Diplomats instructed to ‘avoid eye contact’ with Tillerson: report – BY BROOKE SEIPEL – 03/30/17 11:22 PM EDT


Getty

Secretary of State Rex Tillerson has remained relatively removed from President Trump’s administration and his own department, a new report by The Washington Post says, adding that many diplomats have yet to meet him and some have been told to avoid eye contact.

The Post report reads:

“Most of his interactions are with an insular circle of political aides who are new to the State Department. Many career diplomats say they still have not met him, and some have been instructed not to speak to him directly — or even make eye contact.”

Tillerson has kept a low profile since the inauguration. He has made very few remarks to the press and opted not to travel with a press pool.

Earlier this month, Tillerson stood by his decision not to allow reporters to travel with him on his trip to Asia, calling himself “not a big media press access person.”

Erin McPike of the right-leaning Independent Journal Review — the only reporter selected by State to travel with Tillerson — pressed the diplomat about his decision in an interview.

McPike noted China restricts press access and asked whether he’s concerned about the the message he’s sending.

Tillerson claimed the decision not to allow more reporters had to do with a desire to save money, saying the plane “flies faster, allows me to be more efficient” with fewer people on it.

Tillerson also skipped the customary visits to overseas State employees and their families during his travels, the Post reported.

http://thehill.com/blogs/blog-briefing-room/news/326655-diplomats-instructed-to-avoid-eye-contact-with-tillerson-report

POTUS on the warpath against Freedom Caucus – BY JORDAN FABIAN AND JONATHAN EASLEY – 03/30/17 07:06 PM EDT


POTUS on Thursday launched an extraordinary attack against conservative Republicans who thwarted the party’s healthcare plan, escalating an intra-party feud that could threaten the rest of his legislative agenda.

In a string of tweets, Trump threatened to back primary challenges against members of the hard-line House Freedom Caucus if they continue to oppose party leaders. He also named and shamed the group’s chairman, Rep. Mark Meadows (R-N.C.), and two other prominent group members for what he said is their efforts to derail ObamaCare repeal and tax reform.

“If @RepMarkMeadows, @Jim_Jordan and @Raul_Labrador would get on board we would have both great healthcare and massive tax cuts & reform,” the president tweeted.

“Where are @RepMarkMeadows, @Jim_Jordan and @Raul_Labrador? #RepealANDReplace #Obamacare.”

House conservatives fought back, furious at the president for picking the fight at a time when congressional Republicans are trying to move past last week’s bitter legislative defeat.

“Most people don’t take well to being bullied,” Rep. Justin Amash (R-Mich.), a Freedom Caucus member, told reporters. “It’s constructive in fifth grade. It may allow a child to get his way, but that’s not how our government works.”

Freedom Caucus members argued Thursday that they did Trump a favor by sinking the American Health Care Act, which was reviled by grassroots conservatives and failed to attract support from even some moderate members of the GOP conference.

Rep. Raul Labrador (R-Idaho), who was named by Trump, shot back over Twitter.

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Who Is Narendra Modi? By Kanchan Chandra March 30, 2017


JONATHAN ERNST / REUTERS Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi at the White House, June 2016.

On March 19, a short man in saffron robes and a monk’s shaven head was sworn in as chief minister of the Indian state of Uttar Pradesh. UP is India’s largest state, with a population larger than that of Russia. It had just held elections for its legislative assembly, and Prime Minister Narendra Modi’Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) had taken 312 of 403 seats, securing the biggest majority any party had won in the state in four decades. Yogi Adityanath, as the saffron-robed monk is known, was Modi’s hand-picked nominee to lead Uttar Pradesh’s new government. He is the head priest of a monastic order in northeastern India and an aggressive advocate for Hindu nationalism.

The appointment of a religious leader as the chief of a state government is unprecedented in Indian politics. The BJP has often included members of the Hindu clergy in its mobilization campaigns, but it has generally kept religious figures away from executive positions. (An exception is the Hindu nun Uma Bharti, who is now a cabinet minister in Modi’s government and served as chief minister of the state of Madhya Pradesh from 2003 to 2004; unlike Adityanath, Bharti does not head a religious organization.)

Indian newspapers exploded with astonishment when the BJP announced Adityanath’s appointment—not only because of his background but also because of the timing of his selection. The elections in Uttar Pradesh were the first state contest since November, when the Modi government demonetized high-value Indian banknotes in an attempt to curb illicit transactions, and the BJP’s victory seemed to reflect a popular endorsement of Modi’s reforms. Modi himself suggested as much: the election, he said in a speech in Delhi, marked the dawn of a new India, in which citizens would vote to advance development rather than identity-based issues.

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Mike Flynn Offers to Testify in Exchange for Immunity – WSJ


Mike Flynn, President Donald Trump’s former national security adviser, has told the FBI and congressional committees investigating the Trump campaign’s potential ties to Russia that he is willing to be interviewed in exchange for a grant of immunity from prosecution, according to officials with knowledge of the matter.

Source: Mike Flynn Offers to Testify in Exchange for Immunity – WSJ

Scarlett Johansson and the perils of white feminism – Diep Tran – WEDNESDAY, MAR 29, 2017 04:00 PM PDT


By starring in “Ghost in the Shell,” Johansson shows that her intersectional feminism stops at her bottom line

Scarlett Johansson and the perils of white feminism

Ever since Donald Trump was elected, well-meaning white liberals have made their feelings known about where they stand in today’s divisive, bigoted climate: They are allies. They will wear safety pins and show up to at protests in order to show people of color, LGBTQ+ folks and other underrepresented groups that white people stand with them, too.

Scarlett Johansson is one of those people. In January she was one of the speakers at the Women’s March on Washington, an event coordinated by women of color and whose platform emphasized intersectionality. At the march, she addressed Trump, saying, “I ask you to support all women and our fight for equality in all things, including the fight to be recognized as individuals.”

It’s a lovely sentiment, one that is worth supporting. Except I’m not sure she really means it.

A few weeks later in an interview with Marie Claire, Johansson commented on the “Ghost in the Shell” whitewashing controversy. When asked whether she felt the charge of whitewashing with regard to her playing a Japanese character was fair, she answered, “I certainly would never presume to play another race of a person. Diversity is important in Hollywood, and I would never want to feel like I was playing a character that was offensive.”

And then she pivoted: “Also, having a franchise with a female protagonist driving it is such a rare opportunity. Certainly, I feel the enormous pressure of that — the weight of such a big property on my shoulders.”

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North Carolina Lawmakers, Governor Announce ‘Compromise’ To Repeal ‘Bathroom Bill’ – JAMES DOUBEK March 30, 20173:11 AM ET


Cassandra Thomas of Human Rights Campaign holds a sign advocating the repeal of HB2 on Dec. 7 in Charlotte.
Brian Gomsak/AP Images for Human Rights Campaign

Brian Gomsak/AP Images for Human Rights Campaign

Republican lawmakers and the Democratic governor of North Carolina say they’ve reached a deal to repeal the controversial “bathroom bill” that restricts the abilities of transgender people to use the restroom corresponding to their gender identity.

But LGBT activists quickly denounced the proposed bill, which would limit the ability of local officials to extend protections to transgender people for at least four years.

The measure is set to be debated and voted on Thursday by state lawmakers, though it’s reportedly not sure to pass. Democrats are divided on the bill, WUNC’s Jeff Tiberii reports, and the vote is expected to be close.

Republican leaders Rep. Tim Moore and Sen. Phil Berger of North Carolina’s General Assembly said in a statement late Wednesday: “Compromise requires give and take from all sides, and we are pleased this proposal fully protects bathroom safety and privacy.”

According to Moore and Berger, the bill leaves regulation of “multi-occupancy facilities to the state,” and puts in place a “temporary moratorium on local ordinances similar to Charlotte’s until December 1, 2020 to allow federal litigation to play out.”

Democrat Roy Cooper, who eked out a win over former Republican Gov. Pat McCrory in November’s election, said he supports the bill. “It’s not a perfect deal, but it repeals House Bill 2 and begins to repair our reputation,” the governor said in a statement.

The agreement was reached shortly before a deadline which would have caused North Carolina to lose the option of hosting NCAA basketball championships, Reuters reports.

The college athletic association and other civic and business groups had taken steps to sanction or boycott North Carolina because of the law.

Lawmakers passed HB2 in March 2016 under Gov. McCrory. It requires transgender people to use the bathroom corresponding to the gender on their birth certificate in government buildings. The law also limits localities’ ability to pass nondiscrimination protections for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people.

State lawmakers passed the measure in response to a Charlotte ordinance that would have protected the rights of transgender people to use restrooms corresponding to their gender identity.

Chad Griffin, president of the LGBT rights organization Human Rights Campaign, tweeted that the deal was a “state-wide prohibition on equality” and “doubles down on discrimination.”

Any ally of the LGBTQ community cannot support this new version of #HB2. There will be political consequences for those who do, Dem and Rep.

— Chad Griffin (@ChadHGriffin) March 30, 2017

Previous deals to repeal HB2 have fallen apart.

Earlier this week, The Associated Press estimated that a continuation of HB2 would cost North Carolina $3.76 billion over the course of 12 years.