Parents of 4-year-old with cancer can’t buy ACA plan to cover her hospital care

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H/T The Washington Post.

As someone with leukemia I get pissed off we I hear about someone with leukemia getting screwed over by Obamacare.

I wish that every Republican that voted to save Obamacare would rot in Hell.

How many people will die as result of Obamacare still being in effect?

Colette Briggs asks her mother, Michelle, to tighten her pigtails. (Katherine Frey/The Washington Post)

Four-year-old Colette Briggs bounded into the dining room where her parents sat in the midst of another distressing conversation. Oblivious to their anxiety, she cheerily asked her mom to retie one of the loose pigtails atop her head.

Ever since her brown locks regrew long enough for a ponytail, hair has been a big deal around here, her father, Christopher Briggs, said as Colette skipped off to rejoin her older sisters.

To watch the bubbly preschooler play, a perma-smile on her cherubic face, no one would know she was sick. But for half of her young life, since the day a Lyme disease scare uncovered aggressive leukemia, she has been in and out of chemotherapy treatments.

Now, as the youngest of the Briggses’ nine children battles cancer, her parents, Christopher and Michelle, are in a desperate fight of their own.

The health insurance plans available to them on the individual marketplace do not cover Inova Fairfax Hospital, where Colette receives spinal tap chemo and emergency care. For years, the Loudoun County family purchased insurance from Anthem, but this year the carrier decided to stop selling in Virginia. Under pressure from the state, it returned to some counties and cities that otherwise wouldn’t have had any options.

The Briggses’ Zip code was not among those.

The only insurance option for Christopher Briggs, who is a self-employed communications consultant for nonprofit groups, is Cigna. But Cigna does not cover Fairfax Hospital, the only local hospital with a dedicated pediatric cancer unit and where Colette has been a patient for more than two years.

“We have spent the last two months on the ceiling trying to figure out where the insurance is going to come from,” Christopher Briggs said one recent afternoon. “And I have to solve this problem for myself.”

He pays Anthem $1,000 a month after the subsidies he got because of his large family, he said.

Colette Briggs, 4, enjoys a snack with her siblings. (Katherine Frey/The Washington Post)

The family’s distress is an extreme example of the pressures facing health-care consumers this year. The White House has threatened the Affordable Care Act, changed rules and shortened the window to shop for insurance to Dec. 15. In response, carriers have raised premiums and exited the individual marketplace in areas that might not be profitable.

The exodus has left consumers across the country who don’t get their insurance through an employer with fewer health-care choices, and in cases such as the Briggses’, without access to the care they had come to rely on for chronic conditions.

In 2014, the first year the ACA marketplaces were open, there was an average of five insurers to choose from in each state, according to Kaiser Family Foundation data. In 2018, it will be three and a half. Karen Pollitz, a senior fellow at Kaiser, called it a “sleeper issue.”

“I’m not shocked to hear it,” she said of the Virginia family’s predicament. “From the beginning, the first year Obamacare opened, there was a healthy mix [of plans], and that started to constrict quickly. I always worried that this was happening.”

The ACA included a guarantee to consumers of “network adequacy standards” intended to ensure every marketplace had a sufficient “number and types of providers.” But those standards have never been defined or enforced, Pollitz said. There are no specific measures — such as how long or how far it takes to get to providers or what percentage of in-network doctors a carrier has to have. “What we’re left with is just words” about adequacy, Pollitz said.

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Ken Schrad, spokesman for the Virginia State Corporation Commission’s insurance bureau, said the state “has been fortunate to have sufficient number of carriers on the federal exchange.” But he said it has been clear the entire year that the uncertainty out of Washington would have negative effects on the marketplace individuals use to shop for coverage.

It is not uncommon for insurers to cut larger research-based hospitals from its plans on the exchanges as a way to cut costs. By narrowing their networks, carriers avoid paying the higher rates that academic medical centers charge.

But some consumers received welcome news this week when Cigna announced on Wednesday that it had reached an agreement with Virginia Commonwealth University Medical Center to bring the Richmond-based hospital system in-network.

For Cindy Jones, the announcement ended months of stress.

When Anthem did not reenter the market in Henrico County, just outsideof Richmond, where Jones lives, she found herself in the same predicament as the Briggs family.

Her adult son, Daniel Bowling, was diagnosed two years ago with leukemia. He had been living and working in Myrtle Beach, S.C., but at 27 years old moved home so his mother could care for him and he could receive cancer treatments at VCU. Too old to go on his mother’s employer plan, he bought highly subsidized Anthem insurance — for about $30 a month, his mother said — on the individual marketplace.

Cindy Jones with her son, Daniel Bowling, at The Medical University of South Carolina in October 2015 after he was first diagnosed with leukemia. He soon after transferred to Virginia Commonwealth University for his treatments. (Family photo) (Family photo)

Jones is Virginia’s director for Medicaid, the state-federal partnership providing health-care coverage to low-income and disabled residents. But even with her deep connections, she was helpless when her son’s only option for insurance didn’t cover VCU. She even considered quitting her job and moving with her son to North Carolina so he could receive care at Duke University Hospital.

The experience has made her a better Medicaid director, she said, because she is more empathetic when people call in angst about their coverage.

“The navigation of the health-care system is almost as bad as the disease,” she said. “We talk about the number of people who might have lost their care, but behind each of those numbers is a family under severe distress wondering how we’re going to handle this next. It doesn’t matter who you are; when you have a sick child it’s devastating.”

Briggs has spoken at length with representatives at Cigna who he said were sympathetic but offered little guidance. In an emailed statement to The Washington Post, Cigna said that it does review “highly-specialized cases” and works with members if there’s a good reason they cannot “immediately transition to another in-network health care professional.”

But until Cigna makes a similar arrangement with Inova or grants Briggs a special exception, Christopher Briggs is on his own, desperately searching for a solution.

He has called the state insurance commission and his congressional representatives. The office of Republican Barbara Comstock sent him a form to fill out before anyone would hear his issue, he said. A constituent services representative in the office of Sen. Mark R. Warner (D) was kind, Briggs said, but couldn’t offer a solution.

Warner spokesman Kevin Hall said the senator’s office reached out to Cigna this month and received assurance that it would try to work with the Briggs family.

“It’s heartbreaking that it’s families like the Briggses bearing the brunt of the confusion and expense” of attempts to repeal the ACA, Hall said. “We do what we can; we try to ring the bells at a higher level than individuals can reach on their own.”

At his most desperate, Briggs considered selling his home and moving the family to another county in Virginia that offers Anthem coverage or to another state such as Pennsylvania or Texas, which have top-tier children’s hospitals.

Some health-care experts suggested he rent or buy a small apartment in another county and list it as his primary residence. But he has no interest in committing insurance fraud, he said.

The Briggs family — the youngest, Colette, 4, is battling leukemia and is flanked by her mother, Michelle, and father, Christopher, and from left behind them is Christopher, 16, Isabela, 14, Sophia, 7, Andrew, 11, Genevieve, 9, Christiana-Marie, 18 and Alexander, 15. The eldest is Maria-Teresa, 21, who is away at college. (Katherine Frey/The Washington Post)

Even if Briggs could move his 11-person family to another Zip code, which he’d have to do before open enrollment closes in mid-December, it would feel like a tenuous fix because there is no guarantee the plan he would get would be there next year.

He also considered resurrecting an academic research nonprofit organization he established in 2005 but never got off the ground, and hiring a few employees so he could be eligible for group insurance. But raising seed capital to get the organization going has proven impossible in such a short window of time.

His final Hail Mary pass is to give up his solo business and go back to working for someone else. He is in talks with a former client to hire him so he can buy employer-based insurance. The premiums under the coverage from his former client would be as much as $3,000 a month, he said, triple what he had paid Anthem.

It means giving up his independence, but the only thing that matters now, he says, is Colette.



I used to think gun control was the answer. My research told me otherwise.

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H/T The Washington Post.

I am shocked The Washington Post ran this article.

I am really surprised that Commie Lib Leah Libresco wrote the article.

Leah Libresco is a statistician and former newswriter at FiveThirtyEight, a data journalism site. She is the author of “Arriving at Amen.”

Before I started researching gun deaths, gun-control policy used to frustrate me. I wished the National Rifle Association would stop blocking common-sense gun-control reforms such as banning assault weapons, restricting silencers, shrinking magazine sizes and all the other measures that could make guns less deadly.

Then, my colleagues and I at FiveThirtyEight spent three months analyzing all 33,000 lives ended by guns each year in the United States, and I wound up frustrated in a whole new way. We looked at what interventions might have saved those people, and the case for the policies I’d lobbied for crumbled when I examined the evidence. The best ideas left standing were narrowly tailored interventions to protect subtypes of potential victims, not broad attempts to limit the lethality of guns.

7 talking points that are repeated after every mass shooting

Older men, who make up the largest share of gun suicides, need better access to people who could care for them and get them help. Women endangered by specific men need to be prioritized by police, who can enforce restraining orders prohibiting these men from buying and owning guns. Younger men at risk of violence need to be identified before they take a life or lose theirs and to be connected to mentors who can help them de-escalate conflicts.

Even the most data-driven practices, such as New Orleans’ plan to identify gang members for intervention based on previous arrests and weapons seizures, wind up more personal than most policies floated. The young men at risk can be identified by an algorithm, but they have to be disarmed one by one, personally — not en masse as though they were all interchangeable. A reduction in gun deaths is most likely to come from finding smaller chances for victories and expanding those solutions as much as possible. We save lives by focusing on a range of tactics to protect the different kinds of potential victims and reforming potential killers, not from sweeping bans focused on the guns themselves.

The surprising number of American adults who think chocolate milk comes from brown cows

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H/T The Washington Post.

Shakes head.

Seven percent of all American adults believe that chocolate milk comes from brown cows, according to a nationally representative online survey commissioned by the Innovation Center of U.S. Dairy.

If you do the math, that works out to 16.4 million misinformed, milk-drinking people. The equivalent of the population of Pennsylvania (and then some!) does not know that chocolate milk is milk, cocoa and sugar.

But while the survey has attracted snorts and jeers from some corners — “um, guys, [milk] comes from cows — and not just the brown kind,” snarked Food & Wine — the most surprising thing about this figure may actually be that it isn’t higher.

One Department of Agriculture study, commissioned in the early ’90s, found that nearly 1 in 5 adults did not know that hamburgers are made from beef. Many more lacked familiarity with basic farming facts, like how big U.S. farms typically are and what food animals eat.

Experts in ag education aren’t convinced that much has changed in the intervening decades.

“At the end of the day, it’s an exposure issue,” said Cecily Upton, co-founder of the nonprofit FoodCorps, which brings agricultural and nution education into elementary schools. “Right now, we’re conditioned to think that if you need food, you go to the store. Nothing in our educational framework teaches kids where food comes from before that point.”

Upton and other educators are quick to caution that these conclusions don’t apply across the board. Studies have shown that people who live in agricultural communities tend to know a bit more about where their food comes from, as do people with higher education levels and household incomes.

But in some populations, confusion about basic food facts can skew pretty high. When one team of researchers interviewed fourth-, fifth- and sixth-graders at an urban California school, they found that more than half of them didn’t know pickles were cucumbers, or that onions and lettuce were plants. Four in 10 didn’t know that hamburgers came from cows. And 3 in 10 didn’t know that cheese is made from milk.

“All informants recalled the names of common foods in raw form and most knew foods were grown on farms or in gardens,” the researchers concluded. “They did not, however, possess schema necessary to articulate an understanding of post-production activities nor the agricultural crop origin of common foods.”

In some ways, this ignorance is perfectly logical. The writer and historian Ann Vileisis has argued that it developed in lockstep with the industrial food system.

As more Americans moved into cities in the mid-1800s, she writes in the book “Kitchen Literacy,” fewer were involved in food production or processing. That trend was exacerbated by innovations in transportation and manufacturing that made it possible to ship foods in different forms, and over great distances.

By the time uniformity, hygiene and brand loyalty became modern ideals — the latter frequently encouraged by emerging food companies in well-funded ad campaigns — many Americans couldn’t imagine the origins of the boxed cereals or shrink-wrapped hot dogs in their kitchens.

Today, many Americans only experience food as an industrial product that doesn’t look much like the original animal or plant: The USDA says orange juice is the most popular “fruit” in America, and processed potatoes — in the form of french fries and chips — rank among the top vegetables.

“Indifference about the origins and production of foods became a norm of urban culture, laying the groundwork for a modern food sensibility that would spread all across America in the decades that followed,” Vileisis wrote, of the 20th century. “Within a relatively brief period, the average distance from farm to kitchen had grown from a short walk down the garden path to a convoluted, 1,500-mile energy-guzzling journey by rail and truck.”

The past 20 years have seen the birth of a movement to reverse this gap, with agriculture and nutrition groups working to get ag education back into classrooms.

Aside from FoodCorps, which worked with slightly more than 100,000 students this year, groups like the National Agriculture in the Classroom Organization and the American Farm Bureau Foundation are actively working with K-12 teachers across the country to add nutrition, farm technology and agricultural economics to lessons in social studies, science and health. The USDA Farm to School program, which awarded $5 million in grants for the 2017-2018 school year on Monday, also funds projects on agriculture education.

For National Dairy Month, which is June, NACO has been featuring a kindergarten-level lesson on dairy. Among its main takeaways: milk — plain, unflavored, boring white milk — comes from cows, not the grocery case.

Nutritionists and food-system reformers say these basic lessons are critical to raising kids who know how to eat healthfully — an important aid to tackling heart disease and obesity.

Meanwhile, farm groups argue the lack of basic food knowledge can lead to poor policy decisions.

2012 white paper from the National Institute for Animal Agriculture blamed consumers for what it considers bad farm regulations: “One factor driving today’s regulatory environment … is pressure applied by consumers, the authors wrote. “Unfortunately, a majority of today’s consumers are at least three generations removed from agriculture, are not literate about where food comes from and how it is produced.”

Upton, of FoodCorps, said everyone could benefit from a better understanding of agriculture.

“We still get kids who are surprised that a french fry comes from a potato, or that a pickle is a cucumber,” she said. “… Knowledge is power. Without it, we can’t make informed decisions.”

Update: This story originally said the survey in question was commissioned by the National Dairy Council. It was actually commissioned by the Innovation Center of U.S. Dairy, its sister organization. The Post regrets the error. 

Iowa lawmakers pass the state’s most expansive gun rights bill ever

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H/T The Washington Post.

Bravo Iowa for becoming very gun owner friendly.

I would like to see my home state of Indiana follow Iowa’s lead.

With one stroke of a pen, Gov. Terry Branstad is poised to make Iowa one of the friendliest states for gun owners.

Lawmakers have passed a bill that many say is the most comprehensive and broadest piece of legislation on gun rights the state has seen. The legislation would, among other things, allow citizens to use deadly force if they believe their lives are threatened and to sue local government officials if they think gun-free zones have violated their Second Amendment rights.

Branstad, the long-serving Republican governor whom President Trump selected to be the ambassador to China, has hinted that he’s inclined to sign the bill, calling it “reasonable” legislation that he “could support.” House File 517 reached the governor’s desk this week.

The passage of House File 517 marks the end of a decades-long battle for a bill that does more than make incremental changes to the state’s gun laws and would bring Iowa in line with its more gun-friendly neighbors such as Missouri and Wisconsin, said Barry Snell, president of the Iowa Firearms Coalition, an advocacy group that has been instrumental in the bill’s inception and passage.

“Without exaggeration, House File 517 is the most monumental and sweeping piece of gun legislation in Iowa’s history,” Snell told The Washington Post. “Never before have we passed a bill in which Iowa’s Second Amendment rights are legally recognized, claimed and protected quite so profoundly as this bill does.”

Among the bill’s more controversial parts is a “Stand Your Ground” provision that says citizens who are not doing anything illegal can lawfully use “reasonable force, including deadly force” if they believe their lives are being threatened. The bill also frees a person who kills an “aggressor” from civil liability if he or she can justify the use of force.

That provision has raised concerns that the bill would do more to increase gun violence in the state.

State Sen. Nate Boulton (D) said state law already allows Iowans to use deadly force if they are threatened in their homes or places of employment, adding that a Stand Your Ground law could lead some to misunderstand when deadly force may be used.

I think anytime we are expanding the use of deadly force, we do have to be cautious about that,” Boulton said. “The reality is when you have a gun-violent situation and if someone is killed with gun violence, we’ll leave it to our courts to interpret and apply what the situation was that led to that death.”

Daniel Webster, director of the John Hopkins Center for Gun Policy and Research, echoed Boulton in a column published last month in the Des Moines Register. The “Stand Your Ground” policy would only “expand justifications for killing others,” he wrote.

There is no credible research that indicates deregulation of public carrying of concealed firearms reduces violent crime or curtails mass shootings,” Webster wrote. “The most recent and most rigorous research shows that such policies, if anything, lead to more assaults committed with firearms.”

Another provision that has attracted criticism would essentially prohibit city, county and township officials from creating weapons-free zones by allowing gun-carrying citizens to file lawsuits and claim damages if they think their civil rights have been infringed upon. Critics have raised concerns about how the bill would affect security at places such as city halls and courthouses, many of which are gun-free zones.

Tom Ferguson, executive director of the Iowa County Attorneys Association, said because the bill does not exempt city halls or courthouses, local jurisdictions would face a constant threat of lawsuits and damages.

“The question becomes, ‘Is someone adversely affected if they want to go in there and are not allowed to carry a gun?’ ” Ferguson said.

The Iowa Judicial Branch, which oversees state courts, shares similar concerns. Spokesman Steve Davis said the judicial branch is unsure that the bill “will maintain the status quo on courthouse security.”

The criticisms, however, did little to dissuade the bill’s avid backers.

HF 517 passed the state Senate 33 to 17 and the House, 57 to 36.

State Rep. Matt Windschitl (R), who led the drafting of the bill, said he has tried for years to make Iowa a Stand Your Ground state, like nearly half of the states in the country.

“This bill has been a work in progress for many years,” Windschitl said. “The driver behind this is to restore Iowans’ individual freedoms and liberties.”

Other provisions include allowing children under 14 to use pistols or revolvers as long as they are supervised by an adult age 21 and older, legalizing concealed-carry at state capitol buildings and grounds, prohibiting the government from confiscating firearms during state emergencies, legalizing short-barreled rifles and shotguns, and making records of permit holders confidential. The bill also would prohibit prosecutors from stacking an additional firearm charge if the weapon has nothing to do with the crime.

Robert Cottrol, an expert on gun laws and a professor at George Washington University, said many of the provisions have been standard practice in most states.

Aside from the Stand Your Ground law, most states with significant rural areas already allow children to possess firearms, Cottrol said. Many states also have enacted laws prohibiting the government from seizing people’s guns during state emergencies, after officials confiscated weapons during Hurricane Katrina in 2005.

This is the first time in years that Republicans gained control of both the House and the Senate in Iowa, and gun rights advocates found an opportunity to catch up with its gun-friendly neighbors by addressing gun-rights issues in one fell swoop, said Snell of the Iowa Firearms Coalition, which is affiliated with the National Rifle Association.

It’s not uncommon for states to pass gun-law revisions in one bill, according to the NRA, a supporter of the bill. Alabama, Georgia, Minnesota, Missouri, North Carolina, Oklahoma and Wisconsin have done so in recent years.

“This important legislation will make it easier for law-abiding gun owners to protect and defend themselves, while bringing Iowa’s gun law in line with those of other states,” NRA spokeswoman Jennifer Baker said in a statement. “The reforms of HF 517 are part of a growing movement across all 50 states to strengthen Second Amendment rights and its enactment will be a significant victory for our members and law-abiding gun owners.”

The magazine Guns & Ammo ranks Iowa No. 38 among the best states for gun owners. At the top of the list are Arizona, Vermont, Alaska, Utah, Kentucky, Wyoming, Alabama, Kansas, Missouri and New Hampshire.

That could change if the bill becomes law.

The legislation might make Iowa “the leading edge of protecting the civil right” to bear arms, said Randy Barnett, a law professor at Georgetown University.

“When you have a constitutional right, it often requires the legislation to protect that right,” Barnett said. “That’s what Iowa is doing.”

A Marine comes home from the war after more than 70 years

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H/T The Washington Post.

R.I.P. Marine Pvt. Harry K. Tye.


Joseph Wapner, judge on ‘The People’s Court,’ dies at 97

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H/T The Washington Post.

R.I.P. Joseph Wapner, judge, World War II veteran and Bronze Star recipient.

Joseph Wapner, star of “The People’s Court” in 1986 (Galbraith/Associated Press)

Joseph Wapner, star of “The People’s Court” in 1986 (Galbraith/Associated Press)

Joseph A. Wapner, a retired California judge whose flinty-folksy style of resolving disputes on the show “The People’s Court” helped spawn an entire genre of courtroom-based reality television with no-nonsense jurists and often clueless litigants, died Feb. 26 at his home in Los Angeles. He was 97.

A grandson, Gabriel Wapner, confirmed the death but did not know the immediate cause. Judge Wapner had several strokes in recent years.

“The People’s Court,” which the silver-haired Wapner hosted from 1981 to 1993, was a syndicated half-hour show that turned private arbitration of small-claims cases into highly engrossing entertainment.

Within a few years of its debut, the program regularly attracted 20 million viewers. One measure of its success was a Washington Post survey in 1989 that showed that 54 percent of Americans could identify Judge Wapner compared with 9 percent who could name the chief justice of the United States, William H. Rehnquist.

Judge Wapner so permeated the popular culture that he became a reference point in the Oscar-winning film “Rain Man” (1988), in which Dustin Hoffman’s autistic character is addicted to “The People’s Court.”

Judge Wapner of "The People's Court" TV program, poses for a portrait in front of the Supreme Court in 1984. (Gerald Martineau/The Washington Post)

Judge Wapner of “The People’s Court” TV program, poses for a portrait in front of the Supreme Court in 1984. (Gerald Martineau/The Washington Post)

Hoffman was reputedly a fan in real life, and Judge Wapner’s admirers included several members of the Supreme Court. Justice Byron R. White reportedly went to lengths to wangle an invitation when the TV judge came to speak in Washington.

For a viewing audience weaned on courtroom dramas such as “Perry Mason,” the Wapner program was a stark departure. Instead of invented murder and mayhem, “The People’s Court” featured unscripted, real-life grievances between plaintiffs and defendants who could be tangent-prone, inarticulate or alarmingly naive.

Disputes centered on nonpayment for goods and services, unwise lending of money to shady friends and family members, purchases in which the buyer did not beware and altercations between people and their neighbors’ animals.

The parties, selected from the dockets of Los Angeles-area small-claims courts, agreed to have their matters settled outside a normal court of law and to sign a legally binding arbitration contract. Each litigant was paid about $250 to appear on TV.

The courtroom set — the only fictional component of the show — was presided over by a seen-it-all judge who had spent 18 years on the bench of Los Angeles Superior Court and brooked little tolerance for unpreparedness and interruptions.

When a litigant told him, “I’m not through, your honor,” Judge Wapner replied, “Well, now you are.”

“It’s a case that requires proof, and you didn’t even tip the scales,” he told one woman seeking redress for damaged furniture and stolen underwear during a move.

 He brought basic judgment and a sense of perspective to thorny legal feuds. Evidence such as receipts and written contracts were often a deciding factor. The judge decided that a litigant who bought three “Cartier” watches out of a cigar box in a restaurant for $75 got exactly what he purchased.

Although he could be gruff, Judge Wapner also displayed a sense of fairness in Solomon-like conundrums.

In a matter involving disputed ownership of a dog between two boys, it was revealed that a third party had improperly taken the dog from the first boy and sold it to the second. Judge Wapner gave the dog back to the first boy and awarded $200 to the second for his careful temporary guardianship.

The judge was frequently mentioned — often for laughs, but sometimes not — as a candidate for the Supreme Court. He tended to dismiss such talk, and he turned down requests to appear as himself on shows he considered undignified, such as “Saturday Night Live.” (He said his children never forgave him for that.)

Instead, Judge Wapner parlayed his celebrity into speaking engagements on Ivy League campuses and before legal groups. He took his picture with anyone who requested it. His rationale for doing the show in the first place was to enlighten as many people as possible “in the judicial process of arbitration and how to conduct yourself in court.”

“The People’s Court” featured a small cast of regulars: Rusty Burrell, a retired sheriff’s deputy and sometime actor, as the mild-mannered bailiff; and Doug Llewelyn, a former TV correspondent, as the host who introduced the case and interviewed the parties about the final decision. Behind the scenes, the show’s legal adviser was a former law professor, Harvey Levin, who went on to start the celebrity gossip empire TMZ.

But Judge Wapner was the undisputed star, and his demeanor helped set the template for many of the legal reality shows that followed.

“He behaved like a judge who had been on the bench a little too long, and that’s what made it work,” said Robert Thompson, a television and pop culture scholar at Syracuse University. “It’s hard to remember what a state of cultural virginity the American audience was in, in regards to what we’d call regular people — nonactors without scripts.

“It turns out regular people are whiny, petty, annoying folks, so Judge Wapner’s crotchety grouch thing was just what we wanted — to shut them up now and then.”

Judge Wapner’s influence, Thompson added, extended not only to imitators who followed — Judy Sheindlin of “Judge Judy,” “Judge Mills Lane,” “Judge Joe Brown” and even “Judge” Julie on Playboy TV’s “Sex Court” — but also to TV personalities such as Dr. Phil, who often viewed guests as squabbling children in need of a stern talking to.

Producers revived “The People’s Court” in 1997 with former New York mayor Ed Koch, who had a law degree, as the judge. Successors included Marilyn Milian, a former Florida state circuit court judge.

Judge Wapner, who remained a TV presence, hosted an Animal Planet show called “Judge Wapner’s Animal Court” from 1998 to 2000.

Joseph Albert Wapner, whose father was a lawyer, was born in Los Angeles on Nov. 15, 1919. He initially wanted to be an actor — until a theater director at Hollywood High School said he had no talent.

He also recalled a humiliating date with a classmate, Judy Turner, who later changed her first name to Lana and became a movie star. He had noticed her — “the most beautiful girl I’d ever seen” — in the school library and proposed that they grab a Coke at a nearby drugstore. It did not end well: He forgot his wallet, and she had to pay.

After graduating in 1941 from the University of Southern California, Judge Wapner saw Army combat in the Pacific. While on Cebu, an island province in the Philippines, he was wounded by shrapnel from a grenade and risked his life to save a wounded soldier from being raked with machine gun fire. His decorations included the Bronze Star and the Purple Heart.

He received a law degree from USC in 1948 and spent 10 years in private practice before receiving a judicial appointment to the Los Angeles Municipal Court.

In 1961, he joined the Los Angeles Superior Court, and his peers elected him presiding judge several times, giving him oversight of more than 200 judges. He also served as president of the California Judges Association.

He wrote in his memoir, “A View From the Bench ,” that his blunt opposition to judicial salary cuts — he once likened California Gov. Jerry Brown (D) to Mao Zedong — likely cost him a promotion to the state appellate court.

Judge Wapner retired from the Superior Court in 1979 and conducted private arbitration work specializing in divorce cases for $250 an hour. He negotiated a record-breaking $41 million settlement while handling the divorce of Washington Redskins owner Jack Kent Cooke from his first wife.

Outside the courtroom, Judge Wapner could be found on another kind of court — playing tennis. One of his tennis partners knew producers Ralph Edwards and Stu Billett, who were looking to create the program that became “The People’s Court.”

The producers were considering judges and law scholars, who seemed too dull. TV executives suggested a sitcom starring the verse-slinging comedian Nipsey Russell as a judge. After Edwards and Billett met Judge Wapner, they felt they had achieved the right balance between legal prowess and broad appeal.

As Billett told the New Yorker, “Look at him. Isn’t he just perfect? Look at those eyebrows. Look at that hair. You couldn’t ask for anything better.”

Survivors include his wife of 70 years, Mildred “Mickey” Nebenzahl of Los Angeles; two sons, Fred Wapner, a judge on the Los Angeles Superior Court, of Los Angeles and David Miron-Wapner of Jerusalem; a sister; four grandchildren; and a great-granddaughter. A daughter, Sarah Wapner, died in 2015.

One of Judge Wapner’s most visible arbitration jobs occurred on “The Tonight Show” in 1986. Host Johnny Carson asked him to settle a disputewith late-night rival David Letterman: Carson had Letterman’s beat-up truck towed from a street as an eyesore, and a headlight was damaged in the process.

 Using Carson’s desk as a makeshift bench, Judge Wapner refused Letterman’s bribe of a box of steaks (“Mr. Letterman, the price isn’t right”) but ultimately awarded him $24.95.

Lt. Gen. Hal Moore dies; depicted in film ‘We Were Soldiers’

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H/T The Washington Post.

R.I.P. Lieutenant General Hal Moore. Hand Salute.

FILE - In this Thursday, Jan. 29, 2004 file photo, retired Lt. Gen. Hal Moore, of Auburn, Ala., salutes the crowd during a standing ovation at the state capitol during the Spirit of Alabama Awards in Montgomery, Ala. Moore, co-author of “We Were Soldiers,” was one of several recipients of the award, created by Gov. Bob Riley. On Friday, Feb. 10, 2016, Moore, known for saving most of his men in the first major battle between the U.S. and North Vietnamese armies, died. He was 94. (Jamie Martin/Associated Press)

FILE – In this Thursday, Jan. 29, 2004 file photo, retired Lt. Gen. Hal Moore, of Auburn, Ala., salutes the crowd during a standing ovation at the state capitol during the Spirit of Alabama Awards in Montgomery, Ala. Moore, co-author of “We Were Soldiers,” was one of several recipients of the award, created by Gov. Bob Riley. On Friday, Feb. 10, 2016, Moore, known for saving most of his men in the first major battle between the U.S. and North Vietnamese armies, died. He was 94. (Jamie Martin/Associated Press)


Retired Lt. Gen. Harold G. “Hal” Moore, the American hero known for saving most of his men in the first major battle between the U.S. and North Vietnamese armies, has died. He was 94.

Joseph Galloway, who with Moore co-authored the book “We Were Soldiers Once … and Young,” confirmed Saturday to The Associated Press that Moore died late Friday in his sleep at his home in Auburn, Alabama.

Galloway said Moore, his friend of 51 years, died two days shy of his 95th birthday.

“There’s something missing on this earth now. We’ve lost a great warrior, a great soldier, a great human being and my best friend. They don’t make them like him anymore,” Galloway said.

Moore was best known for his actions at the 1965 Battle of Ia Drang, where he was a lieutenant colonel in command of the 1st Battalion, 7th Cavalry Regiment. His actions were later reflected in the movie “We Were Soldiers” in which actor Mel Gibson portrayed Moore. The book tells what happened to virtually every trooper involved in the 34-day campaign and the climactic four-day battle in which 234 Americans died at landing zones X-Ray and Albany in November 1965.

Galloway, a former war correspondent for United Press International, said Moore was “without question, one of the finest commanders I ever saw in action.”

“Those of us who survived Landing Zone X-Ray survived because of his brilliance of command. I think every one of us thought we were going to die at that place except Hal Moore. He was certain we were going to win that fight and he was right,” Galloway recalled.

Galloway and Moore wrote a second book, “We Are Soldiers Still,” which he said grew out of a journey back to the battlefields of Vietnam 25 years later. “We went back and walked those old battlefields. At the end of the day, Hal Moore and Col. Nguyen Huu An, the North Vietnamese commander, stood in a circle in the clearing and prayed for the souls of every man who died on both sides.”

He said the two shared an “instant brotherhood that grew out of combat.”

When we were discussing the book contract with a lawyer/agent, he asked to see the contract between me and Hal Moore, and Hal Moore said ‘I don’t think you understand. This isn’t just a matter of money. We have trusted each other with our lives in battle and we have no contract before that.’ I absolutely agreed.”

On a Facebook page managed by Moore’s family, relatives said he died on the birthday of his wife, Julia, who died in 2004 after 55 years of marriage.

“Mom called Dad home on her day,” the statement said. “After having a stroke last week, Dad was more lethargic and had difficulty speaking, but he had always fought his way back.”

Before serving in Vietnam, Moore graduated from the United States Military Academy at West Point and then commanded a battalion in the newly formed air mobile 11th Air Assault Division at Fort Benning.

Born in Bardstown, Kentucky, he served in the U.S. military for 32 years.

Galloway said the family has tentatively scheduled a religious service Friday in Auburn and a memorial service at the National Infantry Museum at Fort Benning Army Base in Columbus, Georgia.

Copyright 2017 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


A soldier who starved to death in a North Korean prison camp is coming home — 65 years later

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H/T The Washington Post.

R.I.P Corporal Wayne Minard Welcome Home. 

Wayne Minard was 17 when he joined the U.S. Army. (Bruce Stubbs)

Wayne Minard was 17 when he joined the U.S. Army. (Bruce Stubbs)

Wayne Minard knew at an early age that he wanted to be a soldier.

He joined the Army when he was 17 after persuading his mother to sign his enlistment papers. His family thought he would go on to build a lifelong career in the military.

But his career as a corporal in North Korea lasted only two years.

Minard was reported missing in action on Nov. 26, 1950, the day after Chinese communist troops attacked United Nations forces and allies near the Chongchon River in North Korea, according to the Pentagon.

Minard’s unit was later ordered to withdraw. The farm boy from rural Kansas, then 19, was never seen or heard from again.

He was taken to a prison camp and starved, Bruce Stubbs, Minard’s great-nephew, told The Washington Post.

On Feb. 16, 1951, Army Cpl. Wayne Minard died, according to the Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency.

 Now, after 65 years, Minard is finally coming home. His remains will arrive in Wichita on Wednesday.

Minard’s loved ones had always thought he would never be found, his great-nephew said.

But the family saw a sliver of hope in spring 2005, when an Army recovery team learned of a North Korea burial site that contained the remains of an American soldier. Scientists had obtained DNA samples from two of Minard’s sisters, according to the Pentagon. It would take another 11 years for his remains to be positively identified.

The Pentagon released a statement in September saying that Minard was finally accounted for.

DNA tests also showed that 32 other people, including two soldiers from Minard’s unit, had been buried at that site, Stubbs said.

Minard’s death haunted his family for decades.

His mother, Bertha, never stopped blaming herself for signing her son’s enlistment papers. She died nine months after her son did.

“They say she died of a broken heart,” Stubbs said.

According to the Pentagon, Minard “was a member of Company C, 1st Battalion, 9th Infantry Regiment, 2nd Infantry Division, fighting units of the Chinese People’s Volunteer Forces (CPVF)” when “enemy forces launched a large-scale attack with heavy artillery and mortar fire” on Nov. 25, 1950.

He reported missing in action the following day.

But his name “did not appear on any POW list provided by the CPVF or the North Korean People’s Army,” according to the Pentagon. “However two repatriated American prisoners of war reported that Minard died at Hofong Camp, part of Pukchin-Tarigol Camp Cluster, on Feb. 16, 1951.”

A military review board “amended Minard’s status to deceased in 1951,” the Pentagon said.

Stubbs, who was born 14 years after Minard died, knows about his great-uncle only through stories he heard from family members.

Even in war, his great-uncle kept his sense of humor, Stubbs said. After he was shot in the hand during a firefight, Minard wrote to his family and joked that the enemies weren’t very good shots.

The Army was going to bring Minard home after he was injured, but he opted to stay with his unit in North Korea.

Minard had a twin brother, Dwayne; the two were the youngest of nine children. They were “good, fun-loving farm kids” who loved playing practical jokes on their father, Stubbs said. They used to set up a bucket of water above the garage door, so the water would fall on their father’s head every time he drove the tractor back into the garage.

Minard will be buried with full military honors on Saturday in the unincorporated community of Furley, Kan., where he grew up.

Related: Trump slams McCain for being ‘captured’ in Vietnam; other Republicans quickly condemn him

To this day, 7,784 Americans remain unaccounted for from the Korean War, according to the Pentagon.

A sister who lived in California was the only immediate family member who lived long enough to hear about her brother’s remains being identified in September. She had long been ill, but when she heard the news, “she opened her eyes for the first time in a long time, and smiled,” Stubbs said.

She died shortly after.

“It’s bittersweet. We’re all very, very happy that he is finally coming home,” Stubbs said. “I wish my grandma and his sisters would’ve been around to see him come home. They never stopped thinking about him. They never stopped agonizing over him.”

New Kasich ad: If Trump becomes president, ‘you better hope there’s someone left to help you’ 

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Kasich,Cruz,Bush and family are despicable Establishment Republicans.

Kasich,Bush,Cruz and any of the others that do not honor their unconditional pledge to support the GOP nominee need to have their political careers ended and their legacy ended. 

“If he keeps going, and he actually becomes president, he might just get around to you. And you better hope there’s someone left to help you.”

Source: New Kasich ad: If Trump becomes president, ‘you better hope there’s someone left to help you’ – The Washington Post

A young soldier from a war long past, finally laid to rest

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This is from The Washington Post.

R. I. P.  Army Cpl. David J. Wishon Jr Welcome Home.

U.S. Army Command Sgt. Maj. Michael Callahan McCann presents a flag to Celia Gray during burial services for her brother, Korean War soldier U.S. Army Cpl. David J. Wishon, Jr. of Baltimore on Friday at Arlington National Cemetery. (Alex Brandon/AP)


   The heartbreaking orderliness of Arlington National Cemetery’s endless rows of headstones was interrupted Friday with a new grave, for a long-lost soldier killed 65 years ago in bloody and frozen combat overseas.

Army Cpl. David J. Wishon Jr. of Baltimore was laid to rest with full military honors in Section 60, joining more than 800 soldiers, sailors and Marines who have died in this century’s wars.

Wishon was just 18 years old during the harrowing, multi-day battle at Chosin Reservoir in Korea in late November and early December 1950. He had been in the Army for 14 months, a combat medic assigned to the 31st Infantry Regiment, 7th Infantry Division.

It was a cobbled-together force, historians say, joining other units that were trying to push the North Koreans toward the Yalu River.

When Chinese troops swept down from Manchuria, the regiment was surrounded, caught on the east side of the frozen reservoir, while Marines fought on the west side. Snow was falling, and the temperature plunged to 35 degrees below zero.

Army Cpl. David J. Wishon Jr., 18. On Dec. 1, 1950, Wishon, assigned to Medical Company, 31st Infantry Regiment, 7th Infantry Division, was declared missing in action after his unit was heavily attacked by enemy forces in the vicinity of the Chosin Reservoir, North Korea. (Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency)

An estimated 1,500 U.S. servicemen were killed or injured at the Chosin Reservoir out of a force of about 2,500, said Matthew J. Seelinger, chief historian of the Army History Museum.

The medical unit to which Wishon belonged was wiped out.

Wishon was classified as missing on Dec. 1, 1950. Three years later, lacking any further information about him, a military review board declared Wishon dead. But the nation had not forgotten him.

In the early 1990s, North Korea returned 208 boxes of “commingled” human remains to the United States. A separate joint U.S.-North Korea recovery effort added more remains. From that material, at least 600 American servicemen have been identified.

Wishon’s identify was confirmed by circumstantial evidence and two forms of DNA analysis, which matched mitochondrial DNA from two of his sisters, said Air Force Lt. Col. Holly Slaughter of the Defense Department’s POW/MIA Accounting Agency. Family members did not return requests for comment.

More than 7,800 U.S. Korean War veterans remain unaccounted for. A joint North Korean-U.S. team recovered additional human remains from a reported burial site in Kujang, North Korea, in October 2000, and efforts to identify missing veterans continue.

So much time has passed that sorting through all the bone chips and other evidence is “like a puzzle without a picture,” Slaughter said.

On Friday, six horses, three of them riderless, pulled a caisson carrying Wishon’s casket, which was covered in the American flag and wrapped in plastic as protection from a cold and steady rain.

The Army’s Old Guard fired a three-shot rifle volley to honor Wishon. A highly practiced military band and bugler played “America the Beautiful” and “Taps” as about a dozen of Wishon’s relatives looked on, including his sister, Celia Gray, of Essex Md.

A collection of tourists watched from a distance as a military chaplain offered prayers, the acting superintendent of the cemetery paid her respects and a defense attache from the South Korean Army thanked the family members who had gathered to mourn.

Wishon’s was one of 28 funerals at the cemetery on Friday.

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