Headlines: August 27, 2018
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In today’s news headlines, Arizona’s Senator and one-time Republican Presidential candidate John McCain has died. The 81-year old passed away on Saturday, two days after discontinuing treatment for an aggressive brain tumor that was discovered last year. McCain’s family released a statement before his death saying, “In the year since [his diagnosis], John has surpassed expectations for his survival. But the progress of disease and the inexorable advance of age render their verdict.”
McCain was one of the Republican Party’s harshest critics of President Trump, who is apparently not invited to attend the late Senator’s funeral. He called Trump out for his relationship with Russian President Vladimir Putin, and last year he cast perhaps the most dramatic vote of his Senate career when he killed the GOP repeal of the Affordable Care Act with his dissent. Trump posted a tweet on Saturday saying, “My deepest sympathies and respect go out to the family of Senator John McCain. Our hearts and prayers are with you!”
Although McCain is being lionized in his eulogies for taking principled stances on issues and for his years serving in the military and surviving imprisonment and torture as a Prisoner of War in Vietnam, he is also remembered for his hawkish positions on foreign policy. McCain was an aggressive backer of the 2003 US invasion of Iraq, supported the brutal US-backed Saudi war on Yemen, and pushed for war with Iran. He was also known for repeatedly using a racial slur against Vietnamese. In 2008 when he won the Republican Presidential nomination to run against Barack Obama, he did however defend Obama against a racist supporter. Both Obama and George W. Bush are expected to speak at his funeral later this week.
Meanwhile, a shooting at an e-sports tournament in Jacksonville, Florida on Sunday has left two people plus the gunman dead and nine wounded. The shooter, a 24-year old white man named David Katz, came to the tournament armed with a handgun. CNN identified the two victims as Taylor Robertson and Eli Clayton.
Seven people were arrested in Chapel Hill, North Carolina on Saturday over a confederate statue on the University of North Carolina campus. A day earlier three people had been arrested for last week’s action that toppled a statue known as the “Silent Sam” confederate memorial. Although those arrested for toppling the statue were not apparently affiliated with the university, the student government released a statement saying the action, “corrected a moral and historical wrong.” Then on Saturday a clash between right wing supporters of the pro-slavery confederacy and anti-racist activists resulted in more than half a dozen arrests. Here are the sounds of activists chanting, “Nazis go home” as a group of men and women carrying confederate flags walked through the campus.
On Saturday President Donald Trump once more attacked his own Attorney General Jeff Sessions, saying on Twitter, “Sessions said he wouldn’t allow politics to influence him only because he doesn’t understand what is happening underneath his command position.” He went on to repeat his usual criticisms of the Special Counsel’s investigation into wrongdoing in the 2016 election. The President appears to be caught in the center of a legal net that is closing in around him after days of bombshell news reports from Robert Mueller’s investigation. The reports include Trump Organization CFO Allen Weisselberg and National Enquirer publisher David Pecker being granted immunity after Trump’s former lawyer Michael Cohen took a plea deal, and Trump’s former campaign chair Paul Manafort being convicted on 8 out of 16 counts of fraud.
Arizona Senator Jeff Flake on Sunday warned against Trump firing Sessions. The Republican Senator said on NBC’s Meet the Press that if the President did dismiss his Attorney General, it would be “the first domino to fall.” He added, “There may be a few isolated voices saying that the president ought to fire him now. I can tell you as a body we’re saying, ‘Please don’t.’ He serves at the pleasure of the president. We all know that. But I think it would be a big mistake for the president to fire him now.”
Meanwhile on Sunday Axios published an exposé of a spreadsheet being secretly circulated by Republican officials that, “meticulously previews the investigations Democrats will likely launch if they flip the House.” The spreadsheet apparently, “catalogs more than 100 formal requests from House Democrats this Congress, spanning nearly every committee,” that include inquiries into President Trump’s tax returns, his violations of the Constitution’s Emoluments clause, his payments to silence Stormy Daniels and other women, and more.
A former Vatican official has called for the resignation of Pope Francis over the Catholic Church’s child sexual abuse crimes. Carlo Maria Viganò wrote an 11-page open letter to the Pope saying that both he and the Pope who came before him protected a high-level pedophile named Cardinal Theodore McCarrick – the former Archbishop of Washington DC – for decades with full knowledge of his crimes. McCarrick had been sanctioned by Pope Benedict and prevented from travel. But, according to Vox, “Viganò said he personally told Pope Francis about the allegations and sanctions against McCarrick in 2013, shortly after Francis became pope. However, he writes, Francis ultimately lifted the sanctions against McCarrick: reversing the Vatican travel ban and allowing him to remain an influential figure in the American Catholic world, one who traveled frequently on Church business.”
The state of Hawaii has been hit with record rainfall after Hurricane Lane hit the Pacific islands. More than 50 inches of rain were recorded amid reports of flash floods. But now a new hurricane appears to be headed toward Hawaii. Tropical Storm Miriam has developed about 1,400 miles from the state and threatens to turn into a hurricane this week that may dump even more rain on the islands.
Mexico’s Finance Minister has said that the US and Mexico are on the verge of an agreement in the revamping of the North America Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA). Mr. Ildefonso Guajardo said talks would resume on Monday morning but that the two countries were just hours away from agreeing on trade rules for the automotive industry. Canada, which is also a party to NAFTA, has sat out the latest round of negotiations but is expected to rejoin once the US and Mexico have resolved their issues. The decades-old trade agreement had been a favored target of President Trump but has also been criticized by labor and environmental groups for years.
Elsewhere in Latin America, Columbians voted on a historic anti-corruption referendum on Sunday. While 11.7 million people voted to move forward a number of bills to hold officials accountable, it fell short of the 12.1 million vote required threshold. Associated Press reports that, “corruption in the country is equivalent to 4 percent of gross domestic product each year,” and that, “One recent study by Transparency International found that 63 percent of companies in Colombia feared losing business if they did not engage in bribery.”
In other international news, Iranian lawyers are taking their nation’s grievance over US sanctions to the World Court. The International Court of Justice at The Hague heard arguments on Monday. The court urged the US to respect the outcome of the case but US officials have already declared that the court has no jurisdiction in the issue of US-Iran relations.
North Korea on Sunday accused the United States of “double-dealing,” and “hatching a criminal plot.” The angry sentiments were part of an op-ed published in a newspaper and was a response to the sudden cancelation of Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s visit. According to Reuters, “Negotiations have been all but deadlocked since U.S. President Donald Trump’s summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un in Singapore in June.” Trump on Friday tweeted that he had canceled Pompeo’s visit, saying, “because of our much tougher Trading stance with China, I do not believe they are helping with the process of denuclearization as they once were.”