Emergency UN Security Council meeting called after Trump’s Jerusalem announcement: report

By Brett Samuels – 12/06/17 06:37 PM EST
The United Nations (U.N.) Security Council will meet Friday to address President Trump’s announcement recognizing Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, Reuters reported Wednesday.
Trump on Wednesday said the U.S. would recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and announced plans to move the U.S. Embassy there from Tel Aviv, a move that drew statements of concern from multiple world leaders.
Arab leaders warned the decision could doom the fragile Middle East peace process, and Palestinians called for three “days of rage” in response.

Eight countries on the 15-member Security Council asked for a special meeting: France, Bolivia, Egypt, Italy, Senegal, Sweden, Britain and Uruguay. U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres is expected to speak on Friday to address concerns.
Guterres said following Trump’s announcement that he has “consistently spoken out against any unilateral measures that would jeopardize the prospect of peace for Israelis and Palestinians.”
The militant Palestinian group Hamas said Trump’s decision “opens the gates of hell.”
British Prime Minister Theresa May called Trump’s decision “unhelpful,” while French President Emmanuel Macron said “France does not approve.”
The U.S. Embassy in Jordan warned of potentially violent demonstrations following the announcement.

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VA cuts program for homeless vets after touting Trump’s commitment

By ARTHUR ALLEN and LORRAINE WOELLERT 12/06/2017 05:49 PM EST Updated 12/06/2017 07:13 PM EST

Four days after Veterans Affairs Secretary David Shulkin held a big Washington event to tout the Trump administration’s promise to house all homeless vets, the agency did an about-face, telling advocates it was pulling resources from a major housing program.
The VA said it was essentially ending a special $460 million program that has dramatically reduced homelessness among chronically sick and vulnerable veterans. Instead, the money would go to local VA hospitals that can use it as they like, as long as they show evidence of dealing with homelessness.

Anger exploded on a Dec. 1 call that was arranged by Shulkin’s Advisory Committee on Homeless Veterans to explain the move. Advocates for veterans, state officials and even officials from HUD, which co-sponsors the program, attacked the decision, according to five people who were on the call.
“I don’t understand why you are pulling the rug out,” Elisha Harig-Blaine, a National League of Cities housing official who was on the call, said in an interview afterward. “You’re putting at risk the lives of men and women who’ve served this country.”
“The VA is taking its foot off the pedal,” said Leon Winston, an executive at Swords to Plowshares, which helps homeless vets in San Francisco, where he said the VA decision is already having an impact. HUD recently put up 100 housing vouchers for veterans in the program, but the local VA hospital said it could only provide support for 50.
The agency’s move came as HUD on Wednesday released its annual survey showing a 1.5 percent increase in veteran homelessness over 2016 — the first rise since 2010. Most of the jump occurred in Los Angeles, where housing costs are skyrocketing.
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In a statement late Wednesday, Shulkin insisted that overall funding for veteran homelessness was not being cut, and seemed to suggest he might reverse the decision. He promised to get input from local VA leaders and others “on how best to target our funding to the geographical areas that need it most.”
HUD data show there were nearly 40,000 homeless veterans in 2016, and even those with housing still need
assistance. The program has reduced the number of displaced servicemembers, serving 138,000 since 2010 and cut the number without housing on a given day by almost half. More than half the veterans housed are chronically ill, mentally ill or have substance abuse problems.
They can easily lose their housing again and need VA case managers to mediate with landlords, pay bills, and help them access the agency’s services and jobs, said Matt Leslie, who runs the housing program for the Virginia Department of Veterans Services.
“The people in this program are the most vulnerable individuals,” Leslie said. “If someone’s going to die on the streets, they are the ones.”
VA officials briefed congressional staff on Tuesday about the decision — which was buried in a September circular without prior consultation with HUD or veterans’ groups, according to advocates.
Agency spokesman Curtis Cashour said the move gives VA medical centers more flexibility. “VA has a responsibility to ensure resources go where they best align with veterans’ needs,” he said. “This move gives control and management of resources to local VA facilities, [which] know their communities and the veterans they serve better than anyone else.”
The decision affects $265 million immediately and would divert $195 million more under the VA’s 2018 budget. Under the program, HUD offers housing vouchers for veterans, and the VA provides case management — finding them apartments and making sure they stay there. Officials said it was possible that some of the vouchers could still be assigned, with the help of city or federal housing officials.
Carolyn Clancy, acting undersecretary for health, said the VA was moving forward to distribute money from the program to medical centers.
The Dec. 1 call came four days after Shulkin, appearing at a Washington shelter with HUD Secretary Ben Carson, announced that President Donald Trump was committed to continued reductions in veterans’ homelessness and was increasing funding in the area.
Shulkin and Carson promised to help every veteran find a home.

When asked about the administration’s budget, which includes no additional vouchers for the hard-case veterans, Carson said HUD had “excess vouchers. When we use those, we’ll look for more,” he said.
“The old paradigm of dumping money on problems doesn’t work,” Carson added.
Some communities have excess vouchers, but many more don’t have enough, said Harig-Blaine, who is also a member of Shulkin’s advisory committee. Even in cities where there are excess vouchers, they exist only because the voucher community can’t compete with private market rents, he said — not because there aren’t homeless veterans there.
All 14 members of the Senate Appropriations Military Construction-VA Subcommittee, including Murray, asked the VA to reconsider its decision, but apparently the letter had no effect.
“It will take a congressional fix at this point,” Harig-Blaine said.
Advocates said cuts to the program were doubly foolish because the chronically homeless veterans it serves typically cost cities and the health care system hundreds of thousands of dollars for emergency room visits, ambulance runs and jailings that could be avoided if the veterans were reasonably sheltered.
“These are the kinds of veterans it deals with,” said Kathryn Monet, CEO of the National Coalition for Homeless Veterans.

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Ryan pledges ‘entitlement reform’ in 2018

By Nathaniel Weixel – 12/06/17 05:24 PM EST

© Greg Nash
House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) on Wednesday said House Republicans will aim to cut spending on Medicare, Medicaid and welfare programs next year as a way to trim the federal deficit.
“We’re going to have to get back next year at entitlement reform, which is how you tackle the debt and the deficit,” Ryan said during an interview on Ross Kaminsky’s talk radio show.
Health-care entitlements such as Medicare and Medicaid “are the big drivers of debt,” Ryan said, “so we spend more time on the health-care entitlements, because that’s really where the problem lies, fiscally speaking.”
Ryan said he’s been speaking privately with President Trump, who is beginning to warm to the idea of slowing the spending growth in entitlements.

During his campaign, Trump repeatedly promised not to cut Medicare, Medicaid or Social Security.
“I think the president is understanding choice and competition works everywhere, especially in Medicare,” Ryan said.
House and Senate Republicans are currently working on their plans for tax reform, which are estimated to add more than $1 trillion to the deficit. Democrats have voiced concerns that the legislation could lead to cuts to the social safety net.
Ryan is one of a growing number of GOP leaders who have mentioned the need for Congress to cut entitlement spending next year.
Last week, House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Kevin Brady (R-Texas) said that once the tax bill was done, “welfare reform” was up next.
Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), last week, said “instituting structural changes to Social Security and Medicare for the future” will be the best way to reduce spending and generate economic growth.
Rep. Jeb Hensarling (R-Texas), chairman of the House Financial Services Committee, told Bloomberg TV that “the most important thing we can do with respect to the national debt, what we need to do, is obviously reform current entitlement programs for future generations.”
Ryan also mentioned that he wants to work on changing the welfare system, and Republicans have in the past expressed a desire to add work requirements to programs such as food stamps.
Speaking on the Senate floor while debating the tax bill last week, Senate Finance Committee Chairman Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) said he had a “rough time wanting to spend billions and billions and trillions of dollars to help people who won’t help themselves, won’t lift a finger and expect the federal government to do everything.”
His comments were echoed by Ryan.
“We have a welfare system that’s trapping people in poverty and effectively paying people not to work,” Ryan said Wednesday. “We’ve got to work on that.”


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Trump Thinks The Pences Are ‘Yokels,’ Adviser Says

Jessica Kwong
Posted with permission from Newsweek
President Donald Trump thinks lowly of Vice President Mike Pence and his family.
When the Pences—who had two cats, a rabbit and a snake as family pets—decided to bring some of them to their residence in the Washington D.C.-based Naval Observatory last January, Trump ridiculed the arrangement to his secretary, a longtime adviser told The Atlantic in a story published Tuesday.

“He was embarrassed by it; he thought it was so low class,” the adviser said. “He thinks the Pences are yokels.”

Trump, whose net worth is $3.1 billion according to  Forbes, apparently had already formed an opinion of Pence before picking him as his running mate as “prudish, stiff, and embarrassingly poor, according to one longtime associate,”  The Atlantic said.
While Pence is far from one of the richest Americans in the country, he doesn’t classify as an uneducated and unsophisticated person from the countryside—the definition of a true yokel.
Pence served as governor of Indiana from January 2013 to days before he was inaugurated as vice president in January 2017. Prior to that, he served as chair of the House Republican Conference and was a member of the House of Representatives.
In their most recent tax return, Pence and his wife Karen reported $113,026 in adjusted gross income, almost entirely from his salary as Indiana governor, according to The Wall Street Journal. Pence’s income did not top $200,000 annually in a decade of tax returns.
The filings also showed that Pence regularly used tax breaks for upper-middle-class families to cover the costs of raising a family and paying for college tuition.
Trump had reservations about picking Pence and considered New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, but went with the Indiana politician three days after dining with the Pences. Trump is the first president in 150 years who has not brought a pet to the White House, according to the New York Post.
The Pences’ rabbit called Marlon Bundo became an Instagram star after moving to the Naval Observatory and has accompanied the vice president in some official appearances. The so-called Bunny of the United States is the main character in a children’s book written by Pence’s daughter. The Pence family, after one of their two cats died in June, adopted a kitten named Hazel and a puppy named Harley.

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