News & Analysis of Economic, Racial, Gender Justice and More

The latest Democratic Presidential candidate debate took place on Thursday, for the first time airing over only one evening instead of two. Ten of the top candidates were featured including front runners Joe Biden, Bernie Sanders, Elizabeth Warren, and Kamala Harris, and others such as Amy Klobuchar, Pete Buttigieg, Beto O’Rourke, Julian Castro, Andrew Yang, and Corey Booker. Biden and Castro clashed a few times with Castro challenging Biden’s memory lapse in one instance around a healthcare debate question. Biden notably rambled on nonsensically during one answer about his support on the issue of racial justice, veering off into a rant about bringing social workers into the homes of poor parents, and parents needing to play their record players for children before bizarrely pivoting to Venezuela. Sanders maintained his strong positions on healthcare spending and denounced the bloated size of the military budget. And O’Rourke resolutely maintained that he did indeed want to take people’s guns away – of the military assault type.

A Republic political action committee paid for a provocative political ad to air during the Democratic debate that showed a picture of New York Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez bursting into flames and then cut to images of mass deaths in Cambodia as a critique of socialism. The ad’s narrator is a Cambodian American woman named Elizabeth Heng. Ocasio-Cortez slammed the ad saying, “Republicans are running TV ads setting pictures of me on fire to convince people they aren’t racist.” She added separately, “Know that this wasn’t an ad for young conservatives of color – that was the pretense. What you just watched was a love letter to the GOP’s white supremacist [b]ase.” ABC, the network that hosted the debate and aired the ad in some of its markets, came under fire for promoting violence by agreeing to play it.

Meanwhile President Donald Trump visited the city of Baltimore, Maryland where he addressed House Republicans. Trump had come under fire for making degrading comments about the city as “rat infested,” and during his speech on Thursday he alluded to that criticism saying he would, “fight for the future of cities like Baltimore that have been destroyed by decades of failed and corrupt rule.” Outside the gathering protesters carried an inflatable balloon of Trump as a rat. During his speech, Trump also made slammed Californian cities for the crisis of homelessness and said he was putting the Democratic-controlled areas on notice and that the federal government would be intervening.

There are new revelations about the Air Force’s refueling stops in Scotland near Trump’s private resort in Turnberry. According to Politico, the USAF has put its crews up in Trump’s Scottish resort more than 40 times since 2015, which is far more often than previously thought. Although the blatant conflict of interest is under investigation by Congressional Democrats, the Pentagon has so far refused to turn over any information. The Air Force has also launched its own internal review after press coverage ramped up.

Former FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe has sent a letter through his lawyers to federal prosecutors asking if a grand jury was convened to try to indict him. President Trump has frequently publicly targeted McCabe and his lawyers are interested in knowing if the government has tried and failed to raise charges against him over perjury. “Bringing criminal charges against a former senior F.B.I. official would be highly unusual,” says the New York Times. “Mr. McCabe was fired last year over the inspector general’s findings days before he was eligible for retirement benefits. He had become a favorite target of Mr. Trump, and Mr. McCabe has said the president was trying to undermine him as a witness in the special counsel’s investigation.”

The state of California passed yet another major bill this week, this time over private prisons. State lawmakers passed a sweeping piece of legislation banning the operation of private prisons including immigrant detention centers in the state. If the bill becomes law it will impact facilities that house about 4,500 people in immigrant detention centers run by private for-profit corporations. The state passed a separate law issuing a 3-year moratorium on law enforcement’s use of facial recognition technology. Civil rights groups have been lobbying for such a ban saying that the nascent technology is biased against people of color and could be used for mass surveillance purposes. And Gov. Gavin Newsom signed a bill this week that finances the training of police officers to comply with new rules on the use of force. Newsom hailed the bill which according to him, “establishes the nation’s most robust state-level use-of-force training guidelines for law enforcement officers that focus on de-escalation, crisis intervention, bias free policing and only using deadly force when absolutely necessary.”

Lawmakers have demanded a lengthy set of documents, internal emails, and other paper trails from the 4 biggest technology firms as part of an on-going investigation into possible antitrust violations. The House committee conducting the investigation sent letters to the CEOs of Amazon, Facebook, Google, and Apple. According to the New York Times, “With the request, which was posted online, the lawmakers sent a not-so-subtle point that executives would be held responsible for the replies, and that the investigation would continue to play out publicly. That has the potential of damaging the brands’ reputation in the eyes of their customers.”

In international news, Russian security forces raided the offices of opposition leader Alexei Navalny in 43 cities this week. There were a total of 150 raids carried out across Russia by President Vladimir Putin’s government. Navalny had attempted to challenge Putin in last year’s elections but authorities barred him from running. Now, his organization’s anti-corruption work has continued to be a thorn in Putin’s side.

The United Nations has warned that 2 million people are at risk of starvation in Somalia due to a record-breaking drought. The UN is calling for emergency international aid. According to Al Jazeera, “The UN’s most recent food security analysis showed the April to June harvest was the worst since 2011 thanks to poor and erratic rains, which were followed by flooding.” Additionally, “Some 2.6 million people have already been forced from their homes as a result of natural disasters, as well as conflict.”

And in South Africa, President Cyril Ramaphosa canceled his attendance of a UN gathering saying it was more important for him to remain at home to tackle a growing crisis over sexual violence facing women and girls. There have been mass protests across South Africa to draw attention to a recent dramatic spike in the rapes and killings of women and children. Some are calling for the ruling party, the African National Congress, to declare a national emergency on the situation. The movement, led largely by women and girls, has grown under the social media hashtag #AmINext.

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