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Washington (CNN)In the final days of President Barack Obama’s second term, a couple of his critics took a moment to express some kind words.

Sens. Tom Cotton, R-Arkansas, and Joe Manchin, D-West Virginia, told CNN’s Wolf Blitzer in separate interviews Wednesday that Obama brought “dignity” to the nation’s highest office.
    Cotton, a junior senator and frequent critic of Obama’s national security decisions, said: “President Obama has been a good role model for young men throughout our society, especially people like him who grew up without a father.”
    “I think the kind of quiet dignity that he’s brought to the private side of his life sets a really good example for young men all around the country who maybe don’t have a father-figure or don’t have a role model they can look up to,” Cotton said.
    And Manchin, a moderate Democrat from a conservative state, sized up Obama’s legacy in a few words.
    “He really brought a lot of dignity to the office, when you look at basically his family life and how he raised these two wonderful daughters,” Manchin said.
    He struck a similar note as Cotton, but also praised the direction Obama pulled the country in, while acknowledging their policy differences.
    “The way he came in, and the way he’s going out: without any mars to it, without any blemishes, without any scandal,” Manchin said. “We are in better shape right now. The thing that bothers me most is we have about a $20 trillion debt.”

    Read more: http://www.cnn.com/2017/01/18/politics/tom-cotton-joe-manchin-obama-legacy/index.html

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    (CNN)Country music star Lee Greenwood, best known for his song “God Bless the USA,” defended his decision to perform at the “Make America Great Again!” concert just a day before President Elect’s Donald Trump’s inauguration, saying he had not received backlash from his fans.

    “I don’t know how you could say no, Erin,” the singer told CNN’s Erin Burnett. “When you have been asked to come sing in the capital of the greatest country in the world and you get that opportunity, my gosh, if you were just somebody off the street … they’d probably jump if they got the chance.”
    “I am certainly not going to say no,” he added.
      Greenwood went on to say that unlike other stars he has not received backlash from his fans on social media, and that even if he had it would not affect his decision.
      “I don’t know that any one would bow down to social media that much to say that it is going to make a difference because I am just here to watch the president be elected, the transition of power in the greatest country in the world,” he said. “I can’t relate to that.”
      “My song is not controversial,” hesaid, adding that. “God Bless the U.S.A.,” is for all American citizens.
      The “The Make America Great Again! Welcome Celebration” will take place at the Lincoln Memorial on January 19, and is set to include Greenwood, Toby Keith, 3 Doors Down,The Piano Guys and The Frontmen of Country. The Radio City Rockettes, the Mormon Tabernacle Choir and 16-year-old “America’s Got Talent” star Jackie Evancho are also set to perform at festivities surrounding the inauguration.
      Greenwood added that his wife had worked for the “Ms. Universe” organization for 25 years and seen nothing but exemplary behavior from Trump towards women.
      “He employs a lot of women,” said Greenwood, speaking on “Erin Burnett OutFront.” He gives them total power and is respectful of the job they do,” he said. “I don’t know how he would treat a woman any different than how he treats those.”

      Read more: http://www.cnn.com/2017/01/17/politics/lee-greenwood-trump-inauguration-erin-burnett-outfront-cnntv/index.html

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      (CNN)It must have stuck in President Barack Obama’s craw to deliver a win for WikiLeaks.

      But that is effectively what he had to do to commute the 35 year sentence of Pvt. Chelsea Manning, who was convicted of committing one of the biggest and most embarrassing leaks of classified information in US history.
      The move came with the hours fast running down on Obama’s presidency and rocked the political, intelligence and military intelligence establishments in Washington. And it will now rest forever on the 44th President’s legacy as one of the most controversial moments of his tenure, judging by the furious bipartisan reaction to his decision to free someone regarded by many in Washington as as a traitor.

        WikiLeaks

        But in many ways, the decision appeared to run counter to some of Obama’s own instincts as president and the sensitivity of the political moment.
        To begin with, Obama has cultivated a reputation as showing zero tolerance to leakers of classified secrets during his administration.
        “We’re a nation of laws, we don’t make our own individual decision about how the laws operate,” Obama told protestors who heckled him over the US government’s treatment of Manning at a fundraiser in 2011.

        Wikileaks declares ‘victory’

        Obama’s disdain for WikiLeaks itself, which published hundreds of thousands of classified documents stolen by Manning, is well known even though it didn’t prevent him, in the end, from showing mercy to Manning.
        The whistle-blowing website run by Julian Assange published hundreds of thousands of documents stolen by Manning, including battlefield logs from Iraq and Afghanistan and diplomatic cables that caused deep US embarrassment.
        Now, the organization is at the center of the storm over alleged Russian hacking of Democratic servers during the election, and Assange is being accused of directly subverting American democracy.
        Obama had sent his then secretary of state, Hillary Clinton, around the world to apologize to US allies for embarrassingly frank disclosures by US diplomats on cables from American embassies to Washington published on the site.
        Then Clinton herself, in the eyes of many Democrats, was deprived of the presidency because of the stolen emails from her campaign that were blasted around the world by WikiLeaks during the election.
        Military officials are likely to be especially angry about the move, given the fact that they argued the Wikileaks cables and disclosures endangered US service members, diplomats and those who cooperated with them in Iraq and Afghanistan.
        It did not take long for WikiLeaks to declare victory over the commutation — something that could further Obama’s public discomfort.
        “Victory,” Wikileaks said in a series of tweets welcoming the move.
        Snowden, who is exiled in Russia and has also been linked to Wikileaks, also congratulated Manning, tweeting “Thanks, Obama.”
        The political reaction to Manning’s impending release from prison — by May 17 — was swift and critical.
        “Manning stabbed his fellow soldiers in the back by releasing classified information and putting their lives at risk,” Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham told CNN’s Dana Bash.
        “President Obama, by granting clemency to Manning, slapped all those who serve honorably in the face,” Graham said.
        But Manning’s supporters, who have spent years calling on Obama to grant clemency, arguing that her act was motivated by a desire to expose abuses by US troops on the battlefield.
        Manning’s sentence was “grossly disproportionate, it was far longer than any any that had previously been imposed for offenses related to the leak of sensitive information,” Maria McFarland Sanchez-Moreno, of the US division of Human Rights Watch, told CNN International. “The message that was sent by such a long sentence was that people who release classified information even if it is released in the pubic interest, even if it doesn’t cause severe harm, will be prosecuted. That could have a chilling effect going forward on other whistleblowers who might have information about abuses, human rights violations, fraud, corruption to disclose.”
        This story has been updated

        Read more: http://www.cnn.com/2017/01/17/politics/chelsea-manning-barack-obama-commutation/index.html

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        Washington (CNN)President-elect Donald Trump’s pick to lead the Interior Department Tuesday was pressed to answer whether he agreed with Trump’s past statements that climate change is a “hoax.”

        And in what appeared to be a break with the President-elect, Rep. Ryan Zinke said clearly: “I don’t believe it’s a hoax.” Last week, Trump’s choice for secretary of state Rex Tillerson offered a similar view.
          But neither break was as clear-cut as it might have appeared, despite both Zinke and the former ExxonMobil CEO’s attempts to use more palatable language in expressing their views on climate change.
          Yes, Trump once called climate change a “hoax” invented by the Chinese, and during his campaign for president, he repeatedly called into question the scientific community’s overwhelming conclusions that human activity has caused global warming.
          But Trump, too, has also more recently acknowledged “some connectivity” between human activity and climate change.
          And just like his Cabinet picks, Trump has argued that there is an ongoing debate about “how much” man-made emission of greenhouse gases have contributed to the changing climate. And he has made clear that he is more concerned about the economic effects of restricting the fossil fuel industry than the environmental and human cost of climate change and its effects.
          “It also depends on how much it’s going to cost companies,” Trump said during a November meeting with New York Times reporters and editors after his election.
          In the rest of his exchange with Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders during his hearing, Zinke acknowledged that the “climate is changing” and that “man has had an influence.” But his climate skepticism didn’t vanish altogether.
          “I think where there’s debate on it is what that influence is. What can we do about it?” Zinke said, adding that the US should be “prudent” about how it tackles climate change and argued that there is “a lot of debate” surrounding scientific conclusions about climate change even though the scientific community’s consensus about the human causes of climate change is overwhelming.
          Zinke went on to say that he believes in “all the above energy” policies.
          Tillerson, for his part, said during his confirmation hearing he believes “the risk of climate change does exist,” “the increase in greenhouse gas in the atmosphere are having an effect” and vaguely offered that “action should be taken.”
          But just like his would-be counterpart at the Interior Department, Tillerson gave no indication of what that “action” would look like or whether it would be a priority. Tillerson also questioned science’s ability to predict the effects of man-made activity on climate change.
          “The increase in the greenhouse gas concentrations in the atmosphere are having an effect. Our ability to predict that effect is very limited,” he said, a statement at odds with scientists’ assessments of most climate change effects.
          Zinke in particular discussed his skepticism of climate change in more palatable terms than Trump’s denunciations of the issue as a “hoax,” but didn’t abandon his views altogether — views he previously expressed in more direct terms.
          Zinke said in 2014 that while climate change is “not a hoax … it’s not proven science, either.”
          He also said climate change wasn’t “settled science.”
          Tillerson, for his part, took steps in his leadership of the world’s largest oil company to acknowledge the reality of climate change and supported global action on the issue.
          But it’s in Trump’s choice to lead the Environmental Protection Agency that the President-elect’s climate skepticism is most going to come into play.
          And to lead the agency, Trump appointed one of the most blunt climate change deniers of all his Cabinet picks: Scott Pruitt, who has spent much of his tenure as Oklahoma’s attorney general fighting EPA regulations on pollution.
          “Scientists continue to disagree about the degree and extent of global warming and its connection to the actions of mankind,” Pruitt wrote in National Review last year, a statement that flies in the face of the scientific consensus.
          And in his lawsuits against the EPA, Pruitt even argued against the EPA’s regulations on mercury, challenging scientific conclusions connecting mercury to brain damage.

          Read more: http://www.cnn.com/2017/01/17/politics/donald-trump-cabinet-picks-climate-change/index.html

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          (CNN)Oklahoma is one of the more unlikely places in the United States to experience earthquakes. But in the six years that Scott Pruitt has served as the state’s attorney general, Oklahoma has been rattled by hundreds of quakes with a magnitude of 3.0 and greater, with some areas facing the same level of risk as high-hazard parts of California.

          Scientists from the U.S. Geological Survey, Stanford University and the Oklahoma Geological Survey link the uptick in quakes — many of which are low-magnitude — to a wastewater disposal process related to hydraulic fracking. That’s a procedure in which a mixture of chemical-laced fluids and sands are injected into wells deep beneath the state’s surface to extract oil and gas.
          For the last several years, frightened residents waited in frustration as the state’s regulatory arm, the Oklahoma Corporation Commission, slowly cranked into action — and ultimately concluded the surge in earthquakes was directly related to operation of disposal wells, where the wastewater from oil and gas production is injected.
          In states such as California and New York, attorneys general have been quick to step in on environmental issues. But Pruitt, who is Donald Trump’s pick to lead the US Environmental Protection Agency, remained unengaged even as the earthquakes turned into a legal morass in the courts in his state.
          Pruitt embodies the rightward shift about to hit Washington later this week when Trump is sworn into office. He is one of the President-elect’s most controversial Cabinet picks and his combative stance toward the EPA and his seeming disinterest in the earthquakes unnerving his constituents are among the reasons why. He’s expected to testify Wednesday before a Senate committee as lawmakers consider his nomination.
            Pruitt will likely face questions about why he did virtually nothing as Oklahoma became ground zero for a unique environmental crisis that triggered loads of litigation. Instead, he focused on the Obama administration’s restrictions on the coal, oil and gas industry — suing the agency he’s poised to run more than a half-dozen times.
            “The entirety of his time as attorney general, he could have absolutely stepped in on behalf of the people of Oklahoma and said, ‘Whoa, we need to curtail this conduct, because if we don’t, we’re going to continue having serious and potentially life threatening earthquakes in the state of Oklahoma. But he didn’t,” said Robin L. Greenwald, an environmental attorney whose firm, Weitz & Luxenberg, has filed a lawsuit on behalf of the Sierra Club against several of Oklahoma’s energy producers.

            Damage

            For several years as the tremors increased in frequency, Andrew Knife Chief, executive director of the Pawnee Nation, said residents constantly came to him, asking what he could do to stop them. They were seeing mysterious fish kills in nearby rivers, and were increasingly concerned that their drinking water could become contaminated by wastewater disposal wells or contractors who hauled that wastewater away from the drilling sites.
            “We went from having a hundred (earthquakes) a year, maybe even fewer than that, to a couple of thousand a year — and there were no signs of it slowing down between 2008 and 2015,” Knife Chief said. “Then the frequency started to die down a little bit, but the intensity started to ramp up, so we really felt like we were in a shooting gallery here in Pawnee.”
            The Pawnee quake also led another group of residents to file a lawsuit against more than two dozen energy companies, accusing them of “reckless disregard for public or private safety.”
              Only two of those energy companies, Eagle Road Oil LLC and Cummings Oil Co., have been named in the lawsuit so far. Neither company responded to a request for comment but Eagle Road’s parent company, Jericho Oil Corp., said in a statement on its website that “Eagle Road conducts its operations in accordance with industry standard practices and adheres to state guidelines and regulations.”
              “The earthquakes have emerged in Oklahoma much faster than the culture and the state infrastructure has been able to respond,” said Pawnee Mayor Brad Sewell, noting that many Oklahomans don’t have insurance for earthquakes and are concerned about their property values. “There’s a sense that a lot of the officials are perhaps reluctant to upset the status of a major industry in this state. …The wheels of government turn much more slowly than these earthquakes are occurring.”
              Sewell, a Democrat, said “Pruitt is not even on my radar as far as earthquakes are concerned, and I guess that in itself is telling. While I don’t know anything he has said specifically about saltwater wells and earthquakes, I’ve seen his comments on other environmental issues and it doesn’t bode well with respect to earthquakes,” he said, referring to Pruitt’s aggressive posture toward the EPA in his lawsuits and other statements.
              Sewell said it’s been a struggle to get Oklahomans who were affected by the September quake to come forward.
              “They don’t have insurance, so they feel like they are out of luck,” Sewell said in an interview with CNN. “This is actually a rather poor region and many of these people don’t feel like they really have the resources to do anything about the damage they’ve experienced.”
              Beyond the concerns of individual homeowners, environmentalists have continued to warn of the possibility of a catastrophic environmental disaster involving the many pipelines that crisscross Oklahoma.
                November’s 5.0-magnitude earthquake in Cushing, Oklahoma, renewed those fears. The town is the site of the largest storage center for commercial crude oil in North America — tens of millions of barrels of crude oil are stored there in what is known as the “pipeline crossroads of the world.”
                “We have thousands of miles of pipelines running through our county,” said Knife Chief, noting that the tribe is based just 25 miles from Cushing, “and we don’t know where any of them are. Of course, it’s a worry. It’s a huge worry.”
                Chad Warmington, President of the Oklahoma Oil and Gas Association, told CNN in a telephone interview that state officials, as well as responsible energy companies, are now aggressively tackling the problem. He pointed to predictions that the number of earthquakes will drop in the coming years, because of the new restrictions. Among the new restrictions, the Oklahoma Corporation Commission has called on energy producers to shut down some disposal wells and reduce the volume of wastewater injected in some sensitive areas by 40%.
                When asked whether Pruitt could have played a more prominent role, Warmington credited Oklahoma Republican Gov. Mary Fallin with pulling together the group in 2014 that decided what should be done about the earthquakes.
                Guided by several Stanford scientists and state geologists, the working group determined that the tremors were triggered by the enormous pressure that the oil and gas wastewater injections were putting on natural faults in the ground.
                “(Fallin) pulled together everybody who had a stake in what should be done about seismicity, and there wasn’t a place for the attorney general, because he doesn’t really have any role in the regulatory aspects of seismicity or oil and gas in Oklahoma,” Warmington said.
                A spokesman for Fallin didn’t comment on why Pruitt was not included in that working group.

                Questions about Pruitt’s closeness to industry

                The surge in earthquakes in his home state has highlighted questions about Pruitt’s closeness to the oil and gas industry, which is certain to be one of the most contentious lines of inquiry at his confirmation hearing.
                Pruitt has pledged to bring a different sensibility to the agency.
                “The American people are tired of seeing billions of dollars drained from our economy due to unnecessary EPA regulations, and I intend to run this agency in a way that fosters both responsible protection of the environment and freedom for American businesses,” he said in a statement when he was named by Trump.
                Pruitt strengthened his ties to the energy industry when he headed the Republican Attorneys General Association. Using 2011 documents obtained from open records requests, The New York Times revealed that Pruitt and other Republican attorneys general had formed a behind-the-scenes alliance with energy producers to challenge Obama administration regulations. Those companies were key contributors to his 2013 re-election campaign.
                A staunch social conservative, he focused during his eight years in the Oklahoma State Senate on anti-abortion measures, religious freedom and fiscal responsibility. He ran unsuccessfully for Congress in 2001 and Lieutenant Governor in 2006, before winning an election for attorney general in 2010 and pursuing a bold agenda to challenge Obama administration regulations on everything from health care to the Clean Power Plan.
                Pruitt is expected to win congressional approval to head the EPA. But the stage is set for enormous clashes ahead with environmental advocates, who are already questioning whether he should recuse himself when dealing with issues that he has sued the EPA over, like the Clean Power Plan and the Waters of the United States rule.
                Environmental advocates argue his nomination effectively invites the fox to guard the henhouse. They point to the fact that Trump’s energy adviser, Harold Hamm, the CEO and chairman of Oklahoma-based Continental Resources, served as the chairman of Pruitt’s re-election campaign in 2013.
                In 2014, Pruitt joined the Domestic Energy Producer’s Alliance in a lawsuit against the federal government as it prepared to determine the protective status of more than 200 animal species. Hamm, who chairs the Domestic Energy Producers Alliance, was concerned about one species in particular: the prairie chicken.
                If added to the endangered species list, Hamm was quoted in The Wall Street Journal in 2013 as saying the move could foreclose development of some of “the most promising land for oil and case leases in the country.”
                There are few examples of the coziness between state government officials and big energy companies that are quite as brazen, however, as the relationship that The New York Times revealed between Pruitt and one of Oklahoma’s largest oil and gas companies, Devon Energy.
                Through open-records requests, the Pulitzer-Prize winning investigation uncovered a letter from Pruitt to the EPA that was drafted by Devon Energy. The letter argued that regulators were exaggerating the amount of methane emissions from natural gas production.
                Pruitt argued that the EPA calculations were wrong and that their methodology could inflict economic harm on an industry that is “critically important to the state of Oklahoma.”
                Pruitt’s letter was sent on state stationery to the EPA with a mere 37 words changed from the original draft that Devon Energy provided to attorney general’s office. He later told The Journal Record, an Oklahoma newspaper, that it “should come as no surprise that I am working diligently with Oklahoma energy companies, the people of Oklahoma and the majority of attorneys general to fight the unlawful overreach of the EPA and other federal agencies.”
                Though he has not been an active voice on the earthquake issue, as attorney general Pruitt has not shied away as attorney general from the issue of hydraulic fracturing.
                He offered a preview in 2014 of how he as EPA chief might approach matters related to fracking as EPA chief. At the time, he wrote the EPA’s Office of the Inspector General questioning its motives as it prepared to investigate the ability of the EPA and states to effectively manage potential threats to water resources from hydraulic fracturing.
                “I am concerned that this project is politically motivated and ignores the EPA’s three previous failed attempts to link hydraulic fracturing to water contamination,” Pruitt wrote, calling the study “unnecessary and duplicative.”
                “In addition the U.S. Department of Energy has investigated hydraulic fracturing’s potential harm to water supplies and found no evidence linking the drilling technique to groundwater contamination,” he said.
                Pruitt, who has railed against federal interference in what he sees as a state matter, argued that the proposed investigation “appears to be yet another attempt to transfer regulation of hydraulic fracturing from the states to the federal government.”
                In December of 2016, the EPA released its final report on the issue. Their main finding: “EPA found scientific evidence that activities in the hydraulic fracturing water cycle can impact drinking water resources under some circumstances.”

                Lowering the risk

                While Oklahoma’s earthquake issue is far from settled, two Stanford scientists recently published a study predicting the wastewater injection cutbacks requested by the Oklahoma Corporation Commission, coupled with the decline in commodity prices — which has reduced the amount of new wells being drilled — would lower the risk of another huge earthquake in Oklahoma.
                Industry defenders note that Oklahoma already had a broad network of fault lines and experienced two earthquakes in the 5.0 magnitude range in 1918 and 1952.

                But 2016 data from the US Geological Study and the Oklahoma Geological Survey noted that from 1978 to 1999, Oklahoma only had an average of 1.6 earthquakes per year with a magnitude greater than 3.0.
                In the Sierra Club lawsuit in federal court against four large energy producers in Oklahoma, they note that the number of annual earthquakes has increased from a maximum of 167 before 2009 to 5,838 in 2015.
                (The 2016 Sierra Club suit, which remains active and was filed under the Resource Conservation Recovery Act, asks for a moratorium on wastewater injection over active fault lines. At least one of the defendants has filed a motion to dismiss the lawsuit.)
                The chance of having an earthquake of magnitude 6.0 or more in north-central Oklahoma is now above 10%, “similar to the chance of damage at high-hazard sites in California,” according to the 2016 USGS report.
                In the next few years, the rules and regulations on hydraulic fracturing and related activities could be shaped by a wide array of federal agencies under the Trump administration, including the EPA, the Department of Interior, the Bureau of Land Management and others.
                Bracing for Pruitt’s potential changes if he is confirmed as head of the EPA, many environmentalists believe their best avenue for challenging the administration and its allies will be through the courts.
                “The fact that Scott Pruitt raked in money from oil and gas companies while ignoring Oklahoma families who needed protection from fracking-induced earthquakes destroying their homes is a sneak preview for what he’d do — or not do — as EPA administrator,” said Michael Brune, Executive Director of the Sierra Club. “Pruitt’s long record of siding with polluters instead of American families and communities means he’s not just unfit to serve at the EPA, he’s dangerous.”
                Trump has shown no sign of backing away from Pruitt. A spokesman for his transition team didn’t comment.

                Read more: http://www.cnn.com/2017/01/17/politics/donald-trump-scott-pruitt-epa/index.html

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                (CNN)Want to strut your stuff in the Chinese Year of the Rooster?

                If you’re in Hong Kong — or Vietnam, Korea or anywhere else in the world with a Chinese diaspora — it’s time to don that tacky red jacket, gamble until you lose and eat till you burst.
                  Yes, it’s the Lunar New Year; a time when the wheel of destiny decides whether you’ll be cock of the walk or just a feather duster in 2017.
                  The Spring Festival, as it is known, usually lasts for 15 days from the first day of the lunar calendar (January 28 in 2017), and is the time when families get together to ring in the changes.
                  While most will go to any lengths to get home to see the family, for some it’s a chance to travel, if only to get away from nagging relatives and red packet-hungry colleagues and friends (in China it’s customary to dispense red paper envelopes filled with money at this time of year.)
                  But traveling doesn’t have to mean forgoing the festivities. Here are 15 places where you can celebrate Lunar New Year in your own way.

                  Sha Tin Racecourse, Hong Kong

                  Boost

                  If getting outside your comfort zone is one of your New Year’s resolutions, the Spring Festival is a great time to make the first step.
                  Stamina strengthening can be achieved by trekking the stunning Los Glaciares National Park in Argentina’s Patagonia.
                  The park is famous for its dramatic landscapes, including 47 large glaciers and three big lakes.
                  January and February lie in the warmer summer months and are considered the ideal time to visit.

                  Disney California Adventure Park/Universal Studios Hollywood, Los Angeles

                  Imagine Megatron from “Transformers” greeting you with a cheery “ni hao” (Chinese for “hello”)? Or Mickey Mouse fully kitted out in Chinese attire?
                  No, it’s not one of China’s numerous copycat theme parks, this is how Los Angeles’ most famous amusement parks celebrating the Chinese New Year.
                  Apart from dressing their characters for the festival, both parks are bringing in new characters during Lunar New Year — Po and Tigress (from Kung Fu Panda) for Universal Studios and Mulan and Mushu for Disney.
                  Anaheim, California

                  Read more: http://www.cnn.com/2017/01/16/travel/best-places-for-lunar-new-year-and-chinese-new-year-2017/index.html

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                  Washington (CNN)Democratic Rep. Barbara Lee explained Monday why she’s planning on skipping Donald Trump’s inauguration, saying she doesn’t support the President-elect’s attorney general nominee, Jeff Sessions, or incoming White House senior adviser, Steve Bannon, because of their controversial pasts.

                  “I respect the peaceful transfer of power,” she told CNN’s Erin Burnett on “OutFront.” “(But) how do we come together when we have a Cabinet that has been proposed that is antithetical to the human dignity of all Americans?”
                    On January 12, Lee tweeted: “Inauguration should be a celebration. But we have nothing to celebrate on Jan 20. Instead of attending, I will be organizing.”
                    More than two dozen Democratic lawmakers are boycotting Trump’s inauguration, particularly after revelations of Russia’s alleged meddling in the 2016 election and his rebuke of civil rights icon Rep. John Lewis on Saturday.
                    And some members have said they will be protesting in Washington and in their districts instead.
                    “I think that this for me is a celebration … for me personally, I am not celebrating the swearing-in or the inauguration of someone who campaigned on such a negative campaign and wants to govern in that way as he has shown,” Lee said. “I will be working to help organize a resistance to some of this agenda, such as the repeal of affordable care act … so I’m going to continue to work and hopefully find ways where we can work together on issues that are critical.”

                    Read more: http://www.cnn.com/2017/01/16/politics/barbara-lee-donald-trump-inauguration/index.html

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                    (CNN)“Utopia”, a book by English statesman, lawyer and clergyman Thomas More (1487-1535), turned 500 years old last month.

                    A fictional rendering of social philosophy, the book describes an exemplary society on an imaginary island in an unknown place faraway across the seas.
                      Coined by More from the Greek “ou-topos”, meaning no place, or nowhere, the word utopia has become adopted in the English language to mean a place where everything is ideal or perfect.
                      In celebrating Utopia’s 500th birthday, the Ecotopia 2121 project, of which I am the coordinator, is harnessing More’s spirit to predict the futures of 100 real cities around the world — if they somehow managed to become super eco-friendly.
                      Of course, modern utopias need to be eco-friendly to overcome the global environmental crisis. Given that cities may be home to 80% of humanity by the end of the century, they can only be sustainable if environmentalism is one of their core features.
                      The cities of Ecotopia 2121 are presented in the form of “scenario art”, which involves a review of both global and local environmental challenges as well as their unique histories and cultures. This allows for a diversity of future scenarios rather than one common vision of the “future city”.
                      What you will see below are a series of artworks, but this is not an art project. We use art as a means of analysis and communication. With that in mind, here are six ecotopian cities of my own creation that emerged from the project, one from each inhabited continent.

                      Accra 2121

                      After a nuclear meltdown just out of town, a vast radioactive cloud sweeps over future Tokyo. Everyone must be evacuated. A few hardy “nuclear families” tough it out in “moonbase” homes, which are impervious to radiation.
                      Everything these families eat and drink must be produced and recycled within these homes. When they step outside, they must don protective clothing or “moonsuits”.
                      But because Tokyo is suddenly depopulated, it’s not nearly as noisy and stressful as before. If “hell is other people”, as French philosopher Jean-Paul Sartre suggested, then Tokyo 2121 is utopia.
                      Wildlife also rebounds, albeit in a mutated manner.

                      Why Ecotopia 2121?

                      These six scenarios are but a small sample of the 100 that were produced within the Ecotopia 2121 project. Some readers will be delighted and others confused by the method of the project and its results.
                      Part of the point of utopianism is to be provocative. If you like your future riddled with self-driving cars and the magic of nuclear energy, then maybe these scenarios are not for you. And you’re likely to dismiss them as fantasy anyway.
                      But to study utopias — and formulate alternative scenarios to how we now live on this planet — is not an escape into fantasy. It is an active response to the many technological fantasies cast about with extravagance and excess into our lives right now.
                      These fantasies bind us to an unsustainable and unlivable future. If Ecotopia 2121 is but a collection of fantasies, at least they would do less harm to the planet we live on.

                      Copyright 2016 The Conversation. Some rights reserved.

                      Read more: http://www.cnn.com/2017/01/16/architecture/utopian-cities/index.html

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                      Washington (CNN)President-elect Donald Trump now says he wants “insurance for everybody” when Obamacare is replaced, which caused nearly every pundit in Washington and beyond scrambling to figure out what exactly he means. Will everyone get health care? Or will everyone get access to health care? Does that mean it’ll be affordable to everyone? Can he get the Republican Congress unified behind that plan?

                      WHAT’S NEW TODAY ON…

                      OBAMACARE
                        • Trump made waves over the weekend, telling The Washington Post that he wants “insurance for everybody,” and urging Congress to quickly put the replacement plan in place. He didn’t say how he will do it, and Congress will have its say.
                        • CNN’s Manu Raju reports exclusively that HHS nominee Dr. Tom Price invested in a medical device company and then introduced a bill that would help it. Democrats are sure to press him on it at his confirmation hearing on Wednesday.
                        • A local news report from Colorado shows GOP Rep. Mike Coffman exiting a contentious meeting in Aurora after refusing to meet with dozens of the Obamacare-supporting constituents that attended.
                        OBAMACARE/TAXES — The founder and executive director of Families USA, a health care consumer group, argues the Republican Obamacare repeal bill will lead to less and worse coverage, due to its massive tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans.
                        TRADE
                        • Ben Bernanke cast doubts on Trump’s claims about China, saying that labeling them a currency manipulator does not “fit with reality.” He also warns against starting a trade war.
                        • A new PwC survey shows nearly 60% of global CEOs are worried about protectionism and rising trade barriers, up from 40% in 2012.
                        • The Wall Street Journal previews the potential impact of Trump’s new trade policies, with a large focus on what one senior trade expert dubs his “four horsemen” of trade policy architects: Wilbur Ross, Robert Lighthizer, Pete Navarro and Jason Greenbelt.
                        ENVIRONMENT
                        ENVIRONMENT/INFRASTRUCTURECNBC reports on an analyst who believes Trump’s infrastructure plans could actually be good for the environment because companies that are solving environmental problems would benefit from increased economic activity.
                        INFRASTRUCTURE/TRADE
                        • The IMF has improved its forecast for US economic growth over the next two years, due in large part to Trump’s potential infrastructure package. However, the IMF warns Trump’s protectionist trade policies may undermine the gains.
                        • Outgoing Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx cautioned that the price tag for Trump’s infrastructure plan should not be the most important aspect of it. Foxx told Recode: “You could put $5 trillion into our infrastructure system, but if we’re not paying for the right things, we’re going to be challenged.”
                        • Without delving into specifics, an informal Trump adviser told Fox Business Network taxpayers will not be on the hook for 68 ready-to-go infrastructure projects.
                        EVERYTHING — A Harvard poll made public Monday shows deep divisions between Trump voters and the public at large on a host of issues from Obamacare to immigration. The two groups can agree on the need for more infrastructure spending, according to the poll.

                        LOOKING AHEAD…

                        TUESDAY
                        • ENVIRONMENT — 2:15pm ET confirmation hearing of Ryan Zinke for Interior secretary.
                        WEDNESDAY
                        • ENVIRONMENT
                        • — 10am ET confirmation hearing of Scott Pruitt to be EPA administrator.

                        • TRADE/INFRASTRUCTURE/TAX CUTS
                        • — 10am ET confirmation hearing of Wilbur Ross to be commerce secretary

                        • OBAMACARE
                        • — 10am ET confirmation hearing of Tom Price to be HHS secretary.

                        THURSDAY
                        FRIDAY
                        • TRUMP INAUGURATION — Trump and his team have pledged to use executive actions to dismantle many of Obama’s policies on day one. Here are a few of the Obamacare-related actions he could take on Day 1.

                        Read more: http://www.cnn.com/2017/01/16/politics/transition-tracker-trump-health-care/index.html

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                        (CNN)Violent crime, particularly gun violence, in the United States is a resurgent epidemic. While crime rates overall have fallen in the last two decades, violent crime in the United States began to climb again in 2015.

                        The national murder rate, projected to increase by 13.1% this year, is driven by an increase in homicide numbers in a handful of cities — from Chicago to Baltimore to Tulsa — and we are seeing shocking and increasing rates of violence that will only get worse if our society doesn’t make a serious commitment to addressing it.

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                          To truly combat urban violence, however, we need a new commitment from all city leaders and stakeholders business leaders, educators and researchers, philanthropists and public officials not just law enforcement or the neighborhoods most immediately affected.
                          The best crime-fighting tool is a job, and city leaders must engage businesses to support jobs and mentorship programs to youth drawn from the most disadvantaged neighborhoods. Curriculum needs to be integrated throughout the education system from K-12 so students are thinking of postsecondary education and careers at a younger age. Researchers and scholars can contribute by providing scientific and evidence-based policies to those designing these anti-violence programs, similar to the work of the University of Chicago’s Urban Labs.
                          And finally, the philanthropic community can pool together resources and invest long and deep on evidence-based policies, as the MacArthur Foundation, the Chicago Community Trust, and several other funders recently have to support the Chicago Fund for Safe and Peaceful Communities.

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                          Moreover, these approaches can be tailored to any city, in the United States or abroad. Earlier this year, I participated in an action tour with leaders from some of the most violent cities in the world Buenos Aires, Juarez, Medellin and So Paulo to discuss how they were grappling with violence in their cities. From community leaders to police officers, researchers to returning citizens, everyone agreed that these approaches to a multilayered, complex strategy are more effective than just increased “law and order.”
                          Cities are on the rise. Luckily, they contain the answers to their own problems. As cities and society more broadly become increasingly diverse and dynamic, deliberate investments and interventions are needed to ensure future prosperity.
                          Every mayor is worried about keeping their cities safe and every resident wants secure and clean streets, walkable and well-lit neighborhoods, parks and open space for children to play, a great education, and professional first responders. We all need to work together to shape this future. In this new year, let’s not leave it to “law and order” alone and lose sight of our shared responsibility.

                          Read more: http://www.cnn.com/2017/01/15/opinions/decreasing-crime-starts-with-education-nutter/index.html

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                          (CNN)Japan’s attempt to launch one of the smallest-ever rockets into space has ended in failure.

                          The 9.5-meter (32-foot) rocket lifted off around 8:30 a.m. local time Sunday from the Uchinoura Space Center in southwestern Japan, according to state broadcaster NHK.
                            The rocket was carrying a micro-satellite that is 35 centimeters (13 inches) tall and weighs 3 kg (6.6 lbs.).
                            However, according to the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA), communication systems malfunctioned after the rocket launched, causing the ignition of the second booster to be terminated. The rocket fell into the sea southeast of Uchinoura.
                            The launch, which was delayed from earlier this week because of weather, was supposed to be a proof of concept for Japan’s micro-satellite and mini-rocket technology, which JAXA hopes to commercialize as private companies seek cheaper options that are easier to put into orbit.
                            “Several Japanese firms joined this rocket project,” JAXA public relations officer Takayuki Tomobe told CNN prior to the launch, adding that the agency also hopes to share test results with other private entities in future.
                            “This is still a small step and we expect more impediments, but once the launch succeeds, we see a potential for making the rocket launch cheaper and shorter in project time,” Tomobe said.

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                            JAXA’s aborted launch was in stark contrast to Space X’s attempt this weekend. The private space exploration company successfully sent a Falcon 9 rocket into space with 10 satellites on board.
                            The launch’s success Saturday was made even sweeter by a smooth return landing for the Falcon 9 rocket’s first-stage booster. It safely returned from space and glided to a landing on a seafaring platform, known as a drone ship.

                            Read more: http://www.cnn.com/2017/01/14/asia/japan-mini-rocket-launch/index.html

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                            (CNN)On the day she was laid to rest, Orlando police officer Debra Clayton received one final honor from her department. She was promoted to lieutenant.

                            Clayton, 42, was killed Monday as she tried to confront a murder suspect at a Walmart. The suspect is still at large.
                              Her chief, John Mina, told thousands of people gathered Saturday for a memorial service that Clayton did not die alone.
                              “She was surrounded by blue,” he said.
                              With fellow officers, family and friends in attendance, she was remembered at a touching ceremony at First Baptist Church of Orlando.

                              Debra Clayton was recently married and was a member of the Orlando Police Department for 17 years. Clayton devoted herself to helping young members of the community, Mina said earlier this week.

                              Read more: http://www.cnn.com/2017/01/14/us/orlando-officer-debra-clayton-funeral/index.html

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                              (CNN)Pope Francis and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas met Saturday to open a Palestinian embassy in Vatican City.

                              “We are very grateful about the role that the Holy See has played for a just and lasting peace in the Holy Land, and for having opened an embassy of Palestine in the Vatican for first time,” Abbas said, according to the official Palestinian news agency WAFA.
                                “We are proud to be the birthplace of Christianity and about having one of the oldest Christian communities in the world.”

                                Palestinian

                                Also in 2015, Francis declared nuns Marie Alphonsine Ghattas and Mariam Baouardy the first two Palestinian saints of modern times.
                                In June 2014, Francis hosted Abbas and late Israeli President Shimon Peres for an unprecedented prayer ceremony at the Vatican.
                                The UN General Assembly adopted a resolution In September 2015 allowing the “State of Palestine” and the Vatican to raise their flags outside of UN headquarters and UN offices.
                                At the Vatican on Saturday, Abbas said he planned to attend a conference the following day in Paris to explore ways to restart the Israeli-Palestinian peace process.
                                US Secretary of State John Kerry is among officials from more than 70 nations who plan to attend the conference. Israel has said it will not participate.

                                Read more: http://www.cnn.com/2017/01/14/world/vatican-palestine-embassy/index.html

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                                Washington (CNN)A war of words is brewing between President-elect Donald Trump and civil rights icon John Lewis after the congressman doubted the President-elect’s legitimacy — and a conservative pundit says the questioning is “unprecedented.”

                                Trump harshly responded to Lewis, tweeting Saturday that he is “all talk” and “no action” after the Georgia Democrat told NBC’s Chuck Todd that Trump is not a “legitimate” president.
                                  During an interview on CNN’s “Newsroom” with Poppy Harlow on Saturday, conservative radio host Ben Ferguson criticized Lewis for his comments and said he couldn’t believe a congressman of Lewis’ stature could question the President-elect’s legitimacy.
                                  “It is unprecedented,” Ferguson said. “I cannot imagine the fallout, the backfire that you would have if a Republican would have ever implied that about Barack Obama or Bill Clinton or JFK, or anyone else for that matter.”
                                  Harlow and fellow guest Symone Sanders, the former press secretary for Bernie Sanders’ presidential campaign, then began to interrupt Ferguson, reminding him there is a precedent, and it’s recent.
                                  “Ben, that’s exactly what many Republicans did,” Harlow said, “including the President-elect for years questioning the legitimacy of the first black president.”
                                  Trump launched his political career largely by suggesting President Barack Obama wasn’t born in the United States and repeatedly calling for him to release his birth certificate.

                                  Read more: http://www.cnn.com/2017/01/14/politics/ben-ferguson-john-lewis-donald-trump-legitimacy/index.html

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                                  (CNN)In one week, Donald Trump will place his hand on a Bible and take the oath to become president of the United States.

                                  The stakes are higher than ever in the days leading up to the businessman becoming leader of the free world. What he’ll be able to accomplish during his first months in office and who he’ll have by his side as he does it could well be determined in the fallout from one of the most pivotal weeks of the Trump political era.
                                    This is what happened, as told by the President-elect’s own tweets.

                                    Monday: War with an Oscar winner

                                    Eleven days from the White House. Trump began the week by ripping Meryl Streep, who used her Golden Globes speech the night before to skewer his campaign rhetoric and criticize him for mocking a disabled reporter.

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                                    In three tweets over 16 minutes, beginning at 6:27 a.m. ET, Trump called Streep “overrated” and a “Hillary flunky.” She joins the cast of “Hamilton” and “Saturday Night Live” on a growing list of critical entertainers to be the target of a Trump Twitter tantrum.

                                    Tuesday: The report that overshadowed everything

                                    On Tuesday afternoon, CNN broke the news that intelligence chiefs presented Trump with a two-page summary of an unverified report compiled by a former British intelligence official whose Russian sources claimed to have compromising personal and financial information about the incoming president.
                                    CNN didn’t report on details of those memos, as it has not independently corroborated the specific unverifiedallegations. Shortly after CNN’s report, Buzzfeed released the unsubstantiated memos.
                                    Once that happened, it didn’t take long for Trump to respond on Twitter, accusing news outlets of spreading “fake news” about him.
                                    He also retweeted a photo from his lawyer, Michael Cohen, of a (closed) passport and a caption denying a portion of the memos alleging that Trump’s lawyer had secretly met with Kremlin officials in Prague in August 2016.

                                    Wednesday: The news conference

                                    Trump wasn’t done with this story when the sun rose over the East Coast on Wednesday. Shortly after 7 a.m., he sent tweets rejecting the report. His source: Russia.
                                    These tweets came after the Kremlin denied it has compromising information about Trump, describing the allegations as “pulp fiction.” Dmitry Peskov, spokesman for Russian President Vladimir Putin, said reports that Trump was the subject of “Kompromat” — a Russian term for compromising information intended to be used against someone — were an “attempt to harm our bilateral relationship.”
                                    But Trump’s complaints continued apace. At 7:48 a.m., in following with Godwin’s Law, he pivoted his focus to the intelligence agencies he accused of doing him dirty, and asked, “Are we living in Nazi Germany?” When pressed about that comparisonlater in the day, Trump said recent leaks were like something Hitler’s Germany “would have done and did do.”
                                    But media outlets had been waiting for this day for a different reason: Trump was giving his first news conference in nearly six months. But it felt more like a rally at times since Trump staffers, his family and top aides applauded several times throughout the conference.
                                    Incoming White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer opened the newsconference by slamming the reports on Russia, whichhe called a “political witch hunt.”
                                    Later in the news conference, Trump attacked CNN for its reporting on this story. He then refused to call on CNN correspondent Jim Acosta, who was trying to ask a question, calling him “fake news.”

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                                    Shortly after he walked off stage, Trump fired off a tweet, again reiterating his “fake news” claim.
                                    CNN stands by its reporting. Here’s what we have to say about Trump’s “fake news” accusations.

                                    Thursday: Stumping for LL Bean

                                    Linda Bean is the granddaughter of LL Bean’s founder. She is also a Trump supporter and gave $60,000 to the Making America Great PAC last year. Her political leanings have prompted an anti-Trump group to call for a boycott of LL Bean.
                                    Bean told “Fox & Friends” that she had been notified of a slight uptick in sales this week, despite the boycott call. After her appearance, Trump told his 19.7 million followers to shop at LL Bean.
                                    But just because he’s watching Fox News doesn’t mean Trump isn’t taking time for shots against CNN.
                                    About that? Again, we’re standing strong.

                                    Friday: Throwback to his greatest hits

                                    At 5:49 a.m., Trump was awake — and on a tweetstorm.
                                    First: His Cabinet
                                    Trump’s Cabinet picks to run the State Department, Department of Homeland Security and Justice Department faced their Senate hearings this week. But they didn’t fall in line with the President-elect. Under the scrutiny of the Senate, they dropped some of his signature policy positions.
                                    Rex Tillerson broke with Trump on trade. Retired Gen. John Kelly split on waterboarding. Sen. Jeff Sessions rejected the Muslim ban that the President-elect touted throughout his campaign. And James Mattis said he might stick by the Iran nuclear deal, named Russia as the source of “grave concerns” and offered a robust endorsement of NATO.
                                    Next up: Hillary Clinton
                                    Trump had clearly heard some of the complaints from Democrats about the FBI’s behavior, so he took aim again at his old foe. He even channeled his old stump lines, calling her “guilty as hell” — presumably of something to do with her private email server — and saying she “should never have been allowed to run.”
                                    The he swerved in some post-campaign analysis. He added that Clinton spent time in the “wrong states” — a nod to her no-show in Wisconsin, which he won.
                                    Then: Obamacare
                                    Friday also marks a big day for another campaign promise Trump made: to repeal Obamacare. He sent this tweet ahead of the House vote on a resolution that will kickstart the process of repealing the Affordable Care Act.
                                    But there’s still disagreement within the Republican Party on how best to proceed.
                                    Trump will be sworn in as the 45th president of the United States in one week.

                                    Read more: http://www.cnn.com/2017/01/13/politics/trump-tweets-week-before-inauguration/index.html

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                                    (CNN)It’s been a rough week for America, but it’s been a good week for masculinity. No, not because we had to endure another display of Donald Trump’s bellicose machismo, but because we witnessed two of the most powerful men in the world allow themselves to shed tears in public.

                                    Speaking of his love and appreciation for first lady Michelle Obama, President Obama was moved to tears. And, surprised by the president’s decision to award him the Presidential Medal of Freedom, Vice President Joe Biden cried, too. Might it be that we are finally, blessedly, moving beyond a world in which “big boys don’t cry”?

                                      8

                                      I am grateful to live at a time when a man — the most powerful man in the world, no less — can model what it means to let life affect him to the point where tears come. Would you want to be married to a man who has never been moved to tears by his love and appreciation of another human being?
                                      But I am not kidding myself. We have a long way to go in transforming masculinity. There are still far too many men — and, if we take Ingraham’s comments as evidence, women too– who insist that real men don’t cry, that a man with a tissue is really just a “sissy.” (That kind of regressive masculinity, it seems, will now enter the Oval Office.)
                                      Make no mistake: That kind of thinking and talking has real consequences for men and boys. My father died suddenly when I was 12 years old, and I remember — it is etched into my mind and my body — being firmly instructed by a well-intentioned relative, “You can’t cry. You have to hold it together.”
                                      I recall being told by countless visitors that “I had to be strong for my mother.” And so I walked around for years pretending to be OK, tough, strong, even though I had just lost everything. That kind of repression takes a toll on a man’s emotional and physical health.

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                                      Can a man not be strong and cry — without shame? Perhaps we can model the courage it takes to cry when our heart hurts and the world seems to have fallen apart. Perhaps we can model the presence and openheartedness that make it possible to cry because the love another person has for us nourishes and sustains us.
                                      I hope my sons will one day find a love so deep that it moves them to tears, and I hope that they remain unaffected by those who would deprive them of the full range of human emotion. When all is said and done, those who mock men who cry do little but betray their own emotional impoverishment.

                                      Read more: http://www.cnn.com/2017/01/13/opinions/obama-and-biden-cry-held/index.html

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                                      (CNN)Toby Keith, 3 Doors Down and Lee Greenwood will headline a concert for President-elect Donald Trump’s inauguration, his inaugural committee announced Friday.

                                      The concert, which takes place at the Lincoln Memorial on January 19, has been dubbed “The Make America Great Again! Welcome Celebration.” Jennifer Holliday, The Piano Guys and The Frontmen of Country are among the other musicians performing. Actor Jon Voight will also be making an appearance.
                                        “President-elect Trump has made it clear that this inaugural is of, by, and for the American people. The 58th Inaugural will celebrate American history and heritage, while setting the course to a brighter and bolder future for all Americans,” Tom Barrack, the chairman of the Presidential Inaugural Committee, said in a press release. “Above all, it will serve as tribute to one of our greatest attributes, the peaceful transition of partisan power.”
                                        Another event to be held the same day, called Voices of the People, will feature a number of marching bands and related troupes.
                                        Both of these events are open to the public.
                                        The announced lineup for the concert is a stark contrast with the star power assembled for President Barack Obama’s first inauguration in 2009, when a similar concert featured appearances from Jon Bon Jovi, Bruce Springsteen, Mary J. Blige, Garth Brooks, U2, Usher, Stevie Wonder, Denzel Washignton and Tom Hanks, among others.

                                        Read more: http://www.cnn.com/2017/01/13/entertainment/inauguration-concert-lineup-toby-keith-3-doors-down-donald-trump/index.html

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                                        (CNN)Dashcam video released by the Utah Department of Transportation shows a tractor-trailer clipping a state snowplow on a highway, sending the plow careening over the edge of the road and into the Spanish Fork Canyon.

                                        The plow driver, identified by UDOT as Terry Jacobson, survived the Thursday crash and is hospitalized with serious injuries in Provo’s Utah Valley Hospital. He has been with the department for more than 23 years.
                                          Photos of the aftermath show the front of the plow and passenger side of the cab smashed. UDOT spokesman John Gleason told CNN that Jacobson was wearing his seat belt, “which saved his life.”
                                          “He says he doesn’t remember very much other than going through the rail and rolling down the hill,” Neil Lundell, a UDOT supervisor, said in a video uploaded to the department’s YouTube account.

                                          The

                                          The truck driver stopped after the collision and called authorities.
                                          UDOT released the dashcam video in an effort to remind drivers to be extra cautious around snowplows.
                                          “This was by far and away the most serious crash we’ve had with one of our snowplows,” said UDOT executive director Carlos Braceras, in the video uploaded to YouTube. “This is the fourth one that we’ve had so far this year.”
                                          UDOT confirmed to CNN the authenticity of the video, despite the incorrect date-stamp on it. The department said the owner of the dashcam incorrectly set the date and time.

                                          Read more: http://www.cnn.com/2017/01/13/us/tractor-trailer-clips-snowplow-utah-canyon/index.html

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                                          Hong Kong (CNN)China is sending five million officials to its villages, rice paddies and farms this month.

                                          Their mission? To count the country’s pigs, chickens, goat, yaks, cattle and crops as part of China’s third agricultural census.
                                          It’s a massive undertaking that only happens once every 10 years and it’s expected to show huge shifts in how China produces its food.
                                            China has around 20% percent of the world’s population but only about 7% of the planet’s arable land, so what it does with it is extremely important.

                                            In recent years, China has become the world’s leading importer of farm products and has been buying tracts of land overseas in places like Australia, Argentina and Africa, sparking fears of land grabs.
                                            Fred Gale, a research economist at the US Department of Agriculture, says the census is likely to show definitively that China is no longer a nation of peasant farmers who grow crops on garden-sized lots and raise animals in their backyard.
                                            The data will be scrutinized carefully by China’s leaders who have set agricultural reform as a top priority.

                                            Pigs

                                            With farm imports, environmental and food safety problems all on the increase, the census could give clues about China’s capacity to feed itself sustainably.
                                            A huge increase in corn production means maize is likely to have supplanted rice as the most planted crop.
                                            But eliminating excess supplies of the crop is a top priority for Chinese officials this year — the census may help them determine how and where to cut back on corn planting.
                                            Production of cotton, soybeans, vegetables and fruits has also changed dramatically but statisticians have had no way to track it carefully.
                                            The census is scheduled to finish by the end of March and will canvas more than 200 million rural households and over 3 million businesses.

                                            Read more: http://www.cnn.com/2017/01/12/asia/china-agricultural-census/index.html

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                                            (CNN)President-elect Donald Trump has not minced words on the South China Sea.

                                            In the past few months, he’s called-out Beijing in tweets and speeches for its “brazen” island-building activities and the construction of a “massive military complex.”
                                              He’s also vowed to use Washington’s economic leverage over Beijing as a way to push back — a tactic that, if it’s used, would open a brand new front in US-China competition, setting the scene for a possible Chinese economic retaliation in kind.
                                              Trump’s pick for secretary of state Rex Tillerson, unexpectedly, has gone even further. During his Senate confirmation hearings this week, the former Exxon Mobil chief boldly declared that China’s militarization of artificial islets in the South China Sea was “akin to Russia’s taking Crimea” from Ukraine — a comparison that will ruffle feathers in Beijing.

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                                              This is a mistake. Getting tough on China on everything at once isn’t going to induce Beijing to cooperate or make difficult concessions.
                                              A purely muscular approach, if this comes to pass, will make Beijing a more truculent partner for Washington across the board. The consequences will be negative for US-China relations globally — making it harder for the two powers to work together on issues of mutual interest, such as crisis management and environmental protection, while deepening friction in major areas of disagreement, like Asia’s future strategic order.
                                              Instead, Tillerson and the rest of Trump’s foreign policy team should prioritize areas where a tougher approach to China is warranted — such as in the South China Sea — and concentrate their efforts to affect changes there. This will, at times, require strong public statements and US actions, but should be coupled with private diplomatic pressure that’s not tweeted in 140 characters or less.
                                              Less important challenges in US-China relations will have to be sidelined for the short term or managed quietly and slowly. No major power relationship can endure hostility on all fronts at once without slipping into a Cold War-esque state.
                                              At this very early point in Trump’s incoming presidency, it seems unlikely his administration will choose heed these calls for moderation. But the reality of negotiating compromises and deals with a major power competitor may well force Trump’s team to pick their battles carefully in order to get things done.

                                              Read more: http://www.cnn.com/2017/01/12/opinions/china-tillerson-south-china-sea-opinion/index.html

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                                              (CNN)Naked models covered in body paint; Vikings posing with surfboards; hideously distorted digital images — the work of Swiss artist Olaf Breuning is as eye-catching and provocative as it is diverse.

                                              In June 2016, the NRW-Forum Dsseldorf presented a retrospective of his work to date — bringing together a wide range of pieces including the video trilogy “Home”(2004-2007), which follows a cliched Western tourist as he travels the world; “Art Freaks” (2011) a series in which Breuning painted naked models to look like works by famous artists from the last 150 years; and “The Life” (2015), large photo collages that use objects and imagery from our everyday lives.
                                              Despite references to contemporary and pop culture in many of his pieces, Bieber believes Breuning’s does not feel dated.
                                              “His works defy any kind of categorization and, moreover, he continues to reinvent himself — this is precisely what makes him so unique. His art is his life and his life is his art,” he wrote.
                                              “Olaf Breuning,” published by Gestalten, is out now.

                                              Read more: http://www.cnn.com/2017/01/12/arts/olaf-breuning/index.html

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                                              Washington (CNN)Former CIA Director Leon Panetta said Thursday that Rep. Mike Pompeo, whom President-elect Donald Trump has picked to lead the agency, is up to the task and supports his nomination.

                                              “He’s somebody who understands the intelligence agencies, is smart and I think will be a good director,” Panetta told CNN’s Erin Burnett on “OutFront.”
                                                Panetta, who later served as President Barack Obama’s secretary of defense, has made similarly positive comments about defense secretary nominee James Mattis.
                                                Pompeo at his Senate confirmation hearing earlier on Thursday said it would be his mission to deliver unvarnished facts to the President and pledged to shield the agency from political influence at a time when Trump has been critical of the intelligence community. Pompeo, a Kansas Republican, also said he would not restart the CIA’s use of enhanced interrogation techniques if he were approved for the position.

                                                Read more: http://www.cnn.com/2017/01/12/politics/leon-panetta-mike-pompeo-praise/index.html

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                                                (CNN)Sen. Al Franken signaled Wednesday that he is likely to vote against Donald Trump’s nominee for attorney general, saying after the second day of hearings on Capitol Hill that Jeff Sessions had yet to allay his concerns.

                                                Franken, one of the Democrats on the Judiciary Committee that is overseeing Sessions’ nomination, said he could not tell whether the panel would approve the controversial Alabama senator. Democrats have targeted his record on race and asked whether he would be strong enough to stand up to the President should he cross any legal lines.
                                                  “I have a lot of skepticism about his ability to be the kind of attorney general who protects all Americans,” Franken told CNN’s Erin Burnett on “OutFront.” “I don’t think that he is necessarily the right choice to protect the rights of Americans.”
                                                  Franken specifically voiced concerns over Sessions’ thoughts on the Voting Rights Act, which granted the federal government the power to intervene in a set of Southern states should their laws seem to disadvantage racial minorities. Much of the law was gutted by the Supreme Court in a 2013 decision.
                                                  “I worry about him with the Voting Rights Act,” Franken said. “He didn’t seem to think there was enough of a problem there to restore the Voting Rights Act.”

                                                  Read more: http://www.cnn.com/2017/01/11/politics/al-franken-erin-burnett-jeff-sessions/index.html

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                                                  Washington (CNN)Morgan Lewis, a law firm representing President-elect Donald Trump, was named the “Russia Law Firm of the Year” last year by a group that ranks legal organizations.

                                                  Facing the press Wednesday for the first time since being elected president, Trump yielded a significant part of his news conference to an attorney from the law firm, which is helping separate him from his various business ties.
                                                    In highlighting its receipt of the Russia award, Morgan Lewis’ website cites Chambers and Partners.
                                                    “This active Moscow office of an American firm offers top-level advice in regards to the energy sector and also houses very strong banking and M&A teams,” Chambers and Partners writes about the award.
                                                    Morgan Lewis’ award was first noticed by NBC correspondent Peter Alexander, who tweeted the discovery.
                                                    Trump’s transition team did not immediately respond to a CNN request for comment.
                                                    Trump’s relationship with Russia has been under intense scrutiny, particularly in the wake of a CNN report that said classified documents presented last week to President Barack Obama and Trump included allegations that Russian operatives claim to have compromising personal and financial information about the President-elect.
                                                    Morgan Lewis is present all over the world and has projects in places including Africa, Asia Pacific, Europe, Latin America, the Middle East and North America. It has won a number of other awards, according to the Morgan Lewis website.
                                                    Morgan Lewis was founded in 1873, and the attorney who appeared with Trump at the news conference, Sheri Dillon, specializes in “federal tax controversy matters,” according to her bio on the Morgan Lewis website.

                                                    Read more: http://www.cnn.com/2017/01/11/politics/donald-trump-law-firm-russia/index.html

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                                                    (CNN)The Afghan Taliban released a new video Wednesday purportedly showing two teachers from the American University of Afghanistan in Kabul begging US President-elect Donald Trump to make a deal for their release.

                                                    What appears to be the first “proof of life” of kidnapped US citizen Kevin King, 60, and of Australian citizen Timothy Weeks, 48, was posted online by the Taliban and distributed to media outlets.
                                                      The two teachers were abducted together five months ago in western Kabul near the university.
                                                      One other American is believed to be held hostage in Afghanistan or Pakistan: writer Paul Overby, who is in his 70s.
                                                      The FBI has sent out a kidnapped/missing persons poster mentioning the two men in Wednesday’s video.
                                                      In part the poster reads, “The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) is investigating the disappearance of United States Citizen Kevin King, who was last seen with Australian citizen Timothy John Weeks in Kabul, Afghanistan. On Sunday, August 7, 2016, the two men were forcibly removed from their vehicle while traveling in Kabul. If you have any information concerning this case, please contact your local FBI office, the nearest American Embassy or Consulate, or the nearest Australian Embassy or Consulate. Tips may remain anonymous.”

                                                      Read more: http://www.cnn.com/2017/01/11/middleeast/afghan-taliban-captives-video/index.html

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                                                      Seoul (CNN)South Korea is ratcheting up its rhetoric against Pyongyang with a new threat: Come at us, and we’ll cut off the head of the snake.

                                                      The country is speeding up plans to set up what some call a “decapitation unit,” a brigade specifically tasked with targeting North Korea’s “wartime command,” including leader Kim Jong Un, according to a South Korea Defense Ministry official.
                                                        The unit will be activated in the “event of war,” the official said. Technically, South Korea and North Korea are still at war; they signed an armistice in 1953 but not a treaty.
                                                        The brigade was initially supposed to be ready in 2019, but the Defense Ministry now says it’ll be established “by this year.”
                                                        The move comes after a series of provocations by Pyongyang, including broadcasting images of Kim leading a combat drill targeting the South Korea’s presidential residence, the Blue House.

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                                                        “The pattern has been such that the Ministry of Defense tends to be more aggressive, they tend to be much more in control of South Korea’s national Korea’s policy,” he said.
                                                        “Often times, their decisions and announcements tend to be much overblown.”

                                                        Read more: http://www.cnn.com/2017/01/05/asia/south-korea-kim-jong-un-brigade/index.html