Headlines: August 19, 2019
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white supremacist groups carried out their planned rally in Portland, Oregon on Saturday and were met by fierce resistance from anti-fascist activists, leading to 13 arrests and six minor injuries. A man named Joe Biggs organized the rally along with prominent fascist groups called Proud Boys and Patriot Prayer. Biggs admitted that his goal was to draw out anti-fascist protesters and was helped by President Donald Trump tweeting supportively on Saturday, “Major consideration is being given to naming ANTIFA an ‘ORGANIZATION OF TERROR.’ Portland is being watched very closely.” White supremacists have been linked to numerous domestic terrorist threats and mass shootings while Antifa has not. Biggs claimed victory saying to the press about the President, “He talked about Portland, said he’s watching antifa. That’s all we wanted.” The rally-goers ended their event less than an hour into their planned 5-hour rally.
Meanwhile CNN reported that three separate potential mass shootings had been averted according to authorities over the weekend. All three were white men between the ages of 20 and 25. Twenty-two year old Brandon Wagshol in Connecticut was arrested after making an online threat to commit a mass shooting; 25-year old Tristan Scott-Wix in Daytona Beach, Florida was arrested after texting his ex-girlfriend his desire to kill more than a hundred people; and 20-year-old James Patrick Reardon was arrested in Youngstown, Ohio, after making an ominous threat on Instagram against a Jewish community center. All three men were found to have been hoarding weapons and hundreds of rounds of ammunition.
Democratic Presidential candidate Bernie Sanders in a speech on Friday declared that he would go to war against white nationalism and racism. He was addressing a largely young African American audience at the Young Leaders Conference in Atlanta, Georgia on Friday. Meanwhile in Columbia, South Carolina on Sunday Sanders unveiled a lengthy plan called Justice and Safety for All to reform the US’s criminal justice system. His plan includes a ban on for-profit prisons, an end to the system of cash bail, and greater accountability for law enforcement.
The New York police officer involved in the killing of Eric Garner five years ago has finally been fired from his position. A departmental disciplinary judge recommended the firing of Daniel Pantaleo last week. The New York Times obtained the Judge Rosemarie Maldonado’s opinion – a document which concluded that Pantaleo had been “untruthful,” and his defense witnesses to be, “unhelpful or unreliable.” Additionally Garner’s autopsy, “provided ‘overwhelming’ evidence that Officer Pantaleo had used a chokehold in spite of being trained not to.” And, in another bizarre story of racist police misconduct, the Washington Post reported that police in Portland, Oregon were so desperate to pin a series of bank robberies on a black suspect that they digitally removed his face tattoos so that witnesses would be more likely to pick him out of a line-up.
News emerged over the weekend that Trump’s recent energy-related speech in Pennsylvania was well-attended by unionized Royal Dutch Shell workers only because the workers were given no choice. Apparently the union entered into an agreement with the company that workers would get paid to attend the Trump speech and that they could choose not to attend but would forfeit their pay for the day. Also, those workers who did attend would be expected to stand for hours at the speech even through their lunch hour, but not get to eat lunch. They were warned that no form of protest would be allowed. Trump turned the speech into a partisan re-election rally even though taxpayers footed the bill. Meanwhile an organized labor action by miners in Kentucky – the first of its kind in decades – has morphed from a small blockade of a coal train into a full-blown tent city lasting several weeks. The workers are protesting their employer, Blackjewel, for abruptly declaring bankruptcy and failing to pay them.
The Business Roundtable released a statement this week signed by nearly 200 CEOs of major corporations reevaluating the fact that a company’s top priority ought to be maximizing shareholder profits. Perhaps recognizing the growing realization among the public of the abject failures of capitalism, the CEOs declared, “Americans deserve an economy that allows each person to succeed through hard work and creativity and to lead a life of meaning and dignity.”
President Trump spent the weekend frustrated with economic indicators that show a recession is on the way, and rolled out his usual playbook – blame everyone else for his own failings. Trump accused his own hand-picked Federal Reserve Chair Jerome Powell of conspiring against him and also the media of fomenting fear of a stock market crash. Meanwhile the National Association for Business Economics released a survey this week showing that nearly three quarters of economists expect a recession to hit the US by the end of 2021.
Trump has claimed all the credit for a booming economy but none of the responsibility for an imminent economic failure, at the same time as a new poll shows his popularity hitting a major low. His favorite news network, Fox, conducted the poll finding that Trump would lose reelection in a match up against any of the top four Democratic Presidential frontrunners. He grumbled over the weekend to reporters. Politico explained, “Trump’s annoyance with an unfavorable poll led him to wrongly assert that he has control over the 2020 presidential debates.”
Bloomberg reported over the weekend that, “Some top aides to President Donald Trump sought for months for a way to give states the power to block undocumented immigrant children from enrolling in public schools.” The architect of that idea was none other than Trump advisor Stephen Miller who is credited with family separation and other anti-immigrant policies.
The European nation of Iceland bid goodbye to its first glacier that succumbed to climate change. According to Al Jazeera, “About 100 people climbed for two hours on Sunday to the top of the Ok volcano in west-central Iceland to where the Okjokull or ‘Ok glacier’ once stood,” and installed a bronze plaque entitled “A Letter to the Future.”
The Afghan capital Kabul was the site of a massive deadly bombing of a wedding over the weekend that killed 63 people. What was supposed to have been a joyful occasion turned into a nightmare as the Islamic State took credit for the brutal attack. While the bride and groom were spared, many of their family members were not. More than 180 people were injured. At the same time more than 90 people were injured as a result of 10 coordinated bombs in the Eastern Afghan province of Nangarhar. The attacks came at the same time as the US is coordinating an exit plan with the Afghan government and entering into a peace agreement with the Taliban.
And finally in Hong Kong, in spite of pouring rain, about 1.7 million people turned out to march on Sunday as part of a months-long protest against China’s authority over the island. That meant that nearly 1 in 4 residents showed up. Hong Kong authorities claimed that only 128,000 protesters marched. Although there had been violent crackdowns by police for weeks leading up to the march, on Sunday the gathering was peaceful with no reports of violence. One protester told the New York Times, “The more people in the street today, the safer Hong Kong people are. There’s strength when people unite.”