Headlines: September 18, 2019
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Saudi Arabia says it has gathered evidence that Iran was behind a recent air attack on its oil production facilities. The Saudi Defense Ministry held a press conference displaying debris and parts of weapons that it says were collected from the site of the attacks and that apparently proves that Iranian delta-wing unmanned aerial vehicles were involved. American forensics experts have traveled to Saudi Arabia to examine the evidence. Defense Minister Turki Al Maliki said, “We have witnessed distinct growth in Iranian aggression…This attack wasn’t against Saudi Aramco or Saudi Arabia, it was an attack against the international community, the whole world economy, and global trade.” Saudi Arabia is suffering from a serious credibility problem however given its recent role in the killing and dismembering of journalist Jamal Al Khashoggi that reached the highest level of the Saudi monarchy and for which there has yet to be an admission of guilt or accountability. Meanwhile in the US, Defense Department officials are claiming that satellite data showed Iranian forces preparing drones and missiles ahead of the attack on Saudi Arabia.
Iranian officials have responded saying they would aggressively retaliate against any armed response. The government’s official news agency said, “Iran’s response will be prompt and strong, and it may include broader areas than the source of attacks.” According to the Washington Post, “There have long been fears that Iranian proxy forces in Lebanon, Syria, Iraq and elsewhere might attack U.S. forces in the region.” President Donald Trump on Twitter announced that he has increased sanctions on Iran. Writing, “I have just instructed the Secretary of the Treasury to substantially increase Sanctions on the country of Iran!,” Trump gave no other details. And in other news Trump has named Robert O’Brien, a Hostage Negotiator, as his National Security Adviser to replace John Bolton. O’Brien has experience negotiating with regimes like North Korea and Turkey to free hostages. He used to work for Bolton and reportedly has similarly hawkish views.
Trump’s former campaign manager Corey Lewandowski testified to the House Judiciary Committee this week in what was that committee’s first impeachment hearing. When confronted with inconsistencies in his testimony to reporters versus Special Counsel Robert Mueller, Lewandowski essentially admitted he had been lying.
Also testifying on Capitol Hill this week is the 16-year old Swedish climate activist Greta Thunberg. On Tuesday she addressed a Senate panel on the climate crisis where she slammed lawmakers saying, “Please save your praise. We don’t want it…Don’t invite us here to just tell us how inspiring we are without actually doing anything about it because it doesn’t lead to anything.” Thunberg also addressed the House Foreign Affairs subcommittee on Wednesday speaking alongside a number of other youth activists. She is also joining youth climate activists in front of the Supreme Court to support a major lawsuit against the government over climate change, and will lead this Friday’s global climate strike in New York before addressing the UN General Assembly on Monday.
President Trump has revoked California’s ability to set its own fuel efficiency standards for vehicle emissions. Because cities like Los Angeles had for so long suffered from poor air quality, California had been granted the authority to set higher fuel efficiency standards – a move that succeeded to a large extent to address air pollution. Trump tweeted about the rollback on Wednesday saying it would, “produce far less expensive cars for the consumer, while at the same time making the cars substantially SAFER.” He added, without evidence, that, “older, highly polluting cars, will be replaced by new, extremely environmentally friendly cars.” The move came at the same time as Trump is visiting California and raking in millions of dollars of donations at a handful of fundraisers outside of which protesters gathered. In Southern California, during Trump’s visit to Beverly Hills, a clash broke out between pro and anti-Trump protesters.
In other news from Southern California, a long-time donor to the Democratic Party, Ed Buck has been arrested. Buck is a prominent activist in the party and a support of LGBTQ causes. According to the Los Angeles Times, Buck was “charged with operating a drug house, with prosecutors calling him a violent sexual predator who preys on men struggling with addiction and homelessness.” Specifically, “Buck is accused of injecting a 37-year-old man, who overdosed but survived, with methamphetamine on Sept. 11.” Two other men over the past two years, 26-year old Gemmel Moore, 26, and 55-year old Timothy Dean, were found dead at Buck’s house having overdosed on methamphetamine. For years activists urged police to charge the well-known figure.
A Republican State Senator from Pennsylvania named Mike Folmer has been charged with possession of child pornography on his phone. According to the Washington Post, “The married grandfather of seven was caught as the result of a tip that popular blogging site Tumblr found that a user had uploaded an image of child pornography using its application, officials said. They said the tip eventually led investigators to Folmer’s home in Lebanon, Pa., where they executed a search warrant and found child pornography images on his cellphone.” The charges is now facing include, “sexual abuse of children, possession of child pornography and criminal use of a communication facility.” Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf has called for Folmer’s immediate resignation.
Well-known NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden has just published his long-awaited memoir and immediately faced a lawsuit from the US Department of Justice over the publication. Snowden remains exiled in Russia. The DOJ is seeking to seize any proceeds from his book, “Permanent Record,” and prevent Snowden from giving speeches about it.
Israel’s election results are in and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s party has not won the decisive victory the incumbent was hoping for. The latest election results show the centrist Blue and White Party winning 32 seats in the 120-seat Knesset, while Netanyahu’s Likud Party won 31. With neither party winning an outright majority, there will now be negotiations to form a coalition, potentially threatening Netanyahu’s position. In a surprising move, Israel’s Arab Coalition called the Joint List has won more seats than expected, numbering at about 12. Associated Press described it as, “a historic first that would grant a new platform to a long-marginalized minority.” Although the party has won a similar number of seats in the past, “this time around, due to the shifting constellation of Israeli politics, it would be well-placed to lead the opposition if a national unity government of the two largest parties is formed, as seems likely. That would put a representative of Israel’s Arab citizens closer to the center of power than ever before and strengthen their ability to influence the national agenda.”