Headlines: August 26, 2019
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Several leaders of wealthy nations met over the weekend in Biarritz, France for the annual G-7 meeting. President Donald Trump was among those who attended and continued to stir confusion about his trade war with China. According to the Washington Post, “A summit of world leaders devolved into a confusing spectacle on Sunday when President Trump signaled regret for his trade war with China only to have the White House reverse his position hours later.” He said that Chinese authorities called him twice to restart talks but Chinese authorities denied making the calls. On Monday this is what Trump said at a press briefing: he discussed his trade war with China. Meanwhile on Sunday Trump aides spoke on Sunday talk shows to explain what the President meant when he said last week that he was ordering US companies to leave China. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said, “I think what he was saying is he’s ordering companies to start looking…He wants to make sure to the extent that we are in an extended trade war, that companies don’t have these issues and move out of China.” According to the Wall Street Journal Trump thinks he, “could theoretically force U.S. companies to leave China by invoking a law known as the International Emergency Economic Powers Act of 1977.” Meanwhile the US and Japan announced that they have reached a trade deal“in principle,” at the G-7.
In other news from the G7 meeting, the Trump administration was blindsided with the surprise appearance of Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif. France, which is hosting the meeting, had invited Mr. Zarif, in the hopes of reviving the Obama-era nuclear agreement between the US, Europe, and Iran. The Trump administration had just last month imposed sanctions on Mr. Zarif. Trump denied being caught off guard by Zarif’s presence and even suggested that he may meet with Iranian President Hassan Rouhani in the coming weeks. Also at the G7 meeting on Saturday President Trump threw the meeting into disarray by insisting that the G7 group readmit Russia into its ranks. Member nations had kicked Russia out some years ago after its annexation of Crimea.
While Trump was busy at the G7 he apparently did not have time to attend the talks on the climate, oceans, and biodiversity, on Monday. Although Trump was scheduled to attend and indicated that he wants, “clean air and water,” he did not make it to the meeting. Meanwhile G7 leaders agreed on an aid package for Brazil to help fight the raging fires in the Amazon rain forest. The package, which was championed by French President Emmanuel Macron, would include $20 million and a longer-term initiative to protect the forest. But, according to the Guardian newspaper, “it was unclear on Monday evening whether the Brazilian president, Jair Bolsonaro, would cooperate with the plan. He sent out a string of tweets within minutes of the G7 announcement, criticizing Macron for treating Brazil as if was ‘a colony or a no-man’s land.'”
While at the G7 Trump did find the time to advertise his resort in Doral, Florida as the possible site of next year’s meeting. A reporter asked him how he would counter criticism that he is trying to profit off his presidency, to which Trump replied with an endorsement of his resort.
Meanwhile French activists led a massive protest over the weekend as a continuation of the so-called “yellow vests” movement and demanding climate action. The protests were directed at the G7 as well as at French President Macron. Activists have seized official portraits of Macron from government buildings around the country and held up the framed photos upside down as they marched. According to the Guardian Newspaper, “When the G7 summit opened on Saturday, more than 9,000 protesters joined a peaceful anti-G7 march across a bridge linking France and Spain. But later in the day, police used teargas and water cannon to break up protests in Bayonne, where hundreds of demonstrators chanting anti-capitalist slogans were blocked from reaching the city center. By Saturday evening, 68 people had been arrested, 38 of whom were taken into custody, authorities said.”
Senator Bernie Sanders held a major rally in Louisville, Kentucky, as part of his Presidential campaign. He called out Kentucky Senator and Senate Majority leader Mitch McConnell for being an obstructionist. He also addressed struggling coal miners in Kentucky. Sanders went on to say, “Workers in the fossil fuel industry are not my enemy. Climate change is our enemy.” Sanders has been supporting striking coal miners in Harlan County, Kentucky, and has chastised Mr. McConnell for ignoring them.
In other news Tea Party Republican Joe Walsh is serious about challenging Trump for the Republican Party nomination. Writing an op-ed in the New York Times over the weekend the former Congressman admitted his own failings and how they paved the way for Trump: “In Mr. Trump, I see the worst and ugliest iteration of views I expressed for the better part of a decade. To be sure, I’ve had my share of controversy. On more than one occasion, I questioned Mr. Obama’s truthfulness about his religion. At times, I expressed hate for my political opponents. We now see where this can lead. There’s no place in our politics for personal attacks like that, and I regret making them.”
Tropical Storm Dorian is headed toward the Caribbean and Puerto Rico in particular with many fearing that it could turn into a Category 1 hurricane by landfall. Meanwhile Axios reported that President Trump, “has suggested multiple times to senior Homeland Security and national security officials that they explore using nuclear bombs to stop hurricanes from hitting the United States.” Trump has denied the allegations.
Iran is accusing Israel of attacking its forces in three countries over the weekend: Lebanon, Syria, and Iraq. There are reports that Israel has used armed unmanned drones in all three countries to target Iranian forces.
And an appeals court has cleared away legal hurdles in the case against a military contractor involved in the torture and imprisonment of prisoners at Iraq’s notorious Abu Ghraib prison during the height of the US war.
Finally an estimated 200,000 Rohingya Muslim refugees marched on “Genocide Day” on Sunday at the camps in Bangladesh where they have spent the last two years. United Nations officials joined the refugees in their march to call attention to the mass ethnic cleansing they have faced in their homeland of Myanmar.