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The Spill: Arguing Senators

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Senate Trial Starting on Trump Impeachment

This week sees the beginning of the Senate trial of President Donald Trump.

Trump was recently impeached by the House of Representatives over allegations that he had an improper phone call with the president of Ukraine. The next stage of the process is a trial in the Senate to decide whether the president is guilty or innocent of the accusations against him. Senators will act as a jury in the trial, with Democrats expected to vote against Trump, while most Republicans are expected to vote in his favor.

After House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) sent the articles of impeachment to the upper chamber last week and assigned seven Democrat impeachment managers to act as prosecutors, the long wait is over.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) on Monday circulated a Senate Resolution setting out what he believes are the best processes for conducting the trial. He suggested that each side be given 24 hours in which to present its case, followed by 16 hours of questions that should be sent to Supreme Court Chief Justice Roberts in advance. Roberts is acting as the overseer of the trial.

Democratic Party politicians were not happy with McConnell’s resolution. The point of contention revolved around McConnell’s proposal that the 24-hour presentation stage should take place over two days, which Democrats suggested was too limited in duration.

Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) called the resolution “nothing short of a national disgrace.” He suggested that the arguments would take place “in the wee hours of the night” due to the two-day restriction.

Senators debated long into the night, with many rule changes proposed. In the end, the time allotted to present arguments for and against Trump’s guilt was extended to three days, rather than two. While Democrats wanted to change the rules so they could consult witness and documents earlier in the process, this was not approved.

After the allotted period for each side to present their arguments and questions, senators will vote on whether witnesses should be subpoenaed. Should a majority vote to call witnesses, the trial will be extended; if not, a final vote will take place on whether or not to convict President Trump.

China Trade Deal

The U.S.-China trade war may be over as the two countries have finally signed phase one of a trade deal. When President Trump was elected into office, he took a hard stance against what he determined were unfair trading terms with China, claiming the Asian superpower was taking advantage of weak U.S. policies. He placed tariffs on a wide range of Chinese goods, and it has taken 18 months for the two governments to work out an arrangement. Trump promised that the deal delivers “economic justice” for American workers, farmers, and families that “should have happened 25 years ago.”

Moving forward, Trump stated, the partnership will remove “market barriers” to energy, manufacturing, retail, agriculture, and a host of other industries. He also announced that all tariffs on China would come off once the second, final, phase of the agreement is established.

Chinese Vice Premier Liu He and Donald Trump

Chinese Vice Premier Liu He traveled to the White House to sign the deal. He called phase one a win-win deal that “will bring stable economic growth, promote world peace and prosperity, and is in the interest of consumers and investors of both countries.”

China has agreed to spend $200 billion over the next two years on U.S. agriculture, food, seafood products, and financial services. Beijing will also abolish a common practice of requesting foreign businesses to hand over technological innovations in exchange for Chinese market access and regulatory approvals. Overall, the world’s second-largest economy will reform its policies relating to finance, intellectual property, and technology transfers.

In return, the U.S. will cut in half a 15% tax on $110 billion worth of imports.

Trump tweeted on December 31 that he would eventually travel to Beijing to help start the second phase of talks.

School Lunch Rule Change

It often seems like people are forced to choose between a healthy lunch, or one that tastes good – how important is nutrition when it comes to meals at school?

The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) has announced that it will be relaxing the rules when it comes to nutrition in school meals and summer programs. During the Obama presidency (2009-2017), First Lady Michelle Obama launched the “Let’s Move!” campaign, which aimed to reduce childhood obesity in promoting exercise and healthy eating. As part of the program, requirements were put in schools to make sure students were given increased portions of fruit, vegetables, and whole grains, with less salt, fat, and sugar.

There is some disagreement, however, over whether the program was actually working, and now the Trump administration is rolling aspects of it back. “Schools and school districts continue to tell us that there is still too much food waste and that more common-sense flexibility is needed to provide students nutritious and appetizing meals,” said Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue. According to the USDA, the proposal will reduce the amount of paperwork for school officials and give schools “more flexibility to serve appetizing and healthy meals that appeal to their students’ preferences and subsequently reduce food waste.”

Gay Anderson, president of the School Nutrition Association, said that although the health rules had been positive overall, some of the requirements had resulted in lower student participation, higher financial costs, and increased waste, as kids did not always eat the food served to them.

The proposal will restore more control to local officials who will be able to make changes such as:

  • Reduce the amount of certain vegetables that would have to be served every day at lunch.
  • To-go breakfast servings of fruit could be reduced.
  • Potatoes could be served as a vegetable.
  • Legumes given as a meat alternative could count towards vegetable portions.

Not everyone is impressed by the change, however. The American Heart Association said the rule would “put children’s health at risk.” The organization added, “Healthy school meals help combat childhood obesity and poor cardiovascular health, but they also help establish a foundation for a lifetime of healthy behaviors.”

The school meals program currently serves 30 million pupils across the U.S., while the summer food service has 2.6 million participants.

What would you choose to have for lunch? What can schools and families do to create meals that are both tasty and healthy?

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