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As Shutdown Looms, DREAMers May Lose

Congress weighs leaving Dreamers in limbo another year. Politico: “As lawmakers grasp for a solution for the young undocumented immigrants, one option is a temporary extension — perhaps one year — of their legal protections paired with a little bit of cash for border security… Some senators are already deriding a yearlong patch as ‘misguided,’ a ‘Plan Z’ and a proposal that would keep immigrants “in fear.” But lawmakers have only until March 5 to save the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program under President Donald Trump’s deadline. And in a Congress that has routinely struggled to keep the lights on, at least some lawmakers say a temporary fix for Dreamers might be all but inevitable. Lawmakers return to Washington this week with another government shutdown looming after Feb. 8 and a deal on Dreamers still far out of reach — a reality that could make a DACA stopgap increasingly appealing.”

Trump Wants To Expand US Nuclear Arsenal

U.S. signals nuclear arms are back in a big way. NYT: “A new nuclear policy issued by the Trump administration on Friday, which vows to counter a rush by the Russians to modernize their forces even while staying within the treaty limits, is touching off a new kind of nuclear arms race. This one is based less on numbers of weapons and more on novel tactics and technologies, meant to outwit and outmaneuver the other side. The Pentagon envisions a new age in which nuclear weapons are back in a big way — its strategy bristles with plans for new low-yield nuclear weapons that advocates say are needed to match Russian advances and critics warn will be too tempting for a president to use. The result is that the nuclear-arms limits that go into effect on Monday now look more like the final stop after three decades of reductions than a way station to further cuts.”

Online Bots Fuel Russia Memo Controversy

How Twitter Bots and Trump Fans Made #ReleaseTheMemo Go Viral. Politico: “Russian bots and their American allies gamed social media to put a flawed intelligence document atop the political agenda. That should alarm us. On Tuesday morning—the day after the House Intelligence Committee voted along partisan lines to send Rep. Devin Nunes’ memo, alleging abuses of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, to President Donald Trump for declassification—presidential adviser Kellyanne Conway was confronted with the idea that Russian trolls were promoting the #releasethememo hashtag online. She was offended. Russian trolls, she told a television interviewer, ‘have nothing to do with releasing the memo—that was a vote of the intelligence committee.’ But her assertion is incorrect. The vote marked the culmination of a targeted, 11-day information operation that was amplified by computational propaganda techniques and aimed to change both public perceptions and the behavior of American lawmakers. And it worked. By the time the memo got to the president, its release was a forgone conclusion—even before he had read it. This bears repeating: Computational propaganda—defined as ‘the use of information and communication technologies to manipulate perceptions, affect cognition, and influence behavior’ — has been used, successfully, to manipulate the perceptions of the American public and the actions of elected officials.”

Climate Denier Pulled From Environmental Post

WH pulls nomination of climate change skeptic as top environmental adviser. NBC: “The White House late Saturday confirmed plans to withdraw the nomination of a climate change skeptic with ties to the fossil fuel industry to serve as President Donald Trump’s top environmental adviser. Kathleen Hartnett White was announced last October as Trump’s choice to chair the Council on Environmental Quality. She had served under former Texas Gov. Rick Perry, now Trump’s energy secretary, for six years on a commission overseeing the state environmental agency. But White’s nomination languished in the Senate, and was among a batch of nominations the Senate sent back to the White House at the end of 2017 when Congress closed up for the year. Trump resubmitted White’s nomination in January. White, who is not a scientist, has compared the work of mainstream climate scientists to ‘the dogmatic claims of ideologues and clerics.’ In a contentious Senate hearing last November, she defended past statements that particulate pollution released by burning fuels is not harmful unless one were to suck on a car’s tailpipe.’”

Trump Infrastructure Plan Full Of Holes

Trump’s infrastructure ‘plan’ is shoddily built – and sure to collapse. NYM: “President Trump’s long-belated, newly unveiled infrastructure plan is a work of magical realism. In an unprecedented move that is sure to polarize audiences, the White House has decided to set its legislative proposal in an alternative universe — one where the federal government can purchase $1.5 trillion worth of infrastructure improvements for just $200 billion; congressional Republicans are united in their commitment to funding public improvements and have detailed ideas for how to do so; and congressional Democrats are eager to vote for $200 billion in cuts to the safety net, for the sake of delivering Donald Trump a bipartisan victory in a midterm election year… Officials would not detail where those cuts would come from, or how the proposal would effectively leverage at least $6.50 in additional infrastructure spending for every dollar spent by the federal government, a ratio many infrastructure experts consider far-fetched… In all seriousness: This plan is a joke. And the White House almost certainly knows it.”

Mulvaney Scraps CFPB Scrutiny Of Payday Lenders

Payday rules relax on Trump’s watch after lobbying by lenders. NYT: “Mr. Mulvaney put the brakes on a contentious rule, ushered in by Mr. Cordray, that was set to impose tight restrictions on short-term payday loans. He ended a case that the bureau initiated last year against a group of payday lenders in Kansas accused of charging interest rates of nearly 1,000 percent. Last week, Mr. Mulvaney scrapped an investigation into the marketing and lending practices of World Acceptance Corporation, a lender based in South Carolina that donated $4,500 to Mr. Mulvaney’s previous congressional campaigns through its political action committee… According to the Center for Responsive Politics, payday lenders have contributed more than $13 million to members of Congress since 2010, with the majority of that money going to Republicans who have made it a priority to roll back the financial regulations put in place by President Barack Obama after the financial crisis. That includes Mr. Mulvaney, who received nearly $63,000 for his campaigns from payday lending groups.”

CFPB To Shelve Probe Of Equifax Breach

CFPB puts Equifax probe on ice. Reuters: “Mick Mulvaney, head of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, has pulled back from a full-scale probe of how Equifax Inc failed to protect the personal data of millions of consumers, according to people familiar with the matter. Equifax (EFX.N) said in September that hackers stole personal data it had collected on some 143 million Americans. Richard Cordray, then the CFPB director, authorized an investigation that month, said former officials familiar with the probe. But Cordray resigned in November and was replaced by Mulvaney, President Donald Trump’s budget chief. The CFPB effort against Equifax has sputtered since then, said several government and industry sources, raising questions about how Mulvaney will police a data-warehousing industry that has enormous sway over how much consumers pay to borrow money.”

Azar Announces IN Work Requirements For Medicaid

Trump administration approves Medicaid work requirements. ThinkProgress:The Trump administration approved Indiana’s request requiring some Medicaid recipients to work to get benefits on Friday, meaning thousands of people in the state could soon be without health insurance. Under the new proposal, Indiana residents will need to work 20 hours a week, on average, or participate in a job training program in order to be eligible for Medicaid. The rule kicks off in 2019. The state would not require pregnant women, students, the homeless, and some other current recipients to work. The state expects the changes will affect 130,000 of the current 438,604 enrollees, and 33,000 of those people will lose coverage.”

Community Health Expiration Threatens Care For Millions

Congress left health care for millions of poor people in the lurch. HuffPost: “If the funding were to stop completely, as many as 9 million low-income people would lose their source of care, according to federal estimates. They’d have a hard time finding alternatives, even if they managed to hold onto their insurance, because they live in places that don’t have a lot of doctors and facilities with capacity ― or a willingness ― to see them… Republican leaders who control Congress insist the new spending must have offsetting cuts ― a condition, notably, they didn’t place on their $1.5 trillion tax cut. Democrats seem willing to go along with that, but the parties haven’t yet reached agreement on what those cuts should be. And the temporary funding Congress supplied is about to run out again.”

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