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Mike Pence Puts North Korea On Notice For Missile, Nuclear Tests

“North Korea would do well not to test [President Trump’s] resolve or the strength of the armed forces of the United States in this region.”

SEOUL, April 17 (Reuters) - U.S. Vice President Mike Pence put North Korea on notice on Monday, warning that recent U.S. strikes in Syria and Afghanistan showed that the resolve of President Donald Trump should not be tested.

Pence and South Korean acting president Hwang Kyo-ahn, speaking a day after a failed missile test by the North and two days after a huge display of missiles in Pyongyang, also said they would strengthen anti-North Korea defenses by moving ahead with the early deployment of the THAAD missile-defense system.

Pence is on the first stop of a four-nation Asia tour intended to show America’s allies, and remind its adversaries, that the Trump administration was not turning its back on the increasingly volatile region.

“Just in the past two weeks, the world witnessed the strength and resolve of our new president in actions taken in Syria and Afghanistan,” Pence said in a joint appearance with Hwang.

“North Korea would do well not to test his resolve or the strength of the armed forces of the United States in this region,” Pence said.

The U.S. Navy this month struck a Syrian airfield with 59 Tomahawk missiles after a chemical weapons attack. On Thursday, the U.S. military said it had dropped “the mother of all bombs,” the largest non-nuclear device it has ever unleashed in combat, on a network of caves and tunnels used by Islamic State in Afghanistan.

North Korea’s KCNA news agency on Monday carried a letter from leader Kim Jong Un to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad marking the 70th anniversary of Syria’s independence.

“I express again a strong support and alliance to the Syrian government and its people for its work of justice, condemning the United States’ recent violent invasive act against your country,” Kim said.

On a visit to the border between North and South Korea earlier in the day, Pence, whose father served in the 1950-53 Korean War, said the United States would stand by its “iron-clad alliance” with South Korea.

“All options are on the table to achieve the objectives and ensure the stability of the people of this country,” he told reporters as tinny propaganda music floated across from the North Korean side of the so-called demilitarized zone (DMZ).

“There was a period of strategic patience but the era of strategic patience is over.”

Pence is expected to discuss rising tension on the Korean peninsula with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe on Tuesday when he travels to Tokyo to kick off economic talks with Finance Minister Taro Aso.

Pence will meet business leaders in Seoul before departing - a “listening session” he will reprise at other stops on his tour in Tokyo, Jakarta and Sydney.

His economic discussions will be closely watched to see how hard a line Washington is prepared to take on trade. Trump campaigned for office on an “America First” platform, and has vowed to narrow big trade deficits with nations like China, Germany and Japan.

But Trump has also shown he is willing to link trade to other issues, saying he would cut a better trade deal with China if it exerts influence on North Korea to curb its nuclear

Trump acknowledged on Sunday that the softer line he had taken on China’s management of its currency was linked to its help on North Korea.

The United States, its allies and China are working on a range of responses to North Korea’s latest failed ballistic missile test, Trump’s national security adviser said on Sunday, citing what he called an international consensus to act.

China has spoken out against the North’s weapons tests and has supported U.N. sanctions. It has repeatedly called for talks while appearing increasingly frustrated with the North.

But Pence and Hwang said they were troubled by retaliatory economic moves by China against the deployment in South Korea of a U.S. anti-missile system known as the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD).

South Korea, which accuses China or discriminating against some South Korean companies working in China, and the United States say the sole purpose of THAAD is to guard against North Korean missiles.

China says its powerful radar can penetrate its territory and undermine its security and spoke out against it again on Monday.

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Lu Kang told reporters in Beijing the situation on the Korean peninsula was “highly sensitive, complicated and high risk,” adding all sides should “avoid taking provocative actions that pour oil on the fire.”

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said Moscow could not accept North Korea’s “reckless nuclear actions” but the United States should not take unilateral action against it.

Trump’s national security adviser, H.R. McMaster, indicated on Sunday that Trump was not considering military action against North Korea for now, even as a nuclear-powered aircraft carrier strike group was heading for the region.

“It’s time for us to undertake all actions we can, short of a military option, to try to resolve this peacefully,” he said on ABC’s “This Week” program.

The Trump administration is focusing its strategy on tougher economic sanctions, possibly including an oil embargo, a global ban on its airline, intercepting cargo ships and punishing Chinese banks doing business with Pyongyang.

Tensions have risen as Trump takes a hard rhetorical line with Kim Jong Un, who has rebuffed admonitions from China and proceeded with nuclear and missile programs seen by Washington as a direct threat.

China says the crisis is between the United States and North Korea. Lu said China efforts to help achieve denuclearisation were clear, adding: “China is not the initiator of the Korean peninsula nuclear issue.”

China banned imports of North Korean coal on Feb. 26, cutting off its most important export and Chinese media has raised the possibility of restricting oil shipments to the North if it unleashed more provocations.

Pyongyang has conducted several missile and nuclear tests in defiance of U.N. sanctions, and has said it has developed and would launch a missile that can strike the U.S. mainland.

U.S. officials and experts believe it is some time away from mastering the necessary technology, including miniaturizing a nuclear warhead.

huffington post

 


 

Key senators say they have no evidence that Trump Tower was wiretapped

The Republican and Democratic leaders of the Senate Intelligence Committee joined the chorus of lawmakers stating they are not aware of any current evidence supporting President Trump’s claim that his campaign headquarters was wiretapped during the presidential election season.

Committee Chairman Richard Burr (R-N.C.) on Thursday released a joint statement with the ranking Democrat, Sen. Mark Warner (Va.), stating that they have not seen data supporting Trump’s claim.

“Based on the information available to us, we see no indications that Trump Tower was the subject of surveillance by any element of the United States government either before or after Election Day 2016,” they said.

Burr and Warner are leading the Senate investigation into Russia’s suspected interference in the 2016 elections to aid Trump. They are also examining alleged ties between Trump aides and Russian officials. They were joined last week and again on Wednesday by House Intelligence Committee Chairman Devin Nunes (R-Calif.) leading a similar investigation in the House who also stated that he has not seen evidence to support the president’s complaint that his offices were wiretapped during the campaign.

Nunes, who served on Trump’s transition team, declared flatly Wednesday that there was no evidence that Trump Tower was wiretapped while Trump was a candidate.

“I don’t think there was an actual tap of Trump Tower,” Nunes said. He added that if you are taking Trump’s tweets literally which he advised people not to do — then “clearly the president was wrong.”

Trump admitted Wednesday night in a Fox News interview that he had no solid proof that President Barack Obama had ordered surveillance of  phones at Trump Tower in New York during the campaign in autumn.

Trump said he based his accusation, which he leveled March 4 in a series of tweets, on a couple of news reports referencing wiretapping generally.

“I’ve been reading about things,” Trump said in an interview with Fox News Channel. Trump said that after noticing an article in the New York Times and commentary by Fox anchor Bret Baier, Trump said he told himself, “Wait a minute, there’s a lot of wiretapping being talked about.”

In the interview with Fox host Tucker Carlson, Trump maintained that information would soon be revealed that could prove him right, but he would not explain what that information might be. He said that he would be “submitting certain things” to a congressional committee investigating the matter and that he was considering speaking about the topic next week.

“I think you’re going to find some very interesting items coming to the forefront over the next two weeks,” Trump said.

Tensions have flared in recent days between lawmakers and the Justice Department on the subject of Russia especially over FBI Director James B. Comey’s approach to providing Capitol Hill with information about the bureau’s probe into Russia’s activities in the 2016 campaign.

Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Charles E. Grassley (R-Iowa) is holding up the confirmation of deputy attorney general nominee Rod J. Rosenstein until Comey testifies before his committee on the scope of the FBI’s Russia probe. And Sens. Lindsey O. Graham (R-S.C.) and Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.), leaders of the Senate Judiciary Committee’s crime and terrorism subcommittee, sent Justice Department officials a letter last week asking for evidence of any wiretapping warrants or applications. Graham threatened Wednesday to subpoena that information.

Grassley became animated in an interview Wednesday in speaking on the subject.

“It doesn’t matter whether you have a Republican or Democrat president, every time they come up here for their nomination hearing . . . I ask them, ‘Are you going to answer phone calls and our letters, and are you going to give us the documents we want?’ And every time we get a real positive ‘yes!’ And then they end up being liars!” Grassley said, screaming into the phone during an interview with The Washington Post.

“It’s not if they’re treating us differently than another committee. It’s if they’re responding at all.”

The tension could break into the open Monday during a House Intelligence Committee public hearing on Russia. The hearing will feature Comey and Adm. Mike Rogers, head of the National Security Agency. It will provide a rare chance for lawmakers to grill the FBI director and other officials in a public setting on the allegations that Russia intervened in the campaign in an attempt to tilt it toward Trump.

washington post


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Trump says DNC race was ‘RIGGED’ against Bernie Sanders’s preferred candidate...

President Trump took to Twitter early Sunday to declare that the race for Democratic National Committee chairman was “rigged,” saying that Keith Ellison, a candidate backed by Bernie Sanders, never stood a chance.

Tom Perez, a labor secretary under Barack Obama, narrowly won the race over Ellison, a congressman from Minnesota who was endorsed early by Sanders, the senator from Vermont who was the runner-up last year for the Democratic presidential nomination.

“The race for DNC Chairman was, of course, totally ‘rigged,’” Trump tweeted shortly after 6:30 a.m. “Bernie's guy, like Bernie himself, never had a chance.”

“Clinton demanded Perez!” Trump added, referring to last year’s Democratic presidential nominee, Hillary Clinton.

Trump cited no evidence to back up his claim.

Clinton didn’t offer a formal endorsement in the DNC race, though she and Perez have long been political allies and Perez was widely considered the candidate of the establishment wing of the party. Perez backed Clinton over Sanders for the Democratic nomination last year.

Trump has claimed for months that the Democratic race for president was “rigged” in favor of Clinton and against Sanders. He also frequently used the same term to describe his race against Clinton.

Since the election, Trump has claimed, without evidence, that there was widespread illegal voting on behalf of Clinton that cost him the popular vote. Although Trump prevailed in the electoral college, nearly 3 million more people voted for Clinton.

washington post

 


 

Democrats Are Eager to See the End of the Race for DNC Chair

Nearly four long months after losing power and still lacking a new chairman, Democrats are eager to get their leadership elections over with and move on with the business of rebuilding their party to challenge President Donald Trump.

"The timing certainly wasn't good to be having a leadership debate at the very moment when Trump has created one massive mess after another in Washington," said David Pepper, the chairman of the Ohio Democratic Party. "There is a real hunger to make the decision, move forward, and have a fully operational party that gets to work."

The Democratic National Committee will pick a new chairman in Atlanta on Saturday — the last possible weekend allowed by the party's charter, which states the election must be held "prior to March 1" following an election.

The timing was intended to give party members ample time to consider their future after an unexpected loss.

But the length of the race has also allowed tensions to fester between the establishment and progressive wings. And it has hobbled the national party's ability to both respond to Trump and capitalize on the unprecedented grassroots opposition to him.

For Democrats on both sides of the chairmanship fight, the election cannot end soon enough.

Related: DNC Race Shakeup: Ray Buckley to Exit, Endorse Keith Ellison

"In reality, one of the things I would certainly propose is we ought to hold these elections a lot sooner. We should have had this election back in December," said Former Labor Secretary Tom Perez, one of the two leading candidates in the race.

"I think we can catch up and play a very meaningful role," Perez told NBC News. "But one of the learning lessons for me was we should have done this sooner."

It's a sentiment shared by supporters of Perez' main rival, Minnesota Rep. Keith Ellison, who likely would have been advantaged by a shorter race.

Ellison entered the race the week after the November election, and had been making calls to DNC members even before that, while Perez didn't even enter the race until mid-December.

"There are so many things that are essentially being put on hold or have band aids put on them until we get a new chair," said Nebraska Democratic Party Chair Jane Kleeb, who is supporting Ellison. "I expect if he's the chair or if anyone else is, all of us will be pulling together to make that transition as fast as possible."

To be sure, this year's timing is not far off the last open chairmanship race, in 2005, when Howard Dean was elected on February 12.

And the party has not been entirely disarmed in the interim. Its congressional leaders have been organizing opposition to Trump on Capitol Hill and speaking out in the news media. And the DNC itself has a well-staffed "war room" to respond to Trump.

Interim Chairwoman Donna Brazile has earned plaudits from Democrats for taking over the DNC from controversial former chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz and doing what she can with depleted staff.

But its organizational activities have been put on hold at a time when Democrats widely agree that the party can waste no time rebuilding its political infrastructure after eight years in which it was largely neglected.

Related: Race for DNC Chair Heads Behind Closed Doors in Final Stretch

"Right now, the problem I'm afraid of is we are at this critical moment and we have a very small window to handle this," Jaime Harrison, the chairman of the South Carolina Democratic Party and a candidate for national chairmanship told NBC News. "Has the opportunity totally missed us? No. But if we don't get our ducks in a row soon? Then yes."

And the official Democratic party has been largely MIA as millions of people take to the streets to protest a Republican president.

"My major concern is that we're going to lose these people before 2018 if we don't somehow engage them soon in something other than going to the airport [to protest]," said Nancy Leiker, the chairman of the Johnson County Democratic Party in suburban Kansas City.

Meanwhile, the DNC's communications and rapid response operations are not running at full capacity either. That limits its ability to, for instance, coordinate state and local Democrats to amplify a national message and vice versa.

"The DNC is sort of the glue that ties the federal, statehouses, and all the other candidates together, and because of the leadership dispute, that means it can't do that," said Pepper, who is supporting Perez.

And some Democrats have jealously watched the American Civil Liberties Union and other groups rake in tens of millions of dollars from anxious progressives during the early days of Trump's presidency and wonder how much money their party may be leaving on the table without a fully operational finance machine.

The party has, however, found success with continued email fundraising please, according to sources.

Sensing the power vacuum, a bumper crop of new groups has sprung up since the election to organize liberals. They could further undercut the DNC at a time when official parties have already been losing their former monopoly status on partisan activity to super PACs and other groups that can collect bigger donations with fewer strings attached.

"The DNC is too busy trying elect their next chair. They haven't done anything that I'm aware of since the election," said Daily Action creator Laura Moser, explaining part of her motivation for creating an app that gives people one action a day to resist Trump.

Still, the race will soon be over, a new chairman in place, and Democrats can make up for lost time.

"In six months, it won't matter at all," said former chair Howard Dean. "I'm pretty confident that no matter who wins, they're going to be able to set the place up fine. And the fog won't really lift until June anyway."

House Democratic Whip Steny Hoyer said he's not concerned at all about the party missing a moment that galvanized activists.

"Trump does something to energize Democrats every day," Hoyer told NBC News.

And former Pennsylvania Gov. Ed Rendell, who also served as chairman of the DNC, said that while he understood the eagerness to get started, installing a chair earlier would not have made much of a difference.

"I don't think a new chair in December would have been anything but another voice in the cacophony of the voices criticizing various things about the Trump administration,"

nbcnews

 


 

The Dakota Access Pipeline

The Standing Rock Sioux Tribe is vowing legal action after the US Army Corps of Engineers was directed to complete an easement for the Dakota Access Pipeline project. The tribe insists the environmental impact statement should be completed first.

The Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL), intended to carry crude oil from the Bakken shale fields to Illinois, has been nearly completed aside from a segment running under Lake Oahe, which supplies drinking water to the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe in North Dakota. The tribe and water protectors believe the four-state pipeline threatens drinking water and cultural sites.

On Tuesday, US Senator John Hoeven announced in a statement that the acting secretary of the army told him he has directed the Army Corps of Engineers to proceed with an easement necessary to complete the Dakota Access pipeline.

Hoeven added that this move “will enable the company to complete the project, which can and will be built with the necessary safety features to protect the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe and others downstream.”

However, his decision was met with protest from the Standing Rock Native Americans, who later on Tuesday issued a statement saying that the tribe will challenge “any suspension of pipeline’s environmental review.”

“The Standing Rock Sioux Tribe will vigorously pursue legal action to ensure the environmental impact statement order issued late last year is followed so the pipeline process is legal, fair and accurate.”

The group said that Hoeven was “prematurely championing Trump directives to grant an easement for illegal construction.”

“The Army Corps lacks statutory authority to simply stop the Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) and issue the easement. The Corps must review the Presidential Memorandum, notify Congress, and actually grant the easement. We have not received formal notice that the EIS has been suspended or withdrawn.”

If the EIS is abandoned, this would mean that the change is based on “personal views and, potentially, personal investments” of Donald Trump, the statement said.

“We stand ready to fight this battle against corporate interest superseding government procedure and the health and wellbeing of millions of Americans.”

Standing Rock, the sixth-largest Native American reservation, has a land area of over 9,000 sq km and a population of 8,000 people.

On January 18, the group launched an initiative, calling upon members of the public to send their comments on DAPL project directly to the Army Corps of Engineers.

It is important to ensure that EIS “fully takes into consideration tribal treaty rights, natural resources, cultural and sacred places, socio-economical concerns, environmental justice, and the health and wellbeing of those downstream who rely on our drinking water,” the initiative states. 

The comment period is open until February 20 and so far almost 70,000 letters have been sent to the Army Corps.

Months of protests from Native Americans, environmentalists and military veterans pressured the Obama administration to order a halt to DAPL construction in December 2016.

However, following his inauguration Trump signed a presidential memorandum calling for the construction to resume, pending certain qualifications.

Trump’s decision was quickly condemned by environmentalists, Native American activists, the American Civil Liberties Union and a number of Democratic lawmakers.

rt



 

Protests, anti-Trump events offer inauguration alternative


President-elect Donald Trump’s inauguration will be met with resistance from protesters hailing from across the country.

Rallies, protests and marches will be erupting throughout Washington, D.C., as Trump is officially sworn into office on Friday.

Here’s a list of events happening before, during and after the inauguration ceremony:

Jan. 19: The Day Before the Inauguration

Andy Shallal, the owner of D.C.’s popular Busboys and Poets restaurants, is holding The Peace Ball: Voices of Hope and Resistance on the eve of Inauguration Day. The sold-out event will run from 8 p.m. to 1 a.m. at the recently opened National Museum of African American History and Culture.

Rather than billing the Peace Ball as a directly anti-Trump event, its invitation describes it as an opportunity to “celebrate the accomplishments and successes of the past four years” and reflect on the future.

Singers Solange and Esperanza Spalding will headline the ball. Other notable attendees include actress Ashley Judd, actor Danny Glover and celebrity chef José Andrés. Trump and Andrés are currently embroiled in a lawsuit sparked after Andrés pulled out of a planned restaurant for Trump’s D.C. hotel over Trump’s rhetoric about undocumented immigrants.

Jan. 20: Inauguration Day

Hours prior to Trump being sworn in as the 45th president, the ANSWER (Act Now to Stop War and End Racism) Coalition is holding a protest — starting at 7 a.m. at the Navy Memorial — that hopes to attract tens of thousands of protesters to push back against Trump’s presidency.

ANSWER’s website describes the rally as a “massive demonstration” along Pennsylvania Avenue with “progressives” coming to D.C. from around the country. ANSWER has called Trump a “racist, sexist bigot.”

ANSWER has been vocal in its criticism of Trump over the past few months. In October, it helped organize a protest against Trump’s “bigotry” outside his D.C. hotel.

#Trump420: Marijuana advocates are also planning to come out in force on Inauguration Day.

DCMJ, a local group that led D.C.’s marijuana legalization effort in 2014, says it will dole out 4,200 joints on the morning of inauguration at 8 a.m. in the Dupont Circle neighborhood. While it’s legal for D.C. residents to smoke marijuana in private, it is still illegal to consume in public.

Four minutes and 20 seconds into the Trump presidency, organizers will tell participants to light up their joints.

Trump has previously said it should be a state’s right to decide whether to legalize marijuana, but he has not said whether he supports legalization. Trump has, however, said he backs medical marijuana.

But local organizers said that Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.), Trump’s nominee for attorney general, is the main target of the protest. Sessions is a staunch opponent of legalizing marijuana.

Those joints came at a cost, though. All that work on the marijuana grinder meant blisters for the activists, the website DCist reports.

DisruptJ20: A group of D.C. organizers have planned a week of events aimed to shut down the inauguration and “paralyze the city itself” through blockades and marches, according to its website.

The group has already held an LGBT dance party outside of Vice President-elect Mike Pence’s home in the Chevy Chase neighborhood.

An organizer told the Guardian that the protests would have happened regardless of the 2016 election outcome, but “it took on a whole new meaning” in light of Trump’s surprising victory.

On Friday, the group will hold its “Festival of Resistance” from Columbus Circle to McPherson Square from noon to 5 p.m. They will hold a coordinated march and rally with “Occupy Inauguration.”

Jan. 21 : The Day After the Inauguration

The Women’s March on Washington will cap off a busy week of protests and rallies.

The march, which is expected to draw up to 200,000 participants, will begin at 10 a.m. on Independence Avenue and 3rd Street SW. There will also be hundreds of other sister marches nationwide held in solidarity.

Celebrities are also expected to be a large presence at the march. Feminist icon Gloria Steinem was named an honorary co-chair, along with singer and civil rights activist Harry Belafonte.

Other notable attendees are singers Cher and Katy Perry, comedian Amy Schumer and actresses Scarlett Johansson, Uzo Aduba and America Ferrera.

Rep. Tony Cardenas (D-Calif.), who is boycotting Trump’s inauguration, said he will attend the march with his wife and daughter.

Four Women for All Women, a 252-mile run from Harlem in New York City to D.C. that began on Wednesday, will join the Women’s March on Saturday in the nation’s capital. The run is raising money for Planned Parenthood, which Republican leaders plan to defund as a part of an ObamaCare repeal.

The Women’s March comes one week before the annual March for Life on Jan. 27. Trump’s incoming White House counselor, Kellyanne Conway, plans to attend the anti-abortion march. 

Jan. 19–21

A three-day festival starting the day before the inauguration is hoping to provide some comic relief amid a partisan time.

“What a Joke” is a nationwide comedy festival that will have stand-up comedy performances in five D.C. locations and in cities nationwide — and across the pond in England. The proceeds will go to the American Civil Liberties Union.

According to DCist, they will sell Trump’s signature red hats, but with “Make America Great Again” replaced with “What a Joke.”

The D.C. organizers told the online publication that while they don’t expect the festival to bring immediate change to Congress, they still want the performances to celebrate unity and diversity.

“We want people to come out and to realize that there is a community of people who probably feel the way they do, and want to find a way to spend their time constructively but not so seriously or heavy,” one organizer said.

the hill

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Trump unleashes Twitter attack against Civil Rights Legend

Donald Trump tore into civil rights legend John Lewis on Saturday for questioning the legitimacy of the Republican billionaire's White House victory, intensifying a feud with the black congressman days before the national holiday honoring Martin Luther King Jr.

Trump tweeted that Lewis, D-Ga., "should spend more time on fixing and helping his district, which is in horrible shape and falling apart (not to mention crime infested) rather than falsely complaining about the election results."

The incoming president added: "All talk, talk, talk - no action or results. Sad!"

Lewis, among the most revered leaders of the civil rights movement, suffered a skull fracture during the march in Selma, Alabama, more than a half-century ago and has devoted his life to promoting equal rights for African-Americans.

The weekend clash highlighted the sharp contrast between how many African-Americans view Trump's inauguration compared with Barack Obama's eight years ago

It also demonstrated that no one is immune from scorn from a president-elect with little tolerance for public criticism. Trump has found political success even while attacking widely lauded figures before and after the campaign — a prisoner of war, parents of a slain U.S. soldier, a beauty queen and now a civil rights icon.

Lewis, a 16-term congressman, said Friday that he would not attend Trump's swearing-in ceremony at the Capitol next Friday. It would mark the first time he had skipped an inauguration since joining Congress three decades ago.

"You know, I believe in forgiveness. I believe in trying to work with people. It will be hard. It's going to be very difficult. I don't see this president-elect as a legitimate president," Lewis said in an interview with NBC's "Meet the Press" set to air Sunday.

"I think the Russians participated in helping this man get elected. And they helped destroy the candidacy of Hillary Clinton," Lewis said.

Lewis' spokeswoman, Brenda Jones, declined to respond to Trump and said the lawmaker's "opinion speaks for itself."

"We as a nation do need to know whether a foreign government influenced our election," she said.

U.S. intelligence agencies have said that Russia, in a campaign ordered by President Vladimir Putin, meddled in the election to help Trump win. After spending weeks challenging that assessment, Trump finally accepted that the Russians were behind the election-year hacking of Democrats. But he also emphasized that "there was absolutely no effect on the outcome of the election including the fact that there was no tampering whatsoever with voting machines."

Democrat Clinton received 2.9 million more votes than Trump but lost the Electoral College vote.

Lewis' Democratic colleagues quickly came to his defense Saturday.

Rep. Ted Lieu, D-Calif, said he too would skip Trump's inauguration: "For me, the personal decision not to attend the inauguration is quite simple: Do I stand with Donald Trump, or do I stand with John Lewis? I am standing with John Lewis."

The Democratic Party of Georgia called on Trump to apologize to Lewis and the people of his district.

"It is disheartening that Trump would rather sing the praises of Vladimir Putin than Georgia's own living social justice legend and civil rights icon," state party spokesman Michael Smith said.

Trump continued to jab Lewis on Saturday night, charging that the congressman "should finally focus on the burning and crime infested inner-cities of the U.S."

"I can use all the help I can get!" Trump tweeted.

Yet the president-elect's assertion that Lewis' district is "falling apart" and "crime infested" is hard to prove.

Georgia's 5th Congressional District includes the Atlanta metro region, which is considered one of the nation's fastest-growing areas. Its crime and poverty rates are higher than the national average.

Crime statistics for the specific district are not measured by the federal government. Atlanta officials have reported a significant drop in crime in recent years, although they created a gun violence task force last year to address an increase in murders.

The district has an 8.2 percent unemployment rate, and the median household income is about $48,000, according to the Census Bureau.

The area covers part of the upscale Atlanta neighborhood of Buckhead, along with the headquarters for Fortune 500 companies such Coca-Cola and Delta Air Lines, Emory University, Georgia Tech, several historically black colleges and universities and the Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport, one of the world's busiest.

The dispute may be helping sales of Lewis' books.

Lewis' defenders have been urging Twitter followers to buy the congressman's books, a strategy apparently succeeding. By Saturday night, a bound collection of Lewis' "March" trilogy, graphic memoirs for young people about his civil rights activism, was No. 1 on Amazon. A more traditional memoir by Lewis, "Walking with the Wind," was No. 2.

Last fall, the third of Lewis' "March" books, on which he collaborated with Andrew Aydin and Nate Powell, won the National Book Award in the young people's literature category.

_____

Associated Press writers Pamela Sampson and Don Schanche in Atlanta contributed to this report.

 

 
 
 
 
 
 

All-Women's Mount Holyoke College Changes Policy To Welcome Transgender Students

As students cheered and whooped, the president of the all-women's Mount Holyoke College announced this week that the university has officially changed its admission policy to formally allow transgender and genderqueer individuals to enroll in the school.

Lynn Pasquerella, Mount Holyoke's president, on Tuesday announced the policy shift during a convocation address welcoming students to the fall semester.

"While we have welcomed trans students in the past and for several years have been in conversation with campus constituencies about how best to foster a respectful environment for all students, we need a formal policy," she told the students gathered. "One that would articulate our commitment to core values of individual freedom, social justice and diversity and inclusion."

"We recognize that what it means to be a woman is not static," Pasquerella continued, as the students' cheers grew louder, many of them leaping to their feet. "Just as early feminists argued that reducing women to their biological functions was a foundation of women’s oppression, we acknowledge that gender identity is not reducible to the body."

According to Mount Holyoke's website, anyone who is female or self-identifies as a woman is welcome to apply to the college. This includes transgender men and women, and individuals whose gender identity falls outside the male-female binary. Only persons who are both biologically male and self-identify as male will not be considered for enrollment./p>

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