Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Bookies Offers Yuuuge Odds On Trump’s Impeachment Within 6 Months


What are the odds that Trump will be Impeached or won’t complete his first Term in Office?

According to Paddy Power, they’re pretty high.

The Irish bookmaker is currently taking bets on the President-Elect being Impeached within six months of his Presidency at 4-1 and offering odds of 7-4 that he’ll prematurely leave the White House.

It’s taking further wagers on the first thing that Trump will say during his Inauguration Speech Friday. His catchphrase “Make America Great Again” is odds on at 5-4, the term “Job Creation” is seen as very probable at 3-1 and “Russia” is likewise at 5-1.

While America may still be recovering from one of the most divisive Presidential Election Campaigns in decades, the company is also already taking bets on who may run in 2020.

Should he not leave Office beforehand, Trump is odds-on to run for Reelection at 11-10. House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) and Vice President-Elect Mike Pence are hotly tipped at 7-1 each, while first lady Michelle Obama is 8-1.

Reality TV star Kim Kardashian is a long shot at 275-1, while her rap star husband Kanye West, who has said he will run for President in the future, is at 100-1.

Some of Paddy Power’s odds may seem attractive, but one should remember that the company rashly paid out to people betting on Democratic candidate Clinton to become President weeks before the 2016 Election after erroneously thinking that her victory was a done deal.

In 2012, it also offered odds of 100-1 that Trump would win the race. And we know how that turned out.











NYC Wins When Everyone Can Vote! Michael H. Drucker
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KS and VA Ballot Access Bills Pass Senate


Thanks to Richard Winger of Ballot Access News for this post.

Kansas

On the evening of January 17th, the Kansas Senate passed HB 2017 unanimously. It improves Ballot Access in special U.S. House Elections.

It lowers the Number of Signatures for an Independent from 4% of the Number of Registered Voters, approximately 17,000 signatures, to exactly 3,000 signatures.

It also allows ballot-Qualified Parties that nominate by Convention to participate in the Election.

Virginia

On January 17th, the Virginia Senate Privileges & Elections Committee passed SB 1236, which lowers the number of signatures for Statewide candidates in both the Primary and the General Election from 10,000 signatures to 5,000.

The vote was 5-4, with one abstention.

Currently the Presidential Petitions are 5,000.











NYC Wins When Everyone Can Vote! Michael H. Drucker
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Court of Appeal of Versailles Says Israel is Legal Occupant of West Bank


The Court of Appeal of Versailles ruled that West Bank Settlements and Occupation of Judea Samaria by Israel is unequivocally legal under International Law, in a suit brought by the Palestinian Authority against Jerusalem’s light rail built by French companies Alstom and Veolia.

First and foremost, the Versailles Court of Appeals had to determine the Legal rights of Palestinians and Israelis in West Bank. Their conclusion: Palestinians have no right, in the International Legal sense, to the region, unlike Israel, who is legitimately entitled to occupy all land beyond the 67 line.

The context :

In the 90s, Israel bid for the construction of the Jerusalem Light Rail. The tender was won by French companies Veolia and Alstom. The Light Rail was completed in 2011, and it cross Jerusalem all the way to the East side and the Occupied Territories.

Following this, the PLO filed a complaint with the High Court, Tribunal de Grande Instance, of Versailles France, against Alstom and Veolia, because according to PLO, “the construction of the tram is illegal since the UN, the EU, many NGOs and governments consider that Israel illegally occupy Palestinian territories.”

In order to rule whether the Light Rail construction was Legal or not, the Court had to seek the texts of International Law, to examine International Treaties, in order to establish the respective rights of the Palestinians and the Israelis.

It is the first time since the establishment of the State of Israel in 1948 that an Independent, Non-Israeli Court has been called upon to examine the Legal status of West Bank Territories under International Law, beyond the Political claims of the Parties.

Keep in mind though, that the Court’s findings have no effect in International Law. What they do, and it’s of the utmost importance, is to clarify the Legal reality.

The Versailles Court of Appeal conclusions are as resounding as the silence in which they were received in the media: Israel has Real Rights in the Territories, its decision to build a light rail in the West Bank or anything else in the area is legal, and the Judges have rejected all the arguments presented by the Palestinians.

The Court of Appeal does not deny the Occupation, but it destroys all the Palestinian arguments, one after another.

Referring to the texts on which the PLO claim is based, the Court of Appeal considers that Israel is entitled to ensure Order and Public life in the West Bank, therefore Israel has the right to build a light rail, infrastructure and dwellings.

Article 43 of the Fourth Hague Convention of 1907 stipulates that “The authority of the legitimate power having in fact passed into the hands of the occupant, the latter shall take all the measures in his power to restore, and ensure, as far as possible, public order and safety.”

Israeli occupation does not violate any international law.

The Court explains that the Palestinian Authority misinterprets the texts and they do not apply to the occupation:

- First of all, all the International Instruments put forward by the PLO are acts signed between States, and the obligations or prohibitions contained therein are relevant to States. Neither the Palestinian Authority nor the PLO are States, therefore, none of these Legal Documents apply.

- Secondly, said the Court, these texts are binding only on those who signed them, namely the “contracting parties.” But neither the PLO nor the Palestinian Authority have ever signed these texts.

The Court, quite irritated by the presented arguments, boldly asserted that the Law “cannot be based solely on the PLO’s assessment of a political or social situation.”

The PLO mistakenly refers to the wrong Legal document because the Hague Convention applies in case of bombing. And, “Jerusalem is not bombed.”

The PLO and the Palestinians were dismissed. The PLO cannot invoke any of these international conventions, said the Court. “These international norms and treaties » does not give the « Palestinian people that the PLO says he represents, the right to invoke them before a court.”

The Court of Appeal therefore sentenced the PLO and Association France Palestine Solidarité AFPS who was co-appellant to pay 30,000 euros ($32,000) to Alstom, 30,000 euros to Alstom Transport and 30,000 euros to Veolia Transport.

Neither the PLO nor the Palestinian Authority nor the AFPS appealed to the Supreme Court, therefore the Judgment has become final.

This is the first time that a Court has legally destroyed all Palestinian Legal Claim that Israel’s occupation is illegal.











NYC Wins When Everyone Can Vote! Michael H. Drucker
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Mapping Future of Redistricting Reform




On March 2-3, Common Cause, the Campaign Legal Center, and Duke University’s Center for Political Leadership, Innovation, and Service (POLIS) are co-hosting a daylong Conference highlighting efforts around the Country to end the Undemocratic practice of drawing Legislative Districts for political advantage, also known as “Gerrymandering.”

Redistricting Reform: Mapping Our Future

Start Date: Thursday, March 2, 2017
End Date: Friday, March 3, 2017

Location:
Duke University
201 Science Dr.
Rhodes Conference Room, Sanford Building
Durham, NC 27708

Panel discussions will feature Leaders of National and State Advocacy Campaigns to reform our broken Redistricting system. Ahead of their publication in Election Law Journal, winners of Common Cause’s “Gerrymander Standard” writing competition will discuss their innovative ideas to create a Judicial standard for measuring Political Gerrymanders.

Breakfast and lunch are included.

Attendees are also welcome to join a reception following the conclusion of the program on the first day. The Registration fee is $10.

Click Here to Sign Up, tickets are limited.











NYC Wins When Everyone Can Vote! Michael H. Drucker
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Covering Trump Like a War Zone


Trump and his forthcoming Presidency may be the greatest gift to Washington journalism since the invention of the expense account. His unorthodox approach to Politics and Governance has vaporized the standard, useful, yet boring script for reporting on a new Administration’s doings.

Newt Gingrich took to Sean Hannity’s program on Fox to assist in the maiming of the media. Trump and his team “need to go out there and understand they have it in their power to set the terms of this dialogue,” Gingrich said on the Jan. 11th episode. “They can close down the elite press.” Next up came Reince Priebus’ announcement that Trump might evict the Presidential Press Corps from the White House for lesser lodging in the adjacent Old Executive Office Building, and Sean Spicer’s admonition that reporters “adhere to a high level of decorum at press briefings and press conferences,” according to a readout of his two-hour summit with the Head of the White House Correspondents’ Association. Or else what, one wonders?

Now, before the Committee to Protect Journalists throws up the bat-sign and the rest of us bemoan Trump’s actions as Anti-Press, which they are, let’s thank the incoming President for simplifying reporter's mission. If Trump’s idea of a News Conference is to spank the Press, if his Lieutenants believe the Press needs shutting down, if his Chief of Staff wants to speculate about moving the White House Press scrum off the premises, perhaps Reporters ought to take the hint and prepare to cover his Administration on their own terms. Instead of relying exclusively on the traditional skills of political reporting, the carriers of Press cards ought to start thinking of covering Trump’s Washington like a war zone, where conflict follows conflict, where the fog prevents the collection of reliable information directly from the combatants, where the assignment is a matter of life or death.

In his own way, Trump has set the Press free. Reporters must treat Inauguration Day as a kind of Liberation Day to explore news outside the usual Washington circles. He has been explicit in his disdain for the Press and his dislike for Press conferences, prickly to the nth degree about being challenged and known for his vindictive way with those who cross him. So, forget about the White House Press room. It’s time to circle behind enemy lines.

Washington reporting has long depended on a transactional relationship between Sources and Journalists. Journalists groom Sources, but Sources also groom Journalists. There’s nothing inherently unethical about the back-scratching. When a Reporter calls an Administration Source to confirm an embarrassing item, the Source may agree to confirm as long as the Reporter at the very least agrees to listen sympathetically to the Administration’s context. But Trump’s hostile attitude toward the Press, his dismissal of CNN for attempting to ask a question at the last Conference, and his underhanded ploy at the last Conference where he loaded the audience with cheerleaders has muted that mutualism. It’s easy to predict that instead of negotiating with Reporters as equals, his Administration will advance its agenda by feeding more pliant Reporters material the way a trainer rewards circus animals.

The Press has already started to prepare itself for such a Trumpian lockout by pursuing news angles that rely less on official access than usual. At the Washington Post, the newspaper has assembled a team that includes the much-lauded foundation-buster David Fahrenthold to investigate Trump’s Business dealings and Conflicts of Interest and potential violations of the Emoluments Clauses. The Wall Street Journal just explored how Trump’s debt to more than 150 Financial Institutions, more than $1.5 billion than he has admitted to in disclosure forms, may create potential Conflicts of Interest for him.

Opportunities to ignore the White House minders and investigate Trump announce themselves almost daily. For instance, the load-bearing walls of the Office of Government Ethics are groaning with the weight of filings by his appointees, as the New York Times reported earlier this month. Trump has installed the “wealthiest cabinet in modern American history,” the Times says. Its website has already crashed from public queries and the Office of Government Ethics (OGE) Director has denounced the Trump plan to avoid Conflict of Interest as “wholly inadequate.” Reporters will be mining these forms for months and producing damaging results without any Trump Administration confirmation or cooperation.

If Trump shuts down White House access to Reporters, they will infest the Departments and Agencies around town that the President has peeved. The Intelligence establishment, which Trump has deprecated over the issue of Russian hacking, owes him no favors and less respect. It will be in their Institutional interest to leak damaging material on Trump. The same applies to other bureaucracies. Will a life-long EPA employee take retirement knowing he won’t be replaced, or if he is, by somebody who will take policy in a direction he deplores? Such an employee could be a fine source. Trump, remember, will only be President, not Emperor, and as such subject to all the passive-aggressive magic a Bureaucracy can produce. Ditto the Pentagon, the State Department, the FBI, and even conventionally newsless outposts like Transportation and Labor.

A probe in Monday’s Post reveals a tangle of potential Regulatory Conflicts for Trump at HUD, the FAA, Labor, the Trademark Office, and the EPA. Trump’s decision to Transfer control of his business to his sons has created, in the words of Axios reporter Mike Allen, “a story that will never go away.” Giant servings will be available to every reporter who lines up to place an order.

Trump has traveled the world for 40 years, leaving a trail, sometimes just a faint one, of his deal-making. BuzzFeed just visualized “Trumpworld,” their word for his “giant network of businesses, investments, and corporate connections” as a computer diagram drawing the connections among his Family, Cabinet picks, and Advisers. Now containing 1,500 people and organizations, the BuzzFeed diagram will grow as readers and others add to the data set. Future stories abound in the grid BuzzFeed has laid down. The Post deserves commendation for its Sunday package about Trump’s entangling Foreign alliances.

And then there are Trump’s enemies in his own Party, people like Senators John McCain and Lindsey Graham, who similarly wish him no good. Scratch a dozen Republicans, and you’ll find a few Trump rats. McCain, it’s worth noting, alerted FBI Director James Comey to Trump’s alleged Russian entanglements in early December. Capitol Hill could further assist Reporters with leaks that burn Trump. It’s not unthinkable that Senate Leaders like McCain will use his awesome subpoena power to investigate the President. Even Trump’s allies can’t be completely trusted. Being a Trump ally is a treacherous business, just ask Chris Christie. And as a spate of stories noted this week, not all of the Trump Appointees reside completely on his page. Like predecessors in previous Administrations, some of them will leak at crucial times to preserve their interests. They can and will be cultivated by Reporters.

Consider the Nixon Administration, which presented an Anti-Press posture akin to Trump’s, sending Vice President Spiro Agnew to give speeches designed to delegitimize journalists. Nixon also fought with the Press by seeking to block the publication of the Pentagon Papers in 1971. This proved a disaster. In his book, Poisoning the Press, Mark Feldstein quotes Pentagon Papers leaker Daniel Ellsberg on the course-change navigated by the top newspapers in the wake of Nixon’s reaction. “A newspaper industry that for thirty years and more had been living happily ... on government handouts was suddenly in widespread revolt,” Ellsberg commented. “One paper after another was clamoring for its chance, not just to get a piece of a story but to step across the line into radical civil disobedience.”

Like Nixon, Trump may have won a sizeable audience with his Anti-Press frothings. But he remains unpopular with at least half of the Nation, and they constitute an eager audience for critical reporting. Somebody could remind Gingrich that it’s much harder to shut down readers and viewers than it is a segment of the Media. The harder Trump rides the Press, and he gives no sign of dismounting, the higher he elevates Reporters in the estimation of many voters. Witness how many publications are selling subscriptions by promising to “hold Trump accountable.”

In a widely read and insightful year-end piece that, press scholar Jay Rosen surveyed the scene and predicted that “winter is coming” for the American Press under Trump. Many of the shots Rosen takes hit the target. But as a forecaster he’s no groundhog.

It’s not winter that’s coming with the inauguration of Trump. It’s Journalistic spring.

UPDATE
Trump says won't move White House Briefing room, will pick who gets In.











NYC Wins When Everyone Can Vote! Michael H. Drucker
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Monday, January 16, 2017

Solar Prepares to Dislodge Coal as Cheapest Source of Energy


Some 60 million years ago, a fantastic forest in what is now Eastern Wyoming and Montana was capturing solar energy in the leaves and trunks of trees. Those trees accumulated in vast mats of peat, and were eventually transformed into coal beds that are frequently over 100’ thick. The energy those plants accumulated now accounts for 40% of the Coal burned in the United States.

Coal has long been a very inexpensive form of Energy. The hard work of transforming Solar Energy into a transportable, chemical form was done by the trees, and the concentration of that Energy was done by the ministrations of deep time. Nowhere is it cheaper to mine than in the thick beds of Wyoming’s Powder River Basin. Which is why the largest mines in the world are located there.

On the other hand, Direct Solar Energy has long been much more expensive. In essence, it requires building the tree. Just seven years ago, even Commercial scale Solar was six times more costly for producing Electricity than Coal, excepting, of course, the external costs which the Coal industry gets to cheerfully ignore. However, that has been rapidly changing.

Since 2009, Solar prices are down 62%, with every part of the supply chain trimming costs. That’s help cut risk premiums on bank loans, and pushed manufacturing capacity to record levels. By 2025, Solar may be cheaper than using Coal on average globally, according to Bloomberg New Energy Finance.

And we’re getting very close to something that, only a few years ago, many skeptics predicted would never happen.

Solar power is now cheaper than Coal in some parts of the world. In less than a decade, it’s likely to be the lowest-cost option almost everywhere.

Increasing volumes are now driving down the cost of Solar through the simple economics of bulk manufacturing, and some of the projects launched in the last year come with a jaw-dropping reduction.

In 2016, Countries from Chile to the United Arab Emirates broke records with deals to generate Electricity from sunshine for less than 3 cents a kilowatt-hour, half the average global cost of Coal power. Now, Saudi Arabia, Jordan, and Mexico are planning auctions and tenders for this year, aiming to drop prices even further.

Not surprisingly, all these Nations are ones where sunshine is available in abundance, but even in much gloomier locations, Solar has moved to parity with other Energy sources. Germany increasingly gets its Energy from a combination of Solar and Wind, which at times in 2015 accounted for 90% of the Nation’s production. And prices just keep improving.

The International Energy Agency expects utility-scale generation costs to fall by another 25% on average in the next five years.

Coal in the United States has been losing out to Natural Gas over the last decade, even though the pure cost-per-kilowatt of Coal has often been cheaper. Coal plants are more costly to build and operate, and managing a stockpile of Coal as well as impoundments for Coal Ash, add costs and complexity. There’s also the fact that burning Coal produces twice the Carbon of burning Natural Gas, as well putting out Sulfur, Mercury, Uranium and other pollutants. The widespread availability of Natural Gas, enabled by Fracking, has put Coal into steep decline.

While the Coal industry continues to argue that their product offers low cost and round-the-clock production regardless of local conditions, the rapidly dropping cost of Solar means that solar, and the already inexpensive wind, will increasingly take a position at the center of the Energy portfolio, with Natural Gas providing a “fill in” role.

For Coal, it’s time to let Sleeping Trees lie.











NYC Wins When Everyone Can Vote! Michael H. Drucker
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Trump's HHS Pick Invested in Company then Introduced Bill to Help It


Rep. Tom Price last year purchased shares in a Medical Device manufacturer days before introducing Legislation that would have directly benefited the company, raising new ethics concerns for President-Elect Trump's nominee for Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary.
Price bought between $1,001 to $15,000 worth of shares last March in Zimmer Biomet, according to House records.

Less than a week after the transaction, the Georgia Republican Congressman introduced the HIP Act, Legislation that would have delayed until 2018 a Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services Regulation that industry analysts warned would significantly hurt Zimmer Biomet financially once fully implemented.

Zimmer Biomet, one of the world's Leading Manufacturers of knee and hip implants, was one of two companies that would been hit the hardest by the new CMS regulation that directly impacts the payments for such procedures, according to press reports and Congressional sources.

After Price offered his bill to provide Zimmer Biomet and other companies relief from the CMS regulation, the Company's Political Action Committee donated to the Congressman's Reelection campaign, records show.

If confirmed, Price will be a key player in Trump's efforts to repeal the Affordable Care Act. Trump last week said a plan to repeal and replace Obamacare will be submitted "as soon as" Price is confirmed. He will appear before the Senate Health Committee this week, but must also appear before the Senate Finance Committee.

The new revelation is the latest example of Price trading stock in a Health Care firm at the same time as pursuing Legislation that could impact a Company's share price. The issue has become a major liability for the Congressman after The Wall Street Journal reported last month that he traded roughly $300,000 in shares over the past four years in Health companies while pursuing Legislation that could impact them.

The purchase of the Zimmer Biomet shares is the latest such example, raising new concerns among Ethics experts that Price may have inappropriately used inside information while purchasing shares in a Company. Concerns over Insider Trading on Capitol Hill, where members of Congress allegedly traded stock based on intelligence gleaned from the Legislative process, prompted the enactment of the STOCK Act in 2012 aimed at combating the practice.

"It clearly has the appearance of using your influence as a congressman to your financial benefit," Larry Noble, General Counsel at the Campaign Legal Center, a watchdog group, said of Price's transaction. "If he believed in the bill, he should not have purchased the stock."

To avoid the appearance of Conflicts-of-Interest, Price announced last week that he would divest from 43 companies, including Zimmer Biomet, within 90 days of Senate Confirmation. He said he will "not participate personally and substantially in any particular matter" on an issue that could affect any of those companies if he has not yet fully divested from them.

But as a Congressman, Price did not appear to adhere to such strict limits, including with Zimmer Biomet. As one of the prominent GOP voices on Health Care, Price sat on an influential Ways and Means Subcommittee that directly oversees Health Care Policy.

And over the last year-and-a-half, Price raised objections to the CMS Regulation that proposed major changes to how providers and manufacturers are paid and reimbursed for hip and knee implants through Medicare.

But Medical Device Manufacturers, in particular, were poised to be hit the hardest by the new Regulation, according to Industry officials and Congressional sources. And that posed a significant threat to Zimmer Biomet, which bills itself as a Worldwide Leader in Hip and Knee Replacements. A report from Trade publication Fierce Biotech last year said that the Company's Hip and Knee implants account for 60% of its revenue.

In September 2015, Price spearheaded a letter to Andy Slavitt, the Acting Administrator of CMS, asking that the regulation be delayed because it "represents a significant change to our healthcare delivery system which could have a negative impact on patient choice, access and quality." Two days after the letter, Zimmer Biomet's PAC cut Price's reelection Committee a check worth $1,000, according to Campaign Finance filings.

When CMS didn't listen to Price, the Congressman unveiled his Legislation to delay implementing the Regulation until 2018, with the bill coming days after Investing in the Company, whose shares were worth $103.59 at the time. Three months after he introduced the Bill, the Company's PAC cut Price's Campaign Committee another $1,000 check, according to records.

Noble, the Ethics Law Expert, said that Price's motivations may have been pure, but the timing of the Stock Purchase raises eyebrows. "When you join the government, you are held to a higher standard," Noble said. "And you are supposed to work for the public and not for yourself."

Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, responding to the CNN story, called for an Ethics Investigation into Price. "This new report makes clear that this isn't just a couple of questionable trades, but rather a clear and troubling pattern of congressman Price trading stock and using his office to benefit the companies in which he is investing," Schumer said in a statement. "The Office of Congressional Ethics needs to conduct an immediate and thorough investigation into these potential violations of the STOCK Act before Rep. Price's nomination moves forward."











NYC Wins When Everyone Can Vote! Michael H. Drucker
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