Headlines: August 16, 2019
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Israel granted Congresswoman Rashida Tlaib entry to the West Bank on humanitarian grounds. The move came a day after Israel capitulated to President Donald Trump’s demand to deny Tlaib and her colleague Ilhan Omar entry into Israel and the Palestinian territories. But Tlaib has now refused to accept Israel’s offer, which included strict conditions such as not speaking out about human rights violations of Palestinians. On her Twitter feed Tlaib, who wanted to visit her elderly grandmother in the West Bank, wrote, “Silencing me & treating me like a criminal is not what she wants for me. It would kill a piece of me. I have decided that visiting my grandmother under these oppressive conditions stands against everything I believe in–fighting against racism, oppression & injustice.”
On Friday morning Trump addressed the controversy with reporters saying this about Representatives Omar and Tlaib, the first two Muslim American female members of Congress, who he has taken particular aim at since their election. A day earlier, Trump addressed his supporters at a campaign rally in New Hampshire where he fat-shamed a man after several protesters disrupted the rally. What Trump did not realize is that the man he fat-shamed was actually one of his own supporters who happened to be standing near the protesters. Trump also instructed his supporters to vote for him if they wanted to keep the economy strong. Trump also continued slamming the so-called “fake news media” and belittled gun control efforts in the wake of major mass shootings and blamed mental illness instead.
Meanwhile a new poll conducted by Fox News, Trump’s favorite media outlet, spells trouble for the President’s reelection prospects when matched up against the top four Democratic Presidential candidates. According to a Washington Post analysis of the poll, “He trails Joe Biden by 12 percentage points, Sen. Bernie Sanders by nine points, Sen. Elizabeth Warren by seven and Sen. Kamala D. Harris by six.”
News emerged this week that Trump has been seriously considering buying the Dutch territory of Greenland. According to the Wall Street Journal, “In meetings, at dinners and in passing conversations, Mr. Trump has asked advisers whether the U.S. can acquire Greenland, listened with interest when they discuss its abundant resources and geopolitical importance and, according to two of the people, has asked his White House counsel to look into the idea.” A day after the story broke lawmakers from Greenland and Denmark brushed aside the idea saying Greenland was not for sale. According to the Washington Post, “Danish politicians from across the spectrum reacted with bewilderment, ridicule and outright anger over what they perceived to be a deeply inappropriate suggestion.”
Associated Press published an exclusive investigation together with PBS’s Frontline into how dozens of migrant parents are suing the US government over emotional, physical, and sexual abuse of their children who were separated from them by the Trump Administration and placed in foster care. The lawsuits are expected to put taxpayers on the hook for billions of dollars as a result of Trump’s anti-immigrant policies. AP detailed horrific stories of abuse of children as young as 5. Meanwhile judges on the Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco turned down a government appeal of a lower court ruling affirming the right of children in US detention to have access to basic hygiene items like soap. The judges wrote, “Assuring that children eat enough edible food, drink clean water, are housed in hygienic facilities with sanitary bathrooms, have soap and toothpaste, and are not sleep-deprived are without doubt essential to the children’s safety.”
In other immigration news, California joined a dozen other states in suing the Federal government over the new Trump rule restricting green cards for immigrants who use public assistance. The rule is set to take effect in mid-October. California Attorney General Xavier Becerra said, “This cruel policy would force working parents and families across the nation to forego basic necessities like food, housing, and health care out of fear. That is simply unacceptable.” Hundreds of Google employees have signed onto a public petition pledging their refusal to work with the Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) or Customs and Border Patrol (CBP) agencies. They want their employer to not bid on a cloud computing contract with CBP.
A video of a police shooting of a 19-year old black man in Colorado Springs, Colorado, has called into question the official version of events. In early August De’Von Bailey and another young black man were confronted by police who claimed they fit the description of armed suspects. Bailey panicked and ran away. Police fired three shots into his back as he ran, claiming he was reaching for his waistband. The video shows police handcuffing his body before giving him medical attention. His family is calling for an independent investigation saying Bailey did not reach for a gun. And, a white woman in the town of Wynne, Arkansas has come under fire for holding two black teens at gunpoint after their approached her front door fundraising for their school. She now faces multiple charges.
In international news, Trump will be meeting with several military advisers to finalize the withdrawal of some US troops from Afghanistan. In attendance will be State Secretary Mike Pompeo and Special Envoy Zalmay Khalilzad. There is a tentative plan to withdraw 5,000 out of 14,000 US troops serving in the longest official war the US has ever waged.
Myanmar and Bangladesh are making a second attempt at the resettlement of Muslim Rohingya refugees, with the oversight of the United Nations. More than 2 years ago Myanmar engaged in a months-long pogrom against the Rohingya people widely denounced as genocidal, leading to 700,000 people fleeing into neighboring Bangladesh. A few thousand of them have now signed up for voluntary repatriation to their homeland. A similar attempt at repatriation last year stalled.
And finally in Hong Kong, protesters are readying for the 11th weekend in a row of mass demonstrations, with 4 marches planned on Saturday alone. All are unpermitted marches. China, which has threatened military action against Hong Kong in retaliation, has been engaging in ominous paramilitary drills near Hong Kong’s border. Protesters have brushed off the threats saying that China would not risk damage to its own economy by attacking Hong Kong.