Top news stories for today – September 14, 2016
Obama to welcome Suu Kyi for talks on sanctions
President Barack Obama welcomes Myanmar’s de facto leader Aung San Suu Kyi to the White House Wednesday, where he is eager listen to her views on how far the US should go in lifting sanctions on the Southeast Asian country.
It will be her first visit to the US as State Counselor and Foreign Minister – a position she assumed after her party’s decisive win in last November’s elections. The country’s military era constitution bars her from holding the title of president because her late husband and children are foreign citizens.
Aung San Suu Kyi spent more than 20 years under house arrest in the country formerly known as Burma. Her meeting with Obama in the Oval Office is viewed as another clear indication that she is Myanmar’s de facto civilian leader. Since taking office in late March, she has not called for an end to all sanctions, which are seen as leverage to encourage the military to allow more democratic reforms.
In another news, Senators John McCain and Ben Cardin introduced a bipartisan bill Tuesday that will provide increased financial and military aid to Myanmar, which is nearly a year out from its first democratic election in nearly five decades. VOA
Russian hackers leak US athletes’ information
A group of Russian hackers who go by the name “Fancy Bear” breached the World Anti-Doping Agency‘s (WADA) database containing drug test results and medical information from Rio Olympic athletes, WADA confirmed Tuesday. The group, which also goes by “Tsar Team (APT28),” targeted American athletes, including tennis players Serena and Venus Williams and gymnast Simone Biles, alleging that the three had been given medical exemptions to use banned drugs.
Fancy Bear said the leak proved that “WADA and the IOC’s Medical and Scientific Department are corrupt and deceitful.” The IOC said Tuesday that “the athletes mentioned did not violate any anti-doping rules during the Olympic Games.” Travis Tygart, CEO of the US Anti-Doping Agency, said “the cyber-bullying of innocent athletes being engaged by these hackers is cowardly and despicable.” The New York Times, ABC News, The Week
Defense officials worry about Russian hackers
Top US defense officials insist they are not turning a blind eye to fears that Russian hackers are trying to hijack upcoming US presidential and local elections. Still, the scope of the threat and just how the US plans to respond remain unclear.
“This continues to be an issue of great focus,” said Adm. Michael Rogers, who serves as both National Security Agency Director and chief of the Defense Department’s Cyber Command. “I’m not going to characterize this activity,” Rogers told members of the Senate Armed Services Committee on Tuesday, but added “I think there are scenarios where you could see capability applied.”
The question was first raised by Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman John McCain, a long-time Republican senator from Arizona who is running for reelection. VOA
US household incomes surge in 2015
New US census data shows incomes for American families rose more than 5 percent in 2015, signaling what analysts are hailing as a turning point in the recovery from the global recession that began in 2007. The data, released Tuesday, shows the 5.2 percent gain reaching all geographical regions of the country and all age groups, ending eight years of stagnant incomes. It further shows that national poverty levels fell by 1.2 percent, shrinking by 3.5 million to about 8 percent – the steepest one-year decline in nearly half a century.
Forty-three million Americans were identified as living in poverty in 2015, 3.5 million fewer than in 2014. Additionally, the number of Americans without health insurance continued a years-long decline, falling by 1.3 percent to just over 9 percent.
Analysts expect the new data to become a central issue in the ongoing US presidential campaign, with median household income higher now than in 2009, when President Barack Obama took office. VOA
Philippine leader rejects joint patrols
Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte said Tuesday he won’t allow government forces to conduct joint patrols of disputed waters near the South China Sea with foreign powers, apparently scrapping a deal his predecessor reached with the US military earlier this year.
Duterte also said he was considering acquiring defense equipment from Russia and China. The Philippines has traditionally leaned on the US, its longtime treaty ally, and other Western allies for its security needs.
The remarks were the latest from a Philippine president who has had an uneasy relationship with the US but also has tried to mend relations with China strained over South China Sea disputes.
Duterte said he wanted only Philippine territorial waters, up to 12 nautical miles offshore, to be patrolled by Filipino forces, but not other offshore areas that are contested. He added he opposes Filipino forces accompanying foreign powers like the US and China in joint patrols which could entangle the Philippines in hostilities. VOA
Iran launches new navy ship
Iran’s Revolutionary Guard launched a new 55-metre-long naval ship on Tuesday that is capable of transporting a helicopter and up to 100 men. The ship’s launch in the port city of Bushehr, comes at a time of high tension between Iran and the United States over Gulf waters. US officials says there have been more than 30 close encounters between US and Iranian vessels in the Gulf so far this year, over twice as many as in the same period of 2015.
The ship was built in Bushehr by Khatam al-Anbia, a huge construction and engineering firm overseen by the Guards, Revolutionary Guard naval chief Rear Admiral Ali Fadavi said.
A banner posted on the side of the ship at the launch read, “America should go to the Bay of Pigs, the Persian Gulf is our house”, a reference to the botched US attempt to overthrow Cuban leader Fidel Castro in 1961. VOA
US Presidential election
Donald Trump unveils child care plan, including 6 weeks paid maternity leave: On Tuesday night in Alton, a suburb of Philadelphia, Donald Trump rolled out his promised plan to help families pay for child care and dependent care for elderly adults. Trump laid out proposals to guarantee six weeks of paid maternity leave for women whose employers don’t offer it, expand tax-free Dependent Care Savings Accounts, and allow both working mothers and stay-at-home mothers to deduct child care costs from their federal income tax. The maternity leave, Trump said, would be financed through cutting unspecified waste and fraud in the unemployment insurance program, and said his other proposals would be paid for through economic growth and unspecified cuts. In May, Hillary Clinton unveiled a plan to cap child care costs at 10 percent of family income and provide 12 weeks paid leave for new mothers and fathers. NBC News, The Associated Press, The Week
Poll: Half of America thinks Hillary Clinton has lied about her health: Fifty percent of people think that Hillary Clinton “has given the public false information about her heath,” a Politico/Morning Consult poll found in the days following the Democratic nominee’s pneumonia scare at the 9/11 Memorial on Sunday. In comparison, only 37 percent of people say the same about Donald Trump. Overall, people think Trump is healthier than Clinton, with 22 percent saying Clinton’s health is “above average or excellent” and 36 percent saying the same for Trump. Less than half of voters, at 44 percent, said Clinton’s health would negatively affect her ability to be president; three in 10 people don’t think she’d survive her first term. Morning Consult, The Week
Clinton returning to the campaign trail Thursday: After taking three days off to deal with a bout of pneumonia, Hillary Clinton will be back on the road Thursday, her campaign announced Tuesday. In an email to reporters, the campaign said Clinton spent her Tuesday “catching up on reading briefings, making calls,” and “watching President Obama’s speech in Philadelphia on TV.” On Monday, Clinton spoke with CNN’s Anderson Cooper, telling him she felt much better” and “should have gotten some rest sooner.” Clinton was diagnosed with pneumonia on Friday, and revealed this information on Sunday after she was seen stumbling as she left a Sept. 11 memorial in New York City. Her campaign spokesman said more information about her medical history will be released later this week, putting “to rest any lingering concerns” about her health. NPR
Colin Powell calls Donald Trump a ‘national disgrace’ in hacked emails: Former secretary of State and retired four-star general Colin Powell called Donald Trump “a national disgrace” and “international pariah,” and said “Hillary’s mafia” was trying to drag him into Clinton’s email scandal in personal emails that were leaked by hackers, according to online news organizations BuzzFeed and The Daily Caller.
Powell allegedly made the remarks about Trump in a June 17, 2016, email to Emily Miller, a journalist who once worked under Powell as a deputy press secretary at the State Department. In the email Powell said Trump, “is in the process of destroying himself, no need for the Dems to attack him,” according to BuzzFeed. “Paul Ryan is calibrating his position again,” Powell said of the speaker of the House who had only recently decided to endorse Trump at the time of the email. Around 30,000 stolen Powell emails were given to DCLeaks.com by unnamed hackers. USA Today
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