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NEWS     SUNDAY,  DECEMBER   16, 2018    NEWS

Republicans wrap up election probes as Dems prepare to take control
Republicans cede control of the House to Democrats on January 3. The end of the 115th Congress marks an end to the GOP’s approach to probing the 2016 presidential campaign, allegations of election interference, potential political bias at the FBI & Justice Department and inquiries into Hillary Clinton’s emails. Come January, one can expect Democrats to take a different approach with their investigations. “There is popular demand for the Congress to request the President’s tax returns,” said House Minority Leader and Speaker-designate Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif. “I’m sure the White House will resist. And so the question is, where do we go from there?” Republicans have paraded a series of witnesses through Congressional hearing rooms for transcribed interviews and depositions. Former FBI agent Peter Strzok and former FBI attorney Lisa Page were among those summoned to Capitol Hill. Fox
VOA VIEW: Dems will make 2019 very interesting madness.

FBI releases document intel officials used to brief Trump on dossier
The FBI on Friday released a redacted version of the memo that top intelligence officials, including former FBI Director James Comey, used to brief President Donald Trump about the compilation of information detailing his possible connections to Russia -- a document which came to be known as the Trump dossier. The two-page document says, "An FBI source ... volunteered highly politically sensitive information ... on Russian influence efforts aimed at the US presidential election." The document was provided to CNN by the public records advocacy group James Madison Project, which, alongside Politico, had sued for it and received it from the FBI on Friday night following a judge's order. CNN
VOA VIEW: The operative word is redacted.

Hatch says he regrets his 'I don't care' comment about Trump allegations
Sen. Orrin Hatch, the outgoing Utah Republican and most senior GOP senator, issued a statement on Friday expressing regret for telling CNN "I don't care" when asked about President Donald Trump being implicated in crimes by Michael Cohen. "Earlier this week in an unplanned hallway interview with CNN, I made comments about allegations against the President that were irresponsible and a poor reflection on my lengthy record of dedication to the rule of law," the senator said in the statement.
In the interview with CNN earlier in the week, Hatch strongly dismissed the federal government's allegations that Trump directed Cohen, his former attorney, to commit two crimes by facilitating hush money payments to silence stories about alleged affairs with Trump. CNN
VOA VIEW: CNN bias rhetoric.


As Trump argues for a wall, a border security measure gets pulled back
U.S. Army soldiers have removed barbed wire along the US-Mexico border in areas where the Trump administration has said more border security measures are needed after local community leaders raised concerns. About 2 miles of military-grade wire was removed from city land in Laredo, Texas, according to Customs and Border Patrol (CBP) officials. The agency ordered the removals after hearing from local elected officials who raised environmental and public safety concerns with the wire running near community parks. Laredo Mayor Pete Saenz, who leads the Texas Border Commission, said the Trump administration has, in part, used his community to fabricate the threat of migrants traveling north. “ABC
VOA VIEW: The libs will regret their stupidity.

Thousands of troops to remain on US-Mexico border as Trump's original military deployment comes to a close
Days before the midterm elections, President Donald Trump announced the deployment of active duty troops to the southern border to stop caravans of migrants making their way through Mexico. On Saturday, that original border mission comes to a close, but thousands of U.S. troops will remain for an extended and reduced mission in support of Customs and Border Protection (CBP) slated to last through January 31. At the height of the deployment, there were 5,900 active duty troops stationed in California, Arizona and Texas. On Thursday, U.S. Northern Command (NORTHCOM) said that figure had dropped to 4,200, but a U.S. official told ABC News that eventually only about 2,500 to 3,000 troops will remain.  ABC

Critics say Elizabeth Warren is too divisive to run for president
What's the biggest beef against Sen. Elizabeth Warren, who is considering a run for president against Donald Trump? It's that she's "too divisive," an argument put forward by her hometown newspaper, the Boston Globe, in a widely discussed editorial last week urging her not to run for president. It sparked both public rebukes of the paper and some private nods of agreement from Democrats as they begin to consider in earnest what kind of person their party should put up against Trump in 2020:
A fighter, a friendly face or some combination of both?  NBC


Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke to depart Trump administration by end of the year
Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke will leave his job in the administration at the end of the year, President Donald Trump announced in a tweet on Saturday morning.
The president said in a followup tweet that the White House would announce a replacement next week. Trump chose Zinke in December 2016 to serve in the cabinet-level position. "[Zinke] has accomplished much during his tenure and I want to thank him for his service to our Nation," the president tweeted. Zinke, a former Navy SEAL and Montana's lone congressman, will leave a legacy as a secretary who rolled back federal lands protections in pursuit of the Trump agenda to increase energy production. NBC

Politics cloud felon voting rights restoration in Florida
Elections officials across Florida say they expect former felons to flock to their offices to register to vote next month when a newly passed ballot initiative launches one of the largest enfranchisement efforts in modern U.S. history. But partisan politics and logistical questions are clouding the Jan. 8 rollout of a state constitutional amendment that could restore voting rights to more than 1 million ex-felons in Florida. Democrats and voting rights advocates cried foul this week when Governor-elect Ron DeSantis, a Republican and critic of the measure known as Amendment 4, said the Republican-controlled state legislature must first pass a law to implement its changes. Reuters

'Beware the affluence of gold': on reading Diderot in the age of Trump
On a typical day, Denis Diderot might write about ancient Chinese music in the morning, study the mechanics of a cotton mill in the afternoon, then work on a play after dinner.  The man was both workhorse and Enlightenment polymath: a genius who wrote 7,000 articles for his celebrated Encyclopédie while producing revolutionary novels, groundbreaking art criticism and proto-Darwinian science fiction. To round this out, he also authored some of the century’s most influential political writing – much of it now eerily prescient in the Trump era. As a young man, Diderot did not concern himself with politics per se. His target was the Catholic church and organized religion. Reuters

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Jennifer Lawrence denies she ever slept with 'predator' Harvey Weinstein
Jennifer Lawrence has been forced to deny having a sexual relationship with disgraced film mogul Harvey Weinstein after the claims emerged in court documents.
The Hollywood star, who first came to prominence in The Hunger Games film series, is referred to in a sexual assault lawsuit filed by an anonymous actress in Los Angeles. The claim, which was filed on Friday, alleges that Weinstein pushed the woman to the ground and forcibly performed oral sex on her after she rejected his advances during a meeting at his office in 2013. According to the legal documents, Weinstein, 66, asked the claimant, referred to as “Jane Doe”, “Do you even want to be an actress?” before adding “I slept with Jennifer Lawrence and look where she is, she has just won an Oscar.” Telegraph

$1 Billion a Month: The Cost of Trump's Tariffs on Technology
U.S. companies paid $1 billion more in tariffs on technology products imported from China in October than a year earlier, as new duties imposed by the Trump administration took effect. The tariff costs rose more than seven-fold to $1.3 billion, as the world’s two biggest economies became embroiled in a trade war, according to data provided by the Consumer Technology Association and analyzed by consulting firm The Trade Partnership. President Donald Trump has imposed tariffs on $250 billion in Chinese imports since early July. The duties have been implemented in three tranches, the latest of which applied to $200 billion in goods and took effect Sept. 24. A new round of talks between the two governments has raised hopes of a lasting truce.  Bloomberg

'InfoWars-style garbage dump': Critically acclaimed 'Vice' doesn't align with history
It’s snagging accolades from some of Hollywood’s most prestigious groups, but “Vice” — the cinematic rendering of former Vice President Dick Cheney, starring Christian Bale in the title role — is getting far less love from those who actually know the man. That proves true even for some in the George W. Bush administration who didn’t always agree with the vice president. “Vice” — a comedic broadside from progressive filmmaker Adam McKay (“The Big Short”) — has racked up nine Critics’ Choice Award nominations, six Golden Globe nominations and two Screen Actors Guild Award nods. It is receiving significant Oscar buzz for a film that hasn’t even opened: It debuts Dec. 23.  Washington Times


Climate talks extended as island nations demand action
Weary officials from almost 200 countries faced another day of negotiations at the U.N. climate talks to bridge their last remaining differences as small island nations on Friday demanded an ambitious stance against global warming. The talks in Poland were supposed to end Friday, but Michal Kurtyka, a senior Polish official chairing the negotiations, told delegates to resume talks on a revised draft text at 4 a.m. Saturday (0300 GMT). The effort was bringing results in the form of preliminary texts for fine tuning, according to Kurtyka's statement late Friday. Kansas City Star

Trump claims he's in 'no hurry' to reach North Korea nukes deal
President Donald Trump on Friday claimed he's in "no hurry" to reach a denuclearization pact with North Korea, while also expressing faith in leader Kim Jong Un as a negotiating partner. Many people have asked how we are doing in our negotiations with North Korea - I always reply by saying we are in no hurry, there is wonderful potential for great economic success for that country....Kim Jong Un sees it better than anyone and will fully take advantage of it for his people. We are doing just fine!" the president wrote in a series of tweets. Politico

White House prepares for shutdown as GOP lawmakers struggle for an alternative
The White House and a number of federal agencies have started advanced preparations for a partial government shutdown, as President Trump and congressional Democrats appear unlikely to resolve their fight over a border wall before some government funding lapses at week’s end. GOP leaders are scrambling to find a short-term alternative that could stave off a shutdown, which would start on Dec. 22 absent a deal. But White House officials signaled to lawmakers Friday that they would probably not support a one- or two-week stopgap measure. Some congressional Republicans support such a “continuing resolution,” but the White House rejection has dramatically increased the odds of a spending lapse.  Washington Post
VOA VIEW: The shut down over illegals will be on Dems.

Stock market swings in Dow are less dramatic than they used to be
The four biggest declines in the history of the Dow Jones Industrial Average, by points, have taken place this year. Despite the supersized numbers, analysts and brokers said that, measured on a percentage basis, the Dow has seen far worse. The 799-point fall on Dec. 4 was the index's fourth-worst drop ever in terms of points. But it was only a 3 percent decline — the 329th worst day the stock market has seen, according to statistics compiled by Barron’s. In comparison, the 733-point decline in the Dow on October 15, 2008, triggered by bad retail sales data, discouraging comments from Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke and a sense of impending financial crisis, represented a much steeper 7.9 percent tumble. Newsday

Nassau adjusting more than 40,000 property values after homeowners weigh in
Nassau County Assessor David Moog said Friday  that he was adjusting the values on more than 40,000 of the county’s 386,000 residential properties after hearing from thousands of homeowners about errors in their new property tax assessments. Moog called it normal to make corrections after homeowners are notified about their new values following a full reassessment, which was authorized earlier this year by Democratic County Executive Laura Curran. As required by state law, Nassau mailed assessment disclosure notices to more than 400,000 residential and commercial property owners 60 days before the new values are included in the tentative assessment roll issued Jan. 2. The new values first will be used in the October 2020 school tax bills. Newsday

Russia-Ukraine sea clash leaves Mariupol port deserted
Times are hard at Ukraine's major trading port at Mariupol. In fact, it's almost dead - and workers say things have not been this bad for decades. "If it carries on like this, the number of shipping companies working with us will plummet next year," says engineer Maryna Pereshyvatlova, who has worked here for 32 years. Ever since conflict broke out in the east when pro-Russian separatists seized parts of the Donbas region, the port has been starved of coal shipments. Then the Russians built a bridge over the Kerch Strait to Crimea, limiting the types of merchant ships that could enter the Sea of Azov. BBC

Biden, Sanders viewed as top 2020 contenders among Iowa's Democratic voters: poll
Former Vice President Joe Biden and 2016 presidential candidate Sen. Bernie Sanders are the preferred choices of Iowa's Democratic voters going into the 2020 election, a recent poll revealed. The poll, conducted by the Des Moines Register, Mediacom and CNN, revealed that 49 percent of Iowa’s likely Democratic caucusgoers believe a “seasoned political hand” would stand the best chance of defeating President Trump in the 2020 presidential election. Biden, who has floated the idea of running his own campaign, came in as the front-runner with 32 percent of respondents picking him for their first choice.Fox

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How Schumer united Dems against Trump’s wall
The midterm election results had barely finished trickling in when Chuck Schumer began preparing for a head-on collision with President Donald Trump over the border wall. The Senate minority leader called his members on the phone and buttonholed them in his office — eager to see where they stood on the president’s $5 billion border wall request, according to a person familiar with his interactions. Several moderate Democrats had previously endorsed or considered supporting the funding, but after the midterms, the whip count was clear. There aren’t even close to nine Democrats who would join Republicans to break a filibuster. Politico

Yemen ceasefire deal: ‘Potential’ now to restore humanitarian lifeline to millions
“This agreement has the potential to allow the ports of Hudaydah and Saleef to operate at near-normal capacity,” WFP spokesperson Hervé Verhoosel told journalists in Geneva. “The free flow of commercial food supplies into Yemen should prevent further increases in food prices, which have sky-rocketed in the last few months.”
WFP and other UN agencies have described Hudaydah as the principal lifeline for two-thirds of the population, who have endured suffering on a huge scale since fighting escalated between Government forces and Houthi opposition militia, in March 2015. Before the warring sides agreed a deal at UN-led talks in Sweden this week, clashes had prevented the sustained supply of commercially shipped food and fuel through Hudaydah.  UN

Mounting legal threats surround Trump as nearly every organization he has led is under investigation
Two years after Donald Trump won the presidency, nearly every organization he has led in the past decade is under investigation. Trump’s private company is contending with civil suits digging into its business with foreign governments and with looming state inquiries into its tax practices. Trump’s 2016 campaign is under scrutiny by special counsel Robert S. Mueller III, whose investigation into Russian interference has already led to guilty pleas by his campaign chairman and four advisers. Trump’s inaugural committee has been probed by Mueller for illegal foreign donations, a topic that the incoming House Intelligence Committee chairman plans to further investigate next year. Washington Post
VOA VIEW: Liberal bias propaganda.

Some Americans are being denied 'life-saving' health care. It's because they are transgender
Grayson Russo desperately needs a surgery similar to a double mastectomy. Although someone with a breast tumor is able to promptly schedule such a surgery, Russo fought more than three years simply for approval. That's because Russo experiences gender dysphoria, a discomfort or distress caused by a discrepancy between a person’s gender identity and sex assigned at birth. Their exhausting battle is not atypical for transgender people, who account for about 1.4 million American adults, according to a 2016 report by a UCLA think tank, and that's despite organizations such as the American Medical Association recognizing treatment for gender dysphoria as medically necessary. USA Today

The Latest: UN climate talks agree on reporting emissions
Officials from around the world have agreed upon a set of rules to govern the 2015 Paris climate accord after two weeks of U.N. climate talks in Poland. Michal Kurtyka, a Polish official chairing the talks in Katowice, gaveled the deal Saturday after diplomats and ministers from almost 200 countries approved. The U.N. talks were meant to provide firm guidelines for countries on how to transparently report their greenhouse gas emissions and their efforts to reduce them. Scientists say emissions of gases such as carbon dioxide need to drop sharply by 2030 to prevent potentially catastrophic global warming. The meeting postponed decisions on pledging more ambitious action to fight global warming and on regulating the market for international carbon emissions trading. ABC

O'Rourke, other Dems don't want tent city's contract renewed
Rep. Beto O'Rourke and four other Democratic members of Congress toured a remote tent city in West Texas on Saturday where they said that 2,700 immigrant teens are being held at a cost of roughly $1 million per day. The lawmakers urged the nonprofit running the facility not to renew a federal contract that expires Dec. 31, a longshot request that could effectively shutter the camp. ABC

Virtual reality to help detect early risk of Alzheimer’s
Scientists have found an unexpected use for virtual reality headsets: to help pinpoint people who may later develop Alzheimer’s disease. The devices, widely used by computer gamers, display images that can be used to test the navigational skills of people thought to be at risk of dementia. Those who do worse in the tests will be the ones most likely to succumb to Alzheimer’s later in life, scientists now believe. By identifying potential patients far earlier than is possible at present, researchers hope it should then become easier in the long term to develop treatments aimed at halting or slowing their condition. Guardian

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Family of migrant girl who died in Border Patrol custody disputes agency’s account of death
The family of a 7-year-old Guatemalan girl who died in U.S. Border Patrol custody is disputing the federal government’s account of the events leading to her death, saying her father had provided her with water and food during their journey through Mexico en route to the U.S. border. The statement from the girl’s family and their El Paso, Texas, lawyers was issued Saturday at a news conference in El Paso organized by Ruben Garcia, director of Annunciation House, a local nonprofit organization that aids and houses immigrants. USA Today
VOA VIEW: The father should be prosecuted.

Deportations up, but backlog of ICE fugitives also grows
The U.S. deported more than 256,000 people in fiscal year 2018, Homeland Security announced Friday, as the Trump administration’s tougher policies took full effect.
But more than 560,000 other illegal immigrants are fugitives, at large in communities though they’ve been ordered deported, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement said in a report detailing its enforcement for the last fiscal year, which ended Sept. 30. And acting ICE Chief Ronald D. Vitiello warned they might have to release more people from detention because the agency’s finances are being stretched so far, facing both interior challenges and the new surge at the border.  Washington Times

Stark political divides second only to health care on America's list of national worries
It is rare that Republicans and Democrats agree on something. But the two battling factions do see eye to eye on one thing: They are troubled by stark political divides among Americans. A Fox News poll finds that 78 percent of all U.S. voters are now either “extremely or very concerned” about the polarized nation; that includes 75 percent of Republicans, 72 percent of independents and 82 percent of Democrats. According to the poll data, only health care — which concerns 83 percent of the public — outranks political division on the national roster of worries. Washington Times

The iconic U.S. company raising the stature of corrupt governments around the world
Tatiana Mirutenko emerged happy from a bar in an upscale part of Mexico City after a night of dancing. Seconds later, the 27-year-old Chicago native was dead — hit by a stray bullet from two men on a speeding motorcycle. Mirutenko, her husband and a group of friends had traveled to the sprawling metropolis of 21 million people to celebrate a delayed honeymoon and a first wedding anniversary in July. They ate at Pujol and Quintonil, among the top-rated restaurants in the world, and Mirutenko texted her parents photos of the food, the ornate churches and even dogs at a local park in Lomas de Chapultepec, a privileged part of the city where billionaire Carlos Slim owns a mansion. New York Post

Johnson & Johnson stock tanks on baby powder asbestos report
Johnson & Johnson’s stock had its worst day in 16 years after an explosive report accused the consumer-products giant of lying for decades about trace amounts of cancer-causing asbestos in its namesake baby powder. J&J had evidence from lab tests dating as early as 1971 that its talcum powder contained asbestos — and lied about the fact for years as it faced lawsuit after lawsuit from sick plaintiffs, according to a report by Reuters published on Friday. The report, which cited internal and confidential corporate documents, also claimed New Brunswick, NJ-based J&J had commissioned and paid for studies conducted on its Baby Powder franchise and hired a ghostwriter to redraft the article that presented the findings in a journal. New York Post

Trump visits Arlington cemetery for holiday commemoration
President Donald Trump made an unannounced visit to Arlington National Cemetery on Saturday for a holiday commemoration. In a steady rain, Trump visited the cemetery during an annual event in which holiday wreaths are laid to honor the sacrifices made by veterans and their families. The president's trip to Arlington came about a month after he received criticism for not visiting the national cemetery on Veterans Day. And that, in turn, came after a visit to a World War I cemetery in France was scuttled due to poor weather.  Houston Chronicle

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