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Beto O'Rourke: Tear down existing border walls

Mr. Trump, tear down that wall? Possible 2020 Democratic presidential candidate Beto O’Rourke of Texas not only opposes President Trump’s construction plans, he said he would rip out existing walls on the southern border.

The Washington Times noted O’Rourke had been publicly asked by freshman Rep. Dan Crenshaw, R-Texas, why he should let existing walls stand if he thinks walls are immoral.

In an interview Thursday with MSNBC on the border, host Chris Hayes repeated the question.

“Yes, absolutely. I’d take the wall down,” said the former congressman from El Paso, who unsuccessfully challenged incumbent Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, last fall.

He said El Paso residents would agree in a referendum, claiming the current fencing had killed more than 4,000 illegal immigrants.

O’Rourke said the border barriers have “pushed migrants and asylum seekers and refugees to the most inhospitable, most hostile stretches of the U.S.-Mexico border, ensuring their suffering and death.”

“More than 4,000 human beings — little kids, women and children — have died,” O’Rourke said.

He called illegal immigration a human right.

“We have walled off their opportunity … to cross in urban centers like El Paso, to be with family, to work jobs, to do what any human being should have the right to be able to do,” he said.

Trump identifies $8 billion available for wall

immigration

The White House on Friday identified $8.1 billion that could be allocated for walls along the southern border after President Trump declared a national emergency there because of the illegal aliens, criminals and drugs entering from Mexico.

Democrats had flatly refused wall funding, leading to a partial government shutdown and a stopgap resolution that expires Friday. In the proposed budget resolution, Democrats agreed to only $1.375 billion in wall funding and inserted provisions that could prevent the money from being used for its intended purpose.

The president said he will sign the budget bill but also declare a national emergency along the southern border, which gives him authority to order some construction without participation from Congress.

The Congressional Research Service said his move likely will succeed, at least partly because any member of Congress challenging his action in court would need to demonstrate personal injury.

The White House said in a statement after the declaration that Trump was elected “partly on his promise to secure the southern border with a barrier and, since his first day in office, he has been following through on that promise.”

The president noted that this week a massive section that already had funding was begun in Texas.

The bill allocates $1.375 billion for about 55 miles of border barrier in “dangerous” drug smuggling corridors.

And there’s $415 million for the humanitarian crisis that has resulted from caravans of immigrants marching from Central America to the U.S. border.

The White House said Trump is “using his legal authority to take executive action to secure additional resources, just as he promised. In part, he is declaring a national emergency that makes available additional troops and funding for military construction.”

The White House broke down the $8.1 billion available for wall funding.

There’s some $601 million from the Treasury Forfeiture Fund, $2.5 billion under the Department of Defense funds transferred for Support for Counterdrug Activities (Title 10 United States Code, section 284), and some $3.6 billion reallocated from Department of Defense military construction projects under the president’s declaration of a national emergency (Title 10 United States Code, section 2808).

The statement noted governors of border states, including Janet Napolitano of Arizona and Bill Richardson of New Mexico, previously declared emergencies along the border.

“Former President George W. Bush and former President Obama both directed the use of the military to assist DHS in securing and managing the southern border,” the White House argued.

The border problems include MS-13 gang crime; the smuggling of deadly drugs, including meth, heroin, cocaine and fentanyl; human trafficking that creates slave conditions for young girls; and caravans of migrants looking to gain illegal entry.

The White House statement said the $8.1 billion would be sufficient for now.

The White House asserted the emergency declaration is completely within the law and in no way sets an untoward precedent, as Democratic House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has claimed.

Nonpartisan report: 136 laws give Trump emergency powers

supreme-court-wikipedia-feature

The nonpartisan think tank for Congress reports there are 136 laws that give President Trump emergency powers, some of which he is planning to invoke to fund barriers to protect critical segments of the southern border.

The report by the Congressional Research Service also noted that the legal standing required for individual Congress members or houses of Congress to object in court is “limited.”

The analysis, reports the Washington Examiner’s Paul Bedard, “confirms that the president appears to have the green light from Capitol Hill.”

“Despite promises from Democratic leaders to sue to stop Trump, the nonpartisan Congressional Research Service has determined that the move may be legal and effective,” he wrote. “In its most recent report on the border wall, CRS said that Congress actually wrote the legal path for Trump to follow to tap into Pentagon construction money to build the wall.”

The president said Thursday he would declare a national emergency to allocate funds to address the crisis of illegal immigrants, drugs and criminals crossing the southern border.

The CRS found there would be several “novel legal issues,” but the president could avail himself of broad authorities by declaring a national emergency under the National Emergencies Act (NEA). [50 U.S.C. §§1601-1651]  “Such a declaration could enable the president to invoke certain emergency military construction authorities established by the Military Construction Codification Act (MCCA).” [10 U.S.C. §§ 2801-2885]

“Upon declaring a national emergency pursuant to the NEA, the president may invoke the emergency military construction authority set forth in 10 U.S.C. § 2808 (Section 2808). … Section 2808 provides that upon the president’s declaration of a national emergency ‘that requires use of the armed forces,’ the Secretary of Defense may ‘without regard to any other provision of law … undertake military construction projects …  not otherwise authorized by law that are necessary to support such use of the armed forces.’”

Troops already have been dispatched to the border to enhance security.

That move, the analysis pointed out, “has not been successfully challenged.”

Other laws also would assist Trump.

In passing the National Emergency Act, Congress ensured that any president has clear statutory authority to declare an emergency.

Under the NEA, which was adopted after Congress discovered and canceled hundreds of declared emergencies in the 1970s, the president needs to specify which statutory emergency authorities he’s using, publish the proclamation, maintain records and provide an accounting of expenditures.

Originally, the law allowed Congress to end an emergency through a concurrent resolution, which does not require the president’s signature. But Congress inserted the requirement for a presidential signature.

“While the NEA directs each house of Congress to meet every six months to consider whether to terminate a national emergency by joint resolution, Congress has never met to consider such a vote.”

It is Section 2808 of the federal law that allows the president to declare a national emergency then authorize military construction projects.

“Congress has appropriated a significant amount of money for various forms of military construction for the 2019 fiscal year (and additional funds may still be available from prior fiscal years) that may be available for military construction activities,” the report said.

The report said using those funds for a border wall has not been challenged in court. Further, there would be a question whether a wall is in support of the military, but a court may decline to review whether building a wall is within the purview of the military “on the grounds that they involve non-justiciable political questions.”

“Courts have traditionally afforded significant deference to executive claims of military necessity, which may stand as a substantial obstacle to legal challenges to any factual findings,” it said.

“Several other statutes may provide the DOD with some authority to construct barriers along the border,” the report continued. “The president may cite these authorities either individually or in combination with Section 2808 to support such construction.”

The report noted there is an emergency military construction statute that could allow the president to construct barriers along the border without even declaring a national emergency.

One law allows the Defense Department to assist law enforcement by building “roads and fences” to block drug smuggling.

We all know pain, but what is it really?

Chuck Norris

Chuck Norris

According to National Retail Federation estimates, fewer people celebrated Valentine’s Day this year than last, yet they spent more – in excess of $20 billion in this country. As for young adults, nearly half find Valentine’s Day to be their top choice when it comes to popping the question.

Yet for every hopeful story of love, there is sure to be a crushing tale of pain and rejection. As the saying goes, love hurts. In the past few years, psychology researchers have realized that there is a good deal of literal truth in the metaphorical phrases comparing love to pain.

Pain is a universal human experience. We know it. We sense it. It is clearly recognizable to us. We also know that pain caused by love gone wrong is not the same as the actual slap in the face that might accompany a breakup, yet these two types of pain have a shared source.

If lost love leads to a broken heart, it can not only be painful, it can potentially be fatal. Doctors at Johns Hopkins University recently identified a rare but lethal heart condition caused by acute emotional distress. The condition is known technically as “stress cardiomyopathy,” but a more common description has emerged: “broken heart syndrome.”

Surprisingly, there seems to be no universal clinical consensus on what is and what is not pain. Psychologists believe that physical pain has two separate components: a sensory component and an affective component. The sensory component transmits basic information about the damage, including its intensity and location. The affective component provides a qualitative interpretation of the injury. Pain can also be a lie in that it does not always equate to a representation of physical damage.

According to an article by behavioral science reporter Eric Jaffe in Observer, published by the Association for Psychological Science, it is not quite accurate to say that physical and social pain are the same. Some research suggests that social pain can actually be much worse over time. While the physical characteristics of pain (stabbing, aching, burning, etc.) may go away, the memory of lost love can linger over a lifetime. At the same time, for all the hurt love causes, it has an equally powerful ability to heal.

As WellBeing blogger Dr. Claire Richardson points out, the clinical community used to think the brain had a sort of blueprint – one part responsible for sight, another for hearing, another for sensation and so on. This blueprint was preset and mapped out the same in everyone. What has since been learned is that the brain is adaptable and changeable. “If your brain’s area for taste is damaged,” says Richardson, “it has the capacity to change the neurons somewhere else to pick up where the damaged area left off.” Pain is an output of our brain, she says. It is also a defense mechanism. The brain determines the emotion we attach to each painful experience. Feeling calm and safe and connected to others can minimize pain. Negative emotions tend to have the opposite effect.

In an NPR report, David Linden, a professor of neuroscience at Johns Hopkins University, notes that there are many people with terrible-looking MRI or CT scans who have no lower back pain. Conversely, there are people in incredible pain with nothing to be seen on their scans.

Linden tells the story of Dwayne Turner, an Army combat medic in Iraq who received the Silver Star for valor. In 2003, Turner was unloading supplies when his unit came under attack. He was wounded by a grenade, which left shrapnel in his leg and his side. But he didn’t notice that he had been hit and began giving first aid and pulling other soldiers to safety. As he worked, he was shot twice. One bullet broke a bone in his arm. Yet Turner would say later that he felt almost no pain.

“Soldiers in the heat of the moment don’t recognize the pain that’s happening,” Linden says. “But once that moment is over, those same soldiers may feel a lot of pain from something minor, like a hypodermic needle.”

Science is still struggling to understand precisely how the brain regulates the perception of pain and how some people can teach their brains to filter out things like chronic pain. What we do know is that if you can change the input, you can alter the output.

This is why such discussions on the nature of pain are important. Studies show that once people understand how pain works, a lot of their fear and anxiety regarding their pain and what it potentially means is alleviated.

Commenting in a recent trend report on the clinical site Practical Pain Management, Dr. Tina L. Doshi of the pain medicine department at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine writes: “The medical community has shifted away from the simplistic view of ‘pain as symptom’ to a more sophisticated understanding of ‘pain as disease.’ Pain is not just an unfortunate consequence of some other pathology; pain is the pathology, and there is now greater awareness that pain management needs to be just as comprehensive, coordinated, and customized as treatment for hypertension, diabetes, or cancer.”

Such a shift is perhaps our greatest hope in stemming chronic pain in this country and bringing to an end the opioid epidemic.

Write to Chuck Norris with your questions about health and fitness. Follow Chuck Norris through his official social media sites, on Twitter @chucknorris and Facebook’s “Official Chuck Norris Page.” He blogs at ChuckNorrisNews.blogspot.com.

Real shocker

It up

Probe: Hard evidence refutes DNC 'Russia hack' claim

Vladimir Putin (photo courtesy Kremlin.ru)

Vladimir Putin (photo courtesy Kremlin.ru)

The claim that Russian intelligence officials hacked emails from the DNC server that were later published by Wikileaks is a core tenet of the belief that the Trump campaign colluded with Russia in the 2016 election.

But more than three years later, no forensic evidence has been produced to back the claim. And now an investigation by two cyber-security and intelligence experts has concluded the hard evidence indicates the files were not breached via the internet but downloaded onto a portable storage device.

The conclusion by William Binney, a former intelligence official with the National Security Agency, and former CIA analyst Larry Johnson was reported exclusively by the Gateway Pundit blog.

Binney and Johnson argue in their report that the National Security Agency has the technical capacity to prove whether or not the Russians hacked the DNC network through the internet. But the January 2017 “Intelligence Community Assessment” says the NSA had “moderate confidence” in the assessment that the Russians “aspired” to help Trump win by “discrediting Secretary Clinton.”

They write: “The phrase ‘moderate confidence’ is intelligence speak for ‘we have no hard evidence.’”

“Thanks to the leaks by Edward Snowden, we know with certainty that the NSA had the capability to examine and analyze the DNC emails,” the intelligence experts argue.

“If those emails had been hijacked over the internet then NSA also would have been able to track the electronic path they traveled over the internet,” they emphasized. “This kind of data would allow the NSA to declare without reservation or caveat that the Russians were guilty.”

They point out that if the NSA had hard intelligence to support the intelligence assessment, the conclusion would have been stated as “full confidence.”

FAT files

The intelligence experts believe special counsel Robert Mueller “faces major embarrassment” if he decides to pursue the indictment he filed accusing 12 Russian military personnel and “Guccifer 2.0” of the DNC hack.

That’s because the available forensic evidence indicates the emails were copied onto a storage device, they write.

The indictment says the Russians engaged in a “spearphishing” attack in which a spoof email lures a recipient into clicking on a link that introduces malware giving access to an email account.

But Binney and Johnson contend an examination of the Wikileaks DNC files does not support the claim that the files were obtained via the internet.

The key, they say, is the evidence that the files appear to be in the File Allocation Table, or FAT, computer file system format.

If they are FAT files, they must have been transferred to a storage device, such as a thumb drive.

How do they know they are FAT files?

“The truth lies in the ‘last modified’ time stamps on the Wikileaks files,” they write.

They explain that in the FAT system, the times stamped on the files are rounded up to the next even number.

“We have examined 500 DNC email files stored on Wikileaks and all 500 files end in an even number,” they write.

“If a system other than FAT had been used, there would have been an equal probability of the time stamp ending with an odd number. But that is not the case with the data stored on the Wikileaks site. All end with an even number.”

They reason that the random probability that FAT was not used is 1 chance in 2 to the 500th power.

“This data alone does not prove that the emails were copied at the DNC headquarters. But it does show that the data/emails posted by Wikileaks did go through a storage device, like a thumbdrive, before Wikileaks posted the emails on the World Wide Web.”

They say they also tested the hypothesis that Wikileaks could have manipulated the files to produce the FAT result by comparing the DNC email files with the Podesta emails released Sept. 21, 2016.

They found that the FAT file format is not present in the Podesta files.

“If Wikileaks employed a standard protocol for handling data/emails received from unknown sources we should expect the file structure of the DNC emails to match the file structure of the Podesta emails,” they write. “The evidence shows otherwise.”

‘Simple matter of mathematics and physics’

In addition, Binney, a former technical director of the National Security Agency, and other intelligence experts examined emails posted by Guccifer 2.0 and concluded they could not have been downloaded over the internet as the result of a spearphishing attack.

“It is a simple matter of mathematics and physics,” they write.

Binney conducted a forensic examination of the metadata contained in the posted documents based on internet connection speeds in the United States.

“His analysis showed that the highest transfer rate was 49.1 megabytes per second, which is much faster than possible from a remote online connection. The 49.1 megabytes speed coincides with the download rate for a thumb drive.”

The intelligence experts say there is other circumstantial evidence to back their conclusion the data breach was a local effort.

One is that the cyber security firm Crowdstrike claimed it first detected Russians breaching the DNC system May 6, 2012, but did nothing about it.

CrowdStrike claimed their inactivity was a deliberate plan to avoid alerting the Russians that they had been “discovered.”

“This is nonsense,” Binney and Johnson write. “If a security company detected a thief breaking into a house and stealing its contents, what sane company would counsel the client to do nothing in order to avoid alerting the thief? Utter nonsense.”

They argue it’s known from examining the Wikileaks data that the last message copied from the DNC network is dated May 25.

CrowdStrike waited until June 10, 2016, to take concrete steps to clean up the DNC network.

“Why does a cyber security company wait 45 days after allegedly uncovering a massive Russian attack on the DNC server to take concrete steps to safeguard the integrity of the information held on the server? This makes no sense.”

They say a more plausible explanation is that Crowdstrike discovered that emails had been downloaded from the server and copied onto a storage device, but the culprit had not yet been identified.

“The final curiosity is that the DNC never provided the FBI access to its servers in order for qualified FBI technicians to conduct a thorough forensic examination,” Binney and Johnson write.

“If this had been a genuine internet hack, it would be very easy for the NSA to identify when the information was taken and the route it moved after being hacked from the server.”

They conclude that “these disparate data points combine to paint a picture that exonerates alleged Russian hackers and implicates persons within our law enforcement and intelligence community taking part in a campaign of misinformation, deceit and incompetence.”

“It is not a pretty picture.”