Political Roundup

[TW: This column discusses rape and sexual assault, and makes mention of suicide.]

In the United States…

On Thursday, Sept. 27, Professor of Psychology at Palo Alto University Christine Blasey Ford and Judge Brett Kavanaugh testified about Ford’s allegations of sexual assault against the Supreme Court nominee in a Senate hearing that evoked strong emotional responses around the country. Ford directly stated, “I believed he was going to rape me.” Various Republicans, including Senators Lindsey Graham (R-SC) and Orrin Hatch (R-AZ), came out in support of Kavanaugh, and Senator Ted Cruz (R-TX) called Ford’s testimony a shameful display. Senators Lisa Murkowski (R-AK), Susan Collins (R-ME) and Jeff Flake (R-AZ) remain on the fence about Kavanaugh’s confirmation, with Flake supporting Democrats’ demands for an FBI inquiry into Ford’s allegations. Two other women, Deborah Ramirez and Julie Swetnick, have come out with similar claims against him (The New York Times, “Brett Kavanaugh and Christine Blasey Ford Duel With Tears and Fury,” 09.27.2018).

President Donald Trump addressed the U.N. General Assembly this week. His opening speech, which included the claim that his administration had already accomplished more than any other in U.S. history, left many in the chamber laughing. Several of Trump’s statements were aimed at China, with which Trump has recently been engaged in a trade war, in response to a fourpage advertisement advocating U.S.-China trade in the Des Moines Register that was paid for by the state-run newspaper China Daily. Trump also claimed, “Regrettably, we’ve found that China has been attempting to interfere in our upcoming 2018 election…” (The New York Times, “China Rejects Trump’s Charges of Meddling in U.S. Elections,” 09.27.2018).

In Mississippi, Senate candidate Mike Espy is one of several Black politicians seeking political office this November, along with Andrew Gillum of Florida and Stacey Abrams of Georgia, who are seeking the gubernatorial positions in their respective states. Espy will face an uphill battle in a state that boasts the Confederate seal on its flag. Espy’s Republican opponent, Chris McDaniel, is an outspoken supporter of the flag. Should voters reject two Republican candidates and vote for him, Espy will become Mississippi’s first Black senator in over a century (The Washington Post, “In Mississippi Senate race, an African American Democrat faces a Republican using a Confederate symbol,” 09.30.2018).

Presidential Counselor Kellyanne Conway revealed on CNN that she is a survivor of sexual assault, but that she does not believe that allegations of misconduct against Kavanaugh should impede his nomination. Conway previously referred to her experiences with assault following the 2016 election, but warned against inferring her admission as a detriment to her functions as an advisor to Trump. While speaking on CNN’s “State of the Union” this past Sunday, Sept. 30, Conway stated: “I don’t expect Judge Kavanaugh or Jake Tapper or Jeff Flake or anybody to be held responsible for that. You have to be responsible for your own conduct’’ (The Boston Globe, “Kellyanne Conway says, ‘I’m a victim of sexual assault,’” 09.20.2018)

Around the world…

Filipino President Rodrigo Duterte is currently facing two charges of crimes against humanity from the International Criminal Court for extrajudicial killings promulgated by his war on drugs. Critics clamored over the apparent admission in a speech he gave on Sept. 27: “What are my sins? Did I steal money? … My only sin is extrajudicial killings.” He also referred to the lack of formal implication against him in the deaths of thousands. Duterte’s spokesperson attempted to retract the comments, but global human rights groups spoke out against any remaining doubts about his culpability. The stated number of deaths related to resisting police is 3,967, but opposing senator Antonio Trillanes said on Sept. 28 that the number had risen above 20,000 since Duterte assumed office in 2016 (Al Jazeera, “Rodrigo Duterte: ‘My only sin is extrajudicial killings,’” 09.28.2018)

A 7.5-magnitude earthquake caused the deaths of 832 people on the Indonesian island of Sulawesi after nearly 10-foot-high waves of the ensuing tsunami crashed on land on Sept. 28. This number is expected to continue rising. Authorities have estimated that of the 2.4 million affected by the earthquake, hundreds more were injured and 17,000 were rendered homeless. Various infrastructural necessities, including airports, roads and bridges, have been either washed out or destroyed, leaving thousands isolated at a time when access to water, food and healthcare is most crucial (CNN, “Indonesia earthquake and tsunami death toll surpasses 830,” 09.30.2018).

The Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK) released a statement on Sept. 30 attributing its decision to ignore the results of that day’s parliamentary elections to violations in the voting process. The party, which currently dominates Iraq’s northern region, is competing with the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) in the face of growing corruption, economic hardship and moral disquiet. The Gorran Movement, which opposed the two-party PUK-KDP coalition, accused the PUK of threatening the credibility of the elections, the results of which have not yet been released (Reuters, “Main Iraqi Kurdish party says it may reject regional election result,” 09.30.2018).

In our backyard…

This past Sunday, Sept. 30, hundreds in the Hudson Valley flocked to the Walkway Over the Hudson to support the Out of the Darkness Walk. Hosted by the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention (AFSP), the walk intends to raise awareness about suicide and eradicate the stigma surrounding it. Board member of the Hudson Valley/Westchester chapter of the AFSP Diane Missasi, who lost her son to suicide in 2011, commented on her first walk: “I met people I felt I could connect with.” The event also raises funds for initiatives to educate schools and communities about suicide prevention (The Poughkeepsie Journal, “Out of the Darkness walk to promote suicide prevention, raise funds,” 09.29.2018).

The town board of East Fishkill passed a nine-month moratorium on Thursday, Sept. 27, intended to halt development at industrial sites, in light of the news that Stormville Airport was in contract to sell 155 acres to Copart, a vehicle salvaging and auction company. Residents of East Fishkill raised concern over the future of their town, as well as the environmental impact, increased noise and traffic the company would bring, at a town meeting supporting the moratorium (The Poughkeepsie Journal, “East Fishkill passes moratorium for i-zones after outcry over Stormville Airport sale,” 09.28.2018).

2020 hopefuls…

At a town hall in Mount Holyoke, MA, on Sept. 29, Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) announced that she is “taking a hard look” at running for president in 2020. Warren stated, “It’s time for women to go to Washington and fix our broken government, and that includes a woman at the top.” This leaves almost no doubt that she will seek the Democratic candidacy in two years’ time, as she has extensively traveled around the country and met with potential sponsors. Warren is one of several Democratic senators to publicly rebuke Kavanaugh, alongside members of the Senate Judiciary Committee Kamala Harris (DCA) and Cory Booker (D-NJ). Warren is currently seeking re-election for Senate (The New York Times, “Elizabeth Warren Says 2020 Presidential Run Is On the Table,” 09.29.2018).

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