Trump proposes record spending, trillion-dollar deficit LISA MASCARO•Trump’s budget breakdown WASHINGTON (AP) — President Donald Trump proposed a record $4.7 trillion budget on Monday, pushing the federal deficit past $1 trillion but counting on optimistic growth, accounting shuffles and steep domestic cuts to bring future spending into balance in 15 years.Reviving his border wall fight with Congress, Trump wants more than $8 billion for the barrier with Mexico, and he’s also asking for a big boost in military spending. That’s alongside steep cuts in health care and economic support programs for the poor that Democrats — and even some Republicans — will oppose.Trump called his plan a bold next step for a nation experiencing „an economic miracle.” House Speaker Nancy Pelosi called his cuts „cruel and shortsighted … a roadmap to a sicker, weaker America.”Presidential budgets tend to be seen as aspirational blueprints, rarely becoming enacted policy, and Trump’s proposal for the new fiscal year, which begins Oct. 1, sets up a showdown with Congress over priorities, especially as he reignites his push for money to build the U.S-Mexico border wall.The deficit is projected to hit $1.1 trillion in the 2020 fiscal year, the highest in a decade. The administration is counting on robust growth, including from the Republican tax cuts — which Trump wants to make permanent — to push down the red ink. Some economists, though, say the bump from the tax cuts is waning, and they project slower economic expansion in coming years. The national debt is $22 trillion.Even with his own projections, Trump’s budget would not come into balance for a decade and a half, rather than the traditional hope of balancing in 10.Titled „A Budget for a Better America: Promises Kept. Taxpayers First,” Trump’s proposal „embodies fiscal responsibility,” said Russ Vought, the acting director of the Office of Management and Budget.Despite the large projected deficits, Vought said the administration has „prioritized reining in reckless Washington spending” and shows „we can return to fiscal sanity.”The budget calls the approach „MAGAnomics,” after the president’s „Make America Great Again” campaign slogan.Some fiscal watchdogs, though, panned the effort as more piling on of debt by Trump with no course correction in sight.Maya MacGuineas, president of the Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget, said Trump „relies on far too many accounting gimmicks and fantasy assumptions and puts forward far too few actual solutions.” She warned the debt load will lead to slower income growth and stalled opportunities for Americans.Perhaps most notably among spending proposals, Trump is returning to his border wall fight. Fresh off the longest government shutdown in history, his 2020 plan shows he is eager to confront Congress again over the wall.The budget proposes increasing defense spending to $750 billion — and building the new Space Force as a military branch — while reducing nondefense accounts by 5 percent, with cuts recommended to economic safety-net programs used by many Americans. The $2.7 trillion in proposed reductions over the decade is higher than any administration in history, they say.On Capitol Hill, the budget landed without much fanfare from Trump’s GOP allies, while Democrats found plenty not to like.”Dangerous,” not serious, a „sham,” they said. Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer called it an „Alice in Wonderland document.”The plan sticks to budget caps that both parties have routinely broken in recent years. To stay within the caps, it shifts a portion of the military spending, some $165 billion, to an overseas contingency fund, which some fiscal hawks will view as an accounting gimmick.The budget slashes $2 trillion from health care spending, while trying to collect $100 million in new fees from the electronic cigarette industry to help combat a surge in underage vaping. It provides money to fight opioid addiction and $291 million to „defeat the HIV/AIDS epidemic.”It cuts the Department of Housing and Urban Development by 16 percent and Education by 10 percent, but includes $1 billion for a child care fund championed by the president’s daughter, Ivanka Trump, a White House adviser.Trump is returning to old battles while refraining from unveiling many new initiatives. He re-opens plans for repealing „Obamacare,” imposing work requirements for those receiving government aid and slashing the Environmental Protection Agency by about a third — all ideas Congress has rejected in the past.The budget proposes $200 billion toward infrastructure, much lower than the $1 trillion plan Trump once envisioned, but does not lay out a sweeping new plan.By refusing to raise the budget caps, Trump is signaling a fight ahead. The president has resisted big, bipartisan budget deals that break the caps — threatening to veto one last year — but Congress will need to find agreement on spending levels to avoid another federal shutdown in the fall.Conservatives railed for years against deficits that rose during the first years of Barack Obama’s administration as tax revenue plummeted and spending increased during the Great Recession. But even with Republican control of Congress during the first two years of the Trump administration, deficits were on a steady march upward.The Democratic chairman of the House Budget Committee, Rep. John Yarmuth of Kentucky, said Trump added nearly $2 trillion to deficits with the GOP’s „tax cuts for the wealthy and large corporations, and now it appears his budget asks the American people to pay the price.”The border wall remains a signature issue for the president, even though Congress refuses to give him more money for it.To circumvent Congress, Trump declared a national emergency at the border last month as a way to access funding. Lawmakers are uneasy with that and set to vote in the Senate to terminate his national emergency declaration. Congress appears to have enough votes to reject Trump’s declaration but not enough to overturn a veto. The standoff over the wall led to a 35-day partial government shutdown, the longest in U.S. history.There’s also money to hire more than 2,800 additional law enforcement officers, including Border Patrol agents, at a time when many Democrats are calling for cuts — or even the elimination — of Immigration and Customs Enforcement.The wall with Mexico played a big part in Trump’s campaign for the White House, and it’s expected to again be featured in his 2020 re-election effort. He used to say Mexico would pay for it, but Mexico has refused to do so._Associated Press writers Jill Colvin, Catherine Lucey, Matthew Daly, Richard Lardner, Ricardo Alonso-Zaldivar, Collin Binkley and Andrew Taylor contributed to this report.
White House won’t say if Trump thinks Democrats hate JewsDylan StablefordSenior Editor•Sanders, reporters spar over Trump’s reported ‘Democrats hate Jewish people’ remark The White House on Monday defended President Trump’s assertion that the Democratic Party has become “anti-Israel” and “anti-Jewish,” with press secretary Sarah Sanders sparring with reporters who challenged the president’s claim.“The president has been an unwavering and committed ally to Israel and the Jewish people,” Sanders said at a press briefing, her first in more than a month. “And frankly the remarks that have been made by a number of Democrats and failed to be called out by Democrat leadership is frankly abhorrent and it’s sad and it’s something that should be called by name. It shouldn’t be put in a watered down resolution.”Last week, the House overwhelmingly passed a broad resolution condemning hate, an expanded version of an earlier draft that focused on anti-Semitic implications in remarks by Rep. Ilhan Omar, D-Minn. The wording was changed to meet demands from the Congressional Black Caucus and other progressive groups that it cover all forms of bigotry.“The Democrats have become an anti-Israel party. They’ve become an anti-Jewish party,” Trump told reporters on the South Lawn Friday. “And I thought that vote was a disgrace.” Axios, quoting attendees at a Republican dinner at Mar-a-Lago, said Trump later summarized his view as: “The Democrats hate Jewish people.”All nine of the Jews in the United States Senate are Democrats, and all but two of the 36 members of Congress. Jews overwhelmingly supported Democrat Hillary Clinton over Trump in 2016.Sanders drew a contrast between the Democratic response to Omar and how the Republican caucus treated Rep. Steve King, R-Iowa, last year. “It should be done the way Republicans did it when Steve King made terrible remarks,” Sanders said. “We called him out by name. We stripped him of his committee memberships. And we’d like to see Democrats follow suit.”In January, King was banned from committee assignments for the next two years after lamenting in an interview that white supremacy and white nationalism have become offensive terms. Trump himself did not condemn the remarks, as ABC’s Jon Karl pointed out to Sanders.“The president, correct me if I’m wrong, has not condemned Steve King,” Karl said.Sanders maintained that Trump has renounced King’s views, but in private. “I speak on behalf of the president on a number of topics, and I’ve talked about that a number of times,” she said.White House press secretary Sarah Sanders at Monday’s press briefing. (Photo: Jonathan Ernst/Reuters)Later in the briefing, Sanders was asked by MSNBC’s Hallie Jackson whether Trump believes “Democrats hate Jews.”Sanders refused to answer directly.“The president has had and laid out clearly his position on this,” she said. “That’s a question frankly I think you should ask Democrats.”“You’re not answering the question — is there a reason?” Jackson asked. “You didn’t say yes or no. Does he really believe Democrats hate Jews?”“I think that’s a question you ought to ask the Democrats,” Sanders replied.On Thursday night, the resolution condemning hate passed with the support of 234 Democrats and 173 Republicans. Twenty-three Republicans voted no. King voted present.CNN’s Jim Acosta asked Sanders whether imputing hatred of an entire religion to political opponents is “beneath” the office of the presidency — and whether the American people should expect to hear more of it as Trump ramps up his reelection campaign.Sanders refused to reply directly, but as she has done in the past when facing a question she doesn’t want to answer, attacked Democrats on an unrelated issue, in this case abortion.“I think the real shame in all of this is that Democrats are perfectly capable of coming together and agreeing on the fact they are comfortable ripping babies straight from a mother’s womb or killing a baby after birth,” Sanders said. “But they have a hard time condemning the type of comments from congresswoman Omar.”Acosta pushed back.“Democrats don’t hate Jewish people. That’s just silly,” he said. “It’s not true.”“I think they should call out their members by name,” Sanders replied.
Trump Now Admits He Actually Did Call Tim Cook ‘Tim Apple’ Amy Russo•Trump insists he did not call Apple CEO ‘Tim Apple President Donald Trump on Monday continued trying to defend himself for calling Apple CEO Tim Cook “Tim Apple” during a White House meeting last week.After reportedly denying the gaffe to GOP donors over the weekend at his golf resort, Trump on Monday changed his story, saying he intentionally called the tech company leader “Tim Apple” because it was “an easy way to save time & words.”Trump used far more words in his tweet than he did during his meeting with Cook last week:
At a recent round table meeting of business executives, & long after formally introducing Tim Cook of Apple, I quickly referred to Tim + Apple as Tim/Apple as an easy way to save time & words. The Fake News was disparagingly all over this, & it became yet another bad Trump story!
Cook noticed it, too, humorously changing his name on Twitter to “Tim .”
After a storm of mockery, Trump attempted to explain the flub Friday during a Republican National Committee meeting at his Mar-a-Lago resort in Florida, telling donors he said “Tim Cook Apple” quickly without enough emphasis on “Cook” to be heard, according to Axios. Two attendees told the outlet they were baffled by the lie.
Trump made the “Tim Apple” remark as he talked to Cook and other members of the American Workforce Policy Advisory Board.
Biden tops 2020 Iowa presidential poll, Sanders gains momentum By Timothy Gardner•FILE PHOTO: Former U.S. Vice President Joe Biden is seen during the annual Munich Security Conference in Munich, Germany February 16, 2019. REUTERS/Andreas Gebert By Timothy Gardner WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Former U.S. Vice President Joe Biden topped a poll of Iowa voters on Saturday that also showed Senator Bernie Sanders gaining momentum against him in the No. 2 spot.Biden, who has not announced whether he is running in the 2020 election, is the first choice for president of likely Iowa Democratic caucus-goers with 27 percent in the Des Moines Register/CNN/Mediacom Iowa Poll. Sanders, 77, got 25 percent.”If I’m Joe Biden sitting on the fence and I see this poll, this might make me want to jump in,” J. Ann Selzer, president of Selzer & Co, which conducted the poll, told the Des Moines Register.The newspaper’s Iowa poll has a long track record of relative accuracy in the state that kicks off the presidential nominating process. In this cycle, Iowa will hold the first contest in the Democratic race in February 2020.Nearly 65 percent of the voters said Biden, 76, who was also a U.S. senator first elected in 1972, has more experience than any other candidate and should enter the race, while 31 percent said his time as a candidate has passed.Sanders, a progressive populist who held a rally in Iowa as the poll was being conducted last week, gained 6 percentage points from 19 percent in the group’s previous poll released in December. Biden fell 5 percentage points from 32 percent in the last poll.At least a dozen major candidates already have jumped into the Democratic contest to pick a nominee to challenge Republican President Donald Trump, and Democrats are still waiting for decisions in coming weeks from other big names such as Biden and former Congressman Beto O’Rourke of Texas.In most national polls of Democrats, Biden has a solid lead while Sanders, who lost the 2016 Democratic nomination to Hillary Clinton, typically is in second. In those polls, Senator Kamala Harris of California has vaulted into third ahead of other senators including Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts, Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota and Cory Booker of New Jersey. In the Iowa poll, Warren was third with 9 percent of voters, and Harris was fourth with 7 percent. O’Rourke got 5 percent of voters, down 6 percentage points from December. It was the Register’s first Iowa poll since candidates began jumping into the race at the beginning of the year. The poll also surveyed support of likely Iowa caucus-goers on issues that have dominated the early discussion and drawn support from most of the Democratic presidential contenders.The Green New Deal, a proposal by Democrats in Congress to tackle climate change, was supported in full by 65 percent of the Democratic voters, partially by 26 percent, with 4 percent not supporting. The deal would fund government programs on clean energy and make buildings energy efficient while helping to address poverty.Support was also measured for Medicare-for-all, a plan first proposed by Sanders in 2017, to replace the current mix of private and government financed healthcare coverage with a universal coverage plan funded solely by the government. It was supported by 49 percent of the likely caucus-goers, partially by 35 percent, with 11 percent not supporting.(Reporting by Timothy Gardner, additional reporting by John Whitesides; editing by Richard Chang)
CARACAS, Venezuela (AP) — The latest on Venezuela’s political and economic crisis (all times local):
12:20 a.m. Tuesday
U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo says the United States is withdrawing the last of its staff from its embassy in Venezuela, citing the deteriorating situation.
Pompeo announced the decision late Monday as Venezuela struggles to restore electricity following four days of blackouts around the country and a deepening political crisis.
The U.S. has led an international effort to oust socialist President Nicolas Maduro and replace him with opposition leader Juan Guaido, who vows to hold new a presidential election.
Guaido is backed by some 50 countries, while Maduro maintains support from countries such as China, Russia and Cuba.
Maduro ordered U.S. diplomats to leave in late January but then backed off.
Pompeo says the remaining diplomats in Venezuela will be removed by the end of the week.
The widespread blackouts in Venezuela have brought oil exports to a halt, and financial experts say that is costing the cash-strapped country millions of dollars a day.
Russ Dallen is a Miami-based partner at the brokerage firm Caracas Capital Markets Dallen and he said Monday that Venezuela hasn’t shipped $358 million in oil since the nationwide power failures hit Thursday evening. He said that „the whole system is grinding to a halt.”
Dallen says two large tankers are sitting empty at the Jose offshore oil-loading dock because of the nationwide power failure and at least 19 other ships are waiting their turns there.
The socialist government of President Nicolas Maduro contends the outage was caused by a cyberattack launched from the United States, which seeks to replace him with opposition leader Juan Guaido.
U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo is lashing out at Cuba and Russia for continuing to support Venezuelan leader Nicolas Maduro, saying they are contributing to his country’s economic crisis.
Pompeo says Cuba and Russia are directly responsible for the suffering of the Venezuelan people.
He says that Cuba is the „true imperialist power” in Venezuela. Cuba has made the same accusation against the United States, alleging that the U.S. is after Venezuela’s oil.
But Pompeo told reporters at the State Department on Monday that the U.S. is interested only in the welfare of the Venezuelan people. Pompeo also rejected allegations that the U.S. is responsible for crippling power outages that have hit Venezuela since Thursday.
Spain’s airline pilots union has asked for Spanish airline Air Europa to stop flying to Venezuela after one of its crews was attacked at gunpoint in Caracas.
The Sepla union said Monday that two pilots and eight more crew members of a flight from Madrid were assaulted on Saturday while going from the airport to their hotel in the Venezuelan capital.
The crew told the union that their van was surrounded by men on three motorbikes who later fled after an exchange of gunfire with a person the crew believed to be a plainclothes police officer. None of the crew members was injured.
The union says Air Europa responded to the attack by ordering the crews of flights to Venezuela to not spend the night in the country.
Witnesses say an explosion occurred at a power station in the Venezuelan capital as days of nationwide power cuts imposed increasing hardship on the country.
Flames rose from the electrical facility in the Baruta area of Caracas early Monday, contributing to a sense of chaos among Venezuelans already struggling with an economic crisis and a bitter political standoff.
Opposition leader Juan Guaido says three of four electricity transformers servicing the area were knocked out and that state engineers are unable to fix them. The U.S.-backed leader of the National Assembly has blamed the blackouts that began Thursday on alleged government corruption and mismanagement.
President Nicolas Maduro, meanwhile, has accused Guaido and the United States of staging a „cyberattack” on Venezuela’s power grid. The U.S. dismisses the allegation.
(Reuters) – The United States is to withdraw all remaining diplomatic personnel from Venezuela this week, the U.S. State Department announced late on Thursday.
„Like the January 24 decision to withdraw all dependents and reduce embassy staff to a minimum, this decision reflects the deteriorating situation in Venezuela as well as the conclusion that the presence of U.S. diplomatic staff at the embassy has become a constraint on U.S. policy,” the State Department said.
It did not say on what day the personnel would be withdrawn from the embassy in Caracas.
The South American nation has been in the throes of political unrest for months over its contested presidential election.
Venezuela is suspending school and business activities on Tuesday amid a continuing power blackout, Information Minister Jorge Rodriguez said in a televised broadcast on Monday.
It is the third such cancellation since power went out last week.
(Reporting by Rich McKay in Atlanta; editing by Darren Schuettler)
Pelosi: ‘Not worth it’ to impeach Trump Christopher Wilson Editor•Nancy Pelosi says Trump is ‘not worth’ impeaching House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said that barring “overwhelming” new evidence she would not pursue impeachment against President Trump because it would be too divisive and “he’s just not worth it.”
“I’m not for impeachment,” said Pelosi in an interview with the Washington Post published Monday. “This is news. I’m going to give you some news right now because I haven’t said this to any press person before. But since you asked, and I’ve been thinking about this: Impeachment is so divisive to the country that unless there’s something so compelling and overwhelming and bipartisan, I don’t think we should go down that path, because it divides the country. And he’s just not worth it.”
Impeachment by the House of Representatives, which Democrats control, can be accomplished by a simple majority. But to remove Trump from office would require a two-thirds majority vote in the Republican-led Senate.
Pelosi’s comments echo those by House Judiciary Chairman Jerry Nadler, D-N.Y., in an interview with Politico earlier Monday.
“You don’t want to divide the country, so you have to think you have such a case that once the case is finished being presented, enough people understand you had to do it,” said Nadler.
A poll of Iowa Democrats released over the weekend found only 22 percent of respondents saying they cared “a lot” about impeachment, far lower than issues like health care (81 percent), climate change (80 percent) or income inequality (67 percent).
Other Democrats are more enthusiastic. Freshman Rep. Rashida Tlaib, D-Mich., made headlines in January for saying about the president that “we’re going to impeach this mother***er” at a MoveOn event in Washington, D.C. Rep. Brad Sherman, D-Calif., first introduced articles of impeachment against Trump for obstruction of justice in July 2017.
This week New York Magazine posed an interesting question: Has the “socialist” moment in the Democratic party arrived? Maybe so. The popularity of Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez among journalists and social-media types suggests that socialism’s appeal is growing. And, of course, we should not underestimate Bernie Sanders’s appeal in the Democratic primary.
But before Democrats embrace socialism, they would do well to ponder just what a break from the party’s history the Sanders/Ocasio-Cortez faction is proposing. For roughly 70 years, the Democratic party has successfully kept radical forces at bay and, as a consequence, enjoyed political success.
Post-war liberalism, far from being a radical political program, actually had the effect of isolating and minimizing left-wing radicalism in the United States. One could argue that this was liberals’ intent — on both the domestic and the international fronts.
Domestically speaking, the essence of post-war liberalism was to share the bounty of capitalism in a more egalitarian manner. A lot of this was initiated with the New Deal. The National Labor Relations Act of 1935, also known as the Wagner Act, for instance, gave labor unions the right to bargain for better wages and, by implication, allowed a fairer distribution of corporate profits. And while the particulars of post-war liberal programs were novel in some respects — with their particular emphasis on health care and education — the Left’s agenda remained philosophically similar to FDR’s New Deal mission: saving capitalism from itself.
Put aside the merits of this agenda — whether it has been successful on its own terms, or whether it has produced bad side effects (I am in the latter camp). The point is that this is how the mainstream Left viewed its own project. And in at least one important regard, the agenda was enormously successful: It mostly pushed the radical fringe outside politics.
We’ve mainly forgotten the 75 years between the Civil War and the Great Depression, and when we do remember them, we think of the era as one of corrupt contentment. But there was a radical undercurrent to the politics of the period; at times, it threatened to drag the whole nation down with it. The Populist party called for government seizure of the railroads in 1892, a proposal that William Jennings Bryan endorsed prior to his run for the presidency in 1908. Socialism was a viable political force in the Midwest during this time — Milwaukee elected a socialist mayor in 1910, and Eugene V. Debs put together a coalition of urban and agrarian radicals that accounted for more than 5 percent of the presidential vote in 1912. But after the political success of the New Deal, the economic socialists were not a significant force in electoral politics. FDR and his successors produced a politically satisfactory middle ground between laissez-faire capitalism and socialism.
Something similar happened with the Left on foreign policy during the Cold War. The Democratic party adopted a thoroughly anti-Communist stance that had the effect of boxing out those who did not see the Soviet Union as a threat. The decisive contest over the soul of the Left turned out to be the 1944 vice-presidential contest, when a coalition of southern Democrats, Catholics, and soon-to-be Cold Warriors insisted that Vice President Henry Wallace be denied another term. Instead, Democrats settled on Harry Truman as the heir to FDR. Truman adopted an unapologetically pro-American, interventionist foreign policy, while Wallace was basically exiled from the party. Running as an independent in 1948, he won just 2 percent of the vote.
This was an incredibly successful mix of domestic and foreign policies. Regardless of how Barack Obama saw himself (or how the rest of the country saw him), he can mostly be understood as operating within this Democratic tradition, which links him to Bill Clinton, Jimmy Carter, Lyndon Johnson, John F. Kennedy, Truman, and Roosevelt.
Bernie Sanders is not part of this tradition and does not see himself as belonging to it, either. Although he caucuses with Democrats in Congress, he sees himself as a democratic socialist. His ideology is not the same as that held by early-20th-century progressives, who wanted to control the means of production. But it’s close enough, in that the confiscatory tax rates Sanders supports would give the state most of the benefits from private enterprise. His domestic agenda is not intended to stabilize our capitalist system and make it fairer; instead, he explicitly seeks to disrupt it.
Take health care. It was one thing for Truman to propose a national health-insurance program in 1949, when health-care expenditures counted for less than 5 percent of GDP. It is quite another for Sanders to call for Medicare for all in an economy where health care is 18 percent of GDP, as it now is. Similarly, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s Green New Deal bears little substantive resemblance to the New Deal, which sought to coordinate the existing forces in society to alleviate the Great Depression for the good of all. Ocasio-Cortez’s plan would totally upend society as we have known it.
And as for his foreign policy, Sanders took trips to the USSR, where he publicly criticized the United States. Obviously, the Soviet Union is no more, but a Sanders presidency would fundamentally realign American foreign policy.
The brilliance of the New Deal/post-war liberal project is that it was a progressive agenda for a fundamentally prosperous and reasonably contented people. It was presented to Americans as a way to solve public and social problems without disrupting the pathways of wealth creation and upward mobility that already existed. As Obama said, “you can keep your health insurance if you like it.” That was a lie, but soothing claims such as this have been essential to the post-war liberal program, which goes something like this: If you’re not doing too well, we will help you; if you’re doing really, really well, we’re going to ask you to pitch in a little more; if you’re doing all right, we’ll leave you alone.
This is not what Sanders and Ocasio-Cortez are promising. They seem intent on disrupting life for every American, in fundamental ways. This is radicalism, and it has never been politically successful in the United States. There is, of course, a first time for everything. But this would be a first in this nation’s 225-year history.
British Prime Minister Theresa May held last-ditch talks with European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker ahead of a vote in parliament on their Brexit deal
Strasbourg (France) (AFP) – Prime Minister Theresa May said Monday she has secured „legally binding” guarantees from the EU designed to get the Brexit deal through the British parliament and avert a chaotic withdrawal.
She announced the move after a late evening dash to Strasbourg to hammer out the changes with top European officials, as the clock ticked down to Britain’s scheduled divorce from the bloc on March 29.
European Commission chief Jean-Claude Juncker warned that the stakes were increasingly high, ahead of a vote by British lawmakers on the deal on Tuesday.
„The choice is clear: it is this deal, or Brexit may not happen at all. Let’s bring the UK’s withdrawal to an orderly end,” the former Luxembourg premier told reporters, sitting next to May at a late-night press conference in the French city.
„There will be no third chance.”
The three-part package of changes effectively aims to resolve a key sticking point for British MPs over the so-called backstop plan to keep open the border between EU member Ireland and the British province of Northern Ireland.
„Today we have secured legal changes,” May told reporters after the talks with Juncker and the European Union’s chief negotiator Michel Barnier.
„Now is the time to come together, to back this improved Brexit deal, and to deliver on the instruction of the British people.”
UK lawmakers will study the new proposals before holding a vote on the divorce deal Tuesday, with just 17 days remaining before Britain’s planned split from the bloc after 46 years.
Britain’s House of Commons overwhelmingly defeated the deal in January and was expected to do so again on Tuesday without meaningful change.
– ‘Incompetence or contempt?’ –
Another defeat in parliament could see Britain sever ties with its closest trading partner on March 29 with no new arrangements, causing huge disruption on both sides of the Channel.
It would also raise the possibility of postponing Brexit, after May promised to allow MPs a vote later this week on whether to accept a „no deal” scenario or request a short delay from the EU.
Juncker said he recommended the deal to the EU Council, which represents member states, and that Irish Prime Minister Leo Varadkar was prepared to back the changes on the backstop.
Brexit-supporting MPs reacted cautiously to news of the agreement, but said they wanted to examine the detail.
„We will certainly analyse that very, very carefully,” said Nigel Dodds of Northern Ireland’s Democratic Unionist Party (DUP), part of May’s coalition government.
The DUP’s support is crucial if the deal is to pass the House of Commons.
May’s trip to Strasbourg caused concern among some MPs, who had complained they may not have enough time to scrutinise what May agreed before being asked to vote.
„Is this incompetence or is this just contempt for parliament?” said opposition Labour MP Yvette Cooper.
– ‘Harder to leave the backstop’ –
May’s initial deal was struck after 18 months of tough negotiations, and covers Britain’s financial settlement, expatriate rights, the Irish border and plans for a transition period.
But MPs rejected it in January by a massive 432 votes to 202, with many of May’s Conservatives rebelling against her.
The Commons later sent her back to renegotiate the backstop.
This would keep Britain in the EU customs union and parts of its single market until and unless another way — such as a trade deal — is found to avoid frontier checks.
Juncker said May and he have agreed a „legal instrument” to ease British concerns over the backstop.
Many MPs fear it is a „trap” to keep them tied to EU rules, but Brussels has rejected calls for a time limit or unilateral exit clause.
„It is harder to leave the backstop than it is to leave the EU,” claimed Conservative MP Jacob Rees-Mogg, an influential Brexiteer.
May has promised Britain will leave the EU whatever happens on March 29, but many MPs fear that a „no deal” exit would wreak economic havoc.
In the face of a cabinet revolt, she promised that if her deal is defeated again then MPs will vote on „no deal” on Wednesday and then on Thursday, on delaying Brexit.
Any postponement would have to be approved by the leaders of the other 27 nations, who are next meeting at a Brussel’s summit on March 21 and 22 — a week before Brexit day.
Nigel Farage, who spearheaded the campaign that led to Britons voting in the June 2016 referendum to leave the EU, held firm.
„This is all words and twisted meanings. Nothing has changed. Reject. Reject. Reject,” Farage tweeted.
Britain’s main opposition Labour Party also came out against the agreement.
„This evening’s agreement with the European Commission does not contain anything approaching the changes Theresa May promised parliament,” Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn said.
By Shaylim Valderrama and Anggy Polanco
CARACAS/SAN CRISTOBAL, Venezuela (Reuters) – Venezuela’s opposition-run congress on Monday declared a „state of alarm” over a five-day power blackout that has crippled the OPEC member country’s oil exports and left millions of citizens scrambling to find food and water.
Much of Venezuela remained without power on Monday, although electricity had largely returned to the capital of Caracas following an outage that began on Thursday and which President Nicolas Maduro has called an act of U.S.-backed sabotage.
The outage has added to discontent in a country already suffering from hyperinflation and a political crisis after opposition leader Juan Guaido assumed the interim presidency in January after declaring Maduro’s 2018 re-election a fraud.
„Nothing is normal in Venezuela, and we will not allow this tragedy to be considered normal, which is why we need this decree of a state of alarm,” said Guaido, who heads the legislature, during the session on Monday.
The constitution allows the president to declare states of alarm amid catastrophes that „seriously compromise the security of the nation,” but does not explicitly say what practical impact such a declaration would have.
Guaido has been recognized as Venezuela’s legitimate leader by the United States and most Western countries, but Maduro retains control of the armed forces and state institutions, and the backing of Russia and China, among others.
Oil industry sources said that exports from the primary port of Jose had been halted for lack of power, cutting off Venezuela’s primary source of revenue.
During the legislative session, Guaido called for a halt in shipments of oil to Maduro’s political ally Cuba, which has received discounted crude from Venezuela for nearly two decades. The deals have drawn scrutiny from the opposition and its allies abroad as Venezuela’s economic crisis worsened.
„We ask for the international community’s cooperation to make this measure effective, so that the oil the Venezuelan people urgently need to attend to this national emergency is not given away,” Guaido said.
U.S. National Security Advisor John Bolton backed the measure, writing on Twitter that, „insurance companies and flag carriers that facilitate these give-away shipments to Cuba are now on notice.” He did not specify any measures the U.S. government may take.
Earlier on Monday, the U.S. Treasury imposed sanctions on a Russian bank over its dealings with Venezuela’s state-owned oil company PDVSA and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo criticized Russia’s Rosneft for buying PDVSA oil.
The blackout has left food rotting in refrigerators, hospitals have struggled to keep equipment operating, and people have clustered on the streets of Caracas to pick up patchy telephone signals to reach relatives abroad.
On Monday, Venezuelans seeking water formed lines to fill containers from a sewage pipe.
„This is driving me crazy,” said Naile Gonzalez in Chacaito, a commercial neighborhood of Caracas. „The government doesn’t want to accept that this is their fault because they haven’t carried out any maintenance in years.”
Venezuela’s electrical grid has suffered from years of underinvestment. Restrictions on imports have affected the provision of spare parts, while many skilled technical personnel have fled the country amid an exodus of more than 3 million Venezuelans in recent years.
Winston Cabas, the president of an electrical engineers’ professional association, told reporters that several of the country’s thermoelectric plants were operating at just 20 percent of capacity, in part due to lack of fuel. He said the government was rationing electricity.
The process of restoring service was „complex” and could take between five and six days, he said.
„We once had the best electricity system in the world – the most vigorous, the most robust, the most powerful – and those who now administer the system have destroyed it,” he said.
A source at PDVSA also said the government had decided to ration electricity, in part to supply power to the Jose oil export terminal.
The Information Ministry did not respond to a request for comment.
Experts consulted by Reuters believe the nationwide blackout originated in transmission lines that transport energy from the Guri hydroelectric plant to the Venezuelan south.
The lack of electricity has aggravated a crisis in Venezuelan hospitals, already lacking investment and maintenance in addition to a shortage of medicines.
School and work activities are set to be suspended on Tuesday, the third working day in a row.
(Reporting by Shaylim Valderrama, Vivian Sequera, Anggy Polanco, and Deisy Buitrago; additional reporting by Sarah Marsh in Havana; writing by Daniel Flynn, Brian Ellsworth and Luc Cohen; editing by Grant McCool and Rosalba O’Brien)
By Ilze Filks
STOCKHOLM (Reuters) – Students around the world are expected to skip school on March 15 in order to demonstrate against climate change, taking their cue from Swedish schoolgirl Greta Thunberg whose weekly „school strike for climate” has won a global following.
The then 15-year-old Thunberg began riding her bicycle to parliament last August, taking up a place on the cobblestones in front of Stockholm’s Parliament House with her „school strike for climate” hand-painted sign.
Thousands of students around the world have since copied her and youth organizations are calling for an unprecedented strike on Friday in which students in more than 40 countries are expected to participate.
„I think this movement is very important. It not only makes people aware, and makes people talk about it more, but also to show the people in power that this is the most important thing there is,” Thunberg told Reuters in an interview.
Thunberg has almost 250,000 followers on Twitter where her movement carries the hashtags #FridaysForFuture and #SchoolStrike4Climate.
A TEDx talk she delivered on climate change now carried on TED’s main website has garnered more than 1.2 million views and last month Thunberg joined protests in Belgium, where she won a European Union pledge to spend billions of euros to combat climate change.
„I think the most fun thing is to watch all the pictures around the world of hundreds of thousands of children school striking for the climate,” Thunberg told Reuters.
She has also had an impact on her parents, author and actor Svante Thunberg and opera singer Malena Ernman.
Inspired by their daughter’s concern for the environment, the pair have stopped flying and have adopted vegan diets as part of their efforts to live more environmentally sustainable lives, Svante Thunberg told a conference in Katowice, Poland, in December.
Specifically, Thunberg said she wants Sweden to adhere to the Paris Agreement, part of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change.
„I’ve said that I will continue to strike every Friday until Sweden is in line with the Paris Agreement,” she said. „That may take a couple of years and I’ll just have to try to be patient.”
(Reporting by Ilze Filks; editing by Jason Neely)
MELBOURNE, Australia (AP) — The most senior Catholic to be convicted of child sex abuse will be sentenced to prison on Wednesday in an Australia landmark case that has polarized observers. Some described the prosecution as proof the church is no longer above the law, while others suspect Cardinal George Pell has been made a scapegoat for the church’s sins. Pope Francis’ former finance minister, who had been described as the third-highest ranking Catholic in the Vatican, has spent two weeks in a Melbourne remand jail cell since a sentencing hearing in the Victoria state County Court on Feb. 27 in which his lawyers conceded the 77-year-old must spend time behind bars.
SYDNEY (AP) — A former Bahraini soccer player and refugee became an Australian citizen Wednesday, four weeks after detention in Thailand on an extradition request from his home country raised international concern. Hakeem al-Araiby told reporters he’s „an Aussie now” and is happy to be safe. The 25-year-old soccer player fled Bahrain, citing political repression, and had lived under refugee status in Australia for more than a year until he was detained in Bangkok in November at the start of a planned holiday with his wife. Bahrain wanted him returned to serve a prison sentence for a vandalism conviction he denies, but Thailand withdrew the extradition case last month after sustained pressure from the Australian government and soccer bodies.
RANCASUMUR, Indonesia (AP) — Relatives and neighbors of the Indonesian woman accused of killing North Korean leader Kim Jong Un’s half brother in Malaysia are preparing an emotional welcome home party after charges against her were unexpectedly dropped. Preparing Siti Aisyah’s favorite spicy beef dish, her aunt Siti Sudarmi said, „We were sure sooner or later she would be freed because she is innocent.” Malaysia on Monday freed Aisyah from two years of detention following concerted lobbying by the Indonesian government. It was a stunning twist in a bizarre tale. Prosecutors alleged Aisyah and a Vietnamese woman smeared VX nerve agent on Kim Jong Nam’s face at a Malaysian airport in 2017, causing his death.
SHAH ALAM, Malaysia (AP) — One of two women accused of killing North Korean leader Kim Jong Un’s half brother by smearing VX nerve agent on his face was freed after two years of detention Monday when Malaysian prosecutors unexpectedly dropped the murder charge against her. Indonesian Siti Aisyah and her Vietnamese co-defendant, Doan Thi Huong, have said they thought they were taking part in a prank for a TV show. Prosecutors did not give any reason for the remarkable retreat in their case against Aisyah in the killing of Kim Jong Nam at a busy Kuala Lumpur airport terminal. Indonesia’s government had lobbied repeatedly for her release.
HOUSTON (AP) — The second deadly crash of a prized new airplane in five months has renewed safety concerns about the 737 Max that could shape Boeing’s fortunes for many years. The 737 Max is the newest version of the 737, the best-selling airliner ever. Since debuting in 2017, Boeing has delivered more than 350 of them in several versions that vary by size. Dozens of airlines around the world have embraced the plane for its fuel efficiency and utility for short and medium-haul flights. Boeing has taken more than 5,000 orders for the various Max versions, and they constitute the largest share of the company’s backlog of nearly 5,900 planes.
HEJERE, Ethiopia (AP) — Airlines in Ethiopia, China, Indonesia and elsewhere grounded the Boeing 737 Max 8 jetliner Monday after the second devastating crash of one of the planes in five months. But Boeing said it had no reason to pull the popular aircraft from the skies. As the East African country mourned the 157 victims of the Ethiopian Airlines plane that went down in clear weather shortly after takeoff Sunday, investigators found the jetliner’s two flight recorders at the crash site outside the capital of Addis Ababa. An airline official, however, said one of the recorders was partially damaged and „we will see what we can retrieve from it.” The official spoke on condition of anonymity for lack of authorization to speak to the media.
BANGKOK (AP) — Production of methamphetamine is skyrocketing in Southeast Asia, with prices dropping and usage expanding, the U.N.’s anti-drug agency said Monday. Even as seizures of the drug known as speed, ice and „ya ba” in its various forms reached a record high last year, street prices have dropped, indicating increased availability, said a report released by the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime. The agency said methamphetamine has become the main drug of concern in 12 out of 13 East and Southeast Asian countries, up from five a decade ago. The only exception was Vietnam, where heroin is considered the major problem.
MANILA, Philippines (AP) — A Philippine appeals court has upheld a decision that an online news site critical of President Rodrigo Duterte violated a constitutional ban on foreign ownership of news media. The Court of Appeals said in a decision made public Monday that Rappler Inc. effectively allowed U.S.-based investor Omidyar Network „to participate” in its corporate actions and decisions in violation of the constitution, which requires media companies to be fully owned and managed by Filipinos. Rappler argued that it did not grant Omidyar the power to control or influence its news operations, but last year, the appeals court backed a Securities and Exchange Commission decision to revoke the site’s license.
BEIJING (AP) — Chinese tech giant Huawei’s tensions with Washington, which says the telecom equipment maker is a security risk, stretch across four continents from courtrooms to corporate boardrooms to Canadian canola fields. In the latest twist, Huawei Technologies Ltd. is asking a court in Texas to strike down a legal ban on the government using its equipment or dealing with any contractor that does. Washington is trying to persuade European and other allies to shun the biggest maker of network technology as their phone carriers invest billions of dollars in upgrading to next-generation communications. The company denies accusations it might facilitate Chinese spying or is controlled by the ruling Communist Party.
UNITED NATIONS (AP) — U.N. experts say they are investigating possible violations of United Nations sanctions on North Korea in about 20 countries, from alleged clandestine nuclear procurement in China to arms brokering in Syria and military cooperation with Iran, Libya and Sudan. The expert panel’s 66-page report to the Security Council, obtained Monday by The Associated Press, also detailed the appearance in North Korea of a Rolls-Royce Phantom, Mercedes-Benz limousines and Lexus LX 570 all-wheel drive luxury vehicles in violation of a ban on luxury goods. And it noted a trend in North Korea’s evasion of financial sanctions „of using cyberattacks to illegally force the transfer of funds from financial institutions and cryptocurrency exchanges.” The report’s executive summary, which was obtained in early February, said North Korea’s nuclear and missile programs „remain intact” and its leaders are dispersing missile assembly and testing facilities to prevent „decapitation” strikes.
Baghdad (AFP) – Iran’s President Hassan Rouhani arrived in Iraq on Monday for his first official visit, state television said, as Baghdad is under pressure from Washington to limit ties with its neighbour.
Before leaving Tehran Rouhani hailed the „special” relations between Iran and Iraq, saying they could not be compared to Baghdad’s ties „with an aggressor country like America”.
His visit to Iraq is the first since he became president in 2013.
„Iran-Iraq relations are special,” Rouhani said at Tehran’s Mehrabad airport before flying to Baghdad, Iranian state television reported, adding that Tehran was always ready to help its neighbours.
„America is despised in the region. The bombs that the Americans dropped on Iraqis, Syrian people and other countries cannot be forgotten,” he added.
Baghdad has been under pressure from Washington to limit ties with its neighbour, particularly after the United States last year withdrew from the 2015 nuclear deal with Iran and hit Tehran with sanctions.
Iraq was given limited waivers to continue buying electricity and natural gas from Iran, with Washington calling on Baghdad to partner with US companies to become energy independent.
After Turkey, Iran is the top supplier of imported goods to Iraq, including cars, gas, home appliances and vegetables.
Iran has close but complicated relations with Iraq, with significant influence among its Shiite political groups.
The two countries fought a bloody war from 1980 to 1988 and Tehran’s influence in Baghdad grew after the 2003 US-led invasion of Iraq toppled the government of Saddam Hussein.
Iran was the first country to respond to Iraqi calls for help after Islamic State group jihadists captured second city Mosul in 2014 and threatened to overrun Baghdad and Kirkuk.
Tehran dispatched „military advisors” and equipment overnight along with the famous Revolutionary Guards elite Quds Force commander Qasem Soleimani to prevent IS jihadists from approaching its western borders.
Following the defeat of IS in Iraq, Iran is trying to position itself to gain a prime role in rebuilding the war-ravaged country.
During the visit, Rouhani is set to meet Iraqi Prime Minister Adel Abdel Mahdi and President Barham Saleh, as well as the country’s chief Shiite cleric Grand Ayatollah Ali Sistani, according to the Iranian government’s website.
Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif preceded Rouhani to Iraq to prepare for the visit.
The latest is from a former Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) safety inspector. Speaking to CNN on Monday morning, David Soucie noted that while he has “never, ever done this before,” he would suggest that Americans think twice before boarding a Boeing 737 Max 8 plane.
“I’ve never said that, ‘Hey, it’s unsafe to fly a particular model’ but in this case, I’m going to have to go there,” he said. “I just looked at the flight data of that aircraft: It’s strikingly similar, same issues we had with the Max Air. So yeah, I would watch for that airplane.”
Following the crash, a number of airlines have decided to ground their own fleets of the model, including Ethiopian Airlines itself and Cayman Airways. China and Indonesia have also issued orders to ground all domestic flights that use the 737 Max 8.
But there are still hundreds that have not received such orders. Approximately 350 737 Max 8s are in operation worldwide, used by 57 operators. This includes a number of U.S.-operated airlines, such as American Airlines, Southwest Airlines, and United Airlines. Air Canada, Aeromexico, Norwegian Air, Icelandair, and WestJet are among others that also currently have and operate the 737 Max 8.
Russia and China won’t like this one bit.
Tank Terror: Why the U.S. Army’s ‘New’ M1 Abrams Tank Is A Monster on the Battlefield
(Washington, D.C.) Should a mechanized column of heavily armored Russian vehicles launch an aggressive, forward-leaning assault into Eastern Europe 10 years from now, complete with air and artillery support – – just what kinds of specific armored vehicles would best position a US/NATO response?
Such a scenario, however likely, incorporates some of the complexities now informing current Army thinking. How much can current platforms, such as the 1980s-era Abrams tank, be upgraded and maintained such that they can provide the requisite force, protection and firepower to meet such a contingency? — Both now and 15 years from now? To what extent would the Army’s emerging fleet of Next-Generation Combat Vehicles be better equipped to respond?
The Army’s most pressing priority, senior leaders explain, is to be ready for war “now” — “today” — and in the immediate future.
“One of our biggest challenges is to continue to upgrade our current platforms for anything we may go to war with today at the same time making sure we put the proper investments into our future abilities – so we are ready for the fight after next,” Maj. Gen. Brian Cummings, Program Executive Officer, Ground Combat Systems, told Warrior Maven in an interview a few months ago.
The thinking is characterized by two intertwined, yet distinct trajectories; future planning is dominated by a need for lighter-weight, expeditionary armored vehicles protected by long-range sensors, advanced fires and Active Protection Systems; the Army has already integrated an APS system called Trophy onto its Abrams vehicles. In this mix of technologies, survivability rests upon the prospect of lightweight armor composites, APS, long range fires, sensors and air defenses.
While promising, relevant and fundamental to modernization, these priorities do not seem to displace a corresponding need for heavy armor. In short, both are essential to the future, which means the Abrams tank — is most-likely going nowhere soon. The Army’s behavior seems to reflect this dual-pronged approach, as the service is deeply invested in both future vehicles and substantial upgrades to the Abrams.
When it comes to potential future warfare scenarios, it’s clear that lighter-weight, expeditionary firepower such as the Army’ Mobile Protected Firepower vehicle are entirely necessary to support advancing infantry. However, there may be state-on-state combat contingencies far too dangerous for maneuvering infantry to lead an assault. In this case, heavily protected armored vehicles, equipped with precision long-range fires and advanced sensors, might prove indispensable to the fight.
To put it succinctly, today’s Abrams is nothing like it was decades ago. In fact, one could safely say its sensors, firepower and current protection make it almost an entirely new vehicle is some respects. Along these lines, the Army is working on a new SEP v4 variant, slated to begin testing in 2021, specifically engineered as a “lethality” upgrade.
The new tank will include new laser rangefinder technology, color cameras,
integrated on-board networks, new slip-rings, advanced meteorological sensors, ammunition data links, laser warning receivers and a far more lethal, multi-purpose 120mm tank round, senior Army weapons developers have explained.
The US Army’s Multi-Purpose 120mm tank round, to arm the v4, is now being engineered to integrate several different kinds of ammunition into a single, tailorable round — to include High Explosive Anti -Tank rounds, Multi-Purpose Anti-Tank rounds and anti-personnel canister rounds, among others.
The SEPv4 upgrade is, among other things, centered around the integration of a higher-tech 3rd generation FLIR – Forward Looking Infrared imaging sensor.
The advanced FLIR uses higher resolution and digital imaging along with an increased ability to detect enemy signatures at farther ranges through various obscurants such as rain, dust or fog, Army developers explain. Improved FLIR technologies help tank crews better recognize light and heat signatures emerging from targets such as enemy sensors, electronic signals or enemy vehicles.
Thermal targeting sights, as demonstrated during the now famous Gulf War tank battles including Abrams tanks against Russian-built T-72, can create range mismatches enabling tanks to destroy enemy tanks without themselves being seen.
Regarding a need for heavy armor, there is of course also the importance of countering the Russian T-14 Armata — a new platform armed with now-in-development 3UBK21 Sprinter Missiles and long range 9M119 Reflecks armor-piercing rounds, according to details provided in a 2018 report from Popular Mechanics’ Kyle Mizokami.
Furthermore, not only will the Abrams v4 improve range and lethality of the tanks main gun, but it will also bring long-range laser detection and rear-view sensors. Newly configured meteorological sensors will better enable Abrams tanks to anticipate and adapt to changing weather or combat conditions more quickly, Army officials explain.
The emerging M1A2 SEP v4 will also be configured with a new slip-ring leading to the turret and on-board ethernet switch to reduce the number of needed “boxes” by networking sensors to one another in a single vehicle.
The Army is also engineering new AI-enabled Hostile Fire Detection sensors for its fleet Abrams tanks to identify, track and target incoming enemy small arms fire. This might enable forward maneuvering infantry and Armored Brigade Combat Teams to benefit from both heavy armored protection and ISR-like enemy- locating sensors. Such sensors, now being prototyped and experimented with, can include thermal sensors able to locate the „heat signature” coming from enemy small arms fire, acoustic sensors tracking the sound or even some kind of focal plane array, service engineers explain.
Potential integration between HFD and Active Protection Systems is also part of the calculus, according to senior weapons developers. APS technology, now on Army Abrams tanks, uses sensors, fire control technology and interceptors to ID and knock out incoming RPGs and ATGMs, among other things. While APS, in concept and application, involves threats larger or more substantial than things like small arms fire, there is great combat utility in synching APS to HFD.
The advantages of this kind of interoperability are multi-faceted. Given that RPGs and ATGMs are often fired from the same location as enemy small arms fire, an ability to track one, the other, or both in real time greatly improves targeting possibilities. This kind of initiative is entirely consistent with ongoing Army efforts to work toward more capable, multi-function sensors. The idea is to have a merged or integrated smaller hardware footprint, coupled with advanced sensing technology, able to perform a wide range of tasks historically performed by multiple separate on-board systems.
The overall current picture could well be summarized in one sentence – spoken by a senior Army combat vehicles developer last Fall:
„I have no requirements for a replacement tank.”
Kris Osborn is a Senior Fellow at The Lexington Institute.
Osborn previously served at the Pentagon as a Highly Qualified Expert with the Office of the Assistant Secretary of the Army – Acquisition, Logistics& Technology. Osborn has also worked as an anchor and on-air military specialist at national TV networks. He has a Masters Degree in Comparative Literature from Columbia University.
Task and Purpose
Thunderbirds pilot Maj. Stephen „Cajun” Del Bagno, one of the many Air Force personnel enlisted to consult on the portrayal of Captain Carol Danvers’ aviation chops, was killed in an April 2018 crash at the Nevada Test and Training Range at Nellis Air Force Base just a week after consulting on the movie, according to Air Force Times.
This Is the Story of the Fallen Thunderbird Pilot Who Helped ‘Captain Marvel’ Soar
Captain Marvel blasted across movie screens around the world with a blockbuster opening weekend, and the film’s directors say they owe a debt of gratitude not just to the Air Force, but to a fallen Thunderbird pilot.
Thunderbirds pilot Maj. Stephen „Cajun” Del Bagno, one of the many Air Force personnel enlisted to consult on the portrayal of Captain Carol Danvers’ aviation chops, was killed in an April 2018 crash at the Nevada Test and Training Range at Nellis Air Force Base just a week after consulting on the movie, according to Air Force Times.
An October report on the fatal accident occurred after Del Bagno lost consciousness due to extreme G-forces while practicing an aerial maneuvers with five other elite Thunderbird pilots in his F-16CM Fighting Falcon.
„The merger between his positive personality and pilot skills made him a ‘perfect fit for the Thunderbirds’ mission to recruit, retain and inspire,” the report said. „A member of his squadron summed up [Del Bagno] as ‘just a beautiful human being.'”
Del Bagno’s death rocked both Air Force community and the Captain Marvel film crew.
„[Del Bagno] embraced us, wanted so much to teach us about the culture of the Air Force, loved that culture so much, taught us to appreciate it in a way that we wouldn’t have otherwise,” director Anna Boden told Air Force Times in a February interview. „I just can’t explain how meaningful it was. He touched a lot of people on our set in the short time that he got to spend with us … and it was a very, very, very sad day when we found out and had to let everybody know.”
Captain Marvel star Brie Larson, who portrays Danvers and spent a significant amount of time at Nellis immersing herself in the Air Force’s unique culture, posted her own tribute to Del Bagno on Instagram shortly after the accident.
„You were a brilliant pilot and an even better person,” she wrote. „When you talked about the Air Force; the adventure, the rituals, the community – I felt your passion and purpose … There is no Carol without you.”
Captain Marvel is dedicated to Del Bagno’s memory, but his impact on the film extends beyond his work with Boden and Larson. Del Bagno has a brief cameo alongside Danvers during a rambunctious game of Crud („a fast-paced, alcohol-soaked variant of billiards popular with fighter pilots,” per Air Force Times) at her squadron’s local bar during a flashback sequence.
As for the Thunderbirds, a six-aircraft delta formation performed several flyovers on the Monday before Captain Marvel‘s to both promote the movie and honor Del Bagno
„This flyover is a unique moment to honor the men and women serving in the Armed Forces who are represented in Captain Marvel,” Thunderbirds Commander and lead pilot Lt. Col. John Caldwell said in a statement. „Being part of this event is a tremendous opportunity, and we look forward to demonstrating the pride, precision and professionalism of the 660,000 total force Airmen of the U.S. Air Force over the city of Los Angeles.”
„Executing this flyover is a fitting tribute to Cajun,” Maj. Matt Kimmel, who consulted alongside Del Bagno on Captain Marvel, added. „He lived to share his passion for aviation with everyone he met and always left you with a smile. We carry his legacy each day and can’t wait to make him proud by showing off his U.S. Air Force and his team in his backyard.”