NEWS   FRIDAY, SEPTEMBER  29, 2017   NEWS

Price to stop taking chartered flights, repay taxpayers
Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price said Thursday he regretted his use of expensive chartered flights and will personally reimburse taxpayers. “Today, I will write a personal check to the U.S. Treasury for the expenses of my travel on private charter planes,” Mr. Price said in a statement. “The taxpayers won’t pay a dime for my seat on those planes.” Mr. Price, a former Republican congressman from Georgia, took at least 26 chartered flights since May costing more than $400,000 instead of seeking out cheaper, commercial flights, according to Politico, which uncovered the practice in a series of reports.  Mr. Price’s statement referred to his own seat on the planes, rather than reported costs overall. An HHS spokeswoman said Mr. Price will write a personal check for nearly $52,000. Washington Times
VOA VIEW: The $52K won't cover the true waste.

Sharks' Joel Ward won't kneel for national anthem, goal is 'moving progress forward'
San Jose Sharks forward Joel Ward said Thursday he will not kneel during the national anthem, rationalizing that he wants to focus on "moving progress forward" outside the hockey arena. Ward, a Canadian and one of only about 20 black players in the NHL, tweeted a thorough message explaining his reasoning. He noted that he spent a lot of time considering a protest akin to the 250-plus NFL players who took a knee this past weekend in response to President Donald Trump's condemning comments at an Alabama rally. "As a black man, I have experienced racism both inside and outside of the sporting world," he wrote. "Make no mistake that racism exists and that people of color are treated differently on a day-to-day basis." USA Today
VOA VIEW: Pragmatic and smart decision.

Leader of Catalonia separatist vote vows to press ahead for independence amid tensions
Carles Puigdemont intends to become leader of the world's newest independent state next week. Instead, he may spark a violent confrontation with Spanish authorities and wind up in jail. Puigdemont, 54, a former journalist and president of Spain's semi-autonomous region of Catalonia in northeastern Spain, vowed Thursday to press ahead with an independence referendum on Sunday despite efforts by the national government to block it. The central government in Madrid insists the vote is illegal and has taken steps to block it. It has seized millions of ballots, detained 14 senior officials organizing the vote, shut down election websites and deployed thousands of police to bar access to voting stations.  USA Today

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With Puerto Rico in crisis, Trump waives restrictions on shipping aid
President Donald Trump's administration on Thursday waived a federal law to allow relief shipments to reach Puerto Rico, as the island continues to struggle to provide life-sustaining services after Hurricane Maria. Press secretary Sarah Sanders first announced the waiver for the Jones Act, and said it will "go into effect immediately." Trump granted the waiver after it was requested by Puerto Rico Gov. Ricardo Rossello, who thanked the president Thursday morning. Elaine Duke, acting secretary of the Department of Homeland Security, approved the request. The Jones Act requires that ships traveling from one U.S. port to another must be American-flagged vessels with U.S. crews. Goods going from the mainland to Puerto Rico, for example, must be on U.S. ships -- even if faster or less expensive means are available. UPI

Details emerge on Russia-linked Facebook posts before 2016 election
When Facebook said this month that Russia-linked, "inauthentic" accounts had bought some 3,000 advertisements since mid-2015, it didn't disclose many details about what the ads said or how they targeted social media users. Instead, Facebook said the ads focused on "amplifying divisive social and political messages across the ideological spectrum." After Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg said last week that his company would share information about those advertisements with Congress, more details are emerging the topics some of the ads addressed and how they slanted their messages. UPI

Trump On NFL Owners: 'I Think They're Afraid Of Their Players'
President Donald Trump believes NFL owners are "afraid of their players" when it comes to the recent controversy over players kneeling during the National Anthem, he said in an interview that aired Thursday. The comments suggesting that NFL owners -- who are overwhelmingly white -- are afraid of their players -- the most prominent protesters are black -- prompted accusations that Trump is continuing to stoke a controversy with strong racial undertones. "I have so many friends that are owners and they're in a box," Trump told Fox News. CNN
VOA VIEW: CNN is on the liberal far anti American side of the issue, as usual.

North Korea Accuses US Of Exploiting Student's Death
North Korea accused the Trump administration on Thursday of exploiting the death of an Ohio student who died soon after being released from detention in the Asian nation. The state-run Korean Central News Agency quoted a foreign ministry spokesman as criticizing the White House for using the death of Otto Warmbier for propaganda purposes against North Korea. ABC News

Rep. Steve Scalise Breaks His Silence On Shooting
In his first interview since sustaining a life-threatening gunshot wound, Rep. Steve Scalise, R-La., tells Norah O'Donnell the bullet caused so much damage that surgeons had to literally put him back together again. Scalise, the House majority whip, the third highest-ranking member of the Republican majority, was shot at a GOP Congressional Baseball team practice last June. Scalise appears with his wife, Jennifer, to recount the attack and how he survived the devastating wound.  CBS News

'We can't afford tofu': Activist calls PETA's go-vegan campaign in Detroit 'racist BS'
A day after PETA announced a go-vegan billboard campaign for Detroit, Riddle blasted the animal right's group, calling it racist for picking on Detroit's eating habits and crime problem, and suggesting that a vegan diet can fix Detroit's ills. "Detroit may be America's fattest and most violent city,  but to attribute that to us not eating our veggies is racist BS," said Riddle, political director of the Michigan National Action Network. Riddle accused PETA of behaving " like a racist hate group " with its billboard campaign that the organization said is designed to grow peace and slim down Detroit with a vegan diet. Detroit Free Press

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Man urinates on 'Black Lives Matter' chalking in U-M's Diag
University of Michigan police are looking for a man who appears to urinate on a "Black Lives Matter" chalk drawing on the university's iconic Diag. A video posted to Twitter shows a man in jeans, white shoes and a white shirt urinating on the Diag where activists have written "Black Lives Matter" in chalk as part of daily protests. Those protests included a student kneeling for 20 hours straight on the Diag. Anyone with information about the incident or the subject in the video is asked to contact campus police at 734-763-1131.  Detroit Free Press

Grassley threatens to subpoena FBI officials over Comey, Clinton and Russia meddling
Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley is threatening to subpoena two top FBI officials to answer questions about Russia, the firing of James Comey, the Hillary Clinton email case and more. “If we are unable to reach a voluntary agreement, the committee will consider proceeding to compulsory process through its authority under the Constitution and pursuant to Senate and committee rules,” Grassley wrote in a Wednesday letter to the Justice Department. Grassley, an Iowa Republican, has been seeking a closed-door interview with FBI officials Carl Ghattas and James Rybicki. Ghattas is the executive assistant director of the FBI National Security Branch; Rybicki is the the chief of staff and senior counselor to the FBI director. Fox
VOA VIEW: Its time for the truth.

Gregg Jarrett: Trump won't fire Mueller because the president did nothing wrong
But it was resurrected on Tuesday by Roger Stone.  The informal adviser to President Trump offered his opinion, eagerly solicited by reporters, that the president should sack the special counsel because his impartiality is hopelessly compromised by a myriad of conflicts of interests. Stone was correct, in part.  Mueller is deeply conflicted.  The day after being interviewed and rejected by President Trump to become the new FBI Director, Mueller turned around and accepted the job as special counsel.  In the span of 24 hours, Mueller went from asking to work for the president… to investigating him.  It was quite the summersault.  At the very least, it created the appearance of impropriety which disqualifies him.   Fox

Hurricane Maria Highlights The Peril Of Puerto Rico’s Colonial Status
Officials describe the situation as “apocalyptic,” noting the disaster has set the island back “20-30 years.” Harrowing tales of survival are also emerging: of hospitals without power, 8-hour lines at gas pumps, cell communication destroyed, and rural areas still cut off from the rest of the island. Residents are likely to go without power for several months, after crippling blows to the state-owned electric utility, PREPA. Meanwhile, a lethal combination of infected floodwaters and shortages of potable water are creating an urgent public health crisis. The mayor of San Juan describes scenes of “horror” playing out across the capital, amid looting and mandatory curfews. The Hill

Alabama Defeat Leaves Trump Weakened, Isolated Amid Mounting Challenges
As he headed to Huntsville, Ala., in a last-ditch effort to lift the floundering campaign of Sen. Luther Strange, President Trump was fuming — feeling dragged along by GOP senators who had pleaded with him to go and increasingly unenthusiastic about Strange, whom he described to aides as loyal but “low energy.” His agitation only worsened on the flight back last Friday. Trump bemoaned the headlines he expected to see once Strange was defeated — that he had stumbled and lost his grip on “my people,” as he calls his core voters. He also lamented the rally crowd’s tepid response to the 6-foot-9 incumbent he liked to call “Big Luther.” Washington Post
VOA VIEW: Strange had questionable baggage.

China Orders North Korean Business Closed Under U.N. Sanctions
China on Thursday ordered North Korean-owned businesses to close, cutting foreign revenue for the isolated North under U.N. sanctions imposed over its nuclear and missile programs. China is North Korea's main trading partner, making Beijing's cooperation essential to the success of sanctions aimed at stopping the North's pursuit of weapons technology. China, long North Korea's diplomatic protector, has gone along with the latest penalties out of growing frustration with leader Kim Jong Un's government. NBC News

Treasury Defends Removing Paper At Odds With Mnuchin's Tax Analysis
The Treasury Department reportedly yanked an economic report that contradicted Secretary Steven Mnuchin’s key selling point on the beneficiaries of a corporate income tax cut. The Wall Street Journal reported Thursday that the 2012 paper from the Office of Tax Analysis found that “workers pay 18 percent of the corporate tax while owners of capital pay 82 percent.” The report’s breakdown is in line with the nonpartisan Joint Committee on Taxation and Congressional Budget Office, the Journal reported. Mnuchin has reportedly been citing other papers putting more of the burden on labor. SFox News

Speaker Ryan Heads To Pennsylvania Factory To Push Tax Reform Plan
On the heels of the Republican Party’s big announcement regarding its long-awaited tax reform plan, which would nearly double the standard deduction and slash the corporate tax rate by 15 percentage points, House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) will tour a Pennsylvania factory to keep the tax-related momentum going. Ryan will head to Pennsylvania Machine Works, a family-owned and –operated pipe fitting manufacturer, where he will tour the factory and hold a question and answer session with employees about the newly-detailed tax reform overhaul.Fox News

Trump White House Feels Heat On Puerto Rico
Puerto Rico and Washington seem farther than 1,500 miles apart right now -- in fact they're experiencing a different version of reality. Nine days after Hurricane Maria ravaged the island, emerging video and news reports of a heartrending humanitarian crisis are jarring with the Trump administration's upbeat assessment of the relief effort. And as the islanders' plight is revealed, the White House risks becoming increasingly exposed politically at a time when it is already being pummeled by a tide of scandal and defeats, including the controversy over Cabinet members using private jets and the latest failed bid to repeal Obamacare. CNN
VOA VIEW: Totally unjust by liberal CNN.

Cut Off After Bridge Collapsed, Puerto Ricans Cross River With Cable
Nelson Maldonado had already gone days without running water or electricity, after Hurricane Maria ravaged Puerto Rico. On Thursday, he went to check on his wife's 95-year-old grandmother, Rosa M. Torres, who was also living without power through sweltering heat and humidity. She lives across the river from him, in the mountainous town of San Lorenzo, which lies about a 40-minute drive from San Juan. To get there, Maldonado had to ford a river in knee-deep water, using a cable to guide him across. The concrete bridge connecting the two sides had collapsed and floated downriver in a flash flood triggered by Maria. CNN

Tax Reform Could Open Up A Huge Loophole For The Wealthy
In the emergency room, there’s a good chance your doctor isn’t an employee of the hospital. She might be an independent contractor and, for tax purposes, the owner of a small business whose sole purpose is to sell her services as a physician. That’s one example of a “pass-through business,” now a hot topic in the U.S. tax reform debate. Everything from a giant real estate business to a corner liquor store can be a pass-through, so called because it doesn’t pay taxes itself but instead passes profits on to the owner, who pays taxes based on his or her own individual rate. Bloomberg

Trump Goes Rogue On Iran
Donald Trump has railed against the Iran nuclear deal since it was agreed to in 2015. As a candidate, he said undoing it would be a top priority as president. As president, he’s called it one of the worst deals ever. The UN General Assembly session in September was a chance for him to make his case to the world and persuade allies to get behind an effort to rewrite the accord and impose stricter controls on Iran. Yet after a week of speeches, backroom negotiations, and top diplomatic meetings, the U.S. appears more isolated and its allies more united around the importance of the agreement. Bloomberg

Interior Secretary Chartered Flights At Taxpayer's Expense, Including $12K Trip
Department of the Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke is the latest member of President Donald Trump’s cabinet to come under scrutiny for flying chartered and military aircraft at tax payers’ expense. According to Interior Department spokeswoman Heather Swift, Zinke has chartered three flights since March, including a June 26 flight from Las Vegas to Kalispell, Montana, which incurred a cost of $12,375. Another chartered flight shuttled Zinke between the Caribbean islands of St. Croix and St. Thomas for the U.S. Virgin Islands Centennial Transfer Day Ceremony. Politico was first to report on the chartered flights. ABC News
VOA VIEW: Notice what Obama officials did.

Senate Leader: Twitter Presentation On Election Interference 'Deeply Disappointing'
A leading figure in the ongoing probe of Russian election interference slammed social media giant Twitter on Thursday for what he considered a lackluster response to Congressional investigators. After three executives from the company met with leaders on Capitol Hill, Sen. Mark Warner of Virginia, the ranking Democrat on the Senate Intelligence Committee, told reporters that Twitter’s presentation to investigators was “deeply disappointing.” ABC News

Yosemite Hit By "Substantially Bigger" Rock Fall Day After Deadly Slide
Two days of cracking, thundering falling rock at Yosemite National Park have left one man dead, two people injured, and even experienced climbers stunned by the spectacle. A massive new hunk of granite broke off Thursday at the park's mountaineering mecca of El Capitan, injuring an elderly man and sending huge plumes of white dust. "There was so much smoke and debris," said climber Ryan Sheridan, who had just reached the top of El Capitan when the rock let loose below him. "It filled the entire valley with smoke." Ken Yager, president and founder of the Yosemite Climbing Association, said he witnessed Thursday's rock fall, which appeared to be "substantially bigger" than the earlier one. The slide came a day after a giant slab of granite plunged from the same formation, killing a British man on a hiking and climbing visit and injuring his wife. CBS News

O.J. Simpson: "Endgame",  A "48 Hours" Special, To Air Ahead Of Prison Release
With the country once again divided over issues of race amid a national uproar over football players, patriotism and free speech, CBS News special correspondent James Brown anchors a "48 Hours" special: "O.J. Simpson: Endgame," a one-hour broadcast Saturday at 9/8c, on the eve of Simpson's release from a Nevada prison after serving nine years on armed robbery charges. "Some half a million inmates will be released from our state prisons in 2017," Brown reports. "None will be met by the spotlight, the curiosity that will greet O.J. Simpson. Will the man so many still consider a killer slip into the shadows, and live out his days quietly? We know the national conversation about race and the criminal justice system remains center stage. It is America's endless refrain, a nation's unfinished business. CBS News
VOA VIEW: Don't watch.

Catalan Independence Referendum: What’s Behind Divisive Spanish Vote?
Spain’s region of Catalonia is known best for its vibrant Mediterranean capital, Barcelona. Catalonia is set to gain renewed attention for an independence referendum planned for Sunday in spite of a fierce crackdown by the government of Spain’s conservative Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy, which deems the vote illegal and vows it will not respect its result. Independence leaders are vowing to press on with the vote and the issue is now one of the biggest political challenges to face Spain since the end of Gen. Francisco Franco's dictatorship in 1975. Here’s what the conflict is about and why it matters. NBC News

Law Trump Hated Could Ensnare Manafort
Donald Trump once railed against a Watergate-era reform law that prohibits American companies from bribing foreign government officials. "What are we — prosecuting people to keep China honest?" he said in 2012. "Now every other country goes into to these places and they do what they have to do. It’s a horrible law and it should be changed. I mean, we are like the policemen for the world. It’s ridiculous." Could it be that the very law that Trump slammed is what prosecutors could be using as leverage to cut a deal with Paul Manafort? What is the Law?  NBC News

U.S. Visas To Six Muslim Nations Drop After Supreme Court Backs Travel Ban
In the first two months after a June Supreme Court ruling allowed partial implementation of President Donald Trump’s travel ban, visas issued on average each month to citizens of six countries targeted by the order were 18 percent lower compared to the month prior to the ban, a Reuters analysis of government data shows. The 3,268 visas issued in July and 3,884 visas issued in August to citizens of the six majority-Muslim countries were down from 4,351 issued in June. The July figure was lower than the monthly average at any point since 2007, when an average of 3,080 visas per month were issued to those countries.  Reuters

Senators Close To Bipartisan Deal On Health Exchanges
Two U.S. senators from both parties are close to finalizing a bipartisan deal to shore up the health insurance exchanges created under Obamacare, the chamber’s top Democrat said on Thursday. The move, which Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer said was “on the verge” of completion, would stabilize the market for individuals who buy their own insurance plans on the federal or state-based exchanges. The potential agreement comes after Republicans have repeatedly failed to carry out their years-long pledge to repeal and replace the 2010 Affordable Act, former Democratic President Barack Obama’s signature healthcare overhaul. Schumer said Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pension Committee Chairman Lamar Alexander, a Republican, and ranking Democrat Patty Murray had resurrected a bipartisan approach, which had been cast aside amid the latest near-vote on a repeal bill. Reuters

Russian Strikes On U.S. Allies Seen As Move For Power In Postwar Syria
With the U.S. consumed with domestic crises and a standoff with North Korea, Russia has quietly moved to press its advantage on the battlefield in Syria. A series of increasingly brazen Russian and Syrian airstrikes on U.S.-backed forces in Syria in recent days is the first step in a larger plan to co-opt American proxy forces fighting Islamic State and improve the Kremlin’s leverage to shape the postwar landscape, analysts say. Russian-backed forces loyal to Syrian President Bashar Assad on Monday launched a heavy artillery attack in eastern Syria near positions of the Syrian Democratic Forces, the alliance of Kurdish and Arab paramilitary fighters battling Islamic State militants, coalition officials confirmed Thursday. The Washington Times

How To Fix The Federal Debt: Budget Analysts Say It’s Only Politics That Stand In The Way
Congress will take up the 2018 budget next week, belatedly beginning work on a blueprint for the country’s borrowing and spending over the next decade, with a laser focus on tax cuts. Republicans’ first draft of their tax overhaul, revealed this week, could cut government revenue by more than $2 trillion over the next decade. As for the spending side, President Trump has said the big entitlement programs of Social Security and Medicare can’t be touched, and Democrats said they want benefit increases, particularly for Social Security. All of that would put upward pressure on deficits already projected to rise back to $1 trillion a year and on a cumulative debt that has topped $20 trillion. Washington Times

ISIS Leader Seemingly Breaks 11-Month Silence In Audio Recording
The leader of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, seems to have broken his 11-month silence with a long audio message in which he mocks the United States, calls on jihadis to rally against the Syrian regime and insists that ISIS 'remains' despite its rapid loss of territory. A spokesman with the US Office of the Director of National Intelligence told CNN: "We are aware of the audio tape purported to be of Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi and are taking steps to examine it. While we have no reason to doubt its authenticity, we do not have verification at this point." CNN

The Trump Administration Is Targeting Anti-Trump Facebook Users
The Justice Department is trying to force Facebook to disclose information about thousands of people who "liked" a page opposing president Donald Trump. The DoJ wants to access all the information from the profiles of three activists connected to the "DisruptJ20" protests on the day of Trump's January inauguration. The protests turned violent in part and, with a couple hundred people having been charged over the Washington, D.C. riots, the authorities are going after online information relating to DisruptJ20. One of the three being targeted by the DoJ, Emmelia Talarico, was an administrator and moderator for the DisruptJ20 Facebook page, since renamed "Resist This." Fortune

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Tribal head who led Dakota Access pipeline fight voted out
The Native American official who has been the face and voice of the fight against the Dakota Access oil pipeline has been voted out of office. Unofficial results from the Standing Rock Sioux tribe's general election Wednesday showed that Dave Archambault received only 37 percent of about 1,700 votes cast. His opponent, longtime tribal councilman and wildlife official Mike Faith, received 63 percent, according to the totals released Thursday. The tribe opposed the $3.8 billion pipeline built by Texas-based Energy Transfer Partners over fears it would harm cultural sites and the tribe's Missouri River water supply — claims rejected by ETP. Protests failed to stop the pipeline, and it began moving North Dakota oil through South Dakota and Iowa to a distribution point in Illinois on June 1. The Standing Rock and three other Sioux tribes are still fighting the pipeline in federal court. Houston Chronicle

Telescope on land sacred to Native Hawaiians moves forward
A long-running effort to build one of the world's largest telescopes on a mountain sacred to Native Hawaiians is moving forward after a key approval Thursday, reopening divisions over a project that promises revolutionary views into the heavens but has drawn impassioned protests over the impact to a spiritual place. Hawaii's land board granted a construction permit for the $1.4 billion Thirty Meter Telescope atop the state's tallest mountain, called Mauna Kea, but opponents vowed to keep fighting. Protesters willing to be arrested were successful in blocking construction in the past. Opponents can appeal the decision, but it wasn't immediately clear what they plan to do. Project officials didn't immediately comment or discuss plans for construction. Houston Chronicle

Congressional Black Caucus Chair Slams Trump's Response To NFL Protests
The chair of the Congressional Black Caucus said Wednesday night his heated letter to President Donald Trump was intended to explain his frustration with the President's attitude toward racial issues. "The truth of the matter is I don't care if the President is a racist, a man of goodwill or anything else," Rep. Cedric Richmond said to CNN's Don Lemon on "CNN Tonight." CNN
VOA VIEW: Who cares - losers will follow losers.

Mountains Of Aid Are Languishing On The Docks In Puerto Rico
Thousands of cargo containers bearing millions of emergency meals and other relief supplies have been piling up on San Juan’s docks since Saturday. The mountains of materiel may not reach storm survivors for days. Distributors for big-box companies and smaller retailers are unloading 4,000 20-foot containers full of necessities like food, water and soap this week at a dock in Puerto Rico’s capital operated by Crowley Maritime Corp. In the past few days, Tote Maritime’s terminal has taken the equivalent of almost 3,000.  Bloomberg

The Trump Tax Reform's Pass-Through Boondoggle
Here's an interesting passage from the "Unified Framework for Fixing Our Broken Tax Code" released Wednesday by the White House and Republican congressional leaders: The framework limits the maximum tax rate applied to the business income of small and family-owned businesses conducted as sole proprietorships, partnerships and S corporations to 25%. The framework contemplates that the committees will adopt measures to prevent the recharacterization of personal income into business income to prevent wealthy individuals from avoiding the top personal tax rate. Bloomberg

Trump Adviser 'Can't Guarantee' Taxes Won't Go Up For Middle Class
President Donald Trump's top economic adviser, Gary Cohn, said today that he can't guarantee that taxes won't go up for some middle-class families under the administration's sweeping tax overhaul. "There's an exception to every rule," Cohn told ABC News chief anchor George Stephanopoulos in an interview on "Good Morning America." "I can't guarantee anything," said Cohn, the director of the White House Economic Council. "You can always find a unique family somewhere." He said Trump's plan is "purely aimed at middle-class families." But Cohn acknowledged that "it depends which state you live in." ABC News

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U.S. Economy Accelerates In Second Quarter; Hurricanes Expected To Slow Growth
The U.S. economy expanded a bit faster than previously estimated in the second quarter, recording its quickest rate of growth in more than two years, but the momentum likely slowed in the third quarter due to the impact of Hurricanes Harvey and Irma. Gross domestic product increased at a 3.1 percent annual rate in the April-June period, the Commerce Department said in its third estimate on Thursday. The upward revision from the 3.0 percent rate of growth reported last month reflected a rise in inventory investment. Reuters

Lawsuits Aim To Change Winner-Take-All Electoral College System By 2020 Presidential Race
The votes have been counted and President Trump has moved into the White House, but the campaign to upend the Electoral College is far from over. Lawsuits aimed at striking down the winner-take-all system and giving electors more freedom to change their votes have been in the works since Mr. Trump won the Electoral College vote but not the popular vote on Nov. 8. The idea is not to eliminate the Electoral College, which would require a constitutional amendment, but to require states to implement a system in which electors cast ballots based on the percentage of the popular vote. The Washington Times

FBI Pursuing Equal Number Of Domestic Terrorism And Jihadi Threats, Director Says
The FBI has about 1,000 open domestic terrorism investigations — approximately the same number as more traditional jihadi terrorist cases — the bureau’s new director said Wednesday, as he sought to assure Congress that his agents take the domestic threat seriously. After last month’s clashes in Charlottesville, Virginia, Democrats said they believe the Trump administration is too focused on radical Islam and isn’t paying enough attention to white supremacists and anti-government militants here at home. Washington Times

White House ‘Back To Square One’ In Search For DHS Secretary
The Trump administration is hitting reset on its search for a permanent Department of Homeland Security secretary due to White House aides’ dissatisfaction with the slate of candidates, according to two people familiar with the process. House Homeland Security Committee Chairman Mike McCaul had been considered the front-runner for the job, but he no longer is in contention, these people said. White House chief of staff John Kelly, who led DHS before being tapped for his new West Wing role, privately raised red flags about McCaul’s stance on immigration, which has at times diverged from that of President Donald Trump. POLITICO

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Supreme Court, With Gorsuch On Bench, To Hear Big New Challenge To Labor Unions
The Supreme Court is taking a fresh look at the politically explosive issue of whether unions can force workers to pay dues – this time, with a conservative majority in place. The justices deadlocked 4-4 in a similar case last year. With Justice Neil Gorsuch since confirmed to the court, the justices agreed Thursday to again consider a free-speech challenge from workers who object to paying money to unions they don't support. The case has the potential to strike a financial blow against Democratic-leaning unions that represent government workers. The case is a challenge to a 1979 high court precedent that concluded public-sector workers could be forced to join a union or support one financially as a condition of employment. Unions maintain they want to be able to collect fees even from non-members to cover the costs of negotiating contracts for all employees. Fox
VOA VIEW: There should be no dues paid by anyone who is not a member of a union.

Alleged Leaker Reality Winner Griped About Fox News On Her Office TVs, Wanted Al Jazeera
Reality Winner, the former National Security Agency contractor accused of leaking a classified report, apparently complained to her bosses that Fox News was playing in her office – suggesting Al Jazeera would have been a more appropriate choice. The detail emerged in newly released transcripts filed in court of Winner’s interview with the FBI. The documents contain a host of new claims from the accused leaker, including that she snuck the document out of a secure NSA facility by folding it and putting it in her pantyhose. The transcripts offer additional insight into both her political leanings and media preferences. Fox News

Price Says He Still Has Trump’s Confidence After Private Jet Controversy
Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price said he believes he is still in the president’s good graces following reports that Price spent thousands of federal dollars on private air travel for government business. “We’re gonna work through this,” Price told reporters Thursday as he left a press conference at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C. “I think we’ve still got the confidence of the president.” Asked by NBC News Thursday afternoon about Price's comments and his level of confidence in the secretary, President Donald Trump declined to comment. NBC News

Trump Proposes Lowest Refugee Admission Ceiling In Decades
The Trump administration’s proposed ceiling of 45,000 refugees to be resettled in the United States in the new fiscal year is the lowest cap set since the Refugee Act was passed in 1980. On Wednesday the administration sent to Congress a report on its refugee admission plans for FY 2018. The 45,000 ceiling is a 59 percent drop from the 110,000 cap set by the Obama administration a year ago for FY 2017. (President Trump’s January 27 executive order lowered that to 50,000.) Since the law signed by President Carter in 1980 raised the annual ceiling from 17,400 to 50,000, the lowest cap until now was 67,000, set by the Reagan administration for FY 1986. CNS

Maine Gov. Tells Sheriffs They'll Be Fired For Defying U.S. Immigration Officials
On Tuesday, Republican Maine Gov. Paul LePage warned his state’s sheriffs that he’ll fire anyone who defies his order to cooperate with federal immigration enforcement officials. In a letter to Maine’s sheriffs, LePage explicitly threatened to remove any sheriff who refuses to comply with Immigration Customs Enforcement (ICE) requests to extend the detention of arrested individuals suspected of violating federal immigration law. CNS

Energy Industry Says 'No Thanks' To Trump Offer Of Marine Sanctuaries
In a bid to boost energy development, U.S. President Donald Trump’s administration is considering shrinking or eliminating 11 marine sanctuaries designed to protect 425 million acres of coral reefs, marine mammal habitats and pristine beaches. The review is part of a broader strategy to open new areas to oil and gas drilling and “put the energy needs of American families and businesses first,” according to the order Trump signed in April that triggered it. But interviews with energy industry representatives signal the effort will likely miss its target. Reuters

Dems See 2018 Gains In Repeated Obamacare Repeal Tries
To the Republicans vowing to keep their Obamacare repeal drive alive for as long as it takes, Democrats say: Please, and thank you. While Senate Republicans abandoned their last-gasp attempt to topple Obamacare before a Saturday deadline, they’re already suggesting they might try again next year. That timing — President Donald Trump said Wednesday that Congress would take up repeal again in the first quarter of next year — could keep the threat of upending the health care system front of mind in the thick of the 2018 campaign season. POLITICO

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US State Department distances itself from its own Israel ambassador again
The State Department declined to defend David Friedman, its ambassador to Israel, on Thursday after he claimed in an interview that Israeli settlements built after 1967 are a part of the country. The claim – which runs contrary to decades-old US policy, continued by the Trump administration – "should not be read as a way to prejudge the outcome of any negotiations" and "should not be read as a shift in US policy," State Department spokesman Heather Nauert told reporters. JPost

Rohingya refugee crisis a ‘human rights nightmare,’ UN chief tells Security Council
Noting that the humanitarian crisis that has resulted in displacement of hundreds of thousands of Rohingyas from Myanmar not only provides a “breeding ground” for radicalization, but also puts vulnerable people – including young children – at grave risk, United Nations Secretary-General called for “swift action” to prevent further instability and find a durable solution. At least 500,000 civilians have fled their homes in the country’s northern Rakhine state since late August and sought refuge in Bangladesh. According to estimates, some 94 per cent among them are members of the minority Muslim Rohingya community. UN

UN mission deploys ‘blue helmets’ to protect civilians and refugees
Responding to the worsening security situation near a major town in eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), the United Nations mission in the country has deployed peacekeepers to deter any attacks on the city and to prevent escalation in clashes. According to the UN Organization Stabilization Mission in the DRC, known by its French acronym MONUSCO, clashes had occurred in the area of Uvira, in South Kivu province, between presumed armed groups and the Congolese national army (FARDC). Noting that the response is guided by the Mission’s mandate, Maman Sidikou, the Special Representative of the Secretary-General and Head of MONUSCO, said: “[We are] strongly committed to the protection of civilians, including vulnerable groups such as refugees and displaced people.” UN

Macron’s counter-terror bill risks France’s human rights record, say UN experts
A tough new French counter-terrorism bill could have discriminatory repercussions, especially for Muslims, and puts the country’s human rights record at risk, UN experts have said. The bill proposed by the French president, Emmanuel Macron, is designed to allow France to end its two-year state of emergency by transferring certain exceptional emergency policing powers into permanent law. Fionnuala Ní Aoláin, a special UN rapporteur, said the bill contains provisions that could harm the rights to liberty, security, freedom of assembly and freedom of religion. Another UN rapporteur, Michel Forst, warned that the bill, being debated by the French parliament, risked creating a “permanent emergency situation”, handing the state special policing powers without the proper control of judges and the legal system. Forst told France Inter radio that the first people targeted by the law would be those simply “considered suspect”, including Muslims. Guardian

Isis releases new recording of leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi
Islamic State has released an audio recording of its leader, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, that appears to postdate the latest rumours of his death, in which he accuses the US of wilting in the face of Russia and lacking “the will to fight”. The 46-minute tape, released on Thursday, was the first from the reclusive Baghdadi in nearly 10 months, and gave several clues that suggest Iranian and Russian claims that he was killed in May  were incorrect. In the tape Baghdadi refers to the “nearly year-long fight for Mosul”, from which Isis was ousted in August after nearly 10 months of fighting. He also referenced fights for Hama in Syria, where a push in recent weeks by Iranian-led militias has ousted the terror group from much of its stronghold in countryside to the east of Syria’s third city. Guardian

ICE Arrests Hundreds Of Immigrants In 'Sanctuary cities' Around The Nation, California
Immigration officials on Thursday announced hundreds of arrests in an operation targeting communities where police and elected officials have refused to fully cooperate on enforcing federal immigration laws. ICE said it arrested 167 people in and around Los Angeles, a region in which several cities and counties have been tagged by justice officials as being so-called sanctuaries — a loosely defined term used to describe local governments that restrict police from assisting immigration authorities in identifying and detaining people suspected of being in the country illegally. LA Times

Black Lives Matter Cannot Be Sued By Louisiana Police Officer, Federal Judge Rules
A federal judge ruled Thursday that Black Lives Matter was not an organization but a social movement akin to the tea party or the civil rights movement, and cannot be sued by a Louisiana police officer who was injured at a protest against police brutality last year. The ruling by U.S. District Judge Brian A. Jackson threw out a lawsuit an officer with the Baton Rouge Police Department filed anonymously against Black Lives Matter and DeRay Mckesson, one of the movement’s leading activists. “Although many entities have utilized the phrase ‘black lives matter’ in their titles or business designations,” the judge wrote, “’black lives matter’ itself is not an entity of any sort.” Washington Post

The Woman Who Was Forcibly Dragged By Police From A Southwest Airlines Flight Is Now Reportedly Facing Multiple Charges
Police dragged a woman passenger off a Southwest Airlines flight on Tuesday evening at the Baltimore-Washington International Airport. Now that passenger is reportedly facing multiple charges. The incident, which was filmed by a fellow passenger, took place on flight 1525 from Baltimore-Washington to Los Angeles. It started when the passenger, who has been identified as 46-year-old Anila Daulatzai, told the flight crew that she had a "life-threatening pet allergy," Southwest Airlines said in a statement to Business Insider. Daulatzai brought this to their attention because there was an emotional-support dog and a pet on the flight. AOL News

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