By Robert A. Vella
President Trump has ousted his third National Security Advisor, the hawkish establishment Republican insider John Bolton. The GOP held onto two open congressional seats in North Carolina special elections yesterday. New census data confirms previous reports of stagnant median household income despite overall economic growth, and a rise in the number of medically uninsured Americans during Donald Trump’s presidency, both of which further indicate worsening inequality in the U.S. An appeals court in the U.K. has ruled that Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s undemocratic move to prorogue (i.e. suspend) parliament was unlawful.
In other court news, a federal appeals court has ruled that the Veterans Administration must reimburse patients for emergency medical services it had wrongly denied. A state judge has ruled against a North Dakota law designed as an obstacle to abortion. A man has been criminally sentenced for burning a cross near the home of a black family in Mississippi. California has passed a law, based on last year’s landmark state supreme court ruling, which prevents businesses like Uber from defining workers as “independent contractors” simply to avoid paying benefits, higher wages, and to skirt around labor protections and union organization.
President Trump announced Tuesday that John Bolton was leaving his post as national security adviser, citing disagreements between the two over how the administration should tackle key foreign policy challenges.
With Bolton’s ouster, Trump is now searching for his fourth national security adviser in less than three years, reviving concerns about instability among the president’s top advisers as he faces a series of pressing national security matters.
GOP wins in N.C.
RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) — Conservative Republican Dan Bishop won a special election Tuesday for an open House seat in North Carolina, averting a Democratic capture of a GOP-leaning district. But his narrow victory did not erase questions about whether President Donald Trump and his party’s congressional candidates face troubling headwinds approaching 2020.
Bishop, 55, a state senator best known for a North Carolina law dictating which public bathrooms transgender people can use, defeated centrist Democrat Dan McCready.
McCready, 36, a former Marine turned financier of solar energy projects, was banking on the district’s suburban moderates to carry him over the top. He was already a familiar name in the district: He narrowly trailed in an election for the seat last November that was later invalidated after evidence surfaced of vote tampering.
Tuesday’s election had been seen as too close to call, in itself an ominous sign for Republicans. Trump won the district by 11 percentage points in 2016, and a loss would have been a worrisome preface to the party’s campaigns next year. Republicans have held the seat since 1963.
Republican state Rep. Greg Murphy is projected to win the special election Tuesday in North Carolina’s 3rd District for a seat vacated following the death of Republican Rep. Walter Jones Jr. earlier this year.
Murphy bested Democrat Allen Thomas, the former mayor of Greenville, in the coastal North Carolina district by about 20 points with 75 percent of the district’s precincts reporting.
The district, which backed President Trump over Hillary Clinton by more than 23 points in 2016, was expected to remain in Republican hands.
U.S. median income stagnates
WASHINGTON — The nation’s official poverty rate dropped further last year, but household income unexpectedly stalled, and the share of people without health insurance went up for the first time since the Affordable Care Act took effect in 2013, according to Census Bureau data released Tuesday.
The inflation-adjusted median income — the midpoint at which half of households make more and half make less — essentially flattened after three straight years of growth, which is puzzling. The economy grew at a good clip last year and, as the census report showed, there were 2.3 million more full-time, year-round workers. The median earnings of all such workers went up a solid 3.4% from 2017.
… Harry Holzer, a public policy professor at Georgetown University, called the stall in the median income “troubling.” He said it could be that the increase in full-time workers did not represent the middle-income worker, or that something else was going on to lower their income.
Boris’ move unlawful
Scottish appeal court judges have declared that Boris Johnson’s decision to suspend parliament in the run-up to the October Brexit deadline is unlawful.
The three judges, chaired by Lord Carloway, Scotland’s most senior judge, overturned an earlier ruling that the courts did not have the powers to interfere in the prime minister’s political decision to prorogue parliament.
The court issued an official summary of its decision declaring the prorogation order was “null and void”, but Carloway said they were deferring a final decision on an interdict to the UK supreme court, which will hold a three-day hearing next week.
Other court news
WASHINGTON — The Department of Veterans Affairs must reimburse veterans for emergency medical care at non-VA facilities, a federal appeals court ruled Monday — a decision that could be worth billions of dollars to veterans.
The U.S. Court of Appeals for Veterans Claims said the VA has been wrongfully denying reimbursement to veterans who sought emergency medical care at non-VA facilities, and struck down an internal VA regulation that blocked those payments.
A judge in North Dakota ruled against the state’s recent law requiring physicians to tell patients that their medication abortions may reversed, a claim he called “devoid of scientific support, misleading, and untrue.”
In a 24-page decision issued Tuesday morning, Judge Daniel Hovland granted the American Medical Association and Red River Women’s Clinic — North Dakota’s only abortion provider — a preliminary injunction against North Dakota House Bill 1336, which would have required physicians to tell patients “that it may be possible to reverse the effects of an abortion-inducing drug if she changes her mind, but time is of the essence,” according to the law’s text.
JACKSON, Miss. – A man who pleaded guilty to burning a cross outside the home of a black family in Mississippi was sentenced Tuesday to 11 years in federal prison.
Louie Revette, 38, of Collins pleaded guilty in April to one count of interference with housing rights, a federal civil rights violation, and one count of using fire during the commission of a federal felony for the 2017 incident.
California lawmakers passed legislation Tuesday evening that would reclassify many gig economy workers from independent contractors to employees, guaranteeing them labor protections and benefits ― and potentially upending the business models of tech companies like Uber and Lyft.
The legislation, AB-5, clarifies the conditions under which a worker should be considered an employee ― and therefore entitled to benefits like a minimum wage, unemployment and disability insurance, and a right to form a union. It follows an “ABC” formula that workers can be considered independent contractors (A) only if the workers are “free from the control and direction” of the company that hired them, (B) their work falls outside the usual business of the company and (C) they are engaged in work in an independent business of the same type as the company’s.
It makes exceptions for certain groups of workers, including real estate agents, freelance writers, hairstylists and barbers who set their own rates and hours.