Headlines: March 4, 2019
Listen to story:
Download: mp3 (Duration: 8:25 — 7.7MB)
Two tornadoes in Alabama ripped through Lee County on Sunday so quickly and with so little warning that 23 people were killed. Lee County Sheriff Jay Jones described the destruction saying it looked, “as if someone had taken a blade and just scraped the ground.” Some resident had only a 5-minute warning time for the first tornado. The second one came within the hour with less than 15 minutes of warning time. Sheriff Jay Jones speaking to a CBS reporter discussed the deadly back-to-back tornadoes that killed at least 23 people.
In other news, Republican Rand Paul appears to be the latest Senator from President Donald Trump’s party to turn on him over the declaration of a national emergency to appropriate funds for a border wall. At an event on Saturday in Bowling Green, Kentucky, Senator Paul said, “I can’t vote to give extra-Constitutional powers to the president.” He added, “We may want more money for border security, but Congress didn’t authorize it. If we take away those checks and balances, it’s a dangerous thing.” If Paul votes no, along with Susan Collins of Maine, Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, Thom Tillis of North Carolina, and Lamar Alexander of Tennessee, Trump would have to veto the bill disapproving of his declaration and overtly go against some elements of his own party to get the funds. The House has already passed a bill to that effect.
President Trump on Saturday gave the longest speech of his Presidency at the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC). During a rambling 2-hour address filled with lies and rants, Trump took aim at all his perceived enemies including Special Counsel Robert Mueller, Democratic Party presidential contenders, and some former members of his own cabinet. Some parts of his speech simply made no sense. He also slammed his former Attorney General Jeff Sessions for recusing himself from overseeing the Russia investigation, implying directly that he wanted to squash the probe. Associated Press released a fact-check of his speech saying it was, “so laced with fabrication,” that, “He got the unemployment rate wrong. He misstated his winning margin in the election. He reprised some of his most frequently told fictions and dusted off old ones, even going back to the size of his inauguration crowd.”
Meanwhile NBC News and the Wall Street Journal together released a new poll about the 2020 election finding that 46% of the electorate still approves of Trump. In fact nearly 90% of Republicans think he is doing a good job. Forty one percent of registered voters say they would vote for him again in 2020.
The House Judiciary Committee has launched a broad probe into possible obstruction of justice by the President, announcing that it will request documentation from about 60 people in Trump’s orbit. Representative Jerrold Nadler who chairs the committee told ABC’s This Week, “It’s very clear that the president obstructed justice.” He said, “We are going to initiate investigations into abuses of power, into corruption … and into obstruction of justice…It’s our job to protect the rule of law.” However he said impeachment was still a long way off.
Sunday marked the 54th anniversary of the march on the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma, Alabama, when civil rights activists and leaders including Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. marched and were attacked by police. A number of Democratic Presidential hopefuls attended the anniversary proceedings on the bridge including Senator Bernie Sanders and Senator Cory Booker. Senator Sherrod Brown who is rumored to be considering a presidential bid also attended, along with former Presidential candidate Hillary Clinton. Clinton spoke about the attack on voting rights saying, “Make no mistake: We are living through a full-fledged crisis in our democracy. There may not be, thank God, tanks in the streets. But what’s happening goes to the heart of who we are as a nation.”
Meanwhile Senator Bernie Sanders held his first campaign speech in Brooklyn, New York, just a few miles from where he grew up. He was introduced on Saturday by former Ohio State Senator turned TV host Nina Turner, and Shaun King, a prominent print journalist and civil rights activist.
A report by a group of environmental organizations has found widespread contamination at the nation’s coal waste sites. An analysis of 250 coal-fired power plants around the country has found major toxic contamination into ground water including by such chemicals as arsenic, lithium, and chromium, at levels far higher than allowed by the EPA. The analysis was based on data that was forced to be made public last year by legislation. The EPA is currently headed by former coal lobbyist Andrew Wheeler, who is unlikely to take action over the report’s findings.
The police officers in Sacramento, California, who fatally shot an unarmed black man named Stephon Clark last March will not be charged. The officers who shot him say they thought he was holding a gun. It turned out Clark had been holding a cell phone. He was shot 20 times. Sacramento County District Attorney Anne Marie Schubert made the announcement saying, “We must recognize that [police officers] are often forced to make split-second decisions. We must also recognize that they are under tense, uncertain and rapidly evolving circumstances.” Salena Manni, Clark’s fiancé and mother of his two children spoke to press after the announcement. There have been major protests in and around Sacramento over the refusal to charge Clark’s killers.
In other news from the Bay area, Oakland, California teachers will return to their classrooms on Monday after voting to approve a contract on Sunday with the district. The strike began on February 21st over smaller class sizes, higher salaries, and more support staff.