priorities
November 18, 2020

New York City schools are closing again (it's unclear for how long) after the city hit the 3 percent coronavirus positivity threshold. The number was agreed upon beforehand, so the news isn't a shocker, but it has already elicited harsh criticism, especially since the rest of New York — restaurants and bars (which allow in-door dining), gyms, hair salons, and museums — remain open.

The decision seems particularly perplexing, per The New York Times, given that New York's school system is not believed to be linked to the city's uptick in COVID-19 cases, and research elsewhere generally has not determined schools to be high-risk zones, at least comparatively. New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) has himself said spread is more prevalent in bars and restaurants. As some have pointed out, other countries are taking the opposite approach, leaving schools open, while shuttering non-essential businesses.

Regardless, it seems likely there would be less criticism if schools weren't singled out for the time being. Tim O'Donnell

October 24, 2020

In the latest episode of Pod Save America — a podcast hosted by several former Obama administration staffers — the Democratic presidential nominee, former Vice President Joe Biden, laid out what Politico described as "the most in-depth statement of priorities we've heard from" the candidate.

Biden, responding to the Republican Party's agenda for a second Trump administration term (which includes items focused on space exploration and a national high speed wireless network), said that, first and foremost, he's determined to "get control" of the coronavirus pandemic. Beyond that, though, he said he wants to invest in "real infrastructure," with a heavy focus on science and technology. "We used to invest a little over 2.6 percent of our GDP in research and science," Biden said. "It's now down to 0.6 percent ... We're going to make sure that we can compete with the rest of the world and lead the rest of the world."

The former vice president predicted that, through these renewed efforts, "we're going to cure cancer" while making strides in research on Alzheimer's and diabetes, among other diseases. He also described an aspect of his agriculture policy plan, which he said could make the industry the first in the U.S. to reach the net zero carbon emission threshold. Tim O'Donnell

August 12, 2020

The Trump administration has decided to take on Big Showerhead.

Under a new proposal from the Department of Energy, the definition of a showerhead would be changed so manufacturers are able to work around the current requirement that no more than 2.5 gallons flow through per minute. "If adopted, this rule would undo the action of the previous administration and return to congressional intent, allowing Americans — not Washington bureaucrats — to choose what kind of showerheads they have in their homes," Energy Department spokeswoman Shaylyn Hynes told The Hill via email.

The standards are in place in order to save water and reduce energy consumption, but President Trump has gone on the record multiple times saying he is more concerned about how a low-flow showerhead affects his tresses. During an event in July, Trump mused: "Showerheads — you take a shower, the water doesn't come out. You want to wash your hands, the water doesn't come out. So what do you do? You just stand there longer or you take a shower longer? Because my hair — I don't know about you, but it has to be perfect. Perfect." Catherine Garcia

October 4, 2019

President Trump publicly asked China to investigate former Vice President Joe Biden and his son on Thursday, but he has also privately discussed both Biden and 2020 Democratic co-frontrunner Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) with Chinese President Xi Jinping, CNN reports. In a June 18 call with Xi, Trump brought up the political prospects of both Warren and Biden, CNN reports, citing two people familiar with the discussion. "In that call, Trump also told Xi he would remain quiet on Hong Kong protests as trade talks progressed." Financial Times had a similar report in July.

On Twitter, Warren brushed off whatever Trump said about her.

The transcript of the Xi call was stored in the same classified codeword server used to irregularly store Trump's July 25 phone call with Ukraine's Volodymyr Zelensky, CNN says. The whistleblower complaint concerning that call prompted the discovery that Trump aides are using the system to store politically sensitive Trump communications, not just national security secrets, and it also pushed the House to start an impeachment process. China, like Ukraine, says it does not want to get enmeshed in U.S. domestic politics.

Trump's National Security Council and the State Department are also reportedly frustrated that Trump hasn't denounced China's crackdown on pro-democracy activists who have held weekly protests in Hong Kong for months. On Tuesday, when Hong Kong police shot a teenager in the chest with live ammunition, Trump focused on the other big event in China, tweeting: "Congratulations to President Xi and the Chinese people on the 70th Anniversary of the People's Republic of China!" Peter Weber

August 27, 2019

The timing on this could not be more telling.

On Tuesday morning, Puerto Rico declared a state of emergency as Tropical Storm Dorian was predicted to become a hurricane when it hits the island on Wednesday. And on Tuesday afternoon, NBC News reported that President Trump's administration opted to transfer $251 million in Department of Homeland Security disaster relief to the southern border.

Puerto Rico is still recovering from disastrous hurricanes that hit the island nearly two years ago, only receiving $900 million in relief funding in May after months of delays. Yet all the while, Trump has zeroed in on the southern border, even declaring a national emergency in an attempt to build his border wall.

The bill funding Puerto Rico's disaster relief didn't include Trump's border demands. But that didn't stop the Trump administration this week from reportedly relocating $271 million from DHS — including from FEMA's disaster relief fund — to fund detention and increased immigration hearings. $155 million of that total would go to Immigration and Customs Enforcement, NBC News reports via department officials and a letter sent to FEMA by Rep. Lucille Roybal-Allard (D-Calif.).

Trump tweeted about the upcoming storm earlier on Tuesday, seemingly lamenting that the emergency spending Congress recently allocated for Puerto Rico wasn't preventing more hurricanes from coming.

$92 billion is actually far less than the amount of disaster funding Puerto Rico has actually received — though it could probably buy a lot of nukes to ward off hurricanes in the first place. Kathryn Krawczyk

October 21, 2018

President Trump said Saturday he is reviewing a list of five candidates to replace outgoing U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley, and he expects to announce a decision soon. "We'll have somebody great," the president pledged. "We're going to pick somebody very quickly."

Two of the candidates are men, and three are women, Trump said, telling reporters he "might prefer" to have a woman in the role. "I think it's become maybe a more glamorous position than it was two years ago," he said. "Maybe, I wonder why, but it is. [Haley has] made it a very glamorous position."

Haley's next step remains unknown, as she has insisted she will not run for the presidency in 2020. Bonnie Kristian

July 26, 2018

Now that President Trump has succeeded in achieving free and fair trade, supporting religious freedom, and generally just making America great again, he's ready to move on to other issues — namely, fixing Twitter.

Trump on Thursday tweeted that he would get the government involved in ending the platform's "shadow banning," an algorithm change that some Republicans say has led to suppressed engagement and fewer followers.

The president's favorite form of communication has been accused of bias against conservative figures, which the company has acknowledged and said it is trying to rectify. Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-Fla.) on Wednesday told The Hill that he felt "victimized and violated" by Twitter, accusing the company of trying to tamp down his free speech. "It's really frustrating to think that the marketplace of ideas couldn't accommodate the thoughts and musings that I contribute," he said.

Other Republicans, like Rep. Mark Meadows (R-N.C.) and Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio), have allegedly been affected by the "shadow banning," with their profiles becoming more difficult to find and each tweet gaining fewer and fewer "impressions." The change came when Twitter began trying to bring less attention to "troll-like behaviors."

Twitter's product lead, Kayvon Beykpour, tweeted an explanation that the system wasn't actively suppressing users based on their political views, and promised that "we’re making a change today that will improve this." Summer Meza

February 7, 2018

President Trump has reportedly given orders to the Pentagon to prepare a military parade, inspired by the one that dazzled him on Bastille Day during his visit to France. Not everyone is enthusiastic about the idea: "The way to show our service members and veterans that we appreciate their service is to use the parade money to fund their health care and other services they need," Del. Eleanor H. Norton (D-District of Columbia) tweeted. Even military enthusiasts are grumbling.

The typically Trump-friendly Fox News hosts don't seem so thrilled, either. After a short segment on Trump's proposal, Fox & Friends' Brian Kilmeade muttered: "I don't know, it seems like a waste of money."

The Week's Peter Weber agrees. Read why he thinks Trump should personally foot the bill if he wants his parade here. Jeva Lange

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