Monday October 23, 2017

Indian-American Seema Verma sworn-in as Head of a key healthcare agency in Donald Trump administration

Indian-American Seema Verma was sworn in on Tuesday by US Vice President Mike Pence as administrator of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services

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Seema Verma, wikimedia

Washington, March 15, 2017: Indian-American Seema Verma has been sworn-in as the head of a key healthcare agency in the Donald Trump administration.

Verma was sworn in on Tuesday by US Vice President Mike Pence as administrator of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, which are part of the Department of Health and Human Services, PBS NewsHour reported.

The $1 trillion agency oversees health insurance programmes for everyone from nursing home residents to newborns.

“President Donald Trump has chosen one of the leading experts in America on state-based healthcare solutions to lead this important agency,” Vice President Pence said at the swearing-in ceremony at the White House.

“The President has asked you to bring your expertise to DC,” Pence said, adding: “We’re confident that you’ll help restore healthcare decision making to the states, and in the process help make the best healthcare system in the world even better.”

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Verma is the second Indian-American to be inducted into the Trump administration.

US Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley was the first cabinet rank official from the community to serve in any presidential administration.

“Today, our healthcare stands at a crossroads, and we have no choice but to reform it,” she said.

The Senate confirmed her nomination on Monday by a vote of 55-43, largely along party lines.

Verma is taking over the agency as a Republican healthcare bill moving through the House has reopened the debate over the government’s role in healthcare.

Verma is an Indiana healthcare consultant and protege of Pence, who is a former Indiana governor.

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The American Association of Physicians of Indian Origin (AAPI) which represents more than 60,000 physicians, welcomed Verma’s appointment, reported New India Times newspaper.

Ajay Lodha, President of AAPI, lauded Verma’s accomplishments in Indiana, and said he hoped that the problems faced by patients under the Medicare drug plan would be resolved under her leadership.

“Drug coverage has gone down and for patients under Medicare who are all above 65, and not healthy and needed medications — I hope she can do something for them.” Lodha said.

When Trump announced in November that he was appointing Verma for the post, he said that she would be part of “the dream team that will transform our healthcare system for the benefit of all Americans”.

Her role will extend beyond the insurance programmes — Medicare for senior citizens and Medicaid for the poor — to helping craft and implement the Republican healthcare reform plan to replace Obamacare.

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“She has decades of experience advising on Medicare and Medicaid policy and helping states navigate our complicated systems,” Trump had said. (IANS)

 

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White House: Judge’s Decision Halting Travel Ban ‘Dangerously Flawed’

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Travel Ban
A sign for International Arrivals is shown at the Seattle-Tacoma International Airport in Seattle.VOA

The White House is reacting furiously to a federal judge blocking President Donald Trump’s latest executive Travel Ban order that would have banned entry to travelers from several countries beginning Wednesday.

“Today’s dangerously flawed district court order undercuts the president’s efforts to keep the American people safe and enforce minimum security standards for entry into the United States,” said a White House statement issued Tuesday shortly after Judge Derrick Watson ruled against restrictions on travelers from six countries the Trump administration said could not provide enough information to meet U.S. security standards.

The travel ban order would have barred to various degrees travelers from Chad, Iran, Libya, Somalia, Syria and Yemen.

Watson’s temporary restraining order does not interfere with restrictions on North Korea and Venezuela.

Justice Department defends White House

The Justice Department “will vigorously defend the president’s lawful action,” the White House said, contending its proclamation restricting travel was issued after an extensive worldwide security review.

The Justice Department called the ruling incorrect and said it will appeal the decision “in an expeditious manner.”

Homeland Security Acting Secretary Elaine Duke said: “While we will comply with any lawful judicial order, we look forward to prevailing in this matter upon appeal.”

Acting Director of Homeland Security Elaine Duke
Acting Director of Homeland Security Elaine Duke testifies before the Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs on Capitol Hill in Washington. VOA

No change for North Korea, Venezuela

The new travel order “suffers from precisely the same maladies as its predecessor: it lacks sufficient findings that the entry of more than 150 million nationals from six specified countries would be ‘detrimental to the United States,'” Judge Watson wrote in his opinion.

The White House argues that its restrictions “are vital to ensuring that foreign nations comply with the minimum security standards required for the integrity of our immigration system and the security of our nation.”

Officials in the White House are expressing confidence that further judicial review will uphold the president’s action.

Hawaii involved for third time

Consular officials have been told to resume “regular processing of visas” for people from Chad, Iran, Libya, Somalia, Syria and Yemen, according to a State Department official.

The suit on which Judge Watson ruled on Tuesday was filed by the state of Hawaii, the Muslim Association of Hawaii and various individuals.

“This is the third time Hawaii has gone to court to stop President Trump from issuing a travel ban that discriminates against people based on their nation of origin or religion,” said Hawaii Attorney General Doug Chin. “Today is another victory for the rule of law.”(VOA)

 

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Trump Touts Tax Reform, Saying Typical Household Would Get ‘$4,000 Pay Raise’

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President Donald Trump speaks about tax reform during an event at the Harrisburg International Airport,Pennsylvania. voa

U.S. President Donald Trump on Wednesday promised Americans they are “going to have so much money to spend” if lawmakers approve his tax reform plan.

Trump, in an airport hangar in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, told a crowd of truckers that the typical American household would get “a $4,000 pay raise” with the changes he wants, although economists say that benefit would only materialize over eight years, at a rate of about $500 annually.

Read Also US President Donald Trump to Unveil; Biggest Tax Cut and Largest Tax Reform” in US History

Trump’s speech to hundreds of truck drivers — the most common job in more than half of the country’s 50 states —- was intended to counter the views of independent analysts that the Republican tax blueprint would mostly benefit the highest income earners. These analysts contend that at least some middle-income taxpayers would pay more, not less, to the government under Trump’s proposal.

The president, in his Pennsylvania speech, did not go into detail of how his plan would affect the wealthy. He said that his rich friends have been telling him they do not want anything from his proposal and are asking him “to give it to the middle class.”

 White House officials say the plan would double the standard deduction so that more income is taxed at zero percent; the first $12,000 of income for individuals and $24,000 for married couples would be tax-free, and the seven existing income tax brackets for taxable income would be consolidated to three brackets: 12 percent, 25 percent and 35 percent. 

The Trump administration, when it took office in January, predicted it would complete a tax overhaul by August, but now has its sights set on completing the reforms by the end of the year.However, congressional tax-writing panels have yet to hold hearings and Democratic and Republican lawmakers have widely divergent views on what changes should be made.

Under some scenarios, the tax cuts could add to the country’s long-term debt of more than $20 trillion, which would be an outrage to many conservative Republican lawmakers. Democratic lawmakers are calling for tax changes to mostly benefit the country’s middle class and lowest-income taxpayers, not the wealthiest.(voa)

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NASA to put humans on the Moon again: Mike Pence

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NASA to put humans on the Moon again: Mike Pence (Image:Wikimedia)

Washington, Oct 6: The Trump administration will direct NASA to land humans on the Moon and establish presence on the lunar surface before sending astronauts to the Red Planet and beyond, US Vice President Mike Pence has said.

Pence made the administration’s intentions known in a Wall Street Journal op-ed, as well as a speech he gave during the inaugural meeting of the National Space Council — a newly resurrected executive group aimed at guiding the US space agenda, The Verge reported on Thursday.

“We will return NASA astronauts to the Moon — not only to leave behind footprints and flags, but to build the foundation, we need to send Americans to Mars and beyond,” he told reporters at the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum’s Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center in Chantilly, Virginia.

Pence made it clear that space is a national priority, acting NASA Administrator Robert Lightfoot said in a statement after the first meeting of the Council.

“The vice president also announced a call for renewed U.S. leadership in space – with a recommendation to the president that NASA help lead and shape the way forward,” Lightfoot said.

“Specifically, NASA has been directed to develop a plan for an innovative and sustainable program of exploration with commercial and international partners to enable human expansion across the solar system, returning humans to the Moon for long-term exploration and utilization, followed by human missions to Mars and other destinations,” Lightfoot added.

The Council acknowledged the strategic importance of cis-lunar space — the region around the Moon — which will serve as a proving ground for missions to Mars and beyond, Lightfoot added. (IANS)