Headlines: April 8, 2019
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Kirstjen Nielsen, Head of the Department of Homeland Security announced her resignation on Sunday night after meeting with President Donald Trump. Nielsen’s resignation will be effective on Wednesday and comes shortly after Trump withdrew his nomination of Ron Vitiello to head the Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency saying he wanted someone “tougher.” In her resignation letter Nielsen wrote, “I hope that the next secretary will have the support of Congress and the courts in fixing the laws which have impeded our ability to fully secure America’s borders and which have contributed to discord in our nation’s discourse.” On Monday morning she spoke outside her home to reporters. On Monday the New York Times editorial board said that she, “will be remembered for the forced separation of thousands of migrant families,” but that, “her replacement could be worse.” Nielsen Kevin McAleenan, head of Customs and Border Protection will step in as acting Homeland Security Director.
NBC News is reporting that Trump forced Nielsen out in part because he wants to reverse his own executive order from last year halting the family separation policy at the US-Mexico border. Trump’s hawkish white-supremacist adviser Stephen Miller, who is known to have designed the President’s harsh policies aimed at traumatizing immigrants as a deterrent is apparently pushing for more agency heads to be pushed out. On Friday government officials filed a document in a court case to reunite separated children with their parents saying it would take them, “at least 12 months, and possibly up to 24 months,” to finish the task. Also on Friday, Trump visited a section of refurbished fencing at the border in Calexico and announced that the nation was too full to take in more migrants.
In other news, state lawmakers in New York are attempting to obtain Trump’s state tax returns in parallel with a federal effort in the House. A bill expected to be introduced this week would request returns from the New York Department of Taxation and Finance. New York state senator Brad Hoylman said the bill was, “a safety valve for any attempt by the White House to block the Congress from doing this at the federal level.”
In Louisiana, a spate of church fires has authorities worrying about a suspicious trend. In the span of just ten days three historically black churches have caught on fire, all in the same parish. State Fire Marshal H. Browning released a statement about the fires in St. Landry Parish saying, “There is clearly something happening in this community.” According to CNN, the FBI, and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives are investigating the fires.
Federal officials have arrested a Trump supporter in New York for threatening to assault and kill House Democrat Ilhan Omar, one of two first Muslim American women in Congress. Omar’s office received a threatening phone call from the man on March 21st. The call was referred to federal authorities who then tracked down the caller and arrested him. The man apparently told investigators that he, “loves the president and that he hates radical Muslims in our government.” Just a day after the arrest, as if to underscore his violent intentions toward Omar, the President singled out Representative Omar in a speech before the Republican Jewish Coalition in Las Vegas reminding his supporters, many of who are armed, how little he thinks of the freshman Muslim Congresswoman.
In other news, breaking precedent yet again, Trump on Monday moved to declare the Iranian Revolutionary Guard as a terrorist organization. It is the first time that the US has given such a designation to the military arm of a foreign nation. In a statement the President said that it, “underscores the fact that Iran’s actions are fundamentally different from those of other governments.” According to the New York Times, “The action takes effect on April 15 and imposes wide-ranging economic and travel sanctions on the military unit as well as the organizations, companies or individuals that have ties to it — including officials in Iraq, an American ally.” Meanwhile in Iran, there has been massive flooding due to heavy rains over the past two weeks that have killed dozens and displaced tens of thousands of people.
In other international news, the US has pulled its troops out of Libya – apparently a temporary move – as heavy fighting nears the capital of Tripoli. A rebel commanders from an Eastern province has launched an effort to take over the capital as Libya continues to struggle internally years after the US intervened and ousted the commander Muammar Gaddafi. Doctors Without Borders is warning that hundreds of migrants, including women and children, are trapped in detention centers, and could become victims to the violence in Tripoli.
Saudi Arabia has come under fire once more for air strikes on Yemen over the weekend that killed nearly a dozen civilians. Authorities announced that the strikes, aimed at a residential neighborhood in the capital Sanaa, took the lives of mostly children. More than a hundred people were injured. Both Houses of the US Congress have passed a resolution to end US support for the Saudi war but Trump is expected to veto it. Meanwhile Yemen is struggling with what is being dubbed the “world’s worst cholera outbreak,” that has already claimed the lives of thousands.
Israelis are heading to the polls on Tuesday to determine whether or not to reelect right wing Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Over the weekend Netanyahu shocked the world in declaring that if he were to be reelected he would annex the West Bank, home to more than two and a half million Palestinians. According to the New York Times, Trump’s support for Netanyahu’s hardline policies is a, “‘historic opportunity’ to proceed with annexation of some, much or even all of the West Bank.”
And finally this weekend marked the 25th anniversary of the start of the Rwandan genocide. Commemorations include a 100-day mourning period – the time that a pogrom of mass killing wiped out one tenth of Rwanda’s population. Lighting a “remembrance flame” in the capital Kigali, President Paul Kagame said, “Together, we have woven the tattered threads of our unity into a new tapestry.”