Headlines: September 9, 2019
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The highly anticipated culmination of peace talks between the US and Afghanistan’s Taliban abruptly ended in disarray over the weekend after President Donald Trump announced in a series of tweets on Saturday that he had planned a secret meeting with the Taliban and Afghan President Ashraf Ghani at Camp David – but then cancelled that meeting. He wrote, “Unbeknownst to almost everyone, the major Taliban leaders and, separately, the President of Afghanistan, were going to secretly meet with me at Camp David on Sunday. They were coming to the United States tonight.” Trump then added, “Unfortunately, in order to build false leverage, they admitted to an attack in Kabul that killed one of our great great soldiers, and 11 other people. I immediately cancelled the meeting and called off peace negotiations.” A day later Secretary of State Mike Pompeo speaking on ABC with host George Stephanopoulos attempted to explain the President’s logic.
Meanwhile the New York Times revealed the inside story of how the plan to invite the Taliban onto US soil just days before the anniversary of the 9/11 attacks happened. According to the paper, “Mr. Trump … would not only bring the Taliban to Washington, but to Camp David, the crown jewel of the American presidency. The leaders of a rugged militant organization deemed terrorists by the United States would be hosted in the mountain getaway used for presidents, prime ministers and kings just three days before the anniversary of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks that led to the Afghan war.” The paper also said, “What would have been one of the biggest headline-grabbing moments of his tenure was put together on the spur of the moment and then canceled on the spur of the moment. The usual National Security Council process was dispensed with; only a small circle of advisers was even clued in.”
Congress is back in session on Monday and the House Judiciary Committee immediately announced it would vote this Thursday on the rules for impeachment hearings. The House Intelligence committee also jumped into high gear saying it would be investigating President Trump’s efforts to force Ukraine to meddle in the 2020 election based on public statements made by the Trump’s personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani. Other investigations of Trump’s recent doings include a move by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) to investigate why some of its staff backed the President on an incorrect assessment of Hurricane Dorian’s path. The incident is being referred to as “Sharpie-Gate” for the crudely drawn line on a map that Trump showed to press to make the false claim that the state of Alabama was in the hurricane’s path. When the National Weather Service contradicted the President, someone at the NOAA insisted that the President and not the NWS was correct. There is now a firestorm of opposition within the government agencies over what they see as dangerous politicization of their work. And the US Air Force will be investigating why some of it staff have been staying at Trump’s financially struggling golf resort in Scotland.
In election-related news, Republican Mark Sanford, former Governor of South Carolina, has announced his challenge of Mr. Trump for the Republican Presidential nomination. The states of Nevada, Arizona and Kansas, and Mr. Sanford’s own home state have announced they plan to cancel their primary elections and caucuses in a shocking show of deference to the Trump presidency. Meanwhile on the Democratic front, the New York Times analyzed how progressive candidate Elizabeth Warren has spent years wooing wealthy donors to her Presidential campaign up until recently when disavowed taking money from wealthy elites. But she didn’t return the very large nest egg she built up from big donors and has instead been spending the tainted cash.
Four of the top technological companies in the US, Amazon, Apple, Facebook and Google, are facing possible charges of anti-trust violations by a growing number of states including New York. Among the charges are whether Amazon favors its own products, if Apple leans toward its own apps on its app store, how Facebook has consolidated social media platforms, and what is behind Google’s search engine results. And, the group China Labor Watch just released a report focusing on how Apple and its China-based manufacturing partner Foxconn are violating a large number of labor rights.
A new poll by the Washington Post and ABC news on gun violence has found that 51% of the public trust Congress to overhaul the nation’s gun laws compared to only 36% who trust President Trump on the issue. According to the Post, “86 percent of Americans support implementing ‘red flag’ provisions, which allow guns to be taken from people judged to be a danger to themselves or others. And 89 percent support expanding federal background checks to cover private sales and gun-show transactions. Both measures are supported by at least 8 in 10 Republicans, white evangelical Christians, members of gun-owning households and other traditionally conservative groups.” Although there is the predictable partisan divide of Democrats leaning toward greater gun control over Republicans, Independent voters are siding much more with Democrats on this issue.
Politico published an explosive exposé of evangelical leader Jerry Falwell Jr. who leads the world’s largest Christian college, Liberty University. According to journalist Brandon Ambrosino, Falwell, who is a major backer of President Trump, “presides over a culture of self-dealing, directing university resources into projects and real estate deals in which his friends and family have stood to make personal financial gains.” One senior official said, “We’re not educating; we’re buying real estate every year and taking students’ money to do it.”
In international news, outrage is building over how a US ferry carrying hundreds of Bahamian refugees fleeing the devastation of Hurricane Dorian were prevented from entering the US because they did not have a US visa. The US Customs and Border Protection is claiming that the decision to demand visas was made by the private company operating the ferry and not a US government entity.
In Hong Kong protesters once more confronted their government over the weekend in spite of Chief Executive Carrie Lam withdrawing a controversial China extradition treaty. Media outlets described how some protesters sang the Star Spangled Banner, carried US flags, and called on President Trump to “liberate Hong Kong” from China’s domination. Clashes between police and protesters also continued as one prominent protester Joshua Wong found himself arrested after returning from Taiwan.
And finally on the latest in the Brexit saga in Britain, House of Commons speaker John Bercow has announced his resignation. According to the BBC, “Bercow says he will stand down as Commons Speaker and MP at the next election or on 31 October, whichever comes first.” Meanwhile as one of its last formal actions before it is forced to go into recess, the British Parliament passed a law requiring that Britain enter into an agreement with the European Union before the October 31st deadline. Prime Minister Boris Johnson, who has forced Parliament into recess ahead of the deadline promised to meet the requirements of the law but provided no details. Johnson met with Irish Prime Minister Leo Varadkar who is deeply worried about the border with Northern Ireland – which would be upended by a No-deal Brexit.