Rove: Hillary Lost Because She Was A 'Lousy Candidate,' Not Because Of Comey
Karl Rove believes that FBI Director James Comey did not affect the 2016 election, but he wishes that Comey had not "made himself an issue" with his handling of the Hillary Clinton email probe. Clinton on Tuesday said that she took responsibility for her election loss - but went on to blame Comey and Russian interference for helping Donald Trump win the presidency. Comey on Wednesday strongly defended his decision to announce his reopened probe into Clinton's private email use less than two weeks before the presidential election, saying it was a “hard choice” but the right one. Fox News
VOA VIEW: Hillary should be in jail.

Supreme Court Weighs Whether Lying To Get Citizenship Can Justify Revoking It
Can a long-ago lie cost an immigrant her U.S. citizenship? That is what the Supreme Court is considering in the case of an ethnic Serbian woman from Bosnia who lied during her refugee and later citizenship application process about why she was seeking to make the U.S. her permanent home. Divna Maslenjak and her husband, Ratko Maslenjak obtained refugee status in 1999 and moved to Akron, Ohio a year later. They said they feared persecution back in Bosnia because the husband had refused to serve in the Bosnian Serb military. But that was untrue. Ratko Maslenjak had in fact served as commander of a unit of the military that had been linked to war crimes that killed thousands of Bosnian Muslims and resulted in the exodus from the city of Srebrenica of about 30,000 women, children and senior citizens. Fox News
VOA VIEW: The law is the law and a lie is a lie.

Rice Declines Senate Request To Testify On Russian Hacking
Susan Rice, President Barack Obama's former national security adviser, on Wednesday declined Sen. Lindsey Graham's request to participate in a judiciary subcommittee hearing next week on Russian interference in the US election, CNN has learned. A letter obtained exclusively by CNN from Rice's lawyer, Kathryn Ruemmler, outlines the grounds for her decision not to appear. It was addressed to Graham, the Republican chairman of the judiciary subcommittee on crime and terrorism, which is holding the hearing, and senior Democrat Sheldon Whitehouse. "Senator Whitehouse has informed us by letter that he did not agree to Chairman Graham's invitation to Ambassador Rice, a significant departure from the bipartisan invitations extended to other witnesses," Ruemmler wrote. "Under these circumstances, Ambassador Rice respectfully declines Senator Graham's invitation to testify." CNN
VOA VIEW: CNN is the safe ground for all liberals - Rice should be compelled to meet with the Senate.

Major Phishing Attack Targets Google Docs Users
A widespread phishing scheme is targeting people across the web. The sophisticated attack looks like it is coming from a trusted source asking you to open a Google Document. If you click, it takes you to a page to open the "Google Docs" app with your Google (GOOG) account. This grants access to your email account and contacts.
Eva Galperin, director of cybersecurity at the Electronic Frontier Foundation, says anyone who clicked on the link should check their Google App permissions and remove the one called "Google Docs." You can do that by clicking this link. CNN


Racism May Be Making Our Kids Unhealthy
Racism damages our children’s health, a recent study found, negatively affecting the wellness of wealthy white kids and poor minorities the most. The study, which will be presented this weekend by lead author Dr. Ashaunta Anderson, found kids who endured racism had lower levels of general health, including higher rates of anxiety, depression and ADHD. The study isn’t the first to explore racism’s link to physical health. Past studies have tied racism to weight gain, aging and even asthma. But Anderson, an assistant professor of pediatrics at the University of California-Riverside, said her study gets closer to proving racism may actually cause negative health outcomes because it adjusts for other factors. USA Today

An Unsigned Colin Kaepernick Is A Bad Sign For NFL
What does it say about the NFL, and about us, when at least a half-dozen men who have been accused of physical or sexual assault have been welcomed into the NFL over the past week, while Colin Kaepernick still has not? Is it worse to be known for not standing for the national anthem than for being accused of hitting or assaulting someone? Is Kaepernick a less desirable member of an NFL team or community than, say, Oakland Raiders first-round draft pick Gareon Conley, who is being investigated by the Cleveland police on a rape allegation, or Cincinnati Bengals second-round pick Joe Mixon, who was caught on videotape knocking out a woman with a devastating punch? USA Today
VOA VIEW: Attacking America is not worthy for anyone.

Iowa Obamacare Program On Verge Of Collapse As Congressional Uncertainty Takes Its Toll
Iowa’s last major Affordable Care Act insurer threatened on Wednesday to pull out from the state’s marketplace next year, the latest step in a sudden collapse of the state’s insurance marketplace that holds ominous signs for health care customers in states across the county. If Minnesota-based Medica follows through on its threat not to sell plans in 2018, Iowa could be the first state to lack any insurers on its exchanges in all but a handful of counties. At the start of 2017, Iowa outwardly appeared to be an Affordable Care Act success story, with three insurance companies selling competing plans on its exchanges broadly. But last month, two of Medica’s competitors said they would exit the state’s marketplace next year, citing financial losses. And on Wednesday, Medica released a statement saying its continued participation “is in question.” Washington Post

Did AG Lynch Give Hillary Clinton 'Political Cover'? FBI Director Says, 'Subject Is Classified'
Senate Judiciary Chairman Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) raised questions but received no answers from FBI Director James Comey on Wednesday, when Grassley pointed to an April 22 New York Times report saying that Comey believed Attorney General Loretta Lynch gave Hillary Clinton “political cover” during the presidential campaign. “The subject is classified,” Comey said in response to Grassley’s questions. The New York Times reported that Comey’s “misgivings” about Lynch were fueled by the discovery last year of a document “written by a Democratic operative that seemed — at least in the eyes of Mr. Comey and his aides — to raise questions about her independence.” Grassley told the Senate Judiciary Committee on Wednesday, “The email reportedly provided assurances that Attorney General Lynch would protect Clinton by making sure the FBI investigation, quote, “didn’t go too far.” CNS News
VOA VIEW: There is no question that Lynch covered for Hillary and Obama.

WH Budget Director: ‘We Broke Parity’ In Spending Bill
Besides an increase in military spending and border security in the omnibus spending bill, President Donald Trump “broke parity” - giving less than a dollar of non-defense spending per dollar of Defense spending, White House Budget Director Mick Mulvaney said Tuesday. “We broke parity, and for those who have been covering this area for a long time know what that means,” Mulvaney said. “It means in the past several years - ever since the spending caps came on, ever since the sequester went in, there was this unwritten deal on Capitol Hill, which is for every dollar of defense spending that the Republicans wanted, they had to give one dollar worth of non-Defense spending to the Democrats,” he said. “That was the deal that President Obama was able to cut during his last years in office,” Mulvaney said. CNS News

FBI's Comey Defends Clinton Email Decision, But Feels 'Nauseous'
FBI Director James Comey said on Wednesday it made him "mildly nauseous" to think reopening an investigation of Hillary Clinton's emails affected the 2016 presidential election, but he had no regrets and would make the same decision again. In four hours of testimony before the Senate Judiciary Committee, Comey delivered his most impassioned defense yet of a decision that many Democrats believe cost them the White House: telling Congress 11 days before the Nov. 8 election that the FBI had uncovered a new trove of Clinton-related emails. Comey said he felt he had to speak out at that time because he had repeatedly told lawmakers the Clinton email probe was over. Reuters
VOA VIEW: Comey did wrong.

Trump Presses U.S. Republican Ranks On Healthcare, Vote May Be Near
In a possible breakthrough for U.S. Republicans' effort to roll back Obamacare, key moderate lawmakers met with President Donald Trump on Wednesday and said a revised bill might win approval and conservatives voiced no objections. Keen to score his first major legislative win since taking office in January, Trump has been personally engaged in building support among fellow Republicans in the House of Representatives for an effort that has already twice collapsed. Reuters


Puerto Rico Fights Debtholders’ Lawsuits With Bankruptcy Protection Filing
Puerto Rico Governor Ricardo Rosselló filed on Thursday for a type of bankruptcy protection under the aegis of the fiscal control board overseeing the island's fiscal situation. The U.S. territory is now the largest government in U.S. history to seek refuge from its creditors. The filing came the day after time ran out on a deadline for Puerto Rico to negotiate a debt payment plan with its debtholders, who filed a spate of lawsuits as the deadline passed. "After extensive talks done in good faith and after opening the financial books of Puerto Rico's government to the creditors, there hasn't been enough progress in the negotiations" of Puerto Rico's $72 billion debt, Rosselló said during a press conference in San Juan, the capital of Puerto Rico. MSNBC

Refugees Are Fleeing Trump’s America For This Tiny Canadian Town
The mayor, one of three patrons in this small town bar on a Monday night, lights his cigarette. He knows it's illegal to smoke in here. "I don't give a s--t," says the honorable Greg Janzen. The town is Emerson, Manitoba. The bar is a literal two minute walk to the United States border. For the past few months, it has become a hotbed for people illegally crossing the border into Canada. And Janzen is angry. Most had come to the U.S. from halfway around the world to seek asylum, but said they feared a crackdown under President Donald Trump. So they continued north, where Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has made it clear that such asylum seekers are welcome. MSNBC
VOA VIEW: Very few leave the country because of Trump - truth.

Democrats Push Law To Limit Trump’s Use Of Nuclear Weapons
As tension builds with North Korea, Democratic lawmakers say they’re increasingly concerned with President Trump’s finger on the nuclear trigger and want to pass a law prohibiting him from striking without congressional approval. “We do not trust him with our nuclear weapons arsenal,” said Sen. Ed Markey, Massachusetts Democrat. “We do not want him to use nuclear weapons first in the North Korean standoff — not just there in Korea, but all across the planet.” Washington Times
VOA VIEW: Such a move would be dangerous and devastating.

Georgia Governor To Sign Limits On Drug Treatment Centers
Addiction treatment centers in Georgia will be more strictly regulated under legislation the state's governor plans to sign. Gov. Nathan Deal's office says he'll sign the bill, which also limits the number of treatment centers that can open in parts of the state Thursday morning. Deal also is expected to sign bills allowing the sale of an overdose-reversing drug called naloxone over the counter and expanding the state's prescription drug-monitoring program, which aims to prevent over prescribing of opioids. Philadelphia Inquirer

Trump On Israeli-Palestinian Peace: 'We Will Get This Done'
During a meeting with Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas at the White House on Wednesday, President Donald Trump vowed to find Middle East peace -- a permanent solution that's eluded U.S. administrations for decades. Trump, a staunch supporter of Israel, acknowledged the difficulties in resolving differences between the Jewish state and Muslim Palestinian authorities that date back to the mid-20th century, and which have resulted in hundreds of thousands of deaths. "I'm committed to working with Israel and the Palestinians to reach an agreement, but any agreement cannot be imposed by the United States or any other nation," Trump said at a joint news conference with Abbas, noting that a solution will only emerge if both parties unify behind an acceptable answer. UPI
VOA VIEW: Trump is mistaken - there will be  no deal made.

Britain's Prince Philip, 95, To Retire From Royal Duties
Prince Philip, the consort known for his steadfast support of his wife Queen Elizabeth II as well as for his occasional gaffs, will retire from royal duties this fall, Buckingham Palace said Thursday. Philip, 95, made the decision himself with the full support of the queen, the palace said in a statement. The royal, known as the Duke of Edinburgh, has suffered from heart disease and other ailments in recent years but has nonetheless maintained a vigorous public schedule. He seemed to be in good health and a fine mood Wednesday during an appearance at a London cricket club. He joked about being the world's most experienced person when it comes to unveiling plaques. Tampa Tribune

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David Axelrod Fires Back At Hillary Clinton: ‘Comey Didn’t Tell Her Not To Campaign In Wisconsin’
CNN’s “New Day” called in former President Barack Obama’s adviser to discuss Mrs. Clinton’s news conference on Tuesday, which framed her failed presidential bid as the result of forces beyond her control. Mr. Axelrod told co-hosts Chris Cuomo and Alisyn Camerota that he was baffled why she would continue to revisit the issue since “it takes a lot of work to lose to Donald Trump.” “Jim Comey didn’t tell her not to campaign in Wisconsin after the convention,” said Mr. Obama’s winning campaign strategist. “Jim Comey didn’t say, ‘Don’t put any resources into Michigan until the final week of the campaign.’ One of the things that hindered her in the campaign was a sense that she never fully was willing to take responsibility for her mistakes, particularly that server.” Washington Times
VOA VIEW: Hillary lost, plain and simple.

House Passes $1.1 Trillion Spending Deal To Fund Government Through September
The House passed a $1.1 trillion spending deal Wednesday that funds the government through the rest of the fiscal year, which ends Sept. 30. House lawmakers approved the comprehensive measure in a 309-118 vote, with the Senate expected to vote by Friday to avert a government shutdown on Saturday. Republican and Democratic negotiators reached the agreement Sunday night, and Vice President Mike Pence told "CBS This Morning" earlier this week that President Trump had signed off on its parameters. Democrats have cheered the wins in the bill, which doesn't fund Mr. Trump's planned wall along the U.S.-Mexico border, provides funding for Planned Parenthood and gives the National Institutes of Health (NIH) a budget boost. CBS
VOA VIEW: Bad on both sides - bad.

U.S. Test-Fires Nuclear-Capable Ballistic Missile From California Coast
An unarmed missile capable of sending a nuclear bomb across the world was launched Wednesday from a coastal California military base amid rising tensions between the U.S. and North Korea. The unarmed Minuteman 3 intercontinental ballistic missile blasted off from a silo at 12:02 a.m. from Vandenberg Air Force Base and delivered a single re-entry vehicle to a target about 4,200 miles away at Kwajalein Atoll in the Pacific Ocean, the Air Force Global Strike Command said. The test took 10 months to plan. It was the latest aimed at checking the readiness and accuracy of a weapon system that forms part of the U.S. nuclear force. The U.S. has about 450 of the missiles. Each can travel about 8,000 miles. CBS

Trump’s Blind Spot On Black History Worries Scholars
In President Trump’s version of American history, 19th Century abolitionist Frederick Douglass has done “an amazing job and is getting recognized more and more.” The cause of the Civil War remains a puzzle and Andrew Jackson — who died 16 years before the bloodshed began — could have prevented the war’s outbreak were he alive. From the first moments of the Trump administration, historians said in interviews, they were baffled along with other Americans by factual inaccuracies flowing from the White House. But in the months that followed, and especially this week, scholars said their initial surprise has turned to deep dismay over Trump’s seemingly ill-informed views of US history, especially as it relates to racial minorities. Boston Globe
VOA VIEW: The Civil War was not fought because of slavery - the truth hurts.

Trump Readies ‘Religious Liberty’ Order That Could Reenergize Georgia Effort
President Donald Trump plans to sign a long-awaited executive order on ‘religious liberty’ Thursday that could have a ripple effect in Georgia, where conservatives have tried for years to pass similar legislation. The action would nudge the Treasury Department and Internal Revenue Service to be more flexible in enforcing a 1954 law that essentially bans churches from endorsing candidates or engaging in other political activity if they want to keep their tax-exempt status. Trump railed against the policy, more commonly known as the Johnson Amendment, on the campaign trail, arguing that it unconstitutionally restricts free speech. He vowed to “totally destroy” it in February, but the authority to do so ultimately lies with Congress. Atlanta Journal


China Compiles Its Own Wikipedia, But Public Can't Edit It
It'll be free. It'll be uniquely Chinese. It'll be an online encyclopedia to rival Wikipedia — but without the participation of the public. And don't expect entries on "Tiananmen Square 1989" or "Falun Gong spiritual group" to come up in your searches, either. Scholars and experts hand-picked by Beijing to work on the project say only they will be able to make entries — the latest example of the Chinese government's efforts to control information available on the internet. The scholars say truth is their guiding light, and their editing and review process is a rigorous one. If there is a difference of opinion, a committee should figure it out, said Zhang Baichun, chief editor of the history of science and technology section. "Of course, science does not come from democratic votes, to convince others you will have to present the most convincing proof," he told The Associated Press. Houston Chronicle

Yates To Say She Expressed Alarm To White House On Flynn
Former acting attorney general Sally Yates is expected to testify to Congress next week that she expressed alarm to the White House about President Donald Trump's national security adviser's contacts with the Russian ambassador, which could contradict how the administration has characterized her counsel. Yates is expected to recount in detail on Monday her Jan. 26 conversation about Michael Flynn and to say that she saw discrepancies between the administration's public statements on his contacts with ambassador Sergey Kislyak and what really transpired, according to a person familiar with that discussion and knowledgeable about Yates's plans for her testimony. The person spoke on condition of anonymity so as not to pre-empt the testimony. ABC
VOA VIEW: The truth is going to be interesting.

US Asked That 1,934 Americans' Names Be 'Unmasked' In Intel
Government officials requested to know the identities of more than 1,900 Americans whose information was swept up in National Security Agency surveillance programs last year, according to a newly-released intelligence report. The identities of U.S. citizens and legal permanent residents were found in 3,914 intelligence reports the NSA distributed last year, said the report released Tuesday. The annual report comes just weeks after President Donald Trump accused former President Barack Obama's national security adviser of possibly committing a crime when she asked government analysts to disclose the names of Trump associates documented in intelligence reports. ABC
VOA VIEW: All info must be clear and lawsuits may follow.

Fed Keeps Rates On Hold As Slowdown In Growth Seen Temporary
Federal Reserve officials remained on track to gradually tighten monetary policy after leaving interest rates unchanged and signaling they were not alarmed by recent U.S. economic weakness. “The committee views the slowing in growth during the first quarter as likely to be transitory,” the Federal Open Market Committee said in a statement Wednesday following a two-day meeting in Washington. “Near-term risks to the economic outlook appear roughly balanced.” Bloomberg

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What Is Washington Doing To My 401(k) Tax Break?
Nothing yet. But here’s the buzz on Capitol Hill and what the retirement wonks expect. Twitter had a brief freakout last week after White House spokesman Sean Spicer seemed to suggest that pretax 401(k) contributions to retirement savings were in danger. The White House hastened to say that wasn’t part of the proposed tax overhaul it’s trying to move through Congress. But Washington, and the money management industry, are abuzz with rumors. Will Roth 401(k)s and Roth Individual Retirement Accounts, which are funded with after-tax money, take on a greater role, even a starring role, in our retirement planning? If so, what will that mean for our finances later in life? The prospect of an upheaval is making a lot of employers who offer retirement plans—and, no doubt, a lot of aspiring retirees—nervous. Bloomberg

Uncle Sam: We Want You... To Train Others! $5K Bonus Offered
The U.S. Army is authorizing $5,000 bonuses to woo top-performing troops into a new training brigade as the service once famous for shouldering the burden of America's wars works to meet the growing demand for advisers in places ranging from Iraq and Syria to Afghanistan and Africa. The plan recognizes the new reality of America at war: Army soldiers are more often training and building local security forces rather than doing the fighting for them on foreign soil. It replaces what has been a hodgepodge of programs over the past dozen years with projections for five new, permanent, fully-trained brigades that can be deployed around the world as professional advisers. Philadelphia Inquirer

Colbert Stands His Ground Over Trump Bashing
Stephen Colbert did not back down Wednesday night amid fierce backlash that was unleashed against the late night comic after he went on a lengthy tirade against President Trump. “I had a few choice insults for the president,” Colbert said on “The Late Show” about his Monday night rant, according to a transcript provided to The Post. “I don’t regret that. He, I believe, can take care of himself. I have jokes; he has the launch codes. So, it’s a fair fight.” Colbert did say, however, that he would change a few words which were “cruder than they needed to be.” NY Post
VOA VIEW: Colbert is a loud mouth idiot who would asked to resign if he was a conservative.

Court Rejects Ex-NFL Star Sharper’s Rape Sentence Appeal
A federal appeals court has dismissed former NFL star Darren Sharper's appeal of his sentence for drugging and raping women. The 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals' two-sentence order Wednesday came almost a month after prosecutors filed their brief. The court granted a prosecution motion to dismiss. Sharper's lawyers contended that U.S. District Judge Jane Triche Milazzo did not adequately explain the consequences of Sharper's guilty plea. Sharper had pleaded guilty or no contest to criminal charges in state courts in Arizona, California, Nevada and Louisiana, and in federal court in New Orleans. A nine-year sentence was expected. But Milazzo said that was too light. She gave Sharper a chance to withdraw his guilty plea, then sentenced him to 18 years and four months in prison. Las Vegas Sun

House OKs Bill That Eyes Russia’s Alleged Covert Campaigns
The House has passed an intelligence policy bill that bolsters efforts against Russia's alleged covert influence campaigns and strengthens congressional oversight of spy agencies. The legislation reauthorizes intelligence programs for 2017. It was approved as part of a $1.1 trillion government bill to fund the government through the end of September. The measure increases scrutiny of what the U.S. describes as Russian influence campaigns, including its meddling in last year's presidential election. It also monitors Moscow's compliance with the Open Skies Treaty. That agreement allows more than 30 nations to conduct observation flights over each other to build confidence and quell arms competition. Las Vegas Sun

Democratic Women To Trump: We’re Coming For You
Democratic women were enraged last year when the woman they hoped would be president lost the election to a man they consider an outright sexist. And now they’re vowing revenge. The Democratic Party’s top leaders say they think women will be the face of a brewing electoral backlash to President Donald Trump, one that they hope will help win not only majorities in Congress but a multitude of important state and local races across the country. Left-leaning women have already invested in this political moment: A day after Trump’s inauguration, the “women’s march” drew millions of people in a protest that galvanized liberal opposition to the new president. But party leaders say they are now channeling that energy into a surge of new candidates up and down the ballot the likes of which they’ve never seen -- all due to Trump and the Republican leaders who support him. Charlotte Observer
VOA VIEW: Total liberal nonsense.

Things Got Weird On Tinder After Donald Trump’s Election, And Not In A Good Way
Were American millennials too depressed to swipe right after Donald Trump won the election? Something “weird” happened last fall after the presidential election, Tinder CEO Greg Blatt reported during a conference call about first-quarter earnings on Wednesday. Activity on the dating app seemed a bit, well, depressed after Trump won, Georgia Wells, a tech reporter for The Wall Street Journal, reported in a tweet. Akane Otani, stock market reporter at the Wall Street Journal, tweeted a Market Talk report from Wells which added that Blatt said there was “a lot of weirdness” after the election. A drop in activity began in November and lasted through February, a typically busy season for Tinder, Wells reported. Kansas City Star
VOA VIEW: Unfortunately, we live in a liberal society.

Obama's $400,000 Speech Could Prompt Congress To Go After His Pension
Last year, then-president Barack Obama vetoed a bill that would have curbed the pensions of former presidents if they took outside income of $400,000 or more. So now that former president Barack Obama has decided to accept $400,000 for an upcoming Wall Street speech, the sponsors of that bill say they'll reintroduce that bill in hopes that President Trump will sign it. "The Obama hypocrisy on this issue is revealing," said Rep. Jason Chaffetz, R-Utah, chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee and sponsor of the 2016 bill. "His veto was very self-serving." Indy Star
VOA VIEW: Obama is gone and so are his half-baked ideas.

Lawmakers Hatch Deal On Budget, Inviting Possible Veto By Rick Scott
House Speaker Richard Corcoran and Senate President Joe Negron agreed Wednesday on an $83 billion budget that will worsen tensions with Gov. Rick Scott, who saw his priorities get soundly rejected. The two leaders finalized the budget, largely behind closed doors, a day late. The Legislature will need an extra day Monday to pass the budget before sending it to Scott, whose veto pen could be in for a major workout. “I have no earthly idea what’s in the budget,” Scott said in Tampa on a 10-city swing to blast “politicians in Tallahassee” for eliminating job-incentive programs at the state’s economic development agency, Enterprise Florida, and for slashing Visit Florida’s tourism ad budget by two-thirds to $25 million. Miami Herald

Apple CEO Tim Cook Says The Apple Watch Helped Him Lose 30 Pounds (AAPL)
Apple CEO Tim Cook said during an interview on CNBC on Wednesday that the Apple Watch helped him lose weight. "For you, too?" Cramer asked. "Yes, for me too. I've lost 30 pounds— partly to my watch," Cook said.  Cook has always been a fit and slim guy. He wakes up at 4am every morning to hit the gym. But Apple is lately keen to emphasize the health and fitness aspects of its wearable gadget. Late last year, Apple refocused the marketing for the Apple Watch around health and fitness, and Apple said last quarter that the sales of its smartwatch had doubled since the year-ago quarter. And there are rumors that the Apple Watch might go even farther into the medical world, possibly with a built-in glucose monitor. SF Gate

U.S. Auto Sales, After Recession And Recovery, Are In Retreat
For seven years, the steadily expanding auto industry has helped drive the U.S. economy forward, racking up billions in profit and paying workers hefty bonuses, all while consumers flocked to dealerships and drove sales to record heights. It is a boom that President Trump has been counting on to add more jobs. But the industry’s ability to do so is now in question. On Tuesday, automakers reported the fourth straight monthly retreat in sales of new cars and light trucks, the longest stretch of declines since 2009, when the industry was embroiled in crisis and bankruptcies. The slump underscores the view of many that auto sales have peaked and are set to keep going down. SF Gate

Trump Calls On Congress To Open Up School Choice Program Nationwide
President Donald Trump on Wednesday advocated expanding the school choice voucher program nationwide, to use federal money to allow parents to send their children to private schools. Trump called on Congress to expand the program during remarks at the White House Wednesday, which was also attended by Vice President Mike Pence and Education Secretary Betsy DeVos. "This is what winning for young children and kids from all over the country looks like," Trump said. "Our families are very proud of the children. Are you all proud of children, I hope? Anybody not proud?" UPI
VOA VIEW: It's about time.

N. Korea Issues Direct Criticism Of China Amid Nuke Dispute
North Korea has issued a rare direct criticism of China through a commentary saying its "reckless remarks" on the North's nuclear program are testing its patience and could trigger unspecified "grave" consequences. China, North Korea's largest trading partner and main benefactor, suspended imports of North Korean coal in line with U.N. sanctions earlier this year and has recently been urging its traditional ally to stop nuclear and missile activities amid U.S. pressure to use its leverage to resolve the nuclear standoff. Chinese state media have also unleashed regular and harsh criticisms on North Korea. The commentary released Wednesday by the state-run Korean Central News Agency said that "a string of absurd and reckless remarks are now heard from China every day only to render the present bad situation tenser."
Asked about the KCNA commentary during a regular briefing Thursday, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Geng Shuang said Beijing's position on "developing good neighborly and friendly cooperation with North Korea is also consistent and clear." Houston Chronicle

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UNESCO has no say on the Jewish people’s connection to Israel, Education Minister Naftali Bennett said Wednesday morning in response to the vote by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization two days earlier to reject Israeli sovereignty over Jerusalem. “This is an empty decision that joins a pile of empty decisions. UNESCO can’t decide if we’re the sovereign or not. It’s like they decided there’s no gravity,” Bennett told Army Radio. “It’s meaningless.” Jerusalem Post

Woman Convicted After Disrupting Sessions Hearing 'By Laughing'
Three members of the the Code Pink activist group have been convicted on charges of disrupting Attorney General Jeff Sessions' confirmation hearing. Desiree Fairooz, one of the protesters who was found guilty, said all she did was laugh during the hearing. Ms Fairooz, 61, was found guilty on two charges of disorderly conduct and parading or demonstrating on Capitol grounds. Each protester could face up to 12 months in prison. Tighe Barry and Lenny Bianchi, who wore Ku Klux Klan (KKK) robes during the 10 January hearing, were also convicted on two separate charges of parading or demonstrating, according to US attorney spokesman Bill Miller. BBC

Female Shop Mannequins Are 'Medically Unhealthy' And 'Unrealistic'
The bodies of female shop mannequins are "unrealistic", a new study in the Journal of Eating Disorders suggests. Researchers looked at the displays in female fashion shops in two UK cities. They concluded that if people were the same size as the mannequins they would be "considered medically unhealthy". "There is clear evidence showing that the ultra-thin ideal is contributing to the development of mental health problems and eating disorders," writes Dr Eric Robinson, the study's author. After being "perplexed by the dimensions of the mannequins" he saw while out on a shopping trip one day, Dr Robinson has told Newsbeat that he decided to investigate further. BBC

Sean Spicer Clashes With Press Over Definition Of A Wall
When is a wall not a wall? When it’s a fence. That was the question on many minds on Wednesday when Sean Spicer, the accident-prone White House press secretary, gave a presentation on border security with the aid of TV screens. “This is what exists right now throughout our country,” he declared, gesturing towards four images of ageing, flimsy defences. “You see a place where cars can literally create little things and drive over. You’ve got places that can get burrowed under. That one they’ve created. That one doesn’t seem to be effective at keeping people in it.” These sorry images represented the country’s current border security, he said, adding that every time someone broke through, it cost just under $1,000 to fix. “Now to the next slide,” he said, teasing a reporter: “You had no idea you were getting this, did you?” Guardian

Will Sonny Perdue, Trump's Agriculture Pick, Stand Up For The Little Guy? Don't Bank On It
Donald Trump owes his election in no small part to the support of farm country. But since entering office, almost all his actions and pronouncements have betrayed an abysmal understanding of farm and rural concerns. No surprise, then, that food and farm advocates have looked eagerly to Sonny Perdue, who was sworn in as agriculture secretary on Tuesday, to educate and temper the president on their issues. The new secretary has his work cut out for him. The president unveiled a budget blueprint last month that slashed funding for the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) by 21%. Guardian

Barack Obama Asked Girlfriend To Marry Him Years Before He Met Michelle, New Biography Claims
Barack Obama twice asked a previous girlfriend to marry him in the years before he met Michelle - and continued to see her after he met the future first lady - a new biography has claimed.  The former US president fell in love with Sheila Miyoshi Jaher at the start of his political career, she is quoted as saying in the book Rising Star: The Making of Barack Obama by David Garrow. Now a professor at Oberlin College in Ohio,  Ms Jager described in the book how her family had been against the proposed marriage because they were concerned about the young Mr Obama's "career prospects" and thought she was too young. Telegraph
VOA VIEW: Smart girl and family.

Barack Obama Unveils Plans For Chicago Presidential Centre
Former US President Barack Obama on Wednesday unveiled design plans for his Chicago presidential centre, which he hopes will serve as a training site for future generations of leaders. The Obama Presidential Center will be built in the 500-acre (200-hectare) Jackson Park on Chicago's South Side. The park was first developed as the site of the 1893 World's Fair. The development will feature three buildings - a museum, forum and library - forming a campus around a plaza. The museum, the tallest of the three structures, will include public areas, offices and classrooms in addition to exhibition space, the Obama Foundation said in a statement. Telegraph

In 'Post Truth' Era, Leaders Must Defend Objective, Independent Media
In a “post-truth” world with “fake news” on the rise, and media accountability and credibility falling under question, free, independent and professional journalism has never been more important, the United Nations today said. “We need leaders to defend a free media. This is crucial to counter prevailing misinformation. And we need everyone to stand for our right to truth,” Secretary-General António Guterres said in a message to mark World Press Freedom Day. This year's theme highlights media's role in advancing peaceful, just and inclusive societies and builds on the theme 'Critical Minds for Critical Times.' UN News

In Lebanon And Syria, UN Emergency Food Chief Appeals For Humanitarian Access
The head of the United Nations emergency food relief agency today appealed for “regular, unimpeded and sustained” humanitarian access during meetings with senior government officials and partners in Lebanon and Syria – his first official visit since assuming office. David Beasley, the Executive Director of the UN World Food Programme (WFP) today wrapped up a three-day trip to the two countries to assess the growing needs. According to a press release, he spoke first-hand with Syrian refugee families in the Bekaa Valley and Beirut, and met with displaced women and children at a WFP distribution centre in Damascus. UN News

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