Current Events
Current Events

Presidents & The Press

The White House suspends a CNN correspondent’s press pass.

CNN sues the White House to regain access.

Here’s a look at the history of presidential press conferences, how the approx. 2,000 White House reporters obtain press passes, and the legality of denying press access.

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HISTORY

  • Late 1800s: Presidents began holding regular press meetings.
  • 1914: A year after Pres. Wilson held the first formal press conference, a group of accredited reporters was formed to grant access passes for White House.
  • 1930: Pres. Hoover created the press secretary position.
  • 1961: Pres. Kennedy held first live televised press conference.

 

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WH Press Pass Process

  • Step 1: Approval by the Standing Cmte of Correspondents, which grants Senate & House passes “to bona fide correspondents of repute in their profession” who live in D.C. and are NOT engaged in political advocacy or lobbying.
  • Step 2: Secret Service conducts background check.  Once granted by Secret Service, passes must be renewed yearly.
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LEGALLY SPEAKING

  • A WH press pass is a privilege – not just anyone can obtain one.
  • A WH press pass can be revoked at the discretion (ex: security reasons) of the White House, BUT there are legal limits.
  • The issue is whether there is a clearly articulated standard for suspending WH passes and an opportunity for reporters to contest the suspension.
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The White House suspended CNN reporter Jim Acosta’s White House press pass after an incident during a press conference last week, where he refused to give up his microphone. Watch the exchange on our source page.

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WORLD’S MOST WANTED: EL CHAPO

He’s responsible for an est. 25% of illegal drugs that enter the U.S. via Mexico and now he faces his day in an American court.

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WHO IS HE?

  • Joaquín “El Chapo” Guzmán (61).
  • Nickname “shorty,” 5′ 6″ tall.
  • Doesn’t speak English.
  • Born poor to farmers, rose through the cartels to become billionaire leader of Sinaloa cartel.
  • #41 Forbes Most Powerful (2009.)
  • Twice escaped from maximum-security prisons in Mexico.
  • After 2 years of requests by the U.S, extradited to America in 2017.
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“I supply more heroin, methamphetamine, cocaine and marijuana than anybody else in the world. I have a fleet of submarines, airplanes, trucks and boats.”

El Chapo in an interview with actor Sean Penn for Rolling Stone magazine in 2015. Penn traveled to El Chapo's secret hideout to meet him & authorities say that helped lead to his arrest. U.S. prosecutors are expected to use video from the interview in the trial.
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WHAT WILL HAPPEN?

Guzman has pleaded not guilty to 17 charges of int’l drug trafficking, conspiring to kill rivals, gun charges & money laundering.

Astonishing 40 witnesses & former associates expected to testify, including a one-time lieutenant.

Prosecutors recently gave the defense 14K pages of new documents – many in Spanish.

 

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SECURITY IS TIGHT

  • El Chapo held in a windowless cell nearly 24 hrs/day for 20 months awaiting trial.
  • He will be moved for trial to avoid shutting down the Brooklyn Bridge each day as he’s moved to/from court.
  • Anonymous jury of 5 men & 7 women receive armed escorts.
  • Judge refused his request to hug wife in court due to security.
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Trial is expected to last for 4 months. If convicted, he faces life in prison with multiple indictments throughout the U.S., including NYC, San Diego, & Chicago. Prosecutors will try and seize an est. $14B in profits. El Chapo's sons are believed to be running the cartel in his absence.

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IT AIN’T OVER FOLKS!

2018 MIDTERMS

As Congress returns to work one week after Election Day, at least 15 Congressional races & 2 Governorships are without a winner

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FLORIDA RACES

  • Three recounts ordered (per state law when victory less than 0.5%).
  • U.S. Senate: Gov. Rick Scott (R) vs. incumbent Sen. Bill Nelson (D) – Scott says he won.
  • FL Governor: Former Rep. Ron DeSantis (R) vs. Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum (D) – DeSantis says he won.
  • FL Agriculture Comm’r: Matt Caldwell (R) vs. Nikki Fried (D).
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RECOUNT REALITY

According to the nonpartisan group FairVote, out of 4,687 statewide elections between 2000 and 2015, 27 went to a recount, but only three races saw changed results.

FYI: Pursuant to FL law, recounts of the 8.5 million votes must be completed by Thursday at 8pm, otherwise, the former counts stand.

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GEORGIA GOV. RACE

  • GA Secretary of State Brian Kemp (R) declared victory Thursday.
  • On Sunday, Stacey Abrams (D) filed a lawsuit to force a runoff and get the rejected absentee & provisional ballots counted.
  • TBD if a runoff will happen. GA law requires a runoff btwn two top candidates if neither receives more than 50% of the votes. If triggered, it will be held Dec 4th.
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Late Monday, Democrat Rep. Kyrsten Sinema beat out Republican Rep. Martha McSally to become Arizona's first female senator in a seat previously held by Sen. Jeff Flake. Sinema is the first Democrat to win a Senate seat in Arizona in 30 years.

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VOTING ON THE ISSUES

 

 

Election Day was about more than the politicians, voters also voted on major issues. From Medicaid to marijuana, minimum wage to money for abortions, here’s what happened & why it matters.

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MEDICAID EXPANSION

  • Three typically red states (Idaho, Nebraska, and Utah) approved measures to adopt the Affordable Care Act’s medicaid expansion in order to cover low-income adults.
  • WHY IT MATTERS: The medicaid expansions now exist in 36 states + D.C. Despite Pres. Trump’s opposition, could more states be next? (Thus making the healthcare law more difficult to change).
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MARIJUANA

  • Recreational Marijuana: Voters in North Dakota said “no”, but Michigan voters said “yes” – the 1st Midwestern state to do so.
  • Medical Marijuana: Voters in Missouri and Utah said “yes.”
  • WHY IT MATTERS: Canada just became the 2nd country to legalize recreational marijuana, now with AG Jeff Sessions out, will the U.S. be next?
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MINIMUM WAGE

  • Voters in two typically red states said “yes” to gradually raising the hourly minimum wage. Arkansas‘ $8.50 minimum wage will increase to $11 by 2021; Missouri‘s $7.85 minimum wage will increase to $13 by 2023.
  • WHY IT MATTERS: 29 states & D.C. have higher minimum wages than the federal minimum wage ($7.25). Will the feds follow suit?
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MONEY FOR ABORTIONS

  • Two states (Alabama and Virginia) voted to limit the use of taxpayer funds  for abortions. Voters in Oregon rejected a similar ballot measure.
  • WHY IT MATTERS: If any of these measures are challenged, they could end up at the Supreme Court, which now has a conservative majority, and shape abortion laws for years to come.
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Happy Election Day

 

 

Many would-be voters cite a lack of time as the reason why they don’t vote on Election Day.  A closer look at why it’s not a federal holiday and how the states (& some employers) are helping you get to the polls.

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What’s A Federal Holiday?

  • There are ONLY 11 federal holidays (aka national holidays), which are celebrated on the federal level (for federal employees and those in D.C.).
  • States are free to choose their own holidays.  In fact, neither the President nor Congress can designate a “national holiday” binding on the states.
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Why Isn’t Election Day A Federal Holiday?

Not enough support in Congress. 

Proponents of the idea argue it will ensure more people vote.

Opponents say state laws already provide additional times to vote, and that parents would have a difficult time voting due to school closures.

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States Giving Voters More Time To Vote

  • Three states (CO, OR, WA) allow all voters to mail in their ballots.
  • Early voting exists in all but 13 states; another 27 states allow voters to mail an absentee ballot w/o providing an excuse.
  • On Election Day, about 50% of states require employers to give their employees unpaid time off to vote.
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Businesses Giving Time Off To Vote

  • Recent survey: Just under half of 5,000 companies surveyed gave paid time off to vote. Number of companies following this trend increasing.
  • Nearly 350 business nationwide, including Chrysler, DoorDash, Fast Company, Spotify, & Western Union are giving their employees the whole day off to vote.
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Holiday or not, ride-share companies, like Uber and Lyft are offering discounted rides in an effort to help you get to the polls so you can cast your ballot.

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“Service is really what leadership is all about.“

 

 

Brent Taylor, a father of 7, becomes the 8th American casualty this year in Afghanistan. How he died and what it tells us about America’s longest war.

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Brent Taylor

  • Mayor of North Ogden, Utah.
  • Deployed in Jan 2018 with Utah National Guard.
  • Just celebrated his 15th wedding anniversary; spent 5 of those 15 years apart from his family in service in Iraq & Afghanistan.
  • 7 children; wrote on Facebook he saw his youngest learn to walk over Skype during this year-long deployment.
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“It was beautiful to see over 4 million Afghan men and women brave threats and deadly attacks to vote in Afghanistan’s first parliamentary elections in eight years… I am proud of the brave Afghan and US soldiers I serve with.”

Brent Taylor, Facebook Oct 28, less than a week before he was killed in apparent insider attack in Kabul, the second attack in less than two weeks. Another soldier was injured.
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Big Picture: Taliban

  • Taliban control more territory in Afghanistan than any time during the 17 year war.
  • Taliban “praised” attack (WaPo).
  • Taliban claimed responsibility for an insider attack 2 weeks ago that killed an Afghan general, & injured one of America’s top generals in Afghanistan; top U.S. general in Afghanistan narrowly avoided injury.
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“Insider Attacks”

  • When a member of the Afghan security forces, receiving training & resources from America, turns against their instructors. 5th insider attack in the last 4 months.
  • The group often claiming responsibility for these insider attacks, the Taliban, is the same group we are reportedly negotiating with in “peace talks” to withdraw.
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Pres. Trump's strategy for the Afghanistan war includes higher troop levels & allowing U.S. forces to more freely target terrorists. Approx. 15,000 U.S. troops remain in Afghanistan. Many, like Brent Taylor, have the primary role of training & advising Afghan troops.

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PAVING THE WAY FORWARD?

 

 

The new push to use your plastic waste to build roads.

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Backstory

China used to accept nearly half of the world’s plastic trash, but as of Jan. 1, 2018, it stopped accepting most plastics.

We only recycle about 9% of plastics we use; most of it goes to landfills and can take hundreds of years to decompose.

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A Bold Idea: Plastic Roads?

Still very new, but research focuses on three ways to make plastic roads:

  • Adding plastic pellets to asphalt.
  • Grinding off the top surface of roads and adding urethane.
  • Plastic-only, some fitting together like Lego bricks.

Supporters say the plastic makes roads more flexible and durable.

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Could It Really Work?

  • Concerns: melting certain types of plastics create a toxic gas when heated.
  • Amount: Sheer volume of plastic waste may make it difficult to sort & separate harmful plastics from those that are less so.
  • Endurance: Over time, plastics age and deteriorate releasing chemicals into the environment.
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Plastic roads are the norm in India, the world’s second-largest road network, where, since 2015, it's mandatory to use waste plastic for urban roads. Critics argue plastic roads just bury our plastic problem and that the only proper response is to create less plastic.

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DUELING DRILLS

 

 

 

The high stakes as NATO holds its biggest peacetime drill since the Cold War.

 

 

 

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What’s Happening

  • 50K troops from all 29 NATO allies (inc. U.S.) & 2 non-NATO, Baltic countries (Sweden & Finland) are conducting readiness exercises until Nov. 7 off Norway.
  • Why? To “send a strong signal of unity” – not to provoke – in the face of Russia’s increased presence in the area.
  • In turn, Russia will test missiles Nov. 1-3 in int’l waters off Norway.
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What’s at Stake

  • Since Russia seized Crimea from Ukraine in 2014, NATO officials worry what could be next.
  • Kremlin has rejected claims it’s a security threat while militarizing its strategic territory that’s sandwiched between Poland and Lithuania on the Baltic Sea.
  • Experts warn a build up (w/cruise, ballistic missiles) may block NATO support to vulnerable Baltics.
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Things to Consider

  • Baltic tensions are growing with Sweden & Finland stepping up their military response after repeated airspace violations by Russia’s military.
  • U.S. says it will pull out of a 1987 arms control treaty, which it accuses Russia of violating.
  • President Trump will “probably” meet with Putin Nov. 11 in Paris & invited him to D.C. in 2019.
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This is isn't the first time NATO allies have run practice drills in the Baltics this year. A smaller exercise, including 18K troops, happened back in June. National Security Advisor John Bolton met with Russian Pres. Vladmir Putin last week.

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MIDTERM ANOMALY?

 

 

On average, ONLY 40% of eligible citizens vote during U.S. midterm elections.
Why 2018 *may* be different.

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IMPORTANT CONTEXT:

In recent years, the % of eligible voters who turn out for midterms has declined.

  • 2014: 41.9%
  • 2006: 47.8%
  • 1998: 45.3%
  • 1990: 49.3%
  • 1982: 51.9%
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Analysts expect a big jump in turnout for 3 reasons:

  • Turnout tends to jump during a President’s first midterm election.
  • Turnout during primary elections increased. Ex: 56% more eligible voters voted in this year’s House primary elections compared to 2014.
  • Voter registration skyrocketed (800,00+ new voters – a record vs. 771,321 in 2016).
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With Election Day one week away, the number of voters participating in early voting has already broken records in Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Indiana, Minnesota, Nevada, Tennessee, and Texas.

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TERROR BY MAIL

 

 

Several prominent Democrat figures and CNN all received suspicious packages in recent days. No one was injured and no suspects have been named by the FBI.

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WHAT HAPPENED?

  • Monday: Explosive device sent to the NY home of Democrat megadonor George Soros.
  • Tuesday: Secret Service intercepted a suspicious package sent to fmr Sec. of State Hillary Clinton’s NY home.
  • Wednesday: Secret Service intercepted a suspicious package sent to fmr Pres. Barack Obama’s D.C. home in the early morning.
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Later on Wednesday:

  • A package sent to fmr CIA Director John Brennan at CNN NY’s office was delivered.
  • A suspicious package sent to fmr AG Eric Holder was sent back to its return address (Rep Debbie Wasserman Schultz’s FL office).
  • A suspicious package sent to Rep. Maxine Waters (D-CA) was intercepted at a congressional mail facility in MD.
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WHAT WE KNOW

All of the packages were affixed with 6 “Forever” stamps, computer-printed address labels, listed Congresswoman Schultz as a return address, & are now being analyzed by the FBI.

All of the pkgs, except the one received by CNN, were intercepted by Capitol Police, Secret Service or other federal authorities.

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In March, a man was arrested in connection w/12 suspicious pkgs sent to various federal offices, incl. the White House. Earlier this month, 2 suspicious pkgs believed to contain ricin were sent to the Pentagon, targeting Secretary of Defense & other top military officers.

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CARAVAN CRISIS

 

 

 

A closer look at the thousands risking their lives in an attempt to reach the U.S. border to apply for asylum – for the second time this year.

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About The Caravan

  • Who: Approx 5,000 from Honduras (mostly), El Salvador and Guatemala.
  • When: The group has multiplied since Oct. 13, when about 3,000 Hondurans started their journey.
  • Where: Traveling from their home countries to U.S border on foot.
  • Why: To escape poverty & violence, & seek asylum in the U.S. (not to enter the U.S. illegally).
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U.S. Asylum Law:

An asylum-seeker is a non-citizen present in U.S. or seeking admission at a port of entry who claims a well-founded fear of persecution based on race, nationality, religion, political ideology or social group.

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The Latest

  • On Friday, as about 3,000 asylum seekers entered Mexico from Guatemala, heading for the U.S.
  • Pres. Trump is pressuring Mexico for help; says without cooperation he will send the U.S. military and close the southern border.
  • As of Sunday evening, Mexico’s Interior department reported it had received more than 1,000 asylum requests.
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BIGGER PICTURE

  • Asylum often sought, just not in a caravan. Honduras, El Salvador & Guatemala rank among the top 5 countries from which asylum is sought & those from which asylum was denied.
  • Fleeing danger. In 2016, the annual homicide rate per 100,000 people was 5 in the U.S., 67.7 in Honduras, 99.7 in El Salvador and 32.7 in Guatemala.
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What will happen to those who reach the U.S. border? 

  • According to international law, asylum seekers cannot be turned away without the U.S. processing their applications.
  • Under U.S. law, officials must make a decision on asylum applications within 180 days.
  • While applications processed, asylum seekers will be detained.
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With midterms 15 days away, many wonder what, if any, impact this story will have on the immigration debate so close to the elections. Important context: A caravan of approx. 1,000 asylum traveled to U.S. border in April; several hundred applied for asylum.

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DIPLOMATIC VACANCIES

An alleged murder centers around 2 important U.S. allies: Saudi Arabia & Turkey.

Did you know America doesn’t have an ambassador in either country?

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Why It Matters

LEADERSHIP

“An ambassador is the President’s highest-ranking representative to a specific nation or international organization abroad.” (State Dept.)

An ambassador maintains relationships with host nation & helps coordinate between many federal agencies operating overseas & the U.S. gov’t.

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Why Empty Posts?

Politics: White House nominates a diplomat; Senate has to approve. A Senator can hold up the nomination process for any reason, at any time.

Process: Long and tedious vetting process. Some positions do not have a known nominee yet from the White House (like Turkey or Saudi Arabia).

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“In order to conduct U.S. foreign policy, the State Department needs its full team in place. … We’ve done our part at the State Department by putting forward a slate of candidates. It’s Sen. Bob Menendez and his colleagues who have refused to vote on these nominees, putting our nation at risk.”

Sec. of State Mike Pompeo placing blame for the delays squarely on politics at play. We do not know if all positions have nominees.
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“This Administration’s continued inability to adequately or appropriately fill key national security positions puts our nation at risk.”

Sen. Bob Menendez, the highest ranking Democrat on the Foreign Relations Committee has challenged President Trump's choices. The above was part the Senator's "tweetstorm" reacting to the resignation of UN Ambassador Nikki Haley.
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Other empty posts besides Turkey and Saudi Arabia? Mexico, Pakistan. Australia. Others note that many empty posts remain in the Middle East during a crucial time with Iran: Jordan, Qatar and Iraq.

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