Showing posts with label Politics. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Politics. Show all posts

Thursday, August 29, 2019

Breaking News :I Won't Remain Silent on the Many Ills in Ghana – Rawlings

I Won't Remain Silent on the Many Ills in Ghana – Rawlings

Former President Jerry John Rawlings denied reports that he has gone silent on the many ills in the Ghana because of the support the government donates to his charity works.
Former President Jerry John Rawlings
Former President Jerry John Rawlings
A statement issued by the office of Rawlings and signed by his Secretary, Kobina Andoh Amoakwa said it is "unfortunate and distasteful, the inference that owing to the support of the Chief of Staff’s office, the former President has remained silent on the many ills in the Ghanaian society."
It said Rawlings' charitable gestures have received the support of past government with the exception of President Kufuor's.
The statement also described Rawlings as someone who "speaks his mind and it is inappropriate, incorrect and inaccurate to make such unfounded conclusions."
Jerry John Rawlings
Jerry John Rawlings
Here's the full statement:
Dear Sir,
The attention of the Office of former President Jerry John Rawlings has been drawn to a publication in the Friday, August 23, 2019 edition of your newspaper headlined, "Rawlings Confirms Receiving Goodies From Presidency".
While acknowledging your attempt to inform the public about the former President’s charitable endeavours, we find it unfortunate and distasteful, the inference that owing to the support of the Chief of Staff’s office, the former President has remained silent on the many ills in the Ghanaian society.
It will interest you to know that the former President’s charitable gestures which are well documented, have received the support of past government Chiefs of Staff with the exception of President Kufuor’s. By virtue of his political nature and what he stands for as well as being the most accessible former President, he is literally inundated with requests for help. It will be blind of most governments to be unaware of the burden of these requests.
To conjecture that any form of support has the potential to influence the former President’s thought process is absurd. Former President Rawlings often speaks his mind and it is inappropriate, incorrect and inaccurate to make such unfounded conclusions from a statement released from our office on a presentation made to a former National Democratic Congress Member of Parliament who has dedicated most of her life to the good of her society.
Yours Sincerely,
Kobina Andoh Amoakwa (Executive Secretary)

Tuesday, August 27, 2019


Embittered Member of Parliament (MP) for Kumbungu
Constituency in the Northern Region, Ras Mubarak has
finally named the rich sponsor of his opponent who
orchestrated his defeat at last Saturday parliamentary
He revealed that a businessman identified as Hamza
Abdulaziz a.k.a Hamza Tanko was the moneybag man
who paid the way through for his opponent to ensure that
he [Ras Mubarak] was humiliated in that manner.
According to the lawmaker, an estimated GH¢500,000
was doled out to National Democratic Congress (NDC)
delegates in the area which smacks of vote buying
insisting he has incontrovertible evidence to back his
“If we do not pay urgent attention to the issues of vote
buying that is creeping into our politics, soon we will have
drug dealers and terrorists choosing our MPs and even
the president with their money”, a situation he said ‘would
undermine the integrity of our democracy”. He warned.
Ras Mubarak also revealed that the matter has been
reported to the Bureau of National Investigations (BNI)
with suspicion money laundering is involved in all this.
“As a country, we have to rethink the way we want our
politics to go forward. We have seen levels of vote-buying
and particularly in the Kumbungu election.”
“Interestingly I have even reported and complained to the
BNI to look into the possibility of money laundering.
Officially, I have reported to the BNI to look at how
people could just share money like crazy so to speak just
three days ago.”
The MP lost to a Lecturer with the University for
Development Studies (UDS), Dr Hamza Adam who polled
401 as against the incumbent’s 273 and 81 votes for the
third candidate Baba Abdulai.
Ras Mubarak who was optimistic of carrying the day has
been left disappointed together with his supporters after
results declared signaled his obituary.

Saturday, August 24, 2019

Bernie Sanders meets California fire victims, lays out Green New Deal

By Valerie Volcovici and Sharon Bernstein

WASHINGTON/SACRAMENTO (Reuters) - Democratic presidential hopeful Bernie Sanders on Thursday unveiled a $16.3 trillion climate change strategy on a tour of northern California that included meeting families displaced by deadly wildfires and a rally in the state capital Sacramento.

The plan would "launch a decade of the Green New Deal", a 10-year federal "mobilization" that would factor climate change into every policy action from immigration to foreign policy while promising to create 20 million jobs in the process.

The U.S. would generate 100% of its electricity from renewable energy by 2030 and achieve "full decarbonization" by 2050, according to the plan.

"We are going to invest massively in wind, solar and other sustainable energies," Sanders told a cheering crowd that had braved near triple digit temperatures to see him in a downtown Sacramento park.

Addressing about 5,000 people inside and outside the park, Sanders accused fossil fuel companies of being willing to destroy the planet for short-term profits.

"We cannot turn our backs on this crisis," Sanders said. "We have got to lead the entire world in a new energy direction."

His plan outlines dozens of policies to aggressively move the United States off fossil fuels in the electricity, transportation and building sectors.

It aims to restore U.S. leadership and financial aid under the Paris Climate Agreement and spend trillions of dollars to assist fossil fuel workers and vulnerable minority communities in the transition to a green economy.

It bans the practice of fracking to extract natural gas and oil, the import and export of fossil fuels and sets a moratorium on nuclear power plant license renewals.

Sanders' plan comes a day after Washington state Governor Jay Inslee, who made climate change the centerpiece of his campaign, dropped out of the race for the Democratic party's nomination to try to unseat Republican Donald Trump as president in 2020.

Several of Sanders' nearly two dozen Democratic rivals - including Joe Biden, Elizabeth Warren, Beto O' Rourke and Cory Booker, have also unveiled detailed climate change strategies, responding to the growing importance of the issue to Democratic and younger voters.

Sanders and some of his rivals were set to address a meeting of the Democratic National Committee in San Francisco on Friday.


More than half of the two dozen Democratic presidential hopefuls have endorsed or embraced the concept of a Green New Deal, a reference to the job creation and economic stimulus programs introduced by Democratic former President Franklin Delano Roosevelt during the Great Depression of the 1930s.

A Congressional resolution by that name was introduced by rising star Democratic Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Senator Ed Markey, and calls for a 10-year, government-driven effort to decarbonize the economy through investments in clean energy, as well as social and economic justice programs.

The Green New Deal has become a political target of Trump - who denies human-caused climate change - and Republicans in Congress who call the plan socialist, radical and too expensive.

Sanders said his Green New Deal plan will "pay for itself over 15 years" by raising taxes and fees on fossil fuel companies, through revenue generated by renewable energy produced by federal power authorities, over $1 trillion in reduced military spending, and from income tax collected from the 20 million new jobs it says the plan will create.

Sanders' plan would direct the Environmental Protection Agency to ensure the United States cuts its greenhouse gas emissions by 71% from 2017 levels by 2030.

It would help developing countries, except China, with financial aid to cut their emissions by 36% during that same period.

It would restore U.S. leadership to carry out the goals of the Paris climate agreement, which Trump said the U.S. would formally leave in 2020. It commits $200 billion to the U.N. Green Climate Fund to help poorer nations develop cleanly and cope with wilder weather and rising seas.

In Sacramento, activist Michael Monasky welcomed Sanders' plan, saying he believed the Vermont senator, an independent who caucuses with Democrats, was a "street fighter" who could take on Trump.

Although he is pleased Sanders is tackling climate change and voted for Green Party candidate Jill Stein in 2016, Monasky said other issues were also important to him, including economic justice and Sanders' promise of a single-payer healthcare system.

Pastor Doug Smith, who drove to Sacramento from Yuba City with his 18-year-old daughter to see Sanders, said the plain-spoken senator would "make Trump look like a fool."

"He's everything Trump's not," Smith said.

Original Article ©Copyrights Reuters

Friday, August 23, 2019

Moulton ends bid for U.S. Democratic presidential nomination

© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: U.S. Democratic presidential candidate Seth Moulton poses for a photo in Burbank© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: U.S. Democratic presidential candidate Seth Moulton poses for a photo in Burbank

By Ginger Gibson and Elizabeth Culliford

WASHINGTON/SAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) - U.S. Representative Seth Moulton, who mounted a long-shot bid for the 2020 Democratic presidential nomination, ended his campaign on Friday, warning that the party must now decide how far left it wants to move.

"Today, I want to use this opportunity ... to announce that I am ending my campaign for president," Moulton said in a speech before a Democratic National Committee meeting in San Francisco, drawing polite applause.

"Though this campaign is not ending the way we hoped, I am leaving this race knowing that we raised issues that are vitally important to the American people and our future."

Moulton, a 40-year-old Iraq War veteran who plans to seek re-election to the Massachusetts district he represents, failed to garner the support he needed to qualify for any of debates. Without appearing in those nationally televised events, he had little hope of gaining traction.

He is the third Democrat to end a presidential campaign this month. Washington Governor Jay Inslee dropped out of the race earlier this week, and former Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper did so the week before.

In an odd twist, Moulton's announcement appeared to attract the attention of President Donald Trump, who was under intense criticism on Friday after his latest salvo in the U.S.-China trade war helped send global markets plummeting.

Trump, appearing to joke, wrote on Twitter, "The Dow is down 573 points perhaps on the news that Representative Seth Moulton, whoever that may be, has dropped out of the 2020 Presidential Race!"

Moulton stopped short of endorsing one of his rivals for the nomination but said the crowded race with more than 20 Democrats appeared to have narrowed. The nominee will take on Trump, the likely Republican nominee, in November 2020.

"I think it’s evident that this is now a three-way race between (former Vice President Joe) Biden, (U.S. Senator Elizabeth) Warren and (U.S. Senator Bernie) Sanders, and really it’s a debate about how far left the party should go,” Moulton told the New York Times in an interview ahead of his announcement.

Biden represents the more centrist faction of the Democratic Party, while Warren, of Massachusetts, and Sanders, of Vermont, back more liberal policies.

Other Democrats who fail to qualify for the third debate, which will be held on Sept. 12-13 in Houston, may also feel pressure to exit the race. Candidates must have at least 130,000 unique donors and reach 2% in four opinion polls by Aug. 28 to qualify.

Those who have yet to qualify include U.S. Senators Kirsten Gillibrand of New York and Michael Bennet of Colorado and Montana Governor Steve Bullock.

Moulton built his political career by challenging the party's establishment. After the Democrats regained control of the U.S. House of Representatives in 2018, Moulton helped organize opposition to Representative Nancy Pelosi's bid to again become House speaker. He failed at that effort.

He used his presidential campaign to draw attention to veterans issues, including post-traumatic stress disorder, or PTSD, and access to healthcare.

Original Article ©Copyrights Reuters

Trump still looking at gun background checks: Senator Murphy

(Reuters) - President Donald Trump wants to keep discussing tougher background checks for gun purchases, a leading Democratic senator on gun control said on Friday, adding that Trump's support is crucial for the U.S. Congress to pass reform legislation when it returns to work next month.

Connecticut Senator Chris Murphy, who sponsored a background-checks bill intended to prevent mass shootings like those that recently killed 31 people in Texas and Ohio, said the White House reassured him the Republican president wants to move forward. Murphy said the White House also confirmed its interest in "red flag laws" that temporarily keep guns away from potentially violent people.

"Several days ago some of the president's comments seemed to suggest that he was once again backing away from his commitment to work on background checks legislation," Murphy said at a briefing in Connecticut. "I have been in contact with the White House this week since the president's comments - as late as last night - and I believe that the White House is still committed to trying to work on a comprehensive anti-gun violence proposal that would include strengthening background checks."

But Murphy sounded a downbeat note. The White House is difficult to negotiate with and Trump has buckled in the past on pledges to tighten gun controls under pressure from lobby groups such as the National Rife Association, Murphy said.

Without Trump's support any measures would die in the Republican-dominated Senate, Murphy said.

"The president's language is always vague and hard to follow on almost every issue he talks about and it has been especially difficult to parse when he's talking about the issue of changing America's gun laws," Murphy said. "He's talking to the gun lobby much more frequently than he's talking to me."

Trump has rejected accusations from Democrats, who control the House of Representatives, that he is backing down on background checks. On Wednesday, he said he spoke with the NRA about closing loopholes in background checks but he did not want to take away the constitutional right to own guns.

Original Article ©Copyrights Reuters

Trump to square off in court with House Democrats over financial records

By Brendan Pierson

NEW YORK (Reuters) - U.S. President Donald Trump is expected to ask a federal judge on Friday to block Deutsche Bank AG (DE:DBKGn) and Capital One Financial Corp (N:COF) from handing the financial records of the Trump family and Trump Organization to Democratic lawmakers.

The case, before the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, is one of several legal battles between the Democrats, who took control of the U.S. House of Representatives in January, and the Republican president, who is seeking re-election next year.

Deutsche Bank has long been a principal lender for Trump's real estate business, and a 2017 disclosure form showed that Trump had at least $130 million of liabilities to the bank.

In subpoenas issued in April, Democratic lawmakers asked the banks for records related to Trump, three of his children and the Trump Organization.

The subpoena on Deutsche Bank, issued by the House Financial Services Committee and the Intelligence Committee, seeks extensive records of accounts, transactions and investments linked to Trump, his three oldest children, their immediate family members and several Trump Organization entities, as well as records of ties they might have to foreign entities.

The subpoena on Capital One, issued by the Financial Services Committee, seeks records related to the Trump Organization's hotel business. It followed an informal request to the bank by Democratic lawmakers in March seeking records related to potential conflicts of interest tied to Trump's Washington hotel and other businesses.

Lawyers for the Trumps have argued that Congress does not have authority to demand the records.

U.S. District Judge Edgardo Ramos rejected that argument in May, clearing the way for the banks to hand over the documents. The subpoenas have been on hold while Trump appeals.

The subpoenas are only part of Democrats' efforts to gather information about the president's finances. In June, a group of Democrats in the Senate urged the Federal Reserve to investigate Deutsche Bank's relationship with Trump and his son-in-law and adviser Jared Kushner.

Last month, an appellate court in Washington appeared likely to allow Trump's accounting firm, Mazars LLP, to comply with a House Oversight Committee subpoena seeking records related to Trump's businesses.

Original Article ©Copyrights Reuters

Should I stay or should I run? Pompeo under pressure over U.S. Senate seat

© Reuters. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo meets with with Lebanon's Prime Minister Saad al-Hariri in Washington© Reuters. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo meets with with Lebanon's Prime Minister Saad al-Hariri in Washington

By Steve Holland and Lesley Wroughton

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Republican pressure on Secretary of State Mike Pompeo to run for the U.S. Senate next year to help keep the party's majority intact is coming up against President Donald Trump's hope of keeping one of his most trusted aides in his administration.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and other Senate Republicans believe the former U.S. congressman from Kansas would be a strong candidate should he decide to run for one of the state's Senate seats in 2020.

"Secretary Pompeo would clear the field and guarantee the Senate stays Republican," said Scott Reed, senior political strategist at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.

But Trump has grown increasingly reliant on Pompeo as he juggles a variety of global challenges and would prefer that he stay, several people familiar with the situation say.

A source close to the White House said Trump and Pompeo have discussed the Senate race.

"The president wants more seats in the Senate but doesn't want to lose Pompeo," the source said. "He's probably one of his most trusted aides."

Pompeo, 55, has aligned himself closely to Trump as he actively pursued his policies on Iran, North Korea, Venezuela and in the Middle East, and Trump has found him to be a strong successor to Rex Tillerson, whom the president derided as "dumb as a rock."

"I think there is some pressure within the White House to try to clear all this up. But the president wants him to stay," said a Republican campaign official.

One Republican official, who asked to remain unidentified, said there was some expectation that Pompeo would decide whether to run over the Labor Day holiday weekend that ends Sept. 2.

But a person familiar with Pompeo's thinking denied that was his plan.

Other officials said Pompeo was under no particular pressure since the deadline to file for the Republican nomination is not until next June.

A spokesperson for Pompeo did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the issue.


McConnell and other Republicans believe Pompeo can keep the U.S. Senate seat in Kansas now held by Pat Roberts, who has decided not to run for a fifth term.

They do not have the same confidence in Kris Kobach, a former Kansas secretary of state who has said he is running. Kobach, a conservative hawk on immigration, lost the governor's race last year.

On the Democratic side, former U.S. Attorney Barry Grissom is running, as well as former U.S. Representative Nancy Boyda. There has been some pressure among Democrats for Kathleen Sebelius, who was Health and Human Services secretary under President Barack Obama, to run, but she has not committed.

Republicans want to ensure a win in Kansas to improve their chances of maintaining control of the U.S. Senate amid concerns that 2020 could be a difficult year, with incumbents Martha McSally of Arizona and Cory Gardner of Colorado showing signs of weakness.

Former Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper has dropped out of the race for the Democratic presidential nomination and is running for Gardner's Senate seat.

Pompeo has offered mixed messages on his plans. As recently as Wednesday he told the Washington Examiner that he would remain at the State Department.

"I am going to stay here," he told the newspaper.

But Pompeo is clearly keeping his options open, either for the Senate or even possibly for the Republican presidential nomination in 2024.

Political experts took note on Tuesday when he attended a luncheon meeting of the Committee to Unleash Prosperity organized by New York billionaire John Catsimatidis and attended by heavyweights Steve Forbes, Art Laffer and Stephen Moore, as well as big Republican donors.

Original Article ©Copyrights Reuters

Trump drops bid to slash foreign aid after Congress objects

© Reuters. A worker is seen as the first consignment of USAID medical equipment towards the fight against Ebola is offloaded at the Roberts International Airport in Monrovia© Reuters. A worker is seen as the first consignment of USAID medical equipment towards the fight against Ebola is offloaded at the Roberts International Airport in Monrovia

By Steve Holland and Patricia Zengerle

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The White House will not move forward with plans to cut billions of dollars in foreign aid, U.S. officials said on Thursday, after an outcry from Congress about what was seen as an attempt to sidestep lawmakers' authority over government spending.

President Donald Trump said he was considering scaling back the effort to cut aid on Tuesday, and would decide on the proposal within days.

Members of Congress, including several of Trump’s fellow Republicans as well as Democrats, had contacted administration officials to object to the latest Trump administration effort to cut foreign assistance and tie it more closely to support for U.S. policies.

"The president has been clear that there is waste and abuse in our foreign assistance and we need to be wise about where U.S money is going, which is why he asked his administration to look into options to doing just that," a senior administration official said. "It's clear that there are many on the Hill who aren't willing to join in curbing wasteful spending," the official added.

Administration officials this month briefly froze State Department and U.S. Agency for International Development spending with an eye to using a budget process known as "rescission" to slash up to $4.3 billion in spending already been approved by the Senate and House of Representatives.

The White House tried a similar strategy last year and also dropped that plan amid congressional resistance.

Politico was the first to report on Thursday that the rescission package would not move forward.


Sources familiar with the discussions had said Secretary of State Mike Pompeo argued in favor of the aid money, while Mick Mulvaney, director of the Office of Management and Budget, wanted the cuts.

At a news conference in Ottawa, the Canadian capital, Pompeo did not say there had been a decision, but acknowledged that he had "been engaged in meetings" on the subject.

Total foreign aid accounts for less than 2 percent of the federal budget, and the assistance being considered for cuts accounts for an even smaller percentage.

Opponents of the plan argued that funding programs that fight poverty, support education and promote global health are worthwhile investments that save on security costs in the long run.

Nancy Pelosi, the Democratic House speaker, wrote to Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin on Friday citing the Government Accountability Office's finding that such a use of rescissions was not legal.

Under the U.S. Constitution, Congress, not the White House, controls spending.

Many sources said they expected the issue would end up in court if Trump pressed ahead with it instead of working with Congress.

Lawmakers also said the plan - developed within weeks of Congress' passing, and Trump signing into law, a two-year budget deal - could imperil lawmakers' future willingness to negotiate spending deals with the White House.

Advocacy groups welcomed the news.

"Americans can be pleased that the Administration recognized the importance of these vital foreign assistance programs for keeping America safe and on the global playing field," Liz Schrayer, president of U.S. Global Leadership Coalition, which promotes diplomacy and development, said in a statement.

Original Article ©Copyrights Reuters

Thursday, August 22, 2019

Trump set to discuss biofuels Thursday with USDA, EPA: sources

© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: Corn is loaded into a truck at a farm in Tiskilwa, Illinois© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: Corn is loaded into a truck at a farm in Tiskilwa, Illinois

By Humeyra Pamuk and Stephanie Kelly

WASHINGTON/NEW YORK (Reuters) - President Donald Trump, faced with mounting anger in the farm belt over policies that allow oil refineries to use less corn-based ethanol, summoned cabinet members on Thursday to discuss ways to boost biofuel demand, four sources familiar with the matter said.

Trump was scheduled to meet with Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue and Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Andrew Wheeler at the White House, the sources said. They said the officials will present options to boost ethanol demand, which farmers say has slumped since the EPA exempted dozens of refineries from ethanol requirements.

One proposal to be presented, which is advocated by the USDA, is reversing some waivers the administration has granted to refineries, sources said. "There are a number of potential solutions in the memo. One is to reverse some of the waivers," said one source familiar with the plans.

A second source said another option was to redistribute the waived volumes prospectively beginning in next year's annual biofuel mandate. There were other infrastructure related options to boost the use of E15, a higher ethanol blend of gasoline.

U.S. regulations require refiners to blend biofuels into their gasoline or buy credits to fund those refiners who can. Small refiners can seek exemptions, but Trump's EPA has granted waivers to refineries owned by the likes of Exxon Mobil Corp (N:XOM), Chevron Corp (N:CVX) and billionaire Carl Icahn.

American farmers, a constituency Trump is counting on in his campaign for re-election in 2020, have seen crop prices slump and exports shrink due to his trade war with China. On Wednesday, biofuel industry groups and farm-state lawmakers complained to the White House about refinery waivers.

Trump campaigned in 2016 as a champion for ethanol but also courted the oil industry. Now he faces a backlash from agricultural and biofuel trade groups and in Iowa, the largest producer of corn and ethanol, a swing state won twice by Democrat Barack Obama but which voted for Trump in 2016.

Democratic presidential hopefuls have spent a lot of time in Iowa because it holds an early nominating contest, and they have used the refinery issue as a cudgel. Senator Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota said that if elected, she would block pending refinery waiver applications and look to reverse any ones approved. She said, at a maximum, only a few should be approved.


Farmers and biofuel producers have complained that Trump is favoring the oil industry at their expense. Over the past month, several biofuel plants announced shutdowns or production cutbacks, including the largest U.S. ethanol producer POET.

On Thursday, American GreenFuels, owned by Kolmar Americas, said it was slashing output by 50 percent in fourth quarter, citing pain from waivers and a biodiesel tax credit that expired and has not been renewed. "Enough is enough," said Raf Aviner, President of Kolmar Americas in a statement. "We cannot justify buying more feedstock under these market conditions."

Refiners and some academics dispute the contention that waivers have decimated ethanol demand, and the industry and its allies have fought to keep the waivers intact. On Thursday, North America's Building Trades Unions (NABTU) sent a letter to Trump supporting waivers, saying they significantly reduced costs for refineries and alleviated a threat to thousands of jobs.

Renewable fuel credits for 2019 rose on Thursday morning, trading at 16.5 cents each, up from 14.75 cents each the previous session, traders said. The credits have steadily climbed from trading at 11 cents apiece two weeks ago as refiners sought to actively buy in the market.

Original Article ©Copyrights Reuters

Former Republican lawmaker leaning toward Trump challenge

Former Republican lawmaker leaning toward Trump challengeFormer Republican lawmaker leaning toward Trump challenge

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Joe Walsh, a former conservative congressman turned talk show host, said on Thursday he was leaning toward a Republican primary challenge to President Donald Trump, calling him a liar and a bully who is unfit for office.

Walsh, who served one term in the House of Representatives from Illinois after running as a candidate of the party's fiscally conservative Tea Party movement in 2010, is unlikely to make a dent against Trump's formidable re-election effort. The president remains popular with Republicans.

Walsh said in an interview with CNN on Thursday he was leaning toward challenging Trump and indicated he would make a decision within a week or so.

"Trump's a bully. And he's a coward. And the only way you beat a bully and you beat a coward is to expose them, is to punch them," he said in the interview.

"I think a good challenger can win. Only if they make the moral case. This guy's unfit, he lies every time he opens his mouth."

The White House did not comment on Walsh's remarks and the Trump campaign did not immediately reply to a request for comment.

Walsh said he had supported Trump during the 2016 election but became disillusioned, then disgusted, by the president.

The tipping point, he told CNN, was when Trump sided with Russian President Vladimir Putin on the topic of Russian election meddling after their meeting in Helsinki, Finland, last summer.

"That was it. That was ugly. That was disloyal," he said.

Walsh called for a primary challenge to Trump in a New York Times opinion piece last week in which he criticized the president as an inveterate liar, citing Trump's assertion that tariffs were being paid for mostly by China, not Americans. He also criticized Trump as reckless on fiscal issues, ineffective on border concerns and "clueless" on trade.

On Thursday, he admonished his fellow Republicans for inaction.

"This is a scary time. And if Republicans stay silent in the face of this guy, I don't think the country will ever forgive the Republican Party," he said.

"But forget about the Republican Party, if this guy gets four more years, we're in real trouble. It's worth doing anything you can do to try to stop that."

Original Article ©Copyrights Reuters

As economic warning signs flash, Trump, Democratic rivals recalibrate messages

By Ginger Gibson and Joseph Ax

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - After two years touting a booming economy as his own doing, U.S. President Donald Trump is test driving a new message on the economy: Any chance of a recession is not his fault. But Democrats, who are shifting their message too, seem to be saying "not so fast."

Trump has moved from touting positive economic indicators since his 2016 election to now trying to blame someone else for a possible economic slowdown, while his advisers and officials are scrambling to insist there is nothing to worry about.

From the moment he was elected, Trump took credit for the strong economy. Until early 2019, advisers saw it as the biggest selling point for his campaign to be reelected president in November 2020. But softening economic data of late is raising concern his economic message could lose its punch.

Some of his Democratic rivals for the White House were quick to smell blood, although other candidates and party strategists warned they should be careful so as not appear to be rooting for economic disaster.

Most of the nearly two dozen Democrats running for the White House have been largely reluctant to talk about the broader economy this election cycle, viewing it as a losing battle given strong economic data.

Instead, they spent the past six months arguing that Trump's economy left behind the working class.

But in recent days, several Democrats, including front-runner Joe Biden, have changed tack.

"Donald Trump inherited a growing economy from the Obama-Biden administration, just like he inherited everything in his life," Biden, a former vice president, said on Tuesday while campaigning in Iowa, adding that he is not hoping for a recession. "And now he's squandering it, just like he squandered everything he inherited in his life."

Beto O'Rourke said Trump "has made a complete mess of the American economy," by entering a trade war with China.

"It is devastating farmers and ranchers and producers around this country," O'Rourke, a former U.S. congressman, told reporters on Tuesday. "Do not allow him to escape the accountability that he deserves for what he is doing to this economy - to working Americans - the peril in which he has placed us. He’ll try to blame every other person. The blame rests with Donald Trump."

Others have been more circumspect, suggesting talking down Trump's economy is a political tightrope for his rivals given still largely strong fundamentals such as low unemployment.

Asked by reporters after his speech in Iowa on Wednesday whether the country was headed for a recession, U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont pivoted to a discussion of workers who lived paycheck to paycheck even in a strong economy.

Senator Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota, who did not address recession fears like most other candidates at the same Iowa forum, said: “You beat this president by having an optimistic economic agenda."

Former U.S. Representative John Delaney, another Democratic candidate, was more blunt about it. "It feels like some Democrats are cheering on a recession because they want to stick it to Trump," he told reporters on Wednesday.


Much of the political debate on both sides seems to be centered less on whether there will actually be a recession, but rather on whom voters should blame.

Trump has been castigating Federal Reserve Chairman Jay Powell for not cutting interest rates, while blaming the media for trying to "'create' a U.S. recession, even though the numbers & facts are working totally in the opposite direction."

"This is the best economy that most Americans alive have ever experienced, and no desperate spinning from Democrats or the media can change that," said Tim Murtaugh, communications director for Trump's campaign.

For Trump, it is largely about convincing voters he, not Democrats, is telling the truth about the economy, said a source familiar with discussions inside the White House, who asked to speak anonymously.

Regardless of the actual conditions, voters act on how they "feel," the source said. Trump believes that if Democrats are able to convince voters of a recession, it could be just as harmful as an actual downturn, the source said.

As Trump and his aides publicly maintain the economy remains strong, discussions about whether to stimulate the economy with various tax cuts reflect growing concern internally.

On Wednesday, Trump flipped his positions on whether to cut the payroll tax, saying he is no longer looking at that option, a sharp reversal from just a day earlier.

"The challenge is that inconsistent messaging on the economy projects weakness, and if we know one thing about Donald Trump, it is his aversion to any perceived weakness," said Doug Heye, a Republican strategist who formerly worked in Congress.

"There is still a lot of good news this White House can emphasize about the economy. Focus on that."

Unemployment remains at historic lows, the economy continues to grow and so far, there has been no actual contraction. But there is some sign of weakening in the manufacturing sector, including in states important to his reelection like Michigan and Pennsylvania.


Despite some economic warning signs flashing yellow, several Democratic consultants said candidates are better off emphasizing specific kitchen-table issues, rather than the broader economy.

"Inequality, health care – these are all interconnected. In my mind, there is no way to divorce the larger economy from the issues that Democrats have been talking about," said Jennifer Holdsworth, a veteran Democratic strategist who supports South Bend, Indiana, Mayor Pete Buttigieg but is not advising any campaign.

Several candidates, such as U.S. Senator Elizabeth Warren, have argued that some measures of economic success are biased against working Americans, noting that a booming stock market and corporate profits disproportionately benefit the wealthy.

"The Trump administration's definition of a 'strong economy' is essentially based on the stock market," said Mark Nevins, a Democratic strategist from Pennsylvania. "The people who benefit from that are more like Donald Trump than a worker from Scranton, Pennsylvania."

Nevins said Democrats need to address the economic insecurity still plaguing many working-class voters – the same feeling that helped Trump's populist message resonate with that group in 2016.

Absent a prolonged downturn, the economy writ large is likely to remain a winning issue for Trump, but focusing on specific groups who are not seeing the benefits could pay off for Democrats, experts said.

In Iowa, a key early voting state, that could include farmers hurt by tariffs on Chinese goods or factory workers whose plant shut down, Timothy Hagle, a political science professor at the University of Iowa said.

"In general, the macroeconomic issue isn't going to be a winner for Democrats unless you get to the point where it’s just a huge problem and affects pretty much everybody," said Hagle. "Right now they need to stick to the personal kinds of things."

Original Article ©Copyrights Reuters

Trump says he is seriously looking at ending birthright citizenship

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - U.S. President Donald Trump said on Wednesday that his administration was seriously looking at ending the right of citizenship for U.S.-born children of noncitizens and people who immigrated to the United States illegally.

"We're looking at that very seriously, birthright citizenship, where you have a baby on our land, you walk over the border, have a baby - congratulations, the baby is now a U.S. citizen. ... It's frankly ridiculous," Trump told reporters outside the White House.

Trump has made cracking down on immigration a central plank of his presidency and re-election campaign, but many of the administration's sweeping rule changes and executive orders have been stymied by the courts.

The Republican president had told Axios news website in October 2018 that he would end "birthright citizenship" through an executive order. Experts have said such a move would run afoul of the U.S. Constitution.

The Constitution's 14th Amendment, passed after the Civil War to ensure that black Americans had full citizenship rights, granted citizenship to "all persons born or naturalized in the United States."

It has since routinely been interpreted to grant citizenship to most people born in the United States, whether or not their parents are American citizens or legally living in the United States.

Original Article ©Copyrights Reuters

Wednesday, August 21, 2019

U.S. judge allows Trump to appeal key 'emoluments' rulings

By Jan Wolfe

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - A federal judge on Wednesday allowed President Donald Trump to appeal key preliminary rulings in a lawsuit accusing him of violating anti-corruption provisions of the U.S. Constitution with his private business dealings, likely freezing the case for months.

The written order by U.S. District Judge Emmet Sullivan in Washington was a setback for a group of about 200 Democratic lawmakers, led by Senator Richard Blumenthal and including members of the House of Representatives and Senate, who brought the case in 2017.

Sullivan previously declined such an appeal, but the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit urged him last month to reconsider the president's request.

Under Sullivan's order, Justice Department lawyers arguing for Trump will be able to seek fast-track review of a determination that the Democratic lawmakers had legal standing to bring the case, as well as a ruling that rejected Trump's interpretation of the constitutional language at issue in the case.

Sullivan’s order will keep on hold the “discovery” phase of the litigation, in which the Democratic lawmakers intended to serve subpoenas on Trump businesses asking about their foreign customers. The judge had halted that process in July.

The case before Sullivan accuses Trump of violating the Constitution's so-called Emoluments Clauses, which bans the president from accepting gifts or payments from foreign governments without congressional consent.

The lawsuit alleged Trump was illegally profiting from his businesses, including by collecting payments from foreign government officials who stay at his properties and accepting trademark registrations around the world for his company’s products.

A similar case brought by the Democratic attorneys general of Maryland and the District of Columbia is pending.

The emoluments litigation, which could end up before the Supreme Court, represents the first time in U.S. history courts have interpreted that language in the Constitution and how it relates to a sitting president.

Trump, a real estate developer who as president regularly visits his own hotels, resorts and golf clubs, maintains ownership of his businesses but has ceded day-to-day control to his sons. Critics have said that is not a sufficient safeguard.

Trump has argued that Democratic lawmakers are reading the Emoluments Clauses too broadly and that the nation's founders were prohibiting outright bribes.

Original Article ©Copyrights Reuters

Conservation, animal rights groups sue Trump over weakening U.S. wildlife protections

By Valerie Volcovici

(Reuters) - Environmental and animal rights groups on Wednesday sued the Trump administration over its proposal to revise the U.S. Endangered Species Act, seeking to block changes that they say will roll back protections of animals at risk of extinction.

The 1970s-era ESA is credited with bringing back from the brink of extinction species such as bald eagles, gray whales and grizzly bears, but the law has long been a source of frustration for drillers, miners and other industries because it can put vast areas of land off-limits to development.

Last week, the Commerce and Interior Departments finalized changes to the ESA they said would streamline the law but which conservation groups warned will threaten at-risk species.

"The new rules move the Endangered Species Act dangerously away from its grounding in sound science that has made the Act so effective," said Karimah Schoenhut, staff attorney for environmental activist group the Sierra Club, one of the plaintiffs in the lawsuit.

The lawsuit, brought by Earthjustice on behalf of seven organizations, claims the government violated the National Environmental Policy Act by failing to publicly disclose and analyze the impact of its rule revision and inserted changes into the final rules that were never made public and not subject to public comment.

The plaintiffs also filed a 60-day notice of intent to sue on Tuesday on additional claims related to other sections of the ESA changed by the Trump administration that allow the government to include economic considerations into listing decisions and eliminate automatic protections for newly-listed threatened species.

The rollback of the ESA, long sought-after by energy developers, is one of many moves by U.S. President Donald Trump to relax regulations to hasten oil, gas and coal production, as well as grazing, ranching and logging on federal land.

In an op-ed in the Washington Post earlier this month, Interior Secretary David Bernhardt said the updates to the ESA were needed because they placed "unnecessary regulatory burden on our citizens without additional benefit to the species" and prohibited wildlife management practices, "such as selective forest thinning and water management, that might ultimately benefit a threatened species."

Original Article ©Copyrights Reuters

Trump says he will push to close background check loopholes for gun buys

© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: U.S. President Donald Trump answers reporters questions in the Oval office of the White House In Washington© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: U.S. President Donald Trump answers reporters questions in the Oval office of the White House In Washington

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - U.S. President Donald Trump said on Wednesday his administration would seek to fill in background check loopholes for gun purchases after Democrats accused him of reversing course on gun control measures.

Trump spoke with the leader of the National Rifle Association lobbying group, Wayne LaPierre, on Tuesday, a White House official said. Trump told reporters outside the White House he did not tell LaPierre, whose group strongly opposes increased gun restrictions, he would avoid pursuing measures on background checks.

Trump said he views the number of gun deaths in the United States as a public health emergency and reiterated his belief that people who are mentally ill should not be allowed to buy guns.

On Tuesday, Trump, a Republican, said his administration was engaged in meaningful talks with Democrats, who control the U.S. House of Representatives, about gun legislation after gunmen in El Paso, Texas, and Dayton, Ohio, killed 31 people using semi-automatic rifles and high-volume magazines earlier this month.

Congressional aides, however, said the discussions have been low-level and generally unproductive.

Original Article ©Copyrights Reuters

Explainer: What early U.S. presidential polls tell us about the 2020 race

By Joseph Ax

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Anyone paying the slightest attention to the Democratic presidential campaign has likely seen headlines on the latest "horse race" opinion polls, highlighting one candidate's rise or another's decline.

Campaigns trumpet, or minimize, the numbers depending on how they fared. But with the first nominating contest in Iowa still five months away, what do these surveys really tell us about will happen in the November 2020 presidential election?

The quick answer: Early polls should be taken with a grain of salt, or perhaps even a full shaker. But they can offer a snapshot of where the race stands today and at least some insight into where it might go in the months to come.

Here's a guide to reading, and understanding, polls at this stage of the outsized, 23-candidate Democratic contest:


Professional pollsters rely on answers from a sample of people - anywhere from a few hundred respondents to 1,000 or more - intended to represent a much larger population.

In political surveys, pollsters are often interested specifically in registered voters or likely voters. Many more people say they will vote than actually do so, forcing pollsters to use other data, such as past voting behavior, to estimate the probability of casting ballots.

Some pollsters rely on phone interviews. Others, including Ipsos, which conducts surveys for Reuters, employ online questionnaires. All polls have a margin of error - a measure of confidence that the results reflect the broader population - calculated based on the size of the sample.


National presidential primary polls - that is, polls that measure support for one party's candidates - this early in the election cycle have been a mixed bag in predicting the eventual winner.

In August 2007, Hillary Clinton held a nearly 20-percentage point lead across a dozen national polls over Barack Obama, who would capture the Democratic nomination the following year.

The man who would win the Republican Party's nod, John McCain, hovered around 12%, with former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani leading the pack with support from nearly one-third of respondents.

But in the 2016 cycle, both the eventual nominees, Clinton and Republican Donald Trump, held significant leads in the polls by August 2015. Like this year's Democratic contest, the Republican field from which Trump emerged was enormous by historical standards.

Past results are not necessarily an indicator of what will happen this time around, experts warned.

"We only have this happen every four years," said Joe Lenski, executive vice president at Edison Research, which conducts national exit polls. "It's not like we have thousands of examples."


Primary polls are considerably less predictive than general election polls pitting two nominees against each other.

For one, voters' preferences are more fluid ahead of primaries, in part because they cannot rely on party affiliation alone to determine their choices. In a general election, most voters flock to the candidate who represents their preferred party.

"Primaries are a lot harder, because there isn't that partisan signaling," said Chris Jackson, who runs the public polling unit at Ipsos.

The size of the Democratic field this cycle may also contribute to the uncertainty by giving people so many options.

Voters may engage in strategic behavior, shifting allegiances based on how candidates are performing. Howard Dean led most Democratic primary surveys in 2003 until John Kerry, the eventual nominee, won the early voting states of Iowa and New Hampshire, sending him skyrocketing in national polls.

Name recognition also plays a major role at this stage, when many Americans simply are not focused on the campaign.

That said, name recognition is often based on factors that reinforce a candidate's strength. Joe Biden, who is leading most polls in the 2020 Democratic race, is well known because he was a vice president for two terms and has deep ties to the party's establishment.

Analysts expect turnout in 2020 to hit levels not seen in decades, given the high level of political engagement in the era of Trump. That introduces more uncertainty for pollsters, who must make assumptions about voters who have not historically cast ballots but who are likely to do so next year.

"The pollsters don't really know who's going to show up in a primary," said Michael McDonald, a professor at the University of Florida who studies polling.

General election polls at this stage - pitting Trump against various possible Democratic nominees - are virtually meaningless, according to research by the polling analysis website FiveThirtyEight. That's because they are asking about hypothetical matchups involving candidates who remain unfamiliar to many Americans.


Some analysts suggest looking at tiers of candidates, rather than focusing on small differences between individuals, to get a better sense of who is in the best position.

At the moment, Biden stands in a class by himself at around 30% support, with a second tier comprised of U.S. Senators Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren holding at half that figure. Another handful of candidates, including U.S. Senator Kamala Harris and South Bend, Indiana, Mayor Pete Buttigieg, make up the next group.

Lenski said polls often include other information beyond the top line figures that can illuminate which candidates have more potential upside.

For instance, some polls will ask respondents to identify which candidates they support aside from their first choice, or to say whether they have a favorable or unfavorable opinion of each candidate.

Among lesser-known candidates, someone like New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio, who is polling around 1% and has poor favorability ratings, has less room to grow than someone like U.S. Senator Amy Klobuchar, who is also at 1% but is well liked by those who have heard of her.

Given pollsters use different methodologies and have varying track records of accuracy, it's better to look at several polls for a more reliable snapshot. When considering trends, such as whether a candidate has gained or lost support over time, comparing previous surveys from the same pollster will yield more accurate results.


The biggest advantage of state-based primary polls compared to national primary polls is they reference actual elections, since there is no national primary.

A candidate who shows more strength in polls of a key state - Iowa, for example - might pull off an upset and gain momentum throughout the rest of the campaign.

State polls also have a greater margin for error because they rely on smaller samples.

Original Article ©Copyrights Reuters

Trump administration expected to announce plan to detain migrant children longer: ABC

(Reuters) - The Trump administration is expected to announce new rules that would allow the government to detain families with children crossing the U.S. border longer, according to ABC News, citing two government officials it said were familiar with the plan.

The announcement may come as soon as Wednesday, ABC said.

A decades-old legal settlement called the Flores agreement establishes how long migrant children can be detained and the conditions of their detention, generally 20 days or less.

Earlier this month, the Trump administration unveiled a rule that some experts say could cut legal immigration in half by denying visas and permanent residency to hundreds of thousands of people for being too poor.

Original Article ©Copyrights Reuters

Tuesday, August 20, 2019

Trump White House seeks to assuage farmer unrest over biofuel policy: sources

© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: Corn is loaded into a truck at a farm in Tiskilwa, Illinois© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: Corn is loaded into a truck at a farm in Tiskilwa, Illinois

By Jarrett Renshaw and Humeyra Pamuk

NEW YORK/WASHINGTON (Reuters) - President Donald Trump's administration has been scrambling to stem the tide of rising anger in Farm Belt states after its decision this month to allow numerous oil refiners to mix less ethanol into their gasoline, sources told Reuters on Tuesday.

Trump held a two-hour meeting on Monday with members of his Cabinet after hearing blowback from farmers after the decision to grant exemptions from the nation's biofuel laws to 31 refineries, two sources familiar with the discussions said. Trump's re-election campaign team also took notice of Democratic presidential candidates seizing on the unrest, the sources said.

Iowa, the nation's largest producer of corn and ethanol, is a swing state won by Democrat Barack Obama in consecutive elections before Trump rode to victory in 2016 in part by promising to support ethanol.

It was unclear what actions Trump would be able to take to appease angry farmers. Reversing the 2018 waivers was floated as an option but quickly knocked down, the sources said, but the administration was trying to find other ways to boost ethanol demand.

Refiners are required to blend biofuels into the nation's gasoline pool or buy credits to fund those refiners who can. News of the meeting sent the compliance credits soaring by 50% on Tuesday before pairing gains.

Corn farmers and ethanol producers lobbied to cut dramatically the number of exemptions from these rules, which have hit a record under the Trump administration.

Farmers bearing the brunt of Trump's trade war with China say his support of the hardship waivers has destroyed ethanol demand.

"For the first time in my life I’ll vote for a Democrat, for Joe Biden, because Trump will have lied to us about supporting ethanol,” Mark Marquis, CEO of Illinois ethanol producer Marquis Energy, said in an interview on Tuesday. “I feel misled and lied to, quite frankly.”

Refiners, especially smaller companies, have argued the biofuel laws are costly and burdensome. Trump's expansion of the waiver program has saved the oil industry billions of dollars in compliance costs. On Tuesday, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency said in a statement there was "zero evidence" the refinery waivers have hurt demand for ethanol, which biofuel producers dispute.

The nation's largest ethanol producer, POET, announced on Tuesday it was cutting production at its plants and blamed the hardship waivers for the move.

“POET made strategic decisions to support President Trump’s goal of boosting the farm economy," POET President and COO Jeff Lautt said. "However, these goals are contradicted by bailouts to oil companies."


Monday's meeting included representatives from the U.S. Departments of Energy and Agriculture, as well as the EPA, the sources said. The White House declined to comment.

One option advocated by the biofuel industry is to raise the annual amount of ethanol required to be blended into the nation's fuel pool, or to add back the waived volume onto the annual consumption mandate that the EPA had proposed to set at 15 billion gallons for 2020. No proposals were agreed upon.

Prior to Trump's election, just a few smaller refineries were granted relief from this requirement. Trump's administration has vastly expanded those waivers, including granting relief to facilities run by major oil companies Exxon Mobil Corp (N:XOM) and Chevron Corp (N:CVX). Trump personally directed the EPA to grant the most recent waivers, sources told Reuters.

"Not only is the government not keeping its word, but it's also screwing the farmer when we have low prices for (corn),” said Iowa Senator Chuck Grassley, a Republican, on a weekly conference call to discuss agricultural issues.

The EPA granted the exemptions just as Democratic candidates hoping to challenge Trump in 2020 visited the Iowa State Fair, where they sought to position themselves as fighters for ethanol.

Kelly Nieuwenhuis, a third-generation corn and soybean farmer from O'Brien County, Iowa, said he voted for Trump in 2016 but his support for the president is waning.

“I have talked to a bunch of farmers in the past few days, and they are fed up. They are not going to vote for Elizabeth Warren, but they said they are not going to vote for Trump, so they will sit this out,” Nieuwenhuis said in an interview on Monday.

Trump delivered on a change long-sought by the biofuel community to lift a summer ban on higher ethanol blends of gasoline, but farmers and ethanol producers say the refining exemptions have negated any benefits from that move.

Original Article ©Copyrights Reuters

Fukushima Radiation Becomes Latest Japan-South Korea Sore Point

© Reuters.  Fukushima Radiation Becomes Latest Japan-South Korea Sore Point© Reuters. Fukushima Radiation Becomes Latest Japan-South Korea Sore Point

(Bloomberg) -- Radiation from the crippled Fukushima nuclear plant is becoming the latest source of tension between Japan and South Korea, potentially undercutting Tokyo’s effort to promote the 2020 Olympics.

In recent days, South Korean officials have summoned a Japanese diplomat to express concern about a planned release of treated radioactive water into the ocean by Tepco, the plant’s owner. They’re also pushing for independent radiation checks at Olympic venues and proposing a separate cafeteria for their athletes, citing concerns about contaminated food.

The radiation dispute is threatening to prolong tensions between the two U.S. allies, who have spent much of the summer trading economic sanctions and diplomatic threats in a tit-for-tat dispute. The feud has exposed lingering mistrust and disagreements over Japan’s colonial rule on the Korean Peninsula.

South Korea’s radiation concerns contrast with signs of softening attitudes last week on the anniversary of Japan’s World War II surrender. Japan has also taken steps to show that its recent export controls won’t prevent legitimate sales to its neighbor, with South Korean media saying Tuesday that Tokyo approved a second license for one targeted material.

‘Under Control’

“It’s gone so far that neither side can back down,” said Hiroyuki Kishi, a former trade official turned professor at Keio University in Yokohama, adding that the disputed would probably continue “or get worse.” “I’m concerned that Japan may respond emotionally, because the Olympics are seen as very important.”

The issue of radiation at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant, which was damaged in the March 11, 2011, earthquake and tsunami, has loomed over Tokyo’s Olympic bid from the start. Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe threw his weight behind the campaign, assuring the International Olympic Committee in a 2013 speech that the plant was “under control” and would have no impact on the capital.

Now, Tokyo Electric Power Co. Holdings Inc. is preparing a release from on-site storage tanks, which are expected to fill up by 2022 with water treated to remove most radioactive elements. An adviser for the company has recommended a controlled release into the Western Pacific -- a common practice at other reactors around the world -- while the environmental group Greenpeace has urged keeping the water in storage.

Diplomat Summoned

South Korea summoned a Japanese diplomat on Monday, with the Foreign Ministry urging Tokyo to look into international organizations’ views on the matter and be more transparent about its plans.

Separately, the Korea Sport & Olympic Committee is set to make an official request that international organizations such as Greenpeace monitor radiation at Tokyo Olympic venues, the committee’s press officer, Lee Mi-jin, said. South Korean officials have also drawn up a plan to run a separate cafeteria exclusively for South Korean athletes, to ensure they don’t eat food from Fukushima, Lee said.

The Tokyo 2020 Organising Committee declined to comment on requests from other countries’ organizing committees. Recent data from volunteer organization Safecast shows that radiation levels in Tokyo are somewhat lower than those in Seoul.

For its part, South Korea is mulling whether to maintain an agreement on sharing military information with Japan. The decision could come after South Korean Foreign Minister Kang Kyung-wha meets her Japanese counterpart Taro Kono in Beijing Wednesday, on the sidelines of a trilateral meeting with China.

Original Article ©Copyrights Reuters

Trump says White House talking to Democrats on gun legislation

© Reuters. A member of Congress wears a © Reuters. A member of Congress wears a "Background Checks Save Lives" sticker at news conference to introduce gun control legislation on Capitol Hill in Washington

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - President Donald Trump said on Tuesday his administration was in meaningful talks with Democrats on gun legislation after the latest mass shootings to rock the United States, but congressional aides downplayed the discussions as low-level and not very productive.

Democrats have accused Trump of reversing course after he initially voiced support for tougher background checks following the shootings so that "sick people don't get guns." He also suggested the powerful National Rifle Association lobby group might ease its strong opposition to gun restrictions.

Since then, however, Trump has shifted his approach, calling the shooters mentally ill and saying the administration had to look at building more mental institutions.

"These retreats are heartbreaking, particularly for the families of the victims of gun violence," Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer said on Twitter after Trump made his gun comments. He urged Trump to press Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell to permit a Senate vote on a background check bill supported by the U.S. House of Representatives.

Trump, speaking to reporters at the White House, declined to say whether he endorsed any of the gun legislation backed by House Democrats. But he said the administration had been engaged in talks with Democrats.

"We are in very meaningful discussions with the Democrats and I think the Republicans are very unified," Trump said. But he said Democrats were weaker in their support for gun rights than Republicans and he wanted to protect against gun controls becoming too restrictive.

"We're looking at different things. And I have to tell you that it's a mental problem, and I've said it a hundred times, it's not the gun that pulls the trigger, it's the person that pulls the trigger. These are sick people," Trump said.

Democrats have been demanding action on guns after shooters earlier this month in El Paso, Texas, and Dayton, Ohio, killed 31 people with semi-automatic rifles using high-volume magazines.

The White House held a staff-level meeting with Senate Judiciary Committee staff on Friday, congressional aides said.

House Judiciary Committee staff met with White House aides on Tuesday, focusing mainly on gun bills the panel plans to take up in a meeting scheduled for Sept. 4. The aides said there was no productive discussion about legislative priorities or measures that the White House could support.

Trump suggested on Tuesday he might agree to some changes to improve background checks but did not offer details.

"We have very, very strong background checks right now. But we have, sort of, missing areas, and areas that don't complete the whole circle," Trump said.

The House Judiciary Committee said on Friday it would cut short its summer recess to meet on Sept. 4 to begin considering new gun control legislation.

The panel planned to prepare a series of bills for consideration by the full House, including a high-capacity magazine ban, a measure to prevent people convicted of misdemeanor hate crimes from purchasing firearms and a "red flag" bill to deny guns to those deemed to be a danger to themselves and others.

Original Article ©Copyrights Reuters