*(ABOUT TIME) – PAUL RYAN TO STEP ASIDE IN ’18, LEAVE DC

Spirits were high inside the House chamber on Thursday, November 16, when, in the early afternoon, the gavel fell and a measure to rewrite the American tax code passed on a partisan tally of 227 to 205. As the deciding votes were cast—recorded in green on the black digital scoreboard suspended above the floor—the speaker of the House, Paul Ryan, threw his head back and slammed his hands together. Soon he was engulfed in a sea of dark suits, every Republican lawmaker wanting to slap him on the shoulder and be a part of his moment.

Ryan was the man of the hour. Having spent a quarter-century in Washington—as an intern, waiter, junior think-tanker, Hill staffer and, since 1999, as a member of Congress—he had never wavered in his obsession with fixing what he viewed as the nation’s two fundamental weaknesses: its Byzantine tax system and ballooning entitlement state. Now, with House Republicans celebrating the once-in-a-generation achievement of a tax overhaul, Ryan was feeling both jubilant and relieved—and a little bit greedy. Reveling in the afterglow, Ryan remarked to several colleagues how this day had proven they could accomplish difficult things—and that next year, they should set their sights on an even tougher challenge: entitlement reform. The speaker has since gone public with this aspiration, suggesting that 2018 should be the year Washington finally tackles what he sees as the systemic problems with Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid.

Tinkering with the social safety net is a bold undertaking, particularly in an election year. But Ryan has good reason for throwing caution to the wind: His time in Congress is running short.

Despite several landmark legislative wins this year, and a better-than-expected relationship with President Donald Trump, Ryan has made it known to some of his closest confidants that this will be his final term as speaker. He consults a small crew of family, friends and staff for career advice, and is always cautious not to telegraph his political maneuvers. But the expectation of his impending departure has escaped the hushed confines of Ryan’s inner circle and permeated the upper-most echelons of the GOP. In recent interviews with three dozen people who know the speaker—fellow lawmakers, congressional and administration aides, conservative intellectuals and Republican lobbyists—not a single person believed Ryan will stay in Congress past 2018.

Ryan was tiring of D.C. even before reluctantly accepting the speakership. He told his predecessor, John Boehner, that it would be his last job in politics—and that it wasn’t a long-term proposition. In the months following Trump’s victory, he began contemplating the scenarios of his departure. More recently, over closely held conversations with his kitchen cabinet, Ryan’s preference has become clear: He would like to serve through Election Day 2018 and retire ahead of the next Congress. This would give Ryan a final legislative year to chase his second white whale, entitlement reform, while using his unrivaled fundraising prowess to help protect the House majority—all with the benefit of averting an ugly internecine power struggle during election season. Ryan has never loved the job; he oozes aggravation when discussing intra-party debates over “micro-tactics,” and friends say he feels like he’s running a daycare center. On a personal level, going home at the end of next year would allow Ryan, who turns 48 next month, to keep promises to family; his three children are in or entering their teenage years, and Ryan, whose father died at 55, wants desperately to live at home with them full-time before they begin flying the nest. The best part of this scenario, people close to the speaker emphasize: He wouldn’t have to share the ballot with Trump again in 2020.

And yet speculation is building that, Ryan, even fresh off his tax-reform triumph, might not be able to leave on his own terms. He now faces a massive pileup of cannot-fail bills in January and February. It’s an outrageous legislative lift: Congress must, in the coming weeks, fund the government, raise the debt ceiling, modify spending caps, address the continuation of health-care subsidies, shell out additional funds for disaster relief and deal with the millions of undocumented young immigrants whose protected status has been thrown into limbo. It represents the most menacing stretch of Ryan’s speakership—one that will almost certainly require him to break promises made to his conference and give significant concessions to Democrats in exchange for their votes. To meet key deadlines, he’ll have to approve sizable spending increases and legal status for minors who came to the U.S. illegally—two things that could raise the ire of the GOP base and embolden his conservative rivals on Capitol Hill. There is no great outcome available, Ryan has conceded to some trusted associates—only survival. “Win the day. Win the next day. And then win the week,” Ryan has been preaching to his leadership team.

The speaker can’t afford to admit he’s a lame-duck—his fundraising capacity and dealmaking leverage would be vastly diminished, making the House all the more difficult to govern. When asked at the end of a Thursday morning press conference if he was leaving soon, Ryan shot a quick “no” over his shoulder as he walked out of the room.

VIDEO: ‘PSYCHO’ JOE SCARBOROUGH CALLS HUCKABEE A ‘STUPID SLEAZE-BAG’ FOR DEFENDING HIS DAUGHTER

“Former Governor says Mika Brzezinski ‘can go pound sand somewhere’

Steve Watson | Infowars.com – DECEMBER 14, 2017

The daily car crash that is MSNBC’s Morning Joe did not disappoint Thursday, with Joe Scarborough attacking Mike Huckabee after the former Arkansas Governor defended his daughter, White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders.

Appearing on Fox News, Huckabee responded to a verbal attack on his daughter made by Morning Joe co-host Mika Brzezinski, who lectured the press secretary for defending President Trump.

“Go home. Go home. You’re doing nothing if you stand by this president.” Brzezinski said Wednesday of Huckabee-Sanders, demanding that the Press Secretary should resign for telling reporters to get their minds out of the gutter and to stop applying sexual connotations to what the President says.

Brzezinski’s outburst was part of a wider verbal tirade against the women surrounding Trump, including his own wife and daughter.

“I was stunned that of all the people who are going to give a lecture on morality and family, and marriage, it’s going to be Mika? I’m sorry, but I just found that stunning,” Huckabee told Fox host Martha MacCallum.

“I’ll probably have to take half a baby aspirin tonight just to be able to get to sleep because Mika Brzezinski attacked my daughter, who is one heck of a strong lady, a great mom, a lovely wife, and a terrific public servant,” he said.

“She deserves better from other women and it just amazes me that even the women who say they are feminists are doing everything they can to discredit my daughter,” Huckabee continued. “To her credit, my daughter stands strong and tough and walks into that lions den of a press room every day and I believe represents women, represents the president and represents strength in an incredible way.”

The former Arkansas governor added, “Mika can go pound sand somewhere as far as I’m concerned.”

“The fact that some people read that tweet and immediately saw something sexual in it says a whole lot more about the people who read it than it did about the president because those are the exact kind of words that he has, in fact, used time and again.” Huckabee also noted.

While Huckabee was lauded for eloquently defending the Press Secretary, who has also been the target of attacks by leftists regarding her appearance, Joe Scarborough was apparently disgusted that a father would defend his daughter.

“What a sleazy thing to do,” a visibly angry Scarborough said, adding “You go and you actually talk about — Mika never talked about marriage.”

“She never lectured on the morality of any of that,” he exclaimed. “What a sleazy thing for you to do. What a judgmental, predictably stupid thing to do.”

“It’s unbelievable.” Scarborough raged.

N Korea Says US Naval Blockade Would Be ‘Big Step’ Towards Nuclear War – Reports

Previously, Pyongyang already slammed a proposed US naval blockade saying such measures will be regarded as “a declaration of war.”

 

The DPRK has warned that possible enforcement of the naval blockade by the US will lead to “merciless self-defensive” measures, North korea’s state news agency KCNA reports, citing a foreign ministry spokesperson.

According to KCNA, Pyongyang urged US President Donald Trump to refrain from imposing a maritime blockade, as such move would be an “extremely dangerous and big step towards the nuclear war.” 

READ MORE: ‘Now Is Not the Right Time’ for US Talks With North Korea — State Dept.

Pyongyang’s response comes after US State Secretary Rex Tillerson stated that “the international community must take additional measures to enhance maritime security, including the right to interdict maritime traffic transporting goods to and from” North Korea.

The naval blockade was also pushed for by Washington in September while deciding on sanctions against North Korea, however, the initiative was opposed by China and Russia.

In the wake of the latest missile launch by North Korea, the US together with South Korea and Japan carried out joint military drills aimed at testing their ability to track potential rockets fired from North Korea.

READ MORE: N Korean Ruling Party Compares Possible US Maritime Blockade With Declaring War

On Thursday, during the annual press conference Russian President Vladimir Putin called on both the United States and North Korea to stop aggravating a crisis, adding that he considers more severe international sanctions against North Korea “counterproductive”.

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China about to knock out petrodollar by trading oil in yuan

John Ryder knocks out Patrick Nielsen © Andrew Couldridge / Reuters

As one of the world’s top energy importers, China has successfully completed its fifth dry run in yuan-backed oil futures contract trading. The step has been already called Beijing’s challenge to the US dollar.

According to Bloomberg, which cited a statement from the exchange, 149 members of Shanghai International Energy Exchange traded 647,930 lots in the rehearsal with a total value of 268.2 billion yuan. The system met the listing requirements of crude futures after the exercise, it added.

“This contract has the potential to greatly help China’s push for yuan internationalization,” said Yao Wei, chief China economist at Societe Generale in Paris.

She added, however, “its success will hinge critically on the degree of freedom allowed for the capital flows related to the contract.”

A former China division chief at the International Monetary Fund, Eswar Prasad said: “It is not unreasonable to envision a world in which the overwhelming share of commodity contracts, especially for oil, are no longer denominated just in dollars.”

But “the yuan’s role in global finance will ultimately be determined by the degree of commitment of Xi Jinping’s government to economic and financial market reforms.”

Since the 1970s, the global oil trade has almost entirely been conducted in US dollars. The largest energy consumer, China, is interested in having oil contracts in yuan. Beijing plans to introduce its own oil benchmark which will rival Brent or West Texas Intermediate. Analysts say Chinese authorities will need to first convince large oil producers and consumers to use the yuan and invest in the Shanghai benchmark.

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The Chinese government announced plans to start a crude oil futures contract priced in yuan and convertible into gold earlier this year. The contract will enable the country’s trading partners to pay with gold or to convert yuan into gold without the necessity to keep money in Chinese assets or turn it into US dollars.

The new benchmark will reportedly allow exporters, such as Russia, Iran or Venezuela to avoid US sanctions by trading oil in yuan.

In September, Venezuela ditched the greenback for oil payments. Caracas has ordered oil traders to convert crude oil contracts into euro and not to pay or be paid in US dollars anymore. The measure followed the rolling out of sanctions by the United States against the country.