Welcome to another edition of Kernels From the Cornfield – No Husks, No Hulls, No Shucks!
News with a dash of commentary to spice up your fare for Thursday, April 27th, 2017.
1. Political Alterverse – Lawbreaker?
New reports that former National Security Adviser retired Lieutenant General Michael Flynn was warned upon retirement in 2014 of the need to get permission before accepting any payments from foreign governments, but apparently ignored that warning.
House Oversight Committee Ranking Member Elijah Cummings said today there was “no evidence, zilch” that Flynn ever reported the payments he received from Russia for his speaking engagements.
Cummings also accused the White House of trying to cover up for Flynn’s alleged misdeeds.
If true, Flynn could be charged with a felony.
The Army Inspector General has launched an investigation into the issue of Flynn and payments from foreign entities.
Questions are being raised about the vetting process the Administration utilized before Flynn was appointed.
During today’s White House press briefing, Press Secretary Sean Spicer said that Flynn had a current, active security clearance from the Administration of former President Barack Obama which the Trump Transition Team relied on as the vet for Flynn.
The Freedom Caucus formally endorsed the current version to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act. Still not onboard are the Moderates – the Tuesday Group of 50 Congress members.
An amendment drafted by Republican New Jersey Congressman Tom MacArthur, a member of the Tuesday Group, would preserve much of the American Health Care Act, the original GOP bill, but it would offer states a waiver program letting them apply to scrap several key elements of ObamaCare, such as mandating certain kinds of coverage and prohibiting insurers from making people with health problems pay higher premiums than healthy customers.
Democrats are threatening not to vote for a continuing resolution to keep the government open come midnight tomorrow night IF Republicans put forth a healthcare bill to a vote this week.
Major criticism of the plan laid out for tax cuts and reform from President Donald Trump’s Administration on Wednesday. The big issue is the lack of details.
That’s the word of the hour about the North American Free Trade Agreement or NAFTA.
Following phone calls from the Prime Minister of Canada and President of Mexico, the President said he is open to renegotiating NAFTA rather than pulling out of the agreement.
The White House said the three nations’ leaders had “agreed to proceed swiftly, according to their required internal procedures, to enable the renegotiation of the NAFTA deal to the benefit of all three countries.”
Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said Wednesday that President Trump “has no intention” of releasing his tax returns.
This is giving Democrats more unction to press for a vote on a bill to force the President to release his taxes, even though the bill cannot pass the Republican-controlled House or Senate.
Responding to the deep opposition to Trump, Democrats for the first time will use the legislative process to try tying congressional Republicans to Trump’s decisions to withhold information about his personal wealth, business dealings with the federal government and visitors to the White House and Mar-a-Lago, his estate in Florida where he has spent most of the early weekends of his presidency.
Senators are saying the big hoopla over being shuttled to the White House for a briefing on the situation with North Korea Wednesday afternoon was little more than a photo op as part of the rounding out of the President’s first 100 days in office.
First Daughter Ivanka Trump, on official business in Europe, is not toeing her father’s position on Syrian refugees.
“I think there is a global humanitarian crisis that’s happening, and we have to come together and we have to solve it,” Ivanka told NBC when asked about the refugee crisis in Syria, which has created a nativist backlash in European countries.
Asked whether that would include admitting Syrian refugees to the United States, she replied: “That has to be part of the discussion. But that’s not going to be enough in and of itself.”
The House Science, Space, and Technology Committee accused Colorado-based Platte River Networks and Chief Executive Treve Suazo of withholding documents demanded under subpoena and obstructing the committee’s investigation “at every turn,” into the Hillary Clinton email server scandal.
President Trump has given the military the authority to reset a confusing system of troop limits in Iraq and Syria that critics said allowed the White House to micro-manage battlefield decisions and ultimately obscured the real number of US forces.
The Prez signed an executive order today to investigate if aluminum imports were threatening national security and defense capability.
The President and First Lady welcomed Argentine President Mauricio Macri and his wife to the White House for talks today.
Trump and Macri conferred on a range of bilateral and regional issues, including trade, security and Venezuela’s deteriorating political situation, as well as whether to lift a 16-year-ban on Argentinian lemons being exported to the US.
President Trump is considering breaking up the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals after a federal district court judge in its jurisdiction blocked his order to withhold funding from “sanctuary cities.”
The 9th Circuit Court covers Arizona, California, Alaska, Nevada, Idaho, Oregon, Montana, Washington and Hawaii, as well as Guam and the Northern Mariana Islands.
The Prez reacted on Twitter, naturally, to Democratic threats not to support a continuing resolution to keep the government open come midnight Friday.
“As families prepare for summer vacations in our National Parks – Democrats threaten to close them and shut down the government. Terrible!” Trump tweeted.
“Democrats jeopardizing the safety of our troops to bail out their donors from insurance companies. It is time to put #AmericaFirst,” the Prez wrote.
State Politics: Wyoming will hold a wolf hunt for the first time in four years this fall now that a federal court has lifted endangered species protection for wolves in the state, the Wyoming Game and Fish Department said Wednesday.
Arkansas will reach the end of an aggressive execution schedule today as it prepares for a fourth lethal injection in a week after initially planning twice as many over an 11-day period.
Texas Republicans were poised to take a big step toward banning “sanctuary cities” in their state, debating a bill through which police chiefs and sheriffs could even be jailed for not cooperating fully with federal immigration authorities.
Although Democrats don’t have the votes in the Republican-controlled Legislature to stop the bill from going to Republican Governor Greg Abbott, who made such a ban a priority, they vowed to fight it at every step, promising hours of emotionally charged debate before the Texas House votes.
Global Politics: Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen called on the United States today to stop forcibly deporting convicts with Cambodian heritage to the Southeast Asian nation, saying they should revise a policy that splits up families.
“America is very smart… they keep only good people while they deport prisoners out of their country back to us,” said Hun Sen, the strongman premier who has ruled Cambodia for more than three decades.
“I hope the father of human rights which is America…will accept the proposal to amend the agreement to offer convicted Cambodians a chance to stay in the US with their families,” he added.
Young members of China’s Uighur Muslim minority should “love the motherland” and learn Mandarin to help fight a perception they are “terrorists“, Uighur members of the ruling Communist Party said in state media today.
Russia’s Prosecutor General labeled opposition group Open Russia as “undesirable,” effectively making it illegal for the body to operate inside Russia. It cited the protest efforts as the main reason.
2. Israeli Strike – Israel bombed an arms supply center operated by the Lebanese group Hezbollah in Syria today, according to rebels and regional intelligence sources.
Syrian state media condemned what it called “Israeli aggression,” saying the attack had caused material losses, without providing details on the damage.
Israeli Intelligence Minister Israel Katz said, “The incident in Syria corresponds completely with Israel’s policy to act to prevent Iran’s smuggling of advanced weapons via Syria to Hezbollah.”
3. Korean Threat – A top US commander says that the threat to Hawaii from North Korea is very real now.
“Kim Jong Un is clearly in a position to threaten Hawaii today, in my opinion,” Admiral Harry Harris, the Chief of U.S. Pacific Command, told the House Armed Services Committee.
“I have suggested that we consider putting interceptors in Hawaii that…defend (it) directly, and that we look at a defensive Hawaii radar.”
The current defense architecture “is sufficient to protect Hawaii today, but it can be overwhelmed,” he cautioned. “Somewhere, we would have to make a decision about which missiles to take out, and that’s a hard decision.”
4. Fatal Standoff – A man killed a Delaware State Trooper then barricaded himself in his house for 21 hours.
That standoff came to an end with police taking out the shooter after 21 hours this morning.
5. Coming to America – So when did man first arrive in the New World?
In a provocative and controversial claim, scientists say a scattering of bones and stones suggests ancestral humans reached the New World more than 100,000 years earlier than previously thought.
6. Trump Economy – After a rousing week, the markets are showing concern about earnings announcements.
While the summer driving season has historically helped drive oil prices higher, domestic inventory levels “remain elevated by historical standards,” Lindsey Bell, Investment Strategist at CFRA, said in a note to clients.
“We remain hard pressed to get excited for the prospect of higher oil prices in a sub-two percent GDP growth environment as production in the US continues to increase and rig counts rise,” Bell said. “Incremental demand from emerging markets would be necessary to more substantially drive down inventory levels.”
7. Net Neutrality Assault – The dismantling of rules put into effect by the former Administration on net neutrality has begun in earnest as of yesterday.
Federal Communications Chairman Ajit Pai outlined his plan for eliminating the utility style regulatory framework the FCC adopted in 2015, while still keeping principles to prevent broadband and wireless providers from favoring their own services over competitors’.
“When the FCC rammed through the Title II Order two years ago…I voiced my confidence that the Title II Order’s days were already numbered,” he said during a speech.
Pai said this is the first step in making that prediction a reality.
“Make no mistake about it: this is a fight that we intend to wage and it is a fight that we are going to win.”
8. Money Missteps – Most of us, myself included, can really get messed up when it comes to money management.
Here are some mistakes you may want to avoid:
a. Not saving for retirement
b. Buying a house you don’t need
c. Skimping on insurance
d. Not traveling
e. Waiting to invest
f. Racking up unnecessary debt
9. Pound of Prevention – Are you drinking the right coffee to prevent prostate cancer?
If you are like me, probably not.
Indulging in Italian-style coffee may reduce the risk of prostate cancer, according to a new study.
10. Stormy Weekend – April showers have become raging thunderstorms as the month ends.
Tidbits: With all the bad publicity, United Airlines is hiking the payment to displaced passengers up to $10,000.
US officials are widening an investigation into whether Chinese technology giant Huawei violated American trade controls on Cuba, Iran, Sudan, and Syria, The New York Times reported, citing a previously unreported Treasury Department subpoena sent to Huawei in December.
“Murder is out of control,” Baltimore’s Mayor said. The city already has had 100 homicides this year, and it’s not even the end of April. That hasn’t happened in nearly 20 years. The Mayor is calling in the feds to help stop the hemorrhaging.
Controversial conservative pundit Ann Coulter said Wednesday that she was canceling a planned speech at the University of California, Berkeley, after conservative student groups that had invited her pulled their support.
Construction crews began Wednesday removing more than 300 Civil War-era cannonballs found underground a construction site in central Pennsylvania.
Armed British officers arrested a man carrying knives near Prime Minister Theresa May’s office in London today on suspicion of preparing an act of terrorism.
A Russian Naval Intelligence ship sank off Turkey’s Black Sea coast today after colliding with a vessel carrying livestock. All 78 personnel on board the navy ship were evacuated, Turkish officials said.
Two US service members were killed during an operation against Islamic State militants in eastern Afghanistan overnight on Wednesday, a Pentagon spokesman said.
United Airlines has reached a settlement with Dr. David Dao, whom was forcibly removed and telecast in a video worldwide. The amount was not disclosed due to a confidentiality agreement.
That’s what caught my attention this Thursday, April 27th, 2017.
Tune in tomorrow for another edition of Kernels From The Cornfield.
I am Mark Ivy