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Newsclips - February 15, 2019

Lead Stories

New York Times - February 15, 2019

Trump plans national emergency to build border wall as Congress passes spending bill

President Trump will declare a national emergency as early as Friday to bypass Congress and build his long-promised wall along the nation’s southwestern border even as he agreed to sign a spending package that does not finance it, White House officials said Thursday.

The announcement came just minutes before voting began on the spending measure, which then cleared both houses, ending a two-month war of attrition that closed much of the federal government for 35 days and threatened a second shutdown on Friday. The Senate passed it 83 to 16, and the House followed later in the evening, 300 to 128.

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Austin American-Statesman - February 15, 2019

What Sid Miller told Donald Trump in the presidential limousine

When President Donald Trump was en route to his Monday rally in El Paso, Agriculture Commissioner Sid Miller, riding in the official limousine, told the president he was correct to say that crime was far higher in El Paso before new fencing went up a decade ago separating the city from Juárez, Chihuahua.

Miller told the president that law enforcement in El Paso and other border communities typically underreported crime to the FBI in those days, something he said knew from his tenure as chairman of the Texas House Homeland Security and Public Safety Committee in 2011 and 2012. In short order, Trump incorporated his newfound insider wisdom — which official statistics contradict and local officials say is flat wrong — into his 80-minute exhortation in support of a border wall.

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Dallas Morning News - February 14, 2019

‘Point person’ for Texas secretary of state in controversial voter fraud inquiry quits

The state elections official who coordinated the matching of lists of driver's licensees with Texas voter rolls to see if they contain ineligible non-citizens, has resigned.

Betsy Schonhoff, whom newly disclosed emails depict as the secretary of state’s office’s honcho of a nearly yearlong effort to match voter lists with databases at the Department of Public Safety, quit recently with no explanation, a spokesman for interim Secretary of State David Whitley said late Thursday.

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Houston Chronicle - February 15, 2019

Cornyn faces new threats in 2020 re-election bid

As President Donald Trump embarked for El Paso on Monday to rally support for a border wall, Texas Republican John Cornyn sent out a personal message through his 2020 U.S. Senate re-election campaign: “Texas stands with President Trump.”

For Cornyn, seeking a fourth term in the Senate, the message underscored some of the central challenges of his re-election bid: for better or worse, his fate is inextricably tied to that of a famously polarizing and unpredictable president, with whom he will share a ballot. Cornyn, a former state Attorney General and Supreme Court Justice, knows that 2020 could be the most severe test of his time in the Senate, which began in 2002. He is the first to admit that Texas is not the GOP bastion it once was.

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State Stories

Dallas Morning News - February 14, 2019

D-FW is getting the biggest share of Texas' out-of-state moves

The flow of seniors headed to Florida edged out people moving to Texas to take new jobs, according to the latest nationwide relocation report.

Texas ranked second in the U.S. for moves with 524,511 new residents moving here in 2017, according to the latest relocation report by Texas Realtors, an Austin-based real estate trade association. Florida was the top state for moves for the second year in a row with 566,476 migrants. California ranked third for relocations.

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Dallas Morning News - February 14, 2019

Top employees at youth lockup fired in latest shakeup at Texas juvenile justice agency

Five of the top employees at the youth lockup north of Dallas have been terminated amid ongoing efforts to right the state's juvenile justice agency.

Superintendent Mike Studamire, Assistant Superintendent Deidra Reece, Manager of Security Operations and Support Programs Cathryn Hudspeth, Manager of Facility Programs and Services Ron Stewart and Dorm Supervisor Carl Motley have all been let go from their positions at the Gainesville State School since the fall. The Texas Juvenile Justice Department, the agency that runs Gainesville and the state's four other youth lockups, has also suspended its equine therapy program.

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Dallas Morning News - February 15, 2019

DART officer shot in July 7 ambush in downtown Dallas sues Facebook, Twitter, Google

A DART officer who was wounded in the July 7, 2016, police ambush in downtown Dallas has sued Facebook, Twitter and Google, saying their platforms knowingly support terrorist groups.

Jesus Retana, 34, and his husband, Andrew Moss, filed the lawsuit in federal court Wednesday. Retana, who began working for Dallas Area Rapid Transit police in 2006, was shot in the arm during the ambush. The lawsuit says Micah Johnson, the gunman who killed five police officers in the attack, was radicalized in part by the terrorist group Hamas’ use of Facebook, Twitter and Google. The companies knowingly provided Hamas “with accounts to use its social networks as a tool for spreading extremist propaganda, raising funds, and attracting new recruits,” Retana and Moss say.

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Houston Chronicle - February 14, 2019

Bond companies sue Harris County judges, sheriff over new bail rules

Three Houston bail bond companies sued Harris County’s misdemeanor judges and Sheriff Ed Gonzalez in state district court on Thursday, hoping to block the implementation of the judges’ proposed revisions to local bail rules, which the plaintiffs say violate state law.

The judges’ proposal — a key step in a lengthy legal fight over the pre-trial detention of poor, low-level offenders — automatically would qualify 85 percent of people arrested on misdemeanors for release on no-cash bonds, county officials have estimated. Those arrested for bail violations, repeat drunken driving and family violence would be the only exceptions. Defendants would need to appear before a magistrate or judge within 48 hours, at which time they also could qualify for no-cash bonds.

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Houston Chronicle - February 14, 2019

Texas fines Chevron Phillips Chemical, others for environmental violations

Chevron Phillips Chemical Company was fined for violating Texas air quality regulations, state regulators said Wednesday.

The company, which is jointly owned by Chevron Corp. and Phillips 66, will pay a little under $250,000 to the state for air quality violations stemming from its failure to comply with allowable emissions limits, the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality, the state's environmental agency, decided at its bi-monthly agenda meeting.

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Houston Chronicle - February 14, 2019

Memorial High School students advocate for better mental health services

With school shootings and violence in recent years, students from Memorial High School are pushing for better mental health services to help keep their campus safe.

About 25 students from the school’s Mental Health Ambassadors group traveled to Austin on Wednesday, Feb. 6, to meet with state lawmakers and encourage more funding and programs to improve students’ mental health. The group formed earlier this school year as a response to last year’s deadly shootings in Parkland, Fla., and Santa Fe, Texas.

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Houston Chronicle - February 15, 2019

Leading Southern Baptist apologizes for supporting leader, church at center of sex abuse scandal

A leading Southern Baptist figure on Thursday apologized for supporting a religious leader who was accused of helping conceal sexual abuses at his former church, and for making a joke that he said downplayed the severity of the allegations.

In an interview with the Houston Chronicle, Al Mohler said for the first time publicly that he regrets his embrace of C.J. Mahaney, the former leader of the non-Southern Baptist group Sovereign Grace Ministries, now known as Sovereign Grace Churches. Mahaney and his former organization were sued in 2013 by 11 people alleging that their abuses were concealed by leaders, at least one of whom was later convicted.

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Austin American-Statesman - February 14, 2019

Texas man found with 3D-printed gun, list of lawmakers sentenced to prison

A man who was barred from possessing firearms was sentenced to eight years in prison on Wednesday after Grand Prairie police found him carrying a weapon with some 3-D printed parts and a list of lawmakers’ addresses, U.S. attorneys said.

In July 2017, officers responding to another call found Eric Gerard McGinnis, then 39, after hearing someone firing shots in a wooded area outside Dallas, according to a statement from the U.S. Attorney’s Office in the Northern District of Texas. McGinnis falsely told officers he was a CIA agent and was arrested, the statement says. Officers searched a backpack McGinnis was carrying and found a partially printed 3-D weapon that was loaded and a list with the office and home addresses of several federal lawmakers from both Democratic and Republican parties, the statement says.

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Austin American-Statesman - February 14, 2019

HHS watchdog agency struggles with sexual harassment, racism complaints

The state agency charged with ferreting out misconduct at the Health and Human Services Commission has been dealing with misconduct within its own ranks.

There were 12 civil rights complaint investigations at the Office of Inspector General in 2018 compared to one in 2017 and two in 2016. A high-ranking manager resigned in October after sexually harassing a female employee. A male employee was fired the next month after being accused of being hostile to the same female employee.

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San Antonio Express-News - February 15, 2019

Bars turn to security cameras to fend off TABC officers

The explosion of video surveillance - from civilian phones, as well as from police dash and body cameras - has revolutionized law enforcement, exposing once-hidden misbehavior and providing conclusive evidence in disputed accounts. Most large police departments have adopted cameras to record many of their public interactions.

Not TABC, whose agents typically rely on their subjective recollections and descriptions to charge bars and restaurants with serving drinks to already drunk patrons. Yet a review of court filings showed a half-dozen recent instances in which patrons the agents had described as obviously drunk appeared decidedly sober in security camera footage. The disconnect has upended cases, raising questions about the agency’s investigative methods.

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Associated Press - February 15, 2019

Beto O'Rourke planning stops in 2020 battleground Midwest

Potential 2020 Democratic presidential candidate Beto O'Rourke is coming to the University of Wisconsin-Madison campus Friday for a meet and greet with students and faculty, a closely guarded event that will be the former Texas congressman's first visit to a key state in the battleground, industrial Midwest.

O'Rourke is scheduled to be on campus for a two-hour meeting early Friday evening. UW-Madison spokesman John Lucas said Thursday the event is not open to the press, public or anyone not affiliated with the university. The campus Political Science Student Association organized the meeting in a room that fits about 150 people. The group's leader, Isaac Johnson, said O'Rourke wanted to keep the event limited to students and those affiliated with the university.

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Fort Worth Business Press - February 14, 2019

Marc Diamond: Time for a Manhattan Project on Alzheimer’s

Imagine if Alzheimer’s was treated like other common diseases. Instead of worrying about the prospect of slowly losing your memory, you might get a series of shots during middle age to prevent the onset of this neurological nightmare, just as we do to reduce the risk of flu. Or you could take a daily pill as many do to control their cholesterol or blood pressure.

That may sound improbable, given the long string of Alzheimer’s drugs that have failed to work in clinical trials, but I remain optimistic. As a physician-scientist leading research into the causes of neurodegenerative diseases, I believe that we are making significant progress on uncovering the roots of Alzheimer’s.

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County Stories

Houston Chronicle - February 15, 2019

Democrats bring engagement, marathon meetings to Harris County Commissioners Court

When Precinct 3 Commissioner Steve Radack wondered aloud if anyone still in attendance knew of a good nearby happy hour, Tuesday’s Harris County Commissioners Court meeting already had lasted five hours and 44 minutes. The session concluded at 6:31 p.m., precisely eight and a half hours after it began, though few people in the room witnessed the beginning and end.

County Judge Lina Hidalgo and her Democratic colleagues have made good on their pledge to increase opportunities for public participation in meetings, though the results to date are mixed. The sessions have been well-attended but endure late into the afternoon, leaving residents waiting hours to speak and detaining county department heads for an entire day.

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City Stories

Dallas Morning News - February 14, 2019

Lovejoy ISD superintendent quits amid allegations of 'inappropriate conduct'

Lovejoy ISD replaced its superintendent Wednesday night after Ted Moore suddenly resigned amid allegations of "inappropriate conduct" with "adult victims," the school board said.

The small school district — which includes the cities of Lucas, Fairview and part of Allen — notified parents and staff members late Wednesday that Assistant Superintendent Dennis Womack would step into the top job after Moore submitted his resignation.

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Austin American-Statesman - February 15, 2019

Austin to install ‘parking boxes’ for dockless scooters and bikes

The city of Austin is preparing to install “parking boxes” for dockless scooters and bicycles in and around the downtown area. City officials said crews will install the first one Friday at the 200 block of West Sixth Street.

“City staff hopes parking boxes will encourage people who use dockless bicycles and scooters to park in areas that do not impede accessibility by other road users,” officials said in a news release on Thursday. Other boxes will be installed in the following areas: Third Street between Nueces and San Antonio streets; Fourth Street at San Jacinto Boulevard; San Jacinto Boulevard between Fifth and Sixth streets; Third Street at Trinity Street; Fourth Street at Red River Street; Fifth Street at Pleasant Valley.

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San Antonio Express-News - February 15, 2019

San Antonio’s venture-capital investments lag, but ‘climate here is changing’

Venture capitalists’ investment in San Antonio startups is still pretty measly compared to the state’s other major metros, according to two reports. But local investors and entrepreneurs say the city’s nascent tech scene is making progress, and point to resources like the Geekdom Fund and Active Capital that have sprung up.

Venture-capital funding in San Antonio-area companies fell to about $19.1 million last year, down from $43.7 million in 2017 and $33 million in 2016, according to the annual PricewaterhouseCoopers/CB Insights MoneyTree report. Venture capitalists are usually wealthy investors or firms that provide seed or early-stage funding for fledgling businesses. Funding also fell in Dallas, though it rose in Houston and statewide. The majority of venture-capital activity in Texas last year took place in Austin, with investments reaching $1.36 billion.

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San Antonio Express-News - February 15, 2019

San Antonio City Council tightens reins on e-scooters

A chastened City Council responded Thursday to complaints about the perceived chaos caused by e-scooters by voting 10 to 1 to modify - some would say abandon - its initial “light touch” on regulating the dockless vehicles.

Before they imposed the somewhat tighter restrictions on the roughly 6,500 scooters and bikes now on the streets — they’re not banned from sidewalks, yet — every council member weighed in on the innovation’s frustrations. Nationwide, the vehicles have spawned personal injury lawsuits and some small towns have banned them entirely. “My constituents hate them,” District 8 Councilman Manny Pelaez said. “I have the most conservative district in the city, where people are allergic to all regulation, and they call me and beg for more regulation (of scooters).”

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Austin American-Statesman - February 14, 2019

Austin ethics commission dismisses complaint against city’s HR director

Austin’s ethics review commission on Wednesday dismissed an ethics complaint filed against the city’s human resources director last year after an internal investigation found she had several city employees look after her child.

The city auditor’s office had concluded in a report that Joya Hayes had employees transport her son to and from daycare and watch him. The report said Hayes had violated city employee conduct rules related to accepting gifts or favors from subordinates, abused a city office and misused city resources. Several commissioners said Wednesday that auditors did not prove that an ethics violation had occurred.

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National Stories

CNBC - February 15, 2019

China's Xi Jinping says trade talks with US to continue next week in Washington

Talks between China and the United States this week made important progress, President Xi Jinping told top U.S. trade negotiators on Friday, adding that efforts would continue in Washington next week to resolve their bruising trade war.

Xi met U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer and U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin after a full week of trade negotiations at senior and deputy levels in Beijing, and called for a deal both sides could accept, state media said. U.S. duties on $200 billion worth of imports from China are set to rise to 25 percent from 10 percent if no deal is reached by March 1 to address U.S. demands that China curb forced technology transfers and better enforce intellectual property rights.

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CNBC - February 14, 2019

Senate confirms Trump's attorney general pick William Barr, who will now oversee Mueller probe

President Donald Trump's attorney general nominee William Barr was confirmed in the Senate on Thursday to take over the Justice Department as attorney general, where he will oversee special counsel Robert Mueller's Russia probe.

Barr, 68, was confirmed in a 54-45 vote that largely fell along party lines. He will be sworn in Thursday afternoon in the Oval Office by Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts, the White House told NBC News. Barr was widely expected to be confirmed by the Republican-majority Senate on Thursday. He had served in the same role more than two decades earlier in President George H.W. Bush's administration, and had passed procedural hurdles in the Senate Judiciary Committee and the full Senate in recent votes.

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CNBC - February 14, 2019

Facebook uses its apps to track users it thinks could threaten employees and offices

In early 2018, a Facebook user made a public threat on the social network against one of the company's offices in Europe. Facebook picked up the threat, pulled the user's data and determined he was in the same country as the office he was targeting.

The company informed the authorities about the threat and directed its security officers to be on the lookout for the user. "He made a veiled threat that 'Tomorrow everyone is going to pay' or something to that effect," a former Facebook security employee told CNBC.

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Washington Post - February 14, 2019

What’s in the 1,169-page border-security bill to avert a government shutdown

The 1,169-page, $333 billion spending bill that President Trump plans to sign into law removes the threat of any further government shutdowns — at least until October. But only a few pages of the legislation deals with the U.S.-Mexico border wall that Trump has demanded — or “primary pedestrian fencing,” as legislators wrote into the text.

The rest of the bill focuses on other border security measures, as well as funding for scores of federal departments and agencies whose budgets have been held hostage for months due to the border standoff. The $1.375 billion is enough for 55 miles for “pedestrian” fencing in Texas’s Rio Grande Valley, but it is also subject to numerous restrictions.

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Washington Post - February 14, 2019

Trump’s national emergency, and its massive unintended consequences

We can finally see the road map for how we’ll avert the second government shutdown of 2019: President Trump will sign the compromise legislation agreed to by Congress, but he’ll also declare a national emergency to try and get the billions more he needs to build a border wall.

This solution allows Trump to perhaps mollify the conservative critics who are still demanding that wall and criticizing the compromise. It also allows McConnell to turn the page on a showdown and shutdown he never wanted in the first place. But while this allows everyone an escape hatch in the near term, the long-term unintended consequences loom huge.

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Politico - February 14, 2019

Trump shocks GOP with emergency declaration

The surprise announcement Thursday that President Donald Trump will use his emergency powers to try and build his border wall blindsided some Republicans, confused others and sent the Senate GOP into a general state of shock. The news, delivered by Majority Leader Mitch McConnell on the Senate floor, came after weeks of warnings from his own party not to declare a national emergency at the border.

Trump has decided to challenge Republicans’ resolve anyway — but he may not like the outcome. Aides privately predicted Trump will lose a vote on the Senate floor once the Democratic House passes a resolution of disapproval to block the move. Meanwhile, the GOP Senate majority was casting about for answers. Republicans that have previously panned the idea as setting a bad precedent for future presidents were careful in how they answered questions in the immediate aftermath of the president’s decision.

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Politico - February 15, 2019

Schumer slams ‘stunt’ Green New Deal vote as moderates fret

Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer said Democrats would not be intimidated by the “cynical stunt” of voting on the Green New Deal resolution, even as moderate members of his caucus distanced themselves from the sweeping climate change goals.

Schumer said the "amazing irony" of Majority Leader Mitch McConnell bringing up a resolution Republicans intend to vote against is a sign of why the American people hate Congress. He demanded the Kentucky Republican acknowledge the scientific consensus around climate change and commit the chamber to tackling the problem.

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NBC News - February 15, 2019

US ally Turkey looks to Russia and Iran to protect its interests

As Trump administration officials presided over the second day of an international conference in Warsaw dominated by calls to ratchet up pressure on Iran, one longtime U.S. ally and NATO member was noticeably absent — Turkey.

Snubbing the gathering in Poland, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Thursday attended a rival conference in the Black Sea resort of Sochi, where he planned to meet his Russian and Iranian counterparts to work out a final settlement of the war in Syria. The dueling summits illustrate President Donald Trump's struggle to forge a united front against Iran, and reflect Turkey's drift away from Washington as it finds common ground with Moscow and Tehran, experts and former officials said.

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NBC News - February 15, 2019

Trump critics may be disappointed by the Mueller report

Millions of Americans are waiting for Robert Mueller to give them the final word on whether the Trump campaign conspired with the 2016 Russian election interference effort — and whether their president is under the influence of a foreign adversary. Millions of Americans may be sorely disappointed.

Unless Mueller files a detailed indictment charging members of the Trump campaign with conspiring with Russia, the public may never learn the full scope of what Mueller and his team has found — including potentially scandalous behavior that doesn't amount to a provable crime. The reason: The special counsel operates under rules that severely constrain how much information can be made public.

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Reuters - February 15, 2019

Pompeo meets EU's top diplomat after Pence's Iran accusations

U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo met with the EU’s top diplomat in Brussels on Friday, a day after Vice President Mike Pence accused America’s traditional European allies of trying to undermine U.S. sanctions against Iran.

The meeting with Federica Mogherini, the EU’s foreign policy chief, was scheduled before Pence’s rebuke of European powers during a Middle East peace conference in Warsaw on Thursday, which Mogherini missed, citing a scheduling conflict at NATO. Mogherini, who helped seal the 2005 nuclear deal between Iran and world powers, greeted Pompeo in front of a bank of cameras at the EU’s headquarters in Brussels before they headed into a conference room for the breakfast meeting, which was scheduled to last about an hour.

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Reuters - February 14, 2019

As Amazon drops New York City project, progressives claim a major coup

U.S. Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez wasted no time on Thursday in calling Amazon’s decision to scrap plans to build a major New York outpost with nearly $3 billion in city and state incentives a big victory for progressive politicians.

The democratic socialist congresswoman has become the face of the Democratic Party’s ascendant left wing, thanks in part to her upset victory last year in a district near the proposed Amazon.com Inc development. “Anything is possible: today was the day a group of dedicated, everyday New Yorkers & their neighbors defeated Amazon’s corporate greed, its worker exploitation, and the power of the richest man in the world,” Ocasio-Cortez wrote on Twitter.

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New York Times - February 14, 2019

Amazon pulls out of planned New York City headquarters

Amazon on Thursday canceled its plans to build an expansive corporate campus in New York City after facing an unexpectedly fierce backlash from some lawmakers and union leaders, who contended that a tech giant did not deserve nearly $3 billion in government incentives.

The company, as part of its extensive search for a new headquarters, had chosen Long Island City, Queens, as one of two winning sites, saying that it would create more than 25,000 jobs in the city. But the agreement to lure Amazon stirred an intense debate about the use of public subsidies to entice wealthy companies, the rising cost of living in rapidly gentrifying neighborhoods and the city’s very identity.

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New York Times - February 14, 2019

McCabe says Justice Dept. officials had discussions about pushing Trump out

Andrew G. McCabe, the former deputy F.B.I. director, said in an interview aired on Thursday that top Justice Department officials became so alarmed by President Trump’s decision in May 2017 to fire James B. Comey, the bureau’s director, that they discussed whether to recruit cabinet members to invoke the 25th Amendment to remove Mr. Trump from office.

The dire concerns about the president’s actions also prompted Mr. McCabe to order the bureau’s team investigating Russia’s election interference to look into whether Mr. Trump had obstructed justice by firing Mr. Comey. The F.B.I. also began examining whether Mr. Trump had been working on behalf of Russia against American interests. Mr. McCabe’s explosive remarks were made in an interview with “60 Minutes” scheduled to air in full on Sunday. He was promoting his memoir, “The Threat: How the F.B.I. Protects America in the Age of Terror and Trump,” which will be released next week.

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ABC News - February 15, 2019

Trump's physical results show he's gained weight but 'in good health overall'

The White House on Thursday released results of President Donald Trump's physical that he underwent last Friday and in one notable measure, it showed he had gained some weight since his checkup last year, weighing in at 243 pounds versus 239 pounds previously.

Someone with a weight of 240 pounds and at Trump's 6-foot-3 height –– a BMI or Body Mass Index of 30.4 –– is considered obese and last year Trump had been advised to change his diet and get more exercise in order to lose a few pounds. The results, summed up by White House physician Sean Conley, who conducted the physical along with 11 different board-certified specialists, concludes "it is my determination that the President remains in very good health overall."

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CNN - February 15, 2019

This is what Denver teachers got after 3 days on strike

Denver educators have been promised pay raises as part of a tentative deal they reached with their school district after three days on strike. Under the tentative agreement between Denver Public Schools and the Denver Classroom Teachers Association, educators would see between seven percent and 11 percent increases to their base salaries and a 20-step salary schedule, the union said in a statement Thursday.

Teachers went on strike to demand higher, stable salaries, because the district uses unpredictable bonuses to compensate for low base pay. They also hoped higher salaries would keep more educators from leaving the city, where the cost of living has skyrocketed in recent years, one teacher told CNN. The agreement would also put an end to "exorbitant five-figure bonuses" for senior administrators, the union's statement said. "This agreement is a win, plain and simple: for our students, for our educators, and for our communities," union President Henry Roman said.

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Newsclips - February 14, 2019

Lead Stories

CNN - February 13, 2019

Trump intends to sign border deal to avoid another shutdown

President Donald Trump intends to sign the border security deal to avoid another partial government shutdown, according to two sources who have spoken directly with the President. Trump said Tuesday that he was "not happy" with the tentative deal reached by congressional negotiators late Monday night that falls far short of his original demands.

On Wednesday, he told reporters he would "take a very serious look" at the legislation, adding that he does not want the government to shut down again. Congress faces a deadline to get a deal passed and signed by Trump before Friday. The agreement, which includes $1.375 billion for a border barrier, falls well short of the $5.7 billion Trump originally demanded for a wall. It even falls short of the $1.6 billion included in a Senate package last year.

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San Antonio Express-News - February 14, 2019

For San Antonio Democrats, Tuesday was the latest in a troubling track record in special elections

Republican Fred Rangel’s strong performance in Tuesday’s special election was the latest in a trend of disappointing outcomes for San Antonio Democrats in off-cycle contests.

Rangel rode consolidated GOP support to a runaway first-place finish Tuesday night, with about 38 percent of the vote in the race to represent District 125 in the Texas House of Representatives, which Democrats have controlled for decades. Democrat Ray Lopez, a former city councilman, received 19.41 percent of the vote to earn a spot in a runoff election, edging third-place finisher and fellow Democrat Coda Rayo-Garza by just 22 votes. Runoffs are called when no candidate garners 50 percent of the vote.

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Bloomberg - February 14, 2019

This major oil CEO says Permian break-even costs are forcing more efficiency

For Mike Wirth, the future of Big Oil lies at home, under the dusty fields of West Texas. As he celebrates his first year as chief executive of Chevron Corp., Wirth sees the Permian Basin as a plentiful source of high-quality crude for years to come, but that's not all.

The low break-even costs to pump in the Permian are forcing Chevron to be more efficient everywhere, Wirth said, from the deepwater platforms in the Gulf of Mexico to its liquefied natural gas plants. In a time of transition, where everyone from politicians to shareholder activists is bashing Big Oil, shale's success is forging a new reality, Wirth said: Lower your costs, or die.

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Washington Post - February 14, 2019

When it comes to calling out the news media, Ocasio-Cortez has some things in common with Trump

A novice politician hailing from the New York borough of Queens gains enormous media attention and a huge and wildly passionate following in part by lobbing irregular critiques at the news media. Donald Trump in 2015? Yes. But also Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, circa 2019.

Their backgrounds, gender and — especially — their politics are different, but the Republican president and the outspoken freshman Democratic congresswoman from New York share at least one similarity: Neither has been shy about using social media to pummel the press. And like Trump, Ocasio-Cortez has been cheered on by millions of followers when she does so.

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State Stories

Houston Chronicle - February 13, 2019

Health experts want Texas to eliminate opting out of vaccinations for non-medical reasons

As the Houston area learns of its sixth possible case of measles in less than two weeks, doctors and scientists are pushing for the Texas Legislature to eliminate the ability for most parents to opt out of vaccines for their children.

In Texas, children are required to have certain sets of vaccinations before they can be enrolled in public school – including the vaccine for measles. But parents who have "reasons of conscience" for not wanting their children to be vaccinated are allowed to opt out of vaccinations, a practice that experts say is forming a dangerous trend that helped fuel the most recent measles outbreak. Statewide, there was only one confirmed case of measles in each of 2016 and 2017. In 2018, there were nine confirmed cases of measles, authorities say.

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Houston Chronicle - February 13, 2019

Texas districts push to extend the school year

Texas lawmakers are thinking about giving school districts money to lengthen the school year, and superintendents are for it. The Texas Commission on Public School Finance in December recommended that the Legislature help to pay for up to 30 additional instructional days to the 180-day school calendar.

The panel recommended the state pitch in half the cost of each school day, to a maximum of $50 million per day in the first year, according to the commission’s report. Several superintendents testified before the House Public Education Committee that the investment would be worth it because the additional time gives struggling students, including those from low-income backgrounds, more time to study and would help them to learn to read at grade level. In Texas, just four in 10 students read at grade level by third grade.

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Houston Chronicle - February 13, 2019

Legislator seeks to honor Aggies legend John David Crow, wife with highway naming

State representative John Raney remembers his backyard games back home in Huntsville for one famous name in particular. “I tell people when I was growing up and we played football out in the yard, everybody wanted to be John David Crow,” said Raney, 71. “I was 10 years old when he won the Heisman Trophy (in 1957).”

That’s why Raney, who moved to Bryan with his family when he was 13, jumped at the chance when the late Crow’s daughters approached the Republican legislator who represents the Bryan-College Station area about naming a portion of Highway 6 for their parents.

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Houston Chronicle - February 13, 2019

Report takes aim at Texas auto loans, which top the nation

Texans borrow a nation-leading $6,520 per capita for automobile purchases, according to a report released Wednesday by the United States Public Interest Research Group, which partnered with its state affiliates and Frontier Group.

The average is $1,000 more than the next highest state, neighboring Louisiana, and $3,000 more than per-person car debt in New York. Georgia, Arkansas and Wyoming rounded out the top five. Debt for automobiles is at an all-time high, researchers said, sounding an alarm that more debt could lead some to economic hardship.

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Houston Chronicle - February 13, 2019

Drayton McLane Jr: Bullet train takes aim at traffic and dangerous roads

Texas’ high-speed train ended 2018 with remarkable progress, putting Houston and the rest of the state another step closer to a dynamic and much-needed transportation choice. It is estimated that more than 1,100 people are moving to this great state every day, drawn by our economic dynamism and ability to elevate problem-solvers willing to take on the thorniest issues in bold and creative ways.

Houston and North Texas are the dual engines driving this growth, thanks to our encouraging, entrepreneur-friendly cultures. While this unprecedented growth has been a blessing, Texas must tackle emerging transportation and infrastructure issues if we hope to remain an attractive destination in the years to come. Interstate 45 — the massive highway that links our economic and commercial hubs — is a prime example. In addition to being perpetually traffic-clogged, this vital artery is routinely ranked as one of America’s deadliest highways.

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Dallas Morning News - February 13, 2019

Ted Cruz among handful of 'no' votes on landmark land conservation bill

The most sweeping conservation legislation in a decade sailed through the Senate 92-8. Sen. Ted Cruz voted no.

The Texas Republican has remained quiet on the matter, before and after Tuesday’s vote. His office provided an explanation on Wednesday. "The federal government already owns more land than it has the capacity to maintain, and authorizing it to acquire more without making common-sense reforms hurts Texans and Americans across the country," spokeswoman Maria Jeffrey wrote in an email.

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Dallas Morning News - February 13, 2019

Texas breweries and distributors find common ground in battle over beer to-go

The contention over Texas breweries being allowed to sell beer to-go has reached a middle ground.

On Wednesday, the Texas Craft Brewers Guild, a trade association representing the interests of small brewers, and the Beer Alliance of Texas, which represents the state's distributors, announced a set of bills that would allow breweries to sell beer to patrons for offsite consumption up to a certain limit (576 ounces or 2 cases per day, per person).

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Dallas Morning News - February 13, 2019

North Texas cops help FBI crack violent robbery ring targeting ATM service technicians

North Texas federal officials on Wednesday announced the indictments of 27 Houston residents in connection with an armed robbery ring that targeted ATM service technicians across Texas and in other states.

The defendants committed at least 47 "strong-arm robberies" of ATM technicians as they serviced the machines from August 2017 through January 2019, said Joseph D. Brown, U.S. attorney for the Eastern District of Texas. More than $2.7 million was stolen during the robberies, he said. Many of the defendants are associated with a Houston gang called the Market Street Money Gang, or MSMG, Brown said. Among the North Texas cities hit were Plano, Allen and McKinney.

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Dallas Morning News - February 14, 2019

Texas schools hone message: Charter deals are about more money, choices

Call it what you want, but a charter school is a charter school, and critics of private partnerships with traditional districts are not happy with plans to enter into such partnerships.

They fear any move by a district to hand over school operations to an outside entity amounts to the "privatization" of children's education and opens the door to risky experimentation. But school officials in Dallas and Fort Worth insist they want to use a new Texas law that encourages in-district charters to funnel more state money to their schools by partnering with universities or nonprofits. This week, the two districts' school boards are discussing whether to undertake different approaches in how to implement the contentious law that provides them with financial incentives to create charter campuses.

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Dallas Morning News - February 14, 2019

Migrants enter U.S. in large groups near El Paso as tighter asylum controls lead them to new tactics

Migrant families have found the latest area to cross the border en masse and turn themselves in to U.S. authorities, right at the edge of Texas. As President Trump doubled down on his promise to build a wall to keep out drugs, gangs and caravans on Monday, a group of 311 migrants, most of them families, voluntarily turned themselves into Border Patrol agents.

A Border Patrol spokesman on Wednesday said it was the first time this year that a large group crossed into the El Paso area, at the foot of the iconic Mount Cristo Rey, a 29-foot tall limestone statue of Christ that straddles two countries and three states - Chihuahua, Texas and New Mexico. It has long been a welcoming symbol of peace. The incident plays out as another government shutdown looms Friday over border security.

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San Antonio Express-News - February 14, 2019

San Antonio judge weighs legality of Electoral College process in choosing a president

Lawyers for the state on Wednesday asked a federal judge to throw out a lawsuit challenging Texas’ Electoral College process as plaintiffs dug in to their claims that the winner-take-all method is unconstitutional, discriminatory and leads to the dilution of the minority vote.

A coalition of law firms and the League of United Latin American Citizens filed four federal lawsuits last February in two politically red states, Texas and South Carolina, and two traditionally blue states, California and Massachusetts. All four lawsuits challenge the constitutionality of the winner-take-all method that states use to allocate their Electoral College votes.

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San Antonio Express-News - February 14, 2019

How Texas lawmakers plan to make schools safer without gun control

State Rep. James Talarico remembers teaching in San Antonio and feeling that some of his sixth-grade students needed more adults watching out for their well-being, but there weren’t enough services.

Talarico — a Democrat from suburban Austin who wants school districts to hire four counselors for every security guard — is one of several lawmakers proposing bills to make schools safer in light of the prevalence of school shootings. After a student opened fire inside Santa Fe High School last May, killing eight students and two teachers and wounding 13 others, lawmakers say they are committed to improving school safety this year.

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Star-Telegram - February 14, 2019

Don’t like red light cameras? These Texas lawmakers don’t either — and want to ban them

Some lawmakers say it’s time to turn off red light cameras in Texas. And so far, a handful of proposals have been filed to do just that. “The people of Texas have ... had enough,” said state Rep. Jonathan Stickland, R-Bedford, who filed one of the bills. “It’s time that we protect the rights of Texans and finally ban red light cameras.”

Critics have long said the cameras violate the U.S. Constitution and lead to rear-end accidents. Supporters say they make streets safer and generate needed money for cities. The difference this time is that Texas Gov. Greg Abbott has weighed in on the issue. “Red light cameras ... are expensive, studies indicate that they may increase accidents where deployed, and they pose constitutional issues,” he wrote in his Safeguarding, Security, Serving report released last year. “Texas should ban the use of these devices by preempting local authority to utilize them.”

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Star-Telegram - February 14, 2019

Texans get $59.8 billion in tax breaks. Should we give up some for property tax relief?

Texans shoulder one of the largest property tax burdens in the country, paying around $60 billion a year. At the same time, the state provides a nearly equal amount in tax breaks each year — on products ranging from food to medicine, help for charitable and school groups, even through homestead and business property exemptions.

Now, as state lawmakers are deep into debate about property tax reform, hoping to provide some relief while also paying more into public schools, Tarrant County Judge Glen Whitley has a suggestion. Why not consider eliminating some of the state’s nearly $60 billion in annual tax exemptions? “If they want to bring down property taxes and generate more sales tax, either broaden the base or do away with some of the exemptions,” Whitley said. “If we all agree more money needs to be spent, the Lord ain’t sending it down from Heaven.

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Fort Worth Weekly - February 13, 2019

Class dismissed: UTA political science professor Allan Saxe is retiring

Allan Saxe returned home from a night class several weeks ago and received no fewer than three phone calls from the campus police department.

The police department checked, double-checked, and triple-checked to make sure the professor was OK. He was, and he wasn’t, and that’s why Saxe is closing the book on his 54-year teaching career. He will teach two summer classes if they make –– American Contemporary Civil Liberties and Texas State and Local Government –– but after that, he’s “out of here,” he said.

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City Stories

Dallas Morning News - February 14, 2019

UT Dallas moved to fire instructors because Dallas Morning News prepared story, lawsuit says

Three criminology instructors at the center of an academic integrity scandal are suing the University of Texas at Dallas, saying its leaders stepped up efforts to fire them in recent weeks after The Dallas Morning News prepared to publish an investigation into the problems.

The News’ Feb. 3 story essentially disrupted school officials’ plan to keep the scandal and their own misconduct secret, according to the suit, filed Tuesday in Dallas federal court. It was UTD leaders’ plan to drop termination proceedings against instructors “and hope the controversy never saw the light of day — until their hand was forced when the DMN published its story,’’ the suit said. In an emailed statement late Tuesday, UTD spokesman John Walls declined to comment on the suit, saying disciplinary actions against the faculty members are ongoing.

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San Antonio Express-News - February 13, 2019

San Antonio businessman’s claims of Russian contact were ‘mere puffery’ his attorney says, but judge decides he’s a flight risk and denies bail

The owner of a San Antonio auto lot where the feds hauled off dozens of high-end cars in a money laundering case was denied bail Wednesday.

U.S. Magistrate Judge Richard Farrer was presented two differing views of Karen Mgerian: a money launderer willing to kill who could disappear with the help of Russian contacts and a naturalized U.S. citizen who got caught embellishing stories in an undercover federal investigation.

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Longview News-Journal - February 13, 2019

Appeals court rules in favor of Kilgore ISD taxpayers in homestead exemption suit

Kilgore ISD trustees and district lawyers plan to discuss their options after the 6th Court of Appeals ruled Monday that taxpayers wrongly were denied homestead exemptions in 2015.

Kilgore Superintendent Andy Baker, who joined the district in January, said his familiarity with the 2016 lawsuit by homeowners Sheila Anderson and Darlene and John Axberg is limited. The issues in the case revolved around what used to be an optional homestead exemption allowing taxpayers to take 20 percent off the value of their primary residence before their tax bill is calculated. Kilgore offered the optional exemption for decades before entering budget discussions and voting to rescind the option June 29, 2015, in a 5-2 vote.

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National Stories

New York Times - February 14, 2019

Trump puts best face on border deal, as aides try to assuage an angry right

In pursuit of a wall, President Trump ran into one. A single-minded drive to force Congress to finance his signature campaign promise has left Mr. Trump right back where he started, this time seeking a way to climb over the political barrier in his way after trying to charge through it did not work.

As he inched closer to reluctantly accepting a bipartisan spending compromise without the money he demanded for his border wall, Mr. Trump offered no acknowledgment on Wednesday that his pressure tactics had failed even as aides sought to minimize the damage by tamping down criticism on the right.

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New York Times - February 14, 2019

House votes to halt aid for Saudi Arabia’s war in Yemen

The House voted on Wednesday to end American military assistance for Saudi Arabia’s war in Yemen, a defiant and rare move to curtail presidential war powers that underscored anger with President Trump’s unflagging support for Saudi Arabia even after the killing of a Washington Post columnist, Jamal Khashoggi.

The 248-to-177 vote, condemning a nearly four-year conflict in Yemen that has killed thousands of civilians and inflicted a devastating famine, will pressure the Republican-controlled Senate to respond. Eighteen Republicans — almost all of them hard-line conservatives with the Freedom Caucus — voted with the Democratic majority. Congress’s upper chamber in December passed a parallel resolution, 56 to 41, in a striking rebuke to the president and his administration’s defense of the kingdom. But that measure died with the last Congress after the House Republican leadership blocked a vote.

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Wall Street Journal - February 14, 2019

Trump nominee to face questions on future of 30-year mortgages

The Trump administration’s pick to help overhaul the way many Americans finance their home purchases is expected to face questions about the future of the popular 30-year mortgage at his Senate confirmation hearing Thursday, people familiar with the matter said.

The Senate Banking Committee is considering the nomination of Mark Calabria to head the government’s oversight of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. The mortgage-finance companies guarantee roughly half of U.S. home loans and have been under government control since the financial crisis. If confirmed, Mr. Calabria would play a pivotal role as head of the Federal Housing Finance Agency in making changes to the companies.

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Wall Street Journal - February 14, 2019

HHS to review Indian Health Service after revelations on pedophile doctor

Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar called for a review of the Indian Health Service following an investigation that revealed the agency’s mishandling of a pedophile doctor.

The investigation, by The Wall Street Journal and the PBS series Frontline, detailed the career of Stanley Patrick Weber, a pediatrician who in 2018 was convicted of sexually assaulting Native American boys. The IHS transferred him from one agency-run hospital to another after officials concluded he was molesting children in 1995, and he continued working for the federal agency for 21 years.

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Washington Post - February 14, 2019

Federal judge finds Paul Manafort lied to Mueller probe about contacts with Russian aide

Former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort lied to prosecutors with special counsel Robert S. Mueller III about matters close to the heart of their investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election, a federal judge ruled Wednesday.

The judge’s finding that Manafort, 69, breached his cooperation deal with prosecutors by lying after his guilty plea could add years to his prison sentence and came after a set of sealed court hearings. Manafort’s lies, the judge found, included “his interactions and communications with [Konstantin] Kilimnik,” a longtime aide whom the FBI assessed to have ties to Russian intelligence.

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The Hill - February 14, 2019

Rule change sharpens Dem investigations into Trump

A change to House rules is putting sharper teeth into Democratic investigations of President Trump and his administration. The change allows staff of House committees to conduct depositions without any lawmakers present, freeing up the panels to move through witnesses in their investigations quickly without the constraints of the previous Congress.

The change will offer Democrats on powerful House committees including Intelligence, Oversight and Reform, and Judiciary substantial momentum as they open wide-ranging probes into Trump, producing new headaches for the White House as the president readies his reelection bid. “It’s more teeth, faster legs, longer breath, greater strength and just bigger,” said Steven Cash, a former staffer and counsel to the Senate Intelligence Committee.

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The Hill - February 14, 2019

O'Rourke, Schumer huddle on possible 2020 bid: report

Former Rep. Beto O'Rourke reportedly met with Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer (D-NY) as the Texas Democrat considers the possibility of a 2020 White House bid or another run for Senate.

According to Politico, the two men sat down last week and discussed O'Rourke's political ambitions. Both O'Rourke and fellow Texan Joaquin Castro, former Housing and Urban Development secretary under President Obama, are being eyed as potential challengers against Sen. John Cornyn (R-TX), whose seat is up for grabs in 2020, the news outlet noted.

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CNN - February 14, 2019

FEMA Administrator Brock Long resigns

Federal Emergency Management Agency Director Brock Long announced Wednesday that he is resigning. His resignation comes months after a controversy over his use of government vehicles.

Last fall, Long was the subject of a Department of Homeland Security probe into whether he was misusing government resources when he used government vehicles and personnel for six-hour drives between his home in North Carolina and FEMA headquarters in Washington. An inspector general's investigation, released by House Democrats in September, found that even after Long had been told not to, he continued to use government SUVs and drivers to shuttle between home and work.

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Reuters - February 14, 2019

Talks to end four-day Denver teachers' strike stretch overnight

Negotiations lasted all night and into the pre-dawn hours of Thursday between striking teachers in Denver and the city school district, who are trying to come up with a deal to end a walkout affecting 92,000 students that’s now entering its fourth day.

Both sides must believe that they are close to a settlement or they would have stopped for the night, a union spokesman said about 3 a.m. local time. He asked not to be named. The two sides sounded an optimistic note on Tuesday after resuming talks that had broken off on Saturday. They went late into the night in an effort to resolve differences over a variable pay system, known as ProComp, which has been at the center of the dispute.

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The Guardian - February 14, 2019

Mike Pence chides US allies at Warsaw summit on Iran

The US vice-president Mike Pence has sharply rebuked Washington’s European allies over their efforts to shield their businesses from US sanctions on Iran, as transatlantic tensions over US foreign policy were laid bare at a conference in Warsaw.

A scheme set up by the EU to facilitate trade with Iran was “an effort to break American sanctions against Iran’s murderous revolutionary regime”, Pence said during a conference on the Middle East organised by the United States in the Polish capital. “It is an ill-advised step that will only strengthen Iran, weaken the EU and create still more distance between Europe and the United States,” he said.

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The Week - February 14, 2019

Amazon will pay $0 in federal income taxes for the second year in a row

Amazon, which doubled its profits and made more than $11 billion in 2018, won't pay any federal income taxes for the second year in a row, the Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy reported on Wednesday.

The company will not be required to pay the standard 21 percent income tax rate on its 2018 profits, and is claiming a tax rebate of $129 million, which ITEP describes as a "a tax rate of negative 1 percent."

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Washington Post - February 14, 2019

What’s in the 1,169-page border-security bill to avert a government shutdown

The 1,169-page, $333 billion spending bill that President Trump plans to sign into law removes the threat of any further government shutdowns — at least until October. But only a few pages of the legislation deals with the U.S.-Mexico border wall that Trump has demanded — or “primary pedestrian fencing,” as legislators wrote into the text.

The rest of the bill focuses on other border security measures, as well as funding for scores of federal departments and agencies whose budgets have been held hostage for months due to the border standoff. The $1.375 billion is enough for 55 miles for “pedestrian” fencing in Texas’s Rio Grande Valley, but it is also subject to numerous restrictions.

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CNN - February 14, 2019

Parkland survivors will mark the 1-year anniversary of the shooting with 'a day of service and love'

All of Parkland –– parents, students, staff and surrounding residents touched by the tragedy –– is coming together this week to make sure their fallen Eagles aren't forgotten and that something positive comes from the worst high school shooting in American history.

n an e-mail to parents this week, Principal Ty Thompson, who has presided over the yearlong effort to bring what peace he can to the children in his charge, called for "a day of service and love." "We are encouraging parents to be involved with their child on Feb 14," he wrote. "Whether that is attending an organized service project together off campus, planning your own project that is special to your family, or simply spending some time together that day."

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Associated Press - February 14, 2019

Democrats question pledges in $26.5B T-Mobile-Sprint deal

Democratic lawmakers challenged top executives of T-Mobile and Sprint on Wednesday over their pledge not to raise prices for wireless services or hurt competition if their $26.5 billion merger goes through.

At a hearing by a House committee, the two executives defended the deal, which would combine the nation's third- and fourth-largest wireless companies and create a behemoth about the size of industry giants Verizon and AT&T.

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Newsclips - February 13, 2019

Lead Stories

New York Times - February 12, 2019

Trump says he’s still ‘not happy’ with border deal to prevent another government shutdown

President Trump appeared poised on Tuesday to end two months of scorched-earth confrontation without the money he demanded for a border wall as Republicans pressured him to accept a bipartisan spending deal rather than close the government again on Friday.

Mr. Trump pronounced himself unsatisfied with the agreement brokered by House and Senate negotiators, and he refused to commit to signing it. But he all but ruled out another government shutdown and emphasized that he would find “other methods” to finance a border barrier, leading aides and allies to predict he would grudgingly go along with the deal. “Am I happy at first glance?” the president said, speaking with reporters at the beginning of a cabinet meeting. “I just got to see it. The answer is no, I’m not. I’m not happy.”

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San Antonio Express-News - February 13, 2019

Republican makes run-off for safe Democratic San Antonio statehouse seat

Republican Fred Rangel and Democrat Ray Lopez emerged Tuesday night from a crowded field of five candidates vying to become San Antonio’s new state representative, with Rangel leveraging consolidated GOP support for a strong first-place finish in a traditionally blue district.

No candidate received a majority of the vote in the special election, meaning business owner Rangel and former city councilman Lopez are headed to a runoff election to determine who gets to represent District 125, which covers a swath of the West and Northwest Sides from Zarzamora Street to the Loop 1604. Lopez narrowly beat out third-place finisher Coda Rayo-Garza, a school coordinator for San Antonio Independent School District, for the second spot in the runoff by 22 votes, 1,186 to 1,164. That election will be called by Gov. Greg Abbott and will take place in late February or March.

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Axios - February 13, 2019

Inside "The Beast" before Trump's El Paso rally, Agriculture Commissioner Miller said El Paso underreports crime stats

In El Paso on Monday night, Texas Agriculture Commissioner Sid Miller rode with President Trump in "The Beast," the president's heavily armored Cadillac. Miller says Trump was "upset" that the city’s Republican mayor, Dee Margo, publicly contradicted him on the success of El Paso’s border wall. Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton and Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick were also on the ride from Air Force One to the rally.

According to Miller, he told Trump to shake it off, because "they [the city of El Paso] pad the books," suggesting that the city underreports crime rates. (Axios has found no evidence of that.) Trump replied: "You mean like fake news?" Miller said: "Yeah! It was the first fake news." Trump: "Can I say that [at the rally]?" Miller: "Yeah!" The lieutenant governor then chimed in: "No, no. You probably shouldn't." Trump didn't.

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Dallas Morning News - February 12, 2019

Will Senate Democrats end up backing — or send packing — Texas' embattled elections chief?

David Whitley is in damage control mode. Gov. Greg Abbott’s choice for secretary of state, battered from the fallout over his office’s controversial voter fraud inquiry, needs the support of Senate Democrats to be confirmed. But it’s unclear whether they will wield their power to deny him.

The Dallas Morning News reached out to the 12 Democrats in the Texas Senate. Just three publicly opposed Whitley. Most refused to comment. And several others said they need more time, as Whitley sits down this week with key members in an effort to smooth things over. "I would prefer not to make any statement until he is finished with his meetings," Sen. José Rodríguez, head of the Senate’s Democratic caucus, said Tuesday.

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State Stories

Houston Chronicle - February 13, 2019

Lawmakers push back on higher education funding requests

State lawmakers on Tuesday challenged several proposals offered by the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board and expressed concerns about the rising costs of higher education, during a Senate Finance Committee hearing. The committee also heard budget requests from universities throughout the state.

The higher education board requested roughly $118 million for education initiatives, including improving the transferability of college courses throughout the state, the development of an open educational resource repository that could combat rising costs of textbooks and $112.6 million toward the Texas Grant program, the largest grant program in the state. The board’s requests are a part of its goal to equip 60 percent of adults between the ages 25 and 34 with a post-secondary degree or certificate by 2030 and to make college education easier to obtain and affordable for all students.

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Houston Chronicle - February 12, 2019

Houston federal judge bars female prosecutor from trial, sparking stand-off with U.S. attorney’s office

A federal judge banished a female prosecutor from his Houston courtroom last month, sparking a rare standoff between the new U.S. Attorney and a jurist with a history of sniping at lawyers, government officials and litigants.

U.S. District Judge Lynn N. Hughes, a 77-year-old appointed by President Ronald Reagan, has been criticized in the past for making comments perceived as racist or sexist in court. U.S. Attorney Ryan K. Patrick argued that in twice ejecting the prosecutor before a trial, the judge exceeded his authority by attempting to rule on who can prosecute a case in his court. Hughes told Patrick that the prosecutor — who was involved in a previous case where the judge made controversial remarks — lacked ability and integrity, records show.

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Houston Chronicle - February 12, 2019

Texas Republicans wary of border deal to avert government shutdown

A tentative deal to avert a government shutdown without most of the money President Donald Trump sought to build a wall on the U.S.-Mexico border left many Texas Republicans in Congress stone-faced on Tuesday.

The agreement drew fierce opposition from conservative groups and right-wing pundits, as well as a decidedly negative reaction from Trump. "I'm not happy about it," he said flatly. "It's not doing the trick." But Trump appeared to back off talk of another government shutdown, which remains a possibility at midnight Friday unless the White House and Congress bridge their differences over immigration and wall funding in a 2019 funding deal.

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Houston Chronicle - February 12, 2019

Investigation of CPS worker fired for falsification raises questions about agency records integrity

A Child Protective Services supervisor was terminated last month for allegedly falsifying government documents. It's not clear if the ex-employee could face criminal charges, but experts say the incident raises broader concerns about the reliability of an electronic records system that courts rely on to make decisions about whether to remove children from their families.

The fired supervisor was accused of altering case records and signing off on the changes as if they'd been made by a CPS investigator who reported to her. "It seems to me like it's an admission of a huge flaw in their system, that that is even possible," said former Juvenile Judge Mike Schneider. "Can we ever tell how often this has happened in the past?" The agency, which is a part of the Department of Family and Protective Services, did not offer comment.

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Dallas Morning News - February 13, 2019

Ted Cruz revives call to build border wall with El Chapo's drug money

With Tuesday's conviction of Joaquin "El Chapo" Guzman in New York City, Sen. Ted Cruz is once again seeking support for a bill that would make the drug kingpin pay for a border wall.

"America's justice system prevailed today in convicting Joaquín Guzmán Loera, aka El Chapo, on all 10 counts," the Texas Republican wrote in a Twitter post. "It's time to pass my EL CHAPO Act. I urge my Senate colleagues to take swift action on this crucial legislation." Guzman was found guilty on charges including narcotics trafficking and taking part in a money laundering conspiracy, The Hill reported.

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Dallas Morning News - February 12, 2019

Is another voting-rights lawsuit against Texas school district a sign of more to come?

Another Dallas-area school district has been sued in federal court over allegations that it is making it hard for residents of color to get elected, adversely affecting the education of minority and low-income children.

The lawsuit, which was filed Tuesday, alleges that all seven Lewisville board members come from affluent, predominantly white neighborhoods because trustees are elected at-large rather than from single-member districts. As a result, the board fails students of color and those struggling financially because those children are receive a "second-rate" education compared to their peers, particularly in elementary schools, the suit says. The lowest performing schools are those mostly serving poor, Hispanic children, while high performing schools are in the white, more affluent neighborhoods where trustees live.

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Dallas Morning News - February 12, 2019

Dallas to Amazon: We still have an impressive site for you, or another company

Maybe Dallas didn't score one of Amazon's new headquarters, but developers, architects and economic development officials say the city gained a road map for how downtown Dallas can develop. And, with arms wide open, they're closely watching New York City's sometimes unwelcoming reception in case Amazon changes its mind.

"We never hung up the phone with Amazon," said Mike Rosa, senior vice president of the Dallas Regional Chamber, referring to the most recent announcement of an Amazon air hub at Fort Worth Alliance Airport and a fulfillment center in West Dallas, its eighth in Dallas-Fort Worth. Recent reports suggest the technology and retailing giant, which employs more than 11,000 people in D-FW, may be having doubts about New York City following heated political battles over incentives, union requests and displacement of residents.

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Austin American-Statesman - February 12, 2019

AAS Editorial: Whitley is not the right fit for Texas secretary of state

In just two short months on the job, Secretary of State David Whitley has raised serious doubts about his fitness for office with a bungled attempt to identify noncitizens on Texas voter rolls. The effort, which erroneously pulled in the names of at least 20,000 legitimate voters, sparked three legal challenges and recklessly stoked fears about an illegal voting phenomenon that experts say is very rare. All of that was bad enough.

But it was Whitley’s testimony last week before the Senate Nominations Committee — where he failed to recognize his errors in the voter roll debacle or properly acknowledge the state’s troubled history with minority voters — that made it clear Whitley is not equipped to serve as Texas’ chief elections officer. The Senate should not confirm Whitley to the post. The delay in a committee vote this week is a good start.

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Austin American-Statesman - February 12, 2019

Abbott backs bill to prevent local governments from regulating sick leave, other benefits

It should be up to Texas employers — and not local politicians — to decide what benefits they offer their workers, Gov. Greg Abbott said Tuesday in a speech to an association of small business owners.

Having a city or county government create local regulations for employee benefits creates “a patchwork quilt of regulations” that drive up the cost of doing business, Abbott told members of the National Federation of Independent Business. The governor said he will back the Consistent Employment Regulations Act — a measure filed Tuesday by Sen. Brandon Creighton, R-Conroe, and Rep. Craig Goldman, R-Fort Worth — that would ban local governments from regulating employee benefits.

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Austin American-Statesman - February 12, 2019

Did Trump jump-start a Beto O’Rourke campaign for president?

Ostensibly, President Donald Trump came to the El Paso County Coliseum on Monday night to rally support for building a wall, or fence, like that what separates El Paso from Ciudad Juárez along a longer stretch of the U.S.-Mexico border. But it was readily apparent throughout Trump’s stemwinder that he also came in hopes of burying former U.S. Rep. Beto O’Rourke’s potential presidential campaign before it has a chance to get off the ground.

If so, that strategy appears to have backfired. O’Rourke, who has been out of the national political spotlight since his close-call loss to U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, suddenly was sharing a split screen in national coverage with the president. O’Rourke, speaking at an outdoor counterrally a few hundred yards away, was retesting his hopeful message that resonated with Texas voters three months ago, while Trump was belittling O’Rourke.

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Texas Observer - February 13, 2019

Texas butterfly sanctuary files emergency restraining order to stop Trump's border wall construction

Attorneys for the National Butterfly Center have asked a federal judge to block the Trump administration from building a border wall at the refuge or using the center’s property as a pass-through to build elsewhere.

The motion alleges that federal agents and contractors have been driving without permission through the Rio Grande Valley refuge’s property to access nearby federal land for the last week, and that they even replaced one of the butterfly center’s gate locks. The Trump administration plans to break ground on a 6-mile stretch of border wall as soon as this week, starting with a federal wildlife refuge tract just upriver from the privately-owned butterfly center.

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Star-Telegram - February 13, 2019

Kay Granger says border deal fulfills Trump’s wall promise

While President Donald Trump was rallying support for his border wall in El Paso on Monday night, Texas Republican Kay Granger was busy delivering it. Granger told the Star-Telegram that Republicans and Democrats have reached an agreement she said will give the president his wall, and keep the government from once again entering a partial shutdown at the end of the week.

“We have agreements on the most important issues,” Granger said after emerging from a meeting with top House and Senate appropriators late Monday evening. “This has been a difficult one because the issue is so important.” Granger and other lawmakers working on the deal to fund the Department of Homeland Security provided no details about how many miles of fencing or how much money for physical barriers would be included in their plan. They’re optimistic, however, that it can garner enough support from lawmakers in both parties to pass a Republican-controlled Senate and a Democrat-controlled House.

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FOX 26 - February 12, 2019

Newly-elected judge dies from cancer weeks after sworn in

One of the 19 judges known for the "Black Girl Magic" campaign has died of pancreatic cancer. Judge Cassandra Hollemon passed away just weeks after being sworn in.

Judge Hollemon took her last breath surrounded by family at around 1 a.m. Monday at Ben Taub Hospital. Her loved ones say one minute, she was absolutely enjoying a dream come true and the next, she is gone. “Once she found it (the cancer), it took her and it just progressed," adds Brandon. "There was no time. It was very aggressive. Cancer sucks.”

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News 4 SA - February 12, 2019

Former State Senator Carlos Uresti speaks about sentencing

Former State Senator Carlos Uresti has been sentenced to five years after pleading guilty to bribery. The sentence will run concurrent with a 12-year sentence for a separate case involving money laundering and fraud. Uresti told Judge David Ezra during his sentencing hearing Tuesday that his heart is of full of regret and he is looking forward to the next chapter on his life.

As part of a plea deal, Uresti got five years for allegedly bribing a judge in Reeves County. He’ll also have to pay back $876,000 in restitution to Reeves County. Uresti has already been sentenced to 12 years in federal prison for his role in the Four Winds Ponzi scheme. For the past year, he’s been out on bond. “I understand that this is been a very difficult chapter in my chapter in my life but I have learned from it and I vowed never to make those same mistakes again,” Uresti said after the hearing.

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County Stories

Austin American-Statesman - February 11, 2019

Judge calls bond releases right-minded, her critics deem them too risky

In a span of about two days in October, Austin police say a man wounded two people in separate downtown shootings, unloaded nine rounds from a .40-caliber handgun at an occupied pickup, and threatened to fatally shoot his ex-girlfriend after he slapped her in the head while he was holding their child.

Shortly after, Dominic Salinas, then 21, walked away from jail on a personal bond granted by a Travis County judge who for years has irked her judicial peers for approving pretrial jail release to defendants charged with serious crimes. Justice of the Peace Yvonne Williams, who signed off on $100,000 bonds for Salinas on each of his two counts of deadly conduct, has long been the go-to jurist for a small number of defense lawyers trying to get their clients out of jail against the recommendation of the county’s risk assessment calculation.

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City Stories

Austin American-Statesman - February 12, 2019

All four suspects in gay couple’s beating now in custody, police say

Three weeks after the beating of a gay couple in downtown Austin that’s being investigated as a hate crime, authorities have arrested four men they believe were behind the attack.

The first suspect in the Jan. 19 attack, 22-year-old Frank Macias, was booked on two counts of aggravated assault with bodily injury, a second-degree felony punishable by two to 20 years in prison. He was in jail Tuesday with bail set at a combined $300,000, online records show. Macias also was being held for an out-of-county felony and three misdemeanors. Authorities also arrested Quinn O’Connor on Tuesday, and took Miguel Macias and Kolby Monell into custody later in the day. All three are facing the same charges as Macias.

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Dallas Morning News - February 11, 2019

Ex-Richardson mayor goes on trial in steamy bribery case

Laura Maczka’s position on new apartments near Richardson neighborhoods was clear during her successful run for mayor - we don’t need them, “period.” Then she met an apartment developer.

Mark Jordan was younger, handsome and rich, federal prosecutors say. They had an affair. He lavished her with gifts and trips, according to prosecutors. In exchange, she voted for zoning changes for his controversial Palisades mixed-use project along Central Expressway, which neighbors fiercely opposed due to its numerous apartments, her indictment says.

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Austin American-Statesman - February 11, 2019

Petition challenging city’s deal for MLS stadium validated

A petition that challenges the city of Austin’s finalized deal for a Major League Soccer stadium has been validated. The certification of the petition means that Austinites could head to the polls later this year to decide whether stadium deals that involve city-owned land should face a vote.

The petition ordinance was written in the wake of the city’s deal with Austin FC owner Anthony Precourt, who plans to privately finance the construction of a $225 million, 20,000-seat MLS stadium on the city-owned McKalla Place tract in North Austin. Precourt is set to break ground on the stadium, which would be near the Domain shopping district, later this year.

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National Stories

New York Times - February 12, 2019

The government shutdown made the I.R.S. even more frustrating

The longest government shutdown in United States history resulted in a “shocking” number of taxpayers’ calls to the Internal Revenue Service going unreturned or being left to languish on hold for unusually long periods, according to a government audit released on Tuesday.

The audit, by the office of the National Taxpayer Advocate, found that over five million pieces of mail went unanswered and 87,000 amended tax returns were not processed during the shutdown, when thousands of I.R.S. workers were furloughed or working without pay. The issues were especially acute since they followed significant changes to the tax code — ushered in by President Trump’s $1.5 trillion tax overhaul — that left many people with questions about filing their returns.

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New York Times - February 12, 2019

The biggest economic divides aren’t regional. They’re local. (Just ask parents.)

Regional inequality is often cited to explain just about every challenge the United States faces: political conflict, joblessness, drug overdoses, even the decline of marriage.

Conventional wisdom holds that regions are diverging economically in drastic fashion, and many are raising alarms that fewer people are moving from small towns to prosperous cities. Research confirms that workers are in fact more productive in densely populated metropolitan areas. But it’s a mistake to think that regional divides are the source of the nation’s core economic problems.

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Wall Street Journal - February 13, 2019

Bank mergers get faster under Trump

Bank mergers are getting speedier under President Trump, with federal regulators changing policies that had deterred deals after the financial crisis. That stance could potentially help fuel more consolidation, though it has also raised concerns that regulators aren’t scrutinizing mergers closely enough.

Last week, BB&T Corp. and SunTrust Banks Inc. announced plans for a $28.2 billion all-stock deal that, if completed, would be the biggest bank merger since the crisis. The number of bank mergers approved hasn’t changed significantly in the past two years. But the process for getting a deal across the finish line has gotten quicker and community groups appear to have less input. Banks say lengthy reviews by agencies including the Federal Reserve and Office of the Comptroller of the Currency can create hurdles for mergers that involve stock transactions. If a review takes too long, market movements risk making the deal less beneficial for one of the parties.

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Wall Street Journal - February 13, 2019

Iran rift hurts US effort to build consensus on Mideast policy

Divisions over Iran are hindering the Trump administration’s efforts to build consensus with NATO allies on Middle East policy, with European powers balking at joining top U.S. officials in Poland’s capital for an event on regional security.

Washington has made isolating Tehran a focus of its foreign policy. Its major North Atlantic Treaty Organization allies, including Britain, Germany and France, seek to preserve ties with Tehran and salvage the 2015 multilateral nuclear accord from which the U.S. withdrew last year, before reimposing sanctions. Now, this divide over Iran is on public display as officials from some 60 countries gather in for Warsaw for the two-day Middle East conference.

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Politico - February 13, 2019

Michael Bloomberg’s $500 million anti-Trump moonshot

Billionaire philanthropist Michael Bloomberg is preparing to spend at least $500 million from his own pocket to deny President Trump a second term, according to Democratic operatives briefed on his plans.

Bloomberg has not yet announced whether he will run in the Democratic primary. If he runs, he will use that half-billion-dollar stake — roughly $175 million more than the Trump campaign spent over the course of the entire 2016 election cycle — to fuel his campaign through the 2020 primary season, with the expectation that the sum represents a floor, not a ceiling, on his potential spending.

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Politico - February 13, 2019

Schumer recruits famed fighter pilot to challenge McConnell in 2020

Chuck Schumer is actively recruiting a high-profile fighter pilot to take on Mitch McConnell in 2020 — a calculated act of aggression against a leading Republican foe.

Schumer met with Amy McGrath, a Marine veteran-turned 2018 congressional candidate, at Democratic Party headquarters last month to pitch her on running against McConnell. McGrath listened and didn’t rule it out. The Democratic leader first contacted McGrath in December. McConnell, the longest-serving Senate GOP leader, is gearing up for a reelection fight and leaving little to chance. His political team has begun compiling opposition research on McGrath and delving into tracking footage of her. On Wednesday, senior Republican Party officials involved with a pro-McConnell super PAC will meet in Washington to begin mapping out a potential campaign against McGrath.

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Politico - February 12, 2019

El Paso Fire Department denies Trump's crowd claim at rally

The El Paso Fire Department late Monday denied President Donald Trump's claim that officials gave him special permission to pack more people in to his rally than the facility allowed. During his rally at the El Paso County Coliseum, Trump touted his base supporters, saying "there has never been anything like this in the history of our country."

"If you would say, as an example, that tonight 69,000 people signed up to be here," he said. "Now the arena holds 8,000. And thank you, Fire Department. They got in about 10,000. Thank you, Fire Department. Appreciate it." The El Paso Fire Department said Trump's statement was untrue.

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Associated Press - February 12, 2019

Notorious drug lord Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman convicted

Mexico’s most notorious drug lord, Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman, was convicted Tuesday of running an industrial-scale smuggling operation after a three-month trial packed with Hollywood-style tales of grisly killings, political payoffs, cocaine hidden in jalapeno cans, jewel-encrusted guns and a naked escape with his mistress through a tunnel.

Guzman listened to a drumbeat of guilty verdicts on drug and conspiracy charges that could put the 61-year-old escape artist behind bars for decades in a maximum-security U.S. prison selected to thwart another one of the breakouts that made him a folk hero in his native country.

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Associated Press - February 12, 2019

Ex-astronaut Mark Kelly makes Democratic bid for Senate seat

Retired astronaut Mark Kelly, who became a prominent gun-control advocate after his wife and former U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords was shot in a failed assassination attempt, announced Tuesday he will run to finish John McCain’s last term in the U.S. Senate.

If he wins the Democratic nomination, Kelly would take on Republican Martha McSally in what is expected to be one of the most closely contested Senate races of the 2020 election. Kelly described himself as an independent-minded centrist who will take a scientist’s data-driven approach to solving problems such as climate change, wage stagnation and health care affordability.

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Washington Post - February 12, 2019

Ilhan Omar and Steve King reacted to criticism very differently. Why that matters.

Recently, two high-profile lawmakers faced harsh rebuke for discriminatory comments. Their responses to the public, and to party leadership, were radically different — and very revealing.

As Politico Playbook put it: Pelosi, Hoyer and Clyburn rebuked Omar, and she apologized. When Republicans rebuked Rep. Steve King (R-IA), he railed against them. On Sunday, Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) responded to criticism of her position on Israel by tweeting, “it’s all about the Benjamins, baby.” In subsequent comments, Omar said she believes the American Israel Public Affairs Committee is paying lawmakers to be pro-Israel.

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CNN - February 12, 2019

US commander warns of 'little to no verifiable change' in North Korea's military capabilities

The top US commander on the Korean Peninsula told Senate lawmakers Tuesday that "despite a reduction" in tensions with North Korea, there has been "little to no verifiable change" in the country's military capabilities since President Donald Trump's first summit with Kim Jong Un last summer.

"I remain clear-eyed about the fact that, despite a reduction in tensions along the DMZ and a cessation of strategic provocations coupled with public statements of intent to denuclearize, little to no verifiable change has occurred in North Korea's military capabilities," Gen. Robert Abrams, commander of US Forces Korea, said during a hearing of the Senate Armed Services Committee.

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Axios - February 13, 2019

Fake news fight pivots to retail

The National Enquirer is sparking a media crossover, with activists pushing to persuade stores to stop carrying tabloids in light of recent scandals around the publication.

So much of the attention on fake and malignant news has been on the platforms — Google, Facebook and Twitter. But a major chunk of the questionable media consumed in America is still seen in print, often in the checkout aisle. "Unlike most magazines, the National Enquirer is heavily dependent on sales of individual copies, not subscriptions. Seventy-five percent of sales come through single-copy sales at chain stores," Popular Information's Judd Legum notes.

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The Hill - February 13, 2019

Hannity not 'as concerned as some other conservatives' if Trump signs border deal

Fox News host Sean Hannity on Tuesday night blasted a bipartisan border security agreement as "pathetic," but said he's not that concerned about the prospect of President Trump signing it.

Hannity explained on his eponymous show that he does not share the same level of concern as some other conservatives about the deal because he believes Trump could secure money for a wall along the southern border through other means, including by declaring a national emergency. "It would be perfectly reasonable for President Trump to reject this bill," Hannity said. "Now there's another solution, maybe even a better solution. I’m not as concerned as some other conservatives if the president signs the bill. But there's a couple of ifs."

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Newsclips - February 12, 2019

Lead Stories

Washington Post - February 12, 2019

Lawmakers say they have reached an ‘agreement in principle’ to avoid government shutdown

Key lawmakers announced a tentative deal late Monday that would avert another government shutdown at the end of the week while denying President Trump much of the money he’s sought to build new walls along the U.S.-Mexico border.

The agreement came together during intense hours of closed-door negotiations at the Capitol, as lawmakers resurrected talks that had fallen apart over the weekend in a dispute over new Democratic demands to limit immigrant detention. Democrats ultimately dropped some of those demands, which had come under fire from Republicans, clearing the way for a deal. Hurdles remained, and Trump’s ultimate backing was in doubt after quick opposition emerged from conservatives.

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Dallas Morning News - February 11, 2019

Local government would lose, taxpayers keep $900 million as Texas property tax cap bill advances

A bill that would cap property taxes and shrink local government budgets by an estimated $900 million passed its first hurdle Monday and heads to the Senate for a full vote of its members.

That $900 million reduction for local operating budgets in 2021-- which was estimated by the Legislative Budget Board -- is money that property owners would keep in taxes they otherwise would pay if the bill does not pass. The savings won't make property tax bills smaller for individuals, but it would likely slow how rapidly they increase.

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Dallas Morning News - February 12, 2019

Trump defiantly takes his wall message to predominantly Democrat El Paso

President Donald Trump came out swinging Monday evening as he launched his 2020 re-election campaign in the unlikeliest of places — on the border — using his ephemeral wall to hone his message that America cannot be safe until it seals itself off from Mexico.

As lawmakers in Washington reportedly agreed on a deal to avoid another government shutdown by offering up about $1.3 billion in new border security funding, Trump claimed he didn't know enough about the agreement to say much beyond, "We're building the wall anyway." "The wall is being built," Trump insisted to a crowd of thousands who attended his rally. "It's growing at a rapid pace." He added, "We proudly welcome those who come legally," saying that "illegal immigration hurts everybody."

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Austin American-Statesman - February 11, 2019

No vote this week on David Whitley nomination

In a change of plans, the state Senate Nominations Committee will not vote on the confirmation of Texas Secretary of State David Whitley during Thursday’s meeting, the panel’s chairwoman said Monday. No reason for the delay was given by the committee’s leader, Sen. Dawn Buckingham, R-Lakeway.

“It is at the chair’s discretion, but at this time we do not anticipate calling Mr. Whitley for a vote at our next meeting,” Buckingham said in a written statement. At Whitley’s confirmation hearing last week, Democrats on the committee repeatedly challenged his handling of an ongoing investigation into the citizenship status of tens of thousands of registered voters — many of whom have been found to be U.S. citizens. Buckingham had closed the hearing by announcing that she will “be asking for a vote” at the committee’s next hearing Thursday.

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Texas Tribune - February 11, 2019

James Henson and Joshua Blank: Mandate or machinations? Unpacking efforts to set the legislative agenda

The prevailing narrative among legislators and the political class in Austin since November holds that the 2018 elections sent a clear signal to abandon red meat politics and start steaming those vegetables that the people really want, which has been taken to mean doing something to fix the school finance system and reduce Texans’ property taxes.

While that narrative has a surface plausibility, it doesn’t hold up well to scrutiny as an explanation for the projected consensus. This consensus seems much more established among the top political leadership than it does either in public opinion or the legislative bodies who will have to vote on the property tax bills. Set aside the hand-waving and vague muttering that “elections have consequences,” and the evidence for a public mandate is pretty thin.

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State Stories

Houston Chronicle - February 11, 2019

Texas crude oil production breaks 1970s record

Crude oil production in Texas has beaten a previous record set in the 1970s, a new report from the Texas Independent Producers Royalty Owners Association stated.

Texas oil wells produced more than 1.54 billion barrels of crude in 2018, beating the previous record of 1.28 billion barrels set in 1973, TIPRO reported in its annual "State of Energy Report" early Monday morning. Natural gas production also grew, reaching 8.8 trillion cubic feet in 2018, the report stated.

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Houston Chronicle - February 11, 2019

Bills would require photos of food stamp recipients on Texas EBT cards

Texas lawmakers are targeting fraud involving the state’s food stamp program with two bills that would require photographs of the recipients on their government-issued cards.

Both House Bill 1250, filed by Beaumont Republican Rep. Dade Phelan, and Senate Bill 671, filed by Conroe Republican Sen. Brandon Creighton, would add the photo and name of Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program recipients to their Lone Star Cards and place a greater emphasis on reporting instances of food stamp fraud. Also referred to as EBT cards –– short for electronic benefit transfer — operate much like debit cards at the checkout stand, and are refilled by the state on a monthly basis.

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Houston Chronicle - February 11, 2019

At Rice, a tweet-storm sets off discussion of the university's racist past

Given the blackface scandal in Virginia, Rice student Charlie Paul wondered what he might find if he looked at his own university's yearbooks. On Wednesday, he began tweeting his finds: Racist cartoons; photos of students performing in blackface; an otherwise flattering photo of an actual African-American captioned with the n-word.

And, maybe most shocking to modern eyes, a photo from the 1922 yearbook: "The Klu Klux Klan of Rice Institute" showed about 20 people, faces hidden, in white robes and hoods. Paul's tweet-stream took off, sparking conversations across the internet — and, most particularly, at Rice. On Sunday, Rice President David Leebron emailed a letter to the "Rice community."

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Houston Chronicle - February 12, 2019

Houston researchers discover immunotherapy can help fight aggressive brain cancer

Patients with the aggressive glioblastoma brain cancer lived longer if they were treated with immunotherapy before surgery, according to researchers.

In a small study posted online Monday, patients lived nearly twice as long as the average expectancy for those with glioblastoma if they were given the drug that unleash a brake on the immune system. Previous research involved giving the drugs after surgery “This is an important first step toward using immunotherapy to benefit patients,” said Robert Prins, the study’s senior author and a tumor immunologist at UCLA, which led the multi-institutional, randomized study.

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Houston Chronicle - February 12, 2019

Newly elected Harris County misdemeanor judge –– one of the Black Girl Magic –– dead at 57

Cassandra Hollemon took the bench in a sweep of Black Girl Magic, becoming part of the historic moment when 17 African-American women in Harris County won spots overseeing some of the busiest courtrooms in Texas.

In the weeks since taking over Harris County Criminal Court of Law 12, Hollemon helped make a mark on local justice reform when she joined her colleagues in efforts to settle the landmark lawsuit over the county's cash bail system. She served on the Community Supervision and Pretrial Services Committee, and offered a keen sense of humor with friends and colleagues. On Monday, she died after weeks of struggling with "health issues," according to fellow misdemeanor Judge Darrell Jordan. She was 57.

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Houston Chronicle - February 12, 2019

Former Houston businessman sentenced for illegally funded congressional trip

Kemal Oksuz, a former Houston-based businessman convicted of lying to Congress about Azerbaijan's role in a funding a trip for 10 lawmakers – including four from Texas – walked out of a federal courthouse Monday a free man.

Oksuz, 49, was credited with three months he spent in an Armenian jail last year, plus another week that he was detained upon his return to the U.S. last November. He also will serve two years of probation and pay a $20,000 fine. The Justice Department, arguing that Oksuz's deception undermined bedrock American political institutions, had sought a one-year prison sentence, the maximum possible under federal sentencing guidelines.

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Austin American-Statesman - February 12, 2019

Bill aims to take ‘marihuana’ out of Texas statutes

If one thing is beyond debate about the strict “marihuana” prohibitions in Texas, it’s that the word is misspelled dozens of times in decades-old state statutes. Leave it to a former Spanish teacher to do some retroactive copy-editing.

“I wanted to get a pen and write over it,” freshman state Rep. Terry Meza, D-Irving, said of her reaction when she first noticed the h-instead-of-j spelling of marijuana repeated throughout state law books. Instead, she has introduced House Bill 1196, which would replace all the phonetic “marihuana” references with the plant’s scientific name: “cannabis.”

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Dallas Morning News - February 11, 2019

Beto O'Rourke leads counter-rally to Trump's El Paso visit, attendees urge him to run for president

Beto O'Rourke on Monday led a march and rally attended by thousands that pushed back against President Donald Trump's contention that El Paso was a dangerous city and a border wall was needed to protect it –– and the nation.

"We know that walls do not save lives, walls end lives," O'Rourke said, alluding to the suffering and death that asylum seekers from other countries have faced. "We stand for the best traditions and the values of this country ... for who we are when we're at our best, and that's El Paso, Texas." O'Rourke, the city's favorite son, was warmly received by a crowd of thousands chanting "Beto, Beto, Beto," urging him to run for president. "I'm so proud of this community at this defining moment of truth," he said.

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Washington Post - February 12, 2019

'No crisis exists': El Paso officials tell Trump to stop falsehoods about their border city

Officials in El Paso, Texas, rebuked President Donald Trump before his visit to the border city on Monday night, assailing the president for falsely crediting the city's safety to the border fence that was built there 10 years ago.

In a news conference Monday afternoon, Rep. Veronica Escobar, a Democrat who represents the city in Congress; El Paso County Judge Ricardo Samaniego; District Attorney Jaime Esparza; and Commissioner Carlos Leon said Trump's statements threatened to damage the town's reputation.

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Breitbart - February 10, 2019

Texas lawmakers propose state funding for wall on border

Two Texas statehouse members will soon introduce legislation funding President Donald Trump’s planned border wall along the U.S. border with Mexico — specifically the Texas border — Breitbart News has learned.

State Reps. Kyle Biedermann and Briscoe Cain intend to introduce legislation soon that would fund $2.5 billion of wall construction along the Texas border with Mexico, appropriating it from the economic stabilization fund for the state fiscal year ending August 31, 2019. The funds would be used, Biedermann tells Breitbart News, “to design, test, construct, and install physical barriers, roads, and technology along the international land border between the State of Texas and Mexico to prevent illegal crossings in all areas.”

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Texas Standard - February 11, 2019

Report details statewide proposal to help children who survive trauma get services they need

A new report outlines a statewide plan to ensure kids and families who have experienced trauma get the services they need when they interact with the child welfare system. The Texas Supreme Court’s Children’s Commission released its findings last Friday.

Travis County District Judge Darlene Byrne is part of the 100-member group that worked on this report, titled “Building a Trauma-Informed Child Welfare System: A Blueprint,” for the last year-and-a-half. She explains that one of the first steps that needs to be taken is a shift in how we understand and talk about trauma.

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San Antonio Express-News - February 12, 2019

Former Sen. Carlos Uresti’s sentencing in West Texas bribery case set for today

The nearly two-year saga in the criminal proceedings of state-senator-turned-felon Carlos Uresti reaches its final act today. Uresti, 55, is set to be sentenced for his guilty plea to conspiring with others to pay and accept bribes to secure a West Texas correctional medical-services contract for a company run by a Lubbock businessman.

The longtime Democratic politician is facing a maximum of five years in prison. Uresti’s political and legal career unraveled after a federal jury nearly a year ago convicted him on 11 felony charges, including wire fraud, securities fraud and conspiracy to commit money laundering for his roles at FourWinds Logistics, an oil field services firm. He served as the company’s outside legal counsel, was a 1 percent owner and recruited investors.

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City Stories

San Antonio Express-News - February 11, 2019

Light rail for San Antonio? Even longtime backers have given up

Just before Christmas last year, the non-profit transportation study group, ConnectSA, unwrapped a glossy 25-page, 4,000-word report that proposed several new transportation options for the nation’s 7th largest city over the next three decades.

It promoted bus rapid transit, or BRT — essentially more frequent buses running in dedicated curbed lanes, often at intervals under 10 minutes. It recommended rubber-wheeled, trackless trams. It mentioned e-scooters, of course. It called for better sidewalks, more bike paths and HOV lanes, and nodded toward the not-quite-defined but sure-to-come world of driverless vehicles.

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Star-Telegram - February 12, 2019

Why Fort Worth (probably) can’t have a TEXRail system as large as Dallas’ DART trains

The popularity of Fort Worth’s new TEXRail commuter train system has prompted many residents to call for a comprehensive commuter rail system that takes people to more corners of Tarrant County.

Some North Texans point to Dallas’s extensive DART light-rail system, and wonder why Fort Worth can’t have something like that. The answer isn’t just about money. True, Fort Worth’s Trinity Metro transit system operates on a much smaller budget because only a half-cent sales taxes is collected for transit in the Fort Worth area, compared to a full 1 penny sales tax in the Dallas area.

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National Stories

Wall Street Journal - February 11, 2019

GOP launches attacks on Democrats over ‘Green New Deal’

Republicans have seized on the “Green New Deal” in an effort to paint Democrats as extreme and out of touch on energy policy, attacking the proposal and launching advertisements tying swing-district Democrats to the idea.

Unveiled last week by Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) and Sen. Ed Markey (D-MA), the Green New Deal aims to slow climate change by ending the reliance of the U.S. economy on fossil fuels within 10 years. It is a statement of goals and doesn’t make specific policy proposals, nor does it specify how it would finance the enormous public investment it would require.

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Wall Street Journal - February 12, 2019

A year after Parkland: Making sure to day, ‘I love you’ at morning drop-off

The horror of the shooting here nearly a year ago that left 17 people dead crosses Ina Berlingeri-Vincenty’s mind every morning when she drops her son Nico off at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School.

Before he gets out of the car, she says, “I make sure I say, ‘I love you.’” Nico was in freshman English class when the rampage began. The gunman spared his classroom, but not the one next door, where his older sister, Amanda, then a senior, was studying Holocaust history. She survived, but saw two of her friends die beside her.

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Reuters - February 12, 2019

Virginia political crisis in stalemate after impeachment threat

The chaos that has swirled around the Virginia statehouse for more than a week showed no signs of waning on Tuesday, one day after a lawmaker backed down from his threat to seek the impeachment of one of three top-ranked Democrats engulfed in scandal.

The decision by Patrick Hope, Democratic member of Virginia’s House of Delegates, not to initiate impeachment proceedings against Lieutenant Governor Justin Fairfax, 39, over accusations of sexual assault has left the next move unclear. Fairfax, once a rising star in the U.S. state’s Democratic party, has resisted all calls to resign following accusations he raped a fellow student at Duke University and forced himself sexually on another at a Boston hotel 14 years ago.

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Reuters - February 12, 2019

We must 'hold our nerve' on Brexit, May to tell MPs

Prime Minister Theresa May will tell British lawmakers on Tuesday they must hold their nerve over Brexit to force the European Union to accept changes to the divorce deal that would pave the way for an orderly exit.

The United Kingdom is on course to leave the European Union on March 29 without a deal unless May can convince the bloc to amend the divorce deal she agreed in November and then sell it to skeptical British lawmakers.

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Washington Post - February 12, 2019

A hedge fund’s ‘mercenary’ strategy: Buy newspapers, slash jobs, sell the buildings

When the building housing the downtown Memphis Commercial Appeal newspaper sold last April, the name of the buyer — Twenty Lake Holdings LLC — seemed of little consequence. The paper would be moving from its longtime home amid declining circulation and a shrinking staff under its owner, Gannett. The old newsroom was little more than an afterthought.

But Twenty Lake Holdings is not just another commercial real estate investor. It is a subsidiary of Alden Global Capital, the New York City hedge fund that backed the purchase of and dramatic cost-cutting at more than 100 newspapers — causing more than 1,000 lost jobs. For Alden and its subsidiary, the Gannett empire’s newspapers are clearly an attractive feature. But by purchasing the Memphis building and others like it, Alden has already begun coming for what it may consider a bigger prize: Gannett’s real estate.

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CNN - February 11, 2019

Democrats forced to confront growing divide over Israel heading into 2020

Democrats are entering the 2020 election cycle with many of their leading presidential contenders increasingly willing to break with a pro-Israel foreign policy orthodoxy that guided the party for a generation.

The new crop of progressive political stars in the House and a base more sympathetic to the Palestinians than ever before helped push a half-dozen White House aspirants to break with the pro-Israel lobby last week on a major bill, even as it passed with support from Minority Leader Chuck Schumer and other high-ranking Democratic officials.

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BuzzFeed - February 11, 2019

A Trump supporter attacked journalists after the president blasted the media at his Texas rally

A man wearing a Make America Great Again hat barreled into the press pit at Trump's rally in El Paso, Texas, Monday night and started shoving reporters, knocking over their equipment, and yelled "f*** the media," minutes after the president had lashed out at journalists.

About half way through his lengthy, campaign-style speech, Trump ridiculed the media for "refusing to acknowledge" his administration's successes, invoking loud boos and jeers from the crowd. "I was trying to tweet and watch the president and all of the sudden the riser started shaking and two tripods in front of me fell on top of one another and then a guy almost fell on me," Yasmine El-Sabawi, a producer with TRT World, a Turkish news channel, told BuzzFeed News.

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USA Today - February 12, 2019

Robert Mueller has spent two years investigating Trump, and he hasn't said a word. It's possible he never will.

Occasionally, his signature appears on court documents. But on the most consequential days of the nearly two-year investigation into Russia’s interference in the 2016 election, the man leading it – Robert Mueller – has been conspicuously absent.

When President Donald Trump's senior aides and confidants paraded through federal courtrooms to face criminal charges his office had filed, the former FBI director was nowhere to be seen. When some of them came back to court to be convicted, he said nothing. It's possible he never will.

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Axios - February 11, 2019

Grading the impact of Trump's China tariffs

New analysis shows that U.S. tariffs on Chinese goods are chipping away at the trade deficit with China. But there are other questions to answer when it comes to whether the tariffs are having their desired effect.

Are they reducing the U.S.-China trade imbalance? Yes. After accounting for frontloading to get out in front of the tariffs early in the year, the rate of tariffed goods exported from China slowed, a new report from the Institute of International Finance shows, and will likely continue to slow without a resolution. China's reciprocal tariffs on U.S. goods are slowing American exporters' sales, too. But because the U.S. imports more from China than it exports there, tariffs should continue to lessen the trade deficit.

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Axios - February 11, 2019

Amid Democratic pressure, Ilhan Omar apologizes for tweets on Israel

Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.) "unequivocally" apologized Monday for her tweets on Israel, which used stereotypes often perceived as anti-Semitic, saying that she is "grateful for Jewish allies and colleagues who are educating [her] on the painful history of anti-Semitic tropes."

Speaker Nancy Pelosi and House Democratic leadership condemned Omar's comments earlier in the day and requested an apology, saying her "use of anti-Semitic tropes and prejudicial accusations about Israel’s supporters is deeply offensive." In a Sunday night tweet, Omar insinuated political support for Israel is based on campaign donations from pro-Israel lobbying groups — specifically AIPAC.

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McClatchy - February 12, 2019

‘Weaker candidate than Hillary’: Democrats cast deep doubt on Biden’s 2020 value

Joe Biden is everything a Democratic political consultant should love: He’s experienced, well-liked, and his poll numbers look great against Donald Trump. And yet many party strategists have a bleak assessment of his potential 2020 campaign: It’s a bad, bad idea.

“This last election cycle, we’ve seen a whole new level of energy that has emerged through a lot of fresh faces, and the party has moved in that direction and wants to hear new ideas and different messages,” said Norm Sterzenbach, a former executive director of the Iowa Democratic Party who now works as a consultant in the state. Added Jim Manley, longtime Democratic operative: “I’m not convinced Biden is the right way to go at this point in time.”

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Gallup Polls - February 11, 2019

Americans' confidence in their finances keeps growing but partisanship plays a role

Americans' optimism about their personal finances has climbed to levels not seen in more than 16 years, with 69 percent now saying they expect to be financially better off "at this time next year."

The 69 percent saying they expect to be better off is only two percentage points below the all-time high of 71%, recorded in March 1998 at a time when the nation's economic boom was producing strong economic growth combined with the lowest inflation and unemployment rates in decades.

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Associated Press - February 12, 2019

California governor rebukes Trump in border troop withdrawal

California Gov. Gavin Newsom said Monday he’s withdrawing most of the state’s National Guard troops on the Mexico border because he won’t participate in the Trump administration’s “absurd theatrics” on border security.

Still, he acknowledged some troops were doing good work fighting drug crime and said he plans to allow 100 of the roughly 360 state troops now deployed to keep working with the federal government. “I’m trying to acknowledge there are some legitimate concerns but I’m not going to play into the hype and the politics,” he told reporters before signing an executive order changing the troops’ mission.

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NPR - February 11, 2019

Denver teachers strike over base pay

Denver schoolteachers are going on strike over how their base pay is calculated. The teachers union and the school district failed to reach an agreement after more than a year of negotiations.

It is the first teachers strike for the city in a quarter-century, and it affects about 71,000 students across 147 schools, Colorado Public Radio reports. Most public schools will remain open, staffed by hundreds of substitute teachers. Early reports indicated that at least 2,100 of the district's more than 5,000 educators honored the walkout.

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Newsclips - February 11, 2019

Lead Stories

KXAN - February 11, 2019

Gov. Greg Abbott, Ted Cruz to join President Trump at El Paso rally

Gov. Greg Abbott and Ted Cruz will attend President Trump's Make America Great Again rally in El Paso set for Monday.

Plans have not been finalized on whether Gov. Abbott will speak or join him on stage. Cruz will also attend. This marks the seventh rally the president has held in Texas and the first in El Paso.

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Associated Press - February 10, 2019

El Paso bristles at Trump’s claim that wall made city safe

People walking over the Paso del Norte Bridge linking this West Texas border city to Mexico can watch President Donald Trump’s border wall getting bigger in real time.

Workers in fluorescent smocks can be seen digging trenches, pouring concrete and erecting rust-colored slabs of 18-foot-high metal to replace layers of barbed wire-topped fencing along the mud-colored Rio Grande, which is usually little more than a trickle. Most of the more than 70,000 people who legally cross four city bridges daily — to shop, go to school and work — pay the construction in the heart of downtown no mind. But on a recent weekday, one man stopped and pointed, saying simply “Trump.”

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Bloomberg - February 8, 2019

Anti-OPEC bill allowing U.S. to sue oil cartel moves forward

Legislation that would allow the U.S. government to sue OPEC for inflating oil prices cleared a key hurdle in the new session of Congress.

The House Judiciary Committee, now led by Democrats, advanced the “No Oil Producing and Exporting Cartels Act" Thursday. That sets the bipartisan "NOPEC" bill, which would subject the cartel to possible antitrust action by the Department of Justice, up for a possible House vote. A similar bill targeting OPEC was introduced in the Senate on Thursday.

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The Hill - February 9, 2019

Trump divides Democrats with warning of creeping socialism

President Trump hadn’t had much success dividing Democrats until he found a word that would provoke very different responses from different members of the party during his State of the Union address: socialism.

Trump’s warning of creeping socialism in the United States, deftly mentioned after a section of the speech on the unfolding political crisis in Venezuela, created an immediate public split among Democrats that was caught on live television. Senate Democratic Leader Charles Schumer (NY) and Sens. Debbie Stabenow (MI), Joe Manchin (WV), Jon Tester (MT) and Sherrod Brown (OH) were among the lawmakers who stood with Republicans to applaud Trump when he pledged that the United States would never slide into socialism.

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State Stories

Dallas Morning News - February 11, 2019

DMN Editorial: From ducky pajamas to port authority, Blake Farenthold is the poster child for toughening state and federal ethics laws

We’re sick and tired of politicians who break the public trust, exploit ethical loopholes and still land on their feet on the taxpayer’s dime. Case in point: former Texas Congressman Blake Farenthold, a poster child for tougher state and federal ethics rules. Out-of-office politicians can too easily profit from their time in office without much accountability.

As you might recall, Farenthold, a Corpus Christi Republican also known for being photographed wearing ducky pajamas next to a lingerie model at a fundraiser several years ago, resigned his House seat last year after using $84,000 in taxpayer funds to settle a sexual harassment suit. Farenthold promised to repay the money but has yet to do so. Then, he became a $160,000 legislative aide for the Calhoun Port Authority, a major public port for chemical manufacturing industries in South Texas.

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Dallas Morning News - February 11, 2019

Mitchell Schnurman: Can’t we all just agree on the data? Tom Luce offers a fresh debate to lift Texas

In the 1980s, Dallas lawyer Tom Luce went to Austin with Ross Perot to help lead the way on groundbreaking education reforms. They included more public school funding and a no-pass, no-play rule that required students to perform in the classroom before performing on the field. Now, as he approaches his 79th birthday, Luce is taking a different tack with an even more ambitious agenda.

He’s formed a public policy group, Texas 2036, to push lawmakers and the public to confront some of the state’s most vexing issues: education, health care, infrastructure, the environment, public safety and government performance. If people understand what the data show –– that Texas’ economic advantages are at risk, that it must create roughly 6 million new jobs by 2036 –– he believes they’ll rally behind a long-term plan to keep the state moving ahead.

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Dallas Morning News - February 11, 2019

Nervous Republicans looking toward 2020 hope Donald Trump's El Paso visit helps, not hurts

President Donald Trump is visiting El Paso on Monday to discuss border security, a trip that could energize or traumatize Texas Republicans. For GOP incumbents and other 2020 candidates, Trump's visit is all about timing. At least it's not happening during general election season.

The 2018 midterm elections were a referendum on Trump and his policies, including his controversial call to build a wall along the nation's southern border. In Texas, two powerful congressional incumbents backed by the president — Pete Sessions of Dallas and John Culberson of Houston — lost re-election contests. And despite his October rally in Houston, Republican incumbent Ted Cruz came within 2.6 percentage points of losing to Democrat Beto O'Rourke, a race that polls showed was firmly in hand before Trump's rally.

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Dallas Morning News - February 11, 2019

Guatemala town's residents weigh playing cat-and-mouse game on U.S. border

President Donald Trump plans to make his case for a barrier again in El Paso on Monday at his first campaign rally of the year.

What's needed, say his critics, including U.S. legislators who visited El Paso Saturday, are more judges, lawyers, resources to move the asylum process along, and more economic investments in Central America to generate jobs for locals and help stop the exodus.

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Houston Chronicle - February 8, 2019

The fastest growing job in Texas is wind turbine technician, data projects

Renewable energy will provide the most job growth for Texans in the next few years, employment projections show. Wind turbine service technicians will be in high demand from now until at least 2026, according to the government-funded Projections Managing Partnership that uses data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Between 2017 and 2019, the number of jobs to service wind turbines will increase 20.1 percent, the data shows. And by 2026, wind turbine service jobs will more than double. Wind and solar energy projects are also expected to be the fastest growing source of new generation over the next two years, according to a previous report by the Energy Department. Wind is projected to grow 12 percent in 2019 and 14 percent in 2020.

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Houston Chronicle - February 8, 2019

Navy veteran challenges fellow Navy veteran Rep. Dan Crenshaw in Houston Congressional District

A naval battle just might be on the horizon in one of Houston’s most competitive Congressional districts. On Thursday Navy veteran and science teacher Elisa Cardnell, a Democrat, filed papers with the Federal Election Commission to challenge newly-elected U.S. Rep. Dan Crenshaw, a Houston Republican who is a former Navy SEAL.

The 32-year-old Cardnell, who holds bachelor’s and master’s degrees from Rice University, spent 5 years on active duty in the Navy and nearly 6 years in the Navy reserves. While on active duty, she rose to the rank of lieutenant, serving as an anti-submarine warfare officer and an officer in charge of port operations in Yorktown.

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San Antonio Express-News - February 10, 2019

SAEN Editorial: State needs to view corrections jobs differently

Money alone will not slow the high turnover among correctional officers in the Texas prison system. While a higher starting wage for these high-stress and dangerous jobs is certainly in order, changes to the work culture within the prison walls, incentives for longevity on the job and extension of the career ladder might bear better results.

Texas, like many other states across the country, has for decades been plagued with a shortage of prison staff. The current attrition rate among the state’s 26,000 guards is 29 percent. Increasing the starting salary of $36,000 would help, but keeping corrections officers in their jobs for any length of time will take different kinds of investment in personnel. Recruitment of prison guards is hard, but retention is even more difficult. It’s the nature of the job. After a short stint on the job, many choose not to stick around, especially when the economy is doing well and the unemployment rate is low.

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San Antonio Express-News - February 10, 2019

Low turnout marks early voting in special election for San Antonio’s Texas House District 125

Voters on the West and Northwest sides of San Antonio will head to the polls Tuesday to pick their next state representative in a special election that will likely see dismally low turnout.

Four Democrats — activist Steve Huerta, former City Councilman Ray Lopez, school coordinator Coda Rayo-Garza, former legislator Art Reyna — and Republican business owner Fred Rangel are vying for Texas House District 125, which spans from Zarzamora Street to Loop 1604. Bexar County Commissioner Justin Rodriguez vacated the seat when he accepted his new post. He has not endorsed a candidate.

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McAllen Monitor - February 8, 2019

As sales tax revenues boom, RGV leaders see years of growth ahead

Several South Texas cities saw significant sales tax increases in December, furthering a trend that has been ongoing in the region for months, and leaving leaders in the Rio Grande Valley optimistic for the next decade and beyond.

Sales tax revenues dipped in only a few cities across the three-county region, while most saw substantial gains, which officials attributed to more employment, a healthy state and national economy and marketing efforts in Texas and Mexico. McAllen’s December 2018 sales tax intake increased by more than 12 percent from December 2017, the third largest gain of the 20 largest cities in Texas.

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SPIN - February 10, 2019

HBO announces upcoming Beto O’Rourke campaign documentary

Beto O’Rourke's landmark Senate campaign was apparently followed by a team of documentarians, who are set to premiere their upcoming film Running With Beto at South By Southwest later this year. Now, HBO has announced that the network will also pick up the documentary, which is set to premiere on the channel sometime this spring.

Directed by David Modigliani, the documentary follows O’Rourke over the course of his year-long campaign, with the crew gaining “intimate access to Beto, his family and a team of political newcomers who champion a new way of getting to know a candidate—one Texas county at a time,” HBO shared in a statement.

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Houston Chronicle - February 11, 2019

Beto O’Rourke to join rally in El Paso at same time Donald Trump holds his own rally just miles away

Former U.S. Senate candidate Beto O’Rourke confirmed that he will be part of a community rally in El Paso on Monday that is aimed at countering President Donald Trump’s visit to the city.

Trump is scheduled to lead a rally at 7 p.m. at the El Paso Coliseum to promote his call for a border wall along the U.S.-Mexico border. At the same time, O’Rourke, a Democrat who is considered a potential 2020 presidential contender, is expected to take the stage just three miles away at what is being called a “celebration of El Paso” or the “March for Truth.” Trump’s visit to the state’s most western major city comes just days after his State of the Union address when he specifically pointed to El Paso as evidence that walls work.

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Austin American-Statesman - February 11, 2019

Austin, San Antonio team up to tackle traffic woes

Regional planners aren’t letting a lack of funding stop an ambitious vision for improving travel along the notoriously clogged Interstate 35 corridor between Austin and San Antonio.

The Austin area’s Capital Area Metropolitan Planning Organization and San Antonio-based Alamo Area Metropolitan Planning Organization, in partnership with the Texas Department of Transportation, studied for more than a year the best ways to improve commuting within the regions. Ideas include intercity and interregional transit services increasing traffic capacity on U.S. 281 and I-35 and building long distance bikeways. I-35 through Central Austin ranks the third-highest congested roadway in the state, according to data from the Texas A&M Transportation Institute.

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Houston Chronicle - February 9, 2019

In Texas, offenders get no jail time for groping people. These bills would change that.

In July 2016, Denali Wilson was on her way home from work in El Paso when a stranger followed her home and grabbed her crotch.

When she reported the incident to police, Wilson was surprised to learn that under Texas law, the officers could not arrest the man who assaulted her — much less launch an investigation to find him. Groping is the lowest-level criminal offense in the state penal code, punishable by a $500 fine at most.

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Austin Business Journal - February 8, 2019

Austin's a millennial magnet. New York and Los Angeles not so much

New data from the Brookings Institution shows how Austin has become a magnet for millennial migration in the years since the Great Recession. Growing companies — especially tech firms — put a premium on the number of millennials an area has or is able to attract when considering whether to relocate or expand in a certain market.

Brookings used recently released migration data from the U.S. Census Bureau to identify major metros that attracted the most 25- to 34-year-olds for the period of 2012 through 2017. The Houston area topped the list, with an average annual net migration of 14,767 young adults, followed by the Denver and Dallas areas, with an average of 12,667 and 12,665 millennials per year respectively.

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City Stories

Texas Public Radio - February 8, 2019

Google Fiber says goodbye in Kentucky, but soldiers on in San Antonio

Google Fiber is closing its Louisville, Kentucky network after 18 months of offering its high-speed internet service. The company says it won’t impact other cities like San Antonio.

Google Fiber rolled out its Louisville network in record time in part because it used a process called “micro-trenching” to speed up fiber cable deployment. But the process, which includes shallow trenches cut into asphalt and then covered with a sealant, left some Louisville cables exposed — according to reports— and was disruptive to residents. It will turn off the service in April.

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Austin American-Statesman - February 10, 2019

Moody Foundation gives $20 million to Austin’s Blanton Museum of Art

Extending a string of extraordinary gifts, the Moody Family Foundation has given $20 million to the Blanton Museum of Art to transform the grounds of its three-building complex on the south end of the University of Texas campus.

In just the past few years, the foundation has bestowed tens of millions to the Contemporary Austin, Waller Creek Conservancy, Pease Park Conservancy, AIDS Services of Austin, YMCA, UT’s Moody School of Communications and other groups. The Blanton gift is one of the largest grants to any Austin cultural entity and to any project for the city’s outdoor spaces.

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National Stories

New York Times - February 8, 2019

With abortion in spotlight, states seek to pass new laws

The Supreme Court on Thursday blocked a Louisiana law that its opponents say would leave the state with a single doctor authorized to perform abortions, the latest development in the national legal fight over the fate of abortion law under a conservative-leaning court.

Louisiana’s law, which requires that doctors performing abortions have admitting privileges at nearby hospitals, was enacted in 2014. But in recent days and weeks, there has been a flurry of new state legislation that could prove important if the nation’s highest court rules on more abortion-related cases.Since the nomination of Brett M. Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court in July, abortion rights groups have warned of a threat to Roe v. Wade, the landmark 1973 ruling that made abortion legal nationwide, prompting some states to try to shore up access to the procedure. Anti-abortion groups have been pushing for more restrictions.

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New York Times - February 10, 2019

Amy Klobuchar enters 2020 presidential race

Amy Klobuchar, the third-term Minnesota senator, entered the race for the Democratic presidential nomination on Sunday, hopeful that her moderate politics, Midwestern roots and carefully cultivated history of bipartisanship can appeal to a broad swath of voters in contentious times.

On a snow-covered stage in Minneapolis along the banks of the Mississippi River, with the temperature barely above single digits, Ms. Klobuchar said that as president, she would “focus on getting things done” and reverse some of President Trump’s signature policies. On her first day in office, she said, the United States would rejoin the Paris climate agreement.

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New York Times - February 10, 2019

‘Dangerous territory’ for Democrats as Republicans seize Venezuela moment in Miami

For 60 years, the lifeblood of Miami’s idiosyncratic politics has been Cuba, the communist government’s countless sins denounced in street protests, dissected on the spirited Spanish-language airwaves and condemned at campaign rallies under the unifying cry of “Viva Cuba Libre!”

But the focus of this city’s freedom-loving fervor has recently moved further south. Venezuela, not Cuba, now dominates Miami’s political conversation. A television anchor not long ago ended a somber segment with a promise to keep praying for the troubled South American country. Venezuelans in the city have gathered for demonstrations to coincide with protests back home.

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Washington Post - February 10, 2019

Walter Jones, ‘freedom fries’ congressman who became Iraq War critic, dies at 76

Walter B. Jones Jr., a North Carolina congressman who so enthusiastically supported the 2003 invasion of Iraq that he argued for the french fries and French toast served in House cafeterias to be called “freedom fries” and “freedom toast” — a jab at France for its opposition to the war — but who later underwent a dramatic change of heart and emerged as a prominent Republican critic of the war, died Feb. 10, on his 76th birthday.

His office confirmed the death in a statement. It had announced on Jan. 26 that the 13-term lawmaker had entered hospice care, his health having declined after a fall in which he broke his hip. Mr. Jones had been granted a leave of absence in late 2018 for an unspecified illness. Mr. Jones first ran for Congress in 1992, campaigning unsuccessfully as a conservative Democrat for the northeastern North Carolina district that his father had represented for 26 years.

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Washington Post - February 11, 2019

What’s actually in the ‘Green New Deal’ from Democrats?

The Green New Deal is a manifesto calling for sweeping changes to American society. Key goals include cutting greenhouse-gas emissions to net zero over 10 years and guaranteeing jobs for all.

Climate change is a critical issue, but some experts say the Green New Deal is overambitious and unworkable. “I’m afraid I just cannot see how we could possibly go to zero carbon in the 10-year time frame,” Ernest Moniz, a nuclear physicist and secretary of energy under President Barack Obama, told NPR. “It’s just impractical. And if we start putting out impractical targets, we may lose a lot of key constituencies who we need to bring along to have a real low-carbon solution on the most rapid time frame that we can achieve,” such as labor unions, Moniz said.

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Washington Post - February 11, 2019

Shutdown looms as border talks break down over immigration enforcement

The nation faces the real possibility of another government shutdown at the end of this week after bipartisan talks aimed at averting that outcome broke down in a dispute over immigration enforcement, lawmakers and aides said Sunday.

President Trump’s border wall demands, which precipitated the record-long 35-day shutdown that ended late last month, were a secondary issue in the impasse that developed over the weekend, according to officials in both parties. Instead, after looking promising for days, the delicate negotiations collapsed over Democrats’ insistence on limiting the number of unauthorized immigrants who can be detained by the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency.

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Wall Street Journal - February 11, 2019

Impeachment push for Virginia Lt. Gov. Justin Fairfax slows down

The Virginia lawmaker who had vowed to launch impeachment proceedings Monday against Lt. Gov. Justin Fairfax over two allegations of sexual assault said he isn’t ready to start that process in the House of Delegates.

“There has been an enormous amount of sincere and thoughtful feedback which has led to additional conversations that need to take place before anything is filed,” Delegate Patrick Hope, a Democrat, wrote on Twitter early Monday morning. Democratic legislators in Virginia circulated Sunday afternoon a draft resolution to start impeachment proceedings against Mr. Fairfax.

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Wall Street Journal - February 11, 2019

After synagogue attack, Pittsburgh’s push for stricter gun laws sparks backlash

A little more than three months after 11 people were shot to death while worshiping at a synagogue here, city leaders and residents are battling over proposed gun restrictions.

The legislation put forward by the city’s mayor and city council members would ban within city limits semiautomatic rifles, bump stocks and certain types of ammunition, as well as expand the ability of courts to seize guns from people determined to be a threat to family members or law enforcement. The measures have drawn a swift backlash in a liberal-leaning city ringed by more conservative suburbs where there is a long tradition of gun ownership. Opponents have called for the mayor’s impeachment or arrest, and the local district attorney has said that instituting the gun restrictions would violate state law.

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Associated Press - February 11, 2019

Trump tries to turn border debate his way with El Paso rally

President Donald Trump is trying to turn the debate over a wall at the U.S.-Mexico border back to his political advantage as his signature pledge to American voters threatens to become a model of unfulfilled promises.

Weakened by the disastrous government shutdown and facing a fresh deadline Friday, Trump is trying to convince people that that he'll continue to push to build his long-promised wall, even though there's no way it would be anywhere near complete by the time voters have to decide whether to give him another term.

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Associated Press - February 10, 2019

Embattled Virginia governor: ‘I’m not going anywhere’

Democratic Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam considered resigning amid a scandal that he once wore blackface, but the pediatric neurologist said Sunday that he’s “not going anywhere” because the state “needs someone that can heal” it.

Northam said on CBS’ “Face the Nation” that it’s been a difficult week since a racist photo in his 1984 medical school yearbook surfaced, showing a person wearing blackface next to a second person wearing a Ku Klux Klan hood and robe. Northam initially said he had appeared in the photo — although he didn’t say which costume he was wearing — and apologized. The next day, however, he denied being in the photo, while acknowledging that he had worn blackface to a dance party that same year.

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Associated Press - February 11, 2019

Some workers still unpaid after shutdown, dread what's next

Nearly two weeks after the end of the longest government shutdown in U.S history, many federal workers still have not received their back pay or have only gotten a fraction of what they are owed as government agencies struggle with payroll glitches and other delays.

And even as they scramble to catch up on unpaid bills and to repay unemployment benefits, the prospect of another shutdown looms next week. "President Trump stood in the Rose Garden at the end of the shutdown and said, 'We will make sure that you guys are paid immediately.' ... And here it is, it's almost two weeks later," said Michael Walter, who works for the U.S. Department of Agriculture food safety inspection service in Johnstown, Pennsylvania, and only got his paycheck Wednesday. He said two co-workers told him they still had received nothing.

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Reuters - February 10, 2019

Climate change seen as top threat, but US power a growing worry

Climate change is the top security concern in a poll conducted by the Washington-based Pew Research Center, followed by Islamist terrorism and cyber attacks while respondents in a growing number of countries worried about the power and influence of the United States.

In 13 of 26 countries, people listed climate change as the top global threat, with the Islamic State militant group topping the list in eight and cyber attacks in four, the non-profit, non-partisan Pew Research Center said in its report. Worries about climate change have increased sharply since 2013, with double-digit percentage point increases seen in countries including the United States, Mexico, France, Britain, South Africa and Kenya, according to the poll of 27,612 people conducted between May and August, 2018.

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Inside Higher Ed - February 8, 2019

A win for student Christian group at University of Iowa

A Christian student group at the University of Iowa can’t be stripped of its affiliation with the institution, even if its members follow a “statement of faith” that bans those in LGBTQ relationships from leadership roles, a federal judge ruled Wednesday.

The decision by Judge Stephanie M. Rose has alarmed advocates for queer men and women. They are worried it would open the door for a challenge of a U.S. Supreme Court case from 2010 that allows colleges and universities to enforce antidiscrimination policies, even when student religious organizations claim those policies infringe on their beliefs.

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STAT - February 11, 2019

An ambassador to the Vatican. A GOP megadonor. And now, a rare Republican joining Democrats to take on pharma

Rep. Francis Rooney doesn’t sit on any of the congressional committees that deal with health care policy. His last government job was a stint as U.S. ambassador to the Holy See. In politics, he is best known as a Republican Party megadonor, the product of a lucrative career as a finance and construction executive.

But suddenly, he’s an unlikely leading man in an increasingly noisy health policy fight over drug prices. The second-term congressman from Florida is the only Republican co-sponsor on a bill to allow Medicare for negotiate prices, traditionally a nonstarter for the GOP. Last Congress, he was one of two Republicans on another aggressive bill to police drug price increases. Rooney even introduced a bill mirroring a Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) proposal that would cap U.S. drug payments based on prices paid overseas.

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HuffPost - February 11, 2019

David Pecker’s attorney claims AMI threat to publish Jeff Bezos pics wasn’t blackmail

An attorney representing David Pecker, chairman and CEO of American Media Inc., claimed the media company’s threat to publish nude photos of Amazon head Jeff Bezos if he didn’t cooperate with its terms was not blackmail.

“It absolutely is not extortion and not blackmail,” Elkan Abramowitz, Pecker’s attorney, told ABC’s “This Week” on Sunday. Last month, Bezos and his wife, MacKenzie Bezos, announced their divorce shortly before the National Enquirer, owned by AMI, published a story revealing that the billionaire was having an affair with Lauren Sanchez, a TV personality. The Enquirer story prompted Bezos to launch an investigation into AMI’s practices, including how it obtained his private text messages with Sanchez and its motive for publishing the story about his affair.

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Newsclips - February 10, 2019

Lead Stories

Houston Chronicle - February 9, 2019

Property tax crusader Dan Patrick can’t complain about his own bill

While property taxes continue to climb for most homeowners in Texas, one influential Texan who has made cutting them the hallmark of his career has seen his own bill drop.

Since they purchased it in April 2017, the 4,300 square-foot house Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick and his wife own on Lake Conroe in Montgomery County has dropped in market value from nearly $968,000 to $921,000 in 2018. The result is that the tax bill on the Benthaven Isle home has decreased from $19,429 to $16,736 — a 14-percent drop.

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Washington Post - February 10, 2019

Virginians are split on governor’s fate amid blackface scandal, poll shows

Virginians are deadlocked over whether Gov. Ralph Northam (D) should step down after the emergence of a photo on his 1984 medical school yearbook page depicting people in blackface and Ku Klux Klan garb, with African Americans saying by a wide margin that he should remain in office despite the offensive image, according to a Washington Post-Schar School poll.

The poll, conducted Wednesday through Friday, finds residents split over Northam’s fate, with 47 percent wanting him to step down and 47 percent saying he should stay on. Northam counts higher support among black residents — who say he should remain in office by a margin of 58 percent to 37 percent — than among whites, who are more evenly divided.

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Dallas Morning News - February 10, 2019

Buzz faded, did Beto O'Rourke wait too long to launch a 2020 presidential bid?

Three months ago, in the afterglow of the Texas Senate contest and with few marquee candidates officially running for president as Democrats, Beto-mania was in full swing.

Polls showed Beto O’Rourke in the top three, lagging only a former vice president and the runner-up for the party’s nomination in 2016. The big question then was whether he would run. The big question now: Has he missed his window of opportunity?

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Politico - February 9, 2019

Republicans can’t wait to debate Medicare for All

The only people more eager than progressive Democrats for hearings on Medicare for All are conservative Republicans.

GOP lawmakers, fresh off an electoral shellacking fueled in large part by health care concerns, are now trolling Democrats with demands for hearings on the sweeping single-payer bill set to be introduced this month. They're confident that revelations about its potential cost andelimination of most private insurance will give them potent lines of attack heading into 2020 — an election that President Donald Trump is already framing as a debate about "socialism."

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State Stories

Austin American-Statesman - February 9, 2019

Doggett optimistic about background check bill for gun purchases

As a bill that would require universal background checks on firearm purchases is set to go before a U.S. House committee this week, U.S. Rep. Lloyd Doggett said at town hall meeting Saturday he was optimistic about its chances for passage.

“This is a time of hope because for the first time we will have an opportunity to vote very soon for universal background check,” said Doggett, D-Austin. “With more effective and broader background checks that eliminate all the loopholes that are out there now, we can hopefully screen out those who, because of their personal condition or their background, should not have a gun in their hands.”

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Austin American-Statesman - February 10, 2019

Trump’s wall campaign, voter fraud draw Texas GOP focus

President Donald Trump will hold his first campaign rally of 2019 at the El Paso County Coliseum along the Mexican border Monday, and one can predict with confidence that before the evening is over the walls of the 77-year-old arena will resound with chants of “Build that wall.”

Last Thursday, in a hearing room in the Capitol extension in Austin, Texas Secretary of State David Whitley, whose slight frame and muted demeanor are more akin to Jared Kushner than Kushner’s fulminating father-in-law, sought to explain to a Senate committee an election advisory and press release he had issued two weeks earlier suggesting that tens of thousands of non-citizen immigrants may have illegally voted in Texas elections.

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Austin American-Statesman - February 8, 2019

Texas Enterprise Fund report focuses on money recouped from deals gone bad

Incentive deals that had roles in luring big-name companies like Apple Inc. to Austin and Toyota Motor Corp. to Plano have generated the bulk of publicity in recent years for a top state economic development tool — the Texas Enterprise Fund.

But the outcomes of deals that ultimately flopped are being touted as equally strong selling points for the fund, at a time when proponents, including Gov. Greg Abbott, are advocating for more taxpayer money for it.

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Austin American-Statesman - February 7, 2019

Statesman investigation spurs lawmakers to file 11 bills on child care safety

Months after an American-Statesman investigation into dangerous conditions in some Texas child care centers, state lawmakers are proposing sweeping reforms aimed at improving safety.

At least 11 bills targeting a wide range of problems are in the works. One increases penalties for abuse and neglect of children. Another mandates inspections of currently unregulated day care operations. Another requires cameras in child care classrooms. Other proposals call for better reporting of child sexual abuse, providing parents with more information about day care facilities through an online database and creating a fund that would be used to produce safety training materials that would be free for child care operations.

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Houston Chronicle - February 9, 2019

Mumps outbreak confirmed at ICE detention facility in Houston

In the latest Texas resurgence of a familiar infectious disease, seven cases of the mumps have been confirmed at a U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement detention facility in Houston.

City health officials said Saturday that there has been no spread of the disease in recent days and that they're hopeful the outbreak has been contained. The individuals infected, all adults, were detained at the facility during the infectious period. "Since these individuals were isolated inside the facility, we don't anticipate these cases posing a threat to the public," said Dr. David Persse, Houston's local health authority and medical director of the city's EMS program. "This is nothing to be afraid of."

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Houston Chronicle - February 10, 2019

Abuse of Faith: Southern Baptist sexual abuse spreads as leaders resist reforms

since 1998, roughly 380 Southern Baptist church leaders and volunteers have faced allegations of sexual misconduct, the Houston Chronicle and San Antonio Express-News found. That includes those who were convicted, credibly accused and successfully sued, and those who confessed or resigned. More of them worked in Texas than in any other state.

They left behind more than 700 victims, many of them shunned by their churches, left to themselves to rebuild their lives. Some were urged to forgive their abusers or to get abortions. About 220 offenders have been convicted or took plea deals, and dozens of cases are pending. They were pastors. Ministers. Youth pastors. Sunday school teachers. Deacons. Church volunteers. Nearly 100 are still held in prisons stretching from Sacramento County, Calif., to Hillsborough County, Fla., state and federal records show. Scores of others cut deals and served no time. More than 100 are registered sex offenders. Some still work in Southern Baptist churches today.

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Dallas Morning News - February 8, 2019

As Amazon wavers on New York, could Dallas have another shot at HQ2?

Three months ago, Dallas saw its shot for Amazon’s second headquarters slip away. Now the e-commerce giant’s political battles in New York have some people wondering whether Dallas and other cities are back in the game.

Amazon announced in November that it would split its second headquarters between two locations: Long Island City, a neighborhood in the New York City borough of Queens, and the Crystal City area of Arlington, Va., near Washington, D.C. It said each campus would get 25,000 jobs. A third city, Nashville, won an Amazon operations hub with 5,000 workers. But Dallas was considered a top contender. It was one of a handful of cities to receive a second visit by Amazon officials in August. But it ultimately lost out to the East Coast hubs.

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Star-Telegram - February 9, 2019

Tarrant Muslim who survived party ouster urges Republicans to unite, ‘move forward’

Shahid Shafi shared a message of hope and unity Saturday. One month after a high-profile proposal failed to oust him as a vice chair of the Tarrant County Republican Party — because he is Muslim — he said he wants to inspire others and help reunite the local party.

“I hold no animosity toward anybody in this group,” he said during a Saturday morning Executive Committee meeting at the Faith Creek Church in Richland Hills. “We need to ... move forward.” Shafi, a surgeon and Southlake councilman, said he believes one of the most important things he can do is try to inspire others. So that, he said, is what he will work to do.

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Star-Telegram - February 10, 2019

Dan Patrick: Raise Texas teacher pay across the board now, then do this later

Making our public schools better has long been a top priority for me. Working first as a senator on the Senate Education Committee and then as lieutenant governor, we have reduced standardized testing, reformed graduation requirements and created new career tech partnerships between public schools and businesses to help ensure we provide training that will lead to jobs in the 21st century economy.

Teacher turnover is at an all-time high, and the percentage of teachers with more than three years’ experience has dropped to under 80 percent. Currently, only about a third of the $60 billion we spend each year on our schools goes to teacher pay. I first proposed a $10,000 raise for all teachers during the special session in 2017. The bill did not pass. In my inauguration speech two weeks ago, I announced that Sen. Jane Nelson, R-Flower Mound, had filed Senate Bill 3 to give all teachers a $5,000 raise. This a big down payment on my goal of a $10,000 across-the-board raise.

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Star-Telegram - February 8, 2019

‘We don’t care what the district attorney says,’ CBD oil buyers in Tarrant County say

Despite a stop sign from the chief Tarrant County prosecutor, cannabidiol (CBD oil) sellers say they will go to jail and then to court if necessary to keep selling their products.

The Tarrant County District Attorney’s Office released a statement this week saying that possession of CBD oil is legal only for those who suffer from intractable epilepsy and follow the rules of the Texas Compassionate Use Act. Others buying or selling CBD oil are breaking the law, according to District Attorney Sharen Wilson.

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San Antonio Express-News - February 9, 2019

New CBP chief for Rio Grande Valley reiterates importance of a wall

The new Customs and Border Protection chief in the Rio Grande Valley supports a border wall in the region, saying the flow of immigrants crossing the river “can overwhelm a community.”

“The Rio Grande Valley possesses many challenges that are amplified by a lack of technology and infrastructure in one of the busiest corridors in the country,” Rodolfo Karisch told Border Patrol agents, land owners, local officials and nonprofit leaders Friday in his first “State of the Border” address. He described the border as a place that provides opportunity for “trade and travel” and for “a malicious element,” such as drugs, crime and human smuggling.

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San Antonio Express-News - February 6, 2019

Bail reform meets resistance in San Antonio county courts, despite Wolff’s wishes

Judges in Bexar County say they are open to making changes to help ensure people aren’t jailed here exclusively because they can’t afford bail, but they resoundingly rejected — and questioned the legality of — a celebrated reform plan recently enacted in Houston.

Bexar County Judge Nelson Wolff convened area misdemeanor judges Tuesday, hoping they would agree to revisions similar to the ones adopted in Harris County. Under that plan, the vast majority of people charged with misdemeanors would qualify for release on no-cash bonds. Harris County’s previous system was declared unconstitutional for creating “wealth-based detention.”

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Texas Monthly - February 5, 2019

If Beto runs for President, who runs against John Cornyn?

The day after Beto O’Rourke lost his closely contested Senate race against Ted Cruz by 2.6 percent, I heard an argument that convinced me that O’Rourke’s next political step was obvious: He needed to run for Senate again in 2020.

Political scientists Jim Henson and Josh Blank of the Texas Politics Project at UT-Austin had laid out the case. O’Rourke had nearly pulled off one of the most stunning electoral upsets in the history of the union. He’d done it all in a midterm election—and Democratic candidates up and down the ballot almost always perform worse in midterms than in a presidential year, when turnout is higher. Those conditions started with Donald Trump, who would be on the ballot, and could help spur massive turnout to defeat him. But it also included O’Rourke’s presumptive 2020 opponent.

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Texas Monthly - February 6, 2019

Christoper Hooks: Texas has been just a prop for Trump from the beginning

President Donald Trump’s State of the Union speech contained a number of unusual claims, but one in particular stood out. “The border city of El Paso, Texas, used to have extremely high rates of violent crime,” the president said, “one of the highest in the country, and [was] considered one of our nation’s most dangerous cities. Now, with a powerful barrier in place, El Paso is one of our safest cities.”

Unfortunately, every part of what the president said is delusional. El Paso has been one of the safest cities in the country for decades and fencing along the border, erected in 2009, didn’t affect the rate of violent crime at all. But it’s not surprising that Trump got it wrong. For Trump, Texas is a backdrop and nothing more. It’s the president’s Westworld. That’s a very peculiar thing for Texas to experience, because the state is accustomed to deference from Republican administrations—deference it has earned. And the strangest thing of all is who is going along with it.

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The Hill - February 10, 2019

El Paso mayor: I will 'absolutely' call out Trump if he repeats false crime info again

El Paso, Texas, Mayor Dee Margo said Saturday that he would "absolutely" correct President Trump if he repeats a false line about crime in the border city during a campaign rally.

Margo said on CNN's "SE Cupp Unfiltered" that he's been unafraid to call out Trump over the comments he made about El Paso last week during the State of the Union address. "I’ve been stating it publicly since last Tuesday night," Margo said, adding that the "the fence" along the U.S.-Mexico border in El Paso "serves a useful purpose, but that "it’s not the total panacea."

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KERA - February 6, 2019

Struggling while employed: Why a job isn't enough for 42 percent of Texas households

A new statewide study shows 42 percent of Texas households struggle to make ends meet — households where at least one adult is working. In Dallas County, it's 43 percent.

That's according to a new alternative measure to the Federal Poverty Level, the ALICE report, which gives a more-updated look at the number of families living on the edge of financial crisis. “ALICE stands for Asset Limited Income Constrained Employed, and for us that is the number of households that are working and yet struggling," said Rojas, who heads the United Ways of Texas.

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Rivard Report - February 10, 2019

In Rio Grande Valley, anxiety surrounds imminent border wall construction

At the 100-acre National Butterfly Center just north of the U.S.-Mexico border, local schoolchildren and tourists stopped to watch and snap photos of the exotic birds and colorful butterflies that flock to the native flowers and trees on the property.

But this sanctuary is no longer just a hotspot for wildlife. It’s also become an epicenter in the national debate over President Donald Trump’s border wall. Not long from now, a wall meant to deter drug smugglers and border crossers could cut off the southern 70 acres of mostly pristine forest along the Rio Grande. The center’s staff and supporters say the wall is not only harmful to wildlife but completely unnecessary.

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County Stories

Houston Chronicle - February 10, 2019

County Judge Hidlago starts talks on improving Harris County community health

Harris County’s new judge got an earful from constituents about the health, employment and public transit issues facing the region during her first Civic Saturday session.

Lina Hidalgo launched the listening sessions to get input from residents to shape policy and educate them about what county government does. The first of seven planned events focused on public health and was held at BakerRipley’s Cleveland Campus in Pasadena. “We decided to create an avenue for folks to come together,” said Hidalgo, who upset Republican Ed Emmet in the November election. “Because many of us don’t understand what the role of county government is — through no fault of our own.”

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City Stories

Rivard Report - February 10, 2019

Greg Brockhouse officially launches San Antonio mayoral campaign

Councilman Greg Brockhouse has officially thrown his hat into the mayoral ring. The first-term District 6 representative ended a year of speculation at a campaign event Saturday at a Westside record shop when he publicly announced he will give up his Council seat to challenge Mayor Ron Nirenberg.

At Saturday’s announcement, Brockhouse outlined three things he would improve if elected mayor: economic opportunity, transparency, and public safety. He’ll focus on job creation, wage inequality, lightening costly regulations for businesses, he said, and he pledged to lower property taxes and keep utility rates down. Brockhouse, a 46-year-old former political consultant and Air Force veteran, likely will be Nirenberg’s biggest competition on the May 4 ballot. As of Saturday afternoon, five other lesser-known candidates had registered.

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Austin American-Statesman - February 8, 2019

Austin's HR director had employees care for child, investigators find

The city of Austin’s director of human resources faces an ethics complaint after an internal investigation found that she had several city employees look after her child, sometimes at City Hall.

The complaint, released Friday evening, shows the city’s auditor office found that on numerous occasions, Joya Hayes, the city’s HR director, asked employees to care for her child. According to the investigative report, Hayes violated city employee conduct rules related to accepting gifts or favors from subordinates, abused a city office and misused city resources.

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Star-Telegram - February 8, 2019

In Southlake, videos with n-word prompts push for ‘zero tolerance’ against racism

In the fall of 1996, a Carroll High School student received a two-week suspension from extracurricular activities and three days detention after holding up a sign at a football game with the letters T.A.N.H.O. — the acronym for “Tear A [N-word] Head Off.

The superintendent at the time told the Star-Telegram the incidents were isolated and didn’t reflect attitudes at the high school. A 17-year-old African-American Carroll student who saw the sign at the football game was hurt. “My own school was doing this! And they know that I go to this school, and they know that I’m sitting behind them,” Michael Smallwood told the Star-Telegram in 1996.

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National Stories

Associated Press - February 10, 2019

Black Virginia voters feel betrayed, left in no-win scenario

Black voters who factored prominently in the 2017 election that helped Northam become Virginia governor are feeling betrayed over the scandals that have engulfed the state over the past week, leaving them with a less-than-ideal set of choices at the top of the Democratic Party: a governor and attorney general who wore blackface and a lieutenant governor who stands accused by two women of sexual assault. The next person in line for governor is a conservative Republican.

Many are struggling to come to grips with a list of nagging questions: Do they forgive the Democrats, keep Republicans out of power and demand the governor get serious about racism? Should Northam step down and hand the office to African-American Lt. Gov. Justin Fairfax, who faces sexual assault allegations? Or should all three of them walk away and let principle prevail, even if the other party takes charge? The dilemma was being weighed in black barber shops, salons, restaurants and living rooms and in activist and political circles across the state in the midst of a still-unfolding reckoning around race and scandal in the Old Dominion.

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Associated Press - February 10, 2019

GOP leader wants border deal; Granger part of fact-finding trip to border

The Senate's top Republican on Feb.5 pushed congressional bargainers to reach a border security deal without first getting President Donald Trump's approval, a month after the impulsive president scuttled an apparent bipartisan deal and triggered a historically long federal shutdown.

Capitol Hill talks to resolve an impasse over Trump's demands for billions of dollars for his long-sought border wall were making progress, participants said. But with lawmakers facing a deadline to complete their work by Feb. 15 or confront a renewed shutdown, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-KY, said he's not seeking Trump's blessing in advance.

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Wall Street Journal - February 10, 2019

South Korea to pay more under new military deal with US

The U.S. and South Korea signed a one-year deal outlining the shared costs of their military alliance on Sunday, removing a potential distraction ahead of the second summit between President Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un scheduled for late this month.

Seoul will pay roughly $920 million this year for the 28,500 U.S. military personnel stationed in the country, according to officials from both countries. That represents an increase of about 8% from what Seoul paid in 2018. South Korea foots about half of the overall cost. A spokesman for the U.S. embassy in Seoul didn’t specify how much Washington will pay.

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Wall Street Journal - February 10, 2019

From Tennessee to Chicago, free college programs take off

There are now more than 300 free community college programs in 44 states, more than 120 of which were launched in 2015-2017, according to data from the College Promise Campaign, which tracks and advocates for the programs. Data from 2018 wasn’t available

In the past few years, free college “promise” programs have been championed by lawmakers across the political spectrum. In West Sacramento, Calif., a Democratic mayor was behind the effort. In Kentucky, it was the Republican state legislature, and in Baltimore—Democratic leaders. The “promise” refers to the commitment to fund the first two years of community college, although the terms and reach of these programs vary.

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The Guardian - February 9, 2019

Trump says Kim summit will be in Hanoi as envoy hails talks progress

Donald Trump has said that US diplomats have had a “very productive meeting” with North Korean officials as he announced his summit later this month with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un would be held in Vietnam’s capital, Hanoi.

Earlier this week, Trump announced the dates for the second summit with Kim and said it would be held in Vietnam, but the city had not been disclosed. Stephen Biegun, the US special representative for North Korea, held three days of talks in Pyongyang to prepare for the summit, the state department said on Friday. It said Biegun had agreed with his counterpart Kim Hyok Chol to meet again ahead of the summit.

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The Guardian - February 8, 2019

Rosenstein did not want to write memo justifying Comey firing – new book

The deputy attorney general, Rod Rosenstein, privately complained that he was ordered by president Donald Trump to write the notorious memo justifying the firing of the FBI director James Comey, according to Comey’s former deputy.

Andrew McCabe writes in a new book that Rosenstein, who has publicly defended the memo, lamented that the president had directed him to rationalise Comey’s dismissal, which is now the subject of inquiries into whether Trump obstructed justice. Rosenstein made his remarks in a private meeting at the justice department on 12 May 2017, according to McCabe’s memoir, which also accuses Trump of operating like a criminal mob boss and of unleashing a “strain of insanity” in American public life.

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The Intercept - February 9, 2019

New York Democrats could eliminate Ocasio-Cortez's district after 2020

Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez is prepared for the possibility that Democrats in New York could redraw her district after the 2020 election, she told The Intercept in an interview.

Following the 2020 census, every state will draw new district boundaries to reflect changes in the population, the political implications of which will stretch for at least the next decade. But Ocasio-Cortez’s most determined adversaries are not partisan Republicans, but Democrats who say that she has been a disruptive influence.

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Washington Post - February 10, 2019

Rhae Lynn Barnes: Yes, politicians wore blackface. It used to be all-American ‘fun.’

Both Gov. Ralph Northam (D) and Attorney General Mark R. Herring (D) of Virginia have admitted that they wore blackface as students in the 1980s in imitations of famous African Americans. News broke Thursday that the Virginia Senate majority leader, Tommy Norment (R), was an editor of a 1968 college yearbook filled with blackface photos.

Will yet more photos emerge of rowdy blackface frat parties and politicians’ youthful participation in amateur minstrel shows? The answer is almost certainly yes. More politicians probably took part than we will ever know.

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CNN - February 9, 2019

Elizabeth Warren kicks off presidential bid with challenge to super wealthy — and other Democrats

Sen. Elizabeth Warren officially launched her 2020 presidential campaign Saturday at a rally in Lawrence, Massachusetts, using the backdrop of Everett Mills –– the site of a historic 1912 labor strike led by women and immigrants –– to issue a call to action against wealthy power brokers who "have been waging class warfare against hardworking people for decades."

The formal start of Warren's White House campaign comes as the Democratic primary intensifies by the day, with numerous candidates including Sens. Kamala Harris and Cory Booker already in the race, and others, like Sens. Bernie Sanders and Amy Klobuchar, expected to jump in soon. Trump's 2020 campaign manager welcomed Warren to the race with a statement predicting voters "will reject her dishonest campaign and socialist ideas like the Green New Deal."

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Politico - February 7, 2019

Virginia Democrats decline to call on Fairfax, Herring to resign

Democrats from Virginia declined to call on Lt Gov. Justin Fairfax or Attorney General Mark Herring to resign on Thursday in their first comments about the scandals facing two top lawmakers in the commonwealth.

“We will continue in dialogue with one another and our constituents in the coming days, and evaluate additional information as it comes to light," said Sens. Mark Warner and Tim Kaine, and the rest of the Democratic congressional delegation from Virginia. Warner and Kaine — along with other lawmakers from the state — reiterated their call for Gov. Ralph Northam to resign.

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Newsclips - February 8, 2019

Lead Stories

CNN - February 7, 2019

Amazon founder Jeff Bezos says National Enquirer publisher tried to extort him

In an explosive tell-all blog post published Thursday, Jeff Bezos accused the publisher of the National Enquirer of trying to extort him.

The post by Bezos on the blogging platform Medium revealed what he said were the full text of emails his representatives got from executives at AMI, the publisher of the National Enquirer. Bezos, the billionaire founder and CEO of Amazon, alleged that AMI threatened to release compromising photos of him. His post included what he said were emails from AMI detailing what he described as "extortion and blackmail." Bezos, the world's richest person, is the single largest shareholder in Amazon, with 16 percent of the company's stock.

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Law and Crime - February 8, 2019

Sen. Charles Schwertner says he’s 'reconciling’ with wife even though she filed for divorce

A Republican state senator’s wife filed for divorce after he was accused of sending sexually explicit text messages–including nude pics–to a University of Texas at Austin (UT) graduate student who had connected with him over an interest in healthcare policy. Nonetheless, the senator wants his constituents to know he and his wife are “reconciling.”

It seemed Charles Schwertner‘s wife Belinda might contest the idea that things are getting better, considering she just filed for divorce amidst an ongoing scandal involving her husband’s genitals. According to The Dallas Morning News, Belinda filed for divorce on January 30. Documents obtained by the outlet confirmed the divorce filing in Williamson County–where part of the City of Austin is located.

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Houston Chronicle - February 8, 2019

Top Texans in Congress spar over Trump's hidden tax returns

As the new Democratic majority in the U.S. House takes its first tentative steps to obtain President Donald Trump's tax returns, Texas Republican Kevin Brady has emerged as one of the administration's top congressional defenders, arguing that the move would jeopardize all Americans' right to privacy.

"This is about protecting the private tax returns of every American," the Republican from The Woodlands wrote Thursday in a letter to the Democratic chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee, which was holding its first hearing on presidential tax returns. "When we start making exceptions for one taxpayer, it begins the process of eroding and threatening the privacy rights of all taxpayers."

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CNBC - February 7, 2019

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez just released her massive Green New Deal — here's what's in it

Freshman Congress member Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and veteran lawmaker Sen. Edward Markey are introducing a resolution spelling out congressional support for a Green New Deal — an ambitious plan to remake the U.S. economy and drastically reduce the nation's greenhouse gas emissions.

The resolution largely sticks to a blueprint Ocasio-Cortez laid out when she proposed creating a House select committee to establish a Green New Deal. That framework called for generating 100 percent of the nation's power from renewable sources, making all buildings energy efficient and eliminating carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gas emissions from the transportation sector and industry — all within about 10 years.

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State Stories

Dallas Morning News - February 7, 2019

Why is Dallas Rep. Colin Allred taking a break from Congress to return home?

Rep. Colin Allred is taking a break from Congress to return to Dallas. He and his wife, Alexandra Eber, are expecting the birth of their first child "very soon," the freshman congressman said in a statement Thursday.

Allred said his experience makes it “clearer than ever” that Washington needs to fund basic paid sick leave and parental leave. President Donald Trump called for federal paid family leave during his State of the Union address Tuesday night, saying his plan would allow every new parent a "chance to bond with their newborn child.” Sen. Bill Cassidy (R-LA) tweeted that he is working with Trump on the issue.

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Dallas Morning News - February 7, 2019

Texas Republican warns of 'dangerous precedent' as Dems take first step to get Trump's tax returns

House Democrats on Thursday made their first tentative step toward demanding President Donald Trump's tax returns, holding a high-profile hearing on the law that allows Congress to inspect those documents. A key Texas Republican warned them to not go any further.

Rep. Kevin Brady of The Woodlands cautioned Democrats against using the tax code to pry free Trump's returns, with the top Republican on the House Ways and Means Committee saying that "weaponizing the tax code for political purposes sets a dangerous precedent."

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Dallas Morning News - February 7, 2019

DMN Editorial: Texas might be ready to toughen sexual assault laws at last

Austin lawmakers will fight over hundreds of issues this session, but we’re glad to see that addressing the scourge of sexual assaults across this state isn’t one of them. At least five good bills have been filed by Democrats and Republicans to help victims in reporting crimes and putting their attackers behind bars.

A measure in Senate Bill 1 by Sen. Jane Nelson, R-Flower Mound, would provide $7.5 million to eliminate wait lists at rape crisis centers and $1 million to expand access to sexual assault nurse examiners. Sen. Kirk Watson, D-Austin, and Rep. Victoria Neave, D-Dallas, have filed bills — SB 586 and HB 282 — for better training of peace officers in handling such cases.

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Dallas Morning News - February 8, 2019

Conservative groups attack gay rights bills as effort to 'ban the Bible' in Texas

Conservative groups are attacking a slate of bills that would expand rights for LGBTQ Texans, claiming they are anti-Christian and would “effectively ban the Bible.”

Texas Values, a religious advocacy organization, is leading the effort, flooding social media and the conservative press with allegations that passing the bills would force Christians to violate their faith. The groups have launched a website and promoted the hashtag #BantheBible. But lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer Texans and their allies call these claims totally false. The bills do not mention the Scriptures or other religious texts, they said, and some bills even exempt religious organizations.

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Dallas Morning News - February 8, 2019

Where things stand for DACA: new north Texas scholarship, SCOTUS delays decision

It’s been more than a year since former U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced that the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program was being shut down. But DACA’s death has been a slow one.

The program created during President Barack Obama’s presidency that shields some 700,000 Dreamers from deportation and grants them renewable two-year work permits has been saved by several federal court decisions in 2018, including one decision coming in the south Texas courtroom of a judge known for being tough on immigration cases.

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Houston Chronicle - February 8, 2019

HC Editorial: Reject David Whitley as Texas secretary of state

Normally, we wouldn’t weigh in on a confirmation hearing for a gubernatorial pick to a low-profile office in Austin. This year, we’ll not only weigh in on David Whitley’s appointment to the office of Texas secretary of state. We’ll recommend a loud and resounding: NO.

Whitley was named in December and his short tenure in the obscure and nominally nonpartisan office has been tarnished by a civil rights scandal that garnered national attention and condemnation. Texans deserve an official they can trust to oversee elections across the state. Gov. Greg Abbott, too, deserves an appointee whose every move won’t be justifiably second-guessed. Our state isn’t lacking for Republican politicos who could serve in this role. The governor should simply replace Whitley with a qualified candidate so we can all move on.

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Houston Chronicle - February 7, 2019

Texas power makers say higher revenues will prompt them to dust off old plants for summer

A group of Texas power producers that generate about 60 percent of the state's electricity said its members are planning to invest more than $100 million in existing power plants to prepare for the upcoming summer demand for electricity.

The Texas Competitive Power Advocates, a group that includes Calpine Corp. of Houston and NRG Energy of Houston and Princeton, N.J., are making the investments after Texas regulators last month agreed to changes in the wholesale electricity market, a move expected to increase revenues for power generators during times of peak demand and raise prices for consumers and businesses. Other power generators in the group include Vistra Energy of Irving, Tenaska of Nebraska and Talen Energy of Pennsylvania.

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Houston Chronicle - February 8, 2019

Rep. Jared Patterson wants to kill Power to Choose website

A state-sponsored website millions of Texans use to shop for electricity could be on the chopping block.

Texas Rep. Jared Patterson, a freshman Republican who represents Denton County, wants the Public Utility Commission to drop Power to Choose, the website introduced two decades ago when Texas deregulated the electricity industry. Patterson has introduced a bill in the state legislature that would eliminate the website that compares dozens of electricity plans, arguing that the government shouldn't be competing with private businesses.

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San Antonio Express-News - February 7, 2019

Trump owes El Paso an apology, Texas congresswoman says

Democratic Congresswoman Veronica Escobar sent a letter to President Donald Trump on Thursday asking him to apologize to El Pasoans for misrepresenting their hometown during his State of the Union address Tuesday.

In his address to Congress, Trump said El Paso was once one of the country’s “most dangerous cities,” but now is an example of how communities benefit from border barriers. “Simply put, walls work and walls save lives," Trump said. "So let's work together, compromise, and reach a deal that will truly make America safe." Escobar, of El Paso, said Trump’s claims were false, and that El Paso was safe long before the wall was built.

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San Antonio Express-News - February 8, 2019

Gun debate overshadows San Antonio area school district’s quiet progress on security

At the start of a panel discussion last month, the East Central Independent School District superintendent raised the question that had filled the auditorium with parents: “Why on earth, then, would you be talking about possibly arming staff?”

Why, when most districts that do so are small and rural and depend on sheriff’s deputies to respond in a crisis, would East Central, with 10,200 students and a 13-person police department, consider arming educators? Because, said Superintendent Roland Toscano, it’s a final layer, hopefully never needed, that can join every other precaution and advantage the school district has — police assignments, campus hardware, entry practices, its focus on teaching social and emotional skills and its nationally recognized attention to children’s trauma.

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Dallas Observer - February 8, 2019

The Dallas County Republican Party has some thoughts about the voter purge fiasco

Someone get Texas Secretary of State David Whitley one sequined glove, please. Last week Whitley dethroned the late Michael Jackson as king of the moonwalk, appearing to move forward while walking backward.

On Jan. 25, Whitley and Attorney General Ken Paxton announced that as many as 58,000 noncitizens may have cast ballots in Texas elections between 1996 and 2018, and as many as 95,000 noncitizens were registered to vote. This was a scam intended to help push through tougher voter registration laws. Everyone except Texas Gov. Greg Abbott, who called the attempted purge a "work in progress" Thursday, and the Dallas County Republican Party.

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County Stories

Houston Chronicle - February 8, 2019

Harris County DA Ogg at odds with progressives over push for more prosecutors

Harris County District Attorney Kim Ogg asked the Commissioners Court for a budget that would fund 102 additional assistant district attorneys and more than 40 support staff. Ogg said the surge is needed to clear a backlog in cases exacerbated by Harvey, a driver of overcrowding at the Harris County Jail.

Her proposal to expand the prosecutor corps by a third, however, has evolved into a proxy battle over the future of criminal justice reform in Harris County. Ogg finds herself so far unable to persuade Democrats on Commissioners Court as well as reform groups, who have questioned her self-identification as a progressive and said her proposal would lead to more residents in jail. “Simply adding prosecutors is the strategy that got us here in the first place, with this mentality that the only thing we can spend money on is police and prosecutors,” said Jay Jenkins, project attorney with the Texas Criminal Justice Coalition.

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SBG San Antonio - February 8, 2019

Bexar health officials see abnormal cases of measles in 2019

Bexar County health officials want to make sure parents know how to protect their kids now that measles cases are popping up in Texas. A local doctor said there is an abnormal number of cases this year, and he believes it's so important for children to get vaccinated.

There are six confirmed cases of measles in Texas, including four children under the age of two. Three are in the Houston area, one in Galveston, and one more in Montgomery County. More than 50 cases have been confirmed in the Pacific Northwest.

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City Stories

San Antonio Express-News - February 8, 2019

Will San Antonio become the fifth major city granted this distinction?

Twelve years ago, shortly after City Manager Sheryl Sculley hired Charles Hood as fire chief, the pair sat down to discuss what they wanted to accomplish.

At the time, the Fire Department was plagued by problems, including criticism over slow response times in some of the city’s outlying areas and low morale among firefighters. Early on, Sculley and Hood decided on two goals. They wanted to improve the department’s Insurance Services Office, or ISO, rating. This basically quantifies the level of fire protection and can affect property owners’ insurance rates. Sculley and Hood also wanted the department to become accredited by the Commission on Fire Accreditation International.

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Dallas Morning News - February 7, 2019

Young kids of a wealthy former Texas senator gave money to a Dallas City Council campaign, too

School-aged children of a powerful former state senator were among the minors who gave thousands of dollars to city campaigns, according to a review of campaign-finance records by The Dallas Morning News.

John Carona, who spent about 25 years in the Texas Legislature, and his family bundled the donations to Paul Reyes’ unsuccessful 2015 Dallas City Council run. The Carona kids’ contributions mimic others in Dallas City Council races over the past five years in which wealthy donors’ children and grandchildren are listed as donors in a bundle of maximum contributions — appearing to sidestep the city's limits on personal contributions.

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National Stories

CNBC - February 7, 2019

Top Senate tax writer says GOP will not tweak state and local deduction limits

Senate Finance Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley will not tweak the new state and local tax deduction cap while he leads the panel, a spokesman for the Iowa Republican said Thursday. U.S. residents are filing taxes for the first time this year under the new GOP-written tax code, which limited the deduction for those taxes to $10,000.

The statement comes a day after President Donald Trump said he would be "open to talking about" revising the deduction limit. Democrats slammed the policy change passed in December 2017 — and 11 Republicans from the high-tax states of New York, California and New Jersey voted against it. Multiple freshman House Democrats who unseated GOP lawmakers in those states in November ran in part on repealing the deduction limits.

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CNBC - February 7, 2019

Dow drops more than 200 points as Trump won't meet Xi before US-China trade deadline

Stocks fell sharply on Thursday as it became clear that a trade meeting between President Donald Trump and Chinese President Xi Jinping would not happen before a key March deadline.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average dropped 220.77 points to 25,169.53 as Apple and DowDuPont led the decline. The S&P 500 pulled back 0.94 percent to close at 2,706.05, led lower by the energy and tech sectors. The Nasdaq Composite lagged, sliding about 1.2 percent to 7,288.35.

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New York Times - February 7, 2019

Virginia Republican was top editor of yearbook that included blackface photos and racist slurs

Thomas K. Norment Jr., the powerful Republican majority leader in the Virginia Senate, was a top editor of a 1968 college yearbook that included several photographs of students in blackface as well as racist slurs.

Mr. Norment, 72, a longtime fixture and political broker in the State Legislature, is the first Republican to be swept up in Virginia’s ongoing political crisis over racist behavior in the past. The Virginian-Pilot newspaper first reported on the photos and material on Thursday.

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New York Times - February 7, 2019

A divided Senate committee advances William Barr nomination

A polarized Senate Judiciary Committee advanced the nomination of William P. Barr to be President Trump’s second confirmed attorney general on Thursday, as Republicans and Democrats split over his views on executive authority and the special counsel’s ongoing Russia investigation.

Mr. Barr will now go before the full Republican-controlled Senate, where he is expected to be confirmed and sworn into office as soon as next week. If confirmed, he would promptly assume responsibility for the special counsel investigation led by Robert S. Mueller III into possible ties between Mr. Trump, his associates and Russia, and whether the president obstructed justice.

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Wall Street Journal - February 7, 2019

Acting Attorney General Matthew Whitaker will testify to House panel after subpoena standoff

Acting Attorney General Matthew Whitaker is expected to testify before Congress on Friday, after a dispute between Democrats and the Justice Department over his conversations with the White House on the special counsel’s Russia investigation threatened to forestall the appearance.

Mr. Whitaker’s late Thursday agreement to testify Friday morning narrowly averted a showdown with Democrats who are eager to use their newfound power to probe the Trump administration. Thursday began with threats from the House Judiciary Committee to subpoena Mr. Whitaker if he declined to answer questions about his communications with Mr. Trump about special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation of Russian interference in the 2016 election and any collusion between the Trump campaign and Moscow. Mr. Trump has denied wrongdoing.

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Wall Street Journal - February 7, 2019

Digital First to attempt an overhaul of Gannett media giant's board

Digital First Media, the hedge-fund-backed newspaper chain whose takeover bid for Gannett Co. was rejected, has launched a proxy fight in an attempt to remake Gannett’s board of directors.

Digital First is one of Gannett’s largest shareholders with about 7.5 percent of its stock. It nominated a slate of six candidates Thursday and will solicit shareholder votes for them to replace a majority of the board members at the company’s annual meeting this spring. Gannett, the publisher of USA Today and other daily newspapers, earlier this week rejected the $1.4 billion takeover bid from Digital First, which is officially known as MNG Enterprises Inc., and questioned the bid’s credibility.

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Wall Street Journal - February 7, 2019

BB&T to buy SunTrust in largest bank deal since the financial crisis

BB&T Corp. struck a deal to buy SunTrust Banks Inc. for $28.2 billion, combining two regional lending powerhouses to create the sixth-largest U.S. retail bank and end a decadelong drought in big bank mergers.

The all-stock deal is the largest U.S. bank merger since the financial crisis ushered in a stricter regulatory regime that kept banks on the sidelines of recent deal-making booms. Bank rules have loosened considerably following President Trump’s 2016 election, leading some to predict a flood of consolidations among smaller banks.

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Associated Press - February 8, 2019

Supreme Court blocks Louisiana abortion clinic law

A divided Supreme Court stopped Louisiana from enforcing new regulations on abortion clinics in a test of the conservative court’s views on abortion rights. The justices said by a 5-4 vote late Thursday that they will not allow the state to put into effect a law that requires abortion providers to have admitting privileges at nearby hospitals.

Chief Justice John Roberts joined the court’s four liberals in putting a hold on the law, pending a full review of the case. President Donald Trump’s two Supreme Court appointees, Justices Neil Gorsuch and Brett Kavanaugh, were among the four conservative members of the court who would have allowed the law to take effect. Kavanaugh wrote a dissenting opinion in which he said the court’s action was premature because the state had made clear it would allow abortion providers an additional 45 days to obtain admitting privileges before it started enforcing the law.

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Associated Press - February 8, 2019

Virginia Dems brace for 2020 political fallout from scandal

The political crisis in Virginia threatens to turn a state that has trended Democratic back into a battleground, a development that could complicate the party’s effort to defeat President Donald Trump next year.

Three of the state’s top Democrats are engulfed in a scandal that has shaken the state government. Gov. Ralph Northam and Attorney General Mark Herring have admitted wearing blackface as young men in the 1980s. Lt. Gov. Justin Fairfax, meanwhile, has been accused of sexually assaulting a woman in 2004, an allegation he denies. The men are resisting calls for their resignation.

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Politico - February 7, 2019

John Dingell, the longest-serving member of Congress, dies at 92

Former Democratic Rep. John D. Dingell Jr., the longest-serving member of Congress whose tenure stretched from Dwight Eisenhower to Barack Obama, died on Thursday. He was 92. The cause of death was prostate cancer. Rep. Debbie Dingell, his wife of nearly four decades and successor in Congress, was at Dingell's side when he died.

Dingell‘s legendary tenure in Congress — he served in the House for 59 years and 21 days — is matched only by the scale of his contributions to American society. He was involved in crafting and passing legislation that aimed to ensure clean air and water, safer food and health care for Americans. He worked vociferously to protect the American automobile companies — the dominant industry in his southeastern Michigan district, which stretched from Detroit's edge to the college town of Ann Arbor.

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The Hill - February 8, 2019

John Solomon: Adam Schiff, Glenn Simpson and their Forrest Gump-like encounter in Aspen

The new House Intelligence Committee chairman, Adam Schiff (D-CA), has proven to be his party’s most effective antagonist toward President Trump. And now, with the new powers of being chairman, he is drawing both new weapons and new scrutiny. Sometimes such scrutiny inevitably turns to questions of hypocrisy.

Which bring us to the issue of some photographs taken at the prestigious Aspen security conference last July. They show Schiff meeting at the event with Fusion GPS Founder Glenn Simpson, one of the key and most controversial figures in the Russia collusion scandal. Both men insisted to me through spokesmen that they met only briefly last July. At the time of the encounter, Simpson was an important witness in the House Intelligence Committee probe who had given sworn testimony about alleged, but still unproven, collusion between Russia and the Trump campaign.

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NPR - February 8, 2019

Utah voters approved Medicaid expansion, but state lawmakers are balking

Utah residents may have thought they were done fighting about Medicaid expansion last November. During the election, voters approved a ballot measure to expand the health program for low-income residents to cover 150,000 uninsured people in the state.

But when Utah lawmakers opened a new legislative session in late January, they began pushing through a bill to roll back the scope and impact of that expansion. After six years of talking about Medicaid expansion, voters approved the ballot measure on Nov. 6, by 53 percent. But the issue erupted again when the legislative session started Jan. 28.

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The Intercept - February 7, 2019

Ohio's Governor stopped an execution over fears it would feel like waterboarding

At the Coroner's office in Dayton, Ohio, Dr. Mark Edgar stood over the body of Robert Van Hook. Van Hook had died one day earlier, on July 18, 2018, inside the death chamber at the Southern Ohio Correctional Facility in Lucasville. After a tearful apology to his victim’s family, he was injected with 500 milligrams of midazolam — the first of a three-drug formula adopted in 2017.

Media witnesses described labored breathing from Van Hook shortly afterward, including “gasping and wheezing” loud enough to be heard from the witness room. Nevertheless, compared to recent executions in Ohio, things seemed to go smoothly. Still, Edgar had cause for concern.

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Washington Post - February 7, 2019

Lawmakers introduce bipartisan bill that would reverse Trump’s ban on transgender troops

A bipartisan group of lawmakers introduced legislation on Thursday that would allow transgender people to serve openly in the military, after the Supreme Court last month moved to allow President Trump’s transgender troop ban to go into effect.

The legislation was introduced by Sens. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), Susan Collins (R-ME) and Jack Reed (D-RI in the Senate and Reps. Jackie Speier (D-CA), Joseph Kennedy III (D-MA), John Katko (R-NY), Susan Davis (D-CA) and Anthony Brown (D-MD) in the House.

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