Headlines: March 6, 2019
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President Donald Trump’s former attorney and fixer Michael Cohen returns to Capitol Hill on Wednesday for a fourth day of testimony in front of the House Intelligence Committee. The hearing will take place behind closed doors and is likely to focus on Russian interference and Trump’s finances. Also possibly being raised is the issue of Presidential pardons and whether Trump Administration officials dangled a potential pardon to Cohen when he was first in the Special Counsel’s crosshairs.
Meanwhile in New York, the state’s Department of Financial Services has issued subpoenas for Trump’s insurance brokers on Tuesday. The move was unrelated to other investigations and indicates that Trump’s finances in New York are also under scrutiny. The Washington Post summarized that, “Tuesday was a case study in Trump’s new reality of besiegement as multiplying investigations by state authorities, federal investigators and congressional Democrats began to dig into his business, charity and presidency simultaneously.”
The rate of immigrants arriving at the US-Mexico border has sharply increased in recent months, breaking previously set records. There are nearly twice as many people attempting to cross the border as there were a year ago. In February alone, there were 76,000 people who crossed the border without papers – a number that defied the harsh anti-immigrant policies being enforced under Trump. It is the highest such number in 11 years and indicates the increased insecurity facing Central Americans especially. At a press conference on Tuesday, Kevin K. McAleenan, Customs and Border Protection commissioner spoke to reporters.
In other news, JP Morgan Chase has decided to back out of financing private prisons and detention centers. The big bank is one of several that had financed such notorious private prison companies as GEO Group and Corecivic. Wells Fargo has also apparently pulled back from financing private prisons. Both banks had faced strong political pressure from grassroots activists demanding they divest from the private prison industry. Late in his tenure President Barack Obama had decided to phase out the industry altogether but only one month after becoming President, Trump reversed that order.
In a related story, the investigative media outlet Axios has determined that of all the non-profit shelters that house undocumented children in the US, only 3 are linked to more than half of all recently revealed sexual abuse allegations. Facilities run by Southwest Key were the sites of 65 accusations of sexual abuse of undocumented children, while Baptist Child and Family Services had 23 accusations, and International Educational Services had 14. These three organizations have received two and a half billion dollars of federal government contracts over the past four years.
In Alabama, reproductive justice and women’s rights advocates are up in arms over a judge’s recent decision to give an aborted fetus the same rights as a person. A man named Ryan Magers of Madison County, Alabama had learned that his girlfriend had a medication-induced abortion at 6 weeks into her pregnancy. Magers, with the help of an anti-abortion organization petitioned to become the personal representative of the aborted fetus and on Tuesday the county Probate Judge Frank Barger granted his petition in the first such move of its kind nationwide. The case is the first consequence of a state constitutional amendment passed last year recognizing the “rights of unborn children.” One women’s rights advocate, Erin Matson of the group Reproaction tweeted in response to Tuesday’s decision, “This is the logical consequence of all anti-abortion activity. Fetuses are treated like people and women and people who can become pregnant are not.”
A major protest earlier this week in Sacramento against the police shooting of a black man named Stephon Clark resulted in 84 arrests. Authorities announced late last week that the officers who shot the unarmed Clark 20 times, would not be charged. Among those arrested at the protest late Monday was Sacramento Bee journalist Dale Kasler, who was later released. The protest took place outside a Trader Joes in a wealthy neighborhood. The Sacramento Bee reported that, “The East Sacramento location was chosen because it is one of the wealthiest neighborhoods in the City of Sacramento and home to many influential leaders in city and state government.” A day after the protests, on Tuesday, activists stormed a meeting at City Hall demanding action on Stephon Clark’s killing and denouncing the harsh police response on Monday night.
An 18-year old man from Ohio testified in front of Congress on Tuesday about his journey to getting vaccinated with a mother who believes vaccines cause autism. Ethan Lindenberger of Norwalk, Ohio spoke to lawmakers at a hearing examining the recent outbreaks of the virulent measles virus in the states of Washington and Oregon. Once he turned 18, Lindenberger got himself vaccinated.
Democrats have moved to reinstate net neutrality rules with plans to unveil new legislation on Wednesday. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi announced that her party would work to pass the “Save the Internet” Act. The Republican controlled Senate had already passed the bill last May. A Republican controlled Federal Communications Commission had voted 3-2 in December 2017 to repeal Obama-era net neutrality rules.
And in international news, North Korea has been found to be rebuilding its ability to launch satellites and its intercontinental ballistic missile program. The reports were based on US and South Korean intelligence, and, according to the New York Times, “could be a first sign that North Korea is preparing to end its moratorium on missile tests, which Mr. Trump has claimed as a major diplomatic achievement.”