Headlines: February 12, 2019
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Congressional negotiators on Monday announced a deal between Republicans and Democrats that could stave off a second government shutdown. Democrats backed off on a new demand to limit the number of immigrants being detained by ICE inside the US while Republicans backed off on the $5.7 billion for border wall funding that President Donald Trump had made conditional for any spending deal. Instead the agreement includes $1.375 billion to build about 55 miles of border fencing. The deal still needs to pass the House and the Senate and be signed by Trump by February 15th.
News of the deal came just hours before Trump addressed a raucous political rally in El Paso, Texas, the border town that he had showcased in his State of the Union speech last week claiming that it was safer because of its wall with Mexico. Ahead of his speech El Paso officials took issue with Trump’s assertions.
During his speech in El Paso on Monday night Trump pretended that there hadn’t been a deal reached, saying, “They said that progress is being made with this committee…Just so you know, we’re building the wall anyway.” He also treated the event as a reelection campaign speech.
Just half a mile away former Congressman of El Paso, Beto O’Rourke held a dueling outdoor rally to counter Trump called March for Truth. O’Rourke has apparently also been considering throwing his name into the crowded Democratic field of 2020 Presidential candidates.
A massive uproar over freshman Congresswoman Ilhan Omar’s tweets about Israel has predictably dredged up accusations of anti-Semitism. Omar, who along with Rashida Tlaib became the first Muslim woman in Congress, is also the first woman to wear a hijab, and the first Somali American member of Congress. It started with a tweet by journalist Glenn Greenwald who said, “GOP Leader Kevin McCarthy threatens punishment for @IlhanMN and @RashidaTlaib over their criticisms of Israel. It’s stunning how much time US political leaders spend defending a foreign nation even if it means attacking free speech rights of Americans.” Omar responded saying, “It’s all about the Benjamins baby,” implying that Israeli campaign money kept members of Congress like Kevin McCarthy loyal to Israel’s demands.
Then, when an editor at Forward magazine asked Omar, ‘who was paying politicians to be pro-Israel?’ she responded, “AIPAC,” which is the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, widely known as the largest and most influential Israeli lobby group. Now, both Democrats and Republicans are chastising Omar, who has been forced to apologize. In a tweet on Monday she wrote, “Anti-Semitism is real and I am grateful for Jewish allies and colleagues who are educating me on the painful history of anti-Semitic tropes.” She added, “I unequivocally apologize,” but also said, “At the same time I reaffirm the problematic role of lobbyists in our politics.”
Teachers in Denver, Colorado are on strike over contract negotiations. On Monday the public school system, which serves about 70,000 students was crippled with understaffing and many schools were forced to close. At the heart of the dispute is a pay system adopted more than a dozen years ago, which the Washington Post described as, “offering educators bonuses based on performance and for going to work in high-needs schools and working in difficult-to-fill positions.” The teachers union now wants Denver Public Schools (DPS) to roll back that system.
A teenager in Ohio has obtained his own immunizations, at age 18. Ethan Lindenberger, disturbed that his mother was influenced by the discredited ideas of a doctor named Andrew Wakefield who erroneously linked vaccines to autism, was never immunized for measles, mumps, rubella, and other childhood diseases. An on-going outbreak of measles in the state of Washington underscores the dangers of widespread non-immunization. So Lindenberger did his own research and got his shots. His 16-year old brother has apparently decided to do the same as soon as he turns 18. Stories abound of children realizing their parents’ mistakes of non-immunization and attempting to get their shots. But many are restricted by state laws requiring parental consent.
In international news, Iran this week marks 40 years since the Islamic revolution. Major celebrations in the country marked the end of the tumultuous times the preceded the revolution. President Hassan Rouhani spoke on Monday to a massive crowd in the capital Tehran. During his speech he took aim at the US, which, under President Trump, has demonized the Iranian leadership and pulled out of the hard-won nuclear deal. Rouhani said, “Today we are the target of a psychological and economic war. Enemies who seek to belittle us, we must resolve these problems with one another. With the assistance and the help of one another … we will be victorious in the face of America.”