Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Trump Administration Proposes 'Massive' Tax Overhaul And Tax Cut Plan

The Trump administration Wednesday put forth a proposal that it labeled a "massive" tax overhaul, that would give big tax cuts to individuals and corporations, and reduce the number of tax brackets and deductions.

Outlined at a White House press briefing by Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and Gary Cohn, director of the president's National Economic Council, it would reduce the number of individual tax brackets to three, as well as eliminate most tax deductions, other than for home mortgages and charitable contributions.

It would double the standard deduction individuals can take, and proposes cutting the corporate tax rate from 35 percent to 15 percent.

Administration officials acknowledge the plan is a broad brush outline, with specific details yet to be determined. - Read More, NPR

Trump Administration Proposes 'Massive' Tax Overhaul And Tax Cut Plan

White House unveils dramatic plan to overhaul tax code in major test for Trump - washingtonpost

President Trump on Wednesday proposed a dramatic overhaul of the tax code, calling for sharply lower rates for individuals and businesses but also eliminating key tax breaks.

The proposal is a one-page outline – key details are left incomplete – but it presents an initial offer to begin negotiations with lawmakers, as White House officials believe reworking the tax code is one of their biggest priorities to boost economic growth.

“We have a once in a generation opportunity to do something big and important on taxes,” White House National Economic Council Director Gary Cohn said Wednesday.

White House officials are ambitious, but the path to overhauling the tax code is riddled with political landmines. Many budget experts believe the White House’s plan would reduce federal revenues by so much that it would grow the debt by trillions of dollars in the next decade, growing interest costs and slowing the economy.

And Trump’s advisers are looking to axe some tax breaks that are very popular in certain states, including the deduction Americans take for the state and local taxes they pay separately each year. Eliminating this deduction could save more than $1 trillion over 10 years, but inflame lawmakers and governors in states that have high income tax rates.

The central feature of the White House’s plan would be a big reduction in tax rates for virtually all Americans and businesses.

It would eliminate the seven existing income tax brackets and replace them with three brackets, containing new rates of 10 percent, 25 percent, and 35 percent, based on someone’s income. White House officials haven’t specified which income levels would hit the higher tax brackets, as they see that as part of ongoing discussions with Capitol Hill.

It would also roughly double the standard deduction that Americans can use to reduce their taxable income. The deduction for married couples would move from $12,600 to $24,000. This would incentivize people not to itemize their tax returns and instead use the standard deduction, simplifying the process and potentially saving taxpayers thousands of dollars each year.

The White House plan would eliminate the alternative-minimum tax and the estate tax, provisions that raise billions of dollars each year but have long been the target of Republicans seeking to rip up the tax code. Cohn, speaking of the AMT, said “we don’t think that people should have to do their taxes twice,” and added that the estate tax unfairly prevented farmers and others from passing along their businesses to the next generation.

In order to offset some of the cost of the lower rates, Trump administration officials said they were proposing to eliminate virtually all tax deductions that Americans claim, provisions that they argued primarily benefited wealthier Americans. Cohn said they would preserve tax breaks that incentivize home ownership, retirement savings, and charitable giving. But almost all others would be jettisoned.

This includes the tax deduction people can claim for the state and local taxes they pay each calendar year. These taxes can be particularly high in states with higher income taxes, such as California and New York.

“It’s not the federal government’s job to be subsidizing the states,” Mnuchin told reporters at the briefing with Cohn. “It’s the state’s independent decision as to do what they want to tax.”

Some of the White House’s tax changes would benefit the wealthy, such as the elimination of the estate tax, while other changes would benefit the middle class and lower-income Americans.

For businesses, Trump’s proposal would lower the corporate tax rate from 35 percent to 15 percent, and it would also allow smaller businesses, structured in such a way that they are affected by the individual tax rate, to also use the 15 percent threshold. There are millions of these businesses, known as “S Corporations,” and they are often small, family-owned firms. - Read More

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Trump to propose large increase in deductions Americans can claim on their taxes

President Trump on Wednesday plans to call for a significant increase in the standard deduction people can claim on their tax returns, potentially putting thousands of dollars each year into the pockets of tens of millions of Americans, according to two people briefed on the plan.

The change is one of several major revisions to the federal tax code that the White House will propose when it provides an outline of the tax-overhaul pitch Trump will make to Congress and the American people as he nears his 100th day in office.

Trump will call for a sharp reduction in the corporate tax rate, from 35 percent to 15 percent. He will also propose lowering the tax rate for millions of small businesses that now file their tax returns under the individual tax code, two people familiar with the plan said.

These companies, often referred to as “pass throughs” or S corporations, would be subject to the 15 percent rate proposed for corporations. Many pass throughs are small, family-owned businesses. But they can also be large — such as parts of Trump’s own real estate empire or law firms with partners who earn more than a million dollars annually. The White House is expected to pursue safeguards to ensure that companies like law firms can’t take advantage of this new tax rate and allow their highly paid partners to pay much lower tax bills.

Trump’s proposed tax changes will not all be rolled out Wednesday. White House officials are also working to develop an expanded Child and Dependent Care Credit, which they hope would benefit low- and middle-income families facing substantial burdens in paying for child care. Trump had touted a tax measure for child care during the campaign, but it was criticized as not significantly benefiting families of modest means.

White House officials think these changes will give Americans and companies more money to spend, expand the economy and create more jobs.

The existing standard deduction Americans can claim is $6,300 for individuals and $12,600 for married couples filing jointly. The precise level of Trump’s new proposal could not be ascertained, but it was significantly higher, the two people said, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because the plan has not yet been made public.

During the campaign, Trump proposed raising the standard deduction to $15,000 for individuals and $30,000 for families.

A standard deduction works like this: If a couple filing jointly earns $70,000, they deduct $12,600 from their income, adjusting their income to $57,400. They then would pay taxes on the $57,400 in income, not the $70,000 they earned. Increasing the standard deduction would reduce their taxable income, ensuring that they can keep more of their money. A taxpayer who claims the standard deduction cannot also itemize deductions for items such as mortgage interest or charitable giving. But if the standard deduction is large enough, many would be likely to bypass the itemized deduction. - Read, washingtonpost

Ivanka Trump Talks Female Entrepreneurs And Her Father At W20 Summit In Berlin

First daughter Ivanka Trump discussed female entrepreneurship, her father and feminism at the W20 Summit in Berlin on Tuesday, joining a panel that included German Chancellor Angela Merkel and the Netherlands' Queen Maxima.

Merkel invited Trump to the G20-linked event during her visit with President Trump last month in Washington, D.C.

Feminism was a central topic on the panel, as the moderator, who cited a "reluctance" to use the term, asked the panel to raise their hands if they consider themselves a feminist. Trump held up her hand, as did nearly everyone else on the stage.

"I do label myself a feminist, and I do think of that in broad terms," she said later.

Discussing her father, Trump said the president agrees with her about the need to empower women, saying that he had encouraged her "to fully lean into this opportunity and come into the White House and be by his side" — and to take part in discussions like the Women20 Summit.

But Trump's earlier description of President Trump as a "tremendous champion of supporting families and enabling them to thrive" was met with groans and hisses from the audience. - Read, NPR

Ivanka Trump Talks Female Entrepreneurs And Her Father At W20 Summit In Berlin

Judge Blocks Trump Effort to Withhold Money From Sanctuary Cities - nytimes

A judge in San Francisco on Tuesday temporarily blocked President Trump’s efforts to starve localities of federal funds when they limit their cooperation with immigration enforcement, a stinging rejection of his threats to make so-called sanctuary cities fall in line.

The judge, William H. Orrick of United States District Court, wrote that the president had overstepped his powers with his January executive order on immigration by tying billions of dollars in federal funding to immigration enforcement. Judge Orrick said only Congress could place such conditions on spending.

The ruling, which applies nationwide, was another judicial setback for the Trump administration, which has now seen three immigration orders stopped by federal courts in its first 100 days. And as with the rulings halting his two temporary bans on travel from several predominantly Muslim countries, the president’s own words were used against him.

Though Justice Department lawyers argued in the case that the government did not intend to withhold significant amounts of money, the judge noted that the president and Attorney General Jeff Sessions had suggested the punishment could be far greater.

“If there was doubt about the scope of the order, the president and attorney general have erased it with their public comments,” Judge Orrick wrote.- More

Judge Blocks Trump Effort to Withhold Money From Sanctuary Cities

A CNN report: 1979 1989 Soviet - Afghan War

A CNN report: 1979 1989 Soviet - Afghan War - YouTube

Conflict-related detainees in Afghanistan tortured, ill-treated in government facilities – UN

24 April 2017 – A record number of people detained by Afghan police say that have been tortured or ill-treated in the past year, according to a new United Nations report, which notes however that the Afghan Government has committed to eliminating torture and ill-treatment in national detention facilities.

“The continuing torture and ill-treatment of conflict-related detainees is a matter of serious concern, but we acknowledge the genuine commitment and the efforts of the Government to deal with this issue,” said Tadamichi Yamamoto, the Secretary-General's Special Representative for Afghanistan.

The report, Treatment of Conflict-Related Detainees: Implementation of Afghanistan's National Plan on the Elimination of Torture, is produced by the UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) and the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR).

The findings are based on interviews with 469 conflict-related detainees conducted from 1 January 2015 to 31 December 2016 in 62 detention facilities administered by the National Directorate of Security (NDS), Afghan National Police (ANP) and other Afghan National Defence and Security Forces (ANDSF) across the country.

Some 45 per cent of the people interviewed said that they were tortured or ill-treated, according to UNAMA and OHCHR.

Among other findings, the UN reported that about 45 per cent of the child detainees – 38 out of 85 children interviewed – gave “credible” accounts of being tortured or ill-treated.

The torture appears to be linked to forcing confessions, according to the report, and stopped once detainees signed a “confession” – even in cases when the interviewed detainees did not understand or could not read what was written in the “confession.” - Read More
Conflict-related detainees in Afghanistan tortured, ill-treated in government facilities – UN

Monday, April 24, 2017

Congress Focuses On Averting Shutdown, But Trump Wants More In Budget Deal

Congress returns Tuesday from its spring recess, facing yet another down-to-the-wire spate of deal-making — and a White House anxious to claim its first major legislative win.

On Friday night, the funding measure lawmakers approved last year to keep the federal government running will expire. The timing leaves members of the House and Senate just four days to reach a new agreement to fund the government, or risk a partial shutdown of federal agencies on Saturday — the 100th day of Donald Trump's presidency.

Ever aware of the consequences, House Speaker Paul Ryan says passing a spending bill is his primary goal this week — even as the White House is urging the GOP to resuscitate last month's failed attempt to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act and the president is making a fresh push on a tax overhaul.

"Wherever we land will be a product the president can and will support," Ryan said of the spending bill during a Saturday afternoon conference call with Republican lawmakers, according to a GOP aide. - More, NPR

Congress Focuses On Averting Shutdown, But Trump Wants More In Budget Deal

Afghan defense chief quits over attack; U.S. warns of 'another tough year'

Afghanistan's defense minister and army chief of staff resigned on Monday after the deadliest Taliban attack on a military base, and U.S. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis said he was "under no illusions" about the problems facing the country.

Mattis, visiting as the United States looks to craft a new Afghanistan strategy, held talks with Afghan President Ashraf Ghani, officials and U.S. commanders, who want more troops.

"2017 is going to be another tough year for the valiant Afghan security forces and the international troops who have stood, and will continue to stand, shoulder to shoulder with Afghanistan against terrorism," Mattis said.

General John Nicholson, the head of U.S. and international forces in Afghanistan, said he was "not refuting" reports that Russia was providing support, including arms, to the Taliban.

A senior U.S. military official, speaking on condition of anonymity, told reporters that intelligence showed Russia was providing money and machine guns to the Taliban.

Russia has previously denied providing any material or financial aid to the insurgent group, but has said it maintains ties with Taliban officials in order to push for peace talks. Moscow has been critical of the United States over its handling of the war in Afghanistan. - Read More, Reuters

Afghan defense chief quits over attack; U.S. warns of 'another tough year'

Top U.S. general in Afghanistan sees Russia sending weapons to Taliban

U.S. defense chief arrives in Kabul as Afghan defense minister resigns in disgrace

 Defense Secretary Jim Mattis arrived for a surprise visit to Afghanistan on Monday as the Trump administration considers boosting U.S. military support for a conflict that commanders say has degenerated into a stalemate.

The visit, Mattis’s first as defense secretary, comes just days after a devastating Taliban attack on one of Afghanistan’s largest and most secure bases killed nearly 200 soldiers — leading to the resignation Monday of the country’s army chief and defense minister.

The brazen attack Friday was the largest ever carried out by the Taliban against the military. Gunmen dressed in army uniforms penetrated the base and gunned down unarmed servicemen returning from prayers.

The Taliban fighters were ultimately killed by a response force led by Afghan commandos. Gen. John Nicholson, commander of U.S. forces in Afghanistan, praised the elite but overworked units’ response that brought the “atrocity to an end.”

It is unclear how the attack will affect Afghan recruiting efforts, already strained by casualties and retention rates among the ranks. But the subsequent resignation of the two top military officials is a rare development in Afghan politics.

Speaking to reporters alongside Mattis, Nicholson said the level of sophistication in Friday’s attack made it “quite possible” that the gunmen were linked to the Haqqani network, a Taliban splinter faction based in Pakistan.

President Ashaf Ghani accepted the resignations of Defense Minister Abdullah Habibi and Army Chief of Staff Qadam Shah Shahim on Monday.

“No one has put pressure on me. I have resigned for the national interest of the country,” Habibi told reporters. Shahim also said he stepped down voluntarily.

Three other top commanders were replaced by Ghani, and the shake-up and resignations have been hailed as a return to government accountability. Retired general and analyst Javid Kohestani said the actions would reduce the “level of mistrust and boost the morale of the troops.”

A U.S. military official said the resignations were “not a surprise.” Following an Islamic State raid on a heavily used hospital in Kabul in March, Friday’s attack created expectations of blowback within the Afghan leadership.

“We knew there was going to be accountability,” the official said. - More, washingtonpost

U.S. defense chief arrives in Kabul as Afghan defense minister resigns in disgrace

Sunday, April 23, 2017

French Parties Unify Against Le Pen: ‘This Is Deadly Serious Now’

PARIS — Not since World War II has the anti-immigrant far right been closer to gaining power in France. With her second-place finish on Sunday in the first round of the presidential election, Marine Le Pen has dragged her National Front party from the dark fringes of its first 40 years.

But that remarkable accomplishment is so alarming to so many in France that as soon as the preliminary results were announced at 8:01 p.m., virtually all of her major opponents in the 11-person race called for her defeat in the second-round runoff on May 7. They implored their supporters to vote for the candidate projected to come out on top on Sunday, the centrist, pro-European Union former economy minister Emmanuel Macron, a political novice and outsider.

The first-round showing by Mr. Macron and Ms. Le Pen represented an earthquake, as they effectively broke the French political establishment. On the right and the left, the two parties that have governed France for more than 50 years suffered a severe defeat. They have been pushed aside in a wave of popular anger over the country’s stagnant economy and shaky security.

The rapid-fire endorsements of Mr. Macron, coming from across the political spectrum, represented a dynamic that has always prevailed in France when the National Front approaches executive power — the cross-party, anti-far right alliance the French call the “Republican Front.” The question now is whether that front can hold this time, as well.

Ms. Le Pen has oriented her appeal around what analysts and politicians call the “un-demonization” of her party — the shedding of its racist, anti-Semitic, Nazi-nostalgic roots. That strategy has scored big results. Until the last week of the campaign, when she turned even more sharply anti-immigrant, her speeches were shaped around what she depicted as regaining France’s “sovereignty,” breaking with the European Union and “restoring” France’s frontiers.

But an undercurrent of prejudice still undergirds the National Front’s fervent rallies. Anti-Muslim code still permeates her speeches. And a majority of French people, in polls, still say the party represents a threat to the country’s democracy. - More, nytimes

French Parties Unify Against Le Pen: 'This Is Deadly Serious Now ...

Germany approving far fewer Afghan asylum-seekers: newspaper

Germany approved just under 48 percent of asylum applications from Afghan migrants in the first two months of 2017, down from close to 78 percent in 2015, the Passauer Neue Presse German newspaper reported on Sunday.

The newspaper, citing a response from the German interior ministry to a parliamentary query by the Left party, said the government rejected 14,403 of the 27,639 asylum applications considered in January and February.

It said the approval rate had dropped to just over 60 percent in 2016 and fallen further this year. The rate is lower than the 55 percent identified by German Chancellor Angela Merkel this month.

News of the drop comes after a report that thousands of former Taliban fighters may have entered Germany over the past two years among an influx of more than a million migrants and refugees, prompting investigations by federal prosecutors.

Ulla Jelpke, a Left party lawmaker, criticized the government's tougher stance on asylum approvals for Afghan migrants at a time when the security situation was worsening.

"It's a result of political orders to increase deportations and send a warning signal," she told the newspaper.

Merkel's government, under fire for allowing in large numbers of migrants, especially after several militant attacks linked to migrants last year, has been actively deporting groups of rejected Afghan asylum-seekers.

Merkel, seeking a fourth term in a Sept. 24 election, this month defended increased deportations of rejected Afghan asylum-seekers, saying all other European Union countries were doing the same. More

Germany approving far fewer Afghan asylum-seekers: newspaper

Europe's populist wave stalls as Macron storms into French runoff

The populist tsunami that slammed into Britain last year, before sweeping across the Atlantic to the United States, may have faded on the shores of France on Sunday.

Despite a strong performance from far-right leader Marine Le Pen in the first round of France's presidential election, the bigger news was the success of Emmanuel Macron, an independent centrist who rode to victory with a counter-intuitive campaign that embraced globalization, immigration and the European Union.

The polls suggest Macron will beat Le Pen soundly in the second round runoff on May 7. If he does, it could open the door to more ambitious reforms of the French economy and an elusive compromise with Germany on overhauling the troubled euro zone.

Just 39 years old and with only four years of political experience under his belt, Macron represents a generational change and a break from the left-right divide that has defined French politics for over half a century.

He would face formidable challenges as president. Nearly half of French voters opted for candidates on the extreme right and left of the political spectrum. These people are unlikely to embrace Macron's liberal democratic vision, leaving France a deeply divided nation. - Read More, Reuters

Europe's populist wave stalls as Macron storms into French runoff

Can he close the deal? Inside Macron's daring run for the Elysee

France elections: Macron and Le Pen 'through to run-off' - BBC

The centrist Emmanuel Macron will face far-right leader Marine Le Pen in a run-off for the French presidency on 7 May, multiple projections indicate.
An Ipsos/Sopra Steria poll puts Mr Macron on 23.7% in first-round voting with Ms Le Pen on 21.7%.

Opinion polls have consistently predicted Mr Macron defeating his rival in the run-off.

The two fought off a strong challenge from centre-right François Fillon and hard-left Jean-Luc Mélenchon.

Another projection, from TF1/RTL, put Mr Macron and Ms Le Pen neck and neck in the first round.

With more than three-quarters of the vote counted, official results put Mr Macron on 23.23%, ahead of Ms Le Pen on 22.83%. Results are still coming in from big cities where he has greater support.

Whoever wins the next round, the voting marks a shift away from the decades-long dominance of leftist and centre-right parties in French politics.

Macron cements his rise

While Ms Le Pen has long been seen as likely to make the second round, Emmanuel Macron's rise has been swift. The BBC's Hugh Schofield says Mr Macron's likely victory is the story of the evening.

He told cheering supporters "we have changed the face of French political life in one year", calling for people to rally against "nationalists".

A former banker, Mr Macron served as economy minister under current President Francois Hollande, quitting to launch a new party.

He has never stood for election before and if he wins would become France's youngest-ever president.

A pro-European, he has called for gradual deregulation of France's economy and a multi-billion dollar public investment plan. - Read More

Saturday, April 22, 2017

2017 Afghanistan Fighting Season, MOAB and Lithium Diplomacy - Author, Former Diplomat

With the arrival of spring the Taliban come out of hibernation and the war tempo in Afghanistan picks up. This year, however, what made headlines was the use of the most powerful nonnuclear bomb in the US arsenals. The bomb, called Massive Ordinance Air Blast (MOAB) and also dubbed the Mother of All Bombs, was dropped over eastern Afghanistan on April 13th. According to the US military and Afghan officials, the aim of the attack was to destroy a network of caves and tunnels used by Islamic State of Khorasan (IS-K). IS-K is a branch of Islamic State in Syria and Iraq (ISIS) and have pledged allegiance to its founder Abu Bakr Al Baghdadi. The terrorist group ISIS refers to Afghanistan as “Khorasan,” a name given to this region when the Arabs invaded the area in the 7th century CE. IS-K has established a foothold in Afghanistan since 2015. Its ranks have grown with disgruntled former Taliban and fighters from Pakistan, India, Uzbekistan and elsewhere. IS-K competes with the Taliban for influence in Afghanistan.

IS-K has carried out numerous attacks and other atrocities against military and civilian targets in Afghanistan. But they have also sustained losses due to Afghan and US forces operations including the recent MOAB attack in the Achin district of Nangarhar province. Although the US commander in Afghanistan Gen. Nicholson called it a tactical attack against a specific target, there are other reasons for the use of this bomb.

The world is still waiting to hear the Trump doctrine relative to the longest American war, Afghanistan. The US commander and Afghan officials are in favor of a US troop surge in Afghanistan again. Afghan officials have even been dangling a carrot to entice President Trump for more US involvement. Afghanistan has vast untapped exotic metals and other minerals. Among them is lithium, used extensively by the industrialized world, including the US. Afghanistan has been characterized as the Saudi Arabia of lithium. During a telephone conversation in December of 2016 between Trump and Afghan President Ghani, lithium was discussed. However, what makes this carrot difficult to obtain is the deteriorating security situation in Afghanistan. Infrastructure to facilitate any mining is nonexistent and building it is currently almost impossible. Most areas thought to contain lithium mines are under the Taliban control and they have steadily been gaining territory. Therefore, lithium diplomacy may not yield any immediate results.

Afghanistan’s problem is getting more and more difficult to understand and solve. Complicating factors are the inability of the Afghan government to bring about the reforms it has been promising, a high attrition rate of the security forces, the meddling of Russia and Iran by courting the Taliban, Russia’s desire to marginalize the US influence, the continued support of Pakistan for the Taliban and infighting among various factions of the Afghan government.  - Read More, Huffpost

2017 Afghanistan Fighting Season, MOAB and Lithium Diplomacy

140 Soldiers Killed in Taliban Attack on Afghan Base, Official Says, nytimes

KABUL, Afghanistan — A day after a lethal Taliban assault on an army base in northern Afghanistan, an official said on Saturday that at least 140 soldiers had been killed, making it the single deadliest known attack on an Afghan military base in the course of the long war.

“Today, there was even a shortage of coffins,” said the official, Ibrahim Khairandish, a member of the provincial council in Balkh Province, where the attack occurred. Citing information from army officials, Mr. Khairandish said 60 soldiers had also been wounded in the attack.

The soldiers, most of them unarmed, were shot while eating lunch or emerging from a Friday Prayer service at the headquarters of the Afghan Army’s 209th Corps in Balkh by assailants in military uniforms who entered after another attacker had detonated explosives at a check post. The Taliban claimed responsibility for the assault.

“Most of those killed were in the mosque; some of them were in the dining facility,” Mr. Khairandish said. 

President Ashraf Ghani arrived in Balkh Province on Saturday to visit the army base.- Read More

140 Soldiers Killed in Taliban Attack on Afghan Base, Official Says ...

Friday, April 21, 2017

What's it like to take public transit in L.A.? Metro's new committee looks to find out

The Metropolitan Transportation Authority has seven committees of elected officials that debate issues as high-profile as rail construction budgets, and as obscure as the amount of water needed to wash 2,248 buses.

What doesn’t exist is a panel that focuses on what it’s like to take transit in Los Angeles County.

That will change this summer, with a new directive from Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti, who is also a Metro director. During his State of the City address Thursday, Garcetti announced the committee, saying taking Metro “shouldn’t be a burden — it should be a convenience.”

“Positively or negatively, every single thing Metro does affects the passenger experience,” said Los Angeles City Councilman and Metro director Mike Bonin, who will run the group. “But it’s not often the primary prism through which a decision is made.” - Read More, latimes

Next stop for L.A. Metro: A committee focusing on what it's like to be a rider

Trump says 'massive tax cut' plan coming as soon as Wednesday - The Hill

President Trump told The Associated Press on Friday that he intends to release a tax reform plan next week that includes a "massive tax cut" for businesses and individuals.

Trump said the plan would be unveiled "Wednesday or shortly thereafter" and would involve tax cuts that would be "bigger I believe than any tax cut ever."

The president added later Friday at the Treasury Department that the administration will “be having a big announcement Wednesday having to do with tax reform."

"The process has begun long ago but it really formally begins on Wednesday."

But a White House official gave some wiggle room on the date, noting that Trump said in the AP interview that the plan would be released on Wednesday or soon after that. - Read More

Trump says 'massive tax cut' plan coming as soon as Wednesday

Obama making first public appearance of post-presidency in Chicago - JORDAN FABIAN

Barack Obama will make the first public appearance of his post-presidency on Monday when he speaks at an event in his hometown of Chicago, his office said Friday. 

It ends a three-month period of relative silence since Obama left office on Jan. 20, much of which he has spent on vacation in Palm Springs, Calif., on a Caribbean island with English billionaire Richard Branson and at an exclusive resort in French Polynesia. 

Obama will participate in a town hall-style discussion with young people on “community organizing and civic engagement” at the University of Chicago, near the site of his planned presidential library. 

“This event is part of President Obama’s post-presidency goal to encourage and support the next generation of leaders driven by strengthening communities around the country and the world,” his office said in a statement. 

The event is the beginning of Obama’s reentry into public life. He is scheduled to travel to Boston next month to accept the John F. Kennedy Profile in Courage Award. The former president will also meet with German Chancellor Angela Merkel in Berlin, a visit that coincides with President Trump’s first overseas trip to a NATO summit in Belgium. - Read More, thehill

Obama making first public appearance of post-presidency in Chicago

Monday, April 17, 2017

Pope Francis uses Easter message to condemn 'vile' Syria attack

Pope Francis has used his Easter address to condemn Saturday's deadly attack on a bus convoy in Syria.
The Pope delivered his "Urbi et Orbi" ("To the City and the World") message to thousands of pilgrims who gathered in St Peter's Square at the Vatican.

Francis said the bombing, which killed more than 100 people near the city of Aleppo, was "the latest vile attack on fleeing refugees".

He also spoke against "old and new" forms of slavery and discrimination.

"May [God] sustain the efforts of those who are actively working to bring comfort and relief to the civilian population in beloved Syria, who are greatly suffering from a war that does not cease to sow horror and death," he said.

In the latest attack, a vehicle filled with explosives targeted buses carrying evacuees from besieged, government-held Syrian towns.

At an earlier vigil, Francis spoke of migrants' pain, and criticised "paralysing and barren bureaucracies that stand in the way of change".

Easter was also marked in Coptic churches in Egypt, where attacks a week ago, claimed by Islamic State militants, killed at least 45 people. - More, BBC

Pope Francis uses Easter message to condemn 'vile' Syria attack ...