Month: December 2019


JILL: Trump 'afraid' to go against my husband…

Jill Biden, the wife of former Vice President and 2020 contender Joe BidenJoe BidenDemocrats ask if they have reason to worry about UK result Media organization fights Trump administration over Ukraine documents FOIA Buttigieg releases list of campaign bundlers MORE, said President TrumpDonald John TrumpDemocrats ask if they have reason to worry about UK result Trump scramble to rack up accomplishments gives conservatives heartburn Seven years after Sandy Hook, the politics of guns has changed MORE’s attacks on her family are evidence that the president is “afraid” to run against her husband.

“Well, you know, when Joe and I decided to run for president, when we made that decision, we knew it was going to be tough. Our family was going to be tough,” Biden said Saturday on MSNBC.

“But we never could have imagined that it would turn into, that Donald Trump would be asking a foreign government to get involved in our elections and I think, you know Donald Trump has shown us who he is and this has been a real distraction,” she continued. “And I think it just proves that he’s afraid to run against my husband, Joe Biden.”

Trump has made Hunter Biden, the Bidens’ son, a chief focal point of his impeachment defense. Trump asked Ukraine to investigate the Bidens over unfounded corruption allegations linked to Hunter Biden’s work for a natural gas company that was under investigation.

Jill Biden maintained that her son did nothing wrong and that her husband will continue to defend him.

“I know my son’s character,” she said. “Hunter did nothing wrong and that’s the bottom line.

“I think any parent who is watching this show knows that if anyone attacked their son or daughter, I mean, you don’t just sit down and take it. You fight for your kid,” she added, referring to an incident in Iowa in which her husband engaged in an argumentative back-and-forth over their son’s work in Ukraine. 

Polls show Joe Biden leading Trump in several battleground states, with observers speculating that the former vice president could take a bite out of Trump’s support among white working class voters.

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Meet the Dutch girls who seduced Nazis — and lured them to deaths…

When she came across a Nazi killing an infant by repeatedly swinging its tiny body against a brick wall, Truus Oversteegen didn’t flinch.

The freckle-faced teenager, who was just three months shy of her 17th birthday when Germany invaded the Netherlands in May 1940, was a newly minted member of the Dutch resistance. She had been mostly assigned to hide Jewish children, political dissidents and homosexuals in various safe houses throughout Haarlem, her hometown, which was about 12 miles west of Amsterdam.

But what she saw now forced her to act with a sudden, brutal energy.

“He grabbed the baby and hit it against the wall,” Truus recalled years later of the horrifying scene. “The father and sister had to watch. They were obviously hysterical. The child was dead.”

Truus Oversteegen (pictured with rifle) worked along side Hannie and Freddie.
Truus Oversteegen (pictured with rifle) worked along side Hannie and Freddie.North Holland Archives

Truus quietly pointed her gun in the direction of the Nazi and shot him dead.

“That wasn’t an assignment,” she said. “But I don’t regret it . . . We were dealing with cancerous tumors in our society that you had to cut out like a surgeon.”

Truus, her younger sister, Freddie, and law student Hannie Schaft were among a handful of young women who took on clandestine roles to destabilize Nazis during the Second World War. While women’s resistance work was largely confined to spying, code-breaking and typing, few actively dared to take on the work of the Dutch trio — as underground assassins.

That’s the theme of the recently published “Seducing and Killing Nazis: Hannie, Truus and Freddie: Dutch Resistance Heroines of World War II” (SWW Press), which documents the exploits of the three young Dutch resistance fighters whose dangerous work set them apart.

“These women never saw themselves as heroines,” writes the book’s author Sophie Poldermans, who is also a human-rights activist in the Netherlands. “They were extremely dedicated and believed they had no other option but to join the resistance. They never regretted what they did during the war.”

Although their roles in the underground were at first confined to stealing Dutch identity documents to help persecuted Jews, the girls quickly graduated to more ruthless duties.

Freddie, who was just 14 when she began to work for the resistance, was often mistaken for a schoolgirl and was dispatched as a courier delivering important messages during the occupation. But later, all three young women worked to seduce Nazis: applying makeup and bright red lipstick to pick up soldiers at bars and lure them to their deaths.

We were dealing with cancerous tumors in our society that you had to cut out like a surgeon.

 – Assassin Truus Oversteegen on why she killed a Nazi point-blank

“Ha Heinz, come here,” they would call, often pretending to be drunk when they struck up conversations with their targets.

Hannie, barely 20 when the Netherlands was invaded, made a point of teaching herself German for the work. Lithe and striking, with red hair and milky white skin, she became an expert at starting seemingly casual conversations with Dutch Nazis and German soldiers. Suggesting that they accompany her on romantic walks to the woods, they would often be shot dead by her male comrades who were lying in wait.

While the three young women often relied on the men of the resistance for the ambush and shooting, they were not shy about using guns themselves and became expert at shooting targets from their bikes. In addition to German soldiers, they also went after Dutch collaborators, Poldermans said.

“They were killers, but they also tried hard to remain human,” said Poldermans, 38. “They tried to shoot their targets from the back so that they didn’t know they were going to die.”

After the war, when the sisters — Truus and Freddie — were asked how many people they had gunned down, they refused to give a specific number, said Poldermans.

“You never ask a soldier how many people he’s killed” was the response the Oversteegen sisters often gave to curious people they lectured on their wartime work.

Poldermans said she was close to the sisters for 20 years before writing her book, having met them when she was a 16-year-old high-school student working on a history project on the late Hannie Schaft, who is considered one of the greatest wartime heroines in the Netherlands. Through a family friend, Poldermans met and interviewed the Oversteegens, prying out more information about their roles in the war than they had ever told their own families.

“After the war, they had post-traumatic stress and nightmares,” Poldermans told The Post, adding that the sisters were also ostracized because they had worked closely with the Communist Party in a country that became virulently anti-Soviet after the war. The Oversteegens didn’t receive a pension for their wartime work until well into the 1960s, she said.

<a href="" rel="noopener" target="_blank">Seducing and Killing Nazis: Hannie, Truus and Freddie: Dutch Resistance Heroines of WWII</a>
Seducing and Killing Nazis: Hannie, Truus and Freddie: Dutch Resistance Heroines of WWII

For many years, they suffered from depression and would wake up screaming from nightmares, especially during the anniversary of the liberation of the Netherlands by Allied troops.

“I wasn’t born to kill,” Truus told Poldermans. “Do you know what that does to your soul?” After each attack, Truus recalled, she often fainted or broke down in tears.

When Poldermans completed her high-school paper, the Oversteegen sisters asked her to present her work at the annual conference they organized for Hannie. They were so impressed that they later asked her to join the board of the National Hannie Schaft Foundation, a Netherlands-based nonprofit they founded in 1996. The organization works to sponsor an annual lecture on human rights and promotes the memory of Hannie.

In addition to killing Nazis, Hannie also worked to sabotage German military installations, bombing power lines and munitions shipments. The Oversteegens worked closely with Hannie, part of an underground cell of seven committed and fierce fighters.

They were a formidable fighting force, although they refused to target the children of high-ranking Nazis, Poldermans said. When they were ordered by their resistance commanders to kidnap the three children of Reich Commissioner Arthur Seyss-Inquart, the women refused.

“Resistance fighters do not kill children,” Truus told Poldermans. “We only fight against real fascists, not against children.”

Still, they caused so much damage and killed so many Nazis that Hannie became an important wartime target — “the girl with the red hair.” Her capture was deemed a high priority, ordered by Adolf Hitler himself.

A marked woman, she went into hiding, dying her hair black and borrowing glasses. Even when the Nazis jailed her parents in order to pressure her to give herself up, Hannie refused. Her family was eventually released when it became clear they had no information about their militant daughter.

German forces arrive in the Netherlands in May 1940, the beginning of a five-year occupation and the start of a fierce resistance effort.
German forces arrive in the Netherlands in May 1940, the beginning of a five-year occupation and the start of a fierce resistance effort.North Holland Archives

Hannie was later captured on March 1945, picked up after a routine check and taken to the Amsterdam House of Detention, where she was tortured by the Nazis. She was also placed in solitary confinement, with a sign on her door that labeled her “morderin” or murderer.

Hannie was executed on April 17, 1945, just 18 days before the liberation of the Netherlands.

After the war, Supreme Allied Commander Dwight Eisenhower awarded Hannie a posthumous Medal of Freedom.

Truus was honored by Yad Vashem in Jerusalem for her work in protecting Jews, and she and Freddie were awarded the Mobilization War Cross by the Dutch prime minister in 2014.

Truus passed away in 2016 at the age of 92, and Freddie passed away two years later, at the same age.

Before their deaths, the sisters told Poldermans that Hannie was defiant until the end, and they liked to repeat the story of her execution — which has become the stuff of legend in the Netherlands, based on several police reports and witness statements.

When the first bullet missed its mark, Hannie fixed the soldiers sent to kill her with a steady gaze.

“Idiots,” she said. “I shoot better than you.”

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Orlando Jones Says 'Fired' From Show For 'Wrong Message For Black America'…

The tumultuous run of American Gods looks to have taken another turn, with Orlando Jones declaring he has been fired from the Starz series for having “the wrong message for black America.”

In a video post on social media this morning, the Sleepy Hollow actor, who plays the trickster god Anansi, AKA Mr. Nancy, on the Fremantle-produced show based on Neil Gaiman’s acclaimed 2001 novel let loose – as you can see below:

In a subsequent tweet, Jones added, “Thank you #AmericanGods fans. I know ya’ll have LOTS of questions about the firing. As always I promise to tell you the truth and nothing but. ❤️ Always, Mr. Nancy.”

Fremantle and Starz did not reply to request for comment on what went down with Jones during the current production of Season 3 of American Gods up in Toronto. However, sources tell Deadline that current showrunner and Walking Dead alum Charles “Chic” Eglee and the outspoken Jones were constantly clashing over the latter’s role on the show, on both sides of the camera.

While the producers and the premium cabler were silent on what went down with Jones, a fellow Fremantle ex-employee was not. Still awaiting the results of NBC’s outside probe into what the deal really was on the Fremantle produced America’s Got Talent, fired Season 14 judge Gabrielle Union backed Jones. With a retweet that read “Ohhhhhhhhhhh … let’s chat my friend. #StrongerTogether,” the L.A.’s Finest star clearly put Fremantle in an even brighter and more uncomfortable spotlight.

Jones’ seemingly controversial departure from American Gods is sure to be a shock to viewers, as he has been a fan favorite. A pivotal part of the Bryan Fuller and Michael Green-developed American Gods since its April 2017 debut on the premium cabler, Jones was also drafted into service as a writer and producer on the show’s rocky second season. After the exit of Fuller and Green before Season 2 and the wide spread disaffection with replacement Jesse Alexander on the drawn out second season, it was hoped that Eglee could provide some much-needed stability on the Ricky Whittle and Ian McShane led series for Season 3.

Jones now joins Season 1 cast members Pablo Schreiber, Gillian Anderson and guest Kristin Chenoweth in having left the show.

Which means, even with the likes of Power’s Lela Loren and Marilyn Manson joining American Gods for the forthcoming season, that desired smooth sailing for the series looks to have hit the rocks once again

Speaking of sailing, Jones’ set the thematic standard on American Gods with his introduction in the second episode of the first season. Deep in the bowls of a slave ship, Mr. Nancy revealed to captured Africans what awaited them on the other side of the Atlantic, both in chains and afterwards as second class citizens, as Jones said today.

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Cops refused service at California STARBUCKS…

RIVERSIDE, Calif. (KABC) — Starbucks is apologizing after two uniformed Riverside County deputies were allegedly refused service.

The incident happened Thursday night at a Starbucks location in Riverside, according to a tweet from the sheriff’s department. Sheriff Chad Bianco tweeted late Friday that the “anti police culture repeatedly displayed by Starbucks employees must end.”

The company contends that the deputies were ignored by employees for nearly five minutes.

“There is simply no excuse for how two Riverside deputies were ignored,” said Starbucks spokesperson Reggie Borges. “We are deeply sorry and reached out to apologize directly to them.”

Borges added that the employees who worked that evening would not work while the company investigates and takes the “appropriate steps.”

This comes two weeks after a police officer in Oklahoma received an order with the name “PIG” printed on the side of the cups, which resulted in the termination of a Starbucks employee who the company says was responsible.

Copyright © 2019 KABC-TV. All Rights Reserved.

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Amid adversity and missteps, Biden resilience has been one theme of '19…

For most of the year, former vice president Joe Biden has often been described in negative terms. It has been said he is not as sharp as he should be or once was; that he is well liked but can’t excite the base of the new Democratic Party; that his agenda is little more than “return to normalcy” and that his fundraising problems belie bigger weaknesses.

All of that is well and good, but he nears the end of 2019 also as a candidate who has absorbed more criticism than just about everyone else in the Democratic field combined, and he has survived the attacks reasonably well. He remains atop the national polls, his support among African Americans has proved durable through the year, and while his numbers have slipped in Iowa and New Hampshire, he is nonetheless in the battle in those two early-voting states.

The story of Biden for most of the year has been written as a glass-half-empty narrative. What about the opposite way of viewing where he stands? I recently asked a Democrat who has been involved in several presidential races this question: What if Biden were to win the Iowa caucuses? His answer: “He could run the table.”

This Democrat was not predicting it; nor was he ruling it out. But if Iowa falls into Biden’s column, it would instantly change the way everyone looks at the 2020 field and the potential outcomes.

This has happened before. In December 2003, then-Sen. John Kerry, D-Mass., the perceived early front-runner, was in all kinds of trouble. He was running behind in Iowa and New Hampshire and was down in the polls nationally. His campaign had been through a staff shake-up that left supporters lacking in confidence. He seemed to be floundering.

Even some of Kerry’s closest advisers were saying privately, just weeks before Iowa, that Howard Dean was the likeliest person to win that state and to become the party’s nominee. Then Kerry won Iowa, and the opposition melted away. He went on to win New Hampshire eight days later, and he cruised to a nomination he was being given no chance to capture only a few months earlier.

Most remember that Kerry surged in the final days of the campaign to overtake Dean. In reality, he won Iowa in the period the Democratic race is now going through, the weeks between mid-November forward to the caucuses. It was more than just a late surge. Kerry went all in long before the final weeks – all in financially, organizationally, and with his own time and energy.

In the closing days of that campaign, Kerry tried to be in every media market in Iowa every day, with the help of a helicopter and a private plane. He also got some breaks toward the end that helped tip the race: a surprise endorsement from a fellow Vietnam veteran whose life Kerry had saved and attack politics between Dean and Rep. Richard Gephardt, D-Mo., that hurt both of them.

Strategically, Iowa loomed as a more crucial test for Kerry than it might for Biden. The former vice president continues to hold the lead in South Carolina polls, thanks to his support in the black community. That is his potential firewall. Biden might be able to survive a loss in Iowa, a scenario Kerry and his team were not sure his campaign could survive.

In Iowa, South Bend, Indiana, Mayor Pete Buttigieg is leading in the polls, but the RealClearPolitics average shows the top four candidates bunched between 16 percent and not-quite-23 percent. The organization of Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., who has faltered recently over her health-care plan, among other things, has long been rated the best in the state. Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., nearly defeated Hillary Clinton in Iowa in 2016 and maintains a loyal base that is financially self-sustaining – unusual among the candidates.

But all have challenges of their own to overcome: Can Warren rebound? How durable is Buttigieg? While Sanders has a solid base, how much further can he expand it?

And lately Buttigieg and Warren have been sniping at one another, sensing perhaps that they share a pool of well-educated white voters. It is a low-level version of the Dean-Gephardt warfare of 16 years ago, which is good for Biden.

“The reason why he (Biden) hasn’t faltered at least at the national level is because there are real, persistent fears about all the other candidates,” said a Democratic strategist who asked not to be identified to share perceptions of the contest.

Biden was the high-profile candidate earlier in the race. Now that is less the case, to his benefit. He was high profile not just because he was a former vice president, but also because he entered the race amid controversy, much of it self-generated. His past record came under scrutiny, on issues of race and criminal justice and how he allowed Anita Hill to be treated during the confirmation of Justice Clarence Thomas. His penchant for putting his hands on people, especially women, forced him to promise to reform.

He was the target of attacks in the early debates, but he weathered the criticism of summer and early fall. And though his debate performances often left something to be desired, he has managed to maintain a level of support and good will.

Also, none of the adversity has caused any public display of staff turmoil or internal warfare in the Biden camp. His campaign has remained tight and mostly free of damaging leaks from disgruntled staffers.

“This just reminds me so much about 2004,” said another Democratic strategist who was involved in the campaigns that year and who also asked not to be identified to offer a candid assessment. “Nobody is crazy about any of the candidates. There’s no real movement candidate (like Barack Obama in 2008). … People are trying to think about what they can accept.”

Kerry’s message in Iowa in the closing 60 days was, “Don’t just send them a message in January. Send them a president.” A variation of that is Biden’s message: Don’t just look for inspiration, look for reassurance. That message could have even greater resonance after the shellacking that a British Labour Party with a left-wing agenda and left-wing leader suffered Thursday.

Whether Biden is capable of delivering his message with consistency and clarity could be the difference between winning and not winning in Iowa.

It is not known whether Biden has committed quite as much to Iowa as Kerry. He did an obligatory bus tour recently, but the real test will come in January, when Sanders and Warren and the other senators in the field (Minnesota’s Amy Klobuchar, New Jersey’s Cory Booker and Colorado’s Michael F. Bennet) are tied down with the Senate impeachment trial. Will he truly gamble on Iowa? Or will he play it safe, believing he can recoup elsewhere from an early defeat?

There has been much discussion about what might happen to Biden’s candidacy if he were to lose Iowa and New Hampshire. (The Granite State could be challenging given the fact that Warren, Sanders and now former Massachusetts governor Deval Patrick are all New England neighbors.) The assumption of his rivals is that losing those first two races would put him in a deep hole.

But consider the opposite: Not what Biden risks by losing Iowa but what he could gain by winning the state. Most of the leading Democrats could win the caucuses and still face major obstacles. Biden stands to gain the most from winning because of the lowered expectations that have come with his slipping Iowa poll numbers and the fact that he has broader support nationally than the others.

As a candidate, Biden still must persuade many voters that he is their safest and best choice to beat President Donald Trump. He is quite capable of falling short in the final weeks of campaigning in Iowa, through missteps, lack of energy or a muddled message. But a victory in Iowa would pay unmistakable dividends. As the New Year approaches, will that truly be his goal?

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Is trap being set for president in Senate trial?

Can 20 U.S. Senators withstand the potentially irresistible temptation to reverse the results of the 2016 election and remove a president a number of them openly or privately dislike? 

Since Donald Trump announced his intention to run for the White House on June 16, 2015, many of the entrenched elites across the various power centers of Washington and beyond have spent much of their waking hours trying to stop or unseat him.

The political charade of an impeachment “investigation” is but the latest example. But that  impeachment charade could harbor the greatest threat to Trump’s presidency.

Over the past week, I have heard from three seasoned Republicans who fear that President TrumpDonald John TrumpDemocrats ask if they have reason to worry about UK result Trump scramble to rack up accomplishments gives conservatives heartburn Seven years after Sandy Hook, the politics of guns has changed MORE and the West Wing are seriously underestimating the potential danger of a Senate trial. Human nature and common sense dictate that, despite the well-meaning resolution circulated by Sen. Lindsey GrahamLindsey Olin GrahamTrump: ‘I wouldn’t mind’ a long Senate impeachment process Poll finds Graham with just 2-point lead on Democratic challenger Hill editor-in-chief calls IG report ‘a game-changer’ MORE (R-S.C.) condemning the House impeachment process, it’s important for the White House to understand that the weight of history is settling upon the shoulders of these senators — some of them quite weak — and because of that pressure, private conversations are taking place and a trap may be sprung for the president in that trial.


A potential trap set by seemingly loyal Republican senators.

Those I spoke with, like others, worry that the impeachment process, and especially a potential conviction in the Senate, will forever poison the integrity of our constitutional and congressional processes and put every future president at risk of having his or her election reversed for partisan and ideological reasons.”

But such is the lingering animosity about Trump by many in the GOP establishment, and there very well may be enough Republican senators willing to topple the first domino and set in motion a chain reaction — no matter the consequences. 

In a speech to the American Enterprise Institute in October, former governor and U.S. ambassador Nikki HaleyNimrata (Nikki) HaleyHaley: Political climate, media hysteria wouldn’t allow Confederate flag to come down in SC today Goldman Sachs employees protest event featuring Haley after Confederate flag remarks Presidential candidates serving in the Senate must recuse themselves from impeachment proceedings MORE put her finger on the greater issue, saying in part:

“President Trump is a disruptor. That makes some people very happy, and it makes some people very mad. … When I was in the administration, I served alongside colleagues who believed the best thing to do for America was to undermine and obstruct the president. Some wrote about it anonymously in The New York Times. Others just did it. They sincerely believed they were doing the right thing. I sincerely believed they weren’t. … No policy disagreement with him … justifies undermining the lawful authority that is vested in his office by the Constitution.”

What’s at stake, Haley said, “is not President Trump’s policies. What’s at stake is the Constitution.”

She is correct, but does all of this go beyond Trump being a disruptor? As we have witnessed, Trump is being opposed, called out and undermined through leaks by multiple anonymous and named sources from the “deep state,” his own National Security Council, former White House staff, former and current Pentagon, State Department and diplomatic officials, members of Congress and their staffs, and basically every other agency within the federal government.

There appears to be a common thread that runs through all of this opposition and stated hatred:  “He is not part of the club. He is not one of us. He can’t be controlled.”

The unrelenting opposition to Trump is not based on the fictional quid pro quo with Ukraine’s president, but rather, a desperate need by the entrenched establishment from both political parties to maintain status quo of their all-powerful club — aka, part of the “swamp” Trump sought to drain.

For President Trump to be convicted in a Senate trial, 20 Republican senators would have to join forces with the 47 Democrats. We should not worry about those who openly dislike Trump, such as Sens. Mitt RomneyWillard (Mitt) Mitt RomneyThe Hill’s Morning Report — Sponsored by AdvaMed — House panel delays impeachment vote until Friday Senate gears up for battle over witnesses in impeachment trial McConnell: I doubt any GOP senator will vote to impeach Trump MORE (R-Utah), Susan CollinsSusan Margaret CollinsThe Hill’s Morning Report — Sponsored by AdvaMed — House panel delays impeachment vote until Friday Senate gears up for battle over witnesses in impeachment trial McConnell: I doubt any GOP senator will vote to impeach Trump MORE (R-Maine) or Lisa MurkowskiLisa Ann MurkowskiThe Hill’s Morning Report — Sponsored by AdvaMed — House panel delays impeachment vote until Friday Senate gears up for battle over witnesses in impeachment trial McConnell: I doubt any GOP senator will vote to impeach Trump MORE (R-Alaska); we should worry about those in the purple states, who face tough reelection fights in 2020, and those who have continually criticized and demeaned the president in private.  

What is driving all of this, of course, is the fear that Trump will win reelection. Well, 63 million Americans voted for him in 2016 and 20 GOP senators soon may have the power to invalidate those votes. Can they resist doing so and vote not to convict? Conventional wisdom says that will be the outcome. But as we all know when it comes to Donald Trump, you can throw conventional wisdom right out the window.

For that reason, when it comes to a trial in the Senate, President Trump and the West Wing need to remember the sage advice of President Ronald Reagan: “Trust, but verify.”

Douglas MacKinnon, a political and communications consultant and author, was a writer in the White House for Presidents Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush, and former special assistant for policy and communications at the Pentagon during the last three years of the Bush administration.

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Scramble to rack up accomplishments gives conservatives heartburn…

President TrumpDonald John TrumpDemocrats ask if they have reason to worry about UK result Trump scramble to rack up accomplishments gives conservatives heartburn Seven years after Sandy Hook, the politics of guns has changed MORE’s race to rack up accomplishments heading into an election year is giving conservatives heartburn, with some worried he is striking deals that include giveaways to Democrats. 

Several Senate Republicans this week vented their frustration with Trump’s trade deal with Speaker Nancy PelosiNancy PelosiTrump scramble to rack up accomplishments gives conservatives heartburn Sherrod Brown backs new North American trade deal: ‘This will be the first trade agreement I’ve ever voted for’ Overnight Health Care — Presented by That’s Medicaid — Turf war derails push on surprise medical bills | Bill would tax e-cigarettes to pay for anti-vaping campaign | .5M ad blitz backs vulnerable Dems on drug prices MORE (D-Calif.) during meetings with the administration’s top trade official, Robert LighthizerRobert (Bob) Emmet LighthizerGOP senator warns quick vote on new NAFTA would be ‘huge mistake’ Pelosi casts doubt on USMCA deal in 2019 Pelosi sounds hopeful on new NAFTA deal despite tensions with White House MORE.

There’s also grumbling among conservative lawmakers over an agreement to expand benefits for federal workers in exchange for a costly Space Force military branch and a spending deal that is projected to add nearly $2 trillion to the deficit.

The year-end deal-making isn’t necessarily over. Negotiators are circling around a tax deal that would include an extension of earned income tax credits for low-income families who don’t pay federal taxes, a benefit typically unpopular with conservatives.

Another candidate for inclusion in the omnibus package is a bipartisan proposal backed by Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee Chairman Lamar AlexanderAndrew (Lamar) Lamar AlexanderTrump scramble to rack up accomplishments gives conservatives heartburn Overnight Health Care — Presented by That’s Medicaid — Turf war derails push on surprise medical bills | Bill would tax e-cigarettes to pay for anti-vaping campaign | .5M ad blitz backs vulnerable Dems on drug prices Turf war derails bipartisan push on surprise medical bills MORE (R-Tenn.) and House Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Frank Pallone Jr. (D-N.J.) to rein in the costs of prescription drugs.

Some GOP lawmakers warn that regulating drug prices could have unintended consequences for the marketplace and medical innovation.

For veteran Republican lawmakers, the flurry of deal-making calls to mind former President George W. Bush’s efforts to stock up on legislative accomplishments before his 2004 reelection bid, the most notable of which was the Medicare Prescription Drug, Improvement, and Modernization Act — at the time the biggest entitlement expansion since the creation of Medicare in 1965.

“The deals are horrible. They’re bad deals,” said Brian Darling, a GOP strategist and former Senate aide. “This always happens at the end of a Congress. It’s typical of what’s happened in Congress over the years, where they wait until the end of the year, cut big deals on must-pass bills like the National Defense Authorization Act. Everything gets loaded into these bills, and nobody likes them.”

“Paid family leave is a precedent. That’s going to be used as a talking point to get paid family leave for people in the private sector, which many companies are nervous about,” he predicted.

One Republican senator said he and other GOP lawmakers are unsettled by Trump’s eagerness to cut deals with Democrats in recent weeks and make big concessions in order to avoid entering an election year without a solid list of legislative accomplishments. 

A second Republican senator said Trump is transforming a party that over the last three years has become more associated with the president than the pro-free trade and fiscally conservative principles that defined the GOP since the Reagan years.

“It’s the party of Trump. People back home are Trump supporters. What’s the Venn diagram? What’s the Trump support? What’s the traditional Republican group? Where’s overlap of any?” asked the senator, who noted that the most important litmus tests for conservative principles has become where a lawmaker stands on impeachment.

Sen. Pat ToomeyPatrick (Pat) Joseph ToomeyNSA improperly collected US phone records in October, new documents show Overnight Defense: Pick for South Korean envoy splits with Trump on nuclear threat | McCain blasts move to suspend Korean military exercises | White House defends Trump salute of North Korean general WH backpedals on Trump’s ‘due process’ remark on guns MORE (R-Pa.), one of the party’s leading free trade advocates, panned the trade deal announced this week for making “large-scale capitulation to their demands,” referring to Pelosi and her allies.

The deal scraps the investor-state dispute settlement program that is designed primarily to protect U.S. investors from what they see as the discriminatory regulatory practices of trading partners and eliminates intellectual property protection for makers of biologic drugs, a major revenue source for the pharmaceutical industry.

Pelosi later crowed to Democratic lawmakers, “We ate their lunch.”

Senate Republicans asked Lighthizer at a meeting on Thursday why the administration didn’t submit the U.S.-Mexico-Canada trade deal to Congress for approval at the end of 2018, when Republicans still controlled the House. The U.S. trade representative explained the paperwork wasn’t ready, but his answer didn’t satisfy the critics.

GOP lawmakers were frustrated that Trump’s trade team cut them out of the final negotiations, leaving them with a take-it-or-leave-it ultimatum on final passage.

Senate Majority Whip John ThuneJohn Randolph ThuneTrump scramble to rack up accomplishments gives conservatives heartburn House GOP lawmaker wants Senate to hold ‘authentic’ impeachment trial Republicans consider skipping witnesses in Trump impeachment trial MORE (R-S.D.) said, “Our members are concerned that it’s moved significantly to the left during the negotiation process.” 

“I would not call this a perfect product,” Sen. John CornynJohn CornynTrump scramble to rack up accomplishments gives conservatives heartburn On The Money: Trump, China announce ‘Phase One’ trade deal | Supreme Court takes up fight over Trump financial records | House panel schedules hearing, vote on new NAFTA deal On The Money: Lawmakers strike spending deal | US, China reach limited trade deal ahead of tariff deadline | Lighthizer fails to quell GOP angst over new NAFTA MORE (R-Texas) said of the deal. “I’m not happy with the way this was handled, and I don’t want this to be a precedent for future trade agreements.” 

A substantial number of Senate Republicans weren’t enthused either by Trump’s decision to give Democrats another big concession in the National Defense Authorization Act by agreeing to 12 weeks of paid parental leave for federal workers. The provision, which costs $3.3 billion over five years, was not offset by spending cuts.

Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman Jim InhofeJames (Jim) Mountain InhofeLankford to be named next Senate Ethics chairman Bombshell Afghanistan report bolsters calls for end to ‘forever wars’ Gabbard calls for congressional inquiry over Afghanistan war report MORE (R-Okla.) said he initially opposed the proposal to create a Space Force, arguing the Air Force was sufficient.

“He wanted to get his Space Force. That’s the one thing he had to have,” Inhofe said of the president. “I really wasn’t all that excited about it in the beginning. My feeling at that time was we were doing a good job.”

Inhofe noted there was “quite a bit” of pushback from fellow Republicans to giving federal workers a generous new benefit.

“That’s the one thing they didn’t like,” he said.

Thune said that while some members of the GOP conference wanted to expand benefits for federal workers, many did not.

“We have members who, I think, are probably supportive of what was done on that issue on the bill and some who aren’t,” he said. “It’s a mixed bag.”

Sen. Ron JohnsonRonald (Ron) Harold JohnsonTrump scramble to rack up accomplishments gives conservatives heartburn Hillicon Valley: Twitter to start verifying 2020 primary candidates | FTC reportedly weighs injunction over Facebook apps | Bill would give DHS cyber unit subpoena powers | FCC moves to designate 988 as suicide-prevention hotline Senate Republicans air complaints to Trump administration on trade deal MORE (R-Wis.), the chairman of the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, which has jurisdiction over the federal workforce, objected to adding the new benefit but was overruled. 

“Paid parental leave, I’m not sure anybody’s ever held a hearing on that. Certainly my committee never held a hearing. We don’t know the full ramifications of this,” he said.

“I’m not sure how popular it’s going to be back in Wisconsin, the fact that people pay their taxes so that privileged federal workers get paid parental leave,” he said. 

Johnson said the concern over the family leave benefit was part of broader anxiety that the party is walking away from its traditional role of espousing fiscal restraint. 

“How about trillion-dollar deficits? I’m not happy,” he said. “I find it incredibly frustrating the other side says in addition to additional deficit spending to rebuild the military, let’s go on a spending spree on the domestic side too.”

“Paid parental leave didn’t get paid for,” Johnson added. “At a minimum, I would have liked to have seen, ‘OK, Democrats, if you want this $3.3 billion package at least reduce your spending by that amount.”

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Controversy Threatens to Kill It?

Home Movies Box Office: Clint Eastwood’s Praised “Richard Jewell” Gets Disappointing Start After Controversy…

Clint Eastwood’s “Richard Jewell” should be a movie everyone’s talking about right now. And indeed they are, but not for the right reasons. With a controversy surrounding it, the Warner Bros. film has had a disappointing launch on its opening night.

“Richard Jewell” made just $1.5 million on Friday night in over 2,000 theaters. Its weekend cume will come to under $4.5 million. Coupled with a lack of awards nominations– a mistake, I think — the film doesn’t have the brightest future. What s shame.

The true story of how Jewell’s life was ruined by local law enforcement, the FBI, and the media in Atlanta when he was falsely accused of bombing the 1996 Olympics is extremely well conveyed by Eastwood and a sterling cast. But the secondary plot– of a real life reporter from the Atlanta Journal Constitution sleeping with a source to break the story– has turned “Richard Jewell” into a marketing nightmare.

The AJC is conducting a war against the movie, denying that the late reporter, Kathy Scruggs, would have done such a thing. Everyone who knew Scruggs has spoken out, too, including her colleagues and her family, all in agreement that while she was unconventional, and wore short skirts (that part is the most amusing), Scruggs wouldn’t have crossed that line.

To make matters worse, the movie uses her name but not the real name of the FBI agent she supposedly slept with. So Jon Hamm’s character is basically fictional, while Olivia Wilde is representing a real person.

The debate about this plot point has come to taint what would have otherwise been a critical and possible financial hit. We’ve seen this before–a great movie can be killed in the marketing. Look at Nate Parker’s “The Birth of a Nation,” which died because of the revelation Parker had been acquitted in a college rape trial. That was the end of that movie, which was on track for awards acclaim.

Wilde, who’s so good as “Scruggs,” has defended her role. The movie company has pointed out that the AJC nevertheless was culpable in ruining Jewell’s life. But either the AJC’s campaign against the movie, or a sub rosa Hollywood campaign against “Richard Jewell,” has certainly made the movie’s situation unfavorable.

It’s not great for Warner Bros. on a different score. They’ve been unable all year to make non branded adult films catch on. (“Joker” can’t be counted in there because it comes from DC Comics.) Their last chance is “Just Mercy,” with Jamie Foxx and Michael B. Jordan, which is also excellent and just landed Foxx a SAG Awards nomination. So far, there’s no controversy (fingers crossed). “Just Mercy” deserves an Oscar comeback after disappointing rounds with the Golden Globes and Critics Choice Awards.

In the meantime, go see “Richard Jewell.” As I said when I saw it, it’s a jewel of a movie and one of Eastwood’s best.


Roger Friedman began his Showbiz411 column in April 2009 after 10 years with Fox News. He writes for Parade magazine and has written for Details, Vogue, the New York Times, Post, and Daily News and many other publications. He is the writer and co-producer of “Only the Strong Survive,” a selection of the Cannes, Sundance, and Telluride Film festivals.

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'RICHARD JEWELL' could mark one of worst openings of Clint Eastwood career…

‘Richard Jewell’ could mark one of worst nationwide openings of Clint Eastwood’s directing career and the lowest in two decades. ‘Black Christmas’ is also getting scrooged.

Sony’s year-end event pic Jumanji: The Next Level is off to a merry start at the pre-holiday box office, where it grossed $19.4 million on Friday for a revised weekend debut of $50 million or more, ahead of expectations.

The Dwayne Johnson-Kevin Hart sequel will have no trouble topping the chart despite a crowded marquee that includes new offerings Richard Jewell, from director Clint Eastwood, and slasher remake Black Christmas, both of which are in serious trouble.

Jumanji‘s Friday haul included $4.7 million in Thursday previews. Heading into the weekend, Sony erred on the side of caution in predicting a $35 million domestic opening, while most thought it would open to $40 million-$50 million. The film earned an A- CinemaScore from audiences.

With the holidays approaching, mid-December isn’t known for huge openings, outside of the recent Star Wars pics. Rather, titles count on strong multiples throughout the Christmas to New Year’s stretch, when kids and college students are sprung from school.

This time out, Jumanji opted to bow a week before Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker, whereas Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle rode into theaters Dec. 20, 2017 with a $36 million domestic debut a week after Star Wars: The Last Jedi opened to $220 million.

Heading into the weekend, both Black Christmas and Richard Jewell were expected to open in the $10 million range, if not higher.

As it stands now, Richard Jewell may only take in $5.2 million despite an A CinemaCore, making it one of the worst nationwide starts ever for a pic directed by Eastwood, and the lowest in a two decade, not adjusted for inflation. The film grossed $1.6 million on Friday to place No. 4 behind Jumanji 2, Frozen 2 and Knives Out.

Richard Jewell recounts the real-life story of the security guard, played by Paul Walter Hauser, who was initially celebrated as a hero for saving lives after a bombing during the 1996 Summer Olympics, then vilified when he became an FBI target and was reported as a suspect by the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

In recent days, Eastwood’s biographical drama became engulfed in controversy after the Atlanta Journal-Constitution objected strenuously to the pic’s portrayal of the late journalist Kathy Scruggs (Olivia Wilde), who in the film seduces an FBI agent and is implied to have sex with him in order to get information.

On Thursday, Wilde weighed in on Twitter. “Contrary to a swath of recent headlines, I do not believe that Kathy ‘traded sex for tips.’ Nothing in my research suggested she did so, and it was never my intention to suggest she had. That would be an appalling and misogynistic dismissal of the difficult work she did,” she said. 

In a statement earlier this week, Warner Bros. said, “It is unfortunate and the ultimate irony that the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, having been a part of the rush to judgment of Richard Jewell, is now trying to malign our filmmakers and cast. Richard Jewell focuses on the real victim, seeks to tell his story, confirm his innocence and restore his name. The AJC‘s claims are baseless, and we will vigorously defend against them.”

Black Christmas — timing its opening to Friday the 13th — earned $1.8 million on Friday for a projected debut of $4.5 million. The good news: the Universal and Blumhouse microbudgeted pic cost a reported $5 million to make before marketing.

The film is the second remake of the 1974 cult horror classic about a cadre of sorority sisters who must fend off a campus killer during the deserted holidays. Imogen Poots, Aleyse Shannon, Lily Donoghue, Brittany O’Grady, Caleb Eberhardt and Cary Elwes star in the Sophia Takal-directed pic, which earned a D+ CinemaScore.

With awards season in full swing, two-high profile open in select theaters at the specialty box office: Jay Roach’s Fox News sexual harassment saga Bombshell, produced by and starring Charlize Theron alongside Nicole Kidman and Margot Robbie; and Josh and Benny Safdie’s Uncut Gems, starring Adam Sandler.

Uncut Gems (A24) opening in five cinemas in New York and Los Angeles, is headed for a sensational location average of $120,000, followed by an equally impressive $90,000-plus from four theaters for Bombshell (Lionsgate).

Terrence Malick’s A Hidden Life is also debuting in N.Y. and L.A. this weekend, albeit to soft numbers.

Dec. 13, 1 p.m.: Updated with revised weekend estimates.
Dec. 14, 7:45 a.m.: Updated with revised weekend estimates.

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Deforestation in Brazil's Amazon up by more than double…

Rio de Janeiro (AFP) – Deforestation in Brazil’s Amazon in November surged by 104 percent compared to the same month in 2018, according to official data released Saturday.

The 563 square kilometers (217 square miles) deforested that month is also the highest number for any November since 2015, according to Brazil’s National Institute for Space Research (INPE), which provides official data on deforestation.

That is considered a significant increase, particularly during the rainy season, when deforestation generally slows.

For the first 11 months of the year — also the first months in office of Jair Bolsonaro, a far-right leader who has eased restrictions on exploiting the Amazon’s vast riches — deforestation totaled 8,974.3 square kilometers.

That is nearly twice the 4,878.7 square kilometers reported for the first 11 months of 2018.

The data was collected by the satellite-based DETER system, which monitors deforestation in real time.

Another satellite-based system used by the INPE known as PRODES, considered more reliable but slower to compile data, reported in late November that in the 12 months beginning August 2018, deforestation of the Brazilian Amazon had passed the 10,000 square kilometer threshold for the first time since 2008.

That represented a 43 percent increase from the preceding 12-month period.

Deforestation in indigenous areas rose even faster, by 74.5 percent from the preceding period, INPE reported.

Overall, PRODES showed that the world’s largest tropical forest lost 10,100 square kilometers in that 12-month period, compared to 7,033 square kilometers in the previous 12 months.

On Friday, Ricardo Galvao, INPE’s former president, was named one of the 10 most important scientists of the year by the respected British journal Nature.

In early August he was fired by the Bolsonaro government, which accused him of exaggerating the extent of deforestation.

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