Top News Stories for Today – February 23, 2017
US citizens demand their representatives hold town halls
Unable to reach their congressional representatives the old-fashioned way — by phone, email, and in person — Americans across the country are getting creative. While Republican lawmakers like Sen. Joni Ernst (Iowa) and Sen. Tom Cotton (Ark.) have faced down angry constituents who peppered them with questions about everything from repealing the Affordable Care Act to President Trump’s ties to Russia, others, like Rep. Paul Cook (Calif.), Rep. Dana Rohrabacher (Calif.), and House Speaker Paul Ryan, are being accused by constituents of purposely avoiding their districts.
Wisconsinites posted an ad about Ryan being missing in the Madison Craigslist’s Lost and Found section, and a billboard was put up telling Ryan to “stop running from us.” In California, Rohrabacher’s constituents used their bodies to spell out “Where’s Dana?” on a beach, while Cook’s photo appeared on milk jugs across his district, along with the word “Missing.” Craigslist, The Week
N Korea condemns Malaysia over Kim’s death
North Korea has said Malaysia is responsible for the death of one of its citizens and is attempting to politicise the return of his body. It does not name Kim Jong-nam, but the KCNA report appears to be state media’s first reference to the death of the half-brother of North Korea’s leader. Mr Kim died after being poisoned at Kuala Lumpur airport and his body remains in a hospital mortuary.
Several North Koreans are wanted in connection with his death. They include a senior official at the North Korean embassy in Kuala Lumpur as well as an employee of the state airline, Air Koryo. Four other North Koreans named earlier in the case are thought to have left Malaysia already, while another North Korean is in detention. Malaysia’s police chief Khalid Abu Bakar said on Thursday that he had asked international police agency Interpol to issue an alert for the four. BBC
Trump rolls back transgender bathroom guidance
The Trump administration on Wednesday rescinded Obama-era anti-discrimination protections for transgender students. President Trump overruled Education Secretary Betsy DeVos’ concerns about the move. The Obama administration had ordered schools to let transgender students use public school restrooms corresponding to their gender identity, and Democrats immediately criticized Trump for rolling back the policy.
“No student should face discrimination at school because of who they are,” House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) said in a statement. “Transgender students have the same right to a safe environment at school and in their community as everyone else.” The Associated Press, The Week
Iraqi forces recapture Mosul airport
Iraqi security forces have recaptured Mosul airport, a key part of the government’s offensive to drive the so-called Islamic State (IS) from the western half of the city. The operation took four hours. IS continued to fire mortars at the airport from further inside the city after losing the ground to the army.
The jihadists have also entered a nearby military base amid further clashes, a military spokesman said. Eastern Mosul was retaken last month. The airport’s runway has been destroyed by IS, but BBC Middle East Correspondent Quentin Sommerville, who is embedded with Iraqi federal police units, says it still has value. BBC
NASA discovers new solar system
NASA scientists have found seven Earth-sized planets in a nearby solar system that could potentially support life, the US space agency said Wednesday. The planets, all with the potential to hold life-sustaining liquid water, are orbiting a single dwarf star about 40 light-years away.
Scientists initially reported the system last year, but at that point they thought only three planets were orbiting the star. The latest discovery, uncovered by NASA’s Spitzer Space Telescope, sets a record for the star with the greatest number of potentially life-supporting planets around it. NASA, NPR
Refusing vaccines leads to health at risk in US
The World Health Organization hopes to inoculate 5 million children in Yemen against polio this year, while in US a movement opposed to the use of vaccines in the very young is gaining momentum, prompting warnings from many doctors that this trend could result in dangerous outbreaks of diseases once under control.
The scientific establishment has repeatedly discredited such theories, but parents who oppose vaccines say they should be able to disregard their government’s advice and choose for themselves whether to vaccinate their children. Texans for Vaccine Choice is a very effective organization. Another group called Revolution for Truth plans a march on Washington in late March. On Facebook the group says its purpose is “to protest the … media’s biased coverage and demonization of anyone who advocates for safer vaccines or defends the legal right to make informed, voluntary vaccine choices.” VOA
US hope to ease US-Mexico tensions
US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly meet Thursday with Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto and members of his cabinet, in what is expected to be the first in a series of high-level meetings focusing on drug trafficking, trade and immigration. The two key members of President Donald Trump’s Cabinet are hoping to soothe concern and anger about the new US administration’s policies toward Mexico.
Spicer also referred to relations between the two countries as “healthy and robust.” On Wednesday, Mexican Foreign Minister Luis Videgaray said his country will not accept new “unilateral” US immigration proposals and will not hesitate in taking the matter to the United Nations. He says says his country cannot “accept unilateral decisions imposed by one government on another.” VOA, BBC
To say that the Democrats are in the wilderness is an understatement. They (shockingly) lost the presidency. Republicans are in full control of Congress. The election exposed deep divisions. And now that Barack Obama is spending his time kitesurfing with buddies, the Dems need a new leader.
Eight people who want to be that leader got together in Atlanta to talk about it. So what did we learn? Ex-Labor Secretary Tom Perez and Minnesota Rep. Keith Ellison are the frontrunners. But the party is conflicted on how to tangle with Trump. Obstruct him at every opportunity? Find ways to work with him? Or go straight for impeachment? Democrats will vote for the new DNC chair on Saturday. CNN
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