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National Govt & Politics
Trump calls for GOP to vote against House disaster aid bill
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Trump calls for GOP to vote against House disaster aid bill

Trump calls for GOP to vote against House disaster aid bill

Trump calls for GOP to vote against House disaster aid bill

With the U.S. House scheduled to begin debate Friday morning on a $17 billion relief bill for Americans hit by hurricanes, floods, wildfires, tornadoes, and other disasters, President Donald Trump urged Republicans in the House to oppose the measure, as Mr. Trump again publicly complained Thursday about the level of disaster aid given by Congress to the island of Puerto Rico.

"House Republicans should not vote for the BAD DEMOCRAT Disaster Supplemental Bill," the President tweeted on Thursday evening, hours after he had denounced the amount of money spent so far on aid to Puerto Rico in the wake of damage from Hurricane Maria in 2017.

The President again claimed - incorrectly - that Congress had already sent Puerto Rico $91 billion in aid, making the argument that Democrats were more concerned about helping people in a Caribbean territory than on the U.S. Mainland.

Congress has approved $41 billion for Puerto Rico, but the island has received just $13 billion in disaster relief from the Trump Administration.

"And now the Democrats are trying to hold up the money - from Georgia, from South Carolina, from Alabama, to Florida," Mr. Trump told reporters at the White House. "They're trying to hold it up. They're hurting Florida."

"They want to give Puerto Rico more money," said Mr. Trump of Democrats.

The House bill includes $600 million in food aid for the island.

The President's call to oppose funding in the bill would put a number of GOP lawmakers on the spot - since the plan includes several hundred million dollars to rebuild Tyndall Air Force Base in Florida, as well as money to help farmers in Georgia, Florida, and the Carolinas who were devastated by Hurricane Michael.

The plan also includes money which would help the Army Corps of Engineers deal with levee breaches in the Midwest, and continue to aid people hit by wildfires in California.

While the President urged further negotiations, talks in the Senate have gone on for months with no resolution - mainly because of the President's opposition to any more money for Puerto Rico, and as Senators went home on Thursday, there was no indication that any breakthrough was near in talks on a disaster bill.

Sen. Richard Shelby (R-AL), the Chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee, has been trying to forge a deal since the House approved a $14 billion disaster measure back in mid-January.

But he told reporters every day this week that a final agreement continued to be elusive.

"I think this has gone a long time - too long," Shelby told reporters.

His assessment on Thursday afternoon was a familiar one.

After waiting for weeks and weeks, House Democrats simply decided to pass a second disaster bill, in hopes it would create some momentum on a disaster deal.

"Use this bill to break the logjam in the Senate," said Rep. Kathy Castor (D-FL).

But with the President open calling for GOP lawmakers to oppose the House bill, it raised questions as to whether anything could get agreed to before lawmakers leave on a Memorial Day break.

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The Latest News Headlines

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  • It's a good idea to fill up on gas sooner rather than later if you have any travel plans for the holiday weekend. Patrick DeHaan is head of petroleum analysis at Gas Buddy, and he says prices may go up over the next couple days or early next week.  'If you have a boat to fill or if you're hitting the road this weekend and your tank is on E, I certainly would go fill up that tank,' DeHaan says. 'Prices may go up here in the next 48 hours.'  He says gas prices in Jacksonville peaked at $2.78 a gallon on average on May 2, and now they've dropped over 20 cents a gallon to $2.56 on average.  The worry this weekend is something called 'price cycling,' DeHaan says. That's when prices make a big jump of 20 or 30 cents per gallon in one day, and then they start trickling down again over time.  'That is what I would expect, is that prices would go up quite a bit, but then they'll start coming back down for the weeks following,' DeHaan says.  As far as Memorial Day travelers, DeHaan says South Florida generally has higher gas prices than around here. So if you plan on driving in that direction it's a good idea to fill up here before you go and then wait until you're closer to home to fill back up again.  On the other side of the coin, if you plan on going through one of the other neighboring states it's a good idea to get gas there if you can. DeHaan says South Carolina, Alabama, Mississippi and Louisiana have some of the country's cheapest gasoline right now. Georgia is closer to the national average, but that's still probably going to be better than the high prices in Florida.  There’s some good news if you remember filling up your tank last year around this time.  'Even if prices do move up, it will be a cheaper Memorial Day weekend than what we saw last year when prices averaged about $2.84 a gallon,' DeHaan says.
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  • John Walker Lindh, the American, who as a teenager, joined the Taliban in Afghanistan in the run-up to the 911 terror attacks, is scheduled to leave a federal prison in Indiana Thursday after serving 17 years on charges of providing support to the Islamic fundamentalist group. >> Read more trending news   Lindh, who is now 38, said he converted to Islam after seeing the film “Malcolm X as a teenager. He left the United States to go to Yemen to study Arabic and the Quran. Then when he was 21 he traveled to Pakistan to join the Taliban. He was with the group on Sept. 11, 2001, when hijackers flew planes into the Twin Towers in New York City and the Pentagon in Washington, D.C. and a crashed a fourth plane into a field in Shanksville, Pennsylvania. A little more than two months after the attacks, Lindh was captured when the United States attacked Afghanistan after the country’s leaders refused to turn over 911 mastermind Osama bin Laden. Lindh was taken to the Qala-i-Jangi fortress which was being used as a prison for captured Taliban soldiers. While there, he was interrogated by American intelligence officers. A violent uprising by the prisoners at Qala-i-Jangi on Nov. 25, 2001, resulted in the death of CIA officer Micheal Spann along with more than 400 Taliban soldiers and supporters. Spann’s family opposes Lindh’s scheduled release. Lindh is said to have known of the planned uprising at Qala-i-jangi, though he did not directly take part in the attack. Neither did he let American interrogators know about the planned uprising, according to American prosecutors. Here are seven things to know about Lindh before he is released: Lindh went by the name Sulayman al-Faris during his time in Afghanistan. He became known as the “American Taliban” after his capture in 2001. Lindh was the first American detainee to be brought to the United States for trial on during the War on Terror. He was first charged with conspiring with al-Qaeda, but was not charged with Spann’s death. He was indicted on 10 charges on Feb. 5, 2002. He was in a Taliban training camp and said he met bin Laden there.  Lindh said he never intended to fight against Americans, even though he stayed with the Taliban after 9-11 and knew bin Laden had planned the attacks. Lindh’s defense attorneys entered into a plea bargain in July 2002. Lindh pleaded guilty to two charges – supplying services to the Taliban and carrying an explosive during the commission of a felony – and was sentenced to 20 years in prison. One condition of the plea deal was that he had to consent to a gag order keeping him from making any public statement. LIndh contended that he was tortured by U.S. military personnel after his capture. As part of the plea deal, he had to drop the claims of mistreatment.
  • A former Somali army colonel accused of war crimes was found guilty of torture Tuesday in Virginia, where he’s lived for decades and, up until earlier this month, worked as a driver for both Uber and Lyft.  A federal civil jury ordered Yusuf Abdi Ali, of Fairfax, to pay $500,000 to Farhan Mohamoud Tani Warfaa, who said he was tortured for four months as a teen in 1987 before being shot multiple times and left for dead. The jury unanimously found Ali guilty and awarded Warfaa, now 49, $400,000 in compensatory damages and $100,000 in punitive damages, federal court records show.  Jurors found Ali liable for the torture Warfaa suffered but found he was not liable for the attempted killing of the teen, the verdict form shows.  “We’re thrilled that the jury came back and found that our client had in fact been tortured,” Warfaa’s attorney, Kathy Roberts, of the Center for Justice and Accountability, or CJA, told The Washington Post. “It’s a good verdict; it stands for the principle that no one above the law. Our client is very happy.” >> Read more trending news No criminal charges have ever been brought against Ali related to the his military service. Warfaa, who traveled for the trial from his home in northern Somalia, also now known as Somaliland, said in a statement through the CJA that he hopes Tuesday’s verdict can contribute to the continued healing of those who suffered at the hands of Ali, who was purportedly a high-ranking commander in former Somali President Jaalle Mohamed Siad Barre’s regime.  Ali was known as Col. “Tukeh,” or “Crow,” during his time in Siad Barre’s command, the Post reported.  “It has been a long journey, seeking justice for what happened to me and to my community,” Warfaa said in the statement. “Today’s verdict was a vindication not only for me, but also for many others in Somaliland who suffered under Col. Tukeh’s command.” The torture Warfaa was subjected to as a 17-year-old farmer stemmed from a missing water tanker.  “Over the course of a three-day trial, the jury heard evidence that early one morning in 1987, Mr. Warfaa was rounded up with other men from his village and taken to the military headquarters of the Fifth Brigade of the Somali National Army, where Col. Tukeh held command,” CJA attorneys said in a news release. “Mr. Warfaa testified that Col. Tukeh’s soldiers tortured and interrogated him, and that Col. Tukeh himself shot Mr. Warfaa multiple times at point blank range, leaving him for dead.  “Miraculously, he survived.” See a 2016 Canadian Broadcasting Corp. report about Yusuf Abdi Ali below. Warfaa said in his lawsuit that he survived only because the men Ali assigned as his gravediggers saw he was alive and solicited a bribe from his family to let him live.  Ali’s attorney, Joseph Peter Drennan, told reporters the jury’s split decision suggested his client was found guilty of torture simply because of his position in the Somali army.  “Yusuf Abdi Ali was held liable because he was a commander in an army that served under a regime that had a poor human rights record,” Drennan said, according to CNN. “But aside from the plaintiff's testimony, there was virtually no evidence that Ali tortured anyone.” Drennan argued that his client cannot afford to pay the damages ordered by the jury, pointing out that Ali recently lost his job as a ride-share driver. He was considering an appeal of the verdict. Watch CNN’s report below on Yusuf Abdi Ali, who drove for Uber even as his federal civil case began last week. It was CNN that sent undercover reporters earlier this month to find Ali, who was working full-time as an Uber driver even as his civil trial for Warfaa’s torture and shooting was set to begin. At the time the reporters caught a ride with Ali, he was listed as an “Uber Pro Diamond” driver who had been working for the company for 18 months.  “I do this full-time,” Ali, who worked in suburban Virginia, told the reporters, saying he preferred working weekends because “that’s where the money is.” During the car ride, which the reporters surreptitiously caught on video, Ali said applying for the job had been easy.  “They just want your background check, that's it,” Ali said. “If you apply tonight, maybe after two days, it will come, you know, everything.” Ali passed the background check despite his name turning up in documents and news accounts of his alleged war crimes that are easily found in a Google search, CNN reported. The alleged atrocities under his command have also been detailed in a documentary by the Canadian Broadcasting Corp. Witnesses who participated in the CBC documentary recounted murders they allege Ali committed during his command. During the civil trial in the federal courtroom in Alexandria, former soldiers who served under Ali and witnesses in Warfaa’s village testified on the plaintiff’s behalf. Ali has denied the claims against him, the Post reported.  Watch the entire 1992 CBC documentary about Ali, Crimes Against Humanity, below. “I did nothing to anybody,” he said in a deposition, according to the newspaper. “They’re just lying.” CNN reported that, following its questions about Ali, Uber suspended his access to the app. Lyft, which he had stopped working for in September, permanently banned him from working for the company.  Uber permanently removed Ali’s access following Tuesday’s verdict, CNN said.  The news network said that background checks for both Uber and Lyft are mainly done by a third party company called Checkr, which checks for red flags in sex offender databases, federal and local court records, as well as databases used to flag suspected terrorists.  A Checkr spokesperson told CNN its background checks “rely on public criminal records that have been adjudicated in a court of law rather than unverified sources like Google search results.” “Similarly, most employers don’t request background checks that include pending civil litigation due to its subjective nature,” the spokesperson said.  The lawsuit against Ali was first filed in 2005, when Warfaa learned the former military commander was living in the area of Alexandria, Virginia. According to the complaint, Ali served as commander of the Somali army’s Fifth Brigade from 1984 to 1989 before seeking asylum in Canada in 1990, as the tide turned against dictator Siad Barre. Siad Barre was overthrown in 1991, plunging the country into decades of civil war.  “Col. Tukeh fled to Canada after the Barre regime was overthrown and eventually became a permanent resident of the United States, where he has been living since 1996,” the CJA said in its background of the case.  Warfaa’s civil suit says Ali was deported from Canada in 1992 for “having committed gross human rights abuses in Somalia,” at which time he came to the U.S. When deportation proceedings were initiated against him here, he voluntarily left the country.  He returned in 1996, reportedly on a visa obtained through his Somali wife, who had become a U.S. citizen, CNN reported. Ali’s wife was found guilty in 2006 of naturalization fraud for claiming she was a refugee from the country’s Isaaq clan -- the same clan that Ali has been accused of brutalizing during the civil war.  Warfaa’s lawsuit claims he was targeted because he is a member of the Isaaq clan, members of which established an opposition force called the Somali National Movement during the war.  “The Somali National Army committed widespread human rights abuses in its violent campaign to eliminate the SNM and any perceived supporters,” the civil complaint states. “It killed and looted livestock, blew up water reservoirs, burned homes, and tortured and detained alleged SNM supporters.” Read the entire amended complaint against Yusuf Abdi Ali below. Warning: The details of the alleged acts against Farhan Warfaa may be disturbing to some readers. The court document states that when the water tanker, which had been used to provide water to Ethiopian refugees, was stolen, Ali went to Warfaa’s village, Jifo Uray, with his men and threatened to execute everyone there unless the tanker was returned.  It was a few nights later that Warfaa and others from the village were rounded up and imprisoned by Ali’s men, the lawsuit states.  CNN’s report earlier this month was not the first time the network tracked Ali down in the United States. Reporters found him in 2016 working as a security guard at Dulles International Airport near Washington, D.C. He was fired from that job a short time after the story aired, the network said. 

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