By Robert A. Vella
He who would be King, the Orange Menace, the Fascist Fury, and the self-appointed Definer of Truth, is dominating the news yet again. If this keeps up, I’ll have to change the name of this blog from The Secular Jurist to Trump Scorn Journalism. In the meantime, please bear with me. Here’s today’s nonsense:
The Trump administration is proposing to restrict an innovation in the Affordable Care Act, which was intended to improve Medicare and slow spending in the vast federal insurance system for older Americans. Health-care researchers hail the model’s promise to improve quality and efficiency, but government data suggest it is not saving enough money.
The changes, announced Thursday by the administrator of the Department of Health and Human Services’ Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, would significantly curtail Accountable Care Organizations. The ACOs can be teams of doctors, hospitals or other providers who become responsible for all the health-care needs of a specific group of patients.
Under the ACA, these teams have choices about their financial arrangements with the government. They can either collect bonuses if they provide better care at lower cost than the regular Medicare program, or they can collect greater amounts if they also are willing to accept the risk of owing money in case they end up overspending.
Among some health-care researchers, this version of managed care, run by physicians or hospitals instead of insurers, have been held out as a bright light for improving both the quality and efficiency of the United States’ notoriously expensive health-care system. The government conducted early experiments before the ACA was passed in 2010, with mixed results.
President Donald Trump’s proposed Space Force would be the first new branch of the U.S. military in more than 70 years — if Congress approves and if it can get off the ground.
Vice President Mike Pence outlined the potential new service on Thursday in a speech at the Pentagon, saying the administration hopes to have it up and running by 2020.
It’s not the first time the idea has come up. In January 2001, shortly before President George W. Bush took office, a commission led by his soon-to-be defense secretary, Donald Rumsfeld, recommended “a military department for space” (PDF). But the proposal, known as the Rumsfeld Report, was largely forgotten after the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11.
This time, Pence said, the Space Force will be a full branch of the military equal to the Army, the Navy, the Air Force, the Marine Corps and the Coast Guard. The Defense Department said in a report released Thursday that it would be led by a four-star general or an equivalent flag officer.
But the path to creating a Space Force will be difficult.
The first hurdle will be Congress, which must approve any new military branch, something it hasn’t done since 1947, when the Air Force was carved out of the Army’s air service.
Congressional budget leaders are already on record opposing the idea — House and Senate negotiators killed it in discussions over the defense budget last year.
Some of the resistance stems from the fact that the United States already has a Space Command. It’s part of the Air Force, and it reports to both the secretary of the Air Force and to U.S. Strategic Command, or STRATCOM, the military’s joint structure overseeing the U.S. nuclear arsenal.
“You know, the Air Force Space Command already does this. It’s at Peterson Air Force base in Colorado,” Kelly said.
“They do this with about 20,000 people,” he said, adding: “It doesn’t make sense to build a whole other level of bureaucracy.”
WASHINGTON — Senior American national security officials, seeking to prevent President Trump from upending a formal policy agreement at last month’s NATO meeting, pushed the military alliance’s ambassadors to complete it before the forum even began.
The work to preserve the North Atlantic Treaty Organization agreement, which is usually subject to intense 11th-hour negotiations, came just weeks after Mr. Trump refused to sign off on a communiqué from the June meeting of the Group of 7 in Canada.
The rushed machinations to get the policy done, as demanded by John R. Bolton, the national security adviser, have not been previously reported. Described by European diplomats and American officials, the efforts are a sign of the lengths to which the president’s top advisers will go to protect a key and longstanding international alliance from Mr. Trump’s unpredictable antipathy.
WASHINGTON — Hundreds of companies have asked the Trump administration for a special break from its sweeping aluminum tariffs. Few have succeeded. One that managed to get an exemption is a Russian firm currently subject to Treasury Department sanctions.
How Rusal America — a branch of a Russian metals giant controlled by an oligarch with close ties to President Vladimir V. Putin — managed to win an exclusion highlights the chaotic and unwieldy process surrounding President Trump’s tariffs.
While Rusal and its controlling stakeholder, Oleg V. Deripaska, are restricted by American sanctions, one of the company’s dozens of exemption requests was granted by the Commerce Department in July, apparently for the simple reason that no American manufacturer objected.
Department officials reversed the decision this week, after concluding that an American aluminum manufacturer had meant to object, but made a mistake in its paperwork.
A stunning corruption probe into West Virginia’s Supreme Court of Appeals has led to 14 articles of impeachment against its four sitting members.
The West Virginia House of Delegates Judiciary Committee adopted the articles on Tuesday, highlighting unchecked spending that included nearly $4 million in renovations to the justices’ chambers and the use of public vehicles and credit cards.
A fifth justice, Menis Ketchum, has already resigned. The other four have refused to do so, leaving the fate of the state’s highest court in question.