Headlines: January 4, 2018
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President Donald Trump and Congressional leaders will meet on Friday to once more discuss the on-going government shutdown that has impacted the jobs of 800,000 federal workers. Fourteen days into the shutdown, neither Trump nor Democratic leaders are willing to budge on their differences regarding a border wall in the spending bill. On Thursday the President posted to his Twitter account a video compilation of migrants at the border claiming they are “dangerous” and “criminal” – a repeat of many of his past claims. But Democrats, formally taking on the mantle of majority party in the House, also staked their claim to not fund his border wall, leading many to wonder what progress could be made at the Friday meeting.
On Thursday the President made his very first appearance at a White House Press briefing – something he has never done in his two years in office. He began by congratulating his rivals. Trump also repeated his desire for a border wall.
As California Representative Nancy Pelosi was elected House Speaker – the second time in her career she has achieved that goal – she made opening remarks setting her vision for the Democrats’ agenda in the new year — her first address as House Speaker of the 2019 House of Representatives.
Hours after Pelosi spoke, some of her colleagues in the House went against her stated wishes and re-introduced articles of impeachment against Trump. Rep. Brad Sherman of California, and Reps. Al Green of Texas and Steve Cohen of Tennessee, together introduced the bill. Sherman told CNN that he intended to have a bill ready for when Special Counsel Robert Mueller released the findings of his investigation into election wrongdoing.
Democrats also passed their own temporary spending bills in the House. A continuing resolution to fund the Department of Homeland Security through February 8th passed by 239-192, and a separate bill to fund six other agencies for the entire year passed 241-190. By separating the bills Democrats challenged Republicans to help fulfill government spending in all other non-immigration related areas. But neither of the bills are likely to make any headway in the GOP-controlled Senate.
Pelosi made a strong statement on her first day as House Speaker on the issue of climate change. Bringing it up during her opening address, she referred to climate change as an “existential threat.” But critics denounced the rules for the “Select Committee on the Climate Crisis,” that was expected to contain much needed language on a “Green New Deal.” The rules indicate that the committee would, “investigate, study, make findings, and develop recommendations on policies, strategies, and innovations to achieve substantial and permanent reductions in pollution and other activities that contribute to the climate crisis which will honor our responsibility to be good stewards of the planet for future generations.” But ultimately the committee will lack the power to issues subpoenas or depositions, or even vote on bills that it could send to the floor of the House for a vote.
Among the Democrats taking on new leadership positions in the House is Maxine Waters, a Southern California representative who has been vocal in her criticism of Trump and who Trump has viciously and frequently attacked. Waters will head the House Financial Services Committee, which she has sat on for years. She becomes the first woman and the first African American to head that committee. As Committee Chair, Waters is expected to oversee Mick Mulvaney’s leadership of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, as well as have subpoena power over the CEOs of major banks and much more.
The US Labor Department on Friday released its latest jobs report and cast a positive outlook with the announcement of 312,000 jobs added in December. A big jump was seen in healthcare and education jobs, followed by the service industry and then construction. The official unemployment rate increased to 3.9% – a problematic measure of the number of Americans seeking jobs, which leaves out those who have given up looking for work. The Labor Report also does not evaluate the quality of jobs being offered in terms of job security, hours, and benefits.
The New York Times on Thursday published a groundbreaking editorial as part of a series on Women’s Rights, called Slandering the Unborn. The editorial examined the crack cocaine epidemic of the 1980s and 90s and, “How bad science and a moral panic, fueled in part by the news media, demonized mothers and defamed a generation.” The paper blamed itself for fueling a racist narrative, saying, “News organizations shoulder much of the blame for the moral panic that cast mothers with crack addictions as irretrievably depraved and the worst enemies of their children. The New York Times, The Washington Post, Time, Newsweek and others further demonized black women ‘addicts’ by wrongly reporting that they were giving birth to a generation of neurologically damaged children who were less than fully human and who would bankrupt the schools and social service agencies once they came of age.” It went on to show how the response to the crisis led to so-called fetal personhood laws that charge mothers with endangering their pregnancies based on poor understanding of science.
China’s government is celebrating a major astronomical milestone of its lunar probe reaching the dark side of the moon. The moon orbits the earth with the same side facing the earth at all times and so far no one has landed probes exploring the other side that faces away from earth. The China National Space Administration announced that one of its probes had sent back photographs of the moon’s “dark side,” which isn’t dark at all and is illuminated by sunlight from the sides. The challenge has always been to send back information to the earth from the other side of the moon – an obstacle that China overcame by sending a relay satellite last year to capture data from space and pass it back down. According to Associated Press, “The mission highlights China’s growing ambitions to rival the U.S., Russia and Europe in space, and more broadly, to cement its position as a regional and global power.”