Headlines: November 20, 2018
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A shooter at a Chicago hospital on Monday took the lives of four people including his own. Thirty two year old Juan Lopez, apparently motivated by a broken engagement to a doctor at Mercy Hospital, showed up Monday with a gun and killed Dr. Tamara O’Neal with multiple bullets, standing over her as he did so. A 25-year old pharmacy student and a police officer just two years on the job were also killed. Witnesses spoke to press about the terror they felt.
Doctors who deal with trauma from gun violence are taking on the National Rifle Association. A recent Twitter battle broke out between the group pushing for more guns and those whose job it is to save the lives of those hurt by guns, when the NRA told “anti-gun” doctors to, “stay in their lane.” On Monday a group of doctors published an editorial in the Annals of Internal Medicine entitled, “Firearm Injury Prevention: AFFIRMing That Doctors Are in Our Lane.” The three authors wrote, “Firearm-related injury in the United States is a public health crisis,” and cited a collaboration with a research group called AFFIRM to study gun violence. They added, “Doctors have a responsibility as health care professionals and scientists to seek the answers to questions related to health and safety. And we won’t be silenced in using what we learn to better care for our patients.”
In the latest on the fires in California, officials have updated the death toll in the northern Camp Fire alone to 79. The number of missing is currently 699. Meanwhile rain is expected this week in the northern part of the state, which could bring relief to the dry areas, but also trigger dangerous mudslides and flash flooding in areas stripped bare of brush and vegetation. Two law firms in Butte County have a filed class-action lawsuit against PG&E, the statewide utilities company that may have had a hand in the Camp Fire through faulty power lines. According to the Los Angeles Times, “The lawsuit alleges PG&E has failed in the past to trim trees near power lines or proactively shut off power in hazardous fire conditions, and that the fire was preventable.” But Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke doesn’t blame PG&E or the conditions created by climate change. In an interview with the extremist rightwing outlet Breitbart News, Zinke blamed “environmental radicals.”
A federal judge has blocked the Trump administration’s new asylum rules. Judge Jon S. Tigar of San Francisco handed down a temporary restraining order against the government’s decision to not accept asylum applications from those people who cross the border into the US. The judge wrote, “Whatever the scope of the president’s authority, he may not rewrite the immigration laws to impose a condition that Congress has expressly forbidden.” President Trump had issued the new rules in response to the refugee caravan from Central America. He also deployed about 6,000 military troops to the US border with Mexico weeks before the midterm elections. On Monday Politico reported that those troops are now scheduled to return home, some as early as this week, even though most of the refugees have not yet arrived at the US border. The report was based on an interview with Army Lt. Gen. Jeffrey Buchanan who is overseeing the deployment. According to Politico, “On Tuesday, Buchanan’s command appeared to back peddle on his statement after critics of the deployment called the decision to wind it down so soon new evidence it was unnecessary in the first place.” The troop deployment cost taxpayers about $200 million.
The President’s daughter and advisor Ivanka Trump has been found to be using her personal email address to discuss official government business. The Washington Post, which broke the story on Monday said, “Ivanka Trump sent hundreds of emails last year to White House aides, Cabinet officials and her assistants using a personal account, many of them in violation of federal records rules, according to people familiar with a White House examination of her correspondence.” The story is particularly relevant given that President Trump repeatedly accused his rival Hillary Clinton of doing something quite similar to what his daughter has been caught doing. Trump referred to Ms. Clinton as “crooked Hillary” on numerous occasions and encouraged his supporters to chant “Lock Her Up.” According to the Post, “Some aides were startled by the volume of Ivanka Trump’s personal emails — and taken aback by her response when questioned about the practice. She said she was not familiar with some details of the rules, according to people with knowledge of her reaction.” Meanwhile, Democrats on the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee have said they plan to open an inquiry into the matter.
There has been a serious outbreak of chicken pox in a North Carolina suburb. Authorities are calling it the state’s largest such outbreak in decades. At the heart of the outbreak is Asheville Waldorf School where 36 children were diagnosed with the disease. The school has one of the highest rates of refusing vaccinations for children. Many parents show a deep ignorance of the way in which vaccines and herd immunity work, as well as of the dangers of chicken pox, which can be a deadly disease especially when an infant too young to be vaccinated comes in contact with it. One parent named Amy Gordon who lives in Asheville told press, “What’s the big deal with chickenpox? There is no big deal.” She added, “If I was a parent with a kid who wasn’t vaccinated, I’d want to send my kid to the Waldorf School to get chickenpox.” Just as is the case on climate change, there are deep pockets of denialism around vaccines in the US, leading to previously eradicated diseases coming back.
President Trump wants to add Venezuela to the list of countries that are considered state sponsors of terrorism. Currently that small list only includes Iran, North Korea, Sudan and Syria. A number of Republicans have pushed for the designation saying that Venezuela’s government is linked to Lebanon’s Hezbollah and Colombia’s FARC.
And finally pro-Palestinian activists declared victory after AirBnB agreed to remove listings for rental units in illegal Israeli settlements. Human rights groups have been pressuring the online home-rental company for two years to stop allowing Israeli settlements to offer rentals. The decision by the company will affect about 200 listings.