Headlines: November 13, 2018
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The death toll from all of California’s recent wildfires has jumped to 44 after the discovery of 13 more bodies in the area burned by the Camp Fire in Butte County. The confirmed dead from the Camp Fire alone are 42 making it the deadliest fire in California history. There are still 228 people missing, many of them seniors with mobility issues. The hardest hit area was the town of Paradise, a low-income retirement community, that is utterly destroyed. Search crews continue to comb through the area looking for bodies and survivors.
In election news, a contentious recount battle is developing in Florida with both the Governor’s race and the Senate race still in question. President Donald Trump, clearly rattled over the possibility of Democrats winning the seats, tweeted on Monday, “The Florida Election should be called in favor of Rick Scott and Ron DeSantis in that large numbers of new ballots showed up out of nowhere, and many ballots are missing or forged. An honest vote count is no longer possible-ballots massively infected. Must go with Election Night!”
Even though Trump is calling for an end to the recount, according to Reuters, “state rules allow election officials to wait 10 days for absentee ballots submitted by registered voters living outside the United States, including active-duty military personnel.” Governor Rick Scott, a Republican who is vying for Democrat Bill Nelson’s Senate seat, has ordered all voting machines to be seized by law enforcement. But a judge rejected his request for extra security. In response, Democrats are suing to prevent Scott from being involved in the recount citing his conflict of interest. This is Democratic Florida Representative Ted Deutch speaking to reporters on Monday. Gov. Scott has filed a whopping five lawsuits against election officials. He now faces a lawsuit by a coalition of organizations including Protect Democracy, the League of Women Voters of Florida and Common Cause Florida.
In Georgia where another controversial fight over the Governor’s race is taking place, the newly seated Secretary of State Robyn Crittenden has ordered officials to count all absentee ballots including those that might be missing a date of birth. Crittenden replaced Brian Kemp who ran against Democrat Stacey Abrams and who is declaring victory despite Abrams’ refusal to concede. The deadline to finish the count is looming fast and Abrams’ campaign has asked for an extension.
In other election news, the Arizona Senate race has finally ended with Democrat Krysten Sinema declaring victory over Republican Martha McSally. The initial vote count showed McSally with a slight lead over Sinema. But after all votes were counted the Democrat prevailed. It is the first time since 1994 that Arizona elected a Democratic Senator. Sinema also becomes Arizona’s first-ever female Senator. The one-time Green Party activist, who is also openly bisexual, served as a House Representative for 6 years. According to the Associated Press, “Sinema built one of most centrist records in the Democratic caucus, and she voted for bills backed by Trump more than 60 percent of the time.” Her win will not change the Senate landscape as Republicans already control 51 seats.
Police in Chicago killed a black security guard early on Sunday morning after he stopped a shooter. Twenty six year old Jemel Roberson was working at a bar in Robbins, Illinois near Chicago when an armed fight broke out. Police were called to the scene and in the chaos of the fight they shot Roberson, who was African American. Roberson died of multiple gunshot wounds at a hospital. One witness told a local news show, “Everybody was screaming out, ‘Security!’ He was a security guard…And they still did their job, and saw a black man with a gun, and basically killed him.” Four other people including the original shooter that Roberson responded to, survived. According to the Washington Post the incident, “has already provoked concerns that black men, even when legally carrying firearms or employed in a position that allows their use, can still become a target for police fire.”
In other news, outrage continues to build over Trump’s appointment of Matt Whitaker as acting Attorney General – a man who has made no secret about his disdain for the Special Counsel investigation and who now oversees it. Former acting Solicitor General Neal Katyal who had written the regulations governing Special Counsel investigations 20 years ago wrote an op-ed in the Washington Post. In it, Katyal wrote, “It simply cannot be that the president can name his own temporary attorney general to supervise an investigation in which he and his family have a direct, concrete interest.” He ended the piece by saying, “The Whitaker installation does violence to our most basic principles — enshrined in the Constitution, laws enacted by Congress, the ethics rules that govern our prosecutors and the special counsel regulations themselves. It is lawless and unprincipled. It must be stopped.”
In international news, a covert Israeli operation in Gaza went wrong over the weekend when Israeli forces killed 7 Palestinians including a Hamas military official. In response, Palestinians lobbed rockets into Israel on Monday with the Israeli army pounding Gaza from the air with at least 70 strikes. According to the New York Times, “Israel hit scores of military posts and weapons caches across Gaza, but also leveled a Hamas television station, radio station and office building, and the group’s military intelligence headquarters. It was the heaviest fighting between Israel and Gaza since their war in 2014.” There have been on-going talks to calm the Israel border with Gaza after Israeli snipers earlier this year assassinated hundreds of unarmed Palestinian protesters. The Israeli operation that triggered this latest violence may have derailed the talks.
Amnesty International has stripped Myanmar’s leader Aung San Suu Kyi of its Ambassador of Conscience Award. Suu Kyi had won the organization’s highest prize in 2009 but since the end of her house arrest and her newly resurrected political career, she has become increasingly complicit in the government pogrom against Rohingya Muslims. Amnesty’s Secretary General Kumi Naidoo said in a letter to Suu Kyi about the prize’s withdrawal that he was, “profoundly dismayed that you no longer represent a symbol of hope, courage, and the undying defense of human rights.”
And finally leaders at the Vatican have blocked an attempt by US Catholic priests to investigate church-related sexual abuse of children. According to the Washington Post, “Bishops attending the annual meeting of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops expressed a mixture of disappointment, acceptance and frustration at the news from Rome, while angry victims’ advocates accused church leaders of impeding reforms.”