Lawmakers Propose to Extend Putin's Term Limits As President

Russian President Vladimir Putin at a press conference on Friday in Sochi. He has served twice served two consecutive terms as president.

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Lawmakers in Chechnya submitted a proposal on Friday that would allow Russian President Vladimir Putin to run for office in 2024, giving him another six years at Russia’s helm.

A president cannot be elected to more than two consecutive terms, according to the country’s constitution. The proposed amendment would allow for a third consecutive term.

The measure, posted online and addressed to State Duma Chairman Vyacheslav Viktorovich, a former Putin aide, said that a “complex external political situation” makes it important to have “continuity of state power.”

The proposal doesn’t come as a surprise to Alina Polyakova, a Russian foreign policy expert at The Brookings Institution. “Whether he is prime minister of agriculture, he will still run the government from the shadows,” she told NPR. “The surprise is not whether Putin will try to stay, the surprise will be in how the Kremlin will do it.”

Putin was first elected president in 2000. After serving two terms, he switched positions with Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev, who signed into law a measure extending presidential term limits from four to six years. Then Putin successfully ran for president again in 2012 and earlier this year.

After his recent and assured victory, both analysts and admirers described Putin as a vozhd, a term for a political leader that Joseph Stalin embraced.

“I had an opportunity, I was even asked to change the constitution at one time,” Putin told NBC last year. “I did not do it, and I don’t intend to do it in the future.”

The Kremlin said last week that Putin was not planning to change to constitution after Chechen legislators suggested it, Radio Liberty reported.

Because the next presidential election is six years away and Putin’s current term has just begun, analysts cast doubt on whether the Kremlin would consider the proposal right now.

Polyakova thinks it is inevitable that he will want to stay in power, if for no other reason than self-protection.

“He has made a lot of enemies. For him to leave, he would need the kind of protection and security that he gave to [former President Boris] Yeltsin in 1999. He protected his entire so-called family from prosecution and from being killed,” said Polyakova. “Putin has been in power much longer and he’s stolen a lot more money, so he’s in a much more vulnerable position. If he leaves power then that’s almost a death sentence.”

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Surprise! Trump Nominates Acting VA Secretary Robert Wilkie To Fill Role Permanently

Acting Secretary of Veterans Affairs Robert Wilkie, left, is seen as President Trump announces his intention to nominate Wilkie to be the next Veterans Affairs Secretary during a summit at the East Room of the White House on Friday.

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Updated at 9:58 p.m. ET

The pick wasn’t surprising, but the announcement was – President Trump will nominate Robert Wilkie, the acting secretary of Veterans Affairs, to become the department’s new secretary.

Trump was speaking at a meeting on prison reform at the White House when he veered off topic to introduce Wilkie to the room. Trump praised the job Wilkie has been doing since he stepped in at the VA from the Department of Defense in March, and then gave everyone a surprise, including Wilkie.

President Trump on Robert Wilkie: “We’re going to be putting his name up for nomination to be Secretary of the Veterans Administration.” pic.twitter.com/uXs4loUbpP

— CSPAN (@cspan) May 18, 2018

“Acting secretary Wilkie, who by the way has done an incredible job, and by the way I’ll be informing him in a little while – he doesn’t know this yet — that we’ll be putting his name up for nomination,” the president said at the event.

The announcement was met with applause and appeared to be wholly unplanned. Wilkie, who still holds his job as undersecretary of defense for personnel and readiness, showed no signs of having been warned, a reaction that seemed to please Trump.

“I’m sorry I ruined the surprise,” the president said to laughter.

Wilkie has been serving as interim leader of the department since Trump fired David Shulkin, the previous head of the VA.

Veterans are hoping that is the only surprise twist in what appears to be a safe pick.

“The VA has been without Senate-confirmed secretary for 51 days and we urge the Senate to schedule a confirmation hearing quickly,” Denise Rohan, National Commander of the American Legion, said in a statement welcoming the news. “The department deserves strong, competent leadership at every level to ensure our veterans receive the benefits they so richly deserve for their selfless service to our great nation.”

Wilkie’s proposed appointment comes after workplace conduct issues imploded the nomination of Rear Adm. Ronny Jackson, whom Trump had selected to fill the void after he fired Shulkin over Twitter.

I am pleased to announce that I intend to nominate highly respected Admiral Ronny L. Jackson, MD, as the new Secretary of Veterans Affairs….

— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) March 28, 2018

Jackson was almost immediately confronted with strong opposition by leading lawmakers and veterans groups who were critical of the White House doctor’s lack of experience in running a large organization. But allegations that Jackson had recklessly doled out “a large supply” of opioid medications fostered a hostile work environment eventually moved the doctor to withdraw from the process.

When that nomination sank, veterans organizations feared the VA could be rudderless for a long time.

But Robert Wilkie, who still holds his job as undersecretary of Defense for Personnel and Readiness, has been acting like more than an acting VA secretary. He’s helping shepherd a major piece of VA reform legislation through Congress and signed a $10 billion contract to reboot the VA’s electronic health system just the night before he was nominated by the president.

Wilkie has been running a large government bureaucracy within the Pentagon, and he already breezed through a Senate confirmation to that post.

He’s 55, has served in both the Navy and the Air Force reserves, and worked for several Republican administrations and lawmakers. While he’s known within the federal government, he’s a relative unknown in the veterans’ community, which has seen 10 secretaries or acting secretaries for VA in the 17 years of war since Sept. 11.

“Our members have been really clear about what they need from the next leader of VA — a committed focused person who’s going to put veterans above politics,” said Paul Reicoff, CEO of Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America.

But political intrigue continues at the VA. Former Secretary Shulkin was fired after rivals in the Trump administration openly plotted his downfall, and since then many senior VA officials have left, complaining of a politicized atmosphere at VA, with a focus on loyalty to President Trump. Shulkin claimed he was pushed out because he resisted moves to push VA toward privatization, which veterans vigourously oppose. Democrats in the senate have promised to make it a litmus test for their support

“I’ve been very clear with President Trump about my expectations for the next VA secretary, not the least of which is an unequivocal opposition to privatizing or in any way degrading the VA system,” said Sen. Patty Murray (D-WA), a senior member of the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee in a statement. “I look forward to reviewing Mr. Wilkie’s record and hearing more about his values and his vision for the position in order to determine whether he is up to the task.”

While the VA has always relied on some help from private doctors, there are concerns that spending on the more expensive private care could put the department into a death-spiral, where it starves its own health budget, resulting in worse care at VA facilities, and leading to more private care spending. Currently the VA is rated to deliver as good or better quality care than the private sector in most states.

Wilkie, if confirmed, will guide the VA through this question. This month Congress is expected to send the president a bill to revamp the way the department pays for private care.

It has overwhelming support from veterans organizations, but even some of them are deeply concerned that it could be implemented in a way that puts VA on a path to privatization.

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Surprise! Trump Nominates Acting VA Secretary Robert Wilkie To Fill Role Permanently

Acting Secretary of Veterans Affairs Robert Wilkie, left, is seen as President Trump announces his intention to nominate Wilkie to be the next Veterans Affairs Secretary during a summit at the East Room of the White House on Friday.

Alex Wong/Getty Images


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Alex Wong/Getty Images

The pick wasn’t surprising, but the announcement was – President Trump will nominate Robert Wilkie, the acting secretary of Veterans Affairs, to become the department’s new secretary.

Trump was speaking at a meeting on prison reform when he introduced Wilkie to the room, praised the job he’s been doing at the VA, and then gave everyone a surprise, including Wilkie.

“Acting secretary Wilkie, who by the way has done an incredible job, and by the way I’ll be informing him in a little while – he doesn’t know this yet — that we’ll be putting his name up for nomination,” Trump said.

Veterans are hoping that is the only surprise twist in what appears to be a safe pick.

“The VA has been without Senate-confirmed secretary for 51 days and we urge the Senate to schedule a confirmation hearing quickly,” Denise Rohan, National Commander of the American Legion, said in a statement welcoming the news. “The department deserves strong, competent leadership at every level to ensure our veterans receive the benefits they so richly deserve for their selfless service to our great nation.”

Trump fired his first VA secretary, David Shulkin, by tweet in March, after weeks of uncertainty.

He then nominated his White House physician, Rear Adm. Ronny Jackson, to the post. Critics say it was ill-advised, since Jackson had never run a large organization. Some basic vetting soon uncovered numerous allegations of misconduct. When that nomination sank, veterans organizations feared the VA could be rudderless for a long time.

But Robert Wilkie, who still holds his job as undersecretary of Defense for Personnel and Readiness, has been acting like more than an acting VA secretary. He’s helping shepherd a major piece of VA reform legislation through Congress and signed a $10 billion contract to reboot the VA’s electronic health system just the night before he was nominated by the president.

Wilkie has been running a large government bureaucracy within the Pentagon, and he already breezed through a Senate confirmation to that post.

He’s 55, has served in both the Navy and the Air Force reserves, and worked for several Republican administrations and lawmakers. While he’s known within the federal government, he’s a relative unknown in the veterans’ community, which has seen 10 secretaries or acting secretaries for VA in the 17 years of war since Sept. 11.

“Our members have been really clear about what they need from the next leader of VA — a committed focus person who’s going to put veterans above politics,” said Paul Reicoff, CEO of Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America.

But political intrigue continues at the VA. Former Secretary Shulkin was fired after rivals in the Trump administration openly plotted his downfall, and since then many senior VA officials have left, complaining of a politicized atmosphere at VA, with a focus on loyalty to President Trump. Shulkin claimed he was pushed out because he resisted moves to push VA toward privatization, which veterans overwhelmingly oppose. Democrats in the senate have promised to make it a litmus test for their support

“I’ve been very clear with President Trump about my expectations for the next VA secretary, not the least of which is an unequivocal opposition to privatizing or in any way degrading the VA system,” said Sen. Patty Murray (D-WA), a senior member of the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee. “I look forward to reviewing Mr. Wilkie’s record and hearing more about his values and his vision for the position in order to determine whether he is up to the task.”

While the VA has always relied on some help from private doctors, there are concerns that spending on the more expensive private care could put the department into a death-spiral, where it starves its own health budget, resulting in worse care at VA facilities, and leading to more private care spending. Currently the VA is rated to deliver as good or better quality care than the private sector in most states.

Wilkie, if confirmed, will guide the VA through this question. This month Congress is expected to send the president a bill to revamp the way the department pays for private care.

It has overwhelming support from veterans organizations, but even some of them are deeply concerned that it could be implemented in a way that puts VA on a path to privatization.

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What Does Trump's Proposal To Cut Planned Parenthood Funds Mean?

Planned Parenthood’s affiliated clinics, like this one in Chicago, provide wellness exams and comprehensive contraceptive services, as well as screenings for cancer and sexually transmitted diseases for both women and men.

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The planned revival of a policy dating to Ronald Reagan’s presidency that was slightly retooled and quietly submitted for federal budget review Friday may finally present a way for President Donald Trump to fulfill his campaign promise to “defund” Planned Parenthood.

Or at least to evict it from the federal family planning program, where it provides care to more than 40 percent of that program’s 4 million patients.

Congress last year failed to wipe out funding for Planned Parenthood, because the bill faced overwhelming Democratic objections and would not have received the 60 votes needed to pass in the Senate. But Trump’s move Friday could potentially accomplish what Congress could not.

According to administration officials, the proposed rules they’ve submitted to the Office of Management and Budget would require facilities receiving federal family planning funds to be physically separate from those that perform abortion; would eliminate the requirement that women with unintended pregnancies be counseled on their full range of reproductive options; and would ban abortion referrals.

All those changes would particularly affect Planned Parenthood.

Planned Parenthood, which provides a broad array of reproductive health services to women and men, also provides abortion services using nonfederal funds. Cutting off funding has been the top priority for anti-abortion rights groups, which supported candidate Trump.

“A win like this would immediately disentangle taxpayers from the abortion business and energize the grassroots as we head into the critical midterm elections,” Marjorie Dannenfelser, president of the Susan B. Anthony List, a group that opposes abortion, said in a written statement.

In a conference call with reporters, Planned Parenthood officials said they would fight the new rules.

“We’ve been very clear, Planned Parenthood has an unwavering commitment to ensuring everyone has access to the full range of reproductive health care, and that includes abortion,” said Dawn Laguens, executive vice president of the Planned Parenthood Federation of America.

Here is a guide to what the proposal could do and what it could mean for Planned Parenthood and the family planning program:

What is Title X?

The federal family planning program, known as “Title Ten,” is named for its section in the federal Public Health Service Act. It became law in 1970, three years before the Supreme Court legalized abortion in Roe v. Wade. The original bill was sponsored by then Rep. George H.W. Bush, R-Texas, and signed into law by President Richard Nixon.

The program provides wellness exams and comprehensive contraceptive services, as well as screenings for cancer and sexually transmitted diseases for both women and men.

In 2016, the most recent year for which statistics have been published, Title X served 4 million patients at just under 4,000 sites.

Title X patients are overwhelmingly young, female and low-income. An estimated 11 percent of Title X patients in 2016 were male; two-thirds of patients were under age 30; and nearly two-thirds had income below the federal poverty line.

What is Planned Parenthood’s relationship to Title X and Medicaid?

Planned Parenthood’s affiliates account for about 13 percent of all Title X sites but serve an estimated 40 percent of its patients. Only about half of Planned Parenthood affiliates perform abortions, although the organization in its entirety is the nation’s leading abortion provider.

Planned Parenthood also gets much more federal funding for services provided to patients on the Medicaid program (although not for abortion) than it does through Title X. Eliminating Medicaid funding for Planned Parenthood has proved more difficult for lawmakers opposed to the organization because the federal Medicaid law includes the right for patients to select their providers. Changing that also would require a 60-vote majority in the Senate. So that particular line of funding likely not at risk.

While opponents of federal funding for Planned Parenthood have said that other safety-net clinics could make up the difference if Planned Parenthood no longer participates in Title X, several studies have suggested that in many remote areas Planned Parenthood is the only provider of family planning services and the only provider that regularly stocks all methods of birth control.

Texas, Iowa and Missouri in recent years have stopped offering family planning services through a special Medicaid program to keep from funding Planned Parenthood. Texas is seeking a waiver from the Trump administration so that its program banning abortion providers could still receive federal funding. No decision has been made yet, federal officials say.

Why is Planned Parenthood’s involvement with Title X controversial?

Even though Planned Parenthood cannot use federal funding for abortions, opponents of abortion rights claim that federal funding is “fungible” and there is no way to ensure that some of the funding provided for other services does not cross-subsidize abortion services.

Planned Parenthood has also been a longtime public target for forces that oppose abortion rights because it is such a visible provider and vocal proponent of legal abortion services. In the early 1980s, the Reagan administration tried to separate the program from its federal funding by requiring parental permission for teens to obtain birth control.

That was followed by efforts to eliminate abortion counseling. Starting in 2011, in an effort to get the organization defunded, undercover groups accused the organization of ignoring sex traffickers and selling fetal body parts. Planned Parenthood denies the allegations.

What happened the last time an administration tried to move Planned Parenthood out of Title X?

In 1987, the Reagan administration proposed what came to be known as the “gag rule.” Though the Trump administration’s new proposal is not yet public, because the details are still under review by the OMB, the White House released a summary, saying the new rule will be similar although not identical to the Reagan-era proposal.

The original gag rule would have forbidden Title X providers from abortion counseling and from referring patients for abortions. It would have required physical separation of Title X facilities from those that provide abortions and would have forbidden recipients from using nonfederal funds for lobbying, distributing information or in any way advocating or encouraging abortion. (The Planned Parenthood Federation of America, the umbrella group for local affiliates, has a separate political and advocacy arm, the Planned Parenthood Action Fund.)

Those rules were the subject of heated congressional debate through most of the George H.W. Bush administration and were upheld in a 5-4 Supreme Court ruling in 1991, Rust v. Sullivan. Even then, the gag rule did not go into effect because subsequent efforts to relax the rules somewhat to allow doctors (but not other health professionals) to counsel people about the availability of abortion created another round of legal fights.

Eventually the rule was in effect for only about a month before it was again blocked by a U.S. appeals court. President Bill Clinton canceled the rules by executive order on his second day in office, and no other president has tried to revive them until now.

How is the Trump Administration’s proposal different from earlier rules?

According to the summary of the new proposal, released Friday, it will require physical separation of family planning facilities from those that provide abortions, will repeal current counseling requirements, and will ban abortion referrals.

One of the biggest differences, however, is that the new rules will not explicitly forbid abortion counseling by Title X providers.

But Planned Parenthood officials say that allowing counseling while banning referrals is a distinction without a difference.

“Blocking doctors from telling a patient where they can get safe and legal care in this country is the definition of a gag rule,” said Kashif Syed, a senior policy analyst for Planned Parenthood.

What happens next?

All proposed rules are reviewed by the federal Office of Management and Budget. Sometimes they emerge and are published in a few days; sometimes they are rewritten, and it takes months.

Meanwhile, Planned Parenthood officials say they will not know if they will take legal action until they see the final language of the rule. But they say they do plan to use the regulatory process to fight the proposed changes that have been made public so far.

Kaiser Health News is a nonprofit news service, and an editorially independent program of the Kaiser Family Foundation that is not affiliated with Kaiser Permanente. KHN’s coverage of women’s health care issues is supported in part by The David and Lucile Packard Foundation.

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Radio Replay: This Is Your Brain On Ads

Boy drinking milk from bowl

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After you read this sentence, pause for a moment to think back on advertisements you first heard when you were a child.

Perhaps you recall a favorite jingle or the catchphrase of a cereal mascot. You probably can remember more than just one.

On this week’s radio replay, we look at the shelf life of commercials. According to University of Arizona researcher Merrie Brucks, an ad we watched when we were five years old can influence our buying behavior when we’re fifty.

“Children are vulnerable to messages that are fun and sound good. Because their minds are so open to all of that. They’re open to everything,” Merrie says.

We discuss Brucks’ research about cereal commercials in the first portion of the show. Later in the program, we delve into the history of the advertising industry with Tim Wu, author of The Attention Merchants. In his book, Wu reveals the techniques media companies have developed to hijack our attention.

“You go to your computer and you have the idea you’re going to write just one email. You sit down and suddenly an hour goes by. Maybe two hours. And you don’t know what happened,” Tim says.

“This sort of surrender of control over our lives speaks deeply to the challenge of freedom and what it means to be autonomous.”

Hidden Brain is hosted by Shankar Vedantam and produced by Parth Shah, Jennifer Schmidt, Rhaina Cohen, Thomas Lu, and Laura Kwerel. Our supervising producer is Tara Boyle. You can also follow us on Twitter @hiddenbrain.

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Royal Wedding Reflects A Changing Britain

People gather outside the Prince Harry pub in Windsor, England.

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When millions of people tune in Saturday morning for the British royal wedding, there will be talk of fairy tales and plenty of cinematic shots of Prince Harry and his bride, Meghan Markle, riding in a horse-drawn carriage past thousands of cheering fans with the turrets of Windsor Castle in the background.

But beyond the pageantry and royal stagecraft at which the British excel, there is a genuine story about a changing Britain, a complicated American family, a resilient monarchy and the redemption of a wayward prince.

What makes this wedding interesting is not Prince Harry’s position. He is sixth in line to the throne and extremely unlikely ever to sit upon it. Instead, much of the focus has been on his unconventional choice in a bride: a biracial, divorced American TV actress. For years, Harry dated from the usual pool of upper-class women.

“These girls were always the same,” said Kate Williams, a professor of history at Reading University. “They were always British. They were nearly always aristocratic, had a castle or two. They all were blonde party girls.”

Markle, on the other hand, grew up in Los Angeles, raised by an African-American mother who teaches yoga and is a social worker. That background, so different from the royals, has resonated in parts of London such as Peckham, a mixed-income area south of the Thames River with a big Afro-Caribbean population.

Alison Noel flew in to London from Los Angeles and is spending Friday night sleeping in a lawn chair to catch a glimpse Saturday of Meghan Markle, whom she calls her “L.A. Princess.”

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Frank Langfitt/ NPR

Earlier this week, Emma Jones, 40, a civil servant whose father emigrated to the U.K. from Trinidad, sat in a salon having her hair done and talked about what it meant to have the royals welcome someone of black heritage into the family.

“If you look at royal history and you look at how things are changing in terms of diversity, the fact that Meghan Markle is going to be married to one of the princes … that’s massive!” said Jones. “At the end of the day, I think it’s important for me as a woman of color to be able to identify with the leadership in this country.”

Barber Mike Oke in Peckham, London, is a huge fan of Prince Harry, who’s widely regarded as the most approachable of the royals.

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Royal watchers say that by accepting a self-made woman of color into the family, the Windsors will seem a little more open and a bit more in touch with some of the shifts in the United Kingdom, particularly multicultural London, where more than one-third of the population is foreign-born and 41 percent are black or other minorities.

Robert Lacey, a historian who wrote the official companion book to The Crown, the hit Netflix series, says that even as the royals sit atop Britain’s social hierarchy, they can’t afford to be completely divorced from the trends and changes rippling through society here.

Joseph Afrane, originally from Ghana, is a royal “super-fan” and stakes out a spot on the Long Walk that leads up to Windsor Castle.

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“From the point of view of the royal family, it absolutely is the guarantor or perhaps the talisman of their survival,” said Lacey. “They have a constant struggle, the British royal family, for all their popularity, to demonstrate their relevance.”

The family has not always been popular and their problems have gone beyond the usual complaints about how much they cost and how much of anachronism monarchy seems in this day and age.

In the 1990s, Queen Elizabeth’s image suffered after three of her four children, including Prince Charles, went through divorces. The divorce between Prince Charles and Princess Diana involved infidelity on both sides and became routine tabloid fodder.

Royal super-fan John Loughrey, 63, poses in front of a statue of Queen Victoria with Windsor Castle behind.

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Following the death of Princess Diana in a car crash in Paris in 1997, the queen came under even harsher criticism, when she took days to come to London to mourn the death of a woman who had resonated deeply with many ordinary Britons.

Over the years, the royals have managed a comeback. The queen, now 92 and Britain’s longest-serving monarch, has earned respect not only for her longevity, but also for her work ethic and steadfastness. When more than 70 people died in the Grenfell Tower apartment fire last year, the queen visited a center caring for victims, offered words of comfort and appeared on the verge of tears. The display was in marked contrast to Prime Minister Theresa May, who declined to meet victims before the cameras in apparent fear of their wrath.

Another reason the royals’ image has improved is the queen’s grandchildren, who are broadly popular and have put a fresh face on the monarchy. Prince Harry, in particular, has come a long way and many Britons feel as though they’ve watched him grow up. The image of the young prince walking behind his mother’s casket through the streets of London is seared into the memories of most people here.

As a young man, though, Harry became a party boy, sometimes embarrassing his family. He was photographed in 2005 wearing a Nazi uniform at a costume party and, several years later, was photographed naked in Las Vegas during a game of strip pool.

But by all accounts, Harry, now 33, has matured. He served in the British army in Afghanistan, rising to the rank of captain, and began promoting a most un-royal cause: mental health. He came clean about his own suffering in a podcast last year for London’s Telegraph newspaper.

“I can safely say that losing my mum at the age of 12 and therefore shutting down all of my emotions for the last 20 years has had a quite serious effect,” he said. “All of a sudden, all of this grief that I’d never processed started to come to the forefront and I was like, ‘there is actually a lot of stuff here that I need to deal with.'”

The weeks leading up to Saturday’s wedding have been marked by drama in the Markle family. Her estranged half-brother wrote an open letter to Prince Harry telling him not to marry her. Her father Thomas Markle has decided not to come because of health problems and, according to TMZ, “because he doesn’t want to embarrass the royal family or his daughter.”

There had been some speculation that Markle’s mother Doria Ragland would walk her down the aisle in St. George’s Chapel. Instead, Prince Charles, Harry’s father and the future king of England, will do the honors.

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Time Bandits

15 Billion

Time theft happens when companies get employees to work hours for which they are not paid. A new study from the University of Oregon says it’s happening more and more and workers are losing billions of dollars in wages every year.

This often happens through mandated breaks that workers can’t actually take or through timekeeping software that rounds to the nearest quarter hour.

Music: “Shifty Looking Characters

Theme Music by Drop Electric.

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Arizona Brothers Charged With Scamming Conservative Political Donors

Federal prosecutors with the Department of Justice have charged William and Robert Tierney with pilfering nearly $4 million from conservative political donors by setting up sham political action committees.

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Federal prosecutors have gone where the Federal Election Commission can’t find its way, charging two Arizona brothers with using bogus political action committees to scam gullible small-donor donors.

A criminal complaint alleges that William and Robert Tierney raised more than $23 million between 2014 and 2017. It says William Tierney’s share was more than $3 million; Robert Tierney’s was more than $600,000; the candidates they claimed to be supporting got about $109,000.

The brothers allegedly paid an unnamed co-conspirator more than $250,000, with the rest going for fundraising expenses and other overhead.

FBI Assistant Director William Sweeney Jr. called the Tierneys’ network of PACs “nothing more than a front for an extensive personal fundraising campaign.” He said it was “lacking in ethical oversight and laden with greed.”

The Tierneys were charged by federal prosecutors from the Southern District of New York, and were arraigned Thursday at federal district court in Phoenix. Lawyers for the brothers didn’t respond to NPR’s requests for comment.

The Tierneys’ PACs solicited loyal conservatives who made contributions of $200 or less. Small donors’ names aren’t made public in campaign finance reports.

The PACs cited in the case against the Tierneys were apparently named by plucking from the salad bowl of conservative buzzwords: Grassroots Awareness PAC, Americans for Law Enforcement PAC, National Campaign PAC, Protect Our Future PAC, Voter Education PAC and Action Coalition PAC.

The complaint says the Tierneys managed three others: Life and Liberty PAC, Republican Majority Campaign PAC and RightMarch.com PAC.

The PACs claimed to be raising money for causes such as autism awareness, a law enforcement coalition, a pro-life committee, a Republican Victory Committee, and a campaign to stop illegal immigration.

Scam PACs have long been identified as a problem in the loosely regulated world of independent political money. Two journalists, Casey Tolan and Paul Jossey, separately investigated the network in 2016 and 2017 and published articles.

The Federal Election Commission has found itself unable to shut down scam PACs. Five years ago it took up complaints against five alleged scam PACs, and wound up finding no “reason to believe” wrongdoing had occurred.

In 2015, Virginia conservative politician Ken Cuccinelli sued a PAC for allegedly using his name to raise money. The case ended with a negotiated settlement.

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Episode 842: Showdown at the WTO

The World Trade Organization (WTO)

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Twenty three years ago, the United States and just about every country in the world decided that they were going to create a common set of rules about trade. Rule one: If anyone broke these rules, everyone would immediately report to a lake in Switzerland—home of the World Trade Organization.

Today on the show, we ask the big questions: Should the WTO be able to veto a decision made by the elected representatives of the American people? Does it have enough power to stop a trade war? And the biggest question of all… Is mint even a flavor?

Music: “Limbo Central” “Morning Eyes” “Apple Odding in Oman

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