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10 things you need to know today: February 13, 2018

Harold Maass
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1.

Trump unveils budget that would boost military, slash social programs

President Trump on Monday unveiled a $4.4 trillion budget proposal that would hike defense spending, slash social programs, and drive the federal deficit to $1 trillion, scrapping promises to balance the budget. Trump's spending plan acknowledges that the GOP tax cut package passed last year will increase shortfalls and won't "pay for itself" as Trump and GOP lawmakers claimed. Presidents' budgets rarely stand a chance of passing, but they provide a map of priorities. Over a decade, Trump's budget would slash $1.7 trillion in spending on domestic programs that help the poor and middle class, including food stamps and student loans. Trump also proposed separately an infrastructure plan counting on state and local governments to foot all but $200 billion of the $1.5-trillion bill. [The Associated Press, NPR]

2.

Obamas unveil their official portraits

Former President Barack Obama and former first lady Michelle Obama unveiled their official portraits at the Smithsonian's National Portrait Gallery on Monday. The ex-president's portrait was painted by Kehinde Wiley, a Yale-trained painter known for portraits of African Americans in poses similar to those in Old Master paintings. "That's pretty sharp," Obama said standing by the portrait, which depicts him sitting in front of green foliage. "I tried to negotiate less gray hair, and Kehinde's artistic integrity would not allow him to do what I asked." Mrs. Obama said she hoped "girls and girls of color" will be inspired by seeing an image of "someone who looks like them" hanging in the National Portrait Gallery. Her portrait was painted by Amy Sherald. [CNN]

3.

Senate starts rare open-ended immigration debate

The Senate on Monday launched a rare open-ended debate on immigration, attempting to pull together a bill on the Senate floor with the futures of hundreds of thousands of young undocumented immigrants brought to the U.S. as children at stake. The work started with a 97 to 1 procedural vote. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) supports a sweeping GOP proposal that would satisfy President Trump's call for legal status for 1.8 million DREAMers, along with $25 billion to beef up border security. Democrats don't accept that plan as a whole. Sen. Richard J. Durbin (D-Ill.) called it "an all-Republican measure." "Whoever gets to 60 wins," McConnell said. [The New York Times, The Washington Post]

4.

Ex-Georgian president deported from Ukraine to Poland

Former Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili was seized by masked Ukrainian security officers in a Kiev restaurant on Monday and deported to Poland. Saakashvili was a vocal critic of Ukraine's government. "This person was on Ukrainian territory illegally," Ukraine's border agency said, confirming the operation and Saakashvili's deportation, "and therefore, in compliance with all legal procedures, he was returned to the country from which he arrived." Earlier in the day somebody posted to the populist politician's Facebook account that he had been "kidnapped." [NPR, The New York Times]

5.

Vanessa Trump, Donald Jr.'s wife, hospitalized over envelope with suspicious substance

President Trump's daughter-in-law and two other people were taken to a hospital on Monday after she opened an envelope containing a suspicious white powder, which investigators determined to be harmless cornstarch. Vanessa Trump, who is Donald Trump Jr.'s wife, and two others, including her mother, were taken from her midtown Manhattan apartment to a hospital as a precaution. Vanessa Trump reportedly opened the envelope after her mother handed it to her. Law enforcement officials also investigated a threatening letter containing a suspicious white powder, which turned out to be harmless, that was sent to Eric Trump, Donald Trump Jr.'s brother, in March 2016. [CBS News, The New York Times]

6.

Oxfam deputy chief resigns in backlash over Haiti scandal

The deputy head of Oxfam resigned on Monday as the British charity faced an uproar over reports that some of its workers sexually exploited survivors of Haiti's 2010 earthquake. Similar allegations also have surfaced in Chad, and a former senior staffer said she reported concerns about "a culture of sexual abuse" but was ignored. U.K. aid minister Penny Mordaunt met with leaders of Oxfam on Monday to demand full disclosure. A day earlier, she threatened to stop government funding of Oxfam. She said she told Oxfam's chief executive, Mark Goldring, that the organization would have to show "moral leadership" to address the scandal and rebuild public trust. Haitian President Jovenel Moise called the scandal a "serious violation of human dignity." [Reuters, The Telegraph]

7.

Sessions praises sheriffs for upholding 'Anglo-American' policing heritage

Attorney General Jeff Sessions, once denied a federal judicial appointment over allegations of racist comments, faced fresh criticism on Monday after praising participants at the National Sheriffs' Association for upholding "a critical part of the Anglo-American heritage of law enforcement." Defenders said Sessions was likely simply referring to organizational policing structures adopted in the U.S., but critics said Sessions' wording was at best insensitive. "Under any other administration I'd call this an innocuous historical footnote; in the current context, my 'benefit of the doubt' reserves are pretty well depleted," tweeted Julian Sanchez, a senior fellow at the Cato Institute. [Newsweek, The Hill]

8.

Report: ANC agrees to oust President Jacob Zuma

South Africa's ruling African National Congress party decided Tuesday to oust Jacob Zuma as head of state, Reuters reported, citing two sources. The agreement to "recall" Zuma, or remove him from office, came after 13 hours of intense debate and a brief meeting between Zuma and his presumed successor, deputy president Cyril Ramaphosa, in which Zuma refused a request that he resign within 48 hours. If Zuma continues to defy the party's wishes it might have to suffer the further indignity of removing him through a vote of no confidence in Parliament. Zuma's leadership has been plagued by scandals although he denies any wrongdoing. [Reuters, BBC News]

9.

Tonga devastated by Cyclone Gita

Tropical Cyclone Gita hit Tonga hard Monday night and into the morning, bringing down power lines, destroying buildings and crops, and causing injuries across the kingdom. The storm flattened Tonga's parliament building, which was more than 100 years old. The winds were stronger than predicted, at 144 mph, and ripped the roof off of the Tonga meteorological office, taking the national broadcaster off the air. There are 176 islands in the Kingdom of Tonga, with only 40 inhabited, and officials fear the damage could be even worse in the more isolated islands, where information is slow to come out. Gita was the worst cyclone to hit the islands in six decades. It intensified further ahead of an expected Tuesday landfall in Fiji's Lau Islands. [The Guardian, BBC News]

10.

Snowboarder Chloe Kim wins Olympic halfpipe gold

Star snowboarder Chloe Kim, 17, won her first gold medal at the Winter Olympics Tuesday morning in Pyeongchang, dazzling judges with a near-perfect final halfpipe run score of 98.25. Kim's gold was four years in the making, after she was denied a chance to compete in the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi because she was too young. This time, she essentially clinched gold on her first run with a score of 93.75, which would have been enough to beat the best run of ultimate silver medalist Liu Jiayu at 89.75. Kim, from Torrance, California, finished in style, however, with a final run in which she nailed a 1080 — three twists high above the pipe — that tripped her up on her second run. American Arielle Gold edged out teammate Kelly Clark, a three-time Olympic medalist, for the bronze. [ESPN, NBC Olympics]