Headlines: September 16, 2019
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Drone strikes aimed at Saudi Arabia’s oil infrastructure have severely damaged the Gulf kingdom’s oil production cutting it by nearly half. The coordinated strikes took place on Saturday morning with drones making 19 strikes against two major facilities called Abqaiq and Khurais operated by Aramco, the national Saudi oil company. Saudi authorities say it will take weeks to repair the damage. While the Houthi rebels in Yemen say they are responsible for the attacks in retaliation for the Saudi-led war on their nation, Saudis and the US have insisted that Iran is the culprit. US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said there was, “no evidence the attacks came from Yemen.” On Monday Saudi officials said that the attacks did not originate from Yemen and that Iranian weapons were used. US intelligence officials have now concurred that Iran was the staging ground for the attack and have apparently shared the information with the Saudis.
On Sunday President Donald Trump tweeted that Saudi Arabia would be defining the terms of the US response to the attack, saying, “There is reason to believe that we know the culprit, are locked and loaded depending on verification, but are waiting to hear from the Kingdom as to who they believe was the cause of this attack, and under what terms we would proceed!” Trump is meeting with the Defense Secretary and his National Security Advisor on Monday to discuss how to proceed. Meanwhile, oil prices spiked for a time after the attacks, but Trump made an emergency declaration releasing US oil reserves to ensure global supplies were not impacted. Oil prices are expected to rise slightly over the rest of this year.
The United Auto Workers have announced a massive strike aimed at General Motors this week. Fifty thousand autoworkers are walking off their jobs at GM factories in a number of states saying they want the company to spend some of its profits on wage increases and benefits. UAW says workers want “Fair Wages, Affordable Healthcare, Our Share of Profits, Job Security, and A Defined Path to Permanent Seniority for Temps.” The strike began on Sunday night at 11:59 pm. These are the sounds of workers in Flint, Michigan, kicking off their strike.
The New York Times on Saturday published a bombshell excerpt from a new book by two of its reporters, Robin Pogrebin and Kate Kelly about the allegations of sexual abuse against Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh. The Senate last year held a one-day hearing over allegations of sexual assault against Kavanaugh during which they invited Dr. Christine Blasey Ford to testify. But they did not invite other accusers, nor did the FBI interview them. Now, the Times reporters have made public the testimony of Deborah Ramirez who had said that Kavanaugh exposed himself to her at a party at Yale University and caused her to touch his genitals. The published excerpt is from a book called “The Education of Brett Kavanaugh: An Investigation,” President Trump, who nominated Kavanaugh lashed out on Twitter saying that, “Kavanaugh should start suing people for libel, or the Justice Department should come to his rescue.” It may not have occurred to the President that the Justice Department does not function as his or Kavanaugh’s personal law firm. Meanwhile several Democrats, including Presidential candidates have publicly called for Kavanaugh to be impeached from the court. Senator Kamala Harris had strong words saying, “He was put on the Court through a sham process and his place on the Court is an insult to the pursuit of truth and justice.”
The Times also published a story about a “crisis of morale” among Border Patrol agents. According to the reporters, “Interviews with 25 current and former agents in Texas, California and Arizona — some conducted on the condition of anonymity so the agents could speak more candidly — paint a portrait of an agency in a political and operational quagmire.” One agent who served for more than 20 years and recently retired said, “people actively hate us.” In other immigration news, dozens of people were arrested at a Microsoft store in New York on Saturday aimed at the the company’s collaboration with the Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agency. The action was organized by a group called Close The Camps. Here are the sounds of protesters chanting “Not on our doorsteps, ICE in the Arctic” in front of the Microsoft store.
In healthcare news, a story that a sick veteran told Presidential candidate Senator Bernie Sanders about his mounting medical bills has gone viral. Fifty eight year old John Weigel attended a Sanders rally in Carson City, Nevada and took his $139,000 hospital bill with him to show the Senator. He was so distraught that he said, “I’m going to kill myself.” Sanders tweeted, “Some in Washington say I am too angry about our broken health care system. I hear stories like this every day in America. My question is: why aren’t they angry about it?” Another Presidential candidate, Joe Biden reportedly addressed a private gathering of healthcare professionals and, according to a report in Bloomberg, the former Vice President praised the pharmaceutical industry saying there are, “great drug companies out there — except a couple of opioid outfits.” Meanwhile Purdue Pharmaceuticals, the maker of Oxycontin, has filed for bankruptcy as it faces a wave of legal settlements for its role in the opioid crisis. Purdue made billions from selling the addictive painkillers.
A week after President Trump very publicly pulled out of high level peace talks with Afghanistan’s Taliban that were on the verge of an agreement, Afghan government forces with US backing have killed an estimated 38 Taliban fighters. Among those killed were 2 high level Taliban commanders according to US officials. Taliban spokespeople say they are still hopeful for talks with the US and that, “lines of communication are still open.” The US’s longest official war is continuing with no end in sight as it approaches its 18th anniversary in early October. One general described the intensity of the fighting in Afghanistan as, “unprecedented.”
In Israel, ahead of elections, incumbent Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu held a high level cabinet meeting in the Israeli-occupied West Bank – an area he has promised to annex parts of if he wins reelection. Netanyahu hinted that the Trump administration had approved of the move to make legal some illegal Israeli settlements. About 600,000 Israeli settlers live on illegal settlements amidst 2.5 million Palestinian residents of the West Bank. According to the Guardian newspaper, “Trump said on Saturday that he and Netanyahu had spoken about a possible US-Israeli defence treaty, comments seen as an 11th-hour election gift to the prime minister.”
And finally the leaders of Turkey, Iran, and Russia are holding high-level talks this week to discuss the war in Syria that all three nations are playing a major role in. Turkey’s President Erdogan has been pushing to send a million Syrian refugees back into the war-torn nation, while Russia’s Vladimir Putin has taken a leading role on pounding the rebel stronghold of Idlib prompting human rights groups to denounce attacks on civilians. A joint declaration between the three leaders is expected later this week.