By The Associated Press
Excerpts from recent editorials in the United States and abroad:
The New York Times on Republicans' newly unveiled health bill:
Republican House leaders have spent months dodging questions about how they would replace the Affordable Care Act with a better law, and went so far as to hide the draft of their plan from other lawmakers. No wonder. The bill they released on Monday would kick millions of people off the coverage they currently have. So much for President Trump's big campaign promise: "We're going to have insurance for everybody" -- with coverage that would be "much less expensive and much better."
More than 20 million Americans gained health care coverage under the A.C.A., or "Obamacare." Health experts say most would lose that coverage under the proposal.
Let's start with Medicaid. "Obamacare" expanded the program to cover 11 million more poor Americans in 31 states and the District of Columbia. The Republican bill would end the expansion in 2020. Although people who sign up before 2020 under the expanded Medicaid program, which covers people with incomes up to 138 percent of the federal poverty level (about $33,900 for a family of four), would be allowed to stay on, many would be kicked off over time. The working poor tend to drop in and out of Medicaid because their incomes fluctuate, and the Republican plan would bar people who left the expanded program from going back in.
The bill would also, for the first time ever, apply a per-person limit on how much the federal government spends on Medicaid. This change could shift about $370 billion in health care costs over 10 years to state governments, according to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities. Many state governments, faced with limited budgets, would be forced to cut benefits or cover fewer people.
For people who buy insurance on federal or state-run health exchanges, the G.O.P. plan would greatly reduce the A.C.A.'s subsidies, which come in the form of tax credits. For example, a 40-year-old living in Raleigh, North Carolina, who earns $30,000 a year would receive $3,000 from the government to buy insurance, 32 percent less than under current law, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation. The bill would provide older people more generous subsidies -- those over 60 get a subsidy of $4,000, or twice as much as 20-somethings -- but insurers would be allowed to charge older people five times as much as younger people.
The plan would do away with the current mandate that requires nearly everybody to obtain insurance or pay a penalty. (Instead, insurers would be allowed to charge people who don't maintain their insurance continuously 30 percent more for coverage.) But because the legislation would still require insurers to cover pre-existing conditions, people would have a strong financial incentive to buy insurance only when they got sick -- a sure way to destroy the insurance market.
House Speaker Paul Ryan and Tom Price, the secretary of health and human services, have railed against high premiums and deductibles for plans sold on the health exchanges, but that problem would only worsen under their proposal because insurers would almost certainly raise their prices as the pool of the insured shrank. Republican lawmakers seem to think that people who can't afford insurance are simply irresponsible. Representative Jason Chaffetz of Utah, for instance, told CNN that people should invest in their health care, "rather than getting that new iPhone." Word to Mr. Chaffetz: Health insurance costs more than $18,000 a year for an average family; an iPhone costs a few hundred dollars.
While working people lose health care, the rich would come out winners. The bill would eliminate the taxes on businesses and individuals (people making more than $200,000 a year) who fund "Obamacare." The tax cuts would total about $600 billion over 10 years, according to the Joint Committee on Taxation.
House committees will start considering the bill on Wednesday. Even if it passes the House, some Republican senators object to the Medicaid cuts and the Tea Party wing hates the idea of retaining any subsidies.
Republicans have been vowing to repeal the Affordable Care Act even before it became law in 2010. But they still haven't come up with a workable replacement. Instead, the G.O.P.'s various factions are now haggling over just how many millions of Americans they are willing to harm.
Documents that appear to be from the C.I.A. describe software designed to hack smartphones, computers and internet-connected TVs. They indicate that the agency, by compromising the phones entirely, was able to access the contents of encrypted messaging apps like Signal and WhatsApp. Chinese anger over the deployment of a U.S.
The Denver Post on President Trump's new immigration order:
In fulfilling his "America First" campaign pledge with a second try at what amounts to the most restrictive immigration policy in decades, President Donald Trump has avoided many of the mistakes of the first iteration. But the new order aimed at six Muslim-majority countries remains an enormous miscalculation that is bound to make the country less safe over time.
We get why Trump wishes to go down this road. He made promises on the campaign trail that so energized his base he must believe he has locked himself into doing something. Headed into the presidential primaries, Trump called for a "total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States." He softened that stance months later -- after his primary victory -- saying that he "didn't want people coming in from the terror countries . unless they're very, very strongly vetted."
And so his failed Jan. 27 order, rolled out without much forethought and little coordination from key agencies responsible for putting it in place.
With that debacle blocked in the courts, and with an outpouring of outrage from Americans and our allies who decried the obviously xenophobic and biased underpinnings of Trump's intentions, Trump now offers Muslim Ban 2.0, and at least it's somewhat better.
The new immigration order removes Iraq from the list of countries now blocked from entering for 90 days. Given that our military must work closely with Iraqis in fighting terrorists working with the Islamic State, looping in travelers from that country never made sense.
The new version drops the earlier indefinite ban on Syrian refugees, and allows refugees from the target countries to be considered 120-days after the order goes into effect. It drops excluding those who already went through all the hoops to gain visas. It allows U.S. residents from the blocked countries to travel and return. It removes a provision that allowed special treatment for persecuted religious minorities that, because of the makeup of the target countries, meant special treatment for Christians: this, despite the fact that since 2002, our country has admitted far more Christian than Muslim refugees.
The new order gives travelers and customs agents alike a several-day heads-up before it goes live.
If you're going to do this thing, those changes at least demonstrate a willingness to avoid the bad blood that resulted from the needlessly heavy handed approach of the first order.
But the new order retains the wrongheaded focus on countries that haven't been the classic exporters of terrorists killing Americans on American soil. Travelers from Saudi Arabia, Egypt and Pakistan, for example, aren't affected.
And the new order doesn't appear to have figured out how to actually make the already arduous, expensive and lengthy vetting process -- known as the world's most stringent -- stronger still.
We join those who understandably call for ensuring Americans are safe from terrorists. But, again we say: Trump's campaign-pledge fulfillment hands extremist recruiters powerful arguments that our White House is at war with all Muslims.
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The Wall Street Journal on WikiLeaks' latest release about the U.S. CIA:
Tuesday's WikiLeaks dump of a major chunk of what it claims is the CIA's "hacking arsenal" ought to be an eye-opener for anyone still laboring under the delusion that WikiLeaks's Julian Assange or former National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden are not out to weaken the United States. This leak of CIA documents appears to disclose for America's enemies a key advantage against the asymmetric threats of this new century: better technology that provides better intelligence.
WikiLeaks says the 8,761 documents and files were ripped off "from an isolated, high-security network situated inside the CIA's Center for Cyber Intelligence" in Virginia. It further says these documents were "circulated among former U.S. government hackers and contractors"_and that one of them shared the info with WikiLeaks. So far former government officials quoted in news reports say the leaked information looks genuine, and the WikiLeaks press release promised more to come.
Much of this WikiLeaks dump deals with ways the CIA has found to get into electronic devices such as iPhones and Android phones. These methods include_as Edward Snowden clarified in a tweet_end runs around the encryption of such popular apps as Signal or WhatsApp without having to crack the apps themselves.
The leaks also expose other areas of CIA interest such as an agency effort to hack into the control panels of cars and trucks. Another tool exposed by the leaks turned Samsung Smart TVs into microphones that could then relay conversations back to the CIA even when the owner believed the set was off.
The losses from this exposure are incalculable. These tools represent millions of dollars of investment and man-hours. Many will now be rendered moot as terrorists or foreign agents abandon traceable habits. Merely because America's enemies are barbaric_think al Qaeda or Islamic State_does not mean they are stupid. One reason it took so long to hunt down Osama bin Laden is because he took pains to establish a sophisticated communications system to evade U.S. intelligence tracking.
The costs will also include the time and effort U.S. intelligence agencies will now have to expend investigating how the information was lost. This includes retracing any missed computer hacks and trying to find out who stole and released the secrets.
Some on the political left and right want to treat Messrs. Snowden and Assange as heroes of transparency and privacy. But there is no evidence that U.S. spooks are engaging in illegal spying on Americans. The CIA's spying tools are for targeting suspected terrorists and foreign agents. As for WikiLeaks, note how it never seems to disclose Chinese or Russian secrets. The country they loathe and want to bring low is America.
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Los Angeles Times on A Day Without A Woman:
It wasn't one single thing that drove hundreds of thousands of women -- and men -- to the massive marches on Jan. 21 in cities from Washington, D.C., to Los Angeles. It was about a million different things. Though the overall message was overtly anti-President Trump, the individual causes were many: hands off our bodies, hate is bad, climate change is real, stop the Dakota Access pipeline, trans lives matter and so on.
Now the women's march organizers are hoping to channel that same energy into a series of work strikes, rallies and shopping boycotts across the country on Wednesday to celebrate International Women's Day. They are calling it A Day Without a Woman. The organizers are asking women to take a day off from work to participate in rallies around the country if they can. Those who can't are asked to wear red in solidarity and not shop that day.
It's more than a little gimmicky, to be sure. Remember "A Day Without a Mexican," the 2004 mockumentary? Remember "Lysistrata," the Greek play about one woman's crazy anti-war plan?
Still, there are real reasons for women to be angry, and hopefully the inchoate angst that propelled the January marches will focus on more specific, and immediate, threats to women. For starters, the House GOP's new and terrible plan to replace the Affordable Care Act threatens access to reproductive and family planning services and could make maternity coverage unaffordable. Is that what Trump meant when he said in his address to Congress last month that he would invest in women's health?
The president also supported paid family leave. That's huge, as he might say. But he needs to be held to that pledge. Unlike those in the rest of the developed world, U.S. women in the workforce do not have a guarantee of paid family leave. And then there are the perennial workplace frustrations: that damnably durable glass ceiling and, despite a number of efforts on the state and federal level, female workers still get paid less for doing the same work as those with one fewer X chromosome. One solution to that problem would be to get more women in corporate America's boardrooms and executive suites.
As for the handwringing over whether A Day Without A Woman is inherently elitist because poor women can't afford to not work, well, so what if it skews middle-class? Good for women of means standing up for those less fortunate. Besides, there are many ways to protest that don't require carrying a sign in a rally -- such as voting for candidates who won't incite women to take to the streets.
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The Richmond Times-Dispatch, of Virginia, on France's looming election:
On April 23, our French friends will hold the first round in a presidential election with the potential to remake Europe. The probable outcome threatens global peace and prosperity.
Donald Trump's election and the United Kingdom's vote to leave the European Union set the stage for France's descent. An Op/Ed column by Charles Krauthammer explained that France has had five republics since its revolution, the U.S. but one. Does a sixth loom?
France appears exhausted. Mainstream parties are on the ropes. Francois Hollande, a socialist, is the first president in modern times not to seek re-election. A tax hike early in his term sent his approval ratings tumbling; he never recovered.
Victory in France's election could go to parties and persons committed not only to withdrawal from the European Union but also to the abandonment of a common currency. The union rose as a result of the rapprochement between France and Germany, two former antagonists. A French withdrawal would doom the enterprise.
Trump's victory proves instructive. An analysis by The Economist depicts a France similar to Ohio and the other battlegrounds won by Trump. Paris and other high-tech regions are flourishing but smaller towns in France's rust belt have declined. A way of life may have come to an end. Unemployment varies by location and sector. Ruin haunts the villages and towns that once defined the French countryside. A stark division is apparent not only in a Virginia sliced by the I-95/I-64 crescent but in a France of boom towns and backwaters. Immigration from Muslim countries has changed France's demographics. Terrorism stalks its streets. Anti-Semitism is on the rise.
A biographer once called Charles de Gaulle the last great Frenchman. France lacks a credible political party representing what Americans would consider the conservative mainstream. Statism applies to both ends of the ideological spectrum. The National Front's Marine Le Pen taps Trumpian resentments, although she projects a constancy and coherence he lacks. Francois Fillon, a self-identified disciple of Margaret Thatcher, suffers from substantive charges of corruption and cannot be supported by citizens of conscience. The traditional left has fallen into disrepute. The Times-Dispatch does not publish a Parisian edition, but if we did we would, with reluctance, endorse Emmanuel Macron, described by The Economist as "the upstart leader of a liberal movement."
Continental Europe's greatest country stands at the brink. Lafayette's body lies a-mouldering in the grave. The day of glory has departed.
The Boston Herald on President Donald Trump accusing then-President Barack Obama of wiretapping his phones:
President Trump's Twitter rants are rather like magical pixie dust -- they obscure real controversies, like possible links between Trump campaign officials and the Russian government, and change the conversation.
But this weekend's tweetstorm, accusing President Obama of "tapping my phones in October" -- a quite specific charge -- isn't just idle gossip acquiring a life of its own because its source is the commander in chief. This level of accusation calls into question the very rule of law in this nation. And that is a danger to its institutions -- like the Justice Department and the FBI.
That is what autocrats do, generally not the elected presidents of democratic republics.
And it certainly ends any hope of comity with the previous administration.
"How low has President Obama gone to tapp my phones during the very sacred election process. This is Nixon/Watergate. Bad (or sick) guy!" Trump tweeted early Saturday morning (misspelling tap).
There is no stepping back from that level of insult or accusation.
By Sunday morning the former director of national intelligence, James R. Clapper Jr., had categorically denied the charge during an interview on NBC's "Meet the Press."
Asked whether he could confirm or deny if a FISA (Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court Act) order existed for such a wiretap, Clapper declared, "I can deny it."
Asked again by host Chuck Todd whether there was a FISA court order to monitor Trump Tower, Clapper said, "Not to my knowledge."
That also explains why FBI Director James Comey has -- at least privately -- asked the Justice Department to issue a similar public rejection of Trump's claims. Because the charges call into question whether the FBI itself broke the law.
It is highly likely, of course, that the conversations of some Trump officials, like his short-lived first national security adviser, Michael Flynn, were picked up by routine wiretaps on the phones of Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak. But that's a far cry from U.S. intelligence wiretapping a U.S. citizen on U.S. soil -- something that requires a FISA order.
So once again Trump has taken back center stage -- although not necessarily in a good way. And make no mistake, this will be investigated -- a demand the president may come to regret.
Director James B. Comey remained mum today on President Trump's explosive allegations that former President Obama tapped his phones during the election, taking the chance to playfully toy with the audience during a ribbon-cutting ceremony for the bureau's new Boston-area field office.
The Japan News by The Yomiuri Shimbun on North Korea's potential missile threat:
North Korea's latest action has added even more greatly to its missile threat. It is indispensable for three nations -- Japan, the United States and South Korea -- to maintain their close cooperation in increasing their deterrence.
The North launched four ballistic missiles from an area in its northwest nearly simultaneously, sending them in the direction of the Sea of Japan. Three of the missiles fell into waters in Japan's exclusive economic zone.
It was the third time that North Korean missiles have fallen into the EEZ, the previous occasion being last September. The North's missile launches signify an extremely dangerous provocation that could cause damage to fishing boats and others. Its conduct signifies an obvious violation of a U.N. Security Council resolution, and it cannot be tolerated by any means.
The latest missile launches seem to have been intended to counter a U.S.-South Korea joint military exercise that started last Wednesday. On Thursday, the North Korean military's general staff section threatened to "stand up (to the military exercise) with ultra strong countermeasures."
The North is accelerating its development of missiles capable of carrying a nuclear warhead. In a New Year address delivered this year, Kim Jong Un, chairman of the Workers' Party of Korea, dared to say that his country was "in the final stage" of preparations for test-firing an intercontinental ballistic missile.
In February, North Korea tested a new type of ballistic missile. It is believed that the test used a solid-fuel engine and a mobile launchpad, both of which can make it difficult to detect signs of a launch. There should be no denying that the country is improving its missile technology through its repeated missile launches, including its sneak-attack capability and direct-hit accuracy.
The joint military exercise will continue through the end of April. No efforts can be neglected to exercise vigilance against a possible North Korean attempt to further carry out military provocations.
In response to the latest missile launches, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe emphasized, "(The incident) clearly marks a new stage of North Korea's threat." Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida held successive telephone talks with U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and South Korean Foreign Minister Yun Byung Se, and they agreed to urge North Korea to restrain itself in this respect.
Tillerson is scheduled to make a round of visits to Japan, South Korea and China in mid-March. His visits must be utilized as an opportunity to issue a message aimed at preventing the North from taking reckless actions.
It is important for Japan to work on the improvement and expansion of its ability to cope with a ballistic missile launch. The main pillar of this endeavor is to strengthen our nation's missile defense capability. If multiple missiles are launched simultaneously to attack our nation, however, it will not be easy to intercept them all.
The idea of making the Self-Defense Forces capable of attacking an enemy base using such weapons as a cruise missile should also be seriously considered.
What is worrying is the future of South Korea's current political situation. The Constitutional Court will soon judge whether to impeach President Park Geun-hye. According to an opinion survey on presidential candidates, the most promising contender in the race is a former leader of a left-leaning opposition party that is conciliatory toward the North.
Cooperation among Japan, the United States and South Korea is the most effective, realistic option for confronting the North, which is attempting to rattle the international community by hinting at a nuclear missile attack. Such understanding seems to be lacking in the South.
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