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Three US Allies Now Fighting Against Each Other in Northern Syria

(ANTIWARWith America’s own war in Syria vague in both scope and end-game, they’ve been eager to amass allies that seem potentially useful toward some talking point or other. In having done so, however, they’ve picked up a motley crew of “US-backed” groups that have wildly different goals.

That’s been a recurring problem, but became dramatically moreso this past week, when US-backed Turkey invaded northern Syria, and brought with it a US-backed rebel bloc that includes part of the Free Syrian Army (FSA) and the Islamist Ahrar al-Sham. Within 24-hours, both quickly got into a fight with the Kurdish YPG, who is also US-backed, putting three US allies in direct conflict.

US officials have been quick to complain about the matter, arguing that fighting is “unacceptable” and that the battlefield in this area of north Syria along the Euphrates River is “getting too crowded,” but such factions were at odds from the start, making the conflicts only a matter of time.

Indeed, throughout the US war in Syria, they’ve been backing the Kurdish YPG despite explicit warnings from Turkey that it would lead to exactly what it led to, Turkish intervention to stop the Kurds from expanding further west. Turkey was very public about the Euphrates River being a “red line,” and invaded almost immediately after the Kurds captured their first city on the other side of the river.

The US calls for everyone to just focus on ISIS rings extremely hollow, because while all of these factions got into proximity with one another by taking ISIS territory (largely with the help of the US), the juiciest plums in the area are no longer in ISIS’ hands, and the fight against ISIS was always going to be followed up immediately with this fight.


This article (Three US Allies Now Fighting Against Each Other in Northern Syria) by Jason Ditz, originally appeared on AntiWar.com and was used with permission. Anti-Media Radio airs weeknights at 11pm Eastern/8pm Pacific. If you spot a typo, email edits@theantimedia.org.

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Jackie Robinson: “I cannot stand and sing the anthem. I cannot salute the flag”

In 1972 Jackie Robinson wrote his autobiography. In it he reflected on how he felt about his historical legacy as a baseball player, a businessman and as a political activist. A political activism, it should be noted, which favored both sides of the aisle at various times. He supported Nixon in 1960, supported the war in Vietnam and worked for Nelson Rockefeller. He did not support Goldwater and did support the 1964 Civil Rights Act. He supported Humphrey against Nixon in 1968. He was no blind partisan or ideologue. When you find someone like that you can usually rest assured it’s because they’re thinking hard and thinking critically in a world where things aren’t always cut-and-dried.

As such, this statement from his autobiography, describing his memory of the first game of the 1947 World Series, is worth thinking about. Because it came from someone who spent a lot of time thinking:

There I was, the black grandson of a slave, the son of a black sharecropper, part of a historic occasion, a symbolic hero to my people. The air was sparkling. The sunlight was warm. The band struck up the national anthem. The flag billowed in the wind. It should have been a glorious moment for me as the stirring words of the national anthem poured from the stands. Perhaps, it was, but then again, perhaps, the anthem could be called the theme song for a drama called The Noble Experiment. Today, as I look back on that opening game of my first world series, I must tell you that it was Mr. Rickey’s drama and that I was only a principal actor. As I write this twenty years later, I cannot stand and sing the anthem. I cannot salute the flag; I know that I am a black man in a white world. In 1972, in 1947, at my birth in 1919, I know that I never had it made.

Colin Kaepernick is not Jackie Robinson and America in 2016 is not the same as America in 1919, 1947 or 1972. But it does not take one of Jackie Robinson’s stature or experience to see and take issue with injustice and inequality which manifestly still exists.

As I said in the earlier post, the First Amendment gives us just as much right to criticize Kaepernick as it gives him a right to protest in the manner in which he chooses. But if and when we do, we should not consider his case in a vacuum or criticize him as some singular or radical actor. Because some other people — people who have been elevated to a level which has largely immunized them from criticism — felt and feel the same way he does. It’s worth asking yourself, if you take issue, whether you take issue with the message or the messenger and why. Such inquiries might complicate one’s feelings on the matter, but they’re quite illuminative as well.

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Colin Kaepernick Is Righter Than You Know: The National Anthem Is a Celebration of Slavery

BEFORE A PRESEASON GAME on Friday, San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick refused to stand for the playing of “The Star-Spangled Banner.” When he explained why, he only spoke about the present: “I am not going to stand up to show pride in a flag for a country that oppresses black people and people of color. … There are bodies in the street and people getting paid leave and getting away with murder.”

Twitter then went predictably nuts, with at least one 49ers fan burning Kaepernick’s jersey.

Almost no one seems to be aware that even if the U.S. were a perfect country today, it would be bizarre to expect African-American players to stand for “The Star-Spangled Banner.” Why? Because it literally celebrates the murder of African-Americans.

Few people know this because we only ever sing the first verse. But read the end of the third verse and you’ll see why “The Star-Spangled Banner” is not just a musical atrocity, it’s an intellectual and moral one, too:

No refuge could save the hireling and slave
From the terror of flight or the gloom of the grave,
And the star-spangled banner in triumph doth wave
O’er the land of the free and the home of the brave.

“The Star-Spangled Banner,” Americans hazily remember, was written by Francis Scott Key about the Battle of Fort McHenry in Baltimore during the War of 1812. But we don’t ever talk about how the War of 1812 was a war of aggression that began with an attempt by the U.S. to grab Canada from the British Empire.

However, we’d wildly overestimated the strength of the U.S. military. By the time of the Battle of Fort McHenry in 1814, the British had counterattacked and overrun Washington, D.C., setting fire to the White House.

And one of the key tactics behind the British military’s success was its active recruitment of American slaves. As a detailed 2014 article in Harper’sexplains, the orders given to the Royal Navy’s Admiral Sir George Cockburn read:

Let the landings you make be more for the protection of the desertion of the Black Population than with a view to any other advantage. … The great point to be attained is the cordial Support of the Black population. With them properly armed & backed with 20,000 British Troops, Mr. Madison will be hurled from his throne.

Whole families found their way to the ships of the British, who accepted everyone and pledged no one would be given back to their “owners.” Adult men were trained to create a regiment called the Colonial Marines, who participated in many of the most important battles, including the August 1814 raid on Washington.

Then on the night of September 13, 1814, the British bombarded Fort McHenry. Key, seeing the fort’s flag the next morning, was inspired to write the lyrics for “The Star-Spangled Banner.”

So when Key penned “No refuge could save the hireling and slave / From the terror of flight or the gloom of the grave,” he was taking great satisfaction in the death of slaves who’d freed themselves. His perspective may have been affected by the fact he owned several slaves himself.

With that in mind, think again about the next two lines: “And the star-spangled banner in triumph doth wave / O’er the land of the free and the home of the brave.”

The reality is that there were human beings fighting for freedom with incredible bravery during the War of 1812. However, “The Star-Spangled Banner” glorifies America’s “triumph” over them — and then turns that reality completely upside down, transforming their killers into the courageous freedom fighters.

After the U.S. and the British signed a peace treaty at the end of 1814, the U.S. government demanded the return of American “property,” which by that point numbered about 6,000 people. The British refused. Most of the 6,000 eventually settled in Canada, with some going to Trinidad, where their descendants are still known as “Merikins.”

Furthermore, if those leading the backlash against Kaepernick need more inspiration, they can get it from Francis Scott Key’s later life.

By 1833, Key was a district attorney for Washington, D.C. As described in a book called Snowstorm in August by former Washington Post reporter Jefferson Morley, the police were notorious thieves, frequently stealing free blacks’ possessions with impunity. One night, one of the constables tried to attack a woman who escaped and ran away — until she fell off a bridge across the Potomac and drowned.

“There is neither mercy nor justice for colored people in this district,” an abolitionist paper wrote. “No fuss or stir was made about it. She was got out of the river, and was buried, and there the matter ended.”

Key was furious and indicted the newspaper for intending “to injure, oppress, aggrieve & vilify the good name, fame, credit & reputation of the Magistrates & constables of Washington County.”

You can decide for yourself whether there’s some connection between what happened 200 years ago and what Colin Kaepernick is angry about today. Maybe it’s all ancient, meaningless history. Or maybe it’s not, and Kaepernick is right, and we really need a new national anthem.

CONTACT THE AUTHOR:

Jon Schwarz

 

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Washington to Start Marijuana Research Defying DEA and Federal Rules

Washington state is moving ahead with its plans to allow scientific research of marijuana, sidestepping federal rules that critics say have hampered study of the drug for decades.

The state has a new marijuana research license that will allow laboratories to grow marijuana for scientific study. State officials expect to start accepting applications for the new license by January.

Supporters hope the state licensing helps provide new evidence of marijuana’s effectiveness as a medical treatment, potentially paving the way for the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration to ease restrictions on the drug’s possession and use.

“The importance of it really hit home when the DEA decided not to reschedule medical marijuana (last week) because, they said, ‘we just don’t have enough research,’ ” said state Sen. Ann Rivers, R-La Center, who sponsored a bill this year to move Washington’s marijuana research license system forward.

“We need some research institutions to come up with great information that we as legislators can use as we create policy.”

IT IS VERY DIFFICULT FOR PEOPLE TO PRODUCE RESEARCH ON (MARIJUANA), WHICH LEADS TO THERE NOT BEING AS MUCH RESEARCH OUT THERE AS THERE SHOULD BE.

Sam Méndez, executive director of the Cannabis Law & Policy Project at the University of Washington School of Law

Last week, the DEA cited the lack of evidence of a medical use for marijuana as a reason to keep it classified as a Schedule 1 drug, the most highly regulated category, which includes LSD and heroin.

But it’s precisely that classification of marijuana that makes researching the drug so difficult, said Sam Méndez, executive director of the Cannabis Law & Policy Project at the University of Washington School of Law.

“It’s been sort of a chicken-and-egg story, where the DEA and the federal government say marijuana is a Schedule 1 narcotic because there is not sufficient evidence to suggest there is a medical use for it,” Méndez said.

At the same time, “It is very difficult for people to produce research on it, which leads to there not being as much research out there as there should be,” he said.

In the past, researchers have been able to access research-grade marijuana from only a single source: The University of Mississippi.

While the DEA announced last week it will allow more U.S. facilities to apply to grow marijuana for research, Méndez said researchers will still face many barriers getting the federal permits to work with the federally sanctioned product, making a state research license as necessary as ever.

THE MARIJUANA RESEARCH LICENSE PROVIDES A UNIQUE OPPORTUNITY FOR WASHINGTON STATE … TO ADVANCE THE FIELD OF MARIJUANA RESEARCH

Peter Antolin, deputy director of the state Liquor and Cannabis Board

“It can take up to two years just to get the federal licenses in the first place, because the process is so long and onerous,” Méndez said.

Scientists also want to be able to apply the discoveries they make directly to the state’s legal medical and recreational pot system, something a federal research license would make difficult or impossible, said Jessica Tonani, CEO of Verda Bio, a research company in Seattle.

“If you developed a strain (of marijuana) that has pest resistance or something, you’d want the growers in the state to be able to access that,” she gave as one example.

Tonani, who has lobbied for years to create a state marijuana research license, is looking to selectively breed marijuana plants based on the cannabinoids they contain, so she can test whether certain types of cannabinoids are useful for treating various diseases.

Among the questions she wants to answer: “Is there a clinical profile that is best for MS patients, or cancer patients, or helps take away patients’ pain?”

“To do that we need to do selective breeding and then get those out in the population to monitor those effects,” she said.

WE NEED SOME RESEARCH INSTITUTIONS TO COME UP WITH GREAT INFORMATION THAT WE AS LEGISLATORS CAN USE AS WE CREATE POLICY.

State Sen. Ann Rivers, R-La Center

Previously under Washington state law, only three types of licenses were available: producer, processor and retailer, none of which allows the kind of work Tonani envisions.

The state Liquor and Cannabis Board is now setting up a scientific review panel to scrutinize applications for the new marijuana research license, a first step toward opening the door to applicants, said board spokesman Brian Smith.

The scientific review panel — made up of officials from Washington State University and the University of Washington — will evaluate the quality of proposed research projects, as well as whether applicants have the expertise and facilities to carry out the work.

After developing rules to govern the application process, the LCB expects to start soliciting applications at the start of 2017, with the first licenses to be issued sometime after that.

State officials said they think the program puts Washington in a good position to become a pot-researching pioneer.

“The marijuana research license provides a unique opportunity for Washington State … to advance the field of marijuana research and solidify Washington as a leader in this field,” wrote Peter Antolin, the LCB’s deputy director, in a letter to officials at UW and WSU earlier this month.

HERE WE HAVE AN OPIOID ADDICTION EPIDEMIC, AND THEY’RE STILL ALLOWING OPIOID-DERIVATIVE DRUGS TO BE PRESCRIBED, BUT NOT MARIJUANA.

Jeanne Kohl-Welles, a King County Council member and former Democratic state senator, on the need for federal officials to ease restrictions on marijuana

While some other states, including Oregon, are working to develop similar licenses, “none have yet been implemented,” the letter says.

Questions remain about how well university researchers will be able to take advantage of the state-level research license, given the federal funding those institutions receive.

That funding “comes with many strings attached, including, when it comes to conducting research, the requirement to follow the necessary and sometimes cumbersome DEA regulations related to controlled substances,” wrote Dan Nordquist, the associate vice president of WSU’s Office of Research Support and Operations, in an email.

Méndez, at the UW, said he expects private companies will be the ones most interested in the state research license, but he thinks there may still be potential for universities to partner with state-licensed private labs.

Jeanne Kohl-Welles, a King County Council member and former Democratic state senator, called the limitations on university researchers “one of the real problems that still continues.”

Kohl-Welles, who sponsored legislation in 2015 to create the new license, said those problems highlight the need for the DEA to reschedule marijuana sooner rather than later.

“Here we have an opioid addiction epidemic, and they’re still allowing opioid-derivative drugs to be prescribed, but not marijuana,” she said.

“There’s been so much evidence and public acceptance, I think they should be reclassifying marijuana now, not waiting for sometime off in the future.”

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(Video) Jack Splitt, the teen who helped change Colorado medical pot law, has died

Jack Splitt was a charmer, a flirt and a fighter for the right to open Colorado school doors for medical marijuana treatments for eligible students.

But most of all, the 15-year-old, who died Wednesday, was a good son and a role model for his younger brother, Cooper, their mother said Thursday. Stacey Linn also said Jack, who battled cerebral palsy and the brutal pain that accompanied it, came to Cooper in a dream early Wednesday, hours before his death.

“He was standing tall and in a powerful voice told Cooper, ‘Please do not be sad. I am free,’ ” Linn said.

Later that day, Jack died. He left behind a legacy in state marijuana law and a huge gap in his family.

“He fought hard for children everywhere, there is no doubt,” Linn said, “but we’ll also remember his smile.”

Jack’s work in the state legislature to turn around perceptions of medical marijuana was nearly unmatched, say lawmakers and advocates. Splitt was the inspiration behind “Jack’s Law,” which requires schools to allow parents to provide medical marijuana treatment to their children on school grounds. The law became official this summer.

Splitt’s work at the legislature helped win the hearts and minds of all lawmakers, said the law’s sponsor, state Rep. Jonathan Singer.

“Anyone who knew him knew that he was charming, he was engaging. He changed more minds on the issue of medical marijuana than I think I ever did, and he finally put a human face to what most people perceive as a Cheech-and-Chong subject,” said Singer, a Democrat from Longmont. “But it’s not a Cheech-and-Chong subject. It’s kids’ lives and their well-being.”

Jack and his mom began to fight for a change after a school employee ripped a skin patch that was delivering cannabis-derived medication off his arm in February 2015. They helped get a law passed in 2015 to allow schools to create policies to permit a student’s use of medical marijuana, but none did.

Jack Splitt, 15, (Center), and his mother Stacey Linn, are their home in Lakewood after Jack's first day of the school year. Jack, a student at Wheat Ridge High School who has cerebral palsy, is allowed to wear to school a skin patch delivering a cannabis-derived treatment. Jack's Law, House Bill 1373, permit parents or another designated caregiver to administer a non-smokable cannabis treatment on school grounds to a student who is a registered medical marijuana patient.
Jack Splitt, 15, (Center), and his mother Stacey Linn, are their home in Lakewood after Jack’s first day of the school year. Jack, a student at Wheat Ridge High School who has cerebral palsy, is allowed to wear to school a skin patch delivering a cannabis-derived treatment. Jack’s Law, House Bill 1373, permit parents or another designated caregiver to administer a non-smokable cannabis treatment on school grounds to a student who is a registered medical marijuana patient.

This year, they lobbied for a state law requiring schools to allow a parent or caregiver to administer medical marijuana on campus. Teri Robnett, founder of Cannabis Patients Alliance, doubts “Jack’s Law” would be on the books today if not for the boy.

“Oftentimes we know that there’s an issue that needs to be addressed, but when you have a sympathetic face that can really bring focus to the issue, you can really do amazing things,” Robnett said. “And that’s what Jack did.”

“Jack’s Law” was signed by Gov. John Hickenlooper in June.

“You watched how even his facial expressions can change liberal and conservative lawmakers’ minds,” Singer said. “The biggest case in point: When we passed Jack’s Amendment (in 2015), one of the conservative lawmakers came up to me a day after and said, ‘Jonathan, I came into this hearing expecting to vote against your bill, and tonight I’m talking to my constituents about why I voted for your bill.’

“This year when Jack came back to the same committee to help pass Jack’s Law, the very same lawmakers were so thrilled to see him, they couldn’t contain themselves. They all said on the record how glad they were to see him, and so many of them will be crushed. … I can’t change minds that quickly, but he could. And he didn’t even need to use his words to do it.”

Jack started classes at Wheat Ridge High School last week and was enjoying learning and being with his friends. But Wednesday, he stayed home because he wasn’t feeling well, Linn said.

Splitt suffered from debilitating muscle contractions and dealt with the pain by using cannabis-derived treatment. They worsened Wednesday, and he succumbed, his mother said.

“Jack had a tough life, but he was a trouper and a very, brave young man,” she said. “When he smiled at you, it changed your life. I’ve had people tell me that when Jack smiled at them a year ago, they can still remember his smile.”

Amber Wann is a family friend and a supporter of Linn’s Cannability Foundation, a major force behind “Jack’s Law.” Her son Benjamin, who turns 15 Friday, has epilepsy and they treat it with medical marijuana.

“At first meeting Jack, it’s his smile that speaks volumes,” Amber Wann said Thursday. “To talk with him and say hi to him and have him look you in the eye, it was his handshake to you, his way of welcoming you to his world, and as simple as that may seem, it honestly meant the world to have Jack smile at you. It meant the world to us.”

Jack’s only relief came through his daily medical marijuana treatments, which allowed him to relate better to his family and friends, some of whom he knew since elementary school, Linn said.

“He loved being around them and they loved being around him,” she said. “When he didn’t show up for school Wednesday, they all wanted to know where he was and how he was doing.”

“Jack’s Law” gives Colorado school districts the authority to write policies for where on campus the treatments can take place and what forms of cannabis can be administered. If a school district does not create a policy, parents and private caregivers have no limitations on where they can administer the treatment.

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Federal judge refers Sheriff Joe Arpaio for criminal prosecution

A federal judge on Friday ordered Maricopa County, Arizona, Sheriff Joe Arpaio be referred to the U.S. Attorney’s office for criminal prosecution as a result of alleged violation of a court order barring racial profiling.

U.S. District Judge G. Murray Snow referred for prosecution Arpaio and three others, report the Arizona Republic, Phoenix New Times and the New York Times. The others are Arpaio’s former lawyer Michele Iafrate; Arpaio’s second-in-command, Chief Deputy Jerry Sheridan; and Capt. Steve Bailey, who led internal affairs investigations in the office.

Snow said Arpaio and Sheridan “have a history of obfuscation and subversion of this court’s orders that is as old as this case.” Snow issued a preliminary injunction in 2011 that found the sheriff’s office could not detain individuals only because they were believed to be in the country illegally. Yet “Sheriff Arpaio intentionally did nothing to implement that order,” Snow said.

Arpaio’s deputies continued to detain persons and delivered them to immigration officials though there were no state charges against them, Snow said. “Sheriff Arpaio did so based on the notoriety he received for, and the campaign donations he received because of, his immigration enforcement activity,” Snow wrote in the order (PDF).

Both Arpaio and Sheridan were found in civil contempt in May.

Snow said Iafrate was being referred for prosecution because of allegations she instructed officials not to voluntarily disclose information about 1,459 ID cards that had been seized. Snow noted differences in testimony about Iafrate’s advice, but said that, to the extent that she advised the officials not to disclose the IDs, her behavior qualified as criminal contempt.

Snow referred Bailey for allegedly failing to disclose the existence of the ID cards and misstating the facts to a court-appointed monitor.

The case that led to Snow’s referral was filed on behalf of Hispanic drivers who claimed they were targeted by sheriff’s deputies. Snow ordered creation of a $500,000 fund to compensate drivers who were pulled over despite his order stopping the department’s immigration patrols.

Arpaio told the Arizona Republic there will be “aggressive appeals” in the case. Arpaio’s lawyer, Mel McDonald, told the newspaper he believes the evidence is insufficient to make the referral.

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Texas, Religious Groups, 4 Other States File Lawsuit Challenging Transgender Health Rule

Five states, led by Texas, and several nonprofit medical groups, all of which are religiously affiliated, filed a lawsuit on Tuesday challenging the Obama administration’s efforts to ensure health care coverage to transgender people under the Affordable Care Act (ACA).

“On pain of significant financial liability, the [Health and Human Services Department’s] Regulation forces doctors to perform controversial and sometimes harmful medical procedures ostensibly designed to permanently change an individual’s sex—including the sex of children,” the complaint in the lawsuit alleges.

The lawsuit also contains claims challenging abortion-relation coverage protections in the same regulation, specifically highlighting the lack of a religious exemption in the regulation or underlying ACA provision.

The lawsuit was filed in the same division of the Northern District of Texas — the Wichita Falls Division — as the state’s prior multi-state lawsuit challenging the Obama administration’s other pro-transgender policies was filed. The judge in that division, US District Court Judge Reed O’Connor, issued a preliminary injunction on Sunday preventing the administration from advancing its efforts to protect transgender people under Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972.

The new lawsuit — also assigned to O’Connor — alleges that a regulation under the ACA similarly “redefines ‘sex’ to include ‘an individual’s internal sense of gender, which may be male, female, neither, or a combination of male and female, and which may be different from an individual’s sex assigned at birth.’”

The HHS regulation, the lawsuit alleges, “not only forces healthcare professionals to violate their medical judgment, it also forces them to violate their deeply held religious beliefs.”

Specifically, the ACA provision — Section 1557 — prohibits discrimination in federally-funded health benefits, including based on sex. Over the course of 2015 and this year, HHS proposed and finalized a regulation interpreting the definition of “sex” in that provisions to include “gender identity” — defined as “internal sense of gender, which may be male, female, neither, or a combination of male and female” — as well as “sex stereotyping” and “termination of pregnancy.”

The lawsuit alleges that the rule affects the states’ efforts to protect standard of care, authority over medical facilities, and efforts to comply with other federal laws that they allege conflict with the new rule. The rule affects the medical groups’ “medical, ethical, and religious concerns” due to their “infusion of faith into healthcare.” Specifically, the rules, the lawsuit alleges, will require the groups “to provide insurance coverage for services that violate [their] religious beliefs.”

The lawsuit claims that the rule violated the Administrative Procedure Act (APA) because the new rule is “not in accordance with law”; is “in excess of statutory jurisdiction, authority, or limitations”; and is “arbitrary, capricious, and an abuse of discretion” — specifically in violation of the Spending Clause of the U.S. Constitution, as well as the First, Fifth, Tenth, and Fourteenth amendments and the Religious Freedom Restoration Act. Additionally, the lawsuit claims independent related constitutional violations.

The Texas Attorney General’s Office has led a series of multi-state efforts challenging federal policies put forth by the Obama administration, including its successful effort to stop the administration’s Deferred Action for Parents of Americans (DAPA) immigration executive action — a case that went all the way to the US Supreme Court earlier this year.

The religiously affiliated nonprofit groups, meanwhile, are represented by the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty. The Becket Fund has been one of the key groups backing religious-based challenges to the Affordable Care Act, including, most notably, the Hobby Lobby challenge to the HHS contraception mandate rule issued under the ACA.

Chris Geidner is the legal editor for BuzzFeed News and is based in Washington, D.C. In 2014, Geidner won the National Lesbian & Gay Journalists Association award for journalist of the year.
Contact Chris Geidner at chris.geidner@buzzfeed.com.
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Olympic Medalists are about to score another victory?

U.S. Olympic medal winners are on the verge of getting to hurdle the IRS.

Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) announced Tuesday that the House would quickly consider a measure after recess that would exempt Olympians from paying taxes on their winnings, following committee approval. The House Ways and Means Committee is expected to take up the measure, introduced by Reps. Bob Dold (R-Ill.) and Blake Farenthold (R-Texas), when Congress returns to Washington in September.

Supporters of the bill, a version of which already passed the Senate, say the tax break is the least the federal government can do to honor athletes who represent the U.S. on the international stage, considering other countries do more to subsidize Olympic training. Americans who won gold at the recent Rio de Janeiro Olympics will receive a $25,000 bonus from the U.S. Olympic Committee, with silver medalists getting $15,000 and bronze medalists $10,000.

“The men and women who represent the United States exemplify the best of the American spirit,” McCarthy said Tuesday. “Removing an unnecessary tax levied on their success is a no-brainer.”

The Olympic tax bill has become a biennial tradition, with lawmakers also introducing versions marking the 2012 Summer Olympics and the 2014 Winter Olympics.

But this year’s version was the first to clear the Senate, pushed through by Sens. John Thune (R-S.D.) and Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) in July. The House didn’t consider the legislation in previous years, either.

The proposal could also offer a political boost to Dold, who’s locked in a tough reelection bid outside of Chicago and has sought to distance himself from GOP nominee Donald Trump.

Critics of the tax break for Olympians argue that lawmakers should be finding ways to rid the tax code of special exemptions and incentives, not add new ones. They also note that some of the beneficiaries are already millionaires, like swimmer Michael Phelps and professional basketball stars like Carmelo Anthony and Kevin Durant, and that a tax break only after medaling would do little to help athletes struggling to reach the Olympics.

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(Video) Many Donors to Clinton Foundation Met with Hillary at State Department

 

WASHINGTON (AP) — More than half the people outside the government who met with Hillary Clinton while she was secretary of state gave money — either personally or through companies or groups — to the Clinton Foundation. It’s an extraordinary proportion indicating her possible ethics challenges if elected president.

At least 85 of 154 people from private interests who met or had phone conversations scheduled with Clinton while she led the State Department donated to her family charity or pledged commitments to its international programs, according to a review of State Department calendars released so far to The Associated Press. Combined, the 85 donors contributed as much as $156 million. At least 40 donated more than $100,000 each, and 20 gave more than $1 million.

Donors who were granted time with Clinton included an internationally known economist who asked for her help as the Bangladesh government pressured him to resign from a nonprofit bank he ran; a Wall Street executive who sought Clinton’s help with a visa problem; and Estee Lauder executives who were listed as meeting with Clinton while her department worked with the firm’s corporate charity to counter gender-based violence in South Africa.

 The meetings between the Democratic presidential nominee and foundation donors do not appear to violate legal agreements Clinton and former president Bill Clinton signed before she joined the State Department in 2009. But the frequency of the overlaps shows the intermingling of access and donations, and fuels perceptions that giving the foundation money was a price of admission for face time with Clinton. Her calendars and emails released as recently as this week describe scores of contacts she and her top aides had with foundation donors.
The AP’s findings represent the first systematic effort to calculate the scope of the intersecting interests of Clinton Foundation donors and people who met personally with Clinton or spoke to her by phone about their needs.

The 154 did not include U.S. federal employees or foreign government representatives. Clinton met with representatives of at least 16 foreign governments that donated as much as $170 million to the Clinton charity, but they were not included in AP’s calculations because such meetings would presumably have been part of her diplomatic duties.

Clinton’s campaign said the AP analysis was flawed because it did not include in its calculations meetings with foreign diplomats or U.S. government officials, and the meetings AP examined covered only the first half of Clinton’s tenure as secretary of state.

“It is outrageous to misrepresent Secretary Clinton’s basis for meeting with these individuals,” spokesman Brian Fallon said. He called it “a distorted portrayal of how often she crossed paths with individuals connected to charitable donations to the Clinton Foundation.”

Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump fiercely criticized the links between the Clinton Foundation and the State Department, saying his general election opponent had delivered “lie after lie after lie.”

“Hillary Clinton is totally unfit to hold public office,” he said at a rally Tuesday night in Austin, Texas. “It is impossible to figure out where the Clinton Foundation ends and the State Department begins. It is now abundantly clear that the Clintons set up a business to profit from public office.”

Last week, the Clinton Foundation moved to head off ethics concerns about future donations by announcing changes planned if Clinton is elected.

On Monday, Bill Clinton said in a statement that if his wife were to win, he would step down from the foundation’s board and stop all fundraising for it. The foundation would also accept donations only from U.S. citizens and what it described as independent philanthropies, while no longer taking gifts from foreign groups, U.S. companies or corporate charities. Clinton said the foundation would no longer hold annual meetings of its international aid program, the Clinton Global Initiative, and it would spin off its foreign-based programs to other charities.

Those planned changes would not affect more than 6,000 donors who have already provided the Clinton charity with more than $2 billion in funding since its creation in 2000.

“There’s a lot of potential conflicts and a lot of potential problems,” said Douglas White, an expert on nonprofits who previously directed Columbia University’s graduate fundraising management program. “The point is, she can’t just walk away from these 6,000 donors.”

Former senior White House ethics officials said a Clinton administration would have to take careful steps to ensure that past foundation donors would not have the same access as she allowed at the State Department.

“If Secretary Clinton puts the right people in and she’s tough about it and has the right procedures in place and sends a message consistent with a strong commitment to ethics, it can be done,” said Norman L. Eisen, who was President Barack Obama’s top ethics counsel and later worked for Clinton as ambassador to the Czech Republic.

Eisen, now a governance studies fellow at the Brookings Institution, said that at a minimum, Clinton should retain the Obama administration’s current ethics commitments and oversight, which include lobbying restrictions and other rules. Richard Painter, a former ethics adviser to President George W. Bush and currently a University of Minnesota law school professor, said Bill, Hillary and Chelsea Clinton should remove themselves completely from foundation leadership roles, but he added that potential conflicts would shadow any policy decision affecting past donors.

Fallon did not respond to the AP’s questions about Clinton transition plans regarding ethics, but said in a statement the standard set by the Clinton Foundation’s ethics restrictions was “unprecedented, even if it may never satisfy some critics.”

State Department officials have said they are not aware of any agency actions influenced by the Clinton Foundation. State Department spokesman Mark Toner said Tuesday night that there are no prohibitions against agency contacts with “political campaigns, nonprofits or foundations — including the Clinton Foundation.” He added that “meeting requests, recommendations and proposals come to the department through a variety of channels, both formal and informal.”

Some of Clinton’s most influential visitors donated millions to the Clinton Foundation and to her and her husband’s political coffers. They are among scores of Clinton visitors and phone contacts in her official calendar turned over by the State Department to AP last year and in more detailed planning schedules that so far have covered about half her four-year tenure. The AP sought Clinton’s calendar and schedules three years ago, but delays led the AP to sue the State Department last year in federal court for those materials and other records.

S. Daniel Abraham, whose name also was included in emails released by the State Department as part of another lawsuit, is a Clinton fundraising bundler who was listed in Clinton’s planners for eight meetings with her at various times. A billionaire behind the Slim-Fast diet and founder of the Center for Middle East Peace, Abraham told the AP last year his talks with Clinton concerned Mideast issues.

Big Clinton Foundation donors with no history of political giving to the Clintons also met or talked by phone with Hillary Clinton and top aides, AP’s review showed.

Muhammad Yunus, a Bangladeshi economist who won the 2006 Nobel Peace Prize for pioneering low-interest “microcredit” for poor business owners, met with Clinton three times and talked with her by phone during a period when Bangladeshi government authorities investigated his oversight of a nonprofit bank and ultimately pressured him to resign from the bank’s board. Throughout the process, he pleaded for help in messages routed to Clinton, and she ordered aides to find ways to assist him.

American affiliates of his nonprofit Grameen Bank had been working with the Clinton Foundation’s Clinton Global Initiative programs as early as 2005, pledging millions of dollars in microloans for the poor. Grameen America, the bank’s nonprofit U.S. flagship, which Yunus chairs, has given between $100,000 and $250,000 to the foundation — a figure that bank spokeswoman Becky Asch said reflects the institution’s annual fees to attend CGI meetings. Another Grameen arm chaired by Yunus, Grameen Research, has donated between $25,000 and $50,000.

As a U.S. senator from New York, Clinton, as well as then-Massachusetts Sen. John Kerry and two other senators in 2007 sponsored a bill to award a congressional gold medal to Yunus. He got one but not until 2010, a year after Obama awarded him a Presidential Medal of Freedom.

Yunus first met with Clinton in Washington in April 2009. That was followed six months later by an announcement by USAID, the State Department’s foreign aid arm, that it was partnering with the Grameen Foundation, a nonprofit charity run by Yunus, in a $162 million commitment to extend its microfinance concept abroad. USAID also began providing loans and grants to the Grameen Foundation, totaling $2.2 million over Clinton’s tenure.

By September 2009, Yunus began complaining to Clinton’s top aides about what he perceived as poor treatment by Bangladesh’s government. His bank was accused of financial mismanagement of Norwegian government aid money — a charge that Norway later dismissed as baseless. But Yunus told Melanne Verveer, a long-time Clinton aide who was an ambassador-at-large for global women’s issues, that Bangladesh officials refused to meet with him and asked the State Department for help in pressing his case.

“Please see if the issues of Grameen Bank can be raised in a friendly way,” he asked Verveer. Yunus sent “regards to H” and cited an upcoming Clinton Global Initiative event he planned to attend.

Clinton ordered an aide: “Give to EAP rep,” referring the problem to the agency’s top east Asia expert.

Yunus continued writing to Verveer as pressure mounted on his bank. In December 2010, responding to a news report that Bangladesh’s prime minister was urging an investigation of Grameen Bank, Clinton told Verveer that she wanted to discuss the matter with her East Asia expert “ASAP.”

Clinton called Yunus in March 2011 after the Bangladesh government opened an inquiry into his oversight of Grameen Bank. Yunus had told Verveer by email that “the situation does not allow me to leave the country.” By mid-May, the Bangladesh government had forced Yunus to step down from the bank’s board. Yunus sent Clinton a copy of his resignation letter. In a separate note to Verveer, Clinton wrote: “Sad indeed.”

Clinton met with Yunus a second time in Washington in August 2011 and again in the Bangladesh capital of Dhaka in May 2012. Clinton’s arrival in Bangladesh came after Bangladesh authorities moved to seize control of Grameen Bank’s effort to find new leaders. Speaking to a town hall audience, Clinton warned the Bangladesh government that “we do not want to see any action taken that would in any way undermine or interfere in the operations of the Grameen Bank.”

Grameen America’s Asch referred other questions about Yunus to his office, but he had not responded by Tuesday.

In another case, Clinton was host at a September 2009 breakfast meeting at the New York Stock Exchange that listed Blackstone Group chairman Stephen Schwarzman as one of the attendees. Schwarzman’s firm is a major Clinton Foundation donor, but he personally donates heavily to GOP candidates and causes. One day after the breakfast, according to Clinton emails, the State Department was working on a visa issue at Schwarzman’s request. In December that same year, Schwarzman’s wife, Christine, sat at Clinton’s table during the Kennedy Center Honors. Clinton also introduced Schwarzman, then chairman of the Kennedy Center, before he spoke.

Blackstone donated between $250,000 and $500,000 to the Clinton Foundation. Eight Blackstone executives also gave between $375,000 and $800,000 to the foundation. And Blackstone’s charitable arm has pledged millions of dollars in commitments to three Clinton Global aid projects ranging from the U.S. to the Mideast. Blackstone officials did not make Schwarzman available for comment.

Clinton also met in June 2011 with Nancy Mahon of the MAC AIDS, the charitable arm of MAC Cosmetics, which is owned by Estee Lauder. The meeting occurred before an announcement about a State Department partnership to raise money to finance AIDS education and prevention. The public-private partnership was formed to fight gender-based violence in South Africa, the State Department said at the time.

The MAC AIDS fund donated between $5 million and $10 million to the Clinton Foundation. In 2008, Mahon and the MAC AIDS fund made a three-year unspecified commitment to the Clinton Global Initiative. That same year, the fund partnered with two other organizations to beef up a USAID program in Malawi and Ghana. And in 2011, the fund was one of eight organizations to pledge a total of $2 million over a three-year period to help girls in southern Africa. The fund has not made a commitment to CGI since 2011.

Estee Lauder executive Fabrizio Freda also met with Clinton at the same Wall Street event attended by Schwarzman. Later that month, Freda was on a list of attendees for a meeting between Clinton and a U.S.-China trade group. Estee Lauder has given between $100,000 and $250,000 to the Clinton Foundation. The company made a commitment to CGI in 2013 with four other organizations to help survivors of sexual slavery in Cambodia.

MAC AIDS officials did not make Mahon available to AP for comment.

When Clinton appeared before the U.S. Senate in early 2009 for her confirmation hearing as secretary of state, then- Sen. Richard Lugar, a Republican from Indiana, questioned her at length about the foundation and potential conflicts of interest. His concerns were focused on foreign government donations, mostly to CGI. Lugar wanted more transparency than was ultimately agreed upon between the foundation and Obama’s transition team.

Now, Lugar hopes Hillary and Bill Clinton make a clean break from the foundation.

“The Clintons, as they approach the presidency, if they are successful, will have to work with their attorneys to make certain that rules of the road are drawn up to give confidence to them and the American public that there will not be favoritism,” Lugar said.

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Cop Shoots and Kills Unarmed Deaf, Mute Man as He Tries to Communicate Using Sign Language

Charlotte, NC — A community and family is mourning the loss of Daniel Kevin Harris, whose life was taken this week by a State Trooper who apparently fears sign language. Harris, who is deaf and mute, was gunned down in front of his house.

According to police, trooper Jermaine Saunders attempted to pull Harris over around 6:14 p.m. on Thursday. For an unknown reason, Harris did not stop and, instead, drove to his home.

During the pursuit, both cars became damaged and eventually came to a stop near Harris’ home.

“I was here in my driveway and I saw the highway patrol car come through and it was smoking really bad,” said neighbor Mark Barringer. “About 10 seconds later, I heard one gunshot.”

According to WCNC, Barringer says when he went to take a closer look, he saw Harris in the middle of the street. He died just a few feet from his front door. Several neighbors have put flowers near where Harris took his final breaths.

“It was surreal, you just don’t expect to see something like that,” said Barringer. “When the gunshot went off, it was scary.”

According to police, detectives say Saunders and Harris got into “an encounter” before the officer killed him. However, according to neighbors, as soon as Harris got out of his vehicle, Saunders fired.

“While on Seven Oaks Drive, the driver exited his vehicle and an encounter took place between the driver and the trooper causing a shot to be fired,” according to a statement from the State Highway Patrol.

Detectives say Harris was trying to communicate with the trooper using sign language before he was killed.

Harris died on the scene. He was 28-years-old.

“They should’ve deescalated and been trained to realize that this is an entirely different situation, you’re pulling someone over who is deaf, they are handicapped,” said Barringer.  “To me, what happened is totally unacceptable.”

Neighbor Ryan Russell said he’d see the man out in the neighborhood speaking in sign language with his family. “It seemed like a very peaceful family,” Russell told WBTV. “These things are always heartbreaking.”

Audria Bridges, special agent in charge of the SBI office that covers the Charlotte region, said Saunders has been placed on administrative leave and an investigation is underway.

“The SBI is in the process of obtaining all available dash cam or body camera video present on the scene from the State Highway Patrol as well as Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department, as CMPD responded to the scene immediately after the shooting,” Bridges said.

According to the Charlotte Observer, public records show an interpreter provided sign language for Harris at a court hearing in Florida in 2010. At the hearing, he was found not guilty of misdemeanor larceny and had a charge of misdemeanor resisting property recovery dismissed, records show.

Harris was found guilty of resisting an officer in 2010 when he lived in Connecticut, according to public records. However, this resisting charge was likely due to the fact that Harris could not hear the officer’s commands.

In the land of the free, a deaf man suspected of driving too fast can be killed in cold blood. Unfortunately, as we’ve shown time and again, this type of mistreatment and attacks on the deaf by police are all too common.