Headlines: November 14, 2018
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The Wall Street Journal reported that the White House would continue churning through staff with the news on Tuesday of the possible firing of Gen. John Kelly and Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen. The Journal also broke the news that the deputy National Security Adviser Mira Ricardel would be let go, and indeed she was just hours after publication. Extraordinarily it was First Lady Melania Trump’s office that demanded she be removed. In a statement Mrs. Trump’s spokesperson said about Ricardel, “It is the position of the Office of the First Lady that she no longer deserves the honor of serving in this White House.” But one White House official anonymously told the newspaper, “Mira Ricardel is one of the highest ranking women in the Trump administration,” and she, “has never met the first lady.”
Meanwhile the Associated Press reported on Wednesday morning that, “Nielsen was thought to be out as soon as this week, according to two people with knowledge of the issue, but she is now likely to remain in the post for a longer period because there is no obvious successor in place.” And, “Trump is also discussing replacing Kelly with Vice President Mike Pence’s chief of staff, Nick Ayers.”
The death toll from Northern California’s “Camp Fire“ has jumped to 48 as search and rescue crews find more bodies. The fire itself has also continued to grow and has so far consumed 8,800 structures. The size of the record-breaking blaze is about 130,000 acres – that’s larger than the city of Atlanta. In Southern California the Woolsey and Hill Fires continue to burn as well but are 40% and 90% contained respectively.
Hundreds of activists held a sit-in at the Washington DC offices of House Minority leader Nancy Pelosi, demanding she take strong climate action and back a new “Green” economy. They were joined briefly by the New York Congresswoman elect Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. Later she spoke with reporters about how she was there to support Pelosi after showing solidarity with climate activists. More than 50 people were arrested a few hours after their protests began. Pelosi later tweeted that she was, “deeply inspired” by the activists and posted a statement saying she wanted to reinstate a House committee on climate change.
In Georgia protests continued over demands that all votes in the midterm elections be counted, especially in regard to the Governor’s race, which has a razor-thin margin of difference between the two candidates. Among those protesting at the Georgia State Capitol on Tuesday were several Democratic state legislators. Police arrested state Senator Nikema Williams along with about a dozen protesters. After she was released Williams spoke to the press saying she had been singled out. Her colleague, state representative David Dreyer also attended the same protest but the white male lawmaker was not arrested and acknowledged to reporters that police treated him differently than his black female colleague. Georgia has struggled with racial tensions throughout the midterm election campaign and it remains to be seen how the vote count commences.
But racism is a growing issue nationwide as well, as the latest FBI report on hate crimes shows. The report, released Tuesday, finds that, “The number of hate crime incidents reported to the FBI increased about 17 percent in 2017 compared with the previous year.” It was the third year in a row that the numbers have increased. The report specifies that, “the most common bias categories in single-bias incidents were race/ethnicity/ancestry (59.6) percent, religion (20.6 percent), and sexual orientation (15.8 percent). In addition to the 7,106 single-bias incidents reported last year, there were also 69 multiple-bias hate crimes reported.” Black and Jewish Americans were the most targeted groups.
CNN has announced a lawsuit against the White House over the suspension of its reporter Jim Acosta’s press pass. According to the Washington Post, “Late Tuesday afternoon, the judge in the case, Timothy J. Kelly, ordered the White House and the other defendants to respond to CNN’s motion for a temporary restraining order by 11 a.m. Wednesday. He set a hearing on the restraining order — which would temporarily restore Acosta’s press credential, pending the outcome of a trial — for 3 p.m. Wednesday.” CNN’s case is strong and could likely win. The press pass suspension arose from a tense exchange between Trump and Acosta during a press conference. Later Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders tweeted a video of a young female intern grabbing at Acosta’s mic, and Acosta holding on to it. The video that Sanders tweeted was sped up to make it appear as though Acosta was pushing against the intern. White House Counselor Kellyanne Conway defended the use of the doctored video saying it was merely “sped up,” not “altered,” and that, “They do it all the time in sports.”
In international news Vice President Mike Pence is in Singapore and met with Myanmar leader Aung San Suu Kyi, just a day after Amnesty International had withdrawn her human rights award. Mr. Pence apparently raised the issue of her tacit support for the military government’s well-documented oppression of the Rohingya Muslim minority, saying, “The violence and persecution by military and vigilantes that resulted in driving 700,000 Rohingya to Bangladesh is without excuse.” Human rights organizations have documented a genocidal pogrom against the Rohingya and have called on the world’s governments to hold Myanmar responsible. Pence also called on Suu Kyi to release two Reuters journalists who had been sentenced to prison for breaching a government secrets act. Reuters, reporting on the story, wrote that Suu Kyi remained “stony faced,” and responded, “people have different points of view but the point is that you should exchange these views and try to understand each other better.”