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John McCain has been diagnosed with brain cancer, spokesman says

Statement reveals brain tumor known as glioblastoma was removed along with blood clot above senators right eye during surgery last Friday

John McCain, the Arizona senator and former Republican presidential candidate, has been diagnosed with brain cancer.

A brain tumor known as a glioblastoma was removed from McCain along with a blood clot in a surgery at the Mayo Clinic on Friday, a spokesperson said on Wednesday.

McCains office had only previously announced that the blood clot had been removed from above the 80-year-olds left eye.

The Mayo Clinic said in a statement released by McCains office: The senator and his family are reviewing further treatment options with his Mayo Clinic care team. Treatment options may include a combination of chemotherapy and radiation. The senators doctors say he is recovering from his surgery amazingly well and his underlying health is excellent.

The surgery had forced McCain to stay in Arizona this week and miss votes in the Senate. It had led to a delay in the vote on the Senate Republican bill to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act (ACA), which was originally scheduled for Monday. Since the delay was announced, a sufficient number of Republican senators came forward to express their opposition to the bill and forced the majority leader, Mitch McConnell, to shelve it and instead try to push a vote on a clean repeal of the ACA.

In a statement, the Arizona senators spokesperson said that in the aftermath of his diagnosis, further consultations with [the] Mayo Clinic care team will indicate when he will return to the United States Senate.

An extended absence would likely make it even more difficult for Republicans to repeal or replace the ACA, popularly known as Obamacare. Senate Republicans have a narrow 52-48 majority and, with the tie-breaking vote of Mike Pence, can only afford to lose two votes if McCain is present. His absence means that two Republican no votes would now sink any legislation if all 48 Democrats are unified in opposition.

McCain, who was re-elected to his sixth term in the Senate in 2016, was the Republican partys presidential nominee in 2008 and finished second to George W Bush in the 2000 GOP presidential primary. Prior to his career in politics, McCain served as an aviator in the US navy, and was held as prisoner of war for five and a half years during the Vietnam war. While being held captive by the north Vietnamese, McCain was repeatedly subjected to torture. He retired as a captain after earning a number of decorations including the Silver Star, the Bronze Star and the Distinguished Flying Cross.

The Arizona senators illness sparked an outpouring of support from both sides of the aisle.

In a statement, Donald Trump said: Senator John McCain has always been a fighter. Melania and I send our thoughts and prayers to Senator McCain, Cindy, and their entire family. Get well soon. Trump, who famously set off a political firestorm in 2015 by saying McCain was not a war hero, said earlier in the week of the Arizona senator: We hope John McCain gets better very soon because we miss him. Hes a crusty voice in Washington. Plus we need his vote. And hell be back.

Barack Obama, against whom McCain ran in the 2008 presidential election, tweeted: John McCain is an American hero & one of the bravest fighters Ive ever known. Cancer doesnt know what its up against. Give it hell, John.

Barack Obama (@BarackObama)

John McCain is an American hero & one of the bravest fighters I’ve ever known. Cancer doesn’t know what it’s up against. Give it hell, John.

July 20, 2017

A number of McCains colleagues in the Senate also expressed their well wishes. In a statement, Mitch McConnell said: John McCain is a hero to our Conference and a hero to our country. He has never shied from a fight and I know that he will face this challenge with the same extraordinary courage that has characterized his life. The entire Senate familys prayers are with John, Cindy and his family, his staff, and the people of Arizona he represents so well. We all look forward to seeing this American hero again soon.

Outside a meeting of Senate Republicans to discuss healthcare reform on Wednesday night, senator John Hoeven of North Dakota said they had learned of the diagnosis during the meeting.

It was very emotional almost kind of stunned disbelief, Hoeven told reporters. Senator James Lankford, of Oklahoma, then led them in prayer.

Hoeven said the senators had received a message from McCain via South Carolina senator Lindsay Graham, a close friend. The senator told them he was eager to get back and get to work, Hoeven added.

Graham was visibly emotional as he recalled his conversation with McCain when he learned of the diagnosis.

He says, Ive been through worse, Graham told reporters. Five minutes into the call, however, McCain wanted to talk the legislative priories, Graham said.
God knows how this ends, he said. But I do know this: This disease has never had a more worthy opponent.

In a statement, McCains daughter Meghan said: He is a warrior at dusk, one of the greatest Americans of our age, and the worthy heir to his fathers and grandfathers name. But to me, he is something more. He is my strength, my example, my refuge, my confidante, my teacher, my rock, my hero my Dad.

Meghan McCain (@MeghanMcCain)

Statement regarding my father @SenJohnMcCain: pic.twitter.com/SMte9Hkwkq

July 20, 2017

Lauren Gambino contributed to this report.

Read more: https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2017/jul/19/john-mccain-brain-cancer

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Senate will vote to repeal Obamacare without replacement, after new healthcare bill stumbles

Republican Mitch McConnell calls for vote on clean repeal, after senators Mike Lee and Jerry Moran come out against latest effort to replace Obamacare

Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell has announced that the Senate will vote on a clean repeal of Obamacare without any replacement, after two Republican senators broke ranks to torpedo the current Senate healthcare bill.

Senators Mike Lee of Utah and Jerry Moran of Kansas came out on Monday night in opposition to McConnells Better Care Reconciliation Act (BCRA), the Senate version of the controversial healthcare reform bill that passed the House in May.

Senate Republicans hold a bare 52-48 majority in the Senate and two members of the GOP caucus, the moderate Susan Collins of Maine and the libertarian Rand Paul of Kentucky, already opposed the bill, along with all 48 Democrats. The announcement from Moran and Lee made it impossible for Republicans to muster the 50 votes needed to bring the BCRA bill to the floor.

Instead, McConnell announced late on Monday night that the Senate would vote on a bill to simply repeal Obamacare without any replacement in the coming days.

The Kentucky Republican said in a statement: Regretfully, it is now apparent that the effort to repeal and immediately replace the failure of Obamacare will not be successful.

He added that in the coming days the Senate would vote on repealing the Affordable Care Act with a two-year-delay. The Senate passed a similar bill in 2015, which was promptly vetoed by Barack Obama.

McConnells plan echoes a statement made by Donald Trump in a tweet on Monday night, in which the president urged a repeal of Obamacare with any replacement to come in the future.

Republicans should just REPEAL failing ObamaCare now & work on a new Healthcare Plan that will start from a clean slate. Dems will join in! Trump wrote.

The announcement from Lee and Moran came as Trump was having dinner at the White House with a number of senators who support the bill. Trump talked to several conservatives on the phone over the weekend, including Lee, in an attempt to win their support.

In a tweet, Lee noted that he could not support this version of the bill. Moran used the same language on Twitter. Both voted for a clean repeal of the Affordable Care Act in 2015, albeit with the expectation that it would be vetoed by Obama and not become law.

In an op-ed in The Resurgent, a conservative online publication, Lee cited the fact that the current bill did not incorporate an amendment that he introduced with Ted Cruz to allow insurance companies to offer bare-bones insurance plans. In Lees argument, the mandate that insurance companies cover pre-existing conditions resulted in a hidden tax which meant that middle-class families are being forced to pay billions in higher health insurance premiums to help those with pre-existing conditions.

In a statement, Moran took a slightly different tack. He said: There are serious problems with Obamacare, and my goal remains what it has been for a long time: to repeal and replace it. This closed-door process has yielded the BCRA, which fails to repeal the Affordable Care Act or address healthcares rising costs. The Kansas Republican also warned that the current legislation leave[s] the federal government in control of everyday healthcare decisions which Moran said made it more likely that our healthcare system will devolve into a single-payer system, which would require a massive federal spending increase.

The announcement came shortly after a Senate vote on the healthcare bill was delayed due to the hospitalization of John McCain. The Arizona senator had a blood clot removed from above his left eye on Friday night and was unable to fly to Washington as a result. On Saturday, McConnell said the Senate would defer consideration of the bill while McCain recovered. A number of other moderate Republican senators have yet to take positions on the bill, most notably Dean Heller of Nevada.

Although a repeal of Obamacare without providing for a immediate replacement has long been popular with conservatives, many other Republicans have been skeptical of this approach because of the potential political cost.

In contrast, McCain said in a statement that Republicans should start the process of passing a health care bill over. Congress must now return to regular order [and] hold hearings, said the Arizona Republican.

In a statement, the Senate Democratic leader, Chuck Schumer, said: This second failure of Trumpcare is proof positive that the core of this bill is unworkable.

He added: Rather than repeating the same failed, partisan process yet again, Republicans should start from scratch and work with Democrats on a bill that lowers premiums, provides long-term stability to the markets and improves our healthcare system.

Lauren Gambino contributed reporting

Read more: https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2017/jul/17/republican-health-bill-senators-oppose-vote

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Journalist under fire for calling it ‘crazy’ not to be disgusted by homeless people

Prominent Mother Jones writer Kevin Drum says critics deliberately misreading his response to study on peoples reaction to seeing homelessness

A high-profile Mother Jones writer has suggested that it would be crazy not to have a reflexive disgust of homeless people, stirring the anger of those who say he is perpetuating the worst kinds of stereotypes.

Writing on Friday, Kevin Drum was responding to a study which found that some people with a propensity for feeling disgust might experience it when faced with someone living on the street.

Glenn Greenwald reacted by posting photographs of homeless people who have performed altruistic acts alongside a screen shot from Drums story. The two authors of the study, meanwhile, say Drum glossed over subtleties in their work.

outside in america

He seemed to just be endorsing the worst stereotypes without any nuance or without any humanization of these people, said Scott Clifford, one of the authors and an assistant professor of political science at the University of Houston.

Drum said his critics were guilty of deliberately misreading what I wrote.

The authors of the study which is admittedly eyebrow-raising owing to its lexicon set out to untangle a contradiction. Across the country, cities seek to aid homeless people by providing shelters and millions of dollars in funding, while also passing laws against sitting or lying on sidewalks, or restricting where RVs can park, which serve to exclude them.

They examined survey data and focused on a particular feeling that seemed to play a role in perpetuating this paradox: While most of the public wants to help homeless people, they write, sensitivity to disgust drives many of these same people to support policies that facilitate physical distance from homeless people.

Disgust, they propose, might help explain nimbyism in this casea desire among housed people to prevent camps or housing being built in the vicinity of their own homes. And they argue that the media exacerbates disgust with stories that mention disease and unsanitary conditions.

But they do not say that this kind of reaction of reaction is universal: while some people are prone to feeling disgust in the presence of homelessness, others are less likely to.

In his brief response to a summary that the authors published in the Washington Post, Drum said he found their results unsurprising. About half the homeless suffer from a mental illness and a third abuse either alcohol or drugs, he wrote, before commenting how crazy it would be not to not to be disgusted by a population like that.

He finished by suggesting that it was the work of a decent human being to overcome these reflexive feelings and find empathy.

It certainly is the work of of a good human being not to act fully based on immediate reactions, said Maria Foscarinis, executive director of the National Law Center on Homelessness & Poverty. She said the study seems to make sense, though she had some reservations. But she did not agree with Drum, calling the post really over the top and not true to what the paper is saying.

Its just a manifestation of the worst kinds of stereotypes. As a subscriber to this publication, Im really disappointed.

Pete White, head of the Los Angeles Community Action Network, said he thought Drums conclusions risked tarring an entire group of people, as if every houseless person is addicted to drugs and had a mental illness.

Both of the studys authors expressed displeasure. He appears to believe that everyone will in all circumstances feel disgust towards homeless people, said Spencer Piston, the other author and an assistant professor of political science at Boston University. Theres a clear irony here, which is that we argue that the connection between disgust and attitudes about the homeless depend in part on media coverage and the extent to which homeless people are portrayed as disgusting.

In an email, Drum said that he did not think his blogpost was unfaithful to the study. He also pushed back at those condemning him. Please note that I didnt say I was disgusted by the homeless, nor that they are inherently disgusting, he said. Only that, given the nature of the demographic, its not surprising that most people find them disgusting.

Clara Jeffery, the editor-in-chief of Mother Jones, said that the anger was fueled by the terms used in the study and not Drums writing itself. But it is one brief post about a study, she added in her email. Mother Jones has an extensive body of work on the homeless, the housing and mental health and opioid crisis fueling it.

Do you have an experience of homelessness to share with the Guardian? Get in touch

Read more: https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2017/jul/17/homelessness-kevin-drum-mother-jones-disgust

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How the middle class hoards wealth and opportunity for itself

American society is dominated by an elite 20% that ruthlessly protects its own interests

When I was growing up, my mother would sometimes threaten my brother and me with electrocution. Well, thats not quite right. In fact, the threat was of lessons in elocution, but we wittily, we thought renamed them.

Growing up in a very ordinary town just north of London and attending a very ordinary high school, one of our several linguistic atrocities was failing to pronounce the t in certain words. My mother, who was raised in rural north Wales and left school at 16, did not want us to find doors closed in a class-sensitive society simply because we didnt speak what is still called the Queens English. I will never forget the look on her face when I managed to say the word computer with neither a p nor a t.

Still, the lessons never materialised. Any lingering working-class traces in my own accent were wiped away by three disinfectant years at Oxford University. (My wife claims the adolescent accent resurfaces when I drink, but she doesnt know what shes talking about shes American.) We also had to learn how to waltz. My mother didnt want us to put a foot wrong there either.

In fact, we did just fine, in no small part because of the stable, loving home in which we were raised. But I have always been acutely sensitive to class distinctions and their role in perpetuating inequality. In fact, one of the reasons I came to the United States was to escape the cramped feeling of living in a nation still so dominated by class. I knew enough not to think I was moving to a socially mobile utopia: Id read some of the research. It has nonetheless come as something of a shock to discover that, in some important respects, the American class system is functioning more ruthlessly than the British one I escaped.

In the upper-middle-class America I now inhabit, I witness extraordinary efforts by parents to secure an elite future status for their children: tutors, coaches and weekend lessons in everything from French to fencing. But I have never heard any of my peers try to change the way their children speak. Perhaps this is simply because they know they are surrounded by other upper-middle-class kids, so there is nothing to worry about. Perhaps it is a regional thing.

But I think there is a better explanation. Americans tend to think their children will be judged by their accomplishments rather than their accents. Class position is earned, rather than simply expressed. The way to secure a higher status in a market meritocracy is by acquiring lots of merit and ensuring that our kids do, too. What ones parents are like is entirely a matter of luck, points out the philosopher Adam Swift. But he adds: What ones children are like is not. Children raised in upper-middle-class families do well in life. As a result, there is a lot of intergenerational stickiness at the top of the American income distribution more, in fact, than at the bottom with upper-middle-class status passed from one generation to the next.

Drawing class distinctions feels almost un-American. The nations self-image is of a classless society, one in which every individual is of equal moral worth, regardless of his or her economic status. This has been how the world sees the United States, too. Historian Alexis de Tocqueville observed in the early 19th century that Americans were seen to be more equal in fortune and intelligence more equally strong, in other words than they were in any other country, or were at any other time in recorded history. So different to the countries of old Europe, still weighed down by the legacies of feudalism.

British politicians have often felt the need to urge the creation of a classless society, looking to America for inspiration as, what historian David Cannadine once called it, the pioneering and prototypical classless society. European progressives have long looked enviously at social relations in the New World. George Orwell noted the lack of servile tradition in America; the German socialist Werner Sombart noticed that the bowing and scraping before the upper classes, which produces such an unpleasant impression in Europe, is completely unknown.

This is one of many reasons socialist politics struggled to take root in the United States. A key attraction of socialist systems the main one, according to Orwell is the eradication of class distinctions. There were few to eradicate in America. I am sure that one reason Downton Abbey and The Crown so delight American audiences is their depictions of an alien world of class-based status. One reason class distinctions are less obvious in America is that pretty much everyone defines themselves as a member of the same class: the one in the middle. Nine in ten adults select the label middle class, exactly the same proportion as in 1939, according to the pollsters Gallup. No wonder that politicians have always fallen over each other to be on their side.

But in recent decades Americans at the top of the ladder have been entrenching their class position. The convenient fiction that the middle class can stretch up that far has become a difficult one to sustain. As a result, the modifications upper or lower to the general middle class category have become more important.

Class is not just about money, though it is about that. The class gap can be seen from every angle: education, security, family, health, you name it. There will also be inequalities on each of these dimensions, of course. But inequality becomes class division when all these varied elements money, education, wealth, occupation cluster together so tightly that, in practice, almost any one of them will suffice for the purposes of class definition. Class division becomes class stratification when these advantages and thus status endure across generations. In fact, upper-middle-class status is passed down to the next generation more effectively than in the past, and in the United States more than in other countries.

One benefit of the multidimensional nature of this separation is that it has reduced interdisciplinary bickering over how to define class. While economists typically focus on categorisation by income and wealth, and sociologists tend more towards occupational status and education, and anthropologists are typically more interested in culture and norms, right now it doesnt really matter, because all the trends are going the same way.

It is not just the top 1% pulling away, but the top 20%. In fact, only a very small proportion of US adults 1% to 2% define themselves as upper class. A significant minority about one in seven adopts the upper middle class description. This is quite similar to the estimates of class size generated by most sociologists, who tend to define the upper middle class as one composed of professionals and managers, or around 15% to 20% of the working-age population.

As David Azerrad of the Heritage Foundation writes: There is little appetite in America for policies that significantly restrict the ability of parents to do all they can, within the bounds of the law, to give their children every advantage in life. That is certainly true. But then Azerrad has also mis-stated the problem. No one sensible is in favour of new policies that block parents from doing the best they can for their children. Even in France the suggestion floated by the former president, Franois Hollande, to restore equality by banning homework, on the grounds that parents differ in their ability and willingness to help out, was laughed out of court. But we should want to get rid of policies that allow parents to give their children an unfair advantage and in the process restrict the opportunities of others.

Most of us want to do our best for our children. Wanting ones childrens life to go well is part of what it means to love them, write philosophers Harry Brighouse and Adam Swift in their 2014 book Family Values: The Ethics of Parent-Child Relationships. But our natural preference for the welfare and prospects of our own children does not automatically eclipse other moral claims. We would look kindly on a father who helps his son get picked as starting pitcher for his school baseball team by practising with him every day after work. But we would probably feel differently about a father who secures the slot for his son by bribing the coach. Why? After all, each father has sacrificed something, time in one case, money in the other, to advance his child. The difference is team selection should be based on merit, not money. A principle of fairness is at stake.

So, where is the line drawn? The best philosophical treatment of this question I have found is the one by Swift and Brighouse. Their suggestion is that, while parents have every right to act in ways that will help their childrens lives go well, they do not have the right to confer on them a competitive advantage in other words, to ensure not just that they do well but that they do better than others. This is because, in a society with finite rewards, improving the situation of one child necessarily worsens that of another, at least in relative terms: Whatever parents do to confer competitive advantage is not neutral in its effects on other children it does not leave untouched, but rather is detrimental to, those other childrens prospects in the competition for jobs and associated rewards.

The trouble is that in the real world this seems like a distinction without a difference. What they call competitive advantage-conferring parental activities will almost always be also helping-your-kid-flourish parental activities. If I read bedtime stories to my son, he will develop a richer vocabulary and may learn to love reading and have a more interesting and fulfilling life. But it could also help him get better grades than his classmates, giving him a competitive advantage in college admissions. Swift and Brighouse suggest a parent should not even aim to give their child a competitive advantage: It would be a little odd, perhaps even a little creepy, if the ultimate aim of her endeavours were that her child is better off than others.

I think this is too harsh. In a society with a largely open, competitive labour market, it is not creepy to want your children to end up higher on the earnings ladder than others. Not only will this bring them a higher income, and all the accompanying choices and security, it is also likely to bring them safer and more interesting work. Relative position matters it is one reason, after all, that relative mobility is of such concern to policymakers. Although I think Brighouse and Swift go too far, they are on to something important with their distinction between the kind of parental behaviour that merely helps your own children and the kind that is detrimental to others. Thats what I call opportunity hoarding.

Opportunity hoarding does not result from the workings of a large machine but from the cumulative effect of individual choices and preferences. Taken in isolation, they may feel trivial: nudging your daughter into a better college with a legacy preference [giving applicants places on the basis of being related to alumni of the college]; helping the son of a professional contact to an internship; a single vote on a municipal council to retain low-density zoning restrictions. But, like many micro-preferences, to borrow a term from economist Thomas Schelling, they can have strong effects on overall culture and collective outcomes.

Over recent decades, institutions that once primarily served racist goals legacy admissions to keep out Jewish students, zoning laws to keep out black families have not been abandoned but have been softened, normalised and subtly re-purposed to help us sustain the upper-middle-class status. They remain, then, barriers to a more open, more genuinely competitive and fairer society. I wont insult your intelligence by pretending there are no costs here. By definition, reducing opportunity hoarding will mean some losses for the upper middle class.

But they will be small. Our neighbourhoods will be a little less upmarket but also less boring. Our kids will rub shoulders with some poorer kids in the school corridor. They might not squeak into an Ivy League college, and they may have to be content going to an excellent public university. But if we arent willing to entertain even these sacrifices, there is little hope. There will be some material costs, too. The big challenge is to equalise opportunities to acquire human capital and therefore increase the number of true competitors in the labour market. This will require, among other things, some increased public investment. Where will the money come from? It cant all come from the super-rich. Much of it will have to come from the upper middle class. From me andyou.

This is an extract from Dream Hoarders: How the American Upper Middle Class is Leaving Everyone Else in the Dust, Why That is a Problem, and What To Do About It by Richard V Reeves (Brookings Institution Press, 2017)

HOW TO STAY AHEAD – OR PLAY FAIR

As parents, we naturally want our children to flourish. But that laudable desire slides into opportunity hoarding when we use our money, power or position to give our own children exclusive access to certain goods or chances. The effect is to strengthen class barriers.

1. Fix an internship using our networks. Internships are becoming more important but are too often stitched up privately. Its worse if theyre unpaid. Instead: insist on paid internships, openly recruited.

2. Take our own kids to work for the day. Children learn what work is from adults. Instead: try bringing somebody elses kid to work, perhaps by partnering with local charities.

3. Be a Nimby. By shutting out low-income housing from our neighbourhoods with planning restrictions, we keep less affluent kids away from our local schools and communities. Instead: be a Yimby, vote and argue for more mixed housing in your area.

4. Write cheques to PTA funds. Many of us want to support the school our children attend. This tilts the playing field, however, since other schools cant do the same. Instead: get your PTA to give half the donations to a school in a poor area.

Read more: https://www.theguardian.com/inequality/2017/jul/15/how-us-middle-classes-hoard-opportunity-privilege

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John McCain predicts Republican healthcare bill will fail

Unpopular bill further imperilled after senators returned to their states and faced constituents strongly opposed to it

A senior US Republican senator has predicted that the bill to roll back Obamacare would probably fail, adding to growing signs that the bill is in trouble.

My view is that its probably going to be dead, John McCain said on the CBS program Face the Nation.

The Senate bill, which faces unified Democratic opposition, has been further imperilled during a week-long recess where several Republican senators have had to return to their states and face constituents strongly opposed to it. Senators return to Washington on Monday.

The Senate bill keeps much of Obamacare intact but strips away most of its funding. It repeals most Obamacare taxes, overhauls the laws tax credits and ends its Medicaid expansion. It also goes beyond repealing Obamacare by cutting funding for the Medicaid program beginning in 2025.

The White House chief of staff, Reince Priebus, said on Sunday on Fox News that President Donald Trump expected Congress to pass a bill to repeal and replace Obamacare.

The Republican senator Ted Cruz on Sunday said failure to pass the bill was not an option and the Senate effort had to focus on lowering premiums. He pointed to an amendment he offered that is being scored by the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office, which assesses the impact of legislation.

Cruzs amendment would allow insurers to offer plans that do not comply with Obamacares mandate that they charge sick and healthy people the same rates and that they cover a set of essential health benefits, such as maternity care and prescription drugs, as long as they also offer plans that do comply with the regulations.

The amendment has drawn the support of conservative senators and groups, who say the it will help lower premiums. But moderate Republicans and outside critics say it will erode protections for people with pre-existing conditions and make their insurance unaffordable.

The Senate majority leader, Mitch McConnell, aims to hold a vote on the legislation, which needs the support of at least 50 of the Senates 52 Republicans, before a six-week recess that begins on 29 July.

Yet even McConnell cast doubt on the bills prospects for passage last week.

Speaking at a luncheon in his home state of Kentucky, McConnell said if Congress failed to follow through on a seven-year pledge to repeal Obamacare then it must act to shore up private health insurance markets, comments seen as providing a pathway to a bipartisan deal to fix the health system.

Read more: https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2017/jul/10/john-mccain-predicts-republican-healthcare-bill-will-fail

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McConnell hints healthcare vote could fall short: ‘I’m a guy with a Rubik’s cube’

Senate majority leader spoke to impasse over key aspects of Republican bill at an event Thursday, but said no action was not an alternative

Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell on Thursday hinted that the Republican effort to repeal the Affordable Care Act (ACA) could fall short as conservatives and moderates in his conference remain at an impasse over key aspects of the bill.

Before leaving Washington for a week-long Fourth of July recess, McConnell delayed a vote on the Republican healthcare bill after it was clear there was not enough support for the plan, which would leave 22 million fewer people without health insurance over the next decade, according to an analysis by the Congressional Budget Office.

If my side is unable to agree on an adequate replacement, then some kind of action with regard to the private health insurance market must occur, McConnell told constituents at a Rotary Club lunch on Thursday, according to the Associated Press.

No action is not an alternative, he added. Weve got the insurance markets imploding all over the country, including in this state.

McConnells comments were quickly embraced by his Democratic counterpart, Senate minority leader Chuck Schumer.

Its encouraging that Sen McConnell today acknowledged that the issues with the exchanges are fixable, and opened the door to bipartisan solutions to improve our healthcare system, Schumer said in a statement.

As weve said time and time again, Democrats are eager to work with Republicans to stabilize the markets and improve the law. At the top of the list should be ensuring cost-sharing payments are permanent, which will protect healthcare for millions.

McConnell faces a daunting task as he works behind the scenes with senators to craft a bill that bridges the ideological divide within his conference. Moderates, especially those from states that opted to expand Medicaid under the ACA (also known as Obamacare) are wary of scaling back spending on the health insurance program for low-income Americans, and conservatives are irked the plan does not go further to repeal the law.

Im in the position of a guy with a Rubiks cube trying to twist the dial in such a way to get at least 50 members of my conference who can agree to a version of repealing and replacing Obamcare, McConnell told Kentucky voters at a town hall-style event on Thursday, according to NBC. That is a very timely subject that Im grappling with as we speak.

Senate
Senate minority leader Chuck Schumer holds up a photograph of constituents who would be adversely affected by the proposed Republican bill. Photograph: Andrew Harnik/AP

An initial draft of the Senate Republican healthcare plan mirrors the structure of the House bill, which passed in May. The measure would repeal key pieces of the ACA while extracting deep cuts to Medicaid compared to spending under current law.

McConnell has since made changes to the bill, including adding $45bn to combat the opioid epidemic, among other adjustments. The CBO is expected to release another analysis sometime next week, a likely indicator that Senate Republicans will not vote on the plan until later this month.

On Thursday, a handful of senate Republicans echoed McConnells skepticism about whether the party would be able to reach an agreement on health care.

It is precarious, senator Ted Cruz, a conservative of Texas, said on San Antonios KTSA Radio. The majority is so narrow, I dont know if we get it done or not.

Senate Republicans are using a special budget process known as reconciliation to avoid a Democratic filibuster of the repeal plan. To pass the bill, Republicans need support from at least 50 of their 52 members. No Democrats are expected to support a repeal measure. In the case of a tie, vice-president Mike Pence would cast the final vote.

Cruz has offered an amendment that would allow insurance companies to sell non-compliant plans as long as they also offer at least one plan that does meet Obamacare standards. Experts on both sides of the political debate said such an action could devastate insurance markets.

Senator Jerry Moran, a Republican from Kansas who surprised his party when he came out against the bill, told constituents in Palco that healthcare reform is almost impossible to try to solve when youre trying to do it with 51 votes in the United States Senate, in which there is not significant consensus on what the final result ought to be.

As the debate over healthcare rages, Senator Pat Toomey, a Republican of Pennsylvania who supports the bill, suggested during a televised town hall on Wednesday that McConnell was several weeks away from winning enough support for a vote. Asked why Republicans were struggling to fulfill a years-long campaign promise, Toomey offered a candid reply.

Look, I didnt expect Donald Trump to win, he said. I think most of my colleagues didnt, so we didnt expect to be in this situation.

Read more: https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2017/jul/06/republican-healthcare-bill-mitch-mcconnell-vote-delay

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North Korea: US and its allies face shortage of good options

Pyongyangs latest missile test has revived calls to deal with Kim Jong-un. But all possible strategies carry huge risks

North Koreas successful launch of an intercontinental ballistic missile that could one day carry nuclear warheads to the United States has revived talk of military intervention in the reclusive state.

Pyongyangs nuclear ambitions, once a somewhat abstract strategic concern for bureaucrats in Washington, have suddenly become more pressing. The secretary of state, Rex Tillerson, said earlier this year that all options are on the table for blocking its nuclear weapons programme.

Talk of a surgical strike often surfaces when politicians are contemplating military intervention in conflicts or troubled areas around the globe, perhaps because it carries connotations of a focused, efficient attack, with minimal collateral damage, like a clean surgical incision. That is a distracting illusion.

Read more: https://www.theguardian.com/world/2017/jul/06/north-korea-us-and-its-allies-face-shortage-of-good-options

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Activists cry cowardice as Republican senators shut doors to healthcare town halls

Pat Toomeys closed-door talk saw him accused of not having the courage to speak to those affected, while Ted Cruz also faced dissent at his ticket-only event

At a town hall in Pennsylvania on Wednesday night, Republican senator Pat Toomey faced an angry protest over his role in the GOP healthcare bill, while Ted Cruz was heckled over his suggested amendment to the legislation at an event in Texas.

Scores of people gathered outside the ABC27 studio in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, where Toomey was holding what had been billed as a town hall meeting.

But in reality just eight audience members were allowed into the invite-only event, and their questions had been pre-screened by the news channel.

The closed-door approach did not endear Toomey to the sign-waving protesters outside, who accused the senator of not having courage to speak to people who would be personally affected by the Senate healthcare legislation he helped to write.

Cruz, meanwhile, was heckled at what in theory should have been a safe event; a ticket-only town hall veterans discussion hosted by Concerned Veterans for America a rightwing advocacy group financed by the Koch brothers.

Audience questions for Cruz at the event in McKinney, north of Dallas, had been screened in advance by the CVA, but two audience members went rogue to quiz and interrupt the Texas senator over his proposed tweak to the Senate bill.

The Better Care Reconciliation act, which the Congressional Budget Office says would leave an additional 22m people without healthcare, is currently stuck in the Senate without enough votes to pass. Cruzs amendment would allow insurance companies to sell plans that do not include the Affordable Care Act (ACA)-mandated essential health benefits, in a move he claims would reduce costs.

At the town hall, however, Cruzs adversaries repeatedly shouted him down as he attempted to defend his measure.

When you mandate what every policy has to cover you drive up the cost of insurance, Cruz said, which means fewer people can afford healthcare. The essential health benefits also made people pay for coverage that they dont necessarily want, he said.

Its all fine and good to mandate that everybody get coverage for everything at all times, but what happens in practice is the prices go so high that people are left out in the cold.

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Ted Cruz also faced heckling at a ticket-only town hall event in Texas. Photograph: ddp USA/REX/Shutterstock

Some 1,300 miles to the north east, Toomey was being given a much easier ride from the eight attendees at his town hall. The majority of the questions from that crowd, as well as from small groups of people invited into the studios of three other ABC affiliates in Pennsylvania, focussed on healthcare, but there was no heckling and no follow-up questioning.

Asked about the damaging CBO score, Toomey accused the organization of bias and said that its calculations were based on wildly speculative assumptions that I think are extremely likely to come to pass.

Toomey denied that the process of drafting the bill which has no public hearings had been overly secretive, but was non-committal over whether he supported repealing the ACA without a replacement.

The senator was asked the question twice, both times saying that he believed the scenario was unlikely.

I just dont think there are enough votes in the senate to pass that, Toomey said. I just dont think its going to come to pass.

Meanwhile, outside the studio about a hundred people noisily protested both the senators role in the unpopular healthcare bill and his refusal to hold a truly public event.

We want Toomey to come home on his recess and actually speak with constituents, instead of doing telephone town halls or televised town halls where he doesnt have to interact with the people hes supposed to be representing, said Katey Dyck in a phone interview, who travelled two hours from her home in Fort Washington, just north of Philadelphia, to attend the protest.

Hes dismantling our healthcare system without having the courage to speak to people who would be personally affected.

Dyck travelled to Harrisburg with her two children and two friends, one of whom, Alison Fraser, was arrested after staging a sit-in at Toomeys Washington DC office last week.

There are issues with the ACA. There are things they can do to bring down costs, Fraser said.

But they cant just dismantle this bill that has really done so much to protect people, and make sure people arent discriminated against because of pre-existing conditions.

Also among the protesters was Josh Burkholder, a Democrat who ran unsuccessfully for US congress in Pennsylvanias fourth district last November.

Theyre giving a huge tax break to the 1% here, Burkholder said, also by phone, of the Senate legislation.

Its just awful. Making a giant tax break for the ultra rich while simultaneously pulling the rug out from under the poor of the country is just disgusting.

The majority of Senate Republicans have so far ducked interactions with the public during recess week supposedly a time for elected officials to return to their districts and meet with constituents.

The Washington Post reported that just four GOP senators planned to attend Fourth of July parades, while only three Cruz, Bill Cassidy from Louisiana and Jerry Moran from Kansas are scheduled to hold public town halls.

Cruz and Moran are openly opposed to the Senate bill while Cassidy has said he is concerned and has put forward an alternative to the plan.

Read more: https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2017/jul/05/pat-toomey-ted-cruz-healthcare-bill-protest

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In Seattle US old-timers rediscover the high life on cannabis tours

Retirement home residents take a trip to a producer

Forget bingo, tea dances and seaside trips. Residents from a chain of Seattle retirement homes are going on Pot for Beginners tours to learn about and buy cannabis in the city, where its now legal.

Connie Schick said her son roared with laughter when he heard she was joining a field trip to a cannabis-growing operation, an extraction plant and shop. The 79-year-old, who smoked the odd joint in the 70s, wanted to know how legalisation has changed the way the drug is used and produced.

Schick was one of eight women, from their late 60s to mid-80s, who descended from a minibus emblazoned with the name of their assisted living centre, El Dorado West, outside Vela cannabis store last Tuesday.

You can only play so many games of bingo, said Schick. My son thought it was hilarious that I was coming here, but Im open-minded and want to stay informed. Cannabis has come so far from the days when you smoked a sly joint and got into trouble if they found out. We used to call it hemp then and didnt know its strength. It just used to make me sleepy, so I didnt see the point.

Schick, who uses a wheelchair after suffering a stroke, is interested in the therapeutic effects of cannabis. Its so different now. There are so many ways you can take it, and all these different types to help with aches and pains.

They used to say it was a gateway drug to other things, like cocaine Lots of peoples views are changing.

Certainly, the number of people aged 65 or older taking cannabis in the US is growing. The proportion of this age group who reported cannabis use in the past year rose more than tenfold from 0.2% to 2.1% between 2002 and 2014, according to the National Survey on Drug Use and Health. A Gallup poll last year showed that 3% of those over 65 smoke cannabis.

Much of this is attributed to the ageing of the baby-boomer generation, who dabbled with the drug when they were young and are returning to it for medical or recreational use as it becomes legal and more normalised. Cannabis is now legal for medical use in 29 states and for medical and recreational use in eight (since 2012 in Seattle and the rest of Washington state).

Most of the women on the tour were more interested in the medical use, although Denise Roux, 67, said: I would like to buy it to get high too but Im a cheap high, it doesnt take much.

A seminar over sandwiches was held for thegroup as they sat in front of the large windows of the cultivation room, where they could see scores of plants growing under intense lighting.

They were told about the different strains: uplifting sativa plants and more sedating indicas. They learned about tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), which gives a high, and cannabidiol (CBD) which does not, making CBD-rich cannabis appealing for medical use. A scientist in a lab coat who worked in the processing facility spoke about terpenes fragrant oils secreted by glands in the flower that give strains their different smells and flavours. Vials were sniffed and various ways to take cannabis were also covered, including smoking, vaporising and eating it.

Roux, a retired administrative assistant, said: Im a big Google girl, but I wanted to talk to people who know about it so I can understand it all better. I have an autoimmune disease, which stops my appetite, and Im interested in marijuana from that standpoint. She added she had used cannabis recreationally in the 80s and had returned to it to help with her illness. I use a vape. It makes me sleepy and its a pain control, and it gives me an appetite.

After the briefing, it was time for shopping. The store looked like an upmarket jewellers, with muted lighting and art on the walls, except the glass cabinets in the store were stocked with pre-rolled joints, edibles including chocolates and sweets, vape pens and bags of different strains of cannabis rather than diamond rings and necklaces.

Darlene Johnson, 85, a former nurse, perused their contents. On the advice of a bearded bud tender, she bought a deep tissue and joint gel and a tincture to put in drinks, which she hopes will help with her severe neck pain. I wanted a non-psychoactive option, she said. I dont want to get high. I used to work in the emergency room and saw people come in sick from taking too many drugs, though not usually marijuana.

Her friend, Nancy Mitchell, 80, has never tried cannabis. She has MS and had read that cannabis could help with her symptoms. I wanted to know more details, she said. My kids keep telling me, Mom, try it. I dont want to smoke things, but I see there are other ways.

Smoking is not allowed at El Dorado West. Village Concepts, which runs the chain, has a no-smoking policy and it is illegal to consume cannabis in public in the state.

The chains director of corporate development, Tracy Willis, said: There was one man who was smoking it on his patio and he refused to stop, so he had to leave. If youre using an edible, we dont have any issue with it, thats your own business. We treat it as a recreational thing.

The tours began in response to questions from residents.They wanted to know where it was sold, how much money was made from it, where it was grown, said Willis. Weve had a good reaction [to the tours] from nine out of 10 relatives, but some are horrified. One angry daughter said we were encouraging marijuana use. Her mother told her to butt out.

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Participants on the tour learned about different ways to use cannabis. Photograph: Jason Redmond/Reuters

Read more: https://www.theguardian.com/society/2017/jul/01/seattle-retirement-home-cannabis-tours

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Challenges to Silicon Valley wont just come from Brussels

Fine of 2.4bn levied on Google is a sign of the continued erosion of US tech firms domination of the internet

The whopping 2.4bn fine levied by the European commission on Google for abusing its dominance as a search engine has taken Silicon Valley aback. It has also reignited American paranoia about the motives of European regulators, whom many Valley types seem to regard as stooges of Mathias Dpfner, the chief executive of German media group Axel Springer, president of the Federation of German Newspaper Publishers and a fierce critic of Google.

US paranoia is expressed in various registers. They range from President Obamas observation in 2015 that all the Silicon Valley companies that are doing business there [Europe] find themselves challenged, in some cases not completely sincerely. Because some of those countries have their own companies who want to displace ours, to the furious off-the-record outbursts from senior tech executives after some EU agency or other has dared to challenge the supremacy of a US-based tech giant.

The overall tenor of these rants (based on personal experience of being on the receiving end) runs as follows. First, you Europeans dont get tech; second, you dont like or understand innovation; and third, youre maddened by envy because none of you schmucks has been able to come up with a world-beating tech company.

The charge sheet underpinning American paranoia says that the EU has always had it in for US companies. Microsoft, for example, has been done over no fewer than three times for various infringements of competition rules: 500m in 2004, 600m in 2008 and 561m in 2013. Intel was fined 1.6bn in 2009. Now Google has been socked for 2.4bn; and Facebook has already been fined 110m for providing the European commission with misleading information about its acquisition of WhatsApp. And then of course there is the commissions insistence that Apple should repay the 13bn in back taxes that it owes the Irish government because of overgenerous tax breaks provided to the company. (Ireland is vigorously contesting that ruling, making it the first government in history to turn down a windfall that would fund its health service for an entire year.)

This allegedly biased record needs to be seen in a wider context, however. Its hardly surprising that the tech companies in the frame are American given that all the global tech giants are US-based. But in fact the European commission has also come down hard on local infringers of competition rules. In July 2016, for example, European truck manufacturers were fined 2.93bn for colluding on prices for 14 years. In 2008 several European car glass manufacturers were fined 1.35bn for illegal market sharing and exchanging commercially sensitive information. In 2007 the Spanish telco Telefnica was fined 151m for setting unfair prices in its domestic broadband market. And so on, so that if you include all years since 1990, the total amount of fines imposed by the European commissions competition regulator comes to 26.75bn.

Given that record, you could say that the commission is actually a rather good regulator. But its also clear that there are significant differences between the European and American approach to competition law and antitrust. Some years ago, for example, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) in the US investigated Google for the same behaviour that has landed it with the current huge fine. But in the end the FTC decided not to press charges. The European commission, provided with much the same evidence, reached the opposite conclusion.

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An Amazon warehouse in Germany. Photograph: Christoph Schmidt/EPA

How come? Basically there is a different regulatory culture in the US. There, the prevailing concern is with consumer welfare which, in the end, is about prices. As long as industrial power doesnt lead to increased prices, then its deemed OK which is why Amazon has thrived despite becoming a colossus. The European commission, in contrast, is focused on competition: monopolistic behaviour is considered illegal if it restricts competitors.

As the commissions statement explains: Market dominance is, as such, not illegal under EU antitrust rules. However, dominant companies have a special responsibility not to abuse their powerful market position by restricting competition, either in the market where they are dominant or in separate markets. Otherwise, there would be a risk that a company once dominant in one market (even if this resulted from competition on the merits) would be able to use this market power to cement/further expand its dominance, or leverage it into separate markets.

Google was found to have abused its dominance as a search engine by giving illegal advantage to its own comparison shopping service. Way back in 2002, the company had launched a price-comparison service called Froogle, later renamed Google Shopping. In 2008 it changed how it worked by systematically giving prominence to its own shopping-comparison results (for which it received payment from advertisers) and thereby in effect downgrading other shopping-comparison sites that might otherwise have figured highly in search results. This the commission deemed illegal.

And so it is. But to lay observers theres something quaint about the actual nub of the dispute shopping-comparison sites. I mean to say, theyre soooo yesterday. Nowadays, half of all shopping-related queries begin not on Google, but on Amazon. So the complaints about anti-competitive behaviour that resulted in last weeks ruling started in 2008 nine years (about 63 internet years) ago. What this episode highlights is the growing time lag between the detection of illegal behaviour on the part of tech companies and its eventual punishment a lag determined by the inevitably slow pace of detailed legal investigation (often slowed further by intensive political lobbying) and the pace of tech-industry change. If societies are to be able to bring companies such as Google under effective democratic control, then we have to speed up this regulatory process. Otherwise we will continually be locking the door long after the horse has bolted.

Which of course is exactly the way Silicon Valley likes it. This is a culture, remember, whose motto is move fast and break things (the Facebook chief executive Mark Zuckerbergs original exhortation to his developers, withdrawn only when he discovered that one of the things that might get broken is democracy). In the tech industry, corporate leaders are hooked on the virtues of disruption, creative destruction and the belief that it is easier to beg forgiveness than to ask for permission. Most of them subscribe to the famous dictum of Scott McNealy, made when he was chief executive of Sun Microsystems: You have zero privacy get over it.

Given that mindset, its not surprising that the industry is not just irritated but baffled by European scepticism and regulatory pushback. Although most Silicon Valley moguls see themselves as progressives they dont seem to understand cultural differences. (They dont understand politics, either.) Witness the Facebook bosss touching belief that the worlds problems could be solved if everyone were part of the Facebook community. Or the view of Googles former executive chairman, Eric Schmidt, that the presence of communication technologies will chip away at most autocratic governments, since the odds against a restrictive, information-shy regime dealing with an empowered citizenry armed with personal fact-checking devices get progressively worse with each embarrassing incident. When he tried that on Cambridge students a few years ago, some of them wondered what he had been smoking.

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Eric Schmidt, Googles former executive chairman. Photograph: Getty

Silicon Valley is a reality distortion field whose inhabitants think of it as the Florence of Renaissance 2.0. (Rapidly acquired wealth has powerful hallucinatory effects on people.) In a strange way, they share the former US defence secretary Donald Rumsfelds view of our continent as old Europe, a civilisation whose time has come and gone. So when German citizens object vigorously to having their homes photographed by Google Street View, or the Bundestag considers a law that would impose swingeing fines on social media companies that do not promptly remove hate speech from their services, or the European commission imposes a fine equivalent to 3% of Googles global revenue, they fume into their almond-coconut Frappuccinos and vow revenge.

If thats how they see things, then its time they recalibrated. They are all children of a hegemony thats begun to erode. The era when Europeans and their governments quailed before American corporate power may be ending. The French were always a bit resistant to it (but then, being French, they would be, wouldnt they?) but now even the Germans have concluded that Europe can no longer rely on the US (or the UK) and must fight for its own destiny. In a way, the US-based digital giants should thank their lucky stars that Europe, for the most part, still consists of societies where the rule of law counts for something. Even when the companies dont like the outcome of our legal processes, they should be grateful that at least we follow them.

The same cannot be said for other parts of the world that Google & co hope to dominate. China and Russia do things their own way, for example, and are entirely untroubled by legal niceties. As far as China is concerned, in 2010 Google was given the choice of obeying government demands or shutting down its Chinese search engine; it chose the latter option and is having to agree to government controls if it is to be allowed back. In Russia, Google reached a settlement with the local regulator to loosen restrictions on search engines built into its Android mobile operating system, to allow Russian competitors a share of the pie. Similar concessions will be required to operate in Iran and other Middle Eastern states. These regimes are the real enemies that US paranoids should fear. So while the 2.4bn fine may be unpalatable (though easily affordable) for Google, it should thank its lucky stars. At least it got a hearing.

John Naughton is professor of the public understanding of technology at the Open University. He writes a weekly column in The New Review.

Read more: https://www.theguardian.com/technology/2017/jul/01/google-fine-challenges-to-silicon-valley