Headlines: November 9, 2018
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More details have emerged about the mass shooter at the Borderline Bar and Grill in Thousand Oaks, California who shot 12 people including a law enforcement officer, before apparently taking his own life. Twenty eight year old Ian David Long was a former Marine combat veteran who only months ago attracted police attention and even a mental health assessment. Media outlets have dug deep into his background in order to make sense of the shooting and find a motive – a courtesy that is rarely if ever offered to non-white shooters.
Meanwhile details are also emerging about the victims and survivors of the attack. Among those who survived are people who lived through the worst mass shooting in American history when Stephen Paddock – another white man – massacred 58 people at an outdoor music concert in Las Vegas. One Southern California resident named Nicholas Champion told the New York Times, “I was at the Las Vegas Route 91 mass shooting as well as probably 50 or 60 others who were in the building at the same time as me tonight.” Among the victims was Telemachus Orfanos, who survived the Vegas shooting but was gunned down in Thousand Oaks. His mother told the Times, “the two words I want you to write are: Gun control. Right now — so that no one else goes through this. Can you do that? Can you do that for me? Gun control.”
In other news, White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders is under fire for posting a doctored video of a tense exchange between President Donald Trump and CNN reporter Jim Acosta that took place at the White House on Wednesday morning. Sanders tweeted a video edited by the right wing conspiracy website Infowars saying that Acosta’s, “inappropriate behavior” is “clearly documented in this video.” The behavior in question is a young White House intern attempting to take away his microphone and Acosta resisting. The White House is now spinning a clearly false narrative that Acosta somehow assaulted the intern. But media outlets including the Washington Post have displayed the edited and real video side-by-side to expose the lie. Some journalists are now wondering out loud whether it is time for a boycott of White House press conferences.
Thousands of people protested in cities across the country on Thursday evening demanding that the Special Counsel’s investigation led by Robert Mueller be protected from Trump’s political machinations. The protests took place in Washington DC, New York City, Chicago, as well as Greensboro, North Carolina; Chattanooga, Tennessee; and Las Vegas. The protests were sparked by Trump’s decision to fire Attorney General Jeff Sessions over his recusal in oversight of the Mueller probe, and replace him with a biased insider named Matt Whitaker.
Earlier in the day Republican Senator Lindsey Graham was questioned on Fox News about comments he had made just over a year ago warning that Republicans would not tolerate Sessions’ firing.
Meanwhile the New York Times reported on Thursday that Whitaker, who replaces Sessions as acting Attorney General, was once part of a company called World Patent Marketing that scammed consumers. According to the Times, Whitaker, “served on the advisory board of a Florida company that a federal judge shut down last year and fined nearly $26 million after the government accused it of scamming customers.” The paper added that, “Mr. Whitaker’s role in the company would complicate his confirmation prospects should President Trump nominate him as attorney general.”
Sessions for his part signed a memo on Wednesday as one of his last actions as AG, which, “drastically limited the ability of federal law enforcement officials to use court-enforced agreements to overhaul local police departments accused of abuses and civil rights violations.” Politico reported that he might run for his old Senate seat in Alabama in 2020.
On Thursday the Trump administration announced a new set of rules for asylum applicants, barring those who cross the border without papers. What this means is that asylum applications will only be accepted from those people who are physically outside the country. A Trump Administration official spoke to reporters on condition of anonymity on Thursday explaining, “What we are attempting to do is trying to funnel … asylum claims through the ports of entry where we are better resourced, have better capabilities and better manpower and staffing to actually handle those claims in an expeditious and efficient manner.” Pro-immigrant a advocates slammed the rules saying that they were in violation of existing law and that the President cannot simply change laws by fiat. It was former Attorney General Jeff Sessions who had previously narrowed the rules for asylum seekers. The new plan is very likely to be challenged by lawsuits.
California is being wracked by massive wildfires again. A huge fire in Butte County prompted tens of thousands to flee their homes. The town of Paradise was especially hard hit by the so-called “Camp Fire.” Fire Captain Scott McLean said, “Pretty much the community of Paradise is destroyed, it’s that kind of devastation. The wind that was predicted came and just wiped it out.” It is not yet known how the fire started but California’s hotter and drier than usual summer with little to no rain this fall has generated extremely fire-prone conditions. In Ventura County another massive fire, also driven by wind, has required the evacuation of 75,000 homes. As of Friday morning the “Woolsey Fire” had burned through 8,000 acres and was not yet even partly contained. According to a CBS local affiliate, “Just after 5 a.m., the blaze jumped the south side of the 101 Freeway into the Calabasas area.” It is now moving into Thousand Oaks – the very community left devastated by the mass shooting.