Headlines: September 19, 2019
Listen to story:
Download: mp3 (Duration: 9:01 — 8.3MB)
The political fallout from accusations of sexual assault against Donald Trump’s Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh continues, with the accuser, Dr. Christine Blasey Ford having been forced to go into hiding after being targeted by, “vicious harassment and even death threats.” The New York Times reported that, “Her email has been hacked, she has been impersonated online and she and her family have been forced to relocate out of their home.” Meanwhile President Trump on Tuesday expressed sympathy for his nominee instead saying, “I feel so badly for him that he’s going through this, to be honest with you, I feel so badly for him.” Trump himself has faced numerous accusations of sexual assault by multiple women.
Ford has also said that before she appears at a public hearing in front of the Senate Judiciary Committee, she wants a full investigation which she said must be, “the first step” before she testifies. Ford’s lawyers reiterated that sentiment in a letter to the committee’s ranking Republican Senator Chuck Grassley saying, “While Dr. Ford’s life was being turned upside down, you and your staff scheduled a public hearing for her to testify at the same table as Judge Kavanaugh in front of two dozen U.S. Senators on national television to relive this traumatic and harrowing incident.” The letter also surmised that the hearing, “would include interrogation by senators who appear to have made up their minds that she is ‘mistaken’ and ‘mixed up.'”
Indeed the Republican strategy in the new era of #MeToo appears to be to try to avoid subjecting Ford to the same treatment that Anita Hill received in the 1991 Clarence Thomas confirmation hearing. Instead of attacking Ford the GOP seems to be coalescing around a strategy to accept that Ford was indeed assaulted, but that it must have been by someone other than Kavanaugh. Trump has rejected the suggestion to reopen Kavanaugh’s FBI background check, likely knowing such a review could postpone the confirmation vote until after the midterm elections.
Democratic Senator Mazie Hirono was asked on Tuesday whether it was significant that she was one of only 4 women on the Senate Judiciary Committee that is vetting Kavanaugh. Her response was stunning and has gone viral. Senators Patty Murray, Susan Collins, and Lisa Murkowski, also spoke with reporters. Later on our show we’ll explore this story in greater detail with Julie Millican of Media Matters for America.
Workers at several McDonald’s restaurants in ten cities around the country walked off their jobs on Tuesday at lunchtime and said they wouldn’t return until the next day in protest of the company’s rampant problems of sexual harassment. The walkouts, which were organized under the #MeToo banner, took place in Chicago, Kansas City, St. Louis, Los Angeles, Miami, Milwaukee, New Orleans, Orlando, San Francisco, and Durham. Ten McDonald’s workers had earlier filed sexual harassment complaints against the corporation with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). The strikes have received support from the Fight for $15 movement as well as Time’s Up, the action group formed in the wake of the #MeToo revelations. According to Vox, “While sexual harassment has motivated workplace organizing for well over a century, [Tuesday’s] action may be the first multi-state strike focused on sexual harassment in US history.”
A federal appeals court on Tuesday ruled in favor of bartenders and wait staff who make less than minimum wage. The 11-judge panel decided that when tipped workers are asked to do work that has no prospect of tips – such as cleaning toilets – their employers must make up the wages to meet minimum wage levels and cannot use tip “credits” at their discretion. Although the ruling may be limited to a handful of states, the judge writing the majority opinion concluded that tips are, “a gift to the server, as opposed to a cost-saving benefit to the employer.” The defendants in the case included the restaurant chains P.F. Chang’s and J. Alexander’s.
In another labor story, Washington DC lawmakers are on the verge of overturning a voter initiative to raise the minimum wage for restaurant workers. If Initiative 77 were to go into effect, it would gradually increase wages for tipped workers until they reach the District’s minimum wage of at least $15 an hour. Currently tipped workers are paid as little as $3.89 an hour. But now the DC City Council wants to overturn the initiative.
A Propublica investigation published on Tuesday has found that Facebook allowed a number of employers to target job advertisements to users based on their gender. According to the outlet, one example shows that a review of Facebook ads, “found that many purchased by ‘Drive with Uber,’ the [rideshare] company’s recruiting arm, targeted only men in more than a dozen cities across the U.S. Our survey of 91 Uber ads found just one targeting only women; three did not target a specific sex.” A total of 15 employers in the past year have been found to be posting job ads in a discriminatory manner. Experts say that, “The Supreme Court ruled in 1973 that it is illegal for an employer to take out job ads in newspapers with parameters such as: ‘Help wanted — men.'”
The Supreme Court ruled on Tuesday that Political Action Committees are required to disclose the names of some of their unnamed contributors. At the heart of the case is conservative Super-PAC Crossroads GPS. According to the Associated Press, “Now donors giving more than $200 to nonprofits “for the purpose of furthering an independent expenditure” have to be disclosed to the Federal Election Commission.” One commissioner on the FEC hailed the vote saying the ruling was, “a real victory for transparency.”
Hurricane Florence continues to wreak havoc on North Carolina and surrounding states with flash flooding and night-time storms. There have even been tornadoes linked to the storm as it dissipates very slowly. The rain and flooding is still going strong and residents who were evacuated are frustrated that they are still unable to return to their homes. North Carolina Governor Roy Cooper said in a press conference, “I know it was hard to leave home, and it is even harder to wait and wonder whether you even have a home to go back to.” The states of Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New York and the District of Columbia are now feeling the impact with steady rain and the threats of flash flooding.
Even as Florence’s devastation has been strongly linked to climate change the Trump administration on Wednesday formally lifted the Obama-era regulations on methane pollution. “We’re for clean air and water, but at the same time, we’re for reasonable regulations,” said Deputy Interior Secretary David Bernhardt. Methane is an even more potent greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide.
A new study has found that air pollutants like soot are found in the placentas of pregnant women, potentially harming their fetuses. The UK-based researchers said, “Our results provide the first evidence that inhaled pollution particles can move from the lungs into the circulation and then to the placenta.” Earlier studies have found a correlation between air pollution and low birth-weight and other health issues in babies.
And finally in international news, North Korea and South Korea‘s leaders signed an historic deal at the culmination of a 3-day summit in Pyongyang. Kim Jong Un and Moon Jae-in committed to no war between the two nations and Kim in particular took steps toward denuclearization with an agreement to dismantle a major missile engine test site and launch pad. Trump hailed the deal on Twitter while experts worried it was too vague.