Tuesday, February 28, 2017

President Donald Trump's Address To Congress




Mr. Speaker, Mr. Vice President, Members of Congress, the First Lady of the United States, and Citizens of America:

Tonight, as we mark the conclusion of our celebration of Black History Month, we are reminded of our Nation's path toward civil rights and the work that still remains. Recent threats targeting Jewish Community Centers and vandalism of Jewish cemeteries, as well as last week's shooting in Kansas City, remind us that while we may be a Nation divided on policies, we are a country that stands united in condemning hate and evil in all its forms.

Each American generation passes the torch of truth, liberty and justice --- in an unbroken chain all the way down to the present.

That torch is now in our hands. And we will use it to light up the world. I am here tonight to deliver a message of unity and strength, and it is a message deeply delivered from my heart.
A new chapter of American Greatness is now beginning.

A new national pride is sweeping across our Nation.

And a new surge of optimism is placing impossible dreams firmly within our grasp.
What we are witnessing today is the Renewal of the American Spirit.

Our allies will find that America is once again ready to lead.

All the nations of the world -- friend or foe -- will find that America is strong, America is proud, and America is free.

In 9 years, the United States will celebrate the 250th anniversary of our founding -- 250 years since the day we declared our Independence.

It will be one of the great milestones in the history of the world.

But what will America look like as we reach our 250th year? What kind of country will we leave for our children?

I will not allow the mistakes of recent decades past to define the course of our future.

For too long, we've watched our middle class shrink as we've exported our jobs and wealth to foreign countries.

We've financed and built one global project after another, but ignored the fates of our children in the inner cities of Chicago, Baltimore, Detroit -- and so many other places throughout our land.

We've defended the borders of other nations, while leaving our own borders wide open, for anyone to cross -- and for drugs to pour in at a now unprecedented rate.

And we've spent trillions of dollars overseas, while our infrastructure at home has so badly crumbled.
Then, in 2016, the earth shifted beneath our feet. The rebellion started as a quiet protest, spoken by families of all colors and creeds --- families who just wanted a fair shot for their children, and a fair hearing for their concerns.

But then the quiet voices became a loud chorus -- as thousands of citizens now spoke out together, from cities small and large, all across our country.

Finally, the chorus became an earthquake -- and the people turned out by the tens of millions, and they were all united by one very simple, but crucial demand, that America must put its own citizens first ... because only then, can we truly MAKE AMERICA GREAT AGAIN.

Dying industries will come roaring back to life. Heroic veterans will get the care they so desperately need.

Our military will be given the resources its brave warriors so richly deserve.

Crumbling infrastructure will be replaced with new roads, bridges, tunnels, airports and railways gleaming across our beautiful land.

Our terrible drug epidemic will slow down and ultimately, stop.

And our neglected inner cities will see a rebirth of hope, safety, and opportunity.

Above all else, we will keep our promises to the American people.

It's been a little over a month since my inauguration, and I want to take this moment to update the Nation on the progress I've made in keeping those promises.

Since my election, Ford, Fiat-Chrysler, General Motors, Sprint, Softbank, Lockheed, Intel, Walmart, and many others, have announced that they will invest billions of dollars in the United States and will create tens of thousands of new American jobs.

The stock market has gained almost three trillion dollars in value since the election on November 8th, a record. We've saved taxpayers hundreds of millions of dollars by bringing down the price of the fantastic new F-35 jet fighter, and will be saving billions more dollars on contracts all across our Government. We have placed a hiring freeze on non-military and non-essential Federal workers.

We have begun to drain the swamp of government corruption by imposing a 5 year ban on lobbying by executive branch officials --- and a lifetime ban on becoming lobbyists for a foreign government.
We have undertaken a historic effort to massively reduce job‑crushing regulations, creating a deregulation task force inside of every Government agency; imposing a new rule which mandates that for every 1 new regulation, 2 old regulations must be eliminated; and stopping a regulation that threatens the future and livelihoods of our great coal miners.

We have cleared the way for the construction of the Keystone and Dakota Access Pipelines -- thereby creating tens of thousands of jobs -- and I've issued a new directive that new American pipelines be made with American steel.

We have withdrawn the United States from the job-killing Trans-Pacific Partnership.

With the help of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, we have formed a Council with our neighbors in Canada to help ensure that women entrepreneurs have access to the networks, markets and capital they need to start a business and live out their financial dreams.

To protect our citizens, I have directed the Department of Justice to form a Task Force on Reducing Violent Crime.

I have further ordered the Departments of Homeland Security and Justice, along with the Department of State and the Director of National Intelligence, to coordinate an aggressive strategy to dismantle the criminal cartels that have spread across our Nation.

We will stop the drugs from pouring into our country and poisoning our youth -- and we will expand treatment for those who have become so badly addicted.

At the same time, my Administration has answered the pleas of the American people for immigration enforcement and border security. By finally enforcing our immigration laws, we will raise wages, help the unemployed, save billions of dollars, and make our communities safer for everyone. We want all Americans to succeed --- but that can't happen in an environment of lawless chaos. We must restore integrity and the rule of law to our borders.

For that reason, we will soon begin the construction of a great wall along our southern border. It will be started ahead of schedule and, when finished, it will be a very effective weapon against drugs and crime.

As we speak, we are removing gang members, drug dealers and criminals that threaten our communities and prey on our citizens. Bad ones are going out as I speak tonight and as I have promised.

To any in Congress who do not believe we should enforce our laws, I would ask you this question: what would you say to the American family that loses their jobs, their income, or a loved one, because America refused to uphold its laws and defend its borders?

Our obligation is to serve, protect, and defend the citizens of the United States. We are also taking strong measures to protect our Nation from Radical Islamic Terrorism.

According to data provided by the Department of Justice, the vast majority of individuals convicted for terrorism-related offenses since 9/11 came here from outside of our country. We have seen the attacks at home --- from Boston to San Bernardino to the Pentagon and yes, even the World Trade Center.

We have seen the attacks in France, in Belgium, in Germany and all over the world.

It is not compassionate, but reckless, to allow uncontrolled entry from places where proper vetting cannot occur. Those given the high honor of admission to the United States should support this country and love its people and its values.

We cannot allow a beachhead of terrorism to form inside America -- we cannot allow our Nation to become a sanctuary for extremists.

That is why my Administration has been working on improved vetting procedures, and we will shortly take new steps to keep our Nation safe -- and to keep out those who would do us harm.
As promised, I directed the Department of Defense to develop a plan to demolish and destroy ISIS -- a network of lawless savages that have slaughtered Muslims and Christians, and men, women, and children of all faiths and beliefs. We will work with our allies, including our friends and allies in the Muslim world, to extinguish this vile enemy from our planet.

I have also imposed new sanctions on entities and individuals who support Iran's ballistic missile program, and reaffirmed our unbreakable alliance with the State of Israel.

Finally, I have kept my promise to appoint a Justice to the United States Supreme Court -- from my list of 20 judges -- who will defend our Constitution. I am honored to have Maureen Scalia with us in the gallery tonight. Her late, great husband, Antonin Scalia, will forever be a symbol of American justice. To fill his seat, we have chosen Judge Neil Gorsuch, a man of incredible skill, and deep devotion to the law. He was confirmed unanimously to the Court of Appeals, and I am asking the Senate to swiftly approve his nomination.

Tonight, as I outline the next steps we must take as a country, we must honestly acknowledge the circumstances we inherited.

Ninety-four million Americans are out of the labor force.

Over 43 million people are now living in poverty, and over 43 million Americans are on food stamps.
More than 1 in 5 people in their prime working years are not working.

We have the worst financial recovery in 65 years.

In the last 8 years, the past Administration has put on more new debt than nearly all other Presidents combined.

We've lost more than one-fourth of our manufacturing jobs since NAFTA was approved, and we've lost 60,000 factories since China joined the World Trade Organization in 2001.

Our trade deficit in goods with the world last year was nearly $800 billion dollars.

And overseas, we have inherited a series of tragic foreign policy disasters.

Solving these, and so many other pressing problems, will require us to work past the differences of party. It will require us to tap into the American spirit that has overcome every challenge throughout our long and storied history.

But to accomplish our goals at home and abroad, we must restart the engine of the American economy -- making it easier for companies to do business in the United States, and much harder for companies to leave.

Right now, American companies are taxed at one of the highest rates anywhere in the world.

My economic team is developing historic tax reform that will reduce the tax rate on our companies so they can compete and thrive anywhere and with anyone. At the same time, we will provide massive tax relief for the middle class.

We must create a level playing field for American companies and workers.

Currently, when we ship products out of America, many other countries make us pay very high tariffs and taxes -- but when foreign companies ship their products into America, we charge them almost nothing.

I just met with officials and workers from a great American company, Harley-Davidson. In fact, they proudly displayed five of their magnificent motorcycles, made in the USA, on the front lawn of the White House.

At our meeting, I asked them, how are you doing, how is business? They said that it's good. I asked them further how they are doing with other countries, mainly international sales. They told me -- without even complaining because they have been mistreated for so long that they have become used to it -- that it is very hard to do business with other countries because they tax our goods at such a high rate. They said that in one case another country taxed their motorcycles at 100 percent.
They weren't even asking for change. But I am.

I believe strongly in free trade but it also has to be FAIR TRADE.

The first Republican President, Abraham Lincoln, warned that the "abandonment of the protective policy by the American Government [will] produce want and ruin among our people."
Lincoln was right -- and it is time we heeded his words. I am not going to let America and its great companies and workers, be taken advantage of anymore.

I am going to bring back millions of jobs. Protecting our workers also means reforming our system of legal immigration. The current, outdated system depresses wages for our poorest workers, and puts great pressure on taxpayers.

Nations around the world, like Canada, Australia and many others --- have a merit-based immigration system. It is a basic principle that those seeking to enter a country ought to be able to support themselves financially. Yet, in America, we do not enforce this rule, straining the very public resources that our poorest citizens rely upon. According to the National Academy of Sciences, our current immigration system costs America's taxpayers many billions of dollars a year.

Switching away from this current system of lower-skilled immigration, and instead adopting a merit-based system, will have many benefits: it will save countless dollars, raise workers' wages, and help struggling families --- including immigrant families --- enter the middle class.

I believe that real and positive immigration reform is possible, as long as we focus on the following goals: to improve jobs and wages for Americans, to strengthen our nation's security, and to restore respect for our laws.

If we are guided by the well-being of American citizens then I believe Republicans and Democrats can work together to achieve an outcome that has eluded our country for decades.

Another Republican President, Dwight D. Eisenhower, initiated the last truly great national infrastructure program --- the building of the interstate highway system. The time has come for a new program of national rebuilding.

America has spent approximately six trillion dollars in the Middle East, all this while our infrastructure at home is crumbling. With this six trillion dollars we could have rebuilt our country --- twice. And maybe even three times if we had people who had the ability to negotiate.

To launch our national rebuilding, I will be asking the Congress to approve legislation that produces a $1 trillion investment in the infrastructure of the United States -- financed through both public and private capital --- creating millions of new jobs.

This effort will be guided by two core principles: Buy American, and Hire American.

Tonight, I am also calling on this Congress to repeal and replace Obamacare with reforms that expand choice, increase access, lower costs, and at the same time, provide better Healthcare.

Mandating every American to buy government-approved health insurance was never the right solution for America. The way to make health insurance available to everyone is to lower the cost of health insurance, and that is what we will do.

Obamacare premiums nationwide have increased by double and triple digits. As an example, Arizona went up 116 percent last year alone. Governor Matt Bevin of Kentucky just said Obamacare is failing in his State -- it is unsustainable and collapsing.

One third of counties have only one insurer on the exchanges --- leaving many Americans with no choice at all.

Remember when you were told that you could keep your doctor, and keep your plan?
We now know that all of those promises have been broken.

Obamacare is collapsing --- and we must act decisively to protect all Americans. Action is not a choice --- it is a necessity.

So I am calling on all Democrats and Republicans in the Congress to work with us to save Americans from this imploding Obamacare disaster.

Here are the principles that should guide the Congress as we move to create a better healthcare system for all Americans:

First, we should ensure that Americans with pre-existing conditions have access to coverage, and that we have a stable transition for Americans currently enrolled in the healthcare exchanges.
Secondly, we should help Americans purchase their own coverage, through the use of tax credits and expanded Health Savings Accounts --- but it must be the plan they want, not the plan forced on them by the Government.

Thirdly, we should give our great State Governors the resources and flexibility they need with Medicaid to make sure no one is left out.

Fourthly, we should implement legal reforms that protect patients and doctors from unnecessary costs that drive up the price of insurance -- and work to bring down the artificially high price of drugs and bring them down immediately.

Finally, the time has come to give Americans the freedom to purchase health insurance across State lines --- creating a truly competitive national marketplace that will bring cost way down and provide far better care.

Everything that is broken in our country can be fixed. Every problem can be solved. And every hurting family can find healing, and hope.

Our citizens deserve this, and so much more --- so why not join forces to finally get it done? On this and so many other things, Democrats and Republicans should get together and unite for the good of our country, and for the good of the American people.

My administration wants to work with members in both parties to make childcare accessible and affordable, to help ensure new parents have paid family leave, to invest in women's health, and to promote clean air and clear water, and to rebuild our military and our infrastructure.

True love for our people requires us to find common ground, to advance the common good, and to cooperate on behalf of every American child who deserves a brighter future.

An incredible young woman is with us this evening who should serve as an inspiration to us all.
Today is Rare Disease day, and joining us in the gallery is a Rare Disease Survivor, Megan Crowley. Megan was diagnosed with Pompe Disease, a rare and serious illness, when she was 15 months old. She was not expected to live past 5.

On receiving this news, Megan's dad, John, fought with everything he had to save the life of his precious child. He founded a company to look for a cure, and helped develop the drug that saved Megan's life. Today she is 20 years old -- and a sophomore at Notre Dame.
Megan's story is about the unbounded power of a father's love for a daughter.

But our slow and burdensome approval process at the Food and Drug Administration keeps too many advances, like the one that saved Megan's life, from reaching those in need.

If we slash the restraints, not just at the FDA but across our Government, then we will be blessed with far more miracles like Megan.

In fact, our children will grow up in a Nation of miracles.

But to achieve this future, we must enrich the mind --- and the souls --- of every American child.
Education is the civil rights issue of our time.

I am calling upon Members of both parties to pass an education bill that funds school choice for disadvantaged youth, including millions of African-American and Latino children. These families should be free to choose the public, private, charter, magnet, religious or home school that is right for them.

Joining us tonight in the gallery is a remarkable woman, Denisha Merriweather. As a young girl, Denisha struggled in school and failed third grade twice. But then she was able to enroll in a private center for learning, with the help of a tax credit scholarship program. Today, she is the first in her family to graduate, not just from high school, but from college. Later this year she will get her masters degree in social work.

We want all children to be able to break the cycle of poverty just like Denisha.
But to break the cycle of poverty, we must also break the cycle of violence.
The murder rate in 2015 experienced its largest single-year increase in nearly half a century.
In Chicago, more than 4,000 people were shot last year alone --- and the murder rate so far this year has been even higher.
This is not acceptable in our society.

Every American child should be able to grow up in a safe community, to attend a great school, and to have access to a high-paying job.

But to create this future, we must work with --- not against --- the men and women of law enforcement.

We must build bridges of cooperation and trust --- not drive the wedge of disunity and division.
Police and sheriffs are members of our community. They are friends and neighbors, they are mothers and fathers, sons and daughters -- and they leave behind loved ones every day who worry whether or not they'll come home safe and sound.

We must support the incredible men and women of law enforcement.

And we must support the victims of crime.

I have ordered the Department of Homeland Security to create an office to serve American Victims. The office is called VOICE --- Victims Of Immigration Crime Engagement. We are providing a voice to those who have been ignored by our media, and silenced by special interests.

Joining us in the audience tonight are four very brave Americans whose government failed them.
Their names are Jamiel Shaw, Susan Oliver, Jenna Oliver, and Jessica Davis.

Jamiel's 17-year-old son was viciously murdered by an illegal immigrant gang member, who had just been released from prison. Jamiel Shaw Jr. was an incredible young man, with unlimited potential who was getting ready to go to college where he would have excelled as a great quarterback. But he never got the chance. His father, who is in the audience tonight, has become a good friend of mine.
Also with us are Susan Oliver and Jessica Davis. Their husbands --- Deputy Sheriff Danny Oliver and Detective Michael Davis --- were slain in the line of duty in California. They were pillars of their community. These brave men were viciously gunned down by an illegal immigrant with a criminal record and two prior deportations.

Sitting with Susan is her daughter, Jenna. Jenna: I want you to know that your father was a hero, and that tonight you have the love of an entire country supporting you and praying for you.
To Jamiel, Jenna, Susan and Jessica: I want you to know --- we will never stop fighting for justice. Your loved ones will never be forgotten, we will always honor their memory.

Finally, to keep America Safe we must provide the men and women of the United States military with the tools they need to prevent war and --- if they must --- to fight and to win.

I am sending the Congress a budget that rebuilds the military, eliminates the Defense sequester, and calls for one of the largest increases in national defense spending in American history.
My budget will also increase funding for our veterans.

Our veterans have delivered for this Nation --- and now we must deliver for them.
The challenges we face as a Nation are great. But our people are even greater.

And none are greater or braver than those who fight for America in uniform.

We are blessed to be joined tonight by Carryn Owens, the widow of a U.S. Navy Special Operator, Senior Chief William "Ryan" Owens. Ryan died as he lived: a warrior, and a hero --- battling against terrorism and securing our Nation.

I just spoke to General Mattis, who reconfirmed that, and I quote, "Ryan was a part of a highly successful raid that generated large amounts of vital intelligence that will lead to many more victories in the future against our enemies." Ryan's legacy is etched into eternity. For as the Bible teaches us, there is no greater act of love than to lay down one's life for one's friends. Ryan laid down his life for his friends, for his country, and for our freedom --- we will never forget him.

To those allies who wonder what kind of friend America will be, look no further than the heroes who wear our uniform.

Our foreign policy calls for a direct, robust and meaningful engagement with the world. It is American leadership based on vital security interests that we share with our allies across the globe.
We strongly support NATO, an alliance forged through the bonds of two World Wars that dethroned fascism, and a Cold War that defeated communism.

But our partners must meet their financial obligations.

And now, based on our very strong and frank discussions, they are beginning to do just that.

We expect our partners, whether in NATO, in the Middle East, or the Pacific --- to take a direct and meaningful role in both strategic and military operations, and pay their fair share of the cost.
We will respect historic institutions, but we will also respect the sovereign rights of nations.
Free nations are the best vehicle for expressing the will of the people --- and America respects the right of all nations to chart their own path. My job is not to represent the world. My job is to represent the United States of America. But we know that America is better off, when there is less conflict -- not more.

We must learn from the mistakes of the past --- we have seen the war and destruction that have raged across our world.

The only long-term solution for these humanitarian disasters is to create the conditions where displaced persons can safely return home and begin the long process of rebuilding.

America is willing to find new friends, and to forge new partnerships, where shared interests align. We want harmony and stability, not war and conflict.

We want peace, wherever peace can be found. America is friends today with former enemies. Some of our closest allies, decades ago, fought on the opposite side of these World Wars. This history should give us all faith in the possibilities for a better world.

Hopefully, the 250th year for America will see a world that is more peaceful, more just and more free.
On our 100th anniversary, in 1876, citizens from across our Nation came to Philadelphia to celebrate America's centennial. At that celebration, the country's builders and artists and inventors showed off their creations.

Alexander Graham Bell displayed his telephone for the first time. Remington unveiled the first typewriter. An early attempt was made at electric light. Thomas Edison showed an automatic telegraph and an electric pen. 

Imagine the wonders our country could know in America's 250th year.
Think of the marvels we can achieve if we simply set free the dreams of our people.
Cures to illnesses that have always plagued us are not too much to hope.
American footprints on distant worlds are not too big a dream.
Millions lifted from welfare to work is not too much to expect.
And streets where mothers are safe from fear -- schools where children learn in peace -- and jobs where Americans prosper and grow -- are not too much to ask.
When we have all of this, we will have made America greater than ever before. For all Americans.
This is our vision. This is our mission.
But we can only get there together.
We are one people, with one destiny.
We all bleed the same blood.

We all salute the same flag.

And we are all made by the same God.

And when we fulfill this vision; when we celebrate our 250 years of glorious freedom, we will look back on tonight as when this new chapter of American Greatness began.
The time for small thinking is over. The time for trivial fights is behind us.
We just need the courage to share the dreams that fill our hearts.
The bravery to express the hopes that stir our souls.

And the confidence to turn those hopes and dreams to action.

From now on, America will be empowered by our aspirations, not burdened by our fears ---
inspired by the future, not bound by the failures of the past ---
and guided by our vision, not blinded by our doubts.

I am asking all citizens to embrace this Renewal of the American Spirit. I am asking all members of Congress to join me in dreaming big, and bold and daring things for our country. And I am asking everyone watching tonight to seize this moment and --

Believe in yourselves.
Believe in your future.
And believe, once more, in America.

Thank you, God bless you, and God Bless these United States.

Trump Sons Open Newest Hotel In Vancouver

THE ASSOCIATED PRESS
FEBRUARY 28, 2017




 The still-under-construction Trump International Hotel and Tower in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada. The 69-story tower has drawn praise for its sleek, twisting design. Prices for the condominiums have set records. But the politics of President Donald Trump have caused such outrage that the mayor won’t attend the Feb. 28 grand opening and has lobbied for a name change. (Darryl Dyck/The Canadian Press via AP) /The Canadian Press via AP)


VANCOUVER, BRITISH COLUMBIA(AP) — Ignoring protests, claims their newest real estate venture clashes with Canadian values and a no-show mayor who tried to change the tower's name, U.S. President Donald Trump's sons said Tuesday that it was "so fitting" to see the Trump brand in Vancouver, a city known for its diversity and progressive politics.

Protesters, some carrying posters proclaiming, "Love Trumps Hate," surrounded the entrance to the Trump hotel and condominium tower while police and security officers in black suits gathered on sidewalks at the soaring edifice, which has drawn praise for its sleek design but has also raised ethical concerns about the business interests of the new U.S. president.

Vancouver Mayor Gregor Robertson, who had lobbied for the Trump name to be removed from the tower, refused to attend the ceremony in protest of Trump's policies on immigration and other matters. "The name Trump has now become synonymous not with luxury and lifestyle, but with racism, sexism and intolerance," said city Councilman Kerry Jang, who was among other city officials boycotting the event.

Despite the protests and controversy, however, the Trump brothers said Vancouver was the perfect location for a new Trump enterprise. "Vancouver is truly one of the great cities of the world. It's truly one of the most beautiful places in the world and it's so fitting for the Trump brand," Eric Trump said in a speech before the ribbon-cutting ceremony.

Calling the building an "an architectural masterpiece," he added: "That's what our brand is all about. That's what our father's vision was all about, creating one of the most iconic buildings in the world."

In true Trump fashion, Donald Jr. opened his remarks with a light-hearted swipe at the media. "I'd like to thank the press," he said before quickly adding: "Just kidding. Good to see you here. I'm shocked. I'm absolutely shocked."

Donald Jr. also thanked the tower's Malaysian developer, Joo Kim Tiah, whose father is one of Malaysia's wealthiest businessmen and who, like the U.S. president, made a fortune in real estate. "It's great to be able to do this within a family business. I understand how that dynamic works," Donald Jr. said. "It either works great or it is a total disaster."

The Trump Organization is licensing the name to the building and managing the hotel, but does not own it. Joo Kim, the developer, said he found it "extremely stressful" when Trump entered politics well after he signed the partnership agreement with the Trump organization.

"I was terrified," Joo Kim of the Canada-based Holborn Development company told The Associated Press last week. "The people who ran the city were not happy with me. I was scared, but I think they understand. They understand that I'm trapped into — not trapped, locked into — an agreement."

As the opening ceremony took place Tuesday inside the gleaming 69-story tower, people carrying anti-Trump signs took part in a raucous demonstration to the sound of reggae music outside. Protesters crowded the building's entrance, including Henry Ho, who brought signs with messages that included "Dump Trump," and "Is it 2020 yet?"

"I believe a president should be at his core a good person," the Vancouver resident said. "I don't feel like that comes from Donald Trump." Sue Robertson, a retiree who lives in Vancouver, said the Trump brand is associated with "evil" and said a Trump tower "does not belong in a multicultural, fabulous beautiful city."

While the Trump-branded tower is a source of anger for many, the new hotel and its namesake do have some support in the region. "President and hotel owner are two different things. If he can separate the two, all the power to him," said Joe Taylor, a resident of British Columbia. "At least he's got the nerve to say what's on his mind. If people don't like it, well, they're not used to that."

The Trump brothers did not take questions after the ceremony, though Donald Jr. later said in a tweet that the Trump Organization had received a record number of applications to work at the tower: 10,000 applications for 300 full time jobs.

A Trump Organization tweet late Monday asserted the tower was "the first property to open in the city" in over six years. But the city's former planning director, Brent Toderian, said that wasn't true.

"I'm the former chief planner for #Vancouver. That's so far from being true, it's laughable," Brent Toderian tweeted. The Trump Organization tweet was later deleted. The media was taken on a tour of the hotel, which included stops at Ivanka Trump's spa, a view of the rooms where reporters could take a look at the protest below, and the night club.

Located along an upscale six-lane downtown thoroughfare, the tower is the second-tallest in Vancouver and offers majestic mountain and ocean views. A one-bedroom apartment, at 699 square feet, starts around $1 million and the average 1,153-square-foot two-bedroom condo went for $1.7 million but has since gone up. Hotel rooms in the slow season start at around $228 ($300 Canadian).

The chief White House ethics lawyers under Presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama have criticized Trump's turning over control of his business to his sons, saying it does not eliminate potential conflicts of interest. Legal experts also say Trump's overseas businesses could violate the "emoluments clause" of the U.S. constitution, which bars public officials from accepting payments or gifts from foreign governments or companies they control without the consent of Congress. A liberal-funded watchdog group has filed a lawsuit against Trump citing the clause.

Associated Press videographer Manuel Valdes reported this story in Vancouver and AP writer Rob Gillies reported from Toronto. AP writer Cara McKenna in Vancouver contributed to this report.

Conservatives Rebel On Health Care, And GOP Looks To Trump

THE ASSOCIATED PRESS
FEBRUARY 28, 2017



House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., followed by House Majority Whip Steve Scalise, R-La., head to a meeting with reporters on Capitol Hill in Washington, Tuesday, Feb. 28, 2017, before President Donald Trump's speech to the nation. A month into the new administration, the GOP is discovering the difficulties of making good on its promises on repealing Obama's health care law, and other issues. House Speaker Paul Ryan says he isn't frustrated though on Trump's lack of detailed direction, saying "I see him as more of a chairman."



WASHINGTON (AP) — Republicans confronted a conservative rebellion in their own party Tuesday over their long-promised plans to repeal and replace the health care law, and beseeched President Donald Trump to settle the dispute.

"He's the leader on this issue right now; he's the one that's got to hold us together," said Rep. Dennis Ross of Florida as he left a meeting during which he said Republican leaders urged the rank-and-file to "'stay strong'" on the issue and told them: "'Now is not the time to back down."

The pep talk from leadership came amid signs of serious trouble for the emerging House GOP health care plan even before legislation is officially released. Conservatives are objecting to new tax credits that would help consumers buy health care, arguing they amount to a costly new entitlement.

Influential House conservatives say there's no way the approach can pass the House. The dispute comes a month into Trump's presidency, and seven years after the Affordable Care Act passed a Democratic-controlled Congress with Barack Obama in the White House. Now the Republicans are in charge of the White House and Congress. Yet, having spent all those intervening years promising to uproot the law and replace it with something better, they find themselves flailing and divided at the moment of truth.

Most Republicans and aides professed to have little insight into what Trump would say in his speech to Congress Tuesday night, and to what extent he would endorse their plan, though several all but begged him to do so.

"What the president can say is that the plan that gets presented to the conference is the one you need to vote 'yes' on," said GOP Rep. Bill Flores of Texas. "That's how he can be helpful." House Speaker Paul Ryan of Wisconsin sought to put a positive face on the divisions.

"I feel at the end of the day when we get everything done and right, we're going to be unified," he said. For now, most evidence is to the contrary. After a recess week filled with raucous town hall meetings, lawmakers' return to the Capitol this week immediately put deep divisions on display. The two leading conservative groups in the House both announced their opposition to House leadership health care plans based on a leaked draft and reports that the bill would cost more than expected while covering fewer people than the Affordable Care Act.

And three key conservative senators, Mike Lee of Utah, Rand Paul of Kentucky and Ted Cruz of Texas, added their voices in opposition, too, announcing that they will resist "Obamacare Lite" and "accept nothing less than full repeal of Obamacare."

"I think we have the votes now to tell the leadership that this is what we want to do," Paul said on a conference call with House conservative leaders Tuesday. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky summoned Republicans to a meeting Wednesday afternoon to hash things out.

"The goal is for the administration, the House and the Senate to be in the same place," he said on health care. "We're not there yet." Health care is far from the only issue dividing Republicans. Plans to overhaul the tax code have them tied in knots, and senior lawmakers are busy throwing cold water on Trump's budget proposal, which was made public in broad outlines on Monday. The budget envisions a huge $54 billion surge in U.S. military spending while slashing domestic programs and foreign aid.

Asked Tuesday whether the Senate could pass a budget that slashes the State Department budget by a third as Trump envisions, McConnell replied shortly: "Probably not." GOP Rep. Mike Simpson of Idaho, a senior member of the Appropriations Committee, said the budget as presented could not possibly pass the House, either.

"No, no. There's a lot of members that have a lot of interest in a lot of these programs," Simpson said. "There's more to our government than just defense." Yet for defense hawks, Trump's Pentagon spending didn't go far enough. Sen. John McCain of Arizona complained that Trump's plans represented just a small increase over Obama's own Pentagon wish list.

And, Trump's budget would leave large deficits intact while sparing Social Security and Medicare, the entitlements that make up an enormous and growing share of the federal budget. That puts Trump in direct conflict with Ryan and other leading Republicans who've long advocated adjusting entitlement programs to put them on a more sustainable footing and get deficits under control.

Ryan himself, pressed on whether he still favored reforming entitlements, something that has been his legislative calling card for years, claimed that repealing and replacing Obamacare actually qualifies as entitlement reform.

Republicans hope for clarity on all these issues and more from Trump Tuesday night. "More than anyone else the president will drive what happens next," said GOP Rep. Mark Sanford of South Carolina.

Follow Erica Werner on Twitter: https://twitter.com/ericawerner

Monday, February 27, 2017

Appeals Court Won't Put Trump's Travel Ban Case On Hold

THE ASSOCIATED PRESS
FEBRAURY 28, 2017





White House press secretary Sean Spicer speaks during a daily press briefing at the White House in Washington, Monday, Feb. 27, 2017.



SEATTLE (AP) — A federal appeals court on Monday denied a request from the U.S. Justice Department to put President Donald Trump's travel ban case on hold until he issues a new executive order. A three-judge panel of the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals did not give an explanation for its ruling but said it would extend until next week the deadline for the government's opening brief in its appeal.

A lower court temporarily blocked Trump's order that banned travelers from seven predominantly Muslim countries and paused the U.S. refugee program after Washington state and Minnesota sued to stop it.

Trump tweeted "SEE YOU IN COURT" after the 9th Circuit refused to reinstate the ban, but he also has said repeatedly that his administration is working on a new travel ban that addresses some of the constitutional concerns that critics have raised.

White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer was asked during a briefing Monday why the administration wants to defend the ban in court if it's writing a new one. He said the government would defend the appeals case "because we were right the first time."

"While the new executive order attempts to address the court's concerns that they made, the goal is obviously to maintain the way that we did it the first time because we believe that the law is very clear about giving the president the authority that he needs to protect the country," Spicer said.

Nicole Navas, a Justice Department spokeswoman, declined to comment on why the agency sought to put the case on hold while the administration is publicly saying it wants to fight it. The states objected to pausing the appeal, saying in a motion late Friday that it appears the White House and Justice Department are not communicating.

"Despite the Trump administration's repeated requests for delay, the courts agree with my office that this case should move forward," Washington state Attorney General Bob Ferguson said Monday in an email.

The states said "the president has not rescinded the executive order and has not issued a new executive order." Because Trump has not rescinded the current order, court briefings on the preliminary injunction should proceed, the states said.

The appeals court said the government's brief is due March 10 instead of Friday.

House Probe Into Russia Ties To Trump Off To Rocky Start

THE ASSOCIATED PRESS
FEBRUARY 28, 2017


House Intelligence Committee Chairman Rep. Devin Nunes, R-Calif., is questioned by reporters on Capitol Hill in Washington. Nunes said Monday, Feb. 27, 2017, Congress should not begin a McCarthy-style investigation based on news reports that a few Americans with ties to President Donald Trump had contacted Russians during the 2016 presidential campaign.



WASHINGTON (AP) — A simmering dispute between leaders of the House intelligence committee spilled into the public Monday over an investigation into whether President Donald Trump has ties to Russia, even as they pledged to conduct a bipartisan probe.

The Republican committee chairman, Rep. Devin Nunes of California, said he has heard no evidence so far that anyone in Trump's orbit was in contact with Russians during the presidential campaign. The top Democrat on the committee, Adam Schiff, also of California, said the committee's investigation was hardly off the ground and it was premature to make any conclusions.

The nature of ties between Trump's associates and Russia has dogged him throughout his nascent presidency, and Monday brought renewed calls for a special prosecutor to investigate the unusual situation. Federal investigators have been looking into contacts between Trump advisers and Russia for months, along with Russia's role in political hacking during the campaign aimed at Democrats. Trump, on Monday, said he hasn't called Russia in 10 years.

The House and Senate intelligence committees are conducting separate investigations. But revelations last week that the White House enlisted the Republican chairmen of those committees to push back against news reports have intensified concerns over whether the congressional investigations will be tainted by political influence.

Nunes has said the White House asked him to talk with one reporter, but didn't give him any guidance on what to say. He said he told that reporter the same thing he's said to many other reporters in the course of discussions.

Sen. Richard Burr of North Carolina said he wasn't taking questions about whether the White House enlisted him to talk to reporters, as reported by The Washington Post. He said he doesn't need to talk about it.

"I'm in a comfortable place. I didn't do anything to jeopardize my investigation." Burr told The Associated Press on his way out of the Capitol after Senate votes Monday night. The issue was likely to come up at Tuesday's Senate confirmation hearing for former Rep. Dan Coats, Trump's pick to be the next director of intelligence.

Speaking to reporters earlier Monday, Nunes — a member of Trump's presidential transition team — said Congress should not begin a McCarthy-style investigation based on news reports that a few Americans with ties to Trump had contacted Russians during the 2016 presidential campaign.

"We can't have McCarthyism back in this place," Nunes said. "We can't have the government, the U.S. government or the Congress, legislative branch of government, chasing down American citizens, hauling them before the Congress as if they're some secret Russian agent."

Former Sen. Joe McCarthy led a hunt for communists in the 1950s that was fueled by anonymous informants. Nunes said if evidence surfaces, the committee will investigate. Schiff, who worked as an assistant U.S. attorney for six years, said it's not proper to start an investigation by stating your views of the outcome.

"The committee has reached no conclusion on whether the Trump campaign colluded with Russia, Russian officials or any Russian contacts — nor could we," Schiff said. "We have called no witnesses thus far. We have obtained no documents on any counterintelligence investigation and we have yet to receive any testimony from the FBI of potential links between the Trump campaign and Russia."

White House spokesman Sean Spicer said Russia's activity with regard to the 2016 election has been "investigated up and down." "If there's nothing to further investigate, what are you asking people to investigate," Spicer said.

Trump was asked Monday whether he would support a special prosecutor to investigate Russia's influence on the 2016 election. Instead of answering that question, he said, "I haven't called Russia in 10 years." Trump did not say why he called Russia a decade ago.

According to a White House description, the last time Trump spoke by phone with Russian President Vladimir Putin was Jan. 28 and the White House said Putin had initiated the call. Trump also traveled to Russia in 2013 for the Miss Universe beauty pageant in Moscow.

Trump has denied knowing that any of his campaign advisers were in contact with Russians during the campaign. He has also said he has no financial ties or other connections to Russia. Previously, mostly Democrats have requested a special prosecutor, but Republican Rep. Darrell Issa late Friday said Attorney General Jeff Sessions — who worked on Trump's presidential campaign — is not in a position to oversee such an investigation and urged the administration to appoint an independent prosecutor.

"Any review conducted must have the full confidence of the American people, which is why I recommended an independent review," Issa said Monday in a statement. Issa was the first Republican to break ranks on the subject, although House Speaker Paul Ryan said again Monday there should be no special prosecutor.

"The proper place, in my opinion, is the intelligence committees. They're the ones that have access to methods of intelligence gathering." Sessions on Monday told reporters the FBI and Justice Department will remain independent.

"I would recuse myself from anything that I should recuse myself on," Sessions said. "That's all I can tell you." Democratic Sen. Richard Durbin, of Illinois, also said a special prosecutor was needed. Durbin noted on MSNBC that any report the intelligence committees produce as a result of their investigations would likely be initially classified, and the Trump administration would be responsible for declassifying portions and releasing them to the public.

Conducting the investigation in the Republican-controlled Senate intelligence committee "guarantees the American people will not know what is said," Durbin said.

Associated Press writers Vivian Salama, Eric Tucker, Julie Pace and Chad Day contributed to this report.

Sunday, February 26, 2017

Sessions' Tough On Crime Talk Could Lead To Fuller Prisons

THE ASSOCIATED PRESS
SUNDAY, FEBRUARY 26, 2017




File-pool photo, Attorney General Jeff Sessions is greeted by employees as he arrives at the Justice Department in Washington. The federal prison population is on the decline, but a new attorney general who talks tough on drugs and crime could usher in a reversal of that trend. The resources of a prison system that for years has grappled with overcrowding, but that experienced a population drop as Justice Department leaders pushed a different approach to drug prosecutions, could again be taxed.



WASHINGTON (AP) — The federal prison population is on the decline, but a new attorney general who talks tough on drugs and crime and already has indicated a looming need for private prison cells seems poised to usher in a reversal of that trend.

Jeff Sessions, a former federal prosecutor sworn in this month as the country's chief law enforcement officer, signaled at his confirmation hearing — and during private meetings in his first days on the job — that he sees a central role for the federal government in combating drug addiction and violence as well as in strict enforcement of immigration laws.

The result could be in an increase not only in the number of drug prosecutions brought by the Justice Department but also in the average length of sentence prosecutors pursue for even lower-level criminals. If that happens, the resources of a prison system that for years has struggled with overcrowding, but experienced a population drop as Justice Department leaders pushed a different approach to drug prosecutions, could be taxed again.

"Given the rhetoric coming out of the White House and the selection of Sessions as attorney general, an increase in the federal prison population and a chilling effect on state reforms is a very real possibility," said Inimai Chettiar, justice program director at the Brennan Center for Justice.

The approach by Session, a former Alabama senator, to drug crimes will matter in courtrooms across the country and also to the Justice Department's bottom line. Nearly half of federal prisoners are in custody for drug offenses, and the Bureau of Prisons budget accounts for about one-third of the department's overall $29 billion spending plan. The population ballooned during the 1980s-era war on drugs as Congress abolished parole and as federal prosecutors relied on mandatory minimum sentences — rigid punishments strictly tied to drug quantity — to seek decades-long prison terms for drug criminals.

But in recent years, fiscal-minded Republicans, and Democrats pushing criminal justice efforts, have raised concerns about bloated prison costs and tried to develop ways to cut the population. The Justice Department's inspector general has said mounting prison expenses detract from other programs and initiatives, and a 2014 Government Accountability Office report said overcrowding at bureau facilities had caused additional double- and triple-bunking, higher inmate-to-guard ratios and long waiting lists for educational programs.

The federal prison population now stands at just under 190,000, down from nearly 220,000 in 2013. A number of factors contributed to the decline: Obama administration clemency grants to more than 1,700 inmates; decisions by the independent U.S. Sentencing Commission to reduce drug sentencing guidelines and apply the changes retroactively; and a 2013 Justice Department initiative known as "Smart on Crime," in which then-Attorney General Eric Holder directed prosecutors not to seek mandatory minimum sentences for nonviolent and low-level offenders.

Justice Department officials in the Obama administration say their efforts to shrink the prison population were driven not only by cost concerns but also by a desire to correct what they said were excessive punishments doled out by judges. They said last year that that while the number of drug prosecutions had fallen, the cases prosecutors were pursuing involved more serious crimes.

Sessions hasn't made policy pronouncements on drug prosecutions in his two weeks on the job. So it's possible that as attorney general, he'll maintain the department's focus on high-value traffickers and that cost concerns will spur recidivism and re-entry efforts to keep the prison population in check.

But there are already signs of a starkly different approach. On Thursday, Sessions gave the green light to the continued use of privately run prisons, even though the Obama administration had moved to phase them out as no longer necessary given the declining prison population.

Sessions said in a memo that the last administration went against long-standing Justice Department practice and "impaired the Bureau's ability to meet the future needs of the federal correctional system."

On the same day, the White House suggested he'd more aggressively go after marijuana. "It's pretty safe to say that most people assume that the Sessions Justice Department is likely to scale back some of the reforms that were implemented under the Obama administration," said Nancy La Vigne, director of the justice policy center at the Urban Institute.

Sessions, who said last year that "good people don't smoke marijuana," warned at his January confirmation hearing that illegal drugs were bringing "violence, addiction and misery" to America, and he pledged to dismantle drug trafficking gangs.

He did co-sponsor legislation to reduce sentencing disparities between powder and crack cocaine — a gap seen as disadvantaging black defendants. But last year, Sessions opposed bipartisan criminal justice overhaul efforts and has warned that eliminating or reducing mandatory minimum sentences weakens the ability of law enforcement to protect the public.

That focus on drug crimes surfaced in the 1980s when Sessions served as United States attorney for the Southern District of Alabama. Drug cases accounted for 40 percent of his office's convictions, according to a Brennan Center analysis, with Sessions overseeing prosecutions of men accused of marijuana and cocaine trafficking.

Tougher enforcement of drug laws could be welcomed by some law enforcement officials, including Justice Department prosecutors who felt hamstrung in recent years in their ability to seek long sentences.

"That's what we pay the prison system to do, and that's what we ought to be doing is putting these serious violent offenders in prison," said Steven Cook, the president of the National Association of Assistant United States Attorneys. "The answer to the crime problem is not to remove them and turn back out into the communities. We already know what's going to happen if we do that."

Friday, February 24, 2017

Agency Plans To Award Mexico Border Wall Contracts By April

THE ASSOCIATED PRESS


A truck drives near the Mexico-US border fence, on the Mexican side, separating the towns of Anapra, Mexico and Sunland Park, New Mexico. U.S. Customs and Border Protection said Friday, Feb. 24, 2017 that it plans to start awarding contracts by mid-April for President Donald Trump's proposed border wall with Mexico, signaling that he is aggressively pursuing plans to erect "a great wall" along the 2,000-mile border.




SAN DIEGO (AP) — U.S. Customs and Border Protection said Friday that it plans to start awarding contracts by mid-April for President Donald Trump's proposed border wall with Mexico, signaling that he is aggressively pursuing plans to erect "a great wall" along the 2,000-mile border.

The agency said it will request bids on or around March 6 and that companies would have to submit "concept papers" to design and build prototypes by March 10, according to FedBizOpps.gov, a website for federal contractors. The field of candidates will be narrowed by March 20, and finalists must submit offers with their proposed costs by March 24.

The president told the Conservative Political Action Conference on Friday that construction will start "very soon" and is "way, way, way ahead of schedule." The agency's notice gave no details on where the wall would be built first and how many miles would be covered initially. Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly has sought employees' opinions during border tours of California, Arizona and Texas.

It's unclear how soon Congress would provide funding and how much. The Government Accountability Office estimates it would cost on average $6.5 million a mile for a fence to keep out people who try to enter on foot and $1.8 million a mile for vehicle barriers. There are currently 354 miles of pedestrian fencing and 300 miles of vehicle barriers, much of it built during President George W. Bush's second term.

Republican leaders in Congress have said Trump's wall would cost between $12 billion and $15 billion. Trump has suggested $12 billion. An internal Homeland Security Department report prepared for Kelly estimates the cost of extending the wall along the entire U.S.-Mexico border at about $21 billion, according to a U.S. government official who is involved in border issues. The official spoke on condition of anonymity because the report has not been made public.

The Homeland Security report proposes an initial phase that would extend fences 26 miles and a second wave that would add 151 miles, plus 272 "replacement" miles where fences are already installed, according to the official. Those two phases would cost $5 billion.

The price tag will depend largely on the height, materials and other specifications that have not yet been defined. Granite Construction Inc., Vulcan Materials Co. and Martin Marrieta Materials Inc. are seen as potential bidders. Kiewit Corp. built one of the more expensive stretches of fencing so far at a cost of about $16 million a mile, a project in San Diego that involved filling a deep canyon known as Smuggler's Gulch.

Cement maker Cemex SAB is also seen as a potential beneficiary even though it is based in Mexico.

Associated Press writer Alicia A. Caldwell in Washington contributed to this report.

Thursday, February 23, 2017

World Donors Gather In Oslo To Tackle Nigeria Famine

AFP FEBRUARY 23, 2017



One of the poorest regions in the world, it has been ravaged by eight years of violence. Schools, dispensaries and agriculture are in ruins, and people have been forced to flee jihadists on foot without any resources. File photo (REUTERS)



UN aid agencies and donor countries gathered in Oslo Thursday for a two-day meeting to raise emergency aid for millions of people threatened by famine in northeastern Nigeria, a Boko Haram stronghold.

The UN aims to raise up to 1.4 billion euros ($1.5 billion) in commitments throughout 2017 for the Lake Chad region, which comprises northeast Nigeria, northern Cameroon, western Chad and southeast Niger.

One of the poorest regions in the world, it has been ravaged by eight years of violence. Schools, dispensaries and agriculture are in ruins, and people have been forced to flee jihadists on foot without any resources.

Across northeast Nigeria, some 5.1 million people face severe food shortages and nearly 500,000 children are suffering from acute malnutrition, even as the military makes gains against the group.

Norwegian Foreign Minister Borge Brende, meeting with non-governmental organisations on Thursday, called it "one of the more forgotten conflicts" on the planet.

"The displacement crisis in northeastern Nigeria and the Lake Chad region has really become unfortunately a very serious food and nutrition emergency," Brende said.

"More than 10 million people are in need of assistance... Some parts of northeastern Nigeria may unfortunately already experience famine," he added.

The medical situation has been described by Doctors Without Borders (MSF) as "the worst in the world".

Humanitarian organisations can access populations at risk only as the army progresses.

Many roads are only passable under the escort of Nigerian soldiers and ambushes are a constant threat. Other places are only accessible by helicopter, where "horrible rates of malnutrition" are observed among children.

"In the whole of the Lake Chad region we've seen the fight against Boko Haram take priority above all else, with military and political objectives directed towards this," said Natalie Roberts, head of emergencies for MSF in Borno state.

"We now find ourselves in the midst of a huge humanitarian crisis," she added.

The UN humanitarian coordinator for the Sahel region, Toby Lanzer, called for a response to "one of the most deadly extremist groups," referring to Boko Haram.

The inhabitants "are surviving with barely one meal a day," he warned.

"And we know that with the impending rainy season, disease will increase, malaria will become more prevalent, and shelter will be more needed," Lanzer said.

Ahmed Shehu, a civil society representative in northeastern Nigeria, spoke about the need for long-term development.

"I say (to) donors here, if we want to tackle the Boko Haram issue, let's also reflect on the underlying issue: poverty," he said.

"The second issue we fail to link with Boko Haram is climate change," he said, noting that 90 percent of Lake Chad has dried up in a few decades.

"What is the issue now? A majority (farmers and fishermen) have lost their livelihoods," he said.

Among those attending the Oslo conference are government ministers from Germany, Norway, Nigeria, Niger, Chad and Cameroon, as well as the UN High Commissioner for Refugees Filippo Grandi and the head of the World Food Programme, Ertharin Cousin.

On Friday, delegations are expected to detail their respective commitments in three-minute speeches.

US, Mexico At Odds Over Deportation As Top Officials Meet

The Associated Press
February 23, 2017



 U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson is welcome by U.S. ambassador Roberta Jacobson, left,as he arrives at Benito Juarez international Airport in Mexico City, Wednesday, Feb. 22, 2017. (Carlos Barria/Pool photo via AP)



MEXICO CITY (AP) — Mexico's mounting unease and resentment over President Donald Trump's immigration crackdown are looming over a gathering of U.S. and Mexican leaders that the U.S. had hoped would project a strong future for relations between neighbors.

There is no shortage of tension points as U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly meet Thursday with top Mexican officials. After all, it's Kelly who's tasked with executing Trump's plan to target millions for possible deportation, and Tillerson who must explain it to the rest of the world.

As the pair arrived in Mexico City, the two countries seemed much farther apart than their close geographical proximity would suggest. "I think Secretary Tillerson and Secretary Kelly are going to have a great discussion down there," said White House press secretary Sean Spicer. He called the relationship "phenomenal."

But while Spicer said the officials would "talk through the implementation of the executive order," Mexico made clear it intended to do nothing of the sort. "I want to say clearly and most emphatically that the Mexican government and the Mexican people have no reason to accept unilateral decisions imposed by one government on another," said Mexico's foreign relations secretary, Luis Videgaray. "We are not going to accept that, because we don't have to."

Videgaray added a cryptic but pointed warning that Mexico wouldn't hesitate to challenge the U.S. move at the United Nations or other global venues. The visiting Americans planned to meet Thursday with Videgaray before a working lunch with Mexican officials and a formal meeting with Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto.

The worsening rift over deportations and illegal immigration adds to an array of disputes that have sent U.S.-Mexico relations plunging since Trump took office a month ago. Trump's insistence that Mexico pay billions for a border wall led Pena Nieto to cancel a planned Washington visit. Mexican officials are also apprehensive over Trump's pledge to overhaul the trade relationship and possible apply steep taxes to Mexican products, a move with profound impacts for Mexico's export-heavy economy.

New immigration enforcement memos signed by Kelly this week call for sending some immigrants who have crossed the U.S.-Mexico border illegally back into Mexico — even those from third countries who have no connection to Mexico. The memos also prioritize deportation for anyone charged or convicted of any crime, rather than just serious crimes, potentially subjecting millions in the U.S. illegally to deportation, including many Mexicans.

Those policies have raised fears in Mexico about the possibility of deportee and refugee camps emerging along Mexico's northern border. Mexican officials are also likely to seek answers about whether a forthcoming report ordered by Trump's administration that will list all current U.S. aid to Mexico is intended to threaten Mexico into compliance over immigration or the wall.

In a sign of how Trump's hard line is reverberating in Mexico, local media amplified Videgaray's forceful comments as Trump's envoys arrived in Mexico City, with combative headlines invoking a "long battle with the U.S." Meanwhile, in Washington, six Democratic senators dismayed by the deteriorating relations urged Tillerson and Kelly in a letter Thursday to strike a more cooperative tone than Trump.

Kelly arrived in the Mexican capital from Guatemala on a visit intended to deter Guatemalans from trying to enter the U.S. illegally. Though Kelly promised "there will be no mass roundups," he acknowledged that those caught will be removed from the U.S. much more quickly than in the past.

"My best advice is to not do it," he said.

Associated Press writer Christopher Sherman contributed to this report.

Reach Josh Lederman on Twitter at http://twitter.com/joshledermanAP

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

US To Expand Pool Of People Targeted For Deportation

BY ALICIA A. CALDWELL
THE ASSOCIATED PRESS



In this photo taken Feb. 7, 2017, released by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, an arrest is made during a targeted enforcement operation conducted by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement ICE) aimed at immigration fugitives, re-entrants and at-large criminal aliens in Los Angeles. The Trump administration is wholesale rewriting the U.S. immigration enforcement priorities, broadly expanding the number of immigrants living in the U.S. illegally who are priorities for deportation, according to a pair of enforcement memos released Tuesday, Feb. 21, 2017.



LOS ANGELES (AP) -- The Trump administration is greatly expanding the number of people living in the U.S. illegally who are considered a priority for deportation, including people arrested for traffic violations, according to agency documents released Tuesday.

The documents represent a sweeping rewrite of the nation's immigration enforcement priorities.

The Homeland Security Department memos, signed by Secretary John Kelly, lay out that any immigrant living in the United States illegally who has been charged or convicted of any crime — and even those suspected of a crime — will now be an enforcement priority. That could include people arrested for shop lifting or minor traffic offenses.

The memos eliminate far more narrow guidance issued under the Obama administration that focused resources strictly on immigrants who had been convicted of serious crimes, threats to national security and recent border crossers.

Kelly's memo also describes plans to enforce a long-standing but obscure provision of the U.S. Immigration and Nationality Act that allows the government to send some people caught illegally crossing the Mexican border back to Mexico, regardless of where they are from. One of the memos says that foreigners sent back to Mexico would wait for their U.S. deportation proceedings to be complete. This would be used for people who aren't considered a threat to cross the border illegally again, the memo said.

It's unclear whether the United States has the authority to force Mexico to accept foreigners. That provision is almost certain to face opposition from civil libertarians and officials in Mexico.

Historically, the government has been able to quickly repatriate Mexican nationals caught at the border but would detain and try to formally deport immigrants from other countries, routinely flying them to their home countries. In some cases, those deportations can take years as immigrants ask for asylum or otherwise fight their deportation in court.

The memos do not change U.S. immigration laws, but take a far harder line toward enforcement.

The pair of directives do not have any impact on President Barack Obama's program that has protected more than 750,000 young immigrants from deportation. The Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals remains in place though immigrants in the program will be still be eligible for deportation if they commit a crime or otherwise are deemed to be a threat to public safety or national security, according to the department.






Read more here: http://www.kentucky.com/latest-news/article134002979.html#storylink=cpy




Read more here: http://www.kentucky.com/latest-news/article134002979.html#storylink=cpy

Nigerians Starved Of Electricity Turn To Solar

BY MICHELLE FAUL
THE ASSOCIATED PRESS



In this photo taken on Monday Feb. 20, 2017, vegetable sellers ply their wares by the light of locally-made lanterns in Lagos, Nigeria. In Nigeria, for the cost of powering a small generator for two hours, Dutch company Lumos offer enough solar power to light a house, cool a room with a fan and charge cell phones for about eight hours. For a country without a secure supply of electricity where people are dependent on candles, batteries, kerosene and fuel for generators, Lumos was surprised they spend more on power than solar options. (AP Photo/Sunday Alamba)


JOHANNESBURG, SOUTH AFRICA (AP)  The surprise was finding that people dependent on candles, batteries, kerosene and fuel for generators in countries without a secure supply of electricity spend more on power than solar options.

The founders of Dutch company Lumos knew they could do better. In Nigeria, for the cost of powering a small generator for two hours they offer enough solar power to light a house, cool a room with a fan and charge cell phones for about eight hours. Customers can even watch TV for a few hours.

For Nigerian government clerk Sandra Besong, it means her three children aged 8 to 17 can study and read at night.

"Before, I was using a local lamp with kerosene, but the flame wasn't bright enough for the children to read," she said in a telephone interview from her home in Masaka, in central Nasarawa state.

"We love the light!" she said. "The children appreciate it because they can read, watch TV, and they can use fans, so they are not hot. And there's none of the noise and fumes from a generator." Fans are important in Nigeria, where temperatures average 30 degrees Celsius (86 degrees Fahrenheit).

Besong said she's also saving money. Powering a small generator for two or three hours a day cost her up to 7,000 naira ($23) a month, compared to 4,500 ($15) for solar, which provides double the time. She pays her bills through her cellphone.

Development across Africa is hampered by a lack of electricity. In 2015, 621 million people in sub-Saharan Africa — or two out of three — lacked access to power, and the numbers are growing, according to a report by the Africa Progress Panel. "It would take the average Tanzanian eight years to use as much electricity as the average American consumes in a single month," it said in a report .

Nigeria is worst of all. Just 25 percent of its 170 million people have access to regular electricity, and the West African nation has the highest outage rate on the continent, 32 a month averaging eight hours each, according to the Overseas Private Investment Corp ., the U.S. government's independent investment agency.

Such figures inspired former U.S. President Barack Obama to create Power Africa, bringing together technical and legal experts, the private sector and governments. Power Africa provided financial assistance to Lumos to produce the solar kits, which it provides to clients on a five-year subscription. A $50 million low-cost loan from OPIC and $40 million in equity will help fund another 200,000 solar kits to bring power to 1 million Nigerians by year's end, said Yuri Tsitrinbaum, CEO of Lumos Nigeria.

Lumos began selling solar kits in Nigeria in May 2014. The company, which has 30,000 customers in central Nigeria, launched nationwide this week.

Firefighter Ibrahim Momoh-Bekisu turned to solar fearing for his family's safety.

"Do you know how many families' lives have been destroyed because of fires caused by candles, kerosene, electrical fires?" he asked in a telephone interview from his home in Abuja, Nigeria's capital.

Momoh-Bekisu said his neighbors battling with darkness are now interested in getting solar power: "Their children come to my flat to come and study and watch TV."

Most importantly, "For me, this (solar power) is a life-prolonging issue, it contributes to life expectancy," he said in a country where the average person dies at 52 compared to a global average of 71 years, according to U.N. figures.

Monday, February 20, 2017

Nigerian President Disdains His Country's Best Hospital For Medical Care In Britain. But What Ails Him?

Nigeria's public hospitals are crowded and decrepit. Here, victims of a bomb attack in Maiduguri in 2015 await treatment in a public hospital. (Jossy Ola / Associated Press)


An extended medical trip for Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari, the latest in a long line of leaders in Africa to travel overseas for medical treatment, has prompted a rash of online fake news stories proclaiming “Buhari is dead.”

Buhari, 74, who is in London for medical tests, posted photographs of himself meeting Nigerian officials in London to prove he was alive. He looked much thinner, but wasn’t bedridden and was able to stand. He tweeted that he was “grateful to Nigerians, Christians and Muslims alike, for their prayers and kind wishes for my health.”

But what was wrong with him, if anything? He didn’t say.

Nor did any Nigerian officials, as critics clamored that Nigerians had a right to know his condition. The president is awaiting results of tests, according to officials

His month-long trip continues a controversial tradition in Nigeria and elsewhere on the continent: presidents disdaining their own health services in favor of overseas medical trips often shrouded in secrecy.

Officials originally announced the trip was a short vacation that would include “routine medical tests.” The trip has been extended by almost two weeks, but no details on Buhari’s health or the nature of the tests have been released.

It is Buhari’s second extended trip to London for medical treatment, after he spent two weeks there last June. The June trip was to treat an ear infection, according to officials. At the time, critics questioned why Buhari couldn’t have been treated for such a simple ailment at the special presidential hospital State House Clinic Abuja, reputed to be the best hospital in the country.


The government upgraded the hospital in 2016 at a cost of $16 million, more than the total capital budget for Nigeria's 16 federal teaching hospitals. The hospital provides care for the president, vice president, their families and staff.

Buhari’s absence comes as the nation faces a dire economic crisis and soaring inflation, a looming famine in parts of northeastern Nigeria and continuing attacks from the Islamist extremist group Boko Haram. Eleven people died in a suicide attack on a convoy of vehicles preparing to depart Maiduguri, the capital of Borno state, late Thursday.

His decision to consult doctors in London instead of Nigeria has angered many Nigerians, particularly after he promised last year to crack down on “medical tourism” – or foreign medical trips by Nigerian officials. The Nigerian Medical Assn. has estimated wealthy Nigerians spend around $1 billion a year on trips abroad for medical treatment.

After Buhari’s London trip for treatment for the ear infection, the association said local specialists would have been capable of treating the problem.

”The best-funded clinic in Nigeria does not suffice to treat the president’s ear infection. Nor does the president have enough confidence in the same clinic to do his ‘routine checkups’ there. Imagine, then, the fate of Nigerians who have no choice, but must seek treatment at the ill-equipped, wretchedly funded hospitals in our country. Are these Nigerians not simply woebegone, bereft of hope?” wrote novelist and political columnist Okey Ndibe on the news website Sahara Reporters.

In Madagascar, mothers weep and send their children to bed without water to drink

Those who travel overseas for health treatment are often wealthy government officials. Several former officials on trial over a series of multi-million dollar fraud cases have sought court permission in recent months to travel abroad for medical treatment.

Last September, Nigeria’s former first lady, Patience Jonathan, wrote to the nation’s corruption investigation unit, the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, to say she needed $15 million to pay foreign medical bills. Her money is in accounts owned by associates, frozen by the commission in a corruption investigation.

Nigeria’s public health facilities are run-down and overcrowded. The country spends just 3.7% of its gross domestic product on health, compared with more than 17% in the U.S., according to the World Health Organization, while vast amounts are siphoned off by corrupt government officials. Nigeria has only four doctors per 10,000 people.


Nigerians are particularly sensitive about presidential overseas visits for medical care, after a former president, Umaru Yar’Adua, disappeared for months for medical treatment in Saudi Arabia in 2009 and 2010, leaving a power vacuum before dying suddenly in office. Officials close to Yar’Adua had persistently denied to the public – and other members of the government – that his health was failing.

Many other African leaders have died suddenly in foreign hospitals, while government officials back home insisted they were healthy. Ethiopia’s prime minister, Meles Zenawi, died in a Belgian hospital in 2012 and the president of Guinea Bissau, Malam Bacai Sanha, died in a Paris military hospital the same year. Zambia’s President Michael Sata died in a British hospital in 2010, while his predecessor, Levy Mwanawasa, died in a Paris hospital in 2008. Gabonese President Omar Bongo Ondimba died in a Spanish hospital in 2009, after more than four decades in power.

Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe, 92, frequently flies to Singapore for visits described by officials as “routine eye checks.” Hospitals in Zimbabwe have been in a prolonged downward spiral, lacking medicines and basic supplies because of Zimbabwe’s economic crisis.


Nigerian Senate leader Bukola Saraki, one of three officials who met Buhari in London, tweeted Thursday that Buhari was “healthy, witty & himself,” adding there was no power vacuum and “no cause for alarm.”

But the lack of detailed information about Buhari’s health tests and possible ailment fueled concerns in Nigeria.

During his absence in London, Buhari spoke by phone to President Trump, who offered to sell military aircraft to Nigeria to assist in the country’s struggle with Boko Haram.

Nigerian officials said Trump had invited Buhari to Washington, D.C., and that the American president told his counterpart to “keep up the great work.” The White House made no mention of any invitation.

Some Nigerians argue that if Buhari could speak to Trump by phone, he should be able to address Nigerians.

Buhari’s spokesman, Femi Adesina, on Thursday brushed off questions as to why officials hadn’t posted videos of Buhari to prove that he was in good health, instead of still photographs.

“The fact that the president is receiving visitors, the fact that he has spoken with the American president and the fact that he has asked us to tell the world that he’s fine, I think that’s just enough,” Adesina said in a Nigerian television interview. He said the president would return soon, but gave no date.

“I wish I could give you a definite date, I really wish, but then we just have to hang on to what the president has told us.”

Aging, Depression And Disease In South Africa

By Manoj K. Pandey, Vani S. Kulkarni And Raghav Gaiha
Inter Press Service News Agency February 20, 2017




The proportion of persons 60 years and older is projected to almost double during 2000–2030 in South Africa. Credit: Jeffrey Moyo / IPS


CANBERRA, PHILADELPHIA AND MANCHESTER, FEBRUARY 20, 2017 (IPS) - Old age is often characterised by poor health due to isolation, morbidities and disabilities in carrying out activities of daily living (DADLs) leading to depression.

Mental disorders—in different forms and intensities— affect most of the population in their lifetime. In most cases, people experiencing mild episodes of depression or anxiety deal with them without disrupting their productive activities. A substantial minority of the population, however, experiences more disabling conditions such as schizophrenia, bipolar disorder type I, severe recurrent depression, and severe personality disorders. While common mild disorders are amenable to self-management and relatively simple educational or support measures, severe mental illness demands complex, multi-level care that involves a longer-term engagement with the individual, and with the family. Yet, despite the considerable burden and its associated adverse human, economic, and social effects, governments and donors have failed to prioritise treatment and care of people with mental illness. Indeed, pervasive stigma and discrimination contributes to the imbalance between the burden of disease due to mental disorders, and the attention these conditions receive.

The percentage of the population aged 60 years and above in South Africa rose from 7.1% in 1996 to 8 % in 2011, an increase from 2.8 million to 4.1 million individuals. The proportion of persons 60 years and older is projected to almost double during 2000–2030 because of (i) a marked decline in fertility in the past few decades; (ii) the HIV and AIDS pandemic contributing to this change in the population structure, with a higher mortality of young adults, especially women of reproductive age; and (iii) a rise in life expectancy to 62 years in 2013-– a staggering increase of 8.5 years since the low in 2005.

Four in ten elderly persons in South Africa are poor. More than a third make an average living, and the rich constitute about 27%. Provincial variations show that rural provinces have higher proportions of poor elderly persons compared to those residing in the urban provinces. Racial differences show that elderly Whites and Indians/Asians occupied a higher socio-economic status than black Africans and Coloureds.

Ours is the first study that offers a comprehensive analysis of depression among the old (60+ years) in South Africa, using the four waves of the National Income Dynamics Study (SA-NIDS) (2008, 2010, 2012 and 2014).

A self-reported measure of depression is used. SA-NIDS gives data on not depressed in a week, depressed for 1-2 days, 3-4 days and 5-7 days. We focus on those depressed for ≥ 3 days in a week. Referring to this as a measure of severe depression, its prevalence reduced from 15.3 % among the old in 2008 to 14.5 % in 2014, with a dip to 12.6 % in 2012.

Aging is a major factor in depression. Those in early 60s are generally more depressed than older persons in their 70s and 80s.

Old women were consistently more depressed than old men, as they are subject to violence. It is associated with conflicts over the man’s drinking, the woman having more than one partner, and her not having post-school education. Another factor is that women are typically much more likely to be overweight and obese, leading to non-communicable diseases (NCDs) and subsequently higher depression . A challenging aspect of obesity prevention among black South Africans is the positive perception that both women and men attach to a large body size.

Married men and women are less depressed than others. Marriage thus serves as a barrier to loneliness and a source of support during periods of stress for old persons. However, old persons in larger households without any other old person are more prone to depression. It is not clear whether larger households result in neglect of old persons or their abuse.

Ethnicity matters. The Africans are more prone to depression than the reference group of the Whites and Coloureds. There is limited evidence suggesting that Asians/Indians/Others are less likely to be depressed.

Pensioners are less likely to be depressed despite some evidence in the literature on pooling of pensions with other household resources and denying the pensioner any financial autonomy. Although this can’t be ruled out, it is evident that the favourable effect of pensions in preventing depression is robust.

Of particular significance are the results on multimorbidity (more than one disease at a time). Two combinations of NCDs (diabetes and high BP, and cancer and heart disease) are positively associated with depression. Equally important are the associations between disabilities in activities of daily living or DADLs (e.g. difficulties in dressing,bathing, eating, walking, climbing stairs) and depression. In many cases, both sets of DADLs are positively associated with depression. The relationship between depression and body mass index or BMI categories (underweight, normal, overweight and obese) is not so robust except that in some cases overweight were less likely to be depressed than the reference category of obese.

Shock of a family member’s death (in the last 24 months) was robustly linked to higher incidence of depression. There is some evidence suggesting that this shock had stronger effects on women relative to men.

As loneliness and lack of support during a difficult situation can precipitate stress leading to depression, we experimented with measures of social capital and trust as barriers to depression, and the mediating role of preference for the same neighbourhood.

Although social capital doesn’t have a significant negative effect on depression, social trust does. Besides, the mediating role of preference for the current neighbourhood is confirmed in most cases. An exceptional case is that of the Africans for whom neither social capital nor social trust is of any consequence except the mediating role of preference for the current neighbourhood.

The burden of depression in terms of shares of depressed in total depressed has risen in the more affluent wealth quartiles-especially that of the most affluent. However, likelihood of depression remained lower among the third and fourth quartiles, implying that the likelihood of depression was higher in the poorest (or the least wealthy). It is somewhat surprising that despite marked inequalities even among the Africans, there is no wealth effect on depression.

Although older people are in worse health than those younger, older people use health services much less frequently. These patterns of utilization arise from barriers to access, a lack of appropriate services and the prioritization of services towards the acute needs of younger people.

A larger ethical issue is rationing of health care to older people on the notion that health services are scarce and must be allocated to achieve the greatest good for the greatest number of people. WHO 2015 rejects this view on two counter-arguments: older people have made the greatest contribution to socioeconomic development that created these services; and they are entitled to live a dignified and healthy life.

Mental health care continues to be under-funded and under-resourced compared to other health priorities in the country; despite the fact that neuropsychiatric disorders are ranked third in their contribution to the burden of disease in South Africa, after HIV/AIDS and other infectious diseases. In fact, mental health care is usually confined to management of medication for those with severe mental disorders, and does not include detection and treatment of other mental disorders, such as depression and anxiety disorders.

From this perspective, the proposed National Mental Health Policy Framework and Strategic Plan 2013-2020 is a bold and comprehensive initiative.