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GOP senators led by Ted Cruz call on Trump to bypass Congress to give rich Americans yet another tax cut

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“This is the GOP long con in a nutshell. Trump blazes away with raw and hideous racism. Meanwhile, he and his party look for ways to ship yachtloads of cash to the super wealthy.”

A group of over 20 Republican senators on Monday urged President Donald Trump’s Treasury Department to bypass Congress to unilaterally hand the wealthiest Americans another massive tax cut.

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In a letter (pdf) led by Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas), the GOP senators called on Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin to index capital gains to inflation, a move that would primarily reward rich investors.

According to Bloomberg, the Trump White House is “developing a plan” to cut taxes for the rich by indexing capital gains to inflation.

“Indexing capital gains would slash tax bills for investors when selling assets such as stock or real estate by adjusting the original purchase price so no tax is paid on appreciation tied to inflation,” Bloomberg reported last month.

The Republican senators called on Mnuchin to use his “authority to eliminate inflationary gains from the Department of the Treasury’s calculation of capital gains tax liability.”

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Critics have questioned whether the White House has the authority to take such an action. As the New York Times reported last July—when the Trump administration first considered going around Congress to index capital gains to inflation—former President George W. Bush’s Treasury Department determined the move “would be illegal.”

Chye-Ching Huang, director of federal fiscal policy at the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, said Monday that 86 percent of the benefits of indexing capital gains to inflation would go to the top one percent.

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The GOP push for more tax cuts for the rich comes as the Trump administration is working to take food stamps from three million low-income Americans, Seth Hanlon, senior fellow at the Center for American Progress, noted on Twitter.

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The Republicans sent their letter as mounting data shows Trump’s $1.5 trillion tax cut legislation, which took effect last year, has done virtually nothing for workers while further enriching wealthy Americans and large corporations.

Earlier this month, a group of Democratic lawmakers led by Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio) sent their own letter (pdf) pressing Mnuchin to “reject reported plans to use questionable authority to—yet again—lavish tax cuts upon our country’s wealthiest, while middle class families and working people continue to see costs rise and wages stagnate.”

The letter was signed by Sens. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.), Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), and a dozen other senators.

“We remain concerned this administration’s relentless preoccupation with cutting taxes for our country’s wealthiest taxpayers while leaving behind middle class families and working people,” wrote the senators, “even to the extent that it would consider exceeding its legal authority to do so.”

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Google tightens political ads policy in effort to stop abuse

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Google on Wednesday updated how it handles political ads as online platforms remain under pressure to avoid being used to spread misleading information intended to influence voters.

The internet company said its rules already ban any advertiser, including those with political messages, from lying in ads. But it is making its policy more clear and adding examples of how that prohibits content such as doctored or manipulated images or video.

"It's against our policies for any advertiser to make a false claim -- whether it's a claim about the price of a chair or a claim that you can vote by text message, that election day is postponed, or that a candidate has died," Google ads product management vice president Scott Spencer said in an online post.

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Pope Francis begins Asia tour with visit to Buddhist temple

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Pope Francis will visit one of Thailand's famed gilded temples Thursday to meet the supreme Buddhist patriarch, on the first full day of his Asian tour aimed at promoting religious harmony.

The 82-year-old pontiff is on his first visit to Buddhist majority Thailand, where he will spend four days before setting off to Japan.

His packed schedule a day after touching down in Bangkok includes a meeting with the king and the prime minister before leading an evening mass expected to draw tens of thousands of people from across Thailand, where just over 0.5 percent of the population is Catholic.

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Hong Kong campus stalemate persists while US congress passes bill of support for democracy protesters

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Hardline Hong Kong protesters held their ground on Thursday in a university besieged for days by police as the US passed a bill lauding the city's pro-democracy movement, setting up a likely clash between Washington and Beijing.

Beijing did not immediately respond to the passage in Washington of the Hong Kong Human Rights and Democracy Act, which voices strong support for the "democratic aspirations of the Hong Kong people."

But China had already threatened retaliation if the bill is signed into law by President Donald Trump, and state-run media warned Thursday the legislation would not prevent Beijing from intervening forcefully to stop the "mess" gripping the financial hub.

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