Melania calls for White House aide’s firing

Mira Ricardel/ Melania TrumpImage copyright
Getty Images/ Reuters

Image caption

Mira Ricardel (left) and Melania Trump (right)

US First Lady Melania Trump has called for a top national security aide to President Donald Trump to be fired.

The first lady feuded with Mira Ricardel, the deputy national security adviser, during her tour of Africa in October, US media report.

“It is the position of the Office of the First Lady that she no longer deserves the honour of serving in this White House,” her spokeswoman said.

The White House and the National Security Council has yet to comment.

The statement came as US media reported that Mr Trump was considering a shake up in the White House West Wing, and may be considering removing White House Chief of Staff John Kelly or Department of Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen.

As deputy national security adviser, Mrs Ricardel has served under National Security Advisor John Bolton on the powerful National Security Council for the past seven months.

Image copyright
Reuters

Image caption

Mrs Ricardel (left) attended a Diwali candle lighting with Mr Trump moments before the first lady’s condemnation

According to US media reports, Mrs Trump and Mrs Ricardel fell out during the first lady’s trip to Africa last month and quarrelled over seating arrangements on her plane.

During her trip there, Mrs Trump told ABC in a rare interview that there are people in the White House that she does not trust.

She said she gives the president “my honest advice and honest opinions and then he does what he wants to do”.


An earthquake to come

Analysis by Anthony Zurcher, BBC News, Washington

The long knives are out at the White House.

Behind-the-scenes machinations and off-the-record backstabbing are nothing new in this administration, of course. Practically since inauguration various factions have been vying for political supremacy in the West Wing.

What’s different this time around is that the office of First Lady Melania Trump decided to attack a member of the White House staff on the record and in no uncertain terms.

Presidential spouses do have a long history of involving themselves in White House staffing issues. Nancy Reagan, for instance, had an ongoing feud with Chief of Staff Donald Regan. Hillary Clinton frequently sparred with White House aides. It’s the kind of thing that never spills quite so openly into view, however.

With the mid-term elections now in the rear-view mirror, the situation in the Trump White House appears to be coming to a head.

The biggest face-off appears to be between two key power centres, Chief of Staff John Kelly and National Security Advisor John Bolton. Everything else, including the situation with Mrs Trump, is cascading from that.

It’s a situation that seems difficult to sustain. These are the small tremors of a staffing earthquake to come.


The Wall Street Journal had earlier on Tuesday reported that Mrs Trump’s team believed Mrs Ricardel was behind some of the “negative stories” about Mrs Trump and her staff.

The newspaper also reported that she repeatedly clashed with US Secretary of Defense James Mattis over “staffing decisions and policy differences”.

Mrs Trump’s statement, released through her spokeswoman Stephanie Grisham, came hours after she issued a separate statement denying reports of clashes with Mr Kelly, her husband’s chief of staff.

“Mrs Trump has a very positive relationship with Chief Kelly and there have never been any issues between the two,” Mrs Grisham said.

As the news broke, Mr Trump posted a photo on Twitter of Mrs Ricardel accompanying him at a Diwali ceremony.

Mrs Ricardel was hired away from the Department of Commerce by Mr Bolton, and has decades of experience working in the US government.

She had earlier worked in the Department of Defense under former President George W Bush as well as under Republican Senator Bob Dole when he served as the Senate Majority Leader.

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Matt Gaetz: Democrats ‘Are Testing What They Can Get Away With’ to ‘Steal 2020’

Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-FL) told Breitbart News Editor-in-Chief Alex Marlow that Democrats are “stress-testing the integrity of our election system” to build a “road-map on how to steal the election from Donald Trump in 2020,” offering his remarks on SiriusXM’s Breitbart News Daily.

Gaetz discussed ostensible vote recount efforts in Florida: “The law requires certain reporting and transparency to occur regarding who voted, when they voted, and by what means they voted. That transparency isn’t just to make us feel better, it’s the kryptonite to fraud, because if we know how people are voting you’re able to triangulate against any of the fraudsters that would cast the illegal ballots.”

LISTEN:

Gatez remarked, “Brenda Snipes has just decided there are certain things she’s not going to tell us and wasn’t going to tell us. So we had to go to court, and the courts ruled that the supervisor of elections violated the Florida Constitution by standing in the way of public access. What’s most concerning is that between election day and now, over 80,000 ballots have just been like spoken into existence. They weren’t acknowledged to even exist on election night, and then lo and behold, the Democrats needed more votes to close gaps, and more ballots continued to be found.

Gaetz joked, “Hell, I still think they’re finding votes of Al Gore down in Broward County.”

Gaetz stated, “In a lot of our Republican counties, we play it by the books. Our supervisors of elections don’t cut corners. They follow the law. So in a recount, you often don’t get a whole lot of new votes from Republican areas. It’s in the Democrat areas where all of a sudden there are mystery boxes of ballots and votes that are counted.”

Gaetz said Democrats are building a “road map” to “steal” 2020’s president election.

“What should concern all Americans is that we’ve got like 80,000 ballots that have no chain of custody, no real record of how they were voted or where they came from, and my concern is, while I think Ron DeSantis and Rick Scott are outside the margin of fraud, if the Democrats are able to learn now what techniques work and don’t work, what transparency laws are going to be followed and which ones aren’t, then it gives them a road-map on how to steal the election from Donald Trump in 2020,” warned Gaetz. “I really think that’s what this is about. The resistance movement has changed from yelling at town halls and yelling in restaurants to now, potentially, trying to steal elections that they can’t win at the ballot box.”

Gaetz added, “Donald Trump has proven what the winning coalition is. He’s going to knock down about 90 percent of the Republican vote, and then he’s going to really drive up turnout among independents and some Democrats in areas where he’s popular. … If they’re able to slice down our margins in the high turnout Republican areas, it really collapses the Trump coalition.”

Gaetz continued, “I think what they’re doing is testing what they can get away with. … My concern is that those tactics are being developed. … The Democratic Party in Florida is already doing training to perfect ballots, and they put out the number that [they need], three ballots per precinct, to beat Rick Scott. The goal here is not to count every vote [or] make sure everyone’s voice is heard. The goal for the Democrats is to win the election. So they are training their operatives how to interpret a stray mark, or an x, or a bubble, so that they can flip votes after the election’s over.”

Gaetz concluded, “This is about stress-testing the integrity of our election system.”

“The new conservative movement has to take on Trump’s sense of boldness,” advised Gaetz. “If we allow Democrats to continue this behavior, they’re not going to get better [or] treat us better or follow the rules more. We’ve got to take the gloves off and fight like they do.”

Breitbart News Daily broadcasts live on SiriusXM Patriot 125 weekdays from 6:00 a.m. to 9:00 a.m. Eastern.

Follow Robert Kraychik on Twitter.

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‘As bad as it gets’: Here’s why the current investing landscape is the most difficult it’s been in 50 years

As stocks have struggled through an ugly few weeks, it’s been easy to forget just how poorly other asset classes have done.

But the market wreckage has been widespread and indiscriminate this year, as everything from Treasury bonds to gold has lost money in 2018.

Leuthold Group

As the chart to the right shows, US stocks have lost a large chunk of their year-to-date returns following a difficult October.

What makes that so sad is that they’re among the strongest performers, trailing only commodities, which are leading the way with a largely uninspiring 4% gain.

The fact that stocks and bonds alike have seen such futile performance is particularly troubling. The two assets should, theoretically, trade inversely to one another.

When that dynamic is in place, if someone gets wary about owning stocks, they can simply rotate into the relative safety of bonds. But lately, they haven’t been afforded that luxury.

Ultimately, it creates a “nowhere to hide”-type situation, in which investors are left scrambling to avoid spreading market turmoil.

For money managers tasked with allocating money across asset classes, simply constructing an adequately diversified portfolio can become a tall task. And as it stands right now, the current environment is the most difficult it’s been for them at any point in the past five decades.

“No major asset class has done well,” Doug Ramsey, the chief investment officer at Leuthold Group, wrote in a recent client note. “In most respects the opportunity set available to asset allocators this year has been among the worst in the last 50 years.”

It’s been particularly tough going for hedge funds designed to recalibrate risk on the fly — otherwise known as risk-parity funds. They lost 5% in October, their most since 2013, as stocks, bonds, and commodities sold off simultaneously, depriving them of safe havens. Under normal circumstances, these asset classes aren’t so closely correlated.

For further evidence of how difficult the plight of asset allocators has been in 2018, consider that a strategy built around owning equal weights of all seven asset classes outlined above is floundering this year. It’s headed for a 1.2% loss for 2018, which is a far cry from the 10.2% annualized return it’s offered over the past 45 years.

As the chart below shows, the return for this strategy has rarely been negative. And its all-time low coincides directly with the financial crisis from a decade ago — hardly an encouraging sign for the market as it stands right now.

Leuthold Group

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Amazon officially announces its HQ2 will be split between New York and Virginia

Amazon has finally, officially made a decision.

The company on Tuesday announced it would split its second-headquarters project, which it calls HQ2, in two. The two locations — the Long Island City neighborhood of Queens, New York, and the newly formed National Landing area of Arlington, Virginia — will each get roughly half of the 50,000 employees promised and half of the promised investment, the company said.

“We are excited to build new headquarters in New York City and Northern Virginia,” Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos said in a statement. “These two locations will allow us to attract world-class talent that will help us to continue inventing for customers for years to come. The team did a great job selecting these sites, and we look forward to becoming an even bigger part of these communities.”

New York City has offered Amazon $1.525 billion in direct tax incentives, based on the 25,000 jobs the company promised to fill in the area, while Virginia has promised the company $573 million in exchange.

Long Island City is located across the East River from Manhattan. National Landing, which is a newly formed area encompassing Crystal City, Pentagon City, and Potomac Yard, is located near Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport across the Potomac River from Washington, DC.

Samantha Lee/Business Insider

Amazon on Tuesday also announced plans for a new office in Nashville, Tennessee, where the company said it would hire 5,000 people and invest $230 million. Amazon is calling the new office an “Operations Center of Excellence.”

Amazon said it could receive up to $102 million in tax incentives for its new office in downtown Nashville.

The official announcement follows a November 5 report from The New York Times that named New York and the Washington, DC, metro area as the choices for HQ2. That report followed a Wall Street Journal article that said Amazon was considering splitting the headquarters in two.

Amazon on Tuesday said it would begin hiring for all three newly announced locations next year. The company has said it hopes to have at least part of its new headquarters operational sometime in 2019.

The selection process, conducted in secret, will now face public scrutiny for first time, as city and state officials who worked with Amazon were bound by strict nondisclosure agreements. The tax-incentive packages offered by New York and Virginia will especially be scrutinized.

The saga of HQ2 began in September 2017, when the company put out its official request for proposals by cities to host a new second headquarters.

In the request, Amazon promised 50,000 jobs and $5 billion in investment to the new host city. Nearly every major metro area in the US threw its hat in the ring. Amazon now has data on a huge number of American cities because of this process.

Amazon whittled the list down to 20 locations by December but had barely made a peep about the selection process otherwise.

Read more: ‘We do have sewage problems’: Long Island City, where Amazon will put part of HQ2, badly needs infrastructure upgrades

Selecting two cities is something of a curveball because it was not originally part of the plan Amazon had proposed for HQ2. A small note at the bottom of Amazon’s RFP did, however, hint at it as possibility.

“Amazon may select one or more proposals and negotiate with the parties submitting such proposals before making an award decision, or it may select no proposals and enter into no agreement,” the last line of the RFP said.

The evidence had long been pointing toward the Washington, DC, metro area, which had submitted three separate regions for consideration. Amazon joined Washington’s chamber of commerce in August. Add to that the fact that Amazon already had its public-policy and lobbying operations in the district, and the US capital seemed like a shoo-in.

In recent months, the betting odds quite literally zeroed in on Northern Virginia. The region is in what has been referred to as the “bull’s-eye of America’s internet,” adding to its chances. A local news site, ARLnow.com, said it had seen an unusual spike in traffic from Amazon to an article from December titled “County Wins Top Environmental Award from US Green Building Council,” which explained how Virginia’s Arlington County was the first in the US to be selected for an environmental award.

There had been less speculation about New York City, but Gov. Andrew Cuomo recently made his desire to host Amazon clear.

“I’ll change my name to Amazon Cuomo if that’s what it takes,” Cuomo told reporters on November 5. “Because it would be a great economic boost.”

Read more about Amazon’s HQ2:

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Lilly Singh to take a break from YouTube

Lilly SinghImage copyright
Lilly Singh

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Lilly Singh has gone from videos of tying turbans to global stardom on YouTube in a few years

YouTuber Lilly Singh, also known as Superwoman, has announced she is taking a break from the video platform.

The Canadian-born content creator is stepping away from YouTube after eight years for her mental health.

She promised fans she will “be back happier and healthier” after her time off.

A prolific and popular YouTuber, Ms Singh has over 14 million subscribers on her channels and is among the platform’s highest earning stars.

“I am mentally, physically, emotionally and spiritually exhausted,” she said in a video posted on Monday night.

The comedian and actress said she was struggling with burnout after posting nonstop videos since 2010.

Ms Singh said she is not “particularly proud” with some of recent content and needs time to reflect the kinds of videos she wants to create.

“The thing about YouTube is, in all of its glory, it kind of is a machine and it makes creators believe that we have to pump out content consistently even at the cost of our health and our life and our mental happiness,” she said.

Ms Singh said she is not permanently leaving the platform and is not sure of how long she will be away.

“I’m not making any rules. This might be a one week break, this might be a one month break – I have no idea,” she said.

The 30-year-old comedian and actress began her YouTube channel in 2010. Much of her content early on focused on her Indian heritage and her ethnic background but she soon expanded her subject matter, including filming daily behind-the-scenes vlogs.

By 2013, her character had built a solid fan base predominantly among South Asian teenage girls living in the US, Canada, UK and Australia.

In 2016, Ms Singh earned £5.7m ($7.4m) making her the third highest paid YouTuber in the world, according to Forbes magazine.

Her career has since grown beyond YouTube. She released a self-help book last year, made a movie, and has done philanthropic work.

On social media, fans supported her decision to take a hiatus.

Ms Singh is not the first YouTuber to take a break from the platform. A number of online content stars have recently announced they were putting their channels on hold, including Spanish YouTuber Rubén Doblas Gundersen, known as El Rubius.

One of the world’s most popular YouTubers, in May he decided to take time off, saying he felt he was headed for a breakdown.

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Firefighters hold line in north California

A firefighter battles the Peak fire in Simi Valley, California, 12 NovemberImage copyright
Reuters

Image caption

Another blaze near Los Angeles, the Peak Fire, is now out

Crews battling a deadly wildfire in northern California have managed to hold their containment lines, the state fire service says.

They have contained 30% of the fire, stretching over 125,000 acres (50,500 ha), but do not expect to contain it fully until the end of the month.

In the ruined town of Paradise, Butte County, forensics teams are continuing to search for human remains.

The official death toll has risen to 48, with dozens of people missing.

Another blaze in the south of the state, the Woolsey Fire, has killed at least two people, damaging beach resorts including Malibu, a favourite with the rich and famous.

Media playback is unsupported on your device

Media captionCalifornia wildfires continue to rage

It is still burning across more than 96,000 acres but is 35% contained, the state fire service tweeted.

Another, smaller blaze, the Hill Fire, is 90% contained in Ventura County, north of Los Angeles.

President Donald Trump has paid tribute to emergency crews’ “incredible courage in the face of danger”.

“We mourn the lives of those lost and we pray for the victims and there were more victims than anybody would ever think possible,” he said.

A county in shock

By Dave Lee, BBC News, Paradise, northern California

It’s five days since the Camp Fire destroyed this town. Power lines are strewn across the streets, cars melted into their driveways.

Image copyright
AFP

Image caption

A California license plate in the ashes of Paradise

There are clues to the panic that must have swept through what was a charming town. A garden table, with food-serving tongs at the ready – both now fused together by the extreme heat.

In nearby Chico, on the site of a fairground, impressive emergency planning is in action: last night’s shift of firefighters sleep in a warehouse, while today’s get their briefings.

But being prepared for the worst doesn’t make it any less traumatic. This is a county in shock – at lives, homes and livelihoods lost. And the knowledge that, in California, this will happen again.

How great is the challenge in Butte County?

Convoys of fire engines could be seen rumbling through the charred ruins of the town on Tuesday, Reuters news agency reports, as crews headed out to fight the deadliest wildfire in the state’s history.

Workers used chainsaws to clear downed power lines and other obstacles from the streets.

At least 6,607 residences have been destroyed in the county along with 1,032 commercial and other structures.

“Thirty percent [containment] is kind of where we’re getting close to rounding the corner,” said Cal Fire spokeswoman Erica Bain.

Media playback is unsupported on your device

Media captionParadise resident Sorrell Bobrink describes ‘apocalyptic’ scenes

“When we’re in the 30s and 40s, they’re getting a good handle on it. By the end of this week I’d like to see that number up to 40, maybe 45.”

Another Cal Fire representative, Scott McLean, said firefighters were now more optimistic because of changing weather conditions.

What is being done to find the missing?

Officials warn that finding human remains could take weeks.

It was expected that 150 search-and-recovery personnel would arrive on Tuesday to reinforce 13 coroner-led recovery teams in the fire zone, Reuters reports.

Three portable morgue teams have been requested from the US military along with a “disaster mortuary” crew, cadaver dog units to locate human remains and three groups of forensic anthropologists.

Many victims in Paradise are believed to have been elderly residents or people with mobility issues who would have found evacuating more difficult.

Why are the fires so bad?

Historically, California’s “wildfire season” started in summer and ran into early autumn but experts have warned that the risk is now year-round.

Media playback is unsupported on your device

Media captionWith wildfires occurring across the globe, here are some of the techniques used to stop them

The California Public Utilities Commission is investigating what sparked the latest blazes – amid reports electrical companies may have suffered malfunctions near the sources shortly before the fires began.

Low humidity, warm Santa Ana winds, and dry ground after a rain-free month have produced a prime fire-spreading environment.

The state’s 40-million-strong population also helps explain the fires’ deadliness. That number is almost double what it was in the 1970s, and people are living closer to at-risk forest areas.

And then there’s climate change. Recent years have produced record-breaking temperatures, earlier springs and less reliable rainfall.

Citing the role of a warming climate, California Governor Jerry Brown declared: “This is not the new normal, this is the new abnormal.”


Have you been affected by the wildfires? If it is safe to do so please get in touch. Email haveyoursay@bbc.co.uk.

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Israelis, Palestinians brace for the worst as Gaza ceasefire kicks in

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By Lawahez Jabari, Saphora Smith and Yuliya Talmazan

TEL AVIV, Israel — As Palestinian militants controlling the Gaza Strip exchanged fire with Israeli soldiers in the most intense fighting for years Tuesday, the people below the soaring rockets braced for further bloodshed.

The flare-up — seemingly triggered by a botched Israeli raid into Gaza on Sunday — killed seven Palestinians and one Israeli before a ceasefire was announced by militant groups.

A truce would provide much-needed respite for civilians either side of the fence between Israel and the blockaded Palestinian enclave.

Mohammad Al Hatoum said he tried to distract his two young daughters from Israeli airstrikes by playing cartoons on television with the volume turned up high. It didn’t help.

“The bombing was so loud and my daughters didn’t stop crying,” said Al Hatoum, who is 33 and lives with his family in western Gaza.

The government employee not only heard the explosions, he smelled and felt them.

“I felt the entire building shaking,” he told NBC News, describing the effect as like a magnitude 7 earthquake.

Violence is nothing new for civilians inside the crowded and desperately-poor strip that has been run by Hamas militants since 2007, nor is it new to those in Israeli communities nearby. Israel has fought three wars in the enclave during the last decade and fears are growing that a new conflict is on the way.

Image: Children from Nirim climb on a tank near the the Gaza Strip
Children from Nirim climb on a tank near the the Gaza Strip.Menahem Kahana / AFP/Getty Images file

Since Monday, Hamas and other armed factions fired over 400 rockets or mortars across the fenced border — the most intense rocket fire on Israel since the 2014 war — the Israeli military said. This came after militants carried out a missile attack on a bus that wounded an Israeli soldier.

This follows months of fires caused by hundreds of incendiary kites and explosive balloons sent from Gaza. The blazes have burned thousands of acres of nature reserves and farm lands.

On Tuesday, Israeli President Reuven Rivlin visited the border community of Netivot telling Israeli citizens to “take good care of themselves” and to follow the order of the Israel Defense Forces.

Israel’s Ministerial Committee on National Security Affairs issued a statement saying they had told the Israeli military to “continue its operations if necessary.”

The recent fighting appeared to have been set off by a botched Israeli special forces raid in Gaza Sunday that left seven Palestinians dead, including a local Hamas commander, as well as an Israeli army officer. Israel is on constant alert for militant tunnels and attacks emanating from Gaza.

Image: Palestinians look at a damaged building after an Israeli airstrike in Gaza City
Palestinians look at a damaged building after an Israeli strike in Gaza City.MOHAMMED SABER / EPA

Al Hatoum was born during the first Palestinian intifada, or uprising against Israel, and estimates he has spent almost half his life in the throes of bitter conflict. He is not hopeful for the future.

“There will be an escalation in Gaza, there will be no calm after this,” he said.

Israelis are also scared.

Hila Fenlon, who is a farmer in the small Israeli village of Netiv Haasara a few yards from the dividing fence, said her family is shaken by both Israeli and Palestinian fire.

She said she turned her children’s bedroom into a missile shelter so they could get to safety in time before the rockets fell.

“Whenever I hear the sirens, my heart skips a beat,” she said, explaining it was hard to persuade her children to stay in or near the shelter at all times.

“We feel like we’re in war all the time, not just the last couple of days,” she said. “My children are exposed to rockets, incendiary balloons and burnt land.”

Fenlon said she hoped for peace. “I wish we can go back to being neighbors like we used to,” she said.

Even before the exchange of fire of the last few days, fear reigned in what is known as the Gaza envelop — the area of Israel surrounding the Gaza Strip.

Adele Raemer, a 63-year-old ESL teacher who lives in the community of Nirim also on the border with Gaza, said there was little they could do.

Image: Adele Raemer, 63, with her granddaughters, 6-month-old Raz and and 3-year-old Ziv
Adele Raemer with her granddaughters, 6-month-old Raz and and 3-year-old Ziv, in June. Dusan Vranic / for NBC News

“We are used to riding this roller coaster,” Raemer said. “Nobody likes the roller coaster, but we are on it. And the thing is — you never know when you are going to get on it and you never know when this ride is over.”

In Gaza, which can be seen from Nirim, desperation is a way of life.

Some 70 percent of Gaza’s population are refugees or descendants of refugees, and a similar proportion depends on humanitarian aid. Those living there cannot leave without permission and the blockade has made life intolerable for many of Gaza’s 2 million residents.

Almost none of the water is clean, raw sewage is pumped straight into the sea and worsening power shortages mean Gazans have electricity for only around four hours a day on average. Unemployment rates are close to 50 percent — more than 65 percent among those under 30.

Since March, thousands of Palestinian protesters have marched towards the fence which separates Israel from the Gaza Strip demanding the right to enter Israel and reclaim homes their family left after the country was founded in 1948. Some 220 have been shot dead and around 24,000 wounded, according to Gazan health officials. Israel maintains many of those hurt and killed on the fence are in fact militants masquerading as peaceful protesters.

Despite regular violence, Ma’amoun Shawaf, a 23-year-old owner of a coffee shop in Khan Younis, knew Sunday night was “something big.”

On hearing gunfire and people shouting “Israeli forces, go back, go back,” Shawaf said he raced to the scene. “I started telling my friends that the war will start tonight.”

Lawahez Jabari reported from Tel Aviv. Saphora Smith and Yuliya Talmazan reported from London.

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