Headlines: September 12, 2018
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In today’s news headlines Hurricane Florence is increasing in strength as it approaches the East Coast and particularly the Carolinas. As the storm surges through Bermuda and the Bahamas, winds have reached up to 140 mph. About 1.5 million people have been evacuated and 5.4 million are under some form of hurricane watch or warning. More than 400 flights have already been diverted or grounded. It is expected to hit the mainland US around Friday on the coast of one or both of the Carolina states. According to the New York Times, “Forecasters are warning of record-setting storm surges, along with rains heavy enough to cause catastrophic inland flooding. Some experts worry that the storm could knock out power for days or longer.”
There are thousands of pork processing farms in North Carolina with millions of hogs, whose untreated waste flows into open pits. Many fear that Hurricane Florence could cause the type of damage seen in 1999 when Hurricane Floyd hit the state just days after Hurricane Dennis, becoming the worst natural disaster in North Carolina’s history. In the aftermath of that storm the hog farms were hit hard and, Associated Press described the post-hurricane scene like this: “The bloated carcasses of hundreds of thousands of hogs, chickens and other drowned livestock bobbed in a nose-stinging soup of fecal matter, pesticides, fertilizer and gasoline so toxic that fish flopped helplessly on the surface to escape it.”
There are also dozens of huge coal ash pits in the state many of which lie near lakes and rivers and could potentially contaminate waters. Duke Energy, which operates the coal ash pits, also runs several nuclear reactors in the region, which they say will be taken off-line ahead of the storm making landfall.
The Federal Emergency Management Agency said that dozens of federal agencies participated in a simulation of a Hurricane just a few months ago that impacted the same area Florence is expected to hit. According to Associated Press the results of the simulation showed, “catastrophic damage, which has some experts concerned that Hurricane Florence could produce a disaster comparable to 2005’s Hurricane Katrina and in a part of the country that is famously difficult to evacuate. The simulated hurricane knocked out power for most gas stations in the Mid-Atlantic region, damaged a nuclear power plant and sent debris into major shipping channels, among other problems.”
But President Donald Trump is extremely confident of the federal government’s preparedness and made these remarks at the White House on Tuesday.
He also answered reporters’ questions about the federal response to Hurricane Maria in Puerto Rico calling it an “unsung success.” Nearly 3,000 people are estimated to have died as a result of that storm, making it one of the deadliest natural disasters in the US in modern history. After the White House press briefing on Hurricane Florence, Trump tweeted photos of himself at the White House getting briefed on the matter and saying, “know that WE are here for you. Be SAFE!” As usual he made no mention of climate change, which has made rare deadly storms the new normal.
New Hampshire held its primary elections on Tuesday and Democrat Molly Kelly won her state’s Gubernatorial primary. She will face off against Republican incumbent Gov. Chris Sununu. Her primary victory breaks a record for the number of women nationwide that have survived gubernatorial primaries and are heading to the midterms. Kelly will be one of 15 female Gubernatorial nominees running in November.
Eddie Edwards won his party’s Congressional primary in New Hampshire. He has been backed by Trump and would become his state’s first black Congressman if elected. Edwards will face Democrat Chris Pappas in November who would be his state’s first openly gay member of Congress if he beats Edwards.
Rhode Islanders will vote in their primary on Wednesday. Incumbent Democratic Governor Gina Raimundo faces a challenge from a Bernie Sanders endorsed candidate named Matt Brown – a former state secretary of Rhode Island.
The Washington Post reported on Tuesday that the Republican Party is growing increasingly fearful of losing even the Senate to Democrats. Donald Trump’s poll numbers have sunk lower than normal across a number of polls, leading Senate Majority leader Mitch McConnell to openly worry to press, “I hope when the smoke clears, we’ll still have a majority.” Despite the so-called “Blue Wave” expected to sweep across House races and hand a House majority to Democrats, the GOP held firm to the belief that the Senate would remain in its clutches. Now even that appears tenuous. Even in the reliably Republican Texas, a hard fight has emerged between incumbent Senator Ted Cruz and Democratic Representative Beto O’Rourke of El Paso who won his party’s Senate Primary.
The Government of Ireland has announced that President Trump canceled a visit to the nation. It would have been his first visit to Ireland as US President. Irish authorities told Reuters that, “The proposed visit of the US president is postponed…The US side has cited scheduling reasons.” But White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders contradicted the claims saying on Tuesday that no decision had been made. She said, “The president will travel to Paris in November as previously announced. We are still finalizing whether Ireland will be a stop on that trip. As details are confirmed we will let you know.” A number of Irish activist organizations have been busy planning protests to confront Trump during his trip, similar to British protests earlier this year when Trump made a stop in London before the NATO summit. The star of that visit was a giant Trump baby blimp.
Pope Francis is meeting with American Catholic clergy this week to discuss the pedophilia scandal that has rocked the church. The Vatican announced the meeting on Tuesday. The pope will also separately meet with a Washington DC-based archbishop who has been accused of helping rapist priests cover up their crimes. Cardinal Donald Wuerl wrote a letter this week to priests saying that he will be discussing his resignation with the Pope. The beloved Pope Francis who has adopted policies deemed quite progressive (relative to others in his position), has come under criticism for his silence on this matter and even possible collusion to protect criminal priests.
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said in a statement to Congress early Wednesday morning that he can vouch for US allies Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates in their cautious approach to reducing civilian casualties in the Yemen war. Lawmakers, pushed by grassroots activists, had included a requirement for Pompeo to certify Saudi and UAE efforts as a condition of the annual Defense Spending bill. The Saudis have admitted to dropping a bomb just last month that struck a bus carrying dozens of children that were killed.
And finally, the Prime Minister of Hungary is in a battle with the European Union. Viktor Orban accused the EU of insulting his government after EU officials decided to look into newly implemented Hungarian policies on migrants. A Dutch member of the European Parliament, Judith Sargentini, began a debate at the EU with a report that she said, “comprehensively lists” attacks on the media, minorities, and the rule of law, that represent “a clear breach of the values of our union.” Mr. Orban arrived late to the EU meeting and then denounced Sargentini’s report saying, “You think you know better than Hungarians themselves.” He added that his nation, “will not accede to this blackmail.” The EU took similar steps against Poland late last year for similar reasons.