Headlines: September 6, 2019
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The White House is reportedly considering cutting the US’s refugee admissions to nearly zero. For decades the program has admitted tens of thousands of people from all over the world fleeing persecution but under President Donald Trump the number being admitted has dramatically dropped. Now, according to the New York Times, which broke the story, Trump is considering several options that would, “all but end the United States’ status as one of the leading places accepting refugees from around the world.” A spokesperson for the group Refugees International told the paper, “At a time when the number of refugees is at the highest level in recorded history, the United States has abandoned world leadership in resettling vulnerable people in need of protection…The result is a world that is less compassionate and less able to deal with future humanitarian challenges.”
The Labor Department announced on Friday that the US economy added a disappointing 130,000 jobs in August, below the 160,000 that some economists had estimated. According to the Washington Post, “anemic hiring in manufacturing, mining, truck driving and retail — industries that are most directly affected by the trade war — helped drag employment gains down this summer.” Meanwhile the Federal Reserve published a report this week estimating that the costs to the US economy of uncertainty triggered by President Trump’s trade war is hundreds of billions of dollars. On the global scale the loss ads up to about $850 billion.
The Trump administration released a major plan this week to revamp the housing market. At the center of the plan is the privatizing of Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae, the two government-backed mortgage lenders that have helped finance about half of all home mortgages in the US. According to the Washington Post, “The long-awaited plan from the Treasury Department features nearly 50 proposals, including many technical changes to financial regulations, and is aimed at shrinking the government’s role in the housing market.” According to Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin Trump’s plan would, “protect taxpayers and help Americans who want to buy a home.” But Mike Calhoun, president of the nonprofit Center for Responsible Lending told NPR, “For working class Americans who want to buy a house this could make it much more difficult to get a mortgage and make the mortgage much more expensive.”
The Washington Post Editorial Board published a strongly worded opinion on Friday accusing President Trump of using the Russia-Ukraine conflict to meddle in the 2020 Presidential election. The US has been providing military aid to Ukraine to help stave off Russian incursions on its border. But the Post’s editors write, “we’re reliably told that the president … is attempting to force [Ukrainian President] Mr. Zelensky to intervene in the 2020 U.S. presidential election by launching an investigation of the leading Democratic candidate, Joe Biden. Mr. Trump is not just soliciting Ukraine’s help with his presidential campaign; he is using U.S. military aid the country desperately needs in an attempt to extort it.” Trump’s personal lawyer Rudy Guiliani has openly admitted this tactic.
The House Oversight Committee has launched an investigation into Vice President Mike Pence’s taxpayer funded stay at Trump’s golf resort in Ireland this week. The committee wants to know if the President improperly benefited financially. Pence stayed at the resort even though it was on the opposite side of the country where his meetings were being held and that the entire trip cost taxpayers $3.6 million. Meanwhile Pence’s Irish hosts took great issue with his attitude during the visit saying that his praise of British Prime Minister Boris Johnson amounted to a “betrayal,” and “humiliation.”
The Government Accountability Office has concluded that the Trump administration broke the law last year when it used entrance fees from National Parks to maintain and service the parks. The entrance fees are meant to support visitor services and in moving money around without congressional approval the government violated at least two laws, the Federal Lands Recreation Enhancement Act and the Antideficiency Act. In its 17 page report the GAO said, “Instead of carrying out the law, [the] Interior [Department] improperly imposed its own will…Interior cannot select which restraints apply to its appropriations and when these restraints apply.”
In news related to Hurricane Dorian, the Washington Post reports that, “A White House official says it was President Trump himself who used the black Sharpie to doctor an official government map, which he then displayed during an Oval Office briefing, to falsely add Alabama into Hurricane Dorian’s potential pathway.” Trump had repeatedly maintained that the Hurricane would hit Alabama and then apparently doctored a map so it would be consistent with his false assertion. Analysts are citing a law that Trump may have broken when he altered the map. Meanwhile several hashtags related to the story have gone viral on social media including, “#SharpieGate, #TrumpSharpie and #SharpiePresident”
Meanwhile Dorian is causing major flooding across the Carolinas with some people reportedly being stuck in their attics to ride out the rising waters. People who defied evacuation orders on an island off the North Carolina coast called Ocracoke are now in need of rescuing. Residents report never having seen this sort of flooding in their lifetimes. The hurricane made landfall on Cape Hatteras with 90 mph winds. And in the Bahamas, which was devastated by the same hurricane, aid efforts are slowly gaining momentum as Bahamians begin picking through the rubble of their homes. So far 30 people have been confirmed dead but thousands remain missing and there are concerns about bodies in the flood waters causing disease and contamination.
While the US’s East Coast is contending with record-breaking storms, the West Coast is dealing with wildfires – both phenomena linked to climate change. The Tenaja fire raging in Southern California’s Riverside County has been fueled by a heat wave this week. Firefighters are not sure which way the fire will move and so far only 10% of it has been contained.
In Britain Boris Johnson’s brother Jo Johnson, has resigned his position as a member of Parliament in the latest chapter of the chaotic Brexit saga. The Prime Minister’s brother said in a tweet, “In recent weeks I’ve been torn between family loyalty and the national interest – it’s an unresolvable tension & time for others to take on my roles as MP & Minister.” Also Mr. Boris Johnson’s bid for a snap election was just voted down by opposition parties who say they would not support his desire until he secures another delay for a Brexit deal. Johnson has said he would not be seeking another delay, increasing the odds that Britain would hurtle out of the EU without a deal in place. Meanwhile a court just reaffirmed Johnson’s right to suspend Parliament for several weeks ahead of the October 31st deadline.
And finally Robert Mugabe has died. The Zimbabwean freedom-fighter-turned-dictator was 95. Mugabe rose to power as Zimbabwe’s first post-colonial Prime Minister and then became President – a position he held on to for decades. He was in Singapore seeking medical treatment when he passed away. His successor President Emmerson Mnangagwa announced Mugabe’s death. Mugabe was a controversial figure, standing up to Western power and domination but turning increasingly brutal toward his own population and holding onto power undemocratically for far too long.