2 Men Killed On Portland Train After Trying To Stop Anti-Muslim Rant, Police Say

Two men are being hailed as heroes after they were killed while trying to stop a man from abusing two women on a train in Portland, Oregon, because they appeared to be Muslim.

Jeremy Joseph Christian, 35, of North Portland, allegedly attacked the men on a MAX train at the Hollywood Transit Station at 4:30 p.m. Friday. He was charged with two counts of aggravated murder over the incident, which occurred hours before the start of the Islamic fasting month of Ramadan.

Witnesses said at least one of the women the suspect targeted was wearing a hijab, and it appeared the abuse was religiously and racially motivated. Christian is known to locals and authorities as an active white supremacist.

?He said, ?Get off the bus, and get out of the country because you don?t pay taxes here,?? Evelin Hernandez, a passenger on the train, told KATU-TV.

Three men intervened amid the suspect?s ?ranting and raving,? Portland police spokesman Pete Simpson said during a news conference. ?They were attacked viciously by the suspect.?

He?s always been spouting anti-establishment stuff but he?s a nice person I just can?t imagine.?
Mary Christian, the suspect’s mother

A GoFundMe page was set up by a Portland-area business owner to help support the families of the ?Tri Met Heroes.?

The suspect?s mother, Mary Christian, told HuffPost early Saturday that she had no idea that her son might have been involved.

?It?s scary,? she said. ?I can?t imagine he would do anything like this, unless he was on drugs or something. He?s been in prison, he?s always been spouting anti-establishment stuff but he?s a nice person I just can?t imagine.?

Police said one of the men who intervened died on the train. The other died later in hospital, while the third man was treated for non-life threatening injuries.

Officers detained Christian soon after he got off the train, police said. They were unable to interview the women, however, as they?d already left the area.

Police booked Christian into the Multnomah County Jail early Saturday. Along with the aggravated murder charges, he faces two counts of intimidation in the second degree, one of attempted murder and one count of being a felon in possession of a restricted weapon.

Christian has previously been convicted for felony robbery, kidnapping and possession of weapons. He will be arraigned in Multnomah County Court on Monday, where he may face additional charges, authorities say.

His ties to white supremacy include attending local rallies, according to authorities. On April 29, police confiscated a baseball bat from him at a ?March for Free Speech? rally, after which he screamed racial epithets and gave the Nazi salute throughout the day, the Portland Mercury reports.

The Willamette Week identified him as being the man in the American flag in the below video:

Police said they were familiar with Christian but they did not see him as a threat to public safety, adding that he suffered from mental illness. His mother told HuffPost that she didn?t believe he was mentally ill.

The Council on American-Islamic Relations issued a statement in response to the attack Friday calling on President Donald Trump to speak out against anti-Muslim incidents, which it said had increased more than 50 percent in the U.S. from 2015 to 2016.

?President Trump must speak out personally against the rising tide of Islamophobia and other forms of bigotry and racism in our nation that he has provoked through his numerous statements, policies and appointments that have negatively impacted minority communities,? said CAIR National Executive Director Nihad Awad. 

?Only a strong statement from the nation?s leader will send a message to bigots that such acts of violence targeting racial, ethnic or religious minorities are unacceptable.?

Trump?s administration may be moving in the opposite direction on white nationalism, however. Muslim advocacy groups and a program that works to rehabilitate neo-Nazis may lose funding if Trump narrows the focus of the Countering Violent Extremism grant program to Islamic extremism. As it stood under the Obama administration, groups dedicated to help combat Islamophobia and other hate group at home shared millions in funding, alongside groups that deterred recruitment by Islamic terrorist groups.

TriMet, the transit provider in the Portland region, confirmed there would be delays following the incident and issued messages of condolences over the deaths:

Police said the Oregon State Medical Examiner would conduct autopsies on the two men on Saturday morning. They will release the names of the three victims soon after, they added.

This article has been updated throughout.

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‘The Simpsons’ Trolls Donald Trump With A Visit From Richard Nixon’s Ghost

?The Simpsons? has marked President Donald Trump?s first 125 days in office in comic style.

In a new short posted online Friday the cartoon version of Trump attempts to patch things up with fired FBI Director James Comey, who?d been leading an investigation into possible ties between Trump officials and Russia.

But their White House bedroom rendezvous is interrupted by a visit from former President Richard Nixon?s ghost, who thanks Trump for bumping him up in the ?best president? stakes before offering him some sage advice.

Check it out in the segment above.

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U.S. Lawmakers Call On Russia To End Alleged Killings Of Gay Men In Chechnya

A bipartisan group of House representatives called on Russia?s government to condemn the alleged persecution of gay men in the country?s Chechnya region with a resolution this week.  

H. Res. 351, which is co-sponsored by Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-Fla.) and was introduced Wednesday, called on Russian President Vladimir Putin to investigate the troubling claims of abuse and murder of gay men in Chechnya.

The claims initially emerged in April when a Russian opposition newspaper, Novaya Gazeta, reported that at least 100 men had been detained ?in connection with their nontraditional sexual orientation.? Three of those men, the report found, had possibly been killed.

A second Novaya Gazeta article, published April 4, cited a source who claimed that the Muslim-majority region?s anti-LGBTQ efforts included Nazi-style concentration camps.

Ros-Lehtinen, whose son identifies as transgender, said U.S. lawmakers ?must pressure Russia to uphold its international commitment to prevent any further abuses from happening while perpetrators are brought to justice? in a statement. ?For over a month, hundreds of gay or perceived to be gay Chechens have been arrested, many have been tortured, and some even killed,? she said. ?This bipartisan resolution sends a clear message to Chechnya and Russia authorities and any oppressor that the U.S. will not stand idly while these human rights atrocities are being committed.?  

No word yet on how Russia will respond to the resolution. The Novaya Gazeta reports have been repeatedly dismissed by Chechnya?s leader, Ramzan Kadyrov. ?You cannot arrest or repress people who just don?t exist in the republic,? Kadyrov?s spokesman, Alvi Karimov, is quoted by The New York Times as saying. 

Ros-Lehtinen was joined by 52 other representatives from both the Democratic and Republican parties as co-sponsors of H. Res. 351. The resolution passed in the House Foreign Affairs Committee Wednesday by a unanimous voice vote. 

In a statement, Rep. Eliot L. Engel (D-NY) called reports of the alleged torture ?chilling,? and noted, ?We are witnessing the unfolding of a horrific tragedy and it?s long past time that the Kremlin start protecting its own citizens?all of them?regardless of sexual orientation.? Putin, he added, must ?respect and promote the dignity of all persons and provide safe haven for all those fleeing such horrific persecution.?

Elected officials and celebrities such as Ellen DeGeneres, Matt Bomer and Billy Eichner have spoken out against the allegations in the weeks since the news first broke. The resolution itself follows U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley?s push for an investigation into the Chechen abuse claims, which she called a ?violation of human rights.?

Don?t miss the latest in LGBTQ news ? subscribe to the Queer Voices newsletter.  

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Florida Just Became The Latest State To Abolish The ‘Tampon Tax’

Florida just joined the growing list of states that have put an end to the so-called ?tampon tax.? 

Florida Gov. Rick Scott signed a law on Thursday making feminine hygiene products including tampons, pads and menstrual cups tax-exempt, the AP reports. The law goes into effect in January.

The measure was part of a larger $180 million tax cut package. 

The majority of states across the country subject menstrual products to sales taxes because they?re considered a ?luxury? item.

But opponents of the standard argue that feminine products are a necessity and that taxing them is effectively a tax on menstruation. (The Tax Foundation, the conservative-leaning non-profit, has countered that ideally, sales tax should apply to all consumer products, regardless of whether they?re a ?necessity? or ?luxury.?)

According to the AP, Florida now joins 13 other states that, in addition to Washington D.C., have exempt menstrual products from sales tax or do not have a sales tax at all. Measures doing away with the tax have enjoyed unusually bi-partisan support in state legislators, prompting media outlets to call them ?viral legislation.? Florida, for example, is a politically purple state with a decidedly mixed record on reproductive and women?s rights ? yet the change was supported by progressive and conservative lawmakers alike.

?This common sense legislation will result in a tax savings for women all over the state who purchase these necessary products,? Sen. Kathleen Passidomo (R-Naples), who originally filed the bill, said in a press release

However, not all states have jumped onboard. California, a traditionally blue state, tried to pass such a measure last year. It failed when Gov. Jerry Brown vetoed it despite broad support in the House and Senate.

?Women have no choice but to buy these products,? said one California assemblywoman who championed the California bill.

?You can?t just ignore your period,? she added. ?It?s not like you can just ignore the constant flow.?

Estimates suggest that women spend more than $18,000 on their periods over the course of their lifetime, between pads, tampons, birth control and new underwear. 

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‘Magic air’

There is concern about the increasing theft of oxygen bottles from high camps.

Greg Gianforte Blasted In Last-Minute Campaign Ads After ‘Body Slamming’ Reporter

After police charged him for assaulting a reporter late Wednesday, Montana Republican House candidate Greg Gianforte is being targeted with last-minute campaign ads that highlight the incident as evidence he is ?unfit to serve? and has ?no business being in Congress.?

The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC) and liberal group MoveOn.org each created ads against Gianforte soon after news of the altercation broke Wednesday evening. The ads, running as voters head to the polls in Thursday?s special election to fill Montana?s lone House seat, feature the direct audio recording of Guardian reporter Ben Jacobs? violent interaction with Gianforte.

After Jacobs tried to ask him a question about the GOP?s Obamacare repeal bill, Gianforte reportedly ?body slammed? Jacobs and broke his glasses. Fox News reporters who witnessed the altercation backed up Jacobs? account.

On Wednesday night, police charged Gianforte with assault.

?Charged with a crime. No business being in Congress,? says the DCCC ad. The DCCC also demanded that Gianforte ?immediately withdraw? from the race.

MoveOn.org?s ad calls Gianforte ?unfit to serve.?

Gianforte told Jacobs he was exasperated with reporters? questions.

?I?m sick and tired of you guys!? he said, according to Jacobs? audio.

Yet taking questions from reporters is a basic requirement for elected officials.

It is unclear whether the incident will upend the already highly anticipated race between Gianforte and Democrat Rob Quist. Many residents have already cast their votes because Montana has mail-in voting. But the state also has same-day registration, so the assault case could attract to the polls some Montanans who were going to skip voting.

The seat was vacated by Republican Ryan Zinke, who after easily winning re-election last November was picked by President Donald Trump to be the Interior Department secretary. The race to replace him has been closer than expected, with polls showing Quist within single digits of Gianforte despite Montana?s GOP tilt. The race has drawn national attention from both parties, amid Trump?s mounting scandals, GOP unpopularity and a groundswell of Democratic activism.

Watch both ads above.

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Nato and Trump

Nato leaders are playing down President Trump’s first visit to the Brussels HQ.

Trump’s Policies May Cost The U.S. $1.3 Billion, And That’s Just In Travel

The U.S. will likely miss out on more than $1.3 billion in travel-related expenditures this year, in part due to the Trump administration?s policies, one international business travel group predicts.

A loss in that range could mean thousands of lost jobs, and some other analysts project the overall monetary losses will be much higher.

Political events like Brexit, President Donald Trump?s executive order ?travel bans,? new laptop bans in the U.S. and U.K. and rumors of an expanded U.S. laptop ban have created ?uncertainty? that?s keeping some international travelers from visiting the U.S., according to a new report from the Global Business Travel Association, which represents corporate travel managers and professionals.  

The organization?s researchers analyzed airfare bookings, figures like GDP and oil prices and a Department of Commerce survey to come up with an ?uncertainty forecast? of $1.3 billion in losses in hotel, food, rental car and shopping spending related to travelers. The figure also includes $175 million in lost business travel-related wages for Americans during 2017.

?This devastating economic impact could take years to recover from,? wrote GBTA?s executive director & COO Mike McCormick. 

Staff at Oxford Economics said that projection is far too low. The global advisory firm is predicting an even bigger drop in travel to the U.S. this year, one that would result in a total loss of over $2.4 billion. The cause, they say, is Trump?s harmful rhetoric affecting perceptions abroad.

??America first? rhetoric, which was pronounced during the campaign and Trump?s inauguration speech, is finding consistent expression in policy,? said Adam Sacks, president of Oxford Economics?s tourism department. ?International markets are receiving a message that America is no longer a welcoming destination.?

The federal government estimates the value of international travel and tourism to the U.S. at about $250 billion annually, with three percent growth projected every year, said Patrick Surry, chief data scientist at travel site Hopper. The GBTA?s forecasted $1.3 billion loss represents about a .5 percent shift. But that?s too conservative in Surry?s eyes: Hopper?s recent research shows a more pronounced drop in U.S. travel interest since Trump took office. Chinese travelers, for example, have searched for flights to the U.S. 40 percent less than average since Trump took office.

The Middle East represents a particularly big hit, according to both the GBTA and Oxford Economics.

?We?re seeing a 30 percent decline in travel to the U.S. from the Middle East at the moment,? Sacks said. ?This means that the U.S. economy stands to lose about $1 billion from Middle East travelers alone [this year].? 

Emirates Airlines recently cut service to the U.S. after demand weakened in the wake of Trump?s travel bans and the Department of Homeland Security laptop ban, which was enacted in late March. And in a GBTA poll conducted after Trump?s initial travel ban, about half of European business executives said they would plan their travel elsewhere.

Amid Trump?s review of certain work visas and rumors of an expanded laptop ban, ?global travel markets will take further cues that the U.S. is not as welcoming as it once was,? Sack said.


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News Roundup for May 23, 2017

News gives the blues.

1. Three more lawsuits alleging racial discrimination and sexual harassment have been brought against Fox News. Nobody is surprised. More here.

2. An explosion in Manchester last night killed 22 and injured 59 people. Children are among the dead and ISIS are once again first in line to claim responsibility. More here.

3. Jury selection has begun for the Bill Cosby trial. Hope they have Jello pudding pops in jail. More here.

4. Trump asked intelligence chiefs to help him push back against the FBI probe into his links with Russia. Is it time for impeachment yet? More here.

5. Sir Roger Moore has died at 89, making 2017 the year of B-list celebrity deaths. More here.

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What’s The Senate To Do With The House Health Care Legislation?

The party in power often overreaches. House Republicans did just that when they voted to repeal the Affordable Care Act and replace it with a flawed alternative that threatens the health coverage of millions of Americans.

The Republicans? replacement would make insurance more expensive for most seniors, limit federal assistance to those middle-income families who struggle the most to pay for coverage and give states the ability to cover fewer people under Medicaid.

Instead of threatening coverage for those Americans who need to most help securing health insurance, Republicans would have been smarter to fix some of the obvious flaws in the Affordable Care Act. And Democrats would have been just as wise to join them.

First, eliminate the Independent Payment Advisory Board. IPAB was established to slow the growth of Medicare. The Affordable Care Act gives the panel broad discretion to reduce Medicare spending once the program eclipses a certain threshold. IPAB is unnecessarily bureaucratic and should be scrapped. Arbitrary price-setting is rarely successful.

Republicans and Democrats oppose IPAB because it threatens to limit what Medicare covers. Texas Sen. John Cornyn, the number two Senate Republican, and Oregon Sen. Ron Wyden, the top Democrat on the Finance Committee, introduced separate bills this year to block the board from forming. Sen. Wyden warned ?it would be a huge mistake? to allow the panel to push ?harmful cuts to Medicare with minimal input from Congress.?

Now, time is running out for Congress to correct this mistake because Medicare spending is soon expected to blow past the target that will force the president to set this process in motion.

Second, the Affordable Care Act created an imperfect formula to achieve those savings, essentially pegging reimbursement rates to much broader measures of inflation. But health care spending is climbing much faster than the rest of the economy, driven by unique demographic and financial variables.

Congress too often relies on arbitrary targets to slow the growth of federal programs, particularly Medicare. In 1997, former President Bill Clinton and congressional Republicans agreed to use the Sustainable Growth Rate to control Medicare costs.

In total, Congress voted 17 times to shield doctors from these cuts and ensure seniors continued access to their physicians. The annual ritual even earned a nickname, ?The Doc Fix.? Republicans and Democrats finally abandoned that routine in 2015, saving doctors from a 21 percent pay cut under Medicare.

The bill also changed how doctors are reimbursed under the program. Instead of tying reimbursement rates to arbitrary targets, the new law transitions Medicare to a payment system that rewards doctors for the quality of their care, not the quantity of procedures they perform or patients they see. But these are not enough.

To control health care costs, we must eliminate fee-for-service medicine. Buying health care is not like buying a car. The free market cannot work in a field where consumers cannot control costs or make informed choices without the assistance of those who benefit financially from their choices. The only way to have predictable budgets for consumers and payers, both private and public, is to replace fee-for-service with an all-inclusive fee that covers all health care services.  We know this works, and it is the only cost-containment approach that does.

We have to move away from a model that has fueled the dramatic rise in health care costs for more than 30 years.  The Affordable Care Act established the seeds of this approach, which is one of reason I oppose efforts to repeal it. As Democrats, we should highlight the best parts of this law to show why it should be fixed, not eliminated.

Repealing President Barack Obama?s signature health law has become a crusade for Republicans. But yanking health insurance from millions of Americans is not the best way for President Donald Trump to help people who depend on it, including many who voted for him. Trump has many failings, but he is not ideological. So, it doesn?t make sense for him to govern that way.

Democrats should do everything in their power to prevent the president and his Republican allies in Congress from repealing the Affordable Care Act ? even if that means agreeing to changes that will strengthen the program for Americans who depend on government health care programs.

Howard Dean is the former Governor of Vermont and an advisor to Dentons. The views expressed are his own and do not necessarily reflect the firm or its clients.

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