National News Roundup: Year 2, Week 37 (September 30 — October 6)

Well, it’s been about a day since the final Kavanaugh vote as I type this, and I think probably half the country spent some of Saturday, Sunday, or both in a shell-shocked malaise. And I won’t pretend this week was anything but a serious blow to our democracy, because I respect you all too much to candy-coat that. But there is still so much to do; as I type this, it’s about a month to the midterm election, and it’s realistic to think we can make real changes to the House — which would in turn mean impeachment proceedings. It might even still be possible to flip the Senate and take Yurtle the Turtle’s gavel away; a lot can happen in a month if we mobilize! In other words: we haven’t lost the whole enchilada yet, and a lot of us have registration deadlines coming up. So to keep us moving and on target, we’re switching to the Very Bad News Protocol here at Roundup HQ this week — The Bad is broken up into The Bad (Original Flavor) and The Very Bad (Extra Crispy-Making), and I’m also including a What We Can Do section because, no seriously, there is so much we can do once we’re able to peel ourselves off the floor. Also just like before, I moved The Good to the top because life’s too short and we all deserve to have our news dessert first. The closing also has fuzzy animal photos, which isn’t as good as a functional government but we’re working with what we’ve got this week.

Standard standing reminders apply: I am no journalist, though I play one in your inbox or browser, so I’m only summarizing the news within my area of expertise. This week’s news contains some detailed analysis that’s outside my expertise — I’m a lawyer, not a calendar! — but all offroad adventures are marked with an asterisk. Okay, I think that’s about it for the disclaimers. Onward to the news!

The Good:

  • Time bought for TPS. A District Court in California temporarily blocked termination of temporary protective status for four countries (Sudan, El Salvador, Haiti, and Nicaragua) this week, only three weeks before Sudan’s legal status was due to end. The preliminary injunction means that the judge believes the underlying challenge to the programs’ end has merit, likely due to the pages and pages of evidence that the whole thing was racially motivated; the administration’s executive power reaches its limits when they try to do things that are blatantly unconstitutional. That said, it was also pretty edifying to watch the court eat the government’s argument re: the travel ban for breakfast; I think my favorite quote is “The justification for a kind of super deference [for the government] advocated by the government in this case is not warranted.” These programs help over 300,000 people legally living in America, all of whom could get rounded up for deportation as soon as the programs end, and it could take several weeks for the administration to get this overturned even if the Supreme Court is on fire. So the decision buys more time for a lot of people — it’s not surprise that when this case was brought up in an immigration coalition meeting I attended this week, the whole room burst into applause.
  • Resilience in Charlottesville. A federal district court in Charlottesville has charged four white supremacists with inciting a riot and attacking counterprotesters last year after identifying them via footage of the incident. All four of the men are in custody in California and could face up to ten years in federal prison if convicted.
  • Jason Van Dyke Convicted of Murder. This one is less ‘good’ and more ‘grimly satisfying,’ but a jury in Chicago convicted police officer Jason Van Dyke of second-degree murder and sixteen counts of aggravated battery this week, four years after Van Dyke fatally shot seventeen-year-old Laquan McDonald seventeen times. The murder conviction carries a sentence of four to twenty years in prison, and each aggravated battery charge is potentially another six to thirty years. A final sentence is due on October 31.
  • HPV Vaccine Expansion. An HPV vaccination that has been available for years for minors and adults up to 26 will now be available to patients up to age 45 after a study showed its efficacy for the population. This is likely to further reduce incidences of cervix cancer in the population, as well as bringing down the price of the vaccine dramatically for people in that age range (since it can now be covered by insurance).

Constitutional Crisis Corners:

There’s definitely a lot to say about Casual Disregard of Governing Norms this week, but a lot of it will be covered below in the Extra Crispy-Making section. Here are the main other odds and ends to know:

The Russia Investigation was a bit quieter than the other splashy headlines this week, but there was still some movement. Here are the main things to know:

Your “Normal” Weird:

  • Are Gender Reveal Parties Always This Weird?* This week marked the sentencing for a CBP agent whose gender reveal explosion sparked a 47,000 acre fire in April 2017 (and that’s easily the most Trump-era sentence I’m going to write all week). The agent will ultimately owe $220,000 in restitution, despite the fire ultimately costing $8.2M in damages. Incredibly, one of the outlets to report on this wants you to know that the dude couldn’t be reached to confirm what the baby’s gender was — you’re right, Beaumont Enterprise, that’s definitely the burning question here.
  • Test of the Presidential Annoyance System.* This week marked the first national test of the IPAWS, which sadly is an International Public Alert and Warning Safety system and not a new electronic device for your pets. A bunch of the country got a Presidential Alert on the subject, although apparently not all of us did (which I can personally confirm, because apparently I’m among those marked to leave to die). But since the whole point of the test was to work out the kinks, we’re assured that this is being addressed.

The Bad:

  • EPA Episodes.* Another week, another set of horrifying reports, announcements, and proposals from History’s Worst Environmental Protection Agency. In addition to advancing the mercury proposal from last week, we’ve got a proposal on deck for weakening regs on radiation exposure, which relies on outlier arguments that a little bit of radiation is good for you (yes, really). And in follow up to last week’s Climate Change, Amirite? report, actual scientists doing their actual job at the United Nations are reporting very serious conditions such as food shortages, wildfires, and massive coral reef extinction as soon as 2040 — much sooner than we expected, because we initially believed a lot of these changes would occur at 3.6 degrees of warming, not at the newly-understood 2.7. There’s a silver lining, though, which is that these conditions are still avoidable if major changes are made in the next few years. So we can throw this on the giant pile of Reasons to Impeach Half the Administration and Put Grownups Back in Charge.
  • Farm bill Uncertainty. Just like the VAWA problem I mentioned last week, the Federal Farm Bill expired at the end of the month because lawmakers couldn’t find consensus. Unlike VAWA, it didn’t make it into the stopgap measure passed at the last minute to keep the governmental lights on. The two biggest programs in the bill, SNAP benefits and crop insurance, have other authorizations and will keep going. But it would be best if we got this ironed out quickly, because dozens of smaller programs are hanging out in limbo until it’s fixed.
  • LGBT Discrimination for, IDK, Funsies I Guess? For no apparent reason whatsoever, the Trump administration announced this week that it’s no longer issuing visas to same-sex partners of diplomats and United Nations employees unless they’re legally married, despite the fact that same-sex marriage is only recognized by 12% of the countries in the United Nations (and in many places, it’s still criminalized). The administration is also requiring partners of current diplomats to either get married here or leave, which has got to be the worst form of shotgun wedding I’ve ever heard. Incredibly, their stated reason for suddenly deciding this policy was necessary was “to ensure and promote equal treatment” — because legalizing same-sex marriage in 2015 apparently means they absolutely have to kick a bunch of queer people out in 2018, or, y’know, it’s not fair to the unmarried straight people. And if I write any more about how mind-numbingly asinine this entire thing is, I’m gonna give myself an aneurysm, so we’re just gonna move on now.

The Very Bad — Please Read It Anyway!

What We Can Do

So that’s what I have for this week, and I’m so sorry that it’s all I’ve got. For making it through all of that, you deserve this compilation of animal snapchats and an eventual better government. I’ll be back next week with more news, and I hope you will be back as well — but in the meantime, feel free to ping the National News Roundup ask box, which is there for your constructive comments. Send me questions! Send me feedback! Send me selfies of your self-care regimens!

- — —

National News Roundup News
After speaking with a friend and fellow voice actor, I’m excited to announce that we’re trying out accessibility recording here at the NNR! You can enjoy this week’s roundup in audio form at the link below, and I particularly recommend feedback on this development as we hash out the structure and feasibility of accessibility recording long-term.

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