The program is fairly common practice for the Navy, and has become known as a way for politicians to gain military experience.
“Secretary Mattis agreed to write a letter of recommendation on his behalf. The letter is consistent with applicable standards,” said chief Pentagon spokesperson Dana White on Friday.
The process allows for career professionals to contribute their field’s experience, but in the capacity of serving in the US military, and those accepted will generally go to Newport, Rhode Island, for two weeks of training.
According to The Washington Post, Priebus wrote in a statement to the Navy that he had seen his sister serve as a Navy doctor and had memories of his father teaching at Naval Station Great Lakes in Illinois.
Priebus also noted in his statement submitted to the Navy that he was particularly moved to serve following his meeting in the Oval Office during his time as chief of staff with the family of Senior Chief William Ryan Owens — a Navy SEAL who died in a special operations raid in Yemen, the Post reported.
“At that moment, the gravity of every action we take in the West Wing rushed down upon my shoulders,” Priebus wrote, the paper reported. “Everything suddenly became extremely real and raw. As some time passed, a few other senior aides joined me in the Cabinet Room and we discussed the consequences, harsh realities and weight of what we do every day.”
Mining company Dominion Diamond Mines said in a press release on Thursday the diamond was discovered in October at the Diavik Diamond Mine in Canada’s Northwest Territories.
Inside the secret US military mission that located the Titanic

The “astonishing gemstone” measures 33.74 millimeters by 54.56 millimeters, the company said.
It was uncovered in the initial screening process at Diavik’s recovery plant, the company said. “Abrasion markings on the stone’s surface attest to the difficult journey it underwent during recovery, and the fact that it remains intact is remarkable.”
Dominion Diamond Mines added the diamond will not be sold in its rough form, and it’s too early to determine its value. The company will select a partner to cut and polish the stone.
According to the company, this find exceeds a previous record held by the “Diavik Foxfire,” a 187.7-carat diamond discovered at the same mine in 2015 by mining company Rio Tinto. Dominion owns 40% of the Diavik Diamond Mine.
Mulvaney, who will serve as “acting” chief of staff, brings skills to the table that might be helpful in this job under normal circumstances. He was elected as a congressman for the 5th District of South Carolina in 2010 and became part of the Tea Party Revolution on Capitol Hill. Mulvaney has fostered strong relationships with Republicans in Congress (although House Democrats don’t like him). He also has experience managing things: He is director of the Office of Management and Budget and recently stepped down as the acting head of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.
But skill sets don’t matter in what might be the most thankless job in Washington. The Trump White House is in turmoil and under investigation. It is run by a President who refuses to listen to any adviser and eventually turns on almost everyone around him, and is in conversation with a political party desperately trying to figure out why it should stay loyal to its leader.
None of these conditions makes the chief of staff position appealing. Mulvaney, who will be Trump’s third chief of staff, is stepping into a political hurricane, not unlike when Al Haig became President Richard Nixon’s chief of staff in May 1973.
But while there will be speculation about whether Mulvaney can turn things around, there is no hope. What we see is what we will continue to get. The structural problems facing any chief of staff working for this President are immense and won’t go away.
Trump runs a freewheeling administration where he is the one in charge. While it is possible that a skillful COS might bring order to the Oval Office — as Kelly appeared to do early in his 16-month tenure — he will always be subservient to a President who sows chaos.
Mulvaney also steps in when this presidency is in a full-blown crisis. The combination of a newly elected House Democratic majority and the rapid intensification of investigations into wrongdoing and corruption means that Mulvaney will spend much of his time trying to keep this ship from sinking — and himself out of trouble. There will be few opportunities for pushing legislative breakthroughs, and there is always the chance he will get swept up in the inquiry.
The best that Trump’s supporters can hope for is that Mulvaney establishes some kind of managerial order and gets in Trump’s ear when the President exhibits his worst tendencies. But don’t bet on it.
The problem facing Mulvaney is the problem facing anyone in this broken White House. This at-risk President has insulated himself from advice and counsel essential to saving himself.
“The Court … declares the Individual Mandate … unconstitutional,” District Judge Reed O’Connor wrote in his decision. “Further, the Court declares the remaining provisions of the ACA … are inseverable and therefore invalid.”
The case against the ACA, also known as Obamacare, brought by 20 Republican state attorneys general and governors, as well as two individuals. It revolves around Congress effectively eliminating the individual mandate penalty by reducing it to $0 as part of the 2017 tax cut bill.
The Republican coalition is arguing that the change rendered the mandate itself unconstitutional. They say that the voiding of the penalty, which takes effect next year, removes the legal underpinning the Supreme Court relied upon when it upheld the law in 2012 under Congress’ tax power. The mandate requires nearly all Americans to get health insurance or pay a penalty.
The Trump administration said in June that it would not defend several important provisions of Obamacare in court. It agreed that the zeroing out the penalty renders the individual mandate unconstitutional but argued that that invalidates only the law’s protections of those with pre-existing conditions. These include banning insurers from denying people policies or charging them more based on their medical histories, as well as limiting coverage of the treatment they need.
But the administration maintained those parts of the law were severable and the rest of the Affordable Care Act could remain in place.
Because the administration would not defend the law, California, joined by 16 other Democratic states, stepped in. They argued that the mandate remains constitutional and that the rest of the law, in any event, can stand without it. Also, they said that eliminating Obamacare or the protections for those with pre-existing conditions would harm millions of Americans.
In oral arguments in September, a lawyer for California said that the harm from striking down the law would be “devastating” and that more than 20 million Americans were able to gain health insurance under it.
The lawsuit entered the spotlight during the midterm elections, helping propel many Democratic candidates to victory. Protecting those with pre-existing conditions became a central focus of the races. Some 58% of Americans said they trust Democrats more to continue the law’s provisions, compared to 26% who chose Republicans, according to a Kaiser Family Foundation election tracking poll released in mid-October.
The consumer protections targeted by the administration are central to Obamacare and transformed the health insurance landscape. Their popularity is one of the main reasons GOP lawmakers had such difficulty repealing Obamacare last year.
“Guaranteed issue” requires insurers to offer coverage to everyone regardless of their medical history. Prior to the Affordable Care Act, insurers often rejected applicants who are or had been ill or offered them only limited coverage with high rates.
Under the law’s community rating provision, insurers are not allowed to set premiums based on a person’s health history. And the ban on excluding pre-existing conditions from coverage meant that insurers cannot refuse to pay for treatments because of a policyholder’s medical background.
All these provisions meant millions of people with less-than-perfect health records could get comprehensive coverage. But they also have pushed up premiums for those who are young and healthy. This group would have likely been able to get less expensive policies that offered fewer benefits prior to Obamacare. That has put the measures in the crosshairs of Republicans seeking to repeal the law and lower premiums.
It’s no wonder that politicians on both sides of the aisle promised to protect those with pre-existing conditions during the election. Three-quarters of Americans say that it is “very important” for the law to continue prohibiting health insurers from denying coverage because of medical histories, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation’s September tracking poll — 58% of Republicans feel the same way. And about the same share of Americans say it’s “very important” that insurers continue to be barred from charging sick people more.
This is a breaking story and will be updated.
In 2018, 41% of voters said that health care was the most important issue facing the country. Health care wasn’t asked in 2016, but in 2014 only 25% said it was the most important issue and it was lower, 18%, in 2012.
Health care is an extremely Democratic issue; three-quarters of those who said it was the top issue also said they supported the Democratic candidate in their vote for Congress. Next up were immigration (23%) and the economy (22%). A majority of those who chose immigration and the economy as the most important issue voted for the Republican candidate in this midterm election.
Democrats made sure to push the issue hard as they ran this year; half of ads run by and for Democrats in the election cycle through October this year featured health care, according to data from CMAG / Kantar Media.
But now what? Democrats have successfully run promising to protect the US health care system they and President Barack Obama helped reshape over the past decade. How can they deliver to voters?
Don’t expect that too much will change immediately.
“Democrats capitalized on the public’s concerns about health costs effectively in the midterm election and will continue to focus on health in the House and the presidential campaign, but don’t expect any major health care legislation to be enacted by a sharply divided Congress in the middle of oversight hearings, investigations, and a presidential election campaign,” Kaiser Family Foundation President and CEO Drew Altman said.
The importance of health care to Democrats shows that their priorities are rooted in reform, lowering costs and safeguarding protections put in place by the Affordable Care Act that Republicans and President Donald Trump tried to hard to repeal.
Trump and many Republicans pledged during the campaign to keep many of the ACA protections like guaranteed coverage for people with pre-existing conditions despite their desire to chip away at the law.
California Rep. Nancy Pelosi, likely future speaker of the House, has said that the Democrats’ priority with a new House majority is to build on the progress of the ACA, perhaps by allowing Medicare to negotiate drug prices, and requiring transparency from drug manufacturers.
Drug prices in particular might be a place for bipartisan accord. Both Trump and Pelosi mentioned it the day after the midterm elections last week.
But despite those bipartisan opportunities, Democrats view health care as something to fight for.
“Today is more than about Democrats and Republicans, it’s about restoring the Constitution’s checks and balances to the Trump administration,” Pelosi said on Election Night. “It’s about stopping the GOP and Mitch McConnell’s assault on Medicare, Medicaid, the Affordable Care Act, and the health care of 130 million Americans living with pre-existing medical conditions.”
But not all the disagreement will be between Democrats and Republicans.
On the campaign trail, many Democratic candidates were pushing for a “Medicare for All” system — a single payer system — that would radically reform the US away from the controlled markets used today.
Many of the newly elected Democrats will be pushing to deliver on that promise, but it’s a non-starter with a Republican Senate and President in place for the next two years at least. Currently, Democrats have proposed the Better Deal, which, for at least health care, would accomplish some of their goals.
It’s unclear even whether any ACA improvements would have to get past a split Congress, and even more questionable is what Trump would sign. He has boasted about his efforts to hurt the law, like utilizing the 2017 tax cut law to zero out the penalty for people who do not obtain health insurance.
On what exactly should be done, the public is relatively split. Around half of Democrats, Republicans and independents all agree that the health care system has some good things but does need fundamental changes to it, according to a CBS poll from mid-October. Fewer think it needs only minor changes or it needs an entire demolition and rebuilding.
Among those who said that health care was the most important issue for candidates to talk about in a late August Kaiser Family Foundation poll, most agreed the cost of health care was what they were specifically referring to, a constant across all parties, but especially Democrats and independents.
A majority of Americans have viewed the ACA, also known as Obamacare, favorably for a while now (it passed into net positive territory around the same time Obama left office), and that support continued in Kaiser’s poll. Around three-quarters of Democrats have a positive opinion of the law, while Republicans have about the same percentage who see it negatively. Meanwhile, about half of independents like the ACA.
Majorities in the CBS poll (65%) want a government administered health insurance plan (like Medicare) that would compete with private insurance companies, including 39% of Republicans, 84% of Democrats and 67% of independents.
By the end of the election cycle even Republicans who want to repeal the ACA turned toward campaigning on a platform of keeping protections for those with pre-existing conditions. Now, the two parties will have to figure out how to collaborate on that.
Continuing protections for people with pre-existing conditions was very important in Kaiser’s poll — more than three quarters of Democrats, independents and Republicans said it’s very important that health care insurers be banned from denying coverage based on a person’s medical history or charge sick people more.
If nothing else, this election brought strong bipartisan support and some stability to that portion of the current law.

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On Thursday, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services unveiled four examples of waivers states can request to alter Obamacare under guidance unveiled last month. These new suggestions would open the door for people to use subsidies to buy coverage outside the Obamacare exchanges — and expand eligibility for assistance to include those with higher incomes or policies from their employers, for example.
It’s the latest move by the Trump administration to weaken the Affordable Care Act from the inside after the collapse of Republican efforts to repeal it altogether, this time by targeting the subsidies, which are considered crucial to keeping insurance markets working well.
The new waiver powers could widen the divide in health care coverage among the states, which the Affordable Care Act sought to unify with nationwide standards for benefits and assistance. Red states may seek to provide greater access to alternative plans, while blue states could try to bolster their Obamacare markets.
The subsidies are key to the long-term health of Obamacare because they help guarantee that millions of people can afford coverage no matter how high premiums go, which entices insurers to stay in the market. Altering that structure could severely weaken the health care law and leave those who rely on it paying more for Obamacare policies, which offer strong protections for those with pre-existing conditions.
Changing the eligibility for subsidies could prove tricky because the level of federal funding won’t change, so letting more people receive money could lower or eliminate the assistance currently given to nearly 9 million Obamacare enrollees.
“There is a real limit to how much states can open the door to giving subsidies to more people,” said Larry Levitt, senior vice president at the nonprofit Kaiser Family Foundation, which focuses on health and health policy issues. “There wouldn’t be enough money to go around.”
Administration officials stressed that they will review the state requests for how they affect those with major health issues, noting that states cannot ask to opt out of the law’s provisions that ban insurers from denying coverage and basing premiums on people’s medical histories.
President Donald Trump and Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar “have both made clear we will protect people with pre-existing conditions,” Seema Verma, the centers’ administrator, said in a speech at the American Legislative Exchange Council policy summit on Thursday.
Trump administration gives states new power to weaken Obamacare

Currently, subsidies can only be used for plans bought on the Obamacare exchanges. Enrollees who make less than 400% of the poverty threshold — just over $48,500 for a single person or $100,000 for a family of four — are eligible for this help. Some 87% of participants receive this assistance, which lowers their premiums to less than 10% of their income.
However, those who aren’t eligible for subsidies are increasingly finding themselves priced out of the Obamacare market after insurers hiked rates for several years. The Trump administration has broadened the availability of alternatives that have lower premiums, but offer fewer benefits and protections. Thursday’s guide suggests ways to help pay for these policies, which will direct people away from Obamacare plans.
Here are four changes the administration suggests states could request:
Funnel subsidies into private accounts: Enrollees’ subsidies could be directed into private accounts that could be used to pay premiums or out-of-pocket health care expenses. Republicans favor these types of accounts, which they argue give beneficiaries more control, but also more responsibility. GOP lawmakers and officials have long pushed for Health Savings Accounts in employer-based plans and have been adding similar tools to Medicaid. Enrollees could also funnel their own money or employer contributions into the accounts and carry over any unspent funds to following years.
Trump administration makes it easier to buy alternative to Obamacare

Trump administration makes it easier to buy alternative to Obamacare

Create new subsidy programs: States could design their own subsidy systems, which they would administer. Their programs could seek to provide assistance to a wider range of residents or to attract specific populations, such as young and healthy consumers, into their market, the agency said. Currently, all states must adhere to the structure laid out in the federal law, which is geared to helping those with lower and moderate incomes.
Use the subsidies to pay for non-Obamacare plans: States could set the rules for the types of health plans eligible for premium subsidies. These could include policies that don’t adhere to Obamacare’s regulations, such as short-term plans. The Trump administration recently broadened the availability of this coverage, which lasts just shy of one year, through an executive order. Alternatives to Obamacare typically offer less comprehensive coverage, but officials point out that states could allow enrollees to use their federal subsidies to offset higher out-of-pocket expenses.
Help insurers cover high-cost enrollees: States will have more flexibility to implement programs that help defray insurers’ costs to cover those with pricey medical conditions, such as reinsurance programs or high-risk pools. Seven states have already used waivers to set up reinsurance programs, which prompted insurers to lower their rates for Obamacare policies. Officials highlight that this flexibility can be “particularly important” in states allowing the sale of short-term plans, which could siphon off younger, healthier enrollees from the Obamacare market.
The real reason Trump is talking about pre-existing conditions

The real reason Trump is talking about pre-existing conditions

Even with these new powers, Verma stressed that states must still adhere to certain rules when applying for waivers, including those that would change subsidy programs. For instance, the new designs can’t cost the federal government more. But the administration made some key adjustments to how applications would be evaluated. Requests will now be judged on how they affect coverage and affordability for residents in the state as a whole, rather than for specific groups of people, such as the poor or the sick.
However, Verma said that the agency will pay particular attention to how state waiver requests affect low-income residents and those with complex medical conditions. She reiterated that the guidance does not affect Obamacare’s protections for those with pre-existing conditions, which became a central focus of the recent midterm elections and helped Democrats take back the House.
Obamacare sign-ups for 2019 off to a slow start

Obamacare sign-ups for 2019 off to a slow start

Health policy experts, however, counter that the waivers could leave low-income, older or sicker residents with fewer choices and higher costs while favoring the young and healthy. The protections may still be in place, but the sick may not be able to afford the policies or may not be able to find any comprehensive plans offered in their area.
The four templates offered by the administration on Thursday contain suggestions — such as providing a flat subsidy based on age and family size — that are similar to some of the replacement measures lawmakers proposed during the Obamacare repeal battle last year. The private account example, which Verma highlighted, is similar to one she helped craft for Indiana’s Medicaid program when she served as a consultant there before joining the Trump administration.
Verma painted the enhanced flexibilities as a way for states to address problems created by the Affordable Care Act. She said she knows firsthand how hard it was to gain approval for a waiver request under the Obama administration.
“These waiver concepts are offered as a springboard to spur innovative thinking among states on how to develop better health care programs across the country,” she said.
Democrats, however, attacked the proposals, saying they will hurt older and sicker Americans.
“The Trump administration’s approach warms over old and bad ideas that increase costs for consumers and lowers the quality of care,” said Sen. Ron Wyden, a Democrat from Oregon who wrote the Affordable Care Act’s waiver provision. “Today’s news accelerates America’s slide back to the days when health care was reserved for the healthy and wealthy.”
Several Democratic lawmakers and left-leaning policy experts are also questioning whether the agency exceeded its authority by issuing the waiver changes last month as guidance, rather than a rule, which must go through a more extensive process. This could open the door to legal challenges.
Reps. Richard Neal of Massachusetts and Frank Pallone of New Jersey called the move “illegal” and are demanding answers from the administration.
“It is contrary to the plain language of the statute, and it appears to be part of the administration’s ideologically motivated efforts to sabotage the ACA,” they wrote in a letter Thursday.
This is a breaking story and will be updated.
Target kicked off a busy earnings day across retail with sales and profit margins that fell short of investors’ high expectations.
Despite a robust 5.1% sales gain at stores open for at least a year and 49% digital growth, Wall Street punished Target for its profit margin drop-off. Target’s costs are rising as it races to ship more orders online to compete with Amazon. Shares of Target (TGT) fell as much as 13%.
Target expects same-store sales during the holiday season to increase 5% as it cuts prices and invests in convenient new ways to shop. The company is offering free two-day shipping on hundreds of thousands of items to win customers during the holidays, with no minimum purchase required. It has also remodeled stores, added new smaller stores in cities, and rolled out drive-up at 1,000 stores and in-store pickups from online orders.
“I still see a very positive story here for brick-and-mortar retailers that are not anchored to malls,” said eMarketer analyst Andrew Lipsman. “Somewhat moderated holiday outlooks — combined with a much more uncertain 2019 environment — are likely behind the near-term sell-off.”
How Costco thrives in the Amazon era

Kohl’s (KSS) also reported a positive quarter Tuesday, but a similar story played out on Wall Street. Kohl’s, which has found creative ways to reformat its stores and drive traffic, tumbled 11%. Investors faulted the company for guidance that came in on the lower end of some analysts’ expectations.
Discount powerhouse TJX Companies (TJX), parent of TJMaxx, Marshalls and HomeGoods, reported a 7% rise in same-store sales last quarter as consumers flooded in to find bargains. But TJX and rival Ross Stores (ROST) fell on TJ’s sluggish guidance.
Other retailers have been unable to take advantage of the healthy environment. JCPenney (JCP) said last week that same-store sales fell 5.4% last quarter.
“We are over-assorted and heavy on inventory,” new CEO Jill Soltau said last week about JCPenney’s stores.
Victoria’s Secret (LB) and Barnes & Noble (BKS) are also under fire. Victoria’s Secret cut its divided and same-store sales dropped 6% last quarter as the brand loses relevance with many women. Barnes & Noble’s same-store sales fell 1.4% last quarter.
One company bucking the trend was Best Buy (BBY), which said same-store sales rose 4.3% last quarter, its sixth straight quarter above 4%. The company raised its forecast in anticipation of consumers buying up TVs and electronics this holiday. The stock rose nearly 4%.
“People are going to want to go into Best Buy this holiday season to get some advice, and they’ll end up picking up some gifts while they’re there,” Lipsman said.

Pressure to perform

Investors are stepping up pressure on companies to take advantage of a healthy economy. Wages are rising, unemployment is low, and retail spending continues to rise.
Longtime rivals Toys ‘R’ Us and Bon-Ton have folded and Sears filed for bankruptcy. That’s raising the stakes for retailers to pick up market share left up for grabs.
“We continue to see a very healthy retail environment,” Target CEO Brian Cornell told reporters on a call Tuesday. “You saw some of that in our third quarter results.”
Walmart CFO Brett Biggs sounded a similar message last week: “Certainly this kind of environment, everybody likes,” he said on a reporter call.
Last week, Walmart (WMT) reported 3.4% quarterly growth at stores and boosted its guidance for the holidays, but investors punished the stock for a profit margin miss from fulfilling online orders.
Walmart is trying to ramp up the number of items it sells online while also finding a way to make money off them. Walmart mainly offers highly popular items right now, but those sales carry lower profit margins. “The process takes time, and we’re making progress,” Walmart CEO Doug McMillon said.