WASHINGTON — Before the government shutdown standoff came to an end, there was a robotic voice to weigh in on the politics of it: Callers to the main switchboard of the White House heard a recorded message explaining there were no operators on duty owing to the Democratic “obstruction.” The message was still playing Monday night as the deal to end the shutdown awaited President Trump’s signature.
One expert told Yahoo News it may violate ethics laws.
“Thank you for calling the White House,” a female voice said in the message. “Unfortunately, we cannot answer your call today because congressional Democrats are holding government funding, including funding for our troops and other national security priorities, hostage to an unrelated immigration debate. Due to this obstruction, the government is shut down.”
The message repeated the argument the White House has been making for days — that Democrats were to blame for the shutdown and had endangered the country through their refusal to sign onto budget deals that did not include provisions protecting young undocumented immigrants from deportation. Democratic Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer ultimately backed a budget deal after his Republican counterpart, Mitch McConnell, promised to address later on the issue of the Dreamers, or those who immigrated illegally to the U.S. as children.
During the shutdown in 2013, which occurred when President Barack Obama was in office, callers to the White House switchboard were greeted with a nonpartisan message.
“We apologize, but due to the lapse in federal funding, we are unable to take your call,” the 2013 message said.
Norman Eisen, an attorney who was Obama’s “ethics czar” from 2009 to 2011, told Yahoo News that the Trump administration’s shutdown switchboard message appears to violate the spirit of the Hatch Act, a federal law that prohibits executive branch employees apart from the president, vice president and other top officials from engaging in political activity.
But Eisen said the office of the special counsel would be “unlikely to take action because no specific candidate is targeted.”
Richard Painter, who served as the chief White House ethics lawyer from 2005 until 2007, during the administration of President George W. Bush, told Yahoo News he doesn’t think the Trump administration should have used the switchboard in this manner because it’s “in bad taste.” However, Painter said he doesn’t believe the message was a Hatch Act violation.
“This is the basic rule of the Hatch Act: You can criticize the Republicans or the Democrats on the Hill for the position they take because they, in their official capacity, identify themselves as Republicans and Democrats,” Painter explained.
Painter noted that Obama “would routinely criticize Republicans on Capitol Hill for obstruction” at official White House events and said the Bush administration similarly criticized Democrats.
“This is sort of par for the course,” Painter said. “Where you cross the line is where you endorse the Democratic Party or attack the Democratic Party as a political organization, or attack a candidate for election, or promote a candidate for election.”
Deputy White House press secretary Lindsay Walters offered a similar interpretation of the Hatch Act when asked about the message by Yahoo News.
“This is just another, of many, examples of so-called ethics experts manufacturing artificial controversies for their own political objectives,” Walters said. “The actual prohibition called for by the Hatch Act is that federal employees may not use official authority to interfere with the results of an election. This is not that.”
Whether or not the message represented an actionable offense, Eisen, the Democratic former White House ethics lawyer, argued that it broke with tradition.
“It is certainly a violation of the longstanding norm that the White House staff (and particularly the nonpartisan career members, such as the person who likely recorded this message) is there to serve and work with all Americans, and not just those who voted for the president. For that reason, we were very careful in the Obama administration about this kind of thing. For example, I made one senior staffer remove an autographed Obama campaign sign from his office in case in made those who had not voted for the president uncomfortable. This recorded message for callers would have been inconceivable in any other administration, of either party,” Eisen said.
Alyssa Mastromonaco, who was deputy chief of staff for operations under Obama from 2011 until 2014 offered a more blunt take when she was asked about the switchboard message on Twitter.
“It’s a f***ing abomination and I cannot believe they made nonpolitical appointee employees [the WH operators] record it,” she wrote.
Read more from Yahoo News:
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As the controversy-filled 2017 NFL season was set to come to an end in a couple of weeks, the league found itself engulfed in controversy Tuesday when they banned an ad from a veterans group asking people to “please stand” for the national anthem. It was a truly sad story, but the none of the major network news outlets (ABC, CBS, and NBC) felt the need to report it to their viewers during their evening broadcasts.
While the liberal networks were drooling over the recently announced Oscar nominations, Fox News Channel’s Special Report was going the veterans group justice. “New England and Philadelphia will play on the field, but there is another battle taking place involving the NFL, veterans, and the national anthem,” announced anchor Bret Baier as he introduced the segment.
“The NFL has rejected a $30,000 print ad from a veterans group for the games program that addressed the issue with these two words: Please stand,” reported Fox News’ media analyst Howard Kurtz. “Amvets, founded by World War II veterans, had already modified the wording of the request of the company handling the program, but the league has final say. And Amvets now accuses the NFL of corporate censorship.”
Amvets National Commander Marion Polk laid it all out for Fox News. “The NFL, bottom line, just denied us our opportunity for free speech,” he explained. “We didn’t place this ad, please stand, for any political reason whatsoever. It was our way of just getting the American public to stand in their beliefs.”
As reported by Kurtz, despite the Amvets’ non-political intentions, the NFL asserted that the program had “never been a place for advertising they could be considered by some as a political statement.” But it was clear that the NFL was shutting down those they saw as opposing the players: “The NFL naturally wants the day’s focus on the Patriots and Eagles, not political ads. But since any on-field protest will draw huge media coverage, the league does seem to be blocking the other side’s message.”
Kurtz also noted how rough the year had been for the NFL because of their position to back their protesting players. “It’s been a tough season for the NFL with sinking ratings and constant controversy over protesting players who kneel during the national anthem,” he recalled. “And that controversy is now casting a shadow on the league’s premier showcase: the Super Bowl.”
It’s no wonder the liberal networks didn’t care about what happened to the veterans because they enthusiastically took the side of the protesting players. When President Trump first went to battle with the NFL, ABC and NBC claimed Trump was using racially coded rhetoric. And as Puerto Rico was just beginning their insanely long road to recovery after Hurricane Maria, they elevated the spat with 3.6 times more airtime than the crisis (92 minutes to 25 minutes).
As with most political subjects, the networks picked their side and supported it over everything else, including veterans.
Fox News Channel
January 23, 2018
6:38:05 PM Eastern
BRET BAIER: Welcome back to the White House. You may have heard the Super Bowl is coming a week from Sunday, Super Bowl LII . New England and Philadelphia will play on the field, but there is another battle taking place involving the NFL, veterans, and the national anthem. Fox News media analyst and host of Fox’s Media Buzz Howard Kurtz fills us in.
[Cuts to video]
HOWARD KURTZ: It’s been a tough season for the NFL with sinking ratings and constant controversy over protesting players who kneel during the national anthem. And that controversy is now casting a shadow on the league’s premier showcase: the Super Bowl. The NFL has rejected a $30,000 print ad from a veterans group for the games program that addressed the issue with these two words: Please stand. Amvets, founded by World War II veterans, had already modified the wording of the request of the company handling the program, but the league has final say. And Amvets now accuses the NFL of corporate censorship.
MARION POLK: The NFL, bottom line, just denied us our opportunity for free speech.
KURTZ: An NFL spokesman said the big game has “never been a place for advertising they could be considered by some as a political statement.” He said the super bowl will salute vets of the military on the field, at the NFL had asked Amvets to consider alternative wording, “Please honor our veterans,” the group didn’t respond in time.
POLK: We didn’t place this ad, please stand, for any political reason whatsoever. It was our way of just getting the American public to stand in their beliefs.
KURTZ: President Trump kicked off a season of controversy by tweeting about the kneeling players and personally denouncing them.
DONALD TRUMP: Wouldn’t you love to see one of these NFL owners, when somebody disrespects our flag, to say get that son of a [bleeped] off the field right now?
[Cuts back to live]
KURTZ: The NFL naturally wants the day’s focus on the Patriots and Eagles, not political ads. But since any on-field protest will draw huge media coverage, the league does seem to be blocking the other side’s message.
CNN HOST: … I understand you’ve got more for us from that response (from Iran).
ARWA DAMON, CNN INTERNATIONAL: Yeah, that’s right. This coming out from the [Iranian] foreign ministry, not only talking about the fact that they view the government of President Trump as the greatest bearer of ill will towards Iran but going on to say that, “The people of Iran give no value or credibility to such opportunistic expressions by the Government or the person, Mr. Trump. American officials, through their conduct, have not earned a place from which they can express masked sentiments as sympathies, for the aware and engaged of the people of Iran.”
Now this, not just necessarily a rebuke of what the U.S. president tweeted, but also perhaps a reflection of just how frustrated, not just Iran but other countries frankly are, with the United States.
A lot of nations and their populations, no matter how they feel about their governments in particular, do perceive the United States as not really having a moral leg to stand on.
Now remember, these demonstrations in Iran began Thursday night, growing on Friday, spreading across the country, starting off with calls for economic reform, frustration with the fact that food and gasoline prices have been increasing, but then also taking on a marked tone of direct dissatisfaction with President Rouhani, and something that we don’t see very often, also dissatisfaction with Ayatollah Khamenei.
It’s also worth pointing out that people are also growing increasingly frustrated with what they say is Tehran’s continued support and focus on foreign policy, as opposed to domestic policy, focusing a lot on military, political and economic support for their proxies in countries like Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, Yemen, as opposed to trying to focus on the well-being of their own population.
The Vegas Golden Knights head into the National Hockey League holiday break on a roll, thanks to four wins in five games at T-Mobile Arena over the last two weeks. The most recent victory—a 3-0 shutout of the Washington Capitals—may have been the most impressive as well.
As the entire NHL takes off three days now, Vegas (23-9-2) sits in first place among Pacific Division teams, tied with the Los Angeles Kings for points (48) … but with three games now in hand. The Golden Knights start a 20-game stretch on Wednesday where 14 games will be played on road ice.
This shouldn’t be an issue for the Vegas bunch, however, as the team does have a 8-7-1 road record. The Golden Knights may thrive at T-Mobile with a 15-2-1 record, but they’re not exactly pushovers away from Sin City, either.
However, back to the win over the Caps—the two-time defending President’s Trophy winners: Shutting out a team with that kind of firepower was impressive, and Vegas goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury was up to the task. He made 26 saves to record his first shutout in a Golden Knights sweater (and his 44th career whitewashing in the regular season).
Fleury’s Vegas teammates scored three times in the first period to give him a nice cushion. Right wing Alex Tuch scored his eighth goal of the season just 2:37 into the game, followed up by center Oscar Lindberg with his seventh score of the year just 5:02 later. Center William Karlsson wrapped up the goal parade with his 16th score of the season with 5:05 left in the first period.
After that, it was all Fleury as the Capitals tried to come back. He’s putting together a great season so far, despite the two-month absence with a concussion earlier this year. With a 1.97 goal-against average and a .938 save percentage in eight starts, Fleury is proving to be just the kind of veteran backstop the Golden Knights needed to take on the best teams in the NHL.
In beating Tampa Bay and Washington this past week, the Vegas franchise continues to remove doubts about its first-season potential. According to The Athletic.com, the Golden Knights now have a 91-percent chance to make the postseason.
Those are pretty good odds in Sin City.
For Vegas NHL game tickets and more coverage on the Golden Knights, keep it here on AXS.com.
The torment of waking up to a Trump presidency has been described by some American’s as a glitch in the matrix; of being transported to a parallel universe in which a loutish red-haired charlatan, a bully accused of being a serial abuser of women – while bragging that as a famous man he can get away with anything – becomes the president of the United States.
Wielding power in a manner devoid of compassion and decency is innate to narcissist Trump. Power to the likes of Harvey Weinstein and Donald Trump is a tool to bully, humiliate and coerce others into doing things which they would never do.
It comes as no surprise then to see President Trump take the unprecedented step of threatening to cut US funding to countries that oppose his decision to recognise Jerusalem as Israel’s capital in a UN vote today. The threat is Weinsteinian in its depravity. One imagines Trump saying to himself: If you want me to use my power and wealth to help you, then you need to humiliate yourself by performing demeaning political favours, which no self-respecting country would ever debase themselves to doing.
In the characteristically simpleton parallel universe that Trump inhabits, the logic is straightforward: “They take hundreds of millions of dollars and even billions of dollars, and then they vote against us. Well, we’re watching those votes. Let them vote against us. We’ll save a lot. We don’t care.”
The reality of course is very different. US aid is not a gift bestowed by the president to demonstrate American benevolence to impoverished nations. The main purpose of aid is the advancement of national self-interest. Aid is an instrument of power, deployed by powerful states to carry influence amongst weaker states.
According to a former State Department official and aid expert Carol Lancaster modern US aid originated in Cold War geopolitics. “The Marshall Plan to rebuild Europe,” the Council on Foreign Relations points out, “was designed to blunt the influence of rising Communist political forces on the continent. National security concerns have continued to drive US assistance policy, aiming to provide stability in conflicted regions, bolster allies, promote democracy, or contribute to counterterrorism and law enforcement efforts abroad.”
Who are the recipients of the $49 billion (1.3 per cent of the federal budget) distributed by the US: with $3.1 billion Israel is far and away the biggest recipient of US aid followed by Egypt which receives $1.5 billion. In fact a number of Arab and Muslim majority countries receive significant amounts of aid from the US to fund a complex stew of programmes that include promoting liberal values to security and counterterrorism.
Reflecting the close relation between US aid and US power is the significant increase to the budget of the US Agency for International Development (USAID) in the wake of the 9/11 attacks. During the 1990s aid levels were cut to barely half of what they are today, falling to less than $20 billion in 1997, or 0.8 per cent of the overall budget. The terrorist attack on the US, however, prompted the Bush administration to embark on a “crusade” armed with the world’s largest military arsenal and an aid budget that that would be the envy of any superpower in world history determined to win political favour using financial bribes.
The story of aid is not as straightforward as Trump would like it to be. Foreign aid in actual fact provides massive financial gains for donor countries. What poor countries received through aid is minuscule compared to the vast sums that are extracted by affluent Western capitals. The sustained and significant outflows from the developing countries since the eighties have topped $16.3 trillion. To put it another way, the outflow of wealth from developing nations over the intervening period equals the GDP of the US.
Foreign aid is part of a complex global structure in which donors and recipients clearly recognise the mutual benefit of having a means to exchange favours under the guise of the redistribution of wealth. This is one of the main reasons why western governments are reluctant to reduce the aid budget despite pressure from large sections of society. As with much of what Trump has done since moving into the White House, this unprecedented move, one expects, will work against him.
Despite what Trump may think, aid has already bought the US untold political favours and no self-respecting government, however poor, will allow themselves to be bullied into thinking they are a basket case in need of US generosity. If Trump’s bulling tactic does anything of significance, it should awaken a sense of national pride amongst recipients of US aid.
“No honourable state would bow to such pressure,” said the Foreign Minister of Turkey – a co-sponsor of the UN vote – Mevlut Cavusoglu. “The world has changed. The belief that ‘I am strong therefore I am right’ has changed. The world today is revolting against injustices.”
Others have denounced the threat saying “states resort to such blatant bullying only when they know they do not have a moral or legal argument to convince others.” Even a senior western diplomat, described it as “poor tactics” but not one which is “going to win any votes in the General Assembly or the Security Council”. A senior European diplomat agreed Haley was unlikely to sway many UN states.
US Congress has also called Trump on his bluff, with condemnations from key Democratic lawmakers who have poured water over the idea that Congress would allow him to carry out such an unprecedented threat. No pragmatic US politician would wish to play the aid card, as Trump has done, over an issue like Jerusalem. Not least because the draft resolution reaffirms numerous Security Council resolutions on Jerusalem, dating back to 1967, including requirements that the city’s final status must be decided in direct negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians. Not to mention of course that the resolution had been US policy over five decades.
Today’s vote will be a defining moment for the international community, and more so for the Arab Gulf states allied to the Trump administration. It is not just a vote over the fate of Jerusalem and the millions of Palestinians suffering under the brutal Israeli occupation. The 193 members of the General Assembly are being asked to choose what kind of politics they want on the playground of the international stage. Are they going to reward a bully who challenges basic decency and forever be held hostage to their cowardice or stand up to the bully as everyone should.
Are you doing senior citizens more harm than good by offering them your seat on the bus? According to one Oxford professor, you most definitely are. Instead of giving a seat to the elderly, you should be encouraging them to stand up and become more physically active, claimed Sir Muir Gray, clinical adviser to Public Health England.
“We need to be encouraging activity as we age — not telling people to put their feet up,” said Gray. He further stated that senior citizens need to “play their part” and “understand their role” in remaining healthy and physically fit.
Gray added: “Don’t get a stair lift for your aging parents, put in a second banister. And think twice before giving up your seat on the bus or train to an older person. Standing up is great exercise for them.” Other options include urging senior citizens to take the stairs in lieu of elevators or escalators, and having them carry their own bags as they walk about. (Related: Exercise Improves Health of Elderly with Dementia.)
Scarlett O’Mally, consultant orthopedic surgeon at Eastbourne District General Hospital, echoed Gray’s sentiments. As the lead author on a study about the rising numbers of elderly persons requiring care, O’Mally has gone on to state that old age shouldn’t be viewed as the period to “take it easy.”
“We need to challenge the idea that old people should rest. People need to keep active however old they are,” she said. “They need to increase activity. Every adult should do a minimum of 150 minutes of moderate physical activity every week and twice weekly strength and balance training.”
While there’s nothing wrong with promoting a healthier lifestyle among the elderly, you run the risk of depressing them with your rudeness if you refuse to give up your seat or help them carry their bags. After all, no one wants to be treated coldly, regardless of their age. We suggest offering up your seat or your assistance regardless. If they accept either, then let them do as they please; if they refuse, then don’t insist. Through this, you can do your part for them without making them feel bad about themselves.
For their part, there are a number of exercises the above-65s can perform to stay in good physical condition. These are just some of them, as recommended by the National Health Service (NHS):
- A good 150 minutes of moderate aerobic activity (such as walking or cycling) every week, and strength exercises that work out all the major muscles (specifically, the arms, shoulders, chest, back, legs, and hips) on at least two days of the week.
- At least 75 minutes of vigorous aerobic activity (like running or tennis) a week, and two or more days with strength exercises.
- A mix of both moderate and vigorous aerobic activity each week. This can consist of two 30-minute running sessions and an additional 30 minutes of brisk walking. As with all other suggestions, strength exercises on two more days are needed to complement the aerobic activity.
You can take your routine to the next level with flexibility and balance exercises. Flexibility exercises are basically stretches that you do on at least two days of the week for 10 minutes, with a special focus on your neck, shoulders, wrists, hips, and knees. Balance exercises, on the other hand, can be done as often as you like as long as you perform them to maintain your stability and balance.
If all of this sounds a bit much, you can easily break it down further. Instead of opting to do your daily 30 minutes of aerobic exercise straight away, divide it into 10- or 15-minute chunks that you can do thrice or twice a day. Doing this is way less exhausting and makes exercise feel like less of a chore. Find a friend to exercise with to hold yourself more accountable and make it more fun.
Read up on more stories like this one by visiting MindBodyScience.news today.
Copyright Information: This article was reprinted with permission from Naturalnews.com. Please contact the author directly for republishing information.
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