Bigger Issues Revealed From Government Shutdown

By: Emmie Martin

The partial government shutdown, which began Dec. 22, has now stretched well into the new year. President Donald Trump said Friday that it would continue for “months or even years” until he receives the requested $5 billion in funding for a border wall.

The shutdown has left approximately 800,000 federal workers in financial limbo. Around 420,000 “essential” employees are working without pay, while another 380,000 have been ordered to stay home, according to calculations provided to CNBC by Paul Light, a professor of public service at New York University.

In some cases, the furloughs have forced government employees to tap into their savings, rely on credit cards or crowdsource funds to make ends meet.

Government workers are far from alone in feeling stressed about not getting paid. Nearly 80 percent of American workers (78 percent) say they’re living paycheck to paycheck, according to a 2017 report by employment website CareerBuilder. Women are particularly vulnerable: 81 percent of them report living paycheck to paycheck, compared with 75 percent of men.

Tony Reardon, president of the National Treasury Employees Union, tells CNBCthat the group has heard from hundreds of frantic federal employees. “They’re scared,” he says. “They don’t know how they’re going to put food on the table.”

Various #ShutdownStories making that point have gone viral on Twitter.

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Gene Editing The Next Social Divide

By: Emma Court

Gene editing is one of the most promising new approaches to treating human diseases today. 

It also raises “enormous” ethical questions, Bill Gates recently warned, and “could make inequity worse, especially if it is available only for wealthy people.” 

“I am surprised that these issues haven’t generated more attention from the general public,” he said in a December blog post, adding that “this might be the most important public debate we haven’t been having widely enough.” 

Gene editing allows scientists to make powerful, precise changes to a person’s DNA, typically to fix a defective gene.

Ethical concerns about what the approach might be used for have long existed, but it came to a boil recently when a Chinese researcher said he had played a role in creating the first genetically edited babies. 

Gene editing has already taken place in humans in the US as a one-time treatment for disease. But unlike those efforts, the Chinese scientist’s work would allow genetic changes to be passed down to other generations. It quickly sparked backlash, with many researchers describing the project as concerning and unethical. 

Gates’ warning, released as part of the billionaire philanthropist’s 2018 wrap-up, appears to have been prompted by that recent news. 

“I agree with those who say this scientist went too far,” Gates said. “But something good can come from his work if it encourages more people to learn and talk about gene editing.”

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Climate Change Deniers Are Becoming A Danger To Society

By: Jennifer Rubin

Imagine during the Cold War that one political party, in the face of overwhelming evidence that the Soviet Union was engaged in espionage against the United States, had a nuclear arsenal pointed at the United States, kept Eastern Europe under its thumb and imprisoned dissenters, refused to consider the Soviet Union a danger — of any sort — to the United States or other Western democracies. And they would offer no credible evidence to the contrary, but rather assert that it was all a hoax. Besides, they’d insist (with no evidence) that it was too expensive to address the challenge posed by the Soviet Union, a danger which they claimed didn’t exist (So how expensive could it be? Don’t ask!). Actually, you don’t have to imagine this scenario. Many on the left have made arguments along these lines, and many on the right have responded by saying they were fuzzy-headed, in denial or captive of interest groups.

That is essentially what is going on, only with the parties flipped, in the climate-change debate. Climate-change denial has become as necessary to one’s right-wing identity as aversion to immigration, opposition to most abortions and a disbelief that sexual harassment and assault are widespread. Just as rejecting geopolitical reality became a requirement of inclusion in far-left circles, climate-change denial is a must for those who want to remain in the Trump fold.

On what basis do they deny climate change? President Trump says he knows a lot about science, so believe him instead of all the scientists who work for the federal government. Others seek refuge in the fantasy that there is reasonable doubt as to the existence of climate change or the severity of the problem, citing fringe characters without expertise on the subject. Those who know better or suspect climate-change denial is irrational (but are too cowardly to confront know-nothings who dominate the party) are willing to string along with the mob, even at the expense of endangering the country and the planet. Republican senators from Florida and Texas, where their constituents’ lives and property are threatened by the rising sea levels that result from rising temperatures, won’t admit the origin of the problem. They simply want bailout money each time another disaster strikes.

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Driver Plows Car Into Foreign Citizens

By: Tom Batchelor

Four people have been injured after a man intentionally drove into a crowd of people in Germany in what appeared to be a racist far-right attack, police said.

Those hit by the car included Syrian and Afghan citizens and the driver made anti-foreigner comments during his arrest, according to officials.

The man, who fled the scene, made racist comments when he was later stopped and arrested, according to a statement by local police and prosecutors.

Investigators suspect it was a deliberate attack that may be linked to the xenophobic views of the driver,” the statement said.

Police in the city of Bottrop, in western Germany, said a 50-year-old man drove at a pedestrian, who managed to get out of the way of the vehicle, shortly after midnight on New Year’s Day. 

He then drove into the city centre, allegedly ramming a crowd with his Mercedes before fleeing towards the nearby city of Essen where he attempted to drive into a group of people waiting at a bus stop, German newspaper Die Zeit reported. 

Police said the attack was presumed to be premeditated. 

One of the four injured people remains in hospital, a police spokesperson said.

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Cyberbullying Now Punishable By Jail Time

By: Lee Devito

We’ve got bad news for you, Metro Timestrolls: Cyberbullying is now a crime in Michigan. 

On Thursday, Gov. Rick Snyder signed into law a bill sponsored by Rep. Pete Lucido, R-Shelby Township that formally defines cyberbullying as a misdemeanor crime punishable by 93 days in jail and a $500 fine. Public Act 457 of 2018 will take effect in March.

According to the law, a “pattern of repeated harassment” is a felony punishable by up to five years in prison and a $5,000 fine. Meanwhile, cyberbullying that is found to cause a victim’s death is punishable by up to 10 years in prison and a $10,000 fine.

According to Lucido’s bill, “cyberbullying” is defined by “posting a message or statement in a public media forum about any other person” if both “the message or statement is intended to place a person in fear of bodily harm or death and expresses an intent to commit violence against the person” and “the message or statement is posted with the intent to communicate a threat or with knowledge that it will be viewed as a threat.”

A “pattern of harassing or intimidating behavior” means a series of two or more separate noncontinuous acts of harassing or intimidating behavior. And a “public media forum” refers to “the internet or any other medium designed or intended to be used to convey information to other individuals, regardless of whether a membership or password is required to view the information.”

“Cyberbullying can cause just as much trauma as traditional bullying so it’s important that it be considered a crime,” Snyder said in a statement. “With this bill, we are sending a message that bullying of any kind is not tolerated in Michigan.”

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Elon Musk Explains What Fuels Him

By: CNBC

Elon Musk has become infamous for his extreme work schedule.

When he was ramping up production of the Model 3 Tesla, he put in as many as 120 hours in a week. He slept at the factory because he had no time to go home. He called 2018 “the most difficult and painful year of my career.” “[I]t was excruciating,” he told The New York Times.

In late October Musk finally said he was working a much more manageable schedule of 80 to 90 hours a week.

This from a man who is already worth more than $20 billion, according to Forbes.

So why does Musk push himself? To hear Musk tell it, he is trying to save planet Earth. Literally. Musk wants Tesla to be successful so the world moves away from driving cars that run on petroleum-derived fuel.

“Tesla is incredibly important for the future of sustainable transport and energy generation. The fundamental purpose, the fundamental good that Tesla provides is accelerating the advent of sustainable transport and energy production,” Musk said told Recode’s Kara Swisher. “The success of Tesla is, by far, the biggest forcing function for the other car makers to get into … electric cars.”

Providing alternative methods for mass transportation that do not depend on petroleum-derived fuel is key to slowing global warming.

“Yes. It’s very important for the future of the world. It’s very important for all life on Earth. This supersedes political parties, race, creed, religion, it doesn’t matter. If we do not solve the environment, we’re all damned,” Musk told Swisher.

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U.S. Pulls Out Of Syria as Isis is Defeated

By : BBC

The Pentagon said it was transitioning to the “next phase of the campaign” but did not give details.

Some 2,000 troops have helped rid much of north-eastern Syria of IS, but pockets of fighters remain.

It had been thought defence officials wanted to maintain a US presence to ensure IS did not rebuild.

There are also fears a US withdrawal will cede influence in Syria and the wider region to Russia and Iran.

Both the Pentagon and the White House statement said the US had started “returning United States troops home as we transition to the next phase of this campaign”.

The Pentagon said it would not provide further details of what that next phase is “for force protection and operational security reasons”.

The White House said the US and its allies stood “ready to re-engage at all levels to defend American interests whenever necessary, and we will continue to work together to deny radical Islamist terrorists territory, funding, support and any means of infiltrating our borders”.

What has been the reaction?

Israel said it had been told the US had “other ways to have influence in the area” but would “study the timeline [of the withdrawal], how it will be done and of course the implications for us”.

Russia’s Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said on state-controlled Channel One TV that the US decision could result in “genuine, real prospects for a political settlement” in Syria.

Pulling troops out of Syria had long been promised by President Trump.

But the announcement may have taken some of his own officials by surprise. 

Last week Brett McGurk, special presidential envoy for the global coalition to defeat IS, told reporters at the state department: “Nobody is saying that [IS fighters] are going to disappear. Nobody is that naive. So we want to stay on the ground and make sure that stability can be maintained in these areas.”

The state department abruptly cancelled Wednesday’s daily briefing after the withdrawal was announced.

One of Mr Trump’s supporters, Republican Senator Lindsey Graham, who sits on the armed services committee, called it a “huge Obama-like mistake”.

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Giraffes Make Endangered Species List

By: India Today

Two subspecies of giraffes were recently added to the list of “critically endangered” species for the first time ever, as per athelatest report by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), which administers the world’s official endangered species list.

The next slots after ‘vulnerable’ are ‘endangered’, ‘critically endangered’, ‘extinct in the wild’, and ‘extinct’. Thus, if we do nothing about it, giraffes could become extinct in the wild in the medium-term future.

There are nine subspecies of giraffes. Five of them are declining in numbers, two are improving, and one is stable, reports the New York Times.

Another subspecies living in the Horn of Africa — called the reticulated giraffe – was listed as “endangered”.

Even though the Kordofan giraffe and the Nubian giraffe are now critically endangered, the West African and the Rothschild’s giraffe species have seen an increase in their numbers, leading to an upgrade in their conservation status.

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Cohen Sentenced To Three Years In Prison

By: Clare Hymes, Paula Reid, Kathryn Watson of CBS

Former Trump attorney Michael Cohen was sentenced Wednesday to three years in federal prison, followed by three years of supervised release, during a sentencing hearing in federal court in Manhattan in which Cohen claimed he acted out of “blind loyalty” to President Trump. The judge declared he will serve time for a “smorgasbord” of fraudulent crimes.

Cohen will turn himself in for his “smorgasbord” of fraudulent crimes March 6, the judge said.

That sentencing stemmed from Cohen pleading guilty to campaign finance violations related to payments to women alleging affairs with Mr. Trump. Cohen will serve his term concurrently with a two-month sentenced imposed for lying to Congress over a proposed Trump Tower Moscow project, a charge brought by special counsel Robert Mueller. The court is fining him $50,000 each for the separate cases.

In court Wednesday, Cohen claimed loyalty to Mr. Trump led him to “take a path of darkness instead of light.” Cohen described being in a “mental and physical incarceration,” blaming his ties to the president as what brought him before the court Wednesday. He spoke of the president’s recent attacks on him in which he called him a “liar,” “rat” and weak. He said the president was “correct,” but for a different reason.

“My weakness can be characterized as a blind loyalty to Donald Trump, and I was weak for not having the strength to question and to refuse his demands,” Cohen said.

Cohen claimed he was “motivated by personal greed and ambition,” adding that he “thrives on his access to wealthy and powerful people,” and eventually became one his self.

Cohen teared up at the podium, apologizing to his family and to the American people for his actions. As he was given 36 months by the judge, Cohen’s shoulders slumped forward slightly and he shook his head from left to right, apparently in disbelief.

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CNN Evacuates Due To Bomb Threat

By: Nicole Chavez of CNN

Police and CNN have issued an all-clear message after the network’s New York offices and studios were evacuated Thursday night because of a phoned-in bomb threat.
“The NYPD has now given us the all clear, and employees have been permitted to return to the building,”CNN Worldwide president Jeff Zucker said in an internal memo to staff. “The building is secure and safe for everyone to return in the morning.”
“We appreciate the swift action by the local authorities, and the patience and professionalism of all the employees who were impacted.”
The threat was not substantiated, the New York Police Department tweeted. 
The threat came Thursday night when a caller indicated there were five devices in the building, according to a law enforcement source. 
Several fire alarm bells rang inside CNN’s New York newsroom, signaling an evacuation after the call was received shortly before 10 p.m., the company’s security said. 
Staffers evacuated the CNN New York offices in the Time Warner Center building and Don Lemon’s “CNN Tonight,” which had been on a commercial break, was taken off the air.
The network temporarily went to taped programming for about 30 minutes before going live from the street while police investigated.
“We were told to evacuate the building and to do it as soon as possible. We grabbed what we could and got out of the building and now, we are standing outside of the building,” Lemon said.
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