Feb. 18 – Feb. 22 news stories
Hello and welcome to the first weekly newsletter by Freddy Brewster and T. William Wallin. We are journalism students at Humboldt State University in Arcata, California and decided to start a newsletter to provide our take on what is in and out of the news. The intention of this newsletter is to provide you with some of the headlines that fell through the cracks. We will mention a few big events and give some analysis, however we will mainly focus on what was left behind. We feel that this is important because these “omitted events” tend to influence our lives just as much as the mainstream announcements. Enjoy!
Monday Feb. 18
- Iran accused Israel of escalating the chances of war in the Middle East. Democracy Now! reported that Mohammad Javad Zarif, Iran’s Foreign Minister, pushed the accusations during a conference in Munich. This comes on the heels of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu “[boasting] that a U.S.-convened conference in Poland was aimed at promoting war with Iran,” last week. All tensions in the Middle East need close examination due to their potential of rapid escalation.
- The Los Angeles Times reported that L.A has the highest rate of homeless deaths due to hypothermia. “Over the last three years, 13 people have died at least partly because of the cold,” the Los Angeles Times reported. This is of importance because although the homeless population across the nation has been down, it is on the rise in certain cities such as Los Angeles, New York and Washington D.C.
Tuesday Feb. 19
- Reuters reported that a $1.5 billion contract between the United Arab Emirates and Raytheon, a U.S based military contractor, was signed on Monday. The contract includes Patriot missiles and platform systems to launch them. The UAE is located in a hot zone of conflict with the war in Yemen continuing with Saudi Arabia as well as Syria’s civil war. $1.6 billion in additional weaponry to an unstable region could have detrimental impacts. Yemeni civilians have faced the brunt of the impacts from the conflict, with the BBC reporting in Nov. 2018 that nearly 85,000 children died of malnutrition in the three years since the war started.
- California Governor Gavin Newsom announced he will be stepping up enforcement of illegal marijuana grows. A report by the California Cannabis Advisory Committee found that the licensing process for growers “insufficiently de-incentivizes the illegal unlicensed, underground market.” The illegal marijuana grows continue to thrive “due in part to the competitive financial advantage such operations have over legal cannabis businesses, which are committed to paying license fees and collecting taxes.” Governor Newsom said he will be pulling National Guard troops from the southern border and sending them to parts of northern California to work with federal agencies. Pay attention to this because what happens in California with federal enforcement could set the standard for enforcement in other states where marijuana has been legalized in some sort of way.
- Sacramento Mayor Darrell Steinberg is pushing to invest $200 million to help prevent further deaths of unarmed individuals. Stephon Clark died on March 18, 2018 in his grandmother’s backyard after being shot eight times by Sacramento Police. Clark was 225 out of 998 people killed by police in 2018 and his death follows Michael Brown of Ferguson, Mo., and Philando Castile of Falcon Heights, Minn.; both unarmed African American men. “If they decide not to bring criminal charges… there will be real anger,” Mayor Steinberg said. This is important because Clark’s death has prompted California lawmakers to seek change in police lethal force standards and possible charges brought on the officers could influence other jurisdictions nationwide.
Wednesday Feb. 20
- Germany and the Netherlands started training a tank battalion made up of soldiers from both countries. It is the first time that two European countries have joined military forces and trained together. The New York Times reported on the union of the two countries and stated “the idea has taken on new urgency because of the Trump administration’s threat to withdraw the Continent’s security guarantee if it does not spend more on its defense.” The joining of these two forces should be watched because of the heightening tensions between the European Union, Russia and the United States. President Trump has expressed the desire to separate from NATO which would leave many European nations feeling vulnerable. Further reading on a possible EU army can be found here.
- Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas said that there should be a revisiting of the ruling in New York Times v. Sullivan case, which made it hard for public officials to seek libel suits. The New York Times reported that Justice Thomas said the ruling was “policy-driven decisions masquerading as constitutional law.” Watch how this unfolds as President Trump continues to call for more restrictions on the press.
Thursday Feb. 21
- The Supreme Court ruled that civil asset forfeiture has limits. SCOTUS used the Eighth amendment to narrow the scope of what local law enforcement agencies can seize. The case was brought on by an Indiana man who had his $42,000 Land Rover seized by local police. The value of the vehicle is over four times the maximum fine amount. SCOTUS ruled unanimously with Justice Ginsburg writing the decision. The ruling limits how local law enforcement can go about seizing property. Democracy Now! held a discussion with Lisa Foster of the Fines and Fees Justice Center and she pointed out that law enforcement agencies nationwide would use civil asset forfeitures to generate funding for their operations.
- Politicians are using technology to push ads into your smartphone just by being in a certain area. The LA Times reported that Tony Evers, current Governor of Wisconsin, used this technology to pull “unique identification numbers off the phones” of attendees at a Democratic party meeting and used this information to “ find associated laptops, desktops and other devices to push even more ads.” This technology is particularly alarming in our current times because the wide availability of information attached to our electronic devices. This technology is also in the ads of advertisers, some of which have been accused of preying on minors for monetary gains.
Friday Feb. 22
- U.S banks reported profits of $237 billion in 2018, according to Bloomberg News. The massive gains were due to “lower taxes and soaring revenue,” Bloomberg reported. Pay attention to these gains because the average tax return for many Americans is down nearly 16.7 percent, according to IRS data cited by The Hill.
- The infamous Elliot Abrams is headed to Columbia according to the State Department. Abrams is the special representative for Venezuela for the Trump administration. Abrams previously faced scrutiny during a hearing with Congresswoman Ilhan Omar. Congresswoman Omar pointed out that Abrams was found guilty for lying to Congress in the 1980s about his role in arming Nicaraguan rebels and was accused by investigative journalist Alan Nairn of being a war criminal in 1995 for his role in supporting Guatemalan rebels found guilty of the El Mozete massacre. Pay attention to this because of Abrams’ past role in supporting groups who went on to be accused of war crimes.
The big stuff
This week in news featured a couple of major events. Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders announced he is running for president on Tuesday, the Washington Post is being sued by one of the Covington Catholic kids, and Jussie Smollet was arrested for filing a false police report.
Sanders is the newest candidate to enter the race for the Democratic ticket and made an impressive first impact on the race. In the first 24 hours since his announcement, Sanders raised nearly $6 million dollars with average donation of just $27. This amount far surpasses that of Senator Kamala Harris who previously set the bar at $1.5 million within 24 hours of her announcement.
The Washington Post is being sued by the family of Nicolas Sandman, the 16-year-old Covington Catholic student who entered the media spotlight with a confrontation at the Lincoln Memorial on Jan. 18. Sandman is alleging that WAPO “wrongfully targeted and bullied Nicholas because he was the white, Catholic student wearing a red “Make America Great Again” souvenir cap,” and are asking for a total of $250 million in damages. The Sandman family is demanding the high amount to “teach the Post a lesson it will never forget.” A $250 million lesson, the amount Jeff Bezos bought the paper for.
The last piece of headline news to pay attention to is the arrest of Empire star Jussie Smollet. Smollet was arrested for filing a false police report stemming from an alleged false attack. Smollet said that the attackers hit him, poured bleach on him and stuck a noose around his neck, while yelling “this is MAGA country.” The arrest comes after nearly a month of investigation by the Chicago Police Department. CPD found that Smollet had staged the attack with the help of two brothers. The fallout of this could mean problems for future victims of hate crimes and victims of assault. Smollet is maintaining his innocence, but CPD has pretty damning information against him.