July 31, 2017

Pence Preparing for His Inauguration

'Priebus and Spicer will lead the transition' wrote Congresswoman Maxine Waters on Twitter
US Vice President Mike Pence is preparing for Donald Trump's impeachment, a congresswoman from their rival Democrat Party has claimed.

"Mike Pence is somewhere planning an inauguration", Maxine Waters wrote on Twitter.
"Priebus and Spicer will lead the transition" she added, referring to the two latest members of Trump's White House to resign.

Former chief of staff Reince Priebus stepped down and Sean Spicer resigned as press secretary both stepped down from their roles in recent weeks.
A long time critic of Mr Trump, Ms Waters was the first US politician to claim that the salacious sex acts alleged in the unverified "Russian blackmail dossier" against the US leader were "absolutely true".

The document, alleged the Russian state has compromising sexual and financial information on the President. 
She has also repeatedly called for his impeachment.
"He's someone that I'm committed to getting impeached!" Mrs Waters told a Washington bookshop audience in May. "He's a liar! He's a cheat! He's a con man! We've got to stop his ass."

Two Democrat congressmen, Al Green and Brad Sherman, filed the first impeachment articles against Mr Trump on 12 July.

They claimed Mr Trump obstructed justice by firing FBI Director James Comey during his investigation into Russian interference in the election.

But for an impeachment trial to go ahead, a majority in the House of Representatives and a two-thirds majority in the Senate must approve it.

With both the House and Senate under Republican control until at least the mid-term elections in November 2018, this is unlikely.

Mr Pence has distanced himself from the recent scandals rocking the White House, including revelations of Donald Trump Jr's meeting with a Russian lawyer during the election campaign. 
The Vice President is "not focused on stories about the campaign - especially those pertaining to the time before he joined the campaign" said Mr Pence's spokesman in a statement, shortly after they emerged.

"Donald Trump is someone that found his way to the presidency of the United States of America - I still don't know how."
It's not too early to discuss grounds for Donald Trump's impeachment 
More Americans want Trump impeached than wanted Nixon impeached 
Democrat files first articles of impeachment against Donald Trump 
Only two American presidents have been impeached, and in neither case did it lead to their removal from office. Bill Clinton and Andrew Johnson were both exonerated by the Senate and completed their term in office.
Richard Nixon resigned following the Watergate scandal before Congress could impeach him.
Fourteen vice presidents have later become president - eight of those because of the death of the sitting president. Five became president during a following term and one following the resignation of the sitting president. 

The Independent

Why Trump's Justice Won't Win The Argument About Limiting Gay Rights

 Gay rights? Im not gay

Earlier this week, the U.S. Department of Justice filed a legal brief in an appeals court case, arguing against workplace discrimination protection for employees who are gay. This is potentially a major upset for gay rights, and could lead to confusion for employers who are left to wonder whether they could be sued if they or their staff discriminate against gay employees.

The Justice Department’s amicus brief states that the “sole question” is whether “Title VII reaches sexual orientation discrimination,” and concludes that “it does not, as has been settled for decades.” Amending Title VII’s scope, Justice argues, should be “directed to Congress rather than the courts.” The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), in a rare split within government over such issues, has filed its own brief with the court on the side of gay rights in the workplace.

The opposing arguments by Justice and EEOC center on a case now before a federal appeals court, involving a sky-diving instructor, Donald Zarda, who was fired by his employer in 2010 after telling a female client he was gay. Zarda reportedly said this in order to prevent any awkwardness for the woman who would be tightly strapped to him during the sky-diving jump. Her husband complained to Zarda’s employer, Altitude Express, which then fired him. Zarda filed a lawsuit, claiming that his termination violated Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act, which bars discrimination on the basis of “race, color, religion, sex, or national origin.”

Most employers understand that sex discrimination involves such incidents as firing a male employee for something that the boss would overlook for a female employee, or keeping women from taking jobs because of the belief that men are better at them. The EEOC is using this same reasoning to say that it’s illegal sex discrimination to fire a man, but not a woman, for being attracted to men.
Business leaders should realize that this is only a brief filed by the administration, not a change in regulation. The federal courts are split around how to interpret anti-discrimination protection under Title VII. The law is unsettled. Employers would be wise to take the stance that it is not permissible in their own workplaces to discriminate on the basis of sexual orientation. Even in conservative parts of the country, where public attitude about gay rights differs from more liberal areas of the country, employer actions that allow discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation can lead to a lawsuit that the employer could lose.

How Donald Trump Views Loyalty
If there's one thing that Donald Trump values, it's loyalty. He's placed an emphasis on it throughout his life, and he consistently requires it of those who surround him. Often, his brand of loyalty can be a one-way street.
The Trump Justice Department argues in its brief that antigay discrimination is permissible because women and men are treated the same, even though it causes differential treatment of gay and straight employees. This is the same kind of reasoning that the Supreme Court rejected in 1967 when it struck down laws banning miscegenation and interracial marriage. That ruling struck down an 1883 decision in which the Court held that a law against interracial marriage did not discriminate against either race.

 The 1883 case argued that blacks and whites were barred equally from marrying members of other races. But the Court eventually understood that these laws relied on racial classifications. The same logic is likely to prevail with antigay discrimination: It flunks the test, laid down by the Court in 1978, of “treatment of a person in a manner which but for that person’s sex would be different.”
The Trump administration’s notion that both sexes are treated the same has weird implications. Suppose an employer said that all employees, male or female, were to perform only jobs traditionally associated with their sex—and that it would scrupulously apply this rule equally to both sexes. Men could be foremen, salesmen, and supervisors; women could be secretaries and cleaners. Courts wouldn’t be fooled by this trick in that case. They aren’t likely to be fooled in this one, either.Andrew  

Andrew Koppelman is professor of law at Northwestern University’s Pritzker School of Law.

Barcelona Festival is Destroyed by Flames

Flames engulf an outdoor stage at the Tomorrowland festival in Barcelona on Saturday night.

CNN-More than 22,000 fans were evacuated after a fire erupted on stage at the Tomorrowland music festival in Spain, authorities said. 
No injuries were reported as attendees fled the concert area near Barcelona late Saturday night, the city's fire officials said in a statement.
"At this time, the fire is totally extinct although very hot areas remain and the entire assembly structure is at risk of collapsing," the statement said.
The fire was caused by a technical malfunction, according to a post on the Tomorrowland website.  "Authorities will follow up and continue the investigation with the local Spanish organizer," the post said.
Festival attendee Abel Radakovich told CNN that a calm and orderly evacuation helped keep everyone safe.
"No one died because people evacuated walking," Radakovich said. "If someone ran, they told him not to because it could form an avalanche and crush people."
"Luckily we managed to stay calm," he said.
The music festival takes place in different locations simultaneously, with the main stage based in Belgium.
Tomorrowland hosted its first event in 2005 and has grown in popularity since. In 2013, tickets for the event sold out in one second.

By Paul LeBlanc, CNN

Rushing The After Death Process and Dissolving The Body of The Dead

Special Edition

Bradshaw Celebration of Life Center is a long bungalow, surrounded by meadows and groves of slender trees. 
Described as “prairie-style”, the building was designed by a former student of Frank Lloyd Wright. 
The alkaline hydrolysis machine is located in the basement. It was installed five years ago at a cost - together with the viewing rooms - of about $750,000 (£580,000). 
“We could have done it for less,” says Jason Bradshaw, who manages the centre. 
Jason Bradshaw
Jason Bradshaw
“We just felt being that we were the first in this area - and one of the first in the country - we needed to put in that larger investment. 
“Because we have tour groups that come through all the time, we have hospices, we have church groups. We have people who just want to see it, because it’s so new.” 
He leads me down to the basement and into a circular room with a tinkling waterfall.  
The ochre-coloured wall contains a floor-to-ceiling window looking on to another room, with wooden sliding doors on the other side of the glass. 
Jason disappears, switches on the lights in the next room, and pulls open the doors. 
And there is the alkaline hydrolysis machine - a rectangular steel box, 6ft high, 4ft wide, and 10ft deep. 
It has a huge circular door covering almost its entire width, that wouldn’t look out of place on a bank vault or submarine. 
(In fact, the same doors are used on submarines, although the manufacturer points out a crucial difference - submarine hatches are designed to open from the inside too.) 
The industrial appearance of the machine jars with the sombre intensity of the viewing room. 
I wonder what sort of person would choose to watch their relative or friend being placed into this machine, which is known as a “tissue digester”. 
I watch Jason and his colleague, David Haroldsen, wheel a corpse through the door. 
The body is not identified to me and is completely covered by a black woollen cloth, which Jason and David, wearing blue surgical gloves, delicately tuck into the edges of a steel tray. 
Then they open the big door, raise the tray to the level of the black cavity inside the machine, and slide it in. 
On the side of the machine is a computer screen with four buttons labelled “unlock”, “test”, “cycle” and “lock”. 
Jason closes the door, presses the “lock” button, and with a pneumatic hiss and a whirr, the door locks shut. 
Then he presses the “cycle” button. The machine beeps twice, there is another hiss and it begins to fill with water. 
Jason, who has a degree in Biology and Chemistry, explains that the machine weighs each body and calculates how much water and potassium hydroxide to add. 
He says it’s roughly 65lb per 600lb of water. 
The powerfully alkaline solution, with a pH of about 14, is heated to 152C (306F), but because the digester is pressurised it does not boil. 

Alkaline hydrolysis is the natural process your body goes through if you’re buried. Here we’ve created ideal conditions for it to happen much, much faster.” 

In a cemetery this may take decades, depending on the conditions and the method of burial. 
In the alkaline hydrolysis machine it takes 90 minutes, though the ensuing rinse cycle takes at least as long again. 
After three to four hours, the door unlocks and the funeral director sees wet bones scattered across the metal tray, together with any medical implants the dead person had in their body. 
Metal hip and knee joints come out in perfect condition. 
The manufacturers of the tissue digester have even proposed that, when more machines are in service, they could be collected and donated to the developing world. 
By the end, all tissue has dissolved into the solution, which has drained into a separate tank, hidden from view. 
“It resembles either a tea or an ale,” says Jason. 
“You can actually see through it - and is really made up of salts and sugars. It has a bit of a soapy smell, which is not off-putting, but it is distinct.” 
The room in which the machine stands has a smell similar to a dry cleaner’s. 
The pH level of the effluent is tested, and if necessary adjusted. Then the liquid is released down the drain. 
It is a sterile mix of amino acids and peptides, with no human DNA. 
Nevertheless, this disposal of dissolved tissue as a waste by-product, and its progress through the water treatment system, is the part of alkaline hydrolysis that troubles people the most. 
Bradshaw’s dry the bones - either slowly, in a special cabinet - or quickly, in a tray placed inside a domestic tumble drier. 
“It works the best,” says David, with a shrug. 
Then they are put through a machine called a cremulator, which pulverises them into a coarse powder.  
This is exactly the same machine that is used after a regular cremation, and as with a regular cremation, the word “ashes” is a misnomer. 
The difference is that the resulting powder is finer and whiter, closely resembling flour - and there is about 30% more of it. 
So far, the Bradshaw’s tissue digester has processed about 1,100 bodies, roughly one every day. 
It was manufactured in the UK by a company called Resomation Ltd, which plans to install an identical machine in Sandwell, near Birmingham in the British midlands, at the end of this year. 
Sometimes families want to help operate the tissue digester, Jason says. 

We do have families that want to assist in placing the tray in - or to push the ‘cycle’ button to start the process itself. 

“And some people would look at that and say, ‘Why would you ever want to be involved with that?’ Other people would say: ‘That was the last thing I could do for my mum or my dad.’ 
“I’ve been here when we’ve had three siblings, all standing next to the machine, and together they have all pressed the button to start it. 
“And I kind of think of it like, if we’re standing at that cemetery and everybody’s going to take that first scoop of earth and place it into the grave - it’s sort of that moment of letting go.” 

Death’s footprint

Around the world, 150,000 people die every day, and the number is rising as the world’s population increases. 
Today there are 7.5 billion of us on Earth, but by the end of the century it’s thought there will be more than 11 billion. 
In some countries, space for graves is running out. In the UK, it is estimated that half of cemeteries will be full in the next 20 years. 
In parts of London, the council no longer offers a burial service, and the city has started re-using grave space, lowering bodies further into the ground and placing new ones on top. 
The use of land for burial - and the constant upkeep of that land - has an environmental impact. Burial also typically calls for natural resources. 
Campaigners say that in the US vaults for coffins use up more than 1.6m tons of concrete and 14,000 tons of steel every year. 
As for cremation, it has been estimated that a typical cremation has a footprint equivalent to about 320kg of carbon dioxide. 
Unless special measures are taken, dangerous toxins are released too, in particular mercury from dental fillings. This mercury returns to earth in rain and accumulates in the aquatic food chain. 
How does alkaline hydrolysis compare, from an environmental point of view? 
According to Dutch researcher Elisabeth Keijzer, who has carried out two studies for the Netherlands Organisation for Applied Research (work commissioned by a funeral chain, Yarden), it’s much better. 
Her two reports published in 2011 and 2014 make for fascinating if macabre reading. 
She breaks down burial, cremation and alkaline hydrolysis into dozens of steps, which she assesses against 18 environmental impact yardsticks - such as ozone depletion, marine eco-toxicity and climate change. 
In 17 of these categories alkaline hydrolysis comes out best. Cremation is worst in the most categories (10), but burial is deemed to have the highest overall environmental impact. 
Alkaline hydrolysis is found to result in the emission of seven times less CO2 than cremation. 
To summarise the results, Keijzer and her fellow researchers calculated a “shadow price” for each method - the lowest amount of money it would theoretically cost to either compensate for the environmental impact, or avert it. 
For burial, the net cost was 63.66 euros per body. For cremation, it was 48.47 euros. For alkaline hydrolysis, just 2.59 euros. 
By William Kremer - BBC World Hacks

Trump Sends A Gay Hater to a Gay Friendly Country

 Netherlands who previously had a gay ambassador

Take a quick peek at President Trump's ambassador appointments. Most are pretty ordinary by American standards, a mix of big-time Republican donors (many with at least a little foreign policy experience) and GOP politicians like former Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison (Tex.) and Jon Huntsman Jr., an experienced ambassador and former Utah governor.

There's one name that is causing a stir, however: Pete Hoekstra.

Hoekstra was tapped to serve in the Netherlands, where he lived until he was 3. The eight-term congressman from Michigan (Fun fact: His district, home to Holland, Mich., has one of the highest concentrations of Dutch people in the country) established the Dutch Congressional Caucus in the House. “His personal memories of the Netherlands are minimal, but he feels the cultural connection with our country really strongly,” journalist Wouter Zwart told the Netherland Times. He “combines rich political experience in America with a lifelong love for the Netherlands, because that is where his roots are.”

So far, so good. But some of his positions put him deeply at odds with the Dutch.

Hoekstra is one of the founders of the tea party movement. He is also a fervent opponent of same-sex marriage and abortion rights. While in office, he co-sponsored nine anti-LGBT bills, including the 1996 Defense of Marriage Act. He has also backed efforts to restrict same-sex adoption and refused to adopt a nondiscrimination policy against LGBTQ people in his own office. 

He's a strong advocate of the death penalty and an immigration hard-liner. He has spoken at meetings of the anti-Islam American Freedom Alliance (so has Dutch far-right politician Geert Wilders) and once blamed a “secret jihad” for the “chaos” in the Netherlands, saying, “Cars are being set on fire. Politicians are being set on fire … yes, there are no-go zones in the Netherlands.”

That doesn't sit well with the Dutch, who see their country as one of the most progressive in the world. The Netherlands was the first country to approve same-sex marriage, and it boasts a fairly open immigration policy.

The Dutch newspaper de Volkskrant took aim at Hoekstra, observing that Trump “put a Dutchman in the Netherlands — but it is a Dutchman from the Netherlands of the '50s.” Of the appointment, liberal politician Sophie in ‘t Veld said, “We are looking forward with interest to cooperating with Mr. Hoekstra. We will certainly remind him his roots lie in a country that values tolerance, equality and inclusion … we expect the representative of our friend and ally the United States to fully and wholly respect our values and to show that respect in all his acts and words.”

And, experts say, it's fairly unusual to appoint someone so at odds with a country's politics, particularly when it's an ally. “Generally speaking, presidents do not consciously nominate people who would tend to raise hackles within the host country,” said Stewart M. Patrick, a senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations.

Usually, presidents only do that when they're trying to make a point to a problematic regime. He pointed to Smith Hempstone, a journalist who served as ambassador to Kenya between 1989 and 1993. Hempstone was an “effective, aggressively undiplomatic critic of the country's ruler, Daniel arap Moi.” He was credited with helping shepherd Kenya toward multiparty elections. 

Patrick said, though, that presidents generally appoint people whose political views line up with their own. And he suspects Hoekstra will not struggle to build bridges with the Dutch government, particularly if he avoids lighting rod social issues. (Hoekstra, for his part, suggested in a 2006 interview that he'll do just that. “It is clear that the Netherlands has made a different choice in a number of areas than the USA,” he said. “You must respect that as a foreign politician, even though you have a different opinion.")

And Patrick noted that Hoekstra has a strong policy background and familiarity with national security issues, “even if some of his prescriptions are different than those that the Dutch government itself would be leaning toward.”

“It's not as if in this case the president is appointing someone who doesn't know where the country is,” Patrick said.

That is, more often than not, the problem with political ambassador appointees. About a third of all American ambassadorships go to political appointees, a highly unusual system that allows presidents of both parties to reward political allies with cushy assignments in glitzy capitals or glamorous locations. (The rest are career Foreign Service officers, steeped in regional knowledge and trained in the art of tough negotiation.) That has led to some embarrassing confirmation hearings.

President Barack Obama's appointee to Norway, hotel magnate George Tsunis, was slammed for displaying a “total ignorance of Norway,” in his confirmation hearing. In one flub, he categorized one of the nation's ruling parties as extremist. Obama's nominee to Argentina, Noah Bryson Mamet, had never been to the country and was not fluent in Spanish.

The Washington Post

July 30, 2017

Trump Wants $$ for His Wall, Military- What Would Help? Ending Affordable Care for the Poor and Elderly

Trump Wants Money for His Wall, Military, Etc. What Would Help? Ending Affordable Care for the Poor and Elderly

President Donald Trump hinted that he may end a key Affordable Care Act subsidy that makes insurance accessible to poorer Americans, a move that may critically destabilize health-insurance exchanges.

The administration has previously floated the idea to halt subsidies that help insurers offset health-care costs for low-income Americans, called a cost-sharing reduction, or CSR. In a tweet on Saturday, Trump hinted at ending that program.

“If a new HealthCare Bill is not approved quickly, BAILOUTS for Insurance Companies and BAILOUTS for Members of Congress will end very soon!” the president said in a tweet on Saturday.
It was unclear if Trump’s message means he also plans to directly target subsidies that are available to health insurance policies for some Congressional staff members. The White House declined to comment further on Trump’s tweet.

A months-long effort by Senate Republicans to pass health-care legislation collapsed early Friday after Republican John McCain of Arizona joined two of his colleagues to block a stripped-down Obamacare repeal bill. McCain’s “no” vote came after weeks of brinkmanship and after his dramatic return from cancer treatment to cast the 50th vote to start the debate on the bill earlier in the week. The “skinny” repeal bill was defeated 49-51, falling just short of the 50 votes needed to advance it. Republicans Susan Collins of Maine and Lisa Murkowski of Alaska also voted against it.
For more on the efforts to repeal the ACA, click here.

Ending the CSR subsidies, paid monthly to insurers, is one way that Trump could hasten Obamacare’s demise without legislation, by prompting more companies to raise premiums in the individual market or stop offering coverage. The administration last made a payment about a week ago for the previous 30 days but hasn’t made a long-term commitment.

Responding on Twitter, Andrew Slavitt, acting administrator of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services in the Obama administration, said the impact of cutting off subsidy payments “will be felt by the middle class who will pay more to subsidize low income.”

The next payments are due Aug. 21. On Friday, health-care analyst Spencer Perlman at Veda Partners LLC said in a research note that there’s a 30 percent chance Trump will end CSR payments, which may “immediately destabilize the exchanges, perhaps fatally.”

America’s Health Insurance Plans, a lobby group for the industry, has estimated that premiums would rise by about 20 percent if the CSR payments aren’t made. Many insurers have already dropped out of Obamacare markets in the face of mounting losses and blamed the uncertainty over the future of the cost-sharing subsidies and the individual mandate as one of the reasons behind this year’s premium increases.

Moments after the Senate voted down the Republican bill on Friday morning, Majority Leader Mitch McConnell called on Democrats to offer their ideas for moving forward with health care. But he warned, “Bailing out insurance companies, with no thought of any kind of reform, is not something I want to be a part of.”A survey in April by the nonpartisan Kaiser Family Foundation showed that 61 percent Americans believe Trump and Republicans are responsible for future problems with the ACA, while 31 percent said President Barack Obama and Democrats would be at fault.

A Boy (16) is Egg on to Drink Juice by Border Guards Except it was Methamphetamine and He Died

Newly released surveillance video shows a teenager drinking liquid methamphetamine, which he claimed was juice to US Customs and Border Protection agents, shortly before he convulsed and died from the drug. The teen's family believe he was coerced by the agents to drink the deadly substance.
Cruz Marcelino Velazquez Acevedo, 16, from Tijuana was trying to enter the US at the San Ysidro Port of Entry near San Diego on November 18, 2013, when Customs officers asked him about two drink bottles of an amber-colored liquid in his backpack.
Velazquez Acevedo told the officers the bottles contained apple juice.
Officers didn't believe him and did an initial test on the liquid, but one that is not effective at revealing liquid methamphetamine.
At a secondary inspection site area, Velazquez Acevedo sipped the liquid in an effort to prove it was juice.
The new video, released by Velazquez Acevedo's family via their lawyer Eugene Iredale, shows the teen, wearing a white hoodie, pick up one of the bottles and sip it. He took four sips of the liquid in total.
The bottles contained liquid methamphetamine, a highly toxic form of the illegal drug that has been on the rise because it's easier to traffic as a liquid, which is what Velazquez Acevedo was trying to do.
Officers suspected the bottles contained liquid methamphetamine, but encouraged him to drink it regardless, resulting in his death, argues Iredale.
In the video, the officers appear unconcerned that Velazquez Acevedo is drinking the liquid in front of them, smiling at each other and chatting.
"It's true that Cruz was doing something that was against the law. And that he did not have to be doing. That's a fact," Iredale told NBC.
"It's also true that they did not point their guns at him or physically threaten him but in a social context in which this occurred, they knew exactly what they were doing."
Shortly after ingesting the liquid, Velazquez Acevedo began sweating and screaming in pain, before convulsing and shouting the words "mi corazon" [my heart] repeatedly, according to a lawsuit filed by the family in a Californian federal court.
The lawsuit argued that rather than immediately seeking out medical attention after agents suspected the teen had ingested drugs, border officials placed him in custody. He was later taken to the hospital and died a few hours later.
His family settled the lawsuit against Customs and Border Protection for $1 million back in March.
The San Diego County’s Medical Examiner’s Office ruled his death accidental.
Rep. Zoe Lofgren, a Californian Democrat and member of the House Subcommittee on Immigration and Border Security, told ABC news on Saturday she believes the actions of the agents resulted in his death.
"Drug smuggling is wrong and is a crime, but this teenage boy did not deserve a death sentence," she said. "For CBP officers to inflict a summary death sentence is not only immoral, but also illegal."
The US Customs and Border Protection told BuzzFeed News it conducted a nearly-year long review of the incident, which determined in September 2014 "that no further action was warranted and the officers involved were not disciplined."
The San Diego Police Department also investigated the death in 2014, and the US Attorneys Office declined to press charges against the officers involved.

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