Headlines: July 30, 2018
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In today’s news headlines a massive fire in Shasta County, Northern California, has been burning over the weekend, tearing through 100,000 acres, forcing the evacuation of thousands, and destroying hundreds of homes in its path. So far six lives have been claimed including that of a 70-year old woman and her two great grandchildren aged 4 and 5. A firefighter and a rescue worker have also died and seven people remain missing.
That’s a survivor of the Carr fire – a fire that has continued to burn as a deadly combination of high temperatures and high winds drive it – conditions directly linked to the on-going human-driven warming of the planet. The watchdog group Public Citizen released a report late last week called Extreme Silence: How the US Media Have Failed to Connect Climate Change to Extreme Heat in 2018. The report examined media coverage by national and local newspapers, and TV networks in the period between January 1 and July 8 2018 and found that only a small percentage of stories covering extreme temperatures explicitly mentioned climate change. Later on today’s show we’ll speak with Thanu Yakupityage of 350.org to survey the global heat wave that has enveloped the planet and how media outlets cover them as well as what climate justice activists are planning.
Instead of addressing climate change President Donald Trump over the weekend pivoted to his favorite topic: immigration. He tweeted angrily, “I would be willing to ‘shut down’ government if the Democrats do not give us the votes for Border Security, which includes the Wall! Must get rid of Lottery, Catch & Release etc. and finally go to system of Immigration based on MERIT! We need great people coming into our Country!”
Meanwhile the ACLU has filed a new set of documents in federal court showing how some immigrant parents were separated from their children twice. Shortly after several fathers were reunited with their children, Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) gave them forms with 3 options, one of which was to opt for voluntary deportation of the child and parent together – that option was pre-selected for them by ICE on the forms. When the fathers tried to select the option of being deported on their own, they were separated without getting the chance to even say goodbye to their children.
Later on our program we’ll speak with Ben Wolcott of Make the Road NY about a report called Bankrolling Oppression that his organization helped to write linking Trump’s immigration policies to the growth of private prisons and how big banks are investing in them.
News emerged over the weekend that President Trump had met privately with the publisher of the New York Times, A.G. Sulzberger earlier this month. The meeting was reportedly about Trump’s treatment of the press, constant allegations of “fake news,” and the declaration that the media are the “enemy of the people.” Trump tweeted his impression of the July 20th meeting calling it a, “good and interesting meeting,” and that he, “Spent much time talking about the vast amounts of Fake News being put out by the media & how that Fake News has morphed into phrase, ‘Enemy of the People.’ Sad!” Mr. Sulzberger then issued a five-paragraph statement saying he warned the President that, “this inflammatory language is contributing to a rise in threats against journalists and will lead to violence.”
The infamous Koch Brothers have funded a study of Medicare-for-All through the Mercatus Center at George Mason University in Virginia. Unsurprisingly the report estimates the cost of insuring all Americans through the government to be far too high. Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont who has championed Medicare-for-All slammed the report’s findings saying, “If every major country on earth can guarantee health care to all, and achieve better health outcomes, while spending substantially less per capita than we do, it is absurd for anyone to suggest that the United States cannot do the same.” He added, “This grossly misleading and biased report is the Koch brothers response to the growing support in our country for a ‘Medicare for all’ program.”
Meanwhile the Koch donor network met over the weekend in Colorado Springs, Colorado during which network co-chair Brian Hook sharply criticized Trump’s policies on immigration and tariffs, as well as the “tremendous lack of leadership,” in government, and the “deterioration of the core institutions of society.” Here is Charles Koch addressing the gathering of powerful donors seeking to change government. The Koch brothers are notorious for their deep influence in Washington in favor of elite billionaires over the interests of ordinary Americans.
High on the Kochs’ wishlist is seeing Trump’s Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh be confirmed. Bloomberg reported today that, “Six years before President Donald Trump nominated him for the Supreme Court, Judge Brett Kavanaugh sided with Trump Entertainment Resorts’ successful effort to thwart a unionization drive at one of its casinos.”
Meanwhile liberal stalwart Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg spoke in New York on Sunday and said she was planning to remain on the court for at least another 5 years. The 85-year old spoke to a theater audience after a play and called herself a “flaming feminist.”
The Transportation Security Administration on Sunday revealed the existence of a surveillance program called Quiet Skies. According to the Washington Post, “Federal air marshals have for years been quietly monitoring small numbers of U.S. air passengers and reporting on in-flight behavior considered suspicious, even if those individuals have no known terrorism links.”
In international news, the teenage Palestinian activist Ahed Tamimi has been freed after more than 6 months in Israeli captivity. Tamimi made international headlines after she was jailed for slapping an armed Israeli soldier in defense of her cousin who was shot. The young woman returned home triumphantly as hundreds of supporters gathered around. On tomorrow’s show our Palestine and Refugees correspondent Huwaida Arraf will join us from Ramallah to discuss Tamimi’s release and related news.
In Afghanistan the Taliban has said that it held a meeting with US government officials in Qatar a week ago. The meeting was apparently held without Afghan government officials present which is unusual. The US State Department neither confirmed nor denied the meeting took place. Taliban officials told press that Alice Wells, a top South Asia diplomat at the State Department was present at the meeting.
In Moscow, Russia, thousands of people protested on Sunday against a government plan to increase the retirement age. The protest was organized by the Libertarian Party and activists chanted slogans critical of President Vladimir Putin.
Cambodians went to the polls to vote in elections over the weekend with the ruling party of Prime Minister Hun Sen declaring victory on Monday. No one was surprised by the outcome given that that Mr. Hun Sen has been Asia’s longest serving leader. Last year a popular opposition party was dissolved by the courts. That party’s leaders issued a statement saying Sunday’s vote was a, “sham election,” and that “what was left of a democracy in name only has been replaced with an outright dictatorship.”
Also voting in elections are Zimbabweans – an historic vote given that it is the first time the nation of Zimbabwe has held elections after long-time ruler Robert Mugabe was ousted. The current President of Zimbabwe, 75-year old Emmerson Mnangagwa – who helped to push Mugabe out – is facing a challenge by a 40-year old lawyer named Nelson Chamisa. Mr. Mugabe threw his weight behind Chamisa.