Headlines: August 21, 2019
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President Donald Trump’s administration has announced a new rule that would overturn the so-called Flores Settlement and allow the government to indefinitely detain immigrant families. Acting Homeland Security Secretary Kevin McAleenan made the announcement on Wednesday. The rule stunned immigrant rights advocates including the ACLU, whose spokesperson said, “This is yet another cruel attack on children, who the Trump administration has targeted again and again with its anti-immigrant policies. The government should not be jailing kids, and certainly shouldn’t be seeking to put more kids in jail for longer. Congress must not fund this.”
In other news President Trump this week accused Jewish Democrats of “great disloyalty“ during remarks to the press. According to the New York Times, “his language was reminiscent of the anti-Semitic smear that Jews have a ‘dual loyalty’ and are more devoted to Israel than they are to their own countries.” The Anti Defamation League’s Jonathan Greenblatt responded saying, “charges of disloyalty have long been used to attack Jews.” Twitter users responded with the hashtag #DisloyaltoTrump.
A day later Trump thanked one of his ardent supporters Wayne Allyn Root, a TV host on Twitter. Trump quoted him saying, “Thank you to Wayne Allyn Root for the very nice words. “President Trump is the greatest President for Jews and for Israel in the history of the world, not just America, he is the best President for Israel in the history of the world…and the Jewish people in Israel love himlike he’s the King of Israel. They love him like he is the second coming of God…But American Jews don’t know him or like him. They don’t even know what they’re doing or saying anymore.” One Twitter user, Rabbi Andy Kahn, observed, “This thread, not a full day after calling American Jewish Democrats disloyal, is eschatological antisemitism from a right wing extremist. It draws a line between good (right wing and/or Israeli) and bad (liberal) Jews. This is stochastic terrorism.”
In other news Trump had a phone conversation with NRA head Wayne LaPierre this week during which he assured him that a federal law requiring background checks for gun purchases was off the table – this just two weeks after saying the opposite in the wake of two mass shootings. CNN is reporting that since those shootings at least 27 people have been arrested across the nation for making threats about committing massacres. The organization March for Our Lives, which was formed by survivors of the high school shooting in Parkland, Florida, have published a detailed plan to end gun violence in the US. The program called Peace Plan for a Safer America, outlines what is needed including a federal assault weapons ban, a federal policy to disarm gun owners that are found to be a threat to others, and a federal gun buyback program. And, more than 130,000 people have signed a petition urging Walmart – the nation’s largest weapons seller – to stop selling guns in its stores.
In news related to the opioid crisis, two drug manufacturers Endo International and Allergan have settled to the tune of $15 million with two counties in Ohio over their role. The settlement is the first result from more than 2,000 lawsuits against drug companies for their role in the crisis.
The Congressional Budget Office this week warned that the US deficit would balloon by more than $800 billion more than expected over the next decade. That is a level of debt not seen since World War II. The CBO also said that Trump’s trade war is weakening the economy and could trigger a recession. In fact Trump this week admitted as much saying in remarks to reporters that it was important to, “take China on,” and that, “it’s about time, whether it’s good for our country or bad for our country short term.” Beijing has appealed to Trump to end the trade war. China’s Foreign Minister Geng Shuang said, “We hope the United States will meet China halfway,” and that the two sides can, “work out a resolution that is acceptable to both sides on the basis of mutual respect and equal treatment.”
Here in the US, the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp or FDIC approved a rollback of the so-called Volcker Rule, which gives banks more freedom to make riskier loans. That rule was a central part of the Dodd-Frank bill that Congress passed to respond to the last recession. And, the Wall Street Journal reports that the strict rules that were put into place to address the subprime mortgage crisis are also being weakened with more banks willing to offer mortgages to riskier borrowers.
President Trump has escalated a war of words with Denmark over his desire to buy Greenland. He attacked Denmark on Twitter for its low spending on NATO just hours after he snubbed the nation’s invitation for a state visit. According to the New York Times, “The astonishment in Denmark over President Trump’s apparent desire to buy Greenland turned to bewilderment and anger.” Additionally, “The cancellation was a rare snub of Denmark’s head of state, Queen Margrethe II, who had extended the invitation to the president and would have hosted him and the first lady.”
The Guardian newspaper has obtained internal emails showing that Interior Secretary David Bernhardt has a conflict of interest for promoting a fossil fuels project championed by a lobbying firm that was his previous employer. According to the paper, “The Jordan Cove Energy Project was proposed by the Canadian energy giant Pembina to transport fracked natural gas through Oregon to the international port at Coos Bay in the state.” And, “Bernhardt represented oil companies and agribusiness interests at the Brownstein Hyatt Farber Schreck lobbying firm before joining the Trump administration in August 2017. Brownstein Hyatt has worked to promote the Jordan Cove project since December 2018, federal records show.”
Several Republican critics of President Trump are considering mounting a primary challenge to him for the Party’s Presidential nomination next year. Former Congressman Joe Walsh, former South Carolina governor and congressman Mark Sanford, former Arizona senator Jeff Flake, and former Ohio governor John Kasich are all reportedly exploring the idea. It is notable that none of them hold political power currently, offering them some immunity to Trump’s certain attacks. The Washington Post, which reported the possibility of a Republican challenger said, “The anti-Trump movement inside the Republican Party — long a political wasteland — is feeling new urgency to mount a credible opposition to Trump before it’s too late.”
And finally a record number of fires are burning in the Amazon rainforest in Brazil, so much so that they are visible from space satellites. According to the BBC, “Conservationists have blamed [Brazil’s President Jair] Bolsonaro for the Amazon’s plight, saying he has encouraged loggers and farmers to clear the land, and scientists say the rainforest has suffered losses at an accelerated rate since he took office in January.” But Bolsonaro, who has been dubbed Brazil’s Trump, claimed without evidence that the fires were being set by Non-Governmental organizations in order to damage his reputation.