Headlines: May 31, 2019
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President Donald Trump on Thursday tweeted a surprise announcement that he would be imposing tariffs on all Mexican goods in relation to the entry of undocumented immigrants and asylum seekers to the US. He wrote, “On June 10th, the United States will impose a 5% Tariff on all goods coming into our Country from Mexico, until such time as illegal migrants coming through Mexico, and into our Country, STOP. The Tariff will gradually increase until the Illegal Immigration problem is remedied…” In an accompanying statement written in Trump’s style of tweets, the White House published a bizarre and lie-riddled statement that included the baseless assertion, “Thousands of innocent lives are taken every year as a result of this lawless chaos. It must end NOW!” The word “NOW” was capitalized. It is completely unclear which “thousands of innocent lives” the White House was referring to.
Mexico’s President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador wrote a letter to Trump responding to the announcement of tariffs. He said, “Social problems are not resolved by taxes or coercive measures,” and added, “With all due respect, even though you have the right to express it, the slogan ‘America First’ is a fallacy because until the end of time, even over national borders, universal justice and fraternity will prevail.” Mr. Lopez Obrador ended his letter saying, “Nothing by force, everything by reason and Law!” At a news conference on Friday morning, Mexico’s President repeated these sentiments. On the same day that Trump made the threat his administration moved to fast-track approval of the new US-Mexico trade treaty that updates NAFTA. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi retorted in a statement that Trump’s move, “indicates a lack of knowledge on the part of the administration on the policy and process to pass a trade agreement.”
The Washington Post on Thursday reported that hundreds of immigrant minors are being held in detention for much longer than they are legally allowed. As per federal law, children under the age of 18 cannot be held in border detention facilities for longer than 72 hours and must be transferred to certified shelters. But the Trump administration is breaking the law in about 1,000 cases. About 250 children aged 12 or younger have been held in detention for an average of 6 days. Meanwhile, on Thursday, Politico reported that a draft proposal to further restrict asylum rules was circulating around the Department of Homeland Security. The new rules being considered, “would prohibit migrants from seeking asylum if they have resided in a country other than their own before coming to the U.S.” This would effectively disqualify Central American migrants who travel through Mexico. And, Presidential candidate and Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders addressed the issue of immigrant rights in a major speech on Thursday in Las Vegas.
Attorney General William Barr gave an exclusive interview to “CBS This Morning,” discussing Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s report. Mr. Barr said he disagreed with Mueller on his legal analysis of the report’s findings. Presidential candidate Elizabeth Warren announced on Friday that she would work to reverse the Justice Department policy that prevents criminal indictments of a sitting president.
In other news, the United Nations special rapporteur on torture and ill treatment, Nils Melzer, said on Friday that the result of the US, UK, and Sweden’s governments persecuting Wikileaks Founder Julian Assange, has had a severe psychological impact. Mr. Melzer had visited Assange who is being held in a UK jail, and said in a statement that, “Mr. Assange showed all symptoms typical for prolonged exposure to psychological torture, including extreme stress, chronic anxiety and intense psychological trauma.” He added that Assange, “has been deliberately exposed, for a period of several years, to progressively severe forms of cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment, the cumulative effects of which can only be described as psychological torture.” Meanwhile, whistleblower Chelsea Manning, who has been held in US jail in contempt of court for refusing to testify against Assange, has said she should be released in light of the new US charges Assange is facing. Her lawyers said, “She is suffering physically and psychologically, and is at the time of this writing in the process of losing her home as a result of her present confinement.”
A new study by the accounting firm Deloitte has found that millennials are worth far less than earlier generations. For Americans aged 18-35, “student loans, rising rents and higher health care costs,” have resulted in an average net worth of only $8,000 – a 34% decrease from 1996. A Deloitte spokesperson said, “The vast majority of consumers are under tremendous financial pressure. That is particularly true for low-income Americans and millennials.” The study is in stark contrast to President Trump’s constant assertions of the booming US economy.
Louisiana’s Democratic Governor has just signed the nation’s latest abortion ban into law. Gov. John Bel Edwards signed the draconian law, which doesn’t make exceptions for pregnancies arising from rape or incest. Elsewhere in the state, activists launched a5-day march protesting the toxic impacts of chemical plants. Organizers called themselves the “coalition against death alley.” Reserve, Louisiana, where the march began, has the highest rates of cancer in the nation linked to airborne toxins.
And finally the Arkansas River has experienced historic flooding this week as waters rose and breached at least 2 levees. Thousands of homes could be impacted in 14 counties. A state emergency manager told CNN, “This is looking to be record-breaking all along the Arkansas River, and this is something we have never seen before.” And tornadoes have been hitting the Washington DC area this week with a second tornado touching down in Howard County this week along, damaging structures and ripping up trees. As major parts of the US suffers from climate change-related extreme weather, Republicans in the House blocked a disaster aid bill for the third time.