Headlines: February 10, 2020
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President Donald Trump defended his decision to demote Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman on Friday and escort him off White House premises. Vindman was a key witness in the House impeachment hearings that preceded Trump’s impeachment. His brother Yevgeny Vindman who also served on the National Security Council was also escorted out. Trump blasted him as “very insubordinate,” just after claiming, “I don’t know him, never spoke to him, or met him.” Trump also claimed that Vindman had, “problems with judgement, adhering to the chain of command and leaking information.” Vindman’s lawyer denounced the President’s actions as part of a “campaign of intimidation.” Trump also fired Gordon Sondland, another impeachment witness and the US Ambassador to the European Union. Top Republican Senators reportedly tried to talk the President out of his openly vindictive actions. The New York Times explained, “Among the Republicans who warned the White House was Senator Susan Collins of Maine, who after voting to acquit Mr. Trump said she thought he had learned a lesson.” Meanwhile Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer wrote a letter to Inspectors General around the country calling on them to protect whistleblowers in light of Trump’s treatment of Vindman.
In other news Trump posted a doctored video of his State of the Union address showing House Speaker Nancy Pelosi appearing to rip up the transcript of his speech during his honoring of a Tuskegee airman. The video was titled, “Powerful American Stories Ripped to Shreds by Nancy Pelosi.” Pelosi ripped up the transcript after the speech ended but Trump’s video gives the impression she did it in the middle of the speech. Pelosi and other Democrats have called on Facebook and Twitter to take down the video but the social media companies demurred. A Facebook spokesperson named Andy Stone responded saying, “Sorry, are you suggesting the President didn’t make those remarks and the Speaker didn’t rip the speech?” Pelosi’s chief of Staff Drew Hammill shot back saying, “What planet are you living on? this is deceptively altered. take it down.” The Trump campaign is now claiming the video is a parody.
In election news, Iowa’s Democratic Party released its final official results from last week’s disastrous caucuses declaring South Bend, Indiana Mayor Pete Buttigieg the winner and Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders the runner-up. Buttigieg was awarded 14 delegates and Sanders 12. However, Sanders reportedly won more votes. His campaign has asked for a partial recanvass. Although mathematical mistakes in the awarding of delegates at some precincts were documented, Iowa Democratic Party spokespeople said they would not go back and correct the math. The next primary takes place this Tuesday in New Hampshire – as a traditional election rather than a complicated caucus. A new poll released Monday shows Sanders widening his lead in New Hampshire with 27% support and Buttigieg losing some momentum in dropping to 19%. Senator Amy Klobuchar has jumped to third place ahead of Joe Biden and Elizabeth Warren. The Nevada primary – which is a caucus – takes place on February 22nd, and Sanders’ supporters are worried that the Nevada Democratic Party just hired a former campaign staffer for Buttigieg to be their “voter protection director.” Meanwhile Joe Biden is once more under fire for reacting inappropriately to a voter during a campaign rally. Video of Biden calling a woman a “lying dog-faced pony soldier,” has gone viral. Biden has used that phrase before.
President Trump has just released his proposed budget for fiscal year 2021. The $4.8 trillion budget plan, in the words of Associated Press, “recycles previously rejected cuts to domestic programs like food stamps and Medicaid … while leaving Social Security and Medicare benefits untouched.” The Trump budget also demands more funding for his favorite project – a border wall with Mexico.
The numbers of deaths and infections from the Novel Coronavirus Pneumonia (NCP) has continued to rise, well surpassing the numbers from the SARS outbreak more than ten years ago. More than 40,000 people are now infected worldwide, and an American national in Wuhan, China, the epicenter of the disease, has died. A cruise ship that remains under quarantine is also struggling with growing numbers of infections. Although passengers are able to remain separated in their rooms, the New York Times reports on Monday that crew members are forced to share food and close quarters while they serve and care for passengers. At least 10 crew members are among those infected. Chinese Premier Xi Jinping toured Beijing after an unusual silence for days. He spoke to Wuhan medical workers via video conference and appeared wearing a mask and refusing to shake hands.
Sunday’s Academy Awards made history in recognizing a foreign language and foreign-made film for the first time ever as the year’s Best Picture. South Korea’s Parasite, directed by Bong Joon Ho swept numerous categories including Best International Picture. The powerful satire calls attention to wealth inequality and the deep class divides in South Korea. The film JojoRabbit won Best Adapted Screenplay, making writer, director, and actor, Taika Waititi the first indigenous person to ever win an Oscar. Waititi is a New Zealander of Maori origin. The award for Best Animated Short film went to Hair Love, a black-made film about a father struggling to do his daughter’s hair. The filmmakers brought Texas teenager Deandre Arnold as their guest, a high school student who made headlines after he was singled out for not cutting his dreadlocks for his graduation. And, a documentary produced by Barack and Michelle Obama called American Factory won Best Documentary. The film follows the story of GM workers struggling to unionize and the filmmaker Julie Reichert, quoting the Communist Manifesto in her Oscar acceptance speech said, “We believe things will get better when workers of the world unite.” Despite the history making efforts of women and people of color, the Oscars was still slammed for being too white-dominated, with singer Janelle Monae even saying as much during her Oscar performance.
In international news, Israel has been accused of torturing Palestinians who were arrested in a sweep after a bombing in the West Bank. According to AP, “Lawyers and family members of the three main suspects say they were tortured to the point of being hospitalized…. The allegations against Israel are the most serious to come to light in years.”
Aid workers in Syria are drawing attention to the massive humanitarian catastrophe that is unfolding in and around Idlib, Syria. The Syrian dictator Bashar Al Assad, who has waged a relentless years-long war against his own people, has continued bombing the area with the help of Russian forces. One aid worker told Al Jazeera, “”The situation is 20 times worse than what it was last year. And over the span of last year, we had 1.2 million people displaced [in northwest Syria].” Turkey’s government is also up in arms as several of its soldiers in the area have been killed by Syrian forces.
And finally the Irish political party Sinn Fein, which is linked to the Irish Republican Army – made history by topping polls after what some have called an “earth-shaking election.” The leftist nationalist Sinn Fein, took the highest share of votes, beating both rival centrist parties.