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Vox Sentences: Trump’s budget cuts sleep with the fishes

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The government may just get funded after all; Trump and North Korea’s rising provocations; Puerto Rico’s precarious debt situation.


Government funding agreement reached

Balance Of Power At Stake As Midterm Elections Draw Near Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images
  • Late Sunday night, congressional leaders reached a deal to fund the government through September. The bill still needs to be passed in the House and Senate, but as of now it looks like a bigger win for Democrats than for the congressional GOP or the White House... [New York Times / Thomas Kaplan, Matt Flegenheimer]
  • …which is perhaps surprising given that Republicans control both houses of Congress and the presidency. But with no funding cuts for Planned Parenthood and increased funding for the National Institutes of Health, for example, and no funding at all for the border wall, there’s a lot for Democrats to like. Senate Democrats could’ve blocked the legislation through filibustering, so their buy-in was crucial. [Vox / Jeff Stein, Tara Golshan]
  • Some other things the bill included: a permanent extension to coal miners’ health benefits; only a 1 percent cut to the Environmental Protection Agency; $1.5 billion to update US-Mexico border fencing and technology (none of which can go to a wall); a small bump to the National Park Service; a cut to the Justice Department but not to its main agencies like the FBI, which saw increases, as did some of its grant programs, like the Violence Against Women grants; funding to help combat the opioid crisis; and no cuts to public broadcasting. [Washington Post / Kelsey Snell, Ed O’Keefe]
  • In an interview with Bloomberg News, President Trump said he plans to sign the bill. Despite the fact that it “rejects most of his wish list,” as Bloomberg puts it, Trump said, “We’re very happy with it.” [Bloomberg / Billy House, Erik Wasson, Laura Litvan]
  • But before it gets to Trump’s desk, the bill will have to pass through Congress. The House Rules Committee will consider it at 3 pm Tuesday, per a committee spokesperson, and it could head to the House floor Wednesday. Senate consideration could then happen before the end of the week, which would avoid a potential government shutdown, as current appropriations will expire Friday at midnight. [Roll Call / Ryan McCrimmon]
  • How did the bill turn into such a win for Democrats? “A spending bill needs 60 votes,” in the Senate, Vox’s Tara Golshan notes. “Because Republicans needed Democratic votes to fund the government, the result was a spending package that was a tough sell for conservatives. The more Republicans lost votes on the right flank, though, the more Democrats they needed to avoid a shutdown — so the spending bill kept moving ever further left.” [Vox / Tara Golshan​]

News on North Korea

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un.
North Korean leader Kim Jong Un (Ed Jones/AFP/Getty)
(Ed Jones/AFP/Getty Images)
  • Last Thursday, in an interview with Reuters that ran on Friday, President Trump said, “There's a chance that we could end up having a major, major, conflict with North Korea, absolutely.” What’s happened since? A lot. [Reuters / Phil Stewart]
  • Saturday, North Korea tested a ballistic, non-nuclear, short-range missile that failed. Japan’s Prime Minister Shinzo Abe called it “a grave threat to our country” that came “despite strong warnings by the international community.” Trump tweeted about it (of course): “North Korea disrespected the wishes of China & its highly respected President when it launched, though unsuccessfully, a missile today. Bad!” [CNBC / Christine Wang]
  • Then yesterday, in an interview with CBS taped the day before, Trump suggested that the possibly of taking military action against North Korea was still on the table, and that if the country staged another nuclear test, he would not be happy. (He also praised Kim Jong Un, calling the North Korean leader “a pretty smart cookie.”) [Wall Street Journal / Josh Mitchell, Eric Morath]
  • That brings us to today. In an interview with Bloomberg News, Trump said he would “be honored” to meet with Kim Jong Un. “If it would be appropriate for me to meet with him, I would absolutely.” [Bloomberg / Margaret Talev, Jennifer Jacobs]
  • And as part of a larger effort to cohere international regional cooperation around isolating North Korea, Trump extended invitations to the leaders of Singapore and Thailand — and also to the president of the Philippines, Rodrigo Duterte. [Wall Street Journal / Jake Maxwell Watts]
  • Duterte has boasted about killing criminals himself, and has been accused of myriad other human rights violations like ordering the extrajudicial killings of drug suspects. He once called then-President Barack Obama a “son of a whore.” Responding to the invitation, the Asia advocacy director of Human Rights Watch told the New York Times, “Although the traits of his personality likely make it impossible, Trump should be ashamed of himself.” [New York Times / Mark Landler]
  • (It really cannot be overstated how despicable Duterte is. He once joked about raping a woman who was held hostage and assaulted before being murdered while doing mission work in a Philippine prison.) [Time / Kate Samuelson]
  • This afternoon, seeking to clarify Trump’s statement on meeting with Kim Jong Un, White House press secretary Sean Spicer said North Korea would need to scale back its provocations before a meeting could take place. “Clear conditions are not there right now,” he said. As always, the president didn’t actually mean what he said. [Reuters / Steve Holland]
  • And if he gives up on diplomacy, it’s not clear that Trump could legally take military action against the country. He’d need congressional authorization. On the other hand, the dubious legal standing of airstrikes against Syria didn’t exactly stop him then. [The Nation / John Nichols​]

Puerto Rico finds itself in debt, in protest

Thousands Attend May Day Protests Across The U.S. Photo by Drew Angerer/Getty Images
  • Thousands of protesters hit the streets in Puerto Rico today to protest austerity measures aimed at tackling its years-long economic crisis and $70 billion public debt — measures that include benefit cuts for public employees, hikes to water rates, higher taxes, and some privatization measures. [Star Tribune / Associated Press / Danica Coto]
  • The territory was granted protection last year by the US government so that it could not be sued by creditors who carry its debt — and that respite ends today. As many as a dozen lawsuits or more are expected tomorrow, both against the commonwealth itself and against Gov. Ricardo Rosselló. [Financial Times / Eric Platt]
  • Financial Times’s John Dizard writes that Puerto Rico is arguably in worse shape than Argentina was when it went into default in 2001: “That came at the end of many years of debt financing and capital inflows, a significant amount of which actually went to build power systems, roads, telecommunications and other real assets. In contrast, Puerto Rico enters insolvency with a creaky, expensive power grid, a water system in need of big improvements, a rundown tourism industry and a declining manufacturing base that had been built to take advantage of now-defunct federal tax breaks.” [Financial Times / John Dizard]
  • This is only the latest in a long string of austerity measures meant to address the crisis, and discontent has been rising for some time. Many protesting don’t believe all of the debt is legitimate in the first place. They also resent that a fiscal control board appointed by the US has been overseeing the process, a setup that for many recalls the island’s colonial history. [teleSUR]
  • Many Puerto Ricans are voting with their feet and leaving. The territory lost 2 percent of its population in the year 2014, with an average of 230 people (two full flights) leaving every single day. [CNN / Jeff Acevedo]
  • Meanwhile, President Trump seems opposed to helping Puerto Rico. Last week he tweeted angrily at the prospect of helping the territory cover Medicaid costs, writing: “The Democrats want to shut government if we don't bail out Puerto Rico and give billions to their insurance companies for OCare failure. NO!” [Twitter / Donald Trump]
  • But help for Puerto Rico made it into the US government funding bill — as of now, pending any changes as the bill moves through Congress, there is $295 million in Medicaid funding for Puerto Rico. [Reuters / Robin Respaut, Nick Brown​]

Miscellaneous

  • The case for making Beauty and the Beast 2 all about Belle getting guillotined during the French Revolution. [io9 / Beth Elderkin]
  • The New Orleans district attorney has attempted to prosecute at least six public defender and defense investigators, basically for doing their jobs. [The Guardian / Aviva Shen]
  • Remembering Donald Trump’s untelevised 2004 Friars Club roast, which featured Richard Belzer (a.k.a. Det. John Munch) referring to Trump as “the grifter wrapped in a fraud perpetuated on society.” [Washington Post / Elahe Izadi]
  • Anti-abortion activists like to say that when abortion is illegal, women won't be prosecuted; only doctors will go to prison. But with misoprostol (a drug that's 90 percent effective at terminating early-term pregnancies) available over the counter in Mexico and sold by online pharmacies, doctors probably won't be involved in many post-criminalization abortions. And it's clear that in those cases, it's the woman who'd be on the hook. [Washington Post / Irin Carmon]
  • Trump and Republicans in Congress want a $5 trillion tax cut for corporations and the wealthy. Freshman Democratic Rep. Ro Khanna has a plan to spend trillions cutting taxes for workers, by dramatically expanding the earned income tax credit so families could get as much as $12,000 a year. [The Atlantic / Annie Lowrey]

Verbatim

  • “He spent the next 11 months in the hospital, immobilized in bed, with an open wound down the front of him that had the circumference of a basketball. It got to the point where it was a normal thing for him to look down and think, oh, those are my intestines, there they are.” [Huffington Post / Jason Fagone]
  • “Feinstein describes her mother, Betty Goldman, in glowing terms. … But Feinstein's middle sister, Yvonne Banks, told me their mother was given to unpredictable moods. … Betty would occasionally lock Dianne out of the house, forcing her to sleep in the family car.” [Mother Jones / Gail Sheehy]
  • “When I was on it, the finale of our series had more views than the final of the World Cup. The fact that it’s just people baking cake, it’s a bit crazy that it has gathered such a following.” [Martha Collison to A.V. Club / Kevin Pang]
  • “Phone calls were too expensive, plus, my mom, siblings and I kept moving. He was wasting money he didn’t have calling numbers we had left behind.” [Refinery29 / Ashley C. Ford]
  • “In the lead-up to the episode, Green read an article in The New York Times that called the idea of a woman only realizing she was gay at the age of 35 ‘bordering on unbelievable.’ But Green, who was 35 herself, didn’t think so. As the Ellen cast and crew were filming ‘The Puppy Episode,’ she had met a woman she was interested in and realized that she was gay. ‘I completely understood,’ she said. ‘Because that was true for me.’” [Huffington Post / Maxwell Strachan]

Watch this: How a melancholy egg yolk conquered Japan

Gudetama, explained. [Vox / Dion Lee, Alex Abad-Santos]


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