Monday, April 17, 2017

7:12 AM 4/17/2017: Iraqi Officials Say Islamic State Fighters Use Chemical Weapons In Mosul

Student radicals in St. Petersburg, in the period between the Russian revolutions of 1905 and 1917.
7:12 AM 4/17/2017

Photo published for Trump asks why people are still talking about his taxes a day after protesters asked for his returns

Trump asks why people are still talking about his taxes a day after protesters asked for his returns

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Carter Page rebuts Democrats on...

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Carter Page rebuts Democrats on Russia dossier

Washington Times - ‎8 hours ago‎
“The mistakes are so laughable and humorous they're beyond words,” Carter Page says of the dossier making the rounds around Washington. (Associated Press/File) more >. 0. Share. 0. Tweet. 0. Share. 0. Pin. 0. Share. 0. Mail. 0. Share. Print. By Rowan ...

Former Trump Adviser Calls 'Russian Dossier' on US President 'Completely False'

Sputnik International - ‎7 hours ago‎
Carter Page, former Trump's adviser, denied Sunday that US President Donald Trump had links to Russia that were reportedly outlined in a dossier prepared by a British intelligence agent. MOSCOW (Sputnik) — The unverified dossier on US President ...

FBI Had July 2016 Warrant To Spy On Trump Adviser

ClickLancashire - ‎1 hour ago‎
Page's role within the campaign and ties to Russian Federation have been subject to much scrutiny, and both the Trump campaign and now the White House have distanced themselves from him. During an interview with the Post's editorial page staff in March ...

Here's Who Introduced Carter Page To The Trump Campaign

AppsforPCdaily - ‎1 hour ago‎
As the Post notes, the fact of the warrant's issuance is the strongest evidence thus far that the Federal Bureau of Investigation had reason to believe the Trump campaign was communicating inappropriately with a "foreign power" - in this case, Russian ...

Federal Bureau of Investigation wiretapped Trump campaign advisor

Alive For Football - ‎1 hour ago‎
The FBI obtained a warrant to monitor President Donald Trump's former campaign adviser, Carter Page, last summer on suspicions he knowingly engaged in clandestine intelligence activities on behalf of Moscow, The Washington Post is reporting.

Former Trump aide denies wrongdoing amid reports of Russian Federation probe

ClickLancashire - ‎5 hours ago‎
Page said in an interview with the Post that the court order "confirms all of my suspicions about unjustified, politically motivated government surveillance", adding: "I have nothing to hide". During an interview past year, Trump had identified Page ...
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In Putin’s Moscow, a Pliant Press That Trump So Craves

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As soon as I turned on a television here I wondered if I had arrived through an alt-right wormhole.
Back in the States, the prevailing notion in the news was that Mr. Assad had indeed been responsible for the chemical strike. There was some “reportage” from sources like the conspiracy theorist and radio host Alex Jones — best known for suggesting that the Sandy Hook school massacre was staged — that the chemical attack was a “false flag” operation by terrorist rebel groups to goad the United States into attacking Mr. Assad. But that was a view from the fringe.
Here in Russia, it was the dominant theme throughout the overwhelmingly state-controlled mainstream media.
On the popular Russian television program “Vesti Nedeli,” the host, Dmitry Kiselyov, questioned how Syria could have been responsible for the attack. After all, he said, the Assad government had destroyed all of its chemical weapons. It was the terrorists who possessed them, said Mr. Kiselyov, who also heads Russia’s main state-run international media arm.
One of Mr. Kiselyov’s correspondents on the scene mocked “Western propagandists” for believing the Trump line, saying munitions at the air base had “as much to do with chemical weapons as the test tube in the hands of Colin Powell had to do with weapons of mass destruction in Iraq.”
That teed up Mr. Putin to suggest in nationally televised comments a couple of days later that perhaps the attack was an intentional “provocation” by the rebels to goad the United States into attacking Mr. Assad. RT, the Russian-financed English-language news service, initially translated Mr. Putin as calling it a “false flag.” The full Alex Jones was complete.
When Trump administration officials tried to counter Russia’s “false narratives” by releasing to reporters a declassified report detailing Syria’s chemical weapons stockpiles — and suggesting to The Associated Press without proof that Russia knew of Mr. Assad’s plans to use chemical weapons in advance — the Russians had a ready answer borrowed from Mr. Trump himself.
As the pro-Kremlin newspaper Izvestia put it, “Apparently it was for good reason Donald Trump called unverified information in the mass media one of the main problems in the U.S.”
It was the best evidence I’ve seen of the folly of Mr. Trump’s anti-press approach. You can’t spend more than a year attacking the credibility of the “dishonest media” and then expect to use its journalism as support for your position during an international crisis — at least not with any success.
While Mr. Trump and his supporters may think that undermining the news media serves their larger interests, in this great information war it serves Mr. Putin’s interests more. It means playing on his turf, where he excels.
Integral to Mr. Putin’s governing style has been a pliant press that makes his government the main arbiter of truth.
While talking to the beaten but unbowed members of the real journalism community here, I heard eerie hints of Trumpian proclamations in their war stories.
Take Mr. Trump’s implicit threat to the owner of The Washington Post, Jeff Bezos, during the election campaign. In case you’ve forgotten, while calling The Post’s coverage of him “horrible and false,” Mr. Trump warned that if he won the presidency Mr. Bezos’s other business, Amazon, would have “such problems.” (The Post was undaunted, and the issue hasn’t come up again.)
The government here doesn’t make threats like that. Things just happen. That was the case last year at the independent media company RBC after its flagship newspaper reported on sensitive financial arrangements of members of Mr. Putin’s family and his associates. The Russian authorities raided the offices of its oligarch owner, Mikhail Prokhorov. Within a few weeks its top three editors had left.
The Kremlin denied involvement. But it must have liked the new editor’s message to the RBC staff: Journalism is like driving, and “if you drive over the solid double line they take away your license.”
Mr. Porokhov is considering selling RBC to another oligarch who is closer to the government, the Russian business journal Vedomosti reported on Tuesday.
That same day, I met with one of the former RBC editors, Roman Badanin. We chatted at his new place of employment, TV Rain, in the Flacon warehouse complex here, populated by young people with beards, tattoos, piercings and colored hair. (Brooklyn hipster imperialism knows no bounds.)
TV Rain has its own hard-luck tale. It was Russia’s only independent television station. Carried mainly on cable, it regularly covered anti-Putin protests and aired voices excluded from the rest of television.
But after it ran an online poll asking whether Russia should have abandoned Leningrad to the Nazis to save lives — deeply offending Russian national pride, and receiving a public rebuke from Mr. Putin’s top spokesman — its landlord evicted it and its cable carriers dropped it.
It now lives primarily as a subscription service on the internet, which remains fairly free given Mr. Putin’s primary focus on television as the most powerful medium in the country. (Mr. Badanin and others worry that’s going to change, too.)
When I asked Mr. Badanin what would be different if Russia had full press freedoms, he looked at me wearily and said: “Everything. Sorry for that common answer, but everything.”
Despite steep challenges, people like Mr. Badanin are still battling on. Their journalistic spirit couldn’t be killed, even after some of their friends and colleagues had been.
One newspaper here, Novaya Gazeta, has lost five reporters to violence or suspicious circumstances since the turn of the century. Toward the end of the week, I went to its spartan offices in central Moscow to visit its longtime editor, Dmitri Muratov, who has fiercely guarded the paper’s independence through all of the killings and the crackdowns.
With the gallows humor of a seasoned journalist, Mr. Muratov was in a jovial mood and told me that he was getting a great kick out of state media’s hard turn against Mr. Trump.
Initially, Mr. Muratov said of the president, “he was treated as warmly as McDonald’s; he entered every home like he was our national Santa Claus.” Mr. Muratov had no doubt the sentiment toward Mr. Trump would reverse again, perhaps soon. (To borrow from “1984”: “Oceania was at war with Eastasia. Oceania had always been at war with Eastasia.”)
Novaya Gazeta had the toughest coverage on the chemical weapons attack that I saw here, challenging the government narrative with reporting from the ground indicating the chemical weapons were dropped from the air. (The anti-Assad forces do not have airplanes.)
There’s a lot of speculation in Russian media circles about why the Kremlin allows Novaya Gazeta to continue to operate.
Mr. Muratov says he believes it’s because the newspaper is not owned by a single businessman subject to pressure. The newspaper’s staff owns a majority of the shares, and the rest of them are owned by the former Soviet leader Mikhail S. Gorbachev and the Russian businessman Alexander Lebedev. (Mr. Lebedev told The Guardian last year that he was no longer financing newsroom operations because of “the strain.”)
That, and a loyal subscriber base of more than 240,000, help insulate it from outside pressure, if not the violence.
The very day of my visit, Mr. Muratov received a threat against his entire staff from religious leaders in Chechnya, angry over articles about anti-gay violence in the region.
The Novaya Gazeta offices are scattered with reminders to take such threats seriously, like the case that holds the dusty desktop computer of Anna Politkovskaya. She was shot dead in her apartment building in 2006 after exposing human rights abuses in Chechnya and writing unflinchingly about Mr. Putin.
I wondered aloud whether it scared any of Mr. Muratov’s reporters away from certain stories. He turned serious, looked straight at me and said, “I really wish it could.”
Mr. Muratov follows the American news media closely. I asked him what he thought about the American press corps’ quandary when it comes to covering a president, like Mr. Trump, who trades in falsehoods and demonizes journalists.
He seemed put off by the question; the answer, to him, was so obvious.
“Information from the Kremlin or from the White House, it’s not for us verified information,” he said. “We don’t place our trust just on their word.”
It’s a lesson American reporters should have learned long before Mr. Trump came along, especially after Iraq.
Journalists in Russia like Mr. Muratov haven’t lost sight of that lesson because they can’t afford to. Neither can we.
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Commentary: What’s behind recent eruptions of anti-Semitism?

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Mixed reactions greet Trump’s new attitudes on Russia, China

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Has Trump Stolen Philosophy’s Critical Tools?

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These ideas animate the work of influential thinkers like Nietzsche, Foucault and Derrida, and they’ve become axiomatic for many scholars in literary studies, cultural anthropology and sociology.
From these premises, philosophers and theorists have derived a number of related insights. One is that facts are socially constructed. People who produce facts — scientists, reporters, witnesses — do so from a particular social position (maybe they’re white, male and live in America) that influences how they perceive, interpret and judge the world. They rely on non-neutral methods (microscopes, cameras, eyeballs) and use non-neutral symbols (words, numbers, images) to communicate facts to people who receive, interpret and deploy them from their own social positions.
Call it what you want: relativism, constructivism, deconstruction, postmodernism, critique. The idea is the same: Truth is not found, but made, and making truth means exercising power.
The reductive version is simpler and easier to abuse: Fact is fiction, and anything goes. It’s this version of critical social theory that the populist right has seized on and that Trump has made into a powerful weapon.
One might object that Trump’s disregard for the truth is nothing new. American presidents have always twisted facts to fit their agenda and have always dismissed truths that threatened to sink them. Even George Washington’s great claim to honesty — that he ’fessed up to felling a cherry tree — was a deception. One could also argue that Trump is more Machiavellian than Foucauldian and that he doesn’t actually believe what he says: He propagates misinformation strategically, to excite his base and smear his opponents.
There’s no question that past presidents have lied. And Trump is nothing if not a cynical manipulator. But Trump’s relationship to the truth seems novel, if only because he doesn’t try to hide his relativism. Mexican immigration, Islamic terrorism, free trade: For Trump, truth is always more about how people feel than what may be empirically verifiable. Trump admits as much in “The Art of the Deal,” where he describes his sales strategy as “truthful hyperbole.” For Trump, facts are fragile, and truth is flexible.
Trump and Stephen K. Bannon probably don’t spend evenings poring over Jean Baudrillard’s “Simulacra and Simulation” or Michel Foucault’s “The Archaeology of Knowledge” (although Bannon’s adviser, Julia Hahn, did write her undergraduate thesis on the psychoanalytic theorist Leo Bersani). But the parallels between Trump’s attacks on accepted knowledge and critical philosophy’s insistence that we interrogate truth claims suggest that not all assaults on the authority of facts are revolutionary.
Indeed, the social theorist Bruno Latour saw Trump coming back in 2004. In his essay “Why Has Critique Run Out of Steam?” Latour observed that conservatives had begun using methods similar to those of critical theory to muddy debates around issues, like climate change, that required immediate and decisive action. Conservatives were casting doubt on the reality of planetary warming by pointing to “the lack of scientific certainty” around the issue. Latour had made a career questioning “scientific certainty” and worried that his critical “weapons” had been “smuggled” to the other side:
Entire Ph.D. programs are still running to make sure that good American kids are learning the hard way that facts are made up, that there is no such thing as natural, unmediated, unbiased access to truth, that we are always prisoners of language, that we always speak from a particular standpoint, and so on, while dangerous extremists are using the very same argument of social construction to destroy hard-won evidence that could save our lives.
Some liberals have argued that the best way to combat conservative mendacity is to insist on the existence of truth and the reliability of hard facts. But blind faith in objectivity and factual truth alone has not proven to be a promising way forward.
Even if we felt comfortable asserting the existence of something like “truth,” there’s no going back to the days when Americans agreed on matters of fact — when debates about policy were guided by a commitment to truth and reason. Indeed, critique shows us that it’s doubtful that those days, like Trump’s “great” America, ever existed.
For this very reason, these strategies remain useful, however much something like them may be misused, and however carelessly some critical theorists and philosophers have deployed them. Even in a “post-truth era,” a critical attitude allows us to question dominant systems of thought, whether they derive authority from an appearance of neutrality, objectivity or inevitability or from a more Trumpian appeal to alternative facts that dispense with empirical evidence. In a world where lawmakers still appeal to common sense to promote regressive policies, critique remains an important tool for anyone seeking to move past the status quo.
This is because critical ways of thinking demand that we approach knowledge with attention and humility and recognize that, while facts might be created, not all facts are created equal.
While Trump appeals more often to emotions than to facts — or even to common sense — critique can help those who oppose him question the Trumpian version of reality. We can ask not whether a statement is true or false, but how and why it was made and what effects it produces when people feel it to be true. Paying attention to how knowledge is created and used can help us hold leaders like Trump accountable for what they say.
And if we question all ideas — not just the ones we dislike — perhaps our critiques can also reveal new ways of thinking and suggest political possibilities undreamed of by either Trump or his centrist opponents.
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The L.G.B.T. Trump Fallacy - The New York Times

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It was a jarringly unorthodox moment even for Donald Trump. At a rally in Colorado last October, an audience member handed him a gay pride flag that bore a handwritten endorsement: “LGBTs for TRUMP.” The candidate smiled as he unfurled the flag, displaying it for a few seconds. A spokesman later said Mr. Trump was “proud to carry the ‘L.G.B.T. for Trump’ rainbow flag on stage,” since he was campaigning to be “president for all Americans.”
It didn’t take long for prominent gay Republicans to proclaim that the Republican Party had, at long last, turned a corner on gay rights under Mr. Trump. After he was elected, some gay rights activists held out hope that Ivanka Trump and Jared Kushner, the president’s daughter and son-in-law, would be staunch allies in the West Wing, considering that they had traveled in liberal circles in New York.
Yet, the nomination of several key officials, who have disparaged the L.G.B.T. community and sought to curtail the rights of its members, has exposed the narrative that Mr. Trump would be a champion of gay and transgender people as a fallacy. “It has been a catastrophe,” said Mara Keisling, the executive director of the National Center for Transgender Equality and a leading strategist behind a string of legal and policy victories the community achieved during the Obama administration. “Every twitch we’ve seen from the administration has been anti-L.G.B.T.”
At the Department of Justice, where former Attorney General Loretta Lynch last year delivered an impassioned speech telling transgender Americans, “We see you; we stand with you,” her successor, Jeff Sessions, wasted no time reversing course. The Justice Department in February withdrew guidance issued to schools on the treatment of transgender students, signaling that it would no longer consider their rights to be protected under a 1972 civil rights law.
The Department of Health and Human Services, which worked to expand access to health care for gay and transgender Americans, is now being led by Tom Price, who was a vocal opponent of gay rights as a congressman. The agency’s civil rights office, which oversaw regulatory changes that made it easier for transgender people to get insurance coverage for medical care, is now run by Roger Severino, an ultraconservative activist who last year accused the Obama administration of attempting to “coerce everyone, including children, into pledging allegiance to a radical new gender ideology.”
Mr. Obama’s last secretary of the Army, Eric Fanning, an openly gay man, was instrumental in nudging the Pentagon brass to allow transgender people to serve openly. Mark Green, a Tennessee state senator nominated to replace him, last year called being transgender a “disease.”
On Mr. Trump’s watch, federal agencies are rolling back efforts to collect data on the needs of L.G.B.T. Americans. Last month, Health and Human Services amended two surveys of the elderly to remove a question about sexual orientation. The Census Bureau, meanwhile, has scrapped plans to include questions about sexual orientation and gender identity in the 2020 Census and the American Community Survey.
The only good news for the L.G.B.T. rights movement this year has come from the courts. Early this month, the United States Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit issued a ruling that the 1964 Civil Rights Act protects gay people from discrimination at work.
For the foreseeable future, the federal courts are likely to be the only avenue for progress. It’s not too late, of course, for Mr. Trump to act like the transformational Republican on gay rights that some of his supporters hoped he would be. He could, for instance, urge Congress to pass a federal anti-discrimination bill. Yet his record of empty talk makes that seem as unlikely as the sight of a Republican presidential candidate waving a gay pride flag.
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Iraqi Officials Say Islamic State Fighters Use Chemical Weapons In Mosul

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Iraqi authorities have accused Islamic State (IS) militants of using “toxic chemical material” in the battle for Mosul, but they say it had little effect and that the campaign against Iraq’s second-largest city is continuing.
"The [IS] terrorist gangs tried to block the advance of our forces by using shells filled with toxic chemical material, but the effect was limited," Iraq's Joint Operations Command said on April 16.
Brigadier General Yahya Rasool told the Associated Press that six soldiers suffered breathing problems and were treated at a field clinic.
Federal Police officers participating on the drive against west Mosul told Reuters that government forces were hit by IS shells containing chemical weapons in the Urouba and Bab Jadid districts.
It is not yet known the exact type of chemical used, officials said.
Iraqi officials have said IS periodically uses chemical weapons but that the effect on military operations has been minimal.
IS fighters captured Mosul in 2014 as they gained wide swathes of territory in Iraq and Syria in battles against government troops.
However, U.S.-led coalition forces have made major gains against the extremist group, having liberated eastern Mosul. Iraqi forces are now engaged in a battle to take crowded west Mosul from about 2,000 IS fighters.
Based on reporting by AFP, Reuters, and AP

After U.S. Talks With Afghanistan, Hints at a Harder Line on Pakistan 

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President Trump’s national security adviser urged Pakistan to crack down on militants as the administration reviews its role in Afghanistan and the Taliban resurgence there.

Homeland Security chief says 'confusion' spurred by the Trump administration is stemming illegal immigration - Los Angeles Times

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Los Angeles Times

Homeland Security chief says 'confusion' spurred by the Trump administration is stemming illegal immigration
Los Angeles Times
Tough rhetoric from the Trump administration has injected "confusion" into those who are considering crossing illegally into the United States and made them abandon their travel plans, a senior official said Sunday. John Kelly, Trump's secretary of ...
US, allies weigh options after North Korea's missile test: adviserReuters
McMaster: All options on table in regard to North KoreaCNN
Pence, in South Korea, Calls North Korea Missile Launch 'a Provocation'New York Times
The Hill -BBC News -USA TODAY
all 2,250 news articles »

Remains of Five Archbishops of Canterbury Discovered Under London Museum -

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Remains of Five Archbishops of Canterbury Discovered Under London Museum
The centuries-old remains of five archbishops of Canterbury were uncovered underneath a London museum last year by a construction site manager in what historians are calling an "incredible and astonishing" find. The Garden Museum, which is housed in a ...

and more »

McMaster: North Korea “coming to a head” -

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McMaster: North Korea “coming to a head”
WASHINGTON – Saying “this problem is coming to a head,” national security adviser Lt. Gen. H.R. McMaster said Sunday “all of our options are on the table, undergoing refinement and further development” in reaction to the North Korean nuclear program.

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Left-Wing Politician Shakes Up France’s Presidential Race

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Jean-Luc Mélenchon’s advisers depict him as a kind of French Bernie Sanders, but with no strong party establishment to block his way.

Javier Duarte, Mexican Ex-Governor Accused of Diverting Money, Is Captured 

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The former governor of Veracruz state, accused of diverting millions of dollars meant for social programs, was found in Guatemala after disappearing in October.

The Latest: Trump says China working on NKorea ‘problem’

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The Latest on U.S. Vice President Mike Pence in South Korea (all times local):

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U.S. Security Adviser: Time To Talk Tough With Russia Over Syria

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H.R. McMaster, U.S. President Donald Trump's national security adviser, says it is time to get tough with Russia over its support for the “horrible” government of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.

U.K. Lawmakers Seek To Revoke British Citizenship Of Assad’s Wife

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Lawmakers in Britain are urging the government to revoke the U.K. citizenship of the wife of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad in response to her support for her husband’s government during the six-year civil war.

Manhunt underway for man who livestreamed homicide

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CLEVELAND (AP) -- A manhunt is underway for a suspect who police say killed a man on the street Sunday while streaming it live on Facebook....
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News Reviews and Opinions: 7:39 AM 4/16/2017 - Syria's Part in the Potential Russian-American 'Deal' Huffington Post | Trump more believable and moral than Putin? | The Japan Times | North Korean Medium-Range Missile Test Fails: US Officials | NBC New York

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7:39 AM 4/16/2017 - Syria's Part in the Potential Russian-American 'Deal' Huffington Post | Trump more believable and moral than Putin? | The Japan Times | North Korean Medium-Range Missile Test Fails: US Officials | NBC New York

Trump more believable and moral than Putin?

Trump more believable and moral than Putin? | The Japan Times 

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News Reviews and Opinions: William, Kate join Queen Elizabeth II for Easter service - by Associated Press | Putin and American political process - Google News: OPINION: Biggest election winner was Vladimir Putin - Daily Record | donald trump racketeering - Google News: Will Jeff Sessions Police the Police? - The New Yorker Sunday April 16th, 2017 at 8:50 AM

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William, Kate join Queen Elizabeth II for Easter service

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Senior royals have joined Queen Elizabeth II to celebrate Easter with a special service at Windsor Castle.

News Reviews and Opinions: Links

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News Reviews and Opinions: 9:55 AM 4/16/2017 - National security adviser in Kabul for talks days after U.S. dropped massive bomb on ISIS forces _ WP | Angelo Colon-Ortiz - Google Search | Sophisticated Lady - Duke Ellington and his orchestra

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News Reviews and Opinions: 8:17 PM 4/16/2017 - Trump asks why people are still talking about his taxes a day after protesters asked for his returns | Mike Conaway Emerges From Relative Obscurity to Lead House Russia Inquiry New York Times

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8:17 PM 4/16/2017 - Trump asks why people are still talking about his taxes a day after protesters asked for his returns | Mike Conaway Emerges From Relative Obscurity to Lead House Russia Inquiry New York Times

Today's News - 8:17 PM 4/16/2017

With Trump Appointees, a Raft of Potential Conflicts and ‘No Transparency’

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Another case involves Chad Wolf, who spent the past several years lobbying to secure funding for the Transportation Security Administration to spend hundreds of millions of dollars on a new carry-on luggage screening device. He is now chief of staff at that agency — at the same time as the device is being tested and evaluated for possible purchase by agency staff.
There are other examples. At the Labor Department, two officials joined the agency from the K Street lobbying corridor, leaving behind jobs where they fought some of the Obama administration’s signature labor rules, including a policy requiring financial advisers to act in a client’s best interest when providing retirement advice.
This revolving door of lobbyists and government officials is not new in Washington. Both parties make a habit of it.
But the Trump administration is more vulnerable to conflicts than the prior administration, particularly after the president eliminated an ethics provision that prohibits lobbyists from joining agencies they lobbied in the prior two years. The White House also announced on Friday that it would keep its visitors’ logs secret, discontinuing the release of information on corporate executives, lobbyists and others who enter the complex, often to try to influence federal policy. The changes have drawn intense criticism from government ethics advocates across the city.
Mr. Trump’s appointees are also far wealthier and have more complex financial holdings and private-sector ties than officials hired at the start of the Obama administration, according to an Office of Government Ethics analysis that the White House has made public. This creates a greater chance that they might have conflicts related to investments or former clients, which could force them to sell off assets, recuse themselves or seek a waiver.
A White House spokeswoman, Sarah H. Sanders, declined repeated requests by The Times to speak with Stefan C. Passantino, the White House lawyer in charge of the ethics policy. Instead, the White House provided a written statement that did not address any of the specific questions about potential violations The Times had identified.
“The White House takes its ethics pledge and federal conflict of interest rules very seriously,” the statement said. “The White House requires all of its employees to work closely with ethics counsel to ensure compliance and has aggressively required employees to recuse or divest where the law requires.”
The Trump administration’s overhaul of personnel lays the groundwork for sweeping policy changes. The president has vowed to unwind some of the Obama administration’s signature regulatory initiatives, from Wall Street rules to environmental regulations, and he has installed a class of former corporate influencers to lead the push. Administration supporters argue that appointees with corporate ties can inject a new level of sophistication into the federal bureaucracy and help the economy grow. And efforts to trim regulations in some areas have attracted bipartisan support.
But in several cases, officials in the Trump administration now hold the exact jobs they targeted as lobbyists or lawyers in the past two years.
Trump White House officials had over 300 recent corporate clients and employers, including Apple, the giant hedge fund Citadel and the insurance titan Anthem, according to a Times analysis of financial disclosures. (The White House has released disclosures for only about half of its roughly 180 current senior political employees.) And there are more than 40 former lobbyists in the White House and the broader federal government.

Exceptions Made in Secret

Walter M. Shaub Jr. is director of the Office of Government Ethics, which advises federal agencies to help them and their employees — including the White House — comply with federal ethics laws, such as a prohibition on using a government post to personally profit.
He said that Mr. Trump’s own ethics executive order in late January eliminated a requirement, first adopted by President Barack Obama, that executive branch appointees not accept jobs in agencies they recently lobbied. That weakened standards applying to approximately 4,000 executive branch hires.
Mr. Trump also made it easier for former lobbyists in the government to get waivers that would let them take up matters that could benefit former clients.
During the Obama administration, these waivers were given only under a narrow set of circumstances, and had to be filed and explained in an annual report for public inspection, Mr. Shaub said. The waivers were also previously posted on the Government Ethics website. None have been posted since Mr. Trump became president, as sharing them is no longer required.
“There’s no transparency, and I have no idea how many waivers have been issued,” Mr. Shaub said in an interview, adding that he could not comment on any individual matter until a complaint had been filed and investigated.
The granting of such waivers, he said, has become “a political decision, which means career government ethics officials should not get involved in waivers under the new executive order.”
After recent negotiations, Mr. Shaub and the White House Counsel’s Office did agree on how to define the requirements and scope of recusal obligations. A lobbyist, for example, who pushed the Obama administration to approve or block a particular provision in a proposed federal regulation affecting a specific industry — like coal or telecommunications — would be subject to a broad ban under this agreement. “She must recuse for two years from development and implementation of the entire regulation,” the legal advisory said.

Rolling Back Clean Power

But some cases that The Times examined could be violating this requirement or working around it using waivers. Mr. Catanzaro was registered for Talen Energy on the Clean Power Plan in 2015, yet he has worked in recent months as a senior member of the White House’s National Economic Council trying to roll back that rule, adopted by the Obama administration.
Mr. Catanzaro’s former clients, such as Talen and Devon Energy, have an enormous amount at stake in the regulations the White House is preparing to reverse — with his help. Talen, for example, helps operate the Colstrip power plant in Montana, the second-largest coal-burning plant west of the Mississippi. Federal officials have estimated that the plant could face a $1.2 billion bill as it makes updates to meet the new environmental standards, assuming it is not just closed.
Three industry lobbyists interviewed by The Times said that they recently had confidential conversations with Mr. Catanzaro about some of the same regulatory matters on which he was lobbying the federal government. And Mr. Catanzaro gave a briefing to reporters in March at the White House in which he discussed energy topics at length, including the details related to the executive order Mr. Trump signed on March 28 to weaken the Clean Power Plan.
“It’s certainly true that there a lot of different forces that conspire to affect the coal industry, the gas industry, a lot of industries,” Mr. Catanzaro said at a White House briefing last month in which he spoke with the understanding that journalists would not identify him in their reports. (The Times independently confirmed that Mr. Catanzaro made these remarks.) “Certainly government policy has a role,” he said. “So to the extent the president can have a beneficial effect on that policy, he’s going to take it.”
Mr. Catanzaro did not respond to emails and phone calls requesting comment. And White House officials would not say whether he had been granted a waiver allowing him to be involved in the same matter he handled as a lobbyist.

Same Desk, New Seat

Mr. Catanzaro is not the only senior adviser facing potential conflicts on the National Economic Council, the White House office, run by the former Goldman Sachs executive Gary D. Cohn, that helps steer the president’s financial and economic policy. D. J. Gribbin, the council’s infrastructure specialist, previously worked for Macquarie, a bank that specializes in infrastructure deals and that stands to gain from whatever infrastructure proposal the president gets Congress to fund.
Shahira Knight, on the council as well, is a special assistant to the president for tax and retirement policy. Her previous job also involved retirement policy — but as a lobbyist for Fidelity, one of the nation’s largest fund managers and providers of retirement products.
At Fidelity, lobbying records show, she was registered to work on retirement issues, including the so-called fiduciary rule, which has broad support from consumer groups. It requires financial firms to act in a client’s best interest when dispensing retirement advice. Fidelity has said it supports the “best interest” standard but, like other firms, has raised concerns that the rule will prevent investors from accessing products they currently rely on for retirement savings.
Ms. Knight directed some of her appeals to the National Economic Council, her current employer. White House visitor logs show she met with the person whose job she essentially holds now.
In February, Mr. Trump issued a memorandum directing the Labor Department to review whether the rule may “adversely affect” investors’ ability to access financial advice — and if it does, it authorized the agency to rescind or revise the rule. The department recently delayed the compliance date of the rule by two months, less than the industry had hoped for.
The White House did not respond to a request for comment about Mr. Gribbin or Ms. Knight, so it is unclear whether they received waivers letting them work on these issues or recused themselves from issues affecting their former employers. But under Mr. Trump’s executive order, Ms. Knight should probably be barred for two years from participating in decisions that would affect the fiduciary rule.

Where Lobbyists Go

The lobbyist loophole in Mr. Trump’s executive order may have allowed the Labor Department to hire Geoffrey Burr as a special assistant. The department is familiar ground to Mr. Burr, who was a lobbyist for the Associated Builders and Contractors, which pressed the agency on its overtime pay rule, wage requirements for government contracts and an additional half-dozen or so other regulations. Under Mr. Obama’s ethics order, Mr. Burr would probably not have been able to join the Labor Department.
Such potential conflicts are showing up across the federal government.
Executives at Analogic Corp. had tried to sell its carry-on baggage security equipment to the T.S.A. with Mr. Wolf’s help when he was a lobbyist. They were pressing the agency to conduct formal tests of its computed tomography devices, known as CT scans, which are already used broadly in the medical field and on checked baggage. The company now wants the T.S.A. to use them in the nation’s 2,400 airport checkpoint security lanes, a move that could be worth at least $500 million in equipment sales.
The tests are underway, and at one point during an interview with The Times, company executives said they had reached out to Mr. Wolf to discuss the matter after he joined the T.S.A., listing his name among a series of agency officials they had recently contacted. But when asked again about Mr. Wolf, they would not give details from the conversation, at one point contradicting themselves and saying they had not spoken with him. Then one of them, Mark Laustra, a vice president at Analogic who leads the company’s efforts to sell the screening devices, said, “Our interaction with Chad since he joined T.S.A. has been next to nothing.”
Mr. Wolf’s Twitter account on Friday still identified him as a lobbyist and displayed posts from last year urging the T.S.A. to buy the devices. “Positive developments from TSA on upgrading checkpoint scanners,” a post from July said. “CT tech is the future.”
A T.S.A. spokesman agreed to arrange an interview with Mr. Wolf — who worked at the agency during the Bush administration before becoming a lobbyist — but canceled it when told about the topic in detail.
“I’m afraid Mr. Wolf isn’t going to have any available time in his schedule today,” said Mike England, the spokesman, who then declined several follow-up requests over a one-week period. He later added, in a statement, that Mr. Wolf’s “duties have not required a waiver” of the ethics standards Mr. Trump adopted in January, although Mr. England would not discuss the matter further.
The Department of Health and Human Services has become another source of potential conflicts.
Lance Leggitt, who serves as chief of staff to Tom Price, the health and human services secretary, worked last year as a lobbyist for 10 different health care companies, including United States Medical Supply and Advanced Infusion Services. He focused largely on lobbying the agency related to Medicare billing rules, as well as rules for health care supplier accreditations, lobbying disclosure reports show. All these issues are routinely handled by the agency he helps oversee.
Dr. Scott Gottlieb, the nominee to lead the Food and Drug Administration, received more than $350,000 in payments in 2014 and 2015 from nearly a dozen different pharmaceutical companies, including Vertex Pharmaceuticals, whose two approved drugs are seen as breakthrough treatments for cystic fibrosis. (They carry list prices of more than $250,000 a year.) Dr. Gottlieb, who has never been registered as a lobbyist but has served as the director of eight pharmaceutical companies and one laboratory company, wrote in a letter that he was prepared to recuse himself as necessary to avoid any conflicts.
The Department of Health and Human Services did not respond to a request for a comment.
Danielle Brian, executive director of the Project on Government Oversight, said the sheer number of potential conflicts — which will require recusals, necessitate waivers or result in violations of the ethics rule — is disturbing, particularly given the secretive approach the administration is taking on the issue.
“This is not a matter of just checking a box — this is about protecting the integrity of the operation of federal government,” Ms. Brian said. “But our worst fears are coming true: We know people coming in who have conflicts, and we cannot see what restrictions they are under, if any.”
The result, she predicted, might serve no one particularly well. Even if the rules are enforced, so many senior officials will be required to recuse themselves that “they will have a hard time getting their job done.”
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Cops hunt for man who broadcast fatal shooting on Facebook Live

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A manhunt is underway for a gunman accused of fatally shooting an elderly man in Ohio and who broadcast the homicide on Facebook Live on Easter Sunday, police said.
The horrific shooting occurred at 635 E. 93rd St., according to the Cleveland Police Department.
The suspect identified as Steve Stephens is believed to be armed and dangerous, police said.
Police Chief Calvin Williams called the shooting "senseless" and is urging Stephens to turn himself in.
Stephens claims to have committed other homicides, but Williams said there are no other victims that police know of who are tied to the incident. 
Stephens, sporting a full beard and a dark blue, gray or black striped polo shirt, is believed to be driving a white or cream-colored SUV, police said.
The video posted to Facebook around 2 p.m. appears to belong to Stephens under the profile name Stevie Steve, NBC4 reported.
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The video shows the gunman walking up to an elderly man and asking him a question before fatally shooting him in what appeared to be his head.
"Can you say 'Joy Lane,'" the gunman asks in the video. 
"Joy Lane," the man replies.
"She's the reason why all of this is about to happen to you," the gunman said. 
"How old are you?" the gunman asks before opening fire at the elderly victim as he tried to protect himself with a white plastic shopping bag. 
Stephens then fired his weapon once, left the victim for dead in a pool of his blood, and then walked back to his vehicle and drove away. 
The video, which had the caption “Easter day slaughter,” was later taken down, the station reported. Stephens' Facebook page has also been deactivated. 
Stephens has written posts claiming he's committed other killings and was shooting in the name of "Joy Lane," according to
Facebook also addressed the shooting.
"This is a horrific crime and we do not allow this kind of content on Facebook," a Facebook spokesperson said in a statement to WEW-TV. "We work hard to keep a safe environment on Facebook, and are in touch with law enforcement in emergencies when there are direct threats to physical safety.”
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Donald Trump borrowed money from...

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Donald Trump borrowed money from Russia in 2008, claims ex-MI6 boss

Metro - ‎4 hours ago‎
A former MI6 boss has claimed Donald Trump borrowed money from Russia during the 2008 financial crisis. Richard Dearlove, the former head of MI6, claims President Trump borrowed money to prop up his real estate empire which was shaken by the ...

Trump's Russian Loans Are An Irrelevance - He Could Refinance Within His Own Cabinet

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I'm watching this haring off after any information about Donald Trump and possible loans from Russia with an increasing sense of mystification. Not because there seems to be almost no information upon which people can base any conclusions but because ...

Washington Post: Breaking News, World, US, DC News & Analysis - The Washington Post

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“I did what was an almost an impossible thing to do for a Republican — easily won the Electoral College! Now Tax Returns are brought up again?” the president tweeted. He also called for someone to “look into” the rally organizers: “The election is over!”

McMaster Says North Korea's Behavior 'Can't Continue'

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A senior Trump official warned that North Korea’s provocative behavior “can’t continue,” and said the U.S. is working with partners to develop a range of possible responses to future “destabilizing behavior.”

McMaster - Google Search

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McMaster: US Prefers Action 'Short Of A Military Option' In North ...

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National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster on Sunday said that President Donald Trump's administration would prefer "to take action short of ...
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Mike Conaway - Google Search

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Mike Conaway Emerges From Relative...

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Mike Conaway Emerges From Relative Obscurity to Lead House Russia Inquiry

New York Times - ‎48 minutes ago‎
MIDLAND, Texas — President Trump does not know Mike Conaway. A Republican congressman from a long brush stroke of West Texas, Mr. Conaway recalled one meeting with him at the White House with other House Republicans. And he has shaken ...

Rep. Nunes steps aside from House probe on Russia

Normangee Star - ‎9 hours ago‎
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Rep. Devin Nunes Steps Aside from Russia Investigation

Normangee Star - ‎Apr 15, 2017‎
He said he would continue to fulfill his other duties as committee chairman, but said Representative Mike Conaway will take charge of the investigation, with assistance from Representatives Trey Gowdy and Tom Rooney. Mr Nunes has been under pressure ...

After NunesDevin Nunes recuses himself from the House probe on Russian Federation

AppsforPCdaily - ‎Apr 15, 2017‎
Mike Conaway will lead the House Intelligence Committee investigation into Russian influence over the 2016 elections, the committee chairman announced Thursday morning. He said he believed it was in the best interests of the committee and Congress to ...
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Mike Conaway Emerges From Relative Obscurity to Lead House ...

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Mike Conaway Emerges From Relative Obscurity to Lead House Russia Inquiry

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“He’s been a congressman from West Texas. But he’s never been exactly in the national spotlight,” said Mark Philpy, Mr. Conaway’s longtime friend and neighbor. “West Texans tend to speak what’s on their mind, and Mike’s going to have to be careful with what he says and what he does, because he’ll be criticized at every turn.”
Mr. Conaway, 68, a former high school football star in an area where there are few stronger credentials, is more accustomed to playing the role of hero.
Raised in the remote, pockmarked oil country that also produced George W. Bush, Mr. Conaway got an early taste of fame as a member of the 1965 Odessa Permian High School football team — the school’s first to win a state championship, decades before the team inspired the book, movie and television series “Friday Night Lights.”
“He played at Odessa Permian,” said Brandon Rottinghaus, a political science professor at the University of Houston. “It’s like being Jesus in Nazareth.”
Mr. Conaway’s career trajectory has been a slow walk up a long staircase. He parlayed a football scholarship into a career in accounting in Midland, Tex., which brought him to Mr. Bush. He became the chief financial officer of Mr. Bush’s oil and gas company, which ultimately faltered with the falling oil prices of the mid-1980s. About a decade later, Mr. Bush, by then governor of Texas, appointed Mr. Conaway to a state board overseeing other accountants.
In some ways, a hometown-boy aura has followed him throughout his life. Mr. Conaway won his seat in 2004, the beneficiary of efforts by state Republicans who redrew districts with the clear intent of electing him and a handful of others to Congress.
Unlike Mr. Nunes’s fealty to Mr. Trump, Mr. Conaway’s loyalties lie with the Republican Party. Years after uncovering an embezzlement scheme by the treasurer of the National Republican Congressional Committee, he agreed in 2013 to be chairman of the House Ethics Committee, a role akin to being the House’s hall monitor. He was later rewarded with the chairmanship of the House Agriculture Committee, a coveted post for a lawmaker who represents farming communities.
But Mr. Conaway is also known for speaking his mind, a risky quality for someone leading an investigation. An ordained Baptist deacon, he is known to conclude speeches with jarringly ominous words about regaining God’s favor for a country defiled by abortion practitioners and Hollywood filmmakers.
In January, in an interview with the Dallas Morning News, Mr. Conaway likened Russian interference in the election to Mexican stars who campaigned on behalf of Hillary Clinton, remarks that he struggled to explain to a handful of incredulous constituents last week. He conceded that he had done “a poor job of nuancing what I was trying to get at.”
Last month, during the Intelligence Committee’s public hearing with the F.B.I. director, James B. Comey, Mr. Conaway cast doubt on the intelligence community’s assessment that President Vladimir V. Putin and other Russian officials had sought not only to harm Mrs. Clinton but also to help Mr. Trump. The exchange, at one point, took a perplexing detour through Texas college football.
“My wife’s Red Raiders are playing the Texas Longhorns. She really likes the Red Raiders,” Mr. Conaway said, referring to the teams at the University of Texas and Texas Tech. “I mean, the logic is that because he really didn’t like president — the candidate Clinton, that he automatically liked Trump. That assessment’s based on what?”
Now everything Mr. Conaway says about the investigation will come under far greater scrutiny. Leapfrogging from town hall to town hall across his district, Mr. Conaway appeared keen to avoid Mr. Nunes’s missteps, vowing to make as much information public as possible, but at the same time not to speak too much.
He promised a fresh start for the investigation. His primary concern is what Russia and the Trump campaign did or did not do, he said. He did not mention leaks to the news media, the fixation of his predecessor.
“Whether it helps, whether it hurts, whatever. That’s not my concern right now,” Mr. Conaway told a few dozen constituents gathered in a refurbished train depot in Brownwood, Tex. “I just want to find out what happened.”
To some in Mr. Conaway’s district, the investigation into Russian interference looks like a politically motivated attempt to discredit Mr. Trump.
“There are some people that have not accepted the fact that Mr. Trump won more electoral votes than Mrs. Clinton, but that’s the way elections run,” Mr. Philpy said. “I think there are some people who are trying to find an occurrence that they may not find.”
Both Mr. Conaway and Mr. Trump are overwhelmingly popular in this district, one of the most Republican in the country, where even Geraldine Boyd of Brownwood, an avowed Democrat who voted against Mr. Trump, piped up during a town hall to dismiss the investigation as a waste of time.
“If the Democrats had known something that would have helped them, don’t you think they would have used it?” she said.
That skepticism comes with a risk for Mr. Conaway back home: that the investigation could uncover something, casting him as the inquisitor against his party’s president.
“He could be held to blame by Republicans and by his constituents for being the ringleader that found what was happening,” Mr. Rottinghaus said.
Ernest Angelo, who worked for presidential candidates including Ronald Reagan and Ted Cruz, dismissed that possibility. A former mayor of Midland who has known Mr. Conaway since before he was in politics, Mr. Angelo said the congressman’s integrity would carry him with his constituents should the investigation find evidence of wrongdoing.
“I think if he finds that, it’ll be because it’s true,” Mr. Angelo said. “And if it’s true, then it’s a problem. I think people would recognize that.”
Do they trust him that much?
“I think so,” he said. “I would.”
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No wonder voters despise politicians

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Trump aide McMaster: Time for tough talks with Russia

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Turkey: With 51 percent of vote counted, ‘yes’ at 57 percent in referendum on expanding presidential powers

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Turkey: With 51 percent of vote counted, ‘yes’ at 57 percent in referendum on expanding presidential powers.
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Chechen leader decries ‘attack’ over gay persecution reports

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The leader of Chechnya has lashed out at international organizations that have strongly criticized the Russian region for reportedly persecuting and killing gays.

General: 2nd gas attack on Iraq troops in as many days

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The spokesman for the Joint Operation Command in Iraq says the Islamic State group has attacked government troops with some type of gas in western Mosul — the second such attack in as many days.

9 shot at Columbus club, police say

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COLUMBUS, Ohio - Nine people were shot early Sunday at a Columbus after-hours club, police said.
The shooting happened about 3:20 a.m. at the J&R Party Hall in Columbus's South Linden neighborhood, according to a post on the Columbus police department's Facebook page. Shots rang out from inside the club during an argument, the Columbus Dispatch reports
Five female victims and four male victims were injured in the shooting, police said. Their injuries range from minor to life-threatening.
Seven of the victims were taken to the OhioHealth Grant Medical Center for treatment, and two were listed in critical condition as of 6:30 a.m., the Dispatch reports. All of the other victims are in stable condition.
Investigators found different caliber shell casings inside the club, 10TV reports. While no suspects have been publicly identified, officers are following up with persons of interest.
No further information about the incident was immediately available Sunday morning.
Last month, 15 people were shot and one person was killed in a nightclub shooting in Cincinnati. Cincinnati police identified the shooters in the incident and arrested them, yet they were still hospitalized at the time of their arrest, Fox 8 reports.
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Queen and Royal Family attend Easter Sunday service at Windsor Castle

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National security adviser in Kabul for talks days after U.S. dropped massive bomb on ISIS forces

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KABUL — U.S. national security adviser H.R. McMaster was in Kabul on Sunday for what is the first visit by a Trump administration official to Afghanistan, officials here said, coming just days after U.S. forces dropped a 22,000-pound bomb during combat and revived debate over the war.
President Trump has so far said little about the conflict, where more than 8,000 U.S. troops are helping battle the Taliban, raising concerns among Afghan officials about the administration’s commitment to the fight.
The commander of U.S. forces in Afghanistan, Gen. John W. Nicholson Jr., has said he will need thousands of additional troops to break the stalemate. And on Friday, U.S. forces used the largest conventional bomb in the military’s arsenal — the GBU-49 — to hit a stronghold of Islamic State militants in the east.
The deployment of such massive weaponry stunned many in Afghanistan and around the world, jolting the public's attention back to what has been a slow-grinding war. The U.S. military has still not released its assessment of the bomb’s impact, but officials here say more than 90 militants were killed.
The use of the GBU-49, coupled with McMaster’s trip, is being viewed as a sign the administration is headed for a policy change in Afghanistan, potentially reversing former president Barack Obama’s pledge to remove all troops.
H.R. McMaster. (Susan Walsh/AP)
Senior U.S. officials said last week that a strategy review is underway.
The officials, who spoke in a background briefing during a White House visit by NATO’s secretary general, said there is no specific deadline for the policy review.
“It’s based on when the president makes a decision,” one senior administration official said.
While here, McMaster, who served in Afghanistan for two years, is expected to meet with Nicholson and other NATO commanders overseeing the mission to advise Afghan security forces. He also met with his counterpart, Haneef Atmar.
McMaster is tasked with evaluating the progress of the fight against the Taliban, as well as other militant groups including al-Qaeda and the Islamic State. Right now, Taliban insurgents control more territory than at any other time since 2001, when U.S. troops first helped overthrow the regime.
“I have always said that it is better to equip Afghan forces. If we are not equipped better, the situation will not improve,” said Sayed Malik Maluk, an official in the policy department of the Afghan Ministry of Defense. Officials here said the Afghan government would raise their request for more military aid with McMaster, who is seen as an ally of those pushing for the administration to send more troops.
“I have said this repeatedly to foreign commanders,” said Maluk, who also served as a corps commander in the volatile Helmand province in the south from 2008 to 2015. “We need better and more modern gear, especially for the air force.”
Since 2002, Congress has appropriated about $70 billion to support Afghan security forces, according to the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction, a U.S. government oversight commission. Despite that, desertion rates and civilian casualties are on the rise.
In the past, McMaster has criticized previous administrations for neglecting to plan for the day after the war. In Afghanistan, McMaster has said that the U.S. reliance on militias ended up undermining the very government the United States was supporting.
He has also been critical of deploying small numbers of troops to fight wars, instead advocating for a more comprehensive approach, including the use of development funds and diplomacy. To what extent these prescriptions will clash with Trump, who has scoffed at diplomacy and proposed gutting foreign aid, is unclear.
When serving in Afghanistan from 2010 to 2012, McMaster oversaw the Combined Joint Inter-Agency Task Force Shafafiyat (Transparency), which had a mandate to clean up corruption within the contract system used by international military forces.
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He summed up what he saw as one of the key problems to anti-corruption group, Transparency International, in 2015.
“There was a connection with a criminal underworld and a political upperworld and a political settlement that rested in large measure on criminality and impunity,” McMaster said.
“McMaster is a strategic thinker and a good friend of Afghanistan,” said Rahmatullah Nabil, the former chief of the National Directorate of Security, Afghanistan’s spy agency. He has “great knowledge of Afghanistan’s problems, including corruption and war.”
“If we only decide to support Afghan troops, it won’t work,” he said. “We also need to focus on political stability.”
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Sayed Salahuddin and Walid Sharif contributed reporting from Kabul.
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William, Kate join Queen Elizabeth II for Easter service

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Senior royals have joined Queen Elizabeth II to celebrate Easter with a special service at Windsor Castle.

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