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Congress Had The Chance To Put Mike Flynn Through His Paces. They Passed It Up.

Huffingon Post Politics - Wed, 2016-11-30 19:29

WASHINGTON ― Donald Trump’s controversial pick for national security adviser won’t get the public grilling he might have faced had lawmakers stuck by an earlier proposal to rein in the National Security Council. The proposal, which would have required retired Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn to undergo Senate confirmation, did not make it into the final legislation.

The House version of the annual National Defense Authorization Act had included a requirement that the president’s top national security aide face Senate confirmation should the National Security Council staff exceed 100 employees. The NSC currently has some 400 staff members.

That would almost certainly have required Flynn to face questions from Democratic senators regarding his more inflammatory statements through the years.

But at some point early in negotiations with the Senate, House Armed Services Committee members dropped their insistence on requiring confirmation hearings for the national security advisor position.

The proposal had nothing to do with the outcome of the election ― in fact, at the time it was made, the likely next president appeared to be Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton, said people familiar with the negotiations. The proposal was dropped because Congress had no way to keep tabs on the NSC headcount at any given moment, they said.

Instead, the House went along with the Senate idea of capping the NSC staff. While the Senate bill had set the limit at 150, the compromise version both chambers plan to vote on in the coming days sets the limit at 200.

If Flynn were to face a confirmation hearing, Senate Democrats would have plenty of material to challenge his fitness for the role of national security adviser. Once a highly respected intelligence officer, Flynn suffered a dramatic fall from grace when he was pushed out of his role as the head of the Defense Intelligence Agency in 2014.

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People who worked at DIA with Flynn said he was forced to step down because of his poor management abilities. One DIA staffer, who has been at the agency since 2010, said Flynn was “kind of ADHD” and “impetuous” in his decision-making.

“He was always eager to go on to the next thing ― almost in the sense of, ‘What’s the next shiny object?’” said another DIA staffer who has worked with the Pentagon since 2008.

After leaving DIA, Flynn started a private intelligence firm. But these days, he is better known for his role at the center of controversies than for thoughtful intelligence analysis.

The year after he left the military, Flynn traveled to Moscow for an event hosted by the Kremlin-controlled television network Russia Today. He was sat next to Russian President Vladimir Putin.

As a private citizen, Flynn has grown increasingly outspoken about his beliefs about Islam. “Fear of Muslims is RATIONAL,” he tweeted in February. “Islam is a political ideology,” he said during a speech in August. “It definitely hides behind this notion of it being a religion.”

Flynn’s memoir, published earlier this year, frames the current geopolitical climate as a war between the U.S. and radical Islam.

Some of the people who worked with Flynn at DIA warned one another to be careful about mentioning Arabs or Muslims, because it would prompt him to launch into a lengthy tirade about radical Islam, said the second DIA staffer.

Who do you report the head of the DIA to?
Defense Intelligence Agency staffer

At times, Flynn spoke disparagingly about Muslims in front of foreign allies, said the first staffer. During a small awards ceremony for an Australian military official who worked with the U.S. in Afghanistan, Flynn started describing one of their experiences in the field together, only to trail off by insulting Afghans and Muslims as “a different breed.”

The staffer who was present at the awards ceremony thought about reporting Flynn but decided against it. “Who do you report the head of the DIA to?” the person said.

Even some at DIA who voted for Trump, said the staffer, expressed “serious concern” about Flynn as national security advisor. “He has some battles to finish, some scores to settle.”

The National Security Council was created immediately after World War II as a way of coordinating the various intelligence and defense agencies. Through the years, though, the council’s decision-making power has grown dramatically.

Congressional Republicans in both chambers have wanted to rein in the NSC under the Obama administration as it grew in size and influence. The House version of the bill spent pages citing criticism of this arrangement, including quotations from former Defense secretaries Robert Gates and Leon Panetta.

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Carrier To Keep Jobs In U.S. After Trump Offers State Incentives

Huffingon Post Politics - Wed, 2016-11-30 19:28

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WASHINGTON - United Technologies Corp’s Carrier unit said on Wednesday it got financial incentives from Indiana and a pledge from President-elect Donald Trump to improve the climate for business in the United States in exchange for keeping more than 1,000 jobs in the state rather than moving them overseas.

The heating and air-conditioning unit of the industrial and military conglomerate did not give a value for the financial incentives, but a source briefed on the matter said it was a fraction of the $65 million that Carrier planned to save by moving production to Mexico.

The deal, an outline of which was announced late on Tuesday, is a win for Trump as he seeks to make good on his popular campaign message of persuading companies to keep jobs in the United States. More details are expected on Thursday when Trump visits the Carrier plant in Indianapolis.

Look forward to going to Indiana tomorrow in order to be with the great workers of Carrier. They will sell many air conditioners!

— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) December 1, 2016

Hammered out by United Technologies CEO Gregory Hayes, Trump and Vice President-elect and Indiana Governor Mike Pence, the deal lets the incoming administration claim an early victory before it takes office on Jan. 20. It allows the company to dodge some public backlash and avoid a drawn-out fight with Trump, who vowed to punish U.S. companies that shifted jobs abroad.

Perhaps more importantly for both, it helps set the tone of a business-friendly administration ready to ease regulations and cut U.S. corporate taxes.

“Today’s announcement is possible because the incoming Trump-Pence administration has emphasized to us its commitment to support the business community and create an improved, more competitive U.S. business climate,” Carrier said in a statement on Wednesday. It said the incentives offered by the state were an “important consideration.”

Carrier statement regarding Indianapolis operations: https://t.co/PyInOFcwxk

— Carrier (@Carrier) November 30, 2016



Steven Mnuchin, Trump’s pick for U.S. Treasury secretary and co-author of the president-elect’s tax plan, and Wilbur Ross, Trump’s nominee for commerce secretary, on Wednesday reinforced the sweeping proposals Trump put forward in September to simplify the tax code and slash the corporate tax rate to 15 percent, cutting the top rate for all businesses from the present 35 percent.

“Our first priority is going to be the tax plan... lowering corporate taxes so we make U.S. companies the most competitive in the world, making sure we repatriate trillions of dollars back to the United States,” Mnuchin told reporters at the Trump Tower in New York City on Wednesday.

He said the deal with Carrier showed that the incoming administration will have “open communications with business leaders.”

The deal will save only about half of the 2,100 jobs that Carrier said in February it would cut in closing two Indiana plants.

The manufacturer said the “forces of globalization will continue to require solutions for the long-term competitiveness of the U.S. and of American workers moving forward.”

Trump’s intervention in the Carrier case raises the question of whether he will step in whenever manufacturing jobs are lost. By negotiating a deal with one company, Trump could come under pressure to do similar deals with other companies, said Alex Major, a partner at law firm McCarter & English.

That could result in what he called “a revolving door of trick or treaters at the White House,” looking for handouts as they threaten to move jobs overseas.

Aside from Carrier, Indiana businesses have outsourced at least 3,660 jobs since the middle of last year, Labor Department figures show.

Senator Joe Donnelly, an Indiana Democrat, noted that there are two other companies closing two Indiana factories, including one a mile from the Carrier plant in Indianapolis that is expected to move to Mexico.


Oreo cookie maker Mondelez International, another company Trump has accused of shipping jobs overseas, told Reuters it has not heard from Trump since the election.

Apple, another Trump target on the campaign trail, which makes the vast bulk of its electronics in Asia, has made an attempt to reach out to the president-elect.

Trump told the New York Times he had received a call from Apple CEO Tim Cook. He said he told Cook he would like to see Apple build “a big plant in the United States,” according to the Times report, with the help of incentives and a “very large tax cut for corporations.”

Apple did not answer questions about the call between Trump and Cook, but it did note that it employs 80,000 people directly in the United States.

Carrier declined to disclose the exact size of the incentives for keeping jobs in the state.

“It’s a modest state tax credit utilizing existing state tax tools; nothing new,” an Indiana state official told Reuters. “It would be the same kind of package that would be considered for any other company that would come in,” said the official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because the incentives have not yet been made public.

Carrier still plans to close a factory in Huntington, Indiana, that employs 700 people making controls for heating, cooling and refrigeration and move the jobs to Mexico by 2018.


(Reporting by David Shepardson, Ginger Gibson and Mike Stone in Washington; Additional reporting by Tracy Rucinski, Karen Pierog and Renita Young in Chicago; Editing by Soyoung Kim and Bill Rigby)

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Black Lives Do Matter, Even For Privileged White Parents

Huffingon Post Politics - Wed, 2016-11-30 18:56
"He won't listen to me, I'll call him but you need to call him". The voice on the other end of the phone was stern, with a "wait until your father gets home" tone, fraught with worry and activated concern and coming from 6ft blonde, stunningly beautiful former Fox News anchor, Laurie Dhue. She was talking about our son, our black son, who had just posted an incendiary comment about the latest young black man gunned down by police. Laurie wanted the post down, and really so did I, and not because we thought Andrew did anything wrong but because it causes us more
worry than it should and that worry is real. Our kid is taking an interest in politics and social change and as a Jesuit educated young man, he is supposed to do that and have a commitment to social justice. When you're black in America, the stakes are higher and when you have white parents enjoying white privileges, the whole thing can get muddled into a big family drama. "I don't disagree, yes, black lives do matter, why do you think we have made so many efforts for your black life"? I found myself saying to Andrew. To a college freshman, being told by your parents to take something off Facebook is met with eye rolling and ridicule, typical and appropriate late adolescent behaviors but is it crazy to ask when nearly 200 young black men have been killed by police in 2016?

Student protest is nothing new, it's something I fully support, standing up and being heard, working to right wrongs, and striving for social justice are all values instilled by the Jesuit education with which Andrew has been blessed. His participation in activism is what he is educated to do. I never realized that part of white privilege is sending your kid off to an elite university without worrying about them being shot. Of course all parents worry and parents of freshmen worry acutely with the newness of a child stepping into the world but suburban white people don't have to worry about their suburban white son being shot by police walking back to his dorm carrying "something" that "looked like a gun". White parents don't worry about their white son being tagged as a "militant" for participating in campus politics. White parents of white children don't have the achievement of elite university acceptance tarnished by the unspoken assumption that he was admitted to fill some quota. "oh, well, sure he got in" with the unspoken "because he's black". Of course elite universities are looking for black students but the 4.0 and AP courses don't hurt either. White parents do have to worry about drunk and inappropriate sexual activity but not at the same level as parents of a black boys. Any misstep and the consequences can be life altering. I sent Andrew and app called "we consent" it documents that any sexual activity was consensual. I was relieved when he said "I downloaded the app". "Good, use it" was my reply. A big believer in generational boundaries I don't want to hear any dorm gossip of who is sleeping with whom but I want to do what I can to negotiate these early days free of exploding land mines. All parents should worry about the binge drinking blurry boundary undergrad culture that can lead to severe consequences but I promise, suburban white parents don't have the the same stakes Laurie and I have with Andrew. When you're black in America, you don't have to actually do anything to be found guilty of something. All that has to happen is a white person has to say you're guilty. Take a look at "To Kill a Mockingbird" for an example.

Here's The Paranoid liberal problem, clashing with realistic concern

Maybe I'm a paranoid liberal? It's possible. I'm a walking cliche, I live in Brooklyn, I'm divorced, I write a blog, I live among hipsters and they cheer me on at soul cycle like they would their own dad. We dwell among cold brew coffee and artisanal crafted everything. When Andrew first came into our lives, I made big bold statements about racism and social justice at his his high school, St. Francis Xavier in NYC. A wise Jesuit priest said "let's worry about algebra for now". For some reason, I didn't worry too much about Andrew in NYC. For 12 hours a day he was at Xavier, a rigorous boys Catholic School comprised of more than 1/2 non white boys, more than 1/2 non Catholic and the first Catholic school to offer the "gay/straight alliance" as one of the student organizations. Xavier is as diverse as NYC and as committed to an egalitarian environment as there can be. Our limousine liberal Brooklyn neighborhood tapped into my ego with constant congratulatory adulation at our eclectic family. Andrew's admission to Georgetown was the crowning achievement that made a powerball odds idea, a reality. Then we are left with the current climate of race relations in America.

When blow hard boorish embodiment of American stupidity, Donald Trump, speaks about black people, white privilege allows for easy tune out of his comments. Not so when you think "hey that hooker-marrying-spray-tanned wing nut is talking about my kid". Trumps rhetoric is made more insulting by his "show us your papers, boy" mission to find Barack Obamas birth certificate. Mitt Romneys family was deeply involved in a fundamentalist sect of Mormonism in Mexico and yet, no call for Romney's birth certificate from Trump. Do any of us really know where Romney was born? Why didn't Trump investigate? Listening to Trump talk about black people in a room full of white people leads me to want to scream "9/10 of the poorest, most welfare dependent states with highest rates of gun violence vote for YOU!" Why is there no mention of social problems among white communities? We love talking about "the inner city". While ignoring that white communities have similar problems as some black communities. Where is the "inner city" anyway?

Some years back, Obama said "if I had a son, he would have looked like Trayvon". I have two boys, neither of them look like me. Nobody looks at Andrew and says "I'll bet he does well at Georgetown" they say "does he have a gun?" "Should we call the police?" "Is he going to rob me?" Worried? You bet we are and with good reason. One of the things that white privilege allows is the denial of white privilege. Think it's not real? Adopt a black Kid and find out.

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The Privileged Who Can't See Their Own Social Safety Net Are The Worst

Huffingon Post Politics - Wed, 2016-11-30 18:40
You know the type. This is the person who complains about his or her taxes going to someone on unemployment or welfare or say things like, "Why doesn't that guy just get a job?" or "Why would someone spend their whole life in such a dead end career?" or "He should've planned for an emergency" when their entire life has essentially been a gift from their parents.

They grew up in economic security. Never been hungry a day in their life. Always had the right clothes and shoes. Had books in the home. Went to summer camps and swim lessons. Didn't need to work 20 or 30 or 40 hours a week in high school to help pay the bills or save for college tuition. Probably didn't buy their first car on their own. Parents paid for most or all of their college tuition. They've always had a home to return to in times of trouble. A place to run in an emergency. Maybe even been bailed out of a jam or received an interest free loan from a parent in the past. They might work for their parent's company or been hired by a relative or a friend of the family.

They have been blessed by parents who have ensured their economic security, and yet for reasons that I will never understand, they fail to see how fortunate they are.

It's convenient, short-sighted, and stupid to judge the economic position of another person when you could fail spectacularly in your life and still fall ass-backward into relative economic security. You could blow up your life again and again and still return home to food and shelter and maybe even a job.

Many people of privilege fail in enormous ways. They fail to make their dreams come true. They make terrible economic, marital, and employment decisions. They end up in trouble with the law. They find themselves incapacitated by illness. They experience bad luck.

Yet they still land on their feet thanks to privilege they did nothing to earn other than being born while those who are living without the same safety nets are doomed. If you are fortunate enough to come from privilege, you may have no understanding of the razor-thin margins that life has to offer. You can't imagine how easy it is to take one wrong step and be lost for years or decades or forever. You can't conceive how one economic setback or or serious illness or bad decision can send you spiraling.

It demonstrates a disgusting level of self-centeredness and utter lack of empathy to point your finger at someone in trouble and criticize the government assistance that they are receiving when you have enjoyed the same welfare subsidies, unemployment benefits, and food stamps throughout your entire life - in the form of your parents.

Please note that this is coming from someone who grew up poor and remained poor well after high school. I'm a person who was unemployed, unfairly jailed, homeless, tried for a crime I did not commit, and eventually put myself through college later in life by working 40-60 hours a week while taking a full class load. I grew up as a child who was constantly hungry in a family on welfare and food stamps, but since leaving home at 18, I have never received an ounce of government assistance.

I have made it on my own.

It would be easy for me to criticize those who fail to pull themselves up by their bootstraps.

Still, I would never criticize someone who needed or was receiving assistance. Even with my challenging circumstances, I recognize my great fortune. I have been healthy throughout most of my life. I was able to work hard for long periods of time without tiring or losing hope. I was born with a mind that allowed me to excel in school even while working full time. There were moments in my life when friends stepped in and saved me from possible disaster.

I also got lucky. A judge rightfully found me not guilty. A family of Jehovah's Witnesses opened their doors and got me off the street. A man with a gun didn't pull the trigger when he had already killed others. Professors saw my potential and supported me. A principal gave me a chance at a career. A community rose to support me. I married the perfect person.

Why someone from privilege can't see these same things baffles me. Why they don't see their economic safety net, their ongoing parental support, the family company where they work, the college tuition they never paid, the downpayment on their home that they were gifted, and their lifelong good health for what it is - an unearned blessing - is beyond me.

Will always be beyond me.

I can only (perhaps unfairly) assume that they are stupid, narrow minded, and lacking empathy.

Harsh words, I know, but for hard people.

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GOP Intensifies Pressure On Obama To End Dakota Access Pipeline Protests

Huffingon Post Politics - Wed, 2016-11-30 18:37

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North Dakota’s Republican senator on Wednesday blamed violent clashes between Dakota Access Pipeline protesters and law enforcement on President Barack Obama’s reluctance to approve the controversial project. 

“The ongoing protest activities ― which at times have turned violent ― are being prolonged and intensified by the Obama administration’s refusal to approve the final remaining easement at Lake Oahe,” Sen. John Hoeven said on the Senate floor.

A permit to build beneath Lake Oahe section of the Missouri River is the unfinished piece of Energy Transfer Partners’ 1,172-mile pipeline from North Dakota to Illinois. The Obama administration withheld the permit in September after ordering a review of the application process and agreeing to consider a Native American tribe’s concerns that the pipeline threatens native land and drinking water. 

“This inaction has inflamed tensions, strained state and local resources, and, most importantly, is needlessly putting people at risk ― including tribal members, protestors, law enforcement officers, construction workers, and area residents ― our farmers and ranchers who live and work in the area,” Hoeven said. 

Hoeven said the pipeline is 98-percent complete in North Dakota, and 86- percent finished overall. Thousands of miles of pipelines crisscross the country already, said Hoeven, who argued that pipelines are safer than other methods of transporting oil. 

“It’s past time to get this issue resolved,” Hoeven said. 

The permit delay may be the last hope for the Standing Rock Sioux. The tribe contends the pipeline violates federal antiquities laws and an 1851 treaty. 

Hoeven’s comments come as officials ratchet up opposition to the protesters, who call themselves water protectors, and the camp they’ve occupied for months on federal land. 

On Tuesday, the Morton County Sheriff’s Department indicated that it would block delivery of food, medicine and other supplies to protesters who defy orders to leave the Oceti Sakowin camp. Gov. Jack Dalrymple on Monday ordered mandatory evacuation of the camp because of a predicted strong winter storm. 

The first blow to the camp’s security was an announcement last week that the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers would shut an area to the public that includes the main camp. The corps said its decision was based on growing violence between police and protesters and the onset of cold weather.  

The Standing Rock Sioux and their supporters, thus far, have refused to leave.

Hoeven, along with the governor and the state’s congressman, Rep. Kevin Cramer (R), have previously called on Obama to deploy federal law enforcement personnel to subdue the protest activity. 

“We recommend you provide federal law enforcement resources immediately to state and local agencies in order to maintain public safety, which has been threatened by ongoing ― and oftentimes violent ― protest activity,” the politicians wrote in a Nov. 23 letter to the president. “These resources are essential to prevent further destruction on and surrounding federal lands.”

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Kellyanne Conway To Visit Canada's Tar Sands, And That Can't Mean Anything Good

Huffingon Post Politics - Wed, 2016-11-30 05:11

President-elect Donald Trump’s former campaign manager Kellyanne Conway will visit Canada’s tar sands early next year ahead of his inauguration. It’s a bad omen for the fight against climate change ― and may portend renewed hope for the controversial Keystone XL pipeline ― considering the president-elect has promised to ramp up fossil fuel production and spurned efforts to halt climate change.

But Alberta Prosperity Fund chair Heather Forsyth hailed the move as “a strong signal to Canadians on the importance of this province to the United States” when the super PAC announced the visit on Tuesday.

Honoured to be hosting @KellyannePolls upcoming Alberta visit. Let's give her a warm welcome Alberta. https://t.co/1kmgxwyP7D

— @AlbertaProsperity (@ABProsperity) November 29, 2016

“This visit by such an influential member of a U.S. administration should stand as a call to action for all Alberta industry,” said Barry McNamar, founder and president of Alberta Prosperity Fund, in a statement. “I hope that Ms. Conway receives an enthusiastic welcome here in Alberta and can return to the U.S. with an informed attitude towards Canadian export products.”

The tar sands have been a contentious place in American politics ever since the Keystone pipeline was proposed. It would have carried up to 730,000 barrels of Canadian oil into the country a day, but President Barack Obama rejected the project last year after environmental groups raised concerns about how expensive and dirty the fuel is to produce.

Refining oil from tar sands is water-intensive and usually involves the clearing of large swaths of land. The finished product also results in substantially higher greenhouse gas emissions than other means of crude production.

While Obama said Keystone wouldn’t “serve the national interest of the United States,” many are now looking to the incoming Trump administration to see if the president-elect plans to reconsider the pipeline. 

TransCanada, the company behind Keystone, said it planned to “engage” with Trump shortly after his election and a spokesman said they remained “fully committed to building” the pipeline. That sentiment was echoed by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), who has asked Trump to approve the pipeline should a proposal cross his desk.

The Washington Post notes that Conway’s visit would “make a powerful symbolic statement about where a Trump presidency might come down on the proposed Keystone XL pipeline that President Obama rejected but which would, if revived, link the oil sands region in Alberta to advanced refineries on the Texas gulf coast.”

However, even if Trump is amenable to tar sands, the price of crude oil has plummeted in recent years and the construction of Keystone may no longer be economically viable. Oil cost about $100 a barrel when the project was first proposed, but the price now hovers around $50.

Canada’s Prime Minister Justin Trudeau approved two other tar sands pipelines on Tuesday, the Kinder-Morgan Trans Mountain and Enbridge Line 3, drawing sharp criticism from groups who said the decision contradicted pledges to mitigate climate change.

“We’ve heard clearly from Canadians that they don’t want to see someone trying to make a choice between what’s good for the environment and what’s good for the economy,” Trudeau said at a press conference.

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Televangelist Rick Joyner Says Donald Trump Is Like All Of Jesus' Disciples At Once

Huffingon Post Politics - Wed, 2016-11-30 04:48

Televangelist Rick Joyner said Donald Trump is like the disciples of Jesus Christ ― and not just one of them. 

Apparently, Trump is all of them.

In a clip posted online by Right Wing Watch, Joyner claimed that while Trump doesn’t respect politicians, he respects the clergy and has a “remarkable fear of the Lord.”

Then, the MorningStar Ministries pastor compared the president-elect to the biblical disciples: 

“If you look at the disciples that Jesus chose, they were all Donald Trump. Every one of them were Donald Trumps. I mean they were some of the edgiest, hardest... you know... who else would’ve ever chosen any of them?”

Joyner is a climate change denier who has dismissed global warming as a communist plot. He has also called on the military to overthrow the federal government and declare martial law.

(h/t Raw Story)

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The Stakes Are High As DEA Reconsiders Waging War On The Herb Kratom

Huffingon Post Politics - Wed, 2016-11-30 04:03

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Seven weeks after the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration officially withdrew its plan to ban kratom, the federal government is once again set to decide the fate of the herb and the people who rely on it for pain relief and other treatment.

The DEA had initially planned to use its emergency scheduling power to push through the ban without input from the public, despite concerns from lawmakers and scientists ― as well as kratom users ― that the move would do more harm than good. In October, however, the DEA opened a public comment period allowing individuals to weigh in on the agency’s decision to place mitragynine and 7-hydroxymitragynine, two active compounds in kratom, in Schedule I. Substances in this category include heroin and LSD and are considered to have no known medical benefit and a high potential for abuse.

With the comment period set to close on Thursday, the DEA will now have to take into account the nearly 9,000 submissions from people who wanted to voice their opinions about this proposed expansion of the war on drugs.

But kratom isn’t in the clear yet. The DEA is currently awaiting the results of a U.S. Food and Drug Administration analysis on the potential harms and health benefits of the herb, which will determine if kratom truly poses an “imminent hazard to the public safety,” as the agency initially claimed in August.

The DEA doesn’t know when it will get the results of the FDA’s review, Russell Baer, a spokesperson for the agency, told The Huffington Post.

“We’ve asked the FDA to expedite their analysis, but they’ve not given us any indication as to when that may be done, other than as soon as practical,” said Baer. “They’re involved in an exhaustive scientific review and evaluation, so these things do take time.”

Although Baer said he expects the DEA to wait for the FDA’s analysis before deciding on an appropriate schedule for kratom ― or whether it should be scheduled at all ― he noted that the agency could still proceed with emergency scheduling even in the absence of more concrete scientific evidence.

The DEA’s next steps will have huge implications for people like Joshua Levy. In the video above, Levy explains that he turned to kratom after struggling with dependence on the opioid painkillers he’d been prescribed following a hit-and-run accident. Like many kratom users, he says the herb gave him back the life that had been taken from him by addiction and other side-effects of narcotic painkillers.

“Since I started taking kratom, since I had gotten off of the pain pills, my life has basically opened up dramatically,” Levy told HuffPost. “I got a new job. I’m building a friendship up with my sister that I haven’t had in a long time. I’m not lazy anymore. I don’t want to isolate myself. I want to go out, I want to be out of the house.”

The kratom community is full of success stories like Levy’s. But together, they form only anecdotal evidence of the herb’s benefits, which is not enough to support a more official confirmation of its medicinal value.

Experts like Andrew Kruegel, an associate research scientist at Columbia University, hope the DEA will allow kratom to remain legal so they can keep working to unlock the herb’s potential.

Kruegel’s studies have shown that kratom can be used to alleviate mild pain, and that the plant’s negative side effects are relatively minor.

“As a scientist, I try to be as objective as possible and not overstate the promise of kratom,” said Kruegel. “We just don’t know that much about the plant yet.”

But Kruegel also has bigger hopes for kratom, which he believes can be used to aid in the development of safer alternatives to the prescription opioids that claimed more than 18,000 lives in the U.S. in 2014 due to overdose.

“Of course, if it’s in Schedule I, historically that greatly limits the ability to do research on it,” he said.

Video shot, produced and edited by Savannah O’Leary. Audio mixing by Nick Offenberg.

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The Internet Can't Get Enough Of That Awkward Trump-Romney Dinner Photo

Huffingon Post Politics - Wed, 2016-11-30 02:25

Donald Trump and Mitt Romney had a dinner date in New York on Tuesday night ― and one of the images from the meal got immediate attention on social media... maybe for all the wrong reasons. 

Within minutes of its release, the dinner pic launched both a Photoshop battle and a caption contest.

Here’s a sampling of the images being shared on imgur and Twitter:  

View post on imgur.com

*record scratch*

*freeze frame*

Yup, that's me. You're probably wondering how I ended up in this situation ... pic.twitter.com/VC9XZblMGY

— Hunter Walker (@hunterw) November 30, 2016

For the first time in his life, Mitt Romney is All Of Us. pic.twitter.com/e8TyFgmtDl

— John Green (@johngreen) November 30, 2016


I don't know what he's just agreed to do for Trump but it looks bad: pic.twitter.com/ysVSRROBDH

— Murtaza Hussain (@MazMHussain) November 30, 2016

View post on imgur.com

you can actually see the "how y'all let this mans in the white house and not me" in Mitt Romney's eyes pic.twitter.com/x9Iua7dRJU

— Nathan Zed (@NathanZed) November 30, 2016

I made the Trump/Romney photo black and white, and it looks like a Twilight Zone episode where a guy just made a foolish deal with the Devil pic.twitter.com/froiDYDJei

— Adam Murray (@Atom_Murray) November 30, 2016


— Gideon Resnick (@GideonResnick) November 30, 2016

View post on imgur.com

you know exactly who ended up paying for this dinner from this one picture pic.twitter.com/PuIDHvnug6

— Vann R. Newkirk II (@fivefifths) November 30, 2016

View post on imgur.com

I think this is gonna be Trump's Christmas card this year pic.twitter.com/REdAwBAapV

— Shoshana Weissmann (@senatorshoshana) November 30, 2016

“Try to guess which hand has your wallet and which hand has your pussy…” pic.twitter.com/9lETzeojKj

— Dave Pell (@davepell) November 30, 2016

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Watch President Obama Age Before Your Eyes In One Incredible Animated GIF

Huffingon Post Politics - Wed, 2016-11-30 02:19

View post on imgur.com

Being president sure does take a toll

A new animated GIF put together by the team at healthtrends.com, a health news website currently in development, shows President Barack Obama from childhood through today.  

But of all the years of aging in the GIF, it’s the last eight that seem to hit the hardest... at least on the outside. 

On the inside, he may actually be getting healthier ― according to his most recent medical report, anyway.

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Trevor Noah Proves Donald Trump Has The Mind Of A Toddler

Huffingon Post Politics - Wed, 2016-11-30 00:32

How does Donald Trump get away with saying outlandish things that aren’t true, such as claiming millions of people illegally voted on Election Day?

Trevor Noah has a theory: The president-elect has the mind of a toddler.

“It makes sense. He loves the same things toddlers do,” Noah said on Tuesday’s “The Daily Show.” “[They love] building things, they love attention [and they’re] always grabbing things they’re not supposed to.”

Once the media understands Trump’s toddler mind, Noah says, fact-checking his untrue statements will become easier.

“You don’t argue with a child if you want to win,” Noah said. “You just ask him to elaborate.”

Noah said that Trump will never admit he’s wrong about anything, but that isn’t the point.

“The point is to gently demoralize the toddler and smother his tantrums,” he said. “And, as a bonus, stop him from delegitimizing the press.”

-- This feed and its contents are the property of The Huffington Post, and use is subject to our terms. It may be used for personal consumption, but may not be distributed on a website.

Military Rivals Face Off In An Energy-Saving Web Series

Huffingon Post Politics - Wed, 2016-11-30 00:12

Without totally sidelining their historic rivalry, the U.S. Naval Academy and U.S. Air Force Academy joined forces to improve energy efficiency at both campuses.

On Wednesday, the U.S. Department of Energy launched the second season of its “Better Buildings Challenge Swap,” a reality web series in which two organizations swap three-person teams to find ways to increase energy efficiency. 

In this season, an energy team from each military institution travels to the other’s campus to explore how it can reduce its energy footprint.

Russell Hume, energy program manager at the Air Force Academy, told The Huffington Post that each team has an opportunity to share its expertise and pinpoint where the other is falling short. At the end of the day, however, he said these friendly rivals’ different perspectives result in innovative and, in some cases, simple and low-cost solutions that can be applied beyond a dormitory or cafeteria.

“It was great to have an extra set of eyes,” Hume told HuffPost. 

The first season of the web series, released in February, pitted a 1.8 million-square-foot Hilton Worldwide hotel against a 25,600-square-foot Whole Foods Market. In the latest swap, the federal government was given a chance to lead by example, according to Maria Vargas, director of the DOE’s Better Buildings Challenge.

Vargas told HuffPost that both academies had strengths and weaknesses and that even these leaders in efficiency have room to improve. 

“The willingness to learn and the desire to be better is what makes it fun and ensures progress,” she said. “You don’t have to relearn the lessons; people are showing you what’s working.”

The Department of Defense is the single largest energy consumer in the U.S. In fiscal year 2014, it racked up a total energy bill of $18.2 billion, according to a department report. Last year, President Barack Obama ordered that all federal agencies obtain at least 30 percent of their electricity from renewable sources by 2025 in an effort to reduce carbon emissions. 

The DOE said that in the series, the Navy and Air Force teams discuss how to cut costs with simple changes, such as turning off lights in empty classrooms, as well as with larger projects, like adding flexible rooftop solar. 

Jabe Nekula, chief electrical engineer at the Naval Academy, said a key takeaway is that the job of being energy efficient is never finished, because new technologies keep adding ways to stretch efficiency. 

“Energy cannot be taken for granted and is a very real part of our mission effectiveness,” he told HuffPost. 

View Season 2 of the “Better Buildings Challenge Swap” below. And for more information about the web series, go here

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Anderson Cooper Has The Perfect Response To Donald Trump's Latest Freakout

Huffingon Post Politics - Tue, 2016-11-29 23:31

CNN host Anderson Cooper said Donald Trump wants to violate two parts of the Constitution with his tweet urging loss of citizenship and jail time for burning the American flag.  

But Cooper finds it even more baffling that Trump appears to spend his time watching cable news and firing off controversial tweets instead of getting ready for his upcoming job as president of the United States. 

Speaking Tuesday night on “Anderson Cooper 360,” Cooper said:

“We are in uncharted waters with a president-elect who is continuing to tweet just as he did, maybe a little less, but as he did during the campaign. I mean, when I first heard that he was tweeting about something that was on this broadcast, a number of tweets ― again, factually incorrect tweets last night ― I kept thinking, ‘doesn’t he have, like, a briefing book on ISIS to be reading last night?’”

“I appreciate he’s watching the show,” Cooper said. “But what is he doing?”

See the full conversation above. 

(h/t Mediaite)

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Top Congressional Watchdog Uninterested In Trump's Conflicts Of Interest Before He Takes Office

Huffingon Post Politics - Tue, 2016-11-29 23:01

WASHINGTON ― Donald Trump’s election to the presidency has raised serious questions about a web of potential conflicts of interest. Democrats are already calling for congressional probes. But there’s one Republican who seems unconcerned: House Oversight and Government Reform Committee Chairman Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah).

Chaffetz told The Huffington Post Tuesday night that Trump hadn’t even been sworn in yet. “So give him some time to organize, get their staff and their counsel all situated,” he said.

Chaffetz added: “It’s sort of ridiculous to go after him when his financial disclosure is already online.”

That financial disclosure, which Trump himself has said is inadequate in evaluating his wealth, offers broad ranges for a politician’s assets, and allows Trump to roughly approximate his net worth, which he pegs at more than $10 billion. (Forbes says it’s closer to $3.7 billion.)

The real issue, however, isn’t what Trump is worth. It’s the businesses that come in contact with the government and can be used by foreign governments to influence him.

Take, for instance, Trump Hotel in Washington, D.C. Foreign diplomats are already saying they’ll book rooms in order to curry favor with the incoming president, and, perhaps more troublingly, Trump is about to violate the lease for the hotel, which is in the historic Old Post Office. The lease states that no elected official “shall be admitted to any share or part of this lease, or to any benefit that may arise therefrom.”

As soon as Trump takes office on Jan. 20, he will be in violation of that agreement, but the agency tasked with enforcing the lease, the General Services Administration, will report to Trump. He’ll even appoint the next administrator of the GSA.

When HuffPost raised this conflict of interest with Chaffetz on Tuesday night, he shrugged it off as nothing out of the ordinary.

“I think that’s true of every president,” Chaffetz said. “That’s not a unique situation.”

When HuffPost disagreed ― again, presidents are not normally renting out government properties ― Chaffetz doubled down. 

“Yes, because what you find is that most presidents, including, and I think Vice President Biden, gets a check from the Secret Service,” Chaffetz said.

“Joe Biden and others,” he continued, trailing off. “So we’ll examine those issues. We’ll be vigorous in our oversight.”

Chaffetz seems to be referring to payments from the Secret Service when agents are housed on the property of their protectees, and Chaffetz seems to believe those contracts are precedent for Trump’s arrangement with his hotel in Washington.

The ranking Democrat on the oversight committee, Elijah Cummings (D-Md.), totally disagrees.

“They’re clearly unprecedented,” Cummings told HuffPost Tuesday night. “I’m really trying to help Trump avoid a phenomenal minefield.”

Cummings said he had asked Chaffetz for an investigation into Trump’s conflicts of interest because the president-elect should “clear up” these situations before he takes office. “The Trump Hotel at the Post Office is a perfect example,” Cummings said.

Presented with Chaffetz’s comment that the Trump Hotel issue was akin to the Secret Service paying rent, Cummings just shook his head.

“He’s operating 111 companies in 18 countries,” he said. “Come on!”

Trump also owes a foreign bank over $300 million, and construction on one of his foreign properties might have been expedited after he talked with the president of that nation. 

Cummings did say he thought the pressure for Chaffetz to investigate Trump would become untenable, and that the committee would eventually hold a hearing.

That would be consistent with Chaffetz’s own statements, in fact.

When HuffPost suggested that he seemed unconcerned, Chaffetz disagreed. “I said we’re going to look into them. He’s not a federal employee yet, so,” Chaffetz said.

Asked what “look into” these issues meant ― a hearing, a formal probe? ― Chaffetz said that wasn’t “defined yet.”

“We’ll see what the issues are,” he said.

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Mitt Romney After Donald Trump Dinner: He Can 'Lead Us To That Better Future'

Huffingon Post Politics - Tue, 2016-11-29 22:58

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NEW YORK, Nov 29 - Republican Mitt Romney made an impassioned statement in support of President-elect Donald Trump on Tuesday to try to erase doubts about him among Trump’s supporters and remain in contention for U.S. secretary of state.

Romney, a fierce critic of Trump during the Republican presidential primary battle, stopped short of an outright apology but his intention to wipe the slate clean was clear.

The former Massachusetts governor, who was the Republican presidential nominee in 2012 and lost, praised Trump for a “message of inclusion and bringing people together” since his Nov. 8 victory over Democrat Hillary Clinton.

Noting the appointments Trump has made to fill key cabinet positions for his administration and his desire for greater unity among Americans, Romney said that “all of those things combined give me increasing hope that President-elect Trump is the very man who can lead us” to a better future.

Romney made his remarks after a lengthy meal with Trump and Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus at a French restaurant at a Trump hotel in Manhattan. They dined on garlic soup with frog legs, scallops, steak and lamb chop.

Prior to Trump’s election win, Romney was a harsh critic of Trump.

“Donald Trump is a phony, a fraud. His promises are as worthless as a degree from Trump University. He’s playing the members of the American public for suckers. He gets a free ride to the White House, and all we get is a lousy hat,” Romney said in March.

Since Trump began to seriously consider Romney as a potential secretary of state, some on Trump’s team have voiced doubts about bringing in a former critic and rallied around their preferred candidate, former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani, a long-time Trump friend and loyalist.

Leading this effort in an unusually public way has been senior Trump adviser Kellyanne Conway, who told a round of television interviews on Sunday that Trump supporters would feel “betrayed” if Romney was picked.

Trump, however, has kept Romney in contention for the secretary of state position, and a Republican source close to the transition effort said Priebus has been pushing for Romney behind the scenes.

“I had a wonderful evening with President-elect Trump,” Romney said in remarks to reporters after the dinner. “We had another discussion about affairs throughout the world and these discussions I’ve had with him have been enlightening, and interesting, and engaging. I’ve enjoyed them very, very much.”

Trump is also considering U.S. Senator Bob Corker of Tennessee, who is chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.

Corker met Trump at Trump Tower earlier on Tuesday and told reporters afterward that Trump “needs to choose someone that he’s very comfortable with and he knows there’s going be no daylight between him and them.”

“The world needs to know that the secretary of state is someone who speaks fully for the president and again, that’s a decision he’s going to have to make,” Corker said.

(Reporting by Steve Holland; Editing by Nick Macfie)

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Congress Is About To Pass A Bill That Shows D.C. At Its Worst -- It May Also Fix The Opioid Crisis And Cure Cancer

Huffingon Post Politics - Tue, 2016-11-29 22:47

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WASHINGTON ― In 1996, Purdue Pharma introduced a new painkiller it said carried a low risk of abuse or addiction. It called the drug “OxyContin.”

In reality, of course, OxyContin was extremely addictive — and Purdue knew it. A decade later, three Purdue executives, and the company itself, pleaded guilty to criminal charges tied to OxyContin’s marketing and agreed to pay more than $600 million in fines.

But the executives dodged prison time, and the prosecution did little to slow the rise of opioid use. The pharmaceutical industry had spent the past 10 years and billions of dollars pushing the medical community to ramp up the use of OxyContin and other opioids. By 2013, the number of annual opioid prescriptions, including short term and multiple, had nearly tripled, topping 200 million — in a country of just over 300 million people.

Use of OxyContin and other opioids grew to crisis levels. As federal and state governments cracked down on doctors who dispensed pills and prescriptions indiscriminately, users turned to heroin instead: Four out of five new heroin users started out by abusing prescription painkillers. The results have devastated and overwhelmed first responders and an ill-equipped and ideologically hidebound treatment system. From 2010 to 2012, heroin overdose rates doubled in 28 states, according to a 2014 Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report. In 2014, more than 28,000 Americans died of opioid overdoses, an all-time high, according to the agency. There’s no reason to think the death rate has slowed since then.

Congress is ready to act. On Wednesday, the House will consider the 21st Century Cures Act, a bill that would commit billions of dollars to medical research while sending $1 billion to states to help combat heroin and painkiller addiction and recovery.

But there’s a complication: Instead of cracking down on the pharmaceutical companies that fueled the boom in opioid abuse, lawmakers are rewarding the industry. No health care-related bill of this size could move through Congress without the support of Big Pharma. The authors of the 21st Century Cures Act earned the industry’s support by including regulatory rollbacks that drugmakers have long sought and creating cheaper and quicker paths for drug approval by reducing safeguards. It’s as if the fire department had to pay off the arsonist to get permission to put out a fire.

Lawmakers have been left with a Hobson’s choice: The bill would make billions of dollars available for medical research. It would fund lofty goals, such as precision medicine, a White House initiative to map the human brain and Vice President Joe Biden’s “Cancer Moonshot.” It would save lives. But it would also undermine regulations that patient advocacy groups say are essential for making sure medical and drug research is conducted ethically and safely — meaning it could cost lives, too.

Some politicians think the choice is clear. On Monday evening, Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) denounced the measure in aggressive terms, calling it the result of “corruption” — fighting words on the Senate floor — and singling out Republican Majority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky for taking millions from a donor with an interest in the bill’s passage. Warren was hoping to make a battle around the Cures Act the moment that Democrats announced, in the wake of Donald Trump’s election, that they were standing up and fighting against a broken and corrupt system.

“The American people didn’t give Democrats majority support so we could come back to Washington and play dead,” she said on the floor. “They didn’t send us here to whimper, whine, or grovel. Now they are watching, waiting and hoping ― hoping we show some spine and start fighting back when Congress completely ignores the message of the American people and returns to all its same old ways.”

But others have read the politics around the bill differently. Sen. Johnny Isakson (R-Ga.), one of the bill’s supporters, called Warren’s floor speech “the most irresponsible statement anybody can possibly make,” adding: “She pontificates as if she knows everything, when in fact she knows nothing.”

Isakson and his allies will probably win. The bill heads for a fast-track vote in the House on Wednesday and will be taken up by the Senate next week, where it has significant bipartisan support, unless Warren and her progressive allies make inroads. The Obama administration formally announced its strong support on Tuesday evening. It’s extremely likely to become law.

The debate surrounding the 21st Century Cures Act has come to embody a larger dispute about how government can and should operate. Some 1,455 lobbyists acting on behalf of more than 400 companies and other organizations have lobbied on the legislation, according to the Center for Responsive Politics. Over the past year and a half, companies who disclosed they lobbied on the Cures Act spent half a billion dollars to influence Congress. The resulting bill is packed with politicians’ pet projects and sops to industry.

The 2016 election, like every one prior, was run on a promise to change this sort of legislating ― to drain the swamp. But those pledges, like ones before, will come in conflict with how Washington actually works: by blending good motives, bad compromises and giveaways to interest groups ― and holding your nose as you vote on the result. 

Rep. Fred Upton, the Michigan Republican who chairs the House Energy and Commerce Committee, became convinced of the need for a Cures-type bill in 2011, after he met Brooke and Brielle Kennedy, two sisters (ages 8 and 9, respectively) with spinal muscular atrophy, a rare disease that destroys the nerves that control voluntary muscle movement.

“I remember when they first came to my office in Kalamazoo,” Upton told The Huffington Post on Tuesday night. “I said, ‘What’s your name?’”

One of the girls answered that she was Cinderella and told Upton that her sister was Sleeping Beauty.

“So that’s who they’ve always been, those two,” Upton said. “But whether it’s that, whether it’s Duchenne, whether it’s Alzheimer’s, diabetes, lupus, cancer. I mean, we’re all impacted by these things.”

Gabe Griffin, an 11-year-old with Duchenne muscular dystrophy, became another inspiration for the bill. As did Upton’s family members. His wife has lupus, an autoimmune disease, his mother is a cancer survivor, and his father has diabetes. “I’m no different than anybody else,” Upton said. “We all have those stories.”

When Upton set out to craft the bill to help people like Griffin and the Kennedy sisters in December 2013, he knew he had to balance certain interests. Lots of politicians were pushing for more government funding for biomedical research. But Republicans didn’t want to raise taxes to pay for it — and argued the same result could be achieved by cutting regulatory red tape. The congressman saw an opportunity for a bargain in which both sides could get what they wanted.

In December 2013, he partnered with Democrat Diana DeGette of Colorado to begin painstakingly assembling draft legislation. They, in turn, worked with the chairman and ranking Democrat on the Senate Health Committee, Sens. Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) and Patty Murray (D-Wash.).

Upton and DeGette pulled together language from proposals intended to bring to market much-needed medical therapies that weren’t economically viable and from bills to stimulate investment in new infectious disease remedies. They added measures tinkering with the Food and Drug Administration’s approval processes and streamlining clinical trials. They proposed the creation of an administrative working group to address the hurdles scientists face when applying for federal research grants.

Most important, at a time when Congress was pinching every penny, the bill found revenue sources to fund more research. Upton and DeGette’s draft legislation devoted $8.75 billion to the National Institutes of Health and $550 million to the FDA over a five-year period — offset by selling oil from the Strategic Petroleum Reserve and cuts to the payments Medicare and Medicaid make to states, insurance companies and providers.

In April 2015, after eight hearings, 24 roundtable discussions and several white papers, the bipartisan pair released a discussion draft. The formal bill passed through committee by a 51-0 vote in May. In July of that year, the full House approved the bill by a vote of 344 to 77. PhRMA, United for Medical Research, Newt Gingrich and Katie Couric all applauded its passage.

House and Senate supporters of the legislation were working out the differences between their bills well before the Senate actually passed its own version. But the Senate was the Senate: slow to act. By the time that chamber took up the bill at the beginning of 2016, Congress had already used a chunk of Upton and DeGette’s funding sources on other things, forcing lawmakers to find new ways to pay for the bill or decrease its cost. They decreased its cost: bringing funding for the NIH from $8.75 billion over five years down to $4.8 billion over 10 years.

At the urging of Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.), who became House speaker after the bill passed that chamber, they also changed the funding from mandatory spending, which is paid out automatically unless Congress votes to change it, to discretionary spending, which lawmakers have to vote to spend each year.

For biomedical research advocates, this shift complicated the part of the legislation that they actually loved. The NIH’s budget has grown slightly since taking a major hit in 2013: from $30.07 billion in fiscal year 2014 to $31.3 billion in FY 2016. But funding isn’t keeping up with inflation, and other countries are increasing the amount they spend on medical research at a much higher rate.

An infusion of $4.8 billion “isn’t anything to take lightly,” said one senior official for a biomedical research advocacy group. But by making the funding discretionary, the lawmakers also endangered it. Congress, for example, could decide to fund NIH at a lower level in 2017 by arguing that the funding made available from the 21st Century Cures Act justifies the cut. Congress could also choose to raid the $4.8 billion in NIH funding for unrelated purposes — fighting the next infectious disease outbreak, for example.

And then there is the matter of the incoming president, Donald J. Trump, who has promised to take advantage of low interest rates and borrow to invest in research and infrastructure, but whose commitment to science is not exactly sterling. Two Democratic senators said they spoke to Michael Botticelli, director of the Office of National Drug Control Policy, about concerns that Trump might not spend the opioid-related money for its stated purpose. Botticelli assured them that he could get the money out the door and to the states before Trump takes office on Jan. 20. It would be a bureaucratic feat, but “if anybody can do it, he can do it,” said Sen. Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.).

Still, believing that lawmakers and bureaucrats will keep their promises requires “an awful lot of putting faith in the process,” a second medical research advocate told HuffPost. And “faith” is not a sound foundation for science. Biomedical research relies, instead, on stability. Grants are awarded over several years and if a grant-awarding agency is worried that its funding pool might shift or dry up, the type of research it funds will be shorter-term investments.

“I am concerned that we’re talking about $6 billion of offsets, and of cuts, for only one year of guaranteed funding,” Sen. Bob Menendez (D-N.J.) told The Huffington Post. “I don’t know that I want to give the Republican majority 6 billion in cuts when I only have one year of funding.”

Republicans on Capitol Hill say they understand and recognize the worry about discretionary spending for the bill’s initiatives. But they argued it is overblown. As the congressional GOP aide noted, even mandatory funding isn’t guaranteed because no Congress can bind a future Congress. Far more important, he added, was that the research priorities funded by the 21st Century Cures Act enjoyed seemingly unshakeable bipartisan support.

“The concern is like saying, ‘OK, you won the lottery. But are you going to spend the money?’” the GOP aide said. “Everyone spends the money.”

The aide has a point: Despite their concerns about the vulnerability of the discretionary spending, most medical research advocacy groups support the bill. 

Many people in Washington are coming to the same conclusion as the medical research advocates: The bill is far from perfect, but it includes something for just about everyone. Its authors designed it that way.

In the legislation’s earliest forms, for example, some Republicans worried the NIH funding was akin to signing a blank check for the administration. But the bill’s backers recognized that if they took too much money out, they’d lose Democratic support. They came up with a workaround. Alexander, after meeting with Upton and White House officials, suggested targeting most of the money at three or four specific projects that could use a cash infusion. They settled on the brain-mapping program and the precision medicine initiative, which is designed to track how factors like lifestyle, wealth and even environmental variables affect diseases. And they included a parting gift for Biden: $1.8 billion for the national Cancer Moonshot.

Biden lost his son Beau to brain cancer in May 2015. And when he announced in an emotional Rose Garden statement in October 2015 that he would pass on a run for president, he expressed a desire to make “an absolute national commitment to end cancer as we know it today.” Obama formally unveiled the “moonshot” campaign in his 2016 State of the Union address, when he declared it as ambitious as sending a man to the moon — hence the name. He tapped his VP to lead the effort.

For the rest of the year, Biden met with physicians, researchers, families, tech leaders and even Pope Francis to come up with the best ways to put government money to use to accelerate cancer research, prevention and detection. So far he has singled out efforts to make it easier for patients to get into clinical trials and pushed for more open data and collaboration between researchers. The vice president submitted his final report to Obama last month, outlining what his team accomplished over the year and offering a five-year plan “to unite and marshal every resource of the federal government.” And, according to sources, he is now calling his friends in the Senate, making a passionate case on behalf of the cancer research funding that is contained within the 21st Century Cures legislation.

“A lot of them [Democrats] see this a sort of a last thing for Biden,” one Democratic staffer told HuffPost. “But if he weren’t pushing for it, it would probably fail,” the aide said, speaking anonymously to offer candid insights.

Sen. Chris Coons, a Democrat from Biden’s home state of Delaware, said Biden’s appeal to him was decisive. “Perhaps the increase in spending on opioid prevention and reduction, and the increase in spending on treatments and cures, is dwarfed by the cuts, but I’ve heard from the vice president, who feels very strongly that this is an important next step in the fight against cancer,” Coons said. 

Money for Biden’s cancer moonshot was the largest carrot meant to maintain support for the bill. But it was not the only one. The first two parts of the legislation include a host of intriguing funding initiatives of programmatic changes. There is a EUREKA Initiative [Exceptional Unconventional Research Enabling Knowledge Acceleration] that directs the NIH to establish a competition for innovative work to combat serious biomedical diseases; there are requirements for the institute to support opportunities for young researchers (a major problem in the field of science, where funding tends to go to established names); there are even sections designed to support the national Pediatric Research Network and accelerate therapies and preventions for tick-borne diseases.

But assembling a broad, bipartisan coalition often requires including ethically suspect giveaways. And this bill has those, too. The REGROW [Reliable and Effective Growth for Regenerative Health Options that Improve Wellness] Act, introduced by Sen. Mark Kirk (R-Ill.) and co-sponsored by Sens. Susan Collins (R-Maine) and Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.), is one of many stray pieces of legislation sewn into the 21st Century Cures Act to help it gain support.

The bill would speed up the delivery of adult stem cell therapies to patients. But it would do that  by allowing those therapies to go to market before they’re definitively proved to be safe and effective.

The REGROW Act would “negatively impact the development of stem cell therapies, the integrity of the emerging regenerative medicine market, and the health and safety of people using stem cell products,” the International Society for Stem Cell Research, a coalition of medical researchers, warned in September.

REGROW is backed by a range of stem cell companies and patient support groups. But its most important backer is W. Ed Bosarge, a super-wealthy Texas entrepreneur who made huge contributions to the Senate Leadership Fund, the super PAC linked to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), in the 2016 election cycle. Bosarge, who runs the stem-cell firm Bosarge Life Sciences, gave $3 million through the company Petrodome Energy LLC, an oil and gas business he operates, as of Oct. 19 ― the most recent date for such disclosures. These contributions made him the fourth-largest supporter of McConnell’s successful effort to keep the Senate in Republican hands. The stem-cell exec has donated at least $4.7 million to Republican super PACs since 2010, including $175,000 to Kentuckians for Strong Leadership, a super PAC that solely supported McConnell’s reelection in 2014.

The Bipartisan Policy Center, a corporate and foundation-funded Washington think tank that is lobbying Congress in support of REGROW, thanked Bosarge for his “contributions” in a key policy paper backing the bill. In February 2015, the bipartisan lobbying firm Bockorny Group registered to lobby on behalf of Bosarge Life Sciences. As part of that lobbying, Bosarge met with Kirk’s staffers to discuss the legislation, according to a report by Politico. The lobbyists’ plan of action was to convince Congress to slip REGROW into more immediate legislation — like the 21st Century Cures Act.

The inclusion of lobbyist and donor-backed measures like REGROW are exactly the sorts of deals that have some opponents of the Cures Act — including Warren — fuming. In her floor speech Monday, the Massachusetts Democrat decried the inclusion of the REGROW Act as a “special deal” for a “major Republican donor” — Bosarge — who “stands to benefit financially from selling cellular and regenerative medical therapies.” Her charge against McConnell inspired Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas) to rise in his defense and accuse her of violating the Senate’s “decorum.”  

Warren’s problems with the bill didn’t end there. In the floor speech, she criticized the inclusion of a measure that would roll back parts of the Sunshine Act, a 2010 law that requires drugmakers to disclose how much they spend marketing drugs to doctors and hospitals. And she and others have attacked the legislation for allowing the FDA to use anecdotal (”real world”) evidence — rather than scientific evidence — when considering whether to broaden the approved use of a previously cleared drug and for giving the FDA director much more power over approval processes and trial periods for drugs that treat life-threatening diseases and infections.

But Warren has not found a lot of allies in her fight. “I understand that there’s a desire to immediately show some backbone and some fight,” said Sen. Chris Murphy (D-Conn.), a major supporter of the bill, who authored major mental health policy legislation that was included as part of it. “I think this is the wrong place to make that stand... There’s going to be plenty of life or death fights once Donald Trump is president.”

On Tuesday, Senate Democrats gathered for a private lunch to hash out strategy around the bill. It was, according to sources, less tense than expected, as Warren’s effort lost steam, but it was still a much feistier meeting than customary.

“I think that tension is productive,” Sen. Cory Booker (D-N.J.) said as he was leaving the meeting. “In the last several hours, we just won some more concessions.”


I am concerned that we’re talking about $6 billion of offsets, and of cuts, for only one year of guaranteed funding.
Sen. Bob Menendez (D-N.J.)

Both parties are still compromising. A manager’s amendment to the final version of the bill would strike the rollback of the Sunshine Act. And Upton made another concession about a month ago when he removed the so-called Open Act, which would have given drug companies an additional six months of exclusivity for orphan drugs.

“We took out a couple provisions that actually would have helped the pharmaceutical industry,” Upton said, responding to Warren’s criticism.

The bill’s supporters are making concessions to Republicans, too. Late Tuesday night, Republicans pulled a bipartisan provision ― authored by Sens. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) and Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) and Rep. Vern Buchanan (R-Fla.) ―  promoting evidence-based prevention services to help keep more children out of foster care after Sen. Richard Burr (R-N.C.) demanded it be stripped out.

The bill had passed the House unanimously in June when it came up for a standalone vote, and it’s backed by more than 500 child welfare groups. But Republican leaders backed down Tuesday after Burr, along with Republican Sens. Thom Tillis (N.C.), Mike Enzi (Wyo.), Pat Toomey (Pa.) and Dan Coats (Ind.), pressed McConnell and Ryan to remove it from the larger Cures Act.

Now that their demands have been met, those Republicans are more likely to support the final measure.

Trade-offs like these win votes. But so too does money. Shaheen, the New Hampshire Democrat, has seen her home state ravaged by the opioid crisis. And she has pushed unsuccessfully for the last year to win $600 million in emergency funding to address the epidemic. She had no luck until 21st Century Cures came along.

“Listen, I appreciate that Senator Warren has some concerns with the bill. I have concerns with the bill.” But, she added, the deal was too good to pass up. “My goal has been trying to get funding to address the heroin and opioid epidemic. And there is significant funding in this bill.”

With reporting by Jen Bendery, Laura Barron-Lopez, Jason Cherkis and Michael McAuliff. Use the form below, powered by PopVox, to write your member of Congress to let him or her know how you feel about the Cures Act.


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In New Orleans, A School That Refuses To Allow Its Students To Fail

Huffingon Post Politics - Tue, 2016-11-29 22:30

NEW ORLEANS ― Fights were keeping 17-year-old Symphony Lee out of high school, and off the graduation track.

“Once I lose my temper, that’s it,” says Lee, with characteristic bluntness.

Lee spoke from the principal’s office at The Net Charter High School on Oretha Castle Haley Boulevard here, a street famous for its ties to legendary black musicians, including Buddy Bolden and Professor Longhair.

“In my last school, I was always fighting,” Lee says, seated in a Mardi Gras-purple slipcovered chair in front of a wall painted the same color and wearing her hair pulled up in a careful pony tail poking out from under a baseball cap.

Lee’s cycle of anger and school absences had seemed impossible to break. “I’d fight on Monday, get suspended, come back the next Monday, get suspended again. Over and over and over,” Lee says.

It was a pattern Net Co-Founder and Executive Director Elizabeth Ostberg had seen before. Ostberg, a young, Harvard-trained educator who volunteered to work with youth in crisis, arrived in New Orleans the year after Hurricane Katrina. By the time she opened the Net five years ago, Ostberg had decided that restorative justice, an approach to discipline and conflict resolution that involves talking through conflicts, was the best way to throw some of the city’s most struggling youth a lifeline — not to mention keep them in school. “It gives the students more internal control and improves their relationships,” says Ostberg. “There’s the hope that if we build students’ conflict resolution skills, if they are in a conflict on the street maybe they can avoid it.”

We need your support: Will education unite or divide us?

Around the country, educators have increasingly adopted elements of restorative justice amid growing frustration over the number of class hours lost to out-of-school suspensions: According to The U.S. Department of Education’s most recent Civil Rights Data, 2.8 million, or 6 percent, of all K-12 students received at least one out-of-school suspension during the 2011-12 school year. For black boys, the percentage is 18 percent, stark evidence of racial disparities in school discipline.

According to a February 2016 report by the nonprofit agency WestEd, national data on restorative justice is still at an early stage, in part because experts are trying to reach a standard definition of restorative justice so they can better measure what outcomes can be attributed to its use, but the preliminary evidence suggests that restorative justice “may have positive effects across several outcomes related to discipline.”

The Center for Restorative Approaches in New Orleans says it has implemented 589 restorative justice circles, in which students and staff talk through the root causes of conflict in the classroom, since 2009. The center claims that since January 2015 the circles have saved the city’s students 1,800 instructional hours that otherwise would have been lost to suspension.

New Orleans schools that have embraced some element of restorative justice include Akili Academy, Langston Hughes Academy, Andrew Wilson, KIPP McDonogh 15, Edna Karr, Crescent Leadership Academy and Sci Academy.

The Net has taken things a step further than most schools, however. Resolving conflicts that slow down — and even stop — the education process is the school’s top priority. Teachers and other staff members are constantly looking out for problems that need to be talked through. Suspensions are unheard of. Restorative circles are so common — and can go on for so long — that walking into the school is a bit like entering a giant circle.

Related: What happens when instead of suspensions, kids talk out their mistakes?

A key component to making this work is a collegial, intimate, and flexible environment. Class size is in the single digits and teachers rarely lecture or raise their voices, favoring student-led discussions. There are no traditional grade levels at the Net and students may attend class at any time from 8 in the morning to 6:30 at night. They work at a pace that suits them and academics often take a back seat to emotional concerns.

The school makes every attempt to find and hire teachers who are strong negotiators. “This is not a school for teachers who are only interested in content,” Ostberg says.

Most of the Net’s students have struggled in numerous other school settings. They’ve been expelled, suspended, flunked out, dropped out, or spent time in jail or prison.

“These are not kids who are getting their second chance,” says Net math teacher Vee Francis. “This is a school for kids who are on their I-don’t-know-how-many chance.”

Fistfights were one of the problems that brought new student Lee to the Net; she had a lot of them at her previous school, and those fistfights resulted in numerous suspensions that made it difficult for Lee to complete her work. “The principal was cool, but he never really mediated the situation,” she says “That’s why I kept fighting the same people over and over and over — why we kept having the same situations. But here, they mediate.”

For Lee, a crucial mediation at the Net involved a conflict between the student and her Net chemistry teacher, Jennie Wimbush. It started with Lee’s hairdo.

Students must wear goggles in chemistry class. But Lee says she didn’t like the tightness of the goggles on her face. She was also concerned that the goggles would ruin her pony-tail, which she likes to fall a certain way.

After teacher Wimbush asked Lee to wear the goggles several times, Lee lashed out verbally.

“The teacher was saying, ‘Symphony cursed me out,’” says Ostberg. “We talked and talked and talked, and we got down to the facts that Symphony was unwilling to put on the goggles and the teacher was frustrated.”

The mediation ran for about three hours in two separate offices and involved Wimbush, Dean of Students Charles Medley, who serves as a mediator, and Ostberg, then principal of the school.

The problem ultimately had more to do with relationships than with hair.

Wimbush told Lee she felt the teen was very intelligent and she had high expectations for her. The mediators worked hard to put Lee’s lashing out in context and open communication channels between teacher and student. Lee’s anger dissipated and she returned to class — this time with a looser pair of goggles.

“I thought she didn’t like me the whole time, and the whole time she did like me,” says Lee.

Medley, who is known by his students as Mr. Chuck, was more focused on the long haul than the goggles. “I was more concerned about fixing the relationship because I saw it as a situation that could have dragged out for a long time,” Medley says. Like Lee, Medley is black; the other two educators are white.

“In some schools it would come down to … ‘This white lady doesn’t like me,’ and a cultural disconnect, but in this school absolutely not,” he says, noting that talking through conflicts is key to overcoming cultural gaps between the school’s African-American students and its teachers. Slightly more than half the teachers are white.

Wimbush says academic struggles and insecurities were an issue as well. “This is (Lee’s) second time in the chemistry class. She is such a smart, bright girl but the first time she was not successful because of attendance.” Lee committed to following the schools’ plan to improve her attendance record.

I’d fight on Monday, get suspended, come back the next Monday, get suspended again. Over and over and over.

Both student and teacher are closer to an understanding. “Symphony agreed to work on articulating what was actually bothering her instead of just jumping off or yelling or cursing,” Ostberg says. Both Lee and Wimbush seem pleased with the result. “I’m going to have her for another semester and that’s why we keep doing mediations,” said Wimbush. “You don’t quit. You keep working and building a relationship.”

This sort of negotiation is a main reason the school’s size is kept small, at about 160 students. A second Net Charter School is expected to open in New Orleans in 2017. Ostberg will be the director of both schools. It will mean spaces for approximately 160 more students. Ostberg and others at the school say that two smaller schools are more conducive to the intensive restorative justice approach that she thinks is so right for the city’s current climate.

Some administrators at other area schools say the approach might not be practical in every school, particularly larger ones.

Related: Twitter and Instagram are letting kids pick (and plan) schoolyard fights even when they aren’t in class

Ben Kleban, founder and CEO of the New Orleans College Prep network, which encompasses four schools, says restorative justice circles might not be practical in every situation. (Kleban is leaving the school at the end of the year to take a seat on the Orleans Parish School Board.) But over the past several years Kleban has adopted a more flexible approach to school discipline that includes some restorative justice elements.

By any measure, youth at the Net are dealing with some very adult problems that can lead to conflict, even at the best-run school.

In 2015-16 about 20 percent of the school’s 167 students were involved with the judicial system (and 1 percent were incarcerated); 20 percent of students were either current or expectant parents; 20 percent were homeless; and 100 percent were eligible for free lunch.

Related: Frustration over instability, violence at Mississippi high school

“There’s nothing wrong with the students,” says Ostberg “It’s a time and a place that’s really bad. It’s not because kids are more violent here and lazier here; they just have a lot more to deal with. They’ve got to work a lot harder.”

For 19-year-old Net student Rodney Parker, that hard work came after his brother was murdered. Parker’s brother, fellow Net student Perry, had become Penny, a transgender woman. The phone call came at 2:30 a.m. in February 2015, notifying the family that Penny had been shot dead after leaving a bar on Canal Street. “When he [became] trans, I got used to it. I couldn’t get used to it that he was dead,” says Parker, who took some time off from school, then vowed to earn his high school diploma — for his own sake as well as to honor Penny. He accomplished his goal in June, moving forward with plans to study engineering at Delgado Community College. 

These are not kids who are getting their second chance. This is a school for kids who are on their I-don’t-know-how-many chance.

A photo of Penny hangs on the purple-painted wall above Ostberg’s desk, along with those of the other Net students who have been murdered: Tyrin Whitfield, Terrence Roberts, Antwan Seaton, Leonard George, Wanda Dusset, B. George Carter, Isaiah Johnston, and Ja’Shad Simmons.

On Oct. 4, 2016, 20-year-old Net graduate Glenquel Emerson, was killed by gunfire.

“I don’t know what the solution is and I guess no one does. But this isn’t the world a kid should have to live in,” says Ostberg.

Related: How mothers of murdered, black children help each other heal at Christmas

But it’s safer in school than out. According to 2013 statistics from the Cowen Institute, 26,000 youth between the ages of 16 and 24 were neither working nor in school. It’s a figure Ostberg cited as she discussed everyone’s constant fear: students will age out before they graduate. The state will not pay for students’ high school education past the year that they turn 21. There may be no suspensions at the Net, but there are other absences that endanger this timetable.

For instance, there’s incarceration. Net student Tanya Davis, a petite girl with almond shaped eyes, and her boyfriend Dushawn Garrison, a former Net student, were charged with attempted first-degree murder last February in connection with a shooting on Piety Street.

The couple’s 1-year-old child lives with Davis and her mother.

Davis says she was not in the car the night of the shooting. But she spent more than three months in jail before getting out on bail. On her 19th birthday last April, she quietly vowed from a cell in Orleans Parish Prison to earn her high school diploma. She had missed her daughter’s first birthday just a week earlier. (The charge against her was subsequently reduced to aggravated assault; the case was closed on Sept. 30, 2016.)

With the help of Holly Wilson, a teacher at the prison’s Alternative Learning Institute, and teachers from the Net, Davis was able to finish her degree in prison. Davis plans to apply to college. She wants to set an example for her young daughter. Most of all, she hopes “never to go to jail again.”

Sahara Polk, 17, finished school at the Net while living in a group home and working full time at Panera. Polk moved to the group home and began attending school on the Net’s evening shift after the aunt with whom she lived moved out of town. The Net worked with Polk on all of these arrangements.

Meanwhile, Symphony Lee went from barely showing up at school to receiving accolades on her recent report card. She is due to graduate in May 2018, joining nearly 150 other students who have received Louisiana diplomas since the school opened. By its own calculation, the Net’s 2015-16 graduation rate was 88 percent.

Lee’s dream is to attend Southern University at New Orleans, a historically black college. She feels that she’ll be ready. Lee used to tune out when she didn’t understand class material, she says, but now she’s learned how to ask for the help she needs.

That’s sometimes difficult to do. But it’s certainly easier to find help in school, in class, than out on suspension.

“Now,” says Lee, “I ask questions.”

This story was produced by The Hechinger Report, a nonprofit, independent news organization focused on inequality and innovation in education. Read more about New Orleans.

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Elizabeth Warren Leads Lawmaker Push To Defend Consumer Protection Watchdog In Court

Huffingon Post Politics - Tue, 2016-11-29 22:19

WASHINGTON, Nov 29 - The U.S. lawmakers who helped bring the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau into being rose to defend it on Tuesday, urging the full U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia to review a ruling that poses an existential threat to the agency.

In an amicus brief, 21 current and former members of Congress said the whole court should review a decision reached by three of its judges in October that the CFPB’s sole director has too much power and that the President should have power to fire the director.

Earlier this month the CFPB asked the full court to review the decision, in a lawsuit involving PHH Corp. The decision was stayed pending appeal.

In their brief the lawmakers said the decision will hamper the agency’s ability to function as Congress intended, create constitutional confusion for other agencies with single directors, and go against legal precedent.

An agency to protect consumers from bad loans and financial products was the brainchild of Elizabeth Warren, now a Massachusetts Senator. It was created through the 2010 Dodd-Frank Wall Street reform law passed in the wake of the massive financial crisis that was fueled by defaulting mortgages.

Warren signed the brief alongside one of the law’s chief authors, former Representative Barney Frank. Both figures are Democrats and the other signatories also belong to the party, including California Representative Nancy Pelosi, who leads the House Democrats.

Ten consumer protection and civil rights non-profit organizations, including Americans for Financial Reform and the National Consumer Law Center, also filed a brief supporting the CFPB’s petition.

It is rare for lawmakers to enter a legal fray, although Frank signed a similar brief in a court challenge to the Financial Stability Oversight Council, which was also created in the Dodd-Frank law.

“Congress carefully designed the CFPB to elevate the interests of consumers above those of a well-heeled industry and provided for a single director removable for cause to ensure accountability and effectiveness,” Pelosi said in a statement after the brief was filed. “Under the Constitution, Congress has considerable latitude to shape the structure of independent agencies.”

Republicans say that the agency should be governed by a bipartisan commission. (Reporting by Lisa Lambert; Editing by Chris Reese)

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Standing Rock Protesters Warned Of Fines As North Dakota Tightens Grip

Huffingon Post Politics - Tue, 2016-11-29 22:08

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CANNON BALL, N.D. - North Dakota officials on Tuesday moved to block supplies from reaching oil pipeline protesters at a camp near the construction site, threatening to use hefty fines to keep demonstrators from receiving food, building materials and even portable bathrooms.

Activists have spent months protesting plans to route the $3.8 billion Dakota Access Pipeline beneath a lake near the Standing Rock Sioux reservation, saying the project poses a threat to water resources and sacred Native American sites.

State officials said on Tuesday they would fine anyone bringing prohibited items into the main protest camp following Governor Jack Dalrymple’s “emergency evacuation” order on Monday. Earlier, officials had warned of a physical blockade, but the governor’s office backed away from that.

Law enforcement would take a more “passive role” than enforcing a blockade, said Maxine Herr, a spokeswoman for the Morton County Sheriff’s Department.

“The governor is more interested in public safety than setting up a road block and turning people away,” Herr said by telephone.

Officers will stop vehicles they believe are headed to the camp and inform drivers they are committing an infraction and could be fined $1,000.

These penalties should serve as a hindrance, according to Cecily Fong, a spokeswoman for the North Dakota Department of Emergency Services.

“So that effectively is going to block that stuff (supplies), but there is not going to be a hard road block,” Fong said by telephone.

A spokeswoman from the Standing Rock Sioux tribe was not immediately available for comment.

North Dakota Governor-elect Doug Burgum, a Republican, declined to comment.

The 1,172-mile (1,885 km) pipeline project, owned by Texas-based Energy Transfer Partners LP, is mostly complete except for a segment planned to run under Lake Oahe, a reservoir formed by a dam on the Missouri River.

Thousands of people are protesting at camps located on U.S. Army Corps of Engineers land, north of the Cannonball River in Cannon Ball, North Dakota. The main protest camp near Cannon Ball is called Oceti Sakowin, the original name of the Sioux, meaning Seven Council Fires.

Protest leaders said state officials and local law enforcement officers were “bullying” demonstrators with the threat of fines.

“It’s bogus and I don’t know about the legality of it,” said Kandi Mossett, an organizer with Indigenous Environmental Network. “We’re not afraid. We’re moving in and out of the camp at will. So people shouldn’t be afraid of coming and supporting the water protectors. They’ve been bullying us since day one.”


Dalrymple’s evacuation order was issued on Monday due to the “harsh winter conditions.” Snow and wind gusts up to 45 mph (73 kph) were forecast for Tuesday, according to the National Weather Service.

Despite the sub-freezing temperatures, law enforcement on Nov. 21 used water cannons to disperse protesters who had blockaded a highway.

Demonstrators and law enforcement have clashed over the months since protests began, with demonstrators claiming excessive use of force by law enforcement.

On Tuesday, the National Lawyers Guild filed a class action in U.S. District Court in North Dakota on behalf of injured protesters, claiming local authorities in Morton and Stutsman counties used excessive force.

The civil rights complaint said there were no orders to disperse or warnings issued before local police turned water cannons and tear gas on the protest. The lawsuit seeks compensatory damages.

Stutsman County Auditor Casey Bradley said the county sheriff’s office was unaware of the lawsuit and unable to comment on the allegations.

Officers were justified in using water cannons because of the threat posed by demonstrators, Fong and Herr said. Law enforcement gave numerous warnings for protesters to disperse, they said.

North Dakota officials have issued several requests for additional help from federal law enforcement in light of the demonstrators. However, the Army Corps said Monday its order to evacuate the primary protest camp by Dec. 5 would not include forcibly removing people from the land.

The Obama administration in September postponed final approval of a Army Corps’ permit required to allow tunneling beneath the lake, a move intended to give federal officials more time to consult tribal leaders.

White House spokesman Josh Earnest said in a Tuesday news briefing that Obama believes law enforcement has “an obligation” to show restraint and protesters have a “responsibility” to protest peacefully.

In a related protest, prosecutors suspended charges against Deia Schlosberg, a documentary maker arrested while filming as environmental protesters attempted to shut down the flow of oil through pipelines carrying crude from Canada to the United States in October.

(Writing by Timothy Mclaughlin in Chicago; Additional reporting by David Gaffen and Mica Rosenberg in New York, Ernest Scheyder in Houston, Dan Whitcomb in Los Angeles, Roberta Rampton and Doina Chiacu in Washington.; Editing by Ben Klayman, Matthew Lewis and Andrew Hay)

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GOP Quietly Tanks Effort To Include Women In The Draft

Huffingon Post Politics - Tue, 2016-11-29 21:24

WASHINGTON ― A surprisingly strong and bipartisan effort to require women to register for the draft failed Tuesday, as negotiators on a defense bill indicated the provision would not be included in the final legislation.

The language had been tucked into the Senate version of the National Defense Authorization Act, which overwhelmingly passed that chamber in June. The provision also cleared a House committee, but GOP leaders later scrambled to remove it from their version of the NDAA before it reached the floor, as some in their party protested. That left its fate up in the air for months as negotiators worked behind closed doors to hammer out a final bill.

Top aides from armed services committees told reporters in a Tuesday briefing that the proposal was ultimately axed and, in its place, there will be the legislative equivalent of sending a policy idea to its grave: commissioning a study.

“We still require the study,” said one senior aide. “There’s a study and a commission to look at selective service and look at the structure and what it does and everything like that.”

Lawmakers who had been pushing for months to include women in the draft acknowledged it would have little practice impact, at least anytime soon; the United States has relied on an all-volunteer military force for decades. But many felt it was important to do anyway, to reflect the growing consensus that women are as capable of serving and leading in the military as men.

“There should not be one standard of what you have to be capable of to do certain jobs in the military ― one for men and one for women,” Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.) told The Huffington Post earlier this year. “But as long as we’re vigilant about that, women are just going to make us better.”

“I don’t think you want to take half your population off the sidelines in case of a national emergency,” Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), who served in the Air Force for years, also said at the time.

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The Obama administration already lifted the ban on women in serving combat units in 2015. Since then, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff endorsed expanding the draft to women, and the Congressional Budget Office found that doing so would actually reduce federal spending.

In the end, though, conservatives in Congress won this round, with their complaints about having to see women sent into combat.

“I cannot in good conscience vote to draft our daughters into the military, sending them off to war and forcing them into combat,” Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) said earlier this year. “I will continue my efforts to speak out against the effort to force America’s daughters into combat.”

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