U.S. Politics

10 things you need to know today: April 17, 2017

JUNG YEON-JE/AFP/Getty Images

THE WEEK

1. Pence warns North Korea not to test Trump’s ‘strength and resolve’
Vice President Mike Pence started a 10-day Asia trip in South Korea shortly after Pyongyang marked a key national holiday with a failed missile test, warning that the latest “provocation” demonstrated how dangerous the isolated communist nation had become. Pence warned Pyongyang on Monday not to test President Trump, saying the U.S. leader showed his “strength and resolve” recently by bombing Syria, and the Islamic State in Afghanistan. Tensions had risen on speculation that North Korea was planning its sixth nuclear test to mark the holiday, but the White House said it saw no need to respond to an unsuccessful missile launch. “If it had been a nuclear test, then other actions would have been taken from the U.S.,” an adviser told reporters on Pence’s plane. President Trump said Sunday that his administration was working with China on addressing “the North Korea problem.”

Source: The Washington Post, The Associated Press

2. Turkey’s president claims victory in vote giving him sweeping new powers
Turkish voters narrowly approved expanded powers for their president, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, on Sunday. About 51 percent backed Erdogan, while just under 49 percent voted no. Supporters said the change, which also could let Erdogan stay in office until 2029, will modernize the country by replacing its parliamentary system with an executive presidency giving the chief executive sweeping powers. The country’s two main opposition parties challenged the referendum’s legitimacy. The Republican People’s Party called for a recount of 60 percent of the ballots, saying that unstamped ballot papers were improperly accepted as valid. Erdogan supporters poured into the streets to celebrate his win, while opponents gathered in Istanbul, expressing their unhappiness with the result by banging pots and pans.

Source: BBC News

3. Ousted South Korean president formally charged in corruption case
South Korea’s ex-president, Park Geun-hye, was formally chargedMonday in the corruption scandal that led to her impeachment. The 65-year-old ousted leader faces numerous charges, including bribery, coercion, abuse of power, and leaking state secrets. A conviction for bribery could result in a sentence of 10 years to life in prison. Park is accused of letting her close friend and confidante, Choi Soon-sil, extort money from companies with promises of lucrative government favors. Both women deny they committed any crimes.

Source: The New York Times

4. Death toll rises in bombing of Syria evacuee buses
The death toll from an apparent suicide car bombing targeting Syrians evacuated from war-torn towns rose to 126 on Sunday, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights. The bomber attacked a convoy of buses carrying people being transported to safety from pro-government Shia villages. At least 109 of those killed were refugees, while the others were aid workers and rebels assigned to guard the buses, according to the monitoring group. At least 68 children were killed in the attack.

Source: CNN

5. Ohio police search for suspect in murder livestreamed on Facebook
Ohio police conducted a manhunt on Sunday for a suspect in a killing that was streamed live on Facebook. Law enforcement officers searched the Cleveland area for Steve Stephens, who allegedly walked up to Robert Goodwin Sr., 74, and fatally shot him. Cleveland Mayor Frank Jackson called on Stephens to surrender to police, and not “do any more harm to anybody.” In the video, Stephens said he was acting because of a woman, and that he had killed more than a dozen people.

Source: The Associated Press

6. United says it will stop removing passengers to make room for employees
United Airlines will stop letting employees bump ticketed passengers off of overbooked flights, a spokeswoman for the carrier said Sunday. The company’s leaders promised to revamp their policies for dealing with full planes after the outcry over video showing a bloodied passenger, Dr. David Dao of Kentucky, being dragged off a plane in Chicago by aviation police. “We issued an updated policy to make sure crews traveling on our aircraft are booked at least 60 minutes prior to departure,” the spokeswoman, Maggie Schmerin, wrote in an email. “This is one of our initial steps in a review of our policies.” She said the change was intended to help ensure that such incidents “never happen again.”

Source: The New York Times

7. Pro-Trump group launches ads to help friendly House Republicans
Leaders of America First Policies, a nonprofit that supports President Trump, told The Washington Post on Sunday that their group is launching a $3 million ad campaign to support a dozen Republican House members who backed the Republican health-care plan. The proposal failed last month when GOP leaders could not line up enough votes to pass it, and Trump’s backers kept an informal tally of how Republican lawmakers had planned to vote. The “advocacy campaign” will include broadcast, digital, and social components, and is intended to shore up support for Trump’s agenda as the president struggles in polls.

Source: The Washington Post

8. Fugitive former Mexican governor captured in Guatemala
Javier Duarte, the fugitive former governor of Mexico’s Veracruz state, has been arrested in Guatemala after a six-month international manhunt, Mexican authorities said Sunday. Duarte was captured in Panajachel, a resort town on Lake Atitlan in the Guatemalan highlands. He faces extradition to Mexico to face charges of graft and organized crime related to the suspected theft of millions of dollars. Duarte denies the charges. He once was considered a rising star of the ruling Institutional Revolutionary Party, but the corruption case made him an embarrassment. His capture could give the party of President Enrique Pena Nieto a boost as it prepares for a tough fight to keep the presidency in next year’s elections.

Source: The New York Times

9. Trumps host their first Easter Egg Roll after deadline crunch
President Trump and first lady Melania Trump host their first annual White House Easter Egg Roll on Monday, continuing a 150-year Washington tradition. The White House has invited 21,000 people to participate in the event on the White House South Lawn. The crowd will be smaller than last year’s, which drew 30,000 people. Planning for this year’s roll started later than usual, raising questions about whether it would be held at all. Wells Wood Turning, the Maine-based manufacturer of the traditional wooden eggs passed out at the celebration, resorted to tweeting a message that its Easter deadlines were approaching, and urging the White House to “please reach out.”

Source: ABC News

10. Fate of the Furious sets overseas box office record
The Fate of the Furious, the eighth film in Universal’s car-based action series, took in $100.2 million domestically and an estimated $432.3 million internationally in its first weekend, setting a record for the biggest global debut ever. Its estimated $532.5 million total narrowly beat the previous record of $529 million set by Star Wars: The Force Awakens. The Fate of the Furious‘ North American haul marked a slowdown, however, falling 32 percent short of the $147 million earned by its predecessor, Furious 7, in its 2015 debut. The ensemble film, starring Vin Diesel, Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, Ludacris, Charlize Theron, and others, set a record overseas, however, showing growth for the franchise in 30 countries, and crushing the previous record of $316.7 million set by Jurassic World.

Source: EW.com, The New York Times

U.S. Politics

Jimmy Fallon is Jared Kushner in ‘SNL’ cold open. Alec Baldwin plays Donald Trump.

Jimmy Fallon is Jared Kushner in 'SNL' cold open. Alec Baldwin plays Donald Trump.

Source: YouTube

MIC…

President Donald Trump’s antics have been compared to reality TV, so there’s no question where Saturday Night Live got its inspiration for this cold open.

Alec Baldwin reprised his iconic role as Trump, pitting a Grim Reaper Steve Bannon against Jimmy Fallon’s Jared Kushner in a reality TV-inspired elimination round. Only one can be Trump’s top adviser.

In the sketch, Baldwin-as-Trump and Beck Bennett’s Mike Pence discuss a number of current events: the nomination of Neil Gorsuch to the Supreme Court; airstrikes against the Islamic state group, ISIS; the decision to drop the “mother of all bombs” on Afghanistan; North Korea; and infighting between Bannon and Kushner, who have been squabbling incessantly in recent days, according to reports.

Speaking about the bomb dropped on Afghanistan, Baldwin’s Trump calls it “the biggest, fattest bomb, we’ve ever seen; it’s so big and fat, it almost looks like me in my golf clothes.”

Baldwin-as-Trump summons both men to the Oval Office, Bannon entering to his trademark doom tuba theme music and outfitted in full Grim Reaper regalia. Trump’s “little Kush ball” strolls in to EMF’s “Unbelievable,” wearing the super-chill shades and name tag he wore for his Iraq visit.

A reality show elimination round begins, in the spirit of America’s Next Top Model.

“Jared, Steve — standing before me are my two top advisers, but I only have one photo in my hand,” Baldwin’s Trump explains. “That’s right. Tonight is elimination night. There’s been a lot of drama in the house and that’s okay, but one of you must go, now. But who gets to stay?”

Baldwin-as-Trump lays out the pros and cons both men present. Kushner, the president explains, takes “the most beautiful photos,” while Bannon takes “the worst photos I’ve ever seen in my life.” Kushner has quietly traveled the world as a Trump representative, while the president once caught Bannon “eating a live pig in the Roosevelt room.”

The winner, Baldwin’s Trump goes on to explain, gets to keep doing his job, along with “$100,000 courtesy of L’Oreal.” The loser will “join Kellyanne Conway” — who’s been notably absent in recent weeks — “in the basement.”

“But don’t worry,” Baldwin-as-Trump adds, “your journey does not end tonight because you will get to come back at the end of all of this and help send me to prison.”

Spoiler: It’s the more photogenic adviser, Kushner, who gets to stay on, while Bannon gets dragged “back to hell” on the president’s orders. Watch the full sketch here.

Claire Lampen

U.S. Politics

Berkeley riots: Video appears to show white supremacist Nathan Damigo punching protester

Berkeley riots: Video appears to show white supremacist Nathan Damigo punching protester

Source: WeAreChange/Youtube

MIC | Navigating Trump’s America

Protests in Berkeley, California, erupted in violence on Saturday as anti- and pro-Donald Trump demonstrators clashed during a pro-Trump rally at Martin Luther King, Jr. Civic Center Park.

The fight that broke out between the two groups was recorded and posted on YouTube by the organization WeAreChange. In the video, which at time of writing has accumulated nearly 250,000 views, a female protester can be seen getting punched in the face by a male demonstrator.

Source: YouTube

The demonstrator who punched the woman appears to be Nathan Damigo, a white supremacist member of the “alt-right” movement. It is unclear from the video what transpired in the lead-up to the punch between the two demonstrators.

Damigo was confirmed to be at Saturday’s pro-Trump rally, posting a live video of the event via Periscope. The Modesto Bee and Los Angeles Times reporter Hailey Branson-Potts — who profiled Damigo for the L.A. Times back in December — both identified Damigo as the man punching the woman.

The white supremacist, a 30-year-old student at Cal State Stanislaus, is the founder of the alt-right group Identity Evropa. According to the L.A. Times, the group describes itself as a “generation of awakened Europeans … [who] oppose those who would defame our history and rich cultural heritage.” To apply, aspiring members are asked to indicate whether “you and your spouse/partner [are] of European, non-Semitic heritage.”

In 2007, Damigo was convicted of armed robbery after robbing a cab driver he suspected of being Iraqi at gunpoint. He spent four years in prison for his crime, the L.A. Times notes, where he became influenced by such books as My Awakening by Ku Klux Klan leader David Duke.

Many on social media are calling for Damigo’s arrest in the wake of his alleged punching, and a web page has been set up by the Stop Hate Alliance imploring CSU Stanislaus’ leadership to expel the student for his actions.

At least 20 arrests were made during Saturday’s protest, SF Gate noted. Though billed as a “peaceful, free-speech” rally celebrating Patriot’s Day, the event quickly descended into a battle between alt-right Trump supporters and liberal “antifa” — meaning anti-fascist — demonstrators.

A barrier dividing the two groups was broken during the protest, prompting the protesters to begin a violent brawl. During the rally, the opposing groups reportedly threw shoes, bottles and fireworks at each other, and 11 people were injured during the conflict.

Alison Durkee

U.S. Politics

Why Do Democrats Feel Sorry for Hillary Clinton?

Hillary Clinton. (Gage Skidmore / CC BY-SA 2.0)

TRUTHDIG

Not only are many Democrats worried about Hillary Clinton, they’re still unable to blame her and themselves for the disastrous 2016 election results; a writer argues that rather than a great progressive politician, Bernie Sanders is actually a “Democratic Party company man”; meanwhile, a statue of a small girl facing the famous “Charging Bull” on Wall Street has become a topic of contention. These discoveries and more below.

Why Do Democrats Feel Sorry for Hillary Clinton?
I’d hoped we’d finally seen the last of the Clinton name in public life — it’s been a long quarter of a century — and that we could all move on. Alas, no.

Bernie Sanders, the Company Man
U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders (“I”-VT)  is not the independent left politician many progressives claim he is. He’s a Democratic Party company man.

Pink and Blue
What happens when very young children begin to identify with a sex/gender other than the one they were born with?

Fearless Girl Face-off Poses a New Question: Does the Law Protect an Artist’s Message?
Artist Arturo Di Modica, who created Wall Street’s iconic Charging Bull in 1989, isn’t happy about the recent addition of the widely buzzed-about Fearless Girl to downtown Manhattan park Bowling Green.

Beyond the Origins of Totalitarianism
Although the United States was a beacon of hope for Hannah Arendt, she saw vulnerabilities in American-style democracy.

The Girl and the Bull
Apparently, Arturo Di Modica, the sculptor who created Charging Bull nearly 30 years ago, considers Fearless Girl to be an insult to his work and wants it taken away.

Academic Precariat
As we know, the share of part-time faculty in U.S. higher education has increased dramatically over the past four decades.

This Device Pulls Drinking Water Straight Out of the Air — and It Runs Entirely on the Sun’s Energy
A new kind of water-capturing device could be a game-changer for some of the world’s driest places. It can pull water vapor out of the air at humidity as low as 20 percent — conditions that may be seen in the Sahara desert during its hottest months — and it can operate entirely off-grid, just using the ambient power of the sun.

How United Turned the Friendly Skies Into a Flying Hellscape
The recent United scandal is the predictable byproduct of a relentless obsession with filling planes to absolute maximum capacity coupled with open and invidious discrimination in the treatment of customers.

For First Time in Years, Jerusalem Cracks Down on Sale of Leavened Bread During Passover
Municipality workers are enforcing the law banning the public sale of non-kosher for Passover products in public, confiscating Old City bagel vendor’s wares.

Relying on Women, Not Rewarding Them
New study suggests female professors outperform men in terms of service—to their possible professional detriment.

Urbanist Richard Florida Is Back With Another Theory About How to Fix American Cities
It’s a pipe dream—and even he knows it.

The Five Stages of Coping With Sean Spicer’s Insanely Stupid Hitler-Assad Analogy
Only a Trump White House could ruin its moment of triumph in Syria so quickly and so thoroughly.

Larry’s List

U.S. Politics

Sweeping change at DOJ under Sessions

Sweeping change at DOJ under Sessions

© Victoria Sarno Jordan

THE HILL

Attorney General Jeff Sessions has brought sweeping change to the Department of Justice.

In just two months as the nation’s top cop, Sessions has moved quickly to overhaul the policies and priorities set by the Obama administration.

He has rolled back protections for transgender students that allowed children to use the bathroom that corresponds with their gender identity and rescinded plans to phase out the federal government’s use of private prisons.

He called for a review of reform agreements, known as consent decrees, reached with local police departments to address allegations of misconduct. Many of the consent decrees were drafted in response to fating shootings by police.

Sessions has made immigration enforcement a top priority. Late last month he put “sanctuary” cities on notice, announcing that grant money would be withheld from state and local governments that refuse to cooperate with federal authorities and turn over illegal immigrants arrested for crimes.

Federal prosecutors have also been alerted to a new national push to crack down on violent crime. Sessions tapped Steven Cook, a federal prosecutor and outspoken opponent of criminal justice reform, to lead the charge as assistant deputy attorney general; he will be leading Sessions’ new Task Force on Crime Reduction and Public Safety.

Alex Whiting, faculty co-director of the Criminal Justice Policy Program at Harvard Law School, said it appears Sessions is resurrecting the tough on crime policies last seen during the George W. Bush administration.

“Obama moved away from that approach, and I think in the criminal justice world there seemed to be a consensus between the right and left that those policies, those rigid policies of the war on drugs and trying to get the highest sentence all the time, had failed,” he said.

“I don’t know if he is really going to be able to persuade the department to follow his lead on this.”

In March, Sessions asked the remaining U.S. attorneys appointed by former President Obama to resign. While previous administrations took the same step, Whiting questioned whether Sessions would be able find 94 prosecutors who will back the DOJ’s new approach.

“He can order and it will have an effect, but how far this gets implemented and with what kind of energy I think is really an open question, and if they will be able to persuade the rank and file to return in a full-fledge way to those policies,” he said.

In a statement to The Hill, DOJ spokesman Ian Prior said Sessions and the Justice Department are focused on fighting violent crime and protecting the public.

“When it comes to sanctuary cities, all we are requiring is that they, just like every other individual in the United States, follow Congress’ duly enacted laws,” he said.

“If requiring individuals and entities to follow the law and combating violent crime are seen as dramatic reversals, then we fully support such a sea change.”

While the attorney general has acknowledged that overall crimes rates are at historic lows, he has warned that trend is about to reverse.

Even if that’s true, Inimai Chettiar director of the Justice Program at the Brennan Center for Justice argued that arresting and incarcerating people is not the solution.

“Mass incarceration is not contributing to mass crime declines, but it doesn’t appear Jeff Sessions knows that,” she said.

Advocates of scaling back mandatory minimums for prison sentences are expecting to see a major shift in the way crimes are prosecuted.

“To the extent the Obama administration was saying, let’s be a little more judicious in the use of mandatory minimums, I think Sessions plans to put his foot on the gas and apply them anywhere and everywhere,” said Kevin Ring, president of Families Against Mandatory Minimums.

President Trump’s son-in-law and senior adviser Jared Kushner raised eyebrows late last month when he took a meeting with Sens. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa), Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) and Mike Lee (R- Utah), the lead sponsors on the criminal justice reform bill that stalled in the last session of Congress.

While Sessions has never been a fan of efforts to reduce mandatory minimums, Chettiar called the meeting encouraging.

“Kushner is supportive of criminal justice reform. … I think it’s possible there’s a strong advocate there,” she said.

Ring, however, isn’t holding his breath.

“One day he’s on the Hill talking sentencing reform then next day he’s visiting the Middle East,” Ring said of Kushner. “He’s got two easy gigs — passing sentencing reform and bringing peace to the Middle East. Good luck with that.

Law enforcement groups that support Sessions, meanwhile, say the new attorney general is focused on the right things.

“I think Sessions has brought a new focus to the core mission of the department, which is to make sure the nation is safe and secure in its law and make sure law enforcement operations are focused on the thing that matters most, preventing crime,” said Jonathan Thompson, executive director of the National Sheriffs’ Association.

Thompson said Sessions is taking a more holistic approach in preventing crime.

“I think there’s a tendency to look at people who are incarcerated and say I really wish they weren’t there, but unfortunately they make personal choices,” he said.

“The attorney general is saying you have to look at that end. You have a crime problem that could be growing and how do we respond to it? Obviously something worked.”

LYDIA WHEELER

TAGS

CHUCK GRASSLEY

JEFF SESSIONS,

DICK DURBIN,

MIKE LEE

U.S. Politics

Trump Asks Advice From The Swamp He Promised To Drain – Americans Are OUTRAGED At What They Said

Photo by Ron Sachs - Pool/Getty Images

Ron Sachs – Pool via Getty Images

ADDICTING INFO

Not too long after taking office, Trump decided to start asking around about how the government could roll back regulations and make it easier for companies to get their projects approved. But he didn’t ask ordinary Americans, or small business owners. He didn’t ask people in small towns and big cities. He asked big corporations what their opinions were. He sought advice from the same people he blasted as “The Swamp” during his campaign, and promised repeatedly to drain it.

Now, given who he’s appointed to his cabinet, it was pretty clear that he had zero intention of draining the swamp. Trump specifically targeted manufacturers and fossil fuel producers for this, probably because he thinks allowing them to run roughshod will at least help him pretend he’s truly bringing manufacturing jobs back. But this is even more egregious because major industry insiders don’t care about people. They don’t care who they hurt in pursuit of the almighty dollar. Of course they want industry regulations cut — these are the industries people fought (and died) against to stop things like child labor and worker exploitation.

The White House got 168 comments total. Manufacturers went after the EPA the hardest, with 79 of those comments targeting that agency. The EPA received 79 comments total, because of course it did. And companies targeted the Clean Air and Clean Water Acts with 48 and 29 comments respectively, because having to clean up after yourself so everyone around you can breathe clean air and drink clean water is just too difficult.

Trump’s decision to halt key provisions of the Clean Water Act has already angered people, particularly those living in communities that are especially vulnerable to poisoned water. The director of the Sierra Club’s “Beyond Coal” campaign has said:

“Trump’s attempt to halt these clean water protections for mercury, lead, and arsenic from coal power plants is dangerous and irresponsible. After years of peer-reviewed studies, extensive input from medical experts and scientists, and thorough review of public comments, the EPA made the right call in finalizing strong clean water protections against coal plants dumping toxic heavy metals into our waterways…As a mother, I’m frankly horrified that the EPA would put the safety of drinking water at risk for millions of Americans, but that’s exactly what they’ve done. Coming from West Virginia, where we’ve had enormous challenges with maintaining clean water supplies due to the coal industry’s political influence, I’m outraged that these common sense protections are under attack from the EPA itself.”

But, well, profit is king here, even though the coal industry is never going to recover no matter what Trump tries to do. A full breakdown of the agencies and regulations that these companies would like to see rolled back, if not outright eliminated, is below:

BP says it wants to make it easier to drill for gas and oil in the very same Gulf that was devastated in the Deepwater Horizon disaster, because why force them be careful when they can lie about being able to self-regulate? (Big corporations can’t self-regulate.) And The Associated General Contractors of America wants to roll back regulations for paid sick leave for government contractors. They probably want to get rid of overtime rules, too.

Of course, business groups like the U.S. Chamber of Commerce are applauding Trump for this. They see this administration as one that is finally interested in relieving businesses “from a regulatory onslaught that occurred, principally, during the prior administration.”

Others are not so sure this is the best way to do things, though, because companies will always, always, always act in their own best interests, and damn the rest of the world. Jeffrey Zients, who worked on regulatory issues under Obama, said:

“At a time when many CEOS are focused on the short term and looking to maximize their profitability each quarter, I believe that a lot of their aversion to these regulations reflects a short-term mind-set that values reducing costs over anything else.

That’s unfortunate, because well-crafted regulations are an important part of creating sustainable and fair economic prosperity in the long run.”

A detail. These companies don’t want sustainable and fair economic prosperity in the long run. They want unfair and profitable in the short run. It’s the nature of the beast. And it’s why the business world needs strong regulation. Instead, Trump is trying to give them back the ability to do what they want, when they want, how they want, without regard to the harm they cause.

Rika Christensen