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Newsclips - January 23, 2019

Lead Stories

New York Times - January 22, 2019

Senate leaders reach deal that offers possible path to reopen government

The Senate will vote Thursday on two separate bills that would bring an immediate end to the partial government shutdown: one backed by President Trump that includes $5.7 billion for his border wall and another that would simply extend funding for shuttered agencies through Feb. 8.

The plan for the Senate to consider the dueling proposals reflects the first bipartisan action since the shutdown began on legislation that could end the impasse, offering each party a chance to press its proposal. But the move by Senators Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, the majority leader, and Chuck Schumer of New York, the Democratic leader, is far from a guarantee of breaking the gridlock.

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Dallas Morning News - January 22, 2019

'Her lips and my back end' comment costs Texas state senator his committee chairmanship

Sen. Kel Seliger, an Amarillo Republican, was stripped of his committee chairmanship on Tuesday after a feud with Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, in which the senator accused him of political retribution and Patrick accused Seliger of making a "lewd comment" about his staffer.

Patrick, the Senate president, struck the latest salvo in a battle initiated last week when he revealed that Seliger had lost his chairmanship in the Senate Higher Education committee and his seats on the powerful Senate Education and Finance committees. He was assigned a chairmanship over the Senate Agriculture committee.

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Associated Press - January 23, 2019

Trump, others agitated by Giuliani’s performance

Rudy Giuliani’s latest media blitz, which was filled with a dizzying array of misstatements and hurried clarifications, agitated President Donald Trump and some of his allies, who have raised the possibility that the outspoken presidential lawyer be at least temporarily sidelined from televised interviews.

Trump was frustrated with Giuliani, according to three White House officials and Republicans close to the White House who were not authorized to speak publicly about private conversations. The president told advisers that he felt his lawyer had obscured what he believed was a public relations victory: the special counsel’s rare public statement disputing portions of a BuzzFeed News story that Trump instructed his former attorney, Michael Cohen, to lie before Congress.

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Wall Street Journal - January 23, 2019

Liberals outpaced conservatives in ‘dark money’ midterm spending

As Democratic presidential hopefuls promise not to boost their candidacies through spending by outside groups with cash from wealthy donors, sometimes given secretly, a new report says the party received most of the so-called “dark money” spent on political ads in the 2018 midterms.

That marked the first time since 2010 that liberal nonprofits outspent conservative ones, according to a report by Issue One, an organization that advocates reducing money in politics. Liberal groups accounted for 54 percent of the $150 million in dark-money spending in last year’s election cycle, conservative groups 31% and nonpartisan or bipartisan groups 15 percent.

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NBC News - January 22, 2019

Trump will deliver a State of the Union speech — location to be determined

President Donald Trump is moving forward with plans to deliver a State of the Union address from the Capitol Jan. 29 — despite Speaker Nancy Pelosi's request that he delay the speech or submit it in writing — a White House official told NBC News on Tuesday.

"She invited, we accepted," the White House official said, referring to Pelosi's initial invitation and ignoring a letter the House speaker sent last week suggesting that Trump postpone his remarks because of a partial government shutdown now in its fifth week. But a senior administration official told NBC News that White House speechwriters are also working on "separate passages" that could lend themselves to a speech at a different venue and for a different audience than members of Congress.

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State Stories

Dallas Morning News - January 22, 2019

To combat opioid addiction crisis, Texas AG Ken Paxton's office launches drug abuse website

In an effort to combat opioid and prescription painkiller addiction, the attorney general’s office unveiled a website to teach Texans about the dangers of drug misuse.

At a news conference Tuesday, Attorney General Ken Paxton announced the launch of “Dose of Reality.” This initiative was done in partnership with the Texas Department of State Health Services and Texas Health and Human Services. The website includes downloadable material on opioids, risk factors and the safe storage and disposal of unwanted drugs, he said. The site also has an interactive map of official locations to dispose of unwanted drugs.

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Dallas Morning News - January 22, 2019

A Dallas engineering firm goes to work solving California's water problem

A Dallas-based engineering firm is being tapped to help design California's plan to bolster its water supply system.

Jacobs' initial $93 million contract is for preliminary and final engineering design of a 15-year program known as California WaterFix. The Golden State's largest water conveyance project carries a $17 billion pricetag. WaterFix, slated to begin this year, will upgrade 50-year-old infrastructure dependent on levees, which the state said puts clean water supplies at risk from earthquakes and sea-level rise.

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Dallas Morning News - January 22, 2019

Texas Rep. Eric Johnson makes surprise announcement: he's running for Dallas mayor

State Rep. Eric Johnson on Tuesday announced that he's running for Dallas mayor. He will join a crowded field of candidates — including some financial and political heavyweights — vying to replace term-limited Mayor Mike Rawlings.

Johnson, a lawyer, said in a news release that he will "offer the citizens of Dallas a unique combination of experience, energy, and creativity when it comes to solving problems, along with a proven track record of working well with people from varying backgrounds in order to accomplish great things." "I have represented one of the most diverse House districts in the state for nearly a decade and I've shown that I can bring people together to get the job done for all of our families," Johnson said. "I will not be resigning to run for mayor," he told The Dallas Morning News.

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Houston Chronicle - January 23, 2019

Texans are among the worst at using vacation time, survey says

Texans are leaving a lot of vacation time unused. A survey commissioned by the U.S. Travel Association found that Texans have 67 million unused days of vacation. It is second only to California when it comes to leaving time off on the table.

Nearly half of Texans reported leaving vacation time unused, a finding the Travel Association tied to decreased happiness. The travel industry advocate reported finding that "workers who use the majority of their vacation days for travel are significantly happier than those who travel less or not at all." Of course, Texas's size contributes to the sheer number of unused vacation days in Texas. If you look instead at the percentage of vacation days that go unused, Texans are only 10th worst in the nation.

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Houston Chronicle - January 22, 2019

Perks for pastors: John Gray's $1.8 million home among big ticket toys for church leaders

Former Lakewood Church pastor John Gray made waves for his lavish lifestyle in December after purchasing his wife, Aventer, a $200,000 Lamborghini Urus as an eight-year wedding anniversary present. His creature comforts have landed him once again in the national headlines.

This time, the spotlight is on his $1.8 million home, 7,247 square-feet, located in the Southampton community of Simpsonville, South Carolina. However, the mansion was reportedly not purchased by Gray. It was bought by Relentless Church leaders in October, who said it was needed to attract a leader of Gray's caliber, reports the Greenville News. Of note, the cost of the home is more than 10 times the $165,600 median home value in Greenville County, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.

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Houston Chronicle - January 22, 2019

New Harris County bail lawsuit challenges thousands jailed on felony arrests

The legal team that successfully challenged Harris County's misdemeanor bail system for unfairly detaining indigent people has filed a new federal class action this week, that challenges the money bail for felonies, which results in thousands of poor defendants being locked up pretrial or entering guilty pleas to avoid incarceration.

The lawyers note that since 2009, 125 people have died while awaiting trial in the Harris County Jail, including a woman who committed suicide this month who couldn’t make her original bail of $3,000. This new lawsuit, which hit the docket during the Martin Luther King Jr. Day holiday, claims that the county is holding people unjustly, simply because they cannot afford cash bail. Meanwhile, people arrested for the same offenses who can post a cash bond or hire a commercial bonding company can simply resume their lives as their cases proceed through the criminal docket.

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Houston Chronicle - January 22, 2019

Texas construction employment reaches record high

Texas construction employment has reached a record high, according to federal data. The state's construction employment grew by 6.4 percent in 2018, adding 46,800 jobs, the most in the country. Between November and December, typically a slower time for construction, Texas added 4,500 jobs.

Still, construction firms continue to worry about their ability to find the workers they need to grow. Nearly four out of five construction firms surveyed for the Associated General Contractors of America's hiring outlook said they were having difficulty filling positions, and two-thirds said they expected it will be as hard or harder to hire workers in 2019.

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El Paso Times - January 21, 2019

El Paso Electric CEO gets leadership spot on Dallas Fed board; Sierra hospital has new CEO

Mary Kipp, El Paso Electric chief executive officer, is the new deputy chairman of the Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas board of directors. Kipp was appointed to the Dallas Fed board in 2018. She previously was on the bank's El Paso Branch board.

Greg Armstrong, board chairman of Plains All American Pipeline, a Houston-based oil and natural gas pipeline operator, is the Dallas Fed board's new chairman. Members of the nine-member board help formulate monetary policy for the Fed Bank system and the central bank of the United States, and they serve as links between the Fed and the public, according to the Fed Bank's website.

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Austin American-Statesman - January 22, 2019

UT: Safety taken seriously, but Bevo’s here to stay

As far as University of Texas President Gregory L. Fenves is concerned, Bevo XV remains “a great symbol for the university” even though the longhorn mascot lunged out of his corral at the Sugar Bowl amid a crush of photographers and other onlookers.

“We take the safety very seriously, but we’re going to continue to have Bevo as our mascot,” Fenves said last week during a visit to the American-Statesman. The Silver Spurs Alumni Association maintains a seven-figure liability insurance policy for Bevo, according to records obtained from UT by the Statesman under the Texas Public Information Act.

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City Stories

San Antonio Express-News - January 22, 2019

City Council to mull new restrictions for scooters on San Antonio streets

Reacting to a torrent of constituent complaints, a City Council transportation committee voted Tuesday to impose a moratorium on any new e-scooter or e-bike permits but stopped short of forcing them off city sidewalks or requiring riders to wear helmets.

Most on the five-member panel were careful to say they didn’t want to appear as fuddy-duddies out to curb a rambunctious new technology, but some spoke of reckless riders, the threat they pose to pedestrians and the scooter litter created when riders drop them off by the thousands at their journey’s end. “It has really gotten out of hand fast,” said District 6 Councilman Greg Brockhouse. “Aesthetically, they are ridiculous when people leave them on sidewalks. It’s embarrassing and looks bad for the city. There has to be more accountability.”

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National Stories

New York Times - January 22, 2019

El Chapo trial suggests Trump’s wall would do little to stop drug smuggling

The 10 weeks of testimony at the trial of Joaquín Guzmán Loera, the drug lord known as El Chapo, have revealed that his innovative smuggling network typically went through legal checkpoints — not isolated stretches of the border where a wall might be an obstacle.

President Trump’s plan to build a wall along the southwestern border has not been mentioned at the trial, but it has lurked in the background of Mr. Guzmán’s prosecution, a watershed moment in America’s war on drugs. The trial, in Federal District Court in Brooklyn, is the first time that American federal prosecutors have publicly revealed the inner workings of Mr. Guzmán’s Sinaloa drug cartel, offering the most extensive details yet on the organization’s structure, financing and distribution methods.

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New York Times - January 22, 2019

Los Angeles teachers’ strike to end with tentative deal for more pay

Los Angeles public school teachers reached a tentative deal with school officials on Tuesday to end a weeklong strike that had upended learning for more than half a million students in the nation’s second largest public school system.

The teachers won a 6 percent pay raise and caps on class sizes, which had become one of the most contentious issues between the union and district officials. The deal also includes hiring full-time nurses for every school, as well as enough librarians for every middle and high school in the district by the fall of 2020. The city and county will also expand programs into public schools, providing more support services for the neediest students.

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Washington Post - January 22, 2019

Supreme Court allows Trump restrictions on transgender troops in military to go into effect as legal battle continues

The Supreme Court on Tuesday allowed President Trump’s broad restrictions on transgender people serving in the military to go into effect while the legal battle continues in lower courts. The justices lifted nationwide injunctions that had kept the administration’s policy from being implemented.

It reversed an Obama administration rule that would have opened the military to transgender men and women and instead barred those who identify with a gender different from the one assigned at birth and who are seeking to transition. The court’s five conservatives — Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. and Justices Clarence Thomas, Samuel A. Alito Jr., Neil M. Gorsuch and Brett M. Kavanaugh — allowed the restrictions to go into effect while the court decides whether to consider the merits of the case. The liberal justices — Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Stephen G. Breyer, Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan — would have kept the injunctions in place.

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Washington Post - January 22, 2019

DACA program that protects young undocumented immigrants not likely to get Supreme Court review this term

The Supreme Court is not likely to review during its current term the program that shields young undocumented immigrants brought to the United States as children, leaving in place the Obama-era initiative that the Trump administration has tried to end.

The justices on Tuesday took no action on the administration’s request that it review the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, which has protected nearly 700,000 people brought to this country as children, commonly known as “dreamers.” If the court sticks to its normal procedures, that would mean that even if it accepts the case as a later date, it would not be argued until the new term starting in October, with a decision likely in 2020.

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CNN - January 22, 2019

Native American elder and Covington Catholic teen both say they are willing to talk

Omaha Nation elder Nathan Phillips is offering to travel to Covington Catholic High School in Kentucky to talk about the importance of respecting diverse cultures, according to a statement from the Lakota People's Law Project.

Video of an encounter between Phillips and Covington Catholic students at Washington's Lincoln Memorial on Friday has stirred debate for days. Phillips was at the memorial for the Indigenous Peoples March and the students were there for the March for Life rally. Phillips, the Indigenous Peoples March and the Lakota group are trying to set up meetings with the students, members of the community and church officials, the statement said.

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CNN - January 22, 2019

FBI agents detail damage to counterterror, MS-13 probes, in anonymous report

The FBI has lost several informants that had penetrated groups at the center of terrorism investigations. A task force targeting interstate meth and heroin traffickers has run out of funds to pay for controlled purchases. Agents working a multi-year MS-13 investigation have resorted to conference calls to communicate with Spanish-speaking sources.

As the partial government shutdown entered a second month, dozens of anonymous FBI officials took the rare step to share how the lack of funding has kneecapped operations in a report released Tuesday by an agents advocacy group. The accounts –– compiled by the FBI Agents Association, which represents most of the bureau's active duty special agents –– mark a new front in the damage caused by the country's longest shutdown: weakened national security. "The shutdown has eliminated any ability to operate," an agent working undercover counterintelligence cases said in the report. "The fear is our enemies know they can run freely."

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CNBC - January 22, 2019

The financial shock for 800,000 federal workers is about to get much worse as the shutdown drags on

The financial shock is about to get much worse for government employees sidelined by the budget stalemate in Washington. If the partial government shutdown continues through this week – and there is no end in sight – Friday will mark the second paycheck missed by affected federal workers, whose household budgets have been completely upended.

The impact of the government shutdown on the overall U.S. economy, so far, has been limited. Yet, just as the economic impact is concentrated on furloughed workers, some companies and industries are taking a bigger hit than others. Commercial airlines, for example, are facing slower demand as airports struggle with understaffed security checkpoints, are losing revenue. Last week, Delta said it had lost $25 million in revenue on account of the shutdown.

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CNBC - January 23, 2019

Tesla downgrade means more analysts on Wall Street have 'sell' ratings than 'buy' on stock

Tesla was downgraded to underperform by RBC Capital, which said that the electric car maker has finally started to give some straight talk to investors about its future growth, but many are still not listening because they are still too enthralled by the company's founder and CEO Elon Musk.

Tesla shares fell 1.5 percent in premarket trading Wednesday following the call. Through Tuesday, the stock was down 10 percent on the year to $298.92. "The company seems to be more tactful with messaging which is a long-term positive, but means downward pressure to growth expectations - which in our view are too high to justify current levels, let alone to add to positions," wrote Spak.

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McClatchy - January 22, 2019

‘This place is not functioning’ – Republicans line up behind term limits for Congress

Nothing, Rep. George Holding says, makes his congressional colleagues focus more than a deadline. So Holding wants to give them one for their jobs.

The North Carolina Republican filed a resolution last week seeking a constitutional amendment limiting the terms of representatives and senators to 12 years in each chamber. Holding’s resolution is one of at least nine filed by Republicans in the first weeks of the new Congress hoping to alter the constitution to restrict the terms of representatives and senators.

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McClatchy - January 22, 2019

Fear of Kris Kobach and 2020 ‘disaster’ drive Pompeo recruitment, say GOP strategists

Fear that Kris Kobach will capture the Republican nomination for U.S. Senate is driving the effort to recruit Secretary of State Mike Pompeo into the race, according to GOP strategists with ties to Kansas.

“No one wants to relive the disaster that was the Kobach campaign,” said David Kensinger, who has managed successful statewide campaigns for Republican Sen. Pat Roberts and former Republican Gov. Sam Brownback. Kensinger said attempts to entice Pompeo, who is fourth in line to the presidency as the nation’s top diplomat, to run to replace the retiring Roberts can absolutely be traced to concerns about a possible Senate run by Kobach, the party’s 2018 nominee for governor.

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Reuters - January 23, 2019

Iowa's 'fetal heartbeat' abortion ban ruled unconstitutional

Iowa’s “fetal heartbeat” law, the most restrictive abortion ban in the United States, was declared unconstitutional Tuesday, as it violates the Iowa state constitution, a state judge ruled.

Iowa’s Republican-controlled legislature passed the restriction in May 2018, outlawing the procedure after a fetal heartbeat is detected, often at six weeks and before a woman realizes she is pregnant. In the ruling, posted online, District Court Judge Michael Huppert wrote, “It is undisputed that such cardiac activity is detectable well in advance of the fetus becoming viable.” A fetus that is viable outside the womb, usually at 24 weeks, is widely considered the threshold in the United States to prohibit an abortion.

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Associated Press - January 22, 2019

Supreme Court returns to gun rights for first time in nine years

The Supreme Court said Tuesday it will take up its first gun rights case in nine years, a challenge to New York City's prohibition on carrying a licensed, locked and unloaded handgun outside the city limits.

The court's decision to hear the appeal filed by three New York residents and New York's National Rifle Association affiliate could signal a revived interest in gun rights by a more conservative court. The case won't be argued until October. The challengers are represented by prominent lawyer Paul Clement, who has been urging the justices to elaborate on the extent of constitutional gun rights the Supreme Court declared in decisions in 2008 and 2010. The court had previously rejected several appeals.

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ProPublica - January 22, 2019

Former MS-13 member who secretly helped police is deported

Henry was twice forced to join the brutal gang MS-13, first in El Salvador and then on Long Island. Twice, he tried to escape its violence. He became an informant, helping law enforcement arrest other MS-13 members.

But his FBI gang task force handler broke a promise to help him, and immigration authorities revealed his identity. This month, Henry was deported to El Salvador, despite warnings that MS-13 members there would hunt him down and kill him. He’s now gone into hiding.

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New York Magazine - January 22, 2019

Trump labor counsel hopes legal trap can kill Scabby the Rat

The Trump administration has found yet another way to pick on the little guy — who in this case, is actually a critter that towers over many labor protests.

On Tuesday, Bloomberg Law reported that the Republican-controlled National Labor Relations Board may try to ban the display of Scabby the Rat on union picket lines. The large rodent-shaped balloon with yellow incisors and a mangy belly has become a well-known symbol mocking bosses and all who cross picket lines. Scabbies vary in size and in specific design. Sometimes his mouth is open in a snarl. Sometimes he holds cheese. At all times, however, his leering face promises a protest nearby.

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Governing - January 22, 2019

Criminal justice reform paves the way for welfare reform

Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf, a Democrat, raised eyebrows in the fall by signing S.B. 6, a bill that bans felons with drug offenses and some sex offenders from receiving public benefits for 10 years. His decision contradicted the trend of states easing access to public benefits for people with criminal records.

There’s a federal ban on people with felony drug convictions enrolling in food stamp and cash assistance programs. But most states have either removed or modified the ban. Only three states –– Mississippi, South Carolina and West Virginia –– have kept the full ban on food stamps, and 10 states have kept the full ban on cash assistance. Most of the movement to relax or roll back the federal ban has taken place in the past couple of years –– even in conservative states that historically don’t support policies to make the safety net bigger.

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The Hill - January 23, 2019

Momentum for earmarks grows with Dem majority

With Democrats back in control of the House after eight years of Republican control, there is strong support for reviving earmarks — the power to direct money on pet projects — which caused a major scandal in Congress during the George W. Bush years.

Senate and House lawmakers from both parties predict there will be a serious push to bring back earmarks once the government shutdown is finally over — with one exception. Earmarks is a dirty word, so if the specially allocated funds return, they will be referred to as “congressionally directed spending.”

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HuffPost - January 23, 2019

'Medicare For All' looks good in new poll, but there’s a big asterisk

Americans are pretty keen on the idea of creating a new government-run insurance program, or at least expanding an existing one, in order to make sure everybody can finally get affordable health care.

But Americans are more enthusiastic about proposals to make enrollment in government-run insurance voluntary rather than mandatory. And once Americans hear some of the common attacks that conservatives deploy against government-run insurance schemes, they get more skittish about the idea. Those are some of the key findings in a new poll from the nonpartisan Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation. The results say a lot about why so many Democrats are talking about ideas like “Medicare for all” these days ? and why, to succeed, those Democrats still have a lot of work to do.

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ABC News - January 23, 2019

Trump's border wall 'compromise' raises red flags for some advocates

When President Donald Trump announced a deal to “compromise” with Democrats in an effort to secure border funding Saturday, he avoided mentioning several major proposed changes including the way the nation handles the temporary protected status of people from countries ravaged by war or disaster and for young immigrants known as "Dreamers."

In his announcement on Saturday, Trump offered three-year extensions to some 700,000 so-called “Dreamers,” children brought to the U.S. illegally by their parents who were given a protected status under former President Barack Obama’s Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) executive order, and for Temporary Protected Status recipients whose status is currently facing expiration. While Trump’s bill would extend temporary assurances for those groups, critics of the president's proposal say the proposal undercuts critical protections for vulnerable populations.

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BuzzFeed - January 23, 2019

Trump’s lawyer said there were 'no plans' for Trump Tower Moscow. Here they are.

The White House on Tuesday announced the re-nomination of 51 federal judicial nominees left over from the previous Congress, kickstarting the administration's effort to install more conservative judges after GOP activists worried that such appointments had stalled.

The tower was never built, but it has become a focal point of the investigation by special counsel Robert Mueller into Trump’s relationship with Russia in the lead-up to his presidency. The president and his representatives have dismissed the project as little more than a notion — a rough plan led by Trump’s then-lawyer, Michael Cohen, and his associate Felix Sater, of which Trump and his family said they were only loosely aware as the election campaign gathered pace.

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Newsclips - January 22, 2019

Lead Stories

Associated Press - January 22, 2019

Trump's proposal to break budget deadlock falls flat

Senate Republicans have released a measure designed around President Donald Trump's proposal for breaking a budget impasse, its centerpiece his demand for $5.7 billion to build a southern border wall all but guaranteeing Democratic opposition and no foreseeable end to a partial government shutdown.

As the shutdown dragged through its fifth week, another missed paycheck loomed for hundreds of thousands of workers. Voting in Congress was not expected to unfold until later in the week. Even then it seemed doubtful that the 1,300-page measure, dubbed the "End The Shutdown And Secure The Border Act," had any chance of passing swiftly. Senate Republicans hold a 53-47 majority but would need Democrats to reach the usual 60-vote threshold for bills to advance. Not a single Democrat publicly expressed support for Trump's proposal since he announced it over the weekend.

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Politico - January 21, 2019

Giuliani walks back statements on Trump Tower Moscow talks

Rudy Giuliani on Monday walked back statements he made this weekend concerning potential conversations between then-candidate Donald Trump and Michael Cohen about plans to construct a Trump Tower in Moscow ahead of the 2016 presidential election.

Giuliani, the former New York mayor and current attorney for the president, said during an interview Sunday on NBC that discussions between Trump and his ex-fixer regarding the project may have lasted up until Election Day. “It's our understanding that they went on throughout 2016,” Giuliani said, adding that “there weren't a lot of them, but there were conversations. Can't be sure of the exact dates, but the president can remember having conversations with him about it."

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Midland Reporter-Telegraph - January 21, 2019

MRT: Seliger, West Texas deserve better from Patrick

State Sen. Kel Seliger deserved better than what he received when Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick handed out his committee assignments last week. The residents of District 31, which includes Midland, Odessa and Amarillo, deserved better, too.

Patrick stripped Seliger of his chairmanship (and seat) on the Higher Education committee and removed Seliger from the Senate Education and Finance committees. Seliger was named chair of the Senate’s new Agriculture Committee, a smaller committee split off from the Agriculture, Water & Rural Affairs Committee. “Lt. Gov. Patrick created a separate agriculture committee this session because of the ever-increasing economic impact on agriculture on the state economy,” wrote Patrick staffer Alejandro Garcia in a response to the Reporter-Telegram. “The agriculture industry is hugely important in Senate District 31.” At this point in time, there is nothing more important than education.

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Politico - January 21, 2019

GOP reaches landmark agreement to juice small-dollar fundraising

President Donald Trump’s political team and top Republican officials have reached a landmark agreement to reshape the party’s fundraising apparatus and close the financial gap that devastated them in the midterms.

With the deal, Republicans hope to create a rival to ActBlue, the Democratic online fundraising behemoth that plowed more than $70 million in small-dollar donations into Democratic coffers in the 2018 campaign. Republicans have had no comparable centralized platform to cultivate small dollars. Following weeks of closed-door discussions, Republicans have agreed to create a new platform dubbed Patriot Pass, which will be used to cultivate and process online donations. The GOP — whose jungle-like ecosystem of vendors has long fought bitterly over contracts and dollars — has struggled in the past to create such a unified system.

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State Stories

Houston Chronicle - January 22, 2019

State Bar drops probe into ex-prosecutor accused of withholding evidence in Texas death row case

The State Bar of Texas has closed its probe into the former Harris County prosecutor accused of withholding key evidence in a high-profile death row case, finding no just cause to proceed with disciplinary sanctions against attorney Dan Rizzo.

Years after leaving the office, the retired barrister landed in headlines last year when District Attorney Kim Ogg released an old email showing that he'd apparently been told about exculpatory evidence but failed to turn it over to defense lawyers for Alfred Dewayne Brown. Without that evidence — phone records that would have backed up his alibi — Brown was convicted and sentenced to die for the killing of Houston police officer Charles R. Clark, who was shot to death in a botched store robbery in 2005. Brown, now 36, spent nearly 10 years awaiting execution before his case was dismissed after Houston police investigator Breck McDaniel found the records in his garage.

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Houston Chronicle - January 22, 2019

Mother sues Texas prisons after ‘egregious’ failure to prevent son’s suicide

While he was in prison, Sawyer Letcher was “openly suicidal” and gave repeated warnings of his destructive intent. But still, according to a legal claim filed this month, prison officials and medical providers did not do enough to intervene, allegedly leaving the 19-year-old alone in a cell with the means to kill himself. And, just after noon on May 26, 2017, that’s exactly what he did.

Now, his mother has launched a federal lawsuit against the Texas prison system and its University of Texas medical provider, saying the state violated the Americans with Disabilities Act by failing to address her teenage son’s “obvious mental disabilities.” “This is one of the most egregious failures to prevent a suicide that I’ve ever seen,” said Scott Medlock, one of the attorneys representing Letcher’s family in the case. “This poor kid needed help, they knew he needed help and they just put him back in his cell knowing that this is likely to happen.” The Texas prison and the University of Texas Medical Branch declined to comment on pending litigation.

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Houston Chronicle - January 21, 2019

Texas lawmakers push legislation on three key immigration issues

As the national debate over funding for a border wall intensifies, Texas lawmakers are also taking a run at several immigration issues.

Bills filed by Democratic and Republican state lawmakers address the separation of Central American migrant families seeking asylum, in-state tuition at Texas universities for young immigrants who have lived in the state for more than three years, and weakening of the so-called sanctuary cities law that passed in 2017. Last week, immigration advocates highlighted the legislation and railed against President Donald Trump’s policies as well as House Bill 413 by Rep. Kyle Biedermann, R-Fredericksburg, which would repeal an 18-year-old law that grants in-state college tuition for longterm residents of the state who are not U.S. citizens.

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Houston Chronicle - January 21, 2019

First Buc-ee's outside of Texas opens today

It's official: Buc-ee's is no longer exclusively a Texas chain. About 100 people braved the cold weather and stood in line before the sun rose Monday morning for opening of the first Buc-ee's outside of the Lone Star State.

The store in Baldwin County, Alabama, opened at 6 a.m. Monday morning, giving Alabama residents their first taste of unique amenities that became a staple in Texas since it opened in 1982. The 50,000-square-foot store offers 124 fueling stations and "the biggest, most pristine bathrooms the state of Alabama has ever seen," according to a press release. Judging by the turnout at the opening, it's clear the legend of the store's highly addictive snacks have spread well beyond Texas. Beaver Nuggets, a wildly popular product made of sugar, caramel and butter-coated corn puffs, may have had something to do with that. The store also offers barbecue, beef jerky and homemade fudge.

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Houston Chronicle - January 21, 2019

Houston case reveals extortion, death threats among brutal tactics employed by human traffickers

The Houston-based federal prosecution of six men charged with aiding in the Alief stash house and another residence offers a rare glimpse into the ruthless tactics experts say are used to extract cash in the underground human cargo trade in which Houston is a major hub.

“It’s a vicious world. They know intimidation is a factor in getting paid,” said David G. Ramirez, a former assistant special agent with Homeland Security who worked undercover for years in international smuggling operations. “It’s not a customer-friendly business.” Although thousands of people are charged with harboring undocumented immigrants, the case is one of just 16 federal prosecutions against 48 defendants in the region since 2014 on allegations of “hostage taking” by a smuggling crew.

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Houston Chronicle - January 21, 2019

In Angleton, Dennis Bonnen is not a celebrity, but a friend

When people in Angleton think of Dennis Bonnen, they don’t call to mind a powerful leader directing the paths of laws that affect millions of Texans. They think of the neighbor who played backyard whiffle ball, the fifth-grader who petitioned to rename the class hamster, the son whose family reputation preceded him.

On Jan. 8, when Bonnen, at 46, became speaker of the Texas House of Representatives, those in his hometown — a slice of the estimated 178,600 people he represents in District 25 — swelled with pride. “It’s hometown boy makes good,” said Patricia Montgomery, 63, the former superintendent of the Angleton school district, who watched Bonnen grow up.

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Dallas Morning News - January 21, 2019

Once hopping Tornillo, host of the tent city for migrant children, is suddenly almost a ghost town

Once upon a time, just weeks ago, this place was booming. "It was like Christmas year-round," said Quinton Williams, a butcher at Don Pancho Supermarket. "Cash registers were ringing."

These days, this town of some 2,000 is struggling with a new reality, and an old story: No jobs. Thrust into the national spotlight as the location for a detention center for migrant children and teens, Tornillo, right on a border crossing to Mexico, has gone from boom to bust, and been all but forgotten. As of this week, the facilities, known as Tent City, formally shut down and the money has dried up. Making matters worse, the government shutdown is also hurting businesses as Border Patrol agents and government workers aren't receiving paychecks even though they're still on the job.

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Dallas Morning News - January 21, 2019

Texas two-step: There's room for Julian Castro and Beto O'Rourke in race for president

The 2020 presidential race is big enough for two Texans. It's likely that former San Antonio mayor Julian Castro and former U.S. Rep. Beto O'Rourke of El Paso will joust for the Democratic nomination for president, along with numerous contenders from across the country.

Some analysts have dismissed Castro's chances. They point out that since his keynote speech at the 2012 Democratic National Convention, his star has slipped. Enter O'Rourke, who last year thrilled Texas and national Democrats by coming within 2.6 percentage points of beating Republican incumbent Ted Cruz for Senate. O'Rourke is widely expected to buffalo Castro out of the race, even before what could be an intriguing showdown in the Texas presidential primary in March.

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Reason - January 18, 2019

Anti-wall Rep. Will Hurd: 'There's a thing we care about in Texas called private property rights'

In an interview published today with Rolling Stone, Rep. Will Hurd (R–Texas) poked holes in President Donald Trump's proposed wall on the U.S.–Mexico border.

A wall would be "the most expensive and least effective way to do border security," said Hurd, whose congressional district runs along the southern border from El Paso to San Antonio. Among Hurd's concerns is that building the wall would require lots of land seizures. "There's a thing in Texas we care about called private property rights," he told Rolling Stone. "To get the property rights with eminent domain," he said, "would impact 1,000 property owners in Texas."

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Dallas Observer - January 21, 2019

Jim Schutze: Texas school debate could make a liberal nostalgic for the bathroom bill

I liked the previous session of the Texas Legislature a lot better. The Republicans concentrated on what I consider to be their innate concerns – dehumanizing women, disenfranchising minorities and putting Big Brother in the bathroom. I didn’t like what they did, but I did like that they wanted to do it. It assured me there is order in the universe.

And anyway, when the Republicans act like that, it leaves the lane open for liberal Democrats like myself to come along and be virtuous, magnanimous and pure of heart – also how the universe should be. I look in the mirror, I sigh, and I see that it is true. So I really hate this session. This year in the 86th Texas Legislature, the Republican leadership led by Gov. Greg Abbott will take up school reform proposals at a proposed cost to taxpayers between $6 billion and $9 billion, a huge chunk of which would go to increased teacher pay.

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Austin American-Statesman - January 22, 2019

Mike Siegel running again in North Austin congressional district

Democrat Mike Siegel, vanquished in November by U.S. Rep. Michael McCaul, R-Austin, in a close race that caught political observers by surprise, is running again in 2020. Siegel, an attorney for the city of Austin, lost to McCaul by 4.3 percentage points. The margin was the closest since the district was redrawn in 2003.

The district stretches from Lake Travis to the Houston suburbs and includes Austin neighborhoods Allandale, Rosedale, Crestview, Brentwood, North Loop, St John’s and the Domain. Siegel said he hopes to improve the lives of Texans by focusing his campaign on health care, voting rights, job growth and criminal justice reform. He also said that Congress needs to exercise its duty in overseeing the president. “We held a seven-time incumbent with enormous personal wealth to 51 percent of the vote,” Siegel told the American-Statesman. “Now, that last couple percent is obviously the hardest percent, and that’s why I need to start now.”

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The Intercept - January 21, 2019

Trump's border wall would destroy historic graves in south Texas

Ramiro R. Ramírez remembers his grandmother, when he was a young child, planting a red rose bush to mark the gravesite of Nathaniel Jackson, his great-great grandfather. With time, the rose bush vanished, like the wooden cross marking Jackson’s death in 1865.

Now 70, Ramírez and other descendants of the Jackson family are fighting to save their family’s legacy and the gravesites of Nathaniel and Matilda, which could be destroyed by a border wall up to 30 feet high, one of the first sections of President Donald Trump’s wall slated to go up. This stretch would include not only a steel and concrete wall, but also a 150-foot-wide “enforcement zone” — an all-weather road and surveillance towers — that is slated to be built straight through the family cemetery in the coming year.

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City Stories

Austin American-Statesman - January 21, 2019

Austin police focus on violent crime after homicides rose in 2018

Austin police tallied 34 homicides in 2018, making the year among the deadliest since 2010. That year, the Austin Police Department investigated 38 homicides. The only year with more killings since then was 2016 with 40 homicides. Officers handled 25 homicides in 2017, Austin Police Assistant Chief Ely Reyes said.

2018 was an atypical year for homicides. Reyes said it is rare for Austin to have suspects accused in multiple homicides with no known relationship to victims, but last year had two: Beginning on March 2, a series of random bombings killed two people, 17-year-old Draylen Mason and 39-year-old Anthony Stephan House. The suspected bomber, 23-year-old Mark Conditt, killed himself with one of his bombs on March 22 as authorities moved to arrest him. Police attributed two other homicides, one in September and one in November — what police described as a pair of deadly drug deals — to one man: 23-year-old Isaac Jerome Thomas. Though while the number of killings climbed in 2018, overall violent crime in the city trended downward for the first time in two years.

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Houston Chronicle - January 21, 2019

Civil rights icon John Lewis makes surprise appearance at Houston MLK breakfast

Georgia Congressman John Lewis –– a civil rights icon for decades –– made a surprise appearance at the Martin Luther King Jr. breakfast Monday morning in Houston to remind the enthusiastic crowd to keep up the fight for social justice.

Lewis drew a standing ovation, then headed out to the original MLK Parade. He is serving as the grand marshal along with Houston Astros George Springer for the original MLK parade started by the Black Heritage Society 40 years ago. The Heritage Society parade is one of two dueling parades in Houston. A second parade known as the MLK Grande Parade, launched by a former Black Heritage Society volunteer, has also been held since 1995. Both parades were held Monday morning in Houston.

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National Stories

Wall Street Journal - January 21, 2019

U.S. and North Korean spies have held secret talks for a decade

U.S. intelligence officials have met with North Korean counterparts secretly for a decade, a covert channel that allowed communications during tense times, aided in the release of detainees and helped pave the way for President Trump’s historic summit last year with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un.

The secret channel between the Central Intelligence Agency and spies from America’s bitter adversary included two missions to Pyongyang in 2012 during the Obama administration by Michael Morell, then deputy CIA director, and at least one by his successor, Avril Haines, say current and former U.S. officials. The channel appears to have gone dormant late in the Obama administration. Mike Pompeo re-energized it while CIA director, sending an agency officer to meet with North Korean counterparts in Singapore in August 2017.

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Wall Street Journal - January 22, 2019

Shutdown hits industries nationwide

Shuttered government offices are stalling the approval of new loans, initial public offerings, the processing of tax documents, and the approval of new products such as prescription drugs, among other effects.

The partial closure of the Securities and Exchange Commission is delaying the ability of companies to open the IPO market. Companies that were seeking to list shares in January are delaying plans since the regulator has stopped reviewing and approving new and pending corporate registration statements. Publicly traded companies also could have to put shareholder proposals they oppose to a vote if the shutdown doesn’t end before many U.S. companies hold annual meetings at the end of winter. Banking regulators remain open, operating on fees collecting from the companies they oversee.

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Reuters - January 21, 2019

British PM May tries to tweak defeated Brexit plan, refuses to rule out no-deal

British Prime Minister Theresa May sought to break the parliamentary deadlock over Brexit on Monday by proposing to seek further concessions from the European Union on a plan to prevent customs checks on the Irish border.

With little time left until the United Kingdom is due to leave the European Union on March 29, there is no agreement in London on how and even whether it should leave the world’s biggest trading bloc, and a growing chance of a dramatic ‘no-deal’ exit with no provisions to soften the economic shock. After her Brexit divorce deal with Brussels was rejected by 432-202 lawmakers last Tuesday, the biggest defeat in modern British history, May has been searching for a way to get a deal through.

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Reuters - January 21, 2019

Report reveals an undeclared North Korean missile base headquarters

One of 20 undeclared ballistic missile operating bases in North Korea serves as a missile headquarters, according to a report by the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) published on Monday.

The discovery of an undeclared missile headquarters comes three days after U.S. President Donald Trump announced on Friday that he “looks forward” to another summit to discuss denuclearization with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un in late February. CSIS, which last reported on the 20 undeclared bases in November, said the Sino-ri base has never been declared by North Korea and as a result “does not appear to be the subject of denuclearization negotiations.”

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Bloomberg - January 21, 2019

Oil gloom turns to boom as the market’s worst fears fade away

Investors are the most optimistic on oil in two months as the worst fears that roiled markets at the end of the year start to dissipate.

Hedge funds boosted their net wagers on rising Brent crude prices by 9 percent in the week ended Jan. 15, mostly because they continued to unwind a short-selling spree from the end of 2018, data from the ICE Futures Europe exchange show. The shift in sentiment culminated with the global benchmark closing at its highest in eight weeks on Friday after China was said to propose a ramp-up in imports from the U.S. to end a trade war between the world’s two largest economies.

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The Hill - January 22, 2019

Rep. Elise Stefanik seeks to tackle GOP’s women ‘crisis’ ahead of 2020

Rep. Elise Stefanik (R-NY) is looking to recruit and elect more Republican women to Congress through her leadership political action committee, as the GOP grapples with winning back the suburban, moderate voters who left the party in 2018.

To get there, Stefanik's group, E-PAC, is making strides to reach the high-dollar fundraising and massive network of Democratic women's groups like EMILY’s List. That is an area where Republicans have traditionally come up short, but one they are seeking to emulate this cycle. The three-term congresswoman has attracted the support of top Republican House leaders, after Republicans lost dozens of seats last November. The relaunch event for her PAC last week was attended by House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (CA), House Minority Whip Steve Scalise (LA), and House Conference Chair Liz Cheney (WY) in what was a display of strength for her efforts.

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Washington Post - January 21, 2019

American charged by Russia for espionage was handed classified material, lawyer says

Paul Whelan, a former U.S. Marine detained in Moscow on spy charges, was given a flash drive containing a “state secret,” his lawyer said on Tuesday.

Whelan, 48, who also holds British, Canadian and Irish citizenships, was detained by Russian security services in late December, during what his family said was a personal trip to the Russian capital. “But how he got it, what he was supposed to do with it, and whether Whelan knew that he had secret information is unknown,” Vladimir Zherebenkov told reporters in a Moscow court, where Whelan was attending a closed-door, pretrial hearing. The Russian court refused to release Whelan on bail, meaning he will remain behind bars through the end of February.

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New York Times - January 21, 2019

Russian oligarch could benefit from sanctions deal, document shows

When the Trump administration announced last month that it was lifting sanctions against a trio of companies controlled by an influential Russian oligarch, it cast the move as tough on Russia and on the oligarch, arguing that he had to make painful concessions to get the sanctions lifted.

But a binding confidential document signed by both sides suggests that the agreement the administration negotiated with the companies controlled by the oligarch, Oleg V. Deripaska, may have been less punitive than advertised. The deal contains provisions that free him from hundreds of millions of dollars in debt while leaving him and his allies with majority ownership of his most important company, the document shows. With the special counsel’s investigation into Russia’s role in the 2016 election continuing to shadow President Trump, the administration’s decision to lift sanctions on Mr. Deripaska’s companies has become a political flash point.

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Politico - January 22, 2019

Tech billionaire, Democrats clash over campaign tactics and data

Billionaire Reid Hoffman quietly became a major force in Democratic politics over the last two years, but his groups’ clashes within the party and involvement in controversial campaign tactics are causing some Democrats to question whether partnering with him on a $35 million-plus overhaul of the party's data infrastructure would be a mistake.

Democratic operatives and groups that have worked with Hoffman say his spending in 2017 and 2018 put him in the league of top party givers such as Tom Steyer and Donald Sussman. But some Democrats told POLITICO they believe the LinkedIn co-founder and his allies — intent on taking risks with his money and breaking with the status quo — failed to properly vet their partners and made avoidable mistakes as they rapidly expanded their political work.

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ABC News - January 22, 2019

U.S. banker with ties to Putin’s inner circle sought access to Trump transition, per sources

Nine days after Donald Trump won the presidency, as scores of supporters clamored for meetings with his transition team, the Hollywood producer of “The Apprentice,” Mark Burnett, reached out to one of Trump’s closest advisers to see if he would sit down with a banker who has long held ties to Russia.

The banker, Robert Foresman, never got the role he was seeking with the fledgling Trump administration. But he has recently attracted the attention of congressional investigators as one more name on an expanding list of Americans with established ties inside the Kremlin who appears to have been seeking access to the newly elected president’s inner circle, according to three sources familiar with the matter. Foresman, who is now vice chairman of the Swiss bank UBS’s investment arm, lived for years in Moscow, where he led a $3 billion Russian investment fund and was touted by his new company as someone who maintains connections to Russian President Vladimir Putin’s inner circle.

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Pacific Standard - January 21, 2019

Satellites could revolutionize the way governments monitor rural development

An international team of researchers examined the potential of remotely sensed satellite data to help monitor rural poverty in lower-income countries. They found that certain local environmental features, including agricultural land uses, are related to the level of wealth of households and villages and can be quantified by satellite data.

Imagery taken from satellites helps scientists map the Earth's surface. Using these images, scientists quantify different types of land cover, distinguishing areas of forest from those dominated by scrub, grassland, crops, or water. By analyzing satellite data from different time periods, researchers assess changes in vegetation cover across the globe. Rural residents in lower-income countries rely on natural resources for food, fuel, building materials, and medicines. Loss of these resources is likely associated with lower socioeconomic circumstances.

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Governing - January 21, 2019

Not just L.A.: where teachers might strike in 2019

The ongoing teacher strike in Los Angeles won’t be this year’s only uprising of educators pushing for higher pay, better working conditions and changes to education policy.

With more than 30,000 members of the United Teachers Los Angeles union off the job since their strike began Monday, teachers from half a dozen public schools in Oakland, Calif., are preparing for their own walkout on Friday. Friday is also the deadline for teachers in Denver to reach a contract agreement with their district, and the union has scheduled a strike vote for Saturday if that doesn’t happen.

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Associated Press - January 21, 2019

Survey: CEO pessimism on economy spreads after upbeat 2018

A survey of hundreds of corporate leaders shows "a record jump in pessimism" about the world economy, with sentiment doused by trade spats, a global downturn and fading benefits from U.S. tax cuts.

Consulting firm PwC says the latest edition of its annual survey of CEOs found 30 percent feel growth will decline this year, a six-fold increase from a year earlier — when 57 percent were optimistic. The survey, released Monday on the eve of the World Economic Forum opening in Davos, Switzerland, tallies responses from more than 1,300 CEOs worldwide and is billed as a good predictor of economic results.

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U.S. News and World Report - January 17, 2019

When #MeToo and 'Ban the Box' collide

With the country addressing criminal justice reform, colleges and universities are increasingly making spaces for formerly incarcerated people. But for many institutions of higher education, especially those where the majority of students live on campus, safeguarding against admitting someone with a history of sexual misconduct is also increasingly top of mind.

Those competing interests –– being a space for second chances while also protecting against potential dangers –– are playing out in real time as supporters of the #MeToo movement are colliding head-on with supporters of the "ban the box" movement, splintering a civil rights community that historically falls on the same side of an issue.

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Newsclips - January 21, 2019

Lead Stories

The Hill - January 21, 2019

Debate builds over making Mueller report public

Anticipation is building for special counsel Robert Mueller’s report, bringing to boil a debate over whether it will also be made public. The report took center stage at Attorney General nominee Bill Barr’s confirmation hearing last week, where Democrats on the Senate Judiciary Committee pressed him to commit to releasing it publicly.

It’s far from clear how close Mueller is to ending his investigation; the former FBI director has shown no signs of concluding his investigation. At the same time, there is a growing sense in Washington that a probe that has captivated the political world for most of the last two years is wrapping up. The report is expected to lay out Mueller’s findings about Russian interference and potential coordination between the Trump campaign and Moscow. It remains unclear what exact shape the report will take or what, if any, conclusions it will draw.

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Washington Post - January 19, 2019

Shouting, near fisticuffs, emotions high: Today’s Washington could get worse

One political rule of life is never ask a question unless you really want to know the answer. Example: It cannot possibly get worse in Washington, can it?

By early Thursday afternoon, President Trump and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) had traded insults several times. Pelosi called for a delay of Trump’s planned Jan. 29 State of the Union address as long as portions of the government were shut down. The president then revoked military support for her weekend trip to visit troops in Afghanistan. A couple of days earlier, the House rebuked Rep. Steve King (R-IA) for a history of racially and ethnically charged remarks, the latest in his questioning of how white supremacy had become offensive.

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New York Times - January 20, 2019

China’s slowdown looms just as the world looks for growth

In the vast metropolis of Chongqing in western China, three huge Ford Motor assembly plants have slowed to a fraction of their earlier pace. In the eastern province of Jiangsu, hundreds of chemical factories have closed. In Guangdong Province in the southeast, factories have idled workers in droves.

China’s huge economy, a major driver of global growth, is cooling just when the world needs its spark. Data released by Beijing in recent months shows softer investment, unprofitable factories and consumers who are no longer so quick to open their wallets. In the past, China has helped the world out of such weak spots, most notably during the global financial crisis. But this time, its economy is showing pronounced weakness.

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Austin American-Statesman - January 19, 2019

UT, A&M presidents want to renew football rivalry

The University of Texas and Texas A&M University know how to split the atom and cure some forms of cancer. Scheduling a football game against each other is apparently more complicated, but the presidents of both schools told the American-Statesman that they are in favor of renewing the storied rivalry.

In a wide-ranging discussion Friday with Statesman editors and reporters, UT President Gregory L. Fenves and A&M President Michael K. Young also said that they hope state lawmakers increase appropriations for student financial aid and certain other programs beyond what the initial House and Senate bills recommend. The Aggies and Longhorns last played each other in football in 2011, when Justin Tucker’s 40-yard kick gave Texas a last-second win.

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State Stories

Houston Chronicle - January 20, 2019

Bipartisan group aims to boost natural gas exports to Mexico

A bipartisan group of Texas lawmakers is seeking to strengthen the ties of the U.S. energy sector to Mexico even as the political battle over the border wall partially shut down the federal government.

U.S. Rep. Henry Cuellar, D-Laredo, has filed House Resolution 132, which seeks to boost U.S. funding for the North American Development Bank, or NADBank, and give the binational financial institution authority to fund cross-border natural gas pipelines and natural gas-fired power plants.

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Houston Chronicle - January 16, 2019

Come and take it: Confiscating guns in Texas isn’t easy

In a state founded on a dare for authorities to confiscate its guns, separating Texans from their firearms has never been simple. Yet thanks to legal machinery whose individual gears often don’t mesh, today it remains true even for those who most people agree shouldn’t have guns.

Often called the relinquishment gap, the phrase describes the missing spans between laws that on paper forbid certain people from having firearms, and the legal enforcement tools to ensure that they genuinely don’t. Texas isn’t alone in failing to patch the holes. But because of the state’s sheer numbers - more people die here by firearm than any other state - the issue casts a larger shadow than in other places.

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Houston Chronicle - January 19, 2019

Legislators look to help victims of future storms

In Texas’ first legislative session post Hurricane Harvey, lawmakers have filed bills aimed at better alerting homeowners to their flood risk, lessening the damage of future storms and lowering disaster victims’ tax bills.

A routine Senate bill providing supplemental funding for the 2018-2019 biennium proposes to draw $1.2 billion from the Economic Stabilization Fund to cover various state agencies’ Harvey expenses. The bill also includes seven placeholder allocations to several agencies, with appropriations for Harvey costs to be filled in later. Many lawmakers have filed bills with the next disaster in mind. Reps. Dade Phelan, R-Beaumont, and Sarah Davis, R-Houston, have filed separate bills to create funds to lend or grant to local governments for flood mitigation projects.

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Austin American-Statesman - January 17, 2019

Authorities must rebuild trust after sexual assault audits, groups say

Advocates for survivors of sexual violence say two recently released audits that found Austin police incorrectly reported how dozens of sexual assault investigations were closed have further eroded community trust in authorities’ ability to deliver justice in these crimes.

On Wednesday, Austin Police Chief Brian Manley discussed the final results of the audits, which revealed the Police Department improperly cleared dozens of cases. For advocates who work with sexual assault survivors, the findings are further evidence of a bigger cultural problem: a sort of cultural poison they say permeates local authorities’ handling of sexual assault cases at every level.

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Austin American-Statesman - January 20, 2019

Bill would give law enforcement access to naloxone

Police departments across the state have become increasingly concerned about officers’ exposure to fentanyl, a synthetic opioid about 50 times stronger than heroin that they say can cause adverse reactions just by breathing it in. This, coupled with an increasing number of opioid overdoses, has prompted many of them to equip their officers with naloxone despite its high cost.

A Houston lawmaker wants to make it easier for law enforcement departments to access the drug. Sen. Joan Huffman last week filed Senate Bill 340 to create a grant program by which peace officers, evidence technicians and other law enforcement personnel could obtain naloxone at no cost. They would be required to show how often they respond to opioid overdoses or are exposed to opioids on the job, according to the bill, and show receipt of purchase of the medication after funds are distributed.

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Austin American-Statesman - January 18, 2019

Texas court addresses cellphone tracking in digital age privacy case

Dealing once again with privacy rights in the digital age, the state’s highest criminal court has upheld the murder conviction of a Lamar County man who argued that police violated his rights when they “pinged” his cellphone to find his real-time location without a search warrant.

It was the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals’ first in-depth foray into a developing area of law since the U.S. Supreme Court ruled last summer that privacy rights extend to cellphone information that shows a person’s location and movement. The Texas case involves Christian Sims, who is serving a 35-year prison term for the December 2014 shooting death of his grandmother, Annie Sims, on the porch of her home.

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Dallas Morning News - January 20, 2019

Prayer billboard owner should pause to fill out permit, Ellis County city says

It's the permit — not the prayer — that's the problem with an Ellis County sign that must come down, Waxahachie leaders say. "Did you think to pray?" proclaims a billboard along Interstate 35E, south of downtown Waxahachie.

The city says it must be removed because the private owner didn't apply for the proper permits, the Waxahachie Daily Light reported. "It's not because the city is bad, anti-religion or anything like that," attorney Dan Gus, who represents the sign owners, told the newspaper. "I don't think anyone out there is intentionally trying to harm religion. We just have an absurd statute in the books from more than 20 years ago."

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Dallas Morning News - January 20, 2019

With air taxis and drones, Fort Worth-based Bell wants to fly into the future

The futuristic aircraft that Bell is developing looks nothing like what made the Fort Worth-based helicopter maker famous.

The nearly 83-year-old aerospace and defense company is designing an air taxi that'll give commuters a new way to travel across crowded cities. And it's testing sophisticated drones that could rush blood to a hospital, drop off water or supplies in areas hit by natural disasters, and deliver customers' purchases by air instead of truck. It's all part of an effort to shake up Bell's image and push the company toward new markets and innovative ideas.

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San Antonio Express-News - January 18, 2019

Gramm, Pappas family feud over Luby’s tests a friendship

In late 2017, Jeff Gramm and James Pappas, hedge fund managers and longtime friends, were the headline speakers at a $40-a-plate luncheon hosted by the Chartered Financial Analyst Society of Houston.

They discussed the rise of activist investors engaged in high profile battles to shake up company boards and management, agreeing on the importance of holding corporate leaders accountable for underperforming companies and protecting the interests of shareholders. Gramm is the son of former U.S. Sen. Phil Gramm; Pappas of Chris Pappas, the co-founder and owner of Pappas Restaurants.

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San Antonio Express-News - January 21, 2019

John Cornyn and Ted Cruz: Taking Texas reform to the federal level

A little more than a decade ago, Texas prisons were bursting at the seams, a problem only exacerbated by the fact that the majority of those released from prison eventually returned. In no uncertain terms, then-House Speaker Tom Craddick told then-chairman of the House Corrections Committee Jerry Madden, “Don’t build new prisons; they cost too much.”

State legislators listened and, under the leadership of then-Gov. Rick Perry, began consulting with experts to find the root of this pervasive problem and come up with solutions. The result was an innovative bill that invested $241 million in treatment programs within prisons with the goal of reducing recidivism: that is, to stop the revolving door and make sure people who get out of prison stay out of prison.

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The Eagle - January 21, 2019

Texas A&M University Board of Regents approve formation of nutrition institute led by AgriLife Research

A new institute in the Texas A&M University System aims to connect agriculture and health in an effort to reduce chronic illness attributed to diet.

The Texas A&M University System Board of Regents approved the formation of the Institute for Precision Nutrition, Responsive Agriculture and Health last week. The institute will be led by Texas A&M AgriLife Research. Patrick Stover, director for AgriLife Research, said Texas can serve as a model for the world on how to lower diet-related health care costs.

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The Eagle - January 20, 2019

According to Airbnb, 30,000 Texans shared their homes as hosts last year

Art, maps and paraphernalia from all over the world adorn the walls of Marty Regan's Bryan home. From time to time, guests hailing from Fort Worth to England to Japan stay there, too.

Regan's three-bedroom house is one of the top 50 Airbnb "wish-list" destinations in Texas, according to a fall release by the nearly 11-year-old company. Spring and summer bookings are sometimes sparse, Regan said, but fall home Texas A&M football game weekends are often reserved a year in advance. In 2018, more than 600 hosts welcomed guests about 28,000 times in Brazos County through Airbnb, earning about $2.9 million in host income, according to a release. The release said about 30,000 Texans shared their homes as Airbnb hosts last year.

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USA Today - January 20, 2019

Will Hurd: My black dad taught me how to handle white supremacist rhetoric

It is unbelievable the number of times over the past few months that an event or statement has required me to remind people that racism, bigotry, anti-Semitism and misogyny have no place in our country.

It is unfortunate that more than 50 years after Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s death, the House of Representatives, a body that I have the honor of serving in, had to have a vote condemning white supremacy in response to the idiotic comments of one of our own. Sentiments of hate toward one another still permeate today’s world, and there is still much work to be done to heal the divisions of racial prejudice. However, we have come a long way along the path of achieving the revolutionary vision that all men and women are created equal.

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Star-Telegram - January 21, 2019

J. Bruce Bugg: What TxDOT has going on in highway improvements

Yes, things are bigger in Texas, including growing pains. As the second-most populous state in the nation, Texas today grows on average by about 1,100 people per day. As a result, state transportation leaders have taken unprecedented steps to address the challenges of congestion, safety, connectivity and the preservation of existing roads.

One of the biggest undertakings is the Texas Clear Lanes (TCL) initiative established in 2015 by the Texas Transportation Commission and Texas Department of Transportation under the directive of Gov. Greg Abbott. This effort primarily targets the Fort Worth, Dallas, Austin, San Antonio and Houston areas – where 65 percent of the state’s population lives and 92 of Texas’ 100 most congested roads are located. Through Texas Clear Lanes, we’ve made significant strides toward improving the quality of life for millions of Texas drivers. And the work, and its benefits, are far from over.

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Abilene Reporter-News - January 21, 2019

Remembering 10-time Abilene political candidate Buff Hackney

Once upon a time, what passed for political protest in Abilene was a bumper sticker that read, “Don’t Blame Me I voted for Buff.”

Weldon Eugene "Buff" Hackney, who ran four times for mayor of Abilene, died Tuesday. He was 72. Not only was Hackney a failed mayoral candidate on multiple occasions, he also was a candidate for Abilene City Council six times, from 1987-96. His best finish was next to last in his initial mayoral race, edging a 22-year-old recent college graduate who admitted he was running to help him get employed.

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City Stories

Houston Chronicle - January 20, 2019

Tony Buzbee says Turner should return campaign cash from hurricane relief contractors

Houston mayoral candidate Tony Buzbee strolled into his Midtown campaign headquarters Friday behind a wheelbarrow of manure, faced a row of TV cameras, and let it rip on Sylvester Turner, declaring the incumbent mayor's administration reeked like a pungent heap of dung.

"Something stinks at City Hall, and it's not this horse manure," Buzbee said, alleging the mayor was trading city contracts for campaign contributions. "Although that stinks pretty bad," Buzbee added, glancing at the wheelbarrow. For about 20 minutes, the millionaire lawyer laid the seeds for a mayoral campaign built on tackling crime, paying firefighters more and putting stricter limits on political donations to city officials.

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Austin Chronicle - January 18, 2019

Austin’s least-loved landfill may be poised to grow a\gain

Late last year, four people showed up at the Travis County Commissioners Court to tell their elected officials about what it's like to live near one of the state's most controversial dumps.

The Austin Community Landfill actually lies next to its namesake city, which, along with the county, likes to think of itself as progressively environmental. Residents of this part of Northeast Austin and Travis County have long known the ACL's impacts and have fought to keep them from worsening. But in the fall of 2018, neighborhoods in the area learned that the ACL's owner, global corporation Waste Manage­ment, is considering expanding the facility. (This reporter lived in the area during the reporting of this story.)

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National Stories

New York Times - January 20, 2019

McConnell to pair bills to reopen government with Trump’s immigration plan

In a bid to put pressure on Democrats, Senator Mitch McConnell, the Republican leader, plans this week to bring up legislation that would immediately reopen the government and incorporate President Trump’s proposal to offer temporary protections to some immigrants in exchange for $5.7 billion for his border wall, a top aide to Mr. McConnell said Sunday.

By coupling government funding with the plan Mr. Trump unveiled on Saturday, Mr. McConnell — who has until now stayed on the sidelines in the shutdown debate — is hoping to shift blame for the shutdown to Democrats, who have said repeatedly that they will not negotiate over border security until the government is fully open. But there was no indication from Democrats on Sunday that they would abandon that position. And some doubted that Mr. McConnell would even bring legislation to the floor, because of pressure from conservative critics who regard Mr. Trump’s proposal as amnesty for those who came to the United States illegally.

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New York Times - January 20, 2019

In business and governing, Trump seeks victory in chaos

Three decades ago, Donald J. Trump waged a public battle with the talk show host Merv Griffin to take control of what would become Mr. Trump’s third Atlantic City casino. Executives at Mr. Trump’s company warned that the casino would siphon revenue from the others. Analysts predicted the associated debt would crush him.

The naysayers would be proved right, but throughout the turmoil Mr. Trump fixated on just one outcome: declaring himself a winner and Mr. Griffin a loser. As president, Mr. Trump has displayed a similar fixation in his standoff with Congress over leveraging a government shutdown to gain funding for a wall on the Mexican border. As he did during decades in business, Mr. Trump has insulted adversaries, undermined his aides, repeatedly changed course, extolled his primacy as a negotiator and induced chaos.

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Associated Press - January 21, 2019

Teen in confrontation with Native American: I didn’t provoke

The student who stared and smiled at an elderly Native American protester drumming in his face outside the Lincoln Memorial as his schoolmates chanted and laughed says he did nothing to provoke the man in the videotaped confrontation and was only trying to calm the situation.

The student identified himself in an email statement Sunday evening as junior Nick Sandmann of Covington Catholic High School in a northern Kentucky suburb of Cincinnati. An official working with the family confirmed Sandmann’s identity, speaking on condition of anonymity because the source didn’t want to distract from the statement. Videos posted of the confrontation drew wide criticism on social media. “I am being called every name in the book, including a racist, and I will not stand for this mob-like character assassination of my family’s name,” wrote Sandmann.

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Associated Press - January 20, 2019

Bolton’s test: Massaging Trump tweets into foreign policy

In President Donald Trump’s Washington, matters of war and peace are decided in 280-character bursts. It’s up to John Bolton to massage them into a foreign policy. The mustachioed national security adviser developed a reputation as a bureaucratic bulldozer through more than three decades in and out of government.

But the wrangling over Trump’s decision to pull troops out of Syria demanded a new skill — the ability to dramatically redraft the president’s policy without provoking a hint of protest from the commander in chief. When Trump announced on Dec. 19 that he saw no need for U.S. troops to remain in Syria, senior U.S. officials expected the Trump-ordered withdrawal to be completed within a month.

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Wall Street Journal - January 20, 2019

PG&E's bankruptcy is the first climate-change bankruptcy, and probably not the last

PG&E Corp.’s bankruptcy could mark a business milestone: the first major corporate casualty of climate change. Few people expect it will be the last.

California’s largest utility was overwhelmed by rapid climatic changes as a prolonged drought dried out much of the state and decimated forests, dramatically increasing the risk of fire. On Monday, PG&E said it planned to file for Chapter 11 protection by month’s end, citing an estimated $30 billion in liabilities and 750 lawsuits from wildfires potentially caused by its power lines.

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Wall Street Journal - January 21, 2019

Overseas investment seen rebounding as U.S. firms repatriate less profits

Corporate overseas investment will likely rebound this year as U.S. companies repatriate less profits, but will nonetheless continue to be weak by precrisis standards in the face of a darkening economic outlook and uncertainties about trade rules, the United Nations said Monday.

The U.N. Conference on Trade and Development said global business investment flows fell sharply in 2018, to $1.2 trillion from $1.47 trillion in 2017. But it said most of that decline was due to U.S. companies sending profits back home in response to changes in the country’s tax law. With U.S. repatriations easing, the agency expects to see total foreign direct investment rebound in 2019, while remaining subdued compared with the years before the global financial crisis. It counts profits made overseas and not repatriated as foreign investment, in addition to the establishment of new operations and the acquisition of existing businesses.

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Axios - January 20, 2019

Freshmen Democrats balk at impeaching Trump

The vast majority of freshman House Democrats are not quite ready to "impeach the motherf*cker." Over the last two weeks, Axios reached out to every single one of the 64 new House Democrats, and only a tiny fraction said they were on board with impeachment.

There's been a cable news feeding frenzy over the "I" word, fueled in part by freshman Rep. Rashida Tlaib's bleep-worthy call for ousting the president. But the reality is that the vast majority of new House Democrats are right in line with their caucus' leadership; they're uninterested in discussing impeachment before special counsel Robert Mueller finishes his work. Instead, they emphasized aggressive Democratic oversight, including opening investigations into the president, his campaign and his administration.

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Axios - January 18, 2019

The making of Trump's Enemies List

President Trump was frustrated about leaks — specifically leaks attributed to "White House officials" — that were critical of him. Cliff Sims, a young White House communications aide slipped through the private dining room and was ushered into the private study, just off the Oval Office.

As recounted in Sims' memoir — "Team of Vipers: My 500 Extraordinary Days in the Trump White House," out Jan. 29 from Thomas Dunne Books — the minister's son from Alabama was soon sitting face-to-face with the man he still referred to as "DJT," in leftover campaign lingo. This was in 2017, when West Wing chaos was a constant storyline in the media. Trump and Sims, then 33, had talked on the phone the night before. Trump wanted to know who Sims thought was leaking, and said to come see him — but to come through the back, so the senior staff wouldn't know.

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Politico - January 21, 2019

Sen. Kamala Harris launches campaign for president

Kamala Harris, a former California attorney general and San Francisco district attorney who was elected to the Senate two years ago, officially launched her campaign for president on Monday.

Harris, the first African-American to enter the 2020 presidential race and the first black senator from California, made the announcement on ABC’s “Good Morning America.” She simultaneously released a video teasing the formal start of her campaign at a rally this Sunday in Oakland, California, Harris’ birthplace and the city that cultivated her political rise.

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Daily Beast - January 19, 2019

Giuliani: ’So what’ if Trump talked to Cohen about his testimony

Rudy Giuliani, President Trump's personal attorney, acknowledged during an appearance on CNN on Sunday that it's possible the president spoke with Michael Cohen prior to Cohen's congressional testimony, but questioned why it matters.

"I don't know if it happened or didn't happen," Giuliani told CNN's Jake Tapper. "And it might be attorney-client privilege if it happened where I can't acknowledge it. But I have no knowledge that he spoke to him. But I'm telling you, I wasn't there then." Pressed again as to whether or not the president might have had a conversation with Cohen about his testimony, Giuliani said: "And so what if he talked to him about it?"

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Washington Post - January 20, 2019

Margaret Sullivan: Get used to the ‘I-word’ — impeachment — is about to dominate Trump coverage

Not too long ago, Jeffrey Goldberg, the top editor of the Atlantic, thought that beginning an impeachment investigation of President Trump would be “a formula for chaos — the sort of chaos no fractured nation needs.” But last Wednesday night, the magazine published an issue whose cover was dominated by a single word in huge red letters (roughly 370-point type): “IMPEACH.”

A smaller sub-headline previewed the historically rooted 8,000-word argument within, written by Yoni Appelbaum: “It’s time for Congress to judge the president’s fitness to serve.” With that notable media moment, the I-word seemed to leap across an invisible divide. The Atlantic article was not the first to make the argument, but its depth and dramatic presentation set it apart. And suddenly, what was a long time coming had arrived with a bang. The talk of impeachment, all-but-taboo in Big Media’s coverage of Trump, had moved from the margins into the mainstream — across the journalism spectrum.

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Newsclips - January 20, 2019

Lead Stories

Politico - January 19, 2019

Democrats reject Trump’s bid to negotiate on immigration for his wall

President Donald Trump on Saturday proposed a broad immigration deal to end the government shutdown, though Democratic leaders quickly declared his overture dead on arrival.

“I am here today to break the logjam and provide Congress with a pathway forward to end the government shutdown,” Trump said in remarks from the White House’s Diplomatic Reception Room. But the approach had already been rejected by Speaker Nancy Pelosi and other Democrats who said it largely repackaged a proposal that had failed earlier. Pelosi called the idea a "non-starter," and Senate Minority Whip Dick Durbin (D-IL) also panned the proposal as a way to reopen the government, even though Trump's plan cribbed from Durbin's own legislation.

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Reuters - January 19, 2019

China set to post slowest growth in 28 years in 2018, more stimulus seen

China is expected to report on Monday that economic growth cooled to its slowest in 28 years in 2018 amid weakening domestic demand and bruising U.S. tariffs, adding pressure on Beijing to roll out more support measures to avert a sharper slowdown.

Growing signs of weakness in China — which has generated nearly a third of global growth in the past decade — are stoking worries about risks to the world economy and are weighing on profits for firms ranging from Apple to big carmakers. Chinese policymakers have pledged more support for the economy this year to reduce the risk of massive job losses, but they have ruled out a “flood” of stimulus like that which Beijing has unleashed in the past, which quickly juiced growth rates but left a mountain of debt.

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New York Times - January 20, 2019

Wall Street is making a comeback. Was it something the Fed said?

Stocks have staged a remarkable turnaround in the early days of 2019, rebounding after an end-of-the-year tailspin that was fomented by fears of recession in the United States. Three straight weeks of gains in the new year on Wall Street have erased nearly all of 2018’s losses. It’s the best start to a year since 1987.

Even so, many factors behind last year’s troubling decline remain unresolved. American companies and consumers are less optimistic about the future, and large economies like Germany and China are signaling a global slowdown driven by the trade war. Britain is in turmoil over leaving the European Union. And a new concern, the longest federal government shutdown in history, also poses a risk to the domestic economy.

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Dallas Morning News - January 20, 2019

Toyota North America's CEO: Tariffs, not tech disruption is biggest threat

From the rise of autonomous cars to the popularity of ride-sharing, automakers like Toyota have raced to keep up with a whiplash of technology changes. But on Friday, Toyota's North America CEO Jim Lentz said that's not the biggest threat to the Japanese car maker

Instead, he pointed to the risk of tariffs looming over the automotive industry. He said it's "something that bothers us deeply after 60 years in this country and $26 billion of investment." Lentz made his comments in front of a 1,500-person audience at the Dallas Regional Chamber's annual meeting. His conversation with Dallas Morning News Publisher Grant Moise covered a wide range of topics, from the company's opposition to tariffs to the changing driving habits of the American public and Toyota's soon-to-debut sports car.

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Washington Post - January 19, 2019

Paul Farhi: BuzzFeed’s stumble is highest-profile misstep at a time when press is under greatest scrutiny

BuzzFeed News’s apparently mistaken story about Michael Cohen and President Trump is the highest-profile misstep yet for a news organization during a period of heightened and intense scrutiny of the press, as the special counsel’s office issued a thorough rebuke of the website’s story published Thursday.

Reporters at the Guardian, CNN, McClatchy News and other outlets have published disputed, suspect or uncorroborated stories about Trump and the investigation swirling around him since special counsel Robert S. Mueller III began his probe 21 months ago. Each instance has elicited cries of “fake news” from the president and his supporters, stoking the claim that the mainstream media is biased and irresponsible. But these disputed stories have tended to be about distinct events or actions; they were effectively clues rather than conclusions about Trump’s potential criminality.

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State Stories

Dallas Morning News - January 19, 2019

North Texas March for Life rally outside federal courthouse in downtown Dallas

A large crowd of demonstrators withstood the cold and high winds Saturday as they crowded into downtown Dallas to rally against abortion in the annual North Texas March for Life.

The march coincides with national rallies held across the country. Now in its 46th year, the March for Life marks the anniversary of Roe vs. Wade, the 1973 Supreme Court decision that gave women the legal right to an abortion. Saturday's march in Dallas began at the Cathedral Shrine of the Virgin of Guadalupe on Ross Avenue. Families lined up outside the cathedral, toting flags and signs that mostly read "Choose Life."

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Dallas Morning News - January 19, 2019

Dallas-area veterans, now in federal workforce, feel stress of government shutdown

As a Marine veteran who received a Silver Star for gallantry while serving as a machine gunner in Afghanistan, Edward Huth knows what it’s like to work under challenging circumstances.

Huth, who now works as a federal corrections officer in Fort Worth, is currently facing a different kind of stress — the financial variety — as he continues to work without pay during the partial shutdown of the federal government. Veterans such as Huth make up almost one third of the federal civilian workforce. And Huth said the stress of working without paychecks is especially hard on those veterans already struggling with post-traumatic stress disorder, commonly known as PTSD, or other service-related conditions.

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Dallas Morning News - January 17, 2019

State suspends Dallas child placing agency after infant dies in Forney foster home

The state has suspended a Dallas agency from accepting new foster children after an infant died last month at the Forney home of a foster mother verified by the contractor.

In a letter to Kingdom Kids Child Placing Agency dated Jan. 9, the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services said the decision to suspend placements was made because of "allegations that impact the health, safety and well-being of children." The agency in southeast Dallas was also required to submit copies of all home studies, addendums and supporting documentation for each home fostering a child in the department's care as well as a list of all pending placements.

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Houston Chronicle - January 19, 2019

Galveston hospital to treat victims of illegal pipeline explosion in Mexico

A Galveston hospital will be treating patients who were burned in a deadly pipeline explosion Friday in a small town in Mexico. A spokesman for Shriners Hospital for Children in Galveston confirmed that the hospital would be receiving patients injured in the massive fireball that has so far killed at least 73 people and injured 74 others.

"We are in communication with the Consulate General of Mexico in Houston and with the Michou y Mau Foundation in Mexico regarding the victims of this explosion," said Mel Bower, a spokesman for Shriners Hospital for Children. "Hospitals in Mexico are triaging and treating the children and adults burned in this accident. Shriners Hospitals for Children will be receiving patients who need our care." The Associated Press reported that the explosion was caused by a leak in an illegal pipeline tap in the small town of Tlahuelilpan, about 62 miles north of Mexico City.

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Houston Chronicle - January 18, 2019

Navy SEAL-turned-Congressman Dan Crenshaw already mixing it up on Capitol Hill

New members of Congress typically keep a low profile as they learn their new jobs. Not so for Houston’s Dan Crenshaw.

Two weeks into his first term, Crenshaw has already publicly challenged rising Democratic star and U.S. Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez to debate her “dangerous” ideas, he’s traded Twitter jabs with other new members of Congress over “virtue signaling” about the shutdown. He’s also called Beto O’Rourke “weird,” suggesting O’Rourke should never run for president because of some of his views.

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Houston Chronicle - January 17, 2019

A plea from Port Arthur: “Y’all come on home.”

Port Arthur may be surrounded by prosperous oil refineries, but the city itself faces challenges. The refineries employ fewer workers than they once did, and those they do hire come from all over. The city’s unemployment rate stood near 8 percent in November, more than twice that of the state, and the median household income is $33,000 a year, well below the average for Texas.

Some residents worry about the air they breathe in the shadow of so much industry. On top of it all, the city is reeling from 2017’s Hurricane Harvey, which affected an estimated 80 percent of its households. The mayor worries people are not sticking around. Between 2000 and 2010, Port Arthur’s population fell by 4,000, to a total of 54,000. And though 2017 estimates show a slight uptick, some think the number will dip below 50,000 in next year’s census — a change that would make the city ineligible for certain federal grants.

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Houston Chronicle - January 18, 2019

Huge shift to cleaner fuels a jackpot for Texas energy

Gulf Coast refiners and Texas oil producers are poised to reap a substantial windfall from a shift to cleaner fuels in the shipping industry that would dramatically hike demand for diesel fuel and the lighter grades of crude oil produced in the Permian Basin and other Texas oil fields.

In less than a year, the International Maritime Organization, a United Nations agency that oversees international shipping, will impose new pollution rules that will force most of the shipping industry to shift from a cheap, dirty fuel with high sulfur content to low-sulfur, cleaner burning marine fuels made with diesel. Analysts say the shift could significantly boost demand for diesel - by as much as 20 to 30 percent.

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Texas Standard - January 17, 2019

Advocacy group says Texas legislators need to boost spending on child welfare

Advocacy groups are taking stock of the budget proposals the Texas House and Senate released this week. And one statewide nonprofit says both chambers need to up their spending on child welfare.

Stephanie Rubin, CEO of Texans Care for Children, praises lawmakers for wanting to boost state funding for public education by billions. Still, she says the Senate budget proposal is missing something crucial: $54 million the Texas Education Agency requested for a new student mental health initiative that helps address school safety concerns.

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San Antonio Express-News - January 19, 2019

Former state Rep. Diana Arévalo bows out of San Antonio council race

Over the past month, West Side voters have been gearing up for what promised to be an intense clash between incumbent Councilwoman Ana Sandoval and former state Rep. Diana Arévalo.

Arévalo, a dogged political warrior, had been laying the foundation for a District 7 council challenge. The Sandoval camp braced for a fight. Well, it won’t be happening. Over the past week, as Arévalo got close to declaring her candidacy, she had second thoughts. By the end of the week, she decided not to run. By all accounts, it was an emotional decision for her.

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Star-Telegram - January 19, 2019

One of ‘the most hated’ Tarrant Republicans now works to recruit leaders to the party

One of the champions of the unsuccessful effort to oust a Muslim from Tarrant Republican Party leadership now has a new appointment. James Scott Trimm now serves on the Tarrant County GOP Precinct Chair Recruitment Committee. He was a vocal supporter of the request to remove Shahid Shafi from the post of vice chairman.

“The point of this is to heal the Party,” Tarrant Republican Joel Downs, who heads the committee, posted on Facebook about the new appointment. “Is there a more certain way to ignite a resolve to mend our Party, and show ourselves that we are honorable winners, than to place and accept one of the most hated men on the Executive Committee in a position of Party service?” Trimm now will work to recruit GOP leaders in Precinct 2643 in Mansfield.

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County Stories

Houston Chronicle - January 19, 2019

New Fort Bend DA Brian Middleton reshapes staff to fit reform goals

Fort Bend County District Attorney Brian Middleton lost sleep over his decision to fire 15 staffers. But fresh faces were needed in the office. he said, to help him pursue his criminal justice reform goals.

The new district attorney is reshaping the office, focusing on some of the same policies — including bail reform and a diversion program for misdemeanor marijuana offenders — targeted by Democrat Kim Ogg when she became Harris County’s district attorney in 2017. Ogg also shook up her staff, firing roughly 40 prosecutors. Beyond policy goals, Middleton said he was looking for candidates with strong leadership qualities who could help develop skills of those already in the office.

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City Stories

Rivard Report - January 19, 2019

San Antonio Mayor Nirenberg kicks off re-election campaign at Alamo Stadium

Mayor Ron Nirenberg looked over a crowd of more than 100 people, bundled up against the January wind in front of Alamo Stadium. Two years ago, he said, he asked them to vote for him in his first mayoral campaign. But at his re-election kickoff Saturday morning, he said, “I’m Ron Nirenberg, and I’m proud to be your mayor.

Nirenberg brought people who have worked and continue to work with him on different issues to urge supporters to get out the vote. Jordana Barton, a senior advisor for the Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas’ San Antonio branch, serves on the steering community for the Digital Inclusion Alliance, which is dedicated to closing the so-called digital divide in San Antonio. One in four San Antonio households lacks access to the internet, Barton said.

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Austin American-Statesman - January 19, 2019

Swiftly changing South First Street is ‘next frontier’ in Austin’s development boom

Through the years, South First has seen several stages of evolution. It has morphed into a predominantly commercial corridor that runs through the Bouldin Creek neighborhood, which stretches from south of Lady Bird Lake to Oltorf Street.

Long home to a broad array of neighborhood services such as locksmiths, boot repair and real estate offices, the businesses have expanded to include a quirky mix of boutiques, vintage clothing stores, art galleries, auto repair shops and restaurants. Now, the area is undergoing its latest — and most intense — surge of new development, one that is transforming South First with new luxury condominiums and mixed-use projects.

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National Stories

Washington Post - January 19, 2019

As shutdown drags on, Democrats’ massive class of newcomers makes its mark

The new House Democratic freshmen who won on promises to change Washington arrived to find it more gridlocked than ever. Now they’re training their energy on the nation’s longest-ever government shutdown, bringing new kinds of political disruption to the Capitol even as they discover the narrow limits of their power.

For two days this past week, a group of these Democrats crossed the Capitol attempting to meet with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY.) to urge him to bring up spending bills to reopen the government. On Wednesday, with the shutdown in its 26th day, they entered the Senate chamber — a place where many veteran House members have never set foot — en masse to hand deliver a letter to McConnell in the Republican cloakroom.

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Wall Street Journal - January 19, 2019

Special counsel disputes BuzzFeed report that alleged Trump directed Cohen to lie to Congress

The special counsel’s office issued a rare statement late Friday disputing a BuzzFeed report that said President Trump directed his former lawyer, Michael Cohen, to lie to Congress about the president’s involvement in a real-estate deal with Russia during the 2016 campaign.

“BuzzFeed’s description of specific statements to the Special Counsel’s Office, and characterization of documents and testimony obtained by this office, regarding Michael Cohen’s Congressional testimony are not accurate,” said Peter Carr, spokesman for special counsel Robert Mueller. The statement came nearly a day after BuzzFeed published the story, citing two anonymous law-enforcement sources, that set off a firestorm in Washington. The chairmen of two House investigative panels had said earlier Friday they would probe the report’s allegations.

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Wall Street Journal - January 19, 2019

Trump says he supports temporary DACA protections for more wall funding

President Trump on Saturday outlined a new proposal designed to jump-start negotiations over the partial government shutdown, calling for $5.7 billion in funding for steel barriers in high-priority areas on the southern border in exchange for a three-year protection from deportation for some undocumented immigrants.

Democrats had already said the proposal, details of which were reported in advance, was a non-starter, suggesting no immediate change in the dynamics over the monthlong shutdown. The offer to codify protections for young immigrants illegally brought to the U.S. as children, known as Dreamers, is seen as a major concession inside the White House.

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The Guardian - January 18, 2019

The U.S. won't be prepared for the next natural disaster

Hurricane Florence killed 50 and caused $22 billion in damages last year; shortly after, Hurricane Michael killed 36 and left hundreds without homes. The California wildfires erupted the following month, destroying thousands of structures and leaving 89 dead. As climate change causes more intense superstorms and at a higher frequency, things are only likely to get worse.

Researchers, representatives, and residents have called for better preparation. A study released this year by the National Institute of Building Sciences found that every $1 spent on hazard mitigation saved the nation $6 in future disaster costs and, for years, severe storms have been heralded as the “wake-up call” – the disaster that will finally spur action. Yet last year, the federal government spent more than $300bn on disaster recovery.

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The Guardian - January 18, 2019

Mueller breaks silence to dispute parts of bombshell report on Michael Cohen

In a rare public remark, the office of special counsel Robert Mueller disputed a bombshell report alleging that Donald Trump had directed his former attorney to lie to congress.

BuzzFeed News reported on Thursday evening that Trump had personally directed Michael Cohen to lie to Congress about a real estate project in Moscow. The report cited two federal law enforcement sources and said the special counsel’s office had learned of Trump’s alleged directive from multiple witnesses, Trump Organization emails, text messages and other documents. But a spokesman for the special counsel’s office issued a rare comment on Friday evening disputing the report.

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Associated Press - January 17, 2019

Researchers see possible link between opioids, birth defect

Health officials are looking into a possible link between prescription opioids and a horrific birth defect. When a baby is born with its intestines hanging outside the stomach, due to a hole in the abdominal wall, it’s called gastroschisis. Most are repaired through surgery.

Roughly 1,800 such cases are seen in the U.S. each year, but the number has been rising and officials don’t know why. The condition seems to occur more often when the mom is a teenager or was smoking or drinking alcohol early in pregnancy, researchers have noted. But a study released Thursday noted cases were 60 percent more common in counties that had the highest overall opioid prescription rates. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention study focused on 20 states.

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Associated Press - January 20, 2019

Four convicted of entering refuge in quest to aid migrants

A federal judge has found four women guilty of entering a national wildlife refuge without a permit as they sought to place food and water in the Arizona desert for migrants. U.S. Magistrate Judge Bernardo Velasco’s ruling Friday marked the first conviction against humanitarian aid volunteers in a decade.

The four found guilty of misdemeanors in the recent case were volunteers for No More Deaths, which said in a statement the group had been providing life-saving aid to migrants. The volunteers include Natalie Hoffman, Oona Holcomb, Madeline Huse and Zaachila Orozco-McCormick. Hoffman was found guilty of operating a vehicle inside Cabeza Prieta National Wildlife Refuge, entering the federally protected area without a permit, and leaving water jugs and cans of beans there in August 2017. The others were found guilty of entering without a permit and leaving behind personal property.

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Reuters - January 20, 2019

Death toll raised to 79 in Mexico pipeline blast; new focus on fuel theft

A blast at a gasoline pipeline in Mexico that killed at least 79 people has put renewed attention on the government’s strategy to stop fuel theft, with some relatives saying fuel shortages stemming from the plan led people to risk their lives.

Fuel thieves punctured the Tula-Tuxpan pipeline a few miles from one of Mexico’s main refineries on Friday. Up to 800 people flocked to fill plastic containers from the 23 foot gasoline geyser that ensued, officials say. A couple of hours later, it exploded. Mexican Health Minister Jorge Alcocer said on Sunday the number of dead in the incident had risen to 79 people.

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Reuters - January 18, 2019

Students in Trump hats mock Native American; school apologizes

A Catholic school in Kentucky condemned a group of its students, many of whom wore “Make America Great Again” hats, after they were recorded harassing a Native American Vietnam veteran in a video that went viral on Saturday.

The students from private, all-male Covington Catholic High School in northern Kentucky were in Washington for an anti-abortion rally on Friday when they were filmed surrounding Nathan Phillips and mocking the Native American’s singing and drumming. One teen in particular is seen standing in front of Phillips, staring into his face with a smile. Fellow students, many in clothing bearing President Donald Trump’s “MAGA” slogan, cheered him on and chanted, “build that wall, build that wall,” Phillips said.

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Pew Research Center - January 16, 2019

Most border wall opponents, supporters say shutdown concessions are unacceptable

With the partial shutdown of the federal government in its third week, both opponents and supporters of expanding the U.S.-Mexico border wall overwhelmingly oppose making concessions to end the stalemate.

A new Pew Research Center survey finds that majority of Americans (58 percent) continue to oppose substantially expanding the border wall, while 40 percent favor the proposal. Overall opinion on the wall is little changed from last year, but these views have never been more sharply divided along partisan lines: Republican support for the wall is at record high, while Democratic support has reached a new low.

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SPLC Hatewatch - January 19, 2019

Spectre Unmasked: Plano-based racist 'alt-right' podcaster used to be local reporter

A 49-year-old man named Norman Asa Garrison III, who has written under the byline Trey Garrison for publications like The Dallas Morning News, D Magazine and Reason, identifies himself within the racist “alt-right” movement pseudonymously as “Spectre.”

Garrison, posing as Spectre, presently hosts Third Rail, a podcast published on Mike “Enoch” Peinovich’s white nationalist website The Right Stuff. He sometimes depicts himself to other racists as a psychiatrist with a practice in the Seattle, Washington, area. Hatewatch has learned that neither of those things are true. Spectre is in fact Garrison, a Plano, Texas-based reporter and columnist whose byline has been mostly inactive since 2013. A 2008 column he wrote for Dallas News titled, “Why I Don’t Want Diversity in My Neighborhood” was once reprinted in the white supremacist publication American Renaissance.

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New York Times - January 19, 2019

Parliament Speaker is Brexit’s surprise star and villain

In the wretched purgatory that was Westminster last week, there was precisely one person who seemed to be having fun. From the silk-canopied speaker’s chair of the House of Commons, John Bercow looked out over Britain’s squabbling Parliament and brayed, “Order! Order!” in that undrownoutable voice, something like an air-raid siren with postnasal drip.

He doled out his pompous, antiquarian insults, cheerfully rebuking one member for “chuntering from a sedentary position ineloquently and for no obvious purpose.” The outside world rarely takes much notice of the speaker of the House of Commons, a nonpartisan and typically low-profile figure who presides over parliamentary debates. But Britain’s last-minute paralysis over exiting the European Union, or Brexit, has made Mr. Bercow into a kind of celebrity.

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Newsclips - January 18, 2019

Lead Stories

BuzzFeed - January 18, 2019

President Trump directed his attorney Michael Cohen to lie to Congress about the Moscow Tower Project

President Donald Trump directed his longtime attorney Michael Cohen to lie to Congress about negotiations to build a Trump Tower in Moscow, according to two federal law enforcement officials involved in an investigation of the matter.

Trump also supported a plan, set up by Cohen, to visit Russia during the presidential campaign, in order to personally meet President Vladimir Putin and jump-start the tower negotiations. “Make it happen,” the sources said Trump told Cohen. And even as Trump told the public he had no business deals with Russia, the sources said Trump and his children Ivanka and Donald Trump Jr. received regular, detailed updates about the real estate development from Cohen, whom they put in charge of the project.

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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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Wall Street Journal - January 18, 2019

U.S. debates lifting China tariffs to hasten trade deal, calm markets

U.S. officials are debating ratcheting back tariffs on Chinese imports as a way to calm markets and give Beijing an incentive to make deeper concessions in a trade battle that has rattled global economies.

The idea of lifting some or all tariffs was proposed by Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin in a series of strategy meetings, according to people close to internal deliberations. They say the aim is to advance trade talks and win China’s support for longer-term reforms. But Mr. Mnuchin faces resistance from U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer, who is concerned that any concession could be seen as a sign of weakness, these people said.

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Dallas Morning News - January 17, 2019

Appeals court overturns judge's ruling that blocked Texas from ousting Planned Parenthood from Medicaid

A federal appeals court issued a decision Thursday overturning a judge's 2017 ruling that Texas could not remove Planned Parenthood as a Medicaid provider.

U.S. District Court Judge Sam Sparks wrote in that ruling that the state had acted "without cause" in terminating the reproductive health care organization from the program that provides health care to low-income Americans. But a three-judge panel of the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals said that Sparks did not use the correct standard in making his decision. The case now returns to Sparks for further consideration.

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State Stories

Dallas Morning News - January 17, 2019

Texas man indicted for using presidential PAC money for lap dances, travel

A Texas man has been indicted on 20 counts stemming from allegations of raising more than $500,000 from fraudulent political committees for Donald Trump, Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders.

Kyle Prall of Austin is accused of setting up political committees named “Feel Bern,” “HC4President,” and “Trump Victory” and soliciting donations he claimed would support Sanders, Clinton and Trump. Prall allegedly raised more than $300,000 for “Feel Bern,” $165,000 for “Trump Victory” and $73,000 for “HC4President,” according to the indictment unsealed on Tuesday.

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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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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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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

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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San Antonio Express-News - January 17, 2019

Despite legal victory, Whole Woman’s Health shutters San Antonio abortion clinic

Whole Woman’s Health, the abortion provider that challenged the Texas law that led to the shuttering of more than half of the clinics in the state, has closed its location in San Antonio. The clinic performed its last abortions in December, leaving two providers in the city.

Amy Hagstrom Miller, head of Whole Woman’s Health, said the closure was a business decision that stemmed from the stricter regulatory landscape in Texas that disproportionately impacted smaller, independent abortion providers. “We have to overcome all these layers of regulations,” Hagstrom Miller said. “A small … abortion clinic is much more difficult to run sustainably.”

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San Antonio Express-News - January 17, 2019

Why a Texas border wall won’t deter Central American migrants

Asylum seekers coming across the border from Mexico in South Texas have recently devised a new system for defeating the tall barrier fences that were built to keep them out.

“They’ll actually walk up to the border wall, where there are gates,” said Jodi Goodwin, an immigration attorney in Harlingen, Tex. “They know those gates have cameras. So they’ll just wave at the cameras to notify the Border Patrol, ‘We’re here!’ They don’t have to worry about getting over a wall,” she continued. “To them, the wall is completely irrelevant.”

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San Antonio Express-News - January 17, 2019

Bankruptcy judge orders arrest of San Antonio oil exec Alfaro

U.S. Bankruptcy Judge Craig Gargotta directed U.S. marshals to arrest Alfaro and take him to a federal jail after the businessman failed to turn over personal financial records and other documents to a court-appointed receiver as he was ordered.

Alfaro should be held in jail “until he becomes fully compliant with the previous orders,” Gargotta ruled. Alfaro, 50, didn’t respond to a request for comment. It couldn’t be determined by deadline whether he had been arrested. He was indicted on eight counts of mail fraud in November, which followed a bankruptcy court trial in which he was found to have defrauded nine investors. He faces up to 20 years in prison and a fine of up to $250,000 on each count if found guilty. He was released on $50,000 unsecured bail after his first court appearance in the criminal case.

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Houston Chronicle - January 17, 2019

Texas higher education official says colleges need more funding from state

The Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board recommended a 6.6 percent increase for its 2020-21 FY budget in order to fund public higher education institutions throughout Texas, but the 86th Texas Legislature has so far only committed to a portion of that.

House and Senate bills introduced this year offer a 3.9 percent increase, up to $339.8 million, totaling nearly $9 billion over the course of the biennium, according to the board. And while Texas Higher Education Commissioner Raymund A. Paredes said he’s pleased that the coordinating board got an increase, more higher education funding is needed to reach education goals and support students in need of financial aid.

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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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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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City Stories

Dallas Morning News - January 18, 2019

Dallas officials fear losing flood control funds if Trump declares emergency to build border wall

Dallas city officials worry that hundreds of millions of dollars in flood control funding for the Trinity River corridor could be siphoned off to build a border wall if President Donald Trump declares a national emergency at the U.S.-Mexico line. It's a shutdown storm the city is desperate to avoid.

"We've been planning these flood control projects for 50 years," said Dallas City Council member Lee Kleinman, who leads the council committee that oversees infrastructure projects. "To reallocate it to a wall along the border ... just seems like a waste of money." That concern comes amid a deepening stalemate in Washington over Trump's demand for $5.7 billion to build a border wall, with the White House, a Democratic House and a Republican Senate unable to end a historic partial government shutdown.

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Dallas Morning News - January 17, 2019

Richardson ISD settles Voting Rights Act lawsuit, will change how board members are elected

Richardson ISD is the latest North Texas school district forced to abandon an electoral system criticized as discriminatory toward people of color. The district announced Thursday that it had settled a lawsuit alleging that its at-large system for electing board trustees was in violation of the Voting Rights Act.

The board is currently made up of seven at-large members, elected by voters districtwide. Former board member David Tyson, the only black man ever elected to the board, sued the district last year, saying the at-large system was unfair to Richardson’s minority communities. Now, the board will be represented by five single-member districts and two at-large representatives.

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National Stories

Reuters - January 18, 2019

$11 toothpaste: Immigrants pay big for basics at private ICE lock-ups

Detained in a California lockup with hundreds of other immigrants seeking asylum, Duglas Cruz faced a choice. He could content himself with a jailhouse diet that he said left him perpetually hungry. Or he could labor in the prison’s kitchen to earn money to buy extra food at the commissary.

Cruz went to work. But his $1-a-day salary at the privately run Adelanto Detention Facility did not stretch far. A can of commissary tuna sold for $3.25. That is more than four times the price at a Target store near the small desert town of Adelanto, about two hours northeast of Los Angeles. Cruz stuck with ramen noodles at 58 cents a package, double the Target price. A miniature deodorant stick, at $3.35 and more than three days’ wages, was an impossible luxury, he said.

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Reuters - January 18, 2019

Tesla to cut workforce by 7 percent, sees smaller fourth-quarter profit

Tesla said it would cut thousands of jobs to rein in costs as it ramps up production of its crucial Model 3 sedan, and the electric car maker expects fourth-quarter profit to be lower than the previous quarter, sending its shares down 7 percent.

The company has long struggled with cash burn and Chief Executive Officer Elon Musk has been under intense pressure to stabilize production of the Model 3, seen critical for easing a cash crunch and achieving long-term profitability. “I want to make sure that you know all the facts and figures and understand that the road ahead is very difficult,” Musk said in an email to employees that was published on the company’s blog. “There isn’t any other way."

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Reuters - January 18, 2019

Trump meets with Cabinet officials to revive infrastructure push

President Donald Trump is reviving efforts to win approval for a significant infrastructure plan lasting up to 13 years, two people briefed on the matter said, as the administration seeks to bring a long-stalled campaign promise back to life.

In a meeting of top advisers at the White House on Tuesday, the sources, who declined to be identified since the meeting was not public, said participants discussed aspects of a potential infrastructure plan and whether to include details of it in Trump’s State of the Union address scheduled for later this month. About 20 officials took part in the more than hour-long meeting with Trump, including Vice President Mike Pence, White House senior adviser Ivanka Trump, acting Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao, the sources said.

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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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Wall Street Journal - January 18, 2019

Labor Secretary calls for overhaul of low-skill immigration system

Labor Secretary Alexander Acosta said the process businesses use to obtain visas for temporary workers needs to be fixed after the portal used to get the paperwork crashed on New Year’s Day due to overwhelming demand.

The technical glitches have been fixed, Mr. Acosta said in an interview with The Wall Street Journal on Thursday, but the process needs to be changed. The department received about 100,000 requests for H-2B visas on Jan. 1, three times greater than the 33,000 visas allotted by law for the six-month period that includes the summer.

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Politico - January 17, 2019

DOJ hiring attorneys to handle property seizures for border wall

The Justice Department placed an online job posting for a pair of attorneys to tackle border wall litigation in South Texas — a sign of coming property seizures and other legal controversies that President Donald Trump anticipates if he plows ahead with his signature project.

The federal government has been partially shut down for 27 days over Trump’s $5.7 billion border wall request, but the administration already faces thorny lawsuits from border residents who have resisted wall construction. High-profile cases in South Texas involve a butterfly sanctuary and the Catholic Diocese of Brownsville, which owns property with a small chapel in the path of planned wall construction.

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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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Bloomberg - January 17, 2019

Trump pulls U.S. delegation out of Davos Forum, citing shutdown

President Donald Trump canceled the U.S. delegation’s trip to the global economic summit in Davos hours after he denied House Speaker Nancy Pelosi a plane to visit U.S. troops in Afghanistan.

Trump personally made the decision to cancel the Davos trip Thursday afternoon, two White House officials said. The need to focus on domestic issues has also forced U.K. Prime Minister Theresa May and French President Emmanuel Macron to cancel their plans to go. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin was to lead the U.S. delegation, which was also to include Secretary of State Michael Pompeo and Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross.

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Associated Press - January 17, 2019

U.N. health chief orders probe into misconduct

The head of the World Health Organization has ordered an internal investigation into allegations the U.N. health agency is rife with racism, sexism and corruption, after a series of anonymous emails with the explosive charges were sent to top managers last year.

Three emails addressed to WHO directors — and obtained by the Associated Press — complained about “systematic racial discrimination” against African staffers and alleged other instances of wrongdoing, including claims that some of the money intended to fight Ebola in Congo was misspent.

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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

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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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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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 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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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National Stories

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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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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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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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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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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