Headlines: February 4, 2020
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The Iowa Caucuses – the first primary race of the 2020 election – were an unmitigated disaster with no results being released on Monday night. As candidates, voters, journalists and observers from around the country waited with bated breath to find out who had won the most delegates, news spread that the Iowa Democratic Party was holding a meeting with candidate representatives to explain that the incoming results were being verified for “quality control.” The state party released a statement saying, “This is simply a reporting issue, the app did not go down and this is not a hack or an intrusion. The underlying data and paper trail is sound and will simply take time to further report the results.” As the hours passed on Monday night Mayor Pete Buttigieg took to the stage and claimed victory. Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders also addressed his reporters. According to polls and some preliminary results Buttigieg and Sanders appeared to be the top two candidates in Iowa. Senator Elizabeth Warren is likely to be the third top candidate, with Joe Biden at what Warren’s campaign called, “a distant fourth.” As of this recording Iowa’s Democratic Party says results from the caucuses will be released Tuesday late afternoon. The LA Times reported that the app in question that precincts had trouble with on Monday night was developed by a company linked to those who worked for Hillary Clinton’s campaign in 2016.
In other election-related news, President Donald Trump handily won the Republican Party’s Iowa caucuses with barely any challengers. Trump wasted no time in delighting in the Democratic Party’s Iowa caucus-confusion. He tweeted, referring to himself in the third person, “The only person that can claim a very big victory in Iowa last night is ‘Trump’.” Prominent right wing figures and media outlets actively pushed conspiracy theories to sow greater dissension among the Democratic Party ranks. GOP Senator Lindsey Graham tweeted disbelief that the problems with the Iowa Democratic Party Caucuses, “has nothing to do with a Bernie blowout and a Biden crash?” The next primary race takes place in New Hampshire on February 11th as a traditional election, and a new poll of that state’s voters by the Boston Globe and others confirmed an earlier poll showing Sanders at 24% compared to Biden at only 18%.
The historic Senate impeachment trial of President Trump is coming to an end as House impeachment managers and Trump’s defense team finished their closing arguments Monday. On Tuesday Senators debated one another with some announcing their intentions for a Wednesday vote on whether to acquit Trump. Senate Majority leader Mitch McConnell, who made it clear he was not an impartial juror unsurprisingly announced his intention to acquit. Moderate Republican Lisa Murkowski of Alaska also threw her weight behind the president saying she would acquit. Like other Republicans who admit Trump’s misconduct Murkowski said that Trump’s behavior was, “shameful and wrong,” and yet she plans to vote to acquit. Legal experts now fear that in acquitting Trump, the bar for acceptable Presidential conduct has been set lower than ever and that an acquittal essentially normalizes abuse of power.
Despite what is likely to be an acquittal, Trump’s supporters are unhappy because the President’s Tuesday evening State of the Union address will take place while the impeachment trial is still in progress. Trump is expected to use the traditional yearly address to make the case for his reelection. It is not yet known if he will bring up his impeachment. The Democratic Party has chosen freshman Texas Representative Veronica Escobar to deliver the official party response. Escobar has been a fervent critic of Trump especially on immigration issues. Meanwhile Senator Sanders announced he will deliver his own response to Trump’s speech from Manchester, New Hampshire.
As Black History month 2020 begins, archeologists in Tulsa, Oklahoma announced they are planning on searching for mass graves that may hold the bodies of African Americans killed during the infamous race riots of 1921. Forensic archaeologists believe they have found evidence of mass graves in two areas in Tulsa, one of them near Greenwood, an affluent black community that was completely destroyed by racist white mobs. Residents of Tulsa are planning the 100th anniversary commemoration of the little-acknowledged massacre next year.
Two Iranian students are challenging the Department of Homeland Security over their removal from the US. Shahab Dehghani and Reihana Emami Arandi have both filed complaints to DHS’s Civil Rights office saying they were mistreated at Boston’s Logan International Airport when entering the US to pursue and continue their education at Harvard University and Northeastern University. According to AP, “The students maintain they had no intention of overstaying their visas and that federal officials provided no proof supporting their conclusions.” There are numerous documented cases of Iranians with legitimate travel documents being denied entry into the US over the past month.
The Wall Street Journal has just published a lengthy investigation into contaminated groundwater in suburbs near Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. According to the Journal, “About 80,000 people in three townships outside Philadelphia live in an area where the groundwater has been contaminated by chemicals used for decades in firefighting foam at two nearby decommissioned military bases.” The chemicals in question are widely used at US military bases and are part of a class of toxins called, “perfluoroalkyl and polyfluoroalkyl substances, or PFAS.” PFAS chemicals are also known as “forever chemicals,” given the lengthy period of time they remain active. In spite of their known dangers, the Trump Administration’s Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) just approved the use of four chemicals in the PFAS family. According to the Huffington Post, “Most PFAS — and other toxic chemicals — that the industry sends to the EPA for consideration are ultimately approved with few or no restrictions. The agency recently took what it characterized as ‘aggressive’ steps in providing guidance on PFAS contamination cleanup and other measures, though it hasn’t done anything to limit the chemicals’ production or reduce discharge into the environment.”
The spread of the new coronavirus strain continues unabated with more than 20,000 people now confirmed to have been infected worldwide, nearly all of them in China. Hong Kong has reported its first fatality linked to the disease – a 39-year old man who had traveled to Wuhan in China where the disease is thought to have originated. And, pilots with American Airlines have filed a lawsuit demanding that all flights to and from China be halted temporarily over fears of the virus’ spread. A new NPR poll about Americans’ opinion on the coronavirus found that most people are deeply concerned about the disease and feel the US government is responding adequately to meet the threat. Meanwhile researchers published the results of a large new study that found those who have primary care health insurance are actually using it a lot less than they did about 10 years ago.
In international news, violence in Northwest Syria has displaced a whopping half a million people in just two months according to the United Nations. The UN is sounding the alarm on increased violence in a war that was just thought to be wrapping up with peace talks last year. A UN spokesperson said, “”Since 1 December, some 520,000 people have been displaced from their homes, the vast majority – 80 percent – of them women and children.”