Headlines: November 12, 2018
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31 people have died and 200 remain missing in California from the deadly wildfires that ripped through parts of Northern and Southern California for the past several days. The majority of deaths – 29 – took place in the Northern California town of Paradise where the “Camp Fire” has now been declared one of the deadliest fires in the state’s recorded history – alongside the 1933 Griffith Park disaster. Fire crews continue to search the area around Paradise for bodies while more than 6,700 buildings and structures have been destroyed.
In Southern California, where this program is based, the ‘Woolsey Fire’ has claimed two lives and caused the evacuation of tens of thousands of residents. The dreaded Santa Ana winds have kicked in and out, feeding the fires but as of Monday morning, authorities say that fire has now been ten percent contained. A third, smaller blaze called the ‘Hill Fire’ also continues to burn in Southern California. Ventura County Chief Mark Lorenzen on Sunday warned residents not to ignore evacuation orders.
President Donald Trump approved a federal emergency declaration, which allows the state to access critical resources. But, as he has done before, the President considering himself an expert on fire management, tweeted a threat to withhold funds saying, “Billions of dollars are given each year, with so many lives lost, all because of gross mismanagement of the forests. Remedy now, or no more Fed payments!” He received major push back from state authorities with Governor Jerry Brown calling his comments “inane and uninformed, and a spokesman for the firefighters union saying they were, “dangerously wrong.” On Sunday Trump dug his heels in and tweeted, “With proper Forest Management, we can stop the devastation constantly going on in California. Get Smart!”
Trump was tweeting from Paris, France where he spent the weekend to mark the 100th anniversary of the end of World War I alongside dozens of other world leaders. At the Armistice Day celebrations that Trump attended, French President Emmanuel Macron said that the soldiers who sacrificed their lives in the war did so for the, “universal values” of France and to reject the “selfishness of nations only looking after their own interests. Because patriotism is exactly the opposite of nationalism.” President Macron’s words were seen as a pointed rebuke to Trump who had recently called himself a “nationalist” during a political rally. Macron also said, “By putting our own interests first, with no regard for others, we erase the very thing that a nation holds dearest, and the thing that keeps it alive: its moral values.”
On Saturday, Trump canceled his attendance of a ceremony at a cemetery in France where American soldiers who fought in World War I were buried. The reason for the cancelation was apparently rain. After he came under fire for hypocrisy toward the military and veterans, Trump attended another event at a different American cemetery on Sunday.
The state of Florida is grappling with contested elections once again as the Gubernatorial and Senate races were so close, they triggered an official recount. Vying for the Governor’s seat are Trump-backed Republican Ron DeSantis and Democrat Andrew Gillum, while sitting Governor Rick Scott, a Republican, battles incumbent Democrat Bill Nelson for a Senate seat. In both races the vote margin of difference is less than a percent. According to Associated Press, “State officials said they weren’t aware of any other time a race for governor or U.S. Senate required a recount, let alone both in the same election.” Over the weekend there were major mishaps and malfunctions in the recounting process especially in the heavily Democratic districts of Broward and Palm Beach counties. Gov. Rick Scott has been asked to recuse himself from overseeing the recount because of an obvious conflict of interest but he has refused to step aside. Republicans have focused their ire on Broward County’s supervisor of elections, Brenda Snipes, against whom Scott has filed a lawsuit. Trump supporters are reportedly showing up outside her office chanting, “lock her up.”
The case against the Trump Administration’s decision to ask citizenship status in the US Census continues. A federal judge in Maryland ruled that plaintiffs had enough evidence of Trump’s intentions of racial discrimination in order to file their suit. U.S. District Judge George Hazel cited Trump’s comments in January about people from “s-hole countries,” as the President’s way of “distinguishing immigrants of color from white immigrants from countries like Norway.” The Trump government says asking people about their citizenship will help enforce the Voting Rights Act. But critics say it will cause fear and underreporting among communities of color, which in turn could reduce political representation and government funding.
In other news, there has been a development in the story of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi’s murder and disappearance. According to the New York Times, “Top Saudi intelligence officials close to Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman asked a small group of businessmen last year about using private companies to assassinate Iranian enemies of the kingdom, according to three people familiar with the discussions…Their discussions, more than a year before the killing of the journalist Jamal Khashoggi, indicate that top Saudi officials have considered assassinations since the beginning of Prince Mohammed’s ascent.” Meanwhile Turkish President Erdogan just said that authorities in the US, France, Britain, Germany, and Saudi Arabia, have been handed the audio tapes that secretly recorded Khashoggi’s killing in the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul.