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2018-01-21T16:14:58.071Z
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It’s rather amazing how much news you can miss when the entire media machine is focused on something like the government shutdown. For just one minor example, did you know that Turkey invaded Syria yesterday? That probably sounds a bit dramatic (and to be honest, it wasn’t that much of an invasion) but it’s certainly accurate. Making good on President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s earlier promise, Turkey launched a blistering wave of air strikes on U.S.-backed Kurdish forces in Afrin province and crossed the border with troops and artillery. Details are sketchy, but at least for the moment the Kurds claim to have beaten back the attack. (Reuters) Turkish ground forces pushed into northern Syria’s Afrin province on Sunday, the army said, after Turkey launched artillery and air strikes on a U.S.-backed Kurdish militia it aims to sweep from its border. The Syrian-Kurdish YPG militia, supported by the United States but seen as a terrorist organisation by Turkey, said it had repulsed the Turkish forces and their allies after fierce clashes. It marked the second day of fighting after Ankara opened a new front in the nearly seven-year-old Syrian war. Under what the Turkish government has called “Operation Olive Branch”, Turkish air strikes on Saturday pounded YPG positions in Afrin. Here’s some video of the bombing which popped up on Twitter earlier. This is what world power Turkey (backed by Russia) does to a town (#Afrin) that has people...

To think, just 72 hours ago it looked like this morning’s Sunday shows would be wall-to-wall retrospectives of Trump’s first year as president on the anniversary of his inauguration. Stuff happens, though, so instead it’ll be wall-to-wall shutdown fee-vah as Republicans and Democrats scramble to blame the other party for the mess. The White House’s chief advocate this morning is OMB chief Mick Mulvaney, a shrewd choice. Mulvaney palpably enjoys political combat and is a forceful advocate for his side; he’s a natural to take the lead on the GOP’s #SchumerShutdown message. He’s the lead guest on “Face the Nation,” “State of the Union,” and “Fox News Sunday.” Expect him to be pressed on whether it’s true that Chuck Schumer really dangled funding for the wall as a pot sweetener in his pre-shutdown meeting with Trump on Friday. Democrats, of course, will counter with a #TrumpShutdown or #Sh*tholeShutdown narrative. Schumer himself isn’t booked — yet — as I write this on Saturday. Right now the biggest Democratic names scheduled are Dianne Feinstein on “Face the Nation” and Sunday-show mainstay Bernie Sanders on “State of the Union.” But expect that to change with plenty of hastily arranged bookings by congressional leaders to plead their case to the viewing public. McConnell, Ryan, Pelosi, and especially Schumer, as the lead Democratic negotiator, are all likely this morning. If you’re not in the mood for shutdown politics … you’re out of luck, sorry. It’s Shutdown Sunday!...

It’s obviously way too soon to blame this on the shutdown and the news might get lost in the current food fight, but Axios came out with a set of numbers last night that will likely grab the attention of the White House. We’ve still got most of a year before the midterms wrap up, but Republican voters looking ahead to 2020 are far from set on the incumbent president as their candidate. This is a SurveyMonkey poll, but it seems to be fitting in with an early trend at this point. The overall number of Republicans and GOP leaners who would be willing to look at dumping Donald Trump in favor of some fresh blood isn’t a majority, but it’s getting dangerously close to one. Perhaps even worse, when broken down by age groups, there actually is a solid majority of young and middle age voters who are ready to change horses in midstream. (Click on image for full size) Do you want another Republican to challenge President Trump for the party’s nomination in 2020? Among respondents who said they are or lean Republican, by age group: How bad is that? Well, it’s not good, that’s for sure. If the GOP sharks circling the White House smell enough blood in the water they may well consider launching a serious and potentially well funded primary bid, which is generally unheard of. That...

The state senate in Alabama has approved a bill which, if signed into law, would eliminate marriage licenses in the state. Not just gay marriage licenses, mind you. All marriage licenses. There would also be no requirement for any sort of official ceremony. You’d only have to submit a few documents to a probate judge declaring that you were wed, met the minimum age requirements, weren’t already married and weren’t too closely related by blood. (And that part isn’t much of an issue in Alabama since you can marry pretty much anyone but your parents, siblings or children.) This will ostensibly rid them of the problem of probate judges refusing to grant wedding licenses to gay couples, assuming the state house passes the bill as well. (Alabama.com) A bill to eliminate marriage licenses in Alabama and set up a process under which probate judges accept affidavits from couples as official records of marriage has passed the Alabama Senate. The cost would be the same that it now costs to buy a marriage license. The requirement of a ceremony to solemnize the marriage would be eliminated. The sponsor, Sen. Greg Albritton, R-Range, said that would take the state out of any role in marriage ceremonies, which he said would properly separate church and state. Hey, wait a minute here… it almost feels as if I had to cover this exact same story before. Oh, that’s right. I did, back in June of 2015....

Turns out it’s because they had the worst defamation lawyer in the world, apparently. No, no, that’s not fair. They had the worst defamation lawyer in the world in 2016. Maybe not in 2011. A tabloid magazine held back from publishing an adult film star’s 2011 account of an alleged affair with Donald Trump after the future president’s personal lawyer threatened to sue, four former employees of the tabloid’s publisher told The Associated Press. In Touch magazine published its 5,000-word interview with the pornographic actor Stormy Daniels on Friday — more than six years after Trump’s long-time attorney, Michael Cohen, sent an email to In Touch’s general counsel saying Trump would aggressively pursue legal action if the story was printed, according to emails described to the AP by the former employees… Despite Clifford’s first-person details on Trump, former employees said the decision not to run the story in 2011 was a justifiable business decision because at the time because Trump didn’t have the same star appeal as more famous celebrities. Would In Touch have won a defamation suit filed by Trump and Cohen if it had run the Daniels interview in 2011? Almost certainly. They claim she passed a polygraph. They claim that her story was corroborated by her ex-husband and a friend, both of whom also passed polygraphs. The story she told the magazine about her relationship with Trump is littered with small verifiable details that boost its credibility. To win, Trump...

Women across the country staged marches to celebrate the one- year anniversary of the presidential inauguration of Donald J. Trump. The economy is booming, consumer confidence has rocketed out of the national malaise of the Obama years and is at a 17 year high. Unemployment numbers of women and African Americans are at a historic low, and the unemployment rate of the general workforce is likely to drop to its lowest since 1969 by 2019. Sounds like the past year deserves a celebration. Oh, wait. That’s not what happened at all. The pink pussy hat brigade revived itself after months of psychotherapy, screaming at the sky, and ugly social media posts to take to the streets of American cities Saturday. In my city of Houston, a local news station sent out a tweet with quotes from the mayor (@SylvesterTurner) and the police chief (@ArtAcevedo) – both Democrats – with a plea for more women in elected office and don’t forget “we’re in Texas”. “#WomensMarch2018 Houston City Leaders rocked the crowd today at City Hall. “Let’s elect a whole lot of women to positions of power!” – @SylvesterTurner “You cannot stop humanity from moving forward. And, let’s not forget, we’re in Texas. Don’t forget our history.” – @ArtAcevedo” Thanks for the mansplaining, guys. While I, too, would like to see more women in elected office, make no mistake. These two men are not imploring...

As we discussed a little over a week ago, the leaders of Catalonia’s independence minded parties are preparing to caucus and most likely install exiled former regional President Carles Puigdemont to his old position. This presents several difficulties if only in terms of logistics. First of all, the would-be president is currently on the run in Belgium, facing possible extradition, and has a warrant out for his arrest if he steps foot back in Spain. (Or anyplace else where Madrid could lay their hands on him, actually.) On top of that, a number of the Members of Parliament from his party in Catalonia are either already in jail or on the run with Puigdemont, and if they cant’ show up to cast their ballots, it’s unclear if the parties can form the new regional government to begin with. That precarious situation is what makes this weekend’s news so intriguing. It’s been announced that Puigdemont is leaving Belgium, but he’s not making his triumphant return to Spain. Instead, he’s heading to Denmark. (Boston Globe) Catalonia’s former president, a fugitive sought by Spain over a foiled secession bid, will travel to Denmark next week for a university debate despite the possible risk of arrest, officials said Friday. Carles Puigdemont plans to make the trip to Copenhagen as he tries to get his old job back and step up the pressure on Spanish authorities, who have said a fugitive abroad can’t be the Catalan...

This quote so perfectly sums up Democratic hypocrisy on the shutdown that when I first heard it being quoted by House Speaker Paul Ryan I wondered if it was real. But as you’ll see in a moment, it is real. Back in 2013, Sen. Chuck Schumer was giving an interview to Jake Tapper about the government shutdown which lasted for 16 days in October of that year. Tapper asked whether Democrats in the Senate had taken too hard a line with Republicans. “It was not a hard line on the substantive issues,” Schumer replied. He continued, “It was a hard line saying, unless I get my way I’m going to shut the government down, I’m going to risk default for the nation. Now anyone can do that. “I believe in immigration reform. What if I persuaded my caucus to say I’m going to shut the government down, I’m going to not pay our bills unless I get my way. It’s a politics of idiocy, of confrontation, of paralysis.” Needless to say, what Schumer envisioned as the Democratic equivalent of the 2013 shutdown is exactly what he has done in the 2018 shutdown. By his own definition, he has embraced the politics of idiocy, confrontation, and paralysis. Schumer goes on to say that Senate Democrats and President Obama said, “We’re not going to give in to this kind of brinksmanship, where basically a gun is put to your head…” Here’s the clip:

USA Gymnastics has announced the termination of their lease to hold training camps for its national women’s team at Karolyi Ranch, the world-famous gymnastic training facility in Texas. This is a result of the horrific personal stories of sexual abuse at the hands of Dr. Larry Nassar coming from young women, including some Olympic gold medal winners, who train there. The 2,000-acre ranch is owned by Bela and Martha Karolyi, former national team coordinators. Dr. Larry Nassar, the former national team doctor from Michigan, pled guilty to seven state charges in Michigan of criminal sexual conduct and now faces an expected sentence of life in prison.  Over 100 of his victims asked to appear in the courtroom and some to present their statements in person at his trial. Houston native and gold medalist Simone Biles, currently training for the 2020 Olympics, said going back to the ranch to train would “break her heart”. Now she won’t have to worry about that. The new president and CEO of USA Gymnastics, Kerry Perry, has worked since December to terminate the lease and is looking for an alternative facility. Also, the purchase of a portion of the ranch has been canceled.   “It has been my intent to terminate this agreement since I began as president and CEO in December,” Perry said. “Our most important priority is our athletes, and their training environment must reflect this. We are committed to a culture that empowers and...

Today is the March for Life in Washington DC, the powerful statement made each year at the anniversary of Roe v Wade. Donald Trump will address the march today from the White House, a first in the long history of the decades-long effort to highlight the scourge of abortion and to promote hope over despair. The event can be viewed live here: The Republican-controlled House got into the spirit of the March for Life today, passing on a largely party-line vote a bill that would require abortionists to provide care for babies born alive during an abortion: The House passed legislation Friday that obligates healthcare workers to provide a specific level of care to babies who are born alive after an abortion attempt. The Born Alive Abortion Survivors Act passed the same day that the annual March for Life rally was being held in Washington, D.C., which protests abortion on or around the anniversary of the Supreme Court’s Roe v. Wade decision that made abortion legal nationwide. The bill passed 241-183, with help from just six Democrats. The legislation would hold any healthcare provider at the scene criminally accountable if an abortion is botched and a baby is born, and the provider fails to help the infant. Actions they could take include bringing a baby to a hospital or using the same type of medical care that they would toward a baby that is born premature. Republicans have tried...

All due respect to Steve King and the House Intel memo, but this is more like Watergate … if Pat Buchanan had installed the infamous taping system. The New York Daily News reports that recently dismissed White House adviser Omarosa Manigault-Newman had recorded discussions in the West Wing. Now she’s seeking high-powered legal help, apparently worried that Robert Mueller may come knocking for the recordings: Former White House staffer Omarosa Manigault-Newman may have taped confidential West Wing conversations and fears being caught up in special counsel Robert Mueller’s probe, sources told the Daily News on Thursday. The former reality TV star’s official last day in the Trump administration is Saturday — despite the abrupt announcement of her departure last month — and her next step seems to be lawyering up. … “Everyone knows Omarosa loves to record people and meetings using the voice notes app on her iPhone,” a source disclosed. “Don’t be surprised if she has secret audio files on everyone in that White House, past and present staffers included.” A recent ban on personal cell phones in the West Wing, which followed the release of Michael Wolff’s explosive White House tell-all was related to Manigault-Newman’s track record of recording conversations, the source added. Interesting, but the timing on this may be problematic if the story is true at all. Bloomberg reported the ban on cell phones in the West Wing a little over two weeks ago, on January 4th. That order came directly from chief...

“Hostage-taking” is the term that was used in 2013 when Ted Cruz and a few other Republicans blocked government funding to try to force repeal of ObamaCare. You can’t deny people essential government services just because you didn’t get your way on some other policy! Now here we are, five years later, and Democrats are prepared to deny those same services because they haven’t gotten their way on a DREAM amnesty with essentially no strings attached. Burnett can’t help noticing. And when she confronts Ed Markey about it, all he can do is yammer about how it’s Republicans, not Democrats, who are supposedly holding DREAMers hostage. Let’s run through this again because job one for Schumer and Pelosi over the next 24 hours will be to muddy waters that are actually quite clear. First offer from Republicans: Let’s fund the government and pass a DREAM amnesty, as both sides want to do, and in return you give us some concessions on chain migration and the wall. Republicans have no choice but to use DREAM as leverage for those concessions despite their support for the policy because Democrats are incredibly reluctant to tighten admission policies under the best of circumstances. So how about a little something in return for DREAM, in the name of compromise? Nope, says Schumer. Won’t do it. We’ll give you a few billion in mad money for border improvements but we’re not...

This isn’t the ending that the Vatican had hoped for its papal visit to Chile. At the end of a trip designed to heal wounds, Pope Francis’ final address may have poured salt into them instead. The pontiff accused critics of Bishop Juan Barros of slander and “calumny” in accusing him of complicity in a cover-up of a notorious sex scandal that ended seven years ago: Pope Francis accused victims of Chile’s most notorious pedophile of slander Thursday, an astonishing end to a visit meant to help heal the wounds of a sex abuse scandal that has cost the Catholic Church its credibility in the country. Francis said that until he sees proof that Bishop Juan Barros was complicit in covering up the sex crimes of the Rev. Fernando Karadima, such accusations against Barros are “all calumny.” The pope’s remarks drew shock from Chileans and immediate rebuke from victims and their advocates. They noted the accusers were deemed credible enough by the Vatican that it sentenced Karadima to a lifetime of “penance and prayer” for his crimes in 2011. A Chilean judge also found the victims to be credible, saying that while she had to drop criminal charges against Karadima because too much time had passed, proof of his crimes wasn’t lacking. Bear in mind that Francis isn’t accusing the victims of slander over the allegations of sexual abuse itself. The Vatican convicted Karadima in 2011 on sexual abuse charges and forced...

Why does #ReleasetheMemo feel like a set-up for a let-down? The starboard side of American political social media is ablaze with demands to declassify a House Intelligence Committee majority report after Rep. Mark Meadows called it “absolutely shocking” last night. His colleague Steve King called it “worse than Watergate.” Rumor has it that the report details collusion between the Obama administration, the Hillary Clinton campaign, and Fusion GPS’ efforts on the notorious Christopher Steele dossier on Donald Trump. If true, it would be the linchpin of all conspiracy theories on the Right. If: I viewed the classified report from House Intel relating to the FBI, FISA abuses, the infamous Russian dossier, and so-called "Russian collusion." What I saw is absolutely shocking. This report needs to be released–now. Americans deserve the truth. #ReleaseTheMemo pic.twitter.com/oP2UNujKQL — Mark Meadows (@RepMarkMeadows) January 19, 2018 Republican members of Congress, mostly conservative, are calling for the release of a brief memo written by the House Intelligence Committee about alleged FISA surveillance abuses. The committee had voted along party lines Thursday to allow House members to read the memo. … Fox News host Sean Hannity said Thursday night on “Hannity” that the memo involves the text messages between FBI agent Peter Strzok and his mistress that prove that the dossier was the pretext for FISA warrants. Strzok was the agent who led the investigation into Hillary Clinton’s use of...

When they say, “Kids, don’t try this at home,” they mean it. After years of poor performances on internal TSA audits of threat-detection teams in airports, a TV crew working for CNBC apparently decided to conduct their own test at Newark Liberty International Airport. Big. Mistake. Unfortunately for them, they either got very unlucky, or their big scoop will be that TSA has gotten a lot better at threat detection of late. They’ll be filing that report from jail: _informq.push(['embed']); At least seven members of a cable television crew were arrested after they tried to sneak a fake explosive device through a security checkpoint at Newark Liberty International Airport, the Transportation Security Administration said Thursday. A law enforcement source with knowledge of the investigation said that the team was filming for cable network CNBC, which is based in Englewood Cliffs. The TSA did not release the names of the people they said were arrested, and the Port Authority only said that it was investigating the incident. A second source said the fake explosive device was a length of PVC pipe with wires sticking out from it. A bomb tech with the TSA determined that the device posed no threat, and that eight people were taken into custody. A third source, who also asked to not be identified, said the crew was from the Endemol Shine Group, a Dutch production company that contracts with CNBC. As...

Will they or won’t they? By the end of the day, either the Senate will have passed funding to keep government in operation, or we will have our first shutdown since 2013’s brief interruption that got overshadowed by the incompetent rollout of ObamaCare. At the moment, though, it appears that both sides are more interested in playing the blame game than in actually performing the function for which they were elected: The Senate has less than 18 hours to avoid a government shutdown. There is no sign of an agreement as talks come down to the wire. @nancycordes reports: https://t.co/TIr5gq65Y0 pic.twitter.com/yNdAHsKVmE — CBS News (@CBSNews) January 19, 2018 It’s not as if the Senate burned the midnight oil to get to a solution. They aren’t due back in session until 11 am, which leaves them just 13 hours to get through a lot of talk and vote on a funding bill. That assumes that they will take up the bill from the House, which made it through a surprisingly successful vote last night, setting up the showdown between Mitch McConnell and Chuck Schumer. And the House set up a pretty good argument for McConnell: Senate GOP leaders prepared to force Democrats into a series of uncomfortable votes, aimed at splitting their ranks by pitting moderates from states that Trump won against party leaders and the handful of outspoken liberals considering a run...

Having observed the workings of federal bureaucracies over a number of years, most of you are aware of how the budget process works for the various departments of the federal government. Everyone scrapes and claws for every penny they can get their hands on and studiously ensures that they spend the entire pot so they can ask for more money next time. This is one of the central premises of The Weed Agency (which you should absolutely read if you didn’t catch it when it first came out). But what happens when somebody breaks that mold? We’re about to find out. Mick Mulvaney is now in charge of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (at least temporarily) and he had to put in his quarterly budget request this month. But unlike everyone else inside the Beltway, he didn’t ask for more money than last quarter. He didn’t ask for the same amount of money. He didn’t even request a modest reduction in the bureau’s budget. He asked for… zero. (LA Times) In his first quarterly funding request as acting director of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, Mick Mulvaney is asking for nothing. “This letter is to inform you that for the Second Quarter of Fiscal Year 2018, the Bureau is requesting $0,” he wrote Wednesday to Janet L. Yellen, chairwoman of the Federal Reserve, which provides the watchdog agency’s funding. Mulvaney said that the bureau had enough money on hand to...

Progress, huh? Did Schumer offer him five magic beans in exchange for a DREAM amnesty this time instead of the usual four? All of America waits now and wonders whether the country can survive having 13 percent of the federal government cease functions for 28 hours or however long it’ll take for them to make a deal. And I say that knowing that, in its own small way, that sort of statement contributes to the GOP’s PR problem when shutdowns happen. When Democrats are running around screaming the PEOPLE WILL DIE if the federal Sarlacc stops consuming taxpayer money for 45 minutes and Republicans are saying, “Calm down, it’s a burp that’ll be resolved before you know it,” which side will be perceived as more reluctant to see a shutdown happen and therefore less blameworthy if it does? Which brings me to this afternoon’s new WaPo poll. A 48 percent plurality says Trump and congressional Republicans are mainly responsible for the situation resulting from disagreements over immigration laws and border security, while 28 percent fault Democrats. A sizable 18 percent volunteer that both parties are equally responsible. Political independents drive the lopsided margin of blame, saying by 46 to 25 percent margin that Republicans and Trump are responsible for the situation… The Post-ABC poll finds Democrats are more united in blaming Republicans for the situation than vice versa. A 78 percent majority of Democrats say Trump and congressional Republicans are mainly...

This isn’t the first or even the second time I’ve read something by Andrew Sullivan that I considered interesting and thoughtful but it still comes as a shock every time, coming as it does from the original Trig Truther. I’ll probably never get over that but in the meantime, he does have a good point today about the state of modern feminism as it relates to what might be called maleness. He starts with a personal observation: My testosterone levels had sunk, and I decided, given my lassitude, depression, and lack of sexual desire, to go on hormone replacement therapy to get me back in a healthy range for a 30-something male. It was a fascinating experience to witness maleness literally being injected into me, giving me in a sudden jump what had been there all along, and what I now saw and felt more vividly. You get a real sense of what being a man is from an experience like that, as the rush of energy, strength, clarity, ambition, drive, impatience and, above all, horniness overcame me every two weeks in the wake of my shot. It was intoxicating. That experience showed Sullivan that, contrary to some of the ideas currently fashionable among feminists, not all differences between men and women are socially constructed (for the purpose of subjugating women). Some differences are real. They are chemical. And they have real-world results: How much of this difference is...

North Carolina candidates breathed a sigh of relief yesterday — well, at least some of them — when the Supreme Court blocked a lower-court order for the state to redraw its congressional districts. An appellate court had ruled in favor of a district court finding that the current map constituted an unconstitutional partisan gerrymander, an issue which the top court already has on its docket: The Supreme Court on Thursday evening said that North Carolina does not have to redraw its congressional map by the end of January, as a lower court had instructed it to do earlier this month. The high court’s order granting a stay of the lower court’s decision, pending the disposition of the state’s appeal, likely means the existing congressional map will be in place for the 2018 midterms. With the candidate filing deadline coming up on Feb. 28 and primaries on May 8, the court’s decision likely averts what could have been a confusing few months about where candidates were running in 2018. In its emergency application, North Carolina lawmakers argued that the court-mandated redraw would “hopelessly disrupt North Carolina’s upcoming congressional elections.” The disruption could have been part of the court’s concern, especially given the lack of time left in which to completely redraw all of the state’s districts. However, a more pressing issue is whether courts have any role at all in dictating partisan outcomes from redistricting, as opposed to issues over race and ethnicity. That is at the...