Headlines: August 30, 2019
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Hurricane Dorian continues to head toward Florida reaching Category 2 status on Friday and expected to hit the state on Monday as a Category 4 storm. The entire state has been put under an emergency declaration. Residents are preparing for the worst with the city of Miami ordering the removal of scooters from the streets in case they turn into flying projectiles in extremely windy situations. Given that millions could lose power, residents are stocking up on emergency supplies. The National Hurricane Center released an advisory on Friday morning warning of a, “life threatening storm surge and devastating hurricane-force winds…along portions of the Florida East Coast.” President Donald Trump’s Florida resort Mar-a-Lago is in the path of Hurricane Dorian and possibly his resort in Doral is as well. Trump canceled a planned trip to Poland in order to monitor the hurricane. Meanwhile former Canadian Prime Minister Kim Campbell made waves when she publicly hoped on Twitter, “I’m rooting for a direct hit on Mar a Lago!” She later deleted the tweet.
In other news former FBI Director James Comey is under fire from the Justice Department for apparently documenting his interactions with President Trump and then leaking them to the press. Inspector General Michael Horowitz released a report this week – much to the glee of Republicans and President Trump who have been blasting the former intelligence officer for years and blaming him for sparking the Special Counsel investigation into the 2016 election. The Justice Department has declined to charge Comey despite claiming that he violated FBI policy. Trump tweeted multiple times in response to the IG report. In one of his tweets he went as far as saying, “The disastrous IG Report on James Comey shows, in the strongest of terms, how unfairly I, and tens of millions of great people who support me, were treated. Our rights and liberties were illegally stripped away by this dishonest fool. We should be given our stolen time back?” Trump has alluded in the past to the idea that he should have two more years added to his presidential term to compensate for the Special Counsel investigation.
The Washington Post this week found that former Vice President Joe Biden, who is a frontrunner candidate for President in 2020, has been distorting the details of a story he told on the campaign trail. The Washington Post pointed out that, “almost every detail in the story appears to be incorrect.” The paper interviewed, “more than a dozen U.S. troops, their commanders and Biden campaign officials,” and concluded that, “In the space of three minutes, Biden got the time period, the location, the heroic act, the type of medal, the military branch and the rank of the recipient wrong, as well as his own role in the ceremony.” Biden dismissed the report saying defiantly, “I don’t know what the problem is. I mean, what is it that I said wrong?” Biden is known for making repeated verbal gaffes and yet is still considered the most electable Democrat in new polls.
In immigration news, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is reporting an outbreak of mumps in immigrant detention centers. Nearly 900 cases of the preventable virus were reported in 57 facilities run by the Customs and Border Protection (CBP), and Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agencies. The virus has affected detainees and staff. Dr. Todd Ellerin, Director of Infectious Diseases and Vice Chair of Medicine at Southshore Health in Massachusetts, told ABC News, “These detention centers are a perfect storm for mumps to spread. Individuals have to be within 3-6 feet of each other to spread this virus. Sneezing, coughing on someone, or sharing a drink can spread the virus.” Meanwhile the Department of Homeland Security is blocking staff members with the House Oversight Committee to access to immigrant detention centers. Committee chair Elijah Cummings wrote to Acting DHS Secretary Kevin McAleenan, denouncing the denial of access as “unacceptable.”
The Guardian newspaper reported on the case of an Indian immigrant who is languishing in a detention center in El Paso, Texas. Thirty three-year old Ajay Kumar, along with two other Indian men, has been on hunger strike to protest the appalling conditions under which he is being held. One doctor said in an affidavit in a legal case over Kumar’s treatment said he is receiving, “the worst medical care I have seen in my 10 years of practice.” All three men on hunger strike are apparently being force-fed. The men have been detained for more than a year. In other immigration news, Trump administration officials struggled to clarify a rule change announced this week that would not automatically grant US citizenship to children of service members and government officials serving abroad. According to the Washington Post, “[Immigration]officials, speaking on the condition of anonymity to explain the issue Thursday, said they reluctantly updated the policy because the State Department requested it.” Acting head of the US Citizenship and Immigration Services Ken Cuccinelli has denied that service members would be affected.
President Trump this week authorized the creation of the United States Space Command – an institution that is aimed at coordinating the role of the US military in space. The formation of the Space Command is a precursor to Space Force, an idea that Trump has been toying around with since he became President.
The Washington Post published a lengthy investigation this week into the thousands of cases of misdiagnosis at the Veterans Administration by former chief pathologist Robert Morris Levy over 12 years. Levy was only removed from his position after being arrested for drunk driving last year. He has been charged with three counts of involuntary manslaughter and may be responsible for the deaths of dozens of veterans. In other healthcare related news, thousands of employees of Kaiser Permanente are preparing a gathering this Labor Day in California as they get ready for a potential strike in October. The Coalition of Kaiser Permanente Unions represents 80,000 staffers who say they are paid too little while executives are paid too much. It could represent the largest strike in the state’s recent history.
The Boy Scouts of America is facing a wave of sex abuse lawsuits around the country. According to Associated Press, “The Scouts have been sued in multiple states in recent months by purported abuse victims, including plaintiffs taking advantage of new state laws or court decisions that are now allowing suits previously barred because of the age of the allegations.” In the state of New Jersey where the Boy Scouts are headquartered, there is one lawsuit alone representing 150 people who say they were abused.
The Syrian government has announced a ceasefire in the embattled city of Idlib where the last of the anti-government rebel forces had been fighting the regime of Bashar Al Assad. Soon after, the Russian government announced the same. The government’s offensive has sent hundreds of thousands of refugees fleeing into neighboring Turkey and has claimed thousands of civilian lives.
And finally the Democratic Republic of Congo is reporting a grim milestone in Ebola-related deaths. More than 2,000 people have now died from a new wave of Ebola, the second highest toll after a major outbreak killed more than 11,000 people across West Africa several years ago.