Headlines: July 19, 2019
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The Trump Administration announced that the Navy had shot down an Iranian drone in the Straits of Hormuz on Thursday, in an attempt to ratchet tensions with Iran. President Trump made the announcement of what he called “defensive” action taken from the USS Boxer.
But Iranian authorities on Friday denied that the US had shot any of their drones, suggesting the US may have accidentally shot down an American drone. Iran’s Deputy Foreign Minister Abbas Araghchi wrote on Twitter, “We have not lost any drone in the Strait of Hormuz nor anywhere else. I am worried that USS Boxer has shot down their own UAS (Unmanned Aerial System) by mistake!,” The Iranian Revolutionary Guard also said none of its drones were missing and announced it would put before-and-after photos of its entire drone stock online. Iranian forces reportedly downed an American drone last month.
Meanwhile Iran’s foreign minister Mohammad Javad Zarif arrived in New York this week for talks at the United Nations and made what he called a “substantial” offer to the US on nuclear inspections. The Guardian Newspaper characterized the offer saying Iran, “would formally and permanently accept enhanced inspections of its nuclear program, in return for the permanent lifting of US sanctions.” On Thursday the US imposed sanctions on a network of corporations that it says are selling Iran materials for its nuclear program.
Here in the US, New York Congress woman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez confronted Acting Homeland Security Secretary Kevin McAleenan at a hearing on Thursday about a report on current and former Border Patrol agents exchanging violently racist and sexist content including about her.
Congresswoman Ilhan Omar, who has become Trump’s top target of racism and hate, was given a royal welcome back to her home state of Minnesota with hundreds of supporters greeting her. She spoke at a town hall meeting that night to discuss Medicare-for-All as part of her progressive agenda. On Friday President Trump expressed frustration over how beloved Omar appeared to be by her constituents and slammed media coverage of her welcome on Twitter, writing angrily, “Mainstream Media, which has lost all credibility, has either officially or unofficially become a part of the Radical Left Democrat Party. It is a sick partnership, so pathetic to watch! They even covered a tiny staged crowd as they greeted Foul Mouthed Omar in Minnesota.”
Meanwhile, newly unsealed court documents show that President Trump was closely involved in the 2016 hush-money payments made to Stormy Daniels, the woman he allegedly had an affair with. Daniels’ whose birth name is Stephanie Clifford had threatened to go public with the story of their affair ahead of the 2016 elections. The documents were made public because it appeared likely that no new charges would be filed on what many view as election fraud. According to the documents the FBI both Trump and his close aide Hope Hicks were involved in discussions about the payments even though both claimed they had no knowledge about it at the time. Trump’s former personal attorney Michael Cohen made public, checks that Trump wrote to him as reimbursements for the payments during his Congressional testimony earlier this year. Cohen’s lawyer Lanny Davis said on Thursday that he was shocked that there were no charges filed based on the new information, “especially since prosecutors found that virtually all of Michael’s admitted crimes were done at the direction of and for the benefit of Donald Trump.”
Robert S. Mueller III is expected to testify next Wednesday at a House hearing to discuss the investigation into the 2016 election that he oversaw as the Special Counsel. Democrats, who have pushed for him to testify are hoping the hearing will draw attention to a chapter that Trump has assumed is closed. California Representative Ted Lieu, who plans to question Mueller about Trump’s obstruction of justice actions, said to press, “For many Americans this will be blockbuster, new information.” He added, “We just need him to convey the facts, and that will result in people learning . . . there is a lot of evidence that the president obstructed justice.”
The second debate between Democratic Presidential hopefuls is set to take place on July 30th and 31st and like last time, it will be spread out over two days. A draw deciding who will debate on which day resulted in Senators Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren – both top tier progressives – debating on the same day. Meanwhile Senator Kamala Harris and former Vice President Joe Biden will have a rematch of sorts on the second day of the debate.
The leading climate organization 350.org has released a Climate Resistance Handbook – what they call a “resource for youth strikers, climate activists, and anyone wanting to learn more about social change.” The book is available for free download online and features a foreword by the 16-year old world famous climate activist Greta Thunberg. The handbook comes at about the same time as 70 plus US-based environmental organizations released a 10-page document called “Equitable and Just National Climate Platform,” which is a set of demands for how a Democratic administration can take action on climate change.
In other environmental news, the EPA on Thursday refused to ban a highly toxic chemical pesticide called “chlorpyrifos,” in spite of a major petition by advocates of public health. The EPA rejected Obama-era studies showing the dangers of the toxin and a federal judge’s ruling last year affirming a ban.
President Trump on Thursday announced Eugene Scalia, the son of the late Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia, as his new pick for Labor Secretary to replace the disgraced Alexander Acosta. In keeping with Trump’s tradition to reward corporations over workers, according to AP, the younger Scalia, “has been known for his challenges to federal regulations on behalf of corporate clients.” And finally a massive class action lawsuit bringing together 10,000 Au Pairs, or live-in nannies, was settled to the tune of $65.5 million. The suit was brought by largely non-American women who worked from 2009 to 2018 and was based on whether the child care workers were entitled to the minimum wage as employees or not. The resulting settlement will award the Au Pairs on average about $3,500.