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-Signs, Portents, and the Weather-
Bald eagle smashes window at Virginia tax office, flies off
2019-12-04
NORFOLK, Va. (AP) — A bald eagle has made an unexpected appearance at a Virginia tax preparation office, slamming into a window and then apparently flying off without serious injuries.

The Virginian-Pilot reports the mature bald eagle struck a window Monday at an H&R Block office in Norfolk, leaving a hole nearly three feet (one meter wide) and scattering glass shards over the office floor.

Harry Patterson Jr., who runs a neighboring insurance office, says he was on the phone when he saw what he thought looked like a stuffed animal. Patterson says the office is closed until tax season.

A spokesman for H&R Block acknowledged the incident.
Good symbolism, birdy!
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Science & Technology
In a Wisconsin village, the doctor makes house calls ‐ and sees the rarest diseases on Earth
2019-12-03
[USA Today] When James DeLine became a rural doctor, he had no experience treating the Amish, and no idea he'd be at the cutting edge of genetic medicine.

MILWAUKEE, Wis. ‐ It is 5 degrees below zero and a light powdering of snow swirls across the roads of Vernon County. A few horses and buggies clop through the chill morning air, but Perry Hochstetler leaves his buggy at the family farm and has a driver take him to his doctor’s appointment.

The Hochstetlers are Amish. With no health insurance and a modest income, they cannot afford most doctors.

They can afford James DeLine, once the lone doctor in the western Wisconsin village of La Farge. Population 750.

When he became the village doctor in 1983, DeLine had no experience treating the Amish and no idea the crucial role they would play in his work. Today, about 20% of the doctor’s patients are Amish or Old Order Mennonite, part of a Christian population called Plain People. They are known for their separation from the modern world and adherence to a simple lifestyle and unadorned dress.

Something of a throwback himself, DeLine, 65, is a short, bespectacled man with a walrus mustache, a doctor who carries a brown medical bag to house calls. For years, he carried his equipment in a fishing tackle box.

He knows the families on every local farm and their medical histories. He knows who’s been born, and calls on the mothers and infants to make sure they are healthy. He knows who’s dying, and looks in on them in their final days, sitting by their bedside, talking in a gentle voice, making sure they have what they need for pain.
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Home Front: Politix
Kamala Harris drops out of presidential race after plummeting from top tier of Democratic candidates
2019-12-03
Sen. Kamala Harris is ending her presidential campaign.

Harris, D-Calif., informed her staff Tuesday that she is suspending her campaign, an aide told CNBC.

Earlier Tuesday, CNBC reported that Harris canceled a fundraising event in New York amid reports of turmoil within her campaign.
Tulsi Gabbard says: "Kiss my @ss"
Harris, 55, was the only black candidate whose polling numbers and national media attention had placed her in the top tier of the 2020 contest, if only for a short while.

She made waves with her announcement in January, nailing a campaign rollout that earned praise from Democrats ‐ and even a compliment from President Donald Trump.

"I would say, the best opening so far would be Kamala Harris," Trump said at the time.

In the months following her positive first impression, Harris and her campaign showed the makings of a contender who might be in it for the long haul.

She landed perhaps the hardest and clearest punch of the early primary debate cycle, when she tore into the frontrunner, former Vice President Joe Biden, over his comments about working with segregationist lawmakers and his past views on busing.

The attack gave her a spotlight on that stage, as well as a clear bump in the polls and a hefty fundraising boost.

But her rise in popularity appeared to evaporate soon after, and her performance in the second debate was widely viewed as subpar. Harris’ fundraising numbers consistently trailed her leading competitors, and some of her donors reportedly considered dropping her if she failed to impress going forward.

Asked about Harris’ exit from the 2020 race, Biden said Tuesday that he had "mixed emotions," though he added that Harris was a first-rate intellect and a strong competitor, NBC News reported.

A spokesman for the Trump campaign did not immediately respond to CNBC’s request for comment on the latest departure from the Democratic primary.

Harris also faced criticism on her policy platform. In her breakout first debate performance in June, Harris had raised her hand when a moderator asked which of the candidates supported abolishing private insurance in favor of a government-run single-payer alternative.

A day later, she appeared to reverse herself, saying a Harris administration would preserve supplemental private insurance.

As the Iowa caucuses neared, Harris’ campaign further suffered from a lack of a clear strategy and a fractured and disgruntled campaign staff, according to multiple media reports.

By the end of November, the RealClearPolitics aggregate of candidate polls showed Harris sliding into the low single digits, while the nearest candidate above her, South Bend, Ind., Mayor Pete Buttigieg, appeared to be surging higher.
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Government
Why Obamacare is behind problems at Minnesota DHS
2019-12-01
It Ain't Just MN
[AlphaNewsMN] It’s highly likely that the $75 million is only just the beginning of the wrongful billings at Minnesota’s DHS.

Obamacare came along and intended to expand Medicaid to poor able-bodied adults who didn’t have children under their care, but who didn’t receive employer-provided insurance. But the Supreme Court ruled that Obamacare couldn’t force Medicaid expansion on states. Instead, to get states to sign up for Medicaid expansion, the ACA said that feds would cover 100 percent of the cost of new enrollees, for a time, and would cover 90 percent of the cost starting in 2020 and beyond.

BAD INCENTIVES
The first problem was that while some expansion beneficiaries truly were unable to work, or unable to work at a job that offered employer-provided coverage, others were opting for shiftlessness.
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Europe
Sweden probes Iraq minister for ‘crimes against humanity’
2019-11-26
[ENGLISH.ALARABIYA.NET] Swedish prosecutors said Monday they were investigating an Iraqi government minister for "crimes against humanity," as media reports suggested he was related to the shooting dead of hundreds of protesters.

Swedish media identified the subject of their inquiry as Defense Minister Najah al-Shammari,
...he’s the one with dual Swedish and Iraqi citizenship, as I recall..
but the statement from the Swedish Prosecution Authority did not name anyone.

The prosecutors’ body said in a statement that it had received complaints about "an Iraqi minister suspected of crimes against humanity". The investigation was "in a very early stage," it added.

Several Swedish media outlets, including the country’s main dailies, identified him as al-Shammari, reporting that he was also a Swedish citizen, though he goes by a different name in Sweden.

An unnamed Swedish-Iraqi lawyer told Svenska Dagbladet newspaper that he had reported al-Shammari to police in October for his role in the shooting of hundreds of protesters during weeks of unrest.

Since October 1, Iraq’s capital and majority-Shia south have been swept by mass rallies protesting corruption, a lack of jobs and poor services. Those demonstrations have escalated into calls for a complete overhaul of the ruling elite.

An estimated 350 protesters have been killed and thousands maimed in festivities with the security forces, according to a tally compiled by AFP. The authorities in Iraq no longer update their figures.

The defense minister is also under investigation for benefits fraud for claiming housing and child benefits from Sweden despite living in Iraq, according to online news site Nyheter Idag and Swedish newspaper Expressen.

Swedish social insurance agency Forsakringskassan told AFP that they were unable to confirm whether they were investigating al-Shammari as all their cases are classified.

Al-Shammari arrived in Sweden in 2009 and was granted a permanent residency in 2011 before getting his citizenship in 2015, according to Expressen.
There it is. But it’s so recent that it will be easy to strip him of both citizenship and residency, so that’s ok.
Related:
Najah al-Shammari: 2019-11-24 Iraq’s defense minister suspected of fraud in Sweden
Najah al-Shammari: 2019-10-29 Iraqi minister of defense says a missile fell near Taji camp
Najah al-Shammari: 2019-10-24 Iraqi defense minister gives US troops 4 weeks to leave Iraq
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Syria-Lebanon-Iran
Fear, turmoil in Lebanon as its financial crisis worsens
2019-11-22
[DAWN] On one of Beirut’s main commercial streets, store owners are cutting salaries by half or considering shutting down. Shops advertise sales, but still can’t draw in customers. The only place doing a thriving business: the store that sells safes, as Lebanese increasingly stash their cash at home.

It’s a sign Lebanese fear their country’s financial crisis, which has been worsening for months, could tip over into disaster.

Banks have clamped limits on withdrawals of US dollars. The Central Bank’s sources for dollars are waning. Politicians are paralysed, struggling to form a new government in the face of tens of thousands of protesters in the streets for the past month in an unprecedented uprising demanding the entire leadership go.

"People are scared," said Khalil Chehab, owner of Shehab Security, a store selling safes on Beirut’s Hamra Street. "Since the middle of last month, business rose about 30%."

As he spoke to The News Agency that Dare Not be Named, three customers were in his shop. Clients of all economic levels have been coming, he said ‐ and the shop has safes for any budget, with prices from $35 to $15,000.

A jewelry shop nearby has also seen a bump in business from people in need of cash coming in to sell their valuables, said its owner, who asked to be identified only by his first name, Nabil.

Businesses and households have been thrown into disarray. Residents say they don’t know how they will come up with dollar payments needed to pay for tuition, health insurance and housing loans. Companies are struggling to transfer salaries to staff, others have cut salaries or are simply laying off employees.

Leb has one of the highest debt ratios in the world, at around $86 billion or 150% of GDP. Much of the government’s budget is sucked up by salaries in the sprawling public sector, while infrastructure has gone undeveloped for years. Struggling with the broken economy, the government began hiking taxes and taking other measures, prompting small protests early in the year.

But the protests went kaboom! across the country on October 17 in response to a new round of proposed taxes and evolved into a revolt against the country’s entire political elite. Protesters blame the politicians for decades of systematic corruption and mismanagement that brought the country into its dire economic straits. The prime minister stepped down on Oct 29, but political parties have been unable to agree on a government since.

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-Land of the Free
Some family doctors ditch insurance for simpler approach
2019-11-21
[Med Press] Dr. Emilie Scott was only a few months into her first job when she started hearing the complaint: She was spending too much time with each patient.

Like many primary care doctors working in large medical systems, Scott was encouraged to see a new patient every 20 minutes. But that was barely enough time to talk and do a physical.

She eventually quit her job to try a new approach aimed at eliminating many of the headaches of traditional health care: tight schedules, short appointments and piles of insurance paperwork.

Instead of billing insurers, Scott now charges patients a $79 monthly fee that covers office visits, phone calls, emails, texts and certain medical tests and procedures. Scott typically sees six patients a day, down from around 30, and spends more time at each appointment. She hired two assistants to help handle paperwork compared with working with a department of billing specialists.

This approach —direct primary care—aims to leverage the extra time and money from avoiding insurance into improving care for patients.

"As far as our financial success, it does not depend upon having a team of people to figure out how to get money from the insurance company," said Scott, who co-owns a private practice in Irvine, California that serves about 900 patients. Scott said the practice has grown by word-of-mouth, without advertising.

In many ways, direct primary care is a return to a simpler time when doctors charged cash for their services. Patients say they appreciate the accessibility and simplicity of the system.

But health care researchers question its cost-effectiveness and whether it will ever be capable of serving large numbers of people.
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-Land of the Free
Supreme Court Delivers Unanimous Victory for Asset Forfeiture Challenge
2019-11-09
[Reason] The Eighth Amendment prohibition against excessive fines and fees applies to states as well, SCOTUS rules, opening a new way to challenge outlandish forfeitures.

States are bound by the Eighth Amendment's prohibition against excessive fines and fees when they seek to seize property or other assets from individuals charged or convicted of a crime, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled unanimously on Wednesday.

It's a decision that hands a major victory to critics of civil asset forfeiture, and it opens another avenue to legal challenges against that widely used (and often abused) practice by which states and local governments can seize cars, cash, homes, and pretty much anything else that is suspected of being used to commit a crime.

The case before the Supreme Court, Timbs v. Indiana, involved the seizure of a $42,000 Land Rover SUV from Tyson Timbs, who was arrested in 2015 for selling heroin to undercover police officers. He pleaded guilty to his crimes and was sentenced to one year of house arrest and five years of probation. On top of that, the state of Indiana seized his 2012 Land Rover—which he had purchased with money received from his late father's life insurance payout, not with the proceeds of drug sales—on the ground that it had been used to commit a crime.

Timbs challenged that seizure, arguing that taking his vehicle amounted to an additional fine on top of the sentence he had already received. The Indiana Supreme Court rejected that argument, solely because the U.S. Supreme Court had never explicitly stated that the Eighth Amendment applied to the states.

On Wednesday, the high court did exactly that.

"For good reason, the protection against excessive fines has been a constant shield throughout Anglo-American history," wrote Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg in the opinion. "Excessive fines can be used, for example, to retaliate against or chill the speech of political enemies," she wrote, or can become sources of revenue disconnected from the criminal justice system.
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-Lurid Crime Tales-
Father accused of killing 2 sons for insurance by driving them into water at Port of LA
2019-10-20
[ABC7] A 44-year-old father sobbed openly in federal court Thursday as he was accused in a deadly case of insurance fraud.
Crying because he was caught, or because he hadn’t finished the job?
Defendant Ali Elmezayen
...an Egyptian immigrant who must have worked under the table...
said he had loaded his two sons, who have autism, and their mother in the family's Honda Civic to watch the boats at the Port of Los Angeles and ended up driving them off a fishing dock into the water.

The sons, 13-year old Elhassan and 8-year old Abdelkrim, drowned.

Their mother, Rehab Diab,
...another Egyptian, also an illegal immigrant...
whose marital relationship with Elmezayen is not clearly documented, was unable to swim. Fishermen rescued her.

Diab is a prosecution witness.

Federal prosecutors allege that the action was a set up that was years in the making.

Elmezayen, a low-income Egyptian immigrant, was paying $6,000 a year to insure his family, then collected $260,000.

Federal prosecutor Alexander Wyman told the jury that the defendant beat Diab and phoned her parents in Egypt, "threatening to send her home in a coffin," that he was going to "bury her alive" and that he wanted to take a second wife.

Defense attorney Christine O'Connor said that Elmezayen bought the policies to protect his family - that he had under-the-table income to pay the premiums.

Deflecting blame, the defense told jurors to look at the wife's history. Undocumented, once marrying a homeless man to get legal status - claiming that he abused her when advised that doing so would protect her from deportation.

About the defendant - the defense says he is not cunning, but rather, "kind of a kook," "complicated," but not a monster.
It’s all just fun and games until all the targets are drowned? Ooookaaayy.
Elmezayen faces a separate trial in Superior Court for the murder of his sons.
The Washington Post had an article on the subject last November:
It was all part of a scheme to collect on the millions of dollars in seven life insurance policies he had taken out on their lives. It was a plan he had been plotting for more than two years, according to prosecutors.

He was ordered detained without bail Tuesday. Prosecutors argued he poses a danger to his family, because although he and Diab separated a week after the tragedy, he is still paying premiums on her life insurance and on the insurance of his third son. The boy was away at camp on the night his siblings drowned.

Elmezayen and Diab’s story began in Egypt, where they started dating before coming to the United States on six-month visitor visas in 2000. But instead of returning, they settled down in California and had three sons together, each of them autistic. An immigration judge later ordered Elmezayen and Diab removed, but each was granted “withholding of removal,” according to the federal prosecutors.

In an attempt to remain in the country legally, Elmezayen entered into a sham marriage with an American citizen he met while working as a security guard at a Los Angeles drugstore, according to a 2006 interview he gave to immigration authorities. The sham wife lived in an alcohol treatment center, and the deal was that she would marry Elmezayen so he could get a green card as long as he continued to financially support her once he obtained it. He never did. In four years, he paid the woman $500, he told authorities. (They later divorced.)

Money never seemed to come easy for Elmezayen, who filed for bankruptcy in 2010 and had been earning less than $30,000 annually, prosecutors said. But somehow he found the money to take out seven different accidental death and life insurance policies on his family’s lives.

In total, he took out more than $6 million in policies, costing him $6,000 a year in premiums, according to prosecutors.

Diab said in a deposition in 2017 that she knew about the policies for both her and Elmezayen — but not the children. (The deposition was part of a wrongful-death lawsuit she and Elmezayen filed against Honda, Jiffy Lube and Los Angeles County. They lost.)

Twelve days after the two-year period expired on the last life insurance policy he had purchased, Elmezayen barreled down the wharf and into the ocean. In a matter of months, he collected more than $260,000 on his sons' lives, according to the affidavit. He wired $171,000, the bulk of the money, to Egypt.

Elmezayen denied having any life insurance policies on his children in interviews with police on the night of the plunge.
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Home Front: Politix
'Dirtiest Jobs' Mike Rowe Burns Dems With His Post-Debate Observations
2019-10-18
[Townhall] It may not have been the most exciting debate. The September debate was filled with more swipes at one another, but the Democratic debate Tuesday night once again showed how insane this party has become. One could see why impeachment is on the minds of Democrats; it may be the only way to beat Trump in 2020. Trump has an agenda of fewer regulations, tax cuts, a booming economy, over three million new jobs, bigger paychecks, and record unemployment across the board. The Democrats want to increase taxes, wreck capitalism, torch the economy, confiscate guns, give illegal aliens health care, and cannibalize private health insurance. On the latter, it’s the only way for Medicare for All to work.

The top of the 2020 crop is a democratic socialist who just had a heart attack, a fake Indian who can’t answer the simple question about whether her health care plan will jack up middle-class taxes, and a former vice president who is beyond incoherent. They’re also all very, very old. It’s like Night of the Living Dead. Of course, Warren’s health care plan would increase taxes. Everyone’s taxes will go up and she knows that. Hence, her prevarication on the subject. And Warren was treated like the frontrunner Tuesday night. It did not go well; she was raked over the coals for her vague health care remarks. Biden didn’t fare much better and he’s emerging as one of the weakest frontrunners to run for the presidency in recent memory. There’s a reason why he never reached such status in past presidential bids; he’s just not that good. And 85 percent of the reason why he was atop of the polls was due to name recognition. After his serial gaffes on the trail, I think there are a lot of Democratic voters having second thoughts. Yet, Mike Rowe, the former host of the popular show Dirty Jobs and narrator for Discovery’s Deadliest Catch, had the most brutal observation about that night.

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Home Front: Culture Wars
Rutgers Prof ties black female obesity to Trump policies, racism
2019-10-16
[Campus Reform] A New Jersey professor suggested on a TV program that racism and President Donald Trump’s policies are responsible for black female obesity.

Rutgers University women’s and gender studies professor Brittney Cooper made the argument during an appearance on “Black Women OWN the Conversation” on the Oprah Winfrey Network.

"I hate when people talk about Black women being obese," Cooper said on the program. "I hate it because it becomes a way to blame us for a set of conditions that we didn’t create."

"We are living in the Trump era," the professor said. "And look, those policies kill our people. You can’t get access to good health care, good insurance."
"We CAN get cheetos, though"
Cooper said that research points to black women losing less weight and at a slower rate than do white women, claiming that public health practitioners tie increased stress to a change in metabolism.

"It’s literally that the racism that you’re experiencing and the struggle to make ends meet actually means the diet don’t [sic] work for you the same," she adds.

Campus Reform followed up with Cooper about her appearance on the show and the professor suggested there was a scholarly basis for her remarks.

"I wasn’t making an argument about Trump admin policies and weight," the professor said. "Dr. Arline Geronimus’ research from the 1990s argues pretty convincingly that black women have physiological stress responses to racial stimuli and this affects our long term health. I was citing this body of work and the president’s status as a racially polarizing figure that contributes to issues of racial stress for people of color."
Brittney Cooper:
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Economy
A doctor's office that charges $150 a month and doesn't take insurance just raised $26 million to take its model national
2019-10-11
[News Of The Day] Parsley Health, a medical practice that charges a monthly fee and doesn’t take insurance, just raised $26 million in a round led by White Star Capital.

At Parsley Health, a $150-a-month membership provides access to doctors and health coaches, with the goal of treating conditions in a more comprehensive way than traditional primary care.

Now, Parsley wants to bring its services to people who can’t get to one of its three locations through a virtual service.

Parsley Health, a new kind of doctor’s office that charges a monthly fee and doesn’t take insurance, is planning to take its business virtual.

The company, which operates three clinics in New York, Los Angeles, and San Francisco, on Thursday said it raised $26 million to help pull off that expansion.

White Star Capital led the Series B round, with FirstMark Capital, Amplo, Alpha Edison Partners, Arkitekt Ventures, and Galaxy Digital joining in alongside One Medical founder Tom Lee and Flatiron Health CEO Nat Turner. In total, the company’s raised $36 million from investors.

Parsley Health’s approach of offering care for a monthly fee is similar to direct primary care, a small but fast-growing movement of pediatricians, family-medicine physicians, and internists. This group doesn’t accept insurance, and instead charges a monthly membership fee that covers most of what the average patient needs, including longer visits and some prescription drugs at lower prices.
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