Headlines: March 14, 2019
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The US has joined a growing moratorium on Boeing 737 Max 8 aircraft in an abrupt about face on Wednesday. The US’s Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), after announcing that the planes were safe, obtained newly available satellite tracking data which apparently showed enough similarities to last year’s Lion Air crash of the same type of aircraft that it warranted a grounding of all planes. The US had been among the last nations to insist on the aircraft’s safety until President Donald Trump on Wednesday afternoon reversed his earlier decision on Boeing aircraft after the second major crash in a less than 6 months.
Meanwhile the New York Times on Wednesday published an op-ed by James E. Hall, who served as chairman of the National Transportation Safety Board from 1994 to 2001. Mr. Hall blasted the FAA’s 2005 decision to turn over regulation of the airline industry to aircraft manufacturers. “Rather than naming and supervising its own ‘designated airworthiness representatives’ the agency decided to allow Boeing and other manufacturers who qualified under the revised procedures to select their own employees to certify the safety of their aircraft,” he wrote. “In justifying this change, the agency said at the time that it would save the aviation industry about $25 billion from 2006 to 2015. Therefore, the manufacturer is providing safety oversight of itself. This is a worrying move toward industry self-certification,” said Hall.
The black box from the fatal Ethiopian Airlines crash arrived in France on Thursday for analysis. The French Air Investigation authority – known by its French Acronym BEA, is known for its expertise in analyzing crash data. According to AP, “The BEA isn’t saying how long it will take to analyze the recorders… Analysis typically takes days or weeks, depending on whether the recorders were damaged in the crash.”
In other news, the Senate on Wednesday passed a major resolution to end the US’s involvement in Saudi Arabia’s war on Yemen. The measure passed 54-47 and heads to the House where it appears likely to pass. It relies on the 1973 War Powers Act giving Congress the authority to remove troops in places, “without a declaration of war or specific statutory authorization.” The bill marks a rare show of partisan unity against the President. It passed the Senate last December but not the Republican-controlled House, so it was revived again in the Senate this year. Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders who pushed for the bill, said in a statement, “U.S. participation in this war has not been authorized by Congress and is therefore unconstitutional. For the first time in 45 years, Congress must exercise its power under the War Powers Resolution and remove the U.S. from this war in Yemen.” Trump has already said he will veto the bill if it passes both chambers.
The state of New York has charged the President’s former campaign chair Paul Manafort with 16 charges including mortgage fraud, just hours after he was sentenced to an additional 4 years in prison. Manhattan district attorney, Cyrus R. Vance, Jr. issued a press release after Manafort’s federal sentencing hearing saying, “No one is beyond the law in New York,” and that prosecutors in his office had, “yielded serious criminal charges for which the defendant has not been held accountable.” President Trump has toyed with a possible pardon for Manafort in the past. After his second sentence was announced the President on Wednesday said, “I feel very badly for Paul Manafort,” and added that he had, “not thought about” a pardon. The New York charges are likely to ensure Manafort remains in prison. Trump can pardon federal convicts but not state ones.
Former Texas Democratic Congressman Beto O’Rourke has announced a Presidential run for 2020. In a bizarre Vanity Fair profile published Wednesday, the Senate candidate who narrowly lost to Republican Ted Cruz last November said to his interviewer, “You can probably tell that I want to run…I do. I think I’d be good at it.” Eventually he said, “I’m just born to be in it, and want to do everything I humanly can for this country at this moment.” In a video released on Thursday O’Rourke sat next to his wife and announced his Presidential candidacy released Thursday.
A massive blizzard has hit large parts of the central United States with some areas receiving winds as high as 100 miles per hour. The so-called “bomb cyclone,” as it is being called has already resulted in at least one death in Colorado and one in Texas. Colorado Gov. Jared Polis has activated his state’s National Guard to help with search-and-rescue efforts while the state of Nebraska issued an emergency. The National Weather Service has called the late winter storm a “cyclone of historic proportions.” Such unpredictable weather patterns are increasingly more common as the climate is changing.
In international news, Britain’s parliament voted no on Wednesday twice to leaving the European Union without a proper trade deal in place. The New York Times explained that, “The no-deal votes were in many ways symbolic — taking the temperature of Parliament, rather than setting concrete policy. The wishes expressed by lawmakers do not tie the hands of the British government, nor do they commit the E.U. to any action.” The votes come after Parliament for the second time rejected Prime Minister Theresa May’s Brexit deal. May is angling for another delay of the March 29th deadline. She said if Parliament, “is not willing to support a deal in the coming days, and as it is not willing to support leaving without a deal on 29 March, then it is suggesting that there will need to be a much longer extension.” It has been nearly 3 years since Britain shocked the world in voting to leave the EU.
Brazilians are mourning a deadly school shooting near Sao Paulo on Wednesday. A pair of armed teenagers broke into a school and opened fire killing 5 students and 2 staffers at the Professor Raul Brasil school in Suzano. On their way out they also killed one other person. Nine students were injured. The assailants, who killed themselves afterwards, were former students at the school. No motive has yet been discovered. Brazil has a high rate of gun violence but school shootings are rare. Brazil’s new President Jair Bolsonaro, who has championed gun rights and made it easier for citizens to own guns, condemned the shooting and called it a, “monstrosity and cowardice without comparison.”