Headlines: October 16, 2019
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12 Democratic Presidential candidates gathered on stage in Westerville, Ohio on Tuesday night for a fourth debate that ran more than 3 hours long. Senator Elizabeth Warren faced a barrage of attacks from her rivals, in an indication that for now she has achieved the front runner status. Senator Bernie Sanders made his first national appearance on stage after his recent heart attack but appeared energized as ever. Among the issues that the candidates most agreed on was the impeachment inquiry against President Donald Trump. Former Vice President Joe Biden was questioned about the role of his son Hunter Biden in Ukraine, which has become a national focus after it was revealed that the President was fixated on investigating whether he improperly benefitted from his father’s position.
As the debate ended, news emerged that three members of the 4-member “Squad” of freshmen progressive Congresswomen of color were endorsing Bernie Sanders for President: Ilhan Omar of Minnesota, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York, and Rashida Tlaib of Michigan. AOC will be appearing alongside Sanders at a major rally in Queens, New York this Saturday dubbed “Bernie’s Back.” After the Democratic Debate on Tuesday night, CNN anchor John King commented that perhaps the endorsements of the three prominent Congresswomen was, “too urban.” Critics denounced his comments as racist, with journalist Shaun King tweeting, “Shame on you for this bigotry.” In other election-related news, Sanders and Warren have both raised the most campaign donations of the Democratic candidates with Sanders sitting on a $33.7 million pile of campaign cash and Warren having amassed $25.7 million. Both have relied on small donations.
In news from the impeachment inquiry, a former senior adviser to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo will be testifying to Congressional committees on Wednesday. Michael McKinley is expected to testify that a number of diplomats at the State Department were mistreated and had their careers derailed to serve political purposes of the Trump administration. Referring to the removal of US Ambassador to Ukraine, Marie Yovanovitch, one unnamed source told the Washington Post, “The unwillingness of State Department leadership to defend Yovanovitch or interfere with an obviously partisan effort to intervene in our relationship with Ukraine for the political benefit of the president was too much for [McKinley].” McKinley resigned from the State Department last Friday.
Meanwhile White House Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney has emerged as a central figure in the Ukraine scandal spearheading a months-long effort to replace staff working on Ukraine policy with a trio of men being dubbed the “three Amigos” – the US’s EU Ambassador, Gordon Sondland, former Special Representative for Ukraine, Kurt Volker, and Energy Secretary Rick Perry. Mulvaney’s role came to light during Tuesday’s testimony of State Department official George Kent. And the White House has begun its own internal review of the Ukraine affair – one that some fear is a search for a suitable scapegoat to take the fall for President Trump. In other impeachment news, Vice President Mike Pence and Trump’s personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani have formally announced they will not comply with Congressional subpoenas for information. And a fourth man was just arrested at JFK International Airport in connection with Giuliani. Forty four year old David Correia is also being charged with breaking campaign finance laws. Late last week a Ukrainian American named Andrey Kukushkin was arrested in San Francisco, and before that Lev Parnas and Igor Fruman were arrested at Dulles airport. All four are associates of the President’s lawyer and Giuliani is claiming ignorance of their law-breaking. Former Republican Congressman Pete Sessions has now been subpoenaed in relation to his dealings with Giuliani, Parnas and Fruman as well. And New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo has just signed a bill into law allowing his state to charge people who are pardoned by the President. The law takes direct aim at Trump who has threatened to use his pardon power to absolve his associates.
In other news, a high-profile trial over the opioid crisis is set to begin this week. Being considered, “the most complex litigation ever,” a jury of 12 people will sort through a set of charges that 6 pharmaceutical companies are facing over the worst drug crisis in US history that has claimed 400,000 lives in just a few years. The jury will have to come to a unanimous conclusion about each company in order to hold it liable for damages.
The city of Los Angeles on Tuesday voted to consider a raise for ride share drivers working for companies like Uber and Lyft. Drivers have been organizing for a $30 an hour minimum wage and the City Council now plans to conduct an independent study on the impact of such a wage. At the federal level, the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee was scheduled to question Uber and Lyft representatives on Wednesday about the industry’s labor and safety standards but the companies refused to attend. Rep. Pete DeFazio who heads the committee denounced their failure to appear saying he plans to serve a, “wake-up call to the companies that have flooded our roadways with disruptive technologies and investor capital that their days of operating with little public policy and regulatory oversight in the transportation space are coming to an end.”
Actor Cuba Gooding Jr. is facing a hail of charges of sexual misconduct that has resulted in his arrest. The highly acclaimed actor faces accusations by a dozen women of unwanted touching and groping at bars and nightclubs around the country. He has been charged with at least four misdemeanor counts.
On foreign policy, President Trump has declared that Kurdish fighters that were once US allies are, “no angels.” His comments come days after he abruptly pulled troops out of northern Syria seemingly at the behest of Turkey which has now been relentlessly bombing the region. Trump also said, “If Turkey goes into Syria it is between Turkey and Syria. It’s not our problem.” He added, “They’ve got a lot of sand over there… There’s a lot of sand that they can play with.” Turkish President Erdogan has warned Kurds to immediately leave the area they had been occupying.
Mexico is facing a crisis with the recent mass murder of 13 police officers in the state of Michoacan which took place during a shootout with a drug cartel. The families of the slain officers angrily confronted Gov. Silvano Aureoles demanding justice. The murders are a big test for Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador who has vowed to take on drug related violence in the country.
And finally in Hong Kong where pro-democracy protests have continued unabated, Chief Executive Carrie Lam is now facing the wrath of lawmakers in the government. Lam was repeatedly interrupted and heckled during a speech she was to set to give and eventually had to walk out of the chamber. Lawmakers are demanding her resignation, angry about the brutality of police violence that her government has allowed against street protesters.