Headlines: November 12, 2019
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The US Supreme Court heard arguments in a legal challenge being brought against President Donald Trump’s ending of the DACA program. The Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, which had been implemented by former President Barack Obama, enabled about 700,000 undocumented young people to defer deportation and study or work in the US. As one of his earliest acts in office, Trump canceled the program. Hundreds of people gathered outside the Supreme Court in Washington DC on Tuesday demanding that the court uphold DACA. Here are the sounds of cheers as dozens of DACA registrants emerged from the court building after sitting through the arguments. Early reports suggest that the court’s justices are split along predictably partisan lines and that Chief Justice John Roberts may be the closely watched swing vote. Lower courts have repeatedly rejected the Trump administration’s legal basis for ending the DACA program. Early on Tuesday morning Trump dug his heels in, repeating a claim on Twitter that he has often made without evidence, that, “Many of the people in DACA, no longer very young, are far from ‘angels.’ Some are very tough, hardened criminals.” He then inexplicably added, “If Supreme Court remedies with overturn, a deal will be made with Dems for them to stay!”
In other immigration news, Associated Press in collaboration with the PBS series Frontline released a documentary on Tuesday showing that a record number of children were held in custody during fiscal year 2018 to 2019. A shockingly high number of kids – nearly 70,000 – “spent more time in shelters and away from their families than in prior years.” The number is 42% higher than the year before. According to AP, “Some of these migrant children who were in government custody this year have already been deported. Some have reunited with family in the U.S., where they’re trying to go to school and piece their lives back together. About 4,000 are still in government custody, some in large, impersonal shelters.” United Nations researchers say this is the highest number of children detained separately from their parents of any country in the world by a very large margin. The Frontline documentary, called Kids Caught in the Crackdown, premieres Tuesday night. Here is the film’s trailer.
The latest FBI report on hate crimes in the US found a slight overall dip in the number of incidents in 2018 compared to 2017. But, a deeper look at the statistics shows that there was a drop in crimes aimed at properties while the number of crimes aimed at people increased. Indeed, hate crimes against human beings reached their highest levels in 16 years as per the report for a total of 4,571. The report admits it may be undercounting crimes given that cities and states are not required to report hate crimes and many do not turn over data. Hate crimes against Arabs and Muslims dropped while those against Latinos increased. Sikh Americans were in far greater danger with bias-motivated crimes against them tripling in 2018. Attacks on people with disabilities increased by 37% while those against transgender people increased by 34%.
In news from the House Impeachment inquiry against President Donald Trump, there were more transcripts of secret depositions released. Among them were Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense Laura Cooper, State Department Ukraine specialists Catharine Croft and Christopher Anderson. Media analysis of the transcripts confirms what many others have already revealed: that the Trump White House froze military aid to Ukraine until President Volodymyr Zelensky agreed to announce investigations into Trump’s electoral rival Joe Biden. Meanwhile Mr. Trump has said he plans to release the transcript of an April phone call he had with Zelensky by the end of the week – despite the fact that lawmakers are concerned about the contents of the July call whose word-for-word transcript has not been released.
CNN obtained an internal memo being circulated by Republicans outlining their party’s strategy to combat the impeachment probe. Most of it centers on the rough transcript of Trump’s July call with Zelensky but ignores the many government officials who have testified with damning evidence of a quid pro quo. Meanwhile the White House’s strategy is apparently marked by infighting between legal counsel Pat Cipollone and acting chief of staff Mick Mulvaney. Mulvaney is apparently angry that Cipollone did not do more to stop government officials from testifying to House committees. Mulvaney has himself been subpoenaed and on Monday tried to join a lawsuit whose outcome could determine the legal requirement to testify. He later decided he would defy the subpoena regardless.
Meanwhile Democrats are busy working on electoral politics. Maya Rockeymoore Cummings, the widow of the late Congressman Elijah Cummings has announced she will be running for his seat representing the Baltimore area in Maryland. Ms. Cummings resigned from her position as chair of the Maryland Democratic Party in order to focus on her campaign. The accomplished 48-year old says she fought right alongside her husband for many progressive causes. A special election for the late Mr. Cummings’ seat will be held next April. In Kentucky, State Representative Charles Booker plans to run for the Democratic Party’s Senate nomination to challenge Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell. Mr. Booker only last year became Kentucky’s youngest state lawmaker. He backs a Medicare-for-All plan and a Green New Deal. McConnell may be in political trouble given the recent Republican loss in the governor’s race. In news from the Democratic Presidential nomination, the nation’s largest nurses union has officially endorsed Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders for President, while former Massachusetts Gov. Patrick Deval says he is considering entering the race.
A new healthcare survey by Gallup has found that a shockingly high number of Americans know someone who died because they could not afford the cost of healthcare. The main takeaways of the poll are that, “34 million adults know someone who died after not getting treatment,” “58 million adults report [an] inability to pay for needed drugs in [the] past year,” and that there was very little progress under the Trump administration to lower prescription drug costs.
In international news, Bolivia’s former President Evo Morales, who resigned under pressure from the military, has fled to Mexico. Morales, who has said he was ousted in a coup, plans on staying in Mexico for only a short while before returning to his country. Bolivia remains in political limbo with a leadership vacuum.
The New York Times reported that leadership in the US and Turkey are communicating through an unorthodox backchannel – using the sons-in-law of the two heads of state as emissaries. Turkish President Erdogan’s two sons-in-law apparently regularly communicate with Mr. Trump’s son-in-law Jared Kushner, who has been accused of foreign policy inexperience. And the Wall Street Journal just reported that according to US drone footage, Turkey’s forces appear to have committed war crimes in Northern Syria where Trump withdrew US forces at Erdogan’s behest.
Finally, in Afghanistan, the US-backed Afghan government has agreed on a prisoner exchange deal with the Taliban, offering up three high-level militants in exchange for American and Australian professors who were captured three years ago.