John McCain to return to Senate Tuesday for health care vote

(CNN)Sen. John McCain, recently diagnosed with an aggressive form of brain cancer, will make a dramatic return to the Senate Tuesday to cast a critical vote on health care legislation.

McCain’s office announced Monday night that he would return Tuesday — a surprise to most in Washington who expected him to miss the crucial vote and return to Washington at a later date.
McCain is expected to get GOP leadership one vote closer to beginning debate on health care legislation, which is on the verge of collapsing.
    “Senator McCain looks forward to returning to the United States Senate tomorrow to continue working on important legislation, including health care reform, the National Defense Authorization Act, and new sanctions on Russia, Iran and North Korea,” his office said in a statement.
    The Arizona Republican underwent brain surgery earlier this month and announced last week he has been diagnosed with brain cancer.
    But McCain’s return hardly guarantees leadership will be able to advance a health care bill now. It helps, but Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell still needs at least 50 votes to start debate on overhauling Obamacare, and can only lose two votes from his 52-member conference. Already, Sen. Susan Collins, a Republican from Maine, has expressed deep concerns about the motion to proceed. And several other senators including Rand Paul of Kentucky, Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, Rob Portman of Ohio, Shelley Moore Capito of West Virginia, Dean Heller of Nevada and more remain undecided as of Monday night.
    Adding to the suspense of Tuesday is the fact that leaders have yet to lay out exactly what will come next after members vote to begin debate on their health care bill. Republicans will vote to begin debate on the House-passed legislation Tuesday, but GOP members are still waiting on what their leadership plans to do after that.
    Some lawmakers have said their vote to advance the health care bill Tuesday is contingent on them approving on the steps that come next.
    “I’m not blindly voting,” Paul told reporters Monday.
    “I would like to know more as I’m sure all of you would too,” Murkowski said when she was asked about where she stood on voting to advance a health care bill.
    The original plan was for members to find an agreement on a Senate repeal and replace bill before the motion to proceed vote, but after two different versions were released, there still wasn’t consensus on a proposal. Leadership entertained the idea last week of bringing up a repeal-only bill that the Senate voted on in 2015, but President Donald Trump made it clear he preferred senators find a path forward on simultaneously repealing and replacing Obamacare instead.
    Republicans are expected to huddle for the GOP lunch Tuesday afternoon and get more information on next steps.
    One thing is certain, McCain’s return to Washington puts additional pressure on his colleagues. Whether it is enough to get McConnell all the votes he needs remains unclear.
    McCain isn’t just returning to Washington because of the health care vote. If that vote fails, the Senate is expected to take up the National Defense Authorization Act, according to two congressional aides.
    That bill was marked up by the armed services committee, which McCain leads, and he would lead debate on the floor. McCain takes great pride in the legislation and does not want anyone else managing it on the floor in his absence if he can help it.
    McConnell made a procedural motion on the floor Monday night to proceed to the defense bill after health care, signaling that’s his backup plan this week.

    Read more: http://www.cnn.com/2017/07/24/politics/john-mccain-returns-health-care-vote/index.html


    GOP Leaders Still Insisting Repeal Won’t Take Health Care Away From Millions

    Republican Party leaders are trying furiously to find 50 votes for some kind of legislation that would, one way or another, repeal the Affordable Care Act.

    The big focus of their efforts are a handful of relatively moderate senators from states where Obamacare has had a particularly strong impact on coverage. And although the campaign includes some old-fashioned political pressure, with President Donald Trump set this week to visit two of those states (Ohio and West Virginia), GOP leaders are also trying to use persuasion.In particular, they are still trying to convince those holdout senators that repealing the 2010 health care law wouldnt cause their constituents to suffer.

    So far those senators have been skeptical, and for good reason. The Congressional Budget Officehas projected that the GOP proposals under consideration would mean between 22 to 32 million people lose health insurance, depending on the specific bill. Multiple independent experts have come to similar conclusions.

    Meanwhile, a huge pile of research and datasuggests that when people lose insurance, they are worse off because they end up skimping on care they need, going into debt paying for the care they get, or some combination of the two. This is particularly true for people with the lowest incomes and most serious medical problems in other words, the people who need help the most.

    Not that it should require a bunch of academic researchers make these points. Each of the bills under consideration would drain more than $1 trillion over 10 years from Medicaid and tax credits for people who buy private insurance on their own.Obviously that is going to hurt, as anybody now depending on those programs for insurance can attest.

    But apparently neither data or common sense is enough to stop Trump administration officials, Senate leaders, and their outside allies from making their case. Publicly and privately, they continue to say repeal wouldnt cause a lot of pain.And lately they have been leaning heavily on two arguments in particular:

    Claim:CBO Projections Arent Reliable

    Last weekend, two administration officials wrote a Washington Post op-ed dismissing the agencys predictions as little more than fake news. It was merely the latest volley in a campaign to discreditthe CBO that Republicans have been waging ever since it first issued a devastating projection of what the initial legislation, in the House, would mean for insurance coverage.

    These attacks typically focus on a prediction that CBO genuinely got very wrong. The agency vastly over-estimated enrollment in the Affordable Care Acts exchanges. What Republicans never acknowledge is that on the most important prediction, about the total change in the number of Americans with insurance, CBO was extremely close especially if you adjust the projection for the Supreme Courts 2012 decision giving states extra leeway to avoid expanding Medicaid.

    Could CBO be making a bigger error now? Sure. Projections are subject to uncertainty, as the agency itself goes out of its way to stress.

    But error can run in both directions. And even if CBO has overestimated the coverage loss by a factor of two, an unprecedented error, that would still mean the current version of the Senate bill would lead to 11 million fewer people with health insurance. That would still be a very big number which is to say, it would still represent a whole lot of Americans struggling with medical bills if that repeal bill becomes law.

    Oddly, CBOs critics in the Republican Party dont seem to realize the potential fiscal implications of their argument. If actual coverage losses under the GOP plan would be smaller than the projections suggest, its also possible the federal government would end up spending a lot more money on Medicaid and insurance tax credits.

    In a sense, proponents of repealing and replacing the ACA are trying to have it both ways, Larry Levitt, senior vice president at the Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation, said. The Republicans are criticizing CBO for over-estimating the effect of the individual mandate and the losses in coverage, while benefiting from projections of big spending reductions that pave the way for tax cuts.

    Claim: Mostly People Would ChooseNot To Be Covered

    House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) last week repeated an argument he and other Republicans have made many times before. He called the CBOs most recent coverage prediction a bogus number because people will choose not to buy insurance.

    The basis for this claim is that, according to the CBO, the vast majority of coverage losses in the first two years of passing repeal would be the effects of removing the individual mandate the financial penalty for people who decline to get coverage. And Ryans description certainly applies to some of those people. Absent the penalty, a significant number would opt not to pay for insurance particularly if, under the Affordable Care Act, they think their available options are too expensive.

    But thats not the whole story. Many people have no idea they are eligible for subsidized coverage or Medicaid until the mandate drives them to investigate options online or to consult with counselors at which point, these people are quite happy for the coverage.

    Take the mandate away and they never take that step. In fact, there is some evidence that repeal would depress insurance enrollment because some Americans would believe, mistakenly, they could no longer get assistance. Something similar happened after welfare reform, in the 1990s, when a significant number of legal immigrants stopped applying for Medicaid even though their eligibility hadnt changed.

    Removing the mandate also has a secondary effect on the market, one that becomes more important over time. The people most likely to decline insurance are the ones in relatively good health. That forces insurers to raise premiums and, in some cases, to raise them preemptively, as many are doing right now because the Trump administration has signaled it wont enforce the mandate aggressively.

    Saying that all of the insurance losses the CBO attributes to repealing the mandate are the result of individuals not being forced to buy insurance is at best incomplete and in reality quite duplicitous. Craig Garthwaite, health economist at Northwestern University

    Republican bills would cause premiums to rise for precisely this reason, the CBO and other experts say, pricing more and more people out of the market. (Eventually premiums would come down, but only because, thanks to weaker regulations, policies would be less generous and less available to people with pre-existing conditions.)

    The insurance market components of the ACA (the mandate, the subsidies, and the ban on pre-existing conditions) all work together they are inexorably intertwined, saysCraig Garthwaite, a health economist atNorthwestern University. Saying that all of the insurance losses the CBO attributes to repealing the mandate are the result of individuals not being forced to buy insurance is at best incomplete and in reality quite duplicitous.

    The CBO doesnt parse out how much each of these factors matter. But one thing clear is that, over time,effects of the mandate per se would actually recede, relatively speaking, because other changes in the Republican bill would be taking effect. Tax credits for people who buy insurance would get smaller. Federal contributions to Medicaid would decline, creating shortfalls that would lead states to cut coverage.

    In 2026, CBO predicts, 15 million out of 22 million newly uninsured would be people who would qualify for Medicaid if the Affordable Care Act remained in place.By and large, these would be people who had no affordable alternatives in the private market under GOP proposals.

    AsLoren Adler, associate director of the USC-Brookings Schaeffer Initiative on Health Policy noted on Twitter, the main issue is many who lose coverage w/mandate repeal would lose coverage due to other [repeal] provisions regardless.

    Reality: Honest Defenses Of The GOP Bill Arent Very Popular

    An intellectually honest defense of Republican repeal plans is that they would mean fewer regulations of health insurance, lower taxes on corporations and the wealthy, and less government spending. Conservatives would argue these steps free up resources for other purposes and improves the economy, in ways that would ultimately matter more than making sure people have health insurance.Another intellectually honest defense of the GOP proposals is more philosophical that healthy and wealthy people shouldnt have to spend as much as they do now, in order to subsidize the costs of the sick and the poor.

    A different, but still intellectually coherent, argument for repeal focuses on the individual mandate specifically not on whether it works but on whether it should even exist. Many conservatives think its just plain wrong to penalize people for tuning down insurance. On that point, at least, its quite possible a majority of Americans agree.

    Sometimes Republican leaders and their allies make these arguments explicitly.But it turns out most people think health insurance is pretty important. And now that the Affordable Care Act has made coverage more available, they dont want to give it up,particularly if Republicans arent proposing to put something better in its place. That is probably why GOP leaders keep insisting their bills wont leave millions struggling to pay for medical care, when that is exactly what those proposals would do.

    Read more: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/republicans-health-care-obamacare-repeal_us_5974cc16e4b00e4363e01dae


    Calls for UN meeting as clashes continue in Jerusalem and West Bank

    Jerusalem (CNN)Clashes between Palestinian protesters and Israeli security forces broke out again across Jerusalem and the West Bank on Saturday, with the mood tremendously intense around Jerusalem’s Old City.

    A Palestinian man died at a hospital Saturday evening after he was injured in clashes with Israeli forces earlier, the Palestinian Ministry of Health said.
    The man was involved in a clash in the town of el-Eizariyah near Jerusalem, the official Palestinian news agency, WAFA, reported.
      Meantime, a rocket fired from northern Gaza exploded midair Sunday morning local time, with no injuries reported, the Israeli Defense Forces tweeted.
      With tensions rapidly rising, Palestinians called for more protests Sunday and the Israeli government planned meetings.
      One security session was expected to discuss the recent implementation of metal detectors at entrances to a key holy site in the Old City.
      The restrictions were imposed after two Israeli police officers were killed in a shooting last week just outside the Old City and Temple Mount, also known as the Noble Sanctuary. The area is one of the world’s most important religious sites, revered by Christians, Jews and Muslims.
      Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas on Friday suspended all contacts with Israel until the metal detectors are removed.
      “I announce the freezing of contacts with Israel on all levels and the suspension of coordination until all the measures taken at al-Aqsa mosque have stopped,” Abbas said in a message tweeted by his Fatah Movement.
      The Temple Mount/Noble Sanctuary was closed after last Friday’s attack, and reopened Sunday for worshippers, visitors and tourists, with added security measures.

      It is home to the Western Wall — which was part of the walls around the Second Jewish Temple and is one of the holiest places for Jews to pray — and the Dome of the Rock, where Muslims believe the Prophet Mohammed ascended to heaven.
      Egypt, France and Sweden called Saturday for United Nations Security Council consultations Monday on ways to lower tensions in Jerusalem, Sweden’s chief political officer at the United Nations wrote on Twitter.
      The envoys of the Middle East Quartet — the United States, Russia, the European Union and the United Nations — said in a statement they are “deeply concerned by the escalating tensions and violent clashes taking place in and around the Old City of Jerusalem.”
      The statement went on to say, “They strongly condemn acts of terror, express their regret for all loss of innocent life caused by the violence and hope for a speedy recovery to the wounded.”
      Noting the particular sensitivities surrounding the holy sites of Jerusalem, and the need to ensure security, the Quartet envoys called on all sides to show restraint, refrain from provocative actions and work toward de-escalating the situation.
      They added: “Envoys welcome the assurances by the Prime Minister of Israel that the status quo at the holy sites in Jerusalem will be upheld and respected.”

      Victims identified

      Three people killed Friday in an attack in the Halamish settlement in the northern West Bank were identified by Israeli police on Saturday.
      Police Superintendent and spokesman Micky Rosenfeld said on Twitter, “Names of three Israelis murdered in Friday night attack by Palestinian terrorist, Yosef Solomon age 70, Chaya Solomon age 46, Elad Solomon age 36.”
      The Israeli army said the three Israelis were killed when a young Palestinian man from a nearby village breached the security of the settlement and carried out a stabbing attack. The Palestinian, who was shot and wounded at the scene, is in custody.
      A fourth Israeli was wounded in the attack, Magen David Adom, Israel’s ambulance service, told CNN.
      Three Palestinians were killed and many people reportedly were hurt during clashes Friday.
      Mohammad Fityani, a spokesman for the Palestinian Red Crescent in Jerusalem, told CNN its crews had dealt with 109 injured people by 3 p.m. local time, and that 72 of them were taken to the hospital.
      Tensions in Jerusalem’s Old City boiled over into skirmishes after the midday prayer.
      In one instance, a CNN team outside Herod’s Gate saw Israeli police start forcefully pushing worshipers back and pointing their weapons at them. The officers then fired rubber bullets and stun grenades to disperse the worshipers and move them back.

      Read more: http://www.cnn.com/2017/07/22/middleeast/jerusalem-west-bank-clashes/index.html


      I read about Bannon and Clinton so you don’t have to

      (CNN)“Devil’s Bargain” — Bloomberg Businessweek reporter Joshua Green’s in-depth exploration of the mind and machinations of former Breitbart News boss and Trump chief strategist Steve Bannon — and “Shattered” — a painstaking account of Hillary Clinton’s unsuccessful campaign by Jonathan Allen, also of Bloomberg, and Amie Parnes of The Hill — have both climbed the bestseller lists and monopolized the attention of the chattering classes since their releases. (“Shattered” was published in April; “Devil’s Bargain” hit shelves this past week.)

      They’re both absorbing reading for anyone interested in better understanding the unlikely and unprecedented set of circumstances that put reality show multimillionaire Donald Trump into the White House. Both offer fascinating (and juicy) revelations; neither should be read on its own, since their access journalism roots make each a half-book at best, covering just one of the two campaigns, and always from the perspective of sources whose personal agendas make them eager to talk.
      Here’s my scorecard of how they stack up.

        “Devil’s Bargain:” Steve Bannon, Donald Trump, and the Storming of the Presidency

        Most compelling character:
        Given that the book reads like an odd hagiography of Steve Bannon, it’s impossible for him not to be its most compelling character: Brilliant, slovenly, gleefully opportunistic and given to profane eruptions and weird turns of phrase, proudly referring to Trump supporters as fellow “hobbits” and “grundoons,” and dismissing dumb and useless people as “schmendricks” and “mooks” (ironic, since Hillary Clinton’s 2016 campaign manager was, of course, Robby Mook). A close second: Robert Mercer, the eccentric right-wing billionaire who backed the Trump insurgency. Prior to backing Donald Trump, Mercer’s primary electoral investment had been in the unsuccessful congressional campaign of a quack scientist with an obsessive fixation on human urine.

          What you need to know about Steve Bannon

        Biggest revelation:
        Bannon conceived of activating the internet’s legions of disaffected, meme-addicted young males after investing (and losing his shirt) in IGE, a Hong Kong-based business that “farmed” gold and virtual items for resale to online gamers. Bannon realized that these underemployed and overeducated denizens of message boards like 4chan and Reddit were susceptible to misogynist and racist symbolism (when disguised with snark) and highly adept in launching viral campaigns. They became the digital shock troops for the booming growth of Breitbart News and, later, the Trump campaign.
        Most memorable quote:
        From Steve Bannon: “(House Speaker Paul Ryan is) a limp-d*** m***rf***er who was born in a petri dish at the Heritage Foundation.”
        Best anecdote:
        All the anecdotes that paint Bannon as larger-than-life even in his own mind, like the one about an oil painting of Bannon reimagined as Napoleon Bonaparte that hangs in his personal office — a gift from British ultranationalist and Brexit proponent Nigel Farage. Or the one about how Bannon recruited a strikeforce of “beautiful young women” to Breitbart News, whom he proudly referred to as his “Valkyries.”
        Best anecdote about Chris Christie:
        According to Green’s sources (or conjecture), Chris Christie’s exile from the Trump inner circle began when he dared to tell The Donald that when Clinton was ready to concede, President Obama would call the governor and Christie would hand his phone to Trump. Trump, a fanatical germophobe, was reportedly repulsed at the thought of having Christie’s mobile against his face and barked back, “Hey, Chris, you know my f***ing number. Just give it to the President. I don’t want your f***ing phone.”
        Key takeaway:
        Steve Bannon is a fascinating and monstrous character, who undoubtedly bears great responsibility for Donald Trump’s shocking victory. But the interesting revelations about Bannon are primarily constrained to the first half of the book, and focused mostly on his rise to power; by the book’s midpoint — when it begins to cover the campaign in earnest — Bannon feels oddly sidelined, and the narrative becomes much more of a by-the-numbers diary of Donald Trump’s slouch toward the Oval Office.

        “shattered:” Inside Hillary Clinton’s Doomed Campaign

          Authors: Hillary Clinton didn’t grasp populism

        Most compelling character:
        Not Hillary Clinton — but that’s by design, as Allen and Parnes’ thesis about the campaign’s failure depends on Clinton’s being framed as simultaneously world-weary and naive, controlling and remote, distracted and obsessive, but most of all, incredibly boring. Bernie Sanders comes off as far more interesting, though he’s also firmly presented as unelectable. Though a minor character, the most memorably described figure in the book comes early: Clinton true-believer Adam Parkhomenko, whose desire to see her elected president was so passionate that it led him to found the scrappy grassroots movement Ready for Hillary and spend a full decade tirelessly fighting to make her POTUS.
        Biggest revelation:
        Hillary Clinton was far closer to picking Elizabeth Warren as her running mate than anyone suspected — in part because they connected so deeply on the girl-wonk level. Would making the surprise pick of the popular — and populist — Warren have turned things around for Clinton? Quite possibly. The roadblock to Warren’s selection? She’d run afoul of President Obama, calling him out for nominating a banker to a key Treasury Department role. “It’s safe to say she’s not a favorite person in this building,” one White House official observed.
        Most memorable quote:
        “When you’re done with a condom, you throw it out.” — unnamed Democratic insider, whom Green describes as “familiar with Mook’s thinking,” discussing Robby Mook’s attitude toward the grass-roots zealots of Ready for Hillary.
        Best anecdote:
        In May 2016, when Hillary Clinton was being pressured to give a high-profile public interview in the face of the rise of Bernie Sanders and the relentless drip-drip-drip story of her private email server, she was asked by her communications chief what journalist she’d most prefer for a one-on-one TV conversation. Her team thought she said “Brianna,” and reached out to CNN’s Brianna Keilar as a result; Clinton had actually said “Bianna,” referring to Bianna Golodryga of Yahoo! News, the wife of former Clinton administration economic aide Peter Orszag. The interview — brutally intense, rather than softball — turned out to be “a disaster” for Clinton.
        Best anecdote about Bernie Sanders:
        Sanders was asked to film a TV ad to seal the deal of his endorsement of Clinton. He was fine with everything that the Clinton campaign asked him to say — putting a stamp of approval on her positions regarding education, health care and the minimum wage — but refused to say the script’s final words, “I’m with her.” “It’s so phony!” he griped. “I don’t want to say that.” He didn’t. The ad ultimately never ran.

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        Key takeaway:
        “Shattered” appears to have been written with a key assumption in mind: that Hillary Clinton was almost entirely responsible for her own defeat, and that this defeat was predestined because of her personal history and prior political choices she’d made. That makes it a strangely off-key read in an era where new revelations about Russian interference in the campaign and potential collusion (perhaps the true “devil’s bargain”) are erupting on a daily basis. But it also seems to put a capstone on Clinton’s political career, having her declare to her “Hillaryland” team after her loss that 2016 is the “last campaign” of her life. Fact, or wishful thinking on the part of the authors? We’ll undoubtedly see as the gears of 2020’s campaign begin to grind.

        Read more: http://www.cnn.com/2017/07/21/opinions/devils-bargain-shattered-opinion-yang/index.html


        Apology demanded after airport terror stop for reading Syrian book – BBC News

        Image copyright Faizah Shaheen
        Image caption Faizah Shaheen was reported to authorities on her honeymoon flight to Turkey

        A British woman says she is being forced to go to court to get an apology after she was questioned by counter-terrorism police for reading a Syrian art book on a plane.

        Faizah Shaheen was reported to authorities by Thomson cabin crew on a honeymoon flight to Turkey in 2016.

        Her lawyers told the BBC’s Victoria Derbyshire programme she believes she was singled out because of her race.

        Thomson said its crew were “trained to report any concerns” as a precaution.

        ‘Singled out’

        Ms Shaheen – a Muslim, whose work in mental health care in part involves looking for the signs of radicalisation in young people – was reading Syria Speaks: Art and Culture from the Frontline on the outbound flight.

        The book is a collection of literature, photos, songs and cartoons from Syrian artists and writers.

        She was stopped by police when she returned to the UK two weeks later.

        Ms Shaheen and her husband were taken to a room at Doncaster Airport for questioning under Schedule 7 of the Terrorism Act.

        She said the interrogation lasted around 30 minutes, during which she was asked about the book, her work and the number of languages she spoke.

        “I felt upset and distressed, followed by anger. I struggled to accept that I was being singled out for reading a book on art and culture,” she explained.

        “One year on, Thomson Airways has failed to provide an explanation or apology despite legal involvement.

        “This attitude has left me with no option but to seek a declaration from the court under the Equality Act.”

        Image caption Ms Shaheen had been reading this book on Syrian culture

        Ms Shaheen’s legal team said it had written to Thomson telling the company it believed she had been a victim of discrimination.

        It argued she believes she was singled out because of her race.

        Ravi Naik, of ITN solicitors, said that while Thomson had acknowledged its initial communication, it had not responded to its correspondence since January.

        “The Equality Act contains strong protections against discriminatory treatment on the basis of someone’s race and religion and for good reason,” he said.

        “We have asked the airline to apologise, to which we have never received a meaningful reply.”

        Image copyright PA
        Image caption Ms Shaheen was stopped and examined under Schedule 7 of the Terrorism Act 2000

        Ms Shaheen said she does not desire compensation, but “an apology and explanation from Thomson Airways to ensure that it never happens again”.

        Jo Glanville, director of English PEN – a British free speech organisation who helped fund the book Ms Shaheen was reading – said Thomson’s actions amounted to “a fundamental violation of our liberty, undermining our freedom to read any text we like in a public place”.

        She added: “Thomson should review its staff training procedures so that such an error never happens again. Reading a book should never be viewed as grounds for suspicious behaviour.”

        Thomson said in a statement: “We’re really sorry if Ms Shaheen remains unhappy with how she feels she was treated.

        “We wrote to her to explain that our crew undergo general safety and security awareness training on a regular basis.

        “As part of this they are encouraged to be vigilant and share any information or questions with the relevant authorities, who would then act as appropriate.”

        Watch the Victoria Derbyshire programme on weekdays between 09:00 and 11:00 on BBC Two and the BBC News Channel.

        Read more: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-40668083


        Texas judge orders prison to cool down

        (CNN)Texas is famously hot and its prisons are no exception, especially in the summer months. So much so that a federal judge has ordered one prison to cool off for the sake of inmates’ health.

        The Texas Department of Criminal Justice has 15 days to come up with a plan to house some 500 “heat-sensitive” inmates at Wallace Pack Unit in living quarters exceeding no more than 88 degrees. The ruling, issued Wednesday by US District Judge Keith Ellison, also calls for easy access to respite areas for the remaining 1,000 inmates at the unit, which is located about 75 miles northwest of Houston.
        The preliminary injunction stems from a lawsuit filed in 2014 seeking cooler temperatures for inmates, citing a spate of deaths in the previous three years.
          In 2016, the heat index at the unit surpassed 100 degrees on 13 days and hovered around the 90s degrees for 55 days, the ruling notes. No heat-related deaths have been reported at the unit, but at least 23 men have died because of heat in TDCJ facilities since 1998, Ellison wrote. Intermediary measures are necessary to avoid cruel and unusual punishment, he said.
          “… the Court does not order defendants to reduce temperatures to a level that may be comfortable, but simply to a level that reduces the significant risk of harm to an acceptable one,” Ellison wrote.
          Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton vowed to appeal the ruling, saying the state has taken significant measures to mitigate the effects of the sweltering conditions.
          Inmates are allowed to wear shorts and t-shirts in housing areas during summer months, the ruling notes. They can seek relief in air-conditioned areas, including an infirmary, administration offices, visitation areas, the education department and the barbershop.
          But, after a nine-day hearing in June 2017, Ellison concluded the measures are insufficient to combat the risk of serious injury or death in summer months.
          In his ruling, the judge quotes Russian novelist Fyodor Dostoyevsky’s famous line about Siberian prisons: “The degree of civilization in a society can be judged by entering its prisons.”
          “Prisoners are human beings with spouses and children who worry about them and miss them,” Ellison continues. “Some of them will likely someday be shown to have been innocent of the crimes of which they are accused. But, even those admittedly guilty of the most heinous crimes must not be denied their constitutional rights. We diminish the Constitution for all of us to the extent we deny it to anyone.”
          According to the ruling, TDCJ argued at the hearing that its mitigation measures have successfully reduced the number of heat-related illnesses in the Pack Unit. Those measures include access to respite areas, ice water, industrial and personal fans, cool-down showers and wellness checks, the ruling said.
          But inmates testified at the hearing that the respite areas can handle only a fraction of men in the unit, according to the ruling. Even then, the men are often forced to stand and move quickly from one respite area to another.
          One of those inmates is 71-year-old Richard King. He suffers from high blood pressure, diabetes and obesity. During the summer, he testified that he sweats profusely, making it difficult to write letters because the moisture drips all over his paper, the ruling states. When he lies down, sweat pools in his eyes.
          He finds that it is often cooler to lie on the concrete floors than in his bunk, because his personal fan blows hot air and does not have a cooling effect.
          While he has never been denied access to respite areas, he testified that he has been discouraged by the constant movement and standing, which can be difficult given his age and disabilities. Sometimes, corrections officers limit his time in the barbershop to 15 to 20 minutes, he testified, according to the ruling.
          Paxton said it could cost TDCJ up to $20 million to retrofit the Unit with a permanent air conditioning system. The ruling does not require prison officials to install air conditions throughout the prison. It suggests that staff could adjust housing for “heat-sensitive inmates” such as the elderly and disabled to place them in cooled dormitories.
          “The judge’s ruling downplays the substantial precautions TDCJ already has in place to protect inmates from the summer heat,” Attorney General Paxton said.
          “Texas taxpayers shouldn’t be on the hook for tens of millions of dollars to pay for expensive prison air conditioning systems, which are unnecessary and not constitutionally mandated. We’ll appeal the decision and are confident that TDCJ is already doing what is constitutionally required to adequately safeguard offenders from heat-related illnesses.”

          Read more: http://www.cnn.com/2017/07/19/us/texas-prison-heat-lawsuit/index.html


          Social networks ‘lead to anxiety and fear in young’ – BBC News

          Image copyright Thinkstock
          Image caption A life led online can cause young people to feel anxious, inadequate and afraid suggests new report

          Research from anti-bullying charity Ditch the Label suggests social media is making youngsters more anxious.

          Forty per cent said they felt bad if nobody liked their selfie and 35% said their confidence was directly linked to the number of followers they had.

          One in three said they lived in fear of cyber-bullying, with appearance cited as the most likely topic for abuse.

          One expert said children were growing up in “a culture of antagonism”.

          The survey, of more than 10,000 young people aged 12 to 20, suggested that cyber-bullying is widespread, with nearly 70% of youngsters admitting to being abusive towards another person online and 17% claiming to have been bullied online.

          Nearly half (47%) said they wouldn’t discuss bad things in their lives on social media and many offered only an edited version of their lives.

          “There is a trend towards people augmenting their personalities online and not showing the reality,” said Ditch the Label’s chief executive Liam Hackett.

          It found that Instagram was the vehicle most used for mean comments.

          Mr Hackett said: “Cyber-bullying continues to be one of the biggest challenges facing young people.

          “Not only is the internet redefining the climate of bullying, but also it is having clear impacts upon the identity, behaviours and personality of its young users.”

          He called on social networks to put more resources into policing the comments people post online and responding to complaints in a more timely manner.

          His views were echoed by Anne Longfield, the children’s commissioner for England, who also called for a government ombudsman to be set up to mediate between the social network firms and children who are having problems.

          She also called for “compulsory digital citizenship classes” in schools.

          Image copyright Getty Images
          Image caption Nearly half the children surveyed said they wouldn’t discuss bad things going on in their lives on social media

          The findings appear to contradict research from the Oxford Internet Institute (OII) earlier this month that suggested cyber-bullying was relatively rare.

          The OII research – which concentrated on 15-year-olds – found that, while 30% reported regular bullying, only 3% said it happened both off and online.

          The huge variation of findings between surveys is often down to how questions are worded, said Lauren Seager-Smith, chief executive of charity Kidscape,

          “This survey paints a bleak picture but there is a great variance in these studies. Part of this is about how you ask the question, who you ask and what age they are.”

          She said that she was not surprised by Ditch the Label’s findings.

          “We are living in a culture of antagonism. That sadly is the climate our children are growing up in,” she said.

          “The jury is out on quite how damaging social media is and whether we all need to spend less time on such networks.”

          But, she added, adults also needed to think about their usage.

          “Often parents are equally addicted and they have to ask what impact that is having on family life. It could be time for them to say that there is more to life than social networks and the glossy picture of life that it often shows.”

          Read more: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/technology-40643904


          Sen. Ron Johnson unsure if he will support motion to proceed now

          (CNN)Sen. Ron Johnson — who opposed the first version of the GOP health care bill — told reporters last week that he would at the very least vote “yes” on whether to debate the GOP’s newest version of the bill on the floor.

          Now, however, it appears the Wisconsin Republican has had a change of heart.
          “Last week I was strongly urging colleagues to vote motion to proceed,” Johnson told reporters on Capitol Hill Monday evening. “I’m not doing that right now.”
            Johnson said he became concerned about supporting the leadership’s health care bill after reading a report in the Washington Post that cited an anonymous lobbyist saying that Majority Leader Mitch McConnell was telling moderate Republicans that steep cuts to Medicaid would never go into effect. Under the GOP health care bill, the growth rate in Medicaid would change from medical inflation to standard inflation beginning after 2025. The standard inflation rate is less generous than the medical inflation one.
            McConnell responded to Johnson’s comments Monday night.
            “I prefer to speak for myself, and my view is that the Medicaid per capita cap with a responsible growth rate that is sustainable for taxpayers is the most important long-term reform in the bill. That is why it has been in each draft we have released,” McConnell said in a statement.
            According to the Post’s source, McConnell had told senators that probably wouldn’t ever happen in an attempt to win their support.
            “He’s trying to sell the pragmatists like (Sen. Rob) Portman, like (Shelley Moore) Capito on ‘the CPI-U will never happen,'” the GOP lobbyist told the Post.
            Johnson, who has been supportive of overhauling Medicaid, said that he personally confirmed McConnell had made the assurances to some of his colleagues and that he was deeply troubled by the report.
            “You know I was strongly in favor of doing that last week before I read the comments by Sen. McConnell,” Johnson said. “I’ve confirmed those from senators that those comments were made too so I find those comments very troubling, and I think that really does put in jeopardy the motion to proceed vote.”
            He added later that the comments were “a real breach of trust.”
            Johnson said that he plans to tell McConnell he has concerns during the GOP lunch Tuesday. McConnell’s health care bill was already hanging on by a thread and after Republican Sen. John McCain of Arizona had to have surgery for a blood clot, leadership had to delay the vote. McConnell can only afford to have two Republican senators vote against the motion to proceed. One more and the legislation cannot be advanced.

            Read more: http://www.cnn.com/2017/07/17/politics/ron-johnson-health-care-support/index.html


            Serial cat killer sentenced in California

            A cat slaughterer in California was sentenced Friday to a maximum jail term of 16 years in jail, but avoided having to register as a sex offender.

            Robert Farmer, 26, pleaded guilty in October to 21 felony counts of animal cruelty including stealing, torturing and dismembering several treasured felines in the south San Jose neighborhood of Cambrian Park. Police say Farmer murdered at least 16 cats, but only four of their remains have been found two of which were uncovered in trash bins.

            The rapid disappearance of the pets in the fall of 2015 caused great anxiety in the northern California community, prompting owners to keep their outdoor felines enclosed inside. Several of the pet owners issued emotional pleas during the court hearing, which was packed with animal rights activists and community locals donning purple ribbons with white cat paws.

            Prosecutors and owners of the victimized cats also claimed that Farmer had sexually abused at least one of the cats he killed, but Santa Clara County Superior Court Judge Sharon Chatman dismissed the argument based on a lack of immediate evidence.



            Farmers attorney, Wesley Schroeder, contended that his client suffered from a long-running meth addiction which functioned as an accelerant to his mental health deterioration, and that the countys probation officer had suggested a nine-year prison term. However, Chatman did impose the most stringent sentence possible 16 years behind bars despite the countys probation officer recommending only a nine-year term.

            Given that Farmer is not required to register as a sex offender, he will serve his sentence with two years credit for time already served in county jail rather than federal prison. After release, which could be in as little as four-and-a-half years, Farmer will have to register for probation until the terms of the full 16-year sentence are fulfilled. He will not be allowed to own or care for any animal for 10 years and was given a restriction order to stay away from the Cambrian Park area in addition to undergoing court-ordered psychological treatment.

            Farmer was arrested in October after authorities discovered him asleep in his car, with a dead cat in the center console and surrounded by wads of fur. The matter was immediately taken up by scores of activists demanding a harsh sentence for the perpetrator, sparking a widely-circulated petition, frequent calls to the district attorneys office and the creation of a Facebook group entitled Justice for our Catz.

            Finally, today, after almost two years and 15 hearings we got a justice for our babies. Today was very long and emotionally exhausting day. We can’t thank you enough for all your help and support, either by attending court or via electronic communication, one of the owners of a slain cat, Miriam Petrova, wrote. You have shown that our pets are not things, but loving family members who have feelings and have a soul and they deserve justice. On their behalf, we want to thank you for being the voices for our voiceless animals.

            Read more: http://www.foxnews.com/us/2017/07/16/serial-cat-killer-sentenced-in-california.html


            Bernie Sanders returns to Iowa to water the grassroots

            Des Moines, Iowa (CNN)The last time Sen. Bernie Sanders was in Iowa, there was an election to win. It was November 2016 and Sanders was barnstorming Hawkeye State college towns, trying in vain to drum up support for Hillary Clinton.

            He returned on Saturday under slightly different circumstances. President Donald Trump is finishing his sixth month in office and Senate Republicans are hammering away at an Obamacare overhaul that could cause more than 20 million people to lose insurance over the next 10 years. The campaign continues, but this time around it turns on health care — beating back the Senate GOP bill while building up support for the single-payer plan Sanders will likely introduce in August.
            Making the first of two scheduled summer visits here, the state that will play host to the first-in-the-nation caucuses of a still far-off presidential campaign season, Sanders kept up his broadsides against the Republican health care overhaul, calling it the most “anti-working class legislation in the history of the country.” He named and tried to shame both of his Senate colleagues from Iowa, pleading with the Republicans repeatedly to reject the bill.
              “I say to Sen. Grassley and Sen. Ernst, please, please take a hard look at what this disastrous legislation will do to the people of Iowa and the people of America,” the Vermont senator said. “I beg of them: please vote ‘no’ on this legislation.”
              Had he arrived on the scene in Des Moines an hour or so earlier, Sanders might have been able to deliver the message personally to White House counselor Kellyanne Conway, who by some cosmic coincidence happened to be in town — just an escalator ride away — in the same building, speaking at the Family Leadership Summit, a gathering hosted by conservative evangelical activist Bob Vander Plaats.
              Or perhaps Sanders will have the chance in a few years. His appearance, downstairs, at this annual convention sponsored by the progressive Citizens for Community Improvement, has juiced up speculation over his 2020 plans. Typically loathe to discuss the prospect, he did allow in an interview with liberal radio host Mark Thompson this week that he was “not taking (the possibility of a run) off the table, I just have not made any decisions.”
              If Sanders does take a second shot, he would join the contest as an early favorite, a popular national figure equipped with the infrastructure he lacked in 2015 and 2016, both organizationally and in the form of elected officials eager to make a show of their common cause.
              Cathy Glasson, a nurse and union leader, was among the Sanders-loyal candidates making the rounds at the downtown Iowa Events Center. She is one of a hearty field of Democrats vying for the party’s gubernatorial nomination in 2018, a race made suddenly more appealing with the departure of Republican Gov. Terry Branstad, who left office to become the Trump administration’s ambassador to China.
              “We want to change the dynamic in 2018,” Glasson said, arguing that victory for Iowa progressives — like her — in the midterm season could “set the frame for presidential candidates when they start coming through. It’s the very start of something fantastic that can happen right here in our own state to drive a national agenda as well.”
              But organizers here are almost reflexively averse to overindulgence in presidential chatter. It’s not a parry. Republicans’ inability to move on policy in Washington, while their GOP colleagues in state houses build heavy majorities and rack up legislative wins, hasn’t gone unnoticed. Nor has the utility — as evidenced in the fight to turn back Trump policy — of controlling high-profile statewide offices.
              “It’s extremely premature for anybody to talk about 2020, because we need to take things back in 2018,” Robert Becker, who ran Sanders operation in Iowa last year, said as attendees filled workshops on Medicare-for-all and climate action. “It’s not a campaign that ended, it’s beginning and evolving. The energy is up and down (the ballot).”
              As has become commonplace, especially as Capitol Hill holds Obamacare in the balance, Sanders’ one-two on health care — a defense of the Affordable Care Act, for which he has traveled the country rallying support, then a push to “Medicare for all,” the single-payer system that is growing in popularity on the left — drew roaring ovations in Des Moines.
              “What’s important about ‘Medicare for all’ specifically is that he’s saying you can beat something with nothing,” said Michael Lighty, the public policy director for National Nurses United. “And the ACA simply isn’t popular enough to take a purely defensive stand and expect victory.”
              No matter how the Senate vote breaks down, Sanders will be taking his proposal public in the coming weeks. While the bill is politically unfeasible in the current Congress, the plan among supporters is to brand the policy as a Democratic Party staple. For activists with their sights set high, simply making the pitch represents a chance to keep close with the grassroots.
              “He is going to areas where the Democrats have done badly since 2010,” Lighty said, rattling off the states and regions — western Pennsylvania, Ohio, West Virginia, Kentucky — Sanders has visited over the last month. “So this is not just about health care.”

              Read more: http://www.cnn.com/2017/07/15/politics/bernie-sanders-return-to-iowa/index.html