Category: Opinion


Cardiology director: Sanders not disclosing heart measure…

WASHINGTON — Democratic presidential hopeful Bernie Sanders has resisted calls to release additional medical information in the wake of a heart attack he suffered in October.

“We have released as much” medical information “as any other candidate,” the Vermont senator told NBC News’ “Meet the Press” earlier this month.

When pressed on whether he would release more, Sanders responded that, “you can start releasing medical records and it never ends.”

But by releasing one simple indicator of his heart health, Sanders could address some lingering questions, the president of the American College of Cardiology, Richard Kovacs, tells NBC News.

Following Sanders’ heart attack, doctors inserted two stents in an artery and he was hospitalized for several days. After promising to release “comprehensive” records after the procedure, his campaign balked, saying no more information would be forthcoming.

“We released the full report of that heart attack,” Sanders said at last week’s NBC News/MSNBC debate, pointing to letters from three doctors the campaign distributed in December, which are not the same as medical records.

Kovacs, who reviewed the letters for NBC News, said they omit a “standard” measure of Sanders’ heart health.

That indicator, called the left ventricular ejection fraction, is provided to any patient after a heart attack, Kovacs said. It’s a measure of how much blood volume the heart pushes out with an individual heartbeat and it correlates with the risk for future cardiac events and mortality rate.

“Normally the heart will push out 60 percent,” Kovacs said. “If you go down to 40 or 50 percent, we regard that as mild impairment of the left ventricle. Thirty to 40 percent would be moderate. If you get to 30 percent, that would be severe.”

Sanders hasn’t revealed what the number was at the time of his heart attack nor what it is today. Campaign spokesman Mike Casca, responding to questions from NBC News, declined to provide the ejection fraction number to NBC. The doctors’ letters “are pretty comprehensive,” Casca told NBC News.

The letters, Kovacs said, “imply with the heart attack that he (Sanders) had diminished heart muscle strength,” or a lowered fraction. Still, the letters provided by his doctors also suggest he’s improved since then.

“Full transparency would be to release his ejection fraction,” agreed Dr. Hadley Wilson, an ACC board trustee and cardiologist at the Sanger Heart & Vascular Institute in Charlotte, North Carolina.

“A subsequent stress test in January and the other information about his clinical response were all very positive and encouraging,” Wilson said. “I don’t really know” why Sanders wouldn’t release it, he added, offering that it could be over concern it could be “misconstrued” in the broader clinical picture. “It is an important baseline but it does have to be taken into the whole clinical context,” including the fact that Sanders hasn’t had additional incidents, which is all positive, he said.

Sanders is not a patient of Kovacs and Kovacs said he would not comment specifically on his condition. But he did note that presidents routinely release the results of similar health benchmarks like cholesterol and colonoscopy readings.

“It’s a patient’s personal private information but there’s the importance of the number,” Kovacs said.

One letter released by the campaign, from University of Vermont cardiologist Martin LeWinter, called Sanders’ heart function “stable and well preserved” but omits the number.

“I don’t know what that means but it’s not the ejection fraction which is just a simple number,” Kovacs said. “They’ve chosen not to reveal the ejection fraction.”

In another letter, Brian Monahan, attending physician at the U.S. Capitol and Sanders’ primary care doctor, said Sanders is in “good health” and that he has stopped taking several medications that were required after the heart attack.

Yet the ejection fraction rate would be a good indicator of the progress of Sanders’ recovery, Kovacs said.

“That is a number that we routinely obtain that is important for guiding therapy,” Kovacs said. “I say here is your ejection fraction and here’s what we will need to do down the line.”

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As Trump Barricades the Border, Legal Immigration Beginning to Plunge…

a woman standing in front of a window: Tara Battle, a nurse in Chicago, and her daughter find multiple policies are burdening, if not outright dividing, their family.

© David Kasnic for The New York Times
Tara Battle, a nurse in Chicago, and her daughter find multiple policies are burdening, if not outright dividing, their family.

WASHINGTON — President Trump’s immigration policies — like travel bans and visa restrictions or refugee caps and asylum changes — have begun to deliver on a longstanding goal: Legal immigration has fallen more than 11 percent and a steeper drop is looming.

While Mr. Trump highlights the construction of a border wall to stress his war on illegal immigration, it is through policy changes, not physical barriers, that his administration has been able to seal the United States. Two more measures took effect Friday and Monday, an expansion of his travel ban and strict wealth tests on green card applicants.

“He’s really ticking off all the boxes. It’s kind of amazing,” said Sarah Pierce, a policy analyst with the Migration Policy Institute, a nonpartisan research group. “In an administration that’s been perceived to be haphazard, on immigration they’ve been extremely consistent and barreling forward.”

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The number of people who obtained lawful permanent residence, besides refugees who entered the United States in previous years, declined to 940,877 in the 2018 fiscal year from 1,063,289 in the 2016 fiscal year, according to an analysis of government data by the National Foundation for American Policy. Four years ago, legal immigration was at its highest level since 2006, when 1,266,129 people obtained lawful permanent residence in the United States.

Although the data provides only a glimpse of the effect of Mr. Trump’s agenda, immigration experts said they are first sign and that coming policies will amplify them. A report released on Monday projected a 30-percent decline in legal immigration by 2021 and a 35-percent dip in average annual growth of the U.S. labor force.

The numbers reflect the breadth of the Trump administration’s restrictionism, and they come as record low unemployment has even the president’s acting chief of staff, Mick Mulvaney, confiding to a gathering in Britain that “we are desperate, desperate for more people.”

But the doors have been blocked in multiple ways. Those fleeing violence or persecution have found asylum rules tightened and have been forced to wait in squalid camps in Mexico or sent to countries like Guatemala as their cases are adjudicated. People who have languished in displaced persons camps for years face an almost impossible refugee cap of 18,000 this year, down from the 110,000 that President Barack Obama set in 2016.

Family members hoping to travel legally from Iran, Libya, Syria, Yemen and Somalia were blocked by the president’s travel ban.

Increased vetting and additional in-person interviews have further winnowed foreign travelers. The number of visas issued to foreigners abroad looking to immigrate to the United States has declined by about 25 percent, to 462,422 in the 2019 fiscal year from 617,752 in 2016.

But two more tough policies were to take effect by Monday. The expansion of Mr. Trump’s travel ban to six additional countries, including Africa’s most populous, Nigeria, began on Friday, and the public charge rule, which effectively sets a wealth test for would-be immigrants, was to start on Monday. Those will reshape immigration in the years to come, according to experts.

The travel and visa bans, soon to cover 13 countries, are almost sure to be reflected in immigration numbers in the near future. Of the average of more than 537,000 people abroad granted permanent residency from 2014 to 2016, including through a diversity lottery system, nearly 28,000, or 5 percent, would be blocked under the administration’s newly expanded travel restrictions, according to an analysis of State Department data.

a group of people sitting on a suitcase: Migrants charging their phones at a temporary camp in Matamoros, Mexico, where many asylum seekers affected by the Migrant Protection Protocols are staying.

© Meghan Dhaliwal for The New York Times
Migrants charging their phones at a temporary camp in Matamoros, Mexico, where many asylum seekers affected by the Migrant Protection Protocols are staying.

But the public charge rule may prove the most consequential change yet. Around two-thirds of the immigrants who obtained permanent legal status from 2012 to 2016 could be blocked from doing so under the new so-called public charge rule, which denies green cards to those who are likely to need public assistance, according to a study by the Migration Policy Institute.

Before Monday, immigrants were disqualified from permanent resident status only if they failed to demonstrate a household income above 125 percent of the federal poverty line, a threshold set by Congress. Now, immigration officials will weigh dozens of factors, like age, health, language skills, credit score and insurance as well as whether an applicant has previously used public benefits, to determine if the applicant is likely to use them in the future. One factor that could also count against an applicant is the action the immigrant is undertaking: applying for a green card. Applying for the legal status is one of the negative factors that immigration officials could use to determine if someone will be a public charge, a Catch-22 that has been a key criticism from immigration advocates.

Even before the policy went into force, it discouraged immigrants and citizens in immigrant families from seeking public assistance they qualify for, such as Medicaid, food stamps, free or reduced-price school meals or housing help, according to immigration analysts.

“Data suggest that millions of people, including U.S. citizens, have already pulled out of safety net programs they’re legally entitled to, based on fear of the public charge rule — even though it doesn’t apply to them and never will,” said Doug Rand, a founder of Boundless Immigration, a technology company in Seattle that helps immigrants obtain green cards and citizenship. “That’s not a ‘chilling effect’ — that’s a fraud upon the American people.”

The State Department’s enforcement of a far more limited form of the public charge rule in recent years may offer insight into how aggressively the Homeland Security Department is likely to use the new policy. In 2016, the last year of the Obama administration, 1,076 immigrants were found to be ineligible for visas under the rule. In 2018, 13,450 were, according to State Department data.

As the State Department moves forward on Monday with the expanded public charge rule, the wealth test will be applied to green card applicants both inside and outside the United States.

Broadening the rule has been a long-sought after goal of the White House and specifically, the president’s senior adviser Stephen Miller, who admonished career officials for taking too long to enforce the policy.

After the Supreme Court on Friday lifted an injunction that blocked the policy in Illinois, the White House praised the plan the next day.

“This final rule will protect hardworking American taxpayers, safeguard welfare programs for truly needy Americans, reduce the federal deficit,” it said in a statement, “and re-establish the fundamental legal principle that newcomers to our society should be financially self-reliant and not dependent on the largess of United States taxpayers.”

Other more subtle steps have also helped trim the number of immigrants arriving on American shores, such as requiring in-person interviews for most immigration visas and a proposed 60-percent increase in citizenship fees for most applicants.

Tara Battle, 42, a nurse in Chicago, now finds multiple policies are burdening, if not outright dividing, her family. After meeting Daberechi Amadi Godswill, a Nigerian, in 2016 while on vacation in Gambia, Ms. Battle struck up a relationship and they married in 2018.

Since then, Ms. Battle, who supports a 12-year-old daughter on a $35,000 annual salary, said she and Mr. Godswill had spent around $1,000 on lawyer and processing fees, trying to bring him to the country. She believed she had taken the last step when she submitted her financial documents on his behalf this month.

Then her lawyers told her Mr. Trump had banned immigration from Nigeria. She said she would wait to see if the president lifted the ban, but if he does, she is likely to be saddled with much higher processing fees.

“Everything is up and running, the ball is already rolling. Why is it now on hold?” Ms. Battle asked in exasperation. “They’ve already done the background checks. They already did everything. The money, the fees, everything’s paid for.”

There is little sign that Mr. Trump will relent. He is already using his immigration agenda to incite supporters as the election nears. While the administration recorded 36,679 arrests at the border last month, slightly up from the 33,657 arrests in January 2016, the president has been celebrating an eight-month decline in border crossings since a surge of Central American families approached the border last year.

He has built only about 120 miles of his border wall, but his administration quelled last year’s surge with a less visible policy known as the Migrant Protection Protocols, which have forced roughly 60,000 migrants to wait in Mexico as their immigration cases are processed in the courts. That measure, as well as a deal with Guatemala to deport asylum seekers to the Central American country, has virtually ended asylum along the southwestern border.

“They want literally millions of people to flow into our country,” Mr. Trump said of Democrats at a recent tribute for members of the Border Patrol union. “And of those millions of people, tremendous numbers of them, are people you don’t want in this country.”

Mr. Mulvaney struck a different tone to a crowd of several hundred during a question-and-answer session with the Oxford Union in Britain, a tape of which was obtained by The New York Times.

“We created 215,000 jobs last month,” he said. “We are running out of people to fuel the economic growth.”

One aspect of Mr. Trump’s stringent immigration policies has not happened yet: The president has not deported “millions” of immigrants, as promised this year. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents arrested about 143,000 immigrants in the country from October 2018 to September 2019, 10 percent fewer than the previous fiscal year and the lowest level since Mr. Trump took office.

The administration has tried to change that trend by threatening retaliation against localities that embrace the policies of so-called sanctuary cities. Tactical units from Border Patrol have been deployed to assist ICE agents. Mr. Trump took aim at those cities, including New York, in his State of the Union address, claiming they allowed “dangerous criminal aliens to prey upon the public.”

Representative Bennie Thompson, Democrat of Mississippi and the chairman of the Homeland Security Committee, said that the president’s aggressive immigration measures had actually put people in danger. The “zero tolerance” policy to prosecute parents caught illegally crossing the border, he said, led to thousands of children being separated from their parents.

“By any reasonable measure that’s not success,” he added. “That’s abject failure.”

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Pentagon Adopts New Ethical Principles for Using AI in War…

Pentagon Adopts New Ethical Principles for Using AI in War...

(Third column, 9th story, link)

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Marsquakes: Mars seismically active, among other surprises…

A NASA mission on Mars has recorded evidence of seismic activity, including 174 seismic events across Mars–and 20 events with a magnitude of three or four.

While the instruments onboard InSight were designed to capture two years worth of data, the seismometer, which measures Marsquakes, returned that intriguing data about Mars in much less time.

“We’re using geophysics to probe the deep interior of Mars. For the first time, we’ve established that Mars is a seismically active planet,” said Bruce Banerdt, InSight’s principal investigator. “That activity is greater than that of the moon, but less than on Earth.”

To be clear, a four magnitude Marsquake doesn’t feel the same as it would on Earth because the events on Mars occur deeper beneath the surface than they do on Earth.

If you were standing directly over the spot when a Marsquake happened, you might sense motion, but it wouldn’t cause any damage, said Suzanne Smrekar, InSight’s deputy principal investigator.

Still, confirming that Mars is seismically active was a major thrill for Insight’s team.

“We’ve been planning this mission for the last ten years, so it’s been a long road to get these results,” said Bruce Banerdt, InSight’s principal investigator.

NASA's InSight mission 'hears' first quake on Mars

Mars doesn’t have tectonic plates, unlike Earth, so its quakes occur through long-term cooling of the planet and other processes, scientists say. The brittle outer layers of the crust on Mars have to fracture to maintain themselves on the surface.

And Mars isn’t a perfect sphere, so the contractions of the crust cause stress and quakes to occur in some areas more than others, Smrekar said.

An analysis of the seismic waves detected by InSight revealed that the upper part of the Martian crust, the top six miles down from the surface, is “pretty broken up.” It’s another testament to the planet’s quake activity and fracturing.

“This is the first mission focused on taking direct geophysical measurements of any planet besides Earth, and it’s given us our first real understanding of Mars’ interior structure and geological processes,” said Nicholas Schmerr, an assistant professor of geology at the University of Maryland and a co-author of the seismicity study. “These data are helping us understand how the planet works, its rate of seismicity, how active it is and where it’s active.”

This is just the beginning of the data and secrets InSight can reveal about Mars, the scientists said.

Since the mission began, InSight has registered 450 Marsquakes in its catalog, coming from all across the planet and likely due to different causes, like landslides.

There has been an increase in small, low-frequency Marsquakes since early in the mission, Banerdt said. But they’ve yet to record any large Marsquakes, which is a goal of the mission.

There is no pattern to the quakes, but the increase in small quakes has them wondering if they are related to the Martian orbit or seasons, atmospheric changes or other unknown factors and phenomenon. For now, they remain odd and mysterious.

The InSight team members are still hopeful for big quakes in the future as well.

NASA's InSight mission is struggling to dig into Mars

Two other InSight investigations, including the heat probe taking Mars’ internal temperature and the Rotation and Interior Structure Experiment investigating Mars’ core will provide more data as the mission continues.

A fascinating landing site

Originally deemed a flat parking lot by NASA scientists, InSight’s landing site along the Martian equator is more interesting than previously believed based on ten months of studying it.

A dust devil passed over NASA's lander on Mars

InSight landed in an impact crater in Elysium Planitia. The surface is smooth and sandy with some rocks strewn about. The plains of Elysium Planitia, found along the Martian equator, are between highlands to the south and west and volcanoes to the north and east.

Surprisingly, the scientists discovered that it was the Cerberus Fossae fault lines that revealed the most recently geologically and volcanically active areas on Mars to date. The region is 994 miles to the east and also shows evidence of channels that once carried volcanic flow and liquid water.

The data meant volcanic flows occurred in the area within the last ten million years. Quakes are also registering from that area.

“If you take the thermal model of Mars, you wouldn’t expect such recent volcanism,” Smrekar said. “We wouldn’t expect it to be hot enough inside to be producing magma. This says there is some variability at depth on Mars and the source is not obvious at the surface. Something is allowing localized pockets of volcanism to occur.”

Surprising magnetic fields

Previous missions orbiting Mars have revealed that the planet no longer has a global magnetic field like Earth, yet scientists know it did in the ancient past.

The planet’s protective magnetic field mysteriously disappeared around 4.2 billion years ago as Mars cooled. The sun’s solar wind then stripped away the Martian atmosphere, leaving behind the thin one the planet has today.

NASA's InSight mission tunes in to the strange sounds of Mars

InSight’s magnetometer is the first instrument of its kind on the Martian surface and it unexpectedly detected that there are steady, localized magnetic fields 10 times stronger than predicted at the surface of the landing site.

These the fields are coming from magnetized volcanic rocks beneath Elysium Planitia, which formed when Mars had a global magnetic field. Those magnetic field particles became trapped in the rocks as they cooled, ensnaring the magnetization inside.

Because the subsurface of Mars didn’t heat up again to release that magnetization, the rocks remained the same ever since, said Catherine Johnson, the magnetometer co-investigator.

NASA's InSight mission catches Martian sunrise and sunset

“The ground-level data give us a much more sensitive picture of magnetization over smaller areas, and where it’s coming from,” said Johnson. “In addition to showing that the magnetic field at the landing site was ten times stronger than the satellites anticipated, the data implied it was coming from nearby sources.”

A unique weather station

InSight also has a weather station simultaneously recording pressure, temperature and wind; it’s unlike any meterological suite ever used on Mars. Understanding how the atmosphere behaves at the Martian surface is key to understanding Mars and its ancient past.
Combined with the magnetometer, the scientists were able to detect 10,000 pressure vortexes moving through the landing site. They believe the vortexes could be the iconic Martian dust devils that spin up columns of dust along the surface, said Philippe Lognonne, principal investigator of the magnetometer.
Get a bird's-eye view of NASA's missions on Mars

Trouble with the heat probe

Unfortunately, the heat probe that was deployed last year immediately ran into difficulty as it hit tough, clod-like dirt material 35 centimeters beneath the surface. The probe is supposed to hammer 9 to 16 feet beneath the surface to test how Mars internal temperature varies.

But the self-hammering probe only works if there’s friction in the soil, otherwise it bounces in place. The probe team will try another tactic, using the lander’s robotic arm to push down on the probe in hopes of continuing the investigation, Banerdt said.

Although they have more data than conclusions, the scientists likened their first 10 months to geophysicists trying to investigate Earth in the early 1900s, using the best tools they had to understand plate tectonics and earthquakes.

“This is an entire new world of processes for us, learning how to categorize these signals,” Banerdt said. “It’s still a very mysterious situation and we’re In the wild west of understanding what’s going on. We anticipate that within the next year, we can use this data to probe the deepest structures of Mars.”

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Some Fidelity and Charles Schwab clients experienced difficulties accessing their accounts amid the 800-point drop in the markets Monday.

Both brokers told CNBC about an hour after the open that the issues had been resolved.

“Due to higher-than-usual volumes, some clients may have experienced delays in accessing some online features as the market opened but our systems are fine and up and running,” Schwab Public Relations told CNBC. Schwab manages about $4 trillion in assets.

“Some clients are experiencing technical issues and we are working as quickly as possible to resolve,” Fidelity told CNBC shortly after the open. Privately held Fidelity, the largest online broker, manages about $7.8 trillion in client assets for nearly 30 million clients.

TD Ameritrade, also experienced “some slowness in the reporting of trade confirmations this morning related to heavy trade volumes at the open,” the broker told CNBC. TD Ameritade has about $1.4 trillion in client assets.

Fidelity clients took to Twitter to air their concerns about the technical issues. “@Fidelity it would be great on a day like today if your site worked,” said one Twitter user.

Many photos on Twitter showed that Fidelity’s platform was telling its clients their account balance was $0.00. Schwab’s app was flashing a “temporarily unavailable” message, according to photos on Twitter.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average fell more than 800 points on Monday as the number of coronavirus cases outside China surged, raising fears of a prolonged global economic slowdown from the spreading deadly virus. The Dow’s drop was the third-largest one-day decline by the 30-stock index in the past three years.

Shares of Schwab dipped 4.5% amid the market sell-off.

Subscribe to CNBC PRO for exclusive insights and analysis, and live business day programming from around the world.

— With reporting from CNBC’s Jim Forkin.

Correction: Schwab manages about $4 trillion in assets. An earlier version misstated the figure.

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BERNARD GOLDBERG: I'll sit out this presidential election because of the yahoos running…

When former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger was asked what he thought about the Iran-Iraq war, he said, “It’s a pity they both can’t lose.”

Funny, but that’s how I feel about Donald Trump and whomever the Democrats pick to run against him in November.

Let’s start with the president. I’m a Republican, a conservative, and I wish I could vote for him.  But I can’t. It’s not his policies that annoy the heck out of me. It’s he who annoys the heck out of me.

He is a man of bad character. A good man, someone who is decent, doesn’t enjoy humiliating people — something that President TrumpDonald John TrumpSchiff blasts Trump for making ‘false claims’ about Russia intel: ‘You’ve betrayed America. Again.’ Poll: Sanders leads 2020 Democratic field with 28 percent, followed by Warren and Biden More than 6 in 10 expect Trump to be reelected: poll MORE does with unfortunate regularity.

It’s not enough for him to tell his gazillion Twitter followers that Michael BloombergMichael Rubens BloombergPoll: Sanders leads 2020 Democratic field with 28 percent, followed by Warren and Biden More than 6 in 10 expect Trump to be reelected: poll Sanders has wide leads in two of three battleground states: survey MORE is too liberal and doesn’t deserve to be elected. Instead, he tweets that “Mini Mike Bloomberg is a LOSER… .”

Mini Mike? What does Mike Bloomberg’s height have to do with anything? It’s a cheap shot designed to embarrass a political opponent. It’s childish.

He says Bloomberg is a “5 foot 4 mass of dead energy” who wants to stand on a box at presidential debates to avoid looking short.

Where’d that come from? There’s no evidence that Bloomberg ever said he wanted to stand on a box, and according to his medical records, he’s 5 foot 7, not 5 foot 4.

So what if Trump just made it up. Among the traits I don’t like about him is that he lies with frequency. Over matters big and small, important and insignificant.

It’s too bad that Trump has so many character flaws. Too bad because, as I say, I want to vote for the Republican candidate for president; yet, thanks to Trump, I won’t be voting for him in November.

That I find him so unlikeable, in case you’re wondering, won’t drive me into the arms of the Democrats. Their party has lurched so far to the left that I couldn’t possibly support any of their candidates. 

Even the Democrats’ “moderates” are left-wingers. They don’t see the same America I do. Their America is a dark place, where only the super-rich are doing well, where ordinary Americans need two or three jobs to put food on the table, a place where racism is ingrained in the nation’s DNA. For Democrats running for president, the glass is always half empty — if that. 

And Democrats were out to impeach Trump from the moment he was elected in 2016. You don’t have to like our president to dislike that. There’s no way I’d vote for any of them.

I thought Trump was civil and, yes, even presidential, during his State of the Union address. I thought that, maybe, he had turned a corner. That, who knows, maybe we were going to see a new Donald Trump right up to the election.

Two days later, he thanked the pols who supported him during impeachment, telling them — on national television in the White House — that it was all “bullshit.” He can’t help himself. 

I grew up in a blue-collar neighborhood in the South Bronx and, while we didn’t have a lot of money back then, we did have values. It was a tough neighborhood but I don’t remember any of the grownups using words like “bullshit” in public. And the idea that a U.S. president would talk like that out in the open was unheard of  — not possible.

Everybody in the neighborhood was a Democrat, but my parents and all the other grownups back then could never support free medical care for people who sneak into this country — not when they had to pay their own medical bills with the little money they had.

And if any Democrat back then had suggested that felons in prison be allowed to vote, as Sen. Bernie SandersBernie SandersSchiff blasts Trump for making ‘false claims’ about Russia intel: ‘You’ve betrayed America. Again.’ Buttigieg campaign claims ‘irregularities’ in Nevada caucuses Poll: Sanders leads 2020 Democratic field with 28 percent, followed by Warren and Biden MORE (I-Vt.) has suggested, they would have thought it was a joke.

Given the choice between hanging on to their jobs and disrupting the national economy with something like a Green New Deal —  well, that would have been a no-brainer.

I’m not sure how they would have felt about abortion, but I am sure of this: They’d never have supported abortion with absolutely no restrictions.

We were a blue-collar family, as I say, but I never heard my parents bash the banks or big corporations, the way today’s progressives do. I never heard them vilify millionaires and billionaires.

So, if you haven’t already figured it out, I’ll be sitting out the presidential election in November, just as I did in 2016.

Some people have told me that it’s anti-American to boycott an election, that Americans fought and died for my right to vote and that I am disrespecting them by not voting.

Sorry, I don’t buy that. But even if you believe that it’s somehow unpatriotic to sit out an election, don’t blame me. Blame the yahoos running for president.

I guess I can be persuaded to change my mind and vote for a president in November. If Trump decides he can’t win and drops out, and Nikki HaleyNimrata (Nikki) HaleyNikki Haley hires Heritage Action chief to run her policy group Latest Bolton revelations are no game-changer Is Mike Pence preparing to resign, assume the presidency, or both? MORE jumps in, I’ll vote.

As for the Democrats, I’m with Ronald Reagan: They left me, I didn’t leave them.

So, in November, I’ll be exercising my right not to vote — my way of saying that I refuse to throw away my vote on candidates not worthy, as I see it, of the position of President of the United States of America. My way of saying, “Henry Kissinger, you were right: It really is too bad both sides can’t lose.”

Bernard Goldberg, an Emmy and an Alfred I. duPont-Columbia University award-winning writer and journalist, is a correspondent with HBO’s “Real Sports with Bryant Gumbel.” He previously worked as a reporter for CBS News and an analyst for Fox News. He is the author of five books and publishes exclusive weekly columns, audio commentaries and Q&As on his Patreon page. Follow him on Twitter @BernardGoldberg.

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DNA databases are boon to police but menace to privacy, critics say…

Nearly two years after the arrest of the suspected Golden State Killer revitalized DNA forensics, some state lawmakers around the country are pushing to stop or restrict police searches of genetic code databases.

Other lawmakers, meanwhile, want to make it even easier for police to use the technique, known as investigative genetic genealogy, to catch criminals.

Inspired by the capture of the alleged Golden State Killer, police across the United States are uploading crime-scene DNA to GEDmatch and other databases where purchasers of genetic testing kits from companies such as 23andMe and Ancestry can share their DNA in hopes of finding long-lost relatives.

Arrests have been made in dozens of cases — many that had been considered cold. Advocates of the practice tout the ability to find people who committed horrible crimes and exonerate those who did not.

“I believe, 100%, that DNA is the greatest tool ever given to law enforcement to find the truth, whatever that is,” said Anne Marie Schubert, independent district attorney of Sacramento County, California, where the suspected Golden State Killer was arrested.

But law enforcement’s use of the DNA databases has opened another front in the growing battle over digital privacy. Should third parties — in this case, police — have access to personal data people generate by using consumer technology? And should investigators be allowed to use the technique to solve all crimes, or only the most violent ones?

Americans are divided on whether police should use investigative genetic genealogy to solve crimes, according to a recent study released by the Pew Research Center. (The Pew Charitable Trusts funds the center and Stateline.) In a June survey of more than 4,200 U.S. adults, 48% said they were OK with DNA testing companies sharing customers’ genetic data with police. A third said it was unacceptable, and 18% were unsure.

“What we have right now we can call the Wild West. There aren’t a lot of rules on the ground,” Natalie Ram, an associate professor of law at the University of Maryland, said in an interview. “State legislatures are one of the best-situated bodies to engage in rule-making in this area.”

This year lawmakers are starting to do just that.

Stateline Feb20

Investigators use a blend of DNA search tools and traditional policing methods to track rapists and murderers.

Nick Otto/The Washington Post via Getty Images

A state representative in Utah introduced a bill that would ban genetic genealogy searches by police. A Maryland lawmaker introduced a bill to regulate searches — after a proposal last year to ban them failed. In New York, a state senator has proposed a policy to allow the searches. A Washington state proposal would allow only searches requested through a valid legal process.

And three direct-to-consumer testing companies have formed a coalition and are lobbying Congress for federal oversight to restrict police access to their databases and protect consumer privacy.

Schubert expressed skepticism about legislative proposals cropping up.

“If they want to weigh in on it, that’s fine, as long as they understand what it is, how it works and what it does and doesn’t do,” she said. “It shouldn’t be a race to see who can be the first to ban it or vice versa.”

How It Works

The man accused of being the Golden State Killer, Joseph James DeAngelo, was arrested after investigators uploaded crime-scene DNA to online genealogy database GEDmatch, matched it partially to his great-great-great-grandparents, built family trees of relatives and eventually traced it to him. Police obtained surreptitious samples of DeAngelo’s DNA to confirm the match.

After DeAngelo’s arrest, Schubert started a nonprofit with a few other law enforcement figures called the Institute for DNA Justice. They aim to educate the public about investigative genetic genealogy. And they encourage people to upload their DNA to GEDmatch or FamilyTreeDNA, another open database, to help police.

Schubert said police don’t get behind-the-scenes, unlimited access to peruse DNA databases, despite what many people believe. Instead, investigators upload a DNA profile and get a list of matches and partial matches like the average user, she said in an interview.

The rest is traditional police work: using leads to narrow down the matches to a person who fits the description of the suspect, gathering a surreptitious sample and comparing it with the crime scene DNA profile.

“It is a blend of science and traditional law enforcement,” she said.

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States Battle Big Tech Over Data Privacy Laws

More than 15 million people worldwide had undergone direct-to-consumer DNA testing by early 2018, according to a report from the journal Science. Researchers estimated that 60% of searches of a database with 3 million U.S. residents of European descent could lead to a third cousin or closer match.

By the end of 2019, GEDmatch’s database had been used to solve at least 70 U.S. violent crimes. Verogen, a forensic genomics company, bought GEDmatch in December, and said that the use of its database as a crime fighting tool — for people who share DNA and opt in to police searches — would continue.

Forensics company Parabon Nanolabs has relied on public databases such as GEDmatch to identify 83 crime suspects and 11 homicide victims since May 2018, when it began offering genetic genealogy service to law enforcement agencies, said Paula Armentrout, the company’s vice president, in an email. The company charges law enforcement $1,500 to process DNA and another $3,500 for the genealogy research time.

GEDmatch faced criticism last year when a BuzzFeed investigation revealed the company allowed police to upload a DNA profile to investigate an aggravated assault. The website, which was started by a DNA hobbyist, previously restricted police searches to homicide and rape cases. GEDmatch changed its policy so that users had to opt in to law enforcement searches.

About 1.4 million people have profiles on GEDmatch, and more than 200,000 have agreed to law enforcement searches of their DNA, according to Verogen spokeswoman Kim Mohr. 

“We support responsible use of consumer genetic databases by law enforcement and would not be in favor of legislation that prohibits such searches of people who have opted in,” Mohr said in an email.

The Privacy Debate

The Utah bill would bar law enforcement from performing genetic genealogy searches in consumer databases. The sponsor, Utah state Rep. Craig Hall, a Republican, was not available for an interview.

But Michael Melendez, policy director of Libertas Institute, a free-market think tank based in Lehi, Utah, that helped Hall craft the bill, said traditional consent and warrant models don’t apply to DNA databases.

“You won’t see a warrant for an entire town to knock on everyone’s door and search everyone’s house,” Melendez said. “In the same sense, with a digital DNA database, we don’t believe you can go in and just get a warrant to do a mass search.”

But the Utah Cold Case Coalition, a three-year-old nonprofit that helps people dig into cold cases and advocates for genetic genealogy searches, opposes the bill.

The group’s director, an attorney named Karra Porter, started it after the family of 6-year-old Rosie Tapia, who was raped and murdered in 1995, asked her for help. (The case remains unsolved.)

In a few months, Porter’s group plans to open a lab called Intermountain Forensics in Salt Lake City and provide at-cost DNA tests including genetic genealogy tests for law enforcement, Porter said. 

Even if Hall’s bill, which is in committee, becomes law, Porter said her lab will be fine: The lab already has potential clients from other states. But, she added, “We’re going to have a whole lot of unsolved rapes and murders in our state because of this bill, if it goes through.”

“Privacy is an essential human good. It’s necessary for human flourishing and for liberty.”

Natalie Ram, associate law professor
University of Maryland

Ram, the Maryland professor, acknowledges that DNA databases are useful to police. The question, she said, is whether the investigative advantages outweigh the threat to people’s privacy.

“There’s no doubt that law enforcement could solve more crimes if they could have more access to more people all the time,” Ram said. “Privacy is an essential human good. It’s necessary for human flourishing and for liberty.”

Ram testified in support of a bill to ban genetic genealogy searches proposed by a Maryland lawmaker last year. The bill died in committee.

The same lawmaker, Democratic state Sen. Charles Sydnor III, introduced a new bill this session to regulate searches instead. The measure would limit law enforcement’s use of genetic genealogy databases to felony cases including homicide, rape and burglary.

“I had never looked at it in that respect, of people who had committed violent crimes,” Sydnor said in an interview. “This is cutting-edge stuff. We’re all trying to figure it out.”

In New York, a state senator is again proposing a policy that would allow searches in cases of violent crimes where “all other investigative leads have been exhausted.” State law allows police to do only what’s called a familial search, or a search for a partial DNA match, in the state DNA database.

“When I hear of major crimes being solved in other states and our law enforcement officials do not have the same ability,” Republican state Sen. Phil Boyle said, “I want to make sure New York law enforcement officials have all the tools they need.”

The Washington state bill is similar but aimed at consumer companies. The bill, proposed by state Rep. Shelley Kloba, a Democrat, would require direct-to-consumer genetic testing companies to follow a legal process before giving genetic information to law enforcement without customer consent. 

Could the Feds Go First?

Proposals to define when police can use DNA searches align, at least in part, with the federal legislation a trio of big player DNA companies — Ancestry, 23andMe and Helix — support. 

The companies formed a group called the Coalition for Genetic Data Protection to push to require police to follow a “valid legal process,” such as a court order or warrant, to search consumer databases, according to coalition Executive Director Steve Haro, who is also a principal at Mehlman Castagnetti Rosen & Thomas, the Washington, D.C., lobbying firm that runs the coalition.

According to their privacy policies, the three companies block law enforcement searches unless legally required.

“DNA is the greatest tool ever given to law enforcement.”

Anne Marie Schubert, district attorney
Sacramento County, California

But in practice, not even the legal threshold has been enough: “These companies will exhaust all legal measures to ensure their customer privacy is protected,” Haro said.

For example, last year Ancestry received a warrant seeking access to its database but challenged the warrant on jurisdictional grounds and didn’t provide information, according to its transparency report.

“With something as important as consumer privacy,” Haro said, “it deserves to be dealt with at the federal level with one comprehensive piece of legislation.”

The coalition registered to lobby members of Congress about a year ago, according to disclosure records.

The U.S. Department of Justice released an interim policy in September for law enforcement using forensic genetic genealogy: Use it as a last resort and with caution, the guidelines say.

The eight-page policy sets case eligibility (a violent crime with no matches in the federal DNA database CODIS or unidentified human remains). It also requires the work to be done in a special lab. Final guidelines are expected this year. 

But including a line — in any policy — for use “as a last resort” still leaves a lot of room for interpretation, said David Kaye, an emeritus law professor at Penn State University who writes about the admissibility of scientific evidence in court. 

“It’s politically appealing to say, ‘I’m only going to use it as a last resort,’” he said in an interview. “The thing is you, you’re still left with saying what cases fall into that.”

The Justice Department policy is “at least better than nothing,” said Christopher Slobogin, director of Vanderbilt Law School’s criminal justice program. He has studied the Fourth Amendment and privacy issues for 30 years.

Aside from a few cases related to privacy, there haven’t been many court decisions directly applicable to genetic genealogy, Slobogin said. They could come, as DNA databases grow and so do genetic genealogy-related arrests. He thinks the best guidance will come from parameters set by the courts and filled in with state legislation.

“It’s possible that ultimately the same rule ought to apply across the country,” Slobogin said. “At the same time, barging in with a federal law might be a little premature.

“That’s the reason we have 50 states,” he said. “We can experiment a bit.”

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Thousands line up to buy face masks in astonishing drone footage…

Hundreds of people have been filmed queuing up to buy face masks in the city at the centre of South Korea’s coronavirus outbreak. 

A long line of people snaked out the doors of a supermarket in the city of Daegu on Monday as people tried to protect themselves against the spread of the disease amid fears of a global pandemic. 

South Korea now has the largest number of confirmed cases outside of mainland China after infections spiked at the weekend, standing at 830 by Monday morning. 

Thousands of people queued out the doors of a supermarket in the South Korean city of Daegu in an attempt to buy face masks amid a coronavirus outbreak

Thousands of people queued out the doors of a supermarket in the South Korean city of Daegu in an attempt to buy face masks amid a coronavirus outbreak

Daegu is at the centre of South Korea's coronavirus outbreak after the disease began spreading among followers of a Christian cult in the city

Daegu is at the centre of South Korea’s coronavirus outbreak after the disease began spreading among followers of a Christian cult in the city

Eight people have also died from the disease in the Asian country. 

The astonishing scenes outside the supermarket were captured by South Korean newspaper Maeil Shinmun.

More than 140 of South Korea’s new cases were in and near Daegu, the city of 2.5 million people where most of the country’s infections have occurred. 

Five of the deaths were linked to a hospital in Cheongdo, near Daegu, where a slew of infections were confirmed among patients in a psychiatric ward.

While officials have expressed hope they could contain the outbreak to the region surrounding Daegu, some experts noted signs of the virus circulating nationwide.

They pointed to a number of cases in the capital, Seoul, and elsewhere that were not immediately traceable.

‘In Daegu, the number of new cases that are being confirmed by tests is quite large, and if we fail to effectively stem community transmissions in this area, there would be a large possibility (that the illness) spreads nationwide,’ South Korean vice health minister Kim Gang-lip said.

South Korea confirmed 830 cases of the virus on Monday along with eight deaths, marking the highest number of infections outside of mainland China

South Korea confirmed 830 cases of the virus on Monday along with eight deaths, marking the highest number of infections outside of mainland China

Experts warned of a global pandemic after a surge in the number of coronavirus cases at the weekend, with the disease spreading in South Korea (pictured), Italy and Iran

Experts warned of a global pandemic after a surge in the number of coronavirus cases at the weekend, with the disease spreading in South Korea (pictured), Italy and Iran

He said that health officials plan to test all of the city’s residents exhibiting cold-like symptoms, which he said would be about 28,000 people. 

Health workers are also screening some 9,000 followers of the Daegu branch of the Shincheonji Church of Jesus, where a woman in her 60s attended two services before testing positive for the virus.

Of the country’s 161 new cases, 129 were related to the church. Officials are also investigating a possible link between churchgoers and the spike in infections at a hospital in nearby Cheongdo. 

Worldwide, cases have now topped 80,000 with more than 2,600 deaths as experts warned the globe is on the brink of a pandemic.

A pandemic occurs when the same disease threatens different parts of the globe simultaneously.

Until this weekend, the spread of coronavirus had been largely isolated to mainland China, with most foreign cases being linked to travellers from the country.

Workers wearing protective suits spray disinfectant as a precaution against the coronavirus at a market in Bupyeong, South Korea

Workers wearing protective suits spray disinfectant as a precaution against the coronavirus at a market in Bupyeong, South Korea

South Korean tourists leaving Israel are pictured at a pavillon separated from the main terminal of Ben Gurion International Airport

South Korean tourists leaving Israel are pictured at a pavillon separated from the main terminal of Ben Gurion International Airport

Israel on February 22 refused to allow some 200 non-Israelis to disembark from a plane which arrived from South Korea, as part of measures against the new coronavirus

Israel on February 22 refused to allow some 200 non-Israelis to disembark from a plane which arrived from South Korea, as part of measures against the new coronavirus

But a wave of infections in northern Italy – which has been placed on lockdown – and in Iran, where 50 deaths were reported Monday, suggested the disease was spreading freely elsewhere.

Several countries reported cases connected to travel to Iran. 

Kuwait confirmed its first cases on Monday in three people who had travelled from Iran, while Bahrain and Iraq reported their first cases, also linked to Iran. 

The United Arab Emirates said new cases there included Iranian tourists.

A number of countries have closed their borders with Iran or effectively barred travellers from there, a similar step to the actions numerous countries have taken to ward off the spread of the illness from China.

On Monday, Italy’s northern Lombardy region, which includes the nation’s financial capital, Milan, reported the death of the fourth victim.

Workers spray disinfectant at the National Assembly in Seoul, South Korea

Workers spray disinfectant at the National Assembly in Seoul, South Korea

Authorities said they had registered 38 more cases beyond the 152 reported nationwide late on Sunday, bringing Italy’s total to at least 190.

Venice, which is full of tourists for carnival events, reported its first two cases.

As Italy scrambled to check the spread of the virus, authorities announced that all carnival events had been called off as well as major league football matches in the stricken region. 

Cinemas and theatres were also ordered shuttered, including Milan’s legendary La Scala.

Warning that China’s virus epidemic is ‘still grim and complex,’ President Xi Jinping called for more efforts to stop the outbreak, revive industry and prevent the disease from disrupting spring planting of crops.

Mr Xi defended the ruling Communist Party’s response as ‘timely and effective’ in a video conference with officials in charge of anti-disease work, according to the official Xinhua News Agency.

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'Sanders is your enemy': Venezuala socialism victims sound alarm…

With Sen. Bernie Sanders now the clear frontrunner for the Democratic nomination for president, even some on the left have expressed worry over what a self-described Democratic Socialist on the ticket in November could mean not only for Democrats’ chances of taking back the White House but also for their down-ballot odds, namely, control of the U.S. House of Representatives and Senate. 

Among Sanders’ most ardent supporters are college-aged voters, who favor the Democratic Socialist far more overwhelmingly than the broader electorate. However, from liberal MSNBC commentators Chris Matthews and Joy Reid to former Clinton campaign manager James Carville, a growing number of voices on the left are sounding the alarm, joining those with whom Campus Reform spoke more than a year ago. 

“Bernie Sanders is your enemy. Do not ever get involved with this individual or any of the other socialists”   

At a Washington, D.C. protest, Campus Reform‘s Cabot Phillips spoke with individuals who escaped socialism in Venezuela to come to America. 

[RELATED: Venezuelan socialism victims send message to American socialists]



“You do not ever want anyone, not even close, to socialism to come to this country,” one person said. 

The same person specifically invoked Sanders’ name. 

“Bernie Sanders is your enemy. Do not ever get involved with this individual or any of the other socialists,” he said. 

“It is not the route to go. It is not possible. It is not feasible. Don’t fall for it,” another said. 

“We also thought that this could never happen in our country,” one victim of socialism said about the economic system’s perils. “We had a balance of powers. We had democracy and we elected our leaders.” 

One person who said that he was born and raised in Venezuela said that he has seen the country “deteriorate” under socialism. 

[RELATED: ‘Socialism is the largest threat facing the future of our country’ (VIDEO)]

On Saturday, Sanders won the Nevada Democratic caucuses. The win follows his victory in the New Hampshire primary and his virtual tie for first place with former South Bend, Indiana Mayor Pete Buttigieg in Iowa. 

Sanders’ wins in the first three contest states pave a clearer path for him to the Democratic nomination than for any other Democratic presidential candidate, although the South Carolina primary is just one week away, with Super Tuesday also quickly approaching. 

Follow the author of this article on Facebook: @JonStreetDC and Twitter: @JonStreet

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Bomb Threats Mailed To JCC Campuses Across New York…

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