Monday, April 24, 2017

New Google algorithm destroys search rankings for old media sites

Uh oh, here comes Google’s Fred…

Has Google’s “Fred” update killed your search engine rankings? Bring them back from the dead with our best practices for ads and links!

This Google update was designed to favor websites that put a positive user experience over getting favorable search results, and among the hardest hit are sites that Google deems as too ad-heavy and/or that offer low value content. The drop in traffic directed to such sites, which includes many affiliate marketing websites, has been reported to be anywhere from 50% to 90%.

The bad news is that this algorithm shift not only affected sites that prioritize SEO over user experience, but also quality sites that offer an excellent user experience, yet may have some structural and content-related pitfalls.

The good news is that there are several steps you can take to improve the quality of your site, recover your webpage rankings, and safeguard it from any future updates to Google’s algorithm.

eBay’s head of SEO contributed to an in-depth blog post that provides an analysis on the update, and what you can do to stay relevant.

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Tuesday, April 18, 2017

CNN continues to censor best-selling author from its network

CNN, the most anti-Trump network on television, is censoring the #1 bestseller of the Trump presidency.

CNN apparently so fears author David Horowitz and his new book “Big Agenda: President Trump’s Plan to Save America” — they have told his publisher they will “never” have him on!

That’s shocking because Horowitz is a celebrated author and thinker — and his “Big Agenda” book has been sitting at the top of the New York Times bestseller list for over 9 weeks!

It’s also #1 on Amazon, and everyone in Washington and around the country is talking about “Big Agenda”!

Obviously, what America thinks doesn’t matter to CNN — because it’s radioactive for liberals — with CNN joining a list of other left-leaning networks like CBS, NBC and ABC that have put Horowitz on “the list” of banned conservative books and authors.

Remember the days when the liberals decried conservatives for supposedly creating such lists — they even called it McCarthyism!

Now, when the liberals do it to one of the most important books of the Trump presidency, and to an author close to the president and his top aides — he is censored.

This prompts the question: Why do CNN and the big media fear David Horowitz and “Big Agenda”?

Here’s the one really big reason: “Big Agenda” is the first book to expose the media for operating as a political force, an adjunct of the Democratic Party, to stop President Trump.

In “Big Agenda” Horowitz names names and reveals their plot to destroy Trump.

Horowitz also was the first to share Trump’s “secret plan” to take back America and drain the swamp in Washington during his first 100 days.

In fact, Horowitz has detailed 21 major moves President Trump was going to take — and already 11 have come true!

Now, in “Big Agenda,” Horowitz says the White House will reveal a major offensive against the liberal establishment right after the first 100 days — which he calls “Phase Two.”

The Trump plan has 3 major phases, Horowitz says.

You might be shocked about Phase Two. It includes a major war Trump will actually begin, one that will decimate a certain group and demonstrate America’s resolve like no other.

You really need to get “Big Agenda” today!

“Big Agenda” has been hailed by leading conservatives, including Rush Limbaugh, Ann Coulter, Lou Dobbs, Mike Reagan, and others.

They say it’s the only book exposing the media and offering Trump’s real agenda with a plan for you to help our president!

Make sure you get your copy today!

Get “Big Agenda”

Horowitz says several major “big shoes” will soon be dropped by Trump that will send shockwaves through the establishment. It’s all in the book!

“No president since FDR and his famed ‘100 Days’ has the chance Donald Trump has,” Horowitz argues.

But he writes that the GOP and Trump must recognize that they are not just fighting policy ideas, but an ideology — a progressive one with a radical agenda to stop Trump in an effort to reduce America’s power and greatness.

Horowitz warns that former President Obama has created nothing less than a “government in exile” to thwart, obstruct and even destroy President Trump and his agenda! Horowitz was the first to warn about this!

Now even President Trump agrees with David Horowitz — Obama won’t go away!

That’s why we must do everything we can to help our president!

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USS Carl Vinson Aircraft Carrier Spotted Near Indonesia, Not North Korea

The USS Carl Vinson aircraft carrier is still several thousand miles south of North Korea despite reports last week that claimed it was heading to the volatile region.

Stars and Stripes reported Monday that the Carl Vinson strike group was actually making its way toward Australia last week for a planned port visit.

The Navy posted photos online showing the ships sailing near Indonesia over the weekend, which put the flotilla roughly 3,500 miles away from North Korea.

Several news reports last week claimed the Carl Vinson and several ships that accompany it were steaming toward the Sea of Japan to keep a close eye on North Korea. The White House even said that was the case.

After the Navy’s image of the ships spread across the internet, the narrative changed.

The New York Times reported Tuesday that the Department of Defense got its timeline wrong and announced the Vinson’s deployment to the Korean peninsula too early. It’s not clear why that was not corrected, although military officials don’t make a habit out of giving away the position of its ships across the world.

According to Stars & Stripes, the U.S. Pacific Fleet said in a statement the visit to Australia was scrapped.

“The Carl Vinson Strike Group cancelled a previously planned port visit to Australia and is continuing on track for all assigned missions in the Western Pacific,” the statement reads.

Source: newsmax – USS Carl Vinson Aircraft Carrier Spotted Near Indonesia, Not North Korea

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'Shattered' Author: Ill-Tempered Hillary Unwilling to Go Out, Persuade Voters

Hillary Clinton annoyed many Democrats when she turned her campaign to the left and was unable to persuade voters to elect her president, Jonathan Allen, co-author of “Shattered: Inside Hillary Clinton’s Doomed Campaign,” told Newsmax TV on Tuesday.

“Her campaign’s approach was to turn out the base as much as possible, and they spent a lot of time trying to churn people out and not so much time on persuasion,” Allen, head of content at the political news website SideWire, told host Bill Tucker on Tuesday’s “America Talks Live.”

“As part of that, she moved to the left . . . [and] there were a lot of people in the Democratic Party that weren’t pleased with her. By moving to the left, she placated some of them but obviously not all of them.

“Not enough Democrats showed up for her in the right places to win the election. . . . Sources in the book talk about her inability to go out, and unwillingness to go out and try to persuade people.”

Tune in to Newsmax TV beginning at 12 PM ET to see “America Talks Live” — on FiOS 615, YouTube Livestream, Newsmax TV App from any smartphone,, Roku, Amazon Fire — More Systems Here

Allen, whose book is co-written by The Hill’s Amie Parnes and published by Crown, said successful candidates must be able to bridge the divides within their party.

“The left, the center, the right, within their own party, and then attract some other people, so she wasn’t able to do that,” he told Tucker.

“Mostly there was an inability to turn out the hard left that was angry at her . . . and I think she wasn’t able to bring in a lot of those white working-class Democrats who she didn’t really have a message for.”

And why was not she able to convey that message, something her husband, two-term president Bill Clinton was an expert at?

“That’s one of the great inexplicable questions in this campaign,” Allen said. “I mean it was evident to her campaign team that she was having trouble. . . . Our sources told us about a couple situations where she seemed to lose her temper.

“There’s one good story in the book about after her losing the Michigan primary, she kind of turned on one of her top aides. He was criticizing her debate performance, her debate prep performance.

“She was doing her preparatory work on the debate, and he would cut her off and say, that’s not very good, and finally she got tired of it and said, ‘why don’t you try it,’ and she turned around and made him play her, and she kept cutting him off, and telling him he wasn’t doing a very good job.”

Allen added: “The infighting is definitely there, the way that she dealt with her staff, she and her husband reamed them out for not being able to figure out how to get past the email issue . . . and start talking about her economic message . . .

“Clearly what she needed to do was apologize and start that contrition thing with the American public. She just wouldn’t do it.”

Allen said when election results showed she would lose to Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump, her aides tried to convince her to give an impassioned concession speech in which she would promote Democratic values.

He said they wanted her to stand up “for people that she thought would be treated poorly under a Trump administration.”

“And she says, ‘You know what guys, that’s somebody else’s job now; that’s not my job. I lost, that was my last race.'”

Source: newsmax – ‘Shattered’ Author: Ill-Tempered Hillary Unwilling to Go Out, Persuade Voters

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Attack Near Egypt's St Catherine's Monastery Kills One, Injures Four

An attack on security forces near Egypt’s St Catherine’s Monastery in south Sinai has killed at least one person and injured four, state television said on Tuesday.

Security sources said it was carried out by gunmen on a police checkpoint several hundred metres from the church entrance. No group claimed responsibility.

The attack comes just over a week after two bombings on Egyptian churches during Palm Sunday services, claimed by Islamic State, killed 45 people. Pope Francis is to visit Egypt at the end of April.

St Catherine’s is one of the oldest Christian monasteries in the world and a UNESCO world heritage site. Attacks are common in northern Sinai, where an insurgency by Islamist militants has raged for years, but rare in south Sinai.

“That monastery and church are from the 6th century. It’s one of the oldest continuing monasteries, has one of the oldest libraries with priceless manuscripts, and is hugely symbolic,” said Johnnie Moore, evangelical author of “Defying ISIS: Preserving Christianity in the Place of Its Birth and in Your Own Backyard.” “It’s impossible to overestimate the significance of this act of terror. Had they succeeded, it would have been discussed in the next 5,000 years of church history.

“The terrorists in Egypt at going after the most significant places. They previously went after the Coptic pope’s complex, and the Catholic pope is visiting next week.”

Source: newsmax – Attack Near Egypt’s St Catherine’s Monastery Kills One, Injures Four

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Larry Kudlow: Americans Need Trump's Review of Foreign Workers

Larry Kudlow, the former economics adviser to President Ronald Reagan, said President Donald Trump is “on the right track” with an executive order to review how foreign workers are permitted to reside temporarily in the U.S.

The president on Tuesday ordered the review of the H-1B visa system, which critics say gets abused when companies to replace U.S. workers with lower-paid foreigners. Trump is targeting information-technology outsourcing companies that use the visas to hire low-paid, less-skilled workers.

“The question is: Are the Silicon Valley firms playing by the rules, or they are trying to undercut the specialized, American techie work force?” Kudlow said on cable channel CNBC. If there are abuses, then the system should be changed, Kudlow said.

Trump pledged during his campaign to use presidential authority to urge companies to “Buy American” products and “Hire American” workers. Kudlow was an economics adviser to the Trump campaign who helped to make tax cuts a central campaign promise.

Employers submitted 199,000 applications for the 85,000 H-1B visas available in the 2018 lottery, according to the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services. The number of applications fell from 236,000 last year.

Trump’s order asks agencies for ideas on how to get visas in the hands of the most skilled and highly paid applicants. The administration would like to get rid of the lottery system, an unnamed official told the Bloomberg newswire.

Kudlow repeated his call for tax cuts as being the most important catalyst for faster economic growth.

Last week, Kudlow urged impatience investors to give Trump more time to fully enact his strategies to reform healthcare, spark economic growth and redesign the tax system.

After all, Trump has been in office a relatively short time and has inherited a mountain of problems from the past two decades.

“He’s trying to fix a lot of problems that have gone unfixed in the last 20 years,” Kudlow explained to CNBC.

“He still wants tax reform and healthcare reform. Those are big issues for him.” the Newsmax Finance Insider said. “He’s been in 80 days, give him a chance,” said Kudlow, who advised the Trump campaign on economic issues.

Kudlow is the author of “JFK and the Reagan Revolution: A Secret History of American Prosperity,” written with Brian Domitrovic and published by Portfolio.

Source: newsmax – Larry Kudlow: Americans Need Trump’s Review of Foreign Workers

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Rep. Royce: 'Turkey's Creeping Authoritarianism Continues'

Rep. Ed Royce, R-Calif., denounced a referendum in Turkey that expanded President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s powers over the legislature and judiciary, The Hill reported.

“Turkey’s creeping authoritarianism continues,” Royce, the House Foreign Affairs Committee Chair, said in a statement Tuesday. “All who value democracy, pluralism and Turkey’s key role in the region should be concerned about the elimination of important checks and balances in the Turkish system.”

He added, “I am especially troubled by initial reports of irregularities and an ‘unlevel playing field’ from independent election observers, and I will review the full body of facts when they are released in the days ahead.”

Hours before, President Donald Trump called Erdogan to personally congratulate him.

Voting irregularities were reported during the referendum, which gives Erdogan the power to appoint ministers and top judges and call elections whenever he likes. It also transfers power to the president by taking away the position of prime minister. Erdogan on Sunday called the passage of the referendum a “historic decision.”

Source: newsmax – Rep. Royce: ‘Turkey’s Creeping Authoritarianism Continues’

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Under Fire for Violent Videos, Facebook Wants to Move Into 'Augmented Reality'

Facebook wants you to sit in your bedroom wearing a headset and take a virtual vacation with faraway friends and family. Or use your smartphone’s camera to spruce up your dinky apartment, at least virtually.

The promise of augmented and virtual reality was a big focus of Facebook’s annual conference for developers on Tuesday. CEO Mark Zuckerberg kicked off the gathering of programmers and other tech folks by talking about augmented reality tools he envisions on Facebook.

Augmented reality involves the project of computer-generated images into real-world surroundings. Zuckerberg said new phone-based applications might let you create a three-dimensional scene from a single two-dimensional photo or splatter the walls of your house with colorful digital art. (You’d see the digital additions by looking “through” your phone at the augmented physical world.)

Facebook executives stressed that the technology is still in its early stages, and that the “journey to the future of augmented reality is just one percent finished,” as Deb Liu, vice president of platform and marketplaces, put it.

Facebook also launched a virtual world, called Facebook Spaces, designed to let users of its Oculus Rift VR headset hang out with their friends wherever they might be. It’s the first time the company has connected the Rift to its social network in a meaningful way, though it’s a development Zuckerberg hinted at when the company bought Oculus back in 2014.

The Facebook founder also briefly addressed a tragedy that took place Monday, when a man posted video of a murder on Facebook. That raised questions about the company’s ability to monitor gruesome material on its site.

Zuckerberg said Facebook has “a lot of work” to do on this front.

Source: newsmax – Under Fire for Violent Videos, Facebook Wants to Move Into ‘Augmented Reality’

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John Glenn Honored with Launch of Space Station Supply Ship

John Glenn’s trailblazing legacy took flight Tuesday as a cargo ship bearing his name rocketed toward the International Space Station.

An Atlas rocket provided the late morning lift to orbit, just as it did for Glenn 55 years ago.

The commercial cargo ship, dubbed the S.S. John Glenn, holds nearly 7,700 pounds (3,500 kilograms) of food, equipment and research for the space station. It’s due there Saturday, two days after the arrival of two fresh astronauts.

NASA’s shipper, Orbital ATK, asked Glenn’s widow, Annie, for permission to use his name for the spacecraft, following his December death.

Glenn, an original Mercury 7 astronaut, became the first American to orbit the Earth in 1962. He launched again in 1998 aboard shuttle Discovery at age 77, the oldest person ever in space. He was buried at Arlington National Cemetery two weeks ago.

“It’s a great tribute to John to be able to take his name to orbit once again,” said Frank Culbertson, a former astronaut who now heads Orbital ATK’s space systems group.

Besides supplies, the capsule contains a banner showing Glenn in his orange space shuttle launch suit — it’s the first thing the station astronauts will see when they open the craft — as well as memorabilia for his family. Because the launch was delayed a month by hydraulic problems at the pad and on the rocket, no Glenn family members were able to make it to Cape Canaveral, according to Culbertson.

Orbital ATK — one of NASA’s prime delivery services for the space station, along with SpaceX — normally uses its own Virginia-based Antares rockets to launch its Cygnus cargo ships, named after the swan constellation. But it opted for the United Launch Alliance’s bigger Atlas V rocket in order to carry up a heftier load. A new, larger greenhouse is flying up, along with equipment needed for a spacewalk next month.

“Looks like we nailed the orbit once again,” said Vern Thorp, a manager for the rocket maker.

NASA’s 360-degree video streaming of the launch — the first such attempt for a live broadcast — didn’t go as well. Something went wrong moments before liftoff, and the video skipped over the actual rising of the rocket from the pad. NASA said it would try again, perhaps on an upcoming SpaceX delivery mission.

Three astronauts currently are at the outpost, which is orbiting 250 miles (402.32 kilometers) high. The American, Russian and Frenchman on board will be joined Thursday by another American and Russian who will take off from Kazakhstan.

SpaceX and Boeing are developing new capsules that could fly U.S. astronauts to the space station as early as next year.

It was the last launch commentary for NASA spokesman George Diller, who is retiring next month after nearly four decades. His was the voice at liftoff for the final space shuttle flight, by Atlantis, in 2011, as well as the send-off of the Hubble Space Telescope in 1990 and all five Hubble-servicing missions, among numerous other launches.

“We’re really, really going to miss hearing your golden voice on console during launch, George,” said Kennedy Space Center’s director, Robert Cabana, patting him on the back.

“I’m sure when I’m retired and up in the mountains somewhere, there’s a launch going, it will be hard not to tune it in some way,” Diller replied.

Source: newsmax – John Glenn Honored with Launch of Space Station Supply Ship

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Kinzinger: ISIS, al-Qaida Link Reports May Suggest Weakening

Reports surfacing ISIS and al-Qaida are joining forces could be an indication the United States, under President Donald Trump, is already winning the war against the insurgents, Rep. Adam Kinzinger, R-Ill., said Tuesday.

“When your enemies are fighting each other, that’s a good thing,” Kinzinger told Fox News’ “America’s Newsroom,” noting there is both good news and bad news about the report.

“They’ve been competing for the last number of years for supremacy in the radical Islamist movement,” Kinzinger said. “They both claim they’re the leader.”

But the good news comes, he continued, because al-Qaida realizes it is not safe after the recent raids in Yemen, and after attacks in other places, and ISIS has been rolled back in Iraq and knows its time is limited in Raqqa and Afghanistan.

“So you see all this, and I think now in desperation, these two sides are coming together, saying we can’t compete with each other, or we’ll lose,” Kinzinger concluded.

Iraqi Vice President Ayad Allawi told Reuters earlier Tuesday he had gotten information from contacts in Iraq and the region the two groups are exchanging ideas about ways to join forces, Fox News reported.

“I don’t know exactly when, but there are discussions and dialogues between messengers,” Allawi said, adding it is not clear how the two groups will work together.

Allawi said ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi and al-Qaida leader Ayman al-Zawahiri have not been communicating with each other directly, but with the use of intermediaries.

Kinzinger said the two men remain top targets, but many people do not understand is not easy to look for them.

“When we looked for Saddam Hussein, for a long time, it took a ground presence,” Kinzinger said. “Finding somebody and killing them is not the easiest thing.”

Trump’s approach is different from what President Barack Obama did, because Trump is using Special Forces raids to gather information and then using that to hit the terrorists, Kinzinger said.

“When I was in Iraq, that’s what we would do,” said Kinzinger, a major in the Air National Guard, who has flown missions in the Middle East while in the Air Force. “We would find top targets and unravel their networks, and that’s what we need to do and how to win the war.”

Source: newsmax – Kinzinger: ISIS, al-Qaida Link Reports May Suggest Weakening

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F-22 Fighter Jets Intercept Russian Bombers Flying Near Alaska

Two Russian bombers flew within 100 miles of Alaska’s Kodiak Island Monday night, prompting the U.S. to scramble two stealth fighter jets and an AWACS plane to intercept them.

According to Fox News, the Tu-95 “Bear” bombers got about 280 miles southwest of Elmendorf Air Force Base in Anchorage.

After the bombers entered the United States’ Air Defense Identification Zone, two F-22 stealth fighter jets and a Boeing E-3 Sentry, commonly known as an AWACS, took off from Elmendorf to make an intercept.

Fox News reported the F-22s flew next to the bombers for 12 minutes before the Russian planes turned around and flew back to their home base.

Current U.S.-Russian relations are at a “low point,” Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said during a recent trip to Moscow.

A Russian spy ship was spotted shadowing the east coast of the U.S. in February and March.

Source: newsmax – F-22 Fighter Jets Intercept Russian Bombers Flying Near Alaska

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Wednesday, April 12, 2017

Trump Offered China Better Trade Deal for Help on NKorea

President Donald Trump said in an interview with The Wall Street Journal on Wednesday he told Chinese President Xi Jinping the United States would be willing to be more lenient in a trade deal if his country helped out with its ally North Korea.

“I told him, I said, ‘You know we’re not going to let that [current trade deficit] go ahead,'” Trump said he told Xi at their meeting at his Mar-a-Lago estate last week. “‘But you want to make a great deal? Solve the problem in North Korea.’ That’s worth having deficits. And that’s worth having not as good a trade deal as I would normally be able to make.”

Trump said he also told Xi his administration would be willing to not label China a currency manipulator in a report this week, though he repeatedly promised to do so during his campaign.

Trump said earlier Wednesday he does not see China as a currency manipulator and “our dollar is getting too strong” because the American people have so much confidence in him.

As for America’s own actions with North Korea’s nuclear threat, Trump said a naval strike group heading to the area was meant to deter Pyongyang from further action. He said he told Xi in a telephone conversation Tuesday night to relay to North Korean leader Kim Jong Un the United States has nuclear submarines to go along with its aircraft carriers.

“You cannot allow a country like that to have nuclear power, nuclear weapons,” Trump said. “That’s mass destruction. He doesn’t have the delivery systems yet, but he will. In many ways, that’s the easiest thing.”

Source: newsmax – Trump Offered China Better Trade Deal for Help on NKorea

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NATO Chief: No 'New Cold War' Between US, Russia

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said Wednesday “it’s not a new Cold War” between the United States and Russia but “we have seen increased tensions — and the relationship between NATO and Russia has been worse for many years.”

“That just underlines the importance of what we call our dual approach for NATO,” Stoltenberg told Wolf Blitzer on CNN. “We need to have stronger defenses and credible deterrence against Russia.

“Russia is our biggest neighbor. Russia is here to stay.

“We have to find a way to manage a relationship with them and how to avoid the new Cold War and arms race.”

Stoltenberg’s interview came after a daylong meeting with President Donald Trump at the White House — and the president declared at a news conference NATO was “no longer obsolete.”

He told Blitzer he was happy with Trump’s new NATO assessment.

“That reflects the reality that NATO is adapting as the world is changing,” he said. “We have been able to change.”

Stoltenberg, 58, the former prime minister of Norway, said he trusted Trump commitment to the organization, as well as his leadership skills because he was “elected by the people of America, elected by a democratic process in a NATO country.

“But the strength of NATO is that we have always been able to agree that we protect each other and we stand together and we are stronger together.”

Regarding Russia, Stoltenberg said NATO remained very concerned about Russian President Vladimir Putin’s activities in Eastern Europe, particularly in the Baltic countries and Poland.

“But it is important now to react in a measured and responsible way,” he said. “We see increased tensions and see a more aggressive Russia, but we don’t see any imminent threat of military attack against any NATO ally country.

“NATO is strong and NATO has increased our military presence in the Eastern part of alliance.”

Source: newsmax – NATO Chief: No ‘New Cold War’ Between US, Russia

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Christian Bale to Play Dick Cheney in Adam McKay's Biopic

Christian Bale said Wednesday he will play Dick Cheney in Adam McKay’s upcoming biopic of the former vice president.

Bale was last week reported as being in talks to join the film that will reteam him with McKay following 2015’s Oscar-nominated “The Big Short.” The Oscar winner confirmed he has signed up to star in the untitled film in an interview with The Associated Press.

“In the same way as it was a journey of discovery with ‘The Big Short,’ Adam was able to take a story that most people would go comatose listening to,” said Bale of the script penned by McKay. “His ability to make it startling and entertaining and intelligent without compromising anything — he’s masterful at doing that.”

The film is also to star Steve Carell (who also co-starred in “The Big Short”) as the former defense secretary Donald Rumsfeld. Amy Adams is set to play Lynne Cheney, the former vice president’s wife.

Like “The Big Short,” McKay’s film, which he’ll direct, is to be produced by Brad Pitt’s Plan B Entertainment. Shooting is planned to begin in September, with Paramount Pictures expected to distribute.

Bale was nominated for best supporting actor for his performance in “The Big Short.” He previously won an Oscar for his leading performance in “The Fighter.” He stars in the upcoming Armenian genocide drama “The Promise.”

McKay and screenwriter Charles Randolph won the best adapted screenplay Oscar for “The Big Short.”

Source: newsmax – Christian Bale to Play Dick Cheney in Adam McKay’s Biopic

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Russian Foreign Minister Reprimands NBC's Andrea Mitchell

NBC’s Andrea Mitchell was scolded by Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov on Wednesday for calling out questions during a public portion of Lavrov’s meeting with Secretary of State Rex Tillerson’s in Moscow, The Washington Free Beacon reported.

“Mr. Secretary, the Russians don’t believe the intelligence. How confident are you, Mr. Secretary . . .” Mitchell started to ask, as Lavrov was speaking.

“Who was bringing you up? Who was giving you your manners?” Lavrov is heard saying to Mitchell in response.

Tillerson met with Russian President Vladimir Putin and Lavrov on Wednesday and discussed the Syria crisis, North Korea, and Ukraine. He told reporters afterward “there is a low level of trust between our countries,” and “the world’s two foremost nuclear powers cannot have this kind of relationship.”

Shortly after, Russia vetoed a United Nations resolution condemning the reported use of chemical weapons in Syria and urging a speedy investigation.

Source: newsmax – Russian Foreign Minister Reprimands NBC’s Andrea Mitchell

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Americans: Plastic Surgery More Common Than Ever

American patients are having more plastic surgeries and spending more on those cosmetic procedures than ever before last year, according to a new report.

The American Society of Plastic Surgeons reported that Americans spent over $16 billion on cosmetic plastic surgeries and minimally invasive procedures in 2016, more than has ever been spent on these procedures.

About 7 million Americans had wrinkle treatment injections such as Botox, which cost an average of $385 each. Breast augmentation, mostly through implants, represented the most surgeries with almost 300,000, followed by 235,000 liposuctions and 223,000 rhinoplasties (nose reshaping surgeries), USA Today reported.

Other popular types of procedures include tummy tucks, chemical peels, and laser treatments, according to WebMD.

Plastic surgery used to be a cause for ridicule or disapproval, ASPS spokesman Dr. Alan Matarasso said, USA Today reported. Now, it has become culturally acceptable and even desirable to have surgery to improve your appearance.

Advances in technology have also made surgeries safer and recovery times faster, and prices have come down for many procedures, which used to be more expensive, USA Today reported. Matarosso urged people to make sure their doctors are board certified and members of ASPS to ensure safety.

ASPS President Debra Johnson agreed. “Before you undergo any procedure, make sure you’re putting yourself in the hands of only the most qualified and highly trained plastic surgeons,” she said, USA Today reported. “The cost of any procedure is not nearly as important as doing your homework and selecting a surgeon whose primary focus is your safety.”

Source: newsmax – Americans: Plastic Surgery More Common Than Ever

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MLB Commissioner Urging Indians to Scrap Wahoo Logo

Baseball Commissioner Rob Manfred has made his strongest comments on wanting the Cleveland Indians to eradicate their Chief Wahoo logo.

Manfred has been in talks with Indians owner Paul Dolan about abolishing the divisive symbol, which has sparked debate for decades.

In the past, Manfred has only gone as far as saying he understood why many people find the logo offensive. Now, Manfred appears to be pressuring the Indians, who have reduced Wahoo’s visibility in recent years, to make more significant changes.

MLB spokesman Pat Courtney said in a statement to The Associated Press on Wednesday that league officials are confident about reaching a positive resolution for the game and the club.

“Thus far, there have been productive discussions with the Cleveland Indians regarding the Commissioner’s desire to transition away from the Chief Wahoo logo,” Courtney said. “We have specific steps in an identified process and are making progress.”

On Tuesday, protesters gathered outside Progressive Field to demonstrate against the team’s usage of the red-faced, smiling logo, which has been part of the team’s history dating back to the 1940s.

The Indians have decreased Chief Wahoo’s profile, switching their primary logo to a block “C” several years ago. However, the symbol still appears on some of the sleeves of some of the team’s uniforms and caps and the Indians have continued to sell Wahoo merchandise.

Some anti-Wahoo protesters want the team to change its nickname as well.

“We are people, not mascots, not logos, not imagery,” said Carla Getz, a member of the Potawatomi Tribe. Getz was one of several dozen peaceful protesters that chanted for change on a plaza outside Tuesday’s game.

There is also a sizeable contingent of Cleveland fans who understand the viewpoints of protesters, but cherish the logo and don’t want the team buckle to pressure to abolish it.

The Indians were recently awarded the 2019 All-Star game, and a possible compromise could be the Wahoo logo being completely removed from uniforms.

Bob DiBiasio, the team’s senior vice president for public affairs, said Dolan and Manfred have had ongoing dialogue since the World Series last year.

“We certainly understand the sensitivities of the logo, those who find it insensitive and also those fans who have a long standing attachment to its place in the history of the team,” he said.

“We fully expect to work with the Commissioner throughout the remainder of this season on finding a solution that is good for the game and our organization,” DiBiasio said. “Our primary focus right now is on the team and our pursuit of returning to the postseason.”

Source: newsmax – MLB Commissioner Urging Indians to Scrap Wahoo Logo

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VA Inspector General: DC Hospital Putting Patients at 'Unnecessary Risk'

Conditions are reportedly so dangerous at the Department of Veterans Affairs Medical Center in Washington, D.C. — from dirty storage areas to missing equipment — that a watchdog warned in a scathing preliminary audit that patients were being put at “unnecessary risk.”

The VA Office of Inspector General found that in recent weeks the operating room at the hospital ran out of vascular patches to seal blood vessels and ultrasound probes used to map blood flow, USA Today reported.

The medical center — which serves more than 98,000 vets in the nation’s capital — also had to borrow bone material for knee replacement surgeries — and at one point, ran out of tubes needed for kidney dialysis, according to the newspaper.

Investigators also found that of 25 sterile storage areas inspected, 18 were dirty.

During the past three years, there’ve been 194 reports that patient safety has been compromised because of insufficient equipment, the OIG found. There were no findings of “adverse patient outcomes,” the audit showed.

“Part of OIG’s mission is to monitor the quality of patient care and outcomes for veteran patients who rely on VA for their health care,” VA Inspector General Michael Missal said in a statement. “When we become aware of deficiencies at VA that place patients at unnecessary risk, we will act immediately and aggressively to address those deficiencies.”

After getting an anonymous tip March 21, the OIG sent specialists to the hospital March 29 and 30, April 4, 5 and 6, and Wednesday, according to The Hill.

Hospital director Brian Hawkins was removed Wednesday and put on “administrative duty,” both reports said.

Source: newsmax – VA Inspector General: DC Hospital Putting Patients at ‘Unnecessary Risk’

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Report: Russia Vetoes UN Resolution on Syria

Russia on Wednesday vetoed a United Nations resolution condemning the reported use of chemical weapons in Syria and urging a speedy investigation, CNN reports.

The resolution would have required Syria to cooperate with an investigation and face full accountability for using chemical weapons last week in an attack in the Syrian village of Khan Sheikhou which left more than 85 people dead and hundreds injured.

Bashar Ja’afari, the Syrian envoy to the UN, dismissed as “lies” and “accusations” the belief that his country used “a chemical weapon we do not even possess.”

Western countries have accused Syrian President Bashar al-Assad of using sarin in the attack, and the U.S. retaliated by firing more than 50 cruise missiles at the Sharyat Airbase in Syria. A U.S. defense official told CNN the purpose of the attack was to send a message to the Syrian regime that “any use of chemical weapons would not be tolerated.”

The UN resolution was created by the United States, United Kingdom and France, and it was presented the same day U.S. officials charged that Russia was covering up the attack. Nikki Haley, the US envoy to the United Nations, also accused Russia of knowing that the chemical attack was going to happen.

“I think that they knew, yes,” Haley said Tuesday in an interview with CNN.

“I think they’re nervous,” Haley continued. “I think that they very much feel as if they’ve been weakened by Assad’s actions and their cover up. They realize the international community didn’t buy it and is not buying it. And they now have to figure out how to save face. We’re giving them all the options to save face.”

Source: newsmax – Report: Russia Vetoes UN Resolution on Syria

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Manafort Registering with US as Foreign Agent

President Donald Trump’s former campaign chairman is registering as a foreign agent.

Paul Manafort’s spokesman says he was in talks with the government about registering before the 2016 election and is now “taking appropriate steps” in response to “formal guidance” from the government.

The spokesman says Manafort’s lobbying work was not conducted on behalf of the Russian government and began before Manafort started working with the Trump campaign.

It’s unclear whether Trump was aware that Manafort was in talks with the government about registering before he hired him.

Michael Flynn, who was fired as White House national security adviser in February, has also had to register as a foreign agent for lobbying work he did with ties to Turkey.

Earlier Wednesday, a Washington lobbying firm that worked under the direction of Manafort and another former Trump campaign adviser registered with the Justice Department as a foreign agent. The firm said its work could have benefited the Ukrainian government.

The Podesta Group’s cited details of lobbying it performed from 2012 through 2014 on behalf of the European Centre for a Modern Ukraine. The firm reported being paid more than $1.2 million for the effort.

The disclosure follows reporting by the AP in August that the firm of Manafort and his deputy, Rick Gates, who served in a senior role in the Trump campaign, had overseen the lobbying effort. The effort sought to promote a pro-Russian Ukrainian political party’s interests in Washington.

Source: newsmax – Manafort Registering with US as Foreign Agent

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Haley Tells UN: Assad's Actions Forced US Hand in Syria

Nikki Haley, the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, said the United States’ hand was forced in Syria because of President Bashar Assad’s actions.

“The United States was compelled to act,” Haley said Wednesday at the United Nations. 

“We will not allow the use of chemical weapons to go unanswered. We are not going to look the other way. We are watching the regime’s actions carefully,” former Gov. Haley, R-S.C., said.

In her speech, she delivered a message to Russia about its support for Syria: “You are isolating yourselves from the international community every time one of Assad’s planes drops another barrel bomb on civilians, and every time Assad tries to starve another community to death.”

Russia must stop supporting Assad’s actions, she said.

“People, not just in the west, but across the Middle East and the world, are speaking out against Assad’s brutality,” she added. “It is long past time for Russia to stop covering for Assad.

“It is long past time Russia to push seriously for peace and not continue to be part of the problem.”

Source: newsmax – Haley Tells UN: Assad’s Actions Forced US Hand in Syria

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Sunday, April 9, 2017

Report: China Offers Concessions on Beef Imports, Financial Investments

China has moved quickly to avoid a trade war by offering concessions on U.S. beef exports and better market access for financial investments, the Financial Times reports. The U.S. and China also agreed to a 100-day plan to address trade imbalances.

Additional concessions by China are said to also include agricultural imports. President Donald Trump and Chinese President Xi Jinping on Friday discussed trade options at their first face-to-face meeting in Washington.

“The atmosphere at the talks was good,” Chu Shulong, a professor of international relations at Tsinghua University in Beijing, told the Financial Times. “Trade is the most worrying issue for the U.S. and China. But it looks like a trade war can be averted for at least the next 100 days while the two sides negotiate.”

The treaty would allow American beef to be sold in China for the first time since 2003 and allow majority foreign ownership in China’s securities and insurance companies. China imposed a ban on American beef in 2003 triggered by a case of mad-cow disease in Washington state.

U.S. officials are also looking for a lower tax rate on automotive imports while China is seeking greater protection for Chinese investment in the United States.

Source: newsmax – Report: China Offers Concessions on Beef Imports, Financial Investments

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Massive Protest in Hungary Against Bill That Could Oust Soros University

Hungarians rose up in one of the largest protests against the seven-year rule of right-wing Prime Minister Viktor Orban on Sunday, protesting against new legislation that could force out of the country one of its top international universities.

The Central European University (CEU), a school founded by U.S. financier George Soros, could be forced to leave Hungary after a bill passed in Parliament this week by Orban’s Fidesz party set stringent, new conditions under which it must operate.

The bill has led to criticism from hundreds of leading academics worldwide as well as from the U.S. government and the European Union.

The protest drew some of the largest crowds against Orban’s seven-year rule, with organisers estimating attendance around 70,000. The crowd marched across a bridge over the river Danube and filled the square outside Parliament, which was defended by several lines of police, some in riot gear.

Thousands of people, mostly students, stayed on after the main protest for an unannounced march on the building of the Education Secretariat, then on to the headquarters of Fidesz, where where they chanted anti-Fidesz slogans before, with numbers dwindling, they blocked Oktogon square, a busy intersection in central Budapest.

Though passionate, the protest remained peaceful throughout.

Hungarian President Janos Ader must now sign the bill by Monday to make it law. The protesters said they wanted to convince Ader to reject the bill and refer it to a constitutional review.

“What do we want Ader to do? VETO,” the crowd chanted. “Free country, free university!”

“The government wants to silence pretty much everyone who doesn’t think the same as them, who thinks freely, who can be liberal, can be leftist,” protest organiser Kornel Klopfstein, a PhD student at the University of Bielefeld in Germany, told Reuters.

“According to the government one of the centres of these people is at CEU… We should stand up for academic freedom and for CEU.”

The students sat down on the pavement and chanted slogans like “Here is the end, Viktor”, or “Fidesz is dirty”.

Crackdown on Dissent

The government has been tightening up on dissent in other ways as well, proposing tighter rules on non-governmental organisations (NGOs), which will have to register with authorities if they have a yearly foreign income of 7.2 million forints ($25,000).

The rules are admittedly targeting organisations funded by Soros, a Hungarian-born American financier who for decades has given away billions of dollars of his fortune to support causes of a liberal “open society” worldwide.

The Hungarian premier has often vilified Soros, whose ideals are squarely at odds with Orban’s view that European culture is under an existential threat from migration and multiculturalism.

Orban has often said NGOs are doing Soros’ bidding.

“The government is always looking for someone to fight with, and Soros seems like a perfect person for this because he funds NGOs in Hungary and he funds CEU as well,” Klopfstein said.

CEU Rector Michael Ignatieff has said the school would continue operations as normal and demanded that the law be scrapped and additional international guarantees of academic freedoms be added to current legal safeguards.

The U.S. State Department will send diplomats to Budapest next week to address the CEU crisis, said Ignatieff, who spent several days in Washington to lobby the U.S. government, lawmakers and the media.

“They want to completely undermine and eradicate what remains of civil society,” Bara Bognar, a 40-year-old finance professional, told Reuters. “This is the first protest I have ever participated in. There is a level at which you must be present, so here I am.”

“The method, the lack of dialogue, the efforts for years to annihilate all democratic institutions, this cannot be the future of us nor our children.”

Source: newsmax – Massive Protest in Hungary Against Bill That Could Oust Soros University

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Schiff Says He Won't Step Aside From Russia Probe

Rep. Adam Schiff on Sunday said he wouldn’t recuse himself from the House Intelligence Committee’s investigation into Russia meddling in the 2016 presidential election, Politico reports.

Schiff is the top Democrat on the committee. Mike Rogers, a former Republican chairman on the committee, called for his recusal Friday, accusing him of politicizing the investigation and contributing to the intelligence committee’s “loss of focus.”

“Both Nunes and Schiff are equally to blame for the Committee’s loss of focus,” Rogers wrote in an op-ed on “How can a committee, which handles sensitive classified information, conduct its business when the purportedly secret information is discussed – even by insinuation – publicly in front of the media?”

Schiff last week suggested to the media the panel had “more than circumstantial evidence” of Russian collusion with the Trump campaign during the election.

Schiff on Sunday said Rogers’ suggestion of recusal wasn’t “serious.”

“A lot of us have characterized how we’ve seen the intelligence,” Schiff said on ABC’s “This Week.”

“Mr. Rogers and others don’t quarrel with those who say they’ve seen no evidence.”

Rep. Devin Nunes, the House Intelligence Chairman, temporarily stepped aside from the probe last week after he said “several leftwing activist groups” filed accusations against him with the Office of Congressional Ethics.

Source: newsmax – Schiff Says He Won’t Step Aside From Russia Probe

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Teen Asylum-Seeker ID'd as Suspect in Norway Explosive Case

A 17-year-old asylum-seeker from Russia was arrested Sunday in connection with an explosive device found near a busy subway station in Norway’s capital that police defused before it detonated, authorities said.

The youth was detained on suspicion of handling explosives, but investigators do not know if he planned to carry out an attack with the homemade device, Signe Aaling, chief prosecutor for Norway’s PST security service, said.

Aaling described the explosive as “a primitive improvised explosive device with limited damage potential.”

“PST is now working on finding his intentions and find out whether others are involved,” she said.

The youth was not identified, but security service head Benedicte Bjornland said Norwegian intelligence was aware of him. He is an asylum-seeker from Russia who arrived in Norway with his family in 2010, Bjornland said.

Bjornland also alleged that the youth was part of “extreme Islamism” circles in Norway. He was arrested based on a tip from the public, Bjornland said without elaborating.

“It is likely that that attacks in France, German, Great Britain, Russia and Sweden can create a copycat effect in Norway with people with Islamic sympathies,” Bjornland said, listing the locations of extremist attacks that have devastated Europe in the last year.

“The attacks demonstrate how easy such attacks can be carried out, and prove to others that it is possible to make something similar,” she added.

The teenage suspect’s lawyer, Aase Karine Sigmond, told Norwegian broadcaster NRK that her client denies wrongdoing and had distanced himself from the Islamic State group.

“We are talking about boyish stupidities,” Sigmond told NRK.

The teen, who lives in Oslo, is scheduled for a pre-trial custody hearing on Monday.

The discovery of the explosive Saturday night — found on the street just outside the Groenland subway station — prompted police to evacuate late bars and restaurants in the Norwegian capital.

The Oslo explosive was found less than a mile from the government buildings that were damaged in a deadly bomb attack carried out by right-wing extremist Anders Breivik in 2011. That bomb and a subsequent gun massacre at a Norwegian island killed a total of 77 people.

Norway was put on high alert after neighboring Sweden suffered a truck attack in Stockholm on Friday that killed four people and injured 15.

The risk of a significant attack striking the country was raised on Sunday to “likely” for what intelligence officials said would be a two-month period.

Source: newsmax – Teen Asylum-Seeker ID’d as Suspect in Norway Explosive Case

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Egypt's Sisi Declares Three-Month State of Emergency

President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi declared a three-month state of emergency in Egypt following twin church bombings that killed dozens of people in two cities Sunday.

Sisi announced the “state of emergency for three months” in a defiant speech at the presidential palace after a meeting of the national defence council.

The Islamic State group had claimed responsibility for the church bombings in the Nile Delta cities of Alexandria and Tanta in which at least 44 people were killed.

The emergency law expands police powers of arrest, surveillance and seizures and can limit freedom of movement.

Egypt had been ruled for decades under a state of emergency, which was cancelled under Islamist president Mohamed Morsi in 2012.

Rescinding it had been a main demand of Egyptian rights activists during the 2011 revolt that overthrew veteran strongman Hosni Mubarak.

Following Morsi’s overthrow by Sisi, then an army chief, in 2013, a state of emergency was declared for a month after deadly clashes between police and Islamist protesters killed hundreds and Islamist mobs attacked Christian properties.

Part of North Sinai where the Islamic State group’s Egyptian affiliate is based has remained under a state of emergency.

Source: newsmax – Egypt’s Sisi Declares Three-Month State of Emergency

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Report: Japan's Abe Supports US on Syrian Strike, NKorea

Japanese Prime Minister Shinz┼Ź Abe shared his support Sunday for President Donald Trump’s strike on Syria this week, and the two leaders vowed to work together amid North Korea’s burgeoning nuclear threat, the Washington Examiner reported.

“[Trump and Abe] agreed that [Syrian President] Bashar al-Assad’s use of chemical weapons against civilians, including women and children, was abhorrent and warranted a strong response from the international community,” the White House announced, per the report.

The statement comes hours after reports a U.S. Navy strike group called Carl Vinson was moving toward the western Pacific Ocean near the Korean peninsula.

“The clock has now run out, and all options are on the table,” the White House said earlier this month.

After a strike on a Syrian air base late Thursday night, President Trump met with Chinese President Xi Jinping at Mar-a-Lago in Florida this weekend, reportedly addressing North Korea’s worrisome behavior.

“U.S. Pacific Command is fully committed to working closely with our Republic of Korea and Japanese allies to maintain security,” the military command in the Indo-Asia-Pacific region said, according to reports.

Source: newsmax – Report: Japan’s Abe Supports US on Syrian Strike, NKorea

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Russia, Iran Warn US: Cross 'Red Lines' Again, 'We Will Respond With Force'

A joint command center made up of the forces of Russia, Iran, and militias supporting Syrian President Bashar al-Assad said the U.S. strike on a Syrian air base Friday crossed “red lines,” and it would respond to any new aggression and increase its support for its ally.

The United States fired dozens of cruise missiles at a Syrian air base Friday from which it said a deadly chemical weapons attack had been launched earlier in the week, escalating the U.S. role in Syria and drawing criticism from Assad’s allies including Russia and Iran.

“What America waged in an aggression on Syria is a crossing of red lines,” said the statement published by the group on media outlet Ilam al Harbi (War Media). “From now on we will respond with force to any aggressor or any breach of red lines from whoever it is and America knows our ability to respond well.”

“Russia and Iran will not allow America to dominate the world,” the statement concluded, according to CNN.

U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, meanwhile, blamed Russian inaction for helping fuel the chemical weapons attack it had reacted to, saying Moscow had failed to carry out a 2013 agreement to secure and destroy chemical weapons in Syria.

He said the United States expected Russia to take a tougher stance against Syria by rethinking its alliance with Assad because “every time one of these horrific attacks occurs, it draws Russia closer into some level of responsibility.”

Putin, Rouhani Speak

Russian President Vladimir Putin and Iran’s Hassan Rouhani said in a phone call aggressive U.S. actions against Syria were not permissible and violated international law, the Kremlin said Sunday.

The two leaders also called for an objective investigation into an incident involving chemical weapons in Syria’s Idlib and said they were ready to deepen cooperation to fight terrorism, the Kremlin said in a statement on its website.

Syrian army forces had been losing ground across the country until Russia intervened militarily in September 2015, propping up Assad and protecting its own interests in the region.

Assad has also drawn heavily on foreign Shi’ite militias sponsored by Iran, led by Lebanon’s Hezbollah group, for his most important gains since the Russian intervention.

The joint command centre also said the presence of U.S troops in northern Syria where Washington has hundreds of special forces helping the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) to oust Islamic State was “illegal” and Washington had a long-term plan to occupy the area.

The regional alliance said the U.S. cruise missile strikes on a Syrian base which Washington said was involved in a chemical attack that killed dozens of civilians would not deter their forces from “liberating” all of Syrian territory.

In Iran, Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said the U.S. missile strike was “a strategic error, and a repeat of the mistakes of the past,” the state news agency IRNA reported.

“The Islamic Republic has shown that . . . it does not back off and its people and officials . . . do not retreat in the face of threats,” Khamenei said.

Many Syrians opposed to Assad’s rule consider Lebanon’s Hezbollah and Iranian-backed troops as occupiers seeking to drive out mainly Sunni Syrians from the areas they live in. They hold Iran and its allies responsible for the displacement of millions outside the country.

They also see Russia as a foreign occupier whose relentless aerial bombardment of rebel-held areas has led to thousands of civilian casualties. Some accuse Moscow of applying a “scorched-earth policy” that targets hospitals, schools and residential areas more than frontlines to break the resolve of the anti-Assad insurgency.

Source: newsmax – Russia, Iran Warn US: Cross ‘Red Lines’ Again, ‘We Will Respond With Force’

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Veteran NASA Spacewoman Getting 3 Extra Months in Orbit

The world’s oldest and most experienced spacewoman is getting three extra months in orbit.

NASA announced Wednesday that astronaut Peggy Whitson will remain on the International Space Station until September. The 57-year-old astronaut arrived last November and was supposed to return to Earth in June. But under an agreement between NASA and the Russian Space Agency, she’ll stay another three months and take advantage of an empty seat on a Soyuz capsule in the fall.

This mission — her third — will now last close to 10 months. Scientists are eager to monitor any changes to her body, to add to the knowledge gained from retired astronaut Scott Kelly’s recent one-year flight.

The two men she flew up with in November — France’s Thomas Pesquet and Russia’s Oleg Novitskiy — will return in June without her.

Whitson has already spent more time in space than any other woman, counting all her missions, and just last week set a record for the most spacewalks by a woman, with eight.

This weekend, she’ll take over as space station commander, her second time at the job.

And on April 24, she’ll set a new U.S. record for most accumulated time in space. That NASA record — 534 days — is currently held by former space station resident Jeffrey Williams.

Whitson welcomed Wednesday’s news.

“I love being up here,” she said in a statement. “Living and working aboard the space station is where I feel like I make the greatest contribution, so I am constantly trying to squeeze every drop out of my time here. Having three more months to squeeze is just what I would wish for.”

NASA’s space station program director, Kirk Shireman, said Whitson’s skill and experience make her “an incredible asset” up there, and her extra time will be put to good use.

There will be a return seat for Whitson in September because the Soyuz due to launch later this month will carry up one American and one Russian, one person fewer than usual. Russia is temporarily cutting back to two station residents. With Whitson’s extended stay, the orbiting outpost will continue to have a full crew of six.

Whitson, a biochemist who grew up on a farm in Iowa, became an astronaut in 1996. She served as NASA’s chief astronaut from 2009 to 2012, the only woman to ever hold the job.

Source: newsmax – Veteran NASA Spacewoman Getting 3 Extra Months in Orbit

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McMaster: Movement of US Navy Strike Group a Reaction to NKorea

A U.S. decision to move a Navy strike group toward the Korean peninsula is a “prudent” reaction to a pattern of provocative behavior from North Korea, White House national security adviser H.R. McMaster said on Sunday.

U.S. President Donald Trump will review options to remove the threat posed by North Korea’s nuclear arsenal, McMaster told Fox News Sunday, adding that Chinese President Xi Jinping agreed with Trump last week that the situation is unacceptable.

“It’s prudent to do it, isn’t it?” McMaster said, when asked why the Navy strike group Carl Vinson, whose flagship is a nuclear-powered aircraft carrier of that name, will make its way toward the Korean peninsula from Singapore as a show of force.

Reuters was the first to report the deployment on Saturday.

“This is a rogue regime that is now a nuclear-capable regime, and President Xi and President Trump agreed that that is unacceptable, that what must happen is the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula,” McMaster said.

North Korean officials, including leader Kim Jong Un, have repeatedly indicated an intercontinental ballistic missile test or something similar could be coming, possibly as soon as April 15, the 105th birthday of North Korea’s founding president and celebrated annually as “the Day of the Sun.”

Pyongyang tested a liquid-fueled Scud missile this month. 

Source: newsmax – McMaster: Movement of US Navy Strike Group a Reaction to NKorea

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Trump: 'Great Confidence' in Egyptian President After Attacks

President Donald Trump condemned ISIS’s Palm Sunday church bombings in Egypt, expressing “great confidence” Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah el-Sisi “will handle the situation properly.”

President Trump and el-Sisi had met at the White House on April 3, while Pope Francis, also denouncing the attacks, had been scheduled to visit Egypt on April 28-19, according to AP.

Bombs exploded at two Coptic churches in different cities in northern Egypt as worshippers were celebrating Palm Sunday, killing at least 43 people and wounding about 100 in an assault claimed by the Islamic State group.

Source: newsmax – Trump: ‘Great Confidence’ in Egyptian President After Attacks

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Saturday, April 8, 2017

Not So Silent Night: Dallas Emergency Siren System Hacked

Hackers struck the sirens Dallas uses to alert residents to take shelter from inclement weather, triggering intermittent false alarms for about an hour and a half until officials deactivated the system early Saturday morning.

The person or people responsible were able to hack into a part of the system that was communicating with all 156 of the city’s sirens, Rocky Vaz, who heads the city’s Office of Emergency Management, said at a news conference.

Technicians were trying to determine how to bring the system back online without the risk of it being hacked again, he said. In the meantime, the public has access to other alert systems. Vaz said he hoped to have the siren system back up by Sunday.

The sirens began sounding at 11:42 p.m. Friday. Officials deactivated the entire system by 1:17 a.m. Saturday. Vaz said the sirens went through about 15 cycles of a 90-second siren activation.

“We shut it down as quickly as we could, taking into consideration all of the precautions and protocols we had to take to make sure that we were not compromising our 156-siren system,” he said.

City spokeswoman Sana Syed said officials believe the hack came from the Dallas area. Vaz said city officials have asked the Federal Communications Commission for help in determining who was behind the hack. He said police were not involved yet.

“We can’t talk a whole lot about the hack itself, because obviously we don’t want this to happen again,” Syed said.

Syed said that there was a surge in calls to 911 during the time the sirens were sounding. She said that they had about 4,400 calls from about 11:30 p.m. Friday to about 3 a.m. Saturday. She said that usually from 11 p.m. to 7 a.m. they get about half that number of calls. The largest surge came from 12 a.m. to 12:15 a.m., when about 800 calls were received. The longest wait time was six minutes.

Source: newsmax – Not So Silent Night: Dallas Emergency Siren System Hacked

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Fowler, Hoffman Edge Ahead at Sun-Drenched Masters

Rickie Fowler and Charley Hoffman birdied the second hole to head the U.S. Masters third-round leaderboard at a sun-kissed Augusta on Saturday.

The two Americans, Spain’s Sergio Garcia and Belgian Thomas Pieters were locked together on four under par after two rounds played in swirling winds.

Pieters dropped a shot on the first hole but the other three safely negotiated the difficult par-four and world number eight Fowler and Hoffman birdied the second to move to five under.

Spaniard Jon Rahm and fellow competitor Fred Couples, the 57-year-old American former Masters champion, picked up birdies at the par-five second hole to get to two under and Rahm rolled in another smooth putt at the third.

American William McGirt also birdied the second to join Rahm and Pieters at three under.

World number two Rory McIlroy, the highest-ranked player in the field following the withdrawal of Dustin Johnson, made a move with two early birdies but a double-bogey at the seventh dropped him back to two over.

Three-times Masters champion Phil Mickelson birdied the first two holes but a double-bogey at the third put the experienced American left-hander on level par.

It was a miserable start for four-times major champion Ernie Els, who is seeking his first Masters title at the age of 47.

The South African made a double-bogey and five bogeys in his first eight holes to slump to 10 over par.

Source: newsmax – Fowler, Hoffman Edge Ahead at Sun-Drenched Masters

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Mexico Growing Less Pessimistic About Trump Presidency

Mexico is growing more optimistic about a Donald Trump presidency, primarily because items he promised as a candidate have not yet come to fruition — namely, revising or cancelling the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) and building a wall on the U.S. southern border, in addition to executive order setbacks to deport illegal immigrants, according to The Economist.

While judges block Trump’s executive orders on immigration, Mexican officials see a reprieve as initiatives stall in his administration. Also, new U.S. Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross is thought to be considering the formation of a “very sensible” agreement with Mexico that proposes a deal more like the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), where the U.S. and Mexico could forge bonds to create a “mutually beneficial regional powerhouse,” according to leaked documents.

As a result, the peso has nearly sprung back to levels before the U.S. 2016 presidential election, thereby reducing the risk of higher inflation and interest rates. In addition, JPMorgan Chase recently upped its growth forecast for Mexico from 1.3 percent to 2 percent.

Still of concern to the Mexican government are issues including what the U.S. could do regarding changes to its tax law. A proposal to initiate a “border-adjustment tax” could hurt countries that export goods to the U.S. And, consumer spending is down in Mexico due to higher inflation.

The unease of what the future holds for Mexico could serve as a catalyst for what the country should be doing anyway regarding its problems, such as spreading prosperity, raising productivity and strengthening the rule of law, the article explained, noting that Mexico’s poor infrastructure and criminality were detriments to growth.

Source: newsmax – Mexico Growing Less Pessimistic About Trump Presidency

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American Soldier Killed in Afghanistan

A U.S. soldier was killed while conducting operations against Islamic State in Afghanistan late on Saturday, a U.S. military spokesman said in a message posted on Twitter.

“The soldier was mortally wounded late Saturday during an operation in Nangarhar Province” in eastern Afghanistan, U.S. Navy Captain Bill Salvin said in a message on the official Twitter account of the NATO-led Resolute Support mission.

The soldier was a Special Forces operator, Salvin told Reuters separately.

The circumstances of the death were unclear and Salvin said more information could be released later.

Islamic State’s offshoot in Afghanistan, known as the Sunni jihadist group’s so-called Khorasan Province, is suspected of carrying out several attacks on minority Shi’ite Muslim targets. U.S. officials say intelligence suggests Islamic State is based overwhelmingly in Nangarhar and neighboring Kunar province.

Estimates of its strength in Afghanistan vary. U.S. officials have said they believe the movement has only 700 fighters but Afghan officials estimate it has about 1,500.

The Afghan Taliban, which is trying to overthrow the U.S.-backed government in Kabul, is fiercely opposed to Islamic State and the two have clashed as they seek to expand territory and influence.

Source: newsmax – American Soldier Killed in Afghanistan

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Police Track Leads in Search for Wisconsin Gun Theft Suspect

Authorities are following up on numerous tips as they search for a man suspected of stealing firearms from a Wisconsin gun store after threatening to carry out an unspecified attack and sending an anti-government manifesto to President Donald Trump.

The FBI is offering a $10,000 reward for information leading to the arrest of Joseph Jakubowski, 32, who is accused of breaking into a gun store in Janesville, Wisconsin Tuesday night and stealing 16 high-end firearms, including two assault rifles, Fox News reported Saturday afternoon.

According to authorities, Jakubowski also has acquired a bulletproof vest and helmet.

Police discovered that Jakubowski burned his car and then disappeared after the store thefts. On Thursday, schools were closed after an associate of his reported he made a threat about a school.

Saturday, Rock County Sheriff Robert Spoden reported investigators have responded to about 200 leads and are pursuing about 70 of them.

According to Fox News, Spoden said Jakubowski’s manifesto revealed disrespect for public officials and law enforcement, calling them “agents of the one percent to enslave and keep the population down.”

Wisconsin officials in Janesville told Fox News 6 in Milwaukee Friday that Jakubowski is now considered armed and dangerous, and that he’s not a stranger to the police.

However, until now, he was not especially known for being violent, but instead for traffic ticket issues. Since 2001, he has faced various charges, said Janesville Police Chief David Moore.

“There was one specific case where he tried to disarm a police officer,” Moore told Fox News 6.

Jakubowski has spent some time in prison for resisting arrest and for a drug charge. His last violent crime arrest came about 10 years ago for a charge of battery, according to his records.

After the gun shop robbery, a video that appeared to have been filmed by a friend was released, showing Jakubowski walking with his manifesto in his hand, which was addressed to the White House.

In the video, the man claiming to be Jakubowski says “alright, here we go, guys. April 4, 2017, it’s 5:43, you see my name. There you can see it’s getting shipped. Revolution! It’s time for change.”

“It’s just an overview that he feels the government and law enforcement, in particular, are acting as terrorists and enslaving the people,” Spoden told Fox News.

Justin Tolomeo, the FBI Milwaukee special agent in charge, commented that the agency has an interest in Jakubowski concerning his ideology, but is “mainly concerned with finding and apprehending him and then learning his motives, specifically.”

Friday afternoon, a SWAT team entered an abandoned house where Jakubowski had once lived, reports The Janesville Gazette, but did not find anything. They also searched a structure in the home’s back yard. 

Source: newsmax – Police Track Leads in Search for Wisconsin Gun Theft Suspect

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Hillary Cheers New York State Free Tuition Plans

Hillary Clinton continued her support of tuition-free college education on Saturday by tweeting a call to “celebrate” a New York state budget agreement that will allow free tuition for students whose families meet certain income guidelines.

Her tweet was made in response to one from New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, who announced the initiative Saturday:

Under the new agreement, reports The Washington Examiner, New York’s state university system will offer free tuition for families who earn less than $100,000 a year, beginning this fall. The program’s eligibility will expand to homes earning up to $110,000 and $125,000 in 2018 and 2019.

Clinton, however, has herself changed her stance on free college tuition. When she was campaigning against Sen. Bernie Sanders for the 2016 nomination, she ridiculed his call for free colleges and universities, but once she got the nomination, she adopted some of his plan, notes the Examiner.

Once she started advocating free tuition, Clinton capped off her own plan at households earning $125,000 or less.

Source: newsmax – Hillary Cheers New York State Free Tuition Plans

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FBI Reviews Handling of Terrorism-Related Tips

The FBI has been reviewing the handling of thousands of terrorism-related tips and leads from the past three years to make sure they were properly investigated and no obvious red flags were missed, The Associated Press has learned.

The review follows attacks by people who were once on the FBI’s radar but who have been accused in the past 12 months of massacring innocents in an Orlando, Florida, nightclub, injuring people on the streets of New York City, and gunning down travelers in a Florida airport. In each case, the suspects had been determined not to warrant continued law enforcement scrutiny months and sometimes years before the attacks.

The internal audit, which has not been previously reported, began this year and is being conducted in FBI field offices across the country. A senior federal law enforcement official described the review as an effort to “err on the side of caution.”

The audit is essentially a review of records to ensure proper FBI procedures were followed. It’s an acknowledgment of the challenge the FBI has faced, particularly in recent years, in predicting which of the tens of thousands of tips the bureau receives annually might materialize one day into a viable threat.

Investigations that go dormant because of a lack of evidence can resurface instantly when a subject once under scrutiny commits violence or displays fresh signs of radicalization. FBI Director James Comey has said it’s like finding a needle in a haystack and determining which piece of hay may become a needle.

Though there’s no indication of significant flaws in how terrorism inquiries are opened and closed, the review is a way for the FBI to “refine and adapt to the threat, and part of that is always making sure you cover your bases,” said the law enforcement official, who was not authorized to discuss the matter by name.

The pace of the FBI’s counterterrorism work accelerated with the rise of the Islamic State group, which in 2014 declared the creation of its so-called caliphate in Syria and Iraq and has used sophisticated propaganda to lure disaffected Westerners to its cause. By the summer of 2015, Comey has said, the FBI was “strapped” in keeping tabs on the group’s American sympathizers and identifying those most inclined to commit violence.

Social media outreach by IS has appealed to people not previously known to the FBI but also enticed some who once had been under scrutiny to get “back in the game,” said Seamus Hughes, deputy director of George Washington University’s Program on Extremism.

“The fact that there was a physical location and a caliphate announced, it helped kind of drive folks back in when they might have drifted away,” Hughes said.

The review covers inquiries the FBI internally classifies as “assessments” — the lowest level, least intrusive and most elementary stage of a terror-related inquiry — and is examining ones from the past three years to make sure all appropriate investigative avenues were followed, according to a former federal law enforcement official who spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss the process.

Assessments are routinely opened upon a tip — whether from someone concerned about things such as activity in a neighbor’s garage, a co-worker’s comments or expressions of support for IS propaganda — and are catalogued by the FBI. The bureau receives tens of thousands of tips a year, and averages more than 10,000 assessments annually.

FBI guidelines meant to balance national security with civil liberties protections impose restrictions on the steps agents may take during the assessment phase.

Agents, for instance, may analyze information from government databases and open-source internet searches, and can conduct interviews. But they cannot turn to more intrusive techniques, such as requesting a wiretap or internet communications, without higher levels of approval and a more solid basis to suspect a crime or national security threat. The guidelines explicitly discourage open-ended inquiries and say assessments are designed to be “relatively short,” with a supervisor signing off on extension requests.

Many assessments are closed within days or weeks when the FBI concludes there’s no criminal or national security threat, or basis for continued scrutiny.

The system is meant to ensure that a person who has not broken the law does not remain under perpetual scrutiny on a mere hunch that a crime could eventually be committed. But on occasion, and within the past year, it’s also meant that people the FBI once looked at but did not find reason to arrest later went on to commit violence.

In the case of Omar Mateen, that scrutiny was extensive, detailed and lengthy.

Mateen, who shot and killed 49 people at an Orlando nightclub in June, was investigated for 10 months in 2013 and interviewed twice after a co-worker reported that Mateen had claimed connections to al-Qaida.

As part of a preliminary investigation, agents recorded Mateen’s conversations and introduced him to confidential sources before closing the matter. That kind of investigation is more intensive than an assessment and permits a broader menu of tactics, but it also requires a stronger basis for suspicion. Mateen was questioned again in 2014 in a separate investigation into a suicide bomber acquaintance. Comey has said he has personally reviewed that inquiry’s handling and has concluded it was done well.

The FBI in 2014 also opened an assessment on Ahmad Khan Rahimi, who last September was charged in bombings in Manhattan and New Jersey, after his father expressed concerns about his internet use and his associations. The FBI said it closed the review after checking databases and travel and finding nothing that merited continued investigation.

Esteban Santiago, the man accused in the January shooting at the Fort Lauderdale, Florida, airport that killed five people, had also been looked at by the FBI. He had walked into the bureau’s office in Anchorage, Alaska, two months earlier and claimed his mind was being controlled by U.S. intelligence officials. In that case, too, the FBI closed its assessment after interviewing family members and checking databases.

Each act of violence has raised questions about whether the FBI missed signs or should have been more aggressive in its investigation. With thousands of assessments pouring in, those decisions aren’t easy.

“If you’re looking at all the cases, if everything’s blinking red, you have to make a judgment call every time,” Hughes said.

Source: newsmax – FBI Reviews Handling of Terrorism-Related Tips

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Joining High Court, the Real Neil Gorsuch Set to Stand up

Somewhere between the Republican caricature of the next justice of the Supreme Court as a folksy family guy and the Democrats’ demonization of him as a cold-hearted automaton, stands Neil Gorsuch.

Largely unknown six months ago, Gorsuch has seen his life story, personality and professional career explored in excruciating detail since he was nominated by President Donald Trump 10 weeks ago.

The portrait that emerges is more nuanced than the extremes drawn by his supporters and critics.

Gorsuch is widely regarded as a warm and collegial family man, boss and jurist, loyal to his employees and kind to those of differing viewpoints. He also has been shown to be a judge who takes such a “rigidly neutral” approach to the law that it can lead to dispassionate rulings with sometimes brutal results.

Four times during his confirmation hearings, Gorsuch invoked a “breakfast table” analogy, telling senators that good judges set aside what they have to eat — and their personal views — before they leave the house in the morning to apply the law and nothing else to the facts of the cases at hand. It was all part of Gorsuch’s artful effort to reveal as little as possible of his own opinions.

“We’re all human beings,” Gorsuch told senators, “but the judge’s job is to put that stuff aside and approach the law as you find it.”

That ability to compartmentalize, combined with Gorsuch’s studious refusal to signal his thinking on contentious issues, left Democrats frustrated. For all his many visits with senators and his hours in the witness seat, Gorsuch had not revealed his core beliefs and may have, according to Democrats, a bias favoring powerful interests over ordinary people.

The question for Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., was “whether there’s a beating heart and an independent streak” behind Gorsuch’s silver hair and smooth delivery.

Republicans saw Gorsuch’s disciplined and detached approach as evidence of the fair and independent mindset that the U.S. needs on its highest court.

Preparing to take the oath of office Monday after a rancorous 54-45 vote in the Senate, Gorsuch soon will largely recede into the cloistered halls of the Supreme Court. He won’t vanish entirely; other justices have written books, done speaking tours and interviews.

But Gorsuch won’t again face this kind of grilling, into everything from his views on abortion to the avid outdoorsman’s favorite fishing holes. (He largely pleaded the Fifth on both.)

The 49-year-old judge was happy to reminisce about his years as a student and lawyer before becoming a federal appellate judge in Denver 10 years ago. He relied on self-deprecating humor and a goodness-gosh-golly demeanor in outsize doses as he deflected the questions he didn’t want to answer.

“I might be a little corny,” he said at one point to the Senate Judiciary Committee.

“Oh, now we’re talking,” Gorsuch enthused when the talk turned to fly fishing. “You can’t focus on the worries of the world when you’re only worried about a trout.”

Gorsuch’s impressive scholarly and legal credentials were on full display: Columbia, Harvard and Oxford, the latter with scenes that Gorsuch recalled were straight out of a Harry Potter movie.

But Gorsuch, known for the clarity of his legal writings, traced the roots of his success back to an even earlier source, Sister Mary Rose Margaret, the nun of whom he says: “She taught me how to read and she taught me how to diagram a sentence.”

Gorsuch, whose mother was a state legislator and then director of the Environmental Protection Agency under President Ronald Reagan, tried to play down the political elements in his background. Gorsuch stressed that when issues such as torture arose during his time in President George W. Bush’s Justice Department, he acted not as a policymaker but as a “speechwriter” or “a lawyer for a client.”

He did acknowledge, though, that an email he sent criticizing lawyers at big firms for representing detainees being held by the U.S. military at Guantanamo Bay in Cuba was “not my finest hour.”

Perhaps no ruling got more attention over the past 10 weeks than a case in which Gorsuch came down against a truck driver who was fired for leaving his trailer of meat on the side of an Illinois road after breaking down on a frigid night in 2009 and fearing he would freeze to death. Asked whether the man’s firing wasn’t absurd, Gorsuch said simply: “My heart goes out to him. It’s just not my job.”

For all that he shared, Gorsuch did his best not to telegraph where he might land on a range of topics that he could confront early in his time as a justice, even though both sides think they have a pretty good idea how he would rule.

Cases about voting rights, gun control, religious rights, housing discrimination and immigration are pending before the court. The dispute over Trump’s proposed ban on visitors from six majority Muslim countries could be on the way as well.

Gorsuch was careful not to offer any hints on these issues in his exchanges with committee Democrats and Republicans.

Questioned about his views on the Roe v. Wade decision that established a woman’s right to have an abortion, Gorsuch would go no further than to voice his respect for legal precedent and say “no one is looking to return us to horse and buggy days.”

Sen. Mazie Hirono, D-Hawaii, spoke for many in her party when, nearing the end of two days of testimony, she told Gorsuch: “It remains to be seen whether you will be a justice for all or a justice for some.”

Source: newsmax – Joining High Court, the Real Neil Gorsuch Set to Stand up

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