Category 1

Monday, 9 April 2018

  • Donald Trump hopes to back off from US$1.3 trillion spending deal with cuts to domestic programmes to offset deficit
  • The White House plans to seek domestic programme cuts, but ‘does not want to touch funding for the military, border security and combating the opioid crisis’ 

With the federal budget deficit expanding and congressional elections seven months away, the Trump administration plans to ask Congress for cuts in domestic programmes that were part of a bipartisan US$1.3 trillion spending bill that President Donald Trump signed last month.

The White House does not want to touch extra funding for the military, border security and combating the opioid crisis in a package of proposed cuts it will send to Congress in the coming weeks, according to an administration official, who asked for anonymity to outline the plan.

House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy of California has been working with the White House on a using a budget manoeuvre called rescission, a Republican aide said.

The size of the cuts that might be sought and a timetable for a Congressional vote has not been decided.

Any attempt to roll back spending is sure to trigger a backlash from Democrats who negotiated the extra domestic funding in exchange for agreeing to a bigger budget for the Pentagon. 

Although Democrats would not be able to block it, some Republicans may be reluctant to blow up one of the few bipartisan agreements that have made it through the House and Senate.

“The administration is working to identify potential rescissions and at this point, there is no completed list or dollar amount,” White House budget office spokeswoman Meghan Burris said.

The spending bill passed the House on a 256-167 vote and the Senate on a 65-32 vote last month after Republican leaders urged rank and file to support the military increases despite the increases for domestic priorities.

The 2,232-page measure was the result of more than a month of negotiations between Republicans and Democrats in Congress to end a cycle of government shutdown threats and stopgap spending bills.

Although the White House was part of the negotiations, Trump called the bill “ridiculous” and fumed over the lack of funding for the US$25 billion southern border wall he promised to build during his presidential campaign. 

He threatened to veto it but backed down under the threat of a March 23 government shutdown.

The bill increased military spending by US$80 billion this year above previous spending limits and non-defence spending by US$63 billion.

Trump’s 2018 budget had sought a US$54 billion cut to non-defence spending.

Along with the US$1.5 trillion tax cut law, the additional spending is likely to balloon the federal budget deficit, which is on track to hit US$1 trillion next year. 

That would take away one of the main lines of attack Republicans have used against Democrats in recent years – runaway federal spending – as they are trying to fend off a strong challenge to their control of the House in the November elections.

The rescissions request makes use of an obscure provision in the 1974 Budget Act that allows the president to request the cancellation of some spending and gives Congress 45 days to approve the measure.

Under a 1992 precedent in the Senate that limits debate, Republicans likely could pass the bill without any Democratic support.

It still would be difficult to pass in the Senate, according to another Republican aide. 

That is because appropriations panel members would be concerned that making an end run around Democrats would take away incentives to negotiate on future legislation.

Democrats delivered a similar warning.

“Advancing a rescission package like the one described would lay waste to the notion that Republican leadership negotiated the omnibus in good faith and poison the well for future responsible, bipartisan legislating,” said Matthew Dennis, a spokesman for House Appropriations Committee Democrats on Friday.

Steve Bell, a former Senate Republican budget aide of the Bipartisan Policy Center predicted that because of this, the package will face difficulties in the Senate and may not even be introduced.

Bell said he expects the White House will likely attempt to bring non-defence discretionary levels down by US$120 billion to put it in line with the Trump 2018 budget.

Steve Ellis of Taxpayers for Common Sense, a spending watchdog group, said the larger the request from Trump, the more difficult it will be.

“Unless it's a really targeted package that just focuses on some egregious waste, it is going to get enough people ticked off that it won’t go through” he said.

Budget watchdogs say they would welcome the chance to reduce the roughly US$150 billion spending increase in the omnibus bill.

“I don’t have a view yet on this particular process, but certainly we overspent for FY 2018 and if we can pare the funds backs a bit – both on the defence and non-defence side – that would be an improvement,” Marc Goldwein of the Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget said.


( This post is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)

Trump administration to seek cuts in US$1.3 trillion spending deal

Donald Trump hopes to back off from US$1.3 trillion spending deal with cuts to domestic programmes to offset deficit The White Hous...
President Donald Trump said Monday he will decide "probably by the end of today" on a U.S. response to the apparent chemical weapons attack on Syrian civilians. He suggested Syria's main military ally, Russia, would "pay a price."
Speaking during a Cabinet meeting, Trump condemned the "heinous attack" Saturday that killed at least 40 people, including children. Asked by a reporter whether President Vladimir Putin bears responsibility, Trump said, "He may, yeah, he may. And if he does it's going to be very tough, very tough." He added, "Everybody's gonna pay a price. He will, everybody will."
Amid the tough talk in the White House, the U.S. military appeared to be in position to carry out any attack order. A Navy destroyer, the USS Donald Cook, was underway in the eastern Mediterranean on Monday after completing a port call at Larnaca, Cyprus. The ship is armed with Tomahawk cruise missiles, the weapon of choice in a U.S. attack one year ago on an airfield in Syria after an alleged sarin gas attack on civilians at Khan Sheikhoun. The U.S. said the 2017 strike was intended to deter Syria from further use of chemical weapons.

Trump was to meet later Monday with senior national security aides. "Nothing's off the table," he said after condemning Saturday's suspected use of toxic gas. "It was an atrocious attack," he said. "It was horrible."
Trump said the U.S. is still investigating the possible involvement of the Iranian and Russian governments.
"If it's Russia, if it's Syria, if it's Iran, if it's all of them together, we'll figure it out," he said.
The United States, meanwhile, was urging the U.N. Security Council to adopt a resolution that would condemn the continuing use of chemical weapons in Syria "in the strongest terms" and establish a new body to determine responsibility for chemical attacks. The draft resolution, obtained by The Associated Press, was circulated ahead of an emergency Security Council meeting.
Trump planned two meetings with senior national security aides Monday on Syria, in addition to a previously scheduled late-afternoon White House conference with leaders of U.S. military commands around the world. Monday was the first day on the job for Trump's new national security adviser, John Bolton, who has previously advocated military action against Syria.
The White House deliberations came as Russia and the Syrian military blamed Israel for a pre-dawn missile attack on a major air base in central Syria, saying Israeli fighter jets launched missiles from Lebanon's air space. A group that monitors Syria's civil war said the airstrikes killed 14 people, including Iranians active in Syria.
Earlier Monday, Defense Secretary Jim Mattis took aim at Russia for what he suggested was its failure to ensure the elimination of Syria's chemical weapons arsenal. The Pentagon chief said he would not rule out a U.S. military strike against Syria in response to a suspected poison gas attack.
Over the weekend Trump threatened a "big price to pay" for the suspected poison gas attack. The government of President Bashar Assad has denied using poison gas.
Officials in Washington were seeking to verify early reports by rescuers and others that the Assad government was culpable. The Russian military, which has a presence in Syria as a key Assad ally, said its officers had visited the site in a suburb of Damascus, the Syrian capital, and found no evidence to back up reports of poison gas being used.
At a photo-taking session in the Pentagon on Monday, Mattis said "the first thing" to consider in how to respond was why chemical weapons are "still being used at all." He noted that Russia was a guarantor of a 2013 agreement to eliminate Syria's entire chemical weapons arsenal, suggesting Moscow shares blame for the suspected gas attack.
"And so, working with our allies and our partners from NATO to Qatar and elsewhere, we are going to address this issue," Mattis said in brief remarks to reporters as he began a meeting with the emir of Qatar.
The U.S. military has a wide range of warplanes and other capabilities in the Middle East. They include sea-launched cruise missiles aboard ships within range of Syria.
Syria's state news agency SANA initially said Monday's the attack on the T4 air base was likely "an American aggression," but Pentagon spokesman Christopher Sherwood quickly denied the United States was behind the strike and the agency then dropped the accusation, blaming Israel instead.
Saturday's suspected poison gas attack took place in a rebel-held town amid a resumed offensive by Syrian government forces after the collapse of a truce.
As U.S. officials consider whether and how to respond, they are looking at what type of chemical agent was used. When Trump ordered airstrikes last year after a chemical weapons attack, it was a response to the use of sarin gas, which is banned by the Chemical Weapons Convention that Syria has signed. An attack with chlorine, which can be used as a weapon but is not outright banned by the treaty, could raise precedent issues, as there have been numerous recent allegations of chlorine attacks in Syria that have drawn no response from the Trump administration.
One year ago this month, Trump ordered dozens of cruise missiles to be fired at a Syrian air base after declaring there was no doubt Assad had "choked out the lives of helpless" civilians in an attack that used banned gases. White House advisers said at the time that images of hurt children helped spur the president to launch that airstrike, and television new shows on Sunday aired similar depictions of suffering young Syrians.
Republican Sen. John McCain of Arizona said Assad heard Trump's signal that he wanted to withdraw from Syria and, "emboldened by American inaction," launched the attack. In a statement, McCain said Trump "responded decisively" last year with the air strike and urged Trump to be forceful again to "demonstrate that Assad will pay a price for his war crimes."

Trump promises quick decision on Syria response

WASHINGTON –   President Donald Trump said Monday he will decide "probably by the end of today" on a U.S. response to the appa...

President Donald Trump acknowledged that his stand-off with China on trade was hurting American farmers, but promised that conditions would change eventually.


“I tell you, our farmers are great patriots,” he said. “They understand that they’re doing this for the country and we’ll make it up to them.”
 
China announced plans to raise tariffs up to 25 percent on American agricultural goods such as soybeans, cotton, corn, wheat, and beef in response to his tough actions on China trade including a 25 percent tariff on steel and a 10 percent tariff on aluminum.

Trump acknowledged that many farmers were already suffering economic challenges for their products in the last eight years, but tried to show solidarity.

“It’s not nice when they hit the farmers specifically because they think it hits me,” Trump said, referring to China.

Donald Trump: ‘We’ll Make It Up’ to American Farmer ‘Patriots’ Suffering from China Tariffs

JASON CONNOLLY/AFP/Getty President Donald Trump acknowledged that his stand-off with China on trade was hurting American farmers,...
"We'll be meeting with them sometime in May or early June and I think there'll be great respect paid by both parties and hopefully we'll be able to make a deal on the de-nuking of North Korea," Trump told reporters at the beginning of a Cabinet meeting.
Donald Trump said hopefully, it'll be a relationship that's much different than it's been for years.
WASHINGTON:  US President Donald Trump said on Monday he planned to meet North Korean leader Kim Jong Un next month or in early June and hoped the discussions would ultimately lead to an end of the North's nuclear weapons programme.

"We'll be meeting with them sometime in May or early June and I think there'll be great respect paid by both parties and hopefully we'll be able to make a deal on the de-nuking of North Korea," Trump told reporters at the beginning of a Cabinet meeting.

"They've said so. We've said so," Trump added. "Hopefully, it'll be a relationship that's much different than it's been for many, many years."
North Korea has told the United States it is prepared to discuss the denuclearisation of the Korean Peninsula when Kim meets Trump, a U.S. official told Reuters on Sunday.

The official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said U.S. and North Korean officials have held secret contacts recently in which Pyongyang directly confirmed its willingness to hold the unprecedented summit.

The communications, still at a preliminary stage, have involved State Department officials talking to North Korea, apparently through its United Nations mission, and intelligence officers from both sides using a separate back channel, the official said. Before that, Washington had relied mostly on South Korea's assurances of Kim's intentions.
© Thomson Reuters 2018

Donald Trump Says Will Meet With North Korean Leader Kim Jong Un In May Or Early June

"We'll be meeting with them sometime in May or early June and I think there'll be great respect paid by both parties and hopef...

Friday, 6 April 2018

Myanmar organisations published an open letter criticising an interview Mark Zuckerberg gave (File)

Facebook has been battered by allegations that its platform has helped fuel communal bloodshed in Myanmar.

YANGON:  Facebook apologised on Friday to Myanmar civil society groups who took issue with Mark Zuckerberg's defence of the platform's record on curbing hate speech roiling the country.

Facebook has been battered by allegations that its platform has helped fuel communal bloodshed in Myanmar, a mainly Buddhist country accused of waging an ethnic cleansing campaign against Rohingya Muslims.

On Thursday six Myanmar organisations published an open letter criticising an interview Zuckerberg gave with news site Vox this week. In it he cited examples of both Myanmar Buddhists and Muslims spreading "sensational" messages on Facebook Messenger that warned of imminent violence from the other community.

"That's the kind of thing where I think it is clear that people were trying to use our tools in order to incite real harm. Now, in that case, our systems detect that that's going on. We stop those messages from going through," Zuckerberg was quoted as saying.

In their letter the six local tech and human rights organisations said they were "surprised" to hear Zuckerberg "praise the effectiveness" of Facebook's systems in Myanmar.


"It took over four days from when the messages started circulating for the escalation to reach you," said the groups, who had flagged the content to Facebook.

"Far from being stopped, they spread in an unprecedented way, reaching country-wide and causing widespread fear and at least three violent incidents in the process."

When reached for a comment on Friday, a Facebook spokesperson conceded the company was too slow in responding to reports about the incendiary messages.

"We should have been faster and are working hard to improve our technology and tools to detect and prevent abusive, hateful or false content," the spokesperson told AFP by email.

"We are sorry that Mark did not make clearer that it was the civil society groups in Myanmar who first reported these messages."

Facebook has also added more Myanmar-language reviewers and is rolling out the ability to report content in the Messenger service, the spokesperson added.

In late January Facebook removed the page of popular anti-Rohingya monk Wirathu. Last year it regulated the use of the word "kalar" which is considered derogatory against Muslims.

(This story has not been edited by Tech Insider and is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)

Facebook Apologises After Myanmar Groups Blast Zuckerberg

Myanmar organisations published an open letter criticising an interview Mark Zuckerberg gave (File) Facebook has been battered by a...
President Donald Trump said Thursday he is considering implementing tariffs on an additional $100 billion worth of Chinese goods as trade tensions between the two countries continues to escalate. 
President Donald Trump said Thursday he is considering an additional $100 billion worth of tariffs against China for unfair trade practices.

Trump's announcement comes a day after the United States announced 25 percent tariffs on $50 billion worth of Chinese goods including electronics, aerospace and machinery products, to which China responded by implementing its own tariffs on $50 billion worth of U.S. goods.

"Rather than remedy its misconduct, China has chosen to harm our farmers and manufacturers," Trump said Thursday. "In light of China's unfair retaliation, I have instructed the USTR to consider whether $100 billion of additional tariffs would be appropriate."

Trump also said he instructed the Secretary of Agriculture to implement a plan to protect U.S. farmers and agricultural interests.

On March 22, Trump signed a presidential order to impose tariffs on $60 billion of imported Chinese products to stem "economic aggression" by Beijing a Section 301 trade investigation launched last summer that found Chinese theft of U.S. intellectual property is costing the U.S. economy billions of dollars.

Those tariffs followed a 25 percent tariff on imported steel and 10 percent tariffs on foreign-made aluminum targeting multiple countries including China.

China responded to those measures by imposing tariffs on $3 billion worth of U.S. goods including a 15 percent tariff on items such as fresh fruit and wine and a 25 percent tariff on other goods such as pork and aluminum.

Fears of a trade war between the United States and China have had a negative effect on the stock market, contributing to a 458.92-point dip in the Dow Jones industrial average on Monday.

Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Geng Shuang called for talks to end the trade war Wednesday, saying the "door to dialogue" between the two countries remains open.

Trump delivered a similar sentiment, calling for trade barriers between the United States and China to be taken down.

"The United States is still prepared to have discussions in further support of our commitment to achieving free, fair, and reciprocal trade and to protect the technology and intellectual property of American companies and American people," Trump said.

(Except for the headline, this story has not been edited by Tech Insider and is published from a syndicated feed.)

Trump considering $100B in additional tariffs against China

President Donald Trump said Thursday he is considering implementing tariffs on an additional $100 billion worth of Chinese goods as tr...

Sunday, 1 April 2018

U.S. President Donald Trump and first lady Melania Trump walk on the South Lawn toward Marine One as they depart the White House on Monday, March 19, 2018 in Washington, D.C.
OLIVIER DOULIERY/ABACA PRESS/TNS

PALM BEACH, Fla. — President Donald Trump said Sunday that there would be no deal to legalize the status of millions of “dreamers,” undocumented immigrants brought to the United States as children, stating that the U.S. border with Mexico was “getting more dangerous” and directing congressional Republicans to pass tough, new, anti-immigration legislation.

Trump also criticized Mexican authorities as being too lax about border security, saying the U.S.-Mexico border was “getting more dangerous.” He threatened to “stop” the North American Free Trade Agreement if Mexico does not “stop the big drug and people flows.”

In fiery Sunday morning tweets, sent an hour after he wished Americans a “HAPPY EASTER” and minutes before he attended a church service here, Trump vowed, “NO MORE DACA DEAL.”

As he walked into an Episcopal service at the Church of Bethesda-by-the-Sea with wife Melania and daughter Tiffany, Trump elaborated on his position on immigration to the traveling pool of reporters. He accused congressional Democrats of stymieing a potential deal to protect “dreamers,” after Trump canceled the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program last fall.

“A lot of people are coming in because they want to take advantage of DACA,” Trump said. “They had a great chance. The Democrats blew it.”

The president added, “Mexico has got to help us at the border … They flow right through Mexico, they send them into the United States. It can’t happen like that way anymore.”

In his first of three immigration-related tweets, Trump wrote, “Border Patrol Agents are not allowed to properly do their job at the Border because of ridiculous liberal (Democrat) laws like Catch & Release. Getting more dangerous. ‘Caravans’ coming. Republicans must go to Nuclear Option to pass tough laws NOW. NO MORE DACA DEAL!”

The DACA program was begun during the Obama administration to provide temporary protection to dreamers. Trump canceled DACA last fall but said he would like to reach a deal with Congress to protect the “dreamers” from deportation in exchange for funding to build his long-promised wall at the U.S.-Mexico border.

However, he went on to reject immigration proposals from congressional Democrats.

Trump’s Sunday tweets may have been in response to commentary on Fox News Channel, which he is known to watch regularly. Fox aired a segment earlier in the morning with the headline: “CARAVAN OF ILLEGAL IMMIGRANTS HEADED TO U.S.”

In a second tweet, Trump lashed out at Mexico and threatened to “stop” the North American Free Trade Agreement, saying Mexican authorities are not doing enough to secure the border with the United States.

Trump wrote: “Mexico is doing very little, if not NOTHING, at stopping people from flowing into Mexico through their Southern Border, and then into the U.S. They laugh at our dumb immigration laws. They must stop the big drug and people flows, or I will stop their cash cow, NAFTA. NEED WALL!”

And in a third tweet, the president wrote, “These big flows of people are all trying to take advantage of DACA. They want in on the act!”

Trump sent his tweet on the fourth day of his vacation in Palm Beach, Florida, where he has been staying at his private Mar-a-Lago Club with a small coterie of aides. White House Chief of Staff John Kelly did not travel with him, but senior policy adviser Stephen Miller, a proponent of hard-line immigration policies, has been spending the Easter weekend with Trump.

By calling for Republicans to use the “Nuclear Option” to pass tough, new measures on immigration, Trump seemed to urge a parliamentary procedure by which Senate Republicans could pass legislation with a simple majority of 51 votes as opposed to the 60-vote majority required to end debate and to bring a vote to the floor.

Trump’s tweets come amid tense negotiations over NAFTA between his administration and that of Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto. A call between the two men in February grew testy after Trump refused to publicly affirm Peña Nieto’s position that Mexico will not pay for the wall’s construction, leading the Mexican leader to cancel a planned visit to Washington.

(Story is published from a syndicated feed.)



‘No more DACA deal,’ Trump says ‘stop’ NAFTA

U.S. President Donald Trump and first lady Melania Trump walk on the South Lawn toward Marine One as they depart the White House on Monda...

 

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