FILE PHOTO: NFL: Pro Bowl-AFC Practice
FILE PHOTO: Jan 25, 2019; Kissimmee, FL, USA; Kansas City Chiefs receiver Tyreek Hill (10) does a backflip during AFC practice at ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports – 12055388

March 19, 2019

Linebacker Vontaze Burfict was released by the Cincinnati Bengals after seven seasons, the team confirmed Monday.

“As we continue to build our roster for the 2019 season, we felt it best to give both the team and Vontaze a fresh start,” head coach Zac Taylor said in a statement.

Burfict, 28, had two seasons remaining on a $33.2 million contract extension, but releasing him results in a cap charge of only $1.8 million.

Burfict appeared in only 43 games in the past five seasons, encountering repeated head injuries — seven documented concussions — and three suspensions. According to the Cincinnati Enquirer, Burfict amassed more than $4 million in on-field conduct fines.

–Defensive lineman Haloti Ngata went to great lengths — rather heights — to announce his retirement.

The 13-year-NFL veteran posted a heartfelt message along with a photo on Instagram showing him standing atop Mount Kilimanjaro holding a banner that read, “I’m retiring from the NFL on top.”

“Just a man standing on top of the world with a heart full of gratitude. Thank you Lord for letting play the game I love for 13 unforgettable years,” read the social media post by Ngata, a 35-year-old who played for the Philadelphia Eagles last season.

–New York Giants general manager Dave Gettleman said that he traded star wideout Odell Beckham Jr. because the Cleveland Browns made an offer that was impossible to pass up.

“We didn’t sign him to trade him, but things changed,” he said. “Frankly, what changed is another team made us an offer we couldn’t refuse.”

The trade last Wednesday ended months of speculation that Beckham was on his way out of New York. After signing Beckham to a five-year, $95 million contract in 2018, the Giants saw their season spiral downward.

–Adrian Peterson is officially back with Washington after the Redskins announced his signing.

Multiple outlets reported last Wednesday that Peterson agreed to a two-year, $8 million deal.

Peterson rushed for 1,042 yards and seven touchdowns in 16 games for the Redskins last season. He signed late in training camp after Derrius Guice sustained a torn ACL.

–Free agent wide receiver Jordy Nelson will visit the Seattle Seahawks on Tuesday, ESPN reported.

The New England Patriots, Tennessee Titans and Kansas City Chiefs reportedly are among other teams interested in Nelson. He became available last week when the Oakland Raiders released him following their trade for former Pittsburgh Steelers star wideout Antonio Brown and the acquisition of Tyrell Williams in free agency.

–Kansas City agreed to sign cornerback Bashaud Breeland to a three-year contract, ESPN reported.

Breeland, 27, played seven games with Green Bay last season, starting five, after originally agreeing to a three-year, $24 million free agent deal with the Carolina Panthers last March. That agreement was nixed because of a failed physical (foot).

–Running back and kick returner Ameer Abdullah signed a one-year deal with Minnesota.

Abdullah, 25, was Minnesota’s primary kick returner for the final seven games of last season after he was claimed off waivers from Detroit. He returned 10 kicks for 258 yards, with a long of 33.

–Philadelphia announced a one-year deal with veteran strong safety Andrew Sendejo.

Sendejo spent the past eight seasons with Minnesota. The 31-year-old became a free agent earlier this month when the Vikings declined the $5.5 million 2019 option on his contract.

–Washington signed free agent offensive tackle Ereck Flowers to a one-year, $4 million deal, according to multiple reports.

Flowers was the ninth overall selection by the Giants in 2015 but didn’t pan out as an impact lineman and was released last October. He finished last season with Jacksonville, where he started the final seven games of the season.

–ESPN apparently is trying to convince Peyton Manning to join the “Monday Night Football” broadcast team.

The Hollywood Reporter revealed that ESPN president Jimmy Pitaro and content chief Connor Schell flew to Denver a week ago to meet with the future Hall of Fame quarterback. It’s unclear if 42-year-old Manning is interested in assuming the analyst role.

–The investigation into allegations of battery against Kansas City wide receiver Tyreek Hill remains open.

Steve Howe, district attorney in Johnson County, Kan., acknowledged in a written statement that his office “has received numerous requests for information” about the status of the investigation into Hill but could provide no additional details.

Hill, 25, has not been charged with any crimes but is under investigation for an alleged battery incident involving a juvenile, according to multiple published reports. The Kansas City Star reported that Hill’s 3-year-old son sustained a broken arm in the incident.

–Field Level Media

Source: OANN

FILE PHOTO: Tesla CEO Elon Musk attends the Tesla Shanghai Gigafactory groundbreaking ceremony in Shanghai
FILE PHOTO: Tesla CEO Elon Musk attends the Tesla Shanghai Gigafactory groundbreaking ceremony in Shanghai, China January 7, 2019. REUTERS/Aly Song

March 19, 2019

(Reuters) – A tweet about Tesla Inc production targets by Elon Musk was “a blatant violation” of a court order to get his written communications pre-approved, U.S. securities regulators told a judge on Monday, doubling down on the government’s demand to find the Tesla CEO in contempt of a previous fraud settlement.

The Securities and Exchange Commission wrote in a filing in federal court in Manhattan that Musk’s Feb. 19 tweet to his more than 24 million Twitter followers claiming the electric vehicle-maker would build around 500,000 cars in 2019 contained or could have contained information material to Tesla or its shareholders.

The ongoing public battle between Tesla’s chief executive and the top U.S. securities regulator adds pressure on Musk, the public face of Tesla, who is struggling to make the company profitable after cutting the price of its Model 3 sedan to $35,000.

The regulator last month alleged that Musk had violated a September settlement of fraud charges by tweeting material information about Tesla without pre-approval from the company.

In response, Musk had argued that his “single, immaterial” tweet was in compliance with the settlement, and that the SEC’s push to find him in contempt infringed on his free speech..

The fraud settlement between Musk, Tesla and the SEC resolved a lawsuit brought by the regulator over claims Musk made on Twitter in August that he had “funding secured” to take Tesla private at $420 per share. The SEC called those tweets “false and misleading” and a go-private deal never materialized.

As part of that settlement, Musk stepped down as the company’s chairman and he and Tesla agreed to pay $20 million each in fines.

He also agreed to submit written communications that could materially impact Tesla for pre-approval to the company before publishing them.

“It is therefore stunning to learn that, at the time of filing of the instant motion, Musk had not sought pre-approval for a single one of the numerous tweets about Tesla he published in the months since the court-ordered pre-approval policy went into effect,” the SEC said in Monday’s filing.

Tesla has backed off a plan to close all its U.S. stores and said it will instead raise prices of its higher-end vehicles by about 3 percent on average. Last week, Tesla unveiled its Model Y crossover SUV, targeted to begin production in 2020.

Musk called the regulator the “Shortseller Enrichment Commission” on Twitter after the settlement, and tweeted that “something is broken with SEC oversight” just one day after the agency started pursuing the contempt order.

Legal experts have said the SEC could pursue multiple avenues, including a higher fine, imposing further restrictions on Musk’s activities or removing him from Tesla’s board or helm.

Tesla published a new communications policy in December for senior executives as part of the settlement. It called for Tesla’s general counsel and a newly designated in-house securities law attorney to pre-approve any written statements about Tesla that could be material.

A disclosure controls committee, made up of board members Brad Buss, Antonio Gracias and James Murdoch, was tasked with overseeing compliance with the new policy.

The case is U.S. SEC v Elon Musk, U.S. District Court, Southern District of New York, No. 1:18-cv-8865-AJN-GWG

(Reporting by Alexandria Sage in San Francisco; Editing by Lisa Shumaker)

Source: OANN

A Justice Department official who worked on former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn’s case is leaving the special counsel’s office, a spokesman for Robert Mueller said Monday.

“Zainab Ahmad has concluded her detail with the Special Counsel’s Office but will continue to represent the office on specific pending matters that were assigned to her during her detail,” special counsel spokesman Peter Carr said in a statement, first reported by Yahoo! News.

Ahmad’s departure is the latest signal that Mueller’s probe is nearing its end. Carr confirmed Thursday that Andrew Weissmann, the high-profile Mueller prosecutor who handled cases against Paul Manafort, is planning to leave the team. (RELATED: Mueller’s ‘Pit Bull’ Is Leaving, Signaling Investigation Is Nearly Over)

Ahmad, a counterterrorism prosecutor, is one of the Mueller team members to sign Flynn’s guilty plea for lying to the FBI regarding his contacts with former Russian ambassador Sergey Kislyak.

Former U.S. National Security Adviser Michael Flynn departs after a plea hearing at U.S. District Court, in Washington, U.S., December 1, 2017. REUTERS/Joshua Roberts

Flynn has cooperated with several investigations as part of his plea agreement. He is expected to testify later in 2019 in a trial against his former business partner, Bijan Kian. Kian was indicted on charges of failing to register as a foreign agent of Turkey.

Ahmad and Weissmann recently came under scrutiny over their interactions during the 2016 campaign with Justice Department official Bruce Ohr.

It recently emerged that Ohr testified to Congress on Aug. 28, 2018, that he briefed Ahmed, Weissmann and FBI officials in September 2016 about his interactions with Christopher Steele, the former British spy who wrote the anti-Trump dossier.

Ohr, who served as a back-channel between Steele and the FBI, said he told the Justice Department and FBI officials Steele’s reporting on the Trump campaign was unverified and needed further investigation. Nevertheless, the FBI relied heavily on the dossier’s allegations to obtain surveillance warrants against former Trump campaign adviser Carter Page.

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Source: The Daily Caller

FILE PHOTO: The ESPN logo is seen on an electronic display in Times Square in New York City
FILE PHOTO: The ESPN logo is seen on an electronic display in Times Square in New York City, U.S., August 23, 2017. REUTERS/Mike Segar

March 18, 2019

By Hilary Russ

NEW YORK (Reuters) – The streaming digital sports service ESPN+ will become the exclusive distributor of pay-per-view events for the Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) in the United States, the companies announced on Monday.

The events will begin on April 13, almost exactly a year since parent company Walt Disney Co launched ESPN+ to retain viewers as traditional cable audiences started migrating to online services such as Netflix Inc.

ESPN+ lured 568,000 new subscribers when UFC debuted in January after the Las Vegas-based mixed martial arts promoter, a unit of Endeavor, LLC, moved fights there from Fox Sports.

By the time Disney held its quarterly earnings call with investors in February, it said ESPN+ had signed up 2 million paying subscribers. It is the model for Disney+, a streaming service for family-friendly Disney content that is supposed to launch later this year.

The UFC deal takes the traditional pay-per-view (PPV) model to a new level, giving ESPN+ subscribers exclusive access to the “biggest and most important fights,” said Russell Wolff, ESPN+ executive vice president.

He would not say how many paying subscribers ESPN+ currently has.

The deal will also give the UFC something it has never had before: data about its PPV audience, including information about who is buying event access and viewers’ propensity to purchase goods, said UFC Chief Operating Officer Lawrence Epstein.

Fans will be able to access UFC content in one place, rather than having to jump to different platforms as they did in the past. The agreement does not impact UFC’s commercial sales to the thousands of U.S. bars and restaurants that air its fights, Epstein said.

Monday’s UFC deal is an expansion of its previous ESPN+ agreement, which covered media rights to UFC Fight Night and now runs through 2025 along with the PPV deal.

The expanded agreement covers 12 live PPV events per year that will be streamed in high definition in English and Spanish.

PPV UFC fights will cost $59.99 per event for current ESPN+ subscribers, slightly less than the $64.99 fans usually paid in the past. New subscribers will pay $79.99 for their first PPV event and get one-year of ESPN+ access.

(This story corrects name of UFC parent company to Endeavor, LLC in third paragraph)

(Reporting by Hilary Russ; Editing by Susan Thomas)

Source: OANN

FILE PHOTO: A Venezuelan flag hangs from a building near the national election board as acting President Maduro registered as a candidate for president in the April 14 election in Caracas
FILE PHOTO: A Venezuelan flag hangs from a building in Caracas March 11, 2013. REUTERS/Tomas Bravo/File Photo

March 18, 2019

By Phil Stewart

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – As the United States makes its biggest diplomatic push in Latin America in years to try to oust Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro, the U.S. military is zeroing in on a byproduct of the crisis: a strengthening of Colombian rebels on both sides of Venezuela’s border.

U.S. Admiral Craig Faller, the head of the U.S. military’s Southern Command that oversees U.S. forces in Latin America, told Reuters the United States had sharpened its focus on the rebels and increased its sharing of intelligence with Colombian officials. 

U.S. officials see a growing threat from both Colombia’s National Liberation Army (ELN) and factions of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) that refuse to adhere to a 2016 peace agreement to end five decades of civil war.

The United States believes the rebels are taking advantage of Venezuela’s crisis to expand their reach in that country and the scope of long-standing illegal activities, including drug trafficking.

“Our principal role working with our Colombian partners is to assist in intelligence sharing. What we know, we share,” Faller said. Asked whether the intelligence sharing on the rebels had ramped up as Venezuela’s crisis deepened, Faller responded: “Absolutely.”

The risks from the insurgents on both sides of the Colombia-Venezuela border add another layer of complexity to the crisis in Venezuela, where U.S. President Donald Trump says all options are on the table to remove Maduro from office.

U.S. officials have uniformly emphasized diplomatic and economic tools to accelerate Maduro’s departure, like sanctions, but Faller acknowledged the U.S. military stood ready to provide options if needed.

At the same time, he noted that no U.S. allies in the region were seeking a military solution to the crisis in Venezuela.

“My job is to be ready, be on the balls of my feet, at all times. But we’ve been talking to our partners and no one, no one, thinks that a military option is a good idea,” Faller said.

Opposition leader Juan Guaido says the May 2018 vote in which Maduro won a second term was a sham and he invoked a constitutional provision on Jan. 23 to assume the interim presidency. Most Western nations including the United States have backed Guaido as head of state.

Maduro, a socialist who has denounced Guaido as a U.S. puppet seeking to foment a coup, retains the support of the armed forces and control of state functions.

Jeremy McDermott, a Colombia-based expert on the insurgencies and co-founder of the Insight Crime think tank, said he believed the Colombian insurgents were operating in Venezuela with at least the blessing of Maduro.

The rebels’ aim is to exploit Venezuela’s lawlessness for safe haven and for economic gain, he said. But he noted there could be an added benefit for Maduro.

“If the Americans invade, or if Colombia promotes a military intervention, then they (Maduro’s supporters) would be able to call upon an insurgent force with more than 50 years of combat experience,” McDermott said.

Asked whether the United States had any evidence of communications between Maduro and the guerrilla groups, Faller said: “I’d rather not discuss the details of the exact connections but we’re watching it very closely.”

Venezuela’s Information Ministry and ELN contacts did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

Colombia’s ambassador to Washington, former Vice President Francisco Santos, said ELN and FARC factions had long been present in Venezuela but had grown stronger and more integrated into the country as a result of Venezuela’s crisis.

“They have become the paramilitary groups of the Maduro administration,” Santos told Reuters.


A Cuba-inspired Marxist insurgency formed in 1964, the ELN claimed responsibility for a January car bomb attack against a police academy in Bogota that killed 22 cadets. It was an escalation by insurgents who have kidnapped Colombian security forces, attacked police stations and bombed oil pipelines.

U.S. officials, speaking on condition of anonymity, say the ELN is increasingly using Venezuelan territory to carry out narco-trafficking and illegal mining of minerals like gold and coltan.

The Venezuelan security forces were believed to be getting kickbacks from the guerrillas, they said.

One U.S. official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said the U.S. collection of intelligence on the guerrilla groups had increased in recent weeks, including looking at the militants’ activities on the Venezuelan side of the border with Colombia.

Several U.S. officials said they believed senior leaders of both the ELN and the so-called FARC dissidents who do not adhere to the peace agreement were now located inside of Venezuela.

“Their leadership is there,” a second U.S. official said, who also declined to be named, without providing evidence.

An International Crisis Group report cited estimates that the ELN had been active in a minimum of 13 of Venezuela’s 24 states, “absorbing new recruits and shifting from a guerrilla force that embraced armed resistance against Colombia’s ruling elites to one with many core operations in Venezuela.”

Opposition lawmakers in Venezuela also regularly denounce growing ELN activities in Venezuela, but Reuters has been unable to independently verify the extent of its presence or its operations.

Faller declined to discuss any specifics about the collection of U.S. intelligence or identify which insurgent leaders were in Venezuela.

But he acknowledged the trend and added that the flow of illegal narcotics “from Colombia into Venezuela, and then from Venezuela out in the region, has risen as the misery of the Venezuelan people has risen.”

“It’s essentially a lawless region now inside Venezuela along the border and the FARC dissidents and the ELN have taken advantage of that,” Faller said, adding: “They operate with impunity inside Venezuela.”

Santos said the big concern for Colombia was that the strengthening rebel forces would upend efforts to crack down on narcotics trafficking.

“That’s a big worry because in this situation of chaos, obviously they are going to grow. They are growing,” he said.

(Reporting by Phil Stewart; Additional reporting by Brian Ellsworth in Caracas and Helen Murphy in Bogota; Editing by Mary Milliken and Peter Cooney)

Source: OANN

Emilia Clarke has no regrets about the sex scenes she’s done on “Game of Thrones.”

As everybody who watches the show knows, there can be some pretty wild sexual encounters and other scenes of nudity, and Clarke has been involved in a few of them. You’d be entirely wrong if you were expecting her to have any second thoughts about those infamous moments. (SLIDESHOW: These Women On Instagram Hate Wearing Clothes)

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“There’s not one part of the show that I would go back and redo. People ask me the nudity question all the time. But the short answer is no, I would never change anything. You had to see those sex scenes, as they couldn’t just be explained,” the “GoT” star recently told The Sun(SLIDESHOW: 142 Times Josephine Skriver Barely Wore Anything)

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I always knew Clarke was one of the good ones out there. She just gets it. Those scenes weren’t simply about sex! They were about character development. What? Are we supposed to cut corners? (SLIDESHOW: 71 Times Samantha Hoopes Stripped Down)

I don’t think so. They just couldn’t be explained any other way. It wouldn’t make sense if we just didn’t see it! I think we’re all in agreement, right? (SLIDESHOW: This Blonde Bombshell Might Be The Hottest Model On The Internet) 

I can’t wait for April 14. The eighth and final season is going to be so damn epic. I honestly just need it to get here ASAP. (RELATED: These Are The Sexiest Photos Of ‘Game Of Thrones‘ Star Emilia Clarke On The Internet)

The only thing getting my through is the fact we have March Madness. That’s it. Once that’s done, then we’ve nothing except “GoT.”

Sound off in the comments with your predictions for season eight. It should be great.

Source: The Daily Caller

An EU flag flutters during an anti-Brexit demonstration outside the Houses of Parliament in London
FILE PHOTO: An EU flag flutters during an anti-Brexit demonstration outside the Houses of Parliament in London, Britain January 28, 2019. REUTERS/Hannah McKay

March 18, 2019

By Huw Jones

LONDON (Reuters) – Euro-denominated government bond, repurchase agreement and foreign exchange trading at CME Group has moved from London to Amsterdam to avoid disruption from Brexit, the exchange said on Monday.

CME Group, one of the world’s biggest exchanges, set up new units in the Dutch financial capital to avoid European Union customers being disrupted by whatever form Britain’s departure from the bloc takes.

Clearing of its euro repo trades at London Stock Exchange’s LCH unit in London had already moved to LCH’s Paris arm in order to be inside the EU after Brexit.

Migration of trading and clearing is a blow to London as a global financial center, with more business to follow the Chicago-headquartered exchange.

While Brexit is due to take place on March 29, it now looks increasingly likely that it will be delayed.

Cboe Europe, the largest pan-European share trading platform, plans to move euro-denominated share trading from London to a new unit in Amsterdam, with trading starting on April 1.

But Cboe Europe said last week it was “closely monitoring” political discussions and would react as quickly as possible to any developments that would alter this launch date.

Britain’s government is scrambling to get support in parliament for a Brexit deal ahead of an EU summit on Thursday.

Separately on Monday, EuroCCP, a clearing house for stock trades, said it had obtained regulatory approval to clear trades for the new EU entities of Cboe Europe, Aquis Exchange, and London Stock Exchange’s Turquoise from April 1.

EuroCCP said it had also “on-boarded” six new EU-based entities acting as clearing members, and more than 10 new EU-based trading members.

EuroCCP, which clears over 30 percent of European share trades, is incorporated in the Netherlands and owned by Dutch Bank ABN Amro, Cboe Europe, Euronext, Nasdaq, and the U.S. Depository Trust & Clearing Corp (DTCC).

The announcement means that a large chunk of clearing in euro-denominated share trades, currently handled by EuroCCP and rivals like LCH in London, is also set to move to Amsterdam.

Clearing refers to a third party that ensures completion of a trade even if one side goes bust.

EuroCCP said it would activate the new clearing arrangements in EU-listed securities as soon as the new EU-based venues are ready

“While the uncertainty continues and despite the increasing likelihood that there may be a delay to Brexit, we are still focused on our preparations in case the UK leaves the EU on 29 March,” said EuroCCP Chief Executive Cécile Nagel.

Aquis is opening a new hub in Paris for trading euro-denominated shares, while the Turquoise unit is in Amsterdam.

(Reporting by Huw Jones; Editing by Louise Heavens/Mark Heinrich)

Source: OANN


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Scott Walker made multiple calls when the Democratic National Committee decided on Milwaukee. He also called his sons. The former Wisconsin governor, himself a onetime presidential contender, suggested the boys check their lease. They live downtown. Maybe they – and their neighbors too — could Airbnb their apartments. Make some extra cash next July.   

“I’m thrilled from an economic standpoint,” Walker told RealClearPolitics of the Democratic Party’s decision to bring its national convention  to the Badger State. “The money being spent in Milwaukee won’t be red money or blue money. It will be green money. That’s a good thing.”

Every flack and hack, politico and politician who spoke to RCP about the decision said something similar. Eminently practical, these midwestern Republicans are bright-eyed about the pluses and the minuses of Wisconsin as a battleground in 2020. They are excited about the economic stimulus. They are also preparing for the political fight of their lives.

“Oh, absolutely,” Walker said when asked if Democrats could win Wisconsin on their way back to the White House. “We have been a blue state for years. We had a temporary reprieve from that in recent years.”

It is easy to forget that after the outsized success of Wisconsin Republicans on the national stage in the last decade. Paul Ryan (Janesville) rose from relative obscurity to become speaker of House. Die-hard party activist Reince Priebus (Green Bay) became the GOP’s national chairman and later White House chief of staff. Walker (Delavan) was the first governor in U.S. history to survive a recall election. The three helped reshape conservative politics and the country.

Then the cheesehead juggernaut crumbled.

Priebus resigned. Ryan retired. And around 1:30 in the morning after last Election Day, when Walker narrowly lost the governor’s mansion to Democrat Tony Evers, Sen. Ron Johnson had a rude realization. He was “the last man standing.”

As the only Republican statewide office-holder left in Wisconsin, Johnson became the de facto head of the party. He began trying to rebuild the GOP political machine, first figuring out what worked well and what had gone wrong. His assessment? He thinks Democrats can “absolutely” win back Wisconsin in 2020. He fears they may have a 100,000 to 200,000 structural vote advantage. And he expects Democrats will make his state “Ground Zero.”

“For the GOP to win,” Johnson told RCP, “when Democrats are all fired up, we have to be firing on all cylinders. We need to be just about perfect.” Near-perfection is necessary after 2016 when Donald Trump pulled off a historically unlikely upset in Wisconsin, something no other Republican has achieved since Ronald Reagan. Democrats’ turnout was down. Trump’s opponent did not bother to visit the state during the general election campaign. Trump won by roughly 23,000 votes, less than a percentage point. Among other things, he got lucky.

“Whoever the Democrats nominate certainly isn’t going to make the same mistake as Hillary Clinton did, abandoning Wisconsin,” a Trump campaign official told RCP. “The problem is they aren’t going to have the early advantages of time, resources and money. The Democratic nominee this time isn’t going to be able to truly begin organizing in Wisconsin until July or August of 2020.”  

Making the most of that head start, Republicans are gearing up their operation for a landscape that Trump completely tore to pieces in the last presidential campaign. His machine sputtered in the suburban counties of Waukesha, Ozaukee and Washington as those conservative hotspots cooled on the so-called chaos candidate. It more than roared back in the northern and western parts of the state as Trump flipped 23 counties from Democrat to Republican.

While he lost support among proverbial soccer moms in the wealthiest, most educated, and more Republican counties, he crushed it with rural voters. This was not an anomaly, said nonpartisan pollster Charles Franklin of Marquette University Law School. It is the new Republican normal.

Blue-collar voters, who voted for Barack Obama in 2012 before turning out for Trump four years later, mostly backed Walker in 2018. The two-term governor would also slip in the suburbs, gain traction beyond of the cities, and win more votes than ever, 1.29 million. Yet Walker still could not overcome a nationwide Democratic suburban surge.

“That shows this geographic pattern where areas that swung toward Trump seemed to move more in Walker’s direction than they had four years earlier,” Franklin told RCP.  Taken together, the gubernatorial and the presidential contests provide a rough rubric for the next presidential race.

“The Democrats’ formula for winning Wisconsin is relatively straightforward,” longtime Wisconsin talk show host Charlie Sykes wrote in the Atlantic. “They need to run up big margins in Milwaukee County and Dane County (home to Madison)” —  where the University of Wisconsin flagship campus is located — “while holding down GOP margins in the Milwaukee suburbs and in the state’s rural areas.”

For Republicans, it is the converse. Revive the suburbs, build strength in the rural north and west, and cut losses in Milwaukee and Dane County. According to Johnson, “If we could somehow get those counties to secede into Illinois, we’d be in pretty good shape as Republicans.”

That will not happen, of course, so the senator says that on his watch, the GOP “isn’t going to ignore those [urban] areas.” Instead Republicans will try to thread the rural-urban needle, a job that will likely fall, in large part, to two congressmen.

Sean Duffy represents the rural 7th Congressional District in Trump-friendly north and northwest Wisconsin. Jim Sensenbrenner represents the 5th District in the Trump-skeptical Milwaukee suburbs. Both expressed confidence the president can win re-election, though neither is under any illusion it will be easy. Duffy told RCP that the bipartisan “State of the Union argument is the best argument” for Trump. Sensenbrenner seemed to agree, and asserted that the president should confine his tweeting to policy issues rather than slights. “We can win on the issues,” he said. “I’m not so sure we win on the personalities.”

Borrowing a phrase from the Bill Clinton era, Sensenbrenner continued: “It still is the economy, stupid. As long as that is going well and he is able to take credit for it, I think things will go very well.”

The economy, Duffy believes, will provide the crossover appeal between the blue-collar voters and the soccer moms that Trump needs to be successful. “Suburban moms care about their kids, and with this economy we have kids moving out of parents’ basements and getting jobs” he said. “Whether they are buying houses or renting their own apartments, they are out of the home.”

The Trump campaign echoed that economic sentiment and offered a preview of its Wisconsin strategy in a statement to RCP. “President Trump remembered the forgotten men and women in Wisconsin who were entirely ignored by the Democrat Party,” said Trump national press secretary Kayleigh McEnany.

“He reversed President Obama’s failed manufacturing jobs record, adding 473,000 manufacturing jobs in just two years compared to the 210,000 lost in Obama’s two terms,” she added. “President Trump replaced the job-killing NAFTA with the U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement, a better deal that protects manufacturing jobs and secures greater access to Canada’s dairy market for farmers in Wisconsin and across the nation. He continues to fight for farmers to gain access to new markets across the globe.”

It is an understandable argument for Republicans to make in a state with an unemployment rate below 3 percent. It is not so different from the pitch

Scott Walker hoped would carry him to a third term. The difference Republicans are counting on this time: a leftward lurch in the opposition party.  

“I think if the president is a little more moderated in his tone, that’s helpful,” Duffy said after emphasizing the humming economy. “On the flip side of that coin,” he continued, “I think the president is going to punch really hard at the extremism coming from the left.”

Yet Wisconsin’s progressive roots run deep. The Republican Party was formed there, in the town of Rippon in the mid-19th century – as a progressive party opposed to slavery. Later, Robert “Fighting Bob” La Follette, a Wisconsin governor and senator who decided that the GOP had drifted from its liberal traditions, helped formed the Progressive Party. Wisconsin voted for Franklin Roosevelt the first three times he ran for president before becoming something of a bellwether state in the mid-20th century.

But in the run-up to the 2016 race, the Democratic nominee had carried Wisconsin in seven consecutive presidential elections. And even in the cliffhanger last time, progressives could hold their heads high: Sen. Bernie Sanders, a self-described Democratic socialist, had defeated Hillary Clinton in Wisconsin’s Democratic primary. And Milwaukee has made three different socialists mayor.

All the same, Republicans argue that the current crop of candidates is too extreme — too far left, too anti-industry, too anti-agriculture — for the state. More than one expressed the hope that the Democrats will let Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, the Democratic socialist who co-authored the Green New Deal, speak during the 2020 convention.

“You’ve got candidates talking about getting rid of cows,” Walker said in reference to the Ocasio-Cortez climate change legislation, which much of the 2020 crowd has already endorsed.

“That’s kind of funny anywhere, but in Wisconsin messing with cows is not funny business,” he noted. “We’ve got an $80 billion agriculture industry and about half of that is dairy.”

This, then, is the Republican strategy in Wisconsin. Plug the economy. Paint the opposition as extreme. Hope, as Walker does, that after ignoring the state in 2016, Democrats’ bringing the convention to Milwaukee in 2020 will amount to “the ultimate overplay.” Bank on “radicalism coming to our backyard,” as Duffy does, energizing the GOP base.

Control of the White House, Republicans admit, could hinge on Trump hanging on in the state. “As Wisconsin went in 2016,” Johnson said, “so went the nation.”

Britain's Prime Minister Theresa May arrives at church in Sonning
FILE PHOTO: Britain’s Prime Minister Theresa May arrives at church in Sonning, Britain March 17, 2019. REUTERS/Henry Nicholls

March 18, 2019

By Guy Faulconbridge and Elizabeth Piper

LONDON (Reuters) – One of the most influential Brexit-backing lawmakers in Prime Minister Theresa May’s party gave the strongest hint to date on Monday that rebels might back her departure deal, saying that a bad exit accord was better than staying in the European Union.

May has warned lawmakers that unless they approve her Brexit divorce deal after two crushing defeats, Britain’s exit from the EU could face a long delay which many Brexiteers fear would mean Britain may never leave.

After two-and-a-half years of tortuous negotiations with the EU, the final outcome remains uncertain – with options including a long delay, exiting with May’s deal, a disorderly exit without a deal or even another EU membership referendum.

May is scrambling to rally support ahead of a summit of EU heads of government on Thursday and Friday where she has warned she will ask for a long Brexit delay unless parliament ratifies the deal she struck in November.

Rees-Mogg, chairman of the European Research Group of euroskeptics in Britain’s House of Commons, said he had not yet made up his mind how to vote on May’s deal but any Brexit was better than staying in the bloc.

If Rees-Mogg did swing behind May, dozens of rebels could follow him, although it is unclear if that would be enough to save her deal.

“No deal is better than a bad deal but a bad deal is better than remaining in the European Union in the hierarchy of deals,” Rees-Mogg told LBC radio. “A two-year extension is basically remaining in the European Union.”

Rees-Mogg said his dream option would be a no-deal exit on March 29 but that he felt May – a former supporter of EU membership who won the premiership in the turmoil that followed the 2016 Brexit referendum – would seek to stop a no-deal.

“The question people like me will ultimately have to answer is: can we get to no-deal instead? If we can get to no-deal instead, that is a better option… but I am concerned the prime minister is determined to stop a no-deal.”

May’s deal, a bid to keep close trading and security ties with the EU while leaving the bloc’s formal political structures, was defeated by 230 votes in parliament on Jan. 15, and by 149 votes on March 12.

If she could get the deal approved after the biggest parliamentary defeat for a government in modern British history, it would mark a spectacular and surprising turnaround and by far the biggest achievement of her crisis-riven tenure.

To get her deal through parliament, May must win over at least 75 lawmakers – dozens of rebels in her own Conservative Party, some Labour lawmakers, and the Northern Irish Democratic Unionist Party (DUP), which props up her minority government.

The biggest issue is the so-called Northern Irish border backstop, an insurance policy aimed at avoiding post-Brexit controls on the United Kingdom’s border with EU-member Ireland.

Many Brexiteers and the DUP are concerned the backstop will trap the United Kingdom in the EU’s orbit indefinitely, and have sought guarantees it will not.


May’s finance minister, Philip Hammond, held talks with the DUP on Friday but said the government did not yet have support it needed and would only put the deal to a third vote if it felt it could win.

“There are some cautious signs of encouragement … but there is a lot more work to do,” Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt told the BBC on Monday.

If May could swing the DUP behind her, along with several dozen more Brexit supporters in her own party, she will be getting close to the numbers she needs.

Stepping up the pressure on the prime minister, Jeremy Corbyn, leader of the main opposition Labour Party, said he could trigger another confidence vote in May’s government if she fails again to get her deal adopted by parliament.

Former British foreign minister Boris Johnson said on Sunday it was not too late for the government to get “real change” to May’s deal and cautioned against holding another parliamentary vote on the agreement this week.

Johnson, a prominent Brexit campaigner who might influence other lawmakers on which way to vote over May’s deal, asked in his column in the Telegraph newspaper whether there was a way forward to break the impasse of Brexit in parliament.

“Perhaps,” he answered. “There is an EU summit this week. It is not too late to get real change to the backstop. It would be absurd to hold the vote before that has even been attempted.”

He also said May should outline her strategy for talks on the future relationship with the EU to “reassure … understandably doubtful MPs (members of parliament) by answering some basic questions”.

EU leaders have said repeatedly that the terms of their Withdrawal Agreement with May cannot be revisited.

(Writing by Guy Faulconbridge; Editing by Giles Elgood and Mark Heinrich)

Source: OANN


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WASHINGTON — Those of us who have always thought that Brexit — Britain’s withdrawal from the European Union — was a bad idea should be feeling self-satisfied and vindicated now. Well, we’re not; at least this observer isn’t. The reason is obvious. Many of the things that we feared would happen have happened, or might still. Worse, the consequences aren’t confined to the United Kingdom.

If you take a crude and unscientific survey of some of Washington’s major think tanks, you discover (no surprise) that they’re generally agreed that the economic outlook for Britain is grim. Here’s a commentary by economist Desmond Lachman of the right-of-center American Enterprise Institute:

“Since the Brexit referendum, the U.K.’s economic performance has deteriorated. It has done so as the U.K.’s future access to the European single market, which buys around 50 percent of the U.K.’s exports, has come into serious question. … At a time that the European economy is already stuttering, with Italy in recession and the German economy on the cusp of recession, the last thing that Europe now needs is a sclerotic UK economy.”

A new study from the Peterson Institute for International Economics reviewed the forecasts of 12 economic models and found that only two of them predicted gains from Brexit. Other studies forecast losses up to 8 percent of gross domestic product (GDP). The study also warns that “a no-deal ‘crash out'” — a reversion to higher tariffs rather than a “soft Brexit” of continuing the present no-tariff situation — “would have serious negative short-run impacts on the U.K., which are essentially impossible to model.”

Although EU countries would also lose some exports to the U.K., these are much smaller than the U.K.’s export losses to the EU. Thus, they’re more easily made up by boosting exports to other countries, the report contends.

The U.K.’s losses are not just theoretical. Already, some companies are announcing closures of U.K. manufacturing operations, a good example being Honda. Similarly, some banks are moving financial assets (stocks, bonds, other securities) from their London offices to locations on the continent. There is much fear that London will lose its traditional position as Europe’s pre-eminent financial center.

Meanwhile, the chaos, confusion and contradictions of Parliament’s efforts to find a tenable Brexit policy must seriously undermine confidence in Britain’s political system and its ability to attract future investors, domestic and foreign.

The prevailing political anarchy was on public display last week. On March 12, Parliament rejected Prime Minister Theresa May’s proposed agreement with the EU for the second time. Then on March 13, it voted down a proposal for the U.K. to leave the EU without an agreement, failing to acknowledge “that this is precisely what will happen unless they reconcile themselves to the very deal they rejected the day before,” as Douglas Rediker of The Brookings Institution noted in a blog post. The deadline for deciding is March 29, though that could be extended.

The larger and more significant issue floating over this controversy involves the future of the world trading system. There has been a loss of authority among the corporate executives, governmental officials and economists whose support is crucial if the system is to survive and flourish.

It’s not that they have changed their minds about the value of open trade so much as the public has turned more skeptical and hostile to trade expansion. A less supportive public in turn alters the political climate, making governments more nationalistic and leading to more, not fewer, trade barriers. Multinational firms become more cautious in making new investments, because they can’t know how much open trade will be tolerated.

Brexit is one example of this break from the past. Others are well-known: the Trump administration’s renegotiation of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) with Canada and Mexico; its bargaining with China over trade practices; and the imposition of U.S. tariffs on steel and aluminum imports.

The fate of Brexit is just a small part of this much larger story. Is the post-World War II global trading system, constructed gradually over the past half-century or so, breaking down? Or is it just in a state of temporary hiatus? History awaits an answer.

(c) 2019, The Washington Post Writers Group

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