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Democratic FEC commissioner resigns

Ann Ravel, a Democratic member of the Federal Election Commission, submitted her resignation letter to President Donald Trump on Sunday with a plea to embrace campaign finance reform.

Ravel’s last day will be March 1. If the six-member commission loses two more commissioners, it will lack a quorum and be unable to take key actions — raising pressure on Trump to fill the upcoming vacancy.

The FEC, which has long been plagued by internal discord, is required to have no more than three members of the same party.

In her letter, which she posted on Medium, Ravel blasted the Supreme Court’s 2010 Citizens United decision, which she said has made political campaigns “awash in unlimited, often dark, money.” She also noted Trump had criticized the role of money in politics during his campaign, including the influence of wealthy donors and rise of powerful super PACs. And she urged him to prioritize campaign finance reform.

“Many of these same concerns have been voiced by Americans of all political views who are angry at the disproportionate influence of big money on government policy,” Ravel wrote. “Our campaign finance system should promote citizen engagement and participation in the political process instead of disenchantment with democracy. People from all walks of life should be able to run for office without having to seek out wealthy donors, or be wealthy donors themselves, to win.”

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Some of the Weird Shows of 2016 Revealed

The year 2016 may have ended, but not without its share of the B, notably in film. In a list published by The Verge Magazine, a list of weird, small and big screen features have made the cut. The highlights of the release include The Mermaid film, reality game Job Simulator and a disturbingly 8 hour movie on Netflix. The Mermaid is a film by Stephen Chow famed for his previous movie releases such as the Kung-Fu Hustle and Shaolin Soccer. The Mermaid broke all box office records in China and made sales in several theatres in America. The movie can be described as a sweet-romance and a murder comedy about a tycoon who falls in love with a mermaid.

 

The underside is that the mermaid is trying to infiltrate the company and kill the oblivious business mogul. One of the weirder portrayals in the movie is when a pained half man and half octopus being, cuts, grills and serves his tentacle to unsuspecting diners. Soon a young girl with an intention to murder the businessman emerges. She unfortunately ends up getting hit in the face by a poisonous sea urchin. The other weirdo to grace the screens in 2016 is a popular video game called the Job Simulator by Owlchemy Labs. The depiction takes place in 2015. The movie, the robots that look like CRT screens have pushed human’s to the fringes of the society. Humans are left to job at simulated convenience stores and restaurants.

 

The video game succinctly addresses human’s worst economic fears, losing their place to AI. To enforce this claim, famous quotes about the dangers posed by AI from notable personalities like Elon Musk and Bill Gates are depicted. In the National Knitting Night, an 8 hour movie on Netflix, a group of women sit down to spin wool into yarn. The goal is to break the speed for turning bales of raw wool into fully woven men’s sweaters. What is interesting about the series is its unquestionable portrayal of exactly what the title says, but with a climax-less ending. The project is part of “Slow TV” on Norwegian Broadcasting Company. The other programs aired in the broadcast include Salmon Fishing and the National Firewood Morning.

 

 

Elon Musk to Dig Tunnels to LA to Reduce Traffic in LA Roads

Overview

 

 

Elon Musk is one of the most outstanding entrepreneurs and innovator in the world today. He CEO of Tesla and SpaceX. His company Tesla is famous for building a self-driving car and electric car at the same time. The company is named after a great scientist who invented electricity Nicholas Tesla. Just recently, Musk broke the internet claiming that he is going to dig a tunnel to help in alleviating the traffic jam in LA. It sounds unbelievable, but he confirmed it via tweets. He said the project would be named as the boring company.

 

 

Reasons for Digging the Tunnel

 

 

LA is known to have an issue of traffic jams Comparing the size of the roads in LA and the vehicle using them; the ratio is not proportional. Tesla Motors headquarters are found in the region and Musk feels like his company is getting a negative impact from the heavy traffic on the LA roads. It is the primary reason to why he came up with an idea of building the tunnel. Building the tunnel can be quite expensive. Also, it cannot be dug anywhere because of earthquakes.

 

 

The presence of underground rail in LA has made the idea more pursuable. If the tunnel is dug, there will be less traffic on the roads, but this is just a solution for some time. It is a sound idea to build a tunnel but ensuring it will be of help forever is another issue. As population increases, the number of cars also increase and eventually there will be traffic jams even in the tunnels. So far, no one has talked about the idea clearly. Musk claims he will start building the tunnel in February 2017.

 

 

Conclusion

 

 

In the past, Elon Musk has carried out projects that no one expected was possible. In the recent past, he started working on SpaceX; a project that aims at finding habitable places out of planet earth. He sent rockets to Mars to explore on how people can survive there. Other successes include Tesla Motors which are working on the self-driving electric car. Elon Musk was born in South Africa. He attended the University of Pennsylvania. He has many successful projects including PayPal.

 

Five things Pruitt can do to cripple the EPA

President Donald Trump vowed to gut the Environmental Protection Agency, and the Senate has just confirmed his man to do it.

Scott Pruitt, who was sworn in as EPA administrator early Friday evening, will wield vast power to reshape the 46-year-old, 15,000-person agency he has criticized so fiercely.

As Oklahoma’s attorney general, Pruitt sued the agency at least 14 times — often in lockstep with fossil fuel companies — to try to overturn the agency’s air and water regulations. He has questioned the role of humans play in climate change, while arguing that much of the agency’s authority should be in the states’ hands.

Now, Pruitt’s actions — and the executive orders Trump is planning for the agency — could have repercussions for years.

“Most of the business community really is looking to Pruitt to make changes that will be enduring — not to do things that can easily be undone by the next administration, but really sensible things,” said Jeffrey Holmstead, a top EPA official in George W. Bush’s administration who is now at Bracewell LLP.

Here’s POLITICO’s guide to what to watch as Trump and Pruitt move to rein in the EPA, even as environmentalists plan to battle them in Congress and the courts:

1. Climate change: Trump and Pruitt have vowed to dramatically shift course on the Obama administration’s landmark climate change efforts. The president has threatened to pull out of the 2015 Paris climate deal, in which the U.S. and nearly 200 other nations agreed to make sharp cuts in their greenhouse gas output. And EPA’s Clean Power Plan, which requires cuts in the power industry’s carbon dioxide emissions, has a target on its back.

Pruitt is expected to swiftly begin the years-long process of repealing the Clean Power Plan. But an appellate court is set to rule on that regulation any day now, and it’s not clear that the judges would allow him to undo the rule right away. Moreover, any effort by Pruitt to undercut the regulation would have an easier time if the courts strike it down first. That legal fight probably won’t be over until it reaches the Supreme Court.

But even if the Trump administration succeeds in killing the Clean Power Plan, Pruitt will still be on the hook to regulate carbon dioxide emissions because of the so-called endangerment finding — EPA’s 2009 scientific conclusion that climate change threatens human health and welfare. Trump promised on the campaign trail to review and possibly revoke that finding, although Pruitt rejected that idea during his confirmation hearing.

“The endangerment finding is there and needs to be enforced and respected,” Pruitt told members of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee. “There is nothing that I know that would cause a review at this point.”

2. Water protections: After years of legal confusion about which streams and wetlands deserve protection under the Clean Water Act, the Obama administration issued a landmark regulation in 2015 to cover head-water streams and some wetlands and ponds. Called the Waters of the U.S. rule, or WOTUS, the regulation sparked a fierce backlash from homebuilders, farmers and the oil and gas industry, which say it gives the federal government vast power over everything from stock ponds to puddles, and Trump has vowed to kill it.

Working in Trump’s favor is the fact that the legal battle over the WOTUS rule isn’t as far along as the fight over the Clean Power Plan, so the administration may simply ask the courts to let it take another stab at crafting the regulation. Pruitt told lawmakers he would seek to rewrite it, although he also said he’d welcome a move by Congress to more clearly define where the line should be drawn — something lawmakers have failed to reach consensus on after nearly a decade of trying.

If Pruitt’s agency takes another stab at the water rule, expect it to sharply shrink the number of tributaries and wetlands that warrant federal protection. While environmental groups would oppose such efforts, sportsmen’s groups may be the political players to watch. Hunting and fishing groups care about the headwaters streams that are home to trout and other fish, and have proved to have pull with the Trump administration.

3. Executive orders: Trump is widely expected to sign one or more executive orders shortly after Pruitt takes the helm at the agency, setting the priorities and tone for his EPA. Top targets for the orders could include the agency’s climate change work, its broad enforcement powers or its overall approach to regulation.

Of course, executive orders are tied to the president who signs them, and the next administration can quickly undo them. But orders can also be used to set in motion a broader set of changes that aren’t as easily wiped out. For instance, industry groups have long urged EPA to change the way it measures the costs of new regulations, something that could significantly alter the labyrinthine regulatory review process for years. And businesses have sought to install experts more attuned to economic impacts on the agency’s advisory panels.

“If EPA were to expand that and appoint people who have a different way of looking at things, I think it would be hard to put back in the bottle,” Holmstead said.

4. Personnel: One early Trump adviser on the EPA, the fierce agency critic Myron Ebell, had a clear recommendation for reining it in: Slash the workforce.

His call to cut EPA’s staff by two-thirds got a lot of media attention but would be virtually impossible to accomplish, and the Trump administration has distanced itself from that recommendation. Still, attrition can pack a punch, especially when a number of employees are nearing retirement age and the promise of an unfriendly leader has sent morale plunging.

Even the temporary across-the-board federal hiring freeze in place now is having an impact. Catherine McCabe, who has served as acting EPA administrator for the past month, said last week that “the freeze on hiring is already creating some challenges to our ability to get the agency’s work done,” in a video posted to the agency’s YouTube channel.

Environmentalists fear that effects on staffing under the Trump administration could be one of the blows to the agency that’s hardest to recover from.

“To get the experience, to get the staffing, to get the institutional knowledge — those are the kinds of things that happen sometimes below the radar screen, but can have a long-lasting effect,” said David Goldston, director of government affairs for the Natural Resources Defense Council.

5. Legislation: Truly lasting changes in the country’s approach to environmental regulation will require action by Congress. And after eight years of having their efforts met with veto threats from the White House, Republicans on Capitol Hill now see an opening.

But any such legislation will face a 60-vote threshold in the Senate, so a wholesale revamp that many in the GOP want to see is likely to remain out of reach.

Key Republican leaders have said they plan to take a rifle-shot approach to the Clean Air Act, and they may try again to influence the reach of the Clean Water Act. But even with a number of moderate Democrats facing reelection in 2018, it’s not clear that they’ll have the votes to get it through.

However, having Pruitt in place may reduce the intensity of annual appropriations battles, where Republicans in prior years have tried to use EPA spending bills to block implementation of key Obama administration rules. Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska), who chairs the Appropriations subcommittee with jurisdiction over the agency, said she did not expect to push riders blocking things like the WOTUS rule or Clean Power Plan because the Trump administration will already be working to reverse those.

“So, some of those that were pretty high-profile last year, I think we can say, ‘OK don’t need to worry about those,’” Murkowski told POLITICO.

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‘Anxiety’ abounds at EPA as Senate confirms Pruitt

The Senate handed the Environmental Protection Agency to one of its most determined foes on Friday, confirming Scott Pruitt as administrator despite public opposition from hundreds of EPA employees and Democrats’ demands for thousands of his still-undisclosed emails.

Senators voted 52-46, almost entirely on party lines, to confirm Pruitt, who as Oklahoma’s attorney general has repeatedly sued the EPA to attack many of its highest-profile regulations. Sens. Joe Manchin of West Virginia and Heidi Heitkamp of North Dakota were the only Democrats voting yes, while Republican Sen. Susan Collins of Maine voted no.

Pruitt has been one of the most divisive Cabinet picks of President Donald Trump, who as a candidate pledged to “get rid of” the EPA “in almost every form,” leaving only “little tidbits left.” Pruitt has attracted fierce criticism for his own skepticism of mainstream climate science, as well as widespread expectations that he would carry out Trump’s agenda of dismantling the agency’s regulatory powers.

“Obviously there is some trepidation about how the new administration is going to go about enforcing and implementing the laws that EPA is bound to implement,” said Nicole Cantello, a Chicago-based EPA attorney and a union official there. “There’s a lot of anxiety around that because there’s been reports about what the incoming administrator stands for and what he’s done in his state that he was attorney general for.”

Trump is rumored to be planning a trip to EPA’s headquarters, just blocks from the White House, to sign executive orders on climate change or other EPA issues. The White House and EPA have remained mum about any such plans for a visit or any forthcoming orders.

Democrats also complained that Pruitt has yet to meet their demands for the release of emails he exchanged with the fossil fuel companies whose cause he often took up in court as attorney general. An Oklahoma judge on Thursday ordered Pruitt to release thousands of emails by early next week, acting on a suit filed by a liberal activist group.

Pruitt has accused EPA of siphoning power away from the states while handcuffing the coal, oil and natural gas industries and achieving only questionable environmental and public health benefits. His supporters made it clear they have high expectations for his reign in the agency’s headquarters — in a building just across the street from Trump’s hotel in downtown Washington, D.C.

“He’s going to be a great administrator, and hopefully he’ll begin to form a team who will get EPA back to the business of regulating air and water and not the extra-legal stuff they’ve been doing the past few years,” said Tom Pyle, president of the American Energy Alliance, a conservative think tank backed by the oil and gas industry.

“Quite candidly, this president ran on an agenda that is very different from the person he beat, which was remarkably similar to the person who previously occupied the White House,” Pyle added. “So nobody should expect there to be no differences or changes in the focus of this administration.”

He joins a Cabinet already marked by strong affinity for the fossil fuel industry, including former Exxon Mobil CEO Rex Tillerson as secretary of state.

Pruitt faces a daunting challenge: rolling back years of regulations issued under Obama, defending those actions in court and trying to scale back EPA’s power, budget and workforce. And that’s on top of issues that vexed his predecessors, such as the Flint water crisis, contentious ethanol mandates, a much-attacked regulation on wetlands and waterways, and ever-prickly Superfund cleanup operations.

He will also face a challenge no previous EPA administrator has ever faced — outspoken opposition from the agency’s rank and file before he’s even sworn in, including dozens of current employees who have held public protests against his nomination and 773 former employees who have signed onto a letter panning him.

Other career agency staffers are also fearful of what Pruitt will bring, said Christine Todd Whitman, former President George W. Bush’s first EPA administrator.

“They’re nervous and hunkering down,” she said.

Democrats contend that, policy aside, Pruitt is fraught with conflicts both from his role as one of EPA’s biggest antagonists and because of his close political connections to fossil fuel companies.

Pruitt has for now sidestepped the question of whether he can or will participate in any of the many issues he has sued EPA over, including its greenhouse gas regulations, restrictions on smog-creating ozone and limits on toxic mercury pollution from power plants. He has said he will consult with agency ethics experts on a rolling basis about the potential need to recuse himself — although he noted that as EPA administrator, he will not be acting as an attorney representing the government.

Pruitt also emerged relatively unscathed over his connections to oil and gas companies.

In 2014, The New York Times connected him to a “secretive alliance” with oil and gas companies designed to fight the Obama administration’s regulations. Pruitt denied raising money from fossil fuel interests for the Republican Attorneys General Association or the Rule of Law Defense Fund, a nonprofit offshoot of RAGA that he once chaired. He also had connections to a super PAC and a leadership PAC, both of which received major donations from energy interests but have since shut down operations.

Pruitt denied specifically fundraising from the companies that gave to those groups, and Republicans waved away concerns about his ties, saying he was only doing his job to represent the interests of his oil- and gas-heavy state.

Whitman said that once he’s settled in at EPA, Pruitt might find it’s not as easy to run an agency with national responsibilities as it is to throw rocks from Oklahoma City. She said she learned of similar constraints during her first days in the administrator’s office in 2001.

“What really struck me was the extent to which the agency was constrained by the enabling legislation,” she said.

Pruitt’s critics hope that EPA’s career staff will stand up to Pruitt if he weakens or slow-walks environmental protections.

“EPA is composed of civil servants who have been there a long time and believe in the mission of EPA and believe in the work they’ve done,” said Ken Kimmell, president of the Union of Concerned Scientists. “I don’t expect they’ll go quietly into that good night and just wave a white flag and surrender.”

Whitman said she found that some EPA staffers were “staunch Democrats,” but that “for the most part they just wanted to protect human health and the environment, and they’d work with you if they thought that’s what you wanted to do.”

She also called on Pruitt to stand up to Trump if he feels an order goes too far.

“You do work for the president and at some point you have to salute. But if you really don’t believe in what the action is, you step aside yourself,” said Whitman, who left EPA in 2003 following repeated clashes with the Bush White House.

Pruitt represents an especially sharp departure from Obama’s approach to climate change, which relied heavily on EPA’s regulations to reduce carbon pollution from cars, trucks and power plants.

Scientists “continue to disagree about the degree and extent of global warming and its connection to the actions of mankind,” Pruitt wrote last May in National Review — disagreeing with the overwhelming consensus of climate researchers, who say warming driven by human-caused pollution is a gathering threat to civilization. He co-wrote the article with then-Alabama Attorney General Luther Strange, who was recently appointed to fill Jeff Sessions’ Senate seat and plans to vote on Pruitt’s nomination.

Pruitt walked a finer line during his confirmation hearing, saying human activity contributes in some way to climate change but that the degree of that connection is “subject to more debate.” That still amounts to climate change denial, his critics say.

Scientists have long held that human activity, chiefly the burning of fossil fuels, has been the primary driver of climate change, and that the only way to stave off the worst effects is to drastically curb emissions now. A recent peer-reviewed study calculated that Earth is warming 170 times faster than it would without contributions from human activity.

Pruitt said at his hearing that he feels no need to revisit the EPA’s scientific finding that carbon pollution threatens human health and safety, the legal underpinning for a suite of climate regulations. But EPA’s critics hold out hope that Trump will order him to repeal the finding — noting that if it remains in place, Pruitt will eventually face a legal obligation to regulate carbon.

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Are news anchors playing into Trump’s hands?

Hours after NBC’s Peter Alexander fact-checked President Donald Trump during Thursday’s press conference — twice correcting Trump’s boasts about the size of his electoral-college victory — the 40-year-old reporter was still harvesting praise.

“Watch this. Watch this. Watch this. Everyone NEEDS to see this. This journalist should be wearing a cape. He’s a super hero,” tweeted actress Alyssa Milano.

“Thanks, Alyssa.” Alexander tweeted in reply.

Alexander was following in the footsteps of Jake Tapper, Matt Lauer, Jim Acosta and other network veterans who’ve rocketed to social-media stardom for talking back to Trump or his best-known surrogate, Kellyanne Conway.

Though the willingness among TV reporters to fact-check Trump and his team is not new, the heightened spotlight of the White House and the awareness that millions of Trump critics are waiting in the Twittersphere, egging them on, seems to have increased the frequency of such encounters.

But such moments also appear to be encouraged by Trump himself, and may play into his favorite narrative about the “fake news media” as his “enemy,” as he tweeted on Friday afternoon. On Thursday, Trump reveled in the spectacle, purposely calling on many anchors whom represent news channels he’s often bashed, like CNN.

Ultimately, it is a mutually beneficial relationship, said Dylan Ratigan, former MSNBC anchor and founder of Helical Holdings, an American resource technology company.

“Anytime Donald Trump can generate a sense of conflict or hostility toward the mainstream media it’s great for his supporters, for his base, and any time a member of the mainstream media can portray themselves as being hard on Donald Trump is great for their supporters, for their base,” Ratigan said. “There’s a mutual benefit to both participants because Trump voters want to see him confront the media and the audiences of the television networks want to see the hosts confront Donald Trump, so it’s like getting to see your favorite fight happen.”

On Tuesday the celebrated combatant was Alexander’s NBC colleague Lauer, exclaiming “that makes no sense” as Conway, whose title is senior counselor to the president, tried to explain the timeline of how the president became aware that National Security Advisor Michael Flynn misled Vice President Mike Pence about Flynn’s alleged discussions of lifting Russian sanctions with Kremlin officials.

The average “Today” show tweet gets a few hundred retweets and likes. The “Today” show tweet highlighting Lauer’s blowback of Conway was at more than 10,000 retweets and more than 19,000 likes as of Friday.

Meanwhile, CNN’s chief Washington correspondent, Jake Tapper, who has had several headline-making interviews with senior members of Trump’s staff, has made the rounds of several late-night shows and is being heralded in the pages of Vogue as a “journalistic hero.”

Tapper also began trending on Twitter when a report said the host of the afternoon political hour “The Lead with Jack Tapper” would become the target of GOP operatives who want to “destroy him.” Supporters started to tweet tongue-in-cheek “dirt” about Tapper, like that he is a “closeted lover of knitting,” with the hashtag #TapperDirtFile.

And Tapper’s CNN colleague, Jim Acosta, earned his own headlines for going mano-a-mano with Trump at Thursday’s press conference about his network’s ratings, Trump’s seemingly contradictory claim that “the leaks are real but the news is fake,” and other points.

A cable news executive, speaking on background because he is not authorized to comment on the record, said that these types of on-air confrontations aren’t new — pointing to veteran anchor Sam Donaldson’s shouted exchanges with Ronald Reagan, sometimes with a helicopter flapping, and longtime CBS anchor Dan Rather’s infamous back-and-forth with George H.W. Bush.

But while those moments were sometimes held up by conservatives as evidence of liberal bias in the press corps, they weren’t the norm for relations with the famously affable Reagan and gentlemanly Bush: Trump, by contrast, has willingly taken on the role of media gladiator, encouraging reporters to talk back to him by asking them questions at press conferences and launching into attacks on their integrity and that of their networks.

“There’s literally nothing new in this — except that everything has a heightened sense of drama because the president goes after news organizations directly,” the executive said. “This is about him going after the media rather than the media standing up to him.”

“The media are just doing what they always do,” the executive added. “The White House is making these interviews and making these journalists larger-than-life figures by punching down to them. The Trump effect is not that these guys are grandstanding, it’s that they’re singling them out and are so negative to them.”

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Congress keeps Trump grounded

The Senate left town Friday with Trump’s administration barely staffed, Republicans’ legislative agenda stuck in neutral and Democrats using parliamentary tactics to make senators and staffers’ life a blur of partisan fights and all-night debates. The House left Thursday in barely better shape.

On Capitol Hill, it’s been a less than stellar start for Trump’s vows to shake up Washington.

“Slower than we want, certainly. We’d like to get these [nominees] behind us and get on to policy,” said Sen. Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.). But, he admitted, when it comes to Republicans’ top priorities — Obamacare repeal and tax reform — “Nothing’s ready to bring to the floor.”

In the Senate, Democrats have stymied Trump’s Cabinet to a degree that has no historical precedent, eating away at precious floor time and delaying the GOP’s agenda until the spring. The House doesn’t have the arduous task of confirming hundreds of Trump’s nominees, but Republican infighting over health care and taxes has raised serious doubts about whether a bill signing on either issue will ever be in the offing.

The bruising Cabinet conflict is boiling over in both parties after a bitter seven weeks in session. Democrats held the Senate in session overnight three times in the past two weeks, dragging out debates on nomination battles even they knew they could not win.

A bloc of junior Republican senators privately pushed Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell to retaliate by keeping the chamber in for an eighth consecutive week to steamroll recalcitrant Democrats, according to senators and aides.

In the end, the request was deemed impractical by GOP leaders, with a bipartisan group of senators headed abroad and a building complex filled with exhausted lawmakers and aides. Votes on Cabinet nominees next week could have failed due to attendance problems among Republicans, who enjoy a slim 52-48 advantage over Democrats.

But the frustration among Republicans is real.

“Personally, I’d like to turn the Senate on and leave it open, 24-7, until we get this done. Seriously. And there are several of us pushing for that,” Sen. David Perdue (R-Ga.) said. “It’s unfortunate we’ve got a recess week. Several of us would love to stay here and get this done. You had a weekend a couple of weekends ago that we wanted to stay here.”

A spokeswoman for freshman Sen. John Kennedy (R-La.) confirmed that he “fully supports working late nights and weekends to move the Republican agenda as fast as possible.” At least a half-dozen senators were pushing the effort, though several asked not to be named to avoid provoking a fight with Senate leaders.

Republicans — including Trump — are furious that Democrats have strung out debate on a series of Trump’s nominees for as long as they can, occasionally letting through less controversial figures like Small Business Administration chief Linda McMahon or Veterans Affairs Secretary David Shulkin. The effect has been that Trump’s agencies have been rudderless for weeks — and that the Senate floor has been tied in knots.

“It’s pretty hard to get anything done if you’re spending all your time trying to get your Cabinet approved,” said Sen. Orrin Hatch of Utah, the longest-serving Republican senator.

Republicans will return to a continued slog on nominees on Feb. 27, pressing to confirm Wilbur Ross to the Commerce Department, Ryan Zinke to the Interior Department, Ben Carson to the Department of Housing and Urban Development, and Rick Perry to the Energy Department — a roster that could take nearly 100 additional hours of debate to finish.

But there are literally hundreds more nominees that must be confirmed to staff Trump’s administration: Agriculture Department nominee Sonny Perdue, undersecretaries, ambassadors and members of organizations like the National Labor Relations Board. If Democrats keep stringing this out, it could become impossible to both pass a legislative agenda and confirm everyone that Trump needs to run his administration.

And Democrats are not ruling out further delays for many of Trump’s lower-level nominees. As Sen. Brian Schatz (D-Hawaii) put it: “There are no exceptions for advise and consent.”

“Our hope is that the deputy and assistant secretaries who do a lot of the work aren’t as radical and as unqualified as these. So we want to make it clear: If they are, then this is going to keep going,” said Sen. Chris Murphy (D-Conn.). “If you keep putting up people as unqualified as Betsy DeVos or as conflicted as Scott Pruitt, there’s going to be a lot of long days and nights.”

He noted with some satisfaction that at this point in 2009, President Barack Obama had most of his Cabinet installed and had already signed into law the $787 billion economic stimulus bill. By contrast, Trump has signed two resolutions rolling back regulations, a government accountability bill and a waiver allowing confirmation of Defense Secretary Jim Mattis.

Democrats say delaying the GOP’s legislative agenda even as Trump grows more unpopular is a side effect of their floor tactics, not the motivating force behind them. But Republicans are already growing worried that they will be forced to pass another continuing resolution to keep the government funded in late April rather than attempt an omnibus or individual appropriations bills as one of the consequences of Democrats’ floor strategy.

“Lack of accomplishment, if that’s the goal of Democrats, then they’re accomplishing that,” said Sen. Jerry Moran (R-Kan.).

Of course, it’s Republicans, not Democrats, who are struggling mightily to devise a plan to repeal and replace the health care law they’ve targeted for years. The GOP is also sharply divided over rewriting the tax code, with Speaker Paul Ryan facing blowback from members in his own party about a plan to change the way imports and exports are taxed.

There have been some bright spots for Republicans: Supreme Court nominee Neil Gorsuch is proceeding apace and may be confirmed in early April. And the GOP is rolling back Obama-era regulations as fast as it can through a procedure that precludes the filibuster. That is tiding over even some of the most combative senators — for now.

“Repealing three regulations that will hopefully save tens of thousands of American jobs, I think that’s a big deal,” said Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.). But, he added: “There’s going to be a lot unhappiness from a lot of people if we don’t have an [Obamacare] repeal vote in a month or two months.”

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Trump ignores 'the grown-ups' in his Cabinet

President Donald Trump this week abruptly dropped the nation’s commitment to a two-state solution for Middle East peace — without reviewing the specifics of his new strategy with Secretary of State Rex Tillerson.

State Department officials and Tillerson’s top aides learned about the president’s comments in real time, according to two sources with knowledge of the situation. Tillerson himself was in the air when Trump announced the change in the U.S.’s longstanding position on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. At the White House, there was little thought about notifying the nation’s top diplomat because, as one senior staffer put it, “everyone knows Jared [Kushner] is running point on the Israel stuff.”

For a president who declared on Thursday he had assembled “one of the great Cabinets in American history,” sidelining Tillerson was an unorthodox way to utilize one of his top-tier picks. But it follows a pattern from Trump’s first month in office, where the president is operating without seeking much input from his more experienced Cabinet secretaries — including Defense Secretary James Mattis and Tillerson, as well as Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly and CIA Director Mike Pompeo — a group one GOP source called “the grownups.”

Trump’s West Wing, a team of rivals marked by seemingly endless in-fighting, leaking and inexperience, has helped unify the partially formed Cabinet into an actual team, according to interviews with more than a dozen senior staffers inside the agencies and the White House who were not authorized to speak on the record.

In their first weeks on the job, the heads of these sometimes competitive departments and agencies are working together, fighting to staff the agencies they lead and to maximize their collective influence over an administration struggling to find stability. Their shared hope: that things will get better.

“I wouldn’t take the snapshot of the situation today and say that’s what things will look like in June,” said Elliott Abrams, who Trump nixed as Tillerson’s undersecretary of state because he’d criticized the then-GOP nominee during the campaign. “Once all the jobs are filled at State, Defense and NSC, I think you’ll see a more orderly process.”

Even though the administration is less than a month old, both Tillerson and Mattis have been in perpetual cleanup mode, making calls to leaders around the world with far less drama and unpredictability than Trump’s own calls and traveling to assuage the anxieties of key allies in Asia and Europe. Both have spent much of their first weeks in office in other countries, reassuring allies about Trump’s ad hoc approach to foreign policy that is being driven largely by the president’s son-in-law.

Kushner, officially a senior White House adviser, has become something of a foreign policy proxy in the White House—a “shadow Secretary of State,” as one administration source described him—corresponding with governments at Trump’s request. That’s causing consternation at Foggy Bottom as top State Department officials, foreign policy experts and embassy officials are frozen out of foreign policy decisions and often left unsure who is doing what, or who is responsible.

Mattis, Tillerson and Pompeo continue to butt heads with the White House over personnel decisions, fighting to pick their own staff against an administration that has rewarded campaign staff with government positions and remains wary of establishment figures. According to a source close to the CIA director, Pompeo is not happy that Trump, frustrated by leaks from the intelligence community, floated the idea of appointing a hedge funder and political supporter, Stephen Feinberg, to investigate his agency.

Tillerson, who was confirmed after Mattis and Kelly, arrived at the State Department with just two staffers of his own and found that it was teeming with political appointees, according to a source close to Tillerson. Many of those appointees are part of “beachhead teams,” campaign veterans assigned to serve for the first 120 days of the administration. Whether they remain there will be up to the Cabinet secretaries, who can hire them to permanent positions or replace them after being confirmed, the White House said. “Senate Democrats have done everything they can to stand in the way of getting our highly qualified Cabinet nominees confirmed for these key positions,” said Sean Spicer, the White House press secretary. “Once we are able to get our nominees confirmed, we have a process to expedite getting key staff in place.”

As Tillerson and Mattis have tried to staff their respective departments, they have faced resistance from the White House and the reluctance of many potential top appointees ambivalent about joining this chaotic administration. Vice Admiral Robert Harward, Mattis’s former CENTCOM deputy and preferred choice to replace Gen. Mike Flynn, who resigned his post as National Security Adviser Monday night, turned the job down Thursday in part over concerns about whether he would have authority over policy and his own staff hiring.

“There’s a real danger here,” said Eric Edelman, a former undersecretary of Defense who worked on Mitt Romney’s 2012 defense transition. “If you can’t have a former Navy SEAL like Harward turning down his commander in chief, he must have some real concerns about the way this is structured.” Harward, in a statement Thursday, cited personal and financial concerns as a main reason for turning down the job.

Flynn’s resignation marked a win for Mattis and Tillerson. An early Trump campaign supporter and the former head of the Defense Intelligence Agency with a penchant for indulging conspiracy theories, Flynn helped crystallize an early partnership between Mattis and Tillerson.

When Mattis met with Republican senators in January ahead of his confirmation hearings, Republican senators simply thanked him for his willingness to serve the incoming administration. His own confirmation assured, Mattis asked the senators to help Tillerson, whose nomination appeared less certain and who he thought might be an important ally in the Cabinet.

“He said, ‘You’ve got to get Rex [Tillerson] over the finish line for me,” one GOP senate staffer recalled, “because Flynn is crazy.”

But even with Flynn out of the way, the secretaries’ efforts to stabilize Trump’s approach to foreign policy and to create greater autonomy for themselves within their respective departments is only just beginning.

Tillerson has tried to stay away from the West Wing infighting, sources say, and from the White House altogether. Next week, Tillerson will fly to Mexico, a nation Trump has already alienated more than any other, with Kelly. Tillerson was not present for Wednesday’s visit from Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, leaving a day early for this week’s G-20 foreign ministers meeting in Bonn, Germany. Similarly, he missed Monday’s White House meetings with Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and also skipped a lunch this week with Russia’s U.S. ambassador.

Tillerson has quietly met with top officials at the State Department and reassured them he would listen to expert opinions and that he is writing his own remarks. He has pushed to bring in people from outside the Trump orbit into the West Wing, one of these people said, but has received resistance from the White House, who don’t want officials who have criticized the president taking jobs inside the administration.

Discussions are ongoing about several other spots, with White House officials weighing whether to approve the hires, several sources say. While he’s been away, White House staff has been interviewing potential State Department staffers, including Fox News anchor Heather Nauert, who visited the White House this week and is under consideration to serve as Tillerson’s spokeswoman, according to two west wing sources.

“There was a lot of discussion in the beginning of the transition that Cabinet secretaries were going to get a lot of deference in terms of staffing, but that doesn’t seem to be happening,” said Edelman. “And if there’s an impasse over staffing, you have to ask if there are folks in the White House who think it’s just fine to have agencies unstaffed because you can force through executive orders and it increases their power given their proximity to the president.”

The Strategic Initiatives Group, a new group in the West Wing led by Kushner and White House senior adviser Steve Bannon, has been set up to serve as a shadow National Security Council, which worries Edelman and other mainstream conservative foreign policy and defense experts concerned about the outsize influence of less experienced ideologues like Bannon ally Sebastian Gorka.

By next week, Mattis will have spent almost two weeks of his first month on the job oceans away from Trump, traveling on what are effectively reassurance tours. After allaying the concerns of leaders in Japan and South Korea last week that the new U.S. administration isn’t planning any dramatic moves, he’s spending this week in Europe talking to NATO allies worried that the new president is less than fully committed to an alliance that now serves as the biggest bulwark against an expansionist Russia.

The missteps by Trump’s political team have given Mattis and Tillerson a bit of an opening. Mattis was upset when Trump appointed Vincent Viola, a billionaire Wall Street trader, to serve as his Army secretary without consulting him (Viola has since resigned due to personal financial issues). Since the blowup, he’s had more influence over top appointments—he pushed hard for Phillip Bilden’s appointment as Navy Secretary—but continues to spar with a White House determined to bar the doors of the federal government to those who opposed Trump during last year’s campaign or who disagree with him on critical policy positions.

Tillerson, meanwhile, is privately expressing his own dissatisfaction that the administration has reneged on its promise to allow him to pick ambassadors, grievances that are now spilling out into public view ahead of any official announcements.

Tillerson is primarily peeved at Reince Priebus, the White House chief of staff who recently got Trump to sign off on a list of 15 ambassador appointments even though they’d promised their Secretary of State that he could fill those slots if he agreed to take the job.

A person involved in the confirmation process said the administration had chosen at least a dozen ambassadors, who are currently filling out their “form 86s,” for national security clearance. Some have already turned in the forms, this person said, which will spark background checks. “You’re going to see the names start leaking out because you have third party groups going out and doing background checks,” this person said.

According to one source familiar with Priebus’s list, hedge fund manager and campaign bundler Lew Eisenberg will be named ambassador to Italy; Duke Buchan, another Wall Street financier who was among the earliest to bet big on Trump, will be ambassador to Spain; and Georgette Mosbacher, an entrepreneur and Fox News contributor, is likely to serve as ambassador to either Luxembourg or Belgium.

“They certainly were not chosen by Tillerson,” the source familiar with the list explained. “These were not Tillerson choices at all.”

According to a source close to Trump’s vetting process for ambassadorships, it’s not unusual for a president to have a list of big donors and others for plum ambassador jobs, but it is a little unorthodox to be nominating so many ambassadors before other key positions were filled, like deputy secretary jobs. Hillary Clinton, for instance, had more sway in picking the ambassadors when she was secretary of State, but President Barack Obama’s top aides also provided a list.

Tillerson responded to these slights as he did to reports of Trump’s softening the U.S. commitment to a two state solution in the Middle East—with practiced calm. He has been annoyed, two sources say, but has not yet gone “off the deep end at the White House,” according to one of these people. He has tried to strike a diplomatic tone. Much of that, another source said, is due to his solid personal relationship with Kushner, who, the source continued, “understands the president better than anyone else but also understands that he doesn’t know the military like Mattis, that he doesn’t know foreign leaders better than Tillerson. He knows what he doesn’t know.”

The ambassadors were not chosen for their diplomatic or foreign policy experience, this person said. “They are political types and donors, the usual suspects for ambassadors,” this person said. “The ambassadors are not ‘drain the swamp’ kind of people.”

Eliana Johnson, Tara Palmeri and Jeremy Herb contributed to this report.

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Football’s Oakland Raiders Seriously Contemplating a Move to Las Vegas

It now looks as though NFL team, the Raiders, might be moving to Las Vegas very soon. According to knowledgeable sources, the team has chosen a site to call their new home. Raiders brass is in the process of meeting with the Las Vegas Stadium Authority, whom they hope will approve their proposal. Details of this meeting, as well as other factors associated with the team’s move from Oakland, California, can be seen at http://sports.yahoo.com/m/501498b7-5cd6-34af-be84-eca2e9913675/ss_raiders-pick-vegas-site%2C.html

 

Some of the news to come out of the Raiders’ lightning-fast meeting with the LVSA bosses is this. The team wants their new stadium to be located on Russell Road, along the west side of I-15 and southwest of the infamous Vegas strip. Yet, despite the apparent positive aspects of these meetings, no lease agreement was signed. The primary reason for this was, it is not certain who will be paying out the $650 million needed to build it. Sources say it remains to be seen whether it will be Sheldon Adelson or Goldman Sachs.

 

One odd factoid coming out of the proposed move to Las Vegas is that the rent for the Raiders will be set at $1. This is NOT a type-o. Nevada Independent person, Jackie Valley, discovered this when she was examining the user agreement. The team will only need to “pay the Authority the sum of ONE DOLLAR ($1.00) annually as annual rent (the “Rent Payment.”)” Perhaps someone ought to question the sanity of whomever thought up this brainstorm!!!

 

The Raiders have also made it abundantly clear that they want to control all naming rights. This goes for the stadium itself, as well as the plaza outside of the stadium. They insist upon receiving all revenues associated with the grant, licensing, and additionally, sub-licensing; not to mention the Naming Rights themselves.

 

Wait, there is more!!! In order for this deal to come to fruition, the Raiders are also demanding that they “keep signage sponsorship revenue.” This means they would keep all of the revenue from the signage at the new stadium. Might they be getting a little carried away with their own self-worth? Will the people of Nevada put up with such demands? That remains to be seen.

 

 

PodcastOne Chairman, Norman Pattiz Announces the Launch of Beyond the Darkness, Newest Jericho Network Program

Norman Pattiz didn’t realize that starting a radio syndicated company would successfully grow into one of the largest businesses in the digital audio world. Although, it did and with some really great personalities plus celebrities.

 

The founder of  Westwood One which is well-known for distributing news, plus it’s actually one of the largest providers for entertainment and sports news to date. What many people do not know is Pattiz’ Westwood One, which “connect[s] people to their passions in life.” (It has done just that for a specific professional wrestler.) All in all, Pattiz has had more than 40 years of radio syndication experience as well.

 

PodcastOne.com

This includes Pattiz’ money-making media syndications such as the successful PodcastOne. It’s hit the hearts of many multigenerational audiences to date in the broadcasting industry. It’s uniformly all under Pattiz. In fact, last year, “Forbes” magazine honored his ‘celebrity-infused’ greatest creations. The popular PodcastOne has had some celebrities and top sports’ athletes on the show. They include names like Steve Austin and Snooki, Adam Carolla and Shaquille O’Neal,…to name a few. In fact, Pattiz’ has managed and owned and even distributed several NBC radio networks. In addition, this also includes news syndicates such as CNN radio and CBS News, plus others like the syndicated music and talk shows including The Super Bowl, the Mutual Broadcasting System, NFL Football, NCAA Basketball and March Madness. This line-up also has more to it’s roster such as, the Winter and Summer Olympic Games. It includes many other syndicated music and talk shows, as well. (This includes that one pro wrestler as mentioned earlier.)

 

Opportunities within the ads and marketers

For those who don’t know, it’s live radio; it’s syndicated on certain days of the week. Therefore, you need to have the internet to listen to it or at least download the app on a mobile, or go to iTunes. It has a network with more than 200 shows and that’s just the beginning. It also delivers about $400M monthly along with advertisements which are great opportunities for the partners. That includes direct marketers.

 

New Blood; within the blood…

There is some “new blood within the blood.” Now, announcing the “connected” WWE pro wrestler and Fozzy singer, Chris Jericho’s podcast Jericho’s Network addition. Pattiz may have something here. Either way, Jericho said he’s “stoked” regarding the new podcast, “Beyond the Darkness.” The new “dark radio” podcast is hosted by two radio hosts and producers whom are known in the radio syndication industry. An even more unique podcast under Pattiz’ and Jericho’s belt. Pattiz’ announced a few weeks ago that this is a podcast within an umbrella of podcasts. He’s succeeded, again, in more ways than one. The success comes in light of the development of Jericho’s Network. Nevertheless, Jericho is ‘stoked’ regarding the new show. He knows how to talk, hence his own podcast show, “Talk is Jericho.” He claims he’s the “gem” of the PodcastOne now, is what Pattiz has said a month ago. Which can safely be said that [Jericho] could be?

 

Dark Waters; darkness radio

Now, with the announcement of Jericho Network’s new podcast “Beyond the Darkness,” which is hosted by radio co-hosts and radio producers Dave Schrader and Tim Dennis, which are ready to tell the dark ghoulish tales/stories with their guests. Therefore, if you like to hear these stories, with background music playing in a ghostly manner, you’ll feel a little ‘unnerved.’ Plus, hearing it while your browsing online or on your mobile phone sounds a little crazy, but that’s what it’s about. It’s entertainment. As long as you’re hearing the show, you may hear Dark Waters, which seems to be a regular on the show already. The newest show on Jericho’s podcast network is engaging and entertaining. This show will challenge all listeners regarding ghosts and ghouls, angels and demons, aliens and monsters and even scare you a bit.

 

Finally, the tell-all of demonic stories and tall-tales. Recently on the Friday episode which aired on Feb. 10th, Dark Waters, a regular ghost story teller, tells a few dark stories in that particular show. He’s one of the good story tellers. New releases are every Monday. Go to the PodcastOne.com or the PodcastOne app or even iTunes to tune in, for all the new creepy stories, you can also go to Dark Waters.

 

Pattiz says, he knew The Jericho Network collection would evolve beyond the wrestling audience. It has already with the paranormal audience now under it’s wing. A huge fan-base of paranormal broadcasting will be experienced. Pattiz’ said that particular network is ‘ “a podcast network’s dream…or nightmare!” ‘ Now Pattiz (and Jericho) can add the paranormal audiences to their list!”

Learn more:

http://www.prnewswire.com/news-releases/president-clinton-names-norman-pattiz-as-member-of-the-broadcasting-board-of-governors-72895702.html

https://ideamensch.com/norman-pattiz/

Follow Pattiz on LinkedIn and @norman_pattiz