Headlines: September 3, 2019
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Hurricane Dorian has been pounding the Bahamas ceaselessly with 110 mph winds and has become the strongest such storm in recorded history in the Atlantic. Hubert Minnis, the Bahamian Prime Minister said, “We are in the midst of a historic tragedy in parts of our northern Bahamas.” His government reported that so far five people were confirmed dead but the numbers may rise. President Donald Trump over the weekend insisted that the state of Alabama was among those expected to be hit by the hurricane, even though the National Weather Service refuted his claim. CNN reported that the President was, “spreading false information during an emergency situation. Not once or twice — three times.” He tweeted it and repeated the statement. Trump also said he had never heard of a Category 5 storm. The Washington Post reported that Trump has claimed to have not heard of a category 5 hurricane at least 5 times during his Presidency. Hurricane Dorian, which is now a Category 2, heads toward the United States where residents of Florida in particular are bracing themselves for the worst. Trump, meanwhile decided to go golfing at his own resort in Virginia on Labor Day, marking the, “289th day he has spent at a Trump property and the 227th day he has spent at one of his golf clubs as President.”
In other news, yet another mass shooting shocked the state of Texas when a gunman traveling in a vehicle in Odessa shot dozens of people killing 7 and injuring 20. According to the Washington Post, “Unlike the other shootings that have shaken Texas over the past several years, in which gunmen targeted people who had gathered for a common purpose — at a church, a school, a shopping center — Saturday’s tragedy stretched for miles.” During his rampage the shooter, a white man in his 30s, hijacked a postal carrier’s vehicle and killed the postal worker, 29-year old Mary Granados was speaking with her twin sister Rosie on the phone when she was killed. Fifteen-year old Leilah Hernandez, who was with her brother was also killed. The New York Times described the life of the gunman, Seth Ator, as “erratic and nomadic.” In another part of the country, a 14-year old boy confessed to massacring five members of his family with a handgun on Monday night in Elkmont, Alabama. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, pressured by frustrated Democrats to take action on gun control said on Tuesday that he would be “happy” to bring up legislation in the Senate only if it was supported by the President. And Attorney General William Barr’s solution to mass shootings has been to draft a bill to make it easier to apply the federal death penalty to mass shooters.
In California a fire broke out on a diving boat off the coast of Santa Cruz Island, taking the lives of at least 25 people. The boat caught on fire early Monday morning while all those on board were asleep. Crewmembers who were on the deck were apparently unable to open a hatch to the area below deck where 33 divers slept. A passing boat rescued several of the crew. As of Tuesday morning the bodies of 25 people had been recovered from the waters.
Vice President Mike Pence is defending his decision to stay at a Trump resort in Ireland while he was on his way to Poland. Pence’s trip is funded by taxpayers and his stay at Trump’s resort in Doonbeg is strange given that he will be attending meetings in Dublin, 150 miles away. The Trump administration has repeatedly enriched the President at taxpayer expense. Meanwhile when asked what message he had for the people of Poland on the anniversary of the day that Nazi Germany invaded them, President Trump said, “I do have a great message for Poland…I just want to congratulate Poland.” It is not clear if Trump realized that Poland was marking a grim anniversary.
House Democrats are planning to launch an inquiry into Trump’s use of hush-money payments to silence two women he allegedly had affairs with, ahead of the 2016 election. The House Judiciary Committee plans to hold hearings this fall to take up an investigation that federal prosecutors apparently abandoned. Trump’s former personal attorney Michael Cohen is currently serving a 3-year term for crimes involving the hush money payments that Trump directed him to make. Trump has not faced any consequences.
A Palestinian college student named Ismail Ajjawi was finally allowed to enter the US so he could begin classes at Harvard University this week. Ajjawi was denied entry some days back after arriving at Boston’s Logan Airport from Lebanon. Border officials turned him back after hours of interrogation apparently because some of his social media “friends” had made political posts.
Two prominent members of the US left passed away over the weekend. Hundred-year old peace activist Francis Crowe died at her home in Massachusetts. Crowe’s activism began in 1945 when the US dropped nuclear bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Her family says that her motto was, “Live simply so that others can simply live.” And, the well-known social scientist and economist Immanuel Wallerstein died at the age of 88. According to an obituary in Telesur, “The prominent intellectual who was a renowned critic of capitalism and whose ideas were aimed at fighting for justice and change wrote dozens of books, powerful papers, and important commentaries.” He published a powerful 4-volume analysis of capitalism called “World Systems” between the years 1974-2011.
In international news, the Red Cross reported over the weekend that Saudi Arabia and its allies dropped bombs in Yemen on what it said was a warehouse holding Houthi rebels but what turned out to be a prison. At least 100 people are presumed killed. And the United Nations published a damning report on war crimes in Yemen, identifying 160 people who could face war crimes charges, and implicating Western nations like the US and UK that are backing the Saudi-led war.
In Britain where the battle over a Brexit deal continues, Prime Minister Boris Johnson just lost his party’s majority after a conservative MP defected to the Liberal Party. This means that Johnson no longer has a majority in the House of Commons. Mr. Johnson has claimed he is making headway on a deal with Brussels less than two months from the October 31st deadline for Britain to exit the EU. According to the New York Times, “Mr. Johnson said on Monday that he would refuse to ask the European Union to extend the deadline under any circumstances, meaning that his only option would be to call for a general election, which would be expected to be called for Oct. 14.”
And protests continued in Hong Kong for the 13th weekend in a row. News media reported that some protesters used petrol bombs against police and that law enforcement used blue dye to mark activists. Meanwhile Reuters reported that Hong Kong Chief Executive Carrie Lam made remarks behind closed doors to business leaders saying she would quit if she could. She apparently said in English, “If I have a choice…the first thing is to quit, having made a deep apology.” A day after the report was published Lam denied having considered resigning.