Headlines: November 16, 2018
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The recount in Florida’s midterm election has officially ended and Ron DeSantis has maintained enough of a lead over Democrat Andrew Gillum for the Governor’s race that he is likely to be declared the winner. For the contentious Senate race between incumbent Bill Nelson – a Democrat – and current Governor Rick Scott, the margin of difference is low enough that election officials now move into a hand-count of ballots that may have been tossed out due to poor handwriting or other problems. The deadline to complete the handout is this Sunday.
In Georgia where the Governor’s race also remains undecided, former Secretary of State Brian Kemp has declared victory but his opponent Stacey Abrams has been buoyed by several recent court wins for recounting votes and accepting mail-in and provisional ballots. One judge set a deadline of Friday evening to certify the results and allow voters to check through a hotline whether their provisional ballots were counted or not. According to Vox, “Abrams’s campaign told reporters on Tuesday that their candidate needs 18,259 votes to trigger a recount and 20,595 votes to trigger a runoff. The campaign also estimated that some 28,716 votes have yet to be counted.”
In her bid to become House Speaker once more, California representative Nancy Pelosi is busy picking up endorsements from party leaders. Civil rights icon Representative John Lewis has backed the 78-year old Pelosi for the leadership position, as has Jim Clyburn who is the third highest ranking Democrat and a prominent member of the Congressional Black Caucus. Pelosi addressed reporters on Thursday. According to Associated Press, “Pelosi has faced challenges before but this one — fueled by newcomers calling for change and frustrated incumbents who feel shut out of leadership after her many years at the helm — poses perhaps the biggest threat yet.”
The death toll from the Camp Fire in Northern California has been updated and it has now jumped to 63. Although the number of missing people was down to 130 earlier this week it has now jumped back up to 631. According to AP, “The high number of missing people probably includes some who fled the blaze and don’t realize they’ve been reported missing.” To that end Butte County Sheriff Kory Honea will be making the list of missing people public so that those who are on the list can notify authorities that they are safe. About 9,800 homes were destroyed, the majority in the town of Paradise. The air quality across Northern California remains so bad that schools were closed and some public transportation was stopped. The Camp Fire is now 40% contained but many people are not being let back into the area where their homes once stood because of continued dangers from things like downed power lines. In Southern California, people were being let back into the area that had been evacuated. More than 500 homes were destroyed in the Woolsey Fire and 3 people were killed.
The New York Times this week published a major exposé of the inner workings of social media company Facebook. The investigative piece revealed that Facebook executive Sheryl Sandberg and founder Mark Zuckerberg made major missteps in the years after the 2016 election revealed that its user data had been misused. According to the Times, “Bent on growth, the pair ignored warning signs and then sought to conceal them from public view. At critical moments over the last three years, they were distracted by personal projects, and passed off security and policy decisions to subordinates, according to current and former executives.” Additionally, “Facebook employed a Republican opposition-research firm to discredit activist protesters, in part by linking them to the liberal financier George Soros.” The report was based on interviews with more than 50 people.
The Wall Street Journal reported on Thursday that the US Justice Department was getting ready to file charges against Julian Assange, the founder of Wikileaks. Assange has been living for years at the Ecuadoran embassy in London but since Ecuador’s newly elected President Lenin Moreno came to power, he faces a danger of eviction. Moreno has called Assange, “a stone in our shoe,” and Ecuador is hoping to improve ties with the US under his leadership. According to the Journal, the Justice Department is, “increasingly optimistic it will be able to get him into a U.S. courtroom.” Additionally, “In a court filing in an unrelated case in the Eastern District of Virginia, prosecutors also appeared to reference the prospect that Mr. Assange has already been secretly charged.” According to the New York Times, “WikiLeaks published thousands of emails that year from Democrats during the presidential race that were stolen by Russian intelligence officers. The hackings were a major part of Moscow’s campaign of disruption.” In other news about the Special Counsel investigation, a Russian firm named Concord Management, tried to get its charges dropped but a judge denied the request. That judge in question, Dabney Friedrich, was appointed by President Trump.
In other news, the National Rifle Association along with other pro-gun groups, filed a lawsuit against the state of Washington on Thursday, to block its gun control measure. Voters passed initiative 1639 in the midterm election by 60%. The measure prevents the sale of semi-automatic rifles to those under the age of 21 and to non-residents of the state. It also requires an enhanced background check and proof of having taken a firearms training course. The same groups suing the state fought to keep the initiative off the ballot.
Republican lawmakers in Ohio just passed a strict anti-abortion bill. The House had already passed the so-called “heart-beat bill” two years ago. It was vetoed by Gov. John Kasich. The bill prohibits abortions as soon as a fetal heartbeat is detected, at around 6 weeks of pregnancy. This is often before women even know they are pregnant. It makes no exceptions for rape or incest. The bill was passed 58 to 35. If it had reached 60 votes, it would have overridden the Governor’s veto. Gov. Kasich is certainly not a pro-choice leader, having signed a whopping 18 bills restricting abortions and banning abortions completely past 20 weeks of pregnancy.