Monday | December 18, 2017
About Us | Contact | Subscribe

Nation & World briefs: 11-13-17

Updated: 
November 14, 2017 - 12:05am

Bipartisan analysis: Senate bill would hike taxes for 13.8M

WASHINGTON — Promoted as needed relief for the middle class, the Senate Republican tax overhaul actually would increase taxes for some 13.8 million moderate-income American households, a bipartisan analysis showed Monday.

The assessment by Congress’ nonpartisan Joint Committee on Taxation emerged as the Senate’s tax-writing committee was set to begin wading through the measure Monday afternoon, working toward the first major revamp of the tax system in some 30 years.

Barging into the carefully calibrated work that House and Senate Republicans have done, President Donald Trump called for a steeper tax cut for wealthy Americans and pressed GOP leaders to add a contentious health care change to the already complex mix.

Trump’s latest tweet injected a dose of uncertainty into the process as the Republicans try to deliver on his top legislative priority. He commended GOP leaders for getting the tax legislation closer to passage in recent weeks and then said, “Cut top rate to 35% w/all of the rest going to middle income cuts?”

That puts him at odds with the House legislation that leaves the top rate at 39.6 percent and the Senate bill as written, with the top rate at 38.5 percent.

New sex assault allegation hits Moore; withdrawal calls grow

WASHINGTON — Yet another woman abruptly emerged Monday to accuse Roy Moore of sexually assaulting her as a teenager in the late 1970s, this time in a locked car, further roiling the Alabama Republican’s candidacy for an open Senate seat. Leaders of Moore’s own party intensified their efforts to push him out of the race.

Anticipating a tearful Beverly Young Nelson’s allegations at a New York news conference, Moore’s campaign ridiculed her attorney, Gloria Allred, beforehand as “a sensationalist leading a witch hunt.” The campaign said Moore was innocent and “has never had any sexual misconduct with anyone.” He insisted he was in the race to stay.

In the latest day of jarring events, Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell and Moore essentially declared open war on each other. McConnell said the former judge should quit the race over a series of recent allegations of past improper relationships with teenage girls. No, said Moore, the Kentucky senator is the one who should get out.

Cory Gardner of Colorado, who heads the Senate GOP’s campaign organization, said not only should Moore step aside but if he should win “the Senate should vote to expel him because he does not meet the ethical and moral requirements of the United States Senate.”

McConnell took a remarkably personal swipe at his party’s candidate for a Senate seat the GOP cannot afford to lose. “I believe the women,” he said, marking an intensified effort by leaders to ditch Moore before a Dec. 12 special election that has swung from an assured GOP victory to one that Democrats could conceivably swipe.

^

Trump choosing white men as judges, highest rate in decades

WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump is nominating white men to America’s federal courts at a rate not seen in nearly 30 years, threatening to reverse a slow transformation toward a judiciary that reflects the nation’s diversity.

So far, 91 percent of Trump’s nominees are white, and 81 percent are male, an Associated Press analysis has found. Three of every four are white men, with few African-Americans and Hispanics in the mix. The last president to nominate a similarly homogenous group was George H.W. Bush.

The shift could prove to be one of Trump’s most enduring legacies. These are lifetime appointments, and Trump has inherited both an unusually high number of vacancies and an aging population of judges. That puts him in position to significantly reshape the courts that decide thousands of civil rights, environmental, criminal justice and other disputes across the country. The White House has been upfront about its plans to quickly fill the seats with conservatives, and has made clear that judicial philosophy tops any concerns about shrinking racial or gender diversity.

Trump is anything but shy about his plans, calling his imprint on the courts an “untold story” of his presidency.

“Nobody wants to talk about it,” he said. “But when you think of it … that has consequences 40 years out.” He predicted at a recent Cabinet meeting, “A big percentage of the court will be changed by this administration over a very short period of time.”

Over 400 dead from earthquake in Iran-Iraq border area

TEHRAN, Iraq — Rescuers dug with their bare hands Monday through the debris of buildings brought down by a powerful earthquake that killed more than 400 people in the once-contested mountainous border region between Iraq and Iran, with nearly all of the victims in an area rebuilt since the end of the ruinous 1980s war.

Sunday night’s magnitude 7.3 earthquake struck about 19 miles outside the eastern Iraqi city of Halabja, according to the most recent measurements from the U.S. Geological Survey. It hit at 9:48 p.m. Iran time, just as people were going to bed.

The worst damage appeared to be in the Kurdish town of Sarpol-e-Zahab in the western Iranian province of Kermanshah, which sits in the Zagros Mountains that divide Iran and Iraq.

Residents fled into the streets as the quake struck, without time to grab their possessions, as apartment complexes collapsed into rubble. Outside walls of some complexes were sheared off by the quake, power and water lines were severed, and telephone service was disrupted.

Residents dug frantically through wrecked buildings for survivors as they wailed. Firefighters from Tehran joined other rescuers in the desperate search, using dogs to inspect the rubble.

Trump turns to drug industry for his new health secretary

WASHINGTON — Turning to an industry he’s rebuked, President Donald Trump on Monday picked a former top pharmaceutical and government executive to be his health secretary.

If confirmed, Alex Azar would oversee a $1 trillion department responsible for major health insurance programs, including “Obamacare,” as well as medical research, food and drug safety, and public health.

The nomination of Azar is unusual because Health and Human Services secretaries have come from the ranks of elected officials such as governors, leaders in academia and medicine, or top executive branch managers — not industries regulated by the department.

“He will be a star for better healthcare and lower drug prices!” Trump tweeted in a morning announcement. Trump has a track record of making industry-friendly nominations, such as former ExxonMobil CEO Rex Tillerson as secretary of state and wealthy investor Wilbur Ross as secretary of commerce.

But Trump also has been a scathing critic of the drug companies, both as a candidate and as president.

^

Saudi walks back escalation as dramatic moves backfire

BEIRUT — Saudi Arabia’s dramatic moves to counter Iran in the region appear to have backfired, significantly ratcheting up regional tensions and setting off a spiral of reactions and anger that seem to have caught the kingdom off guard.

Now it’s trying to walk back its escalations in Lebanon and Yemen.

On Monday, the kingdom announced that the Saudi-led coalition fighting Shiite rebels in Yemen would begin reopening airports and seaports in the Arab world’s poorest country, days after closing them over a rebel ballistic missile attack on Riyadh.

The move came just hours after Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri, who shocked the nation by announcing his resignation from the Saudi capital on Nov. 4, gave an interview in which he backed off his strident condemnation of the Lebanese militant Hezbollah, saying he would return to the country within days to seek a settlement with the Shiite militants, his rivals in his coalition government.

The two developments suggest that Saudi Arabia’s bullish young crown prince, Mohammed bin Salman, may be trying to pedal back from the abyss of a severe regional escalation.

By wire sources

Rules for posting comments