News & Analysis of Economic, Racial, Gender Justice and More

President Donald Trump announced on Monday morning that his administration had negotiated a bi-lateral trade agreement with Mexico as part of efforts to reconfigure NAFTA, the North America Free Trade Agreement. In a move that appeared to snub Canada, the third nation party to NAFTA, Trump made the surprise announcement saying that Canada could join later, “if they’d like to negotiate fairly.” Canada’s foreign minister Chrystia Freeland is cutting short a trip to Europe in order to fly into Washington DC on Tuesday. Her spokesperson released a statement saying, “We will only sign a new NAFTA that is good for Canada and good for the middle class,” and that, “Canada’s signature is required.” Many are urging caution as the bi-lateral deal between the US and Mexico still has many uncertainties including over tariffs that Trump imposed on Mexican steel. The US Congress and lawmakers from Mexico and Canada would still have to vote to ratify any deal to formalize it.

As part of his announcement on NAFTA Trump attempted to call Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto on the phone in front of reporters. Mexico’s leader has had strained relations with the US since Trump took office over his border wall and inflammatory racist language against Mexican immigrants. But on Monday none of that tension was apparent as Trump gushed over the phone in full view of cameras. Here is part of his conversation with Peña Nieto. The conversation ended on a bizarrely affectionate note.

On Monday Trump welcomed Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta to the White House for an official visit. Mr. Kenyatta’s visit comes as his nation’s highest court invalidated his election after allegations of widespread problems. Here is President Trump welcoming the Kenyan leader.

The real estate company of Trump’s son-in-law and advisor Jared Kushner has been fined more than $200,000 by the city of New York for filing more than 40 fraudulent construction applications for rental properties that the company ran while Kushner was at the helm. The fine was the result of an investigative report by AP that found, “the false paperwork allowed the Kushners to escape extra scrutiny designed to stop landlords from using construction to make living conditions for low-paying, rent-regulated tenants unbearable and get them to leave.” With low-rent tenants being replaced by higher income renters, the building in question ballooned in value and last year the Kushner Company sold it for nearly twice as much as it paid two years earlier.

The shooter at the online gaming tournament in Jacksonville, Florida has been found to have had a history of mental illness. Twenty four-year old David Katz who killed two people and wounded nine others before killing himself, had apparently been institutionalized and was at the center of a post-divorce battle between his parents about 10 years ago. This is what authorities said on Monday about the incident.

Investigators in Phoenix, Arizona said on Monday that officers involved in a videotaped beating of a black man should not face charges. Officers with the Mesa Police Department were seen on film repeatedly punching Robert Johnson simply because he did not sit down when ordered to do so. Thirty-three year old Johnson is still recovering from the injuries that resulted from his assault. He is now expected to take his case against police to civil court.

Seth Frotman, the student loan ombudsman at the Consumer Finance Protection Bureau has stepped down from his position citing the Trump Administration’s undermining of his work. In a strongly worded letter to CFPB head Mick Mulvaney, Frotman wrote, “under your leadership the Bureau has abandoned the very consumers it is tasked by Congress with protecting. Instead you have used the Bureau to serve the wishes of the most powerful financial companies in America.”

Rob Tibbetts, the father of slain Iowa University student Mollie Tibbetts has lashed out at attempts by conservatives to demonize undocumented immigrants. A man suspected of having killed the 20-year old woman is apparently an undocumented immigrant from Mexico. President Trump and his supporters have sought to politicize her death but her father retorted at his daughter’s funeral on Monday, “The Hispanic community are Iowans. They have the same values as Iowans.” He added, “As far as I’m concerned, they’re Iowans with better food.”

Meanwhile a law firm has accused Immigration and Customs Enforcement of creating the conditions that led to the death of a toddler earlier this year. Twenty-one month old Mariee was detained along with her mother at a detention center in Dilley, Texas, where she developed an illness that went untreated. Weeks after she was released the child died at a hospital. Lawyers representing the family say ICE is to blame.

A federal court has ruled that North Carolina’s Republican lawmakers drew up district maps that were illegal and disproportionately benefited their party. The 3-judge panel issued a lengthy opinion that ran more than 300 pages long. According to Reuters, “Republican legislators responsible for the map conducted unconstitutional partisan gerrymandering to dilute the impact of Democratic votes,” and that, “Republicans in 2016 won 10 of the 13 House districts – 77 percent of them – despite getting just 53 percent of the statewide vote, nearly the same result as in 2014.” The parties in question have until Thursday to make recommendations. It is possible the judges could require new maps ahead of the November election.

In international news, the United Nations Human Rights Council ordered a report on the war in Yemen, which was published Tuesday morning. The 41-page report found that air strikes by Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates have caused mass civilian casualties and may amount to war crimes. The United States has been backing and arming Saudi Arabia in its war on the Gulf’s poorest nation. Most recently Saudi authorities struck down a bus carrying dozens of children using a US-made bomb. Most of the children were killed.

The United Nation’s Human Rights Council a day earlier recommended that military generals in Myanmar face charges of genocide for their years’ long pogrom against Rohingya Muslims. The UN body formed a 3-person fact-finding mission last year that has since interviewed hundreds of Rohingya refugees and compiled an extensive documentation of the systematic abuses that have drawn international condemnation. According to Associated Press, “The team compiled accounts of crimes including gang rape, the torching of hundreds of villages, enslavement, and killings of children —some before the eyes of their own parents. The team was not granted access to Myanmar and has decried a lack of cooperation or even response from the government, which received an early copy of the report.”

The report identified social media as a critical part of the Myanmar government’s anti-Rohingya campaign saying, “Facebook has been a useful instrument for those seeking to spread hate, in a context where for most users Facebook is the internet.” In the wake of the UN report Facebook announced that it was banning the account of the country’s top military general from its platform, as well as those of 19 other officials and organizations. In a statement on Monday Facebook said it had been, “too slow to act,” and was, “determined to do better in the future.”

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