The Profound Impact Of The NEA And NEH, In One Simple Graphic

Have you been wondering how, exactly, institutions like the National Endowment for the Arts and the National Endowment for the Humanities affect towns and people across the U.S.? 

Not long after it was reported that President Donald Trump plans to defund the NEA and the NEH ― and that that defunding will have “dire” effects on local and regional arts programs ― advocates of the arts have stood up to defend the cultural agencies that bring exhibitions, literacy programs, theater endeavors, history programs and more to underserved communities around the country. Museum Hack, an organization that offers unconventional tours of major museums that promote access to the arts, is one such advocate.

Below is an infographic Museum Hack created, celebrating the positive impact of the NEA and NEH. Take a look and learn how significant the endowments’ influence really is.

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Londoners Raise Their Voices To Let The World Know They’re Not Afraid

A terror attack in London left four people dead on Wednesday ― but Londoners will have you know they’re not giving in to fear.

After an armed man rammed a vehicle into pedestrians on Westminster Bridge and tried to storm the Parliament building, British pundit Katie Hopkins claimed on Fox News that citizens were “cowed” and “afraid.”

Walid Phares is a controversial pundit who served as a foreign policy adviser for Donald Trump’s presidential campaign. On Wednesday, someone ― supposedly Phares ― tweeted from an unverified account that the London attack illustrates how “one man can shut down a city.”

It’s not clear whether that tweet is from that real Phares, but either way, Londoners spoke up to let the world know that their city is anything but paralyzed. “If the Nazis dropping bombs every night didn’t stop this city,” a Twitter user wrote, “one man certainly won’t.”

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Belgium Arrests Man Driving At High Speed Down Pedestrianized Street

BRUSSELS (Reuters) – Police in the northern Belgian city of Antwerp said on Thursday they had detained a man who tried to enter the main pedestrianized shopping street in a car at high speed, adding security in the city would be stepped up.

“At about 11 a.m. this morning a vehicle entered De Meir at high speed due to which pedestrians had to jump away,” a police spokesman told a news conference, referring to the street name.

He added the driver was later arrested and additional police and military personnel had been deployed to the center of Antwerp, but did not give any further details.

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Suspect Arrested In Connection With Jewish Community Bomb Threats

A teenager has been arrested on suspicion of making threats to Jewish community centers across the U.S., New Zealand and Australia, Israeli police said Thursday.

The suspect is a U.S.-Israeli citizen who currently lives in Israel, Israeli police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld said. He said a motive is not yet known and that the FBI helped Israeli police with the investigation. 

The FBI confirmed the arrest to multiple news outlets, but would not provide details on the case.

“Investigating hate crimes is a top priority for the F.B.I., and we will continue to work to make sure all races and religions feel safe in their communities and in their places of worship,” FBI spokeswoman Samantha Shero told The New York Times.

Since the new year, more than 80 Jewish community centers in the U.S. (known as JCCs) and 10 Jewish day schools have received more than 120 threats. The Anti-Defamation League has also been targeted. The threats, spread across dozens of states, have prompted many evacuations, but none resulted in an attack.

HuffPost is tracking the threats here:  

The FBI and the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division have investigated the threats since January.

Previously, officials arrested former journalist Juan M. Thompson in connection with some threats. Thompson was accused of making eight of the threats, allegedly in an attempt to harass an ex-girlfriend. 

This article has been updated with a statement from the FBI.

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Donald Trump Sticks To Claim Of Widespread Voter Fraud, Despite Having No Proof

It’s been months since President Donald Trump first said there was widespread voter fraud, and any evidence supporting the claim has yet to emerge. But that hasn’t stopped Trump.

In an interview with Time magazine published Thursday, Trump stood by his theory that more than 3 million people voted illegally because he said he thought he would be proven right eventually.

“Well now if you take a look at the votes, when I say that, I mean mostly they register wrong, in other words, for the votes, they register incorrectly, and/or illegally,” Trump said. “And they then vote. You have tremendous numbers of people. In fact I’m forming a committee on it.” 

It isn’t illegal to be registered to vote in multiple states, but it is against the law to cast a vote multiple times. Numerous studies and investigations show that widespread voter fraud isn’t a problem. Numerous secretaries of state and top Republicans in Congress have said there’s no evidence of widespread fraud.

Still, Trump stood firm on his insistence to create a commission, lead by Vice President Mike Pence, to investigate the issue. Top election officials in nearly every state haven’t heard anything from the White House about that investigation or seeking evidence of voter fraud.

“We’ll see after the committee. I have people say it was more than that. We will see after we have. But there will be, we are forming a committee. And we are going to do a study on it, a very serious problem,” Trump said.

 Asked how, as president of the United States, he could stick by the claim when there was no evidence of it, Trump told Time he was just going with his gut.

“I’m a very instinctual person, but my instinct turns out to be right. When everyone said I wasn’t going to win the election, I said well I think I would,” he said.

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Thursday’s Morning Email: The Aftermath Of The London Terror Attack

TOP STORIES

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INSIDE THE LONDON TERROR ATTACK London police have arrested several people in overnight raids in connection with the deadly attack near Parliament that left four dead, including the attacker. Police currently believe the attacker acted alone. Here’s an eyewitness account of how the attack, which started on the Westminster Bridge and injured 40 people, unfolded. Take a look at the “trail of terror” the assailant took as well as photos from the incident. London police have identified the officer fatally stabbed in the attack as a 15-year veteran of the force and father and husband. Here’s why vehicle attacks like this are extremely difficult to prevent, as well as an examination of the history of terror attacks in the U.K. And the Eiffel Tower went dark in support of London. [HuffPost]

HEALTH CARE HOUSE VOTE TO BE CLOSE TODAY Members of the House’s Freedom Caucus vowed to vote down the bill if it didn’t change, despite last minute wrangling from the White House in an attempt to gain votes. And here’s where moderate Republicans stand. [HuffPost]

MAKING SENSE OF ALL THE REVELATIONS ABOUT WIRETAPPING AND RUSSIAN INVOLVEMENT WEDNESDAY The top members of the House Intelligence committee are at odds after Republican Rep. Devin Nunes visited the White House and briefed the president on the appearance of Donald Trump’s surrogates and possibly even Trump himself on reports of legal surveillance. Rep. Adam Schiff, the top Democrat on the Intelligence Committee, responded by calling for an independent investigation into the president’s ties to Russia. Schiff also made a point to say that there is “more than circumstantial evidence” of Trump’s ties to Russia. A bombshell CNN report alleges the FBI has information proving Trump associates communicated with Russian operatives. And this was all after the report from the AP linking former campaign manager Paul Manafort to pro-Putin lobbying. [HuffPost]

‘THE MARTIN SHKRELI OF DEFENSE CONTRACTING’ Here’s how monopolist TransDigm could be fleecing the Pentagon. [HuffPost]

LOOKS LIKE THE SECRET SERVICE CAN’T AFFORD TRUMP The agency tasked with protecting the president asked for an additional $60 million, about $27 million of which was to go to securing Trump Tower. The Office of Management and Budget said no. [HuffPost]

CONGRATS TO THE U.S. BASEBALL TEAM Who won their first World Baseball Classic title. [Reuters]

WHAT’S BREWING

WE ARE QUITE FREAKED OUT BY THESE HISTORICAL BIRTH CONTROL METHODS Which include crocodile dung and mercury. [Buzzfeed]

MAKE PLUTO A PLANET AGAIN A group of scientists have boarded the cause, as they know it’s pretty great. [HuffPost]

WOMEN OF TWITTER SHARE THEIR WORST MANSPLAINING STORIES And there are some doozies. [HuffPost]

YOU ONLY HAVE 8 MORE DAYS To make the most of what’s leaving Netflix in April. But don’t fret ― here’s what the streaming giant is gifting us all with in return. [HuffPost]

YOU WILL NEVER GUESS Which company’s stock has outperformed Google, Facebook and Amazon over the past decade. [Quartz]

NOTE TO KRISTI YAMAGUCHI Don’t ever tell Nancy Kerrigan to break a leg, even if you meant it as an innocent, encouraging tweet. [HuffPost

BEFORE YOU GO

~ Where Neil Gorsuch stands following his Senate testimony.

~ This British MP rushed to try to save the life of the policeman fatally stabbed in the London terror attack.

~ This NYT graphic breaks down the U.S. military spending.

~ Try not to get all the feels over the “Love Actually” mini-sequel trailer (which of course involves the cue cards).

~ Justin Bieber appears to be a rather large animal lover with these two new massive tattoos.

~ Inside the “Tindernization” of the NBA.

~ What happens when Joe Biden meets his puppy namesake.

~ For tens of thousands of dollars, you too can dive to see the remains of the Titanic.

~ You can now have a sleepover with sloths (which is basically every Sunday morning in our apartment, but whatever if you want the real deal).

~ We’re doing double-takes over how closely this 2-year-old resembles Ed Sheeran.

~ Yes, we will be buying the “Space Jam” soundtrack when it is reissued on Vinyl. We believe we can fly, after all.

~ Folks need to leave Lena Dunham alone ― the internet has been critical after the star lost weight.

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Jimmy Kimmel Nails Donald Trump On Severity Of Paul Manafort’s Russian Ties

Jimmy Kimmel just had a field day over a report that Donald Trump’s former campaign manager, Paul Manafort, once received $10 million a year from a Russian businessman to allegedly promote Vladimir Putin’s government.

White House press secretary Sean Spicer attempted to downplay the Manafort revelation, but Kimmel was having none of it on his show Wednesday. He imagined how Trump would react if former President Barack Obama were linked to such a mess.

Let’s just say that Twitter would never be the same ― nor would Trump’s “little thumbs.”

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Everything About This Republican Obamacare Repeal Vote Is Nuts

Something extraordinary is on the cusp of taking place in Washington on Thursday.

An unpopular president and a House Republican leadership team with a seemingly weak grasp of its own members’ priorities is preparing to rush through legislation that would trade 24 million people’s health coverage for a huge tax cut on wealthy households and health care corporations.

This nearly friendless plan goes by the name of the American Health Care Act, a dull title that belies not only the havoc it could wreak on the health care system but the chaos it’s creating within the Republican Party, from the White House to Capitol Hill to the monied interests that fund the GOP’s agenda.

The Republican health care reform bill polls poorly, has sparked protests across the country, and would have disproportionately harmful effects on the older, poorer and rural voters often credited with President Donald Trump’s electoral victory while having disproportionately positive effects for well-off urbanites.

It doesn’t solve the Affordable Care Act’s problems, or fulfill Trump’s promises to offer universal coverage or his and other Republicans’ promises to reduce health care costs for consumers.

House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) will ask his majority to vote for this bill despite all this, and without providing them with a Congressional Budget Office analysis of what effects the latest version of the bill would have on the number of Americans with health coverage or what that coverage would cost. The White House and GOP leaders were even making major changes to the bill that would undermine consumer protections late Wednesday night.

And Ryan intends to hold this vote with no idea what the outcome will be.

If it gets through the House, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) says he’ll have it on the floor of the upper chamber next week, even though enough Republican senators have spoken out against the bill that it could fail to get a majority in the Senate.

The best reason any Republican can come up with for passing this bill is that they said they would. The pretense that the legislation will result in better health care all but fell by the wayside once the CBO concluded tens of millions would lose their health insurance.

As one person said Wednesday, “Simply put, this bill does not meet the standards of what was promised; it is not as good or better than what we currently have.” That person was 11-term Republican Rep. Frank LoBiondo (N.J.). 

To understand how a bill with such little apparent political upside could actually be this close to becoming law, one must first understand the driving dynamics of the modern Republican Party. It is, fundamentally, a party that’s inoculated by congressional districts drawn in its favor, and that’s driven by process as much as policy.

There is a zeal to exact revenge on former President Barack Obama and the Democratic Party and to fulfill its promises to “repeal and replace Obamacare” that could overwhelm any other consideration. And there is also a belief that a legislative “win” ― even for a piece of legislation this universally disliked ― is as important as the policy outcome it produces.

“Right now the Republican base is holding solid, and most of these House members are from solid districts,” said former Rep. Tom Davis (R-Va.) “So if the base holds, the members will be fine. Most of them. But if they don’t do this, the Republican base gets pissed. They start to not have faith in their own members and that’s when you see these big problems.”

“The worst thing that can happen is it goes down,” Davis added. “That is a worse result for you because at that point your base collapses. I don’t think there is any way they can not pass something and the majority survives.”

This view is shared not just by former members but by current ones as well. The prevailing wisdom on Capitol Hill is that if health care reform doesn’t pass, the Republican Party’s entire agenda may be imperiled.

That’s one of the reasons why Trump has fully embraced the bill and why Ryan remains determined to force this bill to the floor Thursday ― the seventh anniversary of the Affordable Care Act’s enactment ― after forcing it through four committees in two weeks, in the face of strong opposition within his conference the entire time.

Doing a worse thing is not better than doing nothing at all. Be careful what you wish for.
Dave Carney, Republican operative

But beyond Trump’s White House, House GOP leaders and rank-and-file House members who will vote as they’re told, it’s not easy to find many people who actually want this legislation to become law.

Trump’s vaunted (at least in his own estimation) dealmaking prowess has had a limited effect on the members of his own party who oppose it to date. Blocs of conservatives and moderates have expressed dislike of the bill for different reasons. And though Republicans now control all the levers of the federal government, even repealing the hated Affordable Care Act might be beyond their grasp.

And that’s because of another dynamic of the modern Republican Party: In certain quarters, it pays to be antagonistic. The Republican Obamacare “replacement” is opposed by the Heritage Foundation, the Club for Growth, FreedomWorks and even the notoriously pro-Trump Breitbart News.

The House Freedom Caucus, a collection of hard-line, tea party conservatives, has opposed Ryan and Trump’s plan because it doesn’t take away health care from enough people fast enough.

And in a twist of irony, these conservative lawmakers who have been holding out stood as the greatest hope liberals have that the Affordable Care Act safety net will remain in place. 

The White House and GOP leaders, however, may have won over enough of them by considering changes to the bill that would, among other things, allow insurers to go back to selling policies that don’t cover basic benefits. But this may further alienate moderates and could run afoul of Senate budget rules.

Part of the opposition from conservative lawmakers and groups has been based on the notion that the GOP health care bill is not pure enough. But some of it is tied to the concern that the end product would harm their own base of voters: the rural, the elderly and the working poor.

“The argument is we have to do something,” explained Dave Carney, a longtime GOP operative based in New Hampshire. “I’m saying, doing a worse thing is not better than doing nothing at all. Be careful what you wish for. Any bill that protects insurance companies and not individuals is a political loser.”

Both Carney and Davis suggested that, ultimately, the House would pass a bill with the hope that it ends up being changed or, perhaps, killed by the Senate.

Republicans in the upper chamber seem more attuned to the politics at play ― perhaps because they must run statewide.

The health care sector almost uniformly rejects this legislation. The health insurance industry is delicately balancing its support for short-term funding that would benefit them with its anxiety about longer-term cuts to Medicaid and health insurance subsidies that would harm them. Consumer groups like AARP and the March of Dimes are marshaling their forces against it.

Mainly, however, they recognize that especially in those states that used Affordable Care Act money to expand Medicaid, the Republican Party would shoulder all the blame for having millions of people lose coverage and access to care.

Still, should the bill die in the Senate after having passed through the House, the same conclusion will have been reached. Republicans made promises on health care they couldn’t keep, and it might finally be catching up to them. If the bill fails, their years of promises of repeal will have been exposed as empty. If this bill passes, their voters will find out what it does.

People, after all, tend to notice if their health insurance gets worse or more expensive. Just ask Barack Obama.

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Meet The Martin Shkreli Of Defense Contracting

When President Donald Trump rolled out his first federal budget proposal last week, the administration defended its call for a $54 billion increase in defense spending by pointing to “an ambitious reform agenda” that would “reduce the costs of military programs wherever feasible.”

It was a particularly sensitive subject for new Office of Management and Budget Director Mick Mulvaney, who built a reputation during his tenure in Congress as a serious deficit hawk unafraid to challenge his Republican colleagues on ballooning war spending. One of his favorite punching bags was the Overseas Contingency Operations budget, which Mulvaney derided as “a slush fund” that should be eliminated. The Trump budget would increase both overall defense spending and the amount that flows to the OCO. To maintain his credibility and demonstrate that Trump’s new “hard power” defense priorities weren’t just an excuse to throw money away, Mulvaney needed to sniff out wasteful endeavors.

He appears to have missed at least one. On Tuesday, Rep. Ro Khanna (D-Calif.) sent a letter to Secretary of Defense James Mattis and the Pentagon’s acting inspector general accusing defense contractor TransDigm Group of illegally overcharging the Department of Defense by acting as a “hidden monopolist.”

The business model Khanna described is devilishly clever, wildly profitable and totally at odds with the basic principles of a competitive market. TransDigm is essentially the Martin Shkreli of defense contractors. It’s a large holding company that searches for specialty parts used in heavy machinery ― special panels, connectors, cables and other components ― that are produced exclusively by a single company. TransDigm buys these producers and Pharma Bros them, wildly inflating the price to exploit their monopoly.

Khanna’s letter cited five specific aerospace parts the company had jacked the price on, including a “cable assembly” that went from $1,737.03 to $7,863.00 after being acquired by TransDigm. The price of a TransDigm “motor rotor” soared from $654.46 to $5,474.00.

But the practice is widespread throughout TransDigm. The company’s own filings with the Securities and Exchange Commission state that 80 percent of its sales come from parts for which TransDigm believes itself to be a monopolist.

Not all of the company’s parts even work. In 2016, The Washington Post reported that drones were crashing due to faulty starter-generators supplied by a TransDigm subsidiary.

“The president is asking for $54 billion more on defense,” Khanna told The Huffington Post. “How much money are we wasting on monopolistic behavior?”

The Pentagon has rules designed to defend itself against predatory pricing. Companies that function as the sole vendors of supplies have to detail their costs to the government, which allows the firms to reap a reasonable profit margin over and above these expenses. But Khanna’s letter argued that TransDigm evaded these rules by setting up “a network of captive distributors” ― middlemen who sold to the government, creating the illusion of an actual competitive market.

“TransDigm isn’t a business, it’s the abuse of monopoly power so extreme it borders on performance art,” according to Matthew Stoller, a fellow with the New America Foundation’s Open Markets division. “Congress should investigate this aggressively.”

No less than 12 TransDigm subsidiaries failed to disclose to the Defense Department in their procurement filings that they were owned by TransDigm, according to Khanna.

TransDigm did not respond to requests for comment. The company’s chief executive, W. Nicholas Howley, received $18.7 million in 2016 ― more than the chief executives of Apple, Boeing or Citigroup.

Khanna’s interest in the TransDigm case reflects a broader concern in Washington over concentrated economic power. In early March, the Center for American Progress hosted a forum on Trump’s Supreme Court nominee, Neil Gorsuch, focused on his antitrust record. Tom Perriello, the leading Democrat vying for the Virginia governorship this year, has made tackling monopolies a central plank in his economic platform. And outrage over EpiPen price hikes and Big Pharma monopolies have stained the reputations of popular Democratic Party politicians, including Sen. Cory Booker (D-N.J.).

Khanna didn’t discover the TransDigm mess on his own. He was tipped off by a trade newsletter called The Capitol Forum, headed by Executive Editor Teddy Downey. The Capitol Forum isn’t a household name and doesn’t generate massive internet traffic, but it wields significant influence due to its subscriber base of lawyers, investors and federal employees interested in its technical dispatches detailing fraud and abuse.

“To what extent are they hiding that TransDigm is selling these parts through layers of distributors?” Downey said. “That’s where I think the policy problem is.”

Khanna is waiting to hear back from the Defense Department before taking further action, but he hasn’t ruled out a congressional investigation.

“This is a bipartisan issue,” Khanna told HuffPost. “There are many of my Republican friends who want to see our dollars going to troops and readiness and not to anticompetitive behavior.”

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Stephen Colbert Likens Donald Trump To A Tantrum-Throwing Child

Just how are White House staffers keeping President Donald Trump’s spirits up?

Late Show” host Stephen Colbert lightheartedly suggested Wednesday that it involves the repeated screening of Disney’s “Frozen.”

Referencing reports that aides are distracting Trump with positive media coverage in a bid to quell his Twitter rants, Colbert joked they were treating the president like “a 5-year-old throwing a tantrum.”

“‘Honey, calm down. Look, look, we’ve got ‘Frozen’.’” he quipped. “’We’ve got the CD for ‘Frozen.’ Let’s put that in there. Now please, let it go!’”

If positive coverage was what it took to “calm down the big angry man with the launch codes,” however, then Colbert agreed with the method. He even mocked up a fake news segment to keep the commander in chief content.

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