Outgoing GE chief Jeff Immelt met with Trump about drones, the ‘Internet of things’ – The Boston Globe

By Toluse Olorunnipa

President Trump met with two dozen executives from technology companies and venture capital firms Thursday for advice on how the government can promote emerging technologies such as drones and the Internet of things.

‘‘We want to remain No. 1,’’ Trump told the technology company leaders. ‘‘We’re on the verge of new technological revolutions that could improve virtually every aspect of our lives, creating vast new wealth for American companies and families.’’

Executives including outgoing General Electric Co. chief executive Jeff Immelt, AT&T chief executive Randall Stephenson, Sprint Corp. chief executive Marcelo Claure, and venture capitalist Steve Case, the billionaire cofounder of AOL, were invited to provide suggestions on how the administration should spur private innovation and set appropriate guidelines for new technologies.

In a public session open to reporters and television cameras, the president and corporate leaders offered fulsome praise for each other. Trump told Stephenson AT&T is doing ‘‘really a top job.’’ Precision Hawk chief executive Michael Chasen congratulated the president ‘‘on the great job you’ve been doing.’’

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The tech leaders were to hold breakout sessions on drones, connected devices and easing access to venture capital for startups outside traditional enclaves such as Silicon Valley, deputy US chief technology officer Michael Kratsios told reporters Wednesday.

Trump ‘‘will learn firsthand how these important technologies are reshaping modern life and what’s possible when our workers can fly over job sites, and when huge cell towers shrink to the size of pizza boxes,’’ he said.

The White House is using the week to highlight technology initiatives. Trump met Monday with tech executives including Apple chief executive Tim Cook and Amazon.com chief executive Jeff Bezos to discuss ways to make the federal government more efficient. On Wednesday, the president visited Kirkwood Community College in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, to discuss the use of technology in agriculture.

While several chief executives of technology companies have been critical of some of Trump’s policies, particularly on immigration, they have flocked to the White House this week seeking to influence the government’s approach to technology.

AT&T’s Stephenson said before the event that he was pleased with the lighter regulations already promised by the Trump administration and that he was optimistic about the possibility of tax reforms happening this year. Lower corporate tax bills would free up more cash that companies like AT&T could channel back into capital expenditures, Stephenson said Thursday on CNBC.

On the wireless front, AT&T and the other major US carriers have drawn up plans for investing in the next stage of network infrastructure, which is being called fifth generation or 5G. The super-fast technology is expected to usher in a hyper-connected Internet-of-things era where self-driving cars can monitor and coordinate with other vehicles.

‘‘I am looking forward to sharing ideas with everyone today,’’ T-Mobile chief operating officer Mike Sievert said Thursday. ‘‘The opportunity for this country with 5G and IoT is enormous if we set things in motion the right way. It’s an impressive group of leaders heading to the White House and should be an interesting discussion.’’

Case, who now runs the investment firm Revolution, used his company website to defend his decision to engage with Trump.

‘‘I know some people will question my decision to attend the gathering of investors at the White House, but I have long advocated for leaders of any kind to engage if given the opportunity,’’ Case wrote Wednesday, highlighting his concerns with Trump’s policies on immigration and climate change. ‘‘I would argue that there is perhaps no more important time to take a seat at the table.’’

In the Internet of things, a growing number of objects and devices will become web-connected – everything from refrigerators and thermostats to cars and industrial machines.

The technology aims to improve efficiency and responsiveness by remote monitoring and automatically managing industrial manufacturing lines, households, people’s health, or traffic systems, for instance.

Corporate spending on technologies related to the Internet of things could reach $280 billion by 2020, the Boston Consulting Group estimates.

‘‘We will need to build out the infrastructure to handle this dramatic transformation,’’ Kratsios said.

Other executives attending White House talks include Honeywell International chief executive Darius Adamczyk and John Stratton, Verizon Communications’ executive vice president and president of customer and product operations.

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Shifting Dollars From Poor to Rich Is a Key Part of the Senate Health Bill – New York Times

The Affordable Care Act gave health insurance to millions of Americans by shifting resources from the wealthy to the poor and by moving oversight from states to the federal government. The Senate bill introduced Thursday pushes back forcefully on both dimensions.

The bill is aligned with long-held Republican values, advancing states’ rights and paring back growing entitlement programs, while freeing individuals from requirements that they have insurance and emphasizing personal responsibility. Obamacare raised taxes on high earners and the health care industry, and essentially redistributed that income — in the form of health insurance or insurance subsidies — to many of the groups that have fared poorly over the last few decades.

The draft Senate bill, called the Better Care Reconciliation Act, would jettison those taxes while reducing federal funding for the care of low-income Americans. The bill’s largest benefits go to the wealthiest Americans, who have the most comfortable health care arrangements, and its biggest losses fall to poorer Americans who rely on government support. The bill preserves many of the structures of Obamacare, but rejects several of its central goals.

Like a House version of the legislation, the bill would fundamentally change the structure of Medicaid, which provides health insurance to 74 million disabled or poor Americans, including nearly 40 percent of all children. Instead of open-ended payments, the federal government would give states a maximum payment for nearly every individual enrolled in the program. The Senate version of the bill would increase that allotment every year by a formula that is expected to grow substantially more slowly than the average increase in medical costs.

Avik Roy, the president of the Foundation for Research on Equal Opportunity, and a conservative health care analyst, cheered the bill on Twitter, saying, “If it passes, it’ll be the greatest policy achievement by a G.O.P. Congress in my lifetime.” The bill, he explained in an email, provides a mechanism for poor Americans to move from Medicaid coverage into the private market, a goal he has long championed as a way of equalizing insurance coverage across income groups.

Finished reading the Senate HC bill. Put simply: If it passes, it’ll be the greatest policy achievement by a GOP Congress in my lifetime.

Avik Roy (@Avik)June 22, 2017

States would continue to receive extra funding for Obamacare’s expansion of Medicaid to more poor adults, but only temporarily. After several years, states wishing to cover that population would be expected to pay a much greater share of the bill, even as they adjust to leaner federal funding for other Medicaid beneficiaries — disabled children, nursing home residents — who are more vulnerable.

High-income earners would get substantial tax cuts on payroll and investment income. Subsidies for those low-income Americans who buy their own insurance would decline compared with current law. Low-income Americans who currently buy their own insurance would also lose federal help in paying their deductibles and co-payments.

The bill does offer insurance subsidies to poor Americans who live in states that don’t offer them Medicaid coverage, a group without good insurance options under Obamacare. But the high-deductible plans that would become the norm might continue to leave care out of their financial reach even if they do buy insurance.

The battle over resources played into the public debate. Mitch McConnell, the Senate majority leader, said the bill was needed to “bring help to the families who have been struggling with Obamacare.” In a Facebook post, President Barack Obama, without mentioning the taxes that made his program possible, condemned the Senate bill as “a massive transfer of wealth from middle-class and poor families to the richest people in America.”

In another expression of Republican principles, the bill would make it much easier for states to set their own rules for insurance regulation, a return to the norm before Obamacare.

Under the bill, states would be able to apply for waivers that would let them eliminate consumer protection regulations, like rules that require all health plans to cover a basic package of benefits or that prevent insurance plans from limiting how much care they will cover in a given year.

States could get rid of the online marketplaces that help consumers compare similar health plans, and make a variety of other changes to the health insurance system. The standards for approval are quite permissive. Not every state would choose to eliminate such rules, of course. But several might.

“You can eliminate all those financial protections,” said Nicholas Bagley, a law professor at the University of Michigan. “That would be huge.”

Americans with pre-existing conditions would continue to enjoy protection from discrimination: In contrast with the House health bill, insurers would not be allowed to charge higher prices to customers with a history of illness, even in states that wish to loosen insurance regulations.

But patients with serious illnesses may still face skimpier, less useful coverage. States may waive benefit requirements and allow insurers to charge customers more. Someone seriously ill who buys a plan that does not cover prescription drugs, for example, may not find it very valuable.

There are features that would tend to drive down the sticker price of insurance, a crucial concern of many Republican lawmakers, who have criticized high prices under Obamacare. Plans that cover fewer benefits and come with higher deductibles would cost less than more comprehensive coverage.

But because federal subsidies would also decline, only a fraction of people buying their own insurance would enjoy the benefits of lower prices. Many middle-income Americans would be expected to pay a larger share of their income to purchase health insurance that covers a smaller share of their care.

The bill also includes substantial funds to help protect insurers from losses caused by unusually expensive patients, a measure designed to lure into the market those insurance carriers that have grown skittish by losses in the early years of Obamacare. But it removes a policy dear to the insurance industry — if no one else. Without an individual mandate with penalties for Americans who remain uninsured, healthier customers may choose to opt out of the market until they need medical care, increasing costs for those who stay in.

The reforms are unlikely to drive down out-of-pocket spending, another perennial complaint of the bill’s authors, and a central critique by President Trump of the current system. He often likes to say that Obamacare plans come with deductibles so high that they are unusable. Subsidies under the bill would help middle-income consumers buy insurance that pays 58 percent of the average patient’s medical costs, down from 70 percent under Obamacare; it would also remove a different type of subsidy designed to lower deductibles further for Americans earning less than around $30,000 a year.

Out-of-pocket spending is the top concern of most voters. The insurance they would buy under the bill might seem cheap at first, but it wouldn’t be if they ended up paying more in deductibles.

Mr. McConnell was constrained by political considerations and the peculiar rules of the legislative mechanism that he chose to avoid a Democratic filibuster. Despite those limits, he managed to produce a bill that reflects some bedrock conservative values. But the bill also shows some jagged seams. It may not fix many of Obamacare’s problems — high premiums, high deductibles, declining competition — that he has railed against in promoting the new bill’s passage.

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How Trump’s dubious claims make the entire government react – Washington Post

By ,

The words leapt from President Trump’s mind to Twitter at 8:26 a.m. on the Friday after he fired FBI director James B. Comey, setting off a cascade of activity inside and outside of the federal government to figure out what, exactly, he meant.

“James Comey better hope that there are no ‘tapes’ of our conversations before he starts leaking to the press!” Trump wrote.

With that tweet, Trump immediately deepened his own ­legal and political quagmire, evoking comparisons to former President Richard M. Nixon and prompting congressional committees investigating his campaign’s alleged ties with Russia to demand the disclosure of any such recordings. The missive also prompted Comey to release previously undisclosed memos of his conversations with the president, which ultimately led to the appointment of a special counsel who is now investigating whether Trump obstructed justice.

Far from knocking down the assertion that Trump had recorded conversations in the White House, his aides refused to give a definitive answer for weeks. Trump, ever the reality television host, teased at a news conference, “I’ll tell you about it over a very short period of time.”

On Thursday, 42 days later, he finally did. As most in Washington had anticipated, Trump said he did not have any such tapes.

The incident highlights a new reality for Washington, which now must spring into action to bolster or refute presidential assertions of dubious origin and with no evidence to back them up. In many cases, the claims have had the opposite effect than what the president presumably intended — feeding into doubts about his credibility, deepening his legal woes and generating unflattering accounts that dominate the news for weeks at a time.

[Trump says he has no ‘tapes’ of Comey conversations]

And even when Trump has walked back a questionable comment, he has sometimes planted a new and similarly unsubstantiated claim. In denying Thursday that he had created “tapes” of his conversations with Comey, for example, Trump also suggested that he may have been surveilled.

“With all the recently reported electronic surveillance, intercepts, unmasking and illegal leaking of information, I have no idea whether there are ‘tapes’ or recordings of my conversations with James Comey,” Trump wrote in one tweet, before denying that he had created any.

Before the tapes, there was Trump’s unfounded claim that President Barack Obama “wiretapped” him in Trump Tower during the campaign, setting off a flurry of official inquiries from Congress. His oft-repeated assertion during the campaign that the wall along the southern border would be paid for by Mexico is one that lawmakers in Trump’s own party believe will never happen — yet they and others in the government continue to look for some way to help the president save face.

Trump has also repeatedly claimed that millions of illegal immigrants voted in the last presidential election, with no proof. Yet in an effort to validate his comments, the Trump administration has created a commission aimed at investigating his claim of widespread voter fraud.

“What happens with the president is he shoots himself in the foot, and soon the gangrene spreads to the entire body politic,” said Norm Eisen, a former U.S. ambassador to the Czech Republic and a former ethics czar in the Obama administration. “This is going to be the new normal: elements of the president’s own executive branch openly, or indirectly through leaks, responding to these false tweets.”

[Earlier: Trump suggests there may be ‘tapes’ of his private conversations with former FBI director]

After Trump raised the prospect of Comey-related tapes, ­exasperated lawmakers in both parties pledged to find out one way or another. “I don’t have the foggiest idea,” Sen. Mark R. Warner (D-Va.) said on ABC News the following Sunday.

But the most significant consequences were yet to come.

Comey told lawmakers in testimony this month that as he laid awake in his Northern Virginia bed a week after he was summarily fired, he decided to act — in large part because of Trump’s tweet.

“It didn’t dawn on me originally that there might be corroboration for our conversation. There might be a tape,” he said, explaining why he leaked memos of his conversations with Trump to the media. He also testified, “Lordy, I hope there are tapes!”

Comey’s memos prompted the appointment of special counsel Robert Mueller III, a former FBI director, to investigate possible collusion between Trump campaign associates and Russians who interfered in the election. The Washington Post has also reported that Mueller is investigating whether Trump attempted to obstruct the investigation.

“There’s nothing criminal or illegal about bluffing,” said Alan Dershowitz, a Harvard Law School professor who has often defended Trump against various allegations. “I don’t think he would have said he had tapes if he had them.”

But Dershowitz acknowledged that the tweet may have been a shortsighted attempt to ensure that Comey was careful about his public statements on Trump.

“I don’t know whether it was an unforced error or a tactic, but it could have been both: a tactic that turned out to be an unforced error,” Dershowitz said. “He should have thought through all of that. I very often keep contemporaneous memos, particularly when I’m dealing with people who have credibility issues.

“Lawyers do that,” he added.

[The Fact Checker’s tally of Trump’s false claims]

A similar dynamic played out in March when Trump blasted out another shocker of a tweet claiming that Obama had wiretapped him — an implausible assertion that government officials and lawmakers moved quickly to deny.

But among Trump loyalists in the White House and in Congress, there was a spirited effort to validate the claim.

Three White House officials unearthed classified documents that suggested the Obama administration officials may have “unmasked” the names of Trump campaign associates that were contained in classified intelligence reports. Intelligence experts note that unmasking is a legal practice if done properly and completely different from Trump’s claim that he was illegally “wire tapped.”

But armed with the documents procured by the White House, Rep. Devin Nunes (R-Calif.), chairman of the House Intelligence Committee and a member of Trump’s transition team, set out to defend the president’s tweets. Nunes later told Fox News host Sean Hannity that he felt obligated to brief the president on the unmasking issue because he was “taking a lot of heat in the news media” for his wiretapping tweets.

To intelligence experts, the controversy was an attempt by Trump loyalists to confuse two entirely separate issues — illegal surveillance and legal “unmasking” of the names of American individuals — to defend the president.

“The notion that President Obama could instruct the intel community to set up a tap on Mr. Trump’s offices is preposterous on its face. He doesn’t have that authority,” said Robert Deitz, a former general counsel at the National Security Agency and the Defense Department. “One of the things that’s interesting about Washington is that it’s a little bit of ‘Alice in Wonderland’: You hear something or you see something in the press, and you try to make sense of it.

[With a raucous rally in Iowa, Trump transports himself back to 2016]

The Trump administration has moved to accommodate the president’s dubious rhetoric in other ways.

Trump has repeatedly insisted without evidence that he lost the popular vote because of millions of illegal immigrant voters. That in turn led the White House to create a commission to study the issue — an effort widely dismissed as a sham but which nevertheless is slated to produce a report of its findings next year.

A similar phenomenon has taken hold with Trump’s proposed border wall. The president, lawmakers and his aides have floated a number of schemes to make his promise that taxpayers wouldn’t foot the bill come true, including initially financing the wall with solar panels or a border adjustment tax. Even with Mexico refusing to even entertain the idea of funding — and with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) answering “no” when asked if Mexico would be paying up — Trump hasn’t dropped the issue.

“It’s not unprecedented for people anywhere in the bureaucracy to have to do clean up or to deal with in other ways statements that are short on veracity from the man at the top,” said Paul Pillar, a former CIA officer. “What you’re talking about with the current president is a substantial difference of degree in which some of these things happen.

“There’s as much eye rolling with respect to our foreign partners. They realize the kind of boat their American counterparts have been put in,” he added.

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At the White House’s emerging tech event, drones are one of the day’s big topics – TechCrunch

Tech leaders gathered today at the White House for a series of focused sessions on hot topics in tech. Thursday’s event, titled “American Leadership in Emerging Technology,” is the second big piece of the White House’s Technology Week, continuing on from Tuesday’s discussion about modernizing government technology.

“We’re on the verge of new technological revolutions that could improve, virtually, every aspect of our lives, create vast new wealth for American workers and families, and open up bold, new frontiers in science, medicine, and communication,” President Trump said in his opening remarks.

Drone regulation was among the day’s biggest breakout topics. The attendee list was stacked with executives from the unmanned aircraft space, including PrecisionHawk CEO Michael Chasen, Airspace CEO Jaz Banga, Measure CEO Brandon Declet, Trumbull Unmanned CEO Dyan Gibbens and Kespry CEO George Mathew.

Airspace’s Banga shared his highlights from the event with TechCrunch. According to Banga, the conversation focused on regulatory challenges at the level of state and local governments, including how to speed up the regulation process so that innovation in the sector wouldn’t be stifled. The group discussed how to expedite the process of building out registries that would identify and track drones and drone pilots, as well as how to monitor drone traffic.

Banga noted the “speed and openness” of the conversation, which concentrated on ways to prevent the government from hindering American innovation in the sector. The administration cited the example of the Wright brothers as a model — “they want the same for drones while maintaining safety for all.”

Thursday’s sessions also tackled the future of 5G wireless networks, repeating a similar vision of deregulation that would allow tech companies to move quickly in the space. Executives from AT&T, Verizon, Sprint and T-Mobile were in attendance.

“We shouldn’t apply burdensome rules designed for 100-foot towers to small cells the size of a pizza box,” FCC Chairman Ajit Pai wrote in a Tech Week op-ed. “If America is to lead the world in 5G, we need to modernize our regulations so that infrastructure can be deployed promptly and at scale.”

As Axios reports, a handful of VCs were also present, including New Enterprise Associates, Revolution LLC, Cayuga Venture Fund, 500 Startups, Lightspeed, Epic Ventures, Mohr Davidow Ventures and Arboretum Ventures.

Featured Image: Bryce Durbin

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Rocky rollout for Senate healthcare bill – The Hill

The Senate healthcare bill had a rocky rollout on Thursday as Republican senators complained it doesn’t do enough to repeal ObamaCare or lower healthcare costs.

The blowback raised doubts over whether Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellMitch McConnellRocky rollout for Senate healthcare billOvernight Healthcare: Latest on Senate healthcare bill | Four conservatives say they’ll oppose | Obama slams bill | Health groups offer scathing criticismSanders: I hope McConnell listened to protesters outside his officeMORE (R-Ky.) will be able to stick to his aggressive schedule of voting on the proposal next week. 

Senate Republicans control 52 seats and can only afford two defections, as every Democrat is expected to vote no. 

As of now, McConnell is at least two votes short of a majority — and maybe more.

Four conservative Republican senators, Sen. Rand PaulRand PaulRocky rollout for Senate healthcare billOvernight Healthcare: Latest on Senate healthcare bill | Four conservatives say they’ll oppose | Obama slams bill | Health groups offer scathing criticismFour Senate conservatives say they oppose ObamaCare repeal billMORE (R-Ky.), Mike LeeMike LeeRocky rollout for Senate healthcare billOvernight Healthcare: Latest on Senate healthcare bill | Four conservatives say they’ll oppose | Obama slams bill | Health groups offer scathing criticismFour Senate conservatives say they oppose ObamaCare repeal billMORE (Utah), Ted CruzTed CruzRocky rollout for Senate healthcare billOvernight Healthcare: Latest on Senate healthcare bill | Four conservatives say they’ll oppose | Obama slams bill | Health groups offer scathing criticismCruz floats amendment to Senate healthcare billMORE (Texas) and Ron JohnsonRon JohnsonRocky rollout for Senate healthcare billOvernight Healthcare: Latest on Senate healthcare bill | Four conservatives say they’ll oppose | Obama slams bill | Health groups offer scathing criticismFour Senate conservatives say they oppose ObamaCare repeal billMORE (Wis.) released a statement Thursday afternoon announcing they don’t support the legislation, though they are open to negotiation. 

On the other side of the GOP’s ideological spectrum, several moderates voiced misgivings about the bill’s impact on constituents enrolled in Medicaid. 

Sen. Dean HellerDean HellerRocky rollout for Senate healthcare billKasich: I have ‘deep concerns’ about Senate health planThe Hill’s Whip List: Senate ObamaCare repeal billMORE (R-Nev.), the most vulnerable Republican senator facing reelection next year, said he has “serious concerns about the bill’s impact on the Nevadans who depend on Medicaid.

Sen. Susan CollinsSusan CollinsRocky rollout for Senate healthcare billOvernight Healthcare: Latest on Senate healthcare bill | Four conservatives say they’ll oppose | Obama slams bill | Health groups offer scathing criticismThe Hill’s Whip List: Senate ObamaCare repeal billMORE (R-Maine), another centrist, criticized the bill’s effort to rein in Medicare costs starting in 2025 by imposing indexing it to a lower inflation measure than what House Republicans used in their bill.  

“It is lower than the cost of medical inflation and would translate into literally billions of dollars of cuts and that would mean states would be faced with very unpalatable cases of restricting eligibility or allowing rural hospitals to go under,” she said in a statement. 

Sen. Rob PortmanRob PortmanRocky rollout for Senate healthcare billThe Hill’s Whip List: Senate ObamaCare repeal billWhat’s in the Senate healthcare billMORE (R-Ohio) said he continues “to have real concerns about the Medicaid policies in this bill, especially those that impact drug treatment at a time when Ohio is facing an opioid epidemic.”

Facing a momentous vote that could define their careers, nervous GOP lawmakers are hitting the brakes to give themselves more time to review the legislation and check in with constituents, stakeholder groups and home-state officials.

“I don’t see how I can get the information I’m going to need to get to yes within a week,” Johnson told reporters, adding he wants to speak to doctors and hospitals.

GOP leaders pushed back on talk of delaying the vote after the July 4 recess, saying there are other agenda items that need attention and that delay accomplishes little. 

“It doesn’t get any easier,” said Senate Republican Whip John CornynJohn CornynRocky rollout for Senate healthcare billThe Hill’s 12:30 ReportLive coverage: Senate GOP unveils its ObamaCare repeal billMORE (R-Texas). “We’ve got other things we need to do, like the defense authorization bill.” 

Cornyn said Republicans also need to pass another budget resolution to move forward on tax reform, negotiate spending caps and raise the federal debt ceiling.

A senior Senate Republican aide said the complaints from rank-and-file members about the bill were expected, as many of them would prefer to avoid casting a politically tough vote next week.

“This is forcing senators to make a decision and a lot of them don’t like that,” the aide said. “Some of them would prefer to never answer the question.”

McConnell argued on the floor that the party has a responsibility to address ObamaCare.

“For our constituents. For our states. For our country. We’ve long called for a batter way forward. And we’ve been engaged in intensive talks on how to get there,” he said, noting that there have been dozens of meetings to which every member of his conference has been invited to attend.

GOP leaders will negotiate with the conservative rebels over the next few days in hopes of bringing them on board.

They have slim hopes of winning over Paul, the most critical of the group, but think they can persuade Cruz and Johnson to change their minds. Lee is also seen as a reach. 

“We’re working with them. I’ve talked to Sen. Cruz and I’m convinced he wants to get to yes but he has certain concerns that he’s made clear to us and we’re going to work the best we can to accommodate him,” Cornyn said.

Cruz handed out cards at the Senate Republican lunch Thursday, two hours after the bill was posted online publicly for the first time, laying out what changes he wants to be made.

He wants to add a provision that would allow insurance companies that sell plans meeting ObamaCare’s mandates to also have the freedom to sell plans that do not meet those mandates.

He is pushing to give states flexibility in law to design Medicaid programs without requiring waivers from the Secretary of Health and Human Services.

And Cruz is calling for a host of “consensus” market reforms such as allowing consumers to purchase insurance across state lines. 

Lee, Cruz and Johnson are concerned the GOP proposal won’t do enough to lower insurance premiums because it leaves in place ObamaCare’s insurance regulations, which require companies to sell health plans to people with pre-existing conditions and not price those plans to reflect the risks of insuring sicker people. 

“I don’t think there’s enough, probably, in there to bring down those premiums, which I think is a problem with both the House and maybe the Senate bill now,” Johnson told reporters. 

Cruz in a separate statement said, “as currently drafted, this bill drafted does not do nearly enough to lower premiums.”

As expected, Democrats immediately assailed the bill, calling it a “meaner” version of the unpopular House healthcare measure.

“The Senate version of ‘TrumpCare’ is even meaner than the House bill,” Senate Democratic Leader Charles SchumerCharles SchumerFCC advances proposal to unmask blocked caller ID in threat casesTrump: Pelosi’s leadership good for the GOPLive coverage: Senate GOP unveils its ObamaCare repeal billMORE (N.Y.) told reporters at a press conference. 

“The bill takes dollars out of healthcare for millions of Americans and puts them right back in the pocket of the wealthy,” he said. 

He noted the legislation would cut taxes for high-income earners while defunding Planned Parenthood for a year and cutting Medicaid.

And he argued it would cause healthcare costs for middle-class and working families to go up by cutting back on tax credits to help people buy insurance on government run exchanges.

More surprising was the harsh reception the legislation received from Senate Republicans who held a special conference meeting to review the legislation Thursday morning. 

Up until that point, GOP senators had kept their criticisms quiet. But once GOP leaders publicly posted the draft online, they quickly made their feelings known. 

“This bill probably, we think, more ObamaCare subsidies or at least as much as is already in ObamaCare,” Paul said. “When you add in the stabilization fund and you look at subsidies, we’re looking at something that may exceed ObamaCare.”

In addition to hundreds of billions of dollars in tax credits and subsidies to help lower-income people buy health insurance plans, the proposal would appropriate $50 billion over four years to stabilize ObamaCare’s insurance exchanges. 

Peter Sullivan and Nathaniel Weixel contributed. 

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McConnell’s Calculation May Be That He Still Wins by Losing – New York Times

WASHINGTON — When it comes to managing Republicans’ best interests, Senator Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, the majority leader, rarely loses. So it is possible that Mr. McConnell views the potential failure of a hastily written health care bill as an eventual boon.

His presentation on Thursday of the Senate’s health care measure to Republican colleagues — after the White House and key lobbyists got a peek the night before — was met with something other than unbridled enthusiasm. According to lawmakers who were at the unveiling, members from the left and right ends of the party’s spectrum were deeply critical of the effort.

As Democrats immediately took to the Senate floor to excoriate the bill and the secretive process in which it was put together, few Republicans, even those involved in crafting it, came to defend it.

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The podcast that makes sense of the most delirious stretch of the 2016 campaign.

A handful of Republicans — more than Mr. McConnell can afford to lose — were quick to disparage the measure. “I have serious concerns about the bill’s impact on the Nevadans who depend on Medicaid,” Senator Dean Heller, his party’s most vulnerable incumbent in the 2018 elections, said of his constituents.

Senator Susan Collins of Maine rendered her own lukewarm judgment, while Senator Shelley Moore Capito of West Virginia simply said she would read it, with all the enthusiasm of a college senior faced with a weekend assignment of Proust.

Four others went further. Senators Ted Cruz of Texas, Ron Johnson of Wisconsin, Mike Lee of Utah and Rand Paul of Kentucky all said they would not vote for the bill as currently proposed.

Mr. McConnell plays his strategic cards so close to the vest that a Queen of Hearts must be tattooed on his tie. He may, of course, be convinced that the Senate can pass this bill. Perhaps after some moaning, and some changes to the bill through amendments, the 51 senators needed to get the bill over the line (or 50 if Vice President Mike Pence is summoned) will choose a good-enough effort over being tarred as the person who declined to make good on a seven-year promise to unravel President Barack Obama’s signature domestic policy achievement.

When it comes to voting yes, a majority of members of Congress have a policy price, and leaders often will write the check. “There’s the natural frustrations that people have” at the start of a process that often ends in legislative victory, said Senator Bob Corker, Republican of Tennessee.

But there are potential costs for senators like Mr. Heller and others in repealing a law that has grown in popularity over recent years, and Mr. McConnell has always taken pride in protecting his members. Trying to come to a meeting of the minds with the House — which crafted a far more conservative bill in many respects — would be time-consuming and unpleasant.

Mr. McConnell and many of his aides are also eager to get to the business of changing the tax code, which they view as less difficult than health care, and have been working with the White House behind the scenes to get that effort started. For Mr. McConnell, cutting taxes is a much higher priority than health care, which time and President Trump have turned into quicksand for him and his fellow Republicans.

Just hours after the presentation of the Senate health care bill, Mr. McConnell met with Speaker Paul D. Ryan and White House officials to talk taxes.

Mr. McConnell is not fond of bringing bills to the floor that he does not think can pass. Should he be unable to pull together enough support on the health care bill over the next week, it would seem likely at first glance that he would make the dreaded call to the White House to let the president know that he lacked the votes.

When Mr. Ryan made that move, it was received with anger and pressure to get something — anything — off the floor, and indeed Mr. Ryan did. But Mr. McConnell and senators are generally more resistant to pressure from the White House and will keep their own interests in mind. Forcing senators from states where the Medicaid law was expanded to take that vote and have the bill fail could be costly.

“It’s a short bill,” said Mr. Corker, who, like most other members, said he still had to plow through it and talk to state insurance officials, among other steps. “But it has a big impact on a lot of people.”

However, Mr. McConnell may also decide that the matter cannot be closed without a vote and take his chances that recalcitrant members can be pulled along. Not voting would also leave House Republicans, who voted for a deeply unpopular bill in their chamber, exposed.

Simply put, coming up with a final version of the bill that pleases Ms. Collins, who is concerned that it is still too punitive for many residents of her old and relatively poor state, and Mr. Paul, who feels it is still too generous, is a tough task.

“I think everybody wants to get to yes,” said Senator John Thune of South Dakota, a member of the Republican leadership. “And there are some things that we’ve said all along that are dialable on this bill that we can hopefully tweak a little bit before it comes to the floor.”

He added, however, “I’m not sure that, you know, Rand will ever be there.”

Many Republicans say privately that they are eager to work with Democrats on fixes to the current law to keep the insurance exchanges from imploding. They may well wish to call Democrats’ bluff as they have insisted they want that to work in a bipartisan fashion, too.

But most instructive of all may be Mr. McConnell’s own words. In his 2016 memoir, “The Long Game,” he noted that, as minority leader, he went out of his way to make sure that one party owned the health care issue. “I wanted a clear line of demarcation — they were for this, and we were against it,” he said. Perhaps he is not excited to let that one party now be his own.

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Canadian Special Operations sniper hit target from more than 2 miles away, military says – Washington Post

U.S. Marine Corps snipers at a training range in California, May 2009. (Thomas Gibbons-Neff/The Washington Post

A Canadian Special Operations sniper shot an Islamic State fighter from nearly 2.2 miles away in Iraq, the Toronto-based Globe and Mail newspaper reported Thursday.

The shot, according to the report, happened within the last month. In a statement following publication of the Globe and Mail article, the Canadian Special Operations Command confirmed that one of its soldiers from the elite Joint Task Force 2 hit a human target from 3,540 meters away. The statement did not provide any evidence to support the claim, or say if the target was killed.

“For operational security reasons and to preserve the safety of our personnel and our Coalition partners, we will not discuss precise details on when and how this incident took place,” the statement said. “The [Special Operations Task Force] provides its expertise to Iraqi security force to detect, identify and defeat Daesh activities from well behind the Iraqi security force front line in Mosul,” it added, using an Arabic acronym for the Islamic State.

[Why the Marines have failed to adopt a new sniper rifle in the past 14 years]

If true and if the target was indeed killed, the shot — or multiple shots — would join the macabre ranks of the longest sniper kills in history.

The Globe and Mail said the shooter used a McMillan Tac-50 rifle. The U.S.-made rifle, chambered in .50 caliber, is known in the Canadian armed forces as the C15 Long Range Sniper Weapon and was responsible for multiple record-breaking shots during Operation Anaconda in Afghanistan in 2002. The weapon has a maximum effective range of around 4,000 yards and weighs roughly 26 pounds.

The Tac-50 is billed as being able to shoot a .5 inch bullet group at 100 yards. Meaning at 3,871 yards, its grouping size would be somewhere around 20 inches. For the soldier to hit his target 3,540 meters (3,871 yards) he would need to account for every atmospheric factor available. Windspeed, temperature, barometric pressure, the bullets yaw and the rotation of the earth would all need to be considered before pulling the trigger. These variables, once harnessed from devices such as a handheld weather meter and potentially range-finding equipment on the gun, would then be processed through a ballistic calculator that would let the shooter make the necessary adjustments on the rifle’s scope.

When asked about the incident, one active duty and two former U.S. Marine Corps snipers were skeptical, saying that the shot, while possible, was also highly improbable. A human sized-target at that range would be almost impossible to see with even some of the most advanced rifle optics available, they said.

Evan McAllister, a former Marine sergeant who served multiple deployments as a sniper in Ramadi, Iraq and in Afghanistan’s Helmand province, said little is known about the capabilities of a unit like Joint Task Force 2. The team was likely operating with an array of systems to help make the shot, he said.

“While the shot was possible with the outstanding ballistic properties of a match .50 projectile, a conventional rifle scope would make seeing the target at that range almost impossible, and it may be likely that the sniper team had some form of assistance either from an extremely advanced rifle scope or an overhead drone,” McAllister said. “There is also a chance that the sniper couldn’t exactly see the target or the impacts, but a spotter with an advanced optical device was able to verbally walk the sniper onto the target and correct his aim.”

The Canadian military maintains a robust special operations presence in Iraq in lieu of conducting airstrikes on behalf of the U.S.-led coalition. Much like their American counterparts, the units provide assistance for Iraqi forces and have been filmed on the front lines.

Iraqi forces report progress in the campaign to dislodge Islamic State from Mosul, announcing the capture of a district just north of the city’s historic center. (Reuters)

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Senate GOP finally unveils secret health care bill; currently lacks votes to pass – CNN

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Senate GOP reveals Obamacare repeal bill but still lacks the votes – Politico

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell is pictured. | Andrew Harnik/AP Photo

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell is still short the 50 votes he needs to pass the bill, with several senators saying they’re withholding their support until they see final legislation. | John Shinkle/POLITICO

After weeks of work behind closed doors, the GOP released its plan and is now trying to find the votes to pass it.

Senate Republican leaders unveiled their long-secret plan to repeal Obamacare on Thursday, giving GOP senators and the public the first glimpse at a bill that would rewrite the nation’s health care system.

GOP leaders still face huge hurdles in getting the bill passed next week, but the plan got a warm reception from Republicans after they were briefed Thursday morning.

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“It’s a good beginning,” said Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.). “The status quo is unacceptable.”

The broad contours of

The bill bars the use of subsidies for plans that include abortion coverage, though some Republicans have said that the provision may not survive due to the Senate’s strict procedural rules under reconciliation. Planned Parenthood would be defunded for one year.

Obamacare’s $1 billion Prevention and Public Health Fund, which was designed to tackle threats like Zika and pay for preventive health services, would be eliminated by 2018.

Senate Republicans would allow states to opt out of some of Obamacare’s insurance requirements, including one requiring states to have an exchange, as well as rules for what benefits insurers must cover, what qualifies as a health plan, and the actuarial value of the plans. Those waivers are aimed at loosening oversight of insurers and paving the way toward even lower premiums, though they could also prompt insurers to dramatically cut benefits and increase deductibles.

The bill won’t allow states to waive Obamacare requirements that insurers accept everyone and charge the same rates, with few exceptions. The House waived the latter requirement, triggering a storm of criticism that it was abandoning people with pre-existing conditions.

Republicans are hoping for broader buy-in from the healthcare industry Thursday than the House bill received, some senators said. But the bill’s fate will rest on how factions on either end of the conference’s ideological spectrum react to the bill’s sweeping proposals.

Indeed, conservatives, moderates and senators from Medicaid expansion states all remained on the fence even after coming out of the meeting.

“By the time I get back to my office I’m told I’ll have a copy,” said Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska), a key moderate swing vote. “There was no paper. … I want to get back to my office and actually take a look at it.”

Along with other Medicaid expansion-state senators, like Ohio’s Rob Portman and West Virginia’s Shelley Moore Capito, Murkowski is worried about the consequences of cutting off Obamacare’s enhanced funding so quickly, and pushed instead for rolling back expansion over as many as seven years.

Murkowski and Sen. Susan Collins have also warned against defunding Planned Parenthood as part of the bill, and expressed reservations about the impact certain provisions may have on elderly Americans’ ability to afford coverage.

McConnell full remarks on Senate health care bill

And among conservatives, there remain serious concerns over whether the repeal bill amounts to a “true” repeal of Obamacare and the regulations it imposes on the health care system.