Headlines: August 15, 2019
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Congresswomen Rashida Tlaib and Ilhan Omar have been denied entry to Israel ahead of their much-publicized planned visit. Shockingly President Donald Trump tweeted that Israel should deny his own nation’s democratically elected representatives entry. He wrote, “It would show great weakness if Israel allowed Rep. Omar and Rep.Tlaib to visit. They hate Israel & all Jewish people, & there is nothing that can be said or done to change their minds. Minnesota and Michigan will have a hard time putting them back in office. They are a disgrace!” Trump had privately been pressuring Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu last week to stop the two freshmen members of Congress who became the US’s two first Muslim American lawmakers. According to Axios, which reported on the story, “Trump said that if Omar and Tlaib wanted to boycott Israel, ‘then Israel should boycott them,’ according to a source with direct knowledge.” Presidential candidate and Senator Bernie Sanders condemned the move saying, “Banning Congresswomen Omar and Tlaib from entering Israel and Palestine is a sign of enormous disrespect to these elected leaders, to the United States Congress, and to the principles of democracy.” Earlier this week at a campaign event in New Hampshire Sanders said, “the United States government gives a whole lot of money to Israel and I think we can leverage that money to end some of the racism that we have recently seen in Israel.” A new poll found Sanders leading the candidate field in New Hampshire ahead even of Joe Biden.
Meanwhile the Wall Street Journal is reporting that the US recently arranged for secret meetings between Israel and the United Arab Emirates in order to coordinate action aimed at Iran. And the US had requested the seizure of an Iranian oil tanker that had been held by authorities in Gibraltar. But Gibraltar decided to release the vessel and its crew back to Iran. Iranian authorities have indicated that if their vessel was released, it might return a British oil tanker that it had seized.
Here in the US, partial results from Jeffrey Epstein’s autopsy have been released, only deepening the mystery surrounding his apparent suicide. The billionaire sex offender was reported to have hanged himself at the Metropolitan Correctional Center on Saturday morning but now it appears that several of his neck bones were broken. According to the Washington Post, “Such breaks can occur in those who hang themselves, particularly if they are older, according to forensics experts and studies on the subject. But they are more common in victims of homicide by strangulation, the experts said.”
Republican Congressman Steve King of Iowa has revealed his extremist views yet again and drawn widespread condemnation. The Des Moines Register first reported his remarks to a conservative club and posted a video remarking that there may not be any population in the world that wasn’t borne of rape or incest. King is known for his overtly racist and white supremacist views.
Cardinal George Pell of Australia is appealing his conviction and imprisonment for child sexual abuse. Pell became the highest-ranking Catholic and Vatican official to be ensnared in the widespread scandal of church-sanctioned pedophilia. If he wins his appeal he could be freed by next week. If he loses he may appeal to Australia’s highest court. Meanwhile here in the US, hundreds of lawsuits by people suing over their own experiences of child sexual abuse flooded New York’s courts on the first day that a new so-called look back law took effect. The new law increased the statute of limitations for abuse victims to sue by raising the age limit from 23 to 55. But for one year people of any age can sue. Among them are scores of victims of Catholic priest predators.
An hours-long shootout in Philadelphia has resulted in six police officers being shot and wounded. Thirty-six year old Maurice Hill was taken into custody after police threw tear gas into the building where he was holed up. Meanwhile two major gun control organizations, Gun Safety Action Fund and Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense, have planned political actions and rallies across the US in all 50 states to demand elected officials take action. But to President Donald Trump there is no reason to worry about gun violence. . Trump has been promoting on his Twitter page the views of a criminologist who has claimed, “There is no evidence that we are in the midst of an epidemic of mass shootings.” In fact the number of mass shootings has been increasing steadily. A new poll found that a plurality of Americans feel that Trump himself has increased the risk of mass shootings. In other news, the parents of the Dayton, Ohio mass shooter have come under fire for publishing an obituary for their son that failed to mention that he massacred 8 people and instead lauded him as a, “a funny, articulate and intelligent man with striking blue eyes and a kind smile.” They also published an obit for his sister, who he killed, making no mention of the fact that their son killed their daughter.
The New York Times has published a lengthy investigation based on newly unearthed documents, about the billionaire heiress who became the funder of the modern anti-immigrant white nationalist movement. Cordelia Scaife May poured her wealth into founding today’s leading anti-immigrant organizations, Federation for American Immigration Reform, NumbersUSA and the Center for Immigration Studies, among others. Although she died 14 years ago her money remains in a foundation that continues to pump dollars into the white nationalist movement that has powered Trump’s presidency.
A man driving a truck for Immigration and Customs Enforcement, believed to be a correctional officer, drove right through scores of non-violent protesters who were blocking the entrance to Wyatt Detention Center in Rhode Island. Never Again Action, which is comprised of primarily young Jewish Americans calling for an end to the concentration camp-like conditions of immigrant detention, had organized the action. The group posted this video showing the truck driver’s actions. According to Newsweek, “Five protesters suffered non-life threatening injuries from being hit by the truck.”
In other news stocks tumbled again this week, sparking fears of a US recession. Economists reacted to the Dow Jones fall of 800 points – the biggest drop of the year – saying, “The countdown to a recession has just started.” And the Washington Post reported that, “Nine major economies around the world are in recession or on the verge of one, raising fears that a global economic slowdown could help tip the United States into an economic contraction as well.” President Trump has claimed he is presiding over the strongest economy in decades even though his trade war has increased volatility in the stock market.
And finally a team of scientists studying the Arctic has found micro-plastics in samples of ice cores they drilled. One of the researchers, Jacob Strock told Reuters, “When we look at it up close and we see that it’s all very, very visibly contaminated when you look at it with the right tools — it felt a little bit like a punch in the gut.” Scientists had assumed that the area they were studying might be sheltered from micro-plastic pollution. Another scientist said, “The plastic just jumped out in both its abundance and its scale.” The findings come at the same time that fossil fuels companies are seeing the writing on the wall with regard to climate change and are turning to plastic production instead – a move that Trump is championing. Plastic production also exacerbates climate change, and contaminates the planet and species.