Good luck coins prove fatal for Thai “piggy bank” turtle

A 25-year-old Thai sea turtle died from blood poisoning on Tuesday, never recovering from an operation to remove 915 coins from her stomach, thrown into her pool for good luck, veterinarians said.

The green turtle named Omsin, “piggy bank” in Thai, underwent a seven-hour-long operation this month to remove 5 kg (11 lb) of coins which she had mistaken for food.

But Omsin, who lived at a conservation center in Chonburi, east of the Thai capital Bangkok, was rushed into intensive care on Sunday night, breathing too slowly. She received an emergency operation on Monday, after which she went into a coma.

Her fate had preoccupied Thais, who cherish turtles as a symbol of longevity, and the vets had urged people to pray for her recovery.

“Her cause of death is blood poisoning,” one of the vets told reporters.

The gap in Omsin’s stomach left by the removal of the coins caused her intestine to become strangled, blocking blood flow, the vets said. Acute infection in the intestine then caused blood infection.

They also said they would perform an autopsy on Omsin as a case study, which would benefit the treatment of turtles in the future.

“She is our teacher,” another vet said.

(Reporting by Patpicha Tanakasempipat and Panarat Thepgumpanat; Editing by Nick Macfie)

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'You know there's crocs there' says teen bitten after jumping in river

An Australian teenager who was bitten by a crocodile when he jumped into a river in northern Queensland on a dare is now recovering in hospital and looking forward to a date with the British backpacker he was trying to impress.

Lee De Paauw, 18, had met Sophie Paterson while drinking at with a group of friends into the early hours of Sunday morning at a backpackers’ hostel in Innisfail in northern Queensland.

According to local media, De Paauw told Paterson that backpackers were more likely to get eaten by crocodiles than Australians, and was ready to back up his words.

Accepting a dare to jump from the wharf into the crocodile-infested Johnstone River, he was grabbed almost immediately by a crocodile.

“At that point, I punched it in the snout”, De Paauw said from his hospital bed in Cairns. “My second hit, I got it straight in the eye, and then it let go.”

De Paauw suffered serious injuries to his left arm and underwent surgery at Cairns Hospital.

“I think he’s very brave to be, you know, in such high spirits after what happened,” said Paterson, who said she has agreed to go on a date with De Paauw.

“She’s beautiful, caring and kind,” said De Paauw.

Asked to account for his own actions, De Paauw was under no illusions.

“Stupidity,” De Paauw said, “You know there’s crocs there.”

(Reporting by Reuters Television, Writing by Karishma Singh; Editing by Simon Cameron-Moore)

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U.S. To Ban Larger Personal Electronics From Cabins Of Some Flights From Mideast

U.S. officials tell wire services that laptops and other larger electronic devices will be banned from cabins of foreign airlines’ flights originating in eight countries.

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John Locher/AP

The U.S. government is preparing to require passengers arriving from eight Mideast or North African countries to put their electronics larger than a cellphone in their checked luggage, according to U.S. officials who spoke to the Associated Press and Reuters. But certain medical devices will be permitted in the cabin.

The new security measure came to light when Jordanian Airlines disclosed it. The airline has deleted a tweet it posted, replacing it with a notice that more information is coming.

The AP reports that laptops, tablets and cameras are among the items covered by the alert regarding flights originating in eight countries:

“A U.S. official told The Associated Press the ban will apply to nonstop flights to the U.S. from 10 international airports serving the cities of Cairo in Egypt; Amman in Jordan; Kuwait City in Kuwait; Casablanca in Morocco; Doha in Qatar; Riyadh and Jeddah in Saudi Arabia; Istanbul in Turkey; and Abu Dhabi and Dubai in the United Arab Emirates. The ban was indefinite, said the official.”

The countries involved are majority Muslim but aren’t those targeted by President Trump’s travel restrictions. The president’s revised executive order singled out Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen. That order, like Trump’s first ban, has been blocked by federal courts and is under appeal.

No American carriers are to be covered by the ban, according to Reuters. The wires service also quotes congressional aides as saying Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly called members of Congress over the weekend to notify them of the move.

The officials didn’t specify what threat had prompted the new measures.

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Could Meals On Wheels Really Lose Funding? Yes, But It's Hard To Say How Much

Southern Maine Agency on Aging’s Meals on Wheels program.

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Call it an outburst of outrage giving.

Since President Trump’s budget proposal was unveiled last Thursday, Meals on Wheels America, the national group which says it supports more than 5,000 community-based organizations that deliver meals to homebound seniors, has seen a flood of donations.

“On a given day, Meals on Wheels America typically receives $1,000 in unsolicited online donations. Since Thursday morning, we’ve received more than $160,000 in online donations,” says Jenny Bertolette, vice president for communications for the national group — which speaks on behalf of local programs and advocates for seniors, but does not itself deliver meals. It plans to use the money to fund awareness campaigns, among other things.

That surge in generosity comes in the wake of news stories suggesting that Trump’s budget plan asks Congress for cuts that would gut federal funding for the program. But is that really the case?

The White House says no.

“Some of the stories are just either grossly wrong or nearly grossly wrong, all the stories about how we cut Meals on Wheels,” Mick Mulvaney, director of the Office of Management and Budget, said on NBC’s Meet the PressSunday.

Actually, how the meal programs are funded is kind of complicated.

The brouhaha stems from two community development block grants that would be eliminated under Trump’s budget. States and cities receive the grants to help them fight poverty, and some of them use that money to help pay for Meals on Wheels programs.

Meals on Wheels, you see, isn’t a federal program. It’s a network of thousands of independently run groups that receive varying amounts of government aid – or none at all. (Some rely entirely on private donations). Together, they deliver hot meals to 2.4 million seniors each year. Some of these programs get federal funding, but how that will be affected is still unclear.

That’s because we don’t know how many programs get at least some of their funding through the block grants that are on the chopping block in Trump’s budget. It’s up to localities to allocate those funds, and as far as Bertolette knows, no one keeps a national tally of which cities and states are using those grants to fund Meals on Wheels, or how much is going to the programs.

But by far, the biggest source of federal funding for Meals on Wheels programs comes from another source: the Older Americans Act Nutrition Program, which is run by the Department Of Health and Human Services. In the aggregate, Bertolette says Meals on Wheels programs across the country rely on the HHS program for 35 percent of their funding.

The White House has proposed slashing the Health and Human Services budget by nearly 18 percent, but the details of those cuts have not been released. Will the Older Americans Act Nutrition Program be affected? No way to know.

But Bertolette says “it’s difficult to imagine a scenario in which these critical services would not be significantly and negatively impacted if [the budget proposal is] enacted into law,” she says.

Even at current federal funding levels, some Meals on Wheels programs are struggling to meet demand.

“We have a waiting list for home-delivered meals of 815 seniors, and it’s growing,” says Mark Adler, executive director of Meals On Wheels South Florida, which gets 65 percent of its $5.2 million yearly budget through the federal Older Americans Act.

“We’re already facing a situation where almost all of the seniors on our waiting list aren’t going live to see their first meal delivered,” says Adler.

His group serves 1.2 million meals to 10,000 seniors each year. Since Thursday, it’s seen a spike in donations, taking in $1,000 over a three-day period, Adler says, where normally “we’d get $100 if we’re lucky.”

Meals on Wheels of Central Maryland serves Baltimore City and seven other counties in the state. It relies on HHS funds for half of its $9 million annual budget.

Over the last four days, the Maryland group received $6,300 in donations, a huge increase over normal, a spokesperson said. The outpouring was welcome, because federal funds cover only about 30-60 percent of the cost of the roughly 1,500 meals it serves each day, so the organization is constantly fundraising to bridge that gap.

“Loss of [federal] funding would mean that we would have to drastically reduce the number of people we can serve,” Stephanie Archer-Smith, executive director of Meals on Wheels of Central Maryland, said in a statement.

Until the White House releases details of what will happen with funding for the Older Americans Act Nutrition Program, Adler says he’ll remain on tenterhooks.

“The sword of Damocles is hanging over our head with what is going to happen with this administration,” Adler says.

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The Scarcity Trap: Why We Keep Digging When We're Stuck In A Hole

Businessman at desk in an hourglass.

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Have you ever noticed that when something important is missing in your life, your brain can only seem to focus on that missing thing?

Two researchers have dubbed this phenomenon scarcity, and they say it touches on many aspects of our lives.

“It leads you to take certain behaviors that in the short term help you to manage scarcity, but in the long term only make matters worse,” says Sendhil Mullaianathan, an economics professor at Harvard University.

Several years ago, he and Eldar Shafir, a psychology professor at Princeton, started researching this idea. Their theory was this: When you’re really desperate for something, you can focus on it so obsessively there’s no room for anything else. The time-starved spend much of their mental energy juggling time. People with little money worry constantly about making ends meet.

Scarcity takes a huge toll. It robs people of insight. And it helps to explain why, when we’re in a hole, we sometimes dig ourselves even deeper.

This week on Hidden Brain, we’ll explore the concept of scarcity and how it affects people across the globe — from sugar cane farmers in India to time-starved physicians in the United States.

Hidden Brain is hosted by Shankar Vedantam and produced by Maggie Penman, Jennifer Schmidt, Rhaina Cohen, and Renee Klahr. Our intern is Chloe Connelly and our supervising producer is Tara Boyle. You can follow us on Twitter @hiddenbrain, and listen for Hidden Brain stories each week on your local public radio station.

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Along Syria-Jordan Border, Refugees Struggle At A Camp Aid Workers Can't Visit

Jordanian tanks are stationed near a U.N.-funded clinic close to the border with Syria.

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In the middle of the desert, hundreds of miles from the nearest city, 60,000 Syrians are camped out along the Syrian and Jordanian border in what has become one of the biggest and most desperate refugee settlements in the region. Few outsiders have ever seen it.

NPR visited an area near the camp last week in a trip organized by the Jordanian military.

Aid groups, who have no direct access to the three-year-old camp, track its growth by analyzing satellite images showing thousands of makeshift tents clustered between two berms — earthen embankments in a no-man’s land along Jordan’s far northeastern border.

Jordan says the camp, located in no-man’s land between the two countries, is infiltrated by ISIS and won’t allow any aid workers to go there. With limited food getting through, some children are in danger of starving.

“The United Nations staff doesn’t have access to the no-man’s land, so the assistance has to be provided from this end,” Helene Daubelcour, a spokeswoman for the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees, tells NPR at a U.N.-funded clinic on the Jordanian side of the border, more than a mile from the camp. “The area is now a closed military zone, so we are helping as close as we can — but we cannot go on the other side of the berm.”

From the closest point that aid workers are allowed to go, the tents in the camp are visible only as white dots in the distance.

Enshera Mustafa holds her four-year-old granddaughter Nada outside a clinic near the Syrian-Jordanian border. Jordan sealed the border with Syria after a bombing last year and now allows a small number of refugees across for medical treatment before sending them back.

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Sand swirls around the aid compound, which is protected by Jordanian tanks and edged with barbed wire. Outside a clinic operating from a trailer, refugee women sit in plastic chairs, holding coughing children.

Enshara Mustafa has brought her four-year-old granddaughter, Nada. The little girl with wide brown eyes burned her leg with scalding water two days earlier. But she also suffers from asthma, and they couldn’t move her in a sandstorm the day before.

“It’s like death,” says Mustafa, when I ask her what the camp is like. “They send us aid every two or three months. We can’t even afford to buy an aspirin.”

She and her family left Homs more than a year ago, she says, after their house was destroyed.

“We kept moving from one place to another, and every place we went, there were airstrikes,” she says. Finally, they reached the Jordanian border and could go no further.

Jordan has always restricted access to the refugees at Rukban, but after a suicide car bomb at a checkpoint killed seven Jordanian border guards last June, it sealed the border with Syria entirely.

ISIS claimed responsibility for the attack.

“Everything is different after the bombing,” says Sabah Jaradeen, a retired Jordanian army officer who runs a UNICEF-funded feeding center for children. She says before the attack and the restrictions, she and her team used to see more than 100 children a day – assessing them and treating the ones who were malnourished. Now, she says, “The number depends on the military bringing them in the morning and taking them back.”

UNICEF says on a typical day there are fewer than a dozen children brought in. It has seen 16 severely malnourished infants since its clinic opened in December.

In November, the U.N. was allowed to drop food across the border, after months of negotiations with the Jordanian government. To reduce the risk, Jordan required that it be dropped into the no-man’s land from cranes.

The U.N. has set up a center in the neutral zone, where refugee community leaders are responsible for distributing U.N.-provided food. But the last delivery of a month’s supply of food for the refugees ran out more than a month ago. People are relying, when they can, on stockpiled food, are using whatever money they have to buy more — or, as with the malnourished children, they’re not eating at all.

A tribal leader from the Rukban camp tries to get help for children from Raqaa who were separated from their parents, who were allowed into Jordan two years ago after their father became ill.

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As for water, to minimize risk, UNICEF pumps it into Rukban from Jordanian reservoirs rather than trucking it in. Calculating the rate of water consumption, in addition to analyzing the satellite imagery, is what helps the U.N. estimate the number of people in the camp, the U.N.’s Daubelcour says.

Only refugees who are brought to a checkpoint by Rukban community leaders and are searched by Jordanian border guards are allowed access to the U.N. medical clinic. The border guards transport patients to the clinic and then take them back again to the checkpoint after they are treated.

“We try our best to advocate with the government of Jordan,” says Samir Badran of UNICEF, “and we hope there will be a solution in the long run.”

Jordanian Brig. Gen. Barakat al-Aqeel says his border force is implementing a political decision by the Jordanian government to close the border. While 90 percent of the residents of Rukban are ordinary civilians, he says, another 10 percent are affiliated with ISIS.

“The danger is very high,” he tells us. “We are always expecting the worst regarding the possibility of anyone carrying explosives to blow up our soldiers.”

As we speak, residents of the camp bring an elderly man on a stretcher to a waiting ambulance on the Jordanian side of the border. The man’s family members stop at the nearest point they’re allowed to come – a checkpoint between sand-filled barriers topped with barbed wire.

“It’s far from ideal if you have to operate without full access to the population,” Daubelcour says. “It’s difficult to understand their needs and address them in the way we would like to do.”

And then she and the other U.N. staff leave to return to Amman. The U.N.’s own security rules deem this desert too dangerous for their staff to be out after dark.

For the past two years, aid officials have been reluctant to speak publicly about Rukban, afraid of upsetting the Jordanian government and jeopardizing their chances of access to the camp. Jordan, which has taken in some 650,000 Syrian refugees, has said it is at the breaking point and called for more international aid.

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Freak Accident At A Waterfall In Ghana Kills At Least 17

The deadly incident happened at Ghana’s Kintampo Falls, pictured here in 2011.

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A tree crashed onto a group of people enjoying a swim at the base of a large waterfall in Ghana, and local authorities tell wire services that at least 17 people were killed in the freak accident.

The revelers got caught in a rainstorm on Sunday, according to a statement from the Minister of Tourism. She added that “many” were killed and injured, and that they were mostly student groups visiting the area.

The waterfall, outside the town of Kintampo in central Ghana, is a popular tourist destination. It stands some 70 meters high, according to the Guardian, and is “surrounded by mahogany trees and sunbirds.”

“It was the upper part of one of the biggest trees that came crashing down on them. It was a horrifying scene as the area was engulfed in screams and shouts for help as we arrived,” Kwaku Boateng, a fireman, told Reuters.

“It was a difficult operation because … some untrained members of the public joined in a desperate attempt to help,” he added. “We swung into action immediately with many of our men diving into the water. We used chainsaws and other cutting tools to chop the tree in pieces in order to free the victims.”

Many of the dead were students at the nearby Wenchi secondary school, the Guardian reported.

“Parents were at the hospital to identify their loved ones who passed away in the accident,” Nana Kwadjo Bekoe, a blogger who visited the school, told the newspaper. “The rest of the students who sustained various degrees of injuries were admitted to a different hospital.”

Journalist Sammy Darko told the BBC that the waterfall draws “large numbers of local and foreign visitors.” Here’s more:

“It’s especially busy at the weekend and most popular among students, who come from the five surrounding regions on school trips to the site, which is right in the centre of the country.

“Hundreds visit every weekend to see the triple-step flow of the falls, which are surrounded by lush vegetation and large overhanging trees.”

Ghanaian President Nana Akufo-Addo has posted a condolence message to the families of the victims on Twitter.

I have learnt with great sadness, the unfortunate incident that occurred at Kintampo Waterfalls yesterday. (1/2)

— Nana Akufo-Addo (@NAkufoAddo) March 20, 2017

My deepest condolences to the families of all those affected by this unfortunate and tragic incident. (2/2)

— Nana Akufo-Addo (@NAkufoAddo) March 20, 2017

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Tomb Of Jesus Is Restored In Jerusalem

The Edicule in Jerusalem’s Church of the Holy Sepulchre is traditionally believed to be the site of Jesus’ tomb. A $4 million restoration project, led by a Greek team, has cleaned and reinforced the structure.

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A restoration team Monday announced the completion of a historic renovation of one of Christianity’s holiest sites — the shrine that, according to tradition, houses the tomb of Jesus.

The ornate shrine, called the Edicule, sits in the center of Jerusalem’s Church of the Holy Sepulchre, one of the world’s oldest churches, a 12th-century building sitting on 4th-century remains in Jerusalem’s Old City.

According to Roman Catholic and Orthodox Christian belief, the Edicule encases the ancient cave where Jesus’ body was entombed and resurrected.

The Edicule shrine is built around the original cave; visitors can kneel before a marble niche that covers what is believed to be the bench where Jesus’ body was placed.

The shrine, almost completely destroyed in an 1808 fire and restored in 1810, had not been restored since, and its stone walls were buckling outward. Water, humidity and candle smoke all wore down the structure.

“I would venture to say that if this intervention hadn’t happened now, there was a very great risk that there could have been a collapse,” said Bonnie Burnham of the World Monuments Fund, a nonprofit in New York that helped raise funds for the $4 million project.

Jerusalem’s Church of the Holy Sepulchre, also know as the Basilica of the Resurrection, is home to the Edicule shrine encasing the ancient cave where, according to Roman Catholic and Orthodox Christian belief, Jesus’ body was entombed and resurrected.

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King Abdullah of Jordan and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas also donated about 150,000 euros each for the renovation efforts, she said.

Starting last May, a Greek restoration team from Athens spent nearly a year removing parts of the Edicule shrine and putting them back together. Stone slabs were removed from the walls, decades of black candle soot and pigeon droppings were scrubbed off and while the stone slabs of the facade were removed, titanium mesh and grout were inserted to strengthen the building’s core.

Most strikingly, the hulking and unsightly iron cage built around the shrine in 1947 to reinforce it, approximately 30 ft. high, was removed.

“This monument today is free. It is emancipated from the iron grids,” said Antonia Moropolou, who supervised the renovations.

The most dramatic moment of the restoration took place in late October, when Moropolou’s team entered the inner sanctum of the Edicule — which is open to visitors — and slid back layer after marble layer covering the rock-hewn bench where believers say Jesus’ body was placed after he died on the cross.

A Greek priest stands inside the renovated Edicule in the Church of the Holy Sepulchre on Monday.

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There was a layer from the late-Crusader era of the 14th century, and an earlier layer from the 4th century, when the emperor Constantine built the original church. Underneath that was the exposed rock bench.

“It was really important to see the bench, very flat and almost complete, from the right to the left, almost for the shape of one man [who] can stay on it,” said Fr. Eugenio Alliata, an Italian archaeologist in Jerusalem who is a member of a Franciscan group that looks after Christian sites in the Holy Land. “This was really something very important. And it was the first time it has been documented as it is.”

The marble layers were put back in place, but one change was made in the shrine’s inner sanctum: A small window was cut into one of the shrine’s walls. Now, for the first time, visitors can get a glimpse of what’s behind: the original rock wall of what tradition says is Jesus’ tomb.

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The FBI Is On The Case — And Other Takeaways From The House Intel Hearing

FBI Director James Comey and National Security Agency Director Mike Rogers testify during the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence hearing on Russian actions during the 2016 election campaign.

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At an hourslong public hearing on Monday, FBI Director James Comey confirmed that his agency is investigating possible coordination between the Trump campaign and Russia, and pushed back against President Trump’s allegations that he was wiretapped by former President Obama.

The House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence also heard from Comey and National Security Agency Director Mike Rogers about Russia’s general attempts to influence the U.S. presidential election and the controversial, possibly illegal leak of classified information to the press.

The congressional intelligence committees rarely hold public hearings — their work is often done behind closed doors. And you can see why, as Comey and Rogers responded to question after question by saying they weren’t able to comment in an unclassified setting. They frequently limited themselves to confirming the contents of a report issued in January, which said the Kremlin actively attempted to help Trump during the presidential campaign.

But despite the difficulty of discussing classified data in an open hearing, there were a number of revelations. Here are a few highlights:

Yes, Virginia, there is an FBI investigation.

Until Monday, the FBI had not publicly confirmed if it was investigating allegations that officials from the Trump campaign coordinated with the Kremlin as Russia was waging an influence campaign to try to shape the U.S. election.

At the hearing, Comey said:

“I have been authorized by the Department of Justice to confirm that the FBI, as part of our counterintelligence mission, is investigating the Russian government’s efforts to interfere in the 2016 presidential election. And that includes investigating the nature of any links between individuals associated with the Trump campaign and the Russian government, and whether there was any coordination between the campaign and Russia’s efforts.

“As with any counterintelligence investigation, this will also include an assessment of whether any crimes were committed.”

No Evidence Of Trump’s Wiretapping Allegations — And Not For Lack Of Looking

Earlier this month, Trump tweeted that “Obama had my ‘wires tapped.’ ” His administration has stood by the explosive, unfounded allegation even as lawmaker after lawmaker has stepped forward to say there is absolutely no evidence to support it.

The White House tried to expand the definition of “wiretapping” to include all forms of surveillance, but there has been no evidence to support even the broader claim.

Comey said, “I have no information that supports those tweets, and we have looked carefully inside the FBI” and the broader Justice Department. No president has the authority to unilaterally order a wiretap anyway, he said.

Over the past few weeks the White House shifted to claiming that a British intelligence agency was surveilling Trump Tower on Obama’s orders — another claim devoid of evidence that has also been strongly rebutted at the highest levels.

Rogers was asked if he had ordered such surveillance. ‘No, sir, nor would I,” Rogers said, noting that would violate a longstanding intelligence-sharing agreement.

Misleading Presidential Tweets Continue, Even Mid-Hearing

Several past tweets, like the ones mentioned above, were occasionally introduced into the hearing for discussion — but a very recent tweet was also raised as an issue.

Jim Himes, D-Conn., read aloud an @POTUS tweet from mid-hearing, about the hearing, claiming that Comey and Rogers had testified that “Russia did not influence [the] electoral process.”

In fact, the two men had testified that there was no evidence Russia directly changed votes, like by hacking voting machines. But as they later noted, they didn’t comment on the question of overall influence — their agencies have not evaluated whether or not Russia had successfully affected the election.

“It certainly wasn’t our intention to say that today,” Comey said, when asked to essentially live fact-check the presidential Twitter account. “We don’t have any information on that subject.”

Another tweet from the presidential Twitter account noted Comey was “refusing to deny” a briefing to Obama. That, too, was misleading; Comey repeatedly told the lawmakers not to read too much into his inability to comment on a question, because there were so many constraints on what he was allowed to discuss.

Lawmakers Divided On Prioritizing Russian Activity Or U.S. Leaks

We should note, as a caveat, that lawmakers from either side of the aisle said it was important both to investigate Russia’s activities and to protect classified data.

But there was an obvious difference in how the committee’s Democratic and Republican lawmakers approached the questioning.

The Democrats, for the most part, emphasized the possibility of coordination between the Trump campaign and Russia. They acknowledged a lack of hard evidence, but said that is a reason for more investigation, not less.

Ranking member Adam Schiff, D-Calif., exemplified this approach in his lengthy opening remarks. He included a timeline of interactions between the campaign and Russia and questioned whether changes to the GOP platform, among other things, were “coincidences” or signs of collusion. If the latter, Schiff said, that would be a “shocking betrayal of democracy.”

(Trump has long denied such allegations. On Monday Paul Manafort, a former Trump campaign manager who was among the people named by Schiff and other Democrats as having suspicious ties to Russia, issued a statement saying there is “constant scrutiny and innuendo” around his connections to Moscow, but “no facts.”)

The Republicans, in general, focused instead on the leaking of classified information to the media — noting that there may or may not have been crimes committed through collusion with Russia, but have apparently been crimes in the “felonious release of classified material,” as Trey Gowdy (R-S.C.) put it.

For example: the Democrats frequently returned to false statements by former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn, concealing the fact that he had spoken with the Russian ambassador, and the question of other ties between Flynn and Russia.

“Isn’t the American public right to be concerned about Mr. Flynn’s conduct, his failure to disclose that contact with the Russian ambassador, his attempts to cover it up and what looks like the White House’s attempts to sweep this under the rug?” Rep. Terri Sewell, D-Ala., asked.

Republican members of the committee, meanwhile, focused instead on the question of who had “unmasked” Flynn’s identity, in documents revealing those conversations. They asked who would have the ability to reveal Flynn’s name, and what their motivation might be.

If a U.S. person’s name “has been unmasked and disseminated by intelligence community officials, would that leaking to the press hurt or help our ability to conduct national security matters?” Rep. Tom Rooney, R-Fla., asked. Rogers responded, “Hurt.”

More To Come, On Every Front

There are multiple investigations into Russia’s actions during 2016. There’s the House committee investigation, which is continuing — a second hearing is scheduled for March 28.

There’s the parallel investigation by the Senate intelligence committee, as well as by the Armed Services and Foreign Relations committees. And, of course, there’s the just-confirmed investigation by the FBI.

Meanwhile, both Comey and Rogers say they expect Russia will continue to attempt to influence elections, both in the U.S. and abroad.

“I think we have to assume they’re coming back,” Comey said.

“I fully expect them to continue this level of activity,” Rogers said.

Both men declined to comment on whether Russia’s attempt to influence the U.S. elections had actually changed the outcome.

But they said it was definitely a “success,” in Russia’s eyes, on at least one front — it “introduced chaos and division and discord, and sowed doubt,” as Comey put it.

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Democrats Criticize Supreme Court Nominee Gorsuch As Pro-Business

Supreme Court nominee Neil Gorsuch hears Senators’ opening statements on Monday for the first day of his confirmation hearings.

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One of the themes that developed on Day 1 of Supreme Court nominee Neil Gorsuch’s hearings is that Democrats plan to make an issue of what they say is the Supreme Court’s pro-business leanings. In their opening statements on Monday, Democratic members of the Senate Judiciary Committee argued that Gorsuch is likely to continue the trend.

Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse of Rhode Island alleged that when the court’s majority is made of Republican appointees, the narrow 5-4 decisions “line up to help corporations against humans.”

Illinois Sen. Dick Durbin said that the court under Chief Justice John Roberts is often called “a corporate court,” and said a study by the left-leaning Constitutional Accountability Center found that it ruled for the U.S. Chamber of Commerce 69 percent of the time.

Durbin also cited Gorsuch’s dissent in a case in which a truck driver lost his job after his rig broke down one bitterly cold night. (NPR’s Nina Totenberg reported on the case here.) The driver was instructed to stay with the truck, but he found himself growing numb in the unheated cab and so drove away to find warmth, leaving the trailer behind, and was fired for disobeying orders.

Durbin said it was 14 below that night, adding, “but not as cold as your dissent, Judge Gorsuch.” He added, “Thank goodness that the majority in this case pointed out that common sense and the Oxford dictionary” supported their view that the firing was without merit.

In his own opening statement, Gorsuch spoke of striving for impartiality and the support he has received across the political spectrum.

“In my decade on the bench, I have tried to treat all who come to court fairly and with respect. … My decisions have never reflected a judgment about the people before me — only my best judgment about the law and facts at issue in each particular case,” the nominee said. “For the truth is, a judge who likes every outcome he reaches is probably a pretty bad judge, stretching for the policy results he prefers rather than those the law compels.”

Gorsuch will begin taking questions from the senators on Tuesday morning.

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