Headlines: March 29, 2019
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President Donald Trump held a triumphant rally in Grand Rapids, Michigan on Thursday, celebrating what he has decided is his complete exoneration from the Special Counsel investigation. Trump conducted in his usual bombastic style, filled with racist imagery, mocking name-calling, and provocations of violence from his rabidly angry base.
Trump’s son Donald Jr. opened for him, taking aim at Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, saying, “Think about the fact that every mainstream, leading Democratic contender is taking the advice of a freshman congresswoman who three weeks ago didn’t know the three branches of government.” He added, “I don’t know about you guys, but that’s pretty scary.” His comments prompted the crowd to chant “AOC Sucks.” During his rally speech the President also attacked Democratic Representative Adam Schiff’s physical characteristics.
Trump also mocked asylum seekers making up facts to suit his anti-immigrant narrative.
In other immigration news photos and videos emerged on Thursday of hundreds of migrants in El Paso, Texas, being held in cages with barbed wire in the parking lot of a Border Patrol station. The cages are being termed a “transitional shelter.” CBP Commissioner Kevin McAleenan said earlier this week that border apprehensions of migrants were, “at its breaking point.” He also said, “CBP is facing an unprecedented humanitarian and border security crisis all along our Southwest border, and nowhere has that crisis manifested more acutely than here in El Paso.” But reporters described the outdoor cages that refugees are being held in as akin to concentration camps.
Meanwhile Homeland Security Secretary Kristjen Nielsen proposed several changes in immigration enforcement to Congress. In a letter dated March 28, Nielsen asked Congress for authority to deport unaccompanied refugee children back to their home countries, as well as keep asylum seekers in detention for longer periods, and to require people to apply for asylum from their native countries.
Trump has decided to overrule his own Education Secretary Betsy DeVos’s decision to cut Special Olympics funding as part of her proposed set of cuts to her own Department. In remarks to reporters on Thursday he gave no other specifics nor did he mention that DeVos’s plan to cut the Education budget is part of his demand for an across-the-board slashing of non-military domestic programs.
The state of Maryland on Thursday passed a minimum wage law of $15 an hour, becoming the sixth state in the nation to adopt what had begun as a rallying cry by low-wage workers a few years ago. Democrats in the state legislature overrode a veto by Republican Governor Larry Hogan who said the wage increase would, “devastate” the economy of his state. Both of Maryland’s state legislative chambers are controlled by Democrats, who passed the bill by votes of 96-43 in the House and 35-12 in the Senate. The new law would increase the current minimum wage of $10.10 an hour to $15 by 2025. The National Employment Law Project estimated that the new minimum wage would benefit more than half a million residents of the state.
The state of New York is set to become the second official state in the nation to ban plastic bags. Governor Andrew Cuomo had proposed the plan about a year ago and on Thursday he released a statement saying, “these bags have blighted our environment and clogged our waterways,” and that the plan would, “protect our natural resources for future generations of New Yorkers.” There will be a number of exceptions for certain types of single-use plastic bags including those used for take out and bulk items. California already has a ban on single use plastic bags in place and although Hawaii does not have a state-wide ban, all the state’s counties have individually banned single-use plastic bags.
Also in New York, a lawsuit has been filed against Purdue Pharma, and the Sackler family which owns the company. Purdue is the maker of Oxycontin and earlier this week settled with the state of Oklahoma for a large sum over its role in the opioid addiction crisis. Now, New York’s Attorney General Letitia James has announced a legal complaint, which the New York Times described as containing, “striking details alleging systematic fraud not only by the Sacklers but by a group of large but lesser-known companies that distributed alarming amounts of prescription painkillers amid a rising epidemic of abuse that has killed hundreds of thousands of people nationwide.”
Investigators examining the two fatal Boeing Max 8 crashes in Ethiopia and Indonesia are zeroing in on an automated flight control system that may be the reasons the planes failed. The Wall Street Journal reported that during a high-level briefing at the FAA on Thursday, investigators relayed their findings that, “the same automated system, called MCAS, misfired in both the Ethiopian Airlines flight earlier this month and a Lion Air flight in Indonesia, which crashed less than five months earlier.” On Wednesday Boeing said it would be making improvements to its MCAS system giving pilots more control.
A new study conducted in Australia and published in Science Magazine has found an alarming fungal disease that has wiped out a whopping 90 species of amphibians. Researchers found that the disease has, “devastated the most biodiversity,” with, “unprecedented lethality,” making extinct dozens of amphibians and causing a decline in nearly 500 other species. The fungus, known by its acronym, “is highly infectious and deadly, destroying the skin and triggering heart attacks—adding to other biodiversity losses from habitat destruction.”
And finally British MPs rejected Theresa May’s Brexit deal on Friday – the day that was supposed to be the deadline for Britain to leave the European Union. May had offered to resign if Parliamentarians voted for her latest deal – that ran nearly 600 pages long – but apparently even that was not enough. If there is no deal by April 12th, Britain will leave the EU with no plan in place – a doomsday scenario that has worried economists and businesses.