Kelly shows his clout: Scaramucci out as WH chief moves in

White House Chief of Staff John Kelly appears at event where President Donald Trump was to bestow the Medal of Honor to retired Army medic James McCloughan during a ceremony in the East Room of the White House in Washington, Monday, July 31, 2017.(AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais) © The Associated Press White House Chief of Staff John Kelly appears at event where President Donald Trump was to bestow the Medal of Honor to retired Army medic James McCloughan during a ceremony in the East Room of the White House in Washington, Monday, July 31, 2017.(AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais)

WASHINGTON — It didn’t take long for President Donald Trump’s new chief of staff to take charge in an unruly White House: Just hours after he was sworn in, former Gen. John Kelly made sure that Trump’s profanity-spouting new communications director was gone, ignominiously ousted after less than two weeks on the job.

It was the latest head-snapping sequence of events at 1600 Pennsylvania Ave., but Trump dismissed any talk of disarray. He insisted in a morning tweet there was “No WH chaos,” then followed up in the evening with a satisfied “great day at the White House.”

Aiming to instill some discipline in the White House, Kelly showed Anthony Scaramucci the door just days after the new communications director had unleashed an expletive-laced tirade against senior staff members that included vulgar broadsides at then-chief of staff Reince Priebus. In short order, Priebus was pushed aside and replaced by Kelly, whose arrival led in turn to Scaramucci’s departure.

The communication director’s tenure was the stuff of Shakespearian drama — though brief enough to be just a morbid sonnet.

Scaramucci’s exit underscored the challenges that Kelly, the former homeland security chief, faces in bringing order to a West Wing where a wide swath of aides have reported directly to the president, feeling free to walk into Trump’s Oval Office or buttonhole him in the hallway to lobby for conflicting agendas. Backstabbing among aides has been rife, and rival camps have jockeyed for position.

And then there is president himself, who uses tweets at all hours to fling out new policy announcements, insult critics and even go after fellow Republicans who don’t toe his line.

On Kelly’s first day, the White House put out word that the retired four-star general had free rein to tighten the chain of command.

White House press secretary Sarah Sanders said Kelly “has the full authority to carry out business as he sees fit” and that all White House staffers will report to him, including powerful aides such as Trump’s daughter, Ivanka Trump, her husband, Jared Kushner, and chief strategist Steve Bannon.

Kelly “will bring new structure, discipline and strength” to the White House, she said.

The chief of staff took his oath of office early Monday in an Oval Office ceremony thronged by senior staffers, including Scaramucci. But a short time later, Kelly told the communications director he was out, leading Scaramucci to offer his resignation instead, according to four White House staffers and outside advisers not authorized to speak publicly about personnel matters.

In the brief, cold words of the White House announcement, Scaramucci was leaving because he “felt it was best to give Chief of Staff John Kelly a clean slate and the ability to build his own team.” The three-sentence release concluded, “We wish him all the best.”

The statement revived the “clean slate” language that former White House press secretary Sean Spicer had used to describe his own reason for resigning on the day Trump brought Scaramucci aboard.

Scaramucci was escorted from the White House grounds, becoming yet another high-ranking official to leave an administration that is barely beyond the six-month mark. He was the third person to hold the communications director title in that time.

While in most administrations the chief of staff closely manages the president’s time others’ access to the Oval Office, Priebus never was able to prevent Trump from continuing the same disorderly style he had created atop his business.

Scaramucci had been blocked from joining the administration during the transition by Priebus, only to eventually be hired by Trump last week. That decision, over the objections of Priebus and Bannon, led to the resignation of Spicer and fueled Scaramucci’s profane vows of vengeance against White House staffers who had opposed him or leaked to the press.

Days of negative news coverage of Scaramucci’s crass rant did not sit well with the president, though Trump himself is no stranger to using coarse language, including boasts of groping women in a 2005 Access Hollywood tape leaked last year.

“The president certainly felt that Anthony’s comments were inappropriate for a person in his position,” Sanders said when asked about the ouster.

Bannon also told allies that the communications director was a negative distraction. And though Bannon had clashed with Kelly over the implementation of Trump’s first travel ban, he pledged to work closely with the new chief of staff.

Scaramucci’s allies floated the idea of Scaramucci returning to his chief strategy officer post at the Export-Import Bank, Sanders said he “does not have a role at this time” with the Trump administration.

As the Scaramucci news spread, Kelly was in the East Room, smiling and taking pictures with guests who had gathered for a Medal of Honor presentation. A jovial Spicer also was in attendance, saying he was there to assist with the communications transition, though Sanders said she was not aware of any plans for him to resume his old job.

After swearing in Kelly, Trump convened his full Cabinet, including Attorney General Jeff Sessions, the target of recent public rebukes from the president. Sanders later brushed aside talk of yet another abrupt shuffle: the idea of Sessions leaving the Justice Department to replace Kelly at Homeland Security. The president has no such plans, she said.

Trump, for his part, ignored the turmoil and declared that his administration was humming along smoothly.

“Overall, I think we’re doing incredibly well. The economy is doing incredibly well, and many other things.”

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Lemire reported from New York. Additional reporting by Associated Press writers Jill Colvin, Josh Boak and Vivian Salama.

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Follow Lemire on Twitter at http://twitter.com/@JonLemire and Lucey at http://twitter.com/@Catherine_Lucey

from Kelly shows his clout: Scaramucci out as WH chief moves in

Barbie-Ken movie sa Regal, tuloy na ang shooting

Ni NITZ MIRALLES

BUKAS, August 2, ang sinabi sa aming bagong schedule ng first shooting day nina Barbie Forteza at Ken Chan ng Regal Entertainment movie nilang This Time I’ll Be Sweeter. Noong June 28 dapat ang first shooting day, pero iniurong dahil inayos at mas pinaganda pa ang script.

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Si Joel Lamangan ang director ng This Time I’ll Be Sweeter na ayon kay Barbie ay light, rom-com, may konting drama, pero ibang-iba sa hit TV show na Meant To Be. Makakasama nina Barbie at Ken sa pelikula sina Rita Avila, Ara Mina at Al Tantay as their parents, hindi pa lang alam kung sinu-sino sa kanila ang parents ng mga karakter nina Barbie at Ken.

Nasa cast bilang ka-love triangle nina Barbie at Ken si Thea Tolentino at kasama rin sina Kim Rodriguez, Akihiro Blanco at Hiro Peralta. Siguradong may mga madadagdag pa sa cast kapag nagsimula na ang shooting.

Reunion project nina Barbie at Thea ang This Time I’ll Be Sweeter pagkatapos ng hit TV drama na The Half Sisters at excited na ang dalawa na muling magkatrabaho. Sabi ni Barbie, nami-miss na niyang makatrabaho si Thea at dito sa pelikula, ipagpapatuloy nila ang kanilang bangayan.

Parehong mahusay na artista sina Barbie at Ken at siguro naman, kahit for reel lang ang kanilang relasyon, dahil alam ng fans na sina Barbie at Jak Roberto ang for real, magwu-work pa rin ang tambalan nila sa pelikula. Nagawa nila ito sa Meant To Be, magagawa rin nila ito sa This Time I’ll Be Sweeter.

Ang daming successful love team na hindi magkarelasyon in real life, kailangan lang ng magandang material, magaling na director, magaling na promo at suporta ng fans.

Big factor din ang suporta ng kampo nina Barbie at Ken, sana matapos ang shooting ng walang problema, ma-promote at maipalabas ng maayos. Saka na ang away at parinigan sa social media, trabaho muna. Alalahanin ng mga nega na sina Barbie at Ken ang artista, hindi kayo!

Source: Balita

from Barbie-Ken movie sa Regal, tuloy na ang shooting

New Zealander pursuing PH acting career

By GLEN P. SIBONGA

OVERWHELMED pa rin hanggang ngayon ang baguhang singer-actor na si Laurence Mossman sa malaking tagumpay ng Manila run ng Tony and Grammy Award winning musical na Kinky Boots, kung saan isa siya sa mga bida kasama si Nyoy Volante.

Tuwang-tuwa nga siya sa mga papuri at magagandang reviews hindi lang sa show kundi pati sa mahusay na performance niya at ni Nyoy.

1laurence instagram copy

Natapos man ang Manila run ng Kinky Boots sa RCBC Plaza, Makati noong July 23, hindi naman nalulungkot si Laurence dahil muling magbabalik ang musical na handog ng Atlantis Theatrical Entertainment Group, at magkakaroon ito ng limited repeat run sa March 2-18, 2018 sa parehong venue.

Ginampanan ni Laurence ang role ni Charlie Price, na na-involve sa drag queen at cross dresser na si Lola (Nyoy).

Masaya nga si Laurence dahil muli niyang makakatrabaho si Nyoy. Bumilib daw talaga siya rito.

Very satisfied si Laurence sa takbo ng kanyang career dahil sa mahigit dalawang taon niya sa Pilipinas ay nasusubukan niya ang iba’t-ibang larangan ng entertainment. Mula sa New Zealand ay nagdesisyon siya ng subukan ang kapalaran niya rito sa Philippine showbiz at naging parte siya ng vocal trio na Primo.

Sa telebisyon ay gumanap siya bilang si Signore Mossman sa dating ABS-CBN teleseryeng “Dolce Amore” nina Enrique Gil at Liza Soberano. Nakagawa na rin siya ng dalawang pelikula – ang “Bakit Lahat ng Gwapo May Boyfriend” at ang “Die Beautiful.”

Kasalukuyan siyang endorser at brand ambassador ng New Placenta for Men ng Psalmstre Enterprises Inc. Proud nga sa achievements ni Laurence ang CEO ng Psalmstre na si Jaime Acosta, na tumatayo ring manager ng singer-actor.

Noong isang taon pinasok niya ang teatro at napasama siyasa musical na “Fun Home,” na pinagbidahan ni Lea Salonga.

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Source: Tempo

from New Zealander pursuing PH acting career

Sino ang lumamang sa SONA?

Ni: Nora Calderon

LAHAT ng television channels sa Pilipinas ay State of the Nation Address o SONA ni Pangulong Rodrigo Duterte ang ipinalabas noong nakaraang Lunes. Parehong-pareho ang ipinalabas nila kasi iisa lang naman ang pinagmulan ng feed ng mga network. At napahaba man kaysa inaasahan ang speech ng pangulo, walang bumitaw sa kani-kaniyang live coverage.

Pero kahit iisa lang ang pinalabas nila, may lalamang at lalamang pa rin. Just like last Monday, lumabas na mas maraming viewers na tumutok sa coverage ng GMA-7.

Puwedeng basahin ito as a clear message na mas marami ang nagtitiwala sa Kapuso Network pagdating sa importanteng pagbabalita.

Siyempre nga naman, since big news day last Monday, hindi ka na magpapalipat-lipat ng channel, doon ka na agad sa trusted mong istasyon.

Speaking of trust, usap-usapan kung nakakaapekto na kaya sa kredibilidad ng ABS-CBN ang patuloy na pagtira sa kanila ni Pangulong Duterte? Ilang beses kasi silang nabanggit sa SONA last Monday. Hindi naman imposible ito, di ba?

Source: Balita

from Sino ang lumamang sa SONA?

‘Trump’s fatal attraction’

Donald Trump and Vladimir Putin during a meeting on the sidelines of the G20 Summit in Hamburg: Behind the smiles, what concrete effects will come from the Trump/Putin political relationship?

Behind the smiles, what concrete effects will come from the Trump/Putin political relationship?

© Getty Images

There was a time when to work out what was happening in Moscow you needed to read between the lines in Pravda, or look at the line-up of Soviet officials at a Red Square parade and study who was standing next to whom.

The art of Kremlinology has moved on since then. And I’m proud to say I’ve come up with my own 21st Century method for keeping up to date with the current thinking in the corridors of Russian power: it involves walking to the train station opposite the BBC Moscow office, going up to the souvenir stand and looking at the fridge magnets on sale.

You can tell a lot from Russian fridge magnets. This week’s selection includes several different “Vladimir Putin in military camouflage” magnets, complete with patriotic slogans, like: “Together we are a force to be reckoned with!” and “We will always look out for our guys!”

Kremlin policy in a nutshell.

One fridge magnet in particular caught my eye. It looks just like a $100 bill but, in place of the American founding father Benjamin Franklin, there is a portrait of Vladimir Putin.

I know. It’s only a fridge magnet. But it encapsulates the whole Putin-Trump/Russia-America saga. After six months of Donald Trump in the White House, Russians are beginning to feel that their country enjoys considerable influence over America.

And who could blame them for thinking that? Particularly in light of allegations of the Kremlin hacking a US election and putting a Russian puppet in the White House, and with all the rumours of Russian lawyers, Russian lobbyists and Russian oligarchs conspiring with the Trump team and the Trump family. 

It will be up to official investigations to establish whether there was, indeed, collusion. But even the suggestion that there may have been has got the whole world talking about the power of Putin’s Russia and the weakness of Trump’s America.

There are times when Vladimir Putin seems to be basking in the infamy of running a cyber superpower.

There is just one problem for President Putin. It’s the problem of all fridge magnets, really. They look so pretty when you buy them in the shop. But they don’t stick to every fridge.

When it began, Donald Trump’s presidency looked very pretty to Moscow. The Russians expected that America’s new leader would herald a new era in US-Russian cooperation.

At the time, a news anchor on Russian State TV described Trump as “an Alpha male… a real man.” The day after America’s presidential election, one Russian state official told me that she had celebrated Trump’s victory with a cigar and a bottle of champagne.

But, after six months of President Trump, US sanctions against Russia remain in place.

The two Russian diplomatic compounds, closed by President Obama last December, remain shut. And the idea of a “Grand Deal” with America, much hoped for here at the start of the Trump presidency, has disappeared from the pages of the Russian dailies.

Moscow is not blaming Donald Trump directly for this. One Russian newspaper, Nezavisimaya Gazeta, explained recently that, in the current atmosphere, “Trump doesn’t have the slightest possibility to improve Russian-US relations, since any step, any glance even in the direction of Russia is met with suspicion back home and even viewed as treason.”

A few days ago I was chatting to a Russian senator. He complained that the intense pressure President Trump was facing over the Russia question was complicating US-Russian diplomacy.

“Trump is like a prisoner,” he told me, “And how can you talk to a prisoner?”

But Russia and America are talking. Vladimir Putin and Donald Trump have now met, on the sidelines of the G20 summit. And, although progress is slower than Moscow would like, there is cautious talk of cooperation: in Syria, for example, and in the area of cyber security.

Mr Trump continues to argue there is nothing wrong in seeking a closer relationship with Russia. He insists it is in America’s interest to do so.

And, while America’s president and America’s Western allies often appear poles apart on a variety of issues, Donald Trump seems drawn like a magnet to Vladimir Putin.

Indeed, he has openly praised the Kremlin leader. Yet Russia is casting a shadow over the US administration. For Donald Trump, could this prove to be a fatal attraction?

from ‘Trump’s fatal attraction’

After guilty plea, anti-drug activist vows to continue fight

Defense attorney James Lisa, right, talks with the press after his client, John Cramsey left, pleaded guilty to two weapon possession charges in state Superior Court on Monday, July 31, 2017, in Jersey City, N.J. Cramsey, arrested on the New Jersey side of the Holland Tunnel in June 2016 with a vehicle full of weapons on a self-described mission to rescue a teenager from a drug den, pleaded guilty Monday to weapons charges, but said he would continue his battle against the scourge of drug addiction.(Andrew Maclean/NJ Advance Media via AP) © The Associated Press Defense attorney James Lisa, right, talks with the press after his client, John Cramsey left, pleaded guilty to two weapon possession charges in state Superior Court on Monday, July 31, 2017, in Jersey City, N.J. Cramsey, arrested on the New Jersey side of the Holland Tunnel in June 2016 with a vehicle full of weapons on a self-described mission to rescue a teenager from a drug den, pleaded guilty Monday to weapons charges, but said he would continue his battle against the scourge of drug addiction.(Andrew Maclean/NJ Advance Media via AP)

JERSEY CITY, N.J. — A man who was arrested in a truck filled with guns during an attempt to rescue a teenager he thought was in drug trouble has pleaded guilty to weapons charges but says he isn’t going to let that stop him from trying to save people from succumbing to the ravages of opioid addiction.

John Cramsey, who was spurred to action last year by his daughter’s death from a drug overdose, said Monday that saving others has become his calling. The 52-year-old gun range owner from East Greenville, Pennsylvania, was arrested with two other people last year during their aborted attempt to rescue a teenager in New York. He pleaded guilty to the weapons charges on Monday.

Standing on the courthouse steps, he sounded like a man who had just begun to fight. He described the scourge of heroin and opioid addiction as worse than an epidemic.

“This is the plague,” he said. “An epidemic, you’ll find a cure for eventually. A plague kills everything in its path.”

Cramsey had channeled his grief over his daughter’s death into a mission to save others from the same fate. He started a group for concerned parents and recovering addicts and began making trips to homes and hotel rooms to pull people out of dangerous situations and find them treatment, people involved in the efforts have said.

Few might have known about Cramsey outside Pennsylvania’s Lehigh Valley had he, Dean Smith and Kimberly Arendt not been stopped on June 21, 2016, near the Holland Tunnel in Jersey City.

Smith, a videographer and graphic designer, was driving Cramsey’s neon-painted truck, which police said was pulled over because it had a crack in its windshield and objects hanging from a rearview mirror.

The defendants contended they were stopped because of the truck’s Second Amendment-themed decorations, and they sought unsuccessfully in court to have the search invalidated.

Arendt was a former camp counselor of 18-year-old Jenea Patterson, who reached out after a girl she was with died of a drug overdose. Patterson later denied she was seeking help, but she died in January of a drug overdose.

Cramsey said he went to her funeral. He said he keeps asking himself, “What if, what if I’d gotten to her?'”

“I would have carried her out if I’d had the chance,” he said. “If I’d had to leave my truck there and run to get that girl, I would have.”

Police recovered a semi-automatic, military-style rifle, a shotgun, five handguns and tactical gear. All three defendants faced multiple weapons charges under New Jersey’s gun laws, which are stricter than Pennsylvania’s and require guns transported in cars to be kept locked and unloaded in a trunk or secure container.

Cramsey pleaded guilty to unlawful possession of a gun and possession for an unlawful purpose. Each count carries a maximum sentence of five years with no parole for a year, but under the plea deal his attorney can apply for a probationary sentence that wouldn’t include prison.

Smith, of Whitehall, Pennsylvania, and Arendt, of Lehighton, Pennsylvania, were accepted into a pretrial intervention program. The probationary program, if completed, can lead to charges being dropped. Cramsey was denied entry into the program, and attorney James Lisa said he’s appealing.

Cramsey’s methods aren’t universally praised. In an interview with investigators played in court in June, Smith characterized Cramsey as “a danger to himself and others.”

Cramsey said he receives calls from people “all over the world” and will continue his mission.

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Contact Porter at https://www.twitter.com/DavidPorter_AP

from After guilty plea, anti-drug activist vows to continue fight

Scaramucci out of White House job as John Kelly takes charge

In this July 21, 2017 photo, incoming White House communications director Anthony Scaramucci, right, blowing a kiss after answering questions during the press briefing in the Brady Press Briefing room of the White House in Washington. Scaramucci is out as White House communications director after just 11 days on the job. A person close to Scaramucci confirmed the staffing change just hours after President Donald Trump’s new chief of staff, John Kelly, was sworn into office. (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais) © The Associated Press In this July 21, 2017 photo, incoming White House communications director Anthony Scaramucci, right, blowing a kiss after answering questions during the press briefing in the Brady Press Briefing room of the White House in Washington. Scaramucci is out as White House communications director after just 11 days on the job. A person close to Scaramucci confirmed the staffing change just hours after President Donald Trump’s new chief of staff, John Kelly, was sworn into office. (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais)

WASHINGTON — Anthony Scaramucci is out as White House communications director after just 11 days on the job — and just hours after former Gen. John Kelly took over as President Donald Trump’s new chief of staff.

Hoping to turn the page on a tumultuous opening chapter to his presidency, Trump had insisted earlier Monday that there was “no chaos” in his White House as he swore in the retired Marine general as his second chief of staff.

Not long after, Scaramucci, who shocked many with a profane outburst last week against then-chief of staff Reince Priebus, was gone.

In the words of the White House announcement, he was leaving because he “felt it was best to give Chief of Staff John Kelly a clean slate and the ability to build his own team.” The three-sentence release concluded, “We wish him all the best.”

The statement about Scaramucci’s departure used the same “clean slate” language that departing press secretary Sean Spicer used to describe his reason for resigning on July 21 — the day Trump brought Scaramucci aboard.

Spicer was at the White House on Monday, saying he was assisting with the communications transitions.

As the Scaramucci news spread, Kelly was in the East Room smiling and taking pictures with guests who were gathering for a Medal of Honor presentation.

White House spokeswoman Sarah Huckabee Sanders said Trump felt that Scaramucci’s profanity-laced comments against Priebus “were inappropriate for a person in that position” of White House communications director. The president had not publicly expressed disapproval of those comments in the days after they became public.

Sanders added that Kelly has “the full authority to operate within the White House and that all staff will report to him,” a change from Priebus’ tenure.

Earlier, in an Oval Office ceremony, Trump predicted Kelly, who previously served as Homeland Security chief, would do a “spectacular job.” And the president chose to highlight the rising stock market and positive jobs outlook rather than talk about how things might need to change in his White House under Kelly.

Trump on Friday ousted Priebus as chief of staff and turned to Kelly, who he hopes will bring military discipline to an administration weighed down by a stalled legislative agenda, infighting among West Wing aides and a stack of investigations.

Scaramucci’s brief tenure shoved internal White House disputes into the open. In media interviews, he trashed Priebus as a “leaker” and senior White House aide Steve Bannon as a self-promoter. One of Scaramucci’s first — and it turns out only — acts was to force out a communications aide seen as loyal to Priebus.

Spicer, Priebus and Bannon had all objected to Trump’s decision to hire Scaramucci, who would have reported directly to the president.

While Trump is looking for a reset, he pushed back against criticism of his administration with this tweet: “Highest Stock Market EVER, best economic numbers in years, unemployment lowest in 17 years, wages raising, border secure, S.C.: No WH chaos!”

In fact, economic growth averaged 2 percent in the first half of this year, a pace Trump railed against as a candidate and promised to lift to 3 percent. The stock market first hit a record under President Barack Obama and has kept growing. The unemployment rate, too, started to decline on Obama’s watch. And wage gains have been weak.

Trump on Monday convened his first Cabinet meeting with Kelly at his side, telling his team it is “doing incredibly well” and “starting from a really good base.” On how he would deal with rising tensions with North Korea, Trump said only: “It will be handled.”

Seated across from Trump was Attorney General Jeff Sessions, who has stayed on the job while Trump has publicly savaged him in interviews and on social media.

Kelly’s success in a chaotic White House will depend on how much authority he is granted and whether Trump’s dueling aides will put aside their rivalries to work together. Also unclear is whether a new chief of staff will have any influence over the president’s social media histrionics.

Former Trump campaign manager Corey Lewandowski, who was ousted from the campaign in June 2016, said on NBC’s “Meet the Press” that he expected Kelly would “restore order to the staff” but also stressed that Trump was unlikely to change his style.

“I say you have to let Trump be Trump. That is what has made him successful over the last 30 years. That is what the American people voted for,” Lewandowski said. “And anybody who thinks they’re going to change Donald Trump doesn’t know Donald Trump.”

Kelly’s start follows a wild week, marked by a profane tirade by Scaramucci, the president’s continued criticism of his attorney general and the failed effort by Senate Republicans to overhaul the nation’s health care law.

In addition to the strains in the West Wing and with Congress, Kelly starts his new job as tensions escalate with North Korea. The United States flew two supersonic bombers over the Korean Peninsula on Sunday in a show of force against North Korea, following the country’s latest intercontinental ballistic missile test. The U.S. also said it conducted a successful test of a missile defense system located in Alaska.

Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., said on CBS’ “Face the Nation” that she hopes Kelly can “be effective,” and “begin some very serious negotiation with the North and stop this program.”

Another diplomatic fissure opened Sunday when Russian President Vladimir Putin said the U.S. would have to cut its embassy and consulate staff in Russia by several hundred under new sanctions from Moscow. In a television interview, Putin indicated the cutback was retaliation for new sanctions in a bill passed by Congress and sent to Trump.

Trump plans to sign the measure into law, the White House has said. After Putin’s remarks, the State Department deemed the cutbacks “a regrettable and uncalled for act” and said officials would assess the impact and how to respond to it.

While Trump is trying to refresh his team, he signaled that he does not want to give up the fight on health care. On Twitter Sunday, he said: “Don’t give up Republican Senators, the World is watching: Repeal & Replace.”

The protracted health care fight has slowed work on Trump’s other policy goals, including a tax overhaul and infrastructure investment. But Trump aides made clear that the president still wanted to see action on health care. White House budget director Mick Mulvaney said on CNN’s “State of the Union,” that senators “need to stay, they need to work, they need to pass something.”

The House has begun a five-week recess, while the Senate is scheduled to work two more weeks before a summer break.

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Associated Press writers Jonathan Lemire, Darlene Superville, Julie Bykowicz and Jill Colvin contributed to this report.

from Scaramucci out of White House job as John Kelly takes charge

US imposes sanctions on Venezuela leader

The US government has branded Venezuela’s President Nicolas Maduro “a dictator” and frozen any US assets, after he held a controversial poll to elect a constituent assembly.

Breaking News image © BBC Breaking News image

Under the sanctions, US firms and individuals are banned from doing business with Mr Maduro.

The election on Sunday was marred by violence, with widespread protests and at least 10 people killed.

President Maduro hailed the poll as a “vote for the revolution”.

The opposition coalition, which boycotted the election, said 88% of voters had abstained. It has refused to recognise the election, and called for more protests later on Monday.

Venezuela’s attorney general Luisa Ortega, a vocal critic of the Maduro government, called the vote an expression of “dictatorial ambition”.

from US imposes sanctions on Venezuela leader

Why are so many US diplomats in Russia?

Hundreds of people work for the US in Moscow and other Russian cities. What are they all doing there?

Over the weekend Russia President Vladimir Putin said that the US had to reduce its diplomatic staff in the country by more than 750 people.

It was a startling development in US-Russia relations, exposing tension between the two countries that arises from new sanctions imposed on Russia, and suspicions about meddling in the US election.

USA embassy in Moscow © Getty Images USA embassy in Moscow

For many it also raised a question: why are so many people working at the US embassy in Moscow and in other places around Russia? By some estimates, there are 1,200 US state employees in the country.

The number seems high – at first glance. Yet it makes sense for those who are working at the White House and trying to manage a challenging, tumultuous relationship with Russia.

Americans and Russians have important areas of co-operation: they’re working together to combat militant groups, assure the security of nuclear weapons in both countries, and reduce violence in Syria.

Besides that, the US exports billions of dollars worth of products to Russia every year.

But they also fight about things: aside from the controversy over election meddling, they’re trying to work out issues such Russia’s territorial ambition and its expansion in the region.

US officials say that monitoring Russia’s activities and keeping abreast with the different aspects of the relationship requires a lot of support in Moscow.

To that end, Americans in Russia are involved in a variety of undertakings – in different locations. Most work in Moscow, but some are employed in offices in Vladivostok, St Petersburg and Yekaterinburg.

In Moscow and the other cities, Americans process visa applications for Russians who want to travel to the US. In addition, they write cables to officials in Washington about human rights, labour and other matters.

Some of them work on agricultural, scientific and public-health initiatives that, for example, help to protect rare wildlife and combat infectious diseases.

Russian and american flags © Getty Images Russian and american flags

Some work in Russia for other government agencies, as the CIA and US intelligence agencies are euphemistically known.

The number of people in Russia who are employed by the US intelligence agencies is substantial, although specifics are unavailable. Georgetown University’s Angela Stent, who used to work as a national intelligence officer, laughed at the question.

“Nobody knows that,” she said.

Still most of the people who work at the embassy and in other US offices in Russia are not spies or spymasters; most, in fact, are not even US citizens. They’re Russian.

Of the 1,279 people who worked at the embassy in 2013, according to a 2013 inspector general report, 934 were locally hired.

The Russian staff help to organise events, process visas, fix computers and otherwise keep the place running. For them, Putin’s announcement was troubling.

“These people will lose their jobs,” said Yuval Weber, a fellow at the Wilson Center in Washington.

It also means that Russians will have a harder time getting visas for their trips to the US: at this point, he said, it takes two to five weeks for them to get a visa. With a reduced staff, it will take longer.

from Why are so many US diplomats in Russia?

Ala. jailbreak: Inmates used peanut butter to fool door guard

JASPER, Ala. (AP) — An Alabama sheriff says a dozen inmates escaped from his jail by using peanut butter to trick a new employee into opening an outside door.

Walker County Sheriff James Underwood said the inmates used peanut butter from jail sandwiches to change the number above an inmate’s cell to the number that identifies a door leading outside the jail. An inmate then asked the young, inexperienced jailer to open his cell’s door, enabling the group to flee outside, where they used blankets to climb over a razor-wire fence.

“It may sound crazy, but these kinds of people are crazy like a fox.” Underwood told a news conference. “He thought he was opening the cell door for this man to go in his cell, but in fact he opened up the outside door.”

“Escapes happen,” Underwood said. “We’ve got some evil people down here, and they scheme all the time to con us and our employees at the jail. You’ve got to stay on your toes. This is one time we slipped up. I’m not going to make any excuses.”

This undated photo made available by the Walker County, Ala., Sheriff's Office, shows Brady Andrew Kilpatrick. A manhunt is underway for Kilpatrick, who escaped with 11 other inmates from the Walter County jail on Sunday, July 30, 2017. All but Kilpatrick have been recaptured. (Walter County Sheriff's Office via AP) © The Associated Press This undated photo made available by the Walker County, Ala., Sheriff’s Office, shows Brady Andrew Kilpatrick. A manhunt is underway for Kilpatrick, who escaped with 11 other inmates from the Walter County jail on Sunday, July 30, 2017. All but Kilpatrick have been recaptured. (Walter County Sheriff’s Office via AP) All but one of the dozen inmates were captured within eight hours, and the sheriff said he hopes and expects the last one to be back in custody by day’s end. He said the only person seriously hurt in the entire escape incident was an inmate who sliced his thumb climbing over a razor-wire fence.

The fugitives were between 18 and 30, facing charges ranging from disorderly conduct to attempted murder.

A manhunt continued Monday for the last remaining fugitive, Bradley Andrew Kilpatrick, 24, of Cordova, who had been jailed on charges of possessing marijuana and drug paraphernalia. That search was getting some airborne help from a state helicopter.

Underwood said the escape happened about 6:20 p.m. Sunday CDT and he estimated inmates had cleared the barbed wire fence in less than 10 minutes.

from Ala. jailbreak: Inmates used peanut butter to fool door guard