Flags across the country were set to be flown at half-staff Thursday in honor of the late John Glenn, who in 1962 became the first American to orbit the planet. President Donald Trump issued a proclamation this week ordering the lowering of the flags “as a mark of respect” in the astronaut’s memory.
Glenn, who died in December, was set to be buried Thursday morning in Arlington National Cemetery.
If Anthem and its Blue Cross-Blue Shield affiliates do in fact pull back in 2018, as Jefferies analysts David Windley and David Styblo said is “likely” to happen in a note on Thursday, it would leave more than 800,000 individual plan customers in 14 states either without subsidized Obamacare coverage or more limited choices.
fyi and a personal note: Blue Cross-Blue Shield is the only provider of Obamacare in St. Johns County. I purchase care through Obamacare as I retired early to care for my dad. I will have no option if this happens.
If House leaders really oppose special interests they’ll support the Lake Okeechobee plan the Senate Appropriations Committee approved Wednesday, chairman Jack Latvala said following the vote.
“When you hear their stated objections that they’ve made publicly, it’s always had to do with losing jobs or the amount of bonding involved,” Latvala told reporters.
“We’ve pretty much removed those stated objections. Now it’s just going to have to come down to whether they’re going to follow the will of the special interests that are involved.”
He declined to name Big Sugar, which has been fighting the legislation, as a “stated obstacle.”
Even so, he continued, “They’re still there.”
Senate President Joe Negron’s signature $1.5 billion bill would begin planning to build reservoirs and water treatment facilities south of Lake Okeechobee in hopes of avoiding repeats of June’s disastrous algae bloom in South Florida waterways.
Senate President Joe Negron appears ready to compromise in order to get a top priority through the Legislature.
On Tuesday, Sen. Rob Bradley filed a wide-sweeping amendment to a bill (SB 10) that would, among other things, set aside money for water storage south of Lake Okeechobee, a top priority for Negron.
The amendment essentially rewrites the bill, removing the requirement to buy up to 60,000 of agriculture land to build a water storage reservoir. Instead under the new proposal, the would convert 14,000 acres of state-owned land in the A-2 parcel to create a water storage reservoir. That land is currently being leased by Florida Crystals.
Negron has long called on the state state lawmakers to set aside money to purchase land for water storage south of the lake, and in August, even rolled out his own plan to do so. Under the the original plan, the state would have purchased 60,000 acres of private land at the cost of about $2.4 billion. That proposal included bonding, something House leaders have been opposed to.
But private landowners have been opposed to the proposal. In February, several of the largest land owners — including U.S. Sugar and Florida Crystals — in the Everglades Agricultural Area said they did not support “any governmental acquisition of additional farm lands south of Lake Okeechobee to solve issues that are being caused north of Lake Okeechobee and in Martin County.”
Mayor Lenny Curry offered his presentation of pension legislation on Thursday afternoon, leaving it to the Jacksonville City Council to hash out.
They were helped along by CFO Mike Weinstein and Chief Administrative Officer Sam Mousa, who helped to explain the pension situation to the legislators.
The short version: if pension reform passes, the city could see big savings: $1.4B in the next 14 years.
Sheriffs across Florida say the federal government is asking them to overstep the law in a move that will violate people’s civil rights.
At a press conference in Orlando Tuesday afternoon, members of the Florida Sheriffs Association said the Department of Homeland Security is asking them to detain people without probable cause.
In a weekly list, DHS is labeling local law enforcement agencies that do not do so as non cooperative. “We are standing strong from the standpoint of knowing the law and adhering to the constitutional rights,” said Sheriff Sadie Darnell of Alachua County Sheriff’s Office, one of a handful of Florida agencies on the weekly DHS list.
“We’re not going to seize someone—a human being—unless we have probable cause to do so under criminal law or authority to do so under civil law.”
Despite decades of progress under the Clean Air Act, Americans across the country continue to breathe unhealthy air, leading to increased risk of premature death, asthma attacks and other adverse health impacts.
In 2015, communities in 49 states plus the District of Columbia experienced at least one day of elevated ozone smog pollution, while many Americans who live in close proximity to industrial facilities and highways are exposed to health-threatening air pollution on a daily basis.
TALLAHASSEE — The state’s largest utility wrote parts of a bill that could limit a constitutional amendment expanding the use of solar power in Florida.
Florida Power & Light wrote language that appears verbatim in sections of HB 1351, which passed the House Ways and Means Committee on Wednesday.
The bill implements Amendment 4, a ballot measure approved by 73 percent of August primary voters that prohibits tax collectors from increasing the taxable value of a home or business because of a solar installation.
But the bill, sponsored by Rep. Ray Rodrigues, R-Fort Myers, goes beyond the amendment to impose disclosure and paperwork requirements on companies that finance and install solar energy products on homes and businesses.
Legislation that would bring new measures of accountability to Florida’s Public Service Commission passed a House Committee on Tuesday.
Pinellas Republican Kathleen Peters’s bill (HB 7071) would create performance-based incentives for utilities by rating their reliability, customer service, power plant performance and costs. It also would bar lawmakers from serving on the commission within six years of leaving the Legislature. The five commissioners, who are appointed by the governor, would represent different regions of the state and be limited to two four-year terms instead of the current three. It would also move the Office of Public Counsel from being under the Legislature’s wing over to the Attorney General’s Office.
It is strongly opposed by the four biggest investor-owned utilities in Florida – Florida Power & Light, Gulf Energy, Duke Energy and Tampa Electric Company.
It could happen any time, tornado,
earthquake, Armageddon. It could happen.
Or sunshine, love, salvation.
It could you know. That’s why we wake
and look out—no guarantees
in this life.
But some bonuses, like morning,
like right now, like noon,
Deadline to use Congressional Review Act on rules a month away
Obama’s rules on oil industry, prepaid cards still remain
President Trump’s sick war on wildlife is taking off. Late Monday he quietly signed a bill that allows wolves and their pups to be killed in their dens and bears to be gunned down in bait stations in Alaska’s national wildlife refuges.
These refuges were designed to be a haven for animals, but they clearly won’t play that role under Trump. The bill also allows aerial gunning and the use of steel-jawed leghold traps to hold the animals in place until they can be shot.
Thanks to the 33,000 of you who took action urging Trump to veto this disgusting bill. The fight is not over. The Center for Biological Diversity has sued the Trump administration three times in the past week, and the resistance movement is growing stronger by the day.
Legislative Hearing Is Part of Broad GOP Anti-public-lands Agenda
WASHINGTON – The House Committee on Natural Resources will hold a legislative hearing this afternoon on a bill introduced by Rep. Don Young (R-Alaska) that would remove hundreds of acres from Alaska’s Izembek National Wildlife Refuge in order to construct a road across the refuge. The Interior Department has studied this issue exhaustively, with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service concluding that the road would cause significant, long-term, irreparable damage to this internationally important fish and wildlife habitat and the wilderness values of the refuge.
“This public land giveaway would irreversibly harm the wildlife that call Izembek home,” said Randi Spivak, the Center for Biological Diversity’s public lands director. “Building a road through this iconic and fragile wilderness is incredibly shortsighted and would deny future generations of Americans the opportunity to visit a unique, unspoiled wild refuge.”
“At first, I hoped that news of this latest oil leak was an April fool’s joke because it seemed like Hilcorp couldn’t spring another leak so soon,” said Miyoko Sakashita, oceans program director for the Center for Biological Diversity. We’re really worried about what this means for Cook Inlet belugas with the double whammy of an oil spill and gas leak in the same season.”
No Bison for Fort Peck as Annual Yellowstone Kill Winds Down: Indian Country Today
More than a thousand wild American buffalo, or bison, have been killed this year in the annual cull of animals from Yellowstone Park—hundreds of them needlessly, after a deal failed to spare some by shipping them to the Fort Peck Indian Reservation.
Fort Peck has had a bison herd from Yellowstone that dates back to 2012. The tribe also has a quarantine facility designed to hold 300 to 600 buffalo. But because the facility is just 320 acres, program head Robert Magnan has been told it can’t feed that many animals, an assertion he refutes.
Alaskans tired of living under the threat of B.C.’s poorly regulated mines are taking the matter to the state’s House Fisheries Committee in an effort to escalate an international response to ongoing issues such as the slow leakage of acidic waste from the deserted Tulsequah Chief Mine in northwest B.C. into the watershed of one of the richest salmon runs in the B.C./Alaska transboundary region.
The NAACP released a report Friday (March 31) that shows how low-income and Black communities are disproportionately impacted by utility company shut-off policies, especially as energy costs eat at larger portions of their income than their more affluent, White counterparts.
The 80-page document, “Lights Out in the Cold: Reforming Utility Shut-Off Policies as if Human Rights Matter,” spotlights the countless deaths that have come out of utility shut-offs, many a result of faulty space heaters or fire-lit candles.
The Anti-Trump Movement: Recover, Resist, Reform: Prospect.org
INDEED, MANY AMERICANS—not just liberals and progressives—view the prospect of four years of Donald Trump in the White House as frightening. He has already inflicted much suffering on vulnerable Americans, and more pain is in the offing. It is uncharted territory. Nobody has a clear road map. But the upsurge of protest in the streets and political activism in the precincts is promising—not only to win back the House next year and put a progressive Democrat in the White House in 2020, but also to build an ongoing movement for change.
Containing Trump, and using that energy to rebuild a persuasive progressivism, is a challenge unlike any other we’ve faced. Looking back on a century of organizing, there were periods when large numbers of ordinary people were mobilized for years, even for decades. But the struggles to build unions, the anti-war movement of the 1960s, and the fights for civil rights, women’s rights, disability rights, LGBT rights, and environmental justice were each about a reasonably well-defined project with concrete objectives.
The movement to resist Trump is in a whole other category. Its goal is nothing less than to save American democracy, and then to use that mass mobilization to resume the project of creating a humane America that is more like social democracy than corporate plutocracy. The challenges are on multiple fronts, but never has the need for solidarity been so urgent. To succeed, this movement will require a permanent increase in the level of popular engagement—a reinvigoration of democracy to save democracy.
The stakes have never been higher. Trump is too dark a threat to use words like “blessing in disguise.” The best response is to defeat Trump’s fake populism and his appeals to fear and bigotry by showing the world that the American people are more decent than he is.
There’s plenty of speculation that Gillibrand will take her own advice and run for president in 2020. “It would not surprise me if Kirsten were a candidate for higher office some day,” says Collins. “She has enormous ability, she works extremely hard, she’s engaging, she’s young. And don’t take that as an endorsement, or I’ll be in even more trouble than I am now.”
Gillibrand, for her part, offers the standard politician’s denial: “I am running for the Senate in 2018.” But what is clear is that Gillibrand, who constantly carries a pad of paper with her, has been taking notes on the political moment. Though she supported Clinton over Sanders in 2016, she has much in common with the populist senator from Vermont. Like Sanders, she has often stood apart from Democrats. She “got an earful” for her vote against TARP, she says, and recalls her failed efforts to save $4 billion cut from SNAP benefits in the farm bill, which only 28 of her fellow Democrats supported, as “so heartbreaking.”
And like Sanders, she sees in left-wing populism — in affordable day care and paid leave and the expansion of Medicare as a means of addressing economic inequality — a path for red and blue America to come together. Sanders spoke alongside Gillibrand in March at a press conference in support of the Family Act, and Gillibrand is very enthusiastic about becoming a co-sponsor of Sanders’s forthcoming Medicare for All bill. “People want affordable health care,” she says. For the record, she’s not late to that party; Gillibrand supported Medicare for everyone when she ran in her House district in 2006. “It’s the solution, and it makes sense to people even in my two-to-one Republican district.”
Her fixation on populism and grassroots politics may be strategic, but the strategy does seem to dovetail with her ideals. After half a dozen conversations, when I ask her again about Democratic strategy going forward, she fixes me with a hard stare. “I am exceedingly sincere when I say this,” she says. “People only defeat Trumpism if everyone uses their voices on whatever platform they have available to them.”
She begins to tick through examples: the teen in Maine who wrote a letter to the Bangor Daily News and got Senator Angus King to write back to her on the issue of military sexual assault; the town halls that resulted in the eventual implosion of Obamacare repeal. “These things are real examples. I believe this. I truly believe it. It’s not bullshit,” she says.
Her main worry is that people will get tired — that eight weeks feels like eight years already, that this level of mass political engagement cannot be sustained. For that reason she tries to put this progressive fight into the context of battles past. “I’ve been doing a lot of study about the suffrage movement,” Gillibrand says, speaking to the women at the Wing. “Some of these ladies worked their whole lives and never got the right to vote. They literally worked a full 60 to 70 years.” She pauses, and I get the sense that she’s steeling herself as well. “So we can keep this up at least for two years, and then we can do it for another two.”
The top Democrat on the House Russia investigation, Rep. Adam Schiff, said Wednesday President Donald Trump personally promised documents at the center of “unmasking” allegations would be made available to all members of the House intelligence committee, but that White House staff is fighting those documents’ release.
Schiff also said he has signed on to two formal invites — one inviting FBI Director James Comey and NSA Director Mike Rogers to return to the House intelligence committee and a second rescheduling the public hearing with former acting Attorney General Sally Yates, former CIA Director John Brennan and former Director of National Intelligence James Clapper.
But Schiff said that House Intelligence Chairman Devin Nunes has not yet signed the letter to bring Yates, Brennan and Clapper before investigators.
A recent hearing by the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform revealed some troubling news concerning privacy rights: Using facial recognition technology, the FBI has captured images of more than half of all adult Americans and is storing them in perpetuity in databases for law enforcement agencies to access. The technology is part of a 2010 FBI program called Next Generation Identification. The program uses facial recognition, finger and palm prints, and iris scans to track people and put their information in repository systems for law enforcement use. No warrant is required, and everyone, including people with no criminal record, can be recorded.
In 1975, she won the right to sue a doctor for her daughter’s “wrongful birth.” Now she calls Texas lawmakers who want to erase that victory “despicable.”
A judge in Pennsylvania has overturned a jury’s decision to award $4.24 million to two families in Dimock, Pennsylvania, saying that the science used in the case, which linked fracking to methane contamination in drinking water, was not adequate.
Judge Martin Carlson wrote Friday that the evidence “was spare, sometimes contradictory, frequently rebutted by other scientific expert testimony, and relied in some measure upon tenuous inferences,” the Hill reported.
The plaintiffs have argued that the fracking operations of Cabot Oil and Gas caused methane to leak into their groundwater. During fracking, also known as hydraulic fracturing, oil and gas producers inject large volumes of chemical- and sand-laced water into shale formations far below ground. The water breaks up the shale, releasing the oil or gas deposits below.
A sophisticated hacking group that pursues Chinese government interests broke into the website of a private U.S. trade group ahead of Thursday’s summit between U.S. President Donald Trump and Chinese President Xi Jinping, according to researchers.
The hackers left a malicious link on web pages where members of the National Foreign Trade Council (NFTC) register for upcoming meetings, according to researchers at Fidelis Cybersecurity and a person familiar with the trade group.
The nonprofit NFTC is a prominent advocate on international trade policy, with corporate members including Wal-Mart Stores Inc (WMT.N), Johnson & Johnson (JNJ.N), Amazon.com Inc (AMZN.O), Ford Motor Co (F.N) and Microsoft Corp (MSFT.O).
Seoul (CNN)They say fact is stranger than fiction. One book smuggled out of North Korea encapsulates both.
Written by a dissident writer still living inside the country, “The Accusation; Forbidden Stories from Inside North Korea” is a collection of short stories about the lives of regular people, who live without freedom and under constant scrutiny.
Officially fiction, the book is considered to be a reflection of life under North Korean rule.
The South Korean activist who helped smuggle it out, Do Hee-youn, tells CNN: “It doesn’t deal with political prison camps, or public executions, human rights issues. It shows normal life of North Korea citizens and it is very frightening. This book shows that they live like slaves.”
The hand-written manuscript was then smuggled out in between propaganda books on former leaders Kim Il Sung and Kim Jong Il.
“We found a way of getting the script out through Chinese tourists. We thought that disguising the book among these propaganda materials would make it easier to bring it outside so we decided to hide the copy.”
This past Sunday, with great fanfare, Israeli politicians and military leaders finally announced to the Israeli public – and to the country’s enemies – that they had successfully layered the nation’s airspace with the most sophisticated anti-missile defence system ever developed.
Long-range Iranian or Syrian missiles, as it is anticipated, would mainly be handled by the US-backed Arrow system at high altitudes; smaller, but nevertheless extremely accurate, missiles from Hezbollah in Lebanon or Syria would be the domain of the US-backed David’s Sling, while drones, artillery and smaller rockets will continue to be dealt with by the (also US-backed) Iron Dome.
In mid-March, the new Arrow-3 missile system had seen its first successful use, knocking out a Syrian missile fired towards Israel in response to yet another Israeli Air Force attack within Syria, allegedly targeting Hezbollah positions.
This unprecedented ratcheting up of military confrontation in the Levant is raising significant concerns that a climactic war at least involving Hezbollah and Israel is increasingly likely, just 11 years after the last inconclusive round of hostilities left both sides licking their wounds and promising a “final” engagement.
In 13 years of watching these two bitter opponents, I have never seen such a high degree of anxiety among Lebanon’s political elite that war is coming.
Peru’s Floods Follow Climate Change’s Deadly Extreme Weather Trend: Inside Climate News
An unusual coastal El Niño drove Peru’s deluge, in another signal that weather extremes are becoming wild cards as climate change warms the oceans.
Flooding in Peru has left tens of thousands of people homeless, following the global trend of extreme weather made more likely by climate change. Credit: Getty Images
Peru’s worst floods in nearly a century have killed more than 70 people, left 70,000 homeless in nearly every province and damaged 130,000 structures, including ancient archaeological sites. The downpours inundated the country in the first half of March, then moved north over Colombia, causing a mudslide that killed hundreds.
South Africa Lifts Ban On Rhino Horn Sales: Huffington Post
Conservationists worry that decision could lead to more poaching.
Every winter, Norwegian marine biologist Andreas B. Heide sails north in search of whales, especially orcas. He’s not just there to document these incredible creatures from the boat, however—he jumps in and swims right along with them. Orcas are some of the most powerful and intelligent predators on the planet, but by approaching them with respect and establishing trust, Andreas has been able to gain perspective on how they live, interact, and even play. His hope is to increase awareness for conservation efforts by documenting his up-close-and-personal interactions with these surprisingly gentle giants.
One thing you might not think of is “a good place to die.” Yet Mongolia is punching above its weight in palliative care, the branch of medicine that supports people with terminal or complex illnesses. Palliative care takes a magpie approach, borrowing from other medical disciplines and addressing a whole range of issues at once, ranging from pain and other symptoms to spiritual, social and psychological support.
In a 2015 survey of global palliative care, the UK comes top, Australia second and the USA ninth. And while the richest Western nations lead the pack, Mongolia appears notably high up, especially considering that it’s well down the economic rankings. (It comes 28th in the palliative care survey but ranks 141st for gross national income (GNI) per capita.)
In fact, when it comes to palliative care, Mongolia is performing far better than any comparable economy, and is ahead of several European states with much more developed health-care systems and greater spending power, including Greece, Hungary and Lithuania. It also eclipses several big economies, including its two giant neighbors, Russia and China.
In terms of recent economic conquest, free trade agreements -namely the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) and the Dominican Republic-Central America Free Trade Agreement (CAFTA-DR)—have proven to be formidable components of the US arsenal.
NAFTA, for example, flooded the Mexican market with subsidised agricultural products from the US – in blatant violation, incidentally, of the very principle of “free trade” and in reaffirmation of America’s golden double standard.
To be sure, there’s nothing like having one’s subsidised corn and eating it too.
The upshot in this case was that several million Mexican farmers saw their livelihoods destroyed, with the resulting mass displacement of human beings arguably constituting a form of violence in itself.
In a recent email to me, Dr. Adrienne Pine – an anthropologist at American University in Washington, DC – outlined some of the other perks of NAFTA and CAFTA-DR.
“[They] have been disastrous for citizens of all the countries involved (including the United States), yet hugely beneficial for corporations… They have destroyed crop diversity and the viability of small businesses, laid waste to hard-won labour and environmental protections, prevented access to life-saving pharmaceutical treatments for all but the very wealthy, and dramatically increased the wealth gap”.
WTF MOMENTS OF THE DAY:
Michele Bachmann believes liberal opponents of Donald Trump could bring about the end of the world — by hastening the coming of the Antichrist.
According to Right Wing Watch and the Friendly Atheist, the Republican and former Minnesota congresswoman made the apocalyptic prediction last week during an appearance on a Last Days radio program. The show’s host, Jan Markell, asked Bachmann about “globalists,” a group she says includes American liberals who want a “one world system” and “no borders.” Markell said the group “lost big time” after the election of Donald Trump, sparking Bachman to compare them to the builders of the biblical Tower of Babel.
CHICAGO (CBS) — Under a new plan to prepare them for life after high school, Chicago Public Schools students would have to show an acceptance letter to a university, community college, apprenticeship, trade school, internship, or the armed services.
Mayor Rahm Emanuel said the new graduation requirements are something he has been considering since he was first elected in 2011. He said he wants to make sure CPS students don’t treat high school graduation as the end goal.
The mayor spoke briefly about the plan at a town hall meeting downtown on Tuesday, and formally announced the new requirement Wednesday morning at Malcolm X College. He said part of being successful in life is having continued education after high school.
Starting with next year’s freshman class, in order to receive their high school diploma, all CPS students would have to show an acceptance letter to a four-year university, a community college, a trade school or apprenticeship, an internship, or a branch of the armed services.
“We already have around 62 percent of our kids are already either accepted into college or accepted into community college, and our goal is to make sure nobody spikes the ball at 12th grade. We want to make 14th grade universal. That’s the new goal line,” Emanuel told CBS This Morning on Wednesday.
Chicago would be the first city to implement such a requirement, although Emanuel said it’s an idea he borrowed from charter schools.