Headlines: January 30, 2020
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the Senate impeachment trial over President Donald Trump’s Ukraine misconduct continued on Thursday for a second day of Senators’ questions to the two legal teams that were put in writing and read out by presiding Chief Justice John Roberts. Attorney and law professor Alan Dershowitz, arguing to defend the President made an extraordinary claim on Wednesday that critics denounced as justifying a monarchy and even many Republicans appeared taken aback by. He said, “If a president does something which he believes will help him get elected in the public interest, that cannot be the kind of quid pro quo that results in impeachment,” Observers were aghast at the argument he put forward which also implicitly admits that Trump acted to further his reelection chances in 2020. Representative Adam Schiff, the leader of the House impeachment team also expressed shock when speaking to reporters on Thursday, denouncing Mr. Dershowitz’s defense of Trump as “absurdly dangerous.”
In other impeachment news, Republican Senators aggressively corralled their colleagues into falling in line behind Trump in promising to vote against witness testimonies and push for a swift acquittal by Friday. Earlier in the week, after former National Security Advisor John Bolton’s book manuscript captured news headlines, a handful of moderate Republicans said they would consider voting for witness testimonies. But by Thursday news emerged that Republicans claimed to have the 51 votes necessary to end the trial. The White House had also been circulating a letter saying it was moving to block Mr. Bolton’s book from being published. Now Bolton’s lawyer is pushing backagainst the White House claim that the book has too much classified information for public consumption. In an email to the White House attorney Charles Cooper wrote, “We do not believe that any of that information could reasonably be considered classified,” and that since Bolton may be called to testify, it was, “imperative that we have the results of your review of that chapter as soon as possible.”
A number of Democratic Presidential candidates remain shut out of the campaign trial leading up to the Iowa Caucuses on Monday, including Senators Bernie Sanders, Elizabeth Warren, and Amy Klobuchar. Meanwhile, as former Vice President Joe Biden is under no such obligation he has been actively campaigning even as his name continues to come up during the Senate impeachment trial. Speaking at a rally in Sioux City, Iowa, Biden said, “They’re smearing me … because they know if I’m the nominee, I’m going to beat Donald Trump like a drum.” But voters are wary, and Biden is under pressure to prove he can withstand accusations of ethics concerns. One Iowa voter told Associated Press, “Whether there’s anything to it or not, there’s going to be a lack of trust and doubt that we could end up like we did four years ago,” referring to voter distrust of Hillary Clinton.
In other electoral news, South Bend, Indiana Mayor Pete Buttigieg has just received the endorsement of a major LGBTQ rights group, Equality California. The organization’s Nevada partner also formally endorsed the openly gay mayor and Presidential candidate. And, the Washington Post reported on internal documents from Senator Bernie Sanders’ campaign that explore a wide range of executive orders that Sanders might consider if he were to be President. Many of the draft orders center on reversing President Trump’s anti-immigrant executive orders including raising the cap on refugees that the US admits. Other orders include authorizing the Justice Department to legalize marijuana, allowing the direct importation of prescription drugs from Canada, and declaring a climate emergency. A new poll on Thursday found that Sanders would be Trump’s toughest challenger in the state of Texas. According to the Austin American Statesman, “the poll show Sanders with 3 points fewer than Trump — 50% for Trump to Sanders’ 47% — which was better than the former vice president, who had 5 points fewer than Trump (51% to 46%). Massachusetts’ Sen. Elizabeth Warren had 8 points fewer (52% to 44%), as did former South Bend, Ind., Mayor Pete Buttigieg (51% to 43%).”
CNN reported that the Trump administration is planning to loosen restrictions on the US military’s use of landmines in violation of international agreements. The 1997 Ottawa convention bans the use, sale, and stockpiling of landmines and in 2014 the US, under President Barack Obama committed to adhering to much of the convention. Now the Trump administration says a Pentagon review has resulted in the US moving to change that commitment. Landmines have been condemned by international experts as they pose a major risk of death and injury to civilians for years even after wars end, especially to children.
The US economy grew by 2.1% in the last three months of 2019 according to new figures released by the government. The growth rate as per conventional economic standards, is significantly lower than the 3% that President Trump claimed he would achieve. AP explained that additionally, “For all of last year, economic growth — 2.3% — was the weakest since Trump’s election in 2016.” Among the reasons for the slower-than-expected economic growth was Trump’s trade war with China and the fact that while wages are increasing, they are doing so slowly.
On Thursday the government issued another report – on life expectancy in the US. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found a small uptick in life expectancy for the first time in 4 years. The largest factor is a decline in deaths from cancer. Fewer Americans are also dying from heart disease and unintentional injuries such as drug overdoses. The Washington Post explained that, “Deaths from suicide and influenza and pneumonia increased.” Overall life expectancy in the US is now 78.7 years – still less than the 2014 peak at 78.9 years.
The number of infections worldwide from the new coronavirus strain is now at more than 7,800, almost all of those in China. About 170 people have died. As the World Health Organization considers whether to declare a global emergency, the US has just announced the first person-to-person transmission of the virus in the nation. According to the New York Times, “The patient is the husband of a woman who returned from Wuhan, China, the epicenter of the virus, and was the first reported case in Chicago, officials said at a news briefing. The woman, who is in her 60s, was hospitalized but appears to be doing well.” Meanwhile to put the coronavirus numbers into context, the CDC announced recently that this season’s flu virus claimed the lives of 8,200 people including 54 children in the US alone. About 140,000 people were hospitalized and 15 million were estimated to have been infected nationwide. Although this year’s flu vaccine is not an exact match, doctors are still encouraging Americans to get vaccinated.
And finally Amnesty International released its annual survey of Asia-Pacific nations and concluded that there was increased repression in many nations but also increased resistance to authoritarianism among populations. India and China in particular, according to Amnesty International, are trying to impose their, “own bleak, domineering vision on the continent, perceiving minorities as a threat to ‘national security.’