Take a look at the stories from around our area and world that are making news today.
Prospect of added Amtrak service to meet Foxconn needs will go before Milwaukee board: Lee Bergquist of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel writes: "A city panel takes up the prospect of expanded Amtrak service to improve transit options for workers at the planned Foxconn Technology Group industrial park on Thursday. The Public Transportation Review Board will discuss the status of adding three additional daily Milwaukee-to-Chicago trips, in part, to accommodate the Taiwan-based company’s expected big workforce in Mount Pleasant. Adding more service between the cities at an estimated cost of $200 million has been in the planning stages for years by Amtrak, Wisconsin and Illinois officials. An environmental impact statement of the project is close to being completed. 'That means you almost have a shovel-ready project,' said Ald. Bob Bauman, chairman of the committee. He sees expanded rail service as a way to move Milwaukee residents to jobs in Racine County. 'That's the big picture,' he said. 'That's the bottom line.' Amtrak provides service to Sturtevant, which is a mile or two from the Foxconn site. In 2016, Amtrak and Wisconsin and Illinois officials held public hearings on the increasing service. At the time of the hearings, officials said ridership on the Hiawatha line had increased significantly in the past 15 years." Read more.
George W. Bush: There's clear evidence Russia 'meddled' in 2016 election: Louis Nelson of Politico writes: "Former President George W. Bush said Thursday that there is 'pretty clear evidence that the Russians meddled' in the 2016 presidential election, a seeming rebuke of President Donald Trump, who has at times questioned the intelligence community’s assessment that the Kremlin is to blame. 'Whether (Russia) affected the outcome is another question,' Bush said at conference in Abu Dhabi, according to a USA Today report. 'It’s problematic that a foreign nation is involved in our election system. Our democracy is only as good as people trust the results.' The former president did not mention Trump by name, but Bush’s unequivocal statements on the issue ran counter to the rhetoric that has emerged from the Trump administration. Trump himself was slow to accept the intelligence community’s conclusion that Russia had operated an interference campaign targeting the 2016 U.S. presidential election with the aim of aiding his candidacy, insisting for a time that it was China or even a '400-pound person sitting in bed.' The president has since conceded that the Russian government was behind the cyberattack but has been decidedly soft in his rhetoric towards the Kremlin, especially relative to his get-tough approach to foreign policy elsewhere around the globe. Trump’s stance on Russia has puzzled U.S. allies and lawmakers from both parties." Read more.
Sweeping budget deal would add more than $500 billion in federal spending, end months of partisan wrangling: Mike DeBonis and Erica Werner of the Washington Post write: "The Republican-led Congress is set to vote Thursday on a two-year budget deal that would include massive increases in military and domestic spending programs, reflecting an ideological shift for a party whose leaders long preached fiscal conservatism but have now embraced big spending. If the plan wins passage, it would quell months of squabbling between the parties with another big addition to the federal deficit, ending the need for repeated short-term agreements that led to frequent brinkmanship and a government shutdown. The accord would deliver the defense funding boost wanted by President Trump and Republican lawmakers alongside an increase in domestic programs sought by Democrats, as well as tens of billions of dollars for disaster victims. Trump backed the deal Wednesday, saying in a tweet that it would give Defense Secretary Jim Mattis 'what he needs to keep America Great' and calling on lawmakers of both parties to 'support our troops and support this Bill!' The Senate is expected to vote first on the plan, clearing it Thursday afternoon or evening — giving the House just hours to act before a midnight deadline for a government shutdown." Read more.
Wisconsin native Casey Andringa overcomes obstacles to make U.S. Olympic ski team: Roxanna Scott of USA TODAY writes: "Casey Andringa said the idea of living in a pop-up camper started out as a joke. But the decision also played a part in how the 22-year-old moguls skier changed his approach to life and ultimately earned a spot on his first Olympic team. Andringa and his younger brother Jesse lived in a pop-up camper for months leading up to Olympic qualifying competitions before these Games. As Casey, a Wisconsin native, started to think about training in Steamboat Springs, Colo., he joked with his dad Jeff that maybe they could get a camper to save on rent. Jeff found a used one online, and the brothers took it on a trial run in Steamboat for 10 days before going all in. Over the summer they hauled it to Oregon and California for training camps and a surfing trip. For 2 ½ months Casey and Jesse, also a moguls skier, camped in a national forest outside Steamboat Springs. By the beginning of October, they’d wake up with frost on their sleeping bags and six inches of snow outside. 'We did it to save money and all that, but it was, honestly, I realized what I was doing to pursue this dream and not go to school for another year was kind of a radical decision,' Casey said this week. 'So I think the pop-up camper kind of acted like a metaphor for that almost. ... It was in my head, telling myself you’re doing something crazy and so you’ve got to do something crazy to get there.'" Read more.
White House senior staffer resigns after domestic abuse allegations: James Doubek of NPR writes: "Rob Porter, a White House staffer largely responsible for controlling the flow of information to President Trump, is resigning following allegations of domestic abuse. Two ex-wives have accused Porter of physical abuse, with one telling news outlets of incidents years ago when Porter punched her in the face and choked her, while another spoke of emotional abuse and being grabbed and pulled from the shower. Responding to the accusations in a statement read by White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders, Porter called them 'outrageous' and 'simply false.' Sanders confirmed Porter's resignation Wednesday, though she said he would not immediately leave his job in an effort to 'ensure that there's a smooth transition going forward.' Porter served as the assistant to the president and White House staff secretary. He worked with chief of staff John Kelly on 'trying to impose order' in a White House known for feuding staff and disorganization. Beginning after Kelly assumed his chief of staff role over the summer, he directed that all documents that Trump would see should be vetted by both him and Porter." Read more.
North Korea is winning the Olympics before they even start: Brendan Scott of Bloomberg writes: "While North Korea isn't expected to bring home many medals from the Winter Olympics in South Korea, Kim Jong Un has already won more than he could've hoped. Kim has been putting pressure on the U.S.-South Korean alliance by exploiting optimism in Seoul that joining the Olympics under one banner could foster peace talks. South Korean President Moon Jae-in granted another concession today, agreeing to meet a delegation from Pyongyang that could include Kim's sister. The breakthrough came as U.S. Vice President Mike Pence, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and other world leaders head for tomorrow's opening ceremony. Pence hinted at a meeting, telling reporters in Japan, 'there may be a possibility for any kind of an encounter with North Koreans, whether it be informal, or whether it takes the form of a meeting.' But any hopes that the diplomatic dance would lead to talks over Kim’s weapons program were tempered by shows of force. While Pence pledged that the U.S. would stop North Korea from threatening his homeland, Kim paraded mobile missile launchers through Pyongyang." Read more.