By Robert A. Vella
British prime minister Boris Johnson maneuvered today to facilitate a hard, no-deal Brexit by asking the Queen to prorogue (i.e. suspend) parliament ahead of the approaching deadline with the European Union. True to his authoritarian nature, Johnson is being disingenuous about his rationale. Rather than requesting the suspension to gain more time to set his “very exciting agenda” for the nation (doesn’t that sound like Donald Trump?), Johnson is really trying to reduce the amount of time parliament has to oppose his actual plan. More plainly, he is attempting to circumvent and subvert the democratic process (which is also very Trump-like).
UPDATE: The Queen has approved the Prime Minister’s request.
Members of Parliament (MPs) across party lines are expressing outrage and are vowing to oppose Johnson’s maneuver including House of Commons speaker John Bercow, Liberal Democrats’ spokesman Tom Brake, and Scottish National Party leader Nicola Sturgeon.
In the U.K.’s constitutional monarchy, the decision to prorogue parliament rests with the Monarch (i.e. the Head of State whereas the Prime Minister is the Head of Government) as part of the Royal Prerogative on the advice of the Privy Council, but a refusal would be atypical. In contrast, the U.S. is a constitutional republic although both systems employ representative democracy.
In another story involving the British royalty, Prince Andrew is facing more accusations about his relationship with the recently deceased sex trafficker Jeffrey Epstein whose apparent suicide in a New York jail is being investigated by numerous agencies and outside interests. One accuser, who was a 15 year-old girl working at Trump’s Mar-a-Lago resort in Florida at the time, claims that she was recruited there by Epstein to meet Prince Andrew in London for a sexual liaison.
President Trump is unconstitutionally redirecting more federal funds, previously allocated by Congress for other purposes, to finance his anti-immigration and border wall projects; and, he is launching another attack on science at the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).
The U.S. 3rd Circuit Court of Appeals has banned atheists from participating in opening prayer ceremonies conducted by the Pennsylvania state legislature. Despite the U.S. Constitution’s explicit prohibition against mixing government with religion (i.e. the First Amendment’s Establishment Clause), two of the three judges in this decision apparently believe that godless heathens should have their mouths taped shut. Another federal judge has blocked a strict anti-abortion law enacted in Missouri.
In climate news, water costs are rising in the U.S. due to aging infrastructure and extreme weather events caused by global warming. CNN announced it will hold a lengthy climate change “town hall” for Democratic presidential candidates next week after the Democratic National Committee (DNC) passed a resolution against hosting climate-specific debates.
Boris’ Brexit maneuver
LONDON —Prime Minister Boris Johnson has asked Queen Elizabeth II on Wednesday to delay opening the parliament, effectively robbing the opposition of time to thwart a no-deal Brexit and prompting howls of outrage from lawmakers.
Johnson told reporters that he had asked Queen Elizabeth II to give her customary speech outlining the country’s legislative agenda in mid-October, effectively suspending the body between Sept. 11 and Oct. 14.
Britain is expected to leave the European Union on Oct. 31.
Andrew’s hot seat
LONDON (AP) — An alleged victim of Jeffrey Epstein who claims she was also farmed out for sex with Britain’s Prince Andrew has challenged the British royal to speak up, saying: “He knows exactly what he’s done and I hope he comes clean about it.”
The jet-setting middle son of Queen Elizabeth II was a years-long friend of the financier who killed himself while awaiting trial on sex-trafficking charges. But the prince strenuously denies any knowledge of criminal behavior by Epstein and has described himself as “appalled” by allegations from many women who accused Epstein of sexual abuse.
Among them is Virginia Roberts Giuffre. She has said she was a 15-year-old working at President Donald Trump’s Mar-a-Lago club when she was recruited to perform sex acts on Epstein. Giuffre said in a sworn affidavit that she was flown on Epstein’s private planes to his properties in New Mexico, the U.S. Virgin Islands, Paris and New York, and said meetings were also arranged for sex in London and elsewhere with Prince Andrew.
Trump redirects funds
The Trump administration plans to shift at least $155 million from the Federal Emergency Management Agency disaster relief fund to support its policy of returning some migrants to Mexico.
The Department of Homeland Security has informed Congress it will reprogram and transfer $271 million in total to its immigration enforcement agency from elsewhere in the department, including the FEMA money, according to documents obtained by CNN.
DHS plans to transfer $23.8 million from the Transportation Security Administration for immigration enforcement, according to a document obtained by CNN.
Last year, the department was also sharply criticized for shifting around $10 million from the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s operating budget to fund immigration detention and deportations. The administration also quietly redirected $200 million from multiple parts of DHS to ICE last summer, according to a congressional document released last fall.
The latest shift in funds will also pull more money from FEMA — $3.4 million for detention efforts.
Additionally, $4.3 million will be transferred from DHS’ cyber agency.
Scientists on Tuesday pushed back against a Trump administration proposal that would block the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) from relying on studies that don’t make their underlying data public.
“If this is such a good idea, why is it proposed just for EPA rather than as legislation or regulation applying to all health-regulating agencies?” asked Roy Gamse, a former deputy assistant administrator at EPA.
Gamse joined multiple outside scientists using Tuesday’s meeting to push the advisory panel to reject the proposal in its entirety.
“Imagine the Food and Drug Administration being forbidden to approve new drugs unless the research justifying their use were subject to these same regulatory prohibitions. … Drug approvals would likely grind to a halt. As would EPA regulations for air quality standards, hazardous materials exposures, pesticides exposures, drinking water concentrations, etc.,” Gamse said.
A federal appeals court ruling on legislative prayer has alarmed secular activists who say the decision privileges people who believe in God and treats nontheists like “second-class citizens.”
The 3rd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled Friday that it’s constitutional for the Pennsylvania House of Representatives to ban guest chaplains who don’t believe in God or a higher power from delivering opening invocations at its meetings.
A group of atheists, agnostics, freethinkers and humanists sued members of the Pennsylvania House in 2016 over its theists-only policy for guest chaplains, arguing that it violates the Constitution’s establishment clause, which prohibits the government from promoting specific religious beliefs.
A Missouri law that calls for one the nation’s most restrictive abortion regulations was halted from taking effect after a federal judge said Tuesday the law cannot be enforced “pending further litigation or further order of the court.”
U.S. District Judge Howard Sachs issued an order temporarily blocking the law until its legality is resolved in court.
The American Civil Liberties Union and the Planned Parenthood clinic in St. Louis battled attorneys for the state to stop the abortion ban.
- Americans this year will pay an average of $104 per month in water and wastewater bills, up more than 30% in less than a decade.
- Water and sewer bills, which are rising faster than inflation, increased for an eighth consecutive year in a study of the country’s 50 largest metropolitan regions.
- Cities across the country are grappling with aging systems, fewer resources and extreme weather.
CNN will host a live seven-hour “climate crisis town hall” next week with 10 Democratic primary candidates.
CNN’s town hall follows the Democratic National Committee’s (DNC) decision not to host a climate-focused debate. A DNC committee voted down the proposal last week in a 17-8 vote, after months of pushback from activists calling for the party to host a debate centered on climate change.