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NEWS   SUNDAY, FEBRUARY  19, 2017   NEWS

China Grants Trump A Trademark He's Been Seeking For A Decade
Trump fought unsuccessfully in Chinese courts for years to try to gain control of the trademark, but his fortunes changed suddenly last year during the latter stages of his campaign for the White House. China's trademark review board announced in September it had invalidated a rival claim for the Trump trademark, clearing the way for Trump to move in. In November, soon after the election, it awarded the trademark to the Trump Organization. The trademark was officially registered this week after a three-month notice period for objections expired. CNN
VOA VIEW: CNN will fabricate any news that they think will make Trump look unstable.

New U.S. Travel Ban To Spare Green Card Holders: Trump Official
A new version of a Trump administration travel ban will not stop green card residency holders or travelers already on planes from entering the United States, U.S. Secretary for Homeland Security John Kelly said on Saturday. U.S. President Donald Trump's initial attempt to clamp down for security reasons on immigration from seven Muslim-majority countries and on refugees snarled to a halt amid a judicial backlash and chaos at airports. "The president is contemplating releasing a tighter, more streamlined version of the first (order). And I will have opportunity to work (on) a rollout plan, in particular to make sure that there's no one in a sense caught in the system of moving from overseas to our airports," Kelly said at the Munich Security Conference. Reuters

'Blind Sheikh' Convicted In 1993 World Trade Bombing Dies In U.S. Prison
Omar Abdel-Rahman, the Muslim cleric known as "the blind sheikh" who was convicted of conspiracy in the 1993 World Trade Center bombing and of planning a broader "war of urban terrorism" in the United States, died on Saturday in a North Carolina prison, authorities said. Abdel-Rahman, 78, died of natural causes at 9:40 a.m. (1440 GMT) at a medical center at a federal prison compound in Butner, North Carolina, according to Greg Norton, a spokesman. The cleric, who had diabetes and coronary artery disease, had been incarcerated at the complex for nearly 10 years, Norton said. Reuters

Israeli Leader Turned Down Regional Peace Initiative
An Israeli newspaper reported Sunday that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu turned down a regional peace initiative last year that was brokered by then-American Secretary of State John Kerry, in apparent contradiction to his stated goal of involving regional powers in resolving Israel's conflict with the Palestinians. Haaretz reported that Netanyahu took part in a secret summit that Kerry organized in the southern Jordanian port city of Aqaba last February and included Jordan's King Abdullah II and Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sissi. According to the report, which cited anonymous Obama administration officials, Kerry proposed regional recognition of Israel as a Jewish state - a key Netanyahu demand - alongside a renewal of peace talks with the Palestinians with the support of the Arab countries. Netanyahu reportedly rejected the offer, saying he would not be able to garner enough support for it in his hard-line coalition government. Philadelphia Inquirer
VOA VIEW: More fake news - not totally true.

Iran Dismisses New US Pressure, Calls For 'Mutual Respect'
Iran's foreign minister brushed aside new pressure from the United States on Sunday, declaring that his country is "unmoved by threats" but responds well to respect. President Donald Trump has repeatedly criticized the 2015 nuclear agreement between Iran, the U.S. and five other world powers, under which Tehran agreed to curb its uranium enrichment in exchange for the lifting of international sanctions, but hasn't said what he plans to do about it. His administration has said Iran was "on notice" over a recent ballistic missile test, and imposed new sanctions on more than two dozen Iranian companies and individuals. Philadelphia Inquirer

Christie Tells His Staff He Is Taking White House Job
New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie is telling friends and staff he is taking a role with the Trump administration, according to a source close to the White House. The GOP governor’s position has not been worked out, but he would not replace ­Reince Preibus as the president’s chief-of-staff, the source said. “Trump told him to be patient,” the source said. “Christie will only take something where he is answerable to the president.” Trump told The Wall Street Journal last month “at some point, we’re going to do something with Chris.” But the White House said it has not offered Christie a position. NY Post

Melania Trump Has A Close Friend In NYC – Her Trusted Sister
The first lady’s closest confidante is only a New York minute away, and it’s the older sister nobody knows. Ines Knauss, 48, lives in a $2 million, one-bedroom apartment in a posh Park Avenue building owned by the Trump ­Organization, according to public records. An artist, she’s devoted to Melania Trump and for years has been her best pal, friends told The Post. “They are very close,” said Palm Beach philanthropist Audrey Gruss, who met Ines at a fund-raiser for the Boys’ Club of New York at the Trumps’ Mar-a-Lago ­estate in 2005. “She struck me as a lovely person, and extremely creative.” And, as the president spends most of his time in Washington and Melania finds herself alone and thrust into an unfamiliar public role, she may be increasingly relying on her beloved sister, who lives only two blocks away. NY Post

Pence Tells Europe: US Backs NATO, Will Put ISIS on ‘Ash-Heap’
The U.S. will consign the terrorist group ISIS "to the ash-heap of history," support NATO and will take a tough stance on Russia, Vice President Mike Pence said at an international security conference on Saturday in Germany. "Throughout the Middle East, radical Islamic terrorists have found safe havens — and secured vast resources — that have allowed them to launch attacks here in Europe and inspire attacks in the United States," Pence said, speaking at the Munich Security Conference. "As President Trump has made clear, the United States will fight tirelessly to crush these enemies — especially ISIS and its so-called caliphate — and consign them to the ash-heap of history, where they belong," he said. MSNBC

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McCain: Dictators 'Get Started By Suppressing Free Press'
Sen. John McCain slammed President Donald Trump's attacks on the media this week by noting dictators "get started by suppressing free press." It was a startling observation from a sitting member of Congress against the President of the United States, especially considering McCain is a member of Trump's party. "I hate the press," the Arizona Republican sarcastically told NBC News' Chuck Todd on "Meet the Press." "I hate you especially. But the fact is we need you. We need a free press. We must have it. It's vital." CNN
VOA VIEW: CNN is in a war they can't and must not win.

Trump Party: Italian Politician Borrows President’s Name
Donald Trump may be working to make America great again, but Gianni Musetti is hoping the president will help do the same for Italy. The right-wing mayoral hopeful has gone so far as to launch the "Trump Party" in ancient Tuscan town of Carrara. "I have known who Trump is for a long time because I am a big fan of wrestling," said Musetti, referring to Trump's links to the WWE. "Then, when I watched his rise to power, I saw in him the leader that we in Italy haven't had for years."  The 31-year-old said "Trump" was an obvious name for his new party because he sees the president as the heir to Italy's last strong conservative leader — Silvio Berlusconi, the billionaire who was elected prime minister four times before being ousted in 2011. "They are very similar," said Musetti, who is also the leader of the right-wing "Gioventu' italiana" youth movement. "They are both successful businessmen who gave up a comfortable life to get into politics at the service of the people," he added. MSNBC

Trump To Interview Bolton, 3 Others For National Security Adviser Post
President Trump will interview former U.N. ambassador John Bolton and at least three military officers this weekend for the job of national security adviser, the White House said Saturday. Mr. Trump will speak Sunday with Mr. Bolton, said White House press secretary Sean Spicer. The president is staying at his Mar-a-Lago resort in Palm Beach, Fla., for the weekend. The president also will interview Army strategist Lt. Gen. H.R. McMaster, acting national security adviser Keith Kellogg and West Point superintendent Lt. Col. Robert Caslen. Mr. Spicer said there are “potentially more” candidates for the job. He said former CIA Director David Petraeus is officially out of the running. Washington Times

IRS Offers Extended Customer Service Hours This Weekend To Get A Jump On Filings
The IRS is offering extended telephone help desk Saturday and even Monday, a federal holiday, to help taxpayers get a start on their filings. The Tuesday following the Washington’s Birthday holiday is typically the busiest day of the year for telephone calls, with the IRS fielding thousands of calls her hour. But taxpayers can take advantage of the weekend hours and get a jump. The lines Saturday are open until 5 p.m. local time. Monday, phones will be answered for an even bigger window, from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. local time. “During this peak time of the tax filing season, the IRS opened its customer service lines on Saturday and Monday of the Presidents Day weekend,” said IRS spokesman Matt Leas. “The IRS wants taxpayers to know that we’re here to help during this peak period, but IRS.gov has the answers to many standard questions.” Washington Times

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Governor's Proposed Gun Permit Fees Come Under Fire
Gun rights supporters and state Republican lawmakers are fighting huge gun permit fee increases proposed by Gov. Dannel P. Malloy, saying they would price many people out of being able to exercise their Second Amendment right to bear arms. The Democratic governor wants to quadruple the five-year renewal fee for pistol permits from $70 to $300 as part of his plan to offset a budget deficit estimated at $1.7 billion in the next fiscal year. For people getting their first five-year pistol permits, the fees would increase from $140 to $370, which includes a $70 charge collected by cities and towns. The proposed fees would be among the highest in the country. Fees for background checks needed to obtain pistol permits also would increase, from $50 to $75. Malloy's pistol permit and background check fee plan would raise nearly $12 million a year in additional revenue. Tampa Tribune

Middle School Student Threw Wood At Trump’s Motorcade
The person who threw a block of wood at President Donald Trump’s motorcade in South Florida on Friday was identified as a middle school student, the Palm Beach County Sheriff’s Office said on Saturday. The State Attorney’s Office will decide whether any charges are filed in the case, according to the press release from the sheriff’s office. On Friday as the president and his motorcade drove from Palm Beach International Airport to Mar-a-Lago, Trump’s part-time residence and Winter White House, someone threw a small hard object at one of the passing vehicles, the release said. Once the president had been safely escorted to his home, several members of the motorcade returned to the area look for the object and witnesses. They found a wood block measuring about 2 inches by 4 inches, according to the sheriff’s office.  A middle school student confessed to throwing the block and implicated four other students, the sheriff’s office said. Atlanta Journal

Authorities 'Strongly Encourage' House Members To Review Security Plans Before Week Of Town Halls
House lawmakers are being told by law enforcement to maintain “enhanced security awareness” as they return to their home districts for a week -- following several raucous town hall meeting in which congressional Republicans were ripped over plans to dismantle ObamaCare and other GOP initiatives. The advisory issued Thursday by the House Sergeant at Arms “strongly encouraged” the chamber’s roughly 435 members to review security protocols as they leave Capitol Hill for a “District Work Period,” which historically includes town hall-style events and other interactions with constituents. Fox News
VOA VIEW: Liberals are getting very dumb.

Petraeus Out Of The Running For National Security Adviser
Sources close to retired Gen. David Petraeus say the White House eliminated the former CIA director from consideration for the open national security adviser post after he weighed in on the job during a conference in Germany this week. ”Whoever it is that would agree to take that position certainly should do so with some very, very significant assurances that he or she would have authorities over the personnel of the organization -- that there would be a commitment to a disciplined process and procedures,” Petraeus said at the Munich Security Conference. That pronouncement angered the White House as it deepened the sense the next national security adviser must assert authority over staff and the inter-agency process -- highlighting the reason Vice Adm. Robert Harward refused to take the job earlier this week. Two sources confirmed to CBS News that Harward had demanded his own team, and the White House resisted. CBS

Trump's Navy Secretary Nominee On The Verge Of Withdrawing
Two sources close to the situation tell CBS News that President Trump’s Navy Secretary nominee Philip Bilden is likely to withdraw his nomination. The sources said Bilden, a former Army Reserve military officer with little naval experience, has drawn resistance to his lack of familiarity with Navy issues and has encountered difficulty separating himself from his financial interests. But the White House has publicly denied that Bilden is reconsidering his nomination. CBS

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US Vice President Visits Former Nazi Concentration Camp
U.S. Vice President Mike Pence paid a somber visit to the site of the Dachau concentration camp on Sunday, walking along the grounds where tens of thousands of people were killed during World War II. Pence was joined by his wife, Karen Pence, and the couple's 23-year-old daughter, Charlotte, as they toured the exhibits at the former concentration camp that was established by the Nazis in 1933 near Munich. The vice president was accompanied by Abba Naor, a survivor of the camp, and other dignitaries as he passed through the wrought iron gate bearing the inscription, "Arbeit macht frei," or "Work sets you free." The Pences placed a wreath beneath the International Memorial at the center of the camp, toured the barracks and viewed the ovens inside the crematorium. The Pences also stopped at religious memorials at the site and later attended a church service on the camp's grounds. More than 200,000 people from across Europe were held at Dachau, and more than 40,000 prisoners died there. The camp was liberated by U.S. forces in April 1945. Houston Chronicle

Graham: Trump Must Punish Russia For Election Interference
A senior U.S. Republican senator on Sunday urged President Donald Trump to take action against Russia over allegations that Moscow interfered in the election that brought him to power. U.S. intelligence officials have told Trump that Moscow tried to influence voters by hacking Democratic emails and trolling social media sites, but Trump has sought to downplay Russia's role in the election. Speaking to world leaders, diplomats and defense officials at the Munich Security Conference, South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham said Congress needs to get involved to ensure there are "consequences" for the alleged hacking. Houston Chronicle

Trump Returns To Florida For Campaign Rally, Hoping To Reignite Voters With Unfiltered Message
President Trump returns to friendly and familiar ground Saturday with a campaign rally in Florida, after a challenging first several weeks in the White House, largely deprived of the voter enthusiasm that helped propel him to his unexpected November win. Trump will hold the event inside an airplane hangar in the central Florida city of Melbourne. The Republican president visited Florida nearly two dozen times during the 2016 presidential campaign and won the state after Democratic President Obama was victorious there in 2008 and 2012. Fox News
VOA VIEW: Trump won the peoples hearts.

Anxieties Rise At Detroit Haven For Asylum Seekers
Lucy Neighbor knew that to start over after fleeing torture, bloodshed and repression in her native Cameroon, she needed to find something called Freedom House. She managed to reach the place in 2008, and though she wasn't exactly sure what it was, she felt at home the moment the door opened. "When you come here, the person talking to you has so much compassion and love. All the anxiety, all the fear starts just going," said Neighbor, 41, who became a U.S. citizen last year and now works at a Detroit-area hotel. Freedom House is a haven in Detroit for asylum seekers that bills itself as the only facility in the U.S. providing temporary housing, legal aid and other services under one roof and at no charge. For more than three decades, the nonprofit organization has welcomed immigrants from around the globe, especially Africa, Latin America, South Asia and the Middle East. ABC

Columbia University Accidentally Sent Acceptance Letters To 277 Applicants
An Ivy League university informed more than 200 students that they'd been accepted earlier this week, but it turned out to be a mistake. Columbia University said it accidentally sent acceptance emails to 277 prospective students on Wednesday and then recalled them. The university said the notices "incorrectly implied" that they'd been admitted to its Mailman School of Public Health Master's program. Columbia said it sent a follow-up email within an hour saying the initial notice was sent erroneously. ABC

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Italy's Renzi Resigns As Party Chief, Seeks Renewed Mandate
Former Italian Premier Matteo Renzi has resigned as Democratic Party leader in a bid to win a fresh, stronger mandate before the national election in which populist political forces are positioned to pose the biggest challenge. As promised, Renzi told fellow Democratic leaders at a meeting Sunday that he was resigning. But Renzi insisted he won't submit to what he called the "blackmail" of a more left-leaning faction threatening a schism if he again seeks the top party post. The national election, due in early 2018, might come earlier if Premier Paolo Gentiloni loses control of a frequently squabbling center-left parliamentary majority. Charlotte Observer

Police Hunting For Monk Increase Pressure On Thai Temple
Police in Thailand who spent three days in an orderly but unsuccessful search of a vast Buddhist temple for a prominent monk accused of financial wrongdoing kept up the pressure Sunday, sending fresh forces to confront devotees and monks at the compound's gates. Around 3,000 police had surrounded the Dhammakaya sect temple north of Bangkok from Thursday through Saturday, while smaller squads searched for its chief, Phra Dhammajayo, who is accused of accepting $40 million in embezzled money. Both security forces and Dhammajayo's followers gathered in growing numbers at the temple on Sunday after the Department of Special Investigation — Thailand's FBI — ordered all people not residing there to leave. Numbers on both sides were difficult to estimate. Charlotte Observer

Superbugs, Climate Chaos Have Bill Gates And The UN Worried
Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates joined the United Nations to warn world leaders about a new series of threats shaping up as megatrends, led by global warming, superbugs and artificial intelligence. U.S. Vice President Michael Pence and trans-Atlantic military officials were on the receiving end of the warnings issued by Gates, UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres and German Chancellor Angela Merkel. They all said that the world isn’t prepared to deal with the emerging risks. “The next epidemic could originate on the computer screen of a terrorist intent on using genetic engineering to create a synthetic version of the smallpox virus, or a super contagious and deadly strain of the flu,” said Gates, whose private foundation helps combat public health and global warming problems. “Getting ready for a global pandemic is every bit as important as nuclear deterrence and avoiding a climate catastrophe.” Bloomberg

U.S. Policy On North Korea ‘Not Working,’ Chinese Official Says
The U.S. policy of maintaining sanctions and military pressure on North Korea while refusing to talk to the country isn’t working and will only make matters worse, a Chinese official said Saturday, venting Beijing’s impatience with the stalemate over its isolated neighbor. “China just keeps on telling you this is not working, although we’re going along with you,” Fu Ying, who chairs the Foreign Affairs Committee of China’s legislature and was a vice foreign minister until 2013, said at the Munich Security Conference. “You have to realize -- without talking with them, you will only drive them in the wrong direction further.” Bloomberg
VOA VIEW: N Korea has been extorting the US for a long time.

A Month Of Trump: Tweets And Turmoil For The 45th President
One month after the inauguration, the stretch of Pennsylvania Avenue in front of Donald Trump's White House still is a hard-hat zone. Skeletal remains of the inaugural reviewing stands poke skyward. Random piles of plywood and cables are heaped on the ground inside crooked lines of metal fencing. The disarray outside the president's front door, though not his fault, serves as a metaphor for the tumult still unfolding inside. Four weeks in, the man who says he inherited "a mess" at home and abroad is presiding over a White House that is widely described as itself being a mess. Las Vegas Sun

Iraqi Forces Advance On Islamic State-Held Western Mosul
U.S.-backed Iraqi forces launched a large-scale military operation on Sunday to dislodge Islamic State militants from the western half of Mosul, the latest phase in a four-month-old offensive to retake Iraq's second largest city. The battle for western Mosul promises to be the most daunting yet, as the half of the city west of the Tigris River has older, narrower streets and is still home to hundreds of thousands of civilians, who have been told to shelter in place. Iraq declared eastern Mosul "fully liberated" last month, but IS has continued to launch attacks there. Hours after the latest operation was announced, suicide bombers struck troops and pro-government Sunni militiamen in eastern Mosul. Kansas City Star

UN Syria Envoy Seeks Momentum In Upcoming Geneva Talks
The U.N. envoy for Syria says he's hoping upcoming peace talks in Geneva produce new momentum and that much depends upon the position the U.S. decides to take.
Staffan de Mistura said Sunday "the big question mark is where is the U.S.?" He told the Munich Security Conference "we have to push for momentum" at the talks starting Thursday. But State Department diplomat Brett McGurk says "people will be disappointed" if they envision the U.S. suddenly finding a new "tool in the toolkit." He says "I don't think the U.S. will come in with a one-size-fits-all solution, because there isn't one." Syrian National Coalition President Anas al-Abdah said the opposition is "fully committed and prepared to negotiate a political solution," adding "we have a glimmer of hope." Miami Herald

Pence Says US To Hold Russia Accountable, Stand With NATO
U.S. Vice President Mike Pence on Saturday conveyed a message to jittery partners that the Trump administration will "hold Russia accountable" and maintain steadfast support for NATO, a military alliance the American commander in chief once dismissed as "obsolete." In his overseas debut as vice president, Pence told the audience at the Munich Security Conference that the U.S. would be "unwavering" in its commitment to NATO and that President Donald Trump would "stand with Europe." Pence pointed to their shared "noble ideals — freedom, democracy, justice and the rule of law." Addressing the violence in Ukraine, Pence said the U.S. would demand that Russia honor a 2015 deal to end violence in eastern Ukraine between government forces and Russia-backed separatists. He did not mention findings by U.S. intelligence agencies that Russia interfered in last year's presidential election to help Trump win the White House. SF Gate

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Rex Tillerson Reaffirms Defense Pledge, Condemns North Korea Rights Violations
U.S. State Secretary Rex Tillerson pledged U.S. commitment to the defense of Japan and South Korea, including the assurance to provide extended nuclear deterrence to its allies, on the sidelines of the Group of 20 foreign ministers' meeting. The meeting marks the first time Tillerson has met with both foreign ministers.
Tillerson, who was in Bonn, Germany, for ministerial-level talks of the 20 major world economies, also exchanged views with South Korean Foreign Minister Yun Byung-se and Japanese Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida on the recent assassination of Kim Jong Nam at an airport in Malaysia, South Korean newspaper Donga Ilbo reported. UPI News

Swedes Scratch Heads At Trump's Suggestion Of Major Incident
Swedes have been scratching their heads and ridiculing President Donald Trump's remark that suggested a major incident had happened in Sweden. During a rally in Florida on Saturday, Trump said "look what's happening last night in Sweden" as he alluded to past terror attacks in Europe. The comment has prompted a barrage of social media reaction on Sunday. Former Swedish Foreign Minister Carl Bildt tweeted , "Sweden? Terror attack? What has he been smoking? Questions abound." Aftonbladet newspaper listed in English some events that had happened Friday in Sweden, including a man being treated for severe burns, an avalanche warning and police chasing a drunken driver. Tampa Tribune

Large Crowd Of Protesters Gathers Near Trump Rally
Hundreds of demonstrators lined Apollo Boulevard before, during and after President Trump’s rally Saturday. Organized by Women’s March Florida and Speak Out! Brevard, Saturday’s Trump protest was the county’s largest liberal demonstration since a February 2003 peace rally in downtown Melbourne opposing the Iraq invasion, said Vicki Impoco, past president of Brevard’s NOW chapter. A crowd estimate was unavailable immediately after the event. A loud chorus of boos erupted when Air Force One descended for landing across the street at Orlando Melbourne International Airport. “Lock him up! Lock him up!” hundreds of demonstrators chanted in unison shortly before Trump took the stage. “We’re such a predominantly red community. And we’d really like to show that there are progressives here who care about our community,” said Megan Cheatham, a rally organizer, holding a red and white bullhorn. USA Today
VOA VIEW: A couple of hundred people is not a large crowd - compared to tens of thousands at the rally.

U.S. Deploys Carrier To Contentious South China Sea
The United States deployed aircraft carrier USS Carl Vinson to patrol the increasingly contentious South China Sea on Saturday despite Beijing’s warnings not to challenge its sovereignty in the resource-rich sea. In a statement, the Navy described the launch as the beginning of “routine operations” in the South China Sea. China claims most of the sea as its own, despite overlapping territorial and jurisdictional claims from the Philippines, Vietnam, Malaysia, Taiwan and Brunei. On Wednesday, China's Foreign Ministry spokesman Geng Shuang denounced advance news of the deployment at a news conference. USA Today

At Least Four Dead As Powerful Storm Pounds Southern California
At least four people died as the result of heavy rains and intense winds brought on by a powerful storm in Southern California. Heavy precipitation covered the roads in San Diego with at least eight inches of rain, causing a pair of fatal crashes, while mudslides, rushing water and falling trees caused significant damage and left at least two more people dead. California Highway Patrol reported that a car struck multiple vehicles, killing one person and leaving three injured after hydroplaning on across Interstate 15 in San Diego. UPI News

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PENCE: IRAN WON’T HAVE NUCLEAR WEAPONS TO USE AGAINST US OR ISRAEL
The United States will stop Iran from obtaining nuclear weapons that can be used against it or Israel, Vice President Mike Pence told the Munich Security Conference on Saturday, just days after meeting with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in Washington. “Under President [Donald] Trump, the US will remain fully committed to ensuring that Iran never obtains a nuclear weapon capable of threatening our country [or] our allies in the region, especially Israel,” Pence said. Jerusalem Post

TRUMP'S DEFENSE CHIEF VISITS UAE IN FIRST MIDDLE EAST TRIP
US President Donald Trump's defense secretary arrived in the United Arab Emirates on Saturday for talks with one of Washington's closest allies in the Middle East. Jim Mattis, on his debut trip to the region as Pentagon chief, was expected to meet Abu Dhabi Crown Prince Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed al-Nahayan and US embassy representatives. US officials have not disclosed details about his agenda. Jerusalem Post

Mosul Battle: UN Plea To Protect Trapped Civilians
The UN humanitarian co-ordinator for Iraq, Lise Grande, told the BBC Iraq had made this its priority when it won back the east of the city. But the western side, with its narrow streets, may prove a bigger challenge. Leaflets warning residents of an imminent offensive have been dropped. Mosul is the last major base of IS in Iraq, and the operation to drive the militant group from the city started in October. BBC

Donald Trump Savages Media At Florida Rally
He told the crowd the media did not want "to report the truth" and had their own agenda. The gathering in Melbourne is similar in style to those Mr Trump held during the election campaign. It comes off the back of a week in which Mr Trump attacked the media in an aggressive press conference. His national security adviser Michael Flynn also quit earlier in the week. Mr Trump is to interview candidates for the role on Sunday. BBC

Insurance Companies Take The Lead On Obamacare Replacement Ideas
If you want to know where Republicans find ideas to reform Obamacare, look no further than the private insurance companies. As Republicans struggle to unify around a plan to replace the Affordable Care Act, and at the same time attempt to keep insurance companies in state marketplaces, health insurance executives appear to have found a friendly ear for their demands for change. The most striking inclusion of industry ideas in policy appeared this week, when the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) issued a draft rule that could dramatically affect individuals who buy insurance on state marketplaces. Guardian

Far-Right Leader Geert Wilders Calls Moroccan Migrants ‘Scum’
The Dutch populist leader Geert Wilders sparked outrage on Saturday when he launched his election campaign with a stinging attack on the country’s Moroccan population. The anti-immigration MP called them “scum” and said he wanted to make the Netherlands “ours again”. Wilders, 53, was surrounded by police and security guards when he made his remarks during a walkabout in his party’s stronghold of Spijkenisse, part of an ethnically diverse industrial area just south of Rotterdam. “The Moroccan scum in Holland … once again not all are scum … but there is a lot of Moroccan scum in Holland who make the streets unsafe, mostly young people ... and that should change,” he told journalists as he attempted to take a stroll in a market. Guardian

Donald Trump Echoes Chairman Mao By Attacking Media As 'Enemy Of The People'
Donald Trump has ramped up his attacks on journalists, echoing Chairman Mao Zedong and other dictators by branding a large section of the mainstream media "enemy of the people". After a combative press conference on Thursday, in which he railed at "fake news", bullied reporters  and dismissed facts, the president took to Twitter on Friday to continue his assault on the press.  "The FAKE NEWS media (failing @nytimes, @NBCNews, @ABC, @CBS, @CNN) is not my enemy, it is the enemy of the American People!," he declared. Telegraph

Donald Trump Has Awkward Exchange With Reporter Over False Election Claim
Donald Trump was asked by a reporter “Why should America trust you?” after repeating a false election claim during his fiery press conference. During the 75-minute impromptu Q&A with journalists, Trump wrongly claimed that his victory had been “the biggest electoral college win since Ronald Reagan”. “I'm here following through on what I pledged to do. That's all I'm doing. I put it out before the American people, got 306 electoral college votes. I wasn't supposed to get 222. They said there's no way to get 222, 230's impossible,” said Trump. Telegraph

Iraq: UN Aid Agencies Preparing For 'All Scenarios' As Western Mosul Military Operations Set To Begin
With military operations to retake western Mosul starting, United Nations humanitarian agencies in Iraq are rushing to prepare for the humanitarian impact of the fighting amid grave concerns that tens of thousands of families are at extreme risks. According to the UN Office for Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) in the country, food and fuel supplies are dwindling, markets and shops have closed, running water is scarce and electricity in many neighborhoods is either intermittent or cut off. UN News

At Munich Security Conference, UN Chief Guterres Highlights Need For 'A Surge In Diplomacy For Peace'
Highlighting the complex and interlinked challenges confronting the global community that also compound the suffering of the most vulnerable, United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres called for a boost in preventive diplomacy and mediation efforts, as well as for a strategy to address root causes of such conflicts in the world. “There are things that are obvious: the alignment of the sustainable and inclusive development with the sustaining peace agenda,” said Mr. Guterres in his remarks to the Munich Security Conference, noting also their importance in preventing conflicts. UN News

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