Headlines: February 28, 2019
Listen to story:
Download: mp3 (Duration: 8:16 — 7.6MB)
President Donald Trump has walked out of the Vietnam summit with North Korea without an agreement. After months of anticipation and days of positive forecasts for a deal with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, the talks collapsed within hours. South Korea was deeply disappointed, with a spokesperson for President Moon Jae In saying, “It is regrettable that they could not reach a complete agreement. But it also seems clear that both sides have made more significant progress than ever.”
In other news, the public testimony by Trump’s former attorney Michael Cohen on Wednesday has made continuous headlines. After calling his former client “a racist, a conman, and a cheat,” Cohen faced hours of grilling by Republican and Democratic congress members. But perhaps the most tense moment came between two lawmakers when Michigan’s Rashida Tlaib confronted Republican Mark Meadows over his decision to invite a black female associate of the President as proof that Trump is not a racist. Before Tlaib, two other Democrats – both Black women – had also raised the same issue, Brenda Lawrence and Ayanna Pressley.
Since Meadows’ outburst, two videos have resurfaced of him in 2012 addressing an audience saying about then President Barack Obama, “we’re going to send him back to Kenya or wherever.”
In other news the House passed a major piece of legislation on gun control on Wednesday that would mandate federal criminal background checks on all gun sales, including on those sold privately. It is the first of two bills that are considered the most important gun control bills in decades. The vote on the Bi-Partisan Background Checks Act of 2019 passed 240 to 190 with 8 Republicans voting on the side of Democrats and two Democrats joining their Republican colleagues in opposition. On Thursday there will be a vote on a second bill intended to close what is called the “Charleston loophole,” where gun buyers can have their weapons before completing their background checks. Dylann Roof, the mass murderer of South Carolina, bought a gun in spite of drug charges against him, which he used to kill nine black churchgoers.
In other news, the political consultant who was at the center of a major vote fraud scandal in North Carolina has been arrested. A grand jury has charged L. McCrae Dowless Jr.,with a number of felonies related to an election. Dowless is at the center of the scandal over the November 2018 election race between Republican Mark Harris who hired him, and Democrat Dan McCready. But his charges center around an earlier election that he was involved in – a primary race from 2016 also in North Carolina. The 2018 election is still under investigation but Dowless is likely to face additional charges for that race. His case is a stark example of Republican hypocrisy over voter fraud.
In international news, Pakistan has agreed to release an Indian pilot that it has captured in the latest chapter of a tense standoff between two nuclear-armed states. Pakistan’s prime minister Imran Khan said, “In our desire of peace, I announce that tomorrow, and as a first step to open negotiations, Pakistan will be releasing the Indian Air Force officer in our custody.” A series of retaliatory strikes centered on the embattled Indian state of Kashmir had brought both nations to the brink of war in recent days. Mr. Khan’s gesture appears to be a face-saving one that observers hope will result in calm.
And finally a new United Nations report accuses Israel of committing crimes against humanity in 2018 during protests by Palestinians in Gaza. Mr. Santiago Canton, the chair of the UN Independent Commission of Inquiry on the issue released a statement saying, “Israeli soldiers committed violations of international human rights and humanitarian law. Some of those violations may constitute war crimes or crimes against humanity.” According to the report, “More than 6,000 unarmed demonstrators were shot by military snipers, week after week at the protest sites.” Additionally, “The Commission found reasonable grounds to believe that Israeli snipers shot at journalists, health workers, children and persons with disabilities, knowing they were clearly recognizable as such.” Israel’s foreign minister Israel Katz responded that the report was, “false and biased.” In other Israel news Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is about to be indicted by this government’s Attorney General on corruption charges.