Trump And The World

Kinder, Gentler Trump Still Has The Heavy Lifting Ahead

President Donald Trump's address to Congress marked a change in tone, but his ambitious agenda will bring conflict with lawmakers down the road.

Trump arriving at Congress on Jan. 28
Trump arriving at Congress on Jan. 28
Justin Sink


WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump may have cast aside the dark rhetoric of carnage and conflict that defined the start of his administration and left in its place a recitation of familiar campaign promises with few details on how he'd turn them into reality.

His first address to Congress featured an Obamacare repeal, a $1 trillion infrastructure plan, an immigration crackdown and a defense buildup. Designed to win the nation's center, Trump's remarks on Tuesday night sprinkled patriotism and optimism over a politically divisive platform, and his calm and collected delivery won immediate applause among political pundits.

Yet governing will require Trump to provide direction, and there the speech fell far short of what many voters, lawmakers and investors said they wanted to hear. It's unlikely to overcome the infighting and confusion that has stalled his legislative priorities on Capitol Hill.

Republicans indicated after the speech they were fine with being left to sort out the details. House Homeland Security Chairman Mike McCaul said the president presented himself in a more visionary and inclusive way and said it's up to Congress to fill in the blanks on his agenda.

"This guy has shown he's a CEO and in a very short period of time he's willing to take bold steps very quickly," McCaul, a Texas Republican, said afterward. "Sometimes the executive orders are not worded just right and they're going to go back and fix some of those. But he's very action-oriented and he wants to change the country."

During the speech, Trump offered an ambiguous opening on immigration, saying "real and positive immigration reform is possible." That followed a lunch conversation in which he told network television anchors "the time is right" for a compromise immigration bill. Still, he hewed to the tough rhetoric of his campaign, promising to kick off construction of his "great, great wall" on the southern border and recognizing families he had invited as his guests whose relatives had been killed by immigrants who entered the country illegally.

On health care, Trump told lawmakers they should repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act. But beyond vague guidelines — an endorsement of tax credits, protections for those with pre-existing conditions, and changes to Medicaid funding — he delivered little in the way of specifics. That's little solace to Republicans on Capitol Hill struggling to craft a package that could garner support within their own party, and nervous about Trump's commitment to an effort certain to prove politically challenging.

And yet that was perhaps the most detail offered by the president on any particular policy. Trump skipped over his desire to loosen financial industry regulation, offered little insight into whether he'd support Republican tax proposals to cut rates and impose a tax on imported goods, and didn't detail the budget cuts his administration is proposing to pay for higher military spending.

All markets including equity markets will be wanting more details.

He also didn't talk about how his broad policy strokes would fit within the $4 trillion federal budget without ballooning the deficit. The response from financial markets was muted, with the dollar and U.S. stocks futures easing slightly during the speech. Contracts on the benchmark U.S. S&P 500 Index, which had been up 0.3 percent going into the speech, pared their gains as the president was speaking to 0.2 percent at 9:54 p.m. in New York. The dollar trimmed an earlier advance, only to recover all of it after the speech concluded.

"All markets including equity markets will be wanting more details primarily around tax reform and its impact to corporate and individuals' balance sheets," said Sean Simko, who manages $8 billion in fixed-income assets at SEI Investments Co. in Oaks, Pennsylvania. "It's just a matter of how long investors are willing to accept the uncertainty."

Quincy Krosby, a market strategist at Prudential Financial Inc., which oversees about $1.3 trillion, said Trump's "confident tone may just give investors an excuse to keep the embrace intact — for now."

"Investors do need clarity," he said in an email. "Immediately following the speech fellow Republicans questioned how these programs are going to be paid for. Herein lie the obstacles he is going to face."

The address was "inspiring" to independent voters and a "chance to change the trajectory," said Tom Davis, a former Republican member of Congress from Virginia who has headed the party's national congressional campaign apparatus.

But "you've got to translate this poetry into the prose of legislation," Davis said. "He's got to get the House Republicans together and make some pretty tough decisions — and they need to do it pretty quickly."

Trump's tonal shift is a tacit acknowledgment that his public approval trails not only his two most recent predecessors, but all presidents in modern history at this point in their terms.

More than half of Americans say the early stumbles of Trump's administration were indicative of "real problems' with his administration, and he's the only president in history to enter office with a net negative approval rating, according to an NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll released Monday. While 44% of Americans approve of the job he's done, 48% disapprove.

The outsized reality-show persona of Donald Trump was toned down.

The address also sets a standard that will be difficult for the president to meet. On Tuesday night, he repeatedly returned to the idea that his is a post-partisan agenda, shattering traditional political, racial, and socioeconomic divisions that defined politics during the Obama years. He positioned himself as a willing leader of bipartisan negotiations over tough topics while deriding "trivial fights."

But there is clear dissonance with the early weeks of his presidency. Trump has obsessed over trivial fights, openly bickering with news outlets over coverage he doesn't like and picking spats with not only political foes, but celebrities like his Celebrity Apprentice replacement Arnold Schwarzenegger. He's also peppered nearly every speech with references to his electoral victory, and seen news cycles lost when his penchant for exaggeration and animosity turned into distraction.

Yet on Tuesday, "the outsized personality, reality-show persona of Donald Trump" was toned down, said Barbara Perry, a presidential historian at the University of Virginia's Miller Center of Public Affairs.

Trump may enjoy a bump in popularity from an address in which he appeared poised and presidential. But the speech only underscores that Trump is still trying to build political capital at a phase of his presidency in which predecessors usually were already spending it on legislative objectives. His next test is whether exceeding low expectations will yield governing momentum, and if so, whether he can harness it.

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food / travel

The True Horrors Behind 7 Haunted Locations Around The World

With Halloween arriving, we have dug up the would-be ghosts of documented evil and bloodshed from the past.

Inside Poveglia Island's abandoned asylum

Laure Gautherin and Carl-Johan Karlsson

When Hallows Eve was first introduced as a Celtic festival some 2,000 years ago, bonfires and costumes were seen as a legitimate way to ward off ghosts and evil spirits. Today of course, with science and logic being real ghostbusters, spine-chilling tales of haunted forests, abandoned asylums and deserted graveyards have rather become a way to add some mystery and suspense to our lives.

And yet there are still spooky places around the world that have something more than legend attached to them. From Spain to Uzbekistan and Australia, these locations prove that haunting lore is sometimes rooted in very real, and often terrible events.

Shahr-e Gholghola, City of Screams - Afghanistan

photo of  ruins of Shahr-e Gholghola,

The ruins of Shahr-e Gholghola, the City of Screams, in Afghanistan

Dai He/Xinhua via ZUMA Wire

According to locals, ghosts from this ancient royal citadel located in the Valley of Bamyan, 150 miles northwest of Kabul, have been screaming for 800 years. You can hear them from miles away, at twilight, when they relive their massacre.

In the spring 1221, the fortress built by Buddhist Ghorids in the 6th century became the theater of the final battle between Jalal ad-Din Mingburnu, last ruler of the Khwarezmian Empire, and the Mongol Horde led by Genghis Khan. It is said that Khan's beloved grandson, Mutakhan, had been killed on his mission to sack Bamyan. To avenge him, the Mongol leader went himself and ordered to kill every living creature in the city, children included.

The ruins today bear the name of Shahr-e Gholghola, meaning City of Screams or City of Sorrows. The archeological site, rich in Afghan history, is open to the public and though its remaining walls stay quiet during the day, locals say that the night brings the echoes of fear and agony. Others claim the place comes back to life eight centuries ago, and one can hear the bustle of the city and people calling each other.

Gettysburg, Civil War battlefield - U.S.

photo of rocks and trees in Gettysburg

View of the battlefields from Little Round Top, Gettysburg, PA, USA


Even ghosts non-believers agree there is something eerie about Gettysbury. The city in the state of Pennsylvania is now one of the most popular destinations in the U.S. for spirits and paranormal activities sight-seeing; and many visitors report they witness exactly what they came for: sounds of drums and gunshots, spooky encounters and camera malfunctions in one specific spot… just to name a few!

The Battle of Gettysburg, for which President Abraham Lincoln wrote his best known public address, is considered a turning point in the Civil War that led to the Union's victory. It lasted three days, from July 1st to July 3rd, 1863, but it accounts for the worst casualties of the entire conflict, with 23,000 on the Union side (3,100 men killed) and 28,000 for the Confederates (including 3,900 deaths). Thousands of soldiers were buried on the battlefield in mass graves - without proper rites, legend says - before being relocated to the National Military Park Cemetery for the Unionists.

Since then, legend has it, their restless souls wander, unaware the war has ended. You can find them everywhere, on the battlefield or in the town's preserved Inns and hotels turned into field hospitals back then.

Belchite, Civil War massacre - Spain

photo of sunset of old Belchite

Old Belchite, Spain

Belchite Town Council

Shy lost souls wandering and briefly appearing in front of visitors, unexplainable forces attracting some to specific places of the town, recorded noises of planes, gunshots and bombs, like forever echoes of a drama which left an open wound in Spanish history…

That wound, still unhealed, is the Spanish Civil War; and at its height in 1937, Belchite village, located in the Zaragoza Province in the northeast of Spain, represented a strategic objective of the Republican forces to take over the nearby capital city of Zaragoza.

Instead of being a simple step in their operation, it became the field of an intense battle opposing the loyalist army and that of General Francisco Franco's. Between August 24 and September 6, more than 5,000 people were killed, including half of Belchite's population. The town was left in rubble. As a way to illustrate the Republicans' violence, Franco decided to leave the old town in ruins and build a new Belchite nearby. All the survivors were relocated there, but they had to wait 15 years for it to be complete.

If nothing particular happens in new Belchite, home to around 1,500 residents, the remains of old Belchite offer their share of chilling ghost stories. Some visitors say they felt a presence, someone watching them, sudden change of temperatures and strange sounds. The ruins of the old village have been used as a film set for Terry Gilliam's The Adventures of Baron Munchausen - with the crew reporting the apparition of two women dressed in period costumes - and Guillermo del Toro's Pan's Labyrinth. And in October 1986, members of the television program "Cuarta Dimensión" (the 4th dimension) spent a night in Belchite and came back with some spooky recordings of war sounds.

Gur Emir, a conquerer’s mausoleum - Uzbekistan

photo of Gur Emir (Tomb of Timur) i

Gur Emir (Tomb of Timur) in Samarkand, Uzbekistan

Chris Bradley/Design Pics via ZUMA Wire

The news echoed through the streets and bazaars of Samarkand: "The Russian expedition will open the tomb of Tamerlane the Great. It will be our curse!" It was June 1941, and a small team of Soviet researchers began excavations in the Gur-Emir mausoleum in southeastern Uzbekistan.

The aim was to prove that the remains in the tomb did in fact belong to Tamerlane — the infamous 14th-century conqueror and first ruler of the Timurid dynasty who some historians say massacred 1% of the world's population in 1360.

Still, on June 20, despite protests from local residents and Muslim clergy, Tamerlame's tomb was cracked open — marked with the inscription: "When I Rise From the Dead, The World Shall Tremble."

Only two days later, Nazi Germany invaded the Soviet Union, with the people of Samarkand linking it to the disturbing of Tamerlane's peace. Amid local protests, the excavation was immediately wrapped up and the remains of the Turkish/Mongol conqueror were sent to Moscow. The turning point in the war came with the victory in the Battle of Stalingrad — only a month after a superstitious Stalin ordered the return of Tamerlane's remains to Samarkand where the former emperor was re-buried with full honors.

Gamla Stan, a royal massacre - Sweden

a photo of The red house of Gamla Stan, Stockholm, Sweden

The red house of Gamla Stan, Stockholm, Sweden


After Danish King Kristian II successfully invaded Sweden and was anointed King in November 1520, the new ruler called Swedish leaders to join for festivities at the royal palace in Stockholm. At dusk, after three days of wine, beer and spectacles, Danish soldiers carrying lanterns and torches entered the great hall and imprisoned the gathered nobles who were considered potential opponents of the Danish king. In the days that followed, 92 people were swiftly sentenced to death, and either hanged or beheaded on Stortorget, the main square in Gamla Stan (Old Town).

Until this day, the Stockholm Bloodbath is considered one of the most brutal events in Scandinavian history, and some people have reported visions of blood flowing across the cobblestoned square in early November. A little over a century later, a red house on the square was rebuilt as a monument for the executed — fitted with 92 white stones for each slain man. Legend has it that should one of the stones be removed, the ghost of the represented will rise from the dead and haunt the streets of Stockholm for all eternity.

Port Arthur, gruesome prison - Australia

a photo of ort Arthur Prison Settlement, Tasmania, Australia

Port Arthur Prison Settlement, Tasmania, Australia

Flickr/Eli Duke

During its 47-year history as a penal settlement, Port Arthur in southern Tasmania earned a reputation as one of the most notorious prisons in the British Empire. The institution — known for a brutal slavery system and punishment of the most hardened criminals sent from the motherland— claimed the lives of more than 1,000 inmates until its closure in 1877.

Since then, documented stories have spanned the paranormal gamut: poltergeist prisoners terrorizing visitors, weeping children roaming the port and tourists running into a weeping 'lady in blue' (apparently the spirit of a woman who died in childbirth). The museum even has an 'incidence form' ready for anyone wanting to report an otherworldly event.

Poveglia Island, plague victims - Italy

a photo of Poveglia Island, Italy

Poveglia Island, Italy

Mirco Toniolo/ROPI via ZUMA Press

Located off the coast of Venice and Lido, Poveglia sadly reunites all the classical elements of a horror movie: plagues, mass burial ground and mental institute (from the 1920's).

During the bubonic plague and other subsequent pandemics, the island served as a quarantine station for the sick and anyone showing any signs of what could be Black Death contamination. Some 160,000 victims are thought to have died there and the seven acres of land became a mass burial ground so full that it is said that human ash makes up more than 50% of Poveglia's soil.

In 1922 a retirement home for the elderly — used as a clandestine mental institution— opened on the island and with it a fair amount of rumors involving torture of patients. The hospital and consequently the whole island was closed in 1968, leaving all the dead trapped off-land.

Poveglia's terrifying past earned it the nickname of 'Island of Ghosts'. Despite being strictly off-limits to visitors, the site has been attracting paranormal activity hunters looking for the apparition of lost and angry souls. The island would be so evil that some locals say that when an evil person dies, he wakes up in Poveglia, another kind of hell.

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