July 17, 2017
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Supporters of the Affordable Care Act have often cast it as a blow against greedy companies in the health-care industry that are more concerned with their bottom line than Americans' wellbeing. It's a narrative significantly complicated by health insurance companies' experience of a "profit spiral" of rising income since ObamaCare went into effect and, now, a new Politico report which finds nonprofit hospitals have made more money and spent less on charity care, defined as "free treatment for low-income patients," since 2013.

The upshot, as Politico summarizes, is the "top seven hospitals' combined revenue went up by $4.5 billion per year after the ACA's coverage expansions kicked in, a 15 percent jump in two years. Meanwhile, their charity care — already less than 2 percent of revenue — fell by almost $150 million per year, a 35 percent plunge over the same period."

This happened, Politico reasons, because the ACA produced about 20 million new paying customers for hospitals nationwide while maintaining a system of tax exemptions, established for half a century, in which the hospitals pay lower taxes on the condition that they can demonstrate service to their communities, usually through the charity care. So post-ObamaCare, many not-for-profit hospitals have higher incomes, significantly in the form of tax dollars via the Medicaid expansion's shifting patients out of the charity care programs, but receive the same tax benefits as they did pre-ObamaCare.

Read the full Politico report here. Bonnie Kristian

May 26, 2017

The Trump administration in April debuted a new Department of Homeland Security office and database, DHS VINE, dedicated to providing information on the custody status (as well as personal details) of immigrants accused of crime. The database had a bumpy launch, as immigration attorneys soon noticed it listed sensitive information for immigrant babies and toddlers.

That problem was corrected, but The Guardian reports immigration lawyers have identified another major issue: The database lists immigrants who are victims of crimes and have "sought federal protections as survivors of human trafficking, domestic violence, and sexual assault." Federal law says these victims' private information is supposed to be kept secret because their abusers could use it to track them down and inflict further harm. The searchable, online database now makes that information available to the public.

"It has certainly put a very powerful tool in the hands of abusers," said Archi Pyati of the Tahirih Justice Center, which offers pro-bono services to immigrants escaping gender-based violence. The Tahirih Justice Center has called on DHS to edit the VINE database to remove victims' information or to shutter the project entirely. Bonnie Kristian

April 6, 2016
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Donald Trump's precise plan to build a border wall and make Mexico pay for it involves confiscating remittance payments that Mexicans living in America send home to their families, he revealed on Tuesday. It's a plan that in practice would expand the black market for money transfers and even increase crime:

Security and money-laundering experts who watch the underground financial economy say that in all likelihood, such a rule would not stop the remittances: It would simply send them into the underground economy. Couriers or others will help facilitate money transfers across the border; Mexican nationals could also transfer money through a digital currency like Bitcoin.

"I guarantee you, before the wall has five bricks in it," said [Don Semesky, a former financial investigator at the IRS and DEA], "there would be an informal black market."

Either way, the result would be devastating for law enforcement: they’d lose a powerful tool to trace dubious money tied to drug-runners, terrorists, or human traffickers. [Politico]

Trump's idea would also have a decimating effect on money transfer businesses like Western Union. "He would probably kill the industry," Semesky said. Bonnie Kristian

April 5, 2016
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Last week, George Mason University decided to honor late Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia (and get $20 million from an anonymous Scalia admirer) by renaming the law school the Antonin Scalia School of Law. On Monday, somebody at the school either decided to take a look at the acronym, or perhaps read her Twitter feed. Officially, the law schools still retains its new original name, but on its website and promotional material, it's now called the Antonin Scalia Law School at George Mason — ASLS instead of ASSoL.

"A tentative but not finalized decision was made to nip the name-needling in the bud and rearrange the words," a "person familiar with the school’s internal discussions" told The Wall Street Journal. "A school spokesman declined to comment." The Journal's Jacob Gorshman suggests that "Justice Scalia, famous for his puckish sense of humor, would be amused" by the first acronym, and given that universities have marketing departments, maybe this has been an elaborate publicity stunt. Still, to use the name of a recently deceased eminent American jurist for something so crude, you'd have to be a real.... Oh. Peter Weber

January 14, 2015

After selling out within minutes Wednesday, Charlie Hebdo s printing an additional two million copies of its first issue since last week's terrorist attacks left 12 editors and contributors dead.

Across France, throngs of people lined up to pick up a copy of the satirical magazine's "survivor's issue," whose cover features a cartoon of the prophet Muhammad holding the now-famous "Je suis Charlie" sign that became an international symbol of free expression in the days after the attacks:

On France's eBay website, copies were being auctioned for as much as $117,000, though prices were lower on eBay's British and American sites.

The total print run now stands at five million copies, dozens of times larger than the magazine's typical 60,000-issue run. Mike Barry

December 16, 2014
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President Obama probably owes Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) a thank you card. Or at least that's what Cruz's Republican colleagues are saying, blaming the controversial Texan for allowing Senate Democrats to confirm 23 judicial and executive branch nominees, some stalled by Republicans for more than a year. Surgeon General Vivek Murthy was already confirmed late Monday.

Last Friday evening, after senators were dismissed for the weekend, Cruz used Senate rules to try to force a vote on Obama's immigration executive order. That allowed outgoing Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) to call a Saturday session, starting the clock on the lengthy process of confirming nominees. Instead of the four or five appointees that Democrats could have confirmed if the Senate had taken the weekend off, Obama is now likely to get 12 judicial nominees and 11 other officials confirmed, Republicans complain.

Cruz disputes the accusations, sort of. "Everyone knows Harry Reid planned to jam forward as many nominees as he could," Cruz spokesman Phil Novack tells The Associated Press. Republican say they warned Cruz that Reid would take advantage of his self-serving maneuver. Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine) is one of the few Republicans willing to go on the record to criticize Cruz's actions: "My concern about the strategy he employed is that it has a result he didn't intend."

"Other Republican lawmakers were far more forceful than Collins in their judgment of Cruz on Monday," notes AP's David Espo. Many of the judicial nominees have the strong backing of Republicans, and in the past month, some have passed with near-unanimous support. Any nominations not confirmed will expire at the end of the year, and Obama would have to try to get his new or renewed nominees through a GOP-controlled Senate. Peter Weber