Headlines: March 15 2019
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At least 49 people are dead in Christ Church, New Zealand after a gunman opened fire on two mosques on Thursday. New Zealand’s Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern labeled it a “terrorist attack,” and said it was, “one of New Zealand’s darkest days.” Hours later Police Commissioner Mike Bush shared the latest number of fatalities in Christ Church on Thursday when a gunman opened fire on two mosques during Friday prayers.
A portion of the New Zealand massacre was live streamed on Facebook as the shooter apparently wore a video recording device on his head. According to the New York Times, “Before the shooting, someone appearing to be the gunman posted links to a white-nationalist manifesto on Twitter and 8chan, an online forum known for extremist right-wing discussions. The 8chan post included a link to what appeared to be the gunman’s Facebook page, where he said he would also broadcast live video of the attack.” President Donald Trump, who enjoys a lot of support on forums like 8chan posted a tweet on Friday morning saying, “My warmest sympathy and best wishes goes out to the people of New Zealand after the horrible massacre in the Mosques.” A total of 4 people – three men and one woman – have been taken into custody. At least one of them is Australian. One man in his 20s, has been charged with murder and will appear in court on Saturday.
Elsewhere in the world the US has also apparently influenced violence and gun culture. In Brazil where a school shooting shocked the nation earlier this week, it has now been revealed that the two young men responsible for the massacre were inspired by the 1999 Columbine shooting in Colorado. According to AP, “Friends and former classmates told investigators that 17-year-old Guilherme Taucci Monteiro and 25-year-old Henrique de Castro were obsessed with the attack on Columbine High School.” They had apparently been planning the attack at the high school for months.
Here in the US, parents of those killed in the Sandy Hook Elementary School massacre celebrated a victory after the Connecticut Supreme Court opened an avenue for them to sue gun manufacturers. The victims’ parents had filed a suit challenging the immunity that Congress has given gun makers against being held liable for how their weapons are used. The manufacturer of the Bushmaster rifle used by the Sandy Hook shooter had been advertised with the slogan, “Consider your man card reissued.” A 4-3 ruling by the state’s supreme court upheld a lower court ruling that, “it falls to a jury to decide whether the promotional schemes alleged in the present case rise to the level of illegal trade practices and whether fault for the tragedy can be laid at their feet.” Nicole Hockley, the mother of a 6-year old boy who was among those killed said, “No one has blanket immunity. There are consequences. We want our day in court to see why they do this this way, and what needs to change.”
In other news, the US Senate issued its second rebuke to President Trump in two days with the passage of a resolution disapproving of his national emergency declaration to obtain border wall funding. Twelve Republican Senators – Susan Collins, Lisa Murkowski, Rand Paul, Mitt Romney, Mike Lee, Lamar Alexander, Jerry Moran, Pat Toomey, Rob Portman, Roger Wicker, Roy Blunt, and Marco Rubio – joined Democrats in voting for the measure, which has already passed the House. The final Senate vote was 59-41. It is the first time in American history that both chambers of Congress have voted against a President’s declaration of national emergency. Trump has already said he will veto it. In the days leading up to the vote Trump apparently called several GOP Senators and urged them to vote against the resolution saying that it would be equivalent to a vote against him, and threatening their political futures if they didn’t comply. The ploy obviously didn’t work.
Speaking to reporters on Thursday alongside Ireland’s Prime Minister, Trump addressed Britain’s struggles with negotiating a Brexit deal. As usual, he made the story all about him and criticized Prime Minister Theresa May’s approach.
Of course Trump made no mention of North Korea where his self-declared negotiating skills have had an embarrassing failure. North Korea’s leader Kim Jong Un is apparently on the verge of deciding whether or not to continue talks with the US and others and keep his moratorium on missile testing in place. Vice Foreign Minister Choe Son Hui addressed reporters on Thursday and expressed her nation’s disappointment in how the recent summit in Hanoi between President Trump and Mr. Kim transpired. According to AP, “Choe, who attended the Feb. 27-28 talks in Hanoi, said Kim was puzzled by what she called the ‘eccentric’ negotiation position of the U.S. She suggested that while Trump was more willing to talk, an atmosphere of hostility and mistrust was created by the uncompromising demands of Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and National Security Adviser John Bolton. She said statements by senior Trump advisers since the summit have further worsened the climate.”
More details have emerged from the fatal air crash of the Ethiopian Airlines Boeing 737 Max 8. Apparently the plane’s captain immediately realized there were problems, minutes after take off when the plane reached an abnormally high speed. The pilot is now known to have desperately sought permission to land as air traffic controllers scrambled to divert other flights. Air traffic controllers say they watch the plane dip up and down by hundreds of feet, indicating clearly that there were serious problems. After five minutes in the air, they lost all communications with the pilots. Similar problems were observed with the Lion Air crash over Indonesia less than 6 months ago. The majority of nations that have Boeing 737 Max 8 aircraft have grounded the planes.