Headlines: October 22, 2018
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President Donald Trump has announced he will pull the US out of a major nuclear weapons treaty with Russia. The President’s reasoning was that Russia had apparently violated the treaty many times and it was unfair in his mind for Russia to, “go out and do weapons [while] we’re not allowed to.” He said after a campaign rally in Nevada, “I don’t know why President [Barack] Obama didn’t negotiate or pull out…They’ve been violating it for many years.” Obama did rebuke Russia following the testing of a banned weapon in 2014 but he kept the US in the treaty over European fears of a new arms race. According to the BBC, Trump’s, “decision to walk away from the agreement marks a significant setback for arms control.”
In news from across the border, the migrant caravan that was heading to the US from Honduras entered Mexico over the weekend and clashed with Mexican police. The caravan broke through two barriers on its way through the northern Guatemala border into Mexico. There, according to the New York Times, “After a tense hour-long standoff, during which migrants hurled objects at the police, including rocks and shoes, the police fired canisters of tear gas, forcing the migrants into a retreat.” After the standoff, the migrants formed lines and were processed by Mexican authorities.
The group of about 2,000 has now swelled to more than 5,000, much to the chagrin of President Donald Trump who has made political hay from the situation. On Sunday Trump tweeted, “Full efforts are being made to stop the onslaught of illegal aliens from crossing our Souther[n] Border. People have to apply for asylum in Mexico first, and if they fail to do that, the U.S. will turn them away. The courts are asking the U.S. to do things that are not doable!” He added in a second tweet, “The Caravans are a disgrace to the Democrat Party. Change the immigration laws NOW!” He gave no explanation as to how the Democratic Party might have created conditions in Central America on its own that led to the exodus.
In the on-going story of the missing Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi, the Saudi Arabian government has finally admitted to his death calling it a “huge and grave mistake,” but claimed that Khashoggi died in a “fistfight.” Saudi Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir said to press, “This was an operation that was a rogue operation. This was an operation where individuals ended up exceeding the authorities and responsibilities they had.” He added, “They made the mistake when they killed Jamal Khashoggi in the consulate and they tried to cover up for it.” The admission came after days of absolute denials of knowledge of how Khashoggi disappeared. Authorities still maintain that Crown Prince Salman bin Mohammad had no knowledge of the killing even though members of his personal entourage are deeply implicated. According to Reuters, “The latest account includes details on how 15 Saudis sent to confront Khashoggi had threatened him with being drugged and kidnapped and killed him in a chokehold when he resisted. A member of the team dressed in Khashoggi’s clothes to make it appear as if he had left the consulate.” But Turkish authorities contradict the account saying they have a recording of how Khashoggi was tortured within minutes of entering the consulate and then drugged, mutilated, and dismembered. Turkey has said it will reveal the results of its investigation into the murder on Tuesday.
In other news the New York Times on Sunday revealed the contents of a memo it had obtained showing that the Trump administration through the Department of Health and Human Services was, “spearheading an effort to establish a legal definition of sex under Title IX, the federal civil rights law that bans gender discrimination in education programs that receive government financial assistance.” In other words, Trump wants to narrowly define gender as an immutable fact of a person strictly defined by their biological sex at birth – which would mean undermining the rights of transgender and gender-fluid Americans. According to the Times, “The agency’s proposed definition would define sex as either male or female, unchangeable, and determined by the genitals that a person is born with, according to a draft reviewed by The Times. Any dispute about one’s sex would have to be clarified using genetic testing.”
Florida’s two major party Gubernatorial candidates Andrew Gillum and Ron DeSantis held their first debate on Sunday just days ahead of the midterm elections. The two clashed several times on a number of issues. Mr. DeSantis is a 3-term Congressional representative who is loyal to President Trump while Mr. Gillum has been the mayor of Tallahassee for the past 4 years.
Also in Florida, a city official has been charged with murder after the state rejected his defense under the “Stand Your Ground“ law. That law has been terribly contentious and was discussed in relation to George Zimmerman’s killing of Trayvon Martin – an incident that spurred the formation of the Black Lives Matter movement. In this most recent case, a white man named Michael Dunn, the Lakeland City Commissioner, shot and killed Christobal Lopez at the entrance of a military supply store that Dunn owns. Dunn had accused Lopez of shoplifting. He now faces a charge of second-degree murder.
In Britain, hundreds of thousands of people marched in London against the Brexit deal on Saturday in what is being considered among the largest protest the city has ever had. An estimated 670,000 people marched calling for a second referendum on Britain exiting the European Union. The march was organized by the People’s Vote campaign and is the second such action following this past June. UK Prime Minister Theresa May has ruled out a second referendum to override the first one two years ago that narrowly passed and surprised the nation. But now calls for a redo are gaining momentum from the public and politicians.
Afghanistan held parliamentary elections over the weekend and had to extend voting to a second day because of Taliban-related violence. About four millions Afghans, or about half the voting population, cast ballots in the first such election in 8 years. Parliamentary elections have been postponed over three years of delays. About 28 people were killed in violent incidents ahead of these elections including top Afghan officials.