By Robert A. Vella
The news roundup for this Friday includes impeachment and Mueller investigation updates, the latest President Trump shenanigans including how he is interjecting himself into U.K. politics and meddling in its upcoming election, important climate change stories, the corporatization of journalism, the pathetically weak president of Mexico allowing a murderous drug cartel to run wild, and other news.
The journalism story details how corporate consolidation under G/O Media (which purchased Deadspin and the satirical magazine The Onion) first silenced, and then caused the wholesale departure of a staff of writers. This is dangerous stuff, folks. Democracy cannot survive the persistent assaults upon it without freedom of the press.
A White House adviser on Thursday corroborated key impeachment testimony from a senior U.S. diplomat who said last week he was alarmed by efforts to pressure the Ukrainian government to investigate President Trump’s political rivals in exchange for nearly $400 million in military aid.
Tim Morrison, the top Russia and Europe adviser on President Trump’s National Security Council, told House investigators over eight hours of closed-door testimony that the “substance” of his conversations recalled by William B. Taylor Jr., the acting ambassador to Ukraine, was “accurate,” according to his prepared remarks and people familiar with Morrison’s testimony.
A federal judge sharply challenged the Trump administration on Thursday over its objections to a House Democratic lawsuit trying to force the testimony of one of Robert Mueller’s star witnesses as part of their broader impeachment inquiry.
Lawmakers have been fighting to bring in former White House counsel Don McGahn for questioning since he showed up repeatedly at the center of anecdotes detailing President Donald Trump’s potential obstruction of justice in the special counsel’s final report. But the Justice Department has tried to block McGahn’s testimony, arguing that the ex-Trump aide can essentially ignore a congressional subpoena related to his time in the White House, and that the courts shouldn’t weigh in on a dispute between Congress and the executive branch.
WASHINGTON, Oct 31 (Reuters) – U.S. President Donald Trump’s administration is withholding $105 million in security aid for Lebanon, two U.S. officials said on Thursday, two days after the resignation of Lebanese Prime Minister Saad al-Hariri.
The officials did not say why the aid was blocked. One of the sources said the State Department did not give Congress a reason for the decision.
The official said drawing aid away from Lebanon could pave the way for Russia to move in. Russia has expanded its influence in Syria since Trump announced he was withdrawing U.S. forces from the northeastern part of the country.
SAN FRANCISCO — A federal appeals court decided unanimously Thursday that the Trump administration may not force Los Angeles to help the government deport immigrants as a condition of receiving a federal police grant.
A panel of two Republican appointees and one Democrat of the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals said federal law did not permit the Trump administration to impose the conditions.
President Trump has been trying for years to soften a set of stringent targets to reduce greenhouse gas emissions first agreed to in 2012 by the Obama administration, California and much of the automobile industry. The move to 1.5%—expected to be announced by year’s end—comes after intense industry lobbying, which opposed the Trump administration’s original plan to freeze targets at 2019 levels, around 37 miles a gallon.
California’s Air Resources Board said that a 1.5% annual increase wouldn’t be enough for the state to meet federal air quality standards.
A coalition of companies including General Motors Co., Toyota Motor Corp. and Fiat Chrysler Automobiles NV filed Monday to intervene in a lawsuit over the standards, lending support to the Trump administration’s argument that the federal government set emissions targets. In July, Ford Motor Co., Honda Motor Co., Volkswagen AG and BMW AG agreed to recognize California’s authority to set its own targets, which would be more stringent than those proposed by the federal government and are followed by 13 other states.
BISMARCK, N.D. (AP) — TC Energy’s Keystone pipeline has leaked an estimated 383,000 gallons (1.4 million liters) of oil in northeastern North Dakota, marking the second significant spill in two years along the line that carries Canadian tar sands oil through seven states, regulators said Thursday.
The more than 12,000 residents of this windswept Canadian archipelago are facing a growing number of gut-wrenching choices, as extreme climate change transforms the land and water around them. Season after season, storm after storm, it is becoming clearer that the sea, which has always sustained these islands, is now their greatest threat.
A Washington Post examination of the fastest-warming places around the world has found that the Magdalen Islands, as they are known in English, have warmed 2.3 degrees Celsius (4.2 degrees Fahrenheit) since the late 19th century, twice the global average.
As in New England, Siberia and other global hot spots at higher latitudes, winters here are heating up even more quickly, eclipsing 3 degrees Celsius (5.4 degrees Fahrenheit). That change has fueled freezing and thawing cycles here that wreak havoc on the famous — and famously fragile — sandstone cliffs.
Corporatization of journalism
The clash between Deadspin’s staff and ownership had come to a head Tuesday when interim editor Barry Petchesky tweeted that he had been fired for refusing to follow the corporate directive sent out in a memo Monday to write only about topics that had a direct connection to sports.
Deadspin and its affiliated sites are unionized. On Wednesday, GMG Union issued a statement after the exodus that read in part:
“Today, a number of our colleagues at Deadspin resigned from their positions. From the outset, CEO Jim Spanfeller has worked to undermine a successful site by curtailing its most well-read coverage because it makes him personally uncomfortable. This is not what journalism looks like, and this is not what editorial independence looks like.
“ ‘Stick to sports’ is and always been a thinly veiled euphemism for ‘don’t speak truth to power.’ In addition to being bad business, Spanfeller’s actions are morally reprehensible.”
Cartel runs wild
Mr. [Ovidio] Guzmán [son of drug lord Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzmán] makes a call to his brother Iván Archivaldo Guzmán: “Stop everything. Stop everything. I’ve given up,” he says. “Tell them to retreat. I don’t want any trouble.”
Iván Archivaldo refused. Instead, he threatened soldiers and their families.
As Mexican security forces surrounded Ovidio’s house, hundreds of cartel gunmen who deployed around the city attacked army convoys and a housing project for military families. They burned buses to cut off avenues, shot at army helicopters deployed to aid the soldiers, and captured nearly a dozen soldiers. Just seven hours after the start of the operation, the Mexican government set Ovidio free.
“This was an unmitigated debacle,” said Bruce Bagley, an expert on Latin America and drug trafficking at the University of Miami. “If it can happen in Sinaloa, it can happen in half a dozen other places, and now the cartels have a formula.”
On Wednesday, President Andrés Manuel López Obrador reiterated his defense of the decision to call off Ovidio’s capture to save lives.