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Another classified memo released…Congress back in DC…Syria violence

WASHINGTON (AP) – The battle of the classified memos continues with Democrats on the House Intelligence Committee trying to undercut a GOP claim that the FBI and Justice Department conspired against Donald Trump during his presidential campaign. The Democrats have released a blacked out version of their memo claiming there were substantial reasons for the government to pursue the Russia investigation. The GOP claims that investigators abused a secret surveillance process to spy on one of Trump’s operatives.

WASHINGTON (AP) – Members of Congress are returning to work after a 10-day break, and they’re under great pressure to respond to the outcry over gun violence. But no plan appears ready to take off despite a long list of proposals, including some from President Donald Trump. Republican leaders have been silent for days as Trump tossed out a string of ideas, including arming teachers and raising the minimum age to purchase assault-style weapons.

BEIRUT (AP) – Syrian opposition activists and residents of Damascus say the city and its embattled eastern suburbs are relatively calm following the U.N. Security Council’s unanimous approval of a resolution demanding a 30-day cease-fire across Syria. The activists reported few violations including some clashes on the southern edge of the rebel-held suburbs, known as eastern Ghouta, as well as airstrikes and shelling that killed three after the resolution was adopted with at least two people killed.

PYEONGCHANG, South Korea (AP) – The overtly political 2018 Winter Olympics closed Sunday night very much as they began. Humanity’s finest athletes marched exuberantly across the world stage as three nations with decades of bloodshed among them shared a VIP box – and a potential path toward peace. The daughter of U.S. President Donald Trump, top North Korean official Kim Yong Chol and South Korean President Moon Jae-in sat together as South Korea’s presidential office said Pyongyang was willing to hold talks with Washington.

PYEONGCHANG, South Korea (AP) – A North Korean envoy making a rare visit to South Korea said Sunday that his country was willing to open talks with the United States, a rare step toward diplomacy between enemies after a year of North Korean missile and nuclear tests and direct threats of war from both Pyongyang and Washington. Kim Yong Chol was in South Korea for the end of the Olympics. He said North Korean leader Kim Jong Un wanted to improve ties with Washington and had “ample intentions to hold talks.”

 

Manafort’s Banks Could Face Questions…Maryland, DC AGs Expand Suit Against Trump…Suburb Attacks Ramp Up in Damascus

NEW YORK (AP) – Some banks could be pulled into the legal tangle surrounding special prosecutor Robert Mueller’s investigation into possible Russian ties to President Donald Trump. Recently filed federal charges against former campaign chairman Paul Manafort could spell trouble for the banks that loaned him millions against his New York real estate. The most serious exposure may be for a Rhode Island-based bank that employed a “conspirator” in Manafort’s alleged scheme to get a loan he couldn’t afford.

DENVER (AP) – President Donald Trump’s flirtation with some modest gun control measures following the Florida school shootings has gun owners who voted for him in droves in 2016 using words like desertion and betrayal. Some gun rights advocates fear he’s strayed from his pledge to be a champion for the Second Amendment. Trump has not yet formally proposed any legislative plan and he spent much of the week endorsing the notion of arming teachers and school officials – a plan the gun lobby supports.

WASHINGTON (AP) – Attorneys general of Maryland and the District of Columbia are expanding their lawsuit accusing President Donald Trump of accepting gifts from foreign and state governments, suing him not only as president but in his personal capacity as a businessman. Legal experts say the move Friday takes the “emoluments” clause of the Constitution into uncharted legal waters, since it has been interpreted as only applying to presidents in their official capacity.

DAMASCUS, Syria (AP) – The Syrian government is escalating attacks on opposition-held suburbs of Damascus. Meanwhile, rebels in outlying towns are retaliating with volleys of mortar shells and rockets into the capital. In the past two weeks, more than 25 civilians have been killed, with fear spreading among the city’s 4 million residents.

PYEONGCHANG, South Korea (AP) – Ivanka Trump has told South Korea’s president that she will use her visit to the Winter Olympics to advocate maximum pressure on North Korea to halt its nuclear program. The daughter of President Donald Trump is leading the U.S. delegation at this weekend’s closing ceremony for the Pyeongchang Games. South Korean President Moon Jae-in, however, stressed how the Olympics have helped lower tensions between the two Koreas.

Teachers Return to Parkland School…Trump Floats Age Restrictions for Semi-Autos…Syrian Bombardment Continues

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. (AP) – One geography instructor says “our new normal has yet to be defined” as he prepares to return, along with other teachers, to the Florida high school where a former student is accused of killing 17 people with an assault-type rifle. Teachers will be allowed to collect belongings from classrooms that have been off-limits since the slayings. It comes as the grieving community grapples with a revelation that the armed officer on campus did nothing to try to stop the shooter.

WASHINGTON (AP) – President Donald Trump says the National Rifle Association will eventually come aboard with his endorsement of a plan to bar those under 21 from buying semi-automatic weapons. As things stand now, he is in direct conflict with the NRA, which opposes the idea. His comments Thursday came amid a public reckoning over school gun violence after last week’s Florida school massacre. Trump says Congress will eventually back it too.

BANGKOK (AP) – Human rights groups say authorities in Myanmar are destroying “crime scenes” that contain evidence of atrocities committed by the nation’s security forces against Rohingya Muslims forced to flee to neighboring Bangladesh. New satellite imagery of Myanmar’s Rakhine state shows the government is using bulldozers to completely flatten dozens of villages burned during violence last year. The Rohingya believe the government is trying to stop their return by erasing remnants of their culture.

BEIRUT (AP) – Syrian government warplanes supported by Russia have pressed ahead with their bombardment of the rebel-controlled eastern suburbs of Damascus for the sixth day Friday, killing five people, opposition activists and a war monitor say. The death toll from the past week has climbed to over 400, overwhelming rescuers and doctors at hospitals.

WASHINGTON (AP) – Republican mega-donor Sheldon Adelson has proposed paying for at least part of the new U.S. embassy in Jerusalem and the Trump administration is considering the offer. U.S. officials say State Department lawyers are looking into the legality of the highly unconventional proposal to cover the embassy’s costs through private donations. The discussions are occurring as the new embassy moves closer to reality. Officials say Secretary of State Rex Tillerson has approved a security plan for the move.