Morning Read 5/1: In bid to represent all Palestinians with Trump, Abbas pressures Hamas to give up Gaza

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas represents the West Bank but hasn't had practicial authority in Gaza since the George W. Bush administration [U.S. Dept. of State]
Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas represents the West Bank but hasn’t had practical authority in Gaza since the George W. Bush administration [U.S. Dept. of State]

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INTERNATIONAL


U.S.-led fight on ISIS has killed 352 civilians: Pentagon

At least 352 civilians have been killed in U.S.-led strikes against Islamic State targets in Iraq and Syria since the operation began in 2014, the U.S. military said in a statement on Sunday.

The Combined Joint Task Force, in its monthly assessment of civilian casualties from the U.S. coalition’s operations against the militant group, said it was still assessing 42 reports of civilian deaths.

It added that 45 civilians were killed between November 2016 and March 2017. It reported 80 civilian deaths from August 2014 to the present that had not previously been announced. The report included 26 deaths from three separate strikes in March.

The military’s official tally is far below those of other outside groups. Monitoring group Airwars said more than 3,000 civilians have been killed by coalition air strikes.

Included in Sunday’s tally were 14 civilians killed by a strike in March that set off a secondary explosion, as well as 10 civilians who were killed in a strike on Islamic State headquarters the same month.

“We regret the unintentional loss of civilian lives … and express our deepest sympathies to the families and others affected by these strikes,” the Pentagon said in a statement. [REUTERS]

EU leaders finalize Brexit position before UK talks

Brussels, Belgium (CNN) European Union leaders swiftly and unanimously adopted their negotiating principles for Britain’s exit from the EU at a meeting Saturday in Brussels amid signs they plan to take a tough stance over the country’s financial commitments to the bloc.

Britain was not invited to the special summit of 27 EU nations, where the leaders finalized the guidelines for two years of what are set to be grueling divorce talks.

Trade talks
The UK government had hoped to be able to negotiate a new trade deal with the EU at the same time as carrying out the complex process of unraveling a relationship lasting more than 40 years.

But the EU has insisted that progress must be made on key issues around Britain’s continued budgetary commitment to the bloc, the future status of EU citizens living in Britain and the border between Ireland and Northern Ireland before talks on future relations with Britain can begin.

EU says it will act as one
A European Council statement on the adoption of the guidelines warned of the potential disruption Brexit will cause to UK and other EU citizens’ lives and businesses and said for this reason it will pursue a “phased” approach that prioritizes an “orderly withdrawal.”

The EU will “maintain its unity and act as one” throughout the negotiations, with the aim of reaching an agreement fair for all its citizens and member states, it said.

“The Union will work hard to achieve that outcome, but it will prepare itself to be able to handle the situation also if the negotiations were to fail,” the statement said.

Bill due for Brexit
Last month, Juncker told the BBC that Britain would need to come up with roughly 50 billion pounds ($62.4 billion) as it leaves the EU to honor its financial obligations.

But the UK government has indicated it does not expect to pay nearly that much. Brexit Secretary David Davis told the BBC last month that Britain would meet its international commitments but that the bill would be “nothing like” the tens of billions of euros suggested by Juncker and others.

EU member states pay into a communal budget, which finances infrastructure projects, social programs, scientific research and pensions for EU bureaucrats. The budget is negotiated to cover a period of years, with the current agreement extending to 2020.

Britain pays roughly 10 billion pounds a year ($12.5 billion) more into the budget than it receives in benefits — a fact often cited by supporters of Brexit — and its departure will leave a large hole in the EU’s finances.

However, EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini said Britain’s departure would not “affect significantly” the EU’s global position as a leader in trade, humanitarian affairs and security.

Northern Ireland status
The EU has also said that resolving the thorny issue of the Irish border must be a priority in the upcoming negotiations.

In a letter to the 27 EU leaders Friday, Tusk said Europe should aim to avoid a “hard border” between the Republic of Ireland, which will remain in the EU after Brexit, and Northern Ireland, which leaves as part of the UK.

Border controls between the north and south were eased as part of the Good Friday Agreement, the 1998 accord that brought peace to Northern Ireland after decades of sectarian conflict.

Ireland asked Saturday that Northern Ireland be allowed to enter the EU automatically if the two Irelands ever unite, an EU source said. The request was approved but won’t be published in EU minutes until the next European Council meeting in June, the source said.

The EU is not taking a stance on unification, which would be decided by the people of Ireland and Northern Ireland in accordance with the Good Friday Agreement.

A majority in Northern Ireland voted to remain in the EU in last year’s UK referendum. At present, the “soft” border with the neighboring Republic of Ireland facilitates trade and the movement of people. [CNN]

Palestinian President Pressures Hamas to Give Up Control of Gaza

TEL AVIV — Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas is pressuring Hamas to cede control of the Gaza Strip to his Palestinian Authority in a high-stakes gambit to convince the White House he can strike a deal with Israel on behalf of the Palestinian people, according to Palestinian officials.

The move comes ahead of a meeting this week with President Donald Trump in Washington, as Mr. Abbas seeks to convince the White House he controls both the West Bank and Gaza, the two territories that would make up a negotiated future Palestinian state.

In recent weeks, the 82-year-old president has imposed a financial squeeze on Gaza by slashing the wages of teachers, doctors and other workers and refusing to reduce a tax on fuel used by the strip’s power plant. The Authority also has told Israel it would stop paying for electricity supplied by Israeli plants to Gaza, accounting for roughly 30% of power in the territory, Israeli authorities said.

Now, Mr. Abbas is threatening to make cuts to education and health care unless Hamas immediately relinquishes power to the Fatah-led Palestinian Authority in a step toward participation in any future parliamentary elections, according to Tayeb Abdul Rahim, an aide to Mr. Abbas. The Authority wants to return to the administration of all offices in Gaza and eventually reinstate its security forces there. Elections could see Hamas parliamentarians join in governing with the Authority.

“Time has come for Hamas to hand over the Gaza Strip to the legitimate Palestinian Authority,” said Mr. Rahim. [WSJ]

McMaster says US must be prepared for military operations in North Korea

National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster attempted to make clear Sunday that President Trump is seeking international support in trying to stop North Korea’s pursuit of a nuclearize weapon, reasserting Trump’s vow that the U.S. will no longer be the world’s policeman.

“It’s an open defiance of the international community,” McMaster, a retired Army general, told “Fox News Sunday.” “It’s important for all of us to confront this regime… . None of us can accept a North Korea with a nuclear weapon.”

Trump has since taking office attempted to form alliances with world leaders to solve such global crises as the Syrian civil war and the North Korea nuclear threat, including an outreach to China President XI Jinping.

Trump, who last week warned about the potential for a “major conflict” with North Korea, has also tried to strength relations with U.S. ally Japan. In February, he hosted Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, with the two playing golf at Trump’s course in Jupiter, Fla.

McMaster on Sunday set out several options toward ending North Korea’s efforts — a combination of nuclear tests and trying to develop a rocket that could carry a nuclear weapon.

He said world leaders could enforce existing economic sanctions, impose additional ones or possibly taking military action.

McMaster also said China, essential to North Korea’s economy, has shown a “willingness to act and resolve this conflict short of military conflict.” [FOXNEWS]

Three young women arrested in London under anti-terrorism laws

Three young women were arrested under anti-terrorism laws in east London on Monday in connection with a security operation in the capital last week, police said.

The two 18-year-old and one 19-year-old women were held on suspicion of the commission, preparation and instigation of terrorist acts, the Metropolitan Police force said .

“The arrests were made as part of an ongoing intelligence-led operation in connection with an address on Harlesden Road,” the police said in a statement, referring to the location of a raid by armed counter-terrorism officers in northwest London on Thursday evening.

Police at the time said that raid had disrupted an active militant plot.

Monday’s arrests came days after a man was arrested carrying knives near Prime Minister Theresa May’s office in Westminster, and just over a month after a British-born convert to Islam ploughed a car into pedestrians on Westminster Bridge.

Britain has been on its second-highest alert level of “severe” since August 2014, meaning an attack by militants is considered highly likely. [REUTERS]

White House defends Trump invitation to Duterte despite human rights criticism

The White House on Sunday defended President Donald Trump’s decision to invite Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte to Washington, saying his cooperation was needed to counter North Korea, even as the administration faced human rights criticism for its overture to Manila.

Trump issued the invitation on Saturday night in what the White House said was a “very friendly” phone conversation with Duterte, who is accused by international human rights groups of supporting a campaign of extrajudicial killings of drug suspects in the Philippines.

“There is nothing right now facing this country and facing the region that is a bigger threat than what’s happening in North Korea,” White House chief of staff Reince Priebus told ABC’s “This Week” during a weekend in which Trump sought to firm up support in Southeast Asia to help rein in North Korea’s nuclear and missile programs.

Priebus insisted the outreach to Duterte “doesn’t mean that human rights don’t matter, but what it does mean is that the issues facing us developing out of North Korea are so serious that we need cooperation at some level with as many partners in the area as we can get to make sure we have our ducks in a row.”

The invitation for Duterte to the visit White House at an unspecified date appeared to be the latest example of the affinity Trump has shown for some foreign leaders with shaky human rights or autocratic reputations.

For instance, he expressed admiration for Russian President Vladimir Putin during the 2016 presidential campaign, hosted Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi at the White House and has had warm words for Chinese President Xi Jinping, who Trump is pressing to do more to rein in its ally and neighbor North Korea. [REUTERS]


NATIONAL


Congressional Leaders Reach Deal to Fund Government Through Sept. 30

WASHINGTON — Congressional leaders have reached an agreement to fund the government through Sept. 30, congressional aides said late Sunday, as the two parties put aside some of their biggest spending fights in a bid to avert a government shutdown early in Donald Trump’s presidency.

Details began leaking out late Sunday, with the legislation expected to be released later that night. Congress must pass a government funding measure before midnight Friday, when a partial shutdown will take effect unless Congress acts.

The package, which would fund the government through the end of the current fiscal year, includes a $12.5 billion increase in defense spending, a priority for Mr. Trump and his fellow Republicans, but also a $2 billion increase in funding for the National Institutes of Health, despite Mr. Trump’s request to cut funding for the institute, according to a senior congressional aide.

Another $2.5 billion in defense spending would be available if the Trump administration provided a plan to Congress to counter Islamic State, also known as ISIS or ISIL. [WSJ]

May Day rallies across U.S. to target Trump immigration policy

Labour unions and immigrant advocacy groups will lead May Day rallies in cities across the United States on Monday, with organizers expecting larger-than-usual turnouts to protest the immigration policies of President Donald Trump.

The demonstrations could be the largest by immigrants since Trump’s inauguration on January 20, activists say, and some immigrant-run businesses plan to shut down for some or all of the day to protest the administration’s crackdown on immigrants living in the country illegally.

“To me, it’s offensive the policies this president is trying to implement,” said Jaime Contreras, vice president of the Service Employees International Union’s 32BJ affiliate, which represents cleaners and other property service workers in 11 states.

“It’s a nation of immigrants, and separating immigrant families because of their immigration status, it goes against what we love about this wonderful country.”

May Day, also known as International Workers’ Day, has typically been a quieter affair in the United States than in Europe, where it is a public holiday in many countries.

In New York City, immigrant-run convenience stores and taxi services in upper Manhattan will close during the morning rush hour between 7 a.m. and 10 a.m., in a protest reminiscent of those staged on “A Day Without Immigrants.”

At lunchtime, fast-food workers will join elected officials at a rally outside a McDonald’s restaurant in midtown Manhattan, calling for more predictable work schedules.

In the early evening, organizers expect thousands of demonstrators to gather at a rally in Manhattan’s Foley Square for musical performances and speeches by union leaders and immigrants living in the country illegally. [REUTERS]

MIDWEST, SOUTH RECOVERING AFTER DEADLY WEEKEND STORMS

ATLANTA (AP) — Parts of the Midwest and the South were recovering Monday after a weekend round of storms, winds, hail and isolated tornadoes killed at least 14 people.

And a chance remained for more severe weather in the South. Parts of the Florida Panhandle, Alabama, Georgia and Mississippi could be affected by severe thunderstorms, according to the National Weather Service.

Tornadoes hit several small towns in East Texas, killing four people. Flooding and winds killed five people in Arkansas, including a fire chief who was struck by a vehicle while working during the storm.

Two deaths were reported in Missouri, including a woman who drowned after rushing water swept away a car. One of two deaths in Mississippi included a 7-year-old who died by electric shock and a 2-year-old girl died in Tennessee after being struck by a soccer goal post thrown by heavy winds.

The storms rolled through Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama on Sunday with strong winds causing isolated pockets of damage. [AP]

Spokane community building vandalized with anti-Semitic graffiti

(JTA) — A building housing community support services and non-profit groups in downtown Spokane, Washington, was vandalized with anti-Semitic graffiti.

The epithets written in chalk on the side of the building were discovered on Friday morning.

Among the anti-Semitic statements were: “Hitler did nothing wrong,” “Gas the Kikes” and “Juden Raus,” German for “Jews Out.” The graffiti also called for a “race war now.”

Interns for the Peace and Justice Action League of Spokane, which is housed in the building, first discovered the graffiti, the Spokesman-Review newspaper reported on Saturday.

The incident was reported to police and the graffiti was covered up, according to the newspaper. Organizations housed in the building said they would remain and continue their work.

Racist and anti-Semitic white nationalist flyers were posted on the building last month. [JTA]


LOCAL


Cops shut down Times Square to investigate unattended packages

An unattended suitcase and a cooler led police to shut down Times Square Sunday night.

Cops found the two items about 50 feet apart near W. 44th St. and Seventh Ave. shortly after 11 p.m., officials said.

Police closed Times Square from 42nd to 45th St., between Sixth and Eighth Aves., as the NYPD’s Bomb Squad investigated the scene early Monday.

Ultimately, cops determined both items were harmless, cops said. [DN]

City hospitals are making people extremely sick

New York hospitals are making people sick at an alarming rate.

The state Health Department “flagged” 52 hospitals for patient-infection rates that greatly exceeded the state average — and 15 of them are in New York City, The Post has learned.

And here’s a scary — and counterintuitive — fact:

“The longer a person stays in the hospital, the higher the total risk of acquiring an infection,” the department says in a report on hospital-acquired infections based on 2015 figures.

Bacterial infections can be deadly because of a growing resistance to drugs, said former Lt. Gov. Betsy McCaughey, who is part of the Committee to Reduce Infection Deaths, an educational campaign.

“Infections are much more serious because the antibiotics don’t work. We have to reduce drug-resistant infections,” she said.

Hospitals on the state watch list include SUNY Downstate Medical Center in Brooklyn, which had a central line-associated bloodstream-infection rate of 3.43 percent, nearly 3¹/₂ times the state average.

Such infections occur when bacteria or other organisms enter the body through a tube, or central line, placed in a large vein.

Five city-run public hospitals were cited.

Among them was Metropolitan Hospital in East Harlem, whose 11 percent infection rate for hip-replacement surgery was 10 times the average of 1.1 percent.

Meanwhile, Elmhurst Hospital had a 16 percent rate for colon procedures — nearly three times the state average of 5.5 percent.

And Bellevue Hospital had a 5 percent rate of chest infections for coronary artery bypass, well above the average of 1.9 percent.

Lincoln Hospital in The Bronx and Woodhull Hospital in Brooklyn had a central-line infection rate that was double the average.

Private hospitals were also singled out.

In Manhattan, Mount Sinai Hospital’s rate of infection from Clostridium difficile — a bacteria that causes diarrhea and intestinal damage — was 48 percentage points higher than average.

Morgan Stanley/NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital’s central-line infection rate was 39 points higher.

In Brooklyn, Brookdale Hospital had surgical site and bloodline infection rates more than 2¹/₂ times the average. Brooklyn Hospital Center and Wyckoff also had higher-than-average infection rates. [NYP]

Bronx DA retaliating against cop for writing ticket to council pol: suit

A city cop says the Bronx DA is retaliating against her for going public about a ticket-fixing scandal.
NYPD Officer Michele Hernandez sued the city last year, claiming that police brass forced her to rip up a ticket she gave Bronx Councilwoman Vanessa Gibson for yapping on her cellphone while driving.

Hernandez has now amended her $35 million lawsuit to also accuse Bronx DA Darcel Clark and three staffers of misusing their authority to harass and intimidate her as a favor to Gibson — who chairs the council’s Public Safety Committee, which “has jurisdiction and budget control over the Bronx DA,” the suit notes.

The DA’s harassment of Hernandez kicked off in March, when Darcel’s office contacted her union to inform them that she was under investigation, according to the lawsuit.
Hernandez said the DA failed to reach out to her.

DA staffers then demanded that Hernandez appear for questioning, according to the lawsuit. Again, they went behind her lawyer’s back, although this time they reached out to her directly through the NYPD, the lawsuit charges.

On April 25, Hernandez submitted to “testy” questioning about the ticket incident in their offices — but only out of fear she would otherwise be suspended from her job or be arrested, according to the lawsuit.

“This so-called investigation is in retaliation for police Officer Hernandez expressing her First Amendment right to expose public corruption involving these parties,” her lawyer, Eric Sanders, told The Post.

The Bronx DA’s Office declined to comment. [NYP]


POLITICS


Trump Pushing for Vote on Health Bill, but Stumbling Blocks Remain

WASHINGTON—Congressional leaders reached a bipartisan deal late Sunday to fund the government until October, while Republicans scrambled to pull off an even more significant legislative achievement that has eluded them this year: an overhaul of the health-care system.

Both President Donald Trump and Vice President Mike Pence in television interviews Sunday suggested confidence that they could win enough votes to pass a bill to undo the Affordable Care Act. But skepticism among centrist members of the party remains a stumbling block, and it’s unclear that congressional leaders have made enough progress to call a roll, as they grapple with Republicans who have expressed concern that recent changes to satisfy more conservative lawmakers may push coverage costs higher.

Adding to the difficulties for passing any major piece of legislation is the fact that the administration is also pressing lawmakers to flesh out a massive tax cut that the Trump administration unveiled last week, while congressional leaders struggle to reconcile his principles with very different views they have on how to rewrite the tax code.

“The question is whether we can get 218 votes in the House to do big things,” said Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart (R., Fla.), referring to the number of the votes generally needed to reach a majority in that chamber. Though Republicans have 238 members, they haven’t been able to unify them around legislation such as the health-care bill. Mr. Diaz-Balart said a tax-code rewrite would be even harder: “It’s no secret we have some serious, serious challenges.”

Still, congressional leaders were celebrating a small victory Sunday night, when they announced a deal on a measure that would fund the government through September before a Saturday shutdown deadline. [WSJ]

Trump: GOP health care bill ‘guarantees’ coverage for pre-existing conditions

Washington (CNN) President Donald Trump says the Republican plan to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act “guarantees” coverage for Americans with pre-existing conditions — a claim that could undercut the legislation the White House is currently pushing on Capitol Hill.

“Pre-existing conditions are in the bill. And I mandate it. I said, ‘Has to be,'” Trump told CBS’s John Dickerson on “Face the Nation” Sunday.

Pressed further, Trump said that “we actually have a clause that guarantees” coverage for those with pre-existing conditions. Trump also said the health care legislation is “changing.”

Trump’s comments come days after moderate New Jersey Rep. Tom MacArthur and leaders of the conservative House Freedom Caucus cut a deal that would require insurers to cover those with pre-existing conditions; but, unlike the mandate under Obamacare, insurers could charge them higher rates than others in the plan if they allow their coverage to lapse.

Such a change could leave those with pre-existing conditions, such as diabetes and asthma, paying much higher premiums and potentially facing gaps in coverage, health care experts note. [CNN]

Schumer on Trump: ‘If he changes, we could work together

Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer defended Democratic opposition to President Donald Trump’s agenda Sunday, arguing Trump had governed like “someone from the hard right” in his first 100 days.

In an interview with “Fox News Sunday,” Schumer, a New York Democrat, dinged Trump on a slew of issues, including healthcare, trade and efforts to overhaul the tax code. Schumer called the confirmation of Neil Gorsuch to the Supreme Court one of the few clear successes of the administration.

“He is not governing from the middle. He’s governing from the hard right,” Schumer said. “That’s why his regime has had hardly any major successes with the exception of Gorsuch.”

“If he changes, we could work together,” Schumer said of Trump. “But he can’t just dictate what he wants, not talk to us and say you must support it.” [POLITICO]

McCain on pre-emptive strike on North Korea: ‘We have to consider that option’

Sen. John McCain said Sunday the Trump administration should consider a pre-emptive strike against North Korea if the U.S. determines that country’s regime can mount a nuclear weapon onto a ballistic missile, but cautioned military action should be last resort.

“I think that we have to consider that option as the very last option, and for a number of reasons,” McCain said on CNN’s “State of the Union.” The Arizona Republican described ruling out possible military action as “foolish.”

McCain, who chairs the Senate Armed Services Committee, said one of the reasons for caution is the close proximity of the populous South Korean capital, Seoul, to North Korea. Should a shooting war break out, McCain said, “The carnage would be horrendous.”

McCain told host Jake Tapper he didn’t think Trump was considering a pre-emptive strike against the North Korean regime. McCain called on China to use its leverage over North Korea to “put the brakes on this.” [POLITICO]

Trump rallies supporters in Pennsylvania on night of correspondents’ dinner

Washington (CNN) President Donald Trump spent his 100th day in office not at the annual black-tie dinner that some say launched his bid for the White House, but with some of the people who sent him there.

Amid increasingly hostile relations between Trump and the media, Trump announced in February that he would not attend the White House correspondents’ dinner Saturday night — making him the first President since Ronald Reagan to miss the event (although Reagan, who was hospitalized after an assassination attempt at the Washington Hilton — the same hotel serving as the venue for Saturday’s dinner — gave remarks by phone).

Instead, Trump held a campaign-style rally in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, one of the states he wasn’t expected to win in November, with the aim of reminding some of his most ardent supporters that he has kept his campaign promises.

Minutes into Trump’s Harrisburg speech, he told the crowd just how much he preferred spending the evening with supporters than the Washington media.

“A large group of Hollywood actors and Washington media are consoling each other in a hotel ballroom in our nation’s capital right now,” he said. “They are gathered together for the White House correspondents’ dinner without the President.

“And I could not possibly be more thrilled than to be more than 100 miles away from the Washington swamp spending my evening with all of you and with a much, much larger crowd and much better people,” Trump added. [CNN]

Trump aide, accused of ties to anti-Semitic group, to leave White House

A security adviser to US President Donald Trump, whose alleged ties to a pro-Nazi group have gained international attention, is said to be leaving the White House, according to US media quoting insider sources.

Sebastian Gorka is expected to take a position involving counter-terrorism outside the White House, according to the Washington Examiner which cited a senior administration official.

A senior official cited by CNN reportedly said Gorka was simply “generating too much controversy” for the already controversy-prone, Trump-led White House. The Washington Examiner reported that the exit comes amid a lack of a security clearance that interfered with his performance.

An official told AP that Gorka had initially been hired to play a key role on the Strategic Initiatives Group, an advisory panel created by Trump’s chief strategist Steve Bannon to run parallel to the National Security Council.

But that group fizzled out in the early months of the administration. Gorka was unable to get clearance for the National Security Council after he was charged last year with carrying a weapon at Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport.

Prior to joining the Trump administration, he worked as a terrorism analyst and editor for Breitbart News, the right-wing media organization once led by Bannon. [ToI]

Trump says China could have hacked Democratic emails

President Donald Trump said China may have hacked the emails of Democratic officials to meddle with the 2016 presidential election, countering the view of U.S. intelligence officials who have said Moscow orchestrated the hacks.

In an interview transcript published on Sunday, Trump gave no evidence backing his allegation, first made on the eve of the Nov. 8 presidential election, that China could have hacked the emails of his rivals.

“If you don’t catch a hacker, okay, in the act, it’s very hard to say who did the hacking,” the president said in an interview with CBS “Face the Nation.” “(It) could have been China, could have been a lot of different groups.”

Trump has been dismissive of the statements by intelligence officials that Moscow hacked the emails to help Trump win the election. During the Sept 26 presidential debate with Clinton, Trump said China was one of many actors that could have been behind the hack, including “somebody sitting on their bed that weighs 400 pounds.”

Before Trump was elected, he pledged to improve relations with Moscow. Russia has denied any involvement in the hacks. Lawmakers are currently investigating whether Trump’s campaign team had ties with Russia. [REUTERS]

Kasich finds it hard to rule out 2020

Ohio Gov. John Kasich returned to the national spotlight this week with criticism for the GOP and President Trump, raising questions about the former Republican presidential candidate’s political future.

It’s clear that the governor wants to distinguish his brand of conservatism from Trump’s, a point the governor made repeatedly during a presidential bid that saw him become the last option in the primary for “#NeverTrump” Republicans. But what’s less clear now is what comes next for the governor, whose term expires in early 2019.

While Trump may embody the opposite of Kasich’s school of conservative politics, Kasich’s options are limited as long as Trump sits in the Oval Office.

“Kasich is kind of in limbo — his time as governor will end when he’s termed out, he doesn’t have a path toward any other office in Ohio, and if Trump runs for reelection, I doubt he’ll challenge him,” said Ryan Williams, a former aide on 2012 GOP nominee Mitt Romney’s presidential bid.

“But he’s trying to keep his name in the mix in case President Trump decides not to run again …

Every appearance Kasich has made this week on a promotional tour for his new book — including stops at “The View,” “The Daily Show” and a brief swing through New Hampshire, a key primary state — builds to the same question: Will he run in 2020?

Each time, Kasich says a bid is “unlikely,” but he doesn’t say it’s impossible. [THEHILL]


CULTURE


Donald Trump proclaims May annual Jewish American Heritage Month

(JTA) — President Donald Trump proclaimed May Jewish American Heritage Month, continuing a tradition maintained by every president since 2006.

“During Jewish American Heritage Month, we celebrate our nation’s strong American Jewish heritage, rooted in the ancient faith and traditions of the Jewish people. The small band of Dutch Jews who first immigrated in 1654, seeking refuge and religious liberty, brought with them their families, their religion, and their cherished customs, which they have passed on from generation to generation,” read the proclamation issued late Friday by the White House.

“The moral and ethical code of the Jewish people is inspired by their spiritual vocation of ‘tikkun olam’ ‑‑ the charge to repair the world. Through that vocation, the Jewish people have left an indelible mark on American culture. Today, it is manifested in the towering success Jewish people have achieved in America through a unique synthesis of respect for heritage and love of country.”

President George W. Bush first proclaimed May Jewish Heritage Month in 2006, and it has been proclaimed annually by the sitting president ever since.

The proclamation by the Trump White House used the Yiddish term “Di Goldene Medina,” or the Golden Country, to describe how Jews looked to the United States to escape religious persecution and seek economic opportunity.

The statement specifically mentioned Trump’s daughter, Ivanka, and her husband Jared Kushner, who both serve as senior advisors in the White House. Ivanka Trump converted to Judaism before marrying Kushner in 2008.

“This month, I celebrate with my family ‑‑ including my daughter, Ivanka, my son-in-law, Jared, my grandchildren, and our extended family ‑‑ the deep spiritual connection that binds, and will always bind, the Jewish people to the United States and its founding principles,” the proclamation said. “We recognize the faith and optimism exemplified by American Jews is what truly makes America ‘The Golden Country,’ and we express our Nation’s gratitude for this great, strong, prosperous, and loving people.” [JTA]


FINANCE


U.S. small business borrowing stalls in March

Borrowing by small U.S. firms stalled in March, as business owners remained cautious about investing amid policy uncertainty, data released on Monday showed.

The Thomson Reuters/PayNet Small Business Lending Index for March registered 134, down 1 percent from last March. The index was up 4 percent from February, which had four fewer working days.

Movements in the index typically correspond with changes in gross domestic product growth a quarter or two ahead. The U.S. economy grew at a 0.7 percent annual pace in the first quarter, figures released on Friday showed, the slowest in three years.

Bets that U.S. President Donald Trump’s planned tax cuts will boost corporate profits have lifted U.S. equities since his November election, but small businesses appear to be keeping their powder dry, said Bill Phelan, PayNet’s chief executive and founder.

“They didn’t get sucked into all the euphoria of public markets; they are just, ‘Wake me up when we are there,'” Phelan said in an interview. “There’s not going to be any kind of enthusiasm.”

Borrowing by healthcare companies was down 13 percent in the month, he said, probably reflecting worries about prospects for other Trump policies, including a so-far unsuccessful bid to repeal and replace the Obamacare healthcare law.

Small business borrowing is a key barometer of growth because small companies tend to do much of the hiring that drives economic gains.

Meanwhile, a separate barometer of small companies’ financial health suggests companies are not avoiding new debts because of troubles paying off old ones. The share of loans more than 30 days past due was 1.68 percent in March, unchanged from February, PayNet data showed.

PayNet collects real-time loan information such as originations and delinquencies from more than 325 leading U.S. lenders. [REUTERS]

Apple’s Cash Hoard Set to Top $250 Billion

Apple Inc. is expected to report Tuesday that its stockpile of cash has topped a quarter of a trillion dollars, an unrivaled hoard that is greater than the market value of either Wal-Mart Stores Inc. or Procter & Gamble Co. and exceeds the foreign-currency reserves held by the U.K. and Canada combined.

The money, more than 90% of which is stockpiled outside of the U.S., has drawn fresh attention as President Donald Trump has proposed slashing business taxes and granting a one-time tax holiday on corporate cash brought home. Those policies could ratchet up pressure on the tech giant to dole out more money to shareholders or make splashy acquisitions.

Apple’s quarterly results will show the company has doubled its cash in just over 4½ years. In the last three months of 2016, it racked up cash at a rate of about $3.6 million an hour.

As of December, the company had $246.09 billion total cash, cash equivalents, and securities. Apple, like many big American companies, parks most of that cash offshore rather than paying U.S. taxes on its overseas profits. [WSJ]

Six-Story, 50,700-Square-Foot Medical Office Building Planned at 5402 Fort Hamilton Parkway, Borough Park

Long Island-based Hirth Real Estate has filed applications for a six-story, 50,678-square-foot medical office building at 5402 Fort Hamilton Parkway, located on the corner of 54th Street in Borough Park. Medical space will be located on the cellar level and the second through sixth floors, according to the project’s Schedule A. The facility will be geared towards women’s health and will contain a birthing center. There will also be an 80-car underground parking garage. Arpad Baksa Architect is the architect of record. The 9,104-square-foot lot is vacant. [YIMBYNEWS]

05/01/2017 10:33 AM by David Kinzer
Tags: Morning Read

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