NEWS   FRIDAY, FEBRUARY 3, 2017   NEWS

Sarah Silverman Calls For Military Overthrow Of ‘Fascist’ Donald Trump
Actress Sarah Silverman called for a military coup against President Trump on Wednesday night in the midst of violent riots in Berkeley, California. In a screaming all-capital-letters tweet exhorted her almost 10 million followers to “wake up & join the resistance,” a term from World War II that anti-Trump rioters have used to define themselves. She then outlined her preferred scenario for the violent overthrow of the legitimately elected government, still in all capital letters. “Once the military is w us fascists get overthrown. Mad king & his handlers go bye bye,” Ms. Silverman posted. Washington Times
VOA VIEW: These are very scary times - there are many with her thought.
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Trump's Longtime Doctor Says Trump Takes Medication To Promote Hair Growth
President Trump’s longtime physician says one of the medications the commander-in-chief takes is intended to promote hair growth, according a report by The New York Times. Dr. Harold N. Bornstein, who produced Mr. Trump’s health letters during the presidential campaign, spoke to the Times in a series of interviews over the last month. He said that Mr. Trump takes a prostate-related drug called finasteride to maintain the growth of his scalp hair, which Bornstein said he takes, too. “He has all his hair,” Dr. Bornstein told the Times. “I have all my hair.” CBS

Megyn Kelly Expected To Take Top ‘Today’ Spot Alongside Lauer
After the dramatic departure of Tamron Hall from “Today,” TV insiders are buzzing that Megyn Kelly could next unseat Savannah Guthrie as the star co-anchor with Matt Lauer. Multiple sources tell Page Six that Kelly is likely to take the lead role on the NBC morning show with Lauer when she starts in September. Guthrie, who recently signed a new long-term deal with “Today,” could be bumped to another role or even take over Hall’s 9 a.m. slot, we’re told. “NBC is not paying Megyn $12 to $15 million a year to be on at 9 a.m. The word is that Savannah could take the 9 a.m. slot and Megyn will go right in at 7 a.m. Andy Lack is completely behind all of this,” a source told us, adding, “There’s no way Megyn would have signed with NBC unless she was promised a big role down the line.” Guthrie is currently out on maternity leave and sources told Page Six she has been kept in the dark about what Kelly’s role will be. NY Post
VOA VIEW: Megyn is not that good.

Groundhog Day: Punxsutawney Phil Predicts More Winter
The handlers of Pennsylvania’s most famous groundhog, Punxsutawney Phil, said the furry rodent has “predicted” six more weeks of winter after seeing his shadow at dawn Thursday. The top hat-wearing members of the Punxsutawney Groundhog Club’s Inner Circle reveal Phil’s forecast every Feb. 2, based on a German legend surrounding Candlemas. The legend says if a furry rodent casts a shadow that day, winter continues. If not, spring comes early. In reality, Phil’s prediction is decided ahead of time by the group on Gobbler’s Knob, a tiny hill just outside Punxsutawney about 65 miles northeast of Pittsburgh. CBS

Israeli Settler Group Brushes Off Trump Settlement Warning
The group representing Israeli settlers on Friday brushed off a White House statement warning Israel about constructing new settlements in West Bank territory that Palestinians claim for their future state, saying instead that it looks forward to "working closely with our friends" in the Trump administration. President Donald Trump has been perceived as sympathetic to the settlements, an issue at the heart of the Israel-Palestinian conflict that was a frequent source of friction between his predecessor, Barack Obama, and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Israeli nationalists now believe they have an ally in the White House, and have made no secret they will push for more settlements in the West Bank. Tampa Tribune
VOA VIEW: Israel cannot be told what is their interest.

Mexican Drug Lord 'El Chapo' To Appear In US Court
Mexican drug lord Joaquin "El Chapo" Guzman is scheduled to appear in person in a federal court in New York. A judge initially ruled that Guzman would appear in court by video on Friday rather than have marshals escort him to and from a high-security Manhattan jail cell. The order was changed after his lawyers asked the judge to reconsider. Guzman is charged with running a massive drug trafficking operation that laundered billions of dollars and oversaw murders and kidnappings. Guzman has repeatedly been imprisoned and escaped in Mexico. U.S. authorities have pursued him for years. To get Mexico to hand him over to the U.S., prosecutors agreed not to seek the death penalty. They're demanding he forfeit $14 billion in assets. Tampa Tribune

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Civilians 'Definitely' Killed In SEAL Operation In Yemen
Almost as intense as the planning that went into last weekend's Navy SEAL operation in Yemen to seize valuable intel on al-Qaeda's most dangerous affiliate was the effort to assess whether any civilians — including children — were killed in a brutal firefight that left one American dead and several others wounded. The U.S. Central Command, which oversees military operations in the Middle East, said yesterday that "civilian noncombatants likely were killed," during the SEAL Team Six raid on an al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) compound in Yemen's remote mountains. But a counterterrorism official familiar with the operation's details and after-action assessments told ABC News, "There definitely were civilian casualties." ABC

What's At Stake For Berkeley After Trump Warns University Over Canceled Speech
President Donald Trump’s apparent warning that the University of California at Berkeley could be at risk of losing federal funds after campus police canceled a talk by a controversial news editor has raised questions about whether the U.S. government can restrict funding to a particular university. Terry Hartle, a senior vice president at the American Council of Education, which represents U.S. colleges and universities, says it’s possible, but only under “clearly dictated procedures” that relate to “financial fraud or scientific misconduct,” not over alleged violations of free speech or violence. Breitbart News editor Milo Yiannopoulos was scheduled to speak Wednesday night at the university before police cleared out unruly crowds of people protesting his visit. The university eventually canceled the talk after some of the protestors threw smoke bombs and started a fire. ABC

Top Lawmakers Do Diplomatic Cleanup After Trump Lobs Attacks
Paul Ryan and John McCain have been taking on an unusual role when it comes to Donald Trump’s disruptive diplomacy: clean-up duty. Both the House speaker and the chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee have tried to do some damage control on the president’s policies toward Australia and Russia in recent days, a reflection of the unease in some GOP circles over Trump’s foreign policy. Senator McCain, a Republican from Arizona, has been particularly outspoken during the new president’s first fortnight, alternately rebuking and cajoling him. But Speaker Ryan has also weighed in at times with some gentle chiding, which he balances with strong praise for Trump. After reports that Trump cut short a phone call with Australia’s leader, McCain said Thursday that he called Australia’s ambassador Joe Hockey to reaffirm his "unwavering support for the alliance." Bloomberg

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Treasury Dept. To Allow U.S. Companies To Do Business With Russian Security Service
The U.S. Treasury Department announced Thursday it will allow some American companies to do limited transactions with the Russian Security Service, or FSB — the successor organization to the infamous KGB. The Treasury will let U.S. companies work with the Russian intelligence service on transactions necessary to approve importing certain information technology products into Russia. The broader impact is still unclear. White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer told reporters on Thursday that the move is "a very common practice" and the administration characterized the efforts as a technical fix necessary to avoid unintended consequences of cyber-sanctions. MSNBC

Sen. McCain Makes Nice With Australia After Trump’s ‘Blunt’ Talk With PM
Senator John McCain on Thursday blasted President Trump's "blunt" telephone talk with Australia's prime minister as "unnecessary and frankly harmful" and then tried to mend fences with the longtime ally. In a call to Australian ambassador Joe Hockey, the Arizona Republican stressed that "Australia is one of America's oldest friends and staunchest allies." "We are united by ties of family and friendship, mutual interests and common values, and shared sacrifice in wartime," McCain wrote in a statement. "In that spirit, I called Australia's Ambassador to the United States this morning to express my unwavering support for the U.S.-Australia alliance. I asked Ambassador Hockey to convey to the people of Australia that their American brothers and sisters value our historic alliance, honor the sacrifice of the Australians who have served and are serving by our side, and remain committed to the safer, freer, and better world that Australia does far more than its fair share to protect and promote." MSNBC
VOA VIEW: Any wonder why McCain never made president?

Mob Rules Drive Democrats: Leaderless Party Revolves Around Fight Against Trump
Democrats, by their own admission, are leaderless right now, and it is showing as the party struggles to settle on a coordinated strategy to combat the early moves made by President Trump. Left without a consensus point man or woman since former President Obama left the political spotlight last month, Democrats have taken more of a mob approach to opposition, throwing up roadblocks on almost every issue, embracing fights large and small. They’ve rallied outside the Supreme Court, boycotted committee hearings, erected procedural hurdles, voted against both Mr. Trump and congressional Republicans’ agenda and generally vented anger at every turn. Washington Times

Never Mind The Lungs. Air Pollution Can Scramble Your Brain
The air you breathe does more than affect your lungs. A new study published this week found that older women exposed to air polluted by vehicle exhaust and other damaging particles are almost twice as likely to develop dementia. Others who carried a specific gene were almost four times likelier to develop loss of memory and reasoning skills. “Although the link between air pollution and Alzheimer's disease is a new scientific frontier, we now have evidence that air pollution, like tobacco, is dangerous to the aging brain,” said study co-senior author Caleb Finch in a statement. Finch works at the University of Southern California's Leonard Davis School of Gerontology. Specifically, USC researchers found that older women living in areas where air pollution particles exceed federal safety standards may face an 81 percent higher risk for cognitive decline. They also have a 92 percent greater likelihood of developing dementia, including Alzheimer's disease. Kansas City Star

Nordstrom To Drop Ivanka Trump's Clothing, Accessories Line
The move comes amid a weekslong campaign known as "Grab Your Wallet," which has been calling for a boycott of retailers that carry Ivanka Trump or Donald Trump merchandise. In November, Nordstrom posted a response on Twitter to a shopper's letter calling for the company to stop selling the brand, saying, "We hope that offering a vendor's products isn't misunderstood as us taking a political position; we're not." A Nordstrom spokesperson didn't say whether the decision to stop buying the brand was permanent, only that they make buying decisions each season. Nordstrom also said it offers thousands of brands and cuts about 10 percent each year based performance. The Ivanka Trump brand was no longer listed on the company's website Thursday evening, and a search of her products on the site turned up just a few pairs of shoes, all of which had been marked down in price. Miami Herald

Silicon Valley Tech Giants Are Writing A Letter To Trump: 'A Blanket Suspension Is Not The Right Approach' (AAPL, GOOG, FB)
Silicon Valley's tech giants are planning to send a letter to President Donald Trump condemning his immigration ban, Recode reports. The letter, which Recode claims to have obtained a draft copy of, will be co-written by Apple, Google, Facebook, and Uber, among others. "While security and vetting procedures can and should always be subject to continuous evaluation and improvement, a blanket suspension is not the right approach," a draft of the letter reportedly reads. It's unclear when the letter will be submitted to President Trump. Trump signed an executive order last Friday that has temporarily halted visa holders from seven majority-Muslim countries from traveling to the US. The countries affected are Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria, and Yemen. Refugee arrivals into the US have also been temporarily barred. SF Gate

House Scraps Background Check Regulation
The House has voted to scrap an Obama administration regulation extending background checks for disabled Social Security recipients mentally incapable of managing their own affairs. The vote to repeal the regulation is 235-180. The vote is part of an effort to repeal a handful of regulations issued in President Barack Obama's final months and represents the first steps toward strengthening gun ownership under President Donald Trump. The background checks rule established the criteria the Social Security Administration will follow when forwarding names for the criminal background check system. Those fitting the criteria have a mental disorder so severe that they cannot work and need a representative to manage their benefits. SF Gate

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Trump Administration Urges End To Boston Travel Ban Injunction
The Trump administration urged a Boston federal judge to lift a ban on the enforcement of the president’s order prohibiting citizens of seven countries from entering the U.S., saying the court measure is no longer needed because no one is being detained. It’s the first official response from the government to a litany of lawsuits that followed Trump’s Jan 27 order, which roiled global travel when he barred entry to the U.S. of citizens from seven countries. Individuals, organizations, politicians and some states called it unconstitutional and un-American in the lawsuits. Bloomberg

EU Leaders Say Trump Worries Them As Rhetoric Becomes Policy
European Union leaders are seeking a common stand in how to deal with President Donald Trump, now that they increasingly fear that campaign rhetoric will be turned into policy. At a summit in Malta on Friday, several of the 28 leaders highlighted the fundamental differences on how Trump views migration and refugee policies. Austrian Chancellor Christian Kern said that in his first two weeks, Trump "has delivered enough actions that are worrying." EU Council President Donald Tusk already moved the U.S. into a "threat" category for the EU in the run-up to the summit in the wake of several negative comments about the bloc. German Chancellor Angela Merkel said that the more the EU will be united "the better we can tend our trans-Atlantic relations." Houston Chronicle

US-Led Coalition Trains Mosul Police, Plans For IS-Free Iraq
The U.S.-led coalition is planning for the day when Iraq will be free of the Islamic State group, ramping up training of a future Mosul police force — even as the battle for the rest of the city is briefly on hold. Sometime during the lull, significant numbers of the security forces are expected to move into villages scattered across the plains of Ninevah province around Mosul and also into parts of the city retaken from IS over the past three months. The Iraqi military declared Mosul's eastern half "fully liberated" in January and is now preparing to battle for the city's western sector — likely to be a much tougher fight in a dense and overcrowded urban environment. The operation to free Iraq's second-largest city has been the most complex challenge for Iraqi forces to date. Houston Chronicle

Uber CEO Quits Trump Business Council
Uber CEO Travis Kalanick has quit President Donald Trump's business leaders' forum, according to an internal memo obtained by The Associated Press. Kalanick wrote that he'd spoken with Trump Thursday and "let him know that I would not be able to participate on his economic council. Joining the group was not meant to be an endorsement of the President or his agenda but unfortunately it has been misinterpreted to be exactly that." The ride-sharing company has been buffeted all week by boycott campaigns that began when people perceived it as trying to break a taxi strike at New York's JFK Airport. The strike was inspired by Trump's executive order temporarily suspending the country's refugee program. Las Vegas Sun
VOA VIEW: Let's see who comes out ahead.

Planners Approve Design For Taller White House Fence
A planning agency has approved the design of a taller, stronger fence around the White House. The Secret Service says Thursday's approval by the National Capital Planning Commission means the agency can move forward with contracting to build the new fence. The changes were proposed after a series of people managed to scale the current 7-foot-tall barrier. In the most serious security breach, a man got over the fence in 2014 and ran deep inside the White House while carrying a folding knife before he was caught. No one was injured. The new metal fence will be 11 feet, 7 inches tall, and the Secret Service says it will have "anti-climb and intrusion detection technology." The agency has not disclosed its cost. Construction is expected to begin next year. Las Vegas Sun

In Twist, Trump Embraces Pillars Of Obama’s Foreign Policy On Israel, Russia And Iran
President Donald Trump, after promising a radical break with the foreign policy of Barack Obama, is embracing key pillars of the former administration’s strategy, including warning Israel to curb construction of settlements, demanding that Russia withdraw from Crimea and threatening Iran with sanctions for ballistic missile tests.
In the most startling shift, the Trump White House issued an unexpected statement appealing to the Israeli government not to expand the construction of Jewish settlements beyond their current borders in East Jerusalem and the West Bank. Such expansion, it said, “may not be helpful in achieving” the goal of peace. At the United Nations, Ambassador Nikki Haley declared that the U.S. would not lift sanctions against Russia until it stopped destabilizing Ukraine and pulled its troops out of Crimea. Charlotte Observer

Veterans Still Angry At Trump’s Treatment Of Iraqis Who Served U.S. War Effort
Akmal, an Iraqi and Scott’s friend, wanted to visit America some day and connect with his friends from the U.S. Marine Corps on their home territory, said Cooper, a former lieutenant colonel. But, now, President Donald Trump’s executive order temporarily barring U.S. entry to travelers from seven Muslim-majority countries, including Iraq, Akmal’s dream seems impossible. “He wasn’t an interpreter, he was the guy who cleaned the toilets. But he is just as brave and just as important to the war effort, and wanted to come here,” said Cooper, founder of the Veterans for American Ideals advocacy group. Charlotte Observer

Obama Plan To Arm Kurds To fight Islamic State In Syria Quickly Discarded By Trump Team
Planning for the final assault on Raqqa, the capital of the Islamic State's caliphate, had been grinding on for more than seven months. There had been dozens of meetings of President Barack Obama's top national security team, scores of draft battle plans and hundreds of hours of anguished, late-night debates. There were no good options, but Obama's top foreign policy advisers were convinced that they had finally settled on an approach that could work - arming Kurdish fighters in northern Syria, current and former U.S. officials said. There was just one problem: The Obama team had deliberated for so long that there was no time left to pull the trigger. Donald Trump's advisers had also sent word that they wanted to make the decision. San Diego Union

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Pain Meds Used For Colds, Flu May Raise Heart Attack Risk
Doctors at the National Taiwan University Hospital have found the use of pain relievers to treat respiratory infections may increase the risk of heart attack. For the study, researchers analyzed insurance claims from Taiwan's National Health Insurance Program from 2005 to 2011 with data from roughly 10,000 patients who were hospitalized for a heart attack. The purpose of the study was to assess whether cardiac risk factors from an acute respiratory infection and the use of non-steroidal anti-inflammatory, or NSAID, pain relievers combine to further increase the risk of heart attack. Researchers looked at the patient's own risk for heart attack over time accounting for periods of respiratory illness and NSAID use and found a significant association with heart attack when both factors were present. UPI

About Half Of Americans Say Trump Policies Moving Too Fast
Nearly 50 percent of Americans believe President Donald Trump is working too quickly, according to a new survey. Gallup asked citizens this week how they felt about the president's performance in office so far, two weeks into his new administration. Forty-seven percent responded that Trump is acting too fast to address domestic issues like immigration and healthcare -- compared to just 22 percent who responded that way at the start of Barack Obama's presidency in 2009. The survey said 35 percent answered that Trump is acting at a pace that is "about right," with three quarters of that reply coming from Republicans. Ten percent said he's not moving fast enough. Seven percent had no opinion on the matter. UPI

Melania Trump’s Absence From Washington Raises Questions About Her Role
When President Donald Trump traveled to Dover Air Force Base in Delaware this week to pay respects to a fallen member of the Navy SEALs, it was his daughter Ivanka — not his wife, Melania — who accompanied him. Melania Trump’s conspicuous absence at the solemn ceremony only underscored the fact that she vanished from public view days after her husband’s swearing-in two weeks ago. And it raised new questions about what role, if any, she plans to play as first lady. Melania Trump shattered decades of tradition when she decided last year that she would not move into the White House when her husband took office, and would remain instead in the family’s lavish Manhattan penthouse so the couple’s 10-year-old son, Barron, could finish the school year. That decision has made for an unusually slow transition into what has traditionally been a hectic, demanding and heavily scrutinized role. Boston Globe
VOA VIEW: The liberal media are making it more than in it is.

Former White House Lawyer Says Trump’s Ethics Chief Has Work To Do
President Donald Trump’s new ethics lawyer has a tough job, made tougher by the president’s own example, according to the man who held the same job under President George W. Bush. “If he can’t persuade the president to divest his holdings, then he is in a situation of convincing everybody else they have to divest their holdings or recuse from official matters in order to comply with the criminal conflict of interest laws,” said University of Minnesota law professor Richard Painter. “I think it sets a very bad example. It’s going to make it very hard to get other people to comply.” Last week, the White House announced that Atlanta attorney Stefan Passantino had been appointed deputy White House counsel for ethics and compliance . Passantino, 50, is a renowned expert in campaign finance law and was former House Speaker Newt Gingrich’s attorney during his 2012 presidential bid. Atlanta Journal

Betsy DeVos, Pick For Secretary Of Education, Is The Most Jeered
By most any measure, the secretary of education is one of the least powerful cabinet positions. The secretary is 16th in the line of succession to the presidency. Education accounts for a paltry 3 percent of the federal budget, compared with 24 percent for Social Security and 16 percent for defense. And the most recent major federal education law curtailed Washington’s role on testing, standards and accountability, turning much of the firepower in education policy back to states and school districts. That is what has made the protest movement against Betsy DeVos, President Trump’s nominee to be secretary of education, all the more remarkable. NY Times

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Tribal Chairman Decries Dakota Access Protesters' New Camp
Dakota Access oil pipeline protesters who tried to set up a new camp on private land undermined the Standing Rock Sioux tribe's efforts to stop the $3.8 billion project, tribal Chairman Dave Archambault says. Archambault in recent weeks has been pushing protesters to leave their flood-prone main encampment on federal land between the reservation and the pipeline route and asking that activism be spread around the U.S. He said efforts by some to establish a camp Wednesday on nearby higher ground "do not represent the tribe." Authorities arrested 74 protesters, including American Indian activist Chase Iron Eyes, after they set up teepees Wednesday on land owned by Texas-based pipeline developer Energy Transfer Partners. Protesters said they were peacefully assembling on land they believe rightfully belongs to American Indians. The Morton County Sheriff's Office initially reported 76 arrests but later said two were protesters accused of unrelated drug offenses. Philadelphia Inquirer

Rebuilding Shattered Aleppo Will Take Billions - And Peace
Fighting has ended in Aleppo, and now talk is beginning to turn to the question of how to rebuild Syria's largest city, where entire blocks have been smashed to rubble in scenes reminiscent of World War II devastation. The task will take tens of billions of dollars. But hopes for rebuilding collide with daunting realities. Without a comprehensive peace deal to Syria's civil war, Western nations are unlikely to give funds to the government of President Bashar Assad, which remains under U.S., European, and Arab sanctions that bar aid. Even Assad's allies, Russia and Iran, which are bankrolling his rule, show little enthusiasm to shoulder rebuilding costs. Philadelphia Inquirer

Soldier Shoots Knife-Wielding Man Who Shouted ‘Allahu Akbar’ At The Louvre
A French soldier shot and seriously wounded a man in a shopping mall beneath the Louvre Museum on Friday after he tried to attack them and shouted “Allahu akbar,” officials said. The man was carrying two backpacks, and he had two machetes, and when soldiers and police officers on patrol told the man that he could not come in with his bags, he attacked, said Yves Lefebvre, a police union official. “That’s when he got the knife out and that’s when he tried to stab the soldier,” he said. A soldier opened fire and the man was struck five times, once in the stomach, Paris police chief Michel Cadot said. The backpacks didn’t contain any explosives, he said. One of the soldiers was slightly wounded on the scalp. NY Post

Mayor: Phoenix Can't Be A Sanctuary City
Mayor Greg Stanton responded Thursday to calls for the city to defy state law on immigration issues, saying he wouldn't ask local police officers to do what activists say it will take to make Phoenix a sanctuary city. Stanton responded in a statement to a citizen petition presented to the City Council on Wednesday asking to change Phoenix Police Department policy and stop cooperating with federal immigration enforcement. While no exact definition exists of a sanctuary city, local activists have said it requires ending a department policy regarding immigration enforcement. Though community groups have for weeks escalated their calls for Stanton to change the policy, they aren't behind the petition the council expects to respond to on Feb. 15. It’s unclear how the item will appear on the council agenda, or if council members will take a vote. USA Today

The White House Says A Deadly Raid In Yemen Was Long Planned. Not True, Says An Obama Administration Official.
The Pentagon and the White House on Thursday defended the execution of a U.S. Special Operations raid in Yemen that killed civilians along with a Navy SEAL, saying there was sufficient intelligence to carry it out and that it had been planned for months. But a former Obama administration official disputed the White House’s version of events, saying the raid carried out Saturday was never briefed to former president Barack Obama. Navy Capt. Jeff Davis, a Pentagon spokesman, said the civilians were killed Saturday by gunfire from aircraft needed to support the SEALs after they were attacked by militants, among them women who ran to planned fighting positions. The SEALs, he said, were “in extremis,” a term the U.S. military uses to define situations in which service members or partner forces are under immediate threat. The dead are said to include the 8-year-old daughter of Anwar al-Awlaki, the U.S.-born cleric and a propagandist with al-Qaeda’s affiliate in Yemen who was killed in a 2011 U.S. drone strike. Washington Post

House Republicans Move To Scrap Obama Rule On Gun Background Checks
The Republican-controlled House on Thursday took its first steps toward strengthening gun ownership under President Donald Trump, moving to scrap a requirement for background checks for disabled Social Security recipients mentally incapable of managing their own affairs. The regulation, issued in the final months of President Barack Obama's term, is one of a handful congressional Republicans are rolling back, knowing they habe a new ally in the White House. The Senate is poised to scuttle an Obama rule preventing coal mining debris from being dumped into nearby streams. "In my home state of Kentucky and others across the nation, the Stream Buffer Rule will cause major damage to communities and threaten coal jobs," said Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky. Fox News
VOA VIEW: Good start.

U.S. Makes Limited Exceptions To Sanctions On Russian Spy Agency
The U.S. Treasury Department on Thursday adjusted sanctions on Russian intelligence agency FSB, making limited exceptions to the measures put in place by former President Barack Obama over accusations Moscow tried to influence the U.S. presidential election with cyber attacks on political organizations. The department said in a statement it would allow U.S. companies to make limited transactions with FSB that are needed to gain approval to import information technology products into Russia. The Treasury Department often issues general licenses such as the one announced on Thursday to help U.S. companies overcome unintended business consequences of sanctions. Sanctions experts and former Obama administration officials stressed that the new exceptions do not signal a broader shift in Russia policy. They say the general license issued Thursday is designed to fix a unintended consequence caused by last year's sanctioning of the spy agency. Fox News

Republicans Add To Obamacare Confusion With New 'Repair' Pitch
Republicans have long used two "R" words to attack Obamacare: Repeal and replace. Now, a third "R" word is creating heartburn for GOP leaders: "Repair." Republicans in Congress are currently drafting legislation to repeal significant chunks of the Affordable Care Act and mapping out ways to replace what they eventually roll back. But increasingly, top lawmakers are tempering their rhetoric as they confront the monumental challenge of dismantling a law that covers 20 million people. At a House subcommittee hearing Thursday morning to debate health care draft legislation, Republican Rep. Leonard Lance stressed that the party wants to "repair the ACA." "We want to repair the ACA and I have never favored its repeal without a replacement," Lance said. "I think it needs to be repaired and we are trying to focus on repairing it and that is why we're conducting this hearing along with other hearings." CNN

White House Aide: Trump's Moves Don't Embolden ISIS, Iran
A top assistant to President Donald Trump dismissed concerns Wednesday that the administration's travel ban would embolden extremists overseas. "Any document signed or executed in the United States makes no difference to ISIS," Sebastian Gorka told CNN's Jake Tapper on "The Lead." "The idea that what we do here, that they're suddenly going to surrender or give up or recruit less, is absurd." Since Trump signed the order temporarily banning the entry of people from seven predominantly Muslim countries, many have come out in opposition, including career diplomats and former national security heavyweights. CNN

Immigration Expert: U.S. Should End ‘Total Reliance’ On U.N. For Refugee Vetting
A researcher with the Center for Immigration Studies (CIS) said that while it is not widely reported when debating the vetting of refugees entering the United States, it’s the United Nations that controls most of the vetting process – a practice of “total reliance” on that global organization that should end. “The United States needs to revise its total reliance on the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) for refugee determination, assistance, and resettlement referrals,” Nayla Rush, senior researcher at CIS, said in a report on the agency. “The United States chooses the refugees it resettles solely based on referrals from UNHCR,” Rush said. “It entrusts this UN agency staff with the entire selection and pre-screening process of refugees eligible for resettlement in the United States.” CNS News

Ryan Supports Repealing Law That Prevents Pastors From Endorsing Candidates From Pulpit
House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) said Thursday that he supports President Donald Trump’s plan to get rid of the Johnson amendment, which bars pastors from endorsing political candidates from the pulpit. “I’ve long believed that. Yeah, I’ve always supported that,” Ryan said at a Capitol Hill press conference when asked whether he supported plans to repeal the amendment, which President Trump announced in a speech at the National Prayer Breakfast on Thursday. “It was the great Thomas Jefferson who said the God who gave us life gave us liberty. Jefferson asked, ‘Can the liberties of a nation be secure when we have removed a conviction that these liberties are a gift from God?’ Among those freedoms is the right to worship according to our own beliefs,” Trump said. “That is why I will get rid of and totally destroy the Johnson amendment and allow our representatives of faith to speak freely and without fear of retribution,” Trump said. Ryan also said that he doesn’t want the Little Sisters of the Poor “to be forced to buy coverage that violates their conscience.” CNS News

Trump Vows To End Prohibition On Church Political Activity
President Donald Trump, who is strongly backed by evangelical Christian voters, on Thursday promised to "totally destroy" a 1954 U.S. law barring churches and other religious institutions from political activity if they want to keep tax-exempt status. Trump made his comments about a measure called the Johnson Amendment during remarks at the annual National Prayer Breakfast. "I will get rid of and totally destroy the Johnson Amendment and allow our representatives of faith to speak freely and without fear of retribution. I will do that, remember," Trump told an audience including politicians, religious leaders and guests such as Jordan's King Abdullah. Reuters

U.S. Hopes To Have Border Wall Finished Within Two Years
Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly said on Thursday he hoped to have a wall along the southern U.S. border with Mexico finished within two years, according to an interview with Fox News. "The wall will be built where it's needed first, and then it will be filled in. That's the way I look at it," Kelly said in the interview. "I really hope to have it done within the next two years." He added he thought funding from Congress for the massive project would come "relatively quickly." Reuters

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TRUMP WARNS ISRAEL: STOP ANNOUNCING NEW SETTLEMENT
The White House warned Israel on Thursday – in a surprising statement – to cease settlement announcements that are “unilateral” and “undermining” of President Donald Trump’s effort to forge Middle East peace, a senior administration official told The Jerusalem Post. For the first time, the administration confirmed that Trump is committed to a comprehensive two-state solution to the Israeli- Palestinian conflict negotiated between the parties. Jerusalem Post

IRAN MOCKS TRUMP IN RESPONSE TO WHITE HOUSE THREAT
Iran responded on Thursday to a warning from the Trump administration over its continued ballistic missile testing by mocking the new US president as a ranting extremist that no one takes seriously. A senior adviser to Iran’s supreme leader said the Islamic Republic would proceed “vigorously” with its missile program, despite the threat from US National Security Advisor Michael Flynn that Iran was officially being put “on notice” over its recent activities. Senior Trump officials later in the day said the administration is considering a “whole range of options” on how to proceed should Iran continue with its missile testing. Jerusalem Post
VOA VIEW: Time will tell.

US-Australia Refugee Deal: Trump In 'Worst Call' With Turnbull
A phone call between US President Donald Trump and Australian PM Malcolm Turnbull has called into question a refugee resettlement deal. The Washington Post reported Mr Trump called the conversation "the worst by far" of his calls with world leaders that day, and cut it short. Mr Trump later tweeted that he would "study this dumb deal". Struck with the Obama administration, it would see up to 1,250 asylum seekers to Australia resettled in the US. Australia has controversially refused to accept the refugees - most of whom are men from Iran, Afghanistan and Iraq - and instead holds them in offshore detention centres on the Pacific nations of Nauru and Papua New Guinea. BBC

Facebook Loses $500m Oculus Virtual Reality Case
The jury found Oculus, which Facebook bought in 2014, had breached a contract with video game developer Zenimax when launching its own VR headset. Oculus said it was "disappointed" and would appeal against the ruling. The case threatened to overshadow Facebook's latest results, which showed it enjoyed a strong end to the year. Facebook's net profit more than doubled to $3.6bn in the fourth quarter. The social network was helped by 53% growth in advertising revenues, and said it was on course to hit two billion users in the first half of 2017. BBC

Anti-Fascist Activists Take On Trump And The Far Right: 'Resistance Is Our Only Shot'
More than 1,000 people were shouting “Shut it down” outside the University of California, Berkeley venue where Milo Yiannopoulos planned to speak on Wednesday when a group of black-clad, masked protesters carryings flags and shields arrived to put those words into action. The band of about 150 anti-fascist activists – or antifas – quickly and efficiently stormed the multilayered police barricades that kept the crowd away from the entrances of the Martin Luther King Jr student union. Sequined pink flags were revealed to be mounted on fireworks, which were launched at the building. Others smashed windows with the now vanquished police barricades. A portable police spotlight was toppled, graffitied and eventually torched. Guardian
VOA VIEW: Mad protesters should be take to jail.

Steve Bannon: 'We're Going To War In The South China Sea ... No Doubt
The United States and China will fight a war within the next 10 years over islands in the South China Sea, and “there’s no doubt about that”. At the same time, the US will be in another “major” war in the Middle East. Those are the views – nine months ago at least – of one of the most powerful men in Donald Trump’s administration, Steve Bannon, the former head of far-right news website Breitbart who is now chief strategist at the White House. In the first weeks of Trump’s presidency, Bannon has emerged as a central figure. He was appointed to the “principals committee” of the National Security Council in a highly unusual move and was influential in the recent travel ban on citizens from seven Muslim-majority countries, overruling Department of Homeland Security officials who felt the order did not apply to green card holders. Guardian

Vladimir Putin Accuses Ukraine Of Stoking Violence To Win Support From Donald Trump
Vladimir Putin has accused the Ukrainian government of stoking violence the country’s war torn east in a bid to win support from Donald Trump and draw the US into the conflict there. Speaking in Budapest, Mr Putin said Petro Poroshenko, the president of Ukraine, may also have ordered an escalation in fighting partly because he hoped to attract financial support from Europe and the United States. Telegraph

Melania Trump Will Move Into The White House This Summer, Says Senior Aide
Melania Trump will move into the White House this summer, a senior aide has said. The First Lady will settle in Washington with the couple’s 10 year old son Barron and has already assumed her duties, according to her senior adviser Stephanie Winston Wolkoff. Ms Wolkoff told ABC News, “Ms Trump will be moving to DC and settling into the White House at the end of the school year, splitting her time between New York and DC in the meantime.” Telegraph

Heavy Fighting In Eastern Ukraine Extracting Heavy Civilian Toll, UN Security Council Hears
Briefing the Security Council on the situation in eastern Ukraine, the top United Nations political and humanitarian officials underlined today that continuing fighting in the region, with only short periods of respite, have exasperated human suffering. “Since 7 January this year, and in particular over the last few days, we have seen a dangerous intensification of the conflict,” Jeffrey Feltman, the UN Under-Secretary-General for Political Affairs told Council members today. “The entire length of the ‘Contact Line’ has seen a serious escalation of hostilities, and there is still a risk of further deterioration of the situation,” added Mr. Feltman. UN News

Days Of ISIL Are Numbered, Says UN Envoy As Nation Prepares For Unified Iraq
The military campaign to oust Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL/Da’esh) terrorists from Iraq is nearly won, but the humanitarian crisis is expected to continue for months, if not years, the United Nations top official for the country said today. “Three months after the Mosul military operation started, combat operations in the eastern part of Mosul have come to an end,” the Secretary-General’s Special Representative for Iraq, Ján Kubiš, told the UN Security Council during a briefing. He said that the Iraqi forces, with significant support from its international partners, especially the United States, will remain engaged in complex urban operations, in particular inside the old city in western Mosul. UN News

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