Headlines: February 3, 2020
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The House impeachment team and President Donald Trump’s impeachment defense team delivered closing arguments on Monday in what is expected to be the tail end of a historic Senate trial. A vote on whether to acquit Trump is expected to take place on Wednesday afternoon. Representative Adam Schiff of California who heads the House impeachment team said this among his closing remarks. The closing arguments come after Senators voted narrowly on Friday 51 to 49 to prevent witnesses from testifying. Several Senators admitted that Trump engaged in wrongdoing in his pursuit of personal political gain through Ukraine, but insisted that the conduct was not impeachable.
President Trump on Tuesday is expected to deliver his 2020 State of the Union address. A White House official revealed that the theme of the speech is “The Great American Comeback,” and that the President will share his “vision for relentless optimism.” Trump is only the second president in the history of the nation to deliver a State of the Union address while in the middle of an impeachment trial (Bill Clinton was the first). Some Democrats are planning a protest of Trump’s speech with female lawmakers reportedly coordinating their wardrobes to wear white, while others are planning to boycott.
The speech will come a day after the Iowa caucuses take place – the first primary decision of this election year. The last poll expected to be released ahead of the caucuses, done by CNN, was abruptly canceled after candidate Pete Buttigieg’s campaign asserted that his name had accidentally been left off some surveys. The latest poll conducted prior to that one showed Senator Bernie Sanders in the lead, 7 points ahead of former Vice President Joe Biden. A new poll of New Hampshire conducted just hours before the Iowa caucuses also shows Sanders in the lead in that state, also 7 points ahead of Biden. However, a Huffington Post/YouGov nationwide survey asked voters who they thought would end up winning the Democratic Party’s nomination and found that 43% expected Biden to cinch it, compared to 17% who expected Sanders as the nominee. The Washington Post on Monday published a detailed investigation of donors to Democratic candidates and found that Sanders, “was the standout Democratic presidential fundraiser of 2019, with 1.4 million donors from across the country.” Republicans are also caucusing in Iowa on Monday but with Trump running for reelection, challengers like former House Representative Joe Walsh don’t stand a chance. Mr. Walsh lamented, “My party is a cult. I’m a conservative Republican; Fox News won’t have me on. Conservative media will ignore me because they’re a cult with Trump. The Republican parties in each state: they are a cult for Trump. I didn’t sufficiently get all of that and that’s made this really hard.”
The Trump administration on Friday announced a new travel ban, adding 6 countries to the list of those no longer allowed to enter the US: Nigeria, Sudan, Tanzania, Eritrea, Kyrgyzstan, and Myanmar. Eritrea slammed the decision calling it “unacceptable.” Nigeria, which is Africa’s largest economy, is particularly shocked by its inclusion in the travel ban. Numerous ppeople in the process of emigrating to the US to join their families, say they will be separated from their loved ones. Nigeria’s government announced it has created a committee to study the situation. Four out of the 6 nations are in Africa, confirming a wide-spread suspicion that the Trump administration adopts openly racist policies. According to Reuters, “The U.S. government also said it will stop issuing ‘diversity visas’ to nationals of Sudan and Tanzania.”
The spread of the dangerous new coronavirus has continued unabated. As of Monday the Washington Post said that, “China’s National Health Commission reported Monday that there are 17,228 confirmed cases in China.” Experts say the rapid spread of the disease looks increasingly like a pandemic. Hong Kong continues to keep its border with China shut while the city of Wuhan where the virus is thought to have originated, remains on lockdown. The Chinese government pledged to build a 1000-bed hospital there in just days and on Monday it announced the completion of the record-breaking construction. The Chinese government has slammed the US response, saying that it has made matters worse by spreading fear and not offering enough assistance. According to one spokesperson, the US has, “unceasingly manufactured and spread panic,” about the disease. Meanwhile Northern California has just confirmed three new infections, bringing the total across the state to 6 so far.
Sunday’s Superbowl, watched by millions of Americans, was also the focus of President Trump who tweeted triumphantly after the game’s end, “congratulations to the Kansas City Chiefs,” and added, “you represented the Great state of Kansas,” even though the Kansas City in question is located in Missouri. Trump has since deleted the tweet. The President had the focus of his favorite media outlet during the game and did a friendly interview with Fox News that aired just before the Superbowl. The watchdog group Media Matters for America slammed the interview as “propaganda.” And Huffington Post reported that, “Taxpayers shelled out another $3.4 million to send … Trump to Florida this weekend so he could host a Super Bowl party for paying guests at his for-profit golf course.”
A greyhound bus in California was the site of a shooting on Monday in which at least 6 passengers were shot and 1 died. The bus was traveling from Los Angeles to San Francisco. The driver of the bus reportedly convinced the shooter to exit the bus so he could drive the other passengers to safety. One of those shot – a woman – died of her wounds. No motive is yet known.
State Secretary Mike Pompeo during his visit abroad is reportedly lauding the importance of press freedom – without a hint of irony given his recent spat with an NPR journalist. According to Associated Press, “For the past four days, U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has been calling for authoritarian governments in eastern Europe and Central Asia to ease restrictions on press freedom despite criticism for his own treatment of journalists at home.” Pompeo had screamed profanities at the NPR reporter and falsely accused her of lying to him.
The embattled Syrian city of Idlib has once more been bombarded by hundreds of airstrikes over just 3 days, conducted primarily by the Syrian government and its ally, Russia. So far dozens of people have been killed. According to the BBC one schoolteacher said, “Every single day there is bombing. If a day passes without us hearing any missiles, any aircraft, any warplanes, we are afraid that they are preparing for something bigger than this.” Western media have not been reporting on the bombing with any seriousness. Elsewhere in the Middle East, Muslim nation representatives gathered in Saudi Arabia formally rebuked Trump’s plan for Israel and Palestine as “biased.”
And finally, longtime radio host and progressive political activist Lila Garrett has died. My colleague at KPFK, the radio station home to this program, hosted an important show every Monday morning at 7 am for years, bringing her signature no-nonsense analysis as she “connected the dots” of the news. Lila was an Emmy-award winning television screen writer. She passed away on Saturday at the age of 94. Here is a short clip of her in a video profile by KPFK. She will be missed by KPFK and Southern California.