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Nation & World Briefs


Tuesday, December 19, 2017
GOP’s tea party promises dashed in tax cut embrace

WASHINGTON — The tea party class of 2010 vowed to usher in a new era for the Republican Party, one where conservatives clamoring for fiscal discipline would roll back government spending to rein in trillion-plus budget deficits.

Not anymore.

Republicans are returning to their Ronald Reagan-era roots — tax cuts first, followed by vague promises of cutting spending down the road. Concerns about growing budget deficits have been shelved as Republicans controlling Washington focus instead on delivering tax breaks along with spending increases for the military.

GOP leaders insist they haven’t abandoned their desire to confront trillion-dollar deficits. Looking toward 2018, House Speaker Paul Ryan has raised the prospect of tackling runaway benefit programs — with the spike in the deficit caused by the tax overhaul already being used to justify a potential round of austerity next year.

That would require political courage that’s rare in an election year in which Republicans face the prospect of daunting losses.

Clashes over state ballot initiatives could spill into 2018

BROOKINGS, S.D. — Joyce Scott made hundreds of phone calls and knocked on countless doors, helping persuade South Dakota voters to approve a ballot measure last year tightening campaign contribution limits and creating a government ethics watchdog.

Republican lawmakers quickly torched the new rules this year and instead are seeking changes that would make it far tougher for residents to bypass the statehouse at all.

Scott and others angry about the swift repeal of the voter-backed anti-corruption initiative have turned to the 2018 ballot, hoping to enact a new constitutional amendment that even the Legislature can’t touch.

“I was disgusted that we had to go through this again,” said Scott, a 75-year-old Democrat who collected signatures for the new campaign after seeing lawmakers dismantle the first ethics package. “We had already told them once what we wanted.”

Legislatures from the Dakotas to Maine this year brushed aside voter measures, some working to hamper citizens’ ability to pass ballot questions. In 2018 and beyond, states including Ohio, Maine, Missouri and the Dakotas could tussle over the states’ ballot question systems.

US short of options to punish N. Korea for serious cyberattack

WASHINGTON — The Trump administration vowed Tuesday that North Korea would be held accountable for a May cyberattack that affected 150 countries, but it didn’t say how, highlighting the difficulty of punishing a pariah nation already sanctioned to the hilt for its nuclear weapons program.

The WannaCry ransomware attack infected hundreds of thousands of computers worldwide and crippled parts of Britain’s National Health Service. It was the highest-profile cyberattack North Korea has been blamed for since the 2014 hack of Sony Pictures after it produced “The Interview,” a satirical movie imagining a CIA plot to kill leader Kim Jong Un.

While that attack led to leaks of confidential data from the movie studio and emails that embarrassed Sony talent, the implications of the WannaCry intrusion were altogether more serious. Homeland security adviser Tom Bossert said it was “a reckless attack and it was meant to cause havoc and destruction.” He said it put lives at risk in British hospitals.

Other experts say the attack was more likely an attempt by Kim’s cash-strapped government to extract money. Last year, the same hacking group was suspected in a malware attack that penetrated the Bangladesh Central Bank’s computer system, stealing $81 million.

Whatever the motivation, the public declaration of blame by Washington reflects growing concern over North Korea’s cyber capabilities that appear all the more threatening because of Pyongyang’s scant regard for international norms. In defiance of world opinion, North Korea is the only country to test nuclear weapons this century and is closing in on a missile that could strike anywhere on U.S. mainland.

FBI involved with airport blackout probe; no sign of terror

ATLANTA — The FBI is part of the probe into what caused a fire that knocked out power to the world’s busiest airport in Atlanta, but an agency spokesman said Tuesday there was no sign of anything connected to terrorism.

“There’s no indication at this point of anything nefarious,” FBI spokesman Kevin Rowson said.

The federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives has also been involved in the investigation, Georgia Power spokesman Craig Bell said.

“We’re bringing everything we have to bear to the situation to make sure this doesn’t happen again,” Bell said Tuesday.

No conclusions have been drawn as to the cause of the fire, which took out the airport’s power supply and also its backup electricity for about 11 hours Sunday. The blackout stranded thousands of passengers on grounded jets and in darkened concourses and led to the cancellation of more than 1,500 flights just ahead of the frenzied holiday travel period.

From Associated Press