Later On

A blog written for those whose interests more or less match mine.

Archive for May 9th, 2017

House Republicans Have a Simple Strategy for Defending the GOP Health-Care Bill: Lying

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Watch this brief video. And this shows the degree to which Republicans in Congress will let Trump do whatever he wants.

Written by LeisureGuy

9 May 2017 at 7:25 pm

Lawfare: “The Nightmare Scenario: Trump Fires Comey, the One Man Who Would Stand Up to Him”

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Benjamin Wittes and Susan Hennessey write at Lawfare:

Make no mistake: The firing of James Comey as FBI director is a stunning event. It is a profoundly dangerous thing—a move that puts the Trump-Russia investigation in immediate jeopardy and removes from the investigative hierarchy the one senior official whom President Trump did not appoint and one who is known to stand up to power. One of the biggest dangers of Comey’s firing is that Trump might actually get away with it, ironically, because of Comey’s unpopularity among Democrats and on the political left.

We warned about this danger immediately after the election.

On November 10, we wrote that that Trump’s firing of Comey would be a “a clear bellwether to both the national security and civil libertarian communities that things are going terribly wrong.” At the time we wrote those words, Comey was deeply unpopular with both the Left, which blamed Hillary Clinton’s defeat on his eleventh hour letter to Congress, and the Right, which criticized his decision to recommend that Clinton not be charged over her handling of government emails. Whatever the merit of Comey’s actions during the campaign, the fact that he managed to anger both sides of the political spectrum demonstrated his storied political independence. And that political independence, we argued, would serve as a critical check against any efforts on the part of President Trump to trample the rule of law.

The FBI Director serves a ten-year term precisely in order to insulate against the whims of a President who does not like what—or whom—the FBI is investigating. While the President has legal authority to fire an FBI director, the fact that Trump has done so under circumstances of an active FBI investigation of the President’s own campaign violates profoundly important norms of an independent, non-political FBI. The situation has no parallel with the only previous FBI director to be removed by a president: President Clinton’s firing of William Sessions, whose ethical misconduct was so extensive that it resulted in a six-month Justice Department investigation an a blistering 161-page report detailing his illicit activities, including flagrant misuse of public funds. Trump’s firing Comey at a time when Comey is investigating Russian intervention in the election on Trump’s behalf and the specific conduct of a number of people close to Trump undermines the credibility of his own presidency. And it deeply threatens the integrity of and public confidence in ongoing law enforcement and intelligence operations.

Trump’s offered rationale does nothing to assuage the fears we expressed in November regarding the meaning of this event.

In announcing Comey’s dismissal, the White House released a package of documents which included a statement from Press Secretary Sean Spicer and letters from President Trump, Attorney General Jeff Sessions, and Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein. All four documents are available here.

The first three statements by Spicer, Trump, and Sessions all refer back to the final letter from Rosenstein, which articulates substantively the reasoning behind Comey’s dismissal. Spicer’s press release states that President Trump “acted based on the clear recommendations” of both Rosenstein and Sessions and that a search for a new FBI Director will start “immediately.” Likewise, Sessions’ letter refers the President to the memorandum by Rosenstein. Trump’s letter dismissing Comey, for its part, reiterates that he is acting on the recommendation of both Sessions and Rosenstein, declaring: “While I greatly appreciate you informing me, on three separate occasions, that I am not under investigation, I nevertheless concur with the judgment of the Department of Justice that you are not able to effectively lead the Bureau.”

Trump’s clumsy attempt to deny that his own conduct is at issue in the FBI’s inquiry is foolish. Comey testified just the other day that the FBI is “conducting an investigation to understand whether there was any coordination between the Russian efforts and anybody associated with the Trump campaign.”  Splitting hairs over whether this does or does not mean that Trump is “under investigation” cannot obscure the fact that Trump just fired someone who is leading an investigation that deals with whether his aides, campaign, and White House staff had improper dealings with adversary foreign intelligence service.

Rosenstein’s memorandum bears . . .

Continue reading.

Also read this Kevin Drum post.

Written by LeisureGuy

9 May 2017 at 6:44 pm

It seems that Comey was unearthing things that Trump preferred not see the light of day

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The primary reason I can see is that the FBI investigation into the Russian connections of the Trump family and associates was getting too hot, and regardless of how bad it looks, Trump must get his own person in charge to stop things before they become incriminating.

The person selected to replace Comey will tell us a lot. But I feel certain that Trump is going to try to get the FBI under his direct control so he can kill investigations as he wishes—and, quite possibly, so he can launch investigations (e.g., into Crooked Hillary or Lying Ted or whoever else falls from favor) as he desires.

Things might go a very bad direction. Let’s see whom he picks.

Written by LeisureGuy

9 May 2017 at 3:19 pm

Comey’s Testimony on Huma Abedin Forwarding Emails Was Inaccurate

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Peter Elkind reports in ProPublica:

FBI director James Comey generated national headlines last week with his dramatic testimony to the Senate Judiciary Committee, explaining his “incredibly painful” decision to go public about the Hillary Clinton emails found on Anthony Weiner’s laptop.

Perhaps Comey’s most surprising revelation was that Huma Abedin — Weiner’s wife and a top Clinton deputy — had made “a regular practice” of forwarding “hundreds and thousands” of Clinton messages to her husband, “some of which contain classified information.” Comey testified that Abedin had done this so that the disgraced former congressman could print them out for her boss. (Weiner’s laptop was seized after he came under criminal investigation for sex crimes, following a media report about his online relationship with a teenager.)

The New York Post plastered its story on the front page with a photo of an underwear-clad Weiner and the headline: “HARD COPY: Huma sent Weiner classified Hillary emails to print out.” The Daily News went with a similar front-page screamer: “HUMA ERROR: Sent classified emails to sext maniac Weiner.”

The problem: Much of what Comey said about this was inaccurate. Now the FBI is trying to figure out what to do about it.

FBI officials have privately acknowledged that Comey misstated what Abedin did and what the FBI investigators found. On Monday, the FBI was said to be preparing to correct the record by sending a letter to Congress later this week. But that plan now appears on hold, with the bureau undecided about what to do.

ProPublica is reporting a story on the FBI’s handling of the Clinton emails and raised questions with government officials last week about possible inaccuracies in Comey’s statements about Abedin.

It could not be learned how the mistake occurred. The FBI and Abedin declined ProPublica’s requests for comment on the director’s misstatements.

According to two sources familiar with the matter — including one in law enforcement — Abedin forwarded only a handful of Clinton emails to her husband for printing — not the “hundreds and thousands” cited by Comey. It does not appear Abedin made “a regular practice” of doing so. Other officials said it was likely that most of the emails got onto the computer as a result of backups of her Blackberry.

It was not clear how many, if any, of the forwarded emails were among the 12 “classified” emails Comey said had been found on Weiner’s laptop. None of the messages carried classified markings at the time they were sent.

Comey’s Senate testimony about Abedin came as he offered his first public explanation for his decision to reveal the existence of the emails on Oct. 28, days ahead of the 2016 election and before FBI agents had examined them.

When agents obtained a search warrant that allowed them to read the messages, they turned out to be mostly duplicates of emails the bureau had obtained earlier in the investigation. Comey announced just before Election Day that nothing had changed in the Clinton case, which had been closed four months earlier without criminal charges.

During his testimony, Comey said that part of the reason for . . .

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Written by LeisureGuy

9 May 2017 at 2:56 pm

Donald Trump Is Sulking Over His Immigration Order

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Kevin Drum has a good post this morning:

Yesterday I wondered what kind of progress the Trump administration had made on its new immigration rules. They ought to be nearly finished by now, making the court case over Trump’s executive order moot. Well, it turns out the judges in that case had the same question:

During Monday’s hearing, judges also questioned the government about the status of its review of immigration vetting procedures. Why does the Trump administration continue insisting on 90- and 120-day travel suspensions, they asked, if it’s already had so much time to improve vetting procedures? Judge Stephanie Thacker said the portion of Trump’s order calling for a vetting review was in place for nearly two months.

“Was any vetting (review) done in those 50 days?” she said.

Wall said government attorneys have interpreted court rulings as barring them from doing so.

“We’ve put our pens down,” he said. “We haven’t done any work on it.”

The earlier stays of the EO obviously don’t bar the government from working on new immigration rules. I’m not even sure a court could do that. This is a childish excuse, but that’s the one they’re going with.

Trump’s contempt for the American public here is breathtaking. Keep in mind that this is supposedly a matter of grave national security, which is why the first EO had to be issued without any warning. But now Trump is treating it like a schoolyard game: if the courts won’t let him have his way, he’s taking his ball and going home. And if some visitor from Yemen ends up killing a bunch of people, well, maybe next time we’ll listen to him.

There aren’t a lot of alternatives here. The first is . . .

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

9 May 2017 at 10:04 am

Best healthcare in the world: France (U.S. is 37th)

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Full list is here, with rankings by the World Health Organization. I wonder how many places the U.S. will drop after the GOP destroys the Affordable Care Act. Here are the top 40 before the destruction of the ACA:

1 France
2 Italy
3 San Marino
4 Andorra
5 Malta
6 Singapore
7 Spain
8 Oman
9 Austria
10 Japan
11 Norway
12 Portugal
13 Monaco
14 Greece
15 Iceland
16 Luxembourg
17 Netherlands
18 United Kingdom
19 Ireland
20 Switzerland
21 Belgium
22 Colombia
23 Sweden
24 Cyprus
25 Germany
26 Saudi Arabia
27 United Arab Emirates
28 Israel
29 Morocco
30 Canada
31 Finland
32 Australia
33 Chile
34 Denmark
35 Dominica
36 Costa Rica
37 USA
38 Slovenia
39 Cuba
40 Brunei
41 New Zealand
42 Bahrain
43 Croatia
44 Qatar
45 Kuwait
46 Barbados
47 Thailand
48 Czech Republic
49 Malaysia
50 Poland

 

Written by LeisureGuy

9 May 2017 at 9:56 am

Posted in Healthcare

Why Everything We Know About Salt May Be Wrong

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Gina Kolata reports in the NY Times:

The salt equation taught to doctors for more than 200 years is not hard to understand.

The body relies on this essential mineral for a variety of functions, including blood pressure and the transmission of nerve impulses. Sodium levels in the blood must be carefully maintained.

If you eat a lot of salt — sodium chloride — you will become thirsty and drink water, diluting your blood enough to maintain the proper concentration of sodium. Ultimately you will excrete much of the excess salt and water in urine.

The theory is intuitive and simple. And it may be completely wrong.

New studies of Russian cosmonauts, held in isolation to simulate space travel, show that eating more salt made them less thirsty but somehow hungrier. Subsequent experiments found that mice burned more calories when they got more salt, eating 25 percent more just to maintain their weight.

The research, published recently in two dense papers in The Journal of Clinical Investigation, contradicts much of the conventional wisdom about how the body handles salt and suggests that high levels may play a role in weight loss.

Continue reading the main story

The findings have stunned kidney specialists.

“This is just very novel and fascinating,” said Dr. Melanie Hoenig, an assistant professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School. “The work was meticulously done.”

Dr. James R. Johnston, a professor at the University of Pittsburgh, marked each unexpected finding in the margins of the two papers. The studies were covered with scribbles by the time he was done.

“Really cool,” he said, although he added that the findings need to be replicated.

The new studies are the culmination of a decades-long quest by a determined scientist, Dr. Jens Titze, now a kidney specialist at Vanderbilt University Medical Center and the Interdisciplinary Center for Clinical Research in Erlangen, Germany.

In 1991, as a medical student in Berlin, he took a class on human physiology in extreme environments. The professor who taught the course worked with the European space program and presented data from a simulated 28-day mission in which a crew lived in a small capsule.

The main goal was to learn how the crew members would get along. But the scientists also had collected the astronauts’ urine and other physiological markers.

Dr. Titze noticed something puzzling in the crew members’ data: Their urine volumes went up and down in a seven-day cycle. That contradicted all he’d been taught in medical school: There should be no such temporal cycle.

In 1994, the Russian space program decided to do a 135-day simulation of life on the Mir space station. Dr. Titze arranged to go to Russia to study urine patterns among the crew members and how these were affected by salt in the diet.

A striking finding emerged: a 28-day rhythm in the amount of sodium the cosmonauts’ bodies retained that was not linked to the amount of urine they produced. And the sodium rhythms were much more pronounced than the urine patterns.

The sodium levels should have been rising and falling with the volume of urine. Although the study wasn’t perfect — the crew members’ sodium intake was not precisely calibrated — Dr. Titze was convinced something other than fluid intake was influencing sodium stores in the crew’s bodies.

The conclusion, he realized, “was heresy.”

In 2006, the Russian space program announced two more simulation studies, one lasting 105 days and the other 520 days. Dr. Titze saw a chance to figure out whether his anomalous findings were real.

In the shorter simulation, the cosmonauts ate a diet containing 12 grams of salt daily, followed by nine grams daily, and then a low-salt diet of six grams daily, each for a 28-day period. In the longer mission, the cosmonauts also ate an additional cycle of 12 grams of salt daily.

Like most of us, the cosmonauts liked their salt. Oliver Knickel, 33, a German citizen participating in the program who is now an automotive engineer in Stuttgart, recalled that even the food that supplied 12 grams a day was not salty enough for him.

When the salt level got down to six grams, he said, “It didn’t taste good.”

The real shocker came when Dr. Titze measured the amount of sodium excreted in the crew’s urine, the volume of their urine, and the amount of sodium in their blood.

The mysterious patterns in urine volume persisted, but everything seemed to proceed according to the textbooks. When the crew ate more salt, they excreted more salt; the amount of sodium in their blood remained constant, and their urine volume increased.

“But then we had a look at fluid intake, and were more than surprised,” he said.

Instead of drinking more, the crew were drinking less in the long run when getting more salt. So where was the excreted water coming from?

“There was only one way to explain this phenomenon,” Dr. Titze said. “The body most likely had generated or produced water when salt intake was high.”

Another puzzle: The crew complained that they were always hungry on the high-salt diet. Dr. Titze assured them that they were getting exactly enough food to maintain their weights, and were eating the same amount on the lower-salt diets, when hunger did not seem to be problem.

But urine tests suggested another explanation. . .

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

9 May 2017 at 9:40 am

Posted in Daily life, Food, Health, Science

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