May 14, 2019

And then there were ... 24? Maybe 25?

On Tuesday morning, Montana Gov. Steve Bullock (D) joined the wildly overstuffed Democratic presidential race, explaining in a campaign launch video that he wants to restore economic opportunity for everyone and get big money out of politics.

As Montana attorney general, he lost his fight to ban dark money from state elections, so he ran for governor and enacted his campaign finance reforms from that platform, Bullock explains. And "as the Democratic governor of a state that Trump won by 20 points, I don't have the luxury of just talking to people who agree with me."

"Look, to be honest, I never thought I'd be running for president," Bullock said. To paraphrase the Irish band The Cranberries, everybody else is doing it, so why can't he? Peter Weber

11:55 a.m.

Remember HBO's Game of Thrones? It feels like it's been forever since the show that once dominated popular culture was on the air, although it's only been a few months since the series finale aired to mixed reviews from critics and fans alike. While it's no longer the talk of the internet, the fact that the show has faded a bit from the spotlight has given A Song of Ice and Fire author George R.R. Martin, whose work inspired the television show, a chance to breathe and reflect.

In a rare, lengthy interview, Martin told The Observer that the television show's controversial ending won't "change anything at all" about the conclusion of his supposedly forthcoming final two novels in the series, The Winds of Winter and A Dream of Spring. Martin did not address fan criticism of the show's final season in the interview, or even whether he watched the finale, but he did say that the series wrapping up was "freeing."

Martin also acknowledged that the show provided challenges for his writing. "I don't think it was very good for me because the very thing that should have speeded me up actually slowed me down," Martin said, noting that he felt pressure to work at a faster pace because of the show, which eventually led to stagnation. Now, he's back to his old style — which means he's writing three or four pages on a good day. The 70-year-old Martin said he needs "more hours in the day, more days in the week, and more months in the year," but, while discussing A Dream of Spring, he used the word "when" not "if" in reference to its completion. Read more at The Observer. Tim O'Donnell

10:51 a.m.

There's been a lot of talk of the United Kingdom's Prime Minister Boris Johnson's government orchestrating the country's departure from the European Union on Oct. 31 without a deal if the two sides can't come to terms on a new agreement by then. But what would a no-deal Brexit actually look like?

A leaked dossier compiled by the United Kingdom's Cabinet Office might have the answer and it's not a particularly pretty picture.

The government documents predicted that the country will hit a three-month meltdown at its ports, a hard Irish border, and shortages of fuel, food and medicine if it leaves the European Union without a deal on Oct. 31. Without a withdrawal agreement, the document says, the U.K. will "be vulnerable to severe extended delays" for medical supplies and food, with rising prices also a possibility. A hard Irish border would also be difficult to avoid, per the documents.

There appears to be a debate over whether the documents represent the worst-case scenario for a no-deal Brexit or if they are the British government's actual assessment of the possible situation.

A senior source said the document is "not Project Fear," but "the most realistic assessment of what the public face with no deal." But that notion has been disputed. Chancellor Michael Gove said it is, in fact, a worst-case scenario report, while the government of British territory Gibraltar took it a step further, arguing that the papers were "out of date" and the issues in it have "already been dealt with." Tim O'Donnell

10:26 a.m.

Former Vice President Joe Biden is not changing his message.

The Democratic presidential candidate reiterated on Saturday during a fundraiser in Massachusetts that, if elected to the Oval Office, he plans on cooperating with Republicans. "There's an awful lot of good Republicans out there," Biden said. "I get in trouble for saying that with Democrats, but the truth of the matter is, every time we got in trouble with our administration, remember who got sent up to Capitol Hill to fix it? Me. Because they know I respect the other team."

Biden said many GOP members are decent people, who are intimidated by the Trump administration. Biden has received criticism for expressing similar views of compromise in the past, especially from the more progressive wing of the Democratic Party. His most recent comments have already led to some similar reactions. But not everyone is fundamentally opposed to this line of thinking, even Biden's primary opponents.

Read more at The Hill. Tim O'Donnell

7:50 a.m.

A local affiliate of the Islamic State claimed responsibility for a suicide bombing on Saturday night at a crowded wedding party in Kabul, Afghanistan. The blast killed at least 63 people, including women and children, and another 182 were injured.

The Taliban, which is negotiating an end to an 18-year conflict with the United States, condemned the violence and denied any involvement. "The attack on the wedding hall is a brutal act," Sohail Shaheen, a spokesman for the Taliban said. "The Islamic Emirate condemns it in the strongest terms. We share the sorrow of the people."

Afghanistan's President Ashraf Ghani, on the other hand, was not ready to rid them of responsibility. In a tweet expressing condolences to the victims, Ghani wrote that the "Taliban cannot absolve themselves of blame, for the provide platform for terrorists."

The attack occurred in a neighborhood in the western part of the city that is home to many of the country's Shiite Hazara community. ISIS, whose members follow Sunni doctrine, have frequently claimed responsibility for attacks targeting Shiites. The militant group's statement said a Pakistani ISIS fighter seeking martyrdom targeted the gathering.

The incident has stoked fear. Mohammed Naeem, a part owner of the venue where the attack occurred, said "very few people may dare to go to wedding halls from now on." Read more at The Associated Press and The Washington Post. Tim O'Donnell

August 17, 2019

Delays, delays, delays.

The U.S. Commerce Department is expected to grant Huawei a 90-day extension that permits the Chinese technology firm to buy supplies from U.S. companies, two sources familiar with the situation told Reuters. The reason behind the extension is so that Huawei can service existing customers. The agreement, which was set to lapse on Aug. 19, will allow Huawei to maintain existing telecommunications networks and provide software updates to Huawei handsets.

The U.S. blacklisted Huawei earlier this year, alleging the company could potentially harm U.S. national security and foreign policy interests. Reuters reports that the decision to grant Huawei the temporary reprieve could change by Monday. President Trump and Chinese President Xi Jinping are expected to discuss the firm in a call this weekend.

It's the second significant delay this week amid the ongoing trade war between Beijing and Washington. On Tuesday, the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative announced certain products would not be subject to a 10 percent tariff on Chinese imports to the U.S. until after the holiday season. Huawei throws another wrinkle into the U.S.'s plan, as analysts question what the concessions might mean for potential future negotiations.

Read more at Reuters. Tim O'Donnell

August 17, 2019

As promised, El Paso, Texas, came out in support of Antonio Basco, whose wife, Margie Reckard, was killed in a mass shooting in the city earlier in August that resulted in 22 deaths.

Basco asked the funeral home that was managing Reckard's service to put out a public invitation to attend, as he had no other family in the area. Within 24 hours people from Texas, across the country, and around the world responded with flowers, cards, and heartfelt notes on social media. Over 1,000 people have also donated to a GoFundMe campaign, raising more than $25,000 to help Basco with expenses.

Ultimately, the service Basco thought no one would attend was filled with 400 mourners, while hundreds of others stood outside in 100-degree heat to pay their respects.

"People were telling me they came from different faiths, different cities," Reckard's grandson, Tyler, said. "It's just incredible how much love and support every single one of you has shown." Tim O'Donnell

August 17, 2019

As early as 2017, the Trump administration tried for months to grant states the power to deny undocumented immigrant children from enrolling in public schools, Bloomberg reports.

President Trump's senior adviser, Stephen Miller, who is known for his hardline stance on immigration, spearheaded the effort, people familiar with the situation said. Ultimately, however, the contingent supporting the measure abandoned the idea upon realization that the plan would likely violate Plyler v. Doe, a 1982 Supreme Court case that prohibited states from denying free public education based on immigration status. The court ruled that punishing children for their parents' actions "does not comport with fundamental conceptions of justice."

Miller's efforts reportedly included consideration of a guidance memo issued by the Education Department that would tell states they had the option to refuse students with an undocumented status to attend school, but it was never issued. Liz Hill, a spokeswoman for the Education Department, said it was never issued because it would never have even been considered.

While nothing came of the efforts, it fits in with the White House's larger efforts to discourage illegal crossings at the southern border. Read more at Bloomberg. Tim O'Donnell

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