Why Muslims are marching for climate

(CNN)From the cropless farmer to the beleaguered first responder to the person forced to evacuate their flooded home, we all have our reasons for caring about climate change. As an Indonesian-born Muslim living in California, it is my faith that compels me to protect our earth.

For many people like me who cherish tolerance and clean air, the first 100 days of the Trump presidency have not been easy. As a Muslim immigrant to America, it has been painfully frustrating to witness the Trump administration reinforce xenophobia against both immigrants and Muslims.
As someone whose faith is bound up with combating climate change, it hurt to see Trump impose an executive order that effectively denies the impacts of climate change I have seen with my own eyes.
    Frustration must never lead to resignation, however: that is why, on Saturday, I and many other Muslims will be marching in Washington, D.C. in solidarity with thousands of others for our climate and the protection of the vulnerable.
    Prophet Mohammed (peace and blessings be upon him) leaves Muslims like me in no doubt as to the duty we humans share: “God has made the Earth green and beautiful, and He has appointed you as stewards over it,” he said. There is no greater threat to our “green and beautiful” Earth than the more frequent and intense droughts, floods and storms brought by climate change.
    Muslim-majority countries around the world are some of the most severely affected by climate change impacts like heat waves, floods, droughts and extreme weather events like the recent famine in Somalia, which has led to more than 16 million people facing food shortages and death.
    Many Muslims live in parts of the world that are particularly vulnerable to climate change, such as Bangladesh and parts of sub-Saharan Africa. Pakistan is another country that is extremely short of freshwater resources. With a continuously increasing of climate crisis, the water availability has decreased severely, which then placed the country as water scarce nation and in turn it will have an adverse influence on poverty.
    Maldives is another Muslim-majority country that could become the first in history to be completely erased by the sea level rise at the turn of the century.
    And with last year’s COP 22 taking place in Morocco, the responsibility has shifted to the governments of Muslim majority countries and their religious leaders to step up and play their role in the growing grassroots movement accross Muslim communities around the globe, to reverse the effects of climate change.
    That means phasing out greenhouse gas emissions as soon as possible, shifting away from fossil fuels to clean sources of energy, including urging the Muslim petropowers and oil-producing nations to take the lead in the transition toward renewable energy based development. (Rich and oil states should phase out their emissions by the middle of the century and provide generous support to help the poor nations to combat climate change).
    The consequences of climate change are already having significant and costly affects on our communities, our health and our ecosystem. Globally, 2014, 2015 and 2016 were the three hottest years on record. From January to March 2017, the US experienced five billion-dollar weather and climate disasters, a national record that killed 37 people. Climate change likely worsened the impact of Colorado’s deadly 2013 floods and has exacerbated droughts in California. Of course, it is always the poor and vulnerable who are impacted most.
    These facts and figures are no abstractions for me. In February 2007 I was in Jakarta, Indonesia’s capital, as the city was paralyzed by severe flooding — the worst in its history — that inundated about 70 percent of the city, killed a number of people, cut off the highway connecting to the country’s major airport and sent about 450,000 fleeing their homes.
    In January 2014, a couple years after I moved to the US, California Gov. Jerry Brown declared a “drought state of emergency” due to ongoing water shortfalls following the driest calendar year in state history. He asked Californians to cut their water usage by at least a fifth. As a California resident, I witnessed first hand firefighters battling a wildfire in San Diego County during the severe Santa Ana Wind and heat wave in 2016.
    I am not alone. Muslims — and indeed the majority of Americans outside the White House — are united on the urgency of the issue of climate change. In August 2015, I witnessed over 80 global Muslim leaders from over 20 countries release the Islamic Declaration on Global Climate Change in Istanbul, urging world governments to phase out fossil fuels and make a transition to renewable energy to tackle climate change.
    In December of that year, by signing the Paris Agreement on Climate Change, almost 200 governments set a path to do just that. The Global Muslim Climate Network, of which I am chair, is also doing its part to encourage more Muslims to focus on solutions and take concrete actions, such as running their local mosques on solar energy.
    By seeking to undermine the Paris Agreement, which the Trump administration could do if it decides to formally withdraw or which arguably it is already doing by seeking to eradicate climate regulations and funding for climate science research — Donald Trump and his administration are reneging on a promise to have the interests of the vulnerable and forgotten at heart.
    Together with his divisive rhetoric against Muslims and immigrants, Trump represents a potentially disastrous departure from the inclusive and multicultural American society that I love.

    Join us on Twitter and Facebook

    Saturday’s People’s Climate March reminds me of a verse in the Holy Quran that says, “We have created you into different nations and tribes so that you may come to know one another.” This march — images of which will be shared around the world — is a demonstration of how people are coming together to tackle one of the fiercest humanitarian and moral challenges humanity has ever faced.
    Muslims, including Muslim faith leaders and Imams, will be marching shoulder to shoulder with thousands of people of all faiths and those who ascribe to none.
    I’ll be marching to show President Trump that I will not allow him to claim to represent the vulnerable while slashing the legislation that is designed specifically to protect them. I will not allow him to claim to represent the forgotten while he stokes further divisions within American society. We will already have achieved a lot in the fight against climate change — a fight whose ultimate aims are peace and joy — if we can overcome that which attempts to divide us, embrace each other and work together.

    Read more: http://www.cnn.com/2017/04/28/opinions/muslim-world-climate-march-firman-opinion/index.html

    The first 100 days in LGBT rights

    (CNN)Even before US President Donald Trump took office, lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender Americans feared his administration would roll back gains they made in the Obama administration.

    Now, 100 days into Trump’s presidency, advocacy groups say their concerns have been realized through Cabinet appointments and policy decisions that undermine civil rights for LGBT Americans.
    Here’s a timeline of key actions affecting LGBT Americans from the first 100 days.

      Reversing course

      February 10: In the first sign of a new Justice Department with different priorities, the agency dropped its defense of Obama-era protections for transgender students in a key lawsuit.
      After the departments of Education and Justice issued joint guidance in May 2016 directing schools to let transgender students use facilities that correspond with their gender identity, officials in a dozen states sued to block their implementation.
      A federal judge in Texas granted the states’ request for a nationwide injunction to halt the guidelines’ enforcement. The Obama administration’s Justice Department appealed to reduce the injunction’s scope to states involved in the lawsuit while the case was alive.
      Then, the day after Attorney General Jeff Sessions was sworn in, the Justice Department said it withdrew its appeal so it could decide how to “best proceed” with the lawsuit.
      February 22: A few weeks later, the Trump administration withdrew the guidelines entirely, in a joint decision from the departments of Justice and Education.

        Protections pulled from trans school restrooms

      MUST WATCH

      March 27: Trump signed an executive order that nullified an Obama administration initiative to ensure that federal contractors complied with labor and civil rights laws forbidding discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity.
      March 28: Meanwhile, the Obama administration’s efforts to collect data on LGBT Americans had begun to unravel.
      Advocates have long pushed for the government to gather data on LGBT Americans, including how numerous they are. There’s no official national count of gay, bisexual or transgender Americans. Therefore, advocates welcomed the inclusion of “sexual orientation” and “gender identity” in the Census Bureau’s road map for 2020 data collection. But celebrations were premature. The agency later said it found “no need” to collect the data.
      The reversal came days after Secretary Tom Price’s Department of Health and Human Services eliminated questions about about sexual orientation and gender identity in proposed versions of two critical health-care surveys addressing the needs of the elderly and the disabled.
      Advocates said their inclusion in surveys helps assess needs within the LGBT community and collect data to support policy changes.
      April 14: After North Carolina repealed and replaced its so-called bathroom bill with another measure that prevents cities from passing anti-discrimination ordinances, the Justice Department halted its litigation related to the laws.

      Meanwhile, a handful of state and district courts have sided with transgender students in lawsuits against schools. And, observers are waiting to see what’s next for transgender teen Gavin Grimm’s lawsuit against the Gloucester County School Board in Virginia. The withdrawal of the guidance led the Supreme Court to return the case to a lower court to consider whether anti-discrimination protections extend to gender identity.

        The teen at the center of the transgender bathroom debate

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      Trump’s appointments

      Presidential appointments speak volumes about what an administration will stand for, said Sharon McGowan, director of strategy at legal aid group Lambda Legal.
      LGBT advocacy groups opposed the nominations of then-US Sen. Jeff Sessions and then-US Rep. Tom Price to head the Justice Department and Department of Health and Human Services based on their legislative track records on gay rights issues.
      As lawmakers, both supported a constitutional ban on same-sex marriage in 2006, though Sessions promised in his confirmation hearings that he would follow the Supreme Court’s decision on marriage equality. It didn’t come up in Price’s hearings, and observers are waiting to see whether he upholds anti-discimination measures in the Affordable Health Care Act that protect LGBT Americans.
      When in Congress, Sessions and Price co-sponsored the First Amendment Defense Act, the so-called religious liberty bill preventing the federal government from punishing businesses for denying services to same-sex couples. They voted against expanding federal hate crime statutes to include sexual orientation, gender and disability. They condemned the repeal of “don’t ask, don’t tell,” the policy that forbade gay and lesbian service members from serving openly.
      LGBT advocates are concerned about the White House appointment of former Heritage Foundation employee Roger Severino to lead the Health and Human Services civil rights office. He came out against a provision of the Affordable Care Act banning discrimination against transgender patients, saying the rule would “threaten the religious liberty, freedom of conscience, and independent medical judgment of health care professionals.”

        Transgender identity, in their words

      MUST WATCH

      The road ahead

      From the President to the attorney general to Education Secretary Betsy DeVos, the administration has said it’s trying to balance civil rights with states’ right to set their own policies.
      But advocacy groups say the administration’s actions are efforts to erase them from America narrative.
      “One hundred days of Trump translates into 100 days of erasure for the LGBTQ community,” said Sarah Kate Ellis, president and CEO of advocacy group GLAAD.
      “From the census exclusion, to rescinding Obama’s guidance for trans youth in schools, and lack of any LGBTQ mentions on the White House website, he has spent the early days of his administration trying to remove us from the very fabric of this country, and we must resist.”

      Read more: http://www.cnn.com/2017/04/28/politics/first-100-days-lgbt-rights-trnd/index.html

      ‘Please offer me a seat’ badges launched on TfL network – BBC News

      Image copyright Transport for London

      Badges for people with hidden health problems have been launched across the Transport for London (TfL) network, following a successful trial.

      The blue “Please offer me a seat” badge, and accompanying card, were trialled by 1,200 people in September.

      It is believed TfL is the first European transport provider to officially recognise hidden conditions in such a way.

      Mayor of London Sadiq Khan said the badges “will make a real difference”.

      There is no set definition of conditions that qualify for the badge and card, but TfL say the system will be based on trust – as with the existing “Baby on board” badge scheme.

      The scheme was created, TfL said, in response to comments from its customers who struggled to get a seat because their need was not obvious.

      During the trial last year 72% of journeys were said to be easier as a result of the badge, while in 86% of trips participants reported feeling more confident when asking for a seat.

      Image copyright James McNaught
      Image caption James McNaught made his own “cancer on board” badge

      Mr Khan said: “These blue badges will make a real difference to passengers who need a seat but just haven’t felt confident enough to ask for one.”

      James McNaught, who took part in the trail, previously made his own “cancer on board” badge after chemotherapy on his throat left him unable to speak and doses of morphine made him appear drunk.

      He said: “This is a brilliant scheme and I am very glad that it is being introduced by the mayor.

      “The anxiousness of needing a seat but being unsure whether you will get one can rob people of the confidence to use public transport.

      “This simple initiative will make a huge difference to the lives of many people.”

      Read more: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-london-39734827

      An unusually large number of humpback whales died last year

      (CNN)The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) launched an investigation Thursday into a large number of humpback whale deaths from Maine to North Carolina.

      The agency declared the deaths an unusual mortality event, the first one observed in humpback whales in nearly a decade. An unusual mortality event (UME) is defined under the Marine Mammal Protection Act as “a stranding that is unexpected; involves a significant die-off of any marine mammal population; and demands immediate response.”
      The last unusual mortality event declared for humpback whales was in 2006. Two other events were declared in 2005 and 2003, said Deborah Fauquier, veterinary medical officer for NOAA Fisheries Office of Protected Resources. The cause of those UMEs was undetermined.
        Forty-one whales died in the region last year. According to NOAA’s Office of Protected Resources, the 16 year average for the region from 2000-2015 is 14 whales per year. As of April 24, 2017, 15 whales have died.
        Out of the 41 dead whales that died last year, 20 of them have been examined so far, said Mendy Garron, Stranding Coordinator for NOAA Fisheries Greater Atlantic Region. Of those, 10 appear to have hit marine vessels. The whales’ bodies showed evidence of blunt force trauma, Garron said.
        Vessel strikes have been documented in Virginia (3), New York (3), Delaware (2), Massachusetts (1) and New Hampshire (1).
        Greg Silber, Large Whale Recovery Coordinator for NOAA Fisheries Office of Protected Resources, said many factors could have caused the whales to move closer to shipping routes, but there hasn’t been a spike in ship traffic.
        “It’s probably linked to prey sources,” he said. “Humpback whales follow where the prey is and there may be aggregation in certain areas.”
        Now that the unusual mortality event has been declared, NOAA’s investigation will involve data collection and analysis as well as monitoring environmental and habitat conditions, including human-caused threats.
        Humpback whales were recently taken off the endangered species list, but are still protected under the Marine Mammal Protection Act, Fauquier said.
        Since the marine mammal UME program was created in 1991, there have been 63 formally recognized UMEs in the United States involving a variety of species.

        Read more: http://www.cnn.com/2017/04/27/us/humpback-whale-death/index.html

        ‘I know he is alive’: wife of Taiwan activist seized by China pleads for release

        Lee Ming-che has been detained by Beijing authorities amid a targeting of activists, dissidents and scholars based abroad

        The wife of a Taiwanese human rights activist detained in China for over a month without charge has vowed to take her fight for justice to the US and European Union, urging them to pressure Beijing to release him.

        It has now been 40 days since Lee Ching-yus partner, best friend and confidante suddenly disappeared while travelling to visit friends in Guangzhou, southern China.

        Beijing, which views democratic Taiwan as a renegade province, admitted only after 10 days that Lee Ming-che, 42, a community college worker known for supporting human rights, had been detained for allegedly threatening national security.

        He is feared to be the latest victim of an escalation in Chinas repression of rights and free speech.

        It is only through international support that we can force a country that encroaches on human rights to stop this action, Lee Ching-yu told The Guardian in her first interview with the British press. She intends to seek help in Washington DC and Brussels next month.

        Under standard Chinese criminal law, Lees husband should have been charged or released on Monday, after 37 days in custody.

        Instead, her hopes of a speedy resolution were shattered on Wednesday when Chinas Taiwan affairs office announced that Lee was still under investigation, that his health was good, and that he has clearly explained the relevant situation to his family in a letter.

        The letter, which contained scant information, was delivered in early April by an unofficial middleman Lee Ching-yu did not know whether to trust.

        It was my husbands handwriting but he made no connection with me, she said. He did not write that letter voluntarily.

        Lee, also 42, has struggled largely alone, with the support of a few local activists, to uncover the truth.

        With little government support, she has fended off unidentified brokers offering help through unofficial channels.

        One suggested her silence and inaction might buy her husbands freedom, or at least spare him the humiliation of a video confession. But Lee has refused to strike a backroom deal.

        She is defiant but the strain of her ordeal has made her visibly more gaunt and she frequently fights back tears. I have to keep a strong face in front of the media, but when I see my husbands photo I get very emotional, she said.

        The couple met at college 20 years ago and were drawn to each other through a shared passion for human rights.

        Lee Ching-yu became a researcher at the Shin Ming-te foundation, studying the history of Taiwans own dark period of martial law, when thousands were disappeared. Her work both gives her strength and haunts her. I can imagine what my husband might have gone through, she said.

        Lee Ming-che kept his human rights work low key. Supporters believe he may have been targeted after speaking openly on Chinese messaging service WeChat about Taiwanese democracy.

        The values and beliefs that my husband holds and spreads would not be charged in any democratic or civilised country, said Lee.

        She broke down describing how he had tried to help the poverty-stricken families of Chinese activists, imprisoned for their beliefs.

        At least I know my husband is alive, she said. Others who disappear dont receive the same media attention and they might be in more danger. When I realise how severe the situation in China is, its hard to stay calm.

        Lee has approached the United Nations Committee on Enforced Disappearances for help.

        Her husbands case has been complicated by Taiwans lack of international clout and by frozen diplomatic ties between Taipei and Beijing over Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wens refusal to endorse Chinas view that the self-governed island and mainland are part of a single Chinese nation.

        Taiwans government maintains it is working behind the scenes to resolve Lees case, but local NGOs argue they could do more.

        Mrs Lee is already standing so strongwe need support from the government, not only to just keep it low key, said E-Ling Chiu, head of the Taiwan Association for Human Rights.

        Many fear Lee may have fallen foul of a harsh new Chinese law to monitor and control foreign-funded NGOs, enforced earlier this year as part of a crackdown on civil society.

        The environment for foreign and domestic human rights NGOs had become treacherous, said Maya Wang an Asia researcher with Human Rights Watch.

        The case of Mr Lee fits within the greater pattern of a new trend of the Chinese government targeting activists, dissidents, or even scholars based abroad, she said. All of these cases deserve equal press and attention.

        However, Lee may also have become a pawn in internal Chinese politics by factions opposed to President Xi Jinpings perceived mild approach to Taiwan, ventured Michael Cole, a Taipei-based political analyst.

        It would be difficult for Xi to back down while demonstrating strength over Taiwan, he said. Equally, Tsai had to tread cautiously.

        It would not serve Mr Lees interests if she came out guns blazing. Ultimately his case is part of something thats much bigger.

        Read more: https://www.theguardian.com/world/2017/apr/28/wife-of-taiwan-activist-seized-china-pleads-for-release-lee-ming-che

        GOP’s health care push tests Democratic resistance

        Washington (CNN)The most conservative congressmen in the country were a major roadblock in President Donald Trump’s first push to replace Obamacare. Now, a second attempt’s fate is in the hands of a moderate Republican faction — putting to the test the power of Democratic resistance.

        If they’ve convinced those lawmakers in swing districts their passion is real — and could cost them their seats in the 2018 midterms — it could translate into a long-term Democratic victory over conservatives in setting the nation’s health care policy.
        As President Donald Trump makes another push to repeal Obamacare around the 100-day mark of his tenure in office, House Speaker Paul Ryan and Republicans appear to have solved their problems with hardline conservatives but haven’t yet rounded up enough support from moderates to give Trump the 216 votes he needs.
          Already, the White House’s hopes of a vote this week were dashed, with mostly moderate Republicans either opposing the measure or refusing to take a public position and Ryan saying he won’t move forward with a bill that’s at risk of being defeated on the House floor.
          “What we’re seeing is that the famed negotiator can’t deliver,” House Democratic Caucus Chairman Joe Crowley of New York said at an event hosted by the liberal think tank Center for American Progress. “And the consequences are no longer limited to shareholders or investors. It’s the American people who suffer.”
          While Trump and Ryan have the most on the line, the strategies and tactics that have driven the Democratic resistance to Trump — particularly on health care — in recent months also face a stress test.
          A deal that got hardline conservatives on board with Obamacare repeal-and-replace legislation they’d previously opposed has left the bill’s fate solely in the hands of more moderate Republicans.
          Those Republicans are the lawmakers who typically face the toughest re-election fights — and are the ones progressives have targeted most heavily through town hall protests and more.
          “I spent the whole work period hearing from people pissed about pre-existing conditions,” one moderate lawmaker told CNN on Wednesday.
          The progressive groups leading these protests — Indivisible chapters, MoveOn.org and others — say they’ve seen signs of turning enough moderates to block Trump and Ryan from ever moving an Obamacare repeal.
          “You have anonymous Republicans walking around the Capitol and telling reporters they’re scared to vote for Trumpcare because they’ll lose their job,” said Indivisible chief communications officer Sarah Dohl.
          Pointing to moderate Republicans from Colorado and Pennsylvania who have recently announced they oppose the new legislation, Dohl said: “Just look at Mike Coffman, Pat Meehan, who were previously ‘yes’ or undecided on Trumpcare last time around and have now announced they’re opposed — these are two men who have been endlessly pressured by local groups of constituents at home. The pressure is working.”
          Two moderate lawmakers who had supported an earlier version of the bill say a new one with tweaks to appease the Freedom Caucus could cost the GOP their support.
          Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart, R-Florida, said he is trying to understand how changes — in the form of a Rep. Tom MacArthur amendment — makes things better, but has some concerns.
          “There are a lot of red flags,” he said.
          Another moderate House Republican, Brian Mast of Florida, told CNN he’s undecided on the latest health care tweak, saying he still needed to read it. He was a “yes” on the last version of the bill.
          The MacArthur amendment gives states broader ability to opt out of Obamacare regulations and roll back protections for individuals with pre-existing conditions.
          Rep. Charlie Dent, a moderate Republican from Pennsylvania, called it “an exercise in blame shifting.”
          To be sure, the left isn’t casting a potential vote on health care as a do-or-die moment — saying they’ll have an opportunity to force moderate Republicans to pay a price in the 2018 midterms if they do repeal Obamacare and replace it with a law that removes cost protections for those with pre-existing conditions, among other changes.
          “You will see the impact of the resistance in one of two ways: either this bill will fail, or voters will send many of the Republicans who voted for this bill packing in 2018,” said Anna Galland, the executive director of MoveOn.org.
          “We hope it’s the first,” Galland said, “but the second is possible too.”

          Read more: http://www.cnn.com/2017/04/27/politics/democratic-resistance-health-care/index.html

          Palestinians highlight prisoners’ strike with ‘Salt Water Challenge’

          (CNN)Palestinians across the world are posting videos of themselves on social media drinking salt water, as part of a new online challenge intended to draw attention to Palestinian prisoners on hunger strike in Israeli prisons.

          The challenge involves saltwater because that’s what the hunger strikers are drinking to stabilize their health while abstaining from food.
          More than 1,000 Palestinians in eight Israeli prisons launched a “Hunger Strike for Freedom and Dignity” on April 17 to demand better living conditions and medical treatment. The strike was coordinated by Marwan Barghouti, a high-profile prisoner who enjoys broad support among Palestinians.
            An Israeli court convicted Barghouti in 2004 of five counts of murder, including orchestrating attacks against Israelis. He has denied the charges and claimed to be targeted by Israeli authorities for his politics and activism against Israel’s military occupation of Palestinian territories.
            The Salt Water Challenge appears to have been started by Barghouti’s son, Aarab Marwan Barghouti, who on Wednesday posted a video of himself on social media drinking salt water.
            “My father, along with 1,700 other political prisoners started the Hunger Strike for Freedom and Dignity in demand for human rights and humane living conditions in the prisons,” the younger Barghouti said in the video.
            Among those he challenged was “Arab Idol” winner Mohammed Assaf, who responded in kind helping the online campaign to go viral.
            “I challenge everyone, all honorable people wherever they may be, to take on this challenge in solidarity with our heroic detainees until they gain their freedom,” Assaf said in his video.
            Palestinians from across the Middle East, Europe and North American quickly followed suit with videos of their own. While most spoke in Arabic, others took up the challenge in English, French and other languages.
            Israeli authorities have stated that they will not meet the prisoners’ demands.
            Assaf Librati, spokesman for the Israel Prison Service, said the prison service does not negotiate with prisoners.
            “Hunger strikers in prison endanger the health and life of the prisoners in custody of the state who is in charge of their well-being — organized hunger strikers even more so,” Librati said.
            There are approximately 6,500 Palestinians in Israeli prisons, according to Israeli human rights group B’Tselem. They are imprisoned for a number of offenses — including protesting, inciting violence and affiliating with groups Israel considers to be terrorist organizations. Many are also imprisoned under a controversial administrative detention law, which allows Palestinians to be held without charge.
            Israeli authorities consider these detainees to be criminals and terrorists; Palestinians say they are political prisoners.

            Read more: http://www.cnn.com/2017/04/27/middleeast/salt-water-challenge-palestinian-prisoners-strike-trnd/index.html

            House punts health care vote on eve of shutdown deadline

            Washington (CNN)The House of Representatives will not vote on health care this week, despite a White House attempt to revive a health care reform package ahead of President Donald Trump’s 100th day in office.

            “We are not voting on health care this week,” House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy told reporters late Thursday.
            Hours before a Friday deadline, Congress was working to pass a short-term spending bill to avoid a government shutdown while they worked on a broader deal to fund agencies through September. Republicans were readying to pass the week-long funding bill on their own after Democrats, who tend to back these short-term bills, threatened to oppose it if Republicans did in fact move a fresh Obamacare repeal bill.
              A top Democrat — House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer — issued a statement Thursday morning saying he would advise his fellow Democrats to oppose the one-week bill if Republicans tried to pass their latest version of health care reform. On Thursday, Republicans had reached new agreements within their own caucus to improve their chances of passing their health care bill — but ultimately decided against bringing it to the floor this week.
              The short-term government funding bill, planned for a vote Friday, must be passed by midnight to keep federal agencies open through May 5.
              House Speaker Paul Ryan said at a news conference that the House would act when Republicans feel they “have the votes” to pass their bill, though he gave no indication of a time frame.
              House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi wouldn’t directly confirm whether there was a Democratic strategy underway to block the short-term bill. She said her party was still pushing to resolve “outstanding areas of concern” in the one-week bill, but she insisted Democrats “don’t even have the power” to shut down the government.
              The uncertainty has spread renewed alarm on Capitol Hill after tensions had already eased earlier in the week. Following President Donald Trump’s decision to scrap certain demands over health care spending and the proposed border wall, progress appeared to be in the works.
              In anticipation of the one-week spending bill from the House, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell tried to get unanimous consent agreement Thursday night to pass it ahead of time.
              But, playing some hardball, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer objected.
              He said Republicans must first agree to remove “poison pill” riders — or amendments that have little-to-no bipartisan support — in the long-term bill before getting an agreement to pass a short-term bill. He did this to try to put pressure on GOP negotiators to cut a deal, according to a Democratic leadership aide.
              While talks will continue, senators who wanted to leave town for the weekend will have to stay in Washington Friday and possibly vote on this short-term bill sometime before the midnight deadline.
              In the meantime, negotiators in both parties are close to an agreement on a much larger, longer-term spending package that would wrap several funding measures for different agencies into one giant bill.
              The goal is to pass the omnibus bill during the one-week extension, but differences remain and leaders of the House and Senate Appropriations Committees are still haggling over the final points — with input from bipartisan leadership and the White House.
              Ryan said Thursday he was “confident” the government would keep running, but placed any threat of a shutdown on Democrats.
              “I would be shocked that they’d want to see a government shutdown,” Ryan said referring to Democrats during a news conference when asked about Hoyer’s comments.
              The speaker blamed Democrats for the lack of a spending deal, saying they were “dragging their feet” and in some cases failed to show up for meetings about the spending bill.
              At about the same time Hoyer made his threat, Schumer was on the floor praising the talks and vowing to work to keep the government open.
              “There are a few remaining issues to be settled,” he said. “But I believe that there we are close to a final agreement. Our side will continue to work in good faith to see that an agreement is reached to keep the government open by tomorrow’s deadline.”
              Like Pelosi, Schumer also wouldn’t say whether he was pushing the same threat as Hoyer. He said he doesn’t believe Republicans should try to rush “through a health care bill in the dark of night,” but when pressed whether he’d urge Senate Democrats to try to block the short-term bill, he demurred.
              “We’re not up to that yet,” he said in a press conference, holding his hand up.
              At the same time, Trump unleashed a tweetstorm Thursday putting pressure on Democrats and blasting them for what he described as untenable demands on a range of issues from national parks to health benefits for coal miners.
              While waiting for a deal to be struck, Republican senators munched on lazy lobster and Maine potatoes with blueberry pie for dessert at a luncheon in the Capitol put on by Maine’s Susan Collins. Republican senators rotate sponsoring a lunch for their colleagues — each with food themes from their states — and Collins’ lobster offering is considered one of the most popular. Forty-three of the 52 Republican senators were on hand.

              Read more: http://www.cnn.com/2017/04/27/politics/government-shutdown-updates/index.html

              School tells this 6th-grader to fix his haircut or face suspension

              (CNN)Xavier Davis has a pretty simple haircut: two shaved lines on the side.

              So imagine the family’s surprise when the sixth-grader was told by his teacher his haircut was a problem.
              “I was walking into class, and she saw my hair and said, ‘You can’t have two lines in your hair. Go to the office,” Xavier told CNN affiliate KPRC.
                School officials with Cedar Bayou Junior High in Baytown, Texas, told Xavier to either fix the haircut or face in-school suspension.
                “He’s had his hair cut like this for six months and now all of a sudden it’s a problem?” Xavier’s father, Matt Davis, told the affiliate.
                Xavier’s mother came up with a creative solution. She used a permanent marker to color the spaces in.
                “In order for him to get an education, we have to treat his hair like a coloring book, I guess,” Davis said.
                CNN has reached out to the Goose Creek Consolidated Independent School District for comment but have yet to hear back.
                The school district told KPRC that “letters, symbols, and designs beyond a single straight line which draw attention to an individual shall not be permitted.”
                “The administrator/supervisor reserves the right to determine if a hairstyle is disruptive to the educational process,” the statement said.

                Read more: http://www.cnn.com/2017/04/26/health/texas-boy-controversial-haircut-trnd/index.html

                CNN/ORC Poll: At 100 days, Trump approval rating shows no sign of growth

                WASHINGTON (CNN)As the 100-day mark of Donald Trump’s presidency approaches, a new CNN/ORC poll finds the President reaches this milestone holding on to the lowest approval rating of any newly-elected president at this stage, amid sharp partisan divides and a failure to capitalize on post-election strengths.

                Overall, 44% say they approve of Trump’s handling of the presidency, 54% disapprove. That’s about the same as in each of the two previous CNN/ORC polls taken after his inauguration. That 44% marker puts Trump last among approval ratings for newly-elected presidents at the 100-day point since modern polling began, a trendline that runs back to Dwight Eisenhower. Trump is last by a significant margin, trailing Bill Clinton’s previous low by 11 points.
                The poll finds declining ratings for Trump’s handling of two issues that have been top priorities since he took office — health care and immigration. About 6 in 10 Americans disapprove of Trump’s handling of each of those issues, and both have tilted more negative since early March. His numbers have held steady, however, on his handling of foreign affairs, national security and the role of commander-in-chief, after taking several high-profile actions on those fronts during the last month. Assessing his overall use of the military, most (52%) say he’s used it responsibly since taking office.
                  Two measures of the country’s progress have shown signs of improvement since Trump took the helm. Most, 54%, now say things in the country are going well, up from 46% in February. That matches last year’s high of 54%, reached in October. Likewise, almost 6 in 10 now say economic conditions in the country are good, an uptick compared with mid-January, and the highest mark on that question since May 2007. Behind the overall increases in these numbers, however, there have been sharp partisan shifts, with the share of Democrats offering a positive assessment dropping since Barack Obama left office while the share of Republicans on the positive side has risen rapidly.
                  Still, majorities offer negative impressions of Trump’s presidency so far across a range of questions about his handling of the job.
                  Most say he hasn’t paid enough attention to the nation’s most important problems (55%) and that he isn’t working hard enough to be effective (51%). They say he’s done a poor job of assembling a team of top advisers in the White House (56%) and keeping his campaign promises (52%). Further, 61% say world leaders don’t have much respect for him and 52% that his approach has unnecessarily put the country at risk.
                  But looking ahead, about a third of all adults say they aren’t sure their current judgment of Trump will hold (including 20% who currently disapprove and 11% who approve). That suggests there’s room for Trump to gain ground, but very little in this poll indicates that he’s attracted new supporters since taking office on January 20.
                  Trump’s favorability rating is stagnant and negative — 45% have a favorable view, 53% unfavorable. At the same time, Trump’s numbers across key personal attributes have dipped since a post-election boost that appears to be the closest thing Trump had to a honeymoon. Fewer see Trump as honest now (37%) than said so in November (41%). He’s fallen 6 points on being an effective manager of the government (from 50% to 44%), 5 points on uniting the country (from 43% to 37%) and 4 points on empathy (from 46% to 42%). And a previous even divide on whether Trump can bring the kind of change the country needs now tilts narrowly negative (51% say he can’t, 48% that he can).
                  Fewer now say they hold deep confidence in Trump to handle the economy (35%, down from 40% in November) or appoint the best people to office (27%, down from 32%). But confidence has held roughly steady on handling foreign affairs (27% now and in November) and providing real leadership for the country (31% now vs. 33% in November).
                  The political and demographic divisions that drove the 2016 presidential campaign have hardened into chasms in perceptions of Trump: Among Republicans, 85% approve, while just 8% of Democrats agree. Most men, 51%, approve, while only 38% of women do. Whites generally approve (52%) and non-whites mostly disapprove (68%), but among whites there’s a deep gap by education, with 59% of those who do not have college degrees saying they approve vs. 38% of whites who hold at least a Bachelor’s degree. In rural areas, 58% approve, but just 33% of urbanites approve.
                  Trump’s overall strength among Republicans masks some declining ratings among his own partisans. While most Republicans do continue to hold positive views of Trump regardless of the question, much of his decline on several of these items stems from a drop among Republicans.
                  In November, 82% of Republicans said they had a lot of confidence in Trump to handle the economy, that’s fallen 10 points.
                  Likewise, GOP confidence in Trump’s ability to appoint the best people to office has dropped 13 points, while confidence in his ability to provide leadership is down 9. The percentage of Republicans who think Trump will unite the country has fallen from 81% to 68%, that he can effectively manage government from 93% to 85%, and that he cares about people like you from 91% to 81%.
                  The CNN/ORC poll was conducted by telephone April 22-25 among a random national sample of 1,009 adults. Results for the full sample have a margin of sampling error of plus or minus 3 percentage points, it is larger for subgroups.

                  Read more: http://www.cnn.com/2017/04/26/politics/donald-trump-100-days-poll/index.html