Washington (CNN)After a year of doubts, recriminations and special election misfires, Democrats finally got the big victories Tuesday they’d so desperately craved in the year since Donald Trump won the presidency.
Washington (CNN)After a year of doubts, recriminations and special election misfires, Democrats finally got the big victories Tuesday they’d so desperately craved in the year since Donald Trump won the presidency.
Washington (CNN)Can Republicans win tough races by getting close — but not too close — to President Donald Trump, adopting his tactics without actually campaigning with him?
Washington (CNN)President Donald Trump plans to end a key set of Obamacare subsidies that helped lower-income enrollees pay for health care, the White House said Thursday, a dramatic move that raises questions about the law’s future.
Washington (CNN)A year into Donald Trump’s presidency, elections Tuesday in Virginia, New Jersey and elsewhere will offer the best window yet into how voters view his job performance — and whether Democrats have corrected the problems that plagued them in 2016.
Tory whip writes to every vice-chancellor to ask for syllabus and any online material
Academics are accusing a Tory MP and government whip of McCarthyite behaviour, after he wrote to all universities asking them to declare what they are teaching their students about Brexit and to provide a list of teachers names.
Chris Heaton-Harris, Conservative MP for Daventry and a staunch Eurosceptic, wrote to vice-chancellors at the start of this month asking for the names of any professors involved in teaching European affairs with particular reference to Brexit. Neatly ignoring the long tradition of academic freedom that universities consider crucial to their success, his letter asks for a copy of each universitys syllabus and any online lectures on Brexit.
Prof David Green, vice-chancellor of Worcester University, felt a chill down his spine when he read the sinister request: This letter just asking for information appears so innocent but is really so, so dangerous, he says. Here is the first step to the thought police, the political censor and newspeak, naturally justified as the will of the British people, a phrase to be found on Mr Heaton-Harriss website. Green will be replying to the MP but not be providing the information requested.
In the wake of a mass shooting that left 59 dead and more than 520 people hurt, White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said, “There’s a time and place for a political debate, but now is a time to unite as a country.”
Well, The Daily Show‘s Trevor Noah thinks that’s BS. On Monday night, he called out politicians and members of the media who claimed right now is not the time to talk about gun control.
“I feel like people are becoming more accustomed to this kind of news,” he said, noting there have been 20 mass shootings in the two years he’s lived in the United States.
After the latest shooting — in which a gunman fired at a country music concert from his Las Vegas hotel room — pundits even turned to hotel security as a possible culprit. Instead of, you know, sane gun laws.
“We seem to do everything to avoid talking about guns,” Noah said.
The talk show host pointed out that Congress was still considering the Sportsman’s Heritage and Recreational Enhancement (SHARE) Act, which would make it easier to buy silencers and armor-piercing bullets.
“I can only say I’m sorry,” Noah told the people of Las Vegas, “sorry that we live in a world where people would put a gun before your lives.”
Jeff Flake is going out with a bang, and Donald Trump is notgoing to like it.
The Republican senator from Arizona announced on Tuesday that he’s not running for re-election in 2018. And then he denounced President Donald Trump and everything Trump represents on the Senate floor.
“We must never regard as ‘normal’ the regular and casual undermining of our democratic norms and ideals,” Flake said, according to his prepared speech.
He continued, “Reckless, outrageous, and undignified behavior has become excused and countenanced as ‘telling it like it is,’ when it is actually just reckless, outrageous, and undignified.”
“And when such behavior emanates from the top of our government, it is something else: It is dangerous to a democracy.”
He also laid into Republican politicians, who have enabled Trump by biting their tongues when he goes off the rails.
“When we remain silent and fail to act when we know that that silence and inaction is the wrong thing to do — because of political considerations, because we might make enemies, because we might alienate the base, because we might provoke a primary challenge, because ad infinitum, ad nauseum — when we succumb to those considerations in spite of what should be greater considerations and imperatives in defense of the institutions of our liberty, then we dishonor our principles and forsake our obligations.”
“Despotism loves a vacuum”
Finally, he warned that abandoning our values would benefit America’s enemies.
“Despotism loves a vacuum. And our allies are now looking elsewhere for leadership. Why are they doing this? None of this is normal. And what do we as United States Senators have to say about it?”
Reaction was split between those who found Flake brave for standing up to Trump and his own party …
Senator Jeff Flake’s speech on the Senate floor right now is an extraordinary moment in Trump’s America.
— Philip Rucker (@PhilipRucker) October 24, 2017
Don’t say this loosely, but we’re watching history today. Whatever is next, senators are placing hard bets on the future of America in 2017.
— Benjy Sarlin (@BenjySarlin) October 24, 2017
Jeff Flake’s speech on the Senate floor will end up in the history books.
— Kasie Hunt (@kasie) October 24, 2017
… to those who noted that Flake still supported much of Trump’s agenda, and faced a tough primary and general election in 2018, which means it’s no guarantee he’d win anyway.
Jeff Flake amends the Pottery Barn Rule: “You break it, you walk away.”
— ian bremmer (@ianbremmer) October 24, 2017
Regardless, Trump and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell now have one more Republican enemy in Congress. Sen. Bob Corker announced last month that he also wasn’t running for re-election in 2018, and hasn’t been shy about his disdain for the president.
And John McCain — who torpedoed Trump’s health care plan — has also been speaking out against the president. On Tuesday, McCain tweeted his support for his fellow Arizona senator.
Donald Trump spent Tuesday morning slamming Corker with childish insults. It’s a pretty good bet he’s about to rage-tweet about Flake very soon.
When the Trump administration elected to stop requiring many employers to offer birth-control coverage in their health plans, it devoted nine of its new rule’s 163 pages to questioning the links between contraception and preventing unplanned pregnancies.
In the rule released Friday, officials attacked a 2011 report that recommended mandatory birth-control coverage to help women avoid unintended pregnancies. That report, requested by the Department of Health and Human Services, was done by the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine — then the Institute of Medicine — an expert group that serves as the nation’s scientific adviser.
“The rates of, and reasons for, unintended pregnancy are notoriously difficult to measure,” according to the Trump administration’s interim final rule. “In particular, association and causality can be hard to disentangle.”
Claims in the report that link increased contraceptive use by unmarried women and teens to decreases in unintended pregnancies “rely on association rather than causation,” according to the rule. The rule references another study that found increased access to contraception decreased teen pregnancies short-term but led to an increase in the long run.
“We know that safe contraception — and contraception is incredibly safe — leads to a reduction in pregnancies,” said Michele Bratcher Goodwin, director of the Center for Biotechnology and Global Health Policy at the University of California, Irvine, School of Law. “This has been data that we’ve had for decades.”
The rules were released as part of a broader package of protections for religious freedom that the administration announced Friday.
The government also said imposing a coverage mandate could “affect risky sexual behavior in a negative way” though it didn’t point to any particular studies to support its point. A 2014 study by the Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis found providing no-cost contraception did not lead to riskier sexual behavior.
The rule asserts that positive health effects associated with birth control “might also be partially offset by an association with negative health effects.” The rule connects the claim of negative health effects to a call by the National Institutes of Health in 2013 for the development of new contraceptives that stated current options can have “many undesirable side effects.”
The rule also describes an Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality review that found oral contraceptives increased users’ risk of breast cancer and vascular events, making the drugs’ use in preventing ovarian cancer uncertain.
Federal officials used all of these assertions to determine the government “need not take a position on these empirical questions.”
“Our review is sufficient to lead us to conclude that significantly more uncertainty and ambiguity exists in the record than the Departments previously acknowledged.”
With Puerto Rico in a worsening humanitarian crisis, President Donald Trump continues to hold the U.S. territory’s debt over its head.
It is difficult to fathom just how irresponsible and entirely beside the point Puerto Rico’s debt is when it comes to its current situation. Puerto Ricans are Americans, just like the people in parts of Texas and Florida that the government is helping after two other major hurricanes this season.
Yet on Friday, Trump doubled down on holding disaster aid hostage to the U.S. territory’s debts, which total about $70 billion..
“Ultimately, the government of Puerto Rico will have to work with us to determine how this massive rebuilding effort, [which] will end up being the biggest ever, will be funded and organized, and what we will do with the tremendous amount of existing debt already on the island,” Trump said in a speech on Friday.
The fact that Puerto Rico is an island is, in the eyes of Trump, Puerto Rico’s fault.
Trump also observed the Puerto Rico is an island and that this geography therefore makes recovery difficult. Trump’s comments have consistently painted Puerto Rico as a foreign place with foreign people, rather than a home to more Americans than about 20 fully-fledged states.
The president also seemed to be comfortable putting the shipping industry’s interests first. He was slow to suspend the Jones Act, which mandates that anything shipped to Puerto Rico be on U.S. owned and operated vessels. This makes shipping between the U.S. and Puerto Rico very expensive, which raises the costs of goods for island residents.
Trump wasn’t exactly secretive about this, saying on Wednesday: “We have a lot of shippers and a lot of people that work in the shipping industry that don’t want the Jones Act lifted.”
“This is an island surrounded by water. Big water. Ocean water.” — President Trump, on Puerto Rico
— Matt Viser (@mviser) September 29, 2017
As Americans have begun to fully realize the depth of the devastation in Puerto Rico, the Trump administration has been coming under greater pressure to act. Comparisons have already been made to George W. Bush’s slow response to Hurricane Katrina.
Trump, naturally, hasn’t taken that well. His response so far has bounced between criticizing Puerto Rico and blatantly lying about how his response has been perceived in Puerto Rico.
Puerto Rico’s governor has tried to set the record straight on that, but Trump supporters are likely only to have heard the president’s claims. The websites of Drudge Report, Breitbart, Infowars, and Fox News barely had a mention of Puerto Rico as of Friday midday.
Puerto Rico is devastated. Phone system, electric grid many roads, gone. FEMA and First Responders are amazing. Governor said “great job!”
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) September 29, 2017
Trump is correct in stating that Puerto Rico has a problem with its debt. It’s a problem that has been around for years and has only gotten worse. It’s electric utility company is in a particularly tough spot, having owed $9 billion before the storm hit.
The notion, however, that the island’s debt has anything to do with what the government should be doing to help Puerto Ricans in need is the kind of double standard that has added fuel to a growing fire — that Trump is a racist whose true colors are starting to show.
His handling of the recent NFL controversy has particularly stood out, most notably when he said that owners were afraid of their players.
Trump says the white owners of the NFL are “afraid” of its black players.
That’s not “racist dog-whistling.”
It’s a “racist public rant.”
— Seth Abramson (@SethAbramson) September 28, 2017
This is classic Trump. Admitting that he and his administration have bungled the response to the Puerto Rico crises would be to show weakness. Instead, Trump is embracing his go to move of whataboutism. What about Puerto Rico’s debt? What about it’s infrastructure? What about the fact that it’s an island? What about the fact that it’s name isn’t even in English?
Meanwhile, aid to Puerto Rico is still stuck on docks, unable to get to the people who sorely need it. There’s no “big water” stopping it. Just a pitiful lack of effective disaster relief coordination.
That’s not the main issue for Trump, though. He wants Puerto Rico to show him the money.
The Trump administration is exploring ways to replace the use of Social Security numbers as the main method of assuring people’s identities in the wake of consumer credit agency Equifax Inc.’s massive data breach.
The administration has called on federal departments and agencies to look into the vulnerabilities of employing the identifier tied to retirement benefits, as well as how to replace the existing system, according to Rob Joyce, special assistant to the president and White House cybersecurity coordinator.
“I feel very strongly that the Social Security number has outlived its usefulness,” Joyce said Tuesday at a cyber conference in Washington organized by the Washington Post. “Every time we use the Social Security number, you put it at risk.”
Joyce’s comments came as former Equifax CEO Richard Smith testified before the House Energy and Commerce Committee, the first of four hearings this week on Capitol Hill. Lawmakers from both parties expressed outrage over the size of the breach as well as the company’s response and grilled Smith on the timeline of the incident, including when top executives learned about it.
Smith said the rising number of hacks involving Social Security numbers have eroded its security value.
“The concept of a Social Security number in this environment being private and secure — I think it’s time as a country to think beyond that,” Smith said. “What is a better way to identify consumers in our country in a very secure way? I think that way is something different than an SSN, a date of birth and a name.”
Joyce said officials are looking into “what would be a better system” that utilizes the latest technologies, including a “modern cryptographic identifier,” such as public and private keys.
“It’s a flawed system that we can’t roll back that risk after we know we’ve had a compromise,” he said. “I personally know my Social Security number has been compromised at least four times in my lifetime. That’s just untenable.”
Joseph Lorenzo Hall, chief technologist at the Center for Democracy and Technology in Washington, said one possibility could be giving individuals a private key, essentially a long cryptographic number that’s embedded in a “physical token” that then requires users to verify that the number belongs to them. It could work like the chip in a credit card that requires the owner to enter a pin allowing use. He pointed to Estonia where they have deployed such cards that people use to validate their identity.
“Your pin unlocks your ability to use that big number,” he said. The challenge is how to create the identifiers and how to distribute the keys. “It’s very promising” and “it’s possible to technically design something like this” but it could be expensive to design and disseminate such material to each American, he said. “This is a pretty big endeavor.”
The administration is also participating in discussions Congress is having about the requirements of protecting personal data and breach notifications for companies.
“It’s really clear, there needs to be a change, but we’ll have to look at the details of what’s being proposed,” Joyce said. In the response to the Equifax hack, though, he said, “we need to be careful of Balkanizing the regulations. It’s really hard on companies today” facing local, state and federal regulators as well as international rules, he added.
The U.S. government began issuing Social Security numbers in 1936. Nearly 454 million different numbers have been issued, according to the Social Security Administration. Supplanting such an ingrained apparatus would not happen over night. The original intent was to track U.S. workers’ earning to determine their Social Security benefits. But the rise of computers, government agencies and companies found new uses for the number, which gradually grew into a national identifier.
Over the decades, the Social Security number became valuable for what could be gained by stealing it, said Bruce Schneier, a fellow at Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government. It was the only number available to identify a person and became the standard used for everything from confirming someone at the doctor’s office to school.
“They appeared at an age when we didn’t have other numbers,” Schneier said in an interview. “Think of this as part of our aging infrastructure” from roads and bridges to communications. “Sooner or later we as a society need to fix our aging infrastructure.”
He pointed to India’s wide-scale rollout of the Aadhaar card, a unique number provided to citizens after collecting their biometric information — fingerprints and an iris scan — along with demographic details, to almost 1.2 billion people. In the U.S., a more secure system could be designed, “but magic math costs money,” he said.
Making any changes to the current system, including replacing numbers entirely or restricting who can use them, would likely require an act of Congress, according to Marc Rotenberg, executive director of the Electronic Privacy Information Center in Washington, which advocates for limiting the use of Social Security numbers.
“You’d need to change a lot of existing public law," Rotenberg said. “There would need to be extensive hearings and study about the consequences. It’s a complicated issue."
The government’s own record of protecting Social Security numbers has its blemishes. Medicare, the federal health-care program for senior citizens, has long used the numbers on identification cards recipients must carry. After years of criticism by the agency’s inspector general for the risks that creates, new cards with different numbers are currently being rolled out.
The failure of the Social Security number is that there’s only one for each person, “once it’s compromised one time, you’re done,” Bob Stasio, a fellow at the Truman National Security Project and former chief of operations at the National Security Agency’s Cyber Operations Center.
Public and private keys — long strings of code — could help validate identities. For instance, the government could issue each person a public key and private key. If people were to open a bank account, for instance, they could provide their public key — instead of a Social Security number — and the bank would send a message that could only be decrypted using their private key. If the private key gets compromised, the government could easily issue another one.
Stasio also cited emerging blockchain technology as another potential tool. It could create a kind of digital DNA fingerprint that’s “mathematically impossible” to duplicate. In place of a Social Security number, each person could receive a blockchain hash — a kind of algorithm unique to an individual — that is stamped on every digital transaction or action.
That type of technology “could be used as a much more efficient and mathematically sound method of transaction, identification and validation,” Stasio said.
While lawmakers were unanimous in criticizing Equifax’s response to a breach that compromised information on 145.5 million U.S. consumers, they were divided on how to fix the underlying issue. Democrats on the panel have reintroduced legislation imposing requirements for when companies have to report data breaches, while Oregon Republican Greg Walden noted the company’s human errors, saying “you can’t fix stupid.”
Smith said the Equifax employee responsible for communicating that the vulnerable software needed to be patched didn’t do so. That failure was compounded when a scan of the company’s systems didn’t find that the vulnerability still existed, the former CEO said.
Joyce’s comments helped take some of the focus off Equifax’s blunders, analysts at Cowen Inc. said in a note Tuesday.
The “White House may be indirectly coming to Equifax’s rescue,” they wrote. “This reduces the risk of business-model-busting legislation such as a requirement that consumers opt-in to a credit bureau collecting their data.”