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Sen. Elizabeth Warren says Trump is what happens when ‘corruption invades a system’

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By Doha Madani

Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren called President Donald Trump an “accelerant” to a corrupt system Wednesday night in her first interview since she announced she is exploring a 2020 presidential run.

Warren accused Trump of pushing policy for billionaires and corporations during an interview on MSNBC’s “The Rachel Maddow Show.” The Democrat pushed back against Trump and the Republican party, arguing the government works in favor of the rich and well connected.

Warren told Maddow that Trump is “what happens when corruption invades a system.”

“Donald Trump is an accelerant,” Warren said. “He takes a problem that has just been growing and growing and growing and he just sets it off. And makes it worse than it ever was.”

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Shutdown could further endanger whales

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By Associated Press

PORTLAND, Maine — Rescuers who respond to distressed whales and other marine animals say the federal government shutdown is making it more difficult to do their work.

A network of rescue groups in the U.S. works with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration to respond to marine mammals such as whales and seals when the animals are in trouble, such as when they are stranded on land or entangled in fishing gear. But the federal shutdown, which entered its 33rd day Wednesday, includes a shuttering of the NOAA operations the rescuers rely upon.

NOAA plays a role in preventing accidental whale deaths by doing things like tracking the animals, operating a hotline for mariners who find distressed whales and providing permits that allow the rescue groups to respond to emergencies. Those functions are disrupted or ground to a halt by the shutdown, and that’s bad news if whales need help, said Tony LaCasse, a spokesman for the New England Aquarium in Boston, which has a rescue operation.

“If it was very prolonged, then it would become problematic to respond to animals that are in the water,” LaCasse said. “And to be able to have a better handle on what is really going on.”

The shutdown is coming at a particularly dangerous time for the endangered North Atlantic right whale, which numbers about 411, said Regina Asmutis-Silvia, a senior biologist with Whale and Dolphin Conservation of Plymouth, Massachusetts. The whales are under tight scrutiny right now because of recent years of high mortality and poor reproduction.

NOAA recently identified an aggregation of 100 of the whales south of Nantucket — nearly a quarter of the world’s population — but the survey work is now interrupted by the shutdown, Asmutis-Silvia said. Surveys of rare whales are important for biologists who study the animals and so rescuers can have an idea of where they are located, she said. No right whale mortalities have been recorded so far in 2019, but there have been at least 20 since April 2017.

“There’s a really significant impact on marine mammal conservation based on this shutdown,” Asmutis-Silvia said. “We have little to no ability to find them because of NOAA’s being furloughed.”

Many in the conservation community are anticipating potential changes to the federal government’s Atlantic Large Whale Take Reduction Plan, which is a tool to reduce incidental deaths of whales. But that process, too, is on hold because of the shutdown.

Calls from The Associated Press to NOAA spokespeople were not returned. Some spokespeople for the agency have voicemail set up to say they will return to work when the shutdown is over.

Outside of the federal government, work to protect whales is still going on. The developer of an offshore wind energy project off Massachusetts announced Wednesday it is partnering with environmental groups on a plan to try to protect the right whales.

And not all the news about the whales is gloomy. A Florida research team has located the third right whale calf of the season. None were spotted last season.

Scott Landry, director of marine mammal entanglement response for the Center for Coastal Studies in Provincetown, Massachusetts, said that a NOAA whale entanglement hotline is currently being forwarded to him, and that he’s managing to pick up the slack so far. Rescue groups anticipated the shutdown and are working together to make do until it’s over, he said.

In Virginia, one of the state’s first responders for whale rescues is the Virginia Aquarium & Marine Science Center in Virginia Beach. Mark Swingle, the aquarium’s director of research and conservation, said the center would not have “the usual assets we depend on to support the response” if it needs to assist an endangered whale.

That’s because NOAA staff and the Coast Guard would not be available, Swingle said.

“These circumstances require extremely specialized training and resources and NOAA is the lead organizer of large whale and other disentanglement efforts,” he said. “Live strandings pose their own set of challenges that NOAA helps navigate appropriately.”

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Brexit Article 50 news: Will Article 50 be extended?

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BREXIT Article 50 being triggered was the first action the UK took towards withdrawing from the European Union in 2017. Could article 50 be extended?

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What are the Iowa caucuses?

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By Audrey Holmes and Farnoush Amiri

What is a caucus?

A caucus is a meeting of voters held to pick the state’s delegates to the party’s national presidential convention. Currently, 13 states and two U.S. territories use some form of the caucus system.

What are the Iowa caucuses?

The Iowa caucuses, which are set to take place in February 2020, kick off the presidential primary season, and are therefore often the most notable. Caucuses will be held in each of Iowa’s 1,681 precincts.

Leading up to the caucuses, aspiring candidates typically spend months in the state, making dozens of visits — if not more — to win over voters with up-close-and-personal campaigning.

In 1972, the Democratic Party held its first Iowa caucus as a way to make the election process more inclusive for voters. The first Republican Iowa caucus followed in 1976.

Caucuses take place at any easily accessible public location, including schools, fire stations, city halls and churches. Some have occurred in places as unique as nature centers, bars and even a gun shop.

How do caucuses work for Democrats?

Supporters make an argument for their candidate. After listening to each case, caucus attendees go to different parts of the room depending on which candidate they are supporting — for example, Bernie Sanders voters go to one corner and Hillary Clinton supporters go to another.

After the groups are formed, the caucus chair adds up how many supporters are in each candidate’s group. To be viable, a candidate typically needs to earn the support of at least 15 percent of all the followers in the room (although some viability levels are higher in more rural precincts.) If a candidate is not viable, their supporters must “re-caucus” and fall in with another candidate.

Once all the remaining candidates are deemed to be viable, the number of supporters of each candidate is tallied. Delegates and alternates are selected to attend the county convention, during which the delegates for the district convention are chosen, and then finally, the state convention. The number of delegates given to each viable candidate is proportional to the support that the candidate received, and the number of delegates each precinct receives depends on how many votes were cast in that precinct in the previous caucus.

This is how Democratic caucuses have worked in the past, but new rules are being put in place that could change the process somewhat.

How do caucuses work for Republicans?

Representatives for each presidential candidate state their cases. After this point, the GOP caucuses are distinct from the Democratic ones. Caucusgoers vote for their candidate on a paper ballot, or by a show of hands if the caucus is small enough. Republican caucuses do not have a 15 percent minimum threshold, unlike Democratic caucuses. The votes are tallied and recorded, and delegates are awarded based on the results.

Why are the Iowa caucuses so important?

The main reason Iowa is vital to the national election process is because it is the first test of presidential hopefuls’ strength and viability. Those who don’t perform well in Iowa are unlikely to make it to the White House.

“Everybody wants to be the one who gets all the attention first,” said Tim Hagle, a political science professor at the University of Iowa and author of “Riding the Caucus Rollercoaster: The Ups and Downs in the Republican Race to Win the 2012 Iowa Caucuses.”

Only one person has lost the Iowa caucuses and the New Hampshire primary in the last 40 years and went on to become president — Bill Clinton, in 1992.

Have the Iowa caucuses faced criticism?

Yes. Critics tend to point toward the largely white demographics of the state, arguing that voters in Iowa are not representative of the rest of the country.

“Basically, we’re too rural, too white, too old,” Hagle said.

Notable Iowa caucus results

1976

One of the most renowned candidates in Iowa caucus history is Jimmy Carter. During the 1976 Democratic caucuses, Carter was a relatively unknown Georgia governor running for president. The night ended in a surprise with Carter receiving more votes than any other candidate. He used that energy to solidify an unlikely victory in New Hampshire shortly after that, ultimately paving his road to the White House. Carter’s win created the perception that a win in Iowa is a big step toward the Oval Office.

Steffen Schmidt, a professor of political science at Iowa State University, saw Carter as the key factor that elevated the Iowa caucuses’ national importance. “It didn’t really become important until an unknown governor by the name of Jimmy Carter from Georgia saw what was happening,” he said. “Then, the Iowa caucuses began to really take off.”

1988 and 1996

Sen. Bob Dole, R-Kan., is the only candidate other than an incumbent president to win the Iowa caucuses twice, in 1988 and 1996. Dole went on to win the GOP presidential nomination in 1996 but lost the general election to then-incumbent Clinton.

2008

The caucuses that ultimately led to the election of the first African-American president in U.S. history, Barack Obama, also saw a record-breaking turnout for the Democrats, with almost 240,000 Iowans showing up to vote. This included younger voters as well as independents, which led to crowd control issues in schools and firehouses across the state. Obama’s victory also helped solidify the narrative that it pays to win in Iowa.

2012

Preliminary results showed former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney as the winner of the Iowa Republican caucuses as of Jan. 3, 2012. But more than two weeks later, the tally was changed to show former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum was actually the victor, edging Romney by 34 votes. The win didn’t help Santorum secure the GOP nomination, but the hiccup showed that the important process had a history of problems with tabulating results.

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