Finally, a week not completely dominated by the Russia story! And even better than that, the story that did dominate, at least for a couple days, was the battle over health care reform, finally getting the attention it’s deserved. Another big story this week was the close of the Supreme Court’s term for the summer. The Court made a big announcement on Monday, allowing Trump’s travel ban to partially go into effect until it hears the case in October (the Trump administration put the ban into effect at 8pm Thursday evening, experiencing a few small hiccups).
The other big news coming out of the Court had to do the list of cases they’ll be taking up next session, which includes some biggies. And then, reliably, by the end of the week, the focus had drifted back to Russia. But there’s was lots of other stuff going on this week. So what else happened that you might have missed?
1. One of the criticisms Republicans liked to lob at Obama throughout his presidency was that he was degrading the United States’ standing around the world. It wasn’t true – polls showed impressions of the U.S. going up almost everywhere after Obama took office. But this criticism is particularly ironic now in light of a new Pew poll.
The poll asked respondents in 37 countries around the world whether they had “confidence in the U.S. President to do the right thing regarding world affairs.” In almost every country, confidence levels dropped precipitously between the end of Obama’s presidency and the time of the poll in June, 5 months into Trump’s presidency. And the decline was especially bad among some of our most important allies, such as Germany and the U.K. This has lead to an overall decline in how the U.S. is viewed around the world, with U.S. favorability dropping from 64% to 49%.
The only places where Trump fared better than Obama were Israel, by 7% and Russia, by an whopping 42%.
2. And on the topic of world affairs, Trump has not appointed anyone to fill the role of special envoy to fight anti-semitism around the world. The Special Envoy to Monitor and Combat Anti-Semitism is a position that was created by President George W. Bush, and the President is required by law to fill that position. There are currently 2 staffers in the Office to Monitor and Combat Anti-Semitism, but they are both set to be reassigned, so the office will be unstaffed as of July 1.
Members of Congress from the Republican and Democrat parties have urged [Trump’s] administration to strengthen the office’s status in letters and proposed bills.
This is an issue even some conservative media is reporting on critically, so I wonder if it might start to gain more traction once the office is left empty in July.
3. And for the first time in nearly two decades, the White House has not held a Ramadan dinner. The White House did not even acknowledge Ramadan until being asked for comment by reporters, at which point they put out a statement. According to the Washington Post, the first U.S. President to hold a Ramadan observance at the White House was Thomas Jefferson.
It wasn’t until 1996 that the modern-day White House tradition of celebrating Ramadan with a reception or meal started. That February, first lady Hillary Clinton hosted about 150 people for a reception for Eid al-Fitr, which marks the end of the holy month . . .
The tradition continued under President George W. Bush, who hosted an iftar dinner every year of his two terms in office — including shortly after the 9/11 terrorist attacks, when anger toward Muslim Americans was spiking.
4. The Trump White House also failed to recognize June as Pride Month. Obama officially declared June as National LGBT Pride Month each year of his presidency.
On July 5 of last year, Trump gave a campaign speech in Raleigh, N.C., in which he addressed his appeal to gay Americans.
“Believe me, I am better for the gay community,” Trump said, contrasting himself with Hillary Clinton.
5. Now here’s a little glimmer of good news: something kind of shocking happened in the House on Thursday. Democrat Barbara Lee of California introduced an amendment in the Appropriations Committee to revoke the 2001 AUMF (Authorization for the Use of Military Force) that was given to George W. Bush post-9/11 to target the terrorists responsible for that attack.
It has been used by Presidents since to justify all sorts of military activity including the Iraq War, the war in Afghanistan, various drone strikes and now the war against ISIS. Presidents have been able to act unilaterally under this extremely broad grant of authority, instead of needing to consult with Congress for a wide array of war activities.
The Congressional Research Service has found that the 2001 AUMF has been used more than 37 times in 14 countries to justify military action.
Today, the Committee approved the amendment to revoke the AUMF. Now, to be clear, this just passes the amendment through the committee, so there’s no actual change in law at the moment. But, this is a big step, because it at least brings the issue up for discussion. Rep. Lee has repeatedly introduced this amendment in years past, but it has always failed to even pass through a committee. This time, the amendment was met with applause – literal applause – from members of both parties.
You think members of Congress might be a tad concerned about what an undisciplined, inexperienced, pathologically egotistical & belligerent President might do with unrestrained war powers??
6. And back to the not-so-good news: the EPA announced this week that it plans to repeal the 2015 Clean Water Rule (a.k.a. “WOTUS” or waters of the United States). So yeah, another Obama-era regulation that Trump is wiping off the books.
A rule expanding federal protection to thousands of streams, wetlands, and small waterways, many of which feed into drinking water sources across the US, is effectively dead . . .
One impact of killing this rule is that it throws the regulatory landscape of US waterways back into pre-2015 chaos. The rule was crafted by the Obama administration to explicitly address public, industry, and regulatory confusion over which waterways were actually protected under the Clean Water Act, and it was finalized following hundreds of stakeholder meetings and public hearings on the issue.
7. And in an April What Did I Miss?, I told you that the EPA had decided not to ban an outdoor pesticide, chlorpyrifos, that had been banned for indoor use 15 years ago. Under the Obama administration, the EPA had proposed the outdoor ban, but the EPA under Trump rejected it.
Now the Associated Press is reporting that a few weeks before making the decision to reject that ban, EPA head Scott Pruitt had met privately with the CEO of Dow Chemical, which makes that pesticide. An EPA spokeswoman says the two men did not discuss the topic. But there’s also this, which might’ve had a little something to do with the decision:
When President Donald Trump signed an executive order in February mandating the creation of task forces at federal agencies to roll back government regulations, he handed the pen to Dow’s chief executive, who was standing at his side. Liveris heads a White House manufacturing working group. His company also wrote a $1 million check to help underwrite Trump’s inaugural festivities.
8. But here’s your glimmer: in response to Trump’s election, a scientist in California (she’s a volcanologist!) named Jess Phoenix has been inspired to run for Congress to fight climate change. I don’t know enough about Phoenix to know how her candidacy will turn out, but hopefully she’s just one of many smart, feisty women who will be motivated by Trump to run for office.
“We’re at a critical point in our planet’s history,” Phoenix said “It’s really important that we have people in office who understand that protecting the world around us, doing good science … is just critical, it’s paramount.”
She said that Trump’s decision to withdraw the United States from the historic Paris Agreement brings new urgency to her mission . . .
“It’s fair to ask what scientists know at all about the political world,” she said. “One of the great things about being a scientist is that you get a really broad set of skills, particularly with what I do as a field scientist. I work out in the real world every day, solving difficult problems that sometimes involve matters of life or death.”
9. And now, something non-political for the 4th of July weekend: if you’re ordering your cookout supplies through a grocery delivery service, you’ll be interested in this behind the scenes look at how Pea Pod, Fresh Direct, etc. keep your food cold and intact all the way from the warehouse to your house. If you use one of these services, you’ll hope for a driver as dedicated as Sinclair Browne, who’s featured in the story:
Once perishable items make it into the tote, the clock starts ticking. Keeping food cold until it gets to customers is the single most difficult and important thing about delivering groceries. There are many opportunities for things to go wrong.
For all the impersonal convenience that online shopping brings — no crowds, or lines, or chatty cashiers — no company has figured out how to automate away the care that a live human like Mr. Browne needs to show toward the food.
Carrying a box of sodas and two bags of cold food, he walks into the lobby of a building about halfway through his shift. The doorman tells him to leave the order, but he refuses. What if the doorman forgets about it, and the fruit stays out for hours?
“For every hour that you break that cold chain, you lose one day of shelf life,” said Tony Stallone, Peapod’s produce guru, who is described on the company’s website as claiming that “his lettuce talks to him.” (When asked about it, Mr. Stallone laughed it off.)
10. And lastly, if you missed it Thursday, read this story about MLB umpire John Tumpane, who saved a woman who was about to jump from a bridge on Wednesday. In an awe-inspiring detail, the bridge was the Roberto Clemente Bridge in Pittsburgh. For the non-baseball people out there, Roberto Clemente, a former major leaguer, died in a plane crash in 1972 while on his way to deliver aid to earthquake victims in Nicaragua. Major League Baseball gives out a humanitarian award in his name to one player each year.
“You never know what somebody’s day looks like,” [Trumpane] said. “It’s a nice day, everyone’s out for a walk, and somebody’s not having the same day you’re having. I was just glad to help.”