Headlines: September 11, 2019
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North Carolina’s special election for the 9th district yielded a narrow win for Republican Dan Bishop who beat Democrat Dan McCready 50.7% to 48.7%, which amounted to a margin of less than 4,000 votes. President Donald Trump threw his weight behind Bishop and claimed credit for pushing the Republican to victory. Bishop was a state-level senator whose claim to fame involved promoting a state law forcing transgender people into using public restrooms based on their assigned gender at birth. Late on Tuesday Trump tweeted, “Dan Bishop was down 17 points 3 weeks ago. He then asked me for help, we changed his strategy together, and he ran a great race. Big Rally last night. Now it looks like he is going to win.” However, according to AP, “No polling has emerged publicly that showed Bishop with a deficit of that magnitude. Operatives from both parties and analysts had long said the race was too close to call.”
A new Washington Post/ABC News poll pitted Trump in a Presidential election matchup against 5 Democratic contenders and found that all of them would beat the incumbent. Joe Biden would beat Trump by 55-40%, while Senator Bernie Sanders would beat him by 52-43%. Elizabeth Warren, Kamala Harris, and Pete Buttigieg were the other three candidates that all fared better than Trump.
New details have emerged about National Security Advisor John Bolton’s departure from the White House. According to the Washington Post, “Bolton was seen by some in the administration as the source of a media report that Vice President Pence and he were allies in opposing a peace deal with the Taliban, negotiated by [Mike] Pompeo’s State Department.” According to NBC, “The president was angered by what he viewed as Bolton’s positioning himself in the news media as the decision-maker on key issues like Iran and Venezuela.” Mr. Bolton’s resignation letter was extremely brief, reading only the following 2 lines: “I hereby resign, effective immediately, as Assistant to the President for National Security Affairs. Thank you for having afforded me the opportunity to serve this country.”
In the latest on the #SharpieGate controversy, the New York Times reported that, “The White House was directly involved in pressing a federal scientific agency to repudiate the weather forecasters who contradicted President Trump’s claim that Hurricane Dorian would probably strike Alabama.” The report comes a day after Commerce Department head Wilbur Ross was identified as having threatened NOAA staff with firings if they did not comply with the President’s misinformation. Now, it appears that Acting White House Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney was the one who directed Ross to make the threat. The House Committee on Science, Space and Technology has just opened an investigation into the episode.
The Census Bureau released data this week showing that the ranks of America’s uninsured has risen. About 8.5% of the population now does not have health insurance – an increase from 7.9% last year. The number was striking given that the poverty rate in the nation has actually dropped to its lowest level since 2001. According to experts, some of that increase in uninsured is directly linked to President Trump and the GOP’s constant efforts to undermine the Affordable Care Act.
In Florida, a Guardian newspaper investigation has revealed that the Republican controlled state government turned down $70 million in federal funding to tackle the HIV/AIDS crisis. Infection rates for the disease spiked under Republican Governor Rick Scott. According to the Guardian, “From 2015 to 2017, Florida was forced to return to the federal government $54m in unspent grants for combating HIV – due to an apparently deliberate failure on the part of state health bosses to secure legislative permission to spend such desperately needed funds.” Additionally, “in 2015 Scott’s administration directly blocked two US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) grant applications that would probably have won Miami and Broward counties, which have HIV diagnosis rates among the highest in the US, approximately $16m.” Gov. Scott had made the rejection of federal healthcare funding a centerpiece of his administration and has also rejected funds to expand his state’s Medicaid program.
The Trump administration has decided to take on California’s housing and homelessness crisis. According to White House officials the government wants to move homeless people off the streets and into government sponsored housing facilities. Trump has fixated on showing Democratic legislatures as having failed to tackle problems of homelessness in their states and has apparently personally taken an interest in the state of Skid Row in Los Angeles, California. But a big part of the problem say experts, stems from the federal government’s cuts to housing programs.
Meanwhile the California State Senate just passed AB 5, a major bill that would redefine what a contract worker is. AB 5 is aimed at making rideshare companies like Uber and Lyft consider its drivers as employees rather than contract workers. The bill passed the senate 29 to 11 along strict party lines and now heads back to the State Assembly for a vote – which is expected to easily pass. Governor Gavin Newsom has indicated he will sign the bill.
On the 18th anniversary of the September 11th attacks, President Trump laid a wreath at the Pentagon and observed a minute of silence along with the First Lady to mark the thousands of Americans that were killed. It was after the September 11th attacks that the US launched 2 major wars, first in Afghanistan and then in Iraq, and established a prison for the indefinite detention of so-called enemy combatants at Guantanamo Bay in Cuba. An NPR investigation has found that the Guantanamo prison has cost the US more than $6 billion in operating costs and uses up $380 million a year today to house about 40 prisoners. The government has been accused of gross financial mismanagement in running the prison.
In climate news the Washington Post has found that global warming of the oceans has accelerated faster than scientists predicted and that a number of hot spots show a warming of 2 degrees Celsius or more. One of the most dramatically warm areas lies off the coast of Uruguay whose, “hot zone … has driven mass die-offs of clams, dangerous ocean heat waves and algal blooms, and wide-ranging shifts in Uruguay’s fish catch.” Additionally, according to the paper, an “analysis of multiple temperature data sets found numerous locations around the globe that have warmed by at least 2 degrees Celsius over the past century. That’s a number that scientists and policymakers have identified as a red line if the planet is to avoid catastrophic and irreversible consequences. But in regions large and small, that point has already been reached.”
In the UK, the climate justice movement Extinction Rebellion has blocked the site of the nation’s only hydraulic fracturing or “fracking” operations. About 2 weeks ago the UK experienced its largest fracking-related earthquake. According to a statement by Extinction Rebellion their blockade of the fracking site was in response to, “the conscious, cynical inaction of the government in response to a climate and ecological emergency.”
And finally in the latest chapter on Brexit, a day after the British Parliament began its forced “prorogation,” a Scottish court has ruled that Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s actions in calling for the suspension were unlawful “because it had the purpose of stymieing Parliament.” Johnson’s government vowed to appeal the decision.