A cascade of seminal events in eight short days has underscored the country’s steady drift away from strains of ideological conservatism and complicated Republicans’ path to winning back the White House in 2016.
From twin Supreme Court rulings upholding President Barack Obama’s wide-reaching health care law and ratifying the right of gays to marry nationwide to the backlash against the Confederate flag and the pope’s June 18 encyclical on climate change, the right has taken a political beating.
“You could feel America turn a little bit on its axis,” said Washington Post columnist David Ignatius on Sunday, appearing on “Face the Nation” to assess the aftermath. “It’ll be a different country for these decisions.”
This may be remembered as a crushing two-week span for conservatism. w
But as Republican leaders wrestle with the fallout, there’s little evidence the GOP’s presidential candidates, or their supporters, are ready to move on. Instead, on many fronts, they’re showing outright, line-in-the-sand defiance.
The decision to fight, not switch, has left some in the party on edge as they ponder the consequences of prolonged fights on issues much of the country apparently considers settled.
While the nation remains largely divided on the concept of Obamacare, less than a third want the law repealed, according to a CBS/New York Times poll.
Yet every Republican presidential candidate vows to scrap the Affordable Care Act if they reach the White House, even if they don’t have a clearly-defined, viable alternative. Some are even going further with their rhetoric, elevating Obamacare to a national crisis.
Mike Huckabee, the former Arkansas governor, dubbed the decision “judicial tyranny.”
Until recently, buying a 3-D printer required a difficult choice: Get a heated-chamber system like the popular MakerBot, which prints durable, colorful pieces marred by ridges and pockmarks. Or go with a stereolithography printer, which produces seamless parts that fracture at the slightest application of force. Now Formlabs offers a third choice with Tough Resin, which creates smooth cyan chains strong enough to hoist cinder blocks.
Formlabs’ recently released its second-gen printer, the Form 1+, a $3,300 aluminum-and-plastic pillar that prints hi-res models using photosensitive resins and laser beams. It might look like a clone of the $2,550 Form 1, which raised nearly $3 million on Kickstarter a few years ago, but the resin it uses is a primordial ooze from which almost anything can emerge. That’s a big deal in the low-cost 3-D-printing market.
The SLA technology Formlabs uses binds each layer chemically. “The key ingredient in the resin is a molecule that starts out as long semi-flexible chain of atoms,” says company research scientist Alex McCarthy. “When we cure the resin during the printing process, these chains link up to form a solid network that is hard and rigid under normal conditions.” When a blunt object strikes a part made from the tough resin, the energy is absorbed and the part doesn’t shatter.
The results are impressive, according to technical data provided by Formlabs: The resin has a higher yield strength than traditional ABS formulations. This is rare, but not unprecedented. Raney found some machines that could match or surpass the performance characteristics of the Tough Resin, but they cost well over $50,000.
Lina Moses sensed the ghost of Ebola as soon as her Land Cruiser entered the gate at Kenema Government Hospital. More than a hundred people had died in the treatment center here, an epicenter of the epidemic in Sierra Leone. A doctor who had treated them was buried on a hill overlooking the compound. When Ebola erupted in Kenema in May 2014, Moses was working here as an epidemiologist. She had never seen an Ebola patient. She could have fled home to New Orleans. Instead she stayed, fighting the outbreak and watching patients and friends die one by one.
Eventually Moses returned to the US. But now, two months later, she and one of the people she’d worked with, a physician named John Schieffelin, were back. Moses’ driver eased the Land Cruiser up to her old lab, a single-story building tucked in the corner of the hospital compound. Workers appeared and started to help unload supplies. Moses, meanwhile, stepped out into the searing midday heat and stretched her legs. She saw six people sitting on the concrete steps of an office across from her lab. Some had been nurses and researchers at Kenema; a couple were part of a newly formed survivors’ union. That’s how they’d heard about Moses’ mission.
All six had been infected with Ebola and survived. Hypothetically, that made them immune to the disease. That’s why Moses had returned—to harness that immunity to try to ensure Ebola never killed anyone again.
After getting set up, Moses beckoned the survivors into the lab. A technician slid needles into their veins. The survivors’ blood flowed dark red into purple-topped tubes. Moses watched in silence. Once that fluid had been a mortal danger; now it was a valuable commodity.
When the blood collection was over, Schieffelin passed a survivor outside who didn’t recognize his doctor. Schieffelin covered most of his face with his hand, imitating the mask he’d worn in the wards. “Do you remember me now?” he asked, smiling behind his palm.
Later, Moses’ boss, a virologist named Robert Garry, separated the cells they needed from the blood, washed them, and added a pink buffering liquid to each tube. Garry printed the date—January 12—and an ID number on each tube, then put the tubes into a Mr. Frosty-brand insulated container. Mr. Frosty, in turn, went into a portable freezer. Tucked safely inside, the samples chilled over the next four hours; it was crucial that they cooled slowly, so ice crystals wouldn’t destroy the cells.
Finally, at 11 that night, Moses and Garry donned purple disposable gloves, popped open the lid on Mr. Frosty, and loaded the little labeled tubes into metal cases cooled with liquid nitrogen. She handled each tube for no more than a few seconds. Even the tiny bit of heat from her fingers could warm the cells inside enough to kill them and destroy the knowledge they contained. She shut the case, ready for a journey to the United States.
On Monday, the Supreme Court ruled against one of the Obama administration’s primary battle victories in the so-called war on coal. The court decided that the government hadn’t appropriately considered the economic cost to the coal industry of new rules designed to limit toxic mercury emissions. But buck up, environmentalists. The defeat for the Environmental Protection Agency probably won’t make much of a difference.
At the heart of the court’s decision was a dispute about the benefits of cracking down on mercury pollution from coal burning. From USA Today:
While the estimated annual cost of $9.6 billion is not widely disputed, the cost-benefit ratio is. Opponents said the benefits are as low as $4 million a year. Proponents said when all secondary pollutants are considered, they’re as high as $90 billion.
Under the Clean Air Act, regulations like this must be “appropriate and necessary.” The Supreme Court took the side of the opponents and ruled that the rules did not fit that mandate. “One would not say that it is even rational, never mind ‘appropriate,’ to impose billions of dollars in economic costs in return for a few dollars in health or environmental benefits,” wrote Justice Antonin Scalia, in the majority opinion. “No regulation is ‘appropriate’ if it does significantly more harm than good.”
The ruling has been widely interpreted as a setback for Obama’s second-term focus on the environment, but a close reading of the ruling shows that not a whole lot will actually change. My Slate colleague Mark Stern has the main takeaway:
Amassing Power at Ballot Box and on the Battlefield
Recently, Kurds on each side of the Turkey-Syria border have made significant advances in their quest for autonomy. In Turkey, those gains were won at the ballot box, while in Syria they were won on the battlefield. After garnering global sympathy and the support of U.S. airpower with their defense of Kobani against a formidable siege by the Islamic State (also called ISIS), Syria’s Kurds went on to capture the strategic town of Tel Abyad from ISIS on June 15. And as a result of Turkey’s elections a week earlier, the Kurdish-led People’s Democratic Party (HDP) has entered parliament, irrevocably altering Turkey’s political landscape. Indeed, seating the first Kurdish-oriented party in parliament constitutes a milestone for civil rights in Turkey. But in the context of events on both sides of the border, the true winner is Turkey’s outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), a party and militant group that initiated the HDP’s creation and whose Syrian affiliate, the Democratic Union Party (PYD),is responsiblefor the recent victories against ISIS.
The HDP’s entrance into Turkey’s parliament and the PYD’s control of Syrian territory mark a new chapter in the PKK’s decadelong attempt to create a pan-Kurdish confederation that would bring together the Middle East’s 30 million Kurds.
The PKK leadership has already outlined a path for Kurdish autonomy that obviates the need for independence. The HDP, with whom the PKK shares its grassroots support, has made sufficient gains in Ankara to begin making the PKK’s vision for a pan-Kurdish confederation a reality. In March 2005, PKK leader Abdullah Ocalan issued the Declaration of a Democratic Confederalism, which created a road map for establishing a confederation out of four autonomous Kurdish regions, each tied to its country of origin—Iraq, Iran, Syria, or Turkey—through federal relationships. Political advances like the HDP’s victory and military victories like the PYD’s advances in Syria are helping Ocalan’s plan become a reality. In other words, the PKK’s future has never looked brighter.
Kindalay Cummings-Akers has been working as a personal care attendant, caring for the elderly and disabled in their homes, for nearly a decade. But she will soon be making $15 an hour for the first time ever after she and her union, 1199SEIU, reached an agreement with Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker (R) at the end of last week.
“I’m so excited, I am,” she told ThinkProgress with joy filling her voice. “I’m happy that we have opened the door. It’s a big thing.”
Home care workers have long been poorly paid, thanks in part to the fact that they are excluded from federal minimum wage and overtime requirements. They make just $9.61 on average, while a quarter live in poverty and three in five rely on public benefits.
Cummings-Akers’s wages and those of her fellow attendants had stayed stuck at $10.84 an hour for years before a contract last year brought them up to $13.38. But after she and other home care workers joined up with the Fight for $15 movement, those in her union have become the first home care workers in the country to win such a wage level.
Despite the low pay, home care aides do tough work. For her client and his wife, who has dementia, Cummings-Akers gives them showers, lifts them and their wheelchairs, gives them medication, makes them meals, takes them to doctor’s appointments and talks with the doctors, does the grocery shopping, cleans their clothes, and even helps care for their cat. “It’s a lot of work, it truly is a lot of work,” she said. “When you do work like this, you have to be a very strong person.”
US TV network NBC is cutting ties with Donald Trump over “recent derogatory statements” that the veteran businessman made about immigrants.
NBC said the company would now not be airing the Miss USA and Miss Universe pageants that are co-owned by Mr Trump.
Responding to the announcement, Mr Trump said he would consider suing NBC.
Earlier this month, he accused Mexicans of adding drugs and crime to the US as he announced he was seeking the Republican presidential nomination.
“They’re bringing drugs, they’re bringing crime, they’re rapists, and some I assume are good people, but I speak to border guards, and they tell us what we are getting,” he said in his speech on 16 June.
He also pledged to build a “great wall” on the US border with Mexico and insisted it would be paid for by Mexicans.
He later insisted he was criticising US lawmakers, not Mexican people.
NBC had faced pressure from Hispanic advocacy groups to drop Mr Trump’s shows and a petition on the Change.org website gathered more than 200,000 signatures.
On Monday, the network issued a statement saying: “At NBC, respect and dignity for all people are cornerstones of our values.”
Celebrity Apprentice would continue to be aired, it added, as it is licensed from a separate group. Mr Trump stopped hosting the show when he entered the presidential contest.
‘NBC is weak”
He issued a statement shortly after NBC’s announcement, saying he stood by his statements on illegal immigrations, “which are accurate”.
“NBC is weak, and like everybody else is trying to be politically correct – that is why our country is in serious trouble,” he said.
He claimed the network had violated its contract and said the move would be “determined in court”.
NBC is the second network to drop the divisive politician after Univision, one of the largest US Spanish-language broadcasters, also ended its coverage of Miss USA.
After being dropped by Univision last week, Mr Trump accused the Mexican government of pressuring the network, saying: “They want to silence Donald Trump. And Donald Trump can’t be silenced.”
Even if his commercial prospects are taking a battering, Mr Trump’s political fortunes seem to be improving.
Polls suggest he is running second to former Florida Governor Jeb Bush in the crowded field of Republican hopefuls.
Ted Cruz’s campaign against his Republican colleagues — especially Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell — is getting increasingly personal.
The freshman senator from Texas has never shied from attacking the men and women whom he works alongside each day. But Cruz, lodged in the middle of the 2016 GOP presidential pack, is taking his criticism of fellow Republican senators to a new level — rhetorically and in his new book out Tuesday, “A Time for Truth.”
Cruz accuses McConnell and GOP leadership of maneuvering to dry up his fundraising and plant hit pieces in the press aimed at hurting him politically. He says GOP leaders cowered from joining him in big fights over the debt ceiling, Obamacare and gun control, accusing his colleagues of “mendacity” and capitulating to Democrats to avoid bad headlines.
He contends that McConnell misled him in vowing to stay out of primaries when Cruz accepted a senior-level position at the National Republican Senatorial Committee. And he accuses a GOP rival, Rand Paul of Kentucky, of parroting McConnell’s talking points by seeking to “undermine” his efforts to defund Obamacare during the 2013 fight that led to the government shutdown.
“During my time in the Senate, I’ve been amazed how many senators pose one way in public — as fiscal conservatives or staunch tea party supporters — and then in private do little or nothing to advance those principles,” Cruz writes in his 342-page book.
Disparaging Washington, of course, is one of the more timeworn campaign tactics of presidential hopefuls. What’s less typical is the personal, pointed way Cruz is doing it as his campaign ramps up. He’s leaning heavily into his brand of unapologetic and confrontational conservatism, arguing that GOP leadership’s compromises with Democrats are nothing more than “surrender.”
Yet presenting himself as a polarizing figure at war with the party establishment is a risky way to try to become the Republican presidential nominee. Plus, Republicans are beginning to undercut several of Cruz’s assertions, including over his role at the NRSC, which received a giant donation from the senator’s campaign committee last fall, despite his sharp criticism of the group in his book.
Cruz’s book is in keeping with his stepped-up effort in recent days to portray himself as the one GOP candidate who’s taken on party leadership. On the Senate floor last week, he accused unnamed Republicans of “quietly celebrating” the Supreme Court’s decision to uphold Obamacare subsidies. After vocally endorsing trade legislation backed by party leaders, Cruz flipped on the issue, bemoaning in an op-ed “corrupt” Washington deal making on the matter and singling out McConnell and House Speaker John Boehner for misleading conservatives.
And in the opening chapter of his book, Cruz calls out McConnell and his GOP colleagues for “chicanery” by publicly opposing an increase in the borrowing limit while privately trying to let the debt ceiling increase in 2014 without their fingerprints. When he told a California GOP donor in 2014 about the debt ceiling dispute, Cruz recalls the donor saying repeatedly: “The bastards.”
“In the 2016 primary, you’re going to have 15 candidates up there going, ‘I’m conservative. No, no, I’m conservative.’ And what we see is they go to Washington and they don’t do what they said they would do,” Cruz told NPR Monday in an interview about his book. “I think the question Republican primary voters should ask is, ‘When have you stood up against the Washington cartel? When have you stood up against leaders in our own party?’”