Trump blasts FBI leadership but says he’s loyal to police

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Donald Trump laced into FBI leadership Friday, while proclaiming his loyalty and support for law enforcement in an address at the agency’s training academy.

“It’s a shame what’s happened” with the FBI, the president said as he left the White House for a speech at the FBI training academy in Quantico, Virginia. He called the agency’s handling of Hillary Clinton’s email investigation “really disgraceful” and told reporters “we’re going to rebuild the FBI.”

Shortly afterward, Trump lavished praise on graduates of a weeks-long FBI National Academy program and their families, touting their accomplishments and pledging his unwavering support. Trump told law enforcement leaders he is “more loyal than anyone else could be” to police.

“Anti-police sentiment is wrong and it’s dangerous,” he added. “Anyone who kills a police officer should get the death penalty.”

Trump used the speech to promote his administration’s tough-on-crime policies, delivering a stern warning to members of the international gang MS-13 that his administration will root them out and arrest them.

He also celebrated his decision to make it easier for local police forces to purchase surplus military equipment, and questioned rising violence in Chicago.

“What the hell is going on in Chicago? What the hell is happening there,” he asked.

Hours before, White House Deputy press secretary Hogan Gidley told Fox News Channel that edits to former FBI Director James Comey’s statement on Clinton’s private email server and anti-Trump texts from a top agent are “deeply troubling.”

“There is extreme bias against this president with high-up members of the team there at the FBI who were investigating Hillary Clinton at the time,” Gidley charged, as special counsel Robert Mueller pushes on with a probe of possible Trump campaign ties to Russia. Gidley says Trump maintains confidence in the FBI’s rank-and-file.

Edits to the Comey draft appeared to soften the gravity of the bureau’s finding in its 2016 investigation of Hillary Clinton’s use of a private email server while secretary of state.

“It is very sad when you look at those documents, how they’ve done that is really, really disgraceful, and you have a lot of really angry people who are seeing it,” Trump said of the document.

Gidley said the disclosure of politically charged text messages sent by one of the agents on the Clinton case, Peter Strzok, were “eye-opening.” Strzok, who was in the room as Clinton was interviewed, was later assigned to special counsel Robert Mueller’s team to investigate potential coordination between Russia and the Trump campaign. He was re-assigned after the messages were uncovered this summer.

About 200 leaders in law enforcement from around the country attended the weeks-long FBI National Academy program aimed at raising law enforcement standards and cooperation. Coursework included intelligence theory, terrorism and terrorist mindsets, law, behavioral science, law enforcement communication, and forensic science.


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A roundup of some of the most popular, but completely untrue, headlines of the week. None of these stories are legit, even though they were shared widely on social media. The Associated Press checked these out; here are the real facts:

NOT REAL: UPDATE: Alabama Election Officials Found 5,329 More Dead Folks Who Voted For Jones

THE FACTS: Alabama Secretary of State John Merrill dismissed the viral story that over 5,000 of the votes for Democrat Doug Jones in Tuesday’s special U.S. Senate election were cast by the dead. “There are not 5,000 dead people on the voters rolls unless they died today,” Merrill told the AP Thursday. The story is one of several false claims that cropped up after Jones’ victory over Roy Moore. Merrill also denied reports that vans of people in the country illegally voted in the race, and that University of Alabama football coach Nick Saban got all the write-in votes. The state has not begun counting the write-in votes, he said.


NOT REAL: BREAKING: Roy Moore’s accuser arrested and charged with falsification

THE FACTS: A story published by a satire site called NoFakeNewsOnline and many others reported that Alabama Attorney General John Simmons filed misdemeanor charges of falsification against Mary Lynne Davies for accusing Moore of assaulting her. John Simmons is not the state’s attorney general, Steve Marshall is; and Mary Lynne Davies is not among the eight women who have publicly accused Moore of misconduct. Another story published on a hoax site claimed another Moore accuser had recanted her claims in a TV interview; the accuser was identified as Harley Hannah, not one of the eight women who have accused Moore, and was linked to a picture of a British singer.


NOT REAL: BREAKING: First NFL Team Declares Bankruptcy Over Kneeling Thugs

THE FACTS: The Jacksonville Jaguars say they have no plans to file for Chapter 11 bankruptcy, despite the claims first published this month on the Patriot Post satire site and shared widely on several conservative sites. The satire piece said the Jaguars had lost income because team members knelt for the national anthem at home games. The team has not knelt for the anthem since September. The story also said it planned to file in the 3rd District Court of Atlanta. There is no court by that name, and any bankruptcy court filings for Jacksonville would go through the Middle District of Florida.


NOT REAL: London Mayor, Sadiq Khan, approves ‘banned’ Jihadi bank

THE FACTS: Khan did not approve the opening of a bank that funds terrorism and has been banned in the U.S., despite the claims of the conspiracy site YourNewsWire. For one thing, the mayor has no authority to approve the opening of any banks; that job in Britain goes to the Financial Conduct Authority. Khan did announce the opening in September of two London branches of Habib Bank AG Zurich , a Switzerland-based institution. There is a similarly named, but unrelated, entity called Habib Bank Ltd. , which is Pakistan’s largest bank and is based in Karachi. Habib Bank Ltd. was fined by New York state this year for failing to stop illicit money flows, including terrorist financing. Habib Bank AG Zurich has no offices in the U.S.


NOT REAL: Get a Free $50 Coupon from Starbucks by Taking an Online Survey

THE FACTS: Starbucks is not giving out $50 coupons in exchange for completing an online survey. The coffee chain said the links being shared on social media are phony and have been circulating for years. After people click the link and take the fake survey, they are told to share the link on their own Facebook account. Some signs the survey is fake: the Starbucks logo may look outdated and the wording in the survey may have typos or spelling errors. Starbucks said customers who can’t tell if a promotion is the real deal can call Starbucks customer care or ask an in-store employee.

To pay border wall’s bill, Trump would trim surveillance costs, freeze pay

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The Trump administration is planning to offset the steep cost of a Mexico border wall by instructing the Department of Homeland Security to cut spending on surveillance technology and freeze the pay of federal officers in the 2019 fiscal year, according to a report released Wednesday by the Democratic staff of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee.

The report, which the staffers said was based on information provided to them by “a whistleblower” in late November, said the White House Office of Management and Budget (OMB) told DHS to boost its projected spending on border wall construction for the 2019 fiscal year to $1.6 billion, an amount that would be “$700 million more than the Department’s original budget request.“

The $1.6 billion would be used to build additional physical barriers in the Rio Grande Valley of south Texas, the border’s busiest sector for illegal immigration. To offset some of the costs, OMB instructed DHS to decrease its funding request for border security technology and equipment by nearly $175 million, the report said.

“OMB acknowledged that reductions to RVSS technology are necessary ‘to offset the costs of Presidential priorities,‘ “ the report said.

The cuts include a 50 percent spending reduction on Remote Video Surveillance Systems (RVSS), the network of video cameras Border Patrol agents rely on heavily to monitor illegal border traffic. The mobile cameras have infrared technology that allows them to track smugglers and illegal border-crossers at night.

“When [Sen. Claire McCaskill, D-Mo.] visited the border earlier this year, she was told by many of the folks she spoke with along the front lines that technology needs were their highest priority, not a border wall,“ said Drew Pusateri, a spokesman for the Senate committee’s Democratic minority. “So it’s a concern to see technology funding reprogrammed for wall funding that wasn’t even requested by the department itself,“ he said.

DHS was also told to strike tens of millions in requests for the boats, helicopters, dirigibles, planes and other equipment that U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) uses to detect and track low-flying aircraft, smugglers’ vessels and illegal traffic along the border.

Tyler Houlton, a DHS spokesman, declined to comment on the report. “It is clear that the president is committed to securing the borders and supporting the men and women of DHS,“ he said.

But according to the Senate report, the White House rejected DHS’ request to increase pay for civilian law enforcement officers, including CBP inspectors at ports of entry along the U.S.-Mexico border that “are short thousands of officers.“

President Trump has ordered DHS to put 5,000 additional agents along the border, despite latest immigration statistics showing that arrests of illegal migrants are at their lowest point since 1971. Trump has also called for 10,000 more immigration enforcement officers to boost DHS’s ability to arrest and deport foreigners living illegally in the United States.

DHS officials have insisted they will not lower standards to meet the president’s hiring targets. But freezing DHS officer pay could undermine that effort, and according to the report, “OMB instructed DHS to hire 1,000 more new Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) Agents than DHS actually requested, raising the total of new law enforcement personnel ICE must hire in FY 2019 from 1,000 to 2,000.“

The spending disagreements outlined in the report were marked “not for public release” and do not necessarily indicate what the final funding levels will be. But the Senate report said they reflect early indications of Trump’s priorities for border security funding.

“Additionally, it provides information on the needs of DHS as developed by the agency itself, independent of White House involvement,“ the report said.

Las Vegas’ struggles of the past decade are all too visible

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Even as a handful of major U.S. cities around the country have flourished in the 10 years since the Great Recession officially began in December 2007, other large cities have eked out only modest recoveries. Some are still straining to shed the scars of recession.

Las Vegas is one of them. Families in that metro area still earn nearly 20 percent less, adjusted for inflation, than they did in 2007.

In parts of the Las Vegas area, the struggles are all too visible. Half-finished housing developments, relics of the housing boom that preceded the recession, pockmark the surrounding desert. They symbolize the belief in endless economic possibility that seized the Las Vegas area in the early 2000′s — and its unraveling in the years that followed.

A tale of two tax bills: How you’d fare from Manhattan to Malibu

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While Congress irons out the differences between the tax bills proposed by the House and Senate, taxpayers have been living in limbo, and putting year-end tax planning on hold.

To see how the tax bills that passed each chamber would affect Americans across a range of incomes and circumstances, Bloomberg turned to Tim Steffen, director of advanced planning at Baird Private Wealth Management.

Steffen provided eight scenarios, from a Manhattan homeowner with a $2 million salary to a renter in Milwaukee making $40,000.

Most taxpayers would do better under the Senate bill, the results show—but that’s for the first year. Keep in mind that GOP senators crafted their individual tax changes to expire in 2026. Most of the House bill’s individual tax changes are intended as permanent—except for a $300 tax credit for qualifying individuals that would expire after 2022. But the Senate’s tough budget rules mean that its “sunset” provisions are more likely to become law.

These scenarios examine only wage income and pass-through business income, and how the taxes owed on those earnings would change. They don’t examine the effects of city taxes, which can make a major difference. They also don’t examine any larger economic changes that might result under certain portions of the legislation—such as the potential for some low- and middle-income people to see higher health-insurance premiums or for investors to receive better returns based on a planned corporate tax cut.

- The multimillionaires: These Manhattan residents have a jumbo mortgage (at an assumed 4 percent interest rate) and take a $40,000 deduction on mortgage interest; pay property taxes of $96,250 and state income tax of $135,360; and make annual charitable contributions totaling $100,000.

The differences next to current tax law stem from new limits on deductions. The Senate bill results in a lower effective tax rate than the House—largely because its top marginal tax rate is 38.5 percent, while the House bill retains the current 39.6 percent rate for top earners. (“Effective tax rate” means the overall, blended rate you pay as different tax rates are levied on your income at different thresholds.)

City taxes for these Manhattan dwellers would work out to almost 4 percent. Combine that with the top federal rate and top state rate, and you get a marginal rate of about 50 percent.

- The second-home scenario: A married couple has a primary residence in Malibu, California, and a second home in Lake Tahoe. The property tax on the Malibu home is $15,860, and $4,896 on their second home; they deduct $40,000 total in mortgage interest for the two homes; and give $50,000 to charity.

Taxpayers got hit with higher bills in only three scenarios prepared by Steffen—the Manhattan millionaires took a hit from both the House and Senate bills, and this well-off California couple would take a hit from the House bill. In this case, differences in mortgage deductibility and tax rates between the two bills played a role.

- The small business owners: This married couple with a small manufacturing business in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, has $300,000 in pass-through business income. Their deductible mortgage interest adds up to $6,000; their property tax is $8,600; and they give 5 percent of their income to charity.

The Senate plan is better for these business owners. This couple would save about $500 under the House plan, but close to $23,000 in the Senate plan. That difference would narrow at higher income levels, said Steffen.

- The suburban family: A married couple in a New York City suburb has estimated state income tax of $17,290; their annual mortgage interest deduction is $14,000; and they pay property tax of $13,750—about the same amount they donate to charity.

Although the bills would take a bite out of their deductions and exemptions, this couple would benefit from enhanced child tax credits and from avoiding the alternative minimum tax. (The House bill would repeal the individual AMT; the Senate bill would raise the thresholds at which it applies—until 2026.) Many more families would qualify for the child tax benefit in 2018, Steffen said. Only one of the eight households in these scenarios would qualify under current law, but that would rise to five under the House bill and three under the Senate bill.

- Single in Manhattan: This New York City renter pays estimated state income tax of $8,148 and gives about $6,500 to charity.

The Senate plan would shave off close to $1,300 in net federal tax paid in 2018. It’s not nothing, but it’s hardly life-changing.

- Married in Austin: This young couple rents and has income of $100,000. They give $5,000 a year to charity.

The House bill’s $300 family credit would be available for any family member who doesn’t qualify for the child credit, so that’s $300 for each spouse. And the increased standard deduction in both bills would help this childless couple get a substantial break.

- Median income in Portland: This Portland, Oregon, couple earns close to the median household income for the U.S. Their property tax bill is $1,688; their deductible mortgage interest is $3,000; and estimated state income tax is $4,744.

The House bill’s temporary family credit helps this couple as well. Their tax savings would be about $1,216 under the House bill and $949 under the Senate bill.

- Renting in Milwaukee: This married couple rents and has an estimated 2017 state income tax bill of $2,104.

Net federal tax drops by $515 for this couple under both the House and Senate bills. In general, the doubling of the standard deduction and increased tax credit will bring big benefits, in tax terms, to low earners who don’t own a home and have few assets.

The FCC has repealed its own 2015 net neutrality rules

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  • The FCC has repealed its own 2015 net neutrality rules in a 3-2 vote.
  • The repeal is likely to be met with lawsuits and a push to bring back the regulations through legislation in Congress.
  • The FCC’s meeting was interrupted by a security threat, forcing everyone to evacuate the room while police searched the area with sniffing dogs.

The FCC has voted to repeal net neutrality protections it put in place in 2015, taking away regulations that barred internet service providers (ISPs) from slowing down content, charging you more to access sites and online services, and charging users or companies for so-called “fast lanes” to some sites.

The vote passed the commission in a 3-2, party-line vote, with Republicans voting for the repeal and Democrats voting against it.

The meeting was interrupted on advice of security in the middle of Chairman Ajit Pai’s remarks. Guards and police dogs could be seen on The Washington Post’s live feed searching the room after it was evacuated. It was not immediately clear what prompted the evacuation. We’ve reached out to the FCC for comment.

The repeal is likely to result in higher prices and fewer choices for consumers, and it will be a boon to ISPs that will enter into a new environment where they’ll be free to commoditize the internet and figure out new ways make money off their customers’ internet access.

Now that the repeal is official, it’s likely headed to court. Several groups have already said they plan to file lawsuits against the decision on the grounds that the FCC didn’t seriously consider the millions of pro-net neutrality comments submitted to the commission. There will also be a push to get Congress to bring back net neutrality regulations through legislation.

The order brought out passionate comments from Republicans and Democrats on the commission. Democratic commissioner Mignon Clyburn gave the most impassioned plea for protecting net neutrality.

“I dissent from this fiercely-spun, legally-lightweight, consumer-harming, corporate-enabling Destroying Internet Freedom Order,” Clyburn said in her opening remarks.

The Republican members of the commission brought back their previous arguments from when the first proposed net neutrality repeal. They said it would bring back the lighter regulations the internet flourished under for most of its existence and would allow ISPs to invest more in broadband technologies.

Here are some quick and dirty notes taken during the discussion of the net neutrality repeal:

  • Deborah Salons, attorney advisor at the Wireline Competition Bureau gives a statement to the commission that says largely backs FCC chairman Ajit Pai’s proposal to repeal net neutrality.
  • Commissioner Mignon Clyburn gave her comments, saying she dissents on the “consumer-harming” internet order. She also said she’s “outraged” at the FCC’s move. It’s an impassioned statement.
  • Clyburn points out that some Republican members of Congress have dissented against the repeal order and that the majority of people favor keeping net neutrality.
  • Clyburn says the FCC doesn’t appear to be serving and listening to the people they represent.
  • Clyburn points out that the FCC has refused to cooperate with several state attorney generals to look into fake public comments on the net neutrality repeal order.
  • Clyburn says social media has been important for the spread of information during important events like the protests in 2014 in Ferguson, Missouri, which gained traction through Twitter.
  • Commissioner Michael O’Rielly gives his statement. He supports the repeal. He says the decision will not “break the internet,“ but will return to the rules that the internet was governed by before.
  • O’Rielly says net neutrality rules put too many heavy regulations on ISPs. He blames a YouTube video from the Obama administration for convincing the FCC to regulate the internet in 2015.
  • O’Rielly says many of the harms net neutrality advocates fear are just theoretical. ISPs will have to disclose changes they make and will be subject to FTC regulations.
  • O’Rielly addresses the fake comments submitted to the FCC. He says they have no impact on the decision and that legitimate comments were not ignored. “Many were obscenity-laced tirades,“ he said.
  • Commissioner Brendan Carr’s statement says “this is a great day” for the end of an Obama-era regulation. He says the order is turning to lighter regulation that has worked for most of the internet’s existence.
  • Commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel says she dissents. “This decision puts the Federal Communication Commission on the wrong side of history,“ she said.
  • Rosenworcel says ISPs will have the “legal green light” to discriminate against internet traffic and charge consumers more with the repeal of net neutrality.
  • Rosenworcel calls the process to repeal net neutrality “ugly” and admonished the leadership for not holding public hearings.
  • Chairman Ajit Pai gives his comments. Like his fellow Republican commissioners, he points to the “light-touch” regulations that allowed the internet to grow and enable new businesses and innovations.
  • “The internet wasn’t broken in 2015… it was the one thing… we can all agree has been a stunning success,“ Pai said.
  • Pai says broadband investment has decreased since the 2015 because of net neutrality regulations.
  • Pai cuts his statement short, saying security advised the commission to take a recess.
  • The feed from the FCC cut out, but the Washington Post’s cameras are still streaming on YouTube. Multiple dogs can be seen sniffing under chairs.
  • Guards gave the clear signal and people reentered the room after being evacuated. Pai continued his remarks.
  • Pai says the new order would require more transparency from ISPs, which will be enforced by the FTC.
  • Pai likens advertising and promoted tweets, blocked apps, and more prioritization and threats to internet freedom.

The casualties of the Trump administration so far

Omarosa Manigault, the former “Apprentice” star and adviser to President Donald Trump, is leaving the Trump administration, the White House announced on Wednesday.

The director of communications for the White House’s Office of Public Liaison, Manigault’s role has recently come under scrutiny in the media, with reports suggesting her position was vague and undefined.

The administration has been rocked by a series of high-profile exits — including Sean Spicer as press secretary and James Comey as FBI director — since President Donald Trump took office in January.

Here are the top-level people who’ve either been fired or resigned from the administration:

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WV Very Unhealthy, Ranks 46th

The unhealthiest states in the country all lie in the southeast US.

For the 28th year in a row, the United Health Foundation has ranked America’s states based on factors including obesity, air pollution, and poverty. Massachusetts made the top of the list as America’s healthiest state, while Mississippi was declared the unhealthiest.

Here’s a map, with the healthiest states in light blue and the least healthy in dark blue.

Looking at data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the American Medical Association, and the Census bureau, the rankings took into account everything from obesity and smoking to community and environmental factors, such as child poverty and air pollution, to public policies like immunizations, and health outcomes like cancer deaths and diabetes.

Massachusetts ranked the healthiest state for the first time in the ranking’s 28-year history. “Massachusetts’ strengths include the lowest percentage of uninsured at 2.7% of the population, a low prevalence of obesity and a high number of mental health providers,“ the report said.

It was followed by Hawaii, Vermont, Utah, and Connecticut to round out the top five healthiest states.

At the same time, the UHF noted some troubling trends: premature death (that is, deaths that occur before an older age) rate and the drug death rate have both been increasing.

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Here’s the list of the 10 unhealthiest states, according to the report.

41. Georgia has among the least physically active states, some of the highest child poverty rates, and a relatively high percentage of uninsured people. On a more positive note, Georgia was among the states with the least drug overdose death rates.

42. Kentucky, which rose in the rankings from 45 in 2016, has a high prevalence of smoking, along with the highest rate of cancer deaths. Kentucky also had the second highest rate of drug deaths, next to West Virginia. The state also has one of the lowest uninsured rates in the US.

43. Oklahoma, which also rose in the rankings from 2016 when it came in at 46, has a high cardiovascular death rate. Oklahoma also was among the states with the highest uninsured rate, while having a relatively high number of mental health providers.

44. South Carolina has a fairly high infectious disease rate and at the same time has low teen vaccination rates. The state also has a relatively low number of dentists.

45. Tennessee has a relatively high obesity rate, and a high prevalence of smoking. The state also has among the highest violent crime rates in the country.

46. West Virginia has the highest rate of drug overdose deaths in the US, the highest rate of obesity, and the highest rate of smoking, though it also one of the most insured populations in the country and had the highest rate of public health funding per person.

47. Alabama has a high prevalence of cardiovascular deaths and diabetes and a low number of dentists for its population. The state also has the lowest number of mental health providers.

48. Arkansas has a high prevalence of obesity, physical inactivity, and smoking. The state also has the fewest dentists per 100,000 people of 50 states.

49. Louisiana, has high rates of obesity, physical inactivity, and infant mortality. It also had the highest rate of infection in the US.

50. Mississippi ranked as o the state with the highest rate of cardiovascular deaths, has a high smoking prevalence, and a high rate of children in poverty. The state does have a relatively low rate of drug overdose deaths.

Republican higher education bill clears first hurdle

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A Republican bill that would eliminate key loan subsidies for college students and give a boost to for-profit colleges has passed the first major hurdle in the House of Representatives.

The bill is a rewrite of the nation’s main law governing higher education. It passed the House Committee on Education and the Workforce late Tuesday after nearly 10 hours of debate.

The legislation would eliminate the interest subsidy for loans received by about 6 million students. The American Council of Education says it would have the effect of increasing students’ interest payments by 45 percent for a four-year degree.

The bill also would eliminate Obama-era regulations that protect students who are defrauded by for-profits colleges.

The Senate is now beginning to work on its own version of the bill.

Trump bets on Moore and suffers stinging defeat

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Rarely has a sitting president rallied behind such a scandal-plagued candidate the way Donald Trump did with Alabama Senate candidate Roy Moore. And rarely has that bet failed so spectacularly.

Moore’s defeat Tuesday in Alabama — as stalwart a Republican state as they come — left Trump unusually conciliatory and his political allies shell-shocked. Trump had dug in on his support for Moore after a wave of allegations about the former judge’s alleged sexual misconduct with teenagers when he was in his 30s, becoming one of the candidate’s most ardent national supporters in the race’s closing days.

Now, out of the wreckage of Moore’s defeat to Democrat Doug Jones, Trump faces mounting questions about the limits of his own political capital. He’ll head into his second year in office with one less Republican senator, narrowing a margin already so slim that it has so far left him unable to push major legislation through Congress. Democrats, who started the year as a deeply wounded minority party, press toward the midterm elections with a burst of momentum from the most unlikely of states.

To be sure, the Alabama race was highly unusual, and as with all special elections, there’s no guarantee it will prove to be a barometer for contests a year from now. A perfect storm of controversies helped Jones overcome Alabama’s strong Republican bent, most notably the sexual misconduct allegations that surfaced against Moore. The matter left the Republican Party deeply divided over whether holding a Senate seat was worth the potential long-term risks of supporting Moore.

Some Republicans did pull their support from Moore after the allegations surfaced, including Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and the National Republican Senatorial Committee. Many more GOP officials in Washington privately preferred the prospect of a Moore defeat over having to deal with daily questions about his actions and the possible cloud of a Senate ethics investigation hanging over the party.

But Trump is the Republican Party leader, and he jumped in with both feet. In a moment of national reckoning over sexual misconduct, where hardly a day passes without a prominent man being ousted from a powerful position, the president made it impossible for the GOP to disassociate itself from Moore and the accusations swirling around him.

Trump’s immediate response to Jones’ victory was surprisingly magnanimous for a president who lashes out at the smallest perceived slight and often seems to prioritize winning above all else.

“A win is a win,” Trump wrote on Twitter, despite the fact that Moore would not officially concede the closely contested race. The president offered no immediate insight into whether he viewed the results as a referendum on himself, personally or politically.

But there’s no doubt that Trump’s track record of late has indeed been worrisome for Republicans weighing how closely to align themselves with the president in the midterms, where control of Congress will be at stake.

Last month, the Trump-backed Republican gubernatorial candidate in Virginia lost in a race that wasn’t close. The president now has the dubious distinction of picking wrong twice in Alabama, a state he won by 28 points just over a year ago. His first blemish came during the state’s Senate primary, when he backed Moore’s opponent, Sen. Luther Strange, a decision he openly questioned while on stage at a rally for the incumbent days before the vote.

Moore’s victory over Strange pushed Trump back to the roots of his presidential campaign. He realigned himself with Steve Bannon, his chief strategist during the 2016 race and in the White House until he was ousted in a staff shakeup earlier this year. Bannon was one of Moore’s most prominent supporters from the start and viewed the contest as a ripe opportunity to press forward in his goal of disrupting the Republican Party.

More traditional Republicans have long warned that Bannon’s chosen candidates signal disaster for the party and will struggle to defeat Democrats in competitive states. The fact that one of those candidates couldn’t succeed in reliably red — or conservative — Alabama was quickly wielded as all the more reason for party leaders to marginalize Bannon.

“Not only did Steve Bannon cost us a critical Senate seat in one of the most Republican states in the country, but he also dragged the president of the United States into his fiasco,” said Steven Law, the head of the McConnell-linked Senate Leadership Fund super PAC.

It’s far from certain if Trump feels the same way after the Alabama race. The president seems more naturally attuned to other political outsiders and is well-aware that his command over a sizeable swath of the GOP primary electorate makes him a powerful player in determining the party’s direction in upcoming elections. Whether he can transfer his own political good fortunes to those candidates remains the unanswered question.

A woman tries to kill bed bugs with alcohol – and sets a fire that leaves 10 without a home

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Three people were hospitalized and several others lost their home after a woman accidentally started a fire inside a multifamily building while trying to kill beg bugs with alcohol, authorities said.

The fire broke out late Friday in Cincinnati’s Avondale neighborhood, just north of downtown. Cincinnati Fire Department District Chief Randy Freel did not respond to an inquiry from The Washington Post on Sunday, but he told reporters that the fire started in the first-floor unit, where the woman lives. The alcohol she was using ignited near an open flame, which was probably a candle or burning incense, the Cincinnati Enquirer reported.

Three people went to a hospital for treatment for smoke inhalation, Freel told reporters. Seven adults and three teenagers were displaced by the fire.

One of those displaced was Kamaron Lyshe, who rushed home after learning that his building was on fire. For the next hour, Lyshe shared what was happening through a Facebook Live video, which showed a massive fire billowing out of the building’s roof. Flames were no longer visible from the street about a half-hour into the video.

Later, a visibly upset Lyshe appears to be sitting in a car and sending messages to friends.

“Pretty much everything we got is all up in flames. It’s crazy,“ he said, as he lets out a deep sigh. “Now everything is gone.“

Hours later, Lyshe took pictures and videos of what was left of his building, including the third-floor unit where he lived with his family. The roof of his unit had collapsed. Its hallways and rooms were covered with ashen debris.

“My room is completely destroyed, all my clothes. My closet was right here,“ Lyshe can be heard saying as he briefly aims his phone at a pile of rubble.

Down the hallway was his brother’s room, he said, where pieces of burned wood were piled on the bed. His brother’s closet appears to have been spared, with several pieces of clothing still intact.

“I’m kind of dealing with it right now. I’ll start from scratch,“ he told the Cincinnati Enquirer. “It’s like a dream . . . everything is burned. I’ll start fresh. It’s all we can do now.“

Authorities did not release the names of the residents, including the woman who started the fire.

Fire officials told reporters that this was the second fire in two weeks caused by someone trying to kill bed bugs.

A 2015 survey by the National Pest Management Association and the University of Kentucky found that bed bug infestations continue at high rates in the United States, with nearly all of the respondents saying they’d been treated for bed bugs in the past year. Infestations happened most often in nursing homes, office buildings, schools and day-care centers, according to the survey.

Do-it-yourself defenses against bed bugs have resulted in accidental fires in the past.

In 2013, a 13-year-old boy trying to kill a bed bug doused the insect with alcohol and then lit a match, causing a fire to start in his apartment building.

In 2012, a Carlisle, Kentucky, woman set her apartment building on fire after she doused a couch in alcohol and accidentally dropped a lit cigarette on it. About 30 people lost their homes, while four were treated for smoke inhalation.

In Indianapolis that year, flames spread to a home after two men set their infested couches and two chairs on fire in the back yard.

Freel said homeowners and renters wanting to get rid of bed bugs should call pest professionals instead of trying to solve the problem themselves.

New CDC head faces questions about financial conflicts of interest

The Free Press WV

After five months in office, President Trump’s new director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has been unable to divest financial holdings that pose potential conflicts of interest, hindering her ability to fully perform her job.

Brenda Fitzgerald, 71, who served as the Georgia public health commissioner until her appointment to the CDC post in July, said she has divested from many stock holdings. But she and her husband are legally obligated to maintain other investments in cancer detection and health information technology, according to her ethics agreement, requiring Fitzgerald to pledge to avoid government business that might affect those interests. Fitzgerald provided The Post with a copy of her agreement.

Last week, Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., the senior Democrat on the Senate committee that oversees CDC, wrote that Fitzgerald is raising questions about her ability to function effectively.

“I am concerned that you cannot perform the role of CDC director while being largely recused from matters pertaining to cancer and opioids, two of the most pervasive and urgent health challenges we face as a country,“ Murray wrote.

By her reading of the ethics agreement, Murray wrote, Fitzgerald is unable to engage in “key matters relating to cancer,“ the second leading cause of death in the United States. Murray said Fitzgerald may also be unable to respond to the opioid crisis “given your apparent conflict with regard to opioids” and specifically with state-based electronic databases used to track and monitor the use of opioids.

In an interview, Fitzgerald dismissed those concerns, saying she was following ethics rules laid out by the Department of Health and Human Services, which oversees CDC. While her ethics agreement requires her to recuse herself from “many particular matters” in cancer detection and health information technology, those recusals are “very limited,“ she said.

“I’ve been assured that I can participate in broad policy work,“ Fitzgerald said. “I’ve done everything the ethics office said that I should do.“

The ethics issue comes amid broader questions about Fitzgerald’s leadership at the agency, a critical bulwark against disease that has been targeted for deep budget cuts by the Trump administration. Congress has restored most funding for next year. But over the next two years, CDC’s work helping other countries detect and control outbreaks is slated to fall dramatically, reducing staff on the ground by about 80 percent.

Since her appointment, Fitzgerald has made few public statements, even while visiting Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands after back-to-back hurricanes scoured the Caribbean. She waited 133 days before holding her first agency-wide staff meeting, on Nov. 17. And the CDC had to cancel her first scheduled appearance before Congress, on the opioid epidemic, in early October, because she had not finished shedding financial assets that could pose a conflict of interest, a process she has since completed, aside from the remaining investments questioned by Murray.

Murray has also complained that Fitzgerald has sent deputies to testify on the federal response to the opioid crisis at congressional hearings alongside the heads of other government agencies, rather than appearing herself, on at least three occasions.

Fitzgerald’s relatively low profile is in sharp contrast to her predecessor, Tom Frieden. Frieden testified frequently on Capitol Hill, led regular media briefings on public health issues from obesity to Zika, and was a prominent public face of the fight against infectious diseases in the United States and abroad.

Frieden constantly checked messages and often answered emails while talking on the telephone. CDC researchers said it was not unusual for him to call them directly, prompting some to ask whether he was too deep into the weeds.

“Frieden was, at heart, a scientist, and [Fitzgerald is] a clinician and there is a difference between the two,“ said one senior CDC official who requested anonymity because officials are prohibited from making such judgments publicly.

An obstetrician-gynecologist for 30 years, Fitzgerald served as a major in the Air Force and ran unsuccessfully for Congress twice in the 1990s. Named Georgia’s public health chief in 2011, Fitzgerald championed early child development, tobacco control and obesity prevention. She has been criticized for accepting funds from the Atlanta-based Coca-Cola Foundation for a childhood obesity program.

Her husband, Thomas Fitzgerald III, is an emergency medicine physician. The couple lives in Carrollton, Gorgia, about 60 miles west of Atlanta.

During a 36-minute interview with The Washington Post - one of only a few she’s given since taking the job - in the conference room outside her office at CDC’s sprawling headquarters in Atlanta, Fitzgerald said she has spent most of her first three months listening and learning about the agency. She said is strictly abiding by what ethics officials have directed.

Financial disclosure forms show that she and her husband have combined assets worth $3.8 million to $16 million. The 48-page financial disclosure form shows the couple’s portfolio has included a wide variety of health-care, pharmaceutical, food and tobacco holdings through companies and investment funds that, for the most part, are widely traded.

“My husband and I, you know, we have worked for 30 years,“ she said, noting her many years of work in the private sector. “And you know, this is our retirement accounts. And so we have a diversified portfolio.“

She and her husband have holdings in two limited liability companies they are not able to divest from because of legal and contractual obligations that are not spelled out in her ethics agreement, dated Sept. 7, two months after she was appointed.

Those companies invest in two other entities, Greenway Health LLC, a health information technology company, and Isommune, a biotech start-up focusing on early cancer detection, according to the agreement.

Fitzgerald says she will “continue to be alert” to sell or transfer those holdings in the future. But until then, she is required to recuse herself from “many particular matters” in cancer detection and health information technology, including electronic health records and software to help medical practices manage revenue, the agreement states. The document does not list additional specifics.

Murray’s letter says Fitzgerald has an “apparent conflict with regard to opioids” and specifically, to state-based electronic databases known as prescription drug monitoring programs, or PDMPS. These databases contain information on controlled substance prescriptions dispensed by pharmacies and prescribers and are used to track opioid use.

Her ethics agreement does not mention opioids or PDMPS. But the recent White House report on combating drug addiction and the opioid crisis recommends more support and funding for incorporating PDMPS with electronic health records and increased use of electronic prescribing, both of which are components of Greenway Health.

Greenway Health was listed among 20 prescribing software vendors working with Ohio’s prescription drug monitoring program during a CDC town hall teleconference for state and local officials in July. The event, titled “Promising interventions to improve prescribing practices within states,“ included talks from CDC officials and featured presentations from Ohio and Oregon officials.

Fitzgerald has also agreed to avoid participating in government business involving her husband’s consulting company, Thomas E. Fitzgerald III MD Inc., or any of his clients.

In the interview, Fitzgerald said she has no recusals regarding opioids or prescription drug monitoring programs. She added that any potential conflicts on her part will be handled by others at the agency. “Any particular thing that is a particular conflict, we have people who will step in and do that little tiny piece,“ Fitzgerald said.

A CDC spokeswoman later issued a clarification. “Dr. Fitzgerald is able to speak about PDMPS as a tool in the opioid response, and she will continue to speak about the opioid public health emergency in general,“ spokeswoman Katherine Lyon Daniel wrote in an email.

Don Fox, acting director and general counsel at the Office of Government Ethics during the Obama administration, reviewed Fitzgerald’s financial disclosure, ethics agreement and CDC’s response at The Post’s request.

The wording suggests that HHS ethics officials “have concluded that right now, she has to recuse herself from dealing with a particular policy or strategy on either PDMPS or on the opioid crisis,“ Fox said in an interview. “The important thing here is what the ethics officials are not saying,“ he added. “They’re not saying she can work on anything to do with PDMPS or the opioid crisis.“

Based on his federal government ethics experience, he said it was “unusual” that “you would go ahead and appoint someone who had significant parts of the job that they were unable to do, and where there is no visibility as to how long that situation would persist.“

The CDC has a budget of about $7 billion and more than 12,000 employees working across the nation and around the globe on everything from food and water safety to heart disease and cancer to infectious disease outbreak prevention.

At her all-staff meeting Nov. 17, Fitzgerald alluded to her low profile, and explained that she had been learning about the agency, holding one-on-one meetings with staff. She also outlined a plan to streamline programs around a common focus within four major areas: noninfectious disease, infectious disease, public health science and public health service.

Unlike other Trump administration officials who have tried to clear their agencies of longtime staffers, Fitzgerald has made few changes among senior staff at CDC. She hired her former chief of staff at the Georgia health department and a new acting director in CDC’s Washington office. But Anne Schuchat, a highly regarded CDC veteran who served as acting CDC director after Frieden’s departure in January, remains the principal deputy.

Fitzgerald said she has been impressed by the passion of CDC scientists, their rigorous pursuit of science and world-class work. Referring to scientists researching the neglected tropical illness known as Guinea worm disease, she said: “There are people who have studied that one worm for 30 years, and I don’t mean that derogatorily.“

But deep pursuit of science can result in silos that slow down the ability to respond to new health threats that require working together between areas of expertise, she said. One of her priorities will be to “reach across the entire agency” to improve communication within CDC and to the broader public.

Fitzgerald defended her decision not to use her Caribbean trip to deliver public health messages. “I went to Puerto Rico to do a job,“ she said. “I just think when we do routine work we don’t necessarily send out a press release.“

Supporters inside and outside the agency describe her as engaged and personable and someone who asks good questions. “When you talk to her, she’s very there, and she is very smart,“ the senior CDC official said.

Fitzgerald, who likes to be called “Dr. F,“ prefers to get in-person briefings, is more comfortable in small groups, and has asked staff not to interrupt her during her lunch break, officials said.

Fitzgerald is viewed by some senior CDC officials as more attuned to politics than former director Frieden was. Given the current polarized political climate in Washington, the official said, “that may be a really good thing for a CDC director right now.“

Frieden, in an email, said Fitzgerald’s approach appears reasonable and noted that she has “put excellent people in key positions.“ But he added: “The key issue for CDC will be whether it has the budget support from the Administration and Congress to continue protecting the United States, and whether it continues to have scientific independence.“

Of her potential conflicts of interest, he said: “My impression of Dr. Fitzgerald is that she is committed to serving the American people, whether she is directly involved or delegates to the excellent staff at CDC. I am optimistic these issues will be resolved and that the agency will continue protecting the American people from health threats.“

Tribes decry proposal for co-management of Utah monument

The Free Press WV

Donald Trump’s decision to drastically reduce and break up a national monument in Utah wasn’t the only blow Native American tribes say they were dealt last week.

The president’s proclamation on Bears Ears National Monument changes the makeup of a tribal advisory commission for the land. It adds a San Juan County, Utah, commissioner who supported peeling back protections for the monument.

The new commissioner — now Rebecca Benally — will have the same authority as the other members. All five others represent tribes.

Federal legislation also would create tribal co-management councils. The proposal by Utah Republican Rep. John Curtis excludes tribes outside Utah and lets the president hand-select most members.

The Utah congressional delegation sees the changes as unifying forces.

Tribes say they’re another example of Native Americans being told what’s good for them.

Oklahoma veterinarian removes 21 pacifiers from dog’s belly

The Free Press WV

An Oklahoma mother and father couldn’t figure out what was happening to their child’s pacifiers until the baby’s grandmother saw the family dog swipe one off a counter.

One nauseous pooch and a trip to their veterinarian’s office confirmed the couple’s hunch: Dovey had 21 pacifiers lodged in her stomach.

The couple told the veterinarian Dovey had slowed her eating and was vomiting for a few days, but other than that, they thought she seemed fine.

KFOR-TV reports that at first, the veterinarian thought there were only seven to nine pacifiers in Dovey’s stomach, but the surgery proved otherwise.

Dovey is on the mend and has already gone home.

The veterinarian cautioned pet owners in a recent Facebook post that “dogs will eat anything, anytime and at any age.”

2,400 Auditors Are About to Descend on the Pentagon

The Free Press WV

The Department of Defense had a budget of $590 billion last year and will have one of nearly $700 billion next year. It has an estimated $2.4 trillion in assets. And yet the department has never been audited. That finally changes this month when the Pentagon undergoes its first-ever financial audit, NPR reports. The federal government started requiring financial reports from agencies two decades ago, but the Department of Defense put it off. In 2010, Congress set a 2017 deadline for a Pentagon audit. With that deadline here, 2,400 auditors will begin to go over everything from personnel to weapons to bases, according to a Pentagon press release.

“It demonstrates our commitment to fiscal responsibility and maximizing the value of every taxpayer dollar that is entrusted to us,“ Department of Defense spokesperson Dana White says. It also might be far past due. It was reported last year that Pentagon officials were hiding reports of “$125 billion in administrative waste” in order to preserve their budget. And the Government Accountability Office accused the Department of Defense of “serious financial management problems” last January. Department of Defense comptroller David Norquist, who calls the audit a “great opportunity,“ says they will now happen yearly. “Annual audits ... ensure visibility over the quantity and quality of the equipment and supplies our troops use,“ the Hill quotes Norquist as saying.

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