Is “President Bannon” losing? The influential presidential adviser appears to be locked in a power struggle with Donald Trump’s son-in-law, Jared Kushner, such that Trump recently scolded the two. Sources say he ordered them to “Cut it out” and insisted, “We gotta work this out.” What will it mean? Observers have called it a battle for the president’s “soul,” pitting Bannon’s nationalism against Kushner’s globalism. They’ve reportedly agreed to “bury the hatchet,” but recent policies — and Bannon’s lost National Security Council status — indicate that Kushner’s views are prevailing.
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Lines were crossed. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson plans to visit Russia next Wednesday, but that’s problematic after President Donald Trump’s decision Thursday to attack Kremlin ally Syria with 59 cruise missiles. Trump said it was retaliation for “the slow and brutal deaths” of 86 “men, women and children” in Tuesday’s reported chemical attack on rebel-held Idlib. Tillerson’s called Moscow “complicit” or “incompetent” for failing to enforce a 2013 deal to remove Damascus’ chemical weapons, and on Saturday conventional airstrikes pounded the Idlib site and Russia’s sending a cruise-missile-armed frigate to Syria’s coast.
Finally, a victory. After a historic Senate rules change to prohibit a filibuster, a largely partisan Republican 54-45 vote confirmed President Trump’s Supreme Court nominee, Neil Gorsuch, restoring a conservative court majority. It happened Friday, on Trump’s 77th day in office, on the heels of a GOP failure to repeal Obamacare and a “rolling disaster” of court decisions, infighting and investigations into administration links to Russian election meddling. Gorsuch will be privately sworn in Monday, and his impact could be felt immediately on pending gun control and church-and-state cases.
It’s different when they’re guests. It was enough that the U.S. president hosted Chinese leader Xi Jinping at his Mar-a-Lago resort Thursday and Friday, considering Trump accused China of economically “raping” America during his stump speeches. After misstating economic issues, like focusing on currency manipulation when the renminbi-to-dollar exchange favored U.S. trade, it seemed Trump’s objective was to show he could master the diplomatic stage. But he did more — launching a Syrian missile strike during dinner — and that might nudge Xi toward curbing North Korean nuclear provocations.
The evidence is mounting. The man arrested after killing four people by driving a truck into a crowd of people and into a luxury department store window in Stockholm is from Uzbekistan and was carrying explosives, Swedish media report. The attack in a busy shopping area Friday afternoon also injured 15 people, nine seriously. Authorities said they arrested the terror suspect 25 miles north of the city and are investigating others in the incident involving a carjacked Swedish beer truck. As the investigation continues, Prime Minster Stefan Lofven has tightened border security.
Alabama ain’t everybody’s sweet home. Across the South, mobility between classes — that stuff American dreams are made of — lags behind other states as those who are born poor tend overwhelmingly to stay poor. Social scientists say there’s a complex interplay of contributing factors, largely tied up with racism and lingering segregation. Add to that regressive tax policies that impact the poor disproportionately, and you have a social crisis. One big step toward addressing it, experts say, is combating the attitude that poverty is a “problem that black people have.”
Sergei Magnitsky lives on. Russia denies its authorities colluded with mobsters in the 2009 prison beating and death of the lawyer investigating a $230 million tax fraud scheme, so notorious that a U.S. human rights sanctions law bears Magnitsky’s name. Independent Moscow newspaper Novaya Gazeta recently obtained a 2013 WhatsApp string in which a member of the implicated Klyuev Group “assigns” a sanctioned official to exonerate his organization. What’s next? A Magnitsky family lawyer is to testify in a related U.S. case — assuming he recovers from last month’s “fall” from his apartment window.
Egyptian Blasts Kill Coptic Worshipers, U.S Carrier Group Steams Toward North Korea and Alabama’s Cheatin’ Deacon Governor
Know This: Explosions in two Egyptian Coptic churches during a Palm Sunday services have killed at least 45 people. The U.S. is sending an aircraft carrier group to the Korean Peninsula in response to missile tests and other provocations by North Korea. A fired physical trainer has killed a co-worker and himself at a Florida fitness center. And hackers triggered all of Dallas’ 156 emergency sirens for 100 minutes ending at 1:20 this morning.
Explain This: “Gov. (Robert) Bentley … in a process characterized by increasing obsession and paranoia, subjected career law enforcement officers to tasks intended to protect his reputation.” — A special counsel’s report on the Alabama governor’s alleged cover-up of an affair with an aide. The state’s Supreme Court on Saturday allowed impeachment hearings to begin Monday.
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It transcended the genre. The Rock ’n’ Roll Hall of Fame inducted a raft of new members in a New York ceremony Friday, including such diverse artists as slain rapper Tupac Shakur and 1960s folksinger Joan Baez, who’s 76. The hall also recognized hit 70s bands Yes, ELO, which honored the late Chuck Berry by performing “Roll Over Beethoven,” and Journey — whose lead singer Steve Perry did not perform with estranged bandmates — along with 90s grunge pioneers Pearl Jam. The show will be broadcast April 29 on HBO.
His gun control involves both hands. Months on the front lines have made hipster Marxist Brace Belden, 27, one of Syria’s better-known foreign fighters. For the “Dirtbag Left” digital community, he’s the poster child of the far left’s newest generation, due to the fact that he’s fighting for a socialist quasi-state. Drawn by the ideals and military prowess of Syria’s Kurdish YPG group, Belden’s irreverent documentation of his time in the trenches has shown his fellow ideologues there are facets to Syria’s civil war that are transcending Assad, ISIS and superpower posturing.
Want a job in Italy? Get in line. Giovanni Cafaro invented an entire industry in which codisti are paid to hold others’ places at post offices, hospitals and tax offices. It’s a lucrative market, as Italians spend an average of 16 days a year queueing up. The industry’s regulated, and codisti must be trained and certified. Cafaro has created a viable form of employment for 500-odd “waiting professionals,” who make around 1,500 euros per month, with entrepreneurs in France, Germany and elsewhere in Europe clamoring for their own chance to wait.
The brain wants what it wants. Neurology has mapped the mind, but continues to lag in understanding the nexus of touch and emotions. Biologist Steven Phelps, inspired by a sexual awakening, examines the science of skin and our nervous system that allows us to feel through touch, aided by uninsulated “naked” nerve cells long known to respond to temperature, pain, tickle and itch sensations. But only recently have researchers discovered how these sensory neurons respond to being touched, which Phelps says is still best understood by lovers and poets.
He knew his enemy. When aspiring filmmaker David Crowley was shot dead in 2015, alongside his wife and child, conspiracy theorists went wild, despite local police having determined he’d killed his family and himself. Among some anti-government, alt-right believers, he’s a martyr best known for his never-finished dystopian film, Gray State, and its parallel documentary that foresaw a covert, totalitarian government. Yet months’ worth of Crowley’s detailed journals indicate a far more personal tragedy, told through psychological self-assessments, of a man suffering horrific visions while sliding into psychosis.
Must we bring back Derek Jeter? Baseball’s got an image problem: A recent survey asking for America’s favorite pro athletes had no active baseball player in the top 50, outranked even by two soccer stars. Unlike football or basketball, baseball doesn’t have a LeBron James or Tom Brady to inspire future generations — and their paying parents. While some say today’s crop of young professionals hasn’t had time to develop, others say baseball’s very culture needs to change, encouraging players to be more public for their fans, or it just might become America’s passed-over pastime.