|Did you know that you can help sponsor 5 Things You Should Know for as little as $50 a week? Ask Us How.|
‘Tis a cold wind that blows
Brrrrr! If you feel a draft this morning, you might be in the central Midwest where temps are in the single digits and wind blowing across the snow puts wind chills well below zero. At these temperatures, frostbite is a serious possibility, especially if you have children standing outside waiting on a school bus. Be sure to dress everyone in multiple layers of loose clothing to prevent any danger there. Meanwhile, the South is gearing up for a major winter storm barreling down at them from the Rockies. This could be a rough weekend.
I could have ten things you should know this morning and still not cover everything that is newsworthy. Vice President Joe Biden told the president-elect to grow up yesterday1. It would be funny to watch to old men fight if they weren’t supposed to be leading the freakin’ country. Trump now says American taxpayers will fund that wall with Mexico2. And Hustler is suing the city of Indianapolis3, but we don’t have time for any of that. What we have are five other things we think you should know.
A severe lack of intelligence
President-elect Donald Trump is supposed to receive his national security briefing this morning, one that President Obama saw several days ago. We can only guess how the president-elect might receive the news, but it isn’t going to be pretty as national intelligence director James Clapper and other national security advisors double-down on the evidence that Russia not only was involved in hacking during the election, but engaged in other activities aimed at altering the outcome4.
Don’t expect that news to set too well with the president-elect, who has chosen to listen to Wikileaks’ founder Julian Assange rather than the people with actual evidence of the hacking and other activities conducted under the authority of the Russian government. During a hearing yesterday before the Senate Armed Services committee, support for the US intelligence community was strongly bipartisan, setting up a rift between Congress and the president-elect that could affect a number of decisions in the immediate future.
At the same time, former CIA director James Woosely has resigned5 from the president-elect’s transition team and former Indiana Senator Dan Coates, whom the New York Times describes as “the Mister Rogers Senator,” has been named as the person likely to replace Director Clapper later this month6. Put everything together and what we have is a picture of an incoming administration that is long on talk and short on actual intelligence. Definitely not a good way to start.
A most deplorable hate crime
If you were paying attention yesterday at the start of our article, we mentioned the arrest of four people in Chicago who live streamed a brutal kidnapping. At the point we were writing things yesterday, details were still sketchy. What we now know is that four people used Facebook Live to stream their torture and abuse of a mentally challenged man, who was tied up, hit, and cut with a knife by several assailants in what is being described as one of the most brutal scenes ever broadcast7.
All four people have been arrested and charged with committing a hate crime, aggravated kidnapping, aggravated unlawful restraint, and aggravated battery with a deadly weapon, burglary, robbery and possession of a stolen motor vehicle. Chicago police superintendent Eddie Johnson told reporters that, “There was never a question whether or not this incident qualified to be investigated as a hate crime … The actions in that video are reprehensible.”
One of the challenges this crime presents is exactly what, if anything, Facebook could have done to prevent the live stream from being broadcast. While the crime itself was bad enough, having the unmitigated gall to stream such an act is beyond deplorable. Fears are that the ease of streaming events is such that other ego-driven criminals might commit even worse acts for everyone to see. Unless Facebook and other streaming providers can get a lock on this issue, they could be facing civil suits for providing the platform.
A continued assault on women and gender
As if women’s and transgender rights hadn’t come under enough fire in 2016, 2017 is shaping up to be an even larger battle. There’s more here than I have time to discuss so please click the numbered links to check our references. For starters, a federal district judge ruled the doctors may turn away women who have had abortions and transgender patients based on the doctor’s religious freedom rights8. How is this even possible? Thank that idiotic Burwell v. Hobby Lobby ruling in 2014 that sets such a precedent.
At the same time Texas Republicans, apparently unable to learn from the experience of North Carolina, have introduced a bill that requires people to use the restroom and locker room defined by the gender on their birth certificate and bans cities from passing ordinances contrary to that law9. Now, sports is a really big money maker in the Lone Star state and we don’t want to even get started on all the music festivals and events such as SXSW that occur in Austin. Threats of boycotts are already being voiced. North Carolina has lost millions in revenue. Are Texans any smarter?
Then, to top it all off, Speaker of the House Paul Ryan once again has vowed to strip Planned Parenthood of all federal funding as the new Republican-dominated Congress attempts to re-write healthcare laws10. This is not a new fight and Republicans tried repeatedly last year to do the same thing. The challenge facing them this year is that any attempt to defund the non-profit that provides healthcare for millions of women might result in the entire re-write of the Affordable Care Act being scuttled. Speaker Ryan best watch his step.
Significant change for the military
It is no secret that thousands of Sikh and Muslim recruits have been turned away from serving in the US military because of the strict rules regarding uniform appearance. That, however, is changing. Army Secretary Eric Fanning signed a memorandum that would allow Sikh and Muslim recruits to dress and groom themselves in a manner appropriate to their religious beliefs11. The new rules not only affect men serving in the Army, but also allow for women to wear hijabs provided they are free of any religious markings or decorations.
To be able to take advantage of the new ruling, those currently serving in the Army would need to apply for a religious accommodation. Once approved, the accommodation would follow them throughout their career and would not be allowed to influence job duties or duty locations except in specific highly-sensitive circumstances. The women’s hair code was also modified in the memorandum to allow for braids, cornrows, twists or locks.
What effect this might have on the Army rank and file remains to be seen. One of the issues drilled into recruits during basic training is that they are no longer an individual but part of a group and that they must put the needs and safety of the group ahead of their own. Having different grooming and appearance rules for some that do not apply to others would seem to be a visual violation of that general rule. Still, religious liberty advocates are excited about the change and the opportunity it provides.
And finally …
New parents have been warned for the past 30 years that they need to be careful when introducing their child to potential allergens such as peanuts. Conventional wisdom has been to wait until a child is at least two years old before introducing them to peanuts. All that changed yesterday, however, when the National Institutes of Health issued a new ruling stating that introducing those foods as early as six months could help prevent those very allergies12.
Ground-breaking research has found that early exposure to such foods is much more likely to help infants rather than hurt them as has been previously thought. This is an extremely serious matter as peanut allergies specifically is a growing problem affecting roughly two percent of children born in the United States. Pediatricians are now advising that if a family member has an existing peanut allergy then that is all the more reason to start feeding them to the infant early.
No, this does not mean you can just toss a bag of peanuts at your little one for a snack. Common sense is appropriate here. Smooth peanut butter is likely to be the best form of introduction, and that should be mixed with things such as oatmeal. The guidelines also recommend that the child have experience with other solid foods before introducing those with peanuts. As always, if you have any questions or concerns, consult your family pediatrician.
Once again, we are out of time for today. Since we’ve started writing this morning, breaking news says that Russia is pulling its military out of Syria, so we’ll be watching that along with a number of other things. The latest wage report is due today as well, so we’ll be looking at that. In the mean time, bundle up, stay safe, and join us tomorrow. It’s Friday. Enjoy.