Michelle Obama Says No Miracle Candidate Will ‘Save’ America

Former US first lady Michelle Obama attends the United State of Women Summit at the Shrine Auditorium in Los Angeles, on May 5, 2018. PHOTO: CHRIS DELMAS / AFP

 

Michelle Obama has urged women not to expect a miracle candidate to “save” America indicating again she has no plans to run for president as some have speculated.

The former first lady, 54, was greeted like a rock star at a conference called the United State of Women Summit, with an audience of some 5,000 people in Los Angeles, almost all women.

“It doesn’t matter who runs,” she said, urging women to act for women’s empowerment wherever they can — including at home and in the workplace.

“We don’t wait for the one person to save us. We voted for Barack Obama and he didn’t end racism,” she said.

Obama also paid tribute to young Americans who have risen up against gun violence following Valentine’s Day shooting at a high school in Parkland, Florida that left 17 students and staffers dead.

Other speakers at the conference included actress Jane Fonda and Tarana Burke, a key figure in the #MeToo movement that arose after the flood of sexual misconduct allegations against Hollywood mogul Harvey Weinstein.

AFP

Trump To Unveil $1.5 Trillion Infrastructure Plan

African Union Slams 'Hurtful, Upsetting' Trump Remark
US President Donald Trump delivers a statement on Jerusalem from the Diplomatic Reception Room of the White House in Washington, DC on December 6, 2017.
SAUL LOEB / AFP

 

Donald Trump’s administration will sketch out more details of its plan to invest in America’s creaking infrastructure Monday, hoping it can leverage up to $1.5 trillion for the cause.

Senior White House officials said the president’s budget, due to be released on Monday, will include $200 billion earmarked for projects to fix roads, bridges and other crucial infrastructure.

Under the proposals, states and private investors would put up the remaining $1.3 trillion.

Trump, playing up his background in construction, had made fixing US infrastructure a core campaign pledge and already announced the $1.5 trillion plan in his State of the Union address last month.

On Monday, the administration will put more flesh on the bones, including ideas for cutting the length of the permitting process to two years.

“Infrastructure is obviously a critical component to the functioning of our economy, a lot of American success is a result of the quality of the infrastructure we have had historically,” said a senior White House official.

“But the current system is fundamentally broken.”

“We are under-investing in our infrastructure and we have a permitting process that takes so long that even when funds are adequate it can take a decade to build critical infrastructure.”

It will now be up to Congress to discuss the proposal and Trump will host lawmakers from both parties at the White House on Wednesday to make his case.

He will likely face fierce questions about what the administration is willing to fund, including questions about whether any money will go to so-called climate-proofing.

The Trump administration has questioned global warming and the president has called it a hoax.

Fiscal hawks are likely to question where the money will come from, so soon after tax and congressional spending deals that are expected to explode the deficit.

The Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget has estimated that the spending plan passed by Congress last week will alone increase the deficit by $420 billion over a decade.

The Trump administration says the funding will come from cuts in other programs, which will be outlined in his budget proposal.

White House officials acknowledge the plan is just the opening salvo in the back-and-forth with Congress.

Experts have warned that poor roads, rail and air traffic systems are costing the US economy a fortune.

According to civil engineer Henry Petroski, traffic congestion alone costs the United States $120 billion per year.

AFP

Trump Sends Mixed Message With ‘America First’ Security Strategy

President Donald Trump used the launch of his first National Security Strategy on Monday to laud the benefits of cooperation with Russia, a striking departure from the document’s more combative tone toward the Kremlin.

Unveiling a text that pilloried both Russia and China as “revisionist powers” bent on rolling back American interests, Trump hailed recent counterterror cooperation between Moscow and Washington.

Trump claimed that a recent CIA tip-off about a terror attack on a cathedral in Vladimir Putin’s home town of Saint Petersburg had prevented deaths “in the thousands.”

“They were able to apprehend these terrorists before the event with no loss of life and that’s a great thing, and the way it’s supposed to work,” Trump said, offering the prospect of better ties.

His conciliatory tone toward Putin came in sharp contrast to the 68-page strategy that was put together by key aides and which was designed to serve as a framework for the Trump administration’s approach to the world.

The text uses remarkably biting language to frame Beijing and Moscow as global competitors.

“China and Russia challenge American power, influence, and interests, attempting to erode American security and prosperity,” the document says.

It warns that “Russia aims to weaken US influence in the world and divide us from our allies and partners,” while Russian nuclear weapons are deemed “the most significant existential threat to the United States.”

Trump’s presidential campaign is being investigated for possible collusion with Russia in the runup to his shock 2016 election win — allegations the 45th president has dubbed “fake news.”

The strategy accuses China of seeking “to displace the United States” in Asia, listing a litany of US grievances, from deficits, to data theft to spreading “features of its authoritarian system.”

“Contrary to our hopes, China expanded its power at the expense of the sovereignty of others,” it says.

A Chinese Embassy spokesperson responded sharply, saying “it is completely selfish for a country to claim that its own interests are superior to the interests of other countries and to the shared interests of the international community.”

“This mentality will only lead to isolation,” the spokesperson added.

– Signal or noise? –

The document — which has been 11 months in the making — is required by law and is designed to form a framework for how America approaches the world.

Previous national security strategies have been released without much fanfare and served as guideposts, rather than doctrinal commandments.

But in this unorthodox administration, the document had taken on extra significance.

Foreign officials in Washington often complain that there are effectively “two administrations” — one that they hear from day-to-day in contacts with the State Department and Pentagon and another coming from Trump, often via Twitter in 280 characters or fewer.

Trump and his advisors often publicly differ starkly on fundamental security issues from the Middle East to talks with North Korea.

But allies looking for clarity about the intentions of the world’s pre-eminent economic and military power are likely to be confused by Trump’s mixed messages.

Where the strategy warns Russia is using “subversive measures” to undermine “transatlantic unity,” Trump again claimed that European allies were “delinquent” in paying for security “while we guarantee their safety and are willing to fight wars for them.”

Where the strategy warned of Moscow’s “destabilizing cyber capabilities” and interference in domestic political affairs, Trump made no such reference.

– Legacy of ashes –

Since coming to office, Trump has worked to dismantle the legacy of his predecessor Barack Obama on issues ranging from climate change to free trade, sometimes leaving Washington isolated on the world stage.

On Monday, the United Nations Security Council overwhelmingly voted to approve a resolution to reject Trump’s controversial recent decision to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel — a move Washington blocked with its veto.

Trump’s National Security Strategy also breaks with allies on the threat of climate change, avoiding the term outright and instead calling for “energy dominance.”

“America’s central position in the global energy system as a leading producer, consumer, and innovator — ensures that markets are free and US infrastructure is resilient and secure,” it says.

Ascending to power on a message resolutely skeptical of climate change, Trump said in June that he would pull the US out of the Paris agreement on climate change signed by almost 200 countries.

A year before he left office, Obama said climate change would affect the way America’s military must defend the country, through profound adjustments in organization, training and protection of infrastructure.

AFP

Climate Talks: It’s America Alone More Than America First

US President Donald Trump. SAUL LOEB / AFP

Facing 195 other countries who have chosen a different path, the task of US negotiators at upcoming climate talks in Bonn is unenviable.

Donald Trump has vowed to exit the Paris Climate accord, just not yet, leaving US policy in limbo for the next three years until Washington can officially leave.

So, it falls to Thomas Shannon – a respected career diplomat – to this week lead a delegation into talks aimed at implementing an agreement the US is set to abandon.

“It is a strange situation, I don’t think I have seen anything like it in my almost 30 years of following this process,” said Alden Meyer of the Union of Concerned Scientists, a Washington-based non-profit working on environmental issues.

The Trump administration says it will still turn up, hoping to protect America’s interests and put “America first.”

Rather ambitiously, Washington wants to handcuff its biggest geopolitical rivals to their commitments.

A White House official told AFP it wants “to ensure the rules are transparent and fair, and apply to countries like China and other economic competitors to the United States.”

But Shannon and his team might find themselves on shaky ground.

Ben Rhodes, a former aide to president Barack Obama, believes Washington has abandoned any leverage it once had.

“The rest of the world has no incentive to make concessions to the US since we are now entirely isolated,” he told AFP.

“My expectation is that the rest of the world will simply continue within the Paris framework and wait and see what happens in the US in 2020.

“The danger is that other countries are less ambitious in their own commitments and implementation plans because they have the excuse of the US leaving,” he added.

Next Election

Many delegates will be hoping that by a November 4, 2020 deadline — one day after the next presidential election — Trump either backs down or a new president has embraced the agreement.

AFP

Assailing Trump, Snoop Dogg Makes ‘America Crip Again’

This file photo taken on May 2, 2016 shows Snoop Dog performing onstage at the AOL NewFront 2016 at Seaport District NYC on May 3, 2016. Jamie McCarthy / GETTY IMAGES NORTH AMERICA / AFP

Snoop Dogg took fresh aim at President Donald Trump and returned to his gangsta rap roots on a new single with a pointed title: “Make America Crip Again.”

The West Coast hip-hop legend put out the song Thursday and said it would be part of an eight-track EP out next week, his second major release this year.

The title mocks Trump’s campaign slogan of “Make America Great Again” and refers to the Crips, a pre-eminent Los Angeles street gang since the 1970s.

Over keyboards and a mid-tempo beat reminiscent of 1990s gangsta rap, Snoop Dogg calls out Trump over his prolific use of Twitter, denounces income inequality and hails Colin Kaepernick, the football quarterback whose anti-racism protests during the US national anthem have triggered a backlash championed by Trump.

“This is still Amerikkka with the k’s, believe that,” raps Snoop Dogg, referring to the white supremacist Ku Klux Klan, before saying: “We’re gonna make America crip again.”

Snoop Dogg in a statement acknowledged that, for many, the Crips have been best known for violence and their bloody turf war with the rival Bloods.

But Snoop Dogg said the Crips had initially modeled themselves on the Black Panther nationalist movement and “looked after kids, provided after-school activities, fed them and stepped in as role models and father figures.”

“In my lifetime, that’s when young black men in impoverished areas organized to help their communities and to take care of their own because society basically left them for dead,” said the 45-year-old.

The track marks a return to the harder-edged gangsta rap on which Snoop Dogg made his name after in recent years he branched out into reggae and wrote more carefree songs, often extolling the pleasures of marijuana.

Snoop Dogg also denounced Trump in March in a video for the song “Lavender,” in which the rapper approaches a clown who resembles the president, firing a pistol from which a flag saying “Bang” shoots out cartoon-style.

The video led to a Twitter rebuke by Trump, who charged that Snoop Dogg’s career was “failing” and asked the reaction if an artist had attacked the likeness of his predecessor Barack Obama.

sct/wat

Politics Take Centre Stage As ‘Handmaid’s Tale’ Sweeps Emmys

L-R): Ann Dowd, Elisabeth Moss and Alexis Bledel pose with the award for Outstanding Drama Series for “The Handmaid’s Tale” during the 69th Emmy Awards at the Microsoft Theatre on September 17, 2017 in Los Angeles, California.Mark RALSTON / AFP

 

Television’s glittering Emmys placed politics front and center on Sunday, lavishing “The Handmaid’s Tale” with awards for its bleak portrait of an authoritarian America.

The glitzy ceremony in downtown Los Angeles — the first under the administration of President Donald Trump was widely expected to have a strongly political flavor, and host Stephen Colbert set the tone in his opening monologue.

“However, you feel about the president, and you do feel about the president, you can’t deny that every show was influenced by Donald Trump in some way,” he said.

“All the late-night shows, obviously, ‘House of Cards,’ the new season of ‘American Horror Story.'”

Hulu’s “The Handmaid’s Tale” and HBO miniseries “Big Little Lies” were the big winners, with five statuettes each.

“Big Little Lies” cast members Nicole Kidman, Laura Dern and Alexander Skarsgard all took home Emmys, along with director Jean-Marc Vallee. It also won outstanding limited series.

“The Handmaid’s Tale,” Hulu’s acclaimed series based on the 1985 novel by Canadian author Margaret Atwood, won awards for writing and directing as well as the biggest prize of the night — outstanding drama series.

Ann Dowd, picking up her first Emmy at age 61 for her portrayal of brutal instructor Aunt Lydia, spoke of how her award was “a dream” while outstanding lead actress Elisabeth Moss turned the air blue with an expletive-strewn acceptance speech.

“That was the clean version,” Moss joked backstage after the show, describing the opportunity
“I was just trying to remember everybody, and you do have a weird out of body experience.”

Atwood, 77, said “One takeaway would be ‘never believe it can never happen here’ which was one of the premises that I used for the book. And, as I’ve often said, nothing went into the book that people hadn’t done.”

Hulu will have the most to celebrate as the post-show parties get started, stealing a march on rival streaming platform Netflix, which won just four statuettes all evening.

On a night that rewarded ethnic diversity, Sterling K. Brown picked up lead actor in a drama for “This is Us” while Aziz Ansari and Lena Waithe, Riz Ahmed and Donald Glover also made it to the podium.

But politics was always going to be the story of the awards from the moment John Lithgow picked up the first one: best supporting actor in a drama for his acclaimed turn as Winston Churchill in Netflix’s British royal drama “The Crown.”

“In these crazy times, his life even as an old man reminds us what leadership and courage in government really looks like,” the US actor said.

NBC’s long-running comedy sketch show “Saturday Night Live” went into Emmys week with 22 nominations the joint-highest total alongside “Westworld” — after a year of mercilessly spoofing the new commander-in-chief.

Its haul of five Creative Arts statuettes included outstanding guest actress in a comedy series for Melissa McCarthy, whose “Unhinged Spicey” take on Sean Spicer came to embody early criticism of the administration.

The former White House press secretary, whose full-throated defense of Trump earned him derision on television, delighted his former tormentors in a surprise appearance at the opening of the show.

‘Greatest honor’
SNL took four statuettes, with Kate McKinnon tearfully accepting the award for best supporting actress in a comedy series for her portrayal of Hillary Clinton.

She told reporters backstage that the role had been “the greatest honor of my life” and talked of the “special kind of electricity” on set every week.

Alec Baldwin took home best supporting actor in a comedy for his Trump impersonation.

“I suppose I should say at long last, Mr President, here is your Emmy,” he joked, in a dig at Trump’s oft-stated annoyance at never having won a statuette for NBC reality show “The Apprentice” or its celebrity spin-off.

The show also picked up the award for best variety sketch show and outstanding directing.

Elsewhere in the comedy stakes, the 33-year-old Glover took home a brace of statuettes for directing and starring in the FX comedy series “Atlanta.”

The award caps a huge year for Glover, who already has two Golden Globes for the show, focused on the Georgia capital’s rap scene.

Glover got a loud cheer when he took to the stage and thanked Trump for “making black people number one on the most oppressed list.”

British funnyman Charlie Brooker also picked up two Emmys for writing and producing “San Junipero,” a feature-length episode of the dark comedy series “Black Mirror.”

Julia Louis-Dreyfus, in one of the least surprising announcements of the night, won her sixth consecutive Emmy for playing hapless ex-president Selena Meyer in HBO’s “Veep,” which also won best comedy series.

Wide open field
The network’s fantasy epic “Game of Thrones” has a record 38 awards, but was ineligible for the 69th Primetime Emmys, having started its seventh season too late.

That left the field open for several much talked-about first-timers, including HBO sci-fi Western show “Westworld,” and Netflix’s 1980s-set horror series “Stranger Things.”

Neither was able to add to their five Creative Arts Emmys, however.

Perennial favorite HBO led the networks with 10 Emmys. Next were NBC (six), Hulu (five), Netflix (four) and FX (two).

AFP

U.S. Reporter Killed Covering South Sudan Clashes

U.S. flag

An American journalist has been killed while covering clashes between government and rebel forces in restive South Sudan, local officials and the US mission in Juba said on Sunday.

Christopher Allen, a freelance reporter and photographer, was embedded with insurgent troops when fighting broke out in Kaya, near South Sudan’s southern border with Uganda.

A spokesman for the U.S. embassy told AFP that “an American citizen” had died in the clashes, which also killed 18 others.

“Yesterday we confirmed the name and we confirmed the fact that the person was killed. We are not providing any additional information about the situation,” the spokesman added.

Read Also: South Sudan Aid Plane Kills Child In Crash

A spokesman for South Sudan’s armed forces said Allen had not been accredited to cover the conflict by authorities in Juba and it was likely he entered the country through Uganda.

A statement from the rebel SPLA-IO forces condemned the fighting that killed Allen as a “monstrous and unnatural act (that) violates international humanitarian law which entitles journalists to all rights and protection during armed conflicts.”

Allen had worked for several outlets including Al Jazeera and Vice News and previously covered the conflict in eastern Ukraine.

South Sudan’s civil war erupted in December 2013 just two years after it obtained independence from Sudan, when President Salva Kiir accused his former deputy Riek Machar of plotting a coup.

Thousands of people have been killed by the violence, which plunged part of the country into famine earlier this year. Some four million have been displaced, according to UN figures.

AFP

Trump Vows To Protect ‘Made In America’ Products

Trump Appoints Ty Cobb As White House Special Counsel

President Donald Trump promised on Monday he would take more legal and regulatory steps during the next six months to protect United States manufacturers, lashing out against trade deals and trade practices he said have hurt U.S. companies.

Trump climbed into an American-made fire truck parked behind the White House, took a swing with a baseball bat in the Blue Room, and briefly donned a customised Stetson cowboy hat in front of cheering manufacturing company executives from all 50 states gathered to hear him praise their products.

“American workers, farmers and innovators are really the best in the world, we know that and what we’re doing is we’re displaying those talents. You construct and harvest the products that fill our homes, feed our families and defend our nation and enrich our lives,” Trump said.

“I want to make a pledge to each and every one of you: no longer are we going to allow other countries to break the rules, steal our jobs and drain our wealth, and it has been drained, it has been drained.”

He was speaking to a trade show – albeit one with a protectionist bent – organised by the White House to spotlight his efforts to revive the flagging manufacturing sector.

Trump did not give details about what his administration would do to protect manufacturers, other than lower corporate taxes and repeal Obamacare, but he railed against tariffs charged by other countries and unfair trade practices. He told the manufacturers that he was working for a “level playing field” for their wares.

He said, “For our nation to really prosper, we must lower the tax on business– one of the highest in the world– and we must repeal job-killing Obamacare, we have to do that. And I can tell you, we hope John McCain gets better very soon because we miss him.

“He’s a crusty voice in Washington; plus, we need his vote. And he’ll be back. And he will be back sooner than somebody else would be back. He’ll be back soon. But we need that vote and we need a number of votes because we do have to repeal Obamacare and we will end up replacing it with something that is going to be outstanding. Far, far better.”

Trump touts his first proposed budget

Donald Trump, Hillary Clinton, US ElectionU.S. President Donald Trump touted his budget during his weekly address to the American public released on Saturday.

“The budget we are proposing will reverse economic stagnation and open the path to millions of new jobs for American workers,” Trump said in his video address.

“We will achieve our goals by doing exactly what you do in your home: setting priorities, cutting the fat, and growing new opportunities,” he said.

He pledged to give Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) officers and border patrol agents “everything they need” to operate, adding thousands of people belonging to the street gang Mara Salvatrucha, or MS-13, were being expelled.

White House officials have described the proposed budget as providing tax cuts that they say would stimulate economic growth and create more private-sector jobs.

As with all presidential budget proposals, the proposal was more of a wish list that is unlikely to be approved in its current form by Congress.

U.S Federal Agencies Launches Criminal Investigation

Picture courtesy BBC
Picture courtesy BBC

The United States Federal Agencies, have launched an investigation into the public release of documents said to detail the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) hacking tools.

Officials said that the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) and Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) are coordinating an inquiry after Wikileaks published thousands of files that claims the CIA had developed ways to listen on smartphones and smart TV microphones.

The inquiry would also try to establish whether the disclosure was a breach from inside or outside the CIA.

However, both intelligence agencies said that, WikiLeaks revelation wants to damage the ability to protect America, against terrorists and other adversaries.

President Trump Signs Executive Order Targeting Obamacare

Donald TrumpPresident Donald Trump has signed an executive order which targets the signature health care reforms of his predecessor.

As part of first steps as president, the order directs agencies to ease the economic burden of the laws known as Obamacare.

The proclamation followed Mr Trump’s inauguration as the 45th President of the United States of America.

In Friday’s inaugural speech, the US President promised a new approach to governance, acknowledging that his oath mandates him to put Americans first.

He added that every decision during his administration would favour American workers and the masses.

President Trump also upheld his pre-election stance on terrorism and stressed the need to protect Americans from danger.

He stated that “America will start winning again like never before”, and promised to fight for the citizens with every strength in his body.

Donald Trump Attacks US Intelligence Over Russia Hacking

Donald Trump Attacks US Intelligence Over Russia HackingUS President-elect, Donald Trump has made a fresh assault on America’s intelligence community.

He said on Twitter that an intelligence briefing he was due to receive on alleged Russian interference in the 2016 election – which is said to have benefited Mr Trump – had been delayed.

It said: “The ‘Intelligence’ briefing on so-called ‘Russian hacking’ was delayed until Friday, perhaps more time needed to build a case. Very strange!”

But US intelligence officials insisted there had been no delay in the briefing schedule.

Several US agencies including the FBI and the CIA believe Russia directed hacks against the Democratic Party and the campaign of its presidential candidate, Hillary Clinton, releasing embarrassing information through WikiLeaks and other outlets to help Mr Trump win the election.

The hacking resulted in Barack Obama expelling 35 Russian diplomats as part of a raft of new sanctions.

“All Americans should be alarmed by Russia’s actions,” Mr Obama said, claiming the extent of data theft and cyber-attacks uncovered “could only have been directed by the highest levels of the Russian government”.