Trump, Democratic leaders to meet for Round 2 on infrastructure

By Kevin Freking | The Associated Press

WASHINGTON — Reality has set in during the three weeks since President Donald Trump and Democratic congressional leaders agreed to work together on a $2 trillion package to invest in roads, bridges and broadband.

Republican leaders in Congress have shown little enthusiasm for the price tag, and even less for the idea of raising the federal fuel tax to help pay for upgrading the nation’s infrastructure. Trump himself has suggested that Democrats are somehow setting a trap to get him to go along with a tax increase.

Trump and Democratic lawmakers will meet at the White House on Wednesday for Round 2 of their infrastructure talks.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer said after their last White House meeting in late April that there was a consensus on one aspect of infrastructure: The agreement would be big and bold. But funding is a different matter. Democrats emerged saying they would return to hear Trump’s suggestions on how to pay for infrastructure.

But Trump expressed wariness in a Fox News interview that aired Sunday, saying he thought the White House was “being played by the Democrats a little bit. You know, I think what they want me to do is say, ‘Well, what we’ll do is raise taxes,’ and we’ll do this and this and this, and then they’ll have a news conference, see, ‘Trump wants to raise taxes.’”

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., dismissed the potential for a sweeping plan or for raising the gas tax at a recent Senate GOP lunch with Vice President Mike Pence, according to those familiar with the meeting.

And House Minority Whip Steve Scalise, R-La., said that it was unrealistic to place the funding decision with the president. Democrats will need to make suggestions, too.

“You don’t ask the president, …read more

Source:: The Mercury News – Nation, World


US closes facility that detained migrant who later died

HOUSTON (AP) — U.S. border agents have temporarily closed their primary facility for processing migrants in South Texas one day after authorities say a 16-year-old died after being diagnosed with the flu at the facility.

In a statement released late Tuesday, U.S. Customs and Border Protection said it would stop detaining migrants at its processing center in McAllen, Texas. CBP says “a large number” of people in custody were found Tuesday to have high fevers.

The processing center is a converted warehouse that holds hundreds of parents and children at a time in large, fenced-in pens.

CBP said Monday that a 16-year-old from Guatemala died after being detained at the facility for six days, twice as long as generally allowed by U.S. law. After being diagnosed with the flu on Sunday, Carlos Hernandez Vasquez was transferred to a smaller Border Patrol station, where he was found unresponsive Monday.

Carlos was the fifth minor since December to die after being apprehended by border agents.

…read more

Source:: The Mercury News – Nation, World


GOP House leader McCarthy blocks effort to limit China role

By Damian Paletta and Erica Werner | Washington Post

WASHINGTON – House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., blocked a bipartisan attempt to limit Chinese companies from contracting with U.S. transit systems, a move that benefited a Chinese government-backed manufacturer with a plant in his district, according to multiple people familiar with the matter.

His behind-the-scenes intervention came as Congress was trying this year to craft a spending compromise to avert another government shutdown. McCarthy pressed lawmakers to strip out language that could have prevented the company in his district, BYD Motors, from winning federal contracts, and they relented because they feared imperiling the bill.

BYD Motors is a division of BYD Co., a giant Chinese manufacturer. Among other things, it makes electric buses that are often used by local governments. Stella Li, BYD Motors president, is a campaign contributor to McCarthy, and the lawmaker spoke at a ribbon cutting for BYD’s California plant in 2017.

Lawmakers frequently take a stance on legislation that could affect campaign contributors or hometown companies. But McCarthy’s intervention was striking because the close ally of President Donald Trump sought to protect Chinese interests at a time when Trump and many lawmakers on Capitol Hill are attempting to curb Beijing’s access to U.S. markets, particularly in industries deemed vital to national security. Last week, Trump put Chinese telecom giant Huawei on a trade “blacklist” that severely restricts its access to U.S. technology. The action leaves about 90 days for companies to do some business with Huawei.

McCarthy’s move to protect a Chinese company’s interests frustrated even some members of his own party because they have warned repeatedly that allowing Chinese-backed firms access to U.S. infrastructure systems could pose a national security risk to the United States. Lawmakers of both major parties have complained that U.S. tax dollars should not be …read more

Source:: The Mercury News – Nation, World


With tornadoes bearing down, an aquarium encouraged guests to take shelter with its sharks

By Deanna Paul | The Washington Post

Tuesday morning in Tulsa began with a confirmed tornado and a blaring warning from the National Weather Service: “Take shelter now!”

One offer of shelter came from an unexpected and oddly entertaining source: the Oklahoma Aquarium, which says it has a secure storm shelter under its shark tank.

The shark tunnel and dome — home to an exhibit of bull and nurse sharks — is constructed from concrete “over a foot thick” and “designed to handle extreme force due to the weight of the water in the exhibit,” according to a social media post from the aquarium’s verified account.

More importantly, though, the Oklahoma Aquarium wants you to know that their storm shelter has “the best view in Oklahoma.”

Tuesday morning’s powerful twister was located before 7 a.m., over the Tulsa International Airport; the aquarium is 19 miles south of the airport. The storm was moving northeast at around 50 mph, according to the National Weather Service.

Storms continue in northeast Oklahoma on Tuesday; several flash flood, thunderstorm and tornado warnings had already been issued before Noon. Streets in Tulsa have been barricaded by Tulsa officials since 4 a.m., due to flooding.

“Do NOT drive around the barricades. Doing so puts not only your life at risk, but also rescue crews,” the National Weather Service cautioned.

The Oklahoma Aquarium had a different message: “Stop by today during normal business hours,” it wrote, for “storm-free fun.”

Because yes, just in case you were wondering, they will be open.

…read more

Source:: The Mercury News – Nation, World


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