Welcome to the paper’s Damage Report!
In order to keep readers up to date with current events, we decided to start this biweekly feature, in which we present short, concise explanations of major topics that have occurred that week in the news. As well, we will link to other articles that will provide further information, as well as other articles we believe coincide with the story. This feature will be published every Tuesday – Friday.
Your News Editors,
Nick & Rachel
Attorney General Jeff Sessions Under Fire for Russian Ties
Russia has been coming up quite a bit this past election season and, now, a little over a month in President Trump’s first term, a second high-ranking official is coming under fire for not disclosing communications with Russia. This week, it came to light that Attorney General Jeff Sessions met twice last year with the top Russian diplomat in Washington, according to the Justice Department. Similar interactions led to the firing of Trump’s first national security adviser, Michael Flynn. The issue here is that Sessions did not mention these meeting during his confirmation hearing, during which he also said that he knew of no contacts between Trump surrogates and Russians. No surprise, Republicans and Democrats are disagreeing on whether or not Sessions’ testimony was misleading or not, or whether he perjured himself. Democrats are calling for his resignation while some Republicans joined in calls for Sessions to recuse himself from any Trump-Russia investigation, which Sessions announced he would do at a press conference yesterday afternoon.
Earlier on Thursday, Trump defended Sessions, calling him as “good man.” Later that day, the Wall Street Journal reported that then-U.S. Senator Sessions used political funds from his re-election account to pay for campaign expenses at the RNC, where he met with the Russian Ambassador. While Sessions defended meeting with Sergey Kislyak, the Russian Ambassador, as “perfectly normal” for a member of the Armed Services Committee, the Wall Street Journal specifies that Sessions used campaign funds for the travel rather than official Senate Armed Services Committee funds. This has raised a couple of eyebrows as Sessions was a prominent surrogate for Trump at this time.
Trump’s First Address to Congress
President Trump addressed a joint session of Congress on Tuesday night, delivering a wide-ranging, nonspecific speech that many pundits praised as the most presidential thing Trump has done so far. The speech was notable for being sane and cogent and not veering off into tangents or off the prompter, which is what most people assumed would happen. The only notable policy inclusion was the announcement of VOICE, a task force within the Department of Homeland Security, which will publish information on crimes committed against US citizens by undocumented immigrants. Many pointed out that it was essentially a watered-down campaign rally speech, full of weird metaphors and lots of applause lines.
Further Reading: President Trump’s speech to Congress, annotated by Vox’s staff – Vox
Senate Confirms Perry, Carson, Zinke, and Ross
A new wave of senate confirmations have rolled in this week for Trump’s administration. Former Texas Governor Rick Perry was confirmed as head of the Environmental Protection Agency, with a 62 to 37 vote. Ben Carson, neurosurgeon and politician, was confirmed as Secretary of Housing and Urban Development, in a 58 to 41 vote. Ryan Zinke, Representative from Montana, was confirmed as head of Department of the Interior, in a 68 to 31 vote. Zinke triumphantly rode into his fist day of his new position on Thursday on a horse, wearing a cowboy hat. Wilbur Ross, politician, banker, and investor, was confirmed as the Secretary of Commerce, in a 72-27 vote. While most of Trump’s cabinet has been at this point confirmed by the Senate, it should be noted that most of Trump’s minor appointments have not been approved yet, or even put forward.
Further Reading: Trump’s Cabinet Senate hearings for nominees recapped – am New York
Snapchat has a Successful First Day on Wall Street
Snapchat, popular social media application, has done spectacularly well in its first day on Wall Street. Snapchat’s parent company, SNAP, was created and is run by Evan Spiegel and Bobby Murphy, two men in their late twenties. Snap has become one of the only tech start-ups to go public in recent memory, and is by all accounts the largest. Snap entered the New York Stock Exchange for the first time on Thursday, with $24 a share as their initial trading value, which eventually rose to $26.05, and ended at $24.48 Interestingly enough, Snap initially priced its public offering at $17 a share on Wednesday, a day before entering the market. At the closing of the market, Snap made a 44% gain, with a market valuation of around $35 billion. As a result of this financial success, Spiegel and Murphy are now billionaries, and Snap is worth triple Twitter’s worth.
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Scientists Discover New Dwarf Primate in Angola
Scientists have reportedly found a new dwarf primate in Angola. It is believed to be huge in comparison to the other types of bush baby primates, as it measures in at 6.2 inches. Bush babies, also called galagos, are very small nocturnal mammals with big bug eyes (and are also incredibly adorable, and you better not disagree with me – shameless editor’s note). This particular new species of bushbaby is called Galagoides Kumbirensis, named after the forest its sounds were first heard in. It was found in this forest after a team of scientists, led by Magdalena Svensson, heard a noise that did not sound like the other 18 species of bush baby’s which lived in that region. Svensson and her team began a painstaking search throughout the area for this mysterious new galago. Eventually, their search proved to be successful, and this discovery was made. However, this new species is very difficult to study, as it is extremely rare. At the same time, bush baby’s nocturnal nature makes the group as a whole already tough to study, and the rareness merely further adds to this struggle. As well, it is unfortunately believed that the numbers of this species is very small, and could decline even more with human influence, as factors such as deforestation have already caused a major decline.
US Leaders Aren’t the Only Ones Who Need to Learn How to Use Twitter
In world news, far-right candidate for President of France, Marine Le Pen, is facing legal action against her for posting three graphic images to Twitter of ISIS violence in 2015, one of which included the beheading of US journalist James Foley, whose parents called using the image as “shamefully uncensored” for Le Pen’s own political ends. Le Pen tweeted these images in response to a journalist who drew an analogy between her anti-immigration Front National (FN) party and ISIS extremists. In addition to being a presidential candidate, Le Pen is also a Member of the European Parliament, meaning that she has immunity from prosecution. But the European Parliament has just lifted her immunity due to the photographs. The lift only applies to this particular case as Le Pen and the FN are currently in hot water over the possible misuse of European Parliament funds but that will be a separate investigation. This is also not Le Pen’s first immunity lift, roughly four years ago there was an investigation into remarks she made about Muslims praying in public in France.
Polls indicate that Le Pen has a strong chance of winning the first round of voting for president in April, but will likely lose to centrist candidate Emmanuel Macron in the second round in May.
Further Reading: Marine Le Pen loses immunity from prosecution over IS images – BBC
Nick Peters – News Co-Editor
Rachel Poe – News Co-Editor
Luis Gómez – Co-Editor in Chief