January 16, 2019

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) may be the only thing standing between a spending bill and the president.

House Democrats and a few Republicans passed two spending bills last week that would reopen the government, but McConnell refused to bring them before the Republican-held Senate. And on Tuesday, McConnell did it again — even though Democrats "have secured enough Republican votes in the Senate to reopen government," Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) tweeted Wednesday.

The government shutdown began Dec. 21 over President Trump's refusal to sign a spending bill without $5.7 billion in border wall funding. Democrats still refuse to bend to that demand. And when they took over the House this year, they and five Republicans quickly passed a spending bill to fund most government departments for the year and another that would fund the Department of Homeland Security for 30 days. McConnell refused to bring them for a vote in the Senate, saying they were "absolutely pointless show votes" on bills Trump wouldn't sign.

Democrats pointed out that the GOP-held Senate passed similar bills last year, which then-House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wisc.) wouldn't bring for a vote. And when those House Democrats, along with 12 Republicans, voted Friday to send a new set of spending bills to the Senate, McConnell again turned them down. Kathryn Krawczyk

6:26 a.m.

At least 20 people have now died in street clashes between Hindus and Muslims in northeastern New Delhi, India's capital. The violence stems from months of protests against a divisive citizenship law pushed through by Prime Minister Narendra Modi's Hindu-nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), which offers legal status to every prominent religious minority except Muslims, who make up 14 percent of India's population.

The protests against the law had been peaceful until Sunday, when local BJP leader Kapil Mishra threatened to mobilize a Hindu mob to clear out the protesters, specifically warning police that if the streets weren't cleared by the time President Trump left India, his followers would do it instead. "As Air Force One flew Trump and his delegation out of New Delhi late Tuesday, Muslim families huddled in a mosque in the city's northeast, praying that Hindu mobs wouldn't burn it down," The Associated Press reports. Along with the 21 confirmed deaths, at least 189 people have been injured from bullets, knives, clubs, and stones.

"This was the first time that the protests have set off major bloodshed between Hindus and Muslims," crossing "an old and dangerous fault line," The New York Times reports. On Wednesday, Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal asked Modi's home minister, Amit Shah, to send the army in to help police quell the violence. Sonia Gandhi, a leader of the opposition Congress party, accused Modi's BJP of inciting violence and called on Shah to step down. Modi broke his silence on Wednesday, urging the people of "Delhi to maintain peace and brotherhood at all times."

The violence was seen as an embarrassment to Modi as he hosted Trump on his first state visit to India. Trump said late Tuesday he'd heard about the violence but he didn't "want to discuss" it, "I want to leave that to India." Muslims said they feared the violence would get worse after Trump left. "It's a little quiet because Trump is here," rickshaw driver Mohammed Tahir told the Times. "Their side is scared to give the prime minister a bad name," but "as soon as Trump leaves ... they will attack." Peter Weber

4:33 a.m.

As the Democrats brawled in South Carolina, "President Trump is on his way home from India," where "he believes the reception he got was like nothing the Indian people had ever given before," Jimmy Kimmel laughed on Tuesday's Kimmel Live. "Of course he got a big reception — they love cows in India."

Trump's former doctor, Ronny Jackson, just revealed some secrets he used to try to keep the president healthier, though Kimmel noted that hiding the ice cream and sneaking cauliflower into the mashed potatoes is "what we do with our 5-year-old at home." In other medical news, "the stock market was down a lot again today, in part because of the coronavirus, which is spreading," he said. "This morning, the president tweeted that 'the coronavirus is very much under control in the USA,' which means we're in a lot of trouble. I mean, we just found out they had to trick him into eating vegetables. Do we really think he has a handle on the coronavirus?"

"One person who is not concerned about the coronavirus is recent Presidential Medal of Freedom winner Rush Limbaugh," Kimmel sighed. As a counterpoint, he showed a real coronavirus SWAT drill in China.

"In lighter news, we're all going to die," Stephen Colbert said on The Late Show. "Today, top health officials issued dire warnings about the coronavirus, or COVID-19." Until recent, "the coronavirus has mostly been restricted to China and people who have traveled to China," he said, but now the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention "believes the virus is headed here," and could be really bad.

"Fear of the coronavirus is already ravaging Wall Street — on Monday, the Dow tumbled more than 1,000 points, which was its third-worst point drop in history, effectively erasing all gains for 2020," Colbert said. "Then just today, the Dow closed down by almost 900 points! Good Lord, if it goes any lower, I'll have to find out what a 'Dow' is."

But "one man doesn't seem too worried: Donald Trump," Colbert said. And "there's a reason Trump is trying to downplay the coronavirus fears. If the CDC is right about this outbreak, it might be Trump's fault. Because in 2018, the Trump administration fired the government's entire pandemic response chain of command. Trump did not replace them. So currently, our pandemic response team is Ivanka and a bottle of Airborne." Watch below. Peter Weber

3:12 a.m.

The seven top Democratic presidential candidates faced off in South Carolina on Tuesday night, and The Late Show got everyone up to speed with a topical parody of Neil Diamond's "Sweet Caroline."

Yes, "the Democrats met in my hometown of Charleston, South Carolina, and these folks said a lot of words — and I did not hear many of them, because the candidates were speaking all over each other the entire time," Stephen Colbert said in his live post-debate monologue. Former Vice President Joe Biden "wasn't exactly in top form coming in to the debate," having just forgotten which office he's running for, but the night's first big fight was the "haymakers between Bernie and Bloomie," he said. "Wow, that is really punching below the belt, but then again, Bloomberg can't reach much higher."

"It wasn't just Bloomberg attacking Sanders — all the candidates had their torches out to set fire to the wicker Bernie," Colbert said, showing some samples. And "Bernie wasn't always a hit with the crowd tonight, especially when he defended his limited praise of the Cuban Revolution," Colbert said. Still, he added, he personally would be happy Sanders getting the nomination, "because Bernie and Trump are the only two impressions I can do."

The debate "was wild tonight — I haven't seen white people go at each other that hard since khakis were on sale at Banana Republic," Trevor Noah joked at The Daily Show. Bloomberg had another tough night, and "if Bernie Sanders was the ass-whooping appetizer, Elizabeth Warren brought the main course," he said. "She destroyed him in the first debate, she came after him again tonight," and "if Bloomberg worried that he was coming across as a corrupt billionaire, it really didn't help him when he made a really bad slip of the tongue," he added. "You probably shouldn't brag about 'buying' people in South Carolina."

Amy Klobuchar had "one of the strangest moments of the night, easily," bringing up her "Uncle Dick in the deer stand," Noah said, offering a probably NSFW riposte. But finally "it was time to get to the main event: Going after Bernie Sanders." Sanders didn't help himself with his Cuba answer, he said, offering an analogy about infidelity. Still, "as long as all the moderates decide to stay in the race, Bernie is going to have a pretty clear path to win the nomination." Watch below. Peter Weber

2:00 a.m.

The third time was a charm for biologists trying to successfully transfer embryos from one cheetah to another.

Cheetahs are endangered — there are only about 7,000 in the wild — and it's difficult for them to reproduce after age 8. But researchers determined that genetically, a 9-year-old female cheetah at the Columbus Zoo named Kibibi was a good match for a 3-year-old male named Slash living at the Fossil Rim Wildlife Center in Texas.

The Columbus Zoo, the Smithsonian's National Zoo and Conservation Biology Institute, and Fossil Rim Wildlife Center worked together to devise a plan to have the pair somehow reproduce. In November, Kibibi received hormone injections to stimulate follicle development and had several eggs extracted and fertilized with frozen sperm from Slash. These embryos were implanted in a 3-year-old cheetah named Izzy, and an ultrasound in December showed she was pregnant with two fetuses. This was the third time they attempted the process, and the first time it worked.

Izzy gave birth on Feb. 19 to a male weighing 480 grams and a female weighing 350 grams. She is providing "great care" to the cubs, the Columbus Zoo told ABC News. The cubs don't have names yet, and won't be on display for several months. This is a "big win for the cheetah," Jason Ahistus of the Fossil Rim Wildlife Center said in a statement. "It really opens the door to many new opportunities that can help the global cheetah population." Catherine Garcia

1:07 a.m.

Tokyo Olympics organizers are downplaying comments made by a member of the International Olympic Committee who said the coronavirus could cancel the games.

Richard Pound, a member of the IOC since 1978 and its former vice president, told The Associated Press that organizers have a three-month window to decide whether to hold the games, which are scheduled to start on July 24. Pound, who noted he was not speaking on behalf of the IOC, said, "In and around that time, I'd say folks are going to have to ask, 'Is this under sufficient control that we can be confident about going to Tokyo or no?'"

Yoshihide Suga, a Japanese government spokesman, said on Wednesday that Pound's opinion is not shared by the IOC, and organizers are "proceeding with preparations toward the games as scheduled." Catherine Garcia

12:50 a.m.

When you land a new job you're not quite qualified for, you can pick top aides who will help you learn the ropes and get a running start — or you can hire someone with even less experience, thus making you the most qualified person in the room. That latter route seems to be the one taken by Johnny McEntee, President Trump's former body man and new director of the powerful Presidential Personnel Office.

Trump recently hired McEntee, a 29-year-old loyalist with no real personnel management experience, to oversee his post-impeachment effort to purge the executive branch of anyone not loyal to Trump. And McEntee promptly hired James Bacon, a 23-year-old college senior, as one of his right-hand men, Politico reported Tuesday. Bacon does have some experience, despite still pursuing his bachelor's degree at George Washington University: He briefly worked in the Transportation Department's policy arm, as a White House liaison to the Department of Housing and Urban Development, and on Trump's campaign.

McEntee replaced Sean Doocey, and Bacon is filling the lead paperwork directorship previously filled by Katie Bullock, who is in her 70s and worked in the PPO for all Republican administrations back to Ronald Reagan's White House, Politico reports.

Last Thursday, Politico and Axios report, McEntee called all the White House Cabinet department liaisons to a meeting at which he asked them to find Trump appointees who may be insufficiently loyal to Trump — officials Trump calls "bad people" and "Deep State," Axios notes. Trump acknowledged Tuesday that his White House has lists of government officials he wants to replace with trusted pro-Trump loyalists, telling reporters in New Delhi he "doesn't think it's a big problem" and he wants "people who are good for the country, loyal to the country."

Last week, Axios reported that the "Never Trump/pro-Trump" lists are being compiled by a network of conservative activists led by Ginni Thomas, the wife of Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas. James Bacon clearly mad the "pro-Trump" list. Peter Weber

February 25, 2020

Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) watched Tuesday night's Democratic debate, and one thing stood out to her.

"Not a single climate change question," she tweeted. "Horrifying." One of the participants, Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), agreed, responding, "A disgrace." The Democratic candidates don't shy away from talking about climate change on the campaign trail; billionaire investor and environmentalist Tom Steyer told voters in South Carolina on Tuesday that climate change is his "No. 1 priority," and if elected, he will declare a climate emergency on his first day in office.

Poll after poll has shown that climate change is a key issue for voters; last week, the Pew Research Center released a survey showing that for the first time in two decades, a majority of Americans believe that tackling climate change should be a main priority for the president and Congress.

Another poll released last week by the nonpartisan nonprofit Climate Nexus found that for Democrats, climate change is one of the two most important issues facing the country right now. "This is the first time in American political history where climate change is not just a top-tier issue, it is the top-tier issue," Anthony Leiserowitz, a senior research scientist at Yale who helped conduct the poll, told The Atlantic. Catherine Garcia

See More Speed Reads