Headlines: October 17, 2018
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Secretary of State Mike Pompeo is in Turkey meeting with that nation’s President and Foreign Minister over the murder of Washington Post columnist and Saudi Arabian dissident Jamal Khashoggi. The trip is likely to be an awkward one given the Trump administration’s insistence on believing Saudi innocence at the same time as Turkish authorities say they have evidence that Saudi operatives committed the murder in the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul. A Turkish newspaper printed a full account of the murder based on secret recordings. Secretary Pompeo did not comment on the report.
Here in the US the online media outlet, Middle East Eye on Tuesday published what it says are the first details of the murder based on a Turkish source who listened to the full recording of the slaying. The source relayed that, “Salah Muhammad al-Tubaigy, who has been identified as the head of forensic evidence in the Saudi general security department,” led the gruesome murder of Khashoggi who was injected with a substance that immobilized him. He was then killed in the span of 7 minutes with a bone saw while he was still alive. The murderers apparently listened to music on their headphones while committing the act. In an interview with Associated Press on Tuesday President Trump continued to dig in his heels about Saudi innocence saying, “Well, I think we have to find out what happened first. Here we go again with, you know, you’re guilty until proven innocent. I don’t like that. We just went through that with Justice Kavanaugh. And he was innocent all the way.”
Separately Associated Press reported that, “Saudi Arabia is paying influential lobbyists, lawyers and public relations experts nearly $6 million a year to engage U.S. officials and promote the Middle East nation, even after three Washington firms cut ties with the kingdom following the disappearance of journalist Jamal Khashoggi.”
With just a few weeks before the November 6th midterm elections, two major debates on Tuesday highlighted close battles between Republicans and Democrats. In Texas, incumbent Republican Senator Ted Cruz debated Democratic challenger Beto O’Rourke who has raised a tremendous amount of money but whose poll numbers have slipped in recent days. Cruz now holds a 7-point lead over O’Rourke. Here is a clip of O’Rourke from Tuesday’s debate, singling out how Cruz voted for last year’s GOP tax cuts.
A second debate between two rivals for an Arizona senate seat also took place on Tuesday between Representatives Krysten Sinema and Martha McSally who are vying to fill the Senate seat being vacated by Jeff Flake. During one of the most intense moments of the debate, Republican McSally attacked her Democratic opponent with a charge of “treason,” for a statement made on the radio in 2003. Democratic Representative Kyrsten Sinema and rival Martha McSally made their case to voters ahead of a race for the Senate seat being vacated by Arizona Senator Jeff Flake. According to Reuters, “Sinema’s politics have changed since she was first elected in 2013. She joined a moderate Democratic coalition and has one of the more conservative voting records among Democrats in the U.S. House of Representatives. That has not kept McSally from bringing up Sinema’s liberal past as she tries to galvanize Trump supporters in a state he won in 2016.”
Senate Majority leader Mitch McConnell on Tuesday reacted to news of the ballooning federal deficit that was created by tax giveaways to the rich and higher military spending by saying that social safety net programs need to be cut. McConnell said, “I think it’s pretty safe to say that entitlement changes, which is the real driver of the debt by any objective standard, may well be difficult if not impossible to achieve when you have unified government.” He used the term “entitlement” to describe Medicare and Social Security – a favorite conservative phrase. Critics of last year’s GOP tax cuts predicted that the reduced tax revenues would be offset by Republican-led cuts to social safety net programs. Indeed Republicans appear to be battling an effective Democratic talking point that the tax cuts have only helped the wealthy.
An African American man has died in police custody in Silicon Valley, California. Chinedu Valentine Okobi, a 36-year old father and a graduate of Morehouse College, was driving in his car and then tackled by police after he encountered San Mateo County Sheriffs. The officers apparently tackled him when he went into cardiac arrest and died. The victim’s sister Ebele Okobi is a prominent Facebook executive and is demanding an investigation into the police handling of her brother whose death took place only a few miles from her workplace at Facebook. Ms. Okobi told USA Today, “There’s a part of me that’s angry that this is the reality for everybody black I know and that people can live completely oblivious to that reality.”
And finally officials from the Centers for Disease Control on Tuesday announced the advent of a dangerous disease that is impacting children around the nation. Acute flaccid myelitis, or AFM is a debilitating disease reminiscent of polio that has so far appeared in 127 confirmed or suspected cases in the US. The condition is rare and, like polio, can cause paralysis. The number of cases has doubled since last year. According to the Washington Post, “Of the cases announced Tuesday, 62 have been confirmed in 22 states. More than 90 percent of the confirmed cases have been in children 18 and younger, with the average age being 4 years old.” Additionally, “There is no specific treatment for the disorder, and long-term outcomes are unknown.”