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Newsclips - January 18, 2019

State Stories

Dallas Morning News - January 17, 2019

Private jail firm employs former Texas Ranger. Will Rangers investigate deaths in those jails?

For years, private jails in Texas run by LaSalle Corrections have been plagued by complaints of lax training and abuse. In-jail deaths at their facilities across the state have resulted in multiple lawsuits for wrongful deaths and negligence.

So when the state passed a law in 2017 requiring Texas jails to have an outside law enforcement agency investigate such deaths, the Texas Rangers seemed a perfect fit. Nearly every jail in the state chose the Rangers, the state’s premier investigative agency, to oversee their investigations — including seven of eight LaSalle-run jails — overseen by the state.

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Dallas Morning News - January 17, 2019

Texan rep tries to block Muslim Rep. Rashida Tlaib’s trip to West Bank, calling her ‘Israel’s nemesis’

Rep. Brian Babin pushed Thursday to block freshman Rep. Rashida Tlaib, the first Palestinian-American in Congress, from leading an official delegation to the West Bank. The Woodville Republican wrote Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Democratic chairmen urging them not to sign off on the trip.

“To signal to our most threatened ally in the region that the United States Congress sanctions an official trip to visit Israel’s nemesis would be an exceedingly dangerous path forward,” he wrote. Tlaib, a Michigan Democrat and one of the first two Muslim women in Congress, said last month that she planned to lead a delegation to Palestinian-held territory instead of participating in a trip to Israel for new lawmakers sponsored by the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, a major pro-Israel lobbying group.

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Dallas Morning News - January 17, 2019

Texas unions, emboldened by GOP setbacks in midterms, press aggressive agenda

Union leaders in Texas are mounting an offensive at the Legislature this year on a broader array of topics than just raising the minimum wage. Inspired by Democratic pickups in November and what they describe as voter fatigue over the culture wars, leaders of the Texas AFL-CIO on Thursday unveiled a "Fair Shot" agenda.

It asks state lawmakers to give teachers and state workers raises and help secure their pensions; broaden eligibility for Medicaid and the Children's Health Insurance Program; fully fund "neighborhood public schools;" oppose private-school vouchers; and expand access to union apprenticeships that can lead to high-wage jobs. The labor federation, though, also is sounding some new notes.

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Houston Chronicle - January 17, 2019

Lizzie Fletcher tapped for House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee

Freshman Rep. Lizzie Fletcher will sit on the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure, her office announced Thursday.

Roads and pipelines crisscross the Seventh Congressional District she represents, after defeating nine-term Republican incumbent John Culberson in November. During the campaign, Fletcher asserted Houston needed new leadership to tackle critical community problems, such as flooding. She said the Republican focus on smaller government failed to invest in upgrades to Addicks and Barker dams, worsening the region's flooding issues, among other delayed improvements.

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Houston Chronicle - January 17, 2019

Texas House Speaker Dennis Bonnen raised nearly $4 million since November

Oil and gas executives. A Walmart heiress. The owner of the Houston Rockets. Those are just a few of the people who rushed to give money to then-presumptive Speaker Dennis Bonnen in the weeks after he announced he’d clinched the top post.

Bonnen, a bank executive and Republican, raised $4.1 million between July and December. Just under $4 million flooded in from interest groups ranging from beer distributors to communications companies and wealthy executives in the weeks after he declared in November that he had the votes to win the speakership. He was elected unanimously this month. In July, he reported having $707,000 on hand.

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Dallas Morning News - January 17, 2019

Andy Lewis and Bee Moorhead: To find immigration solutions, more Americans should spend time at the border

The solutions to difficult problems lie not in walls, but in windows. More Americans need to see for themselves what's really happening at the border. We have made several trips to the border since this issue took over the headlines, and we have seen gut-wrenching things.

On our trips, we cross the bridge into Mexico to meet migrants waiting to begin the process of making their cases for asylum. It was eye-opening to learn that often only one or two people are let across and processed each day. Equally eye-opening is the sincerity and hope of the asylum-seekers in the face of incredible vulnerability.

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CNN - January 17, 2019

Beto's excellent adventure drips with white male privilege

Imagine this: A 46-year-old former congresswoman and mother of three, who just lost a Senate bid to one of the most despised incumbents, sets off on a road trip adventure to clear her head.

She instagrams part of her trip to the dentist. She gives a two-hour interview to The Washington Post where she shows no real knowledge of policy. Like a first-year college student, she pontificates on whether the Constitution is still a thing that matters after all these many years. And then she writes a stream of consciousness diary entry, where she is all in her sad and confused feelings, over ... something

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Associated Press - January 17, 2019

Top Texas official named Tennessee's new education commissioner

Tennessee's newly elected Gov. Bill Lee unveiled one of his most high-profile cabinet positions Thursday, announcing the appointment of an education commissioner touted for her education reform work.

The Republican governor has chosen Penny Schwinn, 36 to lead Tennessee's Department of Education. She previously served as the Texas Education Agency chief deputy commissioner of academics since 2016. Lee's team touted Schwinn's role in transforming the assessment program in Texas, expanding externships and focusing on career readiness.

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National Stories

New York Times - January 17, 2019

Trump hits back at Pelosi, threatening her trip to see troops

President Trump retaliated on Thursday against Speaker Nancy Pelosi for threatening to cancel his planned State of the Union address, announcing that he, in turn, was postponing an overseas trip she had planned with a congressional delegation that he described as a “public relations event.”

“I am sorry to inform you that your trip to Brussels, Egypt and Afghanistan has been postponed,” Mr. Trump wrote in a letter addressed to Ms. Pelosi. “We will reschedule this seven-day excursion when the shutdown is over.” Again citing the shutdown, the president also said Thursday that the American delegation would no longer attend the annual economic conference in Davos, Switzerland.

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New York Times - January 17, 2019

Family separation may have hit thousands more migrant children than reported

The Trump administration most likely separated thousands more children from their parents at the Southern border than was previously believed, according to a report by government inspectors released on Thursday.

Even before the administration officially unveiled the zero-tolerance policy in the spring of 2018, staff of the United States Department of Health and Human Services, the agency that oversees the care of children in federal custody, had noted a “sharp increase” in the number of children separated from a parent or guardian, according to the report from the agency’s Office of Inspector General.

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Washington Post - January 17, 2019

Republican Louie Gohmert doubles down on Steve King’s comments about ‘Western civilization’

Last week, Rep. Steve King (R-IA) wondered in the New York Times how the terms “white supremacy” and “white nationalism” got a bad rap. Since then, Republicans have fallen all over themselves to distance the party from the lawmaker’s words.

But the GOP’s relatively quick response to King magnified just how often they’ve allowed similar language and actions to stand without comment. And now, we’re seeing a backlash to the backlash. On Thursday, Rep. Louie Gohmert (R-TX), known for making controversial statements of his own, defended his colleague and claims that King is not getting due process.

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Washington Post - January 17, 2019

Rebuking Trump, over 130 House Republicans challenge plans to lift sanctions against Putin ally

In a rebuke to the Trump administration, 136 Republicans joined House Democrats Thursday to oppose a Treasury Department plan to lift sanctions against companies controlled by an ally of Russian President Vladimir Putin.

The overwhelming 362 to 53 vote will not prevent the Trump administration from easing sanctions on three companies connected to Oleg Deripaska, a Russian oligarch with ties to former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort, as Senate Republicans narrowly blocked a similar measure on Wednesday.

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CNBC - January 17, 2019

Paychecks, IPOs and GDP data: Here are the next things the government shutdown could disrupt

The partial government shutdown dragged into its 27th day Thursday, leaving 800,000 workers without pay, airport security delayed and national parks largely unattended. Those effects and others will only widen if the longest-ever U.S. funding lapse lingers.

No deal to reopen the government is in sight as President Donald Trump demands more than $5 billion to fund his proposed border wall and Democrats deny his request. Going forward, federal workers could miss more paychecks and people who receive government assistance for food and housing may lose it. The shutdown will continue to delay some economic reports and could even disrupt tax returns.

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CNBC - January 17, 2019

Former CBS President Leslie Moonves is going to arbitration over his $120 million exit package

Former CBS CEO Leslie Moonves is bringing his case against CBS to binding arbitration, the company said in an SEC filing Wednesday. Moonves believes he was wrongfully terminated although a CBS board investigation concluded there were grounds to fire him for cause.

CBS said last month it found grounds for firing Moonves and would not be paying him any of a potential $120 million exit package. The filing said Moonves had the right to take the case to arbitration if he disputed the board's decision. CBS said in the filing it does not plan to comment further during the arbitration process.

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ABC News - January 17, 2019

Three Chicago police officers found not guilty of covering up shooting of Laquan McDonald

Three Chicago police officers have been found not guilty of falsifying details to cover up the shooting death of Laquan Mcdonald in 2014. McDonald was shot 16 times by Chicago police officer Jason Van Dyke, who was found guilty of murder in October.

Det. David March, 60, and patrol officers Joseph Walsh, 50, and Thomas Gaffney, 45, were each charged with conspiracy, official misconduct and obstruction of justice. A Cook County judge acquitted the officers of all charges. The officers were accused of conspiring in the "critical early hours and days" after the shooting, according to court documents filed in Cook County in June 2017.

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Newsclips - January 17, 2019

Lead Stories

Politico - January 17, 2019

Recession warnings pile up as shutdown wraps up fourth week

The partial government shutdown was supposed to be a brief non-event for the economy. Now it’s starting to look like a serious crisis that could nudge the U.S. toward recession and threaten President Donald Trump's economic message during his reelection campaign.

Across Wall Street, analysts are rushing out warnings that missed federal paychecks, dormant government contractors and shelved corporate stock offerings could push first-quarter growth close to or even below zero if the shutdown, which is wrapping up its fourth week, drags on much longer. Recessions don’t just happen, after all. They are usually triggered by largely unforeseen shocks to the system, like the tech over-investment and dot-com crash of the late 1990s or the credit crisis of 2008. The government shutdown is not there yet. But the longer it drags on, the closer it gets.

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The National Review - January 16, 2019

Fellow Dems chastise Ocasio-Cortez: ‘She doesn’t understand how the place works’

Veterans of the Democratic establishment, unsettled by Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s lack of deference to seniority and party unity, have cautioned the freshman lawmaker to direct her potent social-media attacks toward Republicans rather than centrist Democrats.

Since upsetting six-term incumbent Joe Crowley in a primary last summer and winning election to Crowley’s old seat in November, Ocasio-Cortez has used her immense social-media following to chastise fellow Democrats she believes are insufficiently progressive and too beholden to the antiquated establishment. The 29-year-old’s zealous confrontations with more senior lawmakers, which she appears to have dialed back in recent weeks, have drawn the consternation of those concerned about the potential for her to splinter the party.

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Dallas Morning News - January 16, 2019

Texas' fastest-growing jobs over the next five years have nothing to do with oil and gas

Home health, nursing and renewable energy jobs top the list of fastest-growing jobs between now and 2023, according to a study by CareerBuilder.

Considering Dallas is home to many Fortune 500 companies like Exxon, McKesson and AT&T, "it is clear there will be a plethora of opportunity for job seekers with varied backgrounds and experience over the next five years, especially as high growth is predicted in healthcare, tech, manufacturing, and social and community roles," said CareerBuilder Chief People Officer Michelle Armer.

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Houston Chronicle - January 16, 2019

Beto O’Rourke hits road, battling being ‘in and out of a funk’

Beto O’Rourke is back on the road in an effort to meet people and break out of being “in an out of a funk,” he wrote in a nearly 2,000-word posting on Medium, an online publishing site.

“Have been stuck lately,” O’Rourke wrote. “In and out of a funk. My last day of work was January 2nd. It’s been more than twenty years since I was last not working. Maybe if I get moving, on the road, meet people, learn about what’s going on where they live, have some adventure, go where I don’t know and I’m not known, it’ll clear my head, reset, I’ll think new thoughts, break out of the loops I’ve been stuck in.”

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State Stories

Dallas Morning News - January 16, 2019

Why this Texas Democrat met with Trump amid shutdown fight over border wall

The persistence of a record-setting partial government shutdown sent McAllen Rep. Vicente Gonzalez to where few Democrats venture these days: the White House.

The two-term lawmaker on Wednesday joined a bipartisan group from the House Problem Solvers Caucus to pitch President Donald Trump on re-opening the federal government for at least 30 days while negotiations continue over a proposed wall at the U.S.-Mexico border. It was a decided long shot — one that didn't end up convincing Trump to break the impasse.

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Dallas Morning News - January 16, 2019

More than 5,000 immigration court dates canceled in Texas due to government shutdown

The longest federal government shutdown in U.S. history has resulted in more than 5,000 canceled immigration court dates in Texas. For immigrants who have been waiting months or years to get into a judge’s courtroom to plead their cases it means more waiting –– or that their cases could collapse, costing them a chance at a permanent stay in the U.S.

An analysis from the Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse of immigration court data found that from Dec. 24, 2018, to Jan. 11, almost 43,000 court hearings were canceled around the country. Texas had the third most canceled hearings with 5,141 as of January 11, based on the latest available numbers. The newly delayed cases will only add more work for the already backlogged immigration courts, which are facing more than 800,000 pending cases, according to a different TRAC analysis. Almost 120,000 of those cases are in Texas.

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Dallas Morning News - January 16, 2019

Dallas lawmaker introduces sweeping reforms to protect the public from gas leak explosions

Texas homeowners would know much sooner about dangerous gas leaks in their neighborhoods — and gas companies would pay stiffer fines when they break safety rules — under legislation proposed by a Dallas lawmaker.

State Rep. Rafael Anchia on Wednesday filed a sweeping reform package — 11 bills total — that aims to hold natural gas companies more accountable and prevent tragedies like the gas explosion that killed Linda Rogers last year in northwest Dallas. “A 12-year-old girl was blown up while sleeping in her home,'' Anchia said. "An entire community is grieving and we must never let this happen again. My proposals would increase transparency and public safety and hold bad actors accountable.''

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Houston Chronicle - January 16, 2019

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott is more powerful than Russia’s Putin?

American politicians might cringe at a comparison to Russian leader Vladimir Putin, especially amid the special counsel investigation of Russian interference in U.S. elections.

Not in Texas. Republican Gov. Greg Abbott has welcomed such comparison, often boasting in speeches that Texas has a bigger economy than that of Russia, making him more powerful than Putin. At his inauguration Tuesday, Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick chimed in. "We're the tenth largest economy in the world — $1.6 trillion — larger than that of Russia," Patrick said. "They have Putin and I have Abbott."

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Houston Chronicle - January 16, 2019

Texas teachers, don’t count on that $5,000 raise just yet

House Speaker Dennis Bonnen wants teachers to earn more this year but shied away from committing to a $5,000 across-the-board raise pitched by the Senate, saying school districts should decide how new education money would be spent.

“I think the opportunity to show teachers how much we appreciate them here in Texas is realistic and the opportunity exists. Personally, I think we’re a little better off giving our local school districts those dollars and the discretion with which to manage their own salaries and the pay of their teachers there but I’m appreciative of what the Senate has done,” Bonnen said Wednesday.

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San Antonio Express-News - January 16, 2019

No, Julián Castro’s preschool program in San Antonio is not ‘universal’

No, Pre-K 4 SA is not a “universal” preschool program for the city’s 4-year-olds. Only about 8 percent of San Antonio’s 25,000 4-year-olds are enrolled in Pre-K 4 SA, the program championed by then-mayor Julián Castro.

But you might not realize that when digesting news reports this week about Castro’s presidential campaign. National commentators and journalists long have attached the adjective “universal” to the program that Castro championed as mayor in 2012, when he convinced voters to fund it with part of the city’s sales tax. Like many progressive Democrats, Castro favors universal access to preschool as a national policy, and he referenced the city program in repeating that position at his presidential campaign announcement here Saturday.

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San Antonio Current - January 16, 2019

Julián Castro’s presidential ambitions will show just how shrewd an operator he can become

When announcing his presidential bid on Saturday, Julián Castro showed all the political savvy that elevated him to political rising star during his 2012 keynote address at the Democratic convention.

In many ways — from the unapologetically left-of-center policy planks he unveiled in his speech to the way he’s making his family’s immigrant background a major storyline — the whole affair seemed to position him as the Anti-Trump. Where Trump, 72, represents a twilit era, the 44-year-old Castro is a fresh face. Where Trump has stoked fear of immigrants, Castro delivered part of his speech in Spanish. Where Trump clings to divisive politics, Castro delivered an aspirational, big-tent message.

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Austin American-Statesman - January 16, 2019

Williamson tax incentives for Apple could double if project lives up to $1 billion billing

Apple Inc.’s planned new corporate campus in North Austin has been touted as a $1 billion project by everyone from Apple executives and local business leaders to Gov. Greg Abbott. If the campus actually lives up to that billing, however, Apple could receive more than double the original estimate of $16 million in taxpayer-funded incentive payments that Williamson County has agreed to provide the company.

That’s because the $16 million figure is based on an assumption that Apple won’t come close to reaching a $1 billion investment during the 15-year term of the incentive deal, according to Williamson County documents obtained by the American-Statesman, even though Apple cited its plan for an “investment of $1 billion to build a new campus in North Austin” in the first sentence of its official announcement of the project last month.

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Los Angeles Times - January 16, 2019

SpaceX is moving its Mars spaceship and booster work to Texas from Los Angeles

In a reversal of a deal local officials touted as a win for Los Angeles tech, SpaceX will no longer be developing and building its Mars spaceship and rocket booster system at the Port of Los Angeles. Instead, the work will be done in South Texas.

“This decision does not impact our current manufacture, design, and launch operations in Hawthorne and Vandenberg Air Force Base in California,” a company spokesperson said in a statement Wednesday. “Additionally, SpaceX will continue recovery operations of our reusable Falcon rockets and Dragon spacecraft at the Port of Los Angeles.”

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City Stories

San Antonio Express-News - January 17, 2019

Lone finalist named for San Antonio city manager’s job

Erik Walsh is the City Council’s lone finalist to become San Antonio’s new city manager. Mayor Ron Nirenberg announced the city’s selection Wednesday evening, capping three long days of interviews for the city’s most important appointed position.

Walsh has been seen as the favorite for the job since shortly after current City Manager Sheryl Sculley announced she would retire. He is one of two deputy city managers to Sculley, and he currently oversees many of the city’s most important departments, including police and fire.

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Houston Chronicle - January 16, 2019

Historic Houston buildings threatened by budget shortfall

The 10 historic buildings of Sam Houston Park have long seemed exceptional in a town that has never shown respect for its past. Including homes of various styles and a charming church, all restored and furnished in the styles of their eras, they serve as the primary exhibition spaces for a collection of more than 23,000 historic artifacts.

But their future is now in jeopardy because the non-profit charged with their upkeep is struggling to stay afloat. The Heritage Society manages the 19th and early 20th century treasures, which are owned by the city, and also maintains five other city-owned buildings in the park, including its museum. The Society’s leaders say that in the near term, the organization must scale back radically to continue operating.

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ABC 13 - January 16, 2019

Houston Mayor Turner, fire department union spar over Prop B implementation

Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner is looking for ideas from anyone on how to balance the budget. Turner is facing a substantial budget shortfall (again) that now includes another $100 million in order to implement the fire parity measure known as Prop B.

Wednesday, Turner met for the first time since the vote with the fire union. The rare open negotiation between the two sides was a spectacle to watch, seen live by hundreds on the city's Facebook page and the city's various media outlets. The two sides sat across an unreasonably large conference table, flanked by city staff members, communication staff for the mayor, city council members and media members.

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National Stories

Politico - January 16, 2019

Sanders faces former staffers about sexual harassment on 2016 campaign

Sen. Bernie Sanders met Wednesday with a group of former staffers who have raised concerns about allegations of sexual harassment and violence during his 2016 presidential campaign and have urged him to make reforms if he runs again next year.

The former aides sought a meeting with Sanders to “discuss the issue of sexual violence and harassment on the 2016 campaign, for the purpose of planning to mitigate the issue in the upcoming presidential cycle,” according to a copy of a letter first reported by POLITICO. About 30 people were expected to attend.

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Politico - January 16, 2019

‘She’s satin and steel’: Pelosi wages war on Trump

Donald Trump may have finally met his match in Nancy Pelosi. As the partial government shutdown grinds on with no end in sight, the struggle between the president and the speaker is becoming an unprecedented political fight — with the fallout likely to extend far beyond this episode.

Pelosi privately refers to Trump as the “whiner in chief." She’s questioned his manhood. She calls out Trump’s lies to his face and openly wonders whether he’s fit for the job. She mocks Trump for his privileged upbringing and his lack of empathy for the less fortunate. She jokes with other senior Democrats that if the American public saw how Trump acts in private, they’d “want to make a citizen’s arrest.”

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Politico - January 15, 2019

Pelosi gets revenge against one of the Dem rebels

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi exacted revenge against one of her most outspoken detractors Tuesday night, blocking Rep. Kathleen Rice from landing a seat on the high-profile House Judiciary Committee.

Pelosi lobbied for other members to join the panel over Rice, leaving the third-term New York Democrat off a list of her preferred members for the committee during a tense closed-door meeting Tuesday night, according to multiple sources. The effort came despite a full-court push from the New York delegation to secure a spot for Rice, a former prosecutor.

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New York Times - January 16, 2019

Theresa May survives no-confidence vote in British Parliament

Prime Minister Theresa May narrowly survived a vote of no-confidence in Parliament on Wednesday, but that did little to quell the turmoil gripping the British government over her plan to leave the European Union, coming a day after she suffered a historic defeat on that proposal.

The House of Commons voted 325 to 306 to reject the opposition motion of no confidence. Had it been successful, the no-confidence motion almost certainly would have ousted Mrs. May and probably have forced a general election, adding more layers of uncertainty in a country fast approaching the March 29 date for leaving the European Union — yet unable to agree on how to do so.

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New York Times - January 16, 2019

U.S. troops among dead in Islamic State bombing in Syria video

Four Americans were among 19 people killed on Wednesday in a suicide bombing in northern Syria that was claimed by the Islamic State, just weeks after President Trump ordered the withdrawal of United States forces and declared that the extremist group had been defeated.

The attack targeted a restaurant in the northern city of Manbij where American soldiers would sometimes stop to eat during their patrols of the area, residents said. After the blast, a number of Americans were evacuated by helicopter, they said. It was not immediately clear how many had been in the area at the time of the blast. The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights put the death toll at 19. A statement by United States Central Command said the explosion happened while the troops were “conducting a local engagement.”

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Washington Post - January 16, 2019

‘What have you got left?’: Ocasio-Cortez taunts GOP critics obsessing over her

Ever since she burst onto the national political scene as a young socialist Democrat with a knack for making headlines, the 29-year-old Ocasio-Cortez has been an obsession for many on the political right.

As a young woman of Puerto Rican descent, a lawmaker from an ethnically diverse urban district and an outspoken liberal on issues of race, gender and class, she has in effect emerged as a living counterpoint to today’s heavily white, male and rural Republican Party — and has drawn ire from seemingly all corners of the conservative movement. Commentators and politicians have criticized her intelligence, her clothing, even her claims of working-class roots. There are new examples all the time.

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Washington Post - January 16, 2019

Nearly 10,000 companies contract with shutdown-affected agencies, putting $200 million a week at risk

The 160 workers at Transylvania Vocational Services were still filling orders this week. But the company is running on reserves, and jobs are at risk. The biggest customer – the federal government – has stopped paying its bills.

TVS is a federal contractor in western North Carolina that supplies products such as dry milk and baking mix to food banks around the country and to relief efforts in Africa. It is one of almost 10,000 companies that hold contracts with federal agencies affected by the government shutdown, according to an analysis of government contractor data by The Washington Post.

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NBC News - January 16, 2019

Pelosi asks Trump to move State of the Union or submit it in writing

President Donald Trump should either delay his State of the Union address or submit it in writing, Speaker Nancy Pelosi wrote Wednesday in a letter citing the security burdens that the annual address to a joint session of Congress would place on a partially shuttered federal government.

"Sadly, given the security concerns and unless government re-opens this week, I suggest that we work together to determine another suitable date after government has re-opened for this address or for you to consider delivering your State of the Union address in writing to the Congress on January 29th," Pelosi wrote in the letter to Trump.

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NBC News - January 16, 2019

Shoveling snow, walking dogs: Furloughed workers turn to odd jobs, gig economy

When the nation’s capital was hit by almost a foot of snow this past weekend, Nick Elger saw a chance to make a buck.

Elger, 28, usually spends his days working for the Environmental Protection Agency, but he’s one of nearly 400,000 furloughed employees out of work during what’s become America’s longest government shutdown. “I’ve been getting stir crazy just sitting at home,” Elger said. “So I figured in the first few weeks I would just post some things on Craigslist.”

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Rasmussen Reports - January 16, 2019

Voters still report little personal impact from shutdown

Voters don’t care too much for the federal government, and the number who say they have been badly hurt by the continuing government shutdown remains small.

The latest Rasmussen Reports national telephone and online survey finds that just 10 percent of likely U.S. Voters say they have been personally affected by the shutdown in a major way. Another 35 percent say that in terms of their own personal life, they have felt a minor impact, while 54 percent say the shutdown has had no impact at all on them.

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HuffPost - January 15, 2019

Some renters are already facing eviction, thanks to the shutdown

Some renters in Arkansas are already facing eviction, thanks to the partial government shutdown. A property manager told tenants at properties in Alma and several other towns that the shutdown has cut off a federal rental assistance program that covers a portion of their rent.

“Until the government opens again, you are responsible for ALL of your rental amount,” the letter said, threatening eviction if tenants don’t pay up by the 20th. The shutdown is creating financial stress for hundreds of thousands of furloughed federal workers. If the shutdown continues, low-income renters could also feel the sting. Tens of thousands of low-income households relying on the federal government to help them pay rent could lose that assistance if the shutdown persists. Many of those households include seniors and people with disabilities.

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America - January 14, 2019

Nathan Schneider: Polarization can bring about real political change. Our past proves it.

A few weeks after the inauguration of President Trump, I picked up George Lakey at the airport. I sighed when I saw him. For me, those were days of dismay—every news cycle seemed to further entrench the paralyzing tale of a disconnect between the dueling headspaces of U.S. politics.

But George, fresh off his flight, counteracted me with a smile. “Exciting times, aren’t these?” he said. His new book, How We Win, is a manual for practical activism, full of stories from his decades of practice, together with conversations with younger activists. It refutes the politics of reaction—whether the right- or left-wing kind—with a politics of possibility and with vigorous, nonviolent conflict.

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CNN - January 16, 2019

This interview shows why all the Beto buzz might be a bit overblown

There's zero question as to who the buzziest candidate -- or potential candidate –– in the 2020 Democratic presidential race is. It's Beto O'Rourke. And it's not close.

But for all the excitement that the former House member from Texas has built after his near-miss challenge to Sen. Ted Cruz in 2018, there's still a whole lot that people don't know about him. And more importantly, a lot that O'Rourke doesn't know. That fuzzy knowledge was on awkward display in an lengthy interview O'Rourke gave to The Washington Post's Jenna Johnson from El Paso. O'Rourke, when asked he would address undocumented immigrants who overstay their visas: "I don't know."

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Bloomberg - January 16, 2019

Goldman Sachs says rich people will drag down the U.S. economy by spending less

The stock-market sell-off is going to be a significant drag on the U.S. economy this year as wealthy households feel its impact, according to Goldman Sachs.

Lower equity prices could take half a percentage point off U.S. gross-domestic product growth in 2019, with overall tighter financial conditions restricting expansion by around 1 percentage point, Goldman economist Daan Struyven wrote in a note Tuesday. In October, he had said the positive wealth effect from equity gains in 2017 and early 2018 had likely evaporated.

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BuzzFeed - January 17, 2019

Lawsuit claims Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee retaliated against a staffer who planned to sue Congressional Black Caucus Foundation over an alleged rape

A former staffer for Texas Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee claims in a new lawsuit that the lawmaker retaliated against her and fired her because she was planning to pursue legal action over an alleged rape by a former employee of the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation.

The woman, identified in court papers by the pseudonym Jane Doe, alleges she was raped in October 2015, when she was a 19-year-old intern for the CBCF, by the foundation’s intern coordinator at the time, Damien Jones. The woman said she reported the alleged rape to police and told several people, including Rep. Terri Sewell, her former boss and a distant relative of her mother’s, but did not pursue legal action at the time.

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The Atlantic - January 16, 2019

Trump's chief shutdown negotiator is unknown to most Americans

The ongoing government shutdown, the longest in U.S. history, has crystallized for many Americans that Washington skews more “day-care center” than “center of the free world.” And as Republicans and Democrats alike address the furlough with all the sophistication of a playground brawl, there is Shahira Knight, the adult encouraging everyone to play nice.

After nearly two years in Trump’s White House, the 47-year-old White House director of legislative affairs, the president’s chief advocate on Capitol Hill, has managed to evade the kind of credibility crises that consume her colleagues regularly. She’s become a key character in Trump’s circle even as she cuts the swampy profile his voters detest.

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Wall Street Journal - January 17, 2019

Poll-rigging for Trump and creating @WomenForCohen: one IT firm’s work order

In early 2015, a man who runs a small technology company showed up at Trump Tower to collect $50,000 for having helped Michael Cohen, then Donald Trump’s personal lawyer, try to rig online polls in his boss’s favor before the presidential campaign.

In his Trump Organization office, Mr. Cohen surprised the man, John Gauger, by giving him a blue Walmart bag containing between $12,000 and $13,000 in cash and, randomly, a boxing glove that Mr. Cohen said had been worn by a Brazilian mixed-martial arts fighter, Mr. Gauger said.

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Newsclips - January 16, 2019

Lead Stories

CNBC - January 15, 2019

Trump administration doubles estimate of shutdown cost to economy from original forecast

The Trump administration now estimates that the cost of the government shutdown will be twice as steep as originally forecast. The original estimate that the partial shutdown would subtract 0.1 percentage point from growth every two weeks has now been doubled to a 0.1 percentage point subtraction every week, according to an official who asked not to be named.

The administration had initially counted just the impact from the 800,000 federal workers not receiving their paychecks. But they now believe the impact doubles, due to greater losses from private contractors also out of work and other government spending and functions that won't occur.

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New York Times - January 15, 2019

Court blocks Trump administration from asking about citizenship in Census

A federal judge blocked the Commerce Department from adding a question on American citizenship to the 2020 census, handing a legal victory on Tuesday to critics who accused the Trump administration of trying to turn the census into a tool to advance Republican political fortunes.

The ruling marks the opening round in a legal battle with potentially profound ramifications for federal policy and for politics at all levels, one that seems certain to reach the Supreme Court before the printing of census forms begins this summer. In a lengthy and stinging opinion, Judge Jesse M. Furman of the United States District Court in Manhattan said that Wilbur L. Ross Jr., the commerce secretary, broke “a veritable smorgasbord” of federal rules when he ordered the citizenship question added to the census nearly a year ago.

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Dallas Morning News - January 15, 2019

Will Gov. Greg Abbott be back for a third term, or does he have national aspirations?

After winning a second term as governor, Greg Abbott took his place as one of the most accomplished politicians in Texas history. Now he looks to develop signature achievements. It's work that close aides say will keep him the Texas governor beyond 2022, and not on the national scene as a candidate for the White House.

"He's 100 percent focused on public education finance and property tax reform," said Dave Carney, Abbott's longtime chief political consultant. "His energy, his heart and his focus is on moving Texas forward." He's no longer nagged by notions that a fellow Republican like Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick will challenge him for governor from the right. It didn't happen in 2018, and Patrick insists such a move is not in the cards.

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Houston Chronicle - January 15, 2019

Abbott joins Texas lawmakers urging Trump not to take Harvey funds for border wall

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott joined a bipartisan group of Texas lawmakers Tuesday urging President Donald Trump not to use recovery money for Hurricane Harvey to end the partial government shutdown over a border wall.

In a letter signed by both Republican U.S. Sens. John Cornyn and Ted Cruz, the lawmakers expressed unanimous support for border security, but made no mention of Trump's $5.7 billion border wall demand, which has divided Democrats and most Republicans. The letter cited recent reports that the administration is considering using unspent U.S. Army Corps of Engineers funds intended to mitigate natural disaster in Puerto Rico, California, Texas and other areas hit by storms.

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State Stories

Dallas Morning News - January 15, 2019

Last-minute confusion as Dallas County scrambles to meet feds' deadline to remake bail system

Dallas County officials have had months to figure out how to comply with a federal order to stop using fixed cash-bail amounts as a condition for release from jail. But on Tuesday, the day before the deadline, confusion abounded about what exactly future bail hearings will look like. The county’s top staffer said the situation was in “limbo.”

“There’s no question come tomorrow that we’ll be in compliance with the court order,” Philip Morgan, a private attorney representing Dallas County, told county commissioners on Tuesday. A federal judge had ruled in September that assigning bail amounts from a predetermined schedule based on the offense and criminal record — for example, $1,500 bail for burglary of a vehicle — was unfair to poor defendants.

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Dallas Morning News - January 15, 2019

Greg Abbott, sworn in for second term, says Texas must reward teachers, schools that achieve results

Texas has achieved great things in agriculture, technology, energy, exports and finance but it has “only climbed to the foothills of what we can become” if the state can improve education, public safety and hurricane preparedness, Gov. Greg Abbott said as he took the oath of office for a second term. Oh, yes, and restrain property taxes.

In his second, 19-minute inaugural address, delivered amid sprinkles of rain and cloudy skies from a makeshift portico on the north steps of the state Capitol in Austin, Abbott boasted that many Americans envy Texas’ economic success. “No doubt Texas has reached an unrivaled economic summit,” he said. “But from that perch, it is clear that too many young Texans have difficulty on their own journey to prosperity. Holding them back is an education system that’s not adequate to put our students on the path to excellence they deserve.”

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Houston Chronicle - January 15, 2019

Energy sector heads into ‘kind of purgatory’

The state of the Houston energy sector might be summed up in one word: Meh. Oil prices are hovering around $50 a barrel, not high enough to spur much growth, but not so low that panic sets in.

As a result, the region’s oil and gas companies are mostly watching and waiting, spending conservatively, moving ahead cautiously and holding onto what’s left of the optimism from 2018, when prices mostly rose until cratering in the last three months of the years. “This is a kind of purgatory,” said Mike Bradley, managing director at the Houston energy investment firm Tudor, Pickering, Holt & Co. “But at least it’s not death and despair.”

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Houston Chronicle - January 15, 2019

Houston Chronicle names Medici as new president

The Houston Chronicle has named a new president: seasoned newspaper executive Mark Medici, who came to the newspaper last year as executive vice president and chief marketing officer.

Hearst president and CEO Stephen R. Swartz, Jeff Johnson, president of Hearst Newspapers, and John McKeon, president of Hearst Texas Newspapers and publisher of the Houston Chronicle, made the announcement Tuesday afternoon. They said the appointment was effective immediately. The newspaper business goes back generations for Medici, 46. His grandfather Fred Stickel retired as publisher of The Oregonian at age 87 in 2008 after the paper won five Pulitzer prizes during his tenure.

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Houston Chronicle - January 15, 2019

$5,000 raises for Texas teachers proposed as lawmakers take up school funding

State lawmakers keen on sending more money to schools have forwarded competing budget proposals: One offers every teacher in Texas a $5,000 raise and an overall $4.3 billion increase in funding; the other offers a gigantic $7.1 billion influx of dollars to schools, on the condition that lawmakers also take action to slow the escalation of property taxes.

The two proposals represent starkly different starting points for this year’s budget negotiations. “It’s a big gap,” said Rep. Alma Allen, D-Houston, a longtime member of the House Education Committee. “We’re going to have to see what comes out.”

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Austin American-Statesman - January 15, 2019

Wall Street smiling after Austin-based Yeti raises earnings outlook

Wall Street is rewarding Yeti Holdings after the outdoor and recreational products maker boosted its earnings outlook for the year.

Shares of Austin-based Yeti rose 9 percent to more than $18 on Monday as investors reacted to the company’s announcement on Friday that it expects higher sales for the fiscal year 2018 than previously expected. Yeti closed up 8.49 percent at $18.14 on Monday. That compares to Friday, when shares were at $16.72, up 2.3 percent. Yeti’s shares closed Tuesday at $17.56.

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Austin American-Statesman - January 15, 2019

A gentler Dan Patrick hails bipartisanship in inauguration speech

Known more for uncompromising conservatism and a campaign slogan saying he “won’t back down” from liberals, Republican Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick hailed a spirit of bipartisanship and across-the-aisle bonhomie after taking the oath of office Tuesday.

“The elections are over, and in two more years there’ll be another time to talk about the differences between the parties. But for right now, for the next 140 days, you expect us to do the work of the people,” Patrick said during inauguration ceremonies at the Capitol. “In Texas we’re different. We work together across the aisle, in a way that quite frankly both parties in Washington can take a note from,” Patrick said, explaining why he had a Republican and a Democratic senator introduce him to the inauguration crowd.

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D Magazine - January 15, 2019

Former State Rep. Villalba announces mayoral campaign

You’d need be blind and deaf not to catch onto the underlying message in Jason Villalba’s campaign launch event, during which he announced his mayoral run on Tuesday morning. When it was time to begin, Villalba brought his grandmother, Celia Villalba, out the front door of the house she’s lived in for 60 years, which was the venue for the announcement.

“This is where it all started,” she said. His mother did one introduction, and his wife did another, and the couple then stood at a small podium surrounded by their three Dallas ISD-enrolled children. A successful lawyer, former state representative, and Republican, Villalba was adhering himself to the every man. The word “community” was said many times.

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Star-Telegram - January 15, 2019

$500 offered for ‘Tarrant 49ers’ list of Republicans who voted to remove Muslim man

They call them the Tarrant 49ers. That’s one of the nicknames that evolved for the dissenters after last week’s 139-49 vote among Tarrant Republicans to keep Shahid Shafi, a Muslim, in party leadership.

Now a Rio Grande Valley man is offering a “$500 cash bounty” to anyone who can provide him the names of those 49. George Rice said he wants to be able to make sure that party members gathered at state conventions know who voted which way in Tarrant County. “I think it’s pretty reasonable to say we deserve to know who these individuals are,” said Rice, a 36-year-old who belongs to the Hidalgo County Young Republicans. “I don’t think the Republican Party has any room for bigots.”

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Austin 360 - January 15, 2019

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez coming to Austin for SXSW 2019

South By Southwest announced a veritable slew of new speakers for the 2019 conference, and it’s U.S. Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and then everyone else.

Keynote speakers announced Tuesday include Endeavor chief marketing Ooficer Bozoma Saint John; director, actress, producer and activist Olivia Wilde; and Instagram co-founder Mike Krieger, who’s been added to a conversation with Kevin Systrom and Josh Constine. The congresswoman for New York’s 14th district, who is perhaps the most talked about American politician who name isn’t Trump. Bronx-born Ocasio-Cortez will appear at SXSW in conversation with Intercept columnist and senior politics editor Briahna Gray.

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San Antonio Express-News - January 15, 2019

Federal detainees in San Antonio will need a new landlord

Bexar County is planning to stop housing federal detainees for the U.S. Marshals Service, which would also render moot the contract it has with the private company that operates the facility where those inmates are held.

County Judge Nelson Wolff said Tuesday the arrangement — in which the Marshals Service paid the county to hold inmates, and the county payed GEO Group to operate the jail where they are kept — doesn’t make financial sense any more. At Nelson’s request, commissioners approved a motion to authorize the county manager to begin negotiating the termination of the contract with U.S. Marshal Susan Pamerleau.

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San Antonio Express-News - January 15, 2019

USAA donates $15M to help Coast Guard personnel during shutdown

San Antonio-based USAA has donated $15 million to a Coast Guard relief organization, which will make interest-free loans to Coast Guard personnel who are not getting paid during the partial government shutdown.

Coast Guard Mutual Assistance will begin making loans to personnel starting Wednesday. Service members with dependents will be eligible for loans of up to $1,000, while those without children will be able to borrow as much as $750. “USAA’s mission is to be there for our members when they need us most,” CEO Stuart Parker said in a statement Tuesday. “This initiative, together with our efforts directly supporting members, will help thousands of Coast Guard families.”

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National Stories

Washington Post - January 15, 2019

A first trip frames message for a presidential candidate. What does Julián Castro's visit to Puerto Rico say?

The first trip by any presidential candidate, before the campaign trail blurs into a haze of Pizza Ranches and VFW halls, is supposed to send a message.

On Sunday, former HUD secretary and San Antonio mayor Julián Castro made Puerto Rico, an island with 3.1 million American citizens and no electoral votes, his first campaign stop outside Texas. He started with a speech to Latino activists and hit the road to visit neighborhoods badly damaged, and in some cases abandoned, after the 2017 devastation of Hurricane Maria.

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Washington Post - January 15, 2019

Republicans spent two years resisting Trump’s border wall. What changed?

Since the government shutdown 25 days ago, Republicans have largely defended the need for a border wall. While there appear to be some cracks in support, most are standing by the president’s insistence on funding.

Congressional Republicans were not always so bullish on Trump’s wall. In fact, before they were defending the government shutdown in the name of border security, some thought it was a pretty bad investment.

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CNBC - January 15, 2019

Trump campaign official Rick Gates again ask for delay in sentencing because he is cooperating in 'several' probes

Special counsel Robert Mueller and a lawyer for Rick Gates, the Trump campaign official convicted of lying to federal investigators, on Tuesday asked for a further postponement of Gates' sentencing, citing his continuing cooperation in "several ongoing investigations."

Mueller and Gates' lawyer, in a filing in federal court in Washington, D.C., asked the judge in the case to allow them to next update the judge about the status of Gates' case by no later than March 15. The request for a delay came a day after multiple media reports about lavish spending by President Donald Trump's inaugural committee. The $107 million in spending by that committee, on which Gates was deputy chairman, already was the subject of a federal criminal investigation.

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CNBC - January 16, 2019

Global tension is hampering our ability to fight climate change, Davos survey warns

The world is facing the increased risk of political confrontations between major powers, which is hindering solutions to challenges like climate change and cyberattacks, a new report by the World Economic Forum (WEF) said Wednesday.

WEF, best known for creating and facilitating its annual economic forum in Davos, Switzerland, said the breakdown of international cooperation on major issues had reached "crisis levels," and would continue to prevent international action on urgent crises this year. The WEF report, called the Global Risks Report 2019 and released with risk consultancy Marsh, surveyed around 1,000 experts and decision-makers with 90 percent saying they expected further economic confrontation between major powers.

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CNN - January 15, 2019

Democrats decline White House meeting on shutdown: 'It's kind of a mess'

The White House sent invitations to a bipartisan group of lawmakers for a meeting Tuesday afternoon aimed at finding a solution to ending the government shutdown -- now in its 25th day as the longest in US history –– but no Democrats are expected to attend.

White House press secretary Sarah Sanders confirmed no Democrats would attend the meeting, listing instead nine Republican members of the House who will. "Today, the President offered both Democrats and Republicans the chance to meet for lunch at the White House," Sanders said in a statement. "Unfortunately, no Democrats will attend. The President looks forward to having a working lunch with House Republicans to solve the border crisis and reopen the government. It's time for the Democrats to come to the table and make a deal."

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CNN - January 15, 2019

House votes to censure Iowa's Steve King after racist remarks

Just hours after Republican leadership announced that Republican Rep. Steve King of Iowa wouldn't be seated on any committees this Congress because of recent racist comments he made, there is growing pressure for the congressman to resign — though Republicans are still far from being united around that idea.

The House, by a vote of 424 to 1, approved Tuesday afternoon a resolution rejecting white supremacy and white nationalism after King made racist comments in The New York Times in a story published last week. Democratic Rep. Bobby Rush of Illinois voted against the resolution because he said it does not go far enough. Rush has introduced his own censure resolution, which represents a stronger rebuke specifically focused on King.

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New York Times - January 15, 2019

Theresa May and Brexit face uncertain future after crushing defeat in Parliament

Prime Minister Theresa May on Tuesday suffered a humiliating defeat over her plan to withdraw Britain from the European Union, thrusting the country further into political chaos with only 10 weeks to go until it is scheduled to leave the bloc.

The 432-to-202 vote to reject her plan was the biggest defeat in the House of Commons for a prime minister in recent British history, and it underscores how under Ms. May the prime minister’s office has lost ground in shaping important policy. Now factions in Parliament will seek to seize the initiative, an unpredictable new stage in the process of withdrawing from Europe, known as Brexit.

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Associated Press - January 15, 2019

Trump’s attorney general nominee: ‘I will not be bullied’

Vowing “I will not be bullied,” President Donald Trump’s nominee for attorney general asserted independence from the White House on Tuesday, saying he believed that Russia had tried to interfere in the 2016 presidential election, that the special counsel investigation shadowing Trump is not a witch hunt and that his predecessor was right to recuse himself from the probe.

The comments by William Barr at his Senate confirmation hearing pointedly departed from Trump’s own views and underscored Barr’s efforts to reassure Democrats that he will not be a loyalist to a president who has appeared to demand it from law enforcement. He also repeatedly sought to assuage concerns that he might disturb or upend special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation as it reaches its final stages.

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Fox Business - January 15, 2019

Trump considering former Pepsi chief to head World Bank

The Trump administration is considering tapping former Pepsi CEO Indra Nooyi to head the World Bank, The New York Times reported on Tuesday.

Several people familiar with the matter told the Times that Ivanka Trump is pursuing Nooyi, who stepped down Opens a New Window. as Pepsi CEO in August. The process, however, is said to be fluid and in its early stages. Nooyi, who grew up in India, was with Pepsi for 24 years, including 12 as CEO. She is known for helping the company shift toward a range of healthier product offerings Opens a New Window.

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McClatchy - January 15, 2019

White House prepares for a Venezuela without Nicolás Maduro

President Donald Trump is mulling whether to recognize the president of Venezuela’s opposition-controlled National Assembly as the de facto leader of Venezuela instead of President Nicolás Maduro, according to two people familiar with the discussions.

The administration took a significant step toward making the declaration Tuesday when Vice President Mike Pence called assembly leader Juan Guaidó and praised his “courageous leadership.” Pence told Guaidó that the United States sees the National Assembly “as the only legitimate democratic body in the country.”

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Route 50 - January 14, 2019

Disputes over state taxes on railroad fuel simmer before Supreme Court

Alabama for about a decade now has been battling in court over whether a tax the state levies on the diesel fuel that railroads purchase to power their locomotives discriminates against the industry and is therefore in violation of federal law.

In the latest chapter of this long-running dispute, two linked petitions concerning the same case are pending before the U.S. Supreme Court. So far, the high court hasn’t decided to hear the matter. But on Monday justices asked for the Trump administration to submit views on it. Alabama’s lawyers describe the case as the “de facto bellwether” for other related disputes.

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United Press International - January 15, 2019

HPV vaccine, regular screening can prevent cervical cancer deaths

About 4,000 women in the United States die from cervical cancer each year –– even though there's a preventive vaccine and screening to catch the disease early.

"When cervical cancer is found early, it is highly treatable," said Dr. Sarah Ramirez, a family medicine physician with Penn State Health. "So it's important to make sure you are being screened for this disease."

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Newsclips - January 15, 2019

Lead Stories

Fox News - January 14, 2019

Trump AG nominee William Barr to face questions from several Dems with eyes on White House

Several Democratic senators thought to be potential presidential contenders in 2020 –– including Kamala Harris, Cory Booker, and Amy Klobuchar –– are set to grill William Barr, President Trump's attorney general nominee, during his confirmation hearings before the Senate Judiciary Committee on Tuesday.

Although the 68-year-old nominee is expected to ultimately win confirmation in the Republican-controlled Senate, Tuesday's questioning affords Democrats another major opportunity to send sparks flying and promote their own White House ambitions. During now-Associate Justice Brett Kavanaugh's Supreme Court confirmation hearings late last year, Booker compared himself to the Thracian gladiator Spartacus and openly suggested he would be expelled from the Senate for defying a procedural norm, even though no one else raised that possibility.

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Washington Post - January 14, 2019

The shutdown is giving some Trump advisers what they’ve long wanted: smaller government

President Trump has cast the shuttering of federal agencies as a standoff over his plan to build a wall on the southern border. But for many White House aides and allies, the partial shutdown is advancing another long-standing priority: constraining the government.

Prominent advisers to the president have forged their political careers in relentless pursuit of a lean federal budget and a reined-in bureaucracy. As a result, they have shown a high tolerance for keeping large swaths of the government dark, services offline and 800,000 federal workers without pay, with the shutdown having entered an unprecedented fourth week.

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Houston Chronicle - January 15, 2019

Donald Trump has visited Texas nearly twice as much as Barack Obama in first term

In just two years, President Donald Trump has now visited Texas nearly twice as much as President Barack Obama did in his entire first term in office.

Trump’s visit to McAllen last week marked the 7th time the president has come to Texas since he took office. In his first term, Obama visited Texas four times. Obama ended up in Texas a total of 11 times over the eight years of his presidency.

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Politico - January 14, 2019

Shutdown tests farmers’ loyalty as Trump visits their annual convention

President Donald Trump’s visit to the American Farm Bureau Federation’s annual convention comes at an awkward time as farmers and ranchers begin to feel the pinch of the partial government shutdown.

The president delivered remarks Monday afternoon before an overwhelmingly friendly audience of members of the country's largest farm group. But with the longest shutdown in U.S. history now in its 24th day, local Farm Service Agency offices have been shuttered for weeks, locking out farmers from getting loans and other help with their operations.

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State Stories

Dallas Morning News - January 14, 2019

Confederate plaque at Texas Capitol removed over the weekend

The Children of the Confederacy plaque is officially gone.

The controversial marker was removed from its spot in the state Capitol on Saturday evening, State Preservation Board spokesman Chris Currens confirmed Monday. Agency staff performed the removal themselves, Currens said, and the plaque will be kept at its offices in downtown Austin until the State Preservation Board decides what to do with it later this month. The plaque, which was erected in 1959 during the Civil Rights era, claimed slavery was not the underlying cause of the Civil War. The board's governing members, which include Gov. Greg Abbott, Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick and Speaker Dennis Bonnen, voted on Friday to take the plaque down.

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Dallas Morning News - January 14, 2019

DMN: Empower Texans now has a press pass to the Texas Senate. What interest group will be next?

From the earliest days of our nation's founding, politicians have understood that the people need some way to follow what their government is up to. For that reason, legislatures across the country have had rules permitting the press some access to lawmakers inside capitol buildings.

The whole point of letting reporters wander the halls is not because we are such wonderful company, but to make government more open to the people it serves and to provide elected officials a platform to present policy and politics to a broad audience. The arrangement was a tidy one in the old era of media, when a manageable number of newspapers and radio and television stations sent correspondents to the capitol. But in the current age, the question of who is and isn't a journalist has become hard to follow. Anyone can set up a website or social media page now and put out a few pieces of "news" to disguise a naked political agenda.

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Dallas Morning News - January 14, 2019

Greg Abbott, Dan Patrick opt for daylong inaugural party on Texas Capitol grounds

Amid bands, barbecue and an appearance by Texas Longhorns mascot Bevo XV, supporters of Gov. Greg Abbott and Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick will frolic on the Capitol grounds for several hours Tuesday, celebrating the two GOP leaders' second inaugurations.

After attending a morning prayer service at Austin's First Baptist Church, Abbott and Patrick again will take the oath of office and give speeches at an inaugural ceremony. It begins at 11 a.m. on the north side of the Capitol. "The governor's going to touch on school finance and property tax reform," said Abbott press secretary John Wittman. Asked if Patrick would generate any news with his speech, his political adviser Allen Blakemore replied, "Stay tuned."

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Houston Chronicle - January 14, 2019

Baylor St. Luke's replaces president, two other executives following latest lapse

The president of Baylor St. Luke's Medical Center and two other top executives are leaving the hospital after federal regulators began investigating a serious mistake that led to a patient death, the latest in a series of care lapses in recent years.

Doug Lawson will replace Gay Nord as president, the hospital said in a news release Monday morning. Lawson will continue in his role as CEO of Catholic Health Initiatives Texas Division, which oversees Baylor St. Luke's and 15 other hospitals across the state. Jennifer Nitschmann, the hospital's chief nursing officer, and David Berger, the hospital's senior vice president of operations, also "have left their roles," the hospital announced.

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Houston Chronicle - January 14, 2019

Experts worry government shutdowns will drive NASA employees to the private sector

NASA employees have endured three government shutdowns in the past year, each time halting their groundbreaking work as political skirmishes in Washington, D.C., are hashed out. The first two came in the beginning months of 2018, but they were short: more of an annoyance, really.

But the current closure — which started Dec. 22 and has no end in sight — has been beyond frustrating for many, not just because of money lost but because of work delays. It’s been enough of a hindrance that some experts worry it could drive NASA engineers to the fast-growing space projects in the private sector.

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Austin American-Statesman - January 14, 2019

FBI closes Austin bomber probe, finds no ‘recognized ideology’ behind attacks

The FBI found no evidence that Austin bomber Mark Conditt had any accomplices or was motivated by any “recognized ideology” when he carried out a series of bombing attacks last year, according to a motion filed by the U.S. attorney’s office last week.

“In the course of its investigation, the government found no evidence of communications or links between Conditt and any international terror groups or domestic hate groups,” according to the document. “The government likewise found no evidence that any recognized ideology had motivated Conditt. The government has no basis to believe that any additional charges will be sought.”

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Austin American-Statesman - January 14, 2019

State health officials call on legislators for funds to fight maternal deaths, tuberculosis

State health officials working to tackle maternal deaths, the spread of tuberculosis across the state and other pressing health issues are calling on the state for one thing: money.

Now that lawmakers have convened to set legislative priorities for the 86th Legislature, Texas Department of State Health Services Commissioner John Hellerstedt on Monday laid out the top public health issues in the state and said more funding would help the agency reach its goals this year.

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San Antonio Express-News - January 15, 2019

Roster of District 125 candidates in San Antonio-area special election is set

Four Democrats and one Republican will compete to become San Antonio’s newest state representative in a special election next month. The five candidates filed paperwork to appear on the ballot for House District 125 before Monday’s 5 p.m. deadline, according to the Texas Secretary of State’s office.

The special election will be Feb. 12, with early voting starting Jan. 28. The seat for the district, which covers a swath of the West and Northwest sides, was left vacant when Justin Rodriguez accepted an appointment to the Bexar County Commissioners Court. The candidates are: Steve Huerta, Democrat, social justice policy adviser; Ray Lopez, Democrat, former city councilman who represented the West Side for eight years; Fred A. Rangel, Republican, small-business owner and former City Council candidate; Coda Rayo-Garza, Democrat, a senior coordinator for the San Antonio Independent School District; and Arthur “Art” Reyna, Democrat, a former state representative for District 125 and Leon Valley city councilman.

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Houston Chronicle - January 14, 2019

Defense lawyers question police tactics in Jazmine Barnes shooting case

Police conducted unlawful jailhouse questioning of one of two men charged in a drive-by shooting that took the life of Jazmine Barnes last month, his defense attorney told the judge presiding over the high-profile homicide.

"That is a clear, clear violation of his substantive and due process rights," said defense attorney Alvin Nunnery after the court hearing. "We need to know how involved it is to see if it has tainted anything they have already done or anything they might do going forward."

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McAllen Monitor - January 14, 2019

Texas agriculture commissioner sworn into office at Pharr bridge

Texas Agriculture Commissioner Sid Miller on Monday was sworn in for a second term at the Pharr-Reynosa International Bridge, the same site he visited and praised a few months ago.

“It was an easy choice,” Miller told Pharr Mayor Ambrosio Hernandez before the ceremony. “Got to spread the love.” Texas Supreme Court Justice Eva Guzman conducted the oath of office for the first swearing in ceremony ever conducted outside Austin, according to Pharr’s Gary Rodriguez. “I’m a little bit of a rebel, a little different,” Miller said with a laugh about the occasion.

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Star-Telegram - January 14, 2019

House Democrats led by Tarrant lawmaker are energized after big election wins

Bolstered by their biggest election gains in nearly a decade, Texas House Democrats are staking out a larger role in the 86th Legislature under the leadership of a five-term Tarrant County lawmaker known for a steady demeanor and proven strategic skills.

As chairman of the House Democratic Caucus, Rep. Chris Turner of Grand Prairie oversees an eclectic mix of Democrats ranging from Houston’s Senfronia Thompson, who has been in the chamber for more than four decades, to a crop of rookies coming off stunning election upsets over Republican incumbents. The pick up of a dozen former Republican seats in the November elections has infused Turner and his fellow Democrats with a burst of optimism and energy, as well as genuine expectations of influencing the outcome of the session’s biggest priority — a sweeping overhaul of the state’s broken school finance system.

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Longview News-Journal - January 12, 2019

Stephanie Rubin: Voters are watching for lawmakers' commitment to children

The conclusion is clear: Next year, state legislators are likely to face the most competitive elections they’ve seen in a decade, and those elections will be shaped by policy decisions they make this year. Voters will be watching to see how much progress Texas makes on other critical children’s issues, including improving student mental health, foster care, health care and early childhood programs.

Lawmakers’ actions — or inaction — on these issues will help determine whether Texas children are growing up healthy, staying safe and walking into the classroom each day ready to learn. We’re glad state leaders have talked about addressing student mental health this session. Concerns about several issues have put it squarely on their agenda: School safety, the high suicide attempt rate among Texas high school students, the trauma of Hurricane Harvey and links between student mental health, behavior and school success.

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Dallas Observer - January 14, 2019

If not for Trump, we'd all be talking about Governor Abbott's tweets

Greg Abbott gets away with a lot. He's a firebrand, far-right conservative in a state that's tilted significantly more liberal over the last five years. He didn't get much done during his first term — the state's property tax and school finance system are still in shambles — and, unlike his two predecessors in the governor's mansion, he isn't viewed as a rising star in the Republican Party.

Abbott's Twitter feed is filled with right-wing memes, breathless warnings about gangs and pronouncements that will never see the light of day as policy. It's like President Donald Trump Lite, which might explain why the governor rarely takes heat for tweets. He gets away with it because he isn't the worst offender in the room.

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City Stories

Austin American-Statesman - January 15, 2019

Austin police still mum after DPS delivers audit report on sex assault cases

The Texas Department of Public Safety has handed over the results of an audit that outlines how Austin police investigators improperly classified nearly a third of the sexual assault cases the agency examined.

DPS officials said they sent the report to the department on Friday, but police have yet to provide a copy of the document to the American-Statesman or comment on its contents. A police spokesperson confirmed that department leaders were reviewing the report on Monday, though it was unclear when the document would be made public.

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National Stories

Associated Press - January 14, 2019

Trump’s AG nominee: Mueller should be allowed to finish work

President Donald Trump’s nominee for attorney general will tell senators “it is vitally important” that special counsel Robert Mueller be allowed to complete his Russia investigation, and said he believes Congress and the public should learn the results, according to remarks prepared for his confirmation hearing.

William Barr also insisted in testimony he’ll deliver Tuesday to the Senate Judiciary Committee that Trump never sought any promises, assurances or commitments before selecting him to be the country’s chief law enforcement officer. In releasing written testimony ahead of his hearing, the Justice Department moved to pre-empt the most significant questions Barr is likely to face from Democrats on the panel — including whether he can oversee without bias or interference the final stages of Mueller’s probe into potential ties between Russia and the 2016 Trump campaign, and whether he will permit the findings to be made public.

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Associated Press - January 14, 2019

Senate GOP leader rips Rep. King over white supremacy remark

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell on Monday denounced Rep. Steve King over his latest remarks on white supremacy, saying, “There is no place in the Republican Party, the Congress or the country for an ideology of racial supremacy of any kind.”

McConnell is the highest-ranking Republican to criticize King, R-Iowa, who lamented last week that white supremacy and white nationalism have become offensive terms. House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy and other GOP House leaders have also condemned King’s remarks as racist. Meanwhile, House Democrats said they’ll seek formal punishment for King. Rep. Bobby Rush, D-Ill., said a censure resolution against King would announce to the world that Congress has no home for “repugnant and racist behavior.”

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Associated Press - January 15, 2019

Number of no-show airport security screeners soars in shutdown

The number of airport security screeners failing to show up for work around the country is soaring as the partial government shutdown goes into its fourth week.

No-shows among screeners jumped Sunday and again Monday, when the Transportation Security Administration reported a national absence rate of 7.6 percent compared with 3.2 percent on a comparable day a year ago. Monday marked the first business day after screeners did not receive a paycheck for the first time since the shutdown began.

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Wall Street Journal - January 13, 2019

China’s annual trade surplus with U.S. hits record despite Trump’s tariff offensive

China’s trade surplus with the U.S. hit a record last year, as robust American demand for Chinese goods undercut the Trump administration’s tariff offensive aimed at narrowing the countries’ lopsided trade gap.

China recorded $323.32 billion in surplus with the U.S. in 2018, representing a 17 percent jump from the figure in the previous year, according to Chinese government trade data released Monday. Abetting the record imbalance were a healthy American economy and a weakening Chinese one, some economists and analysts said, which in turn fed U.S. demand for imports and damped demand in China.

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Wall Street Journal - January 14, 2019

Hedge-fund-backed media group makes bid for Gannett, publisher of multiple Texas papers

A hedge-fund-backed media group known for buying up struggling local papers and cutting costs has made an offer for USA Today publisher Gannett.

Closely held Digital First is known for its contentious history with the newspaper industry in part because of its penchant for slashing costs. It said it has over the past few years made multiple approaches to Gannett about a deal but has been rebuffed. It isn’t clear whether Gannett will be receptive now. On Monday, Gannett said its board would review the proposal to determine the course of action that is in the best interest of the company and shareholders.

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New York Times - January 14, 2019

Trump discussed pulling U.S. from NATO, aides say amid new concerns over Russia

There are few things that President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia desires more than the weakening of NATO, the military alliance among the United States, Europe and Canada that has deterred Soviet and Russian aggression for 70 years.

Last year, President Trump suggested a move tantamount to destroying NATO: the withdrawal of the United States. Senior administration officials told The New York Times that several times over the course of 2018, Mr. Trump privately said he wanted to withdraw from the North Atlantic Treaty Organization. Current and former officials who support the alliance said they feared Mr. Trump could return to his threat as allied military spending continued to lag behind the goals the president had set.

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New York Times - January 15, 2019

Brexit's fate to be decided by Parliament today

For Britain, the big vote is finally here. After two and a half years of negotiation, argument, predictions and posturing, Parliament will finally decide on Tuesday on a bill that dictates the terms of Britain’s departure from the European Union, one of the most closely watched votes the lawmakers are likely to cast in their careers.

Prime Minister Theresa May has spent all her energies trying to convince Parliament — and Britain — that the divorce deal she negotiated with Brussels is the best way forward. But she hasn’t made the sale. The House of Commons is expected to defeat the deal by a wide margin, and no one is completely certain what will come next. Debate should end late this afternoon, with voting scheduled to start at 7 p.m. in London (2 p.m. Eastern).

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CNBC - January 14, 2019

Why Democrats are unlikely to cave on Trump's border wall as longest government shutdown ever drags on

The partial U.S. government shutdown has dragged on longer than any previous U.S. funding lapse, and government workers have started to miss paychecks. Even so, don't expect Democrats to give ground on President Donald Trump's proposed border wall as the closure enters its 24th day.

A majority of Americans say the president bears more blame for the shutdown than congressional Democrats, according to three polls released Monday and Sunday. The sentiment reduces the political incentive for the party to agree to Trump's demand for more than $5 billion to fund the barrier. Either Democrats or Trump and congressional Republicans may feel compelled to make a deal if the shutdown's damage widens.

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CNBC - January 14, 2019

PG&E stock crashes 52 percent as utility says it will file for bankruptcy because of wildfires liability

PG&E Corp. stock cratered Monday after the company said it will file for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection amid the financial anguish stemming from its part in helping spark a wave of historic wildfires in California.

Shares of the company plunged 52 percent to $8.38 per share Monday, one day after the company said Chief Executive Geisha Williams was stepping down. The stock has lost more than 80 percent of its value over the last three months. The market value of the company has declined more than $30 billion to about $4.7 billion from a peak over $36 billion in 2017, a loss equivalent to the size of eBay.

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Rasmussen Reports - January 14, 2019

Rasmussen poll: Voters want strong borders, say wall is not ‘immoral’

Most voters continue to favor strongly controlled borders and reject House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s charge that it is immoral for the United States to build a border wall.

The latest Rasmussen Reports national telephone and online survey finds that 53 percent of likely U.S. Voters think it is better for the United States to tightly control who comes into the country. Thirty-nine percent (39 percent) disagree and say it is better to open our borders to anyone who wants to come here as long as they are not a terrorist or a criminal.

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Governing - January 14, 2019

Scott Beyer: Why some cities can’t seem to clean up 'Skid Row'

Lots of big American cities have a “skid row,” an impoverished part of town where the homeless and drug addicted often gather. San Francisco’s Tenderloin and the original Skid Row in Los Angeles are two of the best-known examples, but Philadelphia’s Kensington neighborhood is just as bad –– and it’s getting worse.

Kensington has long been a rough part of town. It began, writes Philadelphia Inquirer columnist Alfred Lubrano, as an industrial neighborhood full of factories making Stetson hats and Disston saws. Since the 1960s, when the factories shut down and the jobs left, the area has become known as a place to score heroin. Things have gotten worse there as the opioid epidemic has morphed into a broader crisis. In the past year, Kensington’s homeless population, which has been linked to the epidemic, has more than doubled, from 271 to 700 people. In 2017, the area saw a 23 percent spike in homicides –– a trend that appeared to continue last year.

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CityLab - January 10, 2019

The anatomy of an electric scooter crash: what happens when scooters meets the American legal system

When the issue of e-scooter safety is raised—and, if you spend any time talking to people in cities where this polarizing new urban mobility mode has emerged, it will—scooter fans like to counter with this stat: Cars kill 40,000 Americans a year, and they emit climate-warming gases while doing it.

While scooter-related emergency room visits appear to be on the rise since these little dockless vehicles hit America’s roads, hard numbers about their serious injury rate remain elusive. The CDC plans to conduct its first epidemiological scooter study in Austin, Texas, to better quantify the public health risks they may or may not pose. Some scooter-safety panic might be attributable to their sheer novelty. We’ve become immune to the daily toll of automotive crashes. And disruptive transportation technologies often brings fears, some legitimate.

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Politico - January 14, 2019

McConnell tightens grip with Senate GOP amid shutdown fallout

A handful of Senate Republicans are expressing frustration with their party’s handling of the ongoing government shutdown. But Mitch McConnell is a long way from facing any sort of rebellion.

The Senate majority leader is standing firm in his resolve to not move a muscle on any government funding bill that would not have the president’s approval. That’s earned him scorn among Democrats given that he endorsed a funding bill that didn’t include the president’s much-sought additional border wall funding of more than $5 billion in December.

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CNN - January 14, 2019

Trump's legal team rebuffed request for Mueller interview in recent weeks

President Donald Trump's legal team rebuffed special counsel Robert Mueller's request in recent weeks for an in-person session with Trump to ask follow-up questions.

The request was made after Trump's team submitted written answers to a limited number of questions from Mueller's team focusing on before Trump was in office. As Mueller's investigation into possible collusion between Trump associates and Russians winds down, an interview with the President remains an outstanding issue even as Trump's attorney Rudy Giuliani said an interview would happen "over my dead body." One source familiar with the matter summed it up by saying, "Mueller is not satisfied."

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Reuters - January 15, 2019

Pentagon extends mission to Mexico border through September

The U.S. military will extend a mission to support security along the U.S. border with Mexico through Sept. 30, the Pentagon said on Monday.

Acting Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan approved the extension in response to a request from the Homeland Security Department, the Pentagon said in a statement. There are about 2,350 troops assigned to the border mission. The deployment had previously been authorized through Jan. 31 by former Defense Secretary Jim Mattis.

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The Guardian - January 14, 2019

Steve King stripped of committee posts after 'white nationalist' comments

House Republicans formally stripped Representative Steve King of all committee assignments on Monday night, days after the Iowa Republican drew criticism for yet another controversial and racially charged comment.

In an interview with the New York Times published last week, King rhetorically said “white nationalist, white supremacist, Western civilization — how did that language become offensive?” The Iowa Republican has long been a lightning rod within his own party, making controversial comments, particularly on Twitter.

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Houston Chronicle - January 15, 2019

Gillibrand on verge of 2020 presidential bid

Democratic Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand appears to be on the verge of an announcement that she’s in the running to challenge President Donald Trump, with a possible announcement as early as Tuesday during a scheduled appearance on “Late Night with Stephen Colbert” on CBS.

A person close to the senator declined to confirm reports swirling around that Gillibrand, 52, would announce the formation of a presidential exploratory committee on the Colbert show. But the person said that the show would allow in reporters, one per news organization, and that Gillibrand supporters were organizing it.

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Newsclips - January 14, 2019

Lead Stories

Austin American-Statesman - January 11, 2019

As session gears up, Texas business groups ready to fight for economic priorities

If Texas business leaders wanted an excuse to slack off during the just-started legislative session, they might point to the state’s historically low unemployment rate, solid economic growth and robust job creation and opt to sit this one out. Instead, they’re gearing up to convince state lawmakers that those trends didn’t happen by accident.

“The ‘Texas Miracle’ came about because we had a plan of action,” said Jeff Moseley, president of the Texas Association of Business, using a term coined early this decade to describe the state’s strong economy. Moseley’s organization and other business lobbying groups in Texas consider preservation of the state’s taxpayer-funded economic incentive programs — derided as “corporate welfare” by critics but lauded as essential in many economic development circles — to be a priority during the legislative session that began Tuesday and runs through May 27.

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Politico - January 13, 2019

Trump threatens Turkey with economic devastation

President Donald Trump on Sunday vowed to “devastate Turkey economically” should the Turkish military attack U.S.-allied Kurdish fighters — a rare direct threat by Trump to a NATO ally as his administration grapples with the execution of its plan to withdraw American soldiers from Syria.

“Starting the long overdue pullout from Syria while hitting the little remaining ISIS territorial caliphate hard, and from many directions,” Trump tweeted. “Will attack again from existing nearby base if it reforms. Will devastate Turkey economically if they hit Kurds. Create 20 mile safe zone...Likewise, do not want the Kurds to provoke Turkey. Russia, Iran and Syria have been the biggest beneficiaries of the long term U.S. policy of destroying ISIS in Syria - natural enemies. We also benefit but it is now time to bring our troops back home. Stop the ENDLESS WARS!”

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Fox News - January 14, 2019

Sarah Sanders, other Republicans slam Democrats for 'partying on the beach' amid shutdown

Republican leaders slammed Democrats on Sunday following reports that around 30 Democratic members of Congress traveled to Puerto Rico this weekend to meet with lobbyists and see a special performance of the hit Broadway show “Hamilton.”

While the Democrats also planned on attending the Congressional Hispanic Caucus BOLD PAC gathering in San Juan and met with Puerto Rican officials to discuss ongoing cleanup efforts from Hurricane Maria, Republicans were angered over images of their Democratic colleagues enjoying the island’s beaches as the partial government shutdown entered its third week. “Democrats in Congress are so alarmed about federal workers not getting paid they’re partying on the beach instead of negotiating a compromise to reopen the government and secure the border,” White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders tweeted.

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Politico - January 14, 2019

Ex-lawmakers 'scrambling and looking' for lobbying gigs

When Sen. Heidi Heitkamp threw a party to thank friends and supporters at an Italian restaurant on Capitol Hill last month, Vic Fazio, a former congressman who’s now a lobbyist, saw an opportunity.

Fazio found the North Dakota Democrat, who’d just lost her bid for reelection, and pressed his card into her palm. “We should talk,” Fazio told her, according to a person in the room. Heitkamp has no plans to become a lobbyist, according to Tessa Gould, her former chief of staff. But the brief exchange was one of the countless quiet conversations taking place among many of the dozens of lawmakers who departed Congress earlier this month and the Washington lobbying firms eager to hire the best-connected among them.

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State Stories

Dallas Morning News - January 14, 2019

Julián Castro's kickoff message reflects rapidly changing face of Democratic Party

Julián Castro wants free community college tuition for everyone, a revamping of the cash-bail system, Medicare for all and initiatives to protect the environment. He sounds as liberal as they come. On Saturday, the former San Antonio mayor and former U.S. Housing secretary, used a litany of progressive issues to bolster his new campaign for president.

His attempt to carve out space to the left is more indication that the Democrat Party is undergoing a significant makeover. Progressive candidates and their issues are in vogue. Democratic Party voters want authentic liberals, not candidates seeking to cling to an increasingly imaginary middle. In his kickoff speech for president, Castro was more like Bernie Sanders than Hillary Clinton.

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Dallas Morning News - January 13, 2019

Ted Cruz slams Iowa Republican's 'stupid' remarks on white supremacy

Republican Texas Sen. Ted Cruz joined others in his party Sunday morning in denouncing a colleague who seemed to suggest that the idea of white supremacy is not offensive.

"White nationalist, white supremacist, Western civilization — how did that language become offensive?" Iowa Rep. Steve King said in a New York Times article published Thursday. "Why did I sit in classes teaching me about the merits of our history and our civilization?" Cruz joined other members of his party Sunday morning in criticizing King's words. "It was stupid. It was hurtful. It was wrong," Cruz said on NBC's Meet the Press. "And he needs to stop."

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Dallas Morning News - January 13, 2019

First Baptist's Robert Jeffress backs Trump's border plan: 'Heaven itself is going to have a wall around it'

First Baptist Dallas pastor Robert Jeffress is voicing his support for President Donald Trump's demand for a wall between the U.S. and Mexico, saying Democrats are "morally liable" for what he called a humanitarian crisis at the southern border.

Jeffress, an outspoken supporter of the president, appeared on the Lou Dobbs Tonight show amid the government shutdown over Trump's dispute with congress for border-wall funding. During the recent appearance, Jeffress likened the border wall to a fence around a swimming pool — if someone has a pool without a fence around it, they could be liable if a child wanders into the water and drowns, he said.

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Victoria Advocate - January 11, 2019

Blake Farenthold leaves lobbying gig amid lawsuit over his hiring

Disgraced former Congressman Blake Farenthold submitted his resignation as lobbyist for the Calhoun Port Authority, officials announced Thursday. Farenthold submitted his resignation to the port board in a letter dated Jan. 4, but it was announced by executive director Charles Hausmann during Thursday morning’s board meeting.

Board members did not comment about the resignation. Hausmann said only that Farenthold left “to pursue other opportunities.” Hausmann declined to comment about whether the board would hire another person for the position. The Victoria Advocate asked for a copy of Farenthold’s resignation letter, but Hausmann said he would release that only after receiving an open records request. The Advocate viewed the letter after submitting the request. Farenthold’s letter said he had made “significant progress” lobbying on behalf of the Calhoun Port Authority.

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San Antonio Express-News - January 12, 2019

As shutdown lingers, anxiety rises for Coast Guard families

Ashley Totten’s stress level is rising. The wife of a Coast Guard petty officer second class who will miss his first paycheck Tuesday under the partial government shutdown, she’s confronted with problems from all sides.

Her 3-month-old son, Maddox, has a heart condition, suffers from high blood pressure and could face surgery at Houston’s Medical Center in coming weeks. She’s deferred two credit card payments but hasn’t had much luck getting help from other creditors. The Tottens’s other son, Braxton, 2, was stung by fire ants a week ago. Their rescue dog, Jaxon, fell seriously ill. “I think I’m sort of in a fog,” said Totten, 31, who has appeared on national and local TV to raise awareness of the struggles Coast Guard families are facing because of the shutdown. “I truly thought there would be some Hail Mary in the end to have us paid on time.”

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Houston Chronicle - January 14, 2019

Accused terrorist known in Fort Bend County for ‘big ol’ smile’

The bearded face in the mugshot posted by Kurdish forces looked woefully familiar to Roxanne Bradford. Opposition forces in Syria captured Warren Christopher Clark — also known as Abu Muhammad Al-Ameriki — earlier this month and labeled him an ISIS combatant.

But Bradford recognized the clean-shaven boy with the radiant smile she’d known more than a decade ago at William P. Clements High School in Fort Bend County. “It makes me super sad to see the road his life has traveled down,” Bradford told the Houston Chronicle this week through social media. “All I can say is he was just like the rest of us. Had friends. Did his thing. Smart. Laughed. Big ol’ smile.”

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Houston Chronicle - January 14, 2019

HC: For State Representative, District 145: Melissa Noriega

While the legislative session started in Austin last week, early voting begins today to select a representative for House District 145. That’s not the usual order of things.

This special election has been delayed because Republican Gov. Greg Abbott dragged his feet in scheduling the Senate District 6 special election to replace now-Congresswoman Sylvia Garcia, who was replaced by then-state Rep. Carol Alvarado, who now has to be replaced as well. On the losing end of these political shenanigans are the voters in this largely Hispanic, Democratic-leaning district. They may see their political power diluted this year as the Legislature starts without their new representative in place. Luckily, voters have that candidate in Melissa Noriega.

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City Stories

Austin American-Statesman - January 11, 2019

About 200 volunteers needed to count Austin homeless population

For the past four years, Bill Brice has woken before dawn one morning in January, headed to downtown Austin and helped survey those experiencing homelessness. It might be cold. It might be raining. But Brice, who volunteers for the annual census spearheaded by the Ending Community Homelessness Coalition, said the experience has given him a greater appreciation for the hardships homeless men and women endure.

According to last year’s census, the city’s homeless population grew 5 percent from the year before. This year, between 500 and 600 volunteers — including Brice — are preparing once again to scour the streets in an effort to understand how homelessness in Austin has changed. Starting at 3 a.m. Jan. 26, volunteers will count people in cars, tents and parks, under bridges and on the streets. People sleeping in shelters and transitional housing programs are also counted by a homeless management information system.

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Rivard Report - January 11, 2019

San Antonio receives Bloomberg staffers, support for climate initiatives

Former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg joined Mayor Ron Nirenberg on Friday to announce that San Antonio will receive two full-time staffers over the next two years to help implement San Antonio's Climate Action and Adaptation Plan.

The two staffers are part of an award from Bloomberg Philanthropies recognizing San Antonio as a winner of the American Cities Climate Challenge. The city joins Albuquerque, Austin, Denver, and Orlando as the final five cities of 25 chosen for the award. The initiative was open to the top 100 U.S. cities by population. Nirenberg said at Friday's press conference that rather than President Donald Trump's rhetoric about a national emergency on the U.S.-Mexico border, the real national emergency is climate change.

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National Stories

Associated Press - January 12, 2019

Democrats roll out big health care proposals in the states

Riding the momentum from November’s elections, Democratic leaders in the states are wasting no time delivering on their biggest campaign promise — to expand access to health care and make it more affordable.

The first full week of state legislative sessions and swearings-in for governors saw a flurry of proposals. In his initial actions, newly elected California Gov. Gavin Newsom announced plans to expand Medicaid to those in the country illegally up to age 26, implement a mandate that everyone buy insurance or face a fine, and consolidate the state’s prescription drug purchases in the hope that it will dramatically lower costs. Washington Gov. Jay Inslee proposed a public health insurance option for people who are not covered by Medicaid or private employers and have trouble affording policies on the private market.

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Associated Press - January 13, 2019

Saudi energy minister concerned about oil price volatility

Saudi Arabia's energy minister said Sunday that major oil producers need to do better to narrow swings in prices that dip below $60 a barrel and rise above $86. "I think what we need to do is narrow the range ... of volatility," Khalid al-Falih said.

Cautious not to set a price target or range, he explained there are consequences when oil prices dip too low or rise too high. Last month, OPEC countries, including Saudi Arabia, and other major oil producers agreed to cut production by 1.2 million barrels a day to reduce oversupply and boost prices for the first six months of 2019. Oil producers are under pressure to reduce production following a sharp fall in oil prices in recent months because major producers — including the United States — are pumping oil at high rates.

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Associated Press - January 12, 2019

Selective shutdown? Trump tries to blunt impact, takes heat

The government shutdown is wreaking havoc on many Americans: Hundreds of thousands of federal employees don’t know when they’ll see their next paycheck, and low-income people who rely on the federal safety net worry about whether they’ll make ends meet should the stalemate in Washington carry on another month.

But if you’re a sportsman looking to hunt game, a gas company planning to drill offshore or a taxpayer awaiting your refund , you’re in luck: This shutdown won’t affect your plans. All administrations get some leeway to choose which services to freeze and which to maintain when a budget standoff in Washington forces some agencies to shutter. But in the selective reopening of offices, experts say they see a willingness to cut corners, scrap prior plans and wade into legally dubious territory to mitigate the pain.

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CNN - January 14, 2019

Los Angeles teachers will strike today, leaving 600,000 students in limbo

More than 32,000 Los Angeles teachers and staff members will walk off the job Monday in the country's second-biggest school district. That means about 600,000 kids will have no idea when they'll see their teachers again.

Weeks of heated negotiations between the United Teachers Los Angeles (UTLA) union and the Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD) went nowhere, leading to the city's first teachers' strike in 30 years. Both the union and the school district say they want smaller class sizes, bigger teacher salaries, and more counselors and nurses in the district's roughly 1,000 schools. The big debate revolves around how much to fund them. While the adults keep struggling to find a resolution, students will still be expected to go to school during the strike.

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CNN - January 13, 2019

Judge halts Trump administration's weakening of Obamacare's contraceptive mandate

A California federal district court judge halted the Trump administration's weakening of Obamacare's contraceptive mandate Sunday, a day before the new rules were to take effect. The injunction, however, only applies in the coalition of 13 Democratic states, plus the District of Columbia, that brought the lawsuit.

In his ruling, Judge Haywood Gilliam, Jr., said the states "face potentially dire public health and fiscal consequences from the implementation of the Final Rules." He noted the states would have to contend with increased costs from providing contraceptive care in clinics to their residents and from a higher rate of unintended pregnancies. Meanwhile, eligible entities can still avail themselves of exemptions or seek accommodations to the mandate.

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CNN - January 13, 2019

Passenger carries firearm through TSA screening at Atlanta onto Delta flight

A traveler carrying a firearm boarded a flight from Atlanta Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport and flew to Tokyo Narita International Airport on January 3, according to a statement from the Transportation Security Administration.

The security breach came two weeks into the government shutdown, during which TSA agents have been required to work but have not received paychecks. CNN first reported on January 4 -- a day after the breach -- that hundreds of TSA agents from at least four major airports had called in sick. However, the TSA dismissed suggestions the government shutdown contributed to the security lapse and said a normal amount of staffers were working that day.

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Washington Post - January 13, 2019

Trump’s border wall battle could soon give way to bigger fights with Democrats over Russia and impeachment

Even as President Trump is consumed by his standoff with Democrats over the border and the government shutdown, a potentially larger battle looms for the White House.

On Sunday, Republicans, Democrats and the president seemed to be preparing for the prospect that the special counsel’s inquiry into the Trump campaign’s possible ties to Russia could further upend a government that’s in the midst of the longest shutdown in U.S. history. “Impeachment is an unbelievably serious undertaking. No president has ever been removed from office,” Rep. Adam Smith (D-WA) told ABC’s “This Week.” “If the crimes are serious enough, it needs to be done.”

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Washington Post - January 13, 2019

Trump concealed details of his face-to-face encounters with Putin from senior officials in administration

President Trump has gone to extraordinary lengths to conceal details of his conversations with Russian President Vladi­mir Putin, including on at least one occasion taking possession of the notes of his own interpreter and instructing the linguist not to discuss what had transpired with other administration officials, current and former U.S. officials said.

Trump did so after a meeting with Putin in 2017 in Hamburg that was also attended by then-Secretary of State Rex Tillerson. U.S. officials learned of Trump’s actions when a White House adviser and a senior State Department official sought information from the interpreter beyond a readout shared by Tillerson. The constraints that Trump imposed are part of a broader pattern by the president of shielding his communications with Putin from public scrutiny and preventing even high-ranking officials in his own administration from fully knowing what he has told one of the United States’ main adversaries.

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The Hill - January 12, 2019

Jonathan Turley: Witch hunt or mole hunt? Times bombshell blows up all theories

The New York Times has published another bombshell with a story that President Trump was named as a possible national security threat in a counterintelligence operation that was launched after his inauguration.

If true, this is likely the only time in history that the FBI has investigated whether a sitting president was either a knowing or unknowing agent of a foreign power. However, the real benefit of the investigative story may not be the original suspicion, but rather how it could explain the course that both sides have taken into our current quagmire. What if there were no collusion or conspiracy but simple cognitive bias on both sides, where the actions of one seemed to confirm precisely the suspicions of the other?

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The Hill - January 14, 2019

Hispanic Dems lead largest-ever congressional delegation to Puerto Rico, and not just to see 'Hamilton'

The Congressional Hispanic Caucus campaign arm is bringing together the largest group of sitting lawmakers to ever visit a U.S. territory with a trip to Puerto Rico.

The 30-plus member delegation is in Puerto Rico for the Bold PAC convention and a summit hosted by the Latino Victory Fund, a progressive organization dedicated to increasing Hispanic political participation. Rep. Tony Cárdenas (D-CA), Bold PAC's chairman, told The Hill he chose Puerto Rico for this year's convention to showcase the island's needs as it slowly recovers from 2017's Hurricane Maria. While the group has been criticized over the optics of planning a lawmaker delegation to Puerto Rico in the midst of a partial government shutdown, Cárdenas said the lawmakers are in town to work.

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Roll Call - January 13, 2019

Henry Cuellar says liberals targeting him don’t understand his district

Texas Democratic Rep. Henry Cuellar said Friday that the liberal Democrats recruiting primary challengers against him are in for a rude awakening. Justice Democrats, a group targeting sitting Democratic lawmakers, launched a fund to support a primary challenge against Cuellar, one of the more conservative House Democrats.

Justice Democrats supported New York Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez in her successful primary against former Democratic Rep. Joe Crowley, but most of their endorsed candidates lost their bids for Congress in 2018. A Justice Democrats spokesman declined to comment Friday on other districts the group is eyeing in 2020. “I’ve been polling and my district is more moderate, conservative Democrats, and I think an outside group that thinks that they know South Texas politics better than I do are going to find [that] out,” Cuellar told reporters at the Capitol.

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New York Times - January 13, 2019

Hospitals must now post prices. But it may take a brain surgeon to decipher them.

Vanderbilt University Medical Center, responding to a new Trump administration order to begin posting all hospital prices, listed a charge of $42,569 for a cardiology procedure described as “HC PTC CLOS PAT DUCT ART.”

On Jan. 1, hospitals began complying with a Trump administration order to post list prices for all their services, theoretically offering consumers transparency and choice and forcing health care providers into price competition. It’s turning into a fiasco. “This policy is a tiny step forward, but falls far short of what’s needed,” said Jeanne Pinder, the founder and chief executive of Clear Health Costs, a consumer health research organization. “The posted prices are fanciful, inflated, difficult to decode and inconsistent, so it’s hard to see how an average person would find them useful.”

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Wall Street Journal - January 13, 2019

GOP senator pushes temporary deal to open government

A top Republican Senator on Sunday said he asked President Trump to reopen the federal government at least temporarily but that the president first wants an agreement on border-wall funding, the sticking point in the longest partial government shutdown in modern history.

Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC), a close Trump ally, said he spoke with the president Sunday and recommended the government be allowed to open for about three weeks to pursue broader immigration legislation. Democrats have been proposing a variety of funding options to reopen the government, including a stopgap funding bill for the Homeland Security Department. Mr. Trump at a White House meeting last week rejected reopening the government without a commitment for funding a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border.

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Kaiser Health News - January 14, 2019

Meth's resurgence highlights lack of meds to combat addiction

In 2016, news reports warned the public of an opioid epidemic gripping the nation. But Madeline Vaughn, then a lead clinical intake coordinator at the Houston-based addiction treatment organization Council on Recovery, sensed something different was going on with the patients she checked in from the street.

Their behavior, marked by twitchy suspicion, a poor memory and the feeling that someone was following them, signaled that the people coming through the center’s doors were increasingly hooked on a different drug: methamphetamine. In the time since, it’s become increasingly clear that, even as the opioid epidemic continues, the toll of methamphetamine use, also known as meth or crystal meth, is on the rise, too. The rate of overdose deaths involving the stimulant more than tripled from 2011 to 2016, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported.

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McClatchy - January 11, 2019

Hate groups are about to find lawmakers eager to scrutinize them

For years, Republicans have watched white supremacists claim the GOP is on their side. And on Capitol Hill, Republican lawmakers did little to clamp down on race-based hate groups. But as of last week, Democrats are in charge of the House.

And that means Rep. Bennie Thompson, an African American lawmaker from Mississippi, is in charge of the House Homeland Security Committee. He plans to act. Thompson intends to hold hearings to spotlight what experts say is a growth of deadly right wing extremism in America, even if the hearings could feature members of white supremacist groups. “There are some people, I understand, who have belonged to those groups in the past, so there might be an opportunity for dialogue there,” Thompson said.

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The Guardian - January 12, 2019

'Ridiculous': report Ivanka Trump could lead World Bank meets scorn

The Financial Times reported on Friday that the name of Ivanka Trump is “floating around Washington” regarding the need for a new president of the World Bank.

The role will soon be open due to the surprise departure of the current president, Jim Yong Kim. But on politics Twitter, at least, the idea that his replacement might be the first daughter was met with widespread derision. “Of all the people in US who could be World Bank President,” tweeted California Congressman Ted Lieu, sarcastically, “the most qualified is Ivanka Trump, who lost her fashion line & happens to be the daughter of @POTUS. I see.”

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Bloomberg - January 13, 2019

Millennial women are pouring into jobs, fueling U.S. labor gains

Millennial women are participating in the American job market at levels last seen in 2000 as people like Remya Ravindran dive back into the labor pool.

The share of 25- to 34-year-old women who are employed or looking has staged a sharp turnaround since 2016. The group since December 2015 has accounted for 86 percent of growth in the workforce of prime-working-age women, who are 25- to 54-years-old, and for 46 percent of gains in the prime-age labor pool as a whole. The gap between young women who are working or looking and their male peers has narrowed to 12.3 percentage points. That’s down from 16.7 points 20 years ago, and it’s the lowest gender divide the age group has ever seen.

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Newsclips - January 13, 2019

Lead Stories

New York Times - January 11, 2019

F.B.I. opened inquiry into whether Trump was secretly working on behalf of Russia

In the days after President Trump fired James B. Comey as F.B.I. director, law enforcement officials became so concerned by the president’s behavior that they began investigating whether he had been working on behalf of Russia against American interests, according to former law enforcement officials and others familiar with the investigation.

The inquiry carried explosive implications. Counterintelligence investigators had to consider whether the president’s own actions constituted a possible threat to national security. Agents also sought to determine whether Mr. Trump was knowingly working for Russia or had unwittingly fallen under Moscow’s influence. The investigation the F.B.I. opened into Mr. Trump also had a criminal aspect, which has long been publicly known: whether his firing of Mr. Comey constituted obstruction of justice. Agents and senior F.B.I. officials had grown suspicious of Mr. Trump’s ties to Russia during the 2016 campaign but held off on opening an investigation into him, the people said, in part because they were uncertain how to proceed with an inquiry of such sensitivity and magnitude.

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Rivard Report - January 12, 2019

He’s in: Julián Castro launches 2020 presidential campaign

Julián Castro made the announcement that has been coming for months or – to some who have followed his rise from San Antonio City Council to young mayor and, finally, a member of President Barack Obama's cabinet – perhaps years. He's running for president.

Castro confirmed his 2020 presidential run Saturday in West San Antonio, the cradle of his political career and a few miles from the home where his single mother and immigrant grandmother raised him and his twin brother. In front of thousands of supporters and members of the media gathered at Plaza Guadalupe, he paid tribute to his hometown. To restore the American Dream, Castro proposed a platform of progressive policies, including universal early education, Medicare for All, immigration and criminal justice reform, economic stimulus to address climate change, and making housing more affordable.

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Associated Press - January 13, 2019

How long can O’Rourke wait as 2020 pace picks up around him?

You won’t see Beto O’Rourke announce whether he’s running for president in 2020 for a while. But you may see him do almost anything else in the meantime. “So, I’m here at the dentist,” the former Democrat congressman said with a giggle during a teeth-cleaning seen live on Instagram last week, before quizzing the dental hygienist about life along the U.S.-Mexico border.

Anyone grumbling about livestream overexposure can catch O’Rourke on more traditional airwaves next month in New York, when Oprah Winfrey interviews him. O’Rourke barged into last year’s Senate race almost laughably early, in March 2017, insisting he was a credible contender against the incumbent, Republican Ted Cruz, when almost no one nationally knew of O’Rourke. Now he’s doing almost anything to keep people paying attention to him without formally starting a presidential campaign for 2020. He’s not expected to decide until next month at the earliest whether he’s running.

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Reuters - January 11, 2019

Slashed profit expectations may set stage for gains

There could well be a silver lining in all the caution around the stock market as the earnings season approaches: Shares do way better when profit expectations have fallen, and lately, they’ve been falling like a rock.

By at least one measure, this is the most negative analysts have been ahead of a reporting period in nearly four years. Fourth-quarter reports get rolling next week with results from JPMorgan Chase and other big banks. Recent warnings on the quarter from high-profile companies have had investors bracing for more bad news. Earlier this month, Apple’s big cut in its revenue forecast added to fears among some market watchers that a possible 2019 earnings recession - defined as at least two straight quarters of profit declines - may be on the horizon.

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HuffPost - January 11, 2019

Conservative men are obsessed with Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. Science tells us why.

Conservatives’ bizarre, escalating obsession with Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) reached a new level this week when The Daily Caller published fake revenge porn of the new congresswoman.

Since Ocasio-Cortez, a 29-year-old working-class democratic socialist, unexpectedly toppled powerful white male incumbent Joe Crowley in a June primary, she’s become an object of fixation among Republicans, especially Republican men. Conservatives tend to respond to fear more strongly than liberals do, according to Bobby Azarian, a neuroscientist whose expertise in anxiety has led him to examine political behaviors. His research has found that the brains of conservative people are likely to display the same attention biases as the brains of people with anxiety. “The one main cognitive difference is that conservatives are more sensitive to threat,” he said. “Their fears are sometimes exaggerated. I think they fear her.”

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State Stories

Houston Chronicle - January 11, 2019

State board votes to remove pro-Confederacy plaque from Texas Capitol

A plaque glorifying the Confederacy that has been hanging in the Texas Capitol since 1959 is finally coming down — two years after Democratic lawmakers first made an issue of it.

The State Preservation Board, made up of five Republicans officials and one citizen, voted unanimously in a three-minute meeting Friday to remove the “Children of the Confederacy Creed” plaque. The marker has long drawn criticism and outrage because of its historically inaccurate claim that the Civil War was “not a rebellion, nor was its underlying cause to sustain slavery.” Gov. Greg Abbott, Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, House Speaker Dennis Bonnen, Rep. Jeff Leach and citizen representative Alethea Swann Bugg cast their votes Friday and quickly left the room without comment.

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Houston Chronicle - January 13, 2019

Dan Patrick’s alliance with Trump gets tighter amid border wall impasse

As President Donald Trump’s inner circle continues to shrink with the departures of key aides and cabinet members, there is one Texan whose role in the administration is only growing more prominent and deeper.

Tea party favorite Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick was already close with Trump in 2016, when he led the president’s campaign in the state. But this week the White House showed just how valued Patrick is by repeatedly consulting with him over the last 8 days during the border wall showdown, flying Patrick to Washington, D.C., to help prepare Trump for his first nationwide address from the Oval Office and giving Patrick a key role in Trump’s first visit to the Texas border since he was elected president.

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Houston Chronicle - January 12, 2019

Vietnamese refugees in Houston plead for extension of deportation protection

The sun sliced the statue at an angle, highlighting the serious faces of the two men weighed down by military garb and rifles. In the shadow rests a plaque etched with people — Vietnamese refugees — in boats, the brass depicting a tone of somberness and fear that is carried over by the immigrants gathered nearby on Saturday morning.

“Every day, when I wake up and think about being deported back to Vietnam and separated from my family, that tears my heart,” Robert Huynh’s voice cracked. He quickly wiped tears from his eyes as he stood in front of the Vietnam Memorial in southwest Houston Saturday morning. Dozens of people stood beside him to urge the U.S. government to renew the 2008 repatriation agreement between the U.S. and Vietnam, which protects certain Vietnamese refugees from deportation.

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Houston Chronicle - January 12, 2019

The journey from Wisconsin to Texas and the ruling that struck down the ACA

The federal judge who struck down the Affordable Care Act may sit in Texas, but the legal theory that started it all was hatched nearly a year earlier and a thousand miles away by a young, ambitious lawyer in Wisconsin.

Early last January, Misha Tseytlin, then solicitor general of Wisconsin, was on the phone with his friend and fellow traveler in conservative political circles, Scott Keller, then solicitor general of Texas. The men had known each other for more than a decade since clerking together for retired Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy. Each had a track record of winning lawsuits against the Obama administration. As they spoke, the lawyers, both now 37, wondered how the law known as Obamacare made sense after the Republican-controlled Congress had, for all practical purposes, ended the individual mandate by eliminating the penalty for not having insurance.

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Houston Chronicle - January 11, 2019

Trump plan to tap Army Corps funds for wall hits a nerve in Houston

n emergency Trump administration plan to tap storm protection funds to pay for a border wall was slammed Friday by Houston lawmakers who said it could endanger the city’s recovery from Hurricane Harvey and jeopardize the region’s preparedness for future storms.

While details of the proposal remained unclear, lawmakers in both parties scrambled to win assurances from the White House and allay concerns about projects in the Gulf Region, including a proposed coastal barrier to protect Galveston Bay and the Houston Ship Channel. Reports that President Donald Trump has been briefed on a plan to use unspent money from Army Corps of Engineers projects heightened tensions in Congress about his threat to use emergency powers to build hundreds of miles of barriers along the U.S.-Mexico border, much of it in the Rio Grande Valley.

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Houston Chronicle - January 13, 2019

Elderly Texans take on more debt than anywhere to finance car obsession, study shows

Texans take out some of the highest auto loans than anywhere in the nation, studies show, and that’s causing Texas seniors to carry the most non-mortgage debt in the U.S.

San Antonio, Austin and Houston seniors led the nation with the most non-mortgage debt, according to analysis of approximately 75,000 Lending Tree users between the ages of 65 and 70 years old. Houston seniors carry a median of $26,219 in debt, over $5,500 more than the national average, and 44.4 percent of their debt is for a car loan. Younger Texans also carry a significant amount of car loans. McAllen, Houston, El Paso and San Antonio Millennials - born between 1981 and 1996 - have the highest auto loan balances than anywhere else in the country, according to a separate Lending Tree study. The median millennial car loan balance in Houston is $20,925, nearly $5,000 more than the national average.

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Dallas Morning News - January 13, 2019

'Absolute musts': Abbott says lawmakers have to limit property tax hikes, fix Texas school funding

As he prepares to be sworn in for a second term Tuesday, Gov. Greg Abbott is focused intently on two big goals — restraining property tax increases and improving the way Texas funds its public schools.

Abbott acknowledges that he and other newly re-elected Republicans who control the Texas Capitol will be trying to thread a political needle this session: Yes, the state needs to ramp up its financial contributions to schools to ease upward pressure on Texas homeowners' and businesses' property-tax bills, they concede. Yet to keep faith with voters and conservative principles, state leaders and lawmakers must insist that much of the new money flow through "outcomes-based strategies" that prod schools to improve, the Republican governor said.

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Dallas Morning News - January 12, 2019

Democratic freshman Rep. Colin Allred shares whirlwind schedule in multipart 'GQ' diary

Freshman U.S. Rep. Colin Allred says he's stunned by how often he's recognized while walking the halls in his new job — even if he's sometimes mistaken for fellow Democrat Marc Veasey.

"People bring stuff for him to my office all the time," Allred said in a congressional diary he's keeping for GQ Magazine. "I think that's just going to go with the territory here." The two happen to share adjacent districts. Allred defeated longtime incumbent Pete Sessions to secure the 32nd congressional district that includes parts of Dallas north of Interstate 30 up through Richardson, Garland and all the way north to Wylie, while Veasey's 33rd district covers parts of Fort Worth, Dallas, Grand Prairie, Irving, Arlington and other cities.

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Dallas Morning News - January 11, 2019

Mexico's consul in Dallas to stay on under new president

Mexico’s consul in Dallas will not be changing, even though Mexico has a new president and a new ruling political party. Dallas Mexican Consul Francisco de la Torre will remain at his post as the head of the General Consulate of Mexico in Dallas after his position was ratified by the incoming government of President Andrés Manuel López Obrador.

It is customary for ambassadors and consuls to leave their post once a new government takes office. De la Torre, 46, first arrived in Dallas in June 2016, at at time when NAFTA, a border wall with Mexico and immigration issues were fueling the hotly contested presidential campaign in the United States. De la Torre told the podcast Latinos Al Día in December 2018 that he witnessed how "the acts of discrimination, racism and segregation against the Hispanic community, and especially against the Mexican community" prompted many Mexicans to seek help from his office.

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Austin American-Statesman - January 12, 2019

Richard Overton remembered as devoted soldier, ‘Texas legend’

Gunshots sounded in a military salute that rang across the East Austin neighborhood Richard Overton called home for 72 years at a service where hundreds celebrated the life of a veteran who toiled as an Army truck driver and went on to charm many with his kind nature, warm smile and love of whiskey and cigars.

Before his death Dec. 27, Overton, 112, was the nation’s oldest living World War II veteran and its oldest man. On Saturday, his body was lowered into the ground at Texas State Cemetery in a deep blue casket. Tucked into his jacket pocket was a Tampa Sweet cigar, which Overton was known to enjoy. While much has been said of Overton’s penchant for whiskey and cigars, it was his devotion to his country and to God and the humility with which he aged that resonated most often during his funeral service and burial, which included a helicopter flyover, a three-volley rifle salute and remarks by Gov. Greg Abbott.

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Austin American-Statesman - January 11, 2019

Will freshmen Democrats make a mark on the Texas House?

With the start of this year’s legislative session, the Capitol is teeming with 20-somethings who staff the offices of the 150 representatives and 31 senators, and, in the singular case of James Talarico, a 29-year-old who actually serves as an elected member of the 86th Legislature.

In defeating Republican Cynthia Flores for an open Williamson County seat formerly held by GOP Rep. Larry Gonzales, the Round Rock Democrat became one of 27 freshmen members of the House, 17 of them Democrats, and, most significantly, one of a dozen Democrats who flipped seats held by Republicans, a political upheaval that has already changed the tenor of the 140-day session that got underway last week.

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Austin American-Statesman - January 11, 2019

Cruz and Cornyn blame Democrats for shutdown

U.S. Sens. Ted Cruz and John Cornyn placed the blame for the three-week government shutdown, tied for the longest in U.S. history, squarely on Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer and Democratic House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, saying they care more about placating grassroots Democrats who hate President Donald Trump, than about the 800,000 federal workers who missed their first paycheck Friday.

“To this point, Sen. Schumer and Nancy Pelosi have been happy with their negotiating posture because this is not about trying to find a solution. In their mind, this is about trying to appease their base, and I think most of us have observed the Democratic Party has shifted so far left that they are in full anti-Trump resistance mode, and they don’t want to give the president anything that might appear as a win, and they don’t really care who gets hurt during that time,” Cornyn told reporters Friday after a joint appearance with Cruz at the closing keynote of the conservative Texas Public Policy Foundation Annual Policy Orientation at the Austin Hilton downtown.

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Rivard Report - January 12, 2019

Dennis Nixon: For common-sense border security, look to the river

In 2017, I authored a white paper titled "Common Sense Border Security Solutions," which I have shared with members of Congress, Trump administration officials, and other leaders in the public and private sectors across the country. In it, I presented a plan for addressing border security and immigration that is both sensible and fiscally responsible and serves our national interests.

One practical solution I recommend is to clean up the Rio Grande and give U.S. Customs and Border Patrol greater access and visibility. Eradicating nonnative, invasive vegetation, building all-weather roads for easier access to the river, and developing a larger buffer zone between the two countries would make it much harder for both criminals and immigrants to even attempt illegal entry. Having taken these steps, the area could then be managed much more effectively with technological solutions, such as motion detectors, cameras, and infrared sensors. This approach is a faster, cheaper, and more effective way to patrol and control the river, as opposed to a far more expensive and intrusive wall.

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Star-Telegram - January 11, 2019

With Muslim vote resolved, Tarrant GOP leadership must deal with vocal losing faction

Tarrant County Republican leaders sent a message Thursday when they rejected a proposal to oust Shahid Shafi from party leadership because he’s Muslim. But one question, for many, still lingers. The vote was 139-49 to keep Shafi in office. So who are the 49 who voted against keeping him as a vice chairman in the party?

“We will not release the names,” Tarrant County Republican Party Chair Darl Easton said Friday, one day after the long-awaited vote on Shafi’s status. The Tarrant County GOP is a private group, he said, and is not required to release the names, particularly since the vote was taken behind closed doors. Others called on social media for the Tarrant GOP to “kick the other 49 out for not representing the values of this GOP party.” But Tarrant County Republicans say it’s time to come back together. One message posed on the Tarrant Republicans Facebook page sent a message: “No personal attacks. No name calling. The vote is over. Move on. #BeBetterThanTheHaters.” Easton said it’s time to reach out to all Tarrant Republicans and move forward. “I’m hoping this will make us stronger, particularly in the eyes of the public,” Easton said. “There has always been so much doubt out there.

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Lubbock Avalanche-Journal - January 12, 2019

Jay Leeson: New Tech Tedd Mitchell is making his case

It’s hard to know what to make of Tedd Mitchell initially, other than you like him. He equally despises wearing a suit and long emails, he avoids spicy food because it makes him sweat, and he still holds swimming records from the late 1970s at Longview High School. He and wife Janet have a 600 square-foot treehouse (literally a house in a tree) on their ranch in his native East Texas that’s received national attention.

Mitchell has spent his career practicing internal medicine, specializing in sports medicine. One of several contrasts to his predecessors is that he didn’t spend decades in elected office amassing political power like former Texas Tech chancellors John Montford, Kent Hance and Robert Duncan. It’s widely believed lore that Hance, a Mitchell patient who recruited him to take over as president of the Health Sciences Center in 2010, could have the Texas Rangers at a foe’s house in 5 minutes flat.

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D Magazine - January 13, 2019

John Carona’s steady climb to $1 billion

John Carona traces his multimillion-dollar business success back to a 1967 Lawn-Boy mower. As an entrepreneurial 12-year-old, Carona bought the signature green mower from a neighbor, the owner of Circle Equipment in Preston Center, on a $10-a-week payment plan. He needed the mower because he needed a job to help support his family.

“I would run to his house every Saturday evening and pay him that week’s installment, and he would keep a tab on a little piece of paper that he kept in his house” Carona says. “I learned from a very early age if you wanted anything, you’d better be prepared to go out and get it yourself.”

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City Stories

Dallas Morning News - January 13, 2019

Who ya gonna call? Dallas police response times slower again in 2018

According to police statistics, Dallas Police Department's responses to calls like Strausz Jardim’s were slower in 2018 than in the previous two years — despite 7,621 fewer dispatched calls than in 2017.

Dallas police have struggled in recent years to keep response times low while the department’s ranks shrank by hundreds — something officials have attributed primarily to pension and pay troubles. December’s numbers showed some improvement, but still weren’t enough to make up for 11 months of difficulties. Priority 1 calls, which are routinely for murders and shootings, improved but were still over the department's goal of eight minutes, according to the records. The average response time for a Priority 1 call in 2018 was 8.35 minutes, a slight improvement from the year before.

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National Stories

Associated Press - January 12, 2019

GOP rejected Obama's executive reach, but accepts Trump's

President Barack Obama stunned Republicans when he bypassed Congress and, relying on what he called his pen and his phone, used executive powers to enact his agenda, including protecting millions of young immigrants from deportation.

Now, with President Donald Trump proposing an even more dramatic end-run around Congress to build his promised border wall with Mexico, many Republicans are uneasily cheering him on. The potential use of a national emergency declaration by Trump for the border wall shows the extent to which the party is willing to yield on treasured values — in this case, the constitutional separation of powers — to steer clear of confronting the White House and give the president what he wants. It's a different accommodation from just a few years ago. Then Republicans often called out Obama as overstepping his authority in using executive actions when Congress failed to act on White House priorities. They complained about Obama as "king," ''emperor" or "tyrant."

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New York Times - January 12, 2019

V.A. seeks to redirect billions of dollars Into private care

The Department of Veterans Affairs is preparing to shift billions of dollars from government-run veterans’ hospitals to private health care providers, setting the stage for the biggest transformation of the veterans’ medical system in a generation.

Under proposed guidelines, it would be easier for veterans to receive care in privately run hospitals and have the government pay for it. Veterans would also be allowed access to a system of proposed walk-in clinics, which would serve as a bridge between V.A. emergency rooms and private providers, and would require co-pays for treatment. Veterans’ hospitals, which treat seven million patients annually, have struggled to see patients on time in recent years, hit by a double crush of returning Iraq and Afghanistan veterans and aging Vietnam veterans.

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Forbes - January 13, 2019

Judge orders Alex Jones to turn over Infowars' marketing and financial documents

A Connecticut Superior Court judge has handed Sandy Hook conspiracy theorist Alex Jones a potentially devastating legal defeat by ruling that his company Infowars must turn over the website’s internal marketing and financial documents in a lawsuit against him.

Judge Barbara Bellis has granted the discovery request of the family members’ of several children, a teacher, and an FBI agent who were killed during the 2012 shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School the Newtown, Connecticut. The plaintiffs are suing Jones for defamation and allege that Jones spread a series of “abusive and outrageous false statements” and encouraged his viewers and listeners to act on this information. Along with maintaining that the shooting itself was a hoax, Jones also insisted that the families involved were paid crisis actors.

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NBC News - January 11, 2019

Behind the viral #GoFundTheWall fundraiser, a rising conservative star and a shadowy email harvesting operation

The GoFundMe fundraiser that promised to help privately fund President Donald Trump's plan for a wall spanning the length of the U.S.-Mexico border surpassed $20 million dollars in donations this week. But the man behind it — Brian Kolfage, a rising conservative media star — may have had another goal.

Through his border-wall campaign, he claims to have gathered 3.5 million email addresses, which are essential to his broader operation — a wide-ranging and multipronged effort to collect a list of Trump supporters who have proven to be sources of donations for conservative efforts, former employees told NBC News. According to former employees and public records including website archives, Nevada business registrations and property records, Kolfage has repeatedly created GoFundMe campaigns and published inflammatory fake news articles, pushing them both from websites that he sought to hide behind shell companies and false identities, in part to harvest email addresses. Those addresses were then used to push people back to Kolfage’s websites, to sell a brand of coffee he owns, or to be stockpiled for future use by conservative campaigns.

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Washington Post - January 11, 2019

‘Could you make these guys essential?’: Mortgage industry gets shutdown relief after appeal to senior Treasury officials

After an intense lobbying campaign by the mortgage industry, the Treasury Department this week restarted a program that had been sidelined by the partial government shutdown, allowing hundreds of Internal Revenue Service clerks to collect paychecks as they process forms vital to the lending industry.

The hasty intervention to restore the IRS’s income verification service by drawing on revenue from fees — even as 800,000 federal employees across the country are going without their salaries — has intensified questions about the Trump administration’s un­or­tho­dox efforts to bring certain government functions back online to contain the shutdown’s impacts. Critics, including many former IRS officials, described the move as an act of favoritism to ease the burden on a powerful industry.

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Politico - January 11, 2019

White House warns shutdown could carry on after emergency declaration

White House officials are warning congressional Republicans not to expect an immediate end to the government shutdown even if President Donald Trump declares a national emergency at the southern border.

The warning came during Trump’s Thursday visit to the southern U.S. border, according to three sources with knowledge of those conversations. Many Democrats and some Republicans have grown hopeful that a national emergency declaration, which would allow Trump to tap Pentagon funds for a border wall, might end a political standoff that has partially shut down the government for three weeks. Their thinking is that such an effort by Trump would allow him to declare victory and strike a deal with Congress to reopen the federal government, even though his extreme legal move would then face severe court challenges.

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Politico - January 11, 2019

Trump wants to bypass Congress on Medicaid plan

The Trump administration is quietly devising a plan bypassing Congress to give block grants to states for Medicaid, achieving a longstanding conservative dream of reining in spending on the health care safety net for the poor.

Three administration sources say the Trump administration is drawing up guidelines on what could be a major overhaul of Medicaid in some states. Instead of the traditional open-ended entitlement, states would get spending limits, along with more flexibility to run the low-income health program that serves nearly 75 million Americans, from poor children, to disabled people, to impoverished seniors in nursing homes. Capping spending could mean fewer low-income people getting covered, or state-designated cutbacks in health benefits — although proponents of block grants argue that states would be able to spend the money smarter with fewer federal strings attached.

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Wall Street Journal - January 13, 2019

White House sought options to bomb Iran

On a warm night in early September, militants fired three mortars into Baghdad’s sprawling diplomatic quarter, home to the U.S. Embassy. The shells—launched by a group aligned with Iran—landed in an open lot, harming no one. But they triggered unusual alarm in Washington, where President Trump’s national security team conducted a series of meetings to discuss a forceful American response.

As part of the talks, Mr. Trump’s National Security Council, led by John Bolton, asked the Pentagon to provide the White House with military options to strike Iran. The request, which hasn’t been previously reported, generated concern at the Pentagon and State Department, current and former U.S. officials say. “It definitely rattled people,” said one former senior U.S. administration official. “People were shocked. It was mind-boggling how cavalier they were about hitting Iran.” The Pentagon complied with the National Security Council’s request to develop options for striking Iran, the officials said. But it isn’t clear if the proposals were provided to the White House, whether Mr. Trump knew of the request or whether serious plans for a U.S. strike against Iran took shape at that time.

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ABC News - January 12, 2019

Trump, GOP blamed for shutdown; no crisis seen but fewer oppose wall

A majority of Americans hold Donald Trump and congressional Republicans mainly responsible for the partial federal shutdown, now the longest in history, according to a new ABC News/Washington Post poll. Only a quarter back Trump’s claim that there’s a crisis at the southern border and two-thirds oppose him declaring a national emergency to fund a wall there, according to the poll.

At the same time, support for a border wall has increased since the last time border security issues forced the parties into a standoff in January 2018. Forty-two percent now support a wall, the highest percentage in ABC/Post polling since Trump first proposed it. Fifty-four percent are opposed. Fifty-three percent in the national survey said that Trump and the GOP are mainly responsible for the shutdown, while 29 percent blamed congressional Democrats, nearly a 2-1 margin against the president and his party. Thirteen percent said both equally are at fault. (Slightly fewer, 48 percent, blamed Trump and his party during the brief partial shutdown a year ago.)

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Newsclips - January 11, 2019

Lead Stories

Star-Telegram - January 11, 2019

Tarrant Republicans stand ‘against bigotry of all kinds’ as Muslim keeps party post

Shahid Shafi, a Muslim, remains a vice chairman of the Tarrant County Republican Party. Tarrant County Republicans voted 139-49 late Thursday night — after more than 2 1/2 hours of private discussion among precinct chairs — to keep Shafi, 54, in the leadership post.

“This vote reaffirms the commitment by a majority of Tarrant County Republicans to our core values and moral compass, a demonstration of our allegiance to the Texas Republican Party Platform and the Constitutions of the United States and Texas, which strictly prohibit religious and racial discrimination of any kind,” Tarrant County Republican Party Chair Darl Easton said in a written statement. “While (Thursday’s) vote brings an end to this unfortunate episode, it also demonstrates we are a party that respects the right of those who disagree on an issue to have a seat at the table and their voices heard. Religious liberty won tonight and while that makes a great day for the Republican Party of Tarrant County, that victory also serves notice that we have much work to do unifying our party.”

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Wall Street Journal - January 11, 2019

Government shutdown could end 99-month job growth streak

The partial government shutdown could cause the longest stretch of continuous job growth recorded in the U.S. to come to an end this month.

U.S. employers, including private businesses and government agencies, have added jobs every month since October 2010, a streak of 99 months. That is the longest run on record dating back to 1939 and would to come to an end, if hundreds of thousands of government workers furloughed by the partial shutdown are dropped from federal payrolls. “The January employment number could be pretty ugly,” said Moody’s Analytics economist Ryan Sweet. He said it is too soon to know if federal workers laid off this week ultimately won’t be counted as employed in January jobs report, to be released Feb. 1.

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CNBC - January 11, 2019

Fed Chairman Powell says he is 'very worried' about growing amount of U.S. debt

Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell is concerned about the ballooning amount of United States debt. "I'm very worried about it," Powell said at The Economic Club of Washington, D.C. "From the Fed's standpoint, we're really looking at a business cycle length: that's our frame of reference. The long-run fiscal, nonsustainability of the U.S. federal government isn't really something that plays into the medium term that is relevant for our policy decisions."

However, "it's a long-run issue that we definitely need to face, and ultimately, will have no choice but to face," he added. The Fed chief's comments came as the annual U.S. deficit reaches new sustained highs above $1 trillion, a fact many economists worry could spell trouble for future generations. Annual deficits have topped $1 trillion before, but never during a time of sustained economic growth like now, raising concern about what would happen if a recession hits.

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Houston Chronicle - January 9, 2019

Cruz term-limits bill aims at career politicians, but current terms don't count

Sen. Ted Cruz wants to place term limits on members of Congress, an idea that has long appealed to people across the political divide who have grown skeptical of the current crop of professional politicians.

But even if Cruz's amendment to the U.S. Constitution were somehow enacted by the current Congress and the states – a long-shot at best – it would not bar him from running for a third or even fourth term in the Senate. Nor would it bar fellow Texas Republican John Cornyn from running for a fourth Senate term in 2020. That's because terms beginning before final ratification would not count. "The amendment, as drafted, would start the clock once it was ratified," Cruz explained in an interview. "So term limits would begin at that moment."

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State Stories

San Antonio Express-News - January 10, 2019

To announce run for president, Julián Castro picked San Antonio plaza wrapped in history, culture, commerce, faith

Presumptive presidential candidate Julián Castro had no second thought about where to make his big, formal announcement Saturday. Plaza Guadalupe, an outdoor venue across from Our Lady of Guadalupe Catholic Church and adjacent to the Guadalupe Theater, is in the heart of the city’s historic West Side, where Mexican Americans long ago settled and refugees landed during the Mexican Revolution.

Castro will make history there as the first presidential candidate from the Alamo City and only the third Mexican American to seek a major party nomination for the office. Just as significantly, he will announce his intentions in a place and plaza wrapped in history, culture, commerce and faith. “For me, that’s home,” Castro said this week from Las Vegas, where he met with activists and officials after an Iowa stop, an itinerary that by itself says he’s running for president. “I was baptized there, and both my children were baptized there. I went to middle school three blocks from there,” he added, referring to Tafolla Middle School, where he and his twin brother, U.S. Rep. Joaquin Castro, were pupils. “And I grew up on the West Side."

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San Antonio Express-News - January 11, 2019

Texas gas prices 34 cents lower than a year ago

Texans who busted their holiday budgets can at least take comfort at the gas pump — prices for a gallon of fuel are on average 34 cents below what they were a year ago.

The statewide average for regular unleaded gas is $1.92 per gallon earlier this week, significantly below the national average is $2.23, according to the AAA Texas Weekend Gas Watch. “With demand at its lowest point since February 2017 and the fact that the global crude market continues to be oversupplied, retail gasoline prices continue falling in many areas,” AAA Texas said in a written statement. The bad news: analysts don’t expect the low prices to last.

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San Antonio Express-News - January 10, 2019

Stymied by Congress, Trump visits McAllen to make his pitch for the wall

With funding for his border wall stymied by opposition in Congress, President Trump brought his lobbying campaign to far South Texas for a few hours Thursday, hammering on arguments that a barrier is needed to end what he calls a crisis on the U.S.-Mexico border.

“A lot of crime in our country is caused by what's coming through here,” Trump said during a whirlwind visit to McAllen and the Rio Grande. “Whether it's steel or concrete you don't care. We need a barrier.” Before returning to Washington, Trump repeated his threat to declare a “national emergency” over border security if congressional Democrats continue to deny $5.7 billion in extra funds he has requested for a border “barrier” and other border security items. In all, Trump spent around four hours on the border, including a few minutes viewing the Rio Grande at a county park that fronts the river. Across the narrow stream lies Reynosa, a violent city that's a center for illegal trafficking in humans and narcotics into the U.S.

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Houston Chronicle - January 11, 2019

Texas House Speaker Bonnen makes case to conservatives to beef up education funding

Speaker Dennis Bonnen dug his heels into his commitment to prioritize school funding in this year’s legislative session, adding that lawmakers who say they care about kids can’t wait and let generations go unprepared.

"If there is a school that is failing, why are we not more willing to fix it?” Bonnen, R-Angleton, told several hundred attendees at a breakfast in downtown Austin on Thursday hosted by the Texas Public Policy Foundation. A strong education system will produce taxpaying citizens, he told the audience largely of conservative Republican lawmakers and thought leaders gathered at the Hilton Austin for the group’s policy orientation. The comments come as Bonnen, the first new House speaker in a decade, works to get buy-in for significant change in how the state funds education amid scattershot outcomes for kids. For example, high school graduation rates are soaring in Texas, but the state has slipped to No. 46 in national rankings for fourth-grade reading.

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Houston Chronicle - January 10, 2019

The Permian Basin goes corporate

What a difference a decade makes. At one point in 2008, U.S. oil production fell to its all-time low of about 3.8 million barrels a day. Today, the Permian Basin alone produces 3.8 million.

Once the epitome of Texas wildcatting and strike-it-rich oil exploration, the West Texas oil field is now the home of big corporations bringing industrial efficiency to the production of crude. And that’s increasingly true with each passing day as the big players buy out the smaller ones. The country’s top energy companies — Exxon Mobil, based in Irving, and Chevron — have made the Permian their global focal points. And European supermajors such as Royal Dutch Shell and BP are making moves to keep growing in West Texas. Late last year, Exxon Mobil planted its flag as the most active driller in the Permian with 38 drilling rigs running in the region, which extends into southeastern New Mexico. That jumped Exxon past the Midland company Concho Resources’ 34 rigs, which rapidly expanded last year through the $8 billion acquisition of rival RSP Permian. Chevron, headquartered in San Ramon, Calif., isn’t far behind in the region with more than 20 rigs. For comparison, all of California counts about 10 active drilling rigs versus almost 500 rigs just in the Permian.

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Houston Chronicle - January 10, 2019

Group of conservative pastors in Houston supports border wall

Members of the conservative U.S. Pastor Council lent support to President Donald Trump’s visit to the southern border during a Thursday press conference, where their leadership reiterated a declaration for a “biblical approach” to illegal immigration that should include the building of a wall.

“Our purpose is to reintroduce the principles of the Pastors’ declaration on border security and immigration that we laid out in 2010,” said David Welch, the leader of the organization, with the difference that “at this point in time we believe a wall is a legitimate part” of a solution. Welch said the group, who included six people at the event at Houston Baptist University, has delineated three principles to tackle the problem of illegal immigration, which he has been “kicked down the road too many times in too many directions by too many leaders.” The group’s declaration seems similar to Trump’s agenda and arguments to justify the construction of a border wall.

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Dallas Morning News - January 10, 2019

Five women start Texas Legislature's first LGBTQ caucus

Five women lawmakers have decided to form the Texas Legislature's first LGBTQ caucus.

State Rep. Mary González will serve as the group's chairwoman. In an interview with The Dallas Morning News on Thursday, the El Paso Democrat said she hopes the caucus will advance bills that are "transformative" for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender Texans across the state. "We want to honor the moment," González said, just minutes before her staff planned to file the paperwork making the caucus official. "We want to have an intentional and strategic agenda."

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Dallas Morning News - January 11, 2019

Aviation workers say government shutdown 'needlessly risks' safety in the skies

Air traffic controllers, pilots and other key cogs of the nation's aviation sector on Thursday demanded an end to the partial government shutdown, rallying outside the Capitol to highlight what they say is a growing danger from not reaching a resolution.

"The shutdown needlessly risks the safety, security and efficiency of our national airspace system," Joe DePete, president of the Air Line Pilots Association, said in a show of industry solidarity toward the federal workers hit by the funding fight. The rally was one of several across the country Thursday as the shutdown reached a critical stage in which hundreds of thousands of government workers will miss their first paycheck. One the shutdown's biggest flash points is shaping up to be stress on the air travel system, particularly in busy airspace like that over North Texas.

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Fort Worth Business Press - January 11, 2019

Texas is No. 1 for female entrepreneurs

Texas may be perceived as a state with a masculine reputation, but plenty of female entrepreneurs seem to be putting their boots on in the state. The Lone Star State is No. 1 for the percentage of female entrepreneurs, according to FitSmallBusiness.com.

FitSmallBusiness.com ranked each state in the country to determine which are the best for female entrepreneurs -- the second annual study of Best States for Female Entrepreneurs. Only two of the states that made the Top 10 Best States for Female Entrepreneurs list last year were included in this year's Top 10. This is due to a variety of reasons including new legislation, and saturated markets. For example, Texas jumped from eighth place last year to first place this year, and Georgia moved from first to tenth. Nationwide, the number of female entrepreneurs is growing. Twenty-three percent of entrepreneurs seeking angel investing were female in 2018, up from 19 percent in 2014, according to FitSmallBusiness. Of course, women still face challenges. For example, studies show women who apply for business loans generally receive 45 percent less capital than their male counterparts, according to New York-based FitSmallBusiness. Others studies show, the overwhelming majority of venture capitalists are men.

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County Stories

Star-Telegram - January 11, 2019

Leader, educator, friend — Dionne Bagsby, first black female county commissioner in Texas, dead at 82

Called “a mentor and friend,” Dionne Phillips Bagsby, the first woman and first African-American elected to the Tarrant County Commissioners Court, died Thursday morning. She was 82.

Bagsby, originally from Illinois, had a lifelong passion for education. After she moved to Fort Worth with her husband, Jim Bagsby, in the 1960s, she worked to integrate Fort Worth schools, where she worked as a speech therapist. She spent much of her time recruiting and encouraging others to run for office or become involved in community groups. Spurred by community support, Bagsby decided to run for office and entered the race for Commission Precinct 1. She won the 1988 race, defeating 20-year incumbent Richard “Dick” Andersen in the Democratic primary.

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City Stories

Dallas Morning News - January 10, 2019

178-acre country club in Garland to become community for adults with autism, Down Syndrome

A former Garland golf course was purchased for a new residential community geared toward adults with cognitive disabilities. Plano-based My Possibilities acquired the 178-acre Eastern Hills Country Club. Cognitive disabilities include everything from autism and Down Syndrome to traumatic brain injuries and dementia.

The low-density development incorporates large sections of green space. And there will be a large section of standard houses open for sale to the community. "My Possibilities has created a revolutionary approach to overall community-building, and to caring for underserved individuals and families who have historically lacked quality and safe places to live," Marty Neilon with CBRE Land Services Group said in a statement. "The local community has been supportive and forward-thinking, and this area of Garland will now see some of the first new homes delivered in decades."

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National Stories

Associated Press - January 11, 2019

AP Fact Check: Trump falsely claims Obama support for wall

With the deceptive use of a video, President Donald Trump on Thursday heartily thanked his White House predecessor for supporting his policy at the Mexican border. Barack Obama has offered no such support; only criticism.

Obama's remarks in the short video clip do not support Trump's proposal for a border wall or endorse the path Trump is considering now: declaring a national emergency that might enable him to circumvent Congress and unilaterally spend money on the wall. Instead, Obama was asking Congress to approve an emergency appropriation to deal with a surge of tens of thousands of unaccompanied children and youth, mostly from Central American, trying to cross the border from Mexico. "We now have an actual humanitarian crisis on the border," Obama said at the time, accompanied by Vice President Joe Biden. He was referring specifically to the surge of minors that year.

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Associated Press - January 11, 2019

Michael Cohen, ex-Trump lawyer, to testify publicly before Congress

President Donald Trump’s former lawyer, Michael Cohen, will testify publicly before a House committee next month in a hearing that could serve as the opening salvo of a promised Democratic effort to scrutinize Trump, his conflicts of interest and his ties to Russia.

The House Oversight and Reform Committee announced Thursday that Cohen will appear before that panel Feb. 7, a little more than a month after the Democrats took the House majority. The hearing marks the latest step in Cohen’s transformation from a trusted legal adviser to the president to a public antagonist who has cooperated extensively against him.

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Associated Press - January 11, 2019

U.S. government allowed thousands of men to immigrate with child brides

Thousands of requests by men to bring in child and adolescent brides to live in the United States were approved over the past decade, according to government data obtained by The Associated Press. In one case, a 49-year-old man applied for admission for a 15-year-old girl.

The approvals are legal: The Immigration and Nationality Act does not set minimum age requirements. And in weighing petitions for spouses or fiancees, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services goes by whether the marriage is legal in the home country and then whether the marriage would be legal in the state where the petitioner lives. But the data raises questions about whether the immigration system may be enabling forced marriage and about how U.S. laws may be compounding the problem despite efforts to limit child and forced marriage. Marriage between adults and minors is not uncommon in the United States, and most states allow children to marry with some restrictions.

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Washington Post - January 10, 2019

Trump’s wall needs private property. But some Texans won’t give up their land without a fight.

Nayda Alvarez wants nothing to do with any border wall, but her acre of land in Rio Grande City, Tex., where she lives in a brown house along the dividing line between the United States and Mexico, has become of great interest to the U.S. government.

She, along with dozens of other landowners in the Rio Grande Valley, received surprise letters from the federal government in recent months, requests from officials who are seeking access to their properties for surveys, soil tests, equipment storage and other actions. It is, lawyers and experts say, the first step in the government trying to seize private property using the power of eminent domain — a contentious step that could put a lengthy legal wrinkle into President Trump’s plans to build hundreds of miles of wall, some of which passes through land like Alvarez’s.

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Washington Post - January 11, 2019

To keep a shut down government running, White House ventures into uncharted territory

White House officials on Wednesday asked federal agencies to send them a list of stalled services they would like to resume to minimize the public impact of the federal shutdown, three people familiar with the directive said.

The message, conveyed during a conference call between top officials at the White House Office of Management and Budget and federal agencies, is part of a broader effort to keep large parts of the federal government running while President Trump digs in for a lengthy battle over a border wall. The Trump administration is directing federal employees, in many cases without pay, to process tax refunds, extend food-stamp benefits, provide documents for mortgage processing, keep a federal flood insurance program running, and open up national parks. Many of these activities had been prohibited during past shutdowns and were shuttered during the first two weeks of the current lapse.

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Washington Post - January 10, 2019

Trump administration lays groundwork to declare national emergency to build wall

The White House has begun laying the groundwork for a declaration of national emergency to build President Trump’s border wall, a move certain to set off a firestorm of opposition in Congress and the courts but one that could pave the way for an end to the three-week government shutdown.

The administration is eyeing unused money in the Army Corps of Engineers budget, specifically a disaster spending bill passed by Congress last year that includes $13.9 billion allocated but not spent for civil works projects, two people with knowledge of the developments said Thursday. Trump has urged the Army Corps to determine how fast contracts could be signed and whether construction could begin within 45 days, according to one of the people who spoke on the condition of anonymity to describe the preparations.

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New York Times - January 10, 2019

Prosecutors examining Ukrainians who flocked to Trump inaugural

Hours after he was sworn in as America’s 45th president, Donald J. Trump and his wife, Melania, swayed together to a rendition of the Frank Sinatra classic “My Way,” as hundreds of their wealthiest and most influential supporters held aloft smartphones to capture the Trumps’ first dance following the inauguration.

Serhiy Kivalov, a Ukrainian lawmaker known for pro-Russian initiatives, took photos of the dance, as well as of his coveted tickets and passes to the soiree where it took place, the Liberty Ball at the Walter E. Washington Convention Center, posting them on Facebook and declaring that “it was an honor” to attend. He was one of at least a dozen Ukrainian political and business figures who made their way to Washington for the inauguration, several of whom attended the Liberty Ball. Most had more on their dance cards than just parties.

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New York Times - January 11, 2019

U.S. begins Syrian troop withdrawal, amid uncertainty over strategy

The United States began withdrawing its troops from Syria on Friday, an American military spokesman said, a first step in President Trump’s plan to remove American forces from one of the Middle East’s most complex battlefields.

The surprise announcement came in a statement from Col. Sean Ryan, the spokesman for the United States-led coalition against the Islamic State. Colonel Ryan said the coalition had “begun the process of our deliberate withdrawal from Syria,” adding that he would provide no further information about “specific timelines, locations or troop movements.” The withdrawal of the roughly 2,000 American troops posted in northern and eastern Syria threatened to hinder the enduring defeat of the Islamic State and unleash a potentially violent scramble between the other forces in Syria to fill the void.

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Politico - January 11, 2019

Exasperated Democrats try to rein in Ocasio-Cortez

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez is already making enemies in the House Democratic Caucus — and some of its members are mounting an operation to bring the anti-establishment, democratic socialist with 2.2 million Twitter followers into the fold.

The effort, described by nearly 20 lawmakers and aides, is part carrot, part stick: Some lawmakers with ties to Ocasio-Cortez are hoping to coax her into using her star power to unite Democrats and turn her fire on Republicans. Others simultaneously warn Ocasio-Cortez is destined for a lonely, ineffectual career in Congress if she continues to treat her own party as the enemy. “I’m sure Ms. Cortez means well, but there’s almost an outstanding rule: Don’t attack your own people,” said Rep. Emanuel Cleaver (D-Mo.). “We just don’t need sniping in our Democratic Caucus.”

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Politico - January 10, 2019

Trump White House urging allies to prepare for possible Ruth Bader Ginsburg departure

The White House is reaching out to political allies and conservative activist groups to prepare for an ailing Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s possible death or departure from the Supreme Court — an event that would trigger the second bitter confirmation battle of President Donald Trump’s tenure.

The outreach began after Ginsburg, 85, on Monday missed oral arguments at the court for the first time in her 25 years on the bench. The justice, who was nominated to the court by President Bill Clinton in 1993, announced in late December that she underwent a surgical procedure to remove two cancerous growths from her lungs. The White House "is taking the temperature on possible short-list candidates, reaching out to key stakeholders, and just making sure that people are informed on the process," said a source familiar with those conversations, who spoke on background given the delicate nature of the subject.

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Wall Street Journal - January 11, 2019

McConnell stays on sidelines as shutdown nears record length

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has maintained a lower public profile than other congressional leaders during the partial government shutdown, a stance allies attribute to his conclusion that President Trump is the Republican whose opinion counts the most.

The Kentucky Republican, who has led his party’s Senate majority since 2015, faces pressure to play a more prominent role in the funding fight. Democrats are looking to cast him against President Trump, and lawmakers within his own conference—including some facing tough re-election fights in 2020—have constituents who are urging them to reopen government. Among the Republicans looking to avoid primary fights when they come up for re-election next year: Sens. Cory Gardner of Colorado, Susan Collins of Maine and even Mr. McConnell himself. On the Democratic side, Sen. Doug Jones of Alabama, perhaps the most vulnerable in 2020, has said he doesn’t think the government should be shut down over wall funding.

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Axios - January 11, 2019

In health care, it's still about the prices

Health care executives gave no indication to bankers and investors at this year's J.P. Morgan Healthcare Conference that their pricing practices would change any time soon.

That sentiment comes the same week when three of the original authors of an influential 2003 article — which studied why health care is so expensive in the U.S.— published an update. Their conclusion was the same: "It's still the prices, stupid." The U.S. spends far more than other industrialized countries on health care. But Americans, on a per-person basis, don't go to the doctor or hospital more than people in other wealthy nations. There are also fewer doctors, nurses and hospital beds, per capita, in the U.S.

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CNN - January 10, 2019

A deal GOP senators worked on to end the shutdown fell apart

On this, the 20th day of the partial government shutdown, all hope was lost. At least for Republican South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham. Graham is a surprisingly strong ally of President Donald Trump, but also someone with a demonstrated track record of working across the aisle.

"I see no way forward," Graham told CNN's Sarah Mucha Thursday afternoon after the collapse of the skeleton of a deal he was working on with a handful of other GOP senators. "I was hopeful last night, not hopeful today." Graham's public frustration –– and dejection –– was a common theme on Capitol Hill on Thursday. With less than 24 hours remaining before this shutdown eclipses the 1995-1996 shutdown as the longest in modern political history, it appears as though the two sides were further away than at any point since the government closed its doors late last year.

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U.S. News and World Report - January 8, 2019

The U.S.-China trade war has been a boon to some American businesses

The trade war with China has sent steel prices soaring. The word "recession" is circulating among economists and rippling through social networks and news media. Some two years after the Trump administration implemented its first tariffs, however, a handful of companies in the U.S. say that – for now – they're reaping the benefits.

An alloys manufacturer whose product helps lengthen the life span of galvanized steel, plastics and fiberglass companies that offer alternatives to concrete blocks and steel pilings – they say they've seen jumps in business as companies from oil and gas to construction look for less-expensive alternatives to imported steel, aluminum and other materials that have seen their price tags skyrocket since the start of the trade war. The results for this subset of businesses stand in stark contrast to the experiences of a growing number of U.S. industries that have experienced a price crunch, as well as the warnings of most U.S. economists, who says that the tariffs will make the country worse off.

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VICE - January 9, 2019

Hundreds of school districts have moved to arm school staff, some in secret

Eleven months after a mass shooting at a high school in Parkland, Florida, left 17 people dead, a state commission of grieving parents, law enforcement leaders, mental health experts, and state politicians arrived at a stark conclusion: Teachers should carry guns to protect students.

The commission, established to investigate gaps in Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School’s security infrastructure, isn’t alone. Since Parkland, scores of American school districts across the country — including many in poor and rural areas — have quietly adopted new policies to arm teachers or school staff. At least 215 school districts across the U.S. have adopted such policies since last February, a VICE News review of state and local policies has found. Nationwide, at least 466 districts now allow school staff to be armed, encompassing hundreds of thousands of students of all ages.

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Reuters - January 11, 2019

Leading Brexit donors say Britain will reverse decision to leave E.U.

Two of the biggest donors to the Brexit campaign say they now believe the project they championed will eventually be abandoned by the government and the United Kingdom will stay in the European Union.

Peter Hargreaves, the billionaire who was the second biggest donor to the 2016 leave campaign, and veteran hedge fund manager Crispin Odey told Reuters they expect Britain to stay in the E.U. despite their campaign victory in the 2016 referendum. As a result, Odey, who runs hedge fund Odey Asset Management, said he is now positioning for the pound to strengthen after his flagship fund previously reaped the benefit of betting against U.K. assets amid wider market fears about the impact of Brexit. The donors’ pessimism comes amid deadlock in Britain’s parliament over the exit deal that Prime Minister Theresa May has struck with the E.U., which has cast significant uncertainty over how, or even if, Brexit will happen.

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