The Obama administration is preparing to unveil legislation to prevent the National Security Agency from systematically collecting data on phone calls, The New York Times reports. While telephone companies would still keep the call records for 18 months, as currently required by law, the NSA would only have access to that data with permission from a judge.
That's a step in the right direction, according to Jameel Jaffer of the American Civil Liberties Union. "We have many questions about the details, but we agree with the administration that the NSA's bulk collection of call records should end," he tells The Times. "As we've argued since the program was disclosed, the government can track suspected terrorists without placing millions of people under permanent surveillance." The data collection was revealed through leaks by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden. The Obama proposal joins several other bills in Congress to address the NSA data culling. Catherine Garcia
President Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un have spent the week volleying insults and threats ever since Trump suggested he might "totally destroy" Kim's country if it continues to menace the U.S. and its allies. Kim responded Thursday by claiming Trump is "a rogue and a gangster fond of playing with fire" and vowing to "surely and definitely tame the mentally deranged U. S. dotard with fire."
Trump didn't walk back from his threats. On Friday he tweeted that Kim "will be tested like never before":
Kim Jong Un of North Korea, who is obviously a madman who doesn't mind starving or killing his people, will be tested like never before!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) September 22, 2017
President Trump's badgering and other pressure tactics arguably backfired in July, when three Senate Republicans sank the previous last effort to repeal much of ObamaCare, but when you have a very large megaphone, you apparently use it.
Rand Paul, or whoever votes against Hcare Bill, will forever (future political campaigns) be known as "the Republican who saved ObamaCare."
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) September 22, 2017
Senate Republicans are holding a vote next week on the Graham-Cassidy health-care bill, and Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) — who voted for the last GOP health-care bill, says he is a solid no on this one. The other Republicans up in the air are believed to be Sens. Susan Collins (Maine), John McCain (Ariz.), and Lisa Murkowski (Alaska) — though if Republicans let Alaska keep ObamaCare, who knows? Peter Weber
On Friday, Transport for London, the British capital's transportation regulator, said it had declined to renew ride-hailing service Uber's license to operate in London, effective Sept. 30. Uber "is not fit and proper to hold a private hire operator license," the regulator said in a statement, saying its "approach and conduct demonstrate a lack of corporate responsibility in relation to a number of issues which have potential public safety and security implications," including its use of Greyball software to avoid regulation and its "approach to reporting serious criminal offenses."
TfL has today informed Uber that it will not be issued with a private hire operator licence. pic.twitter.com/nlYD0ny2qo
— Transport for London (@TfL) September 22, 2017
Uber has 21 days to appeal the decision. Peter Weber
Stephen Colbert and Seth Meyers puzzle over how Republicans defend their last-ditch health-care bill
President Trump has been tweeting his support for the Republican Party's last-ditch health-care bill, Stephen Colbert said on Thursday's Late Show, especially its sponsor Sen. Bill Cassidy (R-La.), a doctor. "And you can trust Trump's opinions when it comes to doctors — remember, his primary care physician is this guy," Colbert said. "Practically every medical organization opposes this bill, so why are Republicans pushing so hard to get it through?" Well, Sen. Charles Grassley (R-Iowa) offered to list 10 reasons Republicans shouldn't pass the bill, but then said they had in order to keep their promise. Colbert found that inspiring enough to give that formula a try: "Honey, I can give you 10 reasons why I shouldn't give you this pony, but I promised you one, so enjoy your alligator."
Actually, "very few Republicans can defend their bill or explain what it does," Seth Meyer said on Thursday's Late Night. Graham-Cassidy will cut funding for vulnerable people on Medicaid and put people with pre-existing conditions at risk, Meyer said, and if you're wondering how anyone could support "such a monstrous bill, well the answer is they either don't know or don't care." He had a wry laugh over Sen. Pat Roberts' (R-Kansas) Thelma & Louise answer. "I love how he realized halfway through that his analogy made no sense and just hoped the reporter had never seen the movie."
The bill's hundreds of billions in "cuts may seem savage and cruel, but to be fair, Republicans have always preached fiscal responsibility and the importance of saving money," Meyers said, cuing up some clips about HHS Secretary Tom Price's love of using taxpayer-funded private jets, and also Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin's. Will Republicans wrangle the 50 votes? Maybe, Meyers said. "They're throwing another Hail Mary, except Republicans aren't exactly Tom Brady or Aaron Rogers. They're more like Jay Cutler." Watch below. Peter Weber
Stephen Colbert began Thursday's Late Show with a Rosh Hashana joke. "I'm so glad its 5778," he said. "5777 sucked." Jewish new year out of the way, he jumped into the latest developments in Special Counsel Robert Mueller's investigation into Russian election meddling and President Trump's campaign. Colbert summarized some of the 13 events Mueller has asked the White House about as a K-Tel record, Now That's What I Call Collusion 45, "available wherever CDs are still sold — so I'm gonna say Starbucks."
But Paul Manafort, Trump's onetime campaign chairman, is now probably the central figure in Mueller's investigation, and despite his denials, it turns out he reportedly was in contact with Russians during the campaign, offering "private briefings" to an oligarch close to Vladimir Putin. Colbert had a joke or two about Manafort's "black caviar" code word, then got to the practical objection: "Come on, you can't use a term for something very expensive as a stand-in for money!"
On Thursday's Daily Show, Trevor Noah also caught up with "Hurricane Mueller," the storm that could leave Trump "without power." Like Mueller, he focused on the Manafort angle. "Surprise visits in the middle of the night, all up in his phone?" he asked. "Ladies, get you a man who wants you as bad as Mueller wants Manafort." He looked at how various members of the Trump circle are answering questions about Russia — Manafort's stutter, Vice President Mike Pence's "smoke screen" of words, and then there's Sean Spicer.
"I'm genuinely worried about how Spicer is going to come out of this whole thing, because he seems like he's ready to sign a confession when you ask him anything," Noah said. "It's like Sean Spicer has all of the tells at the same time." The Spicer news on Thursday was that Mueller is reportedly interested in the former press secretary's notebooks. Noah laughed. "Spicer was taking notes?" he asked. "With anyone else, they'd probably just destroy the evidence. With Sean Spicer, you know he'd start to try and burn the notebooks but then somehow end up setting himself on fire." Watch below. Peter Weber
National Review asks why Jimmy Kimmel won't 'leave policy talk to health-care experts,' gets an earful
Weirdly, late-night comedian Jimmy Kimmel is now a big part of America's health-care debate. His critiques of the Graham-Cassidy health-care bill — after one of its sponsors, Sen. Bill Cassidy (R-La.), promised to oppose any bill that failed his "Jimmy Kimmel Test," which Graham-Cassidy appears to do — have hit a nerve perhaps because Kimmel is a goof and probably the least political of the late-night TV hosts. So on Wednesday, Theodore Kupfer at National Review published an article critical of Kimmel's audacity to weigh in on health care, as if he had "deep and hidden reservoirs of knowledge on risk-adjustment programs, the Medicaid expansion, or per capita caps." The article is titled, "Jimmy Kimmel, Policy-Wonk Wannabe," but the NRO social media editor posed it as a question:
— National Review (@NRO) September 21, 2017
It so happens that Politico had examined that question, and found that "in the war of words between Jimmy Kimmel and Sen. Bill Cassidy, the late-night host has the better grasp of health policy, health-care analysts say." So a lot of the responses to National Review's tweet were along those lines. But that was just the tip of the iceberg. If Kimmel isn't an expert, some asked, why are these guys being invited on cable news to talk health care?
Uh huh... pic.twitter.com/LZtvBeiIAJ
— Jade (@jade3457) September 21, 2017
— Silver Shamrock Mask (@dogdadbod) September 21, 2017
Several people noted that the occupant of the Oval Office doesn't exactly have a long health-care résumé, either:
Wow good point, National Review. pic.twitter.com/ZCH5IfWFFd
— Cody Johnston (@drmistercody) September 22, 2017
Others, like Nancy Sinatra, asked why National Review thinks Kimmel doesn't have the right to weigh in:
Because he is a patriotic American, that's why. It is a patriot's responsibilty to stand up and speak out. Thanks, @jimmykimmel
— Nancy Sinatra (@NancySinatra) September 21, 2017
Am I allowed discuss about policy publicly? If not, may I apply for a permit at your offices?
— Mike Cukan (@mcukan) September 22, 2017
And then Jason Helgerson, who runs New York State's Medicaid program, stepped in and dropped the mic:
— Jason Helgerson (@policywonk1) September 21, 2017
Twitter: Ask, and ye shall receive. Peter Weber
On Thursday, the National Association of Medicaid Directors (NAMD), a group representing the Medicaid directors from all 50 states, joined other medical and patient advocacy groups in opposing the latest Senate Republican bill to repeal the Affordable Care Act, named after sponsors Sens. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) and Bill Cassidy (R-La.). The bill would scrap ObamaCare's subsidies for consumers and Medicaid expansion and redistribute that money as state grants, in what the NAMD board of directors calls "the largest intergovernmental transfer of financial risk from the federal government to the states in our country's history."
The Medicaid directors said they don't want that risk, especially without being consulted first, and they called a Congressional Budget Office score — which Graham-Cassidy won't have before voting — "the bare minimum required for beginning consideration." Setting up entire new health-care programs in 50 states requires an enormous amount of work and resources, NAMD said, and "the vast majority of states will not be able to do so within the two-year timeframe envisioned here, especially considering the apparent lack of federal funding in the bill to support these critical activities."
Andy Slavitt, administrator of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services from 2015 until January and an opponent of repealing ObamaCare, said all 50 Medicaid directors coming out against Graham-Cassidy was "very unusual," and Sen. Chris Murphy (D-Ct.), was similarly impressed:
Seriously. This is BANANAS.
You couldn't get ALL 50 state Medicaid directors to agree any anything else in health care policy. https://t.co/mKKwbSO1dw
— Chris Murphy (@ChrisMurphyCT) September 22, 2017