Headlines: January 24, 2019
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There appears to be a coup in progress in Venezuela. Opposition leader Juan Guaido on Wednesday declared himself the nation’s new interim President and was immediately backed by US Vice President Mike Pence who called the democratically elected President Nicolas Maduro, a, “dictator with no legitimate claim to power.” The 35-year old Guaido addressed a mass protest when he made his announcement. The US, Canada, Brazil, Colombia, Peru, Chile, and Argentina, all rushed to recognize him. Meanwhile Maduro reasserted his authority on Wednesday to a crowd of supporters as the opposition leader declared himself interim President. The Venezuelan military has usually held the balance of power in its hand and so far it seems to be siding with Maduro. Mr. Maduro has announced a break in “diplomatic and political relations” with the US and ordered US diplomats to leave his country within 72 hours.
Here in the US, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has canceled President Donald Trump’s State of the Union address as the federal government shutdown continues. The annual address was due to be given next Tuesday but the battle over the shutdown led Pelosi to not introduce the resolution that is traditionally filed by the House Speaker to invite the President to address a bicameral Congressional session next week. The tradition of the House Speaker inviting the President to make his State of the Union goes back to 1790 when George Washington gave the first State of the Union address. Late on Wednesday night the President tweeted, “I will do the Address when the Shutdown is over.”
Meanwhile Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell is facing the wrath of the public over the on-going shutdown. On Wednesday, federal employee unions led a mass sit-in and protest outside his Senate office at which a dozen people were arrested, including union leaders J. David Cox, the head of the American Federation of Government Employees and Randy Erwin, the president of the National Federation of Federal Employees. Earlier there was a silent protest outside the Senate Hart building as hundreds of people held signs demanding an end to the shutdown and silently stood for 33 minutes – one minute for each day of the record-breaking shutdown. On Thursday the Senate will vote on two dueling bills to end the shutdown, neither of which is expected to pass.
Meanwhile union leaders representing air traffic controllers as well as pilots and flight attendants issued a grim warning on Wednesday night saying that the shutdown is a serious safety risk for its members as well as for the public. In a joint statement the National Air Traffic Controllers Association, the Air Line Pilots Association, and the Association of Flight Attendants-CWA said, “This is already the longest government shutdown in the history of the United States and there is no end in sight. In our risk averse industry, we cannot even calculate the level of risk currently at play, nor predict the point at which the entire system will break.” Among the hardest hit federal employees are Transportation Security Administration workers. The White House acting Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney has in the meantime requested federal government agencies to hand him a list by Friday of the most at-risk programs if the shutdown lingers into April or March.
The Senate Intelligence Committee has subpoenaed Trump’s former attorney and fixer Michael Cohen, sources confirmed on Thursday morning. Cohen was due to testify in front of Congress in February but announced that he has indefinitely postponed his testimony. House Democrats accused the President of intimidation as Trump has been vocal in his criticism of Cohen. Congressman Elijah Cummings, the chairman of the House Oversight Committee said during an interview, “The most upsetting thing about all of this is the fact that Mr. Cohen was intimidated…And not only was he intimidated, but he believes his family also has been intimidated and threatened.” Cohen said he did not want to be the, “villain of the Trump Presidency.”
A white man named James Jackson has pled guilty to the murder of a black man named Timothy Caughman with a sword in March 2017. Jackson had stalked a number of black men before killing Caughman with the intention of inciting a “race war” in the US. The White Supremacist faces six charges including murder and committing a hate crime. He had said in an interview that he would have rather killed, “a young thug” or “a successful older black man with blondes … people you see in Midtown. These younger guys that put white girls on the wrong path.”
A major measles outbreak in the state of Washington has alarmed local authorities enough to declare an emergency. Nearly 2 dozen cases of Measles were confirmed this week in Clark County, Washington, that have been linked to an anti-vaccination “hot spot” in Portland, Oregon, which lies just across the Columbia River from the Washington County. Twenty of the 23 people infected were not vaccinated against Measles. Peter J. Hotez, a professor of pediatrics and dean of the National School of Tropical Medicine at Baylor College of Medicine in Houston told the Washington Post, “This is something I’ve predicted for a while now. It’s really awful and really tragic and totally preventable.” He added, “Portland is a total train wreck when it comes to vaccine rates.” Measles is among the most contagious of infectious diseases and was nearly eradicated but for the insistence among growing numbers of Americans who believe against all scientifically verified evidence that vaccines are some how dangerous.
In other news, the nation of Greenland is sounding a terrifying alarm about its ice sheet melting. Apparently Greenland’s ice is melting 4 times faster than it was 16 years ago which means sea-levels are likely to rise much faster than expected from global warming. Greenland’s ice sheet together with Antarctica’s ice sheet holds more than 99% of the world’s fresh water. If the entire Greenland ice sheet were to melt it would mean a 23-foot increase in sea levels – which for the US means the southern tip of Florida would disappear into the ocean.