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Obama Sent Palestine $221M Hours Before Leaving Office
Officials say the Obama administration in its waning hours defied Republican opposition and quietly released $221 million to the Palestinian Authority that GOP members of Congress had been blocking. A State Department official and several congressional aides said the outgoing administration formally notified Congress it would spend the money Friday morning. The official said former Secretary of State John Kerry had informed some lawmakers of the move shortly before he left the State Department for the last time Thursday. The aides said written notification dated Jan. 20 was sent to Congress just hours before Donald Trump took the oath of office. In addition to the $221 million for the Palestinians, the Obama administration also told Congress on Friday it was going ahead with the release of another $6 million in foreign affairs spending, including $4 million for climate change programs and $1.25 million for U.N. organizations, the congressional aides said. NY Post
VOA VIEW: Obama is a Muslim and spent American $$$.

Spicer Changes Up Format At WH Briefings, Moves To Hit Reset With Press
White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer moved swiftly Monday to change up how the daily press briefing is conducted, giving the first questions to publications seated toward the back while announcing the creation of “Skype seats” – as he also tried to hit reset with the media after a weekend dispute over inauguration crowd estimates. Instead of calling on front-row outlets like the Associated Press and others, Spicer gave the first questions of his first full-blown White House briefing to a New York Post reporter. He also called early on reporters from the Christian Broadcasting Network, Fox Business Network and Univision. Spicer further announced the White House would create four “Skype seats” for reporters not in the Washington area or who don’t have a hard pass to attend the briefings in person. Fox News

Trump Signs Executive Order Withdrawing US From TPP Trade Deal
Making good on a campaign promise, President Trump on Monday signed an executive order withdrawing the United States from the controversial Trans-Pacific Partnership trade deal. He also signed two other orders -- one placing a hiring freeze on some federal workers and the other reinstating a ban on funding for international groups that perform abortions. The TPP, a giant and semi-secret 12-member free-trade agreement advocated by the Obama administration, aimed to deepen economic ties between the U.S. and 11 other Pacific Rim nations, cut taxes and foster trade to boost economic growth in the process. Fox News

Trump Reverses Abortion Policy For Aid To NGOs
President Donald Trump signed an executive action on Monday reinstating the so-called Mexico City Policy, which bars international non-governmental organizations that perform or promote abortions from receiving US government funding. "The President, it's no secret, has made it very clear that he's a pro-life president," White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer told reporters at his first daily briefing. "He wants to stand up for all Americans, including the unborn, and I think the reinstatement of this policy is not just something that echoes that value, but respects taxpayer funding as well." The policy, initially put in place by the Reagan administration, was rescinded by the Obama administration in 2009. CNN

Day One In Trump's America: 'I Need A Second Chance'
A balding and bearded Jamaican man trains his eyes on the table in front of him, nervously shaking his leg. He's miles from home in a lonely courtroom. And in the eyes of immigration authorities, he's worn out his welcome. "My job," the judge says, "is to decide whether you will be allowed to stay." The odds are slim. This is the toughest immigration court in the continental United States. Hundreds of miles north in the nation's capital, bands are about to march in the Inauguration Day parade. Donald Trump is getting ready to kick off his presidency with a pledge to put America first. Cheering crowds are lining up to watch. But there's no fanfare Friday at this 1,900-bed immigrant detention center in rural Stewart County, Georgia, about 120 miles southwest of Atlanta. CNN


Trump Cancels Obama ‘Free-Trade’ Deal With Communist Vietnam That Legitimized State
Donald Trump signed a memorandum today removing the United States from the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), a multinational deal signed by President Barack Obama that sought to create a “free-trade zone” with Vietnam while also expressly legitimizing state ownership of businesses. “Great thing for the American worker, what we just did,” Trump said while showing the signed memorandum to reporters. The TPP, which the Obama Administration signed on Feb. 4, 2016, could have been approved by a simple majority vote in both houses of Congress, acting under so-called “fast-track” authority that passed the Republican-controlled House and Senate in 2015. CNS News

Spicer On Post-Inauguration Protests: Trump ‘Has A Healthy Respect For The First Amendment’
White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer said Monday that President Donald Trump “has a healthy respect for the First Amendment” and that what makes the country “beautiful” is that you can inaugurate a president on one day and the next day, people can protest something on that same space. “I think he has a healthy respect for the First Amendment, and he—this is what makes our country so beautiful is that on one day you can inaugurate a president. On the next day, people can occupy the same space to protest something, but he’s also cognizant to the fact that a lot of these people were there to protest an issue of concern to them and not against anything,” Spicer said when asked what the president’s message is “to the millions of people here in Washington and around the country who were protesting on Saturday.” CNS
VOA VIEW: Truth is important - liberals live on lies.

New York City Reaches $75 Million Settlement Over Police Summonses
New York City has agreed to pay up to $75 million to resolve a civil rights lawsuit accusing its police of engaging in a widespread pattern of issuing criminal summonses to individuals without probable cause in order to meet minimum quotas. The deal, detailed in court papers filed in federal court in Manhattan, would resolve a long-running class action lawsuit brought by several plaintiffs who claimed they were issued summonses without probable cause that were later dismissed.
"We have achieved a landmark settlement in a civil rights case that advances the cause of justice," said Elinor Sutton, a lawyer for the plaintiffs with the law firm Quinn Emanuel Urquart & Sullivan. Reuters

Democratic-Led States Battle Trump Over Consumer Financial Agency
Democratic state officials took a step on Monday to try to defend the U.S. Consumer Financial Protection Bureau in a court battle that could defang it, worried that Republican President Donald Trump's administration will not safeguard the agency. Attorneys general from 16 states plus the District of Columbia filed papers with a federal appeals court seeking to intervene in the case. That court ruled last October that the structure of the agency, charged with guarding consumer finances, was unconstitutional. The agency immediately asked the court to reconsider its decision but the Trump administration could drop the appeal. Reuters

US Lawmakers Propose Sanctions For Venezuela Food Corruption
Venezuelan officials may face U.S. sanctions for profiting from food shortages that have exacerbated hunger in the South American country. The calls by members of Congress on both sides of the aisle come in response to an Associated Press investigation that found trafficking in hard-to-find food has become big business in Venezuela, with the military at the heart of the graft. Embattled socialist President Nicolas Maduro has given the military increasingly broad control over the food supply as shortages have led to widespread malnutrition this year. "When the military is profiting off of food distribution while the Venezuelan people increasingly starve, corruption has reached a new level of depravity that cannot go unnoticed," said Democratic Sen. Ben Cardin of Maryland, the ranking member of the Foreign Relations Committee. Philadelphia Inquirer

Hillary ‘50-50’ On Running For NYC Mayor, Insider Claims
Hillary Clinton is seriously considering a run for New York mayor, according to a major city political insider, who claims she’s “50-50.” Supermarket magnate John Catsimatidis said he talked to the failed Democratic presidential nominee, and came away convinced she may try to resurrect her political career by challenging Mayor de Blasio this year. “I spoke to her about it, but she didn’t indicate or signal to me [whether she would run]. She didn’t say never, she didn’t say no. In my personal opinion, it’s 50-50,” the billionaire owner of Gristedes Foods told The Real Deal real-estate blog Monday. NY Post

Romanian Businessman Jailed For Bribing Judges Dies
Dan Adamescu, one of Romania's richest businessmen who was serving a prison sentence for bribery, has died. He was 68. Daughter-in-law Adriana Constantinescu told Romania TV that Adamescu died early Tuesday in a private hospital where he had been transferred from prison for treatment for an infection. The paper he owned, Romania Libera, said he had been in an induced coma since December 2016 and was suffering from septicemia. He had been in ill health for some time and was wheelchair-bound. His lawyers' requests for his early release on health grounds were not granted. His paper called that unjust, and called for a post-mortem inquiry. Tampa Tribune


Abortion Could Be Outlawed In 33 States If Roe V Wade Overturned
Abortion could become illegal in more than half the states if a future Supreme Court overturned the 1973 Roe v Wade decision, according to a new report from the Center for Reproductive Rights. "More than 37 million women in 33 states are at risk of living in a state where abortion could become illegal," the group said. The report was issued to observe the 44th anniversary of the Supreme Court decision. Donald Trump said during the presidential campaign that he would appoint "pro-life justices" to the Supreme Court. If the court voted to overturn Roe, "it will go back to the states, and the states will then make a determination." MSNBC

This Country Is Paying Grandmas To Care For Their Grandkids
Science has proven that grandmothers' brains benefit from babysitting their grandchildren, though if grandma still needs to work to pay the bills, she probably can't afford to watch the kids as often as she might like — but one country has come up with what seems like a pretty genius solution. This February, Turkey is launching a pilot program that will provide state salaries to grannies who take care of their grandchildren during workdays. Retired and non-working grandmothers in Turkey generally receive pensions that range between 1,000 and 1,800 Turkish liras ($250-$450); this new initiative, will offer an additional salary of 400 Turkish lira — about $105 — a month. MSNBC

Trump Revives False Claim That Illegal Ballots Cost Him Popular Vote
During a White House meeting with congressional leaders from both parties Monday, President Trump reportedly told lawmakers he would have won the popular vote against Hillary Clinton if it weren't for voter fraud, reviving his unsubstantiated claim about illegal voting. The Washington Post, who first reported the conversation, claims Trump spent 10 minutes of the meeting "rehashing the campaign," claiming that 3 to 5 million illegal votes on election night cost him the popular vote. The New York businessman won the Electoral College, but his Democratic rival won the popular vote in November by nearly 2.9 million votes. Trump, who has made the unverified claims about voter fraud before the election, incorrectly commented about his win back in a series of tweets in the weeks following the election. "In addition to winning the Electoral College in a landslide, I won the popular vote if you deduct the millions of people who voted illegally," Trump said on Twitter. USA Today
VOA VIEW: Democrats are the masters of illegal votes.

Manpower Shortage Threatens Donald Trump’s Hopes To Rebuild Military
Manpower, not money, may prove a bigger challenge to President Trump’s hopes to rebuild what he calls a “hollowed-out” U.S. military. While much of the debate over how the administration will pay for its ambitious defense buildup, an equally large question mark looms over whether Mr. Trump and Defense Secretary James Mattis can find enough willing and able recruits to meet the demands for soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines. On the campaign trail, Mr. Trump called for a restoration of force levels across the services to numbers before a series of “sequestration” cuts to defense spending, including a 540,000-member Army, backed by a 350-ship Navy and an Air Force of 1,200 fighter aircraft. Washington Times

Defense Secretary Mattis Emphasizes NATO Commitment On First Day
Defense Secretary James Mattis, on his first full day in office Monday, called NATO allies and assured them of the U.S. commitment to the alliance, a notable stand that differs from the occasional skepticism of the organization voiced by President Trump. Mattis called NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg, British Defense Secretary Michael Fallon and Canadian Defense Minister Harjit Sajjan, according to readouts of the calls provided by Navy Capt. Jeff Davis, a Pentagon spokesman. Mattis, in his call to Fallon, “emphasized the United States’ unshakeable commitment to NATO” as well as the close relationship the Pentagon enjoys with the British military. Last week, Trump called the 28-nation NATO alliance “obsolete” and “very unfair to the United States.” Trump also has criticized alliance members for failing to live up to guidelines calling for member states to spend 2% of their gross domestic product on defense. USA Today
VOA VIEW: Time will tell.

Senate Democrats To Propose $1 Trillion Infrastructure Plan
Senate Democrats say they plan to offer a proposal Tuesday to spend $1 trillion on transportation and other infrastructure projects over 10 years in an attempt to engage President Donald Trump on an issue where they hope to find common ground. Details of the plan provided to The Associated Press include a $200 million for a "vital infrastructure fund" to pay for projects of national significance. An example of the types of projects that could be eligible for financing from the fund is the Gateway Program to repair and replace aging rail lines and tunnels between New York and New Jersey, some of which are over 100 years old and were damaged in Hurricane Sandy. The project, which would double the number of trains per hour using the tunnels and help enable high-speed Amtrak service, is estimated to cost about $20 billion. Tampa Tribune

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Supreme Court Rejects Texas Appeal To Restore Strict Voter ID Law
The U.S. Supreme Court declined Monday to hear an appeal brought by Texas lawmakers that seeks to restore the state’s strict voter identification law, letting stand a lower-court ruling which found the Republican-backed law discriminated against minorities. The decision could prove a fleeting victory for voting rights advocates though, as Chief Justice John Roberts wrote in a three-paragraph statement on the denial that the court could consider the case at a later time after a federal district court issues a final order. He wrote that “the issues will be better suited” for consideration before the Supreme Court after a judge has issued a final judgment in the case. Washington Times

President Trump Sued By Watchdog Over Alleged Constitutional Business Ethics Violations
On his first Monday in office, a lawsuit was filed against President Donald Trump by the top ethics lawyers for the last two presidents, claiming Mr. Trump is already engaging in severe constitutional ethics violations. It is likely to be the first in a string of legal actions by liberal organizations seeking to do anything they can to combat the agenda of a fully Republican-controlled federal government, as the courts will be one of their few avenues of recourse. The ethics lawyers, Norman Eisen, who advised Barack Obama, and Richard Painter, who worked under George W. Bush, are acting as part of the watchdog group Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW.) CBS

Trump Freezes Hiring Of Many Federal Workers
President Trump instituted an immediate hiring freeze Monday, signing a presidential memorandum that would affect a large swath of the executive branch but leave wide latitude for exemptions for those working in the military, national security and public safety. The move — coming on the new president’s first full working day in the White House — represents the opening salvo in what could be the most concerted effort to overhaul the federal workforce in 35 years. Critiquing the Washington establishment was central to Trump’s campaign, and he placed federal employees at the center of his effort to “clean up the corruption and special interest collusion in Washington, D.C.” His “Contract with the American Voter” listed a hiring freeze as a key element. It was one of several executive actions he issued Monday, including ones to withdraw from the Trans-Pacific Partnership and to block U.S. funds from being distributed to international organizations that perform or discuss abortions. Washingon Post
VOA VIEW: The federal government needs to be cut.

Sam Nunn And A Style Of Politics That Could Soon Be Extinct
An increasingly rare thing happened earlier this month on Capitol Hill. Former Georgia U.S. Sen. Sam Nunn, a Democrat, took to the witness stand twice in two days to vouch for a pair of Cabinet nominees nominated by a Republican president. A modest gesture, yes. Notable in this radioactive political environment, for sure — especially given that we’re talking about a four-term senator who once called Donald Trump “an apprentice in the nuclear arena” with a “colossal ego” and “no appetite for learning.” Nunn in a recent interview said he stands by his past assessment of Trump when it comes to nuclear weapons, the topic to which he’s devoted his post-Senate career. And he thinks Trump’s advisers need to change his Twitter password. But the Hillary Clinton supporter said he felt compelled to testify on behalf of Rex Tillerson and James Mattis, the president’s picks for secretary of state and defense, after they separately asked him to earlier this month. USA Today

Cervical Cancer Death Rate Higher Than Experts Thought – Especially For Black Women
A new study says the death rate from cervical cancer in the United States is higher than experts thought – particularly for black women. The medical journal Cancer on Monday published the study, which said the rate black American women are dying from the disease is akin to that of women in many poor developing nations. Previously, the mortality rate was 5.7 per 100,000 black women and 3.2 per 100,000 white women, the study said. However, after researchers excluded women who have had a hysterectomy – and thus no chance of developing the disease – from the numbers, the mortality rate was 10.1 per 100,000 black women and 4.7 per 100,000 white women, according to the study. Experts say what is especially disturbing is that cervical cancer is largely preventable through screenings. Atlanta Journal

Trump Aide Reverses Course, Says President Trump Will Release Taxes After Audit Is Complete
A senior adviser to President Donald Trump worked Monday to clarify her statements about Mr. Trump’s release of his tax returns, saying he will do so when he’s no longer under audit and said that he has not shifted his position on the issue. Counselor to the president Kellyanne Conway tweeted on the issue Monday morning, with the hashtag #nonews: That’s different than what Conway said on Sunday, when she told ABC’s “This Week” that “he’s not going to release his tax returns.” Conway’s comments on Sunday were seen as a major reversal for Mr. Trump, who said throughout the campaign that he would release his taxes as soon as they were no longer under routine audit. (He and his team have provided no proof that he is actually under audit.) “The White House response is that he’s not going to release his tax returns,” Conway told ABC’s “This Week.” “We litigated this all through the election.” CBS


White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer Says 'Our Intention Is Never To Lie'
White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer said Monday that he believes that his job is to be honest with the public but said "sometimes we can disagree with the facts but our intention is never to lie." "There are certain things that we may -- we may not fully understand when we come out but our intention is never to lie to you," he added. Monday's news conference is the first time Spicer is taking reporters' questions since the inauguration Friday. On Saturday, he appeared in the briefing room and read a statement to the press but did not take any questions afterward. ABC

McCain Doesn't Know If He Has 'Utmost Confidence' In President Trump
Sen. John McCain praised President Donald Trump's cabinet picks and revealed he will vote in favor of Rex Tillerson, Trump's pick to lead the State Department, despite concerns about the nominee's relationship with Russian President Vladimir Putin. "I will be voting in favor of his nomination," McCain said of Tillerson in an interview Sunday with ABC News' George Stephanopoulos on "This Week." "Listen, this wasn't an easy call. But I also believe that when there's doubt the president, the incoming president, gets the benefit of the doubt, and that's the way I've treated every president that I've had the obligation to vote for or against as a member of the United States Senate." ABC

Sessions Won’t Recuse Himself From Trump Conflicts If Confirmed
Senator Jeff Sessions says he won’t recuse himself from handling any potential conflicts of interest involving President Donald Trump or his family members if confirmed as the nation’s next attorney general. "If merely being a supporter of the president’s during the campaign warranted recusal from involvement in any matter involving him, then most typical presidential appointees would be unable to conduct their duties," Sessions said in written answers to members of the Senate Judiciary Committee that’s scheduled to vote on his nomination Tuesday. “I am not aware of a basis to recuse myself from such matters." As the top U.S. law enforcement official, Sessions, an early and avid supporter of Trump’s presidential campaign, could be drawn into the continuing debate over Trump’s extensive holdings. Bloomberg
VOA VIEW: Move on.

Push To Save Pacific Rim Trade Deal After US Exits TPP Pact
U.S. President Donald Trump's decision to pull out of the Trans-Pacific Partnership, as promised, is prompting other member countries to seek ways to salvage the trade pact. Leaders of some of the 11 other nations involved in the initiative said they hope to push ahead with the agreement in some form, with or without the U.S. Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull said Tuesday he had discussed the pact's future recently with the prime ministers of Japan, Singapore and New Zealand, all TPP members, and believed the pact could survive without the U.S. "Losing the United States from the TPP is a big loss, there is no question about that," Turnbull told reporters. "But we are not about to walk away from our commitment to Australian jobs." Houston Chronicle

Emoluments, Executive Orders — A Trump Glossary
It's the first full work week for the Trump administration, and the talk is all about emoluments, executive orders, a border tax, TPP and much more. If you're rusty on some of those terms, grab this glossary to help get up to speed on what's afoot. Under the Constitution, the Senate has the final say on President Donald Trump's choices for his Cabinet. That includes nominations for 15 department secretaries and six people selected by Trump to lead agencies or serve in roles with Cabinet-level status, such as the EPA and U.N. ambassador. So far, three nominees have been confirmed by the Senate, including CIA Director Mike Pompeo on Monday. With Republicans in control of the Senate by a 52-48 margin, most of the rest are expected to easily win confirmation. Democrats will put up a fight on some, but there's a limit to what they can do. Under rules changes approved in 2013 — when Democrats were in charge of the Senate — Cabinet picks can be confirmed with a simple majority, preventing Democrats from demanding 60 votes to move forward. Houston Chronicle

Donald Trump Gives Illinois Man $10,000 To Help Pay For Dad’s Cancer Treatment
A 24-year-old single dad from Illinois not only got front row seats to the inauguration eve concert, he got “that extra fight” for his dad. Fox 32 reports Shane Bouvet, a Trump campaign volunteer, met President Donald Trump and received a $10,000 check to help cover the costs of his father’s cancer treatment. “He (Trump) is such a genuine, caring, loving person who just really cares about the American people,” Bouvet told Fox News. “For what he did for my dad and gave him that extra fight, I don’t know how I’ll ever repay him.” Bouvet told Fox News that Trump was inspired by a story about him in The Washington Post. “The unlikely meeting between Donald Trump and the 24-year-old from rural Illinois occurred before a concert at the Lincoln Memorial,” Fox 32 News wrote. “While at the concert, Bouvet was escorted by a Secret Service member to meet the president.” Charlotte Observer

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OPEC Shrugs Off Threat Of U.S. Cutting Oil Imports
OPEC’s two biggest suppliers to the U.S. shrugged off a vow by President Donald Trump to end dependence on the group’s oil, saying the world’s biggest economy would continue to need crude from abroad. The U.S. is “closely integrated in the global energy market,” Saudi Arabia’s Energy and Industry Minister Khalid Al-Falih said, while his Venezuelan counterpart Nelson Martinez said he expects his country’s crude exports to the world’s top consumer to remain stable. “The positions that the U.S. and Saudi Arabia take in global energy are very important for global economic stability,” Al-Falih said Sunday at a meeting of producing countries in Vienna. He added that Saudi Arabia was looking forward to working with the Trump administration. Bloomberg

Trump Willing To Work With Russia Against ISIS
The Trump administration says it is willing to partner with Moscow to combat the Islamic State group. In his first daily White House press briefing, press secretary Sean Spicer said Monday that President Donald Trump has been "very clear" that he will "work with any country committed to defeating ISIS." He says the administration will work "with Russia or anyone else" to defeat the militant group, either militarily or economically. The president has vowed to defeat IS "quickly" when he takes office, though he has not provided specifics on his plans for U.S. military efforts in Iraq and Syria. Las Vegas Sun

Strong January Storms Stir Destruction From Coast-To-Coast
From California to the Deep South to the Northeast, millions of Americans were contending with death and destruction from damaging January weather. Flooding, high winds and suspected tornadoes have rousted people from their homes. A deadly storm system tore across the Deep South, a nor'easter lashed the East Coast and rainfall records fell in California. A powerful storm system that tore across the Deep South over the weekend killed 19 people, including 15 in south Georgia. Rescuers were going through stricken areas Monday, searching for possible survivors. Patrick Marsh of the Storm Prediction Center in Norman, Oklahoma, said 39 possible tornadoes were reported across the Southeast from early Saturday into Sunday evening. Las Vegas Sun

'SNL' Writer Suspended For Tweet About Barron Trump
A "Saturday Night Live" writer has been suspended indefinitely after tweeting a poorly received joke about Donald Trump's 10-year-old youngest son, Barron. A person familiar with the situation but not authorized to speak publicly told The Associated Press that Katie Rich was suspended immediately after writing an offensive tweet about the child. An outcry on social media followed, with many calling for a boycott of the TV show. Rich later deleted the tweet, deactivated her account but then reactivated it Monday, saying she wanted to "sincerely apologize" for the "insensitive" tweet and "deeply regret" her actions. NBC had no comment. Barron found support from Chelsea Clinton, with the former first daughter saying he "deserves the chance every child does — to be a kid." Kansas City Star
VOA VIEW: Rich should not get a job anywhere.

Nelson: Trump Hiring Freeze Could Hurt Hurricane Response In Florida, Nation
President Donald Trump’s federal hiring freeze may harm the government's hurricane preparedness and response, Florida U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson said Monday. Nelson spoke out shortly after Trump signed an executive order in the Oval Office halting federal agencies except the Pentagon from hiring new employees. “The National Weather Service's around-the-clock forecasts save lives in Florida and around the nation,” Nelson said. “Failure to fill vital vacancies within the agency means those hands won't be around when the monster storm hits. Not only would that be irresponsible, but it could put people's lives at risk.” Miami Herald

State Of Emergency Declared For 50 California Counties
Gov. Jerry Brown has declared a state of emergency for 50 California counties that were drenched by winter storms. Monday's two proclamations cover counties up and down the state that were hit with flooding, mudslides, erosion and damage to roads and highways from December and January storms. Brown says "conditions of extreme peril" exist in the counties because of damage estimated in the tens of millions of dollars. The declarations direct Caltrans to ask for immediate assistance through the Federal Highway Administration's Emergency Relief Program. Brown also directs the state Office of Emergency Services to provide assistance to local governments. SF Gate

New Gut Microbe Study May Lead To Potential Autism Treatment
Researchers at Arizona State University have found improved autism symptoms in participants who were given medications to treat gut microbes. The research team of scientists from Arizona State, Northern Arizona University, Ohio State University and the University of Minnesota, studied 18 people ages 7 to 16 with autism spectrum disorders for 10 weeks. Study participants were given a treatment of antibiotics, a bowel cleanse, and daily fecal microbial transplants over an eight-week period. The study showed an average of 80 percent improvement in gastrointestinal symptoms common in people with autism and a 20 to 25 percent improvement in certain autism behaviors including social skills and sleep habits. UPI

Pope Francis Warns Against Hitler-Like Populism
Pope Francis has likened the global rise of populism to the circumstances in 1930s Germany that led to Adolf Hitler assuming power. In an interview with El País on Friday, interviewers asked Francis his thoughts about the rise of anti-establishment or populist movements in Europe and the United States, where Donald Trump was last week inaugurated as 45th president of the United States. "The consequences of a crisis that does not end, the increase in inequality, the absence of strong leadership are giving way to political formations that are collecting the discomfort of citizens," the interviewer said. "Some of them ... take advantage of the fear of the citizenship of an uncertain future to construct a message of xenophobia, of hatred toward the foreigner. The case of Trump is the most striking, but there are also the cases of Austria and even Switzerland. Are you worried about this phenomenon?" UPI

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Once committed to quickly moving America's embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, the Trump administration is now expressing caution, promising only to review the matter extensively and in consultation with "stakeholders" in the conflict. That deliberative process tracks closely with the policy evolutions of two prior presidents, Barack Obama and George W. Bush, who also campaigned on a pledge to move the embassy. Both ultimately reversed course while in their first terms office. Jerusalem Post

The Palestinian leadership should downgrade its diplomatic ties with the United States if the American embassy is relocated from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, a top Fatah official said on Monday. “If that [the relocation of the embassy] takes place, the Palestinian side would have to sever its ties with the official staff of the illegal US Embassy in Jerusalem. In addition to that, there is the issue of the Palestinian political representative’s office in Washington; it would also be necessary to close [it],” Nasser al-Kidwa, a Fatah central committee member, told Al-Quds, a Palestinian daily newspaper, clarifying that the relocation the of the US Embassy would leave the Palestinians with “no other choice.” Jerusalem Post

Syria Conflict: War Of Words As Peace Talks Open In Astana
The Syrian government's lead negotiator has denounced what he called his rebel counterpart's "provocative" comments at the start of peace talks in Astana. Bashar Jaafari said Mohammed Alloush had acted in a way "removed from diplomacy" at the indirect negotiations convened by Russia, Iran and Turkey. Mr Alloush described the Syrian government as a "terrorist entity". He also said a political solution to the civil war was the rebels' preferred choice, but "not the only one". BBC

Social Media Stands Up For Barron Trump And Reacts To Burnt Toast Cancer Link
As a public office holder the President of the United States could be considered fair game for criticism and mockery on social media. But should people draw a line when it comes to their children? Donald Trump's son, Barron, has been the target for some on social media, but others have come to his defence saying the ten-year-old is "off limits". At the heart of the online decry is NBC's Saturday Night Live's writer Katie Rich, who posted a now-deleted tweet in which she said that "Barron will be this country's first homeschool shooter". The anger was swift, with some even amongst the show's "loyal viewers" demanding her dismissal and urging a boycott of the programme. BBC

Jared Kushner To Meet With Justin Trudeau About US-Canada Relationship
A senior business advisor to Donald Trump has told Justin Trudeau and his Liberal government that Canada has little reason to worry about the president’s push to renegotiate Nafta, as Canada prepares for what could be a tumultuous overhaul of its relationship with the US. Trudeau and his cabinet are in Calgary for a two-day retreat, much of which will focus on how Donald Trump’s presidency will affect longstanding Canada-US cooperation on issues that range from trade to border security and intelligence. On Monday, Reuters reported that Trump’s son-in-law Jared Kushner would travel to Calgary to meet with Trudeau and his cabinet, describing the visit as a sign of the developing ties between Trudeau’s government and those in Trump’s inner circle. Hours later, a senior Canadian official said the trip had been scrapped after plans fell through. Guardian

Organisms Created With Synthetic DNA Pave Way For Entirely New Life Forms
From the moment life gained a foothold on Earth its story has been written in a DNA code of four letters. With G, T, C and A - the molecules that pair up in the DNA helix - the lines between humans and all life on Earth are spelled out. Now, the first living organisms to thrive with an expanded genetic code have been made by researchers in work that paves the way for the creation and exploitation of entirely new life forms. Scientists in the US modified common E coli microbes to carry a beefed-up payload of genetic material which, they say, will ultimately allow them to program how the organisms operate and behave. Guardian

'We Were Too Scared To Report It': Express Abductions On The Rise In Crisis-Hit Venezuela
It was 5pm on a Sunday afternoon when Elena and her husband Juan were jolted out of their car by three armed men and bundled into an unknown vehicle. The couple stopped their 4x4 when the two preceding vehicles came to an abrupt halt and a third one pulled up behind them, marking the start of their abduction. They spent the following seven hours in the kidnappers’ vehicle with their heads resting between their legs, unable to move, while the unidentified men negotiated their release. Telegraph

When Theresa Meets Donald – The Opportunities ... And The Potential Pitfalls
On the face of it, there can be no clearer symbol of Donald Trump's determination to reset the so-called 'Special Relationship' than the return of the Winston Churchill bust to the Oval Office eight years after it was relegated to the Treaty Room by Barack Obama. As Theresa May heads to Washington this week, that move will be heralded by some as signal that Mr Obama's 'pivot to Asia' is being reversed and that Mr Trump intends to reward old friends (Britain) rather than mollycoddle its enemies (Iran, Isil).  Trailed in the newspapers by those now-sepia images of Reagan and Thatcher, there will be a superficial sense of the  conservative old order reasserting itself after eight years of liberal unwinding under Mr Obama. Telegraph

More Than Words, Ending Yemen Crisis Needs Results, UN Envoy Says, Concluding Mission In Capital
The United Nations Special Envoy for Yemen, Ismail Ould Cheikh Ahmed, today concluded a mission to Yemen with a call for a comprehensive political settlement of the crisis and the restoration of the cessation of hostilities, and underlined the need allow access of civilian commercial aircrafts to and from Sana’a airport. “It is mandatory that the parties end the violence to ease the suffering of the Yemeni people and pave the way for a peacefully negotiated settlement,” said Mr. Cheikh Ahmed.
In his meetings, Mr. Ould Cheikh Ahmed urged his interlocutors to enter into detailed discussions on the withdrawal of forces and handover of medium and heavy weapons. UN News

Afghanistan: UN-Backed $550 Million Aid Plan Aims To Reach 5.7 Million People
A newly-launched United Nations-backed humanitarian response plan for Afghanistan is seeking $550 million in 2017 to support the most vulnerable and marginalized population of the conflict-torn country. Strategic, life-saving interventions – related to shelter, food, health care, nutrition, safe water and sanitation – are expected to reach an estimated 5.7 million people under the Afghanistan 2017 Humanitarian Response Plan, released by the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA). According to the Plan, the continued deepening and geographic spread of the conflict has prompted a 13 per cent increase in the number of people in need of humanitarian assistance to 9.3 million in 2017. UN News

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