Political Roundup

In Our Headlines …

[Content Warning: Contains discussion of mass violence.]

A gunman entered the Chabad of Poway Synagogue, 25 miles away from San Diego, and opened fire on the congregation with an AR-15, killing one woman and leaving three people wounded on April 27, 2019. This attack took place during Shabbat and the final day of Passover. It is one of the most recent attacks against a house of worship on a holy day—after the shooting in New Zealand during Friday Prayers and the bombs against Christians observing Easter in Sri Lanka—occurring exactly six months after the shooting at the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh. The gunman, a 19-year-old San Diego native, shouted anti-Semitic expletives as he entered the synagogue. Police have categorized the attack as a hate crime. The rabbi, who was one of the wounded, stated that the victims were given medical care at a hospital. The number of people present at the synagogue was larger than usual in observance of the holy day, and the deceased woman was there to mourn the recent death of her mother (The New York Times, “One Dead in Synagogue Shooting Near San Diego; Officials Call It Hate Crime,” 04.27.2019).

For the third year in a row, President Donald Trump skipped the White House Correspondents’ Dinner, which celebrates the press and its coverage of the President and White House. Trump has not attended a single Correspondents’ Dinner taking place throughout his presidency. This year, historian Ron Chernow delivered the keynote address in place of a comedian, following Hasan Minhaj, a Muslim-American who ripped Trump’s Muslim ban, and Michelle Wolf, whose set was labeled risque and harsh after she criticized Sarah Sanders. Chernow still took the opportunity to make several jokes, including a jab at Trump’s statement that George Washington should have named Mount Vernon after himself. Likewise, Chernow criticized Trump’s frequent attacks on the press, stating, “When you chip away at the press, you chip away at our democracy.” Trump himself was in Green Bay, Wisconsin, at a rally ahead of the 2020 presidential election (Insider, “The White House Correspondents’ Dinner didn’t have Trump in attendance or a comedian as host, but there were still a few jabs at the president,” 04.28.2019).

Attorney General William Barr and House Democrats clashed this past weekend over Barr’s refusal to testify about his summary of Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s report in front of the House Judiciary Committee. Specifically, Barr rejected both the way Thursday’s testimony is to be structured and its focus on the Special Counsel report. Committee Chairman Jerrold Nadler (D-N.Y.) stated that the House would subpoena Barr if necessary as the fight over the Trump administration’s past misdeeds and filings come into greater scrutiny. White House lawyers indicated that they told officials such as former White House Counsel Donald McGahn II not to comply with subpoenas, not long after the administration refused to turn over Trump’s tax returns (The New York Times, “Barr Threatens Not to Testify Before House, but Democrats May Subpoena Him,” 04.28.2019).

Around the World…

After the largest terrorist attack against an Asian nation in modern history on Easter in Sri Lanka claimed the lives of over 250 people and wounded several hundred others, violence has spread across the island. Fifteen people, six of whom were children, died in bomb blasts in the seaside town of Sainthamaruthu, home to a large Muslim community. The police were looking for suspects responsible for the string of terror attacks and on April 26, 2019, the vice-chairman of a local mosque reported concerns to police from a local landlord, who stated that the new occupants of his building were behaving suspiciously. The man who answered the door when members of the mosque visited the home came from Kattankudy, the town of origin for the main orchestrator of the terror attacks.After the locals from the mosque asked him and his group to leave, a local shopkeeper stopped by the home and was threatened by the man from Kattankudy. The bombs were then detonated, destroying the house and much of the street. The police, after arriving on the scene, discovered a house three miles away with more explosives. The man from Kattankudy, identified as “Niyaz,” was shot dead. Sri Lanka’s president denounced the Islamic extremism and is taking measures to track individuals, as was done to identify separatist Tamils after the end of the civil war in 2009 (The Washington Post, “A Sri Lankan town grew suspicious of the newcomers. Then came mayhem as police closed in,” 04.27.2019)

Voters in Spain went to the polls for the third national election in four years, in a snap election that represents the nation’s increasing polarization and drift towards the far-right. Last June’s elections came when current Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez and the Socialist party ousted his Popular Party predecessor, Mariano Rajoy, over a corruption scandal. Now, Sánchez is calling for a snap election after his coalition in the Parliament collapsed over votes for a national budget in February. Among the key issues of this election is the conflict over Catalan secession, and opponents of the Socialist Party accused Sánchez of treason for engaging in dialogue with Catalan and Basque nationalists. The Socialists are expected to gain the most seats among Spain’s five major political parties, but not enough to earn the 176 seats required to form a majority. Likewise, the far-right Vox party, which calls for controls on illegal immigration and the removal of regional governments, is expected to gain more seats. The election, set for May 26, is one of the most unpredictable in Europe right now (The New York Times, “Spain Election: Divided Nation Holds 3rd National Vote since 2015,” 04.28.2019).

The Libyan capital of Tripoli emerged at the center of a conflict between the current government and the Libyan National Army, headed by General Khalifa Haftar. On April 28, 2019, airstrikes in the city killed four people and wounded four others, according to a statement from the currently recognized government headed by Prime Minister Fayez al-Sarraj. All victims were civilians. One source present at the time of the attacks stated, “Most of the strikes hit areas in the district of Abou Slim…[but] none hit military targets.” Clashes between the government and the LNA have turned the streets of Tripoli into a battlefield, and the fighting thus far has killed 278 people, wounded 1,300 and forced more than 35,000 to leave their homes. The UN, supported specifically by Germany, France and the United Kingdom, attempted to broker a ceasefire on April 18. The United States and Russia opposed the failed truce (Deutsche Welle, “Libya: Tripoli hit by airstrikes,” 04.28.2019).

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