Friday, March 31, 2017

Just what is Ivanka's job??? First Lady???

Washington Post
Ivanka Trump is stepping  into White House ethics minefield as she takes up her official job as assistant to the President - her father, Donald Trump -  in an unspecified, but reportedly influential policy role. She claims she will not be a government employee despite having an office in the White House, holding a high-level security clearance and performing government work.
In a statement, Ivanka Trump concedes that there is “no modern precedent for an adult child of the president” but pledges to “voluntarily” comply with ethics rules. What the first daughter fails to acknowledge is that the very nature of her proposed role breaches ethical standards to which previous administrations have adhered for generations. That ethical breach does more than “shake up Washington” by breaking with norms and decorum — it threatens our national security.

At their core, ethics rules are national security rules. They are designed to guard against conflicts to reassure the public that individuals trusted with matters of immense national importance are guided only by the best interests of the country. But from the earliest days, President Trump and his children have violated these standards. The president’s questionable conflicts-mitigation strategy put his sons, Eric Trump and Donald Trump, Jr., at the helm of his business without removing his financial interest in the companies. One need only look at photos of the two seated in the front row at the White House announcement of Judge Neil Gorsuch’s nomination to the Supreme Court to grasp how insufficiently that separates the president from his business interests.

The two Trump family members with White House roles have likewise flouted ethical norms. Shortly after the election, Ivanka Trump drew criticism for participating in her father’s meeting with the Japanese prime minister while her own business was negotiating a licensing deal with a company owned by the Japanese government. She has since officially ceded daily management of her company to a top executive and placed its assets in a trust, but she retains sole ownership and details of the extent of her control are wanting. Ivanka Trump’s husband, Jared Kushner, now a senior adviser in the White House, was similarly criticized for a post-election meeting with Chinese nationals with whom he was negotiating a commercial joint venture on behalf of his own family’s business. Kushner has also taken steps to divest from that business by transferring assets to his mother and brother, a move some have likened to a meaningless “shell game.”

The issues of legality and ethics reduce down to this: Ivanka Trump’s role in the administration is possibly, though not certainly, legal under federal anti-nepotism law. It is wrong as a matter of ethics, though, and it violates the tenets of good governance. And her undisclosed financial entanglements raise the specter of decision making based on individual or financial gain, rather than in the national interest.

The undisclosed foreign financial entanglements of Trump’s children elevate the security implications. Before now, there’s been very little dispute that foreign money could pose a threat: The implications of overseas investments are so critical that there is an interagency committee tasked with reviewing the national security risks of transactions that could render control of a U.S. business to a foreign person. The potential compromises of foreign business relationships run both ways, and the Trumps’ myriad foreign financial relationships creates the risk that in matters of national security and foreign policy, their choices will be guided by what is best for their bank accounts, not the United States.

But Ivanka Trump’s new West Wing post doesn’t only bring more financial conflicts of interest into the White House; because she’s the president’s daughter, it also makes them worse. The inherently compromising loyalty of family relationships and the necessity of genuine expertise in senior government roles are why federal law prohibits nepotism — and why that law explicitly applies to the president. Trump appeared to recognize this when he repeatedly reassured the public that his children would not have any role in the government.

In the 50 years since enactment of the anti-nepotism law, presidents have generally avoided testing its limits. The day after Trump was sworn in, however, the Justice Department’s Office of Legal Counsel (OLC) determined that the statute does not apply to the president’s hiring of White House staff. This was an affirmative change of the office’s past analysis. In 1972, OLC determined that the law did apply to White House staff and would prevent President Richard Nixon from appointing a relative. A 1977 opinion likewise concluded that President Jimmy Carter could not legally appoint his son to an unpaid position in the White House.

The about-face of the January opinion may be legally defensible; it rests on a conflicting statute that grants broad presidential authority to staff the White House “without regard to any other provision of law.” But the issue here isn’t one of legal technicalities. OLC’s job is to offer counsel on bare legality stripped of policy prescription. We can’t expect it or the statutes it interprets to substitute for an administration with sound judgment.

Some have suggested in her defense that Ivanka Trump is the functional first lady. The comparison is inapt, in addition to being an insult to both Ivanka’s intellect and the actual first lady, Melania Trump. First ladies’ financial interests are considered inseparable from the president’s own, and while they are exposed to classified information by virtue of being around the president, they have not typically used that access to play substantive policy roles on national security.

Ivanka Trump’s personal relationship to the president may compromise our national security in immediate and practical terms. If she gets a high-level security clearance, that will grant her access to the nation’s more sensitive and consequential secrets — a fact that highlights the risks of compromising financial relationships and lack of expertise. It would be astounding, however, if her background investigation failed to uncover a recent article detailing her involvement in a hotel deal in Azerbaijan that “appears to be a corrupt operation engineered by oligarch tied to Iran’s Revolutionary Guard.” No ordinary person would be granted a clearance before questions of business ties to sanctioned individuals or entities were fully resolved.

The president is empowered to ignore that kind of derogatory information on a background investigation. But to do so would be a grave breach his oath of office — an oath his daughter will not take in her officially unofficial role. So the American people will now see if Donald Trump really intends to treat Ivanka like any other staffer. Will he act in the best interest of the American people in assessing whether she has demonstrated the judgment and integrity expected of those entrusted with our nation’s secrets?
Blood is thicker than water. We must now wonder if the president’s commitment to his oath of office is stronger than his family loyalty.

The Plot is Thickening WTF

The Republicans can't get their shit together   .... well that's what they get for  not having a mind of their  own .
As Bugs Bunny would say .... 'That's All Folks.'

Saturday, March 25, 2017

The Allum family , The Ramelan Family ,The Noonan family and the Mahood family

Nana  was a  great lady who left a   wonderful legacy behind.
She was larger than life  and she lived it to the fullest .
Now that she has gone  may all the beautiful memories be a 
blessing to you and  all her family.
Please acccept our deepest sympathies for the lost of your dear mother, grandmother and great-grandmother

The Carano Family

The Landrieau Family 

Thursday, March 23, 2017

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Paul Manafort 'hid' $750,000 payment ... 'Black Ledgers' reveal

Paul Manafort. File photo

Further allegations have been made in Ukraine about secret funds said to have been paid to Donald Trump's former campaign chairman Paul Manafort. Lawmaker Serhiy Leshchenko said he had evidence that Mr Manafort had tried to hide a payment of $750,000 by a pro-Russian party in 2009.
Mr Manafort's spokesman denied the claim as "baseless". Mr Manafort was an adviser to Ukraine's ex-President Viktor Yanukovych. But he denies receiving any cash payments.
He was forced to resign as Mr Trump's campaign chairman in August 2016 over revelations about his ties to Mr Yanukovych. Mr Manafort is one of a number of the presidential associates currently under scrutiny for possible contacts with Russia during the US presidential campaign.
On Monday, FBI director James Comey confirmed for the first time that his agency was investigating alleged Russian interference in the election.

'Black Ledgers'

On Tuesday, Mr Leshchenko, a former investigative journalist, published an invoice purportedly signed by Mr Manafort that showed a $750,000 payment for a shipment of computers to a firm called Davis Manafort. The funds came from an offshore company in Belize via a bank in Kyrgyzstan.
Mr Leshchenko said the contract was a cover for payments to Mr Manafort for his consulting services to Mr Yanukovych's Party of Regions. Leshchenko said the amount and date of the payment matched one of the entries on the so-called Black Ledgers (handwritten accounting books alleged to belong to the Party of Regions), where Mr Manafort's name was mentioned.  Mr Manafort's spokesman Jason Maloni described the latest allegations as "baseless", saying they should be "summarily dismissed".
President Yanukovych was ousted during mass street protests in Ukraine in 2014.

More and more Russian connections are coming to light. When will they put all the material together and make a case of it?? I have never heard of such a corrupt government as Mr Trump's. He sold his honor, his integrity, his credibility...if he ever had those qualities....and he sold out his country just so he could achieve the ultimate power on earth. Then he proceeded to use that power to destroy the building blocks of America like honesty, fairness, trust and equality.

Kid tells teacher her parents are growing weed

Monday, March 20, 2017

Comey finally talks a bunch ... but, typically, doesn't say much

 The F.B.I. director, James B. Comey, publicly confirmed an investigation into Russian interference in the presidential election and whether associates of the president were in contact with Moscow.
 Mr. Comey also said the F.B.I. had “no information” to support President Trump’s allegation that Barack Obama wiretapped him.
The hearing’s featured witnesses: Mr. Comey and Adm. Michael S. Rogers, the director of the National Security Agency.

Comey confirms the F.B.I. is investigating Russian election interference.

The F.B.I. is investigating Russian interference in the 2016 election and possible links between the Trump campaign and the Russian government — and whether there was any coordination, Mr. Comey said.
Mr. Comey said that it was unusual for the F.B.I. to confirm or deny the existence of any investigations, but that in unusual circumstances when it is in the public interest, the bureau will sometimes discuss such matters.
“This is one of those circumstances,” he said.
“The F.B.I., as part of our counterintelligence effort, is investigating the Russian government’s efforts to interfere in the 2016 president election,” he continued, adding that the investigation included looking at whether associates of Mr. Trump were in contact with Russian officials, and whether they colluded with them.
Admiral Rogers made it clear that Russian efforts to interfere in democratic elections were not a one-off intrusion. They continue — now in Europe.

Senator Chuck Schumer of New York, the Democratic leader, responded: “The possibility of coordination between the Trump campaign and Russian officials is a serious, serious matter. The investigation must be fair, independent, and impartial in every way, and the F.B.I. must be allowed to follow the facts wherever they may lead.”

Mr. Comey told lawmakers that the investigation began in July, but he conceded that he had only “recently” briefed congressional leaders on the existence of the F.B.I. investigation. Asked why he had waited so long, he said, “Because of the sensitivity of the matter.”

F.B.I. director says there’s ‘no information’ to support Trump wiretapping charge.

Mr. Comey told the House Intelligence Committee, “We have no information to support” President Trump’s assertion on Twitter that President Barack Obama wiretapped Trump Tower.
“We have no information to support those tweets,” Mr. Comey said, repeating moments later, “All I can tell you is that we have no information that supports them.”
The N.S.A. chief, Admiral Rogers, weighed in as well, saying that he had no knowledge of anyone asking the British or any other ally to wiretap Mr. Trump. That seemed to refute another claim made by the White House.
“I’ve seen nothing on the N.S.A. side that we engaged in such activity, nor that anyone engaged in such activity,” Admiral Rogers said.
He then explicitly denied having any indication that Mr. Trump was wiretapped by British intelligence at the request of Mr. Obama.

Trump and Comey clash over F.B.I. conclusions.

Mr. Trump, watching the House Intelligence Committee closely,offered a stream of comments on Twitter, attacking classified leaks and concluding that, in fact, Russia did not influence the electoral process.
Representative Devin Nunes of California, the committee’s chairman and a Trump ally, trying to split the difference between his hawkish view of Russia and his desire to deflect accusations that Mr. Trump’s campaign benefited from Russian interference in the election — or, worse, possibly colluded with Moscow, opened by stating that Russia had a long track record of aggressive actions against its neighbors, and that “its hostile acts take many forms aside from direct military assaults.”
Russia “has a long history of meddling in other countries’ election systems and launching cyber-attacks on a wide range of countries,” he said. “The fact that Russia hacked U.S. election-related databases comes as no shock to this committee.”
But in a nod to a claim pushed by Mr. Trump that he was wiretapped, Mr. Nunes said he wanted to know if there was improper surveillance of campaign officials. And he said it was important to find out “who has leaked classified information.”
“Numerous current and former officials have leaked purportedly classified information in connection to these questions,” Mr. Nunes said. “We aim to determine who has leaked or facilitated leaks of classified information so that these individuals can be brought to justice.”

Mr. Gowdy, who led the House Select Committee on Benghazi and helped expose Mrs. Clinton’s use of a private email server, asked if a series of people from the Obama administration had access to the intelligence information leaked: John O. Brennan, the former director of the C.I.A.; James R. Clapper Jr., the former director of national intelligence; Loretta E. Lynch, the former attorney general; Susan E. Rice, the former national security adviser; Ben Rhodes, a former National Security Council official; and … Mr. Obama.
“Yes, for sure,” Mr. Comey said. “It is a serious crime.”
The president himself chimed in on the issue via Twitter, again hinting that the leaks came straight from his predecessor:

Schiff: Collusion with Russia would be a ‘shocking’ betrayal of democracy.

Representative Adam B. Schiff of California, the committee’s ranking Democrat, laid out the case that the Trump campaign was, at best, far too close to Russia — and far too eager to appease Moscow on Ukraine and other issues.
It is “unknowable” whether Russian meddling altered the outcome of the election, Mr. Schiff said, emphasizing that it mattered more that Moscow succeeded in intervening and would do it again.

The president doth protest.

With the House Intelligence Committee convening for its first public hearing on Russian election meddling, the president posted his protests on Twitter — again.

Donald J. Trump

James Clapper and others stated that there is no evidence Potus colluded with Russia. This story is FAKE NEWS and everyone knows it!
Donald J. Trump    

The Democrats made up and pushed the Russian story as an excuse for running a terrible campaign. Big advantage in Electoral College & lost!
Donald J. Trump    

James Clapper and others stated that there is no evidence Potus colluded with Russia. This story is FAKE NEWS and everyone knows it!
The real story that Congress, the FBI and all others should be looking into is the leaking of Classified information. Must find leaker now!

The search for the real “leaker” is likely to be part of the questioning of the F.B.I. director, since Mr. Nunes has seconded the president’s opinion. But Mr. Schiff asserted on Sunday that there was circumstantial evidence of collusion between Russian intelligence and Trump associates during the campaign. So protest as he might, Mr. Trump is not going to head off that line of questioning.

Saturday, March 18, 2017

'The Great Wall of Trump', like the 'Iron Curtain', creates a prison, not a sanctuary

Proposals for the Homeland Security Department in President Donald Trump's first budget are displayed at the Government Printing Office in Washington, Thursday, March, 16, 2017. President Donald Trump's budget proposals on immigration enforcement read like a wish list for his most ardent supporters. The budget requests for the Homeland Security and Justice departments call for billions of dollars for some of Trump's most high-profile and contentious campaign promises, including a $2.6 billion down payment for a border wall he insisted Mexico would pay for. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)
 Proposals for the Homeland Security Department in President Donald Trump's first budget are displayed at the Government Printing Office in Washington, Thursday, March, 16, 2017. President Donald Trump's budget

The Trump administration wants to build a 30-foot-high border wall that looks good from the north side and is difficult to climb or cut through, according to a pair of contract notices posted to a government website further detailing President Donald Trump's promise to build a "big, beautiful wall" at the Mexican border.

The notices were made public late Friday by Customs and Border Protection, the Homeland Security Department agency that will oversee the project and eventually patrol and maintain the wall. The proposals are due to the government by March 29.
One of the CBP contract requests calls for a solid concrete wall, while the other asks for proposals for a see-through structure. Both require the wall to be sunk at least six feet into the ground and include 25- and 50-foot automated gates for pedestrians and vehicles. The proposed wall must also be built in a such a way that it would take at least an hour to cut through it with a "sledgehammer, car jack, pick axe, chisel, battery operated impact tools, battery operated cutting tools, Oxy/acetylene torch or other similar hand-held tools."

The government will award a contract based on 30-foot-wide sample walls that are to be built in San Diego. This is the latest step in the Trump administration plan to build a border wall. Last month CBP put out a call for "concept papers" to design and build prototypes by March 10.
Trump has bragged in recent days that the wall is ahead of schedule, though it's unclear from the latest contract notices if any firms have submitted wall proposals or if any such submissions have been rejected.

The government has not said where the wall will be built, though the contract notices suggest some pieces of a new wall could replace existing fencing that stretches over about 700 miles of the roughly 2,000-mile border. The current fencing of mixed construction, including 15-foot steel posts set inches apart that are designed to keep people from crossing and shorter posts that are intended to block cars. Border Patrol agents are constantly repairing holes in the structure.

Trump has long promised that Mexico would pay for the wall, which he has said is necessary to stop the flow of immigrants crossing the border illegally and drug smugglers. This week the president sent a budget proposal to Congress that included a $2.6 billion down payment for the wall. The total cost for the project is unclear, but the Government Accountability Office estimates it would cost about $6.5 million a mile for fence to keep pedestrians from crossing the border and about $1.8 million a mile for a vehicle barrier.
Congressional Republicans have said Trump's wall would cost between $12 billion and $15 billion and Trump has suggested $12 billion.

An internal report prepared for Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly estimated the cost of building a wall along the entire U.S.-Mexico border at about $21 billion, according to a U.S. government official who is involved in border issues. The official spoke on condition of anonymity because the report has not been made public.
That report proposed an initial phase that would extend fences 26 miles and a second wave that would add 151 miles, plus 272 "replacement" miles where fences are already installed, according to the official. Those two phases would cost $5 billion.

It is unclear how soon Congress might act on that request or how much money lawmakers will ultimately approve for the wall. Democrats and some Republicans have said a border-long wall is unnecessary.
The Department of Homeland Security reported earlier this month that the number of border arrests dropped about 44 percent from January to February, the lowest monthly tallies since at the least the start of the 2012 budget year.

Donald Trump's failing presidency

James Pethokoukis
What would a failed Trump administration look like?

It certainly doesn't need to involve President Trump's impeachment and removal from office. Rather, imagine this: As the 2018 midterm elections approach, Trump's only accomplishment is starting construction on the southern border mega-wall. No ObamaCare replacement. No big tax cut. No big infrastructure plan. And millions of American voters are starting to consider that handing total power in Washington to a party led by a short-attention-span novice was a cosmically bad idea.

It hardly seems like a far-fetched scenario right now.

First, repealing and replacing ObamaCare, the GOP's top priority, was just dealt a hammer blow by the Congressional Budget Office. Conservative Republicans will surely focus on the CBO finding that the American Health Care Act would reduce projected debt by $300 billion and cut taxes by $900 billion over a decade. But the more relevant numbers to many Americans will be the 14 million people losing health insurance coverage next year and the 20 percent rise in insurance premiums if the bill becomes law. Republicans may quibble about details and degree, but the CBO forecast is almost certainly correct directionally.

Priority two doesn't look a whole lot healthier. The GOP plan to deeply cut tax rates depends on the blueprint's controversial and deeply confusing border-adjustment provision, where imports would be taxed but exports wouldn't. Not surprisingly, the plan has split GOP business backers depending on whether they export goods (like Boeing) or import them (like Walmart). Dropping this provision — as seems highly probable — would blow a trillion-dollar revenue hole in a plan already counting on aggressive growth forecasts to avoid hemorrhaging red ink.

And while it's true that things typically look darkest before the dawn when trying to pass major legislation, the AHCA and the GOP's tax plan both look to be in serious trouble. Now, to be positive, they are also more or less fixable — at least on paper. Or at least vastly improvable. The health-care plan could be tweaked to help the poor and old by spending more on Medicaid and tax credits for purchasing private insurance. And the penalty for skipping coverage could be made harsher so more healthy people sign up and create stronger risk pools. (My AEI colleagues Jim Capretta and Joe Antos have already assembled a fix.)

The tax plan could also be modified for the better. One option would be to dump the current plan and go with a ready-made alternative like the one proposed in 2014 by former GOP Ways and Means chairman Dave Camp. That proposal would cut personal and business taxes but be revenue neutral by cutting or crimping various tax breaks. Or Republicans could keep their current plan and just not cut rates so deeply, especially for wealthier Americans. Trust me, they'll be fine.

Of course, the catch with all those possible changes to the health and tax plans is that while they might make them more palatable and passable to more moderate GOPers, particularly in the Senate, they would also make them less so to conservatives. Then there's the president himself, who remains a cipher on the health and tax plans he would prefer and be willing to spend political capital on. Republicans don't just need Trump to sign what they send him. They will at some point need him to show leadership on this legislation and then fight hard for it.

Why the Republicans' civil war is a sign of political strength
And time is wasting away. It's always easier to try and do big things in the first year or so of a new presidential term. The 1981 Reagan tax cuts were passed and signed in August 1981. ObamaCare in March of 2010.

But it's not just the electoral clock making time of the essence for the GOP. Many congressional Republicans remain worried the Trump administration will eventually implode, and they want to make sure they get the big things done ASAP. Yet with that haste has come sweeping reform legislation that's not fully cooked, risking failure for reform and the Trump presidency itself.

Sunday, March 12, 2017

McCain: Trump should provide evidence of Obama wiretapping or retract the claim

March 12th 2017 
Senator John McCain has said that President Trump should provide proof that former President Obama wiretapped his phones or he should retract the claim, reports The Hill.

During an appearance on CNN's "State of the Union" Sunday, McCain said:

"President Trump has to provide the American people—not just the intelligence committee, but the American people—with evidence that his predecessor, former president of the Unites States was guilty of breaking the law. Because our Director of National Intelligence, General Clapper, testified that there was absolutely no truth to that allegation."

McCain added, "I think the president has one of two choices: Either retract or to provide the information that the American people deserve because if his predecessor violated the law -President Obama violated the law-we've got a serious issue here, to say the least."

He then suggested that Trump ask the top intelligence officials about the matter because, according to McCain, "...they certainly should know whether the former president of the United States was wiretapping Trump Tower."

The discussion was prompted by a series of controversial tweets Trump posted on March 4, the first of which read, "Terrible! Just found out that Obama had my 'wires tapped' in Trump Tower just before the victory. Nothing found. This is McCarthyism!"

Obama has denied any such activity, with his spokesman Kevin Lewis saying in a statement, "...neither President Obama nor any White House official ever ordered surveillance on any U.S. citizen. Any suggestion otherwise is simply false."

Wednesday, March 08, 2017

Rapport Crumbles between Trump and Obama

Budding feud is new distraction in a Trump presidency that has been struggling to enact its agenda

President-elect Donald Trump and President Barack Obama arrive for the inauguration ceremony at the Capitol in Washington, D.C., on Jan. 20. Mr. Trump clasped Mr. Obama’s shoulder and shook hands before the two parted ways later in the day.

The rapport between Barack Obama and Donald Trump is unraveling, with the president convinced that Mr. Obama is undermining his nascent administration and the former president furious over Trump tweets accusing him of illegal wiretapping, people close to the two men said.
The budding feud between two men who share the unique bond of membership in the commander-in-chiefs’ club is a fresh red herring in a Trump presidency that has been struggling to enact its agenda.
The rift also is distancing Mr. Trump from a former two-term president who had offered to give private advice and counsel as the onetime businessman settles into his first job in public office.

Mr. Trump clasped Mr. Obama’s shoulder and shook hands before the two parted ways and the former president boarded a helicopter outside the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 20.  Donald Trump and former President Barack Obama have not spoken since the inauguration, but their respective advisers have.  Mr. Trump tried to call Mr. Obama to thank him for the traditional letter that one president leaves for his successor in the Oval Office. Mr. Obama was traveling at the time and the two never connected, people familiar with the matter said.
Douglas Brinkley, a presidential historian, said the open friction has upended tradition, an “almost unwritten rule that you treat your predecessor with a degree of grace and decorum.”
“There are these kinds of things that have happened in the past, but nothing to the degree where a sitting president would charge his predecessor with a felony,” Mr. Brinkley said. “It creates a feeling of instability in the United States.”

In a Twitter frenzy Tuesday morning Mr Trump continued his attack on President Obama. Tweeting  that Mr. Obama had ushered in a flawed health-care system, allowed dangerous prisoners to leave the Guantanamo Bay prison camp and let Russia get “stronger and stronger.”  He also cited completely false statistics on these subjects.
Trump is desperately trying to turn the public's focus from the investigation into his campaign's connections to Russia. What better target than a worldwide, respected leader and diplomat who won the Nobel Prize for peace.

Sunday, March 05, 2017

Former WH press secretary on Trump: 'The bigger the scandal, the more outrageous the tweet'

 Mar 5th 2017 
Former White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest has offered his own explanation for President Trump's controversial tweet claiming that he had been wiretapped by his predecessor.

Earnest told ABC News' Martha Raddatz Sunday on 'This Week,' "We know exactly why President Trump tweeted what he tweeted. Because there is one page in the Trump White House crisis management playbook. And that is simply to tweet or say something outrageous to distract from the scandal, and the bigger the scandal, the more outrageous the tweet."

He also explained that Obama could not have ordered a wiretap because, in his words, "The President of the United States does not have the authority to unilaterally order the wiretapping of an American citizen."

The discussion was prompted by a series of controversial tweets Trump posted Saturday, the first of which read, "Terrible! Just found out that Obama had my 'wires tapped' in Trump Tower just before the victory. Nothing found. This is McCarthyism!"

He also tweeted, "How low has President Obama gone to tapp my phones during the very sacred election process. This is Nixon/Watergate. Bad (or sick) guy!"

According to ABC News, "Trump offered no proof for his claims."

However, the White House has since said Trump is asking for an investigation "to determine whether executive branch investigative powers were abused in 2016."

Meanwhile, Obama has denied any such activity, with his spokesman Kevin Lewis saying in a statement, "...neither President Obama nor any White House official ever ordered surveillance on any U.S. citizen. Any suggestion otherwise is simply false."

Mr. Humble sitting in for 'The Genie'

Nice  trunk (smiling)

Thursday, March 02, 2017

Trump Tracker ... How's he doing so far

Donald Trump came into office promising to change the face of American politics and transfer power "back to the people". WELL ??? Since Mr Trump has no confidence in American journalists or American polls, The BBC, the globally respected British media company  is conducting it's own analysis and polls.

After four weeks in the White House, he said "incredible progress" had been made, having signed some two dozen executive actions and put his signature to several bills. He also fired his scandal-hit national security adviser and an acting attorney general, who defied his seven-nation travel ban, which later suffered an appeals court defeat.
So what has President Trump achieved so far? In the weeks and months to come, we'll be tracking the progress he makes on his agenda and how it is received by the American public.

What executive actions has Trump taken?
One way President Trump is able to exercise political power is through unilateral executive orders and memoranda, which allow him to bypass the legislative process in Congress in certain policy areas.
While it may appear that President Trump has been signing executive actions at an unprecedented rate, he has signed less than President Obama did during the same period in office.

Chart showing the number of executive orders signed by President Trump compared to President Obama

Mr Trump has used many of these actions to deliver on some of his campaign promises, but many of his promises cannot be fulfilled by executive action alone.
For example, his first executive order was designed to limit the effect of the Affordable Care Act, better known as Obamacare, but his promise of repealing and replacing it can only be enacted by Congress.

How are his approval ratings?
When Mr Trump took the oath of office on the 20th of January he did so with the lowest approval rating of any incoming president.
He dismissed those polls as "rigged" but the strength of the opposition to him was evident when hundreds of thousands of people took to the streets the day after his inauguration.
Most presidents begin their term with strong approval numbers, but President Trump has bucked that trend. While both George W Bush and Barack Obama were enjoying approval numbers in the 60s after one month in office, Mr Trump is around the 40% mark.

Graphic showing the approval ratings of the last four US presidents after they had been in office for one month

Mr Trump won the election with low approval numbers so it's unsurprising they're still low, but the scandal over his team's contacts with Russia and his controversial travel ban have kept them falling.
Do the numbers matter? Maybe not, for now. Republicans control both the House and Senate so in theory he can pursue his legislative agenda without worrying about his ratings - as long as he keeps his Republican colleagues on side.
But if his ratings stay low or fall further, expect some dissenting voices to emerge in the party as Republicans start to worry about midterm elections in 2018.
For now though, there are signs that many of Mr Trump's supporters are happy with his progress, although others would hardly call it that.

How is the economy faring under Trump?
When Barack Obama became president in 2009, the US was in the midst of its worst recession since the 1930s, with the economy shedding 800,000 jobs in his first month. But after a few dips later that year, the US economy saw its longest ever period of job creation. In total, 11.3 million jobs were created under President Obama.
President Trump, however, described the economy as a "mess" and said he had "inherited many problems".

Chart showing the number of jobs lost or created in the US since 2005

President Obama and the tale of US jobs:
During the campaign, Mr Trump vowed to create 25 million jobs over 10 years and become "the greatest jobs president... ever".
He also accused Mexico and China of stealing millions of jobs and vowed to "bring our jobs home". But research suggests most of the manufacturing jobs that America has shed in recent years have been lost to increased automation at factories, rather than companies moving abroad.
We'll be keeping track of the monthly jobs report to see what progress he makes and we'll also be paying close attention to the manufacturing industry.
In the short term, however, President Trump has cited the stock market as a sign that his policies are already having an effect on the economy, saying there has been a "tremendous surge of optimism in the business world".

Chart showing how the S&P 500 has fared since Donald Trump won the election

The Dow, S&P, 500 and Nasdaq indexes all closed at record highs on 15 February in a partial sign at least that investors were encouraged by Mr Trump's planned infrastructure projects, deregulation and tax cuts. But the president will need to avoid the backlash that followed his ban on immigrants coming into the US from seven mainly Muslim countries if he wants the stock market to continue hitting new highs.
All of the three major indexes fell slightly after Mr Trump's controversial executive order caused protests at airports across the country - and Silicon Valley lashed out at the president as well.

Has Trump moved to cut illegal immigration?
Immigration was President Trump's signature issue during the election campaign and he has signed a number of executive orders designed to fulfil his promises.
One of his first orders declared that the US would build a "physical wall" or similar "impassable physical barrier" - to the delight of all of those Americans who spent 2016 chanting: "Build the wall!"
It remains to be seen how Mr Trump will pay it, although he has repeatedly insisted that the US will recoup the costs from the Mexican government, despite their leaders saying otherwise.
There is already some 650 miles of fencing along the border, but we'll monitor what progress President Trump makes in turning it into what he has called the "Great Wall".

Tweet by Donald Trump

Mr Trump used another order on border security to say 10,000 more immigration officers would be hired to track down illegal immigrants. But this will be a long process and newly appointed Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly said it was unlikely to happen "within the next couple of years".
The new president's talk of a crackdown on illegal immigrants makes it sound as if they had an easy ride under President Obama, but there is plenty of evidence to suggest the opposite is true.
Between 2009 and 2015, the Obama administration deported more than 2.5 million people - most of whom had been convicted of some form of criminal offence or were recent arrivals - leading some to label President Obama the "deporter-in-chief".

Chart show the number of illegal immigrants being deported from the US

While President Trump is yet to change US immigration laws, he did sign two memos on 20 February that instructed immigration officers to take a much tougher approach towards enforcing existing measures.  The new policy is so broad as to include just about every class of undocumented immigrant - more than 11 million by most estimates.
White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer said Mr Trump "wanted to take the shackles off" immigration officials but insisted the move would not mean mass deportations.
The Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency has launched a series of raids across the country since Mr Trump was elected, but it's still too early to say if deportation arrests have increased.

What has been done on healthcare?
Healthcare was an early test for President Trump and the Republican Party. President Obama's Affordable Care Act helped more than 20 million previously-uninsured Americans to finally get health cover - but Mr Trump said he would act quickly to "repeal and replace" it.  While the Republican-controlled Congress has started efforts to repeal what's known as Obamacare, it is still unclear whether they will try to replace it completely or just repair elements of it.

Chart showing how the number of Americans without health insurance in the US fell under President Obama

The scheme has faced several problems along the way and premium hikes in 2016 helped the Republicans frame it as a failure during the election campaign.
But a report by the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office found that 18 million people could lose their insurance within a year if Congress repealed parts of it without having a new system in place.
Senior Republicans have said legislation to replace it will be unveiled in March but several recent polls have suggested that support for Obama's ACA is actually growing.

Wednesday, March 01, 2017

Earliest evidence of life on earth found in Quebec

One of the earliest living organisms
Ancient life: These clumps of iron and filaments show similarities to modern microbes

Scientists have discovered what they say could be fossils of some of the earliest living organisms on Earth. They are represented by tiny filaments, knobs and tubes in Canadian rocks dated to be up to 4.28 billion years old. That is a time not long after the planet's formation and hundreds of millions of years before what is currently accepted as evidence for the most ancient life yet found on Earth.

The researchers report their investigation in the journal Nature. As with all such claims about ancient life, the study is contentious. But the team believes it can answer any doubts. The scientists' putative microbes from Quebec are one-tenth the width of a human hair and contain significant quantities of haematite - a form of iron oxide or "rust".
Matthew Dodd, who analyzed the structures at University College London, UK, claimed the discovery would shed new light on the origins of life.
"This discovery answers the biggest questions mankind has asked itself - which are: where do we come from and why we are here?

Nuvvuagittuq Supracrustal Belt, Qu├ębec, Canada.
Image caption This bright red "concretion" of iron-and silica-rich rock contains the features interpreted as microfossils

"It is very humbling to have the oldest known lifeforms in your hands and being able to look at them and analyze them," he said.
The fossil structures were encased in quartz layers in the so-called Nuvvuagittuq Supracrustal Belt (NSB).  The NSB is a chunk of ancient ocean floor. It contains some of the oldest volcanic and sedimentary rocks known to science.


The team looked at sections of rock that were likely laid down in a system of hydrothermal vents - fissures on the seabed from which heated, mineral-rich waters spew up from below.
Today, such vents are known to be important habitats for microbes. And Dr Dominic Papineau, also from UCL, who discovered the fossils in Quebec, thinks this kind of setting was very probably also the cradle for lifeforms between 3.77 and 4.28 billion years ago (the upper and lower age estimates for the NSB rocks).
He described how he felt when he realized the significance of the material on which he was working: "I thought to myself  'we've got it, we've got the oldest fossils on the planet'.
"It relates to our origins. For intelligent life to evolve to a level of consciousness, to a point where it traces back its history to understand its own origin - that's inspirational."

Image caption Iron-rich tubes from the Quebec rocks provide additional evidence for life

Any claim for the earliest life on Earth attracts scepticism. That is understandable. It is often hard to prove that certain structures could not also have been produced by non-biological processes.  In addition, analysis is complicated because the rocks in question have often undergone alteration. The NSB, for example, has been squeezed and heated through geological time
At present, perhaps the oldest acknowledged evidence of life on the planet is found in 3.48-billion-year-old rocks in Western Australia. This material is said to show remnants of stromatolites - mounds of sediment formed of mineral grains glued together by ancient bacteria.An even older claim for stromatolite traces was made in August last year. The team behind that finding said their fossil evidence was 3.70 billion years old.
Nonetheless, the UCL researchers and their colleagues say they have worked extremely hard to demonstrate the greater antiquity for their structures. Dr Papineau does concede though that the idea of metabolizing micro-organisms using oxygen so soon after the Earth's formation will surprise many geologists.
"They would not consider that there were organisms breathing oxygen at this time. It brings back the production of oxygen on the Earth's surface, albeit by tiny amounts, to the beginning of the sedimentary record," he said.
Prof Nicola McLoughlin from Rhodes University, South Africa ( not involved in the study) said the maximum age of the rocks had proven to be very controversial, and that the true age was more likely to be closer to the 3.77-billion-year age.  Part of the interest in ancient life is in the implication it has for organisms elsewhere in the Solar System.

Hydrothermal Vents
Thermal vents in the sea bed

"These (NTB) organisms come from a time when we believe Mars had liquid water on its surface and a similar atmosphere to Earth at that time," said Mr Dodd.
"So, if we have lifeforms originating and evolving on Earth at this time then we may very well have had life beginning on Mars."

If that is the case then, according to Dr Papineau, recent Nasa rover missions to the Martian surface may have been looking for signs of life in the wrong places. He said that the Mars Exploration Rovers (MER), Spirit and Opportunity, and the more recent Curiosity robot mission had overlooked areas that might have had rocks produced by hydrothermal vents.
"On the surface of Mars there have been missed opportunities. The MER Opportunity in 2003 found promising formations but there was no analysis. And the Spirit rover went straight past another near the Comanche outcrop in Gusev crater."

The suggestion that life had already arisen "just" a few hundred million years after the Earth had formed is intriguing in light of debates about whether life on Earth was a rare accident or whether biology is a common outcome given the right conditions.

Laser reveals true image of Dinosaur

Anchiornis: A feathered dinosaur from China

A dinosaur that lived 160 million years ago had drumstick-shaped legs much like living birds, according to paleontologists. The feathered dinosaur also had bird-like arms similar to wings. Scientists used high-powered lasers to reveal invisible details of what the creature looked like.
The research could give insights into the origins of flight, which is thought to have evolved more than 150 million years ago. Michael Pittman of the University of Hong Kong said the study was a landmark in our understanding of the origins of birds.
"In this study, what we've done is we've used high-powered lasers to reveal unseen soft tissues preserved alongside the bones of a feathered dinosaur called Anchiornis," he said.

Studies of nine Anchiornis specimens reveal the accurate body outline of the bird-like dinosaur

The research team used laser-stimulated fluorescence imaging, a technique that reveals soft tissue details that are unseen under visible light. The method involves sweeping laser light across a specimen while taking long-exposure photos with a camera.

The wing of the dinosaur
Wing of the dinosaur

Dr Stephen Brusatte of the University of Edinburgh, who was not connected with the research, said the study produced striking evidence of just how bird-like these dinosaurs were.
"This study uses high-powered lasers to generate the single best look at the wings and body outline of a dinosaur ever," he told the BBC News website.
"The laser images show that this non-bird dinosaur had wings that were remarkably similar to those of living birds, down to the soft tissues."
Anchiornis is Greek for "almost bird".
The dinosaur lived in China during the late Jurassic Period, around the time when the first true birds are thought to have appeared. The creature had feathers and seems to have been black with white stripes and displayed a distinctive orange feather crest on the crown of its head. It is not clear whether Anchiornis could fly or glide.
The research is published in the journal Nature Communications.