Headlines: November 5, 2018
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The Florida gunman who shot and killed two women at a yoga studio on Friday has a history of misogyny and sexual assault of women. Forty-year old Scott Paul Beierle fatally shot 61-year old Dr. Nancy Van Vessem and 21-year old Maura Binkley at a yoga studio in Tallahassee before killing himself. Five others were injured. According to the BBC, “Beierle, who lived in Deltona, Florida, was known to authorities as he had ‘been the subject of prior calls for service in the Tallahassee area related to harassment of young women,’ local police said in a statement. In 2012 and 2016 he was arrested for grabbing women’s bottoms, although prosecutors later dropped the charges.” Additionally Buzzfeed found that Beierle was a, “far-right extremist and self-proclaimed misogynist who railed against women, black people, and immigrants in a series of online videos and songs.” He referred to himself as, “an involuntary celibate,” or “incel.” In other words, he blamed women for rejecting his advances. In one of his videos, he made a reference to Elliot Rodger, the man who targeted women in 2014 and killed 6 people in Isla Vista, California.
In election news, Georgia Secretary of State and Republican Gubernatorial candidate Brian Kemp announced over the weekend that he would be investigating the state Democratic Party over an unsuccessful hacking attempt of the voter registration system. Kemp made the claim with no evidence and has been slammed for making what appears to be a last-minute ploy to win over voters. A representative for Georgia’s Democratic Party said, “This political stunt from Kemp just days before the election is yet another example of why he cannot be trusted and should not be overseeing an election in which he is also a candidate for governor.” On Sunday, Kemp’s rival Stacey Abrams said, “this is a desperate attempt on the part of my opponent to distract people from the fact that two different federal judges found him derelict in his duties and have forced him to accept absentee ballots to be counted and those who are being held captive by the exact match system to be allowed to vote.” If elected Abrams would become the nation’s first black female governor.
Meanwhile, a white supremacist group that had targeted Florida’s African American gubernatorial candidate Andrew Gillum with racist robocalls, turned to Georgia over the weekend to give Abrams the same treatment. The neo-Nazi group, Road to Power, sent out an unknown number of calls to Georgia voters, and according to CNN, “The pre-recorded phone message features a voice impersonating Oprah Winfrey, who was in Georgia on Thursday stumping for Abrams, and contains racist and anti-Semitic rhetoric.” Kemp denounced the calls saying, “I stand against any person or organization that peddles this type of unbridled hate and unapologetic bigotry.” But Abrams’ campaign shot back with spokesperson Abigail Collazo saying that it was, “pathetic” that Kemp “has only now suddenly decided to find a conscience as polls are tightening and Georgia voters are making it clear that they reject the kind of hate he and his allies have been spewing around the state.” She added, “These automated calls are being sent into homes just days before President Trump arrives, reminding voters exactly who is promoting a political climate that celebrates this kind of vile, poisonous thinking.”
In Florida, Trump’s Agriculture Secretary, Sonny Perdue speaking at a rally in support of gubernatorial candidate Ron DeSantis, said, “Public policy matters; leadership matters. And that is why this election is so cotton-pickin’ important to the state of Florida. I hope you all don’t mess it up.” According to Vox, “The use of the term “cotton-picking” as a Southern stand-in for ‘darn’ or ‘damned’ is widely understood to have racial connotations, referring to the work of black slaves working on cotton plantations.” Perdue’s language is reminiscent of DeSantis’s own dog-whistle racist terminology used in the wake of the primary election when Andrew Gillum won the Democratic nomination and DeSantis warned voters not to “monkey this up.” Perdue is a former Governor of Georgia.
Former President Barack Obama has hit the campaign trail ahead of the midterm elections. In a rally in Gary, Indiana for Democratic Senator Joe Donnelly, Obama made a fiery speech and taunted President Donald Trump for turning the issue of the Central American refugee caravan into a “political stunt” to rally his base. Obama came under some criticism for lending his political support to a Democrat who often acts and sounds like a Republican. During his speech Obama turned that into a political point saying to the crowd, “you don’t want just a yes man.”
The refugee caravan that originated from Honduras in Central America and is now in Mexico, has become the target of American right wing militia groups. On Saturday the Washington Post reported that, “Gun-carrying civilian groups and border vigilantes have heard a call to arms in President Trump’s warnings about threats to American security posed by caravans of Central American migrants moving through Mexico. They’re packing coolers and tents, oiling rifles and tuning up aerial drones, with plans to form caravans of their own and trail American troops to the border.” There are an estimated 200 people that may show up to the US border where Trump has sent military troops.
The Post also separately reported that Trump’s deployment of about 15,000 US troops could cost the government more than $200 million. That cost includes National Guards troops that have been sent to the border since April of this year. The number of troops at the border could be equal to the number that the US has sent to Afghanistan. More than a 100 House Representatives recently sent a letter to Defense Secretary James Mattis complaining about the waste of taxpayer dollars and the xenophobic overtones of the President’s words and actions. In the letter they wrote, “Instead of working in a bipartisan manner to make comprehensive, common-sense, and humane reforms to our immigration system, the President continues to turn to politically-motivated fear mongering and uses [Department of Defense] resources and personnel as a means to drive his troubling anti-immigration agenda.”
The mayor of a Utah city was killed in Afghanistan while serving in the state National Guard. Brent Taylor was the mayor of Ogden and on Saturday he was killed in Afghanistan in what is being referred to as, “an insider attack.” Taylor was well loved in his town and is survived by his wife and seven children. He had served four tours of duty in Afghanistan and Iraq. While the Pentagon acknowledged his death on Sunday it did not offer any details. The ongoing war in Afghanistan is the longest official war the US has ever waged and it remains increasingly out of sight of public view.
And finally, the US Supreme Court has allowed a major lawsuit brought by American youth on climate change to go forward. The suit is being brought by Our Children’s Trust and contends that the federal government is violating the constitutional rights of American children by failing to curb climate change. The decision came late on Friday and surprised many, given that, just weeks earlier the case had been put on hold. The lawsuit will now be heard at a lower court. It is expected to eventually reach the Supreme Court.