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National security adviser says deal with Iran far from done

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National security adviser Jake Sullivan said Sunday that the U.S. and Iran are not close to an agreement to revive U.S. participation in the 2015 nuclear pact.

"There is no deal now," Sullivan said to host Martha Raddatz on ABC’s "This Week."

On Sunday, Iran state television reported that it would free prisoners with Western ties in exchange for billions of dollars from the United States and the United Kingdom. Sullivan said nothing had been agreed upon amid ongoing negotiations in Austria.

"There’s still fair distance to travel to close the remaining gaps, and those gaps are over what sanctions the United States and other countries will roll back," he said. "They are over what nuclear restrictions Iran will accept on its program to ensure that they can never get a nuclear weapon."

The Obama administration reached a deal in 2015 with Iran designed to keep Iran from developing nuclear weapons; other signatories to the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action were the United Kingdom, France, Germany, Russia, China and the European Union. After campaigning against the deal in 2016, President Donald Trump withdrew the U.S. from it, though the other nations remained a part of it.

"Our diplomats will keep working at that over the coming weeks to try to arrive at a mutual return to the JCPOA, which is the Iran nuclear deal, on a compliance-for-compliance basis," Sullivan said.

Sullivan also addressed new statements from North Korea attacking President Joe Biden for his rhetoric over its belligerent behavior.

"For four successive administrations," Sullivan said, "two Republican and two Democrat, it has been impossible for anyone to predict exactly what North Korea will do and I’m not going to get in the business of predicting that. I’m in the business of being prepared to respond if in fact they do so in concert with our allies and partners. And we will certainly be prepared for that should it happen."

Read more: politico.com

Charlie Crist’s bid for Florida governor faces early threats

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Former Florida Gov. Charlie Crist officially launches his comeback campaign for his old job early next week — his third bid for the office but the first as a likely underdog in what could be a crowded field.

Now a Democratic congressman, Crist is the biggest name to announce his candidacy but by no means the most talked-about. Democratic insiders are buzzing more about Rep. Val Demings running, and some former Crist loyalists are planning to work for her or for Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried, the only state-level elected Democrat, who has been preparing for months to challenge Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis.

Crist advisers say they understand the complications he faces. He’s a 64-year-old white man in a party that’s increasingly yearning for women candidates or people of color, two boxes that Demings, also 64, checks. And the Republican-turned-independent-turned Democrat has lost his last two statewide races: his 2014 campaign to unseat then-Gov. Rick Scott and his decision to forego reelection as governor to run for U.S. Senate in 2010, when Marco Rubio chased him out of the GOP primary and beat him in the general election.

Crist advisers say he’ll take the race and his potential opponents seriously, but they point to his long record of running for office statewide — including his wins as education commissioner, attorney general and governor — as strengths that others don’t have. Crist’s voraciousness as a fundraiser and his solid name ID are unmatched, they say.

“Charlie is going to start this race twice as well-known as anybody else who’s running against him. So he’ll start with a significant advantage,” an adviser, speaking on condition of anonymity to describe the campaign’s thinking, said Saturday during a conference call with reporters.

Crist’s campaign on Saturday emailed donors a “Major Announcement with Charlie Crist” announcement scheduled for 11 a.m. Tuesday in St. Petersburg, his home. Earlier this week, POLITICO Playbook first reported Crist’s Tuesday announcement date.

Democrats say they like and appreciate Crist — who was a top surrogate for former President Barack Obama’s reelection campaign in 2012 and was an early backer of President Joe Biden’s campaign last year. But there’s a sense among many that his time might be past, especially if Demings enters the race.

“The one thing we know about politics is the people like new. And Val would be new,” said John Morgan, an Orlando trial lawyer and Democratic donor who once employed Crist.

Morgan is also a big a fan of Demings and was a strong advocate for her joining Biden’s ticket. Biden, instead, chose another Black woman running mate, Kamala Harris, who is also of South Asian descent. Asked what he’ll do if Demings and Crist both run, Morgan quipped, “move to Maui until it’s over.”

“Val will be formidable. But the thing about Charlie Crist is that no one goes out for money, fundraises, like Charlie,” Morgan said. “He will be nonstop. The campaign will be nonstop.”

This primary bid for Crist is vastly different than his 2014 race. That was the first time he ran as a Democrat statewide, yet Crist was able to crush a longtime Democratic state senator at the time, Nan Rich, who struggled to fundraise and catch fire.

In this race, Crist could face a Democrat who has won statewide and has started to generate social media excitement: Fried. And a top national Democrat told POLITICO that Demings has an “it factor” that shouldn’t be underestimated because of her starring role as a House impeachment manager in Donald Trump’s first impeachment trial and because of her unique background and national exposure as both a Black woman and as a law enforcement officer in the Black Lives Matter era.

There is also excitement among Demings’ growing base of support that her long law enforcement background, including serving as Orlando chief of police, will help knee-cap Republican’s increasing attempts to brand Democrats as anti-law enforcement crusaders eager to “Defund the Police.”

“Without question I think it’s a benefit for her,” said state Sen. Bobby Powell, a West Palm Beach Democrat who this year sponsored a police reform bill lawmakers passed and awaits DeSantis’ signature. “Can you imagine Republicans trying to make her seem anti-police.”

Biden is also likely, but not guaranteed, to stay on the sidelines in the event of a primary between Crist, Demings and even Fried, according to one top adviser to Biden’s presidential campaign who discussed the president’s thinking on condition of anonymity.

“The president is a busy guy. And he’s a loyal guy. Charlie, Val and Nikki were all helpful to the campaign, so I don’t see space for him right now to get involved in a primary between them,” the adviser said.

Crist’s team compares his primary bid to that of Biden in 2020, when elite insiders and progressives on social media cast doubt on Biden’s chances of winning because he was a 78-year-old white man. But the Democratic primary electorate was more moderate in sensibility and more forgiving of Biden’s race and gender than many pundits anticipated.

Biden’s primary victory, however, was powered by the strong support of Black voters in the South. And if Demings runs, her advisers are counting on their strong support – a cornerstone of Andrew Gillum’s primary win in the crowded 2018 gubernatorial primary. About 28 percent of Democratic primary voters in Florida are Black.

Gillum went on to narrowly lose Florida to DeSantis three years ago, and Biden also lost the state in the general election to former President Donald Trump last year.

Crist’s team made sure to steer clear of criticizing Demings or Fried and instead focused on DeSantis. They said the governor’s poll numbers are “artificially high” and that Democrats will benefit in the midterms from Biden’s popular policies, which DeSantis has criticized.

“Running as a right-wing Republican is a double-edged sword,” said a Crist adviser, advancing the notion that Crist appeals to the moderate swing voters crucial to winning an election statewide in Florida.

Florida Democrats have long believed that the state is perfect for a moderate Democrat to win, but conservative Republicans have increasingly won the state, including in 2018, when Rick Scott unseated Democratic Sen. Bill Nelson, who was a portrait of Democratic centrism and moderation. At the same time, DeSantis defeated Gillum, the progressive heartthrob.

The Republican victories have dispirited Democrats, who have done little to conduct the voter registration efforts that were crucial to Obama’s 2008 and 2012 wins in Florida. Since 2012, only one Democrat has won a statewide race: Fried, a point of pride for her advisers.

One of Fried’s top consultants, Kevin Cate, worked for Crist’s 2014 gubernatorial campaign but decided early on to stick with the agriculture commissioner instead of joining his old boss.

"I hope he’s announcing a re-election campaign because he’s uniquely suited to hold FL-13 through redistricting and protect our Democratic majority in Congress,” Cate said. “However, if it’s as expected, I wish him nothing but the best."

Crist is keeping on board Joshua Karp, who has served as a communications adviser to past Crist campaigns, and Sydney Throop, who worked on Crist’s congressional runs, and most recently worked on Pete Buttigieg’s failed 2020 presidential bid.

Others have made the decision not to work for Crist, whose political team has undergone a bit of a shakeup ahead of his third run for Florida governor. It is being led by Jim Margolis, a partner at Washington-based consulting firm GMMB and previous top adviser to former President Joe Biden. Austin Durrer, Crist’s congressional chief of staff, is expected to be campaign manager.

Crist’s top pollster will be Mike Bocian, who most recently did polling for Georgia Sen. Raphael Warnock’s successful 2020 campaign. He replaces John Anzalone, who has been Crist’s longtime pollster but will not be involved in his 2022 bid for governor, sources tell POLITICO.

Ed Peavy, a prominent Democratic direct-mail consultant who has deep roots in Florida, including work for the state Democratic Party as well as campaigns for both Gillum and Fried in 2018, also backed away from Crist after it became clear Demings was likely preparing her run.

Peavy, who runs Connecticut-based Mission Control, pitched Crist to do direct-mail for his campaign, got the job, then later left when it became clear that Demings was likely to run for governor. Peavy had worked for Demings’ congressional campaigns, and did not want to work on a campaign against her, according to three sources familiar with his thinking.

Peavy’s decision to walk away from Crist in anticipation of a Demings campaign is part of early staff jockeying that comes ahead of any major political campaign, but signals how serious Democrats view two things: the likelihood that Demings runs, and how tough she would be to beat in a primary.

“He interviewed and was going to join the team, but has recently told Charlie he was not going to be on the team,” according to a Democratic consultant with direct knowledge of the decision. “It’s my understanding he left unsure if he had secured a spot on Val’s team, but he definitely was not going to work against her.”

Neither Peavy nor Demings returned requests seeking comment.

Read more: politico.com

Koppel Exposes Danger of Cancel Culture: ‘Social Weapon’ for ‘Political Warfare’

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While many in the liberal media would either deny the existence of cancel culture or preach its perverse virtue, famous journalist Ted Koppel submitted a fairly balanced piece for CBS Sunday Morning that called out how many used cancel culture as a “social weapon” against their enemies in “political warfare.” In doing so, he discussed why it was used as a tool for many and why it was seen as a problem to many more.

Koppel started with one of the earliest examples of seeing someone “canceled” first hand in his career. It was former L.A. Dodgers Vice President Al Campanis, who appeared on Nightline with Koppel in 1987 and said blacks didn’t have what it took to be managers in Major League Baseball. “Two days later, he was fired. We might say he was canceled,” Koppel quipped.

“Cancel culture, as it is called these days, is a social weapon that has served the outrage of both the left and the right,” Koppel said while playing clips of The View co-host Sunny Hostin and OAN host Pearson Sharp. His next example of someone getting canceled was former NFL quarterback Colin Kaepernick, who launched a campaign to have players kneel during the national anthem to protest police.

Proclaiming that “the term ‘cancel culture’ has become the Swiss army knife of political warfare,” Koppel played a montage of left and right-leaning hosts and pundits decrying the act and pointed out how ridiculous it had gotten:

Like those members of the San Francisco board of education who approved a plan to change the names of 44 schools linked to historical racism or oppression. Among those schools, until public outrage caused the board to suspend its plan, was one named after President Lincoln.

 

 

“Those who lose their jobs or reputations to the quick judgment of cancel culture see a national retribution campaign spinning out of control,” he noted. Koppel went on to speak with Bard College President Leon Botstein, who had been condemning cancel culture way back when it was called political correctness.

“This is not a new problem. What is new is the medium,” Botstein told him. And according to him, cancel culture was worse because social media turned it into an “avalanche” of punishment and “retribution” with no “dialogue” or learning. “Social media is like an accelerant to an arson. Everything moves rapidly and out of control.”

The greatest condemnation of cancel culture came from columnist Andrew Sullivan, who had been “canceled a million times” according to him and was recently canceled by his colleagues at New York magazine.

In a very long part of the report, Sullivan explained that cancel culture was a type of “puritanism” that would have people believe the worst misinformation about America and its people (click “expand”):

SULLIVAN: America has always had these spasms of bullying, of social intimidation, of trying to suppress, from Salem through the blacklist, it goes way back, and this is just another bout of this puritanism which I hope at some point will end. This country is an amazing experiment in openness and diversity, generating more mutual understanding.

KOPPEL: Used to be?

SULLIVAN: No. It’s more than it has ever been. You go anywhere else in the world – anywhere else in the world and find a country as diverse and as tolerant as this one. You try. You think China doesn’t have unbelievable levels, unspeakable racism and sexism in it?

Koppel also spoke to radical leftist and YouTuber Carlos Maza, who gleefully touted his use of cancel culture as a cudgel against his enemies. “I would hope that for as long as I live, racists and transphobes think of me as a bad guy,” he told Koppel. Maza suggested he did what he did to protect gay students from teachers.

“The left is moving towards a deliberate reengineering of our society along identity-based lines. You’re not all white supremacists. These are extremist views,” Sullivan explained to Koppel. “The idea that there’s no difference between men and women, that biological sex does not exist. I mean this stuff is insane.”

Providing some pushback, Koppel noted that those like Maza see cancel culture as a way to wrestle some power for themselves. Sullivan noted that they were just using it “to oppress others” (Click “expand”):

KOPPEL: But to those who say, Andrew, look, for all of the generations that we, women, we, trans, we, blacks, have been oppressed in this country, we finally have the wherewithal —

SULLIVAN: To oppress others?

KOPPEL: We finally have the wherewithal to administer some leverage of our own. What is your answer?

SULLIVAN: I think some of it is motivated by a kind of inverse racism and sexism that wants some kind of payback. Yes, I do believe some of that is part of phycology.

KOPPEL: And what’s the natural evolution of that? Where does it go?

SULLIVAN: I hope people can understand that you don’t make a right by just repeating the wrong.

“More than half the registered voters surveyed in a recent Harvard-Harris poll, 64 percent saw their freedom threatened by a growing cancel culture,” Koppel noted near the end of his segment. But he also seemed to hint that opposition to cancel culture was race-based. “And then there is this: In less than 25 years, white Americans will be a minority.”

Adding: “While the national conversation seems focused on culture icons and the randomness and often silliness of who and what gets canceled, the issues at stake are about real political power. Who gains and who loses” He even seemed to pick on Senator Ted Crux (R-TX), who is Cuban-American, for being opposed to it.

The transcript is below, click “expand” to read:

CBS Sunday Morning
May 2, 2021
10:06:30 a.m. Eastern

JANE PAULEY: Cancel culture is the most recent label for a free-speech debate that has been going on for a very long time. As senior contributor Ted Koppel remembers all too well.

[Cuts to video]

TED KOPPEL: This is Nightline.

In 1987, Al Campanis, a vice president of the L.A. Dodgers, appeared on Nightline and made some deeply offensive remarks about why there weren’t more black managers in baseball.

AL CAMPANIS: No, I don’t believe it is prejudices. I truly believe that they may not some of the necessities.

KOPPEL: Two days later, he was fired. We might say he was canceled.

(…)

KOPPEL: Cancel culture, as it is called these days, is a social weapon that has served the outrage of both the left —

SUNNY HOSTIN: When you cross that kind of societal norm, you must pay the consequence.

KOPPEL: — And the right.

PEARSON SHARP (OANN): Don’t support Major League Baseball whose players actually kneel for the national anthem.

KOPPEL: In 2016, 49ers Quarterback Colin Kaepernick took a knee during the national anthem to protest police violence against blacks.

COLIN KAEPERNICK: I’m going to continue to stand with the people that are being oppressed. This is something that has to change.

Believe in something –

KOPPEL: Canceled?

KAEPERNICK: — even if it means sacrificing everything.

KOPPEL: He never played professional football again.

KAYLEIGH MCENANY: If you can’t apologize and be forgiven, what do they need to do, what are the next steps? Is it public flogging?

KOPPEL: Nowadays, the term “cancel culture” has become the Swiss army knife of political warfare.

ALI VELSHI: The two stupidest words put together: cancel culture.

BILL MAHER: Cancel culture is real, it’s insane, and it’s growing exponentially.

(…)

KOPPEL: They? You know, the left, the squad, the woke crowd.

LAURA INGRAHAM: Liberals successfully purged almost all conservatives from academia, the entertainment industry, and journalism.

KOPPEL: Like those members of the San Francisco board of education who approved a plan to change the names of 44 schools linked to historical racism or oppression. Among those schools, until public outrage caused the board to suspend its plan, was one named after President Lincoln.

JIMMY KIMMEL: This is how Trump gets re-elected, cancel Dr. Seuss, cancel Abe Lincoln, melt down Mr. Potato head’s private parts. This is his path to victory the next time around.

KOPPEL: Controversial? You bet. But listen to Perry Bacon Jr., a senior writer for the website FiveThirtyEight.

PERRY BACON JR. We are undergoing an incredibly important re-examination of who our heroes are and should be. And I think that is not a fake issue at all. I can’t think of anything more important.

KOPPEL: You realize, of course, that that leaves you wide open to the argument that we are applying 21st-century values to 18th-century people?

BACON: I’m a black person in America. I’m pretty happy with some of the things Lincoln did, so I’m not opposed to that.

But I think, yes, we are seeing some of the most fundamental values our society questions: Capitalism, is America an exceptional country? Is America a great country? Is America a model for other countries? Have we treated Native Americans and black people so egregiously bad we’ve never been a true democracy?

So, when you see schools in San Francisco being renamed, I don’t think this is minor. I think we’re sort of really seeing, yes, yes, there are people on the left who absolutely want to re-evaluate the entire American history based on 2021 values, and, hell, yes, that’s controversial.

(…)

CARLOS MAZA: I would hope that for as long as I live, racists and transphobes think of me as a bad guy.

I started making videos because I wanted to teach people about rhetoric and propaganda while still being somewhat entertaining.

KOPPEL: YouTuber Carlos Maza wields his social influence with pride.

MAZA: Is that what you want, to become another reactionary YouTuber? No.

KOPPEL: Those who lose their jobs or reputations to the quick judgment of cancel culture see a national retribution campaign spinning out of control.

BEN SHAPIRO: Everyone will be canceled. Unless you’re on the full-on woke left, in which case you can say anything.

MAZA: If you organized your politics or ethics about how can we avoid Fox News’s horror stories, you’ll never do anything because there is no way to enact change in a multiracial democracy without there being some horror stories.

KOPPEL: 30 years ago, a strikingly similar issue carried a different label.

UNIDENTIFIED JOURNALIST: 1992 is the year of political correctness. Be sensitive or else.

KOPPEL: Political correctness, and Leon Botstein, the president of Bard College, joined me on Nightline to explain why so many teachers on campus were frightened by the phenomenon.

LEON BOTSTEIN: They’re scared because this is a populous intimidation. If it happens at all, within groups of faculty and groups of student where people simply don’t want to risk being either being vilified of popularity, or themselves are unwilling to have their own prejudices examined.

It is ironic that all of this call for diversity has created, within the university a kind of silence about a real exchange of points of view.

[Transition to present day]

This is not a new problem. What is new is the medium.

KOPPEL: 30 years on, Leon Botstein remains president at Bard College, and he recognizes the old symptoms.

BOTSTEIN: Cancel culture is much more focused on punishment. Social media is like an accelerant to an arson. Everything moves rapidly and out of control. So, the slightest spark creates an avalanche, if you will, of retribution. There’s no room for error, and the response is not to start a conversation or a dialogue, but to shut the person out in some way.

KOPPEL: That may be true, says Carlos Maza, but social media simply levels the playing field for the outliers, those like himself a few years back.

MAZA: So, if I were at a school, like I was in high school and had teachers calling kids fagots in classrooms, there was really nothing I could do. And if the alternative to that is that teachers are afraid of offending the gay kid in class, I’m okay with it. What you’re really describing is a power struggle between the marginalized and those who are in power.

ANDREW SULLIVAN: I’ve been canceled a million times. I’ll probably be canceled this afternoon by somebody somewhere. And in the end, you go through that process. And if you have something worthwhile to say, people will find you and listen to you.

KOPPEL: Columnist Andrew Sullivan reports recently experiencing just, when some of his colleagues at New York magazine declared themselves sufficiently uncomfortable with him, that he was, well, canceled.

SULLIVAN: America has always had these spasms of bullying, of social intimidation, of trying to suppress, from Salem through the blacklist, it goes way back, and this is just another bout of this puritanism which I hope at some point will end. This country is an amazing experiment in openness and diversity, generating more mutual understanding.

KOPPEL: Used to be?

SULLIVAN: No. It’s more than it has ever been. You go anywhere else in the world – anywhere else in the world and find a country as diverse and as tolerant as this one. You try. You think China doesn’t have unbelievable levels, unspeakable racism and sexism in it?

KOPPEL: Once at issue, and this is very much going to be a factor in our political process, is a changing power structure, reflecting a change in our national profile. [Images of Black Lives Matter]

SULLIVAN: The left is moving towards a deliberate reengineering of our society along identity-based lines. You’re not all white supremacists. These are extremist views. The idea that there’s no difference between men and women, that biological sex does not exist. I mean this stuff is insane.

KOPPEL: But to those who say, Andrew, look, for all of the generations that we, women, we, trans, we, blacks, have been oppressed in this country, we finally have the wherewithal —

SULLIVAN: To oppress others?

KOPPEL: We finally have the wherewithal to administer some leverage of our own. What is your answer?

SULLIVAN: I think some of it is motivated by a kind of inverse racism and sexism that wants some kind of payback. Yes, I do believe some of that is part of phycology.

KOPPEL: And what’s the natural evolution of that? Where does it go?

SULLIVAN: I hope people can understand that you don’t make a right by just repeating the wrong.

KOPPEL: Look, Andrew, you have always been a voice in the wilderness, but I think yours is a particularly lonely voice right now?

SULLIVAN: I know. I’m aware of it. So what?

BACON: To put it bluntly, white heterosexual men have a little less power to control the discourse and who are not those have a little more to control the discourse.

SEN. TED CRUZ (R-TX): I’m willing to bet 80 percent of the men named Karen voted for Joe Biden.

KOPPEL: Texas Senator Ted Cruz claims to have raised more than $125,000 in 24 hours signing and selling copies of Green Eggs and Ham, the Dr. Seuss classic which incidentally has not been canceled, at $60 a crack. The Senator says he is campaigning against the cancel culture mob.

CRUZ: Go woke, go broke.

KOPPEL: And there’s a huge receptive audience out there. More than half the registered voters surveyed in a recent Harvard-Harris poll, 64 percent saw their freedom threatened by a growing cancel culture. And then there is this: In less than 25 years, white Americans will be a minority.

The political future of the nation is undergoing a seismic shift. While the national conversation seems focused on culture icons and the randomness and often silliness of who and what gets canceled, the issues at stake are about real political power. Who gains and who loses.

Read more: newsbusters.org

North Korea warns U.S. of ‘very grave situation’ over Biden speech

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SEOUL, South Korea — North Korea on Sunday warned the United States will face “a very grave situation” because President Joe Biden “made a big blunder” in his recent speech by calling the North a security threat and revealing his intent to maintain a hostile policy against it.

Last week, Biden, in his first address to Congress, called North Korea and Iran’s nuclear programs “serious threats” to American and world security and said he’ll work with allies to address those problems through diplomacy and stern deterrence.

“His statement clearly reflects his intent to keep enforcing the hostile policy toward the DPRK as it had been done by the U.S. for over half a century,” Kwon Jong Gun, a senior North Korean Foreign Ministry official, said in a statement. DPRK stands for the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, the North’s official name.

“It is certain that the U.S. chief executive made a big blunder in the light of the present-day viewpoint,” Kwon said. “Now that the keynote of the U.S. new DPRK policy has become clear, we will be compelled to press for corresponding measures, and with time the U.S. will find itself in a very grave situation.”

Kwon still didn’t specify what steps North Korea would take, and his statement could be seen as an effort to apply pressure on the Biden administration as it’s shaping up its North Korea policy.

The White House said Friday administration officials had completed a review of U.S. policy toward North Korea, saying Biden plans to veer from the approaches of his two most recent predecessors as he tries to stop North Korea’s nuclear program. Press secretary Jen Psaki did not detail findings of the review, but suggested the administration would seek a middle ground between Donald Trump’s “grand bargain” and Barack Obama’s “strategic patience” approaches.

Kwon’s statement didn’t mention Psaki’s comments.

After a series of high-profile nuclear and missile tests in 2016-17, North Korean leader Kim Jong Un launched summit diplomacy with Trump on the future of his growing nuclear arsenal. But that diplomacy remains stalled for about two years over differences in how much sanctions relief North Korea could win in return for limited denuclearization steps.

In January, Kim threatened to enlarge his nuclear arsenal and build more high-tech weapons targeting the U.S. mainland, saying the fate of bilateral ties would depend on whether it abandons its hostile policy. In March, he conducted short-range ballistic missile tests for the first time in a year, though he still maintains a moratorium on bigger weapons launches.

“If Pyongyang agrees to working-level talks, the starting point of negotiations would be a freeze of North Korean testing and development of nuclear capabilities and delivery systems,” Leif-Eric Easley, a professor at Ewha University in Seoul, said. “If, on the other hand, Kim shuns diplomacy and opts for provocative tests, Washington will likely expand sanctions enforcement and military exercises with allies.”

Also Sunday, an unidentified North Korean Foreign Ministry spokesman vowed a strong, separate response to a recent State Department statement that it would push to promote “accountability for the Kim regime” over its “egregious human rights situation.” He called the statement a preparation for “all-out showdown with us.”

Read more: politico.com

NBC Approves Biden’s Foreign Policy, ‘Confronting’ Russia ‘Unlike’ Trump

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Ahead of President Biden’s address to Congress tomorrow, NBC Nightly News spent part of its Tuesday newscast gaslighting the American people about the President’s foreign policy successes in his first 100 days and trying to memory hole former President Trump’s seismic moves around the globe. At one point, they pushed the lie that Trump had never confronted Russia in any way and then lashed out at Israel while protecting Iran.

“President Biden promised to reach out to allies and punish adversaries,” touted fan girl and chief foreign affairs correspondent Andre Mitchell. “What’s the record show at the 100-day mark?”

Well, near the top of her report Mitchell boasted that “Biden is confronting the Russian leader, unlike Donald Trump.” She then held up the handful of sanctions he’s put in place and his “warning” to Putin:

Sanctioning Russia for election interference, hacking government agencies and U.S. companies, poisoning opposition leader Alexei Navalny, and he’s warning Putin against threatening Ukraine. Still, he’s invited Putin to a summit in a third country, possibly this summer.

What Mitchell was hoping NBC viewers would forget was the fact Trump had kicked 60 Russian diplomats out of the United States in 2018 after a nerve agent was used against a former Russian spy living in the U.K. And here’s the kicker (pun intended), NBC reported it.

“The U.S. will dismiss 60 Russian diplomats identified by officials as intelligence officers, as well as close Russia’s Seattle consulate,” NBC reporter Ali Vitali wrote at the time. “These steps, a senior Trump administration official told reporters on the condition of anonymity Monday morning, were intended to let the Russian government know that ‘when you attack our friends, you will face serious consequences.’”

 

 

Then there’s the $4.75 billion arms deal Trump struck with Poland to deploy a missile defense system, which Russia had opposed to for years. President Obama and Vice President Biden had refused to make the deal for fear of upsetting Russia, they also sat back as Russia annexed Crimea.

The arms deal was just one of the boosts Trump had given to NATO allies. And his demand that other NATO countries contribute more to their mutual defense had led to greater investments and stronger security against Russian aggression.

Further in her report, Mitchell lashed out at Israel for what she described as their attempt to “sabotage” Biden’s work on reinstituting the nuclear deal with Iran. “The President kept his promises to rejoin the Paris climate accord and start indirect talks to rejoin and strengthen the Iran nuclear deal. Talks almost sabotaged when Iran’s main nuclear facility was attacked, the U.S. believes by Israel,” she huffed.

And with a smirk on her face, Mitchell invited national security adviser Jake Sullivan to knock Israel in an interview:

MITCHELL: Would you prefer if no one were to attack Iran’s nuclear facilities while you’re trying to get negotiations started?

SULLIVAN: We certainly believe that are certain kinds of activities that are unhelpful to diplomacy.

Meanwhile, Mitchell failed to mention that it was Iran who was trying to sabotage the negotiations with hostile actions against U.S. Navy vessels in the Persian Gulf earlier in the day. NBC instead relegated it to their website.

“A U.S. Navy ship fired warning shots near three Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps boats in the Persian Gulf after the vessels approached at close range and ignored repeated appeals to pull back, the Navy said Tuesday,” they reported.

But to keep up the illusion of being objective, Mitchell did have to ding him a bit. “Where has he fallen short,” she rhetorically asked. “He lifted the Trump Muslim ban but so far has broken his promise to let in more legally vetted refugees than his predecessor.”

NBC’s gaslighting and memory hole was made possible because of lucrative sponsorships and from GEICO and Liberty Mutual. Their contact information is linked so you can tell them about the biased news they fund.

The transcript is below, click “expand” to read:

NBC Nightly News
April 27, 2021
7:11:42 p.m. Eastern [2 minutes 21 seconds]

LESTER HOLT: And with that, let’s turn our look at President Biden’s first 100 days and where he stands tonight on some of the biggest foreign policy challenges he faces. Among them, Russia, China, and Iran. Here’s Andrea Mitchell.

[Cuts to video]

CHIEF JUSTICE JOHN ROBERTS: Congratulations, Mr. President.

ANDREA MITCHELL: President Biden promised to reach out to allies and punish adversaries.

PRESIDENT JOE BIDEN: Good afternoon.

MITCHELL: What’s the record show at the 100-day mark? As protesters challenge Vladimir Putin at home, Biden is confronting the Russian leader, unlike Donald Trump. Sanctioning Russia for election interference, hacking government agencies and U.S. companies, poisoning opposition leader Alexei Navalny, and he’s warning Putin against threatening Ukraine. Still, he’s invited Putin to a summit in a third country, possibly this summer.

MICHAEL MCFAUL (international affairs analyst): He’s testing the Biden administration, and then he gets rewarded by having a summit. And so that, I think, encourages belligerent behavior.

MITCHELL: But an aggressive China is a bigger long-term threat, its warships threatening Taiwan and other U.S. allies, committing genocide against the Muslim Uighurs, and crushing democracy in Hong Kong.

JAKE SULLIVAN (Nat. Sec. Adviser): China is the most significant strategic challenge facing the United States. It is a country that is growing in economic clout. It is advancing its military capabilities, and it’s acting in increasingly aggressive and assertive ways.

MITCHELL: The President kept his promises to rejoin the Paris climate accord and start indirect talks to rejoin and strengthen the Iran nuclear deal. Talks almost sabotaged when Iran’s main nuclear facility was attacked, the U.S. believes by Israel.

Would you prefer if no one were to attack Iran’s nuclear facilities while you’re trying to get negotiations started?

SULLIVAN: We certainly believe that are certain kinds of activities that are unhelpful to diplomacy.

MITCHELL: The President’s biggest decision so far, starting the withdrawal from Afghanistan, overruling his own generals.

Where has he fallen short? He lifted the Trump Muslim ban but so far has broken his promise to let in more legally vetted refugees than his predecessor.

[Cuts back to live]

And while sanctioning Saudi Arabia for murdering journalist Jamal Khashoggi, the President failed to punish the Saudi crown prince, who the CIA says was responsible. Another example where President Biden is balancing his promises versus the reality of foreign policy. Lester.

HOLT: Okay. Andrea, thank you.

Read more: newsbusters.org

Biden’s unlikely new ally on climate change: Corporate America

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Donald Trump called climate change “a Chinese hoax” and said global emissions goals would be “very hard on our business.” But when the former president pulled the U.S. out of the Paris accord in 2017, there was no celebrating in the C-suite.

Instead, Corporate America went where the federal government wouldn’t, with companies issuing their own Paris-aligned pledges even without pressure from regulators. The We Are Still In campaign — hundreds of corporate leaders, nonprofits and cities — was born and had an outsized presence at climate meetings that year in Bonn, where several companies committed to targets for cutting emissions.

Now those business leaders have allied with President Joe Biden to push Congress to do its part. Executives who stepped into the vacuum left by Trump say they need Washington to standardize corporate risk disclosure, modernize the electrical grid, price carbon, and put money into technology if the U.S. is to meet its goal on greenhouse gas emissions.

“We can’t do it alone,” HP Inc. CEO Enrique Lores said at a World Wildlife Fund event last week. “There is a limit to how far private industry can take this.”

The shift by business, a group long tied to Republicans, has raised hope among environmentalists that corporate lobbyists will be able to do what they couldn’t —persuade lawmakers, particularly conservatives, to limit the release of greenhouse gases.

In the past, “you couldn’t go to a board and have a real conversation about climate. People thought you were making a political statement,” said Helen Clarkson, CEO of The Climate Group, a nonprofit that partners with business on climate action. “Suddenly you saw these companies stepping forward and lobbying President Trump not to pull out of Paris.”

It’s a fight for survival, and profits. Some corporations are long on virtue-signaling and short on action, but many others, including HP, Microsoft Corp., General Motors Co., Danone S.A. and Gap Inc., are spending millions of dollars to push the boundaries of renewable energy, protect water resources, and deploy new technology as they rush to deal with climate change and gain a competitive edge.

Their impact has been significant. As of last year, corporate buyers had reached deals for a combined 10.6 gigawatts of renewable capacity, the equivalent of 33 million solar panels. On Wall Street, firms with $37 trillion under management, including mutual fund giants State Street and Vanguard, have pledged to go net zero.

If just 80 of the largest corporate emitters meet their pledged targets, they could reduce global emissions by more than 8 billion metric tons, or about 25 percent, according to an analysis by BloombergNEF. That’s the equivalent of zeroing out all emissions in the U.S. and Japan combined.

“The magnitude of this is colossal,” BNEF analyst Kyle Harrison said. “This is only 80 companies, and what they can achieve is ridiculous.”

More than 400 companies this month urged Biden to align with their own promises to cut emissions, what’s known in climate lingo as a nationally determined contribution or NDC. Biden committed to reducing emissions by half during a global climate summit he convened last week.

“The last time an NDC was set, who even knew what an NDC was? It wasn’t as if companies were engaged. Now they’re on the front lines,” said Anne Kelly, vice president of government relations at CERES, a nonprofit that helped organize the Biden letter. “There’s a genuine recognition of climate change. I don’t see this as virtue signaling.”

Armed with economic data, executives are working Capitol Hill to make a case for carbon pricing and, in some cases, convince Republican lawmakers that the cost of Biden’s multitrillion-dollar jobs plan is greater than the cost of inaction.

Privately, many lawmakers are listening, lobbyists say. But publicly, climate remains politically divisive. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell has decried “woke” corporations for weighing in on social issues, and fewer than half of Republicans think the U.S. should reduce its greenhouse gas emissions, according to a survey from the Yale Program on Climate Communication.

“We’ve had offices call us up and say, ‘We want to figure out stuff that makes sense for us,’” said Chris Adamo, vice president for federal and industry affairs at Danone North America. “The actual dialogue, for Republicans, can be very constructive.”

The food multinational, like hundreds of other companies, has set its own internal price on carbon — about $42 per metric ton — and is pushing for government help on sustainable agriculture.

“We need policies,” Adamo said. “We’re going to invest millions of dollars of our money. To do it alone is going to be very difficult and probably a lot slower. That’s true for most sectors.”

Even the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, long the dominant force in corporate lobbying in Washington, has changed its approach. In 2019 the group ceded to pressure from members to abandon its obstruction on climate action, and last week it endorsed Biden’s Paris pledge. The test will be how — or whether — the chamber works to bring Republicans on board.

“What those statements did in my mind was free up Republican members of Congress who had been progressive on climate issues but were afraid to talk about it,” said Hugh Welsh, president of nutrition giant DSM North America. “We’ll have to wait and see when the first big climate bills come up whether the chamber actively promotes them or lobbies against them. I’m going to give them the benefit of the doubt for the time being.”

College students organizing under the banner of Change the Chamber — think a battalion of Greta Thunbergs — last year began naming and shaming the association’s members on social media. Their message: Customers won’t let brands get away with hiding behind the trade group.

Plenty of businesses were on board the last time Congress tried a heavy lift on climate. The contours of a 2009 cap-and-trade bill from then-Reps. Henry Waxman (D-Calif.) and Ed Markey (D-Mass.) were designed by a committee in which business played a prominent role.

“Chemistry, oil, auto — they were all part of it,” Waxman said in an interview. “We had important business backing. It wasn’t enough.”

“I worked on the assumption that Republicans were the party of business. I was wrong,” Waxman said. “Let’s hope this time I’m not wrong.”

Read more: politico.com

Biden administration advances emergency Covid-19 workplace safety rules after weeks of delay

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The Biden administration is advancing emergency workplace safety rules to prevent the spread of the coronavirus after weeks of delay and growing pressure from Democrats and safety advocates.

The Labor Department sent the safety standards to the Office of Management and Budget for review Monday night, according to a DOL spokesperson, the first step before they are released publicly and go into effect.

"OSHA has been working diligently on its proposal and has taken the appropriate time to work with its science-agency partners, economic agencies, and others in the U.S. government to get this proposed emergency standard right," the spokesperson said.

Shortly after taking office, Biden gave the Labor Department a March 15 deadline to decide whether mandatory workplaces safety rules were necessary to protect workers from Covid-19.

But after the deadline passed, the agency said Labor Secretary Marty Walsh requested additional layers of review of the rules "based on CDC analysis and the latest information regarding the state of vaccinations and the variants."

On Monday, Michigan Democratic Reps. Debbie Dingell, Rashida Tlaib and Andy Levin pressed Biden for an explanation on the status of the rules, as Covid-19 infections and ICU capacity have surged in the state in recent weeks.

House Democrats have also summoned DOL officials and occupational health experts to testify before Congress Friday on the status of coronavirus workplace safety rules promised by Biden.

OMB’S Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs is expected to take roughly two weeks before it publishes the requirements, which are then likely to take effect immediately.

The rules are expected to require employers to supply their workers with masks, have a written plan to avert exposure in the workplace and take other precautions that could kick up complaints from businesses over costs as more states relax pandemic restrictions.

The new mandates, which will be laid out in the emergency temporary standards by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, mark the first time since 1983 that the workplace safety watchdog has used its emergency powers to swiftly require employers to provide certain protections to their workers. And the rules mark a significant departure from the Trump administration’s business-friendly approach of providing optional safety guidelines to employers.

The Biden administration rules — which will stay in effect for the next six months — land at the same time many states have started to roll back restrictions on businesses, including mask mandates.

Employers in states that have relaxed their own Covid-19 rules — like Texas and Mississippi — will now have to provide their workers with masks and other protective equipment under the federal OSHA rules, a requirement they did not face until now.

The rules will act as a floor for the 14 states that have instituted their own coronavirus-specific workplace protections.

OSHA has the authority to issue such emergency temporary standards when it determines that “workers are in grave danger due to exposure to toxic substances or agents determined to be toxic or physically harmful or to new hazards.”

The standards are open for public input and the Labor Department is required to adopt permanent safety standards within six months.

The emergency temporary standards can be challenged by affected parties in federal court.

The Biden administration’s stricter enforcement posture during the pandemic comes after a year of a far more lenient approach from the Trump administration.

The Trump-led OSHA declined to issue a workplace safety standard, instead providing optional guidelines that it said would give employers flexibility as more information about the virus was released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

But an audit of the Trump OSHA’s enforcement during the pandemic by the Labor Department’s independent watchdog found that the agency did not provide the level of protection workers needed during the crisis and left workers’ safety at increased risk.

The report, released in March, noted that while OSHA has received an influx of safety complaints during the pandemic, the agency suspended most of its on-site safety inspections last year, instead opting for informal inspections that typically result in a phone call to the facility, putting employee’s safety at greater risk.

Biden and Democrats now in control of both chambers of Congress have vowed to step up enforcement.

Lawmakers set aside $75 million for OSHA in the massive stimulus package Biden signed into law in March.

During his confirmation hearing before the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee, Labor Secretary Walsh said safety standards should not be seen as “terrible” for businesses. “This is about protecting their workforce, it’s about protecting their companies,” he said.

Read more: politico.com

Spy chiefs look to declassify intel after rare plea from 4-star commanders

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America’s top spies say they are looking for ways to declassify and release more intelligence about adversaries’ bad behavior, after a group of four-star military commanders sent a rare and urgent plea asking for help in the information war against Russia and China.

A host of troubling actions from those two countries — including efforts to damage America’s relationships with allies and to violate other countries’ sovereignty — mean the Intelligence Community must do more to show the world what Russia and China are doing, according to the commanders.

The memo from nine regional military commanders last year implored spy agencies to give them more evidence they can make public as a way to combat "pernicious conduct."

Only by "waging the truth in the public domain against America’s 21st century challengers” can Washington shore up support from American allies, they said. But efforts to compete in the battle of ideas, they added, are hamstrung by overly stringent secrecy practices.

“We request this help to better enable the US, and by extension its allies and partners, to win without fighting, to fight now in so-called gray zones, and to supply ammunition in the ongoing war of narratives," the commanders who oversee U.S. military forces in Asia, Europe, Africa, Latin America, as well as special operations troops, wrote to then-acting Director of National Intelligence Joseph Maguire last January.

“Unfortunately, we continue to miss opportunities to clarify truth, counter distortions, puncture false narratives, and influence events in time to make a difference," they added.

The memo, which was reviewed by POLITICO and has not been made public, made waves inside the Pentagon, the Intelligence Community, and on Capitol Hill over the past year, where it has come to be known as the "36-star memo." It wasn’t a command or an ultimatum; rather, it implored the Intelligence Community to make big changes.

The fact that it was signed by nine of the 11 four-star combatant commanders — all but one of whom are still in uniform — is nearly unheard of, said multiple government officials familiar with the memo who said it underscored an unusual level of alarm among the top brass. The top leaders for U.S. Central Command and Cyber Command did not sign.

The letter was organized by Adm. Phil Davidson, the outgoing head of U.S. Indo-Pacific Command, and was also signed by Gen. Jay Raymond, who at the time was commander of U.S. Space Command but is now head of the Space Force and a member of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

Spokespeople for Davidson and Raymond declined to comment on the memo or their concerns.

The missive casts in sharp relief some of the trickiest perennial challenges for U.S. national security leaders: When do you go public with classified intelligence? And what role do secrets play in the global battle for public opinion?

“The Russians and the Chinese, in particular, have weaponized information," said Kari Bingen, who was one of the recipients of the memo when she was undersecretary of defense for intelligence and security. "This is a significant concern that is being raised by military commanders and intelligence professionals.”

“The combatant commands are out at the edge," she added in an interview. "Their forces are interacting with our allies and partners, and seeing what our adversaries are doing, on a daily basis. They need timely and relevant information to expose bad activity and to counter what they’re seeing.”

Bad behavior

The Russians and Chinese militaries have been increasingly aggressive. Moscow this spring amassed a large combat force along its border with Ukraine and has stepped up its incursions into North American and European airspace. It has also been the target of additional U.S. sanctions for its sustained campaign to meddle in the American electoral process and engage in cyber attacks.

Beijing has continued its military expansion into contested areas of the South China Sea, most recently a chain of islands claimed by the Philippines. It has also mounted an aggressive campaign to bully Taiwan, which it considers a breakaway province, including brazenly sending more than two dozen combat planes into its air defense zone this month.

Meanwhile, the State Department has said that Russia and China have used the coronavirus pandemic to push anti-American conspiracy theories, including that the virus was an American-made bioweapon and that U.S. troops were responsible for its rapid spread.

The memo from the generals and admirals, which was unclassified but labeled “for official use only,” insisted the status quo falls far short of what they need to counter such propaganda, which means broadcasting to the world that Russia and China are undermining global order and democratic institutions.

One area of intelligence that the military said needs to be made more public is satellite images. A former senior Pentagon intelligence official said the memo alludes to frustrations some combatant commanders have about their inability to share satellite photos with allies and partners about adversaries’ behavior.

A second former defense official also said commanders have vented privately that they’re not getting the kind of intelligence they want or they’re getting it too late, or they’re getting it overly classified so they can’t circulate it.

The admin’s plan

Last summer, a team of senior Pentagon and intelligence officials convened a series of working groups in response to the military memo and issued recommendations, according to Matt Lahr, deputy assistant DNI for Strategic Communications.

In December 2020, the Office of the Director of National Intelligence requested intelligence agencies "review their existing procedures and improve their posture to support Combatant Commands at the speed and scale they require," Lahr said in a statement.

He added that "initial responses" were received from directors of the spy agencies in January of this year. Now, Director of National Intelligence Avril Haines and David Taylor, who is performing the duties of undersecretary of defense for intelligence and security, "are reviewing the agencies’ progress and emphasize that countering malign influence remains a top priority.”

Officials outlined a series of steps in their efforts to respond to the military’s continuing concerns about losing the information war. For starters, that includes "a review of existing IC procedures to shorten timelines and create efficiencies in disclosure, downgrading, and declassification processes." Another goal is "the publication of priority intelligence requirements that address strategic messaging and malign influence," Lahr said.

In other words, that means ODNI is telling other U.S. intelligence agencies to increase their focus on how hostile governments try to shape global public opinion, both secretly and publicly. But the statement doesn’t indicate just how high up on the list of priorities that focus has moved.

ODNI is also in the process of creating education and training programs for intelligence officers and analysts on how to spot different forms of misinformation or disinformation by adversaries, according to the statement.

Need for speed

A number of current and former national security officials told POLITICO that the efforts now underway are moving too slowly.

Rep. Ruben Gallego, who chairs the House Armed Services Committee’s Subcommittee on Intelligence and Special Operations, briefly mentioned the memo in a hearing last month. He told POLITICO that the change its authors called for has yet to materialize.

“I think there’s meaningful movement,” he said of the 15 months since the memo was delivered. “I can’t say that it’s been a change yet, because this is still evolving.”

Gallego said America is most effective at countering enemy propaganda where U.S. military forces are in combat, because there is a greater urgency to share intelligence to debunk conspiracy theories or try to sway the civilian population.

But when competing against adversaries in murkier circumstances that lie somewhere between peace and all-out war, as it is with Russia, Gallego said the U.S. struggles.

“There is no winning definitive victories, but you can definitely lose,” he said.

That concern is shared by Republicans and Democrats alike. The top Republican on the Senate Armed Services Committee, Sen. Jim Inhofe of Oklahoma, told POLITICO that four-star commanders "need more tools that empower them" as they wage a "war of information."

"Our inability to speak publicly about the real threats coming from China and Russia means many Americans don’t truly know everything we’re up against," Inhofe said in a statement. "It makes it easier to argue to cut the defense budget when we can’t have an honest discussion about these threats."

"I know this frustrates many of my colleagues on both sides of the aisle — and we need to get better at fighting in this space," he added. "Our adversaries like to operate in the shadows, and the best way to combat them is to call out their lies."

This battle of ideas is viewed as only widening. In a new threat assessment published this month, the DNI highlighted the aggressive campaigns by both Russia and China to shape global public opinion.

“Beijing has been intensifying efforts to shape the political environment in the United States to promote its policy preferences, mold public discourse, pressure political figures whom Beijing believes oppose its interests, and muffle criticism of China on such issues as religious freedom and the suppression of democracy in Hong Kong,” it said.

Russia, meanwhile, “presents one of the most serious intelligence threats to the United States, using its intelligence services and influence tools to try to divide Western alliances, preserve its influence in the post-Soviet area, and increase its sway around the world, while undermining US global standing, sowing discord inside the United States, and influencing US voters and decisionmaking.”

The generals, in their memo, put it this way: "China and Russia are employing all instruments of comprehensive national power to execute political warfare, manipulate the information environment, violate the sovereignty of nations, co-opt international bodies, weaken the integrity of multilateral institutions, and splinter our alliances and partnerships. Their efforts to reshape the world in their image, proliferate authoritarianism, and advance their ambitions are provocative, dangerous, and destabilizing."

But in the view of those who are seeing it up close, the United States is still playing catch-up.

Citing "the severity and pace of the information challenge," the commanders said countering Russia and China in the court of public opinion "will take active and prolonged engagement" from senior leaders "to accelerate a transformation to meet the volume, variety, veracity, and velocity of information ammunition that we require."

“I would expect the combatant commanders to ask for more from the IC on how the adversaries are using information for operational advantage," said Sue Gordon, a career intelligence official who retired in 2019 after becoming ODNI’s second-most senior official.

But America also has a major advantage against China and Russia, said Sen. Jack Reed, who chairs the Armed Services Committee. "The truth is on our side and we need to do a better job of illuminating and exposing these activities."

Connor O’Brien contributed to this report.

Read more: politico.com

Cuomo offers blanket denial of harassment allegations

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New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo has fiercely denied allegations of sexual harassment leveled at him over the past several months during his first in-person Q&A with press since late last year.

The governor was asked Monday about the multiple scandals and investigations that have enveloped his administration during an event at the Fairgrounds outside of Syracuse after he announced that the State Fair will reopen this summer at 50 percent capacity. Cuomo denied the allegations of several women who have accused him of behavior ranging from inappropriate comments to groping.

“To put it very simply ‘no,’” he said, when asked if the reports were true.

When asked if he would resign if a forthcoming investigation from state Attorney General Tish James’ office finds evidence otherwise, Cuomo said that would not be the case.

“The report can’t say anything different because I didn’t do anything wrong,” he said.

Background: Cuomo has apologized for making anyone feel uncomfortable and acknowledged that he regularly hugs and kisses both men and women to greet them, but has regularly denied allegations of “inappropriate” physical contact or relationships.

Cuomo also denied reports that executive chamber employees were forced to work on the production of the book he published last year, saying that staffers volunteered for the work. But there are no specific records of when exactly they were working in a volunteer capacity versus their official duties.

Oh, about that fair: Cuomo is a big fan of the fair and has regularly touted his administration’s investment in its growth and development. Cuomo said that the fair will run the full 18 days at 50 percent capacity spread out among four different locations.

Those limitations could shift one way or another between now and the Aug. 20 opening date, Cuomo said. He also announced looser gathering restrictions across the state.

Starting May 19, outdoor stadium capacity will increase from 20 percent to 33 percent. On May 15, offices can increase from 50 percent to 75 percent capacity, casinos will increase from 25 percent to 50 percent and gyms outside New York City will increase from 33 percent to 50 percent.

Read more: politico.com

Intelligence community creating hub to gird against foreign influence

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The nation’s top spy agency has begun work to establish a hub to combat hostile foreign meddling in U.S. affairs, following multiple assessments that Russia and other countries have sought to sway elections and sow chaos among the American people.

The Office of the Director of National Intelligence will create the Foreign Malign Influence Center “in light of evolving threats and in support of growing policy and congressional requirements,” an agency spokesperson said Monday in a statement to POLITICO.

The center will be a clearinghouse for intelligence related to malign influence from multiple government agencies and provide assessments and warning of such activities.

Its creation comes after repeated warnings by American officials and congressional lawmakers that foreign efforts to influence the U.S. are likely to continue in coming years.

Last month the clandestine community released a declassified report that marked the most comprehensive intelligence assessment of foreign meddling in the 2020 election. The report found that Russian President Vladimir Putin authorized efforts to damage Joe Biden’s candidacy and mounted operations to influence people close to President Donald Trump.

Other nations, including Iran, also sought to affect the election as well, the report said. China considered launching its own efforts but did not go through with them.

The assessment was the latest in a series of findings dating back to January 2017, when intelligence agencies concluded the Russian government interfered in the 2016 presidential election with the goal of putting Trump in the Oval Office — a finding that the Senate Intelligence Committee later reaffirmed during its probe of Moscow’s influence operations.

A Republican-controlled House Intelligence Committee concluded that the Kremlin had made attempts to sway the election but raised questions on the tradecraft about Putin’s preference for Trump.

ODNI was directed to establish the new center in a recent intelligence authorization bill. That legislation required that the hub be “inclusive of analysts from all” intelligence elements and serve as the federal government’s “integrator to all intelligence pertaining to foreign malign influence and provide appropriate assessments to policymakers.”

The legislation directed that the center cover malign influence activities by Russia, Iran, North Korea and China.

Director of National Intelligence Avril Haines began emphasizing the need to create the center after being sworn into office in January, according to an ODNI official.

Testifying before the House Intelligence Committee earlier this month, Haines acknowledged that work on the center had begun, calling efforts to stem influence operations an “incredibly important issue.”

“I do believe that we [are] on the way to the right infrastructure to actually address these issues from an intelligence community perspective in order to be able to identify things and share them,” she said.

She later promised to brief lawmakers on the center’s design before finalizing any plans.

A House Intelligence Committee official said several options for the center had been provided to Haines for her consideration but that it was their understanding that reviews on the development of the most effective structure and size for the hub are still in progress.

The ODNI official said the agency “expects to stand up the center as soon as possible” but declined to give an approximate timeline.

It’s unclear what the center’s budget will ultimately be, as ODNI doesn’t disclose specific intelligence community budget figures.

Lawmakers welcomed the center’s creation.

Senate Intelligence Chair Mark Warner (D-Va.) said last month’s declassified assessment “further underscored the threat posed by foreign adversaries who continue to exploit American social media in order to interfere in our elections and cause chaos and division.”

While the spy community has “dramatically improved its game since 2016, it makes sense to have one location within it to integrate all of the various threat streams in one place,” he added.

House Intelligence Chair Adam Schiff (D-Calif.) expressed hope that the center “can accomplish the mission Congress intended — arming US officials and the American people with information that they need to recognize and respond to foreign influence and interference campaigns that undermine our democracy,” Schiff said.

Read more: politico.com

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