In our Headlines…
[Content Warning: The following paragraph makes mention of suicide.]
After nearly 22 months, the recently-released Mueller Report concluded that there is no conclusive evidence that United States President Donald Trump conspired with Russia to influence the 2016 presidential election, according to Attorney General William Barr. The result was a “mixed bag,” as The New York Times stated, that neither vindicated nor found Trump and his co-conspirators guilty of a crime.
Trump took to Twitter to declare his “total exoneration” from the investigation he has long publically considered to be a “witch hunt” orchestrated by oppositional Democrats. Likewise, Barr wrote a letter to the Senate and House Committees on the Judiciary summarizing the Mueller Report, in which both he and Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein concluded that “[It is not] sufficient to establish that the President committed an obstruction-of-justice offense.” There is no word as to whether the report will be released in full to the public, and Barr noted at the end of his letter that the regulations of the Special Counsel establish that disclosure of information is at the discretion of the Attorney General (The New York Times, “Read Attorney General William Barr’s Summary of the Mueller Report,” 03.24.2019).
The University of Georgia (UGA) suspended the Tau Kappa Epsilon (TKE) fraternity this past weekend after a video circulating on social media showed its members recreating scenes of slavery and using racial slurs. The fraternity released a statement emphasizing its disgust with the actions of the now-expelled members and announcing an investigation separating the incident from TKE. UGA also stated that it condemns racism on its campus as a whole. This incident occurred only months after the Governor of Virginia Ralph Northam and his deputy admitted to having worn blackface (USA Today, “University of Georgia fraternity suspended after racist video circulates online,” 03.24.2019).
This past week, two survivors of the Parkland shooting and the father of a Sandy Hook victim took their lives. 2018 graduate of Marjory Stone Douglas High School Sydney Aiello and current sophomore Calvin Desir struggled with survivor’s guilt after their close friends died in the attack. Jeremy Richman’s six-year-old daughter Avielle died in the 2012 elementary school shooting. After, Richman went on to establish a foundation to combat violence and mental health issues.
The three deaths in this past week highlight the effects that the school gun violence epidemic has on survivors and families. The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is a support resource available at 1-800-273-8255 for anyone with suicidal thoughts or intentions (CNN, “The father of a Sandy Hook victim dies from an apparent suicide,” 03.25.2019).
Around the World…
Fifty people died in a shooting at the Christchurch in New Zealand on March 15, 2019, at the hands of a 28-year-old white supremacist, identified as Australian citizen Brenton Harrison Tarrant. Forty-one people were killed at the Al Noor Mosque and seven were killed at the Linwood mosque; dozens more were missing, treated for gunfire-inflicted injuries or died shortly thereafter. The killer sent a manifesto to the office of New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern minutes before live streaming his entrance into the Christchurch mosque.
The first victim, Haji-Daoud Nabi, a decades-long resident of New Zealand originally from Afghanistan, greeted the attacker with the words “Hello, brother,” before he was shot down and killed. The victims came from various ethnic backgrounds and countries: Jordan, Bangladesh, Pakistan and Saudi Arabia are but a few of many. Among the victims are a Syrian man and his son who moved to New Zealand from their war-torn homeland only last year and a Pakistani man who tried to tackle the perpetrator.
Ardern grieved with the families along with thousands of Kiwis on Friday, March 22, a day after announcing a ban on semi-automatic rifles. Ardern explained her intent to remain cognizant of her role in responding to the killings, stating, “I’m very mindful that families are receiving their loved ones for burial and I certainly intend…to be respectful of course at this hugely sensitive time” (CNN, New Zealand PM will meet first responders and families in Christchurch on Wednesday,” 03.18.2019).
In his manifesto, the killer named Trump as an icon. Trump did not acknowledge the rise of white nationalism under his administration. Many social media services, namely Facebook, have been criticized for allowing the video of the massacre to circulate and recycle (The New York Times, “Jacinda Ardern Consoles Families After New Zealand Shooting,” 03.15.2019).
Trump was condemned internationally in an alleged attempt to influence the Israeli General election set for this April. In a meeting with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, he recognized Israeli sovereignty over the area of Golan Heights, which Israel seized from Syria in 1967 and illegally annexed in 1981. Many critics of Netanyahu claim this is an attempt to increase his popularity after the Israeli Attorney General Aluf Avichai Mandelblit announced he was investigating the Prime Minister for corruption and bribery allegations.
A statement from UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres made it clear that the status of Golan Heights as occupied Syrian territory will not change as a result of Trump’s decision, and Syria announced its intent to recover the area. There has been no indication that other nations will follow in suit of Trump’s declarations, with Russia and Turkey warning of the impacts this will have on already tense conditions in the Middle East (BBC, “Golan Heights: Trump signs order recognizing occupied area as Israeli,” 03.25.2019).
Allegations of cheating delayed the results of Thailand’s first general election since 2014 on Monday, March 25. Prior to the sudden stop, the main opposition to the ruling military group is currently leading in votes. The Pheu Thai party has not been in power since 2014, and it stated that it will form a coalition to obtain a majority in the next government. However, current Prime Minister Prayuth Chanocha, who orchestrated the coup of 2014, may remain in power if the military junta party is able to obtain 250 votes in support of extending his term (NPR, “Thai Politics In Chaos: Delayed Election Results And Charges Of Cheating,” 03.25.2019).