NEWS   FRIDAY, MARCH  3, 2017   NEWS

Obama Preparing To Get Back Into Political Spotlight
Former President Obama is getting ready to jump back into the political pool, former U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder said Tuesday. Holder said he has been talking with Obama about different ways to help the new National Democratic Redistricting Committee, according to Politico. Obama asked Holder to be chairman of the group last year. “He's ready to roll,” Holder told reporters at a briefing. Obama and other top Democrats are focusing efforts on state-level races and ending the reconfiguring of voting districts through the politically-laded process known as gerrymandering – a combined effort to end “Trump-ism” and help their party regain control of Congress and legislatures across the country. Fox News
VOA VIEW: Obama and Holder are losers.

No, Ms. Pelosi, Attorney General Sessions Did Not Commit Perjury
Napoleon Bonaparte once said, “from the sublime to the ridiculous is but a step.” There is nothing sublime about Nancy Pelosi.  Ridiculous, however, is an apt description. At a news conference Thursday, the former Speaker of the House denounced Attorney General Jeff Sessions as a liar, pronounced him guilty of perjury, and demanded his resignation.  This comes just days after she erroneously accused the Trump White House of obstructing justice.  Clearly, she’s on a tear.  Who knew the democratic leader, who is not a lawyer, was such an expert on the law? Fox News
VOA VIEW: Pelosi is an idiot.

Sessions Cited Lynch-Clinton Meeting In Calling For Special Prosecutor In Email Investigation
During the 2016 campaign, Jeff Sessions called on then-Attorney General Loretta Lynch to recuse herself from the investigation into Hillary Clinton's use of a private email server and to appoint a special prosecutor in the case. The FoxNews.com op-ed, which was co-written with four other Donald Trump campaign surrogates, including Rudy Giuliani, specifically cited Lynch's meeting with former President Bill Clinton on a tarmac in Phoenix as grounds for her recusal. Sessions, now the attorney general, is facing calls from Democrats and Republicans to recuse himself from matters related to Russia's interference in the 2016 election after it was revealed on Wednesday that he did not disclose meetings last year with the Russian ambassador during his confirmation hearing. CNN

Trump Transition Team Canceled Ethics Training Session
President Donald Trump's transition team, days before he took office, nixed plans for an orientation class that would have prepared political appointees and White House staff for a series of ethical and legal issues, documents provided to CNN show. The ethics program proposed by the General Services Administration would have helped White House staff and political appointees get through Senate confirmation hearings, work with Congress and corresponding agencies and comply with laws and executive orders -- all issues Trump nominees and staff have confronted during their first six weeks in office. CNN
VOA VIEW: Anything from CNN is questionable.

Miami Is Climbing Out Of The Great Recession, Thanks To The Entrepreneurs
As it climbs out of the Great Recession, the Miami metropolitan area ranks in the top quarter of 100 metro areas for economic growth, but falls to the bottom third for prosperity, according to a new study released by Brookings Institute on Thursday. Brookings’ Metropolitan Policy Program released its 2017 Metro Monitor, an annual update to the program’s signature economic benchmarking tool. The report measures and ranks the performance of the nation's 100 largest metropolitan economies in three critical areas of economic development: growth, prosperity and inclusion. The 2017 update focuses on 2010-2015, a period when the nation hastened its recovery from the Great Recession, although data is also included for the 2005-2015 period. Miami Herald

Now An Obama Appointee Can Name A Special Prosecutor To Investigate Trump And Russia
Now that Attorney General Jeff Sessions has recused himself from any investigations regarding the 2016 presidential campaigns, the man who gets to decide whether to appoint a special prosecutor to investigate President Donald Trump's pre-election dealings with Russia is an appointee of Barack Obama. When the attorney general is recused from an investigation, oversight of that investigation ordinarily falls to the department's deputy. But currently, there is no deputy attorney general — Sessions is the only Trump nominee who has been confirmed to any position in the Justice Department. The job of deputy attorney general is currently being done on an acting basis by Dana Boente, the US Attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia, who was nominated to that position by Barack Obama. He is apparently so well known to Sessions' team that he is referred to in Sessions' recusal letter as "Dane Boente." SF Gate

State Kept Secret Guidelines On Safe Cell Phone Use
For years, state health officials kept secret a set of guidelines meant to inform the public about the risks associated with cell phone use and the best practices to avoid potential harm. On Thursday, the California Department of Public Health released the guidelines, which advise cell phone users to keep the devices away from their bodies, keep calls short and to use the speaker phone on lengthy calls. The guidelines were released only after a Sacramento Superior Court judge indicated she would order them to be disclosed, and after The Chronicle told the state it was publishing a news story about the case. The health department’s lawyers had argued in court that the guidelines were never formally approved by the agency and that releasing them to the public would cause unnecessary panic. SF Gate

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Rep. Hakeem Jeffries Questions If Trump Is A Crook; Rep. Speier Invokes Jekyll And Hyde
The morning after President Donald Trump's speech to the nation, at least two Democrats excoriated him on the House floor, bringing a reminder from the presiding chairman that Members should refrain from personally attacking the president. Hakeem Jeffries (D-N.Y.), quoting President Richard Nixon, said: "The American people deserve to know whether or not the president is a crook." Although Nixon was talking about himself, Jeffries said "many people across the country are raising a similar question" about Trump, based on Russian interference in the U.S. election. CNS News

Trump Has ‘Total’ Confidence In Sessions
President Donald Trump said Thursday that he has “total” confidence in Attorney General Jeff Sessions, and he doesn’t think he should recuse himself. During a tour of the USS Gerald Ford in Newport News, Va., Trump told reporters he “wasn’t aware at all” that Sessions spoke to the Russian ambassador, but he thinks Sessions “probably” testified truthfully to the Senate during his confirmation hearing, according to White House pool reports. As CNSNews.com reported, the Washington Post reported that Sessions – then a U.S. senator who was serving as an adviser to the Trump campaign – spoke twice last year with the Russian ambassador to the U.S. At his confirmation hearing, however, Sessions said he “did not have communications with Russia.” CNS News

Ex-Christie Associates Lose Bid For New Trial In 'Bridgegate' Case
A federal judge rejected a request for a new trial by two former associates of New Jersey Governor Chris Christie who were convicted for their roles in the "Bridgegate" lane closure scandal. The decision late Wednesday by U.S. District Judge Susan Wigenton clears the way for the two defendants to be sentenced on March 15. Bridget Kelly, a former deputy chief of staff under the Republican governor, and Bill Baroni, the former deputy executive director of the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, were convicted in November of orchestrating the shutdown of access lanes at the George Washington Bridge in September 2013. Reuters

Senate Confirms Trump Pick Perry As Energy Secretary
The U.S. Senate on Thursday voted to confirm President Donald Trump's pick to head the Department of Energy, former Texas Governor Rick Perry, who has promised to renew America’s nuclear weapons arsenal. Perry's rise to America’s top energy official came against opposition from Democrats worried about his ties to oil companies, his doubts about the science of climate change, and the fact that he once called for the department’s total elimination – a comment he has since said he regrets. The Senate voted 62 to 37 in support of Perry. Perry, 66, was governor of Texas from 2000 to 2015, making him the longest-serving governor of the oil-producing state in its history. Reuters

Former NAACP Leader Rachel Dolezal Gets New African Name
Former Spokane, Washington, NAACP leader Rachel Dolezal, who resigned amid criticism that she was passing herself off as black, has changed her name to Nkechi Amare Diallo. Court documents show a judge granted her request on Oct. 7, 2016. Her new name has origins in Africa. The former Dolezal has acknowledged that she is "Caucasian biologically" but says she identifies as black. Her race became a national topic of conversation in 2015 after a local news reporter questioned her on camera about her background. She told Britain's The Guardian newspaper last week that that she can't find a job and the only work she has been offered is in reality TV and porn. Her memoir is set to be released later this month. Philadelphia Inquirer
VOA VIEW: Dolezel has lost her mind.

Pence Used Private Email As Governor And Got Hacked
U.S. Vice President Mike Pence used a private email account to conduct public business as governor of Indiana, his office said in a statement on Thursday. The private email account was first reported by the Indianapolis Star, which said Pence used it at times to discuss sensitive matters and homeland security issues. The account was hacked last summer, the newspaper added. During the 2016 presidential campaign, Pence criticized Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton’s use of a private email server while she was U.S. secretary of state, saying it endangered national security. NY Post

Proposed Bill Would Ban Undercover Cops From Having Sex With Hookers
A Michigan lawmaker and professor are crafting a bill that would ban police officers from having sex with prostitutes during investigations, Michigan Radio reported. The report, which was published on Monday, said that Michigan appears to be the only state that grants immunity to police officers. “The reason the law is structured the way it is is because of the way the prostitution laws are written,” Bridgette Carr, a professor at the University of Michigan law School and director of the Human Trafficking Clinic there. “So for law enforcement to have any poser to investigate with immunity, they got all the power. And no one thought to go back and carve out a prohibition against sexual intercourse.” NY Post

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Yellen To Speak After Fed Officials Hint Rate Hike Is Near
One by one, several Federal Reserve officials have signaled in recent days that the Fed is ready to resume raising interest rates as soon as this month. The question is whether the official who matters most — Chair Janet Yellen — will add her own voice to that impression. When Yellen speaks Friday in Chicago on the topic of the Fed's economic outlook, investors will parse her words for any hint of how likely the central bank is to raise its key short-term rate after it next meets March 14-15. Already, though, traders in futures markets have put the probability of a rate hike at 75 percent, according to data tracked by the CME Group. Just last week, that probability had been pegged at well below 50 percent. But that was before some Fed officials began suggesting that the strengthening U.S. economy, signs of higher inflation and a surging stock market had bolstered the case for a rate hike. Tampa Tribune

Pope To Address EU Leaders At Vatican Ahead Of Summit
The pope will meet with European Union leaders a day before a special summit marking the 60th anniversary of the bloc's founding treaty. The Vatican announced on Friday announced that the audience will be held March 24, the eve of the summit marking the anniversary of the EU founding Treaty of Rome. The evening meeting is expected to be public. The pope previously addressed EU leaders in May when he accepted the Charlemagne prize for promoting European unity. In his acceptance speech at the Vatican, the pope warned against the temptation to put up fences to ward off newcomers, saying he dreams of a Europe where migrants are welcome. Tampa Tribune

Some Vets Call Foul On Trump For Wearing Flight Jacket, Admiral's Cap
Ashlyn is a high school senior who loves country music. She wrote a song about living with her disability and she got a little help from two of her favorite singers to bring it life. President Trump on Thursday donned a flight jacket and an admiral's cap with the words "USS Gerald R. Ford" on it — and some on social media are calling foul. He wore the items while touring the aircraft carrier that will soon be known as the USS Gerald R. Ford and addressing the crew. He received the jacket and hat — which was personalized with the words "POTUS 45" on the back — from the crew. "They said, 'Here Mr. President, take this home.' I said, 'Let me wear it,'" Trump said during his address, drawing laughter from the crowd. "And then they gave me the beautiful hat, and I said, 'You know? Maybe I'll do that.' " USA Today
VOA VIEW: The liberal faulty media have to whine about something.

Retailer Hhgregg To Close 88 Stores, Eliminate About 1,500 Jobs
An electronics and appliances company announced Thursday it will close nearly 90 stores and three distribution centers and eliminate jobs for about 1,500 people. Retailer hhgregg said it is proactively making the move to focus on its remaining stores. The Indianapolis-based chain expects the closings across the country will be complete by mid-April. "We feel strongly that the markets we will remain in are the right ones for our customers and our business model," Robert J. Riesbeck, hhgregg's president and CEO, said in a statement. Closings will involve store locations in Alabama, Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Louisiana, Maryland, Missouri, New Jersey, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, Virginia and West Virginia. The company said those stores haven't been as profitable as other locations. MSNBC

Trump Ratings On First Address To Congress Don’t Beat Obama
President Donald Trump used to be a reality TV star, but his predecessor got better TV ratings the first time he addressed a joint session of Congress. An estimated 48 million people in 33.9 million households tuned in on Tuesday night to watch Trump deliver his speech for a rating of 28.7, according to Nielsen. His address was carried on NBC, MSNBC, NBC Universo and eight other national television networks. By contrast, some 52.3 million in 37.1 million households watched President Barack Obama speak to Congress for the first time in 2009, Nielsen reported. Obama's speech was carried live on NBC , MSNBC and eight other national television networks for a rating of 32.5. MSNBC

House GOP Eyes Three-Week Plan On Obamacare; Ryan: ‘We’re Going To Unify’
House Republicans on Thursday said leaders want to smooth over party divisions and pass their Obamacare repeal plan within three weeks, as the GOP scrambles to keep its health care promises before the Easter break. GOP leaders are trying to repeal and replace as much of the Affordable Care Act as they can under a fast-track budget process that allows them to avoid a Democratic filibuster in the Senate. Rank-and-file members said relevant committees are striving to mark up their bills next week, so the plan can advance through House budget and rules panels before hitting the floor. Washington Times

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House GOP Rolls Out $577.9 Billion Defense Spending Bill
The House Appropriations Committee dropped a defense spending bill Thursday that aims to keep the military running through September, the end of the current fiscal year. The spending measure is slated to be voted on next week and represents the biggest chunk of the federal funding — usually spread across 12 bills — that lawmakers are expected to take up over the coming weeks as they look to avert a partial government shutdown. The measure sets aside $577.9 billion for the military, bringing total defense funding for fiscal 2017 to $583.7 billion — almost a $11 billion increase over 2016. It includes $516.1 in base defense funding and $61.8 million in war funding. Washington Times

Democrats Launch Literal Scavenger Hunt For GOP Obamacare Repeal Bill
Democrats launched a scavenger hunt on Capitol Hill Thursday in search of an Obamacare repeal-and-replace plan that’s been crafted by House Republicans, which is being kept in a locked room. In an exchange with House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-California, on the House floor, House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer, D-Maryland, asked where the draft legislation is being held. McCarthy wouldn’t say, and so then Hoyer decided to go on a physical search for the bill, with several other House Democrats following his lead. CBS

Russia’s Top Diplomat Is At The Center Of Trump Controversies
The Trump administration’s back-to-back controversies over its Russian ties now have at least one thing in common: Ambassador Sergey Kislyak. Moscow’s top diplomat in the U.S. has become the Kevin Bacon of the Trump White House’s Russia imbroglio. A Washington fixture with a sprawling network, he has emerged as the central figure in the investigations into Trump advisers’ connections with Russia. In a matter of weeks, contact with Kislyak led to the firing of a top adviser to the president and, on Thursday, prompted calls for the attorney general to resign. Separately, a White House official confirmed Trump’s son-in-law Jared Kushner and ousted national security adviser Michael Flynn met with Kislyak at Trump Tower in December for what the official called a brief courtesy meeting. Flynn was pushed out of the White House last month after officials said he misled Vice President Mike Pence about whether he and the ambassador had discussed U.S. sanctions against Russia in a phone call. Boston Globe

Obama To Receive JFK Profile In Courage Award
The award derives its name from the title of Kennedy's book "Profiles in Courage," which earned a Pulitzer Prize in 1957. The award, created in 1989, is given to "public servants who have made courageous decisions of conscience without regard for the personal or professional consequences." In a statement, the foundation said Obama demonstrated that courage with his push to make the Affordable Care Act law and with his leadership in ratifying the Paris Agreement, a global effort to combat climate change. Atlanta Journal
VOA VIEW: Obama did nothing out of courage.

Yellen To Speak After Fed Officials Hint Rate Hike Is Near
One by one, several Federal Reserve officials have signaled in recent days that the Fed is ready to resume raising interest rates as soon as this month. The question is whether the official who matters most — Chair Janet Yellen — will add her own voice to that impression. When Yellen speaks Friday in Chicago on the topic of the Fed's economic outlook, investors will parse her words for any hint of how likely the central bank is to raise its key short-term rate after it next meets March 14-15. Already, though, traders in futures markets have put the probability of a rate hike at 75 percent, according to data tracked by the CME Group. Just last week, that probability had been pegged at well below 50 percent. But that was before some Fed officials began suggesting that the strengthening U.S. economy, signs of higher inflation and a surging stock market had bolstered the case for a rate hike. Tampa Tribune

Ben Carson Sworn In As Housing And Urban Development Secretary
Ben Carson has been sworn in as the next secretary of the Department of Housing and Urban Development. The retired neurosurgeon and Republican presidential candidate was confirmed by the Senate earlier Thursday.  Vice President Mike Pence says he is confident that Carson will “open doors of opportunity” to some of the most vulnerable in the country. CBS

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Libertarian Party Earns Political Party Status In Iowa
Iowa Secretary of State Paul Pate says the Libertarian Party has obtained official political party status in Iowa. Pate says the status began effective Wednesday after state election officials determined the party's presidential nominee, Gary Johnson, received 59,186 votes — or 3.8 percent of the vote — in the November 2016 general election. That surpassed the 2 percent threshold required by Iowa law to obtain official political party status. ABC

Democrat Accuses FBI Director James Comey Of Withholding Russia Information From Lawmakers
With news swirling about Attorney General Jeff Sessions' contacts with Russian officials before the 2016 election, the top Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee today accused FBI Director James Comey of withholding information about any agency investigation into Russian tampering with the 2016 election. "In order for us to do our investigation in a thorough and credible way, we're going to need the FBI to fully cooperate... to fully tell us the length and breadth of any counterintelligence investigations they are conducting," Rep. Adam Schiff, D-California, told reporters after emerging from a classified meeting with Comey. "At this point the director was not willing to do that." ABC

Pope To Address EU Leaders At Vatican Ahead Of Summit
The pope will meet with European Union leaders a day before a special summit marking the 60th anniversary of the bloc's founding treaty. The Vatican announced on Friday announced that the audience will be held March 24, the eve of the summit marking the anniversary of the EU founding Treaty of Rome. The evening meeting is expected to be public. The pope previously addressed EU leaders in May when he accepted the Charlemagne prize for promoting European unity. In his acceptance speech at the Vatican, the pope warned against the temptation to put up fences to ward off newcomers, saying he dreams of a Europe where migrants are welcome. Tampa Tribune

Some Vets Call Foul On Trump For Wearing Flight Jacket, Admiral's Cap
Ashlyn is a high school senior who loves country music. She wrote a song about living with her disability and she got a little help from two of her favorite singers to bring it life. President Trump on Thursday donned a flight jacket and an admiral's cap with the words "USS Gerald R. Ford" on it — and some on social media are calling foul. He wore the items while touring the aircraft carrier that will soon be known as the USS Gerald R. Ford and addressing the crew. He received the jacket and hat — which was personalized with the words "POTUS 45" on the back — from the crew. "They said, 'Here Mr. President, take this home.' I said, 'Let me wear it,'" Trump said during his address, drawing laughter from the crowd. "And then they gave me the beautiful hat, and I said, 'You know? Maybe I'll do that.' " USA Today
VOA VIEW: The liberal faulty media have to whine about something.

California High School Makes $24 Million From Snap IPO
California high school has made millions of dollars from the initial public offering of shares in Snap Inc., the company behind the Snapchat photo messaging application. Simon Chiu, the president of Saint Francis high school in Mountainview, said the school board agreed to invest $15,000 in seed money in Snap in 2012, when the company was just getting started. They had been invited to do so by one of the student's parents, who was a venture capital investor. Snap shares sold for $17 each in an IPO this week and their price rocketed 44 percent higher when trading began Thursday. The school was quoted by media including Quartz as saying they sold two-thirds of their shares at $17 each, to raise $24 million. Houston Chronicle

Snap's Two Co-Founders Are Now Worth $5.3 Billion Each After IPO
Snap Inc.’s Evan Spiegel and Bobby Murphy each added $1.6 billion to his fortune Thursday after shares in the photo-sharing mobile app closed at $24.48, 44 percent above their listing price. Investor appetite for the first technology listing of the year boosted the net worth of each co-founder to $5.3 billion, propelling Spiegel, 26, and Murphy, 28, up more than 150 places on the Bloomberg Billionaires Index, a daily ranking of the world’s 500 richest people. Other winners from the offering included venture capital firms Benchmark Capital and Lightspeed Venture Partners, whose stakes rose $904 million and $613 million respectively. Snap’s senior vice president of engineering Timothy Sehn, chief strategy officer Imran Khan and chairman Michael Lynton also notched up big paydays. Bloomberg

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Caterpillar, A Trump Darling, Lands In Government Crosshairs
Caterpillar Inc., the bellwether U.S. equipment maker praised just last week by President Donald Trump, now finds itself a government target as federal tax and banking authorities raided its Illinois offices. The investigation comes as new Chief Executive Officer Jim Umpleby shifts its global headquarters to Chicago to bolster the machinery maker’s push into foreign markets. Last week, Doug Oberhelman, the company’s chairman, participated in discussions at the White House, where President Donald Trump said “I love Caterpillar.” Bloomberg

Senators Ask Feds Not To Clamp Down On State Marijuana Laws
Senators from eight states that have legalized the recreational or medicinal use of marijuana are asking Attorney General Jeff Sessions to uphold the Department of Justice's existing enforcement policy toward states with voter-approved marijuana laws. Massachusetts Democratic Sens. Elizabeth Warren and Edward Markey were among those who signed the Thursday letter. Massachusetts voters backed the recreational use of pot last year. The senators point to comments by White House spokesman Sean Spicer suggesting stepped-up enforcement of federal laws against recreational marijuana. Las Vegas Sun
VOA VIEW: Sessions is being asked to overlook the law.

Trump Slump? Signs Of Drop In International Tourism To U.S.
The U.S. Travel Association on Thursday said the Trump administration's immigration policies are hurting tourism. The nonprofit industry organization said in a statement that there are "mounting signs" of "a broad chilling effect on demand for international travel to the United States." The U.S. Travel Association's statement added to a growing chorus of concern from the travel industry over the impact of Trump administration policies on tourism. Earlier this week, the tourism agency NYC & Company revised its 2017 forecast to predict a drop in inbound international travel to New York City, with 300,000 fewer visitors compared to 2016. It will be the first drop in visitation to New York since the start of the recession in 2008. Las Vegas Sun

High-Dose Flu Vaccine May Pevent Deaths In Seniors
Researchers found the high-dose flu vaccines may be more effective at preventing post-influenza deaths than the standard dose in seniors. In a study of Medicare beneficiaries, researchers at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Food and Drug Administration found older adults given high-dose flu vaccines were better protected against influenza death than those receiving normal-dose vaccines. Seniors are at higher risk for serious complications and death from the flu than young adults and middle-aged people -- between 71 percent and 85 percent of flu-related deaths occur among people over age 65. UPI

Indonesians Shocked By Trump, But Still Admire US Values
Indonesians are by turns shocked and bemused by Donald Trump's volatile presidency, but many in the world's most populous Muslim nation say his personality and actions — including his controversial travel ban — haven't changed their positive view of the United States. There is a reservoir of goodwill in Indonesia toward the U.S., which Indonesians often see as a beacon for values they hope will flourish in their own country. Perceptions were particularly positive during Barack Obama's administration because of Obama's personal links to Indonesia and his efforts to heal divisions with the Muslim world. The U.S. is one of the largest foreign investors in Indonesia. Phoenix, Arizona-based Freeport-McMoRan Copper & Gold Inc. operates one of the world's largest copper mines and the world's largest gold mine in Indonesia's easternmost province of Papua. Houston Chronicle
VOA VIEW: Expected from the liberal Houston Chronicle.

2 Men Caught Trying To Carry Loaded Guns Onto Planes In Charlotte
The Transportation Security Administration says it prevented two men from boarding planes in Charlotte while carrying loaded guns on Thursday morning. Investigators believe the two arrests at Charlotte Douglas International Airport checkpoints were not related, as far as a coordinated attempt to breach security. The first incident occurred just after 6 a.m. at Checkpoint D and the second at Checkpoint A just after 6:30 a.m. TSA officers detected the guns and ammunition as the men were passing through the airport checkpoints. The names of the men arrested were not released. Charlotte Observer

Overprescribed: Veterans And The Painkiller Problem
The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs has realized that America’s military veterans are particularly prone to what’s become a national epidemic of addiction to prescription medications — especially a class of opium-based painkillers known as opioids. For veterans of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars, the amount of chronic pain and mental-health problems they report upon coming home from the combat zones has led to the combination of high prescription levels and greater likelihood of overdoses. San Diego County is home to the country’s biggest cluster of post-9/11 veterans. Nationally, one in five of these vets has been prescribed an opioid, roughly twice the rate as for much older vets, according to a VA study. San Diego Union

Trump Policy On Afghanistan Still Not Clear
President Donald Trump and Vice President Mike Pence have told Afghanistan's leaders that the United States will stand by its commitment to the security of Afghanistan, but what that means in policy terms has not been defined. Trump tweeted in 2013 that the United States should "get out of Afghanistan." "Our troops are being killed by the Afghanis we train and we waste billions there." Two weeks ago, though, he promised Afghan President Mohammad Ashraf Ghani in a phone call that the United States will honor its commitments in Afghanistan, according to a statement on Afghanistan's government website. Pence gave Ghani similar assurances when they met in February at a security conference in Munich. UPI

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US REPS SAY FEDERAL RESPONSE NEEDED TO STOP JEW-HATRED
Lawmakers from both parties are expressing grave concern over a measurable spike in antisemitic threats, attacks and acts of vandalism across the US, and are calling on the Trump administration to coordinate a more proactive and comprehensive response. A bipartisan congressional task force founded primarily to combat antisemitism overseas reconstituted itself last week in order to meet the growing challenge at home. That group, composed of four Democrats and four Republicans, sent a letter to President Donald Trump on Thursday detailing specific steps he could take to mitigate the threat. Jerusalem Post

BRITAIN PLEDGES £13.4 MILLION FOR JEWISH COMMUNAL SECURITY
British Home Secretary Amber Rudd on Wednesday pledged to continue budgeting £13.4 million for the security of the Jewish community, noting that Jews remain a target for terrorists. “Daesh [ISIS] literature continues to identify the Jewish community as a ‘desirable and legitimate’ target,” she said, in an address to some 1,000 guests at the Community Security Trust’s annual dinner in London. Jerusalem Post

Egypt's Hosni Mubarak Acquitted Over 2011 Protester Deaths
Egypt's top appeals court has acquitted former President Hosni Mubarak of conspiring in the killing of hundreds of protesters during the 2011 uprising. Mr Mubarak was sentenced to life in prison after being convicted in 2012, but the case was retried twice. Thursday's Court of Cassation ruling is final, which could mean the ailing 88 year old is freed from detention. He has been confined to a military hospital despite having completed a three-year sentence for embezzlement. BBC

CBI Chief Warns Against 'No Deal' Brexit
Leaving the EU without a trade deal would be "irresponsible", the president of the CBI business group will warn. Paul Drechsler will say he agrees with the PM that a deal can be done but it is "wrong" for others to suggest the only choice is to leave without one. He will say both UK and European firms fear this "worst-case scenario".
Pro-Brexit group Change Britain accused the CBI of being "proven wrong time and again on Europe" and said it should be "more optimistic" about the UK. Mr Drechsler's speech in London follows similar warnings from the British Chambers of Commerce and former chancellor George Osborne earlier this week. BBC

NFL Quarterback Colin Kaepernick Set To Stand For National Anthem Next Year
Colin Kaepernick, the San Francisco 49ers quarterback whose decision not to stand for the national anthem became the NFL’s biggest storyline of last year, is set to drop his protest when the new season begins. USA Today and ESPN reported on Thursday that Kaepernick will not carry over his protest into next season, in part because he believes his objective – initiating a nationwide debate – has largely been accomplished. Kaepernick said last year that he was protesting against police brutality and racial injustice in America. “I am not going to stand up to show pride in a flag for a country that oppresses black people and people of color,” Kaepernick said at a press conference when he began his protest in September. “To me, this is bigger than football and it would be selfish on my part to look the other way.” Guardian
VOA VIEW: Know one cares what Kaepernick does - he lost.

Research Indicates Trump Travel Ban Was Based On Misleading Data
Donald Trump has relied upon a dubious statistic to support his ban on travel to the US from seven majority-Muslim countries, terrorism researchers and databases indicate. Trump, in his Tuesday night address to Congress, cited unspecified data from the Department of Justice to claim that the “vast majority” of people convicted of terrorism-related offenses in the US since 9/11 “came here from outside of our country”. Guardian

EU Escalates 'Visa War' With US With Americans Set To Lose Visa-Free Travel To Europe
Americans should be forced to apply for visas to travel to Europe, the European Parliament has said, in response to Washington refusing to allow all Europeans to travel to the States visa-free. The vote by show of hands is the latest in the ongoing “visa war” between Brussels and the US capital, which now looks set to come to a head after MEPs today agreed that US nationals crossing the Atlantic should require additional travel documents as long as citizens from five EU countries (Bulgaria, Croatia, Cyprus, Poland and Romania) are kept from entering America without a visa. A European Parliament source told Telegraph Travel this was a “serious negative step in the EU-USA visa war”. Telegraph

Mexican Lawyer Asks Donald Trump To Deport Drug Lord 'El Chapo'
A lawyer who has worked on behalf of Joaquin "El Chapo" Guzman is trying a novel legal tactic: he is calling on US president Donald Trump to deport the Mexican drug lord back home from his jail cell in the United States. Lawyer Jose Luis Gonzalez Meza held up a banner outside the Mexican attorney general's office in the capital on Wednesday that read: "Mr. Trump, Deport the illegal and criminal Chapo Guzman." Mr Trump has pledged to deport migrants who have committed illegal acts. Telegraph

Hunger Persists In Chronic Conflict Zones Despite Strong Global Harvests – UN
Despite robust food supply conditions, droughts are worsening food security across swathes of East Africa, and access to food has been dramatically reduced in areas suffering civil conflicts, a new United Nations report has found. “This is an unprecedented situation. Never before have we been faced with four threats of famine in multiple countries simultaneously,” Kostas Stamoulis, the Assistant Director-General of the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), said in a news release issued today, noting that famine has been formally declared in South Sudan, and the food security situation is of grave concern in northern Nigeria, Somalia and Yemen. UN News

UN-Backed Narcotics Control Body Calls For More Policies To Address Drug Dependence Among Women
Citing a significant rise over the past year in the number of women dying from drug overdoses globally, the independent expert body which monitors Governments’ compliance with the United Nations international drug control treaties is today calling for the implementation of gender-sensitive drug policies and programmes. The International Narcotics Control Board (INCB) said that women and girls comprise one-third of global drug users yet are only one-fifth of those receiving treatment, as significant systemic, structural, social, cultural and personal barriers affect women’s ability to access substance abuse treatment. UN News

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