Trump Basks in Tax Reform Victory

U.S. President Donald Trump is basking in his first major legislative victory, passage of a $1.5 trillion tax cut that he said “will soon be kicking in” to give American workers bigger paychecks and cut corporate tax bills.

In a Twitter comment Thursday, Trump said opposition Democrats, who uniformly voted against the legislation, “want to raise taxes” and “hate these big cuts.”

Two telecommunications firms, AT&T and Comcast, said they would pay a $1,000 bonus to most of their workers, about 300,000 people combined, when Trump signs the legislation. Two banks, Wells Fargo and Fifth Third Bancorp, said they would raise their minimum wage to $15 an hour for their lowest paid workers, boosting their salaries to $31,200 a year.

Aircraft manufacturer Boeing said it would move ahead with $300 million in investments in the company because of the new tax law.

Trump hosted a rally at the White House Wednesday to celebrate passage of the legislation, the biggest overhaul of the country’s complex tax laws in three decades. It cuts the corporate tax rate, now among the highest in the industrialized world, from 35 to 21 percent. It trims rates for millions of individual taxpayers as well, with the biggest cuts mostly benefiting the wealthiest earners, although some taxpayers will see bigger tax bills because of various changes in the tax regulations.

Democrats protest

Democrats protested the legislation, contending the tax cuts will not boost the U.S. economy, already the world’s biggest, and will mostly help rich taxpayers and corporations at the expense of the working class.

After losing the tax fight, the top Democrat in the House of Representatives, Congresswoman Nancy Pelosi, said “Republican-controlled Washington has been an all-you-can-eat buffet for the privileged and the powerful, and the special interests.”

She said Republicans “know they are going to lose the Congress [in next November’s elections] so they’re just taking all the furniture, all the paintings off the wall, everything they can get to give away to corporate America. It’s just so obvious.”

Republicans heap praise

Republican leaders heaped praise on Trump for winning passage of the legislation after he had failed earlier in the year to overhaul national health care policies championed by former President Barack Obama. But the tax legislation did achieve a long-term Republican goal, repeal of the penalty against people who failed to buy health insurance, a key pillar of the Affordable Care Act, commonly known as Obamacare.

Republican lawmakers also lauded Trump for his “exquisite presidential leadership” and as a “man of action” for passage of the tax law, which he plans to sign soon.

Government shutdown

In the meantime, Republican and Democratic lawmakers are scrambling to avert a partial shutdown of U.S. government operations when funding runs out at midnight Friday. Negotiators are working on a deal to mostly continue funding for government agencies at current levels until January 19, pushing off decisions on controversial spending and policy issues until after the Christmas and New Year’s holidays.

Both the Senate and House of Representatives would have to agree to the temporary funding before sending it to Trump for his signature.

As the budget talks continued Thursday, Trump claimed House Democrats want a shutdown.

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Lawmakers Hoping to Approve Must-pass Spending Bill

House Republicans early Thursday unveiled a new, stripped-down spending bill to prevent a government shutdown this weekend and allow quarreling lawmakers to punt most of their unfinished business into the new year.

The bill would stave off a government shutdown through Jan. 19 and permit lawmakers to head home for the holidays. It would delay battles over the budget and immigration into January, denying Democrats wins that they had hoped to score this year.

Failure to pass the measure would trigger a government shutdown at midnight Friday, which would amount to a political pratfall just after the GOP scored a major win on a landmark tax bill. With Republicans controlling Washington, they would not have anyone else to blame for a shutdown debacle.

White House counselor Kellyanne Conway said Thursday the “White House is committed to keeping the government open.” She added in an appearance on Fox News Channel’s “Fox & Friends” that “it would be a shame if the Democrats force a shutdown of the government in the 11th hour of trying to negotiate something.”

Despite the perilous situation, GOP leaders are scrambling to rally some frustrated Republicans behind the measure, particularly defense hawks who had hoped to enact record budget increases for the Pentagon this year. The measure does contain about $5 billion dollars for missile defense upgrades to respond to the threat from North Korea and to repair two destroyers damaged in accidents this year in the Pacific.

A vote is likely Thursday and Senate passage is expected to quickly follow.

The House may also vote on an $81 billion disaster aid package that’s a priority of the Texas and Florida delegations, but its fate is uncertain. The Senate would likely add to the measure and pass it next year. Republicans may unveil changes to the measure Thursday morning.

It also would temporarily extend an expiring overseas wiretapping program aimed at tracking terrorists. It has bipartisan backing, but stout conservatives and some liberals oppose it.

Thursday’s version is the third rewrite this week as GOP leaders have struggled to come up with a plan that would unite Republicans. Democratic leaders aren’t providing votes to pass the measure, saying Republicans are ignoring promises to protect so-called Dreamer immigrants brought to the country illegally as children. That issue, along with a hoped-for budget deal to undo a spending freeze on both the Pentagon and domestic agencies, would be put off until January.

An earlier plan favored by pro-Pentagon members of the influential Armed Services Committee would have combined the stopgap funding bill, called a continuing resolution, with a $658 billion Pentagon funding measure. But the idea is a nonstarter with the Senate, especially powerful Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y.

“The number of options is collapsing down,” said Rep. Frank Lucas, R-Okla. “I have faith that at the last possible moment, to paraphrase Churchill, when we have no other choice, we’ll do what we need to do.”

Includes a short-term, $2.1 billion fix for an expiring program that pays for veterans to seek care outside the Department of Veterans Affairs system. It also includes a short-term “patch” to make sure the states facing shortfalls from the Children’s Health Insurance Program, which pays for health care for 9 million children from low-income families, won’t have to purge children from the program.

Meanwhile, the $81 billion disaster aid bill faced a potential separate vote of its own, but was at risk of languishing because of opposition among some conservatives upset about its cost. Senate action on that bill wouldn’t come until next year anyway.

Regardless of how the crisis of the moment will be solved, most of the many items on Capitol Hill’s list of unfinished business are going to be pushed into next year.

Hopes for a bipartisan budget deal to sharply increase spending for both the Pentagon and domestic agencies appeared dead for the year and Democrats were rebuffed in their demands for protections for young immigrants brought to the U.S. illegally as children. There’s significant bipartisan sympathy for these immigrants, but battles over GOP demands for President Donald Trump’s border wall and additional funding for immigration agents are proving difficult to resolve.

On Wednesday, Sens. Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn., and Susan Collins, R-Maine, announced Wednesday that they would not seek to add the insurance subsidies, which are designed to stabilize the Affordable Care Act’s markets. The tax bill repeals the requirement that individuals purchase insurance.

Trying to combine the health measure with the spending bill was a demand of Collins when President Donald Trump and Senate GOP leaders secured her vote for the party’s tax cut measure. But House conservatives strongly opposed the move.

House Republicans weren’t part of that deal, and with the tax vote over, it became plain that Senate leaders were not able to deliver for her.

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Eastern Russian Port of Nakhodka Chokes on Coal

The far eastern Russian port of Nakhodka on the Sea of Japan is swathed in coal dust. It blankets the streets, clogs the air and is blamed by some for a rise in respiratory diseases among the city’s 150,000 residents.

Yet despite pledges this year by Russia President Vladimir Putin to tackle coal pollution in ports such as Nakhodka and Murmansk thousands of kilometers away near Finland, port workers and local officials don’t expect any change soon.

Once mainly an entry point for cars from Japan and an export route for Russian wood and fish, Nakhodka has switched in recent years to shipping almost nothing but coal from the vast mines in the Siberian region of Kemerovo, also known as Kuzbass.

Now, there are few other employment options for Nakhodka’s residents and in Kuzbass the region’s 3 million people have become ever more dependent on the far eastern ports and the export revenues coal generates.

“The coal is everywhere,” said Nakhodka resident who gave his name as Ivan. “I was a sailor in the port. In winter, there was a lot of coal, the water became black, the coal was on the snow, on the ice, the ships.”

Local officials say a rise in wood export duties first prompted wharves to switch to coal and the business has picked up since thanks to a rise both in coal prices and demand from Asia.

Shipments of coal to Asia accounted for more than half of Russia’s total coal exports last year and China’s imports of Russian coal rose 14 percent in October alone.

The thriving demand has driven major coal producers such as Kuzbassrazrezugol, Evraz and SUEK to mine more coal and export it from Nakhodka, the nearby Vostochny port and other small ports in the region.

Coal exports from the port spiked 20 percent last year from 2015. Attis Enterprise, for example, boosted its coal loadings in 2016 alone by 56 percent to 1.6 million ton, according to Nakhodka’s city hall data.

Easy money

Sitting in his office within sight of giant mounds of coal waiting to load, Nakhodka’s first deputy city mayor Boris Gladkykh says coal now brings in 1 billion rubles ($17 million) a year, or 40 percent of the city’s budget revenues.

Gladkykh, himself a former port worker, estimates that at least one out of every 20 residents works in the port and each has two or three dependents.

“Global coal prices started to increase and with [loading] rates at a lucrative $10-15 [per ton] you can earn big money,” he said, calculating that loading just one 100,000 ton deadweight ship would earn $1.2 million — for two days work. “There is only one man for moving the crane, so costs are low. Just move 10 tons in a bucket and you’ve earned $120 in two minutes,” Gladkykh said.

There are now seven coal wharfs in Nakhodka and five in the Vrangel Bay some 30 km away. A canning plant, a shipping maintenance depot and a wharf for fish exports have all have switched to the coal, he said.

“We load the cargo that is in demand. Wood was needed for export … we started to load coal when demand rose,” said Alexander Tarasov, chief executive at Attis Enterprise.

Stevedores get an average monthly salary of some 50,000 rubles, according to residents, while the national average is 38,000 rubles. Coal has become so important for Nakhodka that a pedestrian area called Stevedores Alley was opened in September.

Health issues

But residents say scant regard is paid to the environment by some coal loading companies in Nakhodka and the dust that pervades the city is becoming too much.

Grigory, 63, who lives in the Astafyev Cape area of Nakhodka where most of the coal wharfs are, said he’s now stuck because no one wants to buy his flat.

“Dust is a big issue … if you open windows, dust appears on the sill and we breathe it in,” said Grigory, who did not want to give his last name. “This is going in our lungs, our children who are growing up, they will become ill.”

According to Nakhodka’s main hospital, which serves about three-quarters of the city’s population, the number of people suffering from asthma and pneumonia has been rising.

The number of asthma sufferers climbed to 60 in 2016 from 43 in 2014 and there were 838 pneumonia cases, up from 789 three years ago, the hospital said in email to Reuters, adding that coal dust may be one of the factors behind the increase.

Vladimir Slivyak, co-chair of the Russian environmental group Ecodefense, said the coal dust, also known as mining dust, contained dangerous substances which could cause lung problems, cancer and may even be fatal.

President Putin said in August new technologies for cargo loading based on strict ecological norms should be implemented to limit coal dust at ports such as Murmansk and Nakhodka. But he acknowledged it wouldn’t stop overnight.

“Of course, its impossible to fully abandon open-air coal loadings – we understand economics,” he said.

‘Ghost town’

While Putin talks about Russia becoming a high-tech economy of self-driving cars and IT services, natural resources such as oil, gas and coal remain the largest contributors to federal budget taxes. In the first nine months of 2017, natural resources contributed 3.5 trillion roubles ($60 billion), a third of the total, according to the Russian tax service.

Initiatives to move coal out of Nakhodka, or to force operators to stop loading coal in the open air, have foundered largely because of opposition from stevedores, officials said.

Still, some companies in the area told Reuters they were investing more in measures to limit the dust, such as putting in special fences, using water to dampen the dust and other tools.

Vyacheslav Sarayev, former managing director of Nakhodka Trade Sea Port, the city’s biggest stevedore, said the firm had invested 600 million rubles on dust-busting measures over the past four years but some rivals hadn’t followed suit.

“Automatically everyone is bad, including us,” he said.

Earlier this year, Russian lawmakers proposed a ban on open-air coal loading. But stevedores argued that the law would halt most exports from far eastern ports and also hit people in the Kuzbass mining region. The legislation was dropped.

Nakhodka’s deputy mayor said the proposal would have turned the port into a ghost town.

“It would be a desert here if it had passed,” Gladkykh said. “If you close the ports, will anyone close the mines in Siberia? They should be closed too then.” “Eighty percent of railway cargoes to the far east are coal. Let’s close it too. Let’s close everything. We will breath fresh air but walk with no trousers and eat fir cones.”

($1 = 58.6470 roubles)

Additional reporting by Denis Pinchuk, Gleb Stolyarov, Anastasia Lyrchikova, Alexei Yarkovoy and Darya Korsunskaya in Moscow, Natalia Shurmina in Yekaterinburg, Josephine Mason and Lusha Zhang in Beijing; writing by Katya Golubkova; editing by David Clarke

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After Delays, Ground Broken for Thailand-China Railway Project

Construction of a long-awaited Thai-Chinese railway line that will link Thailand, Laos and China officially began on Thursday with a ground-breaking ceremony in the northeastern Thai province of Nakhon Ratchasima.

The first phase of the project, a 250-km (155 mile) high-speed rail line linking Bangkok to Nakhon Ratchasima, is expected to be operational in 2021.

The full line is expected to stretch 873 km (542 miles), linking Thailand and Laos at the northeastern Thai city of Nong Khai.

It is part of Beijing’s ambitious Belt and Road infrastructure drive, which aims to build a modern-day “Silk Road” connecting China to economies in Southeast and Central Asia by land and the Middle East and Europe by sea.

But the Thailand project, which began in 2014 with formal talks, has been beset by delays, including disagreements over the design and funding as well as technical assistance.

Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha on Thursday presided over a ceremony to begin construction of the first, 3.5-km section of the railway.

“Thailand is developing in every aspect to become the center of connectivity… and this route is to connect to Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar and Vietnam to China, India and further to other countries,” Prayuth said in a speech.

Completion of the first section is expected to take six months, according to the transport ministry.

In September, Thailand signed two contracts worth $157 million with Chinese state enterprises covering the engineering design of the project and the hiring of Chinese technical advisers.

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With Shutdown Clock Ticking, GOP Struggles for Spending Deal

With a shutdown clock ticking toward a deadline Friday night at midnight, House Republican leaders struggled Wednesday to unite the GOP rank and file behind a must-pass spending bill.

Although a major obstacle evaporated after key GOP senators dropped a demand to add health insurance subsidies for the poor, a number of defense hawks offered resistance to a plan by GOP leaders to punt a guns-versus-butter battle with Democrats into the new year.

There’s still plenty of time to avert a politically debilitating government shutdown, which would detract from the party’s success this week in muscling through its landmark tax bill.

Some lawmakers from hurricane-hit states also worried that an $81 billion disaster aid bill was at risk of getting left behind in the rush to exit Washington for the holidays.

Lawmakers said the GOP vote-counting team would assess support for the plan and GOP leaders would set a course of action from there.

Rules Committee Chairman Pete Sessions, a Texas Republican, said “there’s no specific direction right now” about the path forward. He spoke after an hourlong closed-door meeting of Republicans in the Capitol basement.

An earlier plan favored by pro-Pentagon members of the influential Armed Services Committee would have combined the stopgap funding bill with a $658 billion Pentagon funding measure. But the idea is a nonstarter with the Senate, especially Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, a New York Democrat.

Disaster aid

Meanwhile, an $81 billion disaster aid bill faced a potential separate vote of its own, but it was at risk of languishing because of opposition among some conservatives over its cost. Senate action on that bill, a priority of the Texas and Florida delegations, wouldn’t come until next year anyway.

Democrats oppose the GOP endgame agenda because their priorities on immigration and funding for domestic programs aren’t being addressed. Their opposition means Republicans need to find unity among themselves, which once again is proving difficult. In such situations, congressional leaders often turn to lowest common denominator solutions, which in this case would mean a stopgap measure that’s mostly free of add-ons.

“The number of options is collapsing down,” said Representative Frank Lucas, an Oklahoma Republican. “I have faith that at the last possible moment, to paraphrase Churchill, when we have no other choice, we’ll do what we need to do.”

Regardless of how the crisis of the moment will be solved, most of the items on Capitol Hill’s list of unfinished business are going to be pushed into next year.

“I think it’s highly unlikely that there’s a government shutdown,” Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin told Fox News Channel’s Special Report with Bret Baier on Wednesday. “I think that the right thing to do is let’s get a short-term funding [agreement] and we’ll deal with these issues in January.”

The upcoming short-term measure would fund the government through January 19, giving lawmakers time to work out their leftover business.

Hopes for a bipartisan budget deal to sharply increase spending for both the Pentagon and domestic agencies appeared dead for the year, and Democrats were rebuffed in their demands for protections for immigrants brought to the U.S. illegally as children.

Republican Senators Lamar Alexander of Tennessee and Susan Collins of Maine announced Wednesday that they would not seek to add the insurance subsidies, which are designed to stabilize the Affordable Care Act’s markets. The tax bill repeals requirement that individuals purchase insurance.

Trying to combine the health measure with the spending bill was a demand of Collins when President Donald Trump and Senate GOP leaders secured her vote for the tax bill.

House Republicans weren’t part of that deal, and with the tax vote over, it became plain that Senate leaders were not able to deliver for her.

Programs for vets, children

Lawmakers said a short-term, $2.1 billion fix for an expiring program that pays for veterans to seek care outside the Department of Veterans Affairs system would be added to the package. So would a short-term “patch” to make sure the states facing shortfalls from the Children’s Health Insurance Program, which pays for health care for 9 million children from low-income families, won’t have to purge children from the program.

The fate of the $81 billion House disaster aid measure, now likely to see a separate vote, appears unclear. Conservatives are upset with the price tag of the plan, which also contains billions of dollars for California wildfire recovery. Democrats are pressing for more help for Puerto Rico, and California Representative Kevin McCarthy, the No. 2 Republican in the House, signaled a willingness for at least some accommodation to win Democratic votes.

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi of California told fellow Democrats in an emailed update that GOP leaders aren’t yielding on a Democratic demand that nondefense spending increases match the budget boost for the Pentagon.

“Unless we see a respect for our values and priorities, we continue to urge a strong NO” on the temporary funding bill, Pelosi said.

Democrats such as Schumer pressed for a two- or three-week temporary spending bill that would send a number of unresolved issues — including disaster aid — into the new year. Schumer appears to believe that shifting as many issues as possible into next year will increase his leverage on immigration and the budget.

Also in the mix is an expiring overseas wiretapping program aimed at tracking terrorists. It has bipartisan backing, but stout conservatives and some liberals oppose it. McCarthy said the program might just be extended for a few weeks, but libertarian-minded lawmakers opposed a plan by Republican House Speaker Paul Ryan to add it to the stopgap measure.

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Key US Senator: Trump Firing of Mueller Could Provoke ‘Constitutional Crisis’

The top Democrat on the U.S. Senate Intelligence Committee, responding to escalating Republican attacks on special counsel Robert Mueller, said  Wednesday that if President Donald Trump fired Mueller, the action would have “the potential to provoke a constitutional crisis.”

WATCH: Virginia’s Warner on Potential Constitutional Crisis

Speaking on the Senate floor, Virginia Senator Mark Warner denounced attacks on Mueller’s impartiality and said the special counsel’s investigation of ties between Trump’s presidential campaign and Russia must be “able to go on unimpeded.”

Russia denies that it meddled in the 2016 U.S. presidential election, and Trump has denied any collusion.

While Trump’s political allies have increased their criticism of Mueller, the president said Sunday that he was not considering firing him.

Republican lawmakers have seized on anti-Trump texts by a Federal Bureau of Investigation agent who was involved in the Russia investigation as evidence of bias in Mueller’s team.

Mueller removed the agent from his team after the texts came to light.

Republicans on several House of Representatives committees also have announced their own probes into long-standing political grievances, including the FBI’s handling of Hillary Clinton’s use of a private email server when she was secretary of state.

“Over the last several weeks, a growing chorus of irresponsible voices have called for President Trump to shut down special counsel Mueller’s investigation,” said Warner, who is vice chairman of the Republican-controlled Senate Intelligence Committee.

“Firing Mr. Mueller or any other of the top brass involved in this investigation would not only call into question this administration’s commitment to the truth, but also to our most basic concept of rule of law,” Warner said. “It also has the potential to provoke a constitutional crisis.”

“In the United States of America, no one, no one is above the law, not even the president,” the senator said.

WATCH: Warner on Consequences of Mueller Removal

“Congress must make clear to the president that firing the special counsel or interfering with his investigation by issuing pardons of essential witnesses is unacceptable and would have immediate and significant consequences.”

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US Senator Al Franken to Step Down in Early January

Democratic Senator Al Franken will leave office on Jan.  2, a spokesman for the Minnesota lawmaker said Wednesday. 

Franken announced his plans to resign earlier this month in the wake of several sexual harassment allegations, but did not announce a date.

He said earlier Wednesday that he would deliver a series of speeches on the Senate floor before he leaves the chamber.

Replacement named

Franken will be replaced by Minnesota Lieutenant Governor Tina Smith, also a Democrat.

The demise of Franken’s Washington tenure unfolded over the past few weeks. It was touched off by claims made by a Los Angeles radio host and former model, Leeann Tweeden. She accused Franken of forcibly kissing her when they both were on a 2006 tour to entertain U.S. troops in the Middle East.

Tweeden posted a picture of a smiling Franken holding his hands over her breasts while she was sleeping on a return flight to the United States.

Franken apologized to Tweeden, but soon after other women also accused the one-time television and film comedian of unwanted advances. 

He variously apologized, said the incidents did not occur or said he remembered the encounters differently. But as the allegations mounted, dozens of his Democratic colleagues in the Senate demanded that he resign.

Defiant speech 

Franken announced his resignation in a defiant speech on the Senate floor earlier this month, saying it was ironic that he was quitting even as President Donald Trump remains in office after more than a dozen women accused Trump during his 2016 campaign of unwanted sexual advances.

Trump, a Republican, says none of the accusations against him is true, but he is facing new calls from Democratic lawmakers to answer the specific allegations. Six senators, all Democrats, have called for his resignation.

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Senators, White House Working on DACA Deal

White House staff members met with a group of senators Tuesday to talk about the future of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, which has benefited hundreds of thousands of undocumented youths.

The result of the private meeting, first reported by Politico, was a pledge by White House Chief of Staff John Kelly to present a list of border security and immigration policy changes to be included in any legislative fix to help DACA recipients. Sources told Politico that Kelly could return with a new list of demands within days. 

According to people who attended the meeting, the new plan may come in January, and it would allow nearly 800,000 DACA immigrants, who were brought illegally to the United States as minors, to continue to work and study in the country.

Politico said a half-dozen senators have been working to come up with a bipartisan solution on DACA. They were prompted by President Donald Trump’s announcement in September that the DACA program would end. It is set to expire March 5, and work permits that have not been renewed will begin to be phased out at that time.

Republican Senator Jeff Flake of Arizona said senators could not reach an agreement until they knew what the Trump administration was inclined to sign.

“We couldn’t finish this product, this bill, until we knew where the administration was. … And that’s why this meeting was so important,” Flake told Politico after the meeting with Kelly.

Also on Wednesday, Trump renewed his immigration priorities. 

At a Cabinet meeting, the president vowed to end the diversity visa program, known as the the green card lottery, and cut family-based immigration, which critics call chain migration. He also called on Congress to fund his proposed border wall.

“When we take people that are lottery — [other countries] are not putting their best people in the lottery. It’s common sense. … They put their worst people into the lottery. And that’s what we get, in many cases. So that’s not going to be happening anymore. We’re going to end it,” Trump said. 

No near-term DACA solution

Lawmakers in both parties said Tuesday that Congress was not expected to resolve the DACA issue before next year.

Senator Dick Durbin, an Illinois Democrat, also attended the meeting and said the closer officials get to the March deadline “the more nervous I get, not to mention the way these young people feel. I’m sorry that it’s taken this long.

“Our belief is that if this matter is not resolved this week … that we have another chance to finally come up with a bipartisan package of things to include” by mid-January, Durbin said.

Meanwhile, DACA recipients opened Dream Act Central, a tent space on Washington’s National Mall that is serving as headquarters for a final push to urge Congress to pass legislation replacing the DACA program.

A large-screen television at the site, which faces Capitol Hill, shows stories of young undocumented immigrants, known informally as Dreamers. The term is based on never-passed proposals in Congress called the DREAM Act, the Development, Relief and Education for Alien Minors Act, that would have provided residence and employment protections for young immigrants similar to those in DACA.

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EU Court Rules Uber Should be Regulated Like Taxi Service

The European Court of Justice ruled Wednesday that ride-hailing company Uber should be regulated like a taxi service instead of a technology firm, a decision that limits its business operations in Europe.

The decision was handed down in response to a complaint from a Barcelona taxi drivers association, which tried to prevent Uber from expanding into the Spanish city. The drivers maintained that Uber drivers should be subject to authorizations and license requirements and accused the company of engaging in unfair competition.

The San Francisco-based Uber contends it should be regulated as an information services provider because it is based on a mobile application that links passengers to drivers.

The European Union’s highest court said services provided by Uber and similar companies are “inherently linked to a transport service” and therefore must be classified as “a service in the field of transport” under EU law.

The decision will impact ride-hailing companies in the 28-nation EU, where national governments can now regulate them as transportation services.

Uber attempted to downplay the decision, saying it only affects its operations in four countries and that it will move forward with plans to expand in Europe. But the company was previously forced to abandon its peer-to-peer service in several EU countries that connect freelance drivers with riders.

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