December 11, 2018

The Trump administration will formally start the process of lifting federal Clean Water Act protections for millions of acres of wetlands and thousands of miles of streams across the U.S., undoing decades of protections against pesticide runoff, industrial waste, and other pollutants. The proposed rules, to be unveiled by the Environmental Protection Agency as soon as Tuesday, are a victory for agricultural and real estate interests but could degrade the drinking water used by tens of millions of Americans and endanger fisheries and the habitats of migratory birds and other species.

President Trump promised during his campaign to roll back the Obama-era Waters of the United States rules, an expansion of federal protections under the the Clean Water Act of 1972, but the new proposals target protections dating back to the George H.W. Bush administration or earlier. The Trump rules, which will be subject to 60 days of public comment, will keep protections for larger bodies of water but remove federal safeguards for wetlands not adjacent to navigable waterways plus most seasonal streams and ponds. The newly vulnerable streams provided drinking water for as many as 1 in 3 Americans, especially in the arid West, according to scientific studies used by the Obama-era EPA.

The Trump EPA calls that data incomplete and will argue that it is tackling an Obama-era federal power grab against rural farmers. Trump's promise to end the Waters of the United States policy was cheered by farmers, real estate developers, golf course owners, and mining and oil firm. Environmental groups call the new proposal a disaster. "It is hard to overstate the impact of this," Blan Holman, managing attorney at the Southern Environmental Law Center, tells the Los Angeles Times. "This would be taking a sledgehammer to the Clean Water Act and rolling things back to a place we haven't been since it was passed. It is a huge threat to water quality across the country, and especially in the West." Peter Weber

5:49 a.m.

There has been speculation that a recent series of letters between President Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un — Trump called Kim's "beautiful" while Kim dubbed Trump's "excellent" — might lead to a third summit between the two leaders, after the second summit ended in February with no progress on denuclearization. South Korean President Moon Jae-in said Wednesday that in fact U.S. and North Korean officials are holding "behind-the-scenes talks" to arrange a third summit, in an unspecified time and place. He didn't say if the talks were face-to-face or who participated.

"There's no reason to regard the current situation as a stalemate in the peace process on the peninsula just because the pace has remained slow," Moon wrote in response to questions from seven news organizations, including The Associated Press. "Complete denuclearization and a permanent peace regime on the peninsula are tasks that cannot be achieved overnight." Trump is traveling to Japan for a G20 summit on Friday, before heading to South Korea to meet with Moon, and "he is reportedly considering a visit to the demilitarized zone that divides the two Korea," CNN reports, citing a South Korean government official.

Earlier Wednesday, North Korea's foreign ministry slammed the U.S. for having "viciously slandered" Pyongyang by suggesting its sanctions will "bring us to our knees." The foreign ministry's statement criticized Secretary of State Mike Pompeo but not Trump, even referring to the president "as the 'supreme leader' of the United States," mirroring Kim's title in North Korea, CNN notes.

The foreign ministry is trying to distinguish the Kim-Trump "bromance from the relationship between their two countries," Duyeon Kim, an analyst at the Center for a New American Security, suggested to CNN. "It sounds like they're sending a warning to Washington, almost as if to manage expectations ahead of a third summit, while making an appeal to Trump to basically put a straitjacket on his staff." Peter Weber

4:46 a.m.

"Over the weekend, columnist E. Jean Carroll accused Donald Trump of sexually assaulting her 23 years ago," Stephen Colbert said on Tuesday's Late Show, "and yesterday, Trump gave a very, very bad reason why he's innocent, telling a reporter: 'I'll say it with great respect: No. 1, she's not my type. No. 2, it never happened. It never happened, okay?'"

"So it didn't happen because she's not his type," Colbert said. "That is the sound of a man realizing mid-sentence that he's not talking to Billy Bush."

"If someone asks you, 'Did you rape that woman?' and you say, 'No, she's not my type,' that's not a defense, it's a confession," Seth Meyers said at Late Night. "And hey, no one believes you when you deny this stuff because you already admitted to it, remember? You were on a bus with Billy Bush, bragging about assaulting women." Also, "I know you think everything's a conspiracy," he said, but "the media isn't trying to screw you because, to borrow a phrase, you're not their type."

The Daily Show's Trevor Noah also found Trump's response sorely lacking. "If your denial leaves people thinking there is a type of woman you would rape, that's not a good denial," he said. "And I don't understand how we're still struggling with this in society: A woman's attractiveness has nothing to do with whether or not they were raped. Nothing at all. But it shows you how out-of-whack Trump's priorities are. He's being accused of rape and his first concern is letting people know what his standards are for women. It's like you're accused of murdering someone at a Holiday Inn and your response is, 'I stay at the Ritz Carlton, no!'"

"Do you ever think about how many men were held accountable after facing a single credible accusation?" Noah asked. Trump's "got 22, and it's barely news." Watch him ponder how the guy whose election mainstreamed #MeToo is somehow immune to it. Peter Weber

3:17 a.m.

The bodies of Salvadoran migrants Óscar Alberto Martínez Ramírez, 25, and his 23-month-old daughter, Valeria, were found Monday on the banks of the Rio Grande near Matamoros, in Mexico's Tamaulipas states. They are the latest migrants who died trying to reach the U.S. to seek asylum. Journalist Julia Le Duc captured the image of father and daughter, her arm "draped around his neck suggesting she clung to him in her final moments," The Associated Press notes. It appeared Monday in Mexico's La Jornada, and AP published it on Tuesday.

Here's their story, as recorded by La Duc from Ramírez's wife and confirmed to AP by his mother in El Salvador, Rosa Ramírez, and an unidentified Tamaulipas government official:

Ramírez, frustrated because the family from El Salvador was unable to present themselves to U.S. authorities and request asylum, swam across the river on Sunday with his daughter, Valeria. He set her on the U.S. bank of the river and started back for his wife, Tania Vanessa Ávalos, but seeing him move away the girl threw herself into the waters. ...

"When the girl jumped in is when he tried to reach her, but when he tried to grab the girl, he went in further ... and he couldn't get out," [Rosa] Ramírez told AP. "He put her in his shirt, and I imagine he told himself, 'I've come this far' and decided to go with her." [The Associated Press]

Ramírez and his wife and child left El Salvador on April 3 and arrived in Matamoros early Sunday, they went to the U.S. Consulate to request an asylum interview, then decided to seek asylum on the U.S. side, AP reports. Under a recently enacted "metering" policy, U.S. officials conduct about 40-45 asylum interviews a week, and there are 800 to 1,700 names on the waiting list.

Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador said Tuesday the two deaths are "very regrettable," adding, "We have always denounced that as there is more rejection in the United States, there are people who lose their lives in the desert or crossing" the river. Mexico, under pressure from the U.S., has recently started taking and housing more asylum-seekers who successfully crossed into the U.S. Peter Weber

1:49 a.m.

Jimmy Fallon explained to guest Trevor Noah on Tuesday's Tonight Show that the "impression generator" they were about to use would "land on one random politician and one random topic," and whoever's turn it was would have to improvise an impersonation of that political figure discussing the chosen topic. Fallon, who excels at impersonating musicians, was no match for Noah. Anyone who's watched The Daily Show has seen Noah's Barack Obama impression, and both late-night hosts were able to bring out their Trump impersonations — two for one, in fact, in Noah's case — but Noah really shone when he had to make up whole cloth Beto O'Rourke reading a cereal box. Watch below. Peter Weber

1:46 a.m.

When it came time to choose a best man for his wedding, Chris McCarron decided to go with man's best friend.

McCarron rescued Jack, a Rottweiler, from a Scottish shelter, following the death of his son. McCarron actually met his new wife, Margaret Allison, while walking Jack, and knew he wanted the dog by his side on their big day. Video of the nuptials show that Jack stole the show, sneezing during the vows, staring intently at McCarron throughout the event, and even pawing at him as he signed the marriage license. Just about the only thing Jack didn't do was object.

Jack wore a bow tie to the wedding and spent the reception going from guest to guest, receiving head pats and lots of treats. "He was a star, he posed for all the pictures," Allison told SWNS. McCarron, Allison, and Jack are all adjusting well to married life, and McCarron is grateful to Jack for the role he played in it all. "I don't believe that I rescued Jack," he said. "I think he rescued me." Catherine Garcia

1:19 a.m.

Customs and Border Protection chief John Sanders is stepping down amid reports of deplorable conditions for detained child migrants, Stephen Colbert said on Tuesday's Late Show. "You know what they say: When the going gets tough, the tough go, 'Good luck with that, sucks to be you.'" He imagined Sanders trying to explain "violating the Geneva Conventions" during his next job interview, unsuccessfully: "I'm sorry, but you're just not Chuck E. Cheese material — and may I remind you, we terrify children with a giant animatronic rat."

President Trump threw Sanders under the bus then "made mouth sounds with the hole about his 'concern' for children," Colbert said. "But Trump is wrong and he knows it. This crisis is not some mistake caused by a sudden rush to the border. People who work down there say it's the result of a failed gamble on the part of the Trump administration that a succession of ever-harder border policies would deter the flood of migrants coming from Central America. And it's not Trump's only failed gamble — his original idea for the border was the Trump Taj Matrocity and Child Hotel."

Colbert said what makes the United States great "is what we believe in — all men are created equal; life, liberty, the pursuit of happiness" — but "the problem with high ideals" is that "you actually have to live up to them, and with these kids on the border, we're not just failing to live up to our own standards," but also the standards of Somali pirates and the Taliban.

Trump's "courageous defense of his policies" is the lie that they are actually Barack Obama's policies, Colbert said. "Mr. President, you're not fooling anybody. We all remember that you ran on a racist, anti-immigration platform, and you're still running on it today. At this point, the only family separation America wants to see is yours from the White House." Watch below. Peter Weber

1:13 a.m.

Wesley White and his metal detector are up for any challenge, including finding a wedding ring lost in the Tennessee dirt almost 50 years ago.

White was visiting his mother at her nursing home last week when he overheard another resident say her ring fell off in the 1970s while she was gardening, and was lost somewhere in the dirt. White is retired and enjoys spending time looking for treasures with his metal detector. He decided he wanted to try to find the woman's ring, and introduced himself to 94-year-old Florene Bush.

Bush's son, Frank, told WTVF his mother "always mentioned her gold band and how she missed it." White and his friend Jeff Howell went to the spot where the ring was last seen, and after 90 minutes, Howell found it under five inches of dirt. The ring was in good condition, with no scratches. After cleaning it, the men returned the band to Bush, who was "really thrilled," she said. Bush told WTVF she is glad to know that her ring can now be a family heirloom. Catherine Garcia

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