Political Roundup

In our headlines…

Protestors gathered outside the Brooklyn Metropolitan Detention Center in response to reports revealing that more than 1,600 inmates and workers had been left to work in the dark and freezing cold after a partial power outage. According to attorney Deirdre von Dornum, inmates are not allowed to leave their powerless and cold cells for common areas in the prison. Additionally, videos surfaced on Friday night in which prisoners shared reading lights and banged on windows and walls to receive attention from those outside. New York State Representative and City officials joined the protest of the gross mistreatment of those working and residing in the federal facility, and a tweet from New York State Senator Julia Salazar stated that—aside from a lack of power and inadequate heat—the jail’s warden, Herman Quay, denied inmates medical care and the New York City Office of Emergency Management’s attempts to provide blankets. Mayor Bill de Blasio stated that city officials would deliver generators and other supplies in spite of the jail’s lack of cooperation, and these were finally delivered late Saturday night (Huffington Post, “Protesters Rally Into The Night For Brooklyn Inmates In Freezing Jail Cells,” 02.02.2019).

With Cory Booker’s entrance into the 2020 Democratic Presidential Primary on Friday, the playing field within the party has rarely been as large and diverse. Additional hopefuls, such as former Texas Congressman Beto O’Rourke, former Vice President Joe Biden and Senator Sherrod Brown (D-O.H), will likely push back any announcement for candidacy in the hope that the high profile front-runners such as Booker, Senator Kamala Harris (D-C.A), Senator Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y) and Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-M.A) stumble and lose traction. The race positions legislative themes such as Medicare for All and a tax on the ultra-rich as popular among all candidates, but those pondering runs may take time to further craft their campaign promises (Politico, “2020 Democratic holdouts wait for Harris, Warren to trip,” 02.03.2019).

Around the world…
Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi has come under fire just months before a general election after accessions against his government for suppressing an official report revealing that national unemployment had reached a 45-year high of 6.1 percent in 2017. Commissioners who advocated sharing the report with the public have since resigned in protest. Modi was elected in a landslide victory five years ago, as his campaign promised to launch India into an age of economic prosperity and job creation, which is why the report’s findings would complicate his standing with the public. While the index seems low, it was triple the rate of half a decade earlier and meant that as many as thirty million people could not find a job. The unemployment rate does not include those who work irregularly. Taken in conjunction with Modi’s November 2016 decision to demonetize and eliminate several forms of cash currency—a policy that proved detrimental to India’s economy—the report seriously undercuts the premise of Modi’s 2014 campaign and may return to hurt him in the next election (The New York Times, India’s Leader Is Accused of Hiding Unemployment Data Before Vote,” 02.03.2019).

The British Foreign Minister’s office released a joint press statement with France and Germany announcing the creation of the Instrument for Supporting Trade Exchanges (INSTEX) mechanism as a means of reiterating the three nations’ commitment to preserving the Iran Nuclear Deal in the wake of American withdrawal. INSTEX is meant to focus on exporting goods such as pharmaceutical medical devices and agriculture to Iran, and will reinforce anti-terrorism initiatives with the expected cooperation of the Iranian government. The press release ends with the statement: “The E3 underline their commitment to pursue the further development of INSTEX” (Foreign and Commonwealth Office Press Release, “New mechanism to facilitate trade with Iran: joint statement,” 01.31.2019)

Pope Francis became the first pontiff to ever visit the Arabian Peninsula in the United Arab Emirates (UAE), where he sought to improve Christian-Muslim relations as a guest of Al-Azhar Grand Imam Sheikh Ahmed el-Tayeb. Prior to boarding a plane from the Vatican, he made an appeal to UAE ally and chief perpetrator of the war in Yemen, Saudi Arabia, to allow aid to enter the region and assuage the worst humanitarian crisis currently in the world. Al Azhar described the “Human Fraternity Meeting,” which included representatives of other faiths as well, as deeply historic. The meeting, organized by the Muslim Council of Elders, has another purpose: to counter religious fanaticism and popular misconceptions by promoting a moderate Islam (Associated Press, “Pope calls for Yemen relief as he heads to the UAE,” 02.03.2019).

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