5 more cases of measles in Minnesota include first outside Hennepin County

Somali leaders met Wednesday night in Minneapolis with public-health officials to talk about the current measles outbreak in the metro area. Among those presenting information was Asli Ashkir (at podium), a nurse and consultant with the Minnesota Department of Health.

State health officials reported five more cases of measles Thursday, including one in Stearns County that marked the first time the current outbreak has spread beyond Hennepin County.

A total of 29 children have now been sickened since the end of March, making it the largest measles outbreak in Minnesota since 1990.

Like others reported so far, the Stearns County case involves a Somali-American child. Public health investigators are trying to determine how the child became infected, and if the family made trips to the Twin Cities area and came in contact with the highly infectious disease.

“We are going to have to do more sleuthing to understand what the connection is with this child,” said Kris Ehresmann, infectious disease director at the Minnesota Health Department.

Ehresmann said the department had considered it “highly possible that we would see cases spreading” beyond the metro area, particularly to areas such as Stearns County and Olmsted County, that have relatively large Somali-American populations. Low measles vaccination rates within the Somali community make them more vulnerable to catching the virus.

As recently as 2004, vaccination rates for young Somali-Minnesotan children matched those of the general population, but they plummeted starting a few years later, when an apparent rash of autism cases among Somali children triggered a scare over the vaccine. By 2016, measles vaccination rates for Somali 2-year-olds in Minnesota had fallen to just 42 percent.

In the Stearns County case, however, the child had been vaccinated for measles — but had received only one of the two recommended shots. One dose is 93 percent effective against the disease, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, while two shots provide 97 percent protection.

It is possible that even with just one shot the child will be less likely to infect others, said Ehresmann.

But the Stearns County case will require health officials to open up a whole new investigative arena, as investigators will need to catalog who came into contact with the child in Stearns County, including people at child care centers, homes and medical facilities.

Finding unvaccinated people is important, because even a brief exposure can cause sickness. The measles virus can linger in the air after an infected person has a left a room and still infect someone who does not have measles immunity protection.

That’s one reason why it is difficult to predict how many cases this outbreak will produce, though officials have said they expect the case count to continue rising in the near future. It has already outpaced a 2011 outbreak that sickened 26.

11 hospitalized

So far, the outbreak has been generally been confined to Somali-American children aged 5 and younger. Public health investigators have determined that 25 were unvaccinated. They are seeking immunization records for another three cases and are trying to pin down the race and ethnicity for four of the latest cases.

In Hennepin County, investigators have identified at least five child care centers where exposures might have occurred. Families of children attending those centers have been contacted, and if anyone is found to be unvaccinated, they are being asked to stay at home so they do not infect others.

Of the 29 current cases, 11 have required hospitalization.

The original source of the outbreak remains a mystery, but state health officials suspect it was imported by a traveler from a foreign country. Measles was declared eradicated in the United States in 2000 and no longer occurs naturally here.

Measles often starts with coldlike symptoms of cough, fever, runny nose and watery eyes, and eventually a rash spreads over the entire body. But it can produce severe symptoms in young children, and in extreme cases can produce lasting lung and brain damage, and even death.


Company recalls organic dog food that may contain euthanasia drug

The recall affects Party Animal’s Cocolicious Beef & Turkey dog food as well as its Cocolicious Chicken & Beef dog food.

The recall affects Party Animal’s Cocolicious Beef & Turkey dog food as well as its Cocolicious Chicken & Beef dog food.  (iStock)

An organic pet food company was forced to issue a recall after samples of its product tested positive for a drug commonly used for euthanasia. The recall affects Party Animal’s Cocolicious Beef & Turkey dog food as well as its Cocolicious Chicken & Beef dog food.

A statement on the Food and Drug Administration’s website said the company was notified after a customer in Texas presented samples to a testing lab that came back positive for pentobarbital. Exposure to pentobarbital, a barbiturate, could prove fatal for a pet. It is routinely used by veterinarians for the euthanasia of dogs, cats and horses.


The post on the FDA’s website said the beef and turkey variety can be identified by product number 0136E15204 04 with a best by date of July 2019, and the chicken and beef variety is labeled with a 0134E15237 13 product number and has a best by date of August 2019.

Whether you’re polished pastels or a pop of refreshing red, we have color ideas and inspiration for every room. Plus, our curat…

The products are sold in 13-ounce cans and were distributed nationwide.


“Party Animal wishes to emphasize that we have submitted many recent lots of our beef flavors for testing and all have tested negative for any pentobarbital,” the company said on the FDA website. “We have also had extensive discussions with our manufacturer regarding the potential cause of the reported contamination of the 2015 lots, and we will continue with such discussions even as we await testing results for the 2015 lots. In order to ensure adherence to our commitment to the safety of pets, we are also actively re-examining our manufacturing processes.”

Trump Tax Plan Would Shift Trillions From U.S. Coffers to the Richest

WASHINGTON — President Trump’s proposal to slash individual and business taxes and erase a surtax that funds the Affordable Care Act would amount to a multitrillion-dollar shift from federal coffers to America’s richest families and their heirs, setting up a politically fraught battle over how best to use the government’s already strained resources.

The outline that Mr. Trump offered on Wednesday — less a tax overhaul plan than a list of costly cuts with no price tags attached, rushed out by a president staring down his 100-day mark in office — calls for tax reductions for individuals of every income level as well as businesses large and small.

But the vast majority of benefits would accrue to the highest earners and largest holders of wealth, according to economists and analysts, accounting for a lopsided portion of the proposal’s costs.

“The only Americans who are very clear winners under the new system are the wealthiest,” said Edward D. Kleinbard, a law professor at the University of Southern California and former chief of staff of Congress’s Joint Committee on Taxation, which estimates the revenue effects of tax proposals.

Repealing the estate tax, for example, would affect just 5,300 or so fortunes a year. For 2017, couples can shield up to $11 million of their estates from any taxation, leaving only the largest inheritances subject to taxation. Repealing the estate tax alone would cost an estimated $174.2 billion over a decade, the nonpartisan Tax Policy Center said.

Reducing the rate on capital gains, noncorporate business taxes and those in the highest bracket, as well as repealing the alternative minimum tax, would also ease the burden on wealthier Americans. So would the repeal of the Affordable Care Act’s 3.8 percent surtax on the investment income of high earners, put in place to subsidize health coverage for low-income Americans.

“These are all afflictions of the affluent,” Mr. Kleinbard said.

There is no way to know how the mathematics of the proposal would work, since the White House offered no cost estimates, no detail about which incomes would be taxed at what levels and no information about tax deductions or other breaks that might be eliminated to make up for the lost revenue.

On Thursday, Sean Spicer, the White House press secretary, suggested that tax benefits for retirement savings would be rolled back to mitigate the cost of the tax cuts, the kind of tough decision that makes a rewrite of the tax code so politically difficult. But within minutes, White House officials said Mr. Spicer had misspoken.

Officials instead said specifics would come later, as negotiations unfolded with members of Congress to draft legislation.

The administration’s silence on many crucial details of the proposal was by design, to leave room for what promise to be intense negotiations with lawmakers in Congress, said Rohit Kumar, the leader of PwC’s Washington National Tax Services and a former senior Republican Senate aide.

Yet without specifics, he added, “you can’t make anything but a wild guess on what the distributional effects of the proposal would be.”

“What the administration put out yesterday is all of the good news,” Mr. Kumar said. “They’ve withheld on the bad news.”

But estimates of the impacts for some of the cuts that were outlined Wednesday, such as the estate tax and alternative minimum tax repeals, can be made, and they run directly counter to the populist themes that animated Mr. Trump’s campaign. He has often stated his concern for ordinary working men and women who he contends were forgotten under previous administrations but have risen to the top of the priority list under his leadership.

Many economists who analyzed a similar plan Mr. Trump proposed during his presidential campaign found that it would have disproportionately helped the richest. William G. Gale, an economist at the Brookings Institution in Washington, estimated that just over 50 percent of the benefits of that proposal would have gone to the top 1 percent of taxpayers.

The new proposal “loses probably something in the neighborhood of $5 trillion in revenue over 10 years with regressive tax cuts that exacerbate the inequalities that already exist in our economy,” said Jared Bernstein, a senior fellow at the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities who was a top economist in the Obama administration.

Mr. Trump’s economic team argues that there is no disconnect; the tax reductions they are seeking, they argue, will ultimately help all Americans, including the poorest, by spurring growth that will translate into more jobs and better wages.

Still, it seems almost inevitable that the blueprint, should it eventually yield legislation, would violate the vow Steven Mnuchin, the Treasury secretary, made that the administration would provide “no absolute tax cut for the upper class.”

That axiom, uttered by Mr. Mnuchin in November and quickly named the “Mnuchin rule” by skeptical Democrats, was based on his insistence that any tax reductions at the top would be matched by the elimination of deductions and loopholes.

“It is hard to know what the overall effects would be, but a plan that is intended to reduce taxes on business income and investment income is going to provide substantial benefits to wealthier individuals, and the bulk of the benefits in this plan would go to them,” said Ed Lorenzen, a senior adviser for the nonpartisan Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget, a fiscal policy education group. “It would probably work out to be a significant shift in the distribution of the tax code.”

One major reason is Mr. Trump’s idea to allow the income of owner-operated companies, including his real estate concern, hedge funds and large partnerships, to be taxed at a 15 percent rate — the same rate corporations would pay under his plan — rather than at the individual income tax rate, which now tops out at 39.6 percent and would be set at 35 percent by Mr. Trump.

That would potentially allow doctors, lawyers and others who are part of such firms to structure their compensation as business rather than personal income and effectively enjoy a substantial tax cut. The Tax Policy Center estimated last year that the proposal would cost $1.5 trillion over a decade.

Higher earners also appear likely to reap the greatest benefit from repealing the alternative minimum tax, which is set at a marginal rate of 28 percent and falls most heavily on those who earn between $250,000 and $1 million. In 2013, President Barack Obama and Congress reached agreement on a “fix” that shielded middle-class families from the tax. So any repeal now would benefit wealthier taxpayers.

Only a fifth of taxpayers who earn above $1 million were affected by the provision, a parallel tax system that limits the deductions and other tax breaks available to them, in part because interest and investment income are exempt.

A glimpse of Mr. Trump’s 2005 tax returns revealed that the alternative minimum tax cost him roughly $31 million by setting a floor that even a stack of individual loopholes could not reduce. Repealing it would cost $412.8 billion over a decade, the Tax Policy Center has estimated.

At the same time, lower- and middle-income families could be in a worse position. The White House proposes to reduce the number of tax brackets from seven to three: 10, 25 and 35 percent. But no one yet knows where the income cutoff lines are being drawn. People who end up being pushed into a lower bracket would be better off, but those kicked into a higher bracket would not be.

Families with after-tax income between roughly $19,000 and $76,000, for example, are now in the 15 percent marginal tax bracket, which is slated for elimination.

“That’s where the middle of America is,” Mr. Kleinbard said. While some may drop into the new 10 percent bracket, others could be nudged up into the 25 percent range.

Increasing the standard deduction to about $24,000 for couples might also appear to help most families, but that is not necessarily the case, Mr. Kleinbard pointed out. Larger families, which now benefit from being able to add a deduction for every additional member of their household, could lose out.

“At the bottom end, the typical family will be worse off if personal exemptions go away,” he said.

Trump Can’t Win His Battle Against the Judges

President Donald J. Trump is fuming at yet another federal judge. Earlier this week, San Francisco District Judge William H. Orrick temporarily enjoined the Trump administration’s simultaneously grandiose and ultimately toothless plan to strip federal funding from sanctuary cities. The president, as is his wont, apparently decided it’s pointless to threaten and undermine an individual jurist when he could go after an entire federal appellate court. So off he went on a boilerplate Twitter rant in which he wrongly blamed the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals for his loss at the trial court level; wrongly characterized that appellate court’s reversal record; and wrongly faulted a city and county in California for “judge shopping” (not an actual legal term) for opting to file in the jurisdiction in which they exist, as opposed to filing in, say, Texas or Georgia, where they do not exist. (Circuits are geographic, not ideological.) No matter what you do to the 9th Circuit, California will still be California. And Trump’s fury at the 9th Circuit ignores the fact that he has also been thwarted by federal judges on courts in various other jurisdictions, including the 2nd and 4th Circuits, where thinking jurists also roam free.


Dahlia Lithwick writes about the courts and the law for Slate, and hosts the podcast Amicus.

Never one to let actual facts or geographic reality stand between himself and his grudges, Trump escalated his war on the federal judicial branch Wednesday with an interview with the Washington Examiner in which he pledged to revisit plans to break up the 9thCircuit, presumably because he thinks breaking up a federal circuit court will magically change his badly drafted executive orders into legally sound ones: “Everybody immediately runs to the 9th Circuit. And we have a big country. We have lots of other locations. But they immediately run to the 9th Circuit. Because they know that’s like, semi-automatic,” Trump said. I am frankly shivering in delicious anticipation of Trump’s forthcoming executive order breaking up the 9th Circuit.


The president doesn’t seem to realize that his newest attack on the courts, by its own terms, simply strengthens Orrick’s case—that the order, read as Trump’s lawyers now suggest, reinforces the status quo, or, read as Trump characterizes it, is unconstitutional. Every time he talks, he makes things worse. Even his own administration formally stopped using the phrase Muslim ban when it tried to salvage his first executive order, so Trump’s decision to call it a “ban” again in his Wednesday tweetstorm and interviews just doesn’t much help him. Consider also that Trump’s defense of his vague and sloppily drafted executive orders consists, at bottom, of celebrating the fact that they are vague and sloppy. As he told the Examiner of his travel ban: “The language could not be any clearer. I mean, the language on the ban, it reads so easy that a reasonably good student in the first grade will fully understand it. And they don’t even mention the words in their rejection on the ban.”

Time and again, the president fails to comprehend that the reason a reasonably smart first-grader can understand his executive orders is because they appear to have been written by a different reasonably smart first-grader in orange crayon on the back side of a Red Lobster children’s menu. Time and again he asserts that there is some virtue in stripping away all nuance and legal meaning from his official acts as president. Time and again he complains bitterly when federal judges, searching for nuance and meaning, look to his words as a means of filling out the vague nonsense of his lawyers’ unerringly incoherent work product. First-grade homework may be clear to Trump, but that does not make it useful when it comes to practical application for governing our nation. As Garrett Epps notes, Trump’s sanctuary cities order fails even the most basic principles of interpretive clarity: “[I]t announces measures against ‘sanctuary jurisdictions’ but provides no definition of that term.” The fact that Trump’s own lawyers defended the order in court by saying it was essentially meaningless posturing helps him not at all. If the total force of the order was to create a “bully pulpit” that will later allow the president to say things that alternately have legal force or do not, Orrick cannot have been mistaken in enjoining it. Like the travel ban before it, the thing was nothing more than a Snapchat order, an executive action that could fade into nothing—or could be surreptitiously screenshotted to be preserved as something, at the president’s whim and pleasure.

Trump’s repeated—one might almost call them semiautomatic—presidential speech acts that contradict his formal orders as written cannot be excused as just further bloviating from an overtalkative and underinformed president. Both his travel ban and his sanctuary cities order have suffered in court because, in the absence of clarity and detail, federal judges may look to the president’s campaign promises, television appearances, and tweets to understand his intent in promulgating them. There is a robust and heated academic debate about whether judges should be in the business of probing what’s in the president’s heart of hearts, but wholly apart from that lies another problem: Do the president’s actual words matter at all? This isn’t about judicial efforts at mind-reading, a practice against which Justice David Souter famously warned about in McCreary County v. ACLU: a “judicial psychoanalysis of a drafter’s heart of hearts.” What’s in the president’s heart of hearts is unknowable and not remotely interesting.

But what he actually says, when the words come out of his face? What he writes, be it in pen or Twitter? These are still presidential actions. The dangerous judicial psychologizing here would be for reviewing courts to attempt to differentiate between those instances when the president means what he says and when he’s just blathering recreationally. In Josh Blackman’s excellent meditation on this subject in Politico, he warns judges not to treat Trump differently than they would treat other presidents. I agree. And that means when Trump says things about his policy goals, presumably to bolster or refine or undermine his sloppy legal orders, they have some legal force. The alternative is a jurisprudential Escher staircase of meaningless words on paper, in an unending shifting dialogue of meaningless presidential words that shift from bird to fish and back again. Trump has always spoken publicly as if his words have not only no meaning but also no lasting consequences—walking back his preposterous claims as soon as they become untenable. But as president of the United States, his words have both meaning and consequences, whether he wants them to or not. And as Orrick pointed out: “While the President is entitled to highlight his policy priorities, an Executive Order carries the force of law.”

Here is one thing I can say for certain about judges: In addition to having a generalized and free-floating anxiety about public attacks on their legitimacy and authority, they resent deeply any efforts to say that words—the sole implement of their craft—have no meaning or that those meanings are inchoate and shifting and may expand or contract with the president’s hastily tweeted words or fleeting feelings. So when President Trump and his administration attack the judicial branch with authoritarian threats to break up the federal appeals court that has nothing to do with the ruling he disputes or insults individual “unelected” federal judges based on race or geographic region, sane judges, regardless of their personal politics, will recoil. They will feel, as Neil Gorsuch once put it, demoralized and disheartened by the president’s contempt. And when Trump insists on taking legal positions that suggest his executive orders are inherently lawful merely because he is the president or because their written-by-a-7-year-old clarity makes them obvious, that is an insult to the judicial project, a threat to both separation of powers and judicial intelligence.

But when the president takes the posture, time and again, that his words and orders have meanings that are fluid and mutable and known only to himself, it is a surefire way for him to continue to lose in court. Trump and his advisers have long smugly intoned that the media, the public, and Congress must learn to take his words “seriously but not literally.” Sadly for him, the courts have no choice but take his words literally. There is, literally, no other option.

The executive branch is more than a gauzy dream sequence of a four-year “bully pulpit.” The check on lawless, shifting bullying has always been and will continue to be the judicial branch.  But when the history books try to explain why the courts mattered most in the Trump era, I hope they note this as well: The judicial branch served as great check not only on Trumpism but for our sanity, each time a judge affirmed that, God be thanked, words and language still do have meaning and consequences.

Donald Trump’s Art Of The Retreat


WASHINGTON ― Just three months into his presidency, Donald Trump’s bestselling The Art of the Deal might be due for a sequel: The Humility of the Failed Bluff.

The boastful businessman who claimed that his negotiating skills were unsurpassed appears to have met his match a number of times already.

Trump went from accusing the Chinese of manipulating their currency to agreeing that they didn’t. He has not made any visible progress in forcing Mexico to pay for a border wall. He was talked out of abandoning the North American Free Trade Agreement by the leaders of Mexico and Canada. And he was unable to bully Democrats into working with him to repeal the Affordable Care Act.


“He has folded like a lawn chair at the slightest hint of pressure, and he’s getting played like a violin by enemies like Vladimir Putin and Kim Jong Un,” said Adam Jentleson, former deputy chief of staff to retired Senate Democratic Leader Harry Reid of Nevada.

In Mexico, the country Trump has vilified since the start of his campaign nearly two years ago, a senator told The New York Times that political leaders there have started to see Trump primarily as a “bluffer.”

“In front of a bluffer, you always have to maintain a firm and dignified position,” Armando Ríos Piter told the Times.


Some Trump supporters challenge that view. Michael Caputo, a western New York political consultant who worked for Trump’s primary campaign last year, said Ríos and others who underestimate Trump will be sorry.

“Bluffers win. And they win big,” Caputo said. “At the end of the poker game that the senator is speaking about, we’ll end up with more chips. The senator is going to be awful surprised and out of the game early.”

But other Trump allies, including radio talk-show host Rush Limbaugh, are starting to fret about Trump’s strategy. “I’m not happy to have to pass this on,” Limbaugh told his listeners earlier this week. “But it looks like, from here, right here, right now, it looks like President Trump is caving on his demand for a measly $1 billion in the budget for his wall on the border with Mexico.”


On the campaign trail, Trump marketed himself as the ultimate closer, a tough-talking businessman who could renegotiate trade deals and international agreements to better benefit the American worker. He regularly disparaged “weak” and “stupid” leaders in Washington for failing to accomplish what someone who had actually sat at a boardroom table could easily do once in the Oval Office.

Donald Trump promises to build a wall between the U.S. and Mexico at a campaign rally in Fayetteville, North Carolina, on March 9, 2016. His vows to make Mexico pay for it have fallen silent.

“I’ve watched the politicians. I’ve dealt with them all my life,” Trump said in 2015. “If you can’t make a good deal with a politician, then there’s something wrong with you. You’re certainly not very good.”


Nearly 100 days into his presidency, however, Trump appears to be finding the job is much tougher than he imagined. He has issued bold ultimatums in negotiations on health care, immigration and trade only to have to back down. While his predecessor once said he never bluffed on the world stage, Trump has embraced the risky tactic on both foreign and domestic fronts ― with little to show for it.


“People put in for the TV character of Donald Trump, a hyper-confident negotiator, a wheeler-dealer mogul,” said GOP strategist Rick Wilson. “The real Donald Trump is a 70-year-old man who inherited a bunch of money who’s been bankrupt four times and who basically turned into a branding company.… He’s intellectually sloppy and temperamentally unsuited for the job.”


In the health care debate, Trump has been all over the map. He first warned Republican lawmakers that he would leave the Affordable Care Act in place and move on to other priorities unless they approved a bill to repeal and replace it. The ultimatum failed to sway skeptical conservatives in the House, and lawmakers bolted town for a two-week recess without voting on the measure. He and his aides then threatened to reach out to Democrats to resuscitate his stalled agenda, but that too went out the window. This week, the administration is once again pushing for a party-line vote on an Obamacare repeal bill.


Trump’s bluster toward Democrats also fell flat. Earlier this month, he threatened to sabotage Obamacare if they didn’t agree to proposed changes regarding the law. White House budget director Mick Mulvaney announced Wednesday that the administration was considering cutting off crucial payments to health insurance companies ― a move that would be devastating for people who buy coverage on their own, rather than through employers. Later that day, less than 48 hours before a crucial government funding deadline, Trump backed down and said he would honor the payments after all.

People put in for the TV character of Donald Trump, a hyper-confident negotiator, a wheeler-dealer mogul.GOP strategist Rick Wilson

Trump didn’t fare any better on funding his proposed border wall, either. Facing likely odds of a government shutdown, the president on Tuesday backed off demands that Democrats agree to fund the construction of a wall on the U.S.-Mexico border ― the same wall he said Mexico would pay for on the campaign trail. Trump maintained that the wall remained a priority and that it would eventually get built. But it’s hard to see what more he could do to persuade Democrats to vote to fund the wall between now and the next round of budget talks in September.


That issue, because it was a promise repeated throughout his campaign, could do Trump serious damage if he doesn’t deliver, said Ari Fleischer, a press secretary to former President George W. Bush.

“I think Trump must demonstrate this year, not necessarily now, progress toward building the wall or his base will be disappointed,” Fleischer said. “He went too far in saying Mexico will pay for it, but I believe his base cares far more about it being built and a lot less about who pays.”


Trump’s efforts to renegotiate the North American Free Trade Agreement may yet bear fruit. His threat to pull the U.S. out of the agreement brought Canada and Mexico to the negotiating table this week. But it’s less clear what kind of concessions he’ll be able to wring out of them. Even Trump admitted that withdrawing from the trade pact would amount to a “shock to the system.”

“If I’m unable to make a fair deal for the United States, meaning a fair deal for our workers and our companies, I will terminate NAFTA. But we’re going to give renegotiation a good, strong shot,” he said at the White House on Thursday.

Berkeley protests peaceful as hundreds rally over Ann Coulter (White Slut, White Feminist)

BERKELEY, Calif. — Hundreds of people waving American flags and chanting “USA” held a raucous rally Thursday at a park in Berkeley — home of the free speech movement — to protest a canceled appearance by conservative commentator Ann Coulter, but the expected violence did not materialize.

Scores of officers in riot gear lined up in preparation for possible violence between supporters and opponents of Coulter, but there were no major confrontations, largely because members of an anti-fascist group did not show up in force.

Coulter did not appear at the rally or show up at the University of California, Berkeley despite hinting that she might “swing by to say hello” to her supporters. Coulter had said she was forced to cancel a speaking engagement at the school. University officials said they had been unable to find a suitable and safe spot for her to speak, and offered a May 2 date.

She did not immediately respond to a request for comment from The Associated Press, but she told Fox News’s Tucker Carlson after the event that she wasn’t going to say anything more inflammatory than calling for enforcement of immigration laws.

“Well, my seditious and hateful speech, the theme of it, obviously, it was going to be a searingly brilliant speech on immigration,” she said.

Thursday’s tensions were another example of how Berkeley has emerged as a flashpoint for extreme left and right forces amid the debate over free speech in a place where the 1960s U.S. free speech movement began before spreading to college campuses across the nation.

Berkeley student Joseph Pagadara, 19, said he had worried about violence and added that the university is caught in the middle of the country’s political divide.

“Both sides are so intolerant of each other. We are a divided country. We need to listen to each other but we’re each caught in our own bubbles,” he said.

As for Coulter, Pagadara said the university should have let her speak. “Now she’s making herself look like the victim and Berkeley like the bad guys,” he said.

University police erected barricades and refused to let any protesters enter the campus. Six people were arrested; one for obstructing an officer and wearing a mask to evade police, and another for possessing a knife.

Several hundred people gathered for the afternoon event supporting Coulter at Martin Luther King Jr. Civic Center Park in downtown Berkeley.

“It’s a shame that someone can’t speak in the home of the free speech movement,” said Wilson Grafstrom, an 18-year-old high school student from Menlo Park.

He wore a military grade helmet with a “Make America Great Again” sticker across the back, goggles, a gas mask and knee pads. He blamed people opposed to Coulter and President Donald Trump for forcing him to gear up for problems.

Many at the park about a mile (1.6 kilometers) from the university’s main Sproul Plaza also wore such helmets and body armor. Some had “Build That Wall” or Trump stickers across their headgear. One man had duct tape reading “Berkeley” over his mouth.

While the afternoon rally ended without serious conflict, police at one point formed a human wall in the street separating anti-Trump protesters from the park where pro-Trump groups were gathered.

Anti-Coulter protesters at the park held a banner that read: “It’s not about ‘free speech,’ it’s about bigots trying to normalize hate.”

Earlier, dozens of police wearing flak jackets and carrying 40 mm launchers that shoot “foam batons” flanked Sproul Plaza while a small group of protesters condemning Coulter staged a rally outside campus.

Officers took selfies with students in an attempt to lighten the mood.

Gavin McInnes, co-founder of Vice Media and founder of the pro-Trump “Proud Boys,” spoke at the park gathering later in the day. He said America doesn’t have an obligation to take people from other countries.

“We are here because Ann Coulter got canceled,” he said. “She is one of the most inspiring writers in America today. She is an American hero.”

On its Facebook page, the group calls itself a fraternal organization aimed at “reinstating a spirit of Western chauvinism during an age of globalism and multiculturalism.”


University officials said they feared violence on campus if Coulter spoke, citing “very specific intelligence” of threats that could endanger her and students. In a letter to the campus Wednesday, Chancellor Nicholas B. Dirks said the university is committed to defending free speech but also to protecting its students.

“This is a university, not a battlefield,” Dirks wrote.

Earlier this month, a bloody brawl broke out in downtown Berkeley at a pro-Trump protest that featured speeches by members of the white nationalist right. They clashed with a group of Trump critics who called themselves anti-fascists.

In February, violent protesters forced the cancellation of a speech by right-wing writer Milo Yiannopoulos, who like Coulter was invited by campus Republicans.

Trump Says He Thought Being President Would Be Easier Than His Old Life (WHITE IDIOT!)

He misses driving, feels as if he is in a cocoon, and is surprised how hard his new job is.

President Donald Trump on Thursday reflected on his first 100 days in office with a wistful look at his life before the White House.


“I loved my previous life. I had so many things going,” Trump told Reuters in an interview. “This is more work than in my previous life. I thought it would be easier.”

A wealthy businessman from New York, Trump assumed public office for the first time when he entered the White House on Jan. 20 after he defeated former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in an upset.


More than five months after his victory and two days shy of the 100-day mark of his presidency, the election is still on Trump’s mind. Midway through a discussion about Chinese President Xi Jinping, the president paused to hand out copies of what he said were the latest figures from the 2016 electoral map.


“Here, you can take that, that’s the final map of the numbers,” the Republican president said from his desk in the Oval Office, handing out maps of the United States with areas he won marked in red. “It’s pretty good, right? The red is obviously us.”

He had copies for each of the three Reuters reporters in the room.


Trump, who said he was accustomed to not having privacy in his “old life,” expressed surprise at how little he had now. And he made clear he was still getting used to having 24-hour Secret Service protection and its accompanying constraints.

“You’re really into your own little cocoon, because you have such massive protection that you really can’t go anywhere,” he said.


When the president leaves the White House, it is usually in a limousine or an SUV.

He said he missed being behind the wheel himself.

“I like to drive,” he said. “I can’t drive any more.”


Many things about Trump have not changed from the wheeler-dealer executive and former celebrity reality show host who ran his empire from the 26th floor of Trump Tower in New York and worked the phones incessantly.


He frequently turns to outside friends and former business colleagues for advice and positive reinforcement. Senior aides say they are resigned to it.


The president has been at loggerheads with many news organizations since his election campaign and decided not to attend the White House Correspondents’ Dinner in Washington on Saturday because he felt he had been treated unfairly by the media.

“I would come next year, absolutely,” Trump said when asked whether he would attend in the future.


The dinner is organized by the White House Correspondents’ Association. Reuters correspondent Jeff Mason is its president.

Anti-Semitic poster hung at Kansas State U on Holocaust Remembrance Day

(JTA) — An anti-Semitic poster was hung on the campus of Kansas State University on Holocaust Remembrance Day.

The poster was discovered on the morning of April 24 on a telephone pole, the local Manhattan Mercury reported.

“Ending white privilege starts with ending Jewish privilege,” said the poster, which contained a graphic of a pyramid of people. “Is the 1 percent straight white men? Or is it Jewish?”

The poster was removed late in the morning after the university learned about it through social media, according to the Mercury.

Kansas State police are investigating the incident.

President Richard Myers in a statement responding to the incident noted that in recent weeks, other minorities on campus have been targeted, including fliers against the LGBTQ community and African-Americans.

“These few, random incidents should be kept in perspective,” Myers wrote. “The K-State family is committed to diversity and inclusion and should not be influenced by these isolated incidents. We don’t know who has distributed these missives, or why. But we do know they don’t represent the values of the K-State family.”

The university, which is located in Manhattan, Kansas, has a total enrollment of nearly 25,000.

What if the Nazis won? This is what American pop music would sound like

Sam Cohen

NEW YORK (JTA) — Let’s imagine, for a moment, that the Nazis won World War II and occupied the United States. If that had happened, what would postwar American pop music have sounded like? Would music have even been created in the forms we know today?

Those are just a few of the questions the indie rock veteran Sam Cohen contemplated while working with star producer Danger Mouse on “Resistance Radio: The Man in the High Castle Album” — a soundtrack of sorts for the second season of the popular Amazon Studios show that imagines a postwar America in which the West is occupied by Japan and the East is controlled by Nazi Germany.

Inspired by the series, which itself was inspired by a Philip K. Dick novel, the album imagines the kind of music that would be aired from a pirate radio station — briefly referenced in the series — that broadcasts from a neutral zone independent of German and Japanese control. An array of musicians, from Norah Jones to Beck to The Shins’ James Mercer, perform covers of 1950s and ’60s pop songs.

The project, which an Amazon executive pitched to Cohen and Danger Mouse (real name Brian Burton) around the week of President Donald Trump’s election, has taken on some unexpected political heft. After all, hashtags such as #Resist and #TheResistance have become the mantra of anti-Trump protesters.

Likely playing off this popularity, Amazon launched a promotional website for the series, set in the show’s universe, that plays “Resistance Radio” songs between rants from three fictional pirate radio hosts. One is a Jewish comedian named Jake Rumiel, who hosts a show called “Firing Squad” — a name that nods to his precarious existence as a Jew in the “Man in the High Castle” universe.

Cohen said he didn’t set out to create a contemporary political statement with “Resistance Radio.”

“When I make music, regardless of the context, I think about music and that’s essentially joyful,” Cohen, 37, told JTA. “I never really saw this record as a truly political thing. That was sort of placed on this.”

Nevertheless, while Cohen may not construe the album through a political lens, there is something inherently dark about rethinking American pop tunes in a Nazi-occupied country. The resulting songs are at times slower, sadder — and definitely creepier — than the original versions.

Take “Unchained Melody,” a 1955 song made famous 10 years later by the Righteous Brothers and sung by Norah Jones on the album. Cohen said he toiled to make the instrument arrangements and sounds feel “a little broken” and “injured.” A listener could imagine Jones singing with a frown on her face to a room full of Nazi officers.

“The sound is so soupy, it’s hard to decipher who’s doing what. And the whole thing seems to swing, but when you really dissect it, everyone’s playing it as straight as can be,” Cohen said. Picking those things apart, that plays the part of wiping that smile off, taking off the dimples.”

Those ambiguities apply to the other songs on the album, including “Who’s Lovin’ You,” a Jackson 5 tune sung by Kelis (of “Milkshake” fame); a haunting version of “The End of the World” sung by indie darling Sharon van Etten, and “Who’s Sorry Now,” a song first written in 1923 and sung here by folk rocker Angel Olsen. Cohen himself sings two songs on the record: a spare, acoustic rendition of “The House of the Rising Sun” and an ironically languid version of “Get Happy.”

Adding to the authentic vibe: Cohen and Burton recorded the project quickly, under tight deadlines — a very 1960s mindset — and using only techniques that would have been available at the time.

This kind of back-room manipulation takes years to perfect, and Cohen has put in his time. While growing up in a Jewish household in Houston (his family went to synagogue every week), he was drawn to blues guitar music and began playing shows at local bars at 16. After attending Berklee College of Music in Boston, he played for nearly a decade in the psychedelic rock band Apollo Sunshine before forming as Yellowbirds. His fans likely know him best for these albums, in addition to his solo debut, “Cool It,” in 2015.

An accomplished producer as well, Cohen has played guitar on tracks for a wide range of artists, from Bob Weir of the Grateful Dead to pop star Cee-Lo Green.

Cohen noted he’s had a bit of experience with real-life Nazis as well. While playing in a bar in Houston in his teens, a group of neo-Nazis stormed the stage and attempted to sing racist songs. Luckily, Cohen said, he had an “enormous” friend there who quickly restored order.

While not religiously observant, Cohen calls his longtime friend and fellow musician Josh Kaufman, who played with him in Yellowbirds — and one of many Jewish indie rockers Cohen works with — “Rabbi Kaufman” (because “he has a beard and is wise,” he said).

Cohen is working on a new solo album, with Burton as a producer — that is, when he isn’t worrying about Trump and the political atmosphere. If “Resistance Radio” wasn’t meant as a cautionary take on the current president, Cohen isn’t shy about sharing his views of the white supremacists who embraced Trump.

“It’s so weird that these beer-bellied Americans are Nazis. When did that happen? It’s all about stripping rights from immigrants and women and gay people, but it’s all free speech for Nazis,” he said.

Asked to imagine a music business under a Nazi occupation in the 1960s, Cohen superimposes the past on the present — much like the “Castle” series.

“It would probably be like Woody Guthrie-type characters playing live from pirate radio stations,” he said. “I imagine jazz music would have continued to evolve, and live music would have continued to evolve, but I think the recording industry would’ve been dominated by Nazi songs or new Nazi Americans.

“Like it is now,” he adds with a laugh.

Lawmakers (White Freemasons) introduce bipartisan resolution to honor Israeli-American community

(JTA) — Two New York Congress members introduced a bipartisan resolution to honor the Israeli-American community ahead of Jewish Heritage Month in May.

On Wednesday, Reps. Grace Meng, a Democrat, and Lee Zeldin, a Republican, introduced the resolution, which “affirms that the Israeli-American community has contributed immensely to American society and culture.”

The resolution lauds Israeli-Americans’ contributions to the fields of national security, high-tech and biotech, and highlights two successful Israeli Americans — Abraham Karem, an aerospace engineer, and Safra Catz, the CEO of Oracle.

Meng and Zeldin, who is Jewish, in a statement Thursday praised the contributions of Israeli Americans.

“From creating technological advancements that we use every day, to starting businesses that employ tens of thousands of Americans, the Israeli-American community continues to thrive, thereby strengthening our economy,” Meng said.

Zeldin said: “Israeli-Americans contribute in many ways that create jobs and help grow our economy, while strengthening our nation’s national security to protect America’s interests at home and abroad.”

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