In this week’s headlines…
Christine Blasey Ford, who has accused Supreme Court nominee Judge Brett Kavanaugh of sexual assault, will testify before the Senate Judiciary Committee. Chairman Chuck Grassley (R-IA) agreed on the night of Friday, Sept. 21, to grant her an extension until Thursday, Sept. 27. Republican lawmakers, including Lindsey Graham (R-SC), have stated that this development will not impact their decision to nominate Kavanaugh, who has denied the allegations. Many analysts are now drawing comparisons to the mistreatment in 1991 of Anita Hill, who accused then-SCOTUS nominee Clarence Thomas of sexual assault (CNN, “Grassley agrees to give Ford more time to decide on Senate testimony,” 09.22.2018).
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo announced on Sept. 17 that the United States is limiting the number of refugees that it will accept next year to 30,000, down from this year’s already reduced figure of 45,000. Only 20,918 refugees have been admitted thus far in 2018. Senior Policy Advisor Stephen Miller attempted to have the program capped at 25,000, disregarding calls from lawmakers and refugee rights activists to maintain this year’s number. Those seeking refuge will be weighed against the 320,000 who have already applied for asylum, and another 730,000 are currently waiting for their cases to be resolved in immigration court (The New York Times, “Trump to Cap Refugees Allowed Into U.S. at 30,000, a Record Low,” 09.17.2018).
The White House is seeking to dramatically curb the number of legal migrants entering the country by proposing rules that would deny green cards to legal immigrants who receive public benefits, including food assistance and Medicare. The Department of Homeland Security attempted to justify the rule by stating on Sept. 22 that those receiving green card status should not rely upon public benefits (Slate, “White House Wants to Deny Green Cards to Immigrants Who Receive Public Benefits,” 09.23.2018).
President Trump has intensified the trade war with China, and Chinese officials canceled trade talks with the United States after the Trump administration indicated on Sept. 17 that it would place tariffs on $200 billion worth of Chinese goods. In retaliation, China placed tariffs on $60 billion worth of American goods, effective Sept. 24. Republican and Democratic lawmakers alike have raised concerns that the tariffs will harm the American economy, and both Trump and Pompeo have spoken out in support of the aggressive tactics (The Hill, “Pompeo: ‘We are determined to win’ trade war with China,” 09.23.2018).
In international news…
Twenty-nine people were killed and 70 were wounded during a military parade this past Saturday in the city of Ahvaz, in southwestern Iran. Four gunmen began firing at the procession, killing military personnel, civilians and one reporter. The city, located in the Khuzestan region, borders Iraq and has a large Sunni Arab population. Both the separatist Ahvaz National Resistance and Islamic State claimed responsibility for the attack; Supreme Leader of Iran Ayatollah Ali Khamenei blamed Saudi Arabia. Foreign Minister Javad Zarif tweeted on Sept. 22, “Iran holds regional terror sponsors and their U.S. masters accountable” (BBC, “Iran blames Gulf foes for deadly Ahvaz attack,” 09.22.2018).
On Sept. 19, former Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif was released from prison on bail. Sharif had served two months of his 10-year sentence after having been found guilty of corruption, a charge that he returned to Islamabad to appeal. His daughter Maryam Nawaz was sentenced to seven years, and her husband Muhammad Safdar Awan was sentenced to one. Sharif had begun his third non-consecutive term when revelations from the 2016 Panama Papers and a subsequent investigation appointed by the Pakistani Supreme Court revealed news of his financial dealings. Sharif has since been banned from public office, and his party lost control of the National Assembly and the prime minister position in July of this year (NPR, “Former Pakistani Prime Minister Released From Prison 2 Months Into 10-Year Sentence,” 09.19.2018).
In Brazil, competition for the upcoming presidential election on Oct. 7 has become increasingly intense. Former Army Captain and current candidate Jair Bolsonaro has been called the Donald Trump of Brazil; he is a far-right populist who promises widespread, anti-establishment reform at a time when the presidency has been wracked with years of corruption. Bolsonaro leads the polls by 26 points after surviving an assassination attempt earlier this month, in which he was stabbed at a campaign rally. However, his misogynistic, racist and homophobic taunts during the campaign have motivated Brazilian women—who represent 52 percent of the electorate—to mobilize against him (The Guardian, “‘Stop this disaster’: Brazilian women mobilize against ‘misogynist’ far-right Bolsonaro,” 09.21.2018).
Beginning on Sept. 18, North and South Korean leaders held a three-day summit, which culminated in an agreement to dismantle Pyongyang’s main nuclear complex, subject to American approval. Supreme Leader of North Korea Kim Jong Un met with Trump earlier this year in Singapore, and the meeting with President of South Korea Moon Jae In marks the first steps taken toward denuclearization of the Korean peninsula. Both sides are also committing to withdraw the 11 guard posts from the Demilitarized Zone and are working to open the border between the two nations. Kim has also agreed to meet with Trump for another round of talks (The Daily Beast, “North, South Korea Sign Agreement on Denuclearization,” 09.18.2018).
In our backyard…
New York Governor Andrew Cuomo’s campaign has aired television advertisements claiming that Corinne Adams, the wife of Cuomo’s Republican opponent Marc Molinaro, got a job employment from a construction firm in Dutchess County using her husband’s influence. Adams worked at Tinkelman Bros. Development Corporation from 2015 to 2018, and Cuomo claims that Tinkelman received tax breaks and contracts as a reward for hiring her. Molinaro angrily disputed the claims. The ads were first aired just as Cuomo’s aide Joseph Percoco was sentenced to six years in prison for corruption on Sept. 20 (Poughkeepsie Journal, “Marc Molinaro says his wife earned her job. Andrew Cuomo says it’s pay to play,” 09.21.2018).
Radio Woodstock announced last week that it has discontinued some of the ads commissioned by the campaign of Congressman John Faso (R-NY) criticizing his Democratic congressional opponent Antonio Delgado. The ads referred to Harvard Law graduate, Rhodes Scholar and former President Barack Obama endorsee Delgado’s past as a rapper, claiming his song lyrics were hateful and anti-American, creating further turmoil in a race that has become one of the tightest in the nation (Poughkeepsie Journal, “Radio Woodstock announces it will no longer run political ads critical of Antonio Delgado,” 09.21.2018).
Former Mayor of New York City Michael Bloomberg has once again implied that he is considering running for president in 2020 and that his decision will come after midterm elections. “Right now I’m only focused on the midterms,” he stated on Sept. 23. “I believe that the Republicans have not done what they should have done in terms of providing some counterbalance to the executive branch.” Should he participate in the presidential race, the former Republican and Independent would run as a Democrat; he has committed $80 million to support various candidates in an effort to flip the House and Senate in November.