|24th of June – Lima Charlie News U.S./Washington End-of-Week News Briefing:
Congressional #SitIn – With the exception of a few interruptions Democrats held the House floor for 25 ½ hours, since 11:30 AM on Wednesday in protest of the GOP stance on gun control. Republicans eventually called a recess, shutting off live camera feeds to #CSPAN, prompting lawmakers to reach out through social media. (D) Rep. Scott Peters live streamed coverage through #Periscope. San Bernadino Rep. Pete Aguilar was brought to tears as House members listed U.S. victims of mass shootings in the last year, while Rep. John Garamendi (D) urged #PaulRyan: “Mr. Speaker, where the hell are you? Your chair is empty. I don’t believe your heart is empty.”
House Republicans adjourned at 3 AM Thursday morning following a 239-171 vote to approve $1.1 billion to fight the Zika virus. Rep. Sten Hoyer (D-Md.) stated: “The House did not adjourn without a message being delivered. That there is an epidemic of gun violence in America and that we need to pass legislation to make America and Americans safer.” The #House won’t officially meet again until after Independence Day. The Sit-in followed a week where four proposals to restrict gun purchases were rejected; one aimed at preventing terrorism suspects, such as #OmarMateen from buying guns, and a second mandating background checks. Civil rights icon #JohnLewis attended in support including Senate Minority Leader #HarryReid and Senator #ElizabethWarren.
The sit-in represents just one of the variety of forms that protests in Congress can take. In the 2008 Summer Recess, House Republicans took similar action against Democrats opposed to voting on energy bills and, in 1995, during the government shutdown, Democrats refused to exit until the normal government services were restored.
On Thursday morning, a one-sentence decision—with no comment or dissent—delivered by a deadlocked #SCOTUS delivered a blow to the Obama Administration’s immigration plan. The Court could not rule on the legality of #POTUS immigration reform plan, and in effect, this 4-4 tie leaves the decision of a lower court in place—a Texas court which blocked the plan from taking effect. The decision denies deportation relief and work permits to +4 million immigrants living in the US illegally. The high court’s #OneLineDecision stated that the judgment of the lower court “is affirmed by an equally divided court.” Votes were not revealed, but during April oral arguments, the Court’s four conservative justices expressed their support for the Texas lawsuit charging Obama’s order as illegal. The fate of the Obama Administration’s #ImmigrationPolicy now rests in the hands of the new #POTUS2016.
At his weekly Press Conference, #SpeakerPaulRyan told reporters “This is a win for the constitution, it’s a win for Congress. Congress, not the president, writes our laws. And today the Supreme Court validated that.” At a later press conference President Obama accused Republicans of allowing partisan politics to jeopardize the issue and “America should not let it stand,” adding that in light of the death of Justice #AntoninScalia immigration issues must be resolved with potential #SCOTUS nominees such as his proposed pick #MerrickGarland.
On Tuesday, field exercises for #CentralAccord2016 kicked off, marking the largest, most complex exercise #USArmyAfrica has ever conducted on the African continent. One of its goals is to counter violent extremism across #Africa. Squads of American infantrymen from the 3rd Infantry Division were paired with soldiers from Gabon, Chad, Cameroon, and the Republic of Congo during a three-day FTX. The #82ndAirborneDivision also made an appearance, alongside French and Gabonese paratroopers, bringing together 1,000 military personnel from 14 nations in the annual event. Lt. Gen. Darryl Williams, former command of #USArmyAfrica spoke of #CentralAccord2016 when he said, “The enemy knows no boundaries, so it’s important to have good partners on the African continent.” The effort is also an exercise in #Peacekeeping, allowing nations to work together, share military tactics, and make solid progress along the way.
The US has gained one of its newest allies in the #WarOnTerror. Most notable for its presence as one of the more stable democracies in West Africa, #Senegal signed a #DefenseCooperationAgreement with the US, marking the first pact of its kind in a decade with an African nation. Through the alliance, US Forces and coalition forces aim to provide support and training to the African nation in the fight against terrorist threats. In light of the agreement, American Green Berets and Dutch Marines have trained specially selected Senegalese naval commands in marksmanship and beach landings, running drills using black Zodiac boats and M-16 rifles.
The U.S. #DepartmentOfDefense rolled out a #WhiteHatHacker program, officially known as #HackThePentagon, in an effort to identify vulnerabilities and possible threats in its public websites. Through the program +1400 hackers were invited to compete for a prize “bounty” if they could reveal “legitimate” vulnerabilities. With the results of the first ever #GovernmentBugBountyProgram officially released, Secretary of Defense #AshCarter said, “Through our 1,400 hackers, we know that state-sponsored actors and black-hat (criminal) hackers want to challenge and exploit our networks.” The program was organized by the Defense Digital Service (#DDS), the #DOD branch devoted exclusively to #Cybersecurity and yielded the following results: Of the 1,189 reports filed, 138 were categorized as valid risks and rewards were given to the #WhiteHatHackers who exposed them, yielding a total $71,200 dollar reward rate and an overall cost of $150,000 for the program. This is a fraction of the cost to hire the services of a third-party professional contractor.
#BREXIT or not to #BREXIT – And the Winner Is …
With the #EUBrexitReferendum of June 23rd upon us, the polls as of this writing indicate the results could favor leaving the #EU. #SkyNews currently forecasts the vote: 44% remain; 56% leave. The polls opened at 2 AM EST Thursday and closed 5 PM EST, allowing British citizens, and citizens of the Ireland and Commonwealth countries who live in the UK or Gibraltar to cast their votes. Unlike in many crucial US Elections, there are no #ExitPolls for the general public to view as a hint to the outcome. The big issues come down to this: For “Brexiteers,” immigration concerns top their list, and there is some overlap with the right-wing, anti-Muslim sentiment that has grown in Europe during the refugee crisis. Stopping migration within the EU is a major motivation for many “Leave” proponents. Among the voting-age population, polls demonstrate that older, white voters are more likely to support a BREXIT, while younger voters elect to stay in the #EuropeanUnion. #PMDavidCameron took to the podium at #10DowningStreet to appeal to his voters directly. He said, “[The economy] will be stronger if we stay; it will be weaker if we leave, and that is a huge risk to Britain, to British families, to British jobs and it is irreversible. There is no going back.”
On Tuesday #FederalReserveChair #JanetYellen spent the morning testifying on Capitol Hill before the #SenateBankingCommittee for the Semiannual Monetary Policy Report to #Congress. She spoke on the topics of cyber security, the Fed, job growth, and world markets. On one of the biggest events dominating world markets at the moment, #BREXIT, Yellen noted that a UK decision to leave the #EuropeanUnion would likely create major market volatility and have a ripple effect on other surrounding economies. When asked about the possibility of #BREXIT to trigger a recession in the US, Yellen remained unsure, noting, “I don’t think that is the most likely case, but we just don’t really know what will happen and we will have to watch very carefully.”
The Fed Chairwoman also said that the New York Fed “is looking at the possibility of enhanced monitoring” specifically for certain types of transactions in the wake of the cyberattack in February where $81 million was stolen from the central bank of #Bangladesh from accounts held at the New York Fed. On the topic of jobsYellen said that labor force participation has been largely flat over the past year, a sign of strength in the market because the weak job report for May is likely a mere transitory phase. “With the economy now picking up in the second quarter” the Fed chairwoman is “hopeful” there will be a commensurate increase in job growth. Fed officials, however, expect US job growth to slow from the average 200,000 per month, usually experienced in the wake of a financial crisis recovery. However, the steep drop to an average of 80,000 in April and May put the economy below the threshold necessary to accommodate new labor force entrants. When asked about Presumptive GOP Nominee #DonaldTrump and his proposal to lower the US debt by buying back securities at a discount, Yellen noted that such a decision would have severe consequences.
Baltimore Circuit Judge Barry Williams acquitted Officer Caesar Goodson Jr., the Baltimore Police van driver accused of giving #FreddieGray a “rough ride” of all charges, after three days of deliberation. Goodson, 46, was facing the most serious charges of the six officers who had been indicted, including second-degree depraved heart murder. He was acquitted on three counts of manslaughter, second-degree assault, reckless endangerment, and misconduct in office, as well. After the verdict was read, Goodson shook the hands of his fellow officers, including Officer Garrett Miller and Officer Edward Nero, who received his acquittal last month. The next trial, for Lt. Brian Rice—charged with manslaughter—is set to begin on July 7, with Officers Miller, Porter, and Sergeant Alicia White starting their trials on July 27, September 6, and October 13, respectively.
On Wednesday, the US hosted the #GlobalEntrepreneurshipSummit, marking a goal of the Obama Administration to foster the growth of young business leaders and professionals in the United States. The US hosted the first summit in Washington, D.C. in 2010, while the event has been hosted by the governments of Morocco, Turkey, the UAE, and Malaysia in subsequent years. This year’s #GES was hosted in #SiliconValley. Notable speakers included Travis Kalanick, Uber CEO, Brian Chesky, Airbnb CEO, Sundar Pichai, Google CEO, Mark Zuckerberg, Founder of Facebook, and Maria Contreras-Sweet, Adminstrator of the Small Business Administration. An estimated 16,000 participants hailing from all corners of the world have attended the six Global Entrepreneurship Summits held to date.
This week #USArmyChiefofStaff General Mark Milley discussed plans to create advise-and-assist brigades, with the hope of making the vision a reality by 2019. The current organization of the #USArmy results in leadership from a unit being separated from the unit’s soldiers when deployed overseas for training and advising. As a result, the force structure of those units is fragmented and there is dire need to #RegenerateTheForce. The concept would increase advise-and-assist brigades from the ground up, utilizing the current chain of command (sergeants and officers within infantry brigades) but not having privates or soldiers who serve below them on the hierarchy. At the Center for Strategic and International Studies in #Washington, Milley mentioned that getting the design right is the first order of business. Another key benefit for this type of brigade formation is the aid they can provide in the event of a national emergency. In this case, the Army would need to surge to high levels of strength to cope with a crisis and new recruits could train up for months to then be paired up with the soldiers to the advise-and-assist units, creating battalions and brigades. The time needed to create these units would be significantly and crucially shortened, as a result. In closing remarks, Milley said, “This idea is not hollow at all. These guys would be operationally used all the time. There is a little flavor of special forces, there is a flavor of foreign officer program.”
The #WhiteHouse announced Tuesday afternoon that Lt. Col. Charles Kettles will receive the #MedalOfHonor five decades after heroically piloting the #Hueyhelicopter that saved 44 lives in one day, on May 15, 1967. As commander in the #176thAviationCompany 14th Combat Aviation Battalion in the vicinity of Duc Pho, Vietnam’s central highlands, his platoon had dropped 80 Soldiers in a river valley, but troops were ambushed immediately. The Company, along with Kettles managed to retrieve the Soldiers back onboard and, eventually, they were airborne. Kettles originally received the Distinguished Service Cross, the nation’s second highest award for valor, but the ceremony for the Medal of Honor will be mark a well-earned upgrade for the #HeroicHueyPilot. Kettles, who earned 27 air medals while flying more than 600 missions during two tours in Vietnam said, “I give credit to the other 73 pilots and crewmembers who flew missions that day.”
Dozens of joint plaintiffs from the United States, Britain, Germany, Hungary, Israel, and Canada achieved victory, as what is likely to be one of Germany’s last Holocaust trials came to a close after four long months. On June 17th, a 94-year-old former Auschwitz guard, Reinhold Hanning, was sentenced to five years’ jail for being an accessory to the murder of at least 170,000 people. In a prepared speech, Hanning apologized to the victims, adding, “I’m ashamed that I knowingly let injustice happen and did nothing to oppose it.” While he was not charged with direct involvement, prosecutors and the plaintiffs made a compelling argument to support that he essentially helped Auschwitz sustain itself.
The photograph of Joe Rosenthal’s Pulitzer Prize-winning image of the flag-raising on #IwoJima, Japan has been indelibly imprinted upon American culture from almost the moment it was taken. This week the #USMarineCorps determined that one of those six heroic men had been misidentified for decades. The answer was discovered when looking at the manner in which Marine, Private First Class Harold Schultz, carried his rifle. Other photos from the time show him “holding his rifle with a sling that had been jury-rigged after one of the sling’s mounts likely failed earlier in the battle—explaining why the rifle was dropping so low on his back in the famous photo. In a Thursday Press Release, the Marine Corps announced, “Based upon the evidence reviewed, another Marine, Private First Class Harold Schultz, from Detroit, Mich., was the sixth man caught in the frame of what is considered the most famous war photograph.” For decades, the men in the photo were identified as Harlon Block, Rene Gagnon, Ira Hayes, Franklin Sousley, Michael Strank and John Bradley. The sixth man, as the Marine Corps. now confirms, is PFC Harold Schultz.
U.S. equities climbed higher on Thursday, awaiting the results from the historic Brexit referendum in the United Kingdom. At the end of the day, the Nasdaq Composite gained 1.6% and the Russell 2000 gained 2%. The Dow Jones Industrial Average gained 1.3%, the S&P 500 Index gained 1.3%, and treasury bonds closed in a tenuous position—the dollar was weaker, gold lost 0.5% and oil gained 2%.
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[Lima Charlie News, with Special Ops Assistance by Nikita Roach and Julia Ambros]