In America’s battle over President Donald Trump’s demand for $5 billion in wall funding, no subject is off-limits for partisan sniping. After the recent deaths of ailing 7- and 8-year old migrants in the care of the U.S. Border Patrol, Trump tweeted that “Democrats and their pathetic immigration policies” were to blame, and with a border wall, migrants “wouldn’t even try” to enter the country. Amid backlash from Democratic legislators, Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen visited the border and urged Congress to fix an “overwhelmed” system that’s created a “humanitarian crisis.”
The Presidential Daily Brief
With the current Republican-controlled House, Senate and administration failing to enact funding for President Donald Trump’s signature border wall, it’s likely the resulting weeklong government shutdown will continue. While Democrats taking over the House next week say they’re poised to pass a spending bill that doesn’t fund “the president’s immoral, ineffective and expensive” wall, Trump’s sequestered himself in the White House, blaming Democrats, threatening to close the Mexican border and cut aid to Central America, where a new migrant caravan is reportedly preparing to head north.
A day after a bomb near Giza’s pyramids killed three Vietnamese tourists and their local guide, security forces raided two sites Saturday in the Cairo suburb and another in North Sinai. The government reported killing 40 militants, publishing photos of bodies with weapons next to them — not linking them to Friday’s attack, but saying “a number of terrorists” were plotting assaults on tourism, official and Christian sites. There have been periodic attacks on such targets, but human rights monitors charge that a similar 2017 raid was staged to obfusicate extrajudicial killings.
They’re hiring. Aside from a looming budget shutdown battle, presumptive House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and her incoming Democratic majority have a full agenda. For one, they’re retaining lawyers with expertise on a variety of subjects related to investigating the president — even as his lawyer Rudy Giuliani says he’s “done enough” for special counsel Robert Mueller’s probe. Pelosi has also appointed a leader for the committee on climate change she plans to revive, while Democrats have ordered Homeland Security officials to preserve evidence in the deaths of two migrant children, foretelling another likely investigation.
Western media welcomed Saudi Arabia’s millennial crown prince, Mohammed bin Salman, as a reformer who engineered lifting bans on women driving, working and attending soccer games. Then came the dismemberment of Saudi Arabia’s best-known journalist, an assassination bearing the prince’s fingerprints — and he had yet to take the throne. Rumors that bad press might deny MBS his royal inheritance have faded, though, as King Salman has removed his son from the security of his yacht and taken him to hold court in the provinces, appearing intent to clarify whom the next king will be.
Under President Barack Obama, the Environmental Protection Agency initiated restrictive measures to curb pollutants. Since President Donald Trump has taken office, many of those measures have been reversed. In California, the use of chlorpyrifos, originally developed as a nerve agent, as a pesticide applied across the state’s nut and orange orchards is reportedly causing violent reactions in workers. In North Dakota, unabated burning methane from fracking is aggravating climate change. Pushback from industry has succeeded in turning around 80 of the Obama administration restrictions, now either delayed or in the process of repeal.
The Week Ahead: As the year ends Monday night, Defense Secretary Jim Mattis’ resignation will take effect and his deputy, Patrick Shanahan, will take over as acting secretary. On Tuesday, New Year’s Day, the euro currency will mark its 20th anniversary. That same day, far-right populist Jair Bolsonaro will be sworn in as Brazil’s president.
Know This: Voters in the Democratic Republic of Congo are choosing a replacement for President Joseph Kabila, who has promised to relinquish power after 17 years. President Trump has ordered that 2019 raises for some 2 million civilian federal employees be canceled. And the No. 1-ranked Alabama will again meet Clemson (ranked No. 2) in the Jan. 7 NCAA football championship after both teams won semifinal games Saturday against Oklahoma and Notre Dame, respectively.
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It’s coming, but we may not recognize it. It’s becoming harder and harder to tell the handiwork of humans from that of bots on the web. Research indicates that in good years, nearly half of online traffic is automated, fed by “click farms” that gin up engagement to boost websites’ value to advertisers. It’s especially evident at YouTube, where staff fear “The Inversion” — when fraud detection systems start perceiving humans as bots. Some believe that militates for reforming or even regulating the internet to save the digital world’s humanity.
It was out of the blue. NPR correspondent Tamara Keith had to put off family festivities to honor the White House’s request. Swearing her spouse to secrecy, Keith and fellow pool reporters arrived at a darkened Maryland air base to board Air Force One for President Donald Trump’s Wednesday Iraq visit — his first with combat-deployed military. The only clues leaked were an aviation nerd’s photo of the plane over Britain and the Twittersphere’s eerie silence, prompting presidential thanks not just to the troops but also to the journalists and their “courage.”
He fought one bullet at a time. As U.S. forces plan to withdraw from Syria, a Kurdish-origin British sniper’s story resonates. Leaving his Swedish television job, Azad Cudi volunteered for the U.S.-allied Kurdish YPG, becoming a marksman who picked off ISIS fighters. His upcoming memoir, Long Shot: The Inside Story of the Snipers Who Broke ISIS, details his role in subduing the movement. Faced with President Trump’s sudden withdrawal edict, U.S. commanders want to leave YPG — now willing to cede control to Syrian government forces — with American weapons, likely angering Turkey.
Woolly mammoths will roam the earth again. Maybe. Genetic technology, like CRISPR genome editing, has provided hope for “de-extinction” projects to revive bygone species. It’s a delicate ethical line, raising issues like the animals’ viability and impact on ecosystems. Why mammoths? They’re big and they stomp and they like the cold. That’s actually needed in these days of climate change, where cold-weather creatures help pack down frozen tundra to keep it from thawing too quickly and releasing trapped carbon — perhaps saving humans from their own extinction.
The wind was in their sails. The 2018 Minnesota Vikings were set to finally earn Super Bowl rings. They had a new facility — with cryotherapy and a nutrition bar — and freshly signed quarterback Kirk Cousins. But early injuries and imbalances meant near-constant reconfiguration by coach Mike Zimmer. Then there was the disappointing defense, lack of ground game, alleged shooting threat and mental health check. It seemed like typical NFL volatility, but Twin Cities fans retain hope: The game Sunday against conference rival Chicago offers a guaranteed playoff berth.