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NRA boss keeps details of CPAC speech concealed, as gun control fight heats up

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With the gun control debate heating up in Washington in the wake of the Parkland shooting, the CEO of the National Rifle Association is keeping details about his speech to the Conservative Political Action Conference under wraps – apparently as a precaution. 

A spokesman for the NRA confirmed to Fox News that Wayne LaPierre will speak at the conservative conference, which kicked off Wednesday outside Washington. 

But unlike for other speakers, information about his appearance was not publicly released.

A time for the speech has not been finalized, the spokesman said. The Washington Examiner reported that his name is deliberately being kept off the schedule as a precaution due to possible outrage from anti-gun protesters in the wake of the shooting that left 17 dead at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School.

A related panel discussion was also left off the schedule.

“Wayne LaPierre will be speaking, he’s my friend, he’s a leader in this area, and I’m glad he’s going to be there,” Matt Schlapp, chairman of the American Conservative Union which is heading up CPAC, said on Fox News’ “The Daily Briefing.”

The shooting has re-ignited the long-running debate over the Second Amendment and gun control laws. President Trump announced late Tuesday that he has ordered Attorney General Jeff Sessions to craft new regulations to ban firearm modifiers like the “bump stock” used in the Las Vegas shooting in October.

TRUMP CONSIDERS RAISING PURCHASE AGE FOR CERTAIN FIREARMS, AMID GUN CONTROL TALKS

A White House source told Fox News on Wednesday that Trump is open to a number of measures to address mass shootings, including a rise in the minimum age for owning certain firearms — proposals likely to see some resistance from the NRA and other gun-rights groups.

LaPierre, and other high-profile pro-Second Amendment speakers such as Dana Loesch, will be closely watched to see how they respond to the proposals from the White House.

Trump himself will speak Friday and it is unclear if he will address calls for new gun legislation, and how that will be received.

The prominence of the gun debate will also tap into a tension between more traditional conservatives — who consider Second Amendment protections paramount — and nationalist-populists more focused on immigration and Islamism.

Targeting the latter wing is the appearance scheduled for Thursday by right-wing French former lawmaker Marion Maréchal-Le Pen — the niece of 2017 French presidential candidate Marine Le Pen and the granddaughter of National Front founder Jean-Marie Le Pen.

French far-right Front National Parliament member Marion Marechal Le Pen takes part in the "La Manif Pour Tous" (Demonstration For All) to protest against PMA (Procreation Medicalement Assistee or Medically Assisted Reproduction) and GPA (Grossesse pour Autrui or Gestation for Others) during a march in Paris, France, October 16, 2016. REUTERS/Benoit Tessier - S1BEUHICYDAC

Marion Maréchal-Le Pen will speak at CPAC.

 (Reuters)

The 28-year-old Marion is widely viewed as more conservative than her aunt Marine — who worked to distance herself and “de-toxify” her party of the racist and anti-Semitic views of her father Jean-Marie, who was convicted and fined for comments in which he called the Holocaust a “detail of history.” Marine made it to the run-off in 2017 where she lost to now-President Emmanuel Macron.

While both share hardline views on issues such as Islam and immigration, Marion has expressed more traditionally conservative views on issues such as gay marriage and abortion. According to French newspaper L’Incorrect, Le Pen’s theme at CPAC will be “conservativism on both shores.”

Schlapp defended the invite in the face of criticism from conservatives.

“She’s her own person, she’s a young person, she’s broken with her family on those positons and she’s a new voice in France and by the way she’s a voice that resembles a lot of conservative voices here,” he said on “The Daily Briefing.” “She’s for traditional marriage, she’s pro-life, she doesn’t believe that the welfare state solves problems and, yes, she wants to make sure when people immigrate into France that they want to be French and love the country.”

National Review’s Jonah Goldberg was unconvinced, calling the move a “bad decision” and asking whether she was a classical liberal or a “National Front Kardashian with better messaging?”

The tension hits at the center of the debate within conservative circles over whether the GOP should stick to its free-market Reaganite conservatism or lean toward the more European-style nationalist-populist movements — reflected in the 2016 candidacy of Donald Trump. 

CPAC generally has tilted toward the former, and has had a sometimes-rocky relationship with populist speakers and lawmakers. Trump pulled out of a planned appearance there in 2016 over concerns of a backlash from more traditional conservatives.

With Trump now president, there is evidence of more populism seeping into CPAC. Former U.K. Independence Party leader Nigel Farage will speak, as will former Trump adviser and Fox News contributor Sebastian Gorka — both of whom have called for restriction of immigration and warned against the dangers of Islamism.

Fox News’ Alex Pappas and John Roberts contributed to this report.

Adam Shaw is a Politics Reporter and occasional Opinion writer for FoxNews.com. He can be reached here or on Twitter: @AdamShawNY.



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CIA reviewing how it handled initial reports of Havana Syndrome symptoms from officers

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WASHINGTON — The CIA’s internal watchdog is conducting a review of how the agency first handled reports that some of its officers suffered the neurological symptoms now known as Havana Syndrome, amid concerns the matter was not taken sufficiently seriously at the highest levels, three sources familiar with the matter told NBC News.

The CIA’s Office of Inspector General is interviewing people who have experienced symptoms and officials involved in the handling of the issue, the sources say.

The House Intelligence Committee is also conducting its own “deep dive” into the issue, a committee official with direct knowledge said.

“The anomalous health incidents afflicting our personnel around the world are of grave concern,” the committee official said. “There is no higher priority than ensuring the health and safety of those individuals who serve our nation.”

“On a bipartisan basis, the House Intelligence Committee has been speaking with individuals with firsthand knowledge of how these health incidents are being handled and how they were handled in the past,” the official said. “Through that work, we have significant concerns with how some individuals were unable to access needed benefits and medical care. The committee remains focused on ensuring that the government takes all necessary actions to address these issues.”

Some former officers, including Marc Polymeropoulos — who suffered an apparent brain injury during a trip to Moscow in 2017 — have accused the CIA’s management and medical officials during the Trump administration of failing to properly address the growing number of officers who believe they were targeted by what some experts think was a directed energy device or weapon.

Polymeropoulos told NBC News that the approach taken by CIA Director William Burns “has been a complete and most welcome sea change from the previous administration. He has shown compassion for victims, revamped the CIA’s health care response and dedicated additional resources to finding out who is responsible.”

Former CIA Director Gina Haspel did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The IG review was first reported by CNN.

The CIA recently appointed a new leader of its task force on Havana Syndrome, a veteran officer who was instrumental in the successful hunt for Osama bin Laden, an official familiar with the matter previously told NBC News.

NBC News reported Tuesday that as many as 200 U.S. officials or family members have reported possible symptoms. About two dozen cases were reported in Vienna alone.



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Tennessee to resume vaccine outreach efforts after ‘pause’ prompted by GOP backlash

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Tennessee’s top health official said Friday that the state is resuming its vaccination advocacy efforts after a “pause” to review marketing materials geared toward teenagers promoting inoculations against Covid-19, an initiative that provoked outrage among conservative politicians.

The scaling back of its vaccination outreach drew national attention when Tennessee’s top vaccination official, Dr. Michelle Fiscus, a pediatrician, was fired last week after she said Republican lawmakers disapproved of her promoting Covid vaccines to eligible children.

On Friday, state Health Commissioner Dr. Lisa Piercey declined to discuss Fiscus’ departure, but addressed the larger issue with reporters, saying “there was a perception that we were marketing to children, and that totally was against our view of parental authority.”

“The reason we paused is because we wanted to leave no room for interpretation about where we are shooting: We are shooting to get the message to parents,” she said, adding “we strongly believe that parents are the best decision makers when it comes to medical decisions for their children.”

In June, Republican lawmakers rebuked the health department for how it targeted online posts toward children, including a digital graphic that had a photo of a child with a Band-Aid and the words, “Tennesseans 12+ are eligible for vaccines. Give COVID-19 vaccines a shot.”

The Tennessean, citing emails and an internal report, first reported last week that the state would halt all adolescent vaccine outreach, for all diseases. The newspaper also found that the health department had deleted some pro-vaccine posts on Facebook and Twitter and instructed employees to stop all vaccine-related posts aimed at teens before halting vaccine outreach posts altogether — and not only those related to the Covid vaccine.

The series of moves drew condemnation from state Democrats, who also blamed “anti-vaccine lawmakers from the controlling party” for removing Fiscus.

“A well respected member of the public health community was sacrificed in favor of anti-vaccine ideology,” state Sen. Raumesh Akbari, who represents Memphis, said in a statement. “This disgraceful hatchet job is going to endanger the lives of unvaccinated Tennesseans at a time when we have a safe and reliable way to protect our families from this virus.”

In an email to NBC News last week, Department of Health spokesman Bill Christian did not comment specifically on the reports that the state had halted all immunization outreach to minors, but said that the department “wants to remain a trustworthy source of information to help individuals, including parents, make these decisions.”

Fiscus said in an interview on MSNBC last week that her job was to roll out the Covid vaccine “across the state and to make sure that that was done equitably and in a way that any Tennessean who wanted to access that vaccine would be able to get one.” Her husband came forward to say she had received a dog muzzle at work only days before she was ousted.

She also said tension with GOP lawmakers escalated when she publicized a document on Tennessee’s “Mature Minor Doctrine,” a state Supreme Court ruling from 1987 that states Tennesseans ages 14 to 18 may be treated “without parental consent unless the physician believes that the minor is not sufficiently mature to make his or her own health care decisions.”

As the controversy mounted, Piercey had left the state on a vacation to Greece.

She said Friday that there may be “fringe and nuanced” situations in which a Covid vaccine may need to be given to a minor without parental permission, which The Tennessean reported contradicts a claim from Republican lawmakers who said the health commissioner had previously agreed to stop such a practice.

The fight over the vaccination of children in Tennessee comes as Piercey and public health officials have painted a grim picture with the surge in Covid cases and positivity rates — coinciding with much of the rest of the country — and said there’s been a 200 percent increase in Covid cases since July 1. About 97 percent of all hospitalizations are among the unvaccinated, and the state has struggled with a lagging vaccination rate, she added.

“We’re certainly going in the wrong direction for hospitalizations,” Piercey warned.

Antonio Planas contributed.

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Brexit outrage: Boris urged to hit back after Baroness Hoey exposes EU punishment plans

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BREXITEER outrage has erupted after Baroness Kate Hoey exposed attempts by the Republic of Ireland to worsen the ongoing rift between the EU and the UK.

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