This GOP Congresswoman Sure Got An Easy First Question At Her Tele-Town Hall

This GOP Congresswoman Sure Got An Easy First Question At Her Tele-Town Hall

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Rep. Barbara Comstock (R-Va.) held a telephone town hall for her constituents on Tuesday ― and boy, was the first question more of a softball than Republican lawmakers tend to field these days.

A caller introduced as Dr. Gary Maloney simply wanted confirmation that Republicans like Comstock have no intention of doing away with the Affordable Care Act’s protections for people with pre-existing medical conditions.

“There seems to be a lot of noise about changes that are being yelled about, but really isn’t it true that there’s not a big movement, even among Republicans, to change things like pre-existing conditions and that sort of thing, that in fact, it is probably going to go in a different direction, as far as the likely final bill that’s going to emerge?” the caller asked.

“Well, in fact, you’re right on ― thank you, Gary ― particularly on the pre-existing conditions issue,” Comstock responded. “When Republicans had passed a repeal and replace bill in the last Congress, we protected people with pre-existing conditions in that bill. And that is a principle and a commitment that we are going to continue to make. That’s a promise that’s in all of our working documents, that’s what [Health] Secretary [Tom] Price has made clear, and the administration has, and our leadership has.”

“So that’s something there is bipartisan agreement on,” she added. “So for those who keep saying that that’s not the case, I would just ask, please take ‘yes’ for an answer.”

The problem Republicans like Comstock face ― and that she didn’t address at the time ― is that there is virtually no way to maintain coverage and reduce costs without preserving the individual mandate and continuing income-based subsidies for individuals to buy private insurance on the exchanges. Those are the same features of the law that Republicans most oppose.

It is also unclear how private insurers would distribute the cost of covering people with pre-existing conditions if Americans were no longer required to purchase insurance.

Listen to the exchange with Maloney  below:

Gary Maloney is the name of a veteran Republican political consultant who donated $350 to Comstock’s 2016 re-election campaign. His Northern Virginia consulting firm, Jackson-Alvarez, took in over $250,000  from advising Republican candidates and groups in the 2016 cycle, although Comstock’s campaign was not one of their clients.

biography on the website of the Leadership Institute, a conservative group for which this Maloney was once a guest speaker, indicates that he has a Ph.D. in politics from the University of Oxford but not a medical degree. 

When The Huffington Post called Jackson-Alvarez to inquire about the town hall call, the man who picked up said, “not interested” and hung up. Comstock’s staff did not respond to multiple requests for comment on the identity of the caller.

Comstock is one of several Republicans for whom outrage over President Donald Trump  and the Republican agenda could prove a political liability in the 2018 midterm elections. Democrats tried mightily last year to unseat Comstock, who represents a swing district that includes many Democratic-leaning suburbs of Washington, D.C. She ultimately won by nearly 6 percentage points. 

Comstock did not show up  to two scheduled in-person constituent meetings earlier this month, angering some of the more liberal residents of her district. Her office did not respond to a request for information on her next in-person town hall. 

Just 19 Republican members of Congress scheduled traditional town hall meetings for the congressional recess this week, according to Town Hall Project , a site that publicizes information about the meetings.

The decision not to hold the public events or conduct them by phone comes amid a wave of activists using town halls to aggressively confront members, particularly over their plans to replace Obamacare and investigate Trump’s ties to Russia. 

Indeed, the two questions Comstock got immediately after Maloney’s query were about these two issues.

A caller who identified herself as Amy said she was a small business owner who wanted to know why Comstock wanted to repeal, rather than fix, the Affordable Care Act.

“Every major bill has to have a couple of changes. Why do you think we need to just scrap it and not keep what we have?” Amy asked.

Comstock emphasized that she was most interested in repealing aspects of Obamacare that are unpopular among members of both parties, like the tax on so-called “Cadillac” health care plans and the medical device tax.

She suggested those features of the law could be stripped without limiting people’s access to affordable health insurance plans.

“We want to actually increase those plans for small businesses, have, you know, more risk pooling, buying across state lines, making it easier for small businesses to maybe get lower deductible plans or at least have the flexibility of that,” Comstock said. “That’s why we are carefully working on this and transitioning to a new system, get that up and running, but protect people and talk to people.”

Suggesting that consumers should be allowed to buy insurance in states other than where they live is a common Republican proposal . But it would likely to lead to a race to the bottom among states, leaving sicker people especially vulnerable. And it is so impractical, even insurers are not clamoring for it.

Neither the White House nor Republican leaders in Congress have proposed a comprehensive plan to replace Obamacare. Both Trump and House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) announced last week that they would unveil a proposal in March.

Listen to Comstock’s entire town hall below:

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Police Are Investigating Online Threat To Muslim Activist Linda Sarsour

Police Are Investigating Online Threat To Muslim Activist Linda Sarsour

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Police are investigating threats made on social media to Muslim American activist Linda Sarsour.

The prominent activist and Women’s March on Washington co-chair reported the threat to police on Friday. A man going by the name of Glenn Maccioli reportedly wrote on Facebook: “This b***h is in Brooklyn. Anyone know where? I would like to spit in her face.”

The comment was made under an article about Sarsour posted on the “Bay Ridge Talk” Facebook page, according to New York Daily News .

The New York Police Department’s Hate Crime Task Force confirmed to The Huffington Post on Wednesday that it was investigating the incident as a case of “aggravated harassment.” Sgt. Lee Jones said the investigation was ongoing and no arrests have been made.

Sarsour could not be reached for comment on Wednesday.

The Palestinian-American social justice activist has been targeted in the past. Following the historic Women’s March, conservative and anti-Muslim sites launched an attack on Sarsour, baselessly accusing her of supporting terrorism. The Daily Caller, FrontPageMag, the American Thinker, The Gateway Pundit and a slew of anti-Muslim hate sites published disparaging articles about the organizer in the days after the march.

“The opposition cannot fathom to see a Palestinian Muslim American woman that resonates with the masses,” Sarsour said in a Facebook post . “Someone whose track record is clear and has always stood up for the most marginalized.”

She added that it wasn’t the first time she’d been attacked online, but said, “It’s definitely more intense ― the fact that my children see it is what is bothering me the most.”

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In 2014, Sarsour was attacked and harassed by a man who chased her through her Brooklyn neighborhood and threatened to cut off her head. Police arrested suspect Brian Boshell and charged him with a hate crime.

The country has witnessed a disturbing trend of Islamophobia  in recent years. The number of physical assaults against Muslims reached 9/11-era levels in 2015, according to a Pew Research Center  analysis. From 2014 to 2015, the FBI reported a 67 percent spike in anti-Muslim hate crimes.

As a prominent Muslim American and a vocal activist, Sarsour is often in the public eye. The 36-year-old is the director of the Arab American Association of New York, a member of the police reform group the Justice League, and the 2012 recipient of a Champion of Change award from President Barack Obama .

On Tuesday, she and Muslim activist Tarek El-Messidi launched a crowdfunding campaign to raise money for a Jewish cemetery that was desecrated by vandals. The campaign aimed to raise $20,000, which it did in a matter of hours. By Wednesday afternoon, the initiative had raised nearly $100,000 .

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Met Director Fears Elimination Of NEA Marks ‘New Assault’ On Art

Met Director Fears Elimination Of NEA Marks ‘New Assault’ On Art

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In an impassioned (but not quite scorchedearth ) op-ed for The New York Times , Metropolitan Museum of Art director Thomas P. Campbell issued a swift and effective defense of public art in the United States. 

“Arts and cultural programming challenges, provokes and entertains; it enhances our lives,” he wrote. “Eliminating the NEA would in essence eliminate investment by the American government in the curiosity and intelligence of its citizens.”

His defense ― a paean to the National Endowment of the Arts, in particular ― comes after rumors -turned-reports  alleged that President Donald Trump ’s administration plans to slash arts funding in an attempt to cut down on domestic spending. “Eliminating arts funding programs will save Donald Trump just 0.0625% of budget ,” outlets have claimed. Nonetheless, it appears as though his office is ready to eliminate nine programs, including the NEA.

Campbell anticipates that regions around the country, not just those within walking distance of the Met, will feel the loss of such an institution. NEA grants are awarded to schools, jazz festivals, dance troupes, literary organizations, museum exhibitions, “arts programs for war veterans,” and so much more across every U.S. congressional district, Campbell claims. In fact, you can get an idea of the NEA’s scope of influence here , courtesy of a website created by artist Tega Brain . Grants are small ― they average $26,000, Campbell says, and require groups to secure matching funds ― but they can be powerful.

As the planet becomes at once smaller and more complex, the public needs a vital arts scene, one that will inspire us to understand who we are and how we got here.

“Thousands are distributed in all 50 states, reaching every congressional district, urban and rural, rich and poor,” Campbell added, countering the Heritage Foundation’s characterization of the NEA as “welfare for cultural elitists .” “These grants sustain the arts in areas where people don’t have access to major institutions like the Met.”

Contained within Campbell’s poetic defense is also an admission of concern: “I fear that this current call to abolish the NEA is the beginning of a new assault on artistic activity,” he proclaimed, harkening back to the last time publicly-funded art was under threat. In the 1990s , a congressional “decency test ” turned lawmakers into wayward art critics capable of vetoing grants to expecting artists who didn’t meet Congress’ moral standards. Think artists like the NEA Four . Or, in the late 1980s, Robert Mapplethorpe , Dread Scott and Andres Serrano .

Campbell continued:

Eliminating the NEA would in essence eliminate investment by the American government in the curiosity and intelligence of its citizens. As the planet becomes at once smaller and more complex, the public needs a vital arts scene, one that will inspire us to understand who we are and how we got here — and one that will help us to see other countries, like China, not as enemies in a mercenary trade war but as partners in a complicated world.

Campbell is hardly the only person to bridle at the prospect of decreased national arts funding. Authors, actors and artists, in particular, have been vocal about the need to protect the NEA and similar institutions. PEN America launched a petition to support the NEA; a White House petition with similar aims erupted.

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As writer Celeste Pewter noted in a comprehensive Twitter thread , any proposed cuts to the NEA or similar programs would depend on Congressional budgets and appropriation. Similarly, in a thorough examination for The Huffington Post, reporter Claire Fallon outlined six things NEA supporters can do to protect national arts funding before an official decision to defund is made.

In the meantime, it will be important for figures like Campbell to continue to step forward and effectively communicate the impact and reach of the NEA. To tell the stories that accurately reflect how arts funding touches not only the coasts, but heartland organizations. To eloquently explain the ways in which art can transform opinions and illuminate the other. 

In the face of a president who seems willing to cut budgetary corners he might not fully understand, it’s worth remembering the words of a former president, Barack Obama , who said , “Equal to the impact [artists] have on each of us every day as individuals is the impact [they] have on us as a society. And we are told we’re divided as a people, and then suddenly the arts have this power to bring us together and speak to our common condition.”

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Pennsylvania Governor: Dems Can Combat Trump By Getting Things Done

Pennsylvania Governor: Dems Can Combat Trump By Getting Things Done

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WASHINGTON ― Democrats have “done a good job of addressing the needs of Americans and will continue to do so,” despite election defeats, said Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf (D), whose state narrowly voted for President Donald Trump after going Democratic in the previous six presidential elections.

“What we saw in November, to a certain extent — and remember, Hillary Clinton won by 3 million votes — what we saw were a lot of people who were concerned about whether either party is addressing their needs, rightly or wrongly,” Wolf told The Huffington Post on Wednesday. 

Trump campaigned as an anti-establishment candidate and his voters “wanted to shake things up,” Wolf said. A winning strategy for Democrats, he said, is to accomplish policy priorities to restore voters’ faith in government.

Wolf cited his latest budget proposal, which he said increases funding for public education, jobs and the fight against the opioid crisis.

“I’m actually increasing amount of money that I think Pennsylvania ought to invest in those areas. At the same time, I’m not asking for any tax increases,” he said. “I’m going to make government work better to do the things that people in Pennsylvania want it to do.”

Wolf said it’s important for state and local officials to fight policies that hurt their constituents through the courts. But ultimately, he said, voters will decide.

Last month, attorneys general from more than a dozen states, including Pennsylvania’s Josh Shapiro (D), vowed to challenge the constitutionality of Trump’s ban on immigration from seven majority-Muslim nations. A lawsuit filed by Democratic attorneys general in Washington state and Minnesota successfully halted enforcement of the ban.

“The attorney general has the ability to pursue cases that — in our case, Josh Shapiro — are unconstitutional, but the best way is to make sure that we have representatives in various offices at the federal and the state level that don’t pass unconstitutional measures,” Wolf said.

Since Trump’s election, Democrats around the country have become more actively engaged in grassroots activism.

In Pennsylvania, progressive activists have targeted Sen. Pat Toomey (R), with a new group called “Tuesdays with Toomey,” which goes to the senator’s local office each week to voice concerns.

Toomey narrowly won re-election in November, in part by distancing himself from Trump. He waited until Election Day to reveal that he voted for Trump.

Toomey has avoided town hall meetings this week, apparently fearing protesters. Activists mocked his absence with an empty suit at an event on Tuesday. 

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The national Democratic Party is preparing to choose a party chair this weekend. The Democratic National Committee race, featuring former Labor Secretary Tom Perez and Rep. Keith Ellison (D-Minn.) as front-runners, has exposed rifts within the party on how best to oppose Trump and the GOP .

Both Wolf and Pennsylvania state Democratic chair Marcel Groen have endorsed Perez .

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This Guy Perfectly Recreated His Disney Photo With Minnie Mouse Decades Later

This Guy Perfectly Recreated His Disney Photo With Minnie Mouse Decades Later

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In the ‘80s, artist Brian Rush took a photo as a kid with Minnie Mouse at Disneyland. Decades later, he recreated that photo and nailed it.

When Rush learned his parents wanted to take a family trip to Disney World with their kids and grandkids, he knew he wanted to recreate a photo from his first trip to a Disney park. He told HuffPost he chose one that was taken either in the summer of 1985 or 1986 at Disneyland in California, when he was around the age of 5 or 6.

“I actually couldn’t find many of our original photos, but this one was perfect,” he said.

He recreated the photo on New Year’s Day 2015 at Disney World in Florida. Most of the clothes for his outfit were found at American Apparel, including the shorts, which were actually a bathing suit on which his wife helped sew the stripes. He used fabric and tape to perfect the look of his shoes. The final touch? The mouse ears hat, which he bought at Disney World.

With Rush’s final result, it seemed like Minnie had no problem recognizing him. 

Rush posted the childhood photo alongside his recreated one on Reddit on Feb. 17. He told HuffPost he thought it’d be fun for others to see the pics side by side years later, and explained he took on the project because “life makes it really easy to get stuck in a rut.”

“Even on a vacation, which is a break from the everyday, it is so easy to fall in line with what is expected of you,” he said. “Go see this tourist attraction, go see that, ride this, wait in line here. Even at a place as ready-made magical as Disney World, bringing a little of your own creativity can elevate the experience.”

Rush also said the thought of being embarrassed never deterred him. In fact, it motivated him. 

“I’m also a bit of a sucker for embarrassment,” he told HuffPost. “Most people avoid it at all costs; I, on the other hand, get a thrill out of, for example, dressing like my 5-year-old self in short shorts.”

Waiting in line to meet Minnie sparked what might be the most comical part of the whole experience. Because Rush was wearing the outfit he had put together to recreate the photo under his clothes, he had to warn the family behind him in line that he was about to strip down.

“I turned to the family behind us, who had already watched quizzically as I taped homemade shapes to my shoes, and said, ‘Please don’t be alarmed. I’m going to take off my clothes now … but I have more clothes underneath,’” he said. “That is the kind of awkwardness that makes strangers not strangers anymore but sharers of an experience, and it makes a regular moment into a memory.”

And because we know you’re dying to know, yes, Rush continued wearing that outfit after meeting up with Minnie. 

“I changed into that outfit right before the photo shoot but stayed in it for the rest of the day.”

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Whatever You Do, Don’t Ask Anna Kendrick To Be A Bridesmaid

Whatever You Do, Don’t Ask Anna Kendrick To Be A Bridesmaid

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Sure, she’s been in a couple wedding movies, but Anna Kendrick does not want to be in an actual wedding. Especially not as a bridesmaid. 

During an appearance on “Late Night with Seth Meyers,” the “Table 19” actress explained why she’d rather not stand beside the bride on the big day.

“I try not to get invited to weddings,” Kendrick said. “It’s like watching your friends put on a little pageant. And you have to be in a nice dress and talk to people you don’t know. I feel like I’ve potentially avoided making very close female friends cause I don’t want to be a bridesmaid.” 

She added, “If you put me on an email chain and tell me I have to wear ballet pink nail polish, I will kill you where you stand… Like, I can be friends with you if you’re already married.” 

Check out Seth’s hilarious reaction to her tale in the video above. 

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Clemson Doctoral Student Creates Rap Album On Blackness For Dissertation

Clemson Doctoral Student Creates Rap Album On Blackness For Dissertation

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A Clemson University Ph.D. candidate decided to forgo a traditional dissertation for a more creative platform: a 34-track rap album. 

A.D. Carson wanted to use hip-hop and spoken word to explore the areas of identity, justice economics, citizenship and language for his rhetorics, communication and information design program. So he wrote and produced “Owning My Masters: The Rhetorics of Rhymes and Revolutions ” He’s the first Clemson student to opt out of the traditional, written form.

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In an article for the campus outlet , Carson said the project isn’t meant as a gimmick, but his way of discussing the role race and identity plays in society today.

“The central thesis of my dissertation is: Are certain voices treated differently?” Carson said. “I’m trying to examine how an authentically identifiable black voice might be used or accepted as authentic, or ignored, or could answer academic questions and be considered rightly academic. So I have to present a voice rather than writing about a voice.”

In his lyrics, Carson explores the different ways racism manifests itself on campus and beyond. He also pays homage to black figures like Martin Luther King, Jr. and Nelson Mandela as well as victims of police brutality.

He also features snippets of Malcolm X speeches and samples from artists like Aretha Franklin. He considers these like the sources one would usually quote in written dissertation, he told the campus outlet.

Carson recorded the album in his studio in his apartment, with production help from two childhood friends, Blake E. Wallace and Marcus Fitzgerald. The doctoral candidate began uploading his music videos and songs to YouTube and Soundcloud in 2013 when he stated the program. Since then, his music has been played thousands of times.

Carson, who also founded the See The Stripes campaign to bring attention to black students issues on campus, said that he paid attention to every detail on the album. Like his trap song “Familiar,” which follows the format of one of Langston Hughes’ poems. 

 “The form of the song is imitating Langston Hughes’ ‘Dream Variations,’ a poem that has two stanzas that are very close to one another, and the content is informed by James Baldwin’s idea that Americans are trapped in history and history is trapped in us,” he said. “So think about using this rap form called trap that originates in the South in a song where you don’t know if the verses are the present or the past. It’s subtle but it works on a lot of different levels.”

In a YouTube video, Carson, who’s already helped expand a few professors’ view  of hip-hop, said he wants to show that the genre can be a vehicle for larger discussions. 

“All of these different elements of hip-hop have existed over here for so long as ways that we can look at other things,” he said. “I want to add something to the conversation from being a participant in the hip-hop world as well as a participant in the in the academic world in this particular mold.”

Carson will defend his dissertation on Friday. Listen to “Owning My Masters: The Rhetorics of Rhymes and Revolutions” here

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Jay Z Becomes The First Rapper Ever To Be Inducted Into The Songwriters Hall Of Fame

Jay Z Becomes The First Rapper Ever To Be Inducted Into The Songwriters Hall Of Fame

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Jay Z is having a pretty great year. The rapper, who’s expecting twins with wife Beyoncé , has gone from “bricks to Billboard, from grams to Grammys,” and now he’s a Hall of Famer. 

On Wednesday, it was announced that the rapper will be inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame this summer, making him the first rapper ever to earn the honor. Songwriters are eligible for induction when they’ve written hit tracks for two decades, according to the BBC . (It begs the question, though, why it took until 2017 for a rapper to receive the honor.)

”It’s massive. He has changed the way that we listen to music. He’s changed the way that we have fun,” said Chic guitarist Nile Rodgers, who announced the inductees on CBS, according to Billboard .

Other songwriters to be inducted this year include Kenneth “Babyface” Edmonds, Jimmy Jam & Terry Lewis, Robert Lamm, James Pankow & Peter Cetera (of Chicago) and the man who gave us the Britney Spears masterpiece “… Baby One More Time,” Max Martin. 

“The songwriters we honor cross genre, regional and even national boundaries — R & B, Rap, Pop and Rock & Roll from both coasts, the American heartland and Sweden,” SHOF co-chairs Kenneth Gamble and Leon Huff and president Linda Moran said in a statement. “We are thrilled to once more have the opportunity to preside over an event that recognizes the convergence of song craft and musical performance at the very highest level.”

The inductees will be honored at the 48th annual Induction and Awards Dinner, to be held this June. 

We’ll be over here, patiently waiting for all the post-event photos of Jay with Blue Ivy, being the cutest father-daughter duo around. Maybe we’ll even get to see the new twins! 

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