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During the last 15 to 20 years we have had several types of President (regardless of party ). Each one has advisors good and bad who sometimes pushed agendas that at once followed the President’s agenda while simultaneously coloring that agenda with their own hues. These deviations from the main agenda has many times cause great harm and sometimes great good. The point is that we as voters need to be well versed in the issues of the world that can cause harm to us personally. We have always relied on the people we elect to look after our interests but recent political history should make us realize that there is very little will to look after our interests by our elected. The many labels that are flouted as being the one to adhere to because it will get us what we want is patently false. There is not one or any combination of labeled factions that will get us what we need or want. The truth ( which we cannot or will not get from elected officials) is the world is at our feet and without our European, Southeast Asian, Canadian and Southern American  neighbors we will be in trouble. These other regions have many of the same issues as we have and the same less than stellar leaders or even worse. It is unfortunate that part of being a politician is to be  prolific and persuasive in moving around the facts of many if not all issues. Our sole job as citizens is to pursue our own truths not by following the rallying cries of TV and radio personalities whose sole interest is providing listeners and viewers for their sponsors. The content of their shows often have no basis in fact but are steeped in the institutionalized biases that keep us separated as multiracial and multi ethnic people. This has been the electoral train for many years and we need to stop the train and get off. The way to do this is education. Education is simply reading several publications on line or in print, listening to several broadcasts. There will always be opposite views but these views should make you think and seek the truth of these views in other places. There are several fact checking sites and available for free, I would advise everyone to spend some time in looking for them. I could list them but it is possible that not enough people will put the minimal time into looking at them. I feel that not listing them will encourage the braver ones of you reading this will seek these sites out and become more enlightened on items you currently believe and see the fault in some things you thought were true. We are at this point victims of a chaotic administration using unfounded information as a basis for decisions. We currently have biggest con game since Charles Ponzi and Bernie Madoff going on right now! The overly effusive signing of “rollbacks” and executive orders that appear to deregulate but in reality harm us all whether you see immediate effects or not. Our Resident is still in campaign mode rather than Governing (or learning to govern). Essentially he has hired people who will do what they want with his blessing some of the time and will unashamedly bash them when he is not in agreement. We are in a time of much greater peril than we were at the onset of WWII. Our economy at this time is going well but n a very rickety set of rails. The only thing we can do is to keep pushing aside the political wool away from our eyes and understand that this administration is in it for themselves not the people who elected them. This is an unprecedented  time in America but possibly needed to wake us up and illuminate the true nature of our long serving politicians. The upcoming elections are the first step in reinventing our political system by electing different people and continue to replace when required until anyone who runs for office understands that we the people want and demand good government. We are the controllers of term limits.

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Stephanie Petit 20 hrs ago

Ben Carson Reportedly Has a $31K Dining Set in His Office
A Housing and Urban Development (HUD) official claims she was demoted after failing to “find money” beyond a $5,000 cap to redecorate the dining room in incoming Secretary Ben Carson’s office.
Helen Foster was told “$5,000 will not even buy a decent chair” after pointing out the legal spending limit for decorating the office, CNN reports, citing a November 2017 complaint. The former senior official said she was told about the redecorating initiative by Acting Secretary Craig Clemmensen, who said Carson’s wife Candy wanted the office upgraded. This occurred ahead of Carson’s appointment to the position.
Foster also claims she was demoted in retaliation, and reassigned to oversee privacy and Freedom of Information Act requests.
“I was put into a job that was made up, something in the federal government we call the ‘rubber room,’ and then I protested and asked to be put on detail until I could find another job,” she told CNN.

The department later spent over $31,000 on a new hardwood table, chairs and hutch for the dining room adjacent to Carson’s office. The furniture has reportedly not yet been delivered. A department official says they replaced the original set because it was in disrepair.
The former esteemed brain surgeon “didn’t know the table had been purchased” but has no plans to return it, HUD spokesman Raffi Williams told The New York Times.
ABC News also reported that HUD, whose responsibilities include providing affordable housing to more than 4.3 million low-income families, spent $1,100 trying to repair the chairs in the dining set before buying the new furniture. They also spent about $3,400 on new blinds for the office.
“The most frustrating part of all this was spending so much time on this issue,” a former HUD employee with knowledge of the situation told CNN. “Instead of focusing on HUD’s mission, we were talking about furniture for the Secretary’s office.”

The White House’s 2019 budget proposes to slash HUD’s budget by $8.8 billion. In a tweet earlier this month, Carson said, “The proposed budget is focused on moving more people toward self-sufficiency through reforming rental assistance programs and moving aging public housing to more sustainable platforms.

It’s worth mentioning that EPA manager Scott Pruitt is spending $139,000 for new doors, Secretary Ryan Zinke has a” special” flag raising ceremony when he is in or out of the office aside from his tax payer financed charter flights. How many other “perks” are being accessed on the public dime by this administration aside from the “Resident’s” trips to Mar-a-Lago? MA.


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Dear Florida, your new firearms law is a big step, please do not be dissuaded or intimidated by the NRA. The NRA is more about politics and gaming the system to fill it’s own coffers. This organization which I belonged to previously proved to me that in spite of its beginnings it has not kept true to its initial goals. Their ads in the past elections and some of the current ones are more about pushing the idea that a candidate is taking or attempting to take firearms from people. The only way a firearm will be taken from someone is that they are proven to be mentally unfit or commits a crime. These are the 2 most common reasons for taking someone firearms, there may be others but my point is that you and all of us need to resist any company, organization or candidate who blatantly lies about another person, organization or company. We already have enough of this in our federal Government. Keep in mind that this is America and in general most of us gun owners or not are not interested in subverting the 2nd amendment.

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Example of a Chaotic mind.MA

Rick Newman
Columnist Yahoo Finance March 6,2018

Donald Trump is ’70s Man. He loves beauty pageants. He puts ketchup on his steak. And he thinks the surest signs of economic might are thriving smokestack industries churning out the raw materials for skyscrapers and locomotives.
Businesses and investors everywhere are on edge as Trump, himself a lifelong builder, is now attempting to translate his industrial-era economic worldview into action. Trump has promised to impose tariffs of 10% on all aluminum imports to the United States, and 25% on all steel imports. The stock market has wobbled on that news, and now Trump’s top economic adviser, former Goldman Sachs president Gary Cohn, has quit in frustration over Trump’s tariffs. Investors have viewed Cohn as the strongest bulwark against economic nationalism that could trigger damaging trade wars, and his departure will undoubtedly unnerve markets further.
“If you don’t have steel, you don’t have a country!” Trump tweeted, in all caps, on March 2. It’s also true that you don’t have a country, or at least a prosperous country, if you don’t have software, data centers, accounting firms and teachers. Yet Trump talks little, if at all, about the segments of the economy that are the biggest source of wealth and power these days. And he seems ready to risk damaging the economy to protect industries that represent a small and declining share of American production.
The U.S. economy is in a long transition from building stuff to generating services, a trend that has been underway since the end of World War II. Goods-producing industries accounted for 41% of total output in 1948. Today, it’s just 18%. Services, meanwhile, have risen from 47% of gross domestic product in 1948 to 69% today. This isn’t the result of any policy out of Washington. It’s just the way modern economies evolve. As the economy becomes more productive, generating more wealth, capital naturally flows to activities that earn the highest return. Those tend to be innovative new industries that aren’t easily copied, where the value added by workers is high. So-called commodity products that are easy to duplicate—such as basic steel products, along with textiles, plastics, toys and many other routine things—offer a declining return on investment, and sometimes hardly any return. That’s why they tend to migrate to developing countries where production and labor costs are lower.
Trump is right that the United States needs a healthy steel industry. But it already has a $90 billion steel industry, and a $41 billion aluminum industry. The Pentagon says it can get all the steel it needs domestically, and that accounts for just 3% of the total domestic supply. That leaves quite a lot left for all the private-sector products that require steel.Here’s a breakdown of the changes by industry:


The United States also imports a lot of steel, and it’s true that cheap foreign competition has caused American job losses. But at the same time, booming industries such as renewable energy, hydraulic fracking, warehousing, data analysis and mostly anything relating to digital technology or health care have created millions of new jobs. Some companies in these industries can barely find workers. Pay is going up in many parts of the country, and workers willing to get new skills, certifications and he United States also imports a lot of steel, and it’s true that cheap foreign competition has caused American job losses. But at the same time, booming industries such as renewable energy, hydraulic fracking, warehousing, data analysis and mostly anything relating to digital technology or health care have created millions of new jobs. Some companies in these industries can barely find workers. Pay is going up in many parts of the country, and workers willing to get new skills, certifications and education often enjoy big income gains—as has almost always been the case in the U.S. economy.
There’s nothing wrong with championing the industries of yore. But there is something wrong with actions to protect those industries at the expense of others, which is what Trump’s tariffs would do. Analysis by the nonprofit group Trade Partnership says Trump’s protective tariffs would boost steel and aluminum employment by about 33,000 jobs. But they’d kill 179,000 jobs elsewhere in the economy, because of the higher prices manufacturers of cars, appliances, industrial equipment and many other things would face. That’s a net loss of 146,000 jobs—before accounting for retaliatory measures enacted by other countries that would hurt U.S. exports to other countries and further dent production.

The kind of global trade Trump seems to have a problem with does generate abuses. China’s communist government subsidizes that country’s enormous steel industry, which has caused a big overcapacity problem worldwide. But the U.S. government has also imposed numerous penalties on Chinese steel importers as a result, and now has more tariffs in place on steel imports from China than from any other country. Chinese steel imports, not surprisingly, plunged 82% from 2006 to 2016. China isn’t even among the top 10 steel importers to the United States any more.
That’s not good enough for Trump, apparently. His steel and aluminum tariffs would apply to all countries, and they wouldn’t be based on any finding of unfair trade practices. Instead, they’d be based on an obscure law that allows the president to impose tariffs as needed to protect national security—like, during a war. There is no war, of course. Trade expert Gary Hufbauer of the Peterson institute for International Economics recently told Yahoo Finance that Trump’s national-security pretext is a “complete sham.”
If Trump goes through with his steel and aluminum tariffs, the next step could be dismantling portions of the North American Free Trade Agreement, or withdrawing from it completely. Most economists say there are elements of NAFTA that can be updated and improved. But they also say the 25-year-old trade deal has generally made each of the three trading partners, Canada, Mexico and the United States, better off. Still, Trump wants products purchased in America to be made in America, case closed. He doesn’t seem to care about supply-chain efficiencies, low prices for consumers or the second-, third- and fourth-order effects of telling companies how and where to direct their capital.
If Trump really wanted to turbocharge the U.S. economy, he’d focus on the industries of the future and shepherd as many American workers as possible into those. That means improving education and making sure kids get schooling that prepares them for the digital economy. The government could make it easier for people to move where the jobs are and get needed technical skills mid-career, or even late-career. If Trump wants to take extraordinary measures to protect vital industries, he should be making sure the United States dominates vehicle electrification, quantum computing and the many revolutions artificial intelligence is likely to spawn. China is investing in all those fields, and not shooting itself in the foot along the way.

The Whoppers of 2017
Eugene Kiely

Fact check: Trump accuses states of covering up voter fraud
We first dubbed President Donald Trump, then just a candidate, as “King of Whoppers” in our annual roundup of notable false claims for 2015.
He dominated our list that year – and again in 2016 – but there was still plenty of room for others.
This year? The takeover is complete.
In his first year as president, Trump used his bully pulpit and Twitter account to fuel conspiracy theories, level unsubstantiated accusations and issue easily debunked boasts about his accomplishments.
And a chorus of administration officials helped in spreading his falsehoods.
Trump complained — without a shred of evidence — that massive voter fraud cost him the 2016 popular vote. He doubled down by creating the Presidential Advisory Commission on Election Integrity and appointing a vice chairman who falsely claimed to have “proof” that Democrats stole a U.S. Senate seat in New Hampshire.
Even as he mobilized the federal government to ferret out Democratic voter fraud, Trump refused to accept the U.S. intelligence community’s consensus finding that Russia interfered in the 2016 campaign.
Trump disparaged the “so-called ‘Russian hacking’” as a “hoax” and a “phony Russian Witch Hunt,” and compared the conduct of U.S. intelligence agencies to “Nazi Germany.” He then falsely accused the “dishonest” news media of making it “sound like I had a feud with the intelligence community.”
When he spoke of himself, Trump’s boastfulness went far beyond the facts.
He claimed that his inaugural crowd “went all the way back to the Washington Monument,” and sent out his press secretary to declare it the “largest audience to ever witness an inauguration, period, both in person and around the globe.” He described his tax plan as the “biggest tax cut in the history of our country,” and took credit for making the U.S. nuclear arsenal “far stronger and more powerful than ever” after seven months on the job. None of that was true.
Trump is clearly an outlier. If he and his aides were removed from our list, we would be left with a dozen or more notable falsehoods roughly equally distributed between the two parties. You’ll find those at the end of this very long list.
Forgive us for the length. But consider this: It could be even longer.
The Russia Investigation
Two weeks before Trump took the oath of office, the Office of the Director of National Intelligence released a declassified intelligence report that described an “influence campaign” ordered by Russian President Vladimir Putin during the 2016 election.
The report said, among other things, that Russian intelligence services hacked into computers at the Democratic National Committee and gave the hacked material to WikiLeaks and other outlets to publicize in an effort “to help President-elect Trump’s election chances.”
A day after the report came out, Trump declared on Twitter that the intelligence community “stated very strongly that there was absolutely no evidence that hacking affected the election results.” Not so. The report specifically stated that the intelligence community “did not make an assessment of the impact that Russian activities had on the outcome of the 2016 election.”
This would be one in a long line of false, misleading or unsubstantiated statements by Trump and his aides this year about the ongoing federal investigation into whether the Trump campaign colluded with the Russians.
There is evidence of contacts between Trump aides and Russian representatives during the campaign, as documented in our timeline, but the question of collusion remains unresolved.
To date, two Trump aides — former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn and campaign foreign policy adviser George Papadopoulos — have pleaded guilty to giving false statements to the FBI. Two other Trump campaign aides — Paul Manafort and Rick Gates — were indicted on money laundering and tax evasion charges related to their work for a pro-Russia political party in Ukraine prior to the 2016 election.
Here are some of the false and unsubstantiated claims that Trump and his aides made about the Russia investigation:
In a March 4 tweetstorm, Trump called it a “fact” that “Obama was tapping my phones in October, just prior to Election!” Trump offered no evidence of what he equated to “Nixon/Watergate” crimes. Then-FBI Director James Comey told the House intelligence committee on March 20 that the FBI and Justice Department had “no information that supports those tweets.”
Two days after Comey’s testimony, Trump doubled down by claiming the House intelligence committee chairman “just got … new information” (during a meeting at the White House) that proved he was “right” about Obama wiretapping his phones. There’s still no evidence of that.
When asked in July to give a definitive “yes or no” answer if he believes Russia interfered with the election, Trump said, “I think it could very well have been Russia but I think it could very well have been other countries.” There is no evidence that other countries were involved.
Trump tweeted in May that former Director of National Intelligence James Clapper “reiterated what everybody, including the fake media already knows – there is ‘no evidence’ of collusion w/ Russia and Trump.” Clapper didn’t say that. Clapper said he had no such information “at the time,” meaning before he left office in January.
The White House issued a statement on May 9 saying the president fired Comey as FBI director “based on the clear recommendations” of Attorney General Jeff Sessions and Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein. White House Counselor Kellyanne Conway said the firing had “zero to do with Russia.” That was all spin. Trump later said he would have fired Comey “regardless of recommendation,” and he was thinking of “this Russia thing” when he decided to act.
National Security Adviser Mike Flynn told the Washington Post in February that he did not speak to Sergey Kislyak, the Russian ambassador to the United States, about U.S. sanctions leveled by the Obama administration in response to Russia’s election meddling. Flynn shortly after admitted he did talk about sanctions with Kislyak and resigned. About 10 months later, he pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI about his conversations with Kislyak.
In response to Flynn’s guilty plea, Trump claimed that Hillary Clinton “lied many times to the FBI and nothing happened to her.” There is no evidence Clinton lied to the FBI. In fact, Comey, then serving as the FBI director, told Congress last year that there was “no basis to conclude she lied to the FBI.”
In an interview, Vice President Mike Pence was asked if “there was any contact in any way” between the Trump campaign and “the Kremlim or cutouts they had.” Pence responded, “Of course not. Why would there be any contacts between the campaign?” That proved to be false.
Donald Trump Jr. agreed to meet on June 9, 2016, with Russians who promised damaging information on Clinton as part of Russia’s support for Trump’s candidacy. The president’s son at first misleadingly described the meeting as “primarily” about the adoption of Russian children, but later acknowledged he agreed to the meeting to obtain dirt on Clinton.
Jay Sekulow, one of the president’s attorneys, said on July 12 that “the president wasn’t involved” in drafting his son Donald Jr.’s statement about the June 2016 meeting with the Russians. That turned out to be false. Two weeks later, White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders admitted the president “offered suggestions like any father would do.”
Jared Kushner, the president’s son-in-law, met with Kislyak on Dec. 1, 2016, during the transition. It was reported in May that Kushner asked Kislyak at the meeting if Russia could set up a secure communications channel for discussions with the Trump transition team. In rebuttal, Trump retweeted a “Fox & Friends” tweet that said, “Jared Kushner didn’t suggest Russian communications channel in meeting, source says.” That’s false. Kushner later told Congress that he “asked if they had an existing communications channel at his embassy we could use.”
Trumpian Boasts
During the campaign, Trump vowed that if elected, “We’re going to win with every single facet, we’re going to win so much you may even get tired of winning.” That kind of over-the-top boasting didn’t end with his election:
Trump claimed that China ended its currency manipulation out of “a certain respect” for him, when in reality China had not been devaluing its currency to create a trade advantage since 2014.
Trump claimed that “the world is starting to respect the United States of America again,” despite surveys that suggest otherwise. The White House provided no support for the statement.
He said that his “first order as president was to renovate and modernize our nuclear arsenal” and “it is now far stronger and more powerful than ever,” when all he did was initiate a review that won’t be done until the end of the year and is yet to result in any improvements.
Trump stated that his administration is “spending a lot of money on the inner cities,” although we found that there has been little change in spending so far. His first budget proposed to cut or eliminate funding for programs that benefit cities.
Jobs and the Economy
During the campaign, Trump promised he would be “the greatest jobs president that God ever created,” and ridiculed the official unemployment rates (which were steadily declining) as “phony numbers.”
In what has been a running theme since he assumed the presidency, Trump regularly boasts that he has turned the economy around — citing the official job gains and unemployment rates in speeches and tweets.
In Trump’s telling, the economy was in shambles until he won the election, and has dramatically turned around since due to his leadership. As he put it in a speech on Dec. 14, “And you remember how bad we were doing when I first took over — there was a big difference, and we were going down. This country was going economically down.” That’s not true.
Here’s a list of some of his economic boasts that were off base:
Trump took credit for companies moving to the U.S., claiming that they are “creating job growth the likes of which our country has not seen in a very long time.” In fact, the U.S. has been steadily adding jobs every month since early 2010, and the job gains for the first 11 months of 2017 were slightly smaller than the gains during the first 11 months of each of the four previous years, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
Trump repeatedly took credit for investment and job-creation announcements that had nothing to do with him: Ford, GM and Charter Communications, to name a few. The president, for example, said Toyota’s announcement that it would invest $1.3 billion in an assembly plant in Kentucky “would not have been made if we didn’t win the election.” That’s false. Toyota spokesman Aaron Fowles told us in an interview that the investment “predates the Trump administration” and had been planned “several years ago.”
Trump also said he is “putting the miners back to work,” citing as evidence a new coal mine in Pennsylvania that was under construction before he won the election.
Immigration, Crime and Terrorism
Trump frequently ties immigrants to crime and terrorism without the benefit of facts.
In December, Trump lobbed the baseless charge that other countries are gaming a lottery-based immigration program known as the Diversity Immigrant Visa Program. Trump said foreign countries “take their worst and they put them in the bin” so that when the lottery occurs, “we end up getting them.” That’s not how it works.
Other claims that Trump made on immigration and terrorism:

Trump drew rebuke from the Netherlands Embassy in the United States and British Prime Minister Theresa May for retweeting an anti-Muslim video that purported to show a “Muslim migrant” beating up “a Dutch boy on crutches.” The tweet was wrong. The attacker was born and raised in the Netherlands and was not an immigrant.
He also exaggerated when he said Sweden was “having problems like they never thought possible” as a result of accepting refugees from Syria and other Middle Eastern countries. There was an increase in some categories of crime in Sweden since 2015, but government statistics do not corroborate the claim of a major crime wave due to immigrants.
Trump, who regularly criticizes the media, made the nonsensical claim that “radical Islamic” terrorist attacks are “not even being reported” by the “very, very dishonest press.” The White House later said Trump was talking about terrorist attacks that have gone “underreported,” not unreported. But even that criticism was proved wrong when the White House produced a list of “underreported” terrorist attacks that contained numerous widely covered attacks between September 2014 and December 2016.
Trump incorrectly tweeted that “122 vicious prisoners, released by the Obama administration from Gitmo, have returned to the battlefield,” when the total at the time was really eight former detainees.
Trump falsely claimed that border apprehensions, an indicator of attempts to illegally enter the U.S. through Mexico, “didn’t go down” under “past administrations.” Before Trump took office, there was a 75 percent decrease in apprehensions at the Southwest border from the peak in fiscal year 2000 to fiscal year 2016.
The president made the baffling claim that under his tax overhaul proposal, “the rich will not be gaining at all with this plan.”
That was in September, when Trump had only a one-page outline for a plan. But the general details — abolish the estate tax, cut the corporate rate and abolish the alternative minimum tax — would clearly benefit the rich. And as Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin acknowledged the following month, “when you’re cutting taxes across the board, it’s very hard not to give tax cuts to the wealthy with tax cuts to the middle class.”
Trump continued the false theme after Republican lawmakers introduced legislation:
The president claimed in late November that the tax plan would “cost me a fortune.” Unlike past presidents, Trump hasn’t released his tax returns, so we can’t say exactly how he would be affected. But, again, several provisions would cut taxes for wealthy individuals like Trump. The final legislation cuts the corporate rate, increases exemptions for the AMT and estate tax, and cuts the top individual income tax rate. The nonpartisan Tax Policy Center found 91 percent of the top 1 percent income earners would get a tax cut in 2018, averaging nearly $62,000.
He repeatedly and wrongly claimed the plan was “the biggest tax cut in our history.” The final GOP plan will reduce tax revenues by nearly $1.5 trillion over 10 years, which still ranks it eighth or fourth place, as measured by a percentage of gross domestic product or in inflation-adjusted dollars, respectively.
Trump said “more than 30 million” small-business owners would get a marginal tax rate reduction that, in reality, could have affected no more than about 670,000 high-income taxpayers who report business income.
Trump also pushed the popular myth that farm families often have to “sell the farm” in order to pay the estate tax. One expert told us he has never seen such a case in decades of studying the issue.
Health Care
At a campaign-style rally in Kentucky in March, Trump falsely said that “many of our best and brightest are leaving the medical profession entirely because of Obamacare.” The number of active physicians increased 8 percent from 2010, when the Affordable Care Act became law, to 2015, the most recent data available from the Association of American Medical Colleges.
Trump also wrongly claimed that “Obamacare covers very few people,” despite the fact that the number of Americans without health insurance had fallen by 20 million since the ACA was enacted. That’s according to the National Health Interview Survey, published by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Trump said, without evidence, that by allowing insurers to sell plans across state lines, “your premiums will be down 60 and 70 percent.” The White House provided no support for those figures. Experts told us they knew of no study to back up the claim, and they disputed the idea that average premiums would drop significantly.
2016 Election
Months after a convincing victory in the Electoral College, the new president continued to insist — without evidence — that millions of illegal votes caused him to lose the popular vote to Hillary Clinton.
But the “evidence” provided by the White House to substantiate claims about widespread voter fraud — from noncitizens voting, people voting in multiple states and so-called “dead people” voting — did not hold up. Nevertheless, the president formed a commission to investigate voter fraud, which has met twice. In November, one of the members of the Presidential Advisory Commission on Election Integrity, Matthew Dunlap, filed a complaint in district court to find out what exactly the commission is doing. He wrote: “The commission was formed in May to answer monster-under-the-bed questions about ‘voter fraud,’ but the implicit rationale for its creation appears to be to substantiate President Trump’s unfounded claims that up to 5 million people voted illegally in 2016.”
In September, Kris Kobach, vice chairman of the commission, claimed to have “proof” of voter fraud in New Hampshire that was widespread enough to have swung a U.S. Senate election in favor of the Democrats. His evidence? Several thousand people who registered to vote on Election Day with an out-of-state driver’s license had not since registered a car or gotten a driver’s license in New Hampshire. But it is likely that most of those voters were college students who are allowed by state law to vote in New Hampshire even though they only live in the state part of the year.
The president continues to relitigate an election that he won and repeat false claims from a year ago about his defeated opponent. Other election-related whoppers Trump told this year:

A day after his inauguration, Trump claimed the crowd at the event “looked like a million-and-a-half people,” saying it “went all the way back to the Washington Monument.” He accused the news media of lying about it. Sean Spicer, the White House press secretary at the time, read from a statement that said: “This was the largest audience to ever witness an inauguration, period, both in person and around the globe.” Both were wrong.
Trump claimed his November victory was “the biggest Electoral College win since Ronald Reagan.” It wasn’t. Three presidents since Reagan captured a larger share of electoral votes than Trump did, including Republican George H.W. Bush.
In a blast from the campaign past, Trump repeated his claim that “Hillary Clinton gave away 20 percent of the uranium in the United States” to Russia. He’s wrong on several counts. The deal that allowed Russia to take control of a company with uranium assets in the U.S. was approved by two government bodies, not any one person. As secretary of state, Clinton was one of nine voting members of the Committee on Foreign Investments in the United States that approved the deal. The Nuclear Regulatory Commission, which also approved the deal, told us Russia has not received any U.S. uranium as a result of the transaction. Trump’s use of the 20 percent figure is also wrong.
Whoppers from the Rest
Beyond Trump and his team, there were certainly others in both parties who spread false and misleading information in 2017.
Consider the statements of former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, a Republican whose wife is the U.S. ambassador to the Vatican, and Rep. Maxine Waters, a Democrat who is perhaps the president’s fiercest critic.
In a Fox News interview, Gingrich claimed “it wasn’t the Russians” that hacked into the DNC computers, but a former DNC staffer “who, I suspect, was disgusted by the corruption of the Democratic National Committee.” He said Seth Rich “apparently was assassinated” after “having given WikiLeaks something like … 53,000 [DNC] emails and 17,000 attachments.”
This fanciful tale has no basis in fact. Gingrich repeated an inaccurate report by the local Fox News affiliate in Washington, D.C., about Rich, who was shot to death in Washington, D.C., in July 2016 in what local police have described as a likely botched robbery. Gingrich spread this widely debunked conspiracy theory even though the Fox affiliate days earlier had largely retracted its report.
For her part, Waters spread unsubstantiated rumors about Trump in an MSNBC interview. Asked about an opposition research report compiled by a former British intelligence officer on Trump’s alleged ties with Russia, Waters falsely claimed that the unsubstantiated allegations of “sex actions” made against Trump in the report are “absolutely true.” Those claims haven’t been confirmed.
Here are other notable claims made by members of both parties this year — many of them about the failed Republican attempts to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act:
House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi said Democrats “don’t get much support from Wall Street.” That’s not so. The party’s congressional candidates got nearly $47 million from bankers, stockbrokers, hedge fund officials, venture capitalists and private equity firms in the 2016 campaign, according to the Center for Responsive Politics. That was slightly more than the $44 million that Democratic congressional candidates received during the same period from labor union PACs and officials.
Republican Sen. Ted Cruz claimed that “Obamacare is discouraging people from going to medical school.” There’s no evidence of that. In fact, the number of medical school applicants and enrollees reached an all-time high this year.
President Barack Obama, before leaving office, boasted that a treaty he signed in 2011 with Russia “has substantially reduced our nuclear stockpiles, both Russia and the United States.” In fact, the treaty does not require either nation to destroy any nuclear weapons or reduce its nuclear stockpile. The treaty, among other things, limits the number of deployed strategic nuclear warheads to 1,550 for each country, but at the time of Obama’s boast, Russia had actually increased deployed nuclear warheads under the treaty by 17 percent, from 1,537 to 1,796. As of Sept. 1, Russia reported having 1,561 deployed nuclear warheads — still 11 more than the treaty allows, although Russia has until February 2018 to comply with the 1,550 limits.
House Speaker Paul Ryan said he didn’t think anyone would be hurt by an $800 billion reduction in Medicaid spending over 10 years in the Republican health care bill. But, at the time, the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office estimated that 14 million fewer Americans would have Medicaid coverage by 2026, compared with current law.
Ryan and Independent Sen. Bernie Sanders both distorted the CBO’s analysis of the Republican health care bill. Sanders claimed that the bill “would throw 22 million Americans off of health insurance,” while Ryan said no one would be thrown off insurance. “It’s not that that people are getting pushed off our plan,” Ryan said. “It’s that people will choose not to buy something they don’t like or want.” Actually, CBO said the bill would reduce the number of people with health insurance by 22 million through a combination of both: Some would voluntarily choose not to buy health insurance, but others would no longer be eligible for Medicaid or would not be able to afford coverage.
Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto, a Democrat, wrongly claimed that “over 1.2 million Nevadans with preexisting conditions … would be denied coverage or face exorbitant, unaffordable premiums” under the GOP health care bill. The bill would not have allowed insurers to deny coverage. Also, the 1.2 million figure is a high-end estimate for all Nevadans with some preexisting condition — not just those likely to buy plans on the individual market who would be affected by the GOP bill.
Sen. Rand Paul, a Republican who voted against the health care bill, said subsidies “are actually greater under the Republican bill than they are under the current Obamacare law.” That’s wrong. CBO said the average subsidy under the bill would be “significantly lower than the average subsidy under current law,” and the government would save $424 billion over 10 years — compared with current law — due mainly to reductions in government subsidies.
Sen. Claire McCaskill, a Missouri Democrat, criticized Attorney General Jeff Sessions for failing to disclose that he met twice as a senator with the Russian ambassador during the campaign in 2016. Sessions said he did so as a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee. In a statement and on Twitter, McCaskill falsely claimed that in her 10 years on the Senate Armed Services Committee she had “no call from, or meeting with, the Russian ambassador. Ever.” She did.
Hillary Clinton falsely claimed that no debate moderator ever asked Donald Trump, “exactly how are you going to create more jobs?” It was asked in two of the three presidential debates between Clinton and Trump.
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Fact check: Trump hits turbulence by taking credit for airplane safety

Across the country, decades’ worth of rape kits are finally being tested, but no one can agree on what to do next. A story of good intentions — and government blunders.

Story by Jessica Contrera Photos by Adam Ewing
February 20, 2018

He wanted me to see the boxes. They were piled six or seven high, and there were so many stacks on the shelves it was hard to take them in all at once. The other aisles of the Virginia Beach Police Department’s evidence storage unit were filled with guns and knives, hard drives and cash piles — objects that had been used to do terrible things to people. But these boxes — rape kits — contained what was left on a person’s body when something terrible had already been done. “I wanted you to see that each one is a victim,” said Lt. Patrick Harris, who had brought me here. “Each one has a name and a story behind it.”
The stories, I knew, went like this: A woman said she was sexually assaulted. She was told that, to prove it, she would need to go to a room where she would be examined from the hairs on her head to the skin beneath her toenails. She was swabbed, plucked, prodded and photographed. When it was over, every bit of what had been taken off her body was slid into small bags, placed in one of these boxes and taped shut. Most likely, the woman assumed that her kit, full of potential DNA evidence, would be sent to a laboratory to be tested.
In the case of these kits, they were not. Today, the Justice Department recommends that all rape kits associated with a reported crime be submitted for DNA analysis. But up until just last year, there were no national requirements or guidelines on what to do with them. Most states had no laws dictating which kits should be tested, meaning every police department could have its own rules about what evidence to test, keep or throw away. Some even let individual detectives make those calls. What happened to a woman’s rape kit could depend not only on what state she was in, but which side of a county line she was on, or even who was on duty when she asked for help.
The results of this haphazard system have been well documented. In New York City, an estimated 17,000 kits went untested. In Houston, there were 6,000. In Detroit, Los Angeles and Memphis, there were more than 11,000 each. Over the past two decades, the “rape kit backlog” has been in the news so many times that now, slowly, the problem is being fixed across the country. Under pressure from activists and legislators, states and cities big and small are counting their kits and sending them to be tested. And then, they are beginning to quietly struggle with a far more complicated challenge: What happens once the kits come back?

That was what Harris, head of violent crimes investigations in Virginia Beach, had been trying to figure out. On the shelf in front of us were 344 kits that had been returned from the lab in 2017. Some were nearly two decades old. 344 names, 344 stories. For months, Harris and his colleagues had been debating a question: Should every victim whose name was on this shelf be notified that their kit had finally been tested? Or would reminding someone of their rape — out of the blue, years later, with no promise of a solution — cause them unnecessary harm?
The experiences of other cities offered no obvious answer. “I didn’t see them wrestle with any issue as deeply, with as much worry and compassion, as this one,” says Rebecca Campbell, a researcher who spent three years observing the handling of Detroit’s untested kits. “This one brought them to their knees.” In Detroit, it was ultimately decided that, at least at first, victims would be notified only if their kits resulted in a “hit,” meaning the DNA found in the box matched a person in the Combined DNA Index System, a national database of offenders better known as CODIS.
Houston tried a different model. A hotline was set up and publicized, so that any victim who wanted information about their old kit could ask for it. Then, police and prosecutors combed through the CODIS hits and decided which cases actually had a chance of moving forward in the criminal justice system. Victims were notified only if their cases seemed “actionable.” “What’s at stake is the well-being and mental health of sexual assault victims,” says Noël Busch-Armendariz, a researcher who was involved in Houston’s process. “You never know where people are in their lives and what support systems they have or don’t have ready for them.”
In Louisville, however, all victims were notified that their old kits were tested — even if not a speck of another person’s DNA was found in the box. Lt. David Allen of the Louisville Police sees it this way: “It’s their information. It belonged to them to start with, and we owe it to them to follow up.”
Even the organization of a famous television actor had tried to figure out what to do. The Joyful Heart Foundation — created by Mariska Hargitay, star of “Law & Order: Special Victims Unit” — had been instrumental in pressuring states to count their untested kits, and in 2016, the nonprofit released a 159-page report on victim notification. The consensus? “There was no agreement,” says researcher Courtney Ahrens. It wasn’t that the advocates she interviewed disagreed with police, or police disagreed with mental health professionals. There were disagreements within all of the groups she studied, even the victims themselves. Some said, “That’s my body in that kit.” They wanted to be notified by a knock at their front door, no matter what the results. Others were horrified at that idea. What if, they asked, the perpetrator of the assault was living in the same house?
In Virginia, this dilemma would ultimately pit police, prosecutors, advocates and lawmakers against one another, making the situation far more complicated than they ever intended. Everyone wanted to do the right thing for victims; there was just no way to know what that was.

In 2014, the Virginia legislature called for a count of untested rape kits. There were, it turned out, 2,902 kits in the state that had never gone to a lab. The oldest was from 1985.
The state’s attorney general, Democrat Mark R. Herring, had chaired a task force focused on sexual assault on college campuses; now, he wanted to take on the state’s rape kit backlog. As the legislature passed a bill ensuring all future kits would be tested within 60 days, Herring secured $3.4 million in grants to pay for the testing of the older kits at a private lab. Then his office drafted another piece of legislation that would require law enforcement agencies to notify victims that their kits had been tested. The bill’s chief patron was state Sen. Barbara A. Favola (D-Arlington). It passed both houses without a single dissenting vote and was signed into law by then-Gov. Terry McAuliffe in March 2017.
The choice of words in the law (and the ones left out) set the course for everything that happened next: “In the case of a physical evidence recovery kit that was received by a law-enforcement agency prior to July 1, 2016, and that has subsequently been submitted for analysis” — meaning, the rape kits that were previously untested — “the victim, a parent or guardian of a minor victim, or the next of kin of a deceased victim shall be notified by the law-enforcement agency of the completion of the analysis and shall, upon request, receive information from the law-enforcement agency regarding the results of any analysis.” The law, it appeared, mandated that all victims be contacted.
With more than 300 untested kits in its possession, Virginia Beach had the most of any jurisdiction in the state. It was the first to send its kits to the lab, the first to get them back, and the first to have to follow the new victim notification law.
Lt. Harris heard about the law from the department’s deputy chief, Bill Dean. They played out the scenario: “Do we call up a victim and say, ‘Remember that rape from 20 years ago?’ ” Harris asked. “ ‘Well, we’ve got the DNA test back, but we still can’t do anything with it.’ ”
It wasn’t that he didn’t want to do anything with it — if more than 300 kits meant detectives could go out and catch more than 300 rapists, he would be thrilled to do just that. But Harris knew this initiative likely wouldn’t lead to 300 or 100 or even 10 convictions. Unlike how things work on TV, DNA evidence is rarely the magic ingredient in putting someone behind bars. For the majority of victims, he suspected, their cases still couldn’t be proved before a judge or jury.
As the testing results came back from Bode Cellmark Forensics over the course of 2017, Harris and a prosecutor combed through each case file associated with the kits, searching the previous detectives’ notes to try to find something they could use. So far, of the 344 kits sent to the lab (all of which belonged to women), only 49 resulted in a “hit” — a match in the national CODIS database that would tell Harris whose DNA was found on the woman’s body. There was only one case of those 49 where the victim hadn’t already named that person as the perpetrator.
In most cases, he found the same challenges that have long made sex crimes one of the hardest detective jobs. Rape is almost always a crime that happens behind closed doors. There are rarely witnesses, and the people involved are rarely strangers. “The scenario is a boyfriend, or a recent acquaintance, someone they met at some type of drinking establishment. There is a very high chance that the victim knows the offender,” Harris says. Again and again, the cases come down to consent: If a suspect readily admits he and the victim had sex but claims it was consensual, then the fact that his DNA was found in the kit often doesn’t help. And while the rape kit examination also involves a search for physical damage, it’s rare to find evidence of it.

Still, there was reason for optimism in some cases. Some of the old kits had never been sent to the lab because victims told the detectives they no longer wanted the investigations to continue. It was clear how much detectives’ tactics for dealing with victims had evolved as they were trained in the ways trauma can affect a person’s behavior. In an old case file, for instance, a detective might describe a victim as “uncooperative.” Maybe, now that time had passed, and with the promise of being treated better, a victim might be willing to reengage.
One of the cases with potential involved a married woman who had attended a party with her friends nearly a dozen years ago. When she had gone upstairs to lie down, she had said, a man she knew came into the room and forced himself on her.
She reported it, underwent a rape kit examination, and named the suspect. But the kit was never sent to the lab, and the suspect was never interviewed because, according to the detective’s notes, the woman backed out of the investigation. The file said she told the detective she never wanted to hear from him again.
Harris assigned the case to Sgt. Shelly Meister, the head of the department’s Special Victims Unit. (Like other departments across the country, Virginia Beach had renamed its sex-crimes unit to match the name of the “Law & Order” show.) If this woman agreed, Harris told the sergeant, they would move forward with the investigation of her case. Meister spent days tracking down the victim, who had moved to another state. Then, one evening just before dinnertime, she called the woman’s cellphone. When no one answered, she left a purposely vague voice mail saying she was calling because she had some information to share.
Fifteen minutes later, Meister later recalled, her phone rang. When she picked up, a man was on the line. “Why are you calling?” he asked, clearly shaken. “Why did you upset my wife? How dare you leave a voice mail?” Meister apologized, explaining that she could not share why she was calling but would like to speak with his wife, if she was interested in calling back.
Thirty minutes later, Meister’s phone rang again. “Why are you calling me?” the woman asked, and Meister began to explain. The testing of her kit had resulted in a DNA hit, and the hit matched the suspect she had named all those years ago. Meister told her that the kit had never been sent, given that she had indicated she no longer wanted to hear from the detective.
“I never said that,” the woman interrupted, and then the story came pouring out. When she told her friends, they didn’t believe her. They said she had gotten drunk and gone upstairs because she wanted to have sex with the man. Her husband at the time didn’t believe her. It eventually destroyed her marriage and, for a number of years, her life. But she had gotten better. She was remarried now. Happily married, she said. Her new husband didn’t know anything about the rape. “Why are you trying to ruin that for me?” she asked.
Meister kept apologizing. She didn’t know why the detective wrote that; he didn’t work here anymore, she said. She explained that now things were different, that they could reinvestigate it all. Was this something she might like them to look into? “Absolutely not,” the woman said.
“Okay, you don’t have to decide now,” Meister told her. “You could call me in five years and decide to do it then.” There is no statute of limitations on rape in Virginia. “All the power is in your hands,” Meister said. The woman said she would think about it and get back to her by the end of the week.
She never called. Meister went into Harris’s office and told him what happened. If that was how someone responded when their case could actually be reopened, they wondered, what would happen when they notified all the people whose cases they knew hadn’t changed?

Lt. Patrick Harris of the Virginia Beach Police Department. Detail of a sample letter Virginia Beach police sent to women whose rape kits were tested.
Do we call up a victim and say, ‘Remember that rape from 20 years ago? Well, we’ve got the DNA test back, but we still can’t do anything with it.’

But it appeared they had no choice. In 2016, when they’d first begun preparing for the return of the kits, the Virginia Beach Police Department had gathered its most experienced SVU officers, victim advocates from the community and representatives from the city prosecutors’ office to devise a plan. They decided to follow in the footsteps of Houston, which notified only those victims whose cases police and prosecutors agreed were “actionable,” meaning the investigation could be reopened. They planned to set up a hotline that any victim could call to get information about their kit.
Then the victim notification law passed, and they weren’t sure if their plan would still work. So in the spring of 2017, they regathered the team and set up a meeting with representatives from the state attorney general’s office, where the law had been drafted. The word most people used to describe that meeting to me was “heated.” The Virginia Beach team came away discouraged. As sure as they were that it was not the right thing to do, it appeared they would be violating the law if they did not contact all 344 victims.
Virginia Beach’s chief prosecutor, Colin Stolle, conducted an independent review of the law and came to the same conclusion: All victims had to be contacted. And because the law said “shall be notified,” setting up a hotline didn’t count. “ ‘Shall’ means something very different than ‘may,’ ” Stolle told me. “It is an affirmative requirement that the police department take action.”

And so the question became how to take that action. In September, the team gathered again to discuss their options. They worried about notifying victims with a phone call, given what happened when Meister left that voice mail with the woman who had remarried. They considered having detectives and advocates make the notifications in person, but that, too, seemed problematic. “I’ve stated this a number of times. I don’t think having a police car show up in front of a victim’s house is the way to go,” argued Kristen Pine, the chief programs officer at the area’s YWCA, which offers every person who receives a rape kit examination an advocate to go through it beside them. In all the years that she had worked with victims of sex crimes, she had seen how devastating reminders of the assault could be. Some women she’d counseled still called her every year on the anniversary of their rape.
“A letter is the most passive,” Pine told the group. The other advocates in the room agreed. A letter could be sent via certified mail, so the woman whose name was on the envelope would be the only one who could sign for it. They could make it vague — avoiding words like “rape” or “SVU,” in case another person saw it — but include the date the crime was reported, so the victim would know what it was about.
“So,” Harris asked the group, “is everybody in agreement that a letter, in some form, is the best option?” Around the table, everyone on the team nodded. The meeting ended, and Pine headed back to the YWCA, thinking about what it might be like for the victims she has known to receive that letter. “How does the saying go?” she asked me. “The road to hell is paved with good intentions, right?”

I wanted to talk to the people with those good intentions, who had decided the law should require that all victims be contacted. As a reporter, I’m taught to distance myself from questions of policy; it’s not my job to take a side. As a woman, I wondered whether I would want the police to contact me had it been my kit on the shelf.
“The reality is that the response you are anticipating might be the exact opposite of what you expect,” said Kristine Hall, who, as then-policy director for the Virginia Sexual and Domestic Violence Action Alliance, helped craft the notification law and accompanied the representatives from the attorney general’s office to the “heated” meeting in Virginia Beach. “The victim I might expect to slam the door in my face might say, ‘I can finally close this chapter. I can move on and stop wondering.’ The person who is told, ‘We found your assailant,’ might slam the door in my face and say, ‘I put this away 30 years ago.’ ” As she saw it, the legislature had done the right thing by ensuring that all victims would be contacted.
When I interviewed state Sen. Favola, I assumed she would make a similar case. But when I asked during a phone interview in October about the law she had sponsored, it was as if we were talking about another piece of legislation entirely. “In my bill, only those who have a DNA hit are notified,” Favola told me. The law, she said, required notification of victims only when a kit resulted in a match in CODIS, the national database. In Virginia Beach, that would mean only 49 people, instead of 344.
“Let me see what it says in the bill here,” she continued. I explained that the law makes no mention of DNA hits or CODIS. “But I know that was the intent,” she countered. “That is what we explained to the [Senate] committee. Even though we didn’t spell it out specifically in the bill, I just felt there was no real purpose in notifying survivors if you didn’t have any new information.”
Perhaps she had misunderstood what the attorney general had wanted to happen, I thought. I had heard over and over from those in Virginia Beach that representatives from Herring’s office insisted all victims must be contacted. The police departments in Fairfax and Chesterfield counties — two of the next jurisdictions to receive their kits back from the lab — said the same. They, too, were planning to reach out to every victim.
When I interviewed Herring, he did stress the importance of victims being allowed to know what happens to their kits. “I have talked to survivors about this issue, and I’ve heard directly from them about how being allowed to participate in their case, being informed about the results of their test, helps give them closure,” he said.
But when it came to what the law required, his interpretation differed from both the one put forward by Favola and the one understood by the police. According to Herring, the key criterion was whether any DNA from someone other than the victim was found in the kit, even if that DNA could not be matched to a person in a national database. “If there is DNA present, whether there is a match or not, it would require notification,” he said.
I explained that Virginia Beach was soon going to notify all victims — not because they felt it was the right thing to do, but because representatives from Herring’s office had told them it was what the law required. “My understanding is that if there were no results, meaning there was no DNA, that they are not required to be notified,” Herring repeated. “But I will go back and double check.”
He did, and the next day, his press representative Lara Sisselman emailed me. Now, Herring was in line with Favola. “I know there was a little bit of confusion when you sat down with AG Herring yesterday, so I just wanted to reach out to clarify any miscommunication,” Sisselman wrote. “The Victim Notification Law requires law enforcement to notify a survivor when a tested kit yields a result that is a hit in CODIS.”
But this still put Herring’s interpretation of the law at odds with the police departments’ understanding. I felt certain that, now that the attorney general’s office was aware of the discrepancy, it would reach out to Virginia Beach and other police departments to inform them that they were not required to notify all victims. Maybe someone would apologize for the confusion or the imprecise wording of the law.
When I drove to Virginia Beach in November to watch the letters be sent, however, I arrived to find more than 300 of them on Harris’s desk, not 49. They hadn’t heard anything from Herring’s office. As I looked at the envelopes, a part of me wanted to blurt out, “You don’t have to send all of those!” But at the time, I didn’t know if that was true. The Virginia Sexual and Domestic Violence Action Alliance had told me notifying all victims was the intention of the law. The Virginia Beach prosecutor’s review of the law had reached the same conclusion. If I were to obstruct what was already in motion, I’d be stopping more than 200 victims from receiving their letters. I’d be taking a side in the difficult debate over whether they should be notified. I knew that wasn’t my job.
Compiling all the letters had taken Harris’s detectives weeks. So many of the victims had moved away, or had been in Virginia Beach only as tourists. Some had died, and so they had to search for a close family member to notify instead. Some had gone on to see their assailant arrested and found guilty, without the kit ever being tested. But because their kits were included in the 344, even they would be getting a letter now.
“On July 1 2017, the state of Virginia passed new legislation requiring municipalities to reach out to people who reported a crime in the past when an analysis of the evidence related to that report has been completed,” the letter said. “The Virginia Beach Police Department is contacting you because your previously reported crime with Offense Number [number here] falls into this category and we would like to provide you with your options to obtain more specific information regarding these developments.”
Harris had been trying to imagine how the women would react when they read these words. He didn’t know how many of them would call. But he did know that, because his department had to protect their privacy, I would never get the chance to talk with them, or ask them how they felt about being contacted.
So that morning, before he mailed the envelopes, he suggested that we go see the rape kits. We walked down the aisle slowly, reflecting at the sight of the boxes. The only women who wouldn’t receive one of the letters on Harris’s desk were the ones he and his detectives had called, asking for permission to reopen their cases. Every woman they tried had said no. They had already moved on.

In all of this, there was a missing link. In interpreting what the law required, Virginia Beach and other police departments had received guidance from representatives of the attorney general’s office. Much of that guidance, according to local police, had come from a woman named Lisa Furr, who had been coordinating the kit-testing project since its inception.
I had been asking to talk with her since September. In November, two weeks after Virginia Beach sent out the letters, the interview was finally arranged. I planned to drive down to Richmond but was told I could ask my questions only by phone, with a press representative on the line.
Furr had a reputation among the state’s victim advocacy community for being a straight shooter, with a good heart and the right intentions. She was cordial on the phone, explaining her job and the importance of making sure all past and future kits were tested. And she maintained that all along, she had told police they were required to send notifications only to those whose kits resulted in a CODIS hit. “We have said that repeatedly to you and others,” she said.
Why, then, would multiple police departments be notifying all victims, when they were deeply concerned about the harm that could cause? “I don’t know,” she said repeatedly.
The attorney general’s office insists that Furr’s recollection is correct and that, at the Virginia Beach meeting, there was a misinterpretation about the attorney general’s official position on notification. “I don’t believe that anyone from our office would have told any law enforcement agency they were required to notify all survivors whose kits are tested. We were consistent on that point throughout the legislative process and after,” spokesman Michael Kelly would later email me.
The police officers, prosecutors and local victim advocates who were in the “heated” meeting with Furr disagree; they are confident she insisted all victims be notified. The police departments in Chesterfield and Fairfax were still planning to do just that. And in Virginia Beach, throughout November, the consequences of that strategy were finally being revealed.
Jennifer Messick, the Virginia Beach Police Department’s victim advocate.
The first call came on Nov. 9, three days after the letters had been sent. It rang in the office of Jennifer Messick, the police department’s victim advocate, who had been sitting at her computer, sipping iced tea. She picked up her phone without pausing to brace herself, the way she would come to do in the weeks ahead. “Virginia Beach Police Department, this is Jennifer. May I help you?” she answered. The woman on the phone, Messick later recalled, was crying. She had received a letter. She wanted to know what was going on. Her case was more than a dozen years old.
Messick explained slowly and calmly: the kit, the requirement that they notify her, the fact that this didn’t mean the status of her case had changed. “Why would you do this?” the woman asked, still crying. Messick wanted to explain that she hadn’t been the one to do this, but it hardly mattered. She asked if the woman would like to speak to a detective. She offered to connect her to counseling services. The woman declined and hung up the phone.
One call came from a woman who received a letter about an in-law of hers. Messick looked up the case number and realized this was one of the cases in which the victim had died. The detectives had found an address for someone they thought was the victim’s next of kin. It was not. Now this woman was asking what she was supposed to do with the information that, more than a decade before, a relative she hadn’t been very close to had reported a rape.
Another call went directly to Lt. Harris. When he picked up, the woman on the line was hyperventilating. “What does this mean?” she asked. “Is he getting out of jail?” Harris, confused, quickly pulled up her case file. The man who assaulted her had been arrested and was serving time. Harris tried to calm her, explaining that her kit was tested only because of a change in policy. This didn’t mean anyone was getting out of jail, he said. The man had years left on his sentence.
That evening, the woman called back, begging for confirmation that when the man was released, they would call and warn her. “Promise me,” she said.

By the end of December, the Virginia Beach police had received 28 calls. Harris and Messick kept hearing the same phrases: I thought this was done. I put this behind me. They kept answering the same questions: What does this change? Is there anything I have to do? Why now?
In other cities, notifications had led to breakthroughs, where a victim, reminded of her assault after all these years, came forward with information that changed a case. In Louisville, there had been a case the lieutenant was certain would never be accepted by a prosecutor. Any detective, he said, would have agreed. Then they notified the victim, and because of new statements she made, a serial offender has been charged with her assault.
In Virginia Beach, however, there was no such moment. Meanwhile, an important debate about what a law should do was now overshadowed by confusion about what the law did do. Something had clearly gone wrong inside the creaky machinery of government. In December, I called and emailed Lisa Furr again. She never responded. But two days later, police departments across the state received an email from her, announcing she was leaving the attorney general’s office for a job in the nonprofit sector. She also wanted to clarify, she wrote, the requirements regarding the notification law. “Notification of victims should occur in all cases where there have been ‘hits’ in CODIS,” the email said.
After receiving that message, the police in Fairfax and Chesterfield changed their plans. A dismayed Lt. Harris replied to her, asking how it was possible that her instructions had suddenly changed. She thanked him for his feedback but did not answer his questions. He emailed the person managing the kit-testing project in her absence and says he received no response.
Maybe he would call the attorney general, Harris said. Or maybe what was done was done. He had so little time to dwell on it all. There were 55 new sex-crimes cases in November, and 42 in December. A woman said she was abused by her youth pastor. A woman reported going to a bar, going home and waking up with a man on top of her she didn’t remember inviting in. There were more victims who, to prove what happened, would need to go to a room where they would be swabbed, plucked and prodded. More names, more stories. More evidence to be tested.

Correction: A previous version of this article misspelled Kristen Pine’s name. It has been updated.
Jessica Contrera is a Washington Post staff writer.
Credits: Story by Jessica Contrera.

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Ill conceived and potentially harmful to US workers manufacturers.MA

‎Mar‎ ‎2 at ‎12‎:‎06‎ ‎PM

MARCH 2, 2018
Kuttner on TAP
Man of Steel. Donald Trump is imposing 25 percent tariffs on imported steel and 10 percent on aluminum. The unions, the bipartisan steel caucus in Congress, domestic steelmakers, and Trump’s nationalistic base were delighted. The usual suspects were appalled. And the stock market promptly plunged.
The Wall Street Journal, working itself into a full lather, warned that this was perverse economics, since 6.5 million Americans work in steel-using industries while only 140,000 work in steel-making.
So, how should we understand this? Are these tariffs a case of Trump doing something right for a change, or protectionist folly?
Here are two important things to understand. First, the major offender here is China. The Chinese subsidize steel, sell it below cost in world markets to grab market share and drive out other producers.
This is a flagrant violation of trade norms as well as a national security threat. According to an authoritative study by the Association for American Manufacturing, China now dwarfs every other producer, making 803 million metric tons (mmt) of steel, compared to just 78 mmt for the U.S.
Second, steel really is a vital industry. But if things continue on their present course, the American steel industry will be gone.
Here’s the problem. Raising tariffs in isolation is not a policy; it’s a stopgap. We need a much broader grand strategy to challenge China’s state-led capitalism as a strategic threat and to revise the entire structure of world trade law, which seems powerless to deal with Chinese predation. This seems well beyond Trump’s comprehension.
Today, he tweeted:
When a country (USA) is losing many billions of dollars on trade with virtually every country it does business with, trade wars are good, and easy to win. Example, when we are down $100 billion with a certain country and they get cute, don’t trade anymore-we win big. It’s easy!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) March 2, 2018
Say what?
In addition, raising tariffs is no substitute for an industrial policy. To revive American steelmaking and other manufacturing, we need targeted sectoral policies as well as a serious public infrastructure program with “buy America” provisions. That way there are made-in-America customers for made-in-America steel, and we begin rebuilding U.S. manufacturing generally.
So can we defend these tariffs? Yes, but only as a stopgap and only as part of a much larger set of policies that Trump is not capable of delivering. As the saying goes, even a stopped clock is right twice a day. ~ ROBERT KUTTNER

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The recent surge of gun (firearms) coverage is still missing the point. All of the slogans surrounding this issue never approach a real solution. The solution is relatively simple. The age requirement is one realistic approach, closing any existing “loopholes” for Gun Show sales should be closed along with a longer wait time after purchase could be practical. The biggest factor is that no firearm ever attacked or killed anyone on its own. The firearm itself is a tool that has been used by nefarious people some of whom are mentally unstable or just bad people. These people cover a wide range of age groups and races. The bottom line as I see it is; we need to have reasonable regulations on firearms. The cry of “Gun restriction” is no more than a buzzword to work people up over the wrong part of a bigger issue. What is apparent in spite of all the pros and cons on the subject is that not one of the groups involved have deemed it necessary to take a meeting and really discuss it. The politics of this comes down to who has the most money to issue ads that support or oppose a viewpoint. ALL of the deaths due to firearm usage are tragic and for the  most part senseless but unless the politics of this is removed, there will be no reasonable dialogue or solution. The monetary power of any organization over elected officials is dangerous to us all.

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Democracy Dies in Darkness
© 1996-2017 The Washington Post

The Plum Line | Opinion
Shocker: Democrats’ predictions about the GOP tax cut are coming true
By Paul Waldman
February 27, 2018 at 1:21 PM

Deputy editorial page editor and columnist Ruth Marcus counts the reasons why she thinks the GOP tax bill is awful. (Gillian Brockell, Kate Woodsome/The Washington Post)
When Republicans put together their tax bill last year, it was not much of a surprise to see that its centerpiece was a gigantic corporate tax cut, lowering the statutory corporate rate from 35 percent down to 21 percent. This cut accounted for about $1 trillion of the bill’s total $1.5 trillion cost, but Republicans said it really wasn’t about helping corporations at all.
No, the real target was the workers: Corporations would take the money and use it to create new jobs and raise the wages of those working for them, as trickle-down economics did its magical work.
Democrats, on the other hand, said it was a scam. They charged that workers would see only a fraction of the benefits, and instead corporations would use most of their windfall for things like stock buybacks, which increase share prices and benefit the wealthy people who own the vast majority of stocks.
And of course, most of the news media treated this argument in the standard he said/she said manner: Republicans say this, Democrats say that, and the truth lies in some secret location we may never actually reach.

Well, it has been only two months since President Trump signed the bill into law, and we’re already learning what anyone with any sense knew at the time: Everything Democrats predicted is turning out to be right. Let’s look at this report in the New York Times, which describes how stock buybacks are reaching record levels:
Almost 100 American corporations have trumpeted such plans in the past month. American companies have announced more than $178 billion in planned buybacks — the largest amount unveiled in a single quarter, according to Birinyi Associates, a market research firm.
Such purchases reduce a company’s total number of outstanding shares, giving each remaining share a slightly bigger piece of the profit pie.
Cisco said this month that in response to the tax package, it would bring back to the United States $67 billion of overseas cash, using $25 billion to finance additional share repurchases. Alphabet, the parent company of Google, authorized up to $8.6 billion in stock purchases. PepsiCo announced a fresh $15 billion in planned buybacks. Chip gear maker Applied Materials disclosed plans for a $6 billion program to buy shares. Late last month, home improvement retailer Lowe’s unveiled plans for $5 billion in purchases.
While the Times does note that some businesses are raising salaries, the piece concludes that “much” of the savings from the tax cuts is going to these buybacks, with this big-picture effect:
Those so-called buybacks are good for shareholders, including the senior executives who tend to be big owners of their companies’ stock. A company purchasing its own shares is a time-tested way to bolster its stock price.
But the purchases can come at the expense of investments in things like hiring, research and development and building new plants — the sort of investments that directly help the overall economy. The buybacks are also most likely to worsen economic inequality because the benefits of stocks purchases flow disproportionately to the richest Americans.
This is exactly what Democrats warned would happen. How could Democrats have been so clairvoyant? Do they own a time machine?
Well, no. They applied logic, looked at data and understood history. Republicans, on the other hand, were spinning out a ludicrous fantasy with no basis whatsoever.
Among the things Democrats pointed out was that even before the tax cut, corporations were making near-record profits and sitting on mountains of cash; if they wanted to invest, create jobs and raise wages, they already had the means to do it. They also observed that even before the tax cut passed, corporations were saying publicly that they intended to use the money for stock buybacks.
But what about those bonuses that companies announced and that Trump kept touting? It’s true that some companies did give workers one-time bonuses. But it was essentially a PR move. Take Walmart, for instance. It made a splashy announcement that it would be giving bonuses of up to $1,000 to workers, which sounded great. But then it turned out that you’d only get that much if you’d been working there for 20 years, and the average worker would get around $190. Which is better than nothing, but it isn’t exactly going to transform your life.

And as ThinkProgress noted, the total value of Walmart’s bonuses was $400 million, which seems like a lot until you learn that over 10 years the value of the tax cut to the corporation will be $18 billion. In other words, about 2 percent of its tax cut is going to workers, at least in the short run.
How many times do we have to play this game? When a new policy debate emerges, Democrats try to make an argument that has some connection to reality, while Republicans make absurd claims in the knowledge that even if they get debunked in the occasional “news analysis” piece, on the whole they’ll be treated with complete seriousness, no matter how ridiculous they are.
It’s in part because lies about the future — and that’s what they are when you know that what you’re saying is utterly bogus — will not be policed with nearly the same vigor as lies about the past. If Trump claims that he had the largest inaugural crowd in history, it will immediately get shot down and subject to mockery even from neutral reporters. But if he says that all the benefits of his corporate tax cut will flow to workers, which is no less a lie, it will usually be met with “Critics question whether there is evidence to support his assertion.” When Republicans said that their tax cut wouldn’t increase the deficit because it would create so much economic growth that revenue would actually increase, it was treated as a questionable claim, not an assertion on par with “If I flap my arms, I can fly to the moon” or “With a week of training, my dog will be able to do a perfect rendition of ‘Enter Sandman’ on the electric guitar.”
Democrats could play this game if they wanted to. They could say that we need to fix the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program because every “dreamer” creates 500 jobs for native-born Americans. They could say that single-payer health insurance will increase life expectancy to 150 years. They could say that we can give everyone free college at a cost of only $0.79 per taxpayer. But they don’t. It isn’t that Democrats don’t ever make a misleading argument or get some facts wrong, because they do. But when they do it’s generally on the small stuff, not on foundational claims that get repeated hundreds of times by every one of them in support of their highest legislative priority.
If you’re a Republican, you look at this news and say, “So what?” Everything’s working out great: You got your tax cut, corporations and the wealthy are swimming in money, and the next time you take control of government you’ll do it all over again. Sure, Democrats will squawk, and all their criticisms and predictions will turn out to be right. But it hasn’t stopped you in the past, and it won’t in the future.

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Recent speeches and Tweets from the White House show how ignorant the Resident is of facts:

AP FACT CHECK: Trump twists visa lottery program
CALVIN WOODWARD,Associated Press 21 hours ago

WASHINGTON (AP) — President Donald Trump is expressing frustration with an immigration program that he says lets other countries nominate undesirable citizens for emigration to the U.S. That path to a life in the U.S. does not exist.
Trump mischaracterizes the diversity visa lottery program regularly, most recently on Fox News on the weekend and most prominently in his State of the Union speech last month. The only accurate part of his account tends to be that a lottery is involved and that the program is not based primarily on the skills of immigrants. Other countries have no say in how it operates and the lottery is not as random as he describes.
A look at his comments and the reality behind them:
TRUMP: “I mean we actually have lottery systems where you go to countries and they do lotteries for who comes into the United States. Now, you know they are not going to have their best people in the lottery, because they’re not going to put their best people in a lottery. They don’t want to have their good people to leave. … We want people based on merit. Not based on the fact they are thrown into a bin and many of those people are not the people you want in the country, believe me.” — Fox News phone interview Saturday night.

THE FACTS: That’s not how it works.
The lottery program is run by the U.S. government. Other countries do not sort through their populations looking for bad apples to put in a “bin” for export to the U.S. Citizens of qualifying countries are the ones who decide to bid for visas under the program.
Trump was also wrong in stating in his speech to Congress that the program “randomly hands out green cards without any regard to skill, merit or the safety of our people.”
Whether the program adequately addresses those conditions is up for debate. But it’s wrong to say they are given no regard.
The program requires applicants to have completed a high school education or have at least two years of experience in the last five years in a selection of fields identified by the Labor Department.
Out of that pool of people from certain countries who meet those conditions, the State Department randomly selects a much smaller pool of winners. Not all winners will have visas ultimately approved, because they still must compete for a smaller number of slots by getting their applications in quickly. Those who are ultimately offered visas still need to go through background checks, like other immigrants.
The lottery is extended to citizens of most countries, except about 20. Among the excluded countries are many that already have high rates of emigration to the U.S., such as Mexico, Canada and India. The program’s primary goal is to diversify the immigrant population by creating slots for underrepresented parts of the world.
In the 2015 lottery program, the State Department randomly selected more than 125,000 people who met the pre-conditions. Citizens of Cameroon, Liberia, Congo, Iran and Nepal led the list, winning about 5,000 potential visa slots each.
Among those winners, the department then accepted the first 50,000 who applied for the visas. This is out of millions who typically apply.
The program was created with broad bipartisan support. Back in 1990, after a broader immigration bill containing the visa program passed the House, the legislation sailed through the Senate on an 89-8 vote.
But now, Trump and likeminded Republicans want to eliminate it and curb family-based immigration as well, in favor of a system that is more focused on bringing in people who have needed skills and education.

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