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Senate Democrats Want Watchdog To Investigate Political Interference At DOJ

Democrats on the Senate Judiciary Committee want the Justice Department’s internal watchdog to investigate “an apparent pattern of political interference” at the DOJ after four career prosecutors withdrew from the Roger Stone case because Attorney General William Barr overruled their sentencing recommendation.

In a letter to Justice Department Inspector General Michael Horowitz on Thursday, Democrats on the Judiciary Committee pointed to the handling of the Stone case; Barr’s appointment of an outside prosecutor to look at the case against former Trump national security adviser Michael Flynn; and a number of other cases as examples of potential political interference in the prosecutorial process.

The letter points to President Donald Trump’s extensive record of pushing the Justice Department to take actions to protect allies like Stone and target his rivals, which they said “suggest political interference in the Justice Department’s work.”

“The public record provides a number of reasons to believe that President Trump or other White House officials are seeking to influence the Justice Department’s handling of certain investigations, civil lawsuits, and criminal prosecutions,” the senators, led by Sen. Kamala Harris (D-Calif.), wrote. “Our concern is that politically motivated enforcement of federal law could become standard practice. This would permanently damage the integrity and independence of the Justice Department.”

A jury in November convicted Stone, a former Trump campaign adviser, on seven charges stemming from the Robert Mueller investigation. The prosecution team initially suggested Stone serve seven to nine years, but their recommendation was later overruled by Barr. A judge ultimately sentenced Stone to 40 months behind bars. 

A spokeswoman for Barr declined to comment on the letter. The inspector general’s office also declined to comment.

Read the letter below.

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CPAC staged a play based on ex-FBI agent Peter Strzok and ex-FBI lawyer Lisa Page's anti-Trump texts

  • "FBI Lovebirds," a play based on the texts between former FBI agent Peter Strzok and former FBI lawyer Lisa Page, opened CPAC on Thursday.
  • During the 2016 election, Strzok and Page were having an affair, and exchanged texts critical about then-candidate Donald Trump.
  • Trump and his allies have cited the texts as evidence of a "Deep State" conspiracy to keep him from winning the election, or maintaining the presidency after he won.
  • Dean Cain, who played Superman in the 1990s ABC show "Lois and Clark," played Stzok, while Kristy Swanson, best known for playing the titular character in the original 1992 "Buffy the Vampire Slayer" film, performed as Page.
  • Visit Business Insider's homepage for more stories.

The Conservative Political Action Conference's Thursday afternoon session kicked off with a staging of "FBI Lovebirds," a play based on the texts between former FBI agent Peter Strzok and former FBI lawyer Lisa Page that have become something of an obsession to President Donald Trump and his supporters. 

The controversial messages came during the 2016 election, which Trump and his allies have cited as evidence of a "Deep State" conspiracy to keep him from winning the election, or maintaining the presidency after he won.

Strzok and Page were having an affair and exchanged messages that were critical of Trump.

Among the most controversial of the texts was Strzok's response to Page's query asking if Trump could be elected. To which Strzok replied, "No, we'll stop it."

Strzok later said the remark was "off the cuff" in a moment of anger at Trump over his insulting of deceased Army Capt. Humayun Khan's bereaved parents. Khan's father gave a stirring speech at that year's Democratic National Convention, condemning Trump's proposed "Muslim ban." 

During the texts with Strzok, Page also said, Hillary Clinton "just has to win now," and "This man cannot be president."

The texts were made public in December 2017, and resulted in both Strzok and Page being removed from their posts as part of then-special counsel Robert Mueller's investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election. Strzok was eventually fired by the FBI, while Page left her position in May 2018. 

Page has since sued the FBI and the Justice Department for what she says was an invasion of her privacy. 

At a rally in October 2019, Trump mocked Page by performing a fake orgasm from the stage at a rally in Minneapolis. 

Strzok and Page were played by actors who made their names in the early 90s as "Superman" and "Buffy the Vampire Slayer"

Dean Cain, who played Superman in the 1990s ABC show "Lois and Clark," played Stzok, while Kristy Swanson, best known for playing the titular character in the original 1992 "Buffy the Vampire Slayer" film, performed as Page. Two other actors, Bruce Nozick and Tommy Gissendanner, played composites of members of Congress who later questioned Strzok in a July 2018 congressional hearing. 

Both Cain and Swanson hammed it up, playing up the "smug DC elite" factor, as well as the inherent absurdity of two grown adults in national law enforcement positions reading their candid text messages allowed. 

The actors read from scripts with long pauses between each others "texts." The CPAC crowd seemed to enjoy the novelty of the actors announcing their emoticons ("smiley face," "wink"), acronyms (OMG) and multiple exclamation marks as part of the dialogue. 

But after some smatterings of applause and laughter, the energy in the room flagged, perhaps because the audience expected more steamy content and explicit plotting against Trump than the texts actually provide.

One line in particular that received a lot of applause was Strzok's text reading: "Just went into a Southern Virginia Wal-Mart, I can smell the Trump support." 

During a Q and A session following the performance, Cain was asked how he could inhabit Strzok so well. Cain, like Swanson a vocal conservative, replied, "Well, I've played Scott Peterson." 

The actors and creators also revealed they had visited with President Trump at the White House today, with Cain adding that he thought Trump had performed better than they had — an apparent reference to the fake orgasm the president used to mock Page last year. 

Cain added that he thinks Strzok and Page thought they were doing something that was "heroic" and "in the best interests of the country," though Cain added it was "unconstitutional." Swanson told an audience member that unlike Strzok and Page, the heroes that she and Cain previously played "weren't arrogant." 

Writer and director Phelim McAleer, who produced the documentaries' "Gosnell: The Trial of America's Biggest Serial Killer" and "FrackNation," wrote and directed the play.

He told Insider after the performance, "It's a tragic love story was an international political drama, not just on top of it but running through it as well. And you've got Donald Trump." McAleer says he's looking to raise funds to stage the play for a few weeks in New York. 

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Smelters ‘stick out’ in Rio Tinto’s $1.5b push to cut carbon emissions

Rio Tinto will need to source cleaner energy for its highly carbon-intensive Australian aluminium smelters in order to achieve its tougher new emissions-reduction targets, unless it opts to divest plants instead.

This week the Anglo-Australian miner pledged to invest $1.5 billion over five years in initiatives to neutralise its greenhouse gas emissions by becoming a net zero emitter by 2050 and to reduce its direct emissions by 15 per cent within the next decade.

Rio’s jointly owned Tomago aluminium smelter is Australia’s largest.Credit:Virginia Star

However, while discussing the details of its push to decarbonise its global portfolio, Rio chief executive Jean-Sebastien Jacques acknowledged the company "has a challenge" in its Pacific aluminium business, spanning smelters in Australia and New Zealand. In 2018, the business unit accounted for 10.3 million tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent, the largest amount of emissions in Rio's entire global operations.

While hydropower supplies electricity for many of Rio Tinto's smelters globally, its plants in Queensland and New South Wales are largely powered by coal-fired generators, the most polluting form of energy creation.

"Repowering our aluminium assets and increasing the share of renewable electricity more broadly will be central to our decarbonisation strategy to 2030," the company said.

Both smelters – Boyne in Queensland and Tomago in NSW – have been described by Rio as being on "thin ice" and facing the threat of closure as the company remains locked in negotiations over cheaper long-term power contracts.

Morgans analyst Adrian Prendergast said the Pacific Aluminium assets "stick out" in Rio's portfolio as "low-economic and highly carbon-intensive”, and would unsurprisingly be a significant hurdle in its emissions-reduction drive.

Glyn Lawcock, mining analyst at UBS, said: "We couldn't help but notice the closure of Pacific Aluminium alone would reduce emissions by approximately 25 per cent."

"Maybe this is the elegant solution to Rio’s desire to reduce CO2 as well as lifting margins within the aluminium business unit," Mr Lawcock said.

Pacific Aluminium reported an EBITDA loss of $US22 million in 2019.

'We couldn't help but notice the closure of Pacific Aluminium alone would reduce emissions by approximately 25 per cent.'

Although divestment would be the "simplest and quickest" option to eliminate its emissions, Mr Prendergast said he suspected Rio may encounter difficulties finding an interested buyer for such carbon-intensive and low-returning assets.

But Mr Prendergast said Rio also had the resources and the capacity along with plenty of time ahead of its 2030 target date to reduce the emissions intensity of its aluminium smelting assets through ongoing research and development with Alcoa to decarbonise the smelting process.

The two companies are in a Montreal-based joint venture, Elysis, which has been developing aluminium production technology that removes carbon dioxide from the process and emits only oxygen.

Processing alumina into aluminium is a highly energy-intensive and carbon emissions-intensive process, especially at smelters that source power from coal, including Rio Tinto's Australian operations. The aluminium industry accounts for as much as 1 per cent of global greenhouse gas emissions globally.

AustralianSuper, which owns Rio Tinto shares, said it had been engaging with Rio Tinto for more than two years ahead of its newly announced decarbonisation goals, unveiled as part of the Climate Action 100+ initiative.

"This a great demonstration of constructive engagement resulting in genuine outcomes on climate change," AustralianSuper's Andrew Gray said.

However, unlike top global miner BHP, Rio Tinto is refusing to commit to setting goals for its "Scope 3" emissions – the emissions generated by the customers of its producers, such as the steelmakers in China – which are vastly greater than emissions directly caused by its mining operations.

Market Forces' Will van de Pol has also cast doubt over the adequacy of Rio's direct emissions reduction target of 15 per cent by 2030, saying they appeared to "fall well short" of the sort of decarbonisation action required.

"The company's emission reduction plans amount to nothing more than economic decisions to improve efficiency and reduce costs, rather than ambitious change guided by an understanding of the decarbonisation required to limit warming to 1.5 degrees and avoid the worst impacts of climate change," Mr van de Pol said.

"Based on the company's current plans, investors must have serious questions about the sincerity of Rio Tinto's claimed commitment to climate action in line with the Paris Agreement."

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Barack Obama Demands Pro-Trump Group's Joe Biden Attack Ad Be Pulled for Misusing His Voice

Former President Barack Obama this week demanded that a pro-Trump group’s racially charged anti-Joe Biden ad be pulled in South Carolina for using Obama’s words out of context.

The negative ad by the Committee to Defend the President, which attacks the former vice president’s record on racial issues, includes Obama’s voice from a recording of his audiobook for his 1995 memoir, Dreams of My Father.

But the ad makes it sound — incorrectly — like Obama is criticizing Biden.

“This despicable ad is straight out of the Republican disinformation playbook, and it’s clearly designed to suppress turnout among minority voters in South Carolina by taking President Obama’s voice out of context and twisting his words to mislead viewers,” spokeswoman Katie Hill said in a statement to PEOPLE. “In the interest of truth in advertising, we are calling on TV stations to take this ad down and stop playing into the hands of bad actors who seek to sow division and confusion among the electorate.”

Obama’s narration was from a portion of his 1995 memoir when he was telling a story about a barber in Chicago who was speaking to him about politicians mistreating black voters.

In a cease-and-desist letter on Wednesday, Obama’s attorney wrote: “This unauthorized use of President Obama’s name, image, likeness, voice and book passage is clearly intended to mislead the target audience of the ad into believing that the passage from the audiobook is a statement that was made by President Barack Obama during his presidency, when it was in fact made by a barber in a completely different context more than 20 years ago.”

The Committee to Defend the President reportedly spent more than $250,000 on negative ads against Biden in South Carolina ahead of Saturday’s crucial Democratic primary vote, according to The Washington Post.

The group also similarly spent big on anti-Biden ads in Nevada ahead of that state’s caucus vote earlier this month, according to the Post.

The Committee to Defend the President did not respond to PEOPLE’s request for comment.

In 2017, President Obama’s attorneys similarly reached out to a different group supporting President Donald Trump when that group also took Obama’s words out of context to say Democratic politicians took black voters for granted.

The South Carolina primary on Saturday is all-important for Biden’s presidential campaign, as the former vice president has heavily campaigned in the state and has looked to South Carolina’s largely black electorate to reinvigorate his presidential campaign and give him a win.

Obama chose not to endorse a candidate in the 2020 race, though his team acknowledged his ties to Biden, who was his vice president for eight years.

“President Obama has several friends in this race, including, of course, his own esteemed Vice President,” his spokeswoman said. “He has said he has no plans to endorse in the primary because he believes that in order for Democrats to be successful this fall, voters must choose their nominee.”

• Reporting by ADAM CARLSON

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What Would Happen If U.S. Schools Close Because Of Coronavirus?

The world is on high alert as cases of the new coronavirus, named COVID-19, continue to bubble up across the globe. On Thursday, Japan took the extraordinary step of asking all schools in the country to close for about a month in an effort to curb contagion.

Should the coronavirus begin to spread throughout the U.S., as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention warned on Wednesday, American schools could also be subject to mass closures, creating a potential mess for working parents and the economy.

Bothell High School in Washington state was closed Thursday after a staff member’s relative fell ill following international travel. The family member is being tested for coronavirus while the school disinfects the campus.

The CDC has encouraged parents to start asking their local schools about contingency plans. 

Nancy Messonnier, director of the CDC’s National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases, said school closures would be one of the most effective measures local governments can take to mitigate the spread of the virus. She acknowledged that some parents would miss work. 

“I understand this whole situation may seem overwhelming and that disruption to everyday life may be severe,” Messonnier said. “But these are things that people need to start thinking about now.”

In a guidance document for employers, the CDC said firms should prepare for “possible increased numbers of employee absences due to illness in employees and their family members, dismissals of early childhood programs and K-12 schools due to high levels of absenteeism or illness.”

The broader economic impact of widespread school closures could be significant, said Dean Baker, an economist with the progressive Center for Economic and Policy Research and a visiting professor at the University of Utah. Some companies would be unable to fill orders due to absent workers, and customers could face longer wait times for services. Workers, for their part, could lose income and have to cut back on spending.

“All in all, it is likely to be a really big deal if it comes to schools shutting across the country,” Baker said.

A team of researchers evaluated the impact of an unplanned eight-day school closure due to flooding in rural Illinois in 2013. In a survey of families, 17% said they struggled with uncertainty about the duration of the closure, making alternate child care arrangements, and losing pay. 

The report, which was published in the Journal of School Health in 2017, said unplanned school closures can be particularly difficult for low-income households. 

“Right now, parents don’t have solutions for emergency child care problems,” said Julie Kashen, the director for women’s economic justice at The Century Foundation. “They don’t even have solutions for everyday child care problems. This is just going to exacerbate the problems that already exist but also make stark economic inequalities.”

Workers without paid sick leave, who make about 30% of the private sector workforce, will be hit the hardest, Kashen said, while office professionals and other white-collar workers will likely have the flexibility they need to take care of their kids.

“It’s just a reminder of how much we need child care for all,” Kashen said, referring to the movement to make tuition-free child care available to all Americans through public funding appropriated by the federal government.

Access to paid sick leave is particularly low among Latinx workers, said Vicki Shabo, a senior fellow at New America and an expert on workplace equity. Undocumented immigrants or any individual with a vulnerable immigration status may worry about trying to assert any workplace rights they have to stay at home with their children during a potential outbreak.

“Employers hold a lot of power in this scenario,” Shabo said. “It leaves the workers who really don’t have much voice in their workplace or guaranteed time off very vulnerable to economic loss and job loss.”

Parents who cannot afford to risk losing their jobs by staying home during school closures may be forced to leave their child alone or with an older sibling, or make unpredictable care arrangements that could present potential safety concerns, Shabo said.

The CDC’s Messonnier said she told her children this week that while they’re not at risk right now, they need to prepare for disruptions to their lives. She said she called their school and asked about their plans, and encouraged others to do the same. 

“You should ask your children’s school about their plans for school dismissals or school closures,” Messonnier said. “Ask if there are plans for teleschool.”

Beyond interruptions to education, school closures could create additional financial stress for families who depend on school-based services such as meals subsidized by the National School Lunch Program and School Breakfast Program. Roughly 22 million children rely on free or reduced-price lunch at school and are eligible for free breakfast.

“It’s the same situation that happens in the summer when kids go hungry,” Shabo said. “Certainly some school districts have dealt with that at a predictable time, but if you’re talking about a public health emergency, obviously that’s not the same planning and …  risk of contagion could limit this.”

The World Health Organization declared the coronavirus outbreak a “public health emergency of international concern” on Jan. 30. The death toll from COVID-19 surpassed 2,800 worldwide as of Thursday afternoon, with the vast majority of cases in mainland China, where the virus originated. China has reported more than 77,000 confirmed cases. At least 59 Americans have been diagnosed with coronavirus, according to the CDC’s website.

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said blanket closure of all schools in the country was meant to put “a priority on children’s health and safety,” though some medical professionals thought the action was premature, noting that children do not seem to be easily susceptible to the virus.

There is some evidence that children affected with the virus have relatively mild symptoms, including runny nose and cough, though there’s still a lot that researchers don’t know about it.

“It seems really extreme and really sudden,” Chelsea Szendi Schieder, an associate professor of economics at Aoyama Gakuin University in Tokyo, told The New York Times of the school closures in Japan. “And the implications for people and their daily lives is going to be so big that I’m not sure it’s worth it in terms of public health.”

It’s unlikely the entire U.S. national school system would shut down, said Mark Zandi, chief economist at Moody’s Analytics, but such a scenario would be “highly disruptive to the economy” if it did occur. 

“There are approximately 30 million families with children,” Zandi said. “If schools and day care centers are closed nationwide, and say, a parent in 10% of these families can’t go to work because they need to take care of their children, then employment would decline by as much as 3 million jobs. Millions of others may have to cut back their hours to get home to take over from caregivers.”

Parents who work in the service industry, such as restaurant workers or housekeepers, could be impacted significantly. About 48% of these workers don’t have access to paid sick days. 

Kashen, of the Century Foundation, said she hasn’t heard many parents talking about their plans for child care should schools close.

“Probably, in part, because there’s not a great option,” she said. “No great answers besides relying on neighbors, friends and families.”

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Trish Regan: Sanders would be 'most anti-American nominee' in history

Trish Regan to Bernie: Consider retirement to Venezuela

FOX Business’ Trish Regan shares her thoughts on presidential candidate Bernie Sanders.

If Comrade Bernie wins Super Tuesday (and right now, it looks like he will) it will be the Democrats' own selfish fault. These other candidates are hanging on for dear life – too selfish to get out of the race and consolidate some opposition to Bernie – and, as such, Tuesday night, we may just see the most anti-American nominee for president of the United States by a major party in our nation’s history.

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None of these folks on the Democratic stage have a chance, and they certainly don’t have a chance against Sen. Bernie Sanders, (I-Vt.), who has singlehandedly managed to corrupt the fringe element of the left with all his talk of revolution.

This is a man who has been pushing revolution since the days of the early 1970s when he penned those poorly written, disgusting opinion pieces on sexuality and his view on women's rape fantasies in the Vermont Freeman, which, suffice it to say, won’t go over so well with suburban mom voters and the Bloomberg team is already capitalizing on.

We should all hope he'll blame all that on some psychedelic 1970s drugs.

This is a man who, in 1972, told a group of ninth graders in Vermont that the U.S. committed acts in Vietnam “almost as bad as what Hitler did…”

We lost 58,000 American troops in Vietnam. And this poor excuse for a man wants to equate the U.S. with Hitler?

TRISH REGAN: SOCIALIST BERNIE SANDERS MAY GET THE NOMINATION — AND, DEMS HAVE ONLY THEMSELVES TO BLAME

Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., speaks during a Democratic presidential primary debate on Feb. 25, 2020, in Charleston, S.C. (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky)

Comrade Bernie is a man who openly supports the dictatorship in Venezuela – a dictatorship that has stolen everything from the people, in the name of the people, over the last two decades, a dictatorship that is starving its people, spying on its people and locking up the dissenters.

Comrade Bernie admires Cuba. He’s still out there defending the communist dictatorship with a track record of human rights abuses, having murdered tens of thousands of his own people.

It’s music to our enemies' ears. And, something the Cuban press is quick to jump on. The Cuban state media devoted its entire front page to Bernie’s praise of their murderous regime.

Comrade Bernie tells us China’s communist dictatorship has brought more people out of poverty than any other country.

Really, Bernie? You wanna go live in China? You wanna live in a country where if you’re Muslim, gay, or just happen to disagree with the current regime, you’ll be jailed?

Good luck with that.

TRISH REGAN: WHY ARE DEMOCRATS OBJECTING TO MAKING ENGLISH OUR OFFICIAL LANGUAGE?

Capitalism – for the record – has lifted more people out of poverty than any other economic system in the world.

As the great American economist Thomas Sowell once said, “The 20th century is full of examples of countries that set out to redistribute wealth and ended up redistributing poverty.”

Think about it: Venezuela, Cuba, Nicaragua, Vietnam, North Korea, the former Soviet Union – they all start with the intention of leveling the playing field – or making things better for the little guy – and instead, they created misery, poverty, destruction and a permanent ruling class of bureaucrats.

And yet, what is rather remarkable is that Bernie Sanders and his revolutionary "Squad" members – Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, (D-N.Y.), Rep. Rashida Tlaib, (D-Mich.) and Rep. Ilhan Omar, D-Minn.), – are constantly railing against the threat of fascism and, yet, they openly support fascist regimes. When President Trump killed Iran's top general Qassem Soleimani – a terrorist that killed hundreds of Americans – "The Squad" slammed the move.

And, how else do you explain this one? Comrade Bernie insisting that the taking out Soleimani was an assassination.

Of course, none of this has happened in a vacuum. It didn't come from nowhere. We saw it brewing during former President Barack Obama’s apology tour, remember?

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Modern “progressivism” (as they like to call it) can actually be traced back to former President Woodrow Wilson. In his days as a poli-sci professor at Princeton, Wilson stressed the need to remake our Constitution for “modern times.” He believed a series of administrative experts could govern better than the people.

In 1891, Wilson wrote: “The functions of government are in a very real sense independent of legislation, and even constitutions.”

You think you can govern separate from our Constitution? That’s the foundation of progressivism right there, folks.

That’s the beginning of the left’s movement to tear down our Constitution, our rights, our freedom, our capitalism.

The Constitution, as Wilson saw it – and as many more on the left still see it – was and is an obstacle to be overcome, not a check on power.

When he was president, in 1913, Wilson complained about checks and balances in the Constitution saying, “The trouble with the theory is that government is not a machine, but a living thing. No living thing can have its organs offset against each other, as checks, and live.”

I’m sorry. No – we need the checks. We need the balances. Otherwise, this whole democracy thing? You can kiss it goodbye.

Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., and Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y., greet supporters in Iowa on Nov. 8, 2019. (AP Photo/Nati Harnik)

Of course, that’s exactly what Comrade Bernie Sanders is trying to do with his so-called “revolution.”  Who needs checks and balances when the left, seemingly, knows and can decide right from wrong? When the left can decide what can be said and what cannot be said? When the left can decide how much money you’re allowed to make or whether or not you deserve health care?

It is a quest for power. And, it is dangerous.

To be clear: Bernie Sanders is no intellect. He's like "AOC," who doesn’t know the difference between left and right, like literally. She doesn’t know the difference between John Maynard Keynes and Milton Friedman, two entirely different schools of economic thought.

Comrade Bernie is out there promoting free college for all, even though he barely even graduated.

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But, he is a self-described revolutionist.

And the extreme left, therefore, views Comrade Bernie as their savior. I’d ask: savior from what? A strong economy, the most amazing job market in 50 years? A total reversal in the establishment-driven trade agreements that were hurting America’s middle class?

Comrade Bernie and the progressives on the left want to rob Americans of the very thing that our country has always held dear.

Through the beauty and strength of capitalism, we have offered countless generations a chance, a shot at the American Dream.

So, Bernie: before you ruin our country for our children and our grandchildren, maybe consider retirement in Venezuela? It would be a good thing for all.

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Coronavirus workers lacked adequate equipment, training: Federal whistleblower

Coronavirus’ impact on Google, Netflix, AT&T stocks

RegentAtlantic CIO Chris Cordaro and Direxion head of product Dave Mazza give investing tips amid the coronavirus pandemic.

A government whistleblower accused the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services on Wednesday of failing to provide adequate equipment or training to federal employees who received American evacuees from a Chinese city stricken by the coronavirus outbreak.

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The whistleblower, identified only as a senior HHS official within the department’s Administration for Children and Families, said the federal employees had direct contact with Americans who were considered at high-risk to contract coronavirus. Employees were dispatched in late January and early February to receive two planes full of Americans, each with about 200 people, who were to be quarantined at military bases in Texas and California after their evacuation from Wuhan, China.

The complaint, first obtained by the Washington Post, claims that the federal workers were “not properly trained or equipped to operate in a public health emergency situation.” The workers, who are employees of the HHS’ Administration for Children and Families, at times worked alongside employees for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention who wore full hazmat suits, according to the whistleblower.

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“We take all whistleblower complaints very seriously and are providing the complainant all appropriate protections under the Whistleblower Protection Act. We are evaluating the complaint and have nothing further to add at this time,” HHS spokeswoman Caitlin Oakley said in a statement obtained by the Washington Post.

The complaint was filed with the Office of Special Counsel, a federal watchdog agency, which has opened an investigation into the allegations.

Following their interactions with American evacuees, the federal workers were allowed to leave the bases and return to their duties without screening for potential infection, according to the whistleblower. Some workers flew home on commercial airplanes.

After informing superiors, the whistleblower was told to accept a reassignment or be fired. The whistleblower petitioned for federal protection.

To date, none of the exposed workers have tested positive for coronavirus.

HHS Secretary Alex Azar addressed the whistleblower complaint during a congressional hearing on Thursday.

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“I’d want to know the full facts and would take appropriate remedial measures,” Azar said.

The coronavirus outbreak began in Wuhan, China and has since spread to countries around the world. As of Thursday afternoon, at least 2,811 people had died and more than 82,000 individuals were infected with the virus.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average entered correction territory suffering its worst one day drop ever on Thursday as fears related to coronavirus continued to roil the market.

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The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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WA miner Lynas has ‘no regrets’ in Wesfarmers takeover fight

The head of the world's biggest rare earths producer outside of China has "no regrets" defending her company against an unsolicited takeover bid by corporate giant Wesfarmers in 2019, despite the efforts eroding its profits.

Wesfarmers made a highly conditional $1.5 billion offer for WA miner Lynas Corporation in March 2019, while the company was in the middle of a crisis over the renewal of its licence to operate its Malaysian processing facility.

Lynas’ Mount Weld mine in Western Australia, the richest known rare earths deposit in the world.Credit:Bloomberg

The offer was swiftly rejected by Lynas who felt the valuation was underdone and the company fought it. Wesfarmers eventually scrapped the offer in August.

Lynas reported a marginal half-year revenue increase to $180.1 million but a profit plunge of nearly 80 per cent from $19 million in 2018 to $3.9 million.

Lynas chief executive and managing director Amanda Lacaze placed some of the blame on the Wesfarmers defence.

She did not disclose how much was spent but described the saga as frustrating and with the company forced to pay for company valuations, advisors, media and legal fees.

"I've reflected on how can you find a different way to do this but when somebody else makes an unsolicited offer to buy a company there are a series of expenses generated as a result of that in the defence of the company," she said.

"It is very frustrating when you're the target because you end up spending this money and you're not adding any value in the business but it is the way public markets work.

"I've thought about this and I just can't see any way around it."

Ms Lacaze said the Wesfarmers offer was "found wanting" and fighting it was the right thing to do.

"For us, we certainly have no regrets," she said.

"We run the business to create shareholder value and whilst everyone in the market is facing some challenges right now, our assessment and the conversation we had with our shareholders is that best value creation comes from having the business as a pure play"

Other impacts on Lynas profits included weaker market conditions and a $11.6 million security bond payment to Malaysian regulators and ongoing costs associated with defending the company against environmental activists that oppose the Malaysian plant.

Lynas shares soared 19 cents to $2.09 on Thursday after news the Malaysian government approved a new three-year licence for its plant that allowed the company to continue processing rare earths.

Those gains were lost on Friday after the results hit the market, which was already in a tailspin thanks to Coronavirus fears.

Lynas said the production of Neodymium and Praseodymium, used in magnets, fell more than 10 per cent for the half-year to 2512 tonnes, while rare earth oxide production dropped 22 per cent to 7518 tonnes.

with Reuters

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What is a McMansion?

Why are more Americans buying homes with dual master bedrooms?

An expert suggests sleeping in separate bedrooms could be the key to a longer marriage and this trend is impacting real estate and homebuilding. FOX Business’ Lauren Simonetti with more.

You’ve heard of a mansion, but have you ever heard of a “McMansion”?

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Chances are someone you know probably lives in one.

McMansion is a term that refers to a large house — typically in a suburban neighborhood — that looks like every other house in the neighborhood. The style was popularized during the 1980s and 1990s.

Their structures typically follows a similar pattern, as noted by Curbed, including a central core with a multistory entryway, a side wing and a garage wing.

According to real estate website Trulia, they tend to range between 3,000 and 5,000 square feet, or 1.5 to 2.5 times larger than the median-sized new home in 2000.

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The word is a play on McDonalds items, indicating the homes are generic and mass-produced.

“McMansions were the Big Macs of the housing market back in the early aughts: large, mass-produced, delivered in a tight package (land), and looked the same regardless of where you bought one,” Trulia’s Ralph McLaughlin said.

Recently, however, it appears the trend seems to have lost a little bit of its luster. Premiums declined to 117 percent in 2016, from 138 percent in 2012, data from Trulia showed.

In fact, there is even talk that McMansions are being replaced by a new fad – the McModern. As defined by Curbed, a McModern traces its foundation to the McMansion, but is differentiated by its architectural style (modernism). It is characterized by a boxy form and smooth, minimalist visuals.

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Senate moves to kick Huawei, ZTE out of rural America

US is hurting China by hurting Huawei: Huawei chief security officer

Huawei Chief Security Officer Andy Purdy criticizes the U.S.’ decision to file new charges against Huawei due to alleged racketeering and the theft of trade secrets.

The Senate passed a bill Thursday to provide $1 billion for small telecom providers to replace equipment made by China's Huawei and ZTE, sending the measure to President Donald Trump.

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The U.S. government considers the Chinese companies a security risk and has pushed its allies not to use Huawei equipment in next-generation cellular networks, known as 5G. Both companies have denied that China uses their products for spying.

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But despite the U.S. pressing allies to turn their backs on the Chinese 5G, Huawei announced earlier in the day it will build its first European manufacturing plant in France. The $217 million plant will create 500 new jobs and is intended to supply the entire European market.

IS HUAWEI TECHNOLOGY SECURE?

The Federal Communications Commission had previously voted to bar U.S. phone companies from using government subsidies for equipment from the two Chinese companies. This affects mostly small, rural companies because the major U.S. network providers don't use the Chinese equipment.

The small phone companies have complained that it will be difficult and expensive for them to rebuild their networks. Their trade group has said that it would cost up to $1 billion for its dozen member companies to replace Huawei and ZTE equipment, and it has said that Huawei has 40 customers in the U.S. The group, Rural Wireless Association, applauded passage of the bill Thursday.

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The bill would reimburse telecom providers with fewer than 2 million customers. Huawei and ZTE did not immediately reply to requests for comment.

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