Hearing On McAuliffe's Concealed Carry Ban In State Government Buildings To Be Held Wednesday

Democratic Gov. Terry McAuliffe should be given credit for signing a pretty solid concealed carry reciprocity agreement in February. It reversed the executive actions of Virginia Attorney General Mark Herring that would’ve curtailed gun rights in the state. Yet, the open carry ban in government buildings remains. Now, there’s a discussion whether to ban concealed carry in state buildings. A hearing will be held Wednesday morning on the matter (via CBS 6):

The ban applied immediately to open carried guns but banning concealed weapons requires more regulation. Wednesday, there will be a public hearing where residents can weigh in.

"Concealed carry permit holders are like the general population, most are good guys, more are law abiding. But not every single one is, and how are you going to know the difference?" said [Virginia State Director of the Coalition to Stop Gun Violence Lori] Haas.


"They can’t guarantee us our protection. Nobody can. Only we can,” said Gary Lewis, the owner of Gary’s Guns and Transfers in Richmond.


But some gun dealers say banning all guns from specific buildings would make it less safe.

"To announce to the world -- good guys and bad guys -- that none of the good guys are armed, it makes it clear that they have no resistance when they want to do some harm,” said Goldberg.

Others opposed to the ban say concealed permit holders have to pass a background check, and therefore are authorized to have that gun.

"As long as he checks and says, 'Yes I have my concealed gun, I have a valid permit,' that should give him right to go in there,” said Lewis.

The actions of Herring would’ve gutted Virginia reciprocity agreements with tow-dozen states. This announcement was made right around Christmas time. Amid the uproar, in January, McAuliffe reversed course, adding that he would restore those rights, which he did in February. In doing so, Virginia’s carry permit became one of the most permissible in the country, rivaling that of Utah.

Concealed carry holders are more law-abiding than the police, and the percentage of those who have committed crimes is incredibly small; too small to make it worthy of an anti-gun talking point. At the same time, while I support those fighting against this possible piece of legislation, the real battle of reciprocity is over and we won. So, by all means, I’m for concealed carry holders being allowed to exercise their rights in state government buildings, yet it’s not something that we should do a full-blown mobilization. If Hillary Clinton wins the presidency, we need all the resources we have against her anti-gun push. If we were debating Virginia adopting constitutional carry, then that’s a different story.

Rick Perry To Appear On Dancing With The Stars

Former Texas Gov. Rick Perry (R) will reportedly be dusting off his dancing shoes and taking aim at the mirror ball trophy on the upcoming season of "Dancing With The Stars." While the official contestant roster and professional pairings of season 23 will be announced on Tuesday, Entertainment Tonight has confirmed that Perry will be appearing on the show.

ET can exclusively confirm that Jana Kramer, Marilu Henner, former Texas Governor Rick Perry and Vanilla Ice are the latest celebrities headed toDWTS. Retired football star Calvin Johnson and Indy race car driver James Hinchcliffe are also on tap for the fall season, ET has learned.

They join a celebrity cast that includes Olympians Laurie HernandezandRyan LochteBrady Bunch star Maureen McCormick, Kenneth “Babyface” Edmonds, Amber Rose, Jake T. Austin and Little Woman: LA star Terra Jole.

The last political figure to appear on the show was former House Majority Leader Tom Delay, who withdrew during week three of season nine after suffering a fractured foot.

Break a leg, Gov. Perry!

So, We've Lost Track Of Hundreds Of Thousands Of Guns In Iraq And Afghanistan

Well, this isn’t the most shocking news, though it’s something that the Pentagon should be reviewing regarding tracking weapons we send abroad. In the $40 billion in arms we’ve doled out since 9/11 to Iraq and Afghanistan, hundreds of thousands of guns have gone missing. In some instances, like in Afghanistan, rifles went missing after they were handed out to new security forces recruits. Officials suspects that these individuals trotted off with their rifles in the hopes of selling them. In fact, that’s how some veterans knew that the military was losing track of arms when an Iraqi man posted a photo of an American M4 rifle, which he was trying to sell. Former BBC journalist Iain Overton tried to crunch the numbers regarding these lost arms. He admitted that since the Pentagon doesn’t keep proper paperwork on these firearms transactions, a true figure is impossible. But that figure does soar into the hundreds of thousands. The New York Times also did an estimate of small arms sent to Iraq and Afghanistan, about 700,000 total guns, but only 48 percent could be accounted for. C.J. Chivers at NY Times Magazine had more:

Today the Pentagon has only a partial idea of how many weapons it issued, much less where these weapons are. Meanwhile, the effectively bottomless abundance of black-market weapons from American sources is one reason Iraq will not recover from its post-invasion woes anytime soon.


Overton is releasing the data and his analysis today. It covers 412 contracts and merits pause for reflection as the parties to the international Arms Trade Treaty gather this week in Geneva. The treaty, which took effect in 2014 and of which the United States is a signatory, is intended to promote transparency and responsible action in the transfer of conventional arms and to reduce their diversion to unintended hands — exactly what the United States often failed to do in recent wars.

In all, Overton found, the Pentagon provided more than 1.45 million firearms to various security forces in Afghanistan and Iraq, including more than 978,000 assault rifles, 266,000 pistols and almost 112,000 machine guns.


As an illustration of how haphazard the supervision of this arms distribution often was, last week, five months after being asked by The New York Times for its own tally of small arms issued to partner forces in Afghanistan and Iraq, the Pentagon said it has records for fewer than half the number of firearms in the researchers’ count — about 700,000 in all. This is an amount, Overton noted, that “only accounts for 48 percent of the total small arms supplied by the U.S. government that can be found in open-source government reports.”


Overton’s analysis also does not account for many weapons issued by the American military to local forces by other means, including the reissue of captured weapons, which was a common and largely undocumented practice.

Adding to the suspicion that the number is even larger, Overton is certain that his tally missed shipments, because the data that the Defense Department made available was incomplete or laden with contradictions that were not readily reconciled. For example, the contracts it released were for more than $6.5 million or $7 million, depending on the year. Overton suspects that this hides many smaller purchases.

Chivars added that keeping tabs on these weapons was not a priority; arming and training the new security forces to do battle and ease the burden on American forces was the main action item. Now, it’s impossible to track these weapons unless the pop up on social media.

And review of these transactions isn’t going to be happening soon. For starters, the Taliban is a resurgent force in Afghanistan. They’ve regained ground, they have dug in, and our reconstruction project is in the crosshairs. As for the security forces we have trained, they’ve been unable to halt the Taliban advances (via NYT):

When President Ashraf Ghani visited the northern provincial capital of Kunduz last fall, after the city had finally been reclaimed after falling to the Taliban, he promised improvements to make sure things never got out of hand again.

Among the changes was creating three new administrative districts to help improve government support in the province. But nearly eight months later, those three districts are firmly under the control of the Taliban — and, in fact, government forces were never able to clear them and install the new officials. It is the same story in much of the rest of Kunduz Province, where the Taliban control or have mined many roads and have enforced their ban on smoking and listening to music in several areas.

Even in some of the Kunduz districts nominally under government control, officials’ true reach remains limited to the bazaars and the administrative buildings, with the Taliban having free movement in the villages, according to local residents.

ICYMI: CBO Projects 2016 Budget Deficit To Hit $590 Billion

The fiscal year is set to end on September 30 and the deficit is expected to be $56 billion more than what the Congressional Budget Office projected. According to Reuters, slow growth in revenues and more spending on entitlement programs mucked up the original numbers:

The U.S. budget deficit is expected to grow to $590 billion in fiscal year 2016 due to slower than expected growth in revenues and higher spending for programs including Social Security and Medicare, the Congressional Budget Office said on Tuesday.

The estimate, which is $56 billion larger than CBO's forecast in March, shows the deficit increasing in relation to economic output for the first time since 2009. CBO said the deficit is expected to be $152 billion higher than in 2015 and will equal 3.2 percent of economic output.

The deficit peaked at $1.4 trillion in 2009 and shrank to $485 billion in 2014.

The nonpartisan research agency also said that debt held by the public will amount to nearly 77 percent of gross domestic product by the end of 2016, three percentage points higher than last year and its highest ratio since 1950.

Yes, we all hear President Obama boasting about how he shrunk the deficit in half, but the deficit has gotten worse and the national debt is approaching $20 trillion. The administration likes to frame themselves as saviors of an economy, which is in recovery. Many Americans simply don’t feel it. An argument could be made that Obama stopped us from going over the cliff, but the second part of that is pushing us up the hill to a true recovery. He’s been disappointing in that regard.

Commercial Flights Between U.S. And Cuba To Begin August 31

For the first time since 1961, there will be commercial air travel between the United States and Cuba. JetBlue is set to begin direct flights from Miami to the island beginning on Tuesday. U.S. Airways will operate flights to Cuba starting next month.

Currently, there are 17 chartered flights each day from the United States to Cuba. Eventually, there will be about 20 commercial flights daily between Cuba and the U.S.

Until 2015, Americans were generally not permitted to visit Cuba without special permission. Earlier this year, President Obama became the first president in 88 years to visit the island.

Don't Go Back To Brazil, Ryan Lochte

U.S. Olympic swimmer Ryan Lochte had a rough time in Rio. He lost his Speedo endorsement. He was hammered by the media for exaggerating his account of how he was robbed, while intoxicated, near a gas station in the host city. And now, he’s been formally charged with filing a false police report by Rio authorities. Not only that, but our own State Department is encouraging Lochte cooperate (via WEX):

Spokeswoman Elizabeth Trudeau told reporters that the department had no specific comment about the case, but did say U.S. citizens are encouraged to comply.

"We've seen those reports as well. Due to privacy considerations, I don't have information to offer," she said.

"I would say, speaking broadly, we do encourage U.S. citizens as always to cooperate with law enforcement," Trudeau added.

Mr. Lochte, don’t do it. Don’t go down there. It’s a false police report charge from a law enforcement authority that isn’t of the best caliber. There’s a discussion about the police surreptitiously engaging in a campaign to murder people of color. It’s absolutely ludicrous, but in Rio—well, there have been more than a few times where police have been caught covering up what appear to be murders in the favelas. Second, I would suspect that Lochte is never going to be heading to Rio again any time soon if ever, so why even partake in this three-ring circus. Rio police are looking to avoid being embarrassed. Maybe if there were a bit more open regarding what information they do have on the alleged incident, then maybe there could be a reason for Mr. Lochte to head down there. As of now, he should stay put.

First, let’s rehash what Larry O’Connor detailed at length over at Hot Air about this fiasco.

The first being that Lochte didn’t lie about getting robbed; he was robbed by armed security guards. There is no evidence that Lochte and his three teammates, Gunnar Bentz, James Fiegen, and Jack Conger, were even near the bathroom. USA Today Sports went into the bathroom where the men allegedly broke a soap dish dispenser and a mirror. They found no evidence of vandalism, though it’s not like this bathroom was some immaculate place to relief one’s self. It was a dump.

There’s also no video evidence that they were even near the bathroom. Oh, and the guards who allegedly committed the robbery, well, we don’t know their names. They haven’t been made available for interviews. Bentz’s account corroborates Lochte’s later account that armed men demanded payment in order for the four men to leave. Again, that’s, uh, armed robbery.

Larry included with eyewitness account and a statement from Bentz that seems to corroborate it. The only vandalism that occurred was Lochte accidentally knocking off a sign on the wall.

Eyewitness Deluz tells USA Today that as he brokered an agreement between the armed robbers security guards — you know, the ones who held these four Americans at gunpoint while shouting Portugese at them until they got their cash — the only damage ever mentioned by the criminal thugs (the robbers, not the swimmers) was a framed, canvas sign that Lochte apparently knocked down off the wall.


Olympic swimmer Gunnar Bentz released a written statement about the incident:

“After attending an event with several swimmers from different nations, I left in a taxicab along with U.S. swimmers Jack Conger, Jimmy Feigen and Ryan Lochte around 6 a.m. On the way back to the Olympic Village, we pulled into a convenience store to use the restroom. There was no restroom inside, so we foolishly relieved ourselves on the backside of the building behind some bushes. There was a locked door out back and I did not witness anyone breaking it open. I am unsure why, but while we were in that area, Ryan pulled to the ground a framed metal advertisement that was loosely anchored to the brick wall. I then suggested to everyone that we needed to leave the area and we returned to the taxi.

“Two men, whom I believe to have been security guards, then instructed us to exit the vehicle. No guns were drawn during this exchange, but we did see a gun tucked into one of the guard’s waistband. As Jimmy and Jack were walking away from the vehicle, the first security guard held up a badge to me and drew his handgun. I yelled to them to come back toward us and they complied. Then the second guard drew his weapon and both guards pointed their guns at us and yelled at us to sit on a nearby sidewalk.

“Again, I cannot speak to his actions, but Ryan stood up and began to yell at the guards. After Jack and I both tugged at him in an attempt to get him to sit back down, Ryan and the security guards had a heated verbal exchange, but no physical contact was made.”


Swimmer Jack Conger also released a statement:

Early Sunday morning I was with USA swimming teammates celebrating at the French House. Four of us took a taxi back to the Olympic Village, and on the way we pulled into a gas station to use the restroom, but ultimately relieved ourselves outside, for which I apologize. Ryan Lochte removed a poster from a nearby wall, which apparently alerted the gas station employees, leading to our being confronted by two armed security men. Although I cooperated with their requests while there was a heated exchange among others, at one point a weapon was pointed at me. Eventually, a man appeared who was able to translate for us, helping to defuse the situation. We paid some money to compensate them for the torn poster, and returned to the Village in a different taxi.

But, but the bathroom, right? We’ve all seen what happens when the media thinks something happened and channels their inner most biases, in this instance the ugly American abroad, to frame a narrative that’s false. We don’t know the names of the guards, the bathroom wasn’t vandalized, there’s no evidence that they were even near the bathroom, and not all the video evidence has been released. Yet, the bathroom was vandalized and the swimmers made up a story about being armed at gunpoint to cover their tracks. That’s what was disseminated and permeated the psyche of millions of people. It’s not true. Now, Lochte isn’t getting off scot-free. Yes, he probably did act like an idiot—and he did exaggerate the account, but it doesn’t negate the fact that these men were robbed by armed guards whose names we don’t know. Just the lack of evidence alone should have people scratching their heads, demanding more transparency from the Rio police.

“I will take the word of one of our Olympians (yes, even the flakiest of them all, Ryan Lochte) over an inherently corrupt, 3rd world Banana Republic trying to make their disorganized and crime-ridden sports festival look like the poster-child for American bad behavior,” wrote O’Connor.

I couldn’t agree more. Lochte, atone for stretching the truth, continue to do damage control, but don’t fly down to Rio.

Iran Deploys Long Range Missiles, US Drones Retreat from Airspace After Warning

Earlier in 2016, Russia delivered several divisions of S-300 air defense missile systems to Iran and now Tehran is deploying those same systems to the Fordo nuclear facility according to state television.  

"Protecting nuclear facilities is paramount in all circumstances," said General Farzad Esmaili, commander of Iran's air defenses.  "Today, Iran's sky is one of the most secure in the region."

He added that "continued opposition and hype on the S-300 or the Fordo site are examples of the viciousness of the enemy."

The Fordo site, hidden into a mountain near the city of Qom, is one of Iran's numerous nuclear enrichment plants.

Within 24 hours after transferring the missiles, Iran's military detected a U.S. drone entering Iranian airspace on Monday and issued a warning for it to leave.  The drone immediately retreated from its course according to Iran's Tasnim news agency

"Iran's army air defense detected and warned an American drone in the eastern airspace of the country. It was coming from Afghanistan. The drone left the area," the report says.

Iran continues to stand strong in its defense of the Persian Gulf, declaring last Thursday that "if any foreign vessel enters our waters, we warn them, and if it's an invasion, we confront."  Subsequently, the Iranian navy successfully intercepted a U.S. destroyer, followed by a verbal warning from U.S. officials.  

Fans Burn Jerseys After NFL's Kaepernick Refuses to Stand For National Anthem

Biracial NFL quarterback Colin Kaepernick, who was adopted and raised by white parents, is refusing to stand for the national anthem as a protest of oppression in America. 

Two days after he refused to stand for the "The Star Spangled Banner" before the 49ers' preseason loss to the Packers, Kaepernick said his stand will continue. He addressed his teammates Sunday morning, some agreeing with his message but not necessarily his method. Some said they know he has offended his countrymen.
Whatever the consequences, Kaepernick insists he will know "I did what's right."

Fans aren't happy about his behavior or attitude and burned his jersey over the weekend, sending the message: If you don't love America, get out.

"This jersey was the worst $50 investment I ever had," one angry fan says before setting it ablaze. "Mr. Kaepernick, if you don't love our country get the f*** out of it, okay?" 

Kaepernik is worth $110 million and grew up in Wisconsin.

Senate Leadership Fund Goes All In for Indiana Senate Seat

When former Indiana senator Evan Bayh abruptly entered the race to capture his old seat, Democrats cheered and Republicans gulped. It had already become evident that control of the Senate after this election cycle will come down to the wire and any one seat could make the difference.

Outgoing Republican Senator Dan Coats is retiring after serving only one term and now the Democrat he replaced in 2011 is looking for his old seat back. Despite Indiana being reliably red – Romney winning the Hoosier State with over 55 percent of the vote in 2012 - Evan Bayh is cruising off high name-recognition against his GOP rival, Congressman Todd Young. The Real Clear Politics average has Bayh beating Young by seven points. Roll Call calculates the race as “Tilts Democrat.”

All may seem lost, but not if one conservative super PAC has its way.

Senate Leadership Fund executed a near four million ad buy against Evan Bayh. SLF has purchased $906,000 in ads for each week in September and one in October – having previously spent $1 million on the race thus far.

SLF had already helped Young in his GOP primary and now they are boosting their investment in the congressman as he battles an uphill climb to enter the Senate.

Given what is at stake this election cycle, this could be the race that decides if Mitch McConnell gets to stay on as Senate Majority Leader or if Chuck Schumer will be getting a promotion next year.

Coming To America: 10,000th Syrian Refugee Could Arrive This Week; UPDATE: This Afternoon

President Obama promised to resettle 10,000 Syrian refugees in the country and now that day has come. The 10,000th refugee is set to enter the country sometime this week (via Associated Press):

The U.S. will reach its target this week of taking in 10,000 Syrian war refugees in a year-old resettlement program, the U.S. ambassador to Jordan said Sunday, after meeting families headed to California and Virginia.

The resettlement program has emerged as an issue in the U.S. presidential campaign, with Republican nominee Donald Trump alleging displaced Syrians pose a potential security threat.

Alice Wells, the U.S. ambassador to Jordan, said Sunday that keeping Americans safe and taking in some of the world's most vulnerable people are not mutually exclusive.

"Refugees are the most thoroughly screened category of travelers to the United States, and Syrian refugees are subject to even greater scrutiny," she said.

Wells said the target of resettling 10,000 Syrian refugees in the U.S. in the 2016 fiscal year will be reached Monday, as several hundred Syrians depart from Jordan over 24 hours.

The resettlement of refugees caused controversy last year when governors from at least 31 states said they would refuse to allow refugees into their states, given the glaring lack of security screening. The FBI admitted that they couldn’t screen everyone, which heightened security fears, especially after the 2015 ISIS attacks in Paris. Democrats mocked the GOP position, which even some liberals viewed as totally out of touch with mainstream America, who are nervous about the rise in global Islamic terror attacks. Kevin Drum at Mother Jones noted that this could rehash the narrative that Democrats are weak on national security.

Regardless, the 10,000th refugee is coming, but let’s not kid ourselves that Islamic terrorists are embedded with these hordes of Syrians fleeing their nation’s brutal civil war. In 2009, two al-Qaeda operatives feigned refugee status from Iraq. Luckily, they were caught, but not after the U.S. put a hold on processing refugee claim from the country for six months in 2011.

UPDATE: The 10,000th refugee will be here this afternoon.

Momentum: New Polls Show Trump Tied in Ohio, Within Striking Distance in PA

There are sound reasons why I've been counseling Donald Trump to devote disproportionate attention and resources to steadying his ship in Florida and Pennsylvania: Banking those states' combined 49 electoral votes is an absolutely essential task for the GOP nominee maintain any plausible path to victory. Polling has been quite bad for Trump in Pennsylvania for the last month, and Florida public opinion appeared to be heading south, as well. If those trends went unchanged for weeks on end, the election would over, for all intents and purposes. But then came a long-awaited Trump ad buy, coinciding with a merry-go-round of fresh Clinton Foundation scrutiny and controversy. (For what it's worth, some of the best investigative digging into the slush fund's orgy of lucrative favoritism and quid pro quo access peddling has been conducted and published by lefty journalist David Sirota). Layer on top of that a more restrained Republican candidate -- the "pivot" is still more or less intact -- and it's no surprise that the national race has closed a bit, even when you discount Reutersschizophrenic results. But what matters most are the battleground states. Especially the ones I've mentioned. Which is why the Florida movement we wrote about late last week is so noteworthy. As is this latest data from Emerson polling, which gets a solid B rating from FiveThirtyEight's pollster scorecard. If these findings are to be believed, or even if they simply represent the start of a trend, the Keystone State is growing more competitive:

Trump's unfavorability (40/58) is only marginally worse than Hillary's (42/55), and the two are almost identically unpopular in Ohio, where Emerson finds the race deadlocked at 43 percent -- Hillary's worst result there since late July.  The Washington Examiner's David Drucker offers an important word of methodological caution about these surveys: They were generated through an automated system and exclusively contacted landlines, excluding many voters whose contact points are cellphones and online. Those factors may help explain why Emerson's results should, for now, be considered outliers. But they should definitely be plugged into the averages, and observers will no doubt keep a keen eye on whether additional confirming numbers start to pop up from other pollsters. By the way, Emerson also measured a gaping 15-point lead for Ohio Sen. Rob Portman, and a significant lead for Pennsylvania Sen. Pat Toomey (+7), both of whom are running ahead of Trump by double digits.  I'll leave you with FiveThirtyEight conceding that, yes, Trump has made some headway against Hillary nationally:

It's too early for Hillary to settle into a comfortable "run out the clock" strategy, they argue, upping Trump's chances of winning by eight points within their model.  Don't pop any corks just yet; she still has an 80 percent of winning, they say. And here's Nate Cohn marveling at how Hillary appears to be heavily outperforming Obama's 2012 standing among a wide array of demographics, yet her overall margin is still in the slow single digits.  Almost as if she's a corrupt liar who is widely detested by the electorate.

Huma Abedin and Anthony Weiner Are Separating

Clinton aide Huma Abedin announced that she will be separating from former Congressman Anthony Weiner after the New York Post released a new set of sexting pictures. One picture sent to a "busty brunette" featured Weiner lying in bed in his underwear next to his toddler-aged son.

Abedin and Weiner were married in 2010 by a ceremony officiated by former President Bill Clinton. Weiner was forced to resign from Congress in 2011 after he accidentally tweeted a picture of his genitals. In 2013, it was revealed that Weiner had continued his sexcapades under the name "Carlos Danger."

In a statement, Abedin expressed a wish for privacy during this time.

Insurance Commissioner: Obamacare is 'Very Near Collapse' in My State

As we reported last week, one top industry expert believes Obamacare is in danger of being within one year of collapse. Several economists are sounding the alarm over new evidence of the dreaded insurance "death spiral" -- which we'll return to momentarily.  Now here is Tennessee's insurance commissioner pointedly declining to sugarcoat the increasingly dire status of Democrats' grand healthcare experiment in her state:

Tennessee's insurance regulator proclaimed the state's Obamacare exchange "very near collapse" Tuesday, after signing off on hefty premium hikes in an extraordinary bid to keep the program afloat. Her remarks largely overshadowing the dramatic premium increases, Commissioner Julie Mix McPeak thrust the issue of preserving competition into the spotlight at a moment when states around the country are grappling with dwindling numbers of insurers willing to sell on the exchange. The rate approvals, while a tough decision, were necessary to ensure healthcare options in every part of Tennessee when open enrollment begins in November, said McPeak, commissioner of the Tennessee Department of Commerce and Insurance. BlueCross BlueShield of Tennessee is the only insurer to sell statewide and there was the possibility that Cigna and Humana would reduce their footprints or leave the market altogether...“I would characterize the exchange market in Tennessee as very near collapse ... and that all of our efforts are really focused on making sure we have as many writers in the areas as possible, knowing that might be one," McPeak told The Tennessean. "I’m doing everything I can to prevent a situation where that turns to zero.”

An important note: For those who've been loosely following this law's many travails since its 2010 passage, it's possible to become inured to "implosion" headlines and urgent warnings.  Haven't a bunch of these exchanges failed already?  What's new about this?   First, a large percentage of Obamacare co-ops have totally collapsed and closed up shop.  These are taxpayer funded non-profit alternatives constructed within the law with the goal of offering consumers options outside of the private market exchanges.  Second, there were also high-profile face-plants in the creation stage of state-based exchanges, most notoriously Oregon's meltdown.  Maryland was another big one.  When those exchanges went down the tubes technologically, state leaders shifted over to the federal exchange at Healthcare.gov.  What we're seeing in Tennessee (which is on the federal exchange) is a third phenomenon: The costs and losses caused by the law are destroying the market itself.  This isn't a co-op disappearing or a state-funded website crashing.  It's a statewide individual health insurance market evaporating.  Why?  Because providers are pulling out, unable to sustain the associated financial beating any longer.  

Now, with fewer choices risking the departure of more insurers, the state is approving steep rate increases to try to keep the remaining players solvent.  Of course, substantially higher rates will have the direct effect of scaring away younger, healthier consumers at a faster clip; after all, if they get sick or hurt, the law mandates that they be able to obtain "insurance" with their new pre-existing condition -- at a comparable rate to everyone else, to boot.  This is the slow, aforementioned "death spiral" in action.  This effect is playing out across the nation, with millions of Americans facing a contracting list of options, especially those living in the roughly one-third of the country where there's only one "choice" left.  You'll also notice that the only statewide insurer left in Tennessee is Blue Cross Blue Shield, an industry giant that has not yet followed in several large competitors' footsteps and withdrawn from Obamacare fairly comprehensively.  Is that shoe getting ready to drop?  Back to the story:

Chattanooga-based BCBST, the only insurer that's sold statewide in the first three years of the federal exchange, is estimating that, by the end of 2016, it will have lost close to $500 million in three years. Such losses are unsustainable, said Roy Vaughn, chief communications officer of BCBST. The insurer, which has previously underscored its support for the individual market, is still weighing what its presence in 2017 will look like. At this point in the process, the insurer only has to notify the state if it decides to make changes to where it will sell plans, McPeak said. It’s too late for another insurer to come onto the 2017 market. “We agree with the assessment of the ACA marketplace in Tennessee. We appreciate the support of our request to close the gap between our rates and medical expenses for ACA marketplace plans. Beyond rates as we’ve discussed with the (TDCI), we continue to have concerns about uncertainty with the ACA at the federal level," Vaughn said to The Tennessean. "Due to these concerns, we are keeping all of our options open at this point about participating in the 2017 marketplace. We anticipate making a final decision in mid-September.”

Trouble ahead.  CBS News, meanwhile, took a look at options for new "Obamacare orphans," who've been displaced by the law's ongoing turbulence and disruptions.  Yet again, Americans are discovering that contra the president, they can't necessarily keep their plan.  CBS tells this group to get ready to open their wallets:

Prepare to incur out-of-pocket health care costs. They are rising for just about everybody. If you find out from your doctor you’ll need to be going out of network to continue care, try to estimate how much more that will cost you in terms of higher premiums for a flexible plan and higher co-pays. Also, take a look at the medicines you take. Will those still be covered by your limited choice of plans? If not, how much will you be paying for prescriptions? Finally, with fewer choices you may need to move to a higher deductible plan, again costing you more out-of-pocket. Budgeting now for these costs can help make the coming year’s health care costs less of a surprise.

The "Affordable" Care Act, ladies and gentlemen.  I'll leave you with another piece of negative Obamacare news from yet another health insurance titan, followed by a political observation that could have an impact on how some races turn out this fall -- particularly with some of the finalized rate hikes scheduled to be rolled out just before the election:

One of the country’s largest insurance companies is now expected to lose money this year after emerging as one of the few insurers that made money on Obamacare’s exchange business early on. Anthem, one of the country’s five largest insurers, was projected to be successful in its business on Obamacare exchanges earlier this year. But last week, the company announced it’s expecting to see “mid-single-digit” losses on coverage sold on Obamacare’s exchanges. Joseph Swedish, Anthem’s CEO, told investors on a conference call it experienced higher medical costs than originally anticipated and would be looking to raise premiums substantially to make up for the losses...Swedish also said Anthem is going to be making “accurate business decisions going into 2017 and beyond regarding our continued engagement on a broad scale in the public exchange space.” Anthem’s participation outweighed that of other large insurers selling on Obamacare’s exchanges. With 923,000 exchange enrollees, the company sold coverage in 14 states.

Poll: Trump Continues To Be Within Striking Distance Of Clinton Nationally

Republican nominee Donald Trump had a disastrous post-convention cycle. But ever since the Associated Press released their analysis of Hillary’s State Department calendar thus far, showing that more than half of her nongovernmental meetings were with donors to the Clinton Foundation—the narrative of intrigue and unethical dealings that seem to follow the power couple was rehashed. Clinton dropped seven points in three days over Trump. Hillary remains in the lead by five, but still within striking distance of the Republican nominee, who has pivoted towards more disciplined messaging, hammering Clinton over allegations of paid access emanating from the nonprofit.

He also headed down to Louisiana to assess the flood damage, while Democrats remained lethargic in responding to the worst disaster since Hurricane Sandy. Now, a new Morning Consult poll shows that Clinton’s lead over Trump has been halved in a week (via The Hill):

Clinton leads Trump by 3 points, 43 percent to 40 percent, in a head-to-head match-up in the Morning Consult poll released Sunday morning.

One week ago, Clinton led Trump by 6 points, 44 percent to 38 percent.

Voters view both candidates unfavorably, pollsters found, with 58 percent holding a negative view of Trump and 57 percent saying the same about Clinton.

The Real Clear Politics average has Trump trailing by six, which isn’t terrible. At the same time, he’s weak in some traditional Republican states—and he’s fairing poorly with Clinton in the swing states. Right now, if the election were held today, Clinton would easily clinch the 270 electoral votes needed to win. Yet, Nate Silver of FiveThirtyEight added that we’re in the "third quarter" of this election cycle. And Clinton shouldn’t be counting on living in government housing again just yet. Then again, both candidates are especially weak and flawed this cycle, making cobbling together new voters a difficult obstacle:

After mixed evidence before, it’s become clearer, at least according to our forecast models, that Donald Trump has regained some ground on her. Clinton’s national lead in our polls-only forecast has gone from a peak of about 8.5 percentage points two weeks ago to 6.5 percentage points as of Sunday evening — that is, a 2-point gain for Trump over two weeks. Correspondingly, Trump’s chances of winning the election have improved from a low of 11 percent to 19 percent.


It’s nice to have a model at times like these, instead of just throwing up your hands (or worse, cherry-picking polls to suit your case). And that model, as I said, shows Trump as having gained about 2 points over two weeks. If Trump keeps gaining 1 percentage point a week, he’ll beat Clinton by a couple of percentage points on Nov. 8. Hence, Clinton should probably not be picking out the White House drapes just yet.

Continued gains may not be so easy for Trump, however. He’s still at only 37 or 38 percent in national polls that include third-party candidates. That might seem like an easy number to improve upon, but his favorability rating is only about 35 percent, meaning that he’s already relying on support from a few voters who don’t like him but may vote for him to prevent a Clinton presidency.

Clinton also has some work to do. She’s at about 43 percent in national polls and in polls of key swing states — not enough to clinch victory, even if 6 to 10 percent of the vote eventually goes to third-party candidates, as appears increasingly likely. She’ll need to persuade a few undecided voters toward her side or get some of those third-party voters — more of whom have Clinton than Trump as their second choice — to turn out for her.


This election, at least for the time being, presents something of the opposite case. It isn’t all that close — Clinton is up by around 6 percentage points as best as we can figure, a larger lead than Obama had at almost any point in 2012 or until the very end of the 2008 campaign. But it’s August, and the number of undecided voters is high, and so the outcome remains fairly uncertain. Furthermore, while the state polls are fairly good for Clinton right now, we don’t know how they’ll react if the race tightens further. We’re going on three weeks without a live-caller poll in Pennsylvania, for example.

Coincidentally or not, the Clinton campaign was more proactive last week. It pushed back quite aggressively at an Associated Press story about donations to the Clinton Foundation. And it instigated a fight with Trump over his connections with what Clinton called “the emerging racist ideology known as the alt-right.” Clinton remains in a strong overall position, but she shouldn’t be playing prevent defense yet; we’re still in the equivalent of the third quarter.

For Trump, that means there can be zero room to engage in disastrous public relations antics. As I’ve said before, the fact that Clinton is only ahead by less than ten points only shows what an awful candidate she is. For all intents and purposes, Clinton should be trouncing Clinton by over ten points. She’s can’t deliver those critical blows; she hamstrung by her baggage.

New Black Panther Leader: "We are Being Pimped by Democrats... Truly Examine Donald Trump"

The leader of the New Black Panther Party in Houston, Texas is calling for African-Americans to deeply question their relationship with Democratic Party and then "truly examine" Donald Trump's outreach to the black community.  

Red the full transcript of Mr. Quannel X here:

Donald Trump last week went to Milwaukee because of the rioting behind the police shooting of a young African-American male by a black officer and the city was being burned down in certain parts of the black community by protesters so Donald Trump decided to go to Milwaukee and speak about the conditions of America and why he felt black people should vote for him. He even went on to lay out reasons why he felt we should.

Let me say this to the brothers and sisters who listened and watched that speech. We may not like the vessel that said what he said, but I ask us to truly examine what he said, because it is a fact that for 54 years, we have been voting for the Democratic party like no other race in America. And they have not given us the same loyalty and love that we have given them. We as black people have to reexamine the relationship where we are being pimped like prostitutes, and they’re the big pimps pimping us politically, promising us everything and we get nothing in return.

We gotta step back now as black people and say, we’ve gotta look at all the parties and vote our best interests.

He spoke directly to black people. And I want to say and encourage the brothers and sisters. Barack Obama, our president, served two terms. The first black president ever. But did our condition get better? Did financially, politically, academically, with education in our community, did things get better? Are our young people working more than what is was before he came into office? The condition got worse. So now we as black people have to do and remember what the honorable Elijah Mohammed said. No politician can save the black community; we’ve gotta do it ourselves.

America’s in trouble. And I want to say to black and white people, only a fool fights in a burning house. This house is on fire.

Anthony Weiner Deletes Twitter After More Sexting Pictures Emerge

Former Congressman Anthony Weiner (D-NY) has deleted his Twitter account after a new round of sexting photos were published in the New York Post. The article hit the internet late Sunday night, and Weiner's account had vanished by early Monday morning.

One of the pictures published in the article shows an underwear-clad Weiner laying in bed next to his son, prompting disgust, outrage, and concern. Many were wondering if these new images (and the fact that their toddler-aged son was involved) meant that his wife, Huma Abedin, would kick him to the curb once and for all. Abedin is Hillary Clinton's top aide.

Weiner was forced to resign from the House of Representatives in 2011 following his accidental tweet of an explicit picture of himself. Since then, Weiner has repeatedly found himself in sexting scandals as he attempts to rebuild a career in politics. He claimed to have undergone therapy in 2012. He ran for mayor of New York City in 2013, but that bid was effectively derailed when it was revealed that Weiner had continued his sexcapades under the pseudonym "Carlos Danger."

Perhaps it's for the best that Weiner's Twitter days appear to be over.

A Team From The United States Won The Little League World Series For The First Time In Five Years

A team from Endwell, New York became the first American team to win the Little League World Series since 2011. The Maine-Endwell Little League team, representing the Mid-Atlantic region, defeated a team from Seoul, South Korea by a score of 2-1 in Sunday's Little League World Series final, capping off a 24-0 perfect season.

The game was an intense one, with South Korea limiting Maine-Endwell hitless until the fourth inning. The deciding run was scored in the fourth inning, and pitcher Ryan Horlost was able to keep his cool and hold on to the lead for the final two innings.

President Obama tweeted his congratulations to the team, saying that he was proud of them for their undefeated season as well as for showing good sportsmanship throughout the tournament.

The last American team to win the Little League World Series was Ocean View Little League, from Huntington Beach, California. Several of the players from that team gathered to watch the 2016 championship game together. The last team from New York to capture the Little League World Series crown was the Mid-Island Little League from Staten Island, New York, in 1964.

Congratulations to Maine-Endwell Little League!

Trump to Give Big Speech on Illegal Immigration This Week

GOP presidential candidate Donald Trump, who campaigned in the primary as a hardliner on illegal immigration, has been under fire for a week after saying he's "softening" his stance on the issue. 

"There could certainly be a softening because we're not looking to hurt people," Trump said in an interview with Fox News last week, going back on his pledge of a deportation force to solve the problem of 11 million people being in the United States illegally. "We have some great, great people in this country. But we’re going to follow the laws of this country and what people don’t realize. We have very, very strong laws."

Last Thursday Trump planned to give a comprehensive speech on the issue from Colorado, which was cancelled. His speech has been rescheduled to Wednesday from Arizona. 

Trump has been endorsed by Sheriff Joe Arpaio and former Governor Jan Brewer, who are both known for their tough stances on illegal immigration in the border state. His latest shift on illegal immigration to a status quo and amnesty policy position has earned him criticism from even his most ardent supporters like Ann Coulter and Sarah Palin. 

Merkel: The EU Must Not Refuse Muslim Migrants

German Chancellor Angela Merkel, speaking to a German television station, said that members of the EU should not be able to refuse Muslim refugees into their countries. Merkel said that there should be a quota system of sorts to ensure that refugees are distributed "fairly" among members of the EU.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel has said it is "unacceptable" for European Union member states to refuse to accept Muslim refugees.

Ms Merkel called for quotas to divide refugees fairly between EU nations in a television interview.

“What I continue to think is wrong is that some say 'we generally don't want Muslims in our country, regardless of whether there's a humanitarian need or not,'” she told German channel ARD.

Currently, European Union laws state that refugees can be placed in the first "safe" country they arrive in, which means that countries like Greece would receive a large amount of people by virtue of its location. Several EU states, such as Slovakia and Hungary, have said point blank that they do not want to accept refugees. Hungary is planning a large border wall as well.

Meanwhile in Sweden, asylum seekers are withdrawing their applications to stay in the country at record rates after the nation began offering applicants money to return to their home countries.

Polling suggests that Merkel may not be elected for a fourth term.

Watch: Hillary Clinton's Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Week

Yes, it’s a video from the Republican National Committee, but it doesn’t negate the fact that Hillary Clinton had a disaster of a week. The Associated Press’ story showing that more than half of the people she met with outside of government were Clinton Foundation donors, which was followed by Hillary supporters saying that the former first lady needs to change the way she manages her Foundation ties.

Meanwhile, Donald Trump went to Louisiana to assess the damage from the recent flooding, the worst natural disaster since Hurricane Sandy. Clinton decided to fundraise with Cher. There were 15,000 more emails the FBI found that Clinton didn’t turn over, which the former secretary of state joked about on the late night shows. Former Obama adviser David Axelrod said this isn’t something to be cavalier about.

Also, the power couple announced that they would not be taking any more donations from corporate or foreign interests should Hillary win the presidential election. Everyone was asking why now? Shouldn’t this have been enacted when she became secretary of state? As the media discussed what appears to be a purely political move (I know, shocker, right?) on behalf of the Clinton campaign, Hillary fundraised with Magic Johnson.

As for Clinton’s aversion to take questions from the press, even deploying sweets, like chocolate, to shut them up, we’re left with a “stay tuned” regarding future press conferences; a rather transparent way of saying it’s not happening. Ironic, since Hillary Clinton is anything but transparent.

Good work, RNC war room.

Jill Stein Releases Statement on Harambe

Green Party candidate Dr. Jill Stein released a statement on the three-month anniversary of the death of Harambe the gorilla. Harambe was killed by zookeepers at the Cincinnati Zoo after a child wandered into his enclosure, and has since become an internet phenomenon of sorts. In the statement, Stein said that the United States should give legal rights to non-human primates.

The killing of Harambe at the Cincinnati Zoo highlights the need to adopt stronger legal protections for the rights of animals.

Other countries, especially in Europe, have begun to provide legal rights and protected status to primates as living beings. Non human primates should have the legal right to live freely or, when necessary, in sanctuaries only for medical rehabilitation or ecological assistance for endangered species.

Harambe was killed by a zoo which raises revenues by selling tickets to see captive animals, including primates. While good emergency staff training might have prevented such a catastrophic outcome, the Green Party believes that captivity for such entertainment is ethically wrong and fundamentally exploitive and should be illegal.

A recent poll of Texas' voters taken by Public Policy Polling had Stein tied with Harambe in the state. The Cincinnati Zoo recently requested that people stop making and sharing Harambe memes, to which people responded with by making more Harambe jokes. The zoo eventually deleted its Twitter account.

It's curious that despite Stein's insistence that non-human primates have legal rights, she fully supports the right to abort an unborn human.

Spike In Gun Ownership? Poll Shows 44 Percent Of All Homes Have A Gun

The Washington Examiner’s Paul Bedard crunched some the new numbers on gun politics from Pew Research and found that almost half the country has a gun in the home. Pew found that 44 percent of all homes have guns, while 51 percent do not. It bucks the trend of other polls, namely CBS News, which found that the percentage of gun ownership hovered in the mid-30s.

Yes, anti-gun liberals will point out that the majority of households don’t have guns. Yet, the same survey found that 52 percent of Americans prioritize protecting gun rights over new means to control ownership. Moreover, it’s a constitutional right. It’s part of the Bill of Rights, which is immune to public opinion and for good reason.

Widening gap among supporters of presidential candidates in gun priorities

By this logic of rights being put on a graduated scale based on opinion polls (or levels of participation) to decide whether it should be kept of discarded, the right to peaceful assembly should be on the chopping block since no one really exercises it.

But getting back to the numbers, the Pew survey also found majority support for most of the Left’s anti-gun agenda. Eighty-one percent support background checks for private and gun show sales; 52 percent support an assault weapons ban; 50 percent back a ban on high-capacity magazines; and 71 percent back a ban on those on terror watch lists from buying guns.

Public’s views of gun policy proposals

It may be popular. It doesn’t make it right. The assault weapons ban had zero impact reducing gun violence. Private sales between non-family members are incredibly low to the point where it’s mere window dressing if you're in the gun control camp (like most of their policies); most private transfers are between family members. Bans on high-capacity magazines don’t stop mass shootings—and using secret government lists, of which there is no due process and the criteria for getting on that list is unknown, to deprive an American of their Second Amendment rights is arguably unconstitutional. You lose your gun rights after being convicted of a crime, not based on mere suspicion. There is one area where there could be common ground; 76 percent oppose those who are mentally ill from buying guns. I couldn’t agree more depending on the illness. There is a huge difference between a paranoid schizophrenic and someone with Asperger’s. The legal minefield of making this an efficient system, which disease should prohibit someone from owning guns, and the various privacy issues is worthy of a long debate. Democrats don’t want to have it.

Another interesting nugget in the data rests with Millennials. The proposals banning so-called assault weapons and high-capacity magazine couldn’t break 50 percent support with this overwhelmingly liberal voting block.

Sizeable gender differences in support of bans on assault weapons, large clips

Sweden Is Now Paying Migrants to Leave

Sweden has seen over 4,500 asylum seekers withdraw their applications to remain in the country this year, a new record. This is double the number of people who withdrew their applications during the first eight months of 2015. Potential migrants are leaving Sweden after the country passed new, stricter regulations on immigration and offered monetary payouts to people who voluntarily returned to their home countries.

Sweden was once considered a "utopia" for people seeking asylum due to the country's welcoming attitudes and sizable benefits programs. This is no longer the case.

From The Independent:

The situation has changed so much the number of people from Iraq who cancelled their asylum applications in 2016 (1,366) is actually greater than the number of new claims from Iraqi asylum seekers (1,243).

A similar trend can be seen among Afghans. Statistics show only 18 per cent of Afghans are likely to have their asylum applications approved, so many are choosing to leave of their own accord. In all, 500 people from Afghanistan have withdrawn their applications so far in 2016.

“The climate here in Sweden has toughened considerably. That leads to a new kind of decision,” added Ms Ränner.

Sweden took in 160,000 migrants in 2015, and only about 500 of them have secured jobs.

DOJ: Firing Migrant Workers Wth Expired Employment Forms Is Discrimination

Mariana Barillas dug this up at The Washington Examiner. Apparently, it’s discriminatory to fire migrant workers with expired papers. Moreover, Barillas added that the Department of Justice feels that to ask migrant workers for more work authorization forms could constitute a violation of a provision within the Immigration and Nationality Act that says employers cannot give excessive demands:

The Justice Department released a video this week encouraging companies not to terminate immigrants after their employment authorization expires, and indicated that doing so is a form of discrimination.


The video then tells viewers that the federal government has extended employment authorization by six months for people from El Salvador with Temporary Protected Status, a benefit designed to help foreign nationals who are considered unable to safely return to their home.

The Justice Department claims requesting additional work-authorization documents from these workers may violate a provision in the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA) designed to protect individuals from excessive employer demands based on their nationality.

That’s fine for El Salvador, but in general, it’s discrimination to terminate someone whose work papers have expired? The DOJ seems to be getting really creative regarding expanding what is discrimination in order to prevent companies from sending migrant workers home. Moreover, how is asking for more authorization forms for better verification an excessive burden? Shocking? Not really given what this presidency has done with immigration through executive orders, which are in legal limbo right now.

Indonesian Priest Knifed By Would-Be Suicide Bomber During Mass

A would-be suicide bomber carrying a hand-drawn ISIS flag stormed a church on the Indonesian island of Sumatra knifed a priest mid-Mass on Sunday and then attempted to blow himself up. 

Fr. Albert Pandiangan, a priest at St. Joseph's Church in the city of Medan, was stabbed in the left arm during the attack. The bomber then attempted to detonate a device in his backpack, but the bomb failed to fully explode and he only injured himself. He was then detained by parishioners.

The priest was taken to a hospital and is expected to recover. The Medan police have characterized the attack as an act of terrorism.

Indonesia is a predominantly Muslim country, and Catholics compose only about three percent of the total population.

Police do not believe that the man acted alone, and are still investigating the incident.

Last month in France, Fr. Jacques Hamel was murdered by an ISIS sympathizer while celebrating Mass.