News Roundup (Week of Jan. 15-21, 2017)

news roundup, current events

Hello, readers! This week I did my best to find many of the most important stories this week. This News Roundup is more complete. Let’s get into it.


Following is the text I include at the beginning of each News Roundup Post.

Table of Contents

Here are the stories I have curated for this week:

International

  • Mideast Peace Talks
  • Brexit Plan
  • Syria Update
  • S. Action in Libya
  • New Gambian President
  • Women’s Marches

National

  • Trump Update (Featured Story: Including Cabinet Picks, Press Policy)
  • Prescription Drug Bill
  • Chelsea Manning Clemency

Regional

  • California Drought
  • Zuckerberg

Internet & Tech

  • Neo-Nazi Mess

Entertainment

  • NFL News
  • World Football News

Commentary: The Time to Act

Want to Contribute?

Social Media Links


In International News …

The week started off with peace talks in Paris and ended with protests.

The Mideast Peace Talks Were Held on Jan. 15.

On Sunday, Jan. 15, 2017, 70 countries (including the five permanent members of the U.N. Security Council) met in Paris, France in an effort to restart peace talks between Israel and the Palestinians. Most of the delegates agreed to a communiqué, the commitment to a two-state solution. And most parties agreed that neither side should take unilateral actions.

Peace talks between the two sides had stalled in April 2014 and have not been resumed since. At the heart of the talks was the issue of Jerusalem. The Palestinians look to East Jerusalem to become their capital should they form their own country, but the Israelis see the whole of Jerusalem as their capital.

French President François Hollande hosted the event and stressed its importance. He believes that the rest of the Middle East is threatened by the absence of a two-state solution for Israel and Palestine. He believes that a solution must be found in order to effectively deal with ISIS.

Attendees

There were 74 delegations in all. Among the attendees:

  • 36 foreign ministers, which included French Foreign Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault, Germany’s foreign minister, Frank-Walter Steinmeier and Foreign ministers from Italy, the Netherlands, Poland, Portugal, Turkey, and Sweden.
  • The British delegation, which included Michael Howells, a diplomat who heads the Middle East desk at the Foreign office. There were also two advisers to the UK ambassador to France, Edward Llewellyn.
  • Ahmed About-Gheit, the secretary of the Arab League
  • The EU foreign affairs representative, Federica Mogherini.

Neither side of the conflict — the Israelis or the Palestinians — had a seat at the table for the Paris Peace summit, but the Palestinians were watching intently. Mahmoud Abbas would meet with Francois Hollande on Monday to be briefed on the proceedings of the meeting.

It should be noted that the U.K. only attended the summit in “an observer status.” It was very noncommittal about the resolution and the Foreign Office questioned why a peace summit would not include the two parties concerned.

The British government sent its junior delegation to the French peace summit. Most of the EU countries sent a foreign minister to the summit, but the Brits withheld their Foreign Office minister and U.K. ambassador to France.

The move might signal future diplomatic priorities, which will include a closeness to Trump’s administration. Since the U.K. is expected to live the EU within two years, its relationship with the United States is even more critical.

The Summit was attended by outgoing Secretary of State John Kerry, who travelled from Vietnam to make the meeting.

The moves by the U.S. last week were an effort by the Obama Administration to save the peace process from the unpredictable Trump.

Bibi’s Response

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu refused to attend to summit. He said the talks were “rigged.”

Quote from BiBi: “This conference is a fraud, a Palestinian scam under French auspices, whose goal is to lead to the adoption of additional anti-Israel positions.” This was said at the beginning of a meeting with Børg Brende (the Norwegian Foreign Minister) on Thursday, Jan. 12, 2017.

Bibi also said, “This pushes peace backwards. It’s not going to obligate us. It’s a relic of the past. It’s a last gasp of the past before the future sets in.” Netanyahu was definitely referencing the inauguration of Trump on the 20th.

Netanyahu has also said that he wants no foreign involvement in the peace process and the conflict can only be solved through direct talks.

Israel was fearful that any talks could lead to another U.N. resolution ahead of Trump’s arrival to Washington.

There are increased tensions since the 14-0 resolution on Dec. 23, 2016 to condemn the Israeli settlements. The U.S. abstained from voting and did not use its veto power on the vote.

Complicating matters is Donald Trump’s promise to move the U.S. Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas has said such a move would destroy the possibility of any future peace talks with Israel.

Netanyahu is betting on a pro-Israel U.S. now that Trump is in office. Trump has said he supports the Israeli settlements.

May Unveiled Her Brexit Plan.

British Prime Minister Theresa May revealed her plan for Brexit on Tuesday: It would involve a new trade deal. May plans to officially inform the E.U. of the U.K.’s planned departure from the union in March, which would set off a two-year process.

The exit will have serious implications for the United Kingdom. Right now, it enjoys a tariff-free exchange with EU countries; after the exit, the U.K. will be taxed for trade with the EU like another other non-member would. This will inevitably raise costs.

Also, the U.K. will have to renegotiate trade deals with 50 other countries. These include Canada and South Korea, which are already working out trade deals with the EU.

Jihadists Are Hit in Syria As Russia, Others Prepare for Peace Talks.

Around 140 militants were killed by air strikes in Syria, according to reports. And preparations were made for the peace talks in Syria, scheduled to take place on Monday, Jan. 3.

Air Strikes

Air strikes hit the Sheik Sulaiman camp, which once served as the headquarters of the U.S.-backed Hazm Movement, which is now defunct.

It was reported that at least 40 jihadists were killed in airstrikes aimed at a training camp in western Aleppo last week. Most of those killed were said to be from Jabhat Fateh al-Sham, a group excluded from the peace talks. It isn’t clear who hit the camp (among the Russians, Syrians, or the U.S.-led coalition).

JFS was known as al-Nusra Front and supposedly broke off with al-Qaida in July. JFS and ISIS are not covered by the ceasefire declared in late 2016.

According to unconfirmed reports, three members of Nour al-Din a-Zinki (a group that has aligned itself with JFS) were killed, as well. This group will also be excluded from the peace talks.

The peace talks will commence because the ceasefire has largely held. There is action along several battlefronts, including in the Wadi Barada region, which is north-west of the Syrian capital Damascus.

The Pentagon reported that a military air strike in north-western Syria killed more than 100 al-Qaida militants at a training camp on Thursday. The camp was in Idlib province and it had been in operation since 2013. A B-52 bomber and a number of drones were involved in the attack.

Peace Conference

The talks took place today in Astana, Kazakhstan. The meeting was attended by Russia, Turkey, and Iran. The U.N. planned to send its Syrian envoy Staffan de Mistura. This was the first time peace Syrian talks have commenced since they broke up in Geneva in April 2016.

The United States did not send a delegation to the Syrian peace talks in Astana, Kazakhstan, citing the inauguration and transition of power. Instead, the U.S. Ambassador to Kazakhstan will attend the meeting as an observer.

The acting State Department spokesman, Mark Toner, said, “The United States is committed to a political resolution to the Syrian crisis through a Syrian-owned process, which can bring about a more representative, peaceful, and united Syria.”

John Kerry urged the Trump operation to attend the peace talks. He also said he hoped the talks in Astana would be a springboard to restart peace talks in Geneva, Switzerland and not serve as a substitute.

Russia also encouraged U.S. participation but Iran was opposed to it.

US Air Strike Kill More Than 80 Militants in Libya.

On Thursday, the United States reported that recent air strikes had taken out more than 80 Islamic State militants at camps 28 miles (45 km) southwest of Sirte, Libya. The strikes were led by two B-2 bombers, which dropped 100 precision-guided bombs over the camps on Wednesday.

According to (outgoing) Defense Secretary Ash, Carter, the militants were plotting attacks in Europe and may have been behind recent attacks in European countries.

Sirte was once a stronghold for the militant group that is based in Iraq and Syria. Sirte was captured by IS in early 2015. For a time, Sirte served as IS’s more important base. It was used for recruitment and the group expanded from there to control much of Libya’s Mediterranean coastline.

The Libyan government (the U.N.-backed Government of National Accord, or GNA for short) was able to rest the city from IS in early December after a seven-month battle. Between August and December 2016, the U.S. carried out nearly 500 air strikes against IS targets in Sirte. But hundreds of IS operatives may have escaped.

The air strikes were preemptive to prevent IS from regrouping. The strikes also served the purpose of protecting the GNA’s oil production from militant action.

The GNA had strong backing from the Obama Administration. But it has little support within Libya and is struggling to calm things down in the country since Muammar Gaddafi was overthrown in 2011. NATA helped to overthrow Gaddafi.

There Is a New Gambian President.

Adama Barrow was chosen as The Gambia’s new president in a Dec. 1, 2016 election. On Thursday, he took his oath at the Gambian embassy in Senegal.

In his inauguration speech, Barrow expressed he desired support from West Africa’s ECOWAS bloc, the African Union, and the United Nations.

Before Borrow could return to the Gambia, the country’s long-time leader, Yahya Jammeh, needed to be convinced to leave his post. He initially accepted the election results but later said the vote was flawed. Jammeh has been in power since a 1994 coup.

A regional military force was told to withhold an intervention effort (called Operation Restore Democracy) to forcibly remove Jammeh to give local leaders the opportunity to convince him to leave. The force is made up of 7,000 troops from Senegal, Nigeria, Ghana, Togo, and Mali. Jammeh had until Friday to leave, but which the force would continue the operation. The operation had support of the U.N. Security Council and the United States.

Marcel de Souza is the president of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS). De Souza said the military operation ended with Jammeh’s removal. However, some forces will stay behind to ensure security.

Jammeh left office peacefully after speaking with the presidents of Guinea and Mauritania. He was the first president to peacefully hand over power since the Gambian won independence from Great Britain in 1965. Jammeh is expected to travel to Guinea then to exile in Equatorial Guinea.

Jammeh’s dictatorship was marked with human rights abuses and he was known to stifle dissent. Barrow said he will start an investigation into the human rights abuses of the former president.

Women’s Marches Were Held Around the World.

According to reports, Women’s Marches were planned in a total of 66 countries around the world. A total of 1.3 million people were initially estimated to be in attendance.

Starting in Washington, D.C.

The Women’s March on Washington — open for a diverse ground of people, regardless of age, ethnicity, political affiliation, and gender — occurred on Jan. 21, 2017, a day after Donald Trump’s inauguration. Over 600 marches were held worldwide. About 300 of those marches were planned in other cities across the U.S., from Seattle, WA, to New York.

The Women’s March Los Angeles began at Pershing Square at 10am Saturday and the route took marchers to City Hall in Los Angeles. The march lasted until 4 pm and the organizers reported that 750,000 joined in. Police said that there were 100,000 marchers, but the Metro area in L.A. reached capacity.

The purpose of the marches was to bring attention to women’s rights issues since it is widely expected that the Trump Administration will at least threaten them. Also at issue is what Trump and his team plan to do with various human rights and social issues, including health care.

An Saturday, Trump already got to work by signing an executive order aimed at repealing the Affordable Care Act.

The organizers of the Washington, D.C. event originally filed for a permit to allow for 200,000 protestors. However, the organizers said they expected as many as 500,000 people to attend.

The planned route would take protestors to the Washington Mall and the White House. But since there were so many people involved, the march to the White House as all but scrapped.

Around the World

About 670 marches were planned for Jan. 21. The expected number of protesters was estimated to be about 2 million.

Anti-Trump rallies took place in cities around the world, including:

  • Sydney and Melbourne in Australia
  • Auckland, New Zealand
  • Bangkok
  • Tokyo, Japan
  • London, Leeds, Liverpool, Manchester, and Bristol in England
  • Edinburgh, Scotland
  • Belfast, Northern Ireland
  • Barcelona, Spain
  • Rome, Italy
  • Amsterdam in the Netherlands
  • Geneva, Switzerland
  • Budapest, Hungary
  • Prague, Czech Republic
  • Berlin, Germany

Between 80,000 and 100,000 people were said to have taken part in a London rally.

The protests in Europe and Asia were ahead of the Women’s March on Washington to be held in Washington, D.C. on Saturday, January 21, 2017.

Protests were also held in Vienna, Austria. As many as 2,000 people were estimated to be seen marching there before the sub-zero temperatures.

There were hundreds of protesters in Nairobi’s Karura Forest.

About 3,000 people marched in Hyde Park in Sydney, Australia. About 5,000 people marched in Melbourne, Australia.

There was also a march in Wellington, New Zealand. About 2,000 people marched in four NZ cities.

In Canada, there were 26,000 people registered to attend sister marches in 31 locations.

There was also a protest in Antarctica! A group on expedition started a website to explain their reasons for protesting

Link to tweet from linda zunas: https://twitter.com/lindazunas/status/822755350818549761

Link to tweet from Women’s March Global: https://twitter.com/WM_Global/status/822269801892552710

Canadians Who Could Not Protest

On Thursday, Canadians were stopped at the U.S.-Canadian border.

One group of five Canadians and two French nationals was turned away. One traveler said that he and the people in the carpool were held by U.S. border officials at the Lacolle border crossing for two hours. During that time, the travelers were searched, told to unlock their phones, and then turned away.

Another person was a student traveling with his partner and a friend. The student said his group was turned away after being asked whether they supported or opposed Trump.


In National News …

As Trump settles in the Oval Office, he can legally have his son-in-law, David Kuschner, as a White House advisor. This new administration is still plagued with many ethics concerns and acrimony, inside and out.

This is going to be a rough 4 years …

The Transfer of Power Is Complete.

During his inauguration speech on Friday, Trump stressed an “America First” theme. Some observers said his speech was angry, primal, and those who support him love the tone of the speech.

After making an appearance at a Cathedral, Trump visited the CIA headquarters in Langley, VA. Although he disputed multiple claims from the agency that Russia hacked the 2016 U.S. election, Trump came away from the meeting expressing the importance of the CIA.

He also took the time to sign his first orders as president.

About That Inauguration…

Much has been made of Trump’s inauguration. For one thing, multiple outlets compared the size of the crowds from 2009 and 2017, as well as the photos signifying the transfer of power.

In an interactive on the BBC News website, visitors can take a look at the differences between the 2009 and 2017 inaugurations. There is a view of the crowds on the Washington Mall, the couples at the center of the transfer of power, and the swearing-in ceremonies. What is especially noted are the differences in crowds from eight years ago. President Obama had bigger crowds, include those who stood outside the boundaries.

On Saturday, Trump desputed the size of the crowds at his inauguration, despite photographic evidence to the contrary. News outlets estimated that as few as 250,000 people were in attendance, but he insisted that there were as many as a million and a half people.

On a serious note, more than 200 people were arrested and six were injured on Friday during Trump’s inauguration. Windows were smashed and a limousine was set on fire.

Where Are His Hats Made?

As part of his inauguration speech, Trump said:

From this moment on, it’s going to be America First. We will follow two simple rules: Buy American and hire American.

However, it turns out his famous “Make America Great Again” red hats sold by street vendors are made in three Asian countries: Bangladesh, China, and Vietnam.

The hats sold on his official website, which cost between $25 and $30, have tags that say they are made in America.

First Orders

Trump signed his first orders as president.

He signed a waver to allow former Gen. James Mattis to serve in his cabinet as defense secretary. Mattis was confirmed by the Senate and sworn in by Vice President Mike Pence.

Trump also signed an order for all government agencies to freeze regulations.

Affordable Care Act

In addition, Trump signed an order to begin the process to repeal the Affordable Care Act. According to some of the language, order allows the federal government to “waive, defer, grant exemptions from, or delay the implementation” of provisions imposed on states, companies, and individuals. States are supposedly given “a free and open market in interstate commerce for the offering of healthcare services and health insurance.”

Without knowing the full details, it is possible that the order could have barred Americans from being fined for failing to choose health plans each year. But it is also possible that health care providers could be shielded from penalty for refusing to pay for maternity care and mental care.

It should be known that the Republicans in Congress have no replacement for the ACA, also called Obamacare (although they had 8 years to come up with an alternative). If the law is weakened or repealed, at least 18 million Americans could lose coverage by 2018, according to estimates from the Congressional Budget Office. By 2026, the number could skyrocket to 32 million Americans.

Proposed Budget Cuts

Trump’s team is proposing dramatic cuts to the U.S. budget. Congress has to set the budget, but the proposed cuts are said to reduce federal spending by $10.5 trillion over the next 10 years.

If one looks at the issues listed on the revamped White House website, they will be given a primary look at the areas where his team wants to make cuts: Energy, Foreign Policy, Jobs and Growth, Military, Law Enforcement, and Trade Deals. Those are only six issues and there is no mention of social issues (like LGBT rights and civil rights), health care, and climate change.

Departments whose funding Trump’s team wants to cut are below.

  • Commerce
  • Energy
  • Rolling back the funding for nuclear physics and advanced scientific computing to 2008 levels
    • Eliminating the Office of Electricity
    • Eliminating the Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy
    • Getting rid of the Office of Fossil Energy (which focuses on technologies to reduce CO2 emissions)
  • Transportation
  • Justice
    • Eliminating the Office of Community Oriented Policing Services
    • Eliminating the Violence Against Women Grants
    • Eliminating the Legal Services Corporation
    • Reducing the funding for the Civil Rights and Environment Division
    • Reducing the funding for the Natural Resources Division
  • State
    • Eliminating the Overseas Private Investment Corporation
    • Ignoring the Paris Climate Change Agreement
    • Ignoring the United Nation’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change

Programs Trump’s team wants to cut:

  • National Endowment for the Arts
  • National Endowment for the Humanities
  • Corporation from Public Broadcasting
  • The Minority Business Development Agency
  • The Economic Development Administration
  • The International Trade Administration
  • The Manufacturing Extension Partnership

Cuts from the last four programs would amount to $900 million in savings for the fiscal year 2017.

The proposed cuts are supported by conservatives. The Heritage foundation — a conservative think tank which helped to staff Trump’s transition team — laid the blueprint for the cuts. The Republican Study Committee — a caucus that represents most Republicans in the House — also pointed to specific cuts being proposed in its 2017 budget.

Russ Vought and John Gray are two members of the Trump transition team who are responsible for helping to develop a “skinny budget,” which should be 175-200 pages long. Both of the men once worked for the Heritage Foundation and are expected to complete the document by Trump’s 45th day in office. The full budget will be laid out in his first 100 days.

Cabinet

On Friday, the Senate confirmed James Mattis to lead the Pentagon by a 98-1 vote. Retired Marine Corps Capt. John F. Kelly was confirmed as the director of the Homeland Security Dept. by an 88-11 vote.

Eleven Democrats voted against Kelly’s nomination because he had not convinced him that he differed on some of Trump’s harshest immigration policies. Trump has said he would rescind some of Obama’s executive orders regarding immigration, which included the order to allow those who illegally immigrated to the United States as children but have otherwise become productive members of U.S. society.

By an 89-8 vote, Senate voted to allow a full vote on Mike Pompeo’s nomination to direct the Central Intelligence Agency.

The Republicans wanted to confirm 7 officials on Friday, but the Democrats blocked other votes because they said the nominees were not forthcoming with financial documents and any ethics concerns.

As it turns out, John Kelly had failed to disclose positions he held with defense contractors. He was once listed as the vice chairman of the Spectrum Group, which is a defense contractor lobbying firm. He also failed to disclose his board memberships with Michael Baker International and Sallyport Global. Both contractors do business with the U.S. government.

Some other nominees have gotten a harsh blowback from Democrats. Nancy DeVos, Trump’s pick for the Secretary of Education, was grilled for 3 ½ hours during her confirmation hearing last week. (She was also grilled by Twitter users for a grammatical error.)

Press Policy

On Sunday, Jan. 15, Trump’s team said it could move the White House press briefing room from the West Wing to another location. The two candidates for relocation would be the White House Conference Center or the Old Executive Office Building.

The reasoning for a change is to allow for more press from across the country and around the world, since the current press room has only 49 seats. But the current press also room has work stations, broadcast booths.

Part of the potential plan was revealed by Trump’s Chief of Staff, Reince Priebus, during his visit to ABC’s This Week. But he and Mike Pence said no decision had yet been made.

Members of the press are worried that this might be a punitive move and/or a strategic one to reduce their access to Trump and senior members of his team. The press room in the West Wing is a few steps from the Oval Office.

The Real Purpose?

However, one senior official said it would have a punitive purpose.

They are the opposition party. I want ‘em out of the building. We are taking back the press room.

As has been discussed during the 2016 election, Trump banned certain media outlets, including The New York Times and The Washington Post, from his rallies based on their stories on him. He might be limiting access to outlets who don’t remain positive towards him or his administration.

He only recently held a press conference since the Nov. 8 election, during which he railed against the press for going with an unconfirmed story involving him and Russia.

Trump has called out individual reporters, while at the podium and on Twitter. Speaking of the social media site, Trump insists he will keep using it because “it’s my only way that I can counteract” negative and otherwise unfavorable press.

New Plan

Trump eventually scrapped a plan to move the White House Press room. However, he said he instructed his team to choose who would have access to the press room.

While talking to FOX & Friends on Wednesday, Trump said that the press would soon want a larger room.

Seating assignments for members of the press in the West Wing have long been decided through the White House Correspondents Association (WHCA). Jeff Mason is a Reuters White House correspondent and the president of the WHCA. Mason said that both Republicans and Democrats implored the WHCA to determine seating because they were worried about the appearance of favoritism.

In a talk with Trump’s press secretary, Sean Spicer, Mason made it clear that such a move would be a direct threat to transparency.

One of Sanders’ Prescription Drug Bills Was Defeated in the Senate.

On Tuesday, Bernie Sanders announced that he planned to introduce a bill in Congress to allow the United States negotiate drug prices through Medicare. His bill would also allow the U.S. to purchase cheap pharmaceuticals from Canada and other countries.

Sanders, along with Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), had already introduced a bill to allow individuals to import prescription drugs from Canada. However, that bill was defeated in the Senate. The bill received the support of 12 Republicans, but 13 Democrats voted against it.

Needless to say, Sanders was disappointed in the Democratic Senators who voted against his bill.

Sanders pointed out the differences in drug prices in the U.S. and Canada. For example:

  • The EpiPen costs $620 in the U.S. ($290 in Canada)
  • A 90-day supply of Abilify costs $2,626 in the U.S. ($436 in Canada).

Dissenting Democrats

Bob Casey was one Democrat who voted against the bill. In two Twitter posts, he explained his reasoning.

Patty Murray and Maria Cantwell, Democratic Senators from Washington state, are facing criticism for failing to vote in favor of Sanders and Klobuchar’s bill.

In a statement, Murray said:

I strongly support allowing patients to re-import lower-cost prescription drugs from Canada, and I am committed to working with Senator Sanders and others to get this done in a way that maintains the safety assurances families depend on

Cantwell also brought up concerns about safety and the possibility that Americans could purchase counterfeit drugs.

Also joining the two WA senators in the vote against the bill was Democratic presidential hopeful Corey Booker, from New Jersey.

Many of those criticized the Democratic senators looked at campaign contributions from pharmaceutical companies. Booker has received $276,165. Murray has received a total of $515,089 in contributions and Cantwell was given a total of $74,750. Casey was received a total of $342,730.

Obama Granted Clemency for Chelsea Manning.

In one of his final acts as president, Barack Obama granted clemency to Chelsea Manning. Obama commuted the rest of the former Army private’s 35-year sentence. She will be released in May.

When she was known as Private Bradley Manning, she released over 750,000 classified military documents to WikiLeaks. Manning had access to those documents as an Army intelligence analyst. Among those documents Manning released were military combat reports from Iraq and Afghanistan and State Department cables. There was also a videotape showing members of the military purposely bombing civilians and members of the press.

Manning was arrested in Baghdad in 2010. She was convicted in 2013 for 22 Espionage Act and military violations.

After being sentenced, the former solider told authorities that she had gender dysphoria and wanted to be called Chelsea. In 2015, she was allowed access to hormone treatments and to wear female clothing. She was still stationed in a male’s prison (the U.S. Disciplinary Barracks at Fort Leavenworth, KS) and placed in solitary confinement. She complained of the lack of proper medical care, carried out a hunger strike, and tried to commit suicide on more than one occasion.

Obama said in a press conference he was compelled to let Manning go due to her mental state and the fact she did some time in prison. He also compared her situation to that of Snowden’s as a reason why he would not grant Snowden clemency for releasing NSA documents.

In total, Obama granted 1,385 commutations and 212 pardons as of Jan 17, including 209 and 64 on Tuesday.


In Regional News …

The drought in California might be over, but there might not be much relief for Mark Zuckerberg’s neighbors.

The California Drought Looks to Be Over, but There Should Be Caution.

In 2015, the state of California was asked by Gov. Jerry Brown to reduce public water consumption by 25% due to extreme drought conditions.

We expected a La Niña front in 2016, but it never came.

Experts were worried since snow packs in Northern California were at record lows. (That is important source of water for the rest of the state).

However, this year, plenty of rain has fallen throughout the state and more is expected.

Since many residents can see the lessening drought conditions, municipal water districts are enquiring about letting some drought rules expire. The State Water Resources Control Board is California’s chief drought regulator.

As it is already, 80% of districts are operating on relaxed rules. But the Water Resources Board members caution that conditions could dry up. The rules are set to expire in February. On the 7th, the board will vote on whether or not to extend the rules, at least for a few more months.

Mark Zuckerberg Is Suing Hawaii Residents for Their Land.

According to reports, Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg is suing residents in Hawaii in order to make his 700-acre beachfront property there more private. Zuckerberg’s property on the Island of Kauai is valued at $100 million (£81.2 million).

Zuckerberg is using the law to file “quiet title actions” against hundreds of residents through companies he owns.

Many of the residents the billionaire is suing may have ancestral rights to the land they live on. The 1850 Kuleana Act grants almost a dozen native families in Hawaii the right to live on sections of land within Zuckerberg’s property.

However, many of the owners of the land are dead and it may be difficult to trace ownership of some plots. Many of the kuleana lands have been split up as they were passed down through families. If there are any living heirs to specific plots of land, they would be allowed to join Zuckerberg’s action and receive value for their land.


In Internet and Tech News …

Words cannot express …

A Neo Nazi Was Exposed to His Followers.

Mike Peinovich is being ousted from his role on his website after it was revealed his actions don’t (completely) line up with his rhetoric. Peinovich, who used the Pseudonym Mike Enoch, founded the white nationalist website The Right Stuff. On his podcast, he made jokes about the Holocaust and regularly talked about murdering Jewish people.

Well, it turns out the New Yorker is married to a Jewish woman. Peinovich may have been doxxed to reveal this information, but it is incredibly shocking. (Does his wife know he has said online?)

Peinovich did not deny the information and told his followers not to make any excuses for him.

Many of his followers were devastated by the news.


In Entertainment News …

This is all about football.

Ryan Grigson Was Fired.

On Saturday, Indianapolis Colts owner Jim Irsay announced that he fired General Manager Ryan Grigson after the later served for five seasons with the team. The news comes despite the fact that Grigson was giving an extension through 2019 following a disappointing 2015 season.

When Grigson was hired in 2012, he oversaw a draft that brought the team QB Andrew Luck as the first overall pick, following the departure of Peyton Manning. The Colts enjoyed three consecutive division championships before going 8-8 for two consecutive seasons.

Grigson failed to draft well after that season and may have been worse finding free agents. He did not give his starting QB offensive line help up front and Grigson traded a first rounder for Trent Richardson in 2013. That trade was the worst the GM made.

There was also speculation that Chuck Pagano was also in danger of being fired. But Irsay put those rumors to rest by saying Pagano would still be with the team in 2017.

A few Colts players took to twitter to express their elation over the news, amid rumors that Grigson and Pagano did not get along.

Tweets from Pat McAfee:

Tweet from Jerrell Freeman:

Irsay is looking for Grigson’s replacement, and he might already be in the building. Jimmy Raye, the Colts’ president of football operations, has already interviewed with a couple of teams for their open GM positions. Raye worked closely with Grigson and head coach Chuck Pagano’s staff trusts Raye’s judgment.

Here’s Your World Football News.

Whether you call the sport soccer or football, here is some news about “The Beautiful Game” from the U.K. and Brazil.

Manchester City’s Doping Charges

The Premier League’s Manchester City football club has been charged by the Football Association in connection to player drug tests. The City is accused of thrice failing to give anti-doping officials accurate information concerning the whereabouts of players over a 12-month period.

There is no rule under which the World Anti-Doping Agency could charge a team for failing to give updated information about players’ whereabouts. But a team could be charge with a code of conduct violation Under FA rules.

Teams subject to the FA have to give updated information about players by 10 am Monday concerning:

  • The times each player trains (from start to finish).
  • Each player’s home address.
  • The places where each player regularly resides overnight.

The information is supposed to allow testers to show up for random drug tests.

Usually, a team with four or fewer players who fail to show up for drug tests is in the clear but if that team has five or more players who avoid drug tests, that team would have a strike against them. The players involved would also have strikes against them and 3 strikes in a year will lead to a ban.

Manchester City had until the 19th to contest the charge, but it was expected to argue that the discrepancies were due to administrative error. The team will not receive a strike but it might be fined £25,000 after the case is heard by a three-member disciplinary panel.

Last year, the UK Anti-Doping Agency tested 2000 athletes. That was roughly 170 a month and among those tested were those most likely to play. About a third of Premiere League athletes were skipped for testing.

World Cup Stadium Construction Death

A Thursday, a 40-year-old British Man fell to his death while working at the Khalifa International Stadium in Doha, Qatar. The man was standing on a suspended platform that was used to manage sound and lighting when that platform collapsed. The Man’s employer: South African subcontractor working for German firm.

According to Midmac-Six Construct, the man’s safety harness was cut during the fall. M-S C said a lever hoist supporting the platform failed, but did not know the underlying reasons why.

The Khalifa stadium is one that will be used for 2019 World Athletic Championships and the 2022 World Cup (up to the quarterfinals round). Construction is being done on Khalifa to increase the crowd capacity from 40K to 68K. The stadium is in the country’s capital city and it hosts the national team. In addition, Subways, hotels, roads, a new sewage system in Doha (the capital), 20 skyscrapers, and an airport are being built in preparation for the 2022 World Cup.

Poor Safety Record?

Labour’s shadow sports minister Rosena Allin-Khan Labor wants Fifa to investigate. She says “Fifa and the Qatari authorities are putting profit before safety.”

Amnesty International says:

  • It was concerned about conditions for those working on refurbishing stadium.
  • In 2016, accused Qatar of using forced labor.
  • This current incident is the second death reported by organizers related to Qatar stadium construction work in the last three months.
  • It must investigate safety measures.

The U.N.’s International Labor Organization is currently investigating Qatar’s record on workers’ rights. In November, and investigation was postponed until March of this year.

In 2015, there were reports that 1,200 workers had died while constructing buildings in Qatar for the 2022 World Cup.

Many of the information used by The Washington Times in an article entitled, “The Case Against Qatar,” came from the International Trades Union Confederation. However, the ITUC looked at all deaths of migrant workers in Qatar, including work accidents on non-construction jobs and heart attacks.

Chapecoense Update

Most of the Chapecoense team was killed in a plane crash in Columbia on Nov. 29, 2016. The Brazilian team was traveling to the final of the Copa Sudamericana. The team would have faced the Colombian club Atletico Nacional, which later agreed to give the bereaved team that championship.

On Saturday, the Chapecoense team hosted its first game since the crash. With 22 newly recruited teammates (most on loan), the Chapecoense took part in a friendly match against the Brazilian league champions, the Palmeiras, at Arena Conda stadium.

At the game were three survivors of the crash. Defenders Neto and Alan Ruschel and goalkeeper Jackson Follmann (who had his leg amputated) received the Copa Sudamericana before the game.


Commentary

A lot of us Americans are angry, for obvious reasons, but it there is one silver lining, it is this: Many of us who were asleep at the wheel during the last 8 years are now paying more attention to our government.

The last election cycle has revealed certain pundits to be hypocritical, untrustworthy, and corrupt. And this is true for people on both sides of the aisle.

This past week, I was disappointed to learn that 13 Democrats helped to kill the prescription drug bill, when there would have been enough votes for it to pass. Even Ted Freakin’ Cruz voted in favor of the bill, but Corey Booker did not.

Now, when I see things like the March on Washington, I am inspired by some of the things being said and the inclusiveness of the marches themselves. I see so much energy in older and younger Americans alike, but there needs to be a focus on the bigger picture.

For starters, we can hold our elected officials, regardless of party affiliation, to account. It starts by calling them and I know a group of lawmakers who need to be contacted right now.

Here’s a full list of Democratic Lawmakers who voted to kill Sanders’ Prescription Drug Bill (along with their Senate phone numbers):

  • Michael Bennett (CO; 202-224-5852
  • Cory Booker (NJ; 202-224-3224)
  • Maria Cantwell (WA; 202-224-3441)
  • Tom Carper (DE; 202-224-2441)
  • Bob Casey (PA; 202-224-6324)
  • Christopher Coons (DE- 202-224-6324)
  • Joe Donnelly (IN; 202-224-4814)
  • Martin Heinrich (NM; 202-224-5521)
  • Heidi Heitkamp (ND; 202-224-2043)
  • Bob Menendez (NJ; 202-224-4744)
  • Patty Murray (WA; 202-224-2621)
  • Jon Tester (MT; 202-224-2644)
  • Mark Warner (VA; 202-224-2023)

And we also need to get in touch with the republicans who want get rid of the ACA and privatize public entities. Stay tuned …


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