February 20, 2018

The majority of Americans at the prime age to serve in the armed forces are actually ineligible due to obesity, health concerns, education, or criminal records, Politico reports. In total, almost three-quarters of Americans between the ages of 17 and 24 are not fit to serve, putting a damper on the Trump administration's plans to beef up the armed forces.

"The U.S. military is already having a hard time attracting enough qualified volunteers," a new Heritage Foundation paper on the concerns concludes. "Of the four services, the Army has the greatest annual need. The Army anticipates problems with meeting its 2018 goal to enlist 80,000 qualified volunteers, even with increased bonuses and incentives."

Easing recruiting standards has been in consideration, although many are opposed. "We lowered the standards [in 2009], we signed more waivers for people who had acts of criminality than we usually did," said retired Army Lt. Gen. Tom Spoehr. "We paid the price … The last place that we would go is to mess with the standards."

Still, even Spoehr notes that "obesity and the percentage of people overweight in the country has just skyrocketed in the last 10 to 15 years. Asthma is going up. High school graduation rates are still just barely acceptable and in some big cities they are miserable. Criminality is also not going away. We have to face the reality that these things in some cases are getting worse, not better."

That is to say nothing of the waning interest in joining the military. "Many of today's youth are not inclined to want to leave their family and friends," said United States Army Recruitment Command Sgt. Maj. Anthony Bowers, as reported by Army Times. "Family and friends, they oppose them joining the military service." Jeva Lange

February 13, 2018

Former staff secretary Rob Porter was reportedly in active talks about a promotion, possibly to deputy chief of staff, when his ex-wives went public with allegations that he had physically and verbally abused them, CNN reports.

White House Chief of Staff John Kelly has claimed he demanded and got Porter's resignation within 40 minutes of fully understanding the severity of the allegations last week, although FBI Director Christopher Wray said Tuesday that he first briefed the White House on Porter in March 2017, and then several more times in subsequent months. Likewise, "multiple administration officials" told Politico and other news organizations that Kelly had known about the main points of the allegations against Porter for months, as had White House Counsel Don McGahn.

Porter's "anticipated elevation further highlights how top White House officials were willing to overlook indications from the FBI that there were potential abuse allegations in his background in exchange for professional competence in a tumultuous West Wing," CNN reports. Porter had reportedly expressed interest in speechwriting and trade policy positions as well.

"Kelly had told associates that Porter was one of the few competent professionals on his staff [and] wanted to ensure that he was being used to his full potential," reports CNN's David Wright. As The New York Times' Alex Burns adds: "There's a spiraling dynamic here: Many competent [Republicans] don't want to work in the [White House] for reasons including aversion to scandal, so they end up hiring staff that doesn't share that aversion, end up with more scandal, and have an even harder time hiring competent people than at the start." Jeva Lange

February 9, 2018

President Trump is reportedly blaming his communications director, Hope Hicks, for the unfolding scandal involving former White House Staff Secretary Rob Porter, who resigned this week after being credibly accused of abuse by two of his ex-wives. Trump is "increasingly frustrated" with Hicks for a "myriad of reasons," CNN's Kaitlan Collins reported Friday, including that he was allegedly "not consulted when Hicks and several other top aides ... at the White House drafted that first statement initially that defended Rob Porter."

"Secondly," Collins said, "the president feels that Hope Hicks has allowed her romantic relationship with Porter to really cloud her judgment and her decision-making here."

The report caught many by surprise, especially since Chief of Staff John Kelly was the one to hire Porter. Kelly additionally did not fire Porter after learning he was not going to be given security clearance, Politico reports. Trump's former campaign manager, Corey Lewandowski, told Fox News on Friday: "The general is there to put in policies and processes and procedures, and in this case those didn't work and we need to find out why."

Watch the segment below. Jeva Lange

Jeva Lange

February 6, 2018

President Trump cited the death of Indianapolis Colts linebacker Edwin Jackson on Tuesday morning while calling for tougher immigration laws and border security. "So disgraceful that a person illegally in our country killed @Colts linebacker Edwin Jackson," Trump tweeted. "This is just one of many such preventable tragedies."

A drunk driver killed Jackson, 26, and his Uber driver early Sunday morning. Police say the suspect, Manuel Orrego-Savala, is a Guatemalan citizen who has been deported twice before, and had a prior conviction for driving under the influence, CNN reports. Orrego-Savala, 37, allegedly had a blood-alcohol level that was nearly three times the legal limit when he hit Jackson.

Many critics responded to Trump's tweet expressing anger that the president chose to "politicize" the driver's immigration status rather than focus on the drunk driving epidemic:

Trump's tweet notably comes ahead of his memorandum Tuesday to establish a "National Vetting Center," which would vet anyone looking to enter the United States. Jackson's roommate, Chad Bouchez, has fiercely responded to attempts to use Jackson's death as a call for "stopping illegal immigration," though, as Rep. Todd Rokita (R-Ind.) did in a statement Monday.

"He would not want that," Bouchez told CBS News. "I don't think Edwin would have judged anyone on where they were from or anything else." Jeva Lange

February 2, 2018

The Congressional Black Caucus' stone-faced reaction to President Trump's claim that "African-American unemployment stands at the lowest rate ever recorded" went viral during his State of the Union on Tuesday, but by Friday the president's assertion was no longer true anyway. In the January jobs report, the black unemployment rate rose from 6.8 percent in December 2017 to 7.7 percent in the first month of 2018, Yahoo Finance reports.

Many had already taken issue with Trump's decision to boast about the unemployment rate among African-Americans earlier this week. The rate has been "steadily declining since March 2010," when it was 16.8 percent, Fortune writes, and "while Trump was in office, it decreased by one point — keeping up a trend that had already been in place."

Even a low of 6.8 percent isn't something particularly brag-worthy; that number is still significantly higher than the unemployment rate in the U.S. overall, which was 4.1 percent in December, Fortune adds.

Overall, unemployment remains unchanged at 4.1 percent in the January jobs report, a 17-year low. Jeva Lange

January 31, 2018

A Toronto police officer who claims her former partner on the force sent her a "steady barrage" of sexually explicit text messages was penalized on Tuesday for not reporting the alleged harassment earlier, the Toronto Sun reports. "This decision serves notice that sexual misconduct victims will be penalized and therefore will be reluctant to report," argued the female officer's lawyer, Barry Swadron.

Sgt. Jessica McInnis, 43, filed her complaint last month, and included more than 100 text messages or group chats from her former partner, Det. Mark Morris, which took place over the course of two years beginning in 2015, The Toronto Star reports. In addition to sending unsolicited texts and photos, Morris allegedly requested nude photos from McInnis and said he wanted to spend the night at her house. McInnis claims when she complained to a manager, she was instructed to "suck it up."

Morris' lawyer, David Butt, says the charges against his client are "either false or deliberately misleading."

McInnis was docked eight hours pay through a unit-level disciplinary process for waiting to report the texts and images, which is the "same penalty" that Morris got "for sending her the images," the Toronto Sun reports.

"Everyone from the prime minister to the premier of this province says we should support women for having the courage to come forward," said McInnis' lawyer, "but McInnis is being penalized for not coming forward soon enough." Jeva Lange

January 31, 2018
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Right before President Trump started to deliver his first State of the Union address, The Washington Post published an op-ed by Victor Cha, a Georgetown University professor and now-former Trump administration candidate for ambassador to South Korea, who warned that "force will be necessary to deal with North Korea if it attacks first, but not through a preventive strike that could start a nuclear war."

The op-ed challenges Trump administration officials who have suggested the best way to get North Korea to ditch its missile program and nuclear weapons would be a preventive military strike. Cha said that while he was under consideration for the ambassadorship, he was vocal that such a strike would only delay the building of those programs and weapons, which are "buried in deep, unknown places impenetrable to bunker-busting bombs." He also said he understands why the Trump officials believe "a military strike would shock Pyongyang into appreciating U.S. strength," but "there is a point at which hope must give in to logic. If we believe that Kim is undeterrable without such a strike, how can we also believe that a strike will deter him from responding in kind?"

Cha, a senior adviser at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, warned that should North Korea attack South Korea, it will affect not just South Koreans but also Americans living in the country. "To be clear: The president would be putting at risk an American population the size of a medium-size U.S. city — Pittsburgh, say, or Cincinnati — on the assumption that a crazy and undeterrable dictator will be rationally cowed by a demonstration of U.S. kinetic power," he wrote. What needs to be put in place is a coercive strategy that puts sustained "U.S., regional, and global pressure on Pyongyang to denuclearize." For more on Cha's plan, visit The Washington Post. Catherine Garcia

January 24, 2018
Spencer Platt/Getty Images

The Trump Slump is real, and it's costing the U.S. "bigly." Since President Trump took office, America has slipped from being the second-most popular tourist destination, behind France, to the third, forfeiting its standing to Spain, NBC News reports. That is reflected in a 3.3 percent drop in travel spending in the U.S. and a 4 percent drop in inbound travel, the National Travel and Tourism Office reports, or a loss of $4.6 billion and 40,000 jobs.

"It's not a reach to say the rhetoric and policies of this administration are affecting sentiment around the world, creating antipathy toward the U.S. and affecting travel behavior," the president of Tourism Economics, Adam Sacks, told The New York Times last fall.

America is the only country aside from Turkey — which has suffered a failed coup and a number of terrorist attacks — to report a decline in "long-haul travel" since 2015, CBS News reports. "Sadly, we're in the situation where travel is growing around the world, and America is in the company of Turkey in losing share, and they aren't typically our peer," said the executive president of public affairs at the U.S. Travel Association, Jonathan Grella. Countries that have seen a boost in the past two years include Saudi Arabia, Australia, the United Kingdom, and Canada.

"With each limiting security announcement, we need to offset it with a deliberate welcoming message so America can help reclaim its market share," added Grella to CBS. "Trump is a legendary brander and understands that America's brand matters." Jeva Lange

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