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October 12, 2018

The Trump administration has reacted to reports that the Earth is going to heat up to life-threatening levels very quickly not by disagreeing with that conclusion, necessarily, but rather embracing fossil fuels because we're doomed anyway. And there is one fossil fuel that President Trump likes above all, the dirtiest one. "We are back," Trump told a crowd in West Virginia in late August, unveiling his new plan to shore up ailing coal-fired power plants. "The coal industry is back."

It doesn't seem to be, though, despite Trump's earnest efforts. On Thursday, the U.S. Energy Information Agency reported that estimated U.S. coal production dropped 2.7 percent from the previous week and 3.3 percent from a year earlier. Year-to-date, the EIA said, total U.S. coal production is 2.8 percent lower than during the same period in 2017. Trump essentially slowed coal's decline when he took office, but the long downward slide continues.

In 2010, the U.S. had 580 coal-powered plants that provided 45 percent of U.S. energy generation, and now there are fewer than 350 coal-power plants; the EIA forecast Thursday that coal will generate 28 percent of America's energy in 2018 and 27 percent in 2019. Thirty-six coal-fired plants have been shuttered since Trump was elected, and 30 more have announced their retirement. About 53,000 people work in the U.S. coal industry, an uptick of maybe 1,000 since Trump took office, but the industry employed as many as 883,000 workers at its peak, back in 1923. Today, more people work at Arby's or bowling alleys than in coal, and solar power employs more than 260,000 Americans.

"It would be difficult for any president to reverse the long decline in coal mining," CNBC says, explaining some of the economic and environmental factors behind coal's slow slide toward niche status. You can read more about the withering coal industry in this explainer from The Week. Peter Weber

2:10 a.m.

After Tuesday's madcap Oval Office meeting between President Trump and the top two congressional Democrats, Sen. Chuck Schumer (N.Y.) and Rep. Nancy Pelosi (Calif.), there unanimous agreement that Trump had in fact taken ownership of any partial government shutdown due to his demand for $5 billion for a border wall. The Democrats emphasized their willingness to extend existing funding to avoid the "Trump shutdown." Trump leaned heavily on the phrase "border security."

"We gave the president two ways" to "avoid a shutdown," Schumer told reporters outside the White House. "We hope he'll take it, because a shutdown hurts too many innocent people. And this Trump shutdown, this temper tantrum that he seems to show, will not get him his wall, and it will hurt a lot of people because he will cause a shutdown — he admitted he wanted a shutdown."

"We're telling him we'll keep government open with the proposal Mr. Schumer suggested, why doesn't he just think about it," Pelosi added. "In fact, I asked him to pray over it."

"I thought it was a very good meeting," Trump told reporters, a group of priests behind him. "If we have to close down the country over border security, I actually like that in terms of an issue." Schumer "doesn't want to own it," he added. "If we close down the country, I will take it, because we're closing it down for border security, and I think I win that every single time."

And Trump isn't wrong, as long as we're just talking about Republicans. In a Marist poll for NPR and PBS released Tuesday, 56 percent of U.S. voters said Trump should compromise on the border wall and 69 percent said the wall isn't a priority, but 65 percent of Republicans said Trump should not compromise and 63 percent said building a wall should be a top priority. Marist conducted the poll Nov. 28 to Dec. 4 among 835 registered voters, a sample statistically significant within ±4.2 percentage points. Peter Weber

1:01 a.m.

On Tuesday, President Trump hosted Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) to discuss averting a government shutdown, and he invited in the cameras. The main bone of contention? "Trump is demanding $5 billion for a border wall, and as you can imagine, Democrats would rather release Obama's original Kenyan birth certificate than give Trump that wall money," Trevor Noah said on Tuesday's Daily Show. "Which is why this meeting turned into an absolute mess."

"It felt like being in the TV room of a nursing home, with just old people fighting," Noah said, but the bickering wasn't just over the wall, it was over preventing the shutdown, and "no politician wants to take the blame for a government shutdown. But Donald Trump is not a politician. Donald Trump is a moron." He played the clip. "I don't know if you realize how monumental this moment is: Donald Trump just agreed to take blame for something," he said. "So today, I'm proud of President Trump, because taking blame shows some personal growth on his part. Although if we're being honest, he probably thinks that if the government shuts down, there'll be nobody there to impeach him."

"To be clear, he's offering to take all the blame for the thing you always blame the other side for," Stephen Colbert pointed out on The Late Show. "You'll notice the whole time Trump was bragging about his shutdown, Chuck Schumer did his best not to make eye contact with Trump, like you do with a drunk guy screaming on the subway." After the meeting, Pelosi privately compared negotiating with Trump to a "tinkle contest with a skunk," then questioned Trump's "manhood." Colbert laughed, then added to Pelosi's quip a line about erecting a wall. He explained Trump's political dilemma about claiming to have built the way while demanding money to build the wall: "He needs a wall that both does and does not exist — I just hope he has good mime skills." You can watch Colbert's skills below. Peter Weber

December 11, 2018

On Tuesday, the Senate voted 87 to 13 to approve a farm bill that will cost $867 billion over 10 years, legalize the production of hemp, expands farm subsidies to the extended family of farmers, permanently funds farmers markets and farmer-training programs, and doesn't add work requirements to receive food stamps, as House Republicans had wanted. The bill has the backing of President Trump, and it's expected to pass the House in the next week. The legislation will give a boost to farmers harmed by Trump's trade wars, especially with China.

Some Senate Republicans opposed the farm bill because of the extension of some agriculture subsidies to the nieces, nephews, and cousins of farmers, even those who don't work directly on the farm. House Republicans championed this measure, arguing it would encourage more people to become involved in farming. Peter Weber

December 11, 2018

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) may have laid down the law during a contentious meeting with President Trump on Tuesday, but the comments she made after the Oval Office sitdown were even more harsh.

Trump, Pelosi, and Senate Minority Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) sparred Tuesday over border walls and government shutdowns, quickly devolving from a rehearsed press conference into a shouting match. Pelosi, though, later characterized it as a "tirade" that spewed directly from the president, CNN's Manu Raju reports.

During the meeting, Trump interrupted Pelosi no less than 15 times in an attempt to prove he wouldn't sign a spending bill with less than $5 billion allocated for his border wall. Democrats have maintained they won't give up more than $1.6 billion.

After attempting to reason with Trump and shutting down a demeaning comment, Pelosi waltzed out of the Oval Office and into some private meetings. In one, Pelosi suggested Trump's insistence on building a wall is "like a manhood thing for him," a Pelosi aide tells CNN. "As if manhood could ever be associated with him," Pelosi reportedly added. Also in Pelosi-isms:

Pelosi, Schumer, and Trump all tussled over the spending bill set to expire Dec. 21. If a new bill isn't passed by then, the government will shut down. Kathryn Krawczyk

December 11, 2018

At least two people are dead and 11 are injured after a shooter opened fire in Strasbourg, France, French National Police tells NBC News.

The shooting happened near Strasbourg's Christmas market, which was being held under tight security measures after France was rocked by terror attacks in recent years, Reuters reports. A shooter has been identified as someone on a terrorist watchlist, per NBC News. They were shot by an Operation Sentinel soldier, but are still on the run, per AFP. Witnesses tell Reuters the gunshots lasted about 10 minutes, though it's not clear if all those shots came from the original shooter or police returning fire.

The European Parliament has a location in Strasbourg, which is on France's border with Germany, and a parliament member tells Euronews the building is on lockdown. Around 80 people sheltered in place in a nearby McDonald's, and residents around the market have been told to stay inside. France's counterterrorism prosecutor has already launched an investigation into the attack, per BBC.

More than 130 people died in 2015 when terrorists attacked a concert hall and other spots around Paris. In 2016, a terrorist drove a car into vacationers in Nice, killing more than 80. These past incidents led authorities to check bags before visitors could enter the Strasbourg market and unauthorized vehicles were banned from getting close, Reuters says. Kathryn Krawczyk

December 11, 2018

A set of treasured Philippine church bells will soon ring where they belong once again.

On Tuesday, the U.S. returned a set of three bells it stole during the Philippine War back in 1901. Filipinos have long called for the bells' return, and America's ambassador to the country says this signals a solidification of the two countries' friendship, The New York Times reports.

The Bells of Balangiga first hung in a Catholic church in the Spanish-colonized Philippines. But the island nation came under U.S. control in 1898, quickly sparking the Philippine-American war. Balangiga was the site of a particularly harsh killing of U.S. troops, and after winning the war, Americans returned to the town to steal the bells and kill thousands of villagers. One bell has since stood at a U.S. Army base in South Korea, and the other two were at a Wyoming Air Force base, per The Associated Press.

Since then, ambassadors and president from both countries worked to get the bells sent back, America's ambassador to the Philippines tells Fox News. Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte demanded the bells be returned last year, calling them a "symbol of our national heritage." He'll be at a ceremony later this week when the bells are officially reinstalled.

Some American veterans and officials wanted to hold onto the bells as "memorials to American war dead," AP writes. But President Trump's administration, namely Defense Secretary James Mattis, said the move would benefit America's national security and strengthen its relationship with the island country. Kathryn Krawczyk

December 11, 2018

It looks like White House Chief of Staff John Kelly might stay in the role a bit longer than expected.

White House Counselor Kellyanne Conway told Fox News Tuesday that Kelly will remain in the White House until "at least" Jan. 2, reports The Washington Post. President Trump specifically said that Kelly would be leaving by the end of the year, but that was before Nick Ayers, Vice President Mike Pence's chief of staff, decided to turn down the job and leave Washington entirely. The New York Times reported that Ayers was Trump's only real choice to replace Kelly and that he had no back-up plan.

When asked whether Kelly might stick around beyond Jan. 2, Conway suggested that's a possibility. "That's up to the president and that's up to the chief of staff, General John Kelly, certainly," she told Fox News. But there will be "a very peaceful and pragmatic transition" to whomever Trump chooses, Conway said. Trump on Tuesday insisted that "many" people want the chief of staff job but said that he's in "no rush" to find his replacement, per The Hill. Brendan Morrow

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