Originally Published: February 5, 2018 6 a.m.
WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump was wrong to assert that a GOP-produced classified memo on FBI surveillance powers cleared him in the Russia investigation, Democratic and Republican lawmakers said Sunday. They expressed hope that special counsel Robert Mueller’s work would continue without interference.
Democrats could seek a vote on publicly releasing their rebuttal memo when the GOP-led House Intelligence Committee meets late Monday afternoon. The committee rejected that move last week, with one Republican member saying revisions were needed so the memo would not endanger national security. The Senate’s Democratic leader, Chuck Schumer of New York, urged Trump to back the public release and said that refusing to do so would show the president’s intent to undermine the Russia investigation.
The committee’s top Democrat, California Rep. Adam Schiff, branded the GOP memo “a political hit job.” He questioned whether the chairman, Rep. Devin Nunes, R-Calif., had coordinated with the White House in drafting the document seized on by the president to vent his grievances against the nation’s premier law enforcement agencies.
“The goal here is to undermine the FBI, discredit the FBI, discredit the Mueller investigation, do the president’s bidding,” Schiff said. “I think it’s very possible his staff worked with the White House.”
Nunes was asked during a Jan. 29 committee meeting whether he had coordinated the memo with the White House. “As far as I know, no,” he responded, then refused to answer when asked whether his staff members had communicated with the White House. He had previously apologized for sharing with the White House secret intelligence intercepts related to an investigation of Russian election interference before talking to committee members.
Hitler book, supremacist flag found in Italy suspect’s home
MILAN — A right-wing extremist suspected in the shooting rampage that wounded six Africans in central Italy was “lucid and determined, aware of what he had done” and exhibited no remorse for his actions, an Italian law enforcement official said Sunday.
Luca Traini, 28, remained jailed as police investigated him on multiple counts of attempted murder with the aggravating circumstance of “racial hatred” for the Saturday attacks in the Italian city of Macerata.
The five men and one woman were wounded in the two-hour drive-by shooting spree were from Nigeria, Ghana, Gambia and Mali, according to RAI state television.
Italian authorities said they seized Adolf Hitler’s “Mein Kampf,” other publications linked to Nazism and a flag with a Celtic cross, a symbol commonly used by white supremacists, from Traini’s home Sunday.
Traini, who is Italian, was an unsuccessful candidate last year in a local election for the anti-migrant Northern League political party. Italy’s ANSA news agency quoted acquaintances saying he previously had ties with the neo-fascist Forza Nuova and CasaPound parties.
Child abductions rise amid South Sudan’s grinding civil war
AKOBO, South Sudan — It’s been almost two years since Deng Machar’s three young children were abducted from his home and likely sold for cattle. Sitting in South Sudan’s opposition-held town of Akobo, the 35-year-old pointed to the dirt beneath his feet.
“They were playing right there,” Machar said. “It would be easier if they were dead because then I could forget.”
Machar said his 4-year-old daughter and 5-year-old son were likely sold for cattle after being seized by men from the rival Murle tribe. He doubts his 2-year-old son is still alive. Eleven children in all were abducted from this area that day and none has been seen since.
It is a little-acknowledged tragedy in South Sudan’s five-year civil war. Child kidnappings between clans have increased as people become more desperate amid widespread hunger and a devastated economy, human rights groups say.
“Child abductions and trafficking in South Sudan is a real issue that requires an urgent response by the government,” said Edmund Yakani, executive director of the nonprofit Community Empowerment for Progress Organization.
Yellen disappointed not to get a second term as Fed chair
WASHINGTON — Janet Yellen said she was disappointed that President Donald Trump didn’t offer her a second term as Federal Reserve chair, but supports her central bank successor, Jerome Powell, who takes over on Monday.
Powell, a Fed board member since 2012, is “thoughtful, balanced, dedicated to public service. I’ve found him to be a very thoughtful policymaker,” Yellen said in an interview with CBS’ “Sunday Morning.”
She also said the stock market — the Dow Jones industrial average closed at 25,520 Friday after a 665-point drop — was “high,” and that the financial system was in stronger shape to handle a sharp sell-off than it was during the 2008 financial crisis. She cited changes put in place since that time; Trump has been critical of that effort.
“The financial system is much better capitalized. The banking system is more resilient,” Yellen said. “Our overall judgment is that, if there were to be a decline in asset valuations, it would not damage unduly the core of our financial system.”
Yellen, appointed by President Barack Obama, was the first woman to lead the Fed. Her four-year term ended Friday. She is joining the Brookings Institution think tank.
Outside Yemen’s rebel-held capital, stalemated war rages on
ON THE OUTSKIRTS OF SANAA, Yemen — In the rocky highlands outside of Yemen’s rebel-held capital, it quickly becomes clear how the Arab world’s poorest country remains mired in a stalemated civil war.
Soldiers and militiamen loyal to Yemen’s internationally recognized government describe having a tantalizing view on a clear day of Sanaa’s international airport from the moonscape mountains. The price is a steady barrage of incoming fire on the exposed hillside from Shiite rebels, known as Houthis, that makes any further advance treacherous, even with the aid of Saudi-led airstrikes.
The nearly three-year civil war, pitting the Saudi-led coalition against the rebels, has killed more than 10,000 people, displaced 2 million and helped spawn a devastating cholera epidemic — and yet the front lines have hardly moved.
“In mountainous areas like this it’s difficult. The American Army struggled with that in Afghanistan,” Yemeni Maj. Gen. Nasser Ali al-Daibany told Associated Press reporters who were granted access to the front lines on a tour organized by the Saudi-led coalition. “But for us this won’t slow us down ... because our boys, our fighters, were trained in these mountains, so they are the sons of this area.”
The comparison to Afghanistan, where the U.S. war is now 16 years old, feels apt.
Billionaire takes a property tax stand over pooping geese
Billionaire Tom Golisano says he tried stringing up fishing line, spraying smelly repellent and even posting a wolf decoy, but nothing could rid his lakeside vacation home of the Canada geese that turned his lawn into a minefield of poop.
His next line of attack? Refusing to pay his $90,000 school tax bill until officials in the Finger Lakes town of South Bristol find a way to control the birds.
“This past summer it was horrible. We’d drive in and find 100 to 200 geese parked on our lawn,” said Golisano, founder of payroll company Paychex and former owner of the Buffalo Sabres hockey team. “You can’t walk barefoot, can’t play Frisbee, can’t have your grandchildren run around. ... Here I am paying all this money in taxes and I can’t use my property because of the geese droppings.”
Golisano’s stand over bird poop is just one part of his one-man protest campaign against a taxation system he believes is flawed and inequitable.
He’s pledging to file a class-action lawsuit on behalf of other upstate homeowners who believe they are being overtaxed. And he recently launched a website, TaxMyPropertyFairly.com, to give ordinary taxpayers the tools to challenge their property tax bills.
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