Morning Read 5/8: Bibi ‘frenemy’ Ron Lauder prepped Abbas for Trump meeting

ronaldlauder
Ron Lauder, once a close confident of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, has recently been supplying evidence against the Israeli leader to corruption investigators [World Jewish Congress/Doron Ritter]

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INTERNATIONAL


Macron wins French presidency, to European allies’ relief

Emmanuel Macron was elected French president on Sunday with a business-friendly vision of European integration, defeating Marine Le Pen, a far-right nationalist who threatened to take France out of the European Union.

The centrist’s emphatic victory, which also smashed the dominance of France’s mainstream parties, will bring huge relief to European allies who had feared another populist upheaval to follow Britain’s vote to quit the EU and Donald Trump’s election as U.S. president.

With virtually all votes counted, Macron had topped 66 percent against just under 34 percent for Le Pen – a gap wider than the 20 or so percentage points that pre-election surveys had suggested.

Even so, it was a record performance for the National Front, a party whose anti-immigrant policies once made it a pariah, and underlined the scale of the divisions that Macron must now try to heal.

His immediate challenge will be to secure a majority in next month’s parliamentary election for a political movement that is barely a year old, rebranded as La Republique En Marche (“Onward the Republic”), in order to implement his program.

EUROPE DEFENDED

Outgoing president Francois Hollande, who brought Macron into politics, said the result “confirms that a very large majority of our fellow citizens wanted to unite around the values of the Republic and show their attachment to the European Union.”

Jean-Claude Juncker, president of the European Commission, told Macron: “I am delighted that the ideas you defended of a strong and progressive Europe, which protects all its citizens, will be those that you will carry into your presidency.”

Macron spoke by phone with German Chancellor Angela Merkel, with whom he hopes to revitalize the Franco-German axis at the heart of the EU, saying he planned to visit Berlin shortly.

Trump tweeted his congratulations on Macron’s “big win”, saying he looked forward to working with him. Chinese President Xi Jinping said China was willing to help push Sino-French ties to a higher level, according to state news agency Xinhua. [REUTERS]

North Korea Detains Fourth U.S. Citizen for ‘Hostile Acts’

SEOUL—North Korea’s state media said officials detained a U.S. citizen tied to a Christian-backed university in North Korea, two weeks after arresting one of his colleagues.

Saturday’s arrest of Kim Hak-song for committing “hostile acts” brings the number of known U.S. citizens detained in North Korea to four, adding another twist to troubled relations between Washington and Pyongyang as the U.S. seeks to slow the North’s nuclear and missile program.

According to Sunday’s report by North Korea’s official Korean Central News Agency, Mr. Kim works for the Pyongyang University of Science and Technology, a university founded in 2010 by James Kim, a Korean-American Christian businessman.

The detention of Kim Hak-song comes days after North Korea accused the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency of paying a North Korean overseas laborer to assassinate leader Kim Jong Un.

In addition to the two Messrs. Kim from PUST, North Korea last year sentenced Otto Warmbier, a University of Virginia undergraduate arrested for allegedly trying to steal a political poster from a hotel, and Kim Dong-chul, a Korean-American businessman, to terms of 15 years and 10 years of hard labor, respectively. [WSJ]

ISIS chief in Afghanistan killed in April raid, US military says

The head of ISIS in Afghanistan was killed in a raid by U.S. and Afghan forces last month that also resulted in the death of two American soliders, the military said Sunday.

A statement by U.S. Forces, Afghanistan confirmed that Sheikh Abdul Hasib, described as the Emir of ISIS in the Khorasan Province (ISIS-K), was killed in the April 27 raid in southern Nangarhar province, eastern Afghanistan.

The raid that killed Hasib was carried out in the same area where the U.S. dropped the so-called “Mother of all Bombs” last month.

The Pentagon said that more than 50 U.S. Army Rangers and dozens of other partnered Afghan forces battled ISIS for over three hours in the mountain terrain. Two of the Rangers were killed and a third was wounded. Defense officials told Fox News that friendly fire was the suspected cause of the Rangers’ deaths.

Gen. John Nicholson, the commander of U.S. forces in Afghanistan, said Hasib’s death marked “another important step in our relentless campaign to defeat ISIS-K in 2017.”

“This is the second ISIS-K emir we have killed in nine months, along with dozens of their leaders and hundreds of their fighters,” Nicholson added. “For more than two years, ISIS-K has waged a barbaric campaign of death, torture and violence against the Afghan people, especially those in southern Nangarhar.” [FOXNEWS]

Netanyahu’s Circle: Ron Lauder Prepped Abbas for Trump Meet

World Jewish Congress Chairman Ronald Lauder worked with Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas to prepare him for his meeting at the White House with President Trump, sources in Prime Minister Netanyahu’s circle have told Ma’ariv.

According to the Monday morning report, Lauder hosted the PA chairman in his Manhattan home on the eve of the Trump meeting, as part of the cosmetics heir’s private campaign for peace in the Middle East.

Lauder has had a falling out with Prime Minister Netanyahu starting in 2011, when he attacked the PM over his failure to pursue the two-state solution in earnest. Since then Lauder has been involved in Israeli police investigations of Netanyahu, presumably furnishing them with anecdotes from the old times when the prime minister and the cosmetics fortune heir were still friend.

Lauder has been under attack from the Jewish and Israeli right, which have accused him of sabotaging Israel’s policy regarding Judea and Samaria and the settlements, and even legitimizing Hamas as a “partner for peace.”

In what has become a battle over the heart and mind of President Trump, the time Abbas spent being coached by Lauder, a close acquaintance of the president, was extremely valuable. Abbas reportedly came home happy with his initial contact with Trump, having overcome attempts by pro-Israel media and politicians to torpedo his meeting.

Abbas, it turns out, was an attentive student and managed to forge a personal chemistry with Trump, according to Ma’ariv. He invited the president to stop in Bethlehem on his May 22 trip to Israel – and Trump happily accepted. That’s one more meeting between Abbas and Trump Israel would rather do without. [JP]

Former US prisoner now leading Iraq’s Interior ministry

BAGHDAD (AP) — Just over 10 years ago, Qasim al-Araji was being arrested a second time by American forces in Iraq. The charges were serious: smuggling arms used to attack U.S. troops and involvement in an assassination cell at the height of sectarian violence that engulfed Iraq following the 2003 toppling of Saddam Hussein.

Now, he heads of one of Iraq’s most powerful ministries.

With credentials that include training from Iranian special operators known as the Quds force and time spent as a guerrilla and militia commander, Iraq’s Interior Minister al-Araji is now trumpeting his respect for human rights and support for the U.S.-led coalition in the fight against the Islamic State group. But the forces he now commands have a long history of Shiite domination and abuse, factors that partially contributed to the rise in support for IS in Iraq.

Back in 2007, al-Araji was held by the United States for 23 months. He spent most of his captivity at Bucca prison, including long periods in solitary confinement.

Today, at the head of one of Iraq’s most powerful ministries, al-Araji laughs off questions about lingering hostility toward U.S. forces.

“That’s life,” he said in a recent interview with The Associated Press, his manner boisterous and unpolished as he shuttled between meetings at a small Interior Ministry office inside Baghdad’s highly fortified Green Zone. “I was their prisoner and now I meet with their ambassador.”

Following a controversial March 17 strike in Mosul that killed more than 100 civilians, al-Araji took a rare public position for an Iraqi politician: he defended the U.S.-led coalition and the use of airstrikes in Mosul on the floor of Iraq’s parliament.

“My most important goal is to bring security to Iraq,” al-Araji said, “and (to achieve that) Iraq is in need of the friendship of the Americans.”
Under al-Araji, the Interior Ministry has already received more support from the U.S.-led coalition. [AP]


NATIONAL


Texas governor signs into law bill to punish ‘sanctuary cities’

Texas Republican Governor Greg Abbott signed into law on Sunday a measure to punish “sanctuary cities,” despite a plea from police chiefs of the state’s biggest cities to halt the bill they said would hinder their ability to fight crime.

The Texas measure comes as Republican U.S. President Donald Trump has made combating illegal immigration a priority. Texas, which has an estimated 1.5 million illegal immigrants and the longest border with Mexico of any U.S. state, has been at the forefront of the immigration debate.

“As governor, my top priority is public safety, and this bill furthers that objective by keeping dangerous criminals off our streets,” Abbott said in a statement. The law will take effect on Sept. 1.

The Republican-dominated legislature passed the bill on party-line votes and sent the measure to Abbott earlier this month. It would punish local authorities who do not abide by requests to cooperate with federal immigration agents.

Police officials found to be in violation of the law could face removal from office, fines and up to a year in prison if convicted.

The measure also allows police to ask people about their immigration status during a lawful detention, even for minor infractions like jaywalking.

Any anti-sanctuary city measure may face a tough road after a federal judge in April blocked Trump’s executive order seeking to withhold funds from local authorities that do not use their resources to advance federal immigration laws.

Democrats have warned the measure could lead to unconstitutional racial profiling and civil rights groups have promised to fight the Texas measure in court. [REUTERS]

APPEALS COURT TO WEIGH CHALLENGE TO REVISED TRUMP TRAVEL BAN

RICHMOND, Va. (AP) — After a series of stinging legal defeats, President Donald Trump’s administration hopes to convince a federal appeals court that his travel ban targeting six-Muslim majority countries is motivated by national security, not religion.

The 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals on Monday will examine a ruling that blocks the administration from temporarily barring new visas for citizens of Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen. It’s the first time an appeals court will hear arguments on the revised travel ban, which is likely destined for the U.S. Supreme Court.

Pointing to the Republican’s promises on the campaign trail to bar Muslims from entering the country, a federal judge in Maryland found in March that the policy appeared to be driven primarily by religious animus.

Attorneys for the U.S. Justice Department say the court shouldn’t rely on Trump’s statements, but on the text of the policy, which they say is necessary to protect the country from terrorism. The banned countries represent just a fraction of the predominantly Muslim countries worldwide, they note.

“The court should have focused on official acts, not perceived subjective motivations,” the attorneys say in court documents. [AP]

Two people shot outside famed Fountainbleau Hotel in Miami Beach

Two people were shot and injured outside Miami Beach’s famed Fountainbleau Hotel on Sunday, police said.

The victims, a man and a woman, were shot on a ramp and valet area which leads to the world-famous luxury hotel, and sought help inside the hotel, local media reported.

Police said both victims were transported to a trauma center for treatment for gunshot wounds.

The suspect was still being sought, and an investigation was ongoing. Pictures posted online showed the Fountainbleau lobby cordoned off by police tape and video showed helicopters hovering overhead.

The Fountainbleau, on Collins Avenue, features an iconic, curved design, opened in 1954 and has become one of south Florida’s most recognizable structures. It was prominently featured in a host of Hollywood films, including “Goldfinger,” “A Hole in the Head” and “Scarface.” [REUTERS]

Trump to Name Slate of Federal Judges

WASHINGTON — With Justice Neil Gorsuch now sitting on the Supreme Court, President Donald Trump is preparing to turn to the nomination of a slate of conservatives for judgeships to the lower federal courts.

Mr. Trump as soon as Monday will announce a batch of picks for 10 judicial posts, including five nominees for the powerful federal appeals courts, according to a person familiar with the matter.

While the appeals courts attract less public attention than the Supreme Court, judges who serve at that level play a significant role in shaping the law. The high court only hears about 70 cases a year, meaning the federal appellate level is the final stop for the overwhelming majority of cases filed in the federal system.

Mr. Trump’s new nominees will include two judges whom he had placed on his Supreme Court shortlist during his presidential campaign, the person familiar with the matter said. He will nominate Michigan Supreme Court Justice Joan Larsen for a seat on the Sixth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Cincinnati, and Minnesota Supreme Court Justice David Stras for a seat on the Eighth Circuit in St. Louis.

Both previously served as law clerks to conservative Supreme Court justices.

The other imminent appeals court nominees are Louisville, Ky., lawyer John K. Bush for the Sixth Circuit, University of Notre Dame law professor Amy Coney Barrett for the Chicago-based Seventh Circuit and Alabama lawyer Kevin Newsom to the Atlanta-based 11th Circuit, the person said.

Mr. Trump will also nominate four people to serve as judges at the federal district courts, and one for the U.S. Court of Federal Claims. District court nominees typically don’t spark as much political wrangling because they serve at the trial level and aren’t usually the final word on disputed areas of the law.

To date, the president has announced only one lower-court nominee: U.S. District Judge Amul Thapar for the Sixth Circuit appeals court. Judge Thapar had his confirmation hearing last month and is awaiting a vote in the Senate.

Senate Democrats and Republicans have on occasion succeeded in blocking a judicial pick from a president of the opposing party, thanks to the use of the filibuster as a procedural hurdle to prevent final confirmation votes. That option, however, is no longer available to the minority party.

Democrats ended the use of filibusters for lower-court nominations in 2013, when they held the Senate majority. Republicans then barred the filibuster this year for Supreme Court picks, a move that cleared the way for Justice Gorsuch’s confirmation. [WSJ]


LOCAL


ATF Agents Bolster New York Police Department

A vest and ballistic shield labeled “ATF Police” are stashed in a corner of the Bronx field office of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives.

The “police” label is for when federal agents go to suspects’ homes to make arrests, said special agent Andrew Boss. “It’s because people don’t know what ATF is.”

While the federal agency’s local policing role may not be well known, law-enforcement officials say the agency is changing how some local crimes are investigated and prosecuted. Its agents are nearly always paired with New York Police Department detectives, and officials from both agencies say this relationship has improved in recent years.

When the ATF is involved, defendants are typically prosecuted under federal laws and are therefore more likely to cooperate with law-enforcement officials in bringing cases against other defendants, experts say.

“There’s nothing scarier for a defendant than to be dragged into federal court,” said Eugene O’Donnell, a professor at John Jay College of Criminal Justice. “It’s well known in the streets that that’s game, set and match.”

Undercover agents purchased some of these guns and then try to trace their origins.

“New York has very strict gun laws,” said special agent Andrew Daher. “There’s a very large market for illegal guns here in New York City. There are individuals who exploit that.”

NYPD Lt. Keith Smith said his detectives who work with ATF contribute local policing knowledge. He said working with ATF allows access to federal wiretaps and other surveillance tools, in addition to more time to build cases.

Resulting cases, particularly ones where a gun is used to commit a violent crime or drug trafficking offense, carry “a big hammer” when charged in federal court, said special agent in charge Ashan M. Benedict. Defendants convicted of federal crimes are often sent to prisons outside of New York. And they often do more time in prison because of mandatory sentencing guidelines for many federal crimes. [WSJ]

New recycling bill could play a major role in styrofoam’s fate

Big Foam, local environmentalists and City Council members are battling over whether the city should recycle styrofoam products or ban them entirely.

Bronx Democratic Councilman Fernando Cabrera introduced a bill in March requiring households to separate polystyrene foam containers and recycle them.

The proposal would mandate the city Sanitation Department come up with a plan to collect and clean the plastic products.

Cabrera wrangled 16 council members to co-sponsor his bill, backed by midwestern plastics giant Dart Container Corp.

Dart executives, who have spent $837,000 lobbying the City Council and city agencies since 2013, called the bill “good, forward-thinking public policy.”

But advocates claim the proposal is really an effort to fend off an outright ban of foam.

“The plastics companies just want to create a market so people can keep buying and selling those products,” said Neighbors Allied for Good Growth consultant Jennie Romer. [NYP]

City backtracks on promise to build affordable housing units

The de Blasio administration is reneging on the city’s decade-old promise to replace parkland lost during the construction of the new Yankee Stadium in favor of a high-rise development.

The city’s Economic Development Corp. is pushing plans to build up to 1,045 units of market-rate and affordable housing as well as commercial space along a vacant four-acre lot on East 149th Street in The Bronx.

The area was long earmarked to be the last leg of the Mill Pond Park off the Harlem River.

Geoffrey Croft of the watchdog group NYC Park Advocates said the sleazy switcheroo “screams of Brooklyn Bridge Park all over again, where [some of the] waterfront parkland once promised to a neighborhood was taken away by government in favor of high-rise housing.”

At the time, then-Mayor Michael Bloomberg, Gov. George Pataki and the Yankees promised to eventually create more parkland than was lost. But only about 21 acres of new green space has been delivered.

Killian Jordan, a member of Bronx Community Board 4, called it “spectacularly inappropriate” that the city would be dangling the hope of bringing the neighborhood much-needed affordable housing at the expense of losing promised parkland.

She suggested that the EDC instead build affordable housing on some of the city-owned lots now used for stadium parking, urging Yankee fans to use more mass transit.

The agency said it is considering acquiring a 2.5-acre lot, five blocks south of Mill Pond Park on East 144th Street, to build another park there.

“We have a booming population that needs both affordable housing and recreational space, and [our] . . . investment strategy aims to do just that,” said EDC spokeswoman Stephanie Baez. [NYP]

Ex-Jet Republican Michael Faulkner drops out of NYC mayor race to challenge Controller Scott Stringer

Republican Michel Faulkner is dropping out of the race for mayor — but will run for city controller instead, he said Sunday.

Faulkner, a former New York Jet and now a Harlem minister, launched a long-shot bid to defeat Mayor de Blasio more than two years before the 2017 election. He now says he’s abandoning that bid, which has raised little money, and will take on Controller Scott Stringer.

“New York City needs new financial leadership to end the unsustainable tax-and-spend policies that are making the city unaffordable for many of our citizens and putting the Big Apple at risk of financial distress,” Faulkner said.

“I now intend to run a vigorous general election campaign for controller against Scott Stringer.” [DN]


POLITICS


Senate Republicans search for deal on ObamaCare repeal

Senate Republicans are looking for a path forward on repealing and replacing ObamaCare.

The House narrowly passed legislation, known as the American Health Care Act (AHCA), fulfilling a long-held campaign pledge after months of public back-and-forth, and kicking the issue to the upper chamber.

But Senate Republicans are expected to make significant changes to the House legislation as they try to cobble together a proposal that could pass the upper chamber.

“The Senate will write its own bill. That’s clear. Mitch McConnell’s made that clear and others in leadership have made that clear,” Sen. Bill Cassidy (R-La.) told CNN on Friday.

Senate leadership has a narrow path to clearing legislation through the upper chamber, with no Democrats expected to support the repeal effort. Republicans have 52 seats and can afford only two defections, allowing Vice President Pence to break a 50-50 tie.

Senate Republicans are concerned that the House bill would negatively impact Medicaid recipients in states that expanded the program under ObamaCare, and increase premiums on older, poorer Americans.

The Senate proposal will also need to meet budgetary rules that allow it to block a Democratic filibuster. That could mean a provision included in the House bill that allows states to apply for waivers for community rating, one of ObamaCare’s protections for people with pre-existing conditions that won support from conservatives, could be dropped.

With little room for error, Majority Leader Mitch McConnell will need to get both the moderate and conservative factions of his caucus on board if he wants to get legislation through the upper chamber. He’s convened a working group of roughly a dozen senators from across the Senate GOP conference.

Asked during a weekly leadership conference if Republicans would be able to pass healthcare legislation, he acknowledged that “it’ll be a real big challenge on the Senate side as well.” [THEHILL]

Trump praises Australia’s universal health care after Obamacare repeal

(CNN) Hours after scoring a victory in the House to effectively kill Obamacare, US President Donald Trump praised Australia’s universal health care system during a press conference with Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull.

“It’s going to be fantastic health care,” Trump said, referring to his new health care plan. “I shouldn’t say this to our great gentleman and my friend from Australia because you have better health care than we do.”

US Senator Bernie Sanders quickly picked up on the remark which came after Trump’s new bill passed by a handful of votes. The new law still has to pass the US Senate.

“Well Mr President, you’re right, in Australia and every other major country on Earth they guarantee health care to all people. They don’t throw 24 million people off health insurance. So maybe when we get to the Senate we should start off with looking at the Australian health care system,” Sanders told CNN’s Anderson Cooper.

Australia has a universal health care system, known as Medicare, which gives citizens free access to doctors and public hospitals paid for by the government. [CNN]

Georgia special election smashes all-time spending record

It’s official: Georgia’s special election will be the most expensive House race in U.S. history.

Candidates and outside groups have aired or reserved more than $29.7 million worth of TV ads in the race to replace Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price in Congress, which will break a five-year-old record for House spending — highlighting the outsize importance a sliver of the Atlanta suburbs has taken on in national politics.

It is plainly more money than one House race out of 435 needs. Cash is flowing in at such saturation levels that Democrat Jon Ossoff’s campaign had the money for everything from Korean radio ads to free Lyft rides for voters on primary day. The Atlanta NBC station has even bumped reruns of “The Andy Griffith Show” from their regular slot in order to extend its local newscasts and make more room for political ads.

“Republicans can’t afford to lose this because it changes the narrative and it makes it easier for Democrats to recruit candidates and fundraise,” Davis said. “If Democrats lose, then it punctures their narrative of a coming anti-Trump wave.”

The cost of the race between Ossoff and Republican Karen Handel is going to shatter the previous recorded high of $29.6 million — set in Palm Beach County, Florida, in 2012 by former GOP Rep. Allen West, former Democratic Rep. Patrick Murphy and outside groups, according to the Center for Responsive Politics. The $29.7 million total in Georgia, compiled by a source tracking media spending in the district, includes only money spent on TV ads. [POLITICO]

Yates Testimony to Shine Public Light on Russia Probes

Testimony from a former acting attorney general on Monday could shed new light on the largely secretive investigations into Russia’s alleged interference in the 2016 election.

Sally Yates, a top Justice Department official in the Obama administration, was serving as President Donald Trump’s acting attorney general when she told a White House official about conversations between former national security adviser Mike Flynn and a Russian diplomat. The White House has said Ms. Yates provided a “heads up” to the official, White House counsel Donald McGahn, about the conversations, without describing the nature of them.

Ms. Yates, who had access to intelligence transcripts of the calls, will say that she told Mr. McGahn explicitly that Mr. Flynn hadn’t been truthful about the conversations and that his actions could put him at risk of being compromised by Russian intelligence services, according to people familiar with her account.

Ms. Yates will be joined by James Clapper, Mr. Obama’s director of national intelligence, at a hearing before a Senate Judiciary subcommittee headed by Sen. Lindsey Graham (R., S.C.) to examine alleged Russian interference in the election. Mr. Graham last year urged congressional leaders to create a special committee to investigate Russia’s purported role, but they declined. [WSJ]

Eric Trump in 2014: ‘We have all the funding we need out of Russia’

President Trump’s son, Eric, once told a golf writer that funding for Trump golf courses come from Russia, that writer recounted in a new interview.

James Dodson during an interview Friday with Boston’s WBUR described meeting Donald Trump in 2014 and being invited to play golf at the Trump National Golf Club Charlotte.

He said asked Donald Trump how he was paying for his courses, and the now-president “sort of tossed off that he had access to $100 million,” Dodson said in the interview.

Dodson said he then questioned Eric Trump, who was along for the day.

“I said, ‘Eric, who’s funding? I know no banks — because of the recession, the Great Recession — have touched a golf course. You know, no one’s funding any kind of golf construction. It’s dead in the water the last four or five years,’” the writers told WBUR.

“And this is what he said. He said, ‘Well, we don’t rely on American banks. We have all the funding we need out of Russia.’ I said, ‘Really?’ And he said, ‘Oh, yeah. We’ve got some guys that really, really love golf, and they’re really invested in our programs. We just go there all the time.’” [THEHILL]

OBAMA URGES CONGRESS TO SHOW ‘COURAGE’ ON HEALTH CARE

BOSTON (AP) — Former President Barack Obama, in his first public comments about the ongoing debate over his signature health care plan, implored members of Congress on Sunday to demonstrate political courage even if it goes against their party’s positions.

Obama briefly returned to the spotlight as he accepted the annual John F. Kennedy Profile in Courage Award at JFK’s presidential library in Boston.

In his approximately 30-minute speech after accepting the award, Obama steered clear of partisan attacks and never mentioned his successor, President Donald Trump, who has often criticized the previous administration and has worked to undo many of Obama’s initiatives, including the Affordable Care Act.

The former president recalled members of Congress who voted to pass the ACA during his presidency, only to lose their seat in later elections.

“They had a chance to insure millions,” he said. “But this vote could also cost them their seats, perhaps end their political careers.”

Obama made no direct reference to Thursday’s House vote to dismantle much of the health care law, but declared that while it did not take courage to help the rich and powerful, it does require courage to help the sick and vulnerable.

“It is my fervent hope and the hope of millions … such courage is still possible, that today’s members of Congress regardless of party are willing to look at the facts and speak the truth, even when it contradicts party positions,” said Obama, whose appeal seemed to focus on wavering Republicans. [AP]


CULTURE


This Israeli coffee shop gives a discount to customers who say ‘please’ and ‘thank you’

(JTA) — In Israel, being polite to your barista might not only earn you a smile — it could also save you money.

Café Café, one of the country’s largest coffeehouse chains, is now offering a 25 percent discount to customers at its 157 branches who say “please” and “thank you” when ordering a regular size cup of coffee, Globes reported Wednesday.

A cup of coffee will cost well-behaved patrons only 6 shekels, or $1.66, rather than 8 shekels, or $2.20.

Café Café CEO Noam Zimerman told Globes that he hopes the initiative will “encourage more respectful conversation in Israel society.”

He also expects it will benefit his company financially: The chain saw a 30 to 40 percent increase in new customers when the price of a cup of coffee was slashed to 8 shekels several years ago from 11 or 12.

Zimerman anticipates a similar increase this time.

“When we cut the price the last time, we didn’t think we’d do it again,” he said. “But we saw it was good for both the franchise holder and for us, so we decided to take it one step further.” [JTA]


FINANCE


Wall Street set to rise after Macron wins in France

U.S. equity index futures edged higher on Sunday in the wake of a victory by the centrist candidate in the closely watched presidential French election, suggesting the benchmark S&P 500 may push further into record territory when trading reopens on Monday morning.

S&P 500 emini futures ESv1 were last up fractionally after electronic trading reopened for the week late on Sunday afternoon. Futures initially ticked about 0.2 percent higher but have since pared some of the gain.

The move came after independent centrist Emmanuel Macron, who favors keeping France inside the European Union, was elected the country’s president, easily beating back a challenge from EU critic Marine Le Pen.

On Friday the S&P 500 .SPX marked a record-high close, as energy stocks bounced back along with oil prices and the government reported U.S. job growth had rebounded in April.

Macron’s victory was seen as a supporting factor for global equity markets that have had some concern about the tide of nationalism and protectionism in recent political contests on both sides of the Atlantic. [REUTERS]

Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross said threats of retaliatory trade actions from Canadian officials “are inappropriate”

U.S. Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross said on Saturday that threats of retaliatory trade actions from Canadian officials “are inappropriate” and will not influence final U.S. import duty determinations on Canadian softwood lumber.

“We continue to believe that a negotiated settlement is in the best interests of all parties and we are prepared to work toward that end,” Ross said in a statement issued by the Commerce Department.

On Friday, Canadian Prime Minster Justin Trudeau said his government would study whether to stop U.S. firms from shipping thermal coal from ports in the Pacific province of British Columbia in response to the lumber duties.

Canada also is considering duties on exports from Oregon such as wine, flooring and plywood, a source close to the matter told Reuters, citing the role played by U.S. Senator Ron Wyden, an Oregon Democrat, in pressing for the lumber tariffs.

Trade relations between the United States and second-largest trading partner Canada have soured since the Commerce Department in late April imposed preliminary anti-subsidy duties averaging 20 percent on Canadian softwood lumber imports.

The long-running dispute centers on U.S. lumber producers’ charges that lower-cost Canadian competitors benefit from an unfair government subsidy because Canadian timber is mostly grown on public lands.

Ross said in his statement on Saturday that the Commerce Department’s decision “was based on the facts presented, not on political considerations.” “Threats of retaliatory action are inappropriate and will not influence any final determinations,” Ross added.

The Commerce Department still needs to finalize its anti-subsidy findings and the final duties must also be affirmed by the independent U.S. International Trade Commission before they can be locked in place for five years.

Ross said if any Canadian officials wish to present additional information in the case, the department “will consider it carefully and impartially.” [CNBC]

Kushner Companies seeks $150M for NJ project from Chinese investors

Journalists were barred this week from an event in Shanghai that sought Chinese investment in a luxury apartment complex in New Jersey being developed by KABR Group and the Kushner Companies.

The family of President Donald Trump’s son-in-law hopes to raise $150 million, or 15.4 percent of funding for the project, through the EB-5 visa program, according to Reuters. The program allows foreigners to in effect buy U.S. immigration visas by investing at least $500,000. The event was organized by immigration agency Qiaowai, according to marketing materials.

Kushner’s sister, Nicole Kushner Meyer, is said to have spoken for 10 minutes, mentioning her family’s humble roots. According to the New York Times, Meyer attended a similar event in Beijing on Saturday telling the audience of roughly 100 people the project, known as One Journal Square, “means a lot to me and my entire family.”

Sophie Xing, a potential investor, said a “very important” factor in her decision to attend Sunday’s event was that the project’s developer was Kushner Companies and that Trump’s son-in-law’s sister would be speaking, according to Reuters.

Qiaowai made note of Meyer’s relationship to Trump in promotional materials, referred to the project as “Kushner1” and describes the project as “supported by the government, created by a star developer,” according to Reuters. [TRD]

05/08/2017 10:33 AM by David Kinzer
Tags: Morning Read

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