The News Memo
Stories this week:
Where does the partial government shutdown stand?
The record-long shutdown enters its 35th day today (Friday), over a month after it started on December 22nd. Hundreds of thousands of federal employees are currently working without pay during the shutdown, and will miss their second paycheck, which would have been issued today. Meanwhile, airports and flights have begun to experience significant delays, especially in the Northeast, due to staffing shortages of air traffic controllers. Experts have warned that more flights will be delayed and cancelled unless the shutdown ends soon. The president of the air traffic controllers’ union has said, “The flying public is safe.”
What happened this week?
The Senate voted on two different spending bills to end the shutdown on Thursday, both of which failed to gain the 60 votes needed to advance. The two votes on Thursday were the first votes the Senate has cast since the shutdown began. The first bill, introduced by Republicans, included the $5.7 billion requested by President Trump for the border wall, as well as temporary measures to protect some undocumented immigrants and establish limits on asylum. Democrats objected to the limits on asylum and are seeking permanent protection for undocumented immigrants. The second bill, proposed by Democrats, would have funded the closed government agencies through Feb. 8, but included no additional money for the border wall.
What to expect next?
The defeat of both bills has given leaders some optimism that it will pressure both sides to find an agreement quickly. House Democrats have indicated that they would be willing to give the requested $5 billion for enhanced border security, which would include drones and fortifying ports of entry, as long as the funds are not used for a wall.
Meanwhile, President Trump has not ruled out the possibility of declaring a national emergency on the southern border. If President Trump declares a national emergency, the funds for the border barrier could be taken from the Department of Defense, and would not require Congressional approval. If President Trump goes this route, it is likely that legal battles will ensue to challenge whether he has the authority to make such a declaration.
In related developments, President Trump agreed to Nancy Pelosi’s request to postpone the State of the Union address till after the shutdown ends.
Viral Video Sparks Racial Debate at March For Life
The March for Life was held last weekend in Washington D.C. with an estimated attendance of about 500,000 people. The March for Life is an annual pro-life gathering, which protests the legality of abortion. After the March, students from all-boys Covington Catholic High School in Kentucky were waiting for their buses. The students, mostly Trump supporters in MAGA hats, were confronted and yelled at by a radical group called the Black Hebrew Israelites. The group yelled racial slurs and insulting comments to the boys who in turn responded with various school cheers. The situation quickly became heated.
This is when a small Native American group led by Nathan Phillips, a Vietnam War veteran, began walking towards the boys with his drum on his way to the Lincoln Memorial. Phillips, a 64 year old from Lincoln, Nebraska, walked up to a 16-year-old student named Nick Sandmann. The two stood near each other looking at each other for a few minutes, Sandmann with a slight smile and Phillips with his drum and a consistent beat. Videos were taken and posted of the scene. The story became a national news story within hours.
Full footage shows different story than short clip
The original short clip and the longer later-released clips seem to show two different stories. The original short clip was broadcasted on about every major news media show for two days following the incident. The original narrative from most sources was that the Covington Catholic School kids were being racist and taunting the elderly Native American Veteran. The longer footage shows a different beginning, with the Black Hebrew Israelites group insulting the kids and then Mr. Phillips walking directly into the group of boys hitting his drum.
After more thorough details of the incident were revealed, the new story became how the original story, which was full of faulty assumptions and hasty conclusions, spread like wildfire over social media. For example, Covington Catholic administration quickly condemned the actions of the students and indicated they would consider punishment up to expulsion for those involved before learning further details.
Below are two videos for you to watch. One is the short viral clip, and the other a 15-minute summary video of everything that happened:
Original video that went viral
Nick Sandmann’s Response
Nick Sandmann responded with an official statement and an interview on the Today show. Below is a part of Sandmann's official statement following the incident:
I never interacted with this protester. I did not speak to him. I did not make any hand gestures or other aggressive moves. To be honest, I was startled and confused as to why he had approached me… I believed that by remaining motionless and calm, I was helping to diffuse the situation.
The full statement can be found here: https://www.cnn.com/2019/01/20/us/covington-kentucky-student-statement/index.html
Sandmann’s interview with the Today show can be found here:
Nathan Phillips’ Response
Nathan Phillips has interviewed with several news stations following the incident. He said the following:
Here’s a group of people who were angry at somebody else and I put myself in front of that, and all of a sudden, I’m the one who's all that anger and all that wanting to have the freedom to just rip me apart, that was scary.
The video response from Phillips can be found here:
Juan Guaido, 35, declared himself interim president of Venezuela on Wednesday. Guaido is the opposition leader and current president of the National Assembly, Venezuela’s legislative body. The current president of Venezuela is Nicolas Maduro, who assumed office in 2013, and whom the opposition claims rigged the last election in 2018, which granted him another six-year term starting this month. The election was pronounced illegitimate by the U.S. and a number of other countries.
Because the opposition believes Maduro orchestrated a fraudulent election, they consider the presidency vacant. The Venezuelan Constitution states that if the presidency is vacant, the head of the National Assembly assumes the position until new elections are held. Guaido has promised to lead the transitional government and hold free and fair elections.
On Wednesday, during Guaido’s declaration, large scale protests occurred, many in support of Guaido, while some supported Maduro. At least fourteen protesters have been killed since Tuesday. It was the first large scale protests since Maduro’s government violently cracked down on dissidents in 2017, when some 124 people were killed.
Venezuela’s Collapse: A brief summary
Hunger and violence is the norm in Venezuela, which has been in a full-fledged economic and political collapse since 2014. Part of the reason the economic collapse is so shocking, is that Venezuela has the largest known oil reserves in the world, and was recently one of Latin America’s richest countries. Maduro’s rule has been marked with violence, endemic corruption and failed economic policies. However, Maduro and his supporters have blamed the U.S. for the collapse, claiming they have incited coup-like uprisings and have not allowed them to restructure their debt payments. Roughly one-third of the country still supports Maduro and views the U.S. with suspicion.
Some notable statistics in Venezuela:
What to look for moving forward
The U.S., as well as Canada and the UK, acknowledged Guaido as the legitimate president of Venezuela shortly after Guaido’s proclamation. President Trump said, “The people of Venezuela have courageously spoken out” and the he would “use the full weight of United States economic and diplomatic power to press for the restoration of Venezuelan democracy.” Mr. Maduro, in response, said, “The imperialist U.S. government is directing an operation to impose through a coup a puppet government for its interests…No one here is surrendering. We’re going to combat until victory.” Maduro cut diplomatic ties with the U.S., and ordered diplomats to leave the country within 72 hours.
Russia and Turkey have declared their loyalty to Maduro, with Russia warning the U.S. not to intervene, saying the move was a “direct path to bloodshed.” Russia has significant financial incentives to support Maduro, as they have given plenty of aid to Venezuela, and Venezuela purchases billions of dollars worth of Russian weaponry. South American countries have been mixed in their support of Guaido.
On Thursday, Venezuelan military leaders declared their support for Mr. Maduro. The military has played a central political role in much of Venezuela’s history, so their support for Maduro is vital for keeping him in power. Guaido has offered amnesty to military officials who support him instead of Maduro. Many analysts believe that the balance of power in Venezuela will be determined by who the top military officials decide to support: Maduro or Guaido.
A new report from researchers at the American Cancer Society found that overall cancer deaths in the U.S. declined by 27% over a 25 year stretch (1991-2016). According to the report, this means an estimated 2.6 million fewer people died due to cancer over this time period. Cancer deaths increased for much of the 20th century, reaching a peak in 1991, from which they began declining steadily, primarily due to efforts to reduce smoking behavior, as well as advances in early cancer detection and treatment methods. In fact, between 1991-2016, cancer deaths for men declined by 34%, compared to 27% for women. This largely reflects patterns in smoking habits, as women began smoking in large numbers years later than men and were slower to quit.
While cancer deaths have been declining, incidence rates for certain types of cancer have been increasing, especially for women. The report found that the incidence rate for breast cancer increased 0.4% per year for the time period. Cases of endometrial cancer (cancer in the lining of the uterus) also increased, with roughly 60% of them attributed to obesity. Rebecca Siegel, a director at the American Cancer Society and lead author of the report, said, “We are probably only seeing the tip of the iceberg regarding the influence of the obesity epidemic on cancer rates.” Similar to how tobacco use drove cancer death rates earlier, obesity could influence future projections, Siegel said.
Last, liver-cancer cases are increasing the fastest among all types of cancer, for both men and women. The report’s researchers say 71% of liver-cancer cases can be potentially avoided by adopting healthy lifestyle habits, which include not smoking, regular exercise, losing weight, and avoiding Hepatitis B and C viruses.
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The News Memo is edited by Madeline Krumel
Sources for this week’s Memo:
The New York Times
Venezuela’s Military Backs Maduro as Russia warns U.S. not to intervene
Trump Says He’ll Delay Speech Until After Shutdown, as Democrats Draft Border Security Plan
The Washington Post
Shutdown Showdown: Senate votes down two bills
The Wall Street Journal
Venezuela’s Military Backs Maduro
U.S. Recognizes Venezuelan Opposition Leader as Interim President
WSJ: “Cancer Deaths Decline 27% Over 25 Years”
Venezuela crisis: Russia condemns bid to ‘usurp power’ from Maduro
Juan Guaidó wins diplomatic recognition as Venezuela’s president
Venezuelans report big weight losses in 2017 as hunger hits
Exclusive: White House preparing draft national emergency order, has identified $7 billion for wall