UK’s May battles to save her Brexit deal and her job
By JILL LAWLESS, RAPHAEL SATTER and RAF CASERT
Thursday, November 15
LONDON (AP) — British Prime Minister Theresa May was battling Thursday to save both her Brexit deal and her job, as ministers quit her government and a growing list of lawmakers demanded her ouster over the divorce agreement struck between Britain and the European Union.
Less than a day after May won her Cabinet’s grudging backing for the deal, two Cabinet ministers and a handful of junior government members resigned, and a leading pro-Brexit lawmaker from May’s Conservative Party called for a no-confidence vote in the prime minister.
The hard-won agreement has infuriated pro-Brexit members of her divided party. They say the agreement, which calls for close trade ties between the U.K. and the bloc, would leave Britain a vassal state, bound to European Union rules it has no say in making.
A defiant May insisted that Brexit meant making “the right choices, not the easy ones” and urged lawmakers to support the deal “in the national interest.” She said the deal was best for business as it would help maintain easy trade with Europe and would reduce uncertainty.
But she has been weakened by the resignation of two senior Cabinet ministers, including Brexit Secretary Dominic Raab. Hours after he sat in the meeting that approved the deal, Raab said he “cannot in good conscience” support it.
Work and Pensions Secretary Esther McVey followed Raab out the door. She said in a letter that it is “no good trying to pretend to (voters) that this deal honors the result of the referendum when it is obvious to everyone that it doesn’t.”
In another blow to May, leading pro-Brexit lawmaker Jacob Rees-Mogg called for a vote of no-confidence in May, saying the Brexit deal was “worse than anticipated.”
Standing outside Parliament Rees-Mogg said the deal agreed “is not Brexit” because it would keep Britain in a customs union with the EU, potentially for an indefinite period.
Under Conservative rules, a confidence vote in the leader is triggered if 15 percent of Conservative lawmakers — currently 48 — write a letter to the party’s 1922 Committee of backbenchers, which oversees leadership votes.
Only committee chairman Graham Brady knows for sure how many missives have been sent, but Rees-Mogg’s letter is likely to spur others to do the same.
Rees-Mogg denied he was calling for a party coup.
“A coup is when you use illegitimate processes,” he said. “This is working through the procedures of the Conservative Party.”
He called for May to be replaced by a more firmly pro-Brexit politician, naming ex-Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson, former Brexit Secretary David Davis and Raab as potential successors.
If a confidence vote is held and May loses, it would trigger a party leadership contest in which any Conservative lawmaker can run. The winner would become prime minister without the need for a national election.
The turmoil prompted a big fall in the value of the pound, which was trading 1.5 percent lower at $1.2797 as investors fretted that Britain could potentially crash out of the EU next March, a development that could see tariffs placed on British exports, border checks reinstalled, and restrictions imposed travelers and workers — a potentially toxic combination for businesses.
A growing worry as Brexit day approaches is that companies will enact contingency plans that could include cutting jobs, stockpiling goods, and relocating production overseas.
May and her supporters say the alternatives to her deal — leaving the trading bloc without a deal or a second vote on Brexit — are not realistic options.
“The choice is clear,” May told lawmakers. “We can choose to leave with no deal. We can risk no Brexit at all. Or we can choose to unite and support the best deal that can be negotiated — this deal.”
News that a deal had been struck after a year and a half of negotiations was welcomed in Brussels and EU chief Donald Tusk called for a summit of leaders on Nov. 25 so they can rubber-stamp the agreement.
Tusk said it was “not for me to comment on the latest developments in London.”
“All I can say is that the EU is prepared for a final deal with the U.K. in November,” he said. “We are also prepared for a no deal scenario but of course we are best prepared for a no-Brexit scenario.”
The deal needs approval from Britain’s Parliament before the U.K. leaves the bloc on March 29 — and even if May survives as leader, the chances of that appear to be shrinking.
Her Conservative government doesn’t have enough lawmakers of its own to get a majority, and relies on the support of the Democratic Unionist Party from Northern Ireland, which says it will not back the deal.
The DUP leader in Parliament, Nigel Dodds, said the “choice” was clear.
“We stand up for the United Kingdom, the whole of the United Kingdom, the integrity of the United Kingdom, or we vote for a vassal state with the breakup of the United Kingdom, that is the choice.”
Opposition parties also signaled they would vote against the agreement.
Main opposition Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn said May should withdraw the “half-baked” Brexit deal and that Parliament “cannot and will not accept a false choice between this deal and no deal.”
Ian Blackford, who heads the Scottish National Party in Parliament, said the deal was “dead on arrival” and urged May to “stop the clock and go back to Brussels.”
An EU official cautioned that Britain was unlikely to get a better deal. Speaking on condition of anonymity because the process is still ongoing, the official said both sides “exhausted our margin of maneuver under our respective mandates.”
The deal requires the consent of the European Parliament as well. Its chief Brexit official, Guy Verhofstadt, welcomed the draft deal as “the best agreement we could obtain.” Verhofstadt predicted the EU Parliament could approve the deal at the start of next year, well in time for Brexit day.
Casert contributed from Brussels.
Opinion: Trust the Pros to Do Right by Their Local Communities
By Mario H. Lopez
One of the most important issues that will face the new Congress is how to deal with the billions of dollars of infrastructure investment our country needs to bring aging water and sewer systems into the modern age. The president has periodically mentioned the necessity of rebuilding the country’s infrastructure, and, notably, some Democrats have indicated that this is an area where a deal could be possible.
In fact, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has said that infrastructure is an issue on which there is agreement between he and likely incoming House Speaker Nancy Pelosi. This could be one of the few areas where Congress can make progress next session.
Too often, though, conversations on this type of infrastructure projects ignore the unique needs of underserved communities that tend not to have large tax bases to fund improvements. Those areas are more at-risk of having inferior pipes used, which can lead to contamination issues or broken pipes that are costly to repair.
That’s why it’s so important to trust the professionals who have specific knowledge and experience in their field and who are best positioned to understand their communities’ unique needs.
Unfortunately, in this era of special interests, one of the first things to hit the recycle bin is professional judgment. We’re seeing that happen in a number of states where those who support the plastics industry are trying to persuade lawmakers to pass legislation that would give an advantage to plastic in building materials. Much of this is done under the guise of so-called “open competition.”
But local bids are already open competition. If you make a product or service that fits the project guidelines, you are welcome to bid. Just because a project receives a small number of bidders does not mean it is not competitive — it usually means that there are only a handful of manufacturers or companies that can meet the job specifications. That’s what it means to be competitive, though.
What some are pushing for now, however, is to limit the selection of bid winners for water and sewer pipes to the lowest bidder on upfront project costs. In essence, the company that charges the least amount of money is guaranteed to win. Well, that gives an advantage to the makers of plastic pipes because plastic, by its nature, is cheaper than most other pipe materials.
Limiting successful bids to upfront costs completely ignores the cost to communities over time, though, as water systems need upgrades and repairs. That’s where plastic fails the cost test. Plastic pipes tend to break more easily and more often than competing materials — and cost communities in water disruptions to businesses and individuals.
Broken plastic water or sewer lines cost hundreds of thousands or even millions of dollars to replace. Often, those pipe breaks are to systems that were installed less than a decade ago. One of the worst situations we have seen this year is a town in Northern California that had barely survived a wildfire only for residents to come home and find their drinking water supply had been contaminated by benzene. The chemical leaked into the water when the plastic pipes melted from the heat of the inferno.
It doesn’t take the scorching heat of a wildfire to melt plastic, though. Pictures taken in the Southwest during summer months show trash cans and mailboxes that melted in the Arizona heat. It’s one thing to throw your trash away in a can that can’t stand the heat. It’s a whole other matter when it comes to the pipes our drinking water flows through or the sewer systems that remove waste from our towns and cities.
We all know local government budgets are tight, and there’s no magical pot of money that’s going to drop out of the sky. Decisions regarding pipe materials still should be made through the judgment and experience of professionals who consider all sorts of factors in awarding contracts, not special interests pushing a specific advantage that benefits one type of material but might not be what is best for that community.
Clean drinking water and the removal of sewage from our communities is too important not to trust the people who have spent years studying, being licensed and certified, and who know the specific needs of their areas. After all, they and their families are drinking that water, too, while the special interests move on to their next political fight.
ABOUT THE WRITER
Mario H. Lopez is president of the Hispanic Leadership Fund. He wrote this for InsideSources.com.
3 ethical reasons for vaccinating your children
November 19, 2018
Joel Michael Reynolds
Assistant Professor of Philosophy, University of Massachusetts Lowell
Joel Michael Reynolds does not work for, consult, own shares in or receive funding from any company or organization that would benefit from this article, and has disclosed no relevant affiliations beyond their academic appointment.
University of Massachusetts provides funding as a member of The Conversation US.
Across the country, billboards are popping up suggesting that vaccines can kill children, when the science behind vaccination is crystal clear – vaccinations are extremely safe.
Researchers who study the beliefs of anti-vaxxers have found many different reasons, not just religious or political, as to why some parents refuse to get their children vaccinated.
As a bioethicist who investigates how societal values impact medicine, I consider such decisions to be downright indefensible. And here are three reasons why.
1. Failure to contribute to the public good
Public goods benefit everyone. Take the example of roads, clean drinking water or universal education. Public health – the health of the overall population as a result of society-wide policies and practices – also falls into this category.
Many ethicists argue that it is unfair to take advantage of such goods without doing one’s own part in contributing to them.
Years of research involving hundreds of thousands of people have proven vaccines to be safe and effective. One reason why they are so effective – to the point of complete eradication of certain diseases – is because of what scientists call “herd immunity.”
What this means is that once a certain percentage of a population becomes immunized against a disease through public health programs, it provides general protection for everyone. Even if a few people get sick, the disease won’t spread like wildfire.
Those avoiding vaccination are aware that their children might nonetheless benefit from protection on account of herd immunity. This is unfair. For if everyone acted in that way, herd immunity would disappear.
Indeed, this happened in California, where measles made a comeback because so many parents chose not to vaccinate their children.
These parents not only failed in their duty to contribute to the public good, they also actively undermined it, hurting others and also costing the economy millions of dollars.
2. Impact of health choices on the vulnerable
Viruses do not affect everyone equally. Oftentimes, it is the elderly, infants, and people with weakened immune systems, who are most at risk.
In my family, my brother, Jason, often had to be rushed to a hospital as he would easily catch a bug. So, when we had visitors, my family would inquire if they could let us know if they had any infections.
Often the answers were not truthful. Some would say that it was merely an “allergy,” and some others would be downright offended. My brother would end up catching the germs and more than once, nearly lost his life due to their lack of concern for his health.
Ethicists have long argued for special obligations towards the most vulnerable. And we need to be mindful of the impact of individual health choices on others, particularly the vulnerable.
3: Health is communal
Political philosophers like John Dewey have argued that democratic public institutions necessarily rely upon belief in scientific evidence and facts. People can hold different personal beliefs, but there are some truths that are irrefutable, such as the fact that the Earth is round and revolves around the sun.
Anti-science attitudes are dangerous because they undermine our ability to make decisions together as a society, whether about education, infrastructure or health. For example, if too many people treat the scientific consensus on climate change as just “one perspective,” that will hinder our ability to respond to the massive changes already underway. In a similar manner, treating the science on vaccines as just “one perspective” negatively impacts everyone.
In the face of overwhelming scientific evidence concerning the efficacy, safety and importance of vaccines, citizens have a duty to support vaccination and encourage others to do so as well.
At the foundation of each of these duties lies a simple and powerful truth: Health is communal. Health-related ethical obligations do not stop at our own doorstep. To think that they do is both empirically misguided and ethically indefensible.
Holiday Shopping Tips for Consumers
Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine offered consumer protection tips for the holiday shopping season.
Consumers are expected to spend an average of about $1,000 during this year’s holiday season, according to the National Retail Federation, and complaints about shopping (both in stores and online) are one of the most common types of complaints filed with the Ohio Attorney General’s Office. Commonly reported problems include refund issues, complaints about products not being delivered, and billing disputes.
“We’re reminding people to take some common-sense steps to avoid problems when they’re doing their holiday shopping,” Attorney General DeWine said. “A little bit of effort up front can help prevent headaches later.”
Tips for consumers include:
Beware of scams. Watch for phony “Black Friday” coupons, such as those offering hundreds of dollars to spend at a store, and other claims that sound too good to be true. Be wary if someone asks you to pay using gift cards or wire transfers, which are commonly requested by scam artists.
Check refund policies before you buy. Under Ohio consumer protection laws, stores are not required to provide refunds or to have a specific type of return policy, but if they do have a return policy, they must clearly tell you what it is before you complete the purchase. (For example, the return policy shouldn’t be posted only on the back of a receipt or after you’ve checked out.)
Research sellers carefully. Search for complaints filed with the Ohio Attorney General’s Office and the Better Business Bureau. Also look up customer reviews online and find out what previous customers have said about the seller.
Look for exclusions and limitations in ads. Important exclusions and limitations should be clearly disclosed. Check to see if an offer is valid only during certain hours, if limited quantities are available, or if other terms and conditions apply. If a seller advertises a product at a certain price but sells out of it by the time you respond to the ad, you may have the right to a rain check. However, sellers are not required to provide rain checks if they clearly disclose the number of goods available at that price or if they clearly state that no rain checks will be given.
Understand differences among gift cards. Gift cards are the most requested type of gift, according to the National Retail Federation, but not all gift cards have the same features or functions. A gift card that is branded by a credit card company and can be used almost anywhere may reduce in value faster than a single-store gift card. Also, promotional cards, such as those that come free with a purchase, may not carry the same protections as other cards and may last only a short period of time. If you receive a gift card, it’s generally best to use it as quickly as possible to reduce the chance it will be lost, stolen, or otherwise reduced in value.
Keep cybersecurity in mind. Don’t use free, public Wi-Fi when entering sensitive information like your credit card number, keep apps, software, and operating systems up to date, and use secure websites when you need to enter personal information. (Find additional cybersecurity tips on the Ohio Attorney General’s website.)
Consider paying with a credit card, if possible. Paying with a credit card usually offers greater protections from unauthorized charges compared to other kinds of payment methods. In general, with a credit card, your responsibility for unauthorized charges is limited to $50 and you have certain rights to dispute charges that you may not have with a debit card or other form of payment.
Consumers who want to learn more or get help addressing a consumer problem should contact the Ohio Attorney General’s Office at www.OhioProtects.org or 800-282-0515.
An evidence-based way to help fix our broken politics
Ohio State News
Researchers outline success of “deliberative town halls”
COLUMBUS, Ohio – It is an idea for repairing our broken political system that is so promising that new members of Congress will learn about it before taking office in January.
It is an idea tested with actual representatives and their constituents, with intriguing and positive results.
Now the question is: Will more members of Congress adopt it?
The idea is “deliberative town halls,” which are conducted online between representatives and randomly selected constituents. They are designed to discuss a single issue in depth, avoiding scripted talking points and rancorous outbursts.
The idea and the research supporting it is detailed in the new book Politics with the People: Building a Directly Representative Democracy (Cambridge University Press), written by three political scientists.
“People feel like politics is not going well in the United States, particularly political dialogue,” said co-author Michael Neblo, associate professor of political science at The Ohio State University.
In the book, the authors point to low approval of Congress, as well as recent retirement speeches by politicians like Charlie Dent and John Boehner that mention our broken political system as contributing to their decisions.
“We believe we have a way to help us dig out of this mess,” Neblo said.
Neblo wrote Politics with the People with Kevin Esterling of the University of California, Riverside, and David Lazer of Northeastern University.
Their idea of town halls is nothing like the typical ones that you see on YouTube, which are generally either informercials or free-for-alls that attract mostly strong supporters and people with specific grievances.
In their studies, the researchers recruited randomly chosen constituents that ended up being more representative of eligible voters in their districts than were actual voters. They drew people into the process, rather than just having self-selected political enthusiasts attend.
For one study, the researchers set up 19 online town halls with 12 members of the U.S. House of Representatives (seven Democrats and five Republicans) and groups of about 30 of their constituents. They also conducted a similar study with then-Sen. Carl Levin, a Democrat from Michigan, and about 175 of his constituents. There have also been more recent events.
These town halls, organized by a neutral moderator, tackled hot-button issues like immigration and terrorism policy.
“They created a direct connection between elected officials and their constituents,” Neblo said.
“There is no middle man, there isn’t a script, and there is no shouting. Just people talking about the issues, passionately but civilly and substantively.”
Analysis showed that citizen participants increased their knowledge about the issue under discussion. In addition, 97 percent were interested in participating in another session and 95 percent thought the town halls were “very valuable for democracy.”
Representatives reaped benefits, too. Members of Congress saw their ratings on trustworthiness, empathy, competence, and other attributes go up 10 percent or more among people who participated in the town halls.
Most remarkably, the researchers found a 10 percent increase in the likelihood that constituents who took part actually voted for their representative in the next election four months later.
“Representatives can do well for themselves by doing right,” Neblo said.
But can these town halls have a real impact when they have these relatively small groups of constituents?
Neblo said they can.
“With the evidence we have right now from the session with Sen. Levin, if every member of Congress spent two hours a week doing directly representative outreach, they could engage up to a quarter of the eligible electorate every six years – the term of one senator,” he said.
Two hours a week may seem like a lot of time to members of Congress, Neblo said, but they spend even more time on traditional town halls and other forms of engagement. The potential that directly representative practices have to help fix our democracy makes it worth it, he said.
The authors will have the opportunity to make their case for deliberative town halls directly to members of Congress. They have been invited to present their ideas and give a copy of the book to all new members of Congress at their orientation in December.
Neblo is hopeful that this idea can make a difference.
“I’m not saying this is going to completely transform American politics. But it is a very real reform possibility,” he said.
“It is like changing the course of a supertanker by a few inches. It doesn’t seem like a lot at the time, but when you travel far enough, that couple of inches puts you on a different path.”
URL : http://news.osu.edu/an-evidence-based-way-to-help-fix-our-broken-politics/