Shutdown Continues – Lawmakers say that the partial shutdown of the federal government will most probably stretch into next week, as the White House and Democrats continue to quarrel over funding for a wall on the southern border. President Trump has threatened to close all border crossings with Mexico if his funding demands are not met. Meanwhile, Nancy Pelosi, convinced that she and Democrats are winning the political optics of the shutdown, plan on crafting a bill to end the shutdown while continuing to refuse allocating funds for a border wall. The Democrats take control of the House of Representatives on January 3rd.
Ginsburg Has Growths Removed – Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg underwent a procedure in New York to have two cancerous growths removed from her left lung. Although the growths were malignant, doctors say they see no signs of more growths in her body, and expect her to make a full recovery. Ginsburg, who at 85 is the oldest serving Supreme Court Justice, has twice before undergone operations to remove growths. On Twitter, President Trump wished Ginsburg a swift and speedy recovery.
Trump Signs Prison Reform Bill – In a win for prison reform advocates, including many askonim, President Trump signed the First Step Act, a bill which will reform current sentencing guidelines for white collar criminals and drug offenders, as well as increase efforts to rehabilitate those serving prison time. The bill was passed in the House and Senate last week by overwhelming margins, in a rare bipartisan fashion.
Warmbier Family Awarded $500 Million – An American judge has ordered North Korea to pay the family of Oscar Warmbier, the American student tortured and killed in North Korea, a penalty of $500 million. Oscar Warmbier had gone on a trip to North Korea, where he was arrested by the regime for stealing a poster from the hotel he was staying in. He was subsequently ordered to serve a prison sentence of 10 years, including hard labor. But after being seriously injured by North Korean guards, he entered a vegetative state. He was released and flown back home to Ohio where he died a short time later. While the North Korean regime is not expected to comply with the order, a highly competent team of lawyers may be able to track down North Korean assets across the globe, and help the Warmbiers get at least part of the money they were awarded.
Trump Visits Troops – President Trump and First Lady Melania Trump took an unannounced visit to Afghanistan to visit US troops stationed in the volatile country. Flying under cover of darkness, the President, accompanied by a small group of aides, marked his first visit to a combat zone, where he greeted and addressed soldiers. During his speech, Trump denied considering pulling the US out of Afghanistan, and defended his decision to withdraw the US from Syria, saying he had given his generals enough time to finish the job, and claiming they had already “knocked them (ISIS) silly”. Outgoing Defense Secretary James Mattis and ISIS envoy Brett McGurk both resigned over the decision to withdraw from Syria.