Trump At NRA Convention: 'Eight-Year Assault' On Gun Rights Is Over
On the eve of his 100th day in office, President Trump rallied a convention of the National Rifle Association by vowing to "never, ever infringe" on Second Amendment rights and declaring his predecessor's alleged "assault" on those freedoms is over. “I am here to deliver you good news: the eight-year assault on your Second Amendment freedoms has come to a crashing end,” Trump told the cheering crowd. Trump is the first sitting president to address an NRA convention in more than three decades. The last president to do so was Ronald Reagan in 1983. Fox News
VOA VIEW: Times have changed.

Trump Signs Executive Order Aimed At Expanding Drilling In Arctic, Atlantic Oceans
President Trump signed an executive order Friday that could lead to the expansion of drilling in the Arctic and Atlantic oceans, saying it will reverse his predecessor's Arctic leasing ban and create "great jobs and great wealth" for the country. Trump said the executive order, titled "Implementing an America-First Offshore Energy Strategy," will direct a "review of the locations available for off-shore oil and gas exploration" and related regulations. "Today we're unleashing American energy and clearing the way for thousands and thousands of high-paying American energy jobs," Trump said in his announcement. Fox News

North Korea's Missile Test May Have Failed
North Korea on Saturday launched a missile that blew up over land, a US official said. The missile failed to reach the Sea of Japan, also known as the East Sea, the official added. A US military assessment found the main part of the missile landed approximately 35 kilometers from Pukchang airfield, the official said. The test-fired missile probably was a medium-range ballistic missile called a KN-17, the US official said. The KN-17 is a land-based solid-fuel missile fired from a mobile launcher. There has been no announcement on North Korean state television, CNN's Will Ripley in Pyongyang reported. CNN
VOA VIEW: A missile test is provocation.

Melania Trump Helps Open Garden Dedicated To First Ladies At DC Children's Hospital
First lady Melania Trump visited Children's National Health System in Washington on Friday, her second visit there in as many months, to help the hospital mark the official opening of a healing garden dedicated to the first ladies of the United States. "I was lucky to met so many very brave and amazing children," the first lady said in brief remarks to more than 100 guests, including patients, donors and friends of the hospital. "We had so much fun touring this space and planting many seeds. I look forward to coming back when everything that we planted is in full bloom." The new garden, which was inspired by a child whose last wish was to go outside, is named for Rachel Lambert "Bunny" Mellon, a longtime friend and mentor to first lady Jacqueline Kennedy who redesigned the White House Rose Garden. Trump, as well as former first ladies Michelle Obama, Laura Bush, Hillary Clinton, Barbara Bush and Rosalynn Carter, serve as honorary chairs. CNN


GDP Growth Has Not Topped 2.7% In Record 11 Years
Annual growth in the real Gross Domestic Product of the United States has not exceeded 2.7 percent for a record eleven straight years, according to data published by the Bureau of Economic Analysis. In the fourth quarter of 2016, according to the BEA, real gross domestic product grew at an annual rate of 2.1 percent. But for the full year of 2016, it grew by only 1.6 percent. The BEA’s “advance” estimate for the first quarter of 2017 showed growth in real GDP slowing to an annual rate of 0.7 percent. The 1.6 percent growth in real GDP for 2016 is the slowest annual economic growth the United States has seen since 2011, when real GDP also grew by 1.6 percent. The last time real GDP grew by 3.0 percent or more was 2005, when it grew by 3.3 percent. CNS News

Rev. Graham: 'Homosexuality Is Defined By God As Sin'
Commenting on legislation introduced by congressional Democrats to ban conversion therapy -- even for homoseuxals who want the treatment -- Reverend Franklin Graham said all persons are born with a fallen, sinful nature and that God defines homosexual behavior as a "sin," an "abomination to Him." The one "conversion therapy" that works for all sin, said Graham, is to ask "Jesus Christ to come into our hearts." This week, Democrats introduced the "Therapeutic Fraud Prevention Act of 2017," which would allow the Federal Trade Commission to classify conversion therapy as fraudulent. House Rep. Ted Lieu (D-Calif.) said, "LGBTQ people were born perfect; there is nothing to treat them for."  CNS News
VOA VIEW: Defined by the bible, GOD has said nothing.

U.S. Spy Agency Abandons Controversial Surveillance Technique
The U.S. National Security Agency said on Friday it had stopped a form of surveillance that allowed it to collect without a warrant the digital communications of Americans who mentioned a foreign intelligence target in their messages, marking an unexpected triumph for privacy advocates long critical of the practice. The decision to stop the once-secret activity, which involved messages sent to or received from people believed to be living overseas, came despite the insistence of U.S. officials in recent years that it was both lawful and vital to national security. Reuters


California Enacts $52 Billion Fuel Tax Hike For Road, Bridge Repairs
California Governor Jerry Brown signed into law on Friday a bill to raise gasoline taxes and other transportation-related fees for the first time in decades in an ambitious $52 billion plan to repair the state's long-neglected roads and bridges. The measure, increasing excise taxes on gasoline by 12 cents per gallon, from the current rate of $0.28 a gallon, and on diesel fuel by 20 cents per gallon over the next 10 years, goes into effect in November. It cleared the state legislature three weeks ago, on the strength of a two-thirds super-majority the Democrats wield in both houses that allows them to pass new taxes with little or no Republican support. Reuters
VOA VIEW: Californians and the rest of the world are paying more.

House And Senate Vote To Keep Government Open One More Week
The House of Representatives passed a short-term extension Friday morning to keep the government operating for another week, one step in averting a shutdown as negotiators continue to work on an agreement to extend funding through the remainder of the year. The Senate also voted to pass the short-term spending bill, known as a continuing resolution, shortly after the House passed it. The president has until midnight tonight to sign the extension. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer told NBC News that he dropped his objection to the extension even though there wasn't an agreement yet on the larger spending bill. MSNBC

Trump Again Derides Elizabeth Warren As ‘Pocahontas’
President Donald Trump returned to one of his most derogatory insults Friday, referring to Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren as "Pocahontas" — a jab at her Native American ancestry. Speaking to a cheering crowd of NRA members in Atlanta, Trump said "it may be Pocahontas" who seeks the Democratic presidential nomination in 2020. "She is not big on the NRA," Trump added, an apparent reference to Warren's support of gun-control measures. MSNBC
VOA VIEW: Fitting!

Trump Insists South Korea Should Pay For Missile System
President Trump pushed back Friday against South Korea’s objections to paying for a U.S.-deployed missile defense system, insisting that it’s “appropriate” for Seoul to shoulder the $1 billion cost. “Why should we pay for it?” Mr. Trump said in an exclusive interview with The Washington Times. “It’s a phenomenal protective system, best in the world by far, and that’s meant to protect South Korea. So I respectfully say that I think it would be appropriate if they paid for it.” The U.S. military is deploying the missile shield as a defense against North Korea. The South Korean defense ministry said it has no plans to pay for the system, and South Korea’s leading presidential candidate Friday called Mr. Trump’s demand an “impossible option.” Washington Times

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Trump’s Loyal Voters Aren’t Buying ‘Shameful’ Media Spin
As President Trump reaches his 100-day mark in office, an unfriendly news media has done much to undermine his efforts. Trump voters appear to be ignoring it all, says Ford O'Connell, a political strategist and an adjunct professor at the George Washington University Graduate School of Political Management. “Employing a blitzkrieg-style deluge of misleading headlines, both online and in print, coupled with a heavy diet of 89 percent negative broadcast network news coverage of Trump, the groupthink of the liberal media bubble has tried mightily to portray President Trump’s first 100 days in office as the worst political disaster of the last half century,” Mr. O'Connell tells The Washington Times. Washington Times
VOA VIEW: The liberal media are shameful.

Federal Investigation Into Fox News Involves "Financial Crimes Experts"
The federal investigation into Fox News is widening with two agencies now looking into the network's practices. A person familiar with the investigation has confirmed to CBS News that investigators from the U.S. Postal Inspection Service are involved in the Justice Department probe into Fox News. That investigation is reportedly looking into money matters at the network, reports CBS News correspondent Jericka Duncan. While the existence of the Justice Department investigation came to light two months ago, the Postal Inspection Service's involvement is new. CBS
VOA VIEW: Liberals will all they can to stop the conservative media.

Attorney General Jeff Sessions Defends Trump Criticism Jf judges
Attorney General Jeff Sessions on Friday defended President Trump's criticism of the judges on the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals. "It's right for the president, as he's done historically over the centuries, to express opinions about judicial opinions. They have a lifetime appointment. Their pay can't be cut and their decisions can be commented on. And the one that he criticized, I think, was wrong," Sessions said in an interview on "CBS This Morning." Sessions said that the "greatest threat to the independence of the judiciary is if judges become more political and people cease to believe they're deciding opinions based on law and facts." CBS


Bill Cosby: Judge Rules Quaaludes Comments Are Admissible; Spanish Fly Jokes Aren't
A judge ruled on Friday that Bill Cosby's decade-old deposition comments about giving Quaaludes to women are admissible in his upcoming sexual assault trial, though his jokes about the supposed aphrodisiac Spanish fly are not. Montgomery County court Judge Steven T. O'Neill also granted a motion to exclude evidence regarding the settlement of Cosby's civil suit with accuser Andrea Constand. Cosby has been charged with three counts of felony aggravated indecent assault stemming from an alleged 2004 incident with accuser Andrea Constand. He has pleaded not guilty. ABC

Injuries Owing To Encounters With Law Enforcement Hold Steady At About 51,000 A Year
In recent years, much attention has been paid to how police interact with suspects and the public, especially when that interaction ends in violence recorded on video and shared online. However, one new study has found that despite increased attention, there does not appear to be a rise in people treated for injuries in emergency rooms “owing to” to encounters with law enforcement and that just a fraction of those injuries resulted in deaths. About 51,000 people are sent to the ER every year with injuries hospitals characterize as “legal intervention injuries” -- and less than 1 percent of these injuries result in death, according to a new study published earlier this month in JAMA Surgery. ABC

If Republicans Can’t Get This Lawmaker, Obamacare Repeal May Be Dead
Representative Fred Upton helped guide dozens of Obamacare repeal measures through the House in recent years, but he has deep reservations about the GOP’s current bill. “I’m not comfortable with it and I told the leadership that,” he said Friday, in a vivid illustration of the continuing obstacles to the GOP effort to resurrect its stalled repeal plan. Until five months ago, Upton, a Michigan Republican, chaired the Energy and Commerce Committee, which has jurisdiction over much of health care policy. Now, he’s not ready to support the current bill and said the most recent revisions have made it worse. Bloomberg
VOA VIEW: They need to let Obamacare die on its own - no replacement.

BlackRock's Fink Says U.S. On Path To 'Exploding' Deficits
The Trump administration’s tax proposals are unlikely to spur enough economic growth to reduce U.S. deficits, BlackRock Inc.’s Larry Fink said Friday. “We are on the path of exploding deficits,” Fink, chief executive officer of BlackRock, said at the Morningstar Investment Conference in Chicago. “We will have a severe issue if the reform increases deficits." If the U.S. economy grows at 3 percent a year that may help push deficits down but that’s unlikely given the country’s demographics, he said. Fink, who runs the world’s largest money manager, predicted growth of 2.5 percent to 2.75 percent. “The whole world is going through a growth spurt. We are not,” he said. “We are growing slower than France. That is pretty terrible.” Bloomberg

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Manafort-Linked Lobbying Firm Registers As Foreign Agent
A Washington lobbying firm that worked under the direction of two former campaign aides to President Donald Trump has registered with the Justice Department as a foreign agent. The registration Friday by Mercury LLC comes as the Justice Department waits for Paul Manafort, the former Trump campaign chairman, to file as a foreign agent and disclose his role in influencing U.S. policy and public opinion on behalf of the pro-Russian Ukrainian Party of Regions and its leader, former Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych. A spokesman for Manafort said Friday that he was wrong when he told the AP this month that Manafort would register with the Justice Department. He said Manafort is considering his options. The Associated Press reported in August that Manafort's consulting firm covertly orchestrated the lobbying operation. Las Vegas Sun

NSA To Stop Collecting Some Internet Communications
The National Security Agency says it will no longer collect certain communications moving on the internet simply because they mention a foreign intelligence target.
The move is being applauded by privacy advocates. The agency says it will now limit such collection to internet communications sent directly to or from a foreign target. The NSA says the change reduces the chance of sweeping up communications of U.S. citizens or others not involved in direct contact with a foreign intelligence target. Concern over the incidental collection of Americans' communications renewed this year when the Trump administration accused the intelligence community of improperly revealing the names of Americans that came up through incidental collections. Las Vegas Sun

Trump's Cabinet Now Fully Approved As 100-Day-Mark Nears
Before President Donald Trump's 100-day-mark arrived, the U.S. Senate this week approved the last of his high-profile Cabinet appointments -- which is a mix of conservative politicians and corporate leaders. The first confirmations occurred the same day Trump took office, Jan. 20, and the final department secretary was greenlighted by the upper chamber on Wednesday. Fresh off a stint as Alabama senator, Sessions, 70, was approved for the top law enforcement position in the country -- a post that runs the Justice Department, determines policy and makes determinations in a vast array of criminal justice matters. Sessions' nomination and the first few weeks on his tenure have been controversial, not just for supposedly making racist remarks in the mid-1980s -- a scandal that cost him a federal judgeshipunder President Ronald Reagan. UPI News

Bitcoin Hits All-Time High In Trading Against The Dollar
For a second consecutive day, the cryptocurrency bitcoin hit an all-time high before slipping some in afternoon trading. At its high point Friday morning, the virtual currency was trading at $1,343.59, though it has since dropped by about 1.5 percent to $1,308.50 since reaching its high-water mark. A single bitcoin topped its previous high of $1,330 on Thursday, according to the currency tracker Coin Desk. The rally marks the continued growth of bitcoin's value since the beginning of 2017, a growth that has hit warp speed over the last 30 days. Bitcoins have increased in value 6 percent this week and 34 percent in the last 30 days. The related virtual currency ether has also gone on an impressive run during the same time period. Ethers were trading above $67 on Friday, a one-day jump of nearly 9 percent. UPI News

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Pope Francis Visits Bombed Coptic Church During Egypt Visit
Pope Francis, on a trip to Egypt, has visited a church where 29 people died in a suicide bombing in December. He attended a service at St Peter and St Paul church in the capital Cairo with Coptic Christian leader Pope Tawadros II. The Pope's visit comes at a time when Egypt's Copts are facing an increased threat from extremist groups. Just three weeks ago, suicide bombers struck two other Coptic churches, killing a further 45 people. Pope Francis had earlier urged an end to the funding of groups that promote violence, an act which could not be committed in the name of God, he said. BBC

Executed Arkansas Man 'Convulsed And Groaned'
Lawyers for a US death row inmate are calling for an inquiry after witnesses said he convulsed and groaned as he was being executed. Kenneth Williams was the fourth inmate put to death by the state of Arkansas in the past eight days after a dozen years without a single execution. His attorneys said witness descriptions of the lethal injection procedure were "horrifying". The United Nations on Friday condemned Arkansas' execution schedule. "I see no reason for any investigation other than the routine review that is done after every execution," Governor Asa Hutchinson responded during a Friday press conference. BBC

UK Was Given Details Of Alleged Contacts Between Trump Campaign And Moscow
The UK government was given details last December of allegedly extensive contacts between the Trump campaign and Moscow, according to court papers. Reports by Christopher Steele, a former MI6 officer, on possible collusion between the the Trump camp and the Kremlin are at the centre of a political storm in the US over Moscow’s role in getting Donald Trump elected. It was not previously known that the UK intelligence services had also received the dossier but Steele confirmed in a court filing earlier this month that he handed a memorandum compiled in December to a “senior UK government national security official acting in his official capacity, on a confidential basis in hard copy form”. Guardian

Trump Picks Former Anti-Abortion Leader For Health And Human Services Post
Donald Trump has appointed the former president of a leading anti-abortion group to the top communications role at the Department of Health and Human Services (DHSS). Charmaine Yoest, who for several years was head of Americans United for Life (AUL), will be HHS assistant secretary for public affairs. AUL played an instrumental role in the recent wave of anti-abortion laws by feeding model legislation to state lawmakers. Under Yoest, the group pushed model bills that outlawed abortion after 20 weeks, required abortion providers to gain admitting privileges at local hospitals, and mandated counseling and waiting periods for women seeking abortions. AUL is also opposed to the use of the morning-after pill and IUDs. Between 2010 and 2016, states have enacted 288 restrictions on abortion. The AUL directly credits its own work for several dozen of those laws. Its model legislation may have inspired countless more. Abortion rights advocates have managed to block many such measures in court. Guardian

Donald Trump Skips White House Correspondents' Dinner To Hold Pennsylvania 100 Day Rally
Donald Trump will on Saturday night become the first president in decades to skip the White House Correspondents' Association dinner, having opted to speak at a rally in Pennsylvania instead. It is the first time since Ronald Reagan in 1981, who was recovering from an assassination attempt at the time, that the US president has not attended the biggest night in Washington's social calendar - an event that began in 1921. He will, instead, be trumpeting the achievements of his first 100 days in the White House at a rally in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania - one of the several key swing states he won to take the presidency last November. Telegraph

Soaring Deer Numbers Are Behind Growing Problem Of Lyme Disease, Earn Experts
Britain’s soaring deer population is fuelling the growing problem of Lyme disease, scientists have warned. At the turn of the century there were only around 250 reported cases of lyme disease in the UK each year, but now the NHS says the figure is closer to 3,000 and some charities claim the actual number could be as high as 45,000. The disease is transmitted through ticks which feed on deer, and then can be picked up by dogs and their owners when they walk through woodland. Telegraph

Korean Peninsula: Conflict Prevention 'Our Collective Priority' But Onus Also On DPRK, Says UN Chief
Preventing armed conflict in north-east Asia is the international community's collective priority while the onus is also on the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK) to refrain from further nuclear testing and explore the path of dialogue, United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres told the Security Council today.
“Armed conflict in north-east Asia, which is home to one fifth of the world's people and gross domestic product, would have global implications,” warned Mr. Guterres at a ministerial-level meeting to discuss the DPRK's accelerated nuclear and ballistic missile activities. The meeting was chaired by Rex Tilerson, Secretary of State of the United States, which holds the Council's presidency for the month. UN News

UN Rights Office Troubled By Accelerated Executions In US With Expiring Drug A Factor
The United Nations human rights office today expressed deep concern about the executions of four men in the United States state of Arkansas, which were reportedly done within the span of eight days to make use of an expiring lethal injection drug. “Rushing executions can deny prisoners the opportunity to fully exercise their rights to appeal against their conviction and/or sentence, and can also lead to States' shortening their clemency processes, thereby affecting prisoners' rights,” a spokesperson for the of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), Elizabeth Throssell told reporters in Geneva. UN News

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