Politics Roundup: March 13 – 19, 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!

Tune Out Reality Show Presidency

Monday, 3/13/17:

Lie of the year?

Nobody will be worse off financially,” if the Republican healthcare plan is passed, according to Health and Human Services Secretary Dr. Tom Price.

Breitbart, of all sources, is saying that Price’s statement is the “lie of the year.”

On tenderhooks as the nation waits to hear from the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office to say how many people may lose healthcare coverage under the GOP plan.

White House budget director Mick Mulvaney and White House economic adviser Gary Cohn said the CBO should focus on health care affordability rather than the number of insured.

President Donald Trump said today that number of healthcare plans available would go “up, up, up” while the cost of healthcare insurance would go “down, down, down” under the Republican proposal to replace the Affordable Care Act.

The Prez did add that it will take time for the market to take effect and may take two or three years for people to see the savings.

Breaking late: The CBO found 14 million will be uninsured by 2018.
Some 24 million fewer will be uninsured by 2026, according to the CBO.
The score further revealed a savings of $337 billion in the national budget.
The CBO also found the Republican repeal of the Affordable Care Act bill to be budget neutral and can move forward as a reconciliation bill.

The Justice Department was given a deadline of today to submit to the House Intelligence Committee any proof of the President’s claim that former President Barack Obama had Trump Tower wiretapped during last year’s election.

At press time, Justice has not been forthcoming with any proof to back up the President’s claim.

The Prez met for the first time with his Cabinet today.

Trump announced the visit with German Chancellor Angela Merkel has been postponed until Friday due to the impending blizzard descending on the Northeast.

White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer said today that President Trump plans to donate his salary at the end of the year – and that the Prez would like reporters to help him decide where to send that check to.

He kindly asked that you all help determine where that goes,” Spicer said during today’s press briefing.

On whether the repeal bill will get to the President’s desk, “We’re going to continue to work with members of the House and eventually the Senate,” Spicer said at the White House briefing.

I feel very good as the President continues to engage with members that we will have the votes necessary.”

The White House announced today a plan to sift through all agencies and departments to eliminated any positions, which no longer are functional or have a benefit to the public.

In other words, the President wants to streamline the Executive Branch into a sleek, well-oiled machine.

A woman questioned Spicer on Saturday in an Apple Store, asking him what is was like working for a “fascist.”

Talk about an understatement – did you hear KellyAnne Conway, top Presidential Adviser, tell CNN‘s Chris Cuomo this morning, “I’m not Inspector Gadget.”

Can I get a duh?

Racist?

Congressman Steve King, Republican from Iowa, praised the far right, anti-Islamitist candidate of The Netherlands Geert Wilders in a tweet and said that Wilders “understands that culture and demographics are our destiny. We can’t restore our civilization with somebody else’s babies.”

The backlash has been harsh.

From Speaker Ryan on down, King is getting denounced by both Republicans and Democrats.

State Politics: Dozens of 17-year-olds voted illegally across Wisconsin during last spring’s intense presidential primary, apparently wrongly believing they could cast ballots if they turned 18 ahead of the November general election, according to a report from the Wisconsin Elections Commission.

Washington State today moved to block President Donald Trump’s revised travel ban, filing a new complaint in federal court and asking a judge to stop the executive order from going into effect on Thursday

Global Politics: Over the weekend, The Netherlands barred a plane from landing, which was carrying the Turkish Foreign Minister, citing security concerns.

Then, they also stopped Turkey’s Family Affairs Minister from entering the Turkish consulate in Rotterdam.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan likened the moves to Nazism, which caused the Danish Prime Minister to take a possible meeting with Erdogan off the table.

Hosni Mubarak, who was overthrown as President of Egypt in an uprising in 2011, will be released from detention in a military hospital, the public prosecutor ruled today, his lawyers and judicial sources said.

Scotland’s First Minister Nicola Sturgeon says she plans to trigger another independence referendum as the United Kingdom marches toward Brexit. Sturgeon said the vote could be held in autumn 2018 at the earliest.

Scotland voted to remain part of the U.K. at a referendum in 2014.

In a Reuters exclusive, Japan plans to dispatch its largest warship on a three-month tour through the South China Sea beginning in May, three sources said, in its biggest show of naval force in the region since World War Two.

This is in protest of China’s claims to the entire South China Sea.

Tuesday, 3/14/17:

I am really excited by this analysis.”

Really?

That was what Speaker of the House Paul Ryan said in reaction to the release by the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office of its scoring of the American Health Care Act.

Health and Human Services Secretary Dr. Tom Price said he “strenuously” disagreed with the assessment from the CBO.

Office of Management and Budget Director Mick Mulvaney also refused to accept the numbers from the CBO.

That report found 14 million people would lose health insurance next year. An additional 24 million would lose insurance by 2026.

Premiums for health insurance would rise on average 15% over the next couple of years.

While a 64-year-old person would see the cost of insurance rise from $1,700 per year to over $14,000 per year, which is more than half the wages of $26,000 per year.

The only bright spot in the report was that over the next 10 years the AHA would reduce the national deficit by $337 billion.

The expected swelling of the ranks of the uninsured cast fresh doubts on President Trump’s promise that the GOP plan would provide “insurance for everybody.”

Democrats are smacking their lips in glee over the CBO report.

Like sharks, Dems are smelling blood in the water.

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer have conducted two press conferences within 24 hours to gloat about the CBO report and call on Republicans to rethink the AHA.

Republicans, who favor the AHA, are trying to point out there is a difference between having healthcare coverage or insurance and getting care for their health.

Those Republicans say that even with insurance under the Affordable Care Act, people cannot afford to see a doctor or get care.

White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer stressed today during the daily press briefing that the CBO report only was about phase 1 of a three-part plan to repeal and replace the ACA.

The score is not an accurate portrayal since it does not take in parts two and three, Spicer pointed out.

Just because you have a card, doesn’t mean you get care,” Spicer pointed out.

Spicer also said that if the AHA does not pass and make it to the President’s desk the chance of repealing the ACA will be extremely difficult if possible at all.

The President’s goal is to provide coverage to every American,” Spicer said in response to CNN‘s Jim Acosta about the people who will lose coverage under the AHA.

It is starting to look that without major changes the AHA will not get the votes to pass the House and will definitely die in the Senate.

The Justice Department asked for and received an extension from the House Intelligence Committee to produce evidence that former President Barack Obama’s Administration was surveilling the campaign of then candidate Donald Trump and Trump Tower.

If Justice does not provide the information proving or disproving President Trump’s allegation by Monday, Chairman Devin Nunes said that the committee would subpoena the documents or tapes.

First Son-in-Law and Chief Adviser to the President Jared Kushner’s family business is set for a windfall from a Chinese insurance firm of more than $400 million.

The firm, Anbang Insurance Group, has agreed to invest a building owned by Kushner’s family. Kushner sold the building to his family as part of his divestment of interests to not appear in violation of conflicts of interest.

A Kushner spokesperson said: “Kushner Companies has taken significant steps to avoid potential conflicts and will continue to do so.”

House Oversight and Government Reform Chairman Jason Chaffetz and Ranking Member Elijah Cummings sent the White House a letter warning them that Trump and his staff might be violating federal law when they delete tweets from the President’s official accounts.

The letter warns that tweets from both the @realDonaldTrump and the official @POTUS accounts “are likely to be presidential records and therefore must be preserved.” If those deleted tweets aren’t archived, then Trump and his staff could be violating the Presidential Records Act.

On Monday, Democrats wrote to Senate GOP leaders that they won’t accept any attempt to include funding for Trump’s proposed border wall in a spending bill necessary to keep the government open past April 28, according to a letter obtained by The Washington Post.

Given these and other concerns, we believe it would be inappropriate to insist on the inclusion of such funding in a must-pass appropriations bill that is needed for the Republican majority in control of the Congress to avert a government shutdown so early in President Trump’s Administration,” the Democrats wrote.

President Trump has given the Central Intelligence Agency new authority to conduct drone attacks against suspected militants, the Wall Street Journal reported on Monday, citing US officials.

Indiana health care consultant Seema Verma, a protégé of Vice President Mike Pence, was approved by a 55-43 vote, largely along party lines to head the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services on Monday.

OOPs!

Remember how former President Obama promised his Administration would be the most transparent in history?

The Obama administration in its final year in office spent a record $36.2 million on legal costs defending its refusal to turn over federal records under the Freedom of Information Act, according to an Associated Press analysis of new U.S. data that also showed poor performance in other categories measuring transparency in government.

And there’s more: https://www.yahoo.com/news/obamas-final-us-spent-36-million-records-lawsuits-075149807–politics.html

State Politics: A Texas lawmaker has proposed a bill that would fine men $100 every time they enjoyed self-gratification.

Talk about overreach and bedroom politics!

The lawmaker said her bill was a lesson in sarcasm in reaction to her male counterparts efforts to restrict women’s rights to abortion and healthcare.

South Dakota Republican Governor Dennis Daugaard signed SB 149 into law, granting publicly funded adoption agencies from allowing same-gender couples to adopt or foster children.

The South Dakota law also allows agencies to prevent single and divorced people, couples who engage in premarital sex, interfaith couples, and anyone else whose behavior or identity violates an agency’s “religious belief or moral conviction,” from adopting or being foster parents.

Florida Governor Rick Scott signed legislation on Monday tightening state law to require a unanimous recommendation by a jury before judges can impose the death penalty.

Global Politics: The United Kingdom’s Parliament Monday voted to give Prime Minister Theresa May the authority to proceed with pulling the country out of the European Union without further oversight of the lawmaking body.

David Davis, the Cabinet Minister responsible for negotiating Brexit, said lawmakers agreed “to get on with the job of leaving the EU and negotiating a positive new partnership with its remaining member states. … We are now on the threshold of the most important negotiation for our country in a generation.”

Turkey suspended high-level diplomatic relations with The Netherlands Monday.

Turkey said it would not permit the return of the Dutch ambassador to Turkey. Turkey’s Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu, who was barred from entering Holland on Monday, demanded, “Why this time am I a terrorist? Are the Turks living in this country terrorists?”

Companies may bar staff from wearing Islamic headscarves and other visible religious symbols under certain conditions, the European Union’s top court ruled on today, setting off a storm of complaint from rights groups and religious leaders.

Saudi Arabia launched a girls’ council – without any girls.

The top United Nations human rights official called today for tens of thousands of detainees to be released from Syria’s prisons and for torturers to be brought to court as part of a lasting peace.

Today in a sense the entire country has become a torture-chamber; a place of savage horror and absolute injustice,” said U. High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad al-Hussein.

France’s rightwing presidential candidate Francois Fillon was charged today with several offences over a fake jobs scandal, including misuse of public funds, his lawyer said.

Malaysia will deport 50 North Koreans for overstaying their visas, the Deputy Prime Minister announced today, in an apparent exception to a departure ban imposed after the assassination of Kim Jong-Nam, half brother of North Korea’s strongman Kim Jung Un.

A self-confessed assassin who testified to being in a “death squad” under Philippine leader Rodrigo Duterte will soon file a case at the International Criminal Court accusing the President of crimes against humanity, his lawyer said today.

Dutch far-right leader Geert Wilders has called for Turkey’s Ambassador to the Netherlands to be expelled in the wake of the row that erupted between the two countries over the weekend.

Wednesday, 3/15/17:

Whew!

The alternate universe of politics has more intrigue than the drama between Julius Caesar and Brutus on this Ides of March.

Reveal or don’t reveal – that is the question.

Will Federal Bureau of Investigation Director James Comey inform Congress if there is an investigation into the Administration of President Donald Trump or the Trump campaign of 2016 or ties with Russia or Russian interference in the presidential election?

Or could it be that Comey remains mum?

Attorney General Jeff Sessions said today that he had not informed or briefed the President on any wiretapping of Trump Tower or the Trump campaign.

House Intelligence Committee Chair Devin Nunes and Vice Chair Adam Schiff both said today that there was no evidence that Trump Tower was wiretapped by the previous Administration.

Nunes did leave the door open of the possibility of “incidental” conversations by Americans being picked up during surveillance of Russian targets.

I do believe there was no actual tap of Trump Tower,” Nunes said.

Schiff agreed.

Schiff did say he could not agree with the statement of former Director of National Intelligence James Clapper that there was no Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act warrant that may have been issued.

Virginia Senator Tim Kaine, who was Hillary Clinton’s running mate in 2016, said today he expects FBI Director Comey to announce the FBI is investigating possible ties between Russia and Trump’s campaign, transition and presidential Administration.

Did the 2005 income tax partial return of the President really tell us anything as revealed by MSNBC‘s Rachel Maddow?

Investigative journalist and tax specialist David Cay Johnston, a Pulitzer winner, was mailed the two pages anonymously and discussed the return with Maddow on her show last night.

On CNN this morning Johnston said he would not be surprised that the President sent the return as a distraction.

The White House noted that “it is totally illegal to steal and publish tax returns,” slamming the “dishonest media” for making Trump’s taxes “part of their agenda” while Trump focuses on tax reform to “benefit all Americans.”

The first part of the accusation, about stealing, is true. The second part, about publishing, runs headlong into the First Amendment.

Trump earned more than $150 million in income and paid $38 million in taxes, after taking into account large scale depreciation for construction, it was noted on the 2005 return.

Will the White House pull its support of the American Health Care Act after it admitted that it could not pass the Senate?

Will Speaker of the House Paul Ryan change AHA to please the reluctant Senate?

Did ExxonMobil break the law when Secretary of State Rex Tillerson was CEO of the oil giant and used the name “Wayne Tracker” on a private email account to talk with executives of the company about climate change?

Why is the Attorney General of New York investigating ExxonMobil and climate change?

This was not an alias used to discuss only climate change,” Exxon/Mobil spokesman Alan Jeffers said. “It was an account used for everyday business by senior executives who needed to reach” Tillerson.

The White House has instructed the State Department to cut 50% of the funding for United Nations programs, Foreign Policy reported Tuesday.

The President traveled to Ypsilanti, Michigan today to talk about the economy.

The Prez will conduct a campaign-style rally in Nashville, Tennessee this evening, where he will speak out about the AHA.

The White House is touting its budget, now being prepared, will be a “conservative blueprint.”

Longtime Trump adviser Roger Stone says he believes his contacts with a Russian-linked hacker who took credit for breaching the Democratic National Committee may have been obtained through a special warrant that allows the government to collect the communications of people suspected of being agents of a foreign nation.

The Senate today voted 88-11 to end debate and move forward with a vote to confirm former Indiana Senator Dan Coats as Director of National Intelligence (DNI).

Turns out that Moderates are not dead after all.

It is moderate Republicans and Democrats who are coming front and center in a Congress where the President is not an ideologue.

Moderates are the key to getting anything done in this Congress.

State Politics: The agency that protects Arkansas’ state Capitol and grounds now has the authority to operate in secret after the Governor let a Freedom of Information exemption become law without his signature.

The Texas Senate on Tuesday preliminarily approved a Republican-backed bill that would restrict access to public bathrooms by transgender people over criticism from Democrats who said it was unnecessary, discriminatory and economically destructive.

Global Politics: It’s election day in The Netherlands.

Will far-right candidate Geert Wilders upset incumbent Conservative Prime Minister Mark Rutte?

Turkish Association of Red Meat Producers has ordered a consignment of prize Dutch cattle to be sent back to The Netherlands, saying it no longer wants to farm the cows due to the diplomatic crisis between the countries.

Tanzanian public broadcaster TBC has suspended nine staff after it aired a hoax story saying President Trump had praised President John Magufuli’s performance.

President Rodrigo Duterte of the Philippines defiantly rebuked human rights groups and international organizations on Tuesday, pledging to continue his deadly antidrug crackdown despite mounting calls for a criminal investigation into his actions.

Human rights, United Nations, that’s fine. If you have complaints, O.K. You want to file charges, fine. Look for evidence,” Duterte told a gathering of mayors in Manila, the capital.

But still, I will kill you,” he warned the criminals and drug users who have been the focus of his crackdown.

According to a CNN report, Russia is now trying to get a foot hold in Libya.

Finding News

Thursday, 3/16/17:

Blocked yet again!

Once again a travel ban imposed by President Donald Trump has been blocked from taking effect.

This time two federal courts stepped in – one in Hawaii and one in Maryland. A third federal judge in Washington State has yet to rule on yet another challenge to the President’s most recent travel ban. 

The courts cited the President’s language while a candidate as the main reason for putting a halt to the ban, which was to take effect shortly after midnight.

A budget with no chance of passing was released today by the White House.

President Trump called it a “conservative blueprint.”

With major slashes to the Departments of State, Health and Human Services and Housing and Urban Development, and a third of the funding cut for the Environmental Protection Agency, House Republicans will tear the proposal apart and come up with a different animal altogether to submit to the full House for consideration.

Also cut were monies for public broadcasting and the arts.

President Trump on Wednesday ordered a review of tough automobile fuel-efficiency standards imposed by the Administration of former President Barack Obama.

The assault on the American auto industry is over,” Trump told cheering union workers in Michigan.

The House Budget Committee moved the American Health Care Act on to the full House for a vote. There is still at least one more committee to vote before the bill actually lands on the floor for members to accept or reject.

Now that we have our score we can make some necessary improvements and refinements to the bill,” House Speaker Paul Ryan said, referring to the Congressional Budget Office’s estimate of the effect on the number of those covered by health insurance and what the GOP proposal would cost.

Arizona Republican Senator John McCain accused fellow Kentucky Republican Senator Rand Paul of “working for” Russian President Vladimir Putin because Paul is against Montenegro joining NATO.

Paul shot back that McCain is “unhinged” and a reason for term limits.

CBS is reporting that even before Donald Trump was inaugurated, landowners along the border reportedly began receiving letters from the Justice Department informing them that the federal government wants their land to build a fence (The Wall), that it intends to acquire their land and the amount of compensation the government is offering.

In an interview with Fox News’ Tucker Carlson on his claim about Trump Tower being “wiretapped” the President said that the administration “will be submitting things” to the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence “very soon.”

The President added that he “will be, perhaps speaking about this next week” and predicted that “you’re going to find some very interesting items coming to the forefront over the next two weeks.”

This is in direct contrast to what the Intelligence Committees in both the House and Senate are saying.

Chairman Richard Burr and Vice Chair Mark Warner of the Senate Intelligence Committee announced today there are “no indications” that “any element” of the US government was involved in surveilling Trump Tower before or after the 2016 election.

A similar statement was made yesterday by House Intelligence Chair Devin Nunes and Vice Chair Adam Schiff.

Schiff suggested today that the Prez may have revealed classified information while talking with Carlson last night and acknowledged that the Central Intelligence Agency had been hacked.

New evidence reveals that former National Security Adviser retired General Michael Flynn worked for several Russian clients and was paid more than $50,000.

Five judges on the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals indirectly chastised the President for making personal attacks and impugning the integrity of sitting federal judges, who ruled against his travel ban.

Senior Boeing executive Patrick Shanahan is President Trump’s nominee to take over the #2 role at the Pentagon as Deputy Defense Secretary, the White House announced today.

Other Defense nominees are:

* David Norquist to become Under Secretary of Defense, Comptroller. Norquist is a partner with Kearney and Company, a Certified Public Accounting firm.
* David Joel Trachtenberg to become Principal Deputy Under Secretary of Defense, Policy. Trachtenberg is president and CEO of Shortwaver Consulting, LLC, a national security consultancy.
* Kenneth Rapuano to become Assistant Secretary of Defense, Homeland Defense and Global Security. Rapuano is senior vice president and director of the studies and analysis group at the ANSER Corporation.

The #2 for the National Security Agency was also announced, who is Dina Powell, who has been the President’s Senior Counselor for Economic Initiatives.

State Politics: State and federal probes of New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio’s fundraising will not result in criminal charges for the Mayor or others acting on his behalf, prosecutors said today.

Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance said the facts were insufficient to successfully argue a provable violation of election laws in part because the parties relied on the advice of attorneys. But he said the actions appear to be “contrary to the intent and spirit of the law.”

Global Politics: So much for the far right take-over of Europe.

Geert Wilders placed a distant second in yesterday’s election of a new Prime Minister in The Netherlands. The incumbent Conservative Prime Minister Mark Rutte, easily won re-election.

Secretary of State Rex Tillerson today called for North Korea to halt its nuclear and missile programs, saying the isolated communist nation “need not fear” the US.

Tillerson, speaking after meeting with Japanese Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida in Tokyo, Japan, said that it was time for a “new approach” to reining in Pyongyang’s “dangerous and unlawful” nuclear weapons program, because 20 years of efforts to denuclearize North Korea have failed.

Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan today accused the European Union’s top court of starting a “crusade” against Islam after a ruling allowing European companies to ban employees from wearing religious or political symbols including the Islamic headscarf.

An opposition lawmaker filed for Filipino President Rodrigo Duterte’s impeachment at the Philippine Congress today, citing a “conflict of interest.”

Friday, 3/17/17:

Apology!

The White House had to apologize to Great Britain overnight after Press Secretary Sean Spicer read a statement from a Fox News commentator accusing the British equivalent of the National Security Agency, GCHQ, of being used by former President Barack Obama to surveil Trump Tower and then candidate Donald Trump in the lead-up to the 2016 presidential election.

The Brits soundly denounced the statement as “utterly ridiculous” and false.

National Security Adviser H.R. McMasters and Spicer both had to reach out their British counterparts and issue a formal apology last night and promise the statement would not be used and spoken again by the Administration.

Then there was the meeting with German Chancellor Angela Merkel and President Trump today.

No statements from either the President or Chancellor when they posed for a photo op when first meeting in the Oval Office. No handshake between the two. Judging body language, the tension between the two world leaders is still very much alive.

Following their meeting, the President pressed that the US would seek fair trade deals with Germany and around the world.

He also reaffirmed the US commitment to NATO and working for a peaceful solution to the Ukraine and Russian dispute.

The Chancellor stressed that trade was good for the world and the US along with globalization. Merkel also said that Germany would contribute its 2% of GDP to NATO by 2024.

We held a conversation where we were trying to address also those areas where we disagree, but we tried to bring people together … (and) tried to find a compromise that is good for both sides,” Merkel said.

The President would not respond to the claim that British intelligence assisted the former Administration in surveilling Trump Tower, other than to say to talk to Fox News.

Trump attempted a bit of humor by saying that perhaps he and the Chancellor had something in common with the previous Administration.

Merkel’s cell phone was hacked by the NSA, which led to a testy time between former President Barack Obama and the Chancellor when it was revealed.

The President came out this morning to say he is “100% behind” the American Health Care Act. He said changes are being made to make it palpable to Republican members of Congress.

The Prez also said that the Affordable Care Act is on “respirator” and dying.

Obamacare is dead,” the President pronounced.

In a meeting this morning the President and GOP leadership said they had agreed to make work a requirement for Medicaid recipients.

No one should get too excited by the budget proposal from the White House released on Thursday.

Congress will dice it up and will little resemble what the President submitted as a “guideline.”

As Kentucky Republican Hal Rogers, a member and former Chairman of the House Appropriations Committee, pointed out, “While we have a responsibility to reduce our federal deficit, I am disappointed that many of the reductions and eliminations proposed in the president’s skinny budget are draconian, careless, and counterproductive.”

In other words, do not expect the meal to be served to any way follow the recipe from the White House Office of Management and Budget.

Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said Thursday that the Trump Administration has no desire to “enter into trade wars.”

Mnuchin made the remarks after speaking with Germany’s Finance Minister, Wolfgang Schaeuble, on the eve of his first meeting with other ministers from the Group of 20 leading global economic powers.

Irish media and its folk are slamming everyone from President Trump to Vice President Mike Pence to House Speaker Paul Ryan for missteps in trying to honor Ireland and Saint Patrick on Thursday when Irish Prime Minister Enda Kenny made the annual trek to Washington DC.

First, the VEEP used terminology no self-respecting Irish person says, by offering a “top of the morning” to the Prime Minister at breakfast.

Then you have the Prez using a “proverb“, which he said was Irish, but questionably came from an African poem, when speaking at lunch with the Prime Minister.

This was followed by a toast from Ryan with a lame pint of Guinness without the necessary dark ale with a foamy head.

At least no one had their “Kiss me, I’m Irish” pins on display.

As if the Secret Service has not been embarrassed enough the past few years, including last Friday when the jumper managed to elude agents and detection for 15 minutes before being apprehended, now the report yesterday, the agency lost a laptop with information about the Prez, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Pope Francis.

The Secret Service confirmed in a statement on Friday that a laptop issued by the agency was stolen and that an employee was “the victim of a criminal act.”

The Department of Justice has complied with the request from leaders of the House and Senate Intelligence Committees and Judiciary Committees seeking information related to surveillance during the 2016 election,” a Justice Department spokeswoman said via email.

Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer has warned that if Republicans push for money to build “The Wall” be included in the resolution to raise the debt ceiling, Democrats will allow the government to shut down.

“If they put those poison pill amendments in and try to shove them down the American people’s throats, of course they might be responsible for shutting the government down,” Schumer told reporters during a leadership press conference.

Other Democratic Senators said in a letter, “If Republicans insist on inserting poison pill riders such as defunding Planned Parenthood, building a border wall, or starting a deportation force, they will be shutting down the government and delivering a severe blow to our economy.”

Jewish organizations are calling for the resignation of Trump aide Sebastian Gorka, after reports that Gorka has ties to a far-right group in Hungary. Gorka denies membership or association with the group.

State Politics: Florida Governor Rick Scott Thursday removed State Prosecutor Aramis Ayala from the trial of an accused cop killer after she said she would no longer seek the death penalty in first-degree murder cases.

I am deeply concerned about reports from some of our trial courts that immigration agents appear to be stalking undocumented immigrants in our courthouses to make arrests,” California Chief Justice Tani Cantil-Sakauye in a letter Thursday to Attorney General Jeff Sessions and Department of Homeland Security Secretary John F. Kelly wrote. “… Courthouses should not be used as bait in the necessary enforcement of our country’s immigration laws.”

(More: https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/post-nation/wp/2017/03/17/california-chief-justice-to-ice-stop-stalking-immigrants-at-courthouses/)

Global Politics: Germany and China are cozying up when it comes to free trade, as President Trump threatens to cut Beijing off.

After they spoke on the phone Thursday, German Chancellor Angela Merkel and Chinese President Xi Jinping vowed to “together fight for free trade and open markets,” Agence France-Presse reported.

If being an apartheid state means committing inhumane acts, systematic oppression and domination by one racial group over another, then Israel is guilty, a United Nations panel has determined in a new report.

Sunday, 3/19/17:

Tomorrow could be showdown day when Federal Bureau of Investigation Director James Comey appears before an open session of the House Intelligence Committee.

Comey is expected to refute the claim by President Donald Trump that former President Barack Obama order the tapping of Trump Tower.

Another big story to watch on Monday is when Neil Gorsuch begins his confirmation hearing before the Senate to fill the vacancy on the Supreme Court.

Will Democrats block his nomination or wait until the President gets a chance to nominate another Justice to the nation’s highest court and third branch of government?

Great Britain is still not happy with the claim its GCHQ spy agency was involved in tapping Trump Tower.

That claim has been denied as “utterly ridiculous” by the United Kingdom, but President Trump seemed to stand by the allegation made by a Fox News talking head when appearing at a press conference with German Chancellor Angela Merkel on Friday.

Merkel also did not seem pleased when the President attempted to joke about the issue citing how Merkel’s own phone had been tapped by the National Security Agency during the previous Administration.

The Justice Department sent a statement, as requested, to the House and Senate Intel Committees on Friday saying that it had no proof to back up the President’s claim that then President Obama ordered the tapping of Trump Tower.

Former Democratic National Committee Chair and former CNN contributor Donna Brazile admitted Friday that she did in fact provide questions to the Hillary Clinton campaign prior to a debate with her opponent Bernie Sanders.

House Speaker Paul Ryan continues to tweak the American Health Care Act to make it more of a win when the full House votes on the measure to repeal the Affordable Care Act on Thursday. At present time, it appears that 14 GOP lawmakers in the House are definite “No’s” while another 11 are on the fence and leaning toward a nay vote. 

Among the proposals being worked into the bill are a work requirement for the Medicaid program for the poor, as well as boost tax credits for older, lower income people.

We think we should be offering more assistance than the bill currently does,” for lower-income people age 50 to 64, Ryan said of the tax credits for health insurance that are proposed in the legislation.

The Senate Intel Committee has asked Roger Stone, long-time friend and adviser to the President, to preserve any documentation of contact with Russians.

A majority of young adults – 57% – see Trump’s presidency as illegitimate, including about three-quarters of blacks and large majorities of Latinos and Asians, a GenForward poll found.

A slim majority of young whites in the poll, 53%, consider Trump a legitimate President, but even among that group 55% disapprove of the job he’s doing, according to the survey.

We are going to have tax reform after we get healthcare completed,” White House Press Secretary Spicer said in an interview with the Irish paper, Independent. “I think we are looking at late spring to summer.”

George Conway, the husband of White House Counselor Kellyanne Conway, has reportedly been picked to lead the Justice Department’s Civil Division, a prominent role that would see him responsible for defending President Trump’s immigration executive order in court.

Supporters of Meals on Wheels showered the nonprofit organization in online donations – over $100,000 over a two-day period – in response to the White House’s budget proposal to defund dozens of social programs, the nonprofit organization said Saturday.

State Politics: The Texas Attorney General, who sued to keep a Bible verse on a school door, is upset that Muslim students are using a prayer room at a high school.

All sorts of folks use it,” the school district in question spokesman Chris Moore told The Washington Post on Saturday. “Muslims pray, Baptists pray, Catholics pray, Buddhists pray, Hindu students pray.”

Regardless, Moore said, said the room would be open for prayer as usual come lunchtime Monday – as it has for many years.

Global Politics: “You said that China-U.S. relations can only be friendly. I express my appreciation for this,” Chinese President Xi Jinping said to Secretary of State Rex Tillerson. “The joint interests of China and the United States far outweigh the differences, and cooperation is the only correct choice for us both.”

North Korea successfully conducted a “high-thrust engine test” of “historic significance,” the totalitarian nation’s state media reported today.

Germany refuted a claim by President Trump in a tweet Saturday that the country owes a debt to NATO and the US of A for its defense.

There is no debt account at NATO,” German Defense Minister Ursula von der Leyen said in a statement, noting that German military “spending also goes into UN peacekeeping missions, into our European missions and into our contribution to the fight against [Islamic State] terrorism.”

Reaction in Germany on the Chancellor’s meeting with the President: “Not warm, but not distant,” wrote the left-leaning newspaper Süddeutsche Zeitung in its online edition on Saturday.

It could have been a lot worse,” Germany’s mass-circulation daily, Bild, wrote of the relationship that is the cornerstone of the NATO alliance and vital to global security.

Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte said today he would not be intimidated by an impeachment complaint and threats of an international lawsuit for his anti-drug crackdown and added that he’d rather have criminals dead even in the “thousands or billions” if they threaten law enforcers than see his men killed.

Alejandro Guillier, a veteran journalist who launched the weekly TV show Zero Tolerance, is in the running and moved to #2 for the presidency in Chile. Guillier is in a strong position to represent the ruling Nueva Mayoría (New Majority) coalition in the presidential poll on November 19.

Tit for tat?

The Russian Parliament has ordered a probe into the US media interference in Russian politics.

Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, appearing at a gathering of economic ministers and central bankers from the 20 largest economists, rebuffed multiple entreaties from German officials to include in the meeting’s joint statement language stressing the importance of free trade and that it should be conducted in a “rules based” manner, following existing standards and agreements.

India’s governing party on Saturday appointed a Hindu cleric, Yogi Adityanath, who has been accused of stirring up anti-Muslim sentiment, to lead the country’s most populous state, Uttar Pradesh, a turning point for a government that has, until now, steered clear of openly embracing far-right Hindu causes.

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Mark

I am Mark Ivy, a born and bred Hoosier.
I am father to two wonderful sons, Dave and Kev, of whom I am very proud;
two terrific daughters-in-law, Anna and Hailey; three beautiful granddaughters, Dylan, Alaina and Amelia.

On May 9, 2017, my lung specialist hit me with the news I had maybe six months to live if the chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), the damage caused by the histoplasmosis described below, ran its normal course. I am now on hospice at home. Content and ready to cross over the river to the other side.

On September 2, 2014, I was diagnosed with disseminated histoplasmosis, a fungal infection, discovered by a biopsy of my larynx.
The infection is fatal if left untreated. For 2 1/2 years I lived under a death sentence being misdiagnosed
with a non-specific bacterial infection which left my right lung a “dried up sponge” and non-functioning.
I was aggressively treated for the infection with antifungals.
The treatment ended October of 2015 and fortunately did not take two years.

I suffer from chronic Horton’s Syndrome. The effects vary widely causing various problems.
Statistically, Horton’s affects only 0.1% of the population. Major depression also attacks me regularly.

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