NEWS   THURSDAY, APRIL  20, 2017   NEWS

Fox News Drops Bill O'Reilly In Wake Of Harassment Allegations
Fox News is cutting ties with Bill O’Reilly, the biggest star in its 20-year history, after mounting allegations of sexual harassment and inappropriate behavior prompted the network to end his program. “After a thorough and careful review of the allegations,” parent company 21st Century Fox said in a statement, “the company and Bill O’Reilly have agreed that Bill O’Reilly will not be returning to the Fox News Channel.” Today’s decision seemed unimaginable a few short weeks ago, given O’Reilly’s long reign as the top-rated host in cable news. Fox News
VOA VIEW: Not the smartest move.

Kansas Students Who Uncovered Principal's Secret Invited To White House Correspondents' Dinner
Six student reporters from Pittsburg High School in Kansas have been invited to the White House Correspondents Dinner for calling into question their incoming principal's credentials. The students earned the invitation to the April 29 event following an article they wrote that examined the qualifications of Amy Robertson, who had been hired as the school’s principal. An investigation and subsequent report by the school’s Booster Redux newspaper led to revelations that Robertson had obtained her education credentials from Corllins University, an institution known for allowing students to purchase degrees. Fox News
VOA VIEW: What a mess?

Aaron Hernandez Murder Conviction Expected To Be Vacated By 'Quirky' Rule
Aaron Hernandez's murder conviction is expected to be dismissed posthumously because of a legal rule called "abatement." That would mean, legally speaking, Aaron Hernandez died an innocent man. Hernandez hanged himself in his prison cell and was found dead early Wednesday morning, the Massachusetts Department of Correction said. Hernandez had been serving a sentence of life in prison without parole after being convicted of the June 2013 murder of Odin Lloyd. But a court will vacate that conviction because Hernandez's appeal was pending, said Rosanna Cavallaro, a law professor at Suffolk University who has written about abatement. "The idea is that if an appeal hasn't happened, there's a chance that a conviction has an error in it," she told CNN. "Rather than have someone with that incomplete decision that they're guilty, the state chooses instead to say that conviction is abated -- as if it never had happened." CNN

General Motors Halts Venezuela Operations As Authorities Seize Plant
General Motors halted operations in Venezuela on Thursday after the car maker's plant in the country was seized by public authorities, the company said. GM described the takeover as an "illegal judicial seizure of its assets." It comes as the South American nation experiences intense public protests against the government of President Nicolas Maduro. Three people were killed late Wednesday as tens of thousands of Venezuelans took the streets to demand fresh presidential elections and the release of jailed opposition politicians. The country has high crime and inflation rates and there are shortages of many basic goods and services. Maduro has used his Socialist government's institutions to pursue political opponents. USA Today

This Florida Military Unit Is Watching For North Korean Nuclear Bomb Tests
As the world awaits North Korean leader Kim Jong Un's next military move, a secretive U.S. Air Force complex on the other side of the planet continues to monitor the isolated nation for nuclear bomb tests. Headquartered at Patrick Air Force Base, the Air Force Technical Applications Center operates and maintains the U.S. Atomic Energy Detection System. Operating on all seven continents, this $3 billion surveillance network of more than 3,600 high-tech sensors — including seismic sensors, ocean hydrophones and gamma detectors — identifies nuclear detonations underground, underwater, and in the Earth’s atmosphere and space. "AFTAC, and our squadron in particular, are ready to go all the time, 24/7. It doesn't matter what's happening globally, what the specific circumstances are," said Lt. Col. Ehren Carl. He commands the Technical Surveillance Squadron, a group of 70 airmen who analyze the incoming sensor data. USA Today
VOA VIEW: The US must stay ready for the nut case - Un.

Georgia Jobless Rate Dips To 5.1 Percent, Finally Hitting 2007 Level; 9500 Jobs Added In March
Georgia’s unemployment rate dropped to 5.1 percent in March, the first time it has dropped to that level since December of 2007, the state labor department said Thursday. The rate, which had soared into double digits at the end of the recession, has been slowly coming down since. It was 5.3 percent in February. The state added 9,500 jobs during the month, slightly more than average for March during the past three years. It took a long time, but the jobless rate is back to the level it was when the economy dropped into recession, although there are still more than 257,000 people out of work and actively looking for a job.  Layoffs were 11 percent lower than during the same month a year ago, said Mark Butler, the state labor commissioner. Atlanta Journal

Navy, Marines Prohibit Sharing Nude Photos Without Consent
The US Navy and Marine Corps on Wednesday officially barred service members from distributing nude photos without the consent of the individual depicted. Both military branches issued amendments to their conduct regulations to specifically prohibit the nonconsensual or wrongful distribution of an "intimate image." The regulation is the equivalent of an order and can be enforced by a military court. The announcement comes in the wake of the Marines United photo scandal that rocked all four branches of the US military last month. The branches are all looking into the posting of nude photos of what appear to be female service members on various websites, a Pentagon official told CNN last month. CNN

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More Americans 18-to-34 Now Live With Parents Than With Spouse
Four decades ago, in the mid-1970s, young American adults--in the 18-to-34 age bracket--were far more likely to be married and living with a spouse than living in their parents’ home. But that is no longer the case, according to a new study by the U.S. Census Bureau. “There are now more young people living with their parents than in any other arrangement,” says the Census Bureau study. “What is more,” says the study, “almost 9 in 10 young people who were living in their parents’ home a year ago are still living there today, making it the most stable living arrangement.” The Number 1 living arrangement today for Americans in the 18-to-34 age bracket, according to the Census Bureau, is to reside without a spouse in their parents’ home. CNS News
VOA VIEW: The world is going backwards.

DHS Chief: Threat To Our Nation ‘Has Metastasized’; ‘Worse’ Than 16 Years Ago
The American people have grown “somewhat accustomed” to the ever-present threat of terrorism, even though the threat to the nation “has not diminished,” Homeland Security Secretary Gen. Jack Kelly told an audience at George Washington University on Wednesday. “In fact, the threat has metastasized and decentralized, and the risk is threatening us today in a way that is worse than we experienced 16 years ago on 9/11,” Kelly said. “As I speak these words, the FBI has opened terrorism investigations in all of our 50 states. And since 2013, there have been 37 ISIS-linked plots to attack our country. CNS News

Putin-Linked Think Tank Drew Up Plan To Sway 2016 U.S. Election
A Russian government think tank controlled by Vladimir Putin developed a plan to swing the 2016 U.S. presidential election to Donald Trump and undermine voters’ faith in the American electoral system, three current and four former U.S. officials told Reuters. They described two confidential documents from the think tank as providing the framework and rationale for what U.S. intelligence agencies have concluded was an intensive effort by Russia to interfere with the Nov. 8 election. U.S. intelligence officials acquired the documents, which were prepared by the Moscow-based Russian Institute for Strategic Studies [en.riss.ru/], after the election. Reuters
VOA VIEW: The real truth is ...

Texas Ordered To Pay $600,000 To Same-Sex Couples Who Defeated State Ban
A federal appeals court ordered Texas on Wednesday to pay about $600,000 to cover the legal fees for two same-sex couples who defeated the state's ban on same-sex marriage in a protracted court battle. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit awarded $585,470 in attorneys’ fees and about $20,000 in costs arising from the challenge to the plaintiffs in the case, Cleopatra DeLeon, Nicole Dimetman, Victor Holmes and Mark Phariss. "We're thrilled. Our lawyers did an outstanding job," Phariss said in an interview. "It's frankly a waste of taxpayer money to have fought the ability of two people who love each other to marry," he said. Reuters

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Emirates Just Cut Some Of Its Flights To The U.S. Due To Trump’s Travel Bans
Dubai-based Emirates airline announced Wednesday it will reduce its service to the United States in response to a drop in demand. The airline attributes this to actions taken by the U.S. government, such as restrictions on electronic devices in cabins and a travel ban for some majority-Muslim countries. The airline said it will be reducing flights to five of the 12 U.S. cities it currently serves. "This is a commercial decision in response to weakened travel demand to the U.S.," Emirates said in a statement provided to NBC News. "The recent actions taken by the U.S. government relating to the issuance of entry visas, heightened security vetting, and restrictions on electronic devices in aircraft cabins, have had a direct impact on consumer interest and demand for air travel into the U.S." MSNBC

Your Financial Data Is At Risk If You've Stayed At This Hotel Chain
The bad news continues - the malware wasn't "eradicated until the properties were investigated in February and March 2017." However, the company claimed there's no evidence of "unauthorized access to payment card data after December 29, 2016." InterContinental Hotels Group, headquartered in Denham, Buckinghamshire, owns and operates the following chains about 5,000 hotels across 200 countries - Holiday Inn, Candlewood Suites, Crowne Plaza, Holiday Inn Express, Hotel Indigo, InterContinental, Staybridge Suites and Holiday Inn Club Vacation. MSNBC
VOA VIEW: It's tough.

North Korea Has 30 Warheads And Is Quickly Expanding Its Nuclear Arsenal
North Korea’s nuclear arsenal has expanded to 30 warheads and will grow further as Pyongyang produces increased quantities of weapons-grade uranium and plutonium, according to estimates. In just three years, the North’s unpredictable leader, Kim Jong-un, will control sufficient fissile material to double that arsenal to as many as 60 weapons, says the Institute for Science and International Security in Washington. To underscore this alarming increase, the U.S. estimated that North Korea owned just one or two nuclear weapons in 1999 and would have 10 or more by 2020, according to a secret Defense Intelligence Agency report obtained by The Washington Times shortly after it had circulated privately last decade. Washington Times

CIA, FBI Search For Mole Who Gave Top Secret Docs To Wikileaks
The CIA is searching for a traitor inside their own spy agency as it was revealed Wednesday that the saboteur who handed a trove of documents to Wikileaks in March works for the government. Both the CIA and FBI have launched an investigation to find the potential mole who leaked thousands of top-secret documents which revealed how the government can hack into your laptop and smartphone, according to CBS News. The leaker either works for the CIA or is a government contractor, CBS said. Although the stolen material was classified and secured, the network claims hundreds of workers had access to the data. NY Post
VOA VIEW: Look at Obama liberals.

Kremlin: No Reason To Believe Gays Abused In Chechnya
Vladimir Putin's spokesman says the Russian president has no reason to disbelieve the Chechen leader's assurances that reports of detentions and killings of gay men in Chechnya have no basis in fact. Dmitry Peskov also told journalists on Thursday that investigators have found no evidence to back up reports by the respected newspaper Novaya Gazeta that police in the predominantly Muslim republic rounded up more than 100 men suspected of homosexuality and that at least three of them were killed. Putin met late Wednesday with Chechen leader Ramzan Kadyrov, who told the president not to believe the "provocative" articles. The reports, however, have been taken seriously by the United Nations' High Commissioner for Human Rights and prominent international organizations, which have urged the Russian government to investigate. Charlotte Observer

Conservatives Stymied By Latest Arkansas Execution Setback
Arkansas' attempt to carry out its first execution in nearly 12 years wasn't thwarted by the type of liberal activist judge Republicans regularly bemoan here, but instead by a state Supreme Court that's been the focus of expensive campaigns by conservative groups to reshape the judiciary. The court voted Wednesday to halt the execution of an inmate facing lethal injection Thursday night, two days after justices stayed the executions of two other inmates. The series of 4-3 decisions blocking start of what had been an unprecedented plan to execute eight men in 11 days were only the latest in recent years preventing this deeply Republican state from resuming capital punishment. The possibility that justices could continue sparing the lives of the remaining killers scheduled to die this month has left death penalty proponents wondering how much longer executions will remain in a holding pattern. Kansas City Star

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Trump Turns Focus To Veterans, Signs Extension For Choice In Health Care
President Trump took one of his first steps Wednesday to address chronic problems in the Department of Veterans Affairs by signing a bill that extends stopgap services for veterans to go outside the VA medical system for care. After campaigning on the issue of improving substandard care for veterans that dogged President Obama, Mr. Trump signed a reauthorization of the Veterans Access, Choice and Accountability Act and announced that he would devote a press conference to veterans issues next week. Washington Times

Todd Ricketts Backs Out Of Deputy Commerce Secretary Nomination
President Donald Trump’s pick for deputy secretary of commerce, Todd Ricketts, is withdrawing his nomination, CBS News’ Major Garrett reports, as Mr. Trump struggles to fill high-level appointments nearing the end of his first 100 days in office. The move comes as the Chicago Cubs co-owner and TD Ameritrade board member was having difficulty untangling his financial assets to meet Office of Government Ethics standards. “The issues the Commerce Department faces are so broad it was impossible to disentangle Todd and his family’s interests from all that,” Bob Rizzi, Ricketts’ lawyer, told CBS News. CBS

$13 A Pack? NYC Mayor Wants Highest Cigarette Prices IIn US
New York Mayor Bill de Blasio is pushing for the nation's biggest city to also be the country's priciest spot to buy a pack of smokes. De Blasio is backing an effort to raise the price of a pack of cigarettes from $10.50 to $13, which he says would be the nation's highest. The Democrat announced his support Wednesday for a series of legislative proposals designed to drastically cut tobacco use in the city by the year 2020. De Blasio says his goal is to reduce the number of smokers in the city by 160,000. The proposals are set for hearings from city lawmakers later this month. Tampa Tribune
VOA VIEW: Smokers will buy their cigarettes in another state.

Japan Says Pacific Rim Pact Offers Best Trade Deals
Japanese officials are indicating they intend to pursue the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade pact despite the U.S. withdrawal from the agreement. In comments reported by the national broadcaster NHK on Thursday, Deputy Prime Minister Taro Aso said he believed the TPP trade talks would offer greater advantages to Japan than bilateral negotiations with the U.S. Aso made the comments at a conference in New York City. The remarks appeared to allude to U.S. Vice President Mike Pence's comments, after meeting Aso in Tokyo earlier this week, that the U.S. considered the TPP a "thing of the past." Pence said the Trump administration believed that only bilateral trade negotiations would yield "win-win" outcomes. Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida, told lawmakers Thursday that Japan would focus on what's best for its own interests. Tampa Tribune

Texting Junkies: Florida’s Distracted Drivers Rank Second Worst In U.S.
Florida drivers are among the most dangerous menaces on the road, ranking second worst in the nation for being distracted while behind the wheel, according to a study of driving habits. Florida’s score was 49th, ahead of only Louisiana in a state-by-state analysis which indicated that 92 percent of U.S. drivers with cell phones use them while moving in a car. “Those are shocking numbers proving we have a lot of careless and complacent drivers out there,” said Ryan Ruffing, director of communications for EverQuote, which collected the data. “Traffic fatalities have increased the past two years and phone use is a primary reason.” Florida’s notoriously bad drivers ranked 39th in overall driving safety, while up in Montana’s wide open spaces, drivers ranked No. 1. By region, Midwesterners are the safest drivers, confirming their reputation as the nicest Americans, while edgy Northeasterners negotiating the roads of their dense cities are the least safe. Southern drivers use their phones the most, on 41 percent of all trips. Miami Herald

For Trump, Familiar Judge Gets Case Of Deported Mexican
A case involving a man who was deported to Mexico despite having permission to be in the U.S. under a program that shields young immigrants has landed in the courtroom of a judge whose impartiality was questioned by Donald Trump during the presidential campaign because of his Mexican heritage. U.S. District Judge Gonzalo Curiel in San Diego was assigned the case of Juan Manuel Montes, 23, whose attorneys say could be the first known person deported by the Trump administration who had qualified for the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program. Montes sued Tuesday for access to records on his deportation. The lawsuit came less than a month after Curiel approved a $25 million settlement in a case alleging the now-defunct Trump University misled customers. Trump repeatedly criticized the Indiana-born judge during the campaign, insinuating that his Mexican heritage exposed a bias in the case because of Trump's tough line on illegal immigration. SF Gate
VOA VIEW: Montes is guilty.

Palestinian President To Meet With Trump At White House Next Month
The White House announced that Trump and Mahmoud Abbas will be meeting about peace in the Middle East. Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas is visiting President Trump at the White House on May 3, White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer announced Wednesday. The two will “reaffirm the commitment” of the U.S. and Palestinian leadership to “pursuing and ultimately concluding a conflict-ending settlement between the Palestinians and Israel,” Spicer said at Wednesday’s White House briefing. CBS

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Israeli Defense Officials: Assad Still Has Chemical Weapons
Syria still has up to three tons of chemical weapons, Israeli defense officials said Wednesday in the first specific intelligence assessment of President Bashar Assad's weapons capabilities since a deadly chemical attack earlier this month. The estimate came as the head of the international chemical weapons watchdog said laboratory tests had provided "incontrovertible" evidence that victims and survivors of the April 4 attack in northern Syria were exposed to sarin nerve gas or a similar banned toxin. Israel, along with the United States and much of the international community, has accused Assad's forces of carrying out the attack, which killed at least 90 people, including dozens of children. ABC

Trump Has Embraced Autocratic Leaders Without Hesitation
President Donald Trump congratulated Turkey's president for sweeping up more power. Trump hailed Egypt's strongman as a "fantastic guy." When China's president visited the United States, Trump cited a burgeoning friendship and made no public mention of Beijing's dismal human rights record. Since taking office, Trump has displayed a striking willingness to embrace autocrats as potential partners in his "America First" agenda, even if it means ignoring their heavy-handed tactics and repression at home. It's a posture that Trump also took toward Russian President Vladimir Putin until a dispute over Syria led Trump last week to declare U.S.-Russian ties at an "all-time low." ABC
VOA VIEW: Trump is very coy or acting dumb.

Larry Fink: ‘Warning Signs Are Getting Darker’ For The U.S. Economy
Laurence D. Fink, chief executive officer of BlackRock Inc., said the lackluster growth of the U.S. economy and uncertainty around the Trump administration’s ability to quickly pass key reforms pose a risk to markets. “There are some warning signs that are getting darker,” said Fink, in an interview Wednesday on Bloomberg Television. Fink, who runs the world’s largest money manager, mentioned a pullback in car sales and a slowdown in merger and acquisition activity as indications that uncertainty is rising. The slowest economy among the G-7 nations is the U.S., he said. The stock market needs validation that U.S. corporate earnings will stay strong and that the policies of President Donald Trump regarding taxes, regulation and infrastructure will advance in Congress in order to move higher, Fink said. Bloomberg

Government Shutdown Is Logical But Not Likely
All the elements of a debacle will be in place next week when congressional authorization expires for financing the U.S. government. Lawmakers, on recess now, will have only four days to iron out a deal. Right-wing Republicans see a chance to enact abortion curbs and anti-immigrant measures that opponents won't countenance. Democrats are in no mood to offer concessions. And the administration of President Donald Trump has trouble getting its act together. Sound like a government shutdown in the making? It's very unlikely. Funding for the government will expire on April 28 without congressional action. The odds are that there will be a one- or two-week extension, with the battle joined and probably resolved by mid-May. Bloomberg

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US Trying To Determine What Chemical IS Used In Iraq Attack
The U.S. military says it is trying to determine what chemical the Islamic State group used against Iraqi government forces last weekend. Maj. Gen. Joseph Martin, the commander of coalition ground forces in Iraq, says Iraqi forces were treated after a strike in western Mosul. He says no one was "significantly impacted." The Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons has said IS militants previously have used sulfur mustard gas. On Sunday, Iraqi Defense Ministry spokesman Brig. Gen. Yahya Rasool told The Associated Press that six soldiers suffered breathing problems and were treated in a nearby field clinic. Martin on Wednesday wouldn't say whether U.S. or Australian military advisors were in the vicinity at the time. Las Vegas Sun

Soyuz Space Capsule Carrying American, Russian Blasts Off
A Soyuz space capsule blasted off Thursday for the International Space Station, carrying an American astronaut making his first space flight and a veteran Russian cosmonaut. NASA's Jack Fischer and Russia's Fyodor Yurchikhin lifted off from the Russia-leased launch facility in Kazakhstan at 1:13 p.m. (0713GMT, 3:13 a.m. EDT). They reached orbit about nine minutes later, a moment illustrated when a small white stuffed dog hanging from a string in the capsule began to float. They will travel six hours before docking at the space station. The two American astronauts are scheduled to speak with President Donald Trump on Monday. On that day, Whitson, the first woman to command the International Space Station, will have spent 535 days in space, more time than any other American astronaut. Jeffrey Williams currently holds the record. At 57, Whitson also is the oldest woman in space. She returns to Earth in September. Philadelphia Inquirer

AP Explains: The Origins Of 4/20, Marijuana's High Holiday
Thursday marks marijuana culture's high holiday, 4/20, when college students gather - at 4:20 p.m. - in clouds of smoke on campus quads and when pot shops in legal weed states thank their customers with discounts. This year's edition provides an occasion for pot activists to reflect on how far their movement has come, with recreational pot now allowed in eight states and the nation's capital, as well as a changed national political climate that could threaten to slow or undermine their cause.
WHY 4/20? The origins of the date, and the term "420" generally, were long murky. Some claimed it referred to a police code for marijuana possession or that it arose from Bob Dylan's "Rainy Day Women No. 12 & 35," with its refrain of "Everybody must get stoned" - 420 being the product of 12 times 35. Philadelphia Inquirer

Hillary Camp Scrambling To Find Out Who Leaked Embarrassing Info
The knives are out in Hillary Clinton’s camp about who leaked embarrassing information to the authors of a bombshell new book about her “doomed presidential campaign.” There is a witch hunt underway among Clinton’s presidential campaign staffers after the release of the autopsy book, “Shattered: Inside Hillary Clinton’s Doomed Campaign” by journalists Jonathan Allen and Amie Parnes. We’re told the details in the book, which depicts the campaign as inept, “could only have come from someone in the inner circle.” Dennis Cheng, the finance director of Clinton’s presidential campaign, has been sending out messages to determine where the leaks come from. NY Post
VOA VIEW: Hillary is dont - who cares about her book - liberals.

Trump Inaugural Committee Raised Record $106.7M
President Donald Trump's inaugural committee raised a record $106.7 million for festivities, much of it from corporations, a required filing indicated. The figure was twice the previous record of $53 million raised to celebrate former President Barack Obama's 2009 inauguration. Information filed Tuesday with the Federal Election Commission showed that Sheldon Adelson, casino magnate and frequent Republican donor, contributed $5 million. New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft contributed $1 million and Steve Schwatzman, CEO of the investment firm Blackstone Group, contributed $250,000. UPI

Study finds hot flashes increase the risk of depression
New research has found a link between moderate to severe hot flashes and a significantly higher risk of depression in perimenopausal and menopausal women. The large study of perimenopausal and menopausal women, conducted by researchers at Monash University in Australia, showed that moderate to severe vasomotor symptoms, also known as hot flashes or night sweats, were at a significant risk for developing moderate to severe depression. Researchers analyzed data on more than 2,000 Australian women between the ages of 40 and 65 between October 2013 and March 2014 using the Menopause-Specific Quality of Life Questionnaire and the Beck Depression Inventory-II. Results of the study showed 267 of the 2,020 women, or 13.3. percent, reported experiencing moderate to severe hot flashes or night sweats. After accounting for other factors such as age, marital status, body mass index and others, the women with moderate to severe hot flashes were more likely to have moderate to severe depressive symptoms compared to women who reported mild or no hot flashes. UPI

Mexico’s Ex-President, In Lively Speech, Calls Trump “A Crazy Guy”
Former Mexican President Vicente Fox called President Trump “a crazy guy” Wednesday while offering a spirited defense of the open trade policies between Mexico and the United States that Trump has said he wants to scrap. In an an hour-long speech before the Commonwealth Club in San Francisco, Fox extolled the benefits of free trade while also deriding, sometimes with irony, Trump’s attack on undocumented immigrants in the United States. “I’m not for open borders. I’m for an orderly border,” Fox said. “We need it in Mexico. We don’t want an invasion of gringos again.” SF Gate
VOA VIEW:  Fox is the loser.

Saudi Oil Minister Says Production Cuts May Need To Continue
Saudi Arabia's oil minister on Thursday suggested that production cuts agreed to by OPEC members and countries outside of the cartel may need to continue to help shore up crude oil prices. The comments by Khalid al-Falih carry significant weight as the kingdom is one of the world's top oil producers. They come as the price per barrel stand above $50 and increases in U.S. shale oil production threaten to keep them low. "There is an initial agreement but it has not been communicated to all the countries yet that we might be forced to extend in order to reach our goal," al-Falih said in a speech at an oil conference in Abu Dhabi, the capital of the United Arab Emirates. Atlanta Journal

VP Pence Praises Indonesia's Democratic, Tolerant Values
U.S. Vice President Mike Pence praised Indonesia's democracy and moderate form of Islam on Thursday alongside the president of the world's most populous Muslim nation, reinforcing his message with a visit to the region's largest mosque. Pence's comments, though routine, had significance for Indonesian President Joko "Jokowi" Widodo, who a day earlier suffered a serious political setback when a political ally was defeated by Islamic conservatives in the election for Jakarta governor. The divisive campaign undermined the image of Indonesia abroad as a generally tolerant Muslim nation. Houston Chronicle

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'WITH SYRIA IN PIECES, IT’S TIME TO RECOGNIZE ISRAEL’S ANNEXATION OF THE GOLAN'
Michael Oren says it is time for the world to recognize the Golan Heights as part of Israel. In contrast to negotiations with the Palestinians, there is no Syria to negotiate with, said Deputy Minister for Diplomacy in the Prime Minister’s Office Oren said on Tuesday. “Without Israel there [in the Golan], the region would be jeopardized. ISIS would be on the Kinneret,” he said, adding that other states in the region are glad Israel is on the Golan. This is one of several important outcomes of the 1967 war still felt today. Israel annexed the Golan in 1981 in a decision that was never recognized internationally. Oren was speaking at a seminar hosted by The Israel Project and the Jerusalem Institute for Policy Research on Radak Street in Jerusalem. The seminar – one of a series that runs through June – is focused on the impact of the war of 50 years ago, domestically and geopolitically, with special emphasis on Jerusalem. Jerusalem Post
VOA VIEW: Israel will give up very little land for peace - even if there was such a deal.

Trump Orders Iran Nuclear Deal Review Despite Compliance
Secretary of State Rex Tillerson revealed the review, on the Obama-era decision to lift sanctions on Iran, in a letter to Congress. He acknowledged the Iranians had met the terms of the 2015 deal, but raised concerns about the country as a "state sponsor of terrorism". Mr Trump has described the landmark agreement as the "worst deal ever". However, his predecessor Barack Obama argued the deal, between Iran and six world powers including China, Russia and the UK, was the best way to prevent Iran getting a nuclear weapon. BBC

Palestinian Anger At Israeli Refusal To Talk To Hunger Striking Inmates
The Palestinian Authority has criticised Israel's refusal to talk to more than 1,000 Palestinian detainees who are on hunger strike against conditions in Israeli jails. Issa Qaraqe, head of detainees' affairs for the Palestinian Authority, warns of a "new intifada" if any of them die. The strike is being led by Marwan Barghouti, a Palestinian leader jailed by Israel for life for five murders. Israel had previously said there was "no reason" to negotiate with them. Barghouti has been touted as a possible future successor to Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas. BBC
VOA VIEW: Israel is right.

Socialist Venezuela Chipped In $500,000 To Trump's Inauguration
President Nicolás Maduro may be struggling to feed Venezuela but his socialist administration still managed to make a $500,000 donation to Donald Trump’s inauguration. Records from Trump’s inaugural committee released on Wednesday show that Citgo Petroleum, a US affiliate of Venezuela’s state oil company PDVSA, was one of the biggest corporate donors to the swearing-in ceremony. PDVSA recently offered up a nearly 50% stake in Citgo as collateral for a $1.5bn loan from Russian firm Rosneft. The deal drew criticism from Republicans who worry it sets the stage for Vladimir Putin to take control of American oil. Guardian

Paul Ryan Announces US Is Ready To Forge A New Bilateral Trade Deal With UK 'As Soon As Possible'
Paul Ryan, the US House speaker, has said America was ready to forge a new bilateral trade deal with the UK as soon as possible. His commitment to a new economic relationship between the US and UK came almost a year to the day that Barack Obama, the former president, threatened to send Britain to the "back of the queue" if it voted to leave the European Union. The House speaker said Brexit should be viewed as "a real opportunity for our two nations" and warned against China "writing the rules of the 21st century global economy". Telegraph

Vatican Orders British Former Head Of Knights Of Malta To Stay Away From Election Of Successor In Rome
The British former head of the Knights of Malta has been ordered not to travel to Rome this month when the ancient order elects a new Grand Master. Matthew Festing, a former Guards officer, resigned from his post in January after a bruising clash with the Holy See over his dismissal of a senior deputy. The highly public row revolved around the distribution of condoms as part of an aid project run by the order in South-east Asia and shone an unwelcome spotlight on divisions within the charitable organisation, which was founded during the Crusades. Telegraph

Senior UN Official In South Sudan Warns Women And Girls Face ‘Extremely High Risk’ Of Sexual Assault Risk
Without peace in South Sudan, millions of people will go hungry and millions of women and girls could be raped as they try to go about their daily lives, including as they search for food, a senior United Nations official today warned. “While humanitarians will continue to do all that is possible to alleviate suffering, the fact remains that unless the guns fall silent, the humanitarian situation will continue to deteriorate,” said Eugene Owusu, Deputy Special Representative of the Secretary-General and UN Resident and Humanitarian Coordinator in South Sudan. UN New

UN Envoy Urges Palestinian Unity To Resolve Electricity Crisis In Gaza
The United Nations envoy for the Middle East peace process today called on authorities in Gaza to work together with the international community to resolve a new energy crisis after the area's only power station shut down, saying the consequences of the crisis “should not be underestimated.” “All in Gaza must share the burden by paying their bills. It is the poorest Palestinians in Gaza who pay the price for exceptions and privileges that others enjoy,” said Nickolay Mladenov, the UN Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process. He urged the “defacto authorities” in Gaza to ensure that collection rates are improved and that revenue collected in Gaza is returned to the “legitimate Palestinian authorities” in order to keep fuel and electricity supply flowing. UN News

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