Obama and Bush to speak Tuesday at Dallas memorial service for fallen police officers

Madrid, Spain (CNN)President Barack Obama and former President George W. Bush on Tuesday will speak at an interfaith memorial service in Dallas for five police officers slain late last week.

The President will visit the Texas city at the request of Dallas Mayor Mike Rawlings, White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest said in a statement Sunday afternoon. On Sunday evening the White House announced that Bush would join his successor at the memorial service in Texas.
Vice President Joe Biden will also attend the service at the Morton H. Meyerson Symphony Center, as will former first lady Laura Bush.
Obama will also meet with families of the fallen officers. The president is cutting short a European trip to travel to Dallas, but he has spoken out on the shootings several times while abroad. While in Spain Sunday, the President condemned citizens who attack police officers, saying they are performing a "disservice to the cause" of criminal justice reform.
Obama made the remarks following a bilateral meeting with Spanish Interim Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy.
"Whenever those of us who are concerned about fairness in the criminal justice system attack police officers, you are doing a disservice to the cause," Obama said at the Moncola Palace in Madrid.
Obama said that police and activists need to work together and "listen to each other" in order to mobilize real change in America.
The President added that in movements such as Black Lives Matter, there will always be people who make "stupid" or "over generalized" statements, but that a truthful and peaceful tone must be created on both sides for progress.
"I wish I was staying longer," Obama said earlier Sunday prior to a meeting with King Felipe VI. " I'm so grateful for the understanding not only of his majesty but the people of Spain. We've had a difficult week back in the United States so my trip is a little abbreviated."
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As convention nears, Republicans seek identity in an era of Trump

CLEVELAND — No, this is not your father's Republican Party — or your brother's, or your sister's.

It is Donald Trump's shape-shifting Republican Party that gathers in Cleveland over the next two weeks, preparing for a contentious convention featuring a novice candidate, a new agenda and a nervous future.

"Win or lose, the Trump candidacy has inflamed the divisions within the Republican Party," said Ryan Williams, a Republican strategist who served as spokesman for 2012 presidential nominee Mitt Romney. "Even if Trump does not become the president, these rifts will remain."

While the convention itself begins July 18, preparations begin in earnest Monday with platform hearings that may spotlight party differences over trade, immigration, and other issues likely to linger during and after the era of Trump.

Later this week, a meeting of the convention rules committee gives Trump's opponents a chance, however faint, to somehow derail his candidacy.

Meanwhile, a Republican Party that has seen a fair amount of change during more than 150 years of existence begins to assess what it will look like in the fall election campaign against Democrat Hillary Clinton and in the years to come.

Trump has already changed the party, including on:

Trade

Trump's calls to block the proposed Trans-Pacific Partnership trade deal with Pacific Rim nations — and his threat to withdraw from the existing North American Free Trade Agreement with Canada and Mexico — defy decades of Republican support for free trade.

Trump and his supporters argue that trade deals have sucked manufacturing jobs out of the United States; Republican-leaning groups like the U.S. Chamber of Commerce say trade creates different kinds of jobs and leads to lower prices for consumers.

Immigration

Trump's proposals to step up deportations and build a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border don't sit well with Republicans who want comprehensive immigration legislation to address immigrants who are already in the country illegally. Some GOP critics say Trump's rhetoric is alienating the ever-growing bloc of Hispanic voters.

Style

Trump worked his way through a crowded field of Republican primary opponents with a slashing style that targeted rivals like "low energy" Jeb Bush, "Little" Marco Rubio and "Lying" Ted Cruz. Opponents responded in kind, calling Trump a "chaos candidate," and "con man."

The continuing resistance to Trump can be seen in the number of prominent Republicans who aren't expected to attend this month's convention — including the last two Republican presidents (George H.W. Bush and George W. Bush) and the party's most recent nominees (John McCain and Romney) — and a "Never Trump" movement that, despite the long odds, still hopes to somehow deny him the nomination.

Trump's emergence has been quite a change for a party once know for its top-down organization, one that tended to go with "the next guy in line" when deciding presidential nominees — but not the first transformation of a party created in 1854.

During the 1884 convention in Chicago, a group of dissident Republicans loudly opposed the nomination of the allegedly corrupt James G. Blaine, and many went on to support Democrat Grover Cleveland, who would ultimately win the election. Those so-called "Mugwumps," whose members included future President Theodore Roosevelt, went on to form the core of a more progressive Republican Party.

In 1912, then-ex-President Roosevelt led a walkout of the Republican convention that re-nominated President William Howard Taft, a former TR ally. Roosevelt led a third-party bid, but he and Taft lost to Democrat Woodrow Wilson in a race that exposed a Republican split among conservatives and moderates that lasts to this day.

The Great Depression ended what had been a Republican era of domination of presidential elections. After his win in 1932, President Franklin D. Roosevelt and his New Deal helped split the GOP into those who wanted to roll back government programs and those who wanted to make them more efficient.

President Dwight Eisenhower promoted the idea of "Modern Republicanism," but conservatives led by Barry Goldwater denounced Ike's programs as a "dime store New Deal."

Led by Goldwater, conservatives won control of the Republican Party at one of its most contentious conventions, the 1964 gathering in San Francisco.

Goldwater lost a landslide to President Lyndon Johnson in 1964. Republican stalwart Richard Nixon fused party factions behind his presidential election wins in 1968 and 1972, but fell in the wake of Watergate.

It took Ronald Reagan's successful candidacy in 1980 to consolidate conservative control of the GOP,  which remained more-or-less intact for the next three decades — until now.

Ronald Reagan stands before a cheering Republican National

Ronald Reagan stands before a cheering Republican National Convention in Detroit in 1980. (Photo: Rusty Kennedy, AP)

 

"Trump is a different kind of candidate than we've dealt with before," said Heather Cox Richardson, a history professor at Boston College who wrote a history of the Republican Party.

As Trump prepares to claim the presidential nomination, the Republican Party can be sliced and diced in any number of ways. There's the Tea Party, the business community, the libertarians, the religious conservatives, the remaining moderates and any number of other feuding factions.

Trump wants to use the convention to build party unity, though he has also said that is not essential. "I have to be honest, I think I'll win without the unity," Trump told backers recently in Raleigh, N.C.

Frank Donatelli, a former deputy chair for the Republican National Committee, said political conventions basically have two purposes: To unify the party and to introduce the ticket to millions of voters watching on television. This time, he said, "it's unclear whether they can meet those challenges."

Sarah Isgur Flores, a  Republican strategist who worked for presidential candidate Carly Fiorina, said the different factions had been debating well before Trump announced his candidacy in June of 2015.

"That conversation has been put on hold for a bit," she said. "I think that conversation will become louder in November."

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Michelle Obama: For girls, a heartbreaking loss -- and an opportunity

(CNN)Ralphina Feelee lives in Liberia, where the average family gets by on less than two dollars a day, and many families simply can't afford to educate their daughters. Teen pregnancy rates are high, and pregnant girls are often discouraged from attending school.

Sometimes it's not even safe for girls to attend school in the first place, since their commutes to and from school can be dangerous, and they sometimes even face sexual harassment and assault at school.
Michelle Obama
 
Ralphina wakes up early each morning, cooks for her family, cares for her younger siblings, and goes to work at a local market -- all before she even gets to school. But she still attends class each day, working especially hard in science and math so she can fulfill her dream of becoming a nurse.
Rihab Boutadghart lives in a remote part of Morocco near the Sahara Desert. While Morocco has made huge strides in education, and nearly all girls there attend elementary school, girls in rural areas often live far from the nearest middle and high schools, so many of them drop out of school by the time they turn twelve. Right now, only 14 percent of girls in rural Morocco attend high school.
But Rihab, who proudly describes herself as a "feminist," is determined to finish her education. She dreams of becoming an entrepreneur and being the CEO of a major company, and she recently appeared on Moroccan TV urging girls to work hard and follow their passions.
I had the privilege of meeting Ralphina and Rihab earlier this week when I traveled to Liberia and Morocco to highlight our global girls' education crisis -- the fact that right now, more than 62 million girls worldwide are not in school. This is such a heartbreaking loss, because these girls are so bright and so hungry to learn -- and like Ralphina and Rihab, they have such big dreams for themselves. These girls are no less smart or deserving of an education than my own daughters -- or any of our sons and daughters. The only thing that separates them from our children is geography and luck.
Sometimes the issue is resources: their families simply can't afford the school fees; or the nearest school is hours away; or the school nearby doesn't have adequate bathroom facilities for girls, so they're forced to stay home during their menstrual cycles, and they wind up falling behind and dropping out.
But often the root of the problem is really about attitudes and beliefs: families and communities simply don't think girls are worthy of an education, and they choose to marry them off as teenagers instead, often forcing them to start having children when they're basically still children themselves.
Michelle Obama hugs a student following a lesson plan about girls' leadership and self-esteem in support of the Let Girls Learn initiative, in Kakata, Liberia, June 27.
 
The girls I met in Morocco and Liberia want to be doctors, teachers, entrepreneurs, engineers. One of them wants to run for office so she can fight for women's rights and combat climate change. Another hopes to open her own auto shop to teach women about cars so they can be more independent.
But we know that when we give these girls the chance to learn, they will seize it. They'll walk for miles each day to school. They'll study for hours every night by candlelight, determined to learn as much as they possibly can.

We know that when we give these girls the chance to learn, they will seize it.

Michelle Obama

We also know that educating girls doesn't just transform their life prospects -- it transforms the prospects of their families, communities, and nations as well. Studies show that girls who are educated earn higher salaries -- 10 to 20 percent more for each additional year of secondary school -- and sending more girls to school and into the workforce can boost an entire country's GDP. Educated girls also marry later, have lower rates of infant and maternal mortality, and are more likely to immunize their children and less likely to contract malaria and HIV.
That's why, last year, President Obama and I launched Let Girls Learn, an initiative to help adolescent girls worldwide attend school. And this week, we were proud to announce major new efforts by the U.S. government to promote girls' education in Africa.
In Liberia we'll be running girls' empowerment programs, working to end gender violence in schools, and supporting new, second-chance schools for girls who were forced to drop out because of pregnancy or rape.
In Morocco we'll be working closely with the Moroccan government to help transform high schools across the country, and we'll be supporting new school dormitories to allow girls from rural areas to attend school far from home.
Large scale efforts like these are critically important, and will affect the lives of countless girls, but they're simply not enough. Governments alone cannot solve this problem -- not when we're talking about a number like 62 million.
That's why I ended my trip this week in Spain delivering a speech to an audience of young Spanish women. I wanted to make a simple, but urgent point: Every single one of us in countries like Spain and the U.S. has the power -- and the obligation -- to step up as a champion for these girls.

Michelle Obama: For girls, a heartbreaking loss -- and an opportunity

Obama and first lady dance the tango
 

 

 

 
 

 

 
Obama and first lady dance the tango 00:49

Story highlights

  • Michelle Obama: We have global girls' education crisis, with more than 62 million not in school
  • 'Let Girls Learn' initiative will support girls' education efforts in Liberia and Morocco, she says

Michelle Obama is the first lady of the United States. The opinions expressed in this commentary are hers.

(CNN)Ralphina Feelee lives in Liberia, where the average family gets by on less than two dollars a day, and many families simply can't afford to educate their daughters. Teen pregnancy rates are high, and pregnant girls are often discouraged from attending school.

Sometimes it's not even safe for girls to attend school in the first place, since their commutes to and from school can be dangerous, and they sometimes even face sexual harassment and assault at school.
Michelle Obama
 
Ralphina wakes up early each morning, cooks for her family, cares for her younger siblings, and goes to work at a local market -- all before she even gets to school. But she still attends class each day, working especially hard in science and math so she can fulfill her dream of becoming a nurse.
Rihab Boutadghart lives in a remote part of Morocco near the Sahara Desert. While Morocco has made huge strides in education, and nearly all girls there attend elementary school, girls in rural areas often live far from the nearest middle and high schools, so many of them drop out of school by the time they turn twelve. Right now, only 14 percent of girls in rural Morocco attend high school.
 
But Rihab, who proudly describes herself as a "feminist," is determined to finish her education. She dreams of becoming an entrepreneur and being the CEO of a major company, and she recently appeared on Moroccan TV urging girls to work hard and follow their passions.
I had the privilege of meeting Ralphina and Rihab earlier this week when I traveled to Liberia and Morocco to highlight our global girls' education crisis -- the fact that right now, more than 62 million girls worldwide are not in school. This is such a heartbreaking loss, because these girls are so bright and so hungry to learn -- and like Ralphina and Rihab, they have such big dreams for themselves. These girls are no less smart or deserving of an education than my own daughters -- or any of our sons and daughters. The only thing that separates them from our children is geography and luck.
Sometimes the issue is resources: their families simply can't afford the school fees; or the nearest school is hours away; or the school nearby doesn't have adequate bathroom facilities for girls, so they're forced to stay home during their menstrual cycles, and they wind up falling behind and dropping out.
But often the root of the problem is really about attitudes and beliefs: families and communities simply don't think girls are worthy of an education, and they choose to marry them off as teenagers instead, often forcing them to start having children when they're basically still children themselves.
Michelle Obama hugs a student following a lesson plan about girls' leadership and self-esteem in support of the Let Girls Learn initiative, in Kakata, Liberia, June 27.
 
The girls I met in Morocco and Liberia want to be doctors, teachers, entrepreneurs, engineers. One of them wants to run for office so she can fight for women's rights and combat climate change. Another hopes to open her own auto shop to teach women about cars so they can be more independent.
But we know that when we give these girls the chance to learn, they will seize it. They'll walk for miles each day to school. They'll study for hours every night by candlelight, determined to learn as much as they possibly can.

We know that when we give these girls the chance to learn, they will seize it.

Michelle Obama

We also know that educating girls doesn't just transform their life prospects -- it transforms the prospects of their families, communities, and nations as well. Studies show that girls who are educated earn higher salaries -- 10 to 20 percent more for each additional year of secondary school -- and sending more girls to school and into the workforce can boost an entire country's GDP. Educated girls also marry later, have lower rates of infant and maternal mortality, and are more likely to immunize their children and less likely to contract malaria and HIV.
Michelle Obama's advice for men
 
orig michelle obama advice for men_00000318
 

 

 

 
 

 

 
Michelle Obama's advice for men 00:52
That's why, last year, President Obama and I launched Let Girls Learn, an initiative to help adolescent girls worldwide attend school. And this week, we were proud to announce major new efforts by the U.S. government to promote girls' education in Africa.
In Liberia we'll be running girls' empowerment programs, working to end gender violence in schools, and supporting new, second-chance schools for girls who were forced to drop out because of pregnancy or rape.
In Morocco we'll be working closely with the Moroccan government to help transform high schools across the country, and we'll be supporting new school dormitories to allow girls from rural areas to attend school far from home.
Large scale efforts like these are critically important, and will affect the lives of countless girls, but they're simply not enough. Governments alone cannot solve this problem -- not when we're talking about a number like 62 million.
That's why I ended my trip this week in Spain delivering a speech to an audience of young Spanish women. I wanted to make a simple, but urgent point: Every single one of us in countries like Spain and the U.S. has the power -- and the obligation -- to step up as a champion for these girls.
U.S. First Lady in London to promote education
 
michelle obama promotes education pkg foster wrn_00010016
 

 

 

 
 

 

 
U.S. First Lady in London to promote education 02:22
I told these young women: If you have access to social media, then you have a platform to tell these 62 million girls' stories and raise awareness about the challenges they face. And that's just as true for everyone at home in the U.S. You can go to 62MillionGirls.com right now to find all the information you need to get started and to learn how you can take action to support girls' education efforts across the globe.
Once you know these girls' stories, I think you'll find, as I have, that you simply can't walk away from them. After traveling the world as First Lady and meeting so many girls like Ralphina and Rihab, I carry their hopes and their ambitions with me everywhere I go, and I plan to continue my work on their behalf not just for my final seven months as First Lady, but for the rest of my life. I hope you will join me in this mission.
Source: CNN
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In party platform, Democrats call for end to death penalty

Washington (CNN)Democrats are calling for an end to capital punishment.

The latest draft of the party's platform, released Friday, says the death penalty "has proven to be a cruel and unusual form of punishment" that "has no place in the United States of America."
The inclusion of the provision represents a victory of sorts for Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders -- a longtime opponent of the punishment who has said he is remaining in the presidential race in order to fight for progressive causes.
Sanders offered mild praise for the platform Friday evening, tweeting, "The Democratic Platform includes some accomplishments that will begin to move this country in the right direction."
Presumptive Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton has supported the death penalty in the past, albeit on a limited basis, suggesting that there could be cases for "very limited use" of the punishment in "horrific" terrorist crimes.
She was confronted over the issue during a CNN-TV One town hall event in May by an exonerated former death row inmate who spent 39 years in jail for a murder he did not commit.
"Where I end up is this, and maybe it's a distinction that is hard to support, but at this point, given the choices we face from terrorist activities primarily in our country that end up under federal jurisdiction, for very limited purposes, I think it can still be held in reserve for those," Clinton said.
For Sanders supporters, the inclusion of the death penalty provision could be viewed as the latest example of the ways in which the populist candidate has pushed the Democratic Party to the left.
Other provisions in the platform include support for workers earning at least $15 an hour -- though the platform doesn't call for a $15 federal minimum wage, one of Sanders' signature issues -- adopting a tougher tax policy against corporations, expanding Social Security and supporting states that choose to decriminalize marijuana.
Clinton adviser Maya Harris praised the plaform last week, calling it "the most ambitious and progressive platform" the party has seen.
Although Sanders told CNN's Jake Tapper last week that he claimed some "very, very important victories" in the initial draft of the Democratic platform, he also said his camp had "lost some very important fights" on some issues, including trade, a carbon tax and health insurance.
He vowed to "take that fight to Orlando" -- where the committee will meet next week to approve the final draft of the platform -- and said if he doesn't succeed there, he will "certainly take it to the floor of the Democratic convention."
Source: CNN
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Top general's candor: No strategy against ISIS in Libya

Washington (CNN)In remarkably blunt testimony, President Barack Obama's nominee to command U.S. forces in Africa said Tuesday that more ground troops were needed in Libya to fight ISIS and agreed the current strategy of not bombing the terror group's affiliate there "makes no sense."

When asked by the committee's chairman, Sen. John McCain, an Arizona Republican, whether the U.S. had a strategy for Libya, Marine Lt. Gen. Thomas Waldhauser said he didn't know about one.
"I am not aware of any overall grand strategy at this point," Waldhauser said at his confirmation hearing to become commander of the Africa Command.
Sen. Lindsey Graham, a South Carolina Repubilcan, asked him if it would be "wise" for him to have the authority to order strikes against ISIS without having to first seek White House approval, as is currently the case.
"It would be wise, it would certainly contribute to what we're trying to do inside Libya," Waldhauser responded.
Waldhauser agreed with Graham that ISIS represented "an imminent threat to the United States" but he noted that the U.S. was not conducting air strikes against the terror group's Libyan branch.
"That makes no sense then, does it?" Graham asked.
"It does not," the general answered.
Waldhauser also told the committee that the U.S. did not have a large number of troops on the ground in Libya, and said more were needed.
At the conclusion of the hearing, Graham acknowledged Waldhauser's candor.
"I can't thank you -- I'm just, that's about as direct testimony as I've ever heard from this committee," Graham said.
McCain also welcomed his frankness, "General Waldhauser, I want to thank you for your candor before the committee, we look forward to working with you. I think that Sen. Graham's questions clearly indicated that, at least as far as ISIS is concerned, that Africa is their next target of opportunity, and I think you are going to need a lot of help."
Concerning strikes on Libya, Pentagon spokesman Peter Cook told CNN's Barbara Starr at a news conference Tuesday, "We don't make a decision to carry out a military strike lightly."
"We've been willing to take strikes in the past in Libya targeting ISIL leadership," Cook said, using another acronym for ISIS. "We are prepared to do so again in the future. But this is a situation where the government is still taking shape. It is showing progress. Military forces aligned with the government are showing progress as well, particularly in the fight against ISIL in Sirte."
Asked about Waldhauser's comment that there's no overall strategy, Cook said, "It's clear, as I think Gen. Waldhauser acknowledged, it's a complicated situation right now. And the most important thing in terms of our policy, and we believe for the region's policy, is for that government to take shape, take hold. And we'd like to, of course be in a position to strengthen it as needed, going forward, along with our partners in the region."
The Pentagon has previously acknowledged small teams of Special Operations Forces on the ground in Libya to establish relationships with local forces battling ISIS.
The U.S. has conducted several airstrikes against ISIS in Libya, including one in February that killed over 40 ISIS operatives, but the U.S. has held off on additional strikes for several months. At the end of March, the recently formed UN-backed Libyan Government of National Accord took up residence in Libya's capital, Tripoli.
Militias based out of Misrata and allied to the new government have had some recent success driving ISIS out of territory around its Libyan base in the coastal city of Sirte.
The Director of the CIA, John Brennan, told Congress last week that ISIS had about 5,000-8,000 fighters inside Libya.
Source: CNN.com
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Jesse Jackson endorses Hillary Clinton

ashington (CNN)The Rev. Jesse Jackson endorsed Hillary Clinton on Saturday, continuing a recent string of high-profile endorsements for the presumptive Democratic nominee.

Jackson, speaking in Chicago, said he trusts that Clinton will look out for the interests of marginalized communities including refugees, immigrants and the poor.
"We trust her to work on health care, to fight for the poor ... for the willingness to fight for civil rights," Jackson said.
Jackson, who unsuccessfully sought the Democratic nomination for president in 1984 and 1988, endorsed Clinton at the site of a memorial recognizing the hundreds of children killed in the city in recent years. The civil rights activist said in a news release that he was making the endorsement independent of his non-profit organization, Rainbow PUSH Coalition, a civil rights group.
Jackson told CNN last month that he had been in touch with advisers to both Clinton and her primary challenger, Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, to emphasize the importance of party unity as Democrats prepare for a general election fight against Donald Trump.
Sanders "must support the winner, Hillary, over Donald Trump. That's his very public position and I hope he will hold that position," Jackson said back then.
After emerging as the presumptive Democratic nominee on Tuesday, Clinton has sought to coalesce Democratic and progressive support around her candidacy. On Thursday, President Barack Obama, Vice President Joe Biden and Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren threw their support behind Clinton, and on Friday, the AFL-CIO, the nation's largest labor federation, moved toward backing her.
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Shooting exposes political divide

(CNN)The rampage at a gay nightclub in Orlando Sunday drew universal condemnation from both parties but exposed deep divisions over how to respond, with President Barack Obama urging new gun laws and Republicans largely silent on the issue.

At least 50 people were killed and 53 more wounded in what is now the deadliest mass shooting in American history. Democrats, led by President Obama, made a now-familiar call for tighter gun laws. Many Republicans simply expressed their condolences and condemned the attack while Donald Trump blasted Obama and Hillary Clinton for refusing to blame the violence on radical Islam.
Here's a look at how the political world responded to the attack.

Obama

Obama called the shooting an "act of terror" that served as a "sobering reminder that attacks on any American, regardless of race, ethnicity, religion or sexual orientation is an attack on all of us."
In remarks from the White House briefing room, Obama said, "No act of hate or terror will ever change who we are or the values that make us Americans."
He also waded into the gun control debate. The Orlando shooting rampage, he said, is a reminder of how easy it is for someone to get a hold of a weapon that could kill people in a "school, or a house of worship, or a movie theater, or in a nightclub."
"And we have to decide if that's the kind of country we want to be," Obama added. "And to actively do nothing is a decision as well."
The President was briefed Sunday morning by several officials, including FBI Director James Comey and Lisa Monaco, Obama's homeland security and counterterrorism adviser, according to the White House. He also ordered American flags to be lowered to half staff to honor the victims.

Biden

Vice President Joe Biden was also briefed on the shooting and canceled a planned trip to Miami, Florida, to attend a fundraiser for Democratic National Committee chairwoman, Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz
Biden "offered his prayers for all those killed and injured in the shooting and sends his condolences to all the families and loved ones of the victims," according to a statement from his spokesman.

Trump

Trump, the presumptive Republican nominee, said Obama was far too timid in his White House appearance. Trump called on Obama to step down from the presidency and challenged Clinton to ratchet up her language about terror threats.
"President Obama disgracefully refused to even say the words 'Radical Islam,'" Trump said in the statement. "For that reason alone, he should step down. If Hillary Clinton, after this attack, still cannot say the two words 'Radical Islam' she should get out of this race for the Presidency."
Trump's campaign canceled a planned rally Monday in Portsmouth, New Hampshire, "due to the horrific tragedy that has just taken place in Orlando, Florida," a campaign statement said. But the candidate will pivot the focus of a scheduled Granite State speech the same day. The speech will no longer focus on what Trump has called a litany of scandals involving Bill and Hillary Clinton. Now, according to a Trump campaign statement, it will "address this terrorist attack, immigration, and national security."
Trump initially responded to news of the shooting through a series of tweets, including one that noted his early condemnation of radical Islam.
"Appreciate the congrats for being right on radical Islamic terrorism, I don't want congrats, I want toughness & vigilance. We must be smart!"

Clinton

Clinton's campaign issued a hard-hitting statement accusing Trump of politicizing the shootings.
"This act of terror is the largest mass shooting in American history and a tragedy that requires a serious response," said campaign spokeswoman Jennifer Palmieri. "Hillary Clinton has a comprehensive plan to combat ISIS at home and abroad and will be talking to the American people in the coming days about steps she would take to keep the country safe. In contrast, Donald Trump put out political attacks, weak platitudes and self-congratulations. Trump has offered no real plans to keep our nation safe and no outreach to the Americans targeted, just insults and attacks. In times of crisis more than ever, Americans are looking for leadership and deserve better."
Clinton and Obama postponed a rally scheduled for Wednesday in Green Bay, Wisconsin, which would have been their first joint appearance since she became the presumptive Democratic nominee last week.
Clinton echoed Obama's language in a separate statement Sunday, calling the shooting an "act of terror" and an "act of hate."
"For now, we can say for certain that we need to redouble our efforts to defend our country from threats at home and abroad," she said. "That means defeating international terror groups, working with allies and partners to go after them wherever they are, countering their attempts to recruit people here and everywhere, and hardening our defenses at home. It also means refusing to be intimidated and staying true to our values."

Congress

The LGBT congressional caucus issued a statement saying they were "horrified by the tragic shooting."
"Though details are still emerging, an attack during Pride Month against Pulse, an iconic gathering place for LGBT Floridians, has a particularly insidious impact on our entire community. Our thoughts and prayers are with everyone affected by this tragedy," said Roddy Flynn, executive director of the LGBT Equality Caucus.
Florida Sen. Marco Rubio said attackers like the shooter in the Orlando massacre are "the new face of the war on terror."
"They have said openly that they intend to target us here, and one of the hardest parts of this war is the individual who carries out an attack by themselves in a soft target like this, basically, in Orlando, Florida," Rubio said in a phone interview with CNN's Jake Tapper on Sunday.
A top Senate Democrat, Chuck Schumer of New York, wrote on Twitter: "Horrified and saddened by the appalling attack at Orlando LGBT nightclub. Praying for the victims and their families."
Sen. Elizabeth Warren, a leading Trump critic, tweeted a series of mostly positive messages. The Massachusetts Democrat didn't directly confront Trump, but criticized his message obliquely.
"That's the message of Pride. That's who we are. That's how we'll defeat hate, & how we protect America. #loveislove"
"America is strongest when we unite & celebrate our diversity. When we promote those values abroad & live them here at home. #loveislove"
The runner-up to Trump in the Republican primary field, Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas, issued a lengthy statement calling for all Americans to "unite in defeating radical Islamic terrorism."
"The next few days will be sadly predictable," Cruz said. "Democrats will try to use this attack to change the subject. As a matter of rigid ideology, far too many Democrats -- from Barack Obama to Hillary Clinton -- will refuse to utter the words 'radical Islamic terrorism.' They will claim this attack, like they claimed every previous attack, was isolated and had nothing to do with the vicious Islamist theology that is daily waging war on us across the globe."
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Trump on black supporter: 'Look at my African-American over here'

Redding, California (CNN)Donald Trump sought to tout his support among African-Americans on Friday by pointing out a black man in the crowd and calling him "my African-American."

"Oh, look at my African-American over here. Look at him," Trump said. "Are you the greatest?"
The remark didn't generate a noticeable response from Trump's audience.
Trump campaign spokeswoman Hope Hicks told CNN Trump was "just referring to a supporter in the crowd. There's no ill will intended, obviously." She added Trump was "grateful for this person's support."
Hicks also rejected the suggestion that Trump's use of the possessive "my" to refer to the supporter was racist, saying such a charge was "ridiculous."
Gregory Cheadle, a Republican California congressional candidate, confirmed to CNN he was the supporter to whom Trump pointed. He told the Record Searchlight, a local newspaper, he was happy to be cited by Trump.
"That was me seriously. I got two autographs out of that," Cheadle told the newspaper. He added, "To give the black folk the time of the day, I was happy."
Trump's remark came as he recalled an incident in March when a black supporter of his assaulted a protester at a rally in Arizona as he was being escorted out of the building by police.
The comment also comes as Trump is under fire for calling on the federal judge presiding over one of the lawsuits against Trump University to recuse himself because of his Mexican heritage.
Trump again argued Friday in an interview with CNN's Jake Tapper that the judge is inherently biased against him because of the presumptive GOP nominee's plan to build a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border.
"If you are saying, he can't do his job because of his race, is that not the definition of racism?" Tapper asked him.
"No, I don't think so at all," Trump replied. "He's proud of his heritage. I respect him for that."
The presumptive Republican nominee has repeatedly hit back at charges that he is racist by insisting he is "the least racist person that you have ever met."
But Trump's rhetoric has repeatedly drawn charges of racism, xenophobia and Islamophobia.
In November, Trump retweeted a graphic of false crime statistics comparing percentages of "blacks killed by blacks" and "blacks killed by police" that included an image of a dark-skinned man wearing a bandana, military-style pants and holding a handgun sideways.
The graphic vastly overstated the number of homicides committed by blacks.
Trump kicked off his campaign by calling some undocumented immigrants from Mexico "rapists" and criminals and then stoked Islamophobic sentiment in December by calling for a "total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States."
Trump said in March that he believes "Islam hates us" and said last fall that a Black Lives Matter protester who disrupted his rally and was kicked and punched by Trump supporters probably "should have been roughed up."
Still, Trump has insisted that his campaign message will have enormous appeal among minority communities, particularly African-Americans and Hispanic Americans.
The de facto Republican nominee insists that his promise to bring jobs back to the U.S. and reduce unemployment in minority communities will draw those groups to his controversial candidacy.
Source: CNN
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At 96, Heimlich finally uses his life-saving maneuver

CINCINNATI — When he heard that a resident was choking, Perry Gaines, maître d’ at the Deupree House dining room, ran toward the table.

Gaines has been trained in the Heimlich maneuver and has performed it at least twice in the two years he has worked at the senior living facility here.

When Gaines arrived at the table, Dr. Henry Heimlich, a 96-year-old resident who invented the famous technique for clearing a blocked airway, was standing behind the woman, ready to perform it.

Typically, a staff member would step in. “But,” Gaines said, pausing, “it is Dr. Heimlich.”

Heimlich, who swims and exercises regularly, was able to dislodge a piece of hamburger that had become stuck in the airway of Patty Ris, 87.

Gaines said the entire room, filled with 125 diners, focused on the table, which was near the center of the room. Ris recovered quickly, and everyone returned to their meals.

Monday’s incident was the first time Heimlich, who has demonstrated the maneuver countless times since inventing it in 1974, used it to stop someone from choking, he said.

In a telephone interview Thursday, Heimlich recounted what happened. Ris had been sitting next to him at his table.

“When I used it, and she recovered quickly, it made me appreciate how wonderful it has been to be able to save all those lives," he said.

His son, Phil Heimlich, said his father regularly meets people who were either saved or saved somebody else.

“Just the fact that a 96-year-old man could perform that, is impressive,” he said.

Spokesman Bryan Reynolds of Episcopal Retirement Services, which owns the Deupree House, described the elder Heimlich as very active for his age. He has lived there about six years, Reynolds said.

“He goes to the dining room every evening,” Reynolds said.

In a video interview provided to The Enquirer, Ris said she penned a note to Heimlich.

It read, she recalled in the video: "God put me in this seat next to you."

Source: USA Today.com

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Libertarians hope to lure Sanders supporters if Clinton is nominee

Libertarians, hoping for a better showing in the 2016 presidential campaign, see an opportunity for success by making inroads with supporters of Bernie Sanders, a party leader said Saturday.

Sanders has said he will not run as an independent if he doesn’t win the Democratic nomination. Arvin Vohra, vice chairman of the Libertarian Party, predicted many of Sanders’ supporters will be drawn to the Libertarian focus on individual rights and limited government if Hillary Clinton becomes the Democratic nominee, the most likely outcome given her delegate lead.

“We want to reach everybody but I do believe that a lot of the people who are currently supporting Sanders will be the ones with whom that message will resonate with the strongest,” Vohra said in a Saturday interview.

Libertarians are holding their presidential nominating convention in Orlando this weekend and will select their presidential nominee on Sunday. Gary Johnson, the former Republican governor of New Mexico, is favored to win this year’s nomination.

The Libertarian Party shares some similar goals with Sanders when it comes to ending the war on drugs, driving down college debt, and reluctance to use military action. The party and Sanders both opposed the Patriot Act.

But Sanders wants to make public colleges and universities tuition free with government subsidies, while Libertarians want to abolish government subsidies to universities. Sanders supported the use of force in the Balkans and Afghanistan; Libertarians say the military should be used only in defense and want all foreign bases shut down. And while Sanders has consistently fought trade deals, Libertarians want to remove government restrictions on free trade.

Vohra said Sanders supporters “have seen the horrors that government can do to individual lives,” and Libertarian policies will ultimately make sense to them.

“These are people who are open, they’re active, they’re excited, they're engaged,” he said. “I believe that our message will reach them and resonate with them.”

Johnson received almost 1% of the vote when he ran for president as a Libertarian candidate in 2012. A May 14-17 Fox News poll found 10% of respondents favored Johnson in a three-way matchup with Republican presumptive nominee Donald Trump (42%) and Clinton (39%). Johnson was favored by 8% of both Republicans and Democrats and 18% of independents.

The party has confirmed a place on the ballot in 32 states and expects to be on the ballot in 50 states, Vohra said.

“There’s so many people in this country who just want less government,” Vohra said. “They know at this point that neither Hillary nor Donald Trump have any intention of reducing the size and scope of government.”

Source: USA Today

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Sen. Marco Rubio now all in for Donald Trump

WASHINGTON – In March, Marco Rubio dismissed Donald Trump as a “con artist” and “the most vulgar person ever to aspire to the presidency.”

This past week, the Florida senator told reporters he’ll not only vote for Trump, he'd be willing to speak on his behalf at the Republican National Convention in Cleveland this summer. And he didn’t rule out the possibility of serving in a Trump administration.

Rubio said his apparent shift isn't that hard to understand. Supporting Trump as the presumptive GOP presidential nominee is an easy choice, he said, compared to the prospect of a Hillary Clinton victory at the polls in November.

"Donald Trump will sign the repeal of Obamacare. She won’t," Rubio told reporters Thursday. "I want the successor to Antonin Scalia on the Supreme Court to be a conservative. I believe that’s the kind of judge that he’ll appoint, and I know she won’t. I want someone that will defend life. I know he will and she won’t."

Rubio said Trump earned his status as the GOP presumptive nominee at the ballot box.

"He campaigned and the voters chose him," he said. "I respect that process. And so I’m going to support him. I’m going to vote for him.”

Social media, of course, won't let him off the hook that easily.

“Rubio is truly a politician with no ideas, just a jumble of crap, ready to support any position, person, anything to help him get ahead,” progressive radio talk show host Mike Signorile tweeted.

“Stop Excusing Republicans Like Rubio For Supporting Trump Because Of A Stupid, Worthless Pledge,” tweeted the conservative blog Red State, referring to Rubio's frequent promise during the campaign to get behind the eventual nominee.

While Rubio was still a presidential contender, his rivalry with Trump featured highly charged, personal attacks.

Florida Sen. Marco Rubio speaks at a presidential campaign

Florida Sen. Marco Rubio speaks at a presidential campaign rally on March 14, 2016 in Miami on the eve of crucial primary voting. (Photo: AFP PHOTO, RHONA WISERHONA WISE, FP, Getty Images)

 

Trump, mocked the Florida senator as “Little Marco” and poked fun at his tendency to sweat on the debate stage and drink lots of water.

Rubio said Trump was unfit for the Oval Office, citing his inflammatory rhetoric, his past support for Democratic policies and his call for deporting undocumented immigrants.

He also criticized Trump’s physical features: “You know what they say about men with small hands ... You can't trust them.”

But Rubio also consistently said he would support whomever Republican voters nominated. And on Thursday, the Associated Press announced that Trump had captured the 1,237 delegates necessary to lock up the nomination.

Despite the heated campaign, Rubio said it’s time to move on.

“We were competitors," he said of Trump. "I don’t dislike him. I don’t have any negative feelings about him personally. I disagree with a lot of his positions. That was well established during the campaign. (But) I also think he happens to be substantially better than Hillary Clinton.”

Al Cardenas, former head of the Florida Republican Party and a Rubio confidante, said the possibility that he and many other Republicans will support Trump is a “work in progress.” But he’s not willing to judge Rubio.

“It’s a fairly quick turnaround in his conversion to becoming a supporter, but so be it,” said Cardenas, former chairman of the American Conservative Union. “I’m still not there. I guess Marco figured out a way to get there.”

Source: USA Today.com

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Nigerian leader not seeking apology over ‘corrupt’ comments

LONDON - Nigeria’s president says he won’t demand an apology after British Prime Minister David Cameron called his country one of the world’s most corrupt nations.

Cameron is hosting an international anti-corruption summit in London on Thursday. At a Buckingham Palace reception on Tuesday, a television microphone caught Cameron saying the “leaders of some fantastically corrupt countries” were coming.

Cameron referred to “Nigeria and Afghanistan — possibly two of the most corrupt countries in the world.”

Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari, who is due to attend, said Wednesday that “I am not going to demand any apology from anybody.”

Speaking at an anti-corruption meeting ahead of the summit, Buhari says he wanted the return of plundered Nigerian assets held in British banks.

“What would I do with an apology? I need something tangible,” Buhari said.

He described corruption as “a hydra-headed monster and a canker that undermines the fabric of all societies. It does not differentiate between developed and developing countries.”

Asked about the gaffe in the House of Commons on Wednesday, Cameron said the leaders of Nigeria and Afghanistan were “battling hard against very corrupt systems” and had made “remarkable steps forward.”

Source: USA TODAY

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Marco Rubio walks a fine line on Donald Trump

Florida Sen. Marco Rubio offered lukewarm support for Donald Trump on Tuesday, while reiterating that he doesn’t want to be his running mate in November.

Rubio, a former top-tier presidential candidate, said during a CNN interview that he would fall behind the presumptive GOP nominee because he had signed a pledge to do so.

“I intend to support the Republican nominee,” Rubio said.

Rubio was once one of Trump’s fiercest critics. Before he withdrew from the race last March, Rubio repeatedly attacked the real estate magnate as a “con man,” among many other jabs.

“Friends don’t let friends vote for con artists,” he said at one point.

Rubio ultimately pulled the plug on his campaign. Trump became the presumptive nominee last week after his last two primary foes suspended their White House bids.

At least two of Trump’s other former GOP rivals — former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush and South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham — have since said they could not bring themselves to vote for either Trump or Hillary Clinton, the Democratic frontrunner.

During his CNN interview Tuesday, Rubio said he stood by his past attacks against Trump. But he repeatedly stressed that he would not be taking similar shots at him during the general election.

See the graphic: Where the Republican Party stands on Trump >>>

“My differences with Donald — both my reservations about his campaign and my policy differences with him — are well-documented and they remain,” Rubio said when asked about potentially becoming Trump’s vice president.

“He would be best served by having people close to him in his campaign that are enthusiastic about the things he stands for,” he added.

Source: yahoo.com

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Hillary fights two battles as Bernie wins another Democratic primary

LOUISVILLE, Ky. — Hillary Clinton lost West Virginia Tuesday night to rival Bernie Sanders, continuing her slog through the Democratic primary even as she spent the past week fending off attacks from presumptive GOP nominee Donald Trump.

“Let me be as clear as I can be: We are in this campaign to win the Democratic nomination,” Sanders told a crowd of thousands of supporters in Oregon Tuesday night. He predicted a string of wins in Kentucky, Oregon and the Dakotas over the next couple of weeks.

Clinton is fighting on two fronts. The former secretary of state has a near-lock on the Democratic nomination, but continues to lose states to Sanders, who hammers on her as a creature of Wall Street at his rallies that still draw thousands of supporters. Trump, meanwhile, now clear of any GOP rivals, has spent the past week directing all his considerable fire at her.

Trump’s called her “Crooked Hillary” and resurrected his attack against Bill Clinton’s past sexual relationships with women, painting Hillary as an “enabler” who wanted the women “destroyed.” At a rally in Washington Sunday, Trump said Hillary was playing the “woman card” to get support. “You know what? The women get it better than we do, folks. They get it better than we do. If she didn’t play that card, she has nothing,” he said.

Clinton gave several TV interviews the past week — more than usual for the candidate — and debuted her line of attack against Trump as a “loose cannon” who can’t be trusted with the nation’s security. She also rolled out a sweeping policy proposal in several stops in Kentucky on Tuesday, including a plan to provide federal grants and other assistance so that no family pays more than 10 percent of its income on childcare.

“Boy, do I think this presidential election has about the highest stakes that we’ve seen in a very long time,” she told a fired-up crowd in Louisville Tuesday evening.

She playfully pushed back on Trump’s “woman card” attacks. “I have never gotten a discount when I got to the cashier,” she said. Clinton repeated her defense of Trump’s woman card attack, saying that if caring about women’s health means playing the woman card, then “deal me in!” The crowd shouted the words in unison with the candidate.

Clinton didn’t mention Sanders. The campaign’s director of state and political engagement, Marlon Marshall, sent a fundraising email to supporters about the need to prepare for the general. The email included code visible to readers who received it on their phones. The coded message proclaimed, “Here comes the general.”

But the Clinton campaign has been sucked back into the Democratic primary all the same, spending nearly $200,000 on TV ads in Kentucky’s Democratic primary, which takes place next week. The ad buy is the campaign’s first since April 26, when Clinton swept several Mid-Atlantic states and pivoted toward the general election. But Sanders refused to get on board with that plan. He won Indiana last Tuesday, and has vowed to continue to fight for every last vote in the primary, even threatening to contest the Democratic convention in July.

The campaign celebrated Clinton’s primary ad buy. “If you’re looking for a sign that the Clinton campaign knows this primary is far from finished, here it is,” Sanders campaign manager Jeff Weaver wrote in an email to supporters earlier Tuesday. 

Sanders would need to win every remaining state by unprecedented margins to beat Clinton in the delegate race at this point, making his chance of winning the nomination remote. But his continued wins pull Clinton away from the general election, where Trump is focusing all of his energy.

Trump recently seized on Clinton’s town hall comments in March when she vowed to put coal miners out of business in favor of clean energy jobs. Last week, Clinton spent days on a tour through Appalachia apologizing for those remarks, and they most likely hurt her in West Virginia’s primary.

Still, it’s possible that by staying out of the general election fray, Clinton will appear to be taking the high road to voters, while Trump’s more personal attacks may backfire, particularly among women. She continues to lead him in polls by wide margins in hypothetical head-to-head match ups.

Clinton hinted as much in an interview with reporters Monday. “I’m going to let him run his campaign however he chooses,” she said. “I’m not running against him. He’s doing a fine job of doing that himself. I’m running my campaign.”

Source: Yahoo.com

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New York's Governor Strengthens Laws to Check Discrimination against Transgender

In a breather for the transgender community, the New York Governor, Andrew Cuomo, on Thursday announced to expand and strengthen the anti-discrimination laws in the state for protecting the community from discrimination.

With the move, employers, house owners, creditors and others service providers will be under scanner and at risk of penalties upon being involved in any form of discrimination on grounds of gender identity.

"It is intolerable to allow discrimination of transgender individuals and they are one of the most abused, harassed groups in society today," Cuomo said during a dinner hosted by the Empire State Pride Agenda gay rights group.

The order had made New York the first state in the United States to have taken forward a step in the direction of gay and transgender rights. The aim of the move is to check inequality both in public and private sector enterprises.

The move comes after several years of advocacies in the direction. The rights activists and advocates have long been fighting for the rights of the transgenders and now, their demands are finally approved by the Democrat, Cuomo.

Nathan Schaefer, Executive Director of the Empire State Pride Agenda, said that the move comes as a boon for the community. He added that the hard work that went into the accomplishment of the mission, over the years, has borne fruits now.

A week ago, California emerged as the first state to have given a nod payment of transgender inmate's sex reassignment operation.

Source: NY Times. Com

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Ryan-Trump Breach May Be Beyond Repair

WASHINGTON — To many Republicans, Speaker Paul D. Ryan’s proclamation on Thursday that he was not prepared to support Donald J. Trump seemed to be an opening bid. In truth, it was more like the final word.

Although party leaders furiously brokered a meeting between the two men at the Capitol next Thursday, it is likely that only substantial changes in Mr. Trump’s language and tenor, not just minor calibrations on policy positions, will be needed to bring Mr. Ryan to his camp.

Mr. Ryan has become increasingly depressed about the tone of the race within the Republican Party, several people who have talked to him in recent weeks said. He could not bring himself to give even nominal support to Mr. Trump, despite pressure from more conservative House Republicans, after the candidate disparaged various ethnic groups and accused Senator Ted Cruz’s father of conspiring with Lee Harvey Oswald, among other inflammatory comments. Those remarks determined Mr. Ryan’s course far more than the considerable differences on policy between the men.

Mr. Ryan’s stance may lead to the remarkable scenario of a convention chairman presiding over the nomination of a man he does not support, but it basically comes down to three things.

First, and most important: he can do it. Unlike former Speaker John A. Boehner, who had to fight to cling to his gavel almost from the moment he took it in 2011, Mr. Ryan was drafted into his job by the majority of his conference. And unlike Senator Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, the majority leader, who says he supports Mr. Trump, Mr. Ryan is largely impervious to criticism from the right. Agree or disagree with Mr. Ryan, at this point his members need him more than he needs them, at least to prevent unmitigated chaos in their ranks.

It is notable that House conservatives often derided Mr. Boehner for not “sticking to conservative principles” in negotiating with Democrats on legislation, but now are chafing that Mr. Ryan, whose conservative principles have in many ways been rejected by Mr. Trump, is not getting behind the presumptive nominee.

“Isn’t it a principle that the G.O.P. speaker would support the G.O.P. nominee?” said Representative Mick Mulvaney, Republican of South Carolina and a frequent scold of House leadership, discussing the party’s conundrum in an email exchange. (Rock: Meet hard place, over at the Speaker’s Balcony.)

Second, Mr. Ryan sees the value in protecting Republican House members up for re-election in swing districts where Mr. Trump may well be a drag on the rest of the ticket.

“I thought it was helpful,” said Representative Charlie Dent, Republican of Pennsylvania. “I believe that Paul expressed feelings that many of us have. Trump’s attacks on Muslims, the Hispanics, that David Duke fiasco, the abortion exchange with Chris Matthews, all these issues are just really unsettling.” He added, “Donald Trump has to convince many Americans, including me, that he is ready and able to lead this great country, and at the moment I am not convinced.”

Representative Ann Wagner, Republican of Missouri, made similar remarks to The St. Louis Post-Dispatch.

The third reason is that nothing Mr. Ryan has said compels him to change his current course as speaker, which is largely focused on developing an alternative Republican policy agenda and shoring up vulnerable members with money and help campaigning. He plans to develop that agenda with House members, even if election politics may well prevent any of it from becoming actual legislation.

This is perhaps the weakest reason for withholding support from Mr. Trump, since without a Republican in the White House, there will probably be no Ryan agenda. But for Mr. Ryan, Mr. Trump’s conduct appears to loom larger than the speaker’s policy dreams. So even if the candidate shows up at the Capitol next week and says “I fully support this agenda,” it would almost certainly not be enough, Ryan aides say.

Do not expect Mr. Ryan to join Senator Ben Sasse, Republican of Nebraska, who has taken to penning letters to America by the riverbanks and searching for an alternative to Mr. Trump. The speaker will probably just keep doing what he is doing: raising money for Republicans, talking — both amorphously and perhaps later more substantively — about policy ideas, and looking, with hope and some desperation, for that change in tone from the presumptive nominee.

Mr. Trump so far has not signaled that this is in the offing. On Twitter on Friday morning, he wrote: “Paul Ryan said that I inherited something very special, the Republican Party. Wrong, I didn’t inherit it, I won it with millions of voters!”

Source: NY Times

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Ending Tax Break for Ultrawealthy May Not Take Act of Congress

It’s only natural that Barack Obama, entering the homestretch of his presidency, would be concerned about his legacy. Judging from a recent interview in The New York Times Magazine, getting credit for the actions he has taken on economic issues seems to be of special interest to him.

Mr. Obama expressed frustration that many middle-class Americans feel they’ve been left behind during his time in office. The wealthiest Americans, meanwhile, have become richer during the Obama years.

There is a lot about this problem of income inequality — and about the economy over all — that Mr. Obama cannot control. Still, there is something he could do right now to help narrow the widening gulf between rich and poor.

In one deft move, Mr. Obama could instruct officials at his Treasury Department to close the so-called carried interest tax loophole that allows managers of private equity and hedge funds to pay a substantially lower federal tax rate on much of their income.

Forcing these managers to pay ordinary income taxes on the gains they reap in their funds would accomplish two things. It would take away an enormous benefit enjoyed almost exclusively by some of the country’s wealthiest people. And, tax experts say, it would generate billions in revenue to the government each year, though there are wide differences over exactly how much.

But doesn’t changing the carried interest loophole require an act of Congress? Not according to an array of tax experts. Just as Mr. Obama’s Treasury Department recently changed the rules to curb corporate inversions, in which companies shift their official headquarters to another country to lower their tax bills, the Treasury secretary, Jacob J. Lew, and his colleagues could jettison the carried interest loophole.

Alan J. Wilensky is among those urging such a change. He was a deputy assistant Treasury secretary in charge of tax policy in the early 1990s when the carried interest loophole came about.

“This is something President Obama can do and should do,” Mr. Wilensky said in an interview. “This is not an impossible thing to get done.”

Now a lawyer in Minneapolis, Mr. Wilensky recently wrote an article on this topic for Tax Notes, the definitive publication on national and global tax issues.

Victor Fleischer, a law professor at the University of San Diego, is another who has recommended that the Treasury get rid of the unjust tax treatment on carried interest. Mr. Fleischer, a contributor to The New York Times, has also estimated how much money such a change would bring to the Treasury.

“It’s something that Obama could accomplish and, to be honest, I’m not entirely sure why the Treasury hasn’t taken an interest in it,” Mr. Fleischer said in an interview. “In fact, there is quite a bit of revenue at stake. And doing this on carried interest would cement Obama’s legacy in substance as well as symbolically.”

Rachel McCleery, a Treasury spokeswoman, said in a statement that closing the carried interest loophole has been a priority for the Obama administration from the outset and that the department is continuing to explore its existing authority for ways to address the loophole.

But the department cannot eliminate the carried interest tax benefit by itself, she contended.

“The president’s first budget in 2009 — and every one since — has included a proposal to close this unfair loophole and we’ve been pushing Congress to get it done,” she added. “No one should be able to play by a different set of rules, so it’s time for Congress to act to close the carried interest loophole once and for all.”

The provision has come under repeated political attack. During the current presidential campaign, all three remaining candidates — Bernie Sanders, Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump — have called for eliminating it. A number of lawmakers tried to get rid of the carried interest tax benefit beginning in 2007; by 2010, it looked as if the special treatment would go by the boards.

But a lobbying campaign by the financial industry, supported by a number of influential Republican lawmakers who argued that carried interest should be ended only as part of a broader tax overhaul, put a stop to the effort.

The Treasury’s recent action on corporate inversions is encouraging, Mr. Wilensky said. But he acknowledged that it was easier to get rid of a tax rule that benefits faceless corporations than it was to abolish a regulation that enriches a small group of extremely powerful and vocal people.

“Hedge fund and private equity managers are really the one-tenth of the 1 percent, and the carried interest rule hits their pocketbooks directly,” Mr. Wilensky said. “It’s much easier to implement regulations that have an adverse effect on anonymous shareholders and institutions.”

Managers of hedge funds and private equity funds receive two types of payments. One, paid annually, represents a percentage of assets under management, usually around 2 percent. Those earnings are taxed as ordinary income.

But these managers also receive 20 percent of gains that their funds generate over time, known as carried interest. These profits are taxed at the lower capital gains rate, thanks to a 1993 ruling by the Treasury and the Internal Revenue Service.

Closing the loophole, tax experts say, would involve characterizing both the 20 percent and the 2 percent as income from services rendered.

In a 2008 paper, “Two and Twenty: Taxing Partnership Profits in Private Equity Funds,” and in a follow-up paper published last year, Mr. Fleischer described the current carried interest tax treatment as a conversion of labor income into capital gain, an “anomaly that was contrary to some generally accepted principles of tax policy.”

It is odd, he argued, to treat such partnership profits more favorably than “other economically similar methods of compensation, such as partnership capital interests, restricted stock or at-the-money nonqualified stock options (the corporate equivalent of a partnership profits interest).”

Mr. Fleischer’s solution would be to tax carried interest at ordinary income rates “if the amount of capital contributed to a partnership by tax-exempt entities exceeds the amount of capital contributed by the service provider,” or manager. Tax-exempt entities, such as public pension plans and college endowments, are big investors in private equity and hedge funds.

In last year’s paper, Mr. Fleischer noted that a close reading of legislative history from 1984 “shows that Congress expected that the managers of an arrangement like a modern private equity fund would be taxed at ordinary rates.” In addition, Congress allowed the Treasury Department broad discretion on such matters and directed it to write regulations, Mr. Fleischer said.

Financial officials in Britain have already started to trim beneficial treatment for carried interest. They have cut back on what qualifies for the lower, long-term tax rate.

Beyond fairness, there’s another compelling reason for Mr. Obama to act on this inequity: It could generate $150 billion in revenue over 10 years, by Mr. Fleischer’s estimate. Two-thirds of that would come from the financial industry; the rest would be generated by real estate, oil and gas partnerships and mining companies, he said.

(Mr. Fleischer’s prediction, though, is far larger than the Congressional Budget Office’s official estimate, which is close to $18 billion over 10 years.)

Whatever the correct amount, the best reason to eliminate this tax break for the wealthy is that it would help narrow the gap between rich and poor in America. The carried interest loophole contributes substantially to the increase in top-end inequality in the United States, Mr. Fleischer has concluded.

If these experts are right, Mr. Obama can direct the Treasury to end what is an enormous subsidy for the wealthiest Americans. The Treasury disagrees. But punting this task to Congress means nothing is likely to be done. And that’s too bad.

Source: NY Times

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Seeing President Mugabe’s Frailty, Zimbabwe Braces for Turmoil

HARARE, Zimbabwe — The independence festivities took place just as they have for decades: led by President Robert Mugabe, the only leader Zimbabwe has ever had.

But as Mr. Mugabe, 92, inspected a military parade during the celebrations last month, he did something unusual. When his vehicle stopped in front of a framed picture of the president, Mr. Mugabe bowed before his own portrait. Zimbabweans were stunned. Had their president grown so feeble, they wondered, that he could no longer recognize the person in front of him?

Mr. Mugabe, the world’s oldest head of state, said this year that he would preside over Zimbabwe “until God says, ‘Come.’ ” His increasingly powerful wife, Grace, vowed that her husband would rule from a special wheelchair until he was 100.

But the end of an era looms over this capital. As Mr. Mugabe has grown visibly weaker in the past year, talk of his death dominates the private conversations of the governing class, leading to some cutthroat maneuvering for the endgame.

To many Zimbabweans, the president’s decline has been obvious. The same man who unyieldingly defied the West, who outwitted or ruthlessly crushed his opponents for decades while leaders in other countries were felled in coups, has been caught on video stumbling or dozing off during public events.

Mr. Mugabe, it seems, is succumbing only to his own age. In March, he dozed off at a news conference with the prime minister of Japan. Last year, he reread his 25-minute State of the Nation speech to Parliament in its entirety, apparently not realizing that he had already read it to the same body of lawmakers a month earlier.

What comes after Mr. Mugabe, who has been in power since 1980, is anybody’s guess. Will his ZANU-PF party maintain its grip on Zimbabwe? Or will it fall apart, riven by infighting? On which side — or sides — will the security forces, Mr. Mugabe’s bedrock support, come down?

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For the first time, Mr. Mugabe has been forced to talk about his mortality. In a recent meeting with the nation’s war veterans, he complained that talk of his eventual death was fueling a fight over succession inside his party.

“I am not dying,” he said. “Shame on you.”

The political uncertainty is one reason behind a severe cash shortage afflicting Zimbabwe in recent weeks, as people hoard money or move it out of the country. Banks in Zimbabwe, which adopted the American dollar in 2009 to help arrest an economic crisis, are now so short on cash that they have limited withdrawals or left A.T.M.s empty.

Photo
 

President Robert Mugabe, the only leader Zimbabwe has ever had, in April in the capital, Harare. He says he is still fit to govern. Credit Tsvangirayi Mukwazhi/Associated Press

The succession battle intensified after Mr. Mugabe broke a taboo by speaking about his death with the national broadcaster, ZBC, on his 92nd birthday in February, said Nginya Mungai Lenneiye, a former World Bank representative who has served in the Zimbabwean government.

“That was the first time he clearly articulated it himself,” Mr. Lenneiye said. “Until he spoke about it, no one dared to.”

For more than three decades, Mr. Mugabe has proved to be a master at pitting feuding factions against one another and rising above the squabbling.

But at the heart of the battle inside his party lies a heated question: Is Mr. Mugabe fit enough to complete his term and run for re-election in 2018, as he has pledged to do?

Two factions in his party have attacked each other with increasing vitriol. Those on Team Lacoste — a faction led by Emmerson Mnangagwa, a vice president whose nickname is the Crocodile — argue that the president should be allowed to rest. Necessary political and economic reforms cannot be carried out under his stewardship, they say.

Those associated with the G40 faction — short for Generation 40, because its leaders tend to be younger — say Mr. Mugabe remains in control and should run in 2018. Mr. Mugabe’s wife, Grace, a leader in the G40, has said she would carry her husband to work in a wheelbarrow, if necessary.

Until 2014, Ms. Mugabe, 50, who became the president’s second wife in 1996, had drawn attention mostly for her charity work, lavish lifestyle and shopping sprees. But then she was voted head of the party’s women’s wing, earning a spot in the party’s decision-making Politburo and assuming a central role in the succession fight.

One of Ms. Mugabe’s first actions was to hold rallies in which she attacked a longtime vice president, Joice Mujuru, who had been considered Mr. Mugabe’s eventual successor. The first lady accused Ms. Mujuru of corruption and witchcraft, as well as wearing miniskirts and plotting to oust Mr. Mugabe.

Ms. Mujuru was quickly stripped of the vice presidency and expelled from the party. Ms. Mujuru announced recently that she would run against Mr. Mugabe in 2018 as head of her new party, Zimbabwe People First.

Now Ms. Mugabe’s critics say she is trying to eliminate Vice President Mnangagwa, the Crocodile, her onetime ally who had risen in the past year to become the candidate most likely to succeed Mr. Mugabe.

In a recent “meet the people” rally, Ms. Mugabe prowled the stage, her right hand wound tightly around a microphone, her left punching at the air. She moved back and forth, as if attacking and ducking before her unmentioned rival, the Crocodile.

Photo
 

A woman bathed her son on a day that their town, Chitungwiza, had running water. Zimbabwe’s economic prospects are shaky. Credit Mary Turner/Getty Images

“When I decide to attack a dog, I’ll crush it openly and I won’t hide the stick,” she said, speaking without notes to cheering and ululation.

Philip Chiyangwa, a prominent ZANU-PF member, businessman and member of G40, praised Ms. Mugabe.

“I don’t think her actions have anything to do with her ambitions as such, but it is about the president getting proper security to complete his term of office,” Mr. Chiyangwa said. “Sometimes, in that kind of office, you don’t know what’s happening.”

Her rivals accuse her of being power hungry and exploiting her husband’s growing frailty for her own ambitions.

Christopher Mutsvangwa, an ally of the Crocodile and a longtime ZANU-PF leader, was dismissed as the minister of war veterans in early March after a public falling-out with members of the G40. At the Independence Day celebrations here, Mr. Mutsvangwa dismissed as “leeches” prominent members of the G40, who were sitting not too far from him under the same tent.

“The present is now a story reminiscent of Mao and Jiang Qing,” said Mr. Mutsvangwa, who served as Zimbabwe’s ambassador to China, referring to Mao Zedong’s fourth wife, who, in the leader’s final years, assumed great power as part of the Gang of Four.

In January, while Mr. Mugabe and his family took their annual vacation out of the country, rumors spread in the capital that he had died overseas. A couple of months later, after Mr. Mugabe suddenly canceled a visit to India and the government refused to disclose his whereabouts, journalists here tracked down his plane in Singapore, where Mr. Mugabe has received medical care in recent years.

The news media, basing its findings in part on an American diplomatic cable released by WikiLeaks, has reported that Mr. Mugabe has received treatment there for prostate cancer. The government has denied the cancer reports, saying that he has undergone cataract operations in Singapore and is otherwise healthy.

George Charamba, the president’s spokesman, had no comment about the president’s bow before his own portrait.

In the television interview on his 92nd birthday, Mr. Mugabe spoke softly, sometimes tentatively, slumping in his chair by the end. His eyes, full of vigor in interviews just a few years ago, were barely perceptible behind his large-rimmed glasses.

“Morning exercise?” Mr. Mugabe said. “Yes, of course, to keep alive. Keep alive and also to enable me to resurrect when they say I’m dead.”

The interviewer looked down with an uneasy smile. The president went on.

“It takes quite a lot,” he said. “Every January, I must prepare the necessary exercise for resurrection because I know I’ll be destined for death. Every January. So now I’m dead-alive".

Source: NY Times

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U.S. death in Iraq highlights ‘enduring’ ISIS war debate

President Obama’s undeclared but escalating war against the Islamic State terror group suffered its third American combat casualty on Tuesday, as the White House wrestled with renewed questions about the likely scope and duration of the conflict.

Obama has promised that U.S. forces will not carry out “enduring offensive ground combat operations.” But he has also ordered some 5,000 troops to Iraq and plunged up to 500 elite special operators into Syria to help rebel groups battle both troops loyal to strongman Bashar Assad and extremists serving under the black flag of ISIS, as the terrorist army is also known.

The casualty, a U.S. Navy SEAL, was killed in northern Iraq after ISIS fighters breached lines held by Kurdish peshmerga forces.

“It is a combat death, of course, and very sad loss,” Defense Secretary Ash Carter told reporters.

At the White House, press secretary Josh Earnest tried to explain how an American who was not on a combat mission could be killed in combat.

“He was killed, and he was killed in combat. But that was not part of his mission,” Earnest told reporters. “His mission was specifically to offer advice and assistance to those Iraqi forces that were fighting for their own country.”

But Earnest denied playing down the threats facing Americans on the ground, stressing, “I don’t mean to make it sound benign, because it’s not. It’s dangerous.”

Asked by Yahoo News at what point the U.S. deployment in Syria would become an “enduring offensive ground combat operation,” Earnest suggested that American troops could remain there indefinitely without ever passing the “enduring” mark as long as their numbers remain short of the tens of thousands used in the March 2003 invasion of Iraq.

U.S. commandos in Syria have “a very different mission than the deployment of thousands of U.S. troops on the ground, who are responsible for seeking out and directly engaging the enemy,” he said. “That is not the mission of the much smaller number of forces on the ground.”

Pressed on whether there was a time element to an “enduring” deployment, Earnest replied, “I think the reference to enduring is a reference to the idea of an enduring presence on the ground building a base, a large physical presence on the ground. So that’s why I do think this notion of the time commitment and the number of troops involved are not unrelated.”

Obama’s proposed Authorization for the Use of Military Force (AUMF) against the Islamic State — legislation that would function as a kind of declaration of war — would not permit “enduring offensive ground combat operations.”

Senior Obama aides have taken pains not to define the phrase precisely. Earnest himself said in February 2015 that the language was “intentionally” fuzzy.

“We believe it’s important that there aren’t overly burdensome constraints that are placed on the commander in chief, who needs the flexibility to be able to respond to contingencies that emerge in a chaotic military conflict like this,” he told reporters at the time.

Secretary of State John Kerry told the Senate Appropriations Committee in February 2015 that “if you’re going in for weeks and weeks of combat, that’s enduring.” But he, too, said that the language meant only to suggest that Obama would not trap the United States in another conflict like Afghanistan or former President George W. Bush’s invasion of Iraq.

Many Democrats say the legislation is not restrictive enough for them to support, that they worry about signing off on the kind of large-scale ground deployment that Obama has essentially ruled out. Republicans say it’s too restrictive, that the measure’s three-year sunset binds the hands of the next president, and that the language on ground forces could inhibit a future commander in chief.

But get past the policy, and politics loom large. Democrats have been mindful that a vote for war can come back to hurt them — with then New York Sen. Hillary Clinton’s 2002 vote authorizing Bush to invade Iraq perhaps the best example. That vote dogged Clinton throughout her unsuccessful 2008 bid for the Democratic presidential nomination.

Republicans could modify Obama’s AUMF to their liking, such as by stripping out the ground forces restriction, vague as it is, and scrapping the three-year limit. But GOP aides say their leaders in Congress worry about taking any step that might make them share the responsibility for a military strategy that will be executed by Obama, at least for another eight months or so.

Source: CNN.com

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3 federal agents shot, motel set ablaze in Kansas

(CNN)What started as a would-be arrest at a Kansas motel ended with three federal agents shot and the motel engulfed in flames.

Officers from the U.S. Marshals Service's Fugitive Task Force went to the motel in Topeka on Saturday night to look for Orlando J. Collins, the FBI's Kansas City office said. Collins, 28, was wanted on two robbery-related charges.
But as officers reached the motel room door, "they came under gun fire from inside the hotel room," the FBI said in a statement.
Two deputy U.S. marshals and an FBI agent were shot but are expected to survive, the FBI said.
Previously, Topeka police said a fourth federal agent had been injured in the melee. That officer apparently suffered a leg injury but was not shot, the FBI said.
 
Souce: CNN
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Obama expected to announce an additional 250 special operations forces to Syria

(CNN)President Barack Obama is expected to announce Monday an additional 250 special operations forces will be sent to Syria in the coming weeks, according to two U.S. officials. The expected announcement will come while the President visits Germany.

The troops will be expanding the ongoing U.S. effort to bring more Syrian Arab fighters into units the U.S. supports in northern Syria that have largely been manned by the Kurds, one of the officials said.
One of the officials emphasized the plan calls for the additional U.S. forces to "advise and assist" forces in the area whom the U.S. hopes may eventually grow strong enough to take back territory around Raqqa, Syria, where ISIS is based.
These troops are not expected to engage in combat operations or to participate in target-to-kill teams but will be armed to defend themselves, one official said.
The new troops will be in addition to 50 U.S. special operations forces that have already been there doing that same work for the last several months.
"As we have noted in recent days, the President has authorized a series of steps to increase support for our partners in the region, including Iraqi security forces as well as local Syrian forces who are taking the fight to ISIL," a senior administration official CNN, using a different acronym for ISIS. "The President during his remarks at the Hannover Messe fairgrounds on Monday will speak to this additional step." The official said the president was persuaded to take this additional step because of recent successes against ISIS.
CNN first reported details of the expected plan several weeks ago.
 
Source: CNN
 
 
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U2's Bono urges lawmakers to view aid as national security

U2 front man Bono brought his star power to Capitol Hill Tuesday as he called on members of Congress to take swift action to deal with the global refugee crisis and violent extremism.

In testimony before a Senate subcommittee, Bono drew a bleak picture as he described the flood of people fleeing their homes in the Middle East, Asia and Africa. The human torrent threatens the very idea of European unity, he said, as he urged lawmakers to think of foreign aid as national security instead of charity.

"When aid is structured properly, with a focus on fighting poverty and improving governance, it could just be the best bulwark we have against the extremism of our age," Bono said.

Wearing his trademark rose-tinted glasses, Bono said members of Congress need to confront an "existential threat" to Europe that hasn't been seen since the 1940s. He said three extremes -- violence, poverty and climate -- make for a potent enemy.

In Syria, five years of violence has killed more than 250,000 people and displaced another 11 million from their homes. Nearly 174,000 migrants have reached Europe by sea since the beginning of this year alone and 723 are missing or dead, many drowning in the cold, rough waters, according to the International Organization for Migration.

Before sitting at the witness table, Bono posed for photos with three members of Code Pink, who wore pink tiaras and held cardboard torches and signs reading "Refugees Welcome."

Cameras whirred furiously as Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., the subcommittee chairman, quipped: "So this is what it's like to be chopped liver." Bono joined a congressional delegation led by Graham that just returned from Africa and the Middle East.

Bono co-founded the One Campaign, an advocacy group that works to end poverty and preventable disease.

Source: FOX NEWS

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Fiery GOP rhetoric about impeaching IRS chief rings hollow after decades of inaction on tax code reform

The speaker of the House flashed frustration as he addressed the National Retail Federation.

“I am astonished when I go around the country at the intensity of anger at the IRS,” said the speaker. “People are determined to get the IRS out of their life. They are furious at the IRS.”

“We say a tax code should go away,” suggested the House Majority Leader during an appearance before the Senate Finance Committee.

“We must tear the income tax code out of by its roots so it can never come back again,” thundered the chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee, the panel in charge of crafting tax policy.

And nearly 21 years after those remarks by then-House Speaker Newt Gingrich, R-Ga., then-House Majority Leader Dick Armey. R-Texas, and then-Ways and Means Committee Chairman Bill Archer, R-Texas, little has changed.

Anger at the IRS has rarely been higher. Politicians gripe about a calcified tax code that Congress hasn’t overhauled since 1986. Yet 30 years later, lawmakers get on the stump and campaign about the necessity of renovating the nation’s tax system.

Change the players and the time and it’s likely House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wis.; House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif.; and Ways and Means Committee Chairman Kevin Brady, R-Texas, would all utter similar declarations today as  Gingrich, Armey and Archer.

And they have. Especially this time of year with federal taxes due Monday (delayed three days due to Emancipation Day in the District of Columbia).

“The IRS is not being led well. I think the IRS misled Americans,” said Ryan when asked about an effort by some House Republicans to impeach IRS Commissioner John Koskinen. “This is an agency that needs to be cleaned up.”

“What America needs today is a new, 21st Century tax code that is built for growth,” said Brady in a speech. “I can assure you that Ways and Means Republicans are serious about reforming our broken tax code.”

The IRS makes for a great whipping boy this time of year as frustrated Americans rush to the Post Office to file their taxes just before the deadline. Lawmakers offer up political Pablum to exercised taxpayers about changing the tax code and why the tax system is in desperate need of an overhaul.

Yet little changes.

Antagonists are crucial in politics. Politicians need to cast themselves as caped superheroes, warring against the evils of the state. Lawmakers appear to have perfect adversaries in the IRS and an outdated tax code.

Eliminate the IRS and pass tax reform -and suddenly lawmakers are deprived of foes.

As a political issue, it might not be better to change anything. But legislative realities make it very hard to usher tax reform to passage. There are so many shelters. So many interest groups. It’s hard to concoct a plan which garners the votes for passage.

If this was easy, Congress would have approved tax reform years ago.

Remember the Republican-controlled House and Senate in the mid-1990s with Newt Gingrich at the helm? They didn’t have a Republican in the White House.

But they had as good a negotiating partner as they could ever get at 1600 Pennsylvania in President Clinton. The Democratic president and the GOP Congress got together on welfare reform, entitlement spending and the budget. But no tax reform.

How about President George W. Bush and a Republican House and Senate for most of the early 2000s? Nada on comprehensive tax reform. ‘Nuff said.

Tax reform was not a high priority of President Obama and congressional Democrats when they came to power. Still, Rep. Charlie Rangel, D-N.Y., chaired the House Ways and Means Committee then and designed a tax reform measure.

Then Rangel faced serious ethics issues, lost his chairmanship and the House censured him for his conduct. No tax reform there.

Former Rep. Dave Camp, R-Mich., took over the gavel of the Ways and Means Committee when Republicans scored the House majority in 2011. Of course, that was back when Republicans were a supposed lock to win the White House and the Senate in 2012. Neither happened. No tax reform then, either.

In 2014, Camp assembled a tax reform proposal to simplify the code and restructure rates for those with higher incomes. When reporters pressed then-House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, about the blueprint, he dismissed Camp’s effort out of hand.

“Blah, blah, blah,” responded Boehner, effectively euthanizing Camp’s proposal.

Ryan became House Ways and Means Committee chairman in January, 2015.

“Tax reform is a 2015 thing for sure,” he said last spring. In that remark, Ryan meant it had to move in 2015 before enduring the political winds of a presidential election year come 2016.

“It has to be done by the end of the summer … it if goes back past summer, it’s hard to see how that gets done,” he added.

Of course, that didn’t come to pass. A couple of months later, during a Bloomberg interview, Ryan was already done with 2015 tax reform opportunities.

“That is to me more of a 2017 project in the post-Obama era,” he said.

By fall, Ryan traded in the Ways and Means gavel for the speaker’s gavel. And the calendar flipped to 2016.

Still no tax reform.

House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer, D-Md.,  took aim at the speaker and tax reform Tuesday.

“Ryan was 11 months Chairman of the Ways and Means Committee,” Hoyer said. “He offered no bill. He’s been talking about tax reform for most of the time he was here.”

When asked Thursday about the IRS and issues with tax policy, Ryan punted to 2017.

“What I think we need to do is win an election,” he said. “Get better people in these agencies and reform the tax code.”

Ryan asserted that “the IRS is implementing a horrible tax code.”

And that’s on Congress, regardless of what year it is.

On Saturday, Ryan published a letter ahead of tax day. It blasted the IRS and its ability to protect taxpayer information from hackers. In a Fox interview, John Koskinen argued “it’s a complicated world” when it comes to protecting taxpayers.

Ryan’s Saturday missive returned fire on Koskinen.

“Aren’t we all sick and tired of these excuses?” he asked. “The IRS needs to change.”

So with tax day upon us, lawmakers are again speaking about the need to alter tax policy.

“I think we ought to do comprehensive tax reform,” said Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky. “We really need to scrub the whole tax code. The chances of doing that now and the end of this presidency are none and slim.”

On Wednesday night, Rep. Jim Jordan, R-Ohio, and a host of lawmakers took to the House floor for a fiery set of speeches demanding the impeachment of Koskinen.

Conservatives remain livid over the IRS’s targeting of conservative, tax-exempt groups -- ostensibly due to their political views.

The scandal is what led President Obama to tap Koskinen to run the IRS.

The GOP regularly turns up the heat on Koskinen, though the targeting scandal didn’t go down on his watch. Still, Republicans think he and others failed to produce documents necessary for congressional oversight.

“That’s why we filed these articles of impeachment,” Jordan said.

Ryan’s not game to impeach Koskinen. And tax reform isn’t on the table now.

Washington, D.C.’s Emancipation Day will again postpone tax day in 2017. April 18 is the deadline.

And with little change coming to the IRS or tax reform, expect a lot of the same rhetoric about taxes come this time next year.

Source: FOX NEWS

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At least 12 killed in joint US-Afghan raid targeting suspected Al Qaeda member

Twelve people, including three children, were killed when Afghan and U.S. forces conducted a raid on the house of a suspected Al Qaeda member in east Afghanistan, according to a confidential report and people familiar with the matter.

The Wall Street Journal reviewed an Afghan interior ministry incident report that detailed the early Friday operation in eastern Logar province. The report said the operation was conducted by coalition forces, a term used to refer to the U.S. force that maintains a presence in the country and works with the Afghan army. It didn’t detail whether Afghan forces were present.

A U.S. coalition member said the operation was jointly conducted by Afghan and U.S. military forces. The Afghan defense ministry declined to comment.

The report said the night raid targeted a suspected Al Qaeda operative named Abu Abdullah. The operation took place in Kharwar district, an insurgent stronghold. Two people were seized at the house along with weapons, phones and a fake passport, the report said.

No further details on the intended target were provided, but overnight raids are a cornerstone of Afghan and coalition efforts to defeat the Taliban and other militant groups, including Al Qaeda and a local affiliate of Islamic State. The operations aim to take out powerful commanders, leaving lower ranks in disarray.

The number of casualties from Friday’s operation was unusually high compared with others carried out in recent months, based on information gathered from Afghan witnesses of previous raids.

The report didn’t detail how the deaths occurred. It said the children were among seven ethnic Chechens killed at the house.

Extremist members of Chechnya’s rebel movement adhere to ideas tied to jihad and the creation of an Islamist state. Afghan and foreign officials say as many as 7,000 Chechens and other foreign fighters could be operating in the country, loosely allied with the Taliban and other militant groups.

An American spokesman for the NATO force that maintains a presence in the country said the mission was aware of the civilian casualty allegations and that U.S. officials were investigating.

There were contradicting reports about how many people were killed and who had conducted the raid. Saleem Saleh, spokesman for the governor of Logar, said three Afghans and seven Chechens died. He said the operation was carried out by Afghan forces and there were no children among the dead.

The raid comes as Afghan and U.S. officials say the Taliban has intensified an offensive near the northern city of Kunduz, raising fears it could once again fall to the insurgents.

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GOP rules fight caps weekend in politics

Washington (CNN)In an undecided Republican nominating contest, every single rule and procedure looks to be hotly contested -- a reality that came into clearer view over the weekend.

After Ted Cruz picked up all 14 delegates at Wyoming's Republican convention, Donald Trump amped up his complaints about a process he's called "rigged." Meanwhile, Republican National Committee members' behind-the-scenes fight over a rules change that could make it harder for a "white knight" to ride in at the last minute erupted Sunday.
Here are the highlights of the weekend in politics:

GOP rules fight erupts

Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus on Sunday pushed back against Donald Trump's assertion that the nominating process is "rigged" to block him.
Priebus dismissed Trump's comments as "rhetoric" and "hyperbole" in an interview with CNN's Dana Bash on "State of the Union." He said: "Since I know what the truth is, I don't really worry about it because I know what is right and I know what is wrong."
Priebus has been playing defense for more than a week, beating back charges from Donald Trump that the party has "rigged" the nominating fight against him. Trump was at it again Sunday, tweeting: "Lyin' Ted Cruz can't get votes (I am millions ahead of him) so he has to get his delegates from the Republican bosses. It won't work!"
As the Trump-Priebus fight played out in public, top Republican National Committee members were fighting behind the scenes shortly before their critical meeting in Florida later this week.
It's all over the rules that will govern the GOP's July convention in Cleveland, and when they'll be set. Priebus wants to delay any rules changes for now.
But RNC Rules Chairman Bruce Ash, who is part of a group of conservatives who want to openly debate rules changes when they meet in a few days, on Saturday accused the party's top lawyer, John Ryder, of attempting to stifle that debate and a "breach of trust" in an email obtained by CNN.
Ryder, who is supporting Priebus' efforts, replied that it had been a misunderstanding. He cautioned in a reply email that "it is important that the RNC not take action that can be interpreted as attempting to favor one candidate or another ... Major changes now are dangerous and not a good idea, in my humble opinion."
At the center of the fight is a push by conservatives on the Republican National Committee to have Robert's Rules of Order govern the convention instead of the rules of the U.S. House. It sounds arcane, but conservative RNC members argue the change is needed to prevent party establishment figures from pushing through someone like House Speaker Paul Ryan in the convention.

New York showdown

In New York's hotly-contested primary, Trump -- who polls have shown topping 50% support in the state -- has a chance to put weeks of struggles over delegate losses, self-made controversies and staffing behind him with a big win.
He's deployed Texas Sen. Ted Cruz's own words against him, repeatedly highlighting Cruz's smackdown of "New York values," giving the Texas senator little room to grow in the state.
The Democratic race, though, is much more competitive. Both Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders and the former secretary of state were duking it out in an increasingly negative contest.
New York's contest is a pivotal one, because it's Sanders' chance to show he can win in big, coastal states with heavy minority populations -- something he's yet to do.
The two candidates were trading barbs over the weekend on guns. Clinton, a former senator from New York, hit Sanders hard Saturday.
"No matter how often he is asked by family members of those who have been murdered, he sticks to his talking points," she said.
Sanders, meanwhile, worked guns into his stump speech in front of 28,000 on Sunday night.
"We have kids who are unemployed and have no hope of getting a job. Unfortunately they do have hope and success getting guns. Our job is to get kids jobs, not guns," he said.
Much of the weekend's action was focused on California, as Clinton visited the state (which holds a crucial June 7 contest) and Sanders returned from a trip to meet Pope Francis and attend a conference at the Vatican.
But Sanders' best chance to truly shake up the Democratic contest comes Tuesday, when New York -- the state where he was born, and Clinton's adopted home -- casts its votes. A week later, Pennsylvania, Maryland, Connecticut, Delaware and Rhode Island are up.

Sanders tries to sway Clooney

Bernie Sanders says actor George Clooney, who called the amount of money he'd raised for Hillary Clinton "obscene," is backing the wrong candidate in the 2016 presidential race.
Asked in an interview with CNN's Dana Bash on "State of the Union" if Clooney is backing the wrong horse, Sanders said, "Well, I think he is." Sanders said: "He is honest enough to say that there is something wrong when few people -- in this case, wealthy individuals, but in other instances for the secretary, it is Wall Street and powerful special interests -- who are able to contribute unbelievably large sums of money. That is not what democracy is about. That's a movement toward oligarchy."
Sanders' comments came after Clooney told Chuck Todd on NBC's "Meet the Press" that he wasn't fond of raising huge gobs of money -- more than $300,000 per person to join him and Clinton at the head table at a Friday night event in San Francisco -- for candidates.
"I think it's an obscene amount of money. I think that, you know, we had some protesters (Friday) night when we pulled up in San Francisco and they're right to protest. They're absolutely right. It is an obscene amount of money. The Sanders campaign when they talk about it is absolutely right. It's ridiculous that we should have this kind of money in politics. I agree completely," Clooney said.
But here's the caveat, he said: The money is largely "going to the congressmen and senators to try to take back Congress. And the reason that's important and the reason it's important to me is because we need -- I'm a Democrat so if you're a Republican, you're going to disagree, but -- we need to take the Senate back. Because we need to confirm the Supreme Court justice because that fifth vote on the Supreme Court can overturn Citizens United and get this obscene, ridiculous amount of money out so I never have to do a fundraiser again. And that's why I'm doing it."

Kasich lumbers on

With one win under his belt, Ohio Gov. John Kasich isn't in the mood to hear Donald Trump's complaints about the delegate selection process.
He dismissed Trump's accusations that the GOP nomination process is "rigged," calling on the Republican front-runner to "act like you're a professional."
 
In an interview with CNN's Bash on "State of the Union," Kasich said: "You've got to have a certain number of delegates to be nominated. It's like saying I made an 83 on my math test so I should get an A just because I think it's rigged that you have to make a 90 to get an A."
"I mean, come on. Act like you're a professional. Be a pro," Kasich said.
The Ohio governor also had to explain some comments he made Friday. Kasich, the father of two teenage girls, advised a young female college student to avoid parties with alcohol to prevent being sexual assaulted.
Democrats pounced on the remark, accusing him of blaming the victims of sexual assault.
"I don't care if they're at a party with alcohol. I'm just saying be careful," Kasich told Bash. "That's what I would tell my daughters: Be careful."
He said when alcohol is involved "it becomes more difficult for justice to be rendered for a whole variety of reasons."
"I just don't want justice to be denied because something comes up that a prosecutor looks at it and says, 'Well, I can't figure this out,'" he said.

Fields won't rule out lawsuit

Michelle Fields, the former Breitbart News reporter who said Donald Trump campaign manager Corey Lewandowski grabbed her arm and yanked her backward in an incident caught on video at a campaign event, told CNN's Brian Stelter on "Reliable Sources" that she hasn't ruled out suing Trump's campaign or Lewandowski himself for defamation.
"I'm not going to rule it out. Do I think that they defamed me? Absolutely," she said.
Fields explained: "Corey said (on Twitter) that he hadn't met me, he had never touched me. We know that that's a lie. Donald Trump, after this happened, he said that the Secret Service told him nothing happened. Weeks later, Donald Trump says that the Secret Service said that I was grabbing at him."
Lewandowski dodged a question on "Fox News Sunday" about whether he'd apologize to Fields.
"To apologize to someone I've never spoken to ... is a little unrealistic right now," he said.
Source: CNN
 
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N.J. Trump delegate: Women 'not interested' in politics | The Auditor

Republican presidential front-runner Donald Trump is increasingly having trouble attracting female voters, and a New Jersey delegate for the tycoon has an intriguing theory about why.

In an interview with the New Jersey Herald last week, Jill Space, a Trump delegate from New Jersey's 5th congressional district who backed Gov. Chris Christie until he dropped out, offered up her rationale.

"He's not appealing to women, and I think a lot of it is that women are just not interested in politics," Space said. 

Just 47 percent of Republican women view Trump positively, according to a new ABC News/Washington Post poll.

There are lots of reasons why Trump is having trouble with women voters, but Debbie Walsh, the director of the Center for American Women and Politics at Rutgers University's Eagleton Institute, says it's certainly not because women aren't interested in politics. 

"The problem Trump is facing is not that women aren't attentive and engaged when it comes to politics," Walsh said. "It's that they are." 

Walsh noted that in the last presidential election, 63 percent of eligible women voted, compared to 59.8 percent of eligible men.

In raw numbers, that means 9 million more women voted than men in 2012.

Walsh said the main reason women have been voting in greater numbers than men is "because government plays such a large role in their lives as they age."

A March analysis by the nonpartisan non-profit National Institute on Retirement Security found that women are now 80 percent more likely than men to be impoverished at age 65 and older.

So as American women anticipate becoming consumers of government-run health and retirement programs like Medicaid, Medicare and Social Security, their already demonstrated interest in politics tends to increase. 

"For so many women, the reasons driving their interest in politics are economic," said Walsh.

Space is the Sussex County Republican Party's first vice chairwoman, a representative to the New Jersey Republican State Committee and is married to state Assemblyman Parker Space (R- Sussex).

The Auditor tried to reach her through her husband's Assembly office, but the call was not returned.

Source: NJ.com

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Getting at the truth behind lying in politics

WASHINGTON — This is the season of lies.

We watch with fascination as candidates for the world’s most powerful job trade falsehoods and allegations of dishonesty.

Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump routinely calls rival Ted Cruz “Lyin’ Ted.” Cruz retorts: “Falsely accusing someone of lying is itself a lie and something Donald does daily.”

News organizations such as The Associated Press and PolitiFact dedicate enormous resources to separating candidates’ truthful wheat from their dishonest chaff.

But if we’ve come to expect and even joke about office-seekers who seem truth averse (“How do you know a politician is lying? His lips are moving”), many of us have given little thought to our own fibs and to how they compare with politicians’ deceits. What if PolitiFact looked at what we say to our spouses, friends and bosses?

For more than two decades, researchers of different stripes have examined humanity’s less-than-truthful underbelly. This is what they have found: We all stretch the truth. We learned to deceive as toddlers. We rationalize our fabrications that benefit us. We tell little white lies daily that make others feel good.

Now magnify that. Politicians distort the truth more often, use more self-justifications and deceive in larger ways, and with more consequences, experts in psychology and political science say.

Especially this year.

“I feel more worried about lying in public life (specifically by politicians, and in particular, Trump) than I ever have before,” psychology researcher Bella DePaulo at the University of California, Santa Barbara, said in an email. When lies succeed, they make it “more tempting to lie. Lies can stick. They can have a lingering effect, even if they are debunked. ”

Deception starts early.

Children learn to lie at an average of about 3 years old, often when they realize that other people don’t know what they are thinking, said Kang Lee, a professor at the University of Toronto.

He has done extensive research on children and lying. Lee set up an experiment in a video-monitored room and would tell children there’s a toy they can have that’s behind them, but they can only get it if they don’t peek. Then the adult is called out of the room, returns a minute later and asks if they peeked.

At age 2, only 30 percent lie, Lee said. At age 3, half do. By 5 or 6, 90 percent of the kids lie and Lee said he worries about the 10 percent who don’t. This is universal, Lee said.

A little later, “we explicitly teach our kids to tell white lies,” with parental coaching about things like saying how much they love gifts from grandma, and it’s a lesson most of them only get around age 6 or older, Lee said.

In 1996, DePaulo, author of “The Hows and Whys of Lies,” put recorders on students for a week and found they lied, on average, in every third conversation of 10 minutes or more. For adults, it was once every five conversations.

A few years later, Robert Feldman at the University of Massachusetts taped students in conversations with total strangers and got similar results with the participants not realizing they were lying until they watched themselves.

“I would say we’re lying constantly. Constantly,” said Maurice Schweitzer, who studies deception and decision-making at the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School of Business, Trump’s alma mater.

The problem is there are many shades of truth-bending. Experts split on whether to count white lies – what psychologist and political scientist Stanley Renshon calls “social lubrication” that makes civilized operate. When your spouse tells you that you don’t look fat in that outfit when you do, does it really do any harm?

“There’s a difference between white lies and real lies,” Renshon said.

Some lies, said Schweitzer, “fall under politeness norms and are not very harmful. There are other lies that are self-interested and those are the ones that are really harmful. Those are the ones that harm relationships, harm trust.”

But others, like DePaolo, see no distinction: “It doesn’t matter if the attempt was motivated by good intentions and it doesn’t matter if the lie is about something little.”

Regardless, society rewards people for white lies, Feldman said.

“We’re really trained to be deceptive,” Feldman said. “If we’re not, if we’re totally truthful all the time that’s not a good thing, there’s a price to be paid for that. We don’t like people who tell us the truth all the time.”

From there it’s only a small leap to what politicians do.

“The lies that we accept from politicians right now are lies that are seen as acceptable because it’s what we want to hear,” like a spouse saying that an outfit flatters you, Feldman said.

Or perhaps we feel that lying is necessary.

“People want their politicians to lie to them. The reason that people want their politicians to lie them is that people care about politics,” said Dan Ariely, a professor of psychology and behavioral economics at Duke University. “You understand that Washington is a dirty place and that lying is actually very helpful to get your policies implemented.”

When people deceive beyond white lies, they spend a lot of effort justifying and rationalizing what they are doing.

“They engage in something we call justified dishonesty,” said Shaul Shalvi, who runs the Behavioral Ethics Lab at the University of Amsterdam. It happens when people’s desire to be ethical clash with the desire to profit or get something. In that case people are willing to lie just a bit “as long as it seems legit,” Shalvi said

“As long as they have a good rationale they can stretch the truth as long as they really want,” Shalvi said.

Cyclist Lance Armstrong, Shalvi said, justified his denials of doping because he felt his story raised hope in cancer victims – though it also benefited Armstrong.

“He was convincing himself that what he was doing was not that wrong at the time. I think politicians do the same,” Shalvi said, who adds politicians do this frequently.

Similarly, Jennifer Mercieca, a Texas A&M professor of communications who studies political rhetoric and teaches fact-checking, said politicians such as the late Sen. Joseph McCarthy, R-Wis., “convince themselves that the ends justify the means” and “the reasons they are doing it are more important.”

The experts who study lying are alarmed by what they are seeing in 2016, and by its ramifications.

“Dishonesty is contagious,” said the University of Nottingham’s Simon Gaechter.

His March 2016 study examined honesty in a dice game in 23 different countries (but not the United States) and then compared them to a corruption index for those countries. The more corrupt a society was, the more likely the people there were willing to deceive in the simple dice game.

Most people want to be honest, but if they live in a country where rule violations are rampant “people say, ‘Well everybody cheats. If I cheat here, then that’s OK,'” Gaechter said.

Add to that confirmation bias, Mercieca said. The public tends to believe things – even if they are false – “that confirm what we be already believe” and come from news sources and partisans that they already trust and agree with.

Political scientist and psychologist Renshon said politicians should be held up to a higher standard but over the decades, they and the government have been more deceitful and unwilling to tell the public something that could hurt them politically. When President Dwight Eisenhower misled the public about a spy plane captured by the Soviet Union, lying was the exception. By the time President Bill Clinton strained the meaning of the word “is” testifying before a grand jury, it was more common.

“We’ve become kind of numb to it,” said Pamela Meyer, the Washington based author of the book “Liespotting” and chief executive officer of the private firm Calibrate, which that trains people and companies about how to spot deception. “In Washington, deception is the gift that keeps on giving.”

But there’s a high cost in everyday society – a loss of trust that is difficult to regain – when someone is discovered to be lying, Lee said. There are also costs to the liar, he said, noting studies that measure the effect of deception on the body and brain and how much energy it takes to create and maintain a lie.

“When you tell lies it costs your brain a heckuva lot more resources than when you tell the truth,” Lee said.

Lee is working on a video camera that would study people’s heart rate, stress level, blood flow and mood, a kind of video lie detector called transdermal optical imaging.

He envisions a future televised political debate, with a camera trained on the candidates showing their heart rates and breathing levels – “an index of lying.”

Source: Fox News

 

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Trump returns to New York amid rumors of campaign turmoil

BETHPAGE, N.Y. — A day after losing Wisconsin’s Republican presidential primary, Donald Trump brought his insurgent campaign to New York Wednesday night, kicking off a bid to win his home state primary with a massive rally that harkened back to the early days of his unlikely presidential effort.

“It’s great to be home,” Trump declared in a massive movie studio soundstage in the heart of Long Island that was packed with at least 10,000 people — one of his biggest rallies in more than a month. “I love New York. … I love this city, I love this country, and we are going to start winning again.”

Trump was referring to his campaign line “make America great again,” but the line also could have applied to his campaign, which seemed mired in turmoil Wednesday amid reports of staff infighting as the real estate mogul strives to win the 1,237 delegates needed to stave off a contested convention this July.

View photo: Supporters cheer as Trump speaks during a campaign event at Grumman Studios in Bethpage. (Photo: Jabin Botsford/The Washington Post via Getty Images)
 
Several news outlets, including Politico and CNN, reported that Paul Manafort, a Trump senior adviser recently hired to oversee the campaign’s convention and delegate efforts, met with Trump Wednesday to insist on a more coherent campaign strategy. A Trump spokeswoman did not respond to a request for comment on the reports, which also suggested a diminishing role for Corey Lewandowski, Trump’s embattled campaign manager.
 
Adding to the intrigue are questions over the candidate’s upcoming schedule. He had been expected to travel all week, including to Colorado, which holds its state GOP convention this weekend. But as of Wednesday night, the candidate had just one event on his schedule for the remainder of the week: a press conference set for Friday afternoon in Los Angeles.
 
But there was good news for Trump. As he formally kicked off his New York campaign, a new Monmouth poll released Wednesday found 52 percent of likely GOP voters are backing Trump ahead of the state’s April 19 primary. Ohio Gov. John Kasich came in second, with 25 percent, while Texas Sen. Ted Cruz trailed with 17 percent support.
Source: Yahoo
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In diverse and liberal New York, Ted Cruz seeks his sliver of support

BRONX, N.Y.—Fresh from a key victory in Wisconsin’s primary, Ted Cruz arrived at Saburosa 2 — a Dominican eatery owned by Chinese-Americans in the South Bronx — ready to court a small, conservative constituency scattered around the largely blue state of New York. But as the afternoon meet and greet unfolded, it became clear that the Texas Senator wouldn’t be able to woo potential supporters without also encountering challengers.

“Why are you in the Bronx if you’re such an anti-immigrant?” asked Gonzalo Venegas, who was with his brother, Rodrigo. The pair co-hosts a show on TeleSur English and makes up the Bronx hip-hop duo Rebel Diaz.

As the two were escorted by police out of a crowd filled with men wearing either cowboy hats or yarmulkes, Rodrigo continued to rip into Cruz’s anti-immigration attitude and highlight what he called “environmental racism,” which his community was experiencing because of climate change.

“We’re one of the poorest congressional districts in the country, and to receive this right wing bigot is an insult to the whole community,” he yelled. “People are dying!,” he continued, as sweat rolled down his temple. “People are dying, Ted Cruz!”

Though the meet and greet continued, the disruption set a tone for the event. Even if Cruz was able to arrange a backroom schmoozing session hosted by Democratic state Sen.Rubén Díaz, his plan to collect at least some of New York’s 95 GOP delegates would definitely come with image problems.

But in the face of protests, and despite polling in third place in the state, Cruz knew exactly what he was doing in a minority-rich district with conservative tendencies. New York is among the 24 states that award delegates by congressional district, rather than on a statewide basis. Generally each district choses three delegates — five in Missouri.

If Cruz is able to pick off a few districts where his socially conservative views appeal to voters — like the heavily Latino 15th Congressional District — he’ll receive a considerable bump in his delegate count, regardless of how unpopular he might be to the majority of Manhattanites. It explains his appearance in the Bronx on Wednesday, and his packed Thursday schedule, which includes a town hall in a village northwest of Albany, an appearance at a Bronx deli and a tour of a matzo bakery in Brooklyn’s Brighton Beach.

Source: Yahoo.com

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