Russia mystery threatens to consume Washington
CNN – Washington has become a hall of mirrors, where it’s impossible to distinguish between rumor and fact as conspiracy theories and partisan paroxysms rage — all arising from an alleged Russian spy plot to sway last year’s election that is now clouding the new administration.
The White House is finding it impossible to put to rest claims it has improper ties to Russia. Often, President Trump himself reignites the drama — apparently to his detriment — as with his sensational claim Saturday that his predecessor Barack Obama tapped his phones.
Congress meanwhile is becoming consumed by gossip and hearsay, while a drip, drip, drip of disclosures about Trump world’s contacts with Russian officials feed blockbuster news stories.
New Administration Inherits Cyber War Against N. Korean Missiles
New York Times – Three years ago, President Barack Obama ordered Pentagon officials to step up their cyber and electronic strikes against North Korea’s missile program in hopes of sabotaging test launches in their opening seconds.
Soon a large number of the North’s military rockets began to explode, veer off course, disintegrate in midair and plunge into the sea. Advocates of such efforts say they believe that targeted attacks have given American antimissile defenses a new edge and delayed by several years the day when North Korea will be able to threaten American cities with nuclear weapons launched atop intercontinental ballistic missiles.
But other experts have grown increasingly skeptical of the new approach, arguing that manufacturing errors, disgruntled insiders and sheer incompetence can also send missiles awry. Over the past eight months, they note, the North has managed to successfully launch three medium-range rockets. And Kim Jong-un, the North Korean leader, now claims his country is in “the final stage in preparations” for the inaugural test of his intercontinental missiles — perhaps a bluff, perhaps not.
US Republicans Expected to Unveil Healthcare Bill This Week
Reuters – Since taking office in January, Trump has pressed his fellow Republicans who control Congress to act quickly to dismantle former Democratic President Barack Obama’s Affordable Care Act and pass a plan to replace it, but lawmakers in the party have differed on the specifics.
Democrats have warned that Republicans risk throwing the entire U.S. healthcare system into chaos by repealing the 2010 law that was passed by congressional Democrats over united Republican opposition. Republicans condemn it as a government overreach, and Trump has called it a “disaster.”
The aide cited progress in meetings and phone calls starting on Friday and lasting through the weekend involving House of Representatives Speaker Paul Ryan, Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price, White House budget chief Mick Mulvaney, Trump domestic policy adviser Andrew Bremberg and others.
Teachers, Parents Struggle to Comforts Children Fearful of Targeted Raids
NPR – In early December, Joann Lee and her family were crossing the street in front of The Los Angeles County Museum of Art. A white van was stopped at the light. Out of nowhere, Lee says, the driver of the van, a white woman, said to Lee’s 7-year-old daughter, “You are the most disgusting girl in the whole world. Your family killed my family so you could enjoy a day at the museum.”
Lee was shocked. Her daughter Terin was confused. “It wasn’t overtly racist, but there were overtones. … We were clearly a large group of Asians crossing the street,” Lee said. Bystanders chastised the woman and unsuccessfully tried to snap a photo of her license plate. Meanwhile, Lee wasn’t sure what to tell her daughter.
“I think at that point it hit me,” Lee said. “My kids were born during the Obama administration. It was nice for them to have an African American president. And I was looking forward to them having a female president. … It kind of made me sad. It made me realize I really have to prepare myself for how to explain things like that to them without becoming bitter and hateful of certain types of people.”
North Korea Has Launched Several Missiles Toward Japan
BuzzFeed – North Korea on Monday launched several missiles that flew about 1,000 kilometers before falling into the waters between it and Japan.
The banned missiles came from a long-range launch facility, and a South Korean defense official said they could be capable of reaching the continental US, South Korean media reported.
The launch appeared to be a protest of joint military drills by South Korea and the US, South Korea’s military said. The missiles were fired around 7:30 a.m. from a launch facility near North Korea’s border with China, from which they traveled across North Korea and fell into the waters of the Sea of Japan.