News Roundup (Week of Jan. 1-7, 2017)

news roundup, nfl, janet jackson, facebook live, syria, congress, dnc, trump, istanbul, shooting

Hello, readers! It’s a new year and I have a new posting schedule. Let’s get into the News Roundup!


Table of Contents

Here are the stories I have curated for this week:

International

National

Regional

Health & Science

Internet & Tech

Entertainment

Commentary: Speech on Congressional Priorities

Want to Contribute?

Social Media Links


In International News …

The Investigation into Istanbul Attack Continues.

Last week, I discussed a shooting which occurred in the exclusive Reina nightclub on New Year’s Day. Thirty-nine people were killed in the attack. Among the victims were Turks, visitors from Arab nations, Indians, and Canadians.

According to witnesses, a lone gunman entered the club after killing a police officer and a civilian at the door. He was said to shout “Allahu Akbar” (God is Greatest).

The shooter used an automatic rifle in the attack. The onslaught went on for at least 20 minutes and the attacker was said to have used stun grenades to give himself time to reload his weapon for a total of six times.

It was hard for people to escape. The gunman shot the wounded. And although some patrons tried to escape to a nearby body of water, the gunman was said to have shot in that direction, as well.

A forensics report quoted by the Milliyet newspaper said that some victims were shot at a close or point-blank range. Mehmet Yilan, 36, had been a barman with Reina for 12 years. He said the gunman targeted the most crowded areas of the club and aimed for the victim’s upper bodies.

Reina is an exclusive nightclub. It is frequented by local celebrities, rich foreigners, and the “jet set” crowd.

The Reina club is located on the shore of Bosphorus Strait in Ortakoy. This is a neighborhood with plenty of cafes and restaurants.

The club is owned by Mehmet Kocarslan. He said there were “extraordinary security measures” taken by police in anticipation of New Year’s celebrations in Bosphorus neighborhoods around Ortakoy.

Establishing a Motive

The New Year’s attack on the Reina nightclub was claimed by the Islamic State. A statement by the terrorist network claimed it was attacking Christians celebrating their “apostate holiday” and that the shooting was revenge for Turkey’s role in the war in Syria.

Over the past 18 months, IS has been blamed for multiple attacks on civilian targets in Turkey. However, this is the first time the terrorist organization has claimed direct responsibility for such an attack, outside of assassinations.

The gunman in the attack may have been trained in Syria, according to a newspaper report and a security source. The Haberturk newspaper reported that the attacker entered Turkey via Syria and traveled to Konya with his wife and two children in November.

Closing in on the Attacker’s Identity

On Wednesday, Jan. 4, Turkish Foreign Minster Mevlut Cavusoglu said authorities had identified the suspect in the nightclub shooting. However, his name wasn’t given. Before, Authorities released a selfie video of a suspect in which his face could be clearly seen.

Turkish Deputy Prime Minister Veysi Kaynak said the lone attacker in the Reina nightclub shooting may be an ethnic Uighur*. Also, the attacker may be from Kyrgyzstan. Additionally, Kaynay said Turkish security forces might know where the shooter may be hiding.

Moving on a tip, counter-terrorism police, gendarmes, and special forces searched a housing complex in Selimpasa, a coastal town is just west of Istanbul, on Thursday. The authorities were looking for possible accessories to the shooter.

At least 36 people have been held during the investigation. On Wednesday, there was word that 20 suspected IS militants (possibly of Central Asian and North African origin) had been detained in Izmir. Police detained some Uighurs from Selimpasa during the raid on Thursday. Two foreign nationals were among those detained in connection to the Istanbul nightclub attack; they were intercepted on Ataturk Airport in Istanbul.

*Uighurs are of a mostly Muslim and Turkic-speaking ethnicity. There are diaspora Uighur communities across central Asia and Turkey, with a minority living in western China.

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Two Men Sentenced to Jail for Chinese Fake Bank Case.

In Nanjing, a court upheld the guilty verdict for two men who were found guilty of cheating customers out of their money through an illegitimate bank. The men, whose family names are Zeng and He, took 435 yuan (roughly $63 million) from 400 customers. The men were sentenced to nine and nine-and-a half years in jail, respectively.

The fake bank was originally a co-operative that looked like a state-owned bank. It had tellers’ windows, uniformed clerks, and deposit slips. However, it did not have the necessary permits to run as a bank.

He was one of the founders of the Mengxin Village Economic Information Professional Co-operative, which was first set up in 2012 as an agricultural consultancy. In 2013, it first offered attractive interest rates for anyone who made a deposited their savings with the co-operative. He had experience working at a state bank and he instructed employees on how to conduct business the way legitimate bankers would and to dodge questions from customers.

The authorities were alerted to the fake bank’s operations by a businessman. In 2014, he did not receive the promised interest on his money and he reported the co-operative to the police.

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Sri Lankans Protest a Planned Industrial Zone.

Sri Lankan President Maithripala Sirisena is pushing a plan as part of a $50 billion project to revive the country’s economy. He is in discussions with China Merchants Port Holdings Company Ltd. If finalized, China would pay $1.12 billion to have an 80-percent stake on a 99-year lease.

The plan would also call for the creation industrial zone to accommodate Chinese factories. The government wants to provide 15,000 acres (6,070 hectares) of land for the industrial zone.

Construction would lead to the evictions of thousands of villagers around the Hambantota port, which is 240 kilometers (150 miles) south-east of Colombo (the Sri Lankan capital). The government promises to give the villagers new land.

Villagers protested the plan at a ceremony attended by Prime Minister Rani Wickeremesignghe.

Police used tear gas to control the crowd. Tear gas and water cannons were used to disperse the crowd. Police said they arrested 54 people during the protests.At least 21 people were injured.

Former president Mahinda Rajapaksa is highly critical of the plan. However, he approved the 2010 construction of the port with Chinese loans and contractors. The Sri-Lankan government needed to develop the country’s infrastructure after its 26-year civil war ended in 2009.

Since the civil war in Sri Lankan ended in 2009, China has made significant investments into the island nation’s infrastructure. China wants to stake a greater claim to the South China Sea and to expand its reach into Middle Eastern and European ports as part of a “Maritime Silk Route.”

China has already built a $1.5 billion port and airport in Hambantota, the proposed site of the industrial zone.

Chinese Ambassador Yi Xianlang says the plan would provide $5 billion for the Sri Lankan government and create 100,000 jobs.

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Russia Military Announced the Withdrawl from Syria.

On Friday, head of the Russian General Staff, Valery Garasimov, announced a drawdown of Russia’s forces in Syria in accordance with the ceasefire deal reached last year. The first steps involved the withdrawal of the Russian naval fleet from the east Mediterranean. The fleet is part of a group led by the Admiral Kuznetsov aircraft carrier.

Russia wants to hold peace talks in Kazakhstan later this month. But the talks are contingent upon the ceasefire holding. Despite some attacks last week, it appears the parties involved in the ceasefire are each holding their end of agreement.

On Tuesday, Turkey’s military claimed that it had killed 18 jihadists and wounded 37 more in clashes on Monday. Additionally, Turkey’s warplanes destroyed four Islamic State targets. Russia aircraft were said to hit jihadists in Dayr Kak.

A car bomb was detonated near a courthouse in Azaz, a militant stronghold 7 km from the border with Turkey. At least 43 people were killed as a result.

The bombing has been blamed on the Islamic State. No other militant faction has claimed responsibility for the bombing. (Video of the aftermath contains some disturbing images.)

Note

For this portion, I had to do some editing of the information I found. As I pointed out in a previous News Roundup, much of the information on the Syrian War is unreliable. I include it because there is still usable information on the progress of the ceasefire.

From now on, I will refer to people called “rebels” as militants or Jihadists. By some accounts of independent journalists who have been to Syria or have contacts among civilians, Syrian President Bashar al Assad has wide support among civilians, even if it is due to necessity in some cases. But many of the forces fighting against him come from Al Qaida and ISIS. Additionally, the Free Syrian Army, which was mentioned last week, is basically disbanded.

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Benjamin Netanyahu Is Under Investigation.

On Monday and Thursday, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was questioned in connection to a corruption investigation. The first time he was approached, Netanyahu was questioned for three hours. The second time the PM was approached by the police he was questioned for five hours, according to police spokesman Mickey Rosenfeld.

Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit said Netanyahu was under investigation for two ongoing cases. The first was due to allegations the PM received gifts from businessman but no details were given for the second case. However, on his Facebook page, Netanyahu talked of three types of allegations levied against him. At least one looks like it was connected to one of the ongoing cases.

Netanyahu was investigated during his first term as prime minister, in the 1990’s.

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Upcoming German Elections Underscore Deep Divides on Immigration Policy.

Police in Cologne, Germany coined a new term to describe migrants from North Africa. In speaking about the number of North African men who had been screened last week (650), removed from the city center (190), and detained (92) in anticipation of New Year’s celebrations, the police referred to the men as “Nafris.” The term itself is an abbreviation of Nodafrikanische Internsivtaeter (North African Repeat Offenders).

The usage of the term has brought about criticism from the left. In particular, German politicians say it’s racist.

The arguments between politicians and those defending the police’s use of the term “Nafri,” as well as the aforementioned operation by the police in Cologne underscore a deep rift among Germans on the issue of immigration.

Early in 2016, there was a riot in Cologne during which hundreds of women were sexually assaulted, mostly by North African men who identified as Muslim. Chancellor Angela Merkel, who is running for a fourth term, was initially praised for her immigration policies, came under sharp criticism after the incident. (She let in a million immigrants over a two-year span.)

The debate over immigration has dominated political discussion across Europe and anti-immigrant parties have sought to benefit. In Germany, the Alternative for Germany (AfD) is one such party. It is gearing up for a May 14th election in North Rhine-Westphalia (the state in which Cologne is located) and for federal elections in September.

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A U.S. Consular Was Shot in Guadalajara.

On Friday night, a U.S. consular official was shot in the upper chest in Guadalajara, Mexico. The official, identified as 31-year-old Christopher Nolan Ashcraft by an anonymous source within the Guadalajara police force, was reportedly in a local hospital. The U.S. Consulate has not confirmed the official’s identity.

In response to the shooting, the FBI is offering a $20,000 reward for information that can help the agency positively identify the suspect. The man who shot the official was wearing a purple T-shirt and carrying a pistol, based on footage captured by closed circle television.

Guadalajara, Mexico’s second-largest city, is located in Jalisco state.

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In National News …

Here Are Your Trump Updates.

Someone needs to stay away from Twitter …

Cabinet Picks

On Tuesday, Robert Lighthizer was named as Trump’s incoming chief trade negotiator. Lighthizer is a critic of China’s trade practices. As President Ronald Reagan’s deputy trade representative, Lighthizer curtailed Japanese imports by threatening quotas and punitive tariffs.

Lighthizer has spent nearly 30 years representing U.S. steelmakers and other companies in anti-dumping and anti-subsidy cases.

Trump has also named Peter Navarro to head the newly created White House National trade council. Navarro is an economist and advisor.

On North Korea

Last Week, Donald Trump responded to North Korean leader Kim Jong Un’s Sunday announcement that NK had been developing an intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) and close to testing it. It is conceivable that a finished ICBM could reach the U.S., if completed. North Korea is about 9,000 km (5,500 miles) from the United States. ICMB’s are generally able to reach 5,500 km (3,400 mi) but some can reach 10,000 km (6,200 mi) or farther.

Trump tweeted, “It won’t happen,” in regards to the ICMB being launched. South Korea’s foreign ministry took this message to mean that Trump was willing to seriously deal with North Korea.

Trump also criticized China’s rule in the North Korea situation. He said China benefits from its economic ties to the United States but will not use its economic influence to dissuade NK from its nuclear arms program.

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Geng Shuang responded to the criticism by insisting that his country is pushing for the denuclearization of the Korean peninsula. Geng also said that China, as a permanent member of the U.N. Security Council, has also joined in voting for resolutions against North Korea. (New sanctions were imposed in November due to the impoverished nation’s test in September.)

So far, the U.S. refuses to talk to NK, insisting the later disarm first. However, Trump has signified that he is willing to talk to North Korea.

About Toyota

The Toyota Corolla is the second bestselling compact car in the United States (the most popular is the Honda Civic). Toyota plans to manufacture 200,000 of its Corollas at a $1 billion plant in Guantajuato state in central Mexico. (The automaker also plans to increase production at a Tijuana, Baja California plant that manufactures the company’s Tacoma trucks).

On Thursday, Trump threatened to punish Toyota with a border tax if the automaker produced cars meant for the U.S. market in Mexico. In the Tweet from Thursday, Trump said, “Toyota Motor said will build a new plant in Baja, Mexico, to build Corolla cars for U.S. NO WAY! Build plant in U.S. or pay big border tax.”

This is the latest in a series of threats Trump has thrown to automakers and the first he has made toward a foreign company since the election. He said he wants cars meant for purchase in the U.S. to be made within the states.

Jorge Guajardo sharply rebuked Trump, saying the real estate magnate planned to destroy the economy of another country (Mexico) and that threatened to establish peace.

Trump has been broadly threatening companies that outsource work to foreign countries. But he specifically called out Boeing and Lockheed-Martin in recent weeks. Both of those countries have huge government contracts worth billions of dollars.

Toyota’s Response

Toyota indirectly responded to Trump’s tweet by pointing out that it employs 136,000 people in America, adds $21.9 billion in investments to the U.S., has 10 manufacturing facilities, and has 1,500 dealerships in the country.

According to the U.S. embassy in Tokyo, Japanese companies employ over 800,000 people in the U.S. and contributed $78 billion to U.S. exports in 2014.

Ford Motor Co. originally planned to open a plant in San Luis Potos, Mexico. Those plans have since been abandoned.

Trump threatened to levy a 35% tax on companies that fail to create jobs in the U.S. (However, only Congress has the power to levy taxes.)

Akira Kishimoto at JP Morgan noted that a 20% tax on the Toyota automobiles made in Mexico would only amount to about 6% of the automaker’s operating profit.

About That Wall …

Last week, Trump appeared to go back on his campaign promise to make Mexico pay for a wall along the United States-Mexico border. He signaled that he would like Republicans in Congress to fund the wall through an appropriations bill by April 28. He defended his position on Friday, and said he would later ask Mexico to reimburse the U.S. for the expenditures.

How Trump Plans to Go About Building the Wall

Trump’s team says it will use the George W. Bush-era law passed in 2006 to authorize the building of the wall. Republicans also pointed out how notable Democrats in the Senate, including Chuck Schumer (NY), Hillary Clinton (NY), and Barack Obama (IL) voted for the 2006 bill at the time. However, immediate funding is needed (through an appropriations bill).

In order to coerce direct funding from Mexico, Trump said he would use a number of tactics, including remittance seizures, foreign aid cuts, and increasing fees for NAFTA worker visas. However, most these measures might only account for $1 billion, at most 10% of the total cost. Remittance seizures, which could provide all the funds needed, would carry domestic and international consequences.

(Remittances are payments sent back to one’s country of origin. Many Mexican immigrants — legal and illegal — working in the U.S. send back money to their families in Mexico. The Bank of Mexico estimates the amount given in 2015 was $24.8 billion. And 97% of those remittances may have come from the U.S. during that same year.)

Trump also said he would use the Patriot Act to require identification for money transfer transactions. Such an exaction would also face stiff legal opposition, as well.

For the Republicans’ Part

Some Republicans in the House have signaled they would be on board with pushing a bill to provide funding for the wall (and getting Mexico to reimburse the U.S.). Rep. Chris Collins (R-NY), a congressional liaison for Trump’s transitional team, said the United States could use economic leverage to pressure Mexico to foot the bill. Rep. Luke Messer (R-IN) admitted that the cost of a wall could cost $10 billion (as he cited a bill proposed by Homeland Security Chairman Mike McCaul in 2016), “but it’s a question of priorities.”

Speaking of congressional priorities …

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Republicans Quickly Got to Work in The New Session of Congress.

The new Congressional session began on Tuesday. The priorities of the Republicans in the 115th Congress were thus:

  • Introducing more tax cuts for the top 2% of income earners and corporations. Specifically, Republicans want to change the tax code to give relief to corporations in a supposed effort to keep them from sending jobs offshore.
  • Repealing the Affordable Care Act, under which 13.8 Americans are enrolled. However, there is currently no plan to replace the ACA.
  • Rolling back financial and environmental regulations. Republicans might do this by cutting the funding of regulatory agencies.

Republicans prepared to move their legislation by first passing rules about how the House of Representatives will be run for the next two years. House rules will determine voting procedure, potentially preventing Democrats from blocking specific legislation.

Republican Plan to Gut the OCE

On Monday (Jan. 2), before the 115th Congress was in session, Republicans secretly voted to strip power from the Office of Congressional Ethics. The vote was later revealed that night by Rep. Robert W. Goodlatte (R-VA), chairman of the House Judiciary Committee. He defended the move because he said the OCE was “overzealous.”

The OCE is an independent committee that has a six-member board, its own staff of investigators, but lacks subpoena power. The committee acts after receiving complaints or taking a closer look at news reports. After conducting interviews and using information found from documents, members post their findings to the House Committee on Ethics, which will do its own review but has to release the OCE’s report regardless.

The Office of Congressional Ethics was partially created by lawmakers like House minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, but with much difficulty. The committee was created in response to numerous scandals involving members of Congress, some of whom were eventually charged and convicted. Convicted former lawmakers include:

  • Duke Cunningham (R-CA)
  • William J. Jefferson (D-LA)
  • Bob Ney (R-OH)

Rep. Maxine Waters (D-CA) was under investigation in 2010, although she was ultimately cleared. She was accused of interfering with the Treasury department in order to help her husband’s bank.

If approved, the changes would have brought the OCE under congressional control force it be renamed to the Office of Congressional Complaint Review — the latter of which is more about persuasion. The OCE would have been under the direct jurisdiction of the House Committee on Ethics (which has been accused of ignoring credible complaints) and no more complaints could have been made anonymously.

The Immediate Blowback

After news broke of the Republicans’ secret vote, they were inundated by phone calls from angry constituents. And the members of the House who voted for the changes were pulled aside and called out by their leaders, Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI) and Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA), to focus on their priorities. These two had opposed the vote, and so did a number of other Republicans. As a result of the pressure, the vote was scrapped.

Donald Trump weighed in on the vote, only saying:

With all that Congress has to work on, do they really have to make the weakening of the Independent Ethics Watchdog, as unfair as it……..may be, their number one act and priority. Focus on tax reform, healthcare and so many other things of far greater importance! #DTS

But this was not an outright rejection of Republicans gutting the OCE (at a later date.)

There are lawmakers who are still technically under investigation of the OCE. They include:

  • Mark Meadows (R-NC).
  • Roger Willaims (R-TX).
  • Markwayne Mullin (R-OK).
  • Cathy McMorris Rogders (R-WA).
  • Bobby L. Rush (D-IL).
  • Luis V. Gutíerrez (D-IL).

This was not the first time lawmakers from either party tried to curtail the OCE. In 2011, Rep. Melvin Watt (D-NC) tried to cut the OCE’s budget by 40%. That move was rejected by a 302-102 vote. (Watt later joined the Obama Administration.)

The Committee on Ethics has to act within 90 days to either clear a lawmaker or recommend charges. However, the committee has often used a loophole to keep some cases in limbo.

Links to Rules Changes:

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The Affordable Care Act is in Real Danger.

A Blow to ACA Protections

This is from the last year, but it must be noted that there was an important decision made about the Affordable Care Act.

On Saturday, December 31, U.S. District Judge Reed O’Connor in Texas issued a court order to bar the extension of anti-discrimination protections under the ACE. Under the ban, there would be no such protections for transgender health and abortion-related services. According to the judge, the rule defines gender-based discrimination by health-care companies to include the denial of services on “the basis of gender identity and termination of pregnancy.”

Texas joins 7 other states in barring the extension.

The injunction was made one day before the changes to ACA were to come into effect. And t O’Connor holds that the changes violate the Administrative Procedure Act, which govern rule-making procedures, and the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, which would protect religious health-care providers.

In August, O’Connor also blocked an Obama Administration order to allow transgendered students at public schools to use restrooms based on their gender identity.

The Republican Push to Repeal the ACA

On Tuesday, a resolution to start the ACA repeal process was introduced by Sen. Mike Enzi (R-WY). If the law is repealed, at least 23 million Americans would lose their health insurance.

Also last week, the Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget released a report showing the cost of repealing the Affordable Care Act. According to the report, a full repeal would cost up to $350 billion over the next 10 years. The total cost the U.S. government could be $150 billion.

States would be burdened with the rest of the cost. For example: On Wednesday, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo said the repeal would cost his state $3.7 billion alone.

The CRFB said that a partial repeal – getting rid of subsidies and Medicaid expansion – could save $1.55 trillion dollars. A full repeal would get rid of tax-revenues and drop the savings to $750 billion dollars.

But … even a partial repeal would have unintended consequences. For one thing, the reversal of the subsidies and Medicaid expansion would leave 23 million Americans without insurance.

If only the mandate for everyone to have insurance is removed, there will be fewer people paying into the system. Most would wait until they have a health issue to get insurance, thus bringing up costs. The Congressional Budget Office estimates that about 15 million Americans will reject their plans if the mandate fell.

Regardless of how the Republicans proceed, there needs to be a plan for the reform or placement for the ACA in order to bring costs down. However, there is no Republican plan in sight to do either of those things.

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The Internal Struggle in the DNC Continues.

On Tuesday, the Democratic National Committee announced the addition of new hires in order to build a “war room” in order to challenge Donald Trump. Some of the people who have been added to the DNC are former staffers from Hillary Clinton’s campaign.

Zac Petkanas (Clinton’s former rapid response director), Adrienne Watson (Clinton’s former campaign spokeswoman), Tessa Simonds and will serve under John Neffinger. Petkanas, who once was former Senator Harry Reid’s communications director, will act as senior adviser to the DNC. Watson, who also served as communications director for Correct the Record (a super PAC aligned with Clinton), will serve as the DNC’s national press secretary. Simonds is being promoted to the war room’s digital director.

How the War Room Will Be Used

The war room will consist of amped up communications and research systems and it will be supervised by Interim DNC Chair Donna Brazille. However, Brazille announced the team’s priorities will included the forming an independent and bipartisan council to look into the allegations that Russia tampered with the 2016 election. Other priorities include challenging Trump and protecting President Barack Obama’s legacy.

In order to counter Trump, the plan is for Democrats to dig up dirt on the real estate magnate. They plan to look into his business dealings, charitable foundation, old footage of him, and his personal life.

The Future of the DNC

The announcement comes at a critical juncture for the Democratic Party. There are still visible fractures within the part, mainly stemming from the primaries. Many of Bernie Sanders’ supporters hold that there was malfeasance among party elites and they question the inclusion of former Clinton staffers in important party positions. Also, many Democrats in the progressive wing argue that the DNC should start over and get newer leaders in order to steer the party in a new direction.

Due to the above factors, the race for the next DNC chair — one that includes Minnesota Rep. Keith Ellison and Labor Secretary Tom Perez as the two leading candidates — is looking like a proxy war between the Clinton and Sanders factions. There is also an age split between factions, for the most part. And there is a general split on policy.

Other candidates include for the DNC chair: Sally Boyton Brown, Ray Buckley, Pete Buttigieg, and Jaime Harrison.

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In Regional News …

There Was A Shooting at a Fort Lauderdale Airport.

On Friday, five people were shot dead and six were wounded during a shooting at the Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport in Fort Lauderdale, FL. Earlier, authorities said eight people were wounded, but that number was revised. Another 40 people were injured during the evacuation of the airport.

The shooting at the lower baggage claim at Terminal 2 at the airport left thousands of travelers stranded. At least 10,000 people dealt with delayed or cancelled flights. There were also passengers who had to stay on planes until the area was cleared.

Esteban Santiago, 26, is the suspect in the Fort Lauderdale airport shooting. He came from Alaska, were he was a security guard. He reached Fort Lauderdale by taking a Delta Airlines flight from Anchorage to Minneapolis to the Florida city.

He allegedly carried only one case, which had a 9mm handgun inside. He checked the bag and was able to go on unimpeded.

(It is legal to carry handguns at airports provided the guns are carried in secure cases, those cases are checked and the guns are unloaded. Gun owners have to get fill out a declaration form to carry ammunition.)

After arriving in Fort Lauderdale, Santiago took his carrying case and fired shoots soon after. A law enforcement source said he first went to a restroom, where he took out the gun.

Santiago was son apprehended by officers from the Broward County Sheriff’s Department. He did not resist arrest and he is being held without bond.

Was There a Motive For the Shooting?

The shooter’s motive is unclear, but authorities will not rule out terrorism.

Reportedly, Santiago visited an FBI office in Anchorage, Alaska in November, during which he said he was hearing voices and being directed to watch ISIS videos. He was given a mental evaluation afterward.

Santiago served in the National Guard for nine years. He joined the Puerto Rico National Guard in December 2007 and was part of the Alaska Army National Guard from 2014 until August 2016. Between serving in the Puerto Rico National Guard and the Alaska National Guard, Santiago served in the U.S. Army Reserve. Santiago was discharged in 2016 for not failing to meet performance standards.

From April 2010 to February 2011, Santiago was deployed to Iraq. For his service in Iraq, he earned the Campaign Medal with a campaign star.

Santiago’s aunt, Maria Ruiz Rivera, said the experience in Iraq forever changed her nephew. After his return, he talked about the killing and destruction he witnessed, including the deaths of children. His family said he reported seeing visions. Rivera also said her nephew ceased communicating with her a few months ago.

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Kentucky’s Republican-Led Legislature Delivered a Blow to Unions.

In 2015, Republican Matt Bevin was elected as Kentucky’s governor. A year later, the GOP controlled both houses of the state legislature. Before 2016, Democrats had controlled the state House for nearly 100 years.

At the start of this year, that Republican-controlled legislature introduced right-to-work legislation. It was passed on Saturday, making Kentucky the 27th overall state and the last in the South to become a right-to-work state. The right-to-work legislation was among other anti-union bills introduced in both chambers of the legislature.

Right-to-work bills allow workers to receive union protections without paying union dues. That essentially strips unions of their bargaining power. The laws also hurt unions and Democrats politically. Additionally, many union leaders past and present argue that wages will plummet for workers.

The bills introduced by both legislative chambers in Kentucky have extra stipulations to weaken unions. The House wants to take away the right of public sector workers to strike. The Senate bill wants to preclude unions from putting any money raised from dues into political action committees.

On Wednesday, another Kentucky House bill would create prevailing state wage law exclusions for state contractors. Under the laws, companies bidding for state contracts have to pay the workers who are assigned to the resulting projects a minimum wage.

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Kentucky’s Republican-Led Legislature Delivered a Blow to Unions.

On New Year’s Day, a 32-year-old woman in distress kicked at the windshields of two police cruisers at the intersection of Finch Avenue West at Milady Road in Toronto. First, she climbed atop the hood of one cruiser, yelled, and kicked at the front windshield. She then moved on to kick at the windshields of a second cruiser after it arrived at the scene. Eventually, the women broke one of the windshields.

Someone from a two-story house took video footage of the incident and thought the women would be shot. Instead, no police officers pulled out their guns.

Shortly before the woman broke one of the windshields, one cop got out of a cruiser and gestured his colleagues to step back. The women then peacefully followed an officer and she was taken away in a waiting ambulance. She went to the hospital and faced no criminal charges.

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Toronto Police Peacefully Diffused a Situation with a Mentally Ill Person.

On New Year’s Day, a 32-year-old woman in distress kicked at the windshields of two police cruisers at the intersection of Finch Avenue West at Milady Road in Toronto. First, she climbed atop the hood of one cruiser, yelled, and kicked at the front windshield. She then moved on to kick at the windshields of a second cruiser after it arrived at the scene. Eventually, the women broke one of the windshields.

Someone from a two-story house took video footage of the incident and thought the women would be shot. Instead, no police officers pulled out their guns.

Shortly before the woman broke one of the windshields, one cop got out of a cruiser and gestured his colleagues to step back. The women then peacefully followed an officer and she was taken away in a waiting ambulance. She went to the hospital and faced no criminal charges.

It’s All in the Training

The officers were given encouragement for handling the situation the way they did. Toronto Police Chief Mark Saunders and a co-chair of the police board’s mental health subcommittee said the officers handled the situation in accordance to their training.

Pat Capponi, the co-chair, has been training officers on how to deal with the mentally ill for over 10 years. She credits the use of camera phones with helping to hold police officers accountable.

The chief oversees a department that requires his officers to receive de-escalation training three days a year. During one of those days, officers have to focus specifically on dealing with people with mental health crises. The stipulation was suggested as part of the 84 recommendations stemming from an inquest lead by former Supreme Court Justice Frank Iacobucci.

Iacobucci looked into the 2013 shooting death of Sammy Yatim, a mentally ill man from Toronto. Constable James Forcillo shot Yatim. Forcillo was later convicted of attempted murder in the case, which he appealed.

In 2016, Toronto police received over 23,000 calls about people experiencing mental health crises. But Mark Pugash, Toronto Regional Police Services spokesman, maintains that police officers should only be the “last line of defense” in dealing with mentally ill civilians. They need to be contact by mental health professionals first and foremost.

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In Health & Science News …

China Is Setting the Tone for Renewable Energy.

China is the world’s leader in investing in renewable energy. The nation owns 5/6 of the largest solar manufacturing firms in the world. It also has the largest wind-turbine manufacturer in the world. In addition, China owns the world’s largest lithium ion manufacturer and the world’s largest electricity utility.

How did China become a leader in this industry? It is investing in technologies produced both at home and abroad.

Domestically: China invested $102 billion U.S. for renewable energies, according to Bloomberg New Energy Finance. That is twice the amount spent by the United States and about five times the size of similar expenditures in the United Kingdom.

According to a report submitted by Tim Buckley at the Institute for Energy Economics and Financial Analysis (Ieefa), China made 13 foreign investments in renewable energy that totaled $32 billion U.S. in 2016. That was a 60% jump from such investments in 2015.

The foreign investments include:

  • Two investments made in Australia. There was a $1.1 billion deal made by China Light & Power to buy power from wind and solar farms.
  • Two investments made with Brazilian firms.
  • Two investments were made with German firms. In particular, Beijing Enterprises Holdings Ltd. invested $1.6 billion to develop Waste to Energy.
  • One investment made Chile. In particular, Tianqi Lithium paid $2.5 billion for a 25% stake in a lithium miner and processor.
  • Other deals made with firms in Indonesia, Egypt, Pakistan, and Vietnam.

Buckley, the director of Ieefa, warned that countries like the U.S., U.K., and Australia could miss out on the opportunity to claim a significant share in the renewable energy industry. China already has a tremendous head start.

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In Internet & Tech News …

An Attack in Chicago Was Streamed on Facebook Live.

In a video streamed on Facebook live on Tuesday, a young white man could be seen being tortured by four young black adults in the West Side of Chicago. In the disturbing video — which was quickly taken down by Facebook, the group of four could be seen kicking and hitting the young man repeatedly.

The young man was tied up and his mouth was taped. He was also forced to drink toilet water.

The four torturers yelled “F**k Trump! F**k white people!” And at one point, part of the young man’s scalp was cut.

The torture video that was streamed from Chicago was up for 30 minutes on Facebook before it was taken down.

It is believed that the young man was an acquaintance of one of his torturers. He may have been approached and driven to a house in a stolen vehicle. Police also speculate the victim may have been held for 24-48 hours.

Police came across the victim on Tuesday afternoon. He was wearing shorts in the cold weather. Police approached him and took him to the hospital so his injuries could be treated.

On Wednesday, the four suspects were charged with hate crimes, kidnapping, battery, and burglary. The names of the suspects are: Jordan Hill, Tesfaye Cooper, Brittany Covington, and Tanishia Covington. Covington is 24 years old; the rest are 18 years old.

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In Entertainment News …

Here’s an NFL News Roundup.

Last week was busy. As 12 teams were gearing up for the playoffs, many more were reshuffling their coaching staffs.

Gary Kubiak Retires from Coaching.

On Monday, January 2, Gary Kubiak announced his retirement from coaching, although he did not rule out accepting another role on a football team. He was part of four Super Bowl-winning staffs, including the 1994 San Francisco 49ers and the Broncos’ 1997, 1998, and 2015 squads.

Kubiak’s long-term health was cited as the reason for his retirement. The 55-year-old was diagnosed with a complex migraine condition earlier this season. The condition sidelined him for one game. He also suffered a mini-stroke in 2013 when he was the head coach of the Houston Texans.

The 2-year stint with the Denver Broncos was Kubiak’s second as a head coach. He was previously with the Houston Texans from 2006-2013. Between those jobs, he served one year as the offensive coordinator for the Baltimore Ravens. He went 85-70 in ten years as a head coach (21-11 with the Broncos).

Kubiak was with the Broncos organization for a total of 22 seasons. He first joined as a player from 1983-1991. He also once served as the Denver Broncos’ offensive coordinator/quarterbacks coach under Mike Shanahan, from 1995-2005. (Shanahan was with the team until 2008.)

According to the NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport, Vance Joseph (the Miami Dolphins’ defensive coordinator) and Kyle Shanahan (the offensive coordinator for the Atlanta Falcons, and the son of Mike Shanahan) are candidates to replace Kubiak.

 The 49ers Clean House.

The San Francisco 49ers franchise is in disarray.

On Sunday, January 1, 49ers CEO Jed York announced that Trent Baalke and Chip Kelly had been fired. Baalke had been with the 49ers organization for 12 years and oversaw the hiring of 3 head coaches since the 2010 season. Chip Kelly came over to Santa Clara after being fired by the Philadelphia Eagles after the 2015 season.

On Monday, Jed York held a press conference to discuss the firings and the direction of the team. (I wrote my thoughts about this situation on Wednesday.)

At the beginning of the press conference, Jed York apologized for failing to produce a team that met expectations.

York was asked tough questions. Matt Maioco asked York one question: why York retained Trent Baalke despite no change. Jed was also asked if he was competent enough to find the new coach. Another question York also asked was about who would make the decisions. To that, he said he would ultimately make the decisions.

Another reporter asked if Jed should be CEO based on his standards for a coach and CEO. Jed said, “You don’t dismiss owners.”

Adam Jones Was Arrested

Cincinnati Bengals cornerback Adam “Pacman” Jones was arrested early Tuesday morning in Hamilton County, Ohio. He was charged with three misdemeanors and a felony.

Jones is accused of pushing a man and poking him in the eye in Central Business District, committed. When approached by officers, Jones pulled away from them, kicked, headbutted, and refused to get into a squad care. For those actions, Jones was charged with assault, disorderly conduct, and obstructing official business (all misdemeanors).

He would later spit in a nurse’s face while in jail. The nurse was part of the medical staff there. This brought on the felony charge of harassing a medical staff member with a bodily substance.

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Janet Jackson Gave Birth to a Son.

Janet Jackson gave birth to a son on January 3. Jackson, 50, and Qatari businessman Wissam Al Mana welcomed Eissa into the world. Janet Jackson and Wissam Al Mana were married in 2012. This is their first child.

In early April, Jackson announced via a video on Twitter that she was postponing her Unbreakable World Tour so she and her husband could focus on her family.

There were multiple reports about Janet Jackson’s pregnancy swirling in early May 2016. According to some reports, several Jackson family members said Janet Jackson was pregnant, but no official announcement was made.

In October 2016, Janet Jackson officially announced her pregnancy and took an exclusive photo for People in which she showed off her growing belly.

Janet Jackson and Wissam Al Mana released a joint statement in 2013 to announce they got married sometime in the previous year. At the time, rumors were swirling about the two planning a wedding.

According to the statement:

The rumours regarding an extravagant wedding are simply not true. Last year we were married in a quiet, private, and beautiful ceremony.

Jackson’s marriage to Al Mana is her third. She was previously married to James DeBarge and René Elizondo, Jr. Her second marriage was keep under wraps initially.

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Commentary

This time, I want to share a video from last week.

On the Senate floor, Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders delivers a stirring speech about healthcare in America. Sanders stressed how the Republicans only want to repeal the Affordable Care Act. They have no plan to replace the ACA, although the

First, he talks about how the U.S. is the only developed nation that fails to guarantee healthcare as a right. This is a debate he looked forward to have.

His overarching point was that the Affordable Care Act should be reformed, not destroyed. A decent health care is a necessity, especially for people who could not afford it by other means. In particular, he pointed out how people in rural areas are in a “life or death” situation and the repeal of the ACA will be dire.

Here are is a great quote from the speech:

The United States of America is the only major country on earth … that does not guarantee health care to all people as a right.

Also:

You do not destroy a house without having another place people in which [are] to live. You do not throw 30 million people off of health care without having a plan for health care to provide to those people.

Here is video of the speech:

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