By Robert A. Vella
The Italian government collapsed today from political turmoil triggered by its far-right interior minister and would-be dictator Matteo Salvini. Philadelphia’s police commissioner abruptly resigned yesterday amidst a deep political scandal within the department involving homophobia, racism, and corruption among many officers and recruits. President Trump ordered the silencing of the government’s health agencies in order to prevent them from contradicting his rhetorical statements regarding the recent mass shootings in El Paso, Dayton, and elsewhere. His administration is moving to extend the length of time migrants are held in concentration camps detention facilities. Trump, acutely aware that an economic recession would ruin his reelection chances, is proposing payroll tax cuts as a means to bribe voters. The President is also pushing foreign aid cuts, but his Secretary of State and Secretary of the Treasury have persuaded him – for the time being anyway – to scale back the reductions. In climate news, massive wildfires are torching Alaska and the Amazon rainforest.
ROME — After 14 months of bickering, Italy’s government collapsed on Tuesday, plunging a key European nation already hobbled by financial fragility and political chaos into a renewed period of crisis and uncertainty.
During the government’s short tenure, the nationalist-populist coalition struck fear into the heart of the European establishment. It antagonized the European Union, flouted its budgetary laws, demonized migrants and embraced President Vladimir V. Putin’s Russia and his strongman politics.
The government coalition of the hard-right, anti-migrant League party and the anti-establishment Five Star Movement came apart after a mutinous power play by Matteo Salvini, the League leader and the country’s increasingly popular interior minister.
This month, Mr. Salvini, 46, announced that he was fed up with the Five Star’s incompetence and inaction and made a bid for early elections, asking Italian voters to give him unrestrained power to consolidate his grip on the country.
ROME, Aug 21 (Reuters) – Italian President Sergio Mattarella begins two days of talks with parties on Wednesday to seek a way out of a political crisis that will lead to the formation of the country’s 67th government since World War Two or to early elections.
Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte resigned on Tuesday after launching a blistering attack on his own interior minister, Matteo Salvini, accusing him of sinking the coalition and endangering the economy for personal and political gain.
Top cop resigns
Commissioner Richard Ross submitted his resignation Tuesday, effective immediately, two months after 72 officers were placed on leave for making racist and homophobic Facebook comments, revealed on an online database called the Plain View Project in June. At least 13 of those officers were expected to be fired, according to an NBC News report in July.
Despite receiving the mayor’s praise, Ross has been the face of the scandal-plagued department. In addition to the officers placed on leave for their social media posts, 10 police recruits resigned in June after they tried to cheat on an open-book exam.
Health agencies silenced
When President Trump targeted mental illness as the cause of the mass shootings in El Paso and Dayton that killed 31 people, federal health officials made sure no government experts might contradict him.
A Health and Human Services directive on Aug. 5 warned communication staffers not to post anything on social media related to mental health, violence and mass shootings without prior approval. That alarmed some government mental health experts who said they felt muzzled at a moment when many Americans were searching for answers to the U.S. epidemic of mass shootings, said three agency employees.
Many researchers and mental health experts said Trump’s comments contradicted well-established research.
The Trump administration is expected to announce, as early as Wednesday, that it’s moving ahead with new rules that would allow for the longer term detention of families traveling with children across the U.S.-Mexico border, according to two government officials familiar with the plan.
The government’s detention of children has been limited to less than 20 days under a court settlement known as the Flores Settlement Agreement. President Donald Trump and Republicans have repeatedly blamed the 20-day limit for encouraging undocumented migrants from arriving at the border with children, expecting to be released.
President Trump on Tuesday confirmed the White House is discussing a temporary payroll tax cut as a strategy to boost the economy, even as he maintains the country’s economic outlook remains strong.
People pay payroll taxes in order to finance Social Security and Medicare. Former President Obama had enacted a temporary payroll tax cut during his presidency in an effort to boost the economy.
Cutting those taxes could temporarily help the middle class, but could also increase the deficit and possibly hurt the social safety net programs they fund.
(Bloomberg) — President Donald Trump agreed to drastically scale back plans to slash billions of dollars in foreign assistance after Secretary of State Michael Pompeo persuaded him against the move, two people familiar with the matter said.
After speaking with Pompeo and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin on Monday, Trump agreed to limit the cuts to a few hundred million dollars, overruling demands by the Office of Management and Budget to reduce foreign-assistance spending by more than $4 billion. The cuts will be limited to Pakistan and countries in Central America, said the people, who asked not to be identified discussing internal deliberations.
It’s not even clear a scaled-back package of cuts would clear Congress. Any cuts would face bipartisan opposition from lawmakers, who had approved the funding. Non-governmental organizations argue the cuts, known as a rescission, would jeopardize crucial projects around the world and undermine American leadership.
Wildfires are a normal part of life in Alaskan forests. While the state is experiencing an “extreme” fire season this year, with over 2.5 million acres burned, the size of the fires is still well short of the record set in 2015 – 5.1 million acres.
But what’s worrisome, says Beth Ipsen of the Alaska Interagency Fire Information Office, is just how long this fire season has stretched on. The season started early, beginning on April 30 with the Oregon Lakes Fire. And while fires typically start to peter out in August, recently there’s been a major uptick. About 236 of the 663 fires that started this year are still burning in the state, and it’s not clear when they’ll start to fizzle out.
“This is not normal,” Ipsen tells TIME.
Reuters reported the Amazon rainforest has experienced a record number of fires this year, citing new data released by the country’s space agency The National Institute for Space Research (INPE). The agency said its satellite data detected more than 72,000 fires since January, an 83% increase over the same period of 2018.
Brazil President Jair Bolsonaro, who recently fired the space agency’s director, brushed off the news, telling Reuters it was attributed to the time of year when farmers use fire to clear the land.
The firing came after Bolsonaro criticized INPE deforestation data which showed a significant increase in illegal logging, claiming officials had manipulated figures to make his administration look bad. The INPE found 370 square miles of Amazon forest were lost in June — an 88% increase from the same month last year.