August 18, 2017
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HEADLINES: August 1, 2017

White House Comms Director Anthony Scaramucci Fired After 10 Days

The White House on Monday fired communications director Anthony Scaramucci—just 10 days after he was hired—capping a tumultuous week that saw Scaramucci repeatedly insult his colleagues in vulgar and sexually explicit terms. The departure came just days after Trump fired Scaramucci’s White House rival, former Chief of Staff Reince Priebus, and less than two weeks after former Press Secretary Sean Spicer resigned in protest of Scaramucci’s appointment. On Twitter, President Trump dismissed reports of turmoil within his administration, tweeting a boast about stock market and employment numbers and adding, "No WH chaos!" This is Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders, speaking Monday.

Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders: "I think it’s pretty simple. I’ve said it before: If you want to see chaos, come to my house with three preschoolers. This doesn’t hold a candle to that."

Scaramucci was reportedly fired by John Kelly, just after the retired Marine Corps general was sworn in as chief of staff Monday. At the White House, President Trump praised Kelly over his brief tenure as head of the Department of Homeland Security.

President Donald Trump: "This is our first Cabinet meeting with General Kelly. He will be chief of staff, as you know. We all know him. We respect him, admire what he’s done. And at Homeland, what he has done has been nothing short of miraculous. As you know, the border was a tremendous problem, and now close to 80 percent stoppage."

As head of DHS, Kelly has presided over major Immigration and Customs Enforcement raids against undocumented immigrants. ICE has also been accused of specifically targeting undocumented activists for arrest and possible deportation.

Russia Mobilizes Troops as Pence Pledges U.S. Support to Former Soviet State 

In Russia, State Department staff said Monday they were barred from retrieving their personal items from a property used by U.S. diplomats on the outskirts of Moscow, as Russia’s government struck back against a move by the U.S. Congress to ratchet up sanctions on Russia. President Vladimir Putin has ordered 755 U.S. staff to withdraw from the diplomatic missions in Moscow and elsewhere. Meanwhile, Russia said it would send up to 100,000 troops to the eastern edge of NATO territory by the end of summer, and stepped up ongoing military maneuvers. The tensions came as Vice President Mike Pence continued a tour of former Soviet states, threatening retaliation against any Russian aggression. This is Pence speaking Monday at the headquarters of Estonia’s defense forces.

Vice President Mike Pence: "President Trump has called on Russia to cease its destabilizing activities in Ukraine and elsewhere and to cease its support for hostile regimes like North Korea and Iran. And under President Trump, the United States will continue to hold Russia accountable for its actions. And we call on our European allies and friends to do the same."

Pence later traveled to the former Soviet republic of Georgia, where he promised U.S. support for Georgia’s territorial integrity. In 2008, Russian forces invaded the Georgian regions of Abkhazia and South Ossetia.

Arizona Sheriff Joe Arpaio in Contempt of Court over Immigration Raids

In Arizona, former Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio was convicted Monday of criminal contempt of court for defying a court order to stop his deputies from acting as immigration enforcement agents. Under the ruling by U.S. District Judge Susan Bolton, Arpaio could face up to six months in prison after a sentencing phase in October. The 85-year-old Arpaio said in a statement he would appeal the ruling and press for a trial by jury. Arpaio is a major supporter of Donald Trump whose policies have included racial profiling and detaining immigrants in a scorching outdoor tent city jail, which Arpaio once referred to as his own "concentration camp."

Romulo Avelica-Gonzalez, Father of Four, Faces Deportation

In Los Angeles, California, longtime U.S. resident and father of four Romulo Avelica-Gonzalez faces deportation as soon as next week, despite a national campaign seeking his release after ICE immigration agents arrested him in late February. Video taken by Avelica-Gonzalez’s 13-year-old daughter Fatima shows her sobbing as her father was detained by ICE agents as he was driving the girl to school. Avelica-Gonzalez has lived in the United States for more than two decades. Immigration advocates fear his arrest signals a shift in ICE’s long-standing policy against conducting enforcement activities at so-called sensitive locations, like schools, churches and hospitals.

WaPo: President Trump Authored False Donald Jr. Statement on Russia Meeting

President Trump personally dictated a false and misleading statement—attributed to Donald Trump Jr.—about a meeting the president’s son arranged with a Russian lawyer during the 2016 campaign. That’s according to The Washington Post, which reported President Trump’s decision to withhold important details about the meeting came over objections from his senior advisers, who wanted to provide a truthful account in case full details later emerged. Donald Trump Jr. accepted the meeting after receiving an email from an associate describing it as an attempt by the Russian government to peddle information incriminating Hillary Clinton. The statement dictated by President Trump described the meeting as short and not focused on campaign-related issues.

Venezuelan Opposition Leaders Arrested As U.S. Sanctions President Maduro

In Venezuela, two prominent leaders of the right-wing opposition—Leopoldo López and Antonio Ledezma—were reportedly taken from their homes early this morning by security forces. Both men were already under house arrest. Their arrests came after the Trump administration announced new sanctions on Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro and branded him "a dictator." Maduro claimed victory in Sunday’s controversial election over whether to create a National Constituent Assembly, which the Venezuelan right-wing opposition says is an attempt by Maduro to further consolidate his power. The U.S. sanctions were announced at a White House press conference on Monday by Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster.

Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin: "As a result of today’s sanctions, all assets of Maduro subject to U.S. jurisdiction are frozen, and U.S. persons are prohibited from dealing with him."

H.R. McMaster: "Maduro is not just a bad leader, he is now a dictator. The United States stands with the people of Venezuela in the face of this oppression."

It’s unclear if the U.S. will impose broader economic sanctions on Venezuela, as the country suffers from high inflation and chronic food shortages. After headlines, we’ll hold a debate about the crisis in Venezuela.

Syria: Hezbollah Prisoners Swapped for Rebels; U.S.-Led Strikes Kill Raqqa Civilians

In Syria, convoys of buses have arrived near the Lebanese border ahead of a plan to exchange 9,000 rebels with the Nusra Front and their relatives for imprisoned members of Lebanon’s Hezbollah militia, who support Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. The exchange came as heavy fighting continued to rage around the ISIS-held city of Raqqa in northern Syria. The journalistic monitoring group Airwars reports a U.S.-led coalition leveled a home in Raqqa Friday, killing 15 members of the Al-Zana family, including eight children. Airwars also cited separate U.S.-led attacks in Deir ez-Zor that killed five civilians.

Iraq: Children Among the Dead in U.S.-Led Coalition Attack in Hawija

In Iraq, Airwars reported a U.S.-led assault killed 10 civilians from a single family Sunday, when an airstrike hit their home in the town of Hawija. Airwars cited a local source who reported the dead were mostly children.

Former British PM Tony Blair Won't Face Prosecution over Iraq Invasion

Meanwhile, Great Britain’s High Court ruled Monday that former Prime Minister Tony Blair should not face prosecution for leading the U.K. into the 2003 invasion of Iraq. The court’s chief justice declared there was no "crime of aggression" in English law under which Blair could be charged. The ruling came despite a 2016 report that found Blair deliberately exaggerated the threat posed by Saddam Hussein in the lead-up to war and that intelligence agencies warned Blair that the invasion would increase the threat posed by al-Qaeda and other militant groups.

Saudi Women's Rights Activist Freed After 104 Days in Jail Without Trial

In Saudi Arabia, authorities have freed prominent women’s rights activist Maryam al-Otaibi from prison after she was held 104 days without trial. Maryam al-Otaibi was arrested in April after she accused one of her brothers of domestic abuse, prompting her father to have her locked up on accusations of "disobedience." At the time of her arrest, Otaibi was protesting the monarchy’s harsh laws prohibiting women from participating in civic life and requiring women to travel with a male guardian outside of the home. She was released Sunday without the permission of her family, and without a male guardian present, as typically required by Saudi law. Her release was hailed by Saudi women’s rights activists, who drew attention to Otaibi’s plight with an online campaign using the hashtag #IAmMyOwnGuardian.

Kenyan Election Official Found Tortured, Murdered Ahead of Presidential Vote 

In Kenya, a senior election official was found murdered and bearing signs of torture Monday, just one week before Kenyans head to the polls for a hotly contested presidential election. Christopher Chege Musando, who was tasked with overseeing Kenya’s electronic voting system, had been missing three days before his body turned up in Nairobi. The murder stoked fears of a repeat of violence after an election 10 years ago, which saw about 1,200 people die and more than a half-million displaced in fighting among different ethnic groups.

Mexican Journalist Luciano Rivera Salgado Killed in Baja California

In Baja, California, journalist Luciano Rivera Salgado was shot in the head at a seaside bar early Monday, becoming at least the eighth media worker killed in Mexico this year. It’s not clear whether Salgado was killed because of his work as a journalist. Camera footage from inside the bar reportedly showed other patrons becoming angered when Salgado defended a group of women who were being harassed. The Committee to Protect Journalists has named Mexico the Western Hemisphere’s most dangerous country for reporters.

Richmond, California: 2 Arrested Protesting Kinder Morgan Pipeline

Back in the U.S., two protesters in Richmond, California, were arrested Monday outside the gates of a Kinder Morgan oil terminal, as they locked themselves to oil barrels in a nonviolent protest against the company’s plans to build a new Trans Mountain pipeline in Canada. The project would triple the capacity of an existing tar sands pipeline in British Columbia to 890,000 barrels per day. Opponents also want the company to halt shipments of tar sands oil to refineries in the San Francisco Bay Area. This is Richmond activist Andrés Soto of Communities for a Better Environment.

Andrés Soto: "The higher sulfur content leads to faster corrosion of steel, that led to things like the explosion on August 6, 2012, here at the Chevron Richmond refinery. But also it creates more greenhouse gases and more particulate pollution. The greenhouse gases are destroying our atmosphere. And the particulate pollution is creating death and disease in our fenceline communities, like Richmond, California."

Warming from Climate Change Very Likely to Exceed 2 Degrees Celsius by 2100

Monday’s protest came as a new study found there’s only a 1-in-20 chance the planet will avoid warming by at least 2 degrees Celsius—or 3.6 degrees Fahrenheit—by the end of the century. The study, published in Nature Climate Change, finds it’s extremely unlikely countries will meet the goals set out by the Paris climate accord in 2015—especially since the Trump administration has promised to withdraw the U.S. from the deal. Meanwhile, a separate study published Monday by the University of North Carolina estimates climate change will cause 60,000 deaths globally in 2030 and 260,000 deaths by 2100.

Tennessee: Video Shows Officers Tasering Teen in Restraint Chair

In Tennessee, three Cheatham County sheriff’s deputies are on administrative leave after video emerged showing them tasing an 18-year-old repeatedly while he was strapped in a restraint chair. The jailhouse video shows Jordan Elias Norris, who was arrested on marijuana and weapons charges, bound to the chair by the hands and feet and writhing in agony while the officers jab him in the ribs and electrocute him. One officer is heard telling Norris, "I’ll keep on doing that until I run out of batteries." Norris has filed a federal civil rights lawsuit, saying he was left "wanting to die" as he was tortured for over three hours, leaving him with more than 40 Taser burns on his body.

Washington, D.C., Officer Suspended over White Supremacist T-Shirt

And in Washington, D.C., a police officer has been suspended after he wore a white supremacist T-shirt while on duty. The shirt shows a Grim Reaper holding a rifle with the Washington, D.C., flag attached to it. Above the flag are the words "powershift," which refers to the officers assigned to areas with high amounts of crime. On the "O" in "powershift" is the image of a type of cross that the Anti-Defamation League says is the same symbol used on a neo-Nazi website.


Courtesy of Democracy Now

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