Headlines: October 16, 2018
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President Trump and First Lady Melania Trump visited areas of the Florida panhandle affected by Hurricane Michael on Monday. Trump told reporters he was going to ask Congress for disaster funding. According to AP, “Trump visited an aid distribution center, set up in a parking lot filled with boxes of diapers, piles of clothes and bottled water. He and the first lady handed out bottles of water to residents who came to see him and tell him their stories about the storm.” The powerful hurricane hit Florida on October 10th as a Category 4 storm with winds between 140 and 155 mph. In the span of a few hours it devastated whole towns and moved ahead to Georgia where there was also damage. Trump toured Lynn Haven, Florida with Gov. Rick Scott where he spoke to reporters. Neither Trump nor Florida Gov. Rick Scott, who was standing next to him, will admit that climate change is causing rare and powerful storms to become the new normal.
In news about the murdered Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has arrived in the Gulf Arab kingdom on Tuesday. Mr. Pompeo met with the Saudi King Salman, as well as with his son, the nation’s de facto leader Crown Prince Mohammad Bin Salman. The meeting is taking place at the same time as reports are emerging that Saudi Arabia will admit to the journalist’s killing. According to CNN, “Saudi Arabia will contend that the Washington Post columnist died when an interrogation went awry.” Turkish officials inspected the Saudi consulate on Monday for 9 hours – the location where Khashoggi was last seen and where he is suspected to have been killed. One journalist observed that hours before the Turkish inspection, AP and Reuters camera staff saw a “cleaning crew” entering the consulate with a large supply of cleaning materials. Earlier on Monday President Trump, in an obvious effort to absolve the US’s largest weapons buyer, spoke to reporters saying that the Saudi king denied responsibility for the killing. Trump also speculated that “rogue killers” may have murdered the journalist.
In other news, the US government reported its highest deficit in 6 years on Monday in a report released by the Treasury Department. The deficit of $779 billion includes the amount that the government went into debt, for the first full 12-month period that Trump was president. According to Reuters, “Economists generally view the corporate and individual tax cuts passed by the Republican-controlled U.S. Congress late last year and an increase in government spending agreed in early February as likely to balloon the nation’s deficit….Borrowing has increased over the past year, partially to make up for slower growth in tax revenues because of the tax cuts, while military spending has also risen.” Republicans, who have reacted with hysteria to deficits under Democratic administrations are silent on Trump’s enormous deficit.
Unlike the US government, Trump’s reelection campaign chest is bursting with cash. On Monday the Washington Post reported that the President has already raised a whopping $100 million for his reelection campaign for 2020. According to the Post, “Trump pulled in $18.1 million last quarter through his campaign committee and two joint fundraising committees with the Republican National Committee, for a total of at least $106 million since January 2017, according to federal filings made public Monday evening.” The Campaign Finance Institute remarked that, “No other president dating back to at least Ronald Reagan had raised any money at this point for his own campaign committee.”
Trump has appointed Mary Mayhew to head the national program on Medicaid. Mayhew is one of the program’s strongest critic – which is no surprise given that Trump has routinely appointed people to head departments that they previously sought to destroy. Vox reported that, “Mayhew previously served in the administration of Maine Gov. Paul LePage, who has refused to implement a Medicaid expansion that voters approved more than a year ago (despite court orders that he do so).” Mayhew has been outspoken in the past, testifying in front of committees against the Medicaid expansion aspect of the Affordable Care Act.
In other medical news, the federal government announced on Monday that it wants pharmaceutical companies to mention the prices of prescription medication in their ads. But the industry wants to disclose prices only on their company websites. Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar introduced a proposal on Monday to require drug prices be revealed for all medication covered by Medicare and Medicaid. He said, “Patients deserve to know what a given drug could cost when they’re being told about the benefits and risks it may have…They deserve to know if the drug company has pushed their prices to abusive levels. And they deserve to know this every time they see a drug advertised to them on TV.”
Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren is under attack for taking a DNA test in response to President Trump’s repeated goading of her claims of Native American ethnicity. The potential Presidential candidate and progressive Democrat, unveiled in elaborate detail the results of a DNA test that showed she had Native American ancestry going back 6-8 generations. Although she said she does not claim membership in any tribe, the Cherokee Nation’s spokesperson shot back saying, “Using a DNA test to lay claim to any connection to the Cherokee Nation or any tribal nation, even vaguely, is inappropriate and wrong.” He added, “Senator Warren is undermining tribal interests with her continued claims of tribal heritage.” President Trump, who has repeatedly belittled Warren calling her “Pocahontas,” bragged that he would give a million dollars to charity if she could prove her heritage. On Monday Trump walked back that promise saying he never said he would do it. Warren has also come under criticism from Democrats for potentially undermining the party’s chances in the upcoming midterm elections. But some have praised her efforts to get out ahead of Trump’s taunting – unlike President Barack Obama who ignored the claims that he was not a natural born US citizen.
And finally, the US Supreme Court refused to hear an appeal brought by three paint manufacturers who are being held liable for continuing to sell lead-based paint even after it was banned. In 2017 a lower court had found the companies responsible for creating a “public nuisance,” by selling lead-based paint. The companies in question are Sherwin Williams, Conagra, and NL Industries. The Supreme Court’s action brings to a close a lawsuit that had dragged on for years.