U.S. News

Black Lives Matter Rioter Who Vandalized Confederate Statue Receive Scholarship for her Action

The Black Lives Matter Rioter charged with pushing down the Confederate statue in Durham, North Carolina may be rewarded with a scholarship for her actions from North Carolina Central University.

(Daily Caller)

The Chronicle of Higher Education reported that proposals are being made at the college to award Takiyah Thompson, who has been charged with two felonies – participation in a riot and inciting others to riot – for her actions.

News that Thompson was involved in the demonstration was reportedly met with widespread support from campus faculty and students in her Introduction to Political Science class.

“I saw the demonstration and the toppling of the monument. I think it’s a healthy thing for students to have a voice and to be leaders in activism,” said Jim C. Harper II, chair of the history department. “We’re going to do everything we can to support Ms. Thompson.”

Her professor, Allan Cooper, said that the entire class applauded when he revealed to them that Thompson was the person charged with toppling the statue. Following the news, Cooper sent an email to the chair to propose giving Thompson a scholarship.

Thompson wasn’t the only person involved in vandalizing the Confederate statue, which was dedicated to the boys who died in the Civil War, but she was the among the few rioters identified in video footage.

Scott Holmes, a professor at NCCU’s law school, is legally representing Thompson and other rioters who were arrested, pro bono.

“She is an inspiration to watch,” said Holmes. “She gave a brilliant interview, was arrested, came out and had a big smile on her face. She is resilient and smart and knows she’s done something that has awakened the conversation around race.”

Other professors at NCCU are reportedly raising money to cover the legal costs for the rioters.

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BOSTON FREE SPEECH RALLY ENDS EARLY AFTER 15K COUNTER-PROTESTERS DROWN IT OUT

http://www.newsweek.com/boston-free-speech-counter-protest-arrests-652387?spMailingID=2179729&spUserID=MzQ4OTUyNDAxNTAS1&spJobID=850816429&spReportId=ODUwODE2NDI5S0

 

An estimated 15,000 counter-protesters carrying signs, anti-Trump gear, water bottles and more marched toward the park Saturday morning to meet roughly 50 free speech activists gathered in the bandstand, according to the Boston Globe. The demonstrations were likely getting more attention than normal because of last weekend’s incidents in Charlottesville, Virginia, where a group of white nationalists gathered to fight the removal of a statue of Confederate General Robert E. Lee and kicked off a series of counter-protests that ultimately left three people dead.

The free speech activists denounced the violence in Charlottesville earlier in the week on their Facebook page, writing that “we maintain that every individual is entitled to their freedom of speech and defend that basic human right, we will not be offering our platform to racism or bigotry.” But city officials seemed concerned all the same. Mayor Marty Walsh, for example, tweeted that he wanted everyone to be peaceful and “stand together against intolerance.”

Regardless, the attendees Saturday didn’t really get the chance to speak. Reporters like Tyler Kingkade of BuzzFeed tweeted that the flood of counter-protesters was too loud. They asked the free speech group “where’s your rally?” according to New York Times reporter Katharine Seelye.

View image on TwitterView image on TwitterView image on TwitterView image on Twitter

That tiny group in the  bandstand is the alt-right people… and these are all the  counter-protestors

Trump supporting being drowned out by hundreds of counter protestors

At 1:30 p.m., the Boston police department tweeted that the Free Speech Rally was over. It wasn’t clear why the event was called off, but scheduled speaker Joe Biggs retweeted a message reading “We’re being blocked by 30k AltLeft agitators. Welcome to fascist America.” Alt-right figure Mike Cernovich wrote that “principles are nice and all but people are apes, and in the end numbers, visuals, and optics control.”

As of about 2 p.m. Saturday, officers were trying to contain counter-protesters, even arresting some, according to NBC Boston reporter Abbey Niezgoda. It wasn’t immediately clear how many people had been detained.

Donald Trump Kicked a Hornet’s Nest When He Fired Steve Bannon (White Idiot, White Freemason, Zionist)

After a week in which President Trump repeatedly took the side of white supremacists defending the confederacy, the Friday dismissal of White House strategist Steve Bannon is likely to launch a new civil war within the Republican Party.

Bannon’s departure means the president has sided with Wall Street bankers, globalists who believe in pro-corporate trade agreements, libertarians who want federal regulation gutted and taxes cut—in short, the economic elites supported by the Koch brothers and Rupert Murdoch’s Fox News. This establishment side of the GOP was never at ease with stoking the far-right flames of white identity and economic nationalism Bannon brought to the Trump campaign a year ago, when Trump lagged behind in polls.

The evidence of the Republicans’ big-money wing being pleased by Bannon’s leaving could be seen immediately, as the Dow Jones Industrial Average gained 60 points in the first 20 minutes after the announcement. There were numerous reports in recent days that Bannon was on the way out, especially after Trump dined with Fox News owner Rupert Murdoch in New York City recently and Murdoch said he had to go. The president reportedly vented about Bannon instead of defending his strategist.

But there’s more to this than the daily White House soap opera. Bannon was not just an idea person who encouraged Trump to stand with white supremacists in Charlottesville and deride those seeking to take down monuments celebrating slavery’s defenders. He was also an economic nationalist who saw China as a foe, not the friend to help defuse the North Korea crisis (in exchange for easing up on his tough talk on trade). Bannon wanted to raise income taxes on the very rich—stands cut from the same nativist cloth that was Trump’s bridge to the Tea Party, Freedom Caucus and Rust Belt voters.

Beyond these stances, Bannon ran the most powerful megaphone in Republican media in 2016. Breitbart News supplanted Fox News by Election Day 2016, which it attacked and saw as a competitor. Its vitriolic, propagandistic reports (including many based on information Russia pilfered from Democrats) was more influential than Murdoch’s network. Bannon knew his White House days were numbered, felt liberated by it and was looking forward to returning to media warfare, according to a report on Axios. (Late Friday, Politico.com reported that Bannon was returning to Breitbart as executive chairman.)

“Bannon has felt liberated since it became clear he was being pushed out, according to friends. He’s told associates he has a ‘killing machine’ in Breitbart News,” Axios noted. “Steve Bannon’s next moves will be all about the billionaire Mercer family. I’m told Bannon, who visited New York this week, met with Bob Mercer and together they will be a well-funded force on the outside… A source familiar with Breitbart’s operations told me they would go ‘thermonuclear’ against ‘globalists’ that Bannon and his friends believe are ruining the Trump administration, and by extension, America.”

Seen in this light, Bannon deftly stage-managed his departure by eclipsing Trump’s high-voltage defense of white supremacists. Earlier this week, Bannon called Robert Kuttner, the editor of the American Prospect, a progressive publication, and gave an interview in which he referred to white power marchers as “clowns,” said Trump’s corporate advisers were “wetting themselves,” and—contrary to Trump’s statements—dismissed possible military action in North Korea. That move didn’t just hasten his departure, it signaled to Trump’s base that their voice in the White House was being exiled.

Whether Trump’s White House can join the pro-corporate GOP mainstream is anybody’s guess. Trump’s association with Bannon, who became campaign CEO when Trump was down by double digits and who pushed Trump to hold more rallies and step up the attacks on Hillary Clinton, represented a bond between two men who clearly share instincts and values. Trump’s firing of Bannon is likely to haunt the White House. As ex-President Lyndon Johnson famously said of infamous FBI director J. Edgar Hoover, “It’s probably better to have him inside the tent pissing out, than outside the tent pissing in.”

“Conservatives from the Tea Party movement have viewed him as a crucial link to the White House,” the Wall Street Journal reported Friday. “Additionally, they worry about the president moving toward the political center without Mr. Bannon involved in policy fights, said a person with ties to conservative donors who support Mr. Bannon. ‘I see New York Democrats and generals in ascendancy, and that is not what we ran on in 2016,’ the person said. ‘So it worries me.’”

“Not what we ran on” is the key comment. Whatever Bannon is planning to do with the Mercers’ support—including their investment house analytics that profile and predict behavior of social media users—is going to deepen the GOP’s divides. The biggest divides in American politics, left and right, are between the unruly and energized grassroots outsiders and the pro-corporate, establishment-defending insiders.

Bannon may feel he and Trump share the same values and would be loathe to personally attack him, as the Washington Post’s Philip Bump suggests, arguing that others in Trump’s orbit would be targeted. But that is a bit fanciful, as after a point you cannot separate the president from the institutional decisions that arise in a presidency. If anything, using Breitbart to press Trump’s buttons or block his policies is going to get messy.

Partisan civil wars aren’t just fought with ballots in 2017; they’re fought with online platforms and emotionally provocative propaganda. As Bannon reportedly said, he has a “killing machine” at his disposal, and you can assume that its targets will be the disappointments surrounding the presidency, select Trump’s allies, and then establishment Democrats and progressives.

Bannon and his ilk are not about to allow the GOP to go quietly into the political mainstream.

Steven Rosenfeld covers national political issues for AlterNet, including America’s democracy and voting rights. He is the author of several books on elections and the co-author of Who Controls Our Schools: How Billionaire-Sponsored Privatization Is Destroying Democracy and the Charter School Industry (AlterNet eBook, 2016).

Pediatricians say Florida hurt sick kids to help big GOP donors

http://www.cnn.com/2017/08/18/health/florida-sick-kids-insurance-eprise/index.html

 

St. Augustine, Florida (CNN) When he was 11 years old, LJ Stroud of St. Augustine, Florida, had a tooth emerge in a place where no tooth belongs: the roof of his mouth.

LJ was born with severe cleft lip and palate, which explained the strange eruption, as well as the constant ear infections that no antibiotic could remedy.
With her son in terrible pain, Meredith Stroud arranged for surgeries to fix his problems.
But just days before the procedures were to take place, the surgeons’ office called to cancel them.
Like nearly half of all children in Florida, LJ is on Medicaid, which has several types of insurance plans. The state had switched LJ to a new plan, and his surgeons didn’t take it.
Doctors: 'Trick question' hurt sick kids

LJ wasn’t alone. In the spring and summer of 2015, the state switched more than 13,000 children out of a highly respected program called Children’s Medical Services, or CMS, a part of Florida Medicaid. Children on this plan have serious health problems including birth defects, heart disease, diabetes and blindness.
The state moved the children to other Medicaid insurance plans that don’t specialize in caring for very sick children.
Stroud says that for her son, the consequences were devastating. Despite hours of phone calls, she says, she couldn’t find surgeons on his new insurance plan willing to do the highly specialized procedures he needed. Over the next seven months, her son lost 10 pounds, quit the football team and often missed school.
“He was in pain every day,” Stroud said. “I just felt so helpless. It’s such a horrible feeling where you can’t help your kid.”
LJ filed a lawsuit against the state of Florida, and he was eventually placed back on Children’s Medical Services and received the care he needed. But some Florida pediatricians worry about other children with special health care needs who, two years later, are still off the program.
The doctors aren’t just worried; they’re angry.
First, the data analysis the state used to justify switching the children is “inaccurate” and “bizarre,” according to the researcher who wrote the software used in that analysis.
Second, the screening tool the state used to select which children would be kicked off the program has been called “completely invalid” and “a perversion of science” by top experts in children with special health care needs.
Third, in fall 2015, a state administrative law judge ruled that the Department of Health should stop using the screening tool because it was unlawful. However, even after the judge issued his decision, the department didn’t automatically re-enroll the children or even reach out to the families directly to let them know that re-enrollment was a possibility.
Finally, parents and Florida pediatricians raise questions about the true reasons why Florida’s Republican administration switched the children’s health plans. They question whether it was to financially reward insurance companies that had donated millions of dollars to the Republican Party of Florida.
“This was a way for the politicians to repay the entities that had contributed to their political campaigns and their political success, and it’s the children who suffered,” said Dr. Louis St. Petery, former executive vice president of the Florida chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics.
Experts outside Florida are also disturbed that the children were switched out of CMS, a program that’s served as a model for other states for more than 40 years.
“CMS is well-known and well-respected,” said Dr. James Perrin, professor of pediatrics at Harvard Medical School. “It’s one of the earlier programs to build in assurances that these kids get the kind of care they need.”
“These are the sickest and most vulnerable kids, and (changing their insurance) can mean life or death for them,” said Joan Alker, executive director of the Center for Children and Families at Georgetown University. “This is really very troubling.”
Dr. Rishi Agrawal, an associate professor of pediatrics at Northwestern University’s Feinberg School of Medicine, agreed, adding that Florida should have more carefully considered how the insurance switch would affect the children’s health care.
“The process in Florida was particularly abrupt and poorly executed,” he said.
Mara Gambineri, a spokeswoman for the Florida Department of Health, said that “at no time (during the insurance switch) did children go without medically necessary services.”
State officials, including a spokesman for Governor Rick Scott’s office, initially declined to comment directly on the pediatricians’ and parents’ concerns that the children might have been switched to benefit contributors to the Republican Party of Florida. On Friday, after this story was published, the Florida Department of Health released a statement asserting that such a claim “is 100 percent false.”
“The department’s number one priority is protecting the health and well-being of all Florida residents, especially children with special health care needs,” Gambineri wrote in an earlier email. “The department remains committed to providing quality health care services to Florida’s children with special health care needs.”

A mother’s anguish

In spring 2015, LJ’s mother received a phone call from a nurse at the Florida Department of Health.
Stroud had no idea that one word she would say to that nurse — just one single word — would cause her son months of pain and suffering.
Meredith Stroud's son, LJ, was born with cleft lip and palate. He lost his Children's Medical Service coverage when he was 11.

The nurse asked Stroud a series of questions, including whether LJ was limited in his ability to do things other children could do.
Despite his birth defect, LJ goes to school and plays with friends, so she answered no.
Stroud says that because of that answer, LJ lost his insurance with CMS, the program that has cared for children with special health care needs in Florida for 40 years, and was put on a different Medicaid insurance plan.
LJ was one of 13,074 Florida children kicked off CMS — that’s about one in five children in the program — as a result of the telephone survey, according to a presentationtestimony and a letter from Florida’s top health officials.
Stroud thinks back to her answer to the nurse’s question about limitations.
“That question’s not fair,” Stroud said of the one that got her child kicked off CMS. “What [the Florida Department of Health] did was totally wrong.”
“It was a trick question,” she added.

Pediatrician: ‘A truly duplicitous question’

Experts agree with her.
“I personally find it pretty astonishing that they can take a survey question like that and use it to justify the de-enrolling of these kids,” said Dr. Jay Berry, an assistant professor of pediatrics at Harvard Medical School who studies policies for children with special health care needs.
What Florida did was “completely invalid,” added Dr. John Neff, professor emeritus of pediatrics at the University of Washington, another expert on children with special health care needs.
The pediatricians explained that many children with serious and chronic medical conditions — such as cleft lip and palate, HIV, diabetes and cystic fibrosis — are often able to do things other children can do. However, they still require extensive and highly specialized medical care.
The question the Florida Department of Health nurses asked — “Is your child limited or prevented in any way in his or her ability to do the things most children of the same age can do?” — would lead to disqualifying children who truly have special medical needs from a program designed for them, said Stephen Blumberg, associate director for science at the National Center for Health Statistics and one of the world’s leading experts on the epidemiology of children with special health care needs.
Question No. 3

“Is your child limited or prevented in any way in his or her ability to do the things most children of the same age can do?”

“You would get false negatives. Your conclusion would be that a child does not have special health care needs when, in fact, the child does,” he added.
Gambineri, the Department of Health spokeswoman, said it no longer uses the survey that resulted in 13,074 children being removed from CMS.
“It is unfortunate the negativity surrounding this issue is a continued topic of inquiry, as the department and our stakeholders have put in a significant amount of time and effort to move past this issue for the benefit of the children we serve,” she wrote.
Six pediatricians from across Florida gathered to tell CNN their concerns about children losing CMS coverage. They accuse the state of hurting sick kids to help big GOP donors.

But pediatricians in Florida point out that many children who were removed from Children’s Medical Services using the controversial questionnaire were never put back on.
“This was a truly duplicitous question,” said Dr. Philip Colaizzo, a pediatrician in Jupiter, Florida, who said that many of his patients with special health care needs were taken off CMS. “It was a trick question.”
“It’s a perversion of science,” said Dr. Jeffrey Goldhagen, professor of pediatrics at the University of Florida College of Medicine and medical director of the Bower Lyman Center for Medically Complex Children at Wolfson Children’s Hospital.
Goldhagen added that he was speaking for himself and not the institutions where he works.
“It was a scam job,” added Dr. Nancy Wright, a pediatric endocrinologist in Tallahassee who said that dozens of her patients with diabetes were removed from the program.
Dr. Nancy Wright, a pediatric endocrinologist, says dozens of her patients lost their coverage on Children's Medical Services. "For the children with diabetes that I work with, it was a disaster," she said.

“They really tried their darnedest to kick the kids out of CMS,” added Dr. Carrol Fenn, an orthodontist in West Palm Beach. “They’ve messed up kids’ lives.”
“They’re the most vulnerable of our population, and that they can be booted off the plan that was designed to help them is just amazing. How can someone in an office make a decision like that?” asked Dr. John Obi, an adjunct clinical professor in plastic surgery at the University of Florida, who operates on children with cleft lip and palate.
“I congratulate whoever came up with that question,” he added wryly. “If you want to exclude virtually anybody, that’s the way to do it.”

Johns Hopkins expert: ‘I’m speechless’

Christina Bethell’s team came up with that question — and she’s furious.
Bethell is a professor at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health. She and her team spent many years and millions of dollars coming up with the right questions to accurately identify children across the United States who might have special health care needs.
The list of questions — known as the Children with Special Health Care Needs Screener — is publicly available on the Hopkins website. Many state and federal agencies use it to help decide which children might benefit from special health services.
The Florida Department of Health, however, used the questions to do something completely different: to kick children out of a program.
That’s scientifically invalid, Bethell said. Using the questions that way — especially the question about limitations — would lead to denying children with special health care needs the services they require.
“I’m speechless,” she said.
To make matters worse, Bethell said, Florida repeatedly and publicly cited research done by her group at Hopkins — the Children and Adolescent Health Measurement Initiative — to support the children’s removal from CMS.
“I feel really manipulated,” she said.
She thinks of the children who were taken off CMS and fumes that the tool used to remove them was her own work.
“I’m angry,” she said. “And I’m crestfallen for these families.”

Grave consequences for Florida children

The Shabanehs in Tallahassee are one of those families.
Aref Shabaneh, 8, is blind, and his sister, Yasmeen, 11, is severely visually impaired. Their mother, Reema Shabaneh, says they were kicked off CMS in 2015.
Aref Shabaneh lost his Children's Medical Services coverage in 2015. He is blind and reads in Braille.

Shabaneh says she told the Florida Department of Health nurse that they didn’t have limitations.
“Aref wants to do everything by himself,” she said. “He can play ball with friends. The ball has a bell, so he can hear it coming.”
After they were kicked off CMS, Shabaneh said, she couldn’t find an ophthalmologist on the new insurance plan willing to care for her children.
“I was so scared,” she said.
When Jennifer Rodriguez received the phone call from the Department of Health nurse, she said, she told the nurse she didn’t know how to answer the question about limitations. Her son, Alejandro, suffers from a congenital heart defect, asthma and kidney problems. Sometimes, his heart races and he has trouble breathing, but other times, he feels up to playing soccer with his friends.
“When I tried to explain the answer, she cut me off and said she was just doing her job and needed a yes or a no,” she said.
Rodriguez says she answered that her son, who was 10 at the time, did not have limitations. He then lost his CMS coverage.
“It makes me angry, because you would think that since he’s seeing a cardiologist, a nephrologist, a urologist and an asthma doctor, they would see he’s not your average child,” she said.
LJ, Alejandro and the Shabaneh children filed lawsuits and were put back on CMS. They were represented by the Public Interest Law Center at Florida State University.
Alejandro Rodriguez wears a nebulizer mask to help him breathe. After he filed a lawsuit, the state put him back on Children's Medical Services.

Many Florida pediatricians say their patients also suffered when they were taken off CMS and put on other Medicaid plans. The doctors say those other plans typically have fewer pediatric specialists than CMS, which specializes in caring for very sick children.
Dr. Lisa Cosgrove, a pediatrician in Merritt Island, Florida, said she had a difficult time finding an orthopedist to treat a 6-year-old with a broken elbow who had been taken off CMS. The girl ended up having surgery later than she should have and now can’t extend her elbow all the way.
She said a baby born with a clubfoot also suffered because she couldn’t find an orthopedist willing to take the baby’s plan. The baby couldn’t have the necessary casts to twist the foot back into place and may need surgery, Cosgrove said.
Dr. Elizabeth Curry, a pediatrician in Port St. Joe, Florida, said that last year, she took care of a baby whose eye wiggled back and forth involuntarily, which can be a sign of a brain tumor.
Curry said it took her more than a month to find an ophthalmologist willing to take the baby’s Medicaid plan — and the doctor she finally found was three hours away, in Pensacola.
Fortunately, the baby turned out to be fine.
“This child could have had cancer. That’s a kid who should have seen a doctor right away,” Curry said. “I feel terrible for these children. It makes me so angry.”
Dr. Elizabeth Curry, a Florida pediatrician, says some of her patients didn't get the treatment they needed because the state had removed them from Children's Medical Services.

Because of problems like these, switching the children’s insurance “was a complete dereliction of Florida’s responsibility to children,” said Goldhagen, the professor of pediatrics at the University of Florida College of Medicine.
Gambineri, the spokeswoman for the Florida Department of Health, said the children didn’t suffer as a result of the switch, because the insurance plans they were moved to were “more than capable” of caring for them. She added that even before the 13,074 children were switched, those plans cared for tens of thousands of children with special health needs.
Other pediatricians agree that plans besides CMS have done a good job of caring for these very sick children.
The other plans “do a pretty good job with our families,” said Dr. Karalee Kulek-Luzey, medical director of the Pediatric Health Care Alliance, a group practice with multiple locations in the Tampa area. “They’re working really hard.”
“For the most part, they do a good job,” said Dr. Michael Freimark, a pediatrician in Plantation, Florida.
“We have a good relationship with the plans,” said Dr. Michael Gervasi, president and chief executive officer of the Florida Community Health Centers, a large medical practice with offices in several counties. Most of the time, he said, the plans take care of the children’s needs, but if there’s ever a problem, his practice contacts the plan, and they fix it.
Aref's older sister, Yasmeen Shabaneh, was also was removed from Children's Medical Services. She has a vision condition so serious that even a minor bump could cause her retinas to detach.

Florida’s ‘outreach’ to experts

In January 2016, about eight months after the Florida Department of Health started to move the 13,074 children out of CMS, Jennifer Tschetter, then the department’s chief operating officer, testified before the state legislature. She said that the decision to use the Hopkins screening tool was made “in consultation with … national experts.”
But it remains unclear who those experts were.
Tschetter, who has since left state government, did not respond to phone calls and emails seeking comment.
Gambineri, the Florida health department spokeswoman, said the department did “research” into what Louisiana, California, Texas and New York “were doing and experiences they had in regard to clinical eligibility for children with special health care needs.”
When asked for the names of individuals Florida consulted in those states, Gambineri didn’t respond.
Gambineri added that “outreach” was made to the federal Health Resources and Services Administration.
An official at that agency said she spoke with a Florida health official.
Dr. Marie Mann, senior medical adviser in the Division of Services for Children with Special Health Needs at the federal agency’s Maternal and Child Health Bureau, said she spoke with Stannard, who works for the Florida Department of Health.
Mann says she told Stannard she couldn’t give her any guidance.
“I told her I was not in a position to provide advice,” Mann said.
Mann said she suggested that Florida health officials reach out to Daniel Armstrong and Dr. Jeffrey Brosco, director and associate director respectively of the Mailman Center for Child Development at the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine.
“We will make sure they’re both involved in this review process,” Stannard wrote back to Mann in an email obtained by CNN under the Freedom of Information Act.
CNN asked Gambineri, the department spokeswoman, whether the department ever reached out to Armstrong to review and make recommendations on using the telephone survey to screen children out of CMS.
“Not to our knowledge,” Gambineri answered.
“I played no role in the decision-making process related to the use of the tool for the Children’s Medical Services program,” Armstrong wrote in an email to CNN.
Brosco said he told the Department of Health that in his opinion, a child should not be kicked off CMS based on a parent’s answer to the question about the child’s limitations.
“I gave them my feedback, and they said, ‘thank you for your work,’ ” Brosco said.
In July, Brosco was named the Florida Department of Health’s deputy secretary for CMS.

Christmas shopping at the Florida Mall

Despite the lack of support from the very experts they’d consulted, Florida health officials forged ahead with using the phone survey to disqualify children from CMS.
They had a schedule to stick to.
In November 2014, state officials set out to “go live” with the phone survey in six months, according to a timeline developed by the state and obtained by CNN under the Freedom of Information Act.
Before implementing the surveys, the officials gave themselves 21 days to “solicit feedback from the field” about the questions they would ask the parents.
One of the first things they did was to ask one of the state’s most experienced pediatricians to leave a meeting.
It was St. Petery, who at the time was the executive vice president of the Florida chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics and who has an encyclopedic knowledge of Medicaid rules and regulations. He’d served as interim director of CMS for six months during the mid-1970s.
He’d also been a thorn in the side of the state Department of Health for years. He’d been instrumental in a lawsuit that accused the state of failing to reimburse doctors properly in the Medicaid program and to ensure that children receive adequate care.
His side eventually won that lawsuit, and the American Academy of Pediatrics gave him a prestigious award for being “a tireless advocate for children’s health and well-being.”
Dr. Louis St. Petery, a pediatric cardiologist and frequent critic of Florida's health policy, was asked to leave a state meeting where Children's Medical Services screening was discussed.

On December 13, 2014, St. Petery showed up at the Department of Health meeting. It was for the regional medical directors of CMS, the group of pediatricians who help run the program. St. Petery wasn’t one of the directors, but he’d been attending their meetings for many years in his role with the Florida chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics.
St. Petery said that just before the meeting started, Tschetter, then the department’s chief operating officer, approached him.
“She said, didn’t I want to go Christmas shopping at the Florida Mall?” St. Petery remembered. The mall was adjacent to the conference center in Orlando where the meeting was taking place.
St. Petery said he told Tschetter that he hates shopping, especially around the holidays, and wanted to stay at the meeting.
“I protested. I asked her, is this meeting not in the sunshine?” he said, referring to Florida’s Sunshine Law, which gives the public the right to access most government meetings.
“After she told me for the third time to leave, I decided not to create a scene,” he said.
St. Petery got up and left.
Other doctors watched the action, stunned.
“We were all kind of shaking,” said Dr. Barbara Rumberger, one of the CMS regional medical directors who attended the meeting.
After St. Petery departed, health officials explained that they would start screening children off of CMS. Their justification: a new analysis showing that half the children on CMS might not belong there.
There are no minutes for this meeting, according to Department of Health officials, but a year later, Tschetter presented similar data to the Florida Legislature.

A ‘totally inaccurate’ analysis

By Florida law, a child can be in CMS only if he or she has a “chronic and serious” condition requiring health care “of a type or amount beyond that which is generally required by children.”
The analysis Tschetter presented showed that about half of the children on CMS had lower than average risk scores, an assessment of how much a patient uses health care services.
Tschetter called these results “surprising.” By legislative mandate, children on CMS are supposed to have health needs greater those of other children.
“The analysis made clear, certainly to the department, that we were not meeting legislative direction: (that) the children in the plan have both chronic and serious health care conditions,” Tschetter told legislators. “It was clear to the department that something had to be done, because complying with legislative direction is certainly not optional.”
But an expert who developed the software Florida used to make that data analysis said the state did its calculations incorrectly.
“It’s totally inaccurate,” said Todd Gilmer, co-developer of the Chronic Illness and Disability Payment System and chief of the division of health policy at the University of California, San Diego.
Gilmer’s software, which is used by dozens of state Medicaid programs, tracks patients’ diagnoses and their prescription drug use to calculate risk scores for each individual.
After viewing Florida officials’ analysis of the data, he said they made two errors when they calculated that half the children on CMS had below-average risk scores.
First, he explained that his software relies on doctors’ diagnoses, and Florida failed to account for the fact that doctors frequently don’t document a child’s full diagnosis in the medical record. For example, if a quadriplegic child goes to the doctor because of bedsores, doctors often write down the reason the child came in — the bedsores — instead of the more serious diagnosis of quadriplegia.
Second, he said, Florida did the wrong calculation for disabled children, who represent 40% of the patients on CMS, according to Mallory McManus, a spokeswoman for Florida’s Agency for Health Care Administration.
He said his software compares disabled children with each other. Even the ones who fall in the lower half of the risk-score spectrum still have serious and chronic illnesses, he said, such as HIV or heart failure.
He said that what Florida did was akin to assembling a group of people who are over 7 feet tall and calling the bottom half of that group short.
Gilmer called Florida’s analysis “kind of bizarre” and said he was disappointed to see his software “misapplied” by the Florida Department of Health.
Spokeswomen for the Florida Department of Health and the Agency for Health Care Administration did not respond directly to Gilmer’s criticism.
Gambineri, the health department spokeswoman, said that the department no longer uses the screening method that it used in 2015 and that parents can ask to have their children re-screened at any time.
“Our mission is now and has always been to provide the best health care possible to the populations that we serve,” McManus wrote in an email.

Pediatrician: ‘We were just irrelevant’

Pediatricians say that by the time the Department of Health meeting was held at the Orlando conference center at the end of 2014, they felt like Florida was dead-set on screening a large number of children off CMS.
They said state officials didn’t listen to their concerns, even though they were stated repeatedly, both in person and in writing.
At the meeting, health officials asked the pediatricians to tell them what was on their minds, according to Rumberger, one of the doctors who was there.
She said she and her colleagues brought up concerns that children might be taken off CMS inappropriately.
The Department of Health official wrote down what the doctors said on pieces of paper taped to the wall, Rumberger said. The official then told the doctors that these were issues to discuss at another time.
“She said, ‘We’re going to park these. We’re putting these ideas in the parking lot for some time, and we’re not talking about these things today,’ ” Rumberger remembered, adding that she was speaking on behalf of herself and not in her role as a CMS regional medical director.
“We were all amazed at what they did,” she added.
A few months later, the state held a series of telephone conference calls with the same CMS regional medical directors.
“They didn’t ask us ‘What do you think?’ or ‘Do you have any suggestions?’ ” Rumberger said. “It was just ‘This is how we’re going to do it.’ It was clear they didn’t want to have a free discussion.”
“It appears to be a very conscious decision to not get input and not receive any dissension,” said Goldhagen, the professor of pediatrics at the University of Florida. “We were just irrelevant.”
Dr. Rex Northup, another CMS regional medical director and associate professor of pediatrics at the University of Florida College of Medicine, agrees.
“It was like, ‘When we want your opinion on a given topic, we’ll let you know, and we’ll provide that opinion to you,’ ” Northup said, adding that he speaks for himself and not the university or any other institution.
Several doctors present on those conference calls said they voiced their concerns anyway.
There’s no record of these concerns. According to the Florida Department of Health, no minutes were taken of these phone conferences.
CNN asked the Florida Department of Health about the meeting where St. Petery was asked to leave and about doctors’ complaints that the state steamrolled through a screening tool that would harm sick children.
“When CMS began the process of implementing a new screening tool in 2014, the department may have underestimated the need for stakeholder input and the time required to obtain feedback and ensure our community was comfortable with the mechanisms for determining clinical eligibility,” responded Gambineri, the Department of Health spokeswoman.
She added that the department has “engaged our stakeholders using several methods” including public meetings to solicit input from patients, parents and providers and “remains open to feedback and input in order to best serve children with serious and chronic medical conditions.”
True to its schedule, the state started screening children off CMS in May 2015.
Florida pediatricians repeatedly told the state that it was hurting sick, vulnerable children.
In August 2015, Goldhagen, Rumberger, Northup and 11 other doctors with positions at CMS wrote a letter to a Department of Health official saying the screening process was “flawed” and was removing too many children.
The doctors did not receive a response, Goldhagen said.
Two months later, St. Petery wrote to Department of Health officials, sharply criticizing the use of the screening tool.
He said he never received a response, either.
Dr. Elizabeth Curry, examining Micah Creamer, says she wrote to the Florida Agency for Health Care Administration, expressing her concerns about patients being kicked off Children's Medical Services, but the agency didn't respond.

Curry, the Port Saint Joe pediatrician who practices in a rural area of the Florida Panhandle, said she also complained to the state’s Agency for Health Care Administration about children being kicked off CMS, along with other issues affecting children on Medicaid.
She said the agency worked with her on some of the other issues but didn’t respond to her complaints about the children being taken off CMS.
“Our Agency has been in contact with the provider and is working with the health plan to resolve what issues might be resolved,” wrote McManus, the agency spokeswoman.
Curry said she took her complaints even higher.
“I even called the governor’s office once and left a message,” she said. “I admit that I finally gave up. I’m just trying to take care of my patients.”
Pediatricians interviewed for this story said they felt pressure from the state not to speak to the media about the removal of the children from CMS.
On November 15, 2016, Dr. John Curran, then the Florida Department of Health’s deputy secretary for CMS, said on a conference call that a CNN reporter was working on this story, according to several doctors on the call.
That evening, a department official wrote an email to the doctors who’d been on the call. It advised these pediatricians that prior to responding to media inquiries, they should contact the department’s communications director.
“I’m going to be so fired for saying all these things,” Rumberger said.
But she and other pediatricians say they’re speaking up because they feel that the Department of Health hurt children because they didn’t listen to their concerns.
They say it could be because pediatricians don’t tend to have millions of dollars to donate to political campaigns.
But insurance companies do.

‘Like a plot in a Carl Hiaasen novel’

All of this — the telephone survey, the question about limitations, the analysis that’s been called flawed — leaves many Florida parents and pediatricians suspicious about why the state wanted to take 13,074 children off CMS and why it worked so hard and so quickly to do it.
Switching the children from CMS to the other Medicaid plans didn’t save taxpayers money, according to McManus, the agency spokeswoman.
The doctors wonder, then, whether the inspiration for the change was political: to send taxpayers’ dollars to generous donors to the Florida Republican Party.
CMS is a public program; it’s not owned by a private insurance company.
When the children were taken off CMS, they were switched to 11 insurance plans that are owned by private companies. The parent companies of nine of those 11 plans donated a total of more than $8 million to Florida Republican Party committees in the five years before the children were switched.
“I knew it had to be about money,” said Wright, the pediatric endocrinologist in Tallahassee who said that dozens of her patients had their insurance switched. “This sounds very believable for Florida, and I’m from Florida.”
“When this was all unfolding, I told my office manager, ‘I feel like we’re in a plot in a Carl Hiaasen novel,’ ” she added, referring to the Miami Herald columnist who writes about politics and corruption in Florida.
Dr. Nancy Wright, a pediatric endocrinologist, says she thinks the state's motivation for taking patients off Children's Medical Services "appears to be about money. ... It's clearly not medical."

The companies that own the nine insurance plans contributed $8.6 million to Florida Republican Party committees from 2010 to 2014, according to an analysis done for CNN by the National Institute on Money in State Politics, a nonpartisan nonprofit group.
Here’s a breakdown of how much money each insurance company with a Medicaid contract contributed to Florida Republican Party committees from 2010 to 2014:
  • $5.9 million from Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Florida. Florida True Health is an affiliate of Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Florida. At the time the money was contributed, Florida True Health owned 40% of Prestige Health Choice, which has a Medicaid contract with the state of Florida. In 2015, Florida True Health purchased Prestige outright.
  • $90,000 from Simply Health, which owns a Medicaid plan called Better Health.
  • $849,433 from Miguel Fernandez, the former chairman of Simply Health. In addition, Fernandez donated about $1.3 million to Scott’s Let’s Get to Work political action committee from 2010 to 2014.

Insurance companies’ outsize contributions to Florida Republicans

Nearly all states pay insurance companies to insure some of their Medicaid patients; this is not unique to Florida.
And insurance companies often contribute money to state political parties. That’s not unique to Florida, either.
What is unusual is the size of the contributions, even for a large state.
Take UnitedHealthcare, an insurance giant with business in all 50 states. From 2010 to 2014, United contributed $442,500 to Florida Republican Party committees, according to the National Institute on Money in State Politics.
The company’s next largest contribution to any other state political party was $145,000 to California Democrats — less than half the Florida amount.
Humana, another insurance company with a national reach, gave substantially more money to Florida Republican Party committees than to any other state political party committees.
From 2010 to 2014, Humana donated $482,815 to Florida Republican Party committees. Its next largest contribution was $213,823 to Florida Democrats. The next largest contribution after that was $22,000 to the Illinois GOP, less than one-20th the size of the contribution to Florida Republicans.
Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Florida gave Florida Republican Party committees $5.9 million from 2010 to 2014 and gave Florida Democrats $1.8 million. The next largest contribution after that from any other Blue Cross and Blue Shield company in the United States was $730,696 from Blue Shield of California to Democrats in that state — about one-eighth the size of the contribution to Florida Republicans.

Florida’s payments to the insurance companies

Nearly all states pay private insurance companies monthly premiums to insure Medicaid patients. It’s become big business.
The Florida Department of Health declined to say how much it paid the private insurance companies to insure the 13,074 children when they were switched out of CMS.
“If they got 13,000 new kids, (it’s) that times however many dollars per member per month,” St. Petery said. “I think that’s a lot of money when you start talking about that many kids.”
LJ Stroud sued the state of Florida to be put back on Children's Medical Services. He has now had the procedures that he needs.

These children came from CMS, a Medicaid program for sick children, and the state pays insurance companies more money to care for such children.
This is how it works, according to McManus, the spokeswoman for the Florida Agency for Health Care Administration.
Florida takes a look at all the people who’ve signed up with an insurance company and calculates a risk score for that group based on factors such as the age of the enrollees in the plan and their health conditions.
A plan with the lowest risk score has a “typical population” and might be paid a rate of, for example, $320 per person per month, McManus said. A plan with sicker enrollees might have a risk score that’s twice as high and so would be paid $640 per person per month, she added.
The numbers can get even higher from there.
“The state will pay a pretty good rate for these children,” said Agrawal, the pediatrician at Northwestern who studies health care systems for children with special medical needs.
“They could get paid thousands more per month for a child with serious medical needs,” said Steve Schramm, founder and managing director of Optumas, a health care consulting group.
“The enhanced reimbursement may be 10 times what the insurance companies get for a well child,” said Goldhagen, former director of Florida’s Duval County Health Department.
Yasmeen Shabaneh sued Florida and was placed back on Children's Medical Services.

Sick children are, of course, also costlier for insurance companies because they need more care. But insurance plans monitor that care to manage costs.
“Plans have gotten very sophisticated in their ability to manage very sick kids, so their willingness to take very sick kids is great,” said Jeff Myers, president and CEO of Medicaid Health Plans of America, an industry group representing insurance companies.
Pediatricians questioned whether such outsize political donations were an attempt to gain influence and favor with Florida’s Republican administration, which orchestrated the transfer of the children out of CMS and to the private companies.
“It certainly raises a lot of suspicion and concern,” said Northup, the associate professor at the University of Florida College of Medicine.
“Why would they make contributions in the hundreds of thousands and the millions to Florida Republicans? Why would they be so uniquely committed to Republicans in Florida? It gives one pause,” he added. “If you follow the money, at the very least, it’s worrisome.”
“It’s the left-hand-washing-the-right-hand kind of business,” said Dr. Joseph Chiaro, who was Florida’s deputy secretary of health from 2005 to 2011. “It breaks my heart.”
Six Florida pediatricians gathered in Orlando to tell CNN their concerns. They practice in rural, suburban and urban areas. Some of them are Republicans, and others are Democrats.
They said they feared that big donors had influence on the state’s decision-making process and that in many cases, the children suffered as a result.
“I don’t see this in writing anywhere, but my impression is, this was a way for political payback at the expense of the sickest of the Medicaid children,” St. Petery said.
“It just comes back to money or power. It’s not about health care for the children,” said Wright, the pediatric endocrinologist in Tallahassee.
“Just follow the money,” said Colaizzo, who runs a rural health care clinic in Pahokee, Florida.
State leaders “don’t give a damn about the kids. They don’t give a damn about the families,” said Dr. Marcy Howard, a pediatrician in Crystal River, Florida.

State officials and insurance companies respond

State health officials did not respond directly to the pediatricians’ concerns that campaign contributors had influence over Republican leadership’s decision to take the children off CMS.
“The Statewide Medicaid Managed Care program was designed to provide comprehensive care to recipients through high quality health plans with a payment structure designed to ensure that plans paid an appropriate rate based on the health conditions of those enrolled in their plan,” McManus, a spokeswoman for the Florida Agency for Health Care Administration, wrote in an email.
“The program currently covers more than 2 million of Florida’s children, offers the strongest provider network and access standards in program history, and provides families with a choice of high quality, nationally accredited plans so that they can choose the plan that best suits their needs, including specialty plans for those who qualify.”
Alejandro Rodriguez also sued the state of Florida and was placed back on Children's Medical Services.

CNN reached out to officials at all nine insurance companies. Two responded.
“WellCare contributes to a variety of organizations that shape health care policy, including the Florida Republican Party committees, the Democratic Party committees and those without political affiliation,” wrote Alissa Lawver, a spokeswoman for WellCare. “The company also discloses and publicly reports all political contributions on its website above and beyond the requirements of state and federal law. As a provider of managed care, WellCare is committed to partnering with the state of Florida to provide access to quality, affordable health care solutions for the state’s most vulnerable populations. We maintain a robust provider network and offer comprehensive care management services to create personalized, coordinated care plans to help improve and maintain the health of families and children across the state.”
She added that WellCare has accountability to Florida’s Agency for Health Care Administration, “which provides careful oversight of the state’s Medicaid program to ensure all members, including children that transitioned from Children’s Medical Services, receive access to the right care, at the right time and in the most appropriate setting.”
Ethan Slavin, a spokesman for Aetna, said the company makes “donations to campaigns for both major political parties to support and address issues that impact our customers and members.”
He added that “we are required to meet state rules and regulations regarding our network of health care providers and are consistently compliant with those requirements” and that “we regularly work with our members, health care providers and the state of Florida to move children with special health care needs into the Children’s Medical Services program, when appropriate and in the best interest of our members. Our integrated care management program regularly identifies these children and assists in this process.”
Miguel “Mike” Fernandez, founder and former chairman of Better Health, said he had contributed several million dollars to both Republicans and Democrats. He added that states move Medicaid patients into the care of private companies so they can “move the risk off their financial books.”

A victory for Florida families

Many pediatricians use strong language to describe their anger and frustration with the Florida Department of Health and what it did in 2015 to the 13,074 children.
“This has just been a nightmare, and we’re still experiencing the fallout,” said Dr. Toni Richards-Rowley, treasurer of the Florida chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics.
“It’s disgusting,” said Cosgrove, the pediatrician in Merritt Island. “It’s all about money and not looking out for the children.”
“Honestly, it makes me want to puke,” said Lida Sarnecky, nurse manager of the team at the University of Florida that takes care of children with cleft lip and palate.
“In my heart, what I want to do is go down to Governor Scott’s office and ask him, ‘What if this were your child or grandchild who couldn’t receive the care they needed? How would you feel then?’ ” she said.
By June 2015, some Florida parents had had enough.
Five children, including Alejandro Rodriguez, and Yasmeen and Aref Shabaneh, sued the state Department of Health to get it to stop using the telephone questionnaire to take patients off CMS, claiming that the state Department of Health hadn’t gone through formal rulemaking procedures.
The children won.
The state didn’t fight the ruling. Instead, it came up with a new way to screen children for the program — one that doesn’t rely on a telephone survey and takes into consideration a child’s diagnosis.
Aref Shabaneh lost his Children's Medical Services coverage when his mother told the state he didn't have limitations. "Aref wants to do everything by himself," she said.

Many parents and pediatricians assumed the state would soon reach out directly to parents to let them know they could reapply to have their children put back on CMS.
They were very wrong.
Five months after the judge’s decision, St. Petery, the Tallahassee pediatric cardiologist, implored the secretary of the Department of Health to reach out to parents.
To St. Petery, the reasoning was obvious: A judge had said that the state had violated the law. Reaching out to the parents was a way of correcting wrongdoing.
The state had a notice on its website about the ability to be rescreened for CMS, and at a meeting with state legislators, a department official had given out a phone number parents could call. But St. Petery knew that busy parents of very sick children might not attend official state meetings or notice pages on government websites.
“I would hope that you would consider notifying each of the parents of those 13,074 children that the tool by which their child was screened out of CMS has been declared invalid, and that they have the right to appeal that decision,” St. Petery wrote to Dr. John Armstrong, then secretary of the Department of Health and the state surgeon general.
Armstrong wrote back that doing so would violate federal regulations, since the children had been switched to other Medicaid insurance plans.
“Federal regulations prohibit direct marketing to children currently being served by another managed care plan,” he wrote back to St. Petery.
CNN was unable to reach Armstrong for comment. Gambineri, the Florida Department of Health spokeswoman, said he “is no longer employed by DOH.”
Not satisfied with Armstrong’s response, St. Petery sought help from US Rep. Kathy Castor, a Democrat from Tampa. Castor took his concerns to the federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services.
On March 23, 2016, an official at that agency sent an email to Justin Senior, then the Medicaid director at Florida’s Agency for Health Care Administration. CNN obtained the email under the Freedom of Information Act.
In that email, the federal official explained to Senior that federal regulations do not prohibit Florida from reaching out directly to families.
“To clarify, 42 CFR 438.104 does not prohibit marketing,” wrote Jackie Glaze, associate regional administrator for the Division of Medicaid and Children’s Health at the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, citing a federal regulation.
More than a year later, on July 24, 2017, the Florida Department of Health sent a letter to parents letting them know that their children could be screened to get back on CMS. The letter was sent to 6,081 parents whose children were removed from CMS and put on another Medicaid plan and were still on that plan and financially eligible for Medicaid, according to Gambineri, the Florida health department spokeswoman.
That letter was sent nearly two years after the judge’s decision. Pediatricians say they’re angry it took that long to directly let parents know about the possibility of getting back on CMS.
Gambineri said there was concern that parents might get confused.
“It was originally thought to be, and still is considered a risk, in terms of confusion and disruption to families, to send a letter because they have had rescreening available since 2015,” Gambineri said a few months before the letter was sent out.

Nelson Mandela and Mr. Rogers

Now that LJ Stroud is back on CMS, he’s a happy, strapping 13-year-old who loves to play football and horse around with his brother and sisters in the family’s backyard in St. Augustine.
But his mother looks back on the dark days in 2015, after her son was switched off CMS, when she says he would lie on the couch in pain, unable to get the surgeries he needed.
It’s not just her son’s physical pain that makes Stroud angry; it’s his emotional pain.
Since LJ Stroud was placed back on Children's Medical Services, he's been able to play football again.

When LJ was on CMS, Stroud says, he received excellent care and was a contented, well-adjusted child, never thinking of himself as different despite his birth defect.
But she says that when he was in pain because he couldn’t have surgery, he started to feel sorry for himself.
” ‘Why did God make me this way?’ ” she says he asked. ” ‘Why can’t I be like my brothers and sisters?’ “
When she hears about how top Florida officials have spoken with pride of what they did to her son and to more than 13,000 other children, she becomes livid.
Last year, Armstrong, then Florida’s surgeon general and secretary of health, made a presentation to the Florida Children and Youth Cabinet, a panel created by the state Legislature to promote children’s welfare.
Declaring that the Department of Health “cares about every child in Florida,” Armstrong explained how the state removed the 13,074 children from CMS.
Armstrong’s presentation quoted two great advocates for children, Nelson Mandela and Fred Rogers.
First, he quoted Mandela: “There can be no keener revelation of a society’s soul than the way in which it treats its children.”
And he quoted Fred Rogers, the star of the children’s television show “Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood”: “Anyone who does anything to help a child in life is a hero to me.”
Stroud struggles for words to describe what she thinks of Armstrong quoting these two champions for child welfare.
“It’s just — it’s just disgusting,” she said. “I feel my blood boiling just thinking about it.”

Boy, 13, who had heart transplant dies on 1st day of school

GOSHEN, Ohio — A 13-year-old boy who received a heart transplant months ago has died on the first day of school.

WCPO-TV in Cincinnati (http://bit.ly/2fQHKL5 ) reports Peyton West died Thursday. His family says he was born with hypoplastic left heart syndrome and needed three open-heart surgeries before his fifth birthday. He had to have a transplant when his health deteriorated in March.

Peyton’s father says he seemed fine Thursday. He smiled for a photo that morning before leaving their home in Goshen, about 31 miles (50 kilometers) northeast of Cincinnati.

On the way to school, Peyton told his father he didn’t feel right. He was taken to a hospital, where he died. His family says they still don’t know what happened.

Romney Tells Trump to Apologize for Causing ‘Racists to Rejoice’

BRIDGEWATER, N.J. — Mitt Romney, the Republican presidential nominee in 2012, has excoriated President Trump for his equivocating response to the violence in Charlottesville, Va., and urged him to apologize or risk subjecting the country to “an unraveling of our national fabric.”

Mr. Romney’s remarks, posted on Facebook on Friday, mark some of the strongest language from a Republican against Mr. Trump after a white supremacist rally in Charlottesville and an attack by a driver that left a woman dead. Mr. Trump, on Tuesday, said “both sides” were to blame for Saturday’s deadly violence.

“Whether he intended to or not, what he communicated caused racists to rejoice, minorities to weep, and the vast heart of America to mourn,” Mr. Romney wrote. “His apologists strain to explain that he didn’t mean what we heard. But what we heard is now the reality, and unless it is addressed by the president as such, with unprecedented candor and strength, there may commence an unraveling of our national fabric.”

Mr. Trump is scheduled to have a rally in Phoenix next week, raising concern about more possible violence. The mayor of Phoenix, Greg Stanton, said in a Twitter post on Wednesday that he was “disappointed” that the president would hold a political event “as our nation is still healing from the tragic events in Charlottesville.” Mr. Stanton, a Democrat, urged Mr. Trump to delay the visit.

In his message to the president, Mr. Romney also noted that United States military leaders had distanced themselves from the president.

“Our allies around the world are stunned and our enemies celebrate; America’s ability to help secure a peaceful and prosperous world is diminished. And who would want to come to the aid of a country they perceive as racist if ever the need were to arise, as it did after 9/11?” Mr. Romney said. “In homes across the nation, children are asking their parents what this means. Jews, blacks, Hispanics, Muslims are as much a part of America as whites and Protestants. But today they wonder. Where might this lead? To bitterness and tears, or perhaps to anger and violence?”

Mr. Romney called for the president to apologize.

“He should address the American people, acknowledge that he was wrong, apologize,” Mr. Romney wrote. “State forcefully and unequivocally that racists are 100% to blame for the murder and violence in Charlottesville.”

Mr. Romney was a leading contender to be Mr. Trump’s secretary of state, before the president chose Rex W. Tillerson. He has generally been muted in the controversies of the Trump administration.

But he was among the loudest of Mr. Trump’s critics during the campaign: At one point, he derided Mr. Trump as a “phony, a fraud” and warned of damage to the Republican party if he became the nominee. Mr. Romney also said during the campaign that he had concerns about Mr. Trump’s comments appealing to racists.

“I don’t want to see trickle-down racism,” Mr. Romney said on CNN in June 2016. “I don’t want to see a president of the United States saying things which change the character of the generations of Americans that are following. Presidents have an impact on the nature of our nation. And trickle-down racism, trickle-down bigotry, trickle-down misogyny — all of these things are extraordinarily dangerous to the heart and character of America.”

Mr. Romney added, “I think his comments time and again appeal to the racist tendency that exists in some people, and I think that’s very dangerous.”

On Friday, Mr. Romney closed his Facebook statement saying now was a “defining moment” for Mr. Trump.

“But much more than that, it is a moment that will define America in the hearts of our children,” he wrote. “They are watching, our soldiers are watching, the world is watching. Mr. President, act now for the good of the country.”

Other Republicans have lashed out against Mr. Trump for his remarks, as well.

On Tuesday, Senator Marco Rubio, a Florida Republican and presidential hopeful in 2016, said white nationalists in Charlottesville were entirely at fault for the deadly violence in Charlottesville.

“The #WhiteSupremacy groups will see being assigned only 50% of blame as a win,” Mr. Rubio said on Twitter moments after Mr. Trump’s remarks. “We can not allow this old evil to be resurrected.”

Trump said to study General Pershing. Here’s what the president got wrong.

https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/retropolis/wp/2017/08/18/after-barcelona-attack-trump-said-to-study-general-pershing-heres-what-the-president-got-wrong/?utm_term=.2425ccda23c3

 

A sordid tale of Gen. John J. Pershing executing Muslim insurgents in the Philippines at the turn of the century is a favorite of President Trump.

“They were having terrorism problems, just like we do,” Trump told a throng of cheering supporters on the campaign trail in South Carolina in February 2016.

Pershing “caught 50 terrorists who did tremendous damage and killed many people. And he took the 50 terrorists, and he took 50 men and he dipped 50 bullets in pigs’ blood — you heard that, right? He took 50 bullets, and he dipped them in pigs’ blood. And he had his men load his rifles, and he lined up the 50 people, and they shot 49 of those people. And the 50th person, he said: You go back to your people, and you tell them what happened. And for 25 years, there wasn’t a problem.”

It’s a story Trump has repeated, and echoed again Thursday after a terrorist attack in Barcelona that killed at least 13 people and left many more wounded when a driver smashed his van onto a busy sidewalk.

Study what General Pershing of the United States did to terrorists when caught. There was no more Radical Islamic Terror for 35 years!

“Study what General Pershing of the United States did to terrorists when caught. There was no more Radical Islamic Terror for 35 years!” he tweeted.

Brian M. Linn, a history professor at Texas A&M University, did just that nearly two decades ago when he published “Guardians of Empire,” a book on the U.S. military presence in Asia from 1902 to 1940.

His verdict on Trump’s claim?

“There is absolutely no evidence this occurred,” he told The Washington Post.

“It’s a made-up story. It doesn’t seem to matter how many times people say this isn’t true. No one can say where or when this occurred.”

But Trump’s claims, and the wider belief in a routinely debunked story, have far-reaching effects. Not only is the story untrue, but the convenient twist — of an insurgency defeated only with the use of brutal war tactics — points to precisely the opposite lessons Pershing and his troops learned in the Philippines campaign from 1899 to 1913, Linn said.

“The U.S. military learned escalating counterterrorism was not effective, and they took great steps, including Pershing, to de-escalate,” Linn said.

Who was John J. Pershing?

Pershing was a U.S. Military Academy graduate who first earned distinction in the Indian-American Wars, and later his nickname, “Black Jack,” after commanding a unit of all-African American “Buffalo Soldiers.”

He was an astute and battle-experienced captain when he arrived in the Philippines in 1899. There, he learned the value of defusing tribal grievances among the Moro, the followers of Islam on the archipelago’s southern islands who engaged in tribal violence and insurrection against the United States. The Philippines was acquired after the United States won the Spanish-American War in 1898, and an insurrection arose following attempts to pacify the country as it sought independence from colonial rule.

Pershing studied the Koran and drank tea with tribal leaders to emphasize that he was there to put down violence, not continue a religious war the Spanish had waged for centuries. It was a people-centric strategy adopted a century later in Iraq and Afghanistan, as troops sought to isolate fighters from civilians.

“He did a lot of what we would call ‘winning hearts and minds’ and embraced reforms which helped end their resistance,” Lance Janda, a military historian at Cameron University, told PolitiFact. “He fought, too, but only when he had to, and only against tribes or bands that just wouldn’t negotiate with him.”

In one series of campaigns between 1902 and 1903 around Lake Lanao on the southern island of Mindanao, Pershing would focus on more violent religious groups in fortified positions, allowing them room to escape, Linn said.

Pershing then bypassed other factions in the area to show he could easily move his forces around but would not deliberately attack, demonstrating to other tribes he understood which groups posed a threat.

But Pershing was also the commander of aggressive offensives that killed women and children after insurrectionists occupied positions with their families. Still, Pershing was made an honorary Moro chieftain, Linn said.

Atrocities were committed by U.S. forces during the conflict. After a garrison of Army soldiers was overrun and massacred, a unit of Marines was dispatched in September 1902 to root out insurgents on the central island of Samar. Maj. Littleton Waller, who led the Marine unit, arrived from China and was unfamiliar with the terrain. Fever overtook him, his men panicked, and the Filipino porters carrying his equipment were accused of mutiny, though Linn said a report written later suggests that there were no overt acts and that the porters were instrumental in saving the lives of Marines.

Eleven porters were executed in a remote area, and news of the act quickly spread. “Dead men tell no tales, but they leave an awful smell” became a common American saying after the Samar killings, Linn said. Waller was later acquitted in a court-martial.

But the episode points to an example of what happens when news of deliberate killings spreads, Linn said, and if Pershing had committed a theatrical massacre, a similar result would have been likely.

Rise of the Pershing myth

Linn began to encounter the Pershing pig-blood-bullet story after Sept. 11, 2001, when Internet users searched for religious-themed military operations in the wake of the terrorist attacks in the United States.

“It seemed to me to be coming from sources that were strongly anti-Muslim, not military historians or scholars,” Linn said.

Concerned faculty at the U.S. Military Academy asked him to disprove the story of arguably one of its most storied graduates. Pershing would later head the American Expeditionary Forces in World War I as Commander of the Armies, a rank held by only two generals in U.S. history — Pershing and George Washington, who was posthumously awarded the rank in 1976.

Linn, along with Frank Vandiver, fellow Texas A&M professor and a Pershing’s biographer, told the Military Academy that no evidence existed to back up the story.

Still, the myth persists with another twist — burying insurgents with dead pigs. In Pershing’s memoir, “My Life Before the World War, 1860-1917,” he said a fellow officer, Col. Frank West, told him at least one Muslim fighter was “publicly buried in the same grave with a dead pig.”

“It was not pleasant to have to take such measures, but the prospect of going to hell instead of heaven sometimes deterred the would-be assassins,” Pershing wrote about juramentados, knife-wielding religious extremists who targeted Christians.

Linn said it probably did happen at one point, but he doubts Pershing was involved or ordered subordinates to commit religiously insulting acts. Other artifacts, such as letters and memoirs from soldiers there describing similar events, do not point to credible claims of Pershing’s involvement, Linn said. A 1939 movie about the conflict starring Gary Cooper, “The Real Glory,” also includes a scene that resembles those moments and likely fuels the myth, the historian said.

The Philippine-American War ended in 1902, with the death of more than 4,200 American and 20,000 Filipino combatants. As many as 200,000 Filipino civilians died of violence and widespread famine and disease, according to the State Department. The Moro insurrection continued for years.

Pershing served as governor of the mostly Muslim Moro Province from 1909 to 1913, as the rebellion festered. Pershing’s decision to disarm the Moro in 1913 triggered more unrest, culminating in the Battle of Bud Bagsak in the south.

Pershing put down the Moro rebellion, but Trump’s suggestion of a fabled mass execution leading to peace is incorrect, Linn said.

“There was still lawlessness, homicide and banditry” that arguably continued for decades up to now, he said, as the government continues its brutal crackdown on drug traffickers and users.

Lost in Trump’s falsehood, Linn said, is the distortion of an officer who dedicated his life to a certain code of conduct.

“It’s a terrible defamation of the American soldier,” Linn said. “What does it say about Americans that they would take 50 people and shoot them? It’s a major war crime.”

Trump’s Confederacy fight threatens GOP agenda in Congress

Senior Republicans on Capitol Hill fear President Donald Trump’s eagerness to fight a Confederate-tinged culture war and his attacks on fellow Republicans are squandering precious political capital and imperiling their agenda in Congress.

Speaker Paul Ryan and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell desperately need Trump to help them sell Republicans on a debt ceiling hike by the end of September — a toxic vote for conservatives. And they know they’ll need strong White House leadership to get tax reform over the finish line, a must-do for the conservative base after the embarrassing collapse of their Obamacare repeal effort.

But Trump is preoccupied lately with defending Confederate statues and playing to his base of supporters on the so-called “alt-right.” He hailed some Charlottesville, Virginia, protesters fighting the removal of Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee’s likeness as “very fine people” — though they did so at a rally packed with white supremacists. And he tried to equate attendees chanting “blood and soil!” — an old Hitler slogan — with counterprotesters who opposed them.

Trump is also going after members of his own party who’ve criticized his response to the deadly Charlottesville protest — not exactly the team-building exercise needed at this moment.

“Sad to see the history and culture of our great country being ripped apart with the removal of our beautiful statues and monuments,” Trump tweeted Thursday morning, later adding: “Robert E Lee, Stonewall Jackson — who’s next, Washington, Jefferson? So foolish!”

Republicans are practically pulling their hair out, frustrated over the leadership vacuum they say Trump is creating. The way they see it, the party is gearing up for one of the most politically precarious legislative stretches in recent memory. In addition to tackling the debt ceiling and tax reform, GOP leaders need to avert a government shutdown, strike a long-term spending deal with Democrats and pass a budget that appeases conservatives and moderate Republicans — all in the next couple of months.

There are also serious concerns about North Korea’s heightened aggression toward the U.S.

And yet, rank-and-file Republicans have had to drop what they’re doing to repudiate Trump’s remarks on Charlottesville, as have Cabinet members and military officials. Business leaders quit a presidential council en masse.

“I do think there need to be some radical changes,” Republican Sen. Bob Corker told reporters in Tennessee on Thursday. “The president has not yet been able to demonstrate the stability or some of the competence that he needs to demonstrate in order to be successful.”

Without an immediate change in his leadership style, Corker added, “our nation is going to go through great peril.”

Top GOP tax writers on the House Ways and Means Committee met in Santa Barbara, California, on Wednesday to pitch the merits of tax reform to the nation. National attention paid to the event paled in comparison to that focused on Trump’s divisive rhetoric — only the latest example of Trump’s controversies stealing the GOP spotlight.

“These constant tangents create distractions; they force our members to talk about statues and Nazis instead of tax reform,” one senior House GOP aide said Thursday. “Until this White House learns how to actually use the bully pulpit, they’re essentially useless.”

Added another senior GOP source: “The daily five-ring Trump circus hurts our ability to get things done.”

For dozens of Republicans, however, Trump’s recent words are about more than a mere distraction; they’re depriving the party of a much-needed leader.

Conservative lawmakers and outside groups, for instance, are already plotting their resistance to GOP leadership’s expected calls to raise the debt ceiling without spending cuts. Ryan and McConnell will need Trump to give them political cover.

As Rep. Tom Rooney (R-Fla.), a member of the whip team, noted in a Thursday interview, Trump is “extremely popular” in deeply conservative districts. So if Trump wants a “clean” debt ceiling increase, he’ll have to be vocal about it and “do the whipping” to get conservatives on board.

Republicans also need Trump engaged and on their side to lock down GOP priorities in a spending deal they’re expected to strike with Democrats this fall. The government runs out of money on Sept. 30. And while leaders are eyeing a short-term patch to buy them more time, many expect an ugly, partisan shutdown fight this winter over Trump’s proposed border wall with Mexico.

“We’re going to need him for a lot of things,” said Rooney, who’s still holding out for corresponding cuts for a debt ceiling increase. “We’re going to need him for tax reform, too. He needs to whip these votes, not just to members of Congress but to their constituents.”

But some Hill Republicans worry Trump will continue to be distracted by the controversy of the day.

“Trump is just making September that much more toxic,” said another GOP aide who requested anonymity to speak frankly. “How are we as Republicans supposed to maneuver through some major cliffs if he just sets the whole place on fire?”

During a Thursday morning tweetstorm, GOP Sen. Lindsey Graham noted that Trump’s Charlottesville response was winning praise from racists and begged him to “for the sake of our nation — as our president — please fix this.”

Trump responded by attacking Graham as “publicity seeking” — and rubbing in the South Carolinian’s face his defeat in the 2016 GOP primary. “He just can’t forget his election trouncing,” Trump wrote on Twitter.

That was minutes before Trump shot arrows at Sen. Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.), who in recent weeks has urged Republicans to stand up to Trump. “Great to see that Dr. Kelli Ward is running against Flake Jeff Flake, who is WEAK on borders, crime and a non-factor in Senate. He’s toxic!” Trump tweeted.

It was just the latest in a growing list of Trump attacks on Senate Republicans that have also drawn scorn from Hill GOP insiders. Between the jabs at them on Twitter and anger at the president’s reaction to Charlottesville, Republicans see an increasingly soured relationship between Congress and the president — one that could hurt tax reform and other GOP priorities.

Some Republicans felt the Obamacare repeal effort might have actually passed had Trump been more engaged in selling it and less obsessed with White House infighting that’s consumed all of Washington. As with health care, Republicans can afford to lose only a few votes and still pass a GOP tax bill.

But without allies on the Hill, lawmakers may balk when Trump implores them to take tough votes for his agenda.

“The reality is that every time he attacks a Republican, he invites another member in good standing and another segment of the Republican Party to abandon him,” Josh Holmes, McConnell’s former chief of staff, told POLITICO Playbook on Thursday. “When you’re eight months in and Republicans are all you have left, chipping away at the remaining few is a helluva strategy.”

Andy Roth, vice president for government affairs at the Club for Growth, said Trump needs to be laser-focused on tax reform if he hopes to get a bill passed this fall. Tax reform, Roth said “is hard enough as it is.” And “in order to successfully pass tax reform, you need a large amount of unity and focus.”

Right now, Roth said, “there is a big concern” that unity just isn’t there — and that Trump is not doing enough.

“For tax reform to pass, we need the president to be talking about it every day and twice on Sunday,” he added. “He needs to go out across the country and push for it and fight for it and talk about it all the time. It’s the single most-important thing between now and the end of the year.”

Boston braces for far-right demonstrators and large counter-protest

A week after violent protests rocked Charlottesville, Va., Boston police are implementing a tight security plan on Saturday as a “free speech” rally with right-wing speakers is expected to converge with a large counter-protest on the city’s historic Common.

“If anything gets out of hand, we will shut it down,” Boston Mayor Marty Walsh said at a news conference Friday. “We’re going to respect their right to free speech. In return, they must respect our city.”

The deployment of 500 police officers, extra security cameras and barriers separating the opposing rallies are among the steps the city is taking to avoid a repeat of last weekend’s violence in Charlottesville.

The city also banned participants from carrying weapons, sticks or flagpoles.
“There will be zero tolerance for any violence,” Police Chief William Evans said at Friday’s briefing with the mayor.

Walsh urged people to stay away from the Boston Common, the nation’s oldest park, where a group called “Boston Free Speech” will be holding its rally at noon Saturday.

Among those expected to speak are Kyle Chapman, a San Francisco Bay Area resident who has developed an online following using the moniker “Based Stickman.” Chapman, who carries a stick and shield during protests and wears a motorcycle helmet, was arrested after he clashed with protesters in Berkeley earlier this year.

Coinciding with the Boston rally is a counter-protest, called “Fight White Supremacy,” in which participants will march from Roxbury, a historically black neighborhood in Boston, to the Common.

In a preview to Saturday’s events, a candlelight vigil was held Friday evening in Boston at the New England Holocaust Memorial. Participants lighted candles decorated with photographs of 32-year-old Heather Heyer, who was killed in Charlottesville. A driver, whom police identified as a man with neo-Nazi sympathies, drove a car through a crowd of activists, striking Heyer and leaving 19 others hospitalized.

Demonstrations to show solidarity with the city of Charlottesville are planned for Saturday in cities across the country, including New Orleans and Dallas. Authorities in both cities said they will deploy extra officers to maintain security.

In a statement, the Dallas Police Department said officers experienced in crowd control will be assigned to a rally billed as “Dallas Against White Supremacy.” The department also will monitor social media and be prepared for counter-protests.

“We will also activate the City’s Emergency Operations Center on Saturday to monitor the event and coordinate with other local and state agencies for resources and support,” interim Police Chief David Pughes said in a statement.

In Charlottesville, last Saturday, violent clashes broke out between far-right rally-goers and counter-protesters. The night before, marchers descended on the University of Virginia, carrying torches and angrily chanting “Blood and soil!” — a Nazi slogan — and “Jews will not replace us!”

Johnny Cash’s family slams neo-Nazi who wore fan shirt: ‘We were sickened’

Johnny Cash

(JTA) — Johnny Cash’s children took to social media to denounce a neo-Nazi who wore a T-shirt with the singer’s name on it during the Charlottesville far-right rally last weekend.

In a Facebook post Wednesday, Rosanne, Kathy, Cindy, Tara and John Carter Cash pointed out that their late father had received humanitarian awards from, among others organizations, the Jewish National Fund and B’nai B’rith International.

“We were alerted to a video of a young man in Charlottesville, a self-proclaimed neo-Nazi, spewing hatred and bile. He was wearing a t-shirt emblazoned with the name of Johnny Cash, our father. We were sickened by the association,” the Cashes wrote.

As Pitchfork pointed out, a man in this Fox News video, who appears around 0:50, could be the one the Cashes are talking about.

“[Cash] championed the rights of Native Americans, protested the war in Vietnam, was a voice for the poor, the struggling and the disenfranchised, and an advocate for the rights of prisoners,” the statement continued. “He would be horrified at even a casual use of his name or image for an idea or a cause founded in persecution and hatred. The white supremacists and neo-Nazis who marched in Charlottesville are poison in our society, and an insult to every American hero who wore a uniform to fight the Nazis in WWII. Several men in the extended Cash family were among those who served with honor.”

There was no walking the line in this takedown.