Headlines: May 28, 2019
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President Donald Trump spent the weekend in Japan, visiting Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, playing golf and eating cheeseburgers and dropping diplomatic bombs. On Saturday he tweeted, “North Korea fired off some small weapons, which disturbed some of my people, and others, but not me. I have confidence that Chairman Kim will keep his promise to me, & also smiled when he called Swampman Joe Biden a low IQ individual, & worse. Perhaps that’s sending me a signal?” The tweet referred to North Korean leader Kim Jong Un and the man that Trump considers his biggest political rival here in the US – former Vice President Joe Biden.
Then during a news conference with Mr. Abe, Trump contradicted his own National Security Adviser John Bolton about North Korea’s nuclear testing saying he “personally” didn’t believe they violated UN Security Council resolutions, and that he thought Mr. Kim was a, “very smart man.” According to the Washington Post, “Trump also seemed to side with Kim and his repressive regime over Biden, violating an unofficial rule of presidential behavior — that partisan politics stops on foreign soil. Asked about a tweet in which Trump appreciatively recounted North Korea’s state media calling Biden a ‘fool of low I.Q.,’ the president simply doubled down on the insult.” When asked about Iran, Trump said, “We’re not looking for regime change…I just want to make that clear. We’re looking for no nuclear weapons.” In unrelated news, a 51-year old man just outside Tokyo attacked a group of school children with knives, killing an 11-year old child and another adult and injuring 17 others before stabbing himself to death. No motive is yet known.
In other international news, European Union Parliament elections were held over the weekend with more than 50% of voters showing up at the polls in what are considered the largest elections after India’s. The political power long-held by Europe’s centrist parties faded as nationalist right-wing parties gained some ground, while left-leaning parties surged especially the European Greens. In France, England, and Italy in particular right wing, nationalist and racist anti-immigrant forces won big. France’s Marine Le Pen edged out President Emmanuel Macron’s party. In the UK, Nigel Farage, who led the Brexit movement won big, and in Italy, Deputy Prime Minister Matteo Salvini’s party was victorious. Still the right’s gains were not as big as initially predicted, and by themselves cannot effect as much change in Europe as they hoped. The Washington Post explained, “The far right… captured about a quarter of the seats, up from a fifth — enough to entrench their angry voices of protest and cause trouble in the legislature, but not enough to actually enact an agenda.” Green Party wins were higher than expected, indicating voters’ strong pro-climate agenda and turning them into potential “king-makers” as centrist parties vie for their support in coalition building.
Meanwhile, climate-justice teen activist Greta Thunberg spoke to European leaders in Vienna, Austria on Tuesday at a climate summit. Here in the US, in dire warnings of a changing climate, tornadoes ripped through the Mid Western states of Ohio and Indiana, causing chaos, destruction, and death Monday night into Tuesday morning. An 81-year old man near Dayton, Ohio was killed after a car slammed into his home, lifted up by the storms. More than half a dozen people have been injured.About 6 tornadoes slammed into Eastern Iowa on Monday afternoon devastating structures. According to CNN, “Tuesday threatens more of the same, including possible severe storms in the Plains, South, Midwest and Northeast.” Additionally there is, “dangerous flooding in many states; and a suffocating heat wave in the Southeast.” As Americans are struggling with the impacts of climate change, the New York Times on Monday revealed that the Trump administration was planning, “to undermine the very science on which climate change policy rests.” Specifically, “parts of the federal government will no longer fulfill what scientists say is one of the most urgent jobs of climate science studies: reporting on the future effects of a rapidly warming planet and presenting a picture of what the earth could look like by the end of the century if the global economy continues to emit heat-trapping carbon dioxide pollution from burning fossil fuels.” The Times pointed out that, “The administration’s prime target has been the National Climate Assessment.”
The US Supreme Court on Tuesday made a compromise ruling on an Indiana anti-abortion law that Vice President Mike Pence had signed when he was governor of that state. Justices allowed a portion of the law that centered on the disposal of fetal tissue from abortions but declined to take up the restrictions that anti-abortionists were counting on being challenged. Meanwhile, Planned Parenthood announced on Tuesday that in Missouri, the state’s last abortion clinic is on the verge of shutting down. According to Associated Press, “the current license for the St. Louis facility expires Friday. If not renewed, the organization said Missouri would become the first state without a functioning abortion clinic since the 1973 Roe v. Wade Supreme Court decision.”
President Trump’s son-in-law, Jared Kushner is in the Middle East this week hoping Morocco’s king will back his as-yet secret peace plan for Israel and Palestine. The White House simply announced that Kushner’s trip,“is part of our ongoing efforts to achieve peace between Israel and the Palestinians,” but gave no additional information. And in Israel, Knesset members took steps to begin dissolving Parliament on Monday, laying the groundwork for new snap elections. Fresh from winning reelection as Prime Minister, Mr. Benjamin Netanyahu has so far failed to form a government between various political parties. He faces a Wednesday night deadline to form a new government or call for elections.
In other Middle East news, Trump late last week approved $8 billion worth of weapons sales to Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, and Jordan, circumventing Congressional approval using a little known federal law. Trump used tensions with Iran to justify the weapons sale but critics fear that the Saudis and Emiratis will deploy them in Yemen. UNICEF announced on Sunday that in the past 10 days, Saudi airstrikes killed or injured 27 children in Yemen. UNICEF’s Executive Director Henrietta Fore said, “Nowhere is safe for children in Yemen. The conflict is haunting them in their homes, schools and playgrounds.” Congress passed a law curbing US support to the Saudi-led war but Trump vetoed the measure. And finally US representatives walked out of an international conference on disarmament on Tuesday. The move was in protest of Venezuela’s government presiding over the proceedings as temporary rotating chair of the summit. The US has openly led an effort to oust Venezuela’s President Nicolas Maduro.