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April 10, 2021
Democrats in Georgia's congressional delegation are asking the Biden administration to undo a Team Trump move to make it more difficult for Georgians to buy health insurance during the Covid pandemic.
Senators Jon Ossoff and Raphael Warnock and six of the state's 14 House members asked health Secretary Xavier Becerra to cancel the federal approval of a plan pushed by Radical Republican Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp to cut off access in 2023 to HealthCare.gov. The Georgia plan also imposes work or other requirements to get Medicaid coverage.
<p>"Withdrawing approval for this demonstration is essential to ending the far-reaching efforts your predecessors made to block hundreds of thousands of low-income Georgians from accessing health insurance," the senators wrote in a letter also signed by Georgia's Democratic representatives.</p><blockquote>About 60,000 people in the state are likely to lose health insurance.<br/></blockquote><p>Kemp wants to replace the easy-to-use online marketplace where citizens can buy insurance under the Affordable Care Act with a private enrollment system. About <a href="https://www.dcreport.org/2020/11/11/republicans-are-still-gunning-for-obamacare/" rel="noopener noreferrer" target="_blank">60,000 people in the state</a> are likely to lose health insurance.</p><p>The <a href="https://www.ajc.com/politics/georgia-vows-to-continue-fight-if-feds-kill-medicaid-waiver-plan/A4CHZNBF6VETXND6UFQ72MRMPY/" rel="noopener noreferrer" target="_blank">work requirement</a> for Medicaid recipients would mean that people on Medicaid must work 80 hours a month, volunteer, or be in an education program or other qualifying activity. Federal courts have blocked work requirements in Arkansas, Kentucky and elsewhere.</p><p>The scheme, which will affect people shopping for insurance in the fall 2022 enrollment period, was approved by the Trump Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS).</p><p>In mid-February, Elizabeth Richter, the acting CMS administrator, told Frank Berry, Georgia's top health official, that work requirements were <a href="https://www.medicaid.gov/medicaid/section-1115-demonstrations/downloads/ga-pathways-to-coverage-cms-ltr-state-demo-02122021.pdf" rel="noopener noreferrer" target="_blank">infeasible</a> during a pandemic. She sent similar letters to Arkansas, Ohio and six other states.</p><p>Georgia has the <a href="http://www.georgiahealthnews.com/2019/09/state-third-highest-rate-uninsured-census-report-shows/" rel="noopener noreferrer" target="_blank">third-highest rate</a> of people without health insurance in our nation. People can only buy insurance through HealthCare.gov if they live in one of the states that use it. Thirteen other states have state-based marketplaces, but Georgia would be relying on private industry.</p><p>Georgia officials have said they will <a href="https://www.ajc.com/politics/georgia-vows-to-continue-fight-if-feds-kill-medicaid-waiver-plan/A4CHZNBF6VETXND6UFQ72MRMPY/" rel="noopener noreferrer" target="_blank">challenge</a> any federal efforts to undo their plan.</p><p>Critics have said the Georgia plan is illegal because the Affordable Care Act requires state waivers to not result in people losing coverage. The Supreme Court <a href="https://www.healthaffairs.org/do/10.1377/hblog20201111.916623/full/" rel="noopener noreferrer" target="_blank">heard arguments</a> in November in a case brought by Republican state officials trying to destroy the Affordable Care Act.</p><p>Other states that changed how insurance was sold online for the Affordable Care Act had big drops. Kentucky's marketplace enrollment fell 13% when it changed to the federal marketplace in 2017 compared to a 4% decline nationally. Nevada's enrollment fell 7% for the 2020 plan year after it switched to a state-based marketplace, compared with flat enrollment nationally.</p>
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Elon Musk's startup devoted to meshing brains with computers was closer to its dream on Friday, having gotten a monkey to play video game Pong using only its mind.
Musk has long contended that merging minds with machines is vital if people are going to avoid being outpaced by artificial intelligence.
<p>A video posted on YouTube by the entrepreneur's Neuralink startup showed a macaque monkey named "Pager" playing Pong by essentially using thought to move paddles that bounce digital balls back and forth on screen.</p><p>"To control his paddle, Pager simply thinks about moving his hand up or down," said a voice narrating the video. "As you can see, Pager is amazingly good at MindPong."</p><p>Neuralink devices were implanted on two sides of Pager's brain to sense neuron activity, then the monkey played the game a few minutes using a joystick to let software figure out the signals associated with hand movements.</p><p>Pager's reward was banana smoothly served through a straw when he successfully batted the digital ball from one paddle to the other, according to the demonstration.</p><p>After a few minutes, the "decoder" program figured out what neuron signals to look for and the joystick was no longer needed for Pager to play the game.</p><p>"A monkey is literally playing a video game telepathically using a brain chip!!" Musk tweeted triumphantly.</p><p>The decoder could be calibrated to enable a person to guide a cursor on a computer screen, potentially letting them type emails, text messages, or browse the internet just by thinking, according to a blog post at neuralink.com.</p><p>"Our first goal is to give people with paralysis their digital freedom back," the Neuralink team said in the post.</p><p>Members of the team last year shared a "wish list" that ranged from technology returning mobility to the paralyzed and sight to the blind, to enabling telepathy and the uploading of memories for later reference -- or perhaps to be downloaded into replacement bodies.</p><p>For now, Neuralink is being tested in animals with the team working on the potential for clinical trials.</p><p>With the help of a surgical robot, a piece of the skull is replaced with a Neuralink disk, and its wispy wires are strategically inserted into the brain, a previous demonstration showed.</p><p>The disk registers nerve activity, relaying the information via common Bluetooth wireless signal to a device such as a smartphone, according to Musk.</p><p>"It actually fits quite nicely in your skull. It could be under your hair and you wouldn't know."</p><p>Experts and academics remain cautious about his vision of symbiotically merging minds with super-powered computing.</p><p>© 2021 AFP</p>
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April 10, 2021
Baseless Republican attacks on Dominion Voting Systems may come back to bite major Donald Trump supporters in the wallet. That's because the company appears to be losing significant business in jurisdictions where Republicans control decisions about which vendors will supply voting equipment.
To collect damages the company must show that it suffered financial harm. In that regard, various elected Republicans around the country are helping Dominion make its case as the defendants' lies about Dominion machines are causing it to lose millions of dollars of business.
<p>In separate lawsuits, Dominion is seeking actual damages of $1.6 billion from Fox News, and $1.3 billion each from Trump lawyers Rudy Giuliani and Sidney Powell, and the My Pillow Guy, Mike Lindell. It is also seeking punitive damages.</p><blockquote>Republicans around the country are helping Dominion make its case as the defendants' lies about Dominion machines are causing it to lose millions of dollars of business.<br/></blockquote><p>The individuals Dominion is suing stood at the center of the "Stop the Steal" movement and fed the narrative. Fox News amplified this manufactured storyline.</p><p>And Republicans around the country listened. GOP state legislators and election officials country are taking actions that will cost Dominion dearly.</p><p><strong>Louisiana</strong>: Secretary of State <a href="https://www.sos.la.gov/OurOffice/LearnAboutKyleArdoin/Pages/default.aspx" rel="noopener noreferrer" target="_blank">Kyle Ardoin </a>planned to replace outdated voting machines by <a href="https://www.theadvocate.com/baton_rouge/news/politics/elections/article_fc7c4008-7e14-11eb-b1d7-3734976f1a47.html" rel="noopener noreferrer" target="_blank">purchasing $100 million</a> worth of new voting equipment. Dominion was one of three bidders. In March, Republican state lawmakers sought oversight and public hearings on the contract after being besieged with calls from constituents demanding the state not hire Dominion.</p><p>New Orleans conservative radio host Jeff Crouere ran an ad urging people to call Ardoin at his office. "Tell Kyle we don't want a Dominion voting machine lawsuit here like they had in Georgia," Crouere <a href="https://www.theadvocate.com/baton_rouge/news/politics/elections/article_fc7c4008-7e14-11eb-b1d7-3734976f1a47.html" rel="noopener noreferrer" target="_blank">said in the spot</a>, "Call Kyle and tell him to get honest voting machines."</p><p>The state then <a href="https://www.theadvocate.com/baton_rouge/news/politics/elections/article_fc7c4008-7e14-11eb-b1d7-3734976f1a47.html" rel="noopener noreferrer" target="_blank">shelved plans</a> to purchase new voting machines altogether. Instead, the Sec. Ardoin embarked on a campaign to dispel misinformation about the state's Dominion voting machines, which it has used for years. Before canceling the new equipment purchase, Ardoin <a href="https://www.sos.la.gov/OurOffice/PublishedDocuments/03032021RFP.pdf" rel="noopener noreferrer" target="_blank">confirmed</a> the state's history with Dominion was positive, "While our current election-day voting machines has served Louisiana well," he then attributed the cancelation to disinformation. "I am withdrawing the RFP to spend the next few months seeking to undo the damage to voter confidence done by those who willfully spread misinformation and disinformation," Ardoin <a href="https://www.theadvocate.com/baton_rouge/news/politics/legislature/article_1200267a-7c70-11eb-b3d5-87fd8b51dab8.html" rel="noopener noreferrer" target="_blank">said</a>. He followed up by saying "I think unfortunately those folks who are rooted deep in conspiracy theories may not accept what we provide to them."</p><p><strong>Michigan:</strong> Austin Chenge, a Republican businessman running to oust Gretchen Whitmer from the Governor's mansion in 2022, promised that on "day one" if elected he'd cancel contracts with Dominion. Chenge told the Detroit newspaper <a href="https://www.metrotimes.com/news-hits/archives/2021/02/01/michigans-gop-candidate-for-governor-says-hed-cancel-contracts-with-dominion-voting-systems-on-day-one" rel="noopener noreferrer" target="_blank">Metro Times</a>, "the most important reason for canceling this contract is to restore voter confidence in our elections."</p><p><strong>Arizona:</strong> Republican State Sen. Karen Fann, the Senate leader, is still running a <a href="https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/arizona-republicans-desperate-crusade-to-find-nonexistent-voter-fraud/2021/04/02/31507e7c-93f8-11eb-a74e-1f4cf89fd948_story.html" rel="noopener noreferrer" target="_blank">crusade</a> to find fraud connected to Dominion. State election officials undertook the audits as required by law. Maricopa County (Phoenix), the state's largest, then <a href="https://www.documentcloud.org/documents/20580232-fw_-questions-for-maricopa-county_redacted" rel="noopener noreferrer" target="_blank">undertook two further forensic examinations</a> of machines that Fann's office sent representatives to observe. Again, nothing amiss was found, but that hasn't stopped Fann.</p><p>On March 31, Fann <a href="https://apnews.com/article/joe-biden-arizona-elections-phoenix-dcb5478736188723b405a26e5b7031fc" rel="noopener noreferrer" target="_blank">selected</a> a Florida company called <a href="https://www.cyberninjas.com/" rel="noopener noreferrer" target="_blank">Cyber Ninjas</a> to <a href="https://apnews.com/article/joe-biden-arizona-phoenix-elections-voting-23a34828e8dadd190fe2f02555559b30" rel="noopener noreferrer" target="_blank">examine</a> the 2020 general election in Maricopa County. Maricopa is home to more than half of Arizonans and with almost 4.5 million people. It used Dominion voting machines in 2020.</p><p>CyberNinjas founder Doug Logan is a prominent advocate of "Stop the Steal," making him hardly an unbiased auditor of vote results. Logan <a href="https://www.newsweek.com/head-cyber-ninja-company-auditing-arizona-votes-supports-election-fraud-conspiracy-theory-1580319" rel="noopener noreferrer" target="_blank">retweeted posts</a> such as, "if you can't see the blatant cheating, malfeasance and outright voter fraud, then you are ignorant or lying," and "I'm tired of hearing people say there was no fraud. It happened, it's real, and people better get wise fast."</p><p>Sen. Fann has said the inquiry by Logan's firm will be <a href="https://apnews.com/article/senate-elections-arizona-elections-phoenix-3a1ddf0338a7f61d7e0bfe522afab183" rel="noopener noreferrer" target="_blank">bipartisan</a> but has not cited any Democrats or Biden supporters who will be involved.</p><p>After Dominion filed its lawsuits CyberNinjas <a href="https://www.azmirror.com/2021/03/31/arizona-senate-hires-a-stop-the-steal-advocate-to-lead-2020-election-audit/" rel="noopener noreferrer" target="_blank">deleted tweets</a> in which its founder pushed the same conspiracies that Fox News and Trump's legal team were peddling.</p><p>This is not the first audit <a href="https://www.detroitnews.com/story/news/politics/2020/12/14/michigan-judge-allows-release-report-antrim-county-voting/6537394002/" rel="noopener noreferrer" target="_blank">Logan was involved</a> in. He sought to overturn election results in a Michigan county that used Dominion machines.</p><p>Logan is <a href="https://bloximages.chicago2.vip.townnews.com/record-eagle.com/content/tncms/assets/v3/editorial/6/13/61369c04-61c4-11eb-9701-2300c2a9b667/60134f4c1db0d.pdf.pdf" rel="noopener noreferrer" target="_blank">listed</a> in court documents as an expert witness in an election fraud case in Antrim County, Mich. Logan and others submitted a 23-page report alleging that Dominion "is intentionally and purposefully designed with inherent errors to create systemic fraud and influence election results."</p><p>Michigan Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson and Attorney General Dana Nessel issued a joint statement calling the report "another in a long stream of misguided, vague and dubious assertions designed to erode public confidence in the November presidential election."</p><p>Antrim County Clerk Sheryl Guy<strong>,</strong> a Republican, said she was saddened by the efforts to discredit the Dominion equipment. "I did read the report and find that there are many misleading statements that are simply not accurate," Guy said.</p><p><strong>Colorado:</strong> Sixty-two of the state's 64 counties used Dominion machines. A state-mandated audit of election results <a href="https://www.sos.state.co.us/pubs/elections/auditCenter.html" rel="noopener noreferrer" target="_blank">didn't find any irregularities</a>.</p><p>Despite that, seven Republican lawmakers requested that the Democratic Speaker of the House form a special committee on election integrity. Shortly thereafter, the legislature <a href="https://coloradosun.com/2020/12/15/colorado-election-integrity-hearing-no-evidence/" rel="noopener noreferrer" target="_blank">held a hearing</a> on Dominion technology and found no evidence of miscounting.</p><p>Another Colorado Republican, the elected supervisor of voting in El Paso County <a href="https://clerkandrecorder.elpasoco.com/meet-your-clerk-and-chief-deputy/" rel="noopener noreferrer" target="_blank">Chuck Broerman</a>, defended using Dominion equipment. "We are considered the gold standard. Everybody wants to be like Colorado. And that goes from the execution of our elections to the products and the vendors that we use in that process," Broerman <a href="https://www.cpr.org/2020/12/03/as-trump-continues-to-attack-election-integrity-colorado-gop-wants-members-to-trust-colorados-system/" rel="noopener noreferrer" target="_blank">said</a>.</p><p>Republican Wayne Williams, Colorado's former secretary of state, also defended Dominion. He noted their machines previously passed at least 868 verification tests in 62 Colorado counties without issue.</p><p>However, U.S. Rep. Lauren Boebert (R-Colo.) continues to <a href="https://www.deltacountyindependent.com/opinion/boebert-s-bogus-call-to-remove-dominion-voting-systems-in-colorado/article_4daa82d0-8bf5-11eb-92cd-cbd4837a03ab.html" rel="noopener noreferrer" target="_blank">push to remove Dominion</a>. Boebert, known for her gun-toting theatrics, continues to demand that county officials replace Dominion machines.</p><p><strong>Ohio:</strong> The bipartisan Stark County Board of Elections <a href="https://www.cantonrep.com/story/news/2020/12/09/stark-county-get-new-dominion-voting-machines/6501775002/" rel="noopener noreferrer" target="_blank">voted unanimously in December to </a>approve purchasing $6.45 million in Dominion voting equipment. County commissioners reversed that decision in March.</p><p>Samuel Ferruccio, chairman of the board, <a href="https://www.cantonrep.com/story/news/2021/01/26/stark-commissioners-delay-purchase-dominion-voting-machines/4260460001/" rel="noopener noreferrer" target="_blank">said</a> it has never encountered Dominion's software issues.</p><h3>Trump 'Cult'</h3><p>"The Trump supporters are cult-like and that's why [the commissioners] would have the most calls they've ever had," he said. Dominion machines "have been tested at the federal level, the state level. They are tried and proven. It's just unfortunate that the lunatic fringe Trump cult people are propagating this misinformation."</p><p>In March, when county commissioners <a href="https://www.clevescene.com/scene-and-heard/archives/2021/03/11/stark-county-no-longer-buying-645-million-in-equipment-from-dominion-voting-systems-after-being-hounded-by-trump-supporters" rel="noopener noreferrer" target="_blank">voted to reject</a> buying new machines from Dominion a local newspaper attributed it to elected officials "being hounded by Trump supporters."</p><p>That evidence of loss of business could be costly to the defendants, especially Fox. Dominion's <a href="https://www.documentcloud.org/documents/20527880-dominion-v-fox-news-complaint" rel="noopener noreferrer" target="_blank">suit against Fox</a> asserts that the television operation "recklessly disregarded the truth," and was "intentionally and falsely blaming Dominion for President Trump's loss by rigging the election."</p><p>Dominion's 443-page filing against Fox cites example after example of what it says are utterly false statements by primetime hosts Sean Hannity, Laura Ingraham, Tucker Carlson, Jeanine Pirro and others that the firm's equipment was used to manipulate vote counts and that the company is owned by a Venezuelan company founded to rig elections for Hugo Chavez. They fed a fantasy that the firm supplied vote-flipping machines made for a deceased Venezuelan dictator.</p><h3>Dominion as 'Criminal Enterprise'</h3><p>On Nov. 21, 2020, a day after Fox News received a retraction demand letter from Dominion, Jeanine Pirro amplified Giuliani's never-made-in-litigation claims that Dominion was an "organized criminal enterprise," "started in Venezuela with Cuban money," that could and did "flip" votes "with the assistance of Smartmatic software," thus creating the "stunning" ballot "dump[s]" in the early morning of Nov. 4 that fabricated votes for Biden.</p><p>Dominion asserts that this pandering to Trump was rewarded: "After Fox's Jeanine Pirro promoted the lie that Trump had actually won the election, her ex-husband received an eleventh-hour pardon from soon-to-be-former-President Trump." (Pirro was married to Albert Pirro in 1999 when a federal jury convicted him on 23 counts of income tax cheating, for which he served 17 months in prison. Trump pardoned him on Dec, 21.)</p><h3>Fox Promotes Lies</h3><p>The lawsuit also notes that "after nearly a month of Fox relentlessly promoting lies about Dominion, Fox Corporation's stock had rebounded to its pre-election value."</p><p>Dominion says not only was all of the information Fox pushed false but that each of the defendants kept repeating the same material. "Indeed, Fox knew these statements about Dominion were lies," the lawsuit states.</p><p>On Nov. 12, Lou Dobbs of Fox Business News allowed Rudy Giuliani to spread false information and then fanned the flames, saying: "It's stunning. And they're private firms and very little is known about their ownership, beyond what you're saying about Dominion."</p><p>As <a href="https://www.dcreport.org/2020/12/31/ess-voting-systems-a-friend-to-republicans/" rel="noopener noreferrer" target="_blank">DCReport</a> previously reported, the largest voting company in the U.S. does have private ownership and says relatively little about its ownership. But that's not Dominion. It's Election Systems & Software (ES&S), the largest vendor with 60% of the market share, which was never mentioned by the defendants.</p><h3>Ownership of Companies</h3><p>As Republican election officials refuse to purchase Dominion equipment, rival ES&S is set to benefit and build increased market share.</p><p>Democratic lawmakers Sen. Ron Wyden of Oregon and Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts sought <a href="https://www.warren.senate.gov/imo/media/doc/H.I.G.%20McCarthy,%20&%20Staple%20Street%20letters.pdf" rel="noopener noreferrer" target="_blank">ownership information</a> about three voting equipment vendors, which together comprise 90% of the market share.</p><p>ES&S is owned by its <a href="https://www.essvote.com/faqs/" rel="noopener noreferrer" target="_blank">top executives and the McCarthy Group</a>, a private equity investment firm founded by Michael R. McCarthy in Omaha, Neb. Former Secretary of Defense and two-term Nebraska Republican senator <a href="https://brianmohr.medium.com/hagel-omaha-and-elections-8b01d132ba57" rel="noopener noreferrer" target="_blank">Chuck Hagel was chairman of the company</a> that later became ES&S, but it is unknown if he still has any investment in it. McCarthy was active in Hagel's Senate campaigns and a large donor.</p><p>Dominion is owned by Staple Street Capital, a New York City private equity firm whose principles had been associated with the Carlyle Group and Cerberus Capital Management.</p><p>Dominion declares in its lawsuit that it has no Venezuelan ties. It was founded in the early 2000s by John Poulos, a Canadian who started it in his basement. Poulos voluntarily worked with the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States ("CFIUS") to ensure it knew who he was and who was invested in Dominion.</p><h3>False Accusations</h3><p>In more than <a href="https://www.politifact.com/factchecks/2021/jan/08/joe-biden/joe-biden-right-more-60-trumps-election-lawsuits-l/" rel="noopener noreferrer" target="_blank">60 court cases</a> pro-Trump forces claimed votes were counted illegally to make Joe Biden president. Many of these accused Dominion of dishonesty, intentionally miscounting ballots, and other wrongs. In every one of those cases, the pro-Trump forces failed to produce evidence of the election being rigged.</p><p>In some of the cases, judges asked for evidence to back up claims, whereupon the lawsuits were withdrawn. That was a smart move by the Trump lawyers because making baseless claims can result in disciplinary action including disbarment.</p><p>Surveys show that <a href="https://thehill.com/homenews/campaign/540508-majority-of-republicans-say-2020-election-was-invalid-poll" rel="noopener noreferrer" target="_blank">67% of Republicans</a> believe the 2020 presidential election was stolen. The rallying cry of the attempted coup on January 6 was "Stop the Steal."</p><p>Ben Decker, CEO and founder of Memetica, a digital investigations consultancy, described Stop the Steal as an overall election fraud strategy <a href="https://www.cnn.com/2020/11/13/business/stop-the-steal-disinformation-campaign-invs/index.html" rel="noopener noreferrer" target="_blank">saying</a>, "Stop the Steal is a highly coordinated partisan political operation intent on bringing together conspiracy theorists, militias, hate groups, and Trump supporters to attack the integrity of our election."</p><p>In a sign that it is serious about defending its reputation, Dominion recently <a href="https://www.thedailybeast.com/dominion-builds-legal-behemoth-to-drain-trumpland-of-billions" rel="noopener noreferrer" target="_blank">expanded</a> its legal team. The cases are more likely to be settled than go to trial, but by hiring more lawyers the company is signaling that it is serious about seeking damages.</p><p>Only Fox has that kind of money, but business and law partners and insurers for the others may pressure them to settle to reduce their own exposure.</p><h3>More Suits to Come</h3><p>Dominion CEO John Poulos promises that the four lawsuits are "definitely not the last lawsuits" he expects the company to file. "We are taking a very measured, evidence-based approach as to what we file next. And we are not ruling anyone out."</p><p>Dominion is not alone in bringing lawsuits over the Trump disinformation campaign. Smartmatic is a provider of election software with no ties to Dominion. But some Trump supporters stated as fact that Smartmatic had its software on Dominion machines. Smartmatic is suing Fox for $2.7 billion.</p><p>The New York Times recently broke <a href="https://www.nytimes.com/2021/04/03/us/politics/trump-donations.html" rel="noopener noreferrer" target="_blank">the latest fundraising scandal</a> illustrating how Trump has been raking in his supporters' money. However, the Dominion suits illustrate that, while Trump remains focused on profiting from his presidency, his loyalists may wind up paying the biggest price.</p>
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