News & Analysis of Economic, Racial, Gender Justice and More

An Ethiopian Airlines flight leaving from the capital Addis Ababa, on Sunday crashed killing all 157 people on board. The new Boeing 737 Max 8 aircraft was the second of its kind that mysteriously crashed within 12 months. A Boeing 737 Max 8 aircraft operated by Lion Air crashed over the Indonesian seas last year killing 189 people. Sunday’s crash in Ethiopia killed people from 35 different countries including citizens of the US, Canada, China, India, Germany, France, and Britain. Nineteen officials affiliated with the United Nations are among the dead as Addis Ababa is a center for aid workers and many had been flying to a major UN environmental conference that is taking place Monday in Kenya. In the wake of the crash, China and India have ordered all of its Boeing 737 Max 8 aircraft to be grounded.

Here in the US, reports emerged over the weekend of President Donald Trump’s plan to include a whopping $8.6 billion dollar package to build a border wall in his budget proposal to Congress for 2020. According to Reuters, which first reported the story, the request is, “more than six times what Congress allocated for border projects in each of the past two fiscal years, and 6 percent more than Trump has corralled by invoking emergency powers this year.” House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Minority leader Chuck Schumer released a joint statement on Sunday saying, “President Trump hurt millions of Americans and caused widespread chaos when he recklessly shutdown the government to try to get his expensive and ineffective wall…Congress refused to fund his wall and he was forced to admit defeat and reopen the government. The same thing will repeat itself if he tries this again. We hope he learned his lesson.” The deadline to pass the budget for 2020 is October 1st.

Puerto Rico has started cutting a food stamps program that about 1.3 million of its residents rely on. The cuts are the result of the Trump Administration’s refusal to appropriate additional emergency disaster funding for those affected by Hurricane Maria. The spokesperson for one non-profit organization that distributes food aid near San Juan said, “It is dangerous. People don’t have enough money to buy food already.” In January the Washington Post reported that the Department of Housing and Urban Development’s Deputy Secretary was leaving that agency specifically over Trump’s refusal to renew Puerto Rico’s funding. Apparently Trump had wrongly heard that Puerto Rico was using emergency funds to pay off its debt and made his decision to cut off funds saying the island was taking advantage of the federal government.

Meanwhile, those Americans collecting disability benefits may find their Facebook pages in the crosshairs of government surveillance. The New York Times reported on Sunday that, “The Trump administration has been quietly working on a proposal to use social media like Facebook and Twitter to help identify people who claim Social Security disability benefits without actually being disabled. If, for example, a person claimed benefits because of a back injury but was shown playing golf in a photograph posted on Facebook, that could be used as evidence that the injury was not disabling.”

The House on Friday officially passed a sweeping set of anti-corruption and pro-democracy reforms in a package called HR 1. Democrats have been touting the legislation for months since November’s election. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi on Friday said, “HR 1 restores the people’s faith that government works for the public interest, the people’s interest, not the special interest. It is fundamental to our democracy that people believe that actions taken here will be in their interest. That is what this legislation will help to restore.” But the bill is already dead-on-arrival in the Senate where Majority leader Mitch McConnell has vowed not to even bring it to the floor for debate. McConnell last week said, “This is a terrible proposal; it will not get any floor time in the Senate.” But a new poll found that, “82 percent of all voters and 84 percent of independents said they support a bill of reforms to tackle corruption.”

Democratic Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez spoke at the SXSW festival on Saturday where she reiterated her critique of capitalism saying the system was, “irredeemable.” In this excerpt she explains why she is a democratic socialist.

The case of an unvaccinated 6-year old boy in Oregon contracting tetanus was just published in a new report by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The boy had contracted the Tetanus virus in 2017 after cutting himself during play at a farm. It was the first case of pediatric tetanus in Oregon in 30 years. The child suffered excruciating pain and paralysis and remained on a ventilator for more than a month and was hospitalized for nearly 2 months. His medical bills added up to $800,000. Vaccine-preventable diseases are making a comeback thanks to dangerous misinformation that has convinced gullible parents to jeopardize their children and the public’s health.

In international news, the US Defense Department has released data showing that it has increased the pace of airstrikes over Somalia resulting in hundreds of deaths. The surge that was documented for the last 4 months of 2018 came as the US was ramping down operations against the Islamic State elsewhere in countries like Syria. According to the Defense Department’s numbers, 47 air strikes killed 326 people in Somalia last year. This year’s pace of air strikes is likely to eclipse last year’s. According to the New York Times, “During January and February, the United States Africa Command reported killing 225 people in 24 strikes in Somalia. Double-digit death tolls are becoming routine, including a bloody five-day stretch in late February in which the military disclosed that it had killed 35, 20 and 26 people in three separate attacks.” There is almost no debate in Congress over airstrikes in Somalia.

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