Headlines: February 26, 2019
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President Donald Trump is close to being rebuked by both parties over his declaration of a national emergency to appropriate funds for a border wall. A bill that was introduced by Democrats and which is expected to easily the pass the House on Tuesday, may have enough votes to also pass in the Senate. Republican Senator Thom Tillis published an op-ed in the Washington Post on Monday night entitled, “I support Trump’s vision on border security. But I would vote against the emergency.” In it he speculated that a future Democratic White House could use Trump’s precedent to grab funds for the Green New Deal, to end gun violence, or regulate banks. Tillis, together with Senators Lisa Murkowski and Susan Collins could join all 47 Democratic Senators in voting against Trump’s emergency, leaving Trump only 1 vote shy of a loss.
Meanwhile Wisconsin Governor Tony Evers has pulled his state’s National Guard troops from the US-Mexico border saying in a tweet, “There is simply not ample evidence to support the president’s contention of a national security crisis at our southwestern border.”
A team of scientists on Monday announced that evidence for global warming had hit what they consider a “gold standard.” Publishing in the journal Nature Climate Change, the scientists say that their confidence that human activity was causing global warming reached a “five-sigma” signal to noise ratio. In other words there is a one in a million chance that humans are not causing climate change. The same standard of evidence was found in the existence of the Higgs-Boson subatomic particle in 2012. According to Reuters, “Monday’s findings, by researchers in the United States, Canada and Scotland, said evidence for global warming reached the five sigma level by 2005 in two of three sets of satellite data widely used by researchers, and in 2016 in the third.”
In other climate-related news, a new study has predicted that at high-enough carbon dioxide atmospheric concentrations, earth could lose its cloud cover. In a simulation published in Nature Geoscience, stratocumulus clouds – which to help keep the earth cool – vanish when CO2 levels rise high enough, which in turn could cause an 8 degree spike in surface temperatures.
A former staffer with Trump’s 2016 Presidential campaign has accused Trump of trying to kiss her at a rally in Florida. Alva Johnson has filed a lawsuit over the incident, and the Washington Post, which reported the story, explained that, “Trump grabbed her hand and leaned in to kiss her on the lips as he exited an RV outside the rally in Tampa on Aug. 24, 2016. Johnson said she turned her head and the unwanted kiss landed on the side of her mouth.” Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders responded saying, “This never happened and is directly contradicted by multiple highly credible eye witness accounts.” Johnson joins over a dozen other women who have accused Trump of sexual misconduct, but is the first to come forward after the election.
President Trump’s business has demanded that the House Judiciary Committee stop its investigations into the company saying they have been, “irreparably tainted.” The Trump Organization wrote a letter to committee chair Jerrold Nadler saying that the decision to hire a legal consultant named Barry Berke indicates a conflict of interest as the President’s company has employed Berke’s firm for legal services in the past.
Trump’s former Attorney Michael Cohen is expected to testify behind closed doors to the Senate Intelligence committee on Tuesday. Then on Wednesday he will publicly testify to the House Oversight Committee. This will be followed by another day of closed-door testimony to the House Intelligence committee. The Washington Post reported that Cohen is,“expected to describe to lawmakers what he views as Trump’s ‘lies, racism and cheating,’ both as president and in private business, and will describe ‘personal, behind-the-scenes’ interactions he witnessed, a person familiar with the matter said.” White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders released a statement calling Cohen a “disgraced felon,” and adding, “he will go before Congress this week and we can expect more of the same. It’s laughable that anyone would take a convicted liar like Cohen at his word, and pathetic to see him given yet another opportunity to spread his lies.”
Former Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen gave an interview on NPR’s Marketplace and admitted that the President doesn’t know much if anything about economics. Host Kai Rysdall asked Yellen, “Do you think the president has a grasp of macroeconomic policy?” to which she replied, “No, I do not.”
Cardinal George Pell, who is Pope Francis’ top financial advisor, was convicted in Melbourne, Australia on two counts of sexual abuse of minors. All twelve jurors voted unanimously to convict him after more than 2 days of deliberations. Pell becomes the highest-ranking Catholic leader ever to be convicted of pedophilia. The case involved him molesting two choirboys right after mass. The conviction comes just a day after Pope Francis wrapped up a major 4-day summit at the Vatican on the sex abuse scandal in the Catholic Church. Pell’s sentencing hearing begins on Wednesday. He faces a maximum 50-year sentence.
Musician R. Kelly has posted $100,000 bond in Chicago after being arrested on 10 counts of sexual abuse charges last Friday. Kelly spent the weekend in custody and has pleaded “not guilty” to all charges. While the trial lasts, Kelly is prohibited from having any contact with female minors. Attorney Michael Avenatti is representing two of the women accusing Kelly. Avenatti rose to fame for his representation of Stormy Daniels, who has accused President Trump of wrongdoing.
In other news, a federal government ban on so-called bump stocks can remain in place according to a judge’s decision on Monday night. Bump stocks are attachments to rifles that can enable rapid firing and were used by the Las Vegas shooter in perpetrating the worst mass shooting in modern US history. The Trump administration moved to ban bump stocks but was legally challenged by gun-proliferation activists. U.S. District Judge Dabney L. Friedrich – who was appointed by Trump – ruled in a 64-page decision that the ban was “reasonable.”