Poland Risks Being the EUs Rogue State

Behind the noise of Brexit negotiations, the talk in the European Union this year has been that there’s potentially a bigger problem in the east. And the prospect of another rupture looks to be increasing.

Poland’s de facto leader, Jaroslaw Kaczynski, hand-picked his second prime minister in two years, opting last week for western-educated Finance Minister Mateusz Morawiecki as he seeks to boost the economy after revamping the judicial system. He is another Kaczynski acolyte who has backed the increasingly authoritarian Law & Justice party’s push to seize more control of the courts, a plan condemned by the European Parliament and European Commission.

The mood in Brussels is that EU institutions can no longer stand by and watch a country that’s the biggest net recipient of European aid thumb its nose without paying some sort of price. Few people are discussing Poland following Britain out of the bloc, but a protracted conflict is getting more likely.

Mateusz Morawiecki
Photographer: Piotr Malecki/Bloomberg

Concerns about the shift in Poland triggered calls to limit access to EU funds for countries disrespecting the democratic rule of law. At a ministerial meeting on Nov. 15 in Brussels, the issue was raised during a discussion about the 2021-2028 budget by countries including Germany, France and the Nordic states, according to two EU officials with knowledge of the matter.

Poland’s refusal to take in mainly Muslim refugees was referred last week to the European Court of Justice along with Hungary and the Czech Republic.

“There is a growing feeling in Brussels that solidarity cannot be a one-way street, and that it becomes difficult to justify the 10 billion-euro per year net transfers for a country that is increasingly at odds with the bloc’s values,” said Bruno Dethomas, a senior policy adviser at GPLUS consultancy in Brussels and a former EU ambassador to Poland. “It is high time the EU reacted, or it risks losing its soul.”

‘Sick Europe’

Poles are accustomed to their government stirring up nationalist fervor with blistering attacks on the EU while welcoming the policies of U.S. President Donald Trump. It’s railed against taking in Muslim refugees, claimed the country has been enslaved and snapped at criticism of its power grab this year.

But even by Kaczynski’s standards, his speech on Nov. 10 to mark Independence Day pulled no punches. It’s up to Poles to show “the sick Europe of today the path back to health, to fundamental values, to true freedom and to the strengthening of our civilization based on Christianity,” he said.

Jaroslaw Kaczynski, the man who pulls the strings in Poland.
Photographer: John Guillemin

The risk for the EU is that a country that was so key to its post-Cold War political and economic integration shifts closer to becoming a rogue member under Kaczynski, 68, a critic of Poland’s deal to enter the bloc in 2004. A breakdown would undermine the European project in arguably a more symbolic way than traditionally lukewarm Britain’s pending departure.

The cost of Kaczynski’s stance has — so far — largely been counted in lost influence within the 28-nation bloc, which lacks the unanimity needed to up the ante and strip the Polish government of its voting rights at EU summits. 

There’s been no hit to the 229 billion euros ($270 billion) in aid granted to Poland through 2022 and used for everything from new airports to sewage pipes.

The narrative has changed, though. French President Emmanuel Macron said last month that Poland could pay a price if it continues to defy the EU on justice. The Dutch coalition government agreement, signed in October, specifies “subsidies should be reduced for member states that do not fulfill their obligations.”

Nationalist Forces

The Polish Parliament, meanwhile, is finalizing legislation to revamp the Supreme Court and Judicial Council, a powerful body that chooses which judges get promoted. Passage of the bills constitutes the removal of the “last fuses” on Poland’s democracy, according to Adam Bodnar, the country’s commissioner for human rights.

Even some Law & Justice lawmakers have questioned the legality of the court changes. “I will vote in line with my party,” Krystyna Pawlowicz told a parliamentary committee. “But this measure is a glaring contradiction to the constitution.”

Law & Justice has built on its popularity since winning an unprecedented parliamentary majority two years ago with promises of standing up for ordinary Poles. An ongoing EU investigation into the government’s behavior has played into the party’s them-against-us rhetoric.

Some Polish politicians have been privately telling their EU partners that if bashing the Law & Justice government doesn’t stop, Poles will turn against the EU and nationalist forces will be emboldened, according to three people with knowledge of the discussions.

Kaczynski’s DNA

On Independence Day after Kaczynski spoke the day before, the traditional march in Warsaw became a demonstration for far-right groups claiming that “Europe will be white.” The government condemned the racists, though also blamed the media of focusing on some “fringe incidents.”

A couple hold flares as as thousands gather for the nationalist march of Poland´s Independency Day.
Photographer: SOPA Images/LightRocket

Historically, Kaczynski has been cool toward the EU. He backed accession in the run-up to a referendum in 2003, when 78 percent of Poles supported membership. He warned at the time entry on the conditions that Poland had negotiated was a “threat to fundamental values including independence and democracy.”

A reduction in funds that Poland receives from the EU would help shift public opinion against the bloc, said Marcin Matczak, a law professor at Warsaw University.

“Hostility towards the EU is part of Law & Justice’s DNA, and if it was up to the party, Poland would leave the bloc,” said Matczak. “But Kaczynski knows he can’t do that because Poles are benefiting from EU membership. Hence, the party slowly builds a negative attitude towards EU — while declaring that Poland has no intention of leaving.”

    Read more: http://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2017-12-10/forget-brexit-poland-risks-being-the-eu-s-real-rogue-state

    Should the Upper Middle Class Take the Biggest Tax Hit?

    Humans learn the concept of fairness at a very young age. After all, it doesn’t take long for a child to start whining about a sibling who gets an extra serving of ice cream. As the Republican-controlled Congress tries to push through tax reform this year, one group of Americans may similarly question why it’s coming up a scoop short.

    The upper middle class gets relatively few benefits and a disproportionate number of tax hikes under the $1.4-trillion Tax Cuts and Jobs Act approved by the U.S. House of Representatives last week. Families earning between $150,000 and $308,000—the 80th to 95th percentile—would still get a tax cut on average. But by 2027, more than a third of those affluent Americans can expect a tax increase, according to the Tax Policy Center.

    If the House bill becomes law, overall benefits for the upper middle class will start out small, and later vanish almost entirely.

    Is this fair? Some argue it’s only right for the upper middle class to carry a heavier burden. This is because the top fifth of the U.S. by income has done pretty well over the past three decades while the wages and wealth of typical workers have stagnated. People in the 81st to 99th percentiles by income have boosted their inflation-adjusted pre-tax cash flow by 65 percent between 1979 and 2013, according to the Congressional Budget Office. That’s more than twice as much as the income rise seen by the middle 60 percent. (The top 1 percent, meanwhile, saw their income rise by 186 percent over the same period, but that’s another story.)

    “Many upper-middle-class families will tell you they do not feel wealthy,” said Brian Riedl, a senior fellow at the Manhattan Institute, a right-leaning think tank. “Their standard of living [is] closer to the middle class than to the top 1 percent.” The income numbers don’t tell the whole story, he explained. The upper middle class is weighed down by high costs: Affluent workers live in expensive areas, pay a lot for real estate and daycare, and are taxed far more than Americans further down the ladder.

    Richard Reeves, a senior fellow at the left-leaning Brookings Institution, isn’t buying that argument. He’s the author of “Dream Hoarders: How the American Upper Middle Class Is Leaving Everyone Else in the Dust, Why That Is a Problem, and What to Do About It.”

    “There’s a culture of entitlement at the top of U.S. society,” Reeves said. While others focus on rising wealth of the top 1 percent, Reeves argues that the gap is widening between the top 20 percent and everyone else. The upper middle class is guilty of “hoarding” its privileges, using its power to skew the job market, educational institutions, real estate markets, and tax policy for its own benefit, he contends.

    “The American upper middle class know how to take care of themselves,” Reeves said during a presentation at the City University of New York last week. “They know how to organize. They’re numerous enough to be a serious voting bloc, and they run everything.”

    So by his measure, the tax legislation’s disproportionate hit to the upper middle class is indeed fair.

    A family earning $240,000 a year is bringing in four times the U.S. median household income of $59,000, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. All that money, along with the upper middle class’s political power, buys some huge advantages, Reeves said. For example, affluent parents compete for access to the best schools, bidding up home values in the best school districts. Then, they use zoning rules to prevent new construction, keep property values high, and prevent lower-income Americans from moving in. In the process, children of this demographic end up at the most prestigious universities, nab the best internships and jobs, and ultimately join their parents at the top of U.S. society. 

    The very existence of the House tax bill rebuts Reeves’s argument that the upper middle class is in a position to manipulate Washington. (The Senate is considering its own tax legislation, which differs from the House bill in several ways.) Compared with middle class Americans, the upper middle class is less likely to see marginal tax rates fall under the House legislation. The bill also limits or scraps entirely some of the group’s favorite tax breaks, especially deductions for state-and-local taxes, and medical expenses, and tax breaks for education.

    If you’re part of the upper middle class and concede you should be paying more, don’t count on wealthier groups making the same sacrifice—at least under the House bill. 

    While a repeal of the alternative-minimum tax helps some people with incomes below $300,000, it’s more likely to benefit those on the higher wealth rungs. The very rich, including President Donald Trump, who has been pressing for a legislative victory before the end of his first year in office, would benefit from a repeal of the estate tax, lower corporate tax rates and a lower “pass-through” rate on business income. The House bill explicitly tries to limit the pass-through benefit for doctors, lawyers, accountants, and other high-earning professionals—traditional denizens of the upper middle class. 

    This all may seem terribly unfair to members of the upper middle class, but there are some provisions they can take solace in. The bill leaves untouched some sweet tax breaks that predominately benefit people with lower six-figure salaries, such as 529 college savings plans and 401(k)s and other retirement perks. The CBO calculates that two-thirds of the government’s costs for retirement tax breaks go to the top 20 percent.

    But beyond these few exceptions, much of the upper middle class will still take it on the chin.

    And maybe they should. Higher taxes on the upper middle class make sense to some liberal tax experts—but only if the proceeds are used the right way, they said, for things like better health care, more affordable college, and rebuilding infrastructure. Under the House bill, though, any new tax revenue is used to offset tax cuts—much of which will benefit the super wealthy and corporations, especially over time.

    “There would be a lot of people in the country who would be willing to chip in for those goals,” said Carl Davis, research director of the left-leaning Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy. In the House plan, however, the upper middle class is “going to pay more for a bill that’s going to grow the national debt, and provide the lion’s share of the benefits to corporations and their shareholders.”

    Riedl, who has advised Republican candidates, argues the upper middle class should get a more generous tax cut under GOP tax reform. “It’s hard to argue the upper middle class is not currently paying its fair share,” he said. Reeves said the U.S. should ultimately tax the upper middle class more—but “the top 5 percent more still.”

    Looking at Republican tax plans, Reeves said, “it’s like they only read half my book.”

      Read more: http://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2017-11-20/should-the-upper-middle-class-take-the-biggest-tax-hit

      Repealing Obamacare Mandate Would Save $338 Billion, CBO Says

      Rolling back Obamacare’s requirement that all Americans have health insurance would save the U.S. $338 billion over 10 years, according to the Congressional Budget Office, a smaller benefit than previously projected for a plan favored by the White House.

      Republicans are considering repealing the coverage rule in the Affordable Care Act as a way to pay for far-reaching changes in the tax code. The savings would come from the government spending less to subsidize Obamacare plans as more people opt to forgo health coverage. 

      While ending the mandate could free funds up for a tax overhaul, it would also leave people without health insurance and lead to higher premiums. CBO estimated Wednesday that 13 million more people would be uninsured in 2027 compared with current law if the mandate is repealed starting in 2019. Premiums would increase by about 10 percent in most years of the decade the report covers.

      Both the savings and coverage losses are lower than CBO’s December projection, in part because the non-partisan agency updated the impact from the federal health-insurance subsidies and determined that people and their employers would take longer than it previously thought to make changes to their insurance plans.

      Back in December, CBO said eliminating the mandate would reduce the deficit $416 billion over a decade, and lead to 15 million more people without health insurance. The new number of 13 million doesn’t take into account a decision by President Donald Trump to stop paying cost-sharing reduction payments made to insurers under Obamacare to help Americans afford health costs, CBO said Wednesday.

      Spread Risk

      The mandate is meant to spread risk evenly among healthy and sick people to help keep overall costs down. Without it, healthier people could buy cheaper plans that don’t meet Obamacare coverage requirements, while those who need care, such as people with pre-existing medical conditions, will face rising costs.

      Concerns about people losing coverage doomed a Senate bill that would have ended the mandate while leaving other parts of the ACA intact, known as “skinny repeal,” in July.

      The House Committee on Ways and Means started debate Monday on the tax bill, called the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act. An amendment from Chairman Kevin Brady revised one of the GOP tax bill’s offshore provisions — leading to an estimated $74 billion revenue hole, which is sending tax writers scrambling to find additional revenue.

      Trump backed overturning the mandate in a tweet last week, pushing for the savings generated to be used “for further Tax Cuts.” House Speaker Paul Ryan said on “Fox News Sunday” that GOP leaders are considering the idea.

      CBO’s December estimates covered the 2018 -2026 period. The new projections assume the mandate would be repealed in 2019 and apply to the years 2018 to 2027. The CBO said that it is revising its methods for calculating the effects of repealing the mandate but isn’t including major changes in this analysis.

        Read more: http://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2017-11-08/repealing-obamacare-mandate-saves-338-billion-for-tax-overhaul

        Purdue Approaches States in Bid to Settle Opioid Claims

        Oxycontin maker Purdue Pharma LP is proposing a global settlement in an attempt to end state investigations and lawsuits over the U.S. opioid epidemic, according to people familiar with the talks.

        Purdue’s lawyers raised the prospect with several southern-state attorneys general who haven’t sued the company, as they try to gauge interest for a more wide-ranging deal, said four people who asked not to be identified because the talks aren’t public.

        Opioid makers are accused of creating a public-health crisis through their marketing of the painkillers. More than a dozen states and about 100 counties and cities have already sued Purdue, other opioid makers and drug distributors, in a strategy echoing the litigation that led to the 1998 $246 billion settlement with Big Tobacco.

        “This sounds like the opening bid in settlement talks,’’ said Anthony Sabino, who teaches law at St. John’s University in New York. “It also sounds like they are trying to convince some of these state AG’s that they don’t need to bring their own suits.’’

        A group of 41 attorneys general are also investigating how companies like Purdue and other opioid makers marketed and sold prescription opioids. It’s not clear whether Purdue’s lawyers are authorized to speak for other drugmakers facing opioid suits, but the people familiar with the talks say Purdue’s attorneys are looking for a global accord to include all U.S. states’ claims against all manufacturers.

        Robert Josephson, a Purdue spokesman, declined to comment on any settlement discussions. The company said earlier that the U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved Oxycontin for use as a painkiller, and approved the safety warnings.

        Company officials with J&J, based in New Brunswick, New Jersey; Dublin-based Endo International Plc; Israel-based Teva Pharmaceutical Industries; and Allergan Plc, with headquarters in Parsippany, New Jersey, didn’t immediately return calls for comment on whether they are involved in talks.

        Spokesmen for drug distributors Cardinal Health Inc. and AmerisourceBergen Corp. didn’t immediately return calls for comment on whether they are participating. A spokesman for McKesson Corp. declined to comment.

        The Lawyer Who Beat Big Tobacco Takes On the Opioid Industry

        Opioid makers argue in court filings that states and local governments are barred from suing because opioids are regulated by the FDA. They say judges must defer to the FDA’s finding that the painkillers are safe and effective and that companies such as Purdue properly disclosed addiction risks on warning labels.

        States and municipalities disagree, saying that because the FDA doesn’t thoroughly regulate drug marketing there is a basis for suits claiming opioid makers created a public-health crisis with overly aggressive marketing.

        Stamford, Connecticut-based Purdue hired Sheila Birnbaum, a veteran mass-tort defense lawyer, to help guide its legal strategy and put together a settlement game plan. She’s a partner with New York’s Quinn Emanuel Urquhart & Sullivan LLP.

        Nicknamed the “Queen of Torts,’’ the 76-year-old Birnbaum is skilled at negotiating big-dollar settlements, including the $765 million NFL concussion settlement and an accord settling a suit against Pfizer Inc. over its hormone-replacement drugs. She also oversaw a $2.8 billion fund set up to compensate first responders and residents following the 2001 World Trade Center attacks.

        “She’s been the go-to person over the years to come up with sweeping resolutions for mass-tort cases,’’ Carl Tobias, who teaches product-liability law at the University of Richmond in Virginia, said of Birnbaum. Birnbaum’s name is on Purdue court filings; she didn’t respond to a request for comment.

        State Lawsuits

        Any settlement would likely include cash, along with changes to the company’s manufacturing and marketing practices, the people said. It would resolve only the state claims, they added.

        What may make an early settlement offer attractive to states is early access to money to deal with the social costs of the opioid epidemic, Sabino said. “The idea is the states wouldn’t have to go through years of discovery and trials to wind up where they could be right now — at the settlement table,’’ he said.

        Governments could use their share of billions in settlement funds to recoup the costs of ramping up policing and drug-treatment programs.

        Swain Wood, general counsel for the North Carolina Attorney General Josh Stein, told a group of county officials at a Nov. 15 seminar in Raleigh that his office was negotiating with opioid makers, according to a person who attended the meeting.

        Dual-Track

        Wood said his office was on a “dual-track,’’ engaging in settlement talks while continuing to investigate opioid makers’ activities in North Carolina, according to the person. He said the settlement proposal offered to North Carolina would resolve only the state’s claims, but could offer an opt-in right for counties, the person said.

        Laura Brewer, a spokeswoman for the North Carolina Attorney General’s Office who also attended the Nov. 15 seminar, denied that Wood said his office was negotiating a settlement.

        At the meeting, Wood said “our office is vigorously investigating opioid manufacturers and distributors in cooperation with many other state attorneys general,” Brewer said in an emailed statement. “At the same time, we are open to having discussions with these potential defendants to determine what role they can play in helping to resolve this crisis.”

        Brewer added that Wood spoke about “multi-state settlements” in general and noted that “an opt-in for counties is one such way a settlement could be done.”

        More than 60,000 people died from drug overdoses in 2016, and there was a five-fold increase in overdose deaths involving synthetic opioids — from 3,105 in 2013 to about 20,000 in 2016, according to the Centers for Disease Control.

        One Judge

        A study in the October 2016 issue of Medical Care Journal put the economic cost of opioid overdose, abuse and dependence at $78.5 billion. Health care accounts for about a third of that cost, while lost productivity in nonfatal cases add another $20 billion, according to the journal published by Wolters Kluwer.

        Against a backdrop of early settlement talks, opioid makers are calling for 69 lawsuits pending in 15 federal courts across the U.S. to be gathered before before a single judge, according to court filings. A hearing on the multidistrict litigation request is set for Nov. 30 in St. Louis.

        The companies and some plaintiffs’ lawyers are asking that opioid suits filed by states, counties and cities be combined for information exchanges and test trials. The consolidation is intended to save money by streamlining the document exchanges and avoiding duplication.

        Drugmakers have suggested collecting the cases in federal court in Chicago while plaintiffs recommended that they be sent anywhere from New Hampshire to opioid-ravaged southern West Virginia, according to court filings. The city of Chicago officials filed one of the first cases against opioid makers in 2014.

        The case is In Re: National Prescription Opioid Litigation, MDL NO. 2804, Before the U.S. Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation (Washington).

          Read more: https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2017-11-17/purdue-is-said-to-approach-states-in-bid-to-settle-opioid-claims

          Even Illinois’s CFO Doesn’t Know How Many Bills Are Unpaid

          How big is Illinois’s pile of unpaid bills? Even the state’s chief fiscal officer doesn’t know for sure.

          The state sold $4.5 billion of bonds on Wednesday to help pay down the estimated $16.6 billion it owes to contractors, health care providers and others who waited to get paid during Illinois’s record-long fight over the budget. But Comptroller Susana Mendoza, a Democrat, says her office doesn’t know the size of that backlog for sure, and she wants that to change.

          Under current law, state agencies only have to report to the comptroller once a year — on Oct. 1 – the amount of unpaid bills they had by the end of June, making the information already outdated by the time it’s submitted. According to the comptroller’s website, the backlog reached $16.6 billion as of Oct. 24, including an estimated $6.1 billion of unpaid bills with state agencies.

          To get a better picture of how deeply Illinois is in debt, Mendoza is urging lawmakers to override Republican Governor Bruce Rauner’s veto of a measure that will require state agencies to report bills on a monthly basis and include how old the bills are, whether funds have been appropriated to pay those bills and how much interest is owed. The Illinois House of Representatives voted to override the veto on Wednesday. The Senate must do the same for the bill to become law.

          “This is a first step in hopefully even giving the markets greater confidence that Illinois is moving in the right direction when it comes to full transparency on our finances,” Mendoza said in a telephone interview.

          The legislation is “definitely favorable from a credit perspective,” said Eric Friedland, Lord Abbett’s director of municipal research in Jersey City, New Jersey. He noted that the amount of unpaid bills isn’t a surprise to investors who monitor the state’s finances, but requiring monthly reporting may spur Illinois leaders to reduce the number of unpaid bills. 

          “In my opinion, if they have to report every month in a transparent way, then that will hopefully cause this practice to change for the better,” said Friedland, whose firm manages about $20 billion of municipal debt, including some Illinois bonds.

          In his veto message on Aug. 18, Rauner applauded the push for transparency but criticized Mendoza for trying to “micromanage” agencies, adding that they don’t have the technology to meet the requirements in the bill.

          Mendoza disagrees, saying that agencies are equipped to put those numbers together. The bill would help Mendoza keep track of how much interest the state is paying: She estimates that Illinois is already on the hook for $900 million in late-payment penalties.

            Read more: http://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2017-10-25/even-illinois-s-cfo-doesn-t-know-how-many-state-bills-are-unpaid

            NFL Players and Owners Push Back Against Trump Comments

            President Donald Trump accelerated his criticism of the National Football League on Sunday by saying fans should consider not going to games, sparking strong objections from players and owners including a longtime friend and contributor.

            Robert Kraft, chairman and chief executive officer of the NFL champion New England Patriots, said he was "deeply disappointed” by Trump’s comments Friday that “son of a bitch” players who refuse to stand during the national anthem to protest treatment of minority citizens should be released by their teams.

            Players locked arms, knelt or raised fists during today’s pregame renditions of the anthem, which were broadcast live at all games by the Fox and CBS networks. Jacksonville Jaguars owner Shahid Khan, who donated $1 million to Trump’s inaugural committee last year, locked arms with his players before his team’s game against the Baltimore Ravens in London. Several other owners joined their players on the field while most of the Pittsburgh Steelers stayed in their locker room during the anthem.

            Trump, speaking to reporters on his return to Washington Sunday night, said he was “not at all” encouraging a boycott with a morning tweet that read, “If NFL fans refuse to go to games until players stop disrespecting our Flag & Country, you will see change take place fast. Fire or suspend!”

            “They can do whatever they want,” Trump said. “I’m just telling you from my standpoint I think it is very disrespectful to our country.” He also said the player protests “are a big reason” the league’s television ratings have fallen.

            Buffalo Bills players kneel before their NFL game on Sept. 24.

            Photographer: Brett Carlsen/Getty Images

            The criticisms, directed primarily at black athletes, came after Trump repeatedly equated the actions of both sides after the death of a woman who was protesting against a demonstration by neo-Nazis, white supremacists and Confederate heritage groups in Charlottesville, Virginia.

            They also come at the start of a critical week for some of Trump’s key legislative priorities, with Republicans’ latest and possibly last attempt to repeal and replace the Obamacare health care law on the brink of defeat and negotiations beginning in earnest on a tax package.

            Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin defended Trump’s comments and called on the NFL owners to enact a rule requiring players to stand during the national anthem.

            “This is about respect for the military and the first responders and the country,” Mnuchin said on ABC’s "This Week” program. “They have the right to have their First Amendment off the field. This is a job and the employers have the right, when the players are working, to have rules."

            Owners’ Support

            Trump’s new campaign also may jeopardize the support he has enjoyed since the early days of his campaign from a number of CEOs and NFL owners — one of whom, Woody Johnson of the New York Jets, was named Trump’s ambassador to the U.K.

            “There is no greater unifier in this country than sports, and unfortunately, nothing more divisive than politics,” said Kraft, who also donated $1 million to Trump’s inaugural and sat with the president at dinner when he hosted Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe at his Mar-a-Lago resort in February. “I think our political leaders could learn a lot from the lessons of teamwork and the importance of working together toward a common goal.”

            The national anthem protests began in August 2016, when former San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick kneeled before a pre-season game. Kaepernick was joined in his protest by some teammates and players on other teams as the season progressed.

            Kaepernick opted out of his contract with the 49ers in March and hasn’t been signed by another team, although the protests have continued this season.

            US President Donald Trump walks towards Air Force One in New Jersey on his way to Alabama on Sept. 23.

            Photographer: Brendan Smialowski/AFP via Getty Images

            ‘Lack of Respect’

            NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell, without mentioning Trump, said Saturday that “divisive comments” weren’t helpful.

            “The NFL and our players are at our best when we help create a sense of unity in our country and our culture,” Goodell said in a statement. “Divisive comments like these demonstrate an unfortunate lack of respect for the NFL, our great game, and all of our players.”

            Trump himself was once owner of the New Jersey Generals of the long-defunct United States Football League, which fought a losing battle against the NFL.

            Colin Kaepernick, center, with Eli Harold and Eric Reid kneel during the anthem prior to a game in Oct. 2016.

            Photographer: Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images

            ‘Little Ding’

            The president also raised eyebrows Friday by saying that penalties for hard hits in the NFL are “ruining the game,” as the league attempts to respond to evidence of long-term brain injury causing premature deaths and disability to some of its players.

            Trump’s comment came a day after news that Aaron Hernandez, the former New England Patriots player convicted of murder who hanged himself in a Massachusetts jail in April at age 27, had been found to suffer from a severe case of the degenerative brain disease chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE) associated with repeated concussions.

            Trump made similar comments about the NFL at least twice in 2016, deriding concussions as “a little ding on the head” and lamenting the demise of “violent, head-on” tackles.

            A recent study published in the New England Journal of Medicine found that all but one of 111 former NFL players whose brains had been inspected had evidence of CTE, which can only be diagnosed post-mortem.

              Read more: http://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2017-09-24/trump-promotes-nfl-boycott-as-stalwart-ally-kraft-leads-pushback

              Exclusive: footage shows young elephants being captured in Zimbabwe for Chinese zoos

              Rare footage of the capture of wild young elephants in Zimbabwe shows rough treatment of the calves as they are sedated and taken away

              The Guardian has been given exclusive footage which shows the capture of young, wild elephants in Zimbabwe in preparation, it is believed, for their legal sale to Chinese zoos.

              In the early morning of 8 August, five elephants were caught in Hwange national park by officials at Zimbabwe Parks and Wildlife Management Authority (Zimparks).

              These captures are usually kept as secret as possible. The Guardian understands that in this case the usual procedure was followed. First, a viable herd is identified. Then operatives in a helicopter pick off the younger elephants with a sedative fired from a rifle. As the elephant collapses, the pilot dive-bombs the immediate vicinity so the rest of the herd, attempting to come to the aid of the fallen animal, are kept at bay. When things quieten down, a ground-team approaches the sedated elephants on foot, bundles them up, and drags them on to trailers.

              The footage, a series of isolated clips and photographs provided to the Guardian by an anonymous source associated with the operation, documents the moment that operatives are running into the bush, then shows them tying up one young elephant. The elephants are then seen herded together in a holding pen near the main tourist camp in Hwange.

              Elephant
              In this part of the footage, a young female elephant is seen being kicked in the head repeatedly by one of the captors. Photograph: The Guardian

              Finally, in the most disturbing part of the footage, a small female elephant, likely around five years old, is seen standing in the trailer. Her body is tightly tied to the vehicle by two ropes. Only minutes after being taken from the wild, the animal, still groggy from the sedative, is unable to understand that the officials want her to back into the truck, so they smack her on her body, twist her trunk, pull her by her tail and repeatedly kick her in the head with their boots.

              Altogether, 14 elephants were captured during this time period, according to the source, who asked to remain to anonymous for fear of reprisal. The intention was to take more elephants, but the helicopter crashed during one of the operations. It is estimated that 30-40 elephants were to be captured in total.

              The elephants that were taken are now in holding pens at an off-limits facility within Hwange called Umtshibi, according to the source. One expert who reviewed the photographs, Joyce Poole, an expert on elephant behaviour and co-director of the Kenya-based organisation ElephantVoices, said the elephants were bunching huddling together because they are frightened.

              The
              The young elephants in their enclosure. According to experts, they are bunching, huddling together because they are frightened. Photograph: The Guardian

              Audrey Delsink, an elephant behavioural ecologist and executive director for Executive Director for Humane Society International Africa, also reviewed the photos and footage. She believed that most of the elephants were aged between two and four. Basically, these calves have just been weaned or are a year or two into the weaning process. In the wild, elephants are completely dependent on their mothers milk until they are two, and are not fully weaned until the age of five.

              A number of the calves, she said, were displaying temporal streaming a stress-induced activity. Many of the gestures indicate apprehensive and displacement behaviour trunk twisting, trunk curled under, face touching, foot swinging, head-shaking, ear-cocking, displacement feeding, amongst others. Zimparks were approached but did not make a comment.

              The buyer for the young elephants is a Chinese national, according to inside sources who asked not to be named. Last year he was associated with a case involving 11 wild hyenas, who were discovered in a truck at Harare international airport that had been on the road for 24 hours without food or water and were reportedly in an extremely stressed condition, dehydrated and emaciated and, in some cases, badly injured.

              One
              One of the hyenas found in a consignment at Harare airport in Zimbabwe. Photograph: The Guardian

              The legal live trade in wild animals

              The capture of the baby elephants is just one of a number of operations that have taken place in Zimbabwe and across the continent over several decades. Nine elephants were reportedly exported from Namibia to Mexico in 2012, six from Namibia to Cuba in 2013, and more than 25 from Zimbabwe to China in 2015. In 2016, the US imported 17 elephants from Swaziland despite objections from the public and conservationists. From 1995-2015, more than 600 wild African elephants and 400 wild Asian elephants are reported to have been traded globally, according to a database kept by the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (Cites).

              Under Cites, trading live elephants is legal, with a few stipulations. The destination must be appropriate and acceptable, and the sale must benefit conservation in the home country. But elephant conservationists and animal welfare advocates point out a number of flaws in the system. There are no criteria setting out what appropriate and acceptable means and what is really contributing to conservation, explained Daniela Freyer of Pro-Wildlife, a German-based organisation that seeks to improve international legislation protecting wildlife. Currently, it is entirely up to authorities in the importing countries to define and decide. There are no common rules and no monitoring of the conditions of the capture, the number of animals being traded, where they will end up or the conditions in which they will be kept at their destination. There is also no monitoring of the requirement that a sale benefit conservation.

              For example, Zimbabwe and China are the biggest players in the live elephant trade, but Iris Ho, wildlife programme manager at Humane Society International (HSI), says they have found little information from the importing countries on the animals arrival. We dont know how many facilities in China have received the elephants imported from Zimbabwe during the last few years. We dont know the status of these animals.

              Attempts to comply with the few Cites stipulations such as appropriate and acceptable destinations are sometimes dismissed. In 2016, a Zimbabwe delegation of Zimparks and ZNSPCA inspectors travelled to China to access the facilities, where they found that most of the zoos showed signs of poor treatment of the animals. But their recommendation that a shipment of 36 elephants remain in Zimbabwe until the holding facilities in China were completed and assessed for compliance by Zimbabwe, was ignored.

              On September 16 Chinese papers announced in cheery headlines that three elephants two females and a male, aged approximately four years old had arrived at the Lehe Ledu wildlife zoo. Photographs of the elephants from Chinese media were analysed by Poole, who noted that the face one of the females looked pinched and stressed. The elephant appears to have begun to wear her tusks down on the bars, rubbing back and forth in frustration. Poole added that the sunken look, dark eyes and mottled skin are common for young, captured elephants. In the wild, you only see the pinched, sunken look in sick or orphaned elephants.

              The zoo has said that it is providing more than 1,000 square metres of indoor space and 3,000 sq metres outdoors. The animals have six full-time babysitters and every meal is prepared carefully, based on scientific recommendation.

              A video posted on YouTube celebrating the arrival of the elephants at Lehe Ledu zoo.

              Finally, questions have been asked about whether Zimbabwe is complying with the Cites stipulation that the sale of the elephants must benefit their conservation in the wild. The environment minister, Oppah Muchinguri-Kashiri, was reported in the Guardian last year as saying the sale of the elephants was necessary to raise funds to take care of national parks in Zimbabwe, which have been ravaged by drought and poaching. But in the past, there have been unconfirmed reports of Grace Mugabe, the presidents wife, using funds from the sales of elephants to pay off a military debt to the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

              The international body governing the trade, Cites, is increasingly coming under fire for its role. The scientific literature states that captive facilities continue to fall far short of meeting elephants natural needs for movement, space and extended social networks, with negative effects on health, behavior and reproduction, said Anna Mul, a legal adviser on animal law at Fondation Franz Weber, an organisation that is lobbying Cites to end the trade of live elephants.

              A spokesman for CITES said: The triennial CITES conference held last year (CoP17) agreed that appropriate and acceptable destinations was defined as destinations where the importing State is satisfied that the recipient of the live animals is suitably equipped to house and care for them. CoP17 also agreed on a process to assess if additional guidance on this matter is required. Further, both the importing and exporting countries are now required to be satisfied that any trade in live elephants should promote the conservation of elephants in the wild. In addition, the exporting Party must also be satisfied that animals are prepared and shipped so as to minimize the risk of injury, damage to health or cruel treatment of live elephants in trade… CITES does not address the way in which the animals are captured or stored prior to export.

              But for now, China continues to import the vulnerable elephants at almost conveyor-belt speed. According to Ho, some pressure to stop the practice is beginning to be felt, but the country is influenced by the view that breeding is conservation. And then, of course, there is a willing partner in Zimbabwe and the thrill of seeing African elephants by the visitors.

              Its a win-win, she said, for those who are financially profiting from the legal trade in the calves. But its a lose-lose for the animals, both imported and left behind.

              Read more: https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2017/oct/03/exclusive-footage-shows-young-elephants-being-captured-in-zimbabwe-for-chinese-zoos

              Trump’s Health Secretary Resigns Amid Private-Jet Scandal

              Embattled Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price resigned amid an uproar over his use of private and military jets at taxpayer expense while heading one of the U.S.’s largest government agencies.

              Price, 62, quit after it was revealed by Politico that he took more than two dozen private flights at taxpayer expense as well as trips to Europe, Africa and Asia on military aircraft, at a total cost of more than $1 million. The HHS department’s Office of Inspector General launched an investigation, as did Congress. 

              Price is the first cabinet secretary to leave the administration, though President Donald Trump’s volatile White House has already seen the departure of several top staffers.

              Trump had hinted earlier in the day that Price’s time with the administration could be close to coming to an end. Asked whether he had sought Price’s resignation, the president said, “no, but we’ll see what happens later on.”

              On Thursday, Trump made it clear that he was upset with the health secretary. “I am not happy with him,” he said.

              Mulvaney Memo

              After Price’s resignation on Friday, White House Budget Director Mick Mulvaney issued a memo ordering government agencies to seek approval from Chief of Staff John Kelly before most travel on government-owned or chartered planes.

              “Just because something is legal doesn’t make it right,” Mulvaney said. “Accordingly, with few exceptions, the commercial air system used by millions of Americans every day is appropriate, even for very senior officials.”

              Mulvaney said his agency is reviewing “longstanding guidance” regarding the use of government-owned and private aircraft with an eye toward strengthening “existing controls.”

              Price Distraction

              Price’s exit could distract from other administration priorities like tax reform. It may also raise more questions about other agency heads who have taken taxpayer-funded trips on private aircraft, including Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin; Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt, as reported by CBS; and Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke, according to the Washington Post.

              Trump intends to designate Don J. Wright of Virginia to serve as acting secretary, effective at 11:59 p.m. New York time on Friday. He currently serves as deputy assistant secretary for health.

              Price’s seven-month tenure as head of the health agency was bracketed by questions about his conduct, starting with trading of stock in health-care companies and ending with the plane trips. Price said he would write a check for the chartered jet trips to the U.S. government for $51,887.31 to cover his seat. 

              HHS didn’t immediately respond when asked for a comment from Price and if he would still pay back the funds.

              Resignation Letter

              Price told Trump in his resignation it was a “privilege to serve you.”

              “I have spent forty years both as a doctor and public servant putting people first,” Price wrote. “I regret that the recent events have created a distraction from these important objectives.”

              Price’s acting replacement Wright also serves as acting assistant secretary for health, overseeing the department’s health policy recommendations, a position he has served in since February. He has a medical degree from the University of Texas and a master’s degree in public health from the Medical College of Wisconsin.

              Obamacare ‘Sabotage’

              During the administration’s months-long attempt to get Congress to repeal the Affordable Care Act, Price wasn’t an obvious force in the Senate where the effort is indefinitely stalled. He did, however, let the law wither under his administrative tenure. His agency slashed advertising funding meant to get people to sign up for insurance plans sold under the law, and cut budgets for local groups of “navigators” who helped people find the right plan for them. HHS also shortened the time when people could sign up for coverage, and took other steps that critics decried as “sabotage.”

              Price’s successor will have to decide whether to try and make Obamacare succeed, attempt to modify it by rewriting its rules and regulations, or allow it to slide into neglect.

              “The mission of the Health and Human Services secretary should be to support Americans’ health care, not take it away,” Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer said in a statement. The next HHS secretary must follow the law when it comes to the Affordable Care Act instead of trying to sabotage it.”

              One obvious candidate to succeed Price is Seema Verma, who leads the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services and is directly responsible for managing much of the Affordable Care Act. Another is Scott Gottlieb, the Food and Drug Administration commissioner who has implemented several programs on drug prices and modernizing the agency.

              Verma is seen as close to the White House. She worked with Vice President Mike Pence to implement the then-governor’s Healthy Indiana Plan, and has regularly visited Capitol Hill to help push Obamacare repeal efforts.

              Tea Party

              Price, a doctor, joined Congress in 2005 as a representative from Georgia and was one of the original members of the Tea Party, which promotes small government. In the House, he introduced several bills to replace Obamacare. While his nomination to head HHS was backed by the American Medical Association, the U.S.’s largest doctors lobby, that group and almost every other health-care trade organization issued strong statements opposing the administration’s Obamacare-repeal attempts.

              Price was sworn in in February as he was being asked about whether, as a congressman, he improperly traded stocks of medical companies while at the same time dealing with health-care legislation that could have affected them.

              In one instance, he received a discount on shares of Innate Immunotherapeutics Ltd., an Australian biotechhnology company. He also invested in a medical-supply distributor before introducing legislation that could have benefited the company.

              Price defended the trades at the time, saying a broker directed the trades independently, except for his purchase of Innate shares. He said he learned Innate and the special stock offering through Innate board member and fellow Representative Chris Collins of New York.

              Private Flights

              Then, this month, Politico reported that he had taken more than two dozen private flights at a cost to taxpayers of hundreds of thousands of dollars, including trips to Nashville, Tennessee, where his son lives and where Price owns a condominium. His office defended the travel decisions, calling the trips more convenient than cheaper commercial travel. Cabinet members typically fly on commercial airlines unless there is a specific reason to take a private plane.

              In 2009, Price told CNBC that Congress should cut spending on government planes that supporters said were needed to carry military officials leading soldiers into combat. Price criticized an original effort to spend $550 million on eight passenger jets, and also objected to a reduced $220 million request for four jets.

              “Now we need to cut it from four jets to zero jets,” he said at the time. “This is just another example of fiscal irresponsibility run amok in Congress right now.”

              Price was confirmed in February by a party-line vote in the Senate. Democrats opposed his free-market views on health care and his promises to help repeal the Affordable Care Act.

                Read more: http://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2017-09-29/trump-s-health-secretary-price-resigns-amid-private-jet-scandal

                These Suburbanites May Have No Fracking Choice

                When Bill Young peers out the window of his $700,000 home in Broomfield, Colo., he drinks in a panoramic view of the Rocky Mountains. Starting next year, he may also glimpse one of the 99 drilling rigs that Extraction Oil & Gas Inc. wants to use to get at the oil beneath his home.

                There’s little that Young and his neighbors can do about the horizontal drilling. Residents of the Wildgrass neighborhood own their patches of paradise, but they don’t control what’s under them. An obscure Colorado law allows whole neighborhoods to be forced into leasing the minerals beneath their properties as long as one person in the area consents. The practice, called forced pooling, has been instrumental in developing oil and gas resources in Denver’s rapidly growing suburbs. It’s law in other states, too, but Colorado’s is the most favorable to drilling.

                Now fracking is coming to an upscale suburb, and the prospect of the Wildgrass homeowners being made by state law to do something they don’t want to do has turned many of them into lawyered-up resisters. “It floors me that a private entity could take my property,” says Young, an information security director.

                Many states require 51 percent of owners in a drilling area to consent before the others have to join. Pennsylvania doesn’t allow forced pooling at all in the Marcellus, one of the most prolific shale gas regions in the country. Texas, the center of the nation’s oil production, has strict limits on the practice. Despite its founding cowboy ethos of rugged individualism, Colorado has one of the lowest thresholds. “There’s a tension in oil and gas law between allowing private property owners to develop their mineral estates on their own and the state’s desire to ensure that ultimate recovery of oil and gas is maximized,” says Bret Wells, a law professor at the University of Houston.

                The rise of horizontal drilling and hydraulic fracturing over the past decade has ushered in a modest oil boom on Colorado’s Front Range by enabling companies to wring crude more cheaply from the stubborn shale that runs beneath Denver’s northern suburbs. From 2010 to 2015, Colorado’s crude output almost quadrupled. This year the state is pumping more than 300,000 barrels a day, most of it from the Wattenberg oil field beneath Wildgrass and beyond.

                Colorado’s population is booming, too. As Denver’s suburbs bloom northward into oil and gas territory—Wildgrass is about 20 miles north of Denver, not far from Boulder—housing developments are erupting where once there were only drilling rigs and farmland. And because horizontal drilling can reach as far as 2 miles in all directions from a well, companies need underground access to more land to maximize production from each site. The Colorado Oil & Gas Conservation Commission issues hundreds of pooling orders every year. “It’s an entirely new issue,” says David Neslin, former director of the commission, now an attorney at Davis Graham & Stubbs in Denver. “That’s creating some understandable friction with local governments and local communities.”

                Denver-based Extraction Oil & Gas is at the epicenter of that friction. Although it has rural holdings, a substantial amount of its reserves are located in populated areas. So the company, like others in the region, has put a lot of energy—and cash—into making its operations more palatable to suburbanites who fear the prospect of a drilling rig sprouting up within sight of their kiddie pools. Extraction almost exclusively uses electric drills, which are quieter than diesel-powered, and a new generation of hydraulic fracturing equipment that cuts noise. “It’s incumbent upon us to learn to live with these communities,” says Extraction spokesman Brian Cain. “Where we can go the extra mile to minimize impacts, we wish to do so.”

                The company’s latest project involves drilling 99 horizontal wells in Broomfield. That means leasing mineral rights from Wildgrass residents. Letters went out to some of them last year offering a 15 percent royalty and a $500 signing bonus. Some signed, others demurred, and still others organized a campaign aimed at blocking the project. Extraction hasn’t applied for a forced pooling order, but Young and his neighbors have come to believe it’s inevitable.

                The suburb’s agitation prompted the city to create a special task force to evaluate Extraction’s proposal. The company responded by taking members of the task force on a tour of oil and gas country. It wanted to show how its operations are less disruptive than traditional drill sites.

                Ultimately, the company agreed to more stringent environmental standards than the state requires. It will move some wells 1,300 feet from neighborhoods, almost three times farther than the law mandates. It will reduce the number of wells per site, monitor air emissions as well as water and soil quality, and build pipelines to transport oil immediately off-site instead of storing it in the city. “I can see Broomfield turning out to be a new model for how large-scale development gets done,” says Matt Lepore, director of the state commission, which will rule on Extraction’s applications for siting the wells this month.

                Such concessions have smoothed the path for development in many communities. But for some Wildgrass residents, any leasing is unacceptable. They say they fear accidents, such as the April pipeline explosion that killed two people and destroyed a home in Firestone, 20 miles away. Some simply find the terms of the initial lease offer laughable.

                “The money is so negligible,” says Elizabeth Lario, a health coach who’s lived in Wildgrass since 2005. And then there are property values: Homes in Wildgrass range from $500,000 to more than $1 million. “The royalties won’t offset the drop in property value,” says Stephen Uhlhorn, an engineer who’s lived in Wildgrass for four years. Oil development “is now hitting affluent neighborhoods where people have assets and livelihoods that exceed the value of any royalty they’re offered.”

                The bedrock of Colorado’s oil and gas policy is a 1951 law that says responsible fossil fuel development is in the public interest. The state, the law says, must protect the public from “waste”—industry parlance for oil that’s left in the ground. While Colorado has some of the strictest environmental regulations of any oil-producing state, it gives companies latitude in choosing where to drill. The Colorado Supreme Court has repeatedly held that the state’s interest in developing mineral resources preempts any local law that would curb drilling.

                Efforts to change the statute have fizzled. State Representative Mike Foote, a Democrat whose district is adjacent to Broomfield’s, introduced a bill earlier this year to raise the pooling threshold to 51 percent. It passed the House by a slim margin but died in a Senate committee in a party-line vote, with Republicans opposed. “The oil and gas industry pretty much controls the capital, particularly in the Senate,” Foote says. “Operators can do whatever they want.” Lepore, the head of the state oil commission, concedes the pooling threshold is low compared with other states. “I have no philosophical objection to a 51 percent requirement,” he says. “There are intelligent changes that could be made to the forced pooling law.”

                Young, the Wildgrass resident, received a lease offer last year. Since then he’s been working with a lawyer to consider his options, and so far he doesn’t like them. “You couldn’t put a Walmart where they’re putting these wells—no one would approve that zoning,” he says. “But for some reason, the industry is completely exempt from everything.”

                  BOTTOM LINE – In Colorado, whole neighborhoods may have to lease the minerals under their land if just one homeowner agrees.

                  Read more: http://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2017-10-03/these-suburbanites-may-have-no-fracking-choice

                  Trump Officials Dispute the Benefits of Birth Control to Justify Rules

                  When the Trump administration elected to stop requiring many employers to offer birth-control coverage in their health plans, it devoted nine of its new rule’s 163 pages to questioning the links between contraception and preventing unplanned pregnancies.

                  In the rule released Friday, officials attacked a 2011 report that recommended mandatory birth-control coverage to help women avoid unintended pregnancies. That report, requested by the Department of Health and Human Services, was done by the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine — then the Institute of Medicine — an expert group that serves as the nation’s scientific adviser.

                  “The rates of, and reasons for, unintended pregnancy are notoriously difficult to measure,” according to the Trump administration’s interim final rule. “In particular, association and causality can be hard to disentangle.”

                  Multiple studies have found that access or use of contraception reduced unintended pregnancies. 

                  Claims in the report that link increased contraceptive use by unmarried women and teens to decreases in unintended pregnancies “rely on association rather than causation,” according to the rule. The rule references another study that found increased access to contraception decreased teen pregnancies short-term but led to an increase in the long run.

                  “We know that safe contraception — and contraception is incredibly safe — leads to a reduction in pregnancies,” said Michele Bratcher Goodwin, director of the Center for Biotechnology and Global Health Policy at the University of California, Irvine, School of Law. “This has been data that we’ve had for decades.”

                  Riskier Behavior

                  The rules were released as part of a broader package of protections for religious freedom that the administration announced Friday.

                  The government also said imposing a coverage mandate could “affect risky sexual behavior in a negative way” though it didn’t point to any particular studies to support its point. A 2014 study by the Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis found providing no-cost contraception did not lead to riskier sexual behavior.

                  The rule asserts that positive health effects associated with birth control “might also be partially offset by an association with negative health effects.” The rule connects the claim of negative health effects to a call by the National Institutes of Health in 2013 for the development of new contraceptives that stated current options can have “many undesirable side effects.” 

                  The rule also describes an Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality review that found oral contraceptives increased users’ risk of breast cancer and vascular events, making the drugs’ use in preventing ovarian cancer uncertain.

                  Federal officials used all of these assertions to determine the government “need not take a position on these empirical questions.”

                  “Our review is sufficient to lead us to conclude that significantly more uncertainty and ambiguity exists in the record than the Departments previously acknowledged.”

                    Read more: http://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2017-10-06/trump-officials-dispute-birth-control-benefits-to-justify-rules