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HeadlinesFebruary 20, 2019

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Dems Probe White House Plan to Transfer Nuclear Technology to Saudis

Feb 20, 2019

Democrats on the House Oversight Committee have opened an investigation into claims that top White House officials, including former national security adviser Michael Flynn, pursued a plan to open nuclear power plants in Saudi Arabia, despite potential conflicts of interest and objections from National Security Council officials. Before joining Trump’s White House, Flynn worked for the company behind the nuclear plan. Top advisers warned that the export of nuclear technology could be considered illegal if it could be used as part of a weapons program. The plan could also be in violation of a nuclear nonproliferation act. According to a report by the congressional committee, the White House may still be discussing the plan. We’ll have more on this story with Congressmember Ro Khanna after headlines.

West Virginia Teachers Celebrate as Lawmakers Halt Pro-Charter School Bill

Feb 20, 2019

Teachers in West Virginia celebrated a major victory Tuesday when a contested education reform bill was blocked by House delegates, just hours into a statewide strike protesting the legislation. The bill would have legalized charter schools, which are currently not allowed in West Virginia. Teachers’ unions say they were not consulted in the drafting of the legislation and that it was retaliation for last year’s historic strike, which was credited with launching a wave of teacher walkouts in other red states. Teachers are set to continue their strike for now.

NYT: Trump Asked DOJ to Put Loyalist In Charge of “Hush Money” Probe

Feb 20, 2019

A new report by The New York Times details a number of possible obstruction of justice efforts by President Trump as he tried to suppress or contain multiple investigations about him. The Times says Trump asked former acting Attorney General Matthew Whitaker to place a loyalist in charge of an investigation into hush money payments made to women who allegedly had affairs with Trump by his former personal attorney Michael Cohen. Trump reportedly asked for New York federal prosecutor Geoffrey Berman to head the investigation, but Berman had already recused himself from the case. Whitaker testified to Congress earlier this month that Trump never pressured him to intervene in an investigation. Did he perjure himself? The report also details Trump’s ongoing efforts to undermine special counsel Robert Mueller’s Russia investigation, which he publicly attacked over 1,100 times.

Trump to Nominate Transportation Sec. Jeffrey Rosen as Deputy AG

Feb 20, 2019

The White House says Trump plans to nominate Deputy Transportation Secretary Jeffrey Rosen to replace Rod Rosenstein as the next deputy attorney general. Rosenstein is set to leave the Justice Department in the coming weeks, following the confirmation of William Barr to the attorney general post last week. Barr and Rosen previously worked together at a law firm.

Trump Signs Order to Establish “Space Force”

Feb 20, 2019

President Trump is moving forward with his plan to establish a “Space Force,” which would be set up as part of the U.S. Air Force. Trump originally announced the Space Force would be its own military branch, separate from the Air Force, which currently oversees all outer space-related military activity. This is Trump speaking to reporters in the Oval Office Tuesday as he signed the Space Force policy directive.

President Donald Trump: “America must be fully equipped to defend our vital interests. Our adversaries are training forces and developing technology to undermine our security in space. And they’re working very hard at that. That’s why my administration has recognized space as a war-fighting domain and made the creation of the Space Force a national security priority.”

The president will need congressional approval to create the Space Force. It’s unclear for now how much it would cost, though the White House said this information would be revealed in the upcoming 2020 budget proposal. Critics fear the establishment of a U.S. Space Force will trigger an arms race in space.

France: 20,000 Protesters Denounce Surge in Anti-Semitic Attacks

Feb 20, 2019

In France, an estimated 20,000 protesters took to the streets of Paris Tuesday night to denounce a surge in anti-Semitic attacks across the country. The protest came hours after French President Emmanuel Macron visited a Jewish cemetery in Alsace that was desecrated overnight Monday. Around 80 tombstones were found with swastikas painted on them. This is a protester speaking at last night’s mass demonstration.

Valérie: “I think that anti-Semitic actions are on the rise. It’s something that strikes fear, that brings back bad memories. We want to show younger generations that there’s another path to take other than this one.”

The Interior Ministry said there was a 74 percent increase in anti-Semitic attacks last year. France is home to the largest Jewish population in Europe.

Haiti: Police Arrest 5 Americans Amid Political Unrest

Feb 20, 2019

In Haiti, police have arrested multiple foreign nationals, including five Americans, for possessing illegal weapons. Three of those are reportedly former U.S. military, and a fourth previously worked as a federal contractor. Authorities are still investigating why the Americans were in Haiti. The arrests come after days of anti-government protests which resulted in at least seven deaths.

WaPo: Pope Ignored Claims of Sexual Abuse Against Deaf Children

Feb 20, 2019

As Pope Francis convenes a Vatican summit on sexual abuse in the Catholic Church, explosive new revelations of abuse and cover-up by members of the clergy continue to emerge. A new Washington Post investigation reports Pope Francis was personally aware of multiple sexual abuse allegations at three Catholic schools for deaf children in Italy and Argentina, yet did not intervene to stop the abuse or punish those responsible. Survivors wrote letters to Pope Francis and even visited him at the Vatican in 2015. Ex-students say they were repeatedly molested, raped, tied up and slapped.

Women Survivors of Church Sexual Abuse Speak Out

Feb 20, 2019

On Tuesday, a group of women, including survivors of sexual abuse by church leaders, held a press conference in Rome ahead of the Vatican’s summit. This is survivor and advocate Barbara Dorris.

Barbara Dorris: “Church officials have framed this as a homosexual issue, for a couple of reasons. It takes away from the real focus on the problem, which is criminal sexual assault, and it acts as a smokescreen: You have people now discussing homosexuality rather than the crimes themselves. And homosexual issues automatically remove the women from the discussion, and, magically, half the victims have been made to disappear.”

Arkansas Signs “Trigger” Abortion Ban into Law

Feb 20, 2019

Arkansas Governor Asa Hutchinson signed into law a measure that would automatically trigger an abortion ban if the Supreme Court overturns the landmark 1973 Roe v. Wade ruling. The bill does not include exceptions for rape or incest. Arkansas is now the fifth state to sign into law the so-called trigger abortion ban bill.

Illinois Adopts $15 Minimum Wage

Feb 20, 2019

Illinois became the latest state to adopt the call for a $15 minimum wage, when Governor J.B. Pritzker signed a bill Tuesday to reach that goal by 2025. Workers celebrated the news after a years-long campaign for fair wages in the state. This is fast-food worker and a member of the group Fight for 15, Ieshia Townsend, speaking at the bill signing.

Ieshia Townsend: “Before the Fight for 15 union movement, I felt voiceless. All around me was overwhelming messages that I didn’t matter as a fast-food worker, as a single mom—that I didn’t even matter as a black woman.”


CNN Under Fire for Hiring GOP Operative to Oversee 2020 Coverage

Feb 20, 2019

CNN is coming under fire after news broke Tuesday that the network tapped a Republican operative and former Justice Department spokesperson as a political editor overseeing coverage for the 2020 presidential elections. Prior to her job at the Justice Department, where she worked under then-Attorney General Jeff Sessions, Sarah Isgur Flores was an adviser to Senator Ted Cruz and Mitt Romney and was Carly Fiorina’s deputy campaign manager for her 2016 Republican primary bid. Isgur Flores, who has no experience in journalism, has been critical of CNN in the past, including in 2014 when she retweeted a conservative website referring to CNN as “Clinton News Network.” On Tuesday, New York Congressmember Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez tweeted, “Sorry, didn’t get the latest memo after 1,000 experienced + qualified journalists of all stripes were let go w/o warning a few weeks ago and still looking for work: are we still pretending that hires like these are evidence of a meritocracy?”

High School Student Nick Sandmann Sues The Washington Post

Feb 20, 2019

Lawyers for high school student Nick Sandmann, who last month appeared in a viral video as he faced off with Omaha elder Nathan Phillips at a D.C. rally, have filed a defamation lawsuit against The Washington Post. They are seeking $250 million in damages. The lawsuit claims that Sandmann was “wrongfully targeted and bullied … because he was the white, Catholic student wearing a red 'Make America Great Again' cap.” Sandmann’s lawyers say he was targeted as a Trump supporter, as part of The Washington Post’s “biased agenda” against the president. They also say the $250 million is based on the amount Jeff Bezos paid to acquire the Post in 2013 and that the goal of the action is to “punish, deter, and teach the Post a lesson it will never forget.”

The January interaction took place after the Indigenous Peoples March in Washington, D.C., when Nathan Phillips, who is seen peacefully playing his drum and singing, was encircled by Covington Catholic High School students who appear to be taunting and mocking him. Sandmann and Phillips stand face to face with each other in the video, with Sandmann smiling as Phillips sings an indigenous prayer song. Click here to see our interview with Omaha elder Nathan Phillips about the event.

Alabama Publisher Calls for KKK to Lynch and Raid Democrats

Feb 20, 2019

Democratic Alabama lawmakers are calling for the editor and publisher of a local Alabama newspaper to resign after he penned an op-ed last week calling for the Ku Klux Klan to raid and lynch Democrats in Washington, D.C. Goodloe Sutton, once a widely respected reporter, has confirmed he authored the piece in the print-only publication, which was headlined “Klan Needs to Ride Again.” In the editorial, Sutton wrote, “Democrats in the Republican Party and Democrats are plotting to raise taxes in Alabama. … This socialist-communist ideology sounds good to the ignorant, the uneducated, and the simple-minded people.”

Justice Thomas Wants Court to Reconsider Libel Law for Public Figures

Feb 20, 2019

Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas is calling for the court to reconsider the landmark 1964 New York Times v. Sullivan case. The case involved an interpretation of the First Amendment and made it more challenging for public figures to claim libel. Justice Thomas wrote, “New York Times and the Court’s decisions extending it were policy-driven decisions masquerading as constitutional law.” President Trump has also called for libel laws against public figures to be reconsidered. In 2017, he tweeted, “The failing @nytimes has disgraced the media world. Gotten me wrong for two solid years. Change libel laws?”

Wallace Broecker, Pioneering Climate Scientist Who Popularized Term “Global Warming,” Dies at 87

Feb 20, 2019

And renowned geophysicist, Columbia professor and climate scientist Wallace Broecker died Monday at the age of 87 in New York. Broecker is credited with popularizing the term “global warming” and was one of the first scientists to demonstrate the link between carbon emissions and rising temperatures in the 1970s. He also advanced scientific understanding of the oceans’ effect on the atmosphere, which he termed the “ocean conveyor belt.” In 1975, he published a landmark research paper titled “Climatic Change: Are We on the Brink of a Pronounced Global Warming?” outlining the role of human activity on the climate. Professor Broecker famously said, “The climate system is an angry beast, and we are poking it with sticks.’’

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