Political Roundup

This week’s headlines…

Tropical storm Florence—downgraded from its prior classification as a hurricane— made its way through the Carolinas from Sept. 14–18. The storm’s floods overtook areas along the shoreline, leading thousands of people to require rescue and leaving nearly a million households without electricity. Many cities issued mandatory evacuations as record-breaking amounts of rainfall poured onto the state of North Carolina. Thirty-four deaths have been reported in connection with the storm, and rescue operations are underway along the coast (The Washington Post, “Florence: At least five dead, nearly 1 million without power as storm swamps Carolinas,” 09.15.2018).

The Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) has condemned the Trump administration for its decision to shutter the organization’s office in Washington, D.C., a move it says was motivated by the PLO’s lack of attempts to build a meaningful relationship with Israel. Palestinian diplomat and parliamentarian Saeb Erekat stated in a press release that the Palestinian people will not succumb to “U.S. threats and bullying,” a sentiment shared by others who view the decision—which was spearheaded by Senior Advisor to the President Jared Kushner—as a push for Palestinians to negotiate with Israel. He also called for the International Criminal Court to prosecute Israel for war crimes. This further exacerbates tensions between the Trump administration and Palestine after the administration froze $251 million in aid and moved the U.S. embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem in May (NPR, “Trump Administration To Close Palestine Liberation Organization Office In D.C.,” 09.10.2018).

Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) confirmed on Thursday that a former classmate of Supreme Court nominee Judge Brett Kavanaugh sent her a letter alleging that Kavanaugh had sexually assaulted her at a high school party over 30 years ago. The author of the letter, Christine Blasey Ford, later revealed her identity to The Washington Post on Sept. 16. Feinstein’s neglect in reporting the letter’s contents to the Senate Judiciary Committee stirred controversy. Kavanaugh and Ford are set to testify before the Senate on Monday (The New Yorker, “A Sexual-Misconduct Allegation Against the Supreme Court Nominee Brett Kavanaugh Stirs Tension Among Democrats in Congress,” 09.14.2018).

New York State held its primary elections this past Thursday, Sept. 13. Governor of New York Andrew Cuomo secured the Democratic gubernatorial nod in a race against Cynthia Nixon, an actress-turned-activist who has not previously held public office. Cuomo led with 65.6 percent of the vote. Nixon gained popularity among young voters disillusioned with Cuomo’s administration and with his perceived ineffectiveness in fighting the mass incarceration of Black and Hispanic people for drug offenses. Cuomo will face Republican candidate Marc Molinaro this November. Poughkeepsie’s Congressional Representative Sean Patrick Maloney unsuccessfully ran for Attorney General of New York State; his seat in Capitol Hill will be up for re-election this November (The New York Times, “New York Primary Election Results,” 09.14.2018).

Former Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort accepted a plea deal with Special Counsel Robert Mueller and the Justice Department on Friday following Manafort’s guilty plea of conspiracy against the United States and conspiracy to obstruct justice. The Justice Department will drop other criminal charges—including money laundering to evade paying $15 million in taxes and foreign lobbying in the Ukraine that brought Manafort over $60 million—should Manafort comply with the terms of the agreement (CNN, “Paul Manafort pleads guilt and agrees to cooper- ate with Mueller investigation,” 09.14.2018).

Around the world…

Australian cartoonist Mark Knight faced widespread condemnation for his cartoon of Serena Williams’ loss to Japanese-Haitian player Naomi Osaka at the U.S. Open on Saturday. He depicted Williams, a 23-time Grand Slam singles winner, in a style evocative of racist caricatures and made Osaka’s character a white woman. Both Knight and the publisher of the cartoon, The Herald Sun, have defended the cartoon as having nothing to do with gender or race (The Guardian, “‘Repugnant, racist’: News Corp cartoon on Serena Williams condemned,” 09.10.2018).

The Catholic Church is facing historic strife as news of widespread child abuse committed by members of the clergy has emerged. In Germany, reports have surfaced that, over the past seven decades, at least 1,670 priests were involved in the sexual abuse of over 3,677 children. At the request of Cardinal Daniel DiNardo, Pope Francis convened with members of the American Archdiocese on Sept. 13 to address the crisis in the United States. This news came after a Pennsylvania grand jury published a report that over 1,000 children had been abused by 300 priests, allegations covered up by the Church (NPR, “U.S. Leaders Of ‘Lacerated’ Catholic Church Meet Pope To Discuss Sex Abuse Crisis,” 09.13.2018).

Italy and Germany are engaged in negotiations over the transfer of refugees from Germany who had applied for asylum in Italy. German Interior Minister Horst Seehofer announced on Thursday that the two nations had struck a deal, but Italian Deputy Prime Minister Matteo Salvini rebuked the statement on Friday by stating that further concessions were necessary. (Reuters, “Italy hesitates over refugee deal with Germany, seeks concessions,” 09.14.2018).

At the World Economic Forum on Thursday, Myanmar’s State Counsellor Aung San Suu Kyi broke her silence on the jailing of two Reuters journalists found guilty of breaking the Official Secrets Act after reporting on the Rohingya genocide. She reaffirmed the validity of the jailing, stating, “They were not jailed because they were journalists, they were jailed because…the court has decided that they have broken the Official Secrets Act.” The Nobel laureate has come under international condemnation for the mass murder of Rohingya Muslims by Burmese military forces, and many have called on her to pardon the journalists (Al Jazeera, “Myanmar leader Suu Kyi defends journalists’ imprisonment,” 09.13.2018).

Weeks after Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro instituted a new currency, inflation in Venezuela has reached 100 percent. The Venezuelan government removed five zeros over the summer from the value of the bolívar to combat hyperinflation that reached levels above 100,000 percent, and Maduro has relaxed rules tightly controlling foreign currency exchange, actions that many have analyzed as increasingly desperate. The government also raised the minimum wage 3,000 percent in an effort by Maduro to improve his political popularity, leading companies to let go of workers whom they cannot afford to keep (Bloomberg, “Venezuela Raises Minimum Wage 3,000 percent and Lots of Workers Get Fired,” 09.14.2018).

2020 hopefuls…

Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) has reestablished herself as a frontrunner for the 2020 Democratic presidential nomination, presenting herself as a champion of the progressive wing. Senators Kamala Harris (D-CA) and Cory Booker (D-NJ) took advantage of the exposure presented by the Kavanaugh hearings in a manner emulative of Barack Obama’s tenure as senator. Former Vice President Joe Biden also remains a strong contender as a well-regarded leader of the Democrats, but he may fare poorly as Democrats become increasingly progressive (CNN, “Booker, Harris emulate Obama, Clinton using Senate hearing as presidential launchpad,” 09.07.2018).

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