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10 things you need to know today: August 31, 2018

Harold Maass
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1.

Biden eulogizes McCain as 'brother' and patriot

Sen. John McCain's remains were transported out of his home state of Arizona for the last time on Thursday following an emotional memorial service. Former Vice President Joe Biden fought tears as he eulogized the longtime Republican senator and Vietnam-era war hero as a "brother" and a patriot who stood up for American values. Biden, a Democrat, said his friendship with McCain, who died Saturday of brain cancer at 81, "transcended whatever political differences we had." In a thinly-veiled swipe at President Trump, Biden said McCain lived by "an ancient, antiquated code where honor, courage, character, integrity, and duty mattered." McCain's casket headed next to Washington, D.C., to lie in state in the U.S. Capitol before his Saturday funeral. [ABC News]

2.

Trump vows to 'get involved' unless DOJ, FBI 'start doing their job'

President Trump said at a raucous, campaign-style rally in Indiana on Thursday that he would have to "get involved" if the Justice Department and the FBI don't "start doing their job." He has repeatedly criticized Attorney General Jeff Sessions for recusing himself from the investigation into Russian election meddling and possible collusion by his associates, which led to a special counsel inquiry Trump has called a "witch hunt" and ""illegal." Trump said investigators should go after Hillary Clinton, his Democratic opponent in 2016. Trump said earlier Thursday that Sessions' job was safe through the November midterm elections. At the rally, however, he threatened to "get in there if I have to." [Reuters, NBC News]

3.

Trump moves to scrap federal pay raises

President Trump announced Thursday that he was canceling pay raises that were due in January for most federal employees. "I have determined that for 2019, both across‑the‑board pay increases and locality pay increases will be set at zero," Trump wrote in a letter to House and Senate leaders. Trump said federal agency "budgets cannot sustain such increases," adding that the decision "will not materially affect our ability to attract and retain a well‑qualified federal workforce." The move came nine months after Trump signed a $1.5 trillion tax cut bill. The House has passed legislation with no raise. The Senate approved a competing measure with a 1.9 percent increase. Trump's move effectively prevents a large increase from taking effect under a law triggering raises if lawmakers make no decision by the end of the year. [NBC News, The Washington Post]

4.

DOJ backs Asian-Americans accusing Harvard of admissions discrimination

The Justice Department on Thursday backed a group of Asian-Americans who are suing Harvard saying the university's affirmative action policies discriminate against Asian-Americans and caused them to be denied admission. The plaintiffs say Harvard caps admissions for qualified Asian-Americans to open spaces for less qualified students from other ethnic groups. The Justice Department said Harvard's "personal rating" might hide racial bias and harm Asian-Americans. "Harvard has failed to carry its demanding burden to show that its use of race does not inflict unlawful racial discrimination on Asian-Americans," the Justice Department said. Harvard said it "does not discriminate" and "will continue to vigorously defend the legal right of every college and university to consider race as one factor among many," which courts have upheld for decades. [The New York Times]

5.

FBI arrests man for alleged threats against Boston Globe

The FBI arrested a 68-year-old California man, Robert D. Chain, on Thursday for allegedly making violent threats against Boston Globe employees for criticizing President Trump. "As long as you keep attacking the president ... in the continuation of your treasonous and seditious acts, I will continue to threats, harass, and annoy The Boston Globe, owned by The New York Times, the other fake news," Chain allegedly said in one of 14 threatening calls made to the Globe between Aug. 10, when the Globe led a call for newspapers to publish editorials countering Trump's description of the media as the "enemy of the people," and Aug. 22. Chain called the Globe "the enemy of the people," echoing Trump's phrase, which he repeated via Twitter on Thursday. [USA Today, Twitter]

6.

Trump threatens to pull U.S. out of WTO

President Trump on Thursday threatened to pull the U.S. out of the World Trade Organization if it doesn't "shape up" and treat the U.S. better, Bloomberg reported. Trump frequently complains that trade partners impose policies that are unfair to U.S. companies, which he says costs American jobs and hurts U.S. corporations, even national security in the case of policies that hurt U.S. steel production. He blames the WTO for letting it happen. "If they don’t shape up, I would withdraw from the WTO," Trump said. Pulling out of the organization could undermine the foundation of the world's trading system. [Bloomberg, Reuters]

7.

Trump administration to end funding of U.N. program for Palestinian refugees

The Trump administration plans to announce within weeks that it will cancel U.S. funding of the United Nations aid program for Palestinian refugees, The Washington Post reported Thursday. The move is part of a broader redistribution of U.S. foreign aid spending as the Trump administration prepares a new Israeli-Palestinian peace plan. The administration also plans to use the announcement of the decision to express disapproval of the way the U.N. Relief and Works Agency, or UNRWA, spends Palestinian aid money. The U.S. also will call for dramatically reducing the number of Palestinians recognized as refugees from more than 5 million to fewer than 10 percent of that figure. Such a change would essentially scrap the "right of return" for most Palestinians to lands claimed by Israel. [The Washington Post]

8.

Arbitrator says Kaepernick collusion case can go to trial

An arbitrator said in a ruling disclosed Thursday that former San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick's case accusing the NFL of colluding to keep him from playing can proceed to trial. The decision marked a blow to the football league and a significant win for Kaepernick, a once high-performing quarterback who has been unable to find a place on a team since March 2017. He says the league's owners conspired to keep him off the field because of his leadership in player protests calling attention to police mistreatment of African Americans by kneeling during the national anthem. The NFL had asked the arbitrator, Stephen Burbank, to dismiss the case for lack of evidence, but Burbank said Kaepernick's lawyers had found enough information to proceed. [The New York Times]

9.

El Salvador says 3 children abused in Arizona shelters

Officials in El Salvador said Thursday that three minors from the Central American nation who were separated from their parents after crossing the U.S. border were sexually abused in Arizona shelters. "They are sexual violations, sexual abuses, that is what this is about," said Liduvina Magarin, deputy foreign relations minister for Salvadorans overseas. Magarin said the government had received reports of abuse by workers at unnamed shelters, and that authorities were making lawyers available to the families of the children, aged 12 to 17. Magarin said the Salvadoran government was pushing the U.S. to reunify the children with their families. "May they leave the shelters as soon as possible," she said, "because it is there that they are the most vulnerable." [The Associated Press]

10.

NCAA clears Michigan State of rule violations in Larry Nassar scandal

Michigan State University said Thursday that the NCAA has determined that the school didn't violate any rules in its handling of the Larry Nassar scandal. Michigan State said it received a letter from the athletic association that said "it does not appear there is a need for further inquiry." Nassar, a former physician for the school as well as USA Gymnastics, was convicted of sexually assaulting girls and women who were athletes at Michigan State. The university faced intense scrutiny from critics who said officials had bungled their response to reported misconduct, though Michigan State has denied that there was an effort to cover up complaints against Nassar. [The Washington Post]