National News Roundup: Week 1 (January 22–28)

Hello again, folks! I’m back with another news-related post. (Are you tired of hearing me talk yet? I know I am…)

Several people I know have expressed difficulty keeping up with the news, and requested summaries of major events. While I’m by no means a journalist, I do keep up with the news, more-or-less, and I’m happy to summarize what I’ve been tracking to help folks stay on top of it all. A few preliminaries, because a vague disclaimer is nobody’s friend: For the sake of simplicity, I am keeping this to national news that I have sourced and is within my general areas of expertise (though I may occasionally incorporate other news that is big enough to make it onto my radar). For the ease of reading, let’s divide the news up into The Good, the Bad, and the Weird.

The Weird:

  • Of All the Things to Lie About… After Saturday’s successful marches turned out way more people than the actual inauguration did, Trump spokespeople started acting… a little off, shall we say? Donald Trump insisted that his inauguration was much bigger than it was in front of a Memorial Wall of fallen CIA heroes, apparently angering staff there (because that space is considered venerated). White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer immediately followed suit, citing things like (I kid you not) floor coverings and magnetometers as explaining the discrepancies between Trump’s report and the nation’s ability to view photographs.
  • “Alternate Facts.” Perhaps the most famous truly weird thing to happen involving the inauguration falsehoods was chief counselor Kellyann Conway’s bizarre Meet the Press interview with Chuck Todd. This interview contained several confusing or disturbing statements from Conway, but most of the Internet immediately latched onto her assertion that the statements from Trump and Spicer weren’t falsehoods, they were “alternate facts.” Merrian Webster dragged Conway halfway to Toledo by immediately tweeting their helpful definition of the word ‘fact’ for her, and then just kept on dragging while the rest of us watched in mute awe and wondered just when and how the dictionary started leading the resistance.
  • So Long, State Department Staff! The State Department’s entire senior administrative team left this week, and no one can agree whether they resigned or were forced out (or a combination therein). Everyone agrees that it is unusual either way, and the article I linked to calls it “the single biggest simultaneous departure of institutional memory that anyone can remember.”

The Bad:

  • “We’re Gonna Build a Wall” (and other immigration nightmares). Three different executive orders were signed this week about immigration, all of which contain provisions that are varying degrees of heartless and illegal (though sadly, this venn diagram does not look like a single circle). I wrote a summary of each of these earlier this week, but for those of you looking for the quick and dirty story: One of them is about building that asinine wall that he apparently does, in fact, plan to build. One of them is about policies regarding undocumented immigrants more generally. The last one is about entry for immigrants and nonimmigrants coming from seven countries in the Middle East. All of them can be fairly described as “returning to the Dubbya era, if the Dubbya era were juicing daily.”
  • Pence’s Handmaiden Tale Initiative Bingo. Two different measures limiting reproductive rights happened this week. The first is that HR7, a bill that would prohibit use of federal funds for “abortion or health coverage that includes abortion,” passed in the House (though it still needs to go through the Senate). Trump also issued an executive memorandum that reinstates a Reagan-era ban on funding for international health organizations that provide information about abortions or abortions themselves.
  • Ben Carson: Just One Calorie, and That’s Not-Evil Enough for Us. The Senate Banking committee unanimously voted to approve Ben Carson as Secretary of Housing and Urban Development, which means the vote has been opened for the whole Senate. (Elizabeth Warren was among those who voted yea.)
  • Gagging On Science. The Trump Administration issued varying degrees of gag order on several Executive agencies this past week, which by the way is not exactly legal. Most coverage has been on the EPA and the USDA, but several other agencies (such as Health and Human Services, Interior, and Transportation) have also been impacted.
  • Authoritarian State of the Nation. Amy Kiskind keeps a weekly tab of authoritarian acts in the United States, and has her own set of news from this week. Some of that work is reproduced here, but it’s worth checking out her summary as well — she has a broader scope of political expertise than I do by far.

The Good:

  • Emoluments What Now? A cadre of attorneys, including the leading national authorities for American constitutional law, are suing Donald Trump for violation of the Emoluments Clause of the Constitution. The short version of what this means is that they are arguing that Trump’s elaborate business empire, which provides services to foreign nationals, creates a conflict of interest for him which cannot be resolved, because it potentially makes him beholden to other countries. The suit is demanding that he either divest from his company business interests entirely or step down.
  • Bad-Hombre-Lands and National Snark Service. Somewhat incredibly, after gag orders came down on the EPA and the USDA, and the National Park Service was ordered to take down tweets about the inauguration size, Badlands National Park started “rogue tweeting” climate change facts. After the tweets were taken down, multiple unofficial spoof twitter accounts launched, which now have over 100,000 followers each.
  • Airport Wins (in Some Places). Several different federal courts across the nation have issued holdings that detention of Middle Eastern immigrants in airports, which began Friday after the executive order was issued, is unlawful. One of these cases (the New York case, specifically) had a holding that extended to all practice nationally.
  • Somebody Edited Wikipedia to Include Paul Ryan Among Examples of Invertebrates. This one didn’t even need a snarky heading.
  • National Cute Animal Tweet-Off. Yeah, you read that correctly; zoos and aquariums all over the country engaged in a national cute animals tweet-off on Wednesday. This totally counts as national news. Do yourself a favor and click the link to see many, many excellent fuzzy and scaly friends — you’ve reached the end of this past week’s news, which means you earned it!