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Christine Wormuth set to lead Army as first female secretary

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BERLIN — President Joe Biden plans to nominate Christine Wormuth, a former senior Pentagon official, to be the first woman to lead the Army, the White House said Monday.

If confirmed by the Senate as Army secretary, Wormuth would be one of the more powerful officials in a defense establishment long dominated by men. She would work with the Army’s chief of staff, Gen. James McConville, who does not command soldiers but is responsible, along with the Army secretary, for training and equipping them.

Biden has not yet nominated anyone to serve as Air Force or Navy secretary. Many other Pentagon positions that require Senate confirmation also have yet to be filled. The most senior Defense Department nominee still awaiting Senate confirmation is Colin Kahl, picked to be under secretary of defense for policy. His nomination emerged from committee on a 13-13 vote and it’s unclear when the full Senate will act.

Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin, who was traveling abroad when Wormuth’s nomination was announced, praised her track record.

“Christine is a true patriot with a dedicated career in service to America and our nation’s security,” he said in a prepared statement. He called her deeply experienced.

“I have no doubt that if confirmed she will lead our soldiers and represent their families with honor and integrity as the secretary of the Army,” Austin said.

Wormuth led Biden’s Pentagon transition team during the tumultuous period between the November election and Inauguration Day. She currently is director of the International Security and Defense Policy Center at the RAND Corp., a federally funded think tank.

During the administration of former President Barack Obama, she served as the under secretary of defense for policy. She also served as the senior director for defense policy on Obama’s National Security Council and held other Defense Department positions.

Wormuth’s nomination would continue a Biden trend of choosing women and people of color for top Defense Department jobs. Austin is the first Black secretary of defense, and Kathleen Hicks is the first woman to hold the job of deputy defense secretary.

The White House also announced the nominations of Gil Cisneros to be undersecretary of defense for personnel and readiness, and Susanna Blume as director of Cost Assessment and Program Evaluation, a key office that provides independent analysis and evaluation of major defense programs and activities. She currently is the interim director of that office and has previously held senior staff positions in the Pentagon.

Cisneros is a former member of Congress and a Navy veteran.

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Biden, first lady release 2020 tax returns, continue ‘almost uninterrupted tradition’

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Despite the specter of an IRS audit, President Joe Biden and first lady Jill Biden on Monday released their 2020 tax returns.

The first couple made just over $600,000 in 2020, and paid $157,414 in federal income tax, the return shows. That’s a federal income tax rate of 25.9 percent.

The Bidens also paid $28,794 in income tax in their home state of Delaware, reported donating $30,704 to 10 different charities.

In a statement announcing their release, the White House said Biden was “continuing an almost uninterrupted tradition.” The statement noted that Biden has now released 23 years of his tax returns.

The disclosure marks the return of a tradition of presidents making their tax returns public, something every president since Richard Nixon had done until Biden’s predecessor, Donald Trump, took office.

Trump had said during the presidential campaign and after he won the White House that he couldn’t make his returns public because they were under audit. Trump said the IRS audit had spanned years and that he would release them when the audit is completed.

Presidents and vice presidents have been subjected to mandatory annual audits since the Watergate scandal, which culminated with Nixon’s resignation in 1974.

Earlier Monday, White House press secretary Jen Psaki was asked if Biden would hold off on releasing his returns if the audit was still underway.

“No. I would expect that we will continue to release the president’s tax returns, as should be expected by every president of the United States,” Psaki said.

Vice President Kamala Harris and her husband Douglas Emhoff also released their tax returns.

The couple made close to $1.7 million in 2020 and paid $621,893 in federal income tax, a tax rate of 36.7 percent. They also paid $125,004 in California income tax and Emhoff paid $56,997 in tax to the District of Columbia. They reported donating over $27,000 to charity.

The bulk of their income came from Emhoff, who worked as an entertainment and media lawyer. He resigned from the law firm after the election and is now teaching at Georgetown Law.

While Harris’ predecessor, Mike Pence, released 10 years of tax returns during the 2016 election, he followed Trump’s lead and did not release his returns during his four years as vice president.

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Verhofstadt's attempt to one up UK on Twitter torn apart: 'EU citizens never get a say!'

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GUY VERHOFSTADT’s attempt to get one up on the UK by suggesting fleeing Hong Kongers looking for a fresh start abroad should choose the EU rather than Britain has been torn apart on Twitter.

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Biden expresses ‘support for a cease-fire’ to Netanyahu as Israel-Hamas conflict worsens

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WASHINGTON — President Joe Biden spoke with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu Monday afternoon, but made no direct call for an immediate end to violence as the deadly conflict between Israel and Hamas entered a second week with no signs of a nearing resolution.

The White House said that Biden “expressed his support for a cease-fire and discussed U.S. engagement with Egypt and other partners towards that end.”

“The President reiterated his firm support for Israel’s right to defend itself against indiscriminate rocket attacks. The President welcomed efforts to address intercommunal violence and to bring calm to Jerusalem. He encouraged Israel to make every effort to ensure the protection of innocent civilians,” the White House added.

The call, his second with the Israeli prime minister over three days, comes as Biden faces increasing political pressure from Democrats to take a tougher approach on Israel and as the international community grows increasingly outraged over the treatment of the Palestinian people.

Earlier Monday, neither Biden nor White House press secretary Jen Psaki answered directly whether or not the White House would call for a cease-fire in the region.

“Our approach is through quiet, intensive diplomacy,” Psaki told reporters. “That is how we feel we can be most effective.”

The Gaza Health Ministry put the death toll in the densely populated enclave of two million Palestinians at 197, including 58 children and 34 women, over the last week. Ten people have been killed in Israel, including two children, Israeli authorities say.

The violence is the worst it has been in the region since 2014, when more than 2,000 people died.

More than 25 Democratic senators wrote a letter on Sunday calling for an immediate cease-fire in the region and Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Robert Menendez, D-N.J., a strong supporter of Israel, released a statement Saturday criticizing the Israeli military attack on the media tower housing The Associated Press, BBC, Al Jazeera, and other news outlets.

Netanyahu has defended the strike, claiming that Hamas also operated out of the building, but has not provided any evidence for that claim

Biden spoke separately Saturday with Netanyahu and Palestinian National Authority President Mahmoud Abbas.

In that conversation with Netanyahu, Biden “reaffirmed his strong support for Israel’s right to defend itself against rocket attacks from Hamas and other terrorist groups in Gaza,” according to a White House readout of the call, while expressing to Abbas “his support for steps to enable the Palestinian people to enjoy the dignity, security, freedom, and economic opportunity that they deserve.”

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