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National Govt & Politics
Говорит Москва: Democrats put focus on Russia, Trump
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Говорит Москва: Democrats put focus on Russia, Trump

Говорит Москва: Democrats put focus on Russia, Trump

Говорит Москва: Democrats put focus on Russia, Trump

Democrats in the U.S. House will try to send an unmistakable message to President Donald Trump on the issue of relations with Russia this week on Capitol Hill, bringing up a series of bills on the House floor dealing with Russia and Vladimir Putin, including a plan which demands the public release of any report by Special Counsel Robert Mueller on Russian interference in the 2016 elections.

"This transparency is a fundamental principle necessary to ensure that government remains accountable to the people," a series of key Democrats said about the resolution on the Mueller inquiry.

The Russian legislative blitz comes as Democrats on a series of House committees have stepped up their requests for information from the White House and the Trump Administration on issues related to the Russia investigation and the Mueller probe.

So far, Democrats say they aren't getting much in the way of help from the White House on any of their investigative efforts.

"It's like, zero," said House Oversight Committee Chairman Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-MD). "We can't get witnesses, they don't want us to talk to witnesses."

Among the Russia-related bills on the schedule this week in the House:

+ The "KREMLIN Act," a bipartisan bill which would require the Director of National Intelligence - already reportedly in hot water with the President for saying that North Korea probably wouldn't give up its nuclear arsenal - to submit to Congress a new round of intelligence assessments on Russia and its leaders. "The Kremlin’s efforts to sabotage our democracy and those of our allies across Europe are undeniable," said Rep. Raja Krishnamoorthi (D-IL), who has sponsored this bill with fellow Intelligence Committee member Rep. Chris Stewart (R-UT). 

Earlier this year, DNI Dan Coats said of Russia: "We assess that Moscow will continue pursuing a range of objectives to expand its reach, including undermining the US-led liberal international order, dividing Western political and security institutions, demonstrating Russia’s ability to shape global issues, and bolstering Putin’s domestic legitimacy."

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House

+ The Vladimir Putin Transparency Act, a bipartisan bill which again asks the U.S. Intelligence Community to weigh in with evidence about the Russian government, and expressing the sense of Congress 'that the United States should do more to expose the corruption of Vladimir Putin.'

"I am proud to cosponsor this bill which aims to identify Putin and his allies for who they are: nefarious political actors undermining democracies," said Rep. Elise Stefanik (R-NY), who teamed up with Rep. Val Demings (D-FL) on this measure.

"Some people HATE the fact that I got along well with President Putin of Russia," President Trump tweeted last July, after his controversial summit with Putin in Finland. "They would rather go to war than see this. It’s called Trump Derangement Syndrome!"

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Russia

+ A bipartisan bill to block any move by the U.S. Government to recognize the 2014 annexation of Crimea by Russia and Vladimir Putin. This is another measure meant to put public pressure on the President, who has been somewhat uneven in public statements on his feelings about Russia's move to take Crimea, as well as the ongoing proxy war being supported by Moscow in areas of eastern Ukraine, and how the U.S. should respond - even as his administration has leveled new economic sanctions against Moscow.

In November of 2018, the President canceled a scheduled meeting with Putin at the G20 Summit in Argentina, after Russian naval forces seized several Ukrainian ships and their crews.

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Trump

+ A bipartisan resolution calling for 'accountability and justice' surrounding the assassination of Russian activist Boris Nemtsov, who was shot and killed in Moscow in 2015. Lawmakers in both parties have urged the Trump Administration to sanction those involved in the murder, as the measure also calls for an international investigation into his death. "Boris Nemtsov had a vision for a democratic and free Russia. Sadly, that put him right in Putin’s cross hairs," said Rep. Eliot Engel (D-NY). This not just a House effort, as there is a companion bill in the Senate sponsored by Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL).

"Putin's media and surrogates called Boris Nemtsov an 'enemy of the people,'" said Michael McFaul, the U.S. Ambassador to Russia under President Obama, and a frequent critic of President Trump.

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Nemtsov

+ Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s report.  While the four previous legislative measures have bipartisan support, the final piece of this "Russia" week in the U.S. House might create a bit of a tussle on the floor of the House, as Democrats move to put GOP lawmakers on the record about whether they want to make any report from the Special Counsel public. 

Under the Special Counsel law, there is no guarantee that the Mueller report will ever see the light of day - the Special Counsel submits a report to the U.S. Attorney General - in this case, William Barr - who is then authorized to summarize that to Congress. 

That's different than back during the Monica Lewinsky scandal, when independent counsel Ken Starr was able to send Congress volumes and volumes of evidence - knowing that all of it would be made public.

In testimony before the Senate earlier this year, Barr did not expressly commit to releasing any report, saying "my goal will be to provide as much transparency as I can consistent with the law. I can assure you that, where judgments are to be made by me, I will make those judgments based solely on the law and will let no personal, political, or other improper interests influence my decision."

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News

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  • Do you like your tea served piping hot? Beware— you could be doubling your cancer risk, according to a new report.  >> Read more trending news  Researchers from Tehran University of Medical Sciences in Iran recently conducted a study, published in the International Journal of Cancer, to determine the association between drinking hot tea and esophageal cancer. To do so, they examined more than 50,000 people, aged 40-75, in Golestan, a province in northeastern Iran. They followed the participants for 10 years, tracking the temperature of the tea they drank as well as their overall health. During the follow-up, 317 new cases of esophageal cancer were identified.  Furthermore, they found those who drank tea warmer than 60 degrees Celsius or 140 degrees Fahrenheit and consumed more than 700 ml of tea daily were 90 percent more likely to develop esophageal cancer, compared to those who drank less tea and at temperatures below 60 degrees Celsius. >> Related: Drinking this type of tea could ruin your teeth, study says “Many people enjoy drinking tea, coffee, or other hot beverages. However, according to our report, drinking very hot tea can increase the risk of esophageal cancer, and it is therefore advisable to wait until hot beverages cool down before drinking,” lead author Farhad Islam said in a statement. Tea is rarely consumed at temperatures above 65 degrees Celsius in the United States or Europe. However, in places like Iran, Russia, Turkey and South America, it’s more common to serve tea at that temperature or hotter, Peter Goggi, president of the Tea Association of the USA, told CNN last year. The scientists do not know why drinking hot tea is linked with esophageal cancer, but this isn’t the first study of its kind.  A 2018 study, published in Annals of Internal Medicine, found that consuming “hot” or “burning hot” tea is linked with a two- to five-fold rise in esophageal cancer, but only among individuals who also smoke or drink alcohol. >> Related: Black tea helps you lose weight with gut bacteria, study says The analysts from that evaluation believe hot beverages may damage the tissue lining the esophagus, which could increase the risk of cancer from other factors, such as repeated irritation of the esophagus and the formation of inflammatory compounds.
  • Gov. Brian Kemp’s proposal to devise health care “waiver” programs that might ease insurance for some poor and middle-class Georgians passed a special House committee on Wednesday. The measure, Senate Bill 106, has already passed the state Senate. Its next step is to be seen by the House Rules Committee, the gateway to the House floor. Then, if passed without amendments, Kemp would have before him the legislation he first suggested word for word. “I’m very pleased with it,” said state Rep. Richard Smith, R-Columbus, who is chairman of the House Insurance Committee and led the Special Committee on Access to Quality Health Care, which heard SB 106 Wednesday. The committee voted for it 11-3, with at least one Democrat in favor and no Republicans opposed. The often positive testimony from witnesses reflected the findings of Atlanta Journal-Constitution polls expressing a desire to figure out how to insure the hundreds of thousands of Georgia poor who are currently not eligible for Medicaid. The legislation would give Kemp the authority to request federal “waivers” to Medicaid and Affordable Care Act rules in order to design programs tailored to the state. It is possible that the waiver programs could end up insuring hundreds of thousands of poor childless adult Georgians who are currently ineligible for Medicaid. Or it might do something much less. The choice would be Kemp’s. The near unity among witnesses in favor of a waiver broke down over what exactly such a waiver should do. A parade of advocates testified to Smith’s committee that they supported the effort to expand coverage. But several, including Democrats, said the measure didn’t go far enough, and they either spoke against it or wouldn’t urge a yes vote. Many are concerned that as Kemp decides how best to shape the state’s Medicaid program, the bill limits him to dealing only with the population up to 100 percent of the federal poverty level, or those who make about $12,000 a year for an individual. Federal law encouraged expansion of Medicaid to all poor people up to 138 percent of the federal poverty line, or about $16,000 for an individual. Several groups, including the American Heart Association and the American Lung Association, praised the possibility of expanding Medicaid and asked for it to go to 138 percent of the poverty level. Georgia Watch’s Laura Harker praised the benefits of Medicaid coverage to the poor and to the economy. “We are, however, struggling with consternation about the 200,000 or so just above the poverty line that may miss out,” Harker said. State Rep. Debbie Buckner, D-Junction City, is not on the committee but did testify. She said she was concerned not only that the bill stopped short at the number of poor people it would include, but also at the amount of power the bill gives the governor. There is no requirement for him to run his eventual decisions by the Legislature. One speaker, with the libertarian group Georgians for Prosperity, opposed the bill for the opposite reason, because he said insuring so many more poor people with Medicaid would encourage unemployment. Many said it was worth doing something rather than nothing. State Rep. Patty Bentley, a Democrat from Butler, was among them. “What we have on the table right now, my friends, I see as a way to help my area,” Bentley said. “So, my friends, I respect you, I honor you, but I’m voting for this bill.” Asked why they would restrict the governor to considering a smaller group of people, the committee chairman, Smith, and state Rep. Matt Hatchett, R-Dublin, who made the motion for the bill, both said that was simply what the governor requested. Stay on top of what’s happening in Georgia government and politics at ajc.com/news/georgia-government/.
  • The American Kennel Club's annual ranking of the most popular dog breeds found that the Labrador retriever once again is the nation's top dog for the 28th year in a row. >> Read more trending news The AKC released its 2018 rankings on Wednesday. After Labs, the top five breeds nationwide are German shepherds, golden retrievers, French bulldogs and bulldogs. Rounding out the top 10 are beagles, poodles, Rottweilers, German shorthaired pointers and Yorkshire terriers. All held their same positions on the top 10 with the exception of that German shorthaired pointer and Yorkshire terrier swapping the ninth and 10th position. Labs have been on top since 1991 when they unseated Cocker Spaniels from the number one slot and their reign is the longest of any breed since the AKC began the popularity ranking in the 1880s. At No. 9, the German shorthaired pointer notched its highest ranking since getting AKC recognition in 1930. These strikingly speckled hunting dogs are also versatile — some work as drug- and bomb-detectors — and active companions. “I think people are learning about how fun the breed is,” AKC spokeswoman Brandi Hunter said. The listings come from 2018 AKC registration data, and do not include mixed breeds. The Associated Press contributed to this report.
  • Wildlife officials in New Mexico are warning hikers and other visitors about a potential danger on a trail in the Sandria Mountains east of Albuquerque: mountain lions. >> Read more trending news  Although the chances of actually encountering a mountain lion are low, officials have fielded numerous calls recently over sightings of the big cat on the La Luz Trail, according to KOB-TV. Forest workers want people to take precautions, especially around dawn and dusk when jogging and running can trigger the big cats’ instincts to chase and attack. “We do not want to discourage people from visiting the forest,” wildlife biologist Esther Nelson told KOB, “but we do want to make people aware and offer some precautionary measures to keep visitors and their pets safe.” A few other tips include keeping children and pets close at all times and don’t hike alone. Although mountain lions are usually quiet and elusive animals, the National Park Service offers recommendations in case of an encounter. If you see a lion, stay calm, don’t approach it, don’t run from it, and don’t crouch down or bend over. >> Related: Jogger kills attacking mountain lion with bare hands If a mountain lion moves toward you or acts aggressively, do everything you can to appear intimidating. Speak in a loud voice and try and appear larger. If that doesn’t work, park officials suggest throwing stones or branches at the cat to try and scare it off. If it does attack, fight back however you can. Also don’t forget to report any attack to a forest ranger.    
  • A Wisconsin woman was arrested for handing out marijuana cookies at a St. Patrick’s Day parade, police said. >> Read more trending news  Cathleen Krause, 57, has been charged with delivering THC, possession of THC and three counts of possession of a controlled substance, WBAY-TV reported. A witness told sheriff’s deputies that while she was attending a St. Patrick’s Day parade on Saturday, a woman dressed in a leather coat and green hat gave her a cookie with marijuana in it, according to a Shawano County Sheriff's Office arrest affidavit. The witness turned the cookie over to the deputies. The deputies later tracked down Krause, who was 'visibly intoxicated' and smelled of alcohol and marijuana, according to the affidavit. When asked about the cookies, Krause pulled out a gallon-sized bag that contained cookie crumbs, WBAY-TV reported. The deputies then searched her and found a container with pills and some gummy candies, the news station reported. The Sheriff’s Office said the cookie and the gummies tested positive for marijuana. Krause appeared in court on March 18. As a condition of the $1,000 bond, she must remain sober, according to court records.