Headlines: August 9, 2019
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President Donald Trump expressed support for background checks for gun buyers ahead of his summer golfing vacation and gushed about his great relationship with the NRA. House Democrats already passed a bill earlier this year that would require such checks but until the two mass shootings earlier this week Republican leaders had refused to consider it. A day earlier protesters led by Ohio Representative and Presidential candidate Tim Ryan confronted McConnell over the issue. During a radio interview McConnell said, “What we can’t do is fail to pass something,.. The urgency of this is not lost on any of us.” Republicans have worked relentlessly for years to loosen gun regulations in spite of a bloody annual death toll from gun violence. Ryan dismissed McConnell’s words as, “a bunch of bologna,” and said, “The history of President Trump and Mitch McConnell is they try to slow walk this until it falls out of the news cycle.”
Meanwhile a 20-year old white man covered in body armor and wearing fatigues walked into a Missouri Walmart store. According to NBC he was carrying a, “a tactical rifle, a handgun and more than 100 rounds of ammunition,” and filming a video of himself. Managers evacuated the store and an armed firefighter detained and apprehended the man until police arrived. No one was injured but tensions remained high in light of the El Paso Walmart shooting. Missouri is an open-carry state.
The White House has released a campaign-style video of President Trump visiting the survivors of the El Paso and Dayton shootings. White House press secretary, Stephanie Grisham had barred journalists from accompanying Trump to the hospitals where patients were recovering saying the visit was not a “photo-op.” But the slickly produced video created from footage of his visit showed the President grinning widely with thumbs up and no reference to the actual shootings or their survivors. Melania Trump is also under fire for posting a photo of herself holding the 2-month old baby whose parents were both fatally shot smiling broadly while her husband stands next to her once more grinning with a thumbs up. Outside the hospital people protested the President’s visit.
It has been five years since the uprising in Ferguson, Missouri began over the police killing of Mike Brown. The Black Lives Matter movement that had begun in the wake of Trayvon Martin’s killing in Florida, rapidly expanded after Ferguson, and spread all across the US. Brown’s father Michael Snr. says he wants the case into his son’s killing by officer Darren Wilson reopened. Wilson was investigated but a grand jury chose not to indict him. Meanwhile Rutgers University researchers conducted a study that was published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, showing that, “Police violence is a leading cause of death of young men in the United States with black men 2.5 times more likely to be killed by law enforcement over their lifetime than white men.” Additionally police violence has, “increased by as much as 50 percent since 2008.” And, the family of a 12-year old African American child is suing police in Illinois for breaking into their home at 5 am without warning, terrorizing their children and shooting the child in the knee with an automatic rifle.
Immigrant families in Mississippi are still reeling from massive raids by Immigration and Customs Enforcement this week that rounded up nearly 700 agricultural workers in various towns. About 300 people have been released by ICE, most of them having been entered into immigration proceedings that could lead to deportation. Among those that ICE rounded up were 18 minors, the youngest of whom was 14. ICE says it has released at least one parent on “humanitarian grounds,” in situations where children were left alone. Koch Foods, whose plant was among those raided, released a statement saying it was, “diligent about its compliance with state and federal employment eligibility laws.” News emerged that the workers at the plant in question had only last year won a racial discrimination and sexual harassment lawsuit against Koch to the tune of $3.75 million. Critics worry that the raids were punishment for the lawsuit and could discourage undocumented workers in other industries from holding their employers accountable for violations.
A new poll by Business Insider on healthcare has found that a majority of Americans who have employer-based health insurance would be happy with a switch to a Medicare-for-All system as long as the coverage remains comparable to what they currently have. Nearly 60% of respondents answered affirmatively on the system that Presidential Candidate Bernie Sanders has championed for years. The poll results also give lie to the standard talking point among Republicans and many centrist Democrats that a switch to Medicare-for-All would be unpopular among Americans that have employer-based plans.
House Judiciary Chairman Jerrold Nadler said this week for the first time that his committee is starting an impeachment inquiry against President Trump. However he added that the decision to bring articles of impeachment would be made by the end of this year.
And Trump has announced yet another shakeup of the Intelligence community, posting on Twitter that he has named Joseph Maguire as the acting director of national intelligence. Maguire is currently the director of the National Counterterrorism Center. The shakeup is the result of NDI director Dan Coats stepping down after differences with Trump. His deputy Sue Gordon was to take his place but Trump had already expressed displeasure with Gordon and announced that she would be resigning. Gordon had been popular with members of both major parties to fill in for Coats.
In international news, grim news of what appeared to be 19 drug-related deaths in Mexico has been reported. Bodies were found in 3 different locations in Uruapan which is a city in the Western state of Michoacan. Some of the bodies were found hanging from bridges. Authorities speculate that the deaths are part of a turf war between rival gangs.
In Hong Kong, massive protests against Chinese authority continue with no end in sight. Thousands of people, mostly wearing black, descended on the city’s airport this week and plan to occupy it for days. The action came days after police arrested nearly 150 people and about 2 months after the protests began. Activists handed flyers to travelers arriving that read, “You’ve arrived in a broken, torn-apart city, not the one you have once pictured…Yet for this Hong Kong, we fight. We shall never surrender.”
And finally tensions remain high in the embattled northern Indian state of Kashmir where Prime Minister Narendra Modi just abruptly revoked its constitutionally guaranteed special status to self-govern. There has been a communications blackout and about 500 people were arrested in the majority-Muslim state. Tens of thousands of Indian troops have been deployed creating a volatile standoff with neighboring Pakistan.