Happy Birthday, US of A!

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Today, the US of A celebrates its 241st birthday.

It was, like with any birth, one that was born out of travail, crying, shouts of glee, bloodshed and even death. Truly the continent was in heavy labor as the push and screams of thousands were heard around the world.

That sorrow and agony gave way, however, to jubilation as the nation emerged scathed and covered with the scars and trappings of nativity. But as difficult as that birth was, the struggle was not over.

There would be growing pains, illnesses and diseases to overcome. There would be those who would attempt to reclaim and to destroy that life which was born out of a pledge to devote honor, lives and fortunes to see this epic birth come to be and last through all time.

Through the years, as with any baby maturing to toddler to child to teen to adult, this great nation of states joined to form a “more perfect union” had to go through its share of perils, tests and trials. In each instance, in the end, the US of A emerged on the other side a better nation.

The most trying time is undisputed, which is what occurred during what I would call the teenage years, puberty, when literally brother was pitted against brother, sister against sister, sons and daughters against mothers and fathers. The greatest and most costly toll of lives and bloodshed threatened to tear the nation apart. Yet through the trauma of the Civil War, the War Between the States, a united and stronger country came of age.

Dark days still lay ahead, but it seemed the worst had passed.

Through more battles and more wars, we find ourselves today celebrating the nation we’ve become and feeling the pain of the mistakes we have made. We honor the lives who gave their all to keep this nation the home of the brave and the land of the free.

Now, we look forward to the days and years ahead.

We are traveling the rough and choppy sea of economic uncertainty, but which seems to be slowly recovering.

The ship of state must traverse the gulf as the skipper maneuvers the ship to avoid crashing on the rocks of lost hope, despair, keeping an eye on the course and the port of serenity which lies in the distance.

The tides of global unrest threaten to engulf us. We must stay resolute and strong. Together we can ride the waves and dock in safe harbor.

Many have lost hope.

Many no longer aspire to the American Dream.

Many wonder if the flag will still wave for much longer.

But we are Americans.

We will survive.

From the Cornfield, America, may she always be that shining city on a hill to which others seek to aspire.

Happy Independence Day!

7 Or 70

Days like yesterday it becomes difficult to determine if President Donald Trump is 7 or 70 years of age. After his childish tweet on Twitter, it is not easy to imagine it was sent by the Leader of the Free World.

Compounding the confusion is the National Press Corps acting like a bunch of second graders circling on the play ground screaming, ”Fight! Fight! Fight!”

While the folk in the Cornfield and throughout the Heartland sit back snickering and ignoring the lunacy.

We are more concerned with jobs, putting food on the table, having summer fun and our own health and concerns than the shenanigans of the Political Alter verse inside the Beltway.

Give us a break and focus on what really matters.

While I do not agree with the President in often what he tweets and the words he chooses to use, I do have an understanding of his mindset and the cultural setting for what most of us consider uncouth and un-called-for wording.

I discussed this nearly a year ago: Grandpa and Trump.

Grandpa and Trump

The White House Press Corps and others of the National Press are rightly criticized by those of us in the Heartland.

The bent of the journalists and their connection with life outside of the Coasts and the Beltway is far different from those of us in the Cornfield and the rest of the Heartland.

What matters to them, we find “too much ado about nothing.”

Time for the press to get out into the hustlings. Time for the President to put down his phone and focus on what is of importance to “we, the people.”

From the Cornfield, for a second day, we are being beset with talk about the President’s tweets and the National Press reaction and condemnation.

Time for both sides to give it a rest.

Both the President and the National Press are too defensive, too quick to throw bombs at each other and generally ready to step outside too often.

There will always be a certain amount of distrust and dislike between whoever is in the Oval Office and reporters who cover the White House, but at least the two should be able to act civilly with one another.

The Prez – A Review

Before we get started, pour yourself a tall one of This is Life, mixed not stirred, with the flavor of choice: Fox News, CNN, MSNBC or PBS. With that out of the way, let us move to the main course.

Grab a healthy slice of WWE Raw and knead with Survivor. Mix in a dallop of Big Brother and a bit of The Amazing Race. Blend until it consists of The Voice along with a tinge of American Idol. Sprinkle in The Real Life and a dash or two of Fear Factor. Garnish with The Apprentice. Bake and bank it like America’s Got Talent.

For dessert serve, hot or cold, The Bachelor or World of Dance (you may substitute Dancing With the Stars or So, You Think You Can Dance).

What you have concocted is the hottest dish on television this year, breaking all ratings and blowing up the Nielsen boxes – the reality hit – The Prez, starring Donald J. Trump and a host of snakes and gators slithering through the swamp.

So, Who Wants to be a Millionaire?

We should have seen it coming. The critics should not be surprised. But in such a relatively short period of time it may have caught us all off guard.

Less than four score years ago, the first television President burst on our black and whites.  John F. Kennedy became a matinee idol to Richard Nixon’s five o’clock shadow of a villain in the making.

Bill Clinton took late night TV by storm and even rocked out MTV.

Barack Obama tapped into the new internet medium, but soon a new nerd came along to dominate social media – Trump. On our smart phones, our tablets, laptops and PCs, not to mention our flat screens, Everything’s Turning Up Trump!

The American viewing public is eating up as The Donald takes on the Main Stream Media and rubs the Dems and even his fellow GOPers noses in it.

Americans have become insatiable. More Facebook videos. More Twitter. More Youtube cinema masterpieces.

Howard Stern may be the king of all media, but Trump is the master of the medium of social networking.

America, you asked for it – you got it.

Those 24-hour news networks have fed the monster and shot it up with hormones, resulting in the award winning show of our first Reality Television Presidency.

Now the national press corps complains about the Frankenstein it aided the American public in creating.

Yet in the Heartland, in the Cornfield, people tune in to catch the highlights, but go back to living their lives. Folk here tend to care more about a job, paying the bills, living life, putting food on the table.

While the Coasts can’t get enough of the Beltway action.

The Heartland yawns.

From the Cornfield, how long will the show run?

Four years?

Eight years?

Will it crash and burn early with an impeachment to boost ratings?

Tune in tomorrow – same Bat channel, same Bat time.

The Day America Stood Still

On Thursday, June 8, 2017, America came to a grinding halt as people across the nation were absorbed in the Super Bowl of Politics – the appearance of former Federal Bureau of Investigation Director James Comey testifying before the Senate Intelligence Committee.

At stake was the presidency of Donald J. Trump and the American electoral process.

While there was a lot of thunder streaming across television screens, monitors and smartphones, there were no lightning strikes, no burning timber. The smoke at times became intense, but no flames erupted. Bars and taverns hosted watch parties. The crowds reveled in watching as Comey spoke and Senators questioned.

But to their disappointment, no resolution came, no validation of either support or opposition.

Those who favored the President still favored the President.

Those who opposed the President still opposed the President.

Today we have the pundits grousing over whether anyone came out a winner in yesterday’s hearing. Some are trying to make a case for criminal obstruction of justice by the President, while others a political case for eventual impeachment.

At this point in time, all are merely words without substance. Until the Special Counsel Robert Mueller finishes his investigation, the current scandal involving the President is a political fray. All other issues await the criminal investigation determination of Mueller.

What do we really know this Friday?

Not much more than we already knew from the leaked stories that have circulated in the press.

What was confirmed was that at the time of the firing of Comey, the President was not personally under investigation.

A cloud of bewilderment was raised by Comey about former Attorney General Loretta Lynch and her insinuated involvement with both the investigation into the private email server used by and candidacy of former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in her quest for the White House.

In spite of the hunger of the folk on Capitol Hill to pin blame on or exonerate the President during Thursday’s hearing, those questions remain and will remain until Mueller has concluded his investigation.

Another interesting outtake was learning that Comey was the source of some of the information being disseminated to the press.

Also of interest was the reasoning behind the leaking of information to the press was in the hopes that it would lead to an appointment of a special counsel.

From the Cornfield, those hoping to find the Trump house on fire were disappointed. Those hoping to see the phoenix rising out of the ashes were also disappointed.

Hang onto your hats, this is going to be a long and at times topsy-turvy ride before the end of the line.

D-Day Remembered

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Today, June 6th, 2017 is dedicated the memory of all those who gave their lives on Omaha Beach, Normandy, France 69 years ago in what proved to be the drive that led to the fall of the Nazi regime and brought peace to a world torn by war.

My grandfather and great uncles were among those who served. One of my great uncles, Homer Powell, did not return from that war. Though I never was given the pleasure of knowing him, he is still alive in our hearts and memories.

Of those who assaulted the beach that day, some came home, but many were left dying or dead in the sand. As the Nazi forces tried to beat back the coalition forces of Allied powers, the German High Command failed to understand the resolve of these brave soldiers to make the world safe, to end the scourge of the Nazi atrocities and to bring peace to a troubled people.

Those efforts, those deaths were not in vain. The comrades of those who had been killed kept pressing on until they marched into Berlin and put an end to the tyranny.

From the Cornfield, pause with me now to remember and to salute those who gave their lives and all of those whom Tom Brokaw rightly labeled, “The Greatest Generation“.

Cornfield Perspective: Paris Climate Accord

The Cornfield’s own 8th District Congressman Dr. Larry Buschon provided his take on the Paris Climate Accord, from which President Donald Trump withdrew US participation in this week.

A Decision on Paris

  • President Obama entered into the Paris climate agreement on his own – he never sought the Senate’s advice and consent.
  • The agreement treats countries differently, with the U.S. cutting emissions more than Russia, China, Iran, and India.
  • The disparity puts U.S. businesses at a competitive disadvantage and raises energy costs for Americans. 

The Paris climate agreement was a vital part of President Obama’s attempts to build his legacy. The Trump administration is expected to decide the deal’s fate before the president attends the G-7 summit on May 26.

DISPARITY AMONG COUNTRIES

The United States pledged to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 20 percent between 2015 and 2025. Meanwhile, Russia is allowed to increase its emissions up to 50 percent – and China refused to set any emissions limit at all until 2030.

After the agreement was signed, many nations indicated that they would only take action if they got a significant amount of foreign aid. Developing nations have requested at least $5.4 trillion in assistance. India requested $2.5 trillion, and South Africa asked for $909 billion. Iran made its commitments contingent on the removal of all sanctions and receiving $840 billion. President Obama transferred $1 billion from the State Department to the United Nations to implement the Paris agreement.

THE SENATE NEVER APPROVED THE AGREEMENT

President Obama knew that Congress would never approve such a flawed deal, so he refused to seek the Senate’s advice and consent. Instead, he labeled it an “executive agreement” and unilaterally pledged U.S. support. President Obama’s actions violated U.S. policy set during the Clinton administration requiring Senate approval for any international effort to set “targets and timetables” for emissions reductions.

POTENTIAL IMPACT ON AMERICAN JOBS

Many of America’s global competitors are unaffected by the Paris agreement, while the United States will incur significant implementation costs. President Obama pledged to cut annual greenhouse gas emissions by about 1.1 billion tons from 2015 to 2025. That’s on top of the more than 820 million tons the U.S. has already cut from annual emissions over the last decade. According to a March 2017 study by NERA Economic Consulting, the Paris agreement will cost America $3 trillion and eliminate 6.5 million jobs by 2040. Every sector of the economy will be affected, especially the U.S. industrial base.

Decline in U.S. Industrial Output Due to Paris Agreement in 2025

Source: NERA Economic Consulting

INCREASING U.S. OBLIGATIONS

The United States’ obligations under the Paris agreement increase over time. Under the agreement, the U.S. is required to update its emission-reduction targets every five years. The plain language of the agreement states that we can only pledge to do more – not less – as time goes on.

IMPACT ON THE ENVIRONMENT

Despite the high costs, the agreement does not solve the environmental challenges it was meant to address. China is the world’s largest producer of greenhouse gases. While U.S. emissions decline, those from developing nations like India continue to rise. That’s one reason why researchers at MIT estimate that the agreement will have a negligible impact on the environment.

 More here: https://www.rpc.senate.gov/policy-papers/a-decision-on-paris.

From the Cornfield, that is the perspective of one of its Congressional Representatives.

And what is your perspective on the President’s withdrawal from the PCA?

Salute! to Those Who Gave Their All

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Today is Memorial Day.

It is a time to stop, reflect and remember those military personnel who have paid the ultimate sacrifice to maintain and protect our freedom and way of life in the US of A.

The tradition of Memorial Day originally began in commemoration of those soldiers lost during the Civil War. It was known in various communities and states as Decoration Day. The date set aside was May 30. This was later changed to allow for a 3-day weekend by Congress to be the last Monday in May.

For the vast majority of Americans it is just another holiday weekend and the unofficial start to the summer vacation season. For many others it’s the weekend when millions around the world tune in to watch or listen to the greatest spectacle in racing, the Indy 500.

To too many it’s just a day to get together with family, have picnics and barbecues, go to the opening of community pools across the nation.

It’s a time to lay back and enjoy having three days off in a row with no worries.

Yet, Memorial Day symbolizes much more.

Ask any veterans’ organization or any military person in uniform or any family member who has lost a loved one in war, whether declared or undeclared, in peacetime or wartime.

Memorial Day was meant to be a day upon which a grateful nation pauses to remember those who donned a uniform and gave their lives in defense of our American way of life.

These brave men and women paid the ultimate price to make sure we could have our picnics, our barbecues, our splashing around in the pool.

The sacrifice of those who gave their lives is honored with each election where not by coup, but by ordinary Americans casting a ballot and choosing those who will lead and represent them.

The power and authority of those officials are transferred from one elected official to the next, from the precinct level to the highest office in the land, the Presidency, without the need for troops in the streets because of those who answered the call to duty, honor and service.

The ability to vote, the ability to choose, the ability to speak our minds, the ability to worship or not worship, the ability to write these words without fear, the ability to work, to succeed, to fail, to rise above our circumstances, all of this we owe to those men and women who fought and died for peace, justice and freedom.

None of our liberties came without cost and thus we owe a debt to those men and women who died in defense of our freedom.

On a personal note:

In those dark days following the sneak attack by the Imperial Japanese Navy on Pearl Harbor, December 7, 1941, four brothers from Nashville, Brown County, Indiana lined up at the recruiting office and joined the US Navy. These four brothers went off to save the world for democracy both in the European Theater and in the Pacific.

Three made it back home at the close of the war. The one who didn’t return was my Great-Uncle Homer. My grandfather and his other two brothers, Herman and Wesley, came home, but changed, never to be the same.

I never was afforded the pleasure of meeting my Great-Uncle Homer Powell, a sailor who gave his life for our nation during World War II and long before I was born. The family seldom mentioned his name, but it was apparent Great-Uncle Homer was not forgotten. His picture, in uniform, hung proudly in my Great-Grandpa Ancil Powell’s living room. In silence, his memory was honored.

Today thousands still are in the fight to keep us safe. Over the past 10+ years, thousands more have shed their blood and forfeited their lives. We must never forget their sacrifice, their bravery, the lives they lived.

This is why we owe a debt of gratitude we can never repay and should never stop repaying.

This is why the deaths of veterans waiting on care from the Veterans Affairs medical facilities is such a gaping wound on the American conscious and must be addressed not after another study, but with action now.

From the Cornfield, I hope each of you will take time from the barbecuing, the playing games with family, watching reruns of yesterday’s race or enjoying the water and sun to stop – remember our heroes who gave their all so that we can live in the land of the free and the home of the brave.

Politics Roundup: April 17 – 23, 2017

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Welcome to the weekly compilation of the ins and outs, the ups and downs, the comings and goings from the alternate world of reality – politics!

Monday, 4/17/17:

Ready…

Set…

Wait!

The Administration of President Donald Trump warned North Korea not to test American resolve.

The Chinese warned North Korea not to launch a missile.

Kim Jung Un, Young Leader of North Korea, ignored all.

A missile fired.

Five seconds after launch it blew up.

Did US cyber wonks have something to do with the explosion?

At the DMZ (demilitarized zone) in South Korea, Vice President Mike Pence warned the North Koreans the “era of strategic patience is over” and the US will stop any attack that might come from the North.

Just in the past two weeks, the world witnessed the strength and resolve of our new President in actions taken in Syria and Afghanistan,” the Vice President said after delivering a statement to the media alongside Hwang Kyo-ahn, South Korea’s Acting President.

North Korea would do well not to test his resolve or the strength of the armed forces of the United States in this region,” Pence said.

Citing unprecedented declines of up to 70% in illegal crossings in some areas during the past two months, Homeland Security Secretary John F. Kelly said the government’s focus on the border – from a deportation crackdown in the interior to the preparations for the construction of a wall – has altered traditional traffic flows.

Texas Republican Congressman Mike Conaway, who is heading up the House Intelligence Committee look into the Russian interference in last year’s election and possible collusion by members of the Trump campaign, has flown to Cyprus to see and obtain information that may be pertinent to the Committee’s investigation.

The Prez is going to Wisconsin tomorrow to speak at a local factory in Kenosha. The President will visit the headquarters of Snap-On, a tool manufacturer.

A Gallup poll out early today finds only 45% of Americans think the President keeps his promises, down from 62% in a poll taken in February.

President Trump and First Lady Melania hosted their first annual White House Easter Egg Roll today, continuing a 150-year Washington tradition.

OOPs!

Did I say that?

One Congressman must be asking himself.

A Wisconsin Congressman told a town hall attendee who was concerned about the elimination of online privacy protections that using the Internet is a choice – a statement that has since drawn criticism on social media.

The question posed dealt with recent action that allows internet service providers to sell personal information of internet users. Congressman F. James Sensenbrenner answered this way:

Nobody’s got to use the Internet. … And the thing is that if you start regulating the Internet like a utility, if we did that right at the beginning, we would have no Internet. Internet companies have invested an awful lot of money in having almost universal service now. The fact is is that, you know, I don’t think it’s my job to tell you that you cannot get advertising for your information being sold. My job, I think, is to tell you that you have the opportunity to do it, and then you take it upon yourself to make that choice. That’s what the law has been, and I think we ought to have more choices rather than fewer choices with the government controlling our everyday lives.”

State Politics: A federal judge put a hold on Arkansas carrying out eight executions this week.

The judge said the prisoners will probably succeed in proving the state’s proposed method of execution, lethal injection, is unconstitutional.

The state says it wants to execute the inmates before its supply of lethal injection drugs expires.

Leaders of America First Policies, a nonprofit that supports President Trump, told The Washington Post on Sunday that their group is launching a $3 million ad campaign to support a dozen Republican House members who backed the Republican healthcare plan.

Georgians in and around Atlanta, Georgia go to the polls tomorrow to fill the vacancy in Congress left when Dr. Tom Price became Secretary of Health and Human Services.

The Democratic challenger is mounting a strong run for the office which has been in Republican hands for decades.

The President this morning weighed in on the Georgia contest, tweeting, “The super Liberal Democrat in the Georgia Congressional race tomorrow wants to protect criminals, allow illegal immigration and raise taxes!”

The primary includes 18 candidates – Republicans, Democrats and Independents. Republicans hope to force a June runoff with the GOP’s top candidate by keeping Democratic candidate Jon Ossoff below 50% of the vote.

Global Politics: Turkey has a new way of governing after President Recep Tayyip Erdogan won a close victory in a referendum to change the nation from a parliamentary to presidential system.

Turkey’s main opposition party today urged the country’s electoral board to cancel the results of a landmark referendum that granted sweeping new powers to the nation’s President, citing what it called substantial voting irregularities.

International observers who monitored the voting also found irregularities, saying the conduct of Sunday’s referendum “fell short” of international standards. It specifically criticized a decision Sunday by Turkey’s electoral board to accept ballots that did not have official stamps, saying that undermined safeguards against fraud.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel today urged Turkey’s President Erdogan to seek “respectful dialogue” within the country after his narrow win in a referendum extending his powers.

The (German) government expects that the Turkish government will now seek respectful dialogue with all political and social forces in the country, after this tough election campaign,” Merkel said in a statement issued jointly with Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel.

Ex-South Korean President Park Geun-hye was indicted this morning on abuse of power and bribery charges.

Javier Duarte, the fugitive former Governor of Mexico’s Veracruz State, has been arrested in Guatemala after a six-month international manhunt, Mexican authorities said Sunday.

Foreign Ministry spokesman Lu Kang voiced China’s opposition to the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) system at a regular briefing in Beijing, and also urged all parties to work together to maintain peace and stability in the region.

South Korean Acting President Hwang Kyo-ahn and Vice President Pence today reaffirmed their plans to go ahead with the deployment of the system.

South African Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa said that leaders should listen to protesters who have taken to the streets demanding that President Jacob Zuma resign or be removed after a Cabinet reshuffle triggered damaging credit downgrades.

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe urged North Korea today to refrain from taking further provocative actions, comply with United Nations resolutions and abandon its nuclear missile development.

Tuesday, 4/18/17:

Tax Day in America.

Democrats are making hay with today being the deadline for filing income tax returns to try and pressure President Donald Trump to release his tax returns.

Protests took place around the country Saturday.

Arkansas Republican Senator Tom Cotton was shouted down and booed by constituents at a town hall meeting yesterday for defending the President not releasing those tax returns.

Will it force the President’s hand?

Doubtful.

The Prez in the meantime flew to Kenosha, Wisconsin today to speak to workers at the headquarters of tool maker Snap-On and push his Buy American, Hire American policy.

While there, the Prez signed an executive order urging federal entities to do their best to both buy American goods and hire American workers for government products.

The order also aims to curb what the Administration says are hiring abuses in a visa program used by technology companies

Speaking in Wisconsin, the President set sights on Canada and vowing to solve the dairy “war” with our northern neighbor.

At issue is cheaper Canadian milk coming into the Cheese State to make the product for which Wisconsin is known to the detriment of local dairy farmers, who are selling off cows and getting out the industry.

The President refused to confirm or deny that US cyber capabilities were responsible for the failed North Korean ballistic missile test over the weekend.

At odds?

The State Department raised concerns about the referendum over the weekend which changed Turkey’s governance from a parliamentarian to a presidential system.

The President called and congratulated Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on the win and being a strong leader.

In Japan today, Vice President Mike Pence said the US would stand by Japan “100 percent” and keep pushing until North Korea curbs its missile and nuclear weapons programs.

President Trump “is determined to work closely with Japan, with South Korea, with all our allies in the region and with China to achieve a peaceable resolution and the denuclearization of the Korean peninsula,” Pence said.

Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly today bluntly challenged members of Congress critical of the Trump Administration’s aggressive approach to immigration enforcement to either change the laws or “shut up.”

Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin is now saying his August deadline for a budget was too optimistic and will not happen.

Less than a third of people in the US approve of the way House Speaker Paul Ryan is handling his leadership role in Congress, according to a Pew Research Center survey released Monday.

The poll found that 29% approve of his job and a majority, 54%, disapprove of his job.

The White House is considering eliminating the popular petitions site We the People.

State Politics: The Supreme Court stayed two executions in Arkansas after an Appeals Court overturned a federal judge’s stay of all eight executions set within the next 11 days.

In Georgia, voters are turning out to vote for which Democrat and/or Republican will fill the vacancy in Congress when Dr. Tom Price became Health and Human Services Secretary.

Jon Ossoff is expected to be the Democrat to get the nod.

The Republican field is crowded with no clear front-runner.

If no one gets at least 50% of the vote, there will be a runoff election in June between Republican and Democratic candidate.

President Trump got into the fray urging Republicans to turn out and specifically to defeat Ossoff.

Turns out that Ossoff does not live in the congressional district is hoping to represent.

Alabama Governor Kay Ivey today moved up the election to fill the Senate seat vacated by now-U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions to December because she said the original plan to hold it in late 2018 was not soon enough to meet state law. The primary election will now be held on August 15 and the general vote will be December 12, Ivey’s office said.

A South Dakota lawmaker frustrated with what he views as inaction over a secretive polygamous sect’s outpost in his district wants legislators to look into the compound, including why no South Dakota birth or death records have been filed from there over the last decade.

Global Politics: Kim In Ryong, North Korea’s Deputy United Nations Ambassador, said the US focus on the North Korean nuclear program reflected a “gangster-like logic” that’s turning the Korean Peninsula into “the world’s biggest hotspot,” creating “a dangerous situation in which a thermonuclear war may break out at any moment.”

Turkey’s main opposition party on Monday called for election officials to nullify the results of a landmark referendum granting President Recep Tayyip Erdogan sweeping new powers.

OOPs!

Or was it intentional?

On the same day that the world nervously watched North Korea stage a massive military parade to celebrate the birthday of the nation’s founder Kim Il Sung, and the press speculated about a pre-emptive U.S. strike, the US Navy put the the aircraft carrier Carl Vinson, together with its escort of two guided-missile destroyers and a cruiser, more than 3,000 miles southwest of the Korean peninsula, which was more than 500 miles southeast of Singapore.

It definitely fooled the world and North Korea. The psychological effect was striking.

The number of people applying for asylum in Mexico has soared by more than 150% since Trump was elected President, according to Mexican data, as more Central American migrants seek to stay rather than take their chances in the United States.

France is apparently now being targeted for meddling by Russia in its presidential election in May as both Sputnik and RT are coming out with “news stories” in support of one of the candidates, which are in reality fake.

Wednesday, 4/19/17:

Debunked dossier.

That dossier released in the waning days of the 2016 election, prepared by an ex-British spy, was part of the basis for getting a Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) warrant to monitor communications of former foreign policy adviser to the campaign of Donald Trump and ties to Russian officials.

The dossier had been widely panned as unreliable and much of the information unconfirmable, even by Federal Bureau of Investigation Director James Comey.

The Trump Administration notified Congress last night that Iran is complying with the deal reached by former President Barack Obama on its nuclear program.

Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said, however, in a letter to House Speaker Paul Ryan that the Administration is reviewing the deal, which President Trump strongly criticized during his campaign, to determine whether it “is vital to the national security interests of the United States.”

President Trump said Tuesday that his push for tax reform was “in very good shape.”

It’s going to make it much harder to pass tax reform with the president not releasing his tax returns because everything he proposes, people will say, I wonder if he’s doing it for the public, or for himself,” said Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer.

The Prez signed veterans healthcare legislation.

The bill expands the choice options for veterans to seek care from the doctor they choose and not be restricted to having to travel a distance or wait a long time to be seen by a Veterans Administration doctor in a VA medical center.

A new Harvard-Harris poll found that 57% of the public view the Vermont independent Senator Bernie Sanders favorably, making him the most liked politician in the country.

The next two most popular politicians among the public are Vice President Mike Pence and President Trump – each with 44% viewing them favorably.

White House Political Strategist Stephen Bannon, received the lowest favorability rating with only 16% viewing him that way.

Attorney General Jeff Sessions does not have a single US Attorney in place to lead his tough-on-crime efforts across the country.

Last month, Sessions abruptly told the dozens of remaining Obama Administration US Attorneys to submit their resignations immediately – and none of them, or the 47 who had already left, have been replaced.

Sessions is also without the heads of his top units, including the Civil Rights, Criminal and National Security Divisions, as he tries to reshape the Justice Department.

What’s the hold up?

President Trump on Tuesday said, “You always have to be concerned” about nuclear war when dealing with North Korea.

The Prez told CNN‘s Wisconsin affiliate WTMJ. “You don’t know exactly who you’re dealing with.”

Trump was talking about dictator Kim Jung Un of North Korea.

Now I’m put in a position where he actually has nuclear and we’re going to have to do something about it,” Trump added. “It’s a very, very tricky situation. Hopefully he wants peace and we want peace and that’s going to be the end determination, but we’re going to see what happens.”

The United States of America will always seek peace but under President Trump, the shield stands guard and the sword stands ready,” Vice President Mike Pence told 2,500 sailors dressed in blue fatigues and Naval baseball caps on a sunny, windy morning aboard a carrier at the U.S. Yokosuka naval base in Tokyo Bay, Japan today.

The Environmental Protection Agency said today it would reconsider a rule on emissions from oil and gas operations and delay its implementation, marking the Trump Administration’s latest effort to dismantle Obama-era environmental regulations.

The man who gave Hillary Clinton a run for her money in getting the Democratic nomination for President in 2016, Vermont’s Bernie Sanders had this to say as he sat next to the Democratic National Committee Chair Tom Perez, “No, I’m an Independent,” when asked by MSNBC‘s Chris Hayes whether he now identifies as a Democrat.

If the Democratic Party is going to succeed – and I want to see it succeed – it’s gonna have to open its door to Independents,” Sanders continued. “There are probably more Independents in this country than Democrats or Republicans. It’s got to open its doors to working people and to young people, create a grassroots party. That’s what we need.”

Wonder what Perez was thinking?

The Super Bowl Champion New England Patriots visited the White House today, but some boycotted the event, including star quarterback Tom Brady. But one of those footballers who did come to the White House, Rob Gronkowski, crashed today’s press briefing.

My distant cousin, former President George H.W. Bush is back in the hospital recovering from pneumonia, but reportedly in good condition.

State Politics: Democrat Jon Ossoff came up short to win the 6th Congressional District of Georgia on Tuesday and will face a run-off with his nearest Republican contender, Karen Handel, in a runoff in June. Although Ossoff garnered 48.1% of the vote, he is expected to lose to Handel, a former Georgia Secretary of State, come June.

Had Ossoff reached 50% in yesterday’s plebiscite, he would be the first Democratic Representative from the 6th in almost four decades.

California will get to choose a new Congressman next year. Republican Chairman of the powerful Government Oversight Committee Jason Chaffetz announced today he would not run for re-election in 2018.

Nevada Secretary of State Barbara Cegavske wrote in a letter Friday to DMV Director Terri Albertson that DMV workers had been accepting voting applications from non-citizens and forwarding them to the Secretary of State’s office. Cegavske said she had evidence non-citizens voted in the presidential election, but didn’t elaborate.

Florida Senate President Joe Negron said Miami-area Republican Senator Frank Artiles had asked to apologize on the Senate floor to Senator Audrey Gibson of Jacksonville. The Miami Herald reported that Artiles used a variation of the “n-word” during a private conversation at Tallahassee’s Governor’s Club with Democratic Senators Gibson and Perry Thurston of Fort Lauderdale on Monday night.

Global Politics: Venezuelans have taken to the street in the capital of Caracas in protest of the socialist policies and lack of food, basic necessities, under President Nicolas Maduro. The protest is being described as the “Mother of All Marches.”

We’re scared but we’ve got to do this,” said Carmen Medina, a 55-year-old Venezuelan social worker in the middle-class district of El Paraiso, where demonstrators were beginning to gather. “We’re marching for the freedom of our country.”

British Prime Minister Theresa May won Parliament’s backing for an early election today, a vote she said would strengthen her hand in divorce talks with the European Union and help heal divisions in Britain.

India’s top court has ruled that senior figures in the governing BJP will be tried for criminal conspiracy over the destruction of a 16th Century mosque.

Turkey’s President Tayyip Recep Erdogan will meet President Trump in May ahead of a meeting of the NATO alliance, Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said today.

North Korea seemingly sent a message to the United States by displaying parts of America in flames during a military celebration.

Thursday, 4/20/17:

BREAKING NEWS: The US is prepping to arrest Wikileaks founder Julian Assange even as Ecuador readies to kick him out of its Embassy in Great Britain.

Resurrection?

Back on the plate when members of Congress return this coming week will be another go at repealing and replacing the Affordable Care Act.

But will it take a back seat or claim shotgun as Congress has to deal with funding the government by next Friday?

Irony?

The Hoosier born-and-bred federal judge in California who presided over the Trump University fraud case has landed a routine deportation case involving a so-called Dreamer, who was deported when he presumably was immune from that action until 2018.

President Donald Trump took on Canada again today about the “dairy war” going on between the two countries as he railed against the North American Free Trade Agreement.

The President made his remarks when signing an executive order to investigate if foreign countries are involved in unfair trade practices hurting the American steel industry.

White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer Wednesday denied that the Trump Administration misled the public last week by saying it was sending an aircraft carrier battle group to waters near North Korea to serve as a deterrent, when the ships were actually on the way to participate in joint maneuvers with Australia.

Tongues are wagging today after Senate Judiciary Chairman Chuck Grassley said there might be a new vacancy on the Supreme Court come summer.

I would expect a resignation this summer,” the Iowa senator said, according to the Muscatine Journal. Grassley’s comments came during a Q&A at a visit to Kent Corporation in Muscatine, Iowa.

Will it be swing Justice Anthony Kennedy?

Will it be the Court’s oldest Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg?

Then again, might it be Justice Stephen Breyer?

If either of the two liberal Justices, Ginsburg or Breyer, retire, it could cement a conservative bent to the Court for decades to come.

The President met today with Prime Minister Paolo Gentiloni of Italy.

During a news conference, the 2% of GDP, which member countries are suppose to pay to NATO was raised with Gentiloni by a reporter. The Prez said he wanted to know the Prime Minister’s response.

Utah Republican Congressman Jason Chaffetz, who announced he would not run again yesterday, as he mulls running for Governor, now is hinting he may not fill out his term through next year.

Chaffetz said in a text message: “My future plans are not yet finalized but I haven’t ruled out the possibility of leaving early. In the meantime I still have a job to do and I have no plans to take my foot off the gas.”

Will Democrats have a chance in the deep red, strongly conservative state?

Former Massachusetts Senator Scott Brown has been tapped to be Ambassador to New Zealand.

State Politics: Arkansas’ effort to carry out a rush of executions before its supply of a hard-to-get lethal injection drug expires hit more setbacks on Wednesday, when the State Supreme Court granted a reprieve to inmate Stacey Johnson, who was scheduled to die today.

Separately, an Arkansas County Court judge blocked the state from using the drug vecuronium bromide, one of the three drugs in the state’s lethal-injection cocktail, putting all of the planned executions in limbo.

Democrats today launched a wave of attack ads against Jon Ossoff’s GOP opponent, Karen Handel, in the special election for the Georgia 6th House seat set for June, according to a new report.

Keep a watch what happens when Alabama conducts its special election for Senator with an August primary and December general to replace Attorney General Jeff Sessions.

Global Politics: General Motors said today that it had halted operations in Venezuela after the government seized its plant in the South American country. GM called the seizure of its local subsidiary, General Motors Venezolana, “illegal,” and vowed to “vigorously take all legal actions, within and outside of Venezuela, to defend its rights.”

ExxonMobil is seeking a waiver from US sanctions on Russia to pave the way for a joint venture with the Russian state oil company, Rosneft, to drill in the Black Sea, The New York Times reported.

A Moscow, Russia-based think tank, the Russian Institute for Strategic Studies, is reported to have drawn up the plan to influence the US presidential election to throw the election to candidate Trump.

The Institute circulated the strategy papers in June and October, recommending that the Kremlin start a propaganda campaign to get US voters to elect a President who would be softer on Russia than the Administration of former President Barack Obama had been, and pushing voter fraud claims if Hillary Clinton beat Trump to undermine her power.

At least three people were killed, according to human rights groups, during the “Mother of All Marches” in Venezuela on Wednesday, bringing the death toll from recent protests to seven.

How long before Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro is forced from office by the people?

North Korean state media warned the United States of a “super-mighty preemptive strike” after Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said the United States was looking at ways to bring pressure to bear on North Korea over its nuclear program.

The Rodong Sinmun, the official newspaper of the North’s ruling Workers’ Party, did not mince its words. “In the case of our super-mighty preemptive strike being launched, it will completely and immediately wipe out not only U.S. imperialists’ invasion forces in South Korea and its surrounding areas but the U.S. mainland and reduce them to ashes,” it said.

House Speaker Paul Ryan said during a visit to London, England the military option must be part of the pressure brought to bear on North Korea. “Allowing this dictator to have that kind of power is not something that civilized nations can allow to happen,” he said in reference to Kim Jung Un, the North’s dictator.

The United Nations Security Council today condemned North Korea’s latest failed missile test and demanded Pyongyang not conduct any more nuclear tests, in a statement that had been delayed as the United States and Russia sparred over language.

Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif said today the United States should meet its own obligations agreed in a landmark nuclear deal in 2015 rather than making accusations against the Islamic Republic.

Russia’s Supreme Court has banned the Jehovah’s Witnesses from operating in the country, accepting a request from the Justice Ministry that the religious organization be considered an extremist group.

Iranian state TV says the clerical body charged with vetting candidates has disqualified former hard-line President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad from running in next month’s presidential election.

Pakistan’s Supreme Court today ruled there was insufficient evidence to order Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s removal from office over corruption allegations leveled by the opposition, but it ordered further investigations.

Friday, 4/21/17:

Free at last!

An Egyptian-American aid worker, Aya Hijazi, and her husband, Mohamed Hassanein, along with four other humanitarian workers are out of an Egyptian prison, where they had been falsely imprisoned, today.

The Administration of President Donald Trump had made the release of the woman and her compatriots a priority.

Those efforts paid off with the prison release after she had been arrested with the others in 2014.

This morning she met with the President in the Oval Office.

There are those grumbling and questioning if human rights issues were addressed with the Egyptian government or ignored in order to secure Hijazi’s release.

White House officials are pushing a new compromise version of the Republican healthcare bill in a bid to deliver on President Trump’s promise to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act before his 100th day in office, which comes a week from tomorrow.

Revisions aiming to please the conservative Freedom Caucus, such as eliminating guaranteed coverage for preexisting conditions, could stoke more opposition from moderate Republicans.

Facing a partial government shutdown if Congress does not act by a week from today, White House Budget Director Mick Mulvaney said any stopgap spending bill must include $1.3 billion to start construction of The Wall.

Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer said any inclusion of money for The Wall could be a deal-breaker and lead to a shutdown.

President Trump on Thursday ordered his Administration to expedite an investigation into whether foreign steel imports were threatening national security.

This is not an area where we can afford to become dependent on other countries,” Trump said.

First court vote alert: Justice Neil Gorsuch, Thursday cast his first major decision – to allow an execution to move forward.

Gorsuch joined Chief Justice John Roberts and Justices Anthony Kennedy, Clarence Thomas, and Samuel Alito to clear the way for Arkansas to execute a condemned inmate. They didn’t explain their decision.

Reality bites.

The Prez is finding out that you can say anything on the campaign trail, but getting action from Capitol Hill is a different story.

As the President faces his first 100 days, what he promised in a contract with the country to accomplish sounded great, but reality makes mince meat of those words.

Is President Trump giving too much independence to the military to act?

The President signed a bill into law on Tuesday that will improve weather forecasting and researching capabilities across the American weather enterprise.

How did I miss this?

See this one?

A twice-convicted Russian pedophile imprisoned in a heavily forested gulag some 500 miles from Moscow appears to be the man a controversial dossier says helped hack into Democratic National Committee computers last year. (http://www.mcclatchydc.com/news/politics-government/article145755049.html)

The House Intelligence Committee, which is investigating Russia’s involvement in the 2016 US election, said today it had invited the Directors of the FBI and the National Security Agency to appear at a closed hearing on May 2.

Highlighting getting Gorsuch on the Supreme Court as a major accomplishment (which it is) in a tweet today by the President, I am reminded how his predecessor accented every speech over and over with “I got Bin Laden.”

Former President Barack Obama is stepping out of the shadows with a Monday town hall-style meeting with students at the University of Chicago will be followed by an awards ceremony in Boston; a series of public remarks as well as private paid speeches in the United States and Europe; and an appearance at the Brandenburg Gate in Germany with Chancellor Angela Merkel.

OOPs!

Oh no he didn’t!

Attorney General Jeff Sessions said Thursday he was “amazed” a federal judge on “an island in the Pacific” had put a hold on the President’s travel ban.

The backlash was immediate especially from America’s 50th state’s two Senators.

For the top enforcer of the Constitution in the nation to so malign a state by calling it some island sitting in the ocean is pathetic to put it mildly.

Explains the following of why Americans are so low on pols in the capital of the nation.

The view by Americans is not good of Washington DC, the President, the Speaker of the House and either Democrats or Republicans.

Trust is a major concern and splits along political affiliation.

Get the full Pew Research survey: http://www.people-press.org/2017/04/17/public-dissatisfaction-with-washington-weighs-on-the-gop/

State Politics: After the Supreme Court refused to issue a stay, Arkansas carried out its first execution in more than a decade last night.

A Republican-drawn map setting the boundaries of Texas’ statehouse districts violates the Constitution by intentionally discriminating against minority voters, a federal court ruled on Thursday – the third such ruling against the state’s voting laws in roughly a month.

Questions are swirling around why the powerful Republican Congressman from Utah, Jason Chaffetz, would give up his seat.

Chaffetz did not shed much light when he told Politico, “I don’t know exactly where these winds are going to take me. I just know that I wanted to explore those. And by making the announcement early, it helps on several fronts. I can pursue those opportunities and see what is out there.”

However, Chaffetz specifically denied any hint of scandal was in the wings causing him to decide to bow out of Congress. Many believe he may run for Governor of Utah in 2020.

Florida State Senator Frank Artiles, who used a racial slur and vulgar language in a conversation with two African-American colleagues, is resigning.

Global Politics: Yesterday’s terror attack in Paris, France has candidates for the Presidential Palace off the stump, but not off Twitter and the airwaves. Voting begins Sunday.

Defense Secretary Jim Mattis said today that Syria had dispersed its warplanes in recent days and that it retained chemical weapons, an issue he said would have to be taken up diplomatically.

The bottom line is, I can say authoritatively they have retained some (chemical weapons). It’s a violation of the United Nations Security Council resolutions, and it’s going to have to be taken up diplomatically,” Mattis said.

South Korea said today it was on heightened alert ahead of another important anniversary in North Korea, with a large concentration of military hardware amassed on both sides of the border amid concerns about a new nuclear test by Pyongyang.

President Trump on Thursday praised Chinese efforts to rein in “the menace of North Korea,” after North Korean state media warned the United States of a “super-mighty preemptive strike.”

Beijing has demonstrated due enthusiasm for Washington’s newfound interest in a diplomatic solution and willingness to work more closely with it,” the state-run China Daily said in an editorial.

China’s Defence Ministry today denied reports that its bomber aircraft were on a heightened state of alert amid tensions over North Korea.

French centrist Emmanuel Macron is set to come out on top in the first round of France’s presidential election on Sunday as far right leader Marine Le Pen fell further behind him in an Elabe poll published today.

Venezuelans took to the streets again on Thursday, braving tear gas, beatings and bloodshed as they try to force President Nicolas Maduro to hold elections in the crisis-riddled nation.

Testing Trump will or sending a message?

For the fourth time in as many days, Russian bombers cruised close to the US coastline and were escorted away by US fighters.

Sunday, 4/23/17:

No worries.

President Donald Trump told The Associated Press in an interview Friday that “Dreamers,” young immigrants who were brought to America illegally as children, should not fear deportation because they are not being targeted.

Dreamers can “rest easy,” the President said, because his Administration is “not after the Dreamers; we are after the criminals.”

We’ll be having a big announcement on Wednesday having to do with tax reform,” President Trump said Friday, claiming his plan will offer businesses and individuals “a massive tax cut” that would be “bigger, I believe, than any tax cut ever.”

We are moving forward on comprehensive tax reform that cuts tax rates for individuals, simplifies our overly-complicated system, and creates jobs by making American businesses competitive,” a White House official said.

The Trump Administration denied ExxonMobil’s request for a waiver from US sanctions to work with Russia, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin announced Friday.

President Trump on Friday fired Surgeon General Vivek Murthy, a holdover from the Administration of former President Barack Obama.

President Trump announced in February he would skip the White House Correspondents’ Dinner, which is scheduled for this coming Saturday.

Instead of attending the Nerd Prom, the Prez will hold a rally in Pennsylvania, the White House announced on Saturday.

President Trump continues to have record-low approval ratings with the general public, but he is maintaining his core base of supporters, finds a Washington Post/ABC News poll released today in advance of the 100-day mark of Trump’s presidency on April 29.

The big questions facing the coming week when Congress returns from being out among their individual constituents is whether:

1. a government shutdown is avoided come Friday night
2. a health care reform bill can be passed

Another pressing question is if a spending bill is passed and does not include money specifically for The Wall, will the Prez veto the bill and shutdown the government?

A revealing and troublesome response from the Department of Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly:

There are so many aspects to this terrorist thing,” Kelly said on CBS NewsFace the Nation today. “Obviously you got the homegrown terrorists. I don’t know how to stop that. I don’t know how to detect that. You got other terrorist threats that come across the border.”

“It is a big problem,” Kelly said. “It is – you know, depending on where you sit is where you stand on this, It is a big threat. Is it the number one threat? I think it’s the most common threat. Unfortunately there are other similar-type terrorist threats that could come from outside the border. You know, the CIA, NSA, all the great men and women of DOD are doing a great job keeping them away from the homeland.”

The appeal I would make on the homegrown threat is if you see something, say something,” Kelly continued. “Whether you’re a parent, a sibling, an imam. And this extends frankly…to white supremacists and that kind of terrorism as well. If you see a young man or a young woman going down that path where they’re always on these kind of websites or saying things at church or in a mosque that are clearly disturbing, then tell someone about it so that we can help that kid, young man or woman, before they break the law.”

Kelly also said about the North Korea problem, “The instant they get a missile that can reach the United States and they have a weaponized atomic device, a nuclear device on it, we are at grave risk as a nation.”

The Democrats are feuding among themselves over whether you can be a Democrat and pro-life. The issue came to the forefront after a local mayoral candidate, who is pro-life and registered as a Democrat, affiliation was questioned by some fellow Democrats, who happen to be abortion-rights advocates.

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi has waded into the dispute.

Pelosi says that it’s absolutely possible for someone to be a member of the Democratic Party and also be against abortion.

I have served many years in Congress with members who have not shared my very positive — my family would say aggressive — position on promoting a woman’s right to choose,” told Chuck Todd on NBC‘s Meet the Press today.

DNC Chair Tom Perez and Independent Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders received backlash this week from abortion-rights groups since they scheduled a rally with a mayoral candidate in Omaha, Nebraska, who previously supported an abortion-related ultrasound bill.

Speaking of Democrats, what’s up with 2016 presidential nominee Hillary Clinton?

Hillary’s making the rounds and sounding like she is ready for another go around with the Prez, while still not admitting her own, personal shortcomings for why she did not win a majority of Electoral College votes.

Neither the Republican Party nor the Democratic Party shares average Americans’ concerns according to a new poll:

The White House announced today that President Trump will have dinner Thursday with the US Supreme Court.

State Politics: The North Carolina State Board of Elections reported 508 cases of voter fraud during the 2016 election. The vast majority were by active felons. The fraudulent votes represented a small fraction of the 4.8 million ballots cast. The report didn’t include any evidence of coordinated fraud, and many of the voters claimed to be confused about their eligibility. This was not enough to effect the outcome of any of the races.

Faced with three deaths linked to faith healing in the county over the last four months, Idaho’s Canyon County Sheriff Kieran Donahue has launched a campaign to change the law, and remove any religious exemptions for the legal obligation to seek medical care for children.

Global Politics: French citizens headed to the polls today in the first round of presidential elections.

No one candidate was expected to take an outright majority; rather, four candidates are in contention to make it to the second round: far-right nationalist Marine Le Pen, center-right François Fillon, centrist Emmanuel Macron, and far-left populist Jean-Luc Mélenchon.

The top two candidates will face each other for the prize on May 7.

Centrist Emmanuel Macron and far-right populist Marine Le Pen advanced today to the runoff in France, remaking the country’s political system and setting up a showdown over its participation in the European Union.

The euro spiked against the dollar on today as early results from the French election showed Le Pen and Macron advancing to the runoff.

The United States will proceed with an agreement with Australia to help resettle refugees, Vice President Mike Pence said Saturday.

President Trump has made it clear that we’ll honor the agreement – that doesn’t mean we admire the agreement,” Pence said.

The arrangement requires the US to accept up to 1,250 refugees, many from Iran and Syria, from their present location in offshore detention centers in Australia. In return, Australia will accept refugees from Guatemala, Honduras, and El Salvador.

Now that we possess mighty nuclear power to protect ourselves from US nuclear threat, we will respond without the slightest hesitation to full-out war with full-out war and to nuclear war with our style of nuclear strike, and we will emerge victor in the final battle with the United States,” the North Korean Foreign Ministry said in a statement.

The official Rodong Sinmun newspaper said on Saturday in a commentary that North Korea wouldn’t hesitate to launch a preemptive strike if provoked.

The US has now gone seriously mad. It is mulling frightening the DPRK and achieving something with nuclear strategic bombers, nuclear carriers, etc. However, the army and people of the DPRK will never be browbeaten by such bluffing,” it said, referring to the North by its official name, the Democratic Republic of Korea.

President Trump will host members of the United Nations Security Council at the White House tomorrow.

Ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley is serving this month as the President of the Security Council, a role that rotates each month among the five Permanent members: the U.S., Great Britain, France, China and Russia. There are 15 members of the group, but the others, right now including Egypt, Japan, Senegal, Bolivia, Ethiopia, Italy, Kazakhstan, Sweden, Ukraine and Uruguay are non-voting members.

Thanks for viewing!

Politics Roundup: April 10 – 16, 2017

politicsroundup

Welcome to the weekly compilation of the ins and outs, the ups and downs, the comings and goings from the alternate world of reality – politics!

Monday, 4/10/17:

Mixed signals?

National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster said Sunday on Fox News Sunday that the US might take further military action against the Syrian government, but would not try to remove Syrian President Bashar al-Assad on its own.

Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said President Donald Trump’s Administration’s top priority in Syria was still defeating the Islamic State.

United Nations Ambassador Nikki Haley said defeating ISIS is the top priority, but “we don’t see a peaceful Syria with Assad in there.”

Which is it?

Or is it both?

Then today in his daily press briefing, White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer on three occasions mentioned that not only chemical weapons, but the barrel bombs, commonly used by the Syrian regime and Russian aircraft on rebels and civilians, were also a red line to the President.

Spicer indicated the US may act if the barrel bombings continue.

Thoughts turned to Russia ahead of Tillerson’s meeting in Russia tomorrow.

I hope Russia is thinking carefully about its continued alliance with Bashar al-Assad, because every time one of these horrific attacks occurs, it draws Russia closer into some level of responsibility,” Tillerson said on ABC’s This Week.

I think what we should do is ask Russia, how could it be, if you have advisers at that airfield, that you didn’t know that the Syrian air force was preparing and executing a mass murder attack with chemical weapons?” McMaster said on Fox News.

History was made today with the swearing in of Neil Gorsuch as a Supreme Court Justice.

Another bit of history was made with Gorsuch taking the bench since he is the first Justice who once served as a law clerk for a sitting Justice, Anthony Kennedy, and also serve with that Justice, who mentored the new Justice.

Gorsuch promised to be a “faithful servant of the Constitution and laws of this great nation.”

The Trump Administration’s proposed cuts to the Environmental Protection Agency budget are deep and wide-ranging.

It seeks to shrink spending by 31 percent, to $5.7 billion from $8.1 billion, and to eliminate a quarter of the agency’s 15,000 jobs.

Attorney General Jeff Sessions said today he is ending an Obama-era partnership with independent scientists that aimed to improve the reliability of forensic science, as longstanding concerns remain about the quality of such evidence in court cases.

White House Office of Management and Budget Director Mick Mulvaney will this week send a memo to federal agencies instructing them to prepare for future cuts to funding and staff, according to a new report.

State Politics: New York will soon be the first state in the nation to make college tuition free for middle class students at two-year and four-year public colleges.

Governor Andrew Cuomo pushed for the plan earlier this year, finding success in the budget passed over the weekend by the State Legislature.

With the federal government vastly expanding who is considered a priority for deportation, the California State Senate approved a bill last week that increased protections for immigrants.

The measure prohibits local law enforcement agencies from using resources to investigate, detain, report or arrest people for immigration violations.

Supporters say the law, essentially making California the country’s first “sanctuary state,” would prevent immigrants, who face no criminal charges, from being turned over for deportation.

If approved, the law could directly contradict federal directives, putting local law enforcement agencies in the difficult position of deciding whether to obey Sacramento or Washington.

Legal battles are considered likely.

Other states are considering similar legislation.

Alabama’s House Judiciary Committee began impeachment hearings today of Governor Robert Bilbray over his alleged adulterous affair with a former top political adviser.

Global Politics: Protesters in Venezuela want all seven Justices of the Supreme Court gone, after the court issued a ruling (later reversed) that would have transferred power from the National Assembly to the court.

The Islamic State warned that it planned more attacks, following taking credit for the dual church bombings in Egypt Sunday, saying: “The Crusaders and their tails from the apostates must be aware that the bill between us and them is very large and they will be paying it like a river of blood from their sons, if God willing.”

A bombing Sunday in Somalia came three days after the country’s new president, Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed (also known as Farmajo), declared war on al-Shabab, and shook up the leadership of the army, police, and national intelligence service to go after the Islamist extremist organization.

The target was Somalia’s newly installed Army Commander, General Ahmed Mohamed Jimale, outside the Defense Ministry in Mogadishu. The General escaped unscathed, but a minibus was hit, killing 15.

North Korea’s Foreign Ministry said Sunday that the isolated communist nation was “not frightened” by the US Tomahawk missile strike against Syria, or by the Navy carrier strike group the US has redirected toward the Korean Peninsula.

What happened in Syria once again taught a bitter lesson that…one can defend oneself from the imperialist aggression only when one has one’s strength,” a North Korean Foreign Ministry spokesman said according to state media. “Any aggression should be countered with force only and we were entirely just when we have bolstered our nuclear force remarkably.”

Israel has closed its Taba border crossing to Egypt’s Sinai peninsula following intelligence suggesting an “imminent” terrorist attack, Israeli Intelligence Minister Yisrael Katz said today.

We rededicate ourselves to holding to account any and all who commit crimes against the innocents anywhere in the world,” said Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, who was not originally scheduled to attend a wreath laying ceremony at a site where Nazi Germany committed a war crime, wiping out an entire village during World War II, but wanted to be present at the with the Foreign Ministers of Italy, Germany and the European Union.

This place will serve as an inspiration to us all.”

Tillerson’s remarks came after the US launched a missile strike on a Syrian airbase where chemical weapons are believed to have been launched last Tuesday in violation of international law.

France’s far-right presidential contender Marine Le Pen has prompted a major outcry by denying that the French government was responsible for the roundup of Jews in World War II.

Le Pen said Sunday on RTL radio “I don’t think France is responsible for the Vel d’Hiv,”— a reference to the stadium where thousands of Jews were rounded up before being sent to Nazi death camps.

Turks will go to the polls on Sunday, April 16, to vote on constitutional amendments that would transform the country from a parliamentary democracy into a presidential system.

The Trump Administration will move forward with the sale of high-tech aircraft to Nigeria for its campaign against Boko Haram Islamic extremists despite concerns over abuses committed by the African nation’s security forces, according to US officials.

Tuesday, 4/11/17:

Policy?

What policy?

That’s the question around the world today.

What exactly is President Donald Trump’s policy on the situation in Syria?

Central Command’s General Joseph Votel said today that 57 of 59 targets were hit in the Tomahawk missle strike on the al Shayrat airbase.

Defense Secretary James Mattis said that 20 Syrian aircraft were destroyed in the attack.

Mattis said there is “no doubt” that the Syrian regime was behind the chemical attack.

Mattis also emphasized that defeat of the Islamic State is still the main goal of US involvement in Syrian.

The missile attack was separate and dealt only with violation of the 1925 Geneva Accord that outlawed use of chemical weapons, of which Syria was a signatory.

The President took to Twitter this morning to warn China that if it did not put the brakes on North Korea, the US would stop Kim Jung Un’s nuclear threat.

I explained to the President of China that a trade deal with the U.S. will be far better for them if they solve the North Korean problem!” the Prez also tweeted.

The independent investigative unit of Congress, the Government Accountability Office, is reviewing the conduct of Trump’s transition to the presidency, including whether there were conflicts of interest or violations of protocol or security precautions.

During a visit to the US-Mexico border today, Attorney General Jeff Sessions said, “This is a new era. This is the Trump era. The lawlessness, the abdication of the duty to enforce our immigration laws, and the catch and release practices of old are over.”

President Trump’s proposed wall with Mexico will kick off in the San Diego, California border community of Otay Mesa, Customs and Border Protection confirmed Monday.

The Trump Administration has temporarily suspended the publication of weekly reports detailing cities and counties that fail to cooperate with federal immigration enforcement directives over concerns about the accuracy of those lists.

Pennsylvania Congressman Tom Marino is expected to step down from his seat to take on a new role in the Trump Administration.

Multiple sources told CBS News that Marino will head up the Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP) also known as the nation’s Drug Czar.

A group of 55 House lawmakers have delivered a letter to President Trump telling him he should get congressional approval if wants to expand US involvement in the Yemen civil war.

As U.S. Representatives, we take seriously the right and responsibility of Congress to authorize the use of force, or to refuse to do so, as mandated by the Constitution and the 1973 War Powers Resolution,” the bipartisan group of Representatives wrote. “We expect that any direct military actions pursued by the administration against the Yemeni Houthis be brought before Congress for consideration and authorization for approval before they are executed.”

The lawsuit between the Prez and a chef, who backed out of his contract to open a restaurant at Trump’s Washington hotel, has been settled.

President Trump is reportedly on pace to spend more on travel during his first year in office than former President Barack Obama spent on travel during all eight years he served.

OOPs!

Allusions or comparisons to Adolph Hitler are never a good move by politicians.

Press Secretary Sean Spicer is learning this first hand today following his attempt to say that Syrian dictator Bashar al Assad was more evil than Hitler by using chemical weapons on his own people.

Social media blew up even as Spicer made his remarks at today’s White House briefing.

First Spicer tried to say not even Hitler used chemical weapons in World War II, ignoring the Holocaust and the six million Jews gassed along with gays and Gypsies throughout Europe.

Then when in trying to worm his way out of the remarks, Spicer not only stepped in it deeper, but fell down, rolled in it and stood up with a stench that reached to high heavens by saying Hitler did not use the chemicals on his own people.

Spicer said that Assad was worse because he dropped chemical bombs in the middle of village.

Sean, hate to tell you, but those gassed in the concentration camps – NOT Holocaust centers – many happened to be Germans.

OOPs!

Let’s hope members of Congress, the members Allegheny College has already honored – Vice President Joe Biden and Sen. John McCain – the women of the Senate, Sens. Dianne Feinstein and Lindsey Graham – let’s hope that they and others of goodwill will lead in restoring harmonious work ways,” said 84-year-old Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg in an address at Allegheny College in Pennsylvania on Monday as she accepted the Prize for Civility in Public Life, honoring her and late Justice Antonin Scalia.

Lindsey, we had no clue! LOL

State Politics: Alabama’s Governor Robert Bilbray resigned from office last night as he faced impeachment and was booked into jail on charges of corruption over an alleged affair with a former top staffer.

Kansans are voting today to fill the vacancy in Congress when Congressman Mike Pompeo moved to the Central Intelligence Agency to be its Director.

President Trump even weighed in with a robocall to keep the seat in GOP hands even though Pompeo won by 2 to 1 and the Prez won by over 30% points.

Georgians are also voting next week to fill the vacancy left by Dr. Tom Price from Representative to become the Secretary of Health and Human Services.

A Federal judge in Texas ruled for second time Monday that Republican lawmakers designed the state’s strict voter ID law to discriminate against Democratic-leaning minority voters.

Once one of the nation’s most popular, New Jersey Governor Chris Christie is now the most unpopular governor in the US, a new poll finds.

Global Politics: North Korean state media warned today that the isolated communist nation might launch a nuclear attack on the US over any indication of a preemptive attack by a US Navy strike heading toward nearby waters in the western Pacific.

Our revolutionary strong army is keenly watching every move by enemy elements with our nuclear sight focused on the US invasionary bases not only in South Korea and the Pacific operation theatre but also in the US mainland,” North Korea’s official Rodong Sinmun newspaper said.

This goes to prove that the US reckless moves for invading the DPRK have reached a serious phase,” a spokesman for the North Korea’s Foreign Ministry said, according to state news agency KCNA.

Russian President Vladimir Putin is comparing the current accusations on the Syrian regime using chemical bombs on its own citizens a false claim similar to the US claim of weapons of mass destruction as a pretext to invade Iraq and remove Saddam Hussein in 2003.

Putin said the accusation is a pretext to go after dictator Bashar al Assad.

The US is countering that the Russian are covering up chemical weapons and attacks for the Syrian regime and even insinuating Russia was complicit in last week’s attack on Khan Sheikhoun, Syria.

However, White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer pointed out there is no consensus in the intelligence community on Russian complicity at this time.

Facing growing pressure from the US and the western world, Syria and North Korea are renewing their ties of friendship saying in a message, the two rogue nations were “conducting a war against big powers’ wild ambition to subject all countries to their expansionist and dominationist policy and deprive them of their rights to self-determination,” KCNA reported.

The two peoples of Syria and the DPRK are as ever struggling for their rights to self-determination and national sovereignty and the security and prosperity of their countries,” it added, using the initials for the country’s official name, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.

Iran joined the Russians in rejecting the US version of why it attacked a Syrian airbase last week and doubling down on their expressions of support for President Bashar al-Assad of Syria.

A fleet of North Korean cargo ships is heading home to the port of Nampo, the majority of it fully laden, after China ordered its trading companies to return coal from the isolated country, shipping data shows.

Wednesday, 4/12/17:

In or out?

Are the days numbered for White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer and Political Strategist Steve Bannon?

Will Spicer’s apology for his comparison of Bashar al Assad being worse than Adolph Hitler be enough to save his bacon?

I let the President down,” Spicer lamented.

Did Bannon lose out to First Son-in-Law Jared Kushner?

A Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act warrant was issued to keep tabs on former foreign policy adviser Carter Page, when President Donald Trump was running to become President.

Page was being investigated by the Federal Bureau of Investigation as a possible agent for Russia.

Page never met with Trump nor did he have a formal role in the Trump campaign. Page was, however, cited by then candidate Trump as being one of his advisers on world affairs.

Page, who previously worked as an investment banker in Moscow, Russia has not been charged with a crime, but the investigation into his contacts offered a clear sign of early suspicions that Trump associates were in contact with Russian agents at a time when US officials believe Russia was trying to tip the election to Trump.

After a review of the same intelligence reports brought to light by House Intelligence Chairman Devin Nunes, both Republican and Democratic lawmakers and aides have so far found no evidence that Obama administration officials did anything unusual or illegal.

In a surprise move, Russian President Vladimir Putin decided to meet with Secretary of State Rex Tillerson today. The meeting was not scheduled and was not expected to occur.

Tillerson is in Russia meeting with his counterpart, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, urging the Russians to drop support for Syrian dictator Bashar al Assad and show the evidence that Syria was behind the chemical attack in Khan Sheikhoun, Syria one week ago today.

United Nations Ambassador Nikki Haley, speaking to the Security Council today, warned Russia that it was isolating itself from the rest of the world every time it continued supporting Assad when he “dropped another barrel bomb” on his own people.

The Prez earlier in an interview mentioned the use of barrel bombs by the Syrian regime as well.

Earlier this week Spicer had said that barrel bombs also crossed the President’s personal red line on retaliation.

Haley also said that Iran was “dumping fuel on the fire” of the Syrian civil war, which has raged for six years now.

Haley demanded Russia “get chemical weapons out of Syria.”

There are actions by the Assad regime we will simply not tolerate,” Haley said.

The President said about Assad, “This is an animal.”

Are we going to get involved with Syria? No,” the Prez said. But, he added, “I see them using gas…we have to do something.”

Point – Counterpoint:

LevrovWe have seen no proof the Syrian regime used chemical weapons on its own people
TillersonWe have incontrovertible proof the Syrian regime used chemical weapons on its own people

Both Tillerson and Levrov said that the relations between the two nuclear powers were at their lowest in decades.

There is a low level of trust between our two countries,” Tillerson said candidly.

Still, the Russians agreed to reinstate the deconfliction agreement to prevent an accidental confrontation as both countries fly over Syria.

President Trump said he will be taking action after North Korea’s President Kim Jong Un threatened to nuke US war ships.

We are sending an armada, very powerful. We have submarines, very powerful, far more powerful than the aircraft carrier,” Trump told the FOX Business Network’s Maria Bartiromo. “We have the best military people on Earth. And I will say this: he is doing the wrong thing.”

The President met in the White House today with NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg.

The Prez said that NATO is “no longer obsolete.”

A change of mind, the President has decided not to label China as a currency manipulator.

The federal hiring freeze imposed by President Trump in January is slated to be lifted Wednesday, but agencies won’t be allowed to hire willy-nilly, the President’s chief budget officer said.

What we’re doing tomorrow is replacing the across-the-board hiring freeze that we put into place on day one in office and replacing it with a smarter plan, a more strategic plan, a more surgical plan,” said Mick Mulvaney, Director of the White House Office of Management and Budget.

FYI: Under an obscure Internal Revenue Service rule, the tax returns of the President and Vice President are automatically audited, every year, no exceptions.

Housing and Urban Development Secretary Dr. Ben Carson was trapped in an elevator while touring a housing project in Miami, Florida for about 15 minutes today.

Former Trump Campaign Chairman Paul Manafort is registering as an agent of a foreign government for work he did a few years ago for the Ukrainian government.

Great Britain’s Daily Mail and the Mail Online website today apologized to First Lady Melania Trump and agreed to pay her an undisclosed settlement over an article they published last year about her work as a professional model that suggested she had worked as an escort.

State Politics: From Alabama Lieutenant Governor to Governor, Kay Ivey saved the state $90,000 a year her first day on the job by accepting the resignation of the Director of Faith-Based Services.

That man is also happens to be the husband of the woman disgraced Governor Robert Bentley is accused of having an affair which led to his resignation this week and pleading guilty to misdemeanor corruption charges.

What is in the water in North Carolina?

After the big loss the Tar Heel State suffered over the “bathroom law,” you would think that Republican legislators would have learned.

Not so!

Three GOP lawmakers have submitted a bill to defy the Supreme Court ruling making marriage of same-gender couples legal in all 50 states.

The bill would not allow any marriage except man and woman, citing the Bible as authority, which in itself is a constitutional no-no.

By seven points, Ron Estes beat back his Democratic opponent in a Kansas special election to keep the seat in the House of Representatives, vacated by Central Intelligence Agency Director Mike Pompeo, in GOP hands on Tuesday.

An angry crowd in South Carolina chanted “you lie” to Representative Joe Wilson at a town hall Monday, using the Republican Congressman’s own infamous line against him, which he was rebuked for saying at a State of the Union Address to former President Barack Obama.

The Alabama Senate voted 24 to 4 on Tuesday to allow the Briarwood Presbyterian Church, a megachurch located in suburban Birmingham, to break with precedent and establish its own police force. The bill now moves to the House.

Global Politics: Former Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad today unexpectedly filed to run in the country’s May election, potentially upending a race that many had predicted to be won by moderate President Hassan Rouhani.

The level of trust at the working level, especially at the military level, has not become better but most likely has degraded,” Putin said in an interview broadcast today by state television channel Mir.

We have seen very alarming actions recently with an unlawful attack against Syria,” Lavrov said to Tillerson, referring to the 59 Tomahawk missiles Trump launched at a Syrian air base to punish Assad for using chemical weapons. “We consider it of utmost importance to prevent the risks of replay of similar action in the future.”

South Korea’s Acting President, Hwang Kyo-ahn, has warned of “greater provocations” by North Korea and ordered the military to intensify monitoring.

Lee Duk-haeng, South Korea’s Unification Ministry spokesman, said South Korea, the United States and “other countries” were coordinating closely.

Japan announced two of its warships may join the US “armada” off the coast of the Korean Peninsula.

For the eighth time today, Russia vetoed a resolution in the United Nations Security Council condemning Syria for its war crimes – this time for last week’s chemical bombing.

However, following the meeting of Tillerson with both Putin and Levrov today, the United States and Russia agreed to work together on an international investigation of a Syrian chemical weapons attack last week that prompted retaliatory American missile strikes.

Washington blames Russia’s ally, Syrian President Bashar Assad, while Moscow says Syrian rebels are responsible.

China abstained from the UN vote today.

In a phone call today on the North Korean nuclear threat, Chinese President Xi Jinping stressed to President Trump that China “advocates resolving the issue through peaceful means,” the Chinese Foreign Ministry said.

During the call, Xi told Trump that China remains “willing to maintain communication and coordination with the American side on the issue of the peninsula.”

Xi told Trump on the call that the Syria issue “must continue to move towards a political solution“, and that “any use of chemical weapons is unacceptable.”

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Lu Kang said today it was “irresponsible and even dangerous to take any actions that may escalate the tension.”

All relevant parties should exercise restraint and keep calm, easing tensions instead of provoking each other and adding fuel to the fire,” he said at a regular press briefing.

China’s Global Times newspaper, which sometimes reflects the thinking of China’s leadership, said a new missile test by North Korea would be a “slap in the face of the US government” and that Beijing would not “remain indifferent.”

Presumably Beijing will react strongly to Pyongyang’s new nuclear actions,” it said, adding there was increasing popular support for “severe restrictive measures that have never been seen before.”

On Monday Montenegro became the 29th member of NATO.

Thursday, 4/13/17:

Key, “Changes” and enter President Donald Trump.

Change was the key word on Wednesday as several policies espoused on the campaign trail seemed to give way to the reality of world events.

OOPs!

The Prez during one of his interviews said the dollar was “too strong.”

This set off a firestorm of selling US currency, dropping the dollar’s value.

It’s very, very hard to compete when you have a strong dollar and other countries are devaluing their currency,” the President said.

Trump said he was open to reappointing Federal Reserve Chairwoman Janet Yellen.

The President praised the Export-Import Bank, which he mocked last year, telling The Wall Street Journal the agency is “a very good thing, and it actually makes money.”

To get Democrats to work with him on health care, President Trump threatened to withhold $7 billion in cost-sharing payments for the Affordable Care Act.

ObamaCare is dead next month if it doesn’t get that money,” Trump said. “What I think should happen and will happen is the Democrats will start calling me and negotiating.”

Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer called Trump’s strategy “cynical,” saying the President was “threatening to hold hostage health care for millions of Americans, many of whom voted for him.”

The Trump Administration is exploring ways to put together a nationwide deportation force, something President Trump promised during his campaign, The Washington Post reported Wednesday, citing an internal Department of Homeland Security assessment.

President Trump signed legislation today erasing an Obama-era rule that barred states from withholding federal family planning funds from Planned Parenthood and other abortion providers.

Americans are unsure of the President’s ability to deal with North Korea:

Sixty-four percent of Republicans think that President Trump should publicly release his tax returns, according to a survey conducted by Global Strategy Group.

Things will work out fine between the U.S.A. and Russia. At the right time everyone will come to their senses & there will be lasting peace!” the President tweeted today after noting yesterday that relations between the two nations are a low point.

Virginia Congressman Dave Brat, one of the conservative Freedom Caucus leaders whose resistance helped undermine the Republican health care proposal last month, says White House and congressional negotiators are close to a compromise that he predicts will pass the House in the next three weeks.

Within a few weeks, I think DC is going to be a little bit shocked,” he said in an interview with Capital Download. “We’re going to get to yes.”

State Politics: North Carolina Republican General Assembly member, Larry Pittman from Cabarrus County, this week called President Abraham Lincoln “the same sort (of) tyrant as Adolf Hitler,” according to the Charlotte Observer.

As I asked yesterday, what is in the water in the Tar Heel State?

Pittman made the comparison on Facebook while responding to a commenter who was critical of legislation the lawmaker has introduced that seeks to bring an end to same-sex marriage in North Carolina, the Observer reported.

And if Hitler had won, should the world just get over it?” he added. “Lincoln was the same sort if (sic) tyrant, and personally responsible for the deaths of over 800,000 Americans in a war that was unnecessary and unconstitutional.”

Shaking My Head

Global Politics: There is a possibility that North Korea is already capable of delivering (via missile) a warhead containing sarin,” Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe told a Parliamentary Diplomacy and Defence Committee, referring to the poison nerve agent.

Opinion polls show around a third of France’s 45.7 million voters might abstain, an unprecedented number in a country with a long tradition of high turnouts.

Even among those who intend to vote, about one third have yet to make up their mind on how to cast their ballot.

The presidential election is in May.

The detention of a prominent feminist academic for criticising the Ugandan President on Facebook has been widely condemned by human rights groups.

Friday, 4/14/17:

Brink of war?

All eyes are on North Korea as it commemorates its most sacred holiday, the birthday of the nation’s late founder and grandfather of the Young Leader, Kim Jung Un.

Did President Donald Trump send the right message to Un to keep the North Korean dictator from doing anything rash?

Or did the President prime the pump for an eruption of war?

The Prez is monitoring the global situation this Easter weekend from Mar-A-Lago along with some of the top people in his National Security Council.

The US is prepared to launch a preemptive strike with conventional weapons against North Korea should officials become convinced that North Korea is about to follow through with a nuclear weapons test, multiple senior US intelligence officials told NBC News.

The White House is not commenting on the NBC report.

Talking about adding fodder to the fire, British spy agency GCHQ gave the US the first alert about possible ties between then-candidate Donald Trump’s campaign team and Russian operatives, The Guardian reported Thursday.

GCHQ and other European intelligence agencies intercepted communications between Trump associates and known or suspected Russian agents as early as late 2015 and passed on the information to US officials.

The White House won’t make public the logs of visitors to the White House complex, breaking with the practice of President Trump’s predecessor.

The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee raised $31 million in the first three months of the year, setting a record for the group’s typically sluggish early cash chase.

Observers say New York Governor Andrew Cuomo is already acting like a presidential candidate for 2020, increasingly positioning himself with party leaders, aiming his message at middle-class angst and touting measures such as free tuition as an example of the kind of big ideas he can accomplish.

He’s running. It’s pretty clear,” said University of Maryland political scientist Robert Koulish, who said the second-term governor appears to be positioning himself as a hybrid: a centrist in the mold of 2016 Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton who supports social policies championed by liberals like Sanders. “Maybe he’ll present himself as a progressive who gets things done.”

State Politics: Republican Arizona Senator Jeff Flake Thursday faced off with angry constituents at a town hall, fielding questions about repealing ObamaCare and the Supreme Court.

Senator, my question is: when are you going to choose your country over your party?” one attendee at the Mesa, Arizona event asked.

Global Politics: China warned today that rising tensions over North Korea must be calmed before they reach an “irreversible and unmanageable stage.”

Lately, tensions have risen…and one has the feeling that a conflict could break out at any moment,” Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi said. “If a war occurs, the result is a situation in which everybody loses and there can be no winner.”

South Korea said that a nuclear test or intercontinental ballistic missile launch by North Korea would be a “strategic provocation” that would provoke a “powerful punitive measure.”

North Korea accused the US of “seriously threatening peace” by sending “huge nuclear strategic assets” to the region.

Vice President Mike Pence is traveling to South Korea Easter Sunday.

We don’t know whether those dead children were killed in Khan Sheikhoun,” Syrian dictator Bashar al Assad told Agence France-Presse in his first television interview since the bombing by US fighters in retaliation for last week’s regime chemical attack. “Were they dead at all?”

France’s presidential election race looked tighter than it has all year today, just over a week before voting opens as a new opinion poll put the four leading candidates only 3% points apart.

Sunday, 4/16/17:

Cooler heads seem to be prevailing on this Easter Sunday.

North Korean Young Leader Kim Jung Un did attempt to test fire a ballistic missile early today, but it exploded within five seconds of launch.

So far President Donald Trump has not ordered any type of retaliatory action for Un defying his warning and that of Un’s only real ally, China.

National Security Adviser General H.R. McMasters flew to Afghanistan to meet with Afghan officials today.

McMaster met President Ashraf Ghani and other senior Afghan officials to discuss security, counter-terrorism, reforms, and development, according to a statement on the palace’s Twitter account.

The stakes are high,” said McMaster. “This is really the modern-day frontier between barbarism and civilization.”

McMaster said, “It’s time for us to undertake all actions we can, short of a military option, to try to resolve this peacefully.”

President Trump asserted today that China was working with the United States on “the North Korea problem.”

Why would I call China a currency manipulator when they are working with us on the North Korean problem? We will see what happens!” Trump tweeted.

Vice President Mike Pence, in South Korea today, told American and South Korea service members that North Korea’s latest “provocation,” a failed missile launch shortly before his arrival in Seoul, laid bare the risks they face.

Your willingness to step forward, to serve, to stand firm without fear, inspires the nation and inspires the world,” Pence told the troops.

Lamenting the election of President Trump, Senator Bernie Sanders had this to say today about the Democratic Party and the voter turnout in 2016:

So many of our people are giving up on the political process. It is very frightening. In the last presidential election, when Trump won, we had the lowest voter turnout over – in 20 years. And in the previous two years before that, in the midterm election, we had the lowest voter turnout in 70 years,” Sanders continued. “We’re going to be fighting to see that the Democratic Party becomes a 50-state party. You can’t just be a West Coast party and an East Coast party.”

Keep your eyes on Presidential Adviser Gary Cohn, former Goldman Sachs CEO and registered Democrat.

Tomorrow the traditional Easter Egg Roll will take place on the lawn of the White House.

President Trump and the Republican National Committee together raised $42.6 million toward the 2020 race in the first quarter of 2017, Federal Election Commission reports reveal.

State Politics: Republicans kept a Kansas seat in the House of Representatives this week and former Democratic presidential contender and independent Senator from Vermont Bernie Sanders is not so happy.

Sanders said today that Democrats should’ve done more to support the party’s candidate, James Thompson, during the special House election in Kansas last week.

It is true that the Democratic Party should have put more resources into that election,” Sanders told host Jake Tapper on CNN‘s State of the Union. “But it is also true that he ran 20 points better than the Democratic candidate for president did in Kansas.”

This Tuesday, Democrats are trying to pick up a seat held by Republicans for decades in the Atlanta, Georgia area.

Global Politics: Turks go to the polls today to approve or disapprove of granting the presidency more power, moving Turkey from a dominant parliamentary system to a strong presidential system of governance.

President Recep Tayyip Erdogan is pushing the measure which would ensure he remains in office for at least another decade.

Under the new proposal, the President would be able to dissolve the legislature, rule by executive order, and gain new authority over administrative and judicial appointments.

Erdogan celebrated what he said was a clear result in the referendum to grant him sweeping new powers, but opponents said they would challenge the vote count which gave a narrow 51.3% lead to Erdogan’s supporters.

China is seeking Russia’s help to cool surging tensions over Pyongyang’s nuclear ambitions, the country’s Foreign Minister has told his Moscow counterpart, after Beijing warned of possible conflict over North Korea.

The European Union is set to inflict a double humiliation on British Prime Minister Theresa May, stripping Britain of its European agencies within weeks, while formally rejecting the Prime Minister’s calls for early trade talks.

Odebrecht SA, the Brazilian engineering company at the center of a historic corruption scandal in that country, paid out a total of about $3.3 billion in bribes in the nine years through 2014, according to testimony cited by local media on Saturday.

A yellow fever outbreak is tearing through Brazil leaving thousands dead in its wake – thousands of monkeys, that is.

Thanks for viewing!

Politics Roundup: April 3 – 9, 2017

politicsroundup

Welcome to the weekly compilation of the ins and outs, the ups and downs, the comings and goings from the alternate world of reality – politics!

Monday, 4/3/17:

Countdown!

The codes are being loaded for the “nuclear option” set to blow up the Senate later this week over the confirmation of Neil Gorsuch to fill the vacancy on the Supreme Court.

Minority Leader Chuck Schumer has rallied his fellow Democrats to filibuster the vote even though three Senators are voting with Republicans.

If Majority Leader Mitch McConnell hits the button, the way business is conducted in the World’s Most Deliberative Body will be changed forever.

The Senate Judiciary Committee along party lines voted to move Gorsuch confirmation to the full chamber for a vote.

President Donald Trump signaled McConnell to do whatever is necessary to assure Gorsuch’s position on the nation’s highest court.

Hoosier Republican Senator Todd Young had this to say about Gorsuch, “In Judge Gorsuch, President Trump found an individual who embodies the characteristics most Hoosiers are looking for on our nation’s highest court. I’m proud to say that I will be voting to confirm him on the floor of the U.S. Senate.”

The President met with the Egyptian President today, a man who had been banned in the White House by former President Barack Obama. Trump assured the Egyptians that the US would continue to be a strong ally and partner.

On Wednesday, the King of Jordan will visit the White House.

Thursday and Friday are already making news ahead of the visit from the Chinese President at Mar-A-Lago for a two-day powwow with the President.

A big topic between the Prez and Xi Jinping may be North Korea.

First Son-in-Law Jared Kushner traveled with Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Marine General Joseph Dunford on a surprise trip to Iraq.

The Washington Post is reporting, The United Arab Emirates arranged a secret meeting in January between Blackwater founder Erik Prince and a Russian close to President Vladi­mir Putin as part of an apparent effort to establish a back-channel line of communication between Moscow and President-elect Donald Trump, according to U.S., European and Arab officials. (More on this: https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/national-security/blackwater-founder-held-secret-seychelles-meeting-to-establish-trump-putin-back-channel/2017/04/03/95908a08-1648-11e7-ada0-1489b735b3a3_story.html)

Bloomberg is reporting, White House lawyers last month discovered that the former national security adviser Susan Rice requested the identities of U.S. persons in raw intelligence reports on dozens of occasions that connect to the Donald Trump transition and campaign, according to U.S. officials familiar with the matter. (More on this: https://www.bloomberg.com/view/articles/2017-04-03/top-obama-adviser-sought-names-of-trump-associates-in-intel)

The Prez is donating his first quarter salary as POTUS to the National Park Service.

The 9th Circuit Court of Appeals will hear an appeal in May over a Hawaii federal judge’s order that blocked President Trump’s revised travel restrictions on people from several Muslim-majority countries.

The Trump Executive Orders to-date: http://www.nbcnews.com/politics/white-house/here-s-full-list-donald-trump-s-executive-orders-n720796

State Politics: The Kansas House failed by a narrow margin Monday to override Republican Governor Sam Brownback’s veto of a bill that would expand Medicaid to thousands of low-income Kansans.

Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker, a Republican who not only supports work requirements and premium payments, but also a new additional condition: to make applicants undergo a drug test if they’re suspected of substance abuse, if the person wants Medicaid.

Global Politics: British Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson said today that the sovereignty of Gibraltar would not change as part of Britain’s exit from the European Union.

Spanish Foreign Minister Alfonso Dastis said his government was surprised to see British leaders “losing their cool” over Gibraltar.

Dutch Foreign Minister Bert Koenders called for calm, saying, “You can now see how difficult the divorce is.”

Both of the main candidates, including the incumbent President, are declaring victory in Sunday’s election in Ecuador. The divide between the two was only 3% with 96% of the vote counted.

Conservative Prime Minister Aleksandar Vucic won Serbia’s presidential election on Sunday by a huge margin, confirming his domination of the Balkan country as he pursues a delicate balancing act between Europe and Russia.

The Presidents of Russia and Belarus said today they had resolved all disputes over energy, signaling a rapprochement at a time when both leaders are grappling with street protests and the threat of new Western sanctions hangs over Minsk, Belarus.

Tuesday, 4/3/17:

Front burner?

Could it be after announcing that the Republican Administration will move on to tax reform and infrastructure, health care insurance reform is once more in the forefront of things to do?

White House officials, spearheaded by Vice President Mike Pence, met with members of the conservative Freedom Caucus on Monday in a bid to jumpstart stalled talks on replacing the Affordable Care Act.

Freedom Caucus’ Chairman Mark Meadows said the Administration of President Donald Trump had offered a “solid idea” that could lead to a compromise to get past GOP infighting that caused the bill to fail last month.

The Department of Homeland Security Monday announced steps to crack down on fraudulent use of H1B visas.

President Trump has signed the law that repeals protections forcing internet service providers to get a person’s OK before collecting and sharing data.

A wrong move in my opinion.

President Trump blasted critics on Monday for focusing on his associates’ communications with Russia, saying the “real story” was the former President Barack Obama Administration’s “crooked scheme” to find damaging intelligence on Trump before last year’s presidential election.

No – it is both.

Former National Security Adviser Susan Rice said she did nothing wrong in unmasking American names in intelligence reports.

The allegation is that somehow the Obama administration officials utilized intelligence for political purposes, ” Rice said in an exclusive interview with NBC‘s Andrea Mitchell. “That’s absolutely false.”

First Son-in-Law Jared Kushner travelled with the top US General Joseph Dunsford to an Iraqi base 10 miles from Mosul today, and voiced hope the city’s eventual recapture from Islamic State would be “a victory for the world.”

Speaking to the North America’s Building Trades Unions today as well as to CEOs from the construction industry, the Prez vowed only to approve “shovel-ready” infrastructure projects.

Trump told the group, “If you have a job that you can’t start within 90 days, we’re not going to give you money for it…because it doesn’t help us.”

In an interview on CBS This Morning, Chelsea Clinton was asked whether she thinks her mother, Hillary Clinton, would run for public office again.

Oh, I have no idea. I don’t think so,” Chelsea said. “I think right now she’s focused on her book. She’s focused, thankfully, on her grandchildren. She’s focused on what she can do to help support work that she’s been engaged in for longer than I’ve been alive, around children, around women, around families.”

State Politics: The Justice Department on Monday asked a judge to delay until at least the end of June a hearing on a proposed agreement on reforms in the Baltimore, Maryland Police Department.

The request came shortly before Attorney General Jeff Sessions ordered his department to review proposed overhaul deals with troubled police departments nationwide.

Ten states led by Democrats and a handful of national environmental groups sued the Trump Administration, claiming it’s violating federal law by delaying energy-efficiency standards intended to save Americans almost $24 billion.

The lawsuit is the latest challenge to the Trump Administration by groups of Democratic-led states seeking to slow the implementation of the President’s policy initiatives.

Global Politics: A US Navy aid unit has been told to leave Cambodia, the US Embassy said, in a new sign of the Southeast Asian country loosening links with the US as it strengthens ties with China.

Singapore’s Supreme Court recently ruled on a case that parents have a strong interest in “genetic affinity” with their children, one that can merit compensation if subverted.

The US has withdrawn funding for the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), an agency that promotes family planning in more than 150 countries. The State Department said the UNFPA “supports or participates in the management of a program of coercive abortion or involuntary sterilization.”

Wednesday, 4/5/17:

End up in jail.”

That is the assessment of Texas Congressman Joaquin Castro about associates of the campaign of President Donald Trump when he was running for office in 2016.

Castro seems certain there was collusion by staffers of Trump and Russian officials to interfere in the presidential election.

White House Political Director Steve Bannon is no longer serving on the National Security Council’s Principals Committee as the President realigns the West Wing.

President Trump on Tuesday blamed the Syrian government for what appeared to be one of the deadliest chemical weapon attacks in Syria’s civil war.

Trump called the attack, which killed an estimated 72 people, “reprehensible.”

Trump, however, leveled his harshest criticism at former President Barack Obama.

“These heinous actions by the Bashar al-Assad regime are a consequence of the past Administration’s weakness and irresolution,” Trump said.

President Trump said today that the chemical attack in Syria was “horrible” and “an affront to humanity.”

These heinous actions by the Assad regime cannot be tolerated,” the President warned.

While still casting aspersion on former President Barack Obama on not following through with his “red line“, President Trump said, “It is now my responsibility. I carry that responsibility with honor” to react on Syria gassing its own people.

My attitude toward Syria and Assad has changed very, very drastically,” the President said.

King Abdullah II of Jordan met with the Prez today at the White House, ahead of the meeting tomorrow and Friday with Xi Jinping of China at Mar-A-Lago.

Senate Democrats began their filibuster of Supreme Court Justice nominee Neil Gorsuch. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell vows to confirm Gorsuch Friday – one way or the other.

Oregon Democratic Senator Jeff Merkley ended his all-night Supreme Court protest this morning, yielding the Senate floor after more than 15 hours.

Bipartisan negotiations involving as many as 10 senators hoping to avoid a floor blowup over the Senate rules and Gorsuch have collapsed, setting up a partisan showdown.

Tomorrow head for the bomb shelters.

Republicans are ready to launch the “nuclear option“, changing the way the Senate conducts business forever.

McConnell said Tuesday that the “legislative filibuster” is safe from being blown to smithereens.

A Quinnipiac poll found that 52% of Americans are embarrassed to have Trump as President.

The Islamic State released a statement on Tuesday on what it thinks of President Trump, saying he is an “idiot who does not know what Syria or Iraq or Islam is.”

The Prez told The New York Times that he thinks that former National Security Adviser Susan Rice may have committed a crime when unmasking names of his campaign associates caught up in incidental collection.

The Prez also defended Bill O’Reilly against charges of sexual harassment.

Progress on a healthcare bill have “stalled” in talks between Republican conservatives and moderates, who had hoped to patch up differences this week.

Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly told a Senate panel today that apprehensions of undocumented immigrants along the US-Mexico border was below 17,000 in March, marking the least migration since at least 2000.

Two Democratic Senators want the Chief of the Army Corps of Engineers to explain the agency’s decision-making that ultimately paved the way for completion of the disputed Dakota Access oil pipeline.

Those documents which both House Intelligence Committee Chair Devin Nunes and Ranking Member Adam Schiff saw are being withheld from the entire committee by the White House.

Get ready for a fight that may lead to a government shutdown by month’s end.

State Politics: Chicago, Illinois Mayor Rahm Emanuel appeared on CBS This Morning today to discuss his new proposal, which would require students to develop a post-high school plan before receiving a diploma.

In a memo issued Tuesday, federal District Judge Howard Sachs said he is issuing a ruling which will invalidate Missouri’s requirement that doctors who perform abortions must have admitting privileges at nearby hospitals, and that clinics meet hospital-like standards for outpatient surgery.

Global Politics: Russia denied today that Syrian President Bashar al Assad was to blame for a poison gas attack.

The Russians said it would continue to back Assad.

This sets the Kremlin on course for its biggest diplomatic collision yet with President Trump’s White House.

Israel’s Parliament voted in favour of a controversial law against illegal constructions that detractors say will mostly target Arab homes built without required, but hard-to-get, permits.

Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte faced criticism today for defending adultery by a powerful political ally.

An increasing number of female officials, teachers and students have been wearing the Atlas and other traditional dresses following a recommendation by the Central Asian country of Tajikistan’s government.

The authorities have campaigned against Arab-style head and face coverings like the hijab as part of a crackdown that has also included forced beard shavings.

The government claims that over a thousand Tajiks have joined the Islamic State group in Iraq and Syria, and points to “foreign” Islamic clothing as “being a sign of radicalization“, said Edward Lemon, a researcher at the Harriman Institute of Columbia University in New York.

Thursday, 4/6/17:

Sidelined.

House Intelligence Committee Chairman Devin Nunes stepped aside from the probes into Russian interference and possible collusion by associates of President Donald Trump during his campaign today.

Texas Congressman Mike Conaway will now lead the investigation.

Nunes is facing ethics complaints that he may have inadvertently disclosed classified information during some of his press briefings on the investigation.

The Senate headed into a showdown over Supreme Court nominee Neil Gorsuch today.

Republicans were unable to break the Democratic filibuster of Gorsuch during a vote.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell then pushed the button and launched the “nuclear option,” which changes the rules to allow for a simple majority to confirm Supreme Court nominees.

The option was employed a few years ago by former Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid to all other appointments, but did not apply to the Supreme Court nominees.

This paves the way for Gorsuch to be confirmed and take his place on the high court bench with tomorrow’s confirmation vote.

For now, the legislative filibuster remains a part of Senate rules.

House Speaker Paul Ryan announced today an amendment, which would revive the failed American Health Care Act, by lowering costs for health insurance while protecting insurers covering people with pre-existing conditions. The plan calls for the creation of high risk pools to offset the cost for patients with pre-existing conditions.

The majority of House Freedom Caucus members will vote for a Republican health care bill if changes offered by the White House are included in the legislation, the head of the conservative group of House Republicans said today.

The Prez is meeting with Chinese President Xi Jinping in Mar-A-Lago today and tomorrow.

The meeting is expected to focus on the North Korean nuclear threat as well as testy economic issues facing the Presidents.

The President is considering limited, targeted military response to Syrian dictator Bashar al Assad’s use of chemical weapons on Syrian civilians, which also killed babies and children. See below for more information.

A crime reduction task force created by Attorney General Jeff Sessions will review how the Department of Justice enforces marijuana laws, among other things, according to a memo Sessions issued Wednesday to 94 US Attorneys.

Could the days be numbered for White House Political Director Steve Bannon?

First Son Donald Junior told a gun club meeting last night that he was considering running for Governor of New York.

The younger Donald said he had caught the political bug working on his father’s campaign.

Whether Junior jumps in to the 2018 race in the Empire State seems doubtful at this time, but 2022 is not that far off.

State Politics: The Alabama Ethics Commission says Governor Robert Bentley may have violated state ethics and campaign finance laws.

The case has been sent to a district attorney. If he’s charged and convicted, Bentley could face fines and jail time.

The Alabama State Legislature may reconsider whether to impeach Bentley after it failed to do so earlier this year.

The Florida State Legislature is considering a bill to apologize to victims of abuse and neglect at the former state-run Arthur G. Dozier School for Boys, a reform school in the Florida panhandle that closed in 2011.

New Jersey Governor Chris Christie is halting payments to Amtrak following a second derailment at New York City’s Penn Station that is causing headaches for commuters in the nation’s busiest rail hub.

A coalition of 17 states filed a legal challenge Wednesday against efforts by President Trump’s Administration to roll back climate change regulations, deepening a political rift over his emerging energy policies.

Global Politics: The Dalai Lama consecrated a Buddhist monastery in India’s disputed northeast border region on today, triggering an angry reaction from China.

China’s Foreign Ministry said the visit by the Dalai Lama, the exiled Tibetan spiritual leader, “severely harms China’s interests and the China-India relationship.”

The spokesman for President Vladimir Putin tells The Associated Press that Russia’s support for Syrian President Bashar Assad is not unconditional.

Syria’s armed forces “did not and will not” use chemical weapons, even against jihadist groups, Syrian Foreign Minister Walid Muallem said today.

Aung San Suu Kyi has denied security forces have carried out ethnic cleansing of Rohingya Muslims in Myanmar, speaking to the BBC after the United Nations Human Rights Council agreed to investigate allegations of rape, murder and torture against the Myanmar Army.

A Malaysian Member of Parliament said girls as young as nine were “physically and spiritually” ready for marriage, as the Muslim-majority Southeast Asian country passed a law on sexual offences against children without criminalizing child marriage.

Nauru President Baron Waqa says Australia’s controversial policy of sending asylum seekers to his impoverished Pacific island nation is “working well.”

Friday, 4/7/17:

Retaliation!

Between 8 and 9 p.m. (ET), while having dinner with Chinese President Xi Jinping, President Donald Trump ordered the launch of 59 Tomahawk cruise missiles to strike the al-Shayrat airbase north of Damascus, Syria on Thursday.

The target was the airstrip from where the deadly chemical weapons were launched that killed nearly 90 people, including nearly two dozen children, in Idlib.

The missile strike was limited, targeted and precise to let Syria and the world know there was a new sheriff in town, who would not tolerate a brutal regime committing war crimes against his own people.

In giving the order to strike, the President and the US acted alone, but were not alone in support.

Most western world leaders backed the President’s decision as did the Japanese and such Middle Eastern nations as Israel and Saudi Arabia.

In opposition were only Russia, Iran, China and North Korea.

Russia was given a one-hour’s notice of the strike. About a dozen members of Congress were consulted. Leaders of allies such as Great Britain, France, Canada and Australia were notified in advance.

Broad support of the President from across the aisle in both chambers of Congress. Support came from former officials of the Administration of former President Barack Obama, who opined they wished that Obama had done similar in 2013 when Bashar al Assad, the dictator of Syria, crossed the then President’s “red line.”

From pundits and military analysts, the support for the US hitting Shayrat was nearly universal.

There are those who say any more action will require the consent of Congress with a new authorization for the use of force (AUF).

The Pentagon is investigating whether Russia may have been complicit in the chemical attack in Syria on Tuesday.

Officials say a drone belonging either to Russia or the Syrian government was seen just before the attack, and it returned later to bomb the hospital where patients were being treated, perhaps an effort to hide evidence.

On a personal note, I agree with the limited, targeted strike to let Syrian strongman Assad know that war crimes will not be tolerated.

President Trump pressed President Xi to do more to curb North Korea’s nuclear program and help reduce the gaping US trade deficit with Beijing in talks, even as he toned down the strident anti-China rhetoric of his election campaign.

The message of Thursday night’s missile strike was also to North Korea and China that the US would do what was necessary to rein in the rogue state if it continued to launch missiles and pursue its nuclear ambitions in violation of United Nations resolutions.

That message was apparently received and understood by President Xi.

The White House is taking steps that could open up new areas of the Atlantic and Arctic oceans to offshore oil and gas drilling, according to multiple individuals briefed on the proposal.

Tennessee State Senator Mark Green has been tapped to become Secretary of the Army. The West Point graduate is a physician and the CEO of an emergency department staffing company.

State Politics: California Governor Jerry Brown declared his state’s historic, four-year drought is officially ended.

This drought emergency is over, but the next drought could be around the corner,” Brown said. “Conservation must remain a way of life.”

Global Politics: President Trump’s decision to fire 59 Tomahawk cruise missiles at a Syrian air base late Thursday puts Washington and Moscow “on the verge of a military clash,” Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev said, labeling the strike “really sad for [Russia’s] now completely ruined relations” with the U.S. and “good news for terrorists.”

The world is waiting for the Russian government to act responsibly in Syria,” Nikki Haley, the US Ambassador to the United Nations, replied. “The world is waiting for Russia to reconsider its misplaced alliance with Bashar Assad.”

Not only did Russia condemn the missile strike, but said it was suspending an agreement to minimize the risk of in-flight incidents between US and Russian aircraft operating over Syria.

The two leaders had positive and productive meetings,” said a statement from White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer about the meeting at Mar-A-Lago between the President and President Xi. “The two presidents reviewed the state of the bilateral relationship and noted the importance of working together to generate positive outcomes that would benefit the citizens of both countries.”

China’s official newspaper said the summit went “as well as it could,” editorializing that “Beijing and Washington have so far managed to do well in preventing conflicts,” which “shows confrontation is not inevitable.” Another state-run outlet said the summit indicated a new “pragmatic relationship” between the two nations.

Venezuela’s embattled socialist government stepped up its campaign against the opposition by banning Henrique Capriles, two-time presidential candidate and governor of Miranda state, from holding public office. The opposition responded by calling on Venezuelans to step up protests.

Syrian President Bashar al-Assad reacted with outrage to US cruise missile strikes on a Syrian military air base, calling them an “unjust and arrogant aggression” that would only increase his government’s determination to “crush” militant groups in Syria, according to the state news agency.

Sunday, 4/9/17:

Priority.

The main goal of President Donald Trump remains the defeat of the Islamic State and a distorted Islamic ideology spreading terror around the world. But the status of Syrian dictator Bashar al Assad is also a target, but not the highest aim.

Getting [Bashar al-Assad] out is not the only priority,” United Nations Ambassador Nikki Haley told Jake Tapper this morning on CNN‘s State of the Union in response to Tapper’s question about whether regime change is official US policy.

So what we’re trying to do is obviously defeat [the Islamic State]. Secondly, we don’t see a peaceful Syria with Assad in there. Thirdly, get the Iranian influence out. And then finally move towards a political solution…but we know that there is not any sort of option where a political solution is going to happen with Assad at the head of the regime.”

White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer on Saturday likewise said the US “can’t put up with” Assad, while Secretary of State Rex Tillerson named defeating ISIS as the Trump Administration’s top priority in Syria.

Reportedly, President Trump has scrapped the tax plan he campaigned on and is going back to the drawing board in a search for Republican consensus behind legislation to overhaul the tax system.

Administration officials say it’s now unlikely that a tax overhaul will meet the August deadline set by Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin.

White House Political Strategist Steve Bannon and First Son-in-Law and “Has the Ear of the President” Jared Kushner met. The pair agreed to “bury the hatchet” over their differences, in a bid to stop infighting that has distracted from President Trump’s message.

This came after the two powerhouses were corralled by White House Chief of Staff Reince Priebus Friday night in what could be termed a “come to Jesus meeting.”

K. T. McFarland has been asked to step down as Deputy National Security Advisor to the President after less than three months.

McFarland is expected to be nominated as Ambassador to Singapore, according to a person familiar with White House personnel moves.

State Politics: The Alabama Supreme Court Saturday ruled the state’s lawmakers can proceed with impeachment proceedings against embattled Governor Robert Bentley, who has been accused of misuse of power in an effort to conceal his alleged affair with an aide.

Bilbray admits to inappropriate conversations, but denies an affair and illegal activity.

James Thompson, the Democrat running to fill the House seat vacated by Trump Administration appointee Mike Pompeo as Central Intelligence Agency Director, is seeing a last-minute fundraising surge in the days before Tuesday’s unexpectedly competitive Kansas special election.

The surge in donations shows a groundswell of support for Thompson, the first Democrat to face voters in a federal election since Donald Trump won the presidency in November. The Democratic Party, however, is staying away from the race.

With dispirited Republican voters on one side and a fired-up liberal base on the other, Democrats are hoping to use the April 18 special election in Georgia’s 6th Congressional District as a model for how to convert Trump’s unpopularity into votes in future contests.

It’s a high-profile race for a seat that used be held by Newt Gingrich and which was recently vacated by former Congressman Tom Price, who joined Trump’s Cabinet as Health and Human Services Secretary.

Global Politics: Russian President Vladimir Putin and Iranian President Hassan Rouhani have spoken on the phone and agreed that recent US airstrikes in Syria were unacceptable and violated international law, the Kremlin said today.

The two leaders also called for an “objective, unbiased investigation” into the incident involving chemical weapons which killed more than 100 people last week in Idlib province, Syria, the Kremlin said in a statement on its website.

Earlier on today North Korea vowed to boost its defenses following the US strikes in Syria.

A foreign ministry official told the country’s state-run news agency that the airstrikes proved that it needed to protect itself against Washington.

The recent US military attack on Syria is an action of warning,” the report said, according to The Associated Press. “We will bolster up in every way our capability for self-defense to cope with the U.S. evermore reckless moves for a war and defend ourselves with our own force.”

On Saturday British Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson announced he had canceled a planned trip to Russia because of fast-changing developments in Syria.

Amid rising tensions between Moscow and Washington, Johnson said Saturday the situation in war-torn Syria had “fundamentally” changed following a chemical weapons attack on civilians and the US airstrikes targeting a military airfield.

Responding to Johnson’s announcement, Russian Foreign Ministry representative Maria Zakharova described his reasons as “absurd,” according to Russian news agency Interfax.

President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi declared a three-month state of emergency in Egypt following twin church bombings that killed dozens of people in two cities today.

Sisi announced the “state of emergency for three months” in a defiant speech at the Presidential Palace after a meeting of the National Defence Council.

Somalia’s new military chief survived a suicide car bomb attack today just moments after he was sworn in with a mandate to launch a new offensive against Islamic extremists. Thirteen people were killed the attack.

Iraq’s influential Shi’ite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr called on Syrian President Bashar al-Assad to “take a historic heroic decision” and step down, to spare his country further bloodshed.

Sadr, who commands a large following among the urban poor of Baghdad and the southern cities, is the first Iraqi Shi’ite political leader to urge Assad to step down.

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