Political Roundup

In this week’s headlines...

Throughout the past week, President Trump has been occupied with the issue of the caravan of migrants coming to the United States from Central America. The caravan, consisting of around 1000 migrants, is organized by Pueblo Sin Fronteras (People Without Borders), and it is in its fifth year of operation. It consists of people fleeing poverty and violence, mainly coming from Honduras. The caravan has been traveling through Mexico toward the United States, where the migrants wish to apply for asylum. There are also immigration rights groups working with the migrants, informing and preparing them for the process of applying for asylum. The response from Trump on the situation came in the form of tweets shortly after “Fox and Friends” ran the story. In his tweets, he referenced claims brought up in the segment as well as denouncing what he called the “Weak Laws” Border, threatening to exit NAFTA and accusing migrants of trying to take advantage of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program (DACA). However, the migrants crossing Mexico cannot apply for DACA, since the program covers only those who came to the United States before 2012. Moreover, the program was canceled by Trump in September 2017. On Wednesday, April 4, Trump ordered the National Guard to deploy to America’s southern border (CNN, “Trump orders National Guard troops to the US-Mexico border,” 04.04.2018; CNN, “Immigrant ‘caravan’ heading to US-Mexico border sparks Trump’s concern,” 04.02.2018. The Economist, “Donald Trump takes a hard turn on immigration,” 04.05.2018).

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has drastically lowered emission standards, and EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt is backing a single national standard for emissions. This has created a conflict with the state of California, where the rules on emissions are much stricter than in the rest of the country. Pruitt has also faced criticism for a number of ethical issues, especially his high bills on first-class travel and expensive office furniture as well as renting an apartment from the wife of a Washington lobbyist (CNN, “Trump meets with Pruitt amid mounting controversy,” 04.06.2018).

In a shooting at the YouTube headquarters in California on April 3, three employees were wounded. The shooter, Nasim Aghdam, took her own life. She is suspected of holding a grudge against YouTube for filtering some of her videos (The Guardian, “YouTube shooting: apparent motive highlights tension with video ‘creators,’” 04.04.2018).

In the escalating trade conflict with China, on April 4 the United States proposed tariffs on $50 billion worth of Chinese products that are imported into the country. After China responded by proposing tariffs on $50 billion of American products, Trump announced on April 5 that he is considering additional tariffs on $100 billion of Chinese imports to punish the country for retaliating (The New York Times, “Trump Doubles Down on Potential Trade War With China,” 04.05.2018).

This past weekend, a suspected chemical attack killed at least 48 people in a rebel-held town in Douma, Syria. Trump condemned the attack and blamed it on the Syrian regime. In a tweet, he further criticized Russian President Vladimir Putin for supporting the regime. Trump also walked back his claims that he would withdraw American troops from Syria after pushback from the Pentagon (CNN, “Trump says US ‘cannot allow’ Syrian chemical weapons attacks,” 04.09.2018).

 

Around the world…

In France, the four largest railway unions went on strike from April 2 to April 5, protesting the labor reforms proposed by President Emmanuel Macron, which would strip benefits from some state workers. This plunged France into a transportation chaos. Macron plans on opening up the train lines to competition while denying job security and early retirement from the workers. This is just one of many labor demonstrations in the past month, including protests by energy workers, Air France employees, garbage collectors and students (Bloomberg, “France Faces Transport Chaos as Unions Protest Macron Plans,” 04.02.2018).

Former Brazilian President Lula da Silva will be jailed, while he appeals against a 12-year sentence for accepting a bribe from a construction company. Last Wednesday, Brazil’s supreme court rejected the plea by Silva’s lawyers that their client not be sent to prison until he had exhausted all possible appeals. The conviction makes it impossible for Silva to run again in the presidential elections in October, despite his lead in the polls. The decision by the court might be seen by Silva’s supporters as a political attack on the president and could delegitimize October’s elections (The Economist, “Brazil’s Lula and government by judges,” 04.05.2018).

The agreement between Israel and the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) to relocate thousands of African migrants who came to Israel illegally and are seeking asylum has been canceled. The deal would resettle some in the West, while others would be able to stay in Israel. After Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu announced the deal with the UNHCR on Monday, April 2, he experienced backlash from his nationalist voter base on social media, as well as from right-wing politicians. On Tuesday, Netanyahu canceled the deal, saying, “We will continue to act with determination to explore all of the options at our disposal to remove the infiltrators” (Reuters, “Israel’s Netanyahu scraps African migrant relocation deal with U.N.,” 04.03.2018).

Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia Muhammad bin Salman said on April 2, “I believe the Palestinians and the Israelis have the right to have their own land.” He added that the establishment of formal relations would be mutually beneficial. This change in rhetoric might be a result of the prince’s close relationship with the Trump administration, especially the President’s adviser and son-in-law Jared Kushner, who has been tasked with solving the Israeli-Palestine conflict (The New York Times, “Saudi Prince Says Israelis Have Right to ‘Their Own Land’,” 04.03.2018).

Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah al-Sisi was re-elected to a second term with 97 percent of the vote, with some voters claiming that they were paid to cast their ballots. Sisi has been in power since Spring 2004, when he left his military career to run for office (CNN, “Egyptian President Sisi wins the second term with 97 percent of vote,” 04.02.2018).

Keeping up with 2020 hopefuls…

Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) told reporters on April 5 that if she wins re-election as a Massachusetts senator this fall, she plans on serving the full six-year term. This would prevent her from running for president in 2020 (CNN, “#2020Vision: Harris on corporate cash, Warren’s plan to serve six-year Senate term, Kander hires Iowa reporter,” 04.08.2018).

Senator Bernie Sanders (I-VT) held a town hall event in Mississippi, during which he criticized the Democratic Party’s “business model” as well as saying that Democrats have lost a large number of legislature seats in the past years. According to Sanders, democratic failure has been widely overlooked due to Former President Obama’s charisma. This sparked controversy among many Democrats (CNN, “#2020 Vision”).

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