By Robert A. Vella
Trumpish U.K. Prime Minister Boris Johnson was rebuffed by parliament yesterday in his attempts to force a hard, no-deal Brexit. He will likely lose another key vote today as a bipartisan coalition of MPs are clearly opposing his undemocratic maneuvers to prorogue (i.e. suspend) parliament and to hasten the nation’s withdrawal from the European Union which economic experts say would severely damage the economy. This intense political fight, which crosses traditional partisan lines, has become so divisive that members of the ruling Conservative Party (a.k.a. the Tories) are defecting from their ranks. Boris’ last chance to get his way rests on a new snap election which parliament must agree to.
Slow-moving Hurricane Dorian battered the north Bahamas with devastating 185 mph category 5 winds, and the now weakening category 2 storm is skirting up the U.S. southeast coast. Although the extent of the damage in the British commonwealth country is not yet known, initial reports are not encouraging.
Hong Kong’s leader is backtracking on plans to implement the contested extradition law demanded by China which triggered massive protests in the former British colony several weeks ago. The backpedaling by Carrie Lam indicates a strong reluctance on her part to aggressively put-down the pro-democracy movement as well as a tacit admission that military force would be required to do so. We will see how China decides to respond.
Deadly xenophobic riots have broken out in Johannesburg, South Africa against immigrant businesses.
While the U.S. government sits on its hands, the Canadian government is taking proactive measures against foreign agents attempting to undermine democracy by interfering in the nation’s elections.
In U.S. news, the Department of Defense is acquiescing to President Trump’s anti-immigration efforts by unconstitutionally redirecting more funds to build his border wall project. A federal judge has ordered the White House to reinstate the press credentials of a reporter Trump had retaliated against. After the U.S. Supreme Court refused to rule on gerrymandering cases in North Carolina and Maryland, a N.C. state court has invalidated the partisan redistricting maps drawn-up by Republicans following the 2010 census and has ordered corrections before the 2020 election. Yet another GOP congressman is retiring and won’t seek reelection next year. On the heels of yesterday’s post on this blog regarding former federal agent Michael German, the ACLU is opposing a proposal in the House of Representatives to pass a domestic terrorism law requested by the Department of Justice in response to the wave of mass shootings now plaguing the country. Like German, the ACLU is asserting that the DOJ’s real intention is to garner more legal power to suppress dissent in America and not to counter violent white supremacist groups. The controversial proposal is splitting Democrats in the House and pitting leaders against each other such as Intelligence committee chairman Adam Schiff (Yea) and Judiciary committee chairman Jerry Nadler (Nay).
LONDON — British lawmakers on Tuesday rose up against Prime Minister Boris Johnson, moving to prevent him from taking the country out of the European Union without a formal agreement. The epic showdown pushed Britain to the verge of a new election.
After losing his first-ever vote as prime minister, Mr. Johnson stood up in Parliament and said he intended to present a formal request for a snap general election to lawmakers, who would have to approve it.
A little over a month ago, Mr. Johnson, a brash, blustery politician often compared to President Trump, swept into office with a vow to finally wrest Britain from the European Union by whatever means necessary, even if it meant a disorderly, no-deal departure.
Now, Parliament has pulled the rug out from under him, and Mr. Johnson is at risk of falling into the same Brexit quagmire that dragged down his predecessor as prime minister, Theresa May.
Airports were flooded and roads impassable after the most powerful storm to hit the Bahamas in recorded history parked over Abaco and Grand Bahama islands, pounding them with winds up to 185 mph (295 kph) and torrential rain before finally moving into open waters Tuesday on a course toward Florida.
At least seven deaths were reported in the Bahamas, with the full scope of the disaster still unknown.
The storm’s punishing winds and muddy brown floodwaters destroyed or severely damaged thousands of homes, crippled hospitals and trapped people in attics.
It’s total devastation. It’s decimated. Apocalyptic,” said Lia Head-Rigby, who helps run a local hurricane relief group and flew over the Bahamas’ hard-hit Abaco Islands. “It’s not rebuilding something that was there; we have to start again.”
Hong Kong backtracks
HONG KONG, Sept 4 (Reuters) – Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam on Wednesday withdrew an extradition bill that triggered months of often violent protests so the Chinese-ruled city can move forward from a “highly vulnerable and dangerous” place and find solutions.
The announcement, live on television, came after Reuters reports on Friday and Monday revealed that Beijing had thwarted an earlier proposal from Lam to withdraw the bill and that she had said privately that she would resign if she could, according to a leaked audio recording.
“Lingering violence is damaging the very foundations of our society, especially the rule of law,” Lam said in her address on Wednesday.
South Africa riots
Rioters looted shops and set fire to cars and buildings in the latest outbreak of violence against African immigrants in and around Johannesburg, South Africa’s largest city. The police said five people were killed and at least 189 arrested.
The violence on Monday night appeared to target shops owned by foreigners, said the mayor of Johannesburg, Herman Mashaba, and follows a spate of similar riots this year that have been part of a larger trend of hostility toward outsiders.
Russian interference in the 2016 U.S. presidential election rattled America’s next-door neighbor so badly that Canada spent the last three years developing the most detailed plan anywhere in the Western world to combat foreign meddling in its upcoming election.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s government passed new transparency rules last year for online political ads that run on platforms including Facebook and Twitter — further than what’s required in the U.S. It ordered the country’s usually tight-lipped intelligence services to go public about foreign threats. Canada also housed a G-7 project to share the latest intelligence between allies about possible foreign disinformation and created a non-partisan group to warn political parties and the public about outside interference.
Secretary of Defense Mark Esper has authorized the diverting of $3.6 billion in military construction funds for 11 wall projects on the southern border with Mexico, according to defense officials and a letter from Esper to the Senate Armed Services Committee, which has been obtained by CNN.
Defense Department officials say 127 military construction projects are being put on hold in order to use the $3.6 billion to fund building 175 miles of southern border wall.
Though it’s unclear which military construction would be put on hold, the move could put at risk projects such as command and control, drone, cyber and training facilities in the US and overseas.
The move would rely on Trump’s February emergency declaration, which has faced stiff legal challenges.
A U.S. district judge on Tuesday ordered the White House to restore Playboy correspondent Brian Karem’s press credentials after the administration said last month it was revoking his hard pass.
Judge Rudolph Contreras said in a court order that he was granting Karem’s motion for a preliminary injunction to block the White House’s move. Karem sued the Trump administration after White House press secretary Stephanie Grisham announced in August that his pass would be suspended through Sept. 14.
Contreras wrote in a 24-page opinion that the White House did not provide the required guidance as to what would warrant the suspension of a hard pass outside a press conference setting and that Karem was likely to succeed on the grounds of his due process claim.
A North Carolina court on Tuesday struck down the state’s current legislative districts for violating the rights of Democratic voters, forcing districts to be withdrawn ahead of the 2020 election.
The three-judge panel’s opinion says that North Carolina’s General Assembly “had a partisan intent to create legislative districts that perpetuated a Republican-controlled” assembly when drawing maps in 2017.
The redistricting saw the “collective voting strength” of Democrats diluted, resulting in a map that greatly favored Republican candidates.
The court has given the General Assembly until Sept. 18 to issue remedial maps. The drawing of those maps will be required to occur at public hearings, with “relevant computer screen visible to legislators and public observers.”
Texas Rep. Bill Flores will not seek reelection in 2020, becoming the latest Republican to retire from the increasingly competitive state.
Flores, who rode the 2010 tea party wave to Congress, is a former chairman of the conservative Republican Study Committee and currently serves on the powerful House Energy and Commerce Committee.
SALEM, Ore. (AP) — The American Civil Liberties Union on Tuesday urged ranking members of the House Judiciary Committee to oppose a bill that targets white supremacist groups by criminalizing domestic terrorism.
The ACLU said the bill would unnecessarily expand authorities used by the Trump administration to target and discriminate against the very communities Congress hopes to protect.
Jeanne Theoharis, a political science professor at Brooklyn College who has written extensively on civil rights, says such a provision provides a way for the federal government to go after people whose politics they don’t like.