Headlines: September 4, 2019
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Hurricane Dorian has laid waste to the Bahamas as the scenes of destruction are now emerging. For two days the record-breaking storm pounded the picturesque Caribbean islands destroying structures as far as the eye can see. One resident of the island who captured aerial footage of the destruction told the press, “You can’t tell that there are any homes there…It looks like a bunch of building materials were put in a big grinder and thrown on the ground.” So far the official death toll is 7 people including an 8-year old boy but authorities are certain that number will rise far higher. Media are reporting stories of individuals volunteering to wade through the flooded landscape looking for survivors. One person told CNN, “I don’t think we’ve seen anything like this in our lifetime…Total destruction.” The World Food Program estimates that 60,000 people may be in need of food. The Bahamas is a popular stop for cruise ships, and on Wednesday the Royal Caribbean International said it would be sending ships full of supplies to the islands. The US has also deployed a disaster relief team.
After battering the Bahamas, Hurricane Dorian has made its way to the US sweeping across the coastlines of Florida and Georgia and now heading toward the Carolinas. The National Hurricane Center assessed that those states would face, “destructive winds, flooding rains, and life-threatening storm surges.” It is possible that the storm could make landfall in the Carolinas later this week. Although the storm is slowing down, one weather expert told the Washington Post that a weakened hurricane still posed severe dangers.
In other news, the retail giant Walmart has announced a change to its gun sales policy. The company said it will no longer sell handguns, or ammunition for hand guns, short barrel rifles and other models of firearms. Walmart also said, “we request that customers no longer openly carry firearms into Walmart or Sam’s Club locations in states where open carry is permitted.” Soon after the grocery chain Kroger announced a similar policy against open-carry. Meanwhile the Washington Post Editorial Board on Wednesday added its voice to the frustrated chorus of lawmakers and activists calling on Senate Majority leader Mitch McConnell to allow a debate and vote on federal gun safety bills. “How many more names will be added to the list before Mitch McConnell acts on guns?” is the title of the op-ed. The paper listed the names and ages of victims of many mass shootings from 1999 to the present-day and asked, “Would any volume of bloodshed convince the Kentucky Republican that Congress faces a moral imperative to act?” And Chicago mayor Lori Lightfoot blasted Republican Senator Ted Cruz for citing her city as an example of why gun control doesn’t work. Lightfoot tweeted, “60% of illegal firearms recovered in Chicago come from outside IL—mostly from states dominated by coward Republicans like you who refuse to enact commonsense gun legislation. Keep our name out of your mouth.”
The Trump administration this week announced the cancelation of $3.6 billion worth of the Pentagon’s military construction projects in order to divert their funding to the President’s pet project of a border wall with Mexico. Congress had appropriated funds for the 127 projects that will now be canceled leading Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer to slam the move as Trump’s attempt to, “usurp Congress’s exclusive power of the purse and loot vital funds from our military.”
The Trump administration announced this week that it would be rolling back the regulations requiring a phase out of incandescent light bulbs. Congress passed a bi-partisan law in 2007 signed by President George W. Bush that required a transition to energy efficient light bulbs – a move that has been largely successful and contributed to a drop in energy usage nationwide. Environmental organizations vowed to challenge the new rule in court.
An Interior Department official named Joe Balash who supervised oil and gas drilling operations on federal lands, announced his resignation from the agency last week. Now Balash will be starting a new job with a private oil company involved in drilling operations in Alaska. The revolving door between government agencies that regulate the fossil fuel industry and the companies in that industry has been particularly busy under the Trump administration.
California Gov. Gavin Newsom just signed a bill that overturns an age-old law requiring civilians to respond to a police call for help making arrests. TheHill.com explained that, “The California Posse Comitatus Act of 1872 was used in the country’s early days, notably as a means of enforcement to help catch runaway slaves.” The California Sheriff’s Association opposed the new bill overturning the 1872 law.
The online video site YouTube has been fined $170 million for violating children’s privacy. The Federal Trade Commission fined Google – which owns YouTube – $136 million, while the state of New York settled with the company for an additional $34 million. The fines are over YouTube’s failure to abide by laws requiring parental consent for collecting minor’s digital data.
In international news, Iran has announced it would step further away from requirements of the 2015 nuclear deal that it signed with the US and Europe and that President Trump withdrew the US from. Iranian president Hasan Rouhani, just before the Thursday deadline for Europe to salvage the deal, said his country would take steps to accelerate their nuclear program. He also announced a 2-month extension for Europe to keep the pact together.
The United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, Michelle Bachelet, this week announced a grim tally in Syria of more than 1,000 civilians massacred over 4 months in the northern regions of the country. According to Al Jazeera, “1,031 of the deaths were reportedly attributable to government forces and their allies in Idlib and Hama provinces. Another 58 were caused by ‘non-state actors.'” The Syrian government of Bashar Al-Assad has fought a debilitating war alongside Russia against rebel groups and civilians.
Hong Kong’s Chief Executive Carrie Lam has finally announced a full withdrawal of the controversial extradition treaty with China that triggered three months of relentless mass protests. Lam had initially suspended the bill but refused to withdraw it. This week her government finally backed down but protesters say it is too little, too late. The mass movement that has drawn more than a quarter of all residents to the streets of Hong Kong now wants broader assurances against Chinese domination of the semi-autonomous region and Chinese deference to the idea of “one country, two systems.” Hong Kongers also want accountability for the brutal tactics of police in quelling the protests.
And finally in Britain Prime Minister Boris Johnson continues to face an uphill battle to convince his nation to back a no-deal Brexit from the EU. Angry about Labor Party leader Jeremy Corbyn’s opposition to a snap election on October 14th, Johnson called Corbyn a “big girl’s blouse” and accused him of being a “chlorinated chicken.”