Hours after witnesses first described hearing explosions and gunfire in Zimbabwe's capital, Harare, early Wednesday morning, Zimbabwe's army said in a televised statement that what is taking place is not "a military takeover of government" and that President Robert Mugabe is safe and under protection.
The army is targeting people who "were committing crimes that are causing social and economic suffering in the country," the statement said. "As soon as we have accomplished our mission, we expect that the situation will return to normalcy." Armed vehicles were seen lining the streets outside of Harare, the BBC reports, and witnesses told Reuters that soldiers took control of the state-run broadcaster ZBC and manhandled some staffers.
Earlier this month, Mugabe, 93, ousted Vice President Emmerson Mnangagwa, who had been viewed as Mugabe's likely successor; the new frontrunner is Mugabe's wife, Grace. On Monday, Gen. Constantine Chiwenga said if there are any more purges in the ruling Zanu-PF party, the army "will not hesitate to step in," and the government responded Tuesday by accusing him of "treasonable conduct." Catherine Garcia
The Bulgarian Orthodox Church on Monday announced its opposition to an EU treaty to reduce violence against women and promote gender equality, Reuters reports. The treaty, known as the Istanbul Convention, was introduced for EU-wide ratification by the Council of Europe in 2014 in response to previous EU findings on the prevalence of gender-based violence in Europe.
In a statement, the Bulgarian Orthodox Church's governing organization proclaimed that "no man of Christ" supports violence against women, but warned that the treaty "raises anxiety about the future of European Christian civilization" and "opens the doors to moral decay." The treaty's ratification is currently being considered in Bulgaria's National Assembly.
A particular point of contention for the church is the Istanbul Convention's use of the word "gender." The church says the treaty imposes "an ideology that denies that man exists as a man or a woman." An English version of the convention's text contains no explicit mentions of any such ideology, but does encourage "gender-sensitive policies," legal measures to help domestic violence victims, and the promotion of "non-stereotyped gender roles." The church claims that these "unfamiliar" gender roles "are directed against God's marital union of husband and wife."
The church's concerns are being taken seriously in Bulgaria's National Assembly, as Reuters reports that a significant part of the country's legislative body is now trying to prevent the Istanbul Convention's ratification. Kelly O'Meara Morales
A leaked draft of the White House's infrastructure plan has surfaced over at Axios, and although specific funding numbers are not attached, the document offers the first details in what has so far been a fairly confusing process.
What we know: The $1 trillion infrastructure plan is one of President Trump's biggest campaign promises, and there is a lot at stake for his administration in how it gets executed. The leaked document breaks down spending into categories, where infrastructure incentives make up 50 percent of total appropriation and encourage "state, local, and private investment in core infrastructure by providing incentives in the form of grants." Transformative projects, which "must be exploratory and ground-breaking ideas," make up 10 percent, rural infrastructure makes up 25 percent, federal credit programs 7 percent, and the federal capital financing fund 5 percent.
A key detail of the plan is that it prioritizes "projects associated with new, non-federal revenue," transportation expert Yonah Freemark writes, with that accounting for 70 percent of the scoring criteria. "This makes sense as the whole framing of the Trump proposal has been that it is incentivizing '$1 trillion' in spending, "Freemark adds. "This is only possible if other, non-federal, sources of funding become available."
5: For instance, LA & Seattle passed huge funding packages in 2016. If they applied for grant funding from this new source in 2018, they'd have their score for local funding reduced by 70%. If they applied in 2019, they wouldn't be able to count those funding packages *at all.*
— Yonah Freemark (@yfreemark) January 22, 2018
As both Freemark and others noted, grants would also decline from funding upwards of 50 percent of project costs to a ceiling of 20 percent:
From leaked White House infra document (via Axios). Bad news (or at least not immediately obvious good news) for the Hudson tunnel IF it's going to be considered as part of this plan, not separately.https://t.co/ca17ZUtC8O pic.twitter.com/pUDEbdOvyF
— Nicole Gelinas (@nicolegelinas) January 22, 2018
Vice President Mike Pence on Monday addressed reports that President Trump called African nations "shithole countries," more than a week after the comments were first reported by The Washington Post.
In an interview with The Associated Press, Pence defended the president from accusations of racism, telling AP that Trump does not support immigration policies that are based on race or nationality. "I know the president's heart," Pence said. Instead, what the president does support is a "merit-based" immigration policy "that puts the interests of America first," Pence said.
Pence similarly invoked the president's "heart" when defending Trump after he said in August that there were "very fine people on both sides" of a white nationalist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia. AP noted that Pence "did not directly answer a question about whether Trump's language was appropriate" in the Monday interview.
AP also asked Pence about Trump's alleged affair with adult film star Stormy Daniels, which Daniels detailed in a tell-all interview with InTouch Weekly. The vice president called the story a "baseless [allegation] against the president." Kelly O'Meara Morales
Pennsylvania Supreme Court orders redrawing of congressional map that 'plainly and palpably' favors GOP
The Pennsylvania Supreme Court has ordered a redrawing of all 18 of the state's congressional districts for 2018 after finding gerrymandering that "plainly and palpably" benefited Republicans. "It's likely to cost the GOP a seat and undermine their position in others," wrote The New York Times' Nate Cohn.
The state legislature, which is Republican-controlled, has until Feb. 9 to approve a replacement map, which must also be approved by the Democratic-majority court and Democratic governor, The Associated Press writes. "Otherwise, the justices say they will adopt a plan in an effort to keep the May 15 primary election on track."
Most fair maps would make PA-15, PA-6 and PA-7 far more winnable for Dems. PA-8 a little more, but the difference is pretty small. Puts a seat in the Pittsburgh suburbs in reach too. OTOH, PA-16 would become unwinnable and PA-11 likely won't get better for Dems.
— Robert Wheel LLC (@BobbyBigWheel) January 22, 2018
PA Supreme Court just held PA's congressional districts violate PA constitution and ordered a new map for 2018 pic.twitter.com/e5b0i4E6OV
— SalenaZito (@SalenaZito) January 22, 2018
"Not only does a new, fair Pennsylvania map likely create 4-5 Dem leaning districts, it disrupts constituencies of Rep incumbents, erasing their incumbency advantage and making them more vulnerable in a Dem wave election," tweeted Michael McDonald, a University of Florida professor specializing in American elections. Although the Supreme Court could theoretically intervene, many experts don't see it as likely: "This is a state court decision that rests on state, not federal, law," added McDonald. Jeva Lange
Three members of the USA Gymnastics board resigned Monday in the wake of the scandal surrounding former team doctor Larry Nassar, who is accused of sexually abusing more than 130 of his patients over three decades. Board of directors chairman Paul Parilla, vice chairman Jay Binder, and treasurer Bitsy Kelley all resigned, a decision that president and CEO Kerry Perry said is a step that "will allow us to more effectively move forward in implementing change within our organization."
Nassar's misconduct has cast an unflattering light on gymnastics' governing body, with former Olympians speaking out against USA Gymnastics' handling of Nassar's abuse. "Nobody was protecting us from being taken advantage of," said Olympic gold medalist Jordyn Wieber during her victim impact statement at Nassar's sentencing Friday.
An investigator said last summer that USA Gymnastics needs a "complete culture change" to protect athletes. Jeva Lange
White House Deputy Press Secretary Raj Shah said the Democrats "blinked" Monday by agreeing to join Republicans to reopen the government. Democrats supported a bipartisan bill to fund the government until Feb. 8 in exchange for a promise from Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) that the Senate would address immigration issues, including the protections enshrined by the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals policy.
"I think that the fact that [Democrats are] voting in favor for this proposal that they rejected a few days ago is sort of evidence that they blinked," Shah told CNN's Wolf Blitzer.
CNN's @wolfblitzer: "Do you believe the Senate Democrats blinked?"
WH Deputy Press Secretary Raj Shah: "I think that the fact that they're voting in favor for this proposal that they rejected a few days ago is sort of evidence that they blinked" https://t.co/KUQvRlH8Jp
— CNN Newsroom (@CNNnewsroom) January 22, 2018
The Democrats' decision passed the 60-vote threshold in the Senate and is expected to glide to approval in the House, but it is already controversial among many in the party. "Immigration advocates spent the morning rallying Democrats against the compromise deal with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.)," Talking Points Memo writes. Sen. Kamala Harris (D-Calif.) slammed her party's compromise, claiming that McConnell's comments "fell far short of the ironclad guarantee I needed to support a stopgap spending bill. I refuse to put the lives of nearly 700,000 young people in the hands of someone who has repeatedly gone back on his word."
Last week, MSNBC's Joe Scarborough, a former Republican member of the House of Representatives, told Democrats to not give the GOP "a single vote in keeping the government running … unless they give you a clean bill on DREAMers." Scarborough claimed: "If you do, you are too weak and too spineless and too stupid when it comes to politics and too cowardly to be given control of Congress in 2018." Jeva Lange
President Trump's need to disagree with his advisers may be borderline pathological.
Some aides have gone so far as to diagnose the president with "defiance disorder," The Washington Post reports, citing revelations from a forthcoming book written by the former Fox News host and Post reporter Howard Kurtz. Kurtz's book, Media Madness: Donald Trump, The Press, And The War Over The Truth, explains that some of the president's top staffers "privately coined" the term for Trump's "seeming compulsion to do whatever it is his advisers are most strongly urging against," the Post reports.
The New York Times' Maggie Haberman pointed out on Twitter that "defiance disorder" is in fact a valid malady, listed in formal psychiatry diagnostic texts, and not just a catchphrase for people in the White House to describe their boss' quirks. The American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry says that ODD is marked by "defiance, spitefulness, negativity, hostility, and verbal aggression," while the Mayo Clinic recommends managing ODD by giving "unconditional love" and "recognizing and praising ... good behaviors."