Mark Levin: the man who started the baseless Obama wiretap rumor

One of the most energetic and successful rightwing talk radio hosts has been on the attack despite the slim basis for his claims – and Donald Trump is listening

The ultimate source of Donald Trump’s wiretapping allegations – which he has presented without evidence – is one of the most prominent conservative broadcasters in the country. Yet compared with colleagues Rush Limbaugh or Glenn Beck, few liberals have heard of him.

On Friday, Breitbart News reprinted and amplified allegations of an attempted “silent coup” by the Obama administration, which were reportedly the basis of Trump’s tweets about wiretapping on Saturday. But Breitbart acknowledged in their reporting that the case was first made on Mark Levin’s radio show on Thursday night.

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Health secretary: new healthcare plan is ‘a work in progress’ – video

Health and human services secretary Tom Price spoke to reporters at the White House press briefing on Tuesday, touting the new Republican healthcare legislation overhauling the nation’s existing healthcare law. Price said the new plan is ‘about patients, not about money’. Price added that the proposed legislation is ‘a work in progress’ as it heads to the Senate for voting

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Airbnb CEO offers property hosts bigger role in company

SAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) – Airbnb, the leading online marketplace for short-term lodging, on Tuesday invited some of the owners of properties listed on its service, known as hosts, to attend executive board meetings and offered them more direct contact with its chief executive, in an attempt to give the people vital to the company’s success a greater say in how it is run.

Rep. Jason Chaffetz Is Wrong. A $700 iPhone Can’t Cover Your Health Insurance.

Utah Republican Congressman Jason Chaffetz said in a CNN interview on Tuesday morning that low-income Americans will be able to afford health insurance under a Republican plan to replace Obamacare — as long as they don’t spend so much on things like iPhones.

The comparison is ridiculous and callous; smart phones are much cheaper than health care, and both can be a necessity, not a luxury, in modern life.

“You know what, Americans have choices. And they’ve got to make a choice,” he said. “And so maybe, rather than getting that new iPhone that they just love and they want to spend hundreds of dollars on, maybe they should invest in their own healthcare.”

While iPhones are among the priciest smartphones, they don’t come anywhere close to the cost of health insurance. Even the newest iPhone, off-contract, will cost someone around $700. The online health insurance dealer eHealth estimates that the average individual premium is currently about $393 a month — which means the cost of the brand new iPhone will on average net you less than two months worth of health insurance premiums.

And that’s assuming you don’t get sick. Especially with high-deductible plans, the cost of co-pays and deductibles can quickly become astronomical.

Unfortunately, the refrain that if the poor can afford basic consumer goods then they should be able to afford necessities is common among right-wing ideologues in the United States.

For example, the Heritage Foundation, a think tank that provides the basis of much of intellectual conservatism in the United States, put out a report in 2011 noting that the “typical poor household, as defined by the government, has a car and air conditioning, two color televisions, cable or satellite TV, a DVD player, and a VCR.”  It used these data points to conclude that  “government surveys show that most of the persons whom the government defines as ‘in poverty’ are not poor in any ordinary sense of the term.”

This ignores a fundamental reality of the modern age: consumer electronics like televisions have dramatically declined in price over the past few decades, becoming highly affordable, even as basic necessities like health care, child care and housing have grown much more expensive.

Economist Mark Perry illustrated this divergence in price between necessities and products that were once luxuries:

The cell phone example Chaffetz used is particularly problematic because it ignores how important owning a smartphone can be to Americans who don’t otherwise have access to the internet.

For some Americans, a smart phone is a necessity to apply for jobs or pay bills. Pew Research Center data from 2014 found that 13 percent of Americans with incomes under $30,000 were “smartphone-dependent” — meaning their smartphone was their primary device to access the internet — as opposed to just 1 percent of people whose household income was over $75,000.

As for Chaffetz, my colleague Lee Fang pointed out that his Political Action Committee (PAC) pays the phone bill for his campaign, which totals over $300 a month to Verizon Wireless, and spent $738 at an Apple store.

Top photo: Chaffetz speaking to reporters after leaving a meeting on Capitol Hill on Feb. 14, 2017.

The post Rep. Jason Chaffetz Is Wrong. A $700 iPhone Can’t Cover Your Health Insurance. appeared first on The Intercept.

WikiLeaks says it has secret CIA hacking tools

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Anti-secrecy group WikiLeaks on Tuesday said it had obtained a secret trove of hacking tools used by the CIA to break into or circumvent the security of phones, communication apps and other devices, and published confidential documents describing those programs.