Headlines: September 23, 2019
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The largest ever climate-change-related protest actions in world history took place on Friday as part of the Global Climate Strike. Organizers estimated that about 4 million people all over the planet participated in thousands of actions. According to Vox, “[t]here were over 2,500 events scheduled in over 163 countries on all seven continents.” In New York City alone, which is where the United Nations climate conference is being held on Monday, a whopping 250,000 people showed up for an event that had been permitted for 5,000 attendees. Swedish teen activist Greta Thunberg addressed the crowd and also spoke at the UN Climate conference on Monday. We’ll be bringing you excerpts of both her speeches on our show.
Climate-related actions are expected to continue through September 27th. A group called Shut Down DC has pledged to bring Washington DC to a standstill on Monday. About 14 streets were shut down at various times during the day. In other climate-related news, Oxfam International released a major report on Monday about how the world’s poorest communities, who have had the least contribution to fossil fuel emissions, and are the worst impacted by climate change, are also disproportionately paying for the damage from the climate crisis.
Meanwhile, at the United Nations, President Donald Trump was expected to skip the climate conference and focus only on a forum on religious freedom, but he ended up making a surprise visit to the conference for a few minutes. Politico described the UN gathering saying, “The summit brings together leaders from dozens of countries to submit climate plans intended to surpass the emissions reduction and renewable energy goals of the 2016 Paris Agreement, an accord from which Trump withdrew and that many of the remaining signatories are well short of fulfilling.”
While at the UN during his 3-day visit to New York, Trump is hoping to build support for a US-led response to Iran amidst allegations that Iran struck Saudi Arabia’s oil fields. He is also expected to face questions about Ukraine over a major scandal threatening his presidency. On Sunday Trump admitted to reporters that he had solicited information about his rival former Vice President Joe Biden from the Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelensky during a phone call that prompted a whistle blower to file a complaint. Trump has called into question the patriotism of the whistleblower who first made the complaint about the President’s phone call to Ukraine. Senate Minority leader Chuck Schumer has called on Majority Leader Mitch McConnell to release transcripts of the call. High ranking Republican Senator Lindsey Graham has also called the White House to release more details. Meanwhile, Democrats continue to be crippled by inaction over impeachment. House Intelligence Committee chair Adam Schiff hinted that impeachment is becoming more likely but emphasized his party’s reluctance. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi also remained reluctant, saying only that the Ukraine scandal opened a “new chapter of lawlessness.” But younger and newer House Democrats were bolder with Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez slamming her colleagues over the weekend saying on Twitter that, “the bigger national scandal isn’t the president’s lawbreaking behavior – it is the Democratic Party’s refusal to impeach him for it.”
On Sunday Trump appeared at a major rally in Houston, Texas, as the opening act for Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi. Modi addressed a massive crowd of tens of thousands of mostly Indian Americans gathered for an event dubbed “Howdy Modi.” Modi introduced Trump to the cheering crowds before the two leaders walked hand in hand around NRG stadium. Outside the Houston event thousands of South Asian American protesters gathered to denounce Modi’s Hindu nationalist government that has faced international condemnation for its persecution of caste and religious minorities as well as India’s occupation of Kashmir. Under the banner of “Adios Modi,” activists chanted in Hindi and Urdu against lynchings of Indian Muslims and compared Modi to Hitler.
Former Vice President Joe Biden was among several Democratic presidential candidates to speak at a forum in Cedar Rapids, Iowa focused on LGBTQ issues on Friday. Among the most important moments of the forum was a tense exchange between moderator Lyz Lenz and Biden about his record on the 1994 crime bill. When Ms. Lenz asked him about his remarks on Mike Pence, Biden responded. Later Lenz tweeted, “As I was walking off the stage with @JoeBiden he said to me dryly, ‘You’re a real sweetheart.'” She told USA Today, “It’s 2019, you shouldn’t be calling women sweethearts,” and thought Biden’s comments were condescending. At a separate forum in Iowa, Congresswoman Ilhan Omar who gave the keynote speech said of Biden, “There are few people who fit into the kind of progress that we all want to see in this country…And I would say he is not one of them.” Meanwhile Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders has come under fire for skipping the LGBTQ forum.
A police officer in Florida has been suspended for arresting two young children last week in Orlando. Officer Dennis Turner, a school resource officer, arrested a 6-year old girl and in a separate incident, an 8-year old boy.
Education Department Secretary Betsy DeVos is under fire for threatening to cut funding for Middle Eastern studies programs in higher educational institutions because they portray Islam too positively for her comfort. The program in question is the Duke-UNC Consortium for Middle East Studies. In a letter to the program the Department of Education wrote, “there is a considerable emphasis placed on the understanding the positive aspects of Islam, while there is an absolute absence of any similar focus on the positive aspects of Christianity, Judaism, or any other religion or belief system in the Middle East.”
Vice President Mike Pence brought an 8-car motorcade over the weekend to Mackinac, a Michigan island that has banned cars for decades. Michigan Congresswoman Rashida Tlaib slammed the action calling it, “Disgusting.” She added, “I am in such disbelief that this was allowed to happen. This Administration doesn’t care about the law (you know, the U.S. Constitution), so it shouldn’t surprise me so much that they don’t care about our history or traditions.”
And finally in international news, the Egyptian government has arrested hundreds of protesters on Monday after anti-government protests broke out on Friday. Growing anger over President Abdel Fatah al-Sissi has sparked a new chapter in the Egyptian struggle for freedom and democracy. In addition to arresting nearly 400 people Sissi’s government has also cracked down on social media access in an effort to curb organizing.
Cover photo by Brian Biery: Global Climate Strike in Los Angeles on Friday, September, 20 2019.