Huawei announces it will sue the U.S. government

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Huawei is taking its fight against the U.S. to the courts.

The Chinese tech giant announced on Thursday it would be filing a lawsuit against the U.S. government, which has accused Huawei of being a spy threat and placed restrictions on its products.

Huawei rotating chairman Guo Ping said the company wants to challenge the constitutionality of the National Defense Authorization Act, which saw Huawei’s products banned in the U.S., and also to seek an injunction against those restrictions.

Guo said the U.S. government has failed to provide evidence on it being a security threat, and has convinced other countries to not use its products. Read more…

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India’s high court tells government to evict a million people — for the good of the country’s wildlife

The ruling was a startling conclusion to a decade-long case that has pitted the rights of some of India’s most vulnerable citizens — mostly members of indigenous tribes — against the preservation of its forests.
World

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Congress negotiators working hard to avert yet another government shutdown

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http://www.acrx.org -As millions of Americans strive to deal with the economic downturn,loss of jobs,foreclosures,high cost of gas,and the rising cost of prescription drug cost. Charles Myrick ,the President of American Consultants Rx, announced the re-release of the American Consultants Rx community service project which consist of millions of free discount prescription cards being donated to thousands of not for profits,hospitals,schools,churches,etc. in an effort to assist the uninsured,under insured,and seniors deal with the high cost of prescription drugs.-American Consultants Rx -Pharmacy Discount Network News

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Ban government shutdowns? Some Republicans and Democrats want to make it the law

Lawmakers have introduced several proposals that would stop another shutdown if government funding lapses.
ABC News: Top Stories

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http://www.acrx.org -As millions of Americans strive to deal with the economic downturn,loss of jobs,foreclosures,high cost of gas,and the rising cost of prescription drug cost. Charles Myrick ,the President of American Consultants Rx, announced the re-release of the American Consultants Rx community service project which consist of millions of free discount prescription cards being donated to thousands of not for profits,hospitals,schools,churches,etc. in an effort to assist the uninsured,under insured,and seniors deal with the high cost of prescription drugs.-American Consultants Rx -Pharmacy Discount Network News

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The shutdown cost the economy $11 billion – including a permanent $3 billion loss, government says

Overall, the CBO projected economic growth will slow this year to 2.3 percent, compared with the 3.1 percent rate last year, as the benefits of the new tax law begin to fade.
Economy

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Senate To Vote On Competing Bills To End Government Shutdown

With the partial government shutdown entering its second month, the Senate is scheduled to vote Thursday on competing proposals to re-open the government. Neither bill is expected to receive the 60 needed votes to advance, however, as both sides remain dug in over the issue of a border wall.
RTT – Political News

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Investors anticipate possible stock rally post government shutdown

Investors are about find out if the recent, long-awaited stock rally is more wheat than chaff. Stocks will likely see a boost by the end of the federal government shutdown and easing tensions in the China-US trade row, but a greater test will be earnings drops from the nation’s favorite tech darlings. Amazon, Microsoft and…
Business | New York Post

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Worries remain for U.S. government contractors as shutdown ends

Minutes after President Donald Trump announced an end to the longest U.S. government shutdown in history on Friday, Yvette Hicks’ phone started ringing.


Reuters: Politics

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http://www.acrx.org -As millions of Americans strive to deal with the economic downturn,loss of jobs,foreclosures,high cost of gas,and the rising cost of prescription drug cost. Charles Myrick ,the President of American Consultants Rx, announced the re-release of the American Consultants Rx community service project which consist of millions of free discount prescription cards being donated to thousands of not for profits,hospitals,schools,churches,etc. in an effort to assist the uninsured,under insured,and seniors deal with the high cost of prescription drugs.-American Consultants Rx -Pharmacy Discount Network News

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CEOs step up help for government workers, raise pressure on Washington to end impasse

Companies are stepping up their relief efforts for the 800,000 federal workers who have just marked a second missed paycheck as Washington's shutdown stalemate drags on.
Economy

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Trump signs bill to open the government, ending the longest shutdown in history

The pact, a victory for Democrats, will reopen shuttered government departments for three weeks while leaving the issue of $ 5.7 billion for a U.S.-Mexico border wall to further talks.
Politics

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http://www.acrx.org -As millions of Americans strive to deal with the economic downturn,loss of jobs,foreclosures,high cost of gas,and the rising cost of prescription drug cost. Charles Myrick ,the President of American Consultants Rx, announced the re-release of the American Consultants Rx community service project which consist of millions of free discount prescription cards being donated to thousands of not for profits,hospitals,schools,churches,etc. in an effort to assist the uninsured,under insured,and seniors deal with the high cost of prescription drugs.-American Consultants Rx -Pharmacy Discount Network News

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House and Senate pass bill to reopen government, sending it to Trump for his signature

The Senate approved a measure Friday to temporarily reopen the federal government with a short-term spending bill that does not include President Donald Trump’s requested $ 5.7 billion for a border wall


CNN.com – RSS Channel – Politics

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http://www.acrx.org -As millions of Americans strive to deal with the economic downturn,loss of jobs,foreclosures,high cost of gas,and the rising cost of prescription drug cost. Charles Myrick ,the President of American Consultants Rx, announced the re-release of the American Consultants Rx community service project which consist of millions of free discount prescription cards being donated to thousands of not for profits,hospitals,schools,churches,etc. in an effort to assist the uninsured,under insured,and seniors deal with the high cost of prescription drugs.-American Consultants Rx -Pharmacy Discount Network News

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Tapper: Trump shut down government for no reason

CNN

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BEST DEAL UPDATE BY AMERICAN CONSULTANTS RX:

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For veterans working in US federal prisons, PTSD and government shutdown could be deadly

Stressed by the government shutdown, veterans who work in US prisons struggle to keep their PTSD in check and feel abandoned by the country they served.


CNN.com – RSS Channel – Health

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8 Side Gigs for Federal Workers Affected by the Government Shutdown

There’s no need to state the obvious here, especially if you’re a government employee.

The government has been shut down for more than a month, and many federal workers have now missed their second paycheck. Thousands have applied for unemployment, according to The New York Times and, while idle, many seek side gigs.

During this time, it’s difficult to know what to do. If you’re working without pay, you have little time to look for income elsewhere. If you’re furloughed, who’s going to hire you knowing you could leave to take your government job back at any time? But you need the income.

Although a side gig — or even two or three — won’t necessarily replace your lost or delayed income, it can help offset some of these challenges. It’s temporary work that pays relatively quickly.

Here are a few ideas to get you started.

1. Take on Freelance Assignments

You’ve got skills, so flaunt them.

Upwork is a great platform if you’re just wading into the freelance world.

Once you create a profile, search through thousands of gigs based on your skills and interests. If you find one you’re interested in, apply.

One of the perks of Upwork is that it handles all financial transactions, eliminating any unease or questions of, “Will they really pay me?!” Upwork takes a 20% fee for the first $ 500 you bill with each client.

Fiverr is another freelance platform you can check out if you don’t have luck on Upwork.

2. Share Your Spare Room (or Couch) With Travelers

If you have a spare room, you might as well try to earn some money by listing it on Airbnb.

If you’re a good host with a desirable space, you could earn enough money to offset the cost of rent or mortgage payments.

And, hey, even if you don’t have a spare room, you can get in on the Airbnb action. Folks across the country are getting creative.

A few simple steps can make the difference between a great experience and a less-than-satisfactory one. We talked to Terence Michael, an Airbnb superhost based in Los Angeles.

Here are some of his tips:

  • Break out the labelmaker. “I have the entire house loaded with labels,” says Michael. “They look nice; they’re modern. This helps people feel less helpless.”
  • Be a good host, and stock your place with the toiletries you’d expect at a hotel — toilet paper, soap and towels. Here’s a little hack from Michael: “I order on Amazon and have it delivered when people are there.”
  • Be kind to your neighbors. “I say, ‘I’m not going to put anyone here who I think won’t be good for you,’” Michael explains. “And I turn a lot of big groups away, especially in Nashville. I don’t want anyone going to the cops or the city.”

(Hosting laws vary from city to city. Please understand the rules and regulations applicable to your city and listing.)

3. Drive People Around Town

Instead of watching your car sit idly in the driveway, use it to make some extra money. No, it’s not going to replace your paycheck, but it is a fairly simple side gig.

Try driving with Lyft. To be eligible, you’ll need to be at least 21 years old with a year of driving experience, pass a background check and own a car made in 2007 or later.

Because it’s simple to switch between apps, many Lyft drivers also sign up as a driver partner with Uber.

As a partner driver with Uber, you’re an independent contractor. You set your own schedule and work as much or as little as you want.

If you want to give it a try, here are a few things to keep in mind: You must be at least 21 years old, have at least one year of licensed driving experience in the U.S. (three years if you’re under 23 years old), have a valid U.S. driver’s license and pass a background check.

Finally, your car must be a four-door, seat at least four passengers (excluding the driver), be registered in-state and be covered by in-state insurance.

4. Let off Some Steam, and Hang out With Dogs

If you’re totally stressed but love hanging out with dogs, Rover might be your perfect gig.

The online network connects dog walkers and sitters to local dog owners through its 4.9-star-rated app, so you don’t have to staple flyers on every utility pole across town.

Rover says sitters can earn as much as $ 1,000 a month.

Rover dog-sitter requirements vary by location. In general, you must:

  • Be 18 years or older.
  • Pass a background check.
  • Have access to the Rover app (iOS or Android).

Here’s how it works: You’ll create an online sitter profile where you’ll answer questions about your experience with puppers and your schedule availability.

You can choose to offer a variety of services, including dog walking, overnight boarding at your home or theirs, and daycare. Boarding is the app’s most popular service, so offering it can get you more gigs. You set your own rates. (Rover keeps a small percentage as a service fee.)

Dog owners will reach out to you. Accept which gigs you want, then start snugglin’ pups. As soon as you complete a service, you’ll be paid within two days.

5. Shop and Bag Groceries (No Need to Deliver)

Sure, there are a number of grocery delivery services out there (think: Shipt, PeaPod), but if you’re not into the idea of driving your car around town, there’s another option:

Instacart, a grocery-delivery service, is looking for part-time in-store shoppers who simply shop and bag orders.

To qualify, you must:

  • Be 18 or older.
  • Be eligible to work in the U.S.
  • Have access to an iPhone 5 or Android 4.4 (or newer).
  • Be able to lift 30 to 40 pounds.

You choose the hours you work (up to 29 hours a week) and get paid per order weekly. Rates will vary by location.

If you want to get real adventurous (or work more hours) you can also sign on as a full-service shopper, meaning you’ll deliver the groceries, too.

Once you sign up to become a shopper, Instacart will reach out about an orientation.

6. Help With Odd Jobs

If you’re handy, consider helping your neighbors out with odd jobs around the house.

Rather than going door to door, connect with people in your area who need help getting things done through TaskRabbit — anything from picking up dry cleaning to putting together Ikea furniture.

Keep an eye out for virtual tasks, which are mostly centered around personal assistance, administrative work or research help. You can do those and earn money without even walking out your door.

7. Find Nannying Gigs

Parents, oldest siblings and former camp counselors: This one’s for you.

Whether you want to look after school-aged kids on Saturday nights or help tired parents after school, you can find opportunities to use your childcare experience to earn cash.

Look within your circle of friends and acquaintances first, as parents are more likely to trust someone they know. Ask friends if they know anyone else who could use a few hours to themselves, whether it’s to grocery shop or simply to head to the gym.

You can also let parents find you through Care.com. Rates on the platform will vary by city, but the average rate for babysitters in 2017 was $ 16.20 an hour, according to Care.com’s 2018 Cost of Care Survey.

8. Sell Your Plasma

If you’re not afraid of needles, you could consider selling your plasma. It’s a way to get paid, and it also helps others in need.

The process takes about two hours, but it’s relatively simple. You’re free to read or watch TV while a machine draws your blood and separates the plasma.

It’s common for plasma donation centers to pay between $ 20 and $ 30 per visit, up to twice a week.

Interested? Search “plasma center + [your city]” for options, and ask your friends for referrals — many centers offer referral sign-up bonuses.

Carson Kohler (carson@thepennyhoarder.com) is a staff writer at The Penny Hoarder.

This was originally published on The Penny Hoarder, which helps millions of readers worldwide earn and save money by sharing unique job opportunities, personal stories, freebies and more. The Inc. 5000 ranked The Penny Hoarder as the fastest-growing private media company in the U.S. in 2017.

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Voters want to end the government shutdown — and more of them think Trump should compromise

As the White House and Congress fail to find a solution to end the government shutdown, surveys suggest Americans seek an end to the stalemate — and largely blame Trump for it.
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How To Survive The Government Shutdown

Where do we currently stand on the government shutdown? 

As of today, the federal government has been partially shutdown for 31 days and counting – the longest stretch in history. While most of us know about the shutdown, not everyone understands how it is playing out for workers, for millions of Americans who rely on federal programs, and for the economy. Today I want to talk about how we got here, what to expect in the days and perhaps weeks to come if the federal government remains shutdown, as well as some options for those affected.

First, let’s talk about the basics: why did it happen, how long could it last, and who has been affected?

 This shutdown started last month when Congress and the president failed to reach an agreement to appropriate money to operate several sectors of the federal government, including everything from the departments of Urban Development, Interior, State, Agriculture, Treasury, Commerce, and Homeland Security, to national parks and the Peace Corps. The sticking point is funding President Trump requested for a border wall. Here we are a month later, and the president has said this impasse could last months.

The lack of funding is affecting millions of Americans. Roughly 380,000 federal employees have been furloughed without pay, and 420,000 people are working without receiving paychecks because they provide “essential” services. Nearly 4 million government contractors are also furloughed, and are likely to go uncompensated for the time they did not work during the shutdown. On top of this, millions of people rely on numerous federal programs could be in for pain if an agreement is not reached, and the economy is starting to show signs of damage.

 What can workers who have been affected do?

For those workers, there are a few things I would suggest. If you have not already done so, reach out to your creditors and inquire about leniency or about programs they available for situations like this. Some lenders have options specifically for furloughed workers. If they do not offer that option, ask what if anything they can do for you in the short-term that will allow you to prioritize the most important costs such as food and housing.

YOU CAN CLICK HERE FOR INFO ON RESOURCES FOR FURLOUGHED WORKERS. 

You can also visit 211.org, a website that helps connect people to local social services, like help with prescriptions or other medical issues, and childcare.

If you are not getting a paycheck, consider no-interest or low-interest loans. Some credit unions and banks are offering them to those affected. Several lenders have been working to lessen the blow in other ways, by waiving fees or postponing payment deadlines. Credit card and mortgage late charges might also be dropped. Some banks are waiving some fees for government employees who have direct-deposit set up.

Finally, if you have been furloughed, you are likely to be eligible for unemployment benefits in your state, though it varies. It is certainly worth exploring. Just remember, employees who receive unemployment benefits and also later receive a retroactive payment from their employer for the same time period, will be required to repay the ui benefits received.

Beyond the labor force, how is the shutdown playing out?

Federal programs that millions of low-income Americans depend on are already being affected. Contracts for more than 1,000 government-funded properties that house low-income renters have already expired, and over 1000 more set to do so by February. The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) will also run out of funding at the end of next month. The National School Lunch Program (NSLC), a federally funded initiative that provides more than 30 million at-need youth with nutritious meals, could be at risk if the shutdown continues. Some districts are already cutting back on fresh fruits and vegetables.

Most Americans will feel the effects on air travel, as the nation’s airport security screening system battles high absenteeism as a result of TSA workers going unpaid. Some airports have started closing terminals due to staffing issues. The federal court system is running out of money. Vacationers are missing out as many national parks and museums have been shuttered.

Disaster relief is likely be hampered, as thousands of emergency responders are missing courses in firefighting and emergency response. There were concerns that 6 million Americans expecting tax refunds would not be receiving them during the shutdown. However, the IRS has said it has called over 40,000 employees back to work without pay and it will be processing tax returns, though we can expect delays.

When it comes to the economy, the ripple effects are also starting to show. The agriculture, real estate, and energy industries are all looking years of setbacks caused by pauses in federal loans, permits and other regulatory permissions. Investors are looking at delayed deal-making approval. Retailers that depend on consumers spending – particularly in states with concentrations of federal workers like Virginia and Maryland – are certain to suffer.

Even the analysis from the President’s Council of Economic Advisers suggests that the shutdown has already weighed significantly on growth and could ultimately push the United States economy into a contraction. So, while the workings of the federal government can seem far away to some, its import to remember how important they actually are.

What about the rest of us Americans who rely on the government for services?

We have never had a shutdown last this long, so we are in unknown territory. For those affected by the lack of funding for programs for low-income Americans, the consequences of a shutdown through February could be dire. It is hard to say if states will step in, or if leaders in DC will pass smaller bills to address some of these issues piecemeal. Right now, we just have to hope we do not reach that point.

Mellody Hobson is President of Ariel Investments, a Chicago-based money management firm that serves individual investors and retirement plans through its no-load mutual funds and separate accounts. Additionally, she is a regular financial contributor and analyst for CBS News.

 


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Coalition Pressures Amazon, Microsoft, and Google to Keep Facial Recognition Surveillance Away From Government

A coalition of more than 85 activist groups sent letters to Microsoft, Amazon, and Google pressuring them not to sell their facial surveillance technology to the government.

In its letters sent Jan. 15, the coalition–which comprises groups including the American Civil Liberties Union, National Lawyers Guild chapters, and Freedom of the Press Foundation–warned the companies that a decision to supply government with the technology “threatens the safety of community members and will also undermine public trust.” That’s because facial recognition software gives the government the power to target immigrants, religious minorities, and people of color, thereby exacerbating a historical bias, according to the coalition.

“Companies can’t continue to pretend that the ‘break-then-fix’ approach works,” Nicole Ozer, technology and civil liberties director for the ACLU of California, said in a statement. ” … We are at a crossroads with face surveillance, and the choices made by these companies now will determine whether the next generation will have to fear being tracked by the government for attending a protest, going to their place of worship, or simply living their lives.”

The letter adds pressure to technology companies, whose sentiment toward selling the new technologies range from cautious to eager.

Google, at least, appears to be treading lightly. In December, the company committed not to sell its facial recognition surveillance software until the technology’s potential dangers are addressed.

That came a couple of months after several Google employees quit in protest of the company’s $ 10 billion bid for a contract with the Pentagon over cloud data center services. Ultimately, Google withdrew its bid for the project, called the Joint Enterprise Defense Infrastructure cloud, citing uncertainty that the project aligned with its principles for the use of artificial intelligence. Google bans the use of its AI software in weapons and services that violate international norms for surveillance and human rights.

Similarly, Microsoft employees also pressured executives to pull its bid for the JEDI project. At the time, however, Microsoft said it had no intentions of dropping out.

In a December blog post, Brad Smith, president of Microsoft, acknowledged the risks associated with facial recognition surveillance technology and its obligation to address those concerns internally. He also pushed for government regulation in regards to the use of the technology.

And on the other end of the spectrum, Amazon continues to sell its facial recognition software to government agencies. Last year, CEO Jeff Bezos told CNN that society would eventually take care of any bad uses of the technology.

Earlier this month, the FBI reportedly began piloting Amazon software called Rekognition to help sift through surveillance footage collected during an investigation. Amazon also reportedly met with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement to discuss Rekognition.

The ACLU is particularly concerned about Amazon and its technology, as a test it conducted last year showed that Rekognition falsely matched 28 members of Congress with images in a database of people arrested by police, with members of color disproportionately being identified incorrectly.

Fortune

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Government shutdown hits breweries

Associated Press

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http://www.acrx.org -As millions of Americans strive to deal with the economic downturn,loss of jobs,foreclosures,high cost of gas,and the rising cost of prescription drug cost. Charles Myrick ,the President of American Consultants Rx, announced the re-release of the American Consultants Rx community service project which consist of millions of free discount prescription cards being donated to thousands of not for profits,hospitals,schools,churches,etc. in an effort to assist the uninsured,under insured,and seniors deal with the high cost of prescription drugs.-American Consultants Rx -Pharmacy Discount Network News

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California’s economy could suffer if the government shutdown drags into February

The partial federal government shutdown comes at a time when California's agriculture sector is already reeling from President Donald Trump's trade war with China.
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Why robocalls have gotten worse since the government shutdown

Don’t pick up that phone. Americans have been plagued with an increasing number of robocalls — and the government can’t do anything about it. Both the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) and Federal Communications Commission (FCC) are closed due to the government shutdown, which means Americans can’t file complaints on FCC or FTC websites and regulators…
Technology News & Reviews | New York Post

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Government Shutdown Forces Houston Airport to Close TSA Checkpoint

David J. Phillip

The government shutdown dealt yet another blow to airport security on Sunday, with officials at Houston’s George Bush Intercontinental Airport announcing they have been forced to close the security checkpoint in one terminal due to a shortage of TSA agents to screen passengers.

The decision comes two days after airport officials in Miami took similar precautions over the weekend, announcing that one of the smaller terminals at Miami International Airport would close early each day starting on Saturday.

In Houston, officials at the main airport serving the nation’s fourth largest city announced that “due to staffing issues associated with the partial shutdown of the federal government,” a TSA checkpoint and the ticketing counter in Terminal B closed at 3:30 p.m and would remain closed for the rest of the day. After assessing the situation, authorities said Sunday night that the terminal would remain closed at least into Monday. The officials encouraged passengers to “arrive early and give themselves extra time to check in for their flights and to clear the security checkpoints.”  

Read more at The Daily Beast.

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Longest government shutdown in history hits 22-day mark

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The government just made applying for student aid easier

Many people who apply for college financial aid are forced to go through an audit-like process in which they must prove that the information they provided is accurate.
Wealth

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Partial government shutdown timeline: From Trump’s demands to Democrats’ proposals

The partial government shutdown continues with seemingly no end in sight as President Trump and Democratic lawmakers refuse to compromise and pass a spending bill – with funding for a border wall at the crux of the fight.
FOX News

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Trump pledges not to cave on border wall as he heads to Texas amid government shutdown

As a partial government shutdown entered its 20th day, Trump showed no signs of relenting on his promise to secure more than $ 5 billion to build the barrier.
Politics

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Coup attempt fails as Gabon’s government regains control

LIBREVILLE, Gabon — The government of Gabon has put down an attempted coup early Monday and arrested the plotters who were junior army officers, the government spokesman told Radio France International. Authorities have regained control of the state broadcasting offices and a major thoroughfare in the capital, Libreville, which were the only areas taken by…
News | New York Post

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WATCH: World News 01/02/19: Government Shutdown Enters Day 12

Manhunt still underway for Houston shooter; Toddler slips between bars at Florida zoo
ABC News: World News Tonight

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Here’s how the government shutdown affects health care

Funding for "big-ticket" health programs is already in place.
ABC News: Health

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WATCH: World News 12/31/18: New Signs of Movement in the Government Shutdown Stalemate

Thousands of Police officers on duty in and around Times Square; The video raising new questions about the treatment of migrant children in US custody
ABC News: World News Tonight

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WATCH: World News 12/29/18: No End In Sight For the Partial Government Shutdown

Suspected California cop killer had help trying to escape back to Mexico; Hollywood tallies a blockbuster year at the box office
ABC News: World News Tonight

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No end in sight for the partial government shutdown

ABC News

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Government shutdown looks set to drag on to 2019 after House and Senate adjourn until next week

The House and Senate on Thursday both adjourned until next week after pro forma sessions that lasted less than three minutes.


CNN.com – RSS Channel – Politics

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Partial Government Shutdown Takes Effect Amid Dispute Over Border Wall

A partial shutdown of the U.S. government took effect at midnight on Friday after lawmakers failed to negotiate an agreement over funding for President Donald Trump’s controversial border wall. The government shutdown, the third of the year, comes as Trump has demanded $ 5 billion for construction of the wall on the border with Mexico.
RTT – Top Story

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Partial government shutdown likely to continue until after Christmas

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Here’s who the partial government shutdown affects

More than 420,000 federal employees across numerous agencies could continue to work without receiving their paychecks, and hundreds of thousands more could be furloughed, according to Senate Democrats' projections.
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Government Shutdown Likely To Continue Through Christmas

A partial shutdown of the U.S. government is likely to continue until after Christmas, as President Donald Trump and Democratic lawmakers remain “far apart” on the issue of funding for the president’s controversial border wall. The Senate adjourned Saturday without a deal to re-open the shut down parts of the federal government.
RTT – Top Story

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The Senate adjourns with little expectation of passing a deal to reopen the government soon


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Partial government shutdown likely to continue until after Christmas

Lawmakers are expected to convene Saturday on Capitol Hill, as a plan to fund the government has yet to come to fruition. This comes just a day after members of Congress and President Donald Trump failed to come to an agreement on a deal, resulting in the third government shutdown this year.


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Government shutdown begins

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Government partially shuts down for third time in a year after Congress adjourns for the night

While negotiations continue in Congress to reach a deal to avert a partial government shutdown, there is virtually no chance a vote will happen Friday night — all but assuring there will be a government shutdown at midnight.


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Despite Government Shutdown, Homeland Security Border Patrol Remains on the Job. And Unpaid

With the shutdown in effect, the borders remain guarded and ships, planes, and trains–as well as merchandise–will still be allowed to enter and leave the U.S. under a contingency plan set by the Department of Homeland Security. Nearly 88% of its workers will be required to report to work, but will not receive a paycheck for the duration of the funding lapse.

About 53,000 TSA employees, 54,000 Customs and Border Protection agents and officers, and 42,000 Coast Guard members and staff must work without pay, according to research from the Senate Appropriation Committee’s vice chair, Democrat Patrick Leahy. Essential employees also include anyone involved in counter-terrorism efforts, intelligence gathering, or providing telecommunications support for DHS workers.

The 88% of all DHS employees who must remain on the job are part of about 420,000 federal workers also forced to perform their duties at agencies for whom no budget or stopgap measure has been approved. Some may receive payment if funds remain in certain accounts or their positions or work are funded by agencies unaffected by the partial shutdown. The other 12% of DHS workers, and 380,000 employees across government, will be furloughed–and also not paid for the duration.

DHS and other federal workers required to report to their jobs will receive back pay when a funding measure finally gets approved. Furloughed workers will almost certainly also receive pay for the period they were not working, as has happened routinely following previous shutdowns, such as a brief one in January 2018.

Federal agencies generally cannot spend money ahead of appropriations, requiring this suspension of non-essential operations and all pay. But workers who fit certain exemptions have to report to work during government shutdowns. The DHS noted in a contingency plan prepared for the shutdown, “An employee who refuses to report for work after being ordered to do so will be considered to be in an absence without leave status and may be subject to administrative or disciplinary action for not reporting for work.”

In that plan, updated Dec. 17, DHS spelled out the many exemptions that apply to its employees. That includes members of the active military, those engaged in foreign relations essential to national security, and most significantly, workers who are “necessary for the safety of human life or protection of property.” That sweeps in most DHS employees outside of those involved in planning, research, auditing, training, and areas related to regulatory and public policy work.

Fortune

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McConnell Introduces Short-Term Government Spending Bill

With a partial government shutdown looming, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ken., has introduced another short-term government spending bill. McConnell said the continuing resolution introduced on Wednesday would “provide the resources necessary to continue normal operations through February 8th.”
RTT – Political News

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Don’t trust the government to make Big Tech behave

The social-media wars are heating up. Congress has grilled Google’s CEO, and the British Parliament wants to hear from Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg. Across the political spectrum, there are calls for the government to do something about Big Tech’s seemingly unaccountable power. Since we live our lives increasingly on social media, it’s understandable. But it’s a…
Opinion | New York Post

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Congress Passes Stopgap Spending Bill To Avert Government Shutdown

With a potential government shutdown looming, members of Congress voted Thursday to approve a short-term spending bill amid an ongoing disagreement over funding for President Donald Trump’s proposed border wall. The two-week spending bill extends funding for several government agencies.
RTT – Top Story

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Government Investigation Finds Flaws In the FDA’s Orphan Drug Program

The Food and Drug Administration has failed to ensure that drugs given prized rare-disease status meet the intent of a 35-year-old law, federal officials revealed in a report Friday.

The Government Accountability Office, which spent more than a year investigating the FDA’s orphan drug program, said “challenges continue” in the program that was created to spur development of drugs for diseases afflicting fewer than 200,000 patients.

The investigation began after a request from three high-profile Republican senators last year, in the wake of a KHN investigation. KHN found that the program was being manipulated by drugmakers to maximize profits and to protect niche markets for medicines being taken by millions.

The GAO uncovered inconsistent and often incomplete reviews early in the process of designating medicines as orphan drugs and recommended “executive action” to fix the system. In some cases, FDA reviewers failed to show they had checked how many patients could be treated by a drug being considered for orphan drug status; instead, they appeared to trust what drugmakers told them.

In response to GAO’s probe, the FDA issued a statement saying it agreed with the report recommendations regarding documentation and that the agency is “streamlining our processes.” The agency declined requests for interviews. In a comment included with the report, Matthew Bassett, assistant secretary for legislation at the Department of Health and Human Services, said HHS agreed with GAO’s recommendations.

John Dicken, director of the GAO’s health care team, said the focus of the report is “ensuring that the intent of the law is being met.”

The FDA’s rare-disease program began after Congress overwhelmingly passed the 1983 Orphan Drug Act to motivate pharmaceutical companies to develop drugs for people who lacked treatments for their conditions. Rare diseases had been ignored by drugmakers because treatments for them weren’t expected to be profitable. The law provides fee waivers, tax incentives for research and seven years of marketing exclusivity for any drug the FDA approves as an “orphan.”

The incentives, though, have proven to be more powerful and highly coveted than expected, said Avik Roy, president of the Foundation for Research on Equal Opportunity, a conservative think tank.

Many people are “starting to wonder whether or not the Orphan Drug Act over-corrected for the problem,” Roy said, noting that a third of all pharmaceutical spending in the U.S. will be on so-called rare-disease medicines in 2020.

GAO analysts examined FDA records for 148 applications submitted by drugmakers for orphan drug approval in late 2017. FDA’s reviewers are supposed to apply two specific criteria — how many patients would be served and whether there is scientific evidence the drug will treat their disease.

In nearly 60 percent of the cases, the FDA reviewers did not capture regulatory history information, including “adverse actions” from other regulatory agencies. The FDA uses experienced reviewers, Dicken noted, who may already know the history of certain submitted drugs and not see the need to document it.

And 15 percent of the time FDA reviewers failed to independently verify patient estimates provided by the drugmaker.

Of the 148 records the GAO reviewed, 26 applications from manufacturers were granted orphan status even though the initial FDA staff review was missing information.

“It is tempting to think that perhaps those approvals were sort of granted routinely without sufficient scrutiny,” said Bernard Munos, senior fellow at FasterCures and the Milken Institute.

By contrast, early Orphan Drug Act advocate Abbey Meyers said she was not concerned about the lack of population estimates because many rare diseases lack population studies that show how common a disease is.

Rather, Meyers said, she’s “disappointed that there is no government-funded agency that is willing to finance” such research.

The GAO investigation began after Scott Gottlieb, who took over as FDA commissioner in May 2017, announced a “modernization” of the rare-disease program.

Critics have long complained that drugmakers game the FDA’s approval process for orphan drugs. In January 2017, the KHN investigation, which was co-published and aired by NPR, revealed that many orphan drugs aren’t entirely new and don’t always start as treatments for rare diseases.

The GAO report, while not analyzing the same years, found that 38.5 percent of orphan drug approvals from 2008 to 2017 were for drugs that had been previously approved either for mass-market or rare-disease use. About 71 percent of the drugs given orphan status were intended to treat diseases affecting fewer than 100,000 people.

KHN’s investigation found that popular mass-market drugs such as cholesterol blockbuster Crestor, Abilify for psychiatric conditions, cancer drug Herceptin and rheumatoid arthritis drug Humira, the best-selling medicine in the world, all won orphan approval yet were already on the market to treat common conditions.

In addition, more than 80 orphan drugs won FDA approval for more than one rare disease — or several — each one with its own bundle of rich incentives.

Genentech’s Avastin, a cancer treatment approved for mass-market use in 2004, won three more orphan-designated approvals this year for the treatment of three rare forms of cancer. It now has 11 approved orphan uses in all, and exclusive protections that keep generics at bay won’t run out until 2025.

Sens. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah), Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) and Tom Cotton (R-Ark.) sent a letter in March 2017 asking the GAO to investigate the program and find out whether Congress’ original intent for it was still being followed.

“Despite the success of the Orphan Drug Act, 95 percent of rare diseases still have no treatment options,” Hatch said in a statement Friday. “I hope that my colleagues will utilize this [GAO] report as they work to strengthen the accomplishments of the Orphan Drug Act and encourage developers to continue their investment in this patient population.” The GAO report also mentioned concerns about prices, noting that “the ability to command high prices” was one reason the rare-disease market was growing so rapidly.

The average cost per patient for an orphan drug was $ 147,308 in 2017 compared with $ 30,708 for a mass-market drug, according to a 2018 EvaluatePharma report on the 100 top-selling drugs in the United States. Celgene’s chemotherapy drug Revlimid was the top-selling orphan with $ 5.4 billion in sales and $ 184,011 in revenue per patient.

“We have accepted culturally that it’s OK for a company to charge high prices for [orphan] drugs,” said Roy. “The end result is that a lot of these orphan drugs are $ 10 billion drugs, even though they are for rare diseases.”

From 2008 to 2017, more than half of the drugs granted orphan status were for cancer or blood disorders, according to the GAO report. And nearly two-thirds of drugs approved in the program were given expedited review processes, such as accelerated approval or fast-track designation.

Prior to announcing Gottlieb’s modernization plan, the FDA had a backlog of 138 drug applications for orphan status that had been waiting more than 120 days. The backlog was cleared in August 2017 after staff from across the agency stepped in to help.


KHN’s coverage of prescription drug development, costs and pricing is supported in part by the Laura and John Arnold Foundation.

Kaiser Health News

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Russian firm wants to disclose ‘sensitive’ US government info in Mueller court fight

A Russian firm indicted by special counsel Robert Mueller plans to ask a U.S. court to allow it to share information that the U.S. government considers “sensitive.”
ABC News: Top Stories

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Trump says asylum seekers to wait in Mexico, incoming government denies

U.S. President Donald Trump tweeted on Saturday that migrants at the U.S.-Mexico border would stay in Mexico until their asylum claims were individually approved in U.S. courts, but Mexico’s incoming government denied they had struck any deal.


Reuters: Politics

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UK power grid vulnerable as government failing on cyber security

The government is failing to deliver on promises to protect the UK’s critical national infrastructure (CNI) from cyber attacks, a report from a parliamentary committee has warned.
Tech News – Latest Technology and Gadget News | Sky News

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Trump says ‘good time’ for a government shutdown if no money for border wall

President Donald Trump told reporters at the White House Saturday that this would be a “good time” for a government shutdown if he doesn’t get funding from Congress for his border wall.


CNN.com – RSS Channel – Politics

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Facebook reports steep rise in data requests from Indian government

NEW DELHI — Facebook says there was a steep rise in data requests from India’s government in the first half of this year as compared to the previous two years. The company said in a report released Friday that it received 16,580 data requests from the government in the January-June period as compared to 22,024…
Technology News & Reviews | New York Post

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Amazon Web Services Just Opened a New Cloud for the U.S. Government

Amazon Web Services has opened a new region of interconnected data centers specifically for the U.S. government and its various contractors.

Amazon’s cloud computing arm said Monday that its so-called GovCloud region is now operating live in an unspecified area on the East Coast. The new government cloud region comes seven years after Amazon’s first West Coast government cloud region debuted in 2011.

Unlike traditional data centers, cloud computing and big Internet companies like Microsoft and Facebook typically operate clusters of interconnected data centers that essentially act as one big facility.

Teresa Carlson, AWS vice president of the worldwide public sector, said that one of the reasons the company built a new government cloud was to let government agencies and their third-party contractors maintain duplicate copies of their data and apps. In the case that a problem occurs in one facility, the other data center facility can pick up the slack.

Having a second data center region will also reduce the latency, or delays, that might occur when East Coast federal agencies have to use Amazon’s cloud services from the West Coast, Carlson explained. She declined to say where the facilities are physically located, citing security reasons.

Amazon’s opening of a new government cloud highlights the efforts of big tech companies to score big federal contracts as the government attempts to modernize to newer IT technologies. For instance, Amazon built the CIA its own separate cloud data center region, and is in the process of bidding against companies like Oracle and Microsoft for a $ 10 billion Joint Enterprise Defense Infrastructure (JEDI) cloud contract with the Pentagon.

Carlson said that the new government cloud data center region is separate from Amazon’s bidding on the JEDI contract.

Some of Amazon’s competitors in selling on-demand computing resources to the federal government include Microsoft, IBM, and Google, said Adelaide O’Brien, International Data Corporation’s research director of government digital transformation strategies.

Although Amazon’s government cloud business is likely to be much smaller compared to its enterprise cloud business, Carlson said Amazon is building more government data center facilities to keep up with demand. She said the government cloud business has a compound annual growth rate of 185%, but declined to say from what number.

When Carlson first began pitching Amazon Web Services back in 2010 and 2011, she said that federal employees were unfamiliar with the online retail giant’s information technology business.

“Oh, you want to talk about books?” Carlson said federal workers would ask her.

No so anymore. “There is not anyone out there today that does not know what cloud computing is,” Carlson said in regards to how the service has become more mainstream with businesses and government agencies.

Carlson also echoed recent comments made by Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos, who said that Amazon and his Blue Origin rocket company would continue pursuing Pentagon contracts, regardless if it upsets employees or critics who don’t want the tech giant to supply the U.S. military with war-fighting or surveillance technologies.

“They got to make sure that when they commit to you, you commit to them,” Carlson said of supplying the U.S. military with unspecified technologies.

As for the idea that the government should potentially regulate the use of artificial intelligence technologies, because the technologies could lead to unforeseen consequences, Carlson believes that too much regulation could stifle the tech industry from innovating. It’s a contrast to Microsoft President Brad Smith, who has urged the government to regulate the use of facial-recognition technology and that both the public and private sector should develop standards around how to use the tech.

Amazon executives have previously said that the government should specify the regulation’s guidelines, and that the company would follow.

“I would say any time you’re trying to regulate something, we really push back on that,” Carlson said. “Because history has taught us that any time you try to regulate, you just might as well stomp it out, because it kind of stagnates everything.”

Fortune

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GOP Gubernatorial Candidate John Cox: Limit Government In Health Care

John Cox stood on a presidential debate stage and told the audience that he was glad abortion wasn’t legal in 1955.

If it had been, he said, he wouldn’t have been born.

“I wouldn’t be standing here before you today. This is personal to me,” Cox said in the 2007 GOP presidential primary debate, explaining that his biological father walked out on his mother.

“My mother took responsibility for me,” he said. “She’s glad she did, and I’m glad she did.”

Cox, California’s Republican candidate for governor, frequently invoked his anti-abortion views during his unsuccessful political bids for Congress and president. He unapologetically framed himself as the anti-abortion candidate – a Christian who believes in the right to life, and whose “absolute opposition to abortion on demand” was born from his mother’s circumstances.

Cox has been less vocal about his abortion views in blue-state California, where Republicans, Democrats and independents overwhelmingly favor a woman’s right to choose. But his argument that it is an issue of personal responsibility provides a window into Cox’s thinking when it comes to health care overall: He contends that free markets, combined with people taking responsibility for their actions, ought to guide health care policy — and that government should mostly stay out of it.

His views on health care contrast starkly with those of the Democratic gubernatorial nominee, Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom, who calls for health care coverage for all Californians, and supports the creation of a single-payer, government-run health care system financed by taxpayers. In the latest Public Policy Institute of California poll released in late September, Cox trailed Newsom by 12 percentage points among California’s likely voters, with 7 percent undecided.

As a candidate for governor, Cox has not released detailed health care positions. Nor would he agree to an interview with California Healthline to explain his views or allow those closest to him to comment.

On Monday, with less than a month before the election, Cox issued a statement following a live gubernatorial debate saying that he supports affordable health care for everyone, including those with preexisting conditions. He again failed to provide any specifics.

A review of his statements, old and current campaign websites, and interviews with previous campaign aides portrays a successful businessman who believes in limiting government in health care and in general — a political philosophy inspired by Jack Kemp’s focus on free enterprise, fiscal conservatism and family values during the 1988 presidential campaign.

Cox, who grew up in a Chicago suburb he describes as lower-middle class, became a successful tax attorney, investor and developer before getting involved in Illinois Republican politics. He didn’t do as well in that arena: He ran unsuccessfully for Congress — the House in 2000 and the Senate in 2002 — and for Cook County Recorder of Deeds in 2004 and president in 2008.

“John is a principled guy. He didn’t come from much and he did very well,” said Nicholas Tyszka, who was Cox’s campaign manager in his U.S. Senate bid. “He’s certainly more of a limited-government guy who believes if you give people an opportunity to do good things, they will.”

Cox, 63, settled in California permanently in 2011, and now lives in the affluent San Diego suburb of Rancho Santa Fe.

He has spent much of his campaign lamenting California’s high cost of living, along with the recent gas tax increase that he is encouraging voters to repeal in November.

Cox’s mindset of limited government, combined with his conviction of personal responsibility, feeds his argument that competition is the answer to rising health care costs, high prescription drug prices and nurse shortages.

“I’ve heard him say many times health care should be run more by the free markets and the federal government should have less involvement,” said Phil Collins, a Republican county treasurer candidate in Nevada who worked on two of Cox’s campaigns in Illinois.

In Monday’s statement, Cox complained that “our current system was designed by political insiders and health care corporate lobbyists to protect their monopoly profits, not to provide decent health care at a reasonable price.”

Cox said previously that, if elected governor, he isn’t interested in defending the Affordable Care Act, and that if Congress and the Trump administration were to repeal the law, the millions of Californians who now have coverage could go into high-risk insurance pools. That could increase the ranks of the uninsured.

In the hour-long debate Monday hosted by KQED, a San Francisco National Public Radio affiliate, Newsom challenged Cox’s desire to repeal the ACA and criticized his abortion views when asked how the confirmation of Brett Kavanaugh to the U.S. Supreme Court could affect California.

“It could have a profound impact on Californians, on their reproductive rights, which you believe a woman does not have a right to choose, regardless whether or not they are raped or a tragic incident of incest,” Newsom said.

Cox, who has dodged questions about his views on abortion during the gubernatorial campaign, did so again during the debate, saying only that he would appoint justices in California who will respect the U.S. and state constitutions.

“The things I’ve seen him say are very much aligned with what we hear coming out of the Trump administration and the Republican leadership of Congress,” said Dr. Andy Bindman, a primary care doctor at Zuckerberg San Francisco General Hospital and professor at the Philip R. Lee Institute for Health Policy Studies at the University of California-San Francisco who helped draft the Affordable Care Act.

When the state legislature this year considered bills that would have opened Medi-Cal, California’s Medicaid program, to unauthorized immigrants between ages 19 and 25, as well as those 65 and older, Cox went on national television to call the Democratic plans a “freebie” and told Fox News that “our government has been grabbed by a bunch of people who believe that government is the most important thing.” The bills died in the legislature.

Cox has also criticized Newsom for advocating both a single-payer system, which he says would destroy California’s economy, and health coverage for unauthorized immigrants.

“Gavin Newsom wants to make problems even worse, by increasing the costs of health care of Californians and then rewarding those who cut in line,” Cox said in an August news release. “If we want to see how Newsom’s government health care would work, just look at the DMV.”

If elected governor, Cox said in his post-debate statement, he “will break up the health care corporate monopolies, make insurance companies compete and turn patients into consumers with power over their health care dollars.”

He declined to provide any details in response to questions submitted to his campaign.

Bindman said Cox is taking a page out of the national Republican playbook — bash the Affordable Care Act without offering solutions.

“John Cox is not talking a lot about health care other than saying what he’s against because he doesn’t have any viable alternatives that ensure people retain coverage,” Bindman said.

But over the years, Cox has made suggestions that display his confidence in free markets to solve problems. What exists now, he argued in his 2006 book, “Politic$ , Inc.,” is an “illogical system” where insurance companies and government have taken over individual patient care.

The solution, Cox argued both in his book and on his website as a presidential candidate, would be to end the federal tax deduction for employee health insurance, opening the door to more competition and lower prices. Like auto insurance, consumers ought to be able to choose their own health insurance plans in a free market, he said.

The poor could benefit from a limited government voucher program, he proposed, one with incentives to save money and get preventive care, as well as health savings accounts that encourage consumers to find care at the most reasonable cost.

“Wealthier people may well have better choices, but that should be one of the awards for upward mobility,” he wrote.


This story was produced by Kaiser Health News, which publishes California Healthline, a service of the California Health Care Foundation.

Kaiser Health News

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