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POLSKA УКРАЇНА - My - Polacy, ale żyjemy w Ukrainie

Democratic Senators at Odds With Trump Over Chinese Trademarks

Democratic senators are protesting the Trump Organization’s acceptance of a valuable trademark from the Chinese government without asking Congress first if doing so is constitutional.

A group of 13 senators warned President Donald Trump in a letter Thursday that they intended to hold him accountable to his oath to uphold the U.S. Constitution. Additional Democrats signed a letter Friday to Secretary of State Rex Tillerson that complained about Trump getting special treatment from China.

“A president must not have two masters,” said Thursday’s letter, led by Connecticut Democrat Richard Blumenthal. “If you continue to refuse to request and receive congressional approval before accepting favors from foreign governments, we will be unable to serve our constitutional role. Such a situation is unacceptable.”

The letters came in response to China’s February 14 registration of a trademark for construction services to Trump. He secured the mark only after fighting for 10 grinding years in China’s courts to win back rights from a man named Dong Wei. A bureaucratic about-face after Trump declared his candidacy has raised questions about whether his political rise is benefiting his family business. These concerns are particularly sharp in China, where the courts and bureaucracy reflect the will of the ruling Communist Party.

Emoluments clause

Critics say the trademark award violates the emoluments clause of the U.S. Constitution, which bars public servants from accepting anything of value from foreign states unless approved by Congress. While the actual value of Trump’s China trademarks is unclear, Trump himself has said he spent hundreds of thousands of dollars defending them. Trump has significant intellectual property interests abroad, including 49 pending and 77 registered trademarks in China alone. Most come up for renewal during his term.

Alan Garten, chief legal officer of the Trump Organization, did not immediately respond Friday to a request for comment. He has previously said that Trump’s trademark activity in China predates his election. Garten has also noted that Trump turned management of his company over to his children and a team of executives in order to remove himself from his business and its trademark portfolio.

Last week, Democratic Senator Dianne Feinstein of California called the China trademark registration “a clear conflict of interest and deeply troubling.” Feinstein is a signatory to both of this week’s letters, too.

“At a time when the United States has pressing economic, diplomatic and security concerns at play in our relationship with the People’s Republic of China, the possibility that the government of China is seeking to win President Trump’s favor by granting him special treatment for his businesses is disturbing,” said the letter to Tillerson, also signed by Senators Ben Cardin of Maryland and Jack Reed of Rhode Island.

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Republicans Work on Plan to Replace Obamacare

Republicans in the U.S. Congress are working to overhaul the nation’s health care laws in their effort to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act, considered by some to be one of former President Barack Obama’s most significant legislative achievements.

U.S. media outlets reported details Friday of potential replacements for the health care law, frequently referred to as Obamacare. The details were obtained from draft legislation circulating among lobbyists and congressional staff.

One proposal would cap the amount of money the federal government gives to states for Medicaid, the government health insurance program for the poor, which was expanded under Obama. The Washington Post reported that another idea gaining traction would allow those who gained access to Medicaid when the program was expanded to keep their benefits, while additional enrollees would be excluded.  

End to subsidies

The Republicans’ draft would end income-based tax subsidies to help individuals purchase health insurance. It also calls for tax credits of up to $4,000 for people 60 years or older, but would allow insurers to increase the rates they charge older people.

The Associated Press reported that Republican governors from seven states want Medicaid to change from an open-ended federal entitlement to a program designed by each state, within a financial limit. Ohio Governor John Kasich leads the group, which is said to be concerned that a new law could shift high health care costs from Washington to the states.

Public opinion surveys indicate a broad majority of Americans oppose repealing the health care law unless lawmakers can come up with an acceptable substitute plan.

President Donald Trump, along with many Republicans in Congress, campaigned on a pledge to repeal Obamacare, but the party’s lawmakers have since faced complaints that simply abandoning Obamacare would leave millions of Americans without any protection against high-cost medical emergencies. Republicans say they expect to decide on a replacement for the present law in the coming weeks.

Vice President Mike Pence, painting the legislative situation in dramatic terms, said Friday that “America’s Obamacare nightmare is about to end.”

Pledge, but no details

“President Trump and I want every American to have access to quality and affordable health insurance,” Pence said, “which is why we’re designing a better law that lowers the cost of health insurance without growing the size of government.” He did not, however, give details of the “better law.”

Congressional committees are still working on the new bills under consideration, and the proposals will still face a period of debate in the full Congress.

Democratic lawmakers argue the existing law has helped slow the rise in Americans’ health care spending and brought coverage to the poor. They also note the current plan guarantees insurance for people with long-standing health problems, to whom insurers often had denied coverage in the past.

Democrats passed the Affordable Care Act in 2010, when they had majority control of both houses of Congress. Republicans have opposed the law since its passage, and they tried more than 50 times unsuccessfully to repeal it during the Obama administration. Trump’s party argues that prices are too high for Affordable Care Act insurance coverage, and that individual states should have more control than the federal government over the issue.

The health care law has enabled 20 million previously uninsured Americans to obtain coverage, but it has been plagued by difficulties, including rising premiums and some large private insurers’ decisions to leave the system.

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Trump Action on Transgender Student Rights Seen as ‘So Bad for Business’

U.S. companies led by tech firms Yahoo, Apple and Microsoft have criticized the Trump administration’s decision to revoke Obama administration guidance that allowed transgender public school students to use the bathroom of their choice.

Their statements evoked the opposition expressed by many businesses last year when North Carolina passed a law forcing transgenders to use public restrooms matching their gender assigned at birth.

The resulting boycotts have cost North Carolina more than $560 million in economic activity, according to the online magazine Facing South.

Role for business

Companies lacked the same opportunity to protest with their dollars in this instance, since the Trump administration action pertains to schools, but still signaled they stood with the Obama policy of using the federal government to expand transgender civil rights.

“It’s ultimately going to come down to the business community to stop it because it’s so bad for business,” said Christopher Gergen, chief executive of Forward Impact, an entrepreneurial organization in Raleigh, North Carolina.

In unveiling the new direction Wednesday, Trump administration officials argued that transgender policies should be an issue for the states to decide.

“The action taken by the administration is troubling and goes against all that we believe in,” Yahoo said in a statement.

Social conservatives have hailed the decision by the Justice and Education departments to defer transgender bathroom policies to the states, calling it a victory for privacy and traditional values.

But companies have tried to persuade state and local governments to side with transgender people.

“We support efforts toward greater acceptance, not less, and we strongly believe that transgender students should be treated as equals,” Apple said in a statement.

Microsoft President Brad Smith looked to history as a guide, referencing the date that the Emancipation Proclamation took effect, when President Abraham Lincoln declared freedom for slaves.

“Since Jan. 1, 1863, the federal government has played a vital role in protecting the rights of all Americans. Let’s not stop now,” Smith said on Twitter.

Rights rollback ‘is wrong’

Twitter and Square CEO Jack Dorsey joined other tech firms criticizing the Trump administration’s position.

“Rolling back rights for transgender students is wrong,” Dorsey said in a tweet Thursday. “Twitter and Square stand with the LGBTQ community, always.”

In response to the North Carolina law, companies such as Deutsche Bank and PayPal canceled expansion plans, costing the state jobs.

By invoking states’ rights, the Trump administration is potentially emboldening legislatures in other states that are considering laws similar to North Carolina’s HB2.

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EU Unsure How to Sanction Poland Over Reform Issue

Poland faces the possibility of losing its voting rights in the European Union over issues related to democracy and the rule of law. The EU is trying to determine whether to apply Article 7 — a measure intended to punish countries seen as violating fundamental rights.

In its 60-year history, the European Union has never had to trigger Article 7.

When the regional grouping gave Poland until the end of February to implement several reforms to its judicial independence and democratic institutions, it seemed that Article 7 might be the next step if the EU determined that Poland was not putting enough reforms in place. Even though the deadline passed this week, it is not clear what steps the commission can take next.

 

Much has changed in Poland since the 2015 win of the conservative right wing PiS, Law and Justice Party. The party blocked the initial picks for the Polish constitutional court and presented its own candidates. That was followed by a crackdown on media outlets and journalists, mass demonstrations against proposed extremely conservative laws and political appointments on all levels. That led the European Commission to warn Poland.

Situation described at ‘dramatic’

Katarzyna Morton is an active member of KOD, the Polish Committee for the Defense of Democracy. She describes the situation under the current government as “dramatic” and fears the country is heading toward becoming a modern authoritarian state. Morton says she hopes the EU keeps following up on current Polish developments, adding the tone of the EU will matter.

“The EU really has to work on the way they say things to be sure that some Polish people who are in favor of the government or just perhaps do not understand EU so well, won’t take it as a threat but will understand that the EU is working in their favor and wants them to succeed in their citizenship.”

Triggering Article 7 could lead to another crisis within the EU while the bloc is already dealing with growing anti-EU sentiment, along with Brexit — Britain’s decision to leave the EU — and an ongoing migrant crisis.

Little room to maneuver

Agata Gostynska-Jakubowska of the Center for European Reform says the European Commission has little room to maneuver and might lose this battle with Poland.

“If the commission does not respond, it would face criticism from liberals in the European Parliament and it looks weak in the eyes of external actors; but, by interfering in this political conflict, the risks of antagonizing the Polish public is the last thing the commission would like to have because of growing euroscepticism.”

Gostynska-Jakubowska also points out that it’s questionable whether the commission has sufficient democratic legitimacy to push through something so politically sensitive as Article 7.

Poland feels it has complied

The request for reforms was made after previous recommendations were sent to Warsaw, but no real progress was recorded.

Poland feels its parliament has adopted enough reforms that “comply with European standards regarding the functioning of constitutional courts” and says there is no systematic threat to the rule of law in Poland. Activists such as Morton disagree, saying she does not notice any reforms being implemented.

Polish Foreign Minister Witold Waszczykowski told local media earlier this week that he expects “the matter will be closed.”

Waszczykowski had a public exchange of words during a conference in Germany last week with EU Commission Vice President Frans Timmermans on Polish constitutional reforms. The Polish Ministry of Foreign Affairs released a statement earlier this week accusing Timmermans’ actions and words of being politically motivated.

Unanimous vote triggers Article 7

While the commission searches for a way forward, diplomatic tensions between Warsaw and Brussels remained unresolved as the Polish Ministry of Foreign Affairs summoned the head of the European Commission’s representation to Poland on Thursday over language used by an EU document that Poland called unacceptable.

 

The commission is to discuss the matter with member states on what steps to take on the Polish issue.

 

Gostynska-Jakubowska says shifting the responsibility to member states will not solve the issue: “There won’t be political will among member states to take further action. EU treaties are pretty clear about this; it is the decision of member states on whether to activate Article 7 or not.”

Triggering Article 7 needs unanimity among all member states, and Hungary has already said it would veto any such a decision. The current president of the European Council, Donald Tusk, happens to be a former Polish president.

The next meeting of EU leaders is to take place after the first week of March in Brussels. The issue with Poland is expected to be discussed, but it’s unlikely the process for triggering Article 7 will start.

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Russia Expected to Veto UN Resolution Blaming Syria for Chemical Attacks

Russia says it will veto a draft U.N. resolution blaming the Syrian government for some chemical weapons attacks in Syria if it is brought to a vote.

“The resolution prejudges the results of the investigation, it is one-sided [and] based on insufficient evidence,” Russian Deputy U.N. Envoy Vladimir Safronkov told reporters after a closed meeting of the council to discuss the issue.

The Security Council created a special OPCW-U.N. (The Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons) Joint Investigative Mechanism — known as JIM — in August 2015 to study several chemical weapons attacks that took place in Syria since 2011 and identify “to the greatest extent feasible” individuals, entities, groups, or governments who were perpetrators, organizers, sponsors or otherwise involved in the use of chemicals as weapons in Syria.

Three chemical attacks confirmed

In October, the joint investigation concluded that the Syrian military had carried out at least three chemical attacks in 2014 and 2015.

“There is tremendous pressure over JIM to get to sort of one-sided results of investigation,” Safronkov said. “When we created JIM we said that investigation should be impartial, objective, independent — it’s not the case right now because of that pressure.”

Russia has deployed six vetoes in the past six years to protect Syrian President Bashar al-Assad from Security Council action.

Haley frustrated with Russia

“It is ridiculous. How much longer is Russia going to continue to babysit and make excuses for the Syrian regime?” U.S. Ambassador Nikki Haley asked. “People died because of this and the United States isn’t going to be quiet about it.”

Britain, France and the United States have been working for months on a draft security council resolution that would sanction the Syrian regime for its use of chemical weapons and say they plan to bring it to a vote in coming days.

Delattre says evidence is clear

“We now have the clear evidence that chemical weapons have been used in Syria against civilian populations, and we also have converging indications that such weapons continue to be used in this country,” France’s envoy Francois Delattre told reporters. “If you think about it, on a scale of threats to peace and security, we are at 10 here.”

“You had an overwhelming vote to say we need an investigative mechanism that would prove that these chemical weapons were being done by the Syrian regime, now … the results have come out and people don’t like what the results are,” Haley said in reference to Russian objections.

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Group Urges Obama to Run for President – of France

Former president Barack Obama can not run again for president in the U.S., but that isn’t stopping a group of French fans who are trying to get him to run in their upcoming election.

Paris has been canvassed with “Obama17” signs, which urge people to visit a website to sign a petition for the former U.S. president to run.

According to the website, Obama is their choice “because he has the best resume in the world for the job.”

The site also alludes to the rising popularity of right-wing parties in France.

“At a time when France is about to vote massively for the extreme right, we can still give a lesson of democracy to the planet by electing a French president, a foreigner,” according to the website, which is in French.

According to ABC News, a spokesman for the group behind the website said, “We started dreaming about this idea two months before the end of Obama’s presidency. We dreamed about this possibility to vote for someone we really admire, someone who could lead us to project ourselves in a bright future.”

There’s just one catch to their plan: To be president of France, you have to be French.

The latest French polls show Marine Le Pen of the right-wing National Front party in the lead. The election will be held in April.

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В СБУ пообіцяли розібратися з діями Савченко

Керівник апарату голови Служби безпеки України Олександр Ткачук повідомив, що в СБУ мають намір перевірити інформацію про останні дії народного депутата Надії Савченко (позафракційної) і поспілкуватися з нею з цього приводу.

Як сказав він із приводу повідомлень про поїздку Савченко до окупованого Донецька телеканалові «112 Україна», йому не відомо, щоб депутат інформувала СБУ про свої плани відвідати окупований Донецьк. «Вона за законом не має цього робити, але це проста людська логіка», – додав Ткаченко.

«Звичайна логіка підказує, що, можливо, є якісь аспекти безпеки, які необхідно враховувати і, можливо, пані Савченко відомі якісь обставини, які дають їй можливість бути впевненою в тому, що вона не буде знову взята в полон. Нам про це не відомо. Ми хочемо, щоб вона пояснила свою впевненість, що з нею не станеться нічого поганого», – сказав чільний представник СБУ.

Він також сказав із цього приводу агентству «Інтерфакс-Україна», що варто не забувати, яким чином Савченко потрапила в полон (під час бойових дій проти сепаратистів – ред.), а потім і до Росії, відтак «тепер відвідування окупованих територій викликає певний подив».

За словами Ткачука, доцільно, щоб депутат розповіла працівникам СБУ, з якою метою вона відвідує окуповані території. «Я думаю, що обов’язково наші співробітники зроблять це, щоб вона якимсь чином пояснила свої дії, якщо вона цього захоче», – додав він.

Іще однією темою стурбованості СБУ стали заяви про те, що Надія Савченко начебто підбурювала військових на лінії фронту залишити позиції і йти на Київ, щоб здійснити переворот і повалити чинну владу – з такою заявою виступила раніше у п’ятницю у Верховній Раді народний депутат Тетяна Ричкова (фракція «Блок Петра Порошенка»), але доказів своїх слів не подала. Вона закликала СБУ і Генеральну прокуратуру України відкрити з цього приводу кримінальне провадження.

Як сказав Ткачук телеканалові, військова контррозвідка СБУ поспілкується з тими, хто був свідками таких закликів із боку Савченко. «Якщо інформація підтвердиться і буде достатньо підстав, ми зареєструємо кримінальне провадження, яке буде стосуватися цих вчинків Савченко. Ми будемо говорити з самою Надією і з ініціатором цього звернення. Хотів би звернутися до військовослужбовців, які могли бути свідками таких закликів із боку депутата: можливо, ще хтось робив такі заяви, потрібно звертатися до керівників своїх частин, і ми разом будемо на це реагувати», – сказав він.

За його словами, таку перевірку здійснять найближчими днями.

Посадовець також сказав агентству, що голова СБУ Василь Грицак уже дав доручення військовій контррозвідці провести відповідну роботу, опитати військовослужбовців. При цьому Олександр Ткачук наголосив, що наразі кримінальне провадження у зв’язку з появою інформації про заклики депутата не зареєстроване, відбувається лише попередня перевірка.

Раніше у п’ятницю сайти підтримуваних Росією сепаратистів у Донецьку повідомили, що туди прибула Надія Савченко разом із керівником українського центру звільнення полонених «Офіцерський корпус» Володимиром Рубаном. За непідтвердженими даними, Савченко і Рубан мали відвідати українських військовополонених, яких утримують у колонії в окупованій Макіївці.

Сама Савченко підтвердила цю поїздку на окуповані території Донбасу і назвала її «свідомим ризиком» задля визволення українських полонених. Також вона попросила міжнародної підтримки своїх дій. Але в цьому дописі у фейсбуці вона не уточнила, з ким вона зустрічалась на окупованих територіях Донбасу і чи вдалося досягти якихось домовленостей.

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В Міноборони покарали військових посадовців через становище в «Десні»

Міністр оборони України генерал армії України Степан Полторак за підсумками роботи комісії оборонного відомства у 169-му навчальному центрі Сухопутних військ Збройних Сил України в селищі Десна на Чернігівщині покарав низку військових високопосадовців, повідомила прес-служба Міністерства оборони.

Зокрема, трьох військових посадових осіб, чия бездіяльність призвела до погіршення ситуації із забезпеченням належних умов для розміщення та служби особового складу, знято з посад, мовиться в повідомленні.

Крім того, у 2017 році до планових 12,7 мільйонів гривень для потреб навчального центру «Десна» буде додатково виділено ще 15 мільйонів гривень, повідомили в Міноборони.

Позаштатний радник міністра оборони і президента України, волонтер Юрій Бірюков додав, що, крім звільнення з посад, були й інші покарання причетних до ситуації генералів і полковників, зокрема, пониження в посадах чи догани.

Скандал навколо «Десни» останніми днями спричинив оприлюднений в інтернеті відеоролик із цього навчального центру, де були зібрані його досить численні недоліки, хоча не були показані вже відремонтовані за останні роки приміщення, і заявлено, що там «просто пекло». За словами командування центру, на ширші ремонти наразі немає коштів. Як з’ясували журналісти, страхи були в тому ролику значно перебільшені.

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