Headlines: June 6, 2019
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President Donald Trump visited Normandy, France after his 3-day visit to Britain, marking D-Day with other world leaders. He visited the cemetery where more than 9,000 American soldiers were buried after dying in battle in World War II. During his remarks, Trump spoke to the ties between Western nations saying, “To all of our friends and partners — our cherished alliance was forged in the heat of battle, tested in the trials of war and proven in the blessings of peace. Our bond is unbreakable.” But during most of his time in office Trump has undermined NATO and the US-European alliance. French President Emmanuel Macron addressed Trump saying, “America, dear President Donald Trump, is never as great as when it fights for the freedom of others.”
Meanwhile Trump is wrapping up his trip to Europe by traveling hundreds of miles out of his way to visit his own private golf course in Doonbeg, Ireland. Ahead of the visit, the Irish Times speculated, “The unique nature of a potential visit – a US president visiting his own private property in Ireland – has thrown up complex issues around protocol, and whether it constitutes a private or official visit.” Trump wanted to meet Irish Prime Minister Leo Varadkar at his golf course but the PM denied Trump the photo-op he apparently desired. The two leaders ended up meeting at an airport lounge. According to the Washington Post, Trump’s private resort has sucked up more than $40 million but never turned a profit. Trump claimed that it was a matter of convenience for him to stay at his own golf resort during official Presidential travel.
Trump’s announced tariffs against Mexico over border crossings appear to still be on, a day after Vice President Mike Pence’s meeting with Mexico’s foreign minister. The government released new figures on Wednesday showing that the number of mostly Central Americans crossing the US-Mexico border and being arrested by US authorities rose to more than 144,000 in May. The figure is the highest monthly total in 13 years. Trump tweeted angrily from Europe that the figures were, “because of Mexico & the Democrats in Congress refusing to budge on immigration reform.” He made no mention of the pressures facing Central Americans in their home countries. Republicans meanwhile are angered that the President unveiled such a sweeping and extreme policy shift as tariffs on Mexico during a week when he was out of the country. In other immigration news a car chase in Texas resulted in the deaths of six migrants who were traveling in an SUV when their vehicle was pursued by police and driven into a ditch. Five others suffered serious injuries. All the victims were from El Salvador.
Trump has also threatened to make good on tariffs against $300 billion worth of Chinese goods. In an announcement on Thursday Trump said while in France, “I will make that decision in the next two weeks after the G20. I will be meeting with President Xi and we’ll see what happens, we’re probably planning it sometime after G20.” Chinese government spokesperson Gao Feng retorted, “If the United States wilfully decides to escalate tensions, we’ll fight to the end.” And in yet another escalation aimed at China, Reuters reported that the Trump Administration is, “pursuing the sale of more than $2 billion worth of tanks and weapons to Taiwan… sparking anger from Beijing.”
Politico reported on Wednesday that House Speaker Nancy Pelosi met with top Democratic leaders on Tuesday night during which she reportedly said she would like to see President Trump, “in prison.” Among those she met with were House Judiciary Committee Chair Jerrold Nadler who for the second time demanded that she allow his committee to launch impeachment proceedings. But Pelosi demurred once more. She apparently said, “I don’t want to see him impeached, I want to see him in prison.” Apparently, “Instead of impeachment, Pelosi still prefers to see Trump defeated at the ballot box and then prosecuted for his alleged crimes.” Her conditions for launching impeachment proceedings was bipartisan support and strong public opinion in favor of it. Meanwhile House Democrats are planning to vote on a bill next week to enforce their committee subpoenas by taking to court those who refuse to comply with Congress’s orders.
The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) which is part of the Department of Homeland Security, has been found to have has its responses to disasters whitewashed in so-called “feel good reports” by its watchdog group. Auditors at DHS criticized the slowness of FEMA’s work in 2016 in Louisiana where 13 people died. But they were told by their superior John V. Kelly, to portray the FEMA response in much rosier terms. The Washington Post described said that the resulting report, “airbrushed most problems and portrayed emergency responders as heroes overcoming vast challenges.” It painted the FEMA response as, a huge success, a “remarkable,” “resilient and mission focused” effort that “provided hope and a way forward” for flooded communities. Dozens more reports on other disasters were similar in nature.
The Trump administration has announced a major expansion of hunting and fishing permits in 1.4 million acres of federally-owned lands. Interior Secretary David Bernhardt made the announcement saying, “President Trump is committed to expanding public access on public lands, and this proposal is executing on that directive by opening and increasing more access to hunting and fishing by the Fish and Wildlife Service at more stations and across more acres than ever before.” The expanded access would cover 75 national wildlife refuges as well as 15 national fish hatcheries.
A doctor in Ohio was just charged with the murder of over 25 people through prescriptions of the powerful opioid Fentanyl. It becomes one of Ohio’s largest murder cases ever. Forty three year old William Husel pleaded not guilty claiming that he intended to help ease the pain of his dying patients, not euthanize them. And, Insys Therapeutics, a manufacturer of opioid drugs just settled a case with the federal government for $225 million over its role in essentially bribing doctors to prescribe its medications. Insys was found to have set up a speaker series through which it paid doctors who never made any speeches. The payments were in exchange for prescribing its Fentanyl-based medication Subsys to patients – even those who did not need it.
The Federal Communications Commission on Thursday voted to allow telecommunication companies more leeway to block robocalls on cell phones, offering some potential relief against at least some of the billions of unwanted spam phone calls Americans are plagued by. According to the Wall Street Journal the new rules, “should allow carriers to provide call-blocking technology without consumers needing to download an app, or proactively ask for it. It also could pave the way for new services. Consumers could choose to receive calls only from within their contacts, also known as a ‘white list.'”
And finally the Washington Post has found that a wealthy Iraqi sheikh who has been pushing the US to wage war on Iran, spent nearly a month at Trump International Hotel in Washington DC. Mr. Nahro al-Kasnazan wrote letters to National Security Advisor John Bolton and State Secretary Mike Pompeo urging them to overthrow the Iranian regime. A few months later he spent tens of thousands of dollars renting a suite at the Trump hotel for 26 days. In an interview Kasnazan admitted that he usually stays at another hotel while visiting DC. According to the Post, “His long visit is an example of how Trump’s D.C. hotel, a popular gathering place for Republican politicians and people with government business, has become a favorite stopover for influential foreigners who have an agenda to pursue with the Trump administration.”