News & Analysis of Economic, Racial, Gender Justice and More

Hurricane Michael slammed into the Florida Panhandle on Wednesday leaving a trail of destruction across hundreds of miles, and a death toll of at least 2. The storm is considered one of the strongest to ever hit the continental United States and ripped the roofs off houses, downed structures, and submerged whole areas deep in water. Earlier this week the hurricane was expected to hit land as a Category 3 but finally made landfall as a Category 4 and was even on the verge of being big enough to classify as Category 5. It moved rapidly heading to Georgia and the Carolinas where residents had not yet recovered from the devastation of Hurricane Florence – the slow moving storm that killed dozens and caused untold damage this past summer. Hurricane Michael was downgraded to a “tropical storm” by nighttime. In the 167 years since storms were documented there has not been a stronger hurricane to hit the Florida Panhandle.

While the storm was devastating Florida, President Trump was holding yet another campaign rally – this time in Pennsylvania. He opened his speech by briefly offering his “thoughts and prayers” to those caught in the storm and brightly said, “We will always pull through. … We will always be successful at what we do.” He also said he would travel to the state soon.Associated Press pointed out that six years ago when President Barack Obama attended a political rally during Superstorm Sandy, Trump sharply criticized him, tweeting, “Yesterday Obama campaigned with JayZ & Springsteen while Hurricane Sandy victims across NY & NJ are still decimated by Sandy. Wrong!”

During his Pennsylvania rally Trump once more chastised Democrats for opposing his Supreme Court pick Brett Kavanaugh, calling their actions a, “national disgrace.” He also claimed that his rival party wanted to, “impose socialism and take over and destroy American health care.” And, he mocked the #MeToo movement saying it was preventing him from being able to say what he wanted to say at a political rally in Pennsylvania on Wednesday essentially decrying the fact that he can’t use sexist language in the era of #MeToo.

Newly seated Supreme Court justice Kavanaugh ruled on a case involving the rights of immigrants and, predictably he voted as Trump expected him to. According to the LA Times, “Kavanaugh spoke up Wednesday in defense of the Trump administration’s view that legal immigrants with criminal records must be arrested and held for deportation, even years after they were convicted and completed their sentences.” The case, which was brought by the ACLU, centers around a federal law that requires the detention and potentially the deportation for any non-citizen that has been convicted of a crime. It covers legal immigrants too. The ACLU was contending that there ought to be a statute of limitations on whether a person can be arrested decades after a conviction. Kavanaugh thought there should be none, saying, “Congress did not put in a time limit…That raises a real question with me whether we should be superimposing a time limit.”

On Wednesday the FBI Director Christopher Wray  testified in front of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee. Senator Kamala Harris, who sits on the committee as well as on the Senate Judiciary Committee questioned Wray over the Kavanaugh FBI probe.

A bill introduced into the Senate by Democrats to disallow short-term health insurance plans failed on Wednesday by a vote of 50-50. The bill covered plans that are allowed to discriminate against people with pre-existing conditions – a feature of plans that used to be common before it was banned by the Affordable Care Act and is now being slowly revived by the Trump administration and GOP. The sole Republican to vote for the bill was Maine senator Susan Collins.

In international news, the controversy over the killing of Saudi-born journalist Jamal Khashoggi continues with nearly 2-dozen US senators calling on President Trump to investigate whether the Saudi government was involved. Khashoggi was a columnist for the Washington Post and a critic of the Saudi government. On Wednesday the Washington Post reported that, “The crown prince of Saudi Arabia, Mohammed bin Salman, ordered an operation to lure Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi back to Saudi Arabia from his home in Virginia and then detain him, according to U.S. intelligence intercepts of Saudi officials discussing the plan.” Friends and family members of the slain journalist held a press conference at the Post’s offices on Wednesday. Representative Gerry Connolly of Virginia who was among those speaking at a press conference on Wednesday about the disappearance and killing of journalist Jamal Khashoggi at a Saudi consulate in Turkey.

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