Headlines: April 25, 2019
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Former Vice President Joe Biden has formally announced his candidacy for President, ending months of speculation. In a 3-minute video posted to social media on Thursday Biden made the case that the 2020 election was about “the battle for the soul of the nation.” He centered his announcement around the neo-Nazi and white supremacist gathering in 2017 in Charlottesville, Virginia, calling out President Trump’s response. The 76-year old career politician is coming under criticism for taking a leadership role in the Democratic Party in the 1980s and 90s promoting mass incarceration and the “war on drugs.” He has also faced charges being a war hawk in the push to invade Iraq. And, most recently come under fire from women for inappropriate touching and kissing but had dismissed the accusations and even made light of them. Just hours after the announcement Biden was expected to attend a big donor fundraiser for his campaign hosted by corporate Wall Street bigwigs including executives from the telecomm giant Comcast and the health insurance company Independence Blue Cross.
The group She The People organized a major Presidential summit on Wednesday in Houston, Texas where 1,700 largely women of color gathered to watch candidates respond to a slew of questions. Accepting invitations to the summit were Senators Bernie Sanders, Kamala Harris, Corey Booker, and Elizabeth Warren, as well as former Texas representative Beto O’Rourke, former San Antonio, Texas mayor Julian Castro. Senator Sanders, who has emerged as a frontrunner faced a challenging question from hosts Joy Ann Reid and Aimee Allison about how he planned to win over black women voters. Here is Senator Kamala Harris being asked about immigration.
Amnesty International released a major report on Thursday about US-led massacres of more than 1,600 civilians in Raqqa, Syria from June to October of 2017. The report, entitled, “Rhetoric Versus Reality in the War in Raqqa,” is based on a detailed months-long documentation and analysis of the devastation in an area that the US and its allies bombed indiscriminately in order to oust the Islamic State. The report explained how, “Four months of relentless bombardment reduced homes, businesses and infrastructure to rubble. Civilians were caught in the crossfire in a city that had become a death trap. IS snipers and landmines prevented them from fleeing, while the Coalition’s air bombardments and reckless artillery strikes killed them in their homes.” Whole families were wiped out and the US has yet to acknowledge its role or the extent of the loss of life.
In other international news Russian President Vladimir Putin and North Korean leader Kim Jong Unjust wrapped up a high-level one-day meeting in Vladivostok where they focused on North Korea’s denuclearization. Russia has positioned itself as a broker between the US and North Korea after talks between those two nations faltered. According to Associated Press, Mr. Kim, “is willing to give up his nuclear weapons — but only if he gets an ironclad security guarantee first.” Some have speculated that Russia is angling for access to North Korea’s mineral deposits.
In London, activists with Extinction Rebellion have continued their mass actions of civil disobedience demanding that the UK government take radical action to fight climate change. On Thursday a group glued themselves to one another in blocking the London Stock Exchange. Another group did the same outside the Treasury. Some activists climbed onto a train and dropped banners and some blocked roads and bridges. The goal of Thursday’s actions, according to Extinction Rebellion, was to focus on the financial industry, “and the corrosive impacts of the financial sector on the world we live in.” One activist told the BBC, “people are making millions, even billions of pounds out of trading ecological destruction.”
Back here in the US, President Donald Trump has taken issue with the Special Counsel’s report tweeting on Thursday morning, “As has been incorrectly reported by the Fake News Media, I never told then White House Counsel Don McGahn to fire Robert Mueller, even though I had the legal right to do so. If I wanted to fire Mueller, I didn’t need McGahn to do it, I could have done it myself.” House Judiciary committee chair Jerrold Nadler has subpoenaed McGahn to testify next month and also turn over critical records and documents. Meanwhile Hillary Clinton wrote an op-ed in the Washington Post on Thursday morning saying that, “Mueller documented a serious crime against all Americans.” In it she offered her advice on how lawmakers could systematically hold hearings and aggressively pursue the facts without pre-determining if impeachment was the final step.
The state of Texas on Wednesday executed 44-year old John William King who had been convicted for the gruesome 1998 killing of a black man named James Byrd Jr. King was an avowed white supremacist and was executed by a lethal dose of pentobarbital.
In Florida, Nouman Raja, a former police officer from Palm Beach Gardens will face sentencing in the fatal shooting of a black man named Corey Jones. Raja was convicted of manslaughter and first-degree murder in a rare case of accountability for police brutality. He faces a maximum penalty of life in prison.
Facebook says it is facing a whopping $5 billion fine from the Federal Trade Commission for privacy violations. The social media giant revealed the expected figure in its quarterly financial disclosures. The company has been in negotiations with the government agency for months over charges that it violated a consent decree in 2011.
The nation’s most powerful gun lobby group, the NRA, is scheduled to hold its annual convention in Indianapolis and ahead of the meeting the group Everytown for Gun Safety released a provocative ad. The ad accuses the lobby group of, “becoming more fringe and more toxic to the Americans it has long claimed to represent.” AP reported that infighting has weakened the organization pointing out that, “the NRA sued its longtime public relations firm, Ackerman McQueen, accusing it of refusing to hand over financial records to account for its billings.” Ackerman Queen has worked alongside the NRA for decades and runs NRATV. Meanwhile on Wednesday the gun lobby group sued the city of Los Angeles over a new law requiring city contractors to reveal if they have financial ties to the NRA.