Cuomo: TrumpCare Will Result in 2.7 Million New Yorkers Losing Coverage; Cost State Budget $6.9 Billion

Under TrumpCare, being a woman would be a “preexisting condition,” prenatal and maternity would be expensive add-ons to bare-bones policies and heaven forbid a baby is born with a medical condition that would quickly hit a lifetime cap. And the Republican “health care plan” punishes New York for its support for women’s reproductive rights by threatening to take away citizens’ access to tax credits that are intended to make health insurance more affordable © 2017 Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

By Karen Rubin, News & Photo Features

Under the Republican American Health Care Act, 2.7 million New Yorkers would lose coverage and the state’s budget would take a $6.9 billion hit, including $2.3 billion as a direct result of an amendment that targets New York State specifically. It would be devastating to New Yorkers, and the Congressional Budget Office’s report confirms that. Just how bad? New York State Governor Andrew M. Cuomo issued this statement:

“The Congressional Budget Office’s report confirms what we already knew to be true—ultra-conservatives in Washington have declared war on New York’s health care system. What’s worse is that Republican members of our own Congressional delegation have aided and abetted in Washington’s war against New York, cutting taxes for millionaires while jeopardizing care for seniors, women, the middle class and the disabled.
“The radical Republican health plan will devastate New York’s health care system, strip 2.7 million New Yorkers of their health care coverage, and roll back the progress we have made to protect vulnerable Americans. This bill will cost New York State a total of $6.9 billion, including $2.3 billion as a direct result of the disastrous amendment introduced by Congressmen Faso and Collins.

“As radical ideologues race to impose their extremist agenda on Americans, New Yorkers say no. In New York, we will stand up for our progressive principles and protect the right to affordable and quality health care for all. I will continue to work with our Congressional delegation and New York’s health care leaders to defeat this reckless legislation.”

The American Health Care Act will leave 23 million more Americans uninsured and be disastrous for New York:

  • The plan will leave 2.7 million New Yorkers without health care coverage.
  • It will cost New York a total of $6.9 billion.
  • It will put at risk a total of 7 million people who rely on Medicaid services and other programs created under the Affordable Care Act.
  • And it threatens the entire New York State health care system, which serves 19.5 million New Yorkers.

The Collins/Faso amendment, which targets only New York, stops counties from paying a share of Medicaid. It would have a devastating effect on New Yorkers:

  • It will cut $2.3 billion in Medicaid funding to the State.
  • Steep cuts would force New York State to increase taxes, slash coverage to millions of New Yorkers, or devastate health care providers. As a result of the AHCA bill:
    • Hospital payments would be cut by $944 million in total
    • Nursing Home payments would be cut by $819 million in total
    • Home care payments would be cut by $734 million in total

The bill punishes New York for its support for women’s reproductive rights by threatening to take away citizens’ access to tax credits that are intended to make health insurance more affordable:

  • New York requires that all commercial insurance policies cover abortion services. In January, Governor Cuomo took new action to ensure that contraceptive drugs and devices are covered by commercial health insurance policies without co-pays, coinsurance, or deductibles.
  • The Republican health care bill would prohibit the use of tax credits to support the purchase of insurance plans that cover abortion services.
  • As a result, the bill would effectively defund the Essential Plan, forcing 685,000 low-income people, half of whom are women, to lose their insurance and denying them $1.5 billion in tax credits.
  • In addition, roughly 143,000 lower-income New Yorkers whose income is just above the threshold for the Essential Plan, half of whom are women, would be denied $400 million more in tax credits that help them afford insurance.

This bill also includes an amendment that will enable insurers to charge more for people with preexisting conditions in some states, rolling back a key achievement of the Affordable Care Act:

  • In New York, 8.4 million people under the age of 65 have preexisting conditions.
  • The MacArthur amendment would allow states to opt out of provisions that restrict providers from raising prices on people with preexisting conditions.
  • Removing protections for people with pre-existing conditions will result in the sick paying high premiums and would force those who cannot afford it to lose coverage.
  • The health plan would also permit states to charge older people more, which would also force people who cannot afford it to lose coverage.

But here’s the thing: even though the Senate Republicans have said they are drafting its own health care law, they are still not bothering to confer with health care providers, health care insurers, patients or state and local officials. It is likely that even if the impacts are softened, any proposal which is designed to cater to healthy, young Americans (by allowing them to not buy insurance), and empower insurance companies to charge whatever they like to cover separate items like maternity, mental illness, addiction, pre-existing conditions (life is a pre-existing condition), to charge penalties for lapses in coverage and to charge older Americans up to five times what younger people pay, and no longer pay for wellness or preventive services, will result in tens of millions of Americans being unable to afford health insurance, being underinsured (making the policies useless), will bankrupt families of their ability to save for college or retirement or home ownership. Americans will find themselves trapped in horrible jobs or abusive marriages because they can’t afford to lose health insurance. It isn’t just the 20% of Americans who must purchase on the individual market: lifting the mandates will mean that employers will be free to stop offering health benefits altogether, or will require hefty pay-ins, or will offer bare-bones policies that leave people without protection and care. Children who are born with health issues will be faced with lifetime caps. A family will again face the insecurity of being just one medical emergency away from bankruptcy. Hospitals, especially in rural communities, will shut down.  Tens of thousands of people a year will die prematurely and needlessly for lack of access to health care, and tens of thousands more will suffer for lack of care. Society will suffer lost productivity while paying more money to cover those who are forced to use emergency rooms for medical care, leaving the rest of us to pick up the tab.

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© 2017 News & Photo Features Syndicate, a division of Workstyles, Inc. All rights reserved. For editorial feature and photo information, go to www.news-photos-features.com, email editor@news-photos-features.com. Blogging atwww.dailykos.com/blogs/NewsPhotosFeatures.  ‘Like’ us onfacebook.com/NewsPhotoFeatures, Tweet @KarenBRubin

Trump, to Save Presidency, Expand Powers, Sets Himself on Path to be War President

Memorial Day Parade, Long Island, NY. Where are the parades for the peacemakers? © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

By Karen Rubin, News & Photo Features

This weekend we properly honor the millions who have made the ultimate sacrifice in defense of our nation since the Revolutionary War, which established us as a free and independent nation founded upon “We the People” as its governing principle.

But where are the parades for the peacemakers who just as equally keep us free, independent, who are the shield to our values and our way of life? Where are the parades for the diplomats, the professors and teachers, the scientists and researchers, the doctors and nurses and social workers?

Donald Trump, on his first overseas trip, has expressly shown his values, as epitomized in the $110 billion military deal he signed with Saudi Arabia, embracing Saudi Arabia as an ally in the fight against ISIS but ignoring Saudis’ role in 9/11 and in funding the schools that breed anti-Israel and jihadist ideology and terrorism. And it is clear in how in both Saudi Arabia and Israel, he fomented hostility against Iran even as the Iranians overwhelmingly reelected President Rouhani, a moderate who has shifted even further away from the hard-liners in pursuing better alliances with the West.

Trump doesn’t care because he needs an enemy to march against, to battle against. That is his unifying principle, he thinks, to gain position for Israel among the Sunni-majority nations, and resolve the Israel-Palestinian conflict – not with diplomacy but with militancy.

(How fitting that Trump was welcomed to Saudi Arabia with a traditional dance of the Najd region, that is typically performed to celebrate victory in war. Trump was in the middle of the melee, along with his top aides Gary Cohn and Steve Bannon and photographers and videographers captured him swaying to the drumbeat-fueled chanting.)

Trump’s budget just released by henchman, OMB Director Mike Mulvaney, shows his priorities and his values: 10% increase ($54 billion) to the military (to $603 billion), slashing an equal amount from domestic programs (to $462 billion) – accomplished by slashing health care spending and defunding Planned Parenthood, slashing Food Stamps and Meals on Wheels and Public Broadcasting, student loans, Social Security disability program, environmental programs altogether, and significantly rebalancing the budget already bloated in favor of the defense industry. (The United States already spend more on Defense than the next 7 countries combined, a list that includes Russia and China.)

It is not just the domestic programs that go toward everyday Americans that are cut, it is also dramatically slashing diplomacy in favor of war.

Trump’s budget calls for nearly 30% cut in allocations for the State Department (from $38.8 billion to $27.7 billion), which was already so pressed for funding, it had trouble paying for the level of security that might have prevented the Benghazi tragedy. And, oh yes, dramatically cutting foreign aid, including cruelly expanding the Global Gag Rule from denying aid not just to family planning services that don’t explicitly censure abortion, but ALL global health assistance programs including HIV/AIDS, maternal and child health, malaria and global health security.

Trump (and the Republicans because this is really Paul Ryan’s budget) would cut programs for health, climate change and environment that counter famine, drought and flooding, foreign aid and diplomacy. This would do nothing to address the underlying issues that lead to violent conflict, but rather add gasoline to the fire of seething discontent, both abroad and at home.

And that’s because Trump craves to be a War President. He sees that War Presidents can enact martial law, erase personal liberties, suspend habeus corpus, promote torture as an instrument of national security, suspend a free press. He can be the unquestioned, unchallenged, adored autocrat.

Why didn’t he condemn Turkey President Erdogan’s goons for beating up American protesters in Washington DC? Because he is smacking to do the same thing, to have an excuse to crack down on free speech, free press, free assembly.

For Trump, military power is the path to unfettered domestic control. After all, the hot-war in Iraq (as opposed to the less flashy missions to route out the Taliban who were shielding Osama bin Ladin in Afghanistan) worked so well for Bush/Cheney to get their tax cuts. Indeed, Trump is close to reigniting that war, by sending thousands more troops into Afghanistan.

Trump has installed generals in traditionally civilian roles in charge of the Pentagon, the National Security Council and the Department of Homeland Security, while installing the most inept, inexperienced, corrupt to head agencies most directly involved in domestic programs (housing, environment, interior, health and human services, education, commerce).

Recently, when he was in a well-publicized video chat with NASA Astronauts aboard the International Space Station, in response to a statement of the importance of international cooperation to achieve such milestones as a Mars mission, Trump, without missing a beat, remarked on the “military applications of space.” Who does that?

He showed his predilection when, on Day 1, he told the CIA “we may have a second chance at getting at Iraq’s oil” because, you know, he learned  when he was a boy that “to the victor belongs the spoils.” He also complained that the US doesn’t win wars anymore.

His intense interest in spending on costly military hardware is telling because, barring Trump instigating a new hot war, the next war will be fought in cyberspace, and the battlefield will be the electric grid, the financial networks and the utility plant. Our main enemy now consists of some tens of thousands of militant terrorists, including lone wolves recruited over the internet and under the spell of radical ideology, who could pop up anywhere with a home-made bomb in a backpack, a machete, or a truck to ram into a crowd of pedestrians, but won’t be defeated by sending in bombers or brigades.

Nonetheless, Trump wants to explode the domestic budget – cutting billions from programs which benefit everyday Americans – to pay for military hardware.

Why? Because for Trump, the $ is Almighty. Spending money on clean energy and sustainability is an investment toward a better future; spending money on bombs has to be constantly replenished. I wonder how much that spending will come back to him as profit – he already profited on the stocks he owned when he spent $80 million on the 59 Tomahawk missiles exploded in the staged attack on a Syrian air base which actually did not harm the base or the planes. It will definitely profit him, though, as a payoff to his donors.

In theater when you show a gun in the first act, it will absolutely be used by the third act. But let’s examine why: this gives Trump the big shiny, flashy, muscular objects that feed his narcissism. But also, it expands his virtually unlimited power as Commander-in-Chief (a function he has already proved completely inept at), while domestic programs are much more controlled by Congress. But by expanding the military in the way he intends, he continues to show that his “vision” is based on the world of the 1950s and 1960s. Hence his renewed interest in expanding, not reducing nuclear weapons.

Trump is upping US military involvement in Afghanistan and Iraq. Where is the outrage over the service members and civilians and allies (like the Russian soldiers) who have been lost in flawed, failed missions orchestrated by the most inept Commander-in-Chief this country has ever had, who casually gives a “go” for a raid over dinner, without consultation or consideration of the ramifications? Imagine if Hillary Clinton or Barack Obama were in office, there would be mobs with pitchforks flooding the streets, demanding resignation or impeachment.

The real worry is that he will use North Korea as his means to become a War President, just as Bush/Cheney used fictional WMD, conflated with 9/11, to invade Iraq. Unfortunately for Trump, South Korea has just elected a “sunshine” president who favors engagement with North Korea, which may result in Kim Jong-un tamping down his own saber-rattling.

But Trump’s saber-rattling against Iran will only bolster North Korea’s resolve to pursue nuclear weapons because they see what happens when an autocrat gives them up or doesn’t have them: Libya. Ukraine. Iraq. Iran. If he were truly interested in diplomacy, he would realize that.

He’s not interested in diplomacy or human rights or for that matter, American values.

Asked about his failure to extract human rights reforms as a condition for the $110 billion sale of armaments ($350 billion over 10 years), Trump said, “We have to defeat these forces of evil [Islamic radical terrorism]. Only then can you create the conditions to really allow human rights to flourish.”

“The glaring absence of human rights from Trump’s agenda will only embolden further violations in a region where governments flout the rights of their own people in the name of the fight against terror, and violate international humanitarian law in conflicts fueled on large part by US arms transfers,” said Amnesty International.

Trump’s reaction to the Saudi deal? “That was a tremendous day. Tremendous investments in the United States.  Hundreds of billions of dollars of investments into the United States and jobs, jobs, jobs”

And in remarks with the Emir of Qatar, Tamim bin Hamad al Thani, Trump said , “One of the things that we will discuss is the purchase of lots of beautiful military equipment because nobody makes it like the United States. And for us that means jobs and it also means frankly great security back here, which we want.”

Trump is the Arms-Dealer-In-Chief.

Trump also is content to brush aside human rights in negotiating new trade deals.

“Mr. Trump has dispensed with what he considers pointless moralizing and preachy naïveté. He has taken foreign policy to its most realpolitik moment in generations, playing down issues of human rights or democracy that animated his predecessors, including Jimmy Carter, Ronald Reagan, George W. Bush and Barack Obama. His ‘America First’ approach focuses not on how other nations treat their people but on what they can do for the United States,” Peter Baker wrote in the New York Times (April 4, 2017).

Trump’s only value is that The $ is Almighty, greenbacked by military might.

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© 2017 News & Photo Features Syndicate, a division of Workstyles, Inc. All rights reserved. For editorial feature and photo information, go to www.news-photos-features.com, email editor@news-photos-features.com. Blogging atwww.dailykos.com/blogs/NewsPhotosFeatures.  ‘Like’ us onfacebook.com/NewsPhotoFeatures, Tweet @KarenBRubin

 

Trump Insists ‘There was No Collusion’ Between Campaign & Russia

Donald Trump insists any suggestion of collusion between his campaign and Russia is “ridiculous” and he did not obstruct justice in firing FBI Director James Comey © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

Donald Trump, during a joint press conference with President Santos of Colombia, May 18, in answer to a question, “Did you at any time urge former FBI Director James Comey in any way, shape, or form to close or to back down the investigation into Michael Flynn?     And also as you look back –“ dismissed it saying, “No.  No.  Next question.” 

Here’s more:

Q    Next question.  As you look back over the past six months or year, have you had any recollection where you’ve wondered if anything you have done has been something that might be worthy of criminal charges in these investigations or impeachment, as some on the left are implying?

PRESIDENT TRUMP:  I think it’s totally ridiculousEverybody thinks so.  And again, we have to get back to working our country properly so that we can take care of the problems that we have.  We have plenty of problems.  We’ve done a fantastic job.  We have a tremendous group of people.  Millions and millions of people out there that are looking at what you had just said, and said, “What are they doing?”

Director Comey was very unpopular with most people.  I actually thought when I made that decision — and I also got a very, very strong recommendation, as you know, from the Deputy Attorney General, Rod Rosenstein.  But when I made that decision, I actually thought that it would be a bipartisan decision, because you look at all of the people on the Democratic side — not only the Republican side — they were saying such terrible things about Director Comey.

Then he had the very poor performance on Wednesday.  That was a poor, poor performance.  So poor, in fact, that I believe — and you’d have to ask him, because I don’t like to speak for other people — but I believe that’s why the Deputy Attorney General went out and wrote his very, very strong letter.

And then, on top of that, after the Wednesday performance by Director Comey, you had a person come and have to readjust the record, which many people have never seen before, because there were misstatements made.  And I thought that was something that was terrible.

We need a great director of the FBI.  I cherish the FBI.  It’s special.  All over the world, no matter where you go, the FBI is special.  The FBI has not had that special reputation with what happened in the campaign, what happened with respect to the Clinton campaign, and even you could say — directly or indirectly — with respect to the much more successful Trump campaign. 

We’re going to have a director who is going to be outstanding.  I’ll be announcing that director very soon, and I look forward to doing it.  I think the people in the FBI will be very, very thrilled.

And just in concluding, we look forward to getting this whole situation behind us so that when we go for the jobs, we go for the strong military, when we go for all of the things that we’ve been pushing so hard and so successfully, including healthcare — because Obamacare is collapsing.  It’s dead; it’s gone.  There’s nothing to compare anything to because we don’t have healthcare in this country.  You just look at what’s happening.  Aetna just pulled out.  Other insurance companies are pulling out.  We don’t have healthcare.  Obamacare is a fallacy.  It’s gone.  We need healthcare. 

We need to cut taxes.  We’re going to cut taxes.  Forget what I want; it will be the biggest tax cut in the history of our nation.  And that’s what I want.  It’s going to bring back companies.  It’s going to bring back jobs.  We lost so many jobs and so many companies to countries that are not so far from you, Mr. President — they’re very close to you, actually — and to many other places throughout the world.  We’re going to change that.  We’re going to have expansion.

We already do.  You look at what’s happening with Ford and with General Motors in Michigan and Ohio.  You look at the tremendous number of jobs that are being announced in so many different fields.  That’s what I’m proud of, and that’s what we want to focus our energy on.

The other is something I can only tell you:  There was no collusion.  And everybody — even my enemies have said, there is no collusion.

So we want to get back and keep on the track that we’re on.  Because the track that we’re on is record-setting, and that’s what we want to do, is we want to break very positive records.

Q    Mr. President, I’d like to get your reaction to Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein’s decision to appoint a special counsel to investigate the Russian interference in the campaign.  Was this the right move, or is this part of a “witch hunt”?

PRESIDENT TRUMP:  Well, I respect the move, but the entire thing has been a witch hunt.  And there is no collusion between certainly myself and my campaign, but I can always speak for myself — and the Russians, zero. 

I think it divides the country.  I think we have a very divided country because of that and many other things.  So I can tell you that we want to bring this great country of ours together, Jon.  And I will also say very strongly, we’ve had tremendous success.  You look at our job numbers, you look at what’s going on at the border, as we discussed before; if you look at what will be happening — you’re going to see some incredible numbers with respect to the success of General Mattis and others with the ISIS situation.  The numbers are staggering, how successful they’ve been, the military has been.

Tomorrow, as you know, I’m going to Saudi Arabia, going to Israel.  I’m going to Rome.  And we have the G7.  We have a lot of great things going on. 

So I hate to see anything that divides.  I’m fine with whatever people want to do, but we have to get back to running this country really, really well.  We’ve made tremendous progress in the last 100-some-odd days.  Tremendous progress.  And you see job numbers, you see all of the production that’s starting.  Plants starting to open again.  Haven’t been open in years.  I’m very proud of it.  That’s what I want to be focused on.  Because, believe me, there’s no collusion.  Russia is fine.  But whether it’s Russia or anybody else, my total priority, believe me, is the United States of America.

So, thank you very much.

Trump Plays VictimCard at USCG Grad: ‘No Politician in History Has Been Treated Worse or More Unfairly’

Donald Trump plays victim card at US Coast Guard Academy graduation, saying, “Look at the way I’ve been treated lately especially by the media. No politician in history — and I say this with great surety — has been treated worse or more unfairly.” © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

Donald Trump plays victim card at US Coast Guard Academy graduation. In his commencement speech at the US Coast Guard Academy, New London, Connecticut, May 17, he says,  “Look at the way I’ve been treated lately — (laughter) — especially by the media.  No politician in history — and I say this with great surety — has been treated worse or more unfairly.”

Here are highlights from the 30-minute speech (the transcript provided by the White House):

You’ve done amazing work.  And in the true Coast Guard fashion, you had fewer people and fewer resources, but you accomplished the objectives, and you did it with skill and with pride — and, I’d like to say, under budget and ahead of schedule.  We’re doing a lot of that now in the United States government.  (Applause.)  We’re doing a lot of that.  

I won’t talk about how much I saved you on the F-35 fighter jet.  I won’t even talk about it.  Or how much we’re about to save you on the Gerald Ford, the aircraft carrier.  That had a little bit of an overrun problem before I got here, you know that.  Still going to have an overrun problem.  We came in when it was finished.  But we’re going to save some good money.  And when we build the new aircraft carriers they’re going to be built under budget and ahead of schedule, just remember that.  (Applause.)  That will allow us to build more.  

Now, of course, there are always a few slip-ups from time to time — you know that… I hereby absolve every cadet serving restrictions for minor offenses…. 

I’ve accomplished a tremendous amount in a very short time as President.  Jobs pouring back in to our country.  A brand-new Supreme Court justice — who’s going to be fantastic for 45 years — (applause) — a historic investment in our military.  Border crossings — thank you to our General — are down more than 70 percent in just a short period of time — a total record, by the way, by a lot.  (Applause.)  We’ve saved the Second Amendment, expanded service for our veterans — we are going to take care of our veterans like they’ve never been taken care of before.  (Applause.) 

I’ve loosened up the strangling environmental chains wrapped around our country and our economy, chains so tight that you couldn’t do anything — that jobs were going down.  We were losing business.  We’re loosening it up.  We’ve begun plans and preparations for the border wall, which is going along very, very well.  We’re working on major tax cuts for all.  We are going to give you the largest tax cut in the history of our country if we get it the way we want it, and we’re going to give you major tax reform.  (Applause.)  And we’re also getting closer and closer, day by day, to great healthcare for our citizens.  (Applause.)  

And we are setting the stage right now for many, many more things to come.  And the people understand what I’m doing, and that’s the most important thing.  I didn’t get elected to serve the Washington media or special interests.  I got elected to serve the forgotten men and women of our country, and that’s what I’m doing.  (Applause.)  I will never stop fighting for you, and I will never stop fighting for the American people.

As you leave this academy to embark on your exciting new voyage, I am heading on a very crucial journey as well.  In a few days, I will make my first trip abroad as President.  With the safety, security, and interests of the American people as my priority, I will strengthen old friendships and will seek new partners — but partners who also help us.  Not partners who take and take and take, partners who help, and partners who help pay for whatever we are doing and all of the good we’re doing for them — which is something that a lot of people have not gotten used to and they just can’t get used to it.  I say, get used to it, folks.  (Applause.)  I’ll ask them to unite for a future of peace and opposition opportunity for our peoples and the peoples of the world.

First, in Saudi Arabia, where I’ll speak with Muslim leaders and challenge them to fight hatred and extremism, and embrace a peaceful future for their faith.  And they’re looking very much forward to hearing what we — as your representative — we have to say.  We have to stop radical Islamic terrorism.  (Applause.)

Then in Israel, I’ll reaffirm our unbreakable alliance with the Jewish state.  In Rome, I will talk with Pope Francis about the contributions of Christian teachings to the world.  Finally, I’ll attend the NATO Summit in Brussels and the G7 in Sicily — to promote security, prosperity and peace all over the world.

I’ll meet scores of leader, and honor the holiest sites of these three great religions.  And everywhere I go, I will carry the inspiration I take from you each day, from your courage and determination to do whatever is required save and protect American lives.  Save and protect American lives.  We want security.  You’re going to give us security.  (Applause.) …

…As your Commander-in-Chief, I thank you.  I salute you.  And I, once again, congratulate the Coast Guard Class of 2017.  (Applause.)  God bless you.  God bless the Coast Guard.  And God bless the United States of America.  Thank you very much.  Thank you.  (Applause.)  Thank you very much.  Thank you, everybody.  Great honor.  Good luck.  Enjoy your life.  (Applause.)

 

Former Israel PM Ehud Barak Argues for 2-State Solution; Presses Netanyahu, Likud to take First Steps

Ehud Barak, the former Prime Minister of Israel, speaking at a Long Island synagogue on May 11, argued forcefully for a two-state solution as the only way to preserve “The Zionist Project” – a nation that is both Jewish and democratic. © 2017 Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

By Karen Rubin, News & Photo Features

Ehud Barak, the former Prime Minister of Israel, argued forcefully for a two-state solution as the only way to preserve “The Zionist Project” – a nation that is both Jewish and democratic. Indeed, he asserted, a two-state solution is the only way to preserve Israel as a strong, independent nation.

While there are no options that do not bring risk, he asserted, the basis for his contention is that Israel is the strongest economy and has the strongest military in the region, would insist on drawing the border lines that protect its security. The existential threat, he argued, would be to abandon the two-state solution.

And he insisted that Israel’s Right Wing government leaders need to wrest themselves from paralysis and politics and act, even unilaterally, to setting the stage.

The former Prime Minister spoke in front of an audience of some 800 New Yorkers who filled Temple Emanuel of Great Neck, Long Island, coming from a broad swath of the region, from Forest Hills Huntington, and representing a broad spectrum of American Jewry, from left to right wing.

Barak laid out a cogent argument, based on a lifetime at the center of Israel’s defense, politics and leadership, serving as Prime Minister, Chief of General Staff of the Israeli Defense Forces and most recently as Minister of Defense, and set out the context for his insistence that Israel’s existential threat is not from the formation of a Palestinian state, but the lack of one.

“The Zionist Project is by far the most successful national project of the 20th century. When [the early settlers] originally came, 120 years ago, there was  literally nothing – 70% of the land was desert, 2 lakes, one alive the other dead, connected by the River Jordan that looks like a neighborhood creek – more history flowed than water.”

In the last 70 years since Israel was established asa nation, despite seven wars, two intifadas and countless terror attacks, the population grew by a factor of 12; the GDP by 70. The Israeli currency (shekel) is one of the strongest in the world. “We are a start-up nation, with more firms on NASDQ than any other. Thanks to the arrival of 1 million Russian Jews between 1990 and 2000, we have more orchestras, ballet companies, chess grand champions per capita than any in the world.”

There are a lot of internal tensions, certainly – many that mirror what is happening in other countries: rich and poor, Arabs and Jews, secular and religious, even the status of Reform and Conservative Jews in Israel which though secular, is dominated by Orthodox Jewry – “they are not treated equally in our homeland.”

And then there are the external tensions, such as the spreading BDS [The Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions] movement, particularly on American college campuses.

“There is great worry about what happens abroad- the position of Israel in the international community is deteriorating – BDS has spread over the world.

“There are question marks about our policies, something that disturbs the Jewish Diaspora even in this country. We are losing part of the young generation in universities especially in North America and even among young Jewish students. This all needs treatment.”

Israel’s relations in the areas “liberated or occupied is in the eye of the beholder” has been a central problem for the past 50 years since the Six Day War when Israel won territory now known as the West Bank and the Sinai (which in exchange for peace, Israel returned to Egypt years ago).

He said that the rise of ISIS and the globalized threat of terror from radical Islamic jihadists ironically creates an opportunity because it has elevated Israel’s position as an essential actor in a global conflict, while at the same time diminishing the Israel-Palestinian conflict as a regional one.

“The whole world in the last decade is facing unprecedented geopolitical earthquake, the kind of which we had not witnessed since the end of World War I and the collapse of the Ottoman Empire. It covers the whole world, but concentrates around the Middle East. Within the last few years, the Arab Spring turned into an Islamist Winter; nation states collapsed, borders erased, centuries-old conflicts came back to life. Israel found itself in a perfect storm – on the one hand, at the clashing point of civilizations of the West and the world of Islam, and at same time, in the eye of a storm that swirls around the Arab world.

“In this situation for Israel, can see bad news and good news: the bad news is clear – the Middle East is a tough neighborhood. The good news  is that Israel, as a result of its achievements, is the strongest country 1000 miles around Jerusalem, from Benghazi in Libya to Tehran in Iran.

“And Israel is going to remain the strongest country in this area for the foreseeable future.”

It’s not just its military defenses – with the help of a supportive US administration – but its strong economy – not the biggest, but the most vibrant in the region.

Barak argues that “Israel, being the strongest player all around the area, can use this position of strength in a self-confident manner” to finally resolve the Palestinian issue.

Israel has always faced existential threats. “We always have to look around, ready to pull trigger../Every several years a new threat emerges- ISIS – old ones, Hamas, Hezbollah – all alive and kicking. Out of all these changes the more demanding is terror. It has become the great fight for the whole globe, which might take years, and must be defeated. The choice for  the modern world is clear: either you defeat terror or you might find yourselves defeated by it.

“But this is not a new phenomena – it’s been with us a long time,” he said, recalling as a 22-year old, how as a member of a commando team, he had to rescue a hijacked Sabena airplane; and later, deal with the terrorists who massacred Israeli athletes at the Munich Olympics.

He argued that ISIS is more effective from a propaganda point of view – using the media and Internet to heighten its fearsomeness.

“They are effective in sowing fear, but a military threat? Ridiculous. They are succeeding because they never met a real fighting force- they are 50,000 fighters in 5000 Toyota pickups with WWII-era machine guns, a few old Soviet tanks,– not a real fighting force. They should be met on the ground and defeated by Muslims, not Crusaders or Israelis. That takes time, effort. We can help Iraqis, Kurdish, air support, intelligence, special forces – that will take time. But I am confident that ISIS will be defeated on the ground in the Mideast. That doesn’t mean the phenomenon will disappear, because of its capacity to incite. We don’t know how many Americans have joined and will come home. However loosely connected, they are part of flexible web of organization.

“This is a global phenomenon, a generational war. And it needs international cooperation. We join hands among the leaders of the world.”

“We are never going to find ourselves in an ideal world,” he says soberly. “The Mideast is never going to resemble Scandinavia.”

Which brings him to the next part of his argument:

“The major debate in Israel – how to relate to our Palestinian neighbors problem – is painful but simple. In a small piece of ground about the size of New Jersey, from the River Jordan (the size of a creek) to the Mediterranean live 13.5 million – 8.5 million Israelis, 5 million Palestinians. Among the 8.5 million Israelis are 1.5 million Arab Israelis – 99.9% are law-abiding citizens” but who are likely to vote with Palestinians.

If there is only one, that is Israel, it is inevitable that it will be non-Jewish or nondemocratic. That is because millions of Palestinians have their own national aspirations. There are only two possibilities – if they vote for Knesset [members] Israel overnight becomes a bi-national state and within few years a bi-national state with an Arab majority, almost surely civil war, and no future.

“The other alternative in a one-state Israel, is that the Arabs cannot vote for Knesset members. That doesn’t have a name in Hebrew but in Afrikaner, it means we would develop into an apartheid system.

“Neither is the Zionist dream. It is the consequence of a painful but simple reality: we need a compelling imperative to find a way to disengage ourselves from Palestinians and create a line in Israel that would include settlement blocks and the Israeli’ suburbs of eastern Jerusalem. That would include 80% of the settlers. Beyond this line, should be a place for a viable Palestinian state.

“I reemphasize: it’s not because of the need for justice for Palestinians, not because of the  international community, it’s out of our compelling imperative to take care of our own security, future and identity.

“When the right wing in Israel tells you there is no way to bring together the vital security interest of Israel and a two-state solution – that the two are incompatible – that’s not true.

“The Right Wing in Israel [Netanyahu’s Likud government] try to create symmetry between these two arguments, but there is no symmetry. On the one hand, there is immediate existential threat to the future of the whole Zionist project.”

And here, Barak got more technical:

On other hand, there is certain risk which should not be taken lightly. We need to invest some equipment, some … changes in doctrine that a hostile, foreign force cannot enter into the West Bank and threaten.” But, he says, rockets can already come from all around the Mideast. They can be dealt with using advanced technology. Israel already possesses the most advanced missile defense systems in the world, especially for short-range and mid-range rockets.

Former Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak: “We need leadership sober, open eyed, self confident of the strength of Israel and ready to act, holding in their hand an inner compass, not a weather vane. The most immediate and urgent mission is to put a wedge on that slippery slope toward one nation, one state for two peoples.” © 2017 Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

There are risks and challenges to both, “but that shouldn’t paralyze you from seeing difference between existential threat and the technical military risk we’ve lived with. In a way, what happens in the Mideast doesn’t increase the threat to Israel, but reduces it.

“So the Right Wing is paralyzed in the mindset of pessimism, passivity, anxiety and self victimization. They see shadows on the walls. I see great opportunities, not without risk, but everything in life carries risk, and in many cases, the greatest risk of all is being unable to take one.”

“Zionism is a story about taking fate in our own hands.”

He points to “an opportunity that happens once in generation and might disappear in a year or more, of a joint common interest that has developed between us and Sunni moderate leadership – Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Jordan and others. The common interest is fighting together against Islamist radical terror; the second is to join hands and putting at bay Iranian nuclear intentions; third, to join hands in huge regional infrastructure projects – energy, water, transportation; and fourth, the Palestinian issue.”

Barak made no reference to recent statements by the Palestinian Authority, the visit of Abbas to the White House, or Trump saying he could care less whether there is one state or two states, as long as the parties agree.

[President Abbas, in his meeting at the White House, May 3, declared: “our strategic option, our strategic choice is to bring about peace based on the vision of the two-state — a Palestinian state with its capital of East Jerusalem that lives in peace and stability with the state of Israel based on the borders of 1967.

“…for us to bring about a comprehensive and just peace based on the two-state solution, such matter would give a great impetus to the Arab peace initiative and the other initiatives, international initiatives — as well as it enables to fight and deter terrorism, and fight the criminal ISIS group, ISIS — that is totally innocent and has nothing to do with our noble religion.  And that also, if we create peace that is just and comprehensive, that will also lead the Arab and the Islamic countries to have normal relations with Israel based, as stipulated in the previous Arab summits, the latest of which was the Arab summit in Jordan.”

While Abbas could take an outwardly more moderate stance, Hamas, which controls Gaza, has not abandoned its commitment to “wipe Israel off the face of the earth.”

Trump has not said whether or not he cares if there is a one-state or two-state solution, as long as the parties agree.]

Barak seemed to take this into account without directly referring to the statements, saying “The situation in the Arab world, the Arab street especially, does not allow them to make any sincere statement to accept or recognize Israel as a member of the family of nations of the Mideast if the Palestinian issue is not moving forward dramatically.

“No one can tell for sure whether Palestinians are ripe for painful decisions needed from both sides for a breakthrough in peace process.”

But, he added, Israel should not wait, but should initiate forward movement. “I argue that even if there is no way to achieve a breakthrough these days, it doesn’t mean we should be paralyzed, that we should be blind to our interest in starting…”

Former Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak, with Temple Emanuel of Great Neck Rabbi Robert Widom, warns that the real existential threat to Israel would be to pursue the one-state solution © 2017 Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

He said that “professionals” can find their way to a solution. “A group of the most senior leaders of  ISF, Mossad, Israeli police, generals have formed Commandos for Israel Security (cis.org.il). They have proposed a practical plan for what should be done now to start disengagement, independently of Palestinians, with backing of Americans and others in the world community. “It contains all the elements – political, practical, and security – written by best experts of Israel.”

“They will tell you that Israel is better protected and safer if we delineate this line, if we have to struggle against terror that takes place from outside, beyond the line, and the real enemy of 80% of settlers that live in settlement of blocks, 220 suburbs of eastern Jerusalem, the real enemy are the elements of the government that keep poking the eye of the Palestinian government by continuing settlement operations.”

He concluded, “The Mideast is a tough neighborhood and will remain so, but we are the strongest player around and will remain the strongest player. Time has come to not just keep killing the mosquitoes, which we are doing effectively, but we should look for opportunities to drain the swamp,” he said to applause.

To do this, we need leadership which is not paralyzed by the complexity or uncertainty of the situation.

“We need leadership sober, open eyed, self confident of the strength of Israel and ready to act, holding in their hand an inner compass, not a weather vane. The most immediate and urgent mission is to put a wedge on that slippery slope toward one nation, one state for two peoples. The effect that extremists on both sides- our right wing and Hamas – both dream and act to haveone state is what makes one-state agenda the real existential threat to the Zionist project and Israel.

“It will take time. An optimist that can put wedge and take the state of Israel back on track and keep moving, the way Zionism has heralded.”

During question-and-answer, Barak dismissed the contention that settlements provide an important buffer for Israel’s security, but provides a basis for the government to use “propaganda that relieves them of doing the right thing.”

He also argued that the debate has become the equivalent of Climate Change vs Climate Denial and Creationism versus Evolution in this country, with propaganda, fake news and identity politics thrown in that makes it even harder to find a practical solution.

“The Right Wing is not committed to the security of Israel. Likud has been hostilely taken over by the settlers. The real strategy of government has a messianic tinge which does not serve the state of Israel…

“I don’t believe it is irreversible now, but if we continue to walk this slippery slope, it might become an irreversible situation. We have to act according to our interest – disengage from Palestinians, start, however gradually, short of perfect. Nothing is perfect, but that shouldn’t paralyze you from doing the right thing.”

See also:

Why Obama Administration Abstained from UN Vote on Israeli Settlements: To Preserve 2-State Solution

In Advance of Abbas Visit to White House, Congressmembers Call on Secretary of State to Address Palestinian Authority’s Payments to Convicted Terrorists 

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© 2017 News & Photo Features Syndicate, a division of Workstyles, Inc. All rights reserved. For editorial feature and photo information, go to www.news-photos-features.com, email editor@news-photos-features.com. Blogging at www.dailykos.com/blogs/NewsPhotosFeatures.  ‘Like’ us on facebook.com/NewsPhotoFeatures, Tweet @KarenBRubin

Trump Declaring Women’s Health Week States ‘Ensuring Affordable, Accessible, Quality Healthcare is Critical to Improving Women’s Health’

Mother’s Day apparently begins Women’s Health Week, Donald Trump has proclaimed. But the Republican healthcare plan, TrumpCare, would make being a woman a pre-existing condition, make pre-natal and maternity costly add-ons, take Medicaid away from millions of women and children, and shut down access to Planned Parenthood clinics © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

Who knew that Mother’s Day kicks off Women’s Health Week? In honor of the occasion, Donald Trump issued a statement that, like so many in TrumpWorld – like Orwell’s 1984 – bears little connection to reality:

Statement from President Donald J. Trump on Women’s Health Week

As we celebrate Women’s Health Week, beginning with Mother’s Day, we recognize the importance of providing women access to the best, evidence-based health information and care, and growing our medical knowledge through basic and applied research support.

Today, women are living longer, healthier lives than their mothers.  The number of women dying from heart disease and cancer – the top two killers of women in America – has been decreasing for decades.  Thanks to new breast cancer treatments, our health care professionals have saved lives and improved the quality of life for millions of women.  We must continue to foster an environment that rewards these needed advances in research.

Ensuring affordable, accessible, and quality healthcare is critical to improving women’s health and ensuring that it fits their priorities at any stage of life.  In particular, women should have access to quality prenatal, maternal, and newborn care.  Under the current healthcare system, however, the lack of choice in health insurance and in healthcare providers, along with skyrocketing premium and out-of-pocket costs, are failing our citizens, our families, and, in particular, our women.  Studies show that women are often the primary healthcare decision-maker for their family and they deserve better options.

I am committed to working with Congress to help mothers—and fathers—have paid family leave so that childcare is accessible and affordable, and to invest in the comprehensive care that women receive at community health centers.  Through these reforms, and my 2018 Presidential Budget, we will enable access to the critical healthcare services women need.

 

Cuomo: Here’s How GOP Health Care Act Would Harm New Yorkers

Republicans in Congress are trying to push through – force feed – the American Health Care Act without concern for how many millions of Americans would lose access to health care, the impact on premiums or deductibles, or Medicaid. The “fix” that pre-existing conditions would be “covered” is a fraud since there is not sufficient funding for high-risk pools, nor a clear mechanism for how users would access. Instead of less “government” in health care, this would increase government © 2017 Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

The Republican contrived American Health Care Act would repeal the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare) which made great strides in making access to health insurance more affordable for millions of Americans and slowing the annual increases in premiums which had been rising at rates 3 to 5 times faster than inflation. Obamacare was designed to work within the for-profit health insurance industry, rather than do what every other industrialized nation does and offer universal health care. Some continued to complain that premiums and deductibles were too high, but rather than solve that problem, Republicans have sought to repeal Obamacare 60 times, going so far as to shut down the government in 2013 rather than accept a budget that provided for the subsidies that make health insurance affordable for tens of millions of Americans.

Trump has made it a defining issue to get repeal, no matter the damage or loss of health insurance which is quite literally a life-and-death issue. But the AHCA is more than just a matter of Trump’s ego, it is also about reducing taxes for the wealthiest – who are assessed a small surcharge to fund ACA – and crucial to Trump’s other massive giveaway to the wealthiest and corporations, his tax “plan.”

It’s remarkable that this act, which would completely rework health care, representing one-sixth of the US economy and impacting every single person, is being pushed through without any hearings, input from medical professionals or even health insurance companies, without scoring from the Congressional Budget Office as to its true cost or how many people would find health insurance unaffordable or inaccessible.

But Governor Andrew Cuomo spells out how AHCA would affect millions of New Yorkers, and specifically attacks an amendment foisted by two New York Republican Congressmen that exclusively targets New York:

“The Republican health care bill is an assault on women and an assault on New York. It would allow insurance companies to discriminate against Americans based on pre-existing conditions, force millions of New Yorkers to lose coverage, and slash Medicaid by hundreds of billions of dollars.

“As a direct result of the amendment introduced by Congressmen Faso and Collins, this provision alone would cut Medicaid funding for New York by $2.3 billion and cripple hospitals, nursing homes, and assisted living facilities across the state.

“Most disturbingly, this bill penalizes New Yorkers because we believe in reproductive rights and ensure by law that medically necessary abortions are covered by insurance carriers. I’m calling on all of New York’s Congressional delegation—Republican and Democrat alike—to stand up for New York values and vote against this terrible bill.”

The American Health Care Act will be disastrous for New York:

  • The plan will leave 2.7 million New Yorkers without health care coverage
  • It will cut $4.7 billion from the state’s Medicaid budget.
  • It will put at risk 7 million people who rely on Medicaid services and other programs created under the Affordable Care Act
  • And it threatens the entire New York State health care system, which serves 19.5 million New Yorkers.

The Collins/Faso amendment, which targets only New York, stops counties from paying a share of Medicaid. It would have a devastating effect on New Yorkers:

  • It will cut $2.3 billion in Medicaid funding to the State. When added to the $4.7 billion cost of the ACHA over the next four years, the total cost to the State would rise to $6.9 billion
  • Steep cuts would force New York State to increase taxes, slash coverage to millions of New Yorkers, or devastate health care providers:
    • Nursing Home payments would be cut by $401 million
    • Home care payments would be cut by $360 million
    • Hospital payments would be cut by $355 million

The bill punishes New York for its support for women’s reproductive rights by threatening to take away citizens’ access to tax credits that are intended to make health insurance more affordable:

  • New York requires that all commercial insurance policies cover abortion services. In January, Governor Cuomo took new action to ensure that contraceptive drugs and devices are covered by commercial health insurance policies without co-pays, coinsurance, or deductibles
  • The Republican health care bill would prohibit the use of tax credits to support the purchase of insurance plans that cover abortion services.
  • As a result, the bill would effectively defund the Essential Plan, forcing 685,000 low-income people, half of whom are women, to lose their insurance and denying them $1.5 billion in tax credits.
  • In addition, roughly 143,000 lower-income New Yorkers whose income is just above the threshold for the Essential Plan, half of whom are women, would be denied $400 million more in tax credits that help them afford insurance.

This bill also includes an amendment that will enable insurers to charge more for people with preexisting conditions in some states, rolling back a key achievement of the Affordable Care Act.

  • In New York, 8.4 million people under the age of 65 have preexisting conditions.
  • The MacArthur amendment would allow states to opt out of provisions that restrict providers from raising prices on people with preexisting conditions.
  • Removing protections for people with pre-existing conditions will result in the sick paying high premiums and would force those who cannot afford it to lose coverage.
  • The health plan would also permit states to charge older people more, which would also force people who cannot afford it to lose coverage.

In Advance of Abbas Visit to White House, 36 Congressmembers Call on Secretary of State to Address Palestinian Authority’s Payments to Convicted Terrorists

Washington, D.C.—Congresswoman Claudia Tenney (NY 22) and Congressman Thomas Suozzi (NY 3 ) joined together to call on Secretary of State Rex Tillerson to address official payments made by the Palestinian Authority to terrorists and their families with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas during his visit to Washington D.C. on Wednesday, May 3, when he will meet with Donald Trump in the White House. The letter, signed by 36 Members of Congress, also urges the administration to ensure that the Palestinian Authority is discouraged from continuing this practice in the future.

The Palestinian Authority has a long record of providing financial compensation and employment benefits to Palestinians who have engaged in acts of terrorism. Begun in the 1990s, the practice continues today.  Under current law, Palestinians convicted of an act of terrorism are given monetary compensation as well as employment upon release.

“It is extremely unsettling that the Palestinian Authority continues to provide financial support to convicted terrorists. These policies promote acts of terrorism in the region and must be immediately addressedAdditionally, it is highly concerning that payments to terrorists and their families increase with the length of the sentence, which has the potential of encouraging particularly brutal acts of terrorism,” said Congresswoman Claudia Tenney.  “As the largest providers of aid to the Palestinians, the United States must lead the way in ensuring that the Palestinian Authority ends this practice and that peace is brought to the region, especially since innocent Americans have died at the hands of Palestinian terrorists.”

“The Palestinian Authority cannot incentivize terror. Terrorists and their families cannot be paid for killing innocent people. Longstanding U.S. policy is committed to a two-state solution, but this dangerous practice pushes us further away from that goal. The United States must put pressure on the Palestinian Authority to end this dangerous and unconscionable practice, which only encourages more acts of terror,” said Congressman Thomas Suozzi.

The United States provides aid to the Palestinians to assist with a wide range of needs. However, since 2015, Congress has joined together to reduce U.S. aid on a 1-to-1 ratio for every dollar that the Palestinian Authority uses for official payments to convicted terrorists. Despite the reduction, these payments to terrorists have continued. The letter urges Secretary Tillerson to use all means at his disposal to address this ongoing issue and the Palestinian Authority’s reluctance to put an end to this program.

Read the full text of the letter below.

May 2, 2017

The Honorable Rex Tillerson

Secretary of State

U.S. Department of State

2201 C Street, NW

Washington, D.C. 20520-0099

 

Dear Secretary Tillerson,

We write today to bring an issue of bipartisan concern to your attention. For more than three decades, the Palestinian Authority has provided monetary awards and other incentives to those who have committed acts of terrorism in the region. We fear that this financial support encourages violence and serves as a clear impediment to a truly durable peace. As such, we encourage you to address this issue when Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas visits Washington in early May.

Since the early 1990’s, the Palestinian Authority (PA) has provided financial compensation and employment benefits to Palestinians who have committed acts of terrorism. In 2016, programs providing compensation to terrorists and their families were funded at approximately $300 million. These payments are officially sanctioned by the PA and create a perverse and troubling incentive for individual acts of terrorism. For example, under current PA law, a Palestinian who was convicted of an act of terror and given a 10-year sentence would receive $130,000 over ten years. In addition to such compensation, individuals who are incarcerated also receive a guarantee of employment following their release from prison, creating yet another incentive for terrorism.

Policies which have the potential to encourage violence in the region are simply unacceptable and given that American citizens have died in previous acts of terrorism, this is an issue of grave concern to us. For example, on November 19, 2015, 18-year old Ezra Schwartz, an American boy from Sharon, Massachusetts, was murdered by a Palestinian in an attack that left him and two others dead. The individual charged with his murder was sentenced to four life sentences, making him eligible to receive $3,000 a month. Sadly, since payments are based on the length of individual sentences, convicted terrorists receive more money for acts of terrorism that are even more brutal.

The United States is the largest provider of aid to Palestinians. This aid serves a variety of purposes, including to help meet the basic needs of the Palestinian people. Since 2015, members of Congress have come together on a bipartisan basis in an attempt to use this aid as leverage to deter the PA from providing such payments to terrorists and their families. In each year since 2015, annual appropriations have provided for a 1-to-1 reduction in U.S. aid for every dollar that the PA provides to terrorists. It is clear, however, that this troubling policy continues and that this change alone in current law has not been sufficient to deter the continuation of the PA’s program.

As a result, we strongly urge you to ensure that this issue is raised with President Mahmoud Abbas during his upcoming visit to the White House and to continue using all other means at your disposal to address the PA’s reluctance to abandon this program altogether. As members of Congress, we are committed to the long-standing policy of the United States to see a durable peace agreement between Israelis and Palestinians, resulting in two states; a Jewish, democratic state living in peace and security next to a peaceful Palestinian state. So long as the PA continues to compensate and thereby incentivize terrorist activity, we find it difficult to see how the necessary conditions for a lasting peace can be established.

We thank you for your consideration of this important issue and stand ready to assist you in bringing about a sustainable resolution to our concerns.

Sincerely,

  1. Rep. Claudia Tenney
  2. Rep. Thomas Suozzi
  3. Rep. Peter J. Roskam
  4. Rep. Trent Franks
  5. Rep. Jackie Walorski
  6. Rep. Doug LaMalfa
  7. Rep. Randy Weber
  8. Rep. Tom McClintock
  9. Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart
  10. Rep. Grace Meng
  11. Rep. Lee Zeldin
  12. Rep. Ted Poe
  13. Rep. David B. McKinley, P.E
  14. Rep. Mia Love
  15. Rep. Paul Cook
  16. Rep. Mike Gallagher
  17. Rep. Gus M. Bilirakis
  18. Rep. Thomas J. Rooney
  19. Rep. Peter King
  20. Rep. Todd Rokita
  21. Rep. Don Bacon
  22. Rep. Paul Mitchell
  23. Rep. Patrick Meehan
  24. Rep. Steve Russell
  25. Rep. Andy Biggs
  26. Rep. Ryan Costello
  27. Rep. David Cicilline
  28. Rep. Drew Ferguson
  29. Rep. Josh Gottheimer
  30. Rep. Jim Banks
  31. Rep. Jack Bergman
  32. Rep. Ted Deutch
  33. Rep. Lois Frankel
  34. Rep. Nita M. Lowey
  35. Rep. Bradley S. Schneider
  36. Rep. Pete Olson

OMB Mulvaney: Budget Deal Averting Govt Shutdown Proves Trump’s Leadership (While Trump Heaps Praise on Dictators, Calls for End to Filibuster)

200,000 in the Peoples Climate March encircled the White House on April 29 calling for a transition from fossil fuel to clean energy. OMB Director Mike Mulvaney is proud that the budget deal denies Democrats a “win” of tax credits for renewable energy © 2017 Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

By Karen Rubin, News & Photo Features

It was very important to the Trump Administration to dampen any victory dance the Democrats might be doing in terms of the budget deal that forestalled a government shutdown. Demonstrating so clearly that it the aim is to insure widening partisanship and hostility, this morning, Office of Management and Budget Director Mick Mulvaney said during a briefing call to clarify what is in the Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2017.

The budget deal averting a government shutdown proves Trump’s leadership, Mulvaney said. Meanwhile, earlier in the day, Trump said a government shutdown in September would be a good thing to “end the mess” that is Congress, unless the Republicans end the filibuster that gives the minority party any say whatsoever.

This comes as Trump heaps praise and admiration on autocrats, dictators and plutocrats, like cheering Erdogan’s sweeping powers won in a tainted referendum in Turkey; North Korea’s leader, Kim Jong-un, who, Trump said, he admired for consolidating his power at the young age of 26 or 27 (by assassinating his relatives), Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte, who is responsible for some 10,000 extrajudicial killings, and of course Vlad Putin, who he admires as a strong leader (who has assassinated opponents and journalists).

Trump’s answer?

Meanwhile, it was very important to Trump that Democrats not be shown as winning anything in the budget deal that averted a shutdown.

“Democrats are trying to take a win,” Mulvaney said in the briefing call. “The American people won and the president negotiated that victory for them. They know the truth of what’s in the bill. They know the deal the president cut. Some are scared to death knowing what’s in the bill.”

The briefing lasted but a few minutes because the Gang Who Couldn’t Shoot Straight couldn’t manage shutting off patriotic music – starting with Stars & Stripes Forever and moving to “I’m a Yankee Doodle Dandy,” like the soundtrack to a July 4 fireworks show, that grew in volume and overwhelmed the call.

Mulvaney didn’t want to take many questions anyway, but during the 10 minute ramble, made sure everyone knew that the budget deal was a big win for the President, and a defeat for Democrats who wanted a government shutdown in order to show Trump couldn’t lead. The deal denied the Dems that.

Most importantly, he noted, the deal broke the parity deal that Obama had brokered when Republicans threatened to shut down government over the budget: that every dollar increase or cut in defense had to be matched with a dollar increase for domestic programs.

This deal allocates $4 to $5 for defense versus every $1 increase for domestic programs – in all, $21 billion more for defense. Mulvaney is very proud of that.

Also, $1.522 billion more for the Department of Homeland Security, for border security, on top of $18.5 billion, “the largest overall increase in DHS in last 10 years.”

As for the wall – because Democrats are hailing the fact that not a dollar in the budget is allocated to build the wall that Mexico was going to pay for.

What can/cannot be done, Mulvaney said, would be shown during a 1:30 press briefing, but suggested that the money the administration has gotten out of the budget, will go toward the border, whether a real or virtual wall, “in terms of the boundary between the US and Mexico.

“We’re looking at tremendous increases in technology along the border, maintenance, replacing gates and bridges – part of reason Obama administration had difficulty, the infrastructure not there – will move immediately.”

And what was spent on domestic programs – like preserving health care for miners – were on Trump’s list anyway.

And school choice – the budget provides for three years authorization.

“More money for defense, border security, education – the same things as we introduced in March – those were priorities of incoming administration,” he boasted.

Mulvaney is very proud of what the Democrats didn’t get, like not getting renewed tax credits for renewable energy – wind and solar. He’s very proud.

He deflected Democrats’ victory dance over saving funding for Planned Parenthood, noting that Trump “already signed an Executive Order allowing states not to fund clinics that deal with abortion, and defunded Planned Parenthood as part of the health care bill. Make no mistake, this administration is committed to pro-life – at every turn we fight the pro-life battle. This budget agreement stays true to that.”

He’s proud that there is no Obamacare bailout in the budget agreement.

“Democrats are claiming they got that. It’s not in the bill. Nothing in this bill obligates us to make any Obamacare payments. We’ve had several talks with folks on the hill [about defunding Obamacare] – there are no commitments in this bill.”

He’s also very proud that there is no new money for Puerto Rico. Democrats, he said, “wanted a bunch to bail out Puerto Rico.” The only money for Puerto Rico are the unexpended funds from the previous bill.  “There is no new money for Puerto Rico, no bailout, no additions to the deficit.

And Democrats “failed miserably to turn back Second Amendment protections,” he crowed.

“What Democrats didn’t get – what many of them, many of their base – they wanted a shutdown, to make this president look like he couldn’t govern, didn’t know what he is doing, and he beat them at the highest level,” he said with a spiteful tone. “They wanted to make him seem not reasonable. Government is functioning. He is proving he can bring this town together – lead in a sound fashion. That scares many. It’s why they are overreacting and claiming victory.

“Democrats can take credit, but they didn’t get a penny for any one of their pet projects.”

Despite what Mulvaney said about how avoiding a government shutdown demonstrated Trump’s leadership, Trump earlier that morning had opined that a government shutdown in September would be a good thing, to fix what he called a “mess” in Congress, and also called for the Senate to end the filibuster so that the Republicans could sweep their agenda through.

In two successive tweets, Trump stated, “The reason for the plan negotiated between the Republicans and Democrats is that we need 60 votes in the Senate which are not there! We…. either elect more Republican Senators in 2018 or change the rules now to 51%. Our country needs a good “shutdown” in September to fix mess!”

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© 2017 News & Photo Features Syndicate, a division of Workstyles, Inc. All rights reserved. For editorial feature and photo information, go to www.news-photos-features.com, email editor@news-photos-features.com. Blogging at www.dailykos.com/blogs/NewsPhotosFeatures.  ‘Like’ us on facebook.com/NewsPhotoFeatures, Tweet @KarenBRubin

200,000 Join Peoples Climate March in DC: ‘There is No Planet B’

More than 200,000 joined the Peoples Climate March in Washington DC © 2017 Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

By Karen Rubin, News & Photo Features

More than 200,000 gathered in Washington DC in sweltering heat for the Peoples Climate March in Washington, D.C. on Saturday, April 29 – twice the number anticipated – to register opposition to Trump Administration’s actions that will set the United States back in its effort to mitigate against the dire impacts of climate change. They formed a line extending more a mile down Pennsylvania Avenue, eventually encircling the White House for a two-minute “heartbeat”.

In the United States, tens of thousands more took to the streets  370 sister marches taking place in nearly all 50 states, from the town of Dutch Harbor in Alaska’s Aleutian Islands to the streets of Miami, Denver, Los Angeles, Chicago and other major American cities. Early counts estimated that more than 50,000 people took place nationwide.

Sister marches took place on Saturday across the world including in Japan, the Philippines, New Zealand, Uganda, Kenya, Germany, Greece, United Kingdom, Brazil, Mexico, Costa Rica, and more.

“The solidarity that exists between all of us is the key to having a strong, fair economy and a clean, safe environment,” said Kim Glas, Executive Director, BlueGreen Alliance, one of dozens of organizations that partnered in the Peoples Climate March. “We can tackle climate change in a way that will ensure all Americans have the opportunity to prosper with quality jobs and live in neighborhoods where they can breathe their air and drink their water. Together we will build a clean economy that leaves no one behind.”

More than 200,000 joined the Peoples Climate March in Washington DC © 2017 Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

“This march grew out of the relationship building among some of the country’s most important progressive organizations and movements,” said Paul Getsos, National Coordinator for the Peoples Climate Movement. “In 2014, the march was planned as a singular moment to pressure global leaders to act on climate change. There was a simple demand – act. This march was planned before the election as a strategic moment to continue to build power to move our leaders to act on climate while creating family-sustaining jobs, investing in frontline and indigenous communities and protecting workers who will be impacted by the transition to a new clean and renewable energy economy.”

As it happened, the march coincided with the 100th day of Donald Trump’s occupation of the Oval Office.

In Washington, the march topped 200,000 people at its peak, , representing a huge cross-section of geography and demographics and far outpacing the National Park Service’s permitted space for 100,000 people. The march extended for over 20 blocks down Pennsylvania and all along the south side of the National Mall, with tens of thousands more surging along the mall to push back on the Trump administration’s policies and stand up for “climate, jobs and justice.”

Indigenous people lead the Peoples Climate March: We Exist. We Resist, We Rise. © 2017 Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

The day’s activities in D.C. began at sunrise with a water ceremony led by Indigenous peoples at the Capitol Reflecting Pool. Participants included Cheyenne River Sioux tribal members who traveled 1,536 miles by bus from Eagle Bend, SD to attend the ceremonies.

At an opening press conference, representatives from front line communities spoke about the impact that climate change and pollution were already having on their lives and called out the Trump administration for worsening the crisis. They called for a new renewable energy economy that created good paying, union jobs, and prioritized low-income and people of color communities.

The People’s Climate March sets off on Pennsylvania Avenue in front of the Newseum, celebrating First Amendment freedoms including a free press, free speech, and the right to protest. Trump, who continually attacks the media as “the enemy of the people” became the first sitting president to snub the White House Correspondents dinner, being held that night, which also coincided with his 100th day occupying the Oval Office © 2017 Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

The march kicked off at 12:30 pm in front of the Newseum, which heralds the First Amendment freedoms of religion, free press, free speech, assembly and protest, and was led by young people of color from Washington, D.C. and Indigenous leaders from across the country. Tens of thousands of marchers headed up Pennsylvania Avenue in creatively named contingents, like “Protectors of Justice,” “Reshapers of Power,” and “Many Struggles, One Home.”

(The day coincided not only with Trump’s 100th day, but the White House Correspondents Association Dinner, which Trump snubbed, the first sitting president to do so; Reagan missed one after he was recovering from an assassination attempt but still sent respects.)

Our children are watching © 2017 Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

“When our communities are most threatened by climate; the solutions we build must allow us to have control of our resources and the energy we produce in an equitable and truly democratic way,” said Angela Adrar, Executive Director, Climate Justice Alliance. “They must create meaningful work that allows people to grow and develop to their fullest capacity. They must allow us to retain culture and traditions from our ancestors and give us the freedom of self-determination we so deserve so that we can thrive. This does not come easy and it must come with resistance and visionary opposition. Our existence depends on it.”

Give Me Back My Climate. You Can Keep the Change © 2017 Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

By 2 pm, in sweltering heat for an April day (nearing 90 compared to average of 79) that seemed to validate Global Warming, organizers had succeeded in their goal of completely surrounding the White House. Marchers sat down in the streets in a silent sit-in to recognize the damage caused by the Trump administration over the last 100 days and those who are losing their lives to the climate crisis.

The ‘heartbeat’ of 200,000 climate marchers encircling the White House © 2017 Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

At the appointed time, everyone created a heartbeat, tapping out a rhythm on their chests or clapping while drummers kept the time, lasting 2 minutes.

“The heartbeat was meant to show that while march participants came from many different backgrounds and communities, their hearts beat as one. It was a heartbeat of resistance, one that began with the Women’s March and will continue through the Peoples Climate March to May Day and beyond,” the organizers said.

Sit-in in front of the White House, encircled by 200,000 Peoples Climate marchers © 2017 Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

“Six months ago, my kids woke up to half a foot of water in our living room,” said Cherri Foytlin, director of BOLD Louisiana and spokesperson for the Indigenous Environmental Network. “Now, Trump wants to open up the Gulf Coast to even more offshore drilling. But we have a message for him: we are not afraid, and we will not stop fighting. With 100 and 500 year storms now coming every year, we are fighting for our lives.”

After the heartbeat, marchers rose up with a collective roar and continued down to the Washington Monument for a closing rally. Speakers at the rally celebrated the success of the day, while many marchers gathered in “Circles of Resistance,” some set up around their parachute banners, to talk about how to continue to build their movement.

Peoples Climate Marchers hope to send a message to the White House © 2017 Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

As of 3:30 pm, crowds of people still remained at the Monument while marches continued to take place across the country. The Peoples Climate Movement, a coalition of over 900 organizations representing many of the major social justice, labor and environmental groups in the country, has pledged to keep the momentum going after Saturday, from supporting the May Day marches on Monday to organizing at the local level.

“Today’s actions are not for one day or one week or one year,” said Getsos. “We are a movement that is getting stronger everyday for our families, our communities and our planet. To change everything, we need everyone.”

Promising Ongoing Resistance

The march took place on the 100th day of Trump occupying the Oval Office and the irony was not lost on the marchers, who chanted, “We won’t go away. Welcome to your 100th day.”

Indeed, Trump seemed to go out of his way to stick it to those who believe climate change is an existential threat to communities, the nation and the planet.

On the eve of the climate march, the EPA announced it was scrubbing its website of any mention of climate change.

Free the EPA © 2017 Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

Trump has shown utter contempt for climate change, and specifically the hard-fought initiatives Obama put through to transition the economy away from global-warming exacerbating carbon emissions and put the creation of clean, renewable energy industries on a level playing field with the subsidized Fossil Fuel industry.

Trump has shown contempt for local communities, particularly targeting Native American communities, in swiftly (and proudly) restarting the Keystone XL pipeline (his banker to which he owns millions of dollars is a leading investor) and Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL) which threatens the water supply to native community at Standing Rock.

Just before the People’s Climate March, as if to add insult to injury, his administration backed away from challenging the lawsuit – brought by EPA Scott Pruitt when he was Oklahoma Attorney General – to Obama’s Clean Power Plan, which put new restrictions on coal-fired utility plants. That was the key mechanism that Obama put forward to meet the US commitment to reduce carbon emissions under the Paris Climate Agreement.

The future of the world is in our hands © 2017 Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

And he instructed Interior Secretary Zinke to open up oil and gas drilling on the continental shelf – which would require reversing Obama and Bush’s creation of marine sanctuaries that protected  – under the pretext of an “American First Energy Independence Policy,” which Zinke admitted would also open the way for US Oil & Gas extractors to export US supplies. Trump is literally salivating over the 1.7 billion acres protected, where Zinke said, there are “90 billion barrels of undiscovered oil, 327 trillion cubic ft of undiscovered recoverable natural gas.”

(See: Trump Issues ‘Energy Independence Policy’ Dismantling Obama’s Clean Power Plan)

Through high-handed executive orders, he has reversed regulations or ended implementation or enforcement that now will allow extraction companies to dump toxic waste into streams; he opened the way for a chemical to be used, for lead ammunition that kills birds that feed on the carcasses of animals brought down by those bullets. He doesn’t care.

Denial is not a policy © 2017 Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

And his budget promises to gut the EPA, shutting down entirely climate change research, eliminating 3000 positions.

And on the eve of the march, Pruitt’s EPA scrubbed its website of any findings connected to climate change.

“As EPA renews its commitment to human health and clean air, land, and water, our website needs to reflect the views of the leadership of the agency,” J.P. Freire, the agency’s associate administrator for public affairs, said in a statement. “We want to eliminate confusion by removing outdated language first and making room to discuss how we’re protecting the environment and human health by partnering with states and working within the law.”

The first page to be updated is a page reflecting President Trump’s Executive Order on Energy Independence, which calls for a review of the so-called Clean Power Plan. Language associated with the Clean Power Plan, written by the last administration, is out of date. Similarly, content related to climate and regulation is also being reviewed, according to the statement from Scott Pruitt’s EPA.

According to the Washington Post, an EPA staffer stated “we can’t have information which contradicts the actions we have taken in the last two months,” adding that Pruitt’s aides had “found a number of instances of that so far” while surveying the site.

At the rally beneath the Washington Monument that followed the march, an EPA employee – who had spent two decades in the Marines before working for 17 years at the EPA, said, “What this Administration is doing to us would be considered an act of war.” Indeed, the very chemical in sarin gas, which Trump used to justify bombing Syria, was just okayed by the Trump Administration.

Trump, he said, is vilifying federal workers like the EPA who work to protect the American people. “We are federal servants. We take the same oath as I took when I joined the Marine Corps. We’ve been made scapegoats.

“America is not for sale,” he said. “We will fight back.”

Water Protectors from Standing Rock at the rally in front of the Washington Monument after the Peoples Climate March © 2017 Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

This past week, President Trump signed an executive order to “review” the last 21 years of large national monument designations — including Bears Ears National Monument – a huge affront to every American whose birthright Trump would sell off to satisfy corporate greed, but especially, yet another attack and violation of treaties made with Native Americans.

“Not only are national monuments an inherent part of Western culture, they hold historical significance to local Tribes and contribute to a $887 billion dollar recreation industry that employs millions of people around the country,” writes Senator Tom Udall (D-NM).

“We need to come together and fight on this. One of the most consistent marks of Trump’s presidency so far has been an outright assault on environmental protections. He could do more damage by rescinding national monument designations and selling off public lands to the highest bidder.”

(See: Trump Races to Chalk Up 100-Day ‘Successes’ by Weakening Antiquities Act, Overturning Education Reform, and Unveiling Tax Plan to Benefit Wealthy, Corporations)

The climate is changing. Why aren’t we? © 2017 Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

The demonstrators gathered just one week after a giant March for Science in Washington DC, New York and hundreds of other cities. (See New Yorkers Among Multitudes in Cities Around the World Marching for Science on Earth Day)

Indeed, the Peoples Climate March will not be a one-off, a show of strength to a dumb and deaf Trump Administration and its complicit Congress.

Sustaining Momentum After People’s Climate March 

Sending a message to the White House © 2017 Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

Climate activists are looking to sustain momentum and are focusing on local actions to counter the  federal dismantling of climate action initiatives.

“Across America, DFA members are mobilizing in their own communities to fight for environmental justice and resist Trump and his oil industry friends. Even after today’s marches, we still have a lot of work to do,” Robert Cruickshank, Democracy for America stated.

“Tomorrow, DFA Electoral Director Annie Weinberg will be leading a training in D.C. hosted by our friends at Climate Hawks Vote. She’ll be training climate activists on how to win elections and build a more reflective democracy.

Climate activists will continue the fight © 2017 Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

“In fights to stop coal and oil exports, to block pipelines, and resist oil companies, it’s become clear that elections at every level of government matter. City and county governments grant crucial permits. State governments regulate emissions and help develop renewable energy sources. And the federal government plays the biggest role of all.

“Humanity was already failing to stop climate change before Trump took office. But now our climate is poised to get much, much worse. If we don’t act now, we may lose our final chance at averting a catastrophe.”

Food & Water Watch and Food & Water Action is launching a new organizing strategy aimed at winning local elections.

Climate activists plan to mobilize to win local elections © 2017 Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

“Our plan is simple but incredibly ambitious: lay siege to fossil fuels at the local level. Everywhere. All at once. We’ll push local lawmakers to do everything in their power to obstruct the fossil fuel industry. With Trump opening a new wave of oil and gas drilling, we know we need to stand strong locally to create the clean energy future that we need.,” writes Katy Kiefer, Director of Distributed Organizing, Food & Water Watch.  “Onward to the Clean Energy Revolution.”

Other organizations, like Earth Justice, are mounting lawsuits based on the public health and environmental destruction of rolling back environmental initiatives and violating the spirit and letter of the Clean Air and Clear Water acts, as well as the Antiquities Act.

For more information on the April 29th Peoples Climate Mobilization, visit peoplesclimate.org
Follow on Twitter @Peoples_Climate and
Facebook http://www.facebook.com/peoplesclimate

See also:

New Yorkers Among Multitudes in Cities Around the World Marching for Science on Earth Day

Trump Issues ‘Energy Independence Policy’ Dismantling Obama’s Clean Power Plan

Trump Races to Chalk Up 100-Day ‘Successes’ by Weakening Antiquities Act, Overturning Education Reform, and Unveiling Tax Plan to Benefit Wealthy, Corporations

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© 2017 News & Photo Features Syndicate, a division of Workstyles, Inc. All rights reserved. For editorial feature and photo information, go to www.news-photos-features.com, email editor@news-photos-features.com. Blogging at  www.dailykos.com/blogs/NewsPhotosFeatures.  ‘Like’ us on facebook.com/NewsPhotoFeatures, Tweet @KarenBRubin