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NEWS     TUESDAY,  DECEMBER   18, 2018    NEWS

Judge Nap on Flynn Sentencing: No Entrapment, No Basis to Overturn Conviction
Fox News senior judicial analyst Judge Andrew Napolitano disagrees with Rep. Darrell Issa and others who have argued that Michael Flynn was the victim of entrapment. On "Sunday Morning Futures," Issa (R-Calif.) predicted that Flynn's guilty plea for lying to federal investigators will be overturned. Flynn in December 2017 pleaded guilty to lying about his conversations with the Russian ambassador during the presidential transition.  Fox
VOA VIEW: Time will tell the final truth.

US unable to defend against Russian and Chinese hypersonic weapons, report warns
The U.S. lacks the defenses needed to protect against a new breed of highly sophisticated hypersonic weapons from China and Russia, according to a Government Accountability Office (GAO) report. “China and Russia are pursuing hypersonic weapons because their speed, altitude and maneuverability may defeat most missile defense systems, and they may be used to improve long-range conventional and nuclear strike capabilities,” the report said. “There are no existing countermeasures.”
Earlier this year, the Russian military said it ran a successful test of a nuclear-capable hypersonic missile capable of sneaking through enemy defenses. Fox

Rudy Giuliani's truly remarkable answer on Donald Trump's lying
Former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani spent his Sunday "defending" Donald Trump and "advocating" for the President's innocence as it relates to the ongoing investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election. He did an extremely poor job of it -- creating any number of problematic storylines for the President, including an acknowledgment that Trump's team had conversations with Russians about a business venture in Moscow far longer into the 2016 election than had been previously known. CNN
VOA VIEW: CNN's bias is clear.

Trump's latest big immigration bet is looking like a loser
President Donald Trump is losing badly on immigration. Neither Mexico nor Congress is willing to pay for his promised border wall. His proposal to rewrite laws to limit illegal and legal immigration has so far failed to gain traction on Capitol Hill. And after a drop in apprehensions at the southern border in fiscal 2017, there was an increase of 25 percent in fiscal 2018. On the political front, Trump made immigration the centerpiece of his case to voters in the November midterms — and watched Democrats win their biggest House victory since the post-Watergate class of 1974. Of the Republicans who held onto their seats, Rep. Will Hurd is the only one who represents a district along the southern U.S. border, and he opposes the wall. NBC
VOA VIEW: Most Americans want the wall.

Cybersecurity failures raise threat of 'deadly missile attacks'
Cybersecurity lapses as basic as neglecting to encrypt classified flash drives and failing to put physical locks on critical computer servers leave the United States vulnerable to deadly missile attacks, the Defense Department's internal watchdog says in a new report. The report, dated Dec. 10 but not made public until Friday, sums up eight months of investigation of the nation's ballistic missile defense system by the Pentagon's Office of Inspector General, or IG. The audit examined five of the 104 Defense Department facilities that manage ballistic missile defense systems and technical information. The facilities aren't identified in the heavily redacted 44-page report. But the report makes numerous specific references to programs involving the Army, the Navy and the Missile Defense Agency. NBC

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Sen. Barrasso: Address Pre-Existing Conditions First
 "I think government never does big things really well," Sen. John Barrasso (R-Wyo.) told CBS's "Face the Nation" on Sunday. He said he favors a "step-by-step" approach to replacing Obamacare. "And I want to start with the first step of people with preexisting conditions." Barrasso spoke two days after a federal judge in Texas ruled that the Affordable Care Act is unconstitutional, a decision that will be appealed and could go all the way to the Supreme Court. There is no immediate effect on Obamacare enrollees. "As a doctor, I will tell you I focus on people with preexisting conditions," Barrasso said. CNS

Prosecutors charge 2 involved in Flynn's Turkish lobbying
Two men involved in a Turkish lobbying campaign led by former National Security adviser Michael Flynn have been charged with illegally lobbying in a case related to special counsel Robert Mueller's investigation. An indictment unsealed Monday against Flynn's former business partner, Bijan Kian, and Turkish businessman, Ekim Alptekin, accuses the two men of conspiring to "covertly and unlawfully" influence U.S. politicians on behalf of Turkey. The new charges appear to shed light on the cooperation of Flynn, who last year admitted to lying about several aspects of the lobbying work. In recommending he serve no prison time, prosecutors said Flynn not only helped with the Russia probe but also an undisclosed — and separate — criminal investigation.  ABC
VOA VIEW: Mueller is making a legal threat.

North Korea warns US over stalled nuclear negotiations
As tens of thousands of North Koreans, including current leader Kim Jong Un, paid a visit on Sunday to Kim Jong Il's mausoleum in Pyongyang to commemorate the seventh anniversary of his death, North Korean state media also used the opportunity to take a jab at U.S. foreign policy. The criticism, published by Korean Central News Agency, Pyongyang's state-run media arm, did not call out President Donald Trump by name. Korean Central News Agency mostly took issue with the stalled nuclear negotiations.  ABC
VOA VIEW: NK needs to focus on what they can lose if they push too much.

Judge's ruling could make government shutdown even more costly
More than 400,000 essential government employees could be forced to stay on the job throughout a government shutdown — even if they’d already planned to take holiday vacatio ns. A quirk of federal law says paid leave is considered government spending, and since no unauthorized spending can happen during a funding lapse, no one can take vacation. The silver lining, though, is that government workers could be eligible for double pay should the shutdown last long enough to make them miss a paycheck, thanks to a federal judge’s ruling earlier this decade. Those are just some of the factors in what could be one of the weirder government shutdowns in memory. Washington Times

Robert Mueller releases 2017 FBI interview memo detailing Michael Flynn's lies
Special counsel Robert Mueller on Monday released a heavily redacted memo detailing former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn’s interview with FBI agents in which Flynn repeatedly lied about his contacts with then-Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak. The January 2017 memo describes FBI agents’ conversation with Flynn about his contacts with Mr. Kislyak. Flynn pleaded guilty last year to lying to FBI agents about his contacts with Mr. Kislyak. He will be sentenced Tuesday.
Flynn repeatedly told the FBI agents, including former agent Peter Strzok, that he did not speak to Mr. Kislyak about U.S. sanctions imposed on Russia. Washington Times

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New White House legal team gears up for House investigations
A White House already sidetracked by special counsel Robert Mueller's probe is now racing to prepare for a new Congress that is vowing more aggressive oversight of the administration. Belatedly, the White House has begun to fill key positions to face off with Democrats in a second front of legal sparring. Democrats take control of the House of Representatives in just 17 days and are already preparing a multi-pronged oversight strategy. NBC
VOA VIEW: The Dems have nothing better to contribute.

Merriam-Webster's 2018 word of the year is 'justice'
Merriam-Webster's word of the year for 2018 is "justice," the dictionary publisher announced on Monday. The publisher said in a news release that searches for the word spiked at different points throughout the year for multiple reasons. Merriam-Webster cited news stories about the Department of Justice, conversations about the concept of justice, and the ongoing debate over whether President Donald Trump may have obstructed justice in the federal investigation into Russian election interference as reasons why interest in the word was high in 2018. NBC

Iraq begins rebuilding of Mosul landmark Great Mosque of al-Nuri
An Iraqi religious leader has laid a foundation stone for the rebuilding of Mosul's Great Mosque of al-Nuri, which was damaged by Islamic State militants. The head of the Sunni Muslim Endowment, Abdul Latif al-Humayim, was joined by UN and EU dignitaries for the ceremony. The mosque, whose leaning minaret was one of Mosul's most famous landmarks, is where IS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi proclaimed a "caliphate" in 2014. The jihadist group blew it up last year as government forces retook the city.  BBC

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US government shutdown looms as standoff over border wall deepens
The standoff over Donald Trump’s $5bn wall funds deepened Monday, threatening a partial government shutdown. Monday brought few signs of progress in solving a dispute between Republicans and Democrats over keeping the government open. A partial shutdown that could occur at midnight Friday risks disrupting government operations and leaving hundreds of thousands of federal employees furloughed or working without pay over the holiday season. Costs would probably be in the billions of dollars. The president was meeting with his team and getting regular updates, said White House spokeswoman Sarah Sanders. Guardian
VOA VIEW: Trump should hold the line.

Saturn's rings disappearing at 'worst-case-scenario' rate
"If rings are temporary, perhaps we just missed out on seeing giant ring systems of Jupiter, Uranus and Neptune, which have only thin ringlets today," researcher James O'Donoghue said. Scientists knew Saturn was losing its rings, but they weren't sure how fast. New research suggests the rings are disappearing at the fastest rate estimated by the Voyager 1 and 2 missions -- the "worst-case-scenario" rate. The grains of ice and dust that form Saturn's rings are constantly pulled into the gas giant's body by gravity. The paths of falling "ring rains" are influenced by Saturn's magnetic field. Cassini's final flybys observed additional ring loss mechanisms. UPI

Palestinians seek $350M after U.S. funding cuts
The United Nations and Palestinian Authority on Monday said they need at least $350 million in 2019 to offset hundreds of millions of dollars in funding slashed by the United States. Officials said humanitarian programs for Palestinians are seeking more money than requested -- last year they sought $539 million -- but they needed to be "realistic" about what can be expected. "Humanitarian actors are faced with record-low funding levels of this year, at the same time we face massive and increasing needs," said Jamie McGoldrick, U.N. humanitarian coordinator for the Gaza Strip, West Bank and East Jerusalem.. UPI

US homeless count up slightly, but declines in key cities
A federal report released Monday provides a possible glimmer of hope for the homeless crisis that has gripped many cities up and down the West Coast. The number of people living on the streets in Los Angeles and San Diego, two epicenters of the homelessness crisis, fell this year, suggesting those cities' efforts to combat the problem could be starting to pay off. In Los Angeles, the count fell by 3 percent after a sharp increase the year before. Peter Lynn, executive director of the Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority, said that can be credited to results of six months of stepped-up homeless services after Los Angeles County voters raised taxes to help in 2017. Later that year, Los Angeles city voters approved a bond issue to provide more affordable housing — a factor Lynn said will start showing up in future counts.
Kansas City Star

Trump plans to create US Space Command
 President Donald Trump is expected to sign an executive order soon, possibly as early as Tuesday, creating a U.S. Space Command that will better organize and advance the military's vast operations in space, U.S. officials say. Vice President Mike Pence will make the announcement Tuesday at the Kennedy Space Center, in Cape Canaveral, Florida, two U.S. officials said. Trump's order is separate from his oft-stated goal of creating a "Space Force" as an independent armed service branch, but it's considered a step in that direction. The move will launch a long and complicated process, requiring the Defense Department to pull together various space units and agencies from across the military services into a more coordinated, independent organization. Houston Chronicle
VOA VIEW: Liberals hate progress.

Trump Organization plots return to Dominican Republic
When the Trump Organization left the Dominican Republic after the economy crashed ten years ago, their plans for dozens of luxury estates in a Trump-branded development appeared to leave with them. Buyers who staked millions on lots for their dream homes were left empty handed. The Trump team sued the developers, alleging fraud. And the billboards bearing the Trump name came down.  Now, there are signs the Trump brand may be returning to the Dominican Republic, and that has critics sounding alarms about the potential conflicts of interest for the sitting president of the United States. “The constitution is very clear,” Sen. Ben Cardin, a Democrat from Maryland on the foreign relations committee, told ABC News. “We expect the President to avoid these types of conflicts.” The first sign the Trumps might try again came 16 days after Donald Trump took the oath of office. His son Eric made a visit to the island on Feb. 5. 2017 to meet with the same developers he had once accused of “textbook fraud.” With the legal case settled, they had appeared to make peace. ABC

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Trump says he would work with Democrats on 'great' replacement if Obamacare is scrapped
President Donald Trump on Monday predicted that Democrats would work with him in the event that the Affordable Care Act is struck down, echoing promises he’s made in the past that have not come to fruition. A federal judge in Texas on Friday ruled that without the individual mandate, which Republicans stripped from the law in its tax overhaul last year, former President Barack Obama’s signature legislative achievement violates the Constitution. The controversial ruling, which fell right before the final day for open enrollment for coverage under the law, is expected to swiftly draw appeals that could send the case to the Supreme Court, where some legal experts say it could be overturned. Politico
VOA VIEW: Dems don't want peace.

House Dems eye quick action on guns in new Congress
House Democrats are planning to move several high-profile bills to combat gun violence soon after they take power in January, underscoring their belief that the political landscape has shifted dramatically on an issue that's plagued American society for decades. With backing from House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and key chairmen, Democrats will move to require federal background checks on all gun sales, part of a broader effort by the party to advance long-stalled gun control measures. While the proposal won't get through the Republican-run Senate, much less become law, getting it through the House would be a win for the gun-control movement, which has had little to cheer about since President Donald Trump was sworn into office. Politico

Comey slams Republicans
Former FBI director James Comey came out swinging after another closed-door session with GOP lawmakers, calling President Trump a liar and slamming Republicans for being too afraid to stand up to him. “So another day of [questions about] Hillary Clinton’s emails and the Steele dossier. This while the president of the United States is lying about the FBI, attacking the FBI, and attacking the rule of law in this country. How does that make any sense at all?” a visibly angry Comey told reporters. GOP lawmakers, he charged in a blistering series of comments after the questioning by a pair of House committees, were too cowardly to stand up to the president. “Republicans used to understand that the actions of a president matter, that words of a president matter, the rule of law matters. New York Post
VOA VIEW: Comey is a lying fool.

Feds ask court to stop anti-corruption lawsuit against Trump
The Justice Department on Monday asked a federal appeals court to step in and stop a lawsuit accusing President Trump of violating anti-corruption provisions in the Constitution by raking in foreign cash at his DC hotel. The department asked the Richmond, Virginia-based 4th Circuit federal appeals court to reverse federal Judge Peter Messitte’s rulings that let the Democratic attorneys general of Maryland and the District of Columbia move ahead with the lawsuit against Trump, including requests for tax returns and revenue statements the president wants kept hidden.  New York Post

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Chronic fatigue syndrome may be due to an overactive immune system
Chronic fatigue syndrome, a condition that causes extreme tiredness, could be triggered by an overactive immune system, a study has found. UK researchers found that an exaggerated immune response can trigger long-lasting fatigue, suggesting this is how the condition -- also known as myalgic encephalomyelitis or ME -- begins. The study, published Monday, is the first to shed some light into the immune system's role in the development of the condition, a multisystem disorder about which very little is known, according to lead researcher Carmine Pariante, professor of biological psychiatry at King's College London. CNN

S&P 500 falls to lowest level in more than a year
Stocks sank sharply Monday, with the S&P 500 falling to its lowest level in more than a year and the Dow shedding 508 points amid ongoing concerns about U.S. economic growth. The S&P 500 index is down more than 2 percent in 2018 and has fallen nearly 13 percent since setting a record high in late September. The Dow and Nasdaq each fell more than 2 percent on the day and are both in the red in 2018. The Russell 2000 index of small-cap stocks is down 20 percent since it finished at its last record high at the end of August. Wall Street calls a 20 percent decline a "bear market," and it's considered a major downturn. CBS

GOP waits on Trump as clock ticks toward partial shutdown
The fight over President Donald Trump's $5 billion wall funds deepened Monday, threatening a partial government shutdown in a standoff that has become increasingly common in Washington. It wasn't always like this, with Congress and the White House at a crisis over government funding. The House and Senate used to pass annual appropriation bills, and the president signed them into law. But in recent years the shutdown scenario has become so routine that it raises the question: Have shutdowns as a negotiating tool lost their punch? Monday brought few signs of progress. A partial shutdown that could occur at midnight Friday risks disrupting government operations and leaving hundreds of thousands of federal employees furloughed or working without pay over the holiday season. Houston Chronicle
VOA VIEW: Disruption of the Government will be good.

Kremlin denies roiling US politics through social media
The Kremlin has rejected as baseless reports about a Russian political disinformation campaign on U.S. social media. Reports released by the Senate intelligence committee Monday suggested that Moscow's efforts to help Donald Trump in his 2016 presidential campaign through social media were more far-reaching than originally thought, with troll farms working to discourage black voters and "blur the lines between reality and fiction." Dmitry Peskov, spokesman for Russian President Vladimir Putin, rejected the claims, saying the reports sought to shift blame for social tensions in the U.S. to Russia without offering proof. Peskov reaffirmed a strong denial of any meddling in the U.S. politics. ABC

Yemen's Houthi rebels pin hopes for peace on the U.S. government
The foreign minister of the Houthi rebel government in northern Yemen tells CBS News he's confident the ceasefire meant to take effect on Tuesday will hold, because the alternative, a merciless continuation of the country's civil war, is too awful to bear. "We have come to the last chapter of this war, and the people are fed up. That's it. We have to come to peace, by hook or crook," he told CBS News senior foreign correspondent Elizabeth Palmer at his office in Sanaa, the country's longtime capital which the Houthi rebels have held for years amid the war with Saudi-backed, officially recognized government.  CBS

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Former CBS chairman Les Moonves fired for cause
Les Moonves, the once-powerful head of CBS, will not receive any severance payment in the wake of sexual misconduct allegations, CBS’s board of directors announced Monday. The network made the announcement after the completion of a company investigation that found Moonves guilty of “willful and material malfeasance” and a failure to comply with the investigation. He was set to receive as much as $120 million as part of his severance package, depending on the results of the inquiry. Moonves resigned in September after several women accused him of sexual misconduct in a pair of scathing exposes in the New Yorker. A lawyer for Moonves called the CBS board’s conclusions “without merit.” Washington Post
VOA VIEW: Moonves soiled the integrity of CBS.

Roger Stone admits he pushed false statements on Infowars
Is Roger Stone telling the truth? That’s among the biggest questions at the heart of special counsel Robert S. Mueller III’s probe into Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election. Despite bragging at the time about being in contact with Julian Assange, Stone has insisted he had no warning that WikiLeaks would be releasing hacked Democratic National Committee emails and said he didn’t relay that information to his longtime confidante, Donald Trump. Mueller has yet to tip his hand on whether he believes Stone, though he’s devoted significant resources to the question.  Washington Post

'Unscrupulous politicians' help drive worst year on record for journalist killings
Rubén Pat was gunned down execution-style outside a Mexican beach bar. Yaser Murtaja was fatally shot by an Israeli army sniper. Bulgarian Viktoria Marinova was beaten, raped and strangled. A car bomb killed Malta's Daphne Caruana Galizia. The murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi’s inside Saudi Arabia's consulate in
 Istanbul on Oct. 2 sparked an international outcry. Here's what should also stir public disquiet: 2018 was the worst year on record for deadly violence and abuse toward journalists, according to a report published Tuesday by Reporters Without Borders.  USA Today

A million pension checks risk huge cuts without this fix
A multibillion dollar pension shortfall is ready to shake up enough lives to pack a string of stadiums hosting the Super Bowl. But most people on the street aren't talking about the looming crisis, unless they're worried about seeing their own pension check slashed. Those living in fear include workers and retirees connected to the Central States Pension Plan. The word pension used to connote a sense of security. In the wake of the Great Recession and major shifts in many industries, though, many pensions are in jeopardy. What's worse: The crisis is so far-reaching that it could bring down one of the very safety nets put in place to protect unionized workers covered by troubled multiemployer pension plans.  USA Today

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