News Briefs: National and International News



Return of shutdown looms ahead of deadline

The likelihood of another government shutdown increased on Monday as bipartisan negotiations broke down just days ahead of Friday’s deadline. The center of contention between Republicans and Democrats was President Donald Trump’s request for $5.7 billion in funding to build a wall on the southern border, a longtime promise of his. After ending a record-long government shutdown last month, Trump has continued his uncompromising attitude on funding for the wall, making it a key point of his State of the Union address. Lawmakers remained hopeful of striking a deal but recognized the possibility of another shutdown as Alabama Sen. Richard Shelby, a Republican, said the odds of striking a deal by Friday was “50-50.”

Louisiana abortion law

The Supreme Court denied a Louisiana abortion law from going into effect in a decision on Feb. 7. Chief Justice John Roberts was the swing vote in the 5-4 decision, which restricted the state’s Unsafe Abortion Protection Act. The 2014 law required doctors to have admitting privileges at a nearby hospital in order to perform abortions in Louisiana but had been blocked by the courts since its enactment. The state had argued that the law ensured women’s safety and greater competence by the doctor. However, critics decried it as an unlawful attempt to restrict abortion access. The law was similar to a Texas statute that had been struck down by the Supreme Court in 2016 because it was deemed to constitute an undue burden on access to abortion.

Congresswoman’s remarks on Israel condemned by Dems, GOP

Both Democrats and Republicans have strongly condemned remarks made by a freshman lawmaker that have been called anti-Semitic. Democrat Rep. Ilhan Omar made comments about strong U.S. support for Israel, tweeting, “It’s all about the Benjamins baby,” then tweeting that the AIPAC – the American Israeli Public Affairs Committee – pays U.S. politicians to support Israel. Several high-profile members of the House have called the tweets “anti-Semitic troupes” and also called for her removal from the House Foreign Affairs Committee. House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy called for Democratic leaders to take steps similar to those taken against Republican Rep. Steve King, who was stripped from his leadership positions after making comments regarding white nationalism and supremacy.


McCarrick verdict possible in next week, sources indicate

Former cardinal Theodore McCarrick’s fate could be decided as early as this week, sources at the Vatican said. Vatican officials are reported to be meeting this week in the lead up to this month’s sex abuse summit at the Vatican. Sources told Reuters that McCarrick will “almost certainly” be dismissed from the priestly state; if true, McCarrick would be the highest profile cleric to be defrocked in modern times, Reuters reported. The disgraced cleric has been the subject of much scrutiny and criticism since allegations of sexual misconduct by him came out in the summer, allegations that were supported by the testimony of former nuncio Archbishop Carlo Maria Vigano. For the moment, Pope Francis has barred McCarrick from public ministry and ordered him to live in seclusion.

Russia ponders temporary ‘unplugging’ from internet

Russian media has reported the country is considering a plan to temporarily disconnect from the internet in order to test the country’s cyber defense in the case of foreign aggression. According to RBK news agency, the temporary disconnect comes as Russian lawmakers discuss a draft of the Digital Economy National Program legislation. The legislation would require internet providers to ensure their ability to operate in the case foreign countries attempted to isolate the Runet, or Russian internet, which explains the consideration of unplugging. Russian President Vladimir Putin has long supported an autonomous internet infrastructure for Russia, something that could become a real possibility if Russian relations with the West continue to deteriorate. If approved, the unplugging exercise would take place before April 1, according to media reports.

Mating session results in death of endangered tiger

What was supposed to be a successful mating session at the London Zoo between two endangered tigers ended in tragedy on Friday after the male killed the female. The rare Sumatran tigers were reported to have initially been cautious in their approach of each other after introduced into the same enclosure, but Asim, the male, quickly pounced on Melati, the female. Despite attempting to distract Asim with flare, alarms and other loud noises, zoo staff members were unable to intervene in time to save Melati. According to the zoo, Asim had arrived from Denmark just 10 days prior as part of a European-wide conservation breeding program. Sumatran tigers are the smallest surviving tiger subspecies, and only 400 remain, according to the World Wildlife Fund.