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House Republicans neuter ethics watchdog — which now reports to Congress, not the public

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Republicans in the U.S. House of Representatives agreed on Monday to weaken a nonpartisan ethics watchdog on the grounds it had grown too intrusive, prompting Democrats to charge they were scaling back independent oversight ahead of a new legislative session.

As they returned to Washington following a holiday break, House Republicans voted in a closed-door meeting to place the Office of Congressional Ethics under the oversight of the House Ethics Committee, giving lawmakers greater control over an independent body charged with investigating their behavior.

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The measure was added to a broader rules package that is expected to pass when the House formally convenes on Tuesday.

The ethics office was created in 2008 following several corruption scandals, but some lawmakers have charged in recent years that it has been too quick to investigate complaints lodged by outside partisan groups.

The body will now have to deliver its reports to lawmakers, rather than releasing them directly to the public, according to a summary released by Republican Representative Bob Goodlatte. It will be renamed the Office of Congressional Complaint Review.

“The OCE has a serious and important role in the House, and this amendment does nothing to impede their work,” said Goodlatte, who sponsored the measure.

House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi, who created the ethics office while House speaker following complaints that lawmakers were unable to effectively police themselves, said Republicans were eliminating the only independent body charged with monitoring their actions.

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“Evidently, ethics are the first casualty of the new Republican Congress,” Pelosi said in a statement.

The move comes as Republicans who control both chambers of Congress are poised to repeal major portions of President Barack Obama’s health and environmental regulations and enact a conservative agenda once Republican President-elect Donald Trump takes office on Jan. 20.

(Reporting by Andy Sullivan; Editing by Peter Cooney)

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Donald Trumps needs a coronavirus scapegoat — and right now it’s China

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"If we are at war, who is the enemy?" asks Fred Hiatt, editorial page editor for The Washington Post in a smart piece that examines the question of who constitutes a target for a self-declared "wartime president."

While it is obvious that the enemy, in this case, is a tiny, sticky, invisible microbe that stubbornly gloms onto surfaces or leaps through the air to weaponize subway cars or shared gym equipment or a touch to the face.

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Trump says Putin to ‘probably ask’ for sanctions lifting

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President Donald Trump said Monday he expects his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin to request the lifting of US sanctions during an upcoming phone call.

"Yeah, he'll probably ask for that," Trump told Fox News.

Trump did not say what his response would be, noting that he had put sanctions on Russia but adding: "They don't like that. Frankly we should be able to get along."

The two were due to talk "shortly," he said.

Last Thursday, Putin told G20 leaders during a conference call that he wanted a moratorium on sanctions as a "matter of life and death" during the global coronavirus outbreak.

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Arguing with the coronavirus deniers in your life can backfire — here’s how to make them see the light

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For those of us diligently practicing social distancing, it can be infuriatingly frustrating to encounter friends and loved ones who refuse to. There’s a strong temptation to lash out at them as selfish fools whose irresponsibility endangers us all. But doing so will backfire because, when people feel attacked, they get defensive and entrench in their position. Like it or not (not!), this is human nature.

Your civic duty, in addition to social distancing, is to talk to Covid-deniers in a way that has some chance of getting through to them. Here are some do’s and don’ts from the world of cross-partisan dialogue best practices that apply to the Covid-19 pandemic:

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