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(CNN)The freedom found skiing on a mountain is often earned after lengthy journeys, airport hassles and time-consuming traffic.

But what if flying to the slopes was simple?
Certain ski resorts do offer this — and not just the ones involving a helicopter lift from the nearest international airport.
“The benefit of private jet travel for ski trips is as much about time saving and convenience, as it is about luxury,” says PrivateFly chief executive Adam Twidell.
    Here are nine of the best ski resorts that can by flown directly to, with airfields less than 10 miles from the ski lifts.

    Courchevel, France

    Pitkin

    Everyone’s heard of Aspen, the Colorado silver-boom mining town done good — so good, in fact, it’s an A-list favorite with some of the most expensive real estate in the United States.
    And its Pitkin County Airport is just a few short miles from the slopes.
    The airfield, which connects with dozens of US cities, is just three miles from the town of Aspen, surrounded by the ski area of Aspen Mountain (known locally as Ajax), Aspen Highlands and Buttermilk.
    Another ski area, Snowmass Village, is just six miles from the tarmac.
    Aspen, which features in several songs by late resident John Denver, claims a total of 319 miles of tree-lined Rocky Mountains trails.
    Common celebrity crash pads include the five-star Little Nell, Hotel Jerome and the St Regis.
    Did you know? Aspen’s Buttermilk hosts the Winter X Games, while the 2017 FIS alpine skiing World Cup finals will be held there in March.

    Revelstoke, Canada

    A check for $9,890 will buy a round-trip ticket on a private charter from Vancouver to Revelstoke deep in the heart of powder country.
    The airport — which also hosts two scheduled flights a week (via Revelstoke Air) is just two miles south of town.
    Be rewarded with a vertical drop of 5,620 feet — the most in North America — and 64 runs among glades and high-alpine bowls on Mount Mackenzie.
    Revelstoke is also known for its heli-skiing.
    From the uber-luxury Bighorn lodge, step onto a chopper parked out front and be whisked from doorstep to deep powder in minutes.
    Bighorn costs $79,160 for the lodge in a high-season week, excluding heli-skiing. The helicopter will clock up $1,223 per person, per day.
    Did you know? Don’t forget to pack a snorkel — Revelstoke is blessed with 40-60 feet of snow annually.

    Telluride, Colorado

    This former mining town from the mid-1800s was the setting for Butch Cassidy’s first bank heist in 1889, but now Telluride rates as one of North America’s hottest ski locations.
    Telluride Regional Airport sits on a lofty plateau six miles west of town and is open to scheduled services via Great Lakes Airlines or private charters.
    This makes it possible to fly in and be cruising in the San Juan mountains within the hour.
    Telluride’s compact center, only eight blocks wide and 12 long, retains a boutique Wild West look with clapboard storefronts and Victorian-era homes.
    Famous residents have included Tom Cruise, Jerry Seinfeld and Oprah Winfrey.
    The ski area — 2,000 acres and 127 runs among aspen and spruce glades — is dominated by Palmyra Peak at 13,320 feet.
    The Revelation lift whisks skiers up to a high point of 12,515 feet above Revelation bowl.
    Did you know? The ski area at Telluride — thought to be a contraction of the phrase “To hell you ride” — was founded in 1970 with snowcat skiing for $12.50 a day including a sack lunch. The first lifts followed in 1972.

    Read more: http://www.cnn.com/2017/02/20/travel/ski-resorts-you-can-fly-into/index.html

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    (CNN)Ohio Gov. John Kasich is tentatively slated to meet with President Donald Trump at the White House on Friday, three sources familiar with the plan told CNN Monday.

    A Kasich adviser said the White House didn’t offer an explicit agenda for the meeting.
    A senior administration official said the meeting is still tentative but is likely to be a private sitdown between Kasich, the President and possibly Chief of Staff Reince Priebus. The official described the meeting as long overdue.
      Kasich, who challenged Trump for the GOP nomination, was sharply critical of his rival’s policies on the campaign trail. He described then-candidate Trump as “somebody that doesn’t understand foreign policy” and questioned his capability to be commander in chief.
      Despite serving as the sitting governor of Ohio, Kasich boycotted the GOP convention in Cleveland. When it came time to cast his ballot, Kasich wrote in the name of 2008 Republican nominee John McCain rather than Trump.
      He hasn’t been biting his tongue since Trump took office, either. On CNN’s “State of the Union” Sunday, Kasich criticized the Trump administration’s “loose words,” saying they are cause for concern worldwide.
      CORRECTION: This story has been updated to reflect that sources told CNN about the tentative meeting Monday.

      Read more: http://www.cnn.com/2017/02/20/politics/john-kasich-donald-trump/index.html

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      Washington (CNN)If Donald Trump’s campaign aides like Paul Manafort were contacting Russian officials during the campaign, then the President had nothing to do with it, claims former Trump campaign manager Corey Lewandowski.

      “If anybody crossed a line and gave information to a foreign agent or foreign government or foreign intelligence official, whether that’s Paul Manafort or it’s Rick Gates or anybody else, I hope they’re held accountable,” Lewandowski told David Axelrod on “The Axe Files,” a podcast from the University of Chicago Institute of Politics and CNN.
      He later added: “Any staffer who contacted or potentially contacted a Russian agent or a Russian official has done so on their own accord and not at the direction of the campaign, the President or anybody else in the administration.”

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        Manafort has denied the alleged contact as “100% not true.”
        At times during the interview, Lewandowski speculated about previous reports of Russian connections with Manafort, though he added he has “no idea” whether any of it is true.
        “Look, I had no idea if, you know, the stories that have been very public about dossiers and Paul’s name appearing and, you know, other foreign countries, about receiving money, I don’t know if they’re true or if they’re not true. I have no idea. I have no reason to believe them, whatsoever,” Lewandowski said.
        Lewandowski, a former CNN political commentator, said Trump never wanted Russian interference in the election, which US intelligence agencies say occurred to boost the GOP nominee. But he would not rule out the notion that Manafort had wanted such aid.
        “If Paul Manafort did something that he was trying to encourage the Russians to be involved in this election cycle, then he did so on his own accord, without any direction from then-candidate Trump, the campaign or President Trump. I am certain of that,” Lewandowski said.

        Read more: http://www.cnn.com/2017/02/20/politics/corey-lewandowski-paul-manafort-russians/index.html

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        Fremont, Ohio (CNN)Ohio Republican Rep. Jim Jordan acknowledged protesters outside two events in his home district Monday — a break with many other Capitol Hill colleagues who have largely avoided such scenes — but was met with shouts of disapproval.

        The Ohio Republican, a 10-year veteran of the House and one of its most ardent conservatives, spoke with what his staff and protesters estimated were upward of 150 demonstrators in Marion, Ohio, at the historic home of former President Warren G. Harding.
        He then headed about an hour north where he talked briefly with a much smaller group of protesters at the Rutherford B. Hayes Presidential Library in Fremont, Ohio, before heading into a presidential trivia contest for children (which prompted his former Democratic opponent to claim he was using the kids as “human shields”).
          Jordan’s tour of his sprawling Ohio district Monday showed the dilemma for lawmakers eyeing up a repeat of the tea party protests which swept Democrats out of power in Congress in 2010 — but with the fire and the threat coming from the left this time.
          And it also shows how deep the anger has bled into staunchly conservative territory. Jordan beat his Democratic opponent 68%-32% last year and President Donald Trump won the district by a similar margin. The first hint of trouble for Republicans came two weeks ago, when Utah Republican Jason Chaffetz was confronted by hundreds of angry protesters at his town hall.
          Since then, Republican lawmakers have canceled town halls, while others have split town entirely — heading on Congressional delegation trips to spots like the Mexican border and Europe. Meanwhile, some Republicans have fully embraced the fury: Rep. Mark Sanford huddled hundreds of protesters at his South Carolina town hall this past weekend, even walking outside to address an overflow crowd.
          Jordan didn’t give it the “Full Sanford” Monday, but he did attempt some outreach — with varying success.
          “They may not agree with me, we may share different perspectives,” Jordan said, as a group of protesters laughed outside the Hayes Library. (“No, we don’t agree with you,” yelled one woman, interrupting Jordan.)
          “But they’re allowed under the first amendment to speak up, and my job is to listen and tell them where I’m at,” Jordan said, which resulted in one man mocking him: “Listen and give the party line, no real reasons, no in-depth analysis.”
          The sight of hundreds of protesters packed outside the Harding presidential home earlier in the day was compelling enough, Jordan said, for him to take questions from the angry crowd. But protesters claimed they had to force him to address them.
          As Harding Home director Sherry Hall attempted to read through a history of Harding from the wraparound porch, with Jordan by her side, angry protesters chanted at the “Stop Reading!” and yelled “Hold a town hall!” according to video of the event taken by one group of protesters.
          Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell implored his Republican colleagues last week to face protesters and address them (even though he isn’t hosting any town halls himself — opting instead for a trio of closed-door fundraisers).
          But the House of Representatives’ chief security officer urged House lawmakers to coordinate police protection for their public events while they were back in their home states. (A pair of Fremont police cars pulled up to Jordan’s second event, but the small number of police just watched while a few dozen protesters milled around outside.)
          The showdowns are likely to be a common sight this week — with town halls in Arkansas, New Jersey and Florida acting like magnets for irate Democrats and even some independents who stayed out of politics until Trump took the White House.
          Cheryl Laugherty, 62, a retired librarian from Fremont, Ohio, said she didn’t get active in protesting until Trump emerged as a force last year. Since his election, she’s been organizing with other women in northwest Ohio, and stood with a small group protesting Jordan in Fremont.
          “It’s been off and on through the years, but his (Trump’s) behavior on the campaign trail this year just clinched it for me. I could not tolerate the way, like he made fun of the handicapped columnist, just things he said,” Laugherty said. “And it hasn’t changed, the belittling of people and the nicknames. It’s juvenile. It’s juvenile bullying.”
          Jordan said Monday that it’s up to other Republicans to decide what they want to do, but suggested they honor the First Amendment and hear out the protesters. But Laugherty and others gathered outside the Hayes home Monday quickly pointed out that Jordan has yet to schedule any town halls himself.

          Read more: http://www.cnn.com/2017/02/20/politics/jim-jordan-town-hall-protesters-democrats/index.html

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          West Palm Beach, Florida (CNN)A senior National Security Council adviser was reassigned to his old job at the National Defense University, a White House spokeswoman confirmed Sunday, after he criticized the Trump administration’s Latin American policies.

          Craig Deare was removed from his role as a senior adviser at the National Security Council’s Western Hemisphere division Friday and “sent back to his original position,” said Sarah Sanders, a White House spokeswoman. Deare had been assigned to the NSC by the Trump administration.
          Deare reportedly knocked the Trump administration’s handling of Latin American policies during a speech at The Wilson Center Thursday in Washington. He also criticized overall White House dysfunction, Politico reported based on a source.
            CNN could not independently confirm the account, and Deare did not respond to a request for comment.
            Fielding questions about Deare’s reassignment, Sanders said that people who don’t agree with President Donald Trump should not have a job in his White House.

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            “I don’t think that any person that is there in order to carry out the President’s agenda should be against the President’s agenda,” Sanders said during a briefing with reporters in West Palm Beach, Florida. “It seems pretty silly that you would have someone who is not supportive of what you are trying to accomplish there to carry out that very thing.”
            Sanders said she was “not extending a blanket policy here” but later added: “If you don’t support the President’s agenda then you shouldn’t have a job in the White House.”
            Deare’s reassignment returns him to the National Defense University, an appointed position he’s held since January 2001.
            This is not the first time a senior administration official has been removed from their post because of comments about Trump.
            Republican consultant Shermichael Singleton, a political appointee at the Department of Housing and Urban Development, was fired last week for an op-ed he wrote before the election that criticized then-candidate Trump, a source with knowledge of the situation told CNN.
            The op-ed, which was published in October, said Trump was leading to low morale within the Republican Party. Singleton, according to a source, was told he was dismissed because of the op-ed.
            “We allowed that hostile takeover to happen on our watch,” he wrote. “This individual recognized a moment of great disparity in the Republican base and, like cancer, attacked and spread, consuming everything in his path.”
            However, some of Trump’s closest aides have also criticized him in the past.
            Kellyanne Conway, now a top White House official, once said Trump took advantage of “the little guy” to build his real estate empire.
            “He says he’s for the little guy but he’s actually built a lot of his business on the backs of the little guy,” she said on CNN in February 2016 when she ran a super PAC looking to help Sen. Ted Cruz’s presidential campaign.
            Conway, in April, also told CNN that Trump should release his tax returns.
            “It’s completely transparent,” Conway said about an alliance between Cruz and Ohio Gov. John Kasich. “Donald Trump’s tax returns aren’t, I would like to see those be transparent.”
            Sean Spicer, now Trump’s press secretary, once knocked the then-presidential candidate for saying that Sen. John McCain, who was held as a POW for six years in Vietnam, was not a war hero because he was caught.
            “He is a war hero because he was captured,” Trump said during a town hall. “I like people that weren’t captured, OK?”
            Spicer, then the communications director for the Republican National Committee, said in a statement that McCain “is an American hero because he served his country and sacrificed more than most can imagine. Period.”
            “There is no place in our party or our country for comments that disparage those who have served honorably,” Spicer added.

            Read more: http://www.cnn.com/2017/02/19/politics/craig-deare-white-house-trump/index.html

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            (CNN)They still love him. On Saturday, Donald Trump addressed a rally in Florida that was as big and adulatory as any he’d seen during the campaign. He attacked the federal judges who challenged his travel ban order. He attacked the reporters who ask tough questions. “They have their own agenda and their agenda is not your agenda,” he said. This crowd was “our people,” he said.

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            If Trump had done what so much of the media expected him to do and come into office promising unity, compassion and lollipops, it would’ve amounted to a betrayal of his base. What’s striking — almost impressive — about Donald Trump is the consistency between candidate and president.
            And here’s the genius of his anti-media strategy: Even if he fails, it’s not his fault. Trump and his base believe the conspiracy against them is enormous and almost unbeatable. By attacking the media as forcefully as Trump has, he has primed his supporters for defeat. That’s why many will forgive the mistakes he has made in the past month. They’ll regard them as inevitable. Donald, they’ll say, is doing his best.
            Donald Trump needs the media. Attacking the media is part of the reason he won. Hatred of the media is one of things that will rally his troops around him as he tries to do his job. Ironically, the media needs Trump, too. As the President has often said, he’s great for ratings.

            Read more: http://www.cnn.com/2017/02/19/opinions/why-trump-supporters-love-him-not-the-media-stanley/index.html

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            (CNN)In Choi Xooang’s hyperrealistic sculptures, eyeless heads face off against each other, dismembered hands convene to form fleshy angel wings, and men with dog heads pose in underpants.

            It’s little surprise then that the Seoul-born South Korean declares: “If one feels uncomfortable physically or mentally when viewing my work, I would say it worked.”
            The fine detail and often grotesque style of Choi’s work has helped him stand out among South Korea’s increasingly diverse contemporary arts scene. But in May he will make further inroads internationally, showing an exhibition at New York’s Doosan Gallery, where he is presently completing a six month residency.
              “There is a thread of fine craftsmanship that runs through his work, exquisite rendering,” says author of the 2012 book “Korean Contemporary Art” Miki Wick Kim. “And of course, good artwork embodies so many different things coming together — it can’t just be a tangibly gorgeous surface, it needs to have context and relevance.”

              "The

              “I worked to convey the expressions of the hands: Giving power, supporting each other, rather than [trying to] make it look like cut-off corpse hands,” he says.
              Misinterpretation aside, Choi’s larger problem has been past accusations that he exploited people with Asperger’s syndrome for his “Islet of Asperger” series, which was first exhibited in Seoul in 2010.
              “Someone said they would sue me over it…[that I had] I insulted them, presenting them grotesquely. it took me a lot of time to persuade him [not to],” says Choi.
              “I was only borrowing the name ‘Asperger’ because it’s a word that has two meanings: of having problems with communication but also being very special,” he adds.
              More praise than condemnation seems to be coming Choi’s way these days, though, and Kim believes his New York exhibition will only enhance this, as well as add to the growing international appreciation of Korean art.
              “There are so many amazing Korean contemporary artists,” she says. “It’s under-represented internationally… but it’s getting much better.”

              Read more: http://www.cnn.com/2017/02/19/arts/xooang-choi-sculpture/index.html

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              (CNN)The Department of Homeland Security is set to release guidance on President Donald Trump’s immigration and border security executive orders that has sweeping implications for undocumented immigrants in the United States and those seeking to enter in the future.

              The memos from Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly to agency chiefs, obtained by CNN, are the first step to putting Trump’s aggressive immigration policies in place, with provisions that could make substantial changes to how immigration laws are enforced.
              The guidance will tighten immigration laws on asylum seekers and unaccompanied minors entering the country and could send individuals awaiting immigration proceedings in the United States back to Mexico.
                While the documents do not change anything in the executive orders on border security and interior immigration enforcement that Trump signed during his first week in office, they do explain how the administration plans to put those orders in place, signaling a hard-line position on undocumented immigrants that will please the right wing on immigration policy.
                The memos could also further inflame tensions with immigrants, their advocates and Democratic lawmakers who have been highly critical of Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s arrests of nearly 700 immigrants nationwide this month. While ICE said75% of those arrested had criminal records and insisted the “targeted” enforcement was consistent with what the Obama administration had done, the department also said officers who encountered individuals not on the list of targets were given latitude to decide whether they should also be arrested for removal.
                Fear in immigrant communities had already been running high based on Trump’s pitched rhetoric against illegal immigration on the campaign trail, and only increased during the ICE enforcement actions.
                The new guidance makes it more difficult to seek asylum in the US, allows the detention of substantially more undocumented immigrants and gives more authority to immigration officers — all of which could add up to a huge increase in the number of undocumented immigrants held in detention facilities by the US government.
                A department spokeswoman, Gillian Christensen, said she could not confirm the guidance is final and would not comment on documents before they are publicly released, but she did not dispute their contents. The documents have yet to be published and could change before they’re officially issued.
                The border security guidance expands the use of “expedited removal” proceedings for unauthorized immigrants, allowing them to be deported more quickly with limited court proceedings.
                In doing so, the memo allows for the quick removal of immigrants who cannot prove they were in the US continuously for two years before being apprehended and determined to be unauthorized.
                Previously, ICE and Customs and Border Protection had used “expedited removal” only for immigrants caught within 100 miles of the border within 14 days of entering the US or by those who arrived by sea but not at a port of entry.
                The border security guidance also expands upon ending the so-called “catch-and-release” policies that allow individuals to be paroled from detention while awaiting immigration court proceedings, which can take years. The memo orders a surge in immigration judges and detention facilities to accommodate the holding of these individuals and lays out high thresholds for people to be released pending immigration proceedings.
                The memo gives room to tighten the standard for meeting the initial “credible fear” test for immigrants to be considered for asylum in the US, a threshold that tens of thousands of asylum seekers now meet each year.
                Past Department of Justice guidance has given some leeway to those who perceive a risk of persecution or torture in their home countries. While the memo does not explicitly raise the standard for finding a “significant possibility” that an immigrant could be granted asylum, it places a high bar on whether the perceived threats are credible.
                “The asylum officer shall consider the statements of the alien and determine the credibility of the alien’s statements made in support of his or her claim and shall consider other facts known to the officer, as required by statute,” the guidance states. “The asylum officer shall make a positive credible fear finding only after the officer has considered all relevant evidence and determined, based on credible evidence, that the alien has a significant possibility of establishing eligibility for asylum, or for withholding or deferral of removal under the Convention Against Torture, based on established legal authority.”
                Further, for immigrants to be released pending asylum proceedings after meeting the credible fear threshold, the memo requires that an ICE immigration officer is satisfied the person “affirmatively establishes” his or her identity and that he or she presents no security or flight risk and agrees to conditions imposed by ICE for public safety reasons.
                The guidance also makes it more difficult for children entering the country without authorization to be treated as “unaccompanied alien children.” Under the law, the designation is for those under 18 years old who do not have a parent with them or available to care for them in the US.
                The executive order notes that in some cases, individuals continued to receive protection as unaccompanied alien children even when they had a parent or guardian living illegally in the US, saying it led to “abuses” of the system. Kelly’s memo calls for new guidance to end those “abuses.”
                The executive order also instructed DHS to enforce of a little-used provision of the law to return asylum seekers to the contiguous territory from which they entered the US, namely Mexico. The measure would potentially send non-Mexican asylum seekers from Central America over the southern border while they await asylum proceedings instead of letting them wait in the US, a policy with which Mexico would likely take issue.
                Kelly’s memo orders the implementation of that policy and the creation of a video conferencing system to allow those removed individuals to appear at hearings without being brought back into the US.
                Significantly, the interior safety order explicitly leaves intact President Barack Obama’s executive orders on deferred action for childhood arrivals, known as DACA, which protects undocumented immigrants brought to the US as children from being removed and orders the low prioritization of undocumented immigrants who are parents of US citizens. The memo says, however, that the latter policy “will be addressed in future guidance.”
                The memo re-articulates Trump’s enforcement priorities from his executive order, which prioritizes for the removal certain serious criminals and others posting public safety threats, but it also broadens the scope beyond the Obama administration’s measure to include virtually any undocumented immigrant in the US if they are even suspected of a crime.
                At the same time, the memo declares: “The Department no longer will exempt classes or categories of removable aliens from potential enforcement,” which could imply that those protected by DACA could still be subject to removal proceedings.
                The memos also expand what’s known as the “287(g)” program, which allows the federal government to empower state and local law enforcement agencies to perform the functions of immigration officers. The language in the memo authorizes the CBP and ICE “to accept state services” on enforcement, but makes no mention of the National Guard, as an early draft reported by The Associated Press on Friday had done.
                The memo gives broad leeway to immigration officers to make immediate decisions about whom to arrest and says officers should begin actions against individuals they meet in the course of their official duties.
                “This includes the arrest or apprehension of an alien whom an immigration officer has probable cause to believe is in violation of the immigration laws,” the implementation guidance reads, giving officers broad authority to arrest those they suspect of being undocumented.
                The guidance also takes any money being used by DHS to advocate on behalf of undocumented immigrants to establish the Victims of Immigration Crime Engagement (VOICE) Office, which is mandated by the executive order to report crimes committed by undocumented immigrants and to advocate for victims of those crimes.
                This story was updated with additional details.

                Read more: http://www.cnn.com/2017/02/18/politics/kelly-guidance-on-immigration-and-border-security/index.html

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                (CNN)A government-appointed civil rights commission in Michigan says systemic racism helped to cause the Flint water crisis, according to a report released Friday.

                The 129-page report does not claim there were any specific violations of state civil rights laws, but says “historical, structural and systemic racism combined with implicit bias” played a role in the problems, which still linger in the city’s drinking water almost three years later.
                “The presence of racial bias in the Flint water crisis isn’t much of a surprise to those of us who live here, but the Michigan Civil Rights Commission’s affirmation that the emergency manager law disproportionately hurts communities of color is an important reminder of just how bad the policy is,” state Sen. Jim Ananich, a Democrat from Flint, said.
                  It was an emergency manager, appointed by Gov. Rick Snyder, who had the cash-strapped city’s water supply changed from Lake Huron to the Flint River in 2014 — a decision reversed more than a year later amid reports of corroded pipes and elevated blood lead levels.
                  The report, which was released after a year-long investigation that followed three public hearings and took testimony from more than 150 residents and officials, says: “The people of Flint have been subjected to unprecedented harm and hardship, much of it caused by structural and systemic discrimination and racism that have corroded your city, your institutions, and your water pipes, for generations.”
                  Among the changes it recommends is one for the law for selecting emergency managers, saying the state shouldn’t be focused solely on cost cutting. It needs more community input, the report says.
                  The report says one theme was common in the hearings where the public spoke. People said predominantly white cities like Ann Arbor or Birmingham, near Detroit, would have been treated differently by the state.
                  The report quotes a resident who said: “If this was in a white area, in a rich area, there would have been something done. I mean, let’s get real here. We know the truth.”
                  Flint is 57% black, 37% white, 4% Latino and the rest mixed race, according to the US Census.
                  A spokeswoman for the governor said he appreciated the public input shared in the report.
                  “We have been and continue working to build strong relationships between state government and every community we serve, and adding accountability measures to ensure a crisis of this magnitude never happens again in Michigan,” Anna Heaton said.
                  The amount of lead in the water in Flint has fallen and much is below the federal level acceptable limit but residents are still advised to use filtered water.
                  The allegation of racial bias against Flint is not new. At least one class-action lawsuit alleges discrimination.
                  “Our lawsuit alleges race discrimination in how and why the predominantly African-American population was exposed to contaminated river water while the surrounding predominantly white population continued to receive clean Detroit water,” attorney Michael L. Pitt said by email.
                  Also advocates said last year that the residents of Flint — 40% of whom live below the poverty line — were the victims of “environmental racism.”
                  “Would more have been done, and at a much faster pace, if nearly 40 percent of Flint residents were not living below the poverty line? The answer is unequivocally yes,” the NAACP said in a statement in January 2016.

                  Read more: http://www.cnn.com/2017/02/18/politics/flint-water-report-systemic-racism/index.html

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                  (CNN)The Iraqi Air Force dropped millions of leaflets over western Mosul late Saturday warning residents of an offensive by ground forces on the ISIS-held part of the city, which has so far been targeted only by airstrikes.

                  Iraqi forces have had control of the eastern part of the city, which is divided by the Tigris River, since January.
                  The leaflets say Iraqi forces are making advancements to the western side and “provide guidance and recommendations” for citizens ahead of the offensive, according to a statement from the Iraqi Joint Operations Command (JOC).

                    “The situation is distressing,” said Lise Grande, the UN humanitarian coordinator for Iraq. “People, right now, are in trouble. We are hearing reports of parents struggling to feed their children and to heat their homes.”
                    Iraqi F-16 fighter jets carried out airstrikes Friday and Saturday in western Mosul targeting ISIS headquarters and communications positions, according to the Iraqi military.
                    The airstrikes “destroyed a number of ISIS’ command-and-control centers, inflicting heavy losses to them and their equipment,” the army said.
                    The offensive to retake Mosul from ISIS’s brutal rule began in October 2016 with a push by the Iraqi army, counter-terrorism forces, federal police and Kurdish Peshmerga fighters.
                    ISIS seized Mosul, Iraq’s second largest city, in 2014 and it is the militant group’s last major stronghold in the country.

                    Read more: http://www.cnn.com/2017/02/18/middleeast/western-mosul-leaflet-drop/index.html

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                    (CNN)In what appeared to be an improvised moment, President Donald Trump invited one of his supporters to join him on stage and take the microphone during a rally in Melbourne, Florida, on Saturday night.

                    As the man climbed up, the President addressed security concerns by saying to the crowd, and perhaps to Secret Service agents, “I’m not worried about him. I’m only worried he’s going to give me a kiss. I’m not worried about anything else.”
                    Gene Huber, wearing a black Donald Trump T-shirt, hugged the President and spoke for a few moments.
                      “Mr. President, thank you so, sir. We the people, our movement is the reason why our president of the United States is standing here in front of us today,” Huber said. “When President Trump during the election promised all these things that he was going to do for us, I knew he was going to do this for us.”
                      “A star is born,” Trump said as Huber returned to the crowd. “I wouldn’t say that the Secret Service was thrilled with that, but we know our people, right? We know our people. Great guy. And so many others.”
                      Later, Huber was interviewed by CNN’s Pamela Brown and said he’d been waiting since 4 a.m. ET to get into the rally. He believed Trump chose him to climb on stage after watching his interviews with TV reporters before the rally.
                      Huber said Trump inspires him so that he keeps a six-foot cardboard cutout of the President in his house.
                      “I salute that every single day and I pray and I tell him, ‘Mr. President, I pray for your safety today,’ ” Huber said. “And I’m not lying,I do that every single day to the president, but he’s cardboard.”
                      He posted a photo of the cutout on Twitter, saying: “The Best Vistor I could ever have! President Trump came to Florida to see me! Wow, never will forget this! @realDonaldTrump @thebestcloser”
                      As the interview with Brown wrapped up, Huber asked, “And can I just say one quick thing?”
                      “Quickly,” Brown replied.
                      “I appreciate the interview,” Huber said. “Let’s just be a little, little nicer to our president. Thank you so much.”

                      Read more: http://www.cnn.com/2017/02/18/politics/trump-gene-huber-rally/index.html

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                      (CNN)A leading foreign policy expert cautioned Friday that the Trump administration’s departure from traditional US foreign policy positions has created “real doubts” among allies.

                      Richard Haass, the president of the nonpartisan Council on Foreign Relations, also told CNN’s Erin Burnett on “OutFront” that Secretary of State Rex Tillerson is “essentially home alone” at the State Department and that it could have dangerous consequences for US foreign policy.
                      Asked if the world is less safe than it was one month ago, Haass, the State Department’s director of policy planning under former President George W. Bush, said “the one thing I think the administration did that may have made the United States and the world less safe was its position dealing with refugees and the whole Homeland Security issue.”
                        Haass added, “By moving away from so many established positions, we’ve created real doubts in the minds of our friends and allies about whether we are dependable, whether we’re reliable, whether what has been the case remains the case.”
                        He continued: “So I don’t think it’s that we’re in the short run less safe, but what worries me is we’re setting in motion dynamics and trends that over months or years will reduce US influence and will mean that a lot of traditional friends and allies increasingly go their own way.”
                        CNN has reached out to the White House for comment.
                        Haass also said Tillerson is dealing with a “lack of support” at the State Department and was “essentially home alone.”
                        “There’s no staff, he wasn’t able to get the deputy he wanted, so that’s one issue,” he said.
                        Haass made the comment when asked about Tillerson staying at a sanitarium 30 minutes away from other world leaders who are attending the G-20 summit in Germany.
                        He said President Donald Trump must show that the “secretary of state speaks for him, that the two of them — that there is no daylight between them.”
                        “No secretary of state can be successful if the world does not think he speaks and speaks authoritatively for the president,” Haass cautioned. “Let me just say every day that goes by with this sort of thing happening, it begins to create doubts, and doubts are poisonous for the ability of a secretary of state to be effective.”
                        Haass also ruled out talk of him becoming deputy secretary of state for Trump, saying he is not interested in the position and that there are many areas where “I’m not in sufficient alignment with this president and this administration so far to accept a senior position.”

                        Read more: http://www.cnn.com/2017/02/17/politics/richard-haas-rex-tillerson-erin-burnett-outfront-cnntv/index.html

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                        Washington (CNN)The vacant spot atop the National Security Council is triggering anxiety that the White House is ill-prepared to face a sudden foreign policy crisis amid fresh concern about politics at play in the Situation Room.

                        President Donald Trump is expected to interview several candidates this weekend to replace Michael Flynn, the short-tenured national security adviser who was asked to resign after misleading the vice president about his pre-inauguration calls with the Russian ambassador.

                        US

                        “If you are working in an embassy or in a diplomatic role for countries around the world, you are wondering who has Trump’s ear, who is speaking on behalf of the United States,” Psaki said on CNN International on Friday.
                        Still, one of the ironies of the uncertainty surrounding the NSC is that foreign policy — at least as far as it relates to visits by key foreign leaders — has been one of the smoothest areas of the administration so far.

                        Read more: http://www.cnn.com/2017/02/17/politics/donald-trump-nsc-foreign-policy/index.html

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                        (CNN)A purple suitcase may be a crucial clue as law enforcement officers conduct a multistate search for a young woman’s remains, police in Boulder, Colorado, said Friday.

                        Investigators believe Adam Densmore killed Ashley Mead, the mother of his 13-month-old daughter, in Boulder and drove a circuitous route to Oklahoma in a 2001 Volvo station wagon with the child and Mead’s body inside, Boulder police public information officer Shannon Cordingly said.
                        Mead’s body may have been partially dismembered outside Shreveport, Louisiana, police said.
                          “There are concerns that some of the victim’s body parts may have been discarded in a variety of communities the suspect passed through after the homicide,” a police news release said.
                          Mead, 25, was last seen on Sunday, Cordingly said, and was reported missing Tuesday when she didn’t show up for work. Also missing was the couple’s daughter, Winter Daisy Mead.
                          Police thought they might be with Densmore, with whom Mead had “an off-and-on-again relationship,” Cordingly said. Law enforcement began searching and on Wednesday afternoon Densmore was arrested in the car outside Tulsa, Oklahoma.
                          The baby was in the car, but not Mead. Winter, who was uninjured, is now in the care of Oklahoma child protective services, Cordingly said.
                          About an hour after Densmore was stopped, an employee of a service station about 35 miles away in Okmulgee, Oklahoma, found a purple suitcase inside a dumpster, Cordingly said.
                          Inside the suitcase was a human torso, she said.
                          An autopsy was conducted in Oklahoma, and though no official results have been released, police have tentatively identified the remains as Mead’s, based on tattoos, Cordingly said.
                          Boulder police said Densmore has been arrested on suspicion of first-degree murder.
                          The rest of Mead’s body parts may be in another purple suitcase that was part of a set, Cordingly said.
                          “If anyone sees a suitcase placed in an odd location, they are asked not to touch it and to contact their local police department immediately,” police said.
                          “Citizens are asked to be alert for a purple ‘Reba’ brand suitcase in trash dumpsters, along the side of the road or in any other odd location,” Okmulgee police Chief Joe Prentice said, according to CNN affiliate KJRH.
                          He said one piece of the suitcase set is missing and could be “somewhere between Louisiana and Okmulgee.”
                          Asked where he thought it might be, the chief said: “I think the possibilities are limited only by your imagination.”
                          Mead, who has roots in Pennsylvania, and Densmore, from Louisiana, had moved to Boulder in the last six months or so, Cordingly said.
                          Police don’t have an alleged motive yet, Cordingly said.
                          Based on reports from Densmore’s relatives, Boulder police think he left town on Sunday, traveled south to Raton, New Mexico, and arrived Monday in Haughton, Louisiana, Cordingly said.
                          Densmore drove Tuesday to Conway, Arkansas, and Wednesday to Okmulgee and then Tulsa, police said.
                          He’s currently being held in Oklahoma. Prentice said Densmore waived extradition and might be returned to Colorado by next week. It was unclear Friday whether he had an attorney.

                          Read more: http://www.cnn.com/2017/02/17/us/multistate-search-for-moms-remains/index.html

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                          Washington (CNN)A Virginia man who appeared set on inspiring attacks in Washington by adherents to ISIS was sentenced on Friday to eight and a half years in prison.

                          Haris Qamar pleaded guilty in October to attempting to provide material support to the terrorist group and was sentenced by US District Judge Leonie M. Brinkema, the Justice Department said.
                          Qamar, 26, spoke to an FBI informant about possible targets in the capital and encouraged a confidential witness to take certain photographs of possible targets for a video meant to inspire future attackers. The confidential witness and Qamar later visited several of those targets, including some in Arlington, Virginia, last spring, prosecutors said.
                            Qamar, from the city of Burke in Fairfax County, also had several conversations with the witness during which he expressed his admiration for violence and suicide bombings.
                            The Justice Department has steadily prosecuted men found to be trying to recruit and inspire ISIS homegrown attackers in the US. As a candidate, President Donald Trump repeatedly pledged to crack down on Islamic extremism after several terrorist attacks occurred during the 2016 presidential race.

                            Read more: http://www.cnn.com/2017/02/17/politics/virginia-isis-prosecutor-video/index.html

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                            Moscow (CNN)The US military has released several photos of what it says were Russian fighter jets “buzzing” the deck of a US warship in the Black Sea last week.

                            The images of SU-24 fighter jets off the bow of the American guided missile destroyer USS Porter emerged as the commander of the US military arrived in Baku, Azerbaijan, to meet with his Russian counterpart.

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                            Part of the increase is due to Russia’s ongoing military operations in Syria, which borders NATO member state Turkey.
                            In November 2015, the Turkish military shot down a Russian warplane that was bombing targets along the Syrian-Turkish border. A Russian pilot was killed in the incident.
                            The Russian military also periodically announces incidents when Russian warplanes intercept US and NATO aircraft approaching Russian airspace.
                            On Thursday, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Joe Dunford is scheduled to meet with Chief of the Russian General Staff Gen. Valeriy Gerasimov in the capital of Azerbaijan.
                            Among the topics of discussion, according to a Pentagon statement, is “clear military-to-military communication to prevent miscalculation and potential crises.”

                            Read more: http://www.cnn.com/2017/02/16/us/russia-us-ship-fly-by/index.html

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                            (CNN)Could former President Barack Obama’s signature immigration measure be headed for the chopping block?

                            It’s a key question that’s been looming since President Donald Trump took office. But so far, the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) — which Obama created with an executive order in 2012 — remains in place.
                            Debate over the issue surged again this week after the arrest of a 23-year-old man in Washington state who was a participant in the program.
                              In a news conference Thursday, Trump described DACA as “one of the most difficult subjects” he’s facing. The measure prohibits the deportation of those meeting certain requirements.
                              Here’s a look at some key questions to consider as Trump and other officials weigh what to do next.

                              Who’s participating in the program?

                              These are undocumented immigrants who were brought to the United States as children, a group often described as Dreamers. To be eligible, an applicant must have arrived in the US before age 16 and lived there since June 15, 2007. They cannot have been older than 30 when Obama signed the 2012 executive order.
                              More than 750,000 people are part of the program. As of the end of September, there were more than 46,000 people with applications pending. There are 752,154 people who have been approved over the life of the program.

                              What does DACA do for them?

                              If their applications are approved by U.S. immigration officials, DACA recipients can come out of the shadows and obtain valid driver’s licenses, enroll in college and legally secure jobs.

                              Where does the program stand now?

                              It’s unclear. Trump vowed to dismantle it on the campaign trail but has since signaled he might take a softer stance.
                              “DACA is a very, very difficult subject for me, I will tell you. To me, it’s one of the most difficult subjects I have because you have these incredible kids,” Trump said on Thursday. “We’re gonna deal with DACA with heart.”
                              As of this week, officials said they were still accepting applications for the program.

                              If Trump repeals it, is there any hope for Dreamers?

                              Some lawmakers have proposed a bipartisan measure that could protect Dreamers from deportation if Trump ends the program.

                              Why are people called Dreamers?

                              The term Dreamers comes from the proposed DREAM Act, which offered legal status in return for attending college or joining the military. It was first introduced in 2001 and the latest version was voted down in the Senate in December 2010.

                              Can you still be deported if you have been approved?

                              Yes. Immigration officials say this happens when a DACA recipient is found to be a threat to either public or national safety. About 1,500 people have had their deferral canceled due to a crime or gang-related activity or admission, according to Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

                              How long does the deferral last?

                              Two years. After that people can apply for renewal. About 146,000 people did so in fiscal year 2016.

                              Can Dreamers travel to other countries?

                              Yes, but they must fill out a form, pay $575 and be granted permission. Vacation travel is not permitted, but participants can leave for funerals, job assignments, school-related travel and other reasons.

                              What information and fees are required?

                              Applicants must provide evidence they were living in the United States at the prescribed times, proof of education and confirmation they are who they say they are. They must pass background, fingerprint and other checks that look at identifying biological features.
                              The fee for biometric tests is $85 and filling the form for employment authorization is $410.

                              Where do I find out more about DACA?

                              There are answers to more complex questions on the website of the US Citizenship and Immigration Services.

                              Read more: http://www.cnn.com/2017/02/16/politics/daca-explainer-dreamers/index.html

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                              (CNN)A strong storm is expected to bring drenching rain and the threat of flash flooding and landslides to Southern California late Friday and through the weekend, the National Weather Service warned Thursday.

                              Flood watches affecting more than 20 million people have been posted for the southern portion of the state, including Los Angeles and San Diego. The widespread watches extend into the foothills of the southern Sierra.
                              The most rainfall is expected to hit Friday evening, with up to 6 inches possible in just six hours along the coast and in the valleys of Santa Barbara, Ventura and Los Angeles counties.

                                “The storm looks to be the strongest storm to hit southwest California this season. It is likely the strongest within the last six years and possibly even as far back as December 2004 or January 1995,” the National Weather Service in Los Angeles said.

                                Oroville Dam spillway still a concern

                                While Southern Californians will be seeing the bulk of their rain before the end of the weekend, those in Northern California can expect heavier rain late Sunday and into Monday.
                                The weather brings more worries for communities south of the stricken Oroville Dam, with rainfall continuing over the next seven days that could total more than 12 inches.
                                Authorities ordered mandatory evacuations over concerns that an emergency spillway at the dam could fail and threaten nearby communities.
                                On Tuesday, officials downgraded the evacuation order to a warning, allowing 188,000 evacuees from Butte, Sutter and Yuba counties to return home.
                                “The next week of storms could potentially bring hundreds of billions of gallons of water into Lake Oroville, adding pressure back onto the already compromised structure of the concrete spillway and emergency spillway next to Oroville Dam,” CNN Senior Meteorologist Dave Hennen said.

                                “The main spillway is pumping out 100,000 cubic feet of water per second … so we still have much more water going out than coming in. We’re cautiously optimistic,” state fire department spokesman Jay Smith said.
                                Officials say residents south of the dam should stay alert and up to date as the rains pass through the area.

                                Storm to take a bite out of drought

                                The heavy rainfall also is expected to further alleviate drought conditions that have plagued California since late 2013.
                                It’s the latest in a string of potent winter storms that lashed Northern, and more recently Southern California, erasing the worst of the historic drought.

                                Track the latest weather story and share your comments with CNN Weather on Facebook and Twitter.

                                In addition to bringing abundant rainfall these storms have dumped massive amounts of snow in the Sierra Nevadas, a boon to local ski resorts, which have suffered for several years with below-average snowfall.

                                Read more: http://www.cnn.com/2017/02/16/us/california-weather-storm/index.html

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                                (CNN)On Thursday, President Donald Trump held a bizarre news conference in which he railed against the media, Senate Democrats, and the intelligence community. He insisted his former national security adviser, Michael T. Flynn, had done nothing wrong. He falsely asserted that he had “the biggest electoral college win since Ronald Reagan.” Oh, and he named his new nominee for secretary of labor, Alexander Acosta. That was supposedly his reason for holding the press conference, yet it took only a few sentences out of about 80 minutes.

                                An

                                On the positive side, Alexander Acosta does not have any particularly scandalous or partisan positions in his personal history. He has won support from a range of Latino advocacy groups, both now and in the past.
                                The US Hispanic Chamber of Commerce called him an “outstanding choice” for labor secretary. The Hispanic National Bar Association congratulated Acosta on his nomination, noting that he “understands that our nation’s diversity is our strength.”
                                Back when he was named to head the Civil Rights Division at the Department of Justice, the National Council of La Raza called him a “bridge-builder” and “someone who will listen and act in a fair manner.” With his strong labor and education background and potential support from Latino civic groups, Acosta’s nomination could put Democratic senators in the awkward position of voting against a qualified Hispanic nominee — to show their opposition to Trump.
                                True, Acosta is not perfect. His time at Justice was marked by a politicization of the Civil Rights Division. In 2007, McClatchy DC reported that, while serving as assistant attorney general, Acosta did not take issue with Ohio Republicans challenging 23,000 predominantly African-American voter registrations. We do not know his views on equal pay for equal work, or raising the minimum wage. And he is apparently willing to step into an administration that is widely viewed as hostile to Latinos and immigrants — not to mention truth itself.

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                                There is no doubt that Acosta will be of service to Trump and the country. He will be an important voice for Latinos in the Cabinet. It remains to be seen, however, whether he can bring some integrity to this flailing, chaotic administration.

                                Read more: http://www.cnn.com/2017/02/16/opinions/acosta-nomination-trump-flailing-reyes-opinion/index.html

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                                Washington (CNN)President Donald Trump rejected the long-established US framework for Middle East peacemaking at a White House visit with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu Wednesday as he announced his desire to reach “the ultimate deal.”

                                In staking his claim to a prize that has eluded many a leader before him, Trump previewed the nascent outlines of an approach that — if he sticks with it — ditches bipartisan orthodoxy, borrows some old ideas and, Middle East experts say, will be no easier to pull off now than in the past.
                                As Trump declared his deep support for the Jewish state, he abandoned the bedrock principle that the solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict will come via two states for two peoples. Instead, he referred to the possibility of an Arab-backed peace process, an idea that’s been floating around since the beginning of this century without producing results.
                                  “The United States will encourage a peace and really, a great peace deal,” Trump declared at a news conference alongside Netanyahu. “We’ll be working on it very, very diligently.”
                                  Asked whether he was abandoning the idea of a two-state solution, Trump said, “I’m looking at two-state and one-state, and I like the one that both parties like.”
                                  He continued, “If Israel and the Palestinians are happy, I’m happy with the one they like the best.”
                                  He also said at one point, “It is the parties themselves that must directly negotiate. Both sides will have to make compromises.” Then turning to Netanyahu, he added a question: “You know that, right?”

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                                  Trump described the idea of Arab involvement as “actually a much bigger deal, a much more important deal in a sense. It would take in many, many countries and it would cover a very large territory.”
                                  Trump has said his chief negotiator for Middle East peace will be his son-in-law, Jared Kushner, who has already been meeting with influential Arab leaders, such as Jordan’s King Abdullah and UAE ambassador to the US Yousef al-Otaiba.
                                  “I think we have some pretty good cooperation from people in the past who would never, ever have even thought about doing this,” Trump said, “so we’ll see how that works.”
                                  Sachs said that Trump seems to think the regional approach is new.
                                  “It’s not,” he said, pointing to a 2001 Saudi initiative that proposed Arab recognition of Israel in exchange for peace with the Palestinians and Syria and an independent Palestinian state whose capital was East Jerusalem.
                                  It was adopted by the Arab League in 2002 and re-endorsed in 2007 but has yet to lead to a resolution to the conflict.
                                  While Jordan and Egypt have formal peace deals with Israel, Gulf states don’t have formal diplomatic relations with Jerusalem and would have to sell a deal to their citizens before publicly improving ties.
                                  “They’ve got to be able to sell their closeness to Israel to their own domestic politics as, among many other good things, something that’s helpful to the Palestinians,” said Hussein Ibish, a senior fellow at the Arab Gulf States Institute. “The idea that Israel wouldn’t have to do much on the Palestinians and have major progress with the Gulf states, that’s a misread of the political dynamics.”

                                  Read more: http://www.cnn.com/2017/02/15/politics/trump-netanyahu-two-state-solution-israel-palestinians/index.html

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                                  Washington (CNN)The former chairwoman of the Democratic National Committee said Wednesday that reported contacts between President Donald Trump’s campaign aides and Russia amounted to collusion.

                                  Democratic Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz told CNN’s Erin Burnett on “OutFront” the media reports necessitated an “independent, bipartisan investigation.”
                                  “With every passing day, it gets more and more disturbing, and more and more evidence that there was collusion,” Wasserman Schultz said. “This requires, it begs, it cries out for and independent, bipartisan investigation. And Donald Trump should be the first person asking for one, but since I think he likely was part of it, it’s not surprising that hasn’t happened.”
                                    Trump declined to answer questions about the matter at the White House on Wednesday. CNN has reached out to the White House seeking response to Wasserman Schultz Wednesday evening.
                                    Earlier on “OutFront,” Sen. Jim Risch, R-Idaho, told Burnett “it is entirely possible that there were people on his campaign that were talking with people that may have been inappropriate to talk with and he didn’t know it. On the other hand, maybe he did. But there is no evidence one way or the other.”
                                    Wasserman Schultz resigned from her position as chairwoman of the DNC over the summer after leaked emails indicated Democratic bias in favor of former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton over Sen. Bernie Sanders in the party’s primary. The US intelligence community has accused Russia of being behind the hacks, a charge Russia has denied.
                                    Wasserman Schultz said the reports of current and former officials having records of regular contact between Russian officials and members of Trump’s orbit meant both parties needed come together for a major public investigation “similar to the 9/11 commission.”
                                    But even based off of those media reports alone, Wasserman Schultz said, “The constant contact reeks of collusion.”
                                    Risch, a member of the Senate intelligence committee, insisted there would be an investigation into the matter.
                                    “Obviously, there’s going to be an investigation on this, and we’ve reviewed all the news reports,” Risch said.
                                    He also indicated he had not seen transcripts of the calls, the existence of which sources have described to media outlets.
                                    “If indeed they have transcripts of these, we’re going to want to look at the transcripts and see what they contain,” Risch said. “We will get to the bottom of this.”

                                    Read more: http://www.cnn.com/2017/02/15/politics/debbie-wasserman-schultz-russia-trump/index.html

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                                    Washington (CNN)A bipartisan Senate duo is asking for the Justice Department to release details and transcripts that triggered the fall of Michael Flynn, the President Donald Trump’s national security adviser who was fired Monday.

                                    Sens. Chuck Grassley and Dianne Feinstein, the top Republican and Democrat respectively on the Senate Judiciary Committee, wrote to the Justice Department and FBI on Wednesday to ask for a briefing in two weeks along with the transcripts of Flynn’s call with the Russian ambassador in December that ultimately led to his downfall.
                                    Flynn spoke with the Russian ambassador during the presidential transition and discussed, among other things, American sanctions against his country — and then withheld information from Vice President Mike Pence about the call. It is a breach of protocol for an incoming administration to discuss foreign policy, particularly with an adversary, before taking office.
                                      “(Media) reports raise substantial questions about the content and context of Mr. Flynn’s discussions with Russian officials, the conclusions reached by the Justice Department and the actions it took in response, as well as possible leaks of classified information by current and former government employees,” Grassley and Feinstein wrote in the letter, which is addressed to Attorney General Jeff Sessions and Jim Comey, the director of the FBI.
                                      In addition to the briefing and transcript, the pair is seeking the FBI report “summarizing the intercepted calls.”
                                      Flynn, who on Wednesday had his access to classified information suspended, is also likely to be the subject of an investigation by the Senate.

                                      Read more: http://www.cnn.com/2017/02/15/politics/senate-doj-briefing-michael-flynn/index.html

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                                      Washington (CNN)Less than a month into office, President Donald Trump announced on Wednesday the first rally since his inauguration.

                                      The President tweeted an announcement for the rally set for Saturday in Melbourne, Florida.
                                      “Join me in Florida this Saturday at 5pm for a rally at the Orlando-Melbourne International Airport!” Trump tweeted.
                                        An administration official said Trump would rally supporters at an airport hangar there, the same venue where he held a rally in September.
                                        Trump is slated to arrive at the rally by landing at the airport on Air Force One and disembarking in front of the crowd, just as he did during the campaign, the official said.
                                        White House press secretary Sean Spicer said on Wednesday the event was a campaign rally and directed questions about it to “the campaign.” He said Trump’s campaign was paying for it but didn’t offer further details.
                                        Trump indicated in a form sent to the Federal Election Commission on Inauguration Day that he intended to run for President again, but noted it did not constitute the formal announcement of his 2020 candidacy.
                                        Last week, the Office of Special Counsel issued guidance for federal bureaucrats with regard to the nascent re-election effort.

                                        Read more: http://www.cnn.com/2017/02/15/politics/donald-trump-campaign-rally/index.html

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                                        Washington (CNN)The head of US Special Operations Command said Tuesday that the US government is in “unbelievable turmoil,” a situation that he suggested could undermine US efforts to fight adversaries such as ISIS.

                                        “Our government continues to be in unbelievable turmoil. I hope they sort it out soon because we’re a nation at war,” Army Gen. Raymond “Tony” Thomas told a symposium in Maryland.
                                        While it wasn’t exactly clear what Thomas was referring to, his remarks come less than 24 hours after retired Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn was forced to step down as national security adviser, becoming by far the shortest tenured adviser in history.
                                          Thomas oversees America’s elite Special Operations troops, including Navy SEALs and Army Green Berets, which have played a large role in carrying out the nation’s conflicts since 9/11.
                                          Asked later about his comments, Thomas, a veteran of Iraq and Afghanistan, said: “As a commander, I’m concerned our government be as stable as possible.”
                                          The role of President Donald Trump’s national security adviser is currently being performed on a temporary basis by retired Lt. Gen. Keith Kellogg, who was serving under Flynn as the National Security Council chief of staff until the Flynn’s Monday night resignation.
                                          Retired Gen. David Petraeus is rumored to be in the running as a permanent replacement, as is retired Vice Adm. Robert Harward, a former Navy SEAL.

                                          Read more: http://www.cnn.com/2017/02/14/politics/us-special-ops-government-turmoil/index.html

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                                          Washington (CNN)The US Special Operations head said Tuesday that the US and its allies had eliminated more than 60,000 ISIS fighters.

                                          “We have killed over 60,000,” Gen. Raymond “Tony” Thomas, commander of US Special Operations command, told a symposium Maryland.
                                          Thomas oversees America’s elite Special Operations troops, including Navy SEALs and Army Green Berets, which have played a large role in combating the terror organization, including raids against key leaders.
                                            His estimate represents a sharp increase over recent numbers provided by the US and its allies.
                                            A senior US military official told CNN in December that as many as 50,000 ISIS fighters had been killed, calling that figure a conservative estimate.
                                            The US-led coalition has ramped up airstrikes against the terror group’s self-declared capital in Raqqa, Syria, in recent weeks, while Iraqi troops, backed by US air power, have continued their assault on Mosul. They have so far succeeded in driving ISIS from the eastern part of Iraq’s second-largest city.
                                            This uptick in fighting could be one reason for the new body count estimate, as coalition leaders have said that thousands of ISIS fighters have been killed in the battle for Mosul.
                                            But later in December, UK Defense Secretary Michael Fallon provided reporters in London with a much smaller number, around 25,000 fighters for ISIS, also known as Daesh.
                                            “More than 25,000 Daesh fighters have now been killed,” Fallon said while appearing alongside his then-American counterpart, Ash Carter.
                                            The sharp difference in the UK and US estimates underscores the challenge of assessing enemy casualties, even among close allies that share intelligence, and could complicate the current White House-directed effort to develop a plan to defeat ISIS.
                                            Multiple American officials have told CNN in the past that the Pentagon does not officially tally body counts.
                                            Carter’s predecessor, Chuck Hagel, said that the practice of counting the number of enemies killed wasn’t a particularly useful one.
                                            “My policy has always been, don’t release that kind of thing,” Hagel told CNN’s Wolf Blitzer in December.
                                            Hagel, a veteran of the Vietnam War where the American military’s enemy body count statistics were disparaged for being overly optimistic, criticized releasing the figures.
                                            “Body counts. I mean, come on, did we learn anything from Vietnam?” he asked. “Body counts make no sense.”
                                            “References to enemy killed are estimates, not precise figures,” said Christopher Sherwood, a Department of Defense spokesman. “While the number of enemy killed is one measure of military success, the coalition does not use this as a measure of effectiveness in the campaign to defeat ISIS.”

                                            Read more: http://www.cnn.com/2017/02/14/politics/isis-60000-fighters-killed/index.html

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                                            Posted by & filed under Breaking News.

                                            (CNN)NASA engineer Sidd Bikkannavar said he had no qualms about cooperating when US Customs officers pulled him aside at the Houston airport on Jan. 31, as he was returning from a vacation in Chile. It was just days after President Donald Trump signed his executive order barring travelers from seven majority-Muslim countries from entering the United States.

                                            Bikkannavar is not Muslim, and was not returning from one of the countries subject to the ban. He’s a US-born citizen who was on his way home to Los Angeles, where he works for the NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory.
                                            As a government employee for more than a decade, Bikkannavar, 35, said he understands the importance of national security.
                                              But when Customs and Border Protection officers asked him to hand over his work-issued phone and provide the access PIN, he felt torn between his obligation to his employer and orders from another government agency, he said.
                                              “I work on government projects. I’ve already chosen to give up privacy. It’s not really about that what happened to me,” Bikkannavar said.
                                              “It’s a matter of the privacy of anyone who interacted with me through that phone,” he said. “I may be willing to give up privacy but I didn’t make that decision for those people.”

                                              A difficult decision

                                              Officers led him into an interview room and gave him a form listing the reasons he may have been chosen for screening, he said. He can recall some of them, such as to determine his country of origin or because his name matches a person of interest in a law enforcement database.
                                              Apart from the last one, “for random search,” none seemed to apply to him, he said.
                                              When an officer asked for his phone, Bikkannavar said, it gave him pause — not just because it was a work-issued phone, but because it had other people’s data on it, too. Under any other circumstances he would never give up his work phone. How would NASA respond?
                                              “It’s hard to try to consider all those consequences when you’re sitting in an interview room and being told to give up the PIN.”
                                              Ultimately, he turned over the phone, his PIN and went to a holding area with other detainees until they returned his phone and released him.
                                              He never found out why he was chosen. The form also said that officers did not need to provide a reason.

                                              Confusion sewn by travel ban

                                              Bikkannavar kept the story to himself for days until he decided to share in a Facebook post with friends. One of those friends took a screenshot of the post and shared it on Twitter.
                                              It was the latest story of confusion stemming from the ban on travelers entering the country from seven majority-Muslim countries, which has since been suspended.
                                              The Council on American Islamic Relations reported increased scrutiny of American-Muslims’ social media accounts and mobile phones while the ban was temporarily in effect. The organization said it has filed 10 complaints with CBP, the Department of Homeland Security and the Department of Justice alleging systematic targeting of American-Muslim citizens for enhanced screening by CBP.
                                              Understanding the bounds of the law can be difficult in President Trump’s America, where new rules are being written every day.
                                              “My normal inclination is to be cooperative and comply with all the rules when I’m traveling,” Bikkannavar said.
                                              “I’m always happy to follow any of the rules, I just need to know what the rules are,” he said. “This put me in a sort of situation where it wasn’t clear what I should do or if I did the right thing.”

                                              ‘Not a Muslim issue’

                                              Citizens must surrender laptops and phones if a border agent asks for them, but not passwords or social media information, CAIR-Florida spokseman Wilfredo A. Ruiz said. Border agents might give the device back and let the person go. Or they might hold onto it and seek a warrant to break it open. Or a wide range of responses in between.
                                              “Sometimes they play hardball and delay you, maybe cause you to miss your flight or get home hours later,” he said. “There’s no magic formula.”
                                              Ruiz said Bikkannavar’s race and religion do not matter.
                                              “This widens the scope of those being targeted to those who are not perceived as being the traditional, white American,” Ruiz said. “It is not a Muslim issue.”

                                              Read more: http://www.cnn.com/2017/02/13/us/citizen-nasa-engineer-detained-at-border-trnd/index.html