Headlines: August 9, 2018
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In today’s news headlines, New York’s Republican Congressman Chris Collins has been indicted on charges of insider trading. Collins, an early supporter of Donald Trump’s campaign for President, was at a White House picnic last June when he received a text about a clinical trial failing at a pharmaceutical company where he was the majority shareholder. Prosecutors are charging Collins with using that information to sell shares in the company and avoid hundreds of thousands of dollars in losses. Collins has pled not guilty and vowed to keep his seat and clear his name. He has been removed from the House Energy and Commerce Committee for now.
Republican Troy Balderson has declared victory in Ohio’s special election despite the fact that he leads his opponent Danny O’Conner by less than 2,000 votes and that 8,000 provisional ballots remain uncounted. On Wednesday a box with 688 ballots from a district in Columbus, Ohio were unexpectedly found and netted Danny O’Connor a few more votes. He now has just 1,564 votes behind Balderson and is waiting before announcing his concession.
In other election news, Congress will see its first Muslim American female member this fall. Rashida Tlaib, a Muslim woman with Palestinian roots, won the Democratic Primary in Michigan in the district that John Conyers represents. Tlaib is the second Democratic Socialist to win a primary race and together with Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez from New York, the two women of color, who face little opposition in the general election, will take their progressive agenda to DC. Here are the sounds of Tlaib on election night followed by her post-election plans.
Senator Bill Nelson from Florida claimed on Wednesday that, “Russian operatives have penetrated some of his state’s election systems ahead of this year’s midterms.” Nelson, who is a Democrat and the ranking member of the Senate Armed Services Committee is running for reelection this year. Nelson and his Republican colleague and fellow Senator Marco Rubio wrote to county supervisors who oversee elections in the state. The Florida State Department said it had not received anything from Homeland Security or other federal agencies corroborating Nelson’s claims.
Just days before the 1-year anniversary of the Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, the city has declared an emergency. Local officials are readying law enforcement in case of a repeat of last year’s massive rally of assorted Nazis, fascists, confederate flag wavers, Klansmen, Trump supporters, and khaki-wearing flame wielders who showed up ostensibly to defend a confederate statue from being torn down. A white woman named Heather Heyer was killed and a black man named De’andre Harris brutally beaten and scores of others were left with lesser injuries.
Charlottesville barred a similar gathering this year so organizers have moved their annual gathering of hate to the nation’s capital and were approved for a permit. Reports have emerged that KKK leader David Duke is among those scheduled to speak in DC this Sunday.
The city of New York has imposed a cap on the number of ridesharing drivers. The regulation will limit new licenses for companies like Uber and Lyft and is part of a bill that will also allow the city to set a minimum pay rate for ridesharing drivers. No other city has attempted this type of limit on the Silicon Valley successes that have changed the way people use taxi services. The legislation was in part a response to the struggles of ridesharing drivers, six of whom had committed suicide in recent months.
California’s record-breaking wildfire continues to burn in the Northern part of the state. The Mendocino Complex Fire has sucked up many of the state’s resources and postponed the start of school. Here are some of the voices of the fire’s survivors. Those are some of the survivors of California’s fires during a brutal summer that is the direct and predictable outcome of climate change. There are currently more than a dozen fires raging across the state including a fire in Southern California this week in the Cleveland National Forest that resulted in about 20,000 evacuations. Authorities now believe that fire might have been intentionally set.
Also, news reports emerged on Wednesday that among the 14,000 or so firefighters across the state are 1,916 prison inmates. Associated Press reports that, “Cal Fire trains minimum-security inmates and pays them $1 an hour in the field and $2 a day when they’re not on duty. Inmate firefighters also typically have their sentences reduced for every day spent fighting fires.” The irony is that when these prisoners end their sentences state law will not allow them to obtain licenses to practice fire fighting outside prison walls. Also among firefighters in California are 53 from Australia and New Zealand, and 200 US Army troops that are now receiving training to join the frontlines of battling fires.
President Trump while on a “working vacation” at his golf course in Bedminster, New Jersey met on Tuesday with a group of CEOs over dinner. Politico reported that the dinner was, “an opportunity for the president to hear how the economy is doing … and what their priorities and thoughts are for the year ahead.” During the dinner he apparently went off on a rant about his new nemesis, China, and claimed that, “almost every student that comes over to this country is a spy.” According to Politico, “Trump, who at about this time last year alienated the corporate world after his comments on race after the violence in Charlottesville, Virginia, received a positive reaction from the same crowd Tuesday night,” despite the administration’s deliberate policy of ripping immigrant children away from their parents, and the myriad other racist insults and dangerous rhetoric that Trump has routinely perpetuated.
American corporations are thrilled with the Trump White House especially in the wake of windfall gains from the GOP’s signature tax reform law. The Treasury Department on Wednesday released new rules under former banker Steven Mnuchin’s leadership that treats banks as separate from institutions that provide financial services, which in turn will allow banks to claim massive tax benefits. The prohibition on financial service providers was put into the tax reform bill precisely to assuage concerns that banks would benefit too much from the so-called “pass-through” tax cuts.
Meanwhile the last major American factory to make TV sets is shutting down. Element Electronics is shutting down its South Carolina plant that assembles television sets from Chinese parts, saying it is a direct result of Trump’s tariffs on Chinese goods. More than 120 workers are losing their jobs.
Senate Democrats are resorting to the Freedom of Information Act to obtain documentation on Trump’s Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh after Republicans have refused to release details. The Democratic members of the Senate Judiciary Committee are using the tool that enables any member of the public to request information from the government. According to Vox, “As part of the push, they’ve submitted their FOIA requests to the National Archives, the Department of Justice, the Department of Homeland Security, and the Central Intelligence Agency.”
And in international news, Israel has launched scores of airstrikes on Gaza hitting dozens of targets. As usual the Israeli government is claiming the strikes are in retaliation for Hamas rocket fire. Among the three people killed were a pregnant woman and her 1-year old child.