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Happening Today: Border Wall, Rep. Omar, Vaping, Jussie Smollett, Nicki Minaj

What to Know

  • Congressional negotiators reached agreement to prevent a government shutdown and finance construction of new barriers along the border
  • The CDC is blaming nicotine vaping for single-handedly driving a spike in tobacco use among teens, threatening to erase years of progress
  • 'Empire' star Jussie Smollett handed over redacted phone records 2 weeks after he was allegedly attacked in what is considered a hate crime

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Budget Deal Allows Far Less Money Than Trump Wanted for Wall

Congressional negotiators reached agreement to prevent a government shutdown and finance construction of new barriers along the U.S.-Mexico border, overcoming a late-stage hang-up over immigration enforcement issues that had threatened to scuttle the talks. Republicans were desperate to avoid another bruising shutdown. They tentatively agreed to far less money for President Trump's border wall than the White House's $5.7 billion wish list, settling for a figure of nearly $1.4 billion, according to congressional aides. The funding measure is through the fiscal year, which ends Sept. 30. The agreement means 55 miles of new fencing — constructed through existing designs such as metal slats instead of a concrete wall — but far less than the 215 miles the White House demanded in December. The fencing would be built in the Rio Grande Valley in Texas. Details won't be officially released until later, but the pact came in time to alleviate any threat of a second partial government shutdown this weekend.

Rep. Ilhan Omar Apologizes for Tweets on AIPAC's Influence

Freshman Democratic Rep. Ilhan Omar "unequivocally" apologized for tweets suggesting members of Congress support Israel because they are being paid to do so, which drew bipartisan criticism and a rebuke from House Speaker Nancy Pelosi. The Minnesota Democrat said she had no intention offending anyone, including Jewish Americans. The statement was the latest reckoning among Democrats of intense differences in their ranks over the U.S.-Israeli relationship, highlighted by criticism from Omar and Rep. Rashida Tlaib of Michigan. They are the first Muslim women to serve in Congress. Pelosi and other Democrats, including leaders and chairmen, laid down a marker making clear that Omar had overstepped. In a pair of tweets over the weekend, Omar criticized the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, or AIPAC. "It's all about the Benjamins baby," she wrote, invoking slang about $100 bills.

CDC Blames Spike in Teen Tobacco Use on Vaping

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is blaming nicotine vaping devices like Juul for single-handedly driving a spike in tobacco use among teens, threatening to erase years of progress curbing youth use. Over the course of a year, the number of high school students using tobacco products, which include e-cigarettes, increased by about 38 percent, the CDC found in its annual National Youth Tobacco Survey. That translates to about 27 percent of high school teens using tobacco products in 2018, the CDC said. Of all the tobacco products the CDC surveys students about, including cigarettes and hookah, only e-cigarettes saw a meaningful increase in use. Among high school students, e-cigarette use surged nearly 78 percent. In 2018, nearly 21 percent of high school students vaped, up from nearly 12 percent in 2017. In 2018, 1.5 million more middle school and high school students vaped than in 2017, up to 3.6 million from 2.1 million, according to the survey.

'Empire' Star Gives Cops Redacted Phone Log

“Empire” star Jussie Smollett handed over redacted phone records to police — nearly two weeks after the actor and singer was allegedly attacked in what police are considering a possible hate crime. Smollett told police on Jan. 29 two masked men punched him, subjected him to racist and homophobic insults, threw an "unknown chemical substance" on him and put a thin rope around his neck before fleeing. Police said Smollett gave them a PDF file of redacted phone calls but did not provide “a download of the phone or a digital record.” They said there is no reason to suggest that the records were modified. Police plan to use the record to corroborate the timeline of the alleged attack. It was not immediately clear why the call log was redacted. Police said earlier in the investigation that Smollett was hesitant to report the crime but his manager convinced him to. Both Smollett and his manager told police they could not be away from their phones for prolonged periods of time, so they refused to give the devices over to police.

Nicki Minaj Cancels Concert After BET Tweets Cardi B Slam

All bets are off if you were hoping to see Nicki Minaj co-headline a concert with Cardi B in June at the Staples Center in Los Angeles. And you can thank a diss tweet from BET. Nicki Minaj announced via Twitter she is canceling her performance. “Young Money will no longer be apart of the BET Experience or award show,” Nicki Minaj tweeted. The decision followed after BET tweeted out an article announcing that Cardi B became the first solo female rapper to win a Grammy for Best Rap Album. “Meanwhile Nicki Minaj is being dragged by her lace front,” BET tweeted along with the article. The original tweet has since been deleted, and the article was reshared with another caption. Since her rise to fame, Cardi B and Nicki Minaj have been in several social media feuds and have even been involved in a brawl.

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