News Roundup (Week of Jan. 8-14, 2017)

news roundup

Hello, readers. Today’s News Roundup is pretty short, but let’s get into it.


In International News …

Warning Shots Were Fired from a U.S. Navy Ship Toward Iranian Ships.

On Sunday, three warning shots were fired by the USS Mahan (a U.S. Navy ship) near the Strait of Hormuz. On Monday, Pentagon spokesman Navy Capt. Jeff Davis said the USS Mahan was approached by 4 Iranian speedboats from the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps Navy in international waters.

The USS Mahan was traveling through the Strait of Hormuz toward the Persian Gulf with the USS Makin Island and the USNS Walter S. Diehl.

Reportedly, the smaller vessels came within 900 yards of the Navy ship and the USS Mahan used radio calls, flares, and other signals to steer them away. A helicopter was said to have dropped smoke bombs, as well, before shots were fired from a crew-served .50 caliber machine gun.

Davis said this was a rare “unprofessional interaction” with the Iranians, at least since 2016. Last year, the U.S. Navy had similar run-ins with the Iranian Revolutionary Guard 36 times, with the last occurring on August 24. There were 23 such incidents in 2015.

Hamas Moved to Put Down Protests in Gaza.

Rushdi Abu Alouf. “Angry protests in Gaza over crippling power shortages.” BBC. 14 Jan 2017. Web. <http://www.bbc.com/news/world-middle-east-38623932>.

Last week, there were protests in northern Gaza due to the shortage of electricity in the region. Residents had dealt with an alternating 8 hours of electricity for the past 2 years. But for the last four weeks, they have been missing power for up to 18 hours a day.

There were thousands of demonstrators protesting against the local electricity company and the power authority run by Hamas. The protests started from the Jebaliya refugee camp.

Reportedly, dozens of protesters were arrested and attacked by Hamas security forces. Hamas security forces fired shots in the air to clear the crowds. Some protestors were even hit with batons.

Members of the western press were also attacked. A photographer from France’s AFP was by a police officer’s gun after refusing to hand over a camera. An Associated Press reporter was arrested for covering the protests, which Hamas told the foreign press not to do.

Hamas blames the Palestinian Authority for the power shortage.

In 2006, Israel destroyed part of the power plant located in central Gaza after Israel soldier Gilad Shalit was kidnapped by Hamas militants.

Hamas kicked the Fatah Movement (the part of the Palestinian Authority, led by President Mahmoud Abbas) out of Gaza. The Palestinian Authority controls areas in the West Bank.

There are two million residents in Gaza. They require 470-500 megawatts of power each day, but there are receiving half now.

The Iraqi Government is Gaining Ground in Mosul.

Currently, there is a military offensive to take back Mosul from the Islamic State (IS or ISIS, as it is known in the U.S.). The offensive was launched on October 17, 2016.

Mosul is a northern Iraqi city that is home to tens of thousands of Iraqis. ISIS militants took over the city over 2 years ago and then captured much of northern and western Iraq. Mosul is the last ISIS stronghold in Iraq.

Iraqi security forces are joined by Kurdish Peshmerga fighters, Sunni Arab tribesman, and Shia militiamen. This coalition is led by the U.S., which has been supplying warplanes and military advisors.

Government forces met early resistance and faced a setback on Nov. 1, as they were hit by snipers, suicide bombers, and shells. The forces were also set back by bad weather and low visibility for planes.

Another challenge is presented among the western banks of the Tigris. The area is densely populated with people who are mostly supportive of ISIS.

Updates

On Jan. 8, Iraqi government forces reached the eastern banks of Tigris River in the city for the first time since the offensive was launched. Now, two-thirds of the city is said to be under government control.

Last week, Iraqi state television announced that Iraqi government forces took full control of Mosul University. According to Iraqi officials, militants had used the laboratory facilities in the university to make chemical weapons.

Iraqi forces also control three of five important bridges crossing the Tigris River in the city. The bridges were partially destroyed by coalition air strikes but in a way that would allow them to be easily repaired. In the meantime, ISIS will be limited in way of getting reinforcements and supplies.

Up to 1.5 million residents were in the city before the mid-October 2016. More than 140,000 residents in and around Mosul had to flee from their homes after the offensive was launched. According to the U.N.’s refugee agency (UNHCR), up to 1 million people might be displaced, with 700,000 people needing emergency shelter.

The U.N. also reports that civilians and aid workers have been killed in attacks by militants.

Dr. Michael Knights of the Washington Institute for Near East Policy estimates that it could take government forces until February to fully retake Eastern Mosul. He also estimates that it could take about half the year to retake western Mosul.


In National News …

Dylann Roof Was Given the Death Penalty.

On Tuesday, a federal jury unanimously voted for the death penalty in the Dylann Roof case after 3 hours of deliberation. The federal jury was comprised of nine white members and 3 black members.

In December, Roof was convicted on all 33 counts against him. Charges included:

  • Committing a hate crime.
  • Obstructing the exercise of religion.
  • Using a firearm to commit murder.

For the sentencing phase, Roof represented himself. He offered no real defense beyond saying he felt he had to do what he did and that he was misunderstood. He offered no real answer for his actions. He also said that those who though he was filled with hatred had no idea what real hatred was.

Roof offered no witnesses and refused to cross-examine the prosecution’s witnesses. He only filed motions her and there. He addressed the jury at the beginning of the sentencing phase to say he was not mentally ill, although he said no one in their right mind would walk into a church with the intent to kill those in it. And at the end of the sentencing phase, he once again addressed the jury, this time to say that it only took one of the jurors to vote against the death penalty.

The prosecutors in the case closed by saying Roof was a cold and calculated racist who had dismissed his victims and had no remorse.

Roof showed no remorse weeks after the murder or in the courtroom. In his journal, he expressed that he wanted other to take up his mission to start a race war. Six weeks after his arrest, he expressed that he felt no remorse for the innocent lives he took.

Before this sentence, there had been no executions ordered by federal court since 2003. Timothy McVeigh’s 2001 execution was the first ordered in 37 years.

Roof still faces capital murder charges beginning mid-month.

Testimony During and After the Sentencing Phase

Prosecutors juxtaposed the killer’s birth certificate with the death certificates of his nine victims.

When Cynthia Hurd’s death certificate was flashed on the screen in the courtroom, more information about her was filled in by her brother Malcolm Graham in a 45-minute testimony. When asked Assistant U.S. Attorney Nathan Williams what his sister’s murder meant to him, Graham said:

My heart … is broken. My friend. My counselor. My mother. My life coach.

When I found out about her passing, I was totally lost … There’s something missing. I can’t go [to] the store to replace it. I can’t reinvent it.

Graham is a former Charlotte City Council member and state senator. He said he believed Roof deserved to be put to death for his crime.

Hurd worked for the Charleston city libraries for 31 years. For 16 of those years, she was a part-time librarian for the College of Charleston. One city library was named after her (following the shooting at the AME Emanuel Church).

Graham said his sister helped him raise his two daughters and was active in his campaigns.

FBI Agent Joseph Hamski was the lead investigator in the case. He showed the GPS mapping that indicated Roof had stalked the church for months. Hamski also said Roof had a list of other black churches in Charleston; Roof may have had plans to do more shootings at those locations.

After the sentencing, Melvin Graham, one of Cynthia Hurd’s brothers, said:

Today we had justice for my sister. This is a very hollow victory because my sister is still gone.

He just took them away from us because he wanted to. He decided the day, the hour, the moment that my sister was going to die. An new someone is going to do the same for him … He’s in God’s hands now.

The Millennial Struggle Is Real.

On Friday, the advocacy group Young Invincibles released its analysis of Federal Reserve data. The group compared data on young adults aged 25-34 from the years 1989 and 2013. Wages were adjusted for inflation.

Millennials earn a median household income of $40,581 a year. That’s 20% less than their Baby Boomer counterparts did at the same age. The overall net worth of the average Millennial is $10,090, which is 56% less than it was for boomers.

Millennials also own fewer homes yet have higher student debt. In 1989, 46% of adults in the 25-34 range owned homes. The rate is 43% among Millennials.

The study also revealed how deep housing and employment discrimination is. Among the data, it was found that blacks and Latinos earned significantly less than whites in the same age group, although whites earned less than when their parents were around the same age.


In Regional News …

Red States Move to Pass Preemption Laws.

In Republican-controlled legislatures around the country, lawmakers are looking to pass preemption laws. If passed, the laws would disallow counties and cities from passing various measures, including new taxes, minimum wage increases, and environmental regulations.

Republicans argue that these laws are needed, particularly in cases when cities pass ordinances against sodas, like New York City did a few years ago. However, Democrats and other local officials see this as a power grab. As Democrats lost ground in legislatures and governorships over the past four years, they still held on to many large cities.

There are already preemption laws in some states. Some of those laws have helped tobacco companies avoid bans in certain cities and the NRA to kill local gun control measures.

States with preemption laws include:

  • Colorado and Texas, which used their laws to prevent municipalities from banning fracking (hydraulic fracturing).
  • Michigan and Wisconsin, which precluded cities from banning plastic bags. (Those laws were passed in the last month.)
  • Ohio, in order to stop Cleveland from increasing its minimum wage.
  • Tennessee and North Carolina in order to bar Chattanooga and Wilson from expanding broadband access. The FCC stepped in with its nationwide regulations, but that is in doubt. North Carolina also passed HB2 to preempt local laws that allowed for more protections for gay and transgendered individuals.
  • Arizona, which passed a blanket law last year that allows the state to cut off funding for municipalities who pass laws contrary to state law.

In Entertainment News …

The Chargers Are Making the Move to L.A.

Last week, the NFL’s Chargers’ owner, Dean Spanos, announced his intention to move his team to Los Angeles, California. He had until this Tuesday to declare for relocation.

Although L.A. is the city where the Chargers first played, its true home was in San Diego. The team played in Los Angeles during its inaugural season in 1960 before moving to San Diego, where it resided for 56 seasons. And revenues there had increased every year since 2003.

But Spanos cited the stadium situation as being the main factor for the move. In Nov. 2016, voters rejected a measure that would have raised hotel occupancy taxes in order to pay for a $1.8 billion stadium for the team.

Charger fans let the owner know how they felt about the move. A number of people went to Chargers headquarters and dumped team paraphernalia a distance in front of the building. Some people set jerseys on fire, but they were quickly put out by security guards.

The Chargers plan to share a stadium in Ingelwood with the Los Angeles Rams. The stadium has yet to be built. In the meantime, the Chargers will play in the 30,000-seat StubHub center, on the campus of the Cal State Dominguez Hills in Carson.


Commentary

This past week, Speaker of the House (of Representatives) Paul Ryan attended a CNN town hall. One of the audience members named Jeff Jeans had a really compelling story about his relationship with the Affordable Care Act.

This exchange illustrates what is wrong with the American health care system and the problems Americans face if the ACA is repealed.

The fact remains the Republicans want to get rid of the law but have no replacement in mind. At least 20 million people, many of whom have preexisting conditions, will be left without insurance. And people like Jeff Jeans may die without the insurance.

While, yes, the tax included as part of the ACA is regressive, it’s there because the Republicans wanted to sink the law to begin with. The opposed the law every step of the war and tried to repeal it 60+ times already

The United States is the only developed country without an established health-care program. It’s embarrassing and immoral.

Yes, I think there is a moral imperative for the United States — and any country that can do so — to have a national health care program for its citizens. We say all men are created equal and that we care about “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness,” but how can we realize these things without recognizing health care as a right? A good health care system is but one factor in improving the quality of life of a person.


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If you are interested, please go to my new Contact Me page and leave a message. I will get back to you via email and we can discuss the details.


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