Do People Still Have Private Health Insurance In America?

It seems that some – including Donald Trump – still don’t get that the U.S. has private health insurance companies under Obamacare – which is why people still have Blue Cross/Blue Shield, Kaiser Permanente, Humana, etc.

(Updated)

(Video: Secular Talk)

Benghazi Committee Chairman Trey Gowdy To Retire?

On September 29th, Representative Trey Gowdy, the Chairman of the House Select Committee on Benghazi, declined his colleagues’ calls for him to run for House majority leader.

The next day, one of them claimed he would retire, according to U.S. News and World Report.

“Trey wants to go back to South Carolina, and God bless him for that,” Rep. John Fleming, R-La., said on C-SPAN Wednesday morning.

Fleming was interpreting something the South Carolina Republican reportedly said during a GOP caucus meeting.  He said Gowdy would leave Congress at the end of his term.

“He plans to go back home, and he wants to finish his work on the Benghazi special committee, but he loves South Carolina and he loves his family, and he wants to go back and spend the rest of his life there,” Fleming explained.

“He’ll be sorely missed,” he added.

Gowdy’s office, however, immediately denied Fleming’s interpretation.

“No, he is not announcing his retirement,” Gowdy’s spokeswoman Amanda Duvall said to the Washington Examiner.” He has not made any announcement on 2016, anything else is incorrect,” Duvall said according to U.S. News.

Gowdy was first elected in the tea party wave of 2010 and represents South Carolina’s conservative 4th District. And while he has indicated in the past his intentions to return to South Carolina at some point, he apparently is not going yet.

(Updated report)

http://www.usnews.com/news/articles/2015/09/30/trey-gowdy-benghazi-committee-chairman-denies-retirement-report

http://www.washingtonexaminer.com/lawmaker-trey-gowdy-to-leave-the-house-after-2016/article/2573082

Pope Rides Around In A Fuel-Efficient Compact Car


MSNBC

During his trip to the U.S., the Pope has refused to ride in a limousine, and instead has been driven around in a modest Fiat 500 from the airplane.

MSNBC reports on the Pope’s departure from Joint Base Andrews in a small Fiat after saying goodbye to President Obama and the First Lady.

(Updated post)

Civil Asset Forfeiture

What is Civil Asset Forfeiture?

Civil Asset Forfeiture in the United States, sometimes called civil judicial forfeiture, is a legal process in which law enforcement officers take assets from persons suspected of involvement with crime or illegal activity without necessarily charging the owners with wrongdoing.

While civil procedure generally involves a dispute between two private citizens, civil forfeiture involves a dispute between law enforcement and property, such as money or valuable items such as a car.  The item should be suspected of being involved in a crime.

Wikipedia states that to get back the seized property, “owners must prove it was not involved in criminal activity.”

This is an odd twist:  usually, the government must prove guilt beyond a reasonable doubt, but in this case, the owner of the item must prove his or her innocence.

Last Thursday, SB 443, California’s attempt to end civil-asset forfeiture and “equitable sharing” abuse, failed passage in the State Assembly, 24 to 44, according to the National Review.

What is equitable sharing?

The National Review writes that “Forfeiture practices are further complicated with the existence of equitable-sharing agreements. Therein, state and local agencies partner with federal law enforcement, seize property, and proceed with the forfeiture motion through the jurisdiction with the least restrictive process, oftentimes the federal courts. The agencies then share the proceeds. This allows law enforcement to wholly sidestep any legal protections guaranteed by the state.”

More on Civil Asset Forfeiture by Wikipedia:

“Proponents see civil forfeiture as a powerful tool to thwart criminal organizations involved in the illegal drug trade, with $12 billion annual profits, since it allows authorities to seize cash and other assets resulting from narcotics trafficking. Proponents argue that it is an efficient method since it allows law enforcement agencies to use these seized proceeds to further battle illegal activity, that is, directly converting bad things to good purposes by harming criminals economically while helping law enforcement financially. Critics argue that innocent owners become entangled in the process such that their right to property is violated, with few legal protections and due process rules to protect them in situations where they are presumed guilty instead of being presumed innocent.”

The ACLU writes:

“Civil forfeiture allows police to seize — and then keep or sell — any property they allege is involved in a crime. Owners need not ever be arrested or convicted of a crime for their cash, cars, or even real estate to be taken away permanently by the government.”

Why would we allow civil asset forfeiture?

The Heritage Foundation writes that Civil Asset Forfeiture is intended to give law enforcement a tool they can use to go after organized crime – mafia, etc. – including drug dealers and their organizations.

The Heritage Foundation continues:  “Unfortunately, civil asset forfeiture is also used by law enforcement as a way to generate revenue, and many of its targets are innocent members of the public.”

In regards to the California Senate Bill 443, the bill “would not affect law enforcement’s power to seize property, based on probable cause. Police would still be able to hold seized property in evidence rooms and impound lots until forfeiture proceedings are resolved.”

A Sacramento Bee letter to the editor writes:

“Instead, SB 443 would only allow seized property to be forfeited (to the government) once its owner has been convicted of any crime. California already requires this for most seizures. Several states, including Montana, Nevada and New Mexico, recently enacted this vital protection of due process.

“Moreover, whenever California agencies collaborate with the federal government, SB 443 would first require the federal government to obtain a criminal conviction before proceeding with forfeiture. One investigation found the federal government, in cooperation with California agencies, took nearly $300 million in cash from people never charged with a crime.”

http://www.sacbee.com/opinion/letters-to-the-editor/article34602312.html

http://www.nationalreview.com/article/423957/civil-asset-forfeiture-california

https://www.aclu.org/issues/criminal-law-reform/reforming-police-practices/asset-forfeiture-abuse

http://www.heritage.org/research/reports/2014/03/civil-asset-forfeiture-7-things-you-should-know

Hollow-Point Bullets


Firstscience TV

Last week, a man named Bryce Williams shot WDBJ reporter Alison Parker during an on-air interview, as well as her cameraman, Adam Ward. WDBJ is an ABC TV affiliate.

“Why did I do it?” wrote Bryce Williams (A.K.A. Vester Lester Flanigan II) in a fax to the station. “I put down a deposit for a gun on 6/19/15. The Church shooting in Charleston happened on 6/17/15…”

“What sent me over the top was the church shooting. And my hollow point bullets have the victims’ initials on them.”

Sources say Flanagan’s firearm was legally purchased from a Virginia gun store. It is assumed that his hollow-point bullets were, too.

What are hollow-point bullets?

Wikipedia states:

“A hollow-point bullet is an expanding bullet that has a pit or hollowed out shape in its tip often intended to cause the bullet to expand upon entering a target in order to decrease penetration and disrupt more tissue as it travels through the target. It is also used for controlled penetration, where over-penetration could cause collateral damage (such as on an aircraft). In target shooting, they are used for greater accuracy and reduction of smoke, fouling, and lead vapor exposure, as hollow point bullets have an enclosed base while traditional bullets have an exposed lead base.

“In self-defense, hollow points are designed to increase in diameter once within the target, thus maximizing tissue damage and blood loss or shock, and to remain inside the target, thereby transferring all of the kinetic energy to the target (whereas some fraction would remain in the bullet if it passed through instead).”

In fact, Firstscience TV states that the hollow-point bullet expands to three times the size of a normal (round-nose) bullet.

Wikipedia continues:

“Both of these goals are meant to maximize stopping power. Jacketed hollow points (JHPs) or plated hollow points are covered in a coating of harder metal (usually a copper alloy or copper coated steel) to increase bullet strength and to prevent fouling the barrel with lead stripped from the bullet.”

Are hollow-point bullets legal?

According to The Army Times, the 1899 Hague Convention barred the use of expanding and fragmenting rounds (hollow points) in the military.  Wikipedia states that NATO members do not use small arms ammunition that are prohibited by the Hague Convention and the United Nations.  However, the U.S. was never signatory to the Hague Convention.

The FBI uses hollow-point bullets.  The Army Times writes:

“The FBI switched from 9 mm to .40 caliber after a deadly 1986 shootout in Miami in which the shooters managed to keep fighting after being hit. The FBI is in the process of switching back to 9 mm – though the federal law enforcement agency uses hollow point bullets.”

Wikipedia states:

“Despite the ban on military use, hollow-point bullets are one of the most common types of bullets used by civilians and police, which is due largely to the reduced risk of bystanders being hit by over-penetrating or ricocheted bullets, and the increased speed of incapacitation.”

In the U.S., hollow point bullets are legal, except in the state of New Jersey and the city of San Francisco.  New Jersey bans possession of hollow point bullets by civilians except for ammunition possessed at one’s dwelling, writes Wikipedia.  In 2015, the Supreme Court upheld San Francisco’s ban on hollow-point bullets.

(Updated report)

http://www.thetruthaboutguns.com/2015/06/foghorn/breaking-supreme-court-rejects-appeal-of-sfs-requirement-that-guns-be-kept-locked-and-disassembled-hollow-point-ban/

http://www.armytimes.com/story/military/tech/2015/07/09/handgun-system-solicitation-hollowpoint/29886907/

FollowTheMoney.org, OpenSecrets.org

FollowTheMoney.org is a website dedicated to informing people about the amount of campaign contributions each politician has received.

OpenSecrets.org is similar, but also gives other information about such things as news, events, and personal wealth and net worth of each candidate or politician.

It is unclear how often the information is updated.  The information does not always match what we see in the news articles.

Below are the websites for both.  They are interesting to browse.

Update: Maplight.org is another good resource on money in politics.

(Updated)

http://maplight.org/

http://www.opensecrets.org/

http://www.followthemoney.org/

Trump, Top Political Adviser Part Ways

Donald Trump parts ways with political adviser Roger StoneAccording to the publication The Week, Donald Trump’s campaign announced Saturday it fired top political adviser Roger Stone, CNN wrote.

“We have a tremendously successful campaign and Roger wanted to use the campaign for his own personal publicity,” a campaign spokesperson said. “He has had a number of articles about him recently and Mr. Trump wants to keep the focus of the campaign on how to Make America Great Again.”

For his part, Stone denied that he was fired and says he submitted his resignation, citing controversies and media fights.

One reason Stone is reportedly leaving is the backlash due to Trump’s misogynistic comments toward Fox News’ Megyn Kelly.

Yahoo News writes that Stone tweeted:  “Sorry @realDonaldTrump didn’t fire me- I fired Trump. Diasagree with diversion to food fight with @megynkelly away core issue messages.”

http://theweek.com/speedreads/570883/trump-campaign-political-adviser-part-ways

https://www.yahoo.com/politics/donald-trump-parts-ways-with-political-adviser-126201438431.html

Trump’s Wind-Farm Battle


FMQUnofficial

Donald Trump lost a legal action last February against a major experimental wind-farm being built close to his golf resort in Aberdeenshire, Scotland.

According to theguardian.com, the presidential candidate had alleged that Scotland’s first minister Alex Salmond had secretly interfered in the decision to approve the 11-turbine European offshore wind deployment centre site (EOWDC) in Aberdeen Bay. It was a claim rejected on February 11th by a Scottish civil court judge, Lord Doherty.

The Guardian newspaper states that Trump was expecting to appeal. He alleged there had been “clear and illegal bias” by the Scottish government – and that his rights under the European convention of human rights had been breached.

Lord Doherty dismissed the claims that Salmond had interfered, and said he “was not persuaded that the fair-minded and informed observer would conclude that there was a real possibility of bias on the part of the decision-maker; or that the decision not to have a public inquiry had been unreasonable or unlawful”.

In a ruling with far wider significance for the future of Scottish wind power, the judge also disputed a previous court ruling that no wind farm could be approved until or unless it has an electricity generation license.

In 2012, Trump met with a Scottish parliament committee challenging future Scottish Government proposals for Wind farm development (video above).

On a side note, Trump may be interested to know that UK Government will exclude new onshore wind-farms from claiming a key subsidy from April next year, 12 months earlier than expected, according to The Telegraph.

On another side note, it was recently revealed that Trump owns shares in a major wind power firm.

According to the U.K. Daily Record –

“The US tycoon and presidential hopeful, who went to war with former first minister Alex Salmond over plans to build wind turbines near his controversial golf resort in Aberdeenshire, has invested up to £64,000 in NextEra Energy.

“The firm claim to be North America’s top producer of wind and solar energy.”

(Updated post)

http://www.dailyrecord.co.uk/news/scottish-news/hate-wind-farms-trump-you-6150796

http://www.theguardian.com/world/2014/feb/11/donald-trump-loses-windfarm-scottish-golf-resort

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/earth/energy/windpower/11684480/Rural-Scotlands-delight-at-wind-farm-subsidy-axe.html

Was The (Soon-To-Be Canceled) Ed Show The Only News Show That Gave Significant Coverage Of The TPP Trade Deal?

If Not For The Ed Show, Cable Outlets Mostly Ignored TPP

Recently, Politico, MediaITE, and other sources made it public that MSNBC’s The Ed Show would be canceled and the Ed Schultz time slot would be filled by “moderate” Chuck Todd.

In February, mediamatters.org conducted an interesting study on what news shows cover the TPP trade agreement, and what shows don’t.

Mediamatters.org had done a transcript search of the major news networks (CNN, Fox News, and MSNBC) as well as for the nightly news shows on the three major broadcast networks (CBS Evening News, ABC’s World News Tonight, NBC’s Nightly News) as well as PBS NewsHour.

The search involved shows from August 1, 2013, through January 31, 2015.

Mediamatters.org wrote that of the three news networks, “only The Ed Show Devoted Significant Coverage To The TPP. During the same 18-month period, CNN and Fox News each mentioned the TPP during two broadcasts. MSNBC’s The Ed Show discussed the trade agreement on 71 broadcasts…”

Also, PBS mentioned the TPP eight times, and the three major nightly news shows (on CBS, ABC, and NBC) made no mention of the TPP whatsoever on their nightly news broadcasts during that time period.

(Updated report)

http://www.politico.com/blogs/media/2015/07/bernie-sanders-disappointed-in-ed-schultz-cancellation-211128.html

http://www.alternet.org/media/msnbc-cans-only-cable-tv-host-who-extensively-covered-tpp

http://www.ringoffireradio.com/2015/07/comcast-killed-the-ed-show-for-talking-about-tpp/

http://mediamatters.org/research/2015/02/04/study-tv-news-shows-largely-ignore-historic-tra/202403

CNN’s Wolf Blitzer And His Family’s Interesting History


CNN

Wolf Blitzer is an anchor on CNN.

According to Wikipedia and IMDb, Wolf Isaac Blitzer was born in Augsburg, Germany, and was the son of Cesia Blitzer (maiden name: Zylberfuden), and David Blitzer. His parents were Jewish refugees from Oświęcim, Poland, and Holocaust survivors.

Blitzer was raised in Buffalo, New York and graduated from Kenmore West Senior High School and received a Bachelor of Arts in history from the University at Buffalo in 1970. While there, he was a member of Alpha Epsilon Pi fraternity.

In 1972, he received a Master of Arts in international relations from the Johns Hopkins University School of Advanced International Studies. While at Johns Hopkins, Blitzer studied abroad at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, where he learned Hebrew.

After college, Blitzer worked in Tel Aviv for Reuters news agency, and in Washington D.C. for the Israeli newspaper Jerusalem Post.  He has worked at CNN since 1990.

Blitzer’s grandfather was from the town of Auschwitz (Oświęcim), which was a Polish area annexed by Germany in World War II.  His Jewish grandparents died at the Auschwitz concentration camp.

In the video, Blitzer travels to different places to learn about his family’s history.

(Updated report)

http://www.imdb.com/name/nm0088566/bio