Headlines: October 23, 2018
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Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan gave his highly anticipated speech on the killing of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi on Tuesday morning. He spoke as Saudi Arabia’s international investment forum known as “Davos in the Desert” was opening – a forum that has suffered from an international boycott in recent days over the Khashoggi killing. He later added, “Neither the Vienna Convention nor other international laws allow the investigation into such a brutal murder to be cloaked behind the shield of diplomatic immunity.” Erdogan made no mention of the audio recording of the murder that news outlets have reported on. Saudi authorities have arrested 18 people in connection with the killing but Erdogan wants them to be charged in Turkey. Gina Haspel, the Director of the US Central Intelligence Agency flew to Turkey on Monday to work on the investigation.
The caravan of Central American migrants that began in Honduras with about 2,000 people has now swelled to more than 5,000 as it makes its way through Mexico toward the US. As of Tuesday morning the migrants were still more than a thousand miles south of the US border in McAllen, Texas. The caravan was organized by the group Pueblo Sin Fronteras and is the second one this year. In an interview with USA Today on Monday Trump made another wild claim with no evidence – this time saying that the caravan had “people from the Middle East” among its numbers. He repeated that claim on Twitter saying, “Criminals and unknown Middle Easterners are mixed in.” He also said on Monday that he would begin cutting aid to Central American nations. But Associated Press reported that, “For hours on Monday, White House officials were unable to provide an explanation for the president’s threats, which reflected both his apparent frustration with the migrant caravan and his determination to transform it into Republican election gains.”
On Monday Trump rallied for his one-time nemesis Republican Senator Ted Cruz in Texas, who is running in a tight race against popular Democrat Beto O’Rourke to keep his seat. Trump continued his anti-immigrant rhetoric at the rally and laid the blame for the migrant influx at the feet of Democrats. He said without evidence that Democrats were, “encouraging millions of illegal aliens to break our laws, violate our borders and overwhelm our nation,” and “have launched an assault on the sovereignty of our country.” At the same rally he announced his intention to pass a new tax cut and also called himself a “nationalist.”
In other news, activists have been quick to respond to the Trump Administration’s decision to revert to antiquated notions of gender identity and eliminate gains made by transgender Americans. On social media, the hashtag #WontBeErased quickly began spreading after the New York Times first reported on the memo indicating the change this past Sunday. According to the Times, the Trump Administration’s, “new definition would essentially eradicate federal recognition of the estimated 1.4 million Americans who identify as a gender other than the one they were assigned at birth.” Hundreds of people have been protesting in front of the White House since then with chants such as “We Will Not Be Erased.” High profile transgender activist and whistleblower Chelsea Manning tweeted her support for the activists on Monday saying, “laws don’t determine our existence – *we* determine our existence – it’s our weapon, our shelter, our energy, our healer, our truth – we will keep moving forward – we will keep fighting – existence is *our* only law.”
A new report has found widespread Islamophobia in the election campaigns of 2018. The report, which was commissioned by the group Muslim Advocates, found about 80 campaigns run by almost exclusively Republican candidates have engaged in anti-Muslim rhetoric and messaging. The Guardian summarized that, “Conspiracy theories targeting Muslims have increasingly entered the political mainstream. The majority of the candidates openly targeting Muslims – 64% – are either elected or appointed officials or boast of a presidential endorsement…Many such attacks echo rhetoric used by Trump and other Republican presidential contenders in 2016, as anti-Muslim sentiment reached new heights within the party’s primary electorate.” Despite this disturbing trend, there is a record number of Muslim Americans running for office this year.
And finally, the Trump administration announced new healthcare rules on Monday as yet another effort to undermine the Affordable Care Act. According to Business Insider the Department of Health and Human Services, “issued new guidance on the use of the Affordable Care Act’s Section 1332 waivers that would give state governments more flexibility in offering plans that do not comply with the ACA’s basic coverage requirements.” The Trump administration has routinely issued such waivers weakening the requirements of the ACA after the GOP’s failure to repeal the act last year. Larry Levitt, a spokesperson for the Kaiser Family Foundation said that the flexibility allowed by the rules, “will likely widen the gap between red states and blue states for access, affordability, regulation, and protections for pre-existing conditions.”