Sailing by

BBC WORLD NEWS - Thu, 07/20/2017 - 01:45
Warships sailing from the Black Sea to Syria pass through the centre of one of Europe's biggest cities - where amateur ship spotters watch their every move.

Yousra Elbagir: Sudan's 'big and beautiful' pills for women

BBC WORLD NEWS - Thu, 07/20/2017 - 01:32
In our series of letters from African journalists, Yousra Elbagir explores Sudanese women's appetite for weight gain pills.

South Africa's Gupta scandal

BBC WORLD NEWS - Thu, 07/20/2017 - 01:32
Andrew Harding reports on the family accused of buying political influence in South Africa and the British PR firm mixed up in the scandal

WhatsApp video messages 'blocked'

BBC WORLD NEWS - Thu, 07/20/2017 - 01:25
Chinese authorities also appear to have stopped users sending photos and voice messages.

Remarks by President Trump at Made in America Roundtable

THE WHITE HOUSE PRESS OFFICE - Thu, 07/20/2017 - 01:25

State Dining Room

3:49 P.M. EDT

THE PRESIDENT:  Okay, who's going to make the first presentation?  I want to buy something.  (Laughter.)  But only if it's made in America, right?  (Applause.)  I want to thank you all.  

And Michael was a supporter of ours right from the beginning, which I really appreciate.  It's good to see you here.  It's fantastic.  And I actually bought a couple of pillows, and they're very good.  I have to tell you, they're great.  I've slept so much better ever since.  (Laughter.)  So, thank you very much, Michael.

Good afternoon and welcome to the White House.  We're here today to continue our celebration of American manufacturing as part of Made in America Week.  The leaders and innovators around this table create the products that fill our homes, defend our nation, and enrich our lives.  And each one of these products proudly carries the label, Made in the USA.  Do you remember in the old days?  We used to say "Made in the USA."  That was when we really had great pride in our product.  And you do -- but unfortunately we've lost a little something, but we're gaining it back very quickly.   

You see the stock market hit a new high?  Jobs are the lowest they've been.  Best jobs before we've had in, I think, 16 years.  Unemployment numbers -- fantastic, how we're doing.  But we're also going to take care of the 95 million people out there that aren’t working.  And we have to remember that's not really part of the statistic.  I've been talking about that for a long time.

And when we got those great reports, I kept saying, you know, those numbers -- whether it's 4.2, 4.3 -- I said, for a long time they don’t matter.  But now I accept those numbers very proudly.  I say they do matter.  But we're doing very well with the jobs and the jobs reports, and we're doing very well with companies.  We're really moving along.

From day one, my administration has been fighting to bring back our manufacturing jobs and to crack down on foreign countries that cheat.  Got a lot of them.  We will end the theft of American prosperity, and we will stand up for our companies, our factories, and our workers.  Is that okay with you, Michael?  Good?  (Applause.)  

Made in America is more than a label or a product, and it's just something so important to us.  It's a stamp of excellence.  It's a badge of honor and a tribute to the tremendous skill of the working men and women who design and build these incredible masterpieces and different products of all types.

When American workers have a level playing field, they cannot be beaten.  They have not had a level playing field in a long time.  But you see what's happening.  It's step by step.  We've gotten rid of regulations and a lot more are coming.  We have some statutory requirements where we're not allowed to do it until certain dates.  But they're coming as fast as those dates come.  We've opened it up, and it's made a big difference for the farmer, for the homebuilder, for so many -- and for the manufacturers.

That's why we want to ensure the integrity of the Made in America label.  My administration is committed to working with the private sector to ensure the protection of Made in America and the label through efforts like certification, greater transparency, and stricter enforcement efforts by agencies like the Federal Trade Commission.

We will have zero tolerance for illegal counterfeiting, piracy, theft, or intellectual property.  And they, really -- they take our intellectual property like we're a bunch of babies.  But no longer.  And false claims that a product is made in America.  And as time goes by, the value of Made in America is going to be greater and greater, so you're going to see more and more of this.  There was a time when people didn’t want to use that name and they wouldn’t take that name.  Now they're taking it, and that's because it's become -- we've become very proud of it again.

Around the world, the Made in America label is the gold standard for craftsmanship quality and artistry.  And that is one more reason why we have to protect it.  I mean, we have to protect it.  Not for you, not for me, but for your children and for your grandchildren -- because that's what's happening.  So we must protect it from illegal theft and from abuse.  

The Made in America movement is growing rapidly under my administration, and we're more determined than ever to protect our jobs, our industry, and our workers.  Every day we are putting America first.  And, as you know, during our campaign, I had a slogan -- a few of you may have heard it -- it's called "Make America Great Again."  Did you ever hear that slogan?  I think so.  (Applause.)  

And I want to thank our great Michael.  Thank you for being here, by the way.  And Secretary Acosta is here.  And you have done a fantastic job in a very short period of time.  And I know you are going to say a few words, so why don’t you go ahead?  

Thank you, Mr. Secretary. 

SECRETARY ACOSTA:  Mr. President, thank you.  And thank you for your leadership.  While we were waiting for you to walk in, we had short conversations.  And I just wanted to tell you a few things that I heard from your guests here today.  American workers are the best in the world.  American workers are passionate.  Made in America matters, because when products are made in America, Americans care about what they're doing, they care about their products because they know the product impacts American lives.

And so those are examples of what your guests here told me, and I think examples of why Made in America is so important to this nation, to the economy, and to this nation's workers.  

And so thank you for your leadership on this issue.

THE PRESIDENT:  Thank you very much.   So what label do you like better -- Made in America or Made in the USA?  Tell me.  Think about it.


THE PRESIDENT:  Think about it.  What do you like better?  Made in America or Made in the USA?


THE PRESIDENT:  What do you like?  Secretary, how do you feel?

SECRETARY ACOSTA:  I think Made in America is what we've been talking about.  It's known throughout the world.  And Made in America works.

THE PRESIDENT:  It used to be Made in the USA, I think the label that was on a car.  Do you know, they were telling me that in Czechoslovakia and other communist countries many years ago, they were so proud of a car if it was made in the United States.  They used to take a single dollar and they'd Scotch-tape it up their windshield just to show an American dollar.  And that was a long time ago, but that's what they used to do.  And maybe somebody is going to be doing that in the future.

How do you feel, Michael?  Made in the USA or Made in America?

MR. LINDELL:  I feel Made in the USA.  But you know, I've done both.  My ads have all been done in the USA.  It's the way I feel.  

THE PRESIDENT:  How many pillows did you make last year in the USA?

MR. LINDELL:  10 million.

THE PRESIDENT:  It's nuts.  I mean, can you imagine?

MR. LINDELL:  30 million so far.

THE PRESIDENT:  30 million since.  That's fantastic.  I know, it's amazing.  I heard it's amazing.

Peter, what do you like?

PARTICIPANT:  I love Made in America because it fits in with our Buy American and Hire American -- the two simple rules of the Trump administration.  

THE PRESIDENT:  Okay.  What does the media like?  Do you like Made in America or Made in the USA?  Steve, what do you like -- Made in America or Made in the USA?  Huh?

PARTICIPANT:  Either way.

THE PRESIDENT:  Either way.  They're so quiet all of a sudden.  (Laughter.)  Well, you make your decision.  I think, specifically, Made in the USA was what they had -- Made in the USA.  But either is great.  Or both.  I mean, you could really go both.  Although, I think we probably like to settle.

What do you like, Mike?

PARTICIPANT:  I think Made in America.  That's just what I've always thought.  And to make America great again, you got to make it in America.  And I like that.  
THE PRESIDENT:  Okay, good.  Very good.  Are you going to show me some things?  Let's go.

3:58 P.M. EDT

President Donald J. Trump Announces Intent to Nominate Personnel to Key Administration Posts

THE WHITE HOUSE PRESS OFFICE - Thu, 07/20/2017 - 01:25

President Donald J. Trump today announced his intent to nominate the following individuals to key positions in his Administration:

Joseph Balash of Alaska to be an Assistant Secretary of the Interior, Land and Mineral Management. Mr. Balash currently serves as the Chief of Staff to Senator Dan Sullivan. He is the former Commissioner of the Alaska Department of Natural Resources, which has management responsibility for one of the largest single portfolios of land and water resources in the world. Previously he served as the Deputy Commissioner of the Alaska Department of Natural Resources from 2010 to 2013. From 2006 to 2010, he advised two governors on natural resource policy, permitting, and energy. Prior to that, from 1998 to 2006, he served in a variety of legislative staff positions, including Chief of Staff to the President of the Alaskan Senate. He graduated from Ben Eielson Jr.-Sr. High School in 1993. He is married with two children.

Samuel H. Clovis Jr. of Iowa to be Under Secretary of Agriculture for Research, Education, and Economics. Mr. Clovis is the Senior White House Advisor to the United States Department of Agriculture. Most recently, he served as the chief policy advisor and national co-chair of the Trump-Pence campaign. He came to the campaign from Morningside College where he was a professor of economics. Mr. Clovis holds a B.S. in political science from the U.S. Air Force Academy, an M.B.A. from Golden Gate University and a Doctorate in public administration from the University of Alabama. He is also a graduate of both the Army and Air Force War Colleges. After graduating from the Academy, Mr. Clovis spent 25 years serving in the Air Force. He retired as the Inspector General of the North American Aerospace Defense Command and the United States Space Command and was a command pilot. Mr. Clovis is married to the former Charlotte Chase of Piketon, OH. He is originally from rural central Kansas.

Daniel Alan Craig of Maryland to be Deputy Administrator, of the Federal Emergency Management Agency, Department of Homeland Security. Mr. Craig was most recently a senior Vice President at the disaster preparedness and recovery consulting firm, Adjusters International, Inc. In this capacity, he oversaw firm sales, business development, marketing, and relationships with clients. Before this position, Mr. Craig was the CEO and President of Tidal Basin Holdings, a company he founded in the emergency management industry. Mr. Craig previously served as the Director of Recovery for FEMA. He managed the Agency’s recovery services and funds given to individual victims and the public sector for damages from more than 120 Presidentially-declared disasters, emergencies, and fires, including September 11th, the Space Shuttle Columbia explosion, the Cerro Grande Fire in Los Alamos, and the Florida Hurricanes of 2004. He holds a B.A. in Political Science from Purdue University as well as an M.B.A. from both Purdue University and Central European University.

J. Steven Dowd of Florida to be United States Director of the African Development Bank for a term of five years. Mr. Dowd has decades of executive experience in trade, logistics, and finance, with a significant focus on Africa. Mr. Dowd co-founded Ag Source, LLC, a global agriculture logistics, transportation, and finance company. His prior experience includes overseeing food aid operations and leading port infrastructure projects in Africa. Mr. Dowd also served as CEO of Marcona Ocean Industries, an international shipping and mining company. Mr. Dowd holds a B.S. in History from Manhattan College, and earned a M.A. in Foreign Service from Georgetown University, where he was designated as a Georgetown Fellow in Foreign Service.

Mark T. Esper of Virginia to be Secretary of the Army. Mr. Esper is an Army, Pentagon, and Capitol Hill veteran who previously served as a Vice President for government relations at the Raytheon Company. Mr. Esper began his career as an Infantry Officer in the 101st Airborne Division, serving with distinction in the first Gulf War. He later served on active duty in Europe and on the Army Staff in Washington, DC, before transitioning to the National Guard and retiring after 21 years of service. He was an airborne ranger and recipient of the Legion of Merit, Bronze Star, and Meritorious Service Medals, among other awards and qualifications. Mr. Esper worked national security issues on Capitol Hill for Senators Chuck Hagel, Fred Thompson, and Majority Leader Bill Frist. He was also a professional staff member on the Senate Foreign Relations and House Armed Services Committees, and later a Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense. Mr. Esper’s private sector experience includes service as an Executive Vice President at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, National Policy Director for Fred Thompson for President during the 2008 campaign, and EVP of the Aerospace Industries Association of America. Mr. Esper is a graduate of the United States Military Academy, Harvard University John F. Kennedy School of Government, and George Washington University.

Kathleen M. Fitzpatrick of the District of Columbia to be Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the United States of America to the Democratic Republic of Timor-Leste. Ms. Fitzpatrick, a career member of the Senior Foreign Service, class of Minister-Counselor, has served as an American diplomat since 1983. She is currently the Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary in the Bureau of Intelligence and Research at the Department of State. Ms. Fitzpatrick earned a M.S. from the U.S. National War College, a M.A. from Georgetown University and a B.A. from the University of Dayton. Her languages include Spanish, French, Russian, Dutch and some Arabic.

Daniel J. Kaniewski of Minnesota to be Deputy Administrator for National Preparedness, of the Federal Emergency Management Agency, Department of Homeland Security. Dr. Kaniewski was most recently Vice President for Global Resilience at AIR Worldwide, a catastrophe risk modeling and consulting services firm, and a Senior Fellow at George Washington University’s Center for Cyber and Homeland Security. Previously, Dr. Kaniewski served as the Mission Area Director for Resilience and Emergency Preparedness/Response at the Homeland Security Studies and Analysis Institute. He was also an adjunct assistant professor at the Georgetown University School of Foreign Service, where he taught graduate courses in the Security Studies Program. Before these positions, Dr. Kaniewski served on the White House staff, first as Director of Response and Recovery Policy and later as Special Assistant to the President for Homeland Security and Senior Director for Response Policy. Dr. Kaniewski began his career in homeland security as a firefighter and paramedic. He holds a B.S. in Emergency Medical Services from George Washington University, a Master of Arts degree in National Security Studies from the Georgetown University, and a Ph.D. in Public Policy and Administration from George Washington University.

Anthony Kurta of Montana to be a Principal Deputy Under Secretary of Defense, Personnel and Readiness. Mr. Kurta was most recently fulfilling the duties of Under Secretary of Defense for Personnel and Readiness, where he was responsible for health affairs, readiness, civilian and military personnel policy for Active Duty, Reserve, National Guard, and civilian members of the Department of Defense. Mr. Kurta previously served as the Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Military Personnel Policy and the Director of Navy Flag Officer Management and Development. In addition, Mr. Kurta served 32 years on Active Duty as a Navy Surface Warfare Officer, during which time he commanded the USS Sentry (MCM 3), USS Guardian (MCM 5), USS Warrior (MCM 10), USS Carney (DDG 64), Destroyer Squadron Two Four and Combined Joint Task Force, Horn of Africa (CJTF-HOA). He is a recipient of Defense Superior Service Medals, Legions of Merit, Meritorious Service Medals, the Distinguished Service Medal, and the Secretary of Defense Meritorious Civilian Service Award. Mr. Kurta is a graduate of the U.S. Naval Academy, Georgetown University, Air Command and Staff College, and was a National Security Fellow at the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University. He retired from the Navy as a Rear Admiral.

Ted McKinney of Indiana to be Under Secretary of Agriculture for Trade and Foreign Agricultural Affairs. Mr. McKinney is director of the Indiana State Department of Agriculture, serving from 2014 to present under then Governor Mike Pence, and now Governor Eric Holcomb. Mr. McKinney grew up on a family grain and livestock farm in Tipton, Indiana. He also worked for 19 years with Dow AgroSciences, and 14 years with Elanco, a subsidiary of Eli Lilly and Company, where he was Director of Global Corporate Affairs. His industry and civic involvements include the National FFA Conventions Local Organizing Committee, Indiana State Fair Commission, International Food Information Council (IFIC), the U.S. Meat Export Federation, International Federation of Animal Health (IFAH), and the Purdue Dean of Agriculture Advisory Committee. Mr. McKinney was a 10-year 4-H member, an Indiana State FFA Officer, and a graduate of Purdue University where he received a B.S. in Agricultural Economics in 1981. While at Purdue, he received the G.A. Ross Award as the outstanding senior male graduate. In 2002, he was named a Purdue Agriculture Distinguished Alumnus, and in 2004, received an honorary American FFA Degree. Mr. McKinney and his wife Julie have three children and four grandchildren.

A. Wess Mitchell of Virginia to be an Assistant Secretary of State, European and Eurasian Affairs. Mr. Mitchell is an expert on NATO and transatlantic relations. In 2005 he co-founded the Center for European Policy Analysis and has served as its President and CEO since 2009. He serves on numerous policy boards in the United States and Europe. Mr. Mitchell earned a B.A. from Texas Tech University, a M.A. from Georgetown University School of Foreign Service and recently completed his Ph.D. at Freie Universität, in Berlin, Germany. He speaks German and has studied Dutch and Czech.

Robert L. Wilkie of North Carolina to be Under Secretary of Defense for Personnel and Readiness. Mr. Wilkie currently serves as Senior Advisor to Senator Thom Tillis of North Carolina. He most recently served in the Presidential Transition Office, where he was a member of both the Defense Policy Team and Cabinet Affairs Teams. Previously, Mr. Wilkie served as Vice President for Strategic Initiatives for CH2M HILL, one of the world’s largest engineering and program management firms. He also served as Assistant Secretary of Defense for Legislative Affairs as well as Special Assistant to the President for National Security Affairs on the National Security Council during the George W. Bush Administration. On Capitol Hill, Mr. Wilkie served as Counsel and Advisor on International Security Affairs for the Majority Leader of the United States Senate, the Honorable Trent Lott. Mr. Wilkie currently serves in the United States Air Force Reserve, and previously in the United States Navy Reserve. He is a graduate of Wake Forest University, Loyola University College of Law (New Orleans), Georgetown University Law Center, and the United States Army War College. He is also a graduate of the College of Naval Command and Staff, the Joint Forces Staff College and the Air Command and Staff College.


Gunfire erupts near police bases in Ivory Coast main city: witnesses

REUTERS - Thu, 07/20/2017 - 01:21
ABIDJAN (Reuters) - Gunfire was heard coming from two police installations in Ivory Coast's main city Abidjan late on Wednesday, according to two Reuters witnesses.

To hug or not to hug?

BBC WORLD NEWS - Thu, 07/20/2017 - 01:17
The number of workplace huggers is said to be on the rise, but it is still a social - and legal - minefield.

Digging up Dali

BBC WORLD NEWS - Thu, 07/20/2017 - 01:15
A 1.5-tonne slab will have to be moved to allow DNA testing to settle the contentious claim.

Pavel Sheremet murder: Who killed journalist in Kiev car bomb?

BBC WORLD NEWS - Thu, 07/20/2017 - 01:14
Pavel Sheremet's friends say they are making more progress investigating his murder than the police.

Meet Rob Spence, the film-maker with the camera eye

BBC WORLD NEWS - Thu, 07/20/2017 - 01:13
Film-maker Rob Spence used his bionic eye to record a mini documentary about cyborgs.

Did Baltimore police officer plant drugs?

BBC WORLD NEWS - Thu, 07/20/2017 - 01:12
Body camera video shows a Baltimore policeman planting drugs at a crime scene in January, lawyers say. One officer has been suspended.

Presidential Executive Order Establishing a Presidential Advisory Council on Infrastructure

THE WHITE HOUSE PRESS OFFICE - Thu, 07/20/2017 - 01:09


- - - - - - -


By the authority vested in me as President by the Constitution and the laws of the United States of America, it is hereby ordered as follows:

Section 1.  Policy.  It shall be the policy of the executive branch to advance infrastructure projects that create high-quality jobs for American workers, enhance productivity, improve quality of life, protect the environment, and strengthen economic growth.

Sec. 2.  Establishment of Council.  There is established in the Department of Commerce the Presidential Advisory Council on Infrastructure (Council).

Sec. 3.  Membership of Council.  (a)  The Council shall be composed of not more than 15 members.  The members shall be appointed by the President and drawn from the public with relevant experience or subject-matter expertise to represent the interests of the following infrastructure sectors:

(i)     real estate;

(ii)    finance;

(iii)   construction;

(iv)    communications and technology;

(v)     transportation and logistics;

(vi)    labor;

(vii)   environmental policy; 

(viii)  regional and local economic development; and

(ix)    other sectors determined by the President to be of value to the Council.

(b)  The President shall designate two Co-Chairs of the Council from among the Council's members.  The Co-Chairs may designate one or more Vice Chairs from among the Council's members.

Sec. 4.  Mission of Council.  The Council shall study the scope and effectiveness of, and make findings and recommendations to the President regarding, Federal Government funding, support, and delivery of infrastructure projects in several sectors, including surface transportation, aviation, ports and waterways, water resources, renewable energy generation, electricity transmission, broadband, pipelines, and other such sectors as determined by the Council.  In pursuing its mission, the Council shall make findings and recommendations concerning the following:

(a)  prioritizing the Nation's infrastructure needs;

(b)  accelerating pre-construction approval processes;

(c)  developing funding and financing options capable of generating new infrastructure investment over the next 10 years;

(d)  identifying methods to increase public-private partnerships for infrastructure projects, including appropriate statutory or regulatory changes;

(e)  identifying best practices in and opportunities to improve procurement methods, grant procedures, and infrastructure delivery systems; and

(f)  promoting advanced manufacturing and infrastructure-related technological innovation.

Sec. 5.  Administration of Council.  (a)  The Department of Commerce shall provide the Council with such administrative support, including staff, facilities, equipment, and other support services, as may be necessary to carry out its mission.

(b)  The Secretary of Commerce shall, within 60 days of the date of this order, submit questions to the Council for consideration in its work and report.

(c)  Members of the Council shall serve without any additional compensation for their work on the Council.  Members of the Council appointed from among private citizens of the United States, while engaged in the work of the Council, may be allowed travel expenses, including per diem in lieu of subsistence, to the extent permitted by law for persons serving intermittently in Government service (5 U.S.C. 5701-5707), consistent with the availability of appropriations.

(d)  Insofar as the Federal Advisory Committee Act, as amended (5 U.S.C. App.) (Act), may apply to the Council, any functions of the President under that Act, except for those in section 6 and section 14 of that Act, shall be performed by the Secretary of Commerce, in accordance with the guidelines that have been issued by the Administrator of General Services.

Sec. 6.  Report of Council.  The Council shall submit to the President a report containing its findings and recommendations.

Sec. 7.  Termination of Council.  The Council shall terminate on December 31, 2018, unless extended by the President before that date, or within 60 days after submitting its report pursuant to section 6 of this order, whichever occurs first.

Sec. 8.  General Provisions.  (a)  The heads of executive departments and agencies shall cooperate with and provide information to the Council as may be necessary to carry out the mission of the Council, consistent with applicable law.

(b)  Nothing in this order shall be construed to impair or otherwise affect:

(i)   the authority granted by law to an executive department or agency, or the head thereof; or 

(ii)  the functions of the Director of the Office of Management and Budget relating to budgetary, administrative, or legislative proposals.

(c)  This order shall be implemented consistent with applicable law and subject to the availability of appropriations.

(d)  This order is not intended to, and does not, create any right or benefit, substantive or procedural, enforceable at law or in equity by any party against the United States, its departments, agencies, or entities, its officers, employees, or agents, or any other person.

                                  DONALD J. TRUMP

    July 19, 2017.

Flying taxis to transport passengers in Moscow in 2018

TASS [Russian State News] - Thu, 07/20/2017 - 00:39
At first, flying taxis will be available for short distance trips

UN panel doesn’t rule out Congo forces in UN experts’ murder

WASHINGTON POST - Thu, 07/20/2017 - 00:34
The U.N. panel of experts monitoring sanctions against Congo says available evidence in the murder of their two colleagues leaves open the possibility that members of the government’s security services, a militia operating in the area, or other armed groups were responsible.

Turkish official urges Saudi Arabia to drop demands against Qatar

REUTERS - Wed, 07/19/2017 - 23:55
DOHA (Reuters) - A senior Turkish official in an interview broadcast on Wednesday called on Saudi Arabia to drop 13 demands it and other Arab states had made of Qatar, saying they represent an infringement on its sovereignty.

AP Explains: What are Trump’s options in Venezuela?

WASHINGTON POST - Wed, 07/19/2017 - 23:54
The Trump administration is threatening to take “strong and swift economic actions” if Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro proceeds with his plan to rewrite the nation’s constitution and consolidate power over the few remaining institutions outside the control of the ruling party. A senior administration official said Tuesday that “all options are being discussed and debated,” implying that Trump could use Venezuela’s dependence on oil exports to the U.S. as a means of pressuring Maduro to halt the July 30 constitutional assembly.

Trump ends CIA arms support for anti-Assad Syria rebels: U.S. officials

REUTERS - Wed, 07/19/2017 - 23:49
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The Trump administration has decided to halt the CIA's covert program to equip and train certain rebel groups fighting the government of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, two U.S. officials said, a move sought by Assad ally Russia.

Duma urges European MPs to condemn Poland’s decision on Soviet monuments

TASS [Russian State News] - Wed, 07/19/2017 - 23:34
"The State Duma has chosen a format of this type for the first time," said Leonid Slutsky, the chairman of the foreign policy committee

Brazil's justice minister: Corruption probe is "unstoppable"

AP - Wed, 07/19/2017 - 23:26
WASHINGTON (AP) — Brazil's Justice Minister insists the corruption probe that has engulfed his country's government and reached his direct superior, President Michel Temer, will continue. 2017-07-19T13:19:00-04:00 2017-07-19T17:19:05-04:00

US Supreme Court rejects relative travel ban

BBC WORLD NEWS - Wed, 07/19/2017 - 23:12
The highest US court says relatives of people living in the US cannot be included in the travel ban.

Israel's Netanyahu confident German submarines deal will be signed

REUTERS - Wed, 07/19/2017 - 23:03
JERUSALEM (Reuters) - Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Wednesday said he believed that a $2 billion submarine deal with Germany will be signed after a police investigation into corruption allegations in the affair is completed.

Venezuelan business leader slams Maduro's congress plan

REUTERS - Wed, 07/19/2017 - 22:58
MARACAIBO, Venezuela (Reuters) - Venezuela's severe economic crisis will worsen if President Nicolas Maduro presses ahead with a controversial new congress that would further undermine investor confidence in the OPEC nation, the head of the country's biggest business guild said.

Los Angeles Uber driver helps passenger in labour give birth

BBC WORLD NEWS - Wed, 07/19/2017 - 22:20
An Uber driver made a special delivery after trying his hand at midwifery when a pregnant woman went into labour in the back of his car in Los Angeles.

Debt to the Penny for 07/18/2017

US TREASURY DEBT DAY-TO-DAY - Wed, 07/19/2017 - 22:15
Debt Held by the Public: 14,347,253,370,973.98
Intragovernmental Holdings: 5,497,256,034,477.27
Total Public Debt Outstanding: 19,844,509,405,451.25

Nigeria bolsters security in northern state of Kaduna amid violence

REUTERS - Wed, 07/19/2017 - 22:12
ABUJA (Reuters) - Nigeria is to deploy troops and police to reduce violence in the northern state of Kaduna, the acting president's spokesman said on Wednesday, as ethnically charged violence pressures a government already fighting Boko Haram in the northeast.

Egypt's poorest risk death for promise of work in Libya

REUTERS - Wed, 07/19/2017 - 22:03
TARFA AL-KOM, Egypt (Reuters) - In a bare room with nothing but a small pillow, a few pots, and a sheet to cover the dusty floor, Youssef Abdullah's family was living in an impoverished Upper Egyptian village when they were told he died in the Libyan desert.

'Shame on you': survivors of tower block fire berate London council

REUTERS - Wed, 07/19/2017 - 21:59
LONDON (Reuters) - Furious survivors of the London tower block fire that killed at least 80 people booed the new leader of the local authority during chaotic scenes on Wednesday at the council's first meeting since the blaze.

Kremlin baffled by media reports about Putin-Trump undisclosed meeting

TASS [Russian State News] - Wed, 07/19/2017 - 21:57
Earlier, Reuters, citing a White House official, said that Donald Trump and Vladimir Putin held a second meeting on the sidelines of the G20 summit after formal two-hour talks

Four children die in road accident in Russia’s Kursk region

TASS [Russian State News] - Wed, 07/19/2017 - 21:53
According to preliminary reports, 13 more have been injured

The Latest: Trump-Putin 'chat' said to concern US officials

AP - Wed, 07/19/2017 - 21:46
WASHINGTON (AP) — The Latest on investigations into ties between the Trump campaign and Russia (all times local): 2017-07-19T11:33:00-04:00 2017-07-19T15:33:03-04:00

Qatar official faults ‘disorganized’ conduct by Arab rivals

WASHINGTON POST - Wed, 07/19/2017 - 21:42
A government official in Qatar says Arab countries that have moved to isolate it have acted dangerously and in a “disorganized manner” after apparently changing their demands.

Trump ends covert CIA program to arm anti-Assad rebels in Syria, a move sought by Moscow

WASHINGTON POST - Wed, 07/19/2017 - 21:38
Closing the secret program is an acknowledgment of the limits on Washington’s ability to oust the Syrian president.

No quick results in Brexit talks, negotiators say

REUTERS - Wed, 07/19/2017 - 21:29
BRUSSELS (Reuters) - British and EU negotiators will not announce major breakthroughs on Thursday in their public account of this week's first round of Brexit talks in Brussels, officials said on Wednesday.

Trump is new breed of 'authoritarian populist': rights watchdog

REUTERS - Wed, 07/19/2017 - 21:27
GENEVA (Reuters) - Donald Trump is one of a new breed of leaders around the world who seek to use their democratic mandate to undermine the rule of law, the head of a legal and human rights watchdog said on Wednesday.

'I'm your boss': French military chief quits in Macron spat

AP - Wed, 07/19/2017 - 21:20
PARIS (AP) — Let there be no doubt who is in charge of France. 2017-07-19T08:49:00-04:00 2017-07-19T12:49:48-04:00

Remarks by Vice President Pence and Elected Officials at the First Meeting of the Presidential Advisory Commission on Election Integrity

THE WHITE HOUSE PRESS OFFICE - Wed, 07/19/2017 - 21:16

Eisenhower Executive Office Building

11:40 A.M. EDT

THE VICE PRESIDENT:  Well, thank you very much, Mr. President.  And with that, ladies and gentlemen, it is my privilege to call the first meeting of the Presidential Advisory Commission on Election Integrity to order.

Our first order of business is to recognize each of our members and to make introductions and brief remarks.  I'd like to start with a few comments of my own in addition to the remarks that I made from the podium.

First and foremost, let me commend each one of you for stepping forward to serve your country in this capacity.  As you heard from the President and from me earlier, we are truly grateful for your willingness to step forward.  This is a bipartisan group that will perform a nonpartisan service to the American people.  Our goal, as the executive order asserts, is to help promote free and honest federal elections.  Our charge is to study the registration and voting processes used in federal elections.  And, as I mentioned earlier, our charge is to explore vulnerabilities in the system that could lead to improper voting registration and improper voting.  

Let me reiterate the point I made earlier, now that we're on the record:  We have no preconceived notions or preordained results.  Our duty is to go where the facts lead and to provide the President and the American people with a report on our findings that can be used to strengthen the American people's confidence in our electoral system.  And as you heard, the President looks forward to what we accomplish, and so do I.  And I look very much forward to hearing from each and every one of you.

The President and I have a meeting scheduled soon after this with a number of senators, so my hope is that I'll be able to hear from each and every one of you before excusing myself to hear from members of the United States Senate on another matter.  But I'm very, very grateful that you're here.

We'd like to ask that you limit your remarks -- your opening remarks -- to five minutes or less.  There is a timer in the back, but I know we can go on the honor system here with each one of you, and we appreciate your sensitivity.

I'd like to start by recognizing our distinguished Vice-Chair, the Kansas Secretary of State, Kris Kobach.  And Mr. Secretary, you are now recognized, with the gratitude of the President and this administration, for your opening remarks. 

MR. KOBACH:  Thank you, Mr. Vice President.  It's indeed a great honor to serve as vice chairman of this commission.  The charge of the commission is a significant one, as the President outlined:  to study the threats to the integrity of our elections; to quantify those threats, if possible; and, if it's the will of the commission, to offer recommendations to the President to help ensure the integrity of future elections in this country.  And most importantly, to share that information -- after the report is made to the President -- to share that information with the American public.

This is a mission of the highest order.  I've often thought that at the very foundation of our republic are really two bedrock things:  the American Constitution and the faith and reality that our elections are conducted fairly.  If you take away either of those two things, I believe that our republic cannot stand for long.

So, for a long time, there's been lingering doubt among many Americans about the integrity and fairness of elections, and it's not a new issue at all.  If you look at the polling data, it goes back decades.  Public opinion has been consistent on this in that there is a substantial number of people who wonder if our elections are fair.  A 2014 survey showed that only 40 percent of voters thought elections were fair to the voters, which indicates that 60 percent either did not think so or were undecided.

We owe it to the American people to take a hard, dispassionate look at the subject.  And throughout our country's history, there have been specific historical episodes that we may have learned of in school or in college of voter fraud, and those may have received a great deal of attention.  And individual states, from time to time, may have investigated specific allegations of voter fraud or have done some specific investigation of voter fraud.

For example, in my state of Kansas, we're engaged in litigation right now, defending our proof of citizenship requirements at the time of registration.  And we've engaged in extensive fact-finding for the federal courts involved, and have discovered 128 specific cases of non-citizens who either registered to vote or attempted to register to vote.  But that's just the tip of the iceberg.  One expert in the case estimated that the total number could be in excess of 18,000 on our voter rolls. 
But there's never been a nationwide effort to do some sort of analysis of this scope and scale -- to quantify and analyze the various forms of threats to our election's integrity.  This commission will have the ability to find answers to questions that have never been fully answered before and to conduct research that has never been conducted before.  And that research will not be buried.  We respect the voter's privacy and will not identify individual voters with our voter roll data, but we will lay out factual findings and systematic problems that we can identify in our electoral systems.  And those results, whatever they are, will be made public for the American people to draw their own conclusions from.

In 2013, President Obama established a Presidential Commission on Election Administration, and he did so, among other things, to analyze a problem that had been reported in several states in the 2012 election, and that was long lines at the polling places.  When someone drives to a polling place and sees a long line two blocks long, there's a chance that that person may decide it's not worth it for me to vote, and turn around and drive home.  

Similarly, if someone lives in a place where voter fraud has been known to occur in the past, and the elections in the past may have been stolen, there's a chance that he or she will decide that his vote is not likely to count or it will be counterbalanced by the fraud, and therefore decide not to vote in that case.

These are both problems worthy of investigation and worthy of a presidential commission.  In Kansas, for the last 11 years, we've hosted the Interstate Crosscheck System, in which approximately 30 states participate.  We annually compare our voter rolls to each other, and in so doing we find literally millions of people that are probable double registrations -- where the same person is registered in more than one state.  With that information, the participating states can begin the process of keeping their voter rolls accurate and up to date.  It’s a starting point when the state can then call the voters in question, and, with the voters' consent, remove them from the voter rolls of the state in which he no longer resides, or else using a process laid out by the National Voter Registration Act. 

The program also develops leads where it appears that the same person may have actually voted twice in the same election in two different jurisdictions.  After further investigation, a prosecution for double-voting may be appropriate.  This program, hosted by Kansas and in 30 states, illustrates how a successful multistate effort can be in enhancing the integrity of our elections and in keeping our voter rolls accurate.  

I’m confident that this commission will be equally successful on the national level.  The talent, experience, and expertise of my fellow members of the commission is truly impressive.  Thank you all for giving your time and your energy to this endeavor.  I’m really looking forward to beginning our work together.  Thank you

THE VICE PRESIDENT:  Thank you, Mr. Secretary.  Thank you for your opening remarks and thank you for your leadership on this commission.  We look forward very much to working with you.

With that, I’d like to recognize my friend and fellow Hoosier, Indiana Secretary of State Connie Lawson, for five minutes.

MS. LAWSON:  Well thank you, Mr. Vice President, Vice-Chairman Kobach, and distinguished commission members and fellow citizens.  It really and truly is an honor for me to join the commission today, and I want to thank President Trump for the chance to serve in this capacity.  

I am Connie Lawson.  I’m the Indiana Secretary of State.  I also serve as president of the bipartisan National Association of Secretaries of State, and in that role I co-chair the NASS Election Security Taskforce.  I think my background is uniquely situated to the issue of voting processes and election administration.  I served, on the local level, two terms as the Hendricks County clerk overseeing -- actually, after the 2000 election, it really and truly was the beginning of the move towards electronic voting and modernization of voting machines.

I was very involved in the association, becoming president and legislative chair as well.  Following my time in local office, I served 16 years as state senator.  During that time -- the entire 16 years -- I was a member of the Senate Elections Committee.  I did become the majority floor leader in the Indiana Senate, I think, as a result of my respect in that work.  In 2012, a vacancy arose in the Secretary of State’s office, and Governor Mitch Daniels appointed me to serve the remainder of the term.  And I was elected to a full term in 2014.  

It really and truly is an honor to be here with my distinguished fellow commissioners to discuss issues related to voting systems and processes around the country.  With statewide elections in New Jersey and Virginia this year, and many more contests to follow in 2018, there is no better time to analyze how we can improve voter confidence in civic participation.  

While it’s important to create an accurate understanding of the 2016 cycle, I believe that it’s even more important for us to be discussing what lies ahead.  This body has a great opportunity to outline constructive priorities as we begin our work.  I would submit that one of the most important goals we have is improving the partnership between federal and state authorities where election issues are concerned.  For instance, I and other secretaries have been frustrated by attempts to communicate with the federal Department of Homeland Security in their wake of their decision to designate election systems as critical infrastructure.  The situation is improving, but it doesn’t help when I’m still discovering facts about this decision through the media rather than from the decision-makers, and I’m hopeful that we can address this issue going forward.  

While I was state senator, significant updates were made to federal and state election law.  Among those was the Help America Vote Act, or HAVA, passed in 2002.  It was passed to improve voting systems and voter access in response to the 2000 election.  This legislation created the Election Assistance Commission and addressed provisional voting, voting equipment, statewide voter databases, among other things.  A crucial point is that the HAVA standards were developed in a bipartisan, cooperative manner seeking input from multiple stakeholders in order to find points of agreement.  It’s my hope that this commission will operate in a similar manner as we get to work on behalf of the President, our states, and the American people.  Thank you.

THE VICE PRESIDENT:  Thank you, Madam Secretary.  Appreciate your remarks very much.  And now the chair recognizes the former Secretary of State for the great state of Ohio, Ken Blackwell.

MR. BLACKWELL:  Thank you.  Thank you, Mr. Chairman.  I’m honored to be a member of this commission.  I want to thank you, Vice President Pence, for your leadership in this endeavor and express my gratitude to all of my colleagues for their willingness to undertake this important work.  This commission and its task is to identify every threat to the integrity of the electoral process, both foreign and domestic.  We are to serve the American people by enumerating the vulnerabilities of our electoral system and recommending countermeasures to protect the voting rights of the American people as guaranteed by the Constitution.

I would like to offer, into the record, my work of constitutional law on this issue.  I co-authored this work with Ken Klukowski, a respected constitutional attorney -- I’m going to say, from Indiana.  (Laughter.)  And our law review article is entitled, “The Other Voting Right: Protecting Every Citizens Vote by Safeguarding the Integrity of the Ballot Box,” published by the Yale Law and Policy Review.  

We set forth that one way to articulate the right to vote secured by the Constitution is that every properly registered adult has the right to an undiluted vote.  Each elector has the right to a vote that carries its full weight and that, when it is tallied, has its maximum proper effect to give that citizen a full voice in determining who among us will be entrusted with the powers of government for a term of office.  

As we explain in our article, this really means the Constitution secures two voting rights.  The first is the one we talk about most often -- the franchise, the right to cast a ballot on Election Day.  Most voting laws combat abuses rooted in the past that denied Americans access to the voting booth.  But there’s a second right that accompanies the right to cast a ballot, and that is the right of the citizen -- a citizen’s legal ballot not being diluted or canceled by anyone else’s illegal activity.  

That activity could be voter fraud by casting a ballot in more than one precinct or state.  It could be a non-citizen voting, whether that non-citizen is a legal alien or an illegal alien -- if they are not citizens.  Then their ballots dilute the votes of American citizens.  The illegal activity could be voter intimidation or voter registration fraud, or it could be foreign interference in our elections, whether from Russia, China, North Korea, Iran, or any other foreign power.  This other voting right is a fundamental constitutional right against any such dilution or cancellation, and it is our commission’s work and our mandate from the President of the United States to identity these threats and safeguard against them.  

Another topic explored in our article is that voting is perhaps our only fundamental right secured by the Constitution that is also a citizen’s duty.  We all have the right to the free exercise of religion, or to keep and bear arms, for example, but our form of government does not impose them upon us as duties.  But when it comes to voting, the Constitution enables election officials to presume that public-spirited citizens with due concern for the course of the state and national policy will be willing to satisfy reasonable regulations and shoulder incidental burdens in the fulfillment of their civic duty.  

My home state of Ohio is the jurisdiction of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 6th Circuit.  Among the judges on that bench is Alice Batchelder.  Two years ago, in Russell vs. Grimes, Judge Batchelder wrote, “Citizens cannot demand as constitutional entitlement an environment in which fulfilling this civic duty is effortless.  To the contrary,” Judge Batchelder added, “the Constitution allows for the possibility that citizens should be expected to overcome minimal obstacles when voting.”  

Every patriotic citizen who is a qualified elector has a solemn duty in our democratic republic to participate in public debate by casting their thoughtful, informed, and deliberate ballot on Election Day.  We are a self-governing people.  The machinery of democracy on Election Day is the cornerstone of how we govern ourselves.  This commission’s duty is to catalogue every threat to that machinery and determine how to thwart each threat and thereby safeguard the integrity of the ballot box.

Mr. Chairman, I ask that this article and my extended remarks be made part of the record today -- today’s proceedings and the work of the commission.  Thank you so much, sir.

THE VICE PRESIDENT:  Your law review article and your extended remarks are submitted to the record without objection.  And thank you, Mr. Secretary, for your opening remarks.

With that I’d like to recognize the Secretary of State of Maine, Secretary Matt Dunlap, for five minutes.

MR. DUNLAP:  Thank you, Mr. Vice President.  I apologize I don’t have any prepared remarks, so I’ll try to keep it within the 45-minute allotment.  (Laughter.)  

Our experience in Maine has really been a truly gracious one, and we are very, very blessed to have the commitment of so many incredibly devoted and dedicated people across the state in the 503 towns and 425 unorganized territories of the state of Maine.  An area from Fort Kent to Kittery, and from Oquossoc to Eastport -- the people that I work with in elections -- you know, I’m the chief elections officer of the state of Maine, but the actual election is run by those local town officials who put an extraordinary amount of effort to make sure that their neighbors can freely and fairly exercise their constitutional franchise of democratic self-governance.  And we owe them a great deal -- and we have a great deal to be proud of.  

We, too, get questions from time to time about something that happens in an election.  We get a few hundred allegations of possible double-voting.  But because our clerks work very closely with each other and we communicate with each other, typically what happens is someone requests an absentee ballot, and they forget about it or lose it in a pile of seed catalogues, and then they show up at the polls and we divine pretty quickly that, in fact, they only cast one ballot and then the question is answered.  

But accountability is pretty important here, and I think that’s the entire purpose of this commission is to help bolster and instill confidence in electoral process that belongs to the American people.  And I hope that, in those considerations, one of the things we focus on is what works well.  What do we do right?  And certainly -- I listened very closely to the remarks of the President -- but no one who has spoken, including the President, has questioned the legitimacy of the outcome of the 2016 election.  I think that’s a great place to start from is, you know, what are the balance points between security and access?  

And I think that anything that we do to answer those questions, to reassure people that there are no goblins under the bed, and if there are, we deal with them in a way that is balanced, again, towards access of the voting public to participate in their government.  This is not ours.  It belongs to them.  

And I think as we move forward, the one thing I want to focus on -- and I tell our clerks this when we do our training every year -- is that this is a process that does not belong to us.  It belongs to the voters.  And everything we do, we must do with devotion to assure that the voters have their voice heard and that the ballots that are cast are done without question, and that the government that is installed to represent those people acts on their behalf with the confidence of the public.  And I want to make sure that we answer those questions and that we move forward as a group with that same level of confidence, and I’ll be very pleased to be a part of this.  So, thank you.

THE VICE PRESIDENT:  Thank you, Mr. Secretary, and thank you for those very thoughtful words, without notes and with great brevity.  I like it.  (Laughter.) 

With that, it would be my privilege to recognize the longest-serving secretary of state in American history, New Hampshire’s Secretary of State Bill Gardner.  Secretary Gardner, you’re recognized for five minutes.

MR. GARDNER:  Thank you, Mr. Chairman, Vice-Chairman.  I look forward to the work we have ahead.  

After our federal Constitution was ratified, a person asked George Washington this question:  What is the most important thing that a person can do for his country?  And Washington answered that in five words:  Express your view beyond yourself.  When I first became aware of that, I took it to mean everyone’s voice mattered.  Be willing to share your views, have dialogue with others, and let others share their views with you, for it will strengthen our country.  It can also be applied to voting, where we collectively express our views beyond ourselves by way of the ballot box.  And the more often we get to do that, the more we fulfill the will of our first President.  I would like more Americans to vote, not fewer.  

For over a half-century, since the Civil Rights era of the ‘60s, our federal government and the states have been trying to find more and more ways to make it easier to vote.  But when states try to balance that ease of voting with measures to increase voting integrity, it is often met with hostile resistance and charges of suppression.  

I will respect the facts that this commission receives, but it has been my belief over many years of administering elections that we will see an increase in voter turnout only when ease of voting is balanced with security and integrity.  Making voting easier by itself does not result in higher turnout, as we have seen in our recent elections.  Polls conducted just before the last presidential election found over half the country believes there's voter fraud.  And polls after the election show a declining level of confidence in the balloting.  

During this century, there have been three national election commissions previous to this one.  They spent time continuing the quest for ways to make voting easier.  In my opinion, we need to first understand why turnout has not increased as a result.  

One of the previous commissions recommended states adopt photo ID requirements for voting, and that commission was severely criticized for doing so.  We also need to compare states that have voter ID laws with those without.  I might add that the two highest states in turnout during the presidential primaries last year were both photo ID states.  

Why is it important for the public to have confidence in their elections?  The reason is contrary to common belief:  One vote does matter.  I have conducted nearly 500 recounts, all done by hand, counting paper ballots in a public process, including state-wide, congressional, and various smaller district races.  Eleven of those recounts have ended in a tie; 32 were decided by one vote; and a total of 202, by less than 10 votes.    

And while serving as state representative, back in the 1970s, my state had a U.S. Senate race that was decided by two votes.  The U.S. Senate, after that, tried to do a recount of that race and gave up after trying for five months.  I am a witness that every vote matters, and there doesn’t need to be massive voter fraud to sway the outcome.  These are the experiences I will bring to this commission, and I will work with all of you endeavoring to let the facts we receive speak for themselves.

Thank you.

THE VICE PRESIDENT:  Well, thank you, Mr. Secretary.  And thank you for those words and for your long service to the people of your state.

The chair now recognizes Judge Alan King of Jefferson County, Alabama for five minutes.

MR. KING:  Mr. Vice President and Secretary Kobach, it's a pleasure to serve on this committee.  I appreciate the invitation.  I'm Alan King.  I'm the presiding probate judge in Jefferson County, Alabama.  It's the largest county in the state of Alabama.  We have roughly 660,000 residents, and in 2016 we had almost 460,000 registered voters.  

We have two probate judges in Jefferson County, and I was elected in 2000 as the place two probate judge, and then in 2006 and '12 as the presiding probate judge.  I have a law degree, and I'm a former president of the Alabama Probate Judges Association.  

In Alabama, probate judges are the chief election official for his or her county.  I've been involved in 10 major elections as the place two probate judge, and I've been the chief election official for 39 major elections as the presiding probate judge. 

On August 15th of this year, we will have a special election to fill the U.S. Senate seat vacated by now Attorney General Jeff Sessions.  

I have a certification, through the Election Center, which the premier -- or one of the premier election training organizations in the United States.  And so I'm involved in elections, have been involved in elections for 16.5 years.  I bring a wealth of experience from a county level.  So to speak, I've had boots on the ground in every aspect of elections.  I would consider myself to be an election expert on everything that involves elections.

In the national organizations that I'm a member of, it's been my great pleasure to meet other election officials on the national level.  I have talked extensively with men and women for the last few years.  

I feel inclined, since I'm the chief election official for Jefferson County, Alabama, to say that, in my 16.5 years in the Jefferson County probate judge position, that I have not seen evidence of voter fraud in Jefferson County.  I had one situation -- I think it was in 2014 -- where it was a father and a son had the same name.  I became aware of that.  I submitted this information to our district attorney, and the district attorney chose not to pursue any charges against either the father or the son.

The executive order that created this commission refers to voter confidence and voter processes.  And again, since I'm a county official, I feel inclined to say that one of the most massive problems that will be facing this nation in the years to come is technology, and it's the technology of the voting machines.  And I've seen it in the legal profession, from discovery and cases that have come before me in court.  I'm in court virtually all day, every day.  

And bottom line:  Technology is moving so fast that society is not able to keep up with the legal profession.  My wife is an elementary school librarian -- now called a school media specialist.  She's not able, educators are not able to keep up with technology.  And I would venture to say, Mr. Vice President and Secretary Kobach, that we have a huge challenge in this nation with keeping with voting machine technology.

And in 2002, the U.S. Congress and HAVA -- Help America Vote Act -- passed -- had funding that was filtered down to the states and to each county.  And so from a county-wide standpoint, these voting machines are outdated.  There's no money there.  Counties don’t have money.  States don't have money.  We need money.  I was -- thankfully, four years ago, I got on top of this issue.  I was able to convince my county commissioners to fund the next generation of voting machines in Jefferson County.  We did that in the 2016 election to the tune of $3.1 million.  But not every county can do that.  Not every state can do that.  

And as we go down this process, it is my hope that we will -- that will be an issue that we will discuss.  Because we can discuss a lot of things about voting, but unless we have the technology, unless the technology is keeping up with voting, then we're not using our time very wisely, in my opinion.

So I hope that that's an issue that we will get into.  I hope that's an issue that we will discuss and discuss freely.  And I hope that's a recommendation that this commission makes to Vice President Pence, to you, and to President Trump. 

Again, thank you so very much for the opportunity to serve on this commission.

THE VICE PRESIDENT:  Well, thank you, Judge King.  Thank you for bringing your extraordinary experience at the county level, and those thoughtful opening remarks today.  We look forward to working with you very much.  An honor to have you here.

With that, the chair recognizes Commissioner Christy McCormick, who is also a member of the Election Assistance Commission, for five minutes.

MS. MCCORMICK:  Thank you.  Mr. Vice President, Secretary Kobach, and my fellow distinguished commission members:  I'm very much looking forward to participating in the mission of this commission.  

I started working in elections almost 30 years ago as an assistance voter registrar in East Haven, Connecticut.  And since then, I've worked in several capacities in elections and voting, including eight years in the Department of Justice Civil Rights Division's Voting Section, litigating and defending our federal voting statutes, including the Voting Rights Act, the NVRA, UOCAVA, and the MOVE Act.  

I was detailed to Baghdad for a year as the Department of Justice's expert in elections to work on the Iraq national elections.  And I have since served, since January of 2015, as the commissioner on the U.S. Election Assistance Commission, which is dedicated to making election administration better across our country.

I have worked directly with state and local election officials from every state and territory, and I see my role on this commission as representing a wide range of election officials.  I have also regularly interfaced with voting system vendors and not-for-profit voting and elections organizations, and I will always take their concerns and interests into consideration.

Our Constitution provides that our states have the authority and responsibility to run our elections, and I fully support this provision.  However, I also believe that our federal government does have an interest in elections being free, fair, and secure from outside and improper influences.  Our nation as a whole should be dedicated to ensure the survival of America's representative democracy.

Over the past year and, quite frankly, much longer than that, we've heard that our election system is in danger.  It is appropriate for us to examine any threats or dangers to our system, the integrity of our system, and the fairness of our system.  We need to ensure that every American citizen who is eligible to vote may do so freely and privately, and that his or her vote is not diluted by improper votes or influence.  

We need to ensure that persons who are eligible to vote are not disenfranchised, and that voters have confidence that our system is producing accurate, secure, and expeditious results.  

With that in mind, I would like to see this commission, at a minimum, look at some of these questions:  How we keep ineligible, and those operating in bad faith, off of and out of our voting systems.  How we address the management of voter registration systems and the problem of inaccurate lists.  

I applaud the dedication and hard work of our election administrators across this country.  And, believe me, they have a hard, hard and extensively complex job.  

But I've also done election observation over the past dozen or so years, and I have yet to see a fully accurate voter list in any polling place across the country.  I have seen firsthand irregularities take place in the polling place and in some offices.  What causes a lack of voter participation and confidence in our system, and what actions should we consider that would hopefully boost participation and confidence in the voters' experience with our election system?  What methods are currently used to identify, deter, and investigate improper registration and voting, and are those methods sufficient?  And what are the methods currently used to identify, defer, and investigate voter intimidation or suppression, and are those methods working?

The entire world looks to the United States as a model for representative democracy and free and fair elections.  As a nation, we must continually review and investigate any possible issues with our voting system, and we must stay vigilant to protect our precious right to elect our leaders.  

I look forward to working with the Vice President and with other members of this commission.  I expect, as I believe the other members of this commission do also, full transparency, courteous discussion, and professional respect.

I appreciate, in spite of some of the media reports I've seen, that the commission has no preconceived results, that we are not afraid of the facts leading us to the truth -- whatever that looks like, and that any conclusions or recommendations will be based on these truths.

Finally, thank you to the President, Vice President for trusting me and allowing me to participate in this commission.  It is an honor to serve my country.  Thank you.

THE VICE PRESIDENT:  Well, Commissioner McCormick, thank you.  Thank you for those good words.  Thank you for bringing your vast experience in elections, at home and abroad, to this commission's work.  We're grateful to have you here.

The chair now recognizes J. Christian Adams from Virginia for five minutes.

MR. ADAMS:  Thank you, Mr. Vice President.  Thank you, Vice Chairman Kobach.  I'd also like thank President Trump for initiating this long overdue effort.  I would like to thank the other members of the commission for their willingness to examine the integrity of our electoral systems, and to seek the truth about vulnerabilities in these systems and contemplate ways to improve the process.

Most Americans value truth and value election systems deserving of our faith.  It has been said that truth enlightens our intelligence and helps shape our freedom.  Clean elections protect our freedom.  Elections tainted by fraud disrupt the consent of the government.  I believe that all the commissioners are dedicated to an inquisitive and robust search for the data and for the truth about vulnerabilities in our elections, and ways to improve the systems.

There are areas of serious concern.  For example, there are recurring indications that individuals are getting registered to vote even though they are marking the voter registration forms "no" to the question, "Are you a United States citizen?"  Again, they are checking the box on the registration form that they are not American citizens, but are still getting registered to vote.  What fair-minded American could support this?  What serious, inquisitive American wouldn't ask, "How does this happen?  How often does this happen?  How can we improve the system?"

Yet, there are plenty of interests that would rather see these questions not be asked.  The truth is more important but these individuals do not want the questions asked, and that is the wrong approach.  Americans have never assumed that we could not accomplish the mission, could not improve the way things work.  There are ways to examine and reach the truth about our elections without harming a single legitimate voter registration.  I'm sure the members of the commission will do their best, as I will, to improve our election system.

For the first time, we have the tools, we have the will, and we have the support of the majority of the American people who are concerned with voter fraud to document these vulnerabilities in our systems and suggest improvements.  And so I'm excited to help, and thank you for this effort.

THE VICE PRESIDENT:  Well, thank you, Mr. Adams.  We're grateful to have you on the commission, and thank you for those opening remarks.

The chair now recognizes the clerk of Wood County, West Virginia, Mark Rhodes, for five minutes.

MR. RHODES:  Thank you, and thank you for permitting me to be on this commission.  It is an honor.  As county clerk, yes, I am in charge of the elections, and several of the things that I've even heard discussed here, I can say it's happened to me.  

I started working in our IT department in Wood County in 1997.  I believe if you check my voting registration record for the year 2000, you'll find that I voted a provisional ballot.  And the reason being was, I was deceased.  We were doing a -- before we had a statewide voter system, we had to do a data upload monthly to the Secretary of State's office.  It wasn't working properly.  I'd marked myself deceased, ran a test, and never revived myself.  (Laughter.) 

I walked into the precinct.  I went over to Janice, who was our poll worker.  She said, you're not in the book.  I should be.  I voted a provisional ballot because I was not in the book.  I appeared at the county commission meeting during canvass, and they went, yep, you're alive, and my vote did count.  So it's one of those -- there are things that do happen.  And we try to make sure that every legally-cast ballot counts.  

In 2014, when I ran for my first election as county clerk, I won by five votes out of over 24,000 votes that were cast.  So it's one of those -- we need to have fair, clean, honest elections, and there should be no doubt that those five votes -- you know, my win is the win and it's there.  There should be no speculation.  I just want to make sure that we have good, fair, clean, honest elections.  And thank you for permitting me to serve.

THE VICE PRESIDENT:  Well, thank you, Clerk Rhodes.  We're grateful to have you here bringing that experience.  And I'm glad you're doing well.  You look fine.  (Laughter.)

Now the chair recognizes David Dunn of Arkansas for five minutes.

MR. DUNN:  Thank you, Mr. Vice President, Secretary Kobach.  I want to also thank President Trump for allowing me to serve.  I'm humbled and I'm honored to have this opportunity to serve my country.

Having grown up in the Delta and to a political family, and spent most of my life as an economic developer in one of the most economically depressed areas in our country, I know how important the democratic process is.  Anything that calls into question the integrity of this process undermines the entire democratic system. 

We were asked today to present our thoughts on what we expected of this commission.  I'm eager to learn -- and I have, today, a bit -- the priorities of my fellow commissioners, all of whom I have met for the first time today, and I look forward to -- with everyone how to tackle these complex issues. 

A vision for this commission is threefold.  First, it is my desire for us to look at a myriad of issues to determine whether there are significant problems involving the election voter integrity.  We should look at the way the states' elections systems are currently working, and what resources or support the have, and what might be needed to improve their accuracy and efficiency.  Whether there's an increase in training of election and poll workers, improved communication between the states and localities across states, updated voting machines, or providing funds to assist localities in carrying out their voting election work, I hope this commission will look at all the possibilities to help states in their effort to run competent and true elections.

Second, I hope that this commission will ensure the privacy of America's voting public.  I understand while the letter that was sent to the states asked for only publicly available voter information, it still raised concerns.  And I believe that any data, statistics, or information collected by us or by the state should be held in our trust and safeguarded from any political misuse.

And finally, I hope that the activity of this bipartisan commission are completely transparent and public.  It's important that our work be conducted with the highest level of integrity, and that a variety of views can be expressed and considered.  

I applaud Vice President Pence for putting together this commission.  I look forward, with each of you, to ensure that the voters in my great state of Arkansas and across the country know that they will not be unlawfully disenfranchised, and they can have confidence in the integrity of our election.  

Thank you. 

THE VICE PRESIDENT:  Well, thank you, Commissioner Dunn.  Thank you for those very thoughtful words and admonitions.  We value them and identify greatly with what you said.  Grateful to have you here.  

Lastly, let me -- let the chair recognize Hans von Spakovsky for five minutes.

MR. VON SPAKOVSKY:  Mr. Vice President, fellow members of the commission:  I want to thank President Trump for the honor of having appointed me to the Advisory Commission on Election Integrity.  

I come at this issue of election integrity from very personal history.  My German mother grew up in Nazi Germany as a child.  My Russian father fought and escaped communism twice.  They met in a displaced persons camp in Europe, after the end of World War II, before immigrating to the United States.  My childhood was filled with stories of what it's like living in a dictatorship.  And we were taught as children that the right to vote is a very precious right, it's one that can be easily lost, and that it was our duty to always vote and participate in the democratic process.

I want to ensure that every American who is eligible is able to vote, and that his or her vote is not stolen or diluted because of administrative mistakes, errors by election officials, or intentional wrongdoing by those who are willing to take advantage of what we have, which is basically an honor system.

I have almost three decades of experience in the field of voting and elections.  That includes not only legal experience as a lawyer in the U.S. Department of Justice, enforcing federal laws that protect the right to vote, but I've also been a local county election official in two states, Georgia and Virginia.  So I know very well how hard election officials work to try to administer the voting process fairly.

But we do have problems that need to be fixed.  We have vulnerabilities in the administrative system that we have, and we also have a history of voter fraud in this country.  The Supreme Court itself said in 2008, when it upheld Indiana's voter ID law, the U.S. has a long history of voter fraud, and it could make the difference in a close election.  And we have many close elections in this country.

Now, one of the documents I want to hand out to everyone on the commission -- and this is a printout, and it's easily available on the Heritage website -- is a database that we started about two years ago of voter fraud cases from around the country.  We are up to almost 1,100 proven cases of voter fraud, including almost 1,000 convictions of individuals in court.  These cases run the gamut and show all ways that voter fraud is committed in this country.  It includes impersonation fraud at the polls, false voter registrations, duplicate voting, fraudulent absentee ballots, vote buying, ineligible voting my felons and non-citizens, altering of vote counts, and ballot petition fraud.

We know we have problems with the accuracy of our voter registration lists.  Numerous studies have been done about this that show -- including the Interstate Crosscheck Program -- that we have literally hundreds of thousands of voters who are registered in multiple states, and we have many people who are deceased remaining on the voter rolls. 

No systematic, all-encompassing study has been done about these problems.  But we know that more must be done to improve the accuracy of our voter registration system and the security of our voting process.  

Now, I have full confidence in this commission, which is a bipartisan commission, and I look forward to working with my colleagues.  But I can't end my remarks without addressing what I consider to be the unfair, unjust, and unwarranted criticisms that have been leveled at this commission and some of its members.  My father passed on to me the belief that one of the best things about America is the ability to have spirited but civil debates, even on contentious issues.  Yet we seem to have lost that valuable part of our democratic process.

Members of this commission, including me, have already been subjected to vicious and defamatory personal attacks.  Those who want to ensure the integrity of the election process are only interested in preserving our great democracy.  The scurrilous charges that have been made are reprehensible and a tactic, frankly, to avoid a substantive debate on important issues and to prevent the research, inquiry, and study that is necessary to identify the problems in our election process, to determine what the solutions are, and to therefore ensure that we have the best election and best democratic system in the world.

Thank you.

THE VICE PRESIDENT:  Well, thank you, Commissioner von Spakovsky.  Thank you for bringing your practical experience and your background to this commission.  We're truly grateful, and grateful for your stirring words.

Well, let me say, listening to all of the commissioners on this panel, I am more confident than ever that this bipartisan group is going to perform an enormously valuable non-partisan service to the American people.  I'm grateful for the words of admonition and challenge, one to another.  I can attest and promise you that we do go into this process with no preconceived notions or preordained results.  And the President has charged us to pursue the facts, and we will follow them with integrity, where they lead.

This will be a transparent and open process.  But knowing the background of all these commissioners, I can also promise you a spirited but also civil debate.  And we look very much forward to that. 

Our charge is simple.  In the executive order establishing this commission, let me reiterate:  It's to help to promote free and honest federal elections; to study registration voting processes used in federal elections; to identify vulnerabilities to the process that could lead to improper voter registration or even improper voting.  

We will live up to that and we will challenge one another to achieve that.  And I know -- I know in my heart that we'll do a great service to the American people.

With that, the chair would like to recess the meeting for a short lunch break.  Vice-Chair Kobach will reconvene in approximately 20 minutes to preside over the rest of the meeting's agenda.

But on behalf of the President and myself, I offer you my heartfelt thanks for being willing to serve your country at such a time as this, in this important work.  

So, thank you much.  And we're going to recess.

12:29 P.M. EDT

BMW plans to sell at least 27,500 vehicles in Russia in 2017

TASS [Russian State News] - Wed, 07/19/2017 - 21:15
Sales will depend strongly on recovery in the premium segment, acting Chief Executive Officer of BMW Group Russia Maximilian Kellner told TASS

Justine Damond shooting: Minneapolis police 'feared ambush'

BBC WORLD NEWS - Wed, 07/19/2017 - 21:12
A lawyer suggests Minneapolis police could have been startled by Justine Damond, before killing her.

Australia to help Sri Lanka fight worst-ever dengue outbreak

WASHINGTON POST - Wed, 07/19/2017 - 21:10
Australia says it is helping Sri Lanka combat the deadly mosquito-borne disease dengue fever that has claimed 250 lives and infected nearly 100,000 so far this year in the Indian ocean island nation.

Russian diplomat 'optimal' choice to be new U.S. ambassador: colleague

REUTERS - Wed, 07/19/2017 - 20:44
MOSCOW (Reuters) - Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Anatoly Antonov is the ideal choice to be the next Russian ambassador to the United States, his colleague said on Wednesday.

Brazil freezes accounts of ex-President Silva in graft case

WASHINGTON POST - Wed, 07/19/2017 - 20:42
A Brazilian judge says bank accounts belonging to ex-President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva have been frozen due to his conviction on corruption charges.

Trump to senators: Cancel holiday until Obamacare repealed

BBC WORLD NEWS - Wed, 07/19/2017 - 20:41
Mr Trump, who has switched position several times this week, told Republicans to "hammer this out."

Toddler used as distraction in lift wallet robbery

BBC WORLD NEWS - Wed, 07/19/2017 - 20:38
Police in New Orleans are looking for a couple who allegedly used a baby to help distract a victim.

For the first time, Israel describes the aid work it carries out in Syria 

WASHINGTON POST - Wed, 07/19/2017 - 20:38
Israel has been providing medicine, food, fuel and essential infrastructure to thousands of Syrian civilians on its northern border

Foreign Ministry says Antonov best possible choice for position of Russian ambassador

TASS [Russian State News] - Wed, 07/19/2017 - 20:37
Six years of Anatoly Antonov's work in the capacity of a deputy defense minister make up an invaluable asset for his future activity in Washington, according to the Foreign Ministry

U.N. says world needs to know about Yemen, journalists need access

REUTERS - Wed, 07/19/2017 - 20:32
UNITED NATIONS (Reuters) - The United Nations on Wednesday demanded media access to report on the "man-made catastrophe" in Yemen after a Saudi Arabia-led coalition blocked three foreign journalists from traveling on a U.N. aid flight to the Houthi rebel-controlled capital Sanaa.

Brazil judge: 4 bank accounts belonging to ex-President Silva frozen due to his conviction on corruption charges

WASHINGTON POST - Wed, 07/19/2017 - 20:30
Brazil judge: 4 bank accounts belonging to ex-President Silva frozen due to his conviction on corruption charges.

US criticizes Africa for ‘failure’ on famine threat

WASHINGTON POST - Wed, 07/19/2017 - 20:24
The U.S. ambassador to the United Nations is sharply criticizing African nations for what she calls their “collective failure” to respond to the threat of famine facing over 14 million people.

First aircraft for aerial distribution of chemicals to make inaugural flight at MAKS 2017

TASS [Russian State News] - Wed, 07/19/2017 - 20:15
T-500 airplane will be used for pest control of forests, survey of industrial facilities, oil spill response and control of hydrometeorological phenomena

After long Benghazi campaign, Libyan commander eyes capital

REUTERS - Wed, 07/19/2017 - 20:12
TUNIS (Reuters) - Buoyed by the end of a long military campaign in Benghazi and new signs of foreign support, Libyan commander Khalifa Haftar has been signaling his intent to extend his power to the capital, Tripoli.

Netanyahu: EU's policy towards Israel is 'crazy'

BBC WORLD NEWS - Wed, 07/19/2017 - 20:12
The Israeli leader's comments at a closed-door meeting in Budapest were overheard by reporters.

9/11 survivors accuse Theresa May of suppressing a report on Saudi terror links

WASHINGTON POST - Wed, 07/19/2017 - 20:06
Understanding a report that's most famous for what it doesn't say. At least, not exactly.

Tobacco firms 'hamper anti-smoking push'

BBC WORLD NEWS - Wed, 07/19/2017 - 20:03
Countries covering two thirds of the world's population now have measures in place to encourage people to stop smoking.

Madonna blocks sale of Tupac prison letter

BBC WORLD NEWS - Wed, 07/19/2017 - 20:00
A New York judge halts an auction of Madonna's items including a break-up letter from rapper Tupac.

'Jet-set' monk arrives in Thailand after extradition from U.S.

REUTERS - Wed, 07/19/2017 - 19:58
BANGKOK (Reuters) - A former Buddhist monk wanted on child sex charges arrived in Thailand's capital Bangkok late on Wednesday after being extradited from the United States where he had fled.

Deputy FM: Russia consents to Huntsman as US ambassador

WASHINGTON POST - Wed, 07/19/2017 - 19:54
A top Russian diplomat says Moscow has given its consent to President Donald Trump’s proposal to make Jon Huntsman the next U.S. ambassador to Russia.

Media focus on Trump-Putin meeting at G20 aims to harm US president — diplomat

TASS [Russian State News] - Wed, 07/19/2017 - 19:53
"Each of the leaders is free to socialize as he or she views appropriate," Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov said

Unable to go home, Russian who fought for IS settles in Ukraine

REUTERS - Wed, 07/19/2017 - 19:52
MOSCOW (Reuters) - When Islamic State fighter Marat Nurmagomedov escaped from Syria to Turkey after becoming disillusioned with the militant group, he was unable to return home to Russia for fear of arrest.

Meet the man making wood exoskeletons

BBC WORLD NEWS - Wed, 07/19/2017 - 19:51
Find out what led Ukrainian crane operator Dmitriy Balandin to design a low-cost walking aid.

Russian official says meeting with Shannon ‘without results to feel proud of’

TASS [Russian State News] - Wed, 07/19/2017 - 19:51
The setting up of the Ryabkov-Shannon format was one of the results of the visit to Moscow that the US Secretary of State, Rex Tillerson, made in April

Saudis release woman in viral miniskirt video without charge

AP - Wed, 07/19/2017 - 19:40
DUBAI, United Arab Emirates (AP) — Saudi Arabia announced Wednesday that a woman who was detained after wearing a miniskirt in a video that went viral has been released without charge. 2017-07-19T09:33:00-04:00 2017-07-19T13:33:59-04:00

Eighteen Nominations and Two Withdrawals Sent to the Senate Today

THE WHITE HOUSE PRESS OFFICE - Wed, 07/19/2017 - 19:36


Kurt G. Alme, of Montana, to be United States Attorney for the District of Montana for the term of four years, vice Michael W. Cotter, resigned.

Annemarie Carney Axon, of Alabama, to be United States District Judge for the Northern District of Alabama, vice Sharon Lovelace Blackburn, retired.

Peter Henry Barlerin, of Colorado, a Career Member of the Senior Foreign Service, Class of Counselor, to be Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the United States of America to the Republic of Cameroon.

John J. Bartrum, of Indiana, to be an Assistant Secretary of Health and Human Services, vice Ellen Gloninger Murray.

Liles Clifton Burke, of Alabama, to be United States District Judge for the Northern District of Alabama, vice C. Lynwood Smith, retired.

Stephen Censky, of Missouri, to be Deputy Secretary of Agriculture, vice Krysta L. Harden, resigned.

Donald Q. Cochran, Jr., of Tennessee, to be United States Attorney for the Middle District of Tennessee for the term of four years, vice David Rivera, resigned.

Russell M. Coleman, of Kentucky, to be United States Attorney for the Western District of Kentucky for the term of four years, vice David J. Hale, resigned. 

Peter E. Deegan, Jr., of Iowa, to be United States Attorney for the Northern District of Iowa for the term of four years, vice Kevin W. Techau, resigned.

Michael Dourson, of Ohio, to be Assistant Administrator for Toxic Substances of the Environmental Protection Agency, vice James J. Jones.

J. Cody Hiland, of Arkansas, to be United States Attorney for the Eastern District of Arkansas for the term of four years, vice Christopher R. Thyer, resigned.

Daniel J. Kaniewski, of Minnesota, to be Deputy Administrator for National Preparedness, Federal Emergency Management Agency, Department of Homeland Security, vice Timothy W. Manning.

Joseph Kernan, of Florida, to be Under Secretary of Defense for Intelligence, vice Marcel John Lettre, II.

Marc Krickbaum, of Iowa, to be United States Attorney for the Southern District of Iowa for the term of four years, vice Nicholas A. Klinefeldt, resigned.

Brian J. Kuester, of Oklahoma, to be United States Attorney for the Eastern District of Oklahoma for the term of four years, vice Mark F. Green, resigned.     

Hester Maria Peirce, of Ohio, to be a Member of the Securities and Exchange Commission for a term expiring June 5, 2020, vice Luis Aguilar, resigned.

Guy B. Roberts, of Virginia, to be an Assistant Secretary of Defense, vice Andrew Charles Weber.

R. Trent Shores, of Oklahoma, to be United States Attorney for the Northern District of Oklahoma for the term of four years, vice Danny Chappelle Williams, Sr., resigned.


James Clinger, of Pennsylvania, to be a Member of the Board of Directors of the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation for a term of six years, vice Jeremiah O'Hear Norton, resigned, which was sent to the Senate on June 19, 2017.

James Clinger, of Pennsylvania, to be Chairperson of the Board of Directors of the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation for a term of five years, vice Martin J. Gruenberg, term expiring, which was sent to the Senate on June 19, 2017.

Justine Damond

BBC WORLD NEWS - Wed, 07/19/2017 - 19:32
Officials have released few facts about the Australian woman killed by a Minneapolis police officer.

Clarification: Russia-Chechnya-Rebuilding Syria story

WASHINGTON POST - Wed, 07/19/2017 - 19:32
In a story July 18, The Associated Press quoted Ekaterina Sokirianskaia, project director for Russia and North Caucasus at the International Crisis Group, as saying that ordinary people and businesses are the major source of funding for a charitable foundation run by the family of Chechen leader Ramzan Kadyrov. The story should have noted that Sokirianskaia said she got this information from reports by local residents.

Hundreds vie to join Haiti's new army despite history of coups

REUTERS - Wed, 07/19/2017 - 19:29
GRESSIER, Haiti (Reuters) - Hundreds of Haitians lined up in the blazing sun for a chance to join the country's newly formed military this week, looking past concerns about a lack of funding for the force and a history of bloody coups.

Netanyahu accidentally reveals Israel has struck Iran-backed fighters in Syria 'dozens of times'

WASHINGTON POST - Wed, 07/19/2017 - 19:26
The Israeli prime minister made the admission on a hot mic.

US sanctions not to be lifted even if Russia meets West’s demands — diplomat

TASS [Russian State News] - Wed, 07/19/2017 - 19:25
"Senators and Congresspersons will find a million excuses for not lifting anything," Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov said

Number of terrorist attacks globally dropped in 2016: U.S. government

REUTERS - Wed, 07/19/2017 - 19:24
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The number of terrorist attacks worldwide and deaths from such attacks dropped in 2016 for the second straight year, driven by decreases in Afghanistan, Syria, Nigeria, Pakistan and Yemen, the U.S. State Department said on Wednesday.

Chile's senate passes bill to ease strict abortion ban

REUTERS - Wed, 07/19/2017 - 19:18
SANTIAGO (Reuters) - Chile's senate narrowly passed a bill on Wednesday to legalize abortion in certain cases, in a win for President Michelle Bachelet's center-left coalition and for rights groups that have campaigned for years against the country's strict ban.

Merkel urges Iraq to probe alleged human rights abuses in Mosul

REUTERS - Wed, 07/19/2017 - 19:10
BERLIN (Reuters) - German Chancellor Angela Merkel on Wednesday urged Iraqi President Haidar al-Abadi to investigate alleged human rights abuses that occurred during military operations to regain control of the city of Mosul from Islamic State militants.

Pakistan says Indian attack in Kashmir kills 3

WASHINGTON POST - Wed, 07/19/2017 - 19:04
Pakistan says Indian troops fired across the Line of Control in the disputed Kashmir region, killing a soldier and two civilians.

Remarks by President Trump and Vice President Pence at the Presidential Advisory Commission on Election Integrity Meeting

THE WHITE HOUSE PRESS OFFICE - Wed, 07/19/2017 - 19:01

Eisenhower Executive Office Building

11:28 A.M. EDT

THE VICE PRESIDENT:  Well, good morning.  Please be seated.  On behalf of the First Family, welcome to the White House.  And welcome to the inaugural meeting of the Presidential Advisory Commission on Election Integrity.

Just over two months ago, on May the 11th, President Trump signed an executive order to create a commission to, in his words, help to “promote fair and honest federal elections” -- the foundation of our democracy.

Election integrity matters to every American.  President Calvin Coolidge reminded us, in his words, that the “whole system of American government rests on the ballot box.”  And President Reagan declared that the “right to vote is the crown jewel of American liberties.” 

By establishing this commission, President Trump is taking action to ensure that the ballot box remains inviolate, and that the crown jewel shines brighter than ever before.

At the President’s direction, I'll have the honor to serve as chairman of this commission.  And it's a privilege to convene this first meeting today.  President Trump knows that the integrity of our electoral system transcends party lines, and I’m grateful this commission has brought together a distinguished group of bipartisan election experts and public officials from federal, state, and the local level.  And together, this bipartisan group will perform a truly non-partisan service to the American people.

I'd especially like to recognize our vice-chairman, who you'll hear more from after the President's remarks, a man whose long service has established him as a national leader on election integrity, Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach.   I also, as a point of personal privilege, would like to express my thanks and appreciation to Indian's Secretary of State, Connie Lawson, who joins us as a part of this panel.  

President Trump knows that the principle of “one person, one vote” is foundational to the American system of democracy.  This commission has been charged to study the registration and voting processes used in federal elections.  The commission will identify the laws, rules, policies, activities, strategies, and practices that will enhance the American people’s confidence in the integrity of our electoral system.  We'll also explore the vulnerabilities in our system that could lead to improper voter registration and even improper voting.

This commission, let me be clear -- this commission has no preconceived notions or preordained results.  We’re fact-finders.  And in the days ahead, we will gather the relevant facts and data, and at the conclusion of our work, we will present the President with a report of our findings. 

I’m confident this commission will have a healthy and robust debate, but the President and I expect nothing less, because respectful debate is also a hallmark of our democracy. And I know that we'll find many areas of common ground, as well.

I’m pleased to report that the commission has already started its work, requesting publicly available data, and we are grateful for the more than 30 states that have already indicated their intention to provide this information, pursuant to the laws of their states.

Today is just the first of several meetings that the commission will hold in the coming months.  Today we will hear from each of the commission’s members.  Each of you brings a unique perspective based on your experience and your research, and we welcome your participation and your insights.

I’d like to note that our commission includes five current and former secretaries of state.  And Secretary Kobach and I look forward to working with each one of you, as the chief election officers from across America, to foster a collaborative and respectful relationship for the benefit of your states’ voters and our nation’s electoral process.

And finally, as the Commission on Election Integrity begins its work, I'd like to personally invite the American people to offer their public comments and input on our work, and the challenges and opportunities that face our electoral system. 

We want to hear the voice of the American voter -- because that’s really what this is all about.  You know, it's the greatest privilege of my life to serve as Vice President to a President who cares so deeply about the integrity of America’s elections and the right of each and every American to see the sanctity of their vote protected.  

This President knows that the success of our democracy depends on the American people’s confidence in this electoral system.  And the President and I are both confident that this bipartisan commission will make the strongest democracy in the history of the world even stronger.

And so with gratitude for his commitment to fair and honest elections, it is my high honor and distinct privilege to introduce to all of you the 45th President of the United States of America, President Donald Trump.  

THE PRESIDENT:  Thank you very much.  Please, be seated.  Mr. Vice President, distinguished guests, and members of the media:  I’m honored to welcome you here today as the bipartisan Presidential Advisory Commission on Election Integrity prepares to conduct its first official meeting.  Very, very important.  

This commission is tasked with the sacred duty of upholding the integrity of the ballot box and the principle of "one citizen, one vote."  Every time voter fraud occurs, it cancels out the vote of a lawful citizen and undermines democracy.  Can’t let that happen.  Any form of illegal or fraudulent voting, whether by non-citizens or the deceased, and any form of voter suppression or intimidation must be stopped.  

I’m pleased that more than 30 states have already agreed to share the information with the commission and the other states.   That information will be forthcoming.  If any state does not want to share this information, one has to wonder what they’re worried about.  And I asked the Vice President, I asked the commission:  What are they worried about?  There’s something.  There always is.

This issue is very important to me because, throughout the campaign and even after it, people would come up to me and express their concerns about voter inconsistencies and irregularities, which they saw.  In some cases, having to do with very large numbers of people in certain states.  All public officials have a profound responsibility to protect the integrity of the vote.  We have no choice.  If we want to make America great again, we have to protect the integrity of the vote and our voters.  

This is not a Democrat or a Republican issue, it’s an American issue.  It’s about the concern of so many Americans that improper voting has taken place and canceling out the votes of lawful American citizens.  That is why President Theodore Roosevelt once said, it is the affair of every honest voter, wherever born, to see that no fraudulent voting is allowed anywhere.  

I want to thank Vice President Pence for chairing the commission.  I also want to thank Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach for serving as vice-chair.  It's going to be a lot of work.  They’re going to work very hard over a fairly short period of time.  And I want to thank you both very much -- Kris, Mike.  

This is a bipartisan panel consisting of both Republican and Democratic leaders and experts on voter integrity.  I’d like to personally thank each of our panel members for serving.  Really do appreciate it.  

In addition to the chair and vice-chair, this distinguished bipartisan panel includes:  Indiana Secretary of State Connie Lawson -- thank you; New Hampshire Secretary of State, Bill Gardner -- thank you; Maine Secretary of State, Matthew Dunlap; former Ohio Secretary of State, Ken Blackwell; Election Assistance Commissioner, Christy McCormick; former Arkansas State Representative, David Dunn -- thank you, David; Wood County West Virginia Clerk, Mark Rhoades; Heritage Foundation Senior Legal Fellow and Manager of the Election Law Reform Initiative -- a real expert -- Hans von Spakovsky; President and General Counsel of the Public Interest Legal Foundation -- great group -- J. Christian Adams; and Jefferson County, Alabama Probate Judge, Alan King.  Thank you.  Thank you very much.

Each of you has been entrusted with a great responsibility of helping to advance the cause of fair, honest, and lawful elections.  Your work will help protect our democracy.  This will be a very transparent process.  It’s going to be very open for everybody to see.  You will approach this important task with a very open mind and with no conclusions already drawn.  You will fairly and objectively follow the facts wherever they may lead.  

I look forward to the findings and recommendations your report will produce, and I share your report as soon as I can and as soon as possible with the American people so the full truth will be known and exposed, if necessary, in the light of day.  We call on every state to give its full support and total cooperation in this effort.  Most of them have really done brilliantly, and we appreciate it.  And the rest, all of that information will be forthcoming.  

Thank you very much, Mr. Vice President.  Thank you.  And, Kris, thank you.  Panel, thank you very much.  We appreciate it.  Do a great job.  Thank you.  (Applause.)  Thank you.  Thank you very much.  

11:39 A.M. EDT

U.N. experts seek halt to use of spyware in Mexico and want full probe

REUTERS - Wed, 07/19/2017 - 18:55
GENEVA (Reuters) - U.N. human rights experts called on the government of Mexico on Wednesday to "cease the surveillance immediately" of activists and journalists and to conduct a fully impartial investigation into the illegal spying.

European human rights court to rule on extremist online videos

REUTERS - Wed, 07/19/2017 - 18:46
BRUSSELS (Reuters) - Europe's top human rights court will rule on Thursday whether online videos considered by a Belgian court to be Islamist hate speech should be allowed under free speech provisions.

Israel PM talks with security chiefs on Jerusalem tensions

AP - Wed, 07/19/2017 - 18:44
JERUSALEM (AP) — Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu spoke by phone Wednesday with Israel's security chiefs as tensions mounted over a contested Jerusalem shrine where Muslims called for mass protests. 2017-07-19T08:28:00-04:00 2017-07-19T12:28:01-04:00

Arizona senator defends Muslim opponent from online attacks

BBC WORLD NEWS - Wed, 07/19/2017 - 18:42
Jeff Flake expresses his support for a Democratic challenger after she is attacked online.

First launch of Russia’s super-heavy carrier rocket scheduled for 2028

TASS [Russian State News] - Wed, 07/19/2017 - 18:39
In Roscosmos’s estimates, the development of the super-heavy rocket and the construction of infrastructure for it at the Vostochny cosmodrome will cost $25 billion

UK raises pension age from 67 to 68 starting in 2037

AP - Wed, 07/19/2017 - 18:34
LONDON (AP) — Britain accelerated plans to increase the pension age Wednesday, as rising life expectancy continues to put pressure on the public purse. 2017-07-19T07:50:00-04:00 2017-07-19T11:50:57-04:00

US airline mechanic, 91, breaks record

BBC WORLD NEWS - Wed, 07/19/2017 - 18:32
Azriel "Al" Blackman, 91, receives an award from the Guinness World Records for his career milestone.

Chile Senate OKs bill allowing abortion in some cases

WASHINGTON POST - Wed, 07/19/2017 - 18:30
Chilean lawmakers have taken a major step toward legalizing abortion in some cases, a dramatic development in one of Latin America’s most traditionally conservative countries.

Russia preparing retaliation against Poland over war memorial row: agencies

REUTERS - Wed, 07/19/2017 - 18:25
MOSCOW (Reuters) - Russia is preparing retaliatory measures against Poland to punish it for what Moscow says is an illegal and immoral plan to tear down Soviet-era World War Two monuments, an ally of President Vladimir Putin said on Wednesday.

A Message to the Congress of the United States

THE WHITE HOUSE PRESS OFFICE - Wed, 07/19/2017 - 18:23


Section 202(d) of the National Emergencies Act (50 U.S.C. 1622(d)) provides for the automatic termination of a national emergency unless, within 90 days of the anniversary date of its declaration, the President publishes in the Federal Register and transmits to the Congress a notice stating that the emergency is to continue in effect beyond the anniversary date.  In accordance with this provision, I have sent to the Federal Register for publication the enclosed notice stating that the national emergency with respect to significant transnational criminal organizations declared in Executive Order 13581 of July 24, 2011, is to continue in effect beyond July 24, 2017.

Significant transnational criminal organizations continue to threaten the safety of the United States and its citizens through the scope and gravity of their actions.  Such organizations derive revenue through widespread illegal conduct and overwhelmingly demonstrate a blatant disregard for human life through acts of violence and abuse.  These organizations often facilitate and aggravate violent civil conflicts and increasingly facilitate the activities of other dangerous persons.  As the sophistication of these organizations increases, they pose an increasing threat to the United States.

The activities of significant transnational criminal organizations continue to pose an unusual and extraordinary threat to the national security, foreign policy, and economy of the United States.  Therefore, I have determined that it is necessary to continue the national emergency declared in Executive Order 13581 with respect to transnational criminal organizations.


July 19, 2017.

Notice Regarding the Continuation of the National Emergency with Respect to Transnational Criminal Organizations

THE WHITE HOUSE PRESS OFFICE - Wed, 07/19/2017 - 18:23


- - - - - - - 


On July 24, 2011, by Executive Order 13581, the President declared a national emergency with respect to transnational criminal organizations pursuant to the International Emergency Economic Powers Act (50 U.S.C. 1701–1706) to deal with the unusual and extraordinary threat to the national security, foreign policy, and economy of the United States constituted by the activities of significant transnational criminal organizations.

Significant transnational criminal organizations continue to threaten the safety of the United States and its citizens through the scope and gravity of their actions.  Such organizations derive revenue through widespread illegal conduct and overwhelmingly demonstrate a blatant disregard for human life through acts of violence and abuse.  These organizations often facilitate and aggravate violent civil conflicts and increasingly facilitate the activities of other dangerous persons.  As the sophistication of these organizations increases, they pose an increasing threat to the United States.

The activities of significant transnational criminal organizations continue to pose an unusual and extraordinary threat to the national security, foreign policy, and economy of the United States.  For this reason, the national emergency declared in Executive Order 13581 of July 24, 2011, and the measures adopted on that date to deal with that emergency, must continue in effect beyond July 24, 2017.  Therefore, in accordance with section 202(d) of the National Emergencies Act (50 U.S.C. 1622(d)), I am continuing for 1 year the national emergency with respect to transnational criminal organizations declared in Executive Order 13581.

This notice shall be published in the Federal Register and transmitted to the Congress.


July 19, 2017.

Russia's Alrosa mined two large diamonds in Yakutia

TASS [Russian State News] - Wed, 07/19/2017 - 18:22
The diamonds have the weight of almost 110 carats and over 75 carats

Egypt’s president names top judge, risks backlash

WASHINGTON POST - Wed, 07/19/2017 - 18:22
Egypt’s President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi overruled a powerful branch of the judiciary by appointing its new leader on Wednesday, risking a backlash from the judges, who had nominated another candidate.

The Latest: Legal pot sales begin in Uruguay under 2013 law

WASHINGTON POST - Wed, 07/19/2017 - 18:22
The Latest on legal marijuana sales in Uruguay, which began Wednesday at 16 pharmacies across the South American nation (all times local):

The Latest: Activists: Airstrikes on Syrian villages kill 30

WASHINGTON POST - Wed, 07/19/2017 - 18:22
The Latest on the conflict in Syria (all times local):

US: Iran still top state terror sponsor; global attacks down

AP - Wed, 07/19/2017 - 18:18
WASHINGTON (AP) — Iran continues to be the world's leading state sponsor of terrorism, the Trump administration said Wednesday in a new report that also noted a decline in the number of terrorist attacks globally between 2015 and 2016. 2017-07-19T08:13:00-04:00 2017-07-19T12:13:37-04:00

History of carbonated water in Russia: National drink and geopolitical weapon

PRAVDA.RU [ Russian ] - Wed, 07/19/2017 - 18:08
Bottles of Soviet lemonades were on the tables of the participants of the Yalta conference. Franklin Roosevelt took several thousand bottles of "Cream Soda" with him to the US, whereas Churchill mentioned Yalta lemonades in his memoirs. Those who "come from the USSR" also remember that every Soviet family had a siphon

The outrageous pay disparities between men and women at the BBC

WASHINGTON POST - Wed, 07/19/2017 - 18:06
The news organization's top seven earners are all men.

Turkey arrests producer of failed coup film over terrorist links: Hurriyet

REUTERS - Wed, 07/19/2017 - 18:03
ANKARA (Reuters) - Turkish police on Wednesday arrested the producer of a film about last July's failed coup attempt on charges of forming and leading a terrorist group, the Hurriyet daily said.

Putin puts digital economy on list of main goals of Russia's strategic development

TASS [Russian State News] - Wed, 07/19/2017 - 17:59
Putin instructed the government to specify and approve sources and amounts of financing of the plans for the digital economy program until October 31, 2017

U.N. hopes for lull in Syria battles with Islamic State for polio campaign

REUTERS - Wed, 07/19/2017 - 17:54
GENEVA (Reuters) - The United Nations is hoping that battles against Islamic State in Syria will calm sufficiently for it to carry out a vaccination drive against polio, starting on Saturday, U.N. agencies said on Wednesday.

Saudi police release miniskirt video woman without charge

BBC WORLD NEWS - Wed, 07/19/2017 - 17:53
The woman was filmed openly defying the conservative Muslim kingdom's strict dress code.

Saudi national carrier says laptop ban on U.S. flights ended

REUTERS - Wed, 07/19/2017 - 17:51
KHOBAR (Reuters) - A ban on laptops and other large electronic devices from the cabins of direct flights to the United States from Saudi Arabia has been lifted, Saudi Arabian Airlines said on Wednesday.

The Latest: Merkel not surprised by Putin-Trump chat at G-20

AP - Wed, 07/19/2017 - 17:50
WASHINGTON (AP) — The Latest on investigations into ties between the Trump campaign and Russia (all times local): 2017-07-19T07:38:00-04:00 2017-07-19T11:38:12-04:00

Court to review detention of ex-Ivory Coast leader Gbagbo

AP - Wed, 07/19/2017 - 17:50
THE HAGUE, Netherlands (AP) — International Criminal Court appeals judges have ordered a new review into whether former Ivory Coast President Laurent Gbagbo should be released from detention while his long-running trial continues on crimes against humanity charges. 2017-07-19T07:18:00-04:00 2017-07-19T11:18:32-04:00

BBC forced to disclose salaries of top-earning stars

AP - Wed, 07/19/2017 - 17:50
LONDON (AP) — The publicly funded BBC was forced to publish the names and salaries of its highest-earning actors and presenters Wednesday, unleashing a national debate about fame, gender, race and the use of taxpayers' money. 2017-07-19T07:10:00-04:00 2017-07-19T11:10:05-04:00


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