Headlines: August 6, 2019
Listen to story:
Download: mp3 (Duration: 8:19 — 7.6MB)
President Donald Trump hit back at his predecessor Barack Obama against his statement on the weekend shootings in El Paso, Texas, and Dayton, Ohio. Obama released a statement on Twitter that said, “We should soundly reject language coming out of the mouths of any of our leaders that feeds a climate of fear and hatred or normalizes racist sentiments.” Even though Obama did not name the 45th President, Trump evidently did not like Obama’s implications and shot back, “Did George Bush ever condemn President Obama after Sandy Hook. President Obama had 32 mass shootings during his reign.” Trump did not address the fact that mass shooters never echoed Obama’s rhetoric. Trump has faced widespread criticism after the shootings from mainstream media outlets and politicians. For example the New York Times’ Michelle Goldberg wrote an op-ed boldly titled, “Trump Is a White Nationalist Who Inspires Terrorism.”
The New York Times is reporting that, “Since January, Mr. Trump’s re-election campaign has posted more than 2,000 ads on Facebook that include the word ‘invasion’ — part of a barrage of advertising focused on immigration, a dominant theme of his re-election messaging. A review of Mr. Trump’s tweets also found repeated references to an “invasion,” while his 2016 campaign advertising heavily featured dark warnings about immigrants breaching America’s borders.” The El Paso shooter’s manifesto warned of a “Hispanic invasion of Texas.” In other news, Cesar Sayoc, the Trump-supporter who mailed out pipe bombs to the President’s political enemies, was just sentenced to 20 years in prison.
Ohio’s Republican Governor Mike DeWine has proposed backing a so-called “Red Flag” law and expanded background checks after the mass shooting in Dayton took 9 lives. After being confronted over the weekend with angry chants of “Do Something” by his constituents, DeWine appears ready to get on board a series of modest proposals. He faced the same chants on Tuesday at his press conference before he announced his support for background checks for all gun sales and for restricting gun sales to those who might raise a red flag about misusing guns. But both of Ohio’s state houses are controlled by Republicans, and it is unlikely the bills will pass. Meanwhile Republican Senator Lindsey Graham has also said he wants to support the “Red Flag” laws and plans to convince President Trump to back them on a federal level.
In addition to Trump, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell is also facing criticism in the wake of the mass shootings with the hashtag #MassacreMoscowMitch trending on Twitter. Twitter users are calling Mitch out for the massacres that continue as he maintains inaction on gun violence and remains loyal to the NRA. McConnell has refused to allow discussion on the Senate floor of a bill that easily passed the House on universal background checks for gun sales.
McConnell is also facing the ire of Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio Cortez after images appeared of a group of young white men dressed in T-shirts emblazoned with #TeamMitch attempting to violate a life sized cardboard cutout of her. Ocasio-Cortez tweeted to McConnell saying, “Hey @senatemajldr – these young men look like they work for you. Just wanted to clarify: are you paying for young men to practice groping & choking members of Congress w/ your payroll, or is this just the standard culture of #TeamMitch? Thanks.” McConnell also faced anger over a tweet that he posted over the weekend of tombstones bearing the names of his political rivals just as the story of the mass shooting in El Paso was developing. Amy McGrath, who is running for his seat and whose name was on one of the tombstones tweeted, “I find it so troubling that our politics have become so nasty and personal that the Senate Majority Leader thinks it’s appropriate to use imagery of the death of a political opponent (me) as messaging.”
The Trump campaign is suing the state of California over a recently passed law that requires presidential candidates to release their tax returns to the public in order to get on the state’s ballot. The Republican National Committee also joined the suit calling the law a “naked political attack against the sitting president of the United States.”
A new report by the Center for American Progress on the state of natural resources in the US has come to a disturbing conclusion: that the country has lost more than 24 million acres of natural area to development between the years 2001 and 2017. That’s the equivalent of nine Grand Canyon National Parks. Another report, focusing on global water resources, released by the World Resources Institute has found that 17 countries around the world are facing “extremely high water stress.” Those countries account for a quarter of the world’s population. The Institute’s data showed that, “water withdrawals globally have more than doubled since the 1960s due to growing demand – and they show no signs of slowing down.”
The consortium behind the Thirty Meter Telescope (TMT) project in Hawaii that faces militant opposition from the indigenous Hawaiian community, has applied for a permit on the Canary Islands as a back up plan. Native Hawaiians have blocked access to the summit of Mauna Kea on the Big Island for weeks now saying the land is sacred to them. But Spanish environmentalists have also vowed to fight the relocation of the world’s largest telescope to the Canary Islands saying there are already too many telescopes.
Two massive newspaper chains have decided to merge with one another, setting off alarm bells among media reform organizations. Gannett, which owns USA Today is set to merge with Gatehouse Media which would, in the words of the New York Times lay, “the groundwork for a new publishing behemoth while raising questions about future investments in local journalism.” Gannett also owns The Detroit Free Press, The Arizona Republic, The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel and many other papers. Gatehouse Media owns more than 150 newspapers in nearly 40 states.
China announced it has stopped all purchases of US agricultural products in the latest salvo of President Trump’s trade war. Trump just days ago announced an additional 10% tariff on $300 billion worth of Chinese goods as a way to push forward trade negotiations. The government has been bailing out farmers with billions of tax dollars to compensate for their hurt business.
The US has expanded its sanctions against the Venezuelan Administration of Nicolás Maduro into a complete economic embargo. The move is intended to pressure Maduro as well as nations like China and Russia that have supported his government. According to the Wall Street Journal, “President Trump late Monday signed an executive order freezing all government assets and prohibiting transactions with it, unless specifically exempted, the first action of its kind against a government in the Western Hemisphere in more than 30 years.” Meanwhile, neighboring Colombia – which is a strong US ally – has just granted citizenship to more than 24,000 Venezuelan children born to parents who have resettled there.
Britain has finally joined the US’s coalition in the Strait of Hormuz against Iran. The stated goal of the coalition is to protect cargo ships from Iranian forces. The coalition, which was initially called Operation Sentinel is apparently being rebranded after no one joined in. Britain’s foreign secretary Dominic Raab said, “Our aim is to build the broadest international support to uphold freedom of navigation in the region, as protected under international law.” He added, “Our approach to Iran hasn’t changed. We remain committed to working with Iran and our international partners to de-escalate the situation and maintain the nuclear deal.”
And finally the great African American novelist and Nobel Laureate, Toni Morrison, has died. The writer, known for her Pulitzer-prize winning book Beloved, which was made into an acclaimed movie starring Oprah Winfrey, passed away at the age of 88. She became the first African American woman to win the Nobel Prize for literature. In 2012 President Obama awarded her the Presidential Medal of Freedom.