Sessions’ DOJ Charged A White Supremacist With Terrorism. They Just Didn’t Tell Anyone.

WASHINGTON ― Usually, when the FBI arrests a terrorist and the Justice Department charges them, it’s a big deal. Combatting terrorism is one of the Justice Department’s top priorities, and terror cases are a great way for federal prosecutors and agents to make names and build careers. The press and the public are very interested. Officials will typically blast out a press release, and, if it’s a big takedown, might even hold a press conference. 

The Justice Department didn’t do any of that when federal prosecutors unsealed terrorism charges last week against Taylor Michael Wilson. The 26-year-old white supremacist from St. Charles, Missouri, allegedly breached a secure area of an Amtrak train on Oct. 22 while armed with a gun and plenty of backup ammunition. He set off the emergency brake, sending passengers lunging as the train cars went “completely black.”

The attempted terrorist attack took place aboard an Amtrak train that started off in California and was making its way through a part of Nebraska so remote that it took an hour for the nearest deputy to arrive on the scene. Wilson was found in the second engine of the train, “playing with the controls,” according to the FBI affidavit.

As passengers waited in dark train cars that smelled of burning rubber, Amtrak workers kept the man pinned down. “I’m the conductor, bitch,” Wilson allegedly said to Amtrak personnel while subdued. They say Wilson had tried to reach for his front waistband, where he was storing a fully loaded handgun.

Furnas County Sheriffs Office
Taylor Michael Wilson.

The incident received little national coverage at the time, perhaps in large part because law enforcement officials didn’t initially treat it as a terrorism case. A subsequent FBI investigation, however, painted a disturbing portrait of an individual who escalated his radical activity in recent years as he built up a massive gun stash, even hiding weapons and extremist propaganda in a secret compartment behind his refrigerator.

In a court affidavit, the FBI agent who investigated the attempted terrorist attack said he’d learned that Wilson traveled with an “alt-right Neo Nazi group” to the deadly “Unite the Right” rally in Charlottesville in August; may have helped vandalize restaurants with “whites only” stickers; pointed a gun at a black woman during a road rage incident; and spoke of “killing black people” during recent protests against police violence in St. Louis. 

But even when the federal terrorism charges were unsealed against Wilson last week, the case didn’t get a ton of national pickup. One key reason: The Justice Department didn’t tell anyone.

There was no press release on the case out of Justice Department headquarters in Washington, nor from the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Nebraska. The reporter who broke the story of the terrorism charges on Thursday evening, Lori Pilger of the Lincoln Journal Star, told HuffPost that she spotted the unsealed case when checking the federal court docket online.

On its face, the lack of attention the Wilson case received from Attorney General Jeff Sessions’ Justice Department could read as a brazen political decision by Trump administration officials to obscure a terrorism case that doesn’t fit into their broader agenda. Why would they want to highlight a terrorism charge against an alleged neo-Nazi who attended a violent alt-right event that President Donald Trump insisted included “very fine people”?

But the lack of attention the Wilson case has received actually reflects the priorities embedded in a system built up by U.S. lawmakers and law enforcement officials over the years: a U.S. criminal code and federal law enforcement apparatus that treats domestic terrorism as a second-class threat.

Many in the law enforcement community acknowledge that’s a problem.

“This type of a crime certainly, from a perspective of seriousness and the potential for injuring or even killing large numbers of people, is very much on par with other terrorism crimes that we’ve seen in the United States and elsewhere which are motivated by the Islamist extremist ideologies such as that promoted by ISIS,” Mary McCord, a Justice Department veteran who headed DOJ’s National Security Division until last spring, told HuffPost.

Alex Wong via Getty Images
Mary McCord formerly headed up the Justice Department’s National Security Division.

“If this alleged crime had been committed by someone who at the time of arrest or elsewhere said that he was pledging Bay’ah [allegiance] to [ISIS leader Abu Bakr al] Baghdadi or doing this for reasons motivated by ISIS, or al Qaeda, or some other Islamist extremist organization, that would be considered an international terrorist offense,” McCord said. That would mean the National Security Division would’ve been closely involved. There would have been a national press release.

Because it was considered a domestic terrorism case, the Wilson investigation apparently was hardly a blip on the National Security Division’s radar. Attorneys at DOJ headquarters in Washington typically play a minimal role in domestic terrorist investigations, and court filings in the case against Wilson don’t indicate any involvement from the National Security Division. A spokesman for the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Nebraska told HuffPost the case was handled “solely” by federal prosecutors in Nebraska.

The spokesman, Joe Jeanette, had a simple answer for why his office didn’t send out a press release: the criminal chief, who normally sends out information on new cases, was off at the time the Wilson case was unsealed.

McCord doesn’t think that the lack of a press release alone indicated that anyone in the U.S. Attorney’s Office was not taking the crime seriously, and said the affidavit showed that the FBI got involved in the case pretty quickly and did the work they needed to do. But broadly speaking, she worries that the Justice Department isn’t putting the same sort of institutional emphasis on domestic terrorism cases as they do with terrorism cases involving Islamic extremists.

“I think that domestic terrorism should be put on the same moral plane as international terrorism,” McCord said. “When the reason for a crime of violence is in order to influence a civilian population, or influence actions of the government … it certainly has the same level of seriousness and should be taken just as seriously as international terrorism.”

Anadolu Agency via Getty Images
Neo Nazis, white supremacists, and members of the alt-right marched on the campus of the University of Virginia in August.

A close review of how the Wilson case unfolded indicates that, at virtually every step along the way, the investigation into the 26-year-old was handled differently than it would have been if authorities had any suspicion Wilson was inspired by any foreign terrorist organization, like the self-described Islamic State.

At the time of Wilson’s arrest, local authorities took a full day to inform the FBI, indicating they likely did not consider the incident a terrorist event at first. Wilson was found carrying business cards for the National Socialist Movement (America’s neo-Nazi party) and the Covenant Nation Church of the Lord Jesus Christ, which is based on the belief that “White people are part of the Lost Ten Tribes of Israel.” He was charged only with felony criminal mischief and use of a deadly weapon to commit a felony on the local level. There were questions about his mental health, but Wilson was deemed competent to proceed.

Remarkably, Wilson was released by local authorities on a partially secured bond on Dec. 11. By the time of his release, the FBI was aware of Wilson’s extremist views, his involvement in two potential hate crimes, and his extensive weapons cache. But they hadn’t yet obtained or executed a search warrant on his home. Wilson spent nearly two weeks out of custody until he was eventually arrested by federal authorities on Dec. 23, several days after federal agents executed their search warrant on an apartment he shared with his cousin.

In international terrorism investigations, federal agents often zero in on what friends and family members knew about a suspect’s path of radicalization. Wilson’s family, according to an affidavit from the FBI agent Monte Czaplewski, evidently knew a lot. His cousin, who cooperated with authorities, said Wilson had joined a neo-Nazi group he’d found online; traveled to Charlottesville with a shield and bulletproof vest; built up a weapons stash of more than 20 guns; and expressed an “interest in ‘killing black people’ and other people of color, especially during the protests in St. Louis.” The cousin believed Wilson was “serious about killing black people.”

Wilson’s parents, Michael D. Wilson and Ann S. Wilson, may have misled investigators about their son. They allegedly told agents that they didn’t know where Wilson resided, only that he lived “in an apartment somewhere” in the St. Louis region, even though he lived in a residence owned by Wilson’s mother. They claimed they never heard of the National Socialist Movement and that they never knew their son to be involved with white supremacists, but both parents refused to “discuss any discussions they had with Taylor Wilson regarding race relations.”

Later, when agents were executing their search warrant on Wilson’s home, his father Michael showed up. The FBI affidavit said it was “evident” that he “had knowledge of both the existence and location” of Wilson’s firearms, and gave 15 guns to FBI agents after he consulted with his attorney. One of the weapons was fully automatic, while another was converted to a short rifle, both potential violations of the law. 

Many Americans are surprised to learn that the U.S. lacks a domestic terrorism statute that broadly outlaws and attaches criminal penalties to acts of violence committed for a political cause. The only reason a federal terrorism charge was even available against Wilson is because of his particular target: Attacks on trains are explicitly outlawed and labeled as terrorism in federal law. Other statutes spell out specific criminal acts of terrorism like hijacking an airplane, setting off certain bombs or killing government officials. But while the U.S. code defines domestic terrorism, there’s no federal law that outlaws all types of politically motivated violence.

The lack of a domestic terrorism statute has long frustrated some federal officials. After Dylann Roof murdered nine churchgoers in Charleston in 2015, former Attorney General Eric Holder pointed out the double standard in an interview with HuffPost.

“With a different set of circumstances, and if you had dialed in religion there, Islam, that would be called an act of terror,” he said. Other federal officials, like former FBI Director James Comey, danced around using the word terrorism in cases like the Charleston church massacre because it didn’t fit any explicit federal terrorism statute.

Pacific Press via Getty Images
 Neo-Nazis, white supremacists and others in the alt-right gathered in Charlottesville in August.

While there’s no indication that politics explicitly played a role in the lack of a press release in the Wilson case, it certainly doesn’t fit the mold of the type of prosecution that Sessions and his Justice Department would seek to promote.

Under Trump, DOJ press releases have placed a big emphasis on immigration: there’s been a big spike in press releases that use the term “alien,” lots of releases about “sanctuary cities,” and headlines about the “return to the rule of law.” Sessions, The Washington Post reported in November, also takes a keen interest in the lineage of terror suspects during briefings with Justice Department officials, even when they tell the attorney general that a suspect is a U.S. citizen. Some DOJ officials think that indicates Sessions’ “innate suspicion about people from certain ethnic and religious backgrounds,” the Post reported. 

NICHOLAS KAMM via Getty Images
President Donald Trump and Attorney General Jeff Sessions.

Reading the affidavit, even Wilson appears to have been surprised by the way his case was handled, and how little attention the attack received when it first happened.

In a jail phone call shortly after his arrest, Wilson seemed surprised that the media account of the incident that his mother recounted didn’t have much detail, only saying that a man with a gun pushed the emergency button of the train.

“That’s it?” he asked. His mother admonished him, reminding him the call was being recorded.

Ryan Reilly is HuffPost’s senior justice reporter, covering criminal justice, federal law enforcement and legal affairs. Have a tip? Reach him at ryan.reilly@huffpost.com or on Signal at (202) 527-9261.

Read more: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/jeff-sessions-domestic-terrorism-white-supremacist_us_5a510cc2e4b01e1a4b157ae9

In Contraceptive Tech, the Apps Guess Is as Good as Yours

Last year, a small Swedish startup made waves with what it called the world's first form of "digital contraception." The company's product, a smartphone app called Natural Cycles, pairs with a thermometer to track women's basal temperature every day, then uses that data to make predictions about ovulation. Rather than curbing ovulation, like an oral contraceptive, Natural Cycles gives women either a red light or a green light on unprotected sex depending on when they're most likely to be ovulating. The app promised a 21st-century update to contraception—one that used algorithms, not hormones; one that lived on an iPhone, not inside of a woman's body.

That promise is now under investigation, after a hospital in Stockholm reported last week that 37 out of 668 women seeking abortions since September had used Natural Cycles as their primary form of contraception.

That's just one hospital, in one city. The app reportedly counts over half a million subscribers across 160 countries. Chances are, more than just a few dozen women in Stockholm have been failed by the app and others like it.

The report from Stockholm is interesting because last year, Natural Cycles became the first app to be certified as a contraceptive in Europe. It raised millions of dollars in investments during a moment when interest in consumer health technology is staggeringly high. So the fact that women are reporting unwanted pregnancies from Natural Cycles already, not even a year after its certification, is not just alarming. It's a miner's canary for a much larger constellation of contraceptive technology.

The Algorithm Method

Before there was Natural Cycles, there was Clue, Ovia, Kindara, and dozens of other apps for charting one's fertility. Some of these apps look like digital calendars of menstruation: They provide a space on a woman's smartphone to log periods and track cycles over time. Others use period tracking, as well as data like basal temperature, to predict ovulation and suggest windows of peak fertility (for women trying to get pregnant) or low fertility (for women trying to avoid pregnancy).

"All these apps are really souped-up rhythm methods."

Reproductive clinician Mary Jane Minkin, also known as Madame Ovary.

It's true that ovulation is cyclical, and tracking data over time can help a woman predict when she's most likely to conceive. At best, apps like Natural Cycles give women space to log their own bodily rhythms and understand when they're most likely to get pregnant. At worst, they take folkloric advice about how to not get pregnant and make it seem more credible by dressing it up as a smartphone app.

"All these apps are really souped-up rhythm methods," says Mary Jane Minkin, a practicing gynecologist and reproductive clinician at the Yale University School of Medicine. "The term for the technique was known for years as 'Vatican roulette.' And the old joke was: 'What do you call women who use the rhythm method? Mothers.'"

Even still, it's not hard to find reasons why women would find a cycle-tracking app appealing. The burdens of contraception are high, and fall largely on women. Hormonal options can wreak havoc on the body, causing all kinds of unpleasant side effects. Without insurance, birth control pills are expensive, and often out of reach for young or low-income women. IUDs can be painful, condoms can be uncomfortable, emergency contraception can be fallible. So it's forgivable that a natural method—something that requires little more than monitoring your own body and downloading an app—seems appealing. Consider the group of women New York Magazine once called "the pull-out generation"—young females fed up with hormonal birth control and interested in understanding their bodies more deeply. Those women gave rise to an ecosystem of apps that claimed to hold all the information—and not just information, but technology, right there on your smartphone—needed to master one's own body.

It's an age-old impulse. Women have practiced "natural" family planning methods for as long as women have been fertile, as a way to avoid pregnancy when contraception wasn't attainable or easy to use. Today, the same methods are just dressed up with technology. Natural Cycles doesn't just follow the days of your period, but your temperature too! Other apps look at hormone levels, or vaginal mucus. Pair all that with an inviting design and a tab that cites research studies, and you've got something that looks more like science and less like folklore. When a technological solution is presented to us, we're more willing to give it the benefit of the doubt.

Quantified Fertility

Natural family planning, and apps that support the method, do have some credibility. Last September, Natural Cycles was the focus of a major study on natural contraceptive methods. The study followed 22,785 women through a total of 224,563 menstrual cycles and found that the app was 99 percent effective at preventing pregnancy during "perfect use," and 93 percent effective during "imperfect use"—roughly on par with hormonal birth control and barrier methods like condoms.

With any gadget or app that relies on self-reported data, the margin for human error is extremely high.

The study results were followed by a surge of $30 million in Series B funding for Natural Cycles. But much of the hype surrounded the success from "perfect use," rather than "typical use." The expectation that women will reliably input data, or even collect that data accurately, on a daily basis in the app seems unlikely. Moreover, the app relies on slight variations in temperature to predict ovulation, but is still finding ways to take into account the many factors that can affect a woman's temperature—sleeping habits, sickness, mood. The app can suggest when a woman is most likely to be ovulating, but cannot accurately warn when ovulation comes a few days early. And, with any gadget or app that relies on self-reported data, the margin for human error is extremely high.

Minkin says the collected data in these apps can be tremendously useful for women who are hoping to get pregnant. But using them as contraception "depends on your acceptance of risk." The exact day of ovulation can be unpredictable—even with a log of past cycles, temperature measurements, and hormone levels—and that can make it difficult to know which days are safe to have unprotected sex. "Very few people consistently ovulate every cycle on day 14," says Minkin. "If you happen to ovulate on day 12 and you've had sex two days earlier, those sperm are going to be around. All you need is one guy hanging around and you're pregnant."

In a statement to WIRED, a spokesperson from Natural Cycles wrote that "no contraception is 100 percent effective, and unwanted pregnancies are an unfortunate risk with any contraception." The goal of the app, the spokesperson said, is to provide greater contraceptive choice to women who wouldn't otherwise be using contraception at all. "At first sight, the numbers [of unintended pregnancies] mentioned in the media are not surprising given the popularity of the app and are in line with our efficacy rates. We have initiated an internal investigation with our clinical department in order to confirm this. As our user base increases, so will the amount of unintended pregnancies coming from Natural Cycles app users, which is an inevitable reality."

For any type of birth control, "typical use failures are significantly higher for any method that involves timely intervention from the user," says Aparna Sridhar, an obstetrics and gynecology clinician at UCLA. That's why IUDs are less likely to fail than a birth control pill, and a birth control pill is less likely to fail than a natural planning method.

More information can certainly be useful: Women who track their menstrual cycles, basal temperature, or hormonal levels over time might have a clearer picture of their fertility than women who don't, and mapping out the expected days of ovulation can decrease the likelihood of conception. But as with so many health-focused apps, wearables, and devices, that information can only go so far. Relying solely on a smartphone app to prevent pregnancy might be like wearing a Fitbit to prevent a heart attack. The data can offer valuable information. But information alone can't change the outcome.

Correction appended 11-19-2018 at 2:15 PM EST: This story was updated to include a statement from Natural Cycles.

High-Tech Hype

Read more: https://www.wired.com/story/natural-cycles-contraceptive-apps/

I Am Slowly Growing Into The Best Version Of Myself

Unsplash / Luis Reynoso

I am slowly learning to distribute my love instead of holding back. I am giving out more compliments. I am reaching out to more friends. I am letting and become a common part of my vocabulary. I am no longer letting my fear of looking overly attached or obsessive stop me from showing kindness, because my loved ones deserve to feel valued.

I am slowly learning to pay closer attention to the little things in life. Instead of counting down the days until my next vacation and neglecting the now, I am searching for tiny things to get excited about so that I am not always looking forward to tomorrow. I am trying my best to enjoy Monday through Thursday instead of eternally waiting to reach Friday. Instead of always wishing for something that hasn’t yet come. 

I am slowly learning to be more appreciative of my surroundings. I am slowly learning to stop complaining as a default. I am slowly resisting my urges to whine about how cold I am or how tired I am or how stressed I am when I want to fill a silence. I am training my brain to search for the silver lining instead. To push the negatives to the back of my mind and keep the positives at the forefront. 

I am slowly learning how to deal with my emotions in a nontoxic way. Instead of reaching for my phone to send angered rants that I am going to be embarrassed about as soon as I calm down, I force myself to breathe. To relax. To consider what I am going to say before I speak. Instead of reaching for a wineglass when I want to forget about my problems, I force myself to sit with my problems. Think about them. Deal with them while sober.  

I am slowly learning to take better care of my mental health instead of letting my sanity rot. I am slowly learning to speak out when I have something to say instead of remaining silent to avoid conflict. I am slowly learning that my feelings deserve to be expressed, that my emotions deserve to be felt. I am slowly learning that my thoughts matter. 

I am slowly learning to treat myself the way I treat those surrounding me. I have stopped bombarding myself with insults about my appearance. I have stopped comparing myself to everyone else and feeling like I come up short. I have stopped acting like I am a burden to those who love me. I have stopped punishing myself just for existing.

I am slowly growing into the best version of myself. A version that is happy. That is confident. That loves herself and her universe. I am bound to have missteps along the way to self-fulfillment, but I am determined to treat myself better. I am serious about pursuing personal growth. I am slowly going to become a version of myself that makes me feel like I am worth it. 

Read more: https://thoughtcatalog.com/holly-riordan/2017/12/i-am-slowly-growing-into-the-best-version-of-myself/

SERIOUSLY!? City of Seattle’s response to reports about new soda tax proves prog pols FAILED Econ-101

The city of Seattle had a new soda tax kick in on January 1st, and it’s quite a doozy:

Read more: https://twitchy.com/dougp-3137/2018/01/06/seriously-city-of-seattles-response-to-reports-about-new-soda-tax-proves-prog-pols-failed-econ-101/

A New Year, new food resolution: Meatless one day a week

(CNN)There’s a good chance you are thinking of ways to live healthier in the new year. Whether you want to drop 10 pounds, improve your cholesterol or have more energy, we have five food-related New Year’s resolutions that will help you achieve your goals.

    Research consistently shows that plant-based diets are linked with a lower risk of obesity, hypertension, heart disease, type 2 diabetes and cancer,” said Sharon Palmer, a registered dietitian and author of “Plant-Powered for Life.”
    “Even going meatless one day a week can make a difference, as you increase all of those whole plant foods — beans, lentils, whole grains, nuts, seeds, vegetables, fruits — and decrease more animal foods, in particular red and processed meat. High intakes of these foods have been linked with increased disease risk,” Palmer said.
    Eating more plant-based foods increases your intake of fiber, vitamins, minerals, healthy fats and phytochemicals — plant compounds with antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties, according to Palmer.
    Stocking your pantry and fridge with a variety of beans, whole grains, seasonal veggies, fruits, spices, herbs, healthy oils, nuts and seeds is the secret to eating more plant-based meals, she said.
    Palmer also recommends “plantifying” your favorite dishes. “Just make your favorite entrees or meals plant-based, with a few swaps. If you have a mean lasagna recipe, skip the meat and add layers of greens, broccoli and peppers and perhaps some pine nuts and cashew cheese instead of the meat and cheese. If you love taco Tuesday, make your tacos veggie by skipping the meat and serving black beans or a vegetarian mushroom tofu filling. If you love Indian food, skip the chicken masala and have chickpea masala instead. These will be foods you already love and are familiar with,” she said.

    See the latest news and share your comments with CNN Health on Facebook and Twitter.

    Experimenting with new meals and creating a collection of new recipes can be fun, too. “There are so many gorgeous plant-based recipes on sites, in books and in magazines these days. I like to try a brand-new recipe one day a week to keep things interesting. If you love it, make it again,” Palmer said.
    For a simple meatless recipe, Palmer recommends her spicy hummus veggie tacos.
    How to measure it:
    Picking one day of the week to go plant-based and marking it on the calendar is a good way to stick to your plant-eating plan. “I love the Meatless Monday idea, because people often start their best behaviors at the beginning of the week. … However, there may be a better day of the week for you, so just plan it,” Palmer said.

    Read more: http://www.cnn.com/2017/12/25/health/meatless-food-resolution-drayer/index.html

    Secret Pro-Life Meeting With Mike Pence Killed Obamacare FixFor Now

    A bipartisan effort to stabilize the U.S. health-insurance markets collapsed last month after anti-abortion groups appealed directly to Vice President Mike Pence at the 11th hour, The Daily Beast has learned.

    Amid opposition from conservatives in the House of Representatives, a group of pro-life activists met with Pence to lobby the Trump administration against supporting a health-insurance market-stabilization bill on the grounds that it does not contain sufficient language on abortion restrictions, according to sources with direct knowledge of the meeting. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) was also in attendance at the Dec. 19 meeting, three of the sources said.

    The next day, key lawmakers involved in crafting the legislation announced they were punting on the issue until 2018.

    A spokeswoman for the vice president confirmed the meeting to The Daily Beast. A spokesman for McConnell did not respond to requests for comment.

    Efforts to pressure Pence, a hardline social conservative and a former lawmaker, are thrusting abortion back onto the national stage in a debate over the future of health care in America, as Republicans deliberate behind closed doors on whether to try to scrap Obamacare again in 2018.

    That effortthough it failed in the Senate several times last yearwas bolstered when the House and Senate passed a sweeping tax-overhaul bill last month. The legislation included a provision that scrapped the Obamacare individual mandate, a measure that required Americans to buy health insurance or pay a penalty.

    The tax bill passed the Senate due in large part to Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME) vote, which was contingent upon the Senate voting at a later date on the bipartisan health-insurance market-stabilization bill that was crafted by Sens. Lamar Alexander (R-TN) and Patty Murray (D-WA). Collins has argued that the legislation would mitigate the effects of the individual-mandate repeal, which the Congressional Budget Office said would result in 13 million more Americans without insurance over the next 10 years. Collins also pushed for her bill with Sen. Bill Nelson (D-FL) that would allocate $10.5 billion for a federal reinsurance pool.

    The Alexander-Murray legislation would restore Obamacare subsidies that the Trump administration cut off in October, and it would give individual states more flexibility to set insurance regulations. The Republican proponents of the bill argue that it would serve as a short-term stabilization measure to transition away from the Affordable Care Act, assuming congressional Republicans can come toor even seekan agreement on a replacement.

    The bill, though, has an unclear path forward. It was thought to have enough support to pass the Senate, but Democrats appear to be backing off the bill, blaming the GOPs elimination of the individual mandate.

    The Republicans want the bill. My question is, with the change in the marketplace that they created with the tax bill, is it still going to work? We dont have the answer, Murray, the co-creator of the compromise bill, told The Daily Beast. The marketplace has changed dramatically. So were looking at it.

    Even before the individual mandate was repealed as part of the tax bill, Alexander-Murray did not pass muster with House Republicans, who last month floated the idea of adding a provision on the Hyde Amendment, which prevents federal dollars from being used for abortions. The pro-life activists who met with Pence last month said the absence of such a measure in the Alexander-Murray bill is a major red flag because it means that the subsidies, known as cost-sharing reduction (CSR) payments, could be used on health plans that fund abortions.

    Marjorie Dannenfelser, the president of the pro-life Susan B. Anthony List, wrote in a letter to lawmakers last month that supporting Alexander-Murray is a vote to directly appropriate taxpayer dollars for insurance that includes abortion. Dannenfelser attended the meeting with Pence, which was viewed as critical because President Donald Trump had expressed support for Alexander-Murray in closed-door meetings on Capitol Hill, according to senators who attended those meetings.

    Supporters of the legislation note that Hyde protections already exist under Obamacarethough pro-life activists claim that those are watered downand Republican senators pointed to a recent memo from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services stating that the Trump administration would enforce those existing abortion provisions more strictly than the Obama administration did.

    Moreover, the law itself only lasts through 2019 as a way to give Republicans enough time to come up with an Obamacare replacement. Still, social conservatives are seeking to further codify those protections so that they could outlast the Trump administration.

    Adding Hyde Amendment language would shore up conservative support in the House, where Alexander-Murray has faced stiff opposition from hardliners who argue that the legislation simply props up Obamacare. At the same time, though, such a change to the legislationwhich was already brokered in a way that gave concessions to both sideswould nearly eliminate Democratic support for the bill, tanking it altogether.

    McConnells attendance at the meeting was notable because he, at the urging of Alexander and Collins, delayed a vote on Alexander-Murray until after the holiday recess after initially promising Collins a vote on the bill in December. Republicans were considering adding Alexander-Murray to the government-funding bill before lawmakers left for the holidays, but such a move would have given House Republicans a reason to vote against the short-term funding measure, thereby threatening a government shutdown just three days before Christmas.

    The day after the Pence meeting, Collins and Alexander announced they were urging McConnell to punt on the issue until January.

    But as congressional leaders continue to negotiate a two-year government funding bill and an immigration deal, health care is expected to take a back seat even as talks continue. Lawmakers must come to an agreement on a funding mechanism before Jan. 19 in order to keep the governments lights on.

    Betsy Woodruff contributed reporting.

    Read more: https://www.thedailybeast.com/secret-pro-life-meeting-with-mike-pence-killed-obamacare-fixfor-now

    6 Popular Workouts That Are A Waste Of Time And Money

    It’s 2018, which means there’s a gluten-free section on every brunch menu and a boutique fitness studio on every other block. Then again, our two main talking points these days are Kylie Jenner’s pregnancy and Oprah Winfrey’s presidency. So like, what a time to be alive. But back to the workout thing, there are actually so many fitness classes you can take, and each one tells you they’ll help you burn calories, get toned, look good, etc. Some of these classes need to be called out on their bullshit, and we’re here to do just that. Here are some workouts that are wasting your time and money.

    1. Aerial Yoga

    Also known as Anti-Gravity yoga, aerial yoga is a popular choice among 22-year-old girls who want to do something active on a Saturday to get a cute Instagram and make themselves feel better about the liter of tequila they’ll be drinking later. If you’ve never heard of this type of workout, picture Cirque Du Soleil meets Lululemon for $38 per session. The idea is to do traditional yoga poses on a cotton hammock hanging from the ceiling. It sounds pretty bizarre, and that’s because it is. We’re not saying this is a total scam, but unless you’re an experienced yogi with a ton of balance and a legit certification, you’re prob not getting anything out of this class. Like, by the time you finally get the hang of it, the class is over and you didn’t get any of the poses right, so you’re wasting your time. If you want a more legit workout, skip the anti-gravity bullshit and go do regular yoga.

    2. Aqua Cycling

    Aqua cycling is another one of those fads that draw in a group of girls who “don’t looove spinning, but would def try it in a pool for the experience.” Honestly, find yourself a different experience. Peddling your legs on a bike underwater will obviously give you a workout, but the burn you feel is more intense than the calories you’re actually burning. Like, there’s a reason people don’t run marathons in swimming pools. Because of the laws of physics it’s clearly harder for your body to move in water, but that doesn’t mean your heart rate is any higher than it would be on land. In fact, you’re moving a lot slower, so the calorie burn doesn’t even compare. Plus, let’s not even get started on the amount of germs in that pool. Do you know how many people already sweat in that water before your 7pm class? Pass.

    3. The Spin Class Arms Segment 

    This isn’t a workout class itself, but it’s a v controversial part of every spin class, so it’s time to address it. If you’ve ever taken a cycling class, you may have noticed that about two thirds of the way through the class, the instructor tells you to peddle slower while you take out two one-pound weights and do a few shoulder raises and arm circles. During this time, you’ve probably thought to yourself, “This fucking hurts! I never knew 90 seconds of one-pound weights could actually tone my arms!” That’s because it won’t. Simply put, this arm segment is bullshit, and it’s not doing anything for you. While your arms are burning from the pulsing exercises and you may be sore tomorrow, a short interval of light weights isn’t actually doing much for your arms, and it only feels that hard because your body is already so exhausted from the intense spinning you’ve been doing. But it  fuck up your back pretty easily, so it has that going for it. You’re better off skipping this part and doing a legit arm workout at the gym another day. Sorry.

    4. Barre

    People might kill us for this, but we’re calling bullshit on most barre classes’ claims. We’re not saying that barre isn’t a good workout at all, but it’s definitely not doing what you think it’s doing. Barre studios promise to create “long, lean muscles” and make your body “toned but not bulky.” If you know anything about the mechanics of the human body, phrases like these are literally nails on a chalkboard. Whether you’re using heavy weights or resistance bands with pulsing movements, your muscles can only do three things: get bigger, get smaller, or stay the same—you can’t make them “longer” or “leaner.” The low-weight, high-volume movements in a barre class can definitely help you get stronger over time, but all the marketing about getting small, pretty muscles is just scientifically impossible. Ballerinas may look that way because of their genetics and restrictive diets, but the barre isn’t giving you that look if you weren’t born with it. Sorry if you already spent $18 on the socks.

    5. The Cardio Class At Your Local Gym

    I know regular gyms offer classes and not all of them are horrible, but chances are, if you’re attending a class called “Cardio Blast” taught by a 63-year-old woman named Gladys, it’s probably not that intense. If you’re attending cardio classes at your gym that make you dance around, squat in place, and do a few step ups, you could probably be spending your time more wisely and burning more calories. Any workout is better than no workout, but if you think this is really more effective than doing HIIT on the treadmill or the rower, or taking a bootcamp-style HIIT class, you should reconsider. I mean, a couple Equinox classes with celebrity trainers may be the exception, but the rest are probably not worth it. If you need to find a partner halfway through class to hold their feet down while they do a few crunches, look elsewhere.

    6. Pole Dancing “Fitness”

    I think somebody made a joke one time about pole dancing being a sport and someone took it too seriously. In case you’ve never heard of this sad phenomenon, people are literally signing up for pole dancing classes thinking they’re getting a legit workout. There are so many problems with this, and I’m not even sure which to point out first. Let’s ignore the moral, ethical, and political issues for now and stick with the actual workout. I’ve never taken this class myself, but I can only imagine the workout you’re getting by soberly spinning around a pole and doing a few booty pops is sub-par, at best. Consider that strippers and burlesque dancers might be good at their jobs because they’re strong, not the other way around. Unless you’re Kate Upton, working out isn’t supposed to be sexy, so please save yourself the time and skip this class. And don’t follow the instructors on Instagram either.

     

    Read more: http://www.betches.com/popular-workout-classes-that-dont-work

    5 Boneheaded Conspiracy Theories You Had No Clue Existed

    When you ask people what their favorite conspiracy theories are, it’s always the same old songs — the moon landing was fake, the British monarchy are all lizards, Tom Cruise is actually two small border collies in a tall coat, etc. People love tuning out the classics, but what about all the new conspiracies? Here’s a hipster’s guide to the indie darlings that are making their way onto the tinfoil hat scene right now. This is your chance to catch these up-and-comers before they start popping up on pieces of cardboard near you.

    5

    Anti-Vaxxers … For Pets

    Of all the conspiracy nutjobs, anti-vaxxers are the most dangerous. Sure, Holocaust deniers and 9/11 truthers rant and rave like their skulls got infested by an ant colony that has figured out the tastiest parts of the brain are the ones that govern logic, reason, and how to speak at a normal volume, but words are all they have. Anti-vaccination advocates, however, are often parents who consciously put children in danger, all to prove that they’re smarter than nine out of ten doctors. But what about anti-vaxxers who don’t have children? How can they inflict their irresponsible delusions of superiority on someone too small and stupid to defend themselves?

    They get a pet.

    March Against Monsanto/Facebook“Have you ever noticed that vaccinated dogs never develop verbal skills? Exactly.”

    As long as some pet owners treat their domesticated beasts like the children they should never have, it shouldn’t come as a surprise that human medical trends have a tendency to spill over to the world of veterinary medicine. The anti-vaccination panic is no exception. Over the last few years, some vets started noticing an increase in pet owners refusing to inoculate their puppies and kittens against serious illnesses. Dog owners in particular are being overprotective, believing that vaccinating their precious pooches could cause them to develop arthritis, epilepsy, cancer, and even autism. A creature that gladly shits on the floor having a hard time picking up on social cues? How do you even diagnose that?

    One of such prominent dogshit spreaders is Catherine O’Driscoll, founder of the Canadian Canine Health Concern nonsense foundation. O’Driscoll keeps an extensive blog in the hopes of convincing other pet owners to let their dogs experience “natural canine healthcare” — which is just Darwinism. She believes firmly that because of wanton injections, her “dogs are becoming allergic to life,” but we’re sure Catherine has that effect on people as well. How else could she explain how her dogs were all dying before their time? Definitely has nothing to do with the fact that her Labrador purebreds are riddled with genetic defects like they’re incestuous Spanish nobles from the 17th century. No, it must be all that medicine that’s making them sick.

    Christine O’Driscoll“We don’t tell you that stuff because it’s stupid and wrong.” – vets

    But the people most drawn to the anti-pet-vaxxing lifestyle aren’t who you’d expect. “It’s actually much more common in the hipster-y areas,” notes one Brooklyn veterinarian. Hipsters, who use the word “organic” like it’s a verb, have started extended this au naturel mentality to their dogs and cats. After all, if they refuse to let their artisanal kale be chemically altered, why would they let a needle get anywhere near their beloved Allen Ginsbark? It’s always better to let nature take its course. That way, they can get into the next pet epidemic way before anyone else does.

    4

    There’s A Slave Colony On Mars

    Whatever happened to the good old days of space conspiracies? The days when we thought that Neil Armstrong was an actor, the government had a few UFOs in a basement somewhere, and the worst thing an all-powerful alien species would do was poke at our butts for treasure. Gee whiz, moon madness sure seemed a lot more innocent back then, huh? Not like today, when it’s all space vampires this and child slave colonies that. Times, they are a-changing.

    In June 2017, during on one of Infowars’ nationwide broadcasts, Alex Jones, ringmaster to the criminally insane, was joined by the esteemed Robert David Steele. Steele is a former CIA operative, Marine Corps major, and proof you can get far in U.S. government with a winning smile and only half a brain. He was there to discuss some pretty standard Infowars fare — how most child molesters are in fact cannibals who scare children in order to adrenalize their blood so that they can suck their bone marrow in order to stay eternally young. Then the conversation took a weird turn.

    Out of nowhere (which is how Steele and Jones form most of their thoughts), Steele went on a tangent about NASA’s slave camp on the Mars colony. Hmmm? You didn’t know there was a colony on Mars, let alone that it’s populated by slaves? Get with the program, liberal. According to Steele, who was once licensed to kill people by the government, NASA has been categorically kidnapping children for decades, gathering them up and shipping them off to Mars. Then, after a 20-year trip, these astro-Gollums are used as slave labor to build NASA’s hidden Mars colony. That’s a lot to process, but let’s not lose sight of the most important question: Why does it take 20 years for those kids to get to Mars? Did their Challenger break down, and did they have to take a replacement bus service to the Tharsis plateau? That’s somehow a weirder lie than the slave colony.

    NASA/JSCFrom the upcoming drama Seven Light Years A Slave

    Of course, Steele doesn’t furnish the audience with any real information, but that’s not what’s important. Steele didn’t come on Inforwars to make people believe in vampiric molesters or Spartacus on Mars; he’s there to make Alex Jones look good. After his crazed rant, Jones, having gotten his jumping-off point, immediately starts talking about how “top NASA engineers” have indeed told him that 90 percent of all NASA missions are kept hidden from the public. Like the lunatic bear that he is, Jones often invites crazy guests to serve to induce some type of Goldilocks effect on his base of conspiracy theorists (i.e. losers too atheist to blame their shitty lives on gay people).

    Hearing someone call NASA a bunch of covert ops Deep State agents working on a secret agenda sounds utterly insane … unless you’ve just heard some nutjob talk about them being a bunch of seersucker-suited slave masters building a new world on Mars by turning molested children into space Oompa Loompas. Then it’s downright reasonable by comparison.

    3

    The National Parks Service Is Covering Up Disappearances

    Sometimes people disappear in the woods. That’s not surprising. There are plenty of hidden alcoves, lake beds, and animal stomachs for the lost or hurt to disappear into. What might be more surprising, however, is the sheer number of people who wander into national parks, never to be seen again. Since records began, over 1,600 people have gone missing on public land, and no one seems to be paying attention. That’s why a retired cop is going on a one-man crusade to raise awareness — not of the dangers of hiking, but of how rangers are refusing to tell us how many of those missing people were kidnapped by fairies.

    David Paulides is an former police detective who moved to Colorado for two reasons: skiing and Sasquatches. After his time on the force, he became an avid Bigfoot hunter, founding the North America Bigfoot Search. But his life changed when Paulides (according to Paulides) was approached by two park rangers who asked him to look into their agency covering up strange disappearances. Why they came to a guy who had spent years tracking something he never found, we won’t know, but what followed was a tale of general incompetency, so that might have something to do with it.

    David PaulidesPaulides, in what strangely looks exactly like the type of photo someone would take before they would disappear without a trace.

    In 2011, Paulides started the CanAm Missing Project, his goal being to figure out the possibly occult cause of all these mysterious disappearances. What qualifies a missing person’s case to be labelled “mysterious”? Just about anything.

    For example, when writing about two women disappearing near the same river, he noted that “both of their names start with A, and their first names only had three letters,” as if the river was only trying to sweep away people with low Scrabble values. He also remarks that “that berries and berry bushes play a common role in many disappearances” which he finds “quite intriguing,” as if park rangers aren’t the only people in the world who like that their phones autocorrect “Wanna get some beers?” to “Wanna see some berries?”

    He also has a map pinpointing 59 wildlife areas where all these disappearances occur. There are 59 federal parks in the United States. Coincidence? Conspiracy? Did he simply make his own map of all the parks?

    David PaulidesThat’s for the feds to decide.

    But for all his foibles, we should be commending Paulides. He isn’t like other conspiracy theorists, in that he does vastly more good than harm. His CanAm Missing Project and his Missing 411 books, while delusional, have grown to be the most comprehensive collection of data on missing people in national parks in existence. Paulides isn’t exactly making anything up, either. “I don’t put any theories in the books — I just connect facts,” he says. And his facts can’t help but involve teleporting and magical murder berries. At his worst, he’s a Deep Throat looking for the Woodward and Bernstein of exposing centaurs. At his best, he’s exactly the kooky conspiracy theorist the National Park Service deserves: well-meaning, a bit bland, and obsessed with berries.

    2

    Hurricane Irma Was A Liberal Hoax

    Hurricane Irma was one of the worst calamities to ever hit the Caribbean and Florida Keys. In Florida alone, it did millions of dollars of damage, destroyed tens of thousands of jobs, and caused the deaths of 75 people and counting (with thousands still at risk).

    And if you believe that, the liberals have some Benghazi emails they’d like to sell you.

    As Hurricane Irma neared the East Coast, a horrific encore to the tragedy that was Hurricane Harvey only weeks prior, the media offered dire predictions for the devastation to come.

    But some people were getting tired of the MSM pushing its hurricane fearmongering. One of these skeptics was Rush Limbaugh, a man named after the way air moves between his ears and the best possible afterlife he could hope for. From his home in Palm Springs, Florida, the right-wing radio personality could feel a liberal conspiracy brewing.

    To be clear, Limbaugh isn’t a hurricane denier; he just doesn’t think they’re a big deal. On his show, he proclaimed, “there is a desire to advance this climate change agenda, and hurricanes are one of the fastest and best ways to do it. You can accomplish a lot just by creating fear and panic.” And if there’s anyone who’s an expert on creating fear and panic to further a political agenda, it’s Rush.

    To Limbaugh, it all sounds too convenient. A violent meteorological demon that thrives on the constantly warming ocean water like it’s a Monster energy drink and then lays waste to our industrial zones? That’s obviously some hoax dreamed up by what he calls the “official meteorological circles,” like he’s referring to a sinister cabal of druids which secretly controls the Weather Channel. Why else, he illogicked, does the media always scare people by saying each and every hurricane will hit a major city center? That’s not balanced and honest reporting! Where’s the 24-hour news cycle dedicated to the ones that merely swirl around on the ocean for a few days and slightly inconvenience some gulls? Typical media bias. Gull Lives Matter, too.

    But then, to his great surprise, the liberal hoax caught up to him. As Irma started to lay waste to Southern Florida, Limbaugh was seen fleeing his home with nothing but the clothes on his back and his words to eat, desperately searching for the one Marriott in Northern Florida that doesn’t have his picture behind the front desk. So in the end, Limbaugh did not convince us to stop believing in storms, but he did bolster our belief in silver linings.

    1

    300 Years Of History Never Happened

    This story begins where all wild stories begin: during a German archaeological conference. In 1986, a large collection of historians gathered in Munich to discuss how pissed off they were getting at Medieval con artists making their jobs harder. Medieval experts, unlike their peers, have to deal with a lot of fake news. Scholars and clergymen of the Dark Ages had this tendency to forge the hell out of documents, writing any old nonsense to further their own agendas. When you’re one of 20 people in your country who can read and write, you don’t really have to worry about peer review.

    But some of these forgeries shared something remarkable: They were seemingly written centuries before the events they detail. This blew one mind in particular: Heribert Illig, who jumped to quite a shocking conclusion. You see, instead of these documents being badly dated or made to look older to raise their authenticity, the answer was much simpler: The past didn’t exist.

    The foundation of Illig’s “phantom time hypothesis,” which denies that the period between 614 and 911 CE ever happened, lies in the fact that the Dark Ages were really, really boring. After the fall of the Roman Empire, Europe went through a bit of a burnout / mild apocalypse, so most dark agers didn’t get around to doing much else besides trying to survive to the ripe old age of 17. Then Illig discovered that when the Catholic Church decided to switch from the wildly inaccurate Julian Calendar (which was off by about one day per century) to the Gregorian, they only added 10 days instead of 13, revealing they knew there were three centuries fewer than what everyone else was told. Of course, Illig was dead wrong, but you can’t let something like a bit of bad math stand between you and claiming that a dozen generations of our ancestors never existed.

    But with that realization, the real conspiracy theory kicked in. Surely, adding three extra centuries isn’t some accidental fuck-up made by some faulty monk copiers. This was the work of powerful and holy people — someone like Holy Roman Emperor Otto III. Otto, according to Illig’s new math, was a 7th century emperor who really wanted to rule in the year 1000, because he wanted to be easily remembered by German fifth-graders. So Otto and Pope Sylvester II set out to create three centuries of fake past to plug the gap. Then they went about filling this newly created 291 years with a bunch of worthless duds of kings, except that Otto got a bit carried away with his fanfiction and created Charlemagne, the Mary Sue of Medieval rulers.

    Albrecht Durer“… and his sword was magic and could totally cut Superman, and he …” — Otto

    There’s only one teeny tiny problem with Illinger’s hypothesis: It forgets that there’s an entire universe outside of European history. If the Dark Ages didn’t happen, then neither did the birth and dissemination of Islam in the Middle East, or the well-documented feudal renaissance of the Chinese Tang Dynasty. And even if you could believe that Otto toured the world convincing foreign leaders he didn’t know existed to get in on his epic prank, exact sciences like carbon dating, tracking astrological phenomena, or even counting tree rings like an Eagle Scout prove we’re right on schedule.

    Yet despite the myriad of logical and fact-based arguments made against the phantom timeline, the idea won’t die. But we don’t have to explain to you why, right? Can’t you feel it? Doesn’t part of you want to believe that we set our civilizations’ alarm clocks three centuries too early? Takes the pressure off, doesn’t it, pretending to be living in 1720? We could all coast for the rest of our lives, knowing that we did amazing just by saying no to slavery and not dying of polio.

    C’mon, it’s nice and warm here off the deep end.

    Cedric would feel a lot better if hyper-intelligent lizards secretly ruled the world. You can follow him on Twitter, or directly contact him by tuning in to the frequency of his tooth fillings.

    If you’re getting the feeling that you need to start living in paranoia, well, luckily you don’t have to worry about making your own tinfoil hat. You can just order one.

    If you loved this article and want more content like this, support our site with a visit to our Contribution Page, please and thank you.

    For more, check out What Stupid Conspiracy Theory Is Out There Now? (12/3/17) and Katie, Jedi, And Other Conspiracy Theories Making The Rounds.

    Also follow us on Facebook. We’re on the up and up.

    Read more: http://www.cracked.com/article_25406_5-boneheaded-conspiracy-theories-you-had-no-clue-existed.html

    50+ Times American Healthcare System Shocked The Rest Of The World

    While the United States has largely considered itself as the greatest country in the world for the last few decades, the statistics tell us that there are areas where things can definitely be improved.

    In military might and defence spending the U.S. is undisputedly number one. But in other areas, more important aspects of human wellbeing such as education, life expectancy, happiness, gender and income equality and healthcare, there are more mixed results.

    The U.S. healthcare system in particular is a continuing source of bafflement for many, who are accustomed to a degree of protection against the double disaster of poor health followed by financial ruin.

    While American hospitals and medical facilities are world class, they are also incredibly expensive and available only to those able to afford them. We at Bored Panda have compiled a list of examples that highlight the inadequacies of the current healthcare system, while polarised politicians continue to argue about their vision for its future. Scroll down to check them out below, and stay healthy over there in America, y’all.

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    Read more: http://www.boredpanda.com/united-states-healthcare-system/

    #REEEEE: Jenna Jameson takes on horde of wailing SJW man babies attacking her for supporting Trump

    Another day, another gaggle of menopausal men attacking Jenna Jameson for being a Trump supporter. It’s interesting really, the same men who claim that Trump is a sexist monster say far more horrible things to Jenna than we’ve ever seen from the president … Hypocrites the lot of ’em.

    This time the horde was triggered by these tweets, which actually made us lol:

    Read more: https://twitchy.com/samj-3930/2018/01/04/reeeee-jenna-jameson-takes-on-horde-of-wailing-sjw-man-babies-attacking-her-for-supporting-trump/