Anti-Muslim Hate Marches Across U.S. Draw Violence, Arrests

Hate marches that took place across the U.S. drew violence between white supremacists and counterprotesters on Saturday, leading to several arrests.

The ?March Against Sharia? took place in cities including St. Paul, Minnesota, Seattle, Washington, and New York City. The marches attracted Islamophobic hate group members, neo-Nazis and white supremacists ? all to rally against the completely nonexistent threat of Sharia law in the U.S.

The rallies were spearheaded by Act for America, described by the Southern Poverty Law Center as an anti-Muslim hate group. It was organized by neo-Nazi Billy Roper.

In Seattle, fights broke out between hate group members and anti-fascists ? or Antifa ? supporters. 

Seattle police deployed pepper spray on both parties and made several arrests.

In St. Paul, police arrested seven people after clashes occurred between anti-Muslim demonstrators and counterprotesters outside the state Capitol. No injuries were reported, but two of seven arrested face assault charges, the Minnesota State Patrol told HuffPost in a statement.

In New York City, anti-Muslim protesters were outnumbered by counterprotesters who used air horns and cowbells to drown out the other side, the New York Daily news reported.

?We?re making so much noise to drown out the fact that they are furthering hate speech,? Eric Josephson, 66, told the publication. ?I do not believe they have a right to a platform. They are planning murder and mayhem.?

Lead speaker for NYC?s hate march was Gavin McInnes, founder of VICE who in the past has downplayed white terrorism and blamed women for domestic violence.

Rallies were scheduled for 28 cities in 21 states across the country.

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Westminster ‘paedophile ring’ accuser charged

The man had claimed he was abused and tortured by senior politicians and members of the armed forces..https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-44700764
he man had claimed he was abused and tortured by senior politicians and members of the armed forces.


For Those We Lost And Those Who Survived: The Pulse Massacre One Year Later

The pain of June 12 still pangs just as palpably today for Mayra Alvear as it did one year ago.

It?s been twelve months since Omar Mateen entered Pulse nightclub during Pride month 2016 and opened fire with a semi-automatic assault rifle in a three-hour rampage that left 49 people dead ? including Alvear?s youngest daughter, Amanda.

It was the worst mass shooting in modern American history, occurring on the LGBTQ club?s Latin night ? a targeted attack against queer people of color that sent shockwaves through the LGBTQ community globally.

The time between then and now has held unimaginable grief for many ? a daily struggle to make sense of the lives taken and the level of sheer horror and hate that permeated Pulse that morning. 

And for Alvear and countless others, that grief has now been harnessed and channeled into a resolute mission: to be a voice for those who were lost ? to ensure that their loved ones are never forgotten, and to bring awareness to the culture of violence and deep-seated bigotry towards minorities permeating the fabric of the United States.

?I have to keep fighting for her memory ? that she?s not forgotten, that her death isn?t in vain,? Alvear told HuffPost. ?There is so much love out there. I want the legacy of these kids to be that. To show the world that [being LGBTQ] is more than a label ? these are people that were loved, they were caring, they were human and these hate crimes are just totally uncalled for. Unnecessary. We are here because God created us and he created us all equal ? and some people don?t seem to have this kind of vision. I don?t know what kind of world they want to live in.?

Those who survived.

The Pulse shooting shook multiple communities ? and those who exist at their intersections ? to their cores. It raised countless questions about modern-day homophobia ? including internalized ? transphobia, gun violence, racism, Islamophobia and the human capacity for evil.

While the country and LGBTQ people around the world mourned, attended vigils, created art, and processed their grief in their own ways, a new reality and all-encompassing landscape of heartbreak faced the city of Orlando. 

Those who survived found themselves profoundly and irreversibly changed.

?The first couple of days in the hospital was a very hard time for me,? Patience Carter, a survivor whose cousin Akyra Murray died in Pulse, told HuffPost. ?I was in a really bad place. The experience initially traumatized me in a way that made me feel as if living was a privilege that I didn?t deserve. I was angry with God because I was just like, why would you leave me here in this situation knowing that all of these other people didn?t make it? I felt like I didn?t deserve the opportunity to live.?

Those who made it out of Pulse alive still grapple with intense survivor?s guilt; many saw their friends and loved ones die before their own eyes ? or held them in their arms as they took their last breaths.

A number of the survivors, like Carter, were trapped in the bathroom stalls of Pulse for hours, hearing others die around them until police eventually entered the club using explosives at 5:02 a.m., killing Mateen after a chaotic shootout.

Carter credits her survival to a man named Jason Josaphat who shielded her from gunfire while hiding in the bathroom.

?He basically covered my body with his,? she said. ?The guy shot his gun and I heard [Jason] scream. Then the police busted through the wall.?

But for Carter and others who walked or were carried out of Pulse alive that morning, survival also comes with a heavy sense of responsibility.

Angel Colon, one of the survivors who received significant media visibility in the year since the tragedy, was shot six times during Mateen?s rampage. He underwent his fourth surgery less than a month ago and continues to rely on a cane as he learns to walk again.

?I started thinking to myself, you know I can?t stay in a room with the doors closed and thinking about this night over and over again and be depressed,? Colon told HuffPost. ?I have to do something about it ? I have to speak out about it. After seeing the love and support, I thought to myself ?I need to do that as well for the other survivors. I need to make sure that we?re all together and do this together.? So I decided to be a voice.?

Colon has used his new platform to speak out about common sense gun legislation and violence against LGBTQ people. His voice joins a chorus of organizations that have sprung up in the wake of Pulse at the intersection of these two issues, like Gays Against Guns, a group that uses street performance to raise awareness about flawed gun control laws and its convergence with homophobia.

Authorities discovered after Pulse that Mateen was questioned about potential ties to terrorism in 2013 and 2014 and placed on a terrorist watch list. He was eventually taken off the list ? but even if his name had been on that list in 2016, he still would have been able to buy the guns used during his rampage under current American gun laws.

The immediate aftermath of Pulse also shed light on the unfair, homophobic regulations surrounding blood donation in the United States. There was an urgent and pressing need for blood to save the lives of queer people after Pulse, but men who have sex with men must remain celibate for a year in order to be eligible for donation.

As a result, Colon now also advocates alongside fellow survivor Tony Marrero for OneBlood, a nonprofit committed to providing safe, available and affordable blood, particularly in moments of crisis. 

What spaces are truly safe?

For Marreno, witnessing continued events of large-scale violence in spaces of entertainment and amusement are particularly difficult in the wake of Pulse.

He and Carter both told HuffPost that the recent attack at an Ariana Grande concert in Manchester, U.K. hit devastatingly close to home.

?I had a breakdown,? Marrero said. ?That hit me hard not just because a lot of people got hurt, but we?re talking about an Ariana Grande concert! Most of her fans and followers are kids ? what are we talking about here? Now I can?t even go out and enjoy a concert??

The conversation about ?safe spaces? for vulnerable individuals and their ties to high-impact acts of violence tends to move center stage following tragedies like Pulse and Manchester.

LGBTQ people have always had to carve out space for themselves in a world not designed for them to survive and prosper and, in many situations, gay bars have served as those safe spaces. Because of this, for many LGBTQ people, the physical venue of the Pulse tragedy felt like a shooting in their own home. 

And while queer people knew that the attack on Pulse was one rooted in homophobia from the second it happened, many people and some media tried to push back and erase the targeted nature of the massacre against queer Latinx individuals. It wasn?t until Mateen?s father told media that his son was angered by the sight of two men kissing ? that he wasn?t motivated by religion ? that the narrative started to change on a larger scale.

?[Pulse] came down to this sort of discussion about safe space that we had been having for awhile,? queer performer and ?RuPaul?s Drag Race? finalist Sasha Velour told HuffPost. ?That term had been used so loosely and all of the sudden the Pulse tragedy made it feel really urgent and really tangible ? like not an emotional safe space but a real physical need to have a space where queer bodies, especially the bodies of queer people of color and especially Latinos, need to be protected and centered.?

This centering of the experiences of queer Latinx people in the discussion about Pulse is crucial, as mainstream media in the immediate aftermath of the tragedy largely ignored and erased the fact that over 90% of those killed were LGBTQ people of color.

For actor Wilson Cruz, who lost a family member in the tragedy, this erasure of the targeted nature of the attack on queer people of color proved especially frustrating ? and ultimately informed his decision to become part of the conversation about what happened at Pulse.

?Most of [the victims] were Puerto Ricans and were part of an exodus from the island because of the financial and economic turmoil that faced Puerto Rico, who came to Orlando in order to find a better life,? Cruz told HuffPost. ?That part of the story wasn?t being told, and so I started to speak out about what happened and to pay tribute to them because I thought that was a big part of the story that was being missed.?

Starting to heal.

In the days following the tragedy, local Orlando LGBTQ leaders also quickly learned how ill-prepared they were to meet the specific needs of their Latinx community members.

Queer people in Orlando and their families who were either undocumented or didn?t speak English already faced a number of challenges in day-to-day life ? things like access to resources and adequate mental health care ? and saw these disparities further exacerbated immediately following Pulse.

?Pulse happened and we realized we were missing a segment of our community ? we didn?t have a Spanish-speaking person here every single day, so if somebody walked in that just spoke Spanish, we were not able to service that person or help that person with what they needed,? Terry DeCarlo, Executive Director of The LGBT Center of Central Florida, told HuffPost, adding that they?ve changed their curriculum and plan to open a new office staffed entirely by Hispanic individuals. ?There were things that we learned out of this and changed, but groups like QLatinx, which is one of the main ones that came out of [Pulse], they are doing amazing things.?

Organizations like QLatinx found financial support in the immediate aftermath of Pulse from groups like Contigo Fund, a foundation that also grew out of the tragedy and funds organizations dedicated to the healing, strengthening and empowerment of LGBTQ and Latinx people in the Central Florida area.

Marco Quiroga, Contigo Fund Program Director, told HuffPost that prior to the massacre, most nonprofits have been working in silos. ?There was a lot of duplication of services,? he said. ?Florida is fiftieth in the country for mental health care and one of the biggest flare ups that we saw after the tragedy was the fact that there were zero LGBTQ-competent and linguistically competent mental health services available to the individuals who were impacted directly ? and the broader community who has been traumatized by the tragedy.?

In the months since, these organizations, as well as others like Hispanic Federation and Proyecto Somos Orlando, have worked to fill the gaps in access to resources and care for these communities, as well as pushing established LGBTQ centers and nonprofits to broaden their scope.

Compassion begins with education. 

Other groups and services that have emerged focus on the need for comprehensive education about LGBTQ issues and experiences in order to change hearts and minds and encourage empathy.

The Dru Project is one of these organizations, created by the friends of Drew Leinonen, a 32-year-old gay man who died in Pulse along with his boyfriend, Juan Guerrero. The group?s focus is on Gay Straight Alliances in high schools, developing a curriculum for these high school groups to adopt and also to provide scholarships.

For the founders of The Dru Project, it is crucial to provide safe spaces in schools for LGBTQ students and to encourage empathetic attitudes towards queer kids in public schools from a young age.

Leinonen?s mother, Christine, has since become a ?mom mascot? of sorts for the group and has evolved into an outspoken advocate for gay rights and gun safety. She also spoke onstage at the 2016 Democratic National Convention about the loss of her son.

?One good thing that has come out of the tragedy is ? I always thought I was a loving, kind compassionate person but as a result of losing my son in this violent way, I have developed a level of compassion that is deeper than I thought was humanly possible,? Leinonen told HuffPost. ?[And] I have a constant message for parents, period, to love their children exactly as they come to them.?

The fight continues.

This need to focus on education, on changing hearts and minds when it comes to LGBTQ identity and experiences ? as well as the experiences of all minority groups ? from an early age is a common thought echoed among survivors, family members and activists who experienced Pulse and its aftermath.

Horror will continue to occur and constantly be reinvented in new and unspeakable ways until the roots of the problems surrounding Pulse ? namely, socialized bigotry and prejudice from a young age and rampant gun violence ? are addressed and dismantled.

And yet, since that fateful day, we have new challenges to face, including a president and administration which, at best, ignore queer people and, at worst, refuse to protect them. But one thing is certain: the fight for equality of all human beings continues and is bolstered by the memory of those who we lost on June 12.

Pulse nightclub is now in the process of becoming a memorial site. As Alvear notes, ?Forty years from here, whoever visits [Pulse], they will know that it happened ? and that love will always conquer everything.?

And for Brandon Wolf, a survivor and co-founder of The Dru Project, reflecting on Pulse, the memorial site, and the twelve months since the tragedy has left him with a call to action.

?We are never in a place where we can stop demanding equality, where we can stop challenging people to be better than they were yesterday,? he told HuffPost. ?We have a long way to go. And if Pulse serves as any reminder, it?s that we aren?t done fighting. We are never done fighting until every last person in this world is accepted and loved for who they are. I?m certainly not going to stop fighting and I hope you don?t either.?

What follows are the names of the 49 victims who died in the Pulse Nightclub Massacre. Rest in power.

Stanley Almodovar III, 23

Amanda L. Alvear, 25 

Oscar A. Aracena Montero, 26 

Rodolfo Ayala Ayala, 33

Antonio Davon Brown, 29 

Darryl Roman Burt II, 29 

Angel Candelario-Padro, 28 

Juan Chavez Martinez, 25 

Luis Daniel Conde, 39 

Cory James Connell, 21 

Tevin Eugene Crosby, 25 

Deonka Deidra Drayton, 32 

Simón Adrian Carrillo Fernández, 31 

Leroy Valentin Fernandez, 25 

Mercedez Marisol Flores, 26 

Peter Ommy Gonzalez Cruz, 22 

Juan Ramon Guerrero, 22 

Paul Terrell Henry, 41 

Frank Hernandez, 27 

Miguel Angel Honorato, 30

Javier Jorge Reyes, 40 

Jason Benjamin Josaphat, 19 

Eddie Jamoldroy Justice, 30

Anthony Luis Laureano Disla, 25 

Christopher Andrew Leinonen, 32 

Alejandro Barrios Martinez, 21 

Brenda Marquez McCool, 49 

Gilberto R. Silva Menendez, 25 

Kimberly Jean Morris, 37 

Akyra Monet Murray, 18 

Luis Omar Ocasio Capo, 20 

Geraldo A. Ortiz Jimenez, 25 

Eric Ivan Ortiz-Rivera, 36 

Joel Rayon Paniagua, 32 

Jean Carlos Mendez Perez, 35 

Enrique L. Rios, Jr., 25 

Jean Carlos Nieves Rodríguez, 27 

Xavier Emmanuel Serrano-Rosado, 35 

Christopher Joseph Sanfeliz, 24 

Yilmary Rodríguez Solivan, 24

Edward Sotomayor Jr., 34

Shane Evan Tomlinson, 33 

Martin Benitez Torres, 33

Jonathan A. Camuy Vega, 24 

Juan Pablo Rivera Velázquez, 37 

Luis Sergio Vielma, 22 

Franky Jimmy DeJesus Velázquez, 50 

Luis Daniel Wilson-Leon, 37

Jerald Arthur Wright, 31 

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Stephen Colbert Suggests The Perfect Place For Donald Trump To Testify Under Oath

President Donald Trump says he is fully prepared to testify under oath on his interactions with former FBI Director James Comey.

But to ensure Trump?s total honesty during any possible hearing, ?Late Show? host Stephen Colbert has an idea for where it should take place.

And that?s on an ?Access Hollywood? bus:

Colbert tweeted his suggestion, which referenced Trump?s 2005 bus ride with former ?Access Hollywood? host Billy Bush, on Friday afternoon.

During the now infamous trip, Trump was caught on a hot mic bragging about grabbing women?s genitals. He later brushed off the comments as ?locker room talk.?

Colbert?s Twitter followers appeared to agree with his venue idea, and some even suggested using a locker room as an alternative location in which Trump would speak the truth:

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James Corden And Emily Blunt Pop-Sing Their Way Through ‘Romeo And Juliet’

The ?Late Late Show? did it the Bard way.

Host James Corden and actress Emily Blunt performed an accelerated ?Romeo and Juliet? Thursday, singing through Shakespeare?s play of star-crossed lovers with 14 pop songs on seven different sets.

The late-night talk show, based in London for the week, did right by England?s greatest playwright.

Britney Spears? ?Toxic? and DJ Jazzy Jeff & The Fresh Prince?s ?Parents Just Don?t Understand? are among the inspired song choices.

And ?Kung Fu Fighting? is fine by us under any circumstances.

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Donald Trump Rages At James Comey In Early Morning Tweet

President Donald Trump lashed out at former FBI Director James Comey on Twitter early Friday following the previous day?s dramatic Senate hearing.

Comey, speaking to the Senate Intelligence Committee on Thursday morning, had harsh words for the White House throughout questioning from lawmakers, saying repeatedly he was uncomfortable with the president?s requests for loyalty and that the administration lied and defamed him after he was unexpectedly fired in May.

Trump hit back, accusing Comey of lying and calling him a ?leaker.? Comey admitted Thursday that he indirectly leaked a memo he?d written about his interactions with the president to the New York Times.

His comments echoed remarks made by his lawyer Marc Kasowitz on Thursday.

?It is overwhelmingly clear that there have been and continue to be those in government who are actively attempting to undermine this administration with selective and illegal leaks of classified information and privileged communications,? Kasowitz said at a press conference. ?Mr. Comey has now admitted that he is one of the leakers.?

All eyes were on the former director as he spoke about the FBI?s ongoing investigation into Russian meddling in the U.S. presidential election. Shortly after Comey was fired, the Department of Justice appointed former FBI Director Robert Mueller to serve as a special counsel to oversee the investigation, a decision that has reportedly left Trump fuming.

Trump is well-known for his early morning tweetstorms following major news events. He recently unleashed a furious defense of the White House?s second attempt at a travel ban aimed at citizens from six Muslim-majority nations.

?That?s right, we need a travel ban for certain dangerous countries, not some politically correct term that won?t help us protect people!? he wrote.

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White House Finally Reveals Whether Donald Trump Has Confidence In Jeff Sessions

The White House says President Donald Trump has regained ?confidence? in Attorney General Jeff Sessions, following reports this week of a rift between the two men.

Sarah Huckabee Sanders, White House deputy press secretary, told reporters during an off-camera press briefing Thursday that she had a ?conversation? with Trump about the matter on Wednesday.

?The president has confidence in all of his Cabinet,? Sanders said.

Rumors of tension between Trump and Sessions mounted after The New York Times reported Monday that the attorney general offered to resign amid the president?s growing frustration with his performance.

Trump reportedly blames Sessions for the escalation of an FBI probe into ties between his 2016 presidential campaign and Russian officials, claiming the attorney general?s decision to recuse himself from the investigation was ?needless.?

Sanders? statement comes just two days after press secretary Sean Spicer refused to comment on whether Trump had confidence in Sessions.

?I don?t have a comment on that,? Spicer told reporters during a press briefing Tuesday. ?I have not had that discussion with [Trump], and if I haven?t had a discussion about a subject, I tend not to speak about it.?

One theory as to why Trump?s spokespeople were mum on the topic was the recollection of what happened in February when senior counselor Kellyanne Conway expressed the president?s confidence in national security adviser Michael Flynn. He was fired hours later.

Conway?s response about Flynn and his subsequent firing followed a pattern of inconsistent messaging that has become common from the Trump White House.

On Monday, both Sebastian Gorka, a deputy assistant to the president, and Conway attempted to downplay the significance of Trump?s tweets.

?It?s not policy,? Gorka told CNN?s Chris Cuomo. ?It?s not an executive order. It?s social media.?

Conway echoed Gorka?s position on NBC?s ?Today? show, claiming the media has ?an obsession? with covering Trump?s tweets.

But Spicer contradicted his colleagues Tuesday when he told reporters that Trump?s tweets are ?official statements by the president of the United States.?

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The Numbers Behind Fixing Health Care In America

On March 23, 2010 Democrats slammed a health care plan through Congress that helped many Americans, but it is far from perfect. Now Republicans are offering a plan that will leave millions of Americans without insurance.  It seems as if Congress is unable to fix health care, however the current system is unsustainable. According to the Centers for Medicaid and Medicare the U.S. spent $3.2 trillion on health care in 2015. That?s $10,035 per person. It?s an insane amount of money.

Turns out it is possible to lower costs and improve care, but it?s not as easy as I thought when I started the research for this article.  

The answer involves us reimagining health care. I?m going to call it ?universal coverage? for the sake of simplification and because calling it ?a combination of public and private insurance that requires 100 percent participation in the public portion while preserving private insurance benefits? is accurate, but awkward.  

Many are opposed to a system like this and cite six reasons: ?I don?t want to pay for insurance for others,? ?I don?t want to lose my current health insurance benefits,? ?my quality of care will go down,? ?universal coverage is anti-capitalist,? ?pre-existing conditions are going to kill the insurance industry,? and finally, ?it?s too hard to do!?

All of these objections can be overcome with facts.

We are already paying for the health care of others.

According to the Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation, the cost of ?uncompensated? health care in America in 2013 was $84.9 billion of which state and federal governments paid $52.6 billion, leaving $32.3 billion unpaid. To cover the unpaid cost, providers and payers raise rates; the rates insured Americans will eventually pay.  The amount of unpaid costs is a pittance of the amount that we pay through taxes that fund Medicare, Medicaid and other government programs. That number is $1.664 trillion and those programs cover 112 million people.  

Despite the benefits our relatives, friends and neighbors receive from government programs, some still want to end all government health care and never adopt a universal coverage system.  Millions feel this way, until they lose their coverage due to some change in circumstance and they stay up all night hoping their kid doesn?t die from whooping cough. Nonetheless, they simply don?t want to be made to pay for the health care of others and they believe that if they don?t pay for government programs, they won?t be paying for other?s health care. Cognitive dissonance rules.

So, let?s eliminate all government health care including the tax breaks offered to people and companies with private insurance, Medicare and Medicaid. Pause for a second, think about it and say ?yes? if you want this to happen.  

If you said ?yes,? you can now prove that you are definitely not paying for other?s health care because there are no Medicare and Medicaid line items on your pay stub, right? Head in the sand; dissonance resolved.   

Except now, your brother, who works 50 hours a week hanging sheetrock, cuts his hand and doesn?t have insurance. Who?s going to pay? You are, because you just said ?hell yes!? to ending his coverage and he?s not ?others,? he?s family.

What if the same thing happens to someone who isn?t a relative? Too bad for them, right? Let someone else pay. Turns out that someone else is you.  

Everyone who has no government insurance coverage, but who still needs health care will go to the local hospital for treatment and not pay their bill (or in some cases, just die). Providers don?t work for free so that cost will be rolled into higher fees to people who do pay. By my calculations, the insured population would have to pay $20,295 per person per year; more than TWICE what they are paying today to cover the cost of the services rendered to the uninsured.

Simply put, sick people cost money and eventually everyone will pay whether we count the cost or hide it in higher fees and pretend we don?t.  

We can?t afford to eliminate government funded health care and we already pay for the care of others, so let?s admit that we already have a type of universal coverage system for one third of Americans and maybe that?s OK.

Let?s also agree that the current programs are way too expensive and that we want an efficient system with high quality care. How can we get that?  By pooling our money, lowering costs and adopting a full universal coverage system. Heck, we?re already 70 percent of the way there based on the total spend on government health care and $400 billion in tax breaks for companies who provide private insurance to their employees.  

We?ll need to accept a mandate, but you?ll be glad we did.

We need to pool our money. Five percent of the population accounts for nearly half of health care spending and half the population has almost no health care usage.  The only way we can afford health care is if we all pool our money and share the expense until it?s our turn to personally benefit.  For this to work we?ll need a mandate; and I do mean mandate.  Not the sloppy system we have today where healthy people don?t get insurance because the cost is higher than the penalty.  Mandate as in this will be deducted from your wages like Medicare and Medicaid are today (but replace both).  The good news is that the mandate is going to save us a lot of money.

We could pay for our universal health care system using just the money we spend today.

Of the $3.2 trillion spent in 2015 Medicaid, Medicare, VA, DOD and CHIP paid $1,312 trillion, private insurance paid $778 billion, consumers paid $352 billion out of pocket, third-party party programs which includes a bunch of private and public entities paid $256 billion, money from investments covered $160 billion and other government spending was $96 billion.  Most of this money really comes from Americans in the form of fees and taxes.  In summary government programs plus the out-of-pocket payments equal $2.176 trillion, which is how much we can spend on our universal insurance system if we don?t want to raise our costs.  I?m holding out the money from private insurance because we?re going to radically change how that works.  

We need to lower the cost of care while not reducing the quality.

We have $2.176 trillion available, but we spend roughly $3.2 trillion a year so we need to lower our costs.

To understand what drives expense in America?s health care, I went looking for answers and found these three articles (and many more) that explain the issues in great detail. In summary, our health care is more expensive due to higher physician costs, overpaying for services, ordering unnecessary tests, having excess medical equipment, low hospital occupancy rates, long hospital stays, high administrative costs and a tort system that is need of an overhaul.  There are plenty of opportunities to lower our costs.

A study by BMC Health Services Research claims that $350 billion in paperwork and administrative costs savings could be realized by moving to universal coverage. On top of that, a study by the Institute of Medicine concludes that about $750 billion in fraud and inefficiencies exist in the system.  Let?s say we can cut fraud in half and realize $375 billion in savings.  Two initiatives alone provide $725 billion in savings and lower the annual cost of health care from $3.200 trillion to $2.475 trillion.

How much more would we save if we combined Medicare and Medicaid into one program? About 5 percent ($27.2 billion) of Medicaid costs are for administration. Medicare administration costs are between 2 percent and 17 percent, depending on whose data you believe, so let?s call it 8 percent or $51.2 billion. The total for both agencies is $78.4 billion.

These two agencies do much of the same thing for different people. I know they do some things differently, but in principle, they take in money in the form of taxes and fees and distribute that money to pay for health care for their participants. And they are pretty good at it. Recent reports indicate that Medicare is more efficient than private insurers and has lower administrative costs so let?s let them run our new universal coverage system.  

If we assume some efficiencies and give the new combined agency $60 billion for administration, then we?d save $19 billion. Now we are down to $2.457 trillion. That move barely lowered the costs, but does consolidate the majority of government health insurance into one program.

We can save an additional $78 billion with tort reform. Since we struggle with even basic reform, let?s say we can eek out half. That would contribute $39 billion in savings, which puts us at $2.418 trillion. We?re still short $242 billion. The good news is that we still have an unused bucket of funds, but my proposed source will make insurance companies go apoplectic.

In an Office for National Statistics Study, the average spend by six industrialized countries on private insurance is 21 percent of total health care spend. In America, it?s 33 percent ($1.056 trillion in 2015). Dropping from 33 percent of all health care to 21 percent would still allow us to spend $672 billion for private insurance. It does mean that insurance companies will be 36 percent smaller and that?s also OK also because most care will come from our universal coverage system. By applying the $384 billion we just saved to our universal coverage plan, we have a surplus of $142.4 billion. Let?s leave it in the system. All the change will be expensive and disruptive. This can help pay for it. If we do, our total annual spend would be $2.176 trillion, which is $6,824 per person.

Congratulations, we moved to universal coverage at no additional cost and put $1.024 trillion back into our economy. For perspective, we could make college free for everyone and still have $948 billion left over.

Here?s a final surprise. There are currently 28 million uninsured Americans. I factored them into all the numbers above so not only do we lower our costs, we just gave 28 million people health insurance coverage. Despite this, many will want private insurance; and they are going to get it as we?ll see later.

How is this possible?

Ah, I can hear the rumblings. ?That?s a lot of change. It seems to make sense, but how do I know it?s possible??

Ten other industrialized countries have figured out how to keep costs low AND provide higher quality of care than America. The average per person cost for them is $4,386. We?re not going to get to that number due to many issues, but surely we could get to a number that is 64 percent higher (which is the number from above ? $6,824 per person). I find it impossible to believe that we can?t figure out how to provide quality health care to all Americans while spending 64 percent more per person than 10 countries who provide better care than us. Seriously.  Is anyone walking around America chanting ?we?re number 11!? and admitting that 10 other countries are smarter than us?

You won?t lose your private insurance coverage.

When we move to a universal system, everyone will have coverage.  Many of the things private insurance pays for today will be covered by our universal plan, but we still need private insurance. Let?s see how it works in other countries.

In 16 industrialized countries, like in America, about 56 percent of the population has private insurance offered by companies like BUPA, Aviva and AXA. What does it look like? Exactly like the private health insurance we have today. It simply sits on top of your public universal coverage. You call your doctor, tell them you have private insurance and boom, you go to the front of the line for services. True story, my wife and I moved to the UK and she needed to renew her birth control prescription. She called the doctor?s office on a Friday and they told her to come in in three months (somehow ignoring how that might work out). She said ?wait, I have BUPA.? They told her to come in next Tuesday.  See how it works? Straight to the front of the line.

?Not fair,? scream the hard-left utopians, and they are partially right, but if you want a system that works in America, this is what it looks like. It balances social responsibility and fiscal conservatism with privilege for those that earn it. For those who don?t have coverage today or find it very expensive, all your problems just got solved because you have universal coverage.  For those that have private coverage, who paid taxes, got their basic coverage and helped their fellow human beings, but also worked hard, got ahead and earned the perks of success, they will have the same coverage as they do today. It?s fair to everyone. Is it communist/socialist fair? Nope. Nor do most Americans want it to be. Is it capitalist-with-basic-social-and-fiscal-responsibility fair? Yes, it is.

Quality of care can actually get better.

Americans aren?t getting good value for money. U.S. health care is ranked between 11th out of 11 industrialized countries and 37th in the world. Using any search engine will produce an avalanche of these articles. The good news is that study-after-study demonstrates that improving health care quality  is possible.

There?s a cacophony of alarm in health care industry studies and articles about quality going down under universal coverage systems, such as this one, which claims we?d see lower payments to providers and payers (true) and limited investment in advanced medical equipment and reductions in the speed of medical progress (not true).  If this is the case, how is it possible for the rest of the world to deliver higher quality of care at a lower cost than America? Perhaps it?s because almost 100 percent of the articles that claim the sky is falling don?t consider the effect of private health care on universal coverage. Perhaps there are reasons other than self-preservation. I?m not sure, but I have great difficulty reconciling lobbyist-supported studies that show quality MIGHT go down with the fact that 36 countries with universal coverage provide better health care than we do at a lower cost.   

Universal coverage supports capitalism and reduces bankruptcy.

Want another reason to love universal coverage? Not adopting it is undermining entrepreneurism. Want to start a company? I hope so because new business accounts for most net new job creation. But there is a problem. You and the people you hire need insurance. This issue alone keeps people from starting companies. Even the partial universal care we have under the ACA today, may allow the creation of 25,000 new businesses a year. If you want to improve the economy, we?ll need more startups and full universal coverage enables their creation.

Universal coverage will also reduce bankruptcy, which means more people can stay in their houses and buy stuff to drive the economy. About 2 million Americans a year go bankrupt and unpaid medical bills are the number one cause. In addition, approximately 10 million Americans will find themselves with medical bills that they can?t pay and more than 25 million Americans don?t take their medication because of the expense. As they become unhealthier, their cost of care will increase as will their inability to pay, so the burden will fall on the rest of us.

There are other effects. When I worked at Bank of America, I looked at our mortgage data and found it would have been cheaper for the bank to pay for health insurance for some customers than to take the losses associated with repossessing their house due to issues with lack of health care coverage; millions cheaper in aggregate. In many ways, moving to universal health solves this problem and the additional benefit, is that families have shelter and stability.

Lowering the number of bankruptcies and helping people pay for their medicine is good for the economy and good for us.

What about all the job losses?

Job losses are part of the cycle of capitalistic system improvements as is new job creation brought about by innovation and change. What?s the net impact? There are some wild estimates out there, but this article from Fortune indicates that we?d lose about 2 million jobs if we adopt universal care. Alternatively, a recent study by the California Nurses Association indicates that 2.6 million new jobs would be created. I think the actual answer is unclear. What is clear is that the move to universal coverage will cause change.

The single-payer component would combine parts of private insurance, Medicare and Medicaid into one system and some of the efficiency gained will come at the cost of jobs. In addition, private insurance will shrink dramatically; which will also cost jobs. However, the shift from spending money on administrative expenses to care provision, would create new jobs as would the growth needed to help the 28 million people we just added to the system.  The available information paints a mixed picture, but in the end, it doesn?t matter because we must make these changes and jobs will be lost and gained.  

What about preexisting conditions? Won?t those increase the cost of our system?

The hubbub about preexisting conditions is a subterfuge by insurance companies to distract imbeciles in Congress.

The insurance industry is adamant that they are harmed by covering people with preexisting conditions because of something called adverse selection.  What they are really saying is that if they offer coverage for preexisting conditions then more sick people will sign up and cost them more money.  This is partially true without universal coverage.  

Private insurance, like universal coverage works by pooling money from a mix of healthy and sick people. Insurance companies like to keep out people with preexisting conditions because they cost more than people without them.  They think that simply refusing to cover preexisting conditions for individuals, those people won?t join their pool of insured.  They are partially right.

The hubbub about preexisting conditions is a subterfuge by insurance companies to distract imbeciles in Congress.

Let?s say you are one of the 29 million Americans who have diabetes and you are an entrepreneur. You?d like a private insurance policy, but the cost is too high so you don?t get one. Problem solved for the insurance industry.  Well not quite because you have a wife and two kids and need insurance so you find an employer to hire you and get their insurance. Many large companies are self-insured, which means they pay most of the cost of insurance and have private companies administer the process. Insurance companies love this because the employer takes most, but not all, of the risk.  Self-insured companies have extra insurance from private insurers in case a person?s condition causes very high cost. You know, like people with preexisting conditions. Guess what? They got you anyway.

Under universal coverage, the government will bear most of the cost for people with preexisting conditions. Insurance companies don?t recognize this in their alarmist rhetoric because they don?t think we?ll ever have universal coverage.  If they?d admit we need to move to universal coverage, most of their problem with preexisting conditions goes away.

It is hard to make all these changes.

We just used facts and logic to lower our cost of health care. We also covered all Americans, kept private health insurance for those that have it, improved the quality of health care, stimulated the economy and eliminated issues with pre-existing conditions.

You know who can?t live with it? Insurance companies. Their size change would be stunning. In 2015, $1.056 trillion was spent by insurance companies.  With universal coverage, the number would be $672 billion. Private insurance is now 36 percent smaller. That?s 384 billion reasons they fight so hard to maintain status quo instead of doing what?s best for all Americans.

Know who else can?t live with it? Pharmaceutical companies. American drug costs are two to three times higher than the cost of other industrialized countries. Americans spent $425 billion on prescription drugs in 2015. If we spent 50 percent less due to negotiated rates, the industry would lose $212.5 billion. Drug companies need to earn a profit so they can invest in new drugs. Because we don?t have national negotiated rates, the excessive cost we pay for drugs subsidizes the lower cost in the rest of the world. It turns out that Americans aren?t just paying for the drugs of other Americans, we are paying for drugs used by people world-wide. When we move to universal coverage, we?re going to decimate pharmaceutical company margins and they?ll have to make up some of that through higher costs around the world.  Seems fairer actually, but it will be painful for the industry.

Doctors don?t like universal coverage either because it will mean lower income. Critics of universal care suggest that the lower income will reduce the incentives for people to become doctors and therefore create a shortage.  Is that true? The best estimates I could find show that the average doctor will experience a 12 percent drop and specialist would fare worse. Doctors spent a fortune to go to college and save lives. They deserve to be paid well, but a 12 percent drop from an average of $294,808 ($272,000 from the study adjusted for inflation) would mean they would make $259,431 and still be in the 99th percentile of earnings. Painful? Yes. Devastating and a big enough change to keep people from becoming physicians? Unlikely.

Turns out that it is possible to fix health care in America. We have a huge amount of money available, we just need to redeploy it. Private insurance and pharmaceutical companies will see dramatic changes to their business, but individual Americans can win big.

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Networks Will Interrupt Daytime Shows For Real-Life Soap As Comey Testifies

CBS, NBC and ABC are setting aside regular daytime programming to air former FBI director James Comey?s testimony before the U.S. Senate Select Committee on Intelligence on Thursday. 

The hearing begins at 10 a.m. ET, when Comey will discuss his interactions with President Donald Trump and face questions from the panel.

CBS announced Tuesday that it would be airing coverage hosted by Norah O?Donnell, Gayle King and Charlie Rose of ?CBS This Morning.? NBC will offer coverage hosted by Savannah Guthrie of the ?Today? show, while ABC?s George Stephanopoulos will host coverage on that network, per Variety

Coverage of the highly anticipated event will elbow aside shows like ?Let?s Make a Deal? in local markets on CBS and ?Live with Kelly and Ryan? and ?Rachel Ray? in local markets on ABC. NBC?s ?Today? show typically runs through the time slot. It will preempt regular daytime soaps and talk shows.

The decision to interrupt scheduled programming for such an event is unusual. But considering how other Washington drama ? in the form of White House press secretary Sean Spicer?s press conferences ? has been a ratings boon for cable news networks, it?s likely to be a smart move.

The hearing is already generating plenty of buzz. A BBC reporter said it would likely be ?the biggest piece of political theater the nation?s capital has seen in a generation,? and bars around the D.C. area are planning to open early with themed drinks. (One particularly aggressive establishment will reportedly offer free drinks every time Trump tweets during the testimony. Oh, and Trump may be live-tweeting.)

President Trump fired Comey last month in a surprise memo. On Thursday, the former FBI director will testify that the president asked for ?loyalty? and suggested the FBI stop investigating former national security advisor Mike Flynn, whom Trump characterized as ?a good guy.? 

The full text of Comey?s testimony, including his assertion that Trump made him feel ?uneasy,? has been made public at the former director?s request.

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This Soft Serve Is The Best Reason To Go ‘Cow Tipping’

Check out the full Periscope footage here:

Cow Tipping Creamery started as an off-the-highway soft serve destination operating out of a repainted emergency response vehicle. Quickly, though, husband-and-wife duo Corey and Tim Sorenson realized that their frozen creations ? with unique flavors like peppermint cocoa and bananas Foster ? had earned a loyal following. The two swapped the food truck for a brick-and-mortar shop in South Austin, which was soon followed by a place in Dallas.   

A post shared by Zagat (@zagat) on

You?ll always find vanilla and chocolate on the menu (the vanilla is Indonesian and the chocolate is Valrhona), in addition to a rotating special flavor. It?s worth indulging in a Stacker, Cow Tipping Creamery?s version of a sundae, made with layers of ice cream, homemade toppings (like Nutter Butter crumbs and rummy caramel), and baked goods. They taste amazing and will go perfectly on your Instagram.

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Sean Spicer Refuses To Say Whether Trump Has Confidence In Attorney General

White House press secretary Sean Spicer refused to answer a question on Tuesday about whether President Donald Trump still has confidence in Attorney General Jeff Sessions

?I don?t have a comment on that,? Spicer told reporters during his daily briefing, when asked to describe the president?s confidence in Sessions. Pressed further, Spicer said, ?I have not had that discussion with [Trump], and if I haven?t had a discussion about a subject, I tend not to speak about it.?

Spicer?s non-answer follows a New York Times report on Monday that describes Trump?s growing frustration with his attorney general, whom the president reportedly blames for the escalation of an FBI probe into ties between Trump?s campaign and Russian officials.

On Tuesday, Trump also tweeted his frustration with the Justice Department?s adjustments to his first travel ban ? changes that were aimed at trying to convince federal judges to uphold the ban. Trump had, of course, approved those changes when he signed the revised executive order. 

In March, Sessions formally recused himself from the Russia investigation after it was revealed that he had held at least two meetings with Russia?s ambassador during the presidential campaign and then failed to disclose those meetings to senators during his confirmation process. 

Spicer?s ?no comment? set off a buzz in Washington partly because the last time he was asked whether Trump had ?confidence? in an administration official, that person was James Comey, now the former FBI director. A week after Spicer said the president had ?confidence in the director,? Trump fired Comey.

Comey is set to testify before the Senate on Thursday about his conversations with Trump.

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The Unbearable Weakness Of President Trump In the Face Of Terrorism

?We need to be smart, vigilant and tough,? Donald Trump tweeted soon after the horrible terror attack in London on and close to the London Bridge. Even though an occasional hint of compassion for the victims would sometimes a nice gesture as well, the US President was undoubtedly right in substance. This terror attack, the second in England within two weeks, and the third within three months, puts a lot of pressure on the psyche of Western countries.

(Granted, that psyche is a bit selective, when 90 dead in Kabul were only worth one day of news coverage (and no tweet), and when stabbings by a man named Christian in peaceful Portland, Oregon, are, unlike the attacks committed by Muslims, viewed as unfortunate isolated event.)

Unfortunately, smart, vigilant and tough is exactly what the President?s reaction was not. Rather, his response was the opposite: unbelievably stupid, extremely careless, and ridiculously weak.

Stupid first. Despite the constant droning that wants to suggest otherwise, terrorism, including that in London, is a strategy, not an ideology. The attackers? main goal, we must presume, was not to kill seven and injure more than 40. That is a large number for a terrorist attack?between 1990 and 2015, no more than 90 people were killed in terror attacks in the UK?but still a relatively small number of people compared to other causes of death. For comparison, each week, the UK sees 35 deaths and almost 500 serious injuries from traffic accidents.

No, the main goal of terrorism is what its name suggests: to create terror. And Trump gives the attackers so precisely what they want from him that even Putin must be jealous. He lets fear get the better of him. He lashes out on twitter, unhinged. And he works very hard at conveying that fear to us, too, by tweeting in panic. The smart thing and this is almost too obvious to write, would have been not to play into the terrorists? hands. But Trump appears unable to even understand that.

Was he at least vigilant, by emphasizing again the need for his travel ban? If only. In the United States, like in the United Kingdom, most terror attacks are committed by citizens born and raised in the country. If indeed the London attackers were led by ISIS, they could be radicalized at home, or reached through the internet. And in order to drive cars into people (what a dreadfully unheroic method!) they do not need to visit training camps in Afghanistan; they can read the instructions in ISIS? glossy magazine. In this regard, Theresa May?s threat to regulate the internet more thoroughly has, despite its obvious downside, at least a hint of credibility.

Trump looks exactly like the kind of man ISIS must want in the Oval Office: Stupid, careless, and weak.

Of course, Trump would never dare to interfere with the economic and political forces that support internet freedom. Instead he caters to anti-Muslim sentiment. But it is still not vigilant to ban entrants from Iran, from where none of the recent attackers in the United States came. What could be vigilant would be, for example, to reconsider relations with Saudi Arabia, which we must still suspect to be supporting terrorists, and which beheads people in a manner eerily similar to the preferred way of ISIS. Its role in the terror attacks may remain unknown if the UK Home Office sticks to its decision not to publish a recent report. Trump, of course, does not care about such niceties. It has only been days since he used the Saudi Arabian stage, of all places, to declare a fight against extremism, and he praised a huge weapons deal with the country as good for American jobs.

Most remarkable, however, is how unbearably weak Trump is proving to be in the face of terror attacks. A model of strength is London?s mayor Sadiq Khan, who urged Londoners and visitors ?to be calm and vigilant? . Theresa May, who has an election to win (or, increasingly less improbably, to lose), has managed slightly less well to remain her calm: her promise to step up the fight against Islamist terrorism stands in unexplained contrast to her recently announced plans to reduce police forces.

Trump beat her. He decided that the best response was to ridicule Sadiq Khan, only hours after promising that the United States would do whatever it can to ?help out in London and the U.K. Moreover, and incomprehensibly, he blamed political correctness. This is bizarre. Nobody in England is defending the terrorists, just as nobody in World War II excused the Blitzkrieg with the Nazis? difficult childhood. Instead, the now famous motto ?Keep calm and carry on,? although itself apparently not used during the war, represented a deliberate strategy to resist the Nazis? attempts of demoralizing Londoners through carpet bombing. That strength provided one important step towards the later victory.

Whatever else one may think of Winston Churchill, England?s leader in World War II, he proved indeed to be what Trump demands now: smart, vigilant, and tough. Churchill is a role model for the President, though not apparently for these characteristics. Trump, still the TV celebrity that he will always be, has been reported to practice frowning so he could look more like Churchill. He need not bother, he never will. He looks exactly like the kind of man ISIS must want in the Oval Office: stupid, careless, and weak, prone to give the terrorists what they hope for. That is, perhaps, the most frightening lesson from the terror attacks.

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New faces

The photographers trying to change perceptions of Africa.


Splendid isolation?

Residents of the new London City Island live less than 30 minutes away from central London.


Alec Baldwin Tweets Advice To Under-Fire Kathy Griffin

Actor Alec Baldwin has used Twitter to offer some words of comfort to under-fire comedian Kathy Griffin.

Griffin faced a backlash this week after she posed with a bloody mask depicting President Donald Trump?s decapitated head. At an emotional press conference on Friday, she slammed members of the Trump family for subsequently bullying her on social media.

Soon after, Baldwin tweeted Griffin his support:

?Kathy? fuck them. Fuck them all,? wrote Baldwin, who has also faced Trump?s repeated wrath over his potrayal of him on ?Saturday Night Live.?

?No 1 believes u meant 2 threaten Trump,? he added. ?Trump is such a senile idiot, all he has is Twitter fights.?

Baldwin also recalled a similar backlash he faced in 1998, when he sparked outrage for joking about killing the now late Rep. Henry Hyde (R-Il) on ?Late Night With Conan O?Brien.?

Read all of Baldwin?s tweets here:

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