A visual that shows just how many Rohingya villages have been burned

2018 01 01T040120Z 1 LYNXMPEE000MP RTROPTP 0 MYANMAR ROHINGYA BANGLADESH 1 150x150 - A visual that shows just how many Rohingya villages have been burned

FILE PHOTO: A Rohingya refugee family eats as they sit inside their semi constructed shelter at Kutupalong refugee camp near Cox's Bazar
FILE PHOTO: A Rohingya refugee family eats as they sit inside their semi constructed shelter at Kutupalong refugee camp near Cox’s Bazar, Bangladesh October 24, 2017. REUTERS/Adnan Abidi

January 1, 2018

(Reuters) – In the four months since the Myanmar military began a crackdown after Rohingya militants attacked an army base and police posts on Aug. 25, around 655,000 members of the stateless Muslim minority have fled the western state of Rakhine and crossed into neighboring Bangladesh.

A Reuters graphic makes use of data from the U.N. Operational Satellite Applications Programme (UNOSAT) to show hundreds of villages in Rakhine state that were once inhabited by the Rohingya, but have now been burned down.

A total of 354 villages have either been completely or partially destroyed, Human Rights Watch said on Dec. 18.

The data, which was gathered from Aug. 25, the day of the Rohingya militant attack, to Nov. 25, shows burned settlements in an area stretching 110 km (68 miles) from the green hills of Rakhine’s northern tip to beaches near the state’s capital Sittwe in the south.

See the interactive graphic here: http://tmsnrt.rs/2zGVUmt

Top officials in the United Nations and United States have described the Myanmar military’s crackdown as ethnic cleansing.

Myanmar has denied human rights abuses, saying its military is engaged in legitimate counter-insurgency operations. The military exonerated itself of all accusations of atrocities in an internal investigation, which published its findings on Nov. 13. Myanmar’s civilian government has said that the burnings were carried out by Rohingya militants and the Rohingya themselves.

Myanmar’s military did not respond to Reuters’ questions about its role in the alleged atrocities against the Rohingya described in this graphic.

(Reporting by Weiyi Cai, Simon Scarr and Simon Lewis; Writing by Karishma Singh; Editing by Raju Gopalakrishnan and Martin Howell)

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Likud party calls for de-facto annexation of Israeli settlements

2017 12 31T214236Z 1 LYNXMPEDBU0K4 RTROPTP 0 ISRAEL PALESTINIANS LIKUD 1 150x150 - Likud party calls for de-facto annexation of Israeli settlements

Party supporters demonstrate during a Likud Central Committee meeting in Airport City
Party supporters demonstrate during a Likud Central Committee meeting in Airport City, Israel December 31, 2017. REUTERS/Amir Cohen

December 31, 2017

By Rami Amichay

LOD, Israel (Reuters) – Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s Likud party unanimously urged legislators in a non-binding resolution on Sunday to effectively annex Israeli settlements in the occupied West Bank, land that Palestinians want for a future state.

By enacting civilian law over settlements, the move could streamline procedures for their construction and expansion. That land is currently under military jurisdiction and Israel’s defense minister has a final say on building there.

The settlers are subject to Israeli civilian law.

“We will now promote the recognition of our sovereignty of the Jewish settlements in Judea and Samaria (the West Bank). … We must begin to enact this sovereignty, we have the moral right and obligation towards our settler brothers,” Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan told a meeting of Likud’s Central Committee.

Netanyahu is not bound to follow the resolution. He did not attend the meeting, which attracted several hundred delegates including ministers, legislators and party officials. The Likud Central Committee is the party’s governing body.

At least two previous Likud Central Committee decisions have been ignored by party leaders:

In 2002, it voted against the creation of a Palestinian state, but then-Prime Minister Ariel Sharon said he would act as he saw fit and Netanyahu in 2009 voiced conditional support for the establishment of a Palestinian state in a landmark speech.

Political commentators said the decision might bolster right-wing support for Netanyahu, who could seek a public mandate in an early election as he awaits possible criminal indictments against him on corruption suspicions. He denies wrongdoing.

Although parliamentary elections are not due until November 2019, the police investigations in two cases of alleged corruption against Netanyahu and tensions among partners in his governing coalition could hasten a poll.

Most countries view settlements that Israel has built on land captured in the 1967 Middle East war as illegal. Israel disputes that and cites biblical, historical and political links to the West Bank, as well as security interests.

About 400,000 settlers and 2.8 million Palestinians live in the West Bank. The Palestinians want to establish a state in the West Bank and Gaza Strip with East Jerusalem as its capital.

In 1981, Israel enacted civilian law on the Golan Heights, territory captured from Syria in 1967, a de-facto annexation of the strategic plateau. The move has not won international recognition.

Israeli settlements have been one of the main stumbling blocks in Israeli-Palestinian peace talks that have been frozen since 2014. Efforts by U.S. President Donald Trump’s envoys to restart them have not yet shown any progress. Trump this month recognized Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, reversing decades of U.S. policy.

(Writing by Ori Lewis; Editing by Peter Cooney)

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POLITICO Playbook: TRUMP to lunch with RICK SCOTT

171231rickscottpotuspbsplashgettyimages 693862798 150x150 - POLITICO Playbook: TRUMP to lunch with RICK SCOTT

WELCOME TO THE DOORSTEP OF 2018 — @realDonaldTrump at 8:36 a.m.: “Why would smart voters want to put Democrats in Congress in 2018 Election when their policies will totally kill the great wealth created during the months since the Election. People are much better off now not to mention ISIS, VA, Judges, Strong Border, 2nd A, Tax Cuts & more?”

— FRONT PAGE OF THE L.A. TIMES (and other Tronc-owned papers like the Hartford Courant): “GOP faces Democratic wave in ‘18: For all their successes, Republicans end 2017 confronting bad signs for keeping control after midterm vote” http://bit.ly/2C0O213

Story Continued Below

Happy New Year’s Eve! SPOTTED LAST NIGHT, at Wilbur Ross’s birthday party in Palm Beach: Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and wife Louise Linton, Ivanka Trump and Jared Kushner, U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer, Tom Quinn and Lynly Boor, David Koch, former Canadian Prime Minister Brian Mulroney and wife Mila, Christopher Ruddy and Talbott Maxey, Dr. Mehmet Oz and wife Lisa Lemole, Bret and Amy Baier, David Rubenstein, U.S. Ambassador to Morocco David Fischer, Ken and Jackie Duberstein and Nelson Peltz.

THE PRESIDENT will eat lunch today with Florida Gov. Rick Scott and they will “discuss ongoing hurricane recovery efforts, the need to improve the nation’s aging infrastructure and other matters important to Floridians,” per the White House, via WSJ’s Mike Bender.

THE STORY EVERYONE IS TALKING ABOUT … NYT’S SHARON LAFRANIERE, MARK MAZZETTI and MATT APUZZO: “How the Russia Inquiry Began: A Campaign Aide, Drinks and Talk of Political Dirt”: “During a night of heavy drinking at an upscale London bar in May 2016, George Papadopoulos, a young foreign policy adviser to the Trump campaign, made a startling revelation to Australia’s top diplomat in Britain: Russia had political dirt on Hillary Clinton. About three weeks earlier, Mr. Papadopoulos had been told that Moscow had thousands of emails that would embarrass Mrs. Clinton, apparently stolen in an effort to try to damage her campaign. Exactly how much Mr. Papadopoulos said that night at the Kensington Wine Rooms with the Australian, Alexander Downer, is unclear.

“But two months later, when leaked Democratic emails began appearing online, Australian officials passed the information about Mr. Papadopoulos to their American counterparts, according to four current and former American and foreign officials with direct knowledge of the Australians’ role. … The information that Mr. Papadopoulos gave to the Australians answers one of the lingering mysteries of the past year: What so alarmed American officials to provoke the F.B.I. to open a counterintelligence investigation into the Trump campaign months before the presidential election? It was not, as Mr. Trump and other politicians have alleged, a dossier compiled by a former British spy hired by a rival campaign. Instead, it was firsthand information from one of America’s closest intelligence allies.” http://nyti.ms/2CgehEW

— @tomgara: “Alexander Downer, the Australian diplomat at the center of this new Papadopoulos story, is from my home city, and here’s the best photo of him in his lesser political years (he went on to become Australian foreign minister)” http://bit.ly/2lppSqM

THE INVESTIGATIONS … WAPO’S KAROUN DEMIRJIAN: “Devin Nunes, targeting Mueller and the FBI, alarms Democrats and some Republicans with his tactics”: “‘I’m interested in getting access to the information and not the drama,’ Rep. Trey Gowdy (R-S.C.) said earlier this month, when Nunes began threatening contempt citations for FBI Director Christopher A. Wray and Deputy Attorney General Rod J. Rosenstein in the wake of revelations former Mueller team members had exchanged anti-Trump texts.

“More recently, Gowdy said that his ‘heart would be broken’ if Nunes follows through on reported plans to issue a corruption exposé about the FBI, citing concerns that issuing such a report outside the context of a comprehensive investigation of the Justice Department could prove damaging to law enforcement.” http://wapo.st/2CqajJa

–POLITICAL FALLOUT — “Republican Attacks on Mueller and F.B.I. Open New Rift in G.O.P.,” by NYT’s Nick Fandos: “A growing campaign by President Trump’s most ardent supporters to discredit the special counsel, Robert S. Mueller III, and the law enforcement agencies assisting his investigation is opening new fissures in the Republican Party, with some lawmakers questioning the damage being done to federal law enforcement and to a political party that has long championed law and order. … [S]ome Republican lawmakers are speaking out, worried that Trump loyalists, hoping for short-term gain, could wind up staining the party, dampening morale at the F.B.I. and Justice Department, and potentially recasting Democrats as the true friends of law enforcement for years to come.” http://nyti.ms/2CroevP

BULLETIN FROM AP IN TEHRAN at 7:55 a.m.: “Iran state TV says authorities temporarily block Instagram, messaging app Telegram to ‘maintain peace’ amid protests.”

— THE LATEST: “2 protesters in Iran killed as social media apps blocked,” by AP’s Amir Vahdat in Tehran and Jon Gambrell in Dubai: “Iran on Sunday blocked access to Instagram and a popular messaging app used by activists to organize and publicize the protests now roiling the Islamic Republic, as authorities said two demonstrators had been killed overnight in the first deaths attributed to the rallies. The demonstrations, which began Thursday over the economic woes plaguing Iran and continued Sunday, appear to be the largest to strike the Islamic Republic since the protests that followed the country’s disputed 2009 presidential election.

“They were fanned in part by messages sent on the Telegram messaging app, which authorities blocked Sunday along with the photo-sharing app Instagram, which is owned by tech giant Facebook. Many in Iran are learning about the protests and sharing images of them through Telegram, a mobile phone messaging app popular among the country’s 80 million people. On Saturday, Telegram shut down one channel on the service over Iranian allegations it encouraged violence, something its moderator denied.” http://bit.ly/2CgHCPB

— REUTERS/LONDON: “Iran warned of a crackdown on Sunday against demonstrators who pose one of the biggest challenges to both the government and clerical leadership in power since the 1979 revolution. Tens of thousands of Iranians have protested across the country since Thursday against the Islamic Republic’s unelected clerical elite and Iranian foreign policy in the region. …

“Videos posted on social media showed people chanting: ‘Mullahs, have some shame, leave the country alone.’ … ‘Those who damage public property, violate law and order and create unrest are responsible for their actions and should pay the price,” state media quoted Interior Minister Abdolreza Rahmani Fazli as saying.’” http://reut.rs/2CuiMsc

— @realDonaldTrump at 8:03 a.m.: “Big protests in Iran. The people are finally getting wise as to how their money and wealth is being stolen and squandered on terrorism. Looks like they will not take it any longer. The USA is watching very closely for human rights violations!”

ON THE UPHEAVAL IN IRAN — @AlirezaNader: “As opposed to 2009, Iranians have this time lost trust in reformists as well. This is also directed at Rouhani. #iranprotests have lost hope in the entire system because conditions in Iran are so terrible and life is so difficult.” …

… @farnazfassihi: “A first in #IranianProtests #Rasht crowds chant: ‘Death to Revolutionary Guards.’ #Iran #IRGC”. 1-min. video http://bit.ly/2DCFUnE … “#Tehran Azadi street today: ‘Death to Khamenei.’ #Iranianprotests #Iran”. 30-second video http://bit.ly/2Crw1MA@ragipsoylu: “BBC video from a small town Abhar, Iran shows protestors taking down Iran Supreme Leader’s banner”. 41-second video http://bit.ly/2lsoIe1

… @ColinKahl: “Clearly the Iran Deal didn’t legitimize the ayatollahs, nor was it a sufficient windfall to save the economy from corruption. It didn’t empower reform either. What it DID do was open up Iran more to the world & take away the regime’s ability to blame problems on sanctions.” …

… @BillKristol: “Here’s a crazy idea: The foreign policy/Middle East/Iran experts who are taking shots at each other for alleged past Iran policy mistakes might spend just a little of their time helping figure out what the U.S.–the administration, Congress, others–could usefully do now.”

****** A message from Google Year in Search 2017: In 2017, the world asked “how…?” From “how to move forward” to “how to make a difference,” the questions we asked showed our shared desire to understand our experiences. Watch the film and see top trending lists from around the world at g.co/2017. ******

IN PUERTO RICO — “‘We have a big problem’: Puerto Rico seeks aid for tens of thousands of squatters,” by Lorraine Woellert in San Juan, Puerto Rico: “When Hurricane Maria ripped across Puerto Rico, it revealed the damage wrought by years of government neglect. It also exposed an open secret generations in the making: Tens of thousands of island residents are in fact squatters, living illegally on abandoned or government land.

“For years, squatters were ignored or used as political pawns as the bankrupt central government swung from crisis to crisis. That changed with Maria, which tore through these low-lying barrios with particular ferocity. Now, with no legal claim to their homes or the land they’re built on, squatters find themselves unmoored from federal aid — and high on the government’s list of priorities.

“Gov. Ricardo Rosselló, who took office in January, wants to fix his squatter problem by embracing it. He’s proposed giving 48,000 illegal settlers legal title to their land, a plan that could cost up to $30 million. He needs federal disaster aid to make the project work. ‘Before the emergency, it was something we needed to do; now it’s a more ambitious project,’ said Puerto Rico Housing Secretary Fernando Gil. ‘It would be helping out 48,000 people who thought that they couldn’t get any help.’” http://politi.co/2lyYFB8

HIDDEN WINNERS IN TAX BILL — “Tax cut on booze triggers fears of more abuse and drunken driving,” by Brian Faler: “People hoisting a beer mug or tipping a champagne glass to ring in the New Year have an extra reason to celebrate: Congress just slashed taxes on alcohol for the first time in decades. But public-health advocates fear the effects of the Republican tax law will be dire — more drunken driving, underage drinking and other alcohol-related programs. …

“Though the issue drew hardly any debate during the dash to pass the once-in-a-generation tax-code overhaul, the alcohol industry is one of the biggest winners of the Republican plan President Donald Trump signed into law Dec. 22. It cuts taxes on wine, beer, whiskey, vodka, tequila and other forms of alcohol. That translates to $1.6 billion in savings next year for MillerCoors; Diageo, the maker of such brands as Captain Morgan rum and Ketel One Vodka; and smaller beer and spirits operators that had pushed for the cut.” http://politi.co/2Chq6dI

BIG READ — NYT’S PETER BAKER, “For Trump, A Year of Reinventing the Presidency” as part of the paper’s “Trump’s Way” series: “When President Trump meets with aides to discuss policy or prepare for a speech, he may ask about the pros and cons of a new proposal. He may inquire about its possible effect. He may explore the best way to frame his case. But there is one thing he almost never does. ‘He very seldom asks how other presidents did this,’ said John F. Kelly, the White House chief of staff.

“Under Mr. Trump, it has become a blunt instrument to advance personal, policy and political goals. He has revolutionized the way presidents deal with the world beyond 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, dispensing with the carefully modulated messaging of past chief executives in favor of no-holds-barred, crystal-breaking, us-against-them, damn-the-consequences blasts borne out of gut and grievance.

“He has kept a business on the side; attacked the F.B.I., C.I.A. and other institutions he oversees; threatened to use his power against rivals; and waged war against members of his own party and even his own Cabinet. He fired the man investigating his campaign and has not ruled out firing the one who took over. He has appealed to base instincts on race, religion and gender as no president has in generations. And he has rattled the nuclear saber more bombastically than it has been since the days of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

“The presidency has served as a vehicle for Mr. Trump to construct and promote his own narrative, one with crackling verve but riddled with inaccuracies, distortions and outright lies, according to fact checkers. Rather than a force for unity or a calming voice in turbulent times, the presidency now is another weapon in a permanent campaign of divisiveness. Democrats and many establishment Republicans worry that Mr. Trump has squandered the moral authority of the office.” With cameos by Michael Beschloss, Bill Daley, Andy Surabian, Ron Klain, Jon Meacham, Robert Dallek, David Axelrod, Chris Ruddy, Pat Caddell, Stuart Spencer, Eliot Cohen, Doris Kearns Goodwin and Martha Joynt Kumar http://nyti.ms/2q55LCH

— CHANGING D.C.: “How the Trump era is changing the federal bureaucracy,” by WaPo’s Lisa Rein and Andrew Ba Tran: “Nearly a year into his takeover of Washington, President Trump has made a significant down payment on his campaign pledge to shrink the federal bureaucracy, a shift long sought by conservatives that could eventually bring the workforce down to levels not seen in decades.

“By the end of September, all Cabinet departments except Homeland Security, Veterans Affairs and Interior had fewer permanent staff than when Trump took office in January — with most shedding many hundreds of employees, according to an analysis of federal personnel data by The Washington Post. …

“The White House is now warning agencies to brace for even deeper cuts in the 2019 budget it will announce early next year, part of an effort to lower the federal deficit to pay for the new tax law, according to officials briefed on the budgets for their agencies. One possible casualty: a pay raise that federal employees historically have received when the economy is humming. … By the end of September, the federal government had 1.94 million permanent workers, down nearly 16,000 overall since the beginning of the year, according to the most recent OPM data. …

“During the first six months of the administration, 71,285 career employees quit or retired. That’s up from 50,000 who left during the same period in 2009 … The Presidential Management Fellows program, a prestigious internship for top graduate students, has been unable to place many recruits because of a lingering hiring freeze at many agencies, according to a half-dozen current fellows.” http://wapo.st/2lwGyf3

FROM PALM BEACH — “Who is using the Trump corporate chopper at Mar-a-Lago?,” by the Palm Beach Post’s Sarah Elsesser and Christine Stapleton: “For over a week, a private helicopter bearing the Trump logo and name has sat on the helipad at Mar-a-Lago — a helipad that is supposed to be used only for presidential business.

“Until Donald Trump became president, aircraft were forbidden from landing in the exclusive island town. But the town agreed to allow a helipad to be built and helicopters to land at Mar-a-Lago with certain conditions: The helipad must be removed when the president leaves office. Until then, the helipad can only be used for official presidential business.

“The helicopter currently sitting on the pad is co-owned by DT Connect II and DT Connect II Member Corp. The president’s sons, Eric and Donald Trump Jr., are executives at those companies, according to state corporate records.

“The Secret Service referred those questions to the White House. White House spokesman Raj Shah said on Saturday that neither the White House nor the Marines requested the helipad or were involved in building it or paying for it. Local officials said they don’t know who is using the helipad. ‘I wish I could answer that,’ said Palm Beach Mayor Gail Coniglio about who was using the helicopter and why. ‘If that’s the case and it’s being used for official business, so be it.’” http://pbpo.st/2DBGCBJ

–SPOTTED in the lobby at the Breakers yesterday (separately): David Rubenstein and Bret Baier

2018 WATCH — “The top 10 governor’s races of 2018,” by Daniel Strauss: http://politi.co/2q68A6G

— “Former Obama Administration Officials Vie to Unseat House Republicans,” by WSJ’s Natalie Andrews: “At least a dozen former aides and policy staff who worked for President Barack Obama have entered the midterm races, running for office for the first time. The Obama administration alumni are part of a Democratic Party effort to take back control of the House of Representatives and create a counter to President Donald Trump’s efforts to rollback Obama-era policies. In many cases, these new candidates are opposing GOP incumbents who have been identified by House Democrats as potentially vulnerable to a challenge.” http://on.wsj.com/2lz4gXV

WAHOO! – Quartz has named Susan Glasser’s “The Global Politico” podcast as the best politics podcast of the year. “The former editor of Foreign Policy and longtime Washington Post foreign correspondent probes an impressive selection of top politicians, diplomats, bureaucrats, think-tankers, and journalists with a subtle, revelatory questioning style.” http://bit.ly/2lx97cj

PENCE’S VACATION — “VP Mike Pence gets message from Aspen neighbors: Make America Gay Again,” by Aspen Times’ Jason Auslander: “‘Make America Gay Again,’ the rainbow banner reads. Neighbors of the home near Aspen where Pence and his wife, Karen Sue, are staying posted the message Wednesday or Thursday on a stone pillar that sits at the end of driveways to both homes, Pitkin County Sheriff’s Deputy Michael Buglione said Friday. … The Secret Service agents were not at all perturbed about the banner, Buglione said. Pitkin County Sheriff Joe DiSalvo said one of his deputies was present when the man who lives in the home came out and first draped the banner over the stone pillar.” With a pic of the sign http://bit.ly/2Cgmwk5

CHANGING TIMES IN OREGON — COVER OF THE PORTLAND OREGONIAN: “Emboldened white nationalists? Look no further than this liberal Oregon college town,” by Noelle Crombie and Shane Dixon Kavanaugh http://bit.ly/2C1caRa

SUCH A FUN STORY — “Biggest Winner of Famed Buffett Bet? Girls Charity: Charity will be beneficiary of a decade-old wager that an index would top hedge funds,” by WSJ’s Nicole Friedman: “Mr. Buffett bet $1 million in 2007 that an index fund would outperform a basket of hedge funds over a decade. The proceeds would go to charity, and Mr. Buffett designated his local Girls Inc. affiliate as the recipient if he won. When the closing bell rang at the New York Stock Exchange Friday, the famed investor locked in his victory.

“Mr. Buffett, the chairman of Berkshire Hathaway Inc., has said throughout this year that he is confident he would win. From the start of the bet through the end of 2016, Mr. Buffett’s S&P 500 index fund returned 7.1% compounded annually. The competing basket of funds of hedge funds selected by asset manager Protégé Partners returned an average of 2.2%.” http://on.wsj.com/2CgVnO4

****** A message from Google Year in Search 2017: As this year draws to a close, Google analyzed Search Trends data to see what the world was searching for. The data showed that 2017 was the year we asked “how…?” How do wildfires start? How to calm a dog during a storm? How to make a protest sign? These questions show our shared desire to understand our experiences and come to each other’s aid. Watch the Year in Search 2017 and see top trending lists from around the world at g.co/2017. ******

CLICKER – “2017: A very Wuerker year: A look back at 2017’s political cartoons from the desk of Matt Wuerker.” 29 keepers http://politi.co/2C4dWAZ

BONUS GREAT HOLIDAY WEEKEND READS, curated by Daniel Lippman, filing from San Miguel de Allende, Mexico:

— “Revealed: The Secret KGB Manual for Recruiting Spies,” by Michael Weiss in the Daily Beast: “The document is from the Cold War. But the material it teaches is still being used today by Vladimir Putin’s clandestine cadres.” http://thebea.st/2DzYfld

— “‘What Are We Going to Do About Tyler?’” by Sarah Smith in ProPublica – per Longreads.com’s description: “A devastating indictment of America’s failure to treat mental illness. ProPublica reporter Sarah Smith tells the story of Tyler Haire, who was sent to jail at age 16 for a violent crime and then spent years locked away while waiting for a psychological evaluation. Tyler struggled since early childhood, but state services are underfunded and only designed to help when a crisis occurs. His family, frustrated and exhausted, was unable to find a way for him to get the help he needed — until it was too late.” http://bit.ly/2CkwbVX

— “Dr. Phil says he rescues people from addiction. Others say his show puts guests’ health at risk,” by STAT’s David Armstrong and Evan Allen of the Boston Globe: “In its pursuit of ratings, the ‘Dr. Phil’ show has put at risk the health of some of those guests it purports to help, according to people who have been on the show and addiction experts. Guests have been left without medical help as they face withdrawal from drugs, a STAT/Boston Globe investigation has found, and one person said she was directed by a show staff member to an open-air drug market to find heroin for her detoxing niece.” http://bit.ly/2BUiERK

— “The Grand Tour to Florence. Italy Timelapse & Hyperlapse,” by Kirill Neiezhmakov on Vimeo – 3-min. video http://bit.ly/2CnK9Xh

— “Inside China’s Vast New Experiment in Social Ranking,” by Mara Hvistendahl in Wired: “In 2014, the State Council, China’s governing cabinet, publicly called for the establishment of a nationwide tracking system to rate the reputations of individuals, businesses, and even government officials. The aim is for every Chinese citizen to be trailed by a file compiling data from public and private sources by 2020 … For the Chinese Communist Party, social credit is an attempt at a softer, more invisible authoritarianism.” http://bit.ly/2pVqkl5

— “Charles Dickens Had Serious Beef with America and its Bad Manners,” by Samantha Silva in LitHub: “He found Americans vulgar and insensitive, braggarts, hypocrites, and acquisitive beyond all imagining.” http://bit.ly/2CkrDPv

— “How Facebook’s Political Unit Enables the Dark Art of Digital Propaganda,” by Bloomberg’s Lauren Etter, Vernon Silver, and Sarah Frier: “Some of [the] unit’s clients stifle opposition, stoke extremism.” https://bloom.bg/2DyTl7Y

— “Longform Podcast: Maggie Haberman, New York Times White House Correspondent”: “If I start thinking about it, then I’m not going to be able to just keep doing my job. I’m being as honest as I can — I try not to think about it. If you’re flying a plane and you think about the fact that if the plane blows up in midair you’re gonna die, do you feel like you can really focus as well? So, I’m not thinking about [the stakes]. This is just my job. This is what we do. Ask me another question.” http://bit.ly/2zNel8O

— “Does Beto O’Rourke Stand a Chance Against Ted Cruz?” by Eric Benson in the Jan. issue of Texas Monthly with the print headline “What Makes Beto Run?”: “The El Paso congressman is waging a long-shot campaign to prove a Democrat can win in Texas.” http://bit.ly/2ljN5ug (h/t Longform.org)

— “Prodigies’ Progress: Parents and superkids, then and now,” by Ann Hulbert in the Jan.-Feb. issue of Harvard Magazine: “In her new book [‘Off the Charts: The Hidden Lives and Lessons of American Child Prodigies’], Ann Hulbert ’77 explores the fascination with child genius over the past century in America. She probes the stories of 16 exceptionally gifted young people, including two precocious students who arrived at Harvard in 1909.” http://bit.ly/2pXnNqA$27.08 on Amazon http://amzn.to/2zRc1h7

— “Sex and intellect,” by Naomi Wolf in the Times Literary Supplement – per ALDaily.com’s description: “Sexual liberation in fiction. Edith Wharton’s writing on sex was informed by Whitman, Nietzsche, and Wilde, and an affair with a journalist.” http://bit.ly/2C9Unep

— “He killed his parents in Omaha at age 16 and escaped from prison nearly a decade later. Then he simply vanished,” by Henry Cordes of the Omaha World-Herald: “What inside the head of a boy could drive him to lash out so violently after his mom had refused to let him take his girl to the drive-in? And how could [William Leslie] Arnold proceed to take her to the movie that night after all? And then to go on living his life the next two weeks as if nothing had happened — going to school, attending church, even showing up to open his dad’s business — until his web of lies finally unraveled?” http://bit.ly/2pU3p9T

— “Kenji Dreams of Sausage,” by Jonah Weiner in Grub Street – per Longreads.com’s description: “A profile of beloved food writer J. Kenji López-Alt, who uses science to perfect cooking methods and is opening a beer hall in Silicon Valley.” http://grb.st/2DyW0hZ

— “The Good Samaritan: how politics transformed the meaning of a biblical story,” by Rowan Williams, the former Archbishop of Canterbury, in the New Statesman, in a review of “The Political Samaritan: How Power Hijacked a Parable,” by Nick Spencer.” per TheBrowser.com’s description: “The parable of the Good Samaritan lends an aura of retrospective goodness to Samaritans in general. But relations between Jews and Samaritans were ‘poisonous’ in biblical times. Any story with a Samaritan as a positive character would have been offensive.” http://bit.ly/2CbphDt$12.23 on Amazon http://amzn.to/2CkwVdU

— “Murder at the Vatican,” by Catherine Fletcher in History Today: “Cardinal Alfonso Petrucci was strangled in his cell in the Castel Sant’Angelo on 4 July 1517. He was 26. He had been a prisoner in the papal fortress for six weeks, one of five cardinals accused of plotting to poison Pope Leo X. His execution was judicially sanctioned, but in the most dubious of circumstances. Was there really a plot? Or were Petrucci and his colleagues framed by Leo in the interests of his family, the Medici?” http://bit.ly/2CpQrTX

— “‘The World’s Biggest Terrorist Has a Pikachu Bedspread,’” by Kerry Howley in NYMag: “This is perhaps the most surprising thing about the story of Airman Reality Winner, linguist, intelligence specialist, who spent years of her life dropping in on conversations among people this country considers potential enemies: It did not occur to her, in a moment of crisis, that someone might be listening.” http://nym.ag/2BWdUee

ENGAGED – Adam Conner, who was most recently Slack’s first employee in D.C. and started Facebook’s D.C. office in 2007, proposed to Lauren Smith, policy counsel who runs the Connected Cars Project at the Future of Privacy Forum and is a former policy adviser in the Obama WH Office of Science and Technology. The couple “spent the week of Christmas on a sailboat with friends exploring the Bay of Islands in New Zealand. On Boxing Day [the couple] were exploring a beautiful place called Urupukapuka Island and hiked to the top of a vista overlooking the bay. Adam got down on one knee, and with the ring he had smuggled into the country, asked Lauren to marry him. She gave an emphatic yes!” Pic http://bit.ly/2Cv1wmNInstapic http://bit.ly/2Cu5wUk

WELCOME TO THE WORLD — @senjohnthune posts on Instagram: “Scott and Larissa with our newest grandchild, Hewitt Thune Hargens, born [Friday]. He joins big sister Henley. We are very grateful for healthy kids and grandkids. #blessed #grandkidsrock”. Instapic http://bit.ly/2CmZLKC

WEEKEND WEDDINGS – “Erica Andersen, Jonathan Donenberg” – N.Y. Times: “The bride, 34, who specializes in patent litigation, is a partner at the Washington law firm Covington & Burling. She graduated from Princeton, magna cum laude, and received a law degree with highest distinction from the University of Iowa. … The groom, 35, is chief counsel and legislative director to Senator Elizabeth Warren, Democrat of Massachusetts. He graduated from the University of Illinois and received a master’s degree in technology policy from the University of Cambridge as a Fulbright scholar; he also received a law degree from Yale.” With pic http://nyti.ms/2lwWLAM

–“Marisa Franklin, Raphael Graybill” — N.Y. Times: “The bride, 28 is the mathematics instructional coordinator at the Montana Office of Public Instruction in Helena, Mont. … She graduated from Barnard College and received a master’s degree in education from Boston University. … The groom, also 28, is chief legal counsel to Governor Steve Bullock, Democrat of Montana. He graduated, summa cum laude, from Columbia and received a master’s degree in philosophy from Magdalen College, Oxford, where he was a Rhodes Scholar. He also received a law degree from Yale.” With pic http://nyti.ms/2EpOIyj

ANNIVERSARY: Happy 20th anniversary to Politico senior editor David Cohen and Rabbi Deborah Bodin Cohen.

BIRTHDAY OF THE DAY: Josh Rogin, WaPo columnist and CNN political analyst, celebrating in Punta Cana with Ali. A fun fact about Josh: “In 2009 I was hit by a D.C. taxicab near my apartment and then given a ticket for ‘reckless walking.’ I broke my arm, after which I got bipartisan filibuster proof majority of 60 U.S. senators to sign my cast, part of a public awareness campaign for pedestrian safety. In a signing ceremony in his office, Mitch McConnell said, ‘I always wanted to be the 60th vote on something.’” Read his Playbook Plus Q&A: http://politi.co/2lrzgKh

BIRTHDAYS: Donald Trump Jr. is 4-0 … David Wilezol, State Department chief speechwriter … Pete Souza, former chief official WH photographer for Presidents Ronald Reagan and Barack Obama, with a new book, “Obama: An Intimate Portrait: The Historic Presidency in Photographs,” is 63 … Sir Alexander Ferguson, CBE, whose beloved Manchester United sit second in the Premier League at the moment (and is the favorite team of Katie Lillie), is 76 (h/ts Ben Chang) … Brian Danza, CTO of Daily Caller, is 37 (h/ts Blain Rethmeier and Tim Burger) … WaPo’s Joel Achenbach is 57 … Sen. Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.) is 55 … Rep. Hal Rogers (R-Ky.) is 8-0 … former Rep. Heath Shuler (D-N.C.) is 46 … WSJ’s Naftali Bendavid … Dick Short … Karina Cabrera Bell … Peter G. Miller … Wayne Pines, president of APCO’s health care practice … Nathan Martin is 31 … Jim Long is 53 … fashion designer Diane von Furstenberg is 71 … Mark Ein, new owner of Washington City Paper along with Capitol Acquisition IV, Venturehouse Group, and World Team Tennis, is 53 (h/t Jayne Sandman)

… Betsy Barrett is 4-0, and celebrating in Valparaiso, Chile with Adrienne Elrod and Erin McPike … John Davis is 41 … Henry Hunter, sports law adjunct at Georgetown University (h/ts Jon Haber) … Simon Kennedy, executive editor of Bloomberg Economics in London … Ronnie Cho, Emmy winning former MTV exec and Obama campaign and WH alum, is 35 … Travis Wolfe … Nati Nieuwstraten … Martin J. Kady, WaPo alumnus and father of Politico’s Marty Kady, is 72 … Wade Atkinson … Axios’ Shannon Vavra … Shelby Hodgkins … Danny Shea, head of global expansion at Thrive Global and a HuffPost alum … Reuben Johnson … Meeghan Prunty, a managing director at Blue Meridian Partners … former Obama WH photographer Lawrence Jackson … Becca Brukman … Bill Bagley … Jeff Milstein … Jackson Fauvre … Marni Karlin … Darren Reisberg, VP and Deputy Provost at UChicago … Andy Sere … Bob Dietz … Lisa Lindo … John Francis Kucera is 58 … Moody’s Danielle Reed … Jeff White is 56 … Patrick Holtz is 42 … William Morales … Meg Boland … Chris Donesa is 51 … Becca Ferguson (h/t Teresa Vilmain)

****** A message from Google Year in Search 2017: As this year draws to a close, Google analyzed Search Trends data to see what the world was searching for. The data showed that 2017 was the year we asked “how…?” How do wildfires start? How to calm a dog during a storm? How to make a protest sign? All of the “how” searches featured in the Year in Search film were searched at least 10 times more this year than ever before. These questions show our shared desire to understand our experiences and come to each other’s aid.

From “how to watch the eclipse” and “how to shoot like Curry,” to “how to move forward” and “how to make a difference,” here’s to this Year in Search. Watch the film and see top trending lists from around the world at g.co/2017. ******

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COMEY takes in Les Mis — TRUMP at his golf course again today — PARKER and DAWSEY: Mar-a-Lago is nice for Trump, and less nice for his staff — MIKE SCHMIDT on his Trump interview

politico 150x150 - COMEY takes in Les Mis -- TRUMP at his golf course again today -- PARKER and DAWSEY: Mar-a-Lago is nice for Trump, and less nice for his staff -- MIKE SCHMIDT on his Trump interview

SPOTTED: Jim Comey and members of his family at “Les Miserables” on Thursday night at the National Theatre. “Not many people interrupted him (only one selfie request!), but there were a lot of gawkers,” per a tipster. Pic http://politi.co/2EgPRYY

WHAT AMERICA IS READING — DENVER POST: “Penciling art into fiscal framework: Struggling rural towns are turning to crafts and culture in the hope of reviving economy” http://bit.ly/2zP96prBALTIMORE SUN: “House race is looking pricey: Contenders for Md.’s 6th District willing to spend personal funds” http://bit.ly/2ludc0TTHE STAR-LEDGER: “Housing market expected to take hit: Jersey home prices likely to see a slowdown under GOP tax law, analysts say” http://bit.ly/2CdxgQt

Story Continued Below

Good Saturday morning. President Donald Trump is spending the morning at Trump International Golf Club in West Palm Beach, per pooler Alexandra Schmitz of the Treasure Coast Newspapers.

PALM BEACH READ — “Time at Mar-a-Lago is a respite for Trump — and a headache for his staff,” by WaPo’s Ashley Parker and Josh Dawsey: “When President Trump sat down with a reporter for a wide-ranging, 30-minute interview at his private golf club here Thursday, not a single aide or adviser was present at the table — and not a single aide or adviser knew about it in advance. … As word trickled back to the White House, advisers worked to reach the president, with Trump’s personal aide interrupting at one point to hand him a cellphone with White House communications director Hope Hicks on the line; she checked in on the interview from afar. … When Barack Obama, near the end of his presidency, occasionally slipped the gates of the White House, he would joke that ‘the bear is loose.’

“Yet by that metaphor, Mar-a-Lago has become a veritable ursine playground, with Trump starring in the role of chief grizzly — calling outside advisers and confidants while playing both host and inquisitor to his club’s wealthy members. … Trump, for instance, recently chatted with Blackstone CEO Steve Schwarzman for 30 minutes after dining with son-in-law Jared Kushner and daughter Ivanka Trump, according to people familiar with the meeting. … Trump was enthusiastic about the interview and was pleased that the Times was at his golf course, people briefed on the interview said. The president, they added, enjoyed the coverage afterward and noted that it dominated TV most of Friday.” http://wapo.st/2pXLGhH

FIRST PERSON – “Our Reporter Mike Schmidt on His Golf Club Interview With President Trump” – Times Insider: “I was convinced that the longer I talked with him, the more comfortable he would be with me and the more likely he would be to allow me to interview him. So I got into a catcher’s squat next to his chair, conveying to him that I was listening intently but also forcing him to look down at me while he talked, which kept him from being distracted by the others at the table. It’s been 20 years since I was a catcher in Little League, and a few minutes into our conversation my legs began to ache. But I knew I couldn’t stand up while I had the president one-on-one. I began to think about what had happened a day earlier. On Wednesday, the president invited the press to a local fire department, where he shook hands with emergency medical workers.

“He said little of note, but I sensed from watching him that he was bored by vacation and wanted to engage with the news media. … At the end of the interview, Mr. Trump, who had asked about my golf game, told me that I should go out and play his course that afternoon. I told him I would not do that and I needed to file a story off the interview on deadline. He asked me to treat him fairly, we shook hands and I headed for my rental car. As I drove away from the club, I called my editors to tell them I had just spent half an hour alone with the president.” http://nyti.ms/2BWo0fbSchmidt’s interview with David Gura on MSNBC http://on.msnbc.com/2Cl0bBf


— “The Senate Intelligence Committee Is Prepping To Wrap Up Their Russia Investigation Early Next Year,” by BuzzFeed’s Emma Loop: “As the year comes to a close, investigators in the Senate Intelligence Committee’s Russia probe have burned through a list of key witnesses, checking off multiple high-profile names in recent weeks as the committee’s leadership looks to issue a report before election season starts anew in the spring. In mid-December, committee Chair Richard Burr told BuzzFeed News his panel was ‘absolutely’ ramping up the number of interviews before year’s end.

“The committee, though it lacks the power to prosecute, will issue a final report with findings about Russia’s role in the election, including potential collusion, and recommendations to prevent foreign interference in future elections. Before staff begin writing that report, however, they will interview what Burr has said is dozens more people, completing a witness list that stretches easily into the hundreds and extending what has been viewed as the second phase of the investigation into the new year.” http://bzfd.it/2zNE9Sx

— @NBCNews: “NEW: According to federal court filing made public today, the FBI has executed a search warrant on an e-mail address associated with Trump surrogate and former sheriff David A. Clarke Jr.” http://bit.ly/2CpjneE

BUSINESS BURST — A STORY TRUMP IS READING — “U.S. Steelmakers Raise Their Bets on Energy, Construction: Steel prices are up, but some say expansion is risky given continuing flood of cheap imports, by WSJ’s Bob Tita: “Steelmakers are betting on the U.S. again, building mills they hope will help them compete against cheap imports as demand rises. Steel companies have complained for years that steel from China, South Korea, Vietnam, Turkey and elsewhere is being sold in the U.S. for less than the cost to make it.

“While imports are still increasing, steel prices are also on the rise globally. And demand for U.S. steel is starting to rebound, thanks to rising oil prices and a strengthening manufacturing sector, steel executives say. Still, others see expansion as a risky bet. Some steel companies say they can capture more customers with new plants that can make more steel at less cost than older plants, and can deliver it faster to customers.

“They’re also counting on additional U.S. tariffs to drive out cheap, foreign-made steel, creating more opportunities for domestic producers. Stiff tariffs imposed over the past 18 months have significantly slowed steel imports from China, according to Commerce Department reports.” http://on.wsj.com/2Ct92yw

****** A message from Google Year in Search 2017: In 2017, the world asked “how…?” From “how to move forward” to “how to make a difference,” the questions we asked showed our shared desire to understand our experiences. Watch the film and see top trending lists from around the world at g.co/2017. ******

KNOWING MATTIS — “Mattis delegates down and manages up in tricky Trump relationship,” by Jacqueline Klimas and Wesley Morgan: “Jim Mattis, the first retired general to serve as secretary of defense in seven decades, has steadily pushed more authority down the chain of command on the battlefield and inside the bureaucracy. But he’s also managed up more than his predecessors.

“By leveraging a unique level of personal rapport with President Donald Trump — and often ducking the media spotlight — Mattis has played an outsize role in keeping critical policies on track in the face of a mercurial and often bombastic commander in chief, according to half a dozen current and former administration officials and Mattis’ daily schedule for the first half of the year, which the Pentagon recently released in response to a Freedom of Information Act request from a watchdog group. The schedule shows scores of meetings and meals between Mattis and his boss, many of them in more intimate settings than defense secretaries were accustomed to under President Barack Obama. …

“Trump, who refers to his civilian defense secretary as ‘General Mattis’ and often touts his military service, appears to defer to Mattis to a greater degree than he does to some other Cabinet secretaries. He has granted repeated requests from Mattis to restore authority to the military that had previously been micromanaged by the White House, and he often includes Mattis in meetings with heads of state and other foreign leaders. So far, the relationship hasn’t been rocked by the kind of high-profile undermining and rumors of presidential discontent that have marred the tenures of other top cabinet officials like Secretary of State Rex Tillerson — whom Mattis has gone out of his way to support.” http://politi.co/2EhduAF

IN THE MIDDLE EAST — “Iran hard-liners rally as new protests challenge government,” by AP’s Amir Vahdat in Tehran and Jon Gambrell in Dubai: “Iranian hard-liners rallied Saturday to support the country’s supreme leader and clerically overseen government as spontaneous protests sparked by anger over the country’s ailing economy roiled major cities in the Islamic Republic. The demonstrations … had been scheduled weeks earlier. …

“Thousands have taken to the streets of several cities in Iran, beginning first in Mashhad, the country’s second-largest city and a holy site for Shiite pilgrims. Demonstrators also have criticized Iran’s government during the protests, with social media videos showing clashes between protesters and police. … The demonstrations appear to be the largest to strike the Islamic Republic since its 2009 Green Movement arose after Ahmadinejad’s re-election.” http://bit.ly/2lohJ5G

— @realDonaldTrump at 10:42 p.m.: “Many reports of peaceful protests by Iranian citizens fed up with regime’s corruption & its squandering of the nation’s wealth to fund terrorism abroad. Iranian govt should respect their people’s rights, including right to express themselves. The world is watching! #IranProtests”.

ON THE WORLD STAGE — “Frustrated U.S. Might Withhold $255 Million in Aid From Pakistan,” by NYT’s Adam Goldman, Mark Landler and Eric Schmitt: “[T]he Trump administration is strongly considering whether to withhold $255 million in aid that it had delayed sending to Islamabad, according to American officials, as a show of dissatisfaction with Pakistan’s broader intransigence toward confronting the terrorist networks that operate there. The administration’s internal debate over whether to deny Pakistan the money is a test of whether President Trump will deliver on his threat to punish Islamabad for failing to cooperate on counterterrorism operations.” http://nyti.ms/2lsvP5q

THE NEW DEMOCRATIC FRONTIER — “Dem senators fight to out-liberal one another ahead of 2020,” by Elana Schor: “It used to be that Bernie Sanders was an ideological lone ranger in the Senate. Now, a whole host of potential presidential hopefuls are racing to represent the liberal grass roots on their issues of the day — and pulling the Democratic Party’s center of gravity further to the left.

“The trend was apparent throughout the fall among the half-dozen Democratic senators drawing the loudest buzz for 2020 — aside from Sanders (I-Vt.), the group includes Sens. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.), Kamala Harris (D-Calif.), Cory Booker (D-N.J.), Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) and Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.).

“First they flocked to Sanders’ single-payer health care proposal. And then, almost in unison, they adopted two other stands popular among the Democratic base: Refusing to vote for any budget plan that didn’t include help for undocumented immigrants brought to the country as children, and calling for Donald Trump’s resignation over sexual harassment claims leveled against him last year by multiple women. The six Democrats also have been the most frequent foes of Trump’s nominees earlier this year.” http://politi.co/2BXzSh2

RUSSIA WATCH — “Senators scrap Russia trip after Kremlin snubs Shaheen,” by Kyle Cheney: “Two Republican senators have called off a planned trip to Russia after the Kremlin denied a visa to a Democratic colleague, New Hampshire Sen. Jeanne Shaheen. Shaheen, an outspoken backer of a Russia sanctions bill that Congress approved overwhelmingly earlier this year, had been scheduled to visit Russia along with GOP colleagues Ron Johnson of Wisconsin and John Barrasso of Wyoming. But a Shaheen spokesman said the senator believes the Kremlin has placed her under a travel sanction, prohibiting her visit. … A spokesman for Russia’s U.S. embassy said in a statement that Shaheen’s visa was the only one denied because she is on a Russian ‘black list’ created in response to U.S. sanctions issued against the country.” http://politi.co/2DzLYgz

HMM — “Trump administration fires all members of HIV/AIDS advisory council,” by WaPo’s Ben Guarino: “The remaining members of the Presidential Advisory Council on HIV/AIDS were fired en masse this week. Months after a half-dozen members resigned in protest of the Trump administration’s position on health policies, the White House dismissed the rest through a form letter. The notice ‘thanked me for my past service and said that my appointment was terminated, effective immediately,’ said Patrick Sullivan, an epidemiologist at Emory University who works on HIV testing programs. He was appointed to a four-year term in May 2016.” http://wapo.st/2CphRcI

CLICKER – “100% Hart: A Summary of 2017 Polling Conducted for Our Clients”: Some of the most interesting findings: “3% of Democrats have positive feelings toward Russia (71% negative). … 16% of independents have positive feelings toward the Republican Party. … 23% of public school parents approve of the job Betsy DeVos is doing as secretary of education … 49% of women in professional/managerial positions have received an unwanted sexual advance at work. …

“52% of Democrats have positive feelings toward John McCain (compared with 35% among Republicans). … 76% of white men say recent stories about sexual harassment have made them more likely to speak out if they see women treated unfairly. … 99% of African Americans believe Trump’s use of Twitter is bad.” http://politi.co/2BT4Q9Z

— ADAM CANCRYN: “Top 10 health care surprises from Year One of Trump: From drug prices to the Tom Price travel scandal, a lot of health policy didn’t go according to plan”: http://politi.co/2llnEZk

MICHAEL GRUNWALD in Politico Magazine: “Donald Trump Is a Consequential President. Just Not in the Ways You Think”: “The most consequential aspect of President Trump—like the most consequential aspect of Candidate Trump — has been his relentless shattering of norms: norms of honesty, decency, diversity, strategy, diplomacy and democracy, norms of what presidents are supposed to say and do when the world is and isn’t watching. As I keep arguing in these periodic Trump reviews, it’s a mistake to describe his all-caps rage-tweeting or his endorsement of an accused child molester or his threats to wipe out ‘Little Rocket Man’ as unpresidential, because he’s the president. He’s by definition presidential.

“The norms he’s shattered are by definition no longer norms. His erratic behavior isn’t normal, but it’s inevitably becoming normalized, a predictably unpredictable feature of our political landscape. It’s how we live now, checking our phones in the morning to get a read on the president’s mood. The American economy is still strong, and he hasn’t started any new wars, so pundits have focused a lot of their hand-wringing on the effect his norm-shattering will have on future leaders, who will be able to cite the Trump precedent if they want to hide their tax returns or use their office to promote their businesses or fire FBI directors who investigate them. But Trump still has three years left in his term. And the norms he’s shattered can’t constrain his behavior now that he’s shattered them.” http://politi.co/2Ct6aSg

THE CASH DASH — “The Modern Campaign-Finance Loophole: Governors Associations,” by WSJ’s Susan Pulliam and Brody Mullins: “U.S. companies have found a loophole in state campaign-finance rules by funneling donations aimed at helping candidates through the RGA and its Democratic counterpart, according to multiple former officials. Donors can’t earmark money for a particular candidate. Instead, they can simply — and legally — tell the groups they have ‘an interest’ in a race or are making a donation ‘at the request’ of a gubernatorial candidate, these officials say.

“An internal tracking system, sometimes called the ‘tally,’ allows the DGA to keep tabs on how much individual governors raise for the association from companies and other donors, which later helps it figure out how to allocate the money, former DGA officials said. The RGA has a similar system, former RGA officials say.” http://on.wsj.com/2lndzeu

BACK STORY — “Why Trump lashed out at Saudi Arabia about its role in Yemen’s war,” by WaPo’s Missy Ryan and Josh Dawsey: “President Trump’s public rebuke of Saudi Arabia this month for its role in the conflict in Yemen was an impromptu move quickly set in motion after intelligence officials presented him with images of the deepening humanitarian crisis there, officials said. In a strongly worded statement that surprised foreign diplomats and even key figures in his administration, Trump called on Saudi Arabia to allow food and supplies to reach ‘the Yemeni people who desperately need it.’ ‘This must be done for humanitarian reasons immediately,’ he said.

“The Dec. 6 statement marked a striking departure for a president who has shown unflinching support for the kingdom’s leadership. Administration officials say it was instrumental in Saudi Arabia’s decision to temporarily suspend its blockade of the Red Sea port of Hodeida, though critics question how much the move will ease the suffering in Yemen’s nearly three-year-old war. The episode also highlights the powerful role that depictions of civilian suffering overseas have had in stirring a president who took office with a clear domestic focus and little foreign policy experience. Sometimes they have triggered sudden, consequential responses from the president.” http://wapo.st/2llCRcN

FOR YOUR RADAR — “Exclusive: Russian tankers fueled North Korea via transfers at sea – sources,” by Reuters’ Guy Faulconbridge and Jonathan Saul in London, and Polina Nikolskaya in Moscow: “Russian tankers have supplied fuel to North Korea on at least three occasions in recent months by transferring cargoes at sea, according to two senior Western European security sources, providing an economic lifeline to the secretive Communist state. The sales of oil or oil products from Russia, the world’s second biggest oil exporter and a veto-wielding member of the United Nations Security Council, breach U.N. sanctions … The transfers in October and November indicate that smuggling from Russia to North Korea has evolved to loading cargoes at sea since Reuters reported in September that North Korean ships were sailing directly from Russia to their homeland.” http://reut.rs/2lmJdIU

— “China Resists U.S. Efforts to Blacklist Ships Through U.N.,” by WSJ’s Michael R. Gordon and Andrew Jeong: “Beijing and Washington clashed over a U.S. push to blacklist cargo ships for violating international sanctions against North Korea, including one vessel South Korea said it seized after an illegal transfer of oil. … China’s critics say it has agreed to tough-sounding Security Council resolutions while modulating how strictly the sanctions are actually enforced. China denies it violates sanctions. … [S]ome U.S. officials say they have mounting concerns that China is leaving room for a partial evasion of the sanctions, depriving Mr. Trump of some of the leverage he seeks. Earlier this month, American officials shared with the U.N. declassified intelligence reports that they said supported Washington’s position that 10 vessels be formally designated as sanctions violators. South Korea disclosed Friday that it had seized one of the listed ships. But China successfully got the list whittled down to just four vessels.” http://on.wsj.com/2llCXBb

****** A message from Google Year in Search 2017: As this year draws to a close, Google analyzed Search Trends data to see what the world was searching for. The data showed that 2017 was the year we asked “how…?” How do wildfires start? How to calm a dog during a storm? How to make a protest sign? These questions show our shared desire to understand our experiences and come to each other’s aid. Watch the Year in Search 2017 and see top trending lists from around the world at g.co/2017. ******

MEDIAWATCH — “The Year the News Accelerated to Trump Speed,” by NYT’s Matt Flegenheimer: “One year out, this may be Mr. Trump’s greatest trick: His tornado of news-making has scrambled Americans’ grasp of time and memory, producing a sort of sensory overload that can make even seismic events — of his creation or otherwise — disappear from the collective consciousness and public view. He is the magician who swallows a sword no one thought was part of the act, stuffs a dozen rabbits into a hat before the audience can count them — and then merrily tweets about ‘Fox & Friends’ while the crowd strains to remember what show it had paid to attend in the first place.” With cameos from Sen. Chris Murphy (D-Conn.), Jason Chaffetz, Matt Negrin, Tom Brokaw, Peter Hamby, and Nancy Gibbs http://nyti.ms/2BZs7r6

— “This Man Says He Was Sexually Assaulted By Jann Wenner. Then He Got An Amazing Job Offer At Rolling Stone,” by BuzzFeed’s Mary Ann Georgantopoulos: “Jonathan Wells … then 28, met Wenner through mutual friends. They spent time together, mostly in larger group settings, at restaurants and friends’ apartments. ‘His success, his affluence, he was really fun,’ Wells told BuzzFeed News. ‘He was an exciting guy to be around.’ But in February 1983, after they both spent a night drinking and doing cocaine in Wenner’s Upper East Side home, Wenner sexually assaulted him, Wells recently told BuzzFeed News.” http://bzfd.it/2CkIRfD

— Adrian Carrasquillo (@Carrasquillo): “I deeply regret the crass & sexist attempt at a joke that led to my firing from BuzzFeed. I privately apologized to my colleagues & also want to apologize publicly to friends & colleagues this incident affected. I loved my time at BuzzFeed & wish everyone there continued success.”

GREAT HOLIDAY WEEKEND READS, curated by Daniel Lippman, filing from San Miguel de Allende, Mexico:

— “The Age of Outrage,” by Jonathan Haidt in an edited version of his Wriston Lecture for the Manhattan Institute: “In the last two centuries, a lot of us have lived in large, multi-ethnic secular liberal democracies. So clearly that is possible. But how much margin of error do we have in such societies? Here is the fine-tuned liberal democracy hypothesis: As tribal primates, human beings are unsuited for life in large, diverse secular democracies, unless you get certain settings finely adjusted to make possible the development of stable political life.” http://bit.ly/2C96Sae

— “What Is It Like to Be a Bee?” by Natasha Frost in Atlas Obscura – per TheBrowser.com’s description: “Where is the threshold of consciousness? A human brain has 86 billion neurons and, almost always, consciousness. A roundworm brain has 302 neurons and — scientists assume — no consciousness. What of a bee brain, with 960,000 neurons? Perhaps the bee is conscious, but not self-conscious, if that is a possible state.” http://bit.ly/2CgQkMX

— “Why Birds Matter, and Are Worth Protecting,” by Jonathan Franzen in NatGeo: “What bird populations indicate is the health of our ethical values. Wild birds are our last, best connection to a natural world that is otherwise receding. They’re the most vivid and widespread representatives of the Earth as it was before people arrived on it. The house finch outside your window is a tiny and beautifully adapted living dinosaur. A duck on your local pond looks and sounds very much like a duck 20 million years ago, when birds ruled the planet.” http://on.natgeo.com/2EeSlHy

— “The Killer-Nanny Novel That Conquered France,” by Lauren Collins in the New Yorker: “Leïla Slimani’s best-seller explores the dark relationship of a mother and her babysitter.” http://bit.ly/2pXoCzG

— “Shattered Glass,” by Buzz Bissinger in Vanity Fair’s Sept. 1998 issue: “At 25, Stephen Glass was the most sought-after young reporter in the nation’s capital, producing knockout articles for magazines ranging from The New Republic to Rolling Stone. Trouble was, he made things up — sources, quotes, whole stories — in a breathtaking web of deception that emerged as the most sustained fraud in modern journalism.” http://bit.ly/2DwXnOf (h/t Longform.org)

— “Who killed Benazir Bhutto?” by Ziad Zafar in Dawn: “Eos explores the evidence unearthed during the investigation into the former premier’s assassination.” http://bit.ly/2C9vHD3

— “Che, Stalin, Mussolini and the Thinkers Who Loved Them,” by Aram Bakshian Jr. in the National Interest: “Why are intellectuals and thinkers, who normally face persecution and risk under dictatorial regimes, nonetheless attracted to tyrants and would-be liberators?” http://bit.ly/2DwWnd0 (h/t ALDaily.com)

— “Mark Lilla: the liberal who counts more enemies on the left than the right,” by J Oliver Conroy in the Guardian: “The academic-turned-polemicist believes liberalism has lost its way but detractors accuse him of ‘trolling disguised as erudition’. Here he answers back”. http://bit.ly/2zO9rZj

— “One Hundred Poems That Capture the Meaning of Joy,” by Adrianna Smith in the Atlantic: “Christian Wiman’s new anthology brings together an admirable range of meditations on an emotion whose place in the world today can seem uncertain.” http://theatln.tc/2zPu5II

— “David Rockefeller’s Rolodex Was the Stuff of Legend. Here’s a First Peek,” by WSJ’s Joann S. Lublin in Pocantico Hills, NY: “Several [of the 200,000] cards reveal some of the billionaire banker’s more personal interactions. Mr. Rockefeller was studying at the London School of Economics in 1938 when he met Mr. Kennedy, the future president, and his sister Kathleen at a party held by their father, then the U.S. ambassador to Great Britain. Ms. Kennedy got top billing. JFK, the first card said, ‘is a brother.’ ‘She was more important than JFK’ because Mr. Rockefeller had dated her.” http://on.wsj.com/2q0uDMe

— “Let them eat bread,” by Paul Levy in the Times Literary Supplement: “Nearly all the breads we regard as traditional products are of recent origin. The ciabatta was invented in 1982 by an enterprising Veneto baker who recognized his patrons’ taste for the French baguette. Panettone in anything like its current form is also a twentieth-century concoction. Croissants were not made until 1837.” http://bit.ly/2Eek8I7

— “The monster beneath,” by Helen Gordon in 1843 Magazine: “Everyone has heard of Vesuvius but the caldera of Campi Flegrei is a far more dangerous volcano. Helen Gordon travels to Naples to understand the enormous threat it poses.” http://bit.ly/2CmeRjG

— “The Teens Trapped Between a Gang and the Law,” by Jonathan Blitzer in the New Yorker: “On Long Island, unaccompanied minors are caught between the violence of MS-13 and the fear of deportation.” http://bit.ly/2CgQTGz

— “How Hospitals Are Failing Black Mothers,” by ProPublica’s Annie Waldman as part of the publication’s “Lost Mothers” series: “A ProPublica analysis shows that women who deliver at hospitals that disproportionately serve black mothers are at a higher risk of harm.” http://bit.ly/2CiVWWS (h/t Longreads.com)

— “Bussed out: How America moves its homeless,” by the Outside in America teamof the Guardian: “Each year, U.S. cities give thousands of homeless people one-way bus tickets out of town. An 18-month nationwide investigation by the Guardian reveals, for the first time, what really happens at journey’s end.” http://bit.ly/2Can770

ENGAGED — Errol Barnett, Washington correspondent for CBS News, proposed to his longtime girlfriend Ariana Tolbert, a benefits consultant in Bethesda, Maryland, at the Four Seasons during their end of the year trip to the Bahamas. “The two met in 2015 while Errol was anchoring the CNN overnight hours in Atlanta. As he tells it, they ‘liked’ each other’s pictures on Instagram and hours later that day ‘at the same exact moment in time’ they direct-messaged each other saying hello. … Errol proposed at the Versailles Gardens and French Cloister on Paradise Island on the first night of their week-long Bahamas vacation.” Instapic by Cay Focus Photography http://bit.ly/2CaBZlR

BIRTHWEEK (was Monday): Dan Drew, Middletown, Connecticut, mayor and Democratic candidate for Connecticut governor. Playbook Plus Q&A: http://politi.co/2zQwfro

BIRTHDAYS: Tammy Haddad, who celebrated yesterday at the Bath and Tennis Club in Palm Beach (hat tip: Hilary Rosen) … CIA Director Mike Pompeo is 54 … Secretary of the Air Force Heather Wilson is 57 … DHS comms director Lauren Claffey … Bush 43 alum Reed Dickens … Susan Kellam … Sean Hannity is 56 … Meredith Vieira is 64 … Matt Lauer is 6-0 … Squire Patton Boggs partner Jack Deschauer is 67 … Politico’s Jennifer Scholtes … Javelin partner Matt Latimer, celebrating with his family in Staunton, Va., the birthplace of Woodrow Wilson (h/t Keith Urbahn) … Nick Schmit is 37 (hubby tip: Jonathan Capehart) … Hari Sevugan, principal at 270 Strategies … Brendan Corrigan, associate at Morgan Stanley, is 29 … Dr. Byron Hulsey, headmaster at Woodberry Forest School … Jim Billimoria, PR manager for transportation at Amazon and “Fighting Illini alum, Photographer, Chicagoan,” per his Twitter (h/t Amos Snead) … Philippa Martinez-Berrier … Walter Recher (h/t godfather Jeff Grappone) … Laurie DuMouchelle … Kevin Smith … Leif Babin, former SEAL officer and co-founder of Echelon Front … Marcia Kramer of WCBS … DNC social media director Heather Reid (h/t John Bisognano) …

… Hanna Hope, COS for the Georgetown Institute of Politics and Public Service and the pride of Atlanta (h/ts Jeff Solnet and Jon Haber) … Cecilia MacArthur, associate producer for CBC’s “Daybreak” … Heather Cronk … Jill Jorgensen … filmmaker Michael Rekola … Rep. Mike Bost (R-Ill.) is 57 … former Rep. Marty Meehan (D-Mass.) is 61 … Politico Europe’s Annabelle Cheney … Jud Meter Lounsbury … Katie Strong Hays … Shannon Gilson, director of public affairs at American Airlines … Justin Thomas Russell is 47 … Natalie Heninger Kennedy … Anne Lyons … Daniel Scarpinato … Daniel Scarpinato, deputy COS for comms. for Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey … NRF’s Bill Thorne … Pat Bell … Avery Katherine Fetterman … former Univision anchor Maria Elena Salinas, who just sold her Miami house for $2.65 million: http://bit.ly/2EgkVZ4 … Josh Harris … Kelly Curran, VP at Edelman … Caroline Little … Noelle Straub, E&E News natural resources editor … Bob Cochran is 61 … Barkley Jenny … Jordan Bartolomeo … Toure’ Burgess … Mark Miller … Lilly Sasse … Gary Radloff … Jason Berkenfeld … Udai Rohatgi … Amy Young (h/ts Teresa Vilmain)

THE SHOWS, by @MattMackowiak, filing from Austin:

— ABC’s “This Week”: Ret. Adm. Mike Mullen. Political panel: Matthew Dowd, Joshua Johnson, Mary Jordan and Susan Page. Security panel: Ray Kelly and former FBI agent Brad Garrett

— CBS’s “Face the Nation”: Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.). Congressional panel: Rep. Liz Cheney (R-Wy.), Rep. Joe Crowley (D-N.Y.), Rep. Debbie Dingell (D-Mich.) and Rep. Will Hurd (R-TX). Political panel: Rachael Bade, David Nakamura, Ed O’Keefe and Julie Pace … J.D. Vance

— “Fox News Sunday”: Panel: Mike Needham, Marie Harf, Bruce Mehlman and Mo Elleithee (substitute host: Dana Perino)

— NBC’s “Meet the Press”: Panel: Charlie Cook, Katty Kay, Rich Lowry and Kristen Welker

— Fox News’ “Sunday Morning Futures”: former Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah) … Rep. Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn.) … Rep. Ron DeSantis (R-Fla.) … Larry Gagosian. Panel: Susan Ferrechio and Brad Blakeman (substitute host: Trish Regan)

— Fox News’ “MediaBuzz”: Mollie Hemingway … Mara Liasson … Cathy Areu … Gayle Trotter … Jessica Tarlov … Ed Henry … Shana Glenzer

— CNN’s “State of the Union”: Anthony Scaramucci … Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein. Panel: Bill Kristol, Nina Turner, Bakari Sellers and Michael Caputo (substitute host: Dana Bash)

— CNN’s “Inside Politics” with John King: Panel: Eliana Johnson, Karen Tumulty, Karoun Demirjian and Julie Bykowicz (substitute host: Nia-Malika Henderson)

— CNN’s “Fareed Zakaria GPS”: Foreign affairs panel: Zanny Minton Beddoes, Walter Russell Mead and Gideon Rose … Harold Evans … Simon Sebag Montefiore

— CNN’s “Reliable Sources”: Panel: Sally Buzbee, Joanne Lipman and John Avlon … Jeffrey Toobin … Rebecca Traister … Sarah Lacy

— C-SPAN: “The Communicators”: U.S. Telecom president and CEO Jonathan Spalter, questioned by Kyle Daly … “Newsmakers”: “Need to Impeach” campaign founder Tom Steyer, questioned by Niall Stanage and Darren Samuelsohn … “Q&A”: Donna Brazile

— MSNBC’s “Kasie DC”: Michael Steele … Shawna Thomas … Jon Ward … Paul Singer … Alex Moe, Frank Thorp and Marianna Sotomayor

— Washington Times’ “Mack on Politics” weekly politics podcast with Matt Mackowiak (download on iTunes, Google Play, or Stitcher or listen at MackOnPolitics.com): Brian Riedl.

****** A message from Google Year in Search 2017: As this year draws to a close, Google analyzed Search Trends data to see what the world was searching for. The data showed that 2017 was the year we asked “how…?” How do wildfires start? How to calm a dog during a storm? How to make a protest sign? All of the “how” searches featured in the Year in Search film were searched at least 10 times more this year than ever before. These questions show our shared desire to understand our experiences and come to each other’s aid.

From “how to watch the eclipse” and “how to shoot like Curry,” to “how to move forward” and “how to make a difference,” here’s to this Year in Search. Watch the film and see top trending lists from around the world at g.co/2017. ******

SUBSCRIBE to the Playbook family: POLITICO Playbook http://politi.co/2lQswbhPlaybook Power Briefing http://politi.co/2xuOiqhNew York Playbook http://politi.co/1ON8bqWFlorida Playbook http://politi.co/1OypFe9New Jersey Playbook http://politi.co/1HLKltFMassachusetts Playbook http://politi.co/1Nhtq5vIllinois Playbook http://politi.co/1N7u5sbCalifornia Playbook http://politi.co/2bLvcPlLondon Playbook http://politi.co/2xfDPuKBrussels Playbook http://politi.co/1FZeLcwAll our political and policy tipsheets http://politi.co/1M75UbX

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Posted in news | Tagged , , , | Comments Off on COMEY takes in Les Mis — TRUMP at his golf course again today — PARKER and DAWSEY: Mar-a-Lago is nice for Trump, and less nice for his staff — MIKE SCHMIDT on his Trump interview

Infineon not vulnerable to takeover: CEO in Boersen-Zeitung

2017 12 30T131649Z 1 LYNXMPEDBT07F RTROPTP 0 INFINEON RESULTS 1 150x150 - Infineon not vulnerable to takeover: CEO in Boersen-Zeitung

Ploss, CEO of Infineon arrives for the annual news conference in Neubiberg
Reinhard Ploss, CEO of German semiconductor manufacturer Infineon arrives for the annual news conference in Neubiberg near Munich, Germany, November 14, 2017. REUTERS/Michael Dalder

December 30, 2017

FRANKFURT (Reuters) – German chipmaker Infineon does not see itself as vulnerable to a takeover despite mega-mergers in the sector led by Broadcom’s $103 billion offer for Qualcomm, its chief executive told Germany’s Boersen-Zeitung.

“Infineon is not a primary takeover target,” Reinhard Ploss told the markets daily in an interview published on Saturday. “We communicate externally very clearly that we can and want to stand on our own two feet.”

“My impression is that this is very well understood in the market, also by Chinese investors, who do not normally have a hostile takeover strategy with high-tech companies,” he said.

Ploss said shareholders should be happy with Infineon’s price-earnings ratio of around 27, giving it a market value of 26 billion euros ($31 billion) that a potential new owner would find hard to increase significantly.

He added that Infineon’s strong position in security technology in Germany and engagement in the United States could present regulatory difficulties for a suitor.

Ploss said Infineon had learned from its failed attempt to buy U.S. chipmaker Wolfspeed, which foundered on U.S. security concerns, and would be expanding its political network in the United States.

($1 = 0.8336 euros)

(Reporting by Georgina Prodhan; Editing by Stephen Powell)

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Jay-Z ‘confesses’ to Beyonce in ‘Family Feud’ music video

2017 12 30T000938Z 2 LYNXMPEDBT001 RTROPTP 0 FASHION METGALA 1 150x150 - Jay-Z ‘confesses’ to Beyonce in ‘Family Feud’ music video

Beyonce arrives with husband Jay-Z at the Metropolitan Museum of Art Costume Institute Gala 2015 celebrating the opening of
FILE PHOTO: Beyonce arrives with husband Jay-Z at the Metropolitan Museum of Art Costume Institute Gala 2015 celebrating the opening of “China: Through the Looking Glass,” in Manhattan, New York May 4, 2015. REUTERS/Lucas Jackson

December 30, 2017

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) – Jay-Z released a music video on Friday that features the rapper addressing the pain of infidelity as he appears in a confessional booth opposite his wife Beyonce.

Set partly in a church and also featuring the couple’s 5-year-old daughter Blue Ivy, the “Family Feud” video pays tribute to family ties and female empowerment.

“We all lose when the family feuds,” Jay-Z sings. “A man that don’t take care of his family can’t be rich.”

The video is the latest from Jay-Z’s hit album “4:44,” in which he responds to allegations of cheating revealed by Beyonce in her 2016 Grammy-winning album “Lemonade.” It briefly shows an unidentified couple having sex, until the woman stabs the man in the back.

Within an hour of its release, the video was the top trending item on Twitter.

Jay-Z, 48, confirmed in a New York Times interview in November that he had been unfaithful to Beyonce earlier in their nine-year marriage.

The rapper’s soul-baring “4:44” album on love, life and social issues was widely seen as an apology to his wife.

The couple, one of the richest and most influential in the music industry, have reconciled and Beyonce gave birth to their twins in June.

Heavy on symbolism, the eight-minute-long “Family Feud” video shows the musician walking into a church holding the hand of a white-clad Blue Ivy and taking a seat in the confessional booth.

Beyonce, dressed in a black, priestess-like robe, watches silently from a pulpit and later sits listening on the other side of the confessional screen.

Directed by filmmaker Ava DuVernay, the video also envisions a future in which a grown-up Blue Ivy and other women of color, portrayed by actresses Mindy Kaling, Rosario Dawson, America Ferrera, Thandie Newton and Niecy Nash, appear to rule the world.

Jay-Z has a leading eight nominations for the Grammy Awards in January, including the top prizes of best album, song and record of the year.

(Reporting by Jill Serjeant; Editing by Tom Brown)

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Gold soars toward largest annual gain since 2010 on dollar boost

2017 12 29T145709Z 2 LYNXMPEDBS0TL RTROPTP 0 GLOBAL METALS 1 150x150 - Gold soars toward largest annual gain since 2010 on dollar boost

An employee sorts gold bars in the Austrian Gold and Silver Separating Plant 'Oegussa' in Vienna
FILE PHOTO: An employee sorts gold bars in the Austrian Gold and Silver Separating Plant ‘Oegussa’ in Vienna, Austria, December 15, 2017. REUTERS/Leonhard Foeger

December 29, 2017

By Chris Prentice and Jan Harvey

NEW YORK/LONDON (Reuters) – Gold extended its rally to a three-month high on Friday, leaping toward its biggest one-year rise in seven years as a wilting U.S. dollar, political tensions and receding concerns over the impact of U.S. interest rate hikes fed into its rally.

Gold’s gains coincide with the greenback, in which gold is priced, sliding toward its worst year since 2003, damaged by tensions over North Korea, the Russian scandal surrounding U.S. President Donald Trump’s election campaign, and persistently low U.S. inflation. [FRX/]

The dollar index <.DXY> touched three-month lows on Friday, lifting bullion to its highest level since late September at $1,307.60 an ounce before paring gains.

Strong charts, the weaker dollar and expectations of bullish fundamental factors ahead have bolstered gold prices in year-end trade, said David Meger, director of metals trading for High Ridge Futures in Chicago.

Spot gold prices <XAU=> were up 0.67 percent at $1,303.37 per ounce by 2:05 p.m. EST (1905 GMT), poised to finish 2017 up 13 percent. Benchmark U.S. gold futures <GCv1> settled up $12.1, or 0.93 percent, at $1,309.30 per ounce, finishing the year 12 percent higher.

“Going back to the last Fed meeting with its slightly more dovish tone, commodities markets have gotten a bit of a green light,” Meger said, referring to indications this month that the U.S. central bank will keep its rate outlook unchanged in the coming year.

“This recent bout of weakness in the dollar certainly is fostering a commodities rally and we’ve seen a light downturn in equities as well.”

The metal will be vulnerable next year to a rebound in the currency, as well as any gains in yields, ABN Amro analyst Georgette Boele said. The opportunity cost of holding non-interest bearing bullion increases when yields rise elsewhere.

Gold’s chart signals look positive after it broke above its 100-day moving average this week at $1,295 an ounce, ScotiaMocatta’s technical team said in a note, pointing to a target of October’s high at $1,306.

Among precious metals, palladium posted the strongest rise this year, climbing 57 percent as concerns grew over availability after years of deficit.

Palladium <XPD=> eased 0.31 percent to $1,062.05 an ounce, having hit its highest level since February 2001 at $1,072 in the previous session. It has held in a historically unusual premium to platinum this quarter.

Silver <XAG=> was up 0.51 percent at $16.926, paring gains from a one-month high of $17.111. Platinum <XPT=> was up 0.11 percent at $924 after touching a four-week high of $936.20. This year, the two metals have risen by 6 percent and 3 percent, respectively.

(Additional reporting by Nallur Sethuraman in Bengaluru; Editing by Jason Neely and Matthew Lewis)

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TRUMP UNLEASHES to NYT’s Mike Schmidt — DESTEFANO expected to take over WH political operation — IN FLORIDA: DESANTIS gets big-time billionaire backing after TRUMP tweet — B’DAY: Katie Glueck

politico 150x150 - TRUMP UNLEASHES to NYT’s Mike Schmidt -- DESTEFANO expected to take over WH political operation -- IN FLORIDA: DESANTIS gets big-time billionaire backing after TRUMP tweet -- B’DAY: Katie Glueck

POLITICO MAGAZINE — “Was 2017 the Craziest Year in U.S. Political History? A dozen historians weigh in.” http://politi.co/2ClgXh4

BULLETIN at 6:32 a.m.: “NEW YORK (AP) – Goldman Sachs, citing recent tax overhaul in U.S., expects to take a $5 billion hit to profits this quarter.”

Story Continued Below

— “The New York bank said Friday that two thirds of the $5 billion are due to changes in repatriation taxes, when funds are returned from overseas. The remainder includes the ‘effects of the implementation of the territorial tax system and the remeasurement of U.S. deferred tax assets at lower enacted corporate tax rates.’” http://bit.ly/2CnlnUR

Happy Friday. TRUMP TALKS TO HIS FAVORITE MEDIA OUTLET: THE NEW YORK TIMES … MIKE SCHMIDT in West Palm Beach and MIKE SHEAR in Washington: “Trump Says Russia Inquiry Makes U.S. ‘Look Very Bad’”: “President Trump said Thursday that he believes Robert S. Mueller III, the special counsel in the Russia investigation, will treat him fairly, contradicting some members of his party who have waged a weekslong campaign to try to discredit Mr. Mueller and the continuing inquiry.

“During an impromptu 30-minute interview with The New York Times at his golf club in West Palm Beach, the president did not demand an end to the Russia investigations swirling around his administration, but insisted 16 times that there has been ‘no collusion’ discovered by the inquiry. ‘It makes the country look very bad, and it puts the country in a very bad position,’ Mr. Trump said of the investigation. ‘So the sooner it’s worked out, the better it is for the country.’ … ‘I have absolute right to do what I want to do with the Justice Department,’ he said, echoing claims by his supporters that as president he has the power to open or end an investigation. ‘But for purposes of hopefully thinking I’m going to be treated fairly, I’ve stayed uninvolved with this particular matter.’ …

“Mr. Trump gave the interview in the Grill Room at Trump International Golf Club after he ate lunch with his playing partners, including his son Eric and the pro golfer Jim Herman. No aides were present for the interview, and the president sat alone with a New York Times reporter at a large round table as club members chatted and ate lunch nearby. A few times, members and friends — including a longtime supporter, Christopher Ruddy, the president and chief executive of the conservative website and TV company Newsmax — came by to speak with Mr. Trump. …

“Mr. Trump disputed reports that suggested he does not have a detailed understanding of legislation, saying, ‘I know the details of taxes better than anybody. Better than the greatest C.P.A. I know the details of health care better than most, better than most.’ Later, he added that he knows more about ‘the big bills’ debated in the Congress ‘than any president that’s ever been in office.’ … ‘Whatever happened to Podesta?’ Mr. Trump said. ‘They closed their firm, they left in disgrace, the whole thing, and now you never heard of anything.’ …

“‘I don’t want to get into loyalty, but I will tell you that, I will say this: Holder protected President Obama. Totally protected him,’ Mr. Trump said. He added: ‘When you look at the things that they did, and Holder protected the president. And I have great respect for that, I’ll be honest.’ …

“‘Another reason that I’m going to win another four years is because newspapers, television, all forms of media will tank if I’m not there because without me, their ratings are going down the tubes,’ Mr. Trump said, then invoked one of his preferred insults. ‘Without me, The New York Times will indeed be not the failing New York Times, but the failed New York Times.’ He added: ‘So they basically have to let me win. And eventually, probably six months before the election, they’ll be loving me because they’re saying, ‘Please, please, don’t lose Donald Trump.’ O.K.’” http://nyti.ms/2Ea3Tf5

— CHOICE WORDS FROM TRUMP: SCHMIDT: “Tell me about what you were saying that the Democrats. … [Inaudible.] … Tell me about the Democrats on the tax bill, which you were telling me about. Explain that to me, I thought that was interesting.” TRUMP: “So. … We started taxes. And we don’t hear from the Democrats. You know, we hear bull**** from the Democrats. Like Joe Manchin. Joe’s a nice guy. … But he talks. But he doesn’t do anything. He doesn’t do. ‘Hey, let’s get together, let’s do bipartisan.’ I say, ‘Good, let’s go.’ Then you don’t hear from him again. I like Joe. You know, it’s like he’s the great centrist. But he’s really not a centrist. And I think the people of West Virginia will see that. He not a centrist. … I’m the one that saved coal. I’m the one that created jobs. You know West Virginia is doing fantastically now.” Excerpts from the interview http://nyti.ms/2C7xMiW

— SPOTTED: Mike Schmidt lunching before his presidential interview at Trump’s golf club with Ruddy, former New York City Council President Andrew Stein and Lee Lipton.

WAPO’S JOSH DAWSEY — (@jdawsey1): “Asked fairly senior Trump adviser for thoughts on NYT interview a few minutes ago. Person responded: ‘What interview? Today?’”

THE PRESIDENT, UNFILTERED: @realDonaldTrump at 7:01 p.m. Thursday: “In the East, it could be the COLDEST New Year’s Eve on record. Perhaps we could use a little bit of that good old Global Warming that our Country, but not other countries, was going to pay TRILLIONS OF DOLLARS to protect against. Bundle up!” … at 7:46 a.m.: “While the Fake News loves to talk about my so-called low approval rating, @foxandfriends just showed that my rating on Dec. 28, 2017, was approximately the same as President Obama on Dec. 28, 2009, which was 47%…and this despite massive negative Trump coverage & Russia hoax!” …

at 8:04 a.m.: “Why is the United States Post Office, which is losing many billions of dollars a year, while charging Amazon and others so little to deliver their packages, making Amazon richer and the Post Office dumber and poorer? Should be charging MUCH MORE!” … at 8:16 a.m.: “The Democrats have been told, and fully understand, that there can be no DACA without the desperately needed WALL at the Southern Border and an END to the horrible Chain Migration & ridiculous Lottery System of Immigration etc. We must protect our Country at all cost!”

TO REVIEW … — “138 things Trump did this year while you weren’t looking,” by Danny Vinik: “Behind the crazy headlines, more conservative priorities got pushed through than most people realize. An exhaustive list of what really happened to the government in 2017.” http://politi.co/2pTwr9I

****** A message from Google Year in Search 2017: In 2017, the world asked “how…?” From “how to move forward” to “how to make a difference,” the questions we asked showed our shared desire to understand our experiences. Watch the film and see top trending lists from around the world at g.co/2017. ******

WAPO’S ASHLEY PARKER and JOSH DAWSEY: “White House looks to make internal changes amid worries of a tough year ahead”: “The plan is to have Johnny DeStefano — a White House aide and Washington insider who worked for John A. Boehner (R-Ohio) when he was House Speaker — temporarily oversee four West Wing operations: the Office of Intergovernmental Affairs, the Office of Political Affairs, the Office of Presidential Personnel and the Office of Public Liaison, a White House official confirmed Thursday.

“DeStefano is likely to soon get help with this broad portfolio, which was first reported by Axios, with additional staffers coming in to run the offices but still possibly reporting to him, several people with knowledge of the move said. …

“Rep. Mark Meadows (R-N.C.), the chairman of the conservative House Freedom Caucus, said he is concerned about his party’s 2018 prospects. ‘I’m a numbers guy — we could lose as many as 15 to 18 seats in the House. … There are a lot of people who are suggesting a lot more than that.’ But, Meadows added, he believes the president is looking in earnest to improve his political operation. ‘We certainly support the president’s effort to put forth a real political team to make sure the message is out there,’ Meadows said. …

“One challenge is the West Wing does not have a shortlist of candidates to help with the political operation … Marc Short, the director of legislative affairs, had informally suggested Ward Baker for the spot, according to two people with knowledge of the pitch. But Baker, a longtime Republican operative, has his detractors within the White House. He did not respond to requests for comment.” http://wapo.st/2CjJiGU

— QUICK NOTE: DeStefano was a key member of Boehner’s member services and political operation. With the House truly up for grabs, DeStefano could prove to be a very critical link to the House Republicans. He understands the dynamics and has good relationships with most of the players. That being said, no one can do four jobs at once, especially in the White House.

BIG NEWS IN THE SUNSHINE STATE — MARC CAPUTO and ALEXANDRA GLORIOSO: “Billionaire kingmakers swarm Florida governor’s race after Trump endorsement: Not long after an admiring presidential tweet, Congressman Ron DeSantis won the backing of some of the most influential players in GOP politics”: “After Donald Trump appeared to endorse Ron DeSantis’ campaign for Florida governor last week, a handful of the biggest and most influential billionaires in Republican politics threw their support behind the three-term GOP congressman, upending the race in the nation’s biggest swing state.

“The stable of billionaires and millionaires listed on DeSantis’ ‘Finance Leadership Team,’ obtained by POLITICO, include casino magnate Sheldon Adelson, hedge fund heiress Rebekah Mercer, investment tycoon Foster Friess and other donors who have funded the conservative Koch brothers’ network and President Trump’s campaign. Just last week, Trump weighed in on Twitter to say that DeSantis ‘would make a GREAT Governor of Florida.’

“DeSantis has yet to formally announce his 2018 campaign for governor, but his intentions to seek the office became clear in May after he established a state political committee, called the Fund for Florida’s Future, that’s allowed to raise and spend unlimited soft money from corporate contributors.” http://politi.co/2C83KvtFinance Leadership Team document http://politi.co/2zKZDiT

FROM 30,000 FEET — NYT A1, “Trump, the Insurgent, Breaks with 70 Years of American Foreign Policy,” by Mark Landler as part of the paper’s “Trump’s Way” series: “Above all, Mr. Trump has transformed the world’s view of the United States from a reliable anchor of the liberal, rules-based international order into something more inward-looking and unpredictable. That is a seminal change from the role the country has played for 70 years, under presidents from both parties, and it has lasting implications for how other countries chart their futures. Mr. Trump’s unorthodox approach ‘has moved a lot of us out of our comfort zone, me included,’ the national security adviser, Lt. Gen. H. R. McMaster, said in an interview.

“A three-star Army general who served in Iraq and Afghanistan and wrote a well-regarded book about the White House’s strategic failure in Vietnam, General McMaster defined Trump foreign policy as ‘pragmatic realism’ rather than isolationism. ‘The consensus view has been that engagement overseas is an unmitigated good, regardless of the circumstances,’ General McMaster said. ‘But there are problems that are maybe both intractable and of marginal interest to the American people, that do not justify investments of blood and treasure.’” http://nyti.ms/2EaSknO


— WSJ: “Tax Law Ushers In Higher Executive Salaries at Netflix: Streaming giant says old rules called for a substantial surcharge,” by Trey Williams: “[C]hief Content Officer Ted Sarandos will earn a $12 million base salary in 2018, after bringing in a salary of $1 million in the past three years, according to a filing with the [SEC].

“The streaming giant cited the recent passage of the U.S. federal tax overhaul as the reason for the change. The company said salaries of more than $1 million for named executives, other than the chief financial officer, were subject to a substantial surcharge. Because of that, Netflix had a performance-based bonus plan for certain executives. In 2017, Mr. Sarandos had a $1 million salary but a bonus target of $9 million.

“‘With the recent passage of federal tax reform, the performance bonus plan will no longer eliminate such surcharges,’ the company said in the filing. ‘As such, the compensation committee of the board of directors has determined that all cash compensation for 2018 will be paid as salary.’” http://on.wsj.com/2CiqzLT

— “Tax law creates confusion and uproar in city halls across America,” by Aaron Lorenzo: “In the Albany suburb of Bethlehem, N.Y., more than 100 people waited in a gym to pay their property tax bills — some of them for over an hour — on Thursday before a new federal $10,000 cap on state and local deductions goes into effect Jan. 1. Municipalities on Long Island were preparing to open over the weekend to give taxpayers more time to pay. But the IRS issued an edict Wednesday night saying the early payments could only be deducted on 2017 taxes if they had already been assessed. That threw residents and local government officials into a new round of confusion as everyone scrambled to determine which payments would qualify.” http://politi.co/2C8DSzq

THE RUSSIANS! — CHARLESTON POST AND COURIER: “Was Nikki Haley pranked by Russians, or are these tricksters fooling us all?” by Caitlin Byrd: “U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley may have been fooled by a pair of Russian pranksters pretending to be the prime minister of Poland. The duo, known as Vovan and Lexus, claims to have arranged a crank phone call Thursday with the former South Carolina governor.

“The pair, whose real names are Alexei Stolyarov and Vladimir Kuznetsov, posted a nearly 22-minute video clip this weekend in which a woman who sounds like Haley speaks to a man who she thinks is the new Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki. …

“Between questions about Ukraine and Russia, the fake prime minister asked Haley about Binomo — a fake island that does not exist. ‘You know Binomo?’ the prankster said. ‘Yes, yes,’ Haley responded. ‘They had elections and we suppose Russians had its intervention,’ the joker said.

“‘Yes, of course they did, absolutely,’ Haley said. When asked about America’s plans to do about the situation in Binomo, Haley said, ‘Let me find out exactly what our stance is on that, and what if anything the U.S. is doing or thinks should be done and I will report back to you on that as well.’ …

“‘We have nothing to share on that at this time,’ Haley spokesman John Degory told The Post and Courier on Tuesday. Degory would not confirm or deny the authenticity of the video.” http://bit.ly/2lqUxD5

YEAR IN REVIEW — AP’S ANDY TAYLOR: “Lawmakers struggled to stay on track in Trump’s first year” http://bit.ly/2BUvob1

— VIDEO FROM THE HOUSE REPUBLICAN CONFERENCE: This past year in the House. http://bit.ly/2CkHnSI

TRUMP INC. — “Trump Inc. Had a Rough Year, but His D.C. Hotel Is Killing It,” by the Daily Beast’s Betsy Woodruff: “Since his inauguration, he has maintained that he isn’t involved in the management of his businesses. But an email from the director of revenue management for the Trump Hotel in Washington, which The Daily Beast reviewed, indicates that may not be the case. Jeng Chi Hung, who holds that position, sent that email to an acquaintance on Sept. 12 of this year. The email opens with a few pleasantries. Then, Hung writes that he met with Trump, and that the president asked him specific questions about banquet revenues, demographics, and how his presidency impacted the business.

“The email says this: ‘The company is interesting to work for being under the Trump umbrella. DJT is supposed to be out of the business and passed on to his sons, but he’s definitely still involved … so it’s interesting and unique in that way. I had a brief meeting with him a few weeks ago, and he was asking about banquet revenues and demographics. And, he asked if his presidency hurt the businesses. So, he seems self aware about things, at least more than he lets on. I am far left leaning politically, so working here has been somewhat of a challenge for me. But, it’s all business.’” http://thebea.st/2BS6OaR

DAILY MAIL: “EXCLUSIVE: White power at the White House – Trump intern flashes ‘alt-right’ symbol used by notorious extremists during group photo with the president” http://dailym.ai/2pU91B1

CLICKER – “The Divide Between America’s Prosperous Cities and Struggling Small Towns—in 20 Charts,” by WSJ’s Paul Overberg: http://on.wsj.com/2lhp1bg

YIKES — “Romanian hackers took over D.C. surveillance cameras just before presidential inauguration, federal prosecutors say,” by WaPo’s Rachel Weiner: “Romanian hackers took over two-thirds of the District’s outdoor surveillance cameras just before President Trump’s inauguration, according to a federal criminal complaint unsealed Thursday. The January attack affected 123 of the D.C. police department’s 187 outdoor surveillance cameras, leaving them unable to record for several days. Two Romanians … are being charged in D.C. federal court with fraud and computer crimes. … The city resolved the problem by taking the devices offline, removing all software and restarting the system at each site, a process that took about two days … From Jan. 12 to Jan. 15, none of the cameras were able to record video.” http://wapo.st/2Ea8z4B

— POLITICO SCOOP: “The latest 2018 election-hacking threat: A 9-month wait for government help,” by Tim Starks: “States rushing to guard their 2018 elections against hackers may be on a waiting list for up to nine months for the Department of Homeland Security’s most exhaustive security screening, according to government officials familiar with the situation.

“That means some states might not get the service until weeks before the November midterms and may remain unaware of flaws that could allow homegrown cyber vandals or foreign intelligence agencies to target voter registration databases and election offices’ computer networks, the officials said. Russian hackers targeted election systems in at least 21 states in 2016, according to DHS.” http://politi.co/2zLDZec

INVESTIGATION UPDATE — “There’s still little evidence that Russia’s 2016 social media efforts did much of anything,” by WaPo’s Philip Bump: “A little-noticed statement from Sen. Richard Burr (R-N.C.), chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, detailed how unsophisticated the Russian ad targeting actually was in the context of the election. Among the points he made: Maryland was targeted by nearly five times as many ads as was Wisconsin (262 to 55). … Thirty-five of the 55 ads targeting Wisconsin ran during the primary. … More ads targeted DC than Pennsylvania. … A total of $1,979 was spent in Wisconsin — $1,925 of it in the primary. … The spending in Michigan and Pennsylvania were $823 and $300, respectively. … More of the geographically targeted ads ran in 2015 than in 2016.” http://wapo.st/2zLyyvJ

MEA CULPA — “Apple Apologizes for Handling of iPhone Battery Issue,” by WSJ’s Robert McMillan: “Apple Inc. issued a rare apology for its handling of concerns about performance issues in iPhones with older batteries in the wake of a wave of consumer complaints. ‘We know that some of you feel Apple has let you down,’ Apple said in a note posted to its website on Thursday. ‘We apologize.’ The company said it will slash prices of replacement batteries and add, in the coming year, software that gives insight into the health of an iPhone battery. It also released a detailed support page explaining battery issues.” http://on.wsj.com/2lpGzl4Apple’s note to customers http://apple.co/2DtcJUc

****** A message from Google Year in Search 2017: As this year draws to a close, Google analyzed Search Trends data to see what the world was searching for. The data showed that 2017 was the year we asked “how…?” How do wildfires start? How to calm a dog during a storm? How to make a protest sign? These questions show our shared desire to understand our experiences and come to each other’s aid. Watch the Year in Search 2017 and see top trending lists from around the world at g.co/2017. ******

VALLEY TALK – “San Francisco’s Skyline, Now Inexorably Transformed by Tech,” by NYT’s David Streitfeld: “The skyscraper came late to this city, a shipping and manufacturing hub for much of its existence. … Salesforce, a company that did not exist 20 years ago, will take up residence on Jan. 8 in the new Salesforce Tower, which at 1,070 feet is the tallest office building west of the Mississippi. In Silicon Valley, the office parks blend into the landscape. They might have made their workers exceedingly rich, they might have changed the world — whether for better or worse is currently up for debate — but there is nothing about them that says: We are a big deal.” http://nyti.ms/2lrKfT5

FUTURECAST — “Some of the World’s Largest Employers No Longer Sell Things, They Rent Workers,” by WSJ’s Lauren Weber: “The list of the world’s largest employers was once dominated by household names like Ford Motor Co., J.C. Penney Co., and General Electric Co., companies that made and sold things. A new analysis conducted for The Wall Street Journal shows those names are nowhere to be found on that list today. In their place are large outsourcing companies like Compass Group PLC, Accenture PLC and other businesses that essentially lease workers to clients. Of the top 20 global employers in 2017, five are outsourcing and ‘workforce solutions’ companies, according to an analysis by S&P Global Market Intelligence. In 2000, only one employer in the top 20—International Business Machines Corp., which offers outsourced IT services among its many businesses—fell into that bucket.” http://on.wsj.com/2Ea68Pv

DAVID BROOKS, “The 2017 Sidney Awards, Part II”: “I was entranced by an essay in Emergency Physicians Monthly. It’s an oral testimony by Dr. Kevin Menes, who was in charge of the emergency department of Sunrise Hospital in Las Vegas the night Stephen Paddock opened fire on a concert. … It’s nearly impossible to write an essay capturing an entire region’s culture and feel, and it’s doubly hard if that region is as sprawling as the Midwest. So Phil Christman gets a Sidney plus for his essay ‘On Being Midwestern’ in the consistently splendid Hedgehog Review. …

“Caitlin Flanagan’s ‘Death at a Penn State Fraternity’ from The Atlantic describes the death of a fraternity pledge during hazing … In ‘The New Class War’ in American Affairs, Michael Lind points out that by the time of the Great Recession, 95 percent of microprocessors were manufactured by just four companies. … To finish on a hopeful note, let’s return to medicine and Atul Gawande’s ‘The Heroism of Incremental Care’ in The New Yorker.” http://nyti.ms/2CkIzoW

ENGAGED – PETE BUTTIGIEG, mayor of South Bend, Indiana, proposed to CHASTEN GLEZMAN, a middle school teacher. “They met through the dating app Hine, struck up a conversation about ‘Game of Thrones,’ and quickly discovered a shared love of travel. The proposal happened at Chicago O’Hare Airport at the spot where Chasten was sitting when they first connected. Pete proposed with a ring at the airport as the two were beginning a vacation.”Pic http://politi.co/2Clb57w

SPOTTED: Jason Chaffetz wearing headphones on Delta flight 832 yesterday from Salt Lake City to DCA. He sat in the exit row although “his name was on the screen for first class upgrade,” per our tipster.

TV TONIGHT – PBS’ “Washington Week” hosted by Bob Costa: Carol Leonnig, Amy Walter, Shawna Thomas, Phil Rucker and Alexis Simendinger

SUNDAY SO FAR – CBS’ “Face the Nation”: Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) … J.D. Vance. Political panel: Ed O’Keefe, Julie Pace, David Nakamura and Rachael Bade.

— CNN’s “State of the Union” (guest host: Dana Bash): Anthony Scaramucci … Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein. Panel: Bill Kristol, Nina Turner, Bakari Sellers and Michael Caputo

— ABC’s “This Week”: Ret. Adm. Mike Mullen. Panel: Matthew Dowd, Joshua Johnson, Mary Jordan, Susan Page

— “Fox News Sunday” (guest host: Dana Perino): Panel: Mike Needham, Marie Harf, Bruce Mehlman and Mo Elleithee

— NBC’s “Meet the Press”: Charlie Cook, Katty Kay, Rich Lowry and Kristen Welker.

TRANSITIONS – OBAMA ALUMNI — Rob Malley has been named the new president and CEO of the International Crisis Group. He most recently has been the VP of policy for the organization and served in the Obama White House.

BIRTHWEEK (was Wednesday): Dale Vieregge, director in APCO’s D.C. office (hat tip: Anthony DeAngelo)

BIRTHDAYS OF THE DAY: Katie Glueck, senior national political correspondent at McClatchy. A fun fact about Katie: “As a fifth grader, I won a Ford F-150 truck at a Kansas City Royals baseball game.” Read her Playbook Plus Q&A: http://politi.co/2ljr8vpBlair Watters, senior director at InterDigital, celebrating by “seeing a Motown concert with my family—my dad’s idea.” Q&A: http://politi.co/2BSkC5b

BIRTHDAYS: Kate Sherman … Reihan Salam is 38 … Jeremy Waldstreicher is 32 … Erica Kimmel Haffetz … Leah Malone, who runs comms for the Romneys (h/t Ann Romney) … Andrew Malcolm, manager of public advocacy at Exelon and a Greg Walden alum … CNN’s Ashleigh Banfield is 5-0 … retired ABC newscaster Tom Jarriel is 83 … Kevin Griffis, VP of comms at Planned Parenthood and an Obama HHS alum … Politico’s Katie Pudwill, Eric Engleman and Grace Goodman … Caroline Ey … Jordan Langdon, deputy comms director for Sen. Jerry Moran (R-Kan.) … Erica Ryan … Scott Keyes … Andy Estrada, proud son of Maine and Colby College alum who was the press secretary for HFA in NC (h/t Andrew Bates) … AEI’s Grant Addison … Leo Wallach, principal at RALLY, is 38 … Edelman’s Renée Revetta and Alexander Romano … Mike Siegel, comms director for Rep. French Hill (R-Ark.) … Shehzad Haider … Tom Dickens is 29 …

… Theo and Paul Epstein are 44 … Kyle Egan, LA for Rep. Duncan Hunter (R-Calif.) (h/t Sally Fox) … Maria Randazzo of the Council for a Strong America (h/t Rachel Wein) … Boris Medzhibovsky, COS for Rep. Pete Aguilar (D-Calif.) … Rob Burgess, comms director for Rep. Trey Hollingsworth (R-Ind.) … Kim Snyder … Michael McLaughlin … Dan Syde is 33 … Ian Steyer … Kai Stinchcombe … Kim Barnes Kimball … Didi Cardenas … Renata McGriff … Adam Shoucair … Anny Chen … Estelle Jackson … David Koeppel … Gracie Brandsgard … Kara Kostanich … Laura Clawson … Amata Radewagen, Delegate to the U.S. House from American Samoa, is 7-0 … George Caudill … Marie-Therese Dominguez … Tara Venkatraman (h/ts Teresa Vilmain) … IOC president Thomas Bach is 64 (h/t AP)

****** A message from Google Year in Search 2017: As this year draws to a close, Google analyzed Search Trends data to see what the world was searching for. The data showed that 2017 was the year we asked “how…?” How do wildfires start? How to calm a dog during a storm? How to make a protest sign? All of the “how” searches featured in the Year in Search film were searched at least 10 times more this year than ever before. These questions show our shared desire to understand our experiences and come to each other’s aid.

From “how to watch the eclipse” and “how to shoot like Curry,” to “how to move forward” and “how to make a difference,” here’s to this Year in Search. Watch the film and see top trending lists from around the world at g.co/2017. ******

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Two Romanians Charged In Hacking Scheme

2017 12 06T143006Z 1 LYNXMPEDB51DP RTROPTP 4 GLOBAL POY TRUMP e1514568980550 150x150 - Two Romanians Charged In Hacking Scheme


Photo of Jack Crowe

1:04 PM 12/29/2017

The Department of Justice (DOJ) announced Thursday that two Romanian nationals have been charged for hacking into a number of Washington, D.C. police surveillance cameras just days before President Donald Trump’s January inauguration.

Mihai Alexandru Isvanca and Eveline Cismaru were arrested Dec. 15 in Bucharest for their roles in the scheme, which compromised of 123 of the total 187 D.C. Metropolitan Police surveillance cameras and left them inoperable for days. The charges were filed under seal Dec. 11 and were first reported by CNN.

“This case was of the highest priority due to its impact on the Secret Service’s protective mission and its potential effect on the security plan for the 2017 Presidential Inauguration,” the DOJ statement reads.

Officials say the plot relied on Ransomware, which is typically disseminated in email links and locks users out of their files until a ransom is paid. Authorities first noticed something was amiss Jan. 12 and responded by taking the cameras offline, leaving them inoperable until Jan. 15., according to police.

The hackers, whom authorities believe are part of a broader hacking contingent, also planned to email out the ransomware to more than 179,000 different addresses, so it is unclear if they realize they had also targeted a police department, according to the statement.

Isvanca and Cismaru now face up to 20 years in federal prison on charges of conspiracy to commit wire fraud and conspiracy to commit various forms of computer fraud. Prosecutors intend on seeking extradition for the pair, though three other hackers involved in the plot will remain in Europe to face charges.


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Trump, Year One

new year 2018 ben garrison 150x150 - Trump, Year One

President Trump accomplished a lot during his first year. He almost immediately ended the Trans Pacific Partnership, which was a bad deal for American workers, because their jobs were being sent overseas. He refused to go along with the Paris ‘climate change’ accord, which punished America in particular. Climate change is science purchased by globalists, who want to use fear to gain further control of our economy. Trump broke their spell. He’s for America first.

Under Trump, we now have a conservative justice added to the Supreme Court, with more appointees to come. Unemployment has been lowered along with illegal immigration—unvetted or otherwise. Trump is the only president who has had the nerve to actually transfer the US Embassy to Jerusalem.

Taxes have been lowered and the Obamacare mandate has been repealed. In fact, many of Obama’s so-called ‘accomplishments’ have been negated, which is no doubt very irksome to the former president and chief narcissist.

Previous presidents preferred to kick the can down the road when it came to North Korea, but Trump has signaled that he’s had enough. The little round tyrant in North Korea thought he can threaten us with nuclear annihilation and launch missiles over Japan without consequence. After all, previous presidents were always played for saps. They gave the hermit nation concessions every time the dear leaders rattled their sabers. Bill Clinton, with the help of Jimmy Carter, gave the Stalinist country nuclear reactors and billions of dollars in aid. The dictator hugging Carter received the Nobel Peace Prize for his effort, while the North Koreans went ahead with their nuclear weapons program without skipping a beat.

Regulations have been pared back and business are bringing jobs back to America. Work has been done to thwart Islamic terrorists. Obama’s Muslim prayer rugs have been removed.

Naturally, to those possessed with ‘Trump Derangement Syndrome,’ all of his accomplishments are the acme of evil. This is to be expected. The left’s precious socialism and political correctness are finally getting the pushback they’ve long deserved, thanks to President Trump.

There remains much work to be done. Our infrastructure needs rebuilding. The wall needs to be built. The Deep State Swamp needs a lot more draining. Hillary still needs to be locked up. President Trump remains the best man for the job.

—Ben Garrison

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