GOP leaders propose health bill changes to help older people

Published: Monday, March 20, 2017 @ 10:54 PM
Updated: Monday, March 20, 2017 @ 10:53 PM

Top House Republicans hunting votes for their health care overhaul are proposing amendments aimed at providing more help for older people, curbing Medicaid and accelerating the repeal of some tax increases.

The bill would let people deduct more medical costs from taxes. It would repeal many tax increases boosted by President Barack Obama's 2010 statute this year instead of 2018.

Older and disabled Medicaid recipients would get more generous benefits. But states could impose work requirements on the program.

The bill would let the Senate approve tax credits more generous to people age 50 to 64. Congressional analysts say the current GOP legislation would hit many with big cost increases.

GOP leaders released the changes late Monday, three days ahead of a planned House vote on the bill.

Paul Manafort's Russia ties: 5 things to know

Published: Wednesday, March 22, 2017 @ 10:48 AM

Paul Manafort, President Donald Trump’s former campaign chairman, secretly worked a decade ago to help Russian President Vladmir Putin at the behest of a Russian billionaire, The Associated Press reported Friday.

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The Trump administration and Manafort himself have denied that he previously worked for Russian interests, but documents and interviews obtained by the AP appeared to contradict that claim.

Manafort, a lobbyist and political consultant, worked for the Trump campaign from March to August 2016. He resigned after an AP report revealed he had coordinated a covert Washington lobbying operation on behalf of Ukraine’s ruling pro-Russia political party until 2014.

Here are five things to know about the latest allegations:
  1. In a confidential strategy plan obtained by the AP, Manafort pitched a plan to Russian aluminum magnate and close Putin ally Oleg Deripaska aimed at influencing “politics, business dealings and news coverage inside the United States, Europe and the former Soviet republics to benefit the Putin government.”
    The plan existed as early as June 2005, the wire service reported.
    "We are now of the belief that this model can greatly benefit the Putin government if employed at the correct levels with the appropriate commitment to success," Manafort wrote in the 2005 memo obtained by the AP. Manafort wrote that the effort "will be offering a great service that can refocus, both internally and externally, the policies of the Putin government."
  2. Manafort signed a $10 million annual contract with Deripaska in 2006, but it was unclear how much work he did under that contact, according to the AP.
    A person familiar with the work that Manafort did for Deripaska told the AP that the two maintained a business relationship until at least 2009.
    A spokesman for Deripaska declined to answer questions from the AP.
  3. Manafort denied that his work for Deripaska was “inappropriate or nefarious” in a statement released to the AP.
    “I worked with Oleg Deripaska almost a decade ago, representing him on business and personal matters in countries where he had investments,” Manafort told the wire service. “My work for Mr. Deripaska did not involve representing Russia’s political interests.” 
  4. The report comes as the Trump administration deals with increased scrutiny of its ties with Russia. At a House Intelligence Committee hearing on Monday, FBI director James Comey confirmed that authorities are investigating whether Trump associates and Russian officials worked together to influence the November presidential election in Trump’s favor.
    “The FBI, as part of our counterintelligence effort, is investigating the Russian government’s efforts to interfere in the 2016 president election,” Comey said, according to The New York Times.
    Comey declined to say whether Manafort was a target of the investigation.
  5. The situation could prove criminal if authorities determine that Manafort violated the Foreign Agents Registration Act. The act requires lobbyists who work in the U.S. on behalf of foreign governments and leaders to report to the Justice Department about their actions.
    Manafort did not disclose his pro-Putin work to the Justice Department, according to the AP.
    Failure to register as a foreign agent is a felony that carries a sentence of up to five years in prison and a fine of up to $250,000.

American spring breakers chant 'Build that wall' while vacationing in Mexico

Published: Tuesday, March 21, 2017 @ 11:34 AM

A Mexican newspaper blasted a group of young Americans visiting Cancun on spring break after witnesses said they broke into chants of “Build that wall” earlier this month and refused to stop, despite complaints.

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In an editorial published Friday, The Yucatan Times said the incident was not isolated but was part of a growing number of complaints about “offensive, rude and haughty” spring break tourists who flock to Mexico for vacation.

Newlyweds Suly and Anaximandro Amable took to social media on March 6 after they said they attended a show on the “Pirate Ship” out of Puerto Juarez as part of their honeymoon, according to The Yucatan Times and social media posts.

Suly Amable wrote on Facebook that she and her husband were getting off the boat after the show when they heard the chants.

"In the face of such stupidity, one doesn't know how to immediately react," she wrote. "We were stunned. The whole thing seemed implausible."

Anaximandro Amable said the group who broke into the chant might have been intoxicated when they “began to sing the infamous ‘Build that wall’ chant louder and louder.”

“I have always been tolerant of the countries of the world and I have wanted to believe that human stupidity and ignorance … is characteristic of a small group of people,” Anaximandro Amable wrote. “But there are things with which one cannot be tolerant, such as discourse that incites hatred.”

The Yucatan Times reported that several Mexican tourists on the ship became annoyed and uncomfortable as the chants went on, but the Americans refused to stop chanting.

President Donald Trump has vowed to build a wall on the border between the United States and Mexico.

“I would build a great wall, and nobody builds walls better than me, believe me,” Trump said in June 2015 while announcing his presidential run. "I will build a great, great wall on our southern border. And I will have Mexico pay for that wall.”

Trump fires off tweets slamming Russia allegations

Published: Monday, March 20, 2017 @ 8:32 AM

President Donald Trump fired off some angry tweets Monday morning regarding allegations that his campaign colluded with the Russian government during the 2016 election.

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The president defended himself and his campaign by reasserting that he has never colluded with Russia — not during his presidential bid and not after the election.

Trump also repeated his request for an investigation into the leaks that have continuously emerged from the White House since Trump took the oath of office less than 100 days ago.

According to Mediaite, the tweets may be an effort by Trump to get ahead of any future investigations by Congress regarding his relationship with the Russian government, especially since FBI Director James Comey will be testifying Monday about allegations — made by Trump himself — that Comey’s department wiretapped Trump Tower by direction of Barack Obama during the 2016 campaign.

Ivanka Trump fans spending up to $60K on plastic surgery to look like her

Published: Sunday, March 19, 2017 @ 7:02 AM

Some women are paying tens of thousands of dollars to look like Ivanka Trump, according to USA Today.

According to Dr. Franklin Rose, a Houston-based plastic surgeon, there has been an uptick in customers who want to more closely resemble the president's eldest daughter. Patients seeking plastic surgery often show up for their first appointment with a photo of a celebrity to indicate the type of work they’d like to have done, he said; for example, one might show a surgeon a photo of Angelina Jolie if the patient is seeking a lip filler. According to Rose, “Ivanka is sort of the new style icon for plastic surgery” within his practice.

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USA Today reports that one of Rose’s patients, 37-year-old Jenny Stewart, spent $30,000 to look more like Trump. That large sum was also a discounted fee because Stewart agreed to talk to reporters. Another one of his patients paid $60,000 to look like Trump and was profiled in People magazine. Rose said he isn’t surprised by the demand to look like Trump, given that the first daughter is a beautiful woman with covetable features, such as a small nose and high cheekbones.

Dr. Rob Rohrich, another plastic surgeon based in Texas, agreed with Rose's assessment of Trump’s popularity and influence.

“Yes, absolutely, I have had a lot of patients in the past six months or more who ask about Ivanka’s great and sculpted, clean facial features, including her high cheekbones and beautiful skin and elegant nose,” Rohrich said.

However, it’s possible that this phenomenon is contained to Texas. According to two East Coast surgeons profiled by USA Today, there has been no increase in demands to look like Trump — primarily because their clients don’t seek plastic surgery to look like somebody else; instead, they request that their surgeons enhance the natural features they already possess so that it can look as natural as possible.