Top News Stories for Today – February 17, 2017
Samsung chief arrested for alleged role in corruption scandal
Samsung Group chief Jay Y. Lee was arrested early on Friday over his alleged role in a corruption scandal rocking the highest levels of power in South Korea, dealing a fresh blow to the world’s biggest maker of smartphones and memory chips. The 48-year-old Lee, scion of the country’s richest family, was taken into custody, and being held in a single cell with a TV and desk, a jail official said.
Lee is a suspect in the influence-peddling scandal that led parliament to impeach President Park Geun-hye in December, a decision that if upheld by the Constitutional Court would make her the country’s first democratically elected leader forced from office. Samsung and Lee have denied wrongdoing in the case. VOA
Tony Blair urges people to rise up against Brexit
Tony Blair has said it is his “mission” to persuade Britons to “rise up” and change their minds on Brexit. Speaking in the City of London, the former prime minister claimed that people voted in the referendum “without knowledge of the true terms of Brexit”. He urged “a way out from the present rush over the cliff’s edge”.
Former Tory leader Iain Duncan Smith said the comments were arrogant and undemocratic but Lib Dem Nick Clegg said he “agreed with every word”. Former UKIP leader Nigel Farage said Mr Blair was “yesterday’s man” while Downing Street said it was “absolutely committed” to seeing Brexit through. Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson added: “I urge the British people to rise up and turn off the TV next time Blair comes on with his condescending campaign.” BBC
Rober Harward turns down Trump’s offer
Robert Harward, a former deputy commander of U.S. Central Command, has turned down President Trump’s offer to become the next national security adviser, he told The Associated Press Thursday. Harward, 60, had been widely reported as the favorite to replace former general Michael Flynn, who resigned Monday, after misleading Vice President Pence about the nature of his conversations with the Russian ambassador.
Harward said that since retiring from the military he has been able to “address financial and family issues” in a way that would not be possible if he accepted the president’s offer, according to a statement from Harward shared by CNN’s Jake Tapper. “Like all service members understand, and live, this job requires 24 hours a day, 7 days a week focus and commitment to do it right. I currently could not make that commitment.”
Former lieutenant general Keith Kellogg took over as the acting national security adviser after Flynn’s resignation. Retired general and former CIA director David Petraeus is reported to be another top candidate for the position. USA Today
Pence to reassure allies in Europe
On Friday, Vice President Mike Pence will lead a delegation of Trump administration officials to Germany, and Belgium. On his first trip to abroad as a VP, he will seek to reassure skeptical allies in Europe about U.S. foreign policy under President Donald Trump, who has made his “America First” mantra a centerpiece of his new administration.
Pence will arrive in Germany on Friday to attend the Munich Security Conference, where he will deliver a speech Saturday and then meet with German Chancellor Angela Merkel. Pence is also scheduled to sit down with the leaders of the Baltic States of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania and Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko — countries facing the threat of Russian aggression — along with Turkish Prime Minister Binali Yildirim.
The American allies will be seeking clues from Pence as to how the Trump administration plans to deal with Russia in the aftermath of Flynn’s departure, U.S. inquiries into Russia’s involvement in the presidential election and Trump’s past praise for Putin. Associated Press
Republicans outline plan to replace ObamaCare
On Thursday, House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) and two House committee chairmen shared with House Republicans outlines of their plan to replace the Affordable Care Act. The plan includes tax credits for buying insurance, which would increase with a person’s age but does not change based on income, and incentives for people to open savings accounts to pay for medical expenses.
The outline mentioned nothing about how any of this would be paid for, how many people would gain insurance, or how it compares to the Affordable Care Act, which covers roughly 20 million people. When it comes to Medicaid, the federal government now pays more than 90 percent of costs for newly eligible people in states that expanded the program, but under the GOP plan, it would drop to 50 percent in states like California and New York. The New York Times, The Week
Trump nominates Acosta for labor secretary
President Donald Trump has chosen to nominate R. Alexander Acosta for labor secretary. Acosta is Trump’s second choice for labor secretary after fast-food executive Andrew Puzder withdrew from consideration Wednesday as it became clear he would not earn enough support in the Senate to be confirmed. Acosta is the first Hispanic nominee to Trump’s Cabinet.
He previously served as the assistant attorney general for the Civil Rights Division under former President George W. Bush. In 2011, Acosta testified before Congress to defend the rights of Muslim Americans, where he argued that “we are a nation built on principles of freedom, and high on the list of freedoms is freedom of religious expression.” Acosta formerly served as a U.S. attorney for the Southern District of Florida, and is currently the dean of the Florida International University College of Law. International Business Times, Bloomberg, The Week
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