Headlines: October 18, 2019
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President Donald Trump held a rally in Dallas, Texas on Thursday night where he railed against his enemies by resorting to namecalling once more. Trump also spoke about his controversial foreign policy shift in northern Syria, allowing Turkey to move in and bomb the US’s Kurdish allies. Trump maintained that he would win the state of Texas by a landslide in 2020 but the polls show otherwise. According to one analyst writing in the Huffington Post, “behind Trump’s show of force lies lackluster polling numbers, a weakening Republican Party and uncertainty about whether the president is more of an asset or a liability for the conservative control of the country’s largest red state.”
Meanwhile in Northern Syria, the ceasefire that Trump hailed as having orchestrated through his Vice President Mike Pence appears to be unsteady. Pence announced a 120-hour détente to allow time for Kurdish fighters to leave the area Turkey had been bombing and shelling but there were reports of shelling in the area after the ceasefire clock began but those apparently died down by Friday evening. As President Trump casually dismissed the fighting, Amnesty International on Friday released a damning report of Turkish atrocities in northern Syria saying that, “Turkish military forces and a coalition of Turkey-backed Syrian armed groups have displayed a shameful disregard for civilian life, carrying out serious violations and war crimes, including summary killings and unlawful attacks that have killed and injured civilians.” Additionally, “at least 218 civilians have been killed in Syria, including 18 children, since the offensive began.” Trump’s claim about the Islamic State remaining cowed is also being undercut by reports that the organization is regrouping. According to theWashington Post, ISIS is “racing to capitalize on the deteriorating security situation in northern Syria, stepping up attacks on prisons as well as on the now-weakened Kurdish militia that served as the vanguard in the U.S.-led war against the group’s self-proclaimed caliphate.”
In news from the impeachment inquiry, White House chief of staff Mick Mulvaney on Thursday tried to walk back comments that he made earlier in the day during a press briefing where he essentially admitted that Trump engaged in a quid pro quo with Ukraine’s President, withholding military aid in exchange for politically useful information about his rivals. Mulvaney told reporters, “Get over it. There’s going to be political influence in foreign policy,” but then issued a statement blaming the media for twisting his words even though they were publicly documented. In his statement Mulvaney said, “Once again, the media has decided to misconstrue my comments to advance a biased and political witch hunt against President Trump,” and added, “there was absolutely no quid pro quo between Ukrainian military aid and any investigation into the 2016 election.” Democrats pounced on the contradiction with California Representative Ted Lieu saying, “Mick Mulvaney was either lying then, or he’s lying now.” Some Republicans are also troubled, with Senator Lisa Murkowski of Alaska saying, “You don’t hold up foreign aid that we had previously appropriated for a political initiative. Period.” Meanwhile Energy Secretary Rick Perry announced his resignation on Thursday. Perry is one of three figures implicated in redirecting US policy on Ukraine to politically benefit Trump. Perry maintained that his resignation had nothing to do with the Ukraine scandal. He faces subpoenas from House Committees.
A group called Republicans for the Rule of Law has been attempting to counter Trump’s popularity and target his allies for supporting him at all costs. In light of the Thursday announcement that the White House was hosting the next G7 meeting at Trump’s Florida resort in Doral, the organization created this ad.
Two civil rights organizations, the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law and the Native American Rights Fund have targeted the Republican National Committee over the use of mailers soliciting donations for Trump’s reelection campaign that look just like official census documents. Given the legal battle over the census asking a question about respondents’ citizenship, groups are worried about lower counts in immigrant communities who are fearful.
Members of United Auto Workers are continuing their strike against their employer, General Motors more than a month into a record-breaking work stoppage. Union leaders had come to a deal with the company and have sent the contract to the approximately 46,000 members for ratification. According to the Detroit Free Press, “The move to leave workers on strike during ratification… is unusual.” The paper also reported that, “The union appears to have won on many of its goals, including a path to permanent employment for temporary autoworkers and a faster route to top pay for workers hired after 2007. Workers will continue to pay only 3% of their health care costs, well below the national average of 28%.”
In international news, a massive bomb hit a mosque in Kabul, Afghanistan on Friday during prayers killing at least 62 people and injuring scores of others. So far no one has claimed responsibility for the attack and the Taliban, which has generally carried out such violence, is blaming the Islamic State. Meanwhile the United Nations released a report this week showing that 4,313 civilians were killed in Afghanistan from July to September – an “unprecedented” number, the highest in any three month period since the war began more than 18 years ago.
Spain has been wracked with mass protests and a general strike as hundreds of thousands of people descended on Barcelona over Catalonia’s demand for independence and the release of imprisoned separatist leaders. Friday marks the fifth straight day of protest and also the biggest since the Spanish Supreme Court sentenced a number of political figures active in the independence movement to between 9 and 13 years in prison. Dozens of flights have been canceled into and out of the city.
In Mexico, President Andrés Manuel López Obrador is under fire for releasing the son of notorious drug lord El Chapo from prison and capitulating to the Sinaloa drug cartel. Ovidio Guzmán and his half-brother took over running the cartel from their father who is serving a life sentence in the US. The cartel launched a massive street fight killing 8 people and capturing a number of military soldiers and an officer, holding them hostage. Mr. Lopez Obrador’s decision to give in to the cartel and free Guzmán demonstrates once more just how powerful Mexico’s drug lords remain.
And finally in Britain, members of Parliament head into what is being called “Super Saturday” to vote on a Brexit deal that Prime Minister Boris Johnson reached with the European Union. Northern Ireland’s leaders are likely to oppose the deal and now Labor Party leader Jeremy Corbyn has also announced his opposition.