“The president,” he said, “would like a Diet Coke.”

The Atlantic: Why Mike Pence Couldn’t End the Shutdown. “The vice president has led negotiations to reopen the government. But even after the White House’s state-of-emergency threat, he doesn’t appear to have the authority to do much about it.”

“White House allies on the Hill and former administration officials acknowledged privately that the vice president may be more hamstrung than ever, unable to capitalize on many of the strengths he was originally chosen for. But crucially, those sources said, Pence has never expressed any displeasure with his circumstances, and would never suggest, even privately they say, that Trump’s whims have made shuttle diplomacy difficult. “There’s a reason Pence has avoided the fate of so many others,” another former senior White House official told me. “He acquiesces entirely to the will of Trump 100 percent of the time.””

Link via MetaFilter.

“[D]eeply troubling” indeed

The Washington Post: A woman in a vegetative state for years gave birth. Police are investigating..

“A near-drowning had left the woman in a persistent vegetative state for nearly a decade. […] None of the staff were aware that she was pregnant until she was pretty much giving birth. […] The birth — and the sexual assault of a vulnerable individual that must have preceded it — has cast a harsh glare on conditions at a nonprofit organization that bills itself as a leading provider of health care for Phoenix’s medically fragile.”

I had a friend who was in a persistent vegetative state after a car accident – for fifteen years. She passed away almost two years ago. I hope that the case above is investigated thoroughly so that mistreatment like this cannot happen again. This must be horrible for her family and friends – and for the new baby, once it grows up and learns about its origin.

“[H]aving to make a choice, when no good options exist”

NPR: To Get Mental Health Help For A Child, Desperate Parents Relinquish Custody.

“The family had private insurance through Jim’s job, and Daniel also had Medicaid coverage because he was adopted. But neither insurance would pay for that treatment. Exhausted and desperate, the Hoys decided to relinquish custody to the state. If they sent Daniel back into the foster care system, the child welfare agency would be obligated to pay for the services he needed.

“To this day, it’s the most gut-wrenching thing I’ve ever had to do in my life,” Jim says.”

This reminded me of an episode of This American Life that aired in the spring of 2018:

This American Life: 643: Damned If You Do…

“And then she heard about another option, a radical one, a last resort. Eileen talked to a mom who had been in a similar situation to hers, Toni Hoy.

And what Toni had done to get her kid treatment was give up custody of him, hand him over to the state. Once the state takes custody of a child, they have to provide mental health care. It’s a perverse legal loophole that exists in a bunch of states. It’s called a psychiatric lockout. It’s meant to ensure that kids who are abandoned by their parents end up with the care that they need.

But instead, desperate parents like Eileen are using it as a last-ditch effort of making sure their kids get treatment. It’s called a lockout because it’s as if the kid has been locked out of their house. Some child welfare workers even tell parents to do it. It’s called lockout coaching.

The way it would work is the next time Noah was hospitalized, Eileen would refuse to pick him up and bring him home. Eventually, the state would take custody of him and pay for him to live in a residential facility. And that was it. Technically, it was easy. Emotionally, of course, it was much harder.”

Turns out Eileen spoke to the family from the NPR article above about how to get help for her son.

The far side of the moon

Deutsche Welle: China gelingt erste Landung auf Mondrückseite. “Das schwierige Manöver ist den Chinesen nach eigenen Angaben im ersten Versuch geglückt: Eine Raumsonde erreichte die Mondoberfläche und soll jetzt die Umgebung erkunden – an Bord ist auch deutsche Technik.”

“Es ist ein historischer Erfolg der noch jungen Raumfahrt-Nation China: Um 3.26 Uhr (MEZ) landete die am 8. Dezember gestartete “Chang’e 4” am Aitken-Krater in der Nähe des Südpols des Erdtrabanten. Das berichteten die amtliche Nachrichtenagentur Xinhua und der Staatssender CCTV.

Damit ist China die erste Nation, die auf der erdabgewandten Seite des Mondes gelandet ist. Nach der erfolgreichen Landung der “Chang’e 4″ soll ein Roboterfahrzeug das Terrain um die Landestelle erkunden. Dafür ist es mit einer Panoramakamera und vielen Messgeräten ausgestattet.”