A Pennsylvania voter told Donald Trump during a Tuesday night town hall to “stop” interrupting her so she could ask him how he would use a second term to protect people like her who have a pre-existing medical condition.
“Please stop and let me finish my question, sir,” Ellesia Blaque, a professor at Kutztown University, said as the president tried to talk over her question during an ABC News town hall in Philadelphia. Mr Trump immediately stopped his retort, but did not directly answer her question after she disclosed a serious medical condition she has had since birth.
“You’ve been trying to strike down pre-existing conditions.”
In a @ABC2020 town hall, @GStephanopoulos presses Pres. Trump on claim he’s preserving pre-existing conditions—as his administration argues in court against Obamacare, which protects them. Watch the full exchange. pic.twitter.com/GuOyqUKhen
— ABC News (@ABC) September 16, 2020
Instead, the president claimed to be close to rolling out a healthcare plan that would replace the law known as Obamacare.
He has been making that claim for three years, but has failed to produce a package that would pass both chambers of Congress. Last month, he said a new GOP plan would be unveiled in just a few weeks. But his White House has yet to produce such a blueprint, and no Republican lawmakers are running on a new health plan or talking about them in the halls of the Capitol.
The emotional moment was among a handful of times undecided voters pressed him during the Philadelphia event, his seventh stop in Pennsylvania this year alone. He and Democratic nominee Joe Biden are jousting for the key swing state’s 20 electoral votes.
Mr Trump rejected the notion during the town hall that a lawsuit his administration is pushing through the court system would terminate the 2011 Affordable Care Act even though experts say it would do just that.
Healthcare is typically among the top two or three issues for voters when they are asked as part of election polling.
Mr Biden wants to try improving the ACA while building in some sort of public option.
It is unclear whether either major party candidate can put a plan in front of lawmakers that could one day become law.
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Turkey, Iran deploy ‘game-changing’ drones in north Iraq
Turkey and Iran are increasingly adopting “game-changing” drones as their weapon of choice against Kurdish rebels in northern Iraq, prompting fears for the safety of civilians and stoking geopolitical tensions.
“Not a day goes by without us seeing a drone,” said Mohammad Hassan, mayor of Qandil, the mountainous Iraqi stronghold of Turkey’s outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK).
“They fly so low Qandil’s residents can see them with their naked eye,” Hassan told AFP.
The PKK has used Qandil for decades as a rear-base for its insurgency against the Turkish state.
The Democratic Party of Iranian Kurdistan (PDK-I) has similar rear-bases in other remote areas of Iraqi Kurdistan, from which it launches attacks across the border into Iran.
Turkey and Iran consider the Kurdish rebels as “terrorists” and routinely conduct cross-border ground assaults, air strikes and artillery bombardments against their Iraq bases.
Starting in 2018, both countries began using unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) for surveillance and even targeted assassinations in northern Iraq.
Drone use has expanded dramatically since Turkey launched a new assault in June, analysts and residents of affected areas told AFP.
Activists said dozens of border villages and adjacent farms have been abandoned by their terrified residents.
The drone strikes have also prevented thousands of Yazidis from returning to their homes in Sinjar district, close to the Syrian border, where PKK elements now have a presence.
“The Turkish bombing causes so much terror, so Yazidis are not coming home,” Sinjar mayor Mahma Khalil told AFP.
– ‘Mistrust, irritation’ –
Despite public criticism, Turkey has continued its drone warfare — likely because of new strides against the PKK.
For years, the PKK sheltered in Iraq’s mountains, where manned warplanes and ground troops struggled to reach them.
But drones have allowed Ankara to track, identify and eliminate PKK targets within minutes, Nicholas Heras of the Institute for the Study of War told AFP.
“Turkey’s use of military drones in northern Iraq has been a game-changer in its war against the PKK,” he said.
Ankara is now swapping expensive fighter-bombers like the US F-16 for drones like the domestically-produced Bayraktar TB2, which has better surveillance, can fly for 24 hours and is cheaper — so “expendable” if downed by the PKK, said Turkish drone expert Sibel Duz.
In an exclusive interview in Qandil, PKK spokesman Zagros Hiwa told AFP Turkey had created a 15 kilometre (10 mile) buffer zone in northern Iraq with the help of its drones.
“Our forces have downed seven drones this year,” he said, declining to provide details of PKK losses.
The PKK has had limited success with improvised drones of its own, commercial models fitted with explosives.
A US source familiar with Turkey’s drones programme said US special operations forces in northern Iraq were bristling at the new “frequency and intensity” of strikes.
“The Turks are overflying US positions with armed assets, which is a no-no. There is general mistrust and irritation over all this,” the source said.
– ‘Shooting gallery’ –
Iran first began deploying aircraft fitted with cameras during its 1980-88 war with Iraq.
The newer Mohajer-6 and Shahed-129 are Tehran’s weapons of choice for northern Iraq, said Adam Rawnsley, who tracks Iranian drones for the Foreign Policy Research Institute.
“The way Iran is using drones against Kurdish targets in Iraq is 180 degrees different than how they use drones everywhere else. It’s much more sophisticated,” he said.
In a rare interview this spring, the head of Tehran’s drone division Colonel Akbar Karimloo told local media Iran uses the aircraft for both surveillance and attack, and to provide forward observation for artillery and missile launchers.
Earlier this month, Iran said it would “take coordinated steps” with Turkey to counter Kurdish rebel activity along its borders. It did not specifically mention drones.
Baghdad and Kurdish authorities have said little on the expanding drone campaigns, and Iraqi officials have told AFP privately they have no leverage over Turkey or Iran.
After a Turkish drone strike killed two top Iraqi officers in the north in August, Baghdad expressed outrage but did not pressure Ankara.
“The general problem Iraq has is that larger powers tend to use it as a shooting gallery,” Rawnsley told AFP.
Wim Zwijnenburg, who works on disarmament for Dutch peace organisation PAX, said avenues for recourse were limited.
“A lot of these strikes are in areas which are not very populated, so there’s little information from people or journalists on the ground,” he said.
Indeed, neither activists nor officials could provide a specific death toll from drone strikes in the north.
“That only adds to the obscurity of the drone campaigns,” Zwijnenburg told AFP.
Glassdoor launches employee reviews for diversity and inclusion practices at companies
Glassdoor is now letting employees write diversity and inclusion reviews for companies in a way to make employers more transparent. Employees will be able to rate and review companies on how they treat employees based on race, ethnicity, gender identity, sexual orientation, and other underrepresented groups.
In a poll, Mill Valley, California-based Glassdoor, which has ratings on more than a million companies, found that job seekers and employees trust the employees already working at a company when it comes to understanding the state of diversity and inclusion at a company. Glassdoor said that 76% of job seekers and employees today report that a diverse workforce is an important factor when evaluating companies and job offers. The company said these new features are part of its public commitment to leveraging its product and resources to help achieve equity in and out of the workplace.
The Glassdoor survey was conducted by The Harris Poll. It found that job seekers and employees report that disparities still exist within companies with respect to experiences with and perceptions of diversity, equity, and inclusion in the workplace. The company undertook the effort after this year’s racial unrest.
“In recent months, many of Glassdoor’s more than 50 million users have been telling us they want more insight into what the current state of diversity & inclusion is like at a company,” Scott Dobroski, spokesman for Glassdoor, wrote in an email. “Then, after the murder of George Floyd, we saw employee reviews talking about diversity, racial justice, and related topics rise by 63% on Glassdoor.”
Because of this, the company knew people wanted more data. “We believe we have a responsibility as a platform and as an employer to help drive equity in society, and we can help to create more equitable workplaces,” Dobroski said.
Job seekers and employees also say they want to work at companies that truly value diversity and inclusion as part of their culture. The survey shows that nearly half of Black (47%) and Latinx (49%) job seekers and employees have quit a job after witnessing or experiencing discrimination at work, significantly higher than white (38%) job seekers and employees.
In addition, 32% of job seekers and employees today say they would not apply to a job at a company where there is a lack of diversity among its workforce. This is significantly higher for Black job seekers and employees (41%) compared to white job seekers and employees (30%).
“Glassdoor publicly committed to leveraging its product, resources and platform to help drive societal change toward equality at scale,” Dobroski said.
Diversity & Inclusion rating
This rating is Glassdoor’s sixth and newest workplace factor that allows employees to rate how satisfied they are with diversity and inclusion at their current or former company, based on a five-point scale. The rating will appear alongside the five existing workplace factor ratings.
While the product was in stealth mode, employees across 12 companies started to rate their satisfaction with their company’s Diversity & Inclusion (D&I). So far, Salesforce has the highest D&I rating among this group according to its employees, with a 4.6 rating. Other companies currently rated in terms of their employee satisfaction with D&I include: Google: 4.4, Accenture: 4.2, Amazon: 4.1, Apple: 4.0, Deloitte: 4.0, Facebook: 4.2, McDonald’s: 3.7, Starbucks: 4.1, Target: 4.1, Uber: 3.6, and Walmart: 3.7.
More than 4,000 employees have rated their companies so far.
Glassdoor now enables U.S.-based employees and job seekers to voluntarily and anonymously share their demographic information to help others determine whether a company is actually delivering on its diversity and inclusion commitments.
Glassdoor users can now also provide information regarding their race and ethnicity, gender identity, sexual orientation, disability status, parental status, and more, all of which can be shared anonymously through their Glassdoor user profile.
Glassdoor will soon display company ratings, workplace factor ratings, salary reports and more, broken out by specific groups at specific companies. This information will equip employers with further data and insights to create and sustain more equitable workplaces. Sharing demographic information with Glassdoor will be optional and displayed anonymously.
Diversity FAQ across companies
Glassdoor is also debuting a new Company FAQ resource, offering a list of the most popular questions job seekers ask about companies, including a section dedicated to diversity and inclusion. Responses to the FAQs are taken from the employee reviews appearing on Glassdoor. The tool provides easier access to relevant reviews about D&I at specific companies.
According to the Glassdoor survey, 63% of job seekers and employees say their employer should be doing more to increase the diversity of its workforce. But significantly more Black and Latinx job seekers and employees feel this way (71% and 72% respectively) than white job seekers and employees (58%).
Clare Bronfman sentenced to more than six years in prison for role in Nxivm ‘sex cult’
A British-educated aspiring Olympic show jumper has been sentenced to more than six years in prison for her role in the Nxivm “sex cult”.
Clare Bronfman, 41-year-old heiress to the Seagrams liquor fortune, was the first person to be sentenced in the case.
She wept as she pleaded guilty in April 2019 to charges of conspiracy to conceal and harbour an illegal alien for financial gain, and fraudulent use of identification.
Bronfman, whose fortune is estimated at $210 million (£163m), faced 30 months behind bars under federal sentencing guidelines, but Judge Nicholas Garaufis sentenced her to 81 months.
Four others, including the convicted “cult” leader Keith Raniere and former Smallville TV actress Allison Mack, who pleaded guilty to racketeering and conspiracy charges, are still awaiting their fates.
On Wednesday the court in Brooklyn heard from nine women who were victims of the cult, which Raniere described as a self-help group, but which saw women forced to starve themselves, have sex with him and brand his initials on their hip. Bronfman financed the cult and recruited new members.
The survivors described her in court as a “dangerous megalomaniac” and “predator”.
“Did you ever consider they wanted your money? What would happen if you just stopped giving your money?” asked Susan Dones, who fled the upstate New York group.
“In my opinion, you’re a predator. Let that sink in.”
Kristin Keeffe, who worked with Bronfman for 11 years as a paralegal, also spoke, recalling how her one-time boss helped Raniere dodge child support payments for the son they share.
“I saw Clare mentally descend over several years into a dangerous megalomaniac,” said Keeffe, who fled with her son, Gaelyn, now 13, in 2014.
Raniere’s ex-girlfriend, Barbara Boucher, told Bronfman she had been duped by Raniere.
“Clare, do you realise they lied to you? You thought you were in the inner circle. You were six layers out,” she said.
“He used you. He pawned you. He made you feel special.”
Bronfman was first introduced to Nxivm, which sells itself as a self-help and empowerment group, through her sister, Sara.
The sisters even managed to convince their father Edgar to join, and he initially praised the group. He rapidly grew disillusioned, however – reportedly when he learnt that Bronfman had lent the organisation $2 million.
In 2003 he told Forbes magazine that the organisation was “a cult” and he wished his daughters had never got involved.
“I think it’s a cult,” he said, adding that he was troubled about the “emotional and financial” investment in Nxivm by his daughters, to whom he hadn’t spoken in months.
Bronfman rose through the ranks, and in the summer of 2010 organised a seven-day celebration of Raniere’s 50th birthday. The retreat, held in upstate New York, cost up to $2,120 and was billed as “the prototype and blueprint for a new era of civilised humanity.”
Bronfman, the event coordinator, wrote that “the very purpose of VWeek is to get the chance to experience a civilized world… [and] craft for ourselves a more fulfilling, purposeful life.”
In November of the same year, Vanity Fair reported that as much as $150 million was taken out of the Bronfmans’ trusts and bank accounts and handed over to Nxivm.
The sums included $66 million allegedly used to cover Raniere’s failed bets in the commodities market, $30 million to buy property in Los Angeles and around Albany, $11 million for a 22-seat private plane, and millions more to support a barrage of lawsuits across the country against Nxivm’s enemies.
Bronfman’s father died in December 2013, aged 84.
Her British mother Georgiana had divorced their father in 1983, and is now married to actor Nigel Havers.
On August 28 Bronfman wrote to the judge, and refused to disavow Raniere.
“Many people, including most of my own family, believe I should disavow Keith and Nxivm, and that I have not is hard for them to understand or accept,” Bronfman wrote.
“Nxivm and Keith greatly changed my life for the better. Most of my teenage years and early 20s, I was ashamed of who I was, constantly focused on my shortcomings and ridden with self-hate.
“Nxivm changed that. I learned a sense of who I am beyond my faults and the tools of how to transform things I didn’t like about myself into traits and behaviors I do. I started to embrace myself and turn outwardly to care for and help others.”
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