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Pedestrians walk in front of a banner of the Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi before the upcoming referendum on constitutional amendments in Cairo, Egypt April 16, 2019. REUTERS/Mohamed Abd El Ghany
April 22, 2019
CAIRO (Reuters) – Opponents of constitutional amendments that could see Egypt’s President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi stay in power until 2030 urged people to vote “no” on Monday, the third and final day of a referendum on the proposal.
The amendments would also bolster the role of the military and expand the president’s power over judicial appointments. The constitutional changes were approved by parliament last week.
While the amendments are expected to be passed in the referendum, observers say the turnout will be a test of Sisi’s popularity, which has been dented by austerity measures since 2016. He was re-elected last year with 97 percent of votes cast.
Sisi’s supporters say he has stabilized Egypt and needs more time to reform and develop the economy. Critics fear changing the constitution will shrink any remaining space for political competition and debate, paving the way for a long period of one-man rule.
Ahmed al-Tantawi, one of a small number of opposition members of parliament, said the referendum was being held against a backdrop of intimidation and “vote buying”.
The electoral commission said on Monday afternoon it had not received any formal complaints so far about any irregularities.
“We can say that the first two days of voting were held under the slogan, the ‘ticket and the cardboard box’,” Tantawi said, referring to reports that grocery boxes were being handed out to people in exchange for casting a vote.
“But there is a chance on the third day of voting for Egyptians, particularly the youth, to return things to their natural course,” he said.
Activists have posted photos on social media that appeared to show white cardboard boxes packed with groceries being handed out to people after they voted.
A Reuters reporter saw some voters receiving vouchers for groceries after leaving a central Cairo polling station, which they then exchanged for packages of cooking oil, pasta, sugar and tea at a nearby charity.
It was not immediately possible to verify who was distributing the food.
When asked about the boxes, Mahmoud el-Sherif, spokesman for Egypt’s election commission, said it was monitoring for any violations. But he added: “The commission has received no notifications or complaints of this kind so far.”
The commission says it has strict measures to ensure a fair and free vote, posting judges at each polling station and using special ink to prevent multiple voting.
If approved, the amendments would extend Sisi’s current term to six years from four and allow him to run again for a third six-year term in 2024.
They would also grant the president control over appointing head judges and the public prosecutor from a pool of candidates, and give Egypt’s powerful military the role of protecting “the constitution and democracy”.
Cairo’s streets have been adorned with banners encouraging people to vote, some of them backing a “yes” vote.
Ahmed Maher, a founder of the April 6 Movement, one of the youth groups behind the 2011 uprising that toppled President Hosni Mubarak, said Egyptians still had a chance to make their voice heard.
“Try to change the result, even by a small ratio,” he wrote in a message posted on social media. “Tell your relatives, friends and acquaintance to go down and say ‘No’.”
Some 61 million of Egypt’s nearly 100 million population are eligible to vote. The result is expected within five days.
(Reporting by Cairo bureau; Writing by Sami Aboudi; Editing by Aidan Lewis and Edmund Blair)
Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., who launched her bid for the Democratic presidential nomination in February, named five new staffers and five senior advisers for her campaign Monday, Politico reported.
Sen. Klobuchar has tried to brand herself as a no-nonsense pragmatist who can win in parts of the country where support for President Donald Trump is strong, but has opposed some ideas that have gained traction in the party's progressive wing, such as a proposal for four-year free college.
However, she has garnered only low single-digit support in the crowded Democratic field in national and early state polling in the two months since she started her campaign.
As she tries to intensify her campaign, her new hires include Pete Giangreco as a senior adviser and Fred Yang as a research adviser, according to Politico. Giangreco helped her win her first Senate race in 2006, and then he worked on President Barack Obama's campaigns in both 2008 and 2012. Yang has vast experience as a Democratic pollster on numerous House and Senate races.
She has also brought on board three media advisers – Roy Temple, Jay Howser, and Andi Johnson – who are all from GPS Impact consulting firm and who have worked on a range of congressional and gubernatorial races.
The staff hires include Tim Hogan as communications director; Lucinda Ware as national political director, Anjan Mukherjee as research director; and Mike McLaughlin as national field director.
Source: NewsMax Politics
As thousands gathered on the White House lawn for the annual Easter egg roll on Monday morning, Kellyanne Conway criticized House Democrats latest impeachment push, calling it "a ridiculous proposition."
The issue was raised again after a redacted version of Special Counsel Robert Mueller's report was released last week, which Dems argue provides evidence to the contrary of Attorney General William Barr's summary that the investigation found no evidence that President Trump obstructed justice.
However, Conway pushed back.
"You can't impeach a Republican president for something the Democrats started, which is this ridiculous investigation that has cost us $25 million, over 2500 subpoenas," Conway told "Fox & Friends" host Ainsley Earhardt on Monday morning.
"The special counsel provides a report to the attorney general who, in concert with the deputy attorney general and office of legal counsel, decided there was no obstructive conduct. They could not bring obstruction charges - they made that decision," she continued.
"I'm sure if director Mueller and his team could have brought those very clear charges they would have."
She added that many in the media are now trying to "save face" after fiercely believing and predicting Mueller's investigation would uncover collusion between Trump and Russia, which would have supplemented their arguments in 2016 that Trump "lied and stole the election."
As the 2020 election approaches, Conway also commented on the wide array of Democrats entering the race and reminded viewers that candidates need to run on real issues.
"Simple math," she said. "One, 19, 50, anything times zero, simple multiplication ... 19 are running, but if your message is zero it's a big zero."
Source: Fox News Politics
White House press secretary Sarah Sanders called Democrats' calls to impeach President Donald Trump "simply sad" and said Monday party members have been trying to find ways to attack him since 2016, when he defeated Hillary Clinton for the White House.
"They got beat because they had a bad candidate and we had a great candidate," Sanders told Fox News' "Fox & Friends." "Our candidate had a better message, a better vision, and outworked his opponent. They have been losing every day since."
Instead, Democrats could be working with Trump to "solve some of the big problems," Sanders said. "They have become not just an embarrassment for their party but an embarrassment for public service because they are not providing the service which they were elected to actually fulfill."
She also slammed CNN's April Ryan, after the reporter Friday called for Sanders to be fired after special counsel Robert Mueller said in his report Sanders had lied when she told reporters "countless" members of the FBI welcomed Trump's decision to fire former FBI Director James Comey.
Sanders took particular offense at Ryan's saying "you have to start lopping the heads off" when a lack of credibility is found.
"I have had reporters say a lot of things about me," she said. "They've said I should be choked. They've said I should deserve a lifetime of harassment. I certainly never had anybody say I should be decapitated — this takes us to a new low even for the liberal media. I think it just once again proves why this journalist isn't taken seriously."
Source: NewsMax Politics
FILE PHOTO: Workers construct a new home in Leyden Rock in Arvada, Colorado, U.S. August 30, 2016. REUTERS/Rick Wilking/File Photo
April 22, 2019
By Lucia Mutikani
WASHINGTON (Reuters) – U.S. home sales fell more than expected in March, pointing to continued weakness in the housing market despite declining mortgage rates and slowing house price gains.
The sharp drop in home sales reported by the National Association of Realtors on Monday came ahead of the busy spring selling season. The housing market continues to buck the broader economy, which has shown signs of gaining momentum after stumbling at the turn of the year.
Existing home sales dropped 4.9 percent to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 5.21 million units last month. February’s sales pace was revised down to 5.48 million units from the previously reported 5.51 million units.
Economists polled by Reuters had forecast existing home sales would fall 3.8 percent to a rate of 5.30 million units last month. Existing home sales, which make up about 90 percent of U.S. home sales, declined 5.4 percent from a year ago. That was the 13th straight year-on-year decrease in home sales.
Falling mortgage rates, strengthening wage growth and slowing house price inflation have improved affordability, but housing supply remains tight, especially at the lower end of the market as land and labor shortages are making it difficult for builders to ramp up construction in this market segment.
The 30-year fixed mortgage rate has dropped from a peak of about 4.94 percent in November to around 4.12 percent, according to data from mortgage finance agency Freddie Mac. Wage growth is also strengthening.
A survey last week showed that while builders reported strong demand for new homes in April, they also complained about “affordability concerns stemming from a chronic shortage of construction workers and buildable lots.”
There were steep declines in sales in the lower and upper ends of the housing market last month.
The dollar slipped against a basket of currencies after the release of the existing home sales data. Stocks on Wall Street were trading lower and U.S. Treasury prices fell.
Last month, existing home sales fell in all four regions. There were 1.68 million previously owned homes on the market in March, up from 1.63 million in February. At March’s sales pace, it would take 3.9 months to exhaust the current inventory, up from 3.6 months in February.
A six-to-seven-month supply is viewed as a healthy balance between supply and demand. The median existing house price increased 3.8 percent from a year ago to $259,400 in March.
The Commerce Department reported last Friday that housing starts dropped to a rate of 1.139 million units in March, the lowest level since May 2017.
That was the second straight monthly drop in homebuilding and pushed starts substantially below the 1.5 million to 1.6 million units per month range that realtors estimate is needed to alleviate the shortage.
Houses for sale typically stayed on the market for 36 days in March, down from 44 days in February but up from 30 days a year ago. About 47 percent of homes sold in March were on the market for less than a month.
First-time buyers accounted for a third of sales last month, little changed from February and up from 30 percent a year ago. Economists and realtors say a 40 percent share of first-time buyers is needed for a robust housing market.
(Reporting by Lucia Mutikani; Editing by Paul Simao)
The Supreme Court will decide whether the main federal civil rights law that prohibits employment discrimination applies to LGBT people.
The justices say Monday they will hear cases involving people who claim they were fired because of their sexual orientation. Another case involves a funeral home employee who was fired after disclosing that she was transitioning from male to female and dressed as a woman.
The cases will be argued in the fall, with decisions likely by June 2020 in the middle of the presidential election campaign.
The issue is whether Title VII of the federal Civil Rights Act of 1964, which prohibits sex discrimination, protects LGBT people from job discrimination. Title VII does not specifically mention sexual orientation or transgender status, but federal appeals courts in Chicago and New York have ruled recently that gay and lesbian employees are entitled to protection from discrimination. The federal appeals court in Cincinnati has extended similar protections for transgender people.
The big question is whether the Supreme Court, with a strengthened conservative majority, will do the same.
The Obama administration had supported treating LGBT discrimination claims as sex discrimination, but the Trump administration has changed course. The Trump Justice Department has argued that Title VII was not intended to provide protections to gay or transgender workers. The administration also separately withdrew Obama-era guidance to educators to treat claims of transgender students as sex discrimination.
President Donald Trump has appointed two justices, Neil Gorsuch and Brett Kavanaugh.
The justices will take up three cases in the fall.
In one, the federal appeals court in New York ruled in favor of a gay skydiving instructor who claimed he was fired because of his sexual orientation. The second case is from Georgia, where the federal appeals court ruled against a gay employee of Clayton County, in the Atlanta suburbs.
The third case comes from Michigan, where a funeral home fired a transgender woman. The appeals court in Cincinnati ruled that the firing constituted sex discrimination under federal law.
The funeral home argues in part that Congress was not thinking about transgender people when it included sex discrimination in Title VII.
Source: Fox News Politics
Prominent conservative donors who avoided President Donald Trump's 2016 campaign are now participating in a new fundraising drive for Trump ahead of his re-election bid, Politico reports.
Donors to former President George W. Bush and former presidential candidates Sens. John McCain, R-Ariz., and Mitt Romney, R-Utah, have agreed to steer their fundraising networks toward Trump. Politico compares the project to the Pioneers network that backed Bush's first presidential campaign. The program will offer rewards, such as invitations to retreats, briefings, and dinners sponsored by the campaign, to donors who give $25,000 or more to the Trump Victory fund.
"I think you'll have a significant number of Bush and Romney veterans that were on the sidelines or didn't get overly involved in 2016 but will be involved in the 2020 campaign," said Jack Oliver, a longtime GOP fundraiser who helped President Bush and his brother Jeb Bush in their presidential campaigns.
"There were still a lot of people who were trying to lick their wounds and hadn't quite gotten over the fact that he [Trump] had whipped everybody. They were slow to come on board," said Roy Bailey, a fundraiser and one of the leaders of the Trump Victory project. He added about 150 people have joined.
"I've had a couple of people that in 2016, they just weren't on board with candidate Trump at all and they said, 'Look, Roy, he has won me over. I'm all in,'" he said.
Source: NewsMax America
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Ava Martinez poked fun at the freshman congresswoman’s Green New Deal, legislation that calls for a massive overhaul of the nation’s economy and energy use—estimated to cost tens of trillions of dollars.
“Like, I want to talk about, like, climate change. Because, like, there’s no doubt cow farts are making the climate change,” Martinez says, donning Ocasio-Cortez-inspired glasses and red lipstick.
“Like, in July, the climate was 96 degrees and in February the climate was 36 degrees. OMG, like that’s a huge change in the climate in”—the mini-AOC looks down to count her fingers—“only four months!”
Martinez’s stepdad, Salvatore Schachter, told the New York Post that the 8-year-old’s resemblance to Ocasio-Cortez was noted amongst family members and thought that doing a video would be fun.
“I thought it would gain attention, because she’s adorable, but not like this,” he said of its over 1 million combined views across two tweets.
Martinez closes out her impression with her thoughts on socialism, saying, “Like, socialism is actually short for social media. I do social media, so I’m a socialist.”
Source: Fox News Politics
Members of the Libyan internationally recognised government forces take position during the fighting with the Eastern forces in Ain Zara, in Tripoli, Libya April 21, 2019. REUTERS/Ahmed Jadallah
April 21, 2019
By Hani Amara and Ulf Laessing
TRIPOLI (Reuters) – Forces loyal to Libya’s internationally recognized government have pushed their eastern opponents back on parts of the frontline south of Tripoli, despite the attackers flying overnight air strikes on the capital, witnesses said on Sunday.
The Libyan National Army (LNA) force loyal to commander Khalifa Haftar allied to a parallel government in the east started an offensive more two weeks ago but has been unable to breach the southern defenses of the Tripoli government.
The latest flare-up in the cycle of anarchy gripping Libya since dictator Muammar Gaddafi was toppled in 2011 threatens to disrupt oil flows, foment migration across the Mediterranean Sea to Europe, and allow jihadists to exploit the chaos.
Forces loyal to Tripoli managed to push back the LNA several km (miles) in the southern Ain Zara suburb, Reuters reporters visiting the area said. They managed to go several km further south than when they visited the same frontline a few days ago.
Still, if a ceasefire was called as demanded by the United Nations, the LNA would have gained a considerable amount of territory, as they still control much of the area south of Tripoli including a forward base in Gharyan, a mountainous town some 80 km south of Tripoli.
LNA spokesman Ahmed Mismari denied his forces had retreated, telling reporters they had actual gained territory after what he called a successful air strike.
The attackers had late on Saturday flown air strikes on southern areas of Tripoli, with residents blaming drones after listening for almost an hour the typical summing of an unmanned aircraft.
Reuters was unable to confirm whether an aircraft or unmanned drone was behind the strike which triggered heavy anti aircraft fire. Explosions heard in the city center this time were louder than in previous days.
If a drone strike was confirmed this would point to more sophisticated warfare. The LNA has so far mainly used aging Soviet-made jets from the air force of Gaddafi, lacking precision firepower and helicopters, according to residents and military sources.
In the past the United Arab Emirates and Egypt have supported Haftar with air strikes during campaigns to take eastern Libya. Both countries flew air strikes on Tripoli in 2014 during a different conflict to help a Haftar-allied force, U.S. officials said at the time.
Since 2014 the UAE and Egypt have also provided the LNA with military equipment such as aircraft and helicopters, helping Haftar to gain the upper hand in Libya’s eight-year conflict, past U.N. reports have established.
The UAE even built an air base in Al Khadim in eastern Libya, one such report said in 2017.
Fighting over Tripoli spiked after the White House said on Friday that President Donald Trump spoke to Haftar on Monday.
The disclosure of the call and a U.S. statement that it “recognized Field Marshal Haftar’s significant role in fighting terrorism and securing Libya’s oil resources” has boosted the commander’s supporters and enraged his opponents.
Western powers and the Gulf have been divided over a push by Haftar’s forces to seize Tripoli, undermining calls by the United Nations for a ceasefire. On Thursday, both the United States and Russia said they could not support a U.N. Security Council resolution calling for a Libya ceasefire at this time.
(Writing by Ulf Laessing, Editing by William Maclean)
FILE PHOTO: Jet Airways aircraft parked at Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj International Airport in Mumbai, India, March 26, 2019. REUTERS/Francis Mascarenhas -/File Photo
April 14, 2019
By Nidhi Verma
NEW DELHI (Reuters) – More than a thousand pilots of India’s debt-laden Jet Airways will not fly from Monday as they have not been paid salaries for the past three months, the President of the National Aviators Guild said on Sunday.
Saddled with more than $1.2 billion of bank debt, the airline has been teetering for weeks and has yet to receive a loan of about $217 million from its lenders as part of a rescue deal agreed in late March.
“Pilots haven’t been paid for the last three months,” Capt Karan Chopra told Reuters.
The crisis at Jet has deepened in recent weeks as lessors have started applying to deregister planes, signalling the planned bailout had failed to assuage their concerns.
An urgent meeting to discuss the Jet situation was held at the prime minister’s office on Friday, which was also attended by the country’s aviation secretary, Pradeep Singh Kharola.
After the meeting, Kharola said the carrier had money to operate 6-7 planes over the weekend and after that the lenders would have to decide how many jets it could fly after Monday afternoon, news channel ET Now reported late on Friday.
Kharola said the company will meet bankers on Monday for an infusion of funds in the interim, the TV channel said.
According to a Business Standard newspaper report on Sunday, Jet’s lenders, led by the State Bank of India, are considering a proposal to infuse 10 billion rupees ($144.55 million) to keep the airline afloat.
The money is expected to be disbursed after the Jet management submits an operational plan on how it intends to use the money till May 7, the report said.
An SBI spokesman could not immediately comment on the emergency funding being considered by lenders for Jet Airways.
The lenders, who have been seeking a new investor to take a stake of up to 75 percent in the airline, hope to complete the selection of bidders by May 7.
Initial bids were to be submitted by the end April 10, but SBI extended the deadline to April 12.
Abu Dhabi-based Etihad Airways, which owns a 24-percent stake in the airline, private equity fund TPG Capital, the government-owned sovereign fund National Investment and Infrastructure Fund, and ousted chairman Naresh Goyal are among those to have submitted bids, the Business Standard reported.
(Reporting by Nidhi Verma; Editing by Himani Sarkar)
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Source: The War Room
Special counsel Robert Mueller’s report on Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election, set to be released Thursday morning, will be lightly redacted but still offer a thorough look at objection charges mulled over by Mueller’s team against President Donald Trump, according to The Washington Post.
The report will list a “detailed blow-by-blow of the president’s alleged conduct — analyzing tweets, private threats, and other episodes at the center of Mueller’s inquiry,” according to the Post, which cited people familiar with the matter.
Mueller, who turned in his report to Attorney General William Barr on March 23, neither charged nor exonerated Trump on obstruction of justice charges and also said neither Trump nor his campaign conspired with Russia to win the 2016 campaign.
Barr has been accused by Democratic lawmakers of trying to spin Mueller’s findings, a notion fueled by his decision to hold a press conference ahead of the report’s release to present his overview of it and discuss his review process.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., said Barr had “thrown out his credibility & the DOJ’s independence with his single-minded effort to protect” Trump.
And Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., said, “The process is poisoned before the report is even released.”
“Barr shouldn’t be spinning the report at all, but it’s doubly outrageous he’s doing it before America is given a chance to read it,” Schumer said.
Source: NewsMax America