Politics, Education and Brewing
VOA Connect Episode 109 – Any marriage can have its challenges – meet one couple that manages to overcome deep political differences to celebrate what they have in common. And find out how a bike shop is handling competition from online retailers (hint: it involves beer).
Love and Ballots
California couple John and Laura Hunter disagree on some things – including how President Trump is carrying out his job. But they have found common ground in helping migrants make the treacherous journey to America. They talk to us about some of the factors shaping their radically different political opinions.
Reporter/Camera: Genia Dulot
Bikes and Beer
A family-owned bike shop tells us about the different ways they get customers into their store and onto their bikes. We look at their selection of bikes and some of the ways they give back to their community. Oh and did we mention they also make and sell their own beer?
Camera/Producer: Lisa Vohra
ДБР повідомило про підозру ексчиновнику «Нафтогазу» у зловживанні на 284 мільйони гривень
Державне бюро розслідувань повідомило про відозру колишньому директору одного з департаментів «НАК «Нафтогаз України» у зловживанні владою, що завдало державі 284 млн грн збитків . Імені підозрюваного у відомтві не називають.
«Слідством встановлено, що у 2013 році керівництво ПАТ «НАК «Нафтогаз України» уклало з товариством договір на послуги з проведення сейсморозвідувальних досліджень вартістю 407 мільйонів гривень. Знаючи, що товариство не зможе виконати частину досліджень, підозрюваний склав та передав на підпис керівництву перелік робіт, а згодом погодив акти їх виконання. Ці дії стали підставою для часткової оплати послуг згідно з договором, що завдало державі 284 мільйони гривень збитків», – зазначається у повідомленні на сайті ДБР.
Як зазначається, підозрюваному загрожує покарання у вигляді позбавлення волі від 3 до 6 років з позбавленням права обіймати певні посади чи займатися певною діяльністю до 3 років, зі штрафом від 500 до 1000 неоподатковуваних мінімумів доходів громадян. Наразі суд вирішує питання, коли провести засідання щодо обрання йому запобіжного заходу.
У МЗС відреагували на заяву про «12 кроків» у Мюнхені
Ця неофіційна заява вже зникла із сайту Мюнхенської конференції
За добу українські позиції на Донбасі обстріляли 6 разів – штаб ООС
Штаб Операції об’єднаних сил повідомив у вечірньому зведенні за 14 лютого про 6 обстрілів позицій українських військових на Донбасі поблизу населених пунктів Лебединське, Березове, Новомихайлівка, Славне та Новолуганське на Донеччині, а також Новотошківське на Луганщині.
За цими даними, втрат серед українських військовослужбовців немає.
Угруповання «ДНР» заявило про обстріл поблизу Горлівки, а представники угруповання «ЛНР» повідомляє про відсутність вогневої активності протягом доби.
Збройний конфлікт на Донбасі триває від 2014 року після російської окупації Криму. Україна і Захід звинувачують Росію у збройній підтримці бойовиків. Кремль відкидає ці звинувачення і заявляє, що на Донбасі можуть перебувати хіба що російські «добровольці».
За даними ООН, від березня 2014-го до 31 жовтня 2019 року внаслідок збройного конфлікту на Донбасі загинули 13 000 – 13 200 людей.
North Dakota, Tribes Reach Settlement Over Voter ID Lawsuit
North Dakota reached a proposed settlement agreement Thursday with American Indians who sued over the state’s voter ID laws, arguing they are a form of voter suppression.
The proposed federal consent decree announced jointly by tribal lawyers and the state follows U.S. District Judge Daniel Hovland’s ruling Monday that the Spirit Lake Nation and the Standing Rock Sioux, as well as six individual Native American plaintiffs, may challenge the state’s requirement that voters have ID with a verified street address.
The Spirit Lake and Standing Rock tribal councils still must approve the settlement agreement, which would halt a federal trial scheduled for May on the issue.
North Dakota doesn’t have voter registration, but the state has required voters to provide ID since 2004. The state accepts a driver’s license as identification or ID cards issued by the state, long-term care facilities or North Dakota’s American Indian tribes. The law required that all must have a birth date and valid street address.
State officials argued that not requiring street addresses could lead to voter fraud and people voting in the wrong district. American Indians argue that such addresses are not always evident on reservations, that many tribal members don’t know their address, don’t have a provable one because they’re homeless or stay with friends or relatives, or can’t afford to get an updated ID with a street address.
The proposed deal puts the burden on the state to assign or verify street addresses for Native American voters, ensuring they will still be able to cast a ballot, said Tim Purdon, a lawyer for the tribes.
State and county officials, in coordination with tribal governments, will then use those maps to assign or verify the voter’s residential street address and will provide that address to the voter, Purdon said.
“These concessions by the state are vindication of the claims brought by the tribes,” Purdon said. “We are pleased this will make it easier for Native Americans to vote across the state.”
Secretary of State Al Jaeger, the state’s top election official, said he was “very pleased” with the development and that the state is “looking forward to the conclusion of this process.”
Purdon said the proposed consent decree announced Thursday came after days of negotiations with the state. It also follows an announcement last week by Jaeger, who said Gov. Doug Burgum had granted him emergency rulemaking authority to give tribes the ability to quickly verify “set-aside” ballots, which are not counted until the voter proves his or her eligibility.
The revised system would allow tribes to quickly verify voters, rather than the previous system in which voters had up to six days to return with proof of their identity, possibly discouraging some voters from following through.
The order also allows the state to incorporate information from tribal IDs into new electronic poll books.
Wanted: Texas Republicans Need New Voters in 2020, and Fast
It’s normal to target new voters ahead of Super Tuesday. Think volunteers holding clipboards at street festivals, malls or outside grocery stores. Democrats in Texas have made it a perennial focus, hoping they can end decades of losses by rousing more voters to the polls.
Republicans here, meanwhile, never really needed to bother, but now that’s changing as worries deepen about their grip on the state in 2020.
With their base not expanding and their margins of victory getting thinner, Texas Republicans have begun spending big on finding more conservatives to vote. And they’ve taken a different approach to it ahead of the Texas primaries on March 3.
Hired canvassers to stand outside driver’s license offices, pushing a petition on gun rights by asking, “Do you have a moment to support the Second Amendment?” People who stop are nudged to identify themselves as liberal or conservative. Finally, things cut to the chase: they’re offered the chance to sign up to vote.
But if a reporter arrives, they scram, abruptly sweeping voter registration forms into boxes, taking down signs, and heading for their cars.
“We’re instructed to break down whenever press is here,” says a man with Engage Texas, the political super PAC coordinating the effort, declining to explain why or provide his name.
The effort is another sign of the intense partisan struggle underway in a state that’s been the GOP’s largest and most important asset but also is key to Democrats’ hopes for future electoral dominance.
Despite the canvassers’ nothing-to-see-here retreat, many conservatives acknowledge that the ground seems to be shifting after a generation of lopsided victories on Election Day. Party activists are looking beyond just motivating registered voters who sometimes don’t get to the polls. They’re spending big, putting up more than $12 million so far, searching for those who aren’t on the rolls at all.
The GOP’s electoral base, mostly aging and white, has delivered around 4.5 million votes in every presidential year since 2004, but that number has scarcely budged even as Texas’ population has boomed. In 2018, Democrats surpassed 4 million votes for the first time, and Republican Sen. Ted Cruz survived reelection by a mere 215,000 votes.
The sprawling metropolitan suburbs that have started turning purple have put Democrats in reach of flipping a handful of congressional districts and given them an outside chance at winning a majority in the Texas House. The GOP holds a 23-13 edge in the congressional delegation and are fighting to retain half a dozen districts it narrowly hung onto last cycle.
Sending out clipboard holders, equipped with a line of questions that screens for likely Republicans, shows a willingness to take up even the unglamorous grind of signing up new voters.
“We’re buying an insurance policy,” said Steve Munisteri, a former White House adviser under President Donald Trump who now leads a separate campaign to turn up new Republican voters in Texas. “I feel like we can go anywhere from losing by a smidgen to winning by a comfortable margin.”
Democrats, who accuse Republicans of waging a decade-long campaign of voter suppression ranging from ID laws to shutting down polling locations, say the irony isn’t lost on them.
“If I’m a Republican and my path ahead in Texas is in registering a lot of voters, I’ve run out of other options,” said Cliff Walker, deputy executive director of the Texas Democratic Party.
Walker would not say how much Democrats are spending, but the party says it will have 1,000 people on the ground this cycle to sign up new voters.
Texas enters Super Tuesday having surpassed 16 million voters for the first time, and voter registration in recent years has outpaced population growth. A core belief among many Democrats is that higher turnout generally favors their side, but already in 2020, lower-than-expected attendance in the Iowa caucuses and a defeat in a Texas legislative special election are raising warning flags about enthusiasm.
Trump may have a cushion here in the presidential race after winning Texas by nine points in 2016, but there is still no other outfit in the country that compares to Engage Texas. It has raised nearly $12 million exclusively from major GOP donors and groups. Among them are Dallas-based Energy Transfer, whose CEO is billionaire Kelcy Warren, and Dallas oil tycoon Ray Hunt. Although it is not the first political action committee singularly dedicated to registering new voters, there appear to be few parallels on this scale.
Leaders of Engage Texas said unfair press coverage toward Republicans is why their employees packed up and left at two driver’s license offices after being approached by an Associated Press reporter.
“Republican-build efforts don’t always get a fair shake. They’re going to be a bit skeptical,” said Chris Young, the executive director of Engage Texas.
Young, who was the field director for the Republican National Committee in 2016, would not provide data on how many voters his group has registered or his targets. But he said “hundreds” of paid staff were working largely around Texas’ big cities and booming suburbs.
Жириновский и Кива в Тиндере/ Эрдоган поджёг вату / Майдан в России
Жириновский и Кива в Тиндере/ Эрдоган поджёг вату / Майдан в России
Ватные ж… должны гореть ярко! Борьба с российской пропагандой – это наше с вами общее дело
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Trump to Transfer $3.8B From Military to Fund Border Wall
The Trump administration is transferring $3.8 billion in recently passed military funding to finance construction of the president’s long-sought U.S.-Mexico border wall, angering not just Democrats but also GOP defense hawks.
Thursday’s move by the Pentagon would transfer money from National Guard units, aircraft procurement and shipbuilding to anti-drug accounts that can finance construction of new wall.
The maneuver, announced in “reprogramming” documents provided to lawmakers, came in for harsh criticism by Rep. Mack Thornberry of Texas, the top Republican on the House Armed Services Committee. Democrats slammed the transfers as well, but Trump faced no consequences when making similar transfers last year.
“Congress has the constitutional authority to determine how defense dollars are spent,” Thornberry said in a statement. “The re-programming today is contrary to Congress’s constitutional authority.”
Trump’s action comes less than two months after he signed a huge appropriations package into law. He alienated lawmakers on both sides last year when diverting funding intended for popular projects on military bases.
This time, the Pentagon is targeting $1.3 billion for National Guard equipment and excess procurement of aircraft like the F-35 and V-22 Ospreys, favored by many lawmakers for the jobs they bring to their districts and states. He’s also eliminating funding for an amphibious assault ship built in Mississippi and an Expeditionary Fast Transport ship that’s built in Alabama, represented by Sen. Richard Shelby, the Republican chairman of the Appropriations Committee.
Trump’s fiscal 2021 budget, released only Monday, contains a $2 billion request for the wall, less than Trump asked for last year, which reflected the fact that Trump has more money for the wall than can be spent immediately.
“Today (Trump) stole from our National Guard to pay for his wasteful wall,” said Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt.
China Still Not Sharing Coronavirus Information, Experts Say
Six weeks after announcing the appearance of a new, highly contagious and sometimes lethal virus, experts say China is still not sharing important data that could help contain the epidemic.
“As countries are trying to develop their own control strategies, they are looking for evidence of whether the situation in China is getting worse or better,” said Jennifer Nuzzo, a senior scholar at the Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security.
But that evidence is not forthcoming.
“We still don’t have very basic information,” said former U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention chief Tom Friedman, who currently heads public health nonprofit Resolve to Save Lives.
As a team from the World Health Organization arrives in China to help respond to the COVID-19 outbreak spreading out of the central city of Wuhan, “we hope that information will be coming out,” Frieden said.
“The next few days will be key,” he added.
Beijing has not accepted the CDC’s offer to send top experts.
Mike Ryan, head of WHO’s health emergencies program, did not specify nationalities of the team members at a press conference Thursday. “But I can assure you the team is top-class scientists from all over the world and all of the relevant countries who can contribute to an endeavor such as this,” he said.
“We are a little disappointed that we haven’t been invited in and we’re a little disappointed in the lack of transparency coming from the Chinese,” Larry Kudlow, the director of President Donald Trump’s Economic Council, told reporters Thursday.
Behind the curve
China is releasing a daily count of newly identified cases, but not the date when those patients became ill. That’s important because without the date of symptom onset, epidemiologists can’t tell if an epidemic is growing or waning. The daily case count indicates when testing labs are processing samples without revealing much about the course of the outbreak, experts note.
When Chinese officials changed how they diagnose the disease on Thursday, it was impossible to tell if the 13,000 new cases Beijing reported actually represent a jump in infections because Beijing hasn’t reported dates of onset. WHO’s Ryan said some of those cases go back to the beginning of the epidemic. But WHO doesn’t know which ones.
China is not routinely releasing data on patients’ ages and who gets the most severe disease. It’s not clear how many people who were tested came back positive. It’s not known how many people who are infected don’t get tested.
“We know some are missed, there’s no question about that,” said Frieden from Resolve to Save Lives.
“But is it 10 times as many? Five times as many?” he asked. “We just don’t know.”
Health care workers are at extremely high risk of infection in any outbreak. WHO usually lists infections among this important group in its situation reports. But Beijing has reported very little about how health care workers are faring.
Researchers in Wuhan have published one study that said 40 out of 138 hospitalized patients were health care workers who contracted the illness in the hospital.
“That was really the first public indication that health care worker infections had, in fact, occurred,” Nuzzo from Johns Hopkins said. “That, I think, is a really glaring omission.”
Frieden partly blamed the lack of data reporting on a “fog-of-war experience in an overwhelming outbreak.” The volume of patients has vastly exceeded the capacity of the health care system.
But the lingering question, he added, “is whether they’re holding back some information.”
Better than SARS
Early in the outbreak, Chinese authorities pressured doctors who spoke publicly about the new disease.
Beijing drew global condemnation for withholding information during the 2002-2003 outbreak of severe acute respiratory syndrome.
This time, officials have praised Beijing for reporting the COVID-19 outbreak much more quickly and for rapidly releasing the virus’s genetic code.
Chinese scientists have published a series of “elegant” studies in top medical journals outlining some important details of the disease, Nuzzo noted.
“I don’t want to paint a picture of a country that’s absolutely refusing to turn over data because they’re clearly cranking out papers,” she said.
But critical information is still lacking, and in a serious outbreak of a new disease, she added, data should be shared as widely as possible as soon as possible.
“The basic concept is tell people what you know when you know it,” Frieden added. “And if you don’t know something, indicate how are you going to find that information out.”
Billionaire Bloomberg Campaign Aims to Unify Splintered Democrats
Splintered results in early Democratic Party presidential nominating contests are providing an opening for former New York mayor and billionaire Mike Bloomberg’s unconventional media-driven campaign strategy.
Matthew Dallek, a professor of politics at George Washington University, said Bloomberg made a “risky bet” that the Democratic field would be “so scrambled” and moderate candidates “sufficiently weak” that he could bypass the early nomination contests and still win.
Bloomberg declared his candidacy for president relatively late in November and missed the filing deadline for state elections this month. But he has been blanketing America’s airwaves with slick political advertisements.
The results from the Iowa caucuses and New Hampshire’s primary have raised concerns among some Democrats that no one strong enough to defeat President Donald Trump will emerge from the current field of candidates.
“The other ones will go self-defeat themselves. It’s awful and Trump just will pick up the pieces if we don’t get Mike in there,” said Craig Hedley, a Bloomberg supporter in Virginia.
Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders’ victories in two very close elections, winning over former mayor Pete Buttigieg in New Hampshire by one percent and virtually tying Buttigieg for first place in Iowa, have alarmed moderates who view Sanders’ agenda to make college education and health care free as polarizing and extreme. Sanders is a self-described democratic socialist.
“I don’t think he [Sanders] can build a coalition and I don’t think he can beat Trump,” said Deborah Hedley, who is also a Bloomberg supporter in Virginia.
The other well-known progressive presidential contender, Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren, has had weak showings so far, after finishing third place in Iowa and fourth in New Hampshire.
Among the moderate contenders, Buttigieg, the former South Bend, Indiana mayor, and Minnesota Senator Amy Klobuchar have gained political momentum. But polls show neither has significant backing from minority voters, key Democratic constituencies, creating doubts that either has a viable path to the party’s nomination.
Surprising to many is that former Vice President Joe Biden, who was the early national front-runner in the race, stumbled badly in the first two contests.
Despite not being on the ballot in Iowa or New Hampshire, Bloomberg rose to third place in two national polls this week, coming in behind only Sanders and Biden.
A recent convert to the Democratic Party in 2018, Bloomberg first ran for mayor as a Republican, before changing to Independent. He is now billing himself as a unifying force who can appeal to disaffected Republicans and independents in key battleground states that swung to Trump in 2016 and which Democrats hope to recapture in November.
“I’m running to bring our country back together and start putting the United back in the United States of America,” Bloomberg said during a recent campaign speech in Michigan.
Bloomberg, who is the 12th richest man in the world, has strong pro-business credentials as head of the multi-billion dollar Bloomberg media company. And he has gained national recognition for his tenure as mayor of New York, the largest city in the country.
Bloomberg has earned “credibility” with party leaders, said Dallek, by using his vast fortune to help Democrats win control of the House of Representatives in the 2018 midterm elections. He also won recognition as a philanthropist and an issues advocate, funding organizations that fight climate change and gun violence.
Bloomberg’s activism has helped earned him endorsements from a cross section of party leaders that include Washington, D.C., Mayor Muriel Bowser.
“I’m supporting Mike Bloomberg,” said Bowser. “He has spent many, many years and many millions of dollars standing up to the NRA (National Rifle Association) to make cities and towns across America safer.”
Also endorsing Bloomberg this week was Florida congressman Ted Deutch, who represents the Parkland area where in 2018 a gunman killed 17 people, including many students, with a semi-automatic rifle at a local high school.
Calandrian Simpson Kemp, an African American from Texas, who lost her son to gun violence, made an emotional appeal on Bloomberg’s behalf in a television ad that played during the Super Bowl, and she is now traveling with the campaign as a surrogate spokesperson.
“He cares,” she told a crowd in Richmond, Virginia. “As a mother I would not throw my all and my everything behind somebody who is just talking.”
Bloomberg’s first real test will come on Super Tuesday on March 3, when he will be on the ballot in 14 states with large, diverse electorates that include California, Texas and Virginia.
Stop and Frisk
But Bloomberg has been criticized for Stop and Frisk law enforcement policies while mayor that disproportionately targeted African American and Latino men with aggressive search and detainment tactics.
In November of last year, Bloomberg tried to put the matter behind him by apologizing for the police policy.
“I now see that we could and should have acted sooner and acted faster to cut the stops. I wish we had, I’m sorry that we didn’t,” he said.
However, Bloomberg was forced to address the controversy again this week after a 2015 recording surfaced in which the then-mayor defended the practice of targeting young African American and Latino men, saying they fit the profile for “95% of your murders” in New York.
Bloomberg said in a statement this week that he “inherited the police practice of stop-and-frisk” and that he cut it back by 95% during his time in office. He also reiterated his earlier apology and said, “I have taken responsibility for taking too long to understand the impact it had on black and Latino communities.”
Bloomberg is also self-funding his extensive national campaign. He has spent over $200 million of his own money and is reportedly planning to double that amount on television advertising and expanding his national campaign staff in the coming weeks.
His supporters commend Bloomberg for using his wealth to fund his campaign, arguing that the billionaire’s resources will be needed to compete against Trump. Republicans have collected over $200 million so far for the president’s reelection campaign.
But Sanders, Warren and others have criticized Bloomberg, accusing him of attempting to buy the election.
“How do we feel, about living in a so-called democracy when a billionaire, multi-billionaire, 55 billion, can spend unlimited sums of money?” asked Sanders.
AG Barr: Trump Tweets ‘Make It Impossible To Do My Job’
U.S. Attorney General William Barr says President Donald Trump’s tweets about the Justice Department, its people, and its cases “make it impossible for me to do my job.”
This surprising statement from one of the president’s most steadfast allies came Thursday, days after Barr’s Justice Department overruled its own prosecutors and recommended a lighter prison sentence for longtime Trump friend Roger Stone, convicted of lying to Congress, witness tampering and obstruction of justice in the Russian election meddling probe.
Trump had complained that the seven-to-nine year recommended sentence was “horrible” and “unfair.” The decision to recommend to the court giving Stone a lesser sentence came hours later. It is extremely rare for the Justice Department to overrule its own attorneys in a criminal case. The four prosecutors in the Stone case withdrew from case, including one who resigned from the department.
In an interview Thursday with ABC News, Barr said Trump has never asked him to “do anything in a criminal case.”
“However, to have public statements and tweets about the department, about our people in the department … about cases pending in the department and about judges before whom we have cases make it impossible for me to do my job and to assure the courts and the prosecutors in the department that we’re doing our work with integrity,” Barr told ABC.
“I’m not going to be bullied or influenced by anybody, whether it’s Congress, a newspaper editorial board, or the president,” Barr added.
After the recommended sentence for Stone was cut, Trump tweeted his congratulations to Barr for “taking charge of a case that was totally out of control and perhaps should not have been brought.”
But Trump denied asking Barr to intervene.<!–[if IE 9]><![endif]–>Trump Denies Pressuring Justice Dept. in Roger Stone SentencingThe president had denounced prosecutors’ sentencing recommendation of seven to nine years for Roger Stone in corruption case linked to 2016 presidential election
The situation has brought into question the Justice Department’s historic independence from any political influence. Democrats have called for an investigation into what prompted the recommendation of a lighter sentence for Stone. Barr is set to testify before a House committee next month.
The White house has yet to respond to Barr’s comments about Trump’s tweets.
Earlier Thursday, the president reposted a Fox News story accusing jurors in the Stone case of “political bias.”
“This is not looking good for the Justice department,” he wrote.<!–[if IE 9]><![endif]–>Stone Sentencing Controversy Raises Doubts About DOJ’s IndependenceHouse Judiciary Committee calls Attorney General William Barr to testify about his role
One of the jurors, Seth Cousins, told Reuters “it is appalling for the president of the United States to be attacking American citizens for patriotically fulfilling their duties.” He said the new sentencing recommendation for Stone makes “It feel like something outrageous is going on.”
Stone is a veteran political consultant who served as an adviser to a number of Republican presidential candidates going back to Richard Nixon’s 1972 reelection campaign.
He is a close Trump ally and adviser. A jury convicted him in November on seven counts of lying to investigators, witness tampering, and obstruction stemming from special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into whether the Trump campaign colluded with Russia to help Trump win the 2016 election.
Stone will be sentenced next week. The seven to nine years of prison prosecutors sought was based on federal sentencing guidelines for such crimes, but it will be up to the judge, Amy Berman Jackson, to decide how long he should be locked up.
Trump continued to complain about Stone’s conviction in an interview with a Cleveland radio station Thursday.
“What am I going to do, sit back and let a man go to jail for maybe nine years when murderers aren’t going to jail?” Trump asked.
He said the four Justice Department prosecutors who left the case did not leave for “moral reasons. I think they got caught in the act by me,” he asserted.