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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Sweden Has Shown That Climate Action And Economic Growth Are Absolutely Linked

A few days ago, US President Donald Trump followed through on his threat to leave the Paris Agreement. A total of 147 countries have ratified the Agreement, which states that a global temperature rise will remain well below two degrees Celsius, and efforts will be made to limit it even further to 1.5 degrees Celsius. The Paris Agreement was a decisive breakthrough in international climate efforts and is needed more than ever now that we are getting reports that Arctic ice is melting much faster than researchers expected. The US leaving the Paris Agreement is a huge setback for future international climate efforts. It also affects tomorrow?s jobs and the labor market. The rest of the world cannot afford to slow down to wait for the US. Those who opt out of making the transition now will be left hopelessly behind.

Swedish experience shows that predictability and effective policy levers play an important role in companies? transition potential.

An increasing number of companies see profitability and business opportunities in reducing their climate impact and respond to growing demand for sustainable solutions. The challenge of climate change requires policies and leadership that create opportunities for the business sector to use this to turn risks into opportunities. The US now risks moving in a direction diametrically opposed to its own development and the development of the rest of the world.

In connection with the annual spring meetings of the IMF and the World Bank, we co-organized a seminar on climate-smart growth and the business sector?s role in the climate transition. The seminar in Washington pointed out the lessons Sweden has learned regarding the role of policies and the business sector and their interaction in the climate transition. Sweden is one of the most innovative countries in the world and at the same time has both one of the world?s most ambitious goals for emissions reductions and for transition to a 100 percent renewable electricity system.  

It was long a common perception that climate efforts led to increased costs and that the aim of companies? climate efforts was to live up to requirements and avoid risks. In recent years, this perception has changed ? companies have realized that ambitious climate efforts present opportunities. The Haga Initiative is a network of companies that wants to show that the business sector is part of the solution in the climate transition. Each of the 15 heads of the companies that make up the Haga Initiative can describe how both customers and employees are more loyal to companies that take responsibility for the climate, and how climate efforts lead to technological development, innovations and new products that in turn result in new and better business opportunities. The Initiative?s vision is actually working out so well that these companies have already achieved the previous climate objective of a 40 percent reduction in emissions, and have now raised the bar ? they intend to be fossil-free by 2030.

Swedish experience shows that predictability and effective policy levers play an important role in companies? transition potential. Despite having the world?s highest carbon tax for more than 20 years and an unusually strict climate policy, seen in an international perspective, Swedish companies are at the forefront and have retained and reinforced their international competitiveness. At national level we now see that since 1990, emissions in Sweden have decreased by 25 percent while GDP has increased by 69 percent. Just as in many other parts of the world, we see that the link between the curves for carbon emissions and increased GDP has been broken. A shining example is the development in the renewable energy industry, where we can see how a significant fall in price can be linked to a dramatic increase in employment and growth. 

These Swedish climate success stories are not surprising to those following the research. More than 10 years ago, prominent economist Nicholas Stern stated that the costs of not taking action against climate change will be much higher than if the world takes decisive action now. Based on Mr Stern?s realization that it will be more expensive to take action later, the New Climate Economy research commission stated in a report that it is less expensive to take action now, since many climate measures also lead to major benefits to society. Just recently the OECD published a report concluding that the G20-countries thorugh acting on climate change can increase growth by one percent by 2021 and 2.8 percent by 2050. At company level, Harvard Professor Robert G. Eccles has shown that companies with a focus on sustainability perform better and have a higher market value than other companies.

In addition, parts of the US business sector would like to see a stronger climate policy. The ?Business Backs Low-Carbon USA?-initiative has the support of more than 1 000 companies and investors in the United States. They want to see climate-smart investments and continued US support for the Paris Agreement, since this creates jobs and strengthens US competitiveness. China and the EU remain committed to the Paris Agreement. What will it mean if the US continues increasing its emissions when the rest of the world continues on the path towards an efficient and climate-smart economy?

There are 160 000 jobs in the coal industry, but there are twice as many jobs in the solar industry alone. There are 640 000 jobs in traditional industries linked to fossil energy, but there are 2.5 million jobs in the new climate economy. The US needs the green industry for its growth, its jobs and its welfare.

Several major companies in the US have taken the lead and contributed to green technological development around the world. The US also represents an important market for a number of Swedish companies. Sweden is one of the largest investors per capita in the US. Swedish companies create more than 330 000 jobs in the US. There is every reason now to focus on continuing to strengthen cooperation with these companies ? and the states and cities in the US with ambitious climate agendas ? to promote positive social development and ensure a market for sustainable enterprise internationally and on the other side of the Atlantic.

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Rihanna Had More Game Than The Cavaliers In NBA Finals’ Game 1

Rihanna put in work during Game 1 of the NBA Finals in Oakland, California, on Thursday.

Let?s face it: The Warriors? 113-91 victory over the visiting Cavaliers wasn?t all that exciting. So thankfully RiRi was there courtside to amp up the drama.

She certainly scored points with former Knicks coach Jeff Van Gundy, an ESPN analyst. Even a LeBron James dunk couldn?t sway his attention from the ?Only Girl (In The World)? singer.

Give it a listen: 

And there was Rihanna?s dab in the fourth quarter, when a fan reportedly asked her to sit down. Stay defiant, RiRi!

Rihanna, a huge LeBron James fan, also heckled Warriors star Kevin Durant, even yelling ?brick? on a free throw. She apparently earned a glare for that and on other occasions, too.

Asked about reportedly staring back at the pop star, Durant said he didn?t remember doing it.

?I?m cool,? he said. ?Have fun with that.?

 Good game, RiRi!

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Held in Manila

Dina Ali attempted to flee home without a male guardian, and her case sparked an online campaign to help her.


alwyn

African attire is all about culture and blending different colors to make a fashion statement. Different fashion ideas as in African Fashion Designs. Since most are custom made, you can literally come up with any fashion idea and the cloth can be made by the talented African attire tailors. The lice removal specialist should come from Chantilly.. These can be made for official purposes and also casual. some cultures require women to dress in the cultural African attire instead of the well known white dress.


Samantha Bee Reveals The ‘Real’ Reason Why Donald Trump Tweeted ‘Covfefe’

Samantha Bee can settle the whole ?covfefe? debate, once and for all.

After President Donald Trump tweeted the mysterious but clearly nonsensical word yesterday, multiple theories abounded as to what it actually meant. On Wednesday, the ?Full Frontal? host claimed to know the real reason behind the tweet ? and it was apparently related to Trump?s first big trip abroad as president. 

Bee also praised POTUS for the tweet because ?for five blessed hours, Donald J. Trump made America truly great.?

?For that glorious interlude between midnight and 5 a.m., we were like passengers on the Titanic who decided to say ?fuck it,? and rock out to the band,? she added.

Check out the full segment above.

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Former NAACP President Ben Jealous Announces Run For Maryland Governor

Former NAACP President Ben Jealous is seeking the Democratic nomination for governor of Maryland, the civil rights leader announced in Baltimore on Wednesday.

Jealous, 44, is the second Democrat to jump into the race against incumbent Republican Gov. Larry Hogan, a relative moderate up for re-election in November 2018. Alec Ross, a 45-year-old technology entrepreneur and former adviser in the Barack Obama administration, announced his candidacy in April.

Hogan boasts a high approval rating in the state, but a Washington Post-University of Maryland poll from March showed him leading a hypothetical Democratic challenger by just 4 percentage points among registered voters.

Jealous? candidacy is liable to nationalize the primary, turning it into yet another proxy war between the party?s progressive and establishment wings. Jealous endorsed Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) in the 2016 presidential election and now sits on the board of the campaign legacy organization Our Revolution. 

But during his campaign announcement outside Baltimore Blossom Studio, a floral shop his cousin opened after civil unrest in the city in 2015, he trained his fire on Republicans, claiming Hogan has failed to stand up to President Donald Trump.

?Every week our governor becomes a little more like the lion in ?The Wizard of Oz?: all strength and no political courage,? Jealous said. 

?We have for 50 years, as progressives as civil rights activists, bemoaned the transfer of power from the federal government to our states,? he added later. ?But in this moment, when extremists are running our federal government, let?s just celebrate what is, make full use of the power we have and move our families forward together no matter what they do in Washington.?

 

Every week our governor becomes a little more like the lion in ?The Wizard of Oz?: all strength and no political courage.
Ben Jealous

Hogan said ahead of the election that he wouldn?t vote for Trump, claiming he was ?not pleased with the candidates in either party.?

Since the inauguration, however, Hogan hasn?t been as antagonistic toward the administration as his Democratic peers in other states. He appeared alongside Education Secretary Besty DeVos at a school in Bethesda in March, and ignored a request by the state?s Democratic attorney general to challenge Trump?s travel ban. Maryland?s Democratic legislature subsequently empowered the attorney general to pursue lawsuits without the governor?s approval.

Hogan also announced last week that he plans to veto paid sick leave legislation, a move that rankles liberal activists in the state.

Jealous is running on a firmly progressive platform of raising the minimum wage to $15 an hour, ensuring quality teachers in every classroom, reducing student debt, protecting the Chesapeake Bay, investing in clean energy, ensuring affordable health care and upgrading public transportation.

He said he plans to pay for new investments with such tactics as closing corporate tax loopholes and reducing the state?s incarceration levels.

Jealous addressed both police brutality and rising levels of violent crime, two issues that have scarred the city. 

?We will cut the murder rate,? he said. ?We will lock up the shooters.?

?And we will restore trust by both better training officers, but also, yes, by also holding officers who kill unarmed civilians fully accountable,? he added, eliciting loud applause from those assembled to support him.

Jealous is a partner at Kapor Capital, a venture capital firm in Oakland, California, that focuses on socially progressive investments. In his remarks on Wednesday, Jealous suggested his experience there equipped him to attract investments from tech companies that might want to diversify their workforces, because Maryland boasts a high rate of black scientists and engineers.

In 2008, 35-year-old Jealous became the youngest person to ever lead the NAACP. Over the course of his five-year tenure at the organization, Jealous presided over significant membership and revenue growth, registered hundreds of thousands of voters, and participated in successful fights to ban the death penalty in Connecticut and Maryland.

Jealous was born and raised in California, but his mother hails from Baltimore and he frequently visited his grandparents there. His parents met in the city, but they couldn?t get married there because his father is white and Maryland prohibited interracial marriage until 1967.

Jealous is likely to become the progressive favorite in the race, thanks in no small part to his work on behalf of the Sanders campaign and Minnesota Rep. Keith Ellison?s bid for chairmanship of the Democratic National Committee.

The national office of Our Revolution, which live-tweeted Jealous? announcement, has said it will base its endorsement in the race on who its Maryland chapter supports. 

?I am glad to see a life-time organizer with a track record of advancing civil rights and equality for the people who need it most in this country pose a REAL challenge to the status quo,? Winnie Wong, co-founder of the People for Bernie, said in an email. Wong is also a chief organizer of the People?s Summit, a national gathering of progressive activists in Chicago later this month at which Jealous is scheduled to speak. 

Rep. John Delaney (D-Md.), former Attorney General Douglas Gansler, Prince George?s County Executive Rushern Baker, Baltimore County executive Kevin Kamenetz, Baltimore attorney James Shea and state Sen. Richard Madaleno are all reportedly considering running for Maryland?s Democratic gubernatorial nomination.

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Sean Hannity Just Can’t Stop Himself From Talking About Seth Rich

Days after host Sean Hannity pledged to stop discussing the death of former Democratic National Committee staffer Seth Rich, the Fox News host mentioned it again when he returned to air.

Last week, amid Fox News retracting a story and public pleas from Rich?s family to cease peddling a conspiracy theory surrounding the 27-year-old?s death, Hannity said he would stop talking about the subject ?for now.? Apparently that lasted only a few days, as the host told his audience Tuesday night after a short vacation that he was ?getting close? to sharing more information.

The Fox News host said he was ?happy to accommodate? Rich?s family last week, but wanted to remind his audience that he was still ?investigating? Rich?s death.

?Out of respect for the family?s wishes, I decided for the time being not to discuss it unless there were further developments,? Hannity said. ?But I also promised you, my loyal audience, that I would not stop investigating, that I would not stop asking questions … Now I can report, I am making progress. We?ll have a lot more coming probably sooner than later.?

Police suspect Rich was fatally shot in a botched robbery attempt while he was walking in his Washington, D.C., neighborhood in July. Last week, Fox News retracted a thinly sourced story linking the slain former DNC staffer to WikiLeaks. The news organization also removed the story from its website. 

Hannity?s insistence on addressing the conspiracy theory caused some advertisers to pull their spots from his show. 

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Transgender Teen Wins Landmark Ruling Over Right To Use Boys Bathroom

A federal appeals court ruled on Tuesday that a transgender high school student in Wisconsin has both a constitutional and statutory right to use the bathroom that aligns with his gender identity.

The ruling, by the U.S. Court of Appeals for 7th Circuit in Chicago, is the first of its kind and could open the door for other courts ? and eventually, the U.S. Supreme Court ? to find that both the Constitution and federal law protect trans students from school-based discrimination.

The court described the ordeal of Ashton ?Ash? Whitaker, the teen at the center of the case, as that of ?a 17-year?old high school senior who has what would seem like a simple request: to use the boys? restroom while at school.?

With his mother?s support, Whitaker had sued his school district, the Kenosha Unified School District, after he was barred from using the facilities other boys used and was relegated instead to the girls? restroom or a gender-neutral bathroom in the main office.

This singling out, Whitaker?s lawsuit maintained, violated both the constitutional guarantee of equality and Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972, which forbids sex discrimination by school entities receiving federal funding. The 7th Circuit agreed with both claims and upheld an injunction that directed the school to accommodate the student.

?Here, the School District?s policy cannot be stated without referencing sex, as the School District decides which bathroom a student may use based upon the sex listed on the student?s birth certificate,? wrote U.S. Circuit Judge Ann Claire Williams for a three-judge panel. ?This policy is inherently based upon a sex?classification and heightened review applies.?

That language matters, because it could prove persuasive to other appeals courts considering whether existing law treats gender identity as a protected category in the school context, said Joe Wardenski, a member of the legal team representing Whitaker.

The ruling ?is the first federal appeals court to decisively hold that that both Title IX and the 14th Amendment provide protections to transgender students,? Wardenski said.

As timing would have it, the 7th Circuit ? which covers the states of Wisconsin, Illinois and Indiana ? heard oral arguments in the dispute only weeks after the Supreme Court punted on the case of Gavin Grimm, a Virginia teen who was hoping to convince the justices that federal law as interpreted by the Obama administration already forbids school officials from discriminating against transgender students.

The election of President Donald Trump, however, changed the legal landscape, and both the departments of Justice and Education ? which had previously supported Grimm?s case and were responsible for pro-trans directives issued nationwide ? rolled back the prior administration?s view of what accommodations Title IX requires.

That change in positions led the Supreme Court to duck the issue altogether, leaving plaintiffs like Whitaker and Grimm to argue that Title IX itself ? which doesn?t expressly cover gender identity ? nonetheless covers claims of ?sex? stereotyping against trans students.

The 7th Circuit embraced that approach in Tuesday?s ruling, suggesting that because ?a transgender individual does not conform to the sex?based stereotypes of the sex that he or she was assigned at birth,? it?s unlawful to stigmatize a student based those stereotypes.

?A policy that requires an individual to use a bathroom that does not conform with his or her gender identity punishes that individual for his or her gender non?conformance, which in turn violates Title IX,? Judge Williams wrote.

The ruling in favor of Whitaker arrives less than two months since the full 7th Circuit ruled in another watershed case that federal employment law forbids discrimination against gays and lesbians in the workplace.

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This Indonesian All-Girl Heavy Metal Band Is Many Kinds Of Awesome

With their heads covered with Islamic headscarves, the three members of the Indonesian band VoB (?Voice of Baceprot? or ?Noisy Voice?) do not look like your typical heavy metal group.

Formed in 2014, the band of teenagers met at school in Indonesia?s most populous province of West Java, and use their music to combat the stereotype of Muslim women as submissive or voiceless.

Wearing a hijab, or Islamic head scarf, should not be a barrier to the group?s pursuit of its dream of being heavy metal stars, said Firdda Kurnia, 16, who plays guitar and sings.

?I think gender equality should be supported, because I feel I am still exploring my creativity, while at the same time, not diminishing my obligations as a Muslim woman,? she added. 

Invited to perform at a recent graduation ceremony at another school, the trio quickly had fans dancing and head-banging at the front of the stage.

?I don?t see anything wrong with it,? said one fan who attended, Teti Putriwulandari Sari. ?There?s no law that bars hijab-wearing women from playing hardcore music.

?This also relates to human rights. If a Muslim girl has a talent to play the drums or a guitar, should she not be allowed??

Besides covering classics by groups such as Metallica and Slipknot, the band perform their own songs on issues such as the state of education in Indonesia.

Muslims make up nearly 90 percent of a population of 250 million, the vast majority practising a moderate form of Islam, although there are some conservative strongholds.

Not everyone in the town of Garut, where the band was formed, and which is home to several Islamic schools, feels the community is ready for them, or that their music is appropriate for performance by young Muslim women.

?It is unusual to see a group of hijab-wearing girls playing metal music or even women shouting,? said Muhammad Sholeh, a teacher at the town?s Cipari Islamic boarding school, adding that religious pop music was popular with many young Muslims.

?But we?re talking about metal here, which is loud.?

Maudya Mulyawati, a student at the school, felt the band should focus on singing ?Salawat?, an invocation to the religion?s founder, Prophet Mohammad.

An official of a top clerical body said although the group might trigger a culture clash in a conservative area, he did not feel it broke with Islamic values.

?I see this as part of the creativity of teenagers,? added Nur Khamim Djuremi, secretary general of the Islamic Art and Culture Division of Indonesia?s Ulema Council.

 

(Writing by Ed Davies; Editing by Clarence Fernandez)

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