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Comparing Benefits for Refugees and Senior Citizens

FactCheck -

Quick Take

A popular meme falsely claims that each month refugees in the United States receive over three times more money in “federal assistance” than Social Security beneficiaries. That’s a new version of an old claim we debunked over a decade ago.

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A bogus comparison of benefits for “illegal refugees” and Social Security recipients is stirring up anger online.

The claim, which has been shared as a meme, says: “Insanity is when illegal refugees get $3,874 a month in federal assistance while Social Security checks average $1,200 a month.”

That sounds a lot like an old falsehood that started in Canada in 2004, and later migrated to the U.S. We wrote about it first in 2007, then again in 2009, and again in 2010.

This most recent version isn’t true, either, and it also may have borrowed from another Canadian viral claim. The figure this meme uses for refugee benefits is the same one used in what Snopes called a “mostly false” Facebook posting about benefits in Canada.

To start with, there are no “illegal refugees.” Under U.S. law, refugee status is given to those who are admitted to the country after demonstrating that they have fled persecution. The number of refugees that the U.S. takes in each year is capped by the president under the Refugee Act of 1980 — for fiscal year 2019, the cap is set at 30,000, which is the lowest it has been since 1980.

While refugees are eligible to apply for some federally funded programs, not all of them do, a spokesman at the Department of Health and Human Services’ Administration for Children and Families told us.

An internal report from the Department of Health and Human Services in 2017 estimated that the annual per refugee cost was $7,134 for federal, state and local governments combined between 2005 and 2014. Programs funded by the federal government were 74 percent of that total, so, on average, the federal government spent $440 per refugee, per month, during the study’s time period.

That’s a lot less than the nearly $3,900 a month the meme claims — which would work out to be about $47,000 per year.

Also, many of the programs that refugees are eligible to apply for are temporary. Two of the primary assistance programs available to refugees are Temporary Assistance for Needy Families, or TANF, and Refugee Cash Assistance, or RCA.

TANF is a program for needy families that is funded jointly by federal and state governments and is administered by states. It is available to refugee families for their first five years in the U.S. RCA is a federally funded program that is also administered by states, and is available to refugees who do not qualify for TANF. It is available for the first eight months that a refugee is in the country.

The amount of money given out under each program varies widely depending on the state. For example, monthly TANF payments for a single-parent family of three ranged from $170 to $1,021 in 2017.

As for the second part of the claim in the meme — “Social Security checks average $1,200 a month” — that’s close to the correct figure. The average monthly Social Security benefit for all retired workers in 2019 is $1,461, according to the Social Security Administration.

Editor’s note: FactCheck.org is one of several organizations working with Facebook to debunk misinformation shared on social media. Our previous stories can be found here.


Jackson, Brooks. “Refugees Don’t Get $1,800 Per Month.” FactCheck.org. 7 Dec 2007.

U.S. Department of Health & Human Services. “The Fiscal Costs of the U.S. Refugee Admissions Program at the Federal, State, and Local Levels, from 2005­-2014.” 29 Jul 2017.

Congressional Research Service. “Noncitizen Eligibility for Federal Public Assistance: Policy Overview.” 12 Dec 2016.

U.S. Department of Health & Human Services. “Understanding the Intersection Between TANF and Refugee Cash Assistance Services.” Apr 2018.

Social Security Administration. Fact Sheet. 2019 Social Security changes. Accessed 18 Jul 2019.

The post Comparing Benefits for Refugees and Senior Citizens appeared first on FactCheck.org.

Unpacking Biden’s and Trump’s Big Cancer Promises

FactCheck -

On the campaign trail, former Vice President Joe Biden and President Donald Trump have both claimed that a cure to cancer would soon become a reality — if they were elected in 2020. Experts, however, don’t share that degree of optimism.

Despite considerable progress, especially in recent years, cancer isn’t one disease to cure, and advances in all the many types of cancer are likely to take multiple decades.

Biden was the first to make the outsized promise. In a speech in Iowa on June 11, he briefly alluded to his son’s death to brain cancer in 2015, and then offered his pledge.

“I promise you if I’m elected president, you’re going to see the single most important thing that changes America,” he said. “We’re gonna cure cancer.”

A week later, on June 18, Trump made a similarly prophetic statement during his 2020 kickoff rally in Orlando, Florida, as he listed several agenda items for a second term.

“We will come up with the cures to many, many problems, to many, many diseases, including cancer and others,” he said. “And we’re getting closer all the time.”

It’s difficult to fact-check promises — after all, we can’t predict the future. And while both politicians suggested these cures would come while they were still in office, neither explicitly said when exactly this would happen. But oncologists say curing cancer is unlikely to happen within the next decade.

Still, experts do expect to be able to cure more patients in the coming years, and some types of cancer are already curable today.

We’ll run through some important considerations when thinking about cancer and its cures, give an overview of some recent successes, and spotlight some challenges that remain.

Cancer Isn’t One Disease

The first problem with both politicians’ statements, several experts told us, is that cancer isn’t a single disease. 

“Cancer is not just one entity. It’s not just tuberculosis or HIV/AIDS,” said Timothy Chan, a physician-scientist at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center. “It’s really a catch-all name for hundreds and maybe even thousands of types of diseases.”

What unites all cancers is the theme of uncontrolled cell growth. As we’ve explained before, cancer happens when DNA mutations allow a cell to replicate with abandon, forming a tumor that eventually can metastasize, or spread throughout the body. 

In most cases, many mutations are needed to form a tumor; these can be inherited or come about during cell division or through environmental exposures.

The specific reasons for the unchecked growth, however, vary, both between and even within cancer types, which are usually categorized by the cell or tissue type of the originating tumor.

Kevin Kelly, an oncologist and clinical researcher at the Sidney Kimmel Cancer Center at Thomas Jefferson University, said that when he started in medicine 25 years ago, lung cancer was only considered to have two types. “Now, they can actually subtype into 10 or 12 different types of lung cancer, based on the genomic profile,” he said. “That’s what makes it so complicated.”

And, as Chan said, no two people’s cancers are the same. Even within a single tumor, there can be genetic differences among cells as they collect new mutations, some of which can mean the difference between a portion of a tumor being treatable or not.

All of this means that curing cancer is unlikely to be a singular achievement. “There are going to be a thousand different cures,” said David Weiner, a cancer researcher and executive vice president of the Wistar Institute.

Given that “curing cancer” would mean finding many cures, Chan said doing so would be “impossible” in the next 10 years. “Maybe the next 50 years to cover everything,” he said.

Other experts were similarly skeptical about such an ambitious time frame.

“It’s going to take over a decade for us to see real impact on cancers,” said Kelly.

There Are Already Cures

Even if all cancers can’t be cured soon, multiple experts were quick to point out that some cancers can already be cured, no advances needed.

“We cure cancer every day,” said David Porter, a hematologist-oncologist at the University of Pennsylvania’s Perelman School of Medicine, in an email. 

In his specialty of blood cancer, he said, many leukemia and lymphoma patients can be cured with conventional chemotherapy or with bone marrow or stem cell transplants.

Many pediatric cancers, too, are considered curable, Kelly said, as are many cases of testicular cancer, which is treated with chemo, surgery and sometimes radiation.

As long as a cancer hasn’t spread very far, surgical removal of a variety of tumors, including of the breast, prostate, lung and colon, can also prove curative, Kelly added.

Still, he acknowledged, for cancers that have already metastasized, most are not currently curable. 

It’s worth noting that in oncology, the word “cure” operates a bit differently than in most other medical specialties. As the National Cancer Institute explains, a cure means a person’s cancer has disappeared and will never come back.

While that happens for some people, doctors cannot guarantee a person who has been successfully treated won’t ever see their cancer return. Cancer is wily, and if even one leftover cancer cell escapes a treatment, it could come roaring back.

As a result, many physicians refer to remission instead, with complete remission referring to no symptoms or signs of cancer. The longer this remission lasts, the more likely it will continue. If there is no recurrence after five years, the chance of the cancer returning is low enough that some doctors will use the word “cure.”

Recent Successes & Realistic Expectations

Even if Biden’s and Trump’s pronouncements seem overly optimistic, researchers are nevertheless encouraged about many newly developed treatments and those in the pipeline.

“Treatments for cancer are being developed at an incredibly rapid pace. They are becoming more selective and targeted, and more potent,” said Porter, adding that he fully expects to be able to cure more patients with more types of cancer in the near future.

Some of the hottest new additions to the cancer arsenal are immunotherapies that take advantage of the body’s immune system to attack cancer. 

One form of immunotherapy that Porter has helped develop is CAR T-cell therapy, which involves removing white blood cells known as T cells from patients, reengineering the cells in the lab to recognize a person’s cancer, and then infusing the cells back into the patient.

Infographic courtesy of the National Cancer Institute.

While the treatment can trigger a sometimes life-threatening reaction as the immune system kicks into gear and eliminates its targets, physicians have learned more about how to reduce those side effects, and a subset of patients go into remission.

“It may be too early to know if CAR T-cells are curing patients permanently,” Porter said, “though I believe we have enough follow-up to suggest that many of these patients are likely cured.”

Currently, the Food and Drug Administration has approved two such treatments for blood cancers, one for patients with acute lymphoblastic leukemia up to the age of 25, and another for adults with certain aggressive B-cell lymphomas. 

Both approvals have been within the last two years, and are reserved for patients whose cancers have not responded to other treatments. Within the next year, Porter expects the FDA to review new CAR T-cell therapies for other blood cancers, including multiple myeloma and chronic lymphocytic leukemia.

Another set of game-changing immunotherapies are checkpoint inhibitors, one of which successfully treated former President Jimmy Carter’s advanced melanoma. 

Because cancer cells aren’t quite normal, T cells can often recognize them and take them out — but usually, only with some help. By blocking special molecules on the surface of cells that tumors use to stay hidden, these drugs spark T cells into action, turning them into cancer-killing machines.

Checkpoint inhibitors have been approved for a variety of tumors, including skin, lung, kidney, bladder, and head and neck cancers.

But not all treatments cure, and not all patients benefit — and herein lies the main problem. By one estimate, only about 12% of patients respond to checkpoint inhibitors, and even when patients do, tumors can become resistant to the drugs.

This is in part why Chan suggests a more plausible goal for the next decade is a “big improvement” in cancer treatment, perhaps being able to significantly extend the survival of patients in over half of the cancers. “That doesn’t sound as sexy” as a cure, he said, “but it’s more realistic.”

The challenge now is figuring out how to make these therapies and others work for more patients. One idea researchers are pursuing is mixing and matching different drugs and other therapies together, including with cancer vaccines, to find successful combinations.

In the end, though, Chan remains wholly optimistic. “I view cancer as a very complicated process, but a very dissectable and understandable process,” he said. “It’s a matter of just really figuring it out.”

What It’ll Take

Regardless of who wins the White House in 2020, experts told us the way to speed up progress on cancer is to bankroll more research. Without funding, breakthroughs can’t happen. 

More specifically, experts said they want to see more high-risk, high-reward work being funded. These projects are the kind that are more likely to fail, but they’re also more likely to lead to a genuinely new idea that could be revolutionary for the field.

“You want to try new things and be novel,” said Wistar’s Weiner. “Investment in high-risk, high-reward research is absolutely critical.”

Jefferson’s Kelly also suggested making it easier for researchers to share large sets of data and for more patients to seek out clinical trials.

“Only around 8% of patients actually get into a clinical trial,” he said. “And if we could double or triple it, we could increase how quickly we can test new drugs.”

Both candidates, to varying degrees, have proposed elements of these ideas in the past. But if budget proposals are expressions of a president’s priorities, Trump hasn’t yet made cancer a prime concern.

In fiscal year 2020, the Trump administration proposed shrinking the National Cancer Institute’s overall budget by almost $900 million, or 15%. NCI is the cancer wing of the National Institutes of Health, and is the primary federal agency doing cancer research and training.

Trump also suggested cuts to the NCI in both of his previous budgets, but Congress balked and provided funding increases. Since fiscal year 2003, the NCI budget has generally increased by a small amount every year, but those additions have not kept pace with inflation.

Trump has, however, supported childhood cancer research. In his 2019 State of the Union speech, he highlighted an initiative and promised that sector an extra $50 million each year for the next 10 years — the equivalent of a 10% annual boost. According to Science magazine, the initiative includes a large push for increased data sharing.

For his part, Biden was put in charge of former President Obama’s Cancer Moonshot project in 2016, and was instrumental in passing the 21st Century Cures Act, which funded the effort with $1.8 billion over seven years.

In 2017, Biden and his wife started a nonprofit, the Biden Cancer Initiative, to encourage collaboration in the fight against cancer. When Biden announced his 2020 run in April, both he and his wife stepped down from their roles in the organization. This month, the group suspended its operations.

Biden has not formally addressed how he would approach NCI funding if elected president, but said in an appearance at the AARP/Des Moines Register Presidential Forum on July 15 in Iowa that he would double NIH funding and create an ARPA-H, a health version of the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency.

The post Unpacking Biden’s and Trump’s Big Cancer Promises appeared first on FactCheck.org.

Trump pits NASA chief against Apollo 11 astronauts

Politico -

President Donald Trump has spent days feuding with progressive House Democrats, but on Friday he stoked another conflict, pitting his NASA chief against the first men to travel to the moon as they debated traveling directly to Mars.

During a gathering in the Oval Office to commemorate Saturday's 50th anniversary of the Apollo 11 moon landing, Trump grilled NASA administrator Jim Bridenstine and former astronauts Michael Collins and Buzz Aldrin over the logistics of putting a man on Mars as well as the recent progress of NASA.

"We don’t know what we’re going to find on Mars, but it certainly is going to be a trip that's very interesting,” Trump said, after recounting the Apollo 11 mission and his White House’s focus on reviving the U.S. space program. “To get to Mars, you have to land on the moon, they say."

But, he asked, is it possible to bypass the moon and go straight to Mars?

“We need to use the moon as a proving ground,” Bridenstine responded, explaining to the president that for a trip to Mars, “we’re going to have to be there for a long period of time, so we need to learn how to live and work on another world.”

The administrator added that an additional wrinkle of Mars travel is that the red planet is only on the same side of the sun as Earth about once every two years. “So we have to be prepared to stay on Mars for long periods of time; we prove that out — on the moon — then we go onto Mars.”

Trump then turned to Collins. “How do you feel about it?” he asked.

“Mars direct,” Collins nodded.

“You like it direct?” Trump repeated. When Collins answered in the affirmative again, the president turned back to Bridenstine, seemingly convinced, and unperturbed by Aldrin’s dismissal of Collins as “impatient.”

“It seems to me, Mars direct,” Trump shrugged. “I mean who knows better than these people? What about the concept of Mars direct?”

Bridenstine again explained the drawbacks of bypassing the moon. “Think about this: We need to use the resources of another world in order to live and work for long periods of time,” he said, adding that the water-ice found on the moon would be an excellent source of life support and rocket fuel for a Mars mission as well as an untapped market for commercial space companies.

‘But Jim, isn’t it correct that we haven't landed that close to that part of the moon?” Trump countered, which Bridenstine conceded was true.

Bridenstine tried again to sway the dubious-sounding commander in chief.

“I think, sir, the best way to think about it is, we live and learn how to work on the moon but we launch to Mars form a space station that we have in orbit around the moon,” he said. “A space station we call ‘Gateway.’ … With a gateway we will have more access to more parts of the solar system with humans than we could ever have otherwise.”

With that, Trump nodded, then moved on to praising Bridenstine’s record as NASA chief. But Aldrin didn’t agree.

"Actually, I've been a little disappointed over the last 10 or 15 years," he said.

Aldrin complained that in recent years, the U.S. space program has been unable to match the accomplishments of its early years, pointing out that the U.S. has the "No. 1 spacecraft and they cannot get into lunar orbit with significant maneuver capability,” calling it a “great disappointment.”

Trump turned back to Bridenstine. "How do you feel about that, Jim?" he asked.

“We’re working on it,” Bridenstine responded, adding that the Orion crew capsule was currently being worked on.

"We'll I'd like to have you also listen to the other side," Trump said, "Because some people would like to do it a different way. So you'll listen to Buzz and some of the other people. I know this has been going on for a little while, and we're so advanced, but I would like to listen to other side, OK?"

"Yes, sir," Bridenstine nodded.

The exchange appeared to satisfy Aldrin, who tweeted afterward of his "excellent meeting" with the president. "Keep America Great in Space!!"

Article originally published on POLITICO Magazine

Video: Biden’s Crime Bill Claims

FactCheck -

In this week’s fact-checking video, CNN’s Jake Tapper discusses three claims Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden made about his support for the 1994 crime bill. 

The Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act of 1994 received bipartisan support at the time but has been criticized for some of its tough-on-crime provisions. Biden, who was chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee at the time, partly wrote the bill and guided it through the legislative process.

In a speech this month, Biden said, “I didn’t support the provision the president wanted in called three strikes and you’re out. Didn’t support it then, don’t support it now.” While Biden did oppose including nonviolent offenses and lesser crimes in the provision, he is on record at the time saying he supported a three-strikes provision for “serious [violent] felonies against a person.”

The final bill said anyone who committed a federal serious violent felony and had at least two prior convictions for federal or state serious violent felonies, or one of those being a drug distribution or trafficking offense, would then be sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole.

Biden also said, “I didn’t support more money to build state prisons. I was against it.” But Biden was for $6 billion in funding for state prison construction — not the $10 billion in the final bill. His campaign said the $4 billion difference is what he meant by “more money.”

Finally, Biden misleadingly said the crime legislation “worked in some areas. But it failed in others. … The violent crime rate was cut in half in America.” The violent crime rate dropped by 46% from 1994 to 2017, but experts say factors beyond the 1994 crime bill are responsible for most of that decrease.

Experts with the Brennan Center for Justice, for instance, wrote that the legislation likely contributed to the decrease by adding more police officers, but other factors included social and economic changes, such as an aging population.

For more on this topic, see our July 12 story “Biden and the 1994 Crime Bill.” Our past video collaborations with CNN’s “State of the Union” are available here.

The post Video: Biden’s Crime Bill Claims appeared first on FactCheck.org.

Hillsdale Lawsuit Takes On Mizzou Over Donor's Intent

Real Clear Politics -

The University of Missouri has faced a tough few years. First, there were well-publicized protests stemming from student allegations that the administration responded inadequately to racial bias on campus. At one particularly charged demonstration, a (since fired) journalism professor called for "muscle" to prevent a student journalist from taking video of the protesters. This was followed by declining enrollment, budgetary shortfalls, the temporary shuttering of dorms, and staff layoffs from which the school has only started to recover.

Will Trump Dump Pence and Run With Ivanka Next Year?

Real Clear Politics -

Deny the vice president a second term and put your daughter on the ticket, then quit if you're elected so she can pardon you and live out the mutual dynastic fantasy. Is this too far-fetched or crazy even for Donald Trump? Not if you've been paying close attention.

Trump says debt ceiling can't be a bargaining chip. That's not what he said in 2012.

Politico -

President Donald Trump on Friday extolled the debt ceiling as “a sacred element of our country” that should never be wielded as a bargaining chip in budget talks — despite urging Republican lawmakers to do just that 6½ years ago.

“That’s a very, very sacred thing in our country, debt ceiling. We can never play with it. So I would have to assume we’re in great shape,” Trump told reporters in the Oval Office.

The president’s remarks come as White House officials, led by Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, home in on a two-year budget agreement with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) that would raise the national debt limit.

“When I first came into office,” Trump said, “I asked about the debt ceiling. … And I said, I remember to Sen. Schumer and to Nancy Pelosi, ‘Would anybody ever use that to negotiate with?’ They said, ‘Absolutely not.’”

The president added: “That’s a sacred element of our country. They can’t use the debt ceiling to negotiate.”

But as a private citizen in December 2012, Trump tweeted that “the Republicans must use the debt ceiling as leverage to make a good deal!”

That social media directive from the future commander in chief came amid the Obama administration’s legislative battles over the U.S. fiscal cliff with then-Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) and former House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio).

“I can’t imagine anybody ever even thinking of using the debt ceiling as a negotiating wedge,” Trump said Friday.

Article originally published on POLITICO Magazine

Dems ask whether DOJ memo prevented prosecuting Trump for hush payments

Politico -

House Democrats want to know whether a decades-old Justice Department prohibition on indicting a sitting president played a role in federal prosecutors’ decision not to criminally charge President Donald Trump over hush money payments that he directed his fixer to pay to women.

The prohibition, laid out in a 2000 memo by the Justice Department Office of Legal Counsel, was also a key factor in former special counsel Robert Mueller’s decision to refrain from considering whether to charge Trump with obstruction of justice for his repeated attempts to thwart the investigation of Russian interference in the 2016 election.

Now Democrats on the House Oversight Committee say the federal prosecutors based in the Southern District of New York should disclose whether they made a similar analysis. The president’s longtime lawyer and fixer Michael Cohen was jailed earlier this year, in part for his role in hush payments to women accusing Trump of extramarital affairs, and he implicated the president in the scheme. Documents made public Thursday showed contacts between Cohen and Trump surrounding the hush money payments and were part of prosecutors’ evidence that Trump directed Cohen to make the payoffs.

“If prosecutors identified evidence of criminal conduct by Donald Trump while serving as President — and did not bring charges as they would have for any other individual — this would be the second time the President has not been held accountable for his actions due to his position,” committee chairman Elijah Cummings wrote in a 12-page letter to the deputy U.S. attorney in the Southern District of New York. “The Office of the President should not be used as a shield for criminal conduct.”

Cummings noted that he wrote directly to the SDNY prosecutors because of concerns about the accuracy of information provided to Congress by Attorney General William Barr in characterizing Mueller’s findings in March — a month before it became public.

Cummings has asked for SNDY to provide by Aug. 2 “all evidence collected about the role of any other individual in connection with the campaign finance charges against Cohen, including any evidence relating to the President, and copies of all immunity deals granted, or informal immunity agreement letters or non-prosecution agreements entered into, in this investigation.” The committee is also asking whether Barr or any other senior Justice Department officials weighed in on the case.

Cohen pleaded guilty in 2018 to two campaign finance violations for arranging payments to two women who were preparing to accuse Trump of extramarital affairs in the weeks leading up to the 2016 election. One of them, porn actress Stormy Daniels, received $130,000 through a shell company that Cohen opened. The other, Karen McDougal, received a $150,000 “catch-and-kill” contract from Trump associates at the National Enquirer to bury her story just before the election. Cohen, who is currently serving a three-year prison sentence, admitted he played a role in that arrangement, as well.

Republicans on the Oversight Committee quickly rejected Cummings’ inquiry as a political attack on Trump and argued that Cohen’s history of lying undercuts the Democrats’ inquiry.

“Everyone knows that convicted felon Michael Cohen is a habitual liar. But still Chairman Cummings continues to use Cohen — the Chairman’s first announced witness this Congress — to attack the President for political gain,” said a spokesperson for Oversight Committee Republicans. “Democrats in Congress should be solving real problems instead of indulging their obsession with impeaching the President.”

Article originally published on POLITICO Magazine

Iran says it has seized British oil tanker

Politico -

TEHRAN, Iran — Iran’s Revolutionary Guard says it has seized a British oil tanker that was passing through the Strait of Hormuz.

The IRGC’s website, sepahnews.com, says the tanker “Impero Stena” was seized Friday by IRGC forces for “non-compliance with international maritime laws and regulations” and has transferred the vessel to an Iranian port.

The report did not elaborate what port it was transferred to.

Article originally published on POLITICO Magazine

Israeli ambassador says Omar and Tlaib will be allowed in country

Politico -

Reps. Rashida Tlaib and Ilhan Omar, both outspoken critics of Israel and its occupation of the West Bank, will be allowed into the country during a trip there in a few weeks, the Israeli ambassador said Friday, potentially heading off a diplomatic spat.

“Out of respect for the U.S. Congress and the great alliance between Israel and America, we would not deny entry to any member of Congress into Israel,” said Ron Dermer, Israel’s envoy to the United States.

The freshman Democrats have drawn the ire of pro-Israel politicians — including within the Democratic caucus — over the pair’s support for the the global boycott, divestment and sanctions movement against Israel, known as the BDS movement.

Omar said Wednesday the pair are set to visit the country in the coming weeks, and earlier this week introduced a new resolution supporting the right of Americans to boycott Israel, to counter a separate measure condemning the BDS movement. The boycott movement has been deemed anti-Semitic and hateful by Israel’s defenders.

Had Israel’s government chosen to deny the polarizing lawmakers, it would have come amid a contentious war of words between Omar, Tlaib, their fellow Democratic Reps. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Ayanna Pressley, and President Donald Trump that has dragged on for almost a week.

For the past six days, Trump has launched racist attacks against the congresswomen on Twitter and in public comments, calling them anti-Semitic and anti-American, and telling them to “go back and help fix the totally broken and crime infested places from which they came.”

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu could have blocked the visit from the congresswomen based on a sporadically enforced law passed in 2017. But Dermer’s blanket approval for members of Congress appears aimed at averting a diplomatic crisis over the matter.

Article originally published on POLITICO Magazine

President Trump calls for A$AP Rocky's release from Swedish custody

Politico -

President Donald Trump said Friday that he and first lady Melania Trump plan to negotiate for rapper A$AP Rocky to be released from Swedish custody, adding that the artist has “tremendous support from the African American community in this country.”

The president’s comments come in response to Swedish prosecutors’ decision to keep the rapper, born Rakim Mayers, in custody for another week “because of the flight risk.”

A$AP Rocky and two friends were arrested in Sweden three weeks ago after an altercation that Swedish authorities say they suspect was an assault. Since his arrest, top State Department officials have been monitoring the situation and making sure the rapper is being treated fairly while in foreign custody.

Parties in the U.S. ranging from the Congressional Black Caucus to Kim Kardashian West have become involved in the case, rallying behind A$AP Rocky and asking for further intervention from Secretary of State Mike Pompeo. Rapper Kanye West also joined the call for the rapper's release according to a tweet from Trump, posted Friday afternoon.

"Just spoke to @KanyeWest about his friend A$AP Rocky’s incarceration," Trump tweeted. "I will be calling the very talented Prime Minister of Sweden to see what we can do about helping A$AP Rocky. So many people would like to see this quickly resolved!"

During a news conference Wednesday, Rep. Adriano Espaillat (D-N.Y.), who represents A$AP Rocky’s home congressional district, said Pompeo’s efforts to free the rapper are “not enough.”

“It is unconscionable that these young men that are doing well, they are on the right track in life, they’re very successful, they’re icons in the hip-hop community, are treated under these inhumane conditions,” he said.

Trump said he hopes to use his positive relationship with Sweden to bring A$AP Rocky back to the United States while he awaits trial, adding in his earlier tweet that he plans to contact the Swedish prime minister directly.

“[Sweden is] a great country. They’re friends of mine,” Trump said. “We’re going to be calling them. We’ll talk to them. We already started.”

The president lauded the first lady for becoming involved, saying she brought the situation to his attention.

“I’ve been working with the State Department,” Melania Trump said. “We want to get him home soon.”

Article originally published on POLITICO Magazine


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