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Terror, chaos inside California Costco amid deadly shooting

Shoppers and employees have described terror and chaos as shots rang out inside a busy California warehouse store as a gunman in an argument near the freezer section opened fire — killing one man, wounding two and sparking a stampede. Terrified shoppers ran outside the store and tried to hide during the shootout Friday night in the city of Corona east of Los Angeles as families stocked up for the weekend. The wounded included an off-duty Los Angeles police officer who was treated for minor injuries and released from a hospital, Los Angeles Police officer Greg Kraft said Saturday. The suspect was not identified but told officers at the scene after he was taken into custody that he had been injured, though no details were immediately available Saturday on how he was hurt. Police swarmed the store after the gunshots rang out and witnesses told KCAL-TV that a man with a Mohawk haircut argued with someone near a freezer section when he pulled a gun and fired at least six times. The man involved in the argument was killed and two other people were wounded, Corona police Lt. Jeff Edwards said. In statement issued early Saturday, Corona police said the conditions of those injured were unknown. The injured gunman was taken to a hospital, Edwards said. No identities were immediately released. Police said the name of the deceased won't be released until the Riverside County coroner notifies family. Shrieks from inside the store were heard on video shot by shopper Nikki Tate, who had stopped by the store with her daughter to pick up steaks for Father's Day. "Walked back to the meat section and just immediately heard about six or seven shots and got on the ground," she told KNBC in Los Angeles . "Didn't know if this was another mass shooting." In the video, her daughter says, "Mommy, we need to go." The two huddled together. Christina Colis told the Riverside Press-Enterprise that she was in the produce area when she heard six to seven shots and hid with other shoppers in a refrigerated produce room. She said her mother saw people injured on the floor. "I thought maybe someone dropped a bottle of wine, but then I kept hearing shots," shopper Will Lungo told the Press-Enterprise newspaper. "An employee came in and helped us out through the emergency exit." Witnesses told KCAL-TV that shoppers and employees rushed to the exits. The station reported that more than 100 people were outside the store at one point. Left behind inside the store were purses, cellphones and backpacks from panicked shoppers, Corona police said.

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The truth is out there: FBI releases its file on Bigfoot

The Federal Bureau of Investigation on Wednesday released a correspondence file containing the results of tests it performed on a tissue sample alleged to be from Bigfoot, also known as Sasquatch — a purported human-like creature that was sporadically reported to be roaming the wilderness in the Pacific Northwest. The 22-page file, made public following a Freedom of Information Act request, showed that the FBI agreed to test a hair sample “attached to a tiny piece of skin” obtained and submitted by the Oregon-based Bigfoot Information Center. The letters show the group sent the sample after a 1975 report in the “Washington Environmental Atlas” referred to tests by the FBI Laboratory “in connection with the Bigfoot phenomenon.” “Will you kindly, to set the record straight, once and for all, inform us if the FBI has examined hair which might be that of a Bigfoot; when this took place; if it did take place; what the results of the analysis were,” Peter Byrne, director of the Bigfoot Information Center, wrote in a letter to the bureau. “Please understand that our research here is serious.” The FBI said it had no record of conducting such tests. But in a subsequent letter addressed to Byrne, dated Dec. 15. 1976, Jay Cochran Jr., assistant director of the FBI’s Scientific and Technical Services division, told him to send the sample to the FBI Laboratory in Washington. “The FBI Laboratory conducts examinations primarily of physical evidence for law enforcement agencies in connection with criminal investigations,” Cochran wrote. “Occasionally, on a case-by-case basis, in the interest of research and scientific inquiry, we make exceptions to this general policy. With this understanding, we will examine the hairs and tissue mentioned in your letter.” Three months later, the FBI reported the results of its tests. “The hairs are of deer family origin,” Cochran wrote.

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Doctor accused of murder in 25 patient overdose deaths

An Ohio doctor was charged with murder Wednesday in the deaths of 25 hospital patients who, authorities say, were killed with deliberate overdoses of painkillers, many of them administered by other medical workers on his orders. In one of the biggest cases of its kind ever brought against an American health care professional, William Husel was accused of ordering outsize doses of the powerful painkiller fentanyl. Many of the patients who died were on ventilators and receiving palliative care. The deaths occurred between 2015 and 2018. Franklin County Prosecutor Ron O'Brien compared Husel's actions to extinguishing a dwindling candle. "That candle, while there may be just a half an inch of wax left, if I blow that candle out, I'm causing that flame to go out sooner than it would naturally," O'Brien said. Husel, 43, pleaded not guilty after turning himself in earlier in the day. A judge set bail at $1 million. The doctor is the lone defendant. Authorities are not prosecuting nurses, pharmacists and others involved in the deaths, though dozens of hospital employees have been reported to professional boards for investigation and potential disciplinary action. Husel's lawyer said he was trying to provide "comfort care" for dying patients. "At no time did Dr. Husel ever intend to euthanize anyone — euthanize meaning speed up death," defense attorney Richard Blake said. The patients were going to die whether they were being treated by Husel or another physician, Blake said. The Columbus-area Mount Carmel Health System has publicly apologized. It issued a statement Wednesday pledging to continue cooperating with authorities and making "meaningful changes" to ensure such events never happen again. The system found that Husel ordered potentially fatal drug doses for 29 patients, including five who might have received those drugs when there still was a chance to improve their conditions with treatment. The hospital system said six more patients got doses that were excessive but probably did not cause their deaths. The murder charges were brought only in cases that involved fentanyl doses of at least 500 micrograms. The prosecutor said the investigation remains open and other cases are still under review. Husel was fired in December and stripped of his medical license after concerns about his orders were brought to the attention of officials at Mount Carmel, where he had worked for five years. Mount Carmel has said it should have investigated and taken action sooner. It has acknowledged that the doctor was not removed from patient care for four weeks after the concerns were raised, and three patients died during that time. Police Sgt. Terry McConnell said none of the families who talked with investigators believed that what happened was "mercy treatment." Amy Pfaff, whose mother was among the patients whose deaths prompted the charges, said she still wonders about his motives. "Trust me, I sit many hours sitting trying to figure out why would he do this to so many people, and I just don't know," Pfaff said. More than two dozen wrongful-death lawsuits have been filed against the doctor and the hospital system, including one by Pfaff over the October 2017 death of her mother, Beverlee Schirtzinger. The hospital system settled some of the cases for hundreds of thousands of dollars. All employees who had a role in administering medication to the victims have been removed from patient care as a precaution, hospital officials have said.

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Migrants protest after hundreds escape from Mexican detention center

Central American migrants at a detention center in southern Mexico protested against their captivity on Friday, a day after an escape involving around 1,300 mostly Cuban inmates. Dozens of migrants shouted on Friday morning: "We want to go," and "we're hungry" at the facility in Tapachula, in the southern state of Chiapas. At dinner time on Thursday, some 1,300 migrants escaped after threatening to set fire to the detention center to protest against overcrowding, witnesses said. "There was a large-scale unauthorized exit of people housed in the migratory station," the National Institute of Migration (INM) said in a statement. It said 700 returned soon after leaving, but Mexico President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador confirmed on Friday morning that around 500 others were unaccounted for. They had knocked down railings at the center in order to escape, but those had been repaired on Friday, AFP journalists at the scene saw. Since October, tens thousands of Central Americans and Cubans have traversed Mexico in caravans in the hope of reaching the United States. The migrants say they are fleeing poverty and gang violence. The Tapachula center was built to accommodate 900 people, but residents say it sometimes holds as many as 3,000. "We have many there... we are very tight, we sleep on the floor," said one Cuban detainee. It is the third time since October that migrants at Tapachula have rioted against conditions. "The migrants say that they (authorities) don't give them food," fruit vendor Carlos Alcantara, who works nearby, told AFP. US President Donald Trump says the migrants are a threat to US national security and has demanded that Mexico detain them and send them home. Lopez Obrador announced a plan last week to restrict migrants to Mexico's south -- keeping them away from the US border -- but denied it was a means to placate Washington.

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Democrats make legal bid for all Russia probe evidence Trump poll numbers drop

Congressional Democrats took legal action on Friday to gain access to all of U.S. Special Counsel Robert Mueller's evidence from his inquiry into Russian meddling in the 2016 election, as the probe's findings dented President Donald Trump's poll ratings. The number of Americans who approve of Trump dropped by 3 percentage points to the lowest level of the year following the release of a redacted version of Mueller's report on Thursday, according to a Reuters/Ipsos online opinion poll. Mueller did not establish the Trump campaign coordinated with Russians but did find "multiple acts by the President that were capable of exerting undue influence over law enforcement investigations." While Mueller ultimately decided not to charge Trump with a crime such as obstruction of justice, he also said the investigation did not exonerate the president, either. U.S. House of Representatives Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerrold Nadler, a Democrat, issued a subpoena to the Justice Department to hand over the full Mueller report and other relevant evidence by May 1. "My committee needs and is entitled to the full version of the report and the underlying evidence consistent with past practice. The redactions appear to be significant," Nadler said in a statement. The Justice Department called the request "premature and unnecessary," but spokeswoman Kerri Kupec said in a statement the department would work with Congress "to accommodate its legitimate requests consistent with the law and long-recognized executive branch interests." The report provided extensive details on Trump's efforts to thwart Mueller's investigation, giving Democrats plenty of political ammunition against the Republican president but leaving them with no consensus on how to use it. The document has blacked out sections to hide details about secret grand jury information, U.S. intelligence gathering and active criminal cases as well as potentially damaging information about peripheral players who were not charged. Six top congressional Democrats led by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer rejected U.S. Attorney General William Barr's offer to give them access to a less-redacted version of the report. In a letter to Barr, they repeated their request for the full report but said they were open to "a reasonable accommodation." Democratic leaders have played down talk of impeachment of Trump just 18 months before the 2020 presidential election, even as some prominent members of the party's progressive wing, notably U.S. Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, promised to push the idea. U.S. Senator Elizabeth Warren became the first major contender for the Democratic 2020 presidential nomination to call for the start of impeachment proceedings, saying on Twitter that "the severity of this misconduct" demanded it. 'CRAZY MUELLER REPORT' Trump, who has repeatedly called the Mueller probe a political witch hunt, lashed out again on Friday. "Statements are made about me by certain people in the Crazy Mueller Report...which are fabricated & totally untrue," Trump wrote on Twitter. He seemed to be referring to former White House counsel Don McGahn who was cited in the report as having annoyed Trump by taking notes of his conversations with the president. "Watch out for people that take so-called 'notes,' when the notes never existed until needed," Trump wrote. "It was not necessary for me to respond to statements made in the 'Report' about me, some of which are total bullshit & only given to make the other person look good (or me to look bad)." Phone conversations between the president and McGahn in June 2017 were a central part of Mueller's depiction of Trump as trying to derail the Russia inquiry. The report said Trump told McGahn to instruct the Justice Department to fire Mueller. McGahn did not carry out the order. According to the Reuters/Ipsos poll of 1,005 adults conducted Thursday afternoon to Friday morning, 37 percent of people approve of Trump’s performance in office - down from 40 percent in a similar poll conducted on April 15, which matches the lowest level of the year. The poll has a credibility interval, a measure of precision, of 4 percentage points. Representative Doug Collins, the top Republican on the House Judiciary Committee, said the Democrats' subpoena "is wildly overbroad" and would jeopardize a grand jury's investigations. While most Republicans have stood by Trump, 2012 Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney, now a U.S. senator from Utah, criticized Trump and those around him as portrayed in the report. Romney, an on-and-off Trump critic, said on Twitter it was "good news" there was insufficient evidence to charge Trump with a crime. "Even so, I am sickened at the extent and pervasiveness of dishonesty and misdirection by individuals in the highest office of the land, including the President," said Romney, who lost the White House race to President Barack Obama in 2012. The Mueller inquiry laid bare what U.S. intelligence agencies have described as a Russian campaign of hacking and propaganda to sow discord in the United States, denigrate 2016 Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton and boost Trump.

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Trump security adviser unveils new U.S. sanctions to pressure Cuba, Venezuela

U.S. national security adviser John Bolton announced a series of new sanctions against Cuba and Venezuela on Wednesday as the Trump administration sought to boost pressure on Venezuelan leader Nicolas Maduro and the countries that support him. Bolton, in a speech to an association of veterans of the failed 1961 Bay of Pigs invasion, said the United States was adding five names linked to Cuba's military and intelligence services to its sanctions blacklist, including the military-owned airline Aerogaviota. Bolton said Washington planned new limits on remittances to Cuba and changes to end the use of transactions that allow Havana to circumvent sanctions and obtain access to hard currency. He also announced new sanctions on Venezuela's central bank to prohibit its access to U.S. dollars. "Under this administration, we don’t throw dictators lifelines. We take them away," Bolton said. Bolton's announcement of the new sanctions came just hours after the Trump administration said it was lifting a long-standing ban against U.S. citizens filing lawsuits against foreign companies that use properties seized by Cuba’s Communist government since Fidel Castro’s 1959 revolution. The major policy shift, announced by Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, could draw hundreds of thousands of legal claims worth tens of billion of dollars. It is intended to intensify pressure on Havana at a time Washington is demanding an end to Cuban support for Venezuela's Maduro. (Reporting by Matt Spetalnick; Writing by David Alexander; editing by Lisa Shumaker and Bill Berkrot)

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In unprecedented move, U.S. names Iran's Revolutionary Guards a terrorist group

President Donald Trump said on Monday he would name Iran's elite Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps a terrorist organization, in an unprecedented step that drew Iranian condemnation and raised concerns about retaliatory attacks on U.S. forces. The action by Trump, who has taken a hard line toward Iran by withdrawing from the 2015 Iran nuclear deal and re-imposing broad economic sanctions, marks the first time the United States has formally labeled another nation's military a terrorist group. The U.S. step, which takes effect on April 15, prompted an immediate response from Iran, whose Supreme National Security Council in turn designated U.S. military forces as a "terrorist organization," Iranian state-run TV reported. "The U.S. military bases and their military forces in the region will be considered terrorist bases and terrorist forces that will be dealt with and confronted accordingly," Iran's Deputy Foreign Minister Abbas Araqchi told Iranian state TV, calling the U.S. decision "a major strategic mistake." "The IRGC is the Iranian government's primary means of directing and implementing its global terrorist campaign," Trump said in a statement. His administration has long criticized Iran for its influence in Iraq, Syria and Yemen. Critics of Trump's decision said it was largely symbolic because U.S. law already carried penalties of up to 20 years in prison for U.S. persons who deal with the IRGC because of its designation under another U.S. sanctions program, the U.S. Specially Designated Global Terrorist list. POTENTIAL BACKLASH Senior U.S. military commanders share Trump's concerns about Iran and the IRGC but long opposed the designation due to concern over a potential backlash against U.S. forces in the Middle East and the problems it could create for U.S. partners who have a relationship with Iran, U.S. officials say. The Pentagon declined to discuss what the U.S. military was doing to protect American troops from any retaliation by the IRGC or Iran-aligned militia in places like Iraq. U.S. officials, speaking on condition of anonymity, said the designation did not mean the U.S. military would start treating the IRGC like al Qaeda, Islamic State or other militants that it can target at will. "This is not about going to war with Iran or killing a bunch of Iranians. Absolutely not," said one, adding the U.S. military had not been given any new direction to "go after" Iranian forces. Three Iranian officials said that despite Tehran's harsh rhetoric, Iran's reaction will be "diplomatic and mild." Jason Blazakis, a former State Department official who oversaw the process for labeling foreign terrorist organizations, said he believed the IRGC designation was done for purely symbolic and domestic political reasons that could have deadly consequences for U.S. troops. He said it could prompt Qassem Soleimani, the powerful commander of the Quds Force, the IRGC's elite foreign espionage and paramilitary contingent, to allow IRGC-controlled Shi'ite Muslim militias to retaliate against U.S. forces in Iraq. "I imagine that tight leash he (Soleimani) has had on them (Shi'ite militias) will be less tight. He could call for them to take actions against U.S. assets in places like Baghdad's Green Zone," he continued, referring to the Iraqi capital's diplomatic and governmental enclave. The only "theoretical benefit" the designation could provide is to make it slightly easier for the Justice Department to prosecute people for providing "material support" to the IRGC, he said. The Department already has the authority for similar prosecutions under an executive order signed by President George W. Bush soon after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks by al Qaeda. GUARDS' HUGE INFLUENCE The IRGC is in charge of Iran's ballistic missile and nuclear programs. Tehran has warned that it has missiles with a range of up to 2,000 km (1,242 miles), putting Israel and U.S. military bases in the region within reach. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who is up for reelection on Tuesday, warmly welcomed the designation and tweeted "Thank you, my dear friend, U.S. President Donald Trump... for meeting another of my important requests." Set up after Iran's 1979 Islamic Revolution to protect the Shi'ite clerical ruling system, the Guards have great sway in Iran's political system, controlling swathes of the economy and armed forces. Their involvement in Iran's banking and shipping industries could complicate matters with U.S. allies including the European Union. The new designation makes it easier to prosecute EU or other companies or individuals that do business with Iran. The Iranian currency weakened on Monday, falling to 143,000 rials to the U.S. dollar from Sunday's rate of 138,000 rials, according to the website Mesghal.com. The United States has already blacklisted dozens of entities and people for affiliations with the IRGC, but not the organization as a whole. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, a strident critic of Iran, has pushed for the change in U.S. policy as part of the Trump administration's tough posture toward Tehran. "This designation is a direct response to an outlaw regime and should surprise no one," Pompeo said. The State Department said on Monday the IRGC has been engaged in terrorist activity since its inception, including the 1996 Khobar Towers bombing in Saudi Arabia that killed 19 Americans, and a foiled plan to attack the Saudi ambassador to the United States on U.S. soil. Previous administrations considered designating the entire IRGC as a foreign terrorist organization but decided the risk to U.S. forces overseas was too great, former U.S. officials said. (Reporting by Lesley Wroughton in Washington and Parisa Hafezi in Dubai; additional reporting by Jeff Mason, Arshad Mohammed, Jonathan Landay, Phil Stewart in Washington; and by Dan Williams in Jerusalem; Writing by Doina Chiacu and Arshad Mohammed; Editing by Alistair Bell and Sandra Maler)

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Penn State hazing sentence sends a message to frat boys, college students: Grow up

Jim and Evelyn Piazza believe a fraternity killed their child. The night was Feb. 2, 2017. And Evelyn had to fight through tears to describe what that particular date meant for her son. “He gets to sit in a mausoleum,” she told TIME magazine. “Everyone else gets to go on with their lives.” That night Timothy Piazza suffered fatal injuries from the excessive alcohol he and other pledges were forced to guzzle at a frat-house hazing in Pennsylvania. He stumbled down a staircase and suffered a fractured skull, multiple traumatic brain injuries and a lacerated spleen, reports USA TODAY. His blood-alcohol level had been roughly four times the legal limit for driving. This is the Greek system's legacy The fraternity was Beta Theta Pi at Penn State University. And its school charter no longer exists. It was stripped after Timothy Piazza’s death. The Betas didn’t invent any of this — the geyser of beer, the bags of wine, the shots of vodka followed by absolute, criminal indifference. Read more commentary: A fraternity hazing ritual killed our son. Now, we're making sense of his senseless death. It took a village to kill my brother: How families, hospitals and government fail alcoholics My 'bottom' was being drunk on TV. But I'm grateful I hit it before I killed myself or others This is the legacy of the Greek system at American colleges and universities, a recurring tale of debauchery and disregard for the well-being of young people. It’s a cultural problem in the United States that says college is a time to cut loose and get high before the rigors of life come calling. On Tuesday, in one of the most significant anti-hazing decisions in history, a Pennsylvania judge ruled the party is over. He sentenced three Beta fraternity brothers to jail for their role in the hazing death of 19-year-old Piazza. A fourth was sentenced to house arrest. The message now: Grow up The court’s rejoinder should now be taken up and waved by every college and university president, every high school teacher, every guidance counselor, every mother and father with a high school graduate. And here's the message: “Grow up.” “The time for childish things is over. When you’re entering a university, you’re entering an adult environment that no longer tolerates childish ways. “Those nasty Greek rituals that purport to separate the wheat from the chaff, the beautiful from the plain, the rich from the poor, the white from the brown, are not fit for college campuses.

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Joe Biden vows to be 'more mindful' on same day as three more women make accusations

Former Vice President Joe Biden, facing multiple allegations from women of unwanted and inappropriate behavior, promised to be more "mindful and respectful" in a video released Wednesday Biden, who is considering a bid for the White House in 2020, says his touching was all about making a "human connection." "It's just who I am," Biden says in the video. "I've never thought of politics as cold or antiseptic." Hours after the video, The Washington Post reported allegations from three more women, including a former White House intern who said Biden got very close to her face and called her a "pretty girl." The additional accounts bring the total number of women who have brought forward complaints about Biden to seven, since Friday. Biden contends his close contact is his way of showing people he cares. "I’ve always tried to be, in my career, I’ve always tried to make a human connection. That’s my responsibility, I think. I shake hands, I hug people, I grab men and women by the shoulders and say you can do this,” Biden said in the video posted to Twitter. “It’s the way I’ve always been. It’s the way I’ve tried to show I care about them and I’m listening.” But he says he understands times have changed and so should his behavior. "I get it. I get it. I hear what they're saying. I understand," Biden says. "I’ll be much more mindful." "I’ll always believe that governing, quite frankly life for that matter, is about connecting with people," Biden says. "That won’t change, but I will be more mindful and respectful of people’s personal space – and that’s a good thing." Twitter Ads info and privacy The string of accusations started when Lucy Flores, a former member of the Nevada Legislature, accused Biden of "demeaning and disrespectful" behavior when he kissed the back of her head. In a column for New York Magazine, Flores detailed a backstage encounter with Biden during an event in 2014 in Nevada where he spoke to help boost voter turnout for Democrats. "I felt him get closer to me from behind. He leaned further in and inhaled my hair. I was mortified," Flores wrote. "He proceeded to plant a big slow kiss on the back of my head. My brain couldn’t process what was happening. I was embarrassed. I was shocked. I was confused." Since then, three women told similar allegations stories to the New York Times and another three on Wednesday came forward in the Post.

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Trump threatens to close border with Mexico "next week"

President Donald Trump on Friday again accused Mexico of failing to curb the flow of migrants illegally entering the US, and threatened to close the common border "next week" unless something changes. Trump's latest tweets ramp up the tension between the neighbors, putting a specific timeframe to his threats to shut the border, one of the busiest in the world. "If Mexico doesn't immediately stop ALL illegal immigration coming into the United States through our Southern Border, I will be CLOSING the Border, or large sections of the Border, next week," he said. "This would be so easy for Mexico to do, but they just take our money and 'talk'," he added. Mexican Foreign Minister Marcelo Ebrard quickly fired back, saying his country "does not act based on threats." "We are a great neighbor. Just ask the 1.5 million US citizens who have chosen to call our country home, the largest such community outside the United States," Ebrard wrote on Twitter. Before Trump's latest tweets, Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador reiterated that he does not want a "controversy" with the United States, and that Mexico is in fact working to fight illegal immigration. "All this talk of migrant caravans and such is related to politics and the (US) election campaign -- that's why I'm not going to get into it," he told a press conference. Lopez Obrador, an anti-establishment leftist who took office in December, has sought to cultivate a cordial relationship with Trump. And it appeared to be working -- until this week, when the Republican billionaire returned to the Mexico-bashing of his 2016 campaign, as he launches the run-up to his 2020 re-election bid. Lopez Obrador wants the US to fund $10 billion in economic development programs for Mexico and Central America to attack the poverty and violence he says are the root causes of migration. The White House appeared to be listening, sending top adviser and presidential son-in-law Jared Kushner to meet with Lopez Obrador in Mexico City last week for talks on the subject. But Trump himself has returned to classic campaign form as the 2020 presidential race heats up in America. On Thursday, he told a crowd at a rally in Michigan that the US would "close the damn border" if Mexico did not do more to stem the flow of migrants crossing illegally into the United States.

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Attorney General Barr says Mueller report to be released 'by mid-April'

Special counsel Robert Mueller’s report on Russia’s interference in the 2016 presidential election is set to be made public in the next few weeks. In a letter sent Friday to the chairmen of the House and Senate Judiciary Committees, Attorney General William Barr indicated he is planning to release the report and would testify before the committees about it on May 1 and May 2. “I share your desire to ensure that Congress and the public have the opportunity to read the Special Counsel’s report. We are preparing the report for release,” Barr wrote. Robert Mueller, left, and William Barr Photo illustration: Yahoo News; photos: AP More Barr said his office was working with Mueller to make the “redactions that are required” before releasing the report. This would include information related to sensitive investigative sources and methods, confidential grand jury proceedings, and “material that could affect other ongoing matters,” including ones Mueller referred to other DOJ offices. “Our progress is such that I anticipate we will be in a position to release the report by mid-April, if not sooner,” Barr wrote. Barr also indicated the White House would not review the report prior to release, nor ask for material to be withheld due to executive privilege. “Although the President would have the right to assert privilege over certain parts of the report, he has stated publicly that he intends to defer to me and accordingly, there are no plans to submit the report to the White House for a privilege review,” wrote Barr. Barr’s latest letter came after five days of wrangling over the conclusion of Mueller’s probe. On March 24, two days after Barr announced Mueller concluded his investigation and submitted a confidential report on his findings, the attorney general sent another letter to the Judiciary Committees notifying them of the special counsel’s “principal conclusions.” In that four-page document, Barr said Mueller’s report was divided into two main parts: analyzing whether Americans “joined the Russian conspiracies to influence the election,” and addressing whether Trump had potentially obstructed justice in his attacks on the investigation and top officials involved in it. On the first point, Barr quoted Mueller saying his team “did not establish that members of the Trump Campaign conspired or coordinated with the Russian government in its election interference activities.” Mueller was apparently less definitive on the question of potential obstruction. Barr wrote that the special counsel “did not draw a conclusion — one way or the other — as to whether the examined conduct constituted obstruction” and instead left it to the attorney general to decide whether a crime had been committed. President Trump President Trump speaking to reporters in Canal Point, Fla., Friday. (Photo: Manuel Balce Ceneta/AP) More Since the release of Barr’s letter describing the report, Trump and his allies have described it as a complete vindication of the president. While Barr indicated Mueller did not find direct evidence Trump’s campaign cooperated with the Russian election intervention, his investigation did lead to multiple indictments of top Trump campaign aides for, among others things, lying to Congress and investigators about their contacts with Russian officials. Democrats responded to Barr’s letter by pushing for the release of the full report and argued that a four-page summary from the attorney general, a Trump appointee who had criticized the Mueller investigation before taking his post, was inadequate. Even if Barr does release the report, the political fights over Mueller’s investigation will likely continue. Congressional Democrats are also seeking Mueller’s underlying evidence, including potential grand jury materials. Barr concluded his letter by objecting to what he described as “statements mischaracterizing” his earlier report on the principal conclusions of the investigation. “My March 24 letter was not, and did not purport to be, an exhaustive recounting of the Special Counsel’s investigation or report,” Barr wrote. According to Barr, Mueller’s report was “nearly 400 pages long,” not including tables and appendices and could not have been recapped in brief. “Everyone will soon be able to read it on their own,” Barr said of the report. “I do not believe it would be in the public’s interest for me to attempt to summarize the full report or to release it in serial or piecemeal fashion.”

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Close advisers try to steer Trump away from issuing pardons

The end of the special counsel's investigation sparked fresh speculation that President Donald Trump might pardon some of those charged in the probe. It's also spawned a don't-go-there chorus from some of Trump's closest advisers and GOP allies. They're warning that pardons could ignite a political firestorm that overshadows what Trump sees as a moment of triumph . Trump mused about granting pardons at times during special counsel Robert Mueller's nearly two-year investigation. But according to his lawyers, the president has not been in active talks about using his pardon powers to help advisers who have pleaded guilty or been convicted, including former national security adviser Michael Flynn and ex-campaign chairman Paul Manafort . "The president is not going to consider pardons. He's not gonna give any pardons," said Rudy Giuliani, the president's outside attorney. "If it ever happens, it has to happen in the future, but nobody has any promise of it, nobody should assume it. Of course, he has the power to do it, but I have no reason to believe he's going to use it." Mueller's probe ended last week. According to a four-page summary issued by Attorney General William Barr, a Trump appointee, Mueller found no evidence Trump's campaign "conspired or coordinated" with the Russian government to influence the 2016 presidential election. But Mueller reached no conclusion on whether Trump obstructed justice. Barr and Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein then concluded there wasn't sufficient evidence to establish that the president had obstructed justice. Trump has falsely claimed that Mueller "completely exonerated" him, a rallying cry echoed by many on the right and taken up by some conservatives who are now calling for Trump to issue pardons. "President Trump should pardon General Mike Flynn. General Mike Flynn was entrapped by federal agents that were seeking revenge against Trump," tweeted Charlie Kirk, founder of the conservative group Turning Point USA, who said Flynn faces $5 million in legal fees. George Papadopoulos, a Trump campaign foreign policy adviser, this week became the first to formally request a presidential pardon. He served a 14-day prison sentence last year after pleading guilty to making false statements to federal prosecutors about his communications with a professor who claimed that the Russians had "dirt" on Hillary Clinton. "My lawyers have formally asked for a pardon," Papadopoulos told Fox News. "If it's granted, I would be honored to accept it." Tom Fitton, the president of the conservative group Judicial Watch, tweeted this week that a Flynn pardon can't come "soon enough." And Jack Posbiec, an online conservative advocate, pushed for clemency for longtime Trump adviser Roger Stone, who recently pleaded not guilty to felony charges in Mueller's investigation. But there is little appetite among Trump allies for the political mess that pardons could create. White House aides and Republican lawmakers alike have advised the president to steer clear of the idea, particularly as House Democrats continue their investigations and the 2020 campaign has begun. Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, who spent last weekend with Trump, told reporters on Monday that "if President Trump pardoned anybody in his orbit, it would not play well." Other congressional allies and informal Trump advisers, including former House Speaker Newt Gingrich and ex-New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, have counseled against pardoning anyone ensnared in Mueller's investigation. Trump has not brought up pardons since the Mueller probe ended, but has privately complained about what he believes is the unfair treatment a number of his former aides have received, according to a White House official not authorized to publicly discuss private conversations. The president has expressed sympathy for Manafort, believing his sentence of seven-plus years for a variety of financial crimes was unjust, according to the official. When asked by reporters at the White House earlier this month if he could consider pardoning Manafort, Trump demurred, saying, "I have not even given it a thought as of this moment." "It is not something that's right now on my mind," Trump said. In an interview Wednesday on Fox News Channel, Trump said, "I don't want to talk about pardons now" even as he bashed the investigation. Trump claimed earlier in the month that his former attorney Michael Cohen, sentenced to three years in prison for violating campaign finance laws, financial crimes and lying to Congress, directly asked him for a pardon. Cohen's representatives have since disputed that account while acknowledging that he would have been open to the offer last April, when his office and hotel room were first raided by the FBI. Trump has previously not been shy about exercising his pardon powers, using them in his first two years in office far more than his recent predecessors. In particular, he rewarded ideological allies, particularly those who he believed were victims of politically motivated prosecutors. Among those who received pardons were conservative commentator Dinesh D'Souza, who was convicted of a campaign finance violation, and former Sheriff Joe Arpaio of Arizona, who was convicted of criminal contempt. Each move was widely interpreted as a signal to other potential cooperating witnesses in the Mueller probe that they could also be rewarded with a pardon if they stayed loyal to the president.

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House Armed Services chairman denies $1 billion transfer for Trump wall

The U.S. House of Representatives Armed Services Committee on Tuesday denied the Pentagon's plan to shift $1 billion to build a wall on the U.S. border with Mexico, a move that while largely symbolic, highlights the concern lawmakers have about using the defense budget to pay for the wall. Acting Secretary of Defense Patrick Shanahan announced on Monday that the Department of Defense had shifted $1 billion from other military construction projects to build part of the barrier along the southern border. Democratic Representative Adam Smith, the committee's chairman, said the panel did not approve the proposed use of Pentagon funds. His stance could end up being symbolic, as the Pentagon insists it has the authority to shift the money. However, it could prompt Congress to change the law to prevent presidents from taking similar action in the future. A court battle over the issue is also likely. "The committee denies this request. The committee does not approve the proposed use of Department of Defense funds to construct additional physical barriers and roads or install lighting in the vicinity of the United States border," Smith said in a letter to the Department of Defense. During a House Armed Services Committee hearing that was in progress when Smith released his statement, Shanahan acknowledged that the decision to move money could impact the Pentagon's ability to reprogram funds in the future. "It was a very difficult discussion and we understand the significant downsides of losing what amounts to a privilege," Shanahan said. Shanahan's move to shift military dollars to pay for the wall without consulting Congress could lead lawmakers to cut off the Pentagon's authority to reprogram funds, something Smith hinted at during the hearing. Lawmakers from both political parties were critical of the decision to use military funds for the wall. "Changing decades of reprogramming practice is going to have difficult consequences for the whole government, but especially for the Department of Defense," Representative Mac Thornberry said in the hearing. The House failed on Tuesday to override President Donald Trump's first veto of the "national emergency" he declared last month to build a U.S.-Mexico border wall that Congress has not funded. Smith told the hearing that Trump's proposed $750 billion defense budget would not pass as it was proposed. That budget included $100 billion in a "slush fund" meant to fund ongoing wars but which the Pentagon intends to use to boost the amount of money it has available to avoid budget caps.

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Joe Biden leads Bernie Sanders, Beto O'Rourke, Kamala Harris in latest Quinnipiac poll

Democrats favor former Vice President Joe Biden over his possible 2020 primary rivals in the latest Quinnipiac University National Poll. The poll found 29 percent of Democrats and voters leaning Democratic would favor Biden if the Democratic primary were held today. Biden has not yet announced his candidacy but has hinted at a possible 2020 run. Biden bested Vermont Independent Sen. Bernie Sanders by 10 percentage points. Here's how the rest of the field fared: Biden: 29 percent Sanders: 19 percent Former Rep. Beto O'Rourke: 12 percent Sen. Kamala Harris: 8 percent Sen. Elizabeth Warren: 4 percent South Bend, Ind., Mayor Pete Buttigieg: 4 percent Sen. Cory Booker: 2 percent Sen. Amy Klobuchar: 2 percent Joe Biden speaks to the International Association of Firefighters in Washington, DC on March 12, 2019. Joe Biden speaks to the International Association of Firefighters in Washington, DC on March 12, 2019. More The poll, which surveyed nearly 1,400 voters from March 21 to 25, also asked about President Donald Trump. More than half (56 percent) of Republicans and those who lean toward the GOP do not want to see someone run against him in a Republican primary. Former Massachusetts Gov. William Weld, who created an exploratory committee, is considering challenging the president. However, more than half (53 percent) of overall voters say they will definitely not vote for Trump in 2020 — 30 percent say they definitely would vote for him. Other takeaways from the poll: Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez: 23 percent hold a favorable view of the freshman Democrat from New York while 36 percent view her unfavorably — 38 percent haven't heard enough about the Green New Deal champion. A third (33 percent) say Ocasio-Cortez is good for the Democratic Party while 36 percent say she is bad for the party. Popular vote vs. Electoral College: More than half (54 percent) support electing the president by popular vote rather than using the Electoral College. The popular vote is more favored by Democrats (82 percent for vs. 13 percent against) while Republicans stand oppose to it (71 percent to 25 percent). Trump lost the popular vote in 2016 by nearly 3 million votes to Democratic challenger Hillary Clinton. Among Democrats and those leading Democratic, here's what they had to say about candidates' race, age and gender: Age: 70 percent say age is not an important factor in how they'll vote. Race: 84 percent say race is not an important factor, includes 75 percent among black voters. Gender: 84 percent say gender is not an important factor, includes 83 percent among women.

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Trump tells Russia to get its troops out of Venezuela

U.S. President Donald Trump on Wednesday called on Russia to pull its troops from Venezuela and said that "all options" were open to make that happen. The arrival of two Russian air force planes outside Caracas on Saturday believed to be carrying nearly 100 Russian special forces and cybersecurity personnel has escalated the political crisis in Venezuela. Russia and China have backed President Nicolas Maduro, while the United States and most other Western countries support opposition leader Juan Guaido. In January, Guaido invoked the constitution to assume Venezuela's interim presidency, arguing that Maduro's 2018 re-election was illegitimate. "Russia has to get out," Trump told reporters in the Oval Office, where he met with Guaido's wife, Fabiana Rosales. Asked how he would make Russian forces leave, Trump said: "We'll see. All options are open." Maduro, who retains control of state functions and the country's military, has said Guaido is a puppet of the United States. Russia has bilateral relations and agreements with Venezuela and Maduro that it plans to honor, Russia's deputy U.N. ambassador, Dmitry Polyanskiy, said on Twitter. A spokeswoman for Russia’s Foreign Ministry, Maria Zakharova, said the United States should pull troops from Syria before telling Moscow to withdraw from Venezuela. "Before giving advice to somebody to withdraw from somewhere, the United States should bring to life its own concept of exodus, particularly from Syria," Zakharova said, speaking on Russia’s state Channel One, TASS agency quoted her as saying. Venezuela's economy is in tatters with food and medicine in short supply due to years of hyperinflation. In addition, citizens are now grappling with power blackouts that experts have blamed on years of neglect and maintenance. Earlier this year, the Trump administration slapped sanctions on state-owned oil company Petroleos de Venezuela, known as PDVSA, to try to cut off revenues to Maduro. Oil provides 90 percent of export revenue for Venezuela, an OPEC member. Trump has said tougher sanctions are still to come. "TRYING TO BREAK OUR MORALE" U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo told lawmakers on Wednesday that rebuilding after Maduro leaves office would be expensive. "The day and week after is going to be a long process," Pompeo said. "I've seen estimates between $6 (billion) and $12 billion to repair" the economy, he said. The Trump administration has asked Congress for up to $500 million in foreign aid to help "support a democratic transition in Venezuela," Pompeo said in written testimony to the U.S. House of Representatives. At the White House, Rosales, Guaido's wife, told Trump and Vice President Mike Pence that food shortages in Venezuela were hurting children. "They are trying to break our morale. They want to submerge us in eternal darkness. But let me tell you that there is light, and the light is here," said Rosales, a 26-year-old journalist and opposition activist. Guaido was attacked on Tuesday, she told Trump. Upon leaving a National Assembly session, individuals threw stones at the vehicle Guaido was traveling in and tried to open its doors, according to a Reuters witness. "I fear for my husband's life," said Rosales, who was accompanied by the wife and sister of Roberto Marrero, Guaido's chief of staff, who was arrested and detained last week. Rosales is slated to meet U.S. first lady Melania Trump in Palm Beach on Thursday on a swing through South Florida, home to the largest community of Venezuelan exiles in the United States. Rosales also plans to meet with lawmakers on Capitol Hill and members of the Venezuelan diaspora at a prominent Washington think tank. Pence praised Rosales for being "courageous." "Our message very simply is: We're with you," Pence said. (Reporting by Lesley Wroughton and Steve Holland; additional reporting by Brian Ellsworth in Caracas, Michelle Nichols in New York, Andrey Ostrokh in Moscow, and Roberta Rampton, Doina Chiacu and Makini Brice in Washington; Editing by Jeffrey Benkoe and Leslie Adler)

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The Latest: DA disagrees with verdict, respects process

The Latest on the homicide trial of a white Pennsylvania police officer in the shooting of an unarmed black 17-year-old (all times local): 10:30 p.m. The district attorney in Pittsburgh says he disagrees with a jury's decision to acquit a former police officer in the fatal shooting of an unarmed black teenager as he ran from a car involved just minutes earlier in a drive-by shooting. But Stephen Zappala Jr. says it is the people of Pennsylvania who decide guilt in criminal cases, and "they have spoken." A jury deliberated fewer than four hours Friday before clearing ex-East Pittsburgh Officer Michael Rosfeld of homicide in the shooting of Antwon Rose II last year. Rosfeld's lawyer called him "a good man." During the trial he said the officer feared for his life and had to make a split-second decision. The district attorney said that in the interest of justice, he'll continue to bring charges where charges are appropriate. __ 9:45 p.m. The family of a black teenager who was shot in the back and killed by a white police officer outside Pittsburgh remained stoic after the man was acquitted. Antwon Rose II's sister had tears streaming down her face after the jury cleared former East Pittsburgh Police Officer Michael Rosfeld of a homicide charge late Friday. Her mother urged her not to cry. The jury deliberated fewer than four hours before reaching its verdict. There were tears and gasps from black people gathered in an overflow courtroom, and several broke out in song: "Antwon Rose was a freedom fighter, and he taught us how to fight." Rosfeld's wife burst out sobbing as the verdict was announced. She and Rosfeld were hustled out of the courtroom by deputies. Rosfeld's attorney, Patrick Thomassey, told reporters that Rosfeld is "a good man." ___ 9:25 p.m. A jury has acquitted a white former police officer who fatally shot an unarmed black teenager outside Pittsburgh. Former East Pittsburgh Police Officer Michael Rosfeld was charged with homicide for killing 17-year-old Antwon Rose II last June. Rose was riding in an unlicensed taxi that was involved in a drive-by shooting. Rosfeld pulled the car over and shot Rose in the back, arm and side of the face as the teen ran away. Rosfeld testified that he thought Rose or another passenger in the car had a gun pointed at him. The jury saw video of the fatal confrontation. The verdict came Friday after fewer than four hours of deliberations. The shooting triggered protests in the Pittsburgh area last year. ___ 8:25 p.m. The jury has reached a verdict in the homicide trial of a white former police officer charged with shooting an unarmed black teenager as he fled a high-stakes traffic stop outside Pittsburgh. Former East Pittsburgh Police Officer Michael Rosfeld fired on 17-year-old Antwon Rose II last summer in a killing that sparked weeks of unrest. Jurors informed the court Friday night they have reached a verdict. They can convict Rosfeld of murder or manslaughter, or return an acquittal. The ex-cop shot Rose in the back, arm and side of the face after pulling over an unlicensed taxi that had been used in a drive-by shooting. Rosfeld ordered the driver to the ground, but Rose and another passenger got out and began running away. Rosfeld says he thought one of the suspects was pointing a gun at him. ___ 5:10 p.m. A jury has started deliberating in the homicide trial of a white former police officer charged with killing an unarmed black teenager outside Pittsburgh last summer. Jurors got the case Friday afternoon. A prosecutor says former East Pittsburgh Police Officer Michael Rosfeld acted as "judge, jury and executioner" when he killed 17-year-old Antwon Rose II. Assistant District Attorney Jonathan Fodi tells jurors that Rose didn't deserve to die. Defense attorney Patrick Thomassey says that Rosfeld was justified in shooting the fleeing teenager because the officer believed he was in danger. Rosfeld shot Rose in the back, arm and side of the face as he ran from a traffic stop. Rose had been riding in a car that Rosfeld pulled over because he correctly suspected it was involved in a drive-by shooting. ___ 4:10 p.m. Closing arguments have been delivered in the homicide trial of a white former police officer charged with killing an unarmed black teenager outside Pittsburgh last summer. A prosecutor says former East Pittsburgh Police Officer Michael Rosfeld acted as "judge, jury and executioner" when he killed 17-year-old Antwon Rose II. Assistant District Attorney Jonathan Fodi said Friday that Rose didn't deserve to die. Defense attorney Patrick Thomassey said in his closing argument that Rosfeld was justified in shooting the fleeing teenager because the officer believed he was in danger. Rosfeld shot Rose in the back, arm and side of the face as he ran from a traffic stop. Rose had been riding in a car that Rosfeld pulled over because he correctly suspected it was involved in a drive-by shooting. The jury is expected to begin deliberating Friday. ___ 1:20 p.m. An attorney for the family of Antwon Rose II says a jury should conclude that the unarmed black teenager was "murdered" by a white police officer last summer. S. Lee Merritt spoke to The Associated Press on Friday as closing arguments were getting underway in the homicide trial of former East Pittsburgh Police Officer Michael Rosfeld. Rosfeld shot Rose in the back, arm and side of the face as the 17-year-old ran away from a traffic stop. Rose had been riding in a car that Rosfeld pulled over because he correctly suspected it was involved in a drive-by shooting. Rosfeld told jurors that he thought Rose or another fleeing suspect had pointed a gun at him. Neither teen had a weapon on him at the time. Merritt says "it's pretty obvious" Rose was not a threat to Rosfeld. ___ 11:30 a.m. The defense has rested its case in the homicide trial of a white police officer charged with shooting and killing an unarmed black teenager near Pittsburgh. Former East Pittsburgh Police Officer Michael Rosfeld is charged with gunning down 17-year-old Antwon Rose II last summer. Rosfeld's lawyer rested Friday. Rosfeld testified that he thought Rose had a gun. The defense also called a use-of-force expert who says Rosfeld did nothing wrong. The jury will hear closing arguments Friday afternoon and then begin deliberating. Rose was riding in a car that had been involved in a drive-by shooting. Rosfeld pulled the car over and shot Rose in the back as he fled. One juror, a white woman, was dismissed from the panel Friday and replaced with a white man. ___ 10 a.m. A judge has lifted a gag order in the trial of a white police officer charged in the on-duty shooting of an unarmed black teenager near Pittsburgh. Judge Alexander Bicket lifted the gag order he imposed on parties in the case Friday at the request of the defense. Defense attorney Patrick Thomassey says while he and prosecutors have abided by the judge's order, the attorney for Antwon Rose II's family has made comments to the media. Bicket made his ruling Friday morning. Former East Pittsburgh Police Officer Michael Rosfeld is on trial for homicide after gunning down the 17-year-old Rose last summer. Rose was riding in a car that had been involved in a drive-by shooting. Rosfeld shot him in the back as he fled. Rosfeld says he thought Rose or another passenger had a gun. ___ 1 a.m. An expert in police use of force says a former officer did everything by the book in a fatal encounter with an unarmed black teenager outside Pittsburgh last summer. Retired Pennsylvania State Police Trooper Clifford W. Jobe Jr. testified for the defense at the homicide trial of former East Pittsburgh Police Officer Michael Rosfeld, who's charged with gunning down 17-year-old Antwon Rose II. Rosfeld fired three bullets into Rose after pulling over an unlicensed taxi that had been used in a drive-by shooting. Rose, a passenger in the car, was shot in the back as he fled. Jobe told jurors Thursday that Rosfeld followed proper procedure. Prosecutors say Rosfeld gave inconsistent statements about the shooting, including whether he thought Rose had a gun.

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Druze on Golan Heights reject Trump backing for Israeli sovereignty

MAJDAL SHAMS, Golan Heights (Reuters) - Druze Arabs and Israeli settlers on opposite sides of the dispute over U.S. President Donald Trump's support for Israeli sovereignty over the Golan Heights agree on one thing - it won't change matters on the ground. The fertile hillsides of the Israeli-occupied Golan are scattered with villages inhabited by 22,000 Druze, an Arab minority who practice an offshoot of Islam. Many still have relatives on the Syrian side of the fortified boundary. In Majdal Shams, older residents remember being part of Syria before Israel captured most of the heights in the 1967 Middle East war, occupying and later annexing it in 1981. That annexation was not recognized internationally, and although they have lived under Israeli rule for more than half a century and shopfronts bear signs in both Arabic and Hebrew, many Druze still regard themselves as Syrian. "Trump can make his statements and say he wants to make the Golan part of Israel. But we know this will stay Syrian land," said Sheikh Mahmoud Nazeeh, 70. Amal Safadi, 54, a librarian, said: "Our blood is Syrian. If you take a blood test for a child, it will read Syrian." Israel has given Druze residents the option of citizenship, but most rejected it. In October last year hundreds demonstrated against the holding of Israeli municipal elections on the Golan, blockading the polling station in Majdal Shams and waving Syrian and Druze flags. Madjal Shams overlooks the divide between Israeli-occupied Golan and that part of the plateau controlled by forces loyal to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. The two armies are divided by an “Area of Separation” - often called a demilitarized zone - into which their military forces are not permitted under a 1974 ceasefire arrangement. ISRAELI REACTION Trump's Golan announcement on Thursday came with many Israelis celebrating the Jewish holiday of Purim, which by tradition commemorates the survival of Jews who had been marked for death while living under Persian rule in antiquity. Israel regards the Golan as a strategic asset, because its hills overlook northern Israeli towns, particularly near its inland Sea of Galilee. Around 20,000 Jewish settlers live in the Golan itself, many working in farming, leisure and tourism. Many Israeli commentators saw Trump's declaration as a timely boost for Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu ahead of Israeli elections scheduled for April 9, in which he has been dogged by corruption allegations. But some Israelis living in and around the Golan said Trump's gesture would change little on the ground. “The U.S recognition of Israeli sovereignty in the Golan makes us happy, however our daily routine does not involve dealing with whether Israeli sovereignty is being recognized or not," said Haim Rokah, head of the regional Israeli council in the Golan. Rami Yogev, 65, a resident of Dan kibbutz, which is overlooked by the Golan, said he remembers shelling from the then Syrian-held heights onto his town during the 1967 war. "I don’t think Trump’s announcement will make any difference here. It’s not going to change anything. The residents in the Golan already feel like they’re Israelis. They have a better life than being in Syria or any Arab country - just look what happened in the war in Syria," he said. Israeli newspaper front pages on Friday were dominated by the news from Washington. But some commentators injected a note of caution. "Some will say that this is 'Trump’s election gift to Netanyahu.' Some will say that these are 'two people in legal troubles who are convinced that there is a global conspiracy to topple them,'" wrote Alon Pinkas in Yedioth Ahronoth. But he also pointed out that Israelis younger than 52 had never known any other reality regarding the Golan. "This is good, it is nice, it is a recognition of reality, it is almost self-evident. The question is: Does it really mean anything?" Palestinian officials and analysts predicted that Trump's intervention on the Golan would further jeopardize prospects for the White House's long-awaited peace plan for the Middle East, spearheaded by Trump's son-in-law, Jared Kushner. Palestinians were already angry at Trump after his recent decisions to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, and to move the U.S. Embassy to the city. Nabil Abu Rudeineh, a spokesman for President Mahmoud Abbas, told Reuters: “These promises will not give legitimacy to the Israeli occupation and the Golan will remain Arab and Syrian land.” In Gaza, political analyst Adnan Abu Amer said Trump was trying to reshape the region ahead of the plan. "It is clear that Trump is trying to pre-empt the official announcement of the deal by imposing some facts on ground," he said. (Additional reporting by Nidal al-Mughrabi in Gaza, Ali Sawafta in Ramallah and Rahaf Ruby in Jerusalem; Editing by Mark Heinrich)

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Trump halts new North Korea sanctions despite lack of progress in talks

President Trump announced Friday that he was reversing a decision by the Treasury Department to impose new sanctions on North Korea, despite lack of progress in talks on getting the rogue regime to give up its nuclear weapons. It wasn’t immediately clear what Trump was referring to. On Thursday, the Treasury Department announced that the administration was taking action to punish two Chinese shipping companies accused of helping Pyongyang evade international trade sanctions on Kim Jong Un’s government. “The United States and our like-minded partners remain committed to achieving the final, fully verified denuclearization of North Korea and believe that the full implementation of North Korea-related U.N. Security Council resolutions crucial to a successful outcome,” Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin said in a Thursday statement. On Friday, North Korea pulled its staff from a joint office shared with South Korean officials in the town of Kaesong, the opening of which was heralded as a thawing of relations between the two nations. Negotiations between North Korea and the U.S. have stalled in the wake of Trump’s failed February summit with Kim in Hanoi. Despite walking away without a deal with Kim, Trump insisted that the two leaders continue to have a “very strong partnership.” Asked to clarify the president’s rationale for overturning his own Treasury secretary and blocking further sanctions on Pyongyang, White House press secretary Sarah Sanders cited the personal bond between the president and the North Korean dictator. “President Trump likes Chairman Kim and he doesn’t think these sanctions will be necessary,” Sanders told reporters.

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Prison authorities say they are investigating 'pharma bro' Shkreli

The U.S. Bureau of Prisons said on Friday it was investigating former drug company executive Martin Shkreli's conduct in prison after the Wall Street Journal reported he was still helping run his old company using a contraband cellphone. "When there are allegations of misconduct, they are thoroughly investigated and appropriate action is taken if such allegations are proven true," the Bureau of Prisons said in a statement. "This allegation is currently under investigation." The investigation was first reported by the Journal. The bureau said that possessing a contraband cellphone was considered a severe offense and could result in discipline, including being separated from the inmate population and having visits restricted. It also said that possessing a contraband phone could lead to criminal charges. Benjamin Brafman, a lawyer for Shkreli, declined to comment. The Journal reported on Thursday that Shkreli, 35, still wields significant influence over the drug company he founded, Phoenixus AG, formerly called Turing Pharmaceuticals. Shkreli is about 17 months into a seven-year prison sentence for defrauding investors in a previous company. The FBI has interviewed Shkreli's associates about his role in the company, the Journal said, citing unnamed people who had been interviewed. The FBI did not immediately respond to a request for comment. Shkreli, born in Brooklyn to Albanian immigrant parents, became known as the "Pharma Bro" in September 2015 after founding Turing Pharmaceuticals, buying the anti-parasitic drug Daraprim and raising its price by 5,000 percent to $750 per pill. In December 2015, he was indicted on unrelated securities fraud charges. Prosecutors said he defrauded investors in two hedge funds he ran, MSMB Capital and MSMB Healthcare, schemed to prop up the stock price of Retrophin, the drug company he founded in 2011. A jury in federal court in Brooklyn found him guilty in August 2017.

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National emergency plan announced via iPhone Notes app

President Donald Trump plans to declare a national emergency to get more funding for a wall at the U.S.-Mexico border while he signs a bill that provides some money for a physical barrier there, the White House said. And when White House press secretary Sarah Sanders announced the decision Thursday via an image of her statement on Twitter, users noticed that it appeared to be written in Apple's Notes app on an iPhone. Notes, known for its textured background and sans serif font, has long been used in celebrity apologies and shopping lists, among its many other everyday applications, and some on social media noted that national emergencies can now be added to that list.

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