News & Analysis of Economic, Racial, Gender Justice and More

The mass shooter who massacred 11 people at a synagogue in Pittsburgh in the worst hate crime against American Jews in history, has been charged. Forty six year old Robert Bowers was indicted on the second day of a week long series of funerals and related events for the victims. He may be facing the death penalty with 44 charges of murder, hate crimes and other offenses.

In the wake of the massacre Trump declared, even before there was a suspect, that the death penalty should apply to the perpetrator of the massacre. Statistics on the use of the death penalty in federal cases show they have spiked under Trump. Under his predecessor, Barack Obama, there was a de facto moratorium on the death penalty – except in the case of Dylann Roof, the Charleston church shooter. Trump’s Attorney General Jeff Sessions has so far approved more than twelve capital punishment prosecutions since he took the reins of the Justice Department. However, the numbers are still lower than George W. Bush and his Attorney General John Ashcroft, who, according to AP, “signed off on capital prosecutions against more than three dozen defendants, at times overruling his own prosecutors when they recommended against seeking capital punishment.”

A federal judge has ordered the state of Ohio to reverse its voter purge. Ohio, like several states around the country, decided to send letters to those voters who did not participate in recent elections and if voters ignored them, they were purged from the voter rolls. The sixth Circuit Court of Appeals which took up the challenge brought by voting rights groups, ruled that, “Plaintiffs have a reasonable, and perhaps even greater, likelihood of success on the merits of their claim that defendant’s confirmation notice did not adequately advise registrants of the consequences of failure to respond, as the NVRA (National Voting Rights Act) requires.” Ohio’s State Secretary is Republican Jon Husted, who is running for Lieutenant Governor alongside gubernatorial candidate Mike DeWine. DeWine faces a tight race against Democrat Richard Cordray that could be determined by a close vote margin.

In Georgia, Republican State Secretary Brian Kemp pulled out of a gubernatorial debate against Stacey Abrams at the last minute. Abrams and Kemp were scheduled to debate one on live television another this Sunday but Kemp has instead opted to rally with President Trump. Trump has been gracing political rallies for GOP candidates nonstop around the nation ahead of the midterm elections. Abrams and Kemp are running neck-in-neck for Georgia Governor. After Kemp pulled out of the original debate time, his campaign requested a new time but Abrams, who had a previously scheduled event with voters turned it down. Her campaign released a strongly worded statement saying, “We refuse to callously take Georgians for granted and cancel on them. Just because Brian Kemp breaks his promises doesn’t mean anyone else should.” If Abrams wins in Georgia, she will become the first Black female governor in the nation’s history.

Relatively absent from this year’s midterm election campaigning is the National Rifle Association. The NRA has only poured $11 million into electing politicians – that’s half the amount it has spent on the last midterms four years ago. The lower profile comes at a time when the national debate on gun control is changing in a nation weary of mass shootings. In comparison to the NRA’s spending, gun control groups like Everytown for Gun Safety is spending about $30 million. Many are speculating that the NRA’s political influence might finally be waning.

Wisconsin’s Republican Governor Scott Walker has proposed drug testing for Medicaid recipients in his state but on Wednesday the Trump administration rejected the request. Walker had touted the plan as part of job training assistance for Medicaid recipients. He said, “We want to remove barriers to work and make it easier to get a job, while making sure public assistance is available for those who truly need it.” Although the Trump Administration struck down that part of the proposal, it did approve a number of other requirements for Medicaid recipients to have to complete before being eligible for the modest government assistance program. Mr. Walker is facing a stiff fight from School Superintendent Tony Evers as he runs for reelection.

A spokesperson for Texas Senate candidate Beto O’Rourke – a Democrat – has said that O’Rourke received threats earlier this year from the same man who is being held as a suspect in the pipe bomb packages case. Although the Democratic candidate did not receive suspicious packages like the 15 recipients in the pipe bomb case did, he was sent threatening messages by Cesar Sayoc via Facebook. Sayoc was arrested last week for threatening Trump’s favorite targets of criticism and vitriol via potential bombs in the mail.

Family members of Steve West, a Republican in Missouri are campaigning against the candidate as he vies for a seat on the state’s General Assembly. Two out of three of West’s children are campaigning against their father. His daughter Emily West told the Kansas City Star, “I can’t imagine him being in any level of government. He’s made multiple comments that are racist and homophobic and how he doesn’t like the Jews.” His son Andy West said, “He must be stopped. His ideology is pure hatred.” West won his primary race in August but was then denounced by his own party that issued a statement saying it “wholeheartedly” condemns his “abhorrent rhetoric,” which had, “absolutely no place in the Missouri Republican Party or anywhere.”

The US Senate Intelligence Committee is investigating former White House Advisor Steve Bannon for his activities ahead of the 2016 election.  According to Reuters, “The committee is looking into what Bannon might know about any contacts during the campaign between Moscow and two advisers to the campaign, George Papadopoulos and Carter Page.” The committee is also examining Bannon’s interactions with Cambridge Analytica, the now defunct company that Trump hired ahead of the election to mine voter information and target voters online. But Bannon’s attorney released a statement saying, “The Senate Intelligence Committee has expressed an interest in interviewing Mr. Bannon as a witness, just as they have many other people involved in the Trump Campaign. But the Committee has never suggested that he’s under investigation himself and to claim otherwise is recklessly false.” Special Counsel Robert Mueller had questioned Bannon last week.

More than a 1,000 employees of tech giant Google walked out of their jobs across Asia and Europe on Thursday. They were protesting sexism, racism, and executive abuse of power. At Google’s European headquarters in Dublin, Ireland, hundreds of workers walked out just after 11 am local time. They left notes on their desks reading, “I’m not at my desk because I’m walking out with other Googlers and contractors to protest sexual harassment, misconduct, lack of transparency, and a workplace culture that’s not working for everyone.” Hundreds more posted photos and videos of themselves walking out of Google offices in London, Zurich, Berlin, Tokyo and Singapore. Sundar Pichai, Google’s Chief Executive, has been in damage control mode ever since a damning article by the New York Times a week ago exposed that former executive Andy Rubin was gifted a $90 million exit package after being accused of sexual harassment. Pichai responded to this week’s walkouts saying, “employees have raised constructive ideas” and that Google would be, “taking in all their feedback so we can turn these ideas into action.”

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