Wednesday Open Thread | Repealing Obamacare could violate international law

We’ve already seen that repealing Obamacare is politically perilous. Now there’s a new complication: It may also violate international law.

The United Nations has contacted the Trump administration as part of an investigation into whether repealing the Affordable Care Act without an adequate substitute for the millions who would lose health coverage would be a violation of several international conventions that bind the United States. It turns out that the notion that “health care is a right” is more than just a Democratic talking point.

A confidential, five-page “urgent appeal” from the Office of the U.N. High Commissioner on Human Rights in Geneva, sent to the Trump administration, cautions that the repeal of the Affordable Care Act could put the United States at odds with its international obligations. The Feb. 2 memo, which I obtained Tuesday, was sent to the State Department and expresses “serious concern” about the prospective loss of health coverage for almost 30 million people, which could violate “the right to social security of the people in the United States.”

President Obama Signs Health Reform Into Law

The letter urges that “all necessary interim measures be taken to prevent the alleged violations” and asks that, if the “allegations” proved correct, there be “adequate measure to prevent their occurrence as well as to guarantee the accountability of any person responsible.”

OHCHR requested that copies of the letter be shared with majority and minority leadership in both chambers of Congress and proposed that “the wider public should be alerted to the potential implications of the above-mentioned allegations.”

Apparently that didn’t happen. House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi’s office and Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer’s office said they didn’t receive the letter, and officials in House Speaker Paul D. Ryan’s and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s offices said Tuesday that they were unaware of it. The letter did make its way to the Department of Health and Human Services, where an employee leaked it to congressional Democratic leadership. A State Department spokesman said my inquiry was “the first I’m hearing of this.”

A spokesman for the U.N.’s human rights office in Geneva confirmed the authenticity of the letter, which was sent by Dainius Puras, a Lithuanian doctor who serves the United Nations under the absurdly long title “Special Rapporteur on the right of everyone to the enjoyment of the highest attainable standard of physical and mental health.”

Posted in Affordable Care Act, Current Events, Human Rights, News, ObamaCare, Open Thread, Politics | Tagged , , , , , , , | 87 Comments

Tuesday Open Thread | Senate Intel Chairman Richard Burr Is Stalling Russia Investigations

The Senate’s investigation into Russian interference in November’s election seems to be going nowhere fast. From Yahoo News’ Michael Isikoff:

More than three months after the Senate Intelligence Committee launched its investigation into Russian meddling in the 2016 election — including allegations of collusion by associates of President Trump — the panel has made little progress and is increasingly stymied by partisan divisions that are jeopardizing the future of the inquiry, according to multiple sources involved in the probe.

The committee has yet to issue a single subpoena for documents or interview any key witnesses who are central to the probe, the sources said. It also hasn’t requested potentially crucial evidence — such as the emails, memos and phone records of the Trump campaign — in part because the panel’s chairman, Sen. Richard Burr, R-N.C., has so far failed to respond to requests from the panel’s Democrats to sign letters doing so, the sources said.

Isikoff writes that the committee has been dragging its feet on just about every aspect of its investigation. Access to intelligence documents has been limited to a handful of aides; documents from key witnesses like Michael Flynn, Carter Page, and Paul Manafort haven’t been requested; and interviews with those witnesses have yet to be scheduled, even though Page, Manafort, and former Trump adviser Roger Stone have volunteered for them.

“So what has the committee been doing for three months? The five staffers assigned to the case have been methodically reviewing the classified raw intelligence documents that formed the basis for the Jan. 6 assessment [of Russia’s interference in the election],” Isikoff writes, “and that, in turn, has lead to the discovery of more documents that are potentially relevant, sources say.”

The Daily Beast’s Tim Mak writes that those staffers don’t have any investigative experience. “Most of them lack a background in Russia expertise,” he wrote in a story published on Sunday. “Not one of the seven is a lawyer.” Those staffers moreover have other distracting obligations:

Of the seven, two are the staff directors of the committee—an enormously demanding job even in the calmest of circumstances, which limits their involvement. One of the seven even attends law school part-time.

“To do a serious investigation would require not less than a dozen full-time staffers … [with] counterintelligence, prosecutorial skills to do it, and people who have a very good sense of the forensic accounting world of Russia and Europe. Without that sort of expertise, you’re not going to get anywhere,” [attorney Scott] Horton said. “I don’t think they’re deploying the resources that are necessary to do a real investigation.”

The House’s investigation, you might recall, has itself been a mess. Until our elected representatives get their acts together, it’ll be up to the media to continue getting to the bottom of things. Super sleuth Louise Mensch, of course, remains on the case:

Posted in 2016 Elections, Current Events, HACKING, News, Open Thread, Politics | Tagged , , , , | 68 Comments

Watch Live: A Conversation with President Obama

CHICAGO (AP) — Former President Barack Obama is set to hold the first public event of his post-presidential life in the place where he started his political career.

Obama will speak Monday at noon the University of Chicago, where his presidential library is planned.

College students from around the Chicago area are expected to attend. The invitation-only event is being billed as part of his post-presidency goal to “encourage and support the next generation of leaders.”

Obama delivered his presidential farewell speech in Chicago in January.

His first public engagement since then comes as President Donald Trump nears his 100-day mark in office.

Posted in Current Events, Politics, Open Thread, Barack Obama, President Obama, News | Tagged , , , , | 30 Comments

Monday Open Thread | Sean Hannity Accused Of Sexual Harassment

Tulsa, OK – Columnist, attorney, and former Fox News contributor Debbie Schlussel appeared on today’s Pat Campbell Show and accused Fox News Prime Time Host Sean Hannity of the same type of behavior that lead to Bill O’Reilly leaving the beleaguered network earlier this week.

Among the allegations, Schlussel claims that while at an appearance in Detroit which they both attended, Hannity invited her back to his hotel room.

Schlussel says that after she turned down his advances, she was not invited back on his program.

“This kind of stuff is all over the place at Fox News and anything that has to do with Sean Hannity,” Schlussel said.

Posted in Current Events, News, Open Thread, Politics, Sexual Harassment | Tagged , , , , , | 62 Comments

Sunday Open Thread

Emily Levine reads “On the Fifth Day” by Jane Hirshfield

Posted in Culture, Current Events, Gospel, Media, Music, News, Open Thread, Politics | Tagged , , | 29 Comments

Saturday Open Thread

Enjoy your weekend with family and friends.

ICYMI

Posted in News, Open Thread, Politics | Tagged , , | 29 Comments

Sally Yates will testify on Russia during an open congressional hearing

Former acting Attorney General Sally Yates, who was fired by the Trump administration earlier this year for refusing to defend President Donald Trump’s executive order banning travel from multiple Muslim-majority countries, will testify about Russia during an open congressional hearing next month.

The House Intelligence Committee announced on Friday that Yates will appear alongside former Director of National Intelligence James Clapper and former CIA Director John Brennan at an open hearing on May 2 to discuss Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election.

During her time as acting Attorney General, Yates reportedly talked with members of the Trump administration about her concerns about Michael Flynn, the disgraced former national security adviser who was fired after it was revealed that he lied to the public about his contacts with Russian government officials about sanctions.

After the Trump administration fired Yates for her refusal to defend the president’s travel ban, the White House issued a statement in which it accused her of “betraying” the Department of Justice

Posted in 2016 Elections, Current Events, Department of Justice, HACKING, News, Open Thread, Politics, Russia, Treason, US Department of Justice | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | 16 Comments