Solarbird (solarbird) wrote,
Solarbird
solarbird

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good morning, it's 2 february 2017

Trump's ignoring Russian aggression in Ukraine, Trump stopping monitoring of white supremacist hate groups, Trump threatens Iran and Mexico and gets into a fight with Australia, Trump and House GOP start rolling back serious environmental protections (specifically involving mercury), more bomb threats at Jewish community centres, it's a big list.


----- 1 -----
Trump transition email shows initial effort to oust all inspectors general
By Steven Mufson February 1 at 11:28 AM
The Washington Post

https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/politics/wp/2017/02/01/trump-transition-email-shows-initial-effort-to-oust-all-inspectors-general/

An email from the Trump transition team on the evening of Jan. 13 instructed all transition team leaders to “reach out tonight and inform” the inspectors general in their agencies “that they are being held over on a temporary basis.”

The email from Katie Giblin, a member of the presidential transition team, confirms a story The Post reported last week that inspectors general, who by bipartisan tradition have open-ended appointments regardless of party, had been told that they would be held over only on a temporary basis and that they should seek other employment.

The email shows that the effort to replace the inspectors was not limited to a handful of agencies, but that it was intended to take aim at inspectors general across government departments.

Moreover, the email from Giblin suggests involvement at a more senior level of the transition. The email urges transition team leaders to report back to her or a person whose name is blacked out in the document presented at the hearing today. But a person familiar with the email said that the other person is Justin Clark, a Republican lawyer from West Hartford, Conn., who was deputy national political director of Donald Trump’s presidential campaign and who has been named deputy assistant to the president and the White House director of intergovernmental affairs.


----- 2 ------
In Case It Wasn’t Clear Yet, Steve Bannon Is Our President
Donald Trump is just a puppet who doesn’t care about anything.
By Jack Moore | GQ
31 January 2017

http://www.gq.com/story/donald-trump-is-just-a-puppet-steve-bannon-is-president

If Donald Trump has shown anything during his first eleven days in office, it's that he's a coward with no ideas of his own, who is more than happy to be a puppet for the true president of the United States: Steve Bannon. Sure, Trump acts like he's in charge, but that's because he's too dumb to realize that Bannon is so obviously pulling the strings that he's become a joke. A real, impressive winner (not a Fake! Sad! Loser! like Trump) would recognize he's being manipulated by a power-hungry jackass who is actively trying to destroy the founding principles of this nation. And what's truly crazy is that that statement isn't even slightly hyperbolic.

Steve Bannon is making far-reaching and unprecedented decisions in this White House and is undermining the basic checks and balances that you learned about in junior-high civics class. For example, he was the architect of Donald Trump's horrific "Don't call it a Muslim ban even though I call it a Muslim ban" Muslim ban, and when the Department of Homeland Security's lawyers concluded that the ban should not include people who hold green cards, Steve Bannon apparently personally overruled them.

If Donald Trump has shown anything during his first eleven days in office, it's that he's a coward with no ideas of his own, who is more than happy to be a puppet for the true president of the United States: Steve Bannon. Sure, Trump acts like he's in charge, but that's because he's too dumb to realize that Bannon is so obviously pulling the strings that he's become a joke. A real, impressive winner (not a Fake! Sad! Loser! like Trump) would recognize he's being manipulated by a power-hungry jackass who is actively trying to destroy the founding principles of this nation. And what's truly crazy is that that statement isn't even slightly hyperbolic.

Steve Bannon is making far-reaching and unprecedented decisions in this White House and is undermining the basic checks and balances that you learned about in junior-high civics class. For example, he was the architect of Donald Trump's horrific "Don't call it a Muslim ban even though I call it a Muslim ban" Muslim ban, and when the Department of Homeland Security's lawyers concluded that the ban should not include people who hold green cards, Steve Bannon apparently personally overruled them.

And, as if that weren't enough, in an unprecedented move, Steve Bannon has been appointed to the National Security Council even as the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and the director of national intelligence were demoted. And lest you think this isn't a big deal, take The New York Times’s word for it:

...who sits at the National Security Council table when the administration debates issues of war and peace can make a real difference in decisions. In giving Mr. Bannon an official role in national security policy making, Mr. Trump has not simply broken with tradition but has embraced the risk of politicizing national security, or giving the impression of doing so.

So now, a man who is a political animal and an amoral opportunist, who years ago said that his goal is to "destroy the state" and "bring everything crashing down, and destroy all of today’s establishment,” is now going to be an even bigger voice in shaping U.S. foreign policy. And lest you think he's changed his mind since then, here's what he said YESTERDAY to The Washington Post about attorney general nominee and noted racist Jeff Sessions.

“Throughout the campaign, Sessions has been the fiercest, most dedicated, and most loyal promoter in Congress of Trump’s agenda, and has played a critical role as the clearinghouse for policy and philosophy to undergird the implementation of that agenda. What we are witnessing now is the birth of a new political order, and the more frantic a handful of media elites become, the more powerful that new political order becomes itself.”

He's casually throwing around phrases like "new political order" as if they aren't terrifying when paired with him running roughshod over the rights of...well, everyone who isn't a rich, white, straight male. And if you still think Trump is actually in control, here's what Bannon said of his so-called boss last year:

"[Donald Trump is a] blunt instrument for us,” he told me earlier this summer. “I don’t know whether he really gets it or not.”

So there you have it. A man who wants to "destroy the state" and who basically bragged that he was manipulating Trump to his own ends has already, in only eleven days, risen to an unprecedented level of influence for someone in his position. He's already overruled entire departments of government and unseated qualified security experts on the NSC. So we should get some slimy photos of Steve Bannon ready for those junior-high civics classrooms. After all, they usually have photos of the presidents on their walls.


----- 3 -----
How to Build an Autocracy
The preconditions are present in the U.S. today. Here’s the playbook Donald Trump could use to set the country down a path toward illiberalism.
David Frum - The Atlantic - March 2017

https://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2017/03/how-to-build-an-autocracy/513872/

It’s 2021, and President Donald Trump will shortly be sworn in for his second term. The 45th president has visibly aged over the past four years. He rests heavily on his daughter Ivanka’s arm during his infrequent public appearances.

Fortunately for him, he did not need to campaign hard for reelection. His has been a popular presidency: Big tax cuts, big spending, and big deficits have worked their familiar expansive magic. Wages have grown strongly in the Trump years, especially for men without a college degree, even if rising inflation is beginning to bite into the gains. The president’s supporters credit his restrictive immigration policies and his TrumpWorks infrastructure program.

...

The media have grown noticeably more friendly to Trump as well. The proposed merger of AT&T and Time Warner was delayed for more than a year, during which Time Warner’s CNN unit worked ever harder to meet Trump’s definition of fairness. Under the agreement that settled the Department of Justice’s antitrust complaint against Amazon, the company’s founder, Jeff Bezos, has divested himself of The Washington Post. The paper’s new owner—an investor group based in Slovakia—has closed the printed edition and refocused the paper on municipal politics and lifestyle coverage.

...

Donald Trump, however, represents something much more radical. A president who plausibly owes his office at least in part to a clandestine intervention by a hostile foreign intelligence service? Who uses the bully pulpit to target individual critics? Who creates blind trusts that are not blind, invites his children to commingle private and public business, and somehow gets the unhappy members of his own political party either to endorse his choices or shrug them off? If this were happening in Honduras, we’d know what to call it. It’s happening here instead, and so we are baffled.

...

Discipline within the congressional ranks will be strictly enforced not only by the party leadership and party donors, but also by the overwhelming influence of Fox News. Trump versus Clinton was not 2016’s only contest between an overbearing man and a restrained woman. Just such a contest was waged at Fox, between Sean Hannity and Megyn Kelly. In both cases, the early indicators seemed to favor the women. Yet in the end it was the men who won, Hannity even more decisively than Trump. Hannity’s show, which became an unapologetic infomercial for Trump, pulled into first place on the network in mid-October. Kelly’s show tumbled to fifth place, behind even The Five, a roundtable program that airs at 5 p.m. Kelly landed on her feet, of course, but Fox learned its lesson: Trump sells; critical coverage does not. Since the election, the network has awarded Kelly’s former 9 p.m. time slot to Tucker Carlson, who is positioning himself as a Trump enthusiast in the Hannity mold.


----- 4 -----
Russian troops massively shelling Ukrainian city Avdiivka by rockets and artillery, Ukraine prepared to evacuate 12 000 civilians
Tuesday, 31 January, 2017 - 12:50 (EET) in Top stories, Video, War & conflict, War in Donbas

[NOTE: This is Ukrainian media; I know nothing about it. But from other sources, it appears to be accurate]

http://uaposition.com/video/russian-troops-massively-attack-ukrainian-city-avdiivka-rockets-artillery-ukraine-prepared-evacuate-12-000-civilians/

Russian forces continue their attacks in the area of Avdiivka in Donbas, with the use of heavy artillery and mortars, according to the Anti-Terrorist Operation Headquarters.

At the same time, the press service of the 72nd Guards Motorized Rifle Brigade wrote on Facebook that the militants took advantage of a short ceasefire and attacked the positions of the Armed Forced of Ukraine (AFU) near Avdiivka: “An hour ago, the enemy requested a truce and, taking advantage of the calm, launched an attack. The attack was repulsed, and the enemy stopped. The battle is still ongoing.”

As reported by the press center of ATO headquarters, Avdiivka remains one of the hottest places along the demarcation line. As of 4:00, Russian occupants released on the Ukrainian positions over 80 missiles from BM-21 Grad MLRS and 30 artillery shells of 152 mm caliber. The enemy also fired 120mm, 82mm mortars, tanks and small arms.


----- 5 -----
Trump is sworn in, rockets fall on Ukraine
Washington Post
By Editorial Board January 31 at 7:26 PM

https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/global-opinions/trump-is-sworn-in-rockets-fall-on-ukraine/2017/01/31/e295635c-e7e3-11e6-bf6f-301b6b443624_story.html

COULD IT have been just a coincidence that Russian-backed forces in Ukraine launched their biggest offensive in months the day after Vladi­mir Putin spoke by phone with President Trump? Somehow, we doubt it. Rather, the volleys of Grad rockets and heavy artillery that have been raining down on Ukrainian army positions since Sunday look a lot like a test of whether the new president will yield to pressure from Moscow.

Mr. Trump and Mr. Putin didn’t speak much about Ukraine during their call; officials told us that Mr. Trump called it “a tough issue” before moving on. Nor did the White House issue a widely rumored executive order abruptly lifting U.S. sanctions on Moscow for its invasions of Crimea and eastern Ukraine. That may have been due to pushback Mr. Trump heard from British Prime Minister Theresa May on Friday, as well as from senior congressional Republicans.

Perhaps a disappointed Mr. Putin felt the need to do some pushing from the other side. Or maybe he wanted to wreck a meeting Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko had scheduled for Monday with German Chancellor Angela Merkel, his strongest Western supporter. In any case, Russian guns that had been quiescent for weeks suddenly erupted Sunday near the government-controlled town of Avdiivka, north of the separatist-held city of Donetsk. The shelling soon spread south to Mariupol, a key government-held city on the coast of the Sea of Azov. One sign the offensive was serious and Kremlin-directed: Ukrainian soldiers and civilians were swamped with threatening text messages characteristic of Russian electronic warfare units.


----- 6 -----
All eyes on Trump amid "serious spike" in Ukraine war
CBS News
1 February 2017

http://www.cbsnews.com/news/ukraine-russia-rebels-war-donetsk-avdiivka-wait-for-trump-reaction/

AVDIIVKA, Ukraine -- Freezing and nerve-shattered residents of an eastern Ukraine town battered by an upsurge in fighting between troops and Russia-backed rebels flocked to a humanitarian aid center Wednesday to receive food and warm up.

Heavy shelling of government-held Avdiivka, just north of the rebel stronghold city of Donetsk, began over the weekend and persisted into early Wednesday. Donetsk city also was hit.

At least 10 people have been killed since Monday and dozens wounded.

Separatist rebels have been fighting government troops and volunteer brigades in eastern Ukraine since April 2014 in a conflict that has killed more than 9,700 people. A pact reached nearly two years ago in Minsk, Belarus, called for a cease-fire, for heavy weapons to be pulled back from the front lines and for a political resolution of the conflict, but the agreement has been observed only fitfully and skirmishes and artillery fire have persisted.

In a worrisome sign, an Associated Press reporter saw rebel artillery positions in the center of Donetsk city on Wednesday.

What sparked the recent escalation is unclear. But each side could find negotiation benefits in it.

The Ukrainian government -- concerned that the new Trump Administration might take a comparatively soft line on Russia, and possibly change the long-held American stance on the NATO alliance -- could point to the escalation as evidence that Russia cannot be trusted.

That prospect was acknowledged by President Vladimir Putin’s foreign affairs adviser Yuri Ushakov. “Kiev is trying to use the fighting it provoked itself as a pretext to refuse to observe the Minsk agreement and blame Russia,” he told reporters Wednesday.

But by showing the strength of the rebels and their Russian backers, the fighting could send a signal to Washington that Moscow holds power in the region and the United States should offer concessions to Moscow if it wants peace in Ukraine.


----- 7 -----
Jerry Falwell Jr. will be leading Trump’s higher education task force. Here’s a science textbook I was assigned at his school in 2007.
Kevin Roose Verified account ‏@kevinroose

https://twitter.com/kevinroose/status/826630781892251648


----- 8 -----
White House ices out CNN
Trump administration refuses to put officials on air on the network the president called 'fake news.'
By Hadas Gold
01/31/17 06:16 PM EST

http://www.politico.com/story/2017/01/trump-cnn-press-234455

The White House has refused to send its spokespeople or surrogates onto CNN shows, effectively freezing out the network from on-air administration voices.

“We’re sending surrogates to places where we think it makes sense to promote our agenda,” said a White House official, acknowledging that CNN is not such a place, but adding that the ban is not permanent.

A CNN reporter, speaking on background, was more blunt: The White House is trying to punish the network and force down its ratings.

“They’re trying to cull CNN from the herd,” the reporter said.

Administration officials are still answering questions from CNN reporters. But administration officials including White House press secretary Sean Spicer and senior counselor Kellyanne Conway haven't appeared on the network's programming in recent weeks.


----- 9 -----
Federal judge orders emergency injunction and restraining order ending Trump's #muslimban
Boing Boing
Cory Doctorow / 3:24 pm Wed Feb 1, 2017

https://boingboing.net/2017/02/01/federal-judge-orders-emergency.html

US District Judge Andre Birotte Jr (Central District of California) heard a plea from 28 Yemeni-born US citizens, and ruled that:

1. Defendants and their officers, agents, employees, attorneys, and all persons acting in concert or participating with them, are ENJOINED AND RESTRAINED from enforcing Defendant President Donald J. Trump’s January 27, 2017 Executive Order by removing, detaining, or blocking the entry of Plaintiffs, or any other person from Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen with a valid immigrant visa;

2. Defendants, and Defendant United States Department of State in particular, are hereby ENJOINED AND RESTRAINED from cancelling validly obtained and issued immigrant visas of Plaintiffs;

3. Defendants, and Defendant United States Department of State in particular, are hereby ORDERED to return to Plaintiffs their passports containing validly issued immigrant visas so that Plaintiffs may travel to the United States on said visas; and

4. Defendants are hereby ORDERED to IMMEDIATELY inform all relevant airport, airline, and other authorities at Los Angeles International Airport and International Airport in Djibouti that Plaintiffs are permitted to travel to the United States on their valid immigrant visas.

However, the Customs and Border Protection agency has seemingly abandoned its commitment to lawful conduct, having refused to comply with earlier court orders, and also refused to meet with Senators, Members of Congress, and attorneys representing people in detention or facing deportation.


----- 10 -----
GOP changes rules to push through nominees after Dem boycott
By Peter Schroeder - 02/01/17 10:00 AM EST
The Hill

http://thehill.com/homenews/senate/317302-gop-changes-rules-to-push-through-nominees-after-dem-boycott

Senate Republicans pushed through a pair of President Trump’s Cabinet nominees Wednesday, upending standard committee rules to circumvent a Democratic boycott.

The Senate Finance Committee advanced a pair of Trump’s nominees with only Republican members present — Steven Mnuchin to head the Treasury Department, and Rep. Tom Price (R-Ga.) as secretary of Health and Human Services.

By unanimous consent, the Republicans gathered in the hearing room agreed to change the committee’s standing rules, which normally require at least one member of each party to be in attendance for committee work to proceed.


----- 11 -----
Eichenwald: Neil Gorsuch Is Supremely Qualified, and Must Not Be Confirmed
By Kurt Eichenwald On 2/1/17 at 3:55 PM
Newsweek

http://www.newsweek.com/why-neil-gorsuch-must-not-be-confirmed-supreme-court-eichenwald-551429

This is a very hard column to write. I’m about to abandon everything I have believed for much of my life about the proper principles for federal governance. Unfortunately, too many of our political leaders did that long ago, which makes this conclusion inevitable: Federal Judge Neil Gorsuch, President Donald Trump’s nominee for the Supreme Court, must not be confirmed. Democrats must fight it to the bitter end. The preservation of the final, tattered remains of American constitutional government demands it.

...

But no more. Gorsuch, unfortunately, must be sacrificed on the altar of obscene partisanship erected by the Republicans in recent years. Temper tantrums designed to undermine the Constitution for naked political purposes cannot be rewarded. Our government cannot survive the short-term games-playing that has replaced fidelity to the intent of the Founding Fathers’ work in forming this once-great nation.

This goes back to the unconscionable decision of Republicans who refused to consider any nominee put forward by President Barack Obama following the death of Associate Justice Antonin Scalia. Obama nominated Merrick Garland, another eminently qualified candidate who served as chief judge of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, the second most important court in the nation. But in a decision that will go down as one of the greatest abuses of the Constitution in this nation’s history, the Senate’s Republican majority, under the leadership of their unprincipled majority leader, Mitch McConnell, declared they would not give Garland hearings, would not examine his qualifications and would not take a vote.

...

I’m sure these words of principle enrage conservatives. I’m sure they believe that the Democrats' allowing the high court to continue in its current hobbled state throughout Trump’s term is un-American and destructive to our country. In fact, these statements have already been roundly condemned on Fox News, with numerous pundits ripping at the Democratic Party (or Democrat Party) for allowing its thirst for partisan advantage to blind them to our constitutional principles. And, if you’re a conservative, I hope you seethe at those statements.

Why? Because it exposes your grotesque hypocrisy.

You see, I lied. Feinstein never said anything about the Democrats refusing to confirm any Trump nominee for the next four years—that was actually Republican Senator John McCain of Arizona, in statements he made when most of the political world believed former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton was going to be president. As for the comment from the Americans for a Progressive Judiciary? I made up the name; as far as I can tell, no such organization exists. Instead, I was quoting the conservative publication The Federalist, which, once again, was writing at a time when almost no one believed Trump would win, to justify engaging in a blanket refusal to ever confirm any Clinton nominee.

Now if you’re a conservative who was angered by those statements when you thought they came from Democrats—and now that you know they were uttered by your partisan brethren, you’re scrambling to justify them—face facts: You are lying and self-deluded.


----- 12 -----
White House puts Iran ‘on notice,’ won’t rule out military force
Senior officials cite Iran’s 'highly provocative' behavior.
By Louis Nelson and Matthew Nussbaum
02/01/17 02:43 PM EST

http://www.politico.com/story/2017/02/iran-on-notice-trump-michael-flynn-234503

National Security Adviser Michael Flynn said Wednesday that President Donald Trump’s administration is “officially putting Iran on notice,” and senior administration officials later refused to rule out military action against the Islamic Republic.

Senior administration officials Wednesday afternoon said Iran’s “highly provocative” behavior, including a recent missile test, “is a destabilizing factor in the region” and promised a response.


----- 13 -----
Trump to Mexico: Take care of 'bad hombres' or US might
By VIVIAN SALAMA
1 February 2017

https://apnews.com/0b3f5db59b2e4aa78cdbbf008f27fb49

WASHINGTON (AP) — President Donald Trump threatened in a phone call with his Mexican counterpart to send U.S. troops to stop "bad hombres down there" unless the Mexican military does more to control them, according to an excerpt of a transcript of the conversation obtained by The Associated Press.

The excerpt of the call did not make clear who exactly Trump considered "bad hombres," — drug cartels, immigrants, or both — or the tone and context of the remark, made in a Friday morning phone call between the leaders. It also did not contain Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto's response.

Still, the excerpt offers a rare and striking look at how the new president is conducting diplomacy behind closed doors. Trump's remark suggest he is using the same tough and blunt talk with world leaders that he used to rally crowds on the campaign trail.

A White House spokesman did not respond to requests for comment.

The phone call between the leaders was intended to patch things up between the new president and his ally. The two have had a series of public spats over Trump's determination to have Mexico pay for the planned border wall, something Mexico steadfastly refuses to agree to.

"You have a bunch of bad hombres down there," Trump told Pena Nieto, according to the excerpt seen by the AP. "You aren't doing enough to stop them. I think your military is scared. Our military isn't, so I just might send them down to take care of it."


----- 14 -----
U.S. House axes rules to prevent corruption, pollution
Reuters | Wed Feb 1, 2017 | 6:56pm EST
By Lisa Lambert | WASHINGTON

http://www.reuters.com/article/us-usa-congress-regulations-idUSKBN15G5QZ

Two major U.S. rules aimed at curbing corruption and pollution in the energy sector may be entirely wiped from the books by next week, after the Republican-led House of Representatives on Wednesday voted to repeal them.

...

Required by the 2010 Dodd-Frank Wall Street reform law, the Securities and Exchange Commission's "extraction rule" was approved this summer to require companies such as Exxon Mobil Corp and Chevron Corp to publicly state the taxes and other fees they pay to governments.

...

During Wednesday's debate, Representative Maxine Waters, the senior Democrat on the House Financial Services Committee, raised concerns that Exxon's CEO during those fights was Rex Tillerson, just confirmed in the top diplomatic post of Secretary of State. During Tillerson's confirmation hearings, he raised Democrats' hackles by saying he did not know Exxon lobbied against U.S. sanctions on Russia, where he did business for years.

...

On the House floor Republican Jeb Hensarling, chairman of the Financial Services Committee, called the rule part of "a radical leftist elitist agenda against carbon-based jobs."

...

The stream buffer rule is intended to lessen the amount of waste from mountain-top removal coal mining deposited in local waterways.

Republican lawmakers, though, say it is hurting coal jobs by placing unworkable limits on the industry. Democrats, on the other hand, say it cuts down on water pollution.

...

On Thursday, the House will vote on repealing three other rules - on methane on public lands, expanding background checks for some gun purchases, and requiring federal contractors to post information on their workers.


----- 15 -----
Exclusive: Trump to focus counter-extremism program solely on Islam - sources
By Julia Edwards Ainsley, Dustin Volz and Kristina Cooke | WASHINGTON/SAN FRANCISCO
Reuters | Wed Feb 1, 2017 | 6:39pm EST

http://www.reuters.com/article/us-usa-trump-extremists-program-exclusiv-idUSKBN15G5VO

The Trump administration wants to revamp and rename a U.S. government program designed to counter all violent ideologies so that it focuses solely on Islamist extremism, five people briefed on the matter told Reuters.

The program, "Countering Violent Extremism," or CVE, would be changed to "Countering Islamic Extremism" or "Countering Radical Islamic Extremism," the sources said, and would no longer target groups such as white supremacists who have also carried out bombings and shootings in the United States.

...

Hoda Hawa, director of policy for the Muslim Public Affairs Council, said she was told last week by people within DHS that there was a push to refocus the CVE effort from tackling all violent ideology to only Islamist extremism.

"That is concerning for us because they are targeting a faith group and casting it under a net of suspicion," she said.


----- 16 -----
Trump Blasts ‘Dumb Deal’ With Ally Australia After Testy Call
by Jason Scott
February 1, 2017, 10:58 PM EST

https://www.bloomberg.com/politics/articles/2017-02-02/testy-trump-call-report-puts-australia-s-leader-on-defensive

U.S. President Donald Trump blasted a potential refugee resettlement deal with Australia in a late-night tweet, throwing it into doubt.

“Do you believe it? The Obama Administration agreed to take thousands of illegal immigrants from Australia. Why? I will study this dumb deal!,” Trump tweeted. The resettlement plan involves sending more than 1,000 people who had originally sought asylum in Australia onto the U.S.

The message came after Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull defended his relationship with Australia’s biggest ally following a Washington Post report that Trump berated him over the deal. Trump “abruptly ended” a phone call with Turnbull on Jan. 28 after 25 minutes even though they had been scheduled to speak for an hour, according to the newspaper. It cited unidentified U.S. officials who were briefed about the conversation.

During the call, Trump labeled the resettlement plan “the worst deal ever,” the paper reported. The president told Turnbull he had spoken to four other global leaders that day, including Russian President Vladimir Putin, and “this was the worst call by far,” it said.


----- 17 -----
Leaked Draft of Trump’s Religious Freedom Order Reveals Sweeping Plans to Legalize Discrimination
If signed, the order would create wholesale exemptions for people and organizations who claim religious objections to same-sex marriage, premarital sex, abortion, and trans identity.
By Sarah Posner
1 February 2017

https://www.thenation.com/article/leaked-draft-of-trumps-religious-freedom-order-reveals-sweeping-plans-to-legalize-discrimination/

A leaked copy of a draft executive order titled “Establishing a Government-Wide Initiative to Respect Religious Freedom,” obtained by The Investigative Fund and The Nation, reveals sweeping plans by the Trump administration to legalize discrimination.

The four-page draft order, a copy of which is currently circulating among federal staff and advocacy organizations, construes religious organizations so broadly that it covers “any organization, including closely held for-profit corporations,” and protects “religious freedom” in every walk of life: “when providing social services, education, or healthcare; earning a living, seeking a job, or employing others; receiving government grants or contracts; or otherwise participating in the marketplace, the public square, or interfacing with Federal, State or local governments.”

The draft order seeks to create wholesale exemptions for people and organizations who claim religious or moral objections to same-sex marriage, premarital sex, abortion, and trans identity, and it seeks to curtail women’s access to contraception and abortion through the Affordable Care Act. The White House did not respond to requests for comment, but when asked Monday about whether a religious freedom executive order was in the works, White House spokesman Sean Spicer told reporters, “I’m not getting ahead of the executive orders that we may or may not issue. There is a lot of executive orders, a lot of things that the president has talked about and will continue to fulfill, but we have nothing on that front now.”


----- 18 -----
Military Convoy Flying Trump Flag Belonged to SEAL Unit
By Luis Martinez | ABC News
Feb 1, 2017, 8:39 PM ET

http://abcnews.go.com/US/military-convoy-flying-trump-flag-belonged-seal-unit/story?id=45207477

The military convoy spotted on Sunday flying a Donald Trump flag near Louisville belonged to an East Coast-based SEAL unit, a Navy spokesperson told ABC News.

Military officials have launched an inquiry to determine if any misconduct can be linked to the incident. Regulations do not permit an unauthorized flag on a military vehicle.

Photos and a video of the convoy spread quickly on social media, with many questioning the identity of the occupants and whether the vehicles belonged to a military unit or were military surplus.

The video shot on Sunday on a highway near Louisville showed the lead vehicle of a convoy flying a large blue Donald Trump flag from an antenna.

The vehicles did not have any identifiable markings and the mystery deepened when local military bases in Kentucky said that the vehicles did not belong to their units.

"The convoy were service members assigned to an East Coast-based Naval Special Warfare unit driving vehicles while transiting between two training locations," Lieutenant Jacqui Maxwell, a spokesperson for Naval Special Warfare Group 2, told ABC News. Naval Special Warfare Units is the official Navy term for its elite SEAL special operations teams.


----- 19 -----
57 U.S. Jewish Centers Receive Bomb Threats in Past Month: 'Why Is No One Talking About This?'
The coordinated threats started on the East Coast and spread west two weeks ago, culminating in the evacuation of 14 centers on Tuesday. U.S. Jews insist the threats should not be dismissed just because no bombs have been found.
Taly Krupkin
Feb 01, 2017 3:17 PM

http://www.haaretz.com/us-news/.premium-1.768961

Fify-seven bomb threats were made to Jewish centers around the United States throughout the month of January. The coordinated threats, often targeting multiple organizations in the same hour, started on the East Coast and spread to westward two weeks ago, culminating in the evacuation of 14 Jewish community centers on Tuesday.

After each wave of threats, evacuations and the “all clear” from the police, the community centers resume activity, leading some to dismiss the bomb threats as merely a hoax. And yet, while no bombs were found at any of the JCCs, those who regularly attend the schools, community centers, and day cares that are evacuated are shaken and fearful after each set of calls directed at the Jewish community.

Steve Schneider, whose daughter attends a JCC preschool near Chicago, was notified on Tuesday that the children were evacuated after a bomb threat. “Truthfully, I’m scared," he says, although his daughter had spent the day sick at home. "It hits a lot closer to home when its your kids and your school. A lot of the parents are upset. These are kids are below 5 years old.”


----- 20 -----
NRDC Sues EPA Over Withdrawal of Mercury Protection Rule
National Resource Defence Centre
February 01, 2017

https://www.nrdc.org/media/2017/170201

NEW YORK – The Natural Resources Defense Council today sued the Environmental Protection Agency for illegally rescinding a rule that would protect the public from more than five tons of mercury discharges each year.

In a lawsuit filed in U.S. District Court here, NRDC said EPA broke the law by withdrawing the mercury protection rule without public notice or an opportunity for comment. The White House ordered agencies to withdraw a broad array of rules issued by the Obama Administration to protect public health and the environment.

In its complaint, NRDC contends EPA cannot withdraw the mercury protection rule based on the Trump Administration’s fiat because the rule is final. EPA issued the rule in December to limit substantially the amount of mercury dental offices across the nation discharge regularly.

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Tags: fascism watch, political
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