Trump to roll back Michelle Obama’s school lunch rules on vegetables, fruits

The Trump administration on Friday announced plans to roll back school lunch standards on vegetables and fruits originally promoted by Michelle Obama, unveiling the proposal on the former first lady’s birthday.

The new standards will allow schools more flexibility “because they know their children best,” the Agriculture Department said in a press release.

“Schools and school districts continue to tell us that there is still too much food waste and that more common-sense flexibility is needed to provide students nutritious and appetizing meals. We listened and now we’re getting to work,” Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue said in a statement.

The proposed rules build on previous steps taken by the Trump administration to unwind the controversial school lunch rules championed by Obama as part of her “Let’s Move!” healthy living campaign. Those rules were implemented through an executive order signed by former President Obama.

Under the new rules, schools would be allowed to reduce the number of fruits and vegetables required at each meal. The latest change follows a 2019 rollback of restrictions on milk and sodium content in school lunches.

Critics said the change will pave the way for greasier, more unhealthy foods such as pizza, french fries and burgers.

“[It] would create a huge loophole in school nutrition guidelines, paving the way for children to choose pizza, burgers, french fries and other foods high in calories, saturated fat or sodium in place of balanced school meals every day,” Center for Science in the Public Interest’s deputy director of legislative affairs, Colin Schwartz, said in a statement Friday.

In a recent op-ed for The Hill, Dr. Rachel Borton, the director of the Family Nurse Practitioner online program at Bradley University, said healthy school meals are essential to both good physical and mental health, especially for low-income students who are more likely to receive their only healthy meal of the day while at school.

“If those students don’t have access to the nutritious options provided by the school, they may turn to low cost, processed foods that are high in calories but sparse in nutrients. Immediate effects of this type of diet include weight gain and poor physical health,” Borton wrote. “Long-term impacts range from increased risk of obesity, heart disease, diabetes, and a slew of other unfortunate health outcomes.”

The Obama administration’s school lunch plan increased the requirement for fruits and vegetables in meals, cut trans-fat and reduced sodium levels in food. It also required cafeterias to serve only skim or low-fat milk.

In 2019, the first comprehensive analysis of the Obama administration’s lunch plan by the Department of Agriculture found the updates “had a positive and significant influence on nutritional quality” as students ate more whole grains, greens, and beans, as well as fewer “empty calories.”

The report found evidence of food waste, but the levels were not substantially higher than food waste under previous lunch regulations.  

[The Hill]

Trump promotes violence in support of white supremacist rally in Virginia

President Donald Trump slammed Virginia Democrats over several gun violence prevention measures they’re looking to pass in the state, as a white supremacist group gears up to protest at an annual gun rights rally outside the state capitol. 

“Your 2nd Amendment is under very serious attack in the Great Commonwealth of Virginia,” the president tweeted on Friday evening. “That’s what happens when you vote for Democrats, they will take your guns away. Republicans will win Virginia in 2020. Thank you Dems!” 

Trump’s tweet came shortly after law enforcement arrested three suspected white supremacists in Maryland and Delaware who had allegedly talked about opening fire at Monday’s pro-gun rally.

The suspects belong to a violent white-supremacist group called “the Base,” whose aim is “to accelerate the downfall of the US government, incite a race war and establish a white ethno-state,” according to an affidavit filed in Georgia court, as The Wall Street Journal reported.

Several other members of the Base were arrested throughout the country this week on different charges. 

Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam, a Democrat, announced Wednesday that the state would temporarily ban firearms in Capitol Square prior to Monday’s rally, citing the arrests and threat of a shooting. 

Gun rights groups appealed Northam’s decision, but a federal appeals court judge upheld the temporary gun ban on Thursday, writing that “the Second Amendment right to bear arms is not unlimited.” 

“This is the right decision,” Northam said in a Thursday statement about the ruling. “These threats are real — as evidenced by reports of neo-Nazis arrested this morning after discussing plans to head to Richmond with firearms.”

Virginia Democrats, who control both the state house and senate, are working on passing several gun regulations, including background checks on gun sales, a law that would allow authorities to confiscate a gun from someone they believe is a danger to themselves, a ban on firearms in government buildings. 

Tens of thousands of pro-gun protesters are expected to gather outside the state capitol building in the annual Lobby Day protest.

[Business Insider]

Trump Retweets Image of Speaker Pelosi and Senator Schumer in Traditional Islamic Clothing Before Iranian Flag

President Donald Trump took his attacks on Speaker Nancy Pelosi Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer to a whole new level Monday morning, by retweeting a photoshopped image of the two in traditional Muslim garb before an Iranian flag.

The tweet came in a flurry of frenzied presidential tweets (and retweets) critical of Speaker Pelosi’s criticism of the Trump administrations handling of Iranian foreign relations, in particular, that following the deadly drone strike that took the life of Quds force leader and Iranian Republican Guard Major General Qasam Soleimani.

In the days that followed Soleimani’s death, a million Iranians reportedly flooded the streets of Teheran to protest the U.S. killing of the number two leader of Iran. But as Iran eventually admitted to shooting down a Ukranian airliner and killing 167 civilians, protests have started against the Iranian regime.

[Mediaite]


Kellyanne Conway Lies About AOC and Ilhan Omar Literally As She Praises Collins Apology for Smearing Democrats

Trump White House counselor Kellyanne Conway smeared Congresswomen Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) and Ilhan Omar (D-MN) even as she was congratulating Rep. Doug Collins (R-GA) for similarly smearing Democrats as loving terrorists.

Earlier this week, Collins said thatDemocrats are “in love with terrorists,” then defended the comments to Fox News before finally apologizing on Twitter.

Conway gaggled with reporters in the Brady briefing room Friday, and was asked about the potential for a change in “tone” represented by Collins’ apology. In the midst of a lengthy answer lauding her own efforts at elevating the tone, Conway slammed AOC and Rep. Omar by falsely claiming one of them had apologized to the Iranian people for the attack that killed Qasem Soleimani, and called their group “The Squad That Doesn’t Do Squat” as part of her tone-elevating effort.

“We had members of Congress earlier this week apologizing to the Iranian people, on behalf of America,” Conway claimed.

“Who? Can you name them?” asked Breakfast Media correspondent Andrew Feinberg.

“Yeah, what’s her name, was it AOC or Omar who did that?” Conway asked to a staffer, and added “Someone from the squad that doesn’t do squat, I’m pretty sure it was AOC, in a tweet, somebody said ‘Oh 52% of us believe a different way.”

“And we can’t have that, so I’m glad that Chairman Collins, excuse me Ranking Member Collins apologized for that comment, I know him, I know he didn’t mean it that way, so I’m glad he apologized. I apologize many times, I just don’t really hear a lot in return,” Conway said.

But the tweet to which Conway ws referring came not from a member of the squad, but from actress Rose McGowanwho tweeted, following the strike, “Dear #Iran, The USA has disrespected your country, your flag, your people. 52% of us humbly apologize. We want peace with your nation. We are being held hostage by a terrorist regime. We do not know how to escape. Please do not kill us. #Soleimani”.

In a follow-up tweet, McGowan said she is a “registered Republican.”

[Mediaite]

Trump demands Justice Roberts dismiss ‘phony’ impeachment that ‘should not even be allowed to proceed’

President Donald Trump on Sunday suggested that Justice John Roberts should declare that impeachment charges against him are unconstitutional.

In an appearance on Fox News over the weekend, Trump attorney Rudy Giuliani first made the suggestion that Roberts could kick off the president’s impeachment trial by dismissing it.

“Great idea,” Trump wrote Sunday morning as he tweeted out video of Giuliani’s appearance. “This phony Impeachment Hoax should not even be allowed to proceed. Did NOTHING wrong. Just a partisan vote. Zero Republicans. Never happened before!”

[Raw Story]


Trump administration refuses to release all available aid to Puerto Rico despite earthquakes

The Trump administration is refusing to release all available disaster aid to Puerto Rico despite this week’s earthquakes, citing concerns about “corruption” and “financial mismanagement” on the island, the Daily News has learned.

President Trump’s Department of Housing and Urban Development was supposed to start disbursing $9.7 billion in aid to Puerto Rico in September as part of a congressional allocation to beef up natural disaster readiness following the devastating hurricanes that battered the island in 2017 and killed nearly 3,000 people.

But HUD has to date only released about $1.5 billion of those funds, and a senior agency official said Thursday that the remainder of the relief cash won’t be released anytime soon despite a string of earthquakes that rocked the island this week and left thousands of residents without power.

“Given the Puerto Rican government’s history of financial mismanagement, corruption and other abuses, we must ensure that any HUD assistance provided helps those on the island who need it the most: the people of Puerto Rico,” the HUD official told The News, speaking on condition of anonymity to discuss internal operations.

The official did not give a timeline for when the aid will be released and downplayed the island’s need for more assistance.

“Puerto Rico already has access to $1.5 billion and has so far only spent $5.8 million — less than 1% of those funds,” the official said.

Congressional Democrats were outraged and said the Trump administration is breaking the law by withholding the congressionally approved money.

“The ongoing withholding of funds appropriated by Congress to Puerto Rico is illegal,” House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) told reporters at a Thursday press conference.

Queens-Brooklyn Rep. Nydia Velazquez, who grew up in Puerto Rico, said HUD’s own inspector general recently concluded there’s nothing to suggest the island can’t properly manage the aid.

She also said it isn’t HUD’s prerogative to block the funds, as they were approved by Congress.

“The real motivation for withholding these dollars is Donald Trump’s disdain for the people of Puerto Rico and heartless disregard for their suffering,” Velazquez told The News.

Velazquez joined Queens-Bronx Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) in sending a letter earlier this week to HUD Secretary Ben Carson demanding the outstanding $8.3 billion be released to Puerto Rico immediately, arguing the island needs whatever assistance it can get in the wake of the earthquakes.

Schumer said Carson had not responded as of Thursday and reiterated a call for the administration to end its “counterproductive vendetta” with Puerto Rico.

“As opposed to erecting hurdles to recovery, the administration should be clearing a path, righting past wrongs and delivering the support our fellow American citizens so clearly need,” he said.

At least one person has died since a magnitude 6.4 earthquake shook Puerto Rico on Tuesday. Several major aftershocks have followed, destroying homes and leaving two-thirds of the island without electricity.

Trump declared a state of emergency for Puerto Rico earlier this week, opening up about $5 million in federal funds to be spent on emergency services in light of the earthquake.

But Democrats say that’s not close to enough and urged the administration to stop withholding the hurricane relief cash that was supposed to be released months ago.

“Holding these resources back means delaying the island’s economic and physical recovery, period,” Velazquez said.

Trump has had a thorny relationship with Puerto Rico’s leaders for years.

After the 2017 hurricanes, critics accused the president of racism after he expressed reluctance about releasing aid to Puerto Rico while pledging sweeping support for states like Texas and Florida when they suffered natural disasters.

Trump infamously tossed paper towels at a crowd of Puerto Ricans when he visited the island in the wake of Hurricane Maria in October 2017.


[New York Daily News]

Trump hits Senate for giving impeachment ‘credibility’ by holding trial

President Trump on Sunday tweeted that Republicans risked lending credibility to the impeachment inquiry brought by the House by holding a trial in the Senate.

The president said any proceedings in the Senate would be based on “no evidence,” and appeared to urge Senate Republicans to reject the idea of holding a trial at all.

“Many believe that by the Senate giving credence to a trial based on the no evidence, no crime, read the transcripts, “no pressure” Impeachment Hoax, rather than an outright dismissal, it gives the partisan Democrat Witch Hunt credibility that it otherwise does not have. I agree!” Trump tweeted.

Trump spent much of Sunday tweeting about the upcoming Senate impeachment trial, which, he wrote in one message, “should not even be allowed to proceed.”

“Why should I have the stigma of Impeachment attached to my name when I did NOTHING wrong?” he added in another tweet. “Read the Transcripts! A totally partisan Hoax, never happened before. House Republicans voted 195-0, with three Dems voting with the Republicans. Very unfair to tens of millions of voters!”

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) and Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) have battled for weeks over the scope of the Senate impeachment trial, with Pelosi holding firm in her demands for McConnell to guarantee that witnesses will be called before she presents the Senate with the House-passed articles of impeachment.

Last week it was reported that McConnell had signed on to a measure that would allow the Senate to dismiss the House articles of impeachment without a trial.

[The Hill]

Trump believes Iran was targeting four U.S. embassies

President Donald Trump said on Friday Iran probably had targeted the U.S. embassy in Baghdad and was aiming to attack four U.S. embassies when its top general, Qassem Soleimani, was killed in a U.S. drone strike.

“We will tell you probably it was going to be the embassy in Baghdad,” Trump said in a clip of an interview on Fox News. “I can reveal that I believe it would have been four embassies.”

[Reuters]

Reality

However Defense Secretary Mark Esper told Face the Nation “I didn’t see one with regard to four embassies,” completely rebuking Trump’s made-up claim.

‘Maybe we will, maybe we won’t’: Trump doubles down on threat to take oil from Syria

Donald Trump has renewed his threats to forcibly steal oil from Syria, a move which experts say would amount to a war crime.

The president defended his decision to leave a small number of American troops in the war-torn nation after a general withdrawal in October by claiming they were only there to secure Syria’s oilfields.

“They say he left troops in Syria… do you know what I did? I took the oil,” he said during a Fox News interview.

“The only troops I have are taking the oil, they are protecting the oil.”

When the interviewer, Laura Ingraham, attempted to correct Mr Trump by insisting the soldiers were not there to take the oil but to guard the facilities, the president cut her off.

“I don’t know, maybe we should take it, but we have the oil. Right now, the United States has the oil. We have the oil.”

This is not the first time the erratic former business tycoon has publicly mused about stealing Syria’s oil reserves.

In October, shortly after his abrupt withdrawal of US forces and abandoning of their Kurdish allies in the region, Mr Trump said he wanted an American oil firm to fly in to tap Syria’s oil on behalf of the government.

“What I intend to do, perhaps, is make a deal with an ExxonMobil or one of our great companies to go in there and do it properly,” he said.

However, such a move would likely constitute pillage and looting, actions which have long been designated as illegal under international law and the rules of war.

The Geneva Convention, which the US is a signatory to, explicitly prohibits the looting of property during conflict, defining it as a war crime.

“The president appears to believe that the US can sell the oil, based on his statements in the past about Iraqi oil and Libyan oil … thinking that we can loot countries,” Benjamin Friedman, policy director at think tank Defence Priorities and adjunct professor at the George Washington University, told The Independent last year.

“I am sure people in the White House have tried to explain to him that is not how it works.

“Taking the profits from the sale of Syrian oil for the US treasury would be illegal. That would probably qualify as pillaging under the law.”

Ironically, experts say Syria’s oil fields are not much of a prize anyway. Even before the country descended in a chaotic civil war, it only produced about 380,000 barrels of poor-quality oil a day.

In 2018, after its production was several hampered by the conflict, it produced about the same amount of oil as the state of Illinois.

Before he entered the White House, Mr Trump had said several times that the US should have “taken the oil” from the other Middle Eastern nations its armed forces had intervened in, including Iraq and Libya.

Some commentators have speculated that defence officials desperate to persuade the president to permit some US forces to remain in Syria as a counter-balance to Isis and the Assad regime were forced to appeal to his oil obsession to gain his approval.

[The Independent]

Trump moves to overhaul the National Environmental Policy Act

The Trump administration on Thursday unveiled significant changes to the nation’s landmark environmental law that would make it easier for federal agencies to approve infrastructure projects without considering climate change.

Many of the White House’s proposed changes to the 50-year-old National Environmental Policy Act have been supported by business groups that contend the law has delayed or blocked projects like laying out oil pipelines and building dams and mines, among other things.

Environmentalists said that the rules would endanger wildlife and lead to more carbon dioxide emissions into the atmosphere, and contend that the regulations should be strengthened not weakened as the world copes with global warming.

If the proposals are enacted, it would be the first overhaul of NEPA in more than 40 years.

The plan, released by the White House Council on Environmental Quality, would no longer require any form of federal environmental review of construction projects that lack substantial government funding. The change would also widen the category of projects that will be exempt from NEPA regulations.

“We want to build new roads, bridges, tunnels, highways, bigger, better fast and we want to build them at less cost,” President Donald Trump said at the White House on Thursday.

The move is the latest effort by the Trump administration to roll back a slew of environmental regulations in place to curb greenhouse gas emissions and protect natural habitats from drilling and development.

The changes are expected to be published in the Federal Register on Friday. There will be a 60-day comment period and two open hearings before the final regulation is delivered.

The administration has argued that the law can increase costs for builders, block construction projects and threaten jobs for American workers and labor union members.

“The step we’re taking today, which will ultimately lead to final regulations, I believe will hit a home run in delivering better results to the American people by cutting red tape that has paralyzed common sense decision making for a generation,” Interior Secretary David Bernhardt said Thursday.

Jay Timmons, president and chief executive of the National Association of Manufacturers, said that the president’s plan is exactly what his group wanted.

“Our efforts should be used for building the infrastructure Americans desperately need, not wasted on mountains of paperwork and endless delay,” he said.

Sen. Maria Cantwell, D-Wash., a senior member of the U.S. Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources, argued that the changes prioritize polluters and corporations over the environment.

“This NEPA rewrite favors big polluters and corporate profits over balanced, science-based decision making and would prevent Washingtonians from voicing their views on proposals ranging from siting a new fossil fuel pipeline in their backyard to building an open-pit mine that could destroy the world’s largest sockeye salmon fishery,” she said in a statement.

“We need to make smarter environmental decisions, not roll back the safeguards we already have,” Cantwell said.

The administration’s proposed changes might not make it through court, according to Bruce Huber, an environmental law professor at Notre Dame Law School.

“The law requires federal agencies to report the environmental impacts of their actions that significantly affect ‘the quality of the human environment,’” he said. “If the regulations announced today drive agencies to diminish the extent or quality of their reporting, federal courts may very well conclude that their reports do not comply with the law.”

William Snape, senior counsel at the Center for Biological Diversity, said that the White House’s proposal is consistent with other environmental regulation rollbacks.

“This is all about the election and Trump getting out there and shoring up his base,” Snape said. “The Trump administration has been losing more cases than it’s winning in oil and gas – and this is a chance to blame someone else.”

[CNBC]

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