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Justice Department goes out of its way to argue discrimination based on sexual orientation is legal

Daily Kos - Fri, 08/23/2019 - 19:25

The Justice Department filed an amicus brief Friday aimed at reversing the trend of lower courts interpreting existing federal law to prohibit workplace discrimination based on sexual orientation. The brief argued that the ban on "sex" discrimination in Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 does not protect gay, lesbian, and bisexual workers from bias because it was not the original intent of lawmakers when they passed the legislation.

The administration filed the briefs in two cases to which it was not a party. In other words, the Justice Department went out of its way to argue for the right of businesses to discriminate against LGB workers. The department also filed a motion seeking time to make oral arguments before the High Court next month when the case is heard, reports Buzzfeed's Dominic Holden. The motion argued that the "United States has a substantial interest" in resolving whether Title VII covers sexual orientation, or more to the point, it has a substantial interest in clearing the way for religious conservatives to target people based on their sexual orientation.

The move follows on a brief from the department last week in which government lawyers argued transgender workers were also not protected by the civil rights statute, claiming that the prohibition on sex discrimination only pertains to "biological sex."

Federal statute does not currently provide explicit workplace protections for gay and transgender workers. However, over the last decade federal courts and the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission have increasingly concluded that discrimination against transgender and gay workers violates Title VII.

Categories: Politics

Chris Cillizza Remembers The Past, Builds A Lifeboat For GOP

Crooks and Liars - Fri, 08/23/2019 - 19:20
Chris Cillizza Remembers The Past, Builds A Lifeboat For GOP

Kudos where they're due: CNN remembers the past, reminding their viewers that current Trump toadies Ted Cruz, Lindsey Graham, and Rick Perry called out Donald Trump during the 2016 campaign.

And yes, the hypocrisy of those particular Republicans is based on political expediency.

Chris Cillizza even goes so far as to note that Trump is very popular among Republicans in Texas, and that Ted Cruz's flip toward Trump saved him a primary challenge.

But THEN Chris said this:

CHRIS CILLIZZA: I've told people this all the time that Donald Trump is not really a Republican. I know there's an "R" after his name, I know he ran as a Republican, but look at people who have been in the Republican party for a long time, Jeb Bush, George W. Bush, people who are pillars of -- John Kasich. People who are pillars of the party. They're not all actively speaking out against Donald Trump, but what he represents is not the conservatism of Paul Ryan, of John Boehner, of people who were longtime stalwarts of the party. It's just not close.

Oh no you don't Chris. I appreciate that you point out how 2016 exit polls prove many Trump voters didn't think he was either trustworthy or qualified. That proves my theory that with a reported 92% chance that Clinton would win, many (white) Americans threw away their vote due to misogyny or anti-establishment sentiment. Herd immunity didn't work in 2016.

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Categories: Politics

Sanders And Warren Return Donations From Employees At Hedge Funds Linked To Puerto Rico

Crooks and Liars - Fri, 08/23/2019 - 19:19
Sanders And Warren Return Donations From Employees At Hedge Funds Linked To Puerto Rico

Sens. Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren both returned donations to their 2020 presidential primary campaigns from employees at hedge funds profiting off of Puerto Rico's debt, making the pair thus far the only two to do so among the crowded Democratic field.

Activists from a number of organizations sent an open letter to all Democrats in the 2020 primary asking them to return the donations on August 13, after a damning report from research organization Hedge Clippers exposed the way that hedge funds are making money off of the island territory's misery.

According to Hedge Clippers, there's a chance for change in Puerto Rico after a people-power-based movement turned former Governor Ricardo Rosello out of office in early August:

After the dust settles and Puerto Rico finally ends with a new governor, the oversight board, with their debt adjustment plans, will still be in place. Now more than ever there is an opportunity to bring accountability to the corporations and vulture funds that have worked with the former governor and the oversight board to advance a regime of austerity and privatization for Puerto Rico to ensure they profit.

In order to effect that change, said Julio López Varona, the co-director of community dignity campaigns at the Center For Popular Democracy, the consequences for profiting from the debt must be clear.

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Categories: Politics

Qualcomm Wins a Pause In Enforcement of FTC Ruling

Slashdot - Fri, 08/23/2019 - 18:50
Qualcomm has won a partial stay against the enforcement of a sweeping antitrust ruling in a lawsuit brought by the FTC. "The company on May 21 lost in an antitrust lawsuit and has been fighting to have the ruling put on hold while it pursued an appeal," reports Reuters. "The San Diego-based company argued that letting the ruling stand could upend its talks with phone makers over chips for 5G, the next generation of wireless data networks." From the report: In the ruling issued on Friday, the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals put on hold the provisions of the earlier ruling that required Qualcomm to grant patent licenses to rival chip suppliers and end its practice of requiring its chip customers to sign a patent license before purchasing chips. The earlier ruling would have required Qualcomm to renegotiate all of its existing chip and patent deals, as well as make new deals conform to the requirements. The stay granted Friday puts on hold the effect of parts of the ruling while the appeals process, which could take a year or more, plays out. The company has not formally filed its appeal in the FTC lawsuit. After Qualcomm files its arguments, the appeal will take place in January.

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Categories: Geek

Tesla Working To Resolve Dispute With Walmart Over Solar Panel Fires

Slashdot - Fri, 08/23/2019 - 18:10
An anonymous reader quotes a report from Ars Technica: Walmart and Tesla are actively negotiating to resolve the lawsuit Walmart filed against Tesla earlier this week over defective solar panels, the two companies said in a joint statement sent out on Thursday evening. "Walmart and Tesla look forward to addressing all issues and re-energizing Tesla solar installations at Walmart stores, once all parties are certain that all concerns have been addressed," the statement said. The companies say they're both committed to a "sustainable energy future" as well as safety and efficiency. Spokespeople for Tesla and Walmart declined to provide any further details about the state of the negotiations, but it's not hard to guess what happened. The optics of Walmart suing Tesla over multiple fires on its store roofs were not good for Tesla. Tesla wants the public -- and potential customers -- to know that it's now working to address Walmart's concerns. Walmart filed a lawsuit on Tuesday against Tesla accusing the company of supplying solar panels that were responsible for fires at about seven of its stores. "This is a breach of contract action arising from years of gross negligence and failure to live up to industry standards by Tesla with respect to solar panels that Tesla designed, installed, and promised to operate and maintain safely on the roofs of hundreds of Walmart stores," Walmart said in the court filing.

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Categories: Geek

Japan Display to receive majority of rescue funds, reportedly $100M from Apple

9to5Mac - Fri, 08/23/2019 - 16:52

One of Apple’s suppliers, Japan Display has had a challenging time over the last few years. While the company was set to receive a lifeline of $737 million to expand its OLED operations, it lost about a third of that as an investor backed out in June. However, it’s now been confirmed that the troubled display maker will receive the majority of its funding this fall with Apple allegedly chipping in.


The post Japan Display to receive majority of rescue funds, reportedly $100M from Apple appeared first on 9to5Mac.

Categories: Geek

Elect a Businessman Who Knows About Business

Balloon Juice - Fri, 08/23/2019 - 16:28

The Dow is down 600 points (2.4%) after Trump hereby declares that we need to get out of China.

I realize it’s stupid to look at the Dow as anything but a rectal temp of people betting at the track, but goddam Trump is a genius at sticking his dick in every light socket in the building.

Open thread.

Categories: Politics

Feature Request: Apple Card improvements for couples sharing finances

9to5Mac - Fri, 08/23/2019 - 16:17

Apple Card is officially available to the public and it’s stirring up a lot of interest. Even though the rewards for the new credit card aren’t a standout feature, there are many aspects that make it a compelling choice including the instant sign-up and approval process, privacy and security focus, Apple-designed budgeting software, titanium card, no fees, and more. I’m ready to get one myself, but there are a few things holding me back and likely others who share finances with their spouse or partner.


The post Feature Request: Apple Card improvements for couples sharing finances appeared first on 9to5Mac.

Categories: Geek

The Bob Cesca Podcast: The Chosen One

Little Green Footballs - Fri, 08/23/2019 - 15:28


Today's program from our podcasting affiliate, The Bob Cesca Show, powered by Christmas Injury Lawyers:

The Chosen One -- NSFW! The Goth Ninjas, Jody Hamilton and TRex David Ferguson are here; Trump's brain worms are on the march; Moscow Mitch is accidentally funny with his filibuster oped in the New York Times; Tom Cotton says Greenland was his idea; More drunken Larry Kudlow; Trump's attack on the 14th Amendment; Jay Inslee is out; Joe Walsh is in; Ben Shapiro is an idiot; How the Civil War and Reconstruction inform today's politics; With music by After The Fight and Pacific Standard; and more!

Categories: Politics

Stop, collaborate, and listen

Balloon Juice - Fri, 08/23/2019 - 13:53

I’ve been slacking on fundraising so I’m going to do a bunch at once now. Early money is important.

Here’s the Balloon Juice Senate Fund, split between nominee funds in several competitive states where we have a chance to flip a seat. (You can allocate as you like when you click on the contributed button.)

Goal Thermometer

The Balloon Juice for Virginia Fund, which gives to the Virginia Senate Democratic Caucus and Virginia House Democratic Caucus. Flipping the legislature in Virginia (where Rs have a one-seat majority in each house) is probably the most important state Democratic goal in 2019.

Goal Thermometer

For those in a more defensive mood, here’s the Balloon Juice House fund, split between the most vulnerable members of the federal Democratic House caucus. A lot of the people in here are first-terms whom we helped win in November 2018 (we raised 375K for the 2018 cycle here, btw).

Goal Thermometer

Categories: Politics

Emergency And Medical Personnel Speak Out On The Nyonoksa Explosion

Balloon Juice - Fri, 08/23/2019 - 13:04

Two accounts of caring for the victims of the accident at Nyonoksa on August 8 were published Wednesday, August 21, in Meduza (English version) and Novaya Gazeta. The sources are an emergency responder and two doctors. The emergency responder was not on duty that day and relies on the reports of co-workers. The sources want to remain anonymous for obvious reasons.

I have questions about these accounts and a Washington Post account that seems to refer to another Novaya Gazeta article without linking. But first, let’s see what can reasonably be gleaned from the accounts.

The military, who apparently were responsible for the test, were utterly unprepared for an accident. The emergency responder describes the precautions that should reasonably have been taken for an test with significant quantities of radioactive material, as seems to have been the case. The military should have had decontamination equipment on hand, and they should have notified local emergency responders and hospitals that an experiment was planned. After the accident, the military should have notified responders and hospitals of what to expect. None of this was done.

As a result, there was a scramble to bring victims of the accident to appropriate facilities. In doing so, they contaminated a hospital, probably ambulances and other emergency vehicles, and endangered personnel. The military has done some decontamination.

The patients are reported to have had broken bones, but nothing else is said about their condition.

Hospital personnel were required to sign non-disclosure agreements, and the records of the event were seized by the military. Hospital personnel are not clear on what is national security information and what is just to keep the event quiet. They are concerned and angry about their health and possible radiation exposure. Some, but not all, of the personnel who were exposed were taken to Moscow for further examination.

The questions

I am wary of news reports concerning radiation. Radiation is too often treated as a mysterious process impossible for lay people to understand, so reporters find it acceptable to write words into sentences that have a proper grammatical structure but are meaningless. Radiation is easier to understand than Checkov’s plays or T. S. Eliot’s poetry, which the reporters may well be acquainted with. I see some of the usual problems in these articles.

Quotes from the articles are in italics.

The victims in the explosion were taken to a hospital in Arkhangelsk, where the radioactive nuclide cesium-137 was later detected in the body of one of the doctors.

Several outlets have reported that cesium-137 was found “in muscle tissue” of one of the doctors. The only way this makes sense is if the doctor had a cut that some of the radioactive material got into and then was washed out or biopsied. Radioisotopes (the general word for radioactive elements) are physical things and require physical pathways of movement.

…none of the responding rescue workers or physicians were warned that they were treating irradiated patients.

Irradiation, even at high levels, produces very little activation in the human body. Irradiation and contamination are often confused. Irradiation is being exposed to high levels of radiation from a source, as in the case of Louis Slotin. Contamination is having radioactive materials attached to one’s body. An explosion of radioactive materials would scatter materials both as chunks and dust. It’s possible that the victims’ bodies contained radioactive shrapnel and probably had radioactive dust on them. That is the reason for decontamination, which largely consists of washing.

Because they weren’t told whom they were transporting, the air-medical responders didn’t even take basic safety measures. They flew into a hotbed of isotope radiation without respirators or protective gear, and took away the victims.

Did a helicopter fly out to the barge where the experiment was conducted? How much radiation was there? Was it a runaway reactor or a smashed and dispersed source of radioactive materials? Different precautions would be appropriate for the two situations. Isotope radiation isn’t the way a knowledgeable person would phrase it, raising questions of how accurate the account and reporter’s transcription of it is.

In the Meduza doctor’s account, radiation levels are not given. Detecting beta radiation can be tricky, so it may not be surprising that it was missed. But we need more information – the kinds of detectors used, whether the victims had shrapnel in their bodies – to be able to understand what the problems were.

It’s not clear whether the same doctor talked to both Meduza and Novaya Gazeta. The accounts are close enough that it could be.

its dose was 22 thousand microparticles per square cm

“Microparticles” is not a standard unit. It probably should be becquerel, which is 1 disintegration/sec. Units of radiation are indeed confusing. Becquerel is a measurement of the amount of radiation, and 22,000 Bq per square centimeter over an entire room would be a lot. But we don’t know how it was measured. If it was only a small smudge, no big deal.

Will Englund and Natalia Abbakumova, in the Washington Post, report that an article in Novaya Gazeta says that two of the Russian specialists died from radiation sickness within 24 hours. The Post article does not link to Novaya Gazeta, and the article I have been quoting does not mention radiation sickness. Search by Russian-speaking followers on Twitter has not turned up another article. Two Manhattan Project scientists were killed by high neutron fluxes in criticality accidents. It took them days and weeks to die. A Twitter thread with links to reading is here. However, another follower pointed out to me Cecil Kelley died 35 hours after a criticality accident.

What was it? – The continuing question

These accounts add little to our understanding of the accident itself. Novaya Gazeta says it was a “test of a rocket with a radioisotope power source.” This description has appeared before, but it’s hard to know what it means. Radioisotope power sources don’t have enough power to propel a rocket.

The reports of cesium-137 and no other isotope point to a radioisotope power source, but cesium-137 is a poor choice for high power. Cesium-137 is a fission product, but if the test object was a reactor that went critical, there should be numerous other isotopes as well – strontium-90, several iodine isotopes, and others.

If the Washington Post report is correct, and if cesium-137 is the only radioactive isotope involved, then the radiation poisoning deaths must be from ingestion of the cesium-137, perhaps by being covered with it and having it forced into the victims’ bodies as shrapnel. Cesium-137 cannot cause high-level neutron irradiation like the Manhattan Project accidents; only a reactor or other critical assembly can do that.

If cesium-137 was the power source, then it is hard to see how it could cause an explosion. Liquid rocket fuel has been mentioned in other accounts, and that could cause an explosion.

It seems to me that the most significant thing we learn from this is that the military prepared poorly for this test. That implies a desire for speed and secrecy. For inferring what was tested, we have learned little and perhaps become more confused. We have to keep in mind that some of the information from the Russian government may be misleading.

Top photo: Severodvinsk, from Meduza.


Categories: Politics

You guys, Trump broke up with China!

Balloon Juice - Fri, 08/23/2019 - 12:07

A short while ago, Trump lost his shit on Twitter in a way that is tanking the DJA:

Our Country has lost, stupidly, Trillions of Dollars with China over many years. They have stolen our Intellectual Property at a rate of Hundreds of Billions of Dollars a year, & they want to continue. I won’t let that happen! We don’t need China and, frankly, would be far….

….better off without them. The vast amounts of money made and stolen by China from the United States, year after year, for decades, will and must STOP. Our great American companies are hereby ordered to immediately start looking for an alternative to China, including bringing..

…your companies HOME and making your products in the USA. I will be responding to China’s Tariffs this afternoon. This is a GREAT opportunity for the United States. Also, I am ordering all carriers, including Fed Ex, Amazon, UPS and the Post Office, to SEARCH FOR & REFUSE,….

….all deliveries of Fentanyl from China (or anywhere else!). Fentanyl kills 100,000 Americans a year. President Xi said this would stop – it didn’t. Our Economy, because of our gains in the last 2 1/2 years, is MUCH larger than that of China. We will keep it that way!

I’m sure everything will be fine.

Categories: Politics

David Koch is Dead

Balloon Juice - Fri, 08/23/2019 - 09:45

One down, one to go. If there was any justice in the world, once he and his brother are dead the kids who inherit the wealth would then spend their fortunes on greenpeace and black lives matter and voting rights organizations and the like. I remember one of their kids is some trustafarian who made the worlds ugliest shirts:

David’s son is apparently a glibertarian.

Categories: Politics

Insurers, monopolies and multiple plans

Balloon Juice - Fri, 08/23/2019 - 09:12

Another Scott asked an interesting question yesterday on Silvergapping in monopolies:

Why would a company want to go through the hassle of having 3 similar plans when 2 would be more compelling for customers? Especially if few or no other companies are competing for the same customers? (I can see the benefits of market segmentation in selling, say, cell phones or blue jeans, but not in selling closely similar insurance policies. Changing the stitching or colors is cheap, changing the plans and having more people evaluate claims, appeals, etc., is expensive.)

This is a damn good question.  I think there are a couple of different stories going on. One of the key assumptions that I will make is that the insurer is not in a surprise monopoly situation.  A surprise monopoly occurs when there are more than one insurer filing for a county or a region at the start of the process and then all but one insurer leaves the county during the rate filing process.  I am assuming for this post that an insurer is fairly confident that it will be a monopoly in a given county/region by February of the filing year.

If the local monopoly is in an isolated and small population region, the plumbing and compliance costs may overwhelm any potential increase in revenue and profitability if the insurer chooses to offer a sub-menu of plans from its broader portfolio.  Turning a plan on or off is not particularly expensive, but a custom quilt does make the marketing material messier and more expensive to produce and distribute.  If a county is a monopoly with only 300 potential covered lives in a region where an insurer thinks there are 100,000 covered lives to compete against in nearby regions, the administrative complexity to customize a portfolio for 300 covered lives may not be worth it.  Differentiation of product offerings can also lead to chaotic risk adjustment flows that are difficult to model as well.

In competitive regions, we need to make a distinction between an insurer with a pricing advantage against all competitors and insurers that have similar pricing profiles to all competitors.  An insurer that has a dominant pricing advantage over all its competitors in a region has a choice: does it want a smaller share of a larger market or a larger share of a smaller market. The low price insurer choosing a smaller chunk of a larger market will offer one very low cost silver plan.  A high cost insurer will set the benchmark and the market.

If it chooses to have a large market share of a small market, the price superior insurer, given the ACA cost linked subsidy structure, will chose to Silver Spam the benchmark point.  It will offer the cheapest silver, and the benchmark silver at a price point that is significantly below local competitors.  It may also offer several additional silver benefit designs with slight tweaks to attract different segments of the population.  These tweaks can include additional dental and vision services, a no-deductible but high inpatient co-payment design that is attractive to young invincibles or an HSA design.  This basic strategy maximizes net of premium subsidies for anyone choosing the non-price dominant insurer and potentially increases net of subsidy premiums for subsidized enrollees as well.

Insurers in markets where there is similar pricing profiles among multiple insurers that can all credibly offer a benchmark plan have to assume that the subsidized market will be fairly small.  At that point, they are looking for every advantage that they can in order to sell as there will not be amazing subsidized deals available.  The combination of network and benefit design may be a key differentiation.  That is a realm of the dark arts that I don’t dabble in.

These are rational reasons for an insurer to offer multiple, similar plan designs which may lead to consumers being slightly to significantly worse off compared to a pure silver gap maximization strategy in any and all monopoly counties.  Another reason is that, for most insurers, the ACA individual market is not a dominant part of their business so they don’t have a monomaniacal focus on it with multiple people looking for every edge and thinking through the rules and interactions every moment of the day.  I do this because I have found it fascinating but the ACA market is 3% to 4% of the US population and its quirks are not broadly generalizable to the far larger employer sponsored third party administration contracts, Medicare Advantage or Medicaid managed care contracts that most insurers build their business models around.

Categories: Politics

On the Road and In Your Backyard

Balloon Juice - Fri, 08/23/2019 - 05:00

Good Morning All,

Have a great day and weekend, enjoy the pictures, and we’ll see you next week.


Today, pictures from valued commenter Sloane Ranger.

I spend 3 very hot and sunny days in the birthplace of William Shakespeare, including a visit to the theatre to have a behind the scenes tour and later see the RSC production of “As You Like It”.

Here’s a view of the theatre from the park.

Taken on 23 July 2019

Stratford on Avon

This is the older end of the RSC Theatre that was saved from the fire that took place between the wars.

Taken on 23 July 2019

Stratford on Avon

This shows the terrace of the modern part of the theatre taken from the river.

Taken on 23 July 2019

Stratford on Avon

I took a walking tour with a guide who told us that the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust was founded to preserve this building after P.T. Barnum tried to buy it. He wanted to put it on wheels and transport it across the USA apparently. The entrance fee is extortionate. You get in through a modern building that is just out of shot.

Taken on 23 July 2019

Stratford on Avon

You have to pay to see the grave. The church itself is the usual mishmash of periods.

Taken on 23 July 2019

Stratford on Avon

This is a barge moving from the canal into the River Avon. There were loads of them when I was there. Mainly holidaymakers. The Avon itself is very busy with leisure craft of all kinds and lots of lovely riverside walks available.


Thank you so much Sloane Ranger, do send us more when you can.


Travel safely everybody, and do share some stories in the comments, even if you’re joining the conversation late. Many folks confide that they go back and read old threads, one reason these are available on the Quick Links menu.

Categories: Politics

Friday Morning Open Thread: There’s Still Time!…

Balloon Juice - Fri, 08/23/2019 - 04:53

Nobody tell Cole about this, he’s got enough on his plate ottoman already. But if you’re curious, ActionNews suggests checking the shelter’s Facebook page.

Elsewhere… The Repubs have already decided that Trump is gonna lose in 2020, because we all know deficits only matter when there’s a Democrat in the Oval Office:

Further proof:

So — while we must still do our best to Dump Trump — here’s to the success of Amy McGrath!

Categories: Politics

Late Night Horrorshow Open Thread: Snippets for Insomniacs

Balloon Juice - Fri, 08/23/2019 - 01:28

“Becaue universal background checks would be… intrusive… “

Somebody watched one too many Cold War thrillers…

Finally… minor, but still irksome:


Categories: Politics