McConnell’s test: Can he do more than obstruct?

(CNN)Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell is facing a major test this week. Since revealing the details of the Republican health care plan, McConnell has watched as a number of important senators in his own party announced their concerns or opposition. Some, such as Wisconsin Sen. Ron Johnson, have urged him to postpone the vote based on the assumption that, at this moment, it would not pass the upper chamber where the majority only has a slim 52 seats.

Meanwhile, on Monday, the Congressional Budget Office announced that under the Senate bill there would be 22 million more uninsured Americans by 2026, making McConnell’s efforts to pass the bill that much more difficult.
But McConnell’s supporters believe he can make this happen. They see McConnell as a modern-day Lyndon Johnson, who has served as both Senate minority and majority leader, an old-school legislator who can twist arms and cut deals to bring his party together. They are confident that despite all the potential problems with this bill, McConnell must have enough tricks up his sleeve to defy conventional wisdom.
    But the truth is it’s nearly impossible to predict if McConnell will succeed. To many, he has defined his career as an obstructionist rather than as someone who creates new policies. The challenge he faces this week is fundamentally different than much of what he has confronted in his time as a party leader.
    Most of McConnell’s skills have come as a member of the congressional minority or as a majority leader facing a president from the other party. Under those conditions, McConnell could be brilliant and devastating. Shortly after President Obama’s inauguration, Utah Republican Bob Bennett recalled McConnell telling a retreat of Republicans: “We have a new president with an approval rating in the 70% area. We do not take him on frontally. We find issues where we can win, and we begin to take him down, one issue at a time.”
    His track record as an agent of obstruction is legendary. Throughout the Obama presidency, McConnell proved to be extremely effective at blocking many key legislative initiatives, from immigration reform to climate change regulations to criminal justice reform, that sometimes even commanded bipartisan support. The senator proved he knew how to whip up a no vote and to stand firm against intense political pressure to act.
    He demonstrated the same savvy with judicial and executive branch appointments. McConnell was more than willing to let seats remain empty. Never was his ability to hold the party together as clear as when Justice Antonin Scalia died during President Obama’s term. The Senate majority leader refused to even hold hearings on the nomination of Merrick Garland, based on the spurious argument that the next president should have the right to decide on the appointment. The seat remained vacant until a Republican controlled the White House.
    As an obstructionist, McConnell demonstrated he was able to ignore the scrutiny of the media no matter how hot it became. When pundits and policymakers took to the airwaves to lambast the Republicans for failing to govern or for creating a constitutional crisis, McConnell didn’t flinch. The breaking news cycle didn’t faze him. He plays, as he titled his memoir, the “Long Game” with an eye on the needs of his party. Between 2009 and 2017, he kept up the pressure on his colleagues in the Senate to stick to their guns, and it worked.
    Now the situation is different. For the first time in his career as a party leader (other than the brief moment he was selected as Senate majority leader in 2006), the public will see just how well he can perform in making things happen rather than blocking progress.
    But the skills are different on the other side of the line of scrimmage.
    Part of the job of the majority leader in times of united government is to bring disparate parts of the party together around proposals to change the status quo. “Trumpcare” would do just that. This is legislation that will strip away the health care benefits for millions of Americans and create a period of great uncertainty for health care markets.
    Some conservatives want Congress to do much more in dismantling government. To them, the government would still be spending too much money subsidizing markets and leaving too many regulations in place. Others in the GOP are not willing to make such grandiose changes, realizing the effects it will have on their electorate. In particular, they fear the effects of the rollback of Medicaid on their populations as well as the higher deductibles that people with more illnesses will face.
    Can McConnell bring these sides together, and work with the intransigent Freedom Caucus in the House, around legislation that will change the status quo and where Republicans will likely be blamed for any negative outcome?
    In the modern era, part of the job of the majority leader has also been to sell ideas to the public. This is where the job of the obstructionist is very different than the job of the policy creator. Unlike some recent Senate majority leaders, McConnell doesn’t really like to be on television and he tends to avoid reporters whenever possible. In this case, that comes at a cost since the natural face of the party is not out there convincing Americans why this is a good idea. That task is left to others, and right now his fellow salesmen, as reflected in public opinion polls about the health care bills, are doing a poor job.
    Until now, President Trump has not tested McConnell, since he has focused almost exclusively on executive actions and avoided the legislative front on large-scale issues.
    It is worth noting that McConnell does not really have many legislative issues that he is known for, other than his fierce opposition in the 1990s to campaign finance reform. This week he is dealing with a major issue that would have his signature in the history books.

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    Can McConnell deliver on this controversial legislation? Can he play the part of leaders like Senate Majority Leader Mike Mansfield, who delivered when Democrats controlled the White House and Congress in the mid-1960s? Or, is this problematic bill something that is just too hot for this legislative leader to deliver?
    This is a question that will be answered as the week unfolds.

    Read more: http://www.cnn.com/2017/06/26/opinions/mcconnell-health-care-opinion-zelizer/index.html

    Nebraska Democrat fired for saying he was ‘glad’ Rep. Scalise was shot

    Washington (CNN)A member of the Nebraska Democratic Party was fired Thursday morning after an audio recording of him surfaced on YouTube saying he was “glad” House Majority Whip Steve Scalise was shot at a congressional baseball game practice and wished the Louisiana Republican was dead.

    In the expletive-laced recording, Phil Montag, then the volunteer co-chairman of the Nebraska Democratic Party’s technology committee, blamed Scalise for seeking to take away people’s health care coverage through the Republican bill to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act.
    “This motherf***er, like, his whole job is like to get people [to] convince Republicans to f***ing kick people off f***ing health care,” Montag can be heard saying in the recording in reference to Scalise.
      When he made the remarks, Montag was speaking to Chelsey Gentry-Tipton, the chairwoman of the state Democratic Party’s Black Caucus, and her friend, Destin Madison, according to the Omaha World-Herald and Nebraska Democratic Party Chair Jane Kleeb.
      It’s unclear how the conversation began, but the recording on YouTube starts with Madison asking, “So what is it you want to do?”
      Gentry-Tipton responds to Montag’s complaints by saying, “We know all of this.” Madison later is audible telling Montag that he has been recording him and plans to release the audio of their conversation.
      “I hate this motherf***er. I’m f***ing glad he got shot. I’m glad he got shot,” Montag says on the tape.
      “So then say something. So then say something,” Gentry-Tipton responds.
      “I’m not going to f***ing say that in public,” Montag replies.
      “You don’t have to say that in public. Then say something, say something,” Gentry-Tipton says again as Madison asks, “Well then, what are you saying it to us for? What are you telling us for?”
      “I wish he was f***ing dead,” Montag then says of Scalise.
      “Why are you telling us, but not telling anyone else?” Madison asks.
      “I’m trying to f***ing — because I’m trying to f***ing figure out (inaudible)” Montag says.
      “It’s ok, because I’ve been recording this conversation since you’ve come in, so I will publicly release it myself,” Madison says before the recording abruptly ends.
      Gentry-Tipton has come under fire for remarking on Facebook earlier this month that she thought it was “so funny” to watch congressmen “crying on live tv” about the trauma they experienced in the shootings at the Republican congressional baseball practice, according to the World-Herald. In the same chain, the World-Herald reported she wrote, “The very people that push pro NRA legislation in efforts to pad their pockets with complete disregard for human life. Yeah, having a hard time feeling bad for them.”
      The comments prompted the state Democratic Party leadership to call for Gentry-Tipton’s resignation as Black Caucus chairwoman, but she refused to do so, saying in a statement on Facebook that her posts were taken out of context by party officials and that she would not resign “at this point,” the World-Herald reported.
      Kleeb, the state Democratic chair, told CNN she made the decision to fire Montag when she saw the video.
      “He made disgusting comments about a member of Congress, and we relieved him of his volunteer position of the party on Thursday morning as soon as we saw the video,” Kleeb said. “It’s a disturbing time in politics. I’ve worked in politics for over 10 years, and I’ve never seen such hateful rhetoric from both the right and left.”
      Montag could not be reached for comment Saturday. He told the World-Herald that the recording was edited to take his words out of context, adding that he was “horrified” by the shooting of Scalise and “absolutely” did not wish he was dead.
      “I did not call for the congressman’s death,” Montag said.
      Montag also told the World Herald that the recording posted on the internet Wednesday night was a small part of a conversation that lasted 30 minutes to an hour.
      Gentry-Tipton and Madison did not return immediate requests from CNN for comment on the recording or Montag’s allegation that it had been edited to take his words out of context.
      Nebraska is a one-party consent state, which means it is legal for an individual to record others without their knowledge as long as the person recording is a party to the conversation.
      Scalise, a member of the Republican baseball team, was hospitalized after a gunman opened fire while Republican members of Congress were practicing earlier this month in Alexandria, Virginia, ahead of the annual charity baseball game.
      The congressman went through multiple surgeries after the shooting and is still hospitalized, although he was released from intensive care Thursday.
      The shooter, 66-year-old James Hodgkinson of Belleville, Illinois, died from gunshot wounds he sustained in a shootout with police at the practice field, federal law enforcement officials said.
      The incident marks the first time a sitting member of Congress was shot since Arizona Rep. Gabby Giffords was targeted by a gunman in 2011.

      Read more: http://www.cnn.com/2017/06/24/politics/nebraska-dem-fired-scalise-shot/index.html

      The Resistance Now: activists say ‘hell no’ to Republican healthcare bill

      Progressives sprung into action with dozens protesting outside the Senate majority leaders office, while Democrats took stock after Ossoffs loss

      So about that healthcare bill…

      Dozens of people were arrested after protesting outside Senate majority leader Mitch McConnells office on Thursday including some in wheelchairs as Republicans unveiled Republicans unveiled Trumpcare 2.0 (or are we on 3.0 now?).

      Activists from disability rights organization Adapt gathered outside McConnells office to demonstrate against the bill, which would dramatically cut Medicaid and strip funding from Planned Parenthood, to name just two measures.

      A
      A protester is led away by police on Thursday. Photograph: Michael Reynolds/EPA

      Progressive organizations sprung into action to try to defeat it.

      Our Revolution set up a page on its website urging people to take action to stop AHCA [the Senate bill is called the Better Care Reconciliation Act but many of the principles are the same as the AHCA House bill] and prevent millions from losing their healthcare.

      The organization has provided a number which will connect people to their Senators office, and has also provided some talking points.

      AHCA would leave 23 million Americans without healthcare.

      The bill would allow insurance companies to discriminate against patients and deny coverage based on pre-existing conditions.

      A majority of voters strongly oppose repealing and replacing the Affordable Care Act (also known as Obamacare).

      Americans want to expand healthcare, not gut it. In fact, two-thirds of Americans support Medicare for all.

      Indivisible has its own page too, where people can submit amendments to their senator. This is about applying your constituent power directly to the process, Indivisibles website says. They also have an extensive list of reading material and a script people can use when talking to their representatives.

      Ossoff: doomed from the start?

      Thats what a number of progressives told the Guardian, after the 30-year-old lost to Republican Karen Handel in Tuesdays special election.

      Jon Ossoff ran on a centrist, Clinton-esque platform that focussed on rather beige, uncontroversial issues like government waste. There was no talk of universal healthcare and little of welfare issues. He ran in what has traditionally been a Republican stronghold, and lost by only five points, but Ossoff was basically the opposite of the kind of populist candidate the left believes is the way forward.

      Hes not in favour of single-payer healthcare, hes not outspoken on campaign finance reform, said Moumita Ahmed, founder of Millennials for Revolution. Why would I as a Republican vote for someone who isnt a Republican, but still has the same values as a Republican?

      Jon
      Ossoff plus balloons. Photograph: Joe Raedle/Getty Images

      Winnie Wong, from People for Bernie, said Ossoffs run the election was the most expensive House race in history, by the way was a massive failure of Democratic party leadership.

      He didnt have a core progressive message and that ultimately is why he lost. The Democratic party could spend $100m and he would still lose. Because he didnt stand for anything.

      but there is hope for a Brand New Congress

      Thats the name of a group that selects, trains, supports and promotes progressives who want to run for Congress.

      Brand New Congress (BNC), formed in April 2016, currently has 14 candidates who have announced their 2018 mid-term campaigns, including several who are running against incumbent Democrats.

      We essentially provide full service campaign service, BNCs Corbin Trent told the Guardian this week. Brand New Congress manages press request, helps with events and ballot access, does opposition research on incumbents, and can even help with speechwriting.

      Brand New Congress has organized a weekend canvassing kick off for its candidates (who are from across America) on Sunday. Each of the candidates all of whom are running on progressive platforms are holding events to boost their campaigns.

      Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, who is running against incumbent Democrat Joseph Crowley in New Yorks 14th congressional district, organized for the Bernie Sanders campaign in 2016.

      We have the capacity and opportunity to be ambitious in legislation, Ocasio-Cortez told the Guardian. Because the world is changing in ways weve never seen before.

      What were reading

      • Were in the midst of an all-hands-on-deck emergency, writes Rebecca Solnit, in which new groups and coalitions are emerging along with unforeseen capacities in many people who didnt previously think they were activists. Solnit says there are extraordinary things happening in this moment, in an uplifting survey of the activist land.
      • Progressives should try to speak conservative to score victories, historian and LGBTQ strategist Nathaniel Frank writes in the LA Times. He says the successes of the LGBTQ movement came when activists learned to speak the language of those they most needed to enlist rather than those who already agreed with them.

      Ron Swanson reimagined as Berniecrat progressive

      Parks
      Parks and Recreations Ron Swanson … an eerie doppelganger for a Democratic candidate whos making headlines. Photograph: NBC/NBCU Photo Bank

      Randy Bryce, known as @IronStache on Twitter, sprung to fame this week when he announced his challenge to Republican house speaker Paul Ryan. In his favour? An evocative campaign advert, a leftwing message, and the mustache, denim and workboots of an all-American.

      That masculine, blue-collar image prompted one Twitter user to suggest Bryce was genetically engineered from Bruce Springsteen songs, while several people compared the Democrat to the Parks and Recreation character Ron Swanson. Just not a libertarian.

      Randy
      Randy Bryce is running for Paul Ryans seat in Congress. Photograph: YouTube

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      Read more: https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2017/jun/23/resistance-now-newsletter-healthcare-jon-ossoff

      Would Trump make a good royal?

      (CNN)The power of the British monarchy has been on display during recent tragedies.

      Whether comforting victims of the Grenfell tower block fire or unveiling the priorities of her government in the state opening of Parliament, Queen Elizabeth II has demonstrated the sort of steady, dignified endurance that rises above the chaos of a divisive Brexit vote and an inconclusive general election.
      Leave it to Prince Harry to spoil it all.
        In a revealing interview with Newsweek, the Queen’s most rebellious grandson let slip the secret at the heart of his family.
        “We are involved in modernizing the British monarchy. We are not doing this for ourselves but for the greater good of the people…. Is there any one of the royal family who wants to be king or queen? I don’t think so, but we will carry out our duties at the right time,” he said.
        Prince Harry’s words are extraordinary. But he should know better than anyone if his father Charles and brother William, both groomed for the job since birth, do not even want the throne.

          Prince Harry opens up about Diana’s funeral

        Who, after all, could survive the nonstop attention and demand for selfies? Who would thrive under such scrutiny, and do it all while wearing a gold crown weighing more than three pounds?
        It would take a certain type of person. The sort of person who fills his court with relatives, perhaps, who thinks the separation of powers is a foreign concept, and who would quite fancy himself as the head of a church.
        Anyone coming to mind here?
        President Donald Trump may be struggling to navigate power in the world’s greatest democracy. But how about the top job in a smaller, dustier administration?
        There may be centuries of convention about how the monarch is supposed to relate to Parliament (keep quiet and sign the bills when they arrive), but an unwritten constitution means there is nothing to stop him doing whatever he wants.
        These days, marrying a Catholic is not even a problem, so Melania is safe.
        It is, of course, a stupid idea. A poor joke deployed by a Brit in America (yours truly) trying to make sense of Prince Harry’s comments and the truth about duty.
        Harry’s point is that nobody should want the crown. Nobody should want the awesome responsibilities that come with it. The accident of birth has rather ruled him out of contention anyway. Prince Harry now stands fifth in line to the throne.

          Prince Harry hosts Obama at Kensington Palace

        But it is easy to understand how a fun-loving 30-something would balk at the idea.
        His mother died in a car accident in a French road tunnel as she was pursued by paparazzi, photographers trying to sate the massive interest in the Royals’ real-life soap opera.
        A photo of Harry walking in his mother’s funeral cortege became the public’s defining image of the young prince.
        “My mother had just died, and I had to walk a long way behind her coffin, surrounded by thousands of people watching me while millions more did on television,” he said in the Newsweek interview.
        “I don’t think any child should be asked to do that, under any circumstances. I don’t think it would happen.”
        It got worse as Harry got older and became fair game for the tabloids. Now every girlfriend is scrutinized by a public that knows him only from a distance.
        When he dressed up as a Nazi for a fancy dress party, photographs turned up on newspaper front pages.

          UK royals talk candidly about losing Diana

        And as his brother William will one day find out, being king rather makes showing up at a Colonials and Natives themed party a bit of a no-no. (Although his choice of outfit at that notorious 2005 party — a lion costume — shows the way he has been groomed from a young age to avoid accidentally triggering outrage by dressing up as a murderous fascist.)
        We have all watched the crown and marveled at the way Princess Elizabeth blossomed into a young queen as she grappled with her new burden and the duties she learned at her father’s side.
        How much more difficult that transition would be today, in our nonstop world of Twitter, hot takes and rolling news.

        Join us on Twitter and Facebook

        Anyone lusting after the position of sovereign would possess not just an unhealthy masochism, but a level of narcissism at odds with the humility displayed by the Queen during this past week.
        What kind of monster would want that life?

        Read more: http://www.cnn.com/2017/06/22/opinions/prince-harry-trump-royal-opinion-crilly/index.html

        Social media pressure is linked to cosmetic procedure boom – BBC News

        Image copyright Science Photo Library

        Young people are turning to cosmetic procedures such as botox and dermal fillers as a result of social media pressure, according to a report.

        A study by the Nuffield Council on Bioethics says government must protect people from an unregulated industry.

        The report also condemns makeover apps and online plastic surgery games aimed at children as young as nine.

        The authors fear such apps are contributing to growing anxieties around body image.

        Much of the cosmetic procedures industry is unregulated so reliable data on its size is hard to come by.

        In 2015 one market research company estimated the UK market could be worth as much as 3.6bn.

        But there is little doubt it has grown significantly over the past decade.

        Focus on body image

        The report identifies several factors that are encouraging young people in particular to focus on body image.

        These include increasing levels of anxiety around appearance, the rise of social media where photos can receive positive or negative ratings and the popularity of celebrity culture, complete with airbrushed images and apparently perfect lifestyles.

        Image caption Prof Jeanette Edwards says the panel was shocked to discover palstic surgery apps aimed at young girls

        Prof Jeanette Edwards, from the University of Manchester, who chaired the council’s inquiry into ethical issues surrounding cosmetic procedures, said some of the evidence around games aimed at younger children had surprised the panel.

        “We’ve been shocked by some of the evidence we’ve seen, including make-over apps and cosmetic surgery ‘games’ that target girls as young as nine.

        “There is a daily bombardment from advertising and through social media channels like Facebook, Instagram and Snapchat that relentlessly promote unrealistic and often discriminatory messages on how people, especially girls and women, ‘should’ look.”

        Plastic surgery Apps

        The report describes how apps with names such as “Plastic Surgery Princess”, “Little Skin Doctor” and “Pimp My Face” could be contributing to mental health problems in young people.

        Media playback is unsupported on your device

        Media captionDeclan Green: ‘You want to show everything you’re doing 24/7’

        Prof Edwards also called for cosmetic procedures to be banned for anyone under 18 unless they involve a multi-disciplinary team of specialists, GPs and psychologists.

        “Under 18s should not be able to just walk in off the street and have a cosmetic procedure.

        “There are legal age limits for having tattoos or using sun beds. Invasive cosmetic procedures should be regulated in a similar way.”

        ‘Immense pressure on the young’

        Charlie Massey, chief executive of the General Medical Council, which regulates doctors, said that it had already introduced standards for those performing cosmetic procedures to ensure they work safely and ethically and was developing similar guidelines for surgeons.

        “Cosmetic interventions are not without risk, and anyone considering a procedure must have confidence that those carrying it out have the necessary skills and competence to do so safely.

        “We hope this certification system will, in time, help set the standard for similar forms of accreditation in different areas of practice, that will provide additional reassurance to patients.”

        A government spokesperson also said action had been taken to improve regulation.

        But they added: “This report highlights once again that we live in a world where young people are under immense pressure on a daily basis about how they should look – it is ethically wrong for companies to exploit this and offer unnecessary cosmetic procedures to under 18s.”

        Kevin Hancock, of the British Association of Aesthetic Plastic Surgeons, said the report “voices may of the same concerns” his organisation has.

        Read more: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/health-40358138

        Officers who killed Seattle woman in her home had mental health crisis training

        Questions raised over why two police officers, who knew Charleena Lyles had mental health issues, used deadly force within minutes of arriving

        Two Seattle police officers who shot and killed a pregnant woman inside her apartment had been trained to deal with people showing signs of mental illness or other behavior crises.

        Officials also say the officers had at least one less-lethal way to handle the woman who they knew had a previous volatile encounter with law enforcement and had been having mental health issues.

        Still, within minutes of arriving Sunday to take a burglary report, the officers drew their guns and shot 30-year-old Charleena Lyles with three of her four children inside her apartment.

        Authorities say Lyles confronted the officers with two kitchen knives less than two weeks after she had threatened officers with long metal shears when they responded to a domestic disturbance at her home.

        Family members say they want to know what happened Sunday and why police did not use a non-lethal option when they knew Lyles had been struggling with her mental health.

        Police and the mayor say the shooting will be investigated.

        The killing occurred as Seattle police are under federal oversight following a 2011 investigation that found officers were too quick to use force.

        All Seattle officers now receive training on how to better handle those with mental illness or abusing drugs. One of the officers who shot Lyles had been certified as a crisis intervention specialist.

        Detective Patrick Michaud said Seattle officers are required to carry a less-lethal option to subdue suspects and have a choice between a Taser, baton or pepper spray.

        He said the officers who killed Lyles did not have a Taser and he was unsure which option they had at the time.

        Near the beginning of a roughly four-minute police audio recording of the incident and before they reached the apartment, the officers discussed an officer safety caution about the address involving the previous law enforcement interaction.

        The officers talked about the woman previously having large metal shears, trying to prevent officers from leaving her apartment and making weird statements about her and her daughter turning into wolves.

        Seattle municipal court records show that Lyles was arrested 5 June and booked into King County jail. She pleaded not guilty to two counts of harassment and obstructing a police officer.

        A
        A girl walks past a memorial outside the apartment where Charleena Lyles was shot and killed by police on Monday. Photograph: Elaine Thompson/AP

        She was released from jail on 14 June on the condition that she check-in twice a week with a case manager and possess no weapons.

        The audio recording and transcripts released by police indicates that the officers had spent about two minutes calmly speaking with Lyles before the situation escalated.

        The transcript shows one officer yelling get back! repeatedly and Lyles saying Get ready, (expletive).

        An officer said we need help and reported a woman with two knives. He urged his partner to use a stun gun but that officer responded: I dont have a Taser.

        Sue Rahr, a former sheriff who heads the state Criminal Justice Training Commission, noted that circumstances determine whether officers are able to use non-lethal force or resolve a situation without force.

        Officers may be able to take their time to persuade a suspect whos standing in the middle of an intersection with no one nearby to drop a knife, but that might be different in cramped quarters or with children nearby, she said.

        If the officer has time, space and cover, they have more options than using deadly force, but thats not necessarily going to be the case, Rahr said.

        James Bible, an attorney representing relatives of Lyles, said Tuesday that the officers knew she was vulnerable when they went to her apartment.

        When we call police for help, we expect protection, we expect safety, Bible said. It was their responsibility to protect her and they didnt.

        Read more: https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2017/jun/20/seattle-police-shooting-charleena-lyles-mental-health

        Is it safe to live on a former landfill site? – BBC News

        With the need for more housing, developers are moving in to build on top of former landfill sites. But how safe are these places, and should people be concerned about living on top of them?

        The UK dumps nearly 50 million tonnes of industrial, commercial and domestic waste into landfill sites every year – enough rubbish to fill Wembley Stadium to the brim more than 50 times over.

        The process is tightly regulated. Meticulous records are kept of what we dump and where we dump it.

        But landfill hasn’t always been this well managed – and Britain’s appetite in years gone by for filling huge holes in the ground with waste is beginning to haunt us.

        There are 20,000 former landfill sites across the UK – 1,200 of them are on England’s coastline. File on 4 has had exclusive access to an unpublished report commissioned by the Environment Agency, looking at these sites and the impact of flooding and coastal erosion.

        Prof Kate Spencer from Queen Mary University of London led the investigation and has now raised serious concerns about the impact not only on the environment – but on public health.

        Image caption Historic landfill sites buried underground are being exposed by coastal erosion

        One example can be found on Clinker Beach in East Tilbury, along the foreshore of the River Thames in Essex, where a layer of old clothes and plastics hangs out of a muddy bank. The spot has become a popular spot for treasure hunters.

        “You see people rummaging through it, picking up bits of material and taking them home. Certainly I wouldn’t touch any of this without gloves,” says Kate.

        “Here on the floor you can see these little black cylinders – they’re the cells from inside old batteries and we know that batteries used to contain lead and mercury. We’ve analysed the waste and it contains pretty much all the nasty chemicals that you can think of at concentrations that would be predicted to cause significant ecological harm.”

        She says it would cost billions of pounds to clean up all the sites so it is important to identify which pose the biggest threat.

        “We need to come up with some suitable management scenarios. The ultimate responsibility either lies with the local authority or with the Environment Agency but I don’t think they have the resources to deal with it.”

        Image caption Barry Falgate, site manager at Dunbar landfill

        In 1990, the Environmental Protection Act set out a regime for regulating and licensing the disposal of controlled waste.

        One site in Dunbar, on the east coast of Scotland, handles 5,000 tonnes of waste every week from Edinburgh, which is around 30 miles away.

        “Before we put any waste in, we put in a metre of engineered clay,” explains site manager Barry Falgate. “Then it’s lined with a heavy duty plastic, then gravel on top, which catches the water which comes from the waste as it degrades.

        “Then, when we’ve finished, we put plastic over the top and then we put soils on it. We have the aftercare of this site for at least 60 years, so we want to make sure that that waste is safe and we can control the waters and gases out of it. I was brought up around here so I care what we do.”

        The Department of Environment, Food and Rural Affairs used to offer grants to local authorities to clean up contaminated land, via the Contaminated Land Capital Projects (CLCP) programme. This funding stream came to an end in March this year.

        Image caption Prof Kate Spencer says managing former landfill sites is essential

        In Amber Valley in Derbyshire battle lines are being drawn, where a developer wants to build 200 homes on a former landfill site.

        “My mum stopped growing vegetables because of what was under the ground here,” says campaigner Kellie Judson.

        “We used to get foul smells on my mum’s garden when I was a little girl – a TCP smell and an eggy smell.”

        Amber Valley Rugby Club now occupies the former landfill site – but they’ve been offered brand new facilities by the developer if they move.

        Underground testing has shown that remedial work could make the area safe, but Kellie and other residents are worried about an adjacent former landfill which contains known hazardous waste.

        “We’re concerned that contamination from the other site could potentially leach on to this one – that disturbing the ground in this area could pose a threat to people living locally,” she says.

        Image caption Kellie Judson is leading the campaign against 200 new homes near a hazardous landfill site

        The development has twice been turned down by the planning board of Amber Valley Borough Council and it goes before the planning inspectorate next month.

        Whether it goes ahead or not, little will be done to further risk assess the surrounding area unless something new emerges, because government guidelines don’t demand it.

        The deputy leader of the council, Trevor Ainsworth, supports the development plans.

        “There are things in the ground that, on the face of it, would be dangerous to human health. However I know it can be remediated and made safe. It is one of our policies that we regenerate land that has been used as tips – lots of houses now have been built safely on old tips,” he says.

        Image caption President of Amber Valley Rugby Club, Steve Evans, is backing the development, which includes plans for new pitches and changing rooms for the club

        A spokesman for Defra told the BBC: “Our revised Statutory Guidance means more resource can be directed to those sites most in need and allows local authorities to take a more stringent, risk-based approach when identifying and cleaning up contaminated land.”

        The Local Government Association said: “Councils take this issue very seriously and work closely with the Environment Agency, continuing to monitor sites long after they have closed.”


        File on 4: What Lies Beneath – The Legacy of Landfill is on BBC Radio 4, 20 June at 20:00 BST – catch up on BBC iPlayer Radio.

        Have you got something you want investigating? We want to hear from you. Tweet us or email fileon4@bbc.co.uk

        Read more: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-40308598

        What fathers do

        Some fathers do these things.

        Some fathers go to the Columbus Public Library used book sale in about 1980 and buy five big boxes of books on every topic. They place those books in a playroom and they result in a consistently relevant personal library for his kids. Every year they learn something new out of that room.

        Some fathers take their sons and daughters to Computer Express, a small computer shop, after taking you to Radio Shack and Sun TV and deciding the prices there are too high. Some fathers help you decide on an Atari 800XL with tape drive and they buy you River Raid to go with it.

        Some fathers buy you a modem and let you call BBSes all night.

        They take you to Boy Scouts and help you win the local Pinewood Derby. They drive you to Bell Labs where you learn UNIX and shell scripting.

        Some fathers sit with you and type in programs out of the back of ANTIC Magazine.

        They convince the family it wants a dog and picks a special breed, a Kerry Blue Terrier, because it doesnt shed.

        They get drunk at the Sheraton hotel bar happy hour and fall out of the car and turn you off alcohol until late in college. Thats when you really find you have a taste for it.

        Some fathers help you with your science fair projects and explore wind power with you by making balsa wood models of various generators.

        Some fathers give you phone wire, broken stereos, and a soldering iron and tell you to experiment. You do. Some fathers have a garage full of tools and show you how to cut wood and fix brakes and listen to NPR on a broken radio.

        Some fathers buy you a Packard Bell 286 and help you learn programming.

        Some fathers leave a basket of vinyl in the basement and in it you find Dylan, the Stones, and Janis Joplin, thereby making you the least pop-culturally-aware high schooler in Columbus.

        Some fathers work for 40 years at the same boring job to pay for a house and food.

        Some fathers take you to Europe and show you the magic of travel. They buy you Mad Magazine in German.

        They take you to Mad Magazines offices in Manhattan where you meet Dick DiBartolo, Nick Meglin, and Bill Gaines. That could inspire you to be a writer.

        They marvel at your new novel, The Tale of the White Worm, you write when youre twelve. They edit your school essays and, one night, they write an entire research paper about The Crucible for you because youre sick.

        Some fathers drive you from college to college looking for the right one. Then some fathers come drive you back from the right college every summer because you dont have a car.

        Some fathers help you sell your car when you move to Poland for work.

        Some fathers come to your wedding in Warsaw.

        They Skype you almost every day, leaving cryptic messages and posting links from Craigslist. Some fathers listen to Rush Limbaugh all day because hes a pleasant distraction.

        Some fathers drive twelve hours to visit you in Brooklyn.

        Some fathers get grumpy.

        Some fathers still make you laugh.

        Some fathers get lung cancer.

        Some fathers make you scared.

        Their failing health encourages you to run again and quit drinking because watching a man who looks so much like you get sick is frightening. But it also encourages you to reconnect with him.

        I know: Some fathers beat you. Some fathers leave you. Some fathers die early. Some fathers are cruel. Some fathers die inside.

        But some of us get lucky.

        Some fathers are great. Some fathers are kind. Some fathers educate, expand, and elucidate. Some fathers give all.

        Some of us get lucky.

        Happy Fathers Day.

        Read more: https://techcrunch.com/2017/06/18/what-fathers-do/

        Feminism, politics and death: my mum died the night Hillary Clinton lost

        They may seem like unrelated events but the end of Clintons campaign and my mothers life made me reflect differently on my own political career

        My mother died the night Hillary Clinton lost. These might seem like two very unrelated events and youd be right about that. But for me, and my somewhat particular circumstances, Ive found a plethora of meaning about life and death, feminism and politics.

        See, it was also the night I was due to be sworn in as a councillor for my local city council. It was my first political foray and Ive reflected on the start of my own political journey while on the other side of the world a smart and skilled female politician saw the end of hers, with our whole gender brutalised by a despicable Trump. And though Mum doesnt know it, all my political guts I got from her.

        Mum was diagnosed with breast cancer 10 days before the 2016 Australian federal election. Dad called me from Canberra to say he had taken Mum to hospital and she had acute pneumonia. I was going through the processes of my Labor nomination for council elections. With days to the federal election, every spare moment I wasnt working I was door-knocking and pre-polling.

        I dont remember that first conversation with Dad. I do remember the call the next day when Dad told me Mum had terminal cancer (as well as acute pneumonia) and the cancer had spread through her ribs, spine and pelvis. I was at my desk so I booked a flight home and, as I headed out the door, asked a colleague to cancel me out of every election activity I was signed up for.

        Breast cancer is a disease that inflicts itself predominantly on women. Its also one of the most misdiagnosed cancers around. Mum had her last mammogram only months earlier and it hadnt appeared. I grew bitter quickly.

        At the same time this was a federal election where it was one bloke versus another bloke versus another bloke, and women barely seemed to get a mention. I had volunteered the bulk of my time on campaigns to support female candidates in tough Victorian seats, none who won. I sat bedside my mother who taught me everything and watched women largely erased out of public life.

        On Sunday 3 July, a day after the federal election Mum was only in the second week of a disastrous five week stint in hospital my journal shows compassion draining out of me:

        I suspect I will grow rough and battle hardened and unforgiving from this. A part of me hopes I will. Perhaps I will grow ruthless and mean and brutal like life and that might make me powerful like men. I dont think Mum will like the new me. Ill have an excuse to be mean now, finally.

        I thought at length about quitting the council race. We didnt know the timeline Mums cancer was working to, although wed been told up to 24 months for stage four breast cancer. I was enjoying caring for her and all her needs. But quality of life for Mum was also about quality of life for her daughters and, honestly, I just always thought shed make it a little longer.

        So I ran my council campaign in between working full time and flying back home to care for Mum, alternating every second weekend with my sister. Offering a parallel world to my campaigning life, my life with Mum gave me such relief. I loved the quiet nights I shared with her. From the carers bed in her room, I would lie facing her and would listen for her breathing as her lungs drew in air from her oxygen tank.

        In late October, I won the third and final spot at the council ward elections; Mum went back into hospital and I flew home again.

        While nothing can prepare you for the death of a parent I did everything I could to prepare myself. I read memoir and non-fiction (by women) and I talked with women who had experience, both personal and professional.

        In the final days, as Mum slept sedated, I read A Very Easy Death by Simone de Beauvoir. It was the 50th anniversary of the translation of the French feminists account of her mothers death. The months of that death also mirrored my mothers own: a few long weeks over October and November.

        De Beauvoirs mothers death was frightening to me because it was everything her maman didnt want. She wasnt ready for death and her medical wishes were not respected: the doctors operated on her even though she had begged de Beauvoir that she wouldnt let them touch her body. Her final moments were full of pain and distress. De Beauvoir wasnt even there as she had slept through the panicked phone calls from her sister.

        I was not watching the US election results that afternoon and evening in November. Mum was at Canberras public hospice set amongst beautiful gardens and overlooking Lake Burley Griffin. For the last few days she had been heavily sedated. Mums breathing changed late in the afternoon and we knew, not long now.

        In academia, philosopher Michel Foucault called it a heterotopia, but most of us might think of it as a bit of a headfuck, a space or place in time that has more meaning or relationship to another space than it might first appear. As my mum lay dying, I was in a room full of strong women with her. My cousin brought in the bad news from the US and I slumped in my chair beside Mum, overwhelmed by yet more insurmountable grief. I thought if I was back in Melbourne, if my mum wasnt dying, Id be at my council ceremony right now and Hillary might even have been winning but here I was in this awful parallel universe that happened to be real.

        Mum died that night. A little after midnight, I woke from a light doze and Mum was turned slightly in her bed, facing me and she had stopped breathing. I leaned in close and checked for a pulse on her wrist. Her skin was so perfectly warm. The family all woke and we said our goodbyes.

        I stayed with Mums body till morning. I picked out clothes for her as the nurses cleaned and dressed her. Then finally watched on as they are you ready for this? put Mums body into the transport bag. I followed the nurses as they pushed her bed down the hallway to the cold room, where I thanked them and having already said my goodbyes, left for my car and for my first day without my mum in a bleak, bleak new world.

        In the months after, it was through the company of women, and particularly women who have lost their mothers, that I have found my feet again. I havent turned bitter and mean as I once thought or hoped I would. My feminism is softer with new compassion but also bolder with new militancy.

        Im still finding my political feet, but Ive been elected to a council with majority women membership plus we have a female mayor and CEO too. At every council meeting I reflect deeply on the values, learnt from my mother, that drive my decision-making even if at times they wont make me popular.

        I dont see much of Hillary in the news these days, which Im thankful for. It reminds me of Mum each time and when I do, bystanders watch me dab at my eyes and think she must really have liked Hillary. Little do they know that was the night my mum died.

        Read more: https://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/2017/jun/18/feminism-politics-and-death-my-mum-died-the-night-hillary-clinton-lost

        Coroner Reveals Details Of Carrie Fisher’s Death

        Actress Carrie Fisher, best known for her role in the original Star Wars trilogy, died from a combination of factors that included sleep apnea, the Los Angeles Coroners Office said in a statement Friday.

        Fisher, 60, had fatty buildup in the walls of her arteries and had taken multiple drugs before her death, the statement said. Officials were unable to conclusively determine the exact cause of her death, according to The Associated Press. The manner of death would be listed as undetermined, the coroners office said.

        The coroners office did not immediately respond to HuffPosts request for further details.

        Sleep apnea is a disorder in which breathing pauses for up to several minutes during sleep, according to the National Institutes of Health. Untreated, it can increase the risk of high blood pressure, heart attack, stroke, obesity and diabetes.Fisher had a history of drug addiction and a heart condition.

        Fisher was stricken by a cardiac medical emergency during a flight from London to Los Angeles in December. The actress was hospitalized after landing and died less than a week later, on Dec. 27. Her mother, the actress Debbie Reynolds,died from a stroke the following day.

        Fisher rose to fame at age 20 after playing the original Princess Leia in the Star Wars film, A New Hope. She kept the role as the series continued in the early 80s. She most recently appeared in the franchise as Gen. Leia Organa in The Force Awakens, released in 2015.

        She was vocal about her history with bipolar disorder and drug addiction, which she detailed in a memoir and one-woman stage show, both titled,Wishful Drinking.

        Todd Fisher, Carrie Fishers brother, confirmed his mothers death to Variety and told the magazine: She wanted to be with Carrie.

        Read more: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/carrie-fisher-cause-of-death_us_59447f56e4b0f15cd5bb82ec