Top News Stories for Today – February 16, 2017
Intelligence agencies are keeping sensitive info from Trump
Worried that information might be compromised or leaked, US intelligence officials have kept some sensitive items from President Trump, current and former officials told The Wall Street Journal Wednesday. In some of the cases, it was because officials did not want Trump to know about sources and methods used to collect information.
In the past, presidents and members of Congress have not always been told every last detail of a case, the officials told WSJ, but it was always to protect a source and not because they were concerned about the person’s trustworthiness or discretion. The officials also said they did not know of any instances where the intelligence agencies omitted major information on terror plots or security threats. A White House official told WSJ there is “nothing that leads us to believe that this is an accurate account of what is actually happening.” The Wall Street Journal, The Week
Top Republicans push for Flynn investigation
On Wednesday, top Republicans demanded an investigation into President Trump’s alleged ties with Russia, following the resignation of his national security adviser Michael Flynn late Monday and the release of a New York Times report Tuesday claiming Trump’s aides were repeatedly in contact with senior Russian intelligence agents during his presidential campaign.
Sen. Bob Corker (R-Tenn.), chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, warned “this Russia issue” could “destabilize our ability to move ahead as a country,” while Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) declared “any Trump person who was working with the Russians … needs to pay a price.” Late in the day, Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa), the chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, and the committee’s top Democrat, Sen. Dianne Feinstein of California, requested a briefing from FBI Director James Comey and Attorney General Jeff Sessions on Flynn’s resignation.
Trump himself has focused on criticizing the leaks that led to Flynn’s resignation: “It’s a criminal action, criminal act,” Trump said Wednesday, blaming the intelligence community for the leaks. Earlier Wednesday, Trump tweeted the reports were “non-sense” intended to “cover up” Hillary Clinton’s “many mistakes.” Reuters, Politico, The Week
Labor secretary picked Andrew Puzder withdraws
Andrew Puzder, the CEO of CKE Restaurants and President Trump’s nominee to lead the Labor Department, withdrew his name from consideration Wednesday. “I am honored to have been considered by President Donald Trump to lead the Department of Labor and put America’s workers and businesses back on a path to sustainable prosperity,” Puzder said in a statement.
CNN reported earlier Wednesday that top Republicans in the Senate urged Trump to withdraw Puzder’s nomination because as many as 12 GOP senators were reportedly not willing to vote for him. Puzder had been criticized by labor rights activists and dogged by allegations of abuse by his ex-wife, which she later said she regretted, and his admission earlier this month that he and his current wife once employed an undocumented immigrant as a part-time housekeeper. NBC News, CNN, The Week
Trump ally to review intelligence agencies
President Trump plans to assign Stephen A. Feinberg, a co-founder of Cerberus Capital Management, a New York billionaire to lead a broad review of American intelligence agencies, according to administration officials, an effort that members of the intelligence community fear could curtail their independence and reduce the flow of information that contradicts the president’s worldview. Mr. Feinberg has close ties to Stephen K. Bannon, Mr. Trump’s chief strategist, and Jared Kushner, the president’s son-in-law.
Trump appointed Mike Pompeo to run the CIA, and Dan Coats to be the director of national intelligence (he is still awaiting confirmation). Both were the preferred choices of the Republican congressional leadership and Vice President Mike Pence and had no close or longstanding ties to Mr. Trump. In fact, they each endorsed Senator Marco Rubio of Florida for president during the 2016 Republican primaries. The New York Times
Pentagon might propose sending ground troops to Syria
The Defense Department might propose that the US send conventional ground combat forces into northern Syria for the first time to speed up the fight against ISIS, CNN has learned. “It’s possible that you may see conventional forces hit the ground in Syria for some period of time,” one defense official told CNN.
But the official emphasized that any decision is ultimately up to President Donald Trump, who has ordered his defense secretary to come up with a proposal to combat ISIS before the end of the month. The move would significantly alter US military operations in Syria if approved and could put troops on the ground within weeks. CNN
DC preps for day without immigrants
Washington, DC, restaurants and schools are preparing for a “Day Without Immigrants” protest Thursday. Restaurants in the DC area were planning to operate with short staff, offer menus in solidarity with striking immigrants and in some cases, close altogether. Celebrity chef José Andrés, who is locked in a lawsuit with President Donald Trump for pulling his restaurant from the Trump hotel project in Washington over Trump’s anti-undocumented immigrant rhetoric, announced he would close most of his restaurants Thursday as part of the protest.
Schools were preparing as well. A bilingual charter school in Northwest DC planned to close, and DC public schools were preparing for possible walkouts. Similar actions have taken place in other cities. Milwaukee, Wisconsin, was the site of a similar protest this week, and bodegas in New York closed earlier this month in protest of Trump’s travel ban executive order. CNN
India puts 104 satellites in a single launch
An Indian rocket blasted off Wednesday morning from Sriharikota in eastern India putting a record 104 satellites into space in a single launch, surpassing Russia’s previous feat of launching 37 satellites one year ago, according to India’s space agency. The launch also marked a milestone in the country’s efforts to emerge as a serious contender in the multi-billion dollar global commercial space industry by slashing costs.
Besides a 714 kilogram earth observation satellite, the others were mostly nano satellites — those weighing up to 10 kilograms. A majority of these small satellites came from customers in the United States, others from countries such as Kazakhstan, the Netherlands, Switzerland and the United Arab Emirates.
The growing demand for more high-tech communication by countries, as well as by private telephone, Internet and other companies, has hugely boosted the demand for such launches. Last year, India launched 75 satellites for foreign customers. India’s ambitious space program got international attention after a successful mission to Mars in 2014, whose price tag of $74 million, compared to $670 million outlay of NASA’s Mars mission a few months later, was hailed as an indication that its frugal space program has achieved technological prowess.
Vitamin D pills could stop colds or flu
Vitamin D supplements could spare more than three million people from colds or flu in the UK each year, researchers claim. The sunshine vitamin is vital for healthy bones, but also has a role in the immune system. The analysis, published in the British Medical Journal, argues food should be fortified with the vitamin.
But Public Health England (PHE) says the infections data is not conclusive, although it does recommend supplements. These, it says, should be taken for improved bone and muscle health. The immune system uses vitamin D to make antimicrobial weapons that puncture holes in bacteria and viruses. But as vitamin D is made in the skin while out in the sun, many people have low levels during winter. BBC
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