Category Archives: International

Trump Signs Executive Order To Halt Family Separations

By: Andrew Restuccia, Lorraine Woellert of politico

President Donald Trump signed an executive action Wednesday that ends the administration’s policy of separating migrant families crossing the U.S.-Mexico border, abandoning the president’s previous stance that only Congress can fix the problem.

“I didn’t like the sight or the feeling of families being separated,” the president told reporters in the Oval Office, flanked by Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen and Vice President Mike Pence. “I think anybody with a heart would feel strongly about it. We don’t like to see families separated.”

Yet Trump said that he wanted to continue enforcing a strong policy at the border, an issue he campaigned on: “We are keeping a very powerful border and it continues to be a zero tolerance. We have zero tolerance for people that enter our country illegally.”

The action came after Trump and his team faced harsh criticism from lawmakers, activists, religious leaders and former first ladies over the separation of children from their parents in custody, which was panned almost universally as cruel and damaging to the kids’ well-being.

It was a remarkable shift from a president who is typically reluctant to bow to outside pressure. He often doubles down on his existing stance when confronted with criticism.

With cable news flashing images of migrant children held in cages and lawmakers’ offices facing a flood of angry phone calls, the president was under increased pressure to come up with a speedy solution. White House aides came to the conclusion on Wednesday that Congress was unlikely to act quickly to resolve the crisis, even though they sent signals that Trump would be willing to sign a narrow, stand-alone fix without other immigration-related provisions.

The decision to end the separation policy via executive action appeared to have happened quickly, and some in the White House were left in the dark. Key members of the White House legislative affairs team, which had been working with Hill lawmakers in a bid to find a legislative fix, were left out of the loop and hadn’t seen text of the executive action as of early Wednesday afternoon, according to two people familiar with the issue.

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States Take Net Neutrality Into Their Own Hands

By: Harper Neidig of The Hill

States are pushing their own net neutrality laws and rules in defiance of the Federal Communications Commission’s (FCC) repeal, heightening the possibility that supporters will be waging another legal battle over the popular Obama-era regulations.

Washington and Oregon have already passed their own laws to fill the void left by the FCC’s repeal, and California appears to be close behind after the state Senate passed a net neutrality bill on Wednesday.

A total of 29 states have proposed their own open internet legislation, according to Gigi Sohn, a fellow at Georgetown Law who’s been tracking the initiatives.

And five Democratic governors have gone with another tactic: issuing executive orders that prohibit the state from doing business with any broadband company that violates the principles of net neutrality.

The FCC’s repeal order included a provision preempting states from creating their own net neutrality rules, and this movement could lay the groundwork for a court battle over states’ rights to implement their own consumer protections.

A potential industry lawsuit against the states that have passed net neutrality laws could hold some promise for net neutrality supporters, says Marc Martin, a communications and technology lawyer at Perkins Coie.

“It’s not a slam dunk” despite the preemption clause, Martin said. “It’ll be interesting, I think that is one of the more vulnerable parts of the repeal overall.”

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Democrats Demand Investigation On Trump Chinese Loan

By: Jessica Kwong of Newsweek

More than 60 House Democrats are calling for an ethics investigation over the “extremely short time frame” between a $500 million loan the Chinese government made to an Indonesian theme park with Trump Organization properties, and President Donald Trump’s move to save the Chinese telecommunications firm ZTE.

In a letter addressed to U.S. Office of Government Ethics Acting Director David Apol, tweeted by U.S. Representative David Cicilline of Rhode Island on Sunday, Democrats pointed out that Trump had his administration save ZTE from financial collapse three days after reports of the Chinese government’s massive loan to the theme park that will include a Trump-branded hotel and golf course, residences and shops.

“We believe that these events raise several potential constitutional and ethical violations,” the letter stated. “First, the Chinese governments loan may invoke the Emoluments Clause of the United States Constitution, which prohibits officials holding an ‘office of profit or trust’ from accepting payment or gifts from a foreign government without the consent from Congress.”

Trump has refused to divest from his business interests, handing day-to-day operations of the Trump Organization to his two eldest sons but maintaining a revocable trust that he can draw funds from anytime.

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Trump Cancels Major Meeting

By: Mike Calia of CNBC

President Donald Trump canceled his historic nuclear summit with Kim Jong Un on Thursday, accusing North Korea of “tremendous anger and open hostility.”

The meeting, which would have marked the first face-to-face encounter between a sitting U.S. president and a North Korean leader, was set for June 12 in Singapore.

“Sadly, based on the tremendous anger and open hostility displayed in your most recent statement, I feel it is inappropriate, at this time, to have this long-planned meeting,” Trump wrote in a letter to Kim, which was released Thursday morning.

Stocks fell and gold rose after news of the cancellation broke.

Much of the letter was written in seemingly friendly terms, including praise for North Korea’s recent release of three American prisoners. In contrast, Trump also appeared to issue a threat that conjured memories of his war of words with Kim last year.

“You talk about your nuclear capabilities, but ours are so massive and powerful that I pray to God they will never have to be used,” Trump wrote.

The cancellation appeared to take South Korea’s government by surprise. The nation’s president, Moon Jae-in, had played a pivotal role in setting up recent diplomatic developments.

A representative of Moon’s office said the South Korean administration was “trying to figure out what President Trump’s intention is and the exact meaning of it,” according to the country’s Yonhap News Agency. Moon and his aides convened emergency meetings to address the shock announcement, which broke shortly before midnight in Seoul.

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Documents Reveal Troubling Documents For Net Neutrality Repeal

By: Medium

This past week, AT&T apologized for for its “serious misjudgment” in hiring U.S. President Donald Trump’s personal attorney Michael Cohen to provide “insights” into how the new administration would handle issues like net neutrality and AT&T’s proposed merger with Time Warner Cable.

Although Pai denied hearing from Cohen, new scheduling documents obtained through FOIA by corruption watchdog American Oversight show the Chairman met with with top AT&T executives at a private dinner in Barcelona a month after the company began paying Cohen. One of the top AT&T representatives present at this meeting was noted net neutrality enemy Bob Quinn, who hired Cohen and has since stepped down over the controversy.

These revelations come on the tail of one of the most problem-ridden and undemocratic consultations in the FCC’s history. Throughout the comment period, the agency refused to address problems with fake comments, alleged DDoS attacks that prevented Internet users from commenting, and failed to release of thousands of important consumer complaints over net neutrality violations until the last minute.

At this point, members of Congress must vote to support the CRA and reverse the agency’s disastrous net neutrality repeal when the resolution hits the Senate floor in just over 24 hours. Then they need to hold a public hearing to investigate what went on between AT&T, Cohen, and the FCC, and give the public the answers they deserve.

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Google Under Investigation For Secretly Mining Data

By: John Rolfe of Daily Telegraph

THE ACCC is investigating accusations Google is using as much as $580 million worth of Australians’ phone plan data annually to secretly track their movements.

Australian Competition and Consumer Commission chairman Rod Sims said he was briefed recently by US experts who had intercepted, copied and decrypted messages sent back to Google from mobiles running on the company’s Android operating system.

The experts, from computer and software corporation Oracle, claim Google is draining roughly one gigabyte of mobile data monthly from Android phone users’ accounts as it snoops in the background, collecting information to help advertisers.

A gig of data currently costs about $3.60-$4.50 a month. Given more than 10 million Aussies have an Android phone, if Google had to pay for the data it is said to be siphoning, it would face a bill of between $445 million and $580 million a year.

Google’s privacy consent discloses that it tracks location “when you search for a restaurant on Google Maps”. But it does not appear to mention the constant monitoring going on in the background even when Maps is not in use.

The Oracle experts say phone owners’ data ends up being consumed even if Google Maps is not in use or aeroplane mode is switched on. Nor will removing the SIM card stop it from happening. Only turning off a phone prevents monitoring, it says.

The information fed back to Google includes barometric pressure readings so it can work out, for example, which level of a shopping mall you are on. By combining this with your coordinates Google knows which shops you have visited.

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Study Shows How Development Effects Self Esteem

By: Christian Jarrett

Studies of identical and non-identical twins indicate that our self-esteem is influenced by the genes we inherited from our parents, but also, and perhaps slightly more so, by environmental factors. And according to a new study in Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, these environmental influences started playing a lasting role very early in life.

Ulrich Orth at the University of Bern has reported evidence that, on average, the higher the quality of a person’s home environment when they were aged between 0 and 6 years – based on warm and responsive parenting; cognitive stimulation; and a safe, organised physical environment – the higher their self-esteem many years later in adulthood.

The data come from nearly 9,000 individuals, born between 1970 and 2001, whose mothers had enrolled in the National Longitudinal Survey of Youth that started in the US in 1979.

Orth analysed the biennial interviews with the mothers that took place in their homes when their children – the participants in this study – were aged 0 to 6. This provided the measure of the quality of the participants’ early childhood home environment in terms of parental warmth and responsiveness, cognitive stimulation and the safety and organisation of the home. Orth also noted the quality of the relationship between mother and father during this period; the presence or not of the father; maternal depression; and family poverty.

Measures of the participants’ self-esteem started when they were aged just 8 and continued biennially until they were 27. The survey researchers used a measure designed for children until the participants were age 14, and thereafter switched to the well-known Rosenberg Self-esteem Scale.

The critical finding is that the quality of the home environment between the ages of 0 to 6 correlated significantly with participants’ self-reported self-esteem in later childhood, and even with their self-esteem into adulthood, although the association weakened over time. “The findings suggest that the home environment is a key factor in early childhood that influences the long-term development of self-esteem”, Orth said.

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Trump Leaves Nuclear Deal With Iran

By: Josh Lederman and Catherine Lucey of Associated Press

President Donald Trump announced Tuesday the U.S. is pulling out of the landmark international nuclear accord with Iran, declaring he was making the world safer but dealing a profound blow to allies and deepening his isolation on the world stage.

“The United States does not make empty threats,” he said in a televised address from the White House.

Trump said the 2015 agreement, which included Germany, France and Britain, was a “horrible one-sided deal that should never ever have been made.” He added that the United States “will be instituting the highest level of economic sanction. ”

Trump’s decision means Iran’s government must now decide whether to follow the U.S. and withdraw or try to salvage what’s left of the deal. Iranian President Hassan Rouhani said he was sending his foreign minister to the countries remaining in the accord but warned there was only a short time to negotiate with them and his country could soon “start enriching uranium more than before.”

The leaders of Britain, Germany and France immediately urged the U.S. not to take any actions that could prevent them and Iran from continuing to implement the agreement. The statement from Prime Minister Theresa May, Chancellor Angela Merkel and President Emmanuel Macron also urged Iran to “show restraint” and continue fulfilling its own obligations such as cooperating with inspections.

In Washington, the Trump administration said it would re-impose sanctions on Iran immediately but allow grace periods for businesses to wind down activity.

The Treasury Department said there will be “certain 90-day and 180-day wind-down periods” but didn’t specify which sanctions would fall under which timelines. Treasury says at the end of those periods, the sanctions will be in “full effect.”

National Security Adviser John Bolton said nobody should sign contracts for new business with Iran.

In his remarks, Trump blasted the deal as “defective at its core.” As evidence, he cited documents recently released by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, a leading critic of the deal.

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EU Is Gifting Youth To Explore Europe

By: Raf Casert and Frank Jordans of ABC

The European Union is convinced it has found a new way for young people to fall in love with neighboring countries — free train rides.

The EU kicked off the DiscoverEU project Thursday to send up to 30,000 18-year-olds chugging across the continent this year, giving them free rail tickets to broaden their horizons. All for a taxpayers’ cost of 12 million euros ($14 million).

If all goes well, and the next 7-year EU budget plans are approved, that could turn into a budget of 100 million euros ($120 million) a year, giving some 200,000 teenagers the right to Europe-wide Interrail travel.

“It starts this year and this is just the beginning,” EU lawmaker Manfred Weber said. “It will show the European people that the European Union is much more than a law-making machine.”

For the past half century, the cut-rate Interrail tickets have been a coming-of-age ritual for many European youngsters. Cross the continent, sleep on a beach, see the great sights, taste the good life and make new friends.

Weber said it would help young Europeans “discover all the richness of their differences.”

This year, 18-year-olds will be able to apply for a free ticket to travel in up to four EU countries for a month.

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Nigerian President Meets With POTUS

By: David Smith

Donald Trump was described as “the perfect African president” way back in October 2015 when the comedian Trevor Noah drew parallels between the then long shot candidate’s xenophobia, mendacity, braggadocio and lavish lifestyle with certain leaders on the continent. “Donald Trump is presidential,” Noah, from South Africa, said on the Daily Show. “He just happens to be running on the wrong continent.”

The US president has said little about Africa since taking office except when inventing a new country – “Nambia” – and slandering “shithole countries” (allegedly). On Monday, he hosted a leader from sub-Saharan Africa for the first time: Muhammadu Buhari, the president of Nigeria. The gaffe potential was immense.

On a sunny day in the White House rose garden, a journalist brought up the “shithole” affair, which was described by Nigeria at the time as “deeply hurtful, offensive and unacceptable” if true and prompted it to summon a US official for an explanation.

Buhari, 75, wearing shades, was diplomatic. “I’m very careful with what the press says about [people] other than myself,” he said. “I’m not sure about the validity or whether that allegation against the president was true or not. So the best thing for me is to keep quiet.”

Then Trump interjected. He did not confirm the remark but did not exactly deny it either. “We didn’t discuss it,” he said. Buhari laughed.

Trump continued: “You do have some countries that are in very bad shape and very tough places to live in. But we didn’t discuss it because the president knows me and he knows where I’m coming from and I appreciate that. We did not discuss it.”

Trump and Buhari touched on aid and removing trade barriers, agriculture and oil, military and intelligence cooperation and the fights against corruption and Islamist terrorism. The US president described Boko Haram’s infamous kidnap of the Chibok schoolgirls as “tough stuff”.

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