders as Amnon Lipkin-Shahak, Mordechai Gur, Ami Ayalon, Danny Yatom, Amram Mitzna and others. Outside the party arena, many of them identified and presently identify with diplomatic initiatives. 

The Likud has always suffered from a sense of inferiority over the stream of generals that flowed to Labor. That is why Sharon, an IDF general, was the pride of the Likud. Later he was joined by Gen. (res.) Yitzhak Mordechai, former chiefs of staff Shaul Mofaz and Moshe Ya'alon, and former Shin Bet chief Avi Dichter. They commanded great respect and admiration at all Likud field offices because of their pedigrees and were named defense minister at various periods (except for Dichter, who served as minister of public security).

What happened to them later? Sharon led the 2005 disengagement from Gaza and created a new centrist political framework in Kadima. Mofaz and Dichter joined him. Ya'alon, who came from Mapai origins and went the opposite direction to the Likud, left the party in May.

The prize-winning documentary film "The Gatekeepers," which came out in 2012, presented interviews with six former Shin Bet heads: Dichter, Peri, Ayalon, Yuval Diskin, Avraham Shalom and Carmi Gillon. They had seen the occupation at close hand and worked systemically to maintain it. They fought Palestinian terrorism and intifadas -- yet in the film, they said that they do not believe in solving the conflict by force. Isn't there something here to think about and discuss? Should we leave it at Bitan's insulting generalization that everyone is "leftist," dismissing their judgment? 

The director of the film, Dror Moreh, said in an interview with Haaretz that the idea for "The Gatekeepers" was hatched when he interviewed Dov Weissglass, once Sharon's chief of staff, for another movie. Weissglass told him that Sharon was greatly influenced by an article that ran in Yedioth Ahronoth in 2003, in which four Shin Bet chiefs warned, "If Sharon continues to run the country as he has until now, Israel will reach a dead end." Weissglass told Moreh that this article deeply touched Sharon, since the criticism came from inside the system, from the heart of the security establishment, the places that Sharon most respected. 

Posted by orrinj at 8:22 PM


Patients paying higher share of hospital bills (Robert Channick, 6/27/16, Chicago Tribune)

Patients, even those with employer-sponsored health plans, may face another condition after they are discharged from a hospital stay -- acute sticker shock.

Out-of-pocket hospitalization costs rose 37 percent from 2009 to 2013, with the average patient paying more than $1,000 per hospital visit, according to a study conducted by the University of Michigan.

Driven by an 86 percent rise in deductibles and a 33 percent increase in coinsurance -- the part of the hospital bill patients are expected to pay -- the out-of-pocket costs are rising faster than health insurance premiums.

The key to health care reform is making consumers bear the costs.

Posted by orrinj at 7:52 PM

MR. 30%:

Some Republicans buck (and duck) Trump (Catherine Rampell, June 27, 2016, Washington Post)

In one particularly revealing question, the poll asked Republicans and Republican-leaning independents how they think GOP leaders should respond when Trump says something they disagree with. Should these leaders speak out, or should they avoid criticizing the party's likely nominee?

Nearly two-thirds -- 62 percent -- said that party leaders should speak up and criticize Trump.

At first blush, this might seem surprising. Typically, after a party nominee emerges, there's pressure to circle the wagons and defend him, warts and all. Or at very least, to avoid weakening him. Those who do anything to hurt the party's November chances could be branded traitors to the cause.

An earlier Post poll, conducted in May, asked parallel questions of partisans about how confident they were that their party would come together in the name of defeating the opposing candidate in November. Among both Republicans and Democrats, strong majorities (at least 8 in 10) said they believed such defensive party unity was in the offing. The responses were similar in a comparable poll question asked in May 2008.

And yet now Republicans seem to be actively rooting against wagon-circling.

There are two likely reasons for this.

For one, the candidate's warts have grown bigger, uglier and potentially more cancerous.

Unlike predecessors John McCain and Mitt Romney, Trump has proudly and repeatedly insulted Hispanics, women, blacks, Muslims and other demographic groups that the party knows it needs to attract to have any chance of long-term survival. It's one thing to try to spin a secretly recorded comment about the mooching "47 percent," or an insensitive gaffe about "self-deportation"; it's another to defend remarks that most Americans deem racist, such as Trump's comments about a judge of Mexican heritage.

Posted by orrinj at 6:21 PM


Meet the Iranian Refugee Who's Running for Congress Despite the Trump Trolls (Sam Kestenbaum, June 27, 2016, Forward)

Anna Kaplan is a Jewish Iranian refugee who has been living in America for almost four decades. She's a councilwoman in Long Island, New York and on June 28 will run against five other candidates in the Democratic primary to determine who will face Jack Martins, the Republican candidates, this fall, when voters decide who will represent New York's third congressional district. [...]

A refugee herself, she has said that Donald Trump's rise -- and his anti-immigrant rhetoric -- hits especially close to home. She even recently found herself on the receiving end of anti-Semitic Twitter attacks, lobbed at her by what she says are Trump supporters.

Here are five things to know about Kaplan ahead of tomorrow's primaries. She could not be reached immediately for comment.

1. Growing up in Iran she experienced anti-Semitism -- and fled after the revolution.

Kaplan, in an interview with the website Lenny, said, "I think Iranian people are wonderful people, but there was anti-Semitism." Growing up, she said, she encountered religious prejudice. Even as a young girl, it was clear to her that her family was treated differently because they were Jewish.

She was born Anna Monahemi in the small city of Tabriz. She grew up in the capital Tehran. At 13, the Iranian revolution erupted and Kaplan fled the country. Her family ultimately settled in Jamaica Estates, Queens. Kaplan attended the Stern College for Women at Yeshiva University and Benjamin Cardozo School of Law.

2. Like many other Jews, she's been targeted by 'Trump bullies' online.

As a political refugee, Kaplan has said that she sees the rise of Donald Trump -- and his threatening rhetoric towards some immigrants -- as personally troubling. "If Donald Trump was in the White House and I was in Iran, and I wanted to come here, I might not be able to," Kaplan said. "When we start excluding certain groups, I think it's a very wrong path."

Kaplan was recently attacked online by what she calls Trump bullies. The online furor prompted her to make a video response, posted online with the hashtag #Iwillnotrun. She fled the Iranian revolution, a representative from her campaign explained, so she would not "run away" in the face of political bullying in America.

Posted by orrinj at 5:25 PM


Soccer With Vikings : As Iceland continues its Cinderella story at the Euros, Mark Franek reflects on six summers of semipro football in the country of northern lights and hidden folk. (Mark Franek, 6/27/16, Slate)

During his year with us David told a great many stories about life in Iceland, and in the meantime he helped lead the school soccer team to the state championship. At the end of the academic year, David invited me to Iceland for the summer to play soccer for the local club. David's father was a loyal supporter of Tindastoll, and David served as my first and last "agent," a role he played more out of gratitude for his year in America than talent selection. I was still single and in shape (only a few years out from a stint at a major Division I soccer program) and had nothing to do until September. So I jumped at the chance.

Saudarkrokur is tucked between a mountain and the mouth of a fjord. If Iceland were a clock the size of Ohio, Saudarkrokur would be about 11 p.m. (or, in the spot of Toledo). Nearly all of Iceland's 323,000 people live somewhere on the numbers. People travel inland primarily during the summer months, and then it's solely for adventure.

Each large town around the coast has its own team, distinct colors, and loyal supporters--and it's easy to imagine how these teams, to some degree, have replaced the warring Viking chieftains and their clans of a thousand years ago who often assembled on these same fields to test their bravery or settle a grievance over some ignominy that doesn't have to be imagined. Just pick up any one of the renowned Icelandic Sagas, which in some places read like an unadulterated, yet somewhat-fantastical 10th-century police report. From Egil's Saga:

One morning Thorstein awoke at sunrise and climbed a hill where he could see his neighbor's cattle on Thorstein's land once again. Thorstein found his neighbor Thrand sleeping on top of a bluff with his shoes off, and poked him awake with the handle of his axe: "I'm the owner of this land and the pastures belonging to your people are on the other side of the stream." Before Thrand could put on his shoes, Thorstein swung his axe hard and brought it down on Thrand's neck, leaving it dangling on his chest. After that, Thorstein gathered stones, covered Thrand's body, and went back to Borg.
Like most places identified in the Sagas, Borg is a real place. Later in the summer we will play a team from Borg (now called Borganes), and after the game a friend will take me to the presumed spot of Thrand's beheading, which is about half a mile out of town and just behind a row of moss-covered boulders. The boulders look psychedelic in the Arctic light, and you half expect to find Thrand's severed head lying nearby.

When you're traveling around the island, it's not long before you feel like you're a part of a grand cycle, as timeless as the fjords and mountains that seem to have been cut from and pounded into the land with help from Thorstein's ax. The irony is that Iceland is relatively new in geological time, one of the last islands to rise--literally, ooze out of the sea--the result of two tectonic plates (the North American and the Eurasian) moving ever so slowly apart. Iceland is home to spectacular geologic sights, from lava fields to geysers to waterfalls with whimsical names, such as Godafoss, waterfall of the gods.

The evening of the game against Thor, like all my summer nights in Iceland, the sun descends low on the horizon, and the temperature drops a few more degrees centigrade. But the fans hardly notice. They cheer and whistle as the men battle up and down the pitch. A little before 10 p.m., the grass still illuminated entirely by natural light, we finally fall to Thor, 1-0.

In the locker room after the game we nurse our pride as Thor celebrates another victory. A fierce chant erupts from our opponent's locker room a few paces down the hall. A thousand years ago we'd bury the dead and nurse our wounds. Tonight we throw our stinky uniforms in a pile and head off to the showers.

The place still smells like Gretar's fish oil.

Posted by orrinj at 5:20 PM


Students build electric race car that goes 0 to 60 m.p.h. in 1.5 seconds (Stephen Edelstein, JUNE 27, 2016, CS Monitor)

A group of Swiss students have built an electric car that can out accelerate even the quickest supercars.

The tiny electric car reached 100 kilometers per hour (62 mph) from a standstill in just 1.513 seconds during a run at Dübendorf Air Base, near Zurich.

It required only 100 feet to reach that speed.

Posted by orrinj at 4:41 PM


Russia and China: Friends Without Benefits? (STEPHEN SESTANOVICH, Jun 27, 2016, WSJ)

Russian President Vladimir Putin has just concluded a visit to Beijing, where, after announcing a few big-sounding energy deals, he said that Russia and China were "friends forever." These days everyone wants a good relationship with China, but Mr. Putin does so from a disadvantageous position. Russia is one of the few countries in the world with few friends besides China. (North Korea and Pakistan are other examples-anyone else?) I've argued before that when China is your only friend it's hard to have a mutually respectful relationship. Most matters will be resolved on Chinese terms, and Beijing can drive a hard bargain because you've got nowhere else to go. A plugged-in Chinese scholar once told me how his country's intelligence officials viewed Russia: "We think Putin has misjudged his power position in the world."

It's not that easy to be inferior to China.

Posted by orrinj at 2:27 PM


It's time to put Welsh independence on agenda - Leanne Wood (Steven Morris, 27 June 2016, The Guardian)

The leader of Plaid Cymru has called for the people of Wales to start discussing the possibility of the country becoming independent.

Leanne Wood said Brexit was an opportunity to break free from the UK - and though Wales voted overwhelmingly to leave the EU she argued that its citizens would think again if the country became independent.

Plaid has long advocated independence for Wales but seen it as a long-term aspiration rather than a short-term goal. Brexit has altered that.

Brexit was about self-determination.  It would have passed at any time the past 30 years, as Maggie understood and Tory elites feared.

Posted by orrinj at 1:54 PM


Is Hillary Clinton a neocon? (Trevor Timm, 27 June 2016, tHE gUARDIAN)

Another week, and another set of Republicans have endorsed Hillary Clinton. Is it because of existential threat of Donald Trump, or could it be because many of Clinton's potential policies conveniently line up with theirs?

Longtime Republican foreign policy stalwart and Iraq warmonger Robert Kagan became the latest neoconservative to endorse Clinton for president last week. He has even offered to host a fundraiser on her behalf, as Foreign Policy Magazine first reported on Thursday. Kagan has followed the likes of former Bush deputy secretary of state Richard Armitage and a slew of lower-profile officials in their endorsement of Clinton over Trump.

Now, it's entirely possible that these Republicans are endorsing Clinton because Trump is an unhinged maniac who has given people of all political persuasions plenty of reason to not want him anywhere near the levers of power. But here's the thing: the neocon love affair with Clinton started well before Trump was even in the discussion of Republican candidates, let alone the party's likely nominee.

Several neoconservatives have spent years gushing about Clinton's penchant for supporting basically every foreign war or military escalation in the last decade, including Kagan, who said in 2014: "I feel comfortable with her on foreign policy ... If she pursues a policy which we think she will pursue, it's something that might have been called neocon, but clearly her supporters are not going to call it that; they are going to call it something else."

A theocon would have been preferable, but you take what you can get...

Posted by orrinj at 1:35 PM


Hardly anybody wants to speak at Trump's convention : POLITICO reached out to more than 50 prominent Republicans. Few said they plan to attend the convention in Cleveland, let alone speak. (ALEX ISENSTADT 06/27/16, Politico)

With the convention less than a month away, POLITICO contacted more than 50 prominent governors, senators and House members to gauge their interest in speaking. Only a few said they were open to it, and everyone else said they weren't planning on it, didn't want to, or weren't going to Cleveland at all -- or simply didn't respond.

"I am not attending," said South Carolina Rep. Trey Gowdy, who is overseeing the high-profile congressional Republican investigation into Hillary Clinton's handling of the attacks on Benghazi. Gowdy, who said he was taking his family to the beach instead, hasn't gone to conventions in the past and didn't plan to now.

"I'm not," said South Carolina Rep. Mark Sanford, a former two-term governor. "But hope you have a good Thursday!"

"Don't know," said Sean Duffy, a reality-TV-star-turned-Wisconsin congressman, "I haven't thought about it."

Florida Rep. Carlos Curbelo: "I won't be there."

The widespread lack of interest, Republicans say, boils down to one thing: the growing consensus that it's best to steer clear of Trump.

June 26, 2016

Posted by orrinj at 5:59 PM


Labour crisis: how the coup against Jeremy Corbyn gathered pace (Rowena Mason and Anushka Asthana, 26 June 2016, The Guardian)

The fireworks began at 9.59pm on Saturday when an article outing Hilary Benn as the chief plotter against Jeremy Corbyn was published by the Observer.

The Labour leader's aides scrambled on to a conference call to work out a plan to deal with the rebellion. It did not take long for Benn to be bombarded with a stream of messages from Katy Clark, Corbyn's political secretary, asking him about the truth of the story.

Shortly afterwards, Corbyn texted his shadow foreign secretary, the son of his political hero Tony Benn, directly to ask if they could speak.

During that calm call, Benn told his boss that he no longer had confidence in him to lead the Labour party and could not continue to serve in the shadow cabinet under him. The only thing he denied was having leaked details of the insurrection to the Observer. Corbyn sacked him straightaway.

It had not unfolded as either the plotters or the leadership team had expected, even though a small group of Labour MPs and advisers had been telling journalists for months to "expect movement" against Corbyn on 24 June.

Their plans had been based on the assumption that the UK would vote to remain, and hopes were not high that an overwhelming number of MPs would back a coup or that ousting him would be successful.

But Brexit changed the whole calculation, as many Labour MPs woke up on Friday furious with what they saw as Corbyn's lacklustre campaigning for remain and refusal to address the concerns of voters about immigration.

The ire was compounded by fear that huge numbers of Labour MPs would lose their seats if they fought a snap general election under Corbyn. By the end of Friday, several separate groups of MPs were involved in moves to get rid of their leader.

...failure to pretend passion for the EU is the least of his shortcomings.

Posted by orrinj at 5:07 PM


Fallujah Regained By Iraqi Forces After Five Weeks Of Fighting Against Islamic State Militants (CLARK MINDOCK, 06/26/16, IB Times)

The Iraqi city, which has been controlled by ISIS for about 2 1/2 years, was claimed by Iraqi forces after five weeks of battle that resulted in 1,800 dead militants. Clearing operations in the city are still ongoing, NPR reported.

Lt. Gen. Abdel Wahab al-Saadi, the commander of the anti-ISIS forces, praised the victory on state television during the weekend,  just a week after Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi declared victory in the city and said there was only relatively minor opposition left. The United States backed the Iraqi forces in efforts to push the terrorist group out.

Posted by orrinj at 3:50 PM


The UK Will Survive, but Europe Won't (Sławomir Sierakowski, 6/26/16, Project Syndicate)

Brexit should be seen as a punishment for events like the 2014 European elections, when it was evident, even before anyone voted, who would become the head of the EU commission, who would lead the EU parliament, and which of the parliament's factions would be the largest. This sense of a rigged game alienates citizens and leads them to reclaim their democratic dignity by casting protest votes for figures like Nigel Farage, the leader of the UK Independence Party, or Donald Trump. Of course, no one truly believes that Trump can win the US presidency. Likewise, no one, not even bookies, believed that Brexit was a real possibility.

How is the EU to survive the loss of a major member state at a time when it already must deal with ascendant populists, economic malaise, a refugee crisis, and terrorism? The UK, for its part, can do without the EU. The EU, however, cannot do without the UK.

Unlike the EU, Great Britain is an island, its language is spoken all over the world, and it has nuclear weapons. Its continental allies do not enjoy such advantages (only France is a nuclear power). There is nothing stopping Great Britain from becoming a second Switzerland. (It may even come to resemble Switzerland in shape if Scotland and Northern Ireland, which voted overwhelmingly to remain in the EU, now leave the UK.)

Posted by orrinj at 3:46 PM


Immigration needs reform, not Trump's bigotry (Hillary Clinton, June 24, 2016, Arizona Republic)

Let's be clear: When Trump talks about forming a "deportation force" to round up and expel 11 million immigrants - he's talking about ripping apart families like Karla's and Josie's.

When he repeatedly suggests that a distinguished American judge's "Mexican heritage" means that he cannot do his job, it's the "textbook definition of a racist comment," to quote the Republican Speaker of the House Paul Ryan.

When he praises local figures like Gov. Jan Brewer and Sheriff Joe Arpaio, he's endorsing their heartless and divisive policies. And when he speculates about ending birthright citizenship, he's suggesting undermining the Constitution and tearing American children away from the country they know and love.

Instead of building walls, we ought to be breaking down barriers. Our country has always been stronger when we lift each other up, not tear each other down. We're stronger together.

That's why, as president, I'll fight for comprehensive immigration reform that includes a path to full and equal citizenship, starting in my first 100 days in office.  We should do everything we can to keep families together, better integrate immigrants into their communities, and help those eligible for naturalization take the last step to citizenship.

Posted by orrinj at 3:35 PM


New Post-ABC poll: Trump's June has been an utter disaster in every way (James Downie June 26, 2016, Washington Post)

When last month's Washington Post-ABC News poll showed Donald Trump leading Hillary Clinton 46 percent to 44 percent among registered voters, it was the third poll in a week to show the presumptive GOP nominee in a surprising lead. Many Democrats began to worry (or at least worry more openly) about the Clinton campaign. Now they can breathe a little easier: The June Post-ABC poll, out Sunday morning, shows Clinton leading 51 percent to 39 percent, a 14 point swing.

Just about everything that could have gone right for Clinton in the past month has. It's bad enough for the Trump campaign that he remains unable to improve his image: 70 percent of Americans are anxious about the prospect of a Trump administration, unchanged from six months ago. Sixty-four percent call Trump "not qualified" for the presidency, up six points from May. That may have something to do with the fact that 68 percent of voters agree that Trump's attack on Judge Gonzalo Curiel's Mexican-American background was racist.

Time for him to go.

June 25, 2016

Posted by orrinj at 7:39 PM


Former Bush Treasury secretary: 'I'll be voting for Hillary Clinton' (NOLAN D. MCCASKILL 06/24/16, Politico)

Paulson suggested that Trump's pledge to do for America what he's done for his businesses isn't a promise but rather a threat. "The tactics he has used in running his business wouldn't work in running a truly successful company, let alone the most powerful nation on Earth," he continued. "Every good businessman or -woman carefully analyzes all the available facts before making a decision. Trump repeatedly, blatantly and knowingly makes up or gravely distorts facts to support his positions or create populist divisions."

Paulson blasted Trump's business acumen, highlighting his bankruptcy filings, accusing him of exaggerating his wealth and arguing that his marketing and self-promotion are irrelevant to running a country. He also slammed the real estate mogul's divisive rhetoric, questioning how such a polarizing figure could unite the country.

"Simply put, a Trump presidency is unthinkable," he wrote, though he maintained that he plans to support conservatives in statehouses and Congress.

"They have a big job to do to reinvent and revitalize the Republican Party. They can do so by responding to the fears and frustrations of the American people and uniting them behind some common aspirations, while staying constant to the principles that have made our country great," he added. "When it comes to the presidency, I will not vote for Donald Trump."

Posted by orrinj at 4:43 PM


Dozens Of Suspected IS Militants Killed In Afghanistan (RFE/RL,  June 25, 2016)

Dozens of suspected Islamic State (IS) militants have been killed in fighting in eastern Afghanistan. 

At least 40 suspected IS fighters were killed in clashes with Afghan security forces on June 24 in the eastern province of Nangarhar, located along the volatile border with Pakistan.

These clowns even lose to Afghan, Iraqi, Libyan and Syrian security forces.

Posted by orrinj at 4:37 PM


'This Is Not My Party': George Will Goes from GOP to Unaffiliated (NICHOLAS BALLASY, JUNE 24, 2016, PJ Media)

"Make sure he loses. Grit their teeth for four years and win the White House," Will said during an interview after his speech at a Federalist Society luncheon.

Will said he changed his voter registration this month from Republican to "unaffiliated" in the state of Maryland.

"This is not my party," Will said during his speech at the event.

He mentioned House Speaker Paul Ryan's (R-Wis.) endorsement of Trump as one of the factors that led him to leave the party.

Many experienced GOP strategists unwilling to work for Trump (STEVE PEOPLES. Jun. 25, 2016, AP)

From Texas to New Hampshire, well-respected members of the Republican Party's professional class say they cannot look past their deep personal and professional reservations about the presumptive presidential nominee.

While there are exceptions, many strategists who best understand the mechanics of presidential politics fear that taking a Trump paycheck might stain their resumes, spook other clients and even cause problems at home. They also are reluctant to devote months to a divisive candidate whose campaign has been plagued by infighting and disorganization.

"Right now I feel no obligation to lift a finger to help Donald Trump," said Brent Swander, an Ohio-based operative who has coordinated nationwide logistics for Republican presidential campaigns dating to George W. Bush.

"Everything that we're taught as children -- not to bully, not to demean, to treat others with respect -- everything we're taught as children is the exact opposite of what the Republican nominee is doing. How do you work for somebody like that? What would I tell my family?" Swander said.

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