Maine Governor Offers John Lewis an Erroneous History Lesson

Republican Gov. Paul LePage on Tuesday offered an erroneous history lesson about racial segregation to a black Georgia congressman who risked his life to fight for civil rights, and he called on the NAACP to apologize to white people.

Democratic U.S. Rep. John Lewis, who was beaten while marching in Selma, Alabama, with Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., should be grateful to Republican presidents and shouldn’t question the legitimacy of GOP President-elect Donald Trump’s victory, LePage said.

“You know, I will just say this: John Lewis ought to look at history,” LePage, who’s white, said on WVOM-FM. “You It was Abraham Lincoln that freed the slaves. It was Rutherford B. Hayes and Ulysses S. Grant that fought against Jim Crow laws. A simple thank you would suffice.”

Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation in 1863 and pushed for the 13th Amendment, which abolished slavery. But historians say LePage is wrong about Jim Crow laws, which legalized racial segregation.

Jim Crow laws didn’t exist during the Grant administration and an electoral deal that put Hayes in office led to the end of Reconstruction and the removal of federal troops, setting the stage for the creation of Jim Crow laws that followed, said Colby professor Dan Shea.

“Paul LePage is going to give John Lewis a tutorial on the history of black oppression in the United States? That’s rich,” Shea said.

LePage’s criticism of Lewis comes on the heels of Lewis’ comments last week that he would not attend Trump’s inauguration.

“You know, I believe in forgiveness. I believe in trying to work with people. It will be hard. It’s going to be very difficult. I don’t see this president-elect as a legitimate president,” Lewis said in an interview with NBC’s “Meet the Press” that aired Sunday.

Lewis’ spokeswoman said Tuesday that the facts of history refute LePage’s statements about the Jim Crow laws.

Later in the afternoon, the governor tried to clarify his remarks to the Portland Press Herald by saying he felt all white people were being lumped together. He said that the “NAACP should apologize to the white people, to the people from the North for fighting their battle.”

The governor also said that “the blacks, the NAACP” paint white people with one brush and added that “to say every white America is a racist is an insult.” The governor has said a racist “is the absolute worst, most vile thing you can call a person” and last summer left an expletive-laced voicemail for a Democratic legislator that he thought called him a racist.

LePage said he knows many Maine families who had ancestors who fought in the Civil War. Maine, the nation’s whitest state, is 95 percent white, according to 2015 census estimates.

The head of the Portland branch of the NAACP says it’s unfortunate that LePage tried to revise history and disparage a civil rights leader a day after Martin Luther King Jr. Day.

LePage on Tuesday also had harsh words for a Maine congresswoman who is among more than 40 House Democrats so far to say they are skipping Trump’s inauguration. He said Rep. Chellie Pingree should resign if she doesn’t attend.

“They’re trying to bully us out of believing our Constitution,” LePage said of Democrats.

Pingree said Monday that “President-elect Trump’s actions go beyond any kind of reasonable debate—they threaten the constitutional values our country is based on.”

Pingree’s office on Tuesday called LePage’s remarks about Lewis divisive and inaccurate.

How Trump’s Pick for Education Secretary May Reignite the Education Wars

Let the education wars begin.

Donald Trump‘s choice to lead the Department of Education, Betsy DeVos, has the nation’s teachers’ unions preparing to re-enter battle over public education systems, a little over a year after a bipartisan education reform deal was reached on the Every Student Succeeds Act.

DeVos, a wealthy Republican donor and activist, has been a longtime champion for school choice in her home state of Michigan, where she has advocated in favor of vouchers and the expansion the state’s charter schools.

While DeVos’ admirers revere her as an effective disrupter who has put her own money into supporting school choice policies, her critics tie her to the checkered track record of Michigan’s charter schools and see her advocacy for vouchers as a threat to public education.

DeVos’ background, coupled with the president-elect’s campaign proposal to redirect $20 billion in federal funds back to the states for use in voucher programs, has set the stage for a battle over the the nation’s education system.

Who Is Betsy DeVos?

DeVos, 59, has been involved in the promotion school choice policies for several decades in Michigan.

She is is married to Dick DeVos, a son of billionaire Amway co-founder Richard DeVos. The two have used their wealth to influence the education debate in Michigan and have been active in state politics. Betsy DeVos spent several years as chairwoman of the state Republican Party, and her husband ran unsuccessfully for governor in 2006.

In 2000 the DeVoses led a campaign to amend the Michigan Constitution to allow school vouchers in the state. The proposal failed.

Since that time, DeVos has put her focus primarily on promoting and expanding charter schools and is considered one of the architects of Detroit’s charter school system.

She has helped found several education-related organizations to promote school choice policies, including the Alliance for School Choice, the Great Lakes Education Project and the American Federation for Children.

What Her Critics Say

Public education advocates and teachers’ unions paint a bleak picture of the charter school system in Michigan that DeVos has taken a leading role to promote. Many view her support for vouchers, which allow government education funds to follow students to the public or private schools of their parents’ choice, as a threat to public education.

The president of the American Federation of Teachers, Randi Weingarten, has labeled DeVos “the most anti-public-education nominee” in the history of the Department of Education and contends that DeVos wants to replace public education with a private system.

“She’s enemy No. 1 to children and to having a viable public education system there to help all kids,” said Weingarten. “She doesn’t want kids to have more options. She wants no public school options. She just wants a private system.”

According to excerpts from an advance copy of her confirmation hearing opening remarks, DeVos is expected to offer assurances of her commitment to public education, pledging that she “will be a strong advocate for great public schools” but also will express her continued support for “parents’ right to enroll their child in a high quality alternative” if a traditional public school is not a good fit for the child.

The National Education Association, another leading teachers’ union, similarly accuses DeVos of “undermin[ing] public education.”

“She has consistently pushed a corporate agenda to privatize, deprofessionalize and impose cookie-cutter solutions to public education,” NEA President Lily Eskelsen Garcia said in a statement.

Weingarten pointed to statistics on the state of charter schools in Michigan to make the case that DeVos has made things worse rather than better in Michigan education. She raises particular alarm at the high number of for-profit charter school operators as limiting transparency and accountability in the charter system.

“Eighty percent of the charters in Michigan are for profit. It’s called the wild, wild West for a reason,” Weingartern said. “Seventy-five percent of all schools in the state perform better than the state’s charter schools.”

According to a Detroit Free Press investigation of Michigan’s charter schools published in 2014, “Thirty-eight percent of charter schools that received state academic rankings during the 2012–13 school year fell below the 25th percentile, [and] only 23 percent of traditional public schools fell below the 25th percentile.”

Though Weingarten said the AFT supports effective charter schools as one part of the public education system, she said the high number of for-profit operators and a lack of transparency — a situation that she blamed on DeVos — have been a negative formula for Michigan’s at-risk students. Weingarten specifically blames DeVos for killing a proposal for a school oversight commission that would have been run by the Detroit mayor’s office.

“She fought for no accountability,” Weingartern said in a speech at the National Press Club last week. “No accountability, even in cases like the Detroit charter schools that closed just days after the deadline to get state funding, leaving students scrambling to find a new school, but the charter operators still profiting.”

What Her Supporters Say

Supporters of DeVos paint a far different picture of her record and the state of charter schools in Michigan. They accuse her critics of skewing data to argue that charter schools are underperforming traditional public schools Michigan.

Gary G. Naeyaert, the executive director of the Michigan-based Great Lakes Education Project, which was founded and bankrolled by Betsy and Dick DeVos, said, “While it’s true that 38 percent of charters fall into the bottom 25 percent … 85 percent of Detroit public schools fall into the bottom 25 percent.”

Matt Frendewey of the American Federation for Children, which Betsy DeVos chaired until recently, takes issue with the criticism that she has opposed accountability in Detroit’s charter schools.

“The only thing that she opposed was this unelected, mayoral-appointed commission that was designed to essentially bolster the schools that had been failing at the expense of charter schools,” he said. “The whole reason school choice came about was because students were trapped in a failing system. It’s all about holding the system accountable.”

Jeanne Allen, the chairwoman and CEO of the Center for Education Reform, believes DeVos is the “right person” to tackle the “morass called the Department of Education” and said DeVos opposed the oversight commission because it would have put charters back under the control of the district from it was established as an alternative.

“She, as one of a group of advocates, said to the governor, ‘This is insane. Why would we actually give control of charter schools back to the districts for which they were created to allow parents an option?'” Allen said. “And the governor told me, ‘That’s not what they told me was happening. Thanks for clarifying.’ When you have the political weight of Betsy DeVos, that’s what you’re able to do.”

A New Education War?

If DeVos’ past is any indication of her possible future as the head of the Department of Education, her leadership is almost sure to reignite a fierce debate on education.

It’s a fight that Weingarten believes would be counterproductive so soon after Republicans and Democrats came together in December 2015 to agree to the terms of the Every Student Succeeds Act — bipartisan legislation that she said had “no losers” and replaced the widely unpopular No Child Left Behind legislation.

“Really, reigniting these wars after we came to this consensus and solved programs?” she asked. “This was supposed to be the time to really roll up our sleeves and get this done, now that the policy piece was done.”

But on the other side of the debate, Allen said that the education wars never really ended and that she welcomes DeVos to lead the fight for opening up more public and private school options in education.

“We’ve been fighting education wars for years. It doesn’t matter how tepid we are — any suggestion of changing the status quo emits screams and howls from the traditional establishment,” Allen said. “If we can’t be controversial … in debate about how to help our kids, then we should be out of business.”

Why U.S. Abortion Rates Are Now at Their Lowest Level

A new report reveals that the U.S. abortion rate hit its lowest level since 1973 when the procedure was legalized in Roe v. Wade.

Released Tuesday by the Guttmacher Institute, a policy and research organization that advocates for reproductive rights, the analysis found that there were 14.6 abortions per 1,000 women in 2014. That’s down from the peak of 29.3 abortions per every 1,000 women in 1980 and 1981. The total number of abortions performed in 2014 was 926,000, a drop from the 958,700 abortions performed in 2013, which was the first time the procedure dipped below one million since 1975 in the U.S.

Guttmacher researcher Rachel Jones,the report’s lead author, told NPR that the decline was likely caused by the increased availability of affordable contraception and increased use of long-term birth control like IUDs. But the report also attributes the decline to the influx of abortion restrictions in a number of states. The number of clinics providing abortions fell by 6% from 2011 and 2014, and the lowest abortion rates were in South Dakota, Mississippi and Wyoming, all of which only had one operating abortion clinic in 2014.

“If there are women in these highly restrictive states who want abortions but can’t get them because there aren’t any clinics that they can get to, and that’s why abortion’s going down, that’s not a good thing,” Jones told NPR. “But we think the story that’s going on in a lot of situations, in a lot of states, is that fewer women are having unintended pregnancies and in turn fewer abortions, and that is actually a good story.”

It’s unclear how Donald Trump’s presidency will impact the abortion rates in the country. Trump has vowed to appoint justices to overturn Roe v. Wade, and several states have attempted to pass additional roadblocks to the procedure. The Republican Party, which controls Congress, has promised to defund Planned Parenthood and repeal the Affordable Care Act, which currently requires insurers to provide birth control at no cost. Those latter two actions could negatively affect low-income women, which made up 75% of women who got abortions, according to the report. Two-thirds of abortion patients also already have children at home.

“It can be very difficult for them to arrange for time off from work, transportation and child care,” Jones told the Associated Press. “Some of the abortion rate decline is likely attributable to women who were prevented from accessing needed services.”

More Than 50 Democratic Congress Members Planning to Skip the Inauguration

More than 50 Democratic members of Congress have announced they will skip Donald Trump‘s Friday inauguration. While some of the 54 made their decision in previous weeks, many more have come forward in recent days, citing the president-elect’s perceived insult of Rep. John Lewis as the final straw.

Trump lashed out at the civil rights icon Saturday morning after Lewis said in a Friday interview he didn’t view Trump as “a legitimate president.” Lewis, a Georgia Democrat from an Atlanta-area district who protested alongside the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., also said he would not attend the inauguration.

Congressman John Lewis should spend more time on fixing and helping his district, which is in horrible shape and falling apart (not to mention crime infested) rather than falsely complaining about the election results,” Trump tweeted Saturday morning. “All talk, talk, talk – no action or results. Sad!”

Trump’s comments have drawn outrage and messages of support for Lewis from both sides of the aisle. Rep. Yvette Clark, D-N.Y., said in a tweet Saturday that she would not attend the inauguration because of the comments, saying, “When you insult @repjohnlewis, you insult America.”

I will NOT attend the inauguration of @realDonaldTrump. When you insult @repjohnlewis, you insult America.

— Yvette D. Clarke (@RepYvetteClarke) January 14, 2017

Democratic Reps. Mark Takano and Judy Chu, both of California, also tweeted Saturday they would be absent as a show of solidarity with Lewis, making them part of the more than one-quarter of House Democrats who plan to skip the ceremony. (SEE FULL LIST BELOW)

“All talk, no action.”

I stand with @repjohnlewis and I will not be attending the inauguration. pic.twitter.com/z8Q0wA9OPK

— Mark Takano (@RepMarkTakano) January 14, 2017

After much thought, I have decided to #StandWithJohnLewis and not attend the inauguration.

— Judy Chu (@RepJudyChu) January 15, 2017

Also, Rep. Ted Lieu, D-Calif., wrote in a statement released Saturday that “while [he does] not dispute that Trump won the Electoral College, [he] cannot normalize his behavior or the disparaging and un-American statements he has made.”

“Trump — who lost the popular vote — has made a series of racist, sexist and bigoted statements,” Lieu continued. “In addition, he has attacked Gold Star parents, veterans such as John McCain and now civil rights icon John Lewis.”

Democratic Rep. Mark Pocan of Wisconsin reflected such sentiments in a statement released Sunday morning.

“I was planning on attending the inauguration on Friday out of respect for the office of president, while still making it back home on Saturday to attend the Women’s March in Madison,” he said. “However, after long consideration based on reading the classified document on Russian hacking and the Trump candidacy on Thursday, the handling of his conflicts of interest and this weekend’s offensive tweets about a national hero Rep. John Lewis, I am no longer attending the event.”

Several more representatives announced their absence at the inauguration on Martin Luther King Jr. Day and referred to Lewis.

“President-elect Trump, you have the undeniable right to take issue and disagree with John Lewis’ opinion about the legitimacy of the election results,” Rep. Anthony Brown, a Democrat from Maryland, wrote on Facebook Monday. “But Mr. Trump, you need to think carefully about disparaging a civil rights icon such as John Lewis, let alone anyone exercising their freedom of expression that many of us fought for.”

Reps. Mark DeSaulnier, D-Calif., and John Conyers, D-Mich., did not explicitly mention Lewis in their announcements Saturday but did go public with their decisions on the day of Trump’s tweets.

Among those who decided earlier this month not to attend the inauguration, the most common reason was an aversion to normalizing what they see as Trump’s divisive rhetoric and agenda.

“When the new president denigrates Latinos or Mexicans or immigrants as drug dealers and criminals, I want to be able to say I did not condone or allow that type of speech to go mainstream. That was not normalized on my watch,” Rep. Luis Gutierrez, D-Ill., said in a speech on the House floor Jan. 10. “Because the future president said the American-born children of immigrants were not capable of being American judges, I cannot sit there at his inauguration as if that is OK and I forgive him.”

Rep. Katherine Clark, D-Mass., said on Twitter on Jan. 5 she didn’t believe she could “contribute to the normalization of the president-elect’s divisive rhetoric by participating in the inauguration.”

My statement on the upcoming inauguration: pic.twitter.com/dQXE0ztvTf

— Katherine Clark (@RepKClark) January 5, 2017

Several of the Congress members plan to attend the Women’s March on Washington; others said they will participate in community organizing in their home districts.

The Trump transition team did not respond to ABC News’ request for comment.

Below is the full running list of Congress members who are planning not to attend the inauguration:

  • Rep. Ruben Gallego, D-Ariz.
  • Rep. Raul Grijalva, D-Ariz.
  • Rep. Karen Bass, D-Calif.
  • Rep. Tony Cardenas, D-Calif.
  • Rep. Judy Chu, D-Calif.
  • Rep. Mark DeSaulnier, D-Calif.
  • Rep. Jared Huffman, D-Calif.
  • Rep. Barbara Lee, D-Calif.
  • Rep. Ted Lieu, D-Calif.
  • Rep. Zoe Lofgren, D-Calif.
  • Rep. Jerry McNerney, D-Calif.
  • Rep. Grace Napolitano, D-Calif.
  • Rep. Lucille Roybal-Allard, D-Calif.
  • Rep. Raul Ruiz, D-Calif.
  • Rep. Mark Takano, D-Calif.
  • Rep. Juan Vargas, D-Calif.
  • Rep. Maxine Waters, D-Calif.
  • Rep. Alcee Hastings, D-Fla.
  • Rep. Darren Soto, D-Fla.
  • Rep. Frederica Wilson, D-Fla.
  • Rep. John Lewis, D-Ga.
  • Rep. Luis Gutierrez, D-Ill.
  • Rep. John Yarmuth, D-Ky.
  • Rep. Chellie Pingree, D-Maine
  • Rep. Anthony Brown, D-Md.
  • Rep. Katherine Clark, D-Mass.
  • Rep. John Conyers, D-Mich.
  • Rep. Keith Ellison, D-Minn.
  • Rep. William Lacy Clay, D-Mo.
  • Rep. Carol Shea-Porter, D-N.H.
  • Rep. Bonnie Watson Coleman, D-N.J.
  • Rep. Yvette Clarke, D-N.Y.
  • Rep. Adriano Espaillat, D-N.Y.
  • Rep. Jerry Nadler, D-N.Y.
  • Rep. Jose Serrano, D-N.Y.
  • Rep. Louise Slaughter, D-N.Y.
  • Rep. Nydia Velazquez, D-N.Y.
  • Rep. Alma Adams, D-N.C.
  • Rep. G.K. Butterfield, D-N.C.
  • Rep. Marcia Fudge, D-Ohio
  • Rep. Earl Blumenauer, D-Ore.
  • Rep. Peter DeFazio, D-Ore.
  • Rep. Kurt Schrader, D-Ore.
  • Rep. Brendan Boyle, D-Pa.
  • Rep. Mike Doyle, D-Pa.
  • Rep. Dwight Evans, D-Pa.
  • Rep. Steve Cohen, D-Tenn.
  • Rep. Joaquin Castro, D-Texas
  • Rep. Lloyd Doggett, D-Texas
  • Rep. Al Green, D-Texas
  • Rep. Don Beyer, D-Va.
  • Rep. Pramila Jayapal, D-Wash.
  • Rep. Adam Smith, D-Wash.
  • Rep. Mark Pocan, D-Wis.

ABC News’ Lucien Bruggeman, Paola Chavez, Benjamin Siegel and Ellen Van de Mark contributed to this report.

18M Could Lose Insurance in a Year Under ‘Obamacare’ Repeal: Report

Repealing “Obamacare” without a replacement could leave 18 million Americans without health insurance within a year and 32 million by 2026, according to a new estimate from the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office.

The estimate, prepared at the request of Senate Democrats, is based on the partial repeal bill Republicans sent to President Obama’s desk in 2015. Obama vetoed the measure, and Congress was not able to override it.

The office also estimated that individual health insurance premiums would increase by 20 to 25 percent in the first year of a repeal and would hit 50 percent after the elimination of the Affordable Care Act’s Medicaid expansion.

Democrats seized on the new figures Tuesday, after rallies around the country opposing GOP plans to repeal and replace “Obamacare.”

“The CBO’s nonpartisan report shows that Republicans’ plan to repeal the Affordable Care Act will be nothing less than a nightmare for the American people,” House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., said in a statement.

House Speaker Paul Ryan‘s office pushed back against the CBO analysis, which focused on a partial repeal bill without a replacement or any administration actions, both of which Republicans say they plan to implement.

“This projection is meaningless, as it takes into account no measures to replace the law nor actions that the incoming administration will take to revitalize the individual market that has been decimated by ‘Obamacare,'” Ryan spokeswoman AshLee Strong said in a statement.

Republicans agree on repealing and replacing “Obamacare” — in conjunction with executive actions and administrative rules to ease any transition — but are still divided on the timeline and details of any replacement effort.

Ryan and Vice President–elect Mike Pence have said “Obamacare” will be replaced within the first 100 days of the administration. Republicans also hope to hold a repeal vote as early as next month.

Trump told The Washington Post his plan is “very much formulated down to the final strokes” and will be put forward after his pick for health and human services secretary, Rep. Tom Price, R-Ga., is confirmed.

Aides to Republican leaders in the House and Senate have yet to see any details of Trump’s plan.

Republicans in the House and Senate adopted a budget measure last week to begin the “Obamacare” repeal process, directing the committees of jurisdiction to start crafting repeal language.

Trump also told the Post, “We’re going to have insurance for everybody,” closer to “universal coverage” than the “universal access” Hill Republicans say their plan will offer.

Still, Republicans are downplaying any tension in their plans for health care.

“We are on the same page,” Ryan said Monday in an interview with Wisconsin news station WISC-TV. “We are all working on this together, working hand in glove with the new administration.”

ABC News’ Jonathan Karl contributed to this report.

Putin: Obama Administration Trying to Undermine Trump

President Vladimir Putin took a parting shot at the Obama administration Tuesday, accusing it of trying to undermine Donald Trump’s legitimacy with fake allegations and “binding the president-elect hand and foot to prevent him from fulfilling his election promises.”

In his first public remarks about an unsubstantiated dossier outlining unverified claims that Trump engaged in sexual activities with prostitutes at a Moscow hotel, Putin dismissed the material as “nonsense.”

“People who order such fakes against the U.S. president-elect, fabricate them and use them in political struggle are worse than prostitutes,” Putin said. “They have no moral restrictions whatsoever, and it highlights a significant degree of degradation of political elites in the West, including in the United States.”

Separately, Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said the dossier, compiled by former British spy Christopher Steele, was a “rude provocation.” The diplomat contemptuously called its author a “runaway swindler from MI6,” Britain’s foreign intelligence agency. Trump has rejected the sexual allegations as “fake news” and “phony stuff.”

The statements by Putin and Lavrov reflected the Kremlin’s deep anger at President Barack Obama’s administration in a culmination of tensions that have built up over the crisis in Ukraine, the war in Syria and allegations of Russian meddling in the U.S. election.

Putin said the allegations were part of efforts by the Obama administration to “undermine the legitimacy of the president-elect” despite his “convincing” victory.

Asked about Putin’s remarks, White House press secretary Josh Earnest said it “was not the first time the intelligence community has had some uncomfortable things to say about Russia.”

“These are the kind of things I’m sure the Russians would rather not to hear, but ultimately, and this is something that the next administration is going to have to decide, there’s a pretty stark divide here,” he added.

Putin voiced hope that “common sense will prevail” and Russia and the United States will be able to normalize relations once Trump takes office Friday.

“I don’t know Mr. Trump,” Putin said. “I have never met him and I don’t know what he will do on the international arena. I have no reason whatsoever to assail him, criticize him for something, or defend him.”

Putin ridiculed those behind the dossier for alleging Russian spy agencies collected compromising material on Trump when he visited Moscow in 2013 for the Miss Universe pageant.

“He wasn’t a politician. We didn’t even know about his political ambitions,” Putin said at a news conference. “Do they think that our special services are hunting for every U.S. billionaire?”

Putin also sarcastically suggested that Trump, who met the world’s most beautiful women at the pageant, had a better choice for female companionship than Moscow prostitutes, even though Putin claimed “they are also the best in the world.”

He said Trump’s foes are ready to go as far as to “stage a Maidan in Washington to prevent Trump from entering office” — a reference to the alleged U.S. role in organizing protests in the Ukrainian capital’s main square, Maidan, that forced the nation’s Russia-friendly president from power in 2014.

“People who are doing that are inflicting colossal damage to the interests of the United States,” Putin said. “How can you do anything to improve U.S.-Russian relations when they launch such canards as hackers’ interference in the election?”

At a separate news conference, Lavrov also said Moscow hopes for better relations with Washington once Trump takes office.

Russia and the United States can reach common ground on nuclear arms control and other issues if each country proceeds from its national interests and shows respect for the other side, Lavrov said.

He voiced hope that Trump’s team will consist of pragmatic people “who will not engage in moralizing and will try to understand the interests of their partners just as they clearly uphold their own interests.”

Lavrov denounced the foreign policy of the Obama administration and its allies as “messianic” attempts to impose Western values on the rest of the world, which has led to instability and conflicts in the Middle East and elsewhere.

He said Moscow is inviting representatives of the Trump administration to talks Monday on Syria in Kazakhstan — discussions brokered by Russia, Turkey and Iran. He voiced hope that Russian and U.S. experts could discuss fighting terrorism in Syria.

Asked about Trump’s recent remarks in which he indicated he could end sanctions on Russia for its 2014 annexation of Crimea in return for a nuclear arms reduction deal, Lavrov said Moscow was ready to hold nuclear arms talks with Washington.

Lavrov noted he didn’t see Trump’s words as an offer to cut arms in exchange for canceling the sanctions, rather as an expression of readiness to look at reviewing the sanctions while engaging in negotiations on arms control, among other issues.

Like Putin, Lavrov rejected allegations of Russian meddling in the U.S. election as “absurdities” and “fakes” intended to hurt Trump.

He said U.S. intelligence agencies have failed to produce any evidence to back those claims, adding that officials who engaged in the effort “deserve to be fired, as they receive their salaries for nothing.”

Lavrov described the allegations of Russian election meddling in the U.S. vote as the final “spasms of those who realize that their time is coming to an end.”

“The time of foreign policy demagogues is over, and, feeling hurt, they fabricate all kinds of fakes,” he said. “First, officials leak fakes to the media, then media start spinning them and, finally, officials comment on them as facts.”

Lavrov also accused U.S. officials of repeated attempts to recruit Russian diplomats in the U.S. as spies, including a deputy chief of mission.

In her final speech as U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, Samantha Power accused Russia of pursuing a policy of “deny and lie” to raise doubts about its actions in Syria and Ukraine, to undermine international institutions and, citing U.S. intelligence analysis, repeated allegations that Moscow used a well-crafted, multipronged attack to disrupt the U.S. election through hacking and misinformation.

“I know some have said that this focus on Russia is simply the party that lost the recent presidential election being ‘sore losers,'” Power told the Atlantic Council, a Washington think tank, “but it should worry every American that a foreign government interfered in our democratic process.”

She said the U.S. must reassure its allies that Russia will pay a price for interfering in other nations’ sovereign affairs, and that means maintaining sanctions on Russia for its actions in Ukraine as well as meddling in U.S. politics.

———

Associated Press writers Josh Lederman and Matthew Lee in Washington contributed.

Heavy Hitters Fund Trump’s Grand Production

Donald Trump made his mark both producing and starring in TV reality shows, but the production planned for Friday does not compare – it is poised to be more historic, more grand, and without a doubt much more expensive.

The price tag could surpass $200 million for an oath of office that takes about a minute, and a grand array of festivities that follow. And much as he has with his beauty pageants and his NBC program The Apprentice, the President-elect is reported to be personally involved in the tiniest of details for the Inaugural events.

“He looks like he’s just an average guy. But he’s a brilliant man,” said Phil Ruffin, an Inaugural Committee vice chair.

As they have for generations, American taxpayers will pay for the official part of the program – more than $115 million in recent years for the platform in front of the Capitol, the parade viewing boxes, and a dragnet of security along the 1.2 miles up Pennsylvania Avenue to the White House.

But another $90 million to $100 million will come from corporations and big money donors. Six- and seven-figure donors will be offered elaborate inauguration packages, including exclusive dinners, tickets, concerts and inaugural balls.

The approach is similar to past inaugural events – though on a grander scale.

PHOTO: Workers prepare the West Front of the U.S. Capitol for the upcoming inauguration of President-elect Donald Trump on Jan. 16, 2017 in Washington, DC. Aaron P. Bernstein/Getty Images
Workers prepare the West Front of the U.S. Capitol for the upcoming inauguration of President-elect Donald Trump on Jan. 16, 2017 in Washington, DC.

Obama’s second swearing-in cost taxpayers more than $100 million, but he raised about what half of what Trump is reported to have collected.

Donations for inaugural events have no legal limits, according to Sheila Krumholz of the Center for Responsive Politics. They will be reported 90 days after the new president takes office.

The fundraising effort is a turnabout from early in Trump’s campaign, when he pledged to finance his march to the White House with his own wealth.

“I don’t need anybody’s money,” he said at his campaign announcement. “I am using my own money, I’m not using lobbyists, I’m not using donors. I don’t care. I’m really rich.”

PHOTO:
SLIDESHOW: A Look Back at US Presidential Inaugurations

But now Trump’s inaugural committee is pulling in huge contributions from some of the biggest corporations that will want a good relationship with the new President.

Reportedly among them: big banks and large corporations seeking to limit government red tape. And many individual donors to Trump’s festivities have backgrounds similar to Ruffin’s – wealthy business executives who have history with Trump, but few ties to old Washington.

Ruffin, the billionaire casino executive who owns Treasure Island, partnered with Trump on the New York tycoon’s Las Vegas hotel. Later, Trump stood as best man at Ruffin’s wedding.

“They wanted a million dollars for these eight tickets,” Ruffin explained. “For half a million you can get four tickets but I needed eight. So I had to send a million dollars.”

“So of the ninety million dollars [raised], I am a million dollars of that,” he said.

ABC News’ Randy Kreider, Cho Park, Alex Hosenball, Alexandra Dukakis and James Gordon Meek contributed to this report.

What Your Doctor Isn’t Telling You on Twitter

Cancer doctors with Twitter accounts have something else in common: more than 70% of them receive funding from drug companies, according to a new research letter published in JAMAInternal Medicine.

In the study, researchers identified 634 hematologist-oncologists who were active on Twitter and looked up whether they received personal payments from drug companies, unrelated to research or grants, in 2014. Most of them did: 72% received payments from drug companies and 44% were paid more than a thousand dollars. Payments received by the doctors in the study ranged from $100 to more than $50,000 in a single year.

The topic has fascinated study author Dr. Vinay Prasad, an assistant professor of medicine at the Oregon Health and Science University, ever since he noticed that cancer doctors were tweeting about drugs and clinical trials. He and his team didn’t analyze the content of the tweets in this study, so they can’t show whether the doctors were tweeting about drugs from those companies—and whether the doctors’ conflicts of interest influence what they share on social media.

However, Prasad says his team is currently answering that question in a second study, and while the research is still ongoing, Prasad says the practice is prevalent. “It is 100% happening that doctors who have conflicts of interest are tweeting about those specific drugs,” he says.

Regulatory agencies have struggled to come up with rules on promoting prescription drugs through social media. In 2014, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) introduced voluntary guidelines for companies on how to present the risks and benefits of a given product online, even with character restrictions. Among them are suggestions to post messages about risks with a hyperlink that can direct people to a more detailed listing of side effects. Currently there is no official guidance for doctors on social media.

The study authors say that their findings raise the important issue of whether, and how, a doctor’s conflict of interest should be disclosed on social media like Twitter. Prasad says he thinks doctors should disclose their conflicts in their social media bios and consider flagging them when tweeting about drugs or clinical trials by companies they are paid by.

“Although there are cancer drugs with tremendous benefits, most cancer drugs have marginal benefits and real risk and harms,” says Prasad. “People deciding what treatment is right for them are in a tough situation. If part of what’s shaping your view of these drugs is the opinion of thought leaders on Twitter, then I think you have the right to know if they are paid by drug companies.”

The Soothing Benefit of Acupuncture for Babies

Acupuncture may help babies who cry too much, according to a new study published in the journal Acupuncture in Medicine. Infants with colic—crying for more than three hours a day, for at least three days a week—had fewer symptoms after getting the traditional Chinese needling technique compared to the standard treatment.

Most human acupuncture research has been in adults, and studies have linked the practice with reduced pain, improved gastrointestinal function and increased calm. To find out if it might help with excessive crying in infants, researchers recruited 147 healthy babies between two and eight weeks old who had all been diagnosed with colic.

The babies and their families were assigned to one of three groups, and they visited a child health center twice weekly for two weeks. Parents in all three groups spoke with a nurse about their child’s symptoms, and two of the groups also received acupuncture.

Some patients were given standard minimal acupuncture at LI4, a spot on the hand between index finger and thumb, for 2 to 5 seconds. The second group received acupuncture at up to five locations on the hands and legs, for up to 30 seconds with mild stimulation.

All of the parents kept diaries of how much time the babies spent crying at home. After two weeks, all three groups were crying less—an expected result, say the researchers, since colic tends to eventually clear up by itself.

But the reduction in crying was greater in both acupuncture groups than in the standard-treatment group, suggesting a faster recovery. During the second week of the experiment, only 16 babies in the standard acupuncture group and 21 in the tailored group still met the criteria for colic, compared to 31 babies in the standard-treatment group.

The results also suggest that acupuncture could have a lasting impact. Six days after the final clinic visit, the differences between the acupuncture and non-acupuncture groups remained. Overall, there were no meaningful differences between results in the two acupuncture groups.

The babies tolerated the acupuncture well. Sleeping babies rarely woke during treatment, and 200 of the 388 treatments given involved no crying at all. Only 31 sessions involved crying for longer than a minute, and only 15 resulted in any bleeding. (In each of those cases, only a single drop of blood was noted.) Three families dropped out of the trial before it ended.

The treatments were performed by licensed acupuncturists with an average of 20 years experience. They had also attended an education day specifically about acupuncture for colic.

Fussing and crying are normal for babies, the authors point out, and the goal of treatment should be a reduction to normal crying levels, not complete silence. Tired and worried parents often overestimate normal crying, says lead author Kajsa Landgren, a nurse and lecturer at Lund University in Sweden, so those considering further treatment should first keep a diary of crying times to determine if it really is excessive.

Landgren also recommends eliminating cow’s milk from a baby’s diet before seeking acupuncture or other treatment. (This means choosing formula without cow’s milk protein, or, if a mother is breastfeeding, avoiding cow’s milk herself.) Doing so can help treat excessive crying; in a weeklong registration period for the study, this helped treat excessive crying in 269 of the 426 babies initially identified for the research.

But for the 10% to 20% of families who struggle with infantile colic even after these steps are taken, “minimal acupuncture seems to be a safe and effective treatment,” Lundgren says.

Dr. Erica Sibinga, chair of the American Academy of Pediatrics Section on Integrative Medicine and associate professor of pediatrics at Johns Hopkins School of Medicine, says the study was rigorously designed and well conducted, and that it touches on an important and distressing issue for infants and their parents. “I believe this treatment sounds extremely promising for a difficult clinical problem,” she says, “and given the exemplary safety profile of the acupuncture treatments, I will be happy to recommend to patients.”

Sticking babies with sharp objects may sound unpleasant, but consider this, Dr. Sibinga says: The needles used in acupuncture have a much smaller gauge than those used to draw blood or give immunizations, so they’re less likely to cause discomfort or damage. Landgren adds that acupuncture in children generally uses fewer needles and milder, shorter periods of stimulation, compared to acupuncture in adults.

In fact, Landgren says that acupuncture is performed routinely in pediatric pain clinics in the United States, and has also been used to treat bed wetting, ADHD, nausea and constipation. In some cases, it allows less medication to be given: an important benefit for young children who are more sensitive to the effects of drugs.

Although research on infants is sparse, some earlier studies have shown promise for colic and pain. “I think that acupuncture is especially interesting in symptoms where there’s no other safe method or medication that relieves the symptoms, like in colic,” says Landgren. “And many desperate parents are willing to try complementary medicine.”

Parents who are interested in this treatment—and doctors who want to refer patients—should look for trained, licensed and experienced Traditional Chinese Medicine practitioners who are interested in working with infants and their families, says Dr. Sibinga, and who can provide treatments comparable to those in the study.

Former Klan Grand Dragon to MLK’s Daughter: I’m Sorry

Scott Shepherd didn’t fire the shot that killed Martin Luther King Jr., but the former Ku Klux Klan Grand Dragon says he has always felt remorse toward the family of the slain civil rights leader and all who honor his legacy.

He reached for atonement Monday evening, sitting on a dais next to Bernice King, who was 5 years old when James Earl Ray assassinated her father in 1968.

“I want to extend an apology to the King family and everyone out there,” Shepherd said, opening a discussion of race relations at the Atlanta center that bears the elder King’s name. “I, in my past, did a lot of terrible things. I said a lot of terrible things about Dr. King. I didn’t know what I was talking about.”

Bernice King, who acknowledged “hating white people” as a young woman, accepted Shepherd’s apology. It was the pinnacle of a Martin Luther King Jr. Day that laid bare intense social tensions as President-elect Donald Trump prepares to take office Friday, yet also offered potential avenues to achieve King’s vision of a just society.

Trump did not publicly participate in any King observances. The holiday came amid the fallout from a public tiff between Trump and civil rights icon John Lewis, an exchange that incensed many African-Americans already leery of Trump after a racially charged campaign.

In New York, King Day observers cast establishment leaders as Klan successors. “When men no better than Klansmen dressed in suits are being sworn into office, we cannot be silent,” Black Lives Matter co-founder Opal Tometi said at a Brooklyn gathering.

Father Michael Plfeger, the man Bernice King invited to serve as keynote speaker at the Monday morning service at her father’s Ebenezer Baptist Church, sounded similar themes. He delivered a 45-minute indictment of the nation’s social and economic structure and warned it would get worse under Trump. “Plantations still exist,” Pfleger said. “And too often, white hoods have been replaced by three-piece suits in this country.”

For her part, Bernice King warned of a nation “dangerously polarized” along the lines of race and class. “We are headed to race riots if we’re not careful,” she said. “We can’t just keep this divisiveness going.”

She expressed concerns about Trump, who had met earlier in the day with her brother, Martin Luther King III.

After that private session at Trump Tower in New York, King III said Trump pledged to be an inclusive president even as he stands firm in his spat with Lewis. The Georgia congressman initially called Trump “illegitimate,” prompting the president-elect to declare on Twitter that Lewis, who was beaten during the civil rights movement, was “all talk” and “no action.”

Bernice King said Trump has demonstrated “what kind of man he is” and said any transformation is up to God. Changing the nation, she said, rests with people like Shepherd and Daryl Davis, a black musician and author who has made a second career out of befriending Klansmen and leading them to renounce their racist views.

“When two enemies are talking, they aren’t fighting,” Davis said. “It’s when the talking ceases that the ground becomes fertile for violence.”

Minutes earlier, he had unfurled a robe and held aloft the hood of a man he said was once an Imperial Wizard of the Klan, supervising multiple states until he met Davis and eventually abandoned his racist views.

Ohio Gov. John Kasich, who ran unsuccessfully for the GOP presidential nomination that Trump won, told the same crowd it’s not productive to focus on national leaders like Trump. “The problems we have in society today are right here in our own neighborhoods,” he said.

Kasich’s approach highlights some differences among those who tout King’s legacy.

Pfleger, a self-described radical priest from Chicago, said the United States must dismantle systems of oppression through collective political action. Another failed presidential candidate, Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, noted that King, beyond being a racial justice advocate, was an economic radical who angered the political establishment.

If there is a shared conclusion among activists, it is perhaps that realizing King’s vision involves both personal conversion and collective action, in neighborhoods and in the halls of power.

Kasich noted that national politicians, even with their limitations, control resources and react to grassroots leaders like King. Activist Chris Crass, who is white, explained that he reaches out not to avowed white supremacists, but to whites who don’t see themselves as part of the problem.

The idea, he said, isn’t to make them feel guilty, but to convince them that U.S. power brokers for generations have divided working-class whites against poor blacks as a means to maintain power. Understanding those “economic and political realities” would enable a new, powerful social and political coalition, he said.

As to whether that can occur under Trump, Davis, the man who befriends and converts Klansman, said he’s optimistic. Trump, he said, “has brought all this out,” regardless of whether he intended to do so. Davis said many Americans assumed — or convinced themselves — that bigotry was over with Barack Obama’s election as the first black president.

“We have been in denial about racism in this country,” Davis said, “and you cannot address what you cannot see.”

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