<![CDATA[NBC 10 Philadelphia - Philadelphia Political News and Philadelphia Politics]]>Copyright 2017http://www.nbcphiladelphia.com/news/politics http://media.nbcnewyork.com/designimages/NBC10_40x125.png NBC 10 Philadelphia http://www.nbcphiladelphia.comen-usSat, 27 May 2017 17:15:26 -0400Sat, 27 May 2017 17:15:26 -0400NBC Owned Television Stations <![CDATA[Trump to Set Up 'War Room' to Deal With Russia Questions]]> Fri, 26 May 2017 17:38:52 -0400 http://media.nbcphiladelphia.com/images/213*120/tru4AP_171015770945195.jpg

The White House is preparing to establish a "war room" to combat questions about ties between Russia and President Donald Trump's campaign, Reuters reported.

The news agency cited administration officials and people close to Trump.

When Trump returns from an overseas trip, the administration will add experienced political professionals and possibly lawyers to handle the Russia probe, which has gained new urgency since the Justice Department appointed a special counsel to head the investigation, the sources told Reuters.




Photo Credit: AP]]>
<![CDATA[Disabled Activists Stage 'Die-In' at Toomey's Philly Office]]> Fri, 26 May 2017 23:09:30 -0400 http://media.nbcphiladelphia.com/images/213*120/Toomey+die-in.jpg

About 25 disabled people and advocates for independent living didn't get a chance to speak with Sen. Pat Toomey when they showed up Friday at his office in Center City.

It's not the first time members of ADAPT, a national activist group for the disabled, has tried -- and failed -- to get a meeting with Toomey, according to Nancy Salandra, one of the group's leaders.

The group also showed up at his Capitol Hill office last Wednesday, Salandra said. Alas, Toomey wasn't available then either. 

A spokeswoman for the senator said Toomey has "personally spoken with members of the group" while his staff has met with ADAPT both times members visited his Washington, D.C. office.

"I can confirm that NationalADAPT showed up at the Senator’s Capitol Hill office twice for unscheduled visits this year and the group twice met with the Senator’s Chief of Staff, Legislative Director, and Communications Director," Kasia Mulligan, the communications director, wrote in an email.

Salandra said the group wants to talk to Toomey about Medicaid as Republicans in the Senate debate making reforms to the Affordable Care Act. Toomey favors reducing federal funding for the Medicaid expansion that occurred under the ACA, as well as implementing an annual cap on the amount that Medicaid can increase year-to-year.

"It’s endlessly frustrating with him," Salandra said. "We’ve been trying to meet with him for two years."

On Friday, that frustration boiled over into action, sort of. The group staged a "die-in" inside the building where Toomey's Philadelphia office is on Chestnut Street.

Advocates fell to the ground and laid there for several minutes.

In the end, faux-dying didn't work either. Toomey did not appear.



Photo Credit: Stephen Gold]]>
<![CDATA[Three Moments From Hillary Clinton's Commencement Address]]> Fri, 26 May 2017 15:19:20 -0400 http://media.nbcphiladelphia.com/images/213*120/hillaryclintonthumbspeech.jpg

Hillary Clinton's commencement address at Wellesley College included remarks about President Trump's proposed budget, life after the election and a comparison between President Trump and President Nixon.

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<![CDATA[What Is Coptic Christianity?]]> Fri, 26 May 2017 13:37:30 -0400 http://media.nbcphiladelphia.com/images/180*120/AP_17099512484587.jpg

At least 28 people were killed and more than two dozen injured when gunmen opened fire on a bus carrying Coptic Christians south of Cairo, Egypt on May 25, 2017.

In April, the Egyptian cities of Alexandria and Tanta were left reeling after Islamic State suicide bombers killed 44 people attending Palm Sunday services. 

Those killed were Coptic Christians, an ancient sect established by St. Mark the Apostle thousands of years ago. Easter is their most sacred holiday. 

The Coptic Orthodox Church of Alexandria is the most historically significant Coptic Christian church in Northeast Africa and the Middle East, yet many outside the region are unfamiliar with the community.

According to the Harvard's Religious Literacy Project, historically, the Coptic Church has roots in the earliest days of Christianity; Christian religious sites mark where Mary, Joseph, and Jesus are believed to have stayed during their flight to Egypt.

Below is a primer on the Coptic Church:

  • Egypt’s Copts are one of the oldest Christian groups in the Middle East.
    • They comprise roughly 10 percent of Egypt’s population and hold a minority of seats in the Islamic-led government. The majority of Egyptians are Sunni Muslim.
    • The Coptic Church was established by St. Mark the Apostle, who is credited with introducing Christianity to Egypt. The Libyan-born saint died in Alexandria in 68 A.D.
      • St. Mark’s Cathedral in Alexandria is considered the historic seat of Christianity in the Middle East.
        • Like in Catholicism, a pope heads the Coptic church. Currently, Pope Tawadros II holds the honor. He is the 118th Pope of Alexandria and will meet with his Catholic counterpart later this month.
          • Coptic Egyptians are direct descendants of Ancient Egypt. Their language is derived from hieroglyphics and is only spoken during holy observations, according to Heather J. Sharkey, professor of Middle Eastern and Islamic Studies at the University of Pennsylvania.
            • Copts were the targets of recent terrorist attacks. In late March, a bomb was defused at the Tanta church where 28 people died Sunday. In December, 30 churchgoers were killed in Cairo.
              • The Islamic State is increasingly targeting Christians in the Middle East. They claim Egyptian Christians supported the 2013 overthrow of former president Mohamed Morsi. 
                • Persecution against Copts dates back to the Byzantine Empire, Sharkey said. In 1000 A.D., some 3,000 churches were destroyed in the name of Islam. Most of their saints are martyrs.
                  • Coptic Christians hold the same beliefs as other Christian denominations. Their defining characteristic is a deep sense of history and cultural ties to their ancestral homeland.
                    • Easter is their holiest feast. The timing of the Palm Sunday attack would have resonated deeply throughout the community, Sharkey said. 



                      Photo Credit: Hazem Gouda/AP]]>
                      <![CDATA[Ben & Jerry's Bans Same-Flavored Scoops in Australia]]> Fri, 26 May 2017 08:37:40 -0400 http://media.nbcphiladelphia.com/images/213*120/I+Dough+I+Dough+Ben+and+Jerrys.jpg

                      Ice cream purveyor Ben & Jerry's has joined Australia's fight for marriage equality, banning customers in the country from ordering two scoops of the same flavor.

                      The ban is part of a campaign to push for parliamentary action on marriage equality and covers all 26 Ben & Jerry's stores across Australia.

                      "Imagine heading down to your local Scoop Shop to order your favourite two scoops of Cookie Dough in a waffle cone. But you find out you are not allowed – Ben & Jerry’s has banned two scoops of the same flavour. You’d be furious! the Vermont-based company said in a statement on its Australian website. "But this doesn’t even begin to compare to how furious you would be if you were told you were not allowed to marry the person you love."

                      The company hopes the ban will encourage customers to contact their local lawmakers and demand marriage equality.

                      In Australia, over 70 percent of the population supports marriage equality, according to national polls. A push to legalize same-sex marriage last year through a referendum was blocked by the Senate over fears that campaigns against the issue "could endanger the LGBTQI community and wouldn't even guarantee marriage equality."

                      "Before the next parliamentary sitting on June 13th, it is time to stand up for fair and equal rights for all by letting our leaders know that we demand Marriage Equality!" Ben & Jerry's statement said.

                      And until then, "no marriage equality, no same flavor scoops."



                      Photo Credit: Courtesy Ben & Jerry's
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                      <![CDATA[Fire Director Has 20th Car Accident]]> Fri, 26 May 2017 07:49:57 -0400 http://media.nbcphiladelphia.com/images/213*120/Fire_Director_in_NJ_Has_20th_Car_Accident.jpg

                      New Brunswick Fire Director Robert Rawls has quite the driving record. News 4 has reported that he has been in 19 accidents and had 18 license suspensions over the years. He was barred from driving city vehicles after an accident injured children. Recently, he was allowed to drive them again. Then came accident 20. Brian Thompson reports.

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                      <![CDATA[Bridgegate: Christie Under Fire]]> Sun, 26 Jan 2014 13:06:14 -0400 http://media.nbcphiladelphia.com/images/213*120/christie+gwb+scandal+inset.jpg

                      Photo Credit: Getty Images/AP Images]]>
                      <![CDATA[Republican Wins House Seat, Apologizes After Assault Charge]]> Fri, 26 May 2017 17:45:46 -0400 http://media.nbcphiladelphia.com/images/213*120/giGettyImages-687778650.jpg

                      Republican Greg Gianforte won Montana's special congressional election late Thursday barely a day after he was charged with misdemeanor assault following accusations that he body-slammed a reporter, NBC News reported.

                      Gianforte, a technology entrepreneur, claimed a roughly 6 percent lead over Democrat Rob Quist. 

                      "Tonight, Montanans are sending a message to the Washington, D.C., establishment," Gianforte told a cheering crowd in Bozeman after the results were announced.

                      Gianforte also addressed his assault charge after a clash with a Guardian reporter. "I made a mistake, and I took an action that I can't take back," he said. "I should not have treated that reporter that way ... I am sorry."



                      Photo Credit: Justin Sullivan/Getty Images, File]]>
                      <![CDATA[Kushner Under FBI Scrutiny in Russia Probe: Officials]]> Thu, 25 May 2017 18:51:55 -0400 http://media.nbcphiladelphia.com/images/213*120/jared-kushner.jpg

                      Jared Kushner, the president's son-in-law and one of his senior advisers, has come under FBI scrutiny in the Russia investigation, multiple U.S. officials told NBC News.

                      Investigators believe Kushner has significant information relevant to their inquiry, officials said. That does not mean they suspect him of a crime or intend to charge him.

                      The FBI's scrutiny of Kushner places the bureau's sprawling counterintelligence and criminal investigation not only on the doorstep of the White House, but on the cusp of the Trump family circle.



                      Photo Credit: Evan Vucci/AP (File)]]>
                      <![CDATA[Joe Lieberman Withdraws Name From FBI Director Search]]> Thu, 25 May 2017 13:05:24 -0400 http://media.nbcphiladelphia.com/images/200*120/53089455.jpg

                      Former Connecticut Sen. Joseph Lieberman has withdrawn his name from the running for FBI director.

                      The confirmation comes after reports that President Donald Trump is expected to retain Marc Kasowitz as a private attorney on matters related to the Russia investigation. 

                      Lieberman and Kasowitz are senior partners at the same firm and Lieberman's letter to President Donald Trump, which NBC Connecticut obtained, says he thinks it would be best to avoid the appearance of a conflict of interest.

                      News of Trump's plan to retain Kasowitz came after Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein appointed former FBI Director Robert Mueller as a special counsel to oversee the investigation into alleged Russian interference in the U.S. presidential election between Trump and Hillary Clinton, and any possible collusion with members of the Trump campaign. Congressional committees in the House and Senate are also leading separate investigations. 

                      "With your selection of Marc Kasowitz to represent you in the various investigations that have begun, I do believe it would be best to avoid any appearance of a conflict of interest, given my role as senior counsel in the law firm of which Marc is the senior partner,” Lieberman wrote.

                      “Once again, I am grateful for your consideration, and I wish you the very best in identifying the right person to lead this most important law enforcement agency in the future,” Lieberman’s letter says.

                      Lieberman was Trump's top pick to be the next FBI director to replace James Comey, who Trump fired earlier this month. 

                      The other three candidates include the current acting director, Andrew McCabe, former Oklahoma Gov. Frank Keating and Richard McFeeley, a former executive assistant director in the FBI.

                      Lieberman served 24 years as a Connecticut senator before retiring in 2013 after his fourth term.

                      He was the Democratic vice-presidential nominee, running with Al Gore in 2000. The pair lost the election to George W. Bush and Dick Cheney in a result that needed to be decided by the Supreme Court.

                      Lieberman also served as Connecticut's attorney general and spent 10 years as a state senator.



                      Photo Credit: Getty Images
                      This story uses functionality that may not work in our app. Click here to open the story in your web browser.]]>
                      <![CDATA[Officials Ban Smoking on Jersey Shore Boardwalk]]> Thu, 25 May 2017 08:50:57 -0400 http://media.nbcphiladelphia.com/images/213*120/Wildwoods-Boardwalk.jpg

                      Officials have voted to ban smoking on the Wildwood boardwalk next year.

                      The ban would take effect on Jan. 1, but officials plan to ask people to refrain from smoking this year.

                      Mayor Ernie Troiano tells The Press of Atlantic City the boardwalk is susceptible to fires. Officials also raised concerns about secondhand smoke.

                      Ocean City banned smoking on its boardwalk three years ago. [[422983184, C]]



                      Photo Credit: NBCPhiladelphia.com]]>
                      <![CDATA[Ben Carson Calls Poverty 'State of Mind']]> Thu, 25 May 2017 07:07:34 -0400 http://media.nbcphiladelphia.com/images/213*120/631548198-Ben-Carson-Senate-Hearing-Housing.jpg

                      Ben Carson, the secretary of housing and urban development, is facing criticism after calling poverty a "state of mind," NBC News reported.

                      Carson was asked in a SiriusXM radio interview with Armstrong Williams that aired Wednesday what can be done to reduce the number of people living in poverty, he credited his own success story to his headstrong mother.

                      But then Carson delved deeper, saying, "I think poverty to a large extent is also a state of mind." He added that people — no matter what they have — need to have "the right mindset."

                      Carson spoke frequently about his rise from abject poverty and his approach to social progress while running for president during the 2016 primaries.



                      Photo Credit: Alex Wong/Getty Images, File]]>
                      <![CDATA[Toomey Talks 'Death Spirals', Medicaid and Young People]]> Thu, 25 May 2017 16:07:14 -0400 http://media.nbcphiladelphia.com/images/213*120/Pat-Toomey-Resized.jpg

                      Remember when "death panels" became vogue as Obamacare gained steam in 2009? (The term was eventually crowned Lie of the Year.)

                      These days, an eerily similar-sounding term has entered the Republican lexicon when talking about the Affordable Care Act: "death spiral."

                      Sen. Pat Toomey, Republican of Pennsylvania, became the latest to use it in describing states' insurance exchanges created by the ACA.

                      The conservative, who sits on the Senate's influential Health Care Working Group, talked extensively in an interview Monday with NBC10 about what's going on -- or not going on -- to overhaul Obamacare. The debate continues about the successes and failures of the signature piece of legislation in a generation. 

                      Let's take a look at three issues that Toomey discussed: his death spiral conclusion for those state markets; how to dismantle the rapid growth of Medicaid and its oft-targeted "expansion" under Obamacare; and, the prospects for Republicans in the Senate eventually getting a reform bill pushed through.

                      First up:

                      Young, Healthy People and That Death Spiral Thing

                      What Toomey Says

                      The senator's broad use of "young, healthy people" and saying that they didn't enroll on state exchanges inaccurately describes what has happened since the inception of Obamacare, according to an economist at Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

                      "Twenty-five percent of enrollees were young and healthy. The insurers expected 30 percent. So they lost money right away. But that's not a crisis," says Jonathan Gruber, who was an architect of "Romneycare" in Massachusetts and also consulted on the Affordable Care Act. "So they raised rates. What people failed to notice is that rates were low."

                      Now, Gruber says, the uncertainty caused by Republican rhetoric and their pushes to overhaul health care has left insurers uneasy about the future. "Insurers hate uncertainty."

                      And there is no death spiral for the markets, Gruber says, arguing that one or two insurers offering in an exchange is adequate to provide health care coverage for those looking.

                      And those who use the exchanges without receiving federal subsidies? They number about 2 million Americans -- less than one percent of the population.

                      "As long as there is one insurer, they're fine," he said. "Under Obama, there is no place, zero, where there is no insurer."

                      Second and third issues:

                      When Can We Expect Legislation and the Dreaded Medicaid Expansion

                      What Toomey Says

                      If the Senate can't get something done before they go on summer recess, the chances of reform likely fall dramatically, Gruber says.

                      That sort of timeline reminds him of the thorny path Democrats walked in steering Obamacare through in 2009. Initially, they hoped to make enough concessions to gain some moderate Republican support. But summer recess came and conservative constituents made their voices heard. Any chance of Republican support evaporated, Gruber said.

                      The same could happen again, but in a way that drains any moderate Republican support for reform, he said.

                      The Medicaid issue is one of the most complex -- and divisive. The expansion of the massive federal program under Obamacare grew to include millions of younger, healthier people who previously couldn't afford health care under its umbrella.

                      It also remained reimbursement-based, meaning the federal government pays states for health care costs incurred by the disabled, the elderly and the poor. The House bill and the new Trump administration budget proposes cutting Medicaid spending by more than $830 billion over 10 years, in part by changing the way the feds pay out to the states.

                      Toomey favors reducing federal funding for the Medicaid expansion. A spokesman said in a followup email to the interview that the senator also would like to create a cap to annual Medicaid growth.

                      "Senator Toomey believes we should index the Medicaid program to a growth rate that is similar to that of standard inflation so the program doesn’t grow at a rate faster than our economy," his spokesman Steve Kelly said in an email. "The current House legislation does not accomplish this goal."

                      Advocates for the disabled and special needs as well as medical experts have argued for months against any cuts to Medicaid.

                      "At least 40 percent of children receive their insurance through Medicaid and most of these children are in working families," said Dr. David Rubin, director of PolicyLab at the Children's Hospital of Philadelphia. "This sense that these kids come from families where parents aren't working, that's just not true."

                      CORRECTION (4:05 p.m., May 25, 2016): An earlier version of this story misstated Toomey's position on the Medicaid expansion.

                      ]]>
                      <![CDATA[Trump Failing to Track Foreign Cash at His Hotels]]> Wed, 24 May 2017 13:25:24 -0400 http://media.nbcphiladelphia.com/images/213*120/603142230-trump-international-hotel-DC.jpg

                      Just before taking office, President Donald Trump promised to donate all profits earned from foreign governments back to the U.S. Treasury.

                      But MSNBC has learned the Trump Organization is not tracking all possible payments it receives from foreign governments, according to new admissions by Trump representatives. By failing to track foreign payments it receives, the company will be hard-pressed to meet Trump's pledge to donate foreign profits and could even increase its legal exposure, NBC News reported.

                      The Trump Organization does not "attempt to identify individual travelers who have not specifically identified themselves as being a representative of a foreign government entity," according to a new company pamphlet. The policy suggests that it is up to foreign governments, not Trump hotels, to determine whether they self-report their business.

                      That policy matches what several sources told MSNBC — Trump Organization employees are not soliciting information about whether reservations or business is from a foreign government.

                      A Trump representative said that "the pertinent accounting rules" are well understood in the hospitality industry. But experts told MSNBC that there is no standard accounting system to track profits from foreign dignitaries.



                      Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
                      <![CDATA[CEO Responds to Calls for Her to Resign Over Trump Support]]> Wed, 24 May 2017 11:20:32 -0400 http://media.nbcphiladelphia.com/images/213*120/digiorgio+trump+pensilvania.jpg

                      Philadelphia’s largest Latino-serving organization is breaking its silence after a controversy erupted when its CEO was photographed at President Donald Trump’s Harrisburg rally in April.

                      Carolina Cabrera DiGiorgio, head of Congreso de Latinos Unidos, came under fire in recent weeks from immigration groups who called for her resignation. Several letters and petitions directed at the organization’s executive leadership circulated on social media asking for her immediate removal.

                      Tuesday evening, two weeks after the footage of her clapping at the rally made its way into the news, Congreso’s board of directors issued a statement.

                      "While we do not support any administration's policies that could negatively impact the Latino community we serve, we do remain supportive of and confident in Carolina's leadership and vision for Congreso", said board chair Esperanza Martinez Neu.

                      "She has a genuine devotion to our most disadvantaged individuals, and the ability to remain unbiased and focused with regard to complicated matters affecting the community. Under Carolina’s leadership, we expect Congreso will have a strong voice advocating for issues important to the Latino community."

                      On Monday, a coalition of more than 15 groups sent a letter to the board asking DiGiorgio be immediately fired, claiming her support of Trump puts her ability to lead the Latino community in question.

                      "How can a community who has been directly affected by the oppression of Trump's administration trust a leader who is supporting the oppression our Latinx community is facing? The first step in rebuilding that trust is accountability. No more avoidance, it's time that our people are heard," that letter read.

                      Congreso has largely stood by the embattled CEO, who is married to the chairman of Pennsylvania’s Republican party. Valentino DiGiorgio also spoke at the rally. 

                      On Wednesday, the Philadelphia Daily News waded into the controversy and wrote an opinion column defending Carolina DiGiorgio and calling for the removal of Erika Almiron, executive director of Juntos and vociferous DiGiorgio detractor.

                      The column compared cries for DiGiorgio's ouster to Cold War-era McCarthyism.

                      "Americans don’t — or shouldn’t — believe in guilt by association. In the 1950s, Wisconsin Sen. Joseph McCarthy’s actions gave us a new word for accusations without proof, innuendo, and guilt by association," columnist Stu Bykofsky wrote.

                      ]]>
                      <![CDATA[Families Fear Fallout From Health Care Changes]]> Thu, 25 May 2017 11:32:56 -0400 http://media.nbcphiladelphia.com/images/213*120/Alba_Somoza.jpg

                      Peter Hodge’s two daughters fight cystic fibrosis daily, their medications, doctor visits and hospitalizations costing about $1 million in health care benefits a year. Should the Republican-controlled Senate upend insurance similarly to what the House of Representatives has already approved, their lives could be jeopardized, he said.

                      Hodge worries that his older daughter could end up on a newly defined Medicaid, with spending and other limits determined by the states. His younger daughter could face lifetime caps on the amount his insurance plan would pay for her treatment.

                      "People with cystic fibrosis and their families are terrified, absolutely terrified," said Hodge, who works in technology in South Florida.

                      [[421503963, C]]

                      Congressional attempts to revamp the health care system have been overshadowed by the drama centered on the White House: the Russian meddling in the U.S. presidential election, President Donald Trump's firing of FBI Director James Comey and the appointment of a former FBI director, Robert Mueller, as a special counsel. But even as some political analysts say Trump's problems threaten the GOP legislative agenda, senators have begun discussing health care.

                      And as they do, people across the country are trying to make sense of what Republican efforts to repeal and replace Obamacare will mean for them and those with pre-existing conditions are particularly anxious.

                      The House-approved American Health Care Act dismantles many of Obamacare's provisions, which has resulted in an additional 20 million people receiving insurance. It allows insurers to reinstate caps on lifetime coverage, loosens protections for people with pre-existing medical conditions, rolls back state expansions of Medicaid and slashes more than $800 billion from the joint state-federal program over 10 years as it moves from an open-ended federal guarantee to one that gives states control over how to spend a set amount. The Medicaid cuts would affect about 10 million people, according to an estimate from the Congressional Budget Office.

                      [[421365583, C]]

                      Trump's $4.1 trillion budget proposal for 2018, released on Tuesday, includes $600 billion in decreases to Medicaid, apparently on top of the House cuts. Medicaid provides health care not only to the poor, but also to elderly and disabled Americans, who account for 60 percent of the cost.

                      [[421379483, C]]

                      The House vote was taken before the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office analyzed the effects of the revised legislation. Its report on an earlier version found it would shrink the federal budget deficit significantly but leave 24 more million Americans without insurance in 2026.

                      The new analysis, released on May 24, projects 23 million people without insurance over the next decade and says the federal deficit would be reduced by $119 billion, down slightly from $150 billion. 

                      It estimates that low-income 64-year-olds could face premium spikes of 800 percent or more in 2026 compared to premiums now, while premiums for young adults would be reduced substantially.

                      Costs for people who have pre-existing conditions or who are sick would soar in states that take waivers, the report said.

                      Republicans have been pledging to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act since it was signed by former President Obama in 2010. Some have philosophical disagreements over what role government should play in health care, others want to repeal taxes it imposed on the wealthy or argue that too many insurers are pulling out of the marketplaces. Trump has repeatedly insisted Obamacare is collapsing, a characterization disputed by his critics, who blame Republicans for the uncertainty facing insurers.

                      The House waited for the new report before forwarding the bill to the Senate, which is expected to make major changes now negotiations begin in earnest. Some senators are trying to work across party lines, but conservatives remain committed to more radical changes, and a group of Republicans picked by the party leadership has been meeting in private, with no plans for public committee hearings.

                      "Your morning reminder that under the cloud cover of the FBI story, 13 GOP Senators are still secretly writing a bill to destroy the ACA," Democratic Sen. Chris Murphy of Connecticut tweeted on May 15 as news organizations focused on Comey’s firing.

                      In an interview on May 24 with Reuters, U.S. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell declined to provide a timetable for a draft of a health-care bill and said he did not know how Republicans would get the 50 votes needed for passage. 

                      "But that's the goal," he said.

                      The changes already approved by the House would be devastating to twin sisters Anastasia and Alba Somoza of New York City, particularly any decreases in Medicaid, according their mother, Mary Somoza. 

                      The twins, now 33, were born prematurely with cerebral palsy, and though unable sit up on their own, Alba Somoza works as an artist who teaches children in New York City and Anastasia Somoza as an advocate for others with disabilities. She also spoke on behalf of Hillary Clinton at the Democratic National Conventional last summer, when she said she feared Trump’s election. 

                      [[422848854, C]]

                      Everything they have accomplished could be at risk, Mary Somoza said.

                      "They will require from-womb-to-tomb assistance," she said. "And I'm not always going to be around to provide it."

                      In 2004, the Centers for Disease Control estimated that the lifetime cost to care for a person with cerebral palsy at $1 million. Both women need extensive assistance from aides to live as independently as they do, and Alba Somoza, who cannot speak, communicates through a $10,000 computer that must be updated every five years. However progressive New York is as a state, it cannot cover the costs that the federal government does, Mary Somoza said.

                      "They both do extraordinary things and all of that would come to a halt if anything happened to their Medicaid coverage," she said.

                      United Cerebral Palsy, which advocates for independent lives for those with cerebral palsy, fought the House bill, calling it potentially devastating to anyone who relies on Medicaid for health coverage and longterm services.

                      "We are hopeful that as the Senate deliberates, more information about the projected impact of the House bill will become known and that the Senate will not pass a bill that would bring harm to our community," it said in a statement.

                      [[420092703, C]]

                      It is among the major health organizations that have take positions against the House bill, including the American Medical Association, the American Hospital Association, the American Academy of Family Physicians, and the American Academy of Pediatrics. Even the chief medical officer of Medicaid, Dr. Andrey Ostrovsky, tweeted his opposition in March.

                      "Despite political messaging from others at HHS, I align with the experts from @aafp @AmerAcadPeds @AmerMedicalAssn in opposition to #AHCA," he tweeted.

                      According to a Quinnipiac University poll released on May 11, 56 percent of American voters disapprove of the plan passed narrowly at the beginning of the month by House Republicans under Speaker Paul Ryan.

                      Norma Brockman, the director of a pre-school in New York City, has already had one of her knees and a hip replaced, but needs the same operation for her other hip.

                      Brockman is insured through her job, plus she bought supplemental coverage, but fears that what had cost her $500 would no longer be covered and be more than she could afford, she said. The cost of a hip replacement in New York City can be as high as $69,654, according to a 2015 report done by Blue Cross, Blue Shield. 

                      "I will be in a wheelchair for the rest of my life if this happens," she said.

                      The changes approved by the House would allow states to waive the requirement that insurers not penalize people with pre-existing conditions, provided they have had a lapse in coverage. High-risk insurance pools would be available but critics say they are often under-funded. Six million Americans with pre-existing conditions could face significant premium increases, according to an analysis done by the Kaiser Family Foundation.

                      "We cannot afford to let people die," Brockman said. "We cannot afford to let people be sick. I don't understand how they look us in the eye and say, 'Oh you have choice.' If you can't afford it, you just don't have it."

                      Delilah Talbot, a mother from Kearny, New Jersey, was covered by a corporate insurance plan when she was diagnosed with what was thought a very early stage of breast cancer. But various rounds of testing revealed that the then 32-year-old actually had advanced breast cancer that had already moved into her lymph nodes and one of her hips. Talbot's treatment — surgery, chemotherapy and radiation — was covered by her plan and whenever her insurance company balked, her doctor was able to petition successfully, she said.

                      "I had a very experienced oncologist who understood the nature of breast cancer at a young age," she said. "As he calls it, it's a vicious monster and it really doesn't let up."

                      [[423856174, L, 198, 352]]

                      She went into remission for two-and-a-half years. Early last year her cancer returned, this time as lesions in her spine. For six months she was able to keep the tumors from spreading through medication but by December she was in too much pain, and now her chemotherapy is so debilitating, she is often not able to leave her home. She is fighting for her life for her son, she said, who lives with his father.

                      "Everything that I do is for him," she said. "Every bit of work that I did, every penny that I earned was to provide a life for him."

                      This time, she is insured through Obamacare, with premium costs of just under $600 a month, which she offsets with a $300 credit. She is eligible for Medicare, but out-of-pocket costs would be higher. Were the Republican changes to take effect, she would not be able to get insurance she could afford and the treatments she needs, she said.

                      "I believe people creating these policies have no absolutely idea how it affects your life from A to Z — not just from the point of your health and your physical health and how you have to treat that but your mental health and your finances and trying to recover from that and possibly having to file for bankruptcy," she said. 

                      Hodge's daughters, now 24 and 16, are insured through his employer but he is apprehensive about lifetime caps, which he said his daughters' drugs alone could exhaust in a year or two. Equally worrying to him are the cuts to Medicaid, through which half of children with cystic fibrosis and a third of adults receive care.

                      Hodge's eldest daughter will turn 26 in two years and will no longer be eligible for coverage under his insurance. If she is assigned a high-risk pool, there is little likelihood that she will be able to get affordable, adequate treatments, he said. Or if she finds herself on Medicaid, she will be at risk if her treatments are restricted.

                      "The American Health Care Act is woefully inadequate for people with cystic fibrosis," said Mary Dwight, senior vice president for policy and patient assistance programs at the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation. "To be clear, the legislation does not protect people with pre-existing conditions. In fact, it undermines vital safeguards against being charged more for insurance based on health status."

                      Currently, Hodge's daughters receive care at centers that offer multidisciplinary teams, an approach that has been successful for people with cystic fibrosis. It helps to keep them out of hospitals and emergency rooms, where they can be exposed to bacterial infections that will do further damage to their lungs, he said. Kalydeco, a drug that both daughters take, and which has allowed his elder daughter to live and work in Washington, D.C., costs more than $300,000 a year. Copay programs could be in jeopardy, he said.

                      "There is absolute potential in there for the protections that we have for existing conditions to go away," he said. "As much as Paul Ryan wants to stand up and say that isn't the case, he should read his own bill."



                      Photo Credit: Gerardo Somoza
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                      <![CDATA[Britain Issues Highest Terror Alert After Manchester Bombing]]> Wed, 24 May 2017 09:27:03 -0400 http://media.nbcphiladelphia.com/images/213*120/Britain_Issues_Highest_Terror_Alert_After_Manchester_Bombing.jpg

                      Britain's Terror Alert is at its highest possible level, as fears across the country grow of another attack at any moment. NBC10's Matt DeLucia is in our Digital Operations Center with more on new details about the suspected suicide bomber.

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                      <![CDATA[Luxury Homes Abandoned for Years to Be Torn Down]]> Wed, 24 May 2017 06:46:09 -0400 http://media.nbcphiladelphia.com/images/213*120/Luxury_Homes_Abandoned_for_Years_to_Be_Torn_Down_in_NJ.jpg

                      Luxury townhouses that were abandoned for 15 years in Wanaque, New Jersey, will be torn down, and neighbors are happy to hear it. Jen Maxfield reports.

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