Links for 8-16-2017

Links for 7-10-2017

  • A C–130 crashed in Mississippi, killing five people. It’s not clear if it was a U.S. Air Force plane or a National Guard plane.
  • A U.S. Army soldier named Ikaika Kang was arrested and charged with providing material support to ISIS.
  • The Trump administration is continuing an Obama administration policy of illegally routing ObamaCare tax revenues to insurance companies ahead of the Treasury:

    In addition to paying insurers up to $20 billion—repeat, $20 billion—between 2014 and 2016, the law also required those assessments on employers to fund $5 billion in payments to the Treasury, offsetting the cost of another Obamacare program. For whatever reason, the employer assessments the past three years have not yielded the $25 billion needed to fund $20 billion in payments to insurers, plus the $5 billion in payments to the Treasury. In the event of such a circumstance, the law states that the Treasury should be paid before health insurers.

    So what did the Obama administration do? You guessed it. They paid health insurers first, and gave the Treasury—taxpayers like you and me—the shaft.

    Later:

    So, it seems, has the new administration. The report on reinsurance included not a word about making payments to the Treasury Department, reimbursing taxpayers the billions they are owed under the law. Nor did the report mention potential actions to sue health insurers to reclaim funds they received that are rightly owed to the U.S. Treasury.

  • Mitch McConnell plans to bring TrumpCare up for a vote in the Senate next week, and the bill will reportedly lack the Cruz-Lee Consumer Freedom Amendment that would allow insurance companies to sell policies that don’t comply with ObamaCare regulations.
  • Mitch McConnell is using his super PAC and companion 501(c)4 group to defeat House Freedom Caucus member Mo Brooks in Alabama’s special election for U.S. Senate. McConnell favors Luther Strange, who was appointed to the seat but faces a contentious primary election to keep it.
  • The Hill reported that James Comey’s memos about his conversations with Donald Trump are government property and half of them contain classified information. This implies that Comey may have leaked classified information, which could put him in the company of Hillary Clinton and David Petraeus.
  • A new peer-reviewed study indicates that “‘nearly all’ of the warming shown in current temperature datasets from NASA, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and the Met Office in the United Kingdom are the result of adjustments made to the datasets after temperatures were recorded.”

    “The conclusive findings of this research are that the three GAST data sets are not a valid representation of reality,” the authors wrote. “In fact, the magnitude of their historical data adjustments, that removed their cyclical temperature patterns, are totally inconsistent with published and credible U.S. and other temperature data. Thus, it is impossible to conclude from the three published GAST data sets that recent years have been the warmest ever — despite current claims of record setting warming.”

    “Nearly all of the warming they are now showing are in the adjustments,” meteorologist Joe D’Aleo, who co-authored the study, said to the Daily Caller News Foundation. “Each dataset pushed down the 1940s warming and pushed up the current warming.”

  • Luma Simms writes that Islamic activist Linda Sarsour is “inciting sedition from Muslims in America”:

    I am a Christian immigrant from Iraq. We know what Muslim agitation and radicalization looks like and where it leads. Sarsour knew full well how what she said would affect the particular community she was speaking to. This was no women’s march, this is a talk to the Muslim community, in which she chastises those who would accept our government peacefully.

    Later:

    Underlying this entire speech is a fundamental assumption: The American government is oppressive and it is our duty to resist and fight against it. Anyone inside and outside the Muslim community who assimilates, who sides with American government, is an oppressor and should be resisted. This is warfare mentality; it is agitation and incitement. But will the Muslim community heed Sarsour?

  • Mike Newall wrote a fascinating account of Philadelphia’s shuttered Ascension of Our Lord cathedral, which is now a shooting gallery for heroin users:

    So Father Murphy and Sister Raymond walked the few blocks to the church that long was the jewel of the neighborhood, until it wasn’t. They stepped through a window, glass crunching underneath their feet.

    In the half-light, they could make out thin forms. Some shot heroin in the pews, some laid half-naked on mattresses. Others stumbled past in their stupor, not noticing the priest and nun in their presence.

    Father Murphy did all he could think to do. He began to bless them.

  • Illinois’ first budget in two years is full of holes:

    To address the state’s nearly $15 billion in unpaid bills, Illinois depends heavily on borrowing. Lawmakers approved $6 billion of 12-year bonds to raise money for repayments. But State Representative Greg Harris, the House Democrats’ point person on the budget, has acknowledged there is only enough revenue to support half of that borrowing amount.

    Illinois will also borrow up to $1.2 billion from various state accounts that have accumulated cash for specific purposes, while “sweeping” cash from other accounts –a government version of looking under couch cushions that is expected to yield $300 million.

    Illinois’ $130 billion pension liability is one of the largest in the nation, and the new budget takes only small steps to address the structural underfunding of Illinois’ five retirement systems.

  • Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi declared victory over ISIS in Mosul.
  • Siemens said two of its electricity-generating gas turbines were moved “against its will” from Russia to Crimea. Siemens claims that it will “initiate criminal charges against the responsible individuals,” but it’s not clear how you do that in Russia.
  • North Korea’s latest intercontinental ballistic missile can reach Australia, and they don’t have a missile defense system.
  • Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said Iraqi Kurds shouldn’t hold a referendum on independence.
  • On Sunday, Turkey’s Republican People’s Party (CHP) staged a huge protest against Erdogan in a suburb of Istanbul.
  • Israel’s head of military intelligence, Major General Herzi Halevi, confirmed that the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps is building advanced missile manufacturing facilities in Lebanon. Hezbollah would use these missiles in its next war with Israel, and if they have enough of them they could overwhelm Israel’s missile defense systems.
  • The deputy head of China’s state asset manager, Zhang Xiwu, was arrested on corruption charges. China’s Assets Supervision and Administration Commission is the world’s largest controlling company.

    There is more than meets the eye to the case of Zhang Xiwu, who once regulated more than 150 Chinese companies and their one trillion dollars in assets. Zhang is the latest crony of Zeng Qinghong, the former Chinese Communist Party vice-chair and number two member of an influential political faction, to run into trouble in recent months, and Zhang’s fall suggests that a case is being built against his political patron.

  • Julie Borowski believes the “Fight for 15” will be a huge help to introverted consumers:

Links for 7-5-2017

Links for 5-5-2017

  • A U.S. Navy SEAL was killed fighting al Shabaab in Somalia. Two other SEALs were wounded.

  • The House Oversight and Government Reform Committee started an investigation of Barack Obama’s Iran deal, specifically looking into whether the Obama administration undermined counterproliferation efforts targeting Iranian weapons trafficking.

  • Donald Trump’s nominee to be Secretary of the Army, Mark Green, withdrew his name from consideration. Leftist groups attacked Green because he believes transgenderism is a mental illness.

  • The Department of the Interior is reviewing 21 national and five marine monuments that were created by previous administrations. This doesn’t necessarily mean they’ll be stripped of their status as monuments.

  • Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas said this to Donald Trump yesterday: “Mr. President, I affirm to you that we are raising our youth, our children and grandchildren, in a culture of peace.” This is a lie.

  • Kevin Williamson writes that TrumpCare and ObamaCare fail to recognize the economic concept of scarcity:

    We have perfectly functional markets in all sorts of life-and-death goods. They expect you to pay up at the grocery store, too, but poor people are not starving in the American streets, because we came up with this so-crazy-it-just-might-work idea of giving poor people money and money analogues (such as food stamps) to pay for food. It is not a perfect system, but it is preferable, as we know from unhappy experiences abroad, to having the government try to run the farms, as government did in the Soviet Union, or the grocery stores, as government does in hungry, miserable Venezuela. The Apple Store has its shortcomings, to be sure, but I’d rather have a health-care system that looks like the Apple Store than one that looks like a Venezuelan grocery store.

    There is a certain libertarian tendency to look at messes such as the Affordable Care Act and the American Health Care Act and throw up one’s hands, exclaiming: “Just let markets work!” We should certainly let markets work, but not “just.” We aren’t going to let children with congenital birth defects suffer just because they might have stupid and irresponsible parents, and we are not going to let old people who have outlived their retirement savings die of pneumonia because we don’t want to spend a couple of thousand bucks treating them. But we also do not have a society in which everybody is on Section 8 and food stamps, nor do we want one. Developing sensible, intelligently run, reasonably generous welfare programs for those who cannot or simply have not done it for themselves is a relatively small project, but trying to have government impose some kind of political discipline on the entirety of the health-care system — which is as explicit a part of the current daft Republican health-care program as it is of Obamacare — is a different kind of project entirely.

  • The French presidential election is Sunday, and today 9GB of emails from Emmanuel Macron’s campaign appeared online.

  • Russia deployed several units of Chechen and Ingush special forces troops from the North Caucasus region to Syria:

    “I think this represents Moscow’s grudging recognition that it’s stuck in a quagmire,” says Mark Galeotti, a senior researcher at the Institute of International Relations in Prague. In their hybrid civil-military role, capable of a wide range of operations, these brigades have become a go-to deployment for the Kremlin as it seeks to assert itself in various theaters abroad. Chechen fighters have appeared alongside pro-separatist Russian “volunteers” in eastern Ukraine, and several battalions of Chechen servicemen also entered Georgia during its brief war with Russia in August 2008, occupying the town of Gori. At least some of the Chechen troops deployed in Syria have combat experience in eastern Ukraine, with the Russian newspaper Novaya Gazeta reporting that one of the Chechen commanders is Apti Bolotkhanov, who spent substantial time fighting alongside pro-Russian forces in the Donbass.

    But beyond their skill on the battlefield, the brigades are valuable to Moscow for other reasons. Russian society and leadership have proved extremely sensitive to casualties in Syria; the Kremlin has gone to extreme lengths to hide its losses. Casualties are often only publicly confirmed after observers find the tombstones of deceased soldiers in their hometown cemeteries. Moscow’s official figures only account for 30 dead in Syria — with the true figure likely much higher. Using nonethnic Russian special personnel might protect the Kremlin from a public backlash sparked by rising battlefield casualties. Losses incurred by the new, North Caucasian contingent are unlikely to trigger such a response. Russian society carries a deep-seated resentment toward natives of the region, in particular Chechens, after two wars in the 1990s and multiple terrorist attacks since.

  • Russia, Turkey, and Iran defined “de-escalation” zones in Syria and declared that American aircraft cannot fly over them.

  • NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory published a video of what the Cassini probe saw when it dove between Saturn and its rings:

Links for 5-1-2017

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