Doctors Deliver Baby Mid-Flight After Mom Goes Into Labor on Plane

When flight attendants went looking for a doctor in the house, fortunately, this flight had two.

A 27-year-old doctor and a pediatrician helped to deliver a healthy baby boy when a woman went into labor while on a plane 35,000 feet in the sky.

Dr. Sij Hemal was looking forward to some downtime on his December 17 flight on Air France. He had just flown from New Delhi, stopped over in France, and was heading to JFK International Airport before catching his flight back home to Cleveland. Hemal — a second-year urology resident at Cleveland Clinic’s Glickman Urological and Kidney Institute — was ready to have a drink of champagne and watch a movie, when, suddenly, passenger Toyin Ogundipe went into labor midway on the flight.

“I was pretty tired from jet lag,” Hemal said in a statement from the Cleveland Clinic. “I thought I’d just have a drink and fall asleep. As it turned out, I’m glad I didn’t drink anything.”

Dr. Sij Hemal and Dr. Susan Shepherd with flight crew preparing for the delivery

Dr. Sij Hemal and Dr. Susan Shepherd with flight crew preparing for the delivery

Courtesy Cleveland Clinic

RELATED: Baby Born During High-Speed Police Chase on New Year’s Day as Father Rushes Mother to Hospital

The crew contemplated an emergency landing, but since they were flying 35,000 feet over the southern coast of Greenland, pulling off course to make it to the U.S. military base in the Azores Islands would take two hours and that was not that much closer than their final destination of JFK Airport, New York.

But turns out Ogundipe’s little boy had other plans. Hemal, along with pediatrician Dr. Susan Shepherd — who was coincidentally sitting next to Hemal while returning from a meeting in Dakar — rushed to Ogundipe’s side to assist with the birth.

“Her contractions were about 10 minutes apart,” Hemal explained. “The pediatrician and I began to monitor her vital signs and keep her comfortable.”

The crew moved Ogundipe to the first-class section of the airplane, which had more space and fewer passengers, while flight attendants watched over the Ogundipe’s 4-year-old daughter.

Dr. Sij Hemal

Dr. Sij Hemal

Tom Merce/The Cleveland Clinic Center for Medical Art & Photography

RELATED: Woman Adorably Reveals Pregnancy to Confused Mother-in-Law

Hemal and Shepherd gathered materials from the aircraft’s medical kit and monitored Ogundipe’s blood pressure, oxygen rate and pulse. Ogundipe’s contractions accelerated over the next hour. When they got down to just two minutes apart, the team realized the baby was going to come while they were still in the air.

About 30 minutes later, Ogundipe gave birth to a baby named Jake.

“I was relaxed because I knew I was in safe hands,” Ogundipe told Cleveland Clinic in a statement. “They did everything a doctor or midwife would have done if I was in the labor room in the hospital. Even better, if you ask me.”

Baby Jake

Baby Jake

Courtesy Cleveland Clinic

Though Hemal’s specialty is urology, he helped welcome seven babies into the world during medical school, so he had at least some experience — but nothing like an airplane delivery.

“We’re trained to stay calm and think clearly in emergency situations,” Hemal said. “I just tried to think ahead to what might go wrong, and come up with a creative solution.”

RELATED VIDEO: Baby Born Mid-Flight Gets Airline Tickets for Life!

Once the flight made it to New York City, Ogundipe and her children were transported to Jamaica Hospital Medical Center, while Hemal continued on his trip back to Cleveland. But he didn’t go back empty-handed: to say thanks, Air France gifted him with a travel voucher and bottle of champagne to make up for the glass he didn’t get a chance to drink.

“So much could have gone wrong, but it didn’t,” he said. “Being on that particular flight, sitting next to a pediatrician… it’s like it was destiny.”

Connie Sawyer, Hollywood’s Oldest Working Actress, Dies at 105

Connie Sawyer, the oldest working member of the Screen Actors Guild and the Academy, has died. She was 105.

The actress died peacefully at her home in Woodland Hills, California, according to Deadline. She had previously resided at the Motion Picture & Television Fund’s residential community for entertainment industry retirees in Los Angeles.

A rep for Sawyer did not immediately respond to a request for comment from PEOPLE.

The Pueblo, Colorado, native, who was born on November 27, 1912, made audiences laugh since before the television was even invented, first starring in vaudeville shows when she was just a child.

She later landed several cameos and roles on programs for nearly six decades amassing over 140 credits, including The Way West, AdaThe Man in the Glass BoothThe Mary Tyler Moore Show, Hawaii Five-O, Dynasty, Murder, She Wrote, Archie Bunker’s Place, Home Improvement, Seinfeld, Will & Grace, ER, The Office, How I Met Your Mother and Ray Donovan.

In 2014, Sawyer acted opposite Zooey Deschanel in New Girl and worked on NCIS: Los Angeles in 2013 and 2 Broke Girls in 2012.

Meanwhile, Sawyer got her first film role in the 1950s when Frank Sinatra’s manager spotted her in a Broadway play called A Hole in the Head. In recent decades, she is best known for movie roles in Dumb and Dumber, The Pineapple Express, and When Harry Met Sally.

Connie Sawyer

Connie Sawyer

Courtesy Connie Sawyer

In November, the screen star told PEOPLE about the secrets of her long life.

“There aren’t that many people around who are 105,” Sawyer said. “I always say you have to move, you have to get off the couch. I used to swim, play golf, tap dance, line dance — I was always moving and I was lucky.”

Adding, “My parents lived a long time. Papa died at 91 and my mama was 89, so I had good genes too. That’s the reason.”

And when she wasn’t working, Sawyer participated in all the activities at MPTF, where she had lived for 12 years.

“I go to exercise class, I go to all the parties that they throw, I go to all the dinners, I go to all the shows,” she said. “Sometimes I’ll see movies twice to make sure I want to vote for them, I’m very serious about it,” she added about voting for Oscar contenders.

Sawyer, who wrote the book, I Never Wanted to Be a Star — and I Wasn’t, about her experiences in Hollywood, is survived by her two daughters: Lisa Dudley and Julie Watkins as well as four grandchildren and three great-grandchildren.

How Lala Kent Became the New Feminist Hero of ‘Vanderpump Rules’

Vanderpump Rules isn’t typically a show one looks to for role models of any kind. The cast drinks heavily, cheats on each other often, fights like it’s their job (which, I guess it literally is), and sometimes steal shades from a Sunglass Hut in Hawaii. Oh, and they occasionally work at S.U.R, Real Housewives of Beverly Hills star Lisa Vanderpump‘s West Hollywood lounge and restaurant. Watching Vanderpump Rules brings the same kind of joy people find in delicious soap operas, like Dallas or The Young and The Restless—which, ironically, one of the former cast members has starred in. (Remember Vail?)

So imagine my surprise this season when I found myself rooting for cast member Lala Kent. At first, Lala wasn’t somebody I’d consider a feminist role model for our times. She’s a more recent addition to the cast—joining the show in season four as a recurring character—and initially she seemed to be filling the tried and true reality show (and soap opera) archetype of the pretty newcomer who arrives to stir up trouble. She wasn’t afraid to flirt with whoever she wanted and she didn’t back down from the show’s own Mean Girls-like clique of Stassi, Katie, and Kristen. Though to be fair to them, Lala didn’t endear herself when she chastised them for not “working on their summer bodies.” Lala even walked away from the show for a chunk of last season after rumors (that continue, even now) that she’s seeing a married man were brought up. (Recent reports claim he’s now officially divorced and once previously filed for legal separation in 2015.)

But it turns out Lala was so much more than any of us—or the cast of Vanderpump Rules, frankly—bargained for. The more I see of Lala, the more I love her. She’s a pro-woman, sex-positive, body-positive badass who isn’t afraid to own her beauty…or anything she does to enhance it. There’s nothing wrong with Botox and fillers, if that’s your choice as a woman. “I’m not the type of person who’s going to walk out and be like, ‘I’ve had nothing done! My face just changed like this,'” she told Bravo’s The Lookbook. “I’m pretty open about things like that.” She’s also unapologetic about asking for—and getting—what she wants, and, yes, that includes flying on private jets and making her friends sign non-disclosure agreements. That doesn’t always sit well with some on the show, but I love that she doesn’t feel obligated to please everyone.

Now that Lala is back, she’s fiercer than ever. After (re)securing her hostess job at S.U.R., she has unleashed a fury of feminism. She has no time for the crappy behavior exhibited by the men on the show, most specifically the cheating Jax and Tom Schwartz. When the married Schwartz makes out with a friend of Lala’s during a night of blackout drinking, she tells his wife, Katie (no friend of hers, mind you), that she “needs to feel safe” in her relationship. When Jax cheats on his live-in girlfriend Brittany, Lala shares a recording of him speaking horribly about the relationship to the woman he just slept with. Some might find this mean (the guys on the show certainly did), but I think it’s information Brittany needed to hear. Lala even rallies the other women around Brittany, to the point where the men are exiled from the party they’re all at together. “God forbid women stand together…We’re not going to deal with your bullshit,” she shouts as the men scurry away. “I’m so sick of these guys thinking they can get away with whatever the fuck they want!” Even Andy Cohen gave Lala props for her “Norma Rae moment” on Watch What Happens Live, saying, “Lala should be on the #MeToo committee, I feel like she could get some stuff done.” The show’s so-called mean girls have come around too, joking on social media that they’ve signed the NDAs her boyfriend requires—from his private jet, no less.

And then there’s the way Lala so openly accepts others. The new transgender hostess, Billie Lee, calls her the “only one I can like kick it with after work.” That feeling is reciprocated by Lala, who says, “I love and adore Billie. She’s genuine. She’s open about who she is. She just embodies everything a human being should embody. She has great tits too.” When Ariana confesses to Lala that she’s battling insecurities that stem from a past relationship, Lala will not stand for it. As she says, “Every woman [should] know her worth.” This inspires the best moment we’ve seen of Lala yet: She admits she looks in the mirror every morning and talks to all of her body parts to say, “I love you.” While her mantra might not be the same as yours, damn if it’s not incredible: “I don’t love my feet, but I thank them because they walk me around. My hands, even though I think they’re man hands, they give great hand jobs. I thank my little kitty cat because it takes that D like a champ.” Owning your body and your sexuality—isn’t that something we should all strive for? I sure think so.

I certainly took this final message of Lala’s to heart, “So maybe getting in that routine of like, ‘I’m a fucking badass and not one thing that someone says to me is going to make me think otherwise.'” Keep doing you, Lala. I am here for all of it.

Too Short Calls Sexual Battery Lawsuit ‘Extortion,’ Promises Countersuit

Too Short

Sexual Battery Suit …

It’s Just Extortion

1/22/2018 3:38 PM PST

EXCLUSIVE

Too Short says the woman suing him for sexual battery is making a vengeful, shameless money grab … and he’s vowing to take his own legal action against her.

We got Short Monday in L.A. and asked for his reaction to Teana Louis claiming he sexually assaulted her on multiple occasions in 2016. The allegation is simply an extortion attempt … according to him, anyway.

The rapper insists the furthest they ever went sexually was foreplay — not intercourse, and certainly not sodomy as she claims.

Short tells us he’s got no choice but to countersue to squash this, and has a message for his accuser regarding the #Metoo movement.

Pitt Student Alina Sheykhet Had ‘Chop and Stab’ Wounds

The ex-boyfriend of Alina Sheykhet, the 20-year-old University of Pittsburgh student who was found dead in her bedroom in October, will be going to trial following an emotional preliminary hearing.

Matthew Darby appeared in court Friday, where it was determined he would go to trial on charges of homicide, burglary, theft, flight to avoid apprehension and possessing an instrument of a crime, PEOPLE confirms.

Darby is accused of killing his ex-girlfriend in the middle of the night after they dated on and off for two years. Sheykhat’s family and friends attended the hearing, which included 10 witnesses called by prosecutors that painted a disturbing picture of the couple’s relationship and the night of Sheykhet’s death, according to CBS.

On Oct. 8, Sheykhet was discovered dead in a pool of her own blood by her father at her home in Oakland, Pennsylvania, after he broke down the door to her bedroom, according to the Tribune-Review. Her parents became concerned when she didn’t show up to meet them earlier that day for a breast cancer walk, according to the outlet.

“Her dad was screaming she had a hole in her head,” Rebecca Kubiczki, Sheykhet’s roommate, said on the stand Friday, according to the Pittsburg Post-Gazette. 

Alina Sheykhet

Sheykhet’s body had “multiple chop and stab wounds to the head and face,” according to the Post-Gazette. Her death was ruled a homicide. Three days later, her boyfriend, Matthew Darby, was arrested in South Carolina.

• Want to keep up with the latest crime coverage? Click here to get breaking crime news, ongoing trial coverage and details of intriguing unsolved cases in the True Crime Newsletter.

Sheykhet’s roommate described Darby as allegedly controlling, the Post-Gazette reports.

According to Kubiczki, Sheykhet allegedly often had to change the password to her social media accounts to stop Darby from accessing them. But Darby would allegedly force Sheykhet to tell him her new passwords, Kubiczki recalled, and sometimes pretended to be her and block friends from her account.

“He was possessive. He wouldn’t let her do things,” Kubiczki told the court, the Post-Gazette reports.

Darby’s attorney, David Shrager, tells PEOPLE, “After hearing all of the state’s witnesses that day, I was struck by what they didn’t have. There is absolutely no eye-witness testimony nor forensic evidence directly tying my client to any crime and we look forward to our day in court when we will be able to tell our side of the story.”

Weeks before Sheykhet’s death, Darby was arrested for allegedly breaking into her home while she and Kubiczki were there, Kubiczki said. When he allegedly wouldn’t leave, the women called the police, who arrested and charged Darby with criminal trespass, the Post-Gazette reports. He was later released on bond and is scheduled to enter a plea in February, according to court documents obtained by PEOPLE.

Surveillance footage from the night of Sheykhet’s alleged murder place a man believed to be Darby near the crime scene, according to the newspaper.

Matthew Darby

Matthew Darby

Pittsburg Police Dept.

An Uber driver also testified that shortly after 4 a.m., Darby asked him to drop him off at Oakland Place, where Sheykhet lived, before changing his mind and asking to be dropped off nearby.

Authorities believe they have the weapons used to kill Sheykhet — two larges knives and a claw hammer recovered from a nearby drain— but Darby’s attorney argued that investigators had no direct evidence tying his client to the crime.

Darby’s attorney could not be reached for comment by PEOPLE Monday. He has not yet entered a plea.

• For more compelling true crime coverage, follow our Crime magazine on Flipboard.

The 21-year-old has a history of prior arrests for alleged violence against women, according to court documents. In February, in Indiana County, Pennsylvania, he was charged with rape, sexual assault, aggravated indecent assault and additional charges against a different ex-girlfriend.

He pleaded not guilty, Shrager tells PEOPLE.

Darby is also facing a rape charge in Allegheny County but has not entered a plea.

Days after his daughter’s death,  Sheykhet’s father, Yan Sheykhet, described his daughter as a bright and vivacious girl who aspired to be a physical therapist.

“It was her dream,” he said. “And she worked so hard. She was the best person in the world.”

“I lost my beautiful princess,” he continued. “I don’t know what else to say.”

Grammys 2018: See the Official Afterparty Menu

Music’s biggest awards night calls for an impressive bash to follow—and an afterparty is only complete with good eats.

Ahead of the 60th annual Grammy Awards on Sunday, PEOPLE received an exclusive first look at the array of bites and cocktails guests will be choosing from at the official afterparty at the Marriot Marquis in New York City.

The menu includes a variety of cuisines inspired by a few of the Big Apple’s neighborhoods like Spanish Harlem, Chinatown, Williamsburg, and Union Square.

The Spanish Harlem station will be serving up a seafood paella loaded with clams, mussels, chicken and shrimp, along with a mojo-braised pork belly paired with sweet plantains, and an herb-roasted forest mushroom salad with cremini, button, portobello and oyster mushrooms.

For guest with a hankering for Asian cuisine, the Chinatown station will include seven dishes to choose from like sweet-and-sour chicken, chicken lemongrass potstickers, vegetable shumai, pork dumplings, Chinese chopped salad, and a salad made up of rice noodles and roasted sweet potatoes.

Brooklyn’s Williamsburg neighborhood is known for its food scene, so including its famous cuisine only makes sense. Stars can expect to be eating spicy chicken, BBQ braised short rib, homemade coleslaw, fresh sea salt potato chips, and three-cheese mac ‘n’ cheese, all of which you can find at many of the neighborhood’s local eateries.

WATCH THIS: How Did Sam Smith Celebrate his Epic Grammy Night?

The Union Square Market, often bustling with people, vendors and tasty food during the holiday season, has inspired a spread of quick bites. Here, hungry celebrities can find rueben sandwiches, a prosciutto and cheese bar, an ancient grain salad, rustic potato salad and a wood barrel pickle sampler.

No meal is complete without something sweet! The celebration will also have a diamond jubilee-themed dessert collection offering up treats as follows: peanut butter cake pops covered in coconut, chocolate caramel truffle pops, hazelnut wafer cones, s’mores sticks, rocky road mini cupcakes, handheld apple pie, French macaron pyramids, New York original cheesecake, and chocolate dipped strawberries.

Want the ultimate dish on the latest celebrity food news, plus exclusive recipes, videos and more? Click here to subscribe to the People Food newsletter.

Drinks, of course, will be flowing too, featuring signature cocktails made with Absolut Vodka. This is where you should join in while watching the show—invite everyone you know over and sip like a pop star all night long. Get the official recipes below!

Lime Vodkarita
2 oz. vodka
1 oz. lime juice
½ oz. agave nectar
1 lime wheel, for garnish

In a cocktail shaker filled with ice, add first three ingredients and shake vigorously. Pour into a rocks glass filled with ice and garnish with lime.

Limelight
2 oz. vodka
½ oz. lime juice
2 oz. soda water
2 oz. ginger ale
1 cucumber slice, for garnish

In a tall glass filled with ice, add vodka and lime juice. Top with soda water and ginger ale and stir. Garnish with cucumber slice.

Enzo Amore Suspended By WWE After Rape Allegation

Enzo Amore

Suspended By WWE

After Rape Allegation

1/22/2018 3:06 PM PST

Breaking News

The Phoenix Police Dept. has opened up an investigation into allegations made by a woman who claims she was raped by WWE superstar Enzo Amore back in October. The WWE has also suspended him indefinitely. 

The woman went public with her story on social media Monday — claiming Enzo (real name Eric Arndt) along with 2 friends got her “f*cked up” in a hotel room on Oct. 19 to the point where she passed out. 

The woman claims Enzo then restrained her and, “it happened.”

The Phoenix PD says officers responded to a local hospital on Oct. 23 for a call about a woman who claims she was sexually assaulted. Investigators were assigned to the case. The investigation is still open. 

As for the WWE, the organization has suspended Enzo … saying, “WWE has zero tolerance for matters involving sexual harassment or sexual assault.”

“Until this matter is resolved, Eric Arndt has been suspended.”

[h/t ProWrestlingSheet, which first reported the story]

Congress votes to end government shutdown, sending bill to Trump’s desk

The House on Monday evening approved a bill to re-open the government, sending the measure to President Trump’s desk to end the three-day government shutdown as Senate Democrats backed off their opposition.

The bill passed 266-150, following votes earlier in the day in the Senate.

The temporary spending bill would keep the government open until Feb. 8. The president is expected to sign the bill late Monday.

Democrats agreed to re-open the government after Republicans assured them the Senate would soon consider legislation that would protect illegal immigrants brought to the United States as children. It was a stark contrast from the Senate Democratic position just a few days ago.

“In a few hours, the government will reopen,” Senate Minority Leader Sen. Chuck Schumer, a New York Democrat, said on the Senate floor on Monday.

The Senate then voted 81-18 to break a Democratic filibuster on the stalled government spending bill. Several hours later, the Senate approved the bill.

Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., holds a news conference to talk about the Democratic victory in the Alabama special election and to discuss the Republican tax bill, on Capitol Hill in Washington, Wednesday, Dec. 13, 2017. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)

Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer faced heavy pressure to end the filibuster of a government funding measure.

 (AP)

“I am pleased that Democrats in Congress have come to their senses and are now willing to fund our great military, border patrol, first responders and insurance for vulnerable children,” Trump said in a written statement. 

During Monday’s press briefing, White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders said the administration expects the bill to make it to the president’s desk late Monday and the government to open at full capacity on Tuesday morning. 

Sanders pushed back against the notion from Democrats that Trump wasn’t doing enough behind the scenes during the shutdown. She said Trump was busy working the phones with lawmakers and Cabinet officials.

“The president was putting pressure and standing firm on exactly what he was willing to do and what he wasn’t,” Sanders said. “And it very clearly worked.”

The funding and reopening of the government would allow U.S. military personnel to be paid, end the furlough of nearly 1 million federal workers and resume all federal services and operations.

But congressional lawmakers made it clear Monday that they’re still faced with challenges, like how to fund hurricane disaster relief and craft a comprehensive immigration reform bill on which both parties can agree.

empty capitol

The Capitol Visitor Center is empty, as the government shutdown entered its third day.

“We still have a lot more work to do,” said Sen. Joni Ernst, R-Iowa.

After days and weeks of blaming and finger-pointing, a bipartisan group of senators met Sunday and brokered the deal in which rank-and-file members would provide the 60 votes in exchange for Senate leaders’ promise to immediately proceed to immigration reform.

Democrats largely had opposed the stopgap spending bill because it did not include provisions to protect the illegal immigrants from deportation under former President Barack Obama’s Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals executive order. Trump last year set a deadline of early March to end the protections, but has indicated he wants to provide permanent protections for the young illegal immigrants — along with border security, particularly funding for his U.S.-Mexico border walll. 

Under the apparent deal to end the filibuster, Schumer said Monday they would negotiate on immigration, and immediately consider such legislation if there’s no agreement by Feb. 8.

Schumer lauded the bipartisan group’s weekend efforts and suggested the group could lead efforts to replace DACA with permanent, legislative protections.

However, he also needled Trump, whom he said on Friday rejected his compromise plan that included money for the border wall.

“Today we enter the third day of the Trump shutdown,” Schumer said before saying they would provide the votes to get to the spending bill. Republicans call it the “Schumer Shutdown.” 

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., then thanked Schumer and said: “I think if we’ve learned anything during this process, it’s that a strategy to shut down the government over the issue of illegal immigration is something the American people didn’t understand and would not have understood in the future. So I’m glad we’ve gotten past that.”

With Republicans having just 50 senators available to vote Monday, they needed the support of roughly a dozen Democratic senators to break the filibuster. They got 33.

The 18 senators who didn’t vote to end debate included Republican Sens. Mike Lee, of Utah, and Rand Paul, of Kentucky.

The 15 Democrats in opposition were Sen. Richard Blumenthal and Chris Murphy, both of Connecticut; Cory Booker and Bob Menendez, both of New Jersey; Catherine Cortez Masto, of Nevada; Kirsten Gillibrand, of New York; Mazie Hirono, of Hawaii; Patrick Leahy, of Vermont; Ed Markey and Elizabeth Warren, both of Massachusetts; Jon Tester, of Montana; Ron Wyden and Jeff Merkley, both of Oregon; and Kamala Harris and Dianne Feinstein, both of California. Sen. Bernie Sanders, a Vermont independent, also voted in opposition.

Arizona GOP Sen. John McCain did not vote because he’s home fighting cancer.

McConnell on Sunday night indicated a deal was in the works to break the filibuster, in exchange for immediately addressing Democrats’ desire for immigration reform.

“When the Democrat filibuster of the government funding bill ends, the serious, bipartisan negotiations that have been going on for months now to resolve our unfinished business — military spending; disaster relief; health care; immigration and border security — will continue,” he said Sunday in announcing the Monday vote.

Early Monday, before the votes, the Trump White House and Capitol Hill Republicans cranked up the pressure on Democrats to abandon their immediate demands for immigration measures and vote in support of the temporary spending bill.

“They shut down the government,” White House counselor Kellyanne Conway told “Fox & Friends” on Monday morning. “The pressure is on them.”

Trump tweeted that Democrats shut down the government to appease the “far left base” and are now “powerless” to change course.

“The Democrats are turning down services and security for citizens in favor of services and security for non-citizens. Not good!” he tweeted.

Fox News’ Chad Pergram contributed to this report.

Alex Pappas is a politics reporter at FoxNews.com. Follow him on Twitter at @AlexPappas.

Tax victory set stage for House shutdown win

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On the roster: Tax victory set stage for House shutdown win – House poised to end shutdown with vote – Court blows up Pennsylvania House races – GOP wants answers on missing FBI texts – ‘Little arm probz’

TAX VICTORY SET STAGE FOR HOUSE SHUTDOWN WIN

Who knew that being popular was useful in politics?

Or maybe we should say in the case of congressional Republicans, being less loathed.

As various pressure groups and partisans craft their rationales for why either the Republic has been saved or the people have been betrayed, by a deal to keep the government functioning as usual for 17 days, remember how we got here.

You could say that Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer “caved” today, but you can just as accurately say that Schumer’s position was simply overrun.

The shape of the first shutdown of 2018 wasn’t cast by anything Schumer did or could have done. The principle engineer here was House Speaker Paul Ryan and his unusually accommodating fellow Republican House members.

The moment House Republicans passed a “clean” continuing resolution that also provided funding for state children’s Medicaid programs it became impossible for Senate Democrats to hold out for more than this symbolic short shutdown.

That House majority will be tested repeatedly on similar questions in the coming weeks. Its willingness to take risks either by offending primary voters or flouting the dictates of widespread public opinion will depend a great deal on how Republicans think they’re doing in this year’s midterms.

Coming into this first hiccup House Republicans were on a good run. They were showing signs of life with an electorate that even a month ago was looking at continued Republican control of the House like a day-old pimento loaf sandwich.

It became clear in the past several days that public reaction to the Trump tax cut was working in Republicans’ favor.

We can’t know how much of the psychology behind Ryan’s successful maneuver was driven by good feelings among members in the afterglow of their first major legislative victory.

But polls do tell us that voters opinions about Republican control of the House was improving. That unavoidable truth no doubt gave Republicans confidence, but it also put Democrats in a tougher negotiating spot.

That’s why this is an fitting day for the Halftime Report to roll out our average of polls on which party voters want to control the House.

You will also notice below that we have expanded and revised our index for President Trump’s job approval in ways we hope you will find useful and forthcoming.

We will be watching whether voters generally prefer Democrats or Republicans in charge of the House not just because it’s our job to look ahead to Election Day, but also, as it did with this shutdown, public sentiment shapes decisions on an ongoing basis.

Put simply, Republicans being down only nine or so points in the so-called generic ballot makes things quite different when it was a deficit of 15 points or more.

Some provisos about generic ballot surveys:

Democrats always have a seeming advantage not just because there are more Democrats than Republicans in the United States. But, bear in mind, that historically Democrats have struggled with turnout compared to Republicans, especially in midterms. If the GOP was only down by 3 points, you’d have to think their chances for holding the House were, very good.

We should also remember that in all likelihood, more than 95 percent of incumbents running for re-election will be returned to Washington by voters. The power of incumbency, local issues and everything else in Aunt Nellie’s cupboard affect individual races. Please don’t write us and tell us how much you love or hate your congressmen. This is just a national snapshot.

We will keep tracking this through Election Day and will pipe up if we see anything that we think needs your closer attention.

THE RULEBOOK: OF, BY, FOR THE PEOPLE
“It is too early for politicians to presume on our forgetting that the public good, the real welfare of the great body of the people, is the supreme object to be pursued; and that no form of government whatever has any other value than as it may be fitted for the attainment of this object.” – James Madison, Federalist No. 45

TIME OUT: WHO’S THE REAL GOAT?
Atlantic: “There has been no truism in sports more durable than this: A team with Super Bowl aspirations needs a great quarterback. … But last weekend, during the divisional round of the playoffs, the prevailing logic failed. [Tom Brady’s] New England Patriots sailed past the outmatched Tennessee Titans … but in the three other matchups, All-Pro quarterbacks lost to former also-rans. The Atlanta Falcons… fell to a Philadelphia Eagles team led by Nick Foles… [Ben Roethlisberger’s] Pittsburgh Steelers were beaten by the Jacksonville Jaguars and Blake Bortles… What has resulted is a final four with possibly the greatest quarterback of all time, however impaired, set opposite three players who over the past year have not even been guaranteed the starting job on their teams. One way to read the scenario … is as a fluke that will resolve in a familiar ending… Another way to read it, though, is as a lessening of quarterback primacy—perhaps as a subtle step toward a fuller, more well-rounded sport.”

Flag on the play? – Email us at
HALFTIMEREPORT@FOXNEWS.COM with your tips, comments or questions.

SCOREBOARD
Trump job performance
Average approval:
38.6 percent
Average disapproval: 57 percent
Net Score:
-18.4 points
Change from one week ago: up 5.2 points
[Average includes: ABC News/WaPo: 38% approve – 58% disapprove; CNN: 43% approve – 53% disapprove; NBC News/WSJ: 39% approve – 57% disapprove; CBS News: 37% approve – 58% disapprove; Gallup: 36% approve – 59% disapprove.]

Control of House
Republican average: 40.8 percent
Democratic average: 50.4 percent
Advantage: Democrats plus 9.6 points
[Average includes: ABC News/WaPo: 51% Dems – 39% GOP; CNN: 49% Dems – 44% GOP; NBC News/WSJ: 49% Dems – 43% GOP; Quinnipiac University: 50% Dems – 39% GOP; Pew Research Center: 53% Dems – 39% GOP.]

HOUSE POISED TO END SHUTDOWN WITH VOTE  
Fox News: “The Senate on Monday afternoon voted 81 to 18 to re-open the government, clearing the way for the House to approve a stopgap measure and end the three-day government shutdown. Democrats backed off their opposition after being given assurances from Republicans that the Senate would soon consider legislation that would protect illegal immigrants brought to the United States as children. It was a stark contrast from the Senate Democratic position just a few days ago. ‘We will vote today to reopen the government,’ Senate Minority Leader Sen. Chuck Schumer, a New York Democrat, said on the Senate floor. ‘In a few hours, the government will reopen.’ The bill heads to the House, which plans to vote on it Monday before sending it to President Trump‘s desk. The temporary spending bill keeps the government open until Feb. 8. Earlier Monday, the Senate voted 81-18 to break a Democratic filibuster on the stalled government spending bill.”

Liberals fuming over Schumer deal – Daily Beast: “Two truths emerged from a deal that the Senate cut on Monday to re-open the federal government after a weekend-long shutdown. The first is that Democrats caved. The second is that they find themselves somewhat better positioned for what is likely to be another … shutdown battle in the coming weeks. … Republicans kicked the can down the road on government funding, but they also gave no concrete policy concessions in exchange for votes. A majority of Senate Democrats sided with them anyway. ‘Are you looking for a spine?’ one top Senate Democratic aide told The Daily Beast… ‘Because, I don’t have one to sell you.’ … As Congress now goes about considering immigration reform, there are new political variables at play. Republicans no longer have children’s health care as a political cudgel against Democrats, since the bill that passed on Monday includes a six-year authorization for the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP).”

Kelly proved crucial in short-term deal – WSJ: “White House Chief of Staff John Kelly is emerging from his usual behind-the-scenes role to become one of the president’s chief conservative anchors on the immigration issue, a spot once occupied by former chief strategist Steve Bannon. While Mr. Kelly drew the president’s ire last week after suggesting his boss’s campaign promises were uninformed and had ‘evolved,’ he also helped scuttle a bipartisan Senate deal and made the phone call that ended immigration negotiations on Friday. That paved the way for the partial government shutdown, as Democrats have tied their support for a government-spending bill to an extension of an Obama -era immigration program that President Donald Trump ended last year.”

Graham roasts top Trump aid on immigration – Politico: “Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) on Sunday renewed his criticism of White House aides’ handling of immigration, portraying them as having undercut President Donald Trump’s ability to cut a deal as the government shutdown entered its second day. Graham singled out White House senior policy adviser Stephen Miller, a pugnacious conservative who has a keen focus on restrictive immigration policy. ‘As long as Stephen Miller is in charge of negotiating immigration, we are going nowhere. He’s been an outlier for years,’ Graham told reporters as he entered a meeting of more than a dozen senators from both parties who have worked since the shutdown began to carve out space for a compromise.”

Can Miller sell a deal? – WaPo: “Stephen Miller, one of the few remaining original advisers to President Trump, invited a small group of writers and editors from Breitbart News to the White House last fall for a conversation on immigration. … But Miller’s goal on this occasion was to sell the group on a compromise: a possible deal offering protections to the young undocumented immigrants known as ‘dreamers’ in exchange for tougher immigration provisions, such as an end to family-sponsored migration. The discussion quickly turned into a shouting match — an expletive-laden ‘blowup,’ according to one person familiar with the gathering. Another person described it as ‘just a fundamental disagreement within the movement.’”

COURT BLOWS UP PENNSYLVANIA HOUSE RACES
AP: “The Pennsylvania Supreme Court struck down the state’s congressional map Monday, granting a major victory to Democrats who charged that the 18 districts were unconstitutionally gerrymandered to benefit Republicans. The Democratic-controlled court, which said that the districts violate the state constitution, gave the Republican-controlled Legislature until Feb. 9 to pass a replacement and Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf until Feb. 15 to submit it to the court.  Otherwise, the justices said they will adopt a plan in an effort to keep the May 15 primary election on track. The court said the boundaries ‘clearly, plainly and palpably’ violate the state’s constitution, and blocked it from remaining in effect for the 2018 elections. The deadline to file paperwork to run in primaries for the state’s congressional seats is March 6. The defendants — top Republican lawmakers — said they were outraged by the decision. They said it lacks clarity and respect for the constitution, and that they would ask the U.S. Supreme Court to step in and halt the decision.”

But Democratic left promises primary fights – McClatchy: “A group of progressive House Democrats is preparing to make a major effort in its party’s primaries this year, buoyed by a surge in liberal energy that has left them flush with cash and enough confidence to unveil a series of endorsements in competitive primaries. It’s a significant escalation from the group’s previous political efforts, and it already has some Democrats worried that liberal candidates could complicate the party’s path to a House majority. ‘This really is our moment,’ said Rep. Mark Pocan, co-chair of the House Progressive Caucus. … The Congressional Progressive Caucus PAC’s plan takes advantage of the wave of progressive energy that has transformed the Democratic Party since Donald Trump’s election, one that has turned millions of voters into engaged liberal activists and pushed issues such as single-payer health care to the forefront.”

AFL-CIO declines to endorse Cruz challenger –
Texas Tribune: “The political arm of the Texas AFL-CIO has declined to endorse U.S. Rep. Beto O’Rourke, D-El Paso, in his campaign to unseat U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, after O’Rourke did not appear at its convention this weekend in Austin. On Sunday, the labor group released a list of statewide candidates it had decided to support, and it offered no endorsement in the Senate race. The group’s constitution requires two-thirds support to endorse a candidate, and O’Rourke did not make the cut, said Rick Levy, the president of the Texas AFL-CIO. ‘I think that our members don’t like to be just taken for granted,’ Levy told The Texas Tribune.”

GOP WANTS ANSWERS ON MISSING FBI TEXTS
WaPo: “The FBI did not retain text messages exchanged by two senior officials involved in the probes of Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump for a five-month period… according to a new congressional letter. The letter from Sen. Ron Johnson (R-Wis.), chairman of the Senate Homeland Security and Government Affairs Committee, to FBI Director Christopher A. Wray indicates the Justice Department has turned over to lawmakers a new batch of texts from senior FBI agent Peter Strzok and FBI lawyer Lisa Page. The messages have not been made public. … Republicans said the texts revealed political bias at the bureau’s highest levels. … Johnson’s weekend letter said his committee received 384 pages of new Strzok-Page texts late Friday. The lawmaker is asking the FBI to explain in more detail why it ‘did not preserve text messages between Ms. Page and Mr. Strzok between approximately December 14, 2016 and May 17, 2017.’”

PLAY-BY-PLAY
Trump reportedly dumping on Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross – Axios

Pence announces U.S. Embassy move to Jerusalem will occur by the end of 2019 – ABC News

H.R. McMaster replaces Dina Powell with new deputy national security adviser – Politico

Rep. Pat Meehan, R-Pa., settles sexual harassment case – NYT

AUDIBLE: **BLINKS RAPIDLY**
“I think ardent Republicans think Republicans are winning and ardent Democrats think Democrats are winning. And everybody else in America is kind of wondering how folks up here made it through the birth canal.” – Sen. John Kennedy, R-La., on the politics of the shutdown.

FROM THE BLEACHERS
“My question is simple, how are these three rights supposed to be interpreted?  Pro-life people will say that life is the most important, but at the same time pro-choice people will talk about liberty. Both can be construed as affecting the pursuit of happiness positively or negatively depending on your view point. Did the founders intend for the order to be based on importance of how they saw it? Aren’t all three supposed to be held in equal grounds? I feel like as politics has become more evolved over time people have taken it upon themselves to interpret it how they see fit.” – Jeff Cox, Broken Arrow, Okla.

[Ed. note: Our fundamental freedoms necessarily exist within the context of our current culture, technology and knowledge. The reason the Constitution cannot sufficiently answer the question of abortion to the satisfaction of all is that the question rests on matters scientific and philosophical. The reason the terminology of the debate – “life” and “choice” – came to be is that each side couches its argument on natural, fundamental human rights. The question of when a human being is alive and when the rights afforded to all men and women are applicable is not made clear by our founding document. None of the Framers could have imagined conditions of culture or science that would allow for such a debate to even take place. Every person must answer the question in their heart of when an unborn child is deemed worthy of those rights. The rights of individuals, after all, are the highest aim of our charter.]

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‘LITTLE ARM PROBZ’
AP: “His name means ‘king of the tyrant lizards,’ but sometimes Tyrannosaurus rex just wants to party. Make that many T. rexes. Hundreds of curious people descended on Portland’s Monument Square on Saturday to observe a gathering of dinosaur lovers dressed as the science museum staple. There were dozens of T. rexes, and they danced, growled and milled around. One who struggled to navigate his costume walked around with his head protruding awkwardly from the dinosaur’s gaping mouth. Valerie Sanborn and Alison Cyr set up the Cretaceous Period party through Facebook. A non-participant was summoned to snap a group photo because of T. rex’s ‘little arm probz.’”

Chris Stirewalt is the politics editor for Fox News. Brianna McClelland contributed to this report. Want FOX News Halftime Report in your inbox every day? Sign up here.

Chris Stirewalt joined Fox News Channel (FNC) in July of 2010 and serves as politics editor based in Washington, D.C.

Eiza Gonzalez Responds to Critics Who Question Her Mexican Pride

Mexican actress Eiza Gonzalez, who starred in the movie Baby Driver and Justin Timberlake’s latest music videoSupplies,” has raised the ire of followers on social media for the perception that she denies her roots now that she has found success in Hollywood.

On Jan. 16, the 27-year-old actress recommended — in English — neuroscientist A. David Redish’s The Mind Within the Brain, prompting some to question why the Mexican star didn’t write her post in her native tongue. “I ask myself: Did you forget to write and speak Spanish?” one fan wrote. “Please, we follow you in Mexico and you always post in English. Did you forget Spanish?” another added. “She forgot Spanish already. I really dislike Mexicans who feel they are gringos,” a third responded.

Some even threatened to stop following her because, they said, they don’t understand English. The former From Dusk Till Dawn star, who’s been been vocal about her opposition to the Trump administration’s policy on the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), is not one to pull punches. She responded to her critics swiftly: “There is a button at the bottom on Instagram that says ‘translate’ and if I write everything in English it translates it to whichever language the person speaks, including Spanish. If I write in two languages, [the platform’s translator] doesn’t recognize it.”

Gonzalez eschewed the notion that she’s less Latina for writing in English:  “I don’t understand this thing that because I write in a global language I feel less Mexican. It’s just looking for excuses to criticize, that’s my opinion,” she wrote.

Some fans, however, didn’t buy her explanation: “But your followers are Spanish speakers, besides you are not a consecrated Hollywood star like Salma Hayek. You are more known for soap operas than for films,” one follower replied. Others defended the actress: “God, just let her write in whatever language she wants. People always want to criticize her! There is not one photo of Eiza where someone doesn’t complain about this topic, saying she denies her roots and is not proud of her country just because she writes in English, a universal language that a great majority of people use to communicate every day,” a devoted fan retorted.

Gonzalez hit pause on further engagement to turn her attention to a more pressing matter. On Jan. 21, she shared a photo of herself at the Women’s March in Los Angeles, wearing a t-shirt bearing the slogan: “Never underestimate the power of a girl who knows what she wants.”

In an inspiring message to fellow marchers that could just as easily been directed at critics who rail against her use of English and challenge her Mexican pride, she wrote: “[L] let’s always keep kindness in mind, let’s keep our hearts and minds open to listen, to SEE, to FEEL others. Let’s share our stories to allow a safe environment of consciousness to occur. But let’s remember hate only creates more hate. Resist, NOT repress. We shall lead as example of what we ask.”