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January 3, 2019

Apple cutting sales projections due to weaker-than-expected sales in China exacerbated some analysts' fears that the economic slowdown there is even worse than previously suspected.

The tech company announced Wednesday that it would be cutting its sales projections, saying that it "did not foresee the magnitude of the economic deceleration, particularly in China." This was a rare occurrence for Apple, and it came as auto sales in China also fell in 2018 for the first time in about two decades, as CNBC reports.

The Washington Post reports that observers of the Chinese economy are warning that the situation "might be worse than many appreciate," noting that the official GDP numbers the government puts out are usually "murky at best and fudged at worst." Officially, China says its GDP is consistently growing at a rate of about 6 percent per year, but one analyst told the Post that it "looks truly like some sixth grader got out their ruler and drew a straight line with a slight downward slant" and that the numbers reported from the government are "totally unrealistic."

Indeed, a recent report from the American Enterprise Institute refers to the National Bureau of Statistics of China as "a propaganda arm of the Community Party," also observing that "China has consistently made clear" that "its figures are manipulated." So what might the real GDP growth rate be if not 6 percent a year? Well, Richard Harris writes for The South China Morning Post that "there are verbal reports of Chinese academics calculating China’s 2018 economic growth at as low as 1.5 per cent."

Regardless of what the number is, one investment banking and securities company, The New York Times reports, warned in an ominous report this week that when it comes to China's economic slowdown, "the worst is yet to come." Brendan Morrow

12:58 p.m.

President Trump still plans to deliver the State of the Union on the House floor on Jan. 29 in spite of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi's (D-Calif) objections.

In a letter to Pelosi Wednesday, Trump said that there are "no security concerns" with having the event during the government shutdown. This is what Pelosi had cited in her letter to Trump last week asking to postpone the speech, but Department of Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen said having the event on Jan. 29 was not a problem. "Therefore, I will be honoring your invitation and fulfilling my Constitutional duty" next Tuesday, Trump wrote.

Trump concluded by telling Pelosi that "it would be so very sad for our Country if the State of the Union were not delivered on time, on schedule, and very importantly, on location!"

The president cannot actually deliver his speech on the House floor next week unless the House passes a resolution approving it. ABC News reported that Republicans were encouraging Trump to announce his intention to speak next Tuesday, therefore requiring her to actually disinvite him if she wants a delay. If she were to do so, the plan is reportedly for Trump to instead speak at a rally on Tuesday. But for now, the ball's in Pelosi's court. Brendan Morrow

12:50 p.m.

Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee (D-Texas) is stepping down as chair of the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation amid pressure from the group, sources tell BuzzFeed News. The decision comes as Jackson Lee faces a lawsuit from a former staffer, who says the congresswoman retaliated against her plan to sue the CBCF over an alleged rape by one of its ex-employees.

In the lawsuit filed last week, the anonymous plaintiff says she was raped by then-CBCF intern coordinator Damien Jones in October 2015. The woman says she was a 19-year-old CBCF intern at the time, and says she told police and her former boss Rep. Terry Sewell (D-Ala.) about the assault. She did not decide to pursue legal action until years later, when she was working for Jackson Lee, the documents say. When the plaintiff told Jackson Lee's chief of staff about her plans to sue the organization, she was soon fired, per the court filing.

After the lawsuit emerged, the board of the CBC's nonprofit wing — which includes several lawmakers — pushed Jackson Lee to step down, Politico reported last week. Jackson Lee refused, and at least one board member then left the foundation. More were "expected to follow" if Jackson Lee stayed on, Politico writes. The lawsuit also dredged up stories of Jackson Lee's bad reputation among staffers, with reporter Yashar Ali tweeting that it "comes as little surprise to people who have worked with her and around her."

Jackson Lee "deflected questions in person on Tuesday about her resignation plans," BuzzFeed News writes, saying she would address the situation in a statement later this week. Kathryn Krawczyk

12:30 p.m.

A 36-year-old nurse has been arrested for the sexual assault of an incapacitated woman in a vegetative state at a health care facility in Phoenix, Arizona.

Nathan Sutherland is facing preliminary charges of sexual assault and vulnerable-adult abuse, CNN reports.

The woman, who has been in a vegetative state for nearly a decade, gave birth on Dec. 29th to a baby boy. Authorities determined on Tuesday that Sutherland's DNA matched the baby's.

Sutherland was a licensed practical nurse at the Hacienda HealthCare facility in Phoenix and was caring for the woman at the time of the alleged assault. He had worked for Hacienda since 2011.

Male employees at Hacienda are now required to have a female employee with them before entering a female patient's room, ABC7 reports. Marianne Dodson

12:03 p.m.

The Senate is set to vote Thursday on two deals to end the 32-day shutdown, one proposed by President Trump over the weekend containing border wall funding and one levied by Democrats without it. But with both seemingly destined to fail, White House officials are considering adding another concession to Trump's proposal: green cards for DACA recipients, three sources tell Axios.

Trump's proposal, laid out in a Saturday speech, would grant a three-year extension to the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program. But the version introduced by Senate Republicans on Monday also includes some big, previously unannounced changes to America's asylum process. It still contains Trump's unwavering demand for $5.7 billion in border wall funding, but doesn't include the Temporary Protected Status extension Trump mentioned Saturday.

That proposal is just a conglomeration of things Democrats strongly oppose, meaning there's a miniscule chance of it getting the 53 GOP and seven Democratic votes it needs to pass the Senate. So "as a possible way to break the congressional deadlock," Trump's advisers, including his son-in-law Jared Kushner, have mentioned giving green cards to 700,000 DREAMers, Axios says. Apparently, Kushner described this as an effort to "go big," a Republican senator involved in immigration talks said. But the senator disagreed with Kushner's thinking, telling Axios it would mean "this whole coalition will fall over on the right" and cause Trump to "lose" his right-wing media supporters, including Ann Coulter and Sean Hannity.

Meanwhile, another conservative calls the whole green card proposal "insanity," per Axios, so there's a good chance yet another immigration concession will end up down the drain. Read more at Axios. Kathryn Krawczyk

11:51 a.m.

Alec Baldwin will spend an entire day in an anger management class after pleading guilty to harassing a man over a parking dispute, the Associated Press reports.

Baldwin, whose net worth is reportedly $65 million, will also pay a $120 fine for the second-degree harassment violation.

This is not the first time Baldwin's temper has led him to trouble. The actor, well-known for starring in 30 Rock and for his impersonation of President Trump on Saturday Night Live, was arrested in 2014 for disorderly conduct after riding his bicycle the wrong direction in New York City. In 1995, Baldwin was placed under citizen's arrest after allegedly punching a cameraman for photographing the homecoming of his newborn daughter, per the Los Angeles Times.

Baldwin's temper was also called into question in 2007 when a voicemail of him calling his then-11-year-old daughter a "rude, thoughtless little pig" was publicized, again in 2011 when he refused to stop playing a "Words with Friends" game on an American Airlines flight and was subsequently kicked off the plane, and then in 2013 when he was caught on-tape yelling a homophobic slur at a photographer. Marianne Dodson

11:19 a.m.

Bohemian Rhapsody director Bryan Singer has been accused of sexual abuse by four more men in a massive new exposé.

The Atlantic published an investigation Wednesday on Singer's history of alleged misconduct that took 12 months to produce and included interviews with more than 50 people. The first of several new accusers is Victor Valdovinos, who says he was 13 when Singer, who was in his 30s, approached him in his school's bathroom while he was there filming the movie Apt Pupil. He says he was asked to be an extra and that on set, Singer molested him.

Another accuser, referred to under the pseudonym Andy, says he and Singer had sex when he was 15 and Singer was 31. Andy says Singer brought actor Brad Renfro into the bedroom. Renfro was 15 at the time, and two sources say Singer sometimes referred to him as his boyfriend. A third man, referred to as Eric, says he had sex with Singer beginning when he was 17 and Singer was 31.

Singer reportedly hosted parties that were frequently attended by underage boys, and one man, referred to as Ben, says that he and Singer had oral sex at one of the parties when Ben was 17 or 18, the latter of which is the age of consent in California. Singer "would stick his hands down your pants without your consent" at these parties, said Ben.

Singer has previously faced misconduct allegations, including a lawsuit from a man accusing him of rape, but he has continuously denied accusations of sex with underage boys and has not been charged with a crime. The Atlantic writes that 20th Century Fox had concerns about hiring him to direct Bohemian Rhapsody, but did so because members of Queen supported the decision. The studio ultimately fired Singer over reported erratic behavior on set, but he's still the credited director on the film, which was just nominated for Best Picture at the Oscars. Brendan Morrow

Update 12 p.m. EST: Singer responded to The Atlantic's story in a statement, calling it a "homophobic smear piece" based on interviews with "disreputable" sources and "bogus lawsuits" seeking "money or attention." Read the full response here.

10:16 a.m.

Mother Goose's 2019 edition has arrived.

On Wednesday, President Trump unveiled what he's calling "the new theme" for his continued fight for border wall funding, and it sounds suspiciously like an unfinished nursery rhyme. "BUILD A WALL & CRIME WILL FALL!," Trump wrote in two back-to-back tweets, hinting at what's sure to become a cumbersome new chant at an upcoming rally and ominously telling readers to "use it and pray."

But a poem can't be left at one line, and both fans and detractors fired off extensions of Trump's new mantra. Unfortunately for Trump, detractors seemed to be in the majority in the online poetry slam, and national security lawyer Bradley Moss took the cake with his full-length, Russia-referencing modification. Kathryn Krawczyk

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