Archive

April 2nd, 2016

Donald Trump was (sort of) right; Pen bombs are indeed possible

    Donald Trump did not at any point actually think that he was in physical danger when Breitbart reporter Michelle Fields approached him after a victory speech in Florida earlier this month. Fields, carrying a phone in one hand to record Trump and a pen in the other to write down how he answered her questions, looked like any of the other scores of reporters that have surrounded Trump over the last nine months -- a presence that he has obviously enjoyed.

    But after Trump's campaign manager Corey Lewandowski was charged with battery for grabbing Fields's arm and dragging her out of the way, Trump was forced to migrate from his untrue original position -- that it didn't happen -- to a new one: Lewandowski was trying to protect me.

    CNN's Anderson Cooper asked him about it during a town hall on Tuesday night.

    "She went through the Secret Service," Trump said. "She had a pen in her hand, which Secret Service is not liking because they don't know what it is, whether it's a little bomb or..."

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Curing cancer is within reach

    One of the most frightening words a patient can hear from a doctor is "cancer." We know it from the experience of our families and friends, and the millions of Americans who hear it directly from their doctors each year.

    In President Barack Obama's final State of the Union address, he compared the effort required to eradicate cancer to a "moonshot," summoning the American ingenuity and scientific pursuits that sent humankind to the moon. We believe that it's time for a full and complete national commitment to rid the world of this disease, because the truth is that ending cancer as we know it is finally within our grasp.

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Can the Supreme Court demand compromise? It just did

    It's happening: The Supreme Court is getting desperate. With a 4-4 tie looming over whether religious organizations have to file a form with the government requesting an exemption from the mandatory contraceptive care provisions of the Affordable Care Act, the justices took an extreme step. They issued an order that basically told the federal government and the religious entities to reach a compromise -- and described what the compromise would look like.

    Federal district court judges will sometimes tell the parties that they'd better compromise, or else they might not like the results that will follow. The Supreme Court essentially never does, both because it lacks leverage and because it gets involved in cases with the intention to make new law, not to resolve particular disputes.

    But we're in new territory here. The Supreme Court is trying to figure out how to do its job with eight justices -- a situation that might persist not just through this Supreme Court term, but through the next one as well.

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A tax on Yale's endowment? Good luck

    "It is, Sir, as I have said, a small college. And yet there are those who love it!" These words, spoken by Daniel Webster, are among the most famous ever uttered before the Supreme Court. And they may be spoken again if Connecticut passes proposed legislation that would tax Yale University's $25.6 billion endowment.

    Yale isn't especially small, nor is it vulnerable as Dartmouth was in 1818 when Webster spoke of his alma mater. But the Connecticut bill almost certainly violates the holding in the 1819 case of Dartmouth College v. Woodward, which established that the Constitution bars states from changing a university's charter.

    Begin with the Connecticut bill, which points to the difficult question of whether it's fair for some universities to be so much richer than others. I benefited in my education from the tremendous resources of well-off institutions like Harvard and Yale, and I'm writing this in my office at Harvard Law School. I'm hardly objective.

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When the Necessary Is Impossible

    Being back in Iraq after two years’ absence has helped me to put my finger on the central question bedeviling U.S. foreign policy in the Middle East today: What do you do when the necessary is impossible, but the impossible is impossible to ignore — and your key allies are also impossible?

    Crushing the Islamic State, or ISIS, is necessary for stabilizing Iraq and Syria, but it is impossible as long as Shiites and Sunnis there refuse to truly share power, and yet ignoring the ISIS cancer and its ability to metastasize is impossible as well. See: Belgium.

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What Susan Sarandon said about Trump was out of this world

    MSNBC's Chris Hayes interviewed actress Susan Sarandon on Monday and right now I. Can't. Even.

    The surrogate for Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vermont, told Hayes, "I don't know. I'm going to see what happens" when he asked whether she would vote for Hillary Clinton over Donald Trump. Not committing to voting for Clinton wasn't terribly shocking. Sarandon had spent a considerable amount of time knocking the former secretary of state's record. But what she said about Trump was out of this world.

    HAYES: Right, but isn't the question always in an election about choices, right. I mean, I think a lot of people think to themselves well if it's Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton, and I think Bernie Sanders probably would think this…

    SARANDON: I think Bernie probably would encourage people because he doesn't have any ego. I think a lot of people are sorry, I can't bring myself to do that.

    HAYES: How about you personally?

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The rage of Trump fans isn't new; I've dealt with it for years

    During the past six months, I've watched media outlets work themselves into a tizzy over the violence and hatred orchestrated by Donald Trump supporters. Commentators act like this is a relatively new phenomenon. But I know firsthand how any challenge to the nation's established racial order makes some white folks lose their minds and their decorum.

    For more than a decade, I wrote a column in the Chicago Tribune that often focused on race. Before Trump gave his supporters license to give in to their lesser selves and convey their hatred in mixed company, they did so in my email box. They are part of a disaffected angry knot of Americans who feel as though they've been bruised by diversity.

    My experience isn't unique. Any writer who has dared train a lens on race, women's issues, social justice issues, immigration, abortion, sexuality, you name it, has faced some of the most vile backlash around.

    Once, my neighbor, a dear friend who happens to be a white Republican woman, said to me, "I don't know how you read the comments at the end of your column."

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The media did not create the Trump phenomenon

    One of the more absurd things being said about the Donald Trump phenomenon is that the media created it. For the record, we didn't.

    First of all, there is no "we." The news media operate in what should be every conservative ideologue's dream environment: an unfettered free market. Outlets compete every day -- actually, in the Internet age, every hour -- to provide consumers with information they need and want. Every editor and news director strives to beat the competition, and the fact is that audiences have decided they need and want to know about Trump.

    No one understands this better than Trump himself. To understate by miles, he knows how to draw attention to himself -- the late-night Twitter rants, the fire-breathing rallies, the gold-plated jet, the ridiculous hair. After decades in the public eye, he had more than 90 percent name recognition when he began his campaign. So it was no surprise that hordes of media flocked to Trump Tower last June 16 and watched him descend the shiny escalator for his kickoff announcement. Who doesn't love a good sideshow?

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April 1st

When you can't find the fine print (or read it)

    When was the last time you actually read the terms of service before clicking "I agree" on a website? Unless your answer is "never," I don't believe you -- and I don't think it's your fault, either. But the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 7th Circuit has a subtler view than mine. On March 25, it held that you're not bound by a contract if it wasn't made clear that you were supposed to read it. But if it is made clear, the contract binds you, whether you read it or not.

    The facts of the case were pretty outrageous, as these things go. Gary Sgouros signed up online to get his credit score with TransUnion Corp. When he went to a car dealership armed with his good credit score, they laughed him off. His actual score was 100 points lower than TransUnion had claimed.

    Sgouros sued, claiming to represent a class of similarly misled clients. TransUnion said that he couldn't sue because he'd agreed to submit any disagreement to binding arbitration as part of the terms of service on its site.

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The clean-energy deadline is sooner than we think

    Everyone knows that at some point, if we want to contain climate change, we'll have to stop building polluting power plants. New research suggests that moment may come much sooner than we realize.

    In some areas, the world is making progress toward reducing harmful emissions. Earlier this year, the Business Council for Sustainable Energy reported that the use of coal-fired plants for electricity generation in the U.S. fell to the lowest level in 60 years. Some of the biggest U.S. coal mining outfits have filed for bankruptcy. Electricity from coal looks set to become increasingly rare in China as well. That's good news for anyone hoping that humanity might still manage to reduce carbon emissions enough to avoid warming the Earth's climate past the two degrees Celsius that scientists see as dangerous.

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