Assertive Saudi Prince Sets His Sights On Lebanon

As you relax over the holiday weekend, pay close attention to what’s happening in Lebanon. Tensions are rising in this perennial Middle East battleground, with potentially big implications for the stability of an already unstable region.

The trouble began Saturday when Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri resigned during a trip to Saudi Arabia, saying his life was threatened by the Iran-backed militia-cum-political party Hezbollah. Continue reading “Assertive Saudi Prince Sets His Sights On Lebanon”

Trump’s Travel Ban: Third Time Not a Charm

It’s deja vu all over again for President Trump’s travel ban. This week, a federal court in Hawaii blocked the latest version of the president’s controversial executive order from going into effect, only seven months after the same court put a similar hold on Trump’s second travel ban.

Much has happened in those seven months. After multiple unfavorable lower level rulings, the second ban finally reached the Supreme Court this summer. But the justices ultimately declined to hear the case during the court’s fall session, arguing that the issue was moot since the order had already expired.

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Trump To Poke Holes In Iran Deal, Not Rip It Up

On the campaign trail, candidate Donald Trump frequently vowed to “rip up” the Iran nuclear deal—a near-impossible promise to keep considering that the agreement is roughly the size of a large phonebook, making it physically the biggest multilateral treaty negotiated since World War II.

The hardline rhetoric remains, but Trump is unlikely to keep his word. The president still refers to the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, the official name of the document signed by the U.S., Iran, Britain, China, France, Germany and Russia that placed strict limits on Iran’s nuclear program for the next 10-15 years in exchange for sanctions relief, as “an embarrassment to the United States.” Continue reading “Trump To Poke Holes In Iran Deal, Not Rip It Up”

North Korea: Trump and Kim’s War of Words

If any diplomatic solutions to the North Korean nuclear crisis remain, President Trump is rapidly burning through them. His escalating war of words with North Korean Supreme Leader Kim Jong-un, replete with colorful name-calling and provocative threats, is making actual dialogue impossible and upping chances of armed conflict.

Trump kicked off the latest round of verbal sparring with his speech before the United Nations General Assembly, during which he referred to Kim as “Rocket Man” and threatened to “totally destroy North Korea” if the U.S. is “forced to defend itself or its allies.”

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Federal, State Response to Opioid Crisis Lacking

America’s opioid epidemic is the country’s worst public health crisis in a generation. A deadly combination of prescription pills and various black-market drugs, including heroin, is killing more than 100 people per day. Public health experts expect that number to rise, potentially claiming an additional 650,000 lives over the next decade.

The bottom line: Things will get worse before they get better. The United States remains awash in opioids, despite nascent efforts to clamp down on the problem. The main culprit is overprescription.
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Hurricane-Proofing a City: How Houston Should Prepare for the Next Big Storm

Houston is still reeling from Hurricane Harvey, a record-breaking tropical storm that has drenched the Texas coast with an estimated 21 trillion gallons of water since Aug. 25 and inflicted untold damage on both lives and property.

As with previous hurricanes, many people are asking: What could have been done differently this time to mitigate the damage? And what can be done to prepare for the next storm?

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Afghanistan: Donald Trump Continues America’s Longest War

President Trump’s plan to send thousands more U.S. troops to Afghanistan and emphasize “killing terrorists” over “nation building” put to rest any notion that he intends to wind down America’s longest war.

Trump was short on detail during his first prime-time speech since addressing Congress in February. He didn’t say how many soldiers will join the 8,400-strong U.S. force already in Afghanistan, leaving that specific for the Pentagon to sort out. Nor did he elaborate on the most provocative component of his new strategy: Putting more pressure on Pakistan to stop harboring the Taliban.  

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Conflict Still Unlikely in North Korea Nuclear Standoff

Don’t panic yet: The U.S. is not on the brink of war with North Korea, even after a heated exchange between the two countries that culminated with Pyongyang threatening to put Guam, a strategically important U.S. territory that hosts several American military bases, in the crosshairs.

Heated exchanges are routine in U.S.-North Korean relations. Pyongyang regularly threatens to turn Seoul, the capital of South Korea, into a “sea of fire.” This time, the stakes are higher — as are the tensions between Washington and Pyongyang — but the old rule of thumb still holds: Kim Jong-un knows that any needless military provocation could result in the destruction of his regime, which means he’s unlikely to take such a drastic step.

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North Korea Puts New York in Range

North Korea made another major leap forward in its nuclear program over the weekend, successfully launching a new missile that experts say puts most major U.S. cities, from Los Angeles to New York, in range.

Like most of the Hermit Kingdom’s recent breakthroughs, this one came sooner than expected. North Korea still has several additional steps to master before it officially has the ability to conduct a nuclear attack on the U.S. But American intelligence officials now think North Korea will be able to field a nuclear-capable intercontinental ballistic missile as soon as next year. Just a few months ago, the consensus estimate was somewhere between five and ten years. 

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Congress Rebukes White House on Russia Sanctions

Congress will send a strong message to Donald Trump Tuesday, when the House of Representatives is expected to approve a new package of Russia sanctions: Try easing penalties on Moscow, and you’ll have to answer to us. 

The bill, part of a broader deal that also includes new sanctions on Iran and North Korea, nearly came up short. After breezing through the Senate on a 98-2 vote, it encountered a swarm of opposition in the House.

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