‘I will never let you down,’ Trump tells prayer breakfast
By ZEKE MILLER and JILL COLVIN
Thursday, February 7
WASHINGTON (AP) — President Donald Trump told attendees at the annual National Prayer Breakfast on Thursday that he stands behind them, even as speakers bemoaned the level of division in the country and what one described as a “fracturing of the American family.”
“I will never let you down,” Trump told an audience that included members of his Cabinet and Congress, including Democratic House Speaker Nancy Pelosi — whom he did not acknowledge.
The pledge came two days after Trump offered a fierce denunciation of late-term abortion in his annual State of the Union address as he moved to re-energize evangelical voters, who have been among his most loyal supporters and who will be vital to his 2020 re-election bid.
“We must build a culture that cherishes the dignity and sanctity of innocent human life,” Trump said, adding that: “All children, born and unborn, are made in the holy image of God.”
Trump also praised Karen Pence, the wife of Vice President Mike Pence, as an “incredible second lady” and noted that she recently began teaching art classes at a Christian school, applauding the move.
The Immanuel Christian School in Northern Virginia has been criticized for its policy barring gay students, parents and employees. A document posted on its website says the school can refuse admission or discontinue the enrollment of any student “if the atmosphere or conduct within a particular home, the activities of a parent or guardian, or the activities of the student are counter to, or are in opposition to, the biblical lifestyle the school teaches,” including “participating in, supporting, or condoning sexual immorality, homosexual activity or bi-sexual activity.”
Trump also thanked faith leaders for their efforts helping to pass criminal justice reform legislation, which he signed last year.
“As president I will always cherish, honor and protect the believers who uplift our communities and sustain our nation,” he said.
The president was among several speakers at the event, which included a reading by the Most Rev. Michael Curry, who made headlines around the world last year with his stirring sermon about the power of love at the wedding of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle.
Gary Haugen, of the International Justice Mission, spoke before Trump and talked at length about what he described as a “fracturing of the American family.”
“I do sense that we are in a national moment of perilously mounting discouragement,” he said. “Our tribal divisions, our institutional dysfunctions, our desperate winner-take-all contests of cultural resistance or survival, they seem to be pressing in our chests with a swelling anxiety of national disintegration.”
Still, he pointed to issues including criminal justice reform and combating the opioid epidemic as areas where the country could come together.
“Even in this divided era, there is good that we all agree should be done,” he said.
Guatemala’s ambassador to the U.S., Manuel Espina, offered prayers for Trump, saying: “We pray that you’ll give him the wisdom and the knowledge to lead this country under your principles and guidance.”
And Dr. Lance Plyler, of the Samaritan’s Purse evangelical Christian organization, argued that, regardless of skin color, language, religion or country of residence, “We are all equal in the eyes of God” and “all neighbors.”
Trump is the 12th president to speak at the annual breakfast, which has been attended by every president since Dwight D. Eisenhower.
With anti-abortion push, Trump woos evangelicals again
By JONATHAN LEMIRE and NICHOLAS RICCARDI
Thursday, February 7
WASHINGTON (AP) — With a fierce denunciation of late-term abortions, President Donald Trump is making a move to re-energize evangelical voters whose support will be vital in heading off any possible 2020 primary challenge.
Trump, at arguably the weakest point of his presidency, seized on abortion during his State of the Union address Tuesday to re-engage on a divisive cultural issue, using both religious rhetoric aimed at conservative Christians and scathing attacks on Democratic lawmakers who support abortion rights — in particular, Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam.
Trump went after Northam — by title, not by name — in his speech and incorrectly claimed that the governor “stated he would execute a baby after birth.” As the speech was being drafted, Trump had wanted to use even harsher language about Northam, and call him out by name, but he was reined in by aides, according to three White House officials and Republicans close to the White House who spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to publicly discuss private conversations.
The message from Trump, an unlikely champion of the anti-abortion cause, was aimed squarely at evangelicals who play an out-sized role in Republican politics. Battered by the fallout from a damaging government shutdown, Trump has seen his poll numbers tumble and support within his own party slip, forcing his campaign to work to ward off any primary foes, including shoring up support among religious conservatives who could be wooed by an intra-party challenger.
Ralph Reed, a prominent GOP evangelical strategist, said the White House worked closely with evangelicals during the fight over Brett Kavanaugh’s Supreme Court nomination, but contact dropped off during the midterm elections and the government shutdown.
“Now we see it picking up again,” Reed said, calling Trump’s State of the Union comments “important and deeply appreciated.”
Religious voters, including Roman Catholics in the industrial Midwest, will be a key constituency in a Trump re-election, Reed said.
“He’s got a proven, demonstrable record of performing with (evangelicals),” Reed said. “As with the Bush re-elect in 2004, it could become a building block to a strong re-election.”
In the days before the speech, White House aides telegraphed that an anti-abortion passage in the address using faith-based language would become a re-election theme. The issue is expected to be in the spotlight again Thursday as the president attends the National Prayer Breakfast.
“To defend the dignity of every person, I am asking Congress to pass legislation to prohibit the late-term abortion of children who can feel pain in the mother’s womb,” Trump said Tuesday. “Let us work together to build a culture that cherishes innocent life. And let us reaffirm a fundamental truth: All children — born and unborn — are made in the holy image of God.”
The White House did not immediately reveal if it had a firm plan for federal legislation or supported an existing congressional measure, raising questions about whether Trump’s call was concrete or simply early election season rhetoric. A bill passed the House last year but died in the Senate, and prospects of similar legislation being passed by a Democratic-controlled House are remote.
Still, Trump’s attention to evangelicals during one of the low points in his presidency makes sense, said Jennifer Lawless, a political science professor at the University of Virginia.
“If anyone is counting on challenging him in that primary, to the extent that Trump can count on evangelicals, that makes the path that much harder,” she said.
Lawless noted that Trump has arguably delivered more for evangelicals than for the white populist voters who are often credited with electing him.
“We know that evangelicals are reliable voters, and we know that a lot of the white working-class voters who turned out for him haven’t voted in the past,” she said.
According to AP VoteCast, a nationwide survey of the American electorate, 80 percent of white evangelical voters nationwide voted for Republican candidates in the 2018 midterm elections. Fully 79 percent of white evangelical midterm voters also expressed approval of Trump’s job as president.
For decades, the United States has been deadlocked politically on abortion. The VoteCast poll showed that among all midterm voters, 60 percent said they want abortion to be legal in most or all cases, while 38 percent said it should be illegal in most or all cases. About 8 in 10 Democrats thought the procedure should be legal in all or most cases, and about 6 out of 10 Republicans thought it should be illegal in all or most cases.
Trump went on the attack during his national address, blasting New York’s Reproductive Health Act, enacted to make sure the state would continue to ensure the right to an abortion if the Supreme Court were to overturn all or part of Roe v. Wade.
In Virginia, Northam, a pediatric neurologist, told a radio interviewer last week that he supported state legislation that would allow late-term abortions and noted that the procedures were usually done if the fetus had severe deformities or wasn’t viable. Describing a hypothetical situation, he said if a woman were to desire an abortion as she’s going into labor, the baby would be “resuscitated if that’s what the mother and the family desired, and then a discussion would ensue” between doctors and the mother.
Some Republicans said that showed Northam was supporting infanticide.
Ilyse Hogue, head of the abortion-rights group NARAL, said the renewed focus on late-term abortions is a sign of Trump’s desperation.
“Donald Trump’s use of the State of the Union address for little more than using real women’s lives as political red meat to rile up his base shows how politically weak he is,” Hogue said in a statement.
Riccardi reported from Denver. Associated Press writer Emily Swanson in Washington contributed to this report.
Follow Lemire on Twitter at http://twitter.com/JonLemire and Riccardi at http://twitter.com/NickRiccardi
Flames from San Francisco gas explosion damage 5 buildings
By JANIE HAR
Thursday, February 7
SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — A gas explosion in San Francisco shot a tower of flames into the sky and burned five buildings including one of the city’s popular restaurants before firefighters brought the blaze under control. There were no injuries.
Wednesday’s explosion and fire sent panicked residents and workers in the city’s Inner Richmond neighborhood fleeing into the streets as flames shot above the rooftops of nearby three-story buildings.
“We just felt the shaking, and the next thing we knew, people were banging on the door to tell people it’s time to start evacuating,” said resident Nick Jalali, 28, who was cooking at home when the electricity cut out.
Utility crews put out the fire about three hours after private construction workers cut a natural gas line, which ignited the fire, San Francisco Fire Chief Joanne Hayes-White said. Authorities initially said five workers were missing, but the entire construction crew was found safe, and no other injuries were reported.
Hayes-White said the construction crew was apparently working on fiber-optic wires.
Five buildings were damaged, including a building housing Hong Kong Lounge II, a reservations-required dim sum restaurant that is a fixture on the city’s “best of” lists. The fire began on the street in front of the restaurant.
Officials evacuated several nearby buildings, including a medical clinic and apartments, Hayes-White said. Vehicles on a busy street were rerouted as authorities cordoned off the bustling neighborhood.
Caroline Gasparini, 24, who lives kitty-corner from where the fire was, said she and her housemate were in their living room when the windows started rattling. She looked up to see flames reflected in the glass.
“We went into crisis mode,” Gasparini said. “We grabbed our shoes, grabbed our laptops and grabbed our passports and just left.”
Gasparini said they saw employees of the burning restaurant run out the back door and people fleeing down the block.
Firefighters worked to keep the fire from spreading while Pacific Gas & Electric crews tried to shut off the natural gas line.
“It’s complicated,” Hayes-White said of stopping the flow of gas through the damaged pipe. Though she later acknowledged that “as a fire chief and a resident, yes, I would have liked to see it mitigated.”
PG&E spokeswoman Melissa Subbotin said state excavation rules required crews to hand dig around multiple subsurface pipelines of various sizes before they were eventually able to “squeeze” a four-inch plastic line.
She said since the fire was contained to a limited area, the utility had to weigh the threat from the fire with the risk that would come from more drastic action.
“Had we turned the gas off to a transmission system, we would have shut off gas to nearly the entire city of San Francisco,” she said. “The objective of this was to turn the gas off safely and as quickly as possible.”
Subbotin said PG&E would shut off a transmission line in an earthquake.
PG&E spokesman Paul Doherty stressed that the workers who cut the gas line are not affiliated with the utility, which is under heightened scrutiny over its natural gas pipelines. A PG&E pipeline exploded under a neighborhood south of San Francisco in 2010, killing eight people and wiping out a neighborhood in suburban San Bruno.
A U.S. judge PG&E $3 million for a conviction on six felony charges of failing to properly maintain the pipeline and the utility remains under a federal judge’s watch in that case.
Associated Press writers Paul Elias, Olga R. Rodriguez and Juliet Williams in San Francisco contributed to this report.
Opinion: Protect the Electric Grid From America’s Enemies
By Paul Steidler
Imagine if during the recent polar vortex cold spell, when large sections of the nation’s power grid were already operating under severe duress, a cyberattack was launched that shut off power.
Today, many bad actors are plotting and capable of such destruction. And it will take a concerted push by utilities, utility regulators and the national security community to thwart these acts.
Dan Coats, director of National Intelligence, was clear about these dangers in a January 29 report and related testimony to the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence.
He said, “China has the ability to launch cyber attacks that cause localized, temporary disruptive effects on critical infrastructure — such as disruption of a natural gas pipeline for days to weeks — in the Unites States.”
Coats also said, “Russia has the ability to execute cyber attacks in the United States that generate localized, temporary disruptive effects on critical infrastructure — such as disrupting an electrical distribution network for at least a few hours.”
In November, Energy Secretary Rick Perry was even more blunt about the pending dangers, saying, “The threat of cyberattacks is growing, it’s metastasizing. The warning lights are blinking and they’re blinking red.”
Energy industry leaders agree with Perry and Coats. According to a KPMG Survey released in November, nearly half the chief executive officers of power- and utility-companies think a cyberattack on their business is a question of “when” and not “if.”
Much of the electric grid is now run via the internet. The vast number of electronic devices, switches and circuit breakers that regulate the grid and ensure that it operates reliably and efficiently also present a big challenge. Hackers are looking for the weakest links in the complex chain that is America’s electric grid.
Power outages are not merely inconveniences. They are public safety crises. The elderly and the sick are especially vulnerable, unable to find medicines in the dark or to sufficiently heat or cool their homes. A study by Johns Hopkins found that the Northeast blackout of 2003, where 50 million lost power, caused 87 deaths.
Cyberattacks will also be quite costly. A 2015 report from the University of Cambridge and Lloyd’s of London found that a targeted cyberattack would cost the economy between $243 billion and $1 trillion, resulting from “direct damage to assets and infrastructure, decline in sales revenue to electricity supply companies, loss of sales revenue to business and disruption to the supply chain.”
To address the multiple, complex and ever-changing cyberattack threats, government and industry must somehow work together seamlessly. There have been some encouraging developments in this regard recently.
—National Cyber Security Strategy — In September the White House released a National Cyber Strategy, the first of its kind in 15 years, to clarify the roles and responsibilities of federal agencies.
—Simulated Exercises — In October and November, the Department of Energy conducted Liberty Eclipse, which looked at coping with a cyberattack after a severe blackout. This builds on widescale tests involving 450 organizations already being undertaken by the North American Electric Reliability Corporation.
—Expanded Information Sharing — It is imperative that utilities share information with one another so that all can be ready to thwart attacks. The Edison Electric Institute has consistently pushed for world-class cyber information sharing.
The challenges in protecting the grid will grow, particularly as more technology is implemented to control power remotely and manage other aspects of electricity generation and distribution. It will require vigilance by local utilities, information sharing, national cooperation and relentless monitoring of our enemies.
Perhaps most important, it will require policymakers and the public to demand thorough and excellent protection. Complacency, and a catastrophic cyberattack on the grid, must simply not happen.
ABOUT THE WRITER
Paul Steidler is a senior fellow with the Lexington Institute, a public policy think tank in Arlington, Virginia. He wrote this for InsideSources.com.
New Tech Bonanza Will Be the Digital Takeover of Cities
By Llewellyn King
Benjamin Franklin was the first to deploy street lighting. He put candles in a four-sided, glass case for his lights. The engineering took a giant leap forward in England, when William Murdoch lit his home with coal gas lights in 1792.
Today street lighting is taken as a given, like waterborne sewage. But it’s also one of the building blocks for the cities of the future, known as “smart cities.”
In Bedford, Mass., a company called CIMCON Lighting has developed a controller node, which is the size and shape of a brioche loaf of bread and sits atop a light pole. The node isn’t big, but it packs a lot of functions beyond controlling the LED light. It’s Wi-Fi-equipped and is in constant wireless communications with its own network and with the city or county management structure. It has a camera, which can be used for crime control; more apps can be added.
Smart city advocate Pete Tseronis, formerly chief technology officer at the Department of Energy, says that in today’s context “smart” means connected; things that speak to other things.
By that measure the CIMCON Lighting device, or controller, is mighty talkative. The company calls it NearSky and says it enables “the internet of outdoor things.”
To me, it’s an outlier of things to come. Smart cities are the precursor to big changes in everything from transportation to entertainment, from food delivery to garbage control.
CIMCON Lighting believes its technology is a gateway to the smart cities concept that cities around the world are headed toward, some with accelerated political involvement.
In fact, the race to be smart is on and cities from San Antonio to London, and Boston to Singapore are already out of the blocks. It’s going to get giddy.
Old controllers on lights turn them on and off, and sometimes dim them. CIMCON Lighting and the new generation of controllers are little Napoleons, controlling everything they see and much that they don’t. The controller sitting modestly on a street light will be in the vanguard of the revolution that will encompass the whole city.
The electric utilities, the technology companies (like Google, Amazon and IBM) and the telephone giants (like AT&T, Verizon and T-Mobile) all are interested in seizing the lead in the new city space. Their interest goes way beyond things like street lighting to the very command-and-control of cities, from routine police dispatch to disaster management. The old-line companies are wary of what Amazon, Google and Facebook might do in the smart city space.
These big techs are looking past simply managing old infrastructure through digitization, to a new world of automated cars, remote home deliveries, intercity trucking and charging electric vehicles.
The telephone companies are hinging their participation on their 5G networks, which they are rolling out in fits and starts. The electric utilities believe they have something of a leg up because they’ve been working on making the electrical grid smart for a decade and that it’s now far-advanced with a lot of demand controlled by the customer, not the vendor: a smart city selling point.
Morgan O’Brien, a co-founder and chairman of Nextel Communications, and himself a giant in the telecommunications industry, says the current telephone standard, LTE (Long-Term Evolution), is strong enough to start the revolution and in due course 5G will fit in.
O’Brien is now vice chairman of pdvWireless, which has developed a private system for electric utilities’ communication with a dedicated spectrum to secure it. This has evolved from a suite of workplace wireless communications tools.
O’Brien told me he believes you must look to companies — possibly post-merger ones — which have the technology, capital and ambition to conquer the smart cities market to identify the likely movers and shakers. Of course, pdvWireless hopes to be in there, he said.
Retired Air Force Maj. Gen. Robert Wheeler describes 5G as a “huge pipe” that will have such capacity for communications and handling vast amounts of data that it’ll itself bring about a mini-revolution. Wheeler worked on getting and keeping the military up to speed on evolving digital technology.
There are more than 19,000 cities and counties that operate as cities in the United States, and more than 50,000 in the world. So the companies are salivating over a gigantic market, almost unimaginably tempting.
ABOUT THE WRITER
Llewellyn King is executive producer and host of “White House Chronicle” on PBS. His email is firstname.lastname@example.org. He wrote this for InsideSources.com.