Headlines: April 29, 2019
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A 19-year old man killed a 60-year old woman at a synagogue in Poway, California in the latest incidence of violence aimed at a house of worship. The young white man walked into the synagogue in Poway, a small town north of San Diego, armed with an AR-15 rifle, shouting anti-Semitic slurs when he began firing. Lori Gilbert Kaye jumped in front of the rabbi, Yisroel Goldstein, and died. Rabbi Goldstein suffered gunshot wounds to his hands. According to the New York Times, “Officials said they’re investigating whether [the shooter] posted a racist manifesto on the online message board 8chan ahead of the attack.” Apparently, “[t]he document is an anti-Semitic screed filled with white nationalist conspiracy theories. Its author said he was inspired by a horrific mass shooting at a mosque in Christchurch, New Zealand, which was streamed online, and the massacre at a synagogue in Pittsburgh, which took place exactly six months prior.” At a rally in Wisconsin on Saturday, President Donald Trump, who has been widely cited as inspiration by racists, denounced the Poway attack saying it, “looks like a hate crime.”
Just a day before the attack Trump dug in his heels about remarks he had made in the wake of the 2017 white supremacist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia when he said there were, “very fine people on both sides.” Trump on Friday said, “I was talking about people that went because they felt very strongly about the monument to Robert E. Lee.” Several Republicans on Sunday, rather than calling out Trump’s white nationalist rhetoric, singled out Minnesota Representative Ilhan Omar instead. Texas Senator Ted Cruz tweeted, “The anti-Semitic Left . . . is getting worse…Responsible Dems need to say Enough is Enough.” Prominent conservative Meghan McCain, daughter of the late Senator John McCain said on ABC’s This Week, “When we’re having conversations about anti-Semitism, we should be looking at the most extreme on both sides.” She cited Congresswoman Omar by name.
Meanwhile Omar had tweeted, “My heart is breaking after today’s deadly shooting at Chabad Congregation in San Diego—on the last day of Passover and 6 months to the day after the Tree of Life shooting. We as a nation must confront the terrifying rise of religious hate and violence. Love trumps hate.” San Diego authorities have announced there is evidence that the Poway Synagogue shooter had set fire to a mosque in Escondido. And, not receiving much news coverage is the fact that in Sunnyvale, California last week a man plowed his car into an intersection full of people saying later that he thought they were Muslims. A 13-year old Indian girl named Dhriti is in critical condition after being hit, fighting for her life.
White House Counselor Kellyanne Conway, who defended Trump’s remarks on Charlottesville on Sunday also took aim at another one of the right’s favorite targets: Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. Conway accused Ocasio-Cortez of tweeting multiple times about the New Zealand mosque massacre but not the Sri Lanka Easter bombings of churches. To that Ocasio-Cortez shot back on Twitter saying she was in Puerto Rico on Easter without access to the internet and called Trump out for his refusal to accept how many Puerto Ricans really died from Hurricane Maria. She also condemned the Poway and Sri Lanka attacks and challenged Conway, “let’s do more to welcome immigrants fleeing religious persecution.”
In other news, at his Wisconsin rally on Saturday Trump repeated a lie he has often resorted to in order to win over the evangelical Christian right – that Democrats are in favor of “executing” babies. At the Green Bay rally Trump said the Democratic Governor Tony Evers, who beat Trump ally Scott Walker last November, “shockingly stated that he will veto legislation that protects Wisconsin babies born alive.” “The baby is born,” Trump said. “The mother meets with the doctor. They take care of the baby. They wrap the baby beautifully, and then the doctor and the mother determine whether or not they will execute the baby.” The medical community has been appalled at Trump’s blatant lies on the issue, calling him out for politicizing what is usually the worst day of parents’ lives. Meanwhile the Washington Post reported a new milestone for Trump after his Wisconsin rally – the President has now surpassed 10,000 lies since he took office. The paper, which has been carefully tracking Trump’s unprecedented dishonesty, noted that the rate of lies has been increasing rapidly as well.
A battle has emerged between Attorney General William Barr and House Judiciary Chairman Jerrold Nadler. Over the weekend Barr suggested he may refuse to testify to Congress about the Special Counsel’s report because he does not agree with a format allowing Committee staff to ask him questions. Congressman Nadler shot back saying, “The witness is not going to tell the committee how to conduct its hearing, period.” Committee staffers, including attorneys, have questioned witnesses in past hearings. Nadler has scheduled the hearing for this Thursday and may have to subpoena the Attorney General if he does not comply. The White House is also reportedly threatening to block former Counselor Don McGahn from testifying about his testimony in the Special Counsel report, citing Executive Privilege. Over the weekend high-ranking Republican Congressman Lindsey Graham was asked during an interview what he thought about Trump reportedly asking McGahn to fire Special Counsel Robert Mueller. Graham responded, “It doesn’t matter…I don’t care what he said to Don McGahn. … I don’t care what happened between him and Don McGahn.”
The Measles outbreak has continued to surge through the US, fueled in large part by the so-called anti-vaxxer movement that erroneously links vaccines to autism. There are now over 700 cases in over 22 states – more than 500 in people who are unvaccinated. Infants, the elderly, and those who have allergic reactions to vaccines, are the most vulnerable to the outbreak.
The US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) issued a 150-page warning to Americans on Saturday – against the coming impacts of climate change. According to the Washington Post, “The language, included in guidance on how to address the debris left in the wake of floods, hurricanes and wildfires, is at odds with the rhetoric of the EPA’s own leader, Andrew Wheeler.” Mr. Wheeler – a former coal industry lobbyist – has been among the top Trump-administration officials refusing to take action on climate change saying only recently in an interview that, “most of the threats from climate change are 50 to 75 years out.” Meanwhile in London, England, where climate activists have been bringing the city to a standstill over climate inaction, a new collaboration between groups is planned for Wednesday. Activists plan to confront Parliament on the day that the Labor Party, which has endorsed the idea of a climate emergency, will lobby Conservatives to join in.
And finally Spain held elections on Sunday with the Socialist Workers Party (PSOE) claiming victory for position of Prime Minister and winning 29% of seats in Parliament. Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez, said, “We’ve sent out the message that we don’t want to regress or reverse. We want a country that looks forward and advances.” But in order to govern, the PSOE will need to form a coalition government with smaller parties. The conservative Popular Party won only 17% of votes. But a new, far-right party called Vox, which the Guardian described as “openly misogynist and xenophobic,” won 10% of seats giving the fringe organization official say in the Parliament. Voter turnout was the highest it has been in decades but it remains to be seen if a coalition government can be formed.