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ISIS Infiltrates the Rukban Refugee Camp at Jordan-Syria Border

ISIS Infiltrates the Rukban Refugee Camp at Jordan-Syria Border

Image: An ariel view of the informal Rukban camp, between the Jordan and Syria borders

A Jordanian military officail estimates that up to five percent of the camp’s residents — about 4,000 people — may be militants. Raad Adayleh / AP

AL RUKBAN REFUGEE CAMP — Some 80,000 people are trapped in a scrub land of hopelessness in a forgotten corner of the Middle East.

Huddling in the wind, walled in by desert sandbanks, they have been driven there by war. Abandoned by governments, they are preyed on by the very ISIS gunmen and suicide bombers they fled their homelands to escape.

NBC News was given unique access to the area where Rukban straddles a rocky, arid no man’s land along the border linking Syria and Jordan — an important American ally, and a key member of the U.S.-led coalition against ISIS.

Image: Map shows location of Al Rukban refugee camp
A map showing the location of the refugee camp on the Jordan-Syria border. Google

Officially, it is located in a demilitarized zone. However, the pilot of the Jordanian military helicopter used during a recent NBC News visit wouldn’t fly over it for fear of being shot down by ISIS cells in the camp.

Brig. Gen. Sami Kafawin, commander of Jordan’s army in the area, told NBC News that militants there “have whole weapons systems … small arms, RPGs, anti-aircraft.”

He added: “They consider the camp a safe haven. We consider it an imminent threat.”

President Donald Trump says he wants so-called “safe zones” to keep refugees in or near their own country even as they are displaced by war. It is not clear whether Rukban is what he had in mind, but this makeshift refugee camp offers a stark lesson to those seeking to de-escalate the Syrian civil war and establish secure areas for civilians who’ve been driven from their homes.

Inside Syria’s ‘Safe Zones’: How to Protect Them? 1:58

Syrians who left ISIS-held territory found themselves stranded at Rukban when Jordan closed its entire border with the country last year. The country has also blocked much humanitarian assistance from getting into the camp.

Aid agencies have complained for months that they can’t gain access the site to provide food and essential supplies. Coordinated by the U.N.’s World Food Program, a monthly delivery by a crane located in Jordanian territory makes up the bulk of what keeps men, women and children alive at the ever-growing camp.

According to UNHCR, some 659,000 Syrian refugees and around 63,000 Iraqis have officially registered in Jordan — a country of about 9 million people. Citing the most recent census, state-run media last year reported that at least 1.26 million people in Jordan were Syrians.

Now in its seventh year, the war in Syria has left an estimated 450,000 dead. Aid organizations believe that around half of Syria’s population has been killed or forced to flee their homes in what is the world’s worst humanitarian crisis since World War II.

Daily gunbattles

The sea of tattered tents, the barefoot women and begging children, along with the burn victims being treated nearby at Rukban are all proof that the desperate crisis is beyond the reach of aid workers.

Last year, an ISIS suicide bomber killed seven Jordanian soldiers at a military base located less than a mile away.

That resulted in Jordan preventing all but a handful of refugees from crossing its borders — and declared the area a “closed military zone.”

There have been regular attacks this year and daily gunbattles inside the camp, according to Kafawin. He estimates that up to five percent of its residents — about 4,000 people — may be militants.

Syria’s government lost control of this area years ago, and its border posts lie empty. Rebels opposed to the regime of President Bashar al-Assad control the neighboring region.

Image: Syrian women and children living in the Al Rukban cross the only legal border point
Syrian women and children living in the Al Rukban refugee camp cross the only legal border point along the demilitarized zone in eastern Jordan. Despite having closed the area after an ISIS attack on a nearby military base in 2016, the Jordanian government allows refugees with health issues to cross into the country for medical treatment, before they are forced to return. Ziad Jaber / NBC News

Yet parties in the war continue to talk about making areas like this into safe zones.

Trump ordered the Pentagon and State Department to examine how to make such “zones of security” actually safe. While the White House has not released information about the plans, it is clear that true safe zones would require lots of money, boots on the ground and planes in the air.

Making such areas secure was also discussed when Trump met Jordan’s King Abdullah on April 5. On Wednesday, Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin discussed establishing such areas, according to the White House. And on Thursday, Iran, Russia and Turkey backed the establishment of safe zones in or around Syria — although the U.S. was not part of the agreement, and said it was concerned about Tehran’s involvement.

So clearly setting up safe zones would will not be an easy task.

It “needs a lot of effort to do it, to maintain it, to secure it,” Kafawin said. “It’s difficult to protect. You need a no fly zone, you need 24-hour patrols and you need, for sure, ground forces.”

And who will provide all of that?

“I don’t think it’s possible without U.S. support,” he said.

Trump already has a lot on his plate including escalating tensions with North Korea and Russia, and a worsening crisis in Afghanistan.

Last month, he launched cruise missiles against a Syrian military airfield to try to prevent further attacks on civilians. Protecting tens of thousands of civilians with no-fly zones in camps like Rukban is a whole lot harder.

Image: Mathoor Yassen Ikhleif
Mathoor Yassen Ikhleif, 14, suffered burns to more than 70 percent of his body after a heater exploded in the Al Rukban refugee camp. He was treated by volunteers at a UNICEF field hospital — the only medical facility for hundreds of miles. Ziad Jaber / NBC News

Donald Trump sounds like he really misses not being president

Donald Trump sounds like he really misses not being president

“I loved my previous life, I loved my previous life. I had so many things going,” Trump told Reuters. “I actually, this is more work than my previous life. I thought it would be easier.”
Then, later: “I do miss my old life. This — I like to work. But this is actually more work.”
That sentiment is, in a word, strange. For a few reasons.
It’s absolutely true that all presidents express — privately and then, eventually, publicly — some level of longing for the life they left behind or the life they will return to. But that usually happens after, say, seven or eight years in the White House. Not after 99 days.
The truth is — and even Donald Trump might admit this in his most candid moments — that he had almost zero idea of what being president would entail when he started running for the office almost two years ago now.
When he entered the race in June 2015, there was no reasonable expectation that he would even sniff the top tier of the Republican field. He was seen as a curiosity, a celebrity calling everyone’s bluff who said he never could, should or would run.
Throughout the campaign — even as he improbably rose to the top of the GOP field and stayed there — Trump would always tell his crowds that being president would be easy, and that he would solve the problems of the country so quickly they wouldn’t believe it.
“Together we’re going to deliver real change that once again puts Americans first,” Trump promised a Florida audience last October. “You’re going to have such great health care, at a tiny fraction of the cost—and it’s going to be so easy.”
(Nota bene: Republican attempts to even hold a vote on legislation that would reform and replace the Affordable Care Act died Thursday night. For the second time in as many months.)
It’s, of course, true that no president is ever, really, ready for the job when they come into office. But Trump’s understanding of the office — and of the political process was minuscule. He had never run for or served in any elected office. (Say what you will about the relative inexperience of George W. Bush and Barack Obama before ascending to the presidency but they had been elected and served as governor and senator, respectively.) Trump’s experience in politics, by contrast, amounted to giving money when someone asked him to. And that’s about it.
Which is how someone who has been president for the last 99 days can repeatedly express amazement that the job is hard — far harder than he expected — and wax nostalgic about his old life.
Trump’s old life was, without question, easier than his current one. He starred in a reality TV show. He was the brand manager of a company built around his ostentatious personality. He did, basically, what he wanted to do when he wanted to do it.
Now his life is totally and completely proscribed. He has very little agency in all of it. He goes where he is told when he is told. And much of what Trump does on a daily basis is a radical departure from the “being Donald Trump” role that he had been playing for decades prior to winning the White House. He has to confront problems — the Middle East, North Korea, healthcare — in which he can’t just snap his fingers, make a decision and move on. Nothing — or almost nothing– is black and white. It’s all shades of gray. It’s, um, hard.
Given all of that, it’s easy to see why Trump might pine for the simpler life he led prior to being elected president. It’s just very, very odd he decided to say that publicly less than 100 days into his administration.

Pentagon Investigating Michael Flynn for Foreign Payments

Pentagon Investigating Michael Flynn for Foreign Payments

Rep. Elijah Cummings, the highest ranking Democrat on the House Oversight Committee, released a Defense Intelligence Agency letter sent to the former Army lieutenant general as he entered retirement which specifically says Flynn cannot accept fees and gifts from foreign governments “unless congressional consent is first obtained.”

Cummings Releases Documents Showing Flynn Inaction on Russia Payment

“The Pentagon’s warning to Gen. Flynn was bold, italicized and could not have been clearer,” Cummings told reporters.

A second letter released by Cummings shows the Inspector General of the Department of Defense is investigating whether Flynn received proper permission to take the funds. A Defense Department spokesman confirmed the Flynn probe opened April 4.

Flynn, who resigned in February after misleading Trump administration officials about his conversations with Russian officials, is under fire for receiving nearly $34,000 in December 2015 for speaking at a gala celebrating Russian TV, and more than $500,000 for lobbying work on behalf of the Turkish government.

Another Defense Intelligence Agency released Thursday also revealed they could not locate any records of Flynn “seeking permission or approval for the receipt of money from a foreign source.”

Earlier this week Cummings, joined by Republican Rep. Jason Chaffetz, said Flynn may have violated the law by not disclosing the payments.

“I see no information or no data to support the notion that Gen. Flynn complied with the law,” Chaffetz, chair of the oversight committee, told NBC News on Tuesday.

A lawyer for Flynn said in a statement this week that the former Trump adviser “extensively” briefed the Defense Intelligence Agency “both before and after the trip” to Moscow.

Chaffetz and Cummings released a joint statement this week revealing the White House had denied their request for documents relating to Flynn. Chaffetz said he believes the administration simply does not possess the documents, while Cummings has said they are intentionally withholding information about Flynn.

“I don’t understand why the White house is covering up for Michael Flynn,” Cummings said Thursday.

MEANWHILE, IN TEXAS . ..

MEANWHILE, IN TEXAS . ..

Blood Money
Senator Ted Cruz thinks he’s found a great way to pay for President Trump’s border wall: drug money. According to the Dallas Morning News, Cruz introduced a bill on Tuesday called the Ensuring Lawful Collection of Hidden Assets to Provide Order Act, which, spectacularly, reduces to the acronym EL CHAPO. The bill suggests that the government tap into the $14 billion in assets currently being sought from Joaquin Guzman, the elusive longtime kingpin of Mexico’s Sinaloa drug cartel. El Chapo is currently incarcerated in Brooklyn. “Fourteen billion dollars will go a long way toward building a wall that will keep Americans safe and hinder the illegal flow of drugs, weapons, and individuals across our southern border,” Cruz said in a statement, according to the Morning News. He also made an online petition, so you can sign your name in support of the bill to “build the wall and make El Chapo pay for it!

Air Uber
Uber has ruled the ride-hailing market when it comes to ground transportation, and now it’s aiming to conquer the skies too. The company badly wants to make “intra-urban flying vehicles” happen, with the air above North Texas as its testing course. According to the Texas Tribune, Uber announced at its “Uber Elevate Summit” in Dallas on Tuesday that Dallas and Fort Worth are the first of its partner cities in its “Uber Elevate Network.” They hope to have a flying car demonstration over DFW within three years. “This is an opportunity for our city to show leaders from around the world and across industries why Dallas should be a part of building a better future for urban mobility,” Dallas Mayor Mike Rawlings said in a statement, according to the Tribune. The Fort Worth Star-Telegram reported that Uber has tapped Fort Worth-based Bell Helicopter to develop its fleet. The helicopter manufacturer is working on propulsion technology to build electric vertical takeoff and landing aircraft that will supposedly be quieter than your average helicopter.

Get Well Soon
Former President George H.W. Bush is in the midst of another lengthy hospital stay. Bush was admitted to Houston Methodist on April 14 after he couldn’t shake a cough, and he was diagnosed with a case of mild pneumonia. His spokesman said last week that Bush would be fine, but twelve days later he’s still in the hospital, where doctors will keep him under observation for at least a few more days because of chronic bronchitis, according to the Houston Chronicle. The forty-first president is in the hospital for the second time this year. He spent sixteen days at Houston Methodist in January, including a scary stint in the ICU, while fighting a bout of pneumonia. But he recovered completely, and was well enough to take part in the coin toss at the Super Bowl in Houston in February. He is once again expected to recover just fine. “We continue to monitor his cough and breathing, and expect to discharge him by the end of the week,” Bush’s doctor said in a statement. “Once President Bush is home, we will continue aggressive respiratory treatments to help minimize the effects of the chronic bronchitis.”

DALLAS POLICE ARE RESPONDING TO A POSSIBLE ACTIVE SHOOTER SITUATION AT AN OFFICE BUILDING

Dallas police said officers are responding Monday to reports of a person with a gun at an office building in the north of the city.

Police provided no other details, including whether any shots were fired or any injuries reported in 911 calls Monday morning.

Television footage showed a heavy police response, including a SWAT team, at the multi-story office building along an interstate. A broken window can be seen on one of the upper floors of the mirrored tower.

Dallas Fire-Rescue said they dispatched three rescue units to the scene. A Dallas Fire-Rescue spokesman could not confirm whether there were any fatalities.

Hannah Greenhaw was among the workers evacuated safely from the offices near a multi-level highway interchange known as the High Five.

Greenhaw told KXAS-TV that people from an office across the hall came over to warn them to lock the doors because there had been reports of an active shooter. Everyone in her office hurried to a corner in the back and turned out the lights, she said.

Armed tactical police officers then arrived, entered her office and told the workers to put their hands up, according to Greenhaw. Officers helped evacuate everyone from the building, she said, with some people allowed to use elevators.

“There was a few of us who couldn’t actually walk down 10 flights of stairs,” Greenhaw said.

Syria’s chemical program: Rubio ‘gravely concerned’ about Iran & Russia complicity

Syria’s chemical program: Rubio ‘gravely concerned’ about Iran & Russia complicity

Florida Sen. Marco Rubio told Fox News he’s “gravely concerned” about the Iran’s role in helping Syria develop its chemical welfare program that ended up killing dozens of people weeks ago.

Rubio, a Republican, said he was troubled by reports that both Iran and Russia were complicit in Bashar Assad’s chemical weapons program. While the Trump administration accused Moscow of covering up the Syrian regime’s chemical weapons attack, the U.S government has not mentioned Iran’s possible role.

“Congress and the White House should work together to hold the Assad regime accountable for its war crimes and impose harsh sanctions against its enablers,” Rubio told Fox News.

Mounting evidence shows Iran’s regime enabled Assad to develop a lethal gas program that he used on civilians earlier this month and in 2013. Assad’s Air Force dropped the poisonous gas sarin on the rebel-held town of Khan Sheikhoun in April, killing more than 80 people, many of them children.

IRAN ISSUES THREAT OVER US STRIKES IN SYRIA

In response to Assad’s chemical attack, the U.S. launched 59 Tomahawk missiles at the Shayrat Air Base, which served as the departure point for planes carrying the deadly nerve agent. Iran’s Revolutionary Guard Corps and the Lebanese militia group Hezbollah have long used the Shayrat Air Base, experts say.

Reuters reported on Wednesday that Ahmet Uzumcu, the director-general of the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons, said the attack in Khan Sheikhoun “indicate that sarin or a sarin-like substance was used.”

Iran sided with Russia’s denial that the Syrian regime did not use chemical weapons.  Iran’s foreign ministry spokesman Bahram Ghasemi said the “unilateral action is dangerous, destructive and violates the principles of international law.”

Assad first used sarin nerve gas to attack the Damascus suburb of Ghouta in 2013, killing nearly 1,500 civilians, including 426 children.

Last July, Fox News reported exclusively that Iran sought chemical and biological weapons technology, according to multiple German intelligence documents.

The British publication Jane’s Defense Weekly reported in 2005 that the Islamic Republic of Iran worked with Assad’s regime to build an “innovative chemical warfare program.” According to the report, Iran provided crucial know-how to build equipment to produce “hundreds of tons of precursors for VX, sarin nerve agents and mustard blister agent.”

According to a WikiLeaks cable on the Iran-Syria chemical warfare activities, “New Zealand assesses that the cooperation is mainly driven by Iran’s desire for increased strategic importance in the region. New Zealand also assesses that Iran’s biotechnology sector is far more advanced than Syria’s, and Iran does not mind sharing its knowledge with Syria.”

US LAUNCHES MISSILES INTO SYRIA IN RESPONSE TO CHEMICAL WEAPONS ATTACK

In 2007, a joint Iran-Syria project accidentally caused an explosion while attempting to load a chemical warhead onto a Scud-C missile, wrote Jane’s Defense. The deadly test killed dozens of Syrian military personnel and Iranian engineers.

Sarin gas, along with mustard gas and VX nerve gas, were cited as the lethal toxins during the 2007 explosion at an Aleppo factory.

Michael Rubin, resident scholar at the Washington D.C-based American Enterprise Institute, told Fox News that Iran has long viewed Syria as a partner.

“The thing that makes Iran so dangerous is it not only exports its weapons to proxies in Lebanon, Syria, and Iraq, but it brags about exporting the ability to manufacture weapons,” Rubin said.

Rubin, who has written about Iran’s chemical weapons program, said it makes strategic sense for Iran to help other countries obtain chemical agents.

“Plausible deniability has always been central to post-revolutionary Iran’s strategic calculation,” he said, “and so to proliferate unconventional weapons enables Iran to avoid accountability by raising the number of suspects every time they are used.”

Fox News reported last week that defected Syrian Brig. Gen. Zaher al-Sakat,  who oversaw the regime’s chemical weapons, said Bashar Assad  would not “completely give up” his chemical weapons arsenal.

The recent chemical attack debunked former Secretary of State John Kerry’s assertion in 2014 that the U.S. “got 100 percent of the chemical weapons [out of Syria].

A 2017 Congressional Service report released this month said Iran not only has the capability to produce chemical warfare but probably “has the capability to produce some biological warfare agents for offensive purposes, if it made the decision to do so.”

The report notes that “this raises questions about Iran’s compliance with its obligations under the Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC), which Iran signed on January 13, 1993, and ratified on June 8, 1997.”

The emergence of Iran’s role in enabling Syria’s use of chemical weapons comes on the heels of Secretary of State Rex Tillerson saying: “Iran remains a leading state sponsor of terror, through many platforms and methods.” Tillerson said this week, however, that a recent review shows Iran has been compliant with its 2015 nuclear deal.

During the Iran-Iraq war 1980-1988, both Iran’s Islamist regime and Saddam Hussein’s secular Baath party employed poisonous gas on soldiers.

Iran’s UN diplomatic missions in New York and Geneva did not immediately respond to requests from Fox News for comment.

Hunter Shoots Two Partners Who were Hiding Behind Turkey Fan

Hunter Shoots Two Partners Who were Hiding Behind Turkey Fan

We’ve also covered many stories through the years that highlight the turkey hunting tactic called “reaping” or “fanning,” and one of the most amazing featured an entire hunt filmed by a drone.

At the end of my DIY fan article, I wrote: “To my knowledge, no turkey hunter has died while reaping, but I don’t think it’s a matter of ‘if,’ it’s only a matter of ‘when.’ ”

Well, it almost came true last week in Kansas.

According to this report from The Joplin Globe, three buddies were hunting new land. Two of the shotgun hunters began searching for turkeys on one side of the leased private property, and the other man started hunting elsewhere on the land. Somehow they ended up moving into each other’s space. It appears likely that they were calling to each other, both parties thinking that the other was a real gobbler. While two of the hunters hid behind a turkey fan on the edge of the woods, the third man shot at the fan, hitting his hunting partners.

According to the news story: “Sheriff Dan Peak said the sheriff’s office learned of the matter when the shooter drove the two injured hunters to the hospital in Girard with potentially life-threatening shotgun wounds to their faces and upper bodies. They later were flown by medical helicopter to Freeman Hospital West in Joplin.”

This story serves as a grim reminder of the dangers of reaping/fanning a turkey, even on private land. Be careful out there!

On North Korean border, Pence tells CNN US will drop ‘failed policy’

On North Korean border, Pence tells CNN US will drop ‘failed policy’

“We’re going to abandon the failed policy of strategic patience. But we’re going to redouble our efforts to bring diplomatic and economic pressure to bear on North Korea. Our hope is that we can resolve this issue peaceably,” Pence said in an exclusive interview at the DMZ.
What is the DMZ?

The demilitarized zone (DMZ) is a heavily-fortified buffer, four kilometers (2.5 miles) wide and 250 kilometers (160 miles) long, that separates North and South Korea.

It was established by the armistice agreement that ended the Korean War in 1953, though both sides technically remain at conflict as no peace treaty has ever been signed.

Numerous US officials have visited military bases overlooking the border, and the Panmunjom Joint Security Area, where North and South Korean soldiers stand watch facing each other and several meeting rooms straddle the border between the two countries.

To achieve this new strategy, the administration is relying heavily on China, a country President Donald Trump spent his entire campaign railing against, but has since stopped as it became clear North Korea would be a top priority requiring China’s help.
“I know the President was heartened by his discussions with President Xi (Jinping). We’ve seen China begin to take some actions to bring pressure on North Korea but there needs to be more,” Pence said.
Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Lu Kang said in a daily briefing Monday that the onus was on all parties — including the US and China — to reach a peaceful solution.
“Resolving this issue requires all relevant parties, especially parties that bear major responsibility and play a key role in this issue, to work in the same direction and make a joint effort,” he said.

Nuclear ambition

The North Korean regime began its nuclear program in earnest during the Clinton administration, which tried to prevent its buildup with a diplomatic agreement.
It ultimately failed after Pyongyang violated it by continuing its nuclear buildup. Later, the Bush administration tried global pressure with the so-called “six party talks,” but those failed too, and North Korea launched its first nuclear test in 2006. During the Obama administration, the regime launched four more nuclear tests.
Now, some estimates are that North Korea may have the capability to launch a missile that could hit the continental US by the year 2020.
Asked about that, Pence paused for several seconds before answering.
“I know the President of the United States has no higher priority than the safety and security of the American people. The presence of US forces here in South Korea are a long-standing commitment to the Asia Pacific. And insuring the security of the continental US will be a priority in this administration.
“Look, we want to be clear: our hope and frankly our prayer is that by marshaling the resources of nations across the Asian Pacific — not just South Korea, Japan, other allies — and China bringing renewed pressure to bear,” he said.

Pence breaks with security plan

The plan was for the vice president to stay inside the glass enclosed Freedom House at the DMZ and not step outside towards the military demarcation line (MDL), where North Korean soldiers are standing.
However, once there, Pence declared he wanted to go outside — and so he did just that. As the vice president stood and looked on, North Korean soldiers quickly came out on their side of MDL and began taking pictures of Pence.
A North Korean soldier takes a photo during US Vice President Mike Pence's visit to the Demilitarized Zone (DMZ), April 17.

Military officials here told CNN in advance that snapping photos is what North Korea does when seeing VIPs across the way — both to document their presence and intimidate.
Most US dignitaries go even closer to the North Korean side when here — to a set of blue buildings called conference row that spans the MDL and allows them to actually step foot in North Korea. For security reasons, Pence did not.
He did, however, go to Observation Point Ouellette, a lookout post from where not only are the North Korean hills visible, but its propaganda machine can be heard — music and political messages blast there across the DMZ.
U.S. Vice President Mike Pence arrives at Observation Post Ouellette in the Demilitarized Zone (DMZ), near the border village of Panmunjom.

Pence’s father awarded Bronze Star

For the vice president, this first trip to the Korean Peninsula is an emotional one. His father, 2nd Lt. Edward J. Pence, Jr., US Army, was awarded the Bronze Star for his service in the Korean War.
US military officials prepared a briefing for Pence about the so-called Battle of Pork Chop Hill, where his father earned his medal.
“It’s very meaningful for me and my family to be here. So many years after my father’s service. To be honest with you, my dad didn’t talk about his combat experience much until we were all grown up. It was a lot of tough fighting here,” Pence told CNN.
“I think, in some way, my Dad just might be smiling from heaven to see the sacrifices that he and other American soldiers and South Korean soldiers made here are now passed on to my generation. That’s not changed out our commitment to the secure and prosperity of South Korea.”

Russia metro explosion: Live updates

Russia metro explosion: Live updates

At least nine people were killed in an explosion at a metro station in St. Petersburg, Russia. We’re covering the latest below.

President Trump has been briefed

US President Trump has been briefed on the situation in Russia, deputy press secretary Sarah Sanders tells CNN.

No further comment at this time.

ACTION ALERT! EWA Requesting Members Comment Now in Opposition to USDA AMS’ COOL Changes

Exotic Wildlife Association
NEWS ALERT
“Promoting Conservation through Commerce”
ACTION ALERT!
EWA Requesting Members Comment Now in Opposition to USDA AMS’ COOL Changes
Comment Period Ends April 13th!
 
The Exotic Wildlife Association joins other associations in opposition to the USDA Agriculture Marketing Service (AMS)’s proposed changes to the Country of Origin Labeling (COOL) program for venison. This includes all of our deer and elk ranchers. COOL is a labeling program that requires retailers, such as grocery stores, convenience stores and farmer’s markets, to provide extra labeling noting the country of origin.  This change originates from the 2014 Farm Bill. USDA AMS’ proposed rule estimates this mandate will cost the industry nearly $1 million to comply with little or no economic benefit.
Even more appalling, is the USDA AMS’ definition of cervid and venison includes antelope and nilgai. Nilgai and antelope are not deer and this is not helping the argument to distance antelope and blackbuck from cervid rules, such as CWD.
Please submit a comment in opposition for one of these two methods: 
You may submit comments by either of the following methods:
* Federal Rulemaking Portal: Go to: https://www.regulations.gov/docket?D=AMS-LPS-16-0014
* Postal Mail/Commercial Delivery: Comments may also be submitted to Julie Henderson, Director, COOL Division, Livestock, Poultry, and Seed Program, Agricultural Marketing Service, U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA); STOP 0216; 1400 Independence Avenue S.W., Room 2620-S; Washington, DC 20250-0216. All comments should reference docket number AMS-LPS-16-0014.
Exotic Wildlife Association
Charly Seale, Executive Director

105 Henderson Branch Rd., West
Ingram, Texas 78025
 
March 29, 2017
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Alan Warren Outdoors Radio Show 


  

Exotic Wildlife Association, 105 Henderson Branch Rd., West, Ingram, TX 78025

Exotic Wildlife Association NEWS ALERT!

Exotic Wildlife Association
NEWS ALERT
“Promoting Conservation through Commerce”
Funeral Services for Dr. Larry Varner
 
Visitation:
When:     Thursday, March 30th
Time:         5:00 – 7:00 – PM
Where:     Zoeller Funeral Home
                 615 Landa St,
                 New Braunfels, TX 78130
 
Funeral:
When:       Friday, March 31st
Time:       11:00 AM
Where:     New Braunfels Church of Christ
               665 S Business Ih 35,
               New Braunfels, TX 78130
In lieu of flowers you can make a donation to the Larry Varner Memorial Scholarship.
Make check payable to the Texas Deer Association Foundation. In the Memo put Dr. Larry Varner Scholarship.
Mail To:
Texas Deer Association
816 Congress Ave
Suite 950
Austin, TX 78701
Exotic Wildlife Association
Charly Seale, Executive Director

105 Henderson Branch Rd., West
Ingram, Texas 78025
 
March 28, 2017
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This EWA E-Blast brought to you by:

Huntsville Livestock

Alan Warren Outdoors Radio Show 


  

Exotic Wildlife Association, 105 Henderson Branch Rd., West, Ingram, TX 78025
Sent by charly@myewa.org in collaboration with
Constant Contact

Gorsuch faces day 3 of questioning at Supreme Court hearing.

Gorsuch faces day 3 of questioning at Supreme Court hearing.

Judge Neil Gorsuch will face day three of his Supreme Court confirmation hearing Wednesday, in which he can expect to face more tough questions from Democrats.

Fenstein prods again on Gorsuch’s 2006 advice to President Bush on the signing statement of the Detainee Detention Act.

Gorsuch notes that his memory is not that great. But Feinstein says that he is “still young” which draws a grin from the nominee.

When Feinstein mentions the gun case, Gorsuch says it is an example of him ruling in favor of “the little guy.”

The case involved a felon who was prosecuted for having a gun as a felon. Gorsuch found that the defendant didn’t know he was a felon and therefore couldn’t be prosecuted for being a felon with a gun.

“I’m just trying to follow the plain letters of the law,” whether a little guy or a big guy, he said.

 

Can GOP health care bill get across Senate finish line?
Grassley asks Gorsuch when it is appropriate to look at legislative history, He notes Scalia hated it.

Gorsuch says he has the utmost respect for the Senate and says that every judge has the responsibility to read what it is put before him or her by the body.

Gorsuch points to a case where he disagreed with putting a man in prison due to legislative history rather than legal precedent.

Sen. Grassley is talking about bringing in cameras into the Supreme Court, although he carefully avoids asking Gorsuch his opinion.

Senate Democrats aren’t pleased.

BREAKING NEWS: 3 Texas Fishermen Shot by Mexican Cartel Gunmen; 2 injured, 1 Dead

NEWS |

BREAKING NEWS: 3 Texas Fishermen Shot by Mexican Cartel Gunmen; 2 injured, 1 Dead

When authorities responded to a “shots fired” call in the rural community of Fronton, Texas, they discovered what witnesses are saying is a case of cross border violence.

Federal authorities found two fishermen who had been injured and a third killed by gunfire. The two survivors are expected to recover.

According to KRGV, the men were fishing, minding their own business, when a group of suspected gunmen from the Mexican side fired on them for no apparent reason.

No additional information was released, and the investigation is ongoing at this time.

This deadly shooting comes just months after a man was murdered at Falcon Lake by cartel gunmen. Falcon Lake is an area frequently used by Los Zetas for illegal activity such as smuggling drugs and illegal immigrants into the U.S.

100% DONATION FOR VICTIMS IN PANHANDLE – AUCTIONING TWO ARABIAN ORYX BULLS!

100% Donation from this auction to victims of the panhandle fire!!! Arabian Oryx Bull! Auctions ends today at 1:00 p.m. Please reach out and help support the devastation left behind by the fire!

Game Wardens Discover 1 Dozen Rotten Deer in Taxidermist/Meat Processor’s Front Yard

NEWS |

Game Wardens Discover 1 Dozen Rotten Deer in Taxidermist/Meat Processor’s Front Yard

Henderson County Sheriff’s Office began an investigation, where they discovered 19 deer lying in the violator’s yard. Further investigation later revealed a total of 24 deer that had been left to waste and were way beyond the point of being safe for consumption.

According to Texas Game Warden Captain Mike Hanson, the reason given for the deer in the front yard was the man’s walk-in freezer “had been removed after it was sold.”

The violator received several citations, including 24 cases – one for each whitetail deer found – of Waste of Game. According to the Parks and Wildlife website, it is an offense if a person intentionally takes or possesses a game bird, game animal, or fish and intentionally, knowingly, recklessly or with criminal negligence, fails to keep the edible portions of the bird, animal or fish in an edible condition.

Hanson also said several alligator body parts were found at the home and are being sent out for DNA analysis to determine where they came from.

 

Two Men Convicted of Poaching After Illegal Elk Hunt Aired on Television

NEWS |

Two Men Convicted of Poaching After Illegal Elk Hunt Aired on Television

Ricky J. Mills, 37, and Jimmy G. Duncan, 25, were arraigned on numerous wildlife violations totaling over $30,000 in fines, according to Oil City News.

The case began when a Wyoming resident noticed something wasn’t right in an episode titled “Western Redemption,” where Mills and Duncan are seen harvesting two bull elk in Wyoming. The resident tipped off authorities when he noticed  the area they claimed to kill the elk, did not match the area for which their licenses were issued.

Authorities were able to locate the kill site and dig up enough evidence to build a strong case against the poachers.

View image on Twitter

Kentucky men sentenced after poaching bull elk in Wyoming on national TV show “Hunting in the Sticks” http://buff.ly/2nqgfHD 

“This case could not have been made without the assistance of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources agents,” said Mike Ehlebracht, investigative supervisor for the Wyoming Game and Fish.

In conclusion, it was determined that the two poachers took two elk on private property, but it wasn’t just any private property. The area they took the two bulls out of is a highly coveted hunt area that yields very few tags. In this specific area, bulls are only allowed to be harvested every other year.

Ricky Mills was sentenced and ordered by the court to pay $7,460 in fines, $6,000 in restitution for the bull elk he killed, $240 in court costs and has been stripped of his hunting privileges for 15 years. Mills will be entered into the Wildlife Violator Compact which will prevent him from hunting and trapping in 43 participating states.

Jimmy Duncan was also sentenced and ordered to pay $7,500 in fines, $6,000 in restitution for his bull elk he killed, $4,000 in restitution for an antelope he illegally took in 2013 and $240 in court costs. Duncan also lost his hunting privileges for 15 years and will be entered into the WVC along with Mills. The elk mounts from both Duncan and Mills were forfeited to the Game and Fish.

BREAKING NEWS: Federal Judge Approves Remington Rifle Settlement

NEWS |

BREAKING NEWS: Federal Judge Approves Remington Rifle Settlement

According to CNBC, the ruling involves some 7.5 million firearms – including the popular Model 700 rifle – and allows owners to have the trigger mechanism fixed free of charge.

U.S. District Judge Ortie Smith of Kansas City stated his disappointment in the lack of gun owners who have asked to have the triggers replaced. So far, just 22,000 have been reported fixed.

Remington has agreed to the terms of the settlement, but continues to stand behind its popular Model 700 and all of its rifles. Here is a list of who’s included in the benefits from the lawsuit:

The Settlement provides benefits to:

  • Current owners of Remington Model 700, Seven, Sportsman 78, 673, 710, 715, 770, 600, 660, XP-100, 721, 722, and 725 firearms containing a Remington trigger mechanism that utilizes a trigger connector
  • Current owners of Remington Model 700 and Model Seven rifles containing an X-Mark Pro trigger mechanism manufactured from May 1, 2006 to April 9, 2014 who did not participate in the voluntary X-Mark Pro product recall prior to April 14, 2015; and
  • Current and former owners of Remington Model 700 and Model Seven rifles who replaced their rifle’s original Walker trigger mechanism with an X-Mark Pro trigger mechanism.
Federal judge finally approves settlement offering fix on millions of Remington rifles
 OutdoorHub continue to report on this story as more details unfold. .

.

BREAKING: Gander Mountain Files for Chapter 11 Bankruptcy and Plans to Close at Least 32 Stores

NEWS |

BREAKING: Gander Mountain Files for Chapter 11 Bankruptcy and Plans to Close at Least 32 Stores

This news, while unfortunate, was inevitably in the cards because the outdoor-based retailer has been preparing for bankruptcy for some time now.

According to GoMN News, three Minnesota stores are set to close, including those in Rogers, Mankato and Woodbury.

Gander Mountain released the following news release, which details future plans for the company:

 

Gander Mountain? > We Live Outdoors

News Release

Gander Mountain, Subsidiaries File for Chapter 11 Reorganization
Company seeks “going-concern” sale to complete restructuring
Operations remain ongoing during process; employee pay, benefits protecte

ST. PAUL, March 10, 2017 – Gander Mountain Company announced today that, to maximize the opportunity to achieve a “going-concern” sale of its business, it and certain of its subsidiaries have filed voluntary petitions for relief under Chapter 11 of the United States Bankruptcy Code.

Today’s action is the result of an in-depth review of the company’s strategic options undertaken in recent months to preserve the value of the company and position it for long-term success. Like many retailers, Gander Mountain experienced challenging traffic patterns and shifts in consumer demand resulting from increased direct-to-customer sales by key vendors and accelerated growth of e-commerce. Despite aggressive actions to improve the efficiency of the company’s retail operations and support functions, the underlying financial impact from underperforming stores and unproductive, excess inventory hampered efforts to create a sustainable path forward.

The company’s strategic review yielded the following conclusions:

  • A narrowly focused and lower cost operating model is necessary to position the company for profitable growth;
  • The company does not have the financial capacity or time to reset its operations to fully implement the new model and, as a result;
  • The best available path forward is to sell the company on a going-concern basis.

The court’s protections will enable us to manage the sale process on an expedited basis while protecting the interests of our customers, employees and other stakeholders. Gander Mountain is in active discussions with a number of parties interested in a going-concern sale and expects to solicit bids prior to an auction to be held in late April 2017. The company expects to submit the winning bid to the Court for approval in early May and anticipates a closing of the sale by May 15.

The company generally expects to conduct normal business operations during the pendency of its restructuring. Employee pay will continue to arrive on time and in full, employee benefits will remain in place, retirement accounts are intact and protected. As a product of the company’s strategic review, 32 underperforming retail locations will begin a shutdown process in the next several weeks.

The company has obtained a committed debtor-in-possession (“DIP”) financing facility underwritten by Wells Fargo. Subject to court approval, this DIP financing, combined with cash from operations, is expected to provide sufficient liquidity to support the company’s continuing business operations and to minimize any disruption during the reorganization process.

The petitions were filed in the U.S. Bankruptcy Court for the District of Minnesota. More information about Gander Mountain’s restructuring is available online at www.donlinrecano.com/gmc. Court filings and claims information are available at the U.S. Bankruptcy Court website, http://www.mnb.uscourts.gov/.

Gander Mountain’s advisors in the restructuring are Houlihan Lokey Capital Inc. serving as financial advisor and investment banker, Lighthouse Management Group serving as Chief Restructuring Officer, and Fredrikson & Byron, PA serving as legal advisors.

 

About Gander Mountain Company

Gander Mountain is the nation’s largest outdoor retail network with stores across 26 states. We are a fully integrated Omni-Channel retailer dedicated to servicing the hunting, camping, fishing, shooting sports, and outdoor products markets. As ‘America’s Firearms Supercenter’, we are a market leader in the shooting sports category with an extensive offering of firearms, ammunition, and accessories. For the nearest store location call 800-282-5993 or visit www.GanderMountain.com.

Gander Mountain is also the parent company of Overton’s (www.overtons.com), a leading catalog- and Internet-based retailer of products for boating and other water sports enthusiasts.

 

Contact Information:
Jess Myers, Ewald Consulting
jessm@ewald.com
651-290-7465 (o)
612-910-3058 (c)

Trump planning to host Chinese president at Mar-a-Lago

Story highlights

  • Secretary of State Rex Tillerson is expected to finalize plans for the summit with Chinese officials
  • The summit would be the first in-person meeting between Trump and Xi

(CNN)President Donald Trump is planning to host Chinese President Xi Jinping for a summit next month at his Mar-a-Lago estate in Florida, a senior administration official told CNN Monday.

The official cautioned that the plan is only tentative at the moment.
Secretary of State Rex Tillerson is expected to finalize plans for the summit with Chinese officials as he arrives in Beijing this week, the official added.
Plans for the summit — which would be the first in-person meeting between Trump and Xi — come amid heightened tensions in the region, particularly the increasing North Korean nuclear threat.
The meeting was first reported by Axios.
Trump has said in recent weeks that North Korea is one of the biggest security challenges he faces as president and has said he plans to call on China to take more serious action to rein in Pyongyang, pointing to the nation’s significant leverage over the North Korean regime.
Territorial disputes in the South China Sea and China’s continued building of man-made islands are also likely to be on the agenda, as the issue has caused flaring tensions between China and the other major powers in the region, Japan and South Korea.
When they aren’t discussing security challenges, the two world leaders are likely to focus on trade.
Trump has made recalibrating US trade relationships a central tenet of his administration’s agenda,and during the campaign, he repeatedly railed against the trade imbalance between the US and China.
Trump has so far held back, though, on that front. While he promised to formally label China as a currency manipulator on his first day in office, he has yet to do so. And he has not been as vocal on the issue of China’s impact of US trade since becoming president.
But the issue is not likely to fade into the background. While he has changed his political positions on a range of issues, Trump has for years been consistent in how he views the US-Chinese relationship, blaming China as a major source of the decline of US manufacturing and exporting years before he decided to run for president.
Tillerson’s trip to Beijing — which will come this week after official meetings in Tokyo and Seoul — will lay the groundwork for Xi’s visit and the agenda items.
Trump’s meeting with the Chinese president comes as he has already formed a bond with another major leader in Asia, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, whom Trump hosted at Mar-a-Lago last month. That meeting was the second between Trump and Abe, who first met privately at Trump Tower during the transition.

FBI Director Comey Asked Justice Department to Reject Trump’s Wiretap Claims

FBI Director Comey Asked Justice Department to Reject Trump’s Wiretap Claims

FBI Director James Comey asked Justice Department officials to publicly reject President Donald Trump’s claims that former President Barack Obama ordered the wiretapping of Trump Tower, The New York Times reported Sunday. A senior U.S. official confirmed the newspaper’s reporting to NBC News.

The Times reported that Comey requested that the Justice Department publicly rebut the president’s allegations — which he posted on Twitter without evidence — because the claims are untrue and suggest that the FBI broke the law. Comey’s appeal pits him against the president.

FBI director to Justice Dept.: Reject Trump’s claim that Obama wiretapped him 3:53

But, The Times added, Comey is having difficulty knocking the story down because there are only a few politically appointed Justice Department officials who could approve a statement, as Attorney General Jeff Sessions recused himself from anything pertaining to the government’s investigation into alleged connections between Russia and the Trump campaign.

Despite Comey’s request, Trump’s White House did not back off on Sunday and called for Congress to investigate.

Related: White House Calls for Probe, Offers No Proof of Wiretapping

“President Donald J. Trump is requesting that as part of their investigation into Russian activity, the congressional intelligence committees exercise their oversight authority to determine whether executive branch investigative powers were abused in 2016,” White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer said in a statement. He offered no evidence to back up the allegations, which Trump compared to a scandal of “Nixon/Watergate” proportions.

Image: Donald Trump
President Donald Trump leaves the Oval Office to board Marine One at the White House on Friday. Erik S. Lesser / EPA

NBC News has found no evidence that would support his claims, which have been flatly dismissed by the previous administration.

Related: What Does It Take to Get a Legal Wiretap?

An Obama spokesman called Trump’s tweets “unequivocally false,” and James Clapper, the former director of national intelligence, said on NBC’s “Meet the Press” that he had no knowledge of any surveillance of Trump Tower.

Later Sunday, Democrats on the House Judiciary Committee demanded that White House counsel Donald McGahn respond to The Times’ report that his office had sought to gain access to what he “believed to be an order issued by the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court authorizing some form of surveillance related to Mr. Trump and his associates.”

Such an effort would be “inappropriate” and “improper,” the lawmakers said in a letter to McGahn obtained by NBC News.

Trump ‘firmly believes’ Obama tapped his phone, White House official says 5:13

“The independence of the Department of Justice and the FBI is a particular concern when individuals associated with both the Administration and the President’s campaign may be the targets of the investigation,” the lawmakers said.

Meanwhile, politicians on both sides of the aisle said the White House needed to provide evidence to back up the president’s allegations.

“Suffice it to say I don’t have any basis — I’ve never heard that allegation made before by anybody,” Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida, a Republican member of the Select Committee on Intelligence, said Sunday.

“I’ve never seen anything about that anywhere before,” Rubio said. “But again, the president put that out there, and now the White House will have to answer as to exactly what he was referring to.”