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September 14, 2017

President Trump insisted Thursday on Twitter that he's been trying for days to get in touch with Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto after a major earthquake struck his country last week — but Peña Nieto wasn't picking up. After three days of dialing to no avail, Trump said, he was finally able to talk to Peña Nieto on Thursday to "give condolences" for the devastating 8.1-magnitude earthquake that happened seven days ago.

Trump blamed Peña Nieto's "cell phone reception" for his delayed call:

Whether cell phone reception was really the issue, relations between the U.S. and Mexico have already suffered from the lack of communication. On Monday, Mexico withdrew its offer of aid to the victims of Hurricane Harvey because Trump never responded to it, nor had he sent his condolences to Mexico for the earthquake. Becca Stanek

August 30, 2017

The think tank New America Foundation cut ties with a scholar after he published an article critical of Google, the tech giant that just so happens to be a big donor to New America, The New York Times revealed Wednesday.

Shortly after European antitrust regulators fined Google $2.7 billion in June, scholar Barry Lynn posted a statement applauding the decision and urging regulators to "more aggressively enforce antitrust rules against Google, Amazon, and 'other dominant platform monopolists,'" the Times reported.

New America's president, Anne-Marie Slaughter, soon received an email from Eric Schmidt, the executive chairman of Google's parent company, expressing his dissatisfaction with Lynn's statement. Lynn's article subsequently disappeared from the site, only to be later posted once again. Days later, Lynn was called into Slaughter's office, where he learned that New America was cutting ties with Open Markets, an initiative he led that reported on the dangers of tech giants' monopolization.

Slaughter told Lynn in an email that the decision, which affected him and the initiative's "nearly 10 full-time employees and unpaid fellows," was "in no way based on the content of your work." But in a prior email, Slaughter had clearly raised concerns about Lynn's work's potential effects on the think tank's relationship with Google, which has given New America more than $21 million. "We are in the process of trying to expand our relationship with Google on some absolutely key points," Slaughter wrote, telling Lynn to "just THINK about how you are imperiling funding for others."

New America Executive Vice President Tyra Mariani insisted it was "a mutual decision for Barry to spin out his Open Markets program," and that neither Google nor Schmidt influenced it. Google spokesperson Riva Sciuto maintained that Google respects the "independence, personnel decisions, and policy perspectives" of the diverse think tanks and nonprofits it supports.

But Lynn sees things differently. "Google is very aggressive in throwing its money around Washington and Brussels, and then pulling the strings," Lynn said. "People are so afraid of Google now."

Read more at The New York Times. Becca Stanek

Update 12:32 p.m. ET: New America issued a statement in response, deeming the claim leveled in The New York Times article to be "absolutely false."

August 23, 2017
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A Public Policy Polling survey released Wednesday revealed that 45 percent of President Trump's supporters believe that white people encounter "the most discrimination in America." Meanwhile, 17 percent of Trump voters said that Native Americans face the most discrimination, 16 percent said that African Americans do, and 5 percent said that Latinos do.

The poll also found that a majority of Trump voters — 54 percent — believe that Christians face the most discrimination of any religious groups in the U.S. Twenty-two percent said that Muslims do, while 12 percent said that Jews do.

Public Policy Polling suggested that the "mindset among many Trump voters that it's whites and Christians getting trampled on in America ... makes it unlikely they would abandon Trump over his 'both sides' rhetoric," referring to the president's tack of blaming "both sides" for the violence at the Aug. 12 white supremacist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia. In fact, Trump doubled down on his remarks at a Phoenix rally Tuesday night, accusing the "dishonest" media of downplaying the actions of anti-fascists.

The poll surveyed 887 registered voters from Aug. 18-21. Its margin of error is plus or minus 3.3 percentage points. Becca Stanek

July 18, 2017

Senate Republicans' health-care bill died Monday after it failed to get enough GOP support, but President Trump on Tuesday hailed the final tally as "a pretty impressive vote by any standard." "We are 52 people, we had four nos. Now, we might've had another one somewhere in there, but essentially the vote would've been pretty close to, if you look at it, to 48-4," Trump said.

He said it was "pretty tough" to have 48 votes and then "need more." In addition to the four Republicans who came out against the bill, 46 Democrats and two Independents also opposed the GOP plan to repeal and replace ObamaCare.

Trump also announced Tuesday that he is not going to take responsibility for the ObamaCare "disaster." "We'll just let ObamaCare fail. We're not going to own it. I'm not going to own it. I can tell you the Republicans are not going to own it," Trump said.

The New York Times' Binyamin Appelbaum noted that the health-care system that Trump plans to let "fail" accounts for 17 percent of the nation's economy. Becca Stanek

July 10, 2017

A new Pew Research Center poll released Monday revealed that a majority of Republicans think that colleges have a negative impact on the country. Fifty-eight percent of Republicans now say that colleges "are having a negative effect on the way things are going in the country," while just 36 percent think colleges positively affect the country, Pew reported.

This marks a drastic shift from just two years ago in 2015, when a majority of Republicans (54 percent) rated universities' effect as positive and just 37 percent said that it was negative. While younger Republicans still think more positively of colleges' impact than older Republicans, the poll found that positive views of colleges among Republicans under the age of 50 sunk by 21 percentage points from 2015 to 2017.

Democrats, on the other hand, continue to overwhelmingly view colleges' impact as positive. Seventy-two percent say that colleges are good for the country, while just 19 percent say they're bad. On the whole, the majority of the public (55 percent) say colleges have a positive impact on the U.S.

The poll was taken by phone from June 8-18 among 2,504 adults. Its overall margin of error is plus or minus 2.3 percentage points. Becca Stanek

July 8, 2017

President Trump's daughter and White House adviser Ivanka Trump took her father's seat at the G-20 summit in Germany on Saturday, sitting in for the president while he stepped away for bilateral meetings. A photo shared on Twitter (and then apparently deleted) by a Russian official shows Ivanka seated amid British Prime Minister Theresa May, Chinese President Xi Jinping, and German Chancellor Angela Merkel. Here's a repost of the image by another account:

President Trump returned to his place after a brief absence, and Ivanka was not observed making any significant statement on the United States' behalf during her time in the session, which at that point addressed African migration and health. Bonnie Kristian

June 15, 2017
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Attorney General Jeff Sessions was specifically asked Tuesday when he testified under oath before the Senate Intelligence Committee whether he'd had "any contacts with any representative, including any American lobbyist or agent of any Russian company" during the U.S. presidential election. Sessions responded, "I don't believe so." However, on Thursday, an American lobbyist who has represented Russian interests in Washington told The Guardian that Sessions hosted him twice for dinner during the campaign.

Sessions apparently invited lobbyist Richard Burt, who served as an ambassador to Germany during the Reagan administration, to talk about foreign policy and national security issues. The dinners happened right around when it was revealed to the public that Russia had meddled in the U.S. presidential election.

Burt said he "did not know" whether Sessions was aware of his lobbying work for Russian interests, which The Guardian noted is "disclosed in public records." Burt previously served on the advisory board of a private equity fund that Russia's Alfa Bank was an investor in, and last year he lobbied on behalf of a pipeline company controlled by a Russian state-run energy company. Becca Stanek

April 18, 2017
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Puerto Rico has reported just 16 cases of births affected by the Zika virus, Stat reports — and that has U.S. officials suspicious. The virus, which swept across the Americas and other tropical regions last year, is known to cause congenital defects in babies if the mother contracts it while pregnant.

Stat notes that more than 3,300 pregnant women in Puerto Rico are known to have contracted the mosquito-borne illness, making the mere 16 reported cases of Zika-affected births all the more unlikely. A former U.S. health official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, speculated to Stat that the territorial government is obfuscating the severity of Zika to save its tourism industry, which is a huge source of revenue for the cash-strapped island.

"Puerto Rico's not escaping this. They're just hiding," the official said. "They're kind of in denial about what the problem is. And in six months, a year, two years from now, there will be all these babies who aren't learning and all these problems that will come to light."

By contrast, there have been 63 reported Zika-affected births across the 50 U.S. states plus Washington, D.C., among just 1,300 pregnant women known to have the virus. Read more about Puerto Rico's improbably low Zika numbers at Stat. Kimberly Alters

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