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Washington Report October 6, 2017

06 Oct 2017

Washington Report October 6, 2017

True Sadness … Blow To Women’s Health … Reversing Protections From Discrimination … REXIT… Iran Issue To Ignite … Wishing for World Peace … Fantasyland of Tax Reform … Bull … and other news of the week.

Best,

Joyce Rubenstein
Capstone National Partners

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True Sadness

Another mass shooting has turned an American city — Las Vegas — into a scene of terror and chaos, and the death toll … has been splashed across newspaper pages in double-size font.

The Onion … a news satire organization … is channeling the frustration of a huge section of the county that’s baffled and bewildered about what’s going on.”

NO OTHER SOCIETY ALLOWS THE MASSACRES TO KEEP HAPPENING – Atlantic “…The dead and the wounded, and their family and friends, of course deserve most support and sympathy. But their fellow countrymen should reflect on … truths the episode underscores. The first is that America will not stop these shootings. … The additional sad, horrifying, and appalling point is the shared American knowledge that, beyond any doubt, this will happen again, and that it will happen in America many, many times before it occurs anywhere else. Yes. Other advanced societies have outbreaks of mass-shooting gun violence. Scotland, in 1996. Australia, in 1996 as well. Norway in 2011. But only in the United States do they come again and again and again.”

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NRA

theSkimm “Days after the worst mass shooting in modern US history, the NRA says it supports limiting access to ‘bump stocks.’

Pause. What is a bump stock?

An attachment that lets a semiautomatic rifle mimic an automatic weapon by firing continuously. The Las Vegas gunman is believed to have used a bump stock when he killed 58 people and injured more than 500 others. Ok. And remind me about the NRA? The NRA is a huge pro-gun lobbying group that puts lots of money into political campaigns. And because gun rights are important to many people who also vote Republican, the NRA matters to just about every major GOP lawmaker in DC. (mic drop).

So what just happened? The NRA said it supports adopting new rules restricting access to bump stocks. A lot of Republicans are also open to looking into it. Democrats are saying ‘great, let’s do it.’ Hi, bipartisanship. It’s been a while. A GOP-controlled Congress may pass a gun control measure with the NRA on board. You can read that again.

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Blow To Women’s Health

WashPost “The Trump administration announced today a major rollback of the ACA’s contraception coverage mandate … allow[ing] virtually any employer to claim a religious or moral objection to Obamacare’s birth control coverage mandate under a sweeping rollback announced today. The administration is scaling back the fiercely contested requirement that employer health plans must provide contraception at no out-of-pocket cost, fulfilling a vow to President Donald Trump’s conservative base that opposed the requirement as an infringement on religious freedom. “The action … represents the latest twist in a seesawing legal and ideological fight that has surrounded this aspect of the 2010 health-care law nearly from the start. … The action by the Trump administration is almost certain to spark fresh litigation. The National Women’s Law Center — which estimates that in 2013 alone, the contraception requirement saved women $1.4 billion in oral contraceptive costs — has vowed to challenge the administration in court.”

“An employer’s beliefs have no place in these private decisions, just as they would not in any other conversation about a patient’s health care.”
– Anne Davis, Physicians for Reproductive Health

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Sessions Reverses Transgender Worker Protections

BuzzFeed “U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions sent a memo to heads of federal agencies and attorneys reversing “a federal government policy that said transgender workers were protected from discrimination,” according to BuzzFeed News, which obtained the memo.

  • Sessions wrote: “Title VII does not prohibit discrimination based on gender identity per se.” He added that nothing in the memo “should be construed to condone mistreatment on the basis of gender identity.”
  • Devin O’Malley, Department of Justice spokesman said, “The Department of Justice cannot expand the law beyond what Congress has provided…the last administration abandoned that fundamental principle.”
  • DNC spokesman Joel Kasnetz responded: “This week, Jeff Sessions escalated the Trump administration’s war on LGBTQ people…Donald Trump, Mike Pence, and Jeff Sessions have revealed their real goal – turn the clock back to a time when life was even more difficult for LGBTQ people, transgender individuals in particular.”

Why it matters: Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act “prohibits discrimination on the basis of sex,” per BuzzFeed, but “does not address LGBT rights directly.” Former Attorney General Eric Holder applied it to gender identity, but Sessions said it “only covers discrimination between ‘men and women.'”

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REXIT

Axios “Trump advisers and allies are floating the idea of replacing Secretary of State Rex Tillerson with CIA Director Mike Pompeo, age 53 — someone who’s already around the table in the Situation Room, and could make the switch without chaos.

We’re told that Trump is quite comfortable with Pompeo, asking his advice on topics from immigration to the inner workings of Congress. Pompeo … personally delivers the President’s Daily Brief, making him one of the few people Trump spends a great deal of time with on a daily basis [and] is one of the few in the administration who knows how to convey tough news to the president, and how to push back without turning DJT off. (SecDef Mattis is good at that, too.) Trump doesn’t see Pompeo as a showboat. Pompeo would take the job, as the cap to a career that included being a U.S. House member from Kansas. Pompeo would have credibility with world leaders, who’d know he was a legit part of the president’s inner circle — something no one thinks about Tillerson.

Sources tell us Trump recognizes that a Cabinet shuffle would bring bad press. White House Chief of Staff John Kelly wants stability, and so is discouraging high-level departures before next year. And yet, insiders say Trump’s relationship with Tillerson is broken beyond repair. IT’S A BAD DAY WHEN THE SEC OF STATE HAS TO DENY THAT HE CALLED THE PRESIDENT A ‘MORON’ … We’re told Trump was furious that Tillerson didn’t try to blunt the story about him calling the president a “moron,” by just going out and denying it (whether or not it actually occurred). The relationship is so toxic, that few in the White House think it can be rebuilt.”

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Iran Issue About To Ignite

NYTimes “Trump is expected to overrule his top national security advisers and decline to certify the Iran nuclear agreement, … a decision that would reopen a volatile political debate.

Remind me about this deal theSkimm “tThe Obama administration, Iran, and five other countries spent almost two years hashing out a deal that puts strict limits on Iran’s nuclear program, in exchange for lifting heavy economic sanctions against the country. Trump is not a fan of the deal, arguing that it’s not in the best interest of the US. Next week, Trump is expected to ‘decertify’ the deal – or take the first step toward potentially unraveling it.The Trump administration is reportedly open to renegotiating. Iran’s president has already said he’s not interested. All of this comes as the US is trying to convince another rogue nuclear state – North Korea – to step away from its weapons. Some worry that pulling out of the Iran deal will show the North that negotiating with the US isn’t worth it.”

  • What’s next: “By declining to certify Iran’s compliance, Mr. Trump would essentially kick it to Congress to decide whether to reimpose punitive economic sanctions. Even among Republicans, there appears to be little appetite to do that, at least for now.”
  • Why it matters: “The strategy is an effort by the Trump administration to make the nuclear agreement only part of a multidimensional approach to pressure Iran on many fronts … But the administration has yet to articulate that broader strategy. As a result, the nuclear deal remains … a political football in Washington.”

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What Do You Wish For? World Peace.

theSkimm This morning, the Nobel Peace Prize was awarded to the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons, aka ICAN. That’s because, reminder, the international community is dealing with a few nuclear issues right now. See: Iran, and the nuclear deal whose fate might soon be up in the air. North Korea, and the series of missiles the country has tested over the past year as part of its nuclear program. Earlier this year, ICAN put together a treaty between more than a hundred countries to curb the world’s nuclear enthusiasm. Who didn’t sign on the dotted line? Nuclear powers like the US, North Korea, and Russia. This morning’s announcement is the Nobel Peace Prize committee’s way of saying ‘maybe you should rethink that decision.’ Point taken.

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Anti-Abortion, Except … About Face

Politico “Rep.Tim Murphy, a staunch anti-abortion advocate, thought he could withstand the media furor that engulfed him after reports that he’d encouraged his extramarital lover to end her apparent pregnancy. He was wrong. Just one day after announcing he would retire after the 2018 election, Murphy reversed course and told Speaker Paul Ryan he was resigning effective Oct. 21. Murphy’s abrupt decision ended a 15-year career on Capitol Hill in a shocking manner. The 65-year-old Pennsylvania Republican was so safe in his conservative district that Democrats hadn’t even fielded an opponent against him during the past two election cycles.

Ironically, Murphy’s swift collapse came not because of text messages he sent to a woman with whom he was having an extramarital affair, encouraging her to have an abortion as first reported by the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette on Tuesday. 100% TURNOVER In fact, multiple top House Republicans during the past 24 hours pressured Murphy to resign once it became clear that the House Ethics Committee might have to investigate allegations tied to his reported mistreatment of staffers. Numerous GOP sources were aware of systemic problems in Murphy’s office, including high staff turnover, which had been the topic of gossip and speculation for years.”

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Nothing Is Safe From Russian Hackers

theSkimm “Yesterday, it came out that Russian state hackers reportedly stole classified NSA info back in 2015. And did it by targeting an NSA contractor who put the info on his home computer. Brilliant. The contractor was reportedly using anti-virus software by Kaspersky – a Russian cybersecurity firm with alleged ties to the Kremlin. Last month, the US banned Kaspersky products from being used on government networks, over concerns it could help the Kremlin spy on the US. With this recent incident, it looks like Russian hackers ran off with info like the NSA computer code used to spy on foreigners. Kaspersky says it has ‘nyet a clue about it.’

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Jeff Flake Most Endangered

Roll Call “Ten Democratic senators are running for re-election in states President Donald Trump carried in 2016, yet Jeff Flake (R-AZ) looks like the most vulnerable senator in the country right now. Even though Trump won Arizona, Flake’s adversarial relationship with the president has caused him to be vulnerable in the primary and general elections. And Arizona’s emergence as a Democratic takeover opportunity complicates GOP efforts to hold and expand their majority.

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The Fantasyland of Tax Reform

Cook Political Report “The baffling assumption in Washington and in the markets these days is the persistent optimism that major tax reform or a big tax cut will be enacted this year or next. Why should anyone think this is realistic? First, let’s talk about tax reform and then tax cuts. It’s important to note the distinction. … The landmark Tax Reform Act of 1986 was the last time that Congress successfully grappled with this country’s jerry-built revenue system.

FLASH FORWARD 31 years. Does the party in power have large majorities? No. If not large, is the majority cohesive enough to get something big and consequential passed? No. If not, is there a cooperative minority party willing to help? No. Do the current leaders have as much influence as the 1986 heavyweights? No. Is the president strong enough to ram something through on his own, or does he have close enough ties with members to persuade them to back a major reform? No.

So why are proponents so upbeat? Click Here For An Interesting Read.

“Tax reform is going to make health care look like a piece of cake … then added, “but I think we’re going to get it done.” (huh?)
– Bob Corker (R-TN), who recently announced his retirement

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Bull

The Economist cover story looks at signs of bubbles in both markets and real estate:

Historic context: ‘No one would mistake the bloodless run-up in global stock markets, credit and property over the past eight years for a reprise of the “roaring 20s”, or even an echo of the dotcom mania of the late 1990s. Yet only at the peak of those two bubbles has America’s S&P 500 been higher as a multiple of earnings measured over a ten-year cycle.”

TWO reasons TO WORRY: “If today’s asset prices have been propped up by central-bank largesse, its end could prompt a big correction. Second, signs are appearing that fund managers, desperate for higher yields, are becoming increasingly incautious.”

TWO reasons NOT TO WORRY: “[L]ook carefully at the broader picture, and there is some logic to the ongoing rise in asset prices. In part it is a response to an improving world economy. … [E]merging-market economies have come out of testing times in far more resilient shape.”

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Football’s Decline

AP “Participation in high school football is down 3.5 percent over the past five years, according to the annual survey by the National Association of State High School Federations.”

“The decline would be much steeper if not for a handful of states in the South and the West. Throughout the Northeast, the Midwest and the West Coast, in communities urban and rural, wealthy and working-class, fewer kids are playing football.”
“The risks of football have never been more apparent. This summer, researchers at Boston University said they’d found evidence of a brain disease linked to repeated head blows in nearly all of the 202 former football players they studied.”

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