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Saturday, December 31, 2016

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Four Cabinet spots still open in the Trump administration

Four Cabinet spots still open in the Trump administration
By Ben Kamisar - 12-31-16 06:00 AM EST

With less than a month before the inauguration, President-elect Donald Trump's Cabinet still has four major spots waiting to be filled.

Trump has picked most of his top Cabinet nominees already. But outside groups are getting restless as they wait to see who will lead the Departments of Agriculture and Veterans Affairs, as well as the U.S. Trade Representative's office and the Council of Economic Advisers.

Here's a look at the leading candidates for those open spots.

Secretary of Agriculture

The race for Agriculture is heating up, with the president-elect entertaining a handful of potential candidates this week.

On Wednesday, Trump met with former Texas A&M University President Elsa Murano and former California Lt. Gov. Abel Maldonado. Both are under consideration for the spot.

Murano knows her way around the department-she spent three years as President George W. Bush's Undersecretary of Agriculture for Food Safety.

And Maldonado helps to run his family's farm in California.

Either candidate would become Trump's first Hispanic addition to the Cabinet, an absence that has grown more obvious as more Cabinet spots have been filled. The National Association of Latino and Elected and Appointed Officials warned Trump this month that the lack of a Hispanic member of the cabinet would be a "historic step backwards."

There are others in the mix too, including Texans Sid Miller, Susan Combs and former Rep. Henry Bonilla. All three met with Trump Friday at his Florida estate.

Miller, the state's current Agriculture Commissioner, has faced his share of controversies-most recently retweeting a vulgar insult about Hillary Clinton.

Combs is the former Texas Comptroller and Agriculture Commissioner. Combs worked in Energy Secretary-designate Rick Perry's administration when Perry was governor.

Bonilla, who served 14 years in the House, chaired the Appropriations Agriculture subcommittee.

While North Dakota Democratic Sen. Heidi Heitkamp has met with Trump about the post, she said in a statement last week that she'd "likely" remain in the Senate.

It's also possible that Trump draws from his Agriculture advisory team for the spot. He met with former Georgia Gov. Sonny Perdue last month in New York, while various reports have named former Georgia Gov. Dave Heineman, and Chuck Connor, the CEO of the National Council of Farmer Cooperatives who served as interim Agriculture Secretary briefly under President George W. Bush, as prospective nominees.

United States Trade Representative 

Given Trump's emphasis on an "America First" trade policy during the campaign, his pick for the Cabinet-level USTR is being carefully watched.

Campaign officials confirmed earlier this month that Trump is considering Jovita Carranza, who has experience in President George W. Bush's Small Business Administration.

Carranza was a member of Trump's National Hispanic Council and worked at UPS before opening a consulting firm. She met with Trump at his Florida estate shortly before Christmas.

Dan DiMicco and Robert Lighthizer have also been floated as potential picks. Both are helping to coordinate the incoming administration's USTR transition as members of what's called the "landing team."

DiMicco advised Trump on trade issues through the campaign and is the former chair of the steel company Nucor. And Lighthizer has hands-on experience in the USTR's office, serving as a deputy under President Reagan.

Veterans Affairs

A whole host of names have been floated for the spot to lead the VA, which could receive a major shakeup under the Trump administration.

Businessman, Army veteran and former Central American Chamber of Commerce head Luis Qui onez met with Trump earlier this month to discuss the role.

Bloomberg reported that Cleveland Clinic CEO Toby Cosgrove, who withdrew from consideration to head the department under President Obama, is also a top contender for the post.

And The New York Times reported this month that Trump is considering U.S. Navy Admiral Michelle Howard, the leader of Navy forces in Europe. Howard is the first woman to become a four-star admiral in the Navy, as well as the first African-American woman to command a Navy ship.

The president-elect has considered Fox News contributors and analysts for other posts in his administration, and the VA is no exception.

Former Massachusetts Sen. Scott Brown told Fox News earlier this month that he is being "considered" for the role. Brown, an Army National Guard veteran, a contributor to the network, was one of Trump's earlier supporters during the primary.

Reporters have also pointed to Fox contributor Pete Hegseth as another potential candidate.

Hegseth previously ran a veterans advocacy group and served in both Iraq and Afghanistan, where he won the Bronze Star. The Fox News regular visited Trump Tower in New York this month to meet with Trump.

Trump made healthcare for veterans a major focus of his campaign, and his transition is already floating some major changes to be enacted by the new VA secretary.

A senior transition official told reporters this week that Trump is discussing reforming the VA to give veterans a "public-private" option, although no decision has been made as of yet.

Council of Economic Advisers 

It appears that the race to lead the Council, a three-member group that advises the president on economic issues, is between the frontrunner and the rest of the field.

The leading pick is Larry Kudlow, the former CNBC host and associate director at the Reagan administration's Office of Management and Budget.

Speculation about Kudlow reached new heights earlier this month when Stephen Moore, the economist who helped advise Trump during the campaign, told a Michigan regional chamber of commerce that Kudlow would be appointed "within the next 48 hours," according to the Detroit News.

Kudlow is the only name that has been seriously floated for the position. While no appointment has been announced, he's seen as the odds-on favorite.

Trump's team draws target on federal regulations

Trump's team draws target on federal regulations
By Tim Devaney - 12-31-16 11:48 AM EST

President-elect Donald Trump is stocking his administration with businessmen and regulatory reformers who are intent on cutting through what they see as red tape from Washington.

Carl Icahn, the billionaire investor, will oversee the Trump administration's regulatory reform efforts. He will be joined by several other Wall Street investors and corporate executives who have first-hand experience dealing with government rules.

Here are six figures in the Trump administration poised to have an outsized role in scaling back regulations.

Regulatory adviser Carl Icahn

Trump created a new position in the White House for the billionaire investor to serve as a "special adviser on regulatory issues," where he will seek to trim back rules that businesses consider unnecessary and burdensome.

"Under President Obama, America's business owners have been crippled by over $1 trillion in new regulations," Icahn said in a statement issued by the Trump transition team. "It's time to break free of excessive regulation and let our entrepreneurs do what they do best: create jobs and support communities."

Icahn, 80, is the founder of Icahn Enterprises, and has become known over the years as an activist shareholder.

Trump, who has done deals with Icahn in the past, called him "one of the world's great businessmen."

"His help on the strangling regulations that our country is faced with will be invaluable," Trump said in a statement.

Icahn, who holds a majority stake in CVR Energy and has also invested in several other oil and gas companies, has been a particularly vocal critic of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) under the Obama administration.

Icahn has already advised the president-elect on several key appointments, including Steve Mnuchin to the Treasury Department, Wilbur Ross to the Commerce Department, and Scott Pruitt to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), according to The Wall Street Journal.

He is also expected to hold sway over Trump's choice for a new chairman for the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC).

Commerce Secretary nominee Wilbur Ross

Ross once helped save Trump's casino business.

The Wall Street banker built a career by investing in distressed companies and turning them around. In the 1990s, Ross and Icahn helped finance the president-elect's Taj Mahal casino as bondholders. When the casino ran into trouble, the two men could have foreclosed, but instead negotiated with Trump to keep the business afloat.

"We could have foreclosed [on the Trump Taj Mahal], and he would have been gone," Ross told The New York Post last month.

Trump on Nov. 30 tapped Ross to lead to the Commerce Department on Nov. 30. In that role, he will have a major role in shaping U.S. trade policy, including import and export regulations that companies must comply with.

Both Trump and Ross have taken a hard line against trade deals, saying many of them have hurt American jobs.

Treasury Secretary nominee Steven Mnuchin

Mnuchin's portfolio stretches from Wall Street to Hollywood. He spent the better half of two decades as an investment banker at Goldman Sachs, before becoming a hedge fund manager. At the height of the financial crisis in 2009, Mnuchin purchased a failed mortgage lender that he renamed OneWest Bank.

During his time on Wall Street, Mnuchin butted heads with Trump on a business deal. Dune Capital Management, the hedge fund Mnuchin created after leaving Goldman Sachs, helped finance the construction of Trump hotels in Chicago and Honolulu. But Trump sued multiple lenders, including Mnuchin's company, over a disagreement with the Chicago deal. The case was eventually settled. up.

The two men have since become close allies. Mnuchin served as Trump's national finance chairman during the campaign, a critical role where he helped the businessman quickly construct a fundraising machine.

Trump nominated Mnuchin, who is also a member of the president-elect's transition team, to serve as Treasury secretary on Nov. 30. In the role, Mnuchin will lead the charge against the Dodd-Frank financial reform law.

"We want to strip back parts of Dodd-Frank that prevent banks from lending, and that will be the number one priority on the regulatory side," Mnuchin told CNBC.

Trump and his appointees cannot completely roll back Dodd-Frank without action from Congress, but they will have significant power to change how it is enforced through regulations.

Mnuchin has been particularly critical of the Volcker rule, which prevents large banks from engaging in speculative trading.

Health secretary nominee Tom Price

Rep. Tom Price (R-Ga.), a doctor, will play a key role in the Republican push to scale back ObamaCare.

Republicans plan to pass an ObamaCare repeal bill early in 2017, jumpstarting the process.

As secretary of Health and Human Services, Price will have a chance to reshape the slew of new healthcare regulations that were issued under President Obama. With help from Congress, some of the rules could be eliminated entirely.

EPA administrator nominee Scott Pruitt 

As Oklahoma's attorney general, Scott Pruitt led the charge against the Obama administration's climate agenda. Now, Pruitt will be tasked with changing the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) from the inside out.

Trump tapped Pruitt to lead the EPA on Dec. 7, putting him in a position to dismantle many of the EPA's most controversial actions under Obama.

Some of the regulations that could be on the chopping block include the EPA's rules for power plants, water, ozone, and fuel economy. But changing any of those rules are likely to set off a major court battle with environmentalists that could rage for years.

Labor secretary nominee Andrew Puzder

Trump's Labor nominee is a long-time restaurant executive. As the head of CKE Restaurants, he runs popular fast-food chains like Hardee's and Carl's Jr.

Puzder is opposed to raising the minimum wage, and has also criticized the Labor Department's policies on overtime and paid sick leave under Obama.

The Labor Department is pushing to expand overtime pay to another 4 million workers. Currently, many employees who make more than $23,660 in a year are not eligible to be paid time and a half when they work more than 40 hours in a week.

But the Obama administration raised the threshold to $47,476 per year. The overtime rule is on hold due to a court challenge.

Republicans say the overtime rule could lead to reduced hours for low-wage workers and fewer opportunities to grow within the company, raising the likelihood that the Trump administration will decline to defend the rule in court, potentially killing it.

Puzder could also target the Labor Department's joint employer policy, which makes it easier for companies to be held responsible for labor violations committed by franchises. That rule was vehemently opposed by the fast food industry.

"Andy will fight to make American workers safer and more prosperous by enforcing fair occupational safety standards and ensuring workers receive the benefits they deserve," Trump said in a statement, "and he will save small businesses from the crushing burdens of unnecessary regulations that are stunting job growth and suppressing wages."

Whole lotta lyin’ goin’ on

(Scott Johnson)

By just about everyone’s reckoning, the so-called signature achievements of the Obama years are the enactment of Obamacare and the Iran nuclear deal. They have a lot in common. Both are ruinous and both were built on an edifice of bald-faced lies. President Obama is the lyin’king and these are the lyin’ years. 

We recall the foundational lies of Obamacare: If you like your insurance plan, you can keep it. If you like your doctor, you can keep him. Obamacare will save the average family $2500 a year. Obama enunciated these lies in a manner suggesting that anyone who disputed them was an idiot. The compilation below documents Obama’s incessant reiteration of the lie about keeping your health care plan. Our familiarity with it should not dull our contempt for the liar, his partisan allies and his mainstream media adjunct.

The same applies many times over to the Iran nuclear deal. In the first sentence of his statement announcing it (video below), Obama asserted that it constituted “a comprehensive, long-term deal with Iran that will prevent it from obtaining a nuclear weapon.” The truth, however, is that in a best case scenario under the deal, Iran will have nuclear weapons in little over a decade. 

Moreover, Iran will finance its nuclear weapons program and other murderous activities with the billions of dollars it obtains pursuant to the agreement, much of it delivered in in cash on pallets as ransom to induce Iran’s agreement to the deal. The Wall Street Journal’s Jay Solomon and Carol Lee follow the money this week in “Inside the 37-year standoff over Iran’s frozen US dollars” and in “A tally of Iran sanctions relief includes more than $10 billion in cash, gold.” As Churchill said on Munich, though Obama lacks Chamberlain’s good faith and the United States lacks Britain’s excuses, we should know that we have sustained a defeat without a war, the consequences of which will travel far with us along our road

The money adds to the shame and humiliation involved in the abjection of the Iran deal. It is indeed worse than Munich; Britain didn’t pay Hitler.

Obama again enlisted the assistance of his mainstream media adjunct in selling the big lie of the Iran deal. Obama national security flack Ben Rhodes even bragged about it to David Samuels.

In the Obama administration’s parting betrayal of Israel in the United Nations we see the same operation at work. We see the mainstream media offering up Ben Rhodes to comment. You might say we’ve been down this Rhodes before. It represents Obama’s modus operandi.


Read More Here

Former MI5 intel agent: Obama Russia claims ‘pure propaganda’

So what makes America look worse on the world stage: the assertion that a foreign government “hacked” our presidential election, or the lie that one did?

Annie Machon, former intelligence agent for the British MI5, tells RT that the latter is what happened.

“This is very much a case of fake news, shall we say. It seems to serve two ends as well,” Machon says.

“On the day when the ceasefire is announced, which has been brokered by Russia and Turkey – this is a story that will run and run in America, not the ceasefire in Syria. It’s all going to be about these Russians, and hacking the election and things like that. I think this is the first stage – this is why it was announced that the Russian diplomats were going to be expelled,” she says.

“On the second point as well, it is a mass expulsion – 35 diplomats being thrown out of the country with no proof, with no sort of real intelligence. I think that has also been done to gain the idea, to solidify in public’s mind in America that actually Russia was involved in hacking the election.

“Where has that phrase evolved from? We don’t know. It was originally just hacking the DNC [Democratic National Committee] e-mails. So I think it is a sort of two-pronged attack that has been carried out; that has been carefully announced today to achieve that,” she says.

“One further point from that in terms of trying to solidify the fact that the Russians interfered in the democratic process of America – is part of this ongoing process to try to undermine the legitimacy of the election of Donald Trump – the next president,” according to Machon.

Machon pointed out the U.S. Department of Homeland Security effectively wouldn’t stand behind its own claims.

A disclaimer on the ranalysis reads, “This report is provided ‘as is’ for informational purposes only. The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) does not provide any warranties of any kind regarding any information contained within.”

The former intel agent says the agency, along with the FBI, is just “covering their backs.”

“They know it’s much rubbish…they are trying to blind people with science, but there’s no real evidence,” she says, adding the lack of warranty from the DHS about the claims “points to the fact that it is pure propaganda and they know it.”

The post Former MI5 intel agent: Obama Russia claims ‘pure propaganda’appeared first on The American Mirror.

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Trump Sends New Year’s Wishes to All, Even His ‘Many Enemies’

Campaign 2016 Trump_perr (21)__1476185288_47.189.23.214

PALM BEACH, Florida (AP) -- President-elect Donald Trump has an unusual New Year’s message for his Twitter followers.

He is wishing a “Happy New Year to all, including to my many enemies and those who have fought me and lost so badly.”

Trump adds, “they just don’t know what to do,” ending his message with the word, “Love!”

The president-elect will be spending his New Year’s Eve at his private Mar-a-Lago club in Palm Beach, Florida.

He’ll be throwing a private party that is expected to draw hundreds of guests, including action star Sylvester Stallone.


Copyright 2016 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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Friday, December 30, 2016

Freedom Quote

“If an American is to amount to anything he must rely upon himself, and not upon the State; he must take pride in his own work, instead of sitting idle to envy the luck of others. He must face life with resolute courage, win victory if he can, and accept defeat if he must, without seeking to place on his fellow man a responsibility which is not theirs.”
-- Theodore Roosevelt

With the two-state solution a distant dream, Palestinians ask if it's time to push for a one-state solution

Joshua Mitnick

For nearly three decades, governments around the world have insisted that the best way to end the most intractable conflict in the Middle East is to trade land for peace, creating an independent Palestinian state alongside Israel in the West Bank and Gaza Strip.

But these days, as Palestinians see prospects for the so-called two-state solution disintegrating, a growing number are mulling over a provocative alternative: a single binational state from the Jordan River to the Mediterranean.

The notion is the equivalent of a demographic Trojan horse, forcing Israel either to give Arab residents full voting rights — and jeopardize the Jewish identity upon which Israel was created in 1948 — or risk becoming an apartheid state under permanent sanction by the rest of the world.

U.S. Secretary of State John F. Kerrywarned of the risk Wednesday in what he described as a “fundamental reality” for the two sides to consider: “If the choice is one state, Israel can either be Jewish or democratic — it cannot be both — and it won’t ever really be at peace.”

For Palestinians, the renewed calls to consider a one-state solution come as the peace process is at one of its lowest ebbs. Negotiations have been mothballed for three years, Israeli settlements in the West Bank are under steady expansion, and there are continuing calls by Israeli politicians to annex part of the West Bank.

President-elect Donald Trump’s victory and the prominence of patrons of the Israeli settlements in his close circle of advisors have only compounded the skepticism. A December public opinion poll found that two-thirds of Palestinians believe a two-state solution is no longer feasible.

The alternative, many argue, is an invitation to Israel to swallow Palestine.

“Many people support the idea,” said Mustafa Barghouti, a Palestinian legislator and a former candidate for president. “If the two-state solution is physically unattainable, we have only one option: A struggle to gain full and equal democratic rights in one state, in the land of historic Palestine.”

Once limited to small groups of politically independent weekly protesters against Israel’s military occupation, the idea is now being widely discussed. Palestinian intellectuals, businessmen and political officials who long championed the two-state solution are starting to strategize about what some argue is an already existing one-state reality.

“Because of the lack of a political horizon, the inability of the sides to sit down together, because of the reality on the ground of expanding settlements and road checkpoints, people started to believe that the two-state solution is dead,’’ said Bashar Azzeh, a youth activist and marketing director at the Wassel Group, a Palestinian logistics company.   

“Some people are saying: Let’s demand full human and civil rights rather than national rights; then maybe the international community will listen to us.’’

In Al Birah, Ramallah’s twin city, the municipal soccer stadium sits on a ridge just a few hundred yards from the red-roofed homes of the Israeli settlement of Psagot on the opposite hilltop. Wasfi Nawajah, a coach in a warm-up suit, complained that his southern West Bank village had no permits to build a gym, while the neighboring Israeli settlement was free to build sports facilities and expand.

“The Palestinians are only suffering from the peace process. The situation is tough. Many people are losing hope,’’ Nawajah said.

A poll this month by the Palestinian Center for Policy and Survey Research found a nearly 10-percentage-point jump over the last three months of Palestinians who say the two-state solution is no longer viable. Support for a one-state solution has advanced in the same period to 36% from 32%.

“This is a major change, a significant erosion in the viability of the two-state solution,’’ Khalil Shikaki, the director of the polling center, said in a lecture at the Jerusalem Press Club. “Today, we don’t have majority support for the two-state solution. What has gone up is support for the one-state solution.’’

Slackening support can be found in Israel as well as in the incoming U.S. administration. Donald Trump’s nomination of David Friedman, a longtime patron of the Israeli settlement of Beit El, suggests the new administration might no longer champion negotiations toward a Palestinian state as did previous U.S. presidents.

Israeli Education Minister Naftali Bennett, who advocates annexation of 60% of the West Bank and “autonomy on steroids” for Palestinians in the remaining areas, in November declared the end of “the era” of the Palestinian state.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu recently told CBS’ “60 Minutes” that he remains committed to “two states for two peoples,’’ but when he was asked by an Israeli journalist on the eve of the 2015 election whether he expected the creation of a Palestinian state on his watch, he said no. The prime minister and his aides say Israel needs to reach security agreements with surrounding Arab governments before a peace deal with the Palestinians.