Headlines: July 1, 2019
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President Donald Trump on Sunday became the first sitting US President to step foot into North Korea where he met Mr. Kim Jong Un. The meeting took place in the Demilitarized Zone or DMZ where Trump stepped over the line dividing North from South Korea and enthusiastically shook hands with Mr. Kim. He stepped into the country for just about a minute before returning back to the South Korean side. Here is Trump speaking to reporters alongside Kim. The meeting signified progress after a series of diplomatic setbacks. But critics point out that the Trump administration has made no effort to extract a deal from the North Koreans to stop their nuclear weapons testing. According to the New York Times, Trump is favoring an idea that, “would amount to a nuclear freeze, one that essentially enshrines the status quo, and tacitly accepts the North as a nuclear power, something administration officials have often said they would never stand for.” Meanwhile, Trump’s new Press Secretary Stephanie Grisham apparently got into a spat with North Korean security officers during Trump’s visit over US media access.
In other news, one of the largest parades in the history of the LGBTQ rights movement took place in New York City on Sunday marking the 50th anniversary of the Stonewall uprising. Hundreds of thousands of people marched for almost 12 hours as roads were closed and parade marchers filled the streets with color, music, and merriment. Critics of the main parade contended that it had become too commercialized over the years, dominated by corporate sponsorship. A smaller crowd gathered in front of the original Stonewall Inn. On the other side of the country, a massive pride parade unfolded in San Francisco where some protesters, angry about the inclusion of police, briefly blocked a street.
As we head into the July 4th weekend, President Trump has reportedly asked for a show of military hardware including tanks to be displayed on the national mall during his address this Thursday. Trump also wants a flyover by Air Force One, as well as a stealth fighter jet and a marine helicopter. According to the Washington Post, “The Defense Department has not released any estimate for how much the celebration could cost. But the use of numerous aircraft could drive it well into the millions when counting fuel and maintenance…the administration has organized a far more ambitious celebration than was originally planned, at a yet-to-be specified additional cost to taxpayers.”
The President’s son Donald Jr. over the weekend once more waded into controversy when he retweeted a post from a right wing extremist questioning Senator Kamala Harris’ credibility as a spokesperson for the black community in the US. According to the New York Times, the original tweet read, “Kamala Harris is implying she is descended from American Black Slaves. She’s not. She comes from Jamaican Slave Owners. That’s fine. She’s not an American Black. Period.” Trump Jr. retweeted that post asking, “Is this true? Wow.” He later deleted the tweet. Trump and his family have a penchant for attacking whichever presidential candidate appears to be the latest political challenge to his 2020 reelection.
A group calling itself Never Again on Monday blocked the road to an immigrant detention center in Elizabeth, New Jersey. The largely Jewish gathering of activists participating was expressing solidarity with immigrants being held in detention. Thirty six people were arrested. Here are some of the sounds of their chants. The group organizing the actions posted the following mission statement to Twitter: “What the U.S. government is doing at the border and in immigrant communities all around the country is nothing short of a mass atrocity. As Jews, we were taught to never let anything like the Holocaust happen again. We refuse to wait and see what happens here now.” They are calling on Congress to permanently shut down the Immigration and Customs Enforcement Agency (ICE).
In other immigration news, NBC News has obtained an internal report by the Department of Homeland Security’s Office of Inspector General revealing horrifying conditions for immigrants being detained at a Border Patrol facility in El Paso, Texas. According to NBC’s assessment of the report, “only four showers were available for 756 immigrants, more than half of the immigrants were being held outside, and immigrants inside were being kept in cells maxed out at more than five times their capacity.” Border Patrol agents armed themselves against potential riots by the mistreated migrants. Also, ProPublica just published an investigative piece about a secret Facebook Group boasting 9,500 Border Patrol agents where those tasked with monitoring the US border routinely make racist and misogynist statements about immigrants and others. One sociologist quoted in the piece said that the Facebook group’s postings reflect what, “seems to be a pervasive culture of cruelty aimed at immigrants within CBP. This isn’t just a few rogue agents or ‘bad apples.’”
In international news, protesters in Hong Kong broke into their Legislative Council’s main building and took over, spray painting the insides. They were cheered on by thousands of others on the outside. Police, who were initially absent, eventually cleared the building. The protests are part of an on-going uprising against a controversial treaty that would allow extraditions to China. Although Carrie Lam, Hong Kong’s Chief Executive put the bill on hold, she has not completely withdrawn it.
Iran announced on Monday that it had violated a critical aspect of the 2015 nuclear deal pertaining to the stockpiling of low-enriched uranium. The International Atomic Energy Agency later confirmed that Iran had indeed exceeded its limit. According to the Washington Post, “Iran had repeatedly threatened to cross the limit laid out in the deal for its stockpile of low-enriched uranium unless it received some relief from sanctions, arguing that it has been constrained by the accord but unable to reap the benefits of it since the United States pulled out last year.”
At least 40 people were killed in a brutal attack in Kabul, Afghanistan on Monday. The attack, which the Taliban claimed responsibility for, damaged a school and injured school children. It also nearly destroyed a war museum and a TV station. The attack took place as Taliban negotiators entered a third day of peace talks with the US in Qatar. Out of the 40 killed were 34 civilians. But a Taliban spokesman said, “According to some reports, some civilians have been slightly wounded. But civilians were not the target.”
And in Sudan, a mass demonstration in the capital Khartoum on Sunday resulted in 7 deaths and nearly 200 injuries. Protesters have been demanding a transition to civilian rule after a democratic uprising recently overthrew the dictatorship of Omar Al-Bashir. The Sudanese military has so far refused to relinquish control and Sunday’s protests reportedly faced sniper attacks from the Transitional Military Council’s militias.