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(Reuters) – The United States will ramp up its forces in Germany amid the latest tensions with Russia over Ukraine, abandoning former President Donald Trump’s plans to withdraw around 12,000 of the 36,000 troops from the fellow NATO country.

“I briefed the minister on our intention to permanently stage an approximately 500 additional U.S. personnel in the Wiesbaden area as early as this fall,” U.S. Secretary of Defence Lloyd Austin told at press conference after meeting his German counterpart, Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer, in Berlin.

Last June, Trump had announced his intention to cut the U.S. troop contingent in Germany by about a third, saying Berlin had been taking advantage of the United States while not meeting financial obligations to NATO.

Austin, who as a young lieutenant served in Germany and said he had fond memories of the time, struck a completely different tone, thanking Berlin for its contribution to NATO missions as in Afghanistan and taking steps to increase defense spending.

“I truly value what you bring. It is not lost on me that we share values, and that you are a very committed partner,” he said while Kramp-Karrenbauer welcomed his troop decision as an encouraging signal.

Austin evaded questions about whether the deployment of additional troops should be interpreted as a message to Russia amid renewed tensions over Ukraine but stressed the military value for NATO of having more boots on the ground in Europe.

“These forces will strengthen deterrence and defense, and they will augment our existing abilities to prevent conflict and if necessary to fight and win,” he said. “It will greatly improve our ability to surge forces at a moment’s notice to defend our allies.”

The West has expressed concern in recent weeks over a huge build-up of Russian forces close to Ukraine’s eastern border and in Crimea, which Russia annexed from Kyiv in 2014.

On Tuesday, NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg called on Russia to withdraw troops that the alliance says Moscow is massing on Ukraine’s borders, ahead of an emergency meeting of allied foreign and defense ministers.

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Biden administration, House Democrats reach deal on ex-Trump lawyer McGahn testimony on Russia probe

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House Democrats and the Biden administration have reached a deal that would allow former President Trump attorney Donald McGahn to testify before Congress on allegations Trump tried to obstruct the 2019 Russia collusion investigation.

The sides reached the deal late Tuesday, after months of negotiating, according to The New York Times.

McGahn has been in a legal battle against a House subpoena to compel him to testify regarding special counsel Robert Mueller’s probe into whether the 2016 Trump presidential campaign colluded with Russia to influence the outcome of the election.

An appeals court was set to hear arguments next week, but lawyers from the Justice Department sent a letter asking the case to be dismissed due to the recent deal.

However, whether McGhan will testify following the deal, which did not involve Trump, remains unclear.

The Biden administration has been wary about attempting to force a former White House lawyer to testify in front of Congress. Currently, the president has the constitutional power to keep secret conversations with a lawyer.

Officials worry the move could be used to force them to testify should Republicans regain the White House and Congress.

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President Biden says people can’t decline ‘suitable’ job offer and keep getting unemployment benefit

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President Biden on Monday said that his administration will make clear that anyone receiving unemployment will forfeit the benefit if they decline an offer for a “suitable” job position.

“We’re gonna make it clear that anyone collecting unemployment who is offered a suitable job must take the job or lose their unemployment benefits,” he said, noting that there are some coronavirus-related exceptions so that individuals do not face a choice “between their basic safety and a paycheck. But otherwise, that’s the law,” he said.

His comments come after a jobs report last week that failed to live up to what many had anticipated and as some argue that individuals are being incentivized not to work as a consequence of supplemental unemployment benefits. 

“I think the people who claim Americans won’t work even if they find a good and fair opportunity underestimate the American people. So we’ll insist that the law is followed with respect to benefits. But we’re not going to turn our backs on our fellow Americans,” Biden said.

A White House release says that “the Secretary of Labor will issue a letter to states to reaffirm that individuals receiving UI may not continue to receive benefits if they turn down a suitable job due to a general, non-specific concern about COVID-19. In addition, the President is directing the Secretary of Labor to work with states to reinstate work search requirements for UI recipients, if health and safety conditions allow.”

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Biden issues National Day of Prayer Proclamation that does not include the word ‘God’

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President Biden has issued a National Day of Prayer proclamation in which the word “God” does not appear once.

“I invite the citizens of our Nation to give thanks, in accordance with their own faiths and consciences, for our many freedoms and blessings, and I join all people of faith in prayers for spiritual guidance, mercy, and protection,” Biden says in the proclamation.

The lone use of the word “Lord” appears only once at the conclusion of the declaration as it pertains to the date: The word appears within the boilerplate phrase “in the year of our Lord two thousand twenty-one.”

President Biden has issued a National Day of Prayer proclamation in which the word “God” does not appear once.

“I invite the citizens of our Nation to give thanks, in accordance with their own faiths and consciences, for our many freedoms and blessings, and I join all people of faith in prayers for spiritual guidance, mercy, and protection,” Biden says in the proclamation.

The lone use of the word “Lord” appears only once at the conclusion of the declaration as it pertains to the date: The word appears within the boilerplate phrase “in the year of our Lord two thousand twenty-one.” 

The phrase “the divine” comes up in a quote that is attributed to the late Rep. John Lewis: “Nothing can stop the power of a committed and determined people to make a difference in our society. Why? Because human beings are the most dynamic link to the divine on this planet.”

In contrast, former President Donald Trump mentioned God about a dozen times in his final National Prayer Day proclamation last year.

David Brody, host of The Water Cooler inquired, “How do you release a proclamation about prayer and not mention God at all?” 

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