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    Israel's Foreign Ministry said on Monday that a security guard at the country's embassy in Jordan opened fire, killing two Jordanians, after being attacked by one of them with a screwdriver. The incident took place on Sunday evening, at a residential building used by embassy staff. Israeli media said Jordan has demanded to conduct an investigation and has prevented Israeli embassy staff from leaving the premises. Jordanian government officials were not immediately available for comment. Israel's Foreign Ministry did not refer to such demands in its statement, but said the guard has diplomatic immunity, according to international conventions. The shooting came at a time when Israel and Jordan were conducting intense contacts over an escalating crisis at a contested Jerusalem shrine that is revered by Muslims and Jews. Jordan is the Muslim custodian of the site. Israel's security Cabinet was meeting from late Sunday until the early hours of Monday to discuss the crisis at the shrine, and was briefed during the meeting about the incidents at the embassy, the Foreign Ministry said. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu spoke by phone to Israel's ambassador in Jordan, the ministry said. The ministry said the incident began when two Jordanian workmen arrived at the residential building to replace furniture. It said one of the workers, identified by Israeli media as a 17-year-old, attacked an Israeli security guard with a screwdriver. The guard opened fire, killing the teen, the media reports said. A second Jordanian, the owner of the building, was hit by gunfire and later died of his injuries. Jordanian police said the building owner was a physician. The Israeli guard was lightly hurt, the media reports said. The incident is bound to further inflame Jordanian public opinion against Israel and complicate efforts to defuse tensions over a contested Jerusalem shrine. On Friday, thousands of Jordanians marched in the streets of the capital Amman to protest against Israeli policies at the shrine, known to Muslims as the Noble Sanctuary and to Jews as the Temple Mount. The tensions over the Muslim-administered shrine erupted after Israel installed metal detectors at the gates, in response to a shooting attack from there that killed two Israeli policemen. Muslim religious leaders have alleged that Israel is trying to expand its control at the site under the guise of security, a claim Israel denies. The tensions have led to mass prayer protests and Israeli-Palestinian violence. Israel and Jordan signed a peace deal in 1994, but the agreement remains deeply unpopular in the kingdom where many residents are of Palestinian origin. Jordan and Israel have close security ties, but frequently clash over Israeli policies at the Jerusalem shrine. Jordan's ruling Hashemite dynasty, said to trace its ancestry to Prophet Muhammad, draws much of its legitimacy from its role as protector of the shrine.
  • East Timor's two main political parties won enough votes in a weekend parliamentary election to form another national unity government but lost ground to opposition forces in a sign of frustration with slow economic progress. With all votes counted on Monday, the National Congress for Timorese Reconstruction party of independence hero Xanana Gusmao, or CNRT, had won 29.5 percent, down from 36.7 percent in 2012, when it was the top-polling party. Fretilin, or Revolutionary Front for an Independent East Timor, captured 29.7 percent of the vote. Fretilin declared itself the victor on Sunday and to loud applause and cheers of 'Viva Fretilin' its secretary-general Mari Alkatiri said it is open to forming a coalition with CNRT. The vote Saturday was East Timor's first parliamentary election without U.N. supervision since peacekeepers left in 2012. The former Portuguese colony voted overwhelmingly for independence in 1999 after 24 years of brutal Indonesian occupation. Indonesia's military and pro-Indonesian militias responded to the independence referendum with scorched earth attacks that devastated the East Timorese half of the island of Timor. In recent years, leaders have focused on big-ticket infrastructure projects to develop the economy, funding them from a dwindling fund of former oil riches, but progress is slow. Today, the country of 1.3 million people still faces poverty, with many lacking clean water and sanitation. Unemployment is high and young people are increasingly going overseas for work. The Popular Liberation Party, a new political force led by former President Taur Matan Ruak, and the Democratic Party each scooped up about 10 percent of the votes. A new youth party, Khunto, got about 6 percent of the vote, which would give it 5 seats in the 65-member parliament. Nearly two dozen parties contested the election, in which they must win more than 4 percent of the vote to get seats in parliament. Results will be official once certified by the country's Court of Appeal, likely later this week. In the first few years after the independence, Fretilin, whose paramilitary arm had waged guerrilla warfare against Indonesia's occupation, was popular enough to form a government alone.
  • It's been five months since the shy, frail 13-year-old was snatched from his bed, drugged and raped in the middle of the night. The boy hasn't been able to say much since. 'I don't remember a lot,' Batista says, darting his eyes toward the dirt floor as he sits in a makeshift clinic in one of South Sudan's displaced people's camps in the town of Wau. The Associated Press is using only the boy's first name to protect his identity. Four years into South Sudan's devastating civil war, the world's youngest nation is reeling from sexual violence on a 'massive scale,' a new Amnesty International report says. Thousands of women, children and some men are suffering in silence, grappling with mental distress. Some now have HIV. Others were rendered impotent. The report is based on interviews with 168 victims of sexual violence in South Sudan and in refugee camps in neighboring Uganda, home to the world's fastest-growing refugee crisis. Some of the sexual assaults occur not during the fighting but among the millions of people sheltering from the conflict. Batista says he was raped in December by a 45-year-old man he'd seen around the United Nations-run camp. Yet the boy didn't seek psychosocial support until May. Community members say he has kept to himself and is in dire need of help. The U.N. last year reported a 60 percent increase in gender-based violence in South Sudan, with 70 percent of women in U.N. camps in the capital, Juba, having been raped since the start of the civil war in December 2013. 'This is premeditated sexual violence. Women have been gang-raped, sexually assaulted with sticks and mutilated with knives,' says Muthoni Wanyeki, Amnesty's regional director for East Africa. Victims are left with 'debilitating and life-changing consequences,' and many have been shunned by their families. The new report interviewed 16 male victims, some who said they had been castrated or had their testicles pierced with needles. 'Some of the attacks appear designed to terrorize, degrade and shame the victims, and in some cases to stop men from rival political groups from procreating,' Wanyeki says. The U.N. Commission on Human Rights in South Sudan and others say both government and opposition forces use rape as a weapon of war — a strategy made worse because of the country's culture of stigma. 'If a survivor is left unsupported or untreated, he or she may develop more serious mental health problems,' says Aladin Borja, coordinator for the national mental health and psychosocial support group for the International Organization for Migration. Survivors are discouraged from speaking openly about rape, Borja says, meaning attacks could continue with impunity. Amnesty International says many victims are targeted because of their ethnicity. 'They hide in the bush and jump out at you and rape you on the road,' says Bakhit Mario, who also shelters in the U.N. camp in Wau. The 22-year-old is part of the Fertit people, a name for several minority ethnic groups from the north. She says friends and family have been raped by men who are Dinka, one of South Sudan's largest ethnic groups and the one of President Salva Kiir. 'I see aborted babies in the camp's bathrooms,' Mario says. She believes many are a result of unwanted pregnancies due to rape. South Sudan's government has condemned sexual assaults, promising that 'the government is moving swiftly to protect civilians from such behavior by educating all armed forces and holding perpetrators accountable,' acting government spokesman Choul Laam told the AP. But victims who have reported their attackers to authorities say they've seen little justice. After Batista was raped he told local police, who arrested the perpetrator — only to set the man free a few days later.
  • The public face of Cuba's diplomatic opening with the United States is leaving her post to become ambassador to Canada, officials said Sunday. Josefina Vidal was sworn in to her new role at a ceremony presided over by President Raul Castro, according to Cuban media. Officials said Vidal's deputy Gustavo Machin would also leave the division of U.S. affairs to become ambassador to Spain. In a government renowned for its opacity, Vidal and Machin were given unusual rein to talk publicly about Cuba's relations with Washington. They offered regular briefings to journalists about the state of diplomatic ties, which were re-established two years ago. Under their watch, the Cuban government often spoke more openly than the U.S. administration about the state of bilateral relations. Vidal took the reins of the U.S. affairs division in 2006, helped negotiate the reestablishment of diplomatic relations and stayed through the announcement of President Donald Trump's new Cuba policy last month. The Cuban government appears to have decided to bring in new faces to deal with the Trump administration, although it did not immediately say who would take their places. Trump retained most elements of the Obama policy, although he will re-impose limits on individual Americans' ability to travel to Cuba. Vidal's counterpart in many aspects of the negotiations was the top U.S. diplomat in Havana, Ambassador Jeffrey DeLaurentis, who left his post this month to return to the United States. Canada and Spain are both vital economic partners for Cuba and the embassies there are two of the country's most important diplomatic outposts. A high-ranking Communist Party official, Vidal studied in Moscow and speaks French and Russian in addition to fluent English, according to her official biography. Machin's father, an aide to revolutionary founder Ernesto 'Che' Guevara, died fighting government forces in Bolivia in 1967. Machin and Vidal both served at the Cuban Interests Section in Washington before they were expelled in 2003 along with roughly a dozen other Cuban officials amid accusations of involvement in espionage. Vidal was not directly expelled but left along with her husband, who was declared persona non grata. _____ Michael Weissenstein on Twitter: https://twitter.com/mweissenstein _____ Weissenstein reported from Caracas, Venezuela.
  • The Latest on the crisis diplomatic crisis between Qatar and four Arab countries (all times local): 9:50 p.m. Turkey's president has met with the ruler of Kuwait to discuss ways to end the diplomatic crisis between Qatar and four of its Arab neighbors. Recep Tayyip Erdogan traveled Sunday evening to Kuwait for talks with the country's emir, Sheikh Sabah Al Ahmed Al Sabah, who has been mediating the dispute. He earlier held talks with the king of neighboring Saudi Arabia. He is due to travel to Qatar on Monday. Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Egypt and Bahrain cut ties and transport links with Qatar in early June, accusing it of supporting extremists. Qatar strongly denies the allegation and sees the dispute as politically motivated. ___ 3:50 p.m. Turkey's president has arrived in Saudi Arabia to begin a three-nation tour aimed at helping to forge a resolution to the diplomatic crisis between Qatar and four of its Arab neighbors. Recep Tayyip Erdogan traveled Sunday to the Red Sea city of Jiddah, where he is expected to hold talks with King Salman. His trip will include stops in Kuwait, which has been mediating the crisis, and Qatar. Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Egypt and Bahrain cut ties and transport links with Qatar in early June, accusing it of supporting extremists. Qatar strongly denies the allegation and sees the dispute as politically motivated. ___ 3:10 p.m. Britain's top diplomat is welcoming comments from the ruler of Qatar on his country's commitment to opposing terrorism and resolving its dispute with Arab neighbors through dialogue. Qatari Emir Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani said late Friday that Qatar is prepared to talk with the four countries that are isolating it and reaffirmed Qatar's opposition to terrorism. Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Egypt and Bahrain cut ties and transport links with Qatar last month over allegations it supports extremists. Qatar denies the charge. British Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson said in a statement Sunday that he hopes the quartet will respond to Qatar by 'taking steps towards lifting the embargo' so that 'substantive discussions' on their differences can begin. ___ 12 p.m. A top official in the Arab bloc isolating Qatar says the Gulf state needs to change its policies as part of any direct negotiations to resolve the crisis. Qatari Emir Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani said late Friday that Qatar is prepared to talk with the four countries lined up against it, but that any resolution must respect its sovereignty and the terms cannot be dictated from outside. United Arab Emirates Minister of State for Foreign Relations Anwar al-Gargash responded in a Twitter post late Saturday that dialogue is necessary, but that Qatar must review its policies since repeating its previous positions only 'deepens the crisis.' Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Egypt and Bahrain cut ties and transport links with Qatar in early June.
  • Poles protested in cities and towns across Poland for the eighth day Sunday over new rules passed by the ruling party that would drastically limit the independence of the judiciary. Protesters see moves by the populist governing Law and Justice party as an assault on the country's democratic system of checks and balances, accusing party leader Jaroslaw Kaczynski of behaving in an authoritarian way to cement his power. People waved flags of the European Union and Poland as they gathered in the evening in front of the presidential palace and the Supreme Court in Warsaw. They called on President Andrzej Duda to veto three contentious bills that would put the Supreme Court and other areas of the judiciary under the party's control. People chanted slogans, including 'Constitution!' and 'Freedom, Equality, Democracy!' Protests also took place in Krakow, Wroclaw and other Polish cities, with smaller protests in Paris, Brussels, London and elsewhere in Europe. The legislation quickly passed both houses of parliament in recent days and now awaits Duda's signature to take effect. One element of the law on the Supreme Court would call for the immediate dismissal of all the Supreme Court's judges, with their replacements to be chosen by the justice minister, who is also the prosecutor general. The ruling party says its moves are meant to reform corrupt courts never properly purged of former communists after communism fell in 1989. The party, which won elections in 2015 with about 38 percent of the vote and has maintained that level of support in polls, says it has a mandate to clean up the country. But the moves to take control of the courts have alarmed the European Union, with Frans Timmermans, the vice-president of the EU's executive, warning last week that Brussels is very close to taking steps to strip Poland of its voting rights in the bloc over rule of law violations. Germany's Justice Minister Heiko Maas on Sunday welcomed possible EU sanctions, telling the weekly German paper Bild am Sonntag that 'the independence of the judiciary is in danger in Poland.' 'Somebody who gives so little respect to the rule of law has to accept that he isolates himself politically,' Maas said. He added that 'the EU cannot stand and watch inactively. Rule of law and democracy are the bedrock of the EU.' However, it's not clear if sanctions could pass because Hungary's illiberal Prime Minister Viktor Orban has pledged to defend Poland against the EU's 'inquisition.' ____ Kirsten Grieshaber in Berlin contributed.
  • Two Jordanians were killed and an Israeli was wounded by gunfire Sunday in a residential building at the Israeli embassy compound in Jordan's capital, the kingdom's Public Security Directorate said. Israeli media reported Monday that an Israeli security guard opened fire after a Jordanian worker attacked him with a screwdriver. The worker and the Jordanian owner of the building were wounded and later died, the reports said. Jordan's security agency confirmed that Jordanians had entered the apartment building for carpentry work. The statement said the building was in the Israeli embassy compound, but the Israeli media reports indicated that the building was not part of the compound. The Jordanian security agency did not say what triggered the shooting. Three people were initially wounded, the security agency said. Two Jordanians later died, according to the agency and the news site Hala Akhbar, which is linked to the Jordanian military. One of the Jordanians killed was a physician at the scene, the security agency said. The Israeli was in 'unstable' condition, the news site said. The Israeli Foreign Ministry had no comment. The incident comes at a time of mounting tensions between Israel and the Muslim world over metal detectors Israel installed at a Jerusalem shrine revered by Muslims and Jews. Jordan is the Muslim custodian of the site. On Friday, thousands of Jordanians staged an anti-Israeli protest in Amman.
  • Russian ambassador to the United States Sergei Kislyak — a high-profile figure in the controversy over Russian meddling in the 2016 presidential election— has concluded his assignment in Washington. The Russian Embassy in Washington announced on Twitter that Kislyak's tenure ended on Saturday. Kislyak's successor has not been announced, although it is widely expected to be Anatoly Antonov, a deputy foreign minister and former deputy defense minister seen as a hardliner regarding the United States. A Washington fixture with a sprawling network, Kislyak has emerged as a central figure in the investigations into Russian interference in the election and whether any Trump associates were involved. President Donald Trump has repeatedly dismissed the story as 'fake news,' but the investigations have shown no signs of stopping, with a focus on top aides heightening. Trump's first national security adviser, Michael Flynn, was fired after the White House concluded he had not been truthful about conversations he had with Kislyak. Attorney General Jeff Sessions recused himself from the Russia investigation after acknowledging two previously undisclosed contacts with Kislyak. On Friday, the Washington Post reported that Kislyak said he discussed election-related issues with Sessions when the men met last year. The Post cited anonymous U.S. officials who described U.S. intelligence intercepts of Kislyak's descriptions of his meetings with Sessions. The Justice Department said Sessions stands by his previous assertion that he never had conversations with Russian officials about any type of interference with the election. The president's son-in-law and senior adviser Jared Kushner has also been criticized for failing to immediately disclose a meeting with Kislyak on his security clearance questionnaire. In that December meeting, he proposed a secret back channel between the Kremlin and the Trump transition team. During a long diplomatic career, Kislyak has led the life of a fairly typical global envoy, making himself a reliable presence on the circuit of receptions, teas and forums that make up the calendar of any ambassador. Kislyak, who was appointed to his post in 2008, is regularly spotted walking around town, heading to and from meetings. Early in his tenure, he often opened the doors of the Russian Embassy, hosting dinners for foreign policy professionals, Pentagon officials, journalists and Capitol Hill staffers. His first foreign posting was to New York where he worked at the Soviet delegation at the United Nations in the early 1980s. He spent the following years as the first secretary and then councilor at the Soviet Embassy in Washington before returning to Moscow in 1989, where he took a succession of senior jobs at the Foreign Ministry. He did a stint as Russian ambassador to Belgium and simultaneously served as Moscow's envoy at NATO. He then returned to Moscow to serve as a deputy foreign minister, overseeing relations with the United States and arms control issues before being sent to Washington.
  • Scarce rain and chronically leaky aqueducts have combined this summer to hurt farmers in much of Italy and put Romans at risk for drastic water rationing as soon as this week. Sky TG24 TV meteorologists noted on Sunday that Italy had experienced one of its driest springs in some 60 years and that some parts of the country had seen rainfall totals 80 percent below normal. Among the hardest-hit regions was Sardinia, which is seeking natural disaster status. Farmers' lobby Coldiretti last week estimated 2 billion euros ($2.3 billion) worth of damage so far to Italian agriculture. Dairy farmers are lamenting drops in milk production. Among those suffering are farmers growing canning tomatoes in the southeastern region of Puglia, wine grapes throughout much of Italy and those cultivating olives -- all signature crops for the nation. Another afflicted area was the province in Parma, an area in north-central Italy renowned for Parmigiano Reggiano cheese and prized prosciutto. Rome's water supply worries have turned political. Last week, the governor of Lazio region, which includes the Italian capital, ordered no more water drawn from Lake Bracciano, which supplies some of the Italian capital, because the drastically decreasing water level posed danger to the aquatic life of the lake, some 40 kilometers (25 miles) from the city. The lake used to be used only for backup water supply but recent years have seen it being tapped on a regular basis. Rome water company ACEA warned that with the lake eliminated for water supplies, drastic rationing loomed. Italian media said staggered water supply shutdowns could last as long as eight hours daily in alternating neighborhoods and start as soon as Wednesday. Rome's famed fountains risk being turned off. Since the city of Rome is a major shareholder in Acea, populist 5-Star Movement Mayor Virginia Raggi was feeling some heat. Michele Meta, a Democratic party lawmaker from Rome, demanded to know why Acea 'doesn't have other solutions besides rationing and staggering the capital's water' supply? Mother Nature was blamed in good part. Rome had 26 rainy days in this year's first six months, compared to 88 in the first half of 2016, with precipitation totals in those same periods more than four times higher last year than this year. But water supply pipelines in the Rome area -- famed in ancient Roman times for its aqueducts, segments of which still stand -- are notoriously leaky. La Stampa daily reported on Sunday that water, energy and environment companies lobby Utilitalia analyzed companies serving roughly half of Italy's population and concluded that the water loss rate from inadequate infrastructure, often decades-old, ranged from 26 percent in the north to 46 percent in the central and southern parts of the country. Frances D'Emilio is on twitter at a href='http://www.twitter.com/fdemilio%3c'www.twitter.com/fdemilio/a
  • Mexican prosecutors say an ex-governor accused of corruption and other crimes has been ordered to stand trial. The Attorney General's Office said late Saturday that a judge ruled that Javier Duarte be tried on charges of organized crime and money laundering. He also faces other state charges. Duarte fled to Guatemala after resigning as governor of the Gulf coast state of Veracruz, one of Mexico's most populous, amid mounting allegations of corruption. He was extradited to Mexico last week. Prosecutors allege that Duarte embezzled millions and used much of the money to buy properties. He and his lawyers have called the charges baseless and politically motivated. The case is sensitive for Mexico's ruling Institutional Revolutionary Party, which is trying to clean up its image ahead of next year's presidential vote.

The Latest News Headlines

  • Multiple people were found dead early Sunday inside a semi-trailer in the parking lot of a San Antonio Walmart. >> Read more trending news >> Click here or scroll down for more
  • GOP leaders in the U.S. Senate seem ready to push ahead with a showdown procedural vote on a bill to overhaul the Obama health law, even without any assurance that they have enough votes to simply start debate, and without a final decision on what changes Senate Republicans might offer to a health care bill narrowly approved by the House in early May. While most of the attention this week will be on the machinations involving health care legislation in the Senate, the House will take the first steps on spending bills for next year’s budget, and vote on a revised plan for new sanctions against Russia, as the House gets ready to head home for an extended summer break. Here’s the latest from Capitol Hill: 1. Senate GOP bill on health care still in limbo. GOP leaders are still vowing to press ahead this week on a procedural vote that would begin debate on a House-passed bill to overhaul the Obama health law, but it’s not clear that Republicans have enough votes to take that first step. The absence of Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) – diagnosed last week with brain cancer – is a big deal, since the White House needs every vote possible. Some still wonder if Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) might be convinced to at least vote to start debate – though he has made clear he is against the options that have been floated so far by top Republicans on health care legislation. As for Democrats, they’re still worried about a late rush to victory by the GOP. We saw what happened in the House of Representatives. They passed a bill after everyone thought it was dead. We can’t let that happen again. — Sen Dianne Feinstein (@SenFeinstein) July 23, 2017 2. Senate Parliamentarian knocks some holes in GOP plan. Because Republicans chose to use the expedited procedure known as budget reconciliation, the Senate rules play a much larger than normal role, and that has resulted in problems for a series of provisions in the bill. On Friday, the Parliamentarian said a dozen pieces of the Senate bill could be subjected to parliamentary points of order, which could only be overridden by a 60 vote super majority, something the GOP does not have. That includes provisions designed to block any federal dollars from going through the Medicaid program to Planned Parenthood. And the bill may have more holes poked in it on Monday, when the Parliamentarian goes over four other provisions. 3. Trump keeps pressing GOP on health care. While President Trump again pushed GOP Senators over the weekend to act on health care, his call for action doesn’t seem to be making Republicans in the Congress tremble at the thought of being the target of his ire – and for now, the votes aren’t there to get this Senate health care bill over the finish line. As I type this, it’s not even clear what the GOP might be voting on in the Senate as early as this week – if enough Senators decide to begin debate on the Senate floor. It’s a big week for Republican leaders in the Congress on health care – watch to see what the President says in public about the process, as well as GOP holdouts, and what he does behind the scenes to twist some arms of GOP Senators. Don’t count him out just yet. The Republican Senators must step up to the plate and, after 7 years, vote to Repeal and Replace. Next, Tax Reform and Infrastructure. WIN! — Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) July 22, 2017 4. House to pass Russia sanctions bill. After sitting on the measure for a few weeks, Republicans in the House will approve a plan that steps up sanctions on Iran and Russia – it was approved on a vote of 98-2 in the Senate. The House though, will add provisions dealing with North Korea, and send that back to the Senate for further action. It’s expected to be approved swiftly there. Behind the scenes, the White House has expressed frustration about the sanctions bill, because it would not allow President Trump to unilaterally roll back economic sanctions against Moscow. The vote comes as there has been more talk that the Trump Administration wants to give two compounds back to Russia, which were confiscated by the Obama Administration last December, in the first punishment for election interference in 2016. The only thing Republicans have fought Trump on are Russian sanctions… is he that upset that the GOP isn't protecting Trump through Putin? https://t.co/Ufvo9pqXDc — Josh Jordan (@NumbersMuncher) July 23, 2017 5. House will leave town without passing all 12 funding bills. For weeks, House GOP leaders and rank-in-file lawmakers have told reporters that they were certainly going to have action on all twelve funding bills for the federal government. Reporters tried not to laugh out loud, knowing full well that was not likely. After this week, the House will be gone from Washington until Labor Day, and the plan is to jam four of the twelve funding bills into one package, and pass them in what’s known as a ‘minibus’ (the smaller version of the omnibus). Funding bills for the military, VA, energy and water programs, and the Legislative Branch (Congress) will be in that plan – but eight other bills will not voted on this week. And yet, the House will go home for five weeks. As you can see, a lot of budget work has not been done in both the House and Senate. Unfortunately, that has become standard procedure no matter which party is in charge. How many spending bills each chamber has passed — House got the last of its bills through cmte yesterday. 2.5 months until govt $$ runs out pic.twitter.com/TlwXVgspWa — Sean McMinn (@shmcminn) July 20, 2017 6. One odd provision in the minibus. One interesting choice made by Republicans this week is that the House will vote on money to build the border wall backed by President Trump – but not the underlying bill that funds the Department of Homeland Security. A provision for $1.6 billion to start work on the wall along the border with Mexico is part of the “Make America Secure” minibus appropriations bill – but the plan to actually fund Homeland Security operations won’t be voted on by the House – until after Labor Day. You can see the House schedule – a rare five day legislative work week is scheduled this week for the House, and then lawmakers head back home for five weeks. 7. Democrats look to force votes on Trump hotels. It wouldn’t be a debate on spending bills without some nettlesome votes being forced by the minority. This week, Democrats have asked for amendments that would prohibit government workers from staying at hotels owned or operated by President Trump’s family. One amendment gives the Defense Secretary the right to waive that on national security grounds; another amendment from Rep. Don Beyer (R-VA) gives a list of 40 different Trump hotels that would be off limits for federal government official business. Just one of the votes to look forward to this week in the ‘minibus.’ Democrats in the House try to stop federal workers from staying at Trump hotel properties https://t.co/ASJrKVr51q — Jamie Dupree (@jamiedupree) July 23, 2017 8. Not on the schedule – the GOP budget blueprint. While the House Budget Committee last week was finally able to approve a budget outline for 2018, that budget resolution won’t be on the House floor this week. Why? Because it doesn’t have the votes to pass at this point in time. That means any talk you hear from GOP leaders and/or President Trump about action on tax reform needs to be taken with a grain of salt, because that budget blueprint has to be approved by both the House and Senate before any votes on can take place on a tax bill – and since the House isn’t going to be back until after Labor Day, that means tax reform remains on hold in the Congress. So what’s next? Three important agenda items now loom –tax reform, debt ceiling and budget resolution. Path to each is somewhat unclear. — Charlie_Commodities (@lfucha) July 22, 2017 9. Tax reform must be ‘budget neutral.’ One story that didn’t get much play last week because of the GOP troubles on health care is a wonky type of detail from the GOP budget resolution – but it has a big impact on tax reform plans for Republicans. At issue is a provision that says any tax bill must be budget neutral; in other words, if you cut taxes – and therefore raise the deficit by cutting revenue – then you must offset that lost revenue. That most likely would mean getting rid of tax deductions and tax breaks, a plan that sounds great in theory, but is difficult in practice to get through the Congress. Eliminate or cut back on the mortgage interest deduction? Make health care benefits through your job into taxable income? Get rid of the business interest deduction? Lots of difficult choices. If you think health care is hard, tax reform will be even more difficult. 'Budget neutral' tax reform could mean some difficult choices for Republicans in the Congress https://t.co/BcWNLAIlPo — Jamie Dupree (@jamiedupree) July 22, 2017 10. Infrastructure – the missing Trump agenda item. Along with tax reform, there has been talk for months by the President, top Administration officials, and GOP lawmakers in Congress about voting for a bill to spur the construction of new roads and bridges. Mr. Trump has talked repeatedly about a $1 trillion public-private plan, but no proposal has been sent to the Congress, and none is expected until after Labor Day. Some thought the President should have started with this idea, since increased infrastructure spending is something that Democrats favor – but for a number of Republicans, that wasn’t a good idea, as they repeatedly opposed plans from the Obama Administration for more highway dollars. For now, this is going nowhere fast. Nobody knew infrastructure could be so complicated, complains President Trump https://t.co/QKpBhPMIhL pic.twitter.com/TMXjDW44xy — David Frum (@davidfrum) July 23, 2017
  • Just a few days after St. Johns County deputies say a sex offender cut off his tracking device and absconded, he’s now been tracked down. The Sheriff’s Office says Robert Ferrell was arrested without incident Sunday. No details have been immediately provided, but our partner Action News Jax reports Ferrell was found in the Murabella area. Ferrell cut off his GPS monitoring device and threw it in the trash on Tuesday, according to deputies. The Sheriff’s Office is thanking the community for their help tracking Ferrell down. A Facebook post from SJSO says they received tips from the community- who also widely shared his photo- as part of their investigation.
  • Detectives with the St. Johns County Sheriff's Office Special Victim's Unit/ Sexual Predator Offender Tracking are asking the public to keep an eye out for Robert Ferrell, 35.   Ferrell is wanted for failing to register as a sex offender, among other charges. Bulletins have been posted across the country, as a precautionary measure, to help find Ferrell.    The sheriff's office says Ferrell was just released from prison a week ago and told deputies two days ago that he was homeless and residing in the woods.   As part of his probation, Ferrell was court ordered to wear a GPS tracking device.  However, Ferrell allegedly cut off that device this past Tuesday around 6:00 pm and dumped it into a trash can in the 1900 block of US 1 South.   Ferrell is described as a white male, 5'8'' tall, 135 pounds with a shaved head. He also has tattoos all over his body, including a tattoo on the top of his shaved head that says 'FLORIDA' with a picture of a face next to it.   If you see Ferrell or know where he is, you're urged to contact Detective Kevin Green at (904) 209-3988 or by email at kgreen@sjso.org.
  • Tyler Swantek, 24, was already in custody on drug charges when police tacked on a first-degree murder charge. Police said he killed his father, Todd Swantek, and left the corpse on the couch for weeks. The Standard-Speaker reported that Swantek allegedly shot his father in the head with a rifle. >> Read more trending news Police reportedly were called to the scene in Frackville, Pennsylvania, in late May by a friend of Todd Swantek’s, who had not heard from the father for a month. When police entered the house, they found a gruesome scene: The badly decomposed body was on the couch, covered in blankets and a sleeping bag, the Standard-Speaker reported. Police said they searched the house and found the rifle, which they believe to be the murder weapon, in Tyler Swantek’s bedroom. There were a number of candles and air fresheners in the house, apparently put out in an attempt to mask the smell, the Standard-Speaker reported. Police said that when they interviewed Tyler Swantek about his father’s death, he showed no emotion. An autopsy report suggested that the body may have been on the couch for months before it was discovered. Swantek appeared in court where he asked for reduced bail for drug charges, but the judge didn’t agree to the deal. The judge reportedly said, “He’s a danger to himself and society.” Read more here.

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