Sam's Top 5 Things to Know for 2/16/17

posted by Justice & Drew - 

1. President Trump has declined endorsing an independent Palestinian state, suggesting he could see a one-state Middle East peace solution.

Charting a striking new course for the Middle East, yesterday President Donald Trump withheld clear support for an independent Palestine and declared he could endorse a one-nation solution to the long and deep dispute between Palestinians and Israel.

Trump said he was more interested in an agreement that leads to peace than in any particular path to get there. Standing beside Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Trump broke not only with recent U.S. presidents but also distanced the United States from the prevailing position of much of the world. While Trump urged Netanyahu to "hold off" on Jewish settlement construction in territory the Palestinians claim for their future state, he offered unwavering support for Israel. While it once appeared that a two-state solution was the "easier of the two" options for the Palestinians and Israel, Trump said he'd be open to alternatives. He told reporters, "I'm looking at two-state and one-state, and I like the one that both parties like. I can live with either one."

2. President Trump is blaming the media for bringing down  Michael Flynn

Yesterday, President Donald Trump blamed the media and "illegally leaked" intelligence information for bringing down his national security adviser Michael Flynn, just one day after the White House said Trump had asked Flynn to resign because he misled Vice President Mike Pence about his contacts with Russia.

Flynn's ouster has sparked a new swirl of controversy over Trump's potential ties to Moscow. Flynn resigned Monday night — at the behest of Trump, the White House later said — after reports that he had discussed sanctions with Russia's ambassador to the U.S. before the inauguration, despite previously denying those conversations to Pence and other top officials.

But in Trump's first public comments on Flynn, he appeared to side with his former aide, saying it was "really a sad thing that he was treated so badly."

3. Andrew Puzder has withdrawn as a labor secretary nominee

Puzder, the CEO of the company that owns the Hardee's and Carl's Jr. fast food chains, faced fierce opposition mostly from Democrats in part related to his position on labor issues as well as the fact that he employed an undocumented immigrant housekeeper.

But Republicans had also grown weary of the range of liabilities facing Puzder, and senior GOP officials informed the White House Tuesday night and Wednesday that Puzder lacked a viable path for confirmation.

Puzder said in a statement yesterday, "After careful consideration and discussions with my family, I am withdrawing my nomination for Secretary of Labor. I am honored to have been considered by President Donald Trump to lead the Department of Labor and put America's workers and businesses back on a path to sustainable prosperity.”

4. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis told fellow NATO members to increase military spending or risk seeing the U.S. curtail its defense support.

Echoing President Donald Trump's demands for NATO countries to assume greater self-defense responsibility, Mattis said Washington will "moderate its commitment" to the alliance if countries fail to fall in line. He didn't offer details, but the pressure is sure to be felt, particularly by governments in Europe's eastern reaches that feel threatened by Russian expansionism.

 Trump's Russia policy remains a mystery for many of America's closest international partners. As a candidate, the Republican president steered clear of criticizing Moscow for its 2014 annexation of Ukraine's Crimea region and repeatedly praised Russian President Vladimir Putin, saying he wanted a new era of cooperation between the former Cold War foes.

5. For the first time in its more than 30-year history, American Girl will sell a boy version of its dolls.

The 18-inch "Logan Everett" doll will go on sale this week. American Girl, which is owned by Barbie maker Mattel Inc., says Logan is a drummer and will come with a doll-sized drum kit.

It's the latest move by Mattel to be more relevant to iPad-playing kids and their parents. A boy appeared in a Barbie commercial for the first time two years ago. And Barbie got a major makeover last year, giving the iconic doll several ethnicities and body shapes.

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