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►  Trump administration appeals to Supreme Court on refugee ban

The Trump administration is back at the Supreme Court, asking the justices to continue to allow strict enforcement of a temporary ban on refugees from around the world.

The Justice Department’s high court filing Monday follows an appeals court ruling last week that would allow refugees to enter the United States if a resettlement agency in the U.S. had agreed to take them in. The appellate ruling could take effect as soon as Tuesday and could apply to up to 24,000 refugees.

The administration is not challenging the part of the ruling that applies to a temporary ban on visitors from six mostly Muslim countries. The appeals court ruled that grandparents and cousins of people already in the U.S. can’t be excluded from the country under the travel ban.


►  Senator Corker, foreign relations chair, unsure he’ll run again

Republican Senator Bob Corker said Monday he is unsure about running for re-election, injecting fresh doubts into the GOP’s efforts to tighten its hold on the Senate majority next year.

The Tennessee lawmaker, a sometimes critic of Donald Trump, expressed his ambivalence in a brief statement, even as he sits on more than $6.5 million in a campaign account.

“While we are in a strong position, I am still contemplating the future and will make a decision at the appropriate time,” Corker said.

He emphasized that “everyone in the Volunteer state knows ... running for re-election has never been an automatic for me.”

Corker, 65, chairs the influential Foreign Relations Committee and has been regarded as a shoo-in for a third term. His name surfaced as possible secretary of state in the Trump administration, a job that went to Rex Tillerson.

Corker raised eyebrows last month when he told Tennessee reporters after a town hall meeting that Trump “has not yet been able to demonstrate the stability nor some of the competence that he needs to demonstrate in order to be successful.”

Trump responded with a swipe on Twitter calling it a “strange statement.”

Republicans hold a 52-48 edge in the Senate and are playing offense next year, with 23 Democrats and two independents up for re-election compared with nine Republicans. Ten Democrats represent states Trump won in 2016.

But Corker’s uncertainty comes as incumbent Republicans in Arizona and Nevada face primary challenges, and Alabama Senator Luther Strange is locked in a tough run-off against Roy Moore. That election is September 26.


►  North Korea warns of harsh response if new sanctions imposed

North Korea says it will make the United States pay a heavy price if a proposal Washington is backing to impose the toughest sanctions ever on Pyongyang is approved by the U.N. Security Council this week.

The North’s Foreign Ministry issued a statement early Monday saying it is watching the United States’ moves closely and threatened it is “ready and willing” to respond with measures of its own.

The United States has called for a vote Monday, New York time, on new U.N. sanctions against North Korea.

Last Tuesday, the U.S. circulated a draft resolution proposing the toughest-ever U.N. sanctions on North Korea, including a ban on all oil and natural gas exports to the country and a freeze on all foreign financial assets of the government and its leader, Kim Jong Un.

Security Council diplomats, who weren’t authorized to speak publicly because talks have been private, said the U.S. and China were still negotiating the text late Sunday.

Previous U.N. sanctions resolutions have been negotiated between the United States and China, and have taken weeks or months. But the Trump administration is demanding a vote in six days.

“The U.S. is trying to use the DPRK’s legitimate self-defensive measures as an excuse to strangle and completely suffocate it,” the statement said, using the acronym for North Korea’s formal name. “Since the U.S. is revealing its nature as a blood-thirsty beast obsessed with the wild dream of reversing the DPRK’s development of the state nuclear force which has already reached the completion phase, there is no way that the DPRK is going to wait and let the U.S. feast on it.”

North Korea conducted its sixth nuclear test a week ago and has been launching ballistic missiles at a record pace. Both are violations of U.N. resolutions, but Pyongyang claims it must carry them out to build nuclear deterrent against what it sees as U.S. aggression.

Undaunted by the international criticism of its test, which Pyongyang says was of a hydrogen bomb, Pyongyang celebrated through the weekend, with concerts and banquets for the country’s nuclear scientists and engineers.

Blocking textile exports and cutting off the flow of oil from China would potentially be crippling measures. North Korea gets nearly all of its oil supply from China, with a much smaller amount coming from Russia or the open market.

According to a recent study by the Nautilus Institute think tank, a massive cutback in the flow of oil from China would definitely hurt the North Korean economy, and especially average citizens. But the report said the impact would likely be blunted on the military, which probably has enough fuel stockpiled to continue normal operations for the immediate future.

Russian President Vladimir Putin recently expressed doubt over whether sanctions are an effective means of getting the North to stop its missile and nuclear testing, and China, harboring similar concerns, has repeatedly hesitated in the past to fully support U.S. sanction plans.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel on Sunday also stressed the importance of diplomacy and offered to act as a facilitator if needed.

“If our participation in talks is wanted, I will say yes immediately,” she said in an interview with the Frankfurter Allgemeine Sonntagszeitung newspaper that was published Sunday.

The five permanent members of the U.N. Security Council and Germany conducted long-running talks with Iran that led to a 2015 deal for international sanctions to be lifted in exchange for Tehran curbing its nuclear activities.

“I could also imagine such a format to settle the North Korea conflict,” she said.


►  Access to White House restored after items thrown over fence

The U.S. Secret Service has restored access to the White House and surrounding areas after objects were thrown over the fence.

The agency — which is responsible for security at the White House — tweeted late Monday morning that a male subject has been arrested and turned over to the local police department for throwing a sign and a notebook over the Pennsylvania Avenue fence.

The incident prompted a temporary “lockdown” of the White House, meaning no one could enter or leave the area. Pedestrian access to Pennsylvania Avenue and Lafayette Park directly opposite the executive mansion also was halted for more than an hour.

Donald Trump was attending a 9/11 ceremony at the Pentagon. He returned to the White House during the lockdown.


►  Bannon confirms he opposed firing of FBI Director Comey

Former White House chief strategist Steve Bannon says the firing of FBI Director James Comey may have been the biggest mistake in “modern political history.”

Bannon confirmed he opposed Donald Trump’s decision to oust Comey, calling the FBI “an institution.” Bannon told CBS that institutions such as the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives can be changed “if the leadership is changed.” But he also said the FBI is different.

“I don’t believe that the institutional logic of the FBI, and particularly in regards to an investigation, could possibly be changed by changing the head of it,” Bannon said.

The ousted White House adviser also said that if Comey hadn’t been fired, “We would not have the Mueller investigation,” referring to special counsel Robert Mueller.

--> Tuesday, September 12, 2017
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