Trump Calls Out CNN, NBC, ABC, and CBS in Wake of Sinclair’s ‘Fake News’ Promos

Donald Trump is weighing in on Sinclair Broadcasting Group’s requirement that anchors read a prepared script about “fake news,” saying that outrage over the promotion is due to major networks fearing competition—and criticisms should instead be targeted at those news outlets.

“The Fake News Networks, those that knowingly have a sick and biased AGENDA, are worried about the competition and quality of Sinclair Broadcast,” Trump wrote in a Tweet.

It’s a curious charge given that Sinclair, which is known for its right-leaning news, has a symbiotic relationship with many of the networks Trump named. More than 80 of the broadcast group’s 173 stations are either ABC, NBC, or CBS affiliates.

[Fortune]

 

Trump keeps up Twitter assault on Amazon, this time criticizing its U.S. Postal Service contract

President Trump on Monday doubled down on his criticism of the U.S. Postal Service’s arrangement with Amazon, saying he would change how much the country’s largest online retailer pays in shipping fees.

“Only fools, or worse, are saying that our money losing Post Office makes money with Amazon,” he tweeted Monday morning. “THEY LOSE A FORTUNE, and this will be changed.”

The tweet marked the third time since Thursday Trump has lashed out against Amazon. The retailer’s stock was down 4.9 percent in morning trading.

Last week he attacked the retailer for paying “little or no taxes to state & local governments” and said the company uses “our Postal System as their Delivery Boy (causing tremendous loss to the U.S.)”

Two days later, he asserted the USPS loses an average of $1.50 on each Amazon delivery. “This Post Office *scam* must stop. Amazon must pay real costs (and taxes) now!” he tweeted.

Amazon collects local taxes in the 45 states that require it, although third-party sellers may have other arrangements.

Trump also incorrectly said The Washington Post is a lobbyist for the retailer. (The Post is personally owned by Jeffrey P. Bezos, the founder and chief executive of Amazon. The newspaper operates independently of Amazon.)

Amazon and USPS declined to comment on Trump’s tweet Monday morning.

The Postal Regulatory Commission, an independent federal agency, oversees the Postal Service’s pricing structure and reviews its contract with Amazon annually.

Amazon does receive a discount from the Postal Service, though the details of that arrangement have not been disclosed. An independent regulator reviews the contract every year to make sure it continues to be profitable for USPS.

Although Monday’s tweet was the first time the president implied he would try to change how much USPS charges Amazon, he has railed against its pricing structure in the past. In December, Trump attacked the company’s arrangement with the U.S. Postal Service and said the agency should raise the shipping rates it charges Amazon.

“Why is the United States Post Office, which is losing many billions of dollars a year, while charging Amazon and others so little to deliver their packages, making Amazon richer and the Post Office dumber and poorer?” he tweeted. “Should be charging MUCH MORE!”

A fast rise in parcel deliveries — many of them from Amazon — has helped offset some of the Postal Service’s losses in recent years. In 2017, USPS delivered 589 million more packages than it did a year earlier, amounting to an 11.4 percent growth in volume and $2.1 billion increase in revenue. (Mail volume, meanwhile, decreased by about 5 billion pieces, or 3.6 percent.) Overall, the Postal Service reported a $2.7 billion loss last year on revenue of $69.6 billion.

[Washington Post]

Trump Defends Sinclair Amid Controversy: ‘Far Superior to CNN and Even More Fake NBC’

In response to the controversy surrounding Sinclair Broadcasting Group, which went viral over the weekend, President Donald Trump came to the company’s defense, claiming on Twitter that “Sinclair is far superior to CNN and even more Fake NBC.”

Scrutiny of the company began after Deadspin video showed local anchors working at stations owned by Sinclair repeating the exact same anti-media talking points that echoed Trump’s attacks on the mainstream press. The segment was part of a new intuitive on “fake stories” that Sinclair is forcing their stations to air.

Trump predictably sided with Sinclair in the controversy, tweeting this morning, “So funny to watch Fake News Networks, among the most dishonest groups of people I have ever dealt with, criticize Sinclair Broadcasting for being biased. Sinclair is far superior to CNN and even more Fake NBC, which is a total joke.”

CNN’s media reporter Brian Stelter, who first broke the Sinclair story, responded to the president on Twitter by thanking him for watching CNN.

[Mediaite]

Media

Trump just called off a deal on DACA

On Sunday, a little more than an hour after tweeting “HAPPY EASTER!” to his 49.8 million followers, President Donald Trump appeared to call off a major immigration deal.

“Republicans must go to Nuclear Option to pass tough laws NOW. NO MORE DACA DEAL!” the president wrote, in part, referring to the Democrat-led initiative to protect the children of unauthorized immigrants from deportation. That was the first tweet, which seemed to call for the end of the filibuster in the Senate to pass tougher immigration laws and for the end of negotiations to get a deal on DACA.

The other two — where the president declared that people in Mexico were laughing at America’s immigration laws, and suggested that the international trade deal NAFTA might have something to do with that — seemed designed to further stoke traditional conservative fears that surround immigration.

These tweets are mostly typical rhetoric for Trump: He’s prone to suggesting that more immigration will lead to more crime and violence despite decades of evidence that more immigration does not correlate with more crime and may actually lead to less crime.

The DACA part, however, is new. Previously, Trump actually threatened to veto a budget deal — and shut down the government — in part because it didn’t include a deal on DACA recipients. Now he’s saying prospects for a deal are done.

Trump seems increasingly frustrated his agenda isn’t moving forward

According to a recent report from the Washington Post, the president has been frustrated that his proposed wall at the US-Mexico border hasn’t gotten much traction — lately, he’s turned to privately lobbying for the military to pay for it. As Tara Golshan explained for Vox, the military likely won’t be able to take up Trump’s request, because the money it’s been given by Congress is allocated for specific programs that aren’t the wall.

Trump’s new tweets also appear to come in response to reports that a huge caravan of Central Americans is making its way through Mexico to the US. The group is reportedly fleeing poverty, violence, and political unrest in the region, hoping to get asylum once they make it to America — although some have said they’ll cross the border illegally if necessary.

It’s unclear how federal officials will ultimately respond to the caravan. But Trump, at least, is using the moment to push for tougher immigration laws.

[Vox]

Trump continues attacks on Amazon, Washington Post

President Donald Trump is continuing his attack against Amazon, accusing the company of scamming the US Postal Service.

“While we are on the subject, it is reported that the U.S. Post Office will lose $1.50 on average for each package it delivers for Amazon. That amounts to Billions of Dollars,” Trump tweeted Saturday morning.

“The Failing N.Y. Times reports that ‘the size of the company’s lobbying staff has ballooned,’ and that……does not include the Fake Washington Post, which is used as a ‘lobbyist’ and should so REGISTER,” the President wrote. “If the P.O. ‘increased its parcel rates, Amazon’s shipping costs would rise by $2.6 Billion.'”

He added, “This Post Office scam must stop. Amazon must pay real costs (and taxes) now.”

Is it a ‘scam’?

The Postal Service is losing money, but its package delivery service is profitable, unlike its letter delivery.

The Postal Service is required by law to cover its costs for delivering competitive products, such as packages for Amazon, and the Postal Regulatory Commission, which oversees the service, set the appropriate share of those costs at 5.5% a little more than a decade ago.

Since then, the service’s deliveries of those products have grown substantially, and the United Parcel Service argued in a submission to the commission in 2015 that a realistic appropriate share of costs for delivering packages should be about 24.6%.

A Citigroup analysis last year found that that difference would amount to about $1.46 per parcel, which might serve as the basis for Trump’s $1.50 figure. An op-ed penned in July by Josh Sandbulte in the Wall Street Journal cited that analysis in arguing the Postal Service’s estimate of costs for delivering packages should be revised. Sandbulte is co-president of Greenhaven Associates, a money management firm that owns FedEx common stock.

In response, US Postal Service executive Joseph Corbett wrote that the op-ed provided an “inaccurate and unfair account,” and that the Postal Regulatory Commission has determined each year that the service is covering its costs for package deliveries.

Corbett asserted the Postal Service’s financial insolvency is the result of its inability to overcome “systemic financial imbalances caused by legal and other constraints,” such as a price cap on revenue-producing products that doesn’t take changes in delivery volumes and costs into account.

The Postal Service’s biggest money problem is that it has billions in retirement obligations to its workers that it can’t afford.

So what does Amazon pay?

Amazon pays the US post office to deliver packages to customers’ doors, including on Sundays, and because Amazon ships so many packages though the post office, it’s charged at a lower rate than most customers, CNN has reported. But Amazon does not receive a special rate; it pays the rate that the post office charges other bulk shippers.

Neither Amazon nor the post office has disclosed the details of its agreement, but the Postal Service says the deal is mutually beneficial.

On Thursday, Trump tweeted another accusation about Amazon not paying “taxes to state & local governments” and “putting many thousands of retailers out of business.”

Amazon collects sales tax in every state that charges one and remits it to the states, which is nearly every state. Amazon also pays local property taxes on its distribution centers as well as on the Whole Foods stores it purchased last year.

Amazon maintains it helps small businesses in a tough retail climate, helping vendors reach a mass audience.

This isn’t the first time Trump has accused The Washington Post of being a lobbying arm of Amazon. While both companies are owned by Jeff Bezos, Amazon does not have a stake in The Washington Post.

[CNN]

Trump escalates attack on Amazon, slams it on taxes, shipping

U.S. President Donald Trump on Thursday blasted Amazon.com Inc (AMZN.O) with a list of complaints, a day after news website Axios reported that Trump wants to curb the mega retailer’s growing power using federal antitrust laws and led its shares to fall almost 5 percent.

“I have stated my concerns with Amazon long before the Election. Unlike others, they pay little or no taxes to state & local governments, use our Postal System as their Delivery Boy (causing tremendous loss to the U.S.), and are putting many thousands of retailers out of business!” Trump said in a post on Twitter early on Thursday.

Amazon founder and chairman, Jeff Bezos, also privately owns the Washington Post, which won a Pulitzer Prize last year for its investigation of Trump’s donations to charities. The probe found that many of Trump’s philanthropic claims were exaggerated and often were not charitable donations.

Still, White House Deputy Press Secretary Raj Shah shot down the notion that Trump’s criticism was part of a personal grudge.

“A lot of people have made this, with respect to Amazon, about personalities and the CEO at Amazon – we’re talking about Jeff Bezos here,” he said on Thursday on the Fox News Channel. “It’s really about policy.”

Shah reiterated that Trump was not making specific policy changes.

“There are a number of proposals that have worked their ways through the House and the Senate or have been considered by the House and the Senate. He’d be supportive of such efforts,” he said.

Trump’s claims about Amazon’s state and local tax payments have been met with skepticism. While the company was once criticized for attempting to skirt state sales taxes, it currently has a reputation as a leader in collecting the levies, which can vary from state to state.

Legally pursuing Amazon could affect more than its share price, which was largely steady after Trump’s tweet. Amazon is currently in the process of establishing a $5 billion second headquarters which could bring 50,000 new jobs to the location it selects. In January, it winnowed the list of possible locations down to 20 metropolitan areas.

Apart from nationwide goods deliveries, Amazon’s services include video streaming, a digital home assistant known as Alexa, and an online payments program.

[Yahoo]

Reality

Trump was informed many times that the Postal Service actually makes money from Amazon, a lot, but he refuses to accept this information

Trump Tweeted Pictures Claiming “The Start” Of His Border Wall, But It Was Actually An Old Project

President Trump on Wednesday tweeted that he had been briefed about “the start of our Southern Border WALL” and included pictures depicting construction for the project, but there was one slight problem with the announcement.

The images tweeted by the president were not of his long-promised wall, but a months-long project to replace existing portions of a wall along Calexico, California.

The project, which started in 2009, will replace a 2.25-mile section in the California-Mexico border wall, according to a statement last month from US Customs and Border Protection.

The original wall in that section, built in the 1990s, had been built from recycled metal scraps and old landing mat materials, the agency said.

“Although the existing wall has proven effective at deterring unlawful cross border activity, smuggling organizations damaged and breached this outdated version of a border wall several hundred times during the last two years,” CBP said.

The project will replace the old wall with a 30-foot-high, bollard-style structure.

A DHS official told BuzzFeed News that Trump did meet with Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen and US Customs and Border Protection Commissioner Kevin McAleenan on Wednesday afternoon, but did not provide details of the briefing.

The White House did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Trump’s tweet, or his briefing with DHS officials.

[Buzzfeed]

Trump moves to ban most transgender troops

President Donald Trump on Friday issued orders to ban transgender troops who require surgery or significant medical treatment from serving in the military except in select cases — following through on a controversial pledge last year that has been under review by the Pentagon and fought out in the courts.

The memorandum states that while the secretary of defense and other executive branch officials will have some latitude in implementing the policy, “persons with a history or diagnosis of gender dysphoria — including individuals who the policies state may require substantial medical treatment, including medications and surgery — are disqualified from military service except under limited circumstances.”

The document provides few details about how the ban will be implemented, what will happen to those who are currently serving and under which limited circumstances transgender troops may be able to serve.

The memo also said that Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis, “in the exercise of his independent judgment, has concluded [the policies] should be adopted by the Department of Defense.”

It added that “the Secretary of Homeland Security concurs with these policies with respect to the U.S. Coast Guard,” which would also be affected by the policy.

In a subsequent statement, the White House press office explained that the policy was “developed through extensive study by senior uniformed and civilian leaders, including combat veterans.”

“The experts’ study sets forth a policy to enhance our military’s readiness, lethality, and effectiveness,” it continued, adding that officials “concluded that the accession or retention of individuals with a history or diagnosis of gender dysphoria — those who may require substantial medical treatment, including through medical drugs or surgery — presents considerable risk to military effectiveness and lethality.”

“This new policy will enable the military to apply well-established mental and physical health standards — including those regarding the use of medical drugs — equally to all individuals who want to join and fight for the best military force the world has ever seen,” the White House statement concluded.

LGBT advocates who have sought to head off such a move in the courts swiftly slammed the decision, calling it “appalling, reckless and unpatriotic.”

“Donald Trump and Mike Pence are literally wreaking havoc on the lives of our military families,” said Ashley Broadway-Mack, president of the American Military Partner Association. “This unconscionable attack on our military families cannot stand — we refuse to allow it.”

[Politico]

Trump touts $1.6B for wall funding, blasts ‘Dem giveaways’

President Trump marked the $1.3 trillion budget agreement Wednesday night by touting funding for a wall on the southern border while blasting “Dem giveaways.”

“Got $1.6 Billion to start Wall on Southern Border, rest will be forthcoming,” Trump tweeted.

Most importantly, got $700 Billion to rebuild our Military, $716 Billion next year…most ever. Had to waste money on Dem giveaways in order to take care of military pay increase and new equipment.”

Trump also added that, “Democrats refused to take care of DACA. Would have been so easy, but they just didn’t care. I had to fight for Military and start of Wall.”

The Trump administration ended DACA — Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals — last year. The program protected nearly 800,000 young undocumented immigrants brought to the US as children from deportation.

[New York Post]

Reality

From Daily Kos.

Donald Trump is trying to sell the spending bill as a victory for his precious border wall. As is so often the case, he’s lying and the real question is whether he’s lying more to himself or more to the rest of us. Trump tweeted that “Got $1.6 Billion to start Wall on Southern Border, rest will be forthcoming.” In reality:

… Democrats pointed out that only $641 million of that money is designated for 33 miles of “new fencing or levees” ― specifically not a concrete wall. The rest of the money is for repairing or replacing existing fencing or border security technology.

Not just Democrats, though:

“Are we going to continue to fund sanctuary cities? Are we going to continue to fund Planned Parenthood? Are we going to continue to raise the debt to levels that quite frankly are unsustainable and bankrupt our country?” [House Freedom Caucus Chair Mark Meadows] said. “There is really no wall funding. People will try to spin it as there is wall funding, but the [$1.6 billion] has been in there for some time.”

Notes, emails reveal Trump appointees’ war to end HHS teen pregnancy program

The Trump administration’s abrupt cancellation of a federal program to prevent teen pregnancy last year was directed by political appointees over the objections of career experts in the Department of Health and Human Services, which administers the program, according to internal notes and emails obtained by NBC News.

The trove shows three appointees with strict pro-abstinence beliefs — including Valerie Huber, the then-chief of staff for the department’s Office of the Assistant Secretary for Health — guided the process to end a program many medical professionals credit with helping to bring the nation’s teen pregnancy rate to an all-time low.

Prior to serving at HHS, Huber was the president of Ascend, an association that promotes abstinence until marriage as the best way to prevent teen pregnancy.

The $213 million Teen Pregnancy Prevention Program was aimed at helping teenagers understand how to avoid unwanted pregnancies. It had bipartisan support in Congress and trained more than 7,000 health professionals and supported 3,000 community-based organizations since its inception in 2010.

In the notes provided to NBC News, Evelyn Kappeler, who for eight years has led the Office of Adolescent Health, which administers the program, repeatedly expressed concerns about terminating the program, but appeared out of the decision-making loop and at one point was driven to tears.

In a July 17, 2017 note, she says she was admonished to “get in line” and told it was not her place to ask questions about the agency’s use of funds. In a July 28 note, Kappeler recalled she was “frustrated about the time this process is taking and the fact that (her staff) has not been part of the discussions.” She described being “so rattled” that “my reaction when I got on (sic) the phone was to cry.”

She and her staff “were not aware of the grant action until the last minute” — an apparent reference to the decision, it says.

Last month, Democracy Forward, a nonprofit law firm and advocacy group, sued the administration for unlawfully terminating the program after the agency took months to respond to its Freedom of Information Act request.

The group claims the newly obtained emails show that HHS violated the Administrative Procedure Act that bars arbitrary decision-making and that the political appointees thwarted the will of Congress.

“Now that we’ve seen these documents, there is no question to us why the Trump administration withheld” the emails, said Skye Perryman, the group’s lawyer. The decision to end the program “was made hastily, without a record of any reasoned decision making and under the influence of political appointees who have long opposed evidenced-based policy,” she said.

Parties suing over the action include the city of Baltimore and the Healthy Teen Network, which represents grantees across the country.

HHS has given different explanations about its decision to terminate the program, including claims that it was ineffective or that it did not conform to the president’s proposed budget. HHS did not respond to emails or answer questions about who was responsible for ending the program.

HHS spokesman Mark Vafiades directed NBC News to a fact sheet and announcement on the agency’s website. They state that 73 percent of the projects funded by the program “had no impact or had a negative impact on teen behavior, with some teens more likely to begin having sex, to engage in unprotected sex or to become pregnant.”

“The evidence stands in stark contrast to the promised results,” the statement says.

The story behind the program’s demise is one of a growing list of examples of the control Trump political appointees are exerting at federal agencies.

It is also part of a broader narrative about programs benefiting women and children becoming political targets under a president who insists he is an advocate for women’s rights and health. Under Trump, a mandate under the Affordable Care Act to cover contraceptive coverage has been rolled back, while Republicans in Congress have sought to defund Planned Parenthood and proposed budget cuts to Medicaid, which covers half of all births.

In July 2017, the Office of Adolescent Health notified 81 grantees including the University of New Mexico Health Sciences Center and Cuyahoga County, Ohio, that it would be discontinuing funding under the Obama-era program beginning this June, with some programs cut off immediately.

After the program’s 2010 inception, teen pregnancy and birth rates fell faster than ever. Health care experts say considerable research and money that has already been invested in the program will be wasted and the number of at-risk teens will increase.

The president of the American College of Obstetricians & Gynecologists and women’s health advocacy groups, such as Planned Parenthood, have expressed alarm.

Haywood L. Brown, president of ACOG, called the program “vital.” The administration’s decision, Brown said in a statement, is “highly unusual” and a “step backward for ensuring healthy moms and healthy babies.”

In an op-ed last year, Ron Haskins, previously a Republican co-chair of a bipartisan commission on evidence-based policy making established by House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wis., said that by ending the program, Trump has “exploded one of our most promising evidence-based programs.”

In a June 21 note by Kappeler, Steven Valentine, Huber’s deputy, is described as having “taken the lead” in reversing the program. Valentine directed Kappeler to halt the review process for the grants, the notes say.

Before coming to HHS, Valentine was a legislative assistant to Rep. Chris Smith, R-N.J., an outspoken abortion rights opponent. Valentine also worked for a short time at the Susan B. Anthony List, a political organization that supports candidates who oppose abortion rights.

Don Wright, a senior career official at HHS, stated in a July 28 email to Kappeler that he himself was only “tangentially” involved in the discussions about the program’s termination. But one set of notes documents him instructing skeptical career staff members on the appropriate behavior of civil servants. He later complained to Kappeler about “rolling of the eyes by some staff,” her notes say.

Weeks later, Wright was made acting secretary of the department.

Also according Kappeler’s notes, some staff “expressed concerns about being able to ask questions in this environment and the lack of engagement by policy staff directly with the program office.”

Kappeler’s memos “are quite revealing of the agency’s improper and unlawful decision making,” said Perryman, Democracy Forward’s lawyer.

“The documents also show HHS disregarded the views of experienced career employees including those of the director of the Office of Adolescent Health,” she said.

Another appointee involved in terminating the teen pregnancy program was Teresa Manning, an anti-abortion activist and Trump appointee who was in charge of the department’s family planning programs and who has publicly questioned the efficacy of several popular contraception methods. She was previously a lobbyist for the National Right to Life Committee and for the Family Research Council. In January, Manning abruptly resigned.

In November, HHS announced a $10 million research initiative to ensure “any sex education programs follow the science to improve youth health and well-being,” including “sexual risk avoidance.”

Despite their popularity in some conservative regions and school districts, abstinence-only programs have been shown not to work.

A June 2005 study conducted by Case Western Reserve University found that the sexual education programs that Huber ran in Ohio promoting abstinence-only education had “critical problems.” The study suggested the program conveyed “false and misleading information” about abortion, contraceptives and sexually transmitted infections and misrepresented “religious convictions as scientific fact.”

In King County, Washington — one of the parties in the suit challenging the program’s termination — grantees created a 15-lesson sex education curriculum known as Family Life and Sexual Health (FLASH).

The FLASH program educates students on options including abstinence, the use of birth control and the importance of consent before engaging in sexual activity. It is now used in 44 states and taught in every school district in King County, which has seen a 63 percent drop in teen pregnancies since 2008.

King County was granted $5 million to conduct the first scientific evaluation of the FLASH program, and now it is unable to complete the study. The $3 million already spent is now wasted taxpayer dollars, according to King County spokesman James Apa.

[NBC News]

Reality

Data shows clearly that abstinence-only education as a state policy is ineffective in preventing teenage pregnancy and may actually be contributing to the high teenage pregnancy rates in the U.S

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