Friday Spotlight – March 31, 2017

Each Friday, Torchlight Media will publish a summary of the major news that happened for that week: the announcements and events, the twists and turns of ongoing stories, and all of the other highlights in between. Our goal is to give you a big-picture look at the week’s news so that even if you can’t follow everything yourself, you can have a general sense of where things stand. We hope, too, that seeing the highlights laid out will help you separate the small, pointless stories that crop up over the week from the more impactful, ongoing stories.

Here’s what’s in the spotlight for this week:

  • On Sunday, protests broke out across Russia against President Vladimir Putin’s regime and corruption in the government generally. Jeremy Rosenlund has an article on the protests, and what we can learn from them.
  • On Tuesday, President Trump signed an executive order rolling back or subjecting to review many policies meant to combat climate change; some were Obama-era policies, while others dated from before his administration. The PBS Newshour link, above, has the full text of the order, while the BBC has a rundown of the impacts.
  • On Wednesday, British Prime Minister Theresa May triggered Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty, officially beginning the process of Britain leaving the European Union.
  • On Thursday, the New York Times confirmed that Representative Devin Nunes, the Republican chair of the House Intelligence Committee, received intelligence from White House sources.  The documents indicated that President Trump and some unconfirmed number of his associates were swept up in efforts last year to gather intelligence on Russian interference in the election. This comes after an incident last week in which Representative Nunes briefed President Trump on the information before briefing the Intelligence Committee. His actions have led Democratic members of the committee to question his neutrality in investigating these claims, and to call for him to recuse himself. Nunes has not done so at this time.
  • On Thursday, the Wall Street Journal reported that former National Security Advisor Michael Flynn has offered to speak to the FBI, the House Intelligence Committee, and the Senate Intelligence Committee regarding the Trump campaign’s ties to Russia, asking for immunity to prosecution in exchange. At press time, the story was still breaking and based on anonymous sources; however, we choose to include it because, if true, it constitutes a significant point in the investigation into claims of Russian interference in the 2016 Presidential election.
  • On Thursday, Vice President Pence broke a tie vote in the Senate and passed a bill rolling back a regulation which protected Planned Parenthood and other family planning organizations that also provide abortions. The rule, passed in December, governed how states could distribute funds from a federal family planning program. In summary, states receive sums of money which they can distribute to family planning programs; this money cannot be used to pay for abortions, but can be used to reimburse other services, such as contraception or STD testing, performed by organizations that also provide abortions. Under the now-repealed rule, states were not allowed to discriminate in how the funding was distributed based on whether or not a given service also provided abortions. President Trump is not expected to veto the legislation.