Daily Archives: December 7, 2019

Seattle Eviction Ban: Are We Headed To The End Of Private Property Rentals? – Forbes

Posted: December 7, 2019 at 7:46 pm

In this Wednesday, Oct. 23, 2019 photo, a campaign poster for Seattle City Council incumbent ... [+] candidate Kshama Sawant is posted outside her campaign headquarters in Seattle. Seven of the nine Seattle City Council seats are up for grabs in next month's election, where retail giant Amazon has made unprecedented donations totaling $1.5 million to a political action committee that's supporting a slate of candidates perceived to be friendlier to business. Among the company's top targets is Sawant, a fierce critic of Amazon, who is running against Egan Orion in the District 3 race. (AP Photo/Elaine Thompson)

Ive spoken and written often in the last year or so about the steady, persistent, and insidious efforts underway across the country to erode the business of private rental property. That last sentence sounds like I am a conspiracy theorist, pushing a narrative that someday private rental property wont exist and the only place to rent an apartment will be from the government or non-profits. Sometimes I doubt it myself until I see things like the request from Seattles Renters Commission to ban evictions during the winter.

But wait a minute. Wouldnt banning evictions be a compassionate thing to do? The Commission says in its letter,

During winter in Seattle, temperatures regularly fall into the 30s overnight and, according to All Home King Countys Count Us In report for 2019, forty-one percent of homeless neighbors sleep outside every night with an additional nineteen percent sleeping in vehicles.

The Commission cites a French example, the Trve hivernale, or winter truce which bans evictions from November 1 through April 1 every year. But think about that for a moment. That would mean evictions would be banned for almost half the year. And the Commissions letter leads anyone reading to ask, well, why do we allow evictions at all since cold is just one of a myriad of bad things a person faces when they sleep outside.

Lets go back to what I call the slow, steady, and insidious nature of efforts to decommodify housing in the United States. I wrote about a book, In Defense of Housing, that suggests housing should not be bought and sold. In essence, the argument that housing is a human right, makes buying and selling housing like buying and selling bandages at the scene of accident, immoral and exploitative. Is the Commission and other advocates of these sorts of measures really urging compassion or something else.

Consider the fact that actual removals from multifamily housing in Seattle are very infrequent, so infrequent that they barely register on the dashboard of housing problems.

Not very many households end up evicted in Seattle

Out of the thousands of units of rental households less than 1 percent in 2017 had an eviction action filed and even fewer, just under 600 were actually removed. If we just divide that number by 12 and multiply by 5 for the winter months, we get just 243 actual evictions. How many of those households end up forced to sleep outside? We have no idea because the City nor anyone else actually tracks what happens to households once they are removed. You can read a full response to the supposed eviction epidemic in Seattle in the Losing Perspective response.

What happens in France is that eviction season begins in April, and all the evictions in the country are simply stayed until that date and then the removals begin. Also, in France there are exception for people who have a place to go, including shelters and other housing options. France also provides insurance for lost rent during the period.

In a letter I sent to the City I point out that if the Commission is truly interested in addressing this issue with compassion, they could provide $1000 a month for housing for 250 households who might be removed over a five month period at a cost of about $1,250,000. Or they might consider asking Amazon, a local company that just spent $1,500,000 on trying to oust the citys socialist Councilmember, Kshama Sawant to pay for this assistance. Amazons efficiency in delivering products to doorsteps all over the planet is inversely matched by their clumsy efforts at doing politics; they also barged into a local battle over evictions and ended up having to back off their support. Sawant, of course, supports the winter ban on evictions.

Whats happening here is not compassion but a power and property grab. Once such a moratorium is in place, why not just keep it in place forever. Im sure the same people that wrote the letter would nod their heads at that idea. The logical conclusion of banning screening of tenants (including credit checks in Minneapolis), controlling what can be collected in rent, and then banning evictions is exactly the outcome I am cautioning against in the opening paragraph: the end of private rentals.

There is also one little stumbling block, though, on our way to the socialist paradise: the United States Constitution. The Fifth Amendment doesnt allow the taking of private property without due process and compensation. But Im sure we can just put a moratorium on that too.

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Seattle Eviction Ban: Are We Headed To The End Of Private Property Rentals? - Forbes

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Americans Dont Have to Ask Government for Permission to Practice Their Faith – National Review

Posted: at 7:46 pm

Rep. Chris Stewart, (R., Utah), before the House Intelligence Committee on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C., Nov. 19, 2019.(Jacquelyn Martin/Reuters Pool)

Laws protecting religious liberty are superfluous. Sometimes theyre worse.

That includes legislation unveiled Friday by Utah representative Chris Stewart (R.), which, according to The Hill, protects LGBTQ+ individuals from discrimination while allowing religious exemptions for organizations to act on their beliefs.

The very construction of that sentence grates against reason. A bill whose goal is to protect LGBTQ+ individuals that also offers exemptions to religious institutions has it completely backwards. Religious Americans arent obligated to ask for state exemptions to practice their faith any more than journalists are obligated to ask for state exemptions to practice free speech.

Stewart argues that his legislation is a way to bridge the gap between outlawing discrimination and allowing protected religious freedoms. Thats not a gap that needs bridging. We dont pass laws bridging the gap between the Fifth Amendment and how we prosecute criminality. Religious liberty is a right protected under the Constitution, anti-discrimination laws are predominately passed by state legislatures, and the courts exist to work out any conflicts between the two.

If anything, religious institutions most need protection from lawmakers. Its the state, after all, that wants to compel Catholics to perform abortions. Its the state that wants to coerce business owners to participate in gay weddings. Its the state that wants to force nuns to buy abortifacients.

If religious Americans are going to negotiate over legislation to preserve rights, theyre going to lose. The plus sign in LGBTQ+ promises an open-ended procession of new aggrieved groups pleading for special protections, while those of orthodox faiths, shrinking in number, will be left to beg for absolution from politicians beholden to the majority.

Probably in an attempt to refresh its image, the Mormon Church is an advocate of the Stewart bill which, admittedly, is more a PR effort than anything else. Utah also recently banned conversion therapy quackery for minors. (Though, it did not ban abusive reassignment surgery and hormone treatment for minors, and nor did any other state. This is another sign of the asymmetry of the debate. Politicians fear the LGBTQ+ activist far more than their bishop. And Orthodox Christians have little reason to trust that such people will protect religious liberty.)

I also once believed that RFRA laws were vital in protecting rights. But they, like all other laws, are easily hijacked, whittled away, and misused. Worse, such laws tend to create the impression that Americans have some obligation to ask their politicians for permission. They do not.

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Looking back at the University’s DACA lawsuit – The Daily Princetonian

Posted: at 7:46 pm

Chris Eisgruber '83, Maria De La Cruz Perales Sanchez '18, and Brad Smith '81 speak to reporters outside of the U.S. Supreme Court.

After almost two decades of changing policy and political back and forth, America's DREAMers now await a Supreme Court decision with the power to cement their futures.

This upcoming decision was sparked in part by a case filed jointly in November of 2017 by the University, Microsoft, and Maria Perales Sanchez 18. Initially heard in the United States District Court for the District of Columbia, the federal lawsuit argues that the decision to rescind DACA was out of step with the Administrative Procedures Act (APA) and violated DACA recipients' due process rights under the Fifth Amendment.

The University's lawsuit has prompted a flood of corporate and educational institutions to mount similar challenges. This wave of private sector forays into legal activism, given the historical role of organizations like the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) and the National Association for the Advancement Of Colored People (NAACP), represents a new force in the American legal landscape.

The University's impetus to file this suit was explained by University President Christopher Eisgruber 83 in a statement to The Daily Princetonian.

"We filed this suit because we thought that, together with Microsoft and our courageous alumna Maria Perales Sanchez 18, we could provide a distinctive perspective that might influence the ultimate outcome of the litigation about DACA, Eisgruber wrote.

Despite a lack of political traction over the years, exemplified in former President Barack Obama's inability to pass the DREAM (Development, Relief, and Education for Alien Minors) Act and his subsequent resort to executive orders, research has found that public support of protections for undocumented childhood arrivals is substantial across the nation. In 2018, Pew Research found that 73 percent of Americans favor legal status for childhood arrivals, including a majority of GOP voters.

In providing justification for their decision, the Trump Administration has primarily sold the move as an act to limit overreach by future executives.

"If the Supreme Court upholds DACA, it gives the President extraordinary powers, far greater than ever thought," President Donald Trump tweeted on Oct. 9.

A broad consensus indicates that this case, regardless of the outcome, will have a massive impact on the futures of America's almost 700,000 recipients of the 2012 DACA protections and estimated million more who never joined the program in the first place.

The three primary outcomes, according to Vox reporter Ian Millhiser, would create vastly different immigration policy ecosystems and may have long-standing implications on future presidents use of the executive order.

In the first scenario, the Court would render a decision much in line with the previous two rulings by the District Courts essentially rejecting the Administration's justifications for ending the program, claiming a lack of sound policy justification. As a result, the program would by default reopen to those eligible, but in this scenario the Administration is able to reinstate its policy after providing some policy justification. This outcome would thus only represent a technical and temporary win for DACA activists.

The second scenario is likewise a technical and narrow ruling, but one which would keep the current policy directive in place. Either by affirming the Administration's legal and policy justifications or by finding the question outside of the purview of the Court, this verdict would allow the Administration to rescind DACA.

The final scenario is an addition to the second. The court could also deliberate on the fundamental legality of DACA. Here, as the court finds the issue within its purview, it could affirm the legal arguments of the Administration and determine DACA to be legally void. Given this, future executive action on this issue would be deemed dead on arrival.

Eisgruber, when asked his prediction of the outcome based on the oral arguments he attended early this November, presented a reserved yet optimistic opinion.

"My year as a Supreme Court law clerk taught me that oral argument is often an unreliable indicator of the Courts eventual judgment. I am optimistic because I believe that our legal argument, which twice prevailed in the district court, is sound," he wrote.

Missing from the list of Millhisers possible outcomes is a sweeping judicial endorsement of the DACA program. That power lies with a different governmental branch altogether.

"The DREAMers need a path to citizenship, and only Congress can provide that. We will accordingly continue to urge Congress to enact a permanent legislative solution, regardless of what the Court decides in this case," Eisgruber wrote.

The National Immigration Law Center, based on its experience with the Supreme Court, expects a decision by June 2020 at the latest.

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Looking back at the University's DACA lawsuit - The Daily Princetonian

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AP FACT CHECK: Trump and the people he forgets he knew – Minneapolis Star Tribune

Posted: at 7:46 pm

WASHINGTON When certain associates and acquaintances of President Donald Trump get into hot water, he forgets he ever knew them. Various figures from the Russia investigation and the Ukraine matter as well as a British prince have fallen out of familiarity with the president in this way.

For a few days, the stock market suffered a similar fate when it dipped too low for Trump to boast about it. But he rediscovered the market by the end of the week when it rose back up.

A look at some remarks by Trump from the NATO summit in London and from back home as the Democratic effort to impeach him moves ahead:


TRUMP: "I don't know Prince Andrew. ... I don't know him." remarks Tuesday with NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg.

THE FACTS: Trump knows the British prince. Andrew hosted a breakfast for him in June, they toured Westminster Abbey together and photos spread over two decades capture some occasions when they've met. The prince stepped back from royal duties after his involvement with sex offender Jeffrey Epstein was exposed.

Trump also recently declared, repeatedly, that he did not know Gordon Sondland, his ambassador to the EU, "very well" and "I have not spoken to him much." Sondland provided some of the most damning testimony in the House impeachment inquiry about how he had tried to carry out Trump's wishes to persuade Ukraine to investigate the president's political rivals in the U.S.

Sondland testified that he's had many conversations with Trump, who called the ambassador "a really good man and great American" before Sondland's problematic testimony.

Several people in prominent positions in the Trump campaign or known as close advisers were similarly marginalized as mere volunteers, hangers-on or low-level functionaries when it became troublesome during the Russia investigation to acknowledge their stature.



TRUMP: "If the stock market goes up or down I don't watch the stock market. I watch jobs." remarks Tuesday during NATO summit after stocks fell sharply.

THE FACTS: This is not true. Trump watches the stock market, as he demonstrated Friday when the market rebounded and he tweeted precise percentages of how much the S&P, Dow and Nasdaq have gone up this year. "Stock Markets Up Record Numbers," he tweeted.

Trump uses the stock market as a leading barometer of his presidency, giving the subject a rest only when the market's performance is down.

It's an almost constant companion, through thick but not thin.

On a good day, he will tweet about it. Otherwise, his rally speeches and White House remarks are laced with references to the market's growth since he became president. He takes credit for gains and blames losses on other things, like Democrats.

Trump tweeted about the stock market more than a dozen times in November as it repeatedly edged into record highs.

On one occasion, his boastfulness became too much even for him. He tweeted: "Stock Markets (all three) hit another ALL TIME & HISTORIC HIGH yesterday! You are sooo lucky to have me as your President." Then he added: "(just kidding!)."



TRUMP, on French President Emmanuel Macron's assertion that NATO is suffering "brain death": "He's taken back his comments very much so on NATO." remarks Wednesday in London.

THE FACTS: No, Macron did not back off what Trump had called a "very, very nasty" statement about NATO. He conspicuously stood by it, before the summit, after it and when face to face with Trump in a tense joint news conference. If anything, Macron appeared to relish the provocation he had brought on.

"I do stand by it," he said Tuesday as Trump looked on. "I assume full responsibility for it," he said Wednesday. And Macron tweeted: "The comments I made about NATO prompted a debate among members of the alliance. This dialogue is a very good thing." He likened himself to an ice-breaker smashing through ice.

Macron characterized NATO as brain dead last month, citing a lack of U.S. leadership and confusion in the alliance about what its fundamental missions should be. He said the U.S. was turning its back on NATO and in light of Trump's unexpected announcement in October that he would withdraw troops from Syria not coordinating with allies on strategic decision-making.

On Wednesday, Macron mildly praised the summit as "constructive" while emphasizing that the fundamentals that sparked his complaint had not been resolved.



TRUMP: "I also see what's happening with our oceans, where certain countries are dumping unlimited loads of things in it. They float they tend to float toward the United States. I see that happening, and nobody has ever seen anything like it, and it's gotten worse."' remarks Tuesday with Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.

THE FACTS: He's right that garbage from abroad has come to U.S. shores by sea. What he does not say, when making this repeated complaint, is that garbage from the U.S. also makes it over the ocean to other countries and that Americans have plenty to do with trashing their own shores.

Debris from Asia was most noticeable after the 2011 Japanese tsunami, said marine debris expert Kara Lavender Law of the Sea Education Association, "but the same can be said about debris entering the ocean from the U.S. and washing ashore in Asia." In fact, she said, most debris is not tracked to the country of origin.

The United States produces the largest amount of plastic waste in the world by weight, Law said.

"Most debris we find on the coast of the US is likely from the US," Denise Hardesty, a scientist who researches ocean trash for Australia's federal science organization, said by email.

Hardesty surveyed the U.S. West Coast from Washington to the California border with Mexico and found the dirtiest place was in Long Beach at the river mouth, where researchers found 4,500 items.

Marcus Eriksen, chief science officer and co-founder of the 5 Gyres Institute, which fights plastics pollution, said Asian fishing gear arrives as debris in Alaska and British Columbia because of north Pacific currents, a problem exacerbated by the lack of regulation of such gear. But in pointing the finger at Asia, Trump is ignoring "our own problems with plastic waste here at home."



TRUMP: "The word 'impeachment' is a dirty word, and it's a word that was only supposed to be used in special occasions: high crimes and misdemeanors. In this case, there was no crime whatsoever. Not even a little tiny crime. There was no crime whatsoever, and they know it. " remarks Wednesday with Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte.

THE FACTS: That's a misrepresentation of the conditions for impeaching a president. The constitutional grounds for impeachment do not require any crime to have been committed. In setting the conditions, treason, bribery or high crimes and misdemeanors, the Founding Fathers said that a consequential abuse of office crime or not was subject to the impeachment process they laid out.

Months after the 1787 Constitutional Convention, Alexander Hamilton explained in the Federalist Papers that a commonly understood crime need not be the basis of impeachment. Offenses qualifying for that step "are of a nature ... POLITICAL, as they relate chiefly to injuries done immediately to the society itself," he wrote.

As they move toward drafting articles of impeachment, though, Democrats are alleging crimes involving obstruction of justice as part of their case that Trump abused his office.


TRUMP, on his July 25 call with Ukraine's president, Volodymyr Zelenskiy: "All you have to do is listen to the call or read the call. We had it transcribed perfectly. But he was he said no pressure, no nothing. There was no nothing." remarks Wednesday with Conte.

TRUMP: "Breaking News: The President of Ukraine has just again announced that President Trump has done nothing wrong with respect to Ukraine and our interactions or calls ... case over!" tweet Monday.

THE FACTS: Trump misleads in suggesting that Zelenskiy didn't have any concerns about the call. Nor was the call "transcribed perfectly;" only a rough transcript was released by the White House.

While Zelenskiy initially said there was no discussion of a quid pro quo, he said in an interview Monday with Time that Trump should not have blocked military aid to Ukraine. Zelenskiy also criticized Trump for casting the country as corrupt, saying it sends a concerning message to international allies.

On that call discussing military aid, Trump asked Zelenskiy to investigate Trump's political rivals in the U.S.

"Look I never talked to the president from the position of a quid pro quo," Zelenskiy said. "But you have to understand. We're at war. If you're our strategic partner, then you can't go blocking anything for us. I think that's just about fairness."

On corruption, Zelenskiy said it unfairly undermines support for the country.

"Everyone hears that signal," he said. "Investments, banks, stakeholders, companies, American, European, companies that have international capital in Ukraine, it's a signal to them that says, 'Be careful, don't invest.' Or, 'Get out of there.'"

It's true that in early October, Zelenskiy had told reporters "there was no pressure or blackmail from the U.S." But he did not state Trump had done "nothing" wrong, even as he let his criticisms simmer before surfacing them.

In any event, Zelenskiy knew months before the call that much-needed U.S. military support might depend on whether he was willing to help Trump by investigating Democrats.


TRUMP: "For the hearings, we don't get a lawyer." remarks Tuesday with Trudeau.

THE FACTS: Trump is wrong about being deprived of an attorney in the House Judiciary Committee hearings. The committee invited Trump and his lawyers to appear if he wishes, but the White House refused.

In a letter early in the week to Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerrold Nadler, D-N.Y., White House counsel Pat Cipollone declined the invitation for the president's counsel to appear at Wednesday's hearing while Trump was at the NATO summit, insisting that the inquiry violates "basic due process rights."

For hearings in the coming week, Trump had until Friday to decide whether he would take advantage of due process protections afforded to him under House rules adopted in October. He was offered an opportunity to ask for witness testimony and to cross-examine the witnesses called by the House. But he decided not to participate in that round, too.

If the House impeaches Trump, the Senate trial will look like a normal trial in some respects, with senators as the jury. Arguments would be heard from each side's legal team for and against Trump's removal from office.

The Intelligence Committee hearings, in contrast, were like the investigative phase of criminal cases, conducted without the participation of the person under investigation.


RONNA MCDANIEL, Republican National Committee chairwoman, on Democrats who said the Russia investigation should be part of the basis for impeaching Trump, not just his actions with Ukraine: "Are you kidding me? They lied for 2 years about collusion & POTUS was exonerated." tweet Thursday, using POTUS as an abbreviation of president of the U.S.

THE FACTS: She's wrong to suggest that special counsel Robert Mueller's report cleared the Trump campaign of collusion with Russia. Nor did the report exonerate Trump on the question of whether he obstructed justice.

Instead, the report factually laid out instances in which Trump might have obstructed justice, leaving it open for Congress to take up the matter or for prosecutors to do so once Trump leaves office.

Mueller's two-year investigation and other scrutiny revealed a multitude of meetings with Russians. Among them: Donald Trump Jr.'s meeting with a Russian lawyer who had promised dirt on Clinton.

On collusion, Mueller said he did not assess whether that occurred because it is not a legal term.

He looked into a potential criminal conspiracy between Russia and the Trump campaign and said the investigation did not collect sufficient evidence to establish criminal charges on that front.

Mueller noted some Trump campaign officials had declined to testify under the Fifth Amendment or had provided false or incomplete testimony, making it difficult to get a complete picture of what happened during the 2016 campaign. The special counsel wrote that he "cannot rule out the possibility" that unavailable information could have cast a different light on the investigation's findings.

Mueller also did not reach a conclusion as to whether the president obstructed justice or broke any other law.

He said his team declined to make a prosecutorial judgment on whether to charge Trump, partly because of a Justice Department legal opinion that said sitting presidents shouldn't be indicted.



TRUMP: "We won, in the World Trade Organization, we won seven and a half billion dollars. We never used to win before me, because, before me, the United States was a sucker for all of these different organizations." remarks Tuesday with Stoltenberg.

THE FACTS: He is wildly wrong to state that the U.S. never won victories in disputes taken to the trade organization before him.

The U.S. has always had a high success rate when it pursues cases against other countries at the WTO. In 2017, trade analyst Daniel Ikenson of the libertarian Cato Institute found that the U.S. won 91% of the cases it took to the Geneva-based trade monitor.

As Ikenson noted, countries bringing complaints to the organization tend to win because they don't bother going to the WTO in the first place if they don't have a strong case.

As for Trump's claim that the U.S. "won" $7.5 billion from the WTO, that's not quite right.

Trump was referring to a WTO decision in October siding with the U.S. on imposing tariffs on $7.5 billion worth of European imports annually. The value of the tariffs on those imports is much less than $7.5 billion.

The WTO announcement culminated a 15-year fight over EU subsidies for Airbus a fight that began long before Trump was in office.



TRUMP: "We have a tremendous amount of captured fighters, ISIS fighters over in Syria. And, they're all under lock and key, but many are from France, many are from Germany. Many are from U.K. They are mostly from Europe." remarks Tuesday with Macron.

MACRON: There are "very large number of fighters ... ISIS fighters coming from Syria, from Iraq and the region." Those from Europe are "a tiny minority of the overall problem."

THE FACTS: Trump is incorrect to say the Islamic State fighters who were captured and held by the Kurds in Syria are mostly from Europe.

Of the more than 12,000 IS fighters in custody in Kurdish areas, only 2,500 are from outside the region of the conflict, some from Europe, some from other parts of the world. Most of the captured fighters about 10,000 are natives of Syria or Iraq.

European nations have indeed been reluctant to take detainees who came from Europe, frustrating Trump. But such detainees are far fewer than the majority he frequently claims.


TRUMP, on protecting oilfields in Syria: "We have the oil, and we can do with the oil what we want." remarks Tuesday with Stoltenberg.

THE FACTS: That's not true. The oil in Syria belongs to Syria and the U.S. can't do anything it wants with it.

As secretary of state, Rex Tillerson reviewed whether the U.S. could make money off the oil-rich areas and concluded there was no practical way to do so, said Brett McGurk, Trump's former special envoy to the global coalition to defeat IS. "Maybe there are new lawyers now, but it was just illegal for an American company to go and seize and exploit these assets," McGurk told a panel on Syria held in October by the Foundation for Defense of Democracies.

Stephen Vladeck, a national security law professor at the University of Texas at Austin, said there is no solid legal argument the Trump administration could make if it sought to claim Syria's oil.

While Trump has said he will withdraw the bulk of roughly 1,000 American troops from Syria, he's made clear he will leave some military forces in the country to help secure the oil from any IS resurgence.

The Pentagon has said it is committed to sending additional military forces to eastern Syria to "reinforce" control of the oil fields and prevent them from "falling back to into the hands of ISIS or other destabilizing actors."



TRUMP, speaking about claims that Britain's state-funded health care system would be part of future U.K.-U.S. trade talks: "I don't even know where that rumor started. We have absolutely nothing to do with it and we wouldn't want to. If you handed it to us on a silver platter, we want nothing to do with it." remarks Tuesday with Stoltenberg.

THE FACTS: He's referring to his own past statements as a "rumor."

Asked about the National Health Service during a visit to Britain in June, he said "when you're dealing in trade, everything's on the table. So, NHS or anything else."

The service, which provides free health care to all Britons, could in fact be a bargaining chip in U.S.-U.K. trade talks. U.S. health-services companies can already bid for contracts if they have European subsidiaries. A future government could increase the amount of private-sector involvement or let U.S. companies bid directly.

As well, the U.S. could demand during trade talks that Britain pay American pharmaceutical companies more for drugs. Medicines became a big issue in negotiations on a revamped North American free trade deal, as the U.S. pushed successfully for tighter restrictions on the development in Canada and Mexico of generic versions of U.S.-patented drugs.

Leaked documents from preliminary talks between U.S. and U.K. negotiators over two years from July 2017 released by the Labour Party last week said "patent issues" around "NHS access to generic drugs will be a key consideration" in talks.

It's an overstatement to say the national health service as a whole would be up for sale, as Labour has alleged will happen if Prime Minister Boris Johnson's Conservatives win the Dec. 12 election and try to strike a post-Brexit trade deal with the U.S. Britain would not be "selling off" the health service, as Labour asserts, because taxpayers would still be footing the bill.

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AP FACT CHECK: Trump and the people he forgets he knew - Minneapolis Star Tribune

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Testimony: Slain Trinity University student had plans to break up with boyfriend to go back to her ex – San Antonio Express-News

Posted: at 7:46 pm

The ex-boyfriend of slain Trinity University student Cayley Mandadi told a jury Friday that he last saw her when Mark Howerton put his arm around her and pulled her away the night she was to end it with Howerton, who is accused of killing her in a jealous rage.

Jett Birchum, a former Trinity University student, said he dated Mandadi for about nine months before she met Howerton. He admitted Mandadi was on-and-off with both men at the same time, but before her death, decided she wanted to get back with Birchum.

She told me she was trying to end the relationship, Birchum told the jury in the fifth day of proceedings in the trial.

He mentioned once that while they were together, Howerton kept texting and calling Mandadi, and sent her a video that Birchum said he saw because she handed him the phone.

I had seen a Snapchat. He was holding his gun and putting it in his mouth, saying, This is your fault, Birchum told the jury.

He said he had sex with Mandadi before a football game Oct. 28, 2017, and saw her the next day to have lunch before Howerton picked her up from her dorm to take her to the Mala Luna Music Festival.

She told me she wanted to break up with Mark, let him down easy, and that they could just be friends, he told the panel. She told me she was planning on breaking up with him at Mala Luna because there would be witnesses all around.

Birchum said he went to the festival and saw from a distance Howerton as he pulled her away. He tried to call Mandadi, but she did not pick up. He attempted to follow them, but lost them in the crowd, he told the jury.

Testimony has established that Howerton and Mandadi had been drinking heavily and doing MDMA, commonly known as Ecstasy or Molly, a mood-altering drug. The pair argued over Birchum at the music festival Oct. 29.

That night, Howerton said he persuaded her to go to Houston with him, and at some point she stopped breathing in his car and he drove her to a hospital in Luling.

Since she was unresponsive and covered in bruises from head to toe, doctors there decided to transport her to a Kyle hospital, where she was declared brain dead Oct. 30. She died Oct. 31 after being taken off life support.

From the start of Birchums testimony, defense attorney John T. Hunter objected and attempted to discredit Birchums statements because he was offered immunity by the district attorneys office in exchange for his testimony to the grand jury. Hence, Birchum could not be implicated in any charges.

A grand jury weighs evidence and determines whether charges should be brought against a suspect prior to a trial.

Hunter asked Birchum, who now attends Texas State University, if he was on probation at the time of Mandadis death.

No sir, he said, adding that his community supervision for a drug charge out of Fort Bend County concluded in February 2018.

Hunter then cross-examined Birchum over photographs extracted from his phone that showed cocaine and bags of marijuana.

Were you providing marijuana to students at Trinity University? Hunter asked.

Birchum, under the direction of his attorney, J. Charles Bunk, invoked his Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination about a dozen times.

Another witness, Joseph Goodwin, testifying for the state, told the jury he went with Mandadi and Howerton to the music festival and did MDMA with them while there.

He said Howerton was angry because Mandadi was not ready when they went to pick her up Oct. 29 to go to the event. He said they did not speak on the way there.

Goodwin said he last saw the pair at 3:30 p.m. that day.

They were about 10 feet behind me. Mark said he was going to get drinks near the entrance. Thats the last time I saw them, Goodwin told the jury.

If convicted, Howerton faces up to life in prison.

Testimony continues Monday in 144th state District Court, Visiting Judge Raymond Angelini presiding.

Elizabeth Zavala covers county and state courts in San Antonio. Read her on our free site, mySA.com, and on our subscriber site, ExpressNews.com. | ezavala@express-news.net | Twitter: @elizabeth2863

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What Jimmy Hoffa’s disappearance and legacy say about unions – Quartz

Posted: at 7:46 pm

On July 30, 1975, Jimmy Hoffa, the former president of the Teamsters Union, disappeared.

Hed gone to a restaurant in suburban Detroit apparently expecting to meet a couple of mafia figures whom he had known for decades. Hed hoped to win their support for his bid to return to the unions presidency. A few customers remembered seeing him in the restaurant parking lot before 3 pm.

Sometime after that he vanished without a trace.

The FBI has long assumed that Hoffa was the victim of a mob hit. But despite a decades-long investigation, no one has ever been charged with his murder. His body has never been found.

Yet even though his physical remains are missing, Hoffa lives on in our collective cultural consciousness.

Martin Scorseses The Irishman is only the latest film to offer a fictionalized version of Hoffas story. Before that there was Sylvester Stallones F.I.S.T. (1978), Danny DeVitos Hoffa (1992) and the made-for-TV movie Blood Feud (1983).

Hes been the subject of countless true crime books, most famously Charles Brandts I Heard You Paint Houses. He inspired an episode of The Simpsons. And he crops up in tabloids such as the Weekly World News, which claimed to have found him living in Argentina, hiding from the vengeful Kennedys.

Ever since I started researching and writing on the history of the Teamsters, people have asked me where I think Hoffas body is located. His story, Ive learned, is the one aspect of labor history with which nearly every American is familiar.

Hoffas disappearance transformed him from a controversial union leader into a mythic figure. Over time, Ive come to realize that Hoffas resonance in our culture has important political implications for the labor movement today.

Hoffa became a household name in the late 1950s, when Robert F. Kennedy, then serving as chief counsel for the Senate Rackets Committee, publicly grilled him about his mob ties.

While other witnesses avoided answering questions by invoking their Fifth Amendment rights, Hoffa, the newly elected leader of the nations largest and most powerful union, adopted a defiant stance. He never denied having connections with organized crime figures; instead, he claimed these were the kinds of people he sometimes had to work with as he strengthened and grew his union in the face of employer opposition. He angrily dismissed any allegations of corruption and touted the gains his union had won for its membership.

The verbal sparring between Kennedy and Hoffa became the most memorable part of the hearings.

To the benefit of big business, it turned Hoffa into a menacing symbol of labor racketeering.

But to his union members, it only enhanced his standing. They were already thrilled by the contracts Hoffa had negotiated that included better pay and working conditions. Now his members hailed him as their embattled champion and wore buttons proclaiming, Hoffa, the Teamsters Teamster.

His membership stayed loyal even as Hoffa became the target of a series of prosecution efforts.

After becoming attorney general in 1961, Kennedy created a unit within the Department of Justice whose attorneys referred to themselves as the Get Hoffa Squad. Their directive was to target Hoffa and his closest associates. The squads efforts culminated in convictions against Hoffa in 1964 for jury tampering and defrauding the unions pension fund. Despite that setback, Hoffas hold on the Teamsters presidency remained firm even after he entered federal prison in 1967.

When he finally did leave office, Hoffa did so voluntarily. He resigned in 1971 as part of a deal to win executive clemency from the Nixon administration. There was one condition written into the presidents grant of clemency: He couldnt run for a position in the union until 1980.

Once free, Hoffa claimed that his ban from the union office was illegitimate and began planning to run for the Teamsters presidency. However, he faced resistance not from the government but from organized crime figures, who had found it easier to work with Hoffas successor, Frank Fitzsimmons.

Hoffas meeting at the restaurant on July 30, 1975, was part of his efforts to allay that opposition.

Clearly, things didnt go as planned.

Some theorize that the mafia had him killed in order to ensure that he would not run against Fitzsimmons in the Teamsters upcoming 1976 union election.

But after no arrests and multiple fruitless excavations to try to locate his body, Hoffas case remains, to this day, unresolved.

In Andrew Lawlers history of the Lost Colony of Roanoke, he writes, To die is tragic, but to go missing is to become a legend, a mystery.

Stories are supposed to have a beginning, a middle and an end. But when people go missing and are never found, Lawler explains, theyll endure as subjects of endless fascination. It allows their legacies to be re-written, over and over.

These new interpretations, Lawler observes, can reveal something fresh about who we were, who we are, and who we want to be.

The myth of Hoffa lives on, even though almost five decades have passed since that afternoon in July 1975.

What shapes has it taken?

To some, he stands for an idealized image of the working classa man whod known hard, manual labor and worked tirelessly to achieve his success. But even after rising to his leadership post, Hoffa lived simply and eschewed pretense.

As a Washington Post article from 1992 put it, He wore white socks, and liked his beef cooked medium well He snored at the opera.

Meanwhile, his feud with the Kennedys pitted a populist tough guy off the loading docks against the professional class, the governing class, the educated experts. The Washington Post piece ties Hoffas story to that of another working-class icon. Watching Hoffa go up against Bobby Kennedy was like watching John Henry go up against a steam hammerit was only a matter of time before he lost.

But Hoffas myth can also serve as a morality tale. The New Republic, for instance, described how Danny DeVitos 1992 film reworks Hoffas life into the story of an embattled champion of the working class who makes a Faustian pact with the underworld.

In the movie, Hoffas Teamsters are caught in hopeless picket line battles with mob goons who the anti-union employers have hired. In order to get those goons to switch sides, Hoffa makes a bargain with mafia leaders. But the mafia ultimately has Hoffa killed when he tries to defy their control, becoming the victim of his own unbridled ambition.

Finally, the underworlds mysterious role in Hoffas death keeps his story compelling for Americans who have a fascination with conspiracy theories. It supports the idea of an invisible cabal that secretly runs everything, and which can make even a famous labor leader disappear without a trace.

Hoffas story is often intertwined with theories about the Kennedy assassination that attribute the presidents murder to an organized crime conspiracy. Both Hoffa and Kennedys murders, in these accounts, highlight the underworlds apparently unlimited power to protect its interests, with tentacles that extend into the government and law enforcement.

Over two decades after he went missing, a 1997 article in The Los Angeles Times noted that No union in America conjures up more negative images than the Teamsters.

This matters, because for most Americans who lack first-hand knowledge about organized labor, Hoffa is the only labor leaders name they recognize. And as communications scholar William Puette has noted, the Teamsters notoriety is such that for many people in this country the Teamsters Union is the labor movement.

A union widely perceived as mobbed upwith a labor leader notorious for his Mafia tieshas come, in the minds of some Americans, to represent the entire labor movement. That perception, in turn, bolsters arguments against legislative reforms that would facilitate union organizing efforts.

The other themes in Hoffas myth have similar negative implications for labor. He represents a nostalgic, white, male identity that once existed in a seemingly lost world of manual work. That myth also implies that the unions that emerged in those olden times are no longer necessary.

This depiction doesnt match reality. Todays working class is diverse and employed in a broad spectrum of hard manual labor. Whether youre working as a home health aide or in the gig economy, the need for union protection remains quite real.

But for those working-class Americans who see their society controlled by a hidden cabal of powerful, corrupt forceslike the puppet masters who supposedly had JFK and Hoffa killedlabor activism can appear quixotic.

For these reasons, the ghost of Jimmy Hoffa continues to haunt the labor movement today.

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

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Vallejo cop involved in two fatal shootings in two years placed on leave – The Mercury News

Posted: at 7:45 pm

The Vallejo police officer who shot and killed a man behind a buildingin February 2018 has been placed on paid administrative leave, Vallejo police confirmed in response to public records act request from the Times-Herald.

Officer Ryan McMahon fatally shot Ronell Foster, 33, seven times after the two tussled behind a building in the 400 block of Carolina Street on Feb. 13, 2018. McMahon was also involved in the officer-involved shooting of Willie McCoy in February 2019. McMahon, along with five other Vallejo police officers, shot and killed McCoy at a Taco Bell drive-through.

Police on Wednesday declined to provide any additional information on why McMahon was placed on leave and whether it had anything to do with the Foster or McCoy cases.

Vallejo police Capt. Joseph Iacono declined to provide any comment when asked earlier this month about why McMahon was placed on leave.

I am prohibited from commenting on any potential personnel matter, he told the Times-Herald.

McMahon told investigators that he tried to stop Foster and educate the man about driving recklessly and not having a light on the bicycle, according to documents released this year under the states new police transparency law, SB 1421.

Fosters family, through the law offices of Oakland civil rights attorney John Burris, sued the city and police department three months after Foster was killed. Burris attorneys intended to depose McMahon in anticipation of a trial.

However, in October McMahon signaled his intent to exercise his Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination in the federal lawsuit.

McMahon told investigators that Foster rode off on the bicycle, leading him on a chase over several city blocks. Foster eventually ditched his bicycle and started running, while the officer got out of his cruiser and ran after Foster.

During the chase, McMahon reported that he allegedly witnessed Foster reaching for his waistband several times. Believing Foster had a weapon, McMahon discharged his Taser. One of the two probes struck Foster in the back but that didnt stop Foster as he continued to run away until falling along a walkway behind a building on Carolina Street, McMahon told investigators.

McMahon caught up to Foster and pushed the man down as he tried to get up. The officer said he tried to use a stun gun on Foster, but that failed as well.

McMahon said he began hitting Foster with a flashlight. At some point, Foster got up and ripped the flashlight from McMahons hand. The officer told investigators he feared for his life.

This guy just took my light from me, were fighting and nothing Ive used on him is working. He is gonna smack me in the head, McMahon said to investigators. Hes gonna take my gun and shoot me or hes gonna beat me down with my own flashlight, and theres nobody here to help me and nobody knows where Im at.

McMahon said he tried to activate his body camera throughout the encounter, pressed the button after shooting Foster. The system records the 30 seconds prior to activation without audio.

Foster was shot three times in his chest and once in the head, left shoulder, left arm and the right side of his back, autopsy records show. Marijuana, methamphetamine and amphetamine were found in Fosters system.

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Trumps side should be heard before House moves on impeachment: Tom Campbell – LA Daily News

Posted: at 7:45 pm

Its a federal crime not only to give a bribe to a public official but for a public official to ask for one.

A public official who directly or indirectly demands [or] seeks anything of value personally for or because of any official act to be performed by such official is guilty under the law.

The public official does not actually have to receive the valuable at issue and does not actually have to withhold the official act. The crime is to ask for something of personal value in return for doing an official act.

President Trump has yet to present his defense to allegations of such bribery to the House of Representatives. Indeed, he has not yet been officially charged. The House Intelligence Committee cannot do that, only the House Judiciary Committee can. If Trump seeks to make a defense, it will be there.

Unlike the procedures of the Intelligence Committee, the procedures of the Judiciary Committee should allow Trump to put on his own witnesses, rebut witnesses against him and present a legal defense. Many members of Congress have already reached their conclusion regarding President Trump in the Ukraine matter. Whether for or against Trump now, each should reserve judgment until Trump makes his defense, and the Judiciary Committee should be generous in allowing him all the opportunity to do so he wishes.

Admittedly, Trump has not been forthcoming with regard to several key witnesses.

Trump has ordered members of his staff and administration not to testify to the Intelligence Committee. Perhaps he will also order them not to testify before the Judiciary Committee. However, until a court orders them to testify (as the Supreme Court ordered President Nixon to turn over evidence when he was under impeachment inquiry) and they refuse, it would be wrong to infer their testimony would support impeachment.

There are legitimate reasons for a president to want to shield conversations between himself and his closest advisors: most importantly, to permit a president to receive candid advice. By way of analogy, a newspaper might refuse to disclose its sources lest it chill others from providing information to the newspaper in the future, not necessarily because the newspapers sources would not back up what was published.

The House is evidently on a fast track, hoping to take an impeachment vote by years end. Far more important, however, is to make a correct decision than to make a fast decision.

How can a decision be reached about what President Trump sought from Ukraine, and in return for what official act, without hearing from John Bolton, Rudy Giuliani and Mick Mulvaney, who talked directly with Trump? Bolton says hell willingly testify if a court rules that executive privilege does not prevent it. Mulvaney and Giuliani can be compelled to testify if a court overrules the executive privilege defense, although each might choose to plead the Fifth Amendment instead.

Courts can move quickly when the nations needs require it. The Supreme Court decided the Pentagon Papers case 12 days after the Nixon administration first went to federal district court to enjoin those documents publication. The legal issue today is important, but not complicated. Does the Supreme Courts unanimous 1974 decision that President Nixons claim of executive privilege had to give way to a criminal investigation apply as well to a claim of executive privilege in an impeachment inquiry?

The House leadership is thinking like a prosecutor instead of a branch of government engaged in the most serious inter-branch challenge under our Constitution. If a prosecutor can build a sufficient case against a suspected criminal without some piece of evidence difficult to obtain, the prosecutor will go ahead. In impeachment, however, the selection of a president is proposed to be set aside.

The House should learn what Trump told his budget chief, his national security advisor and his private diplomatic representative before deciding whether Trump withheld governmental action for personal benefit.

Tom Campbell is a professor of law and of economics at Chapman University. He served five terms in the House of Representatives, during which time he voted to impeach President Clinton for perjury. Campbell left the Republican Party in 2016, and is now the interim chairman of the Common Sense Party of California, which is gathering signatures to be officially recognized.

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Rutberg: Here’s why the impeachment inquiry shouldn’t be rushed – The Manchester Journal

Posted: at 7:45 pm

By Fredric D. Rutberg

Conventional wisdom, including House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff, says Democrats must conclude impeachment proceedings to avoid distracting from the 2020 presidential primaries and to prevent the nation from having to endure the "wrenching" impeachment process. The conventional wisdom may be wrong.

Too many issues must be explored before enough will be learned to intelligently decide if an elected president should be impeached and tried for bribery or other high crimes and misdemeanors. A decision on impeachment requires knowing the details of the president's financial dealings with the Russians and Saudis that could be revealed by examining his personal tax returns.

Credible evidence supports that President Trump violated his oath of office in myriad ways, as detailed in the recent release of the House Democrats' report on the impeachment inquiry. Using the power of the presidency to enlist a foreign leader to effectively disqualify his strongest Democratic opponent is a political crime of the highest order.

The current impeachment inquiry is the fourth in our nation's history, but none of the others had credible allegations of national security breaches. History and our country's future require us to learn the full extent of the president's perfidy. A rush to conclude the impeachment could do lasting damage.

If, as expected, the House votes along party lines to impeach the president and the Senate votes along party lines to acquit him, there will be a strong argument that this matter has ended. The president and his supporters will claim that an acquittal, even if a majority of senators vote to convict, is a total victory. Not only will the president claim exoneration from the allegations in the articles of impeachment, he will also claim absolution from myriad other sins and crimes of which he has been accused that were not part of the impeachment inquiry.

Important details continue to emerge on a daily basis. A couple of weeks ago, the president went before TV cameras with notes parroting Ambassador Gordon Sondland's testimony about a September phone call during which the president told Sondland "no quid pro quo" and urging his ambassador to tell the Ukrainian president "to do the right thing." The president's words were echoed immediately and repeatedly by his supporters in Congress, Fox News and elsewhere as evidence of his innocence.

However, a week later, we learned that the president was briefed on the whistleblower's complaint the month before that conversation with Sondland. The president's words now appear as support for a hastily concocted defense. It resembles President Richard Nixon telling White House Counsel John Dean at the time that paying $1 million in hush money to the Watergate burglars could be done, but it "would be wrong" when Nixon knew the conversation was being taped.

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History also requires the testimony of those who were privy to the alleged misdeeds. Currently, those with the most knowledge of what the president knew and when he knew it have failed to respond to Congressional subpoenas to testify.

On Monday, a federal judge re-asserted her order that former White House Counsel Donald McGahn show up before the House Intelligence Committee, in contrast to the president's assertion that his top aides are immune from Congressional subpoenas. U.S. District Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson said the absence of McGahn's testimony "would also injure the public's interest in thorough and well-informed impeachment proceedings."

Many who oppose the current impeachment hearings defend the president by claiming the testimony is second- or third-degree hearsay. In our jurisprudence, hearsay evidence is allowable when determining if charges should be brought, such as in an impeachment. The hearsay defense would disappear if Congress enforced its demands that key witnesses appear.

Forcing the impeachment to conclude before the primaries will cripple the process because witnesses with first-hand knowledge, including McGahn, former National Security Adviser John Bolton, acting Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney and Trump's personal attorney Rudolph Giuliani can avoid having to appear and either testify or assert their Fifth Amendment privileges. Indeed, McGahn appealed the order for him to appear, and it is unlikely that appeal will be resolved by March.

Washington correspondent Charles Savage observed in last week's New York Times, "If the [President's] overriding goal is to keep information from coming out the Trump legal strategy is succeeding despite all the adverse rulings." In sports parlance, the president is trying to win an acquittal by running out the clock.

History requires that an impeachment trial built on credible allegations that Trump used his office's broad powers to manage the country's foreign policy to support the false claim that his former Democratic challenger Joe Biden is corrupt be a full and complete hearing.

The 2020 presidential campaign is clearly shaping up as a referendum on Donald Trump, his performance as president and his fitness for the position. By holding impeachment proceedings to an artificial deadline, Congressional Democrats are denying the American public its opportunity to learn as much as it can about the most enigmatic president our country has had just when the public needs to know more.

House Democrats should act with deliberate speed on impeachment but not be bothered by the schedule of presidential primaries. If the process cannot be completed until summer, the proceedings can be suspended until after the election, when the people will have rendered their verdict on this president. In the meantime, history demands deliberation.

Fredric D. Rutberg is president and publisher of the Manchester Journal.

If you'd like to leave a comment (or a tip or a question) about this story with the editors, please email us. We also welcome letters to the editor for publication; you can do that by filling out our letters form and submitting it to the newsroom.

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No Harm, No Foul What If Darwinism Were Excised from Biology? – Discovery Institute

Posted: at 7:44 pm

Some biologists might shudder at the thought of eliminating Darwinism from their scientific work. A Darwin-ectomy sounds more painful than a tonsillectomy or appendectomy. To hard-core evolutionists, it might sound like a cephalectomy (removal of the head)! If Darwinism is as essential to biology as Richard Dawkins or Jerry Coyne argues, then removing evolutionary words and concepts should make research incomprehensible.

If, on the other hand, Darwinism is more of a narrative gloss applied to the conclusions after the scientific work is done, as the late Philip Skell observed, then biology would survive the operation just fine. It might even be healthier, slimmed down after disposing of unnecessary philosophical baggage. Here are some recent scientific papers in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS) to use as test cases.

In PNAS recently, Adam C. Soloff and Michael T. Lotze reviewed findings by Liu et al. about the immune system. Suffused within the narrative is plenty of Darwinspeak. Does it add anything of value?

Immunity evolved as an impossibly elegant, yet devastatingly destructive force to combat pathogens, environmental insults, and rogue malignant cellular agents arising from within. The immunologic arsenal developed in a veritable coevolutionary arms race with the worlds pathogens, culminating in lymphocytic weapons of mass destruction. Indeed, T cells and B cells endowed with antigen specificity, the capacity for clonal expansion, and most importantly, long-lived memory, represent the pinnacle of such evolution. Together with the innate immune response, the adaptive immune system holds the power to mediate sustained inflammatory responses with such voracity that tissues, organs, or the host itself may endure critical collateral damage. To preserve balance, adaptive immunity has developed under the guiding principle of primum non nocere, or first, to do no harm, limiting the aggression of the innate immune response (e.g., septic shock, penumbra of cerebrovascular and brain infarcts). Herein, redundant mechanisms to preclude aberrant deleterious immunity have evolved as the predominant state of being, establishing a significant molecular and cellular threshold to initiate and maintain inflammation. Often overlooked, following the excitement of the active immune response, are the critical means by which the host resolves the inflammatory process, restoring local and systemic balance. The findings by Liu et al. provide further description of molecular processes and cellular mediators of the resolution process, shedding light on mechanistic aspects of immune homeostasis. [Emphasis added.]

What, exactly, does the e-word evolved add to the understanding of the adaptive immune system? It adds fat, not meat. The essential parts of the explanation could be conveyed easily without Darwin. Basically,

Isnt that cleaner? The reader can breathe easier without the smoke of being told over and over that all these elegant mechanisms evolved.

Seven biologists looked for convergent evolution between two very different mammals whales and bats that use echolocation. Amir Marcovitz et al., in PNAS, relied on Darwinism for their research. Its right there in the title: A functional enrichment test for molecular convergent evolution finds a clear protein-coding signal in echolocating bats and whales. The researchers found not only phenotypic convergence, but convergence all the way down to protein molecules! Can the findings survive a Darwin-ectomy? Sounds like a tough operation.

Echolocation is a prime example of convergent evolution, the independent gain of similar features in species of different lineages. Is phenotypic convergence driven by underlying molecular convergence? If so, could molecular convergence include contributions from highly constrained, often-pleotropic, coding regions? We develop a generalizable test that offers a resounding yes to both extensively debated questions. Our test highlights molecular convergence in genes regulating the cochlear ganglion of echolocating bats and whales, the skin of aquatic mammals, and the lung of high-altitude mammals. Importantly, the approach correctly dismisses confounding convergence-like patterns, such as those from sequence decay of vision genes in blind subterranean species, and is readily applicable to the thousands of genomes sequenced across the tree of life.

Their work not only relies on Darwinism, but promises to help future research. How could anyone claim that Darwinism is useless to this paper? Actually, its quite easy. Its as easy as showing that any other kind of circular reasoning is useless in science. These seven biologists assumed evolution, and concluded evolution. The observations had nothing to do with it.

Some extreme examples can show the fallacy. Humans and turtles can hold their breath underwater. Is that convergent evolution? Turtles cant think, but humans can. Is that divergent evolution? If tricycles and race cars alike are found to contain both aluminum and iron, did they obtain those through blind, unguided processes? So it is with two very different mammals bats and whales that use sound for echolocation. Neither the similarities nor differences prove convergent evolution (or divergent evolution, for that matter), unless you start with that assumption. Its a non sequitur to conclude they evolved.

You can cherry-pick the evidence to support a previously assumed explanation. In this paper, against a backdrop of previous failures to find convergence at the molecular level, the team celebrates their discovery of gene enrichment for cochlear ganglion, lung, and skin but not for a multitude of other traits that should have converged, such as for pharynx, sound generation, and behavior. Even at that, their findings are statistical, not causal, and fail to include potential non-coding influences on the genes. If bats and dolphins were found to use completely different proteins for the cochlear ganglion, the authors would undoubtedly have explained that by evolution, too. No matter how similar or different the animals are in other respects, the conclusion is predetermined: they evolved the common trait, as well as the different traits. In this game, evolutionists cant lose.

Oh yes, this approach will surely help evolutionists with their future research. All they have to do is apply circular reasoning, too. Science marches on!

The paper could be completely revamped without references to evolution, and would be better for it. The researchers could have learned from the similarities and differences in bats and whales, studied the design principles for echolocation in air compared to echolocation in water, and applied the knowledge to human sonar or ultrasonic sensing. Without the evolutionary fat, the science would be useful and productive for human flourishing. Instead, the biologists wasted time on a myth that blind, unguided processes can take sound and build complex systems that can utilize it. Thats ridiculous. Anyone who has watched Illustras detailed animation of dolphin echolocation should realize that sound has no such creative power.

It would seem an impossible challenge to research Darwins finches without reference to Darwin or Darwinism. Yet in their latest paper in PNAS, Peter and Rosemary Grant, who have spent their careers studying these icons of evolution, once again show that science has no need for the Darwin hypothesis. In fact, they created more problems for Darwinism than support.

Adaptive radiations, comprising many species derived from one or a small number of ancestral species in a geologically short time, are prominent components of the worlds biodiversity. Introgressive hybridization of divergent species has been important in increasing variation, leading to new morphologies and even new species, but how that happens throughout evolutionary history is not known. A long-term field study of Darwins finches on Daphne Major island, Galpagos, shows that introgression enhances variation and increases the potential for future evolution. We use a dated phylogeny to infer that populations became more variable in morphological traits through time, consistent with this enhancement effect, and then declined in variation after reaching a maximum. Introgression may be especially important with future climate change.

It will take some radical surgery to remove the Darwinian concepts in the Grants paper, but will the science survive? Take a closer look at what they actually found. First of all, they admit that the effect of introgressive hybridization on adaptive radiation is not known. Ponder that for a moment. After 160 years, has Darwinism been so useless that it has not shed light on a process that should have been well known by now, particularly with these iconic birds? Even worse, though, is that introgression and hybridization involve shuffling existing genetic information. It has nothing to do with variation by random mutation being selected by a blind watchmaker, much less being able to build an irreducibly complex system. Search for selection in the paper and you find only faith, not evidence, that natural selection might work in tandem with introgressive hybridization to produce new species. The only examples of selection they offer involve microevolution, not innovation. For those, they do lateral passes to other Darwinists in the references.

Finally, the finches are still finches. In Darwin Devolves, Behe argues that all species of finches can vary up to the family level without supporting Darwinism. The variations observed by the Grants amount to dimes and pennies in hundred-thousand-dollar transactions, he quips. And did you notice the Grants admitting that the finches variability declined after reaching a maximum? How is that going to fit Darwinism, which requires unlimited variability and progress?

The research on these beautiful, well-designed birds could have been done by someone like Gregor Mendel, who found discrete shuffling of existing traits in peas instead of blending inheritance that Darwin expected. Students could learn about how the shuffling occurs, permitting the birds to survive in oscillating conditions. They could learn about how adaptation of complex systems to changing environments requires Foresight, as Marcos Eberlin has shown. The work of Peter and Rosemary Grant on Darwins finches has offered nothing of substance to support Darwins theory, despite the name. They have not shown that natural selection (even if assumed to have creative power) can surpass the family level and proceed upward to make human brains from bacteria. As confirmation of Darwinism, it has been a tragic waste of time. But all is not lost. Their work has been very helpful to design advocates, showing that, at best, Darwinism can add a millimeter to a bird beak here and there, until the drought ends.

So, here are three papers in Americas premier science journal that appear at first glance to need Darwinism, use Darwinism, support Darwinism, and thereby impart useful scientific knowledge. After subjecting them to Darwin-ectomies, though, the science not only survived, but proved healthier and more useful. Science will do better without the useless fat thinking that blind, unguided processes can account for bats, whales, and immune systems.

Photo: Dolphins of the Galpagos Islands, by Gregory Slobirdr Smith [CC BY-SA 2.0], via Wikimedia Commons.


No Harm, No Foul What If Darwinism Were Excised from Biology? - Discovery Institute

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