News & Analysis of Economic, Racial, Gender Justice and More

President Donald Trump and Vice President Mike Pence visited Dr. Martin Luther King Jr’s memorial in Washington DC on the day that marks his birthday. It was Trump’s second MLK Day as President and last year he came under criticism for failing to follow in other Presidents’ footsteps and mark the occasion appropriately. This year Trump and Pence both laid wreaths at the memorial staying for just about 1-2 minutes.

Meanwhile as the government shutdown stretches on into a month with no end in sight, Republican Senators are hoping to make progress with new legislation on Tuesday. The behemoth bill, running 1,300 pages long, was released to the public on Monday night and apparently makes some significant changes to the ways in which asylum seekers are treated. It also apparently includes a 3-year extension for DACA registrants and billions of dollars in disaster relief, as well as of course the $5.7 billion for Trump’s border wall. Democrats rejected the bill outright with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi calling it a, “non-starter,” and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer accusing the President of “hostage taking.” But Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell plans on introducing the bill anyway and taking a vote count as early as Thursday. The Republican Party’s goal appears to be to re-cast Democrats as taking the blame for the on-going shutdown.

An estimated ten percent of TSA workers did not show up to work over the holiday weekend. Employees of the Transportation Security Administration are among the hardest hit federal workers in the shutdown. Many are struggling to make ends meet and are no-shows to work as they attempt to find other ways to remain financially afloat.

The Supreme Court on Tuesday issued several decisions. On the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, the court decided not act on the Trump Administration’s request for a review. The inaction means that the program remains in place for now. The court dealt a blow for transgender rights in a ruling that lifted legal injunctions against Trump’s ban on transgender military personnel. This means that the policy can now go into effect while a legal battle plays out. The ruling was strictly along partisan lines. And the Supreme Court announced on Tuesday that it would take up a gun control issue for the first time in ten years. The case in question is a challenge to a New York City law banning handgun owners from taking their weapons outside the city.

Several major marches took place in Washington DC over the weekend. On Saturday the third annual Women’s March took place with a smaller turnout. A controversy generated by one of the original march founders accusing four other founders of anti Semitism – which they have strongly denied – led to several organizations backing out of participating. Satellite marches took place in cities around the country and even the world. Ahead of the gathering on Saturday the Women’s March founders released a lengthy agenda calling it a, “set of 24 essential federal policy priorities,” as part of the, “first intersectional feminist policy platform.” The agenda includes addressing violence against women, healthcare, environmental justice, racial justice, and more.

On Friday the first annual Indigenous People’s March took place, on the same day that the annual anti-abortion, so-called “March for Life,” was held in Washington DC. One of the two first Native American female Congressional representatives, Deb Haaland attended the Indigenous People’s march along with tens of thousands of others.

Meanwhile an interaction with one Catholic high school student wearing a MAGA hat and attending the “March for Life,” interacting with a Native American elder was captured on film and has gone viral, generating a widely reported controversy that even Trump has commented on. Nathan Phillips, the elder who is also a Vietnam Veteran shared his thoughts when he approached the student, Nick Sandmann, telling the media, “Look at us, God, look at what is going on here; my America is being torn apart by racism, hatred, bigotry.” Trump tweeted on Monday, “Looking like Nick Sandman & Covington Catholic students were treated unfairly with early judgements proving out to be false – smeared by media.”

California Senator Kamala Harris has joined the growing ranks of Democratic Presidential hopefuls. Harris, who was the state attorney general before becoming a United States Senator, is being cast as the leading candidate among Democrats just a day after she announced her bid. Many on the left are skeptical of her prosecutorial record that embraced a “tough-on-crime” approach that has decimated communities. Harris, just weeks after releasing a memoir attempting to cast herself as a “progressive prosecutor,” announced her bid with the release of a video on social media, as is now the trend.

In international news, a massive pipeline accident in Mexico over the weekend has resulted in 85 deaths. A gasoline pipeline in a rural part of the country, just north of Mexico City exploded on Friday, hours after it had been punctured with hundreds of people lining up to fill their fuel canisters. This is how Associated Press described what happened: “For nearly two hours, more than a dozen soldiers stood guard on the outskirts of the field, warning civilians not to go near. Officials say the soldiers were outnumbered and their instructions were to not intervene. Only a week earlier, people in a different town had beaten some soldiers who tried to stop them from gorging on state-owned fuel.” Eventually the pipeline exploded. The final death toll may be higher than 85.

And in Afghanistan, the Taliban attacked a major military base killing more than 100 security forces in Maiden Wardak Province. A suicide bomber apparently drove a Humvee full of explosives into the base at first and then armed men followed spraying the area with bullets. A government official told reporters the death toll could be as high as 126.

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