Headlines: September 27, 2019
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The scandal over President Donald Trump using his office to solicit dirt on his political opponents from a foreign nation continues to roil Washington DC. On Thursday Trump was caught on tape slamming the intelligence community whistleblower who filed the original complaint that has now led to a formal impeachment inquiry against him. In a closed door meeting Trump suggested the whistleblower was a spy who deserved punishment. The complaint was based on a phone call that Trump had with the Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky that White House staff scrambled to hide once it was apparent how the President had seemingly violated his oath of office. The complaint also referenced that Trump’s National Security Council went to great lengths to store the transcript on a much more secure and hidden computer server than the usual servers. Meanwhile the New York Times published a report based on internal sources that publicized identifying details about the whistleblower in a move that privacy advocates slammed. Given Trump’s veiled threats, many accused the paper of putting a “target on the whistleblower’s back.”
Implicated in the complaint is Attorney General William Barr who Trump repeatedly mentioned in his call to Zelensky, and who declined to pursue an inquiry when the complaint was brought to him. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said that Barr should not have been involved directly in the complaint that implicated him and that the Attorney General has “gone rogue,” in an interview on CNN. Trump’s personal attorney Rudy Giuliani has also been deeply implicated in the scandal. In an interview with The Atlantic Giuliani, who has emerged as a major political liability for Trump said, “It is impossible that the whistle-blower is a hero and I’m not. And I will be the hero! These morons—when this is over, I will be the hero.” Meanwhile Senator Kamala Harris who was the former California state Attorney General, has said that Giuliani should be disbarred. Worried about the impeachment process, Trump said to reporters on Thursday, “”What … Democrats are doing to this country is a disgrace and it shouldn’t be allowed. There should be a way of stopping it, maybe legally through the courts.” He has also decided that Congressman Adam Schiff should resign for his handling of the complaint as head of the House Intelligence Committee.
In immigration news the Trump administration has formally cut the nation’s refugee quota to only 18,000. That’s just over half of the 30,000 accepted this year, a sharp decline from previous years. Meanwhile a 33-year old Indian man named Ajay Kumar has been released after a year in detention. Kumar protested the denial of his asylum claim by going on a hunger strike and losing about a third of his body weight. And the House of Representatives for a second time passed a bill overturning Trump’s declaration of a national emergency at the US border. The Senate passed the same resolution a day earlier. Both chambers had passed the resolution in March but Trump vetoed it. This second attempt to garner a veto-proof majority attracted more Republican votes but still fell short of overcoming the President’s inevitable veto.
The American Medical Association has declared an “epidemic” of killings of transgender Americans after the murder toll hit 18 this year alone. Many of the killings are of transgender women of color. Last year the number was 26. Mariah Moore of the Transgender Law Center told the New York Times, “We are the most afraid we’ve ever been…But we’re also stronger than we’ve ever been.”
A white woman at a drug store in Eagle Rock, Los Angeles was caught on camera screaming racist and hate-filled epithets at a black woman. Identified as Heather Patton, the woman raged using the N-word multiple times and fantasized about killing black people. Los Angeles police are pursuing it as a “hate incident.” And a 12-year old African American girl in Springfield, Virginia was the victim of an attack from three white boys. The Washington Post said her, “classmates held her down, covered her mouth, called her insulting names and used scissors to cut several of her dreadlocks from her head during recess in the playground.” Fairfax County police are investigating the incident.
Amber Guyger, the white police officer who fatally shot her black neighbor Botham Jean, is testifying at her trial this week. Guyger killed Jean in his own apartment saying she mistook it for her apartment. She broke down in tears during her testimony. And, police in Southaven, Mississippi are claiming that a man fatally shot by one of their officers did not have constitutional rights. The incident took place two years ago when police entered the wrong home looking for a domestic violence suspect and ended up fatally shooting 41-year old Ismael Lopez in the back of his head. His widow has filed a $20 million civil lawsuit which police are now asking the judge to dismiss saying that because Lopez was an undocumented immigrant he had no constitutional protections.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have announced that vaping-related illnesses have jumped 52% from just one week ago. There are now 805 known cases of vaping-related illnesses and nearly a dozen deaths.
The US Senate on Thursday confirmed Eugene Scalia to head the US Labor Department. Scalia, the son of the late Supreme Court justice Antonin Scalia, is an attorney who represented corporate employers. He will now oversee labor rights in the US.
A week after the historic and record-breaking September 20th global climate strike that mobilized millions across the world, a fresh wave of actions launched this Friday. In New Zealand, 170,000 are estimated to have marched to demand climate action. That’s 3.5% of the nation’s population.
In international news US intelligence sources say they have confirmed that the Syrian government carried out a chlorine attack this past May as part of its on-going war to squash a rebellion. According to the Wall Street Journal, “The incident would mark the first confirmed violation of chemical-weapons accord since a 2018 U.S. military strike on Syria over its alleged poison-gas use.” Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said, “The United States will not allow these attacks to go unchallenged…Nor will we tolerate those who chose to conceal these atrocities.”
Saudi Arabia has announced a partial cease-fire in Yemen, its impoverished neighbor that it has been relentlessly bombing with US backing for years. The decision came after Yemen’s Houthi rebels announced a surprise unilateral ceasefire.
And finally Afghans will vote in elections on Saturday amid an on-going spike in violence. Postponed twice before, the stakes around the elections are high as the US abruptly cut off peace talks with the Taliban. Taliban forces have been continuously attacking civilian areas through suicide bombings and car bombs killing dozens each day in an effort to deter voters. Afghan government security forces are gearing up for violence at any of the nearly 5,000 polling stations throughout the country.