January 10, 2019

Employees in dozens of federal agencies haven't been paid in 20 days thanks to the government shutdown.

That includes Transportation Security Administration workers, many of whom have had to call out sick or quit their jobs, the TSA union says. They're either searching for new or part-time jobs, or simply leaving work to alleviate child care costs, per CNN. But those who haven't quit are facing a downright dystopian reality, The New York Times' Glenn Thrush notes.

Several federal departments have gone unfunded since the shutdown began Dec. 21 over a clash between President Trump and Democrats regarding funding for his proposed border wall. Thousands of workers are either furloughed or expected to work without pay, and there's no guarantee they'll receive back pay when it's over. Some unemployed workers have been told to have garage sales, negotiate with landlords, or barter to make ends meet. Kathryn Krawczyk

9:50 a.m.

At least 16 people have reportedly been killed by a suicide bomber in Syria, and American service members are among them, Reuters reports via the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.

ISIS has claimed responsibility for the Wednesday attack, writing on its website that one of its fighters "detonated an explosive vest" next to a foreign patrol, BBC says. The bomber apparently "targeted U.S.-led coalition forces in the Kurdish-held" town, BBC writes, and a Kurdish news agency says "two American troops and one Kurdish fighter" were killed. The U.S.-led coalition against ISIS has since confirmed an unknown number of "U.S. service members were killed during an explosion while conducting a routine patrol in Syria."

The attack comes not long after President Trump announced a swift withdrawal of U.S. troops from Syria, declaring that ISIS is "defeated." Trump's move reportedly came "hastily" after a phone call from Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and faced opposition from nearly all his advisers. America had been working with Kurdish allies to defend Syria against ISIS, and the Kurds denied Trump's claim of ISIS' defeat. Turkey and the Kurds have long been at odds, jeopardizing their safety if American troops leave the region. Tuesday's attack happened just 20 miles from the Syrian border with Turkey.

The White House and U.S. Central Commend have said they are aware of the reported attack, and the U.S.-led coalition against ISIS said it "will share additional details at a later time." Kathryn Krawczyk

9:40 a.m.

The White House isn't standing by Rep. Steve King's (R-Iowa) racist comments, either.

White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said Wednesday that King's recent statements were "abhorrent," NBC News' Peter Alexander reports. King last week wondered aloud in an interview with The New York Times why terms like "white nationalist" and "white supremacist" are considered "offensive." He later insisted that his comments were "completely mischaracterized," Fox News reports, although this was hardly his first offense.

King's remarks were widely condemned by Democrats and Republicans alike, and the House on Tuesday voted to denounce white supremacy in response; the vote was nearly unanimous, with the only dissenting congressman being Rep. Bobby Rush (D-Ill.), who thought they should have gone further by censuring King, reports CNN. In addition to the rebuke, King was also stripped of his committee assignments.

But Sanders turned things around on Democrats Wednesday, saying that "the Republican leadership unlike Democrats have actually taken action when their members have said outrageous and inappropriate things." While she didn't cite specific examples, she may have in mind Rep. Rashida Tlaib's (D-Mich.) remark about Democrats preparing to "impeach the motherf---er," referring to President Trump. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) later said in response that she "wouldn't use that language" but that she's "not in the censorship business" and that it wasn't "anything worse than what the president has said." Critics like The New York Times' Maggie Haberman, on the other hand, pointed out that Democrats pushed out former Sen. Al Franken (D-Minn.) over sexual misconduct allegations that he denied. Brendan Morrow

8:41 a.m.

YouTube is cracking down on dangerous pranks and challenges after one seriously misguided meme went viral.

The video streaming website has updated its guidelines to clarify what kinds of challenges and pranks are off-limits on the platform, BBC News reports. YouTube says any challenge that "can cause death and/or have caused death in some instances" is not welcome. Two specific dangerous stunts are mentioned: the Tide Pod challenge, in which participants would chew and spit up Tide Pods, and the Fire challenge, in which participants would briefly set a part of their body on fire.

YouTube additionally said any pranks "with a perceived danger of serious physical injury" are not allowed, such as "a home invasion prank or a drive-by shooting prank." Also, any prank that could emotionally traumatize a child is banned. YouTube's guidelines already prohibit any activity that "encourages violence or dangerous activities that may result in serious physical harm, distress, or death," but they now specifically outline how this affects the community's popular challenges and pranks, Gizmodo reports.

The description of banned material would seem to apply in some instances to the recent Bird Box challenge, in which participants attempt to do everyday activities while wearing blindfolds like the characters in the Netflix film Bird Box. A 17-year-old in Utah recently crashed his car while wearing a blindfold as part of this challenge, and Jake Paul, who has 17 million YouTube subscribers, also filmed a video in which he drives his car blindfolded, per The Verge. That video has since been removed. Brendan Morrow

8:23 a.m.

A new report from The New York Times details how, in 2017, after meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin twice at the G-20 summit in Germany, Trump "telephoned a Times reporter and argued that the Russians were falsely accused of election interference." Although he asked that these comments be off-the-record, the Times' Peter Baker writes that Trump "later repeated a few things in public in little-noticed asides."

Putin had apparently told Trump that if Russia was behind election hacking, "we wouldn't have gotten caught because we're professionals," which Trump thought was a "good point." Trump also reportedly denigrated his intelligence officials as being "political." Trump has often cast doubt on his own intelligence community's conclusion that Russia interfered in the 2016 election, perhaps most infamously at the Helsinki summit with Putin in 2018.

The Times report follows a story from The Washington Post detailing how Trump has concealed records of his conversations with Putin on numerous occasions, even from senior White House officials. Trump's off-the-record phone call to the Times reportedly came after a meeting where he swiped his interpreter's notes and told them not to brief anyone on what was discussed, as well as after a second conversation with Putin that no Americans officials witnessed and wasn't disclosed until more than a week after it took place. Brendan Morrow

8:09 a.m.

Britain's lower house of Parliament voted 432-202 to reject Prime Minister Theresa May's Brexit plan on Tuesday night, and opposition Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn quickly set in motion a vote of no confidence in May's government. After hours of debate, that vote will be held at 7 p.m. GMT on Wednesday. With few signs of defections, May is expected to survive this vote. If she doesn't, her Conservative Party and Labour will have 14 days to try to form a new government, and if neither succeeds, Britain will hold new national elections. The future of Britain's divorce from the European Union is unclear.

Tuesday's 230-vote loss set a new record, smashing the 166-vote loss a previous government suffered in 1924; this was the first time Parliament has ever defeated a treaty. The last successful no-confidence motion was in 1979, when the Labour government fell by one vote, ushering in Tory Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher. Peter Weber

7:09 a.m.

"The partial government shutdown is inflicting far greater damage on the United States economy than previously estimated," The New York Times reports, citing new White House projections. "The analysis, and other projections from outside the White House, suggests that the shutdown has already weighed significantly on growth and could ultimately push the United States economy into a contraction." It has already sliced half a percentage point from economic growth and is tipped to get worse with each passing week.

White House officials are now cautioning Trump, "who has hitched his political success to the economy," about the economic toll of the shutdown, the Times reports. "Some people involved in the shutdown discussions in the White House have privately said they anticipate that Mr. Trump will grow anxious about the economic impact in the coming days, accelerating an end to the stalemate. Others close to the president believe Mr. Trump has leverage and are encouraging him to stand by his demands."

On CNN's New Day, contributor Frank Bruni and senior political analyst John Avlon were skeptical.

"This shutdown is a serious matter, but the question is: Who budges with this information?" Bruni asked. "I don't see Democrats moving, because they feel very confident in their position and they have every reason to," given public opinion, but "on the other side, for the president, every day this goes on it becomes an ever-more-fierce point of pride." "On the one hand, you've got the practical implications of the shutdown on real people, and the president's pride — these are not actually equivalent position," Avlon said. "And the president who's hitched his star on the economy is going to maybe pay attention to this report, because this is twice as bad as they expected." Peter Weber

6:11 a.m.

Fox News senior analyst Brit Hume doesn't think Rep. Steve King (R-Iowa) should get a pass for defending white nationalism and white supremacy, he told Marth MacCallum on Tuesday's The Story. "I'm sorry, the juxtaposition of what's wrong with those terms and white supremacism is just too close for comfort." But journalists have to be careful not to go "throwing the word racist around with abandon," he argued, because while the Civil Rights movement rightfully stigmatized racism in the 1960s, the word "racist" has since been "weaponized."

Hume singled out The New York Times for running an article listing "racist" things King has said, objecting to their inclusion of anti-Islamic statements, and he criticized NBC News for rescinding its guidance that NBC journalists shouldn't call King a racist. The media should just "accurately" quote what people say and let people "make up their own minds" if it's racist, he said. "I think it is absolutely one of the things it is wrong with the news media today and why we as an institution stand in such low esteem," Hume said. "People think we are biased, and this suggests that indeed we are."

As it turns out, Fox News is one of the few news organizations that called King's remarks racist.

"Fox News earned some credit on Twitter when its news alert called King's comments racist," but "the conservative network hasn't given the story much air time," notes HuffPost's Lydia O'Connor. "King's quote got a 30-second mention on Fox & Friends on Tuesday morning, in which the hosts referred to his statement as 'comments about white supremacy and white nationalism.' For comparison's sake, the show spent 12 minutes discussing a razor commercial that day." Peter Weber

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