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NEWS   THURSDAY, MARCH  23, 2017   NEWS

House Intel Chairman: Trump's Personal Communications May Have Been Collected
House Intelligence Chairman Devin Nunes said Wednesday that Donald Trump's personal communications and those of associates may have been picked up by intelligence agencies conducting surveillance after the election, hurrying to the White House to brief the President and angering Democrats who say they've been left in the dark. The conversations were "incidentally" collected as part of intelligence sweeps focusing on other people, Nunes said, and implied that Trump was not the target of the surveillance operation. Nunes said at a news conference he discovered the accounts of Trump conversations when he was reviewing intelligence reports brought to him by an unidentified person -- and said the information was not related to Russia, which is accused of interfering in the US election. CNN
VOA VIEW: There is much yet that is unkown by us all.

17,000 AT&T Workers Go On Strike
The strike began amid ongoing negotiations between AT&T and landline workers in California and Nevada who are represented by the Communications Workers of America union. The union said via Facebook that employees are angry that AT&T "recently made a unilateral change in job requirements [for landline technicians] without the agreement of the union." The two parties failed to reach an agreement after several days of talks. AT&T said Wednesday that the strike does not include workers in wireless departments, and that the company is engaged in conversations with CWA in an attempt to get "employees back to work as soon as possible." CNN

Gun Rights Supporters See Political Tide Shifting In Their Favor
After years of restrictive gun laws being imposed across the country during the President Obama years, gun rights advocates are seeing the tide turn in their favor. Since President Trump assumed office earlier this year, more than a dozen states have introduced pro-gun legislation. The bills have fallen mostly into two categories: permits to carry and access to buildings. Second Amendment Foundation founder Alan Gottlieb says gun rights are gaining ground and a lot is due to the power shift to Republicans – not only in Congress and the White House, but also in state houses and governors' mansions. Fox News
VOA VIEW: Gun rights may become no restrictions.

Many US Women Start Pregnancy With Poor Diets
Most women have poor diets around the time of conception that may increase the risk of pregnancy complications like excessive weight gain, high blood pressure, impaired fetal growth and preterm deliveries, a U.S. study suggests. During the three months around conception, the study found that women got roughly one-third of their energy from so-called empty calories like alcohol and foods loaded with sugars and fats. Their top sources of energy were soda, pasta, cookies, cake, bread, beer, wine and spirits. "In particular, the fact that soda was the primary source of calories was concerning," said lead study author Lisa Bodnar, a public health researcher at the University of Pittsburgh. Fox News

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WH: ‘We’re Hoping To Make This The Last Anniversary Americans Will Have To Endure Obamacare’
The House Rules Committee is scheduled to vote Wednesday on the American Health Care Act, the Obamacare repeal and replace bill. The House will vote on the bill on Thursday, the same day that marks seven years since former President Barack Obama signed Obamacare, the Affordable Care Act, into law. The White House announced Tuesday that President Donald Trump “met with the House Republican Conference members on Capitol Hill ahead of the House’s scheduled vote on the American Health Care Act, which is currently scheduled for Thursday.” CNS News

Sen. Graham On Gorsuch: 'I Want To Congratulate President Trump,' He 'Chose Wisely'
In reference to President Donald Trump's nomination of Neil Gorsuch to the Supreme Court, Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), a frequent Trump critic, said he wanted "to congratulate the president" for choosing "wisely." He added, however, that Trump's questioning of a federal judge's impartiality back in 2016  "was really out of bounds" and compared Trump's comments to ones made by House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) about Gorsuch. While questioning Gorsuch on Wednesday in the Senate Judiciary Committee, Senator Graham said, “I intend to vote for you for the same reasons that are articulated for [Justices] Sotomayor and Kagan in terms of your qualifications. I intend to vote for you because I think you represent a conservative’s view of  how to be a judge. I’m excited about that." CNS News
VOA VIEW: He will be approved - no question.

Illinois Bills Seek To Legalize, Tax Marijuana Sales To Adults
Illinois would legalize marijuana for recreational use by adults and tax it to raise at least $350 million a year for the cash-strapped state under legislation introduced on Wednesday. Two Democratic lawmakers sponsoring the bills said the measures pending before the House and Senate would allow law enforcement to focus on other crimes and enable the state to create a system for regulating and taxing marijuana sales. Adults aged 21 and older would be able to possess, grow, and purchase limited amounts of marijuana, under the legislation. Businesses cultivating, processing, testing and selling pot would be licensed and regulated by the state, which would also impose labeling requirements and marketing restrictions. Reuters

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Feds Remind U.S. Airports, Airlines They Are Terror Targets
Federal law enforcement has warned America's airports and airlines that they remain top targets for terrorists because of their symbolic value, "inherent accessibility, and the presence of large crowds in unsecure areas," according to a new government memo obtained by NBC News. The "law enforcement sensitive" memo, sent Tuesday to the nation's passenger airlines, law enforcement agencies and many of the nation's nearly 20,000 airports, reminds the airline industry that "terrorists outside the U.S. remain intent on attacking airports." MSNBC

London Terrorist Attack: 5 Killed Near British Parliament, Attacker Dead
Four people, including a police officer, were killed and about 40 others were wounded Wednesday in a terrorist attack at Britain's Parliament that sent crowds running for their lives before police shot and killed the attacker. Police for several hours said the attacker had killed three people. Acting Deputy Metropolitan Police Commissioner Mark Rowley said Wednesday night that a fourth victim had died. The victims included London Metropolitan Police Constable Keith Palmer, 48, a 15-year veteran who was a husband and a father, Rowley said. Palmer was stabbed at the House of Commons and died despite the efforts of doctors and a passing government minister to save him. MSNBC
VOA VIEW: All prayers to the families of those that have falled.

White House Warns Conservatives ‘No Plan B’ To Nix Obamacare: ‘This Is It’
The White House warned conservative lawmakers Wednesday that if they vote down the Republican health care bill there is “no Plan B” to repeal and replace Obamacare. “This is it,” said White House press secretary Sean Spicer, adding that there would not be another chance for conservatives to keep their promises to get rid of Obamacare. The bill is headed for a close vote Thursday in the House, where at least two dozen Republicans remain opposed to the legislation, which they describe as “Obamacare Lite.” Washington Times
VOA VIEW: There will be changes or there won't be a bill.

Gorsuch’s Pro-Illegal Immigrant Ruling Roils Confirmation Debate
Judge Neil Gorsuch repeatedly defended an “undocumented immigrant” against the massive crush of the administrative state during his confirmation hearing Tuesday, picking a fascinating fight with his potential future colleagues on the Supreme Court. The case he was referring to — a 2016 ruling from the 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, in which he wrote both the opinion of the court and, strikingly, a separate concurring opinion — has become a major flash point in his quest to win a seat on the Supreme Court. Washington Times
VOA VIEW: This news should make liberals happy.

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Maryland High School Rape Gets Drawn Into Immigration Debate
As officials reported that one of two students charged with raping a 14-year-old girl in a Maryland high school bathroom entered the United States illegally, the crime became part of a national debate on immigration. White House press secretary Sean Spicer, in response to a reporter’s question at Tuesday’s press briefing, called the crime “shocking, disturbing, horrific.” “I think part of the reason that the president has made illegal immigration and crackdown such a big deal is because of tragedies like this,” he said. Henry Sanchez, 18, and Jose Montano, 17, were charged in the Thursday assault at Rockville High School. The Washington Post reports that Sanchez lived in Guatemala until he was 17. CBS

Supreme Court Nominee Seeks Distance From Trump Administration, Says Attacks On Federal Judges 'Disheartening'
Judge Neil Gorsuch sought to distance himself from the Trump administration and slam the president for his attacks against federal judges during his testimony before members of Congress on Tuesday, his second day of a Supreme Court confirmation hearing. Gorsuch said he was offended by language used by President Trump, who has a history of lashing out against federal judges involved in cases that are not in his favor. In February, Trump appeared to question the legitimacy of a federal judge who temporarily blocked his controversial travel ban and called him a "so-called judge." ABC
VOA VIEW: This also should please liberals.

Judge: Louisiana Law Violates Refugee's Right To Marry
A year ago, a state law blocked a U.S. citizen born in a refugee camp from getting married in Louisiana. A court victory Wednesday means the man and his fiancee are free to make wedding plans. Viet Anh Vo and his U.S.-born fiancee, Heather Pham, embraced and cried with their attorneys in a New Orleans courtroom after a federal judge blocked the law that prevented them from obtaining a marriage license. The law, which took effect in January 2016, has prevented other immigrants in Louisiana from getting married for the same reason as Vo: He couldn't provide a birth certificate. ABC

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U.S. Stocks Rise As Rout Eases; Bonds, Gold Climb: Markets Wrap
U.S. stocks rebounded after the first 1 percent decline since October, while havens from Treasuries to the yen remained in demand as investors assessed the prospects for pro-growth policies in America. The S&P 500 Index edged higher, while technology-heavy measures posted solid advances. Banks slipped to an eight-week low after bearing the brunt of Tuesday’s rout. Treasury 10-year yields fell to 2.40 percent, the yen surged versus all its G-10 peers and gold rose toward $1,250 an ounce. Bloomberg’s dollar measure fell a sixth day, its longest slump since November. New Zealand’s central bank held its benchmark rate steady. Bloomberg

Nevada Moves To Join 11 Other States In Popular-Vote Effort
Lawmakers are considering legislation to make Nevada the 12th state to become part of an interstate compact to elect the president and vice president based on the popular vote. The compact says that once states with 270 electoral college votes sign on, those electors would be required to vote based on the popular vote for president and vice president. Assemblyman Nelson Araujo, D-Las Vegas, sponsored Assembly Bill 274 and said during a legislative operations and elections committee hearing Tuesday that, if passed, the state would retain the ability to leave the compact. Las Vegas Sun
VOA VIEW: The average voter is still confused.

Leaders Need Votes For Health Bill On Eve Of House Showdown
Their top legislative priority dangling in peril, President Donald Trump and Republican leaders cajoled recalcitrant GOP lawmakers Wednesday to back their health care overhaul. A day ahead of a long-awaited House showdown roll call, conservatives insisted they had the votes to torpedo the measure and the number of lawmakers publicly expressing opposition snowballed. Trump huddled at the White House with 18 lawmakers, a mix of supporters and opponents, Vice President Mike Pence saw around two dozen and House GOP leaders held countless talks with lawmakers at the Capitol. The sessions came as leaders rummaged for votes on a roll call they can ill afford to lose without wounding their clout for the rest of the GOP agenda. Asked by reporters if he'd keep pushing a health overhaul if the House rejects the measure, Trump said, "We'll see what happens." Las Vegas Sun

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Tight Supply, Higher Prices Weigh On U.S. Home Sales
U.S. home resales fell more than expected in February amid a persistent shortage of houses on the market that is pushing up prices and sidelining prospective buyers. The National Association of Realtors said on Wednesday existing home sales declined 3.7 percent to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 5.48 million units last month after hitting a 10-year high in January. Sales were up 5.4 percent from February 2016, underscoring the sustainability of the housing market recovery despite the supply constraints. The median house price surged 7.7 percent from a year ago to $228,400 in February. That marked the 60th consecutive month of year-on-year price gains. Reuters

Sears, An Icon Of U.S. Retail, May Shut Its Doors
Sears (SHLD), an icon of American retail dating to the 19th century, is in danger of having to close its doors. The company said late Tuesday in a regulatory filing that there is “substantial doubt” it can remain in business. Sears’ stock price, which hit an all-time low last month, tumbled more than 14 percent Wednesday to $7.80.  As a measure of how far the company has fallen, in 2007 its shares topped $190. Sears tried to soothe investors’ fears, saying in a post on its site that it remains focused on “executing our transformation plan” and that news reports miss the full disclosure that it’s highlighting actions to reduce risks.  It also said that the comments made in the filing were in line with “regulatory standards.” CBS

In Coal Country, States Feel Emboldened To Cut Energy Efficiency
Ohio lawmakers on Tuesday held hearings on HB 114, a bill that would scale back efforts to cut energy use. Kentucky regulators began a review last month of energy efficiency programs after the state’s utility said their costs to consumers jumped 20-fold last year. This all comes as President Donald Trump is proposing to cut billions in federal funding for the conservation programs, and rollback regulations designed to control greenhouse gas emissions. In the heart of coal country, Trump’s initiatives are fueling efforts to strip regulations on power suppliers, according to Samantha Williams, a staff attorney for the Natural Resources Defense Council in Chicago. That could lead generators to use more of the fossil fuel, and may ultimately help Trump, who campaigned on a promise to bring back coal mining jobs. Bloomberg

U.S. Army Emphasizing Mobility For Next Combat Vehicle
The U.S. Army is seeking lighter armored vehicle concepts to better prepare for fighting in future battlefields, the service announced. Lighter combat vehicles, Army officials say, support the branch's strategy for placing a heavier emphasis on armored mobility. Army leaders discussed future designs and procurement concepts ahead of releasing a new maneuver force modernization strategy. "M1 and Bradley take us out to 2050, which is not sustainable if you want a weapons system that's going to be dominant," Maj. Gen. Eric Wesley said in a press release, referring to two legacy armored platforms. UPI News

Gorsuch To Democrats: No Return To ‘Horse And Buggy’ Era
Assured of support from majority Republicans, Supreme Court nominee Neil Gorsuch was wrapping up two days of Senate questioning Wednesday to glowing GOP reviews but complaints from frustrated Democrats that he concealed his views from the American public. Gorsuch, a federal appeals court judge in Denver, refused repeated attempts to get him to talk about key legal and political issues of the day. But he did tell Sen. Dianne Feinstein, who worried that Gorsuch would vote to restrict abortion, that "no one is looking to return us to horse and buggy days." UPI News

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ISRAEL STANDS WITH UK AGAINST TERRORISM
Reacting to the deadly attack in London on Wednesday, officials and public representatives expressed their empathy with the British people and stressed that Israel stands with the United Kingdom in its fight against terrorism. “Israel expresses its deep shock at the terrorist attack in London today and its solidarity with the victims and people and government of Great Britain,” Deputy Foreign Minister Tzipi Hotovely said. “Terrorism is terrorism wherever it occurs, and we will fight it relentlessly.” Jerusalem Post

PM: CHINA HOLDS ISRAEL’S INNOVATION IN HIGH ESTEEM
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu wound up a three-day visit to China on Wednesday saying Beijing’s high esteem for Israel’s innovative abilities opens up massive opportunities worth hundreds of millions of dollars. Before boarding his plane back to Israel, Netanyahu summed up his visit – which focused more on economics and technology than diplomacy – by saying the trip contributed not only to Israeli-Chinese relations, “but also to advancing Israel’s economy.” Jerusalem Post

IS Conflict: US Airlift Backs New Assault Near Raqqa Stronghold
The Pentagon said members of the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) alliance were dropped behind IS lines close to the Tabqa dam, west of the city of Raqqa. Fierce fighting was continuing around the dam, thought to be a base for hundreds of foreign fighters, it added. The development came as coalition member states met in Washington. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson told the gathering that it was "only a matter of time" until IS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi was killed. BBC

Flight Ban On Laptops 'Sparked By IS Threat'
The US and UK have announced new carry-on restrictions banning laptops on certain passenger flights. The so-called Islamic State group (IS) has been working on ways to smuggle explosives on to planes by hiding them in electronics, US sources tell ABC. The tip-off was judged by the US to be "substantiated" and "credible".
Inbound flights on nine airlines operating out of 10 airports in eight countries are subject to the US Department of Homeland Security ban. Phones and medical devices are not affected. BBC

US Diplomacy In Crisis Amid Cuts And Confusion At State Department
The US state department is hosting a 68-nation meeting on Wednesday aimed at consolidating the international effort against Islamic State. But the foreign ministers are convening in Washington at a time when the state department itself is under siege, facing swingeing budget cuts by a hostile White House, and led by a former oil executive who has said he did not want the job in the first place. Rex Tillerson has billed the counter-Isis coalition meeting as a decisive moment “to set Isis on a lasting and irreversible path to defeat”. The secretary of state lambasted the Obama administration for its policy on Isis, claiming his predecessor never had a proper strategy to defeat the extremist movement. Guardian

Rotavirus Vaccine Could Save Lives Of Almost 500,000 Children A Year
A vaccine capable of enduring scorching temperatures for months at a time could strike a decisive blow in the fight against rotavirus, preventing nearly half a million children around the world from dying of diarrhoea each year. Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) has hailed successful trials of the BRV-PV vaccine in Niger as a “game changer” in tackling rotavirus infection, which is the leading cause of severe diarrhoea globally and claims the lives of an estimated 1,300 children daily, most of them in sub-Saharan Africa. Guardian

Donald Trump Offers Theresa May Full US Cooperation And Support
Donald Trump has spoken to Theresa May to offer Britain the full cooperation and support of the United States in responding to the Westminster attack. The US president, who vowed to keep America safe from terrorism as one of his core his election pledges, praised "the effective response of security forces and first responders". "[Mr Trump] pledged the full cooperation and support of the United States Government in responding to the attack and bringing those responsible to justice," a White House statement said. Telegraph

Donald Trump Jr Ridicules Mayor Of London Hours After Westminster Attack
President Donald Trump’s son has ridiculed the mayor of London, hours after Wednesday’s suspected terrorist attack. Donald Trump Jr retweeted a September interview with Sadiq Khan, in which he said that readiness for a terrorist attack was “part and parcel of living in a great global city”. Mr Trump Jr tweeted a link to the article, commenting in disgust: “You have to be kidding me?! Terror attacks are part of living in the big city, says London Mayor Sadiq Khan.” Telegraph

'Nothing Can Grow Without Water,' Warns UNICEF, As 600 Million Children Could Face Extreme Shortages
Warning that as many as 600 million children – one in four worldwide – will be living in areas with extremely scare water by 2040, the United Nations children's agency has called on governments to take immediate measures to curb the impact on the lives of children. In its report, Thirsting for a Future: Water and children in a changing climate, the UN Children's Fund (UNICEF) explores the threats to children's lives and wellbeing caused by depleted sources of safe water and the ways climate change will intensify these risks in coming years. UN News

Humanity At The Core As UN Readies For First-Ever Ocean Conference
Over a year ago, on 20 February 2016, Tropical Cyclone Winston made a category 5 landfall along the north coast of Fiji's largest, most populous island, Viti Levu, killing at least 44 people, and grounding flights to and from the Pacific Island nation. “It was one of the strongest cyclones to have hit any country in the Southern Hemisphere,” recalls Mr. Semi Koroilavesau, Fijian Minister for Fisheries. “That was quite catastrophic for Fiji and we are still recovering from it,” he adds, sombrely. Mr. Koroilavesau was speaking recently at a panel discussion on the margins of the first preparatory meeting – convened by the President of the United Nations General Assembly at the UN Headquarters in New York – for the first-ever UN Ocean Conference, to be co-hosted by the Governments of Fiji and Sweden, from 5 June to 9 June 2017. UN News

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