Political Roundup: Oct. 17

[CW: The following paragraph discusses a shooting.]

In Our Headlines…

The City of Sacramento reached a $2.4 million settlement with the family of Stephon Clark, an unarmed black man who was shot by Sacramento police seven times on March 18, 2018. After two police officers, Terrence Mercadal and Jared Robinet, mistook Clark’s cell phone for a gun, they shot him in his grandparents’ backyard. The officers faced no legal consequences and are still employed by the City of Sacramento. In April 2018, a month after Clark’s death, the City of Sacramento passed an emergency order requiring police officers to wear body cameras and audio recorders at all times. Clark’s family launched the $20 million wrongful-death lawsuit against both the City of Sacramento and the two officers involved. The settlement money, which totals $1.8 million after legal fees, will go to Clark’s two sons, currently two and five years old, once they each turn 22. The Sacramento Police Department and the two officers involved declined to comment (The New York Times, “Stephon Clark’s Sons Reach $2.4 Million Settlement Over Police Killing,” 10.10.19).

On Friday, Oct. 10, Governor Gavin Newsom (D-CA) signed a bill into law ending the use of private, for-profit prisons and detention centers in California. The law prevents the California Department of Corrections from renewing contracts with private companies to run state prisons. Notably, the department of corrections may enter new contracts with privately owned companies if public centers become overcrowded. California’s three privately run prisons will close in four years when their contracts expire. Furthermore, four privately owned ICE detention centers, housing over 4,000 inmates, will be forcibly closed by the state. ICE says the 4,000 detainees will be transferred to detention centers outside the state, as has been done in other states such as New York, Illinois and Nevada that have adopted similar bans. Governor Newsom entered office in January 2019 with the goal of abolishing private prisons due to their contribution to mass incarceration (Reuters, “California bans private prisons and immigration detention centers,” 10.11.19).

On Tuesday, Oct. 8, the White House announced that it will not cooperate with the impeachment inquiry via a letter to those leading the inquiry. White House officials stated, “the transparent rush to judgement, lack of democratically accountable authorization and violation of basic rights in the current proceedings make clear the illegitimate, partisan purpose of this purported ‘impeachment inquiry.’” Just before releasing this letter, the White House blocked the interview of Gordon D. Scondland, the U.S. Ambassador to the EU. However, Scondland says he will comply with a subpoena from the House of Representatives (The New York Times, “What Happened in the Trump Impeachment Inquiry This Week,” 10.12.19).

Around the World…

Turkey’s assault on Syria has intensified, with air and artillery strikes bombarding northeast Syria on Friday, Oct. 11. Turkey began its offensive after Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan spoke on the phone with President Trump, who agreed to remove U.S. troops from Syria, opening a path for Turkish invasion. U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has supported Trump’s decision, explaining that Trump’s motives were to move U.S. soldiers to a safer region. The United Nations has reported that 100,000 people have fled their homes in Syria in response to Turkish attacks. Turkey’s aim in these attacks is to create a safe area within Syria in order to resettle the millions of Syrian refugees that it currently hosts. Erdogan has stated that if the European Union does not back his military moves, he will send the refugees to Europe. Sanctions against Turkey will be discussed at the upcoming EU summit (Reuters, “Turkey intensifies Syria campaign as Islamic State strikes Kurds.,” 10.11.19).

On Saturday, Oct. 12, Tokyo was hit by a typhoon. The storm reached winds up to 90 mph, with gusts reaching 120 mph. The Japan Meteorological Agency (JMA) issued a level five warning for rainfall, and warned of potential landslides and floods. The JMA urged citizens to take life-saving measures and evacuate. The storm has left 19 dead and 16 missing. Beyond these physical dangers, the city has been forced to halt all scheduled activities. Two Rugby World Cup games, scheduled outside Tokyo, have been canceled. All flights in and out of Tokyo’s two airports were canceled along with the vast majority of trains and subway services. Nearly all stores closed by noon on Saturday, including supermarkets, the shelves of which had been left bare by citizens desperate to make it through the storm (The Washington Post, “19 Dead, 16 missing in Japan after Typhoon Hagibis drenches Tokyo,” 10.13.19).

Political turmoil has erupted across Latin America. Peruvian President Martin Vizcarra has dissolved Congress, Honduran president Juan Orlando Hernández Alvarado faces allegations that he took bribes from drug lords, demonstrations in Haiti and Ecuador are reaching critical levels of tension, and Venezuela continues to be embroiled in political controversy. Three common threads connect these political crises; the economy has stalled recently, democratic institutions are not stable and much of the public is no longer tolerant of corruption. The Venezuelan economy has shrunk by half since 2013 as a result of falling oil prices. This has caused more than half of the population to flee the country. Economic difficulties in Peru have led to the collapse of the party system, in response to which President Martin Vizcarra has dissolved Congress. These compounding problems have led to a disillusioned body of citizens throughout the region. People are increasingly taking to the streets to protest their governments and the economic crises they face. The result is a large collection of governments embroiled in controversy and turbulence (The Washington Post, “Why Political Turmoil is Erupting Across Latin America,” 10.10.19).

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