Netanyahu meets Omani foreign minister , hints other Arab states warming to Israel

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu attends the weekly cabinet meeting at his office in Jerusalem February 10, 2019. Gali Tibbon/Pool via REUTERS

WARSAW (Reuters) – Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu met Oman’s foreign minister on the sidelines of a U.S.-sponsored Middle East conference in Warsaw on Wednesday and hinted that other Arab countries represented there were engaging with Israel.

“Many are following this (Omani) lead, and may I say, including at this conference,” a video released by Netanyahu’s office showed him telling Yousuf bin Alawi bin Abdullah, whose Gulf state hosted the Israeli leader in October.

Oman does not formally recognize Israel. Nor do Saudi Arabia and United Arab Emirates, which share Israel’s concerns about Iranian actions in the region and also sent envoys to Warsaw.

Speaking to Netanyahu, bin Alawi said: “People in the Middle East have suffered a lot because they have stuck to the past. Now we say, this is a new era, for the future.”

The United States hopes the Warsaw gathering will ratchet up pressure against Iran despite concerns among major European countries about heightened tensions with Tehran.

(Writing by Dan Williams; Editing by Jeffrey Heller, Alison Williams, William Maclean)

As revolution turns 40, Iran taunts U.S., vaunts military

Iranians burn U.S. flags during a ceremony to mark the 40th anniversary of the Islamic Revolution in Tehran, Iran February 11, 2019. Meghdad Madadi/Tasnim News Agency/via REUTERS

By Parisa Hafezi

DUBAI (Reuters) – Hundreds of thousands of Iranians marched and some burned U.S. flags on Monday to mark the 40th anniversary of the triumph of Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, the Shi’ite cleric who toppled the Shah in an Islamic Revolution that rattles the West to this day.

On Feb 11, 1979, Iran’s army declared its neutrality, paving the way for the fall of Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi, the United States’ closest ally in the Middle East.

 

Iranian people gather during a ceremony to mark the 40th anniversary of the Islamic Revolution in Tehran, Iran February 11, 2019. Masoud Shahrestani/Tasnim News Agency/via REUTERS

Iranian people gather during a ceremony to mark the 40th anniversary of the Islamic Revolution in Tehran, Iran February 11, 2019. Masoud Shahrestani/Tasnim News Agency/via REUTERS

State TV showed crowds defying cold rainy weather and carrying Iranian flags while shouting “Death to Israel, Death to America,” trademark chants of the revolution which ousted the United States’ most important ally in the Middle East.

“Much to the dismay of America, the revolution has reached its 40th year,” read one banner.

Soldiers, students, clerics and black-clad women holding small children thronged streets across Iran, many carrying portraits of Khomeini, who died in 1989, and Iran’s current Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.

The large turnout in state-sponsored rallies came as Iranians face mounting economic hardships many blame on the country’s clerical leaders.

Last year, Iran cracked down on protests over poor living standards that posed the most serious challenge to its clerical leadership since a 2009 uprising over disputed elections.

Prices of basic foodstuffs, particularly meat, have soared since President Donald Trump withdrew Washington from the 2015 nuclear deal last year and reimposed sanctions.

In January, President Hassan Rouhani said Iran was facing its worst economic crisis since the Shah was toppled. But he remained defiant as Iranians recalled the end of a monarch who catered to the rich and unleashed secret police on dissenters.

In a speech at Tehran’s Azadi (Freedom) square, Rouhani said U.S. efforts to isolate Iran would fail.

“We will not let America become victorious. Iranian people have and will have some economic difficulties but we will overcome the problems by helping each other,” he said.

Iranians burn U.S. flags during a ceremony to mark the 40th anniversary of the Islamic Revolution in Tehran, Iran February 11, 2019. Meghdad Madadi/Tasnim News Agency/via REUTERS

Iranians burn U.S. flags during a ceremony to mark the 40th anniversary of the Islamic Revolution in Tehran, Iran February 11, 2019. Meghdad Madadi/Tasnim News Agency/via REUTERS

U.S. AND ISRAELI “DOGS”

Marchers carried cardboard cutouts of dogs. One had the face of Trump and the other the face of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

Yadollah Javani, the Revolutionary Guards’s deputy head for political affairs, said Iran would demolish cities in Israel to the ground if the United States attacked the Islamic Republic.

“The United States does not have the courage to shoot a single bullet at us despite all its defensive and military assets,” he was quoted as saying by state news agency IRNA.

State TV showed a cartoon of the Shah being thrown into the “dustbin of history”, wearing clothes in U.S. colors and holding Iranian newspapers headlined “The Shah has left!”

Khomeini returned from exile in France two weeks after the Shah and his wife flew to Aswan, Egypt. He was greeted by millions of supporters in Tehran. Revolutionaries later began executing supporters of the Shah including four top generals.

Washington and the Arab world have viewed Iran with

great suspicion since the Islamic Revolution, fearing Khomeini’s radical ideology would inspire militants across the Middle East.

Today, the United States and its Arab allies are trying to counter Tehran’s growing influence in the Middle East, where it has proxies in Iraq, Syria, Lebanon and Yemen.

“The world saw when Iran decided to help people of Syria, Iraq, Lebanon, Palestine and Yemen, they achieved victory. The enemies are now confessing to their defeat,” said Rouhani.

Some Iranians criticize their leaders for what they say are foreign adventures which squander funds. Iranian leaders say they are protecting national interests.

Tehran was determined to expand its military power despite pressure from hostile states, Rouhani said.

Iran displayed its ballistic missile capabilities during a parade marking the anniversary, including the Zolfaqar, a ground-to-ground missile with a 700 km (435 miles) range and the Qiam, with a range of 800 km, according to Tasnim news agency.

Brigadier General Hossein Salami, the Revolutionary Guards deputy head, said Tehran would not withdraw forces from the region, dismissing U.S. calls for Iranian clout to be curbed.

(Additional reporting by Bozorgmehr Sharafeddin in London and Babak Dehghanpisheh; Writing by Michael Georgy, Editing by Andrew Cawthorne, William Maclean)

Palestinians warm to Netanyahu rival, citing signs of compromise

FILE PHOTO: Benny Gantz, a former Israeli armed forces chief and head of Israel Resilience party, delivers his first political speech at the party campaign launch in Tel Aviv, Israel January 29, 2019. REUTERS/Amir Cohen/File Photo

By Stephen Farrell and Dan Williams

RAMALLAH, West Bank/JERUSALEM (Reuters) – Palestinians warmed on Wednesday to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s toughest election rival, a former top general who said Israel should not maintain its dominion over them.

With both a general election and the unveiling of a U.S. peace initiative on the horizon, the centrist candidate, Benny Gantz, has been signaling an openness to territorial compromise in the occupied West Bank. That marks a contrast with the right-wing Netanyahu, who has ruled out withdrawing settlements.

The secret U.S. proposal for breaking a five-year diplomatic deadlock is widely expected to be unveiled after Israel’s April 9 ballot. Pollsters see Netanyahu’s conservative Likud party winning around 30 of parliament’s 120 seats, setting him up for a fifth term.

In an interview on Wednesday with Israel’s Yedioth Ahronoth newspaper, Gantz was asked about prospects for accommodation with the Palestinians, who seek a state in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, with East Jerusalem as its capital.

“We need to find a way not to have dominion over other people,” Gantz said.

Gantz, whose new Resilience party is gaining ground against Netanyahu’s Likud with as many as 24 projected seats, has said he wanted to strengthen settlement blocs in the West Bank.

But he has not mentioned what might happen in any future peace deal to isolated settlements that are not incorporated into Israel if Palestinians are given a separate state.

Nabil Abu Rudeineh, a spokesman for Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, praised “the signs coming from Gantz about settlements”, calling them a step in the right direction should he win the election and prove “willing and ready” for peace.

“It’s encouraging, if he succeeds and he sticks to this opinion,” Abu Rudeineh told Reuters.

Most world powers consider Israeli settlements on land captured in a 1967 war to be illegal under the Geneva conventions. Israel disputes this, citing historical ties to the land, and has expanded the settlement population steadily, including during the past decade under Netanyahu.

Palestinians say settlements must be removed from their future state in any final agreement, although some could be ceded to Israel as part of an agreed swap for other land. The last peace talks collapsed in 2014, in part over the issue of settlements, and Abbas is boycotting the Trump administration, accusing it of being biased toward Israel.

In a statement, Likud said Gantz was planning to form a “leftist government” sympathetic to the Palestinians.

Gantz’ Resilience party said “no unilateral decision will be made on settlement evacuation” and that he would “maintain … non-negotiable security protections”.

Netanyahu cites the example of Gaza — where Israel unilaterally pulled out its settlements in 2005 and the Islamist group Hamas soon took control — as proof that removing settlements from the West Bank would be dangerous.

Gantz described the Gaza withdrawal as well executed, telling Yedioth: “We need to take the lessons and apply them elsewhere.”

The Trump administration has wavered over whether it would endorse a Palestinian state, saying the final outcome will be up to the sides to determine, but both may need to compromise.

(Additional reporting by Ali Sawafta; Writing by Dan Williams; Editing by Peter Graff)

Iran warns Israel against further air strikes in Syria

FILE PHOTO: Admiral Ali Shamkhani, Iran?s Supreme National Security Council Director, speaks to the media after his arrival at Damascus airport, September 30, 2014. REUTERS/Khaled al-Hariri/File Photo

LONDON/JERUSALEM (Reuters) – Iran warned Israel on Tuesday of a “firm and appropriate” response if it continued attacking targets in Syria, where Tehran has backed President Bashar al-Assad and his forces in their nearly eight-year war against rebels and militants.

Without responding directly, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu nevertheless said it was important to block Iranian influence in Syria.

Israel, which views Tehran as its biggest security threat, has repeatedly attacked Iranian targets and those of allied militia in Syria. With an election looming in April, Israel has been increasingly open about carrying out air strikes.

In a meeting with Syria’s Foreign Minister Walid al-Moualem in Tehran, the secretary of Iran’s National Security Council Ali Shamkhani said the Israeli attacks violated Syria’s territorial integrity and were unacceptable.

“If these actions continue, we will activate some calculated measures as a deterrent and as a firm and appropriate response to teach a lesson to the criminal and lying rulers of Israel,” Shamkhani was quoted as saying by Fars news agency.

In Jerusalem, Netanyahu said he would hold talks in Moscow with Russian President Vladimir Putin on Feb. 21, focussing on Iran’s threat along the Syrian border.

Moscow is a main backer of the Damascus government.

“It’s very important that we continue to prevent Iran from entrenching in Syria. In many ways we blocked that advance. But we are committed to continuously blocking it, continuously preventing Iran from creating another war front against us right here opposite the Golan Heights,” Netanyahu said.

In January, Israeli warplanes carried out a strike on what they called an Iranian arms cache in Syria, and Netanyahu has said attacks will continue.

Syria’s Moualem was quoted on Tuesday by a Hezbollah-run media unit as saying: “The Syrian government considers it to be its duty to keep Iranian security forces in Syrian territory.”

Iran has also repeatedly said it will keep forces there.

Moualem was in Tehran for negotiations before the meeting of the leaders of Russia, Turkey and Iran in the Russian Black Sea resort town Sochi on Feb. 14 about the situation in Syria.

(Reporting by Bozorgmehr Sharafedin in London and Jeffrey Heller in Jerusalem; Editing by Gareth Jones and Andrew Cawthorne)

Venezuela’s Guaido calls for new protests as pressure on Maduro rises

FILE PHOTO: Venezuelan opposition leader and self-proclaimed interim president Juan Guaido accompanied by his wife Fabiana Rosales, speaks to the media after a holy Mass at a local church in Caracas, Venezuela, Jan. 27, 2019. REUTERS/Carlos Barria/File Photo

By Brian Ellsworth

CARACAS (Reuters) – Juan Guaido, the Venezuelan opposition leader and self-proclaimed president, on Monday called for new street demonstrations as pressure intensified on President Nicolas Maduro and the crisis-stricken OPEC nation.

Countries around the world have recognized Guaido as Venezuela’s rightful leader, and the United States vowed to starve Maduro’s administration of oil revenue after he was sworn in Jan. 10 for a second term that was widely dubbed illegitimate.

Maduro says the United States is promoting a coup against him and promised to stay in office, backed by Russia and China, which have bankrolled his government and fought off efforts to have his government disavowed by the United Nations.

Guaido said opposition sympathizers should take to the streets on Wednesday to pass out copies of a pamphlet proposing amnesty that would give some legal protection to members of the military in hopes they will turn against Maduro.

“We must remain united as active agents of change in every corner of the country,” Guaido tweeted on Monday. “We’re doing well, very well, Venezuela!”

On Sunday, Israel and Australia joined countries backing the 35-year-old Guaido, and U.S. President Donald Trump said his government had accepted Venezuelan opposition figure Carlos Alfredo Vecchio as a diplomatic representative to the United States.

Guaido took advantage of a major street demonstration on Jan. 23 to swear himself in as the country’s rightful leader, accusing Maduro of usurping power following a disputed 2018 re-election that countries around the world described as a fraud.

Guaido is asking for help in getting control of the Venezuelan government’s offshore assets.

In recent days, he urged British Prime Minister Theresa May and Bank of England Governor Mark Carney to block Maduro’s government from collecting more than $1 billion in gold held by the Bank of England.

Venezuela’s once-buoyant socialist economic system has imploded from corruption and mismanagement since the collapse of world oil prices in 2014, pushing inflation to almost 2 million percent and driving millions of Venezuelans to neighboring countries.

Maduro says his government is the victim of an “economic war” led by his political adversaries with the help of Washington, which has levied several rounds of sanctions against the country since 2017.

(Reporting by Brian Ellsworth; Editing by Jeffrey Benkoe)

Iran vows to will keep military forces in Syria despite Israeli threats

FILE PHOTO: Iran's Revolutionary Guards commander Mohammad Ali Jafari looks on while attending Friday prayers in Tehran February 10, 2012. REUTERS/Morteza Nikoubazl

LONDON (Reuters) – Iran will keep military forces in Syria, the head of the elite Revolutionary Guards said on Wednesday, defying Israeli threats that they might be targeted if they do not leave the country.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said on Tuesday that Israeli forces would continue to attack Iranians in Syria and warned them “to get out of there fast, because we will continue with our resolute policy”.

FILE PHOTO: Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu attends the weekly cabinet meeting in Jerusalem, January 13, 2019. Ariel Schalit/Pool via Reuters/File Photo

FILE PHOTO: Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu attends the weekly cabinet meeting in Jerusalem, January 13, 2019. Ariel Schalit/Pool via Reuters/File Photo

Rebuffing the threats, Major General Mohammad Ali Jafari, the Revolutionary Guards top commander, was quoted as saying by the semi-official ISNA news agency that “the Islamic Republic of Iran will keep all its military and revolutionary advisers and its weapons in Syria.”

Jafari called Netanyahu’s threats “a joke”, and warned that the Israeli government “was playing with (a) lion’s tail.”

“You should be afraid of the day that our precision-guided missiles roar and fall on your head,” he said.

Iran and Russia have both backed Syrian President Bashar al-Assad in a seven-year war against rebels and militants, and have sent thousands of soldiers to the country.

Israel, increasingly concerned that its enemy Iran may establish a long-term military presence in neighboring Syria, says it has carried out more than 200 attacks against Iranian targets in Syria in the last two years.

Netanyahu said on Sunday that Israeli warplanes carried out an attack on what he called an Iranian arms cache in Syria.

(Reporting by Bozorgmehr Sharafedin in London with additional reporting by Dan Williams in Jerusalem; Editing by Mark Heinrich)

Israelis to scour Danube for Holocaust remains with Hungary’s help

FILE PHOTO: Israeli Interior Minister Aryeh Deri speaks during an annual pilgrimage to the gravesite of Moroccan-born sage and Jewish mystic Rabbi Yisrael Abuhatzeira, also known as the Baba Sali, on the anniversary of his death in the southern town of Netivot, Israel January 9, 2019 REUTERS/Amir Cohen/File Photo

BUDAPEST (Reuters) – An Israeli recovery team will search Hungary’s Danube river for remains of Holocaust victims, with Hungarian permission and assistance, so they can be buried in accordance with Jewish rite, a visiting Israeli official said on Monday.

According to Israel’s Holocaust memorial Yad Vashem, some 565,000 were killed in the Holocaust, the majority of them deported to the Auschwitz death camp between May and July 1944.

In October of that year, when the pro-Nazi Arrow Cross party took power in Hungary, thousands of Jews from Budapest were murdered on the banks of the Danube, according to Yad Vashem.

Arye Deri, Israel’s interior minister and an ultra-Orthodox rabbi, said his Hungarian counterpart, Sandor Pinter, had agreed to his request to provide special equipment to forensic experts from the Israeli volunteer Zaka who traveled with him to Budapest.

“I hope that immediately, tomorrow, the righteous men of Zaka will bestow mercy on these highest of martyrs and bring them to Jewish burial,” Deri said in a video posted on Twitter.

The Hungarian Interior Ministry did not immediately respond to emailed questions for comment.

(Writing by Dan Williams; Editing by Mark Heinrich)

President Donald Trump’s Accomplishments; The List is Growing

U.S. President Donald Trump closes his eyes in prayer along with Pastor Andrew Brunson, after his release from two years of Turkish detention, in the Oval Office of the White House, Washington, U.S., October 13, 2018. REUTERS/Mike Theiler

By Kami Klein

On January 20th, 2019 it will be two years since President Donald Trump took the oath to lead our country and began the task of making America great again.  It has been an arduous task under constant scrutiny, challenging world policies as well as many profound events in our country. Despite these daunting obstacles the inventory of accomplishments from the White House grows even longer.

Below is a list compiled by the Washington Examiner and compared with information offered through the White House, on the accomplishments and promises kept by the President.  This list was released in October of 2018, showing 20 months of actions and leadership of this Presidency. The list will continue to grow and update as we enter the next two years of his term.

With change come difficult moments and we understand as Americans that it is in those times that we can take action with prayer and encouragement.  We ask that you keep our President, Lawmakers, Senators, World Leaders, as well as community leaders in your prayers. May God’s blessings be upon this Nation!  

Economic Growth
4.2 percent growth in the second quarter of 2018.
For the first time in more than a decade, growth is projected to exceed 3 percent over the calendar year.

Jobs
4 million new jobs have been created since the election, and more than 3.5 million since Trump took office.
More Americans are employed now than ever before in our history.
Jobless claims at lowest level in nearly five decades.
The economy has achieved the longest positive job-growth streak on record.
Job openings are at an all-time high and outnumber job seekers for the first time on record.
Unemployment claims at 50 year low
African-American, Hispanic, and Asian-American unemployment rates have all recently reached record lows.
African-American unemployment hit a record low of 5.9 percent in May 2018.
Hispanic unemployment at 4.5 percent.
Asian-American unemployment at a record low of 2 percent.
Women’s unemployment recently at the lowest rate in nearly 65 years.
Female unemployment dropped to 3.6 percent in May 2018, the lowest since October 1953.
Youth unemployment recently reached its lowest level in more than 50 years.
July 2018’s youth unemployment rate of 9.2 percent was the lowest since July 1966.
Veterans’ unemployment recently hit its lowest level in nearly two decades.
July 2018’s veterans’ unemployment rate of 3.0 percent matched the lowest rate since May 2001.
Unemployment rate for Americans without a high school diploma recently reached a record low.
Rate for disabled Americans recently hit a record low.
Blue-collar jobs recently grew at the fastest rate in more than three decades.
Poll found that 85 percent of blue-collar workers believe their lives are headed “in the right direction.”
68 percent reported receiving a pay increase in the past year.
Last year, job satisfaction among American workers hit its highest level since 2005.
Nearly two-thirds of Americans rate now as a good time to find a quality job.
Optimism about the availability of good jobs has grown by 25 percent.
Added more than 400,000 manufacturing jobs since the election.
Manufacturing employment is growing at its fastest pace in more than two decades.
100,000 new jobs supporting the production & transport of oil & natural gas.

American Income
Median household income rose to $61,372 in 2017, a post-recession high.
Wages up in August by their fastest rate since June 2009.
Paychecks rose by 3.3 percent between 2016 and 2017, the most in a decade.
Council of Economic Advisers found that real wage compensation has grown by 1.4 percent over the past year.
Some 3.9 million Americans off food stamps since the election.
Median income for Hispanic-Americans rose by 3.7 percent and surpassed $50,000 for the first time ever in history.
Home-ownership among Hispanics is at the highest rate in nearly a decade.
Poverty rates for African-Americans and Hispanic-Americans have reached their lowest levels ever recorded.

American Optimism
Small business optimism has hit historic highs.
NFIB’s small business optimism index broke a 35-year-old record in August.
SurveyMonkey/CNBC’s small business confidence survey for Q3 of 2018 matched its all-time high.
Manufacturers are more confident than ever.
95 percent of U.S. manufacturers are optimistic about the future, the highest ever.
Consumer confidence is at an 18-year high.
12 percent of Americans rate the economy as the most significant problem facing our country, the lowest level on record.
Confidence in the economy is near a two-decade high, with 51 percent rating the economy as good or excellent.

American Business
Investment is flooding back into the United States due to the tax cuts.
Over $450 billion dollars has already poured back into the U.S., including more than $300 billion in the first quarter of 2018.
Retail sales have surged. Commerce Department figures from August show that retail sales increased 0.5 percent in July 2018, an increase of 6.4 percent from July 2017.
ISM’s index of manufacturing scored its highest reading in 14 years.
Worker productivity is the highest it has been in more than three years.
Steel and aluminum producers are re-opening.
Dow Jones Industrial Average, S&P 500, and NASDAQ have all notched record highs.
Dow hit record highs 70 times in 2017 alone, the most ever recorded in one year.

Deregulation
Achieved massive deregulation at a rapid pace, completing 22 deregulatory actions to every one regulatory action during his first year in office.
Signed legislation to roll back costly and harmful provisions of Dodd-Frank, providing relief to credit unions, and community and regional banks.
Federal agencies achieved more than $8 billion in lifetime net regulatory cost savings.
Rolled back Obama’s burdensome Waters of the U.S. rule.
Used the Congressional Review Act to repeal regulations more times than in history.

Tax Cuts
Biggest tax cuts and reforms in American history by signing the Tax Cuts and Jobs act into law
Provided more than $5.5 trillion in gross tax cuts, nearly 60 percent of which will go to families.
Increased the exemption for the death tax to help save Family Farms & Small Business.
Nearly doubled the standard deduction for individuals and families.
Enabled vast majority of American families will be able to file their taxes on a single page by claiming the standard deduction.
Doubled the child tax credit to help lessen the financial burden of raising a family.
Lowered America’s corporate tax rate from the highest in the developed world to allow American businesses to compete and win.
Small businesses can now deduct 20 percent of their business income.
Cut dozens of special interest tax breaks and closed loopholes for the wealthy.
9 in 10 American workers are expected to see an increase in their paychecks thanks to the tax cuts, according to the Treasury Department.
More than 6 million American workers have received wage increases, bonuses, and increased benefits thanks to tax cuts.
Over 100 utility companies have lowered electric, gas, or water rates thanks to the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act.
Ernst & Young found 89 percent of companies planned to increase worker compensation thanks to the Trump tax cuts.
Established opportunity zones to spur investment in left behind communities.

Worker Development
Established a National Council for the American Worker to develop a national strategy for training and retraining America’s workers for high-demand industries.
Employers have signed Trump’s “Pledge to America’s Workers,” committing to train or retrain more than 4.2 million workers and students.
Signed the first Perkins CTE reauthorization since 2006, authorizing more than $1 billion for states each year to fund vocational and career education programs.
Executive order expanding apprenticeship opportunities for students and workers.

Domestic Infrastructure
Proposed infrastructure plan would utilize $200 billion in Federal funds to spur at least $1.5 trillion in infrastructure investment across the country.
Executive order expediting environmental reviews and approvals for high priority infrastructure projects.
Federal agencies have signed the One Federal Decision Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) streamlining the federal permitting process for infrastructure projects.
Rural prosperity task force and signed an executive order to help expand broadband access in rural areas.

Health Care
Signed an executive order to help minimize the financial burden felt by American households Signed legislation to improve the National Suicide Hotline.
Signed the most comprehensive childhood cancer legislation ever into law, which will advance childhood cancer research and improve treatments.
Signed Right-to-Try legislation, expanding health care options for terminally ill patients.
Enacted changes to the Medicare 340B program, saving seniors an estimated $320 million on drugs in 2018 alone.
FDA set a new record for generic drug approvals in 2017, saving consumers nearly $9 billion.
Released a blueprint to drive down drug prices for American patients, leading multiple major drug companies to announce they will freeze or reverse price increases.
Expanded short-term, limited-duration health plans.
Let more employers to form Association Health Plans, enabling more small businesses to join together and affordably provide health insurance to their employees.
Cut Obamacare’s burdensome individual mandate penalty.
Signed legislation repealing Obamacare’s Independent Payment Advisory Board, also known as the “death panels.”
USDA invested more than $1 billion in rural health care in 2017, improving access to health care for 2.5 million people in rural communities across 41 states
Proposed Title X rule to help ensure taxpayers do not fund the abortion industry in violation of the law.
Reinstated and expanded the Mexico City Policy to keep foreign aid from supporting the global abortion industry.
HHS formed a new division over protecting the rights of conscience and religious freedom.
Overturned Obama administration’s midnight regulation prohibiting states from defunding certain abortion facilities.
Signed executive order to help ensure that religious organizations are not forced to choose between violating their religious beliefs by complying with Obamacare’s contraceptive mandate or shutting their doors.

Combating Opioids
Chaired meeting the 73rd General Session of the United Nations discussing the worldwide drug problem with international leaders.
Initiative to Stop Opioid Abuse and Reduce Drug Supply and Demand, introducing new measures to keep dangerous drugs out of our communities.
$6 billion in new funding to fight the opioid epidemic.
DEA conducted a surge in April 2018 that arrested 28 medical professions and revoked 147 registrations for prescribing too many opioids.
Brought the “Prescribed to Death” memorial to President’s Park near the White House, helping raise awareness about the human toll of the opioid crisis.
Helped reduce high-dose opioid prescriptions by 16 percent in 2017.
Opioid Summit on the administration-wide efforts to combat the opioid crisis.
Launched a national public awareness campaign about the dangers of opioid addiction.
Created a Commission on Combating Drug Addiction and the Opioid Crisis which recommended a number of pathways to tackle the opioid crisis.
Led two National Prescription Drug Take-Back Days in 2017 and 2018, collecting a record number of expired and unneeded prescription drugs each time.
$485 million targeted grants in FY 2017 to help areas hit hardest by the opioid crisis.
Signed INTERDICT Act, strengthening efforts to detect and intercept synthetic opioids before they reach our communities.
DOJ secured its first-ever indictments against Chinese fentanyl manufacturers.
Joint Criminal Opioid Darknet Enforcement (J-CODE) team, aimed at disrupting online illicit opioid sales.
Declared the opioid crisis a Nationwide Public Health Emergency in October 2017.

Law and Order
More U.S. Circuit Court judges confirmed in the first year in office than ever.
Confirmed more than two dozen U. S. Circuit Court judges.
Followed through on the promise to nominate judges to the Supreme Court who will adhere to the Constitution
Nominated and confirmed Justice Neil Gorsuch and Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court.
Signed an executive order directing the Attorney General to develop a strategy to more effectively prosecute people who commit crimes against law enforcement officers.
Launched an evaluation of grant programs to make sure they prioritize the protection and safety of law enforcement officers.
Established a task force to reduce crime and restore public safety in communities across Signed an executive order to focus more federal resources on dismantling transnational criminal organizations such as drug cartels.
Signed an executive order to focus more federal resources on dismantling transnational criminal organizations such as drug cartels.
Violent crime decreased in 2017 according to FBI statistics.
$137 million in grants through the COPS Hiring Program to preserve jobs, increase community policing capacities, and support crime prevention efforts.
Enhanced and updated the Project Safe Neighborhoods to help reduce violent crime.
Signed legislation making it easier to target websites that enable sex trafficking and strengthened penalties for people who promote or facilitate prostitution.
Created an interagency task force working around the clock to prosecute traffickers, protect victims, and prevent human trafficking.
Conducted Operation Cross Country XI to combat human trafficking, rescuing 84 children and arresting 120 human traffickers.
Encouraged federal prosecutors to use the death penalty when possible in the fight against the trafficking of deadly drugs.
New rule effectively banning bump stock sales in the United States.

Border Security and Immigration
Secured $1.6 billion for border wall construction in the March 2018 omnibus bill.
Construction of a 14-mile section of border wall began near San Diego.
Worked to protect American communities from the threat posed by the vile MS-13 gang.
ICE’s Homeland Security Investigations division arrested 796 MS-13 members and associates in FY 2017, an 83 percent increase from the prior year.
Justice worked with partners in Central America to secure criminal charges against more than 4,000 MS-13 members.
Border Patrol agents arrested 228 illegal aliens affiliated with MS-13 in FY 2017.
Fighting to stop the scourge of illegal drugs at our border.
ICE HSI seized more than 980,000 pounds of narcotics in FY 2017, including 2,370 pounds of fentanyl and 6,967 pounds of heroin.
ICE HSI dedicated nearly 630,000 investigative hours towards halting the illegal import of fentanyl.
ICE HSI made 11,691 narcotics-related arrests in FY 2017.
Stop Opioid Abuse and Reduce Drug Supply and Demand introduced new measures to keep dangerous drugs out the United States.
Signed the INTERDICT Act into law, enhancing efforts to detect and intercept synthetic opioids.
DOJ secured its first-ever indictments against Chinese fentanyl manufacturers.
DOJ launched their Joint Criminal Opioid Darknet Enforcement (J-CODE) team, aimed at disrupting online illicit opioid sales.
Released an immigration framework that includes the resources required to secure our borders and close legal loopholes, and repeatedly called on Congress to fix our broken immigration laws.
Authorized the deployment of the National Guard to help secure the border.
Enhanced vetting of individuals entering the U.S. from countries that don’t meet security standards, helping to ensure individuals who pose a threat to our country are identified before they enter.
These procedures were upheld in a June 2018 Supreme Court hearing.
ICE removed over 226,000 illegal aliens from the United States in 2017.
ICE rescued or identified over 500 human trafficking victims and over 900 child exploitation victims in 2017 alone.
In 2017, ICE Enforcement and Removal Operations (ERO) arrested more than 127,000 aliens with criminal convictions or charges, responsible for
Over 76,000 with dangerous drug offenses.
More than 48,000 with assault offenses.
More than 11,000 with weapons offenses.
More than 5,000 with sexual assault offenses.
More than 2,000 with kidnapping offenses.
Over 1,800 with homicide offenses.
Created the Victims of Immigration Crime Engagement (VOICE) Office in order to support the victims and families affected by illegal alien crime.
More than doubled the number of counties participating in the 287(g) program, which allows jails to detain criminal aliens until they are transferred to ICE custody.

Trade
Negotiating and renegotiating better trade deals, achieving free, fair, and reciprocal trade for the United States.
Agreed to work with the European Union towards zero tariffs, zero non-tariff barriers, and zero subsidies.
Deal with the European Union to increase U.S. energy exports to Europe.
Litigated multiple WTO disputes targeting unfair trade practices and upholding our right to enact fair trade laws.
Finalized a revised trade agreement with South Korea, which includes provisions to increase American automobile exports.
Negotiated a historic U.S.-Mexico-Canada Trade Agreement to replace NAFTA.
Agreement to begin trade negotiations for a U.S.-Japan trade agreement.
Secured $250 billion in new trade and investment deals in China and $12 billion in Vietnam.
Established a Trade and Investment Working Group with the United Kingdom, laying the groundwork for post-Brexit trade.
Enacted steel and aluminum tariffs to protect our vital steel and aluminum producers and strengthen our national security.
Conducted 82 anti-dumping and countervailing duty investigations in 2017 alone.
Confronting China’s unfair trade practices after years of Washington looking the other way.
25 percent tariff on $50 billion of goods imported from China and later imposed an additional 10% tariff on $200 billion of Chinese goods.
Conducted an investigation into Chinese forced technology transfers, unfair licensing practices, and intellectual property theft.
Imposed safeguard tariffs to protect domestic washing machines and solar products manufacturers hurt by China’s trade policies
Withdrew from the job-killing Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP).
Secured access to new markets for America’s farmers.
Recent deal with Mexico included new improvements enabling food and agriculture to trade more fairly.
Recent agreement with the E.U. will reduce barriers and increase trade of American soybeans to Europe.
Won a WTO dispute regarding Indonesia’s unfair restriction of U.S. agricultural exports.
Defended American Tuna fisherman and packagers before the WTO
Opened up Argentina to American pork exports for the first time in a quarter-century
American beef exports have returned to China for the first time in more than a decade
OK’d up to $12 billion in aid for farmers affected by unfair trade retaliation.

Energy
Presidential Memorandum to clear roadblocks to construction of the Keystone XL Pipeline.
Presidential Memorandum declaring that the Dakota Access Pipeline serves the national interest and initiating the process to complete construction.
Opened up the Alaska National Wildlife Refuge to energy exploration.
Coal exports up over 60 percent in 2017.
Rolled back the “stream protection rule” to prevent it from harming America’s coal industry.
Cancelled Obama’s anti-coal Clean Power Plan and proposed the Affordable Clean Energy Rule as a replacement.
Withdrew from the job-killing Paris climate agreement, which would have cost the U.S. nearly $3 trillion and led to 6.5 million fewer industrial sector jobs by 2040.
U.S. oil production has achieved its highest level in American history
United States is now the largest crude oil producer in the world.
U.S. has become a net natural gas exporter for the first time in six decades.
Action to expedite the identification and extraction of critical minerals that are vital to the nation’s security and economic prosperity.
Took action to reform National Ambient Air Quality Standards, benefitting American manufacturers.
Rescinded Obama’s hydraulic fracturing rule, which was expected to cost the industry $32 million per year.
Proposed expansion of offshore drilling as part of an all-of-the-above energy strategy
Held a lease sale for offshore oil and gas leases in the Gulf of Mexico in August 2018.
Got EU to increase its imports of liquefied natural gas (LNG) from the United States.
Issued permits for the New Burgos Pipeline that will cross the U.S.-Mexico border.

Foreign Policy
Moved the U.S. Embassy in Israel to Jerusalem.
Withdrew from Iran deal and immediately began the process of re-imposing sanctions that had been lifted or waived.
Treasury has issued sanctions targeting Iranian activities and entities, including the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps-Qods Force
Since enacting sanctions, Iran’s crude exports have fallen off, the value of Iran’s currency has plummeted, and international companies have pulled out of the country.
All nuclear-related sanctions will be back in full force by early November 2018.
Historic summit with North Korean President Kim Jong-Un, bringing beginnings of peace and denuclearization to the Korean Peninsula.
The two leaders have exchanged letters and high-level officials from both sides have met resulting in tremendous progress.
North Korea has halted nuclear and missile tests.
Negotiated the return of the remains of missing-in-action soldiers from the Korean War.
Imposed strong sanctions on Venezuelan dictator Nicholas Maduro and his inner circle.
Executive order preventing those in the U.S. from carrying out certain transactions with the Venezuelan regime, including prohibiting the purchase of the regime’s debt.
Responded to the use of chemical weapons by the Syrian regime.
Rolled out sanctions targeting individuals and entities tied to Syria’s chemical weapons program.
Directed strikes in April 2017 against a Syrian airfield used in a chemical weapons attack on innocent civilians.
Joined allies in launching airstrikes in April 2018 against targets associated with Syria’s chemical weapons use.
New Cuba policy that enhanced compliance with U.S. law and held the Cuban regime accountable for political oppression and human rights abuses.
Treasury and State are working to channel economic activity away from the Cuban regime, particularly the military.
Changed the rules of engagement, empowering commanders to take the fight to ISIS.
ISIS has lost virtually all of its territory, more than half of which has been lost under Trump.
ISIS’ self-proclaimed capital city, Raqqah, was liberated in October 2017.
All Iraqi territory had been liberated from ISIS.
More than a dozen American hostages have been freed from captivity all of the world.
Action to combat Russia’s malign activities, including their efforts to undermine the sanctity of United States elections.
Expelled dozens of Russian intelligence officers from the United States and ordered the closure of the Russian consulate in Seattle, WA.
Banned the use of Kaspersky Labs software on government computers, due to the company’s ties to Russian intelligence.
Imposed sanctions against five Russian entities and three individuals for enabling Russia’s military and intelligence units to increase Russia’s offensive cyber capabilities.
Sanctions against seven Russian oligarchs, and 12 companies they own or control, who profit from Russia’s destabilizing activities.
Sanctioned 100 targets in response to Russia’s occupation of Crimea and aggression in Eastern Ukraine.
Enhanced support for Ukraine’s Armed Forces to help Ukraine better defend itself.
Helped win U.S. bid for the 2028 Summer Olympics in Los Angeles.
Helped win U.S.-Mexico-Canada’s united bid for 2026 World Cup.

Defense
Executive order keeping the detention facilities at U.S. Naval Station Guantanamo Bay open.
$700 billion in military funding for FY 2018 and $716 billion for FY 2019.
Largest military pay raise in nearly a decade.
Ordered a Nuclear Posture Review to ensure America’s nuclear forces are up to date and serve as a credible deterrent.
Released America’s first fully articulated cyber strategy in 15 years.
New strategy on national biodefense, which better prepares the nation to defend against biological threats.
The administration has announced that it will use whatever means necessary to protect American citizens and servicemen from unjust prosecution by the International Criminal Court.
Released an America first National Security Strategy.
Put in motion the launch of a Space Force as a new branch of the military and relaunched the National Space Council.
Encouraged the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) allies to increase defense spending to their agreed-upon levels.
In 2017 alone, there was an increase of more than 4.8 percent in defense spending amongst NATO allies.
Every member state has increased defense spending.
Eight NATO allies will reach the 2 percent benchmark by the end of 2018 and 15 allies are on trade to do so by 2024.
NATO allies spent over $42 billion dollars more on defense since 2016.
Executive order to help military spouses find employment as their families deploy domestically and abroad.

Veterans affairs
Signed the VA Accountability Act and expanded VA telehealth services, walk-in-clinics, and same-day urgent primary and mental health care.
Delivered more appeals decisions – 81,000 – to veterans in a single year than ever before.
Strengthened protections for individuals who come forward and identify programs occurring within the VA.
Signed legislation that provided $86.5 billion in funding for the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), the largest dollar amount in history for the VA.
VA MISSION Act, enacting sweeping reform to the VA system that:
Consolidated and strengthened VA community care programs.
Funding for the Veterans Choice program.
Expanded eligibility for the Family Caregivers Program.
Gave veterans more access to walk-in care.
Strengthened the VA’s ability to recruit and retain quality healthcare professionals.
Enabled the VA to modernize its assets and infrastructure.
Signed the VA Choice and Quality Employment Act in 2017, which authorized $2.1 billion in additional funds for the Veterans Choice Program.
Worked to shift veterans’ electronic medical records to the same system used by the Department of Defense, a decades-old priority.
Issued an executive order requiring the Secretaries of Defense, Homeland Security, and Veterans Affairs to submit a joint plan to provide veterans access to access to mental health treatment as they transition to civilian life.
Increased transparency and accountability at the VA by launching an online “Access and Quality Tool,” providing veterans with access to wait time and quality of care data.
Signed legislation to modernize the claims and appeal process at the VA.
Harry W. Colmery Veterans Educational Assistance Act, providing enhanced educational benefits to veterans, service members, and their family members.
Lifted a 15-year limit on veterans’ access to their educational benefits.
Created a White House VA Hotline to help veterans and principally staffed it with veterans and direct family members of veterans.
VA employees are being held accountable for poor performance, with more than 4,000 VA employees removed, demoted, and suspended so far.
Signed the Veterans Treatment Court Improvement Act, increasing the number of VA employees that can assist justice-involved veterans.

Egypt limits Gaza passage after Palestinian Authority quits border crossing

A Palestinian Hamas-hired police officer checks the documents of people upon their return from Egypt, at Rafah border crossing in the southern Gaza Strip January 8, 2019. REUTERS/Ibraheem Abu Mustafa

By Nidal al-Mughrabi

RAFAH, Gaza Strip (Reuters) – Egypt blocked Palestinians from entering the country from Gaza on Tuesday after Palestinian Authority (PA) personnel pulled out of the Rafah border crossing and Hamas officers took their place.

The dispute over the border stems from a rift between the Western-backed PA and Hamas Islamists who took control of Gaza more than a decade ago in a brief civil war.

Human rights groups say Rafah has been the sole exit point from Gaza for an estimated 95 percent of its population of 2 million. Citing security concerns, Israel maintains tight restrictions on Palestinian movement at its border crossings.

PA employees were deployed to Gaza’s border crossings with Israel and Egypt in 2017, a move that largely opened up Rafah for two-way traffic after Egyptian mediation led to a Palestinian reconciliation deal, which has since faltered.

On Sunday, the PA announced its pullout from Rafah, accusing Hamas of undermining its operations and detaining some of its workers. Since May, the crossing has been operating daily after sporadic openings for many years.

Upon arriving in Gaza, Hani Abu Sharekh told Reuters he hoped Egypt would soon resume full operation of the facility to allow passengers out of the coastal enclave.

“There is no alternative to Rafah crossing, it is the only window for most of our people to travel and to seek treatment and education,” Abu Sharekh, 48, said after returning from a trip to Cairo where his wife had received medical treatment.

Hamas said Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, who heads the PA and has imposed a series of economic sanctions on Gaza to press the group to cede power, was destroying prospects for unity.

PASSAGE

A Palestinian official who maintains close contacts with Egypt said Cairo had decided to open Rafah crossing only to Palestinians returning to Gaza after the PA personnel withdrew.

Egypt’s restriction, the official said, showed its “disappointment at the faltering of the 2017 reconciliation agreement”. But an Egyptian official in Cairo said he did not expect Rafah to be shut completely.

“Egypt recognizes the importance of the humanitarian situation in Gaza and the Rafah crossing is an important access point for Palestinians,” the official said, adding that his country would not abandon its mediation efforts.

Brigadier-General Yehya Hammad, the Hamas-appointed director of the crossing, told Reuters his men completed their deployment and were ready to operate the passage.

After they took up their posts, the body of a Palestinian who had died in Cairo and two women accompanying the coffin were allowed to enter Gaza. The women’s passports were stamped by Hamas officers. The first bus with passengers from Egypt then arrived, with more expected later in the day.

“We hope the Egyptian side will open the crossing permanently as it did in the past to allow stranded patients, students, residents of third countries and humanitarian cases to travel,” said Hammad, standing in the passport hall.

(This has been refiled to add the word ‘not’ that was dropped in paragraph 12.)

(Additional reporting by Cairo newsroom, Editing by Jeffrey Heller in Jerusalem, William Maclean)

‘Walking in the Lord’s footsteps’ in Jerusalem’s Holy Sepulchre

Christian worshippers from the Orthodox denominations celebrate the Holy Fire ceremony at the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem's Old City, April 7, 2018. REUTERS/Ammar Awad

By Stephen Farrell

JERUSALEM (Reuters) – It is three o’clock in the morning and Artak Tadevosyan is wafting incense through the corridors of Jerusalem’s Church of the Holy Sepulchre, the site where Christians believe Jesus Christ was crucified and buried.

“Walking in the Lord’s footsteps, really, you have feelings that cannot be explained,” said the 26-year-old Armenian Orthodox cleric. “We don’t see it as stone, all these are holy places for us.”

His Beatitude Theophilos III, the Patriarch of Jerusalem, performs the "Washing of the Feet" ceremony outside the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem's Old City, April 5, 2018. REUTERS/Ammar Awad/File Photo

His Beatitude Theophilos III, the Patriarch of Jerusalem, performs the “Washing of the Feet” ceremony outside the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem’s Old City, April 5, 2018. REUTERS/Ammar Awad/File Photo

The Holy Sepulchre lies in Jerusalem’s Old City. A church was first built there in the 4th century under Constantine the Great, the Roman emperor who converted to Christianity.

Today, the Greek Orthodox, Armenian Orthodox and Roman Catholic churches share custody of the building, and tensions sometimes run high over who controls what.

Other denominations also hold services there, in languages including Latin, Arabic, Aramaic, Amharic and Ge’ez.

At night the building falls silent. Muslim families have long held the door key, because of the tensions between the Christian clergy.

In the Greek Orthodox Patriarchate nearby, His Beatitude Theophilos III, the Patriarch of Jerusalem, said he feels deep reverence for the church.

Crosses carved in the wall by pilgrims are seen beside stairs leading to the Crypt of St. Helena in the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem's Old City, March 27, 2018. REUTERS/Corinna Kern

Crosses carved in the wall by pilgrims are seen beside stairs leading to the Crypt of St. Helena in the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem’s Old City, March 27, 2018. REUTERS/Corinna Kern

“For the Christian world the Holy Sepulchre is the heart of Jerusalem and the world,” he said during preparations for the Orthodox Christmas on Sunday.

“Why? Because this particular place, which is the rock of the crucifixion and the rock of the tomb, or the burial site, of Jesus Christ, has been watered, and therefore blessed, by the blood of The Righteous One.”

Click here to see a related photo essay.

(Reporting by Stephen Farrell. Editing by Patrick Johnston)