National News Roundup: Week 13 (April 16–22)
After a few weeks of stuttering on a bad news cycle like a scratched CD that nobody uses anymore, we appear to have settled on… a week of dark carnival funhouse mirrors (though the emphasis is definitely more on ‘dark’ than ‘fun’). I guess we’re in a weird news week? Maybe we’re starting the whole thing over. You know what, we haven’t bombed anybody this week, so I’ll take it.
Standard standing reminders apply: I am no journalist, though I play one in your inbox or browser, so I generally only summarize news in my area of expertise. Somewhat improbably, this week involves no news outside my expertise, so no need to worry about asterisks this time. I can’t decide if it’s good or bad that I don’t need them. At any rate, onto the news!
- Deported DREAMers and Court Karma. The first DREAMer with active DACA status to be deported brought a lawsuit this week against both CBP and USCIS, and the facts being alleged are as sad as they are alarming. Apparently he left his wallet (and therefore his papers) in a friend’s car, CBP wouldn’t let him get them when they stopped him at a taxi stand, and he was deported within three hours of being detained. For those of you not familiar with the terminology, DACA is a status that is basically a fancy way of saying “we promise not to deport you because you came here as a kid,” so having that status and still getting deported so quickly is… pretty much the definition of a broken promise, and it’s not surprising that the gentleman is suing. What is surprising, and kind of darkly hilarious, is that the case has been assigned to Judge Gonzalo Curiel — and if that name rings a faint bell, it’s probably because Trump put Curiel on the map last year by claiming the “Mexican” judge was a “hater” who couldn’t be impartial on the Trump University case. (Curiel, by the way, was born in Indiana, because being racist and also wrong is pretty much Trump’s calling card.)
- The Bill O’Reilly Fire. I want you all to know I’m mad that I finally have to write about Bill O’Reilly, which I’ve managed to get out of covering for weeks, but I suppose I can’t be mad about the reason — Fox News finally fired Bill O’Reilly after his giant pile of sexual harassment claims led to massive sponsorship hemorrhage. Proving that fact is stranger than fiction, and also that Fox News likes giving icky people money, he got a $25M severance package at the same time he got the boot.
- Who’s Number 1 in Number 6? Okay, admittedly like three people reading this will get that Prisoner reference if I’m lucky. But independent of my bad taste in cult classics, the special election in Georgia’s Sixth District, for Tom Price’s old seat, was sadly inconclusive this week — Jon Ossoff fell just shy of the 50% vote needed for a conclusive victory, which means he and Karen Handell are both headed to a June 20 runoff vote. The Sixth District is traditionally very conservative, though, so a 48.1% vote for a Democrat is significant even though it’s not conclusive.
- Jason Leaves the House. Speaking of elections, apparently House Oversight Committee Chairman and Resident Jackass Jason Chaffetz has announced he won’t be running for re-election in 2018, and possibly won’t even be finishing his current term. I wish I could claim that he’s stepping down in a fit of embarrassed patriotism, given the mounting evidence of collusion with Russia that he kept swearing didn’t exist, but the reality is even stranger: He wants to be a television star. Or possibly governor of Utah. Apparently either one of these is an acceptable goal for a politician who quits mid-term in the post-Trump age.
- Ubiquitous Unicorn Chasers. In other surreal pop culture news, all the awful things happening in the world have caused people to seek out more literal unicorn chasers, which I can respect even if I also don’t want to put any of those things in my face. Never one to be left out of the action, Starbucks started slopping this Lisa Frank nightmare into a cup, which I’m reliably informed tastes about as good as it looks. Unsurprisingly, it’s already off the menu. Which I’m a bit sad about, because I’m enough of an armchair mixologist to find constantly-changing color interesting, and I wanted to try one. For science.
- Business Racism As Usual. Trump signed an executive order this week that he’s saying will Make American Businesses Great Again. The practical implication, among other things, is that it limits access to H1-B working visas; it looks like they will eventually mostly only be accessible to highly-educated and specialized workers. What I can’t figure out on this from a casual glance, and will probably examine more closely once we’re done moving house, is where he put the loophole for his own businesses — given how heavily Mar-a-Lago and other Trump resorts rely on immigrant labor, I know he must have left one somewhere.
- Visitor Throw-down. In what I can only describe as either blatant fascism, abject pettiness, or both, the White House has dug in its heels about refusing to make visitor logs accessible to the public. They have also started closing the sidewalk to the public. Apparently our ‘populist’ Commander-in-Chief really doesn’t want to have to deal with common folk knowing what he is up to. Democrats, meanwhile, have responded by attempting to make the White House release its logs through introducing legislation, which is appropriately named the MAR-A-LAGO Act.
- Wall Fighting on the Floor. A new form of the AHCA, funding for the fabled Wall the Mexicans Were Going to Pay For, and funding for the existing ACA are all among the things expected to be duked out on the Congressional floor this upcoming week. Trump and Sessions are already loudly announcing that Democrats will have shut down Congress if they don’t agree to fund the wall; in what I’m sure is purely coincidence, literally nobody but Trump and Sessions wants Congress to pay for this wall in the first place. I’m not sure it will actually come to a government shut down, but the sheer brazenness of trying to force all of Congress to pay “for now” is as noteworthy as it is appalling.
- Trump Trumps Himself. Nothing about this story is surprising, but somehow it has to be seen to be believed anyway — Trump called Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan to congratulate him on successfully curtailing the rights of Turkish citizens through a rigged referendum. The State Department, in contrast, noted irregularities in the referendum voting process. The apparent motivation for Trump’s split from the State Department? Trump Tower in Istanbul. By the way, the congratulatory call also gives Trump something in common with Hamas, because that’s a club everybody wants their Islamophobic President to join.
- The News from France. This has been a very eventful week in France — a terrorist attack on the major boulevard in Paris left people uncertain and on edge, especially as the nation geared up for an election cycle this upcoming week. The favored candidates (both of whom advanced after Sunday’s vote) are centrist Emmanuel Macron and French Trump equivalent Marine Le Pen, and the latter’s xenophobic platform is almost certainly helped by an attack by an Islamic extremist. The voting will continue this week, and I’ll definitely continue to keep folks posted.
- Sessions Continues to Hate Brown People. Jeff Sessions had a busy week of scaring and deriding brown people, as is becoming his new routine. First he called Hawai’i “an island in the Pacific” (instead of, you know, a recognized state) when trying to insinuate that decisions coming from the 9th Circuit are invalid. Then he followed that up by threatening several jurisdictions he considered sanctuary jurisdictions, for good measure. If I start ranting about this Keebler reject’s twisted views on being a lawyer or a member of the human race, we’ll be here all night, so I’ll courteously conclude this paragraph and move on.
- Sally Yates Asked to Testify. In more pleasant news involving American lawyers, the House Intelligence Committee has asked several people, including Sally Yates, to testify about Russian interference in the election. Yates was prevented by testifying in March by Nunes, who is now under scrutiny for providing classified information to the White House (and therefore no longer in charge of the probe). It’s looking like it’s going to be a very different investigation under the new management.
- Science Marches On. Thousands of scientists in 600 cities around the globe participated in the March for Science this past weekend (not coincidentally, on Earth Day). The march was intentionally styled after the Women’s March, and appears to have been comparably successful. Also, the Internet has pounced on the many photographed signs created for the event, and I encourage you to check them out now that we’ve finished this week’s news. When scientists have something to say, they say it hard! And with dinosaurs.