Headlines: July 23, 2018
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Two people have died and a dozen left injured in Toronto, Canada, after a gun-toting man walked through a popular neighborhood shooting into restaurants. The shooting began at 10 pm Eastern time on Sunday night in Greektown, Toronto. Witnesses captured the sounds of shots. Police are investigating the shooting spree and struggling to understand his motive. The shooter is also dead although it is unclear whether it was by his own hands or the police. One witness described the suspect as a, “white male in his 30s wearing black clothing.” Unlike the responses of elected officials in the US in the wake of a mass shooting, Toronto’s Mayor John Tory clearly identified guns as the problem saying, “We have a gun problem in that guns are readily available to too many people. The police are doing their best, but they’re operating under extraordinarily difficult circumstances to deal with these guns. And we’ll see what they conclude from this case, but it’s evidence of a gun problem, clearly.”
In Southern California where this program is based, an armed standoff in a Trader Joe’s store in Silver Lake ended in one person dead and several wounded when a man being chased by police crashed his car and ran into the store on Saturday. Associated Press described the incident sparking from, “A feud between a man and his grandmother over his girlfriend staying at the grandmother’s home.” Twenty-eight year old Gene Evin Atkins is suspected to have shot his grandmother and his girlfriend before being chased by police and barricading himself in the Silver Lake Trader Joes where a hostage situation then ensued. Store manager Melyda Corado was killed in the exchange of gunfire between police and Mr. Atkins. Here is one of the store workers commenting to CNN on Saturday. The suspect, Atkins is being held on $2 million bail.
In spite of the US’s epidemic of deadly gun violence, the National Rifle Association is suing the city of Seattle over it’s “safe storage” gun law that fines gun owners up to $10,000 for not safely storing firearms in the interest of children’s public safety. Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan said about the NRA, “While they go to court – kids go to the hospital.”
President Donald Trump has escalated a war of words with Iran over the weekend tweeting an all-CAPS threat on Sunday after Iranian President Hassan Rouhani remarked, “America must understand well that peace with Iran is the mother of all peace and war with Iran is the mother of all wars.” Mr. Trump took umbrage at Rouhani’s words and responded on Twitter on Sunday, “To Iranian President Rouhani: NEVER, EVER THREATEN THE UNITED STATES AGAIN OR YOU WILL SUFFER CONSEQUENCES THE LIKES OF WHICH FEW THROUGHOUT HISTORY HAVE EVER SUFFERED BEFORE. WE ARE NO LONGER A COUNTRY THAT WILL STAND FOR YOUR DEMENTED WORDS OF VIOLENCE & DEATH. BE CAUTIOUS!” Iran shrugged off the capitalized threat. In a speech on Sunday Secretary of State Mike Pompeo castigated Iran’s government.
That’s Secretary of State Mike Pompeo speaking about Iran on Sunday at the Ronald Reagan Library in Simi Valley, California*.
Reuters on Friday published an exposé of a concerted US campaign to foment criticism of Iran. Based on anonymous sources the outlet found that, “The Trump administration has launched an offensive of speeches and online communications meant to foment unrest and help pressure Iran to end its nuclear program and its support of militant groups.” Reuters also said, “the [Trump] campaign paints Iranian leaders in a harsh light, at times using information that is exaggerated or contradicts other official pronouncements, including comments by previous administrations.”
Meanwhile the President continues to be dogged by news of Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation. After Friday’s bombshell revelation that his personal lawyer Michael Cohen had secretly taped conversations with Trump regarding payments to a Playboy model named Karen McDougal in September 2016, a lawyer for Stormy Daniels now says there are more such tapes. Michael Avenatti, the outspoken attorney representing Ms. Daniels, said in an ABC interview on Sunday that the tape is, “ultimately, is going to prove to be a big problem for the president… You know, that old adage, ‘You’ve lived by the sword, you die by the sword.'” One of Trump’s current lawyers, Rudy Giuliani dismissed the tape saying it would not harm the President. Surprisingly, Trump’s attorneys had waived attorney-client privilege allowing the tapes to be used in the investigation even though Trump tweeted that a lawyer taping his client was, “totally unheard of & perhaps illegal.”
As the news of Cohen’s secret tape came to light, so did an inquiry into a media company that is being investigated by prosecutors in New York for buying the rights to Ms. McDougal’s story. American Media Inc, which owns the National Enquirer, is also being investigated by the Federal Election Commission. The company according to the New York Times, “at times acted more as a political supporter than as a news organization, according to people briefed on the investigation.”
Meanwhile documents released on Saturday under the Freedom of Information Act showed that the FBI requested permission from a FISA court to wiretap a Trump campaign adviser named Carter Page because, as per the FBI, Mr. Page, “has been collaborating and conspiring with the Russian government, and that, “the FBI believes Page has been the subject of targeted recruitment by the Russian government.” Trump responded angrily on Twitter that the documents, “confirm with little doubt that the Department of ‘Justice’ and FBI misled the courts. Witch Hunt Rigged, a Scam!” He returned to doubting his own intelligence agencies’ findings on Russian interference in the 2016 election after a week of trying to mollify his own party saying it was a “hoax” multiple times and blaming President Obama and his election rival Hillary Clinton.
Trey Gowdy, the chairman of the House Oversight Committee in an interview on Sunday defended intelligence findings saying, “The president either needs to rely on the people that he has chosen to advise him, or those advisers need to re-evaluate whether or not they can serve in this administration The evidence is overwhelming and the president needs to say that and act like it.”
Fourteen people have been killed in a suicide attack in Kabul, Afghanistan, near the country’s main airport. The attack may have been aimed at the warlord and Vice President Abdul Rashid Dostum who was returning from a trip abroad. The dead included civilians and military personnel. About 50 people were injured in the attack. Mr. Dostum was unscathed. The Islamic State, which has increasingly been active in Afghanistan, claimed responsibility.
In Syria where the Islamic State first emerged, hundreds of rescue workers were evacuated near the Israeli border. More than 400 members of the White Helmets rescue operation were transported with coordination between Israel, the US, and Europe in a first-of-its-kind operation. The rescue group’s members were trapped between Syrian government forces and the Islamic State’s soldiers. Associated Press described the context of the operation saying, “The White Helmets have enjoyed backing and received finances and training from the United States and other Western nations for years. Because of their work in opposition areas, where they were almost exclusively the only ones to offer rescue services in the face of the government military advances, they were considered public enemy number one by the Syrian government.”
*ERRATUM: We erroneously reported that Pompeo spoke in Washington DC. His speech was in California.