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  • Secretary of Health and Human Services: Who Is Alex Azar?

    Friday, November 17, 2017
    Trump announced Azar’s nomination on Twitter, saying he would: “be a star for better healthcare and lower drug prices.” Actually, Azar has resisted drug-price controls. During his tenure as a senior VP at drug giant Eli Lilly, the company increased the price of its insulin product, Humalog, by 345%. “This is a slap in the face to millions of Americans who are waiting on [the President] to take action to lower drug prices," said Rep. Elijah Cummings of the nomination.   read more
  • Administrator of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services: Who Is Seema Verma?

    Thursday, November 16, 2017
    Under Verma’s “Healthy Indiana Plan,” healthcare in the state has gone from bad to worse. In 2006, it was the 33rd healthiest state in a ranking by American Public Health Association and the United Health Foundation. By 2015, Indiana had fallen to 41st nationwide, The Washington Post reported. Verma has also consulted on similar plans for Michigan, Tennessee and Iowa. Her Indiana Plan removed people from Medicaid if they failed to contribute to a health savings account.   read more
  • U.S. Ambassador to Rwanda: Who Is Peter Vrooman?

    Wednesday, November 15, 2017
    Vrooman served as deputy political counselor at the U.S. mission to the United Nations from 2000 to 2005, and was an advisor on the Middle East. He then served three straight postings concerned with that region: as deputy political counselor at the embassy in Tel Aviv, Israel (circa 2006 to 2008); at the embassy in Baghdad, Iraq (circa 2008 to 2009); and as director for Iraq on the staff of the National Security Council (circa 2009 to 2011).   read more
  • Commissioner of Labor Statistics: Who Is William Beach?

    Tuesday, November 14, 2017
    In 1991, Beach was named president of the Institute of Humane Studies, which is funded by the Koch brothers, supporters of right-wing institutions. In 1995, Beach moved to the similarly oriented Heritage Foundation, where he co-authored a paper that promoted abandoning the Social Security system in favor of putting money into the financial markets. In the midst of the Great Recession that began under George W. Bush, Beach urged that unemployment benefits be cut.   read more
  • U.S. Ambassador to the Dominican Republic: Who Is Robin Bernstein?

    Monday, November 13, 2017
    Bernstein claims to speak only “basic Spanish.” But she is a founding member of President Trump’s Mar-a-Lago club, which apparently qualified her to be the U.S. representative to the Dominican Republic. A former Democrat, Bernstein worked to persuade Democratic-leaning Jewish voters to support the GOP. She is a longtime friend of Trump's and handles insurance for some of his interests. Bernstein was a 2016 Trump delegate and one of his Florida electors in the Electoral College.   read more
  • Director of the Occupational Safety and Health Administration: Who Is Scott Mugno?

    Sunday, November 12, 2017
    Among Mugno's duties as safety VP for FedEx's Ground unit was serving as “brain coach” and “den mother” for FedEx drivers in National Truck Driving Championship competitions. Industry groups welcomed his appointment to OSHA, who has represented American Trucking Associations at Congressional hearings, believing he'll continue the Trump administration’s drive to weaken worker-protection regulations put in place under Obama. Mugno is an enthusiastic Trump supporter who attended his inauguration.   read more
  • U.S. Ambassador to Norway: Who Is Kenneth Braithwaite?

    Friday, November 10, 2017
    Braithwaite’s Naval Reserve duties included serving at NAS Willow Grove (Pennsylvania) in its combat camera unit; deploying to Iraq in 2003 in a naval support role; and becoming commander of the Joint Public Affairs Support Element-Reserve in October 2004. In this role, he was deployed to Pakistan to assist with relief efforts for a major 2005 earthquake. Braithwaite retired from the Naval Reserve in 2011. In 2016 he served on Trump’s Defense Department transition team.   read more
  • Director of the Bureau of Indian Affairs: Who Is Tara Sweeney?

    Thursday, November 09, 2017
    As government relations manager for ASRC, Sweeney supported oil drilling along the Coastal plain in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. In 2010, as ASRC vice-president of external affairs, as part of her pro-oil drilling stance, she opposed the designation of a large portion of the North Slope as a critical habitat in order to protect polar bears. In 2015, she told The New York Times that the Arctic “is not a pristine snow globe that deserves to be tucked away and preserved.”   read more
  • Director of the Office of Surface Mining Reclamation and Enforcement: Who Is J. Steven Gardner?

    Wednesday, November 08, 2017
    Gardner is a vocal defender of the coal industry and often minimizes mining's environmental damage. Environmental groups blasted his appointment to OSM. “...He will try and fight anything that gets in the way of profits for coal executives—even if it means sacrificing the health of the families...in Kentucky,” said Sierra Club's Tom Morris. “...He has shown nothing but contempt for science-based clean air and water protections for working people, and dutifully pandered to corporate polluters..."   read more
  • Suicide More Common in High-Altitude Counties

    Tuesday, November 07, 2017
    Psychiatric illness, mood disorders and lack of social support are recognized risk factors for suicide. Some studies show that increased elevation may enhance psychological problems, such as panic attacks, and that altitude is a significant risk factor for depressive symptoms and suicide. It's now shown that Americans in higher-altitude counties are at a higher risk for suicide. In Utah, the average geographic altitude is about 6,000 feet, and the rate of suicide is 70% higher than average.   read more
  • Assistant Attorney General, National Security Division: Who Is John Demers?

    Tuesday, November 07, 2017
    Demers helped draft Section 702 of the FISA Amendments Act, which allows the NSA to collect emails and other electronic communications of foreign targets overseas, including correspondence with U.S. citizens. At his confirmation hearing last week, Demers made it clear that the NSA should not be required to obtain an FBI warrant before searching the communications of American citizens. He also waffled on the subject of whether journalists should be jailed for refusing to reveal their sources.   read more
  • Director of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration: Who Is Barry Lee Myers?

    Monday, November 06, 2017
    Myers, whose company supported efforts to restrict the ability of the NWS to provide taxpayer-funded weather forecasts to the public, has been nominated to lead the NOAA. If confirmed, he will be only the second leader in the agency’s history not to have a background in science. Myers said he "was originally enrolled in meteorology as an undergraduate [but] then dropped out of school because I was a horrible student. I was never interested in learning, which I look at now as sort of funny.”   read more
  • Secretary of Homeland Security: Who Is Kirstjen Nielsen?

    Sunday, November 05, 2017
    In 2007, Nielsen became general counsel for the national security division of Civitas Group, a strategic advisory and investment firm. In 2012, she became president of Sunesis, consulting on preparedness strategies. She also served as a civilian expert to NATO. By 2016, she was chair of Global Agenda Council on Risk and Resilience at the World Economic Forum. Nielsen then joined the Trump administration as chief of staff to then-Homeland Security Secretary Kelly.   read more
  • Director of U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services: Who Is L. Francis Cissna?

    Friday, November 03, 2017
    A focus of Cissna's is the H1-B program, which concerns putting workers with technical skills in jobs that can’t be filled by U.S. citizens. He’s seen by the Center for Immigration Studies, an anti-immigrant think tank, as being tougher on immigration and could undo policies such as letting spouses of H1-B holders get work permits. In 2016, while director of immigration policy at Homeland Security, Cissna volunteered as an advisor to Trump’s presidential campaign regarding immigration policy.   read more
  • Renewable Energy Investment Attacked by...Immigration Service

    Thursday, November 02, 2017
    An alternative energy investment firm representing foreign investors sued the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services on Tuesday, claiming it has merely “spun its wheels” to delay worthy immigrants’ visas. The California Energy Investment Center claims in federal court that USCIS has unreasonably delayed the visa applications of 200 immigrant investors who provided $100 million in funding for the McCoy solar energy plant in Riverside County, California.   read more
  • Administrator of the Employee Benefits Security Administration: Who Is Preston Rutledge?

    Wednesday, November 01, 2017
    The fate of the “fiduciary rule,” a key protection for workers’ retirement plans that has been criticized by President Trump, will rest with Preston Rutledge, Trump’s nominee for administrator of the EBSA. Rutledge has served the IRS as a tax law specialist in the Office of Chief Counsel and on the staff of the Tax Exempt and Government Entities Division. He then moved to Congress, serving as a senior tax and benefits counsel for the Senate Finance Committee and an aide to Sen. Orrin Hatch.   read more
  • Chair of the Council on Environmental Quality: Who Is Kathleen Hartnett White?

    Tuesday, October 31, 2017
    At the Texas Public Policy Foundation, a right-wing group funded largely by fossil fuel interests and pro-corporate groups, White has specialized in denying the conclusions reached by about 97% of climate scientists worldwide. In her zeal to defend fossil fuels, White has claimed that “Fossil fuels dissolved the economic justification for slavery.” At TECQ, she voted to approve a new coal plant despite a prior court ruling that the pollution controls for the proposal would not work.   read more
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