Add another footnote to the problems with US military aviation….

Reporting by Lucas Tomlinson

The Air Force announced Wednesday it had relieved the commander of the service’s flight demonstration team following two crashes since the summer of 2016.

The first crash occurred during the Air Force Academy’s graduation ceremony and the traditional fly-by from the Thunderbirds F-16 jets, not long after passing over then-President Obama and the graduating cadets and their families.  One of the F-16s crashed after the single engine on the jet shut down (not ran out of fuel as many speculated at the time).

A year later, a Thunderbirds pilot and passenger were hospitalized following a crash while landing at the Dayton International Airport.

The US Air Force today is smaller than it has ever been in its history.  In 1991, the service had 8,600 aircraft in 134 squadrons.  Today, 5,500 aircraft in 55 squadrons.

The average age of an Air Force plane is 27 years old.  The service is roughly 2,000 pilots short today, according to the secretary of the Air Force.

The service is also running low on bombs.  “When it comes to munitions, we are stretched,” said Heather Wilson, secretary of the Air Force recently.

Fox News has reported extensively about the problems facing all of US military aviation, including:

-70% of US Marine Corps jets can’t fly

-half US Air Force B-1 and B-2 bombers can’t fly

-half the Navy’s 542 F-18 Super Hornets can’t fly

 

Roy Moore Fights On

Reporting by Jonathan Serrie

With no signs of quitting, Roy Moore’s Senate campaign released a new ad fighting back against allegations of sexual impropriety.

Basketball legend Charles Barkley, back home in Alabama for the Iron Bowl, said he’s disturbed by Moore’s association with former White House strategist Steve Bannon.

“We have a lot of black people in this state who are amazing people but to run a campaign with a guy as your chief advocate who is a white nationalist, a white separatist. That should have disqualified Roy Moore way before this women stuff came up,” Barkley said.

In order to beat Moore, Democrat Doug Jones needs to mobilize African-American voters, who make up about a quarter of Alabama’s electorate, but a Washington Post article suggests black voters may not be energized by the senate race.

On the Sunday morning talk shows, three more additional GOP senators dropped their support for Moore—Ohio Senator Rob Portman, South Carolina Senator Tim Scott and South Dakota Senator John Thune.

A White House official tells FOX News, President Trump has no plans to campaign for Moore and has yet to offer him a full throated endorsement, instead attacking Jones, tweeting: “The last thing we need in Alabama and the U.S. Senate is a Schumer/Pelosi puppet who is weak on crime, weak on the boarder, bad for our military and our great vets, bad for our 2nd Amendment, and wants to raise taxes to the sky. Jones would be a disaster!”

Later, Trump tweeted his endorsement of Luther Strange “wasn’t enough” and that quote, “I endorsed Luther Strange in the Alabama primary. He shot way up in the polls but it wasn’t enough. Can’t let Schumer/Pelosi win this race. Liberal Jones would be bad!”

Today the Jones campaign sent out an email accusing Moore of “hiding.” Moore is scheduled to speak at a rally in Henager, Alabama in what will be his first public appearance since the November 16 news conference that his campaign abruptly ended when reporters asked questions about the allegations against him.

Sexual Harassment on Capitol Hill

Reporting by James Rosen

In his first news conference since four women accused him of sexual misconduct, Democratic Senator Al Franken of Minnesota said he’s “tremendously sorry.”

Franken pledged to cooperate with an ethics committee probe and vowed to work to regain voters’ trust, but he declined to specify where he disputes his accusers’ accounts and couldn’t guarantee additional claims won’t surface.

“I take a lot of pictures in Minnesota—thousands of pictures; meet tens of thousands of people. So those are instances that I do not remember,” Franken told the press.

One colleague had already demanded more, with Republican Senator Marco Rubio of Florida saying, “the things he’s already admitted to I find to be outrageous and offensive—and I do think on that alone he should consider resigning.”

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, America’s top elected woman, surprised many with her defense of Democratic colleague John Conyers of Michigan, whom she called “an icon.”

The 88 year old lawmaker stepped down as a ranking member of the Judiciary Committee on Sunday following his acknowledgment that he settled a misconduct claim by a female staffer in 2015,

VOX editor Laura McGann tweeted, “Nancy Pelosi went on national TV and ran through a list of excuses for John Conyers that are the very reasons women are afraid to report sexual harassment in the first place.”

Matt Schlapp, Chair of the American Conservative Union, wrote, “Pelosi is a survivor and knows she can’t lose support in black caucus so she is gentle with Conyers. It’s always about power.”

Conyers has denied all charges, but two more women have come forward. Former staffer Melanie Sloan alleges Conyers once appeared for a meeting in his underwear and behaved inappropriately on other occasions.

“He once pulled me out of a meeting with domestic violence advocates, no less, and started screaming at me in the hallway and berating me, I believe, for not wearing stockings on some hundred-degree Washington day.”

And Republican Congressman Joe Barton of Texas, having apologized for a nude selfie he took for a woman with whom he had an affair, has confirmed to the ‘Washington Post’ the authenticity of a recording the woman made of a phone call in which Barton threatened to unleash the Capitol Police on her.

Senator Al Franken under fire for sexual harassment allegations

Photo: Leeann Tweeden

Reporting by Doug McKelway

They say a picture is worth a thousand words.

Calls are being made for a Senate ethics investigation following the release of a photo snapped on Christmas Eve 2006 on an Air Force C17 returning home from a USO tour in Afghanistan.

The sleeping woman in the photo is former swimsuit model and now KABC radio news anchor, Leeann Tweeden. The alleged groper was then comedian—now senator—Al Franken.

“I’m asleep literally on the plane and there’s a picture of Al Franken sort of doing this, grabbing my boobs over my flak chest and sort of looking at the camera and doing a smile so that I would see when I got home,” Tweeden told reporters.

Adding to the outrage, earlier in the USO tour, Franken wrote a comedy skit for the two, with a scripted kiss. She claims Franken tried relentlessly to rehearse it. She gave in.

“It happened so fast and he just mashed his lips against my face and he stuck his tongue in my mouth so fast and all I can remember is that his lips were really wet and slimy and in my mind I called him fish lips.”

In a written statement today, Franken apologized. “I certainly don’t remember the rehearsal for the skit in the same way, but I send my sincerest apologies to Leeann. As to the photo, it was clearly intended to be funny but wasn’t. I shouldn’t have done it.”

Tweeden accepted the apology and doesn’t want Franken to step down.

Numerous members of Congress are joining Franken’s voluntary call for an ethics investigation and more members may be outed as speculation fueled by stories like that of a young female staffer sent to deliver documents to a Congressman’s home circulate.

“It was a man, who then invited her in. At that point he decided to expose himself. She left and then she quit her job. She left, she found another job,” Congresswoman Barbara Comstock (R-VA) told fellow lawmakers.

Some critics maintain the inappropriate behavior will continue as long as alleged perpetrators enjoy anonymity.

 Representative Jackie Speier’s (DC-CA) #MeToo bill would end mediation that requires parties to keep findings confidential. That while Speaker Paul Ryan is also mandating sexual harassment training for all members of Congress.

Franken has been one of Congress’s most vocal critics of sexual assault in the military and just this week he criticized one of President Donald Trump’s judicial nominees whom he accused of being unfair to a transgendered baseball player.

 

The Democrats look to 2020

Reporting by James Rosen

Less than a week after Dona Brazile’s new book revealed the interim DNC Chair considered replacing Hillary Clinton with Vice President Joe Biden as the 2016 Democratic nominee following Clinton’s dramatic fainting spell that September, Mr. Biden has a new book of his own out, “Promise Me Dad,” about his son Beau’s death from cancer.

One of the takeaways—the former Vice President wants Americans to know that Brazile’s idea never would have worked—telling NBC news, “I was not ready, in terms of my family. So, no. I would never have done it.”

Vice President Biden, who turns 75 next week, says he hasn’t made up his mind about 2020.

“I’m in good shape. Knock on wood, as my mother would say, but I don’t know. That’s the truth.”

Biden also argued Hillary Clinton lost because she could not “get the message out about the middle class.”

If the former VP were to re-enter the fray, he would find his party frayed by Bazile’s allegation that the DNC “rigged” last year’s primary.

Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren, a potential 2020 contender herself, agrees the primary was rigged, but told reporters outside a town hall Sunday the party has “come together.”

Yet Senator Sanders, the Independent from Vermont who captured 43% of the Democratic primary votes last year, portrayed the party as doomed if it does not expand to include unaffiliated voters.

“So to say to Independents, say to young people who are overwhelmingly Independent, say to working people, “We don’t want you to come into the Democratic Party,” is totally absurd. And it’s a recipe for failure,” Sanders told CBS.

President Trump in Asia

Reporting by John Roberts

President Trump sitting down with Filipino President Rodrigo Duterte was by far the most controversial of the many meetings he has had in Asia over the past 11 days.

President Duterte has presided over an aggressive drug war in the Philippines, marked by thousands of extra-judicial killings, though Duterte denies any involvement. The White House says President Trump “briefly’ brought up human rights during the bilateral meeting, but a spokesman for Duterte immediately contracted that.

“Well, there was no mention of human rights, there was no mention of extralegal killings, there was only a rather lengthy discussion about the Philippines’ war on drugs with President Duterte doing most of the explaining.”

Despite his disagreement over what was discussed, Duterte’s people say the relationship with President Trump is “warm and friendly.”

And at the ASEAN gala dinner Duterte even sang a love song with a famous Filipino pop star, saying he did it on orders from President Trump.

North Korea was high on the agenda as the president met again with Prime Minister Shinzo Abe of Japan and Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull. Last week, Abe pledged 100% support to President Trump. In Manila, it was Turnbull’s turn—

“We’ve got the same values and the same focus on ensuring that the North Korean regime comes to its senses and stops its reckless provocation and threats of conflict in our region.”

President Trump pledged a big announcement on North Korea when he returns to the White House on Wednesday along with his trade announcement.

“We’ve made a lot of big progress on trade. We have deficits with almost everybody. Those deficits are going to be cut very quickly and very substantially.”

The only glitch in the trip came after the APEC Summit in Vietnam. President Trump revealed that Russian President Vladimir Putin had again assured him he had nothing to do with meddling in the US election. Asked aboard Air Force One whether he believed Putin, the President said, “I really believe that when he tells me that, he means it.”

 

 

Whatever Happened To...MH Flight 370?

Reporting by Doug McKelway

Since it disappeared on March 8, 2014, MH Flight 370 has remained one of the most puzzling aviation accidents in history.

Tantalizing evidence, like the flaperon and other confirmed pieces found on Reunion Island East of Madagascar, have revealed little and only serve to remind of the Indian Ocean’s strong currents and inhospitable vastness.

Searches have cost the governments hundreds of millions of dollars and have proved fruitless.

Debora Hersman, former NTS chair, told FOX News that “going forward the question is going to be who is going to continue to fund this search. Water recoveries can be extremely expensive but I would absolutely say the private sector can bring resources and new techniques and technologies forward and I would encourage that to continue.”

Now, a private company is doing just that. Ocean Infinity, which specializes in state o the art remotely piloted vehicles, is finalizing a contract with the Malaysian government, under which it would be paid only if it finds the wreckage.

Even absent a cause, the disappearance has led to calls for new safety changes—foremost of which is sending real time data from planes in flight.

“Technology can tell us where the nearest Starbucks is. We have got to adapt some of that satellite based technology to aircraft and really advance the ability to track them regardless of where in the world we are,” said Hersman.

The impediments are huge. Flight data recorders, which once complied six data points, now compile hundreds. And while airliners can easily download satellite data for internet and TV, uploading data requires pinpoint accuracy from a fast moving plane. Multiply that across a sky full of planes and it taxes bandwidth and airline budgets.

“I think you start with the premise that you want this technology, if you want it at all, with respect to airplanes that are out of radar contact for long period of time and that’s transoceanic flights,”  said aviation attorney Mark Dombroff.

Speculation about the disappearance is still running rampant. Was it terrorism? A suicidal pilot? Mechanical failure? A fire?  On that last note the FAA is now urging the world’s airlines to ban large laptops from checked luggage because of the potential for lithium battery fires. MH 370 was carrying 487 pounds of lithium-ion batteries in its cargo hold.

Chief of Staff Kelly takes the podium

Reporting by John Roberts

John Kelly was the latest subject of palace intrigue stories with some reports suggesting he wasn’t long for the job. Like Secretary of State Rex Tillerson did a week ago, Kelly himself came out to say—you got it wrong.

It was a surprise move in the daily briefing—White House Chief of Staff John Kelly meeting the White House press corps on the record for the first time to say reports of his demise are greatly exaggerated.

“I’m not quitting today,” Kelly told the room. “I don’t believe—and I just talked to the president, I don’t think I’m being fired today. And I am not so frustrated in this job that I’m thinking of leaving.”

Kelly, long known in military circles as a no-BS, straight shooter, acknowledged that chief of staff is the hardest job he has ever had, but disputed the notion that certain aspects of the job are getting to him.

“I’m not frustrated. This is really, really hard working running the United States of America. I don’t run it, but I’m working for someone who is dedicated to serving the country in the way he’s talked about for a number of years. There are incredible challenges…I don’t mean any criticism to Mr. Trump’s predecessors, but there was an awful lot of things that were, in my view, kicked down the road that have come home to roost pretty much right now that have to be dealt with.”

Kelly did admit to being frustrated by news reports he said had little or no basis in reality, and had some advice for some members of the media.

The White House went out of its way to indicate Kelly is safe in his job. At an event to officially nominate Kelly’s Deputy Chief of Staff Kirsten Nielsen as the new DHS Secretary President Trump gave Kelly a shout out and singled him out for high praise.

“We are deeply fortunate that he [Kelly]  is now here at the White House as our chief of staff.”

Nielsen, who was also Kelly’s chief of staff at DHS, would become the 6th secretary and also the first former staffer to lead the department.

If confirmed, Nielsen would inherit the federal response to Hurricane Maria in Puerto Rico. President Trump drew fire for a tweet about Puerto Rico Thursday when he wrote: “We cannot keep FEMA , the Military & the First Responders, who have been amazing (under the most difficult circumstances) in P.R. forever!”

Democrats portrayed the tweet as heartless, but the chief of staff was quick to cover, saying “FEMA and the military can’t be there forever. We hope the military soon can withdraw and will show they are in the process of rebuilding.”

President Trump also drew fire Thursday for his plans to expand access to healthcare for small businesses and individuals in an executive order, directing his lieutenants at Treasury, Labor and HHS to allow small employers to band together and buy health insurance across state lines.

The plan would also give more people access to Short Term Limited Insurance (STDLI) and allow employers more flexibility with health reimbursement arrangements to pay for employees medical needs.

Democrats pointed out short term plans are exempt from Obamacare coverage protections. In a statement, Senator Chuck Schumer wrote: “This order couldn’t be further from the ‘great health care’ the president promised. It will send costs soaring for older Americans and those with preexisting conditions, and add further chaos to the markets.”

President Trump fired back at his critics saying it’s the Democrats who broke health care seven years ago and continue to block his efforts to fix it. The president also promised today more executive actions to chip away at Obamacare a piece at a time until he mounts another attempt to repeal it in the new year.

Iran Nuclear Agreement

Reporting by Jennifer Griffin

The Republican Chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee says the United States should stay in the Iran Nuclear Agreement.

Chairman Ed Royce and his colleagues may soon play a larger role in this deal. The White House is expected to announce this week it will send the fate of the Iran Nuclear Agreement to Congress.

The administration is considering a plan to decertify and claim Iran is failing to comply with the major components of the nuclear deal. That starts a 60-day period where congress could restore nuclear-related sanctions against Iran.

If it does, the nuclear agreement falls apart.

On Capitol Hill today, former Obama Administration officials warned against that and so did one Democrat, Congressman Eliot Engel,  who two years ago opposed the agreement, saying “if we pullout of the deal I believe we lose whatever leverage we have to drive that agenda.”

The administration’s supporters argue the Iran Nuclear Agreement should also address Iran’s other behavior—ballistic missile development, promoting terrorism and cyber-attacks.

European allies, Russia and China, the other two countries in this agreement, warn against withdrawing from it.

Iran threatens to resume its nuclear program, with Iranian President Rouhani saying “if the US makes a mistake and backs out of the nuclear deal, I announce it openly that it will be a failure just for America, not us. We will not have any trouble and will push ahead on our path.”

Every 90 days the administration must certify whether Iran is complying with the bulk of the agreement—a requirement a Republican Congress created for the previous administration. The Trump Administration has until Sunday to certify—or not.

Las Vegas Investigation Continues

Reporting by Trace Gallagher

Other cities are responding to claims that Las Vegas shooter Stephen Paddock may have considered targeting them as well.

Late today, Chicago police told FOX News that it believes Paddock booked two rooms at a hotel overlooking the Lollapalooza music festival this summer, also saying quote:

“We are aware of the media reports and have been in communication with our federal partners. As you saw earlier this week the city conducts extensive public safety planning and training around major events, in close coordination with our law enforcement partners, to ensure public safety.”

Last night, officials said Paddock may have also had additional Las Vegas targets. He rented a room in September near the Life is Beautiful music festival.

Investigators are acknowledging that they may never fully understand what pushed the man they’re calling “disturbed and dangerous” to carry out the worst domestic attack in U.S. history.

One thing they do believe—Paddock probably didn’t act completely on his own.

The FBI spent hours yesterday questioning Marilou Danley, Paddock’s girlfriend, after her return from the Philippines. Danley is cooperating and said she knew Paddock as a “kind, caring, quiet man.”

As hospitals continue to treat the injured, the death toll has remained at 58. All of the victims have been identified.

With so many questions still remaining, investigators are predicting a long road ahead.

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