Hello, readers! If this is my only News Roundup of this month, I’m going to make it count. This time, I have worked on 10 important stories from this month I wanted to discuss, plus a commentary.
Table of Contents
Here are the stories I have curated for this week:
- U.S. THAAD Test
- South Korea
- North Korea
- More Russian Sanctions
- Affirmative Action Under Attack
- Martin Shkreli Sentenced
- Rally in Virginia Turns Violent
- Jill Stein’s Deal
Science & Technology
- Google Employee’s Manifesto
- Usain Bolt
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In International News …
Things are heating up on the Korean peninsula. The U.S. is testing THAAD missiles and North Korea is improving its nuclear capabilities.
The U.S. Conducted a Successful THAAD Test in July.
On July 30, the United States announced it had successfully tested a THAAD missile against a medium-range target. According to the Missile Defense Agency, with the latest test, the U.S. has successfully intercepted a total of 15 targets with its THAAD system. This test was conducted over the Pacific Ocean and it had long been planned, even before North Korea’s latest missile test.
North Korea Is Getting Closer to Being a Full-Fledged Nuclear Power.
The DPRK had two missile tests of note in July.
On July 3, the North tested the Hwasong-14, which reached an altitude of 3, 724.9 km (2,314.6 miles) and it flew a lateral distance of 998 km (620 miles) for 47 minutes and 12 seconds before landing in the waters off the east coast of the Korean peninsula. According to David Wright of the U.S.-based Union of Concerned Scientists, the missile would have a range of 10,400 km (6,500 miles) if it had flown on a normal trajectory. That means it could reach cites like Denver and Chicago.
On Friday, July 28, North Korean dictator Kim Jong-un oversaw the midnight launch of another missile.
DPRK Making Missile-Ready Nuclear Weapon
In July, the United States Defense Intelligence Agency completed an assessment of North Korea’s nuclear program and the findings were alarming. According to the report, North Korea successfully produced a miniature nuclear warhead and the country is well on its way to becoming a full-fledged nuclear power.
However, some of the findings of the report are disputed. While the DIA said the DPRK had about 60 nuclear warheads, some experts said the number might be much smaller. In particular, Seigfried Hecker, director emeritus of the Los Alamos National Laboratory, said North Korea may have no more than 20-25 nuclear bombs in its arsenal.
Hecker and other experts warned about overselling the capabilities of North Korea. However, the country has of late passed several milestones at a faster rate than expected.
Bombers of DPRK
On Sunday, July 30, the United States flew two supersonic B-1B bombers over the Korean peninsula. The bombers were launched from an Air Force base in Guam and they were joined by South Korean and Japanese fighter jets during the exercise. The flight was conducted as a response to more missile tests conducted by the DPRK.
In addition to the flight of the bombers, U.S. officials, including Trump and U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations, Nikki Haley, took to Twitter over that weekend in order to implore China, Japan, and South Korea to do more to coral the DPRK. On Saturday, Trump said he was “very disappointed in China.” Haley said the U.S. was “done talking.”
The Price for China
Recently, the United States began threatening to place sanctions on Chinese companies if more wasn’t done by China to curb North Korea’s weapons program. On Monday, Aug. 7, Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi said in a statement that his country was willing to take an economic hit in the face of increased pressure from the United States to coral North Korea.
For its part, China has decreased its coal imports from North Korea by 75%, although trade between the two countries was worth $2.6 billion. China also voted in favor of levying more sanctions on the DPRK in the latest U.N. Security Council vote on the matter (which was unanimous). However, sanctions have not worked so far and international officials are not confident China has the will enforce the sanctions.
Once again, the situation is tense for China because it fears North Korean instability. If the government of Kim Jong-un were to collapse, it might lead to an influx of refugees for China. Alternatively, if Korea were to reunify, that might mean U.S. troops would be stationed along the border with China.
More Saber-Rattling with Trump and Box Haircut
Trump, who was at an event at his Bedminster, NJ golf course, said the following of North Korea
They will be met with fire and fury and frankly power, the likes of which this world has never seen before.
Hours after Trump made his “fire and fury” threat, North Korea said that it was pondering a plan to strike the Guam, a U.S. territory which would conceivably be used to launch any strike on the DPRK. According to a spokesman for the Korean People’s Army, his country is ready to carry out a preemptive strike if the United States “showed signs of provocation.”
Trump’s Biblical Advisor
Robert Jeffress serves on Trump’s evangelical advisory council. On Aug. 8, Jeffress, a pastor and head of the First Baptist Dallas megachurch, told the Christian Broadcast network that Trump had God-given authority to strike North Korea. Citing Romans 13 (in the New Testament), Jeffress said rules were allowed to use “whatever means necessary — including war — to stop evil.” The means also include “assassination, capital punishment or evil punishment.”
“In the case of North Korea, God has given Trump authority to take out Kim Jong Un. I’m heartened to see that our president ― contrary to what we’ve seen with past administrations who have taken, at best, a sheepish stance toward dictators and oppressors ― will not tolerate any threat against the American people.”
South Korea Has a Change of Heart with the THAAD.
South Korean President Moon Jae-in is changing his tune on North Korea. When he was running for president in South Korea, his platform that included increased dialogue with North Korean. (He called it the Sunshine Policy 2.0 and) he also stated that he was against the use of THAAD missile systems.
That has changed, especially since North Korea has been testing intercontinental ballistic missiles it says can carry nuclear warheads. And according to experts, the DPRK is a few steps away from building rockets that can reach U.S. cities, included New York City.
After the DPRK tested an intercontinental ballistic missile, Moon asked the United Nations Security Council to discuss newer and stronger sanctions against the North. In addition, Moon asked the United States for more discussions about deploying additional Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) missile systems in South Korea.
By the end of July, the U.S. had already deployed 2 in a southern region of South Korea. Four more have been planned for the country. However, there are environmental concerns.
U.S. Gen. H.R. McMaster, Trump’s national security advisor, confirmed that President Moon had asked for more firepower. McMaster also said the U.S. accepted his request to install the full THAAD system in South Korea.
Now, there is a limit to how much firepower South Korea can receive. Based on an agreement between South Korea and the United States reached in the 1970’s, the South Koreans may only have technologies that reach 500 miles (enough to reach all of North Korea) and carry payloads no heavier than a half-ton. Moon might be looking into the heavy end of a payload.
This news was not welcome in China. Beijing fears that a THAAD system could be used for spying purposes and it also worries about the DPRK’s response.
Congress Passed More Sanctions Against Russia … and Iran and North Korea.
On Tuesday, July 25, the U.S. House of Representatives approved a bill that added sanctions to Russia, Iran, and North Korea. The bill, which passed the House on a 419-3 votes (which only three Republicans dissenting), also seeks to prevent Trump from lifting any of the sanctions placed on Russia.
A similar bill had already passed the Senate in June, by a 98-2 vote. That means the bill was ready for Trump to sign.
Trump was given an ultimatum: either he could sign the bill, which would immediately put him at odds with Russian President Vladimir Putin (the two talked at the G20 summit and Berlin and agreed on a tentative deal in Syria) or he could veto it. The latter choice would only serve to increase suspicions about Trump’s possible working relationship with Putin. Also, a veto would be all for naught, since there was conceivably enough votes to override his veto.
On August 2, Trump signed the bill. But beforehand, Russia had already retaliated.
On July 30, the Kremlin announced that the United States had until Sept. 1 to reduce diplomatic staff in Russia by 755 people to match the level of U.S. expulsions of Russian diplomats and businesses. There are currently over 1,000 U.S. diplomats in Russia.
Trump didn’t help matters by praising this move by Putin. Trump said this move was good because the reduction of jobs helped the U.S. save money.
In National News …
I would be remiss to no talk about the Martin Shkreli verdict this week.
The Trump Is Going After Affirmative Action.
On August 1, The New York Times reported on a document from the Trump administration announcing a search for lawyers who were interested in a new affirmative action project. The project would be concerned with “investigations and possible litigation related to intentional race-based discrimination in college and university admissions.” In addition, the project would be run by the front office of the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division instead of the Educational Opportunities Section, where career lawyers generally work on cases concerning Affirmative Action in schools.
From the wording, it is pretty clear that the Trump Administration is getting ready to go after colleges and universities it deems as discriminating against white students. Currently, there are admissions programs at schools aimed at given an edge to underprivileged students, like Black and Latino students with similar or comparable scores to their white counterparts.
This move follows a trend with Jeff Sessions’ Justice Department. So far, the agency has rolled back Obama-era policies and stances regarding cases of voter ID laws, protections for LGBTQ workers and students, and consent decrees for troubled police departments.
Shkreli Was Found Guilty of Securities Fraud.
On Friday, Aug. 4, Martin Skhreli was found guilty on three of the eight counts he was charged with in his securities fraud case. The jury found him guilty of two counts of securities fraud and one count of conspiracy to commit securities fraud. The other charges Shkreli faced were three counts of conspiracy to commit wire fraud and two counts of conspiracy to commit securities fraud.
The charges stemmed from Shkreli’s dealings at his former drug company Retrophin during a period beginning in 2009. According to prosecutors, Shkreli hid his losses on two hedge funds he ran and instead paid them with money from Retrophin.
Martin Shkreli first gained notoriety in Sept. 2015 when, as CEO of Turing Pharmaceuticals, he raised the price of Daraprim by 5,000%. This news was met with outrage, including from journalists.
Shrekli’s case highlights something important here. While he was in court for charges unrelated to the drug price gouging, he made the news because he was trying to charge health care companies the inflated price. Patients get gouged everyday but there is little reaction from the press on that front. Action was taken only after Shkreli went after HMO’s.
In Regional News …
I have two items from Charlottesville and North Dakota.
A Rally in Charlottesville, Virginia Held over the Weekend Ended in Violence.
Jason Kessler was the organizer of the Unite the Right rally to be held over the weekend of August 12-13, 2017. The point of the rally was to protest the removal of the Robert E. Lee statue in Emancipation Park, which was recently renamed. The rally was expected to include 1,000 protesters from the alt-right, militias, and an assortment of white supremacist groups.
Kessler went to court to oppose a decision by the city of Charlottesville. Originally, he had obtained permission from the city to hold his rally at Emancipation Park. But on Monday, the city revoked the permit and said it would prefer that the rally be moved to the larger McIntire Park.
On Friday, U.S. District Court Judge Glen E. Conrad ruled in favor of Kessler, who was represented by the American Civil Liberties Union and the Rutherford Institute. In his ruling, Conrad said Kessler could likely prove that the city’s decision was only based on the content of Kessler’s speech.
The city attorney, S. Craig Brown, had argued the city’s decision was made out of safety concerns. City Manager Maurice Jones made the decision, arguing that McIntire Park would be more easily secured since there would be an expected 2,000 counter-protesters regardless and violence was a near-certainty. (Counter-protesters also had permits in nearby parks.)
Violence During the Friday March Before the Rally Itself
On Friday, the rally got an early start as a large group of far-right protestors marched through the University of Virginia while carrying lit tiki torches. On the way to the university, the protestors chanted phrases like “You will not replace us,” “blood and soil,” and “White lives matter.” They eventually ran into a smaller group of counter-protesters and violence ensued.
Fights started to break out at the Thomas Jefferson statue near the UVA campus between factions. The alt-righters and white supremacists were met by anti-fascists and anti-racist groups.
According to accounts, people in the smaller group were engaged with insults, surrounded, and were being pushed by the first group of demonstrators. Some of the counter-demonstrators reported being attacked by the right-wingers with torches and pepper spray. There was at least one instance of a counter demonstrator attacking someone in the larger group.
Soon afterward, the police arrived and dispersed the crowds, declaring the march an unlawful assembly.
Officials and politicians including Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe, Charlottesville Mayor Mike Signer, UVA President Teresa A. Sullivan, and Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) expressed their disgust at the unsanctioned march. Many took to Twitter and each called the march a mark of hatred.
Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe also told the National Guard to be on standby just in case. He later called a state of emergency when violence broke out.
Deaths and Other Casualties
On Saturday, August 12, a driver in a silver Dodge Challenger drove through a crowd of mostly counter-protesters in Charlottesville, VA. Witnesses recalled that the driver sped through the crowd after coming to a complete stop. The driver hit at least 20 people before ramming into the back of an immobile car then backing up in a hurry.
As a result of this attack, one person was killed and 19 others were injured. Five of those people were suffered critical injuries. The deceased was identified as Heather Heyer, a 32-year-old paralegal who worked at the Miller Law Group in Charlottesville.
The police soon captured the driver who has been identified as 20-year-old Alex Fields, Jr.
Eventually, the death toll rose to three as a car rammed into a crowd and two more people died in a helicopter crash. The accident was being connected to the rally, but the cause was being investigated.
On August 12, 2017, Donald Trump held a press conference at his golf course in New Bedminster, New Jersey. At the top, he addressed the violence in Charlottesville, VA. He said he condemned the violence “on many sides, on many sides,” being careful not to call out the white supremacists vital to his base. Intermittently, he talked about the jobs and the economy before going back to platitudes and then pivoting to a health care bill for veterans.
Reaction to Trump’s Comments
A number of Republicans and aides, including Ivanka Trump and former White House communications Director Anthony Scaramucci, broke from Trump following his comments.
On Sunday, former White House Communications Director Anthony Scaramucci appeared on ABC’s This Week with George Stephanopoulos. In a short clip from the program, a calm Scaramucci could be seen talking about how his former boss Donald Trump addressed the violence in Charlottesville over the weekend.
Scaramucci said the following when asked if he would have approved Trump’s speech:
I wouldn’t have recommended that statement. I think he needed to be much harsher as it related to the white supremacists and the nature of that.
I applaud Gen. McMaster for calling it out for what it is. It’s actually terrorism, whether domestic or international.
With the moral authority of the presidency, you have to call that stuff out.
Some of Trump’s cabinet members made their rounds on Sunday programs. In particular, H.R. McMaster, Trump’s national security adviser, was blunt and called white supremacists terrorists.
Republican lawmakers, including Sens. Marco Rubio, Corey Gardner, and Orrin Hatch said that Trump needed to be specific and call white supremacists by their name and denounce white supremacists as evil.1 Sen. Lindsey Graham, who appeared on Fox News Sunday, called out Trump for tacitly courting alt-righters and racists and failing to “correct the record” by disavowing those groups.2
Some of the harshest criticism came from Charlottesville Mayor Mike Signer, who laid much of the blame at Trump’s feet.
The Wrong Guy
Before Fields was captured, a man in Michigan was incorrectly identified as the man who drove into counter-protesters in Charlottesville on Saturday afternoon (Aug. 12, 2017). After a series of right-wing websites shared the Michigan man’s identity, he and his family received death threats. The websites and posts were later taken down as it became clear that another driver (James Alex Fields, Jr.) had been behind the wheel of the Dodge Challenger used in the act.
Now, the Michigan man is suing. He and his family have retained the services of Andrew Sommerman, an attorney based in Dallas, Texas who specializes in defamation cases. Sommerman said he was investigating the situation, and he was focusing on the intent of writers and users on social media who wrongly pointed to his client as the attacker.
- Ultimately, there is some irony here. In the past, Trump criticized President Obama for what Trump said was the failure to called Islamic terrorism by its name. Now, Trump will not specifically mention white supremacists or denounce their support for him.
- Graham is right since some “white supremacists,” like David Duke, eluded to their support of Trump during the past election. Some others praised Trump’s comments since he did not call out the main protesters in Charlottesville.
Jill Stein Reaches a Plea Deal Connected to DAPL Vandalism.
Last week, it was revealed that former Green Party presidential candidate Jill Stein had reached a plea deal with prosecutors in North Dakota in connection with a vandalism charge. During a visit to the Dakota Access Pipeline construction site on Sept. 6, 2016, Stein had spray painted the words “I approve of this message” on a bulldozer blade while among protesters. A warrant for her arrest was issued the next day.
The terms of the plea bargain have not been released yet. A judge will need to sign off on the deal first. In the meantime, Stein faces misdemeanor charges, which could garner a maximum of 30 days in jail and a $1,500 fine.
In Science & Technology News …
Here’s a peak into Google’s company culture.
A Google Employee Was Fired for His Remarks on Gender.
Last week, former Google engineer James Damore was fired after an internal memo of his went viral. He was fired on the grounds of violating the company’s code of conduct and creating a hostile work environment.
This controversy comes at a time when Google and other tech companies are dealing with charges of sexual harassment and discrimination. Uber CEO Travis Kalanick was ousted amid harassment scandals. And right now, Google is being sued by the Department of Labor based on accusations of discrimination against women.
The Manifesto Itself
In the 10-page document, Damore argued that the environment within Google suppressed conservative thought, he criticized the company’s diversity programs, and he mused why there aren’t more women within the company.
To support his argument, Damore cited scientific and psychological studies about the differences between men and women. This was arguably the most controversial information and more critics have gravitated toward that information.
For what it’s worth, Damore said women were not limited by biology and he in fact encouraged more diversity within the company. However, he questioned some of Google’s practices and felt that they may have lowered the bar for job candidates while isolating others.
Damore also put some information about the differences between conservatives and liberals. Damore described himself as “a classical liberal” (which is most likely a Libertarian).
The memo can be found here. Kate Conger also shares the full text of Damore’s 10-page manifesto and the memo from Google’s new Vice President of Diversity, Integrity & Governance, Danielle Brown.
The Reason for the Manifesto
In an interview with Stefan Molyneux, James Damore said he was in part prompted to write the memo after he was made to attend one of the company’s diversity programs. Damore said the workshop was secretive and there was a lot of shaming within the program.
Damore later said he planned to look at all his options, including litigation.
In Entertainment News …
Usain Bolt’s career comes to a disappointing end.
Usain Bolt Was Injured in Last Race.
Jamaican runner Usain Bolt suffered his two real losses at the 2017 IAAF World Championships in London. Bolt, 30, came in second to American runner Justin Gaitlin in the 100-meters final. But the result for Saturday’s 4-by-100-meter relay was even more devastating.
In Bolt’s last race, he suffered an injury as he was trying to run the last leg. He eventually finished the race, but he didn’t even come close to medalling. The race was won by the host country, which the U.S. coming in second.
As Colin Kaepernick is forced to watch football from the couch this season, I must say I’m still bothered by the whole thing. As it turns out, much of the anger aimed at Kap is due to his reasoning for sitting down. It’s not so much about him not standing up for the national anthem, but his commentary about police enforcement.
The owners in the NFL are hiding behind the excuse of lost profits because there definitely are CEO’s at companies who are irked about Kap’s protest. But why are they so irked whenever people criticize police officers? Given what we’ve seen over the years, that criticism is warranted.
Another thing that irks me is the response Kap has gotten from numerous Americans. The main arguments I hear are that Kap is disrespecting the country/military, but how’s that so? Isn’t it truly American to dissent and to question authority?
Additionally, much of the outrage is based in ignorance.
- Not all Americans who sing to the national anthem know the words, let alone its history.
- Most of us don’t even know the history behind the Pledge of Allegiance.
- And most people ignore that until 2009, NFL players didn’t even have to stand on the field when the national anthem was being sung. That changed when military bodies paid the NFL to promote them and increase all this prescribed patriotism.
And you know what? Last week, I found out Kap isn’t the first player to refuse to stand during the national anthem. Marshawn Lynch has never stood for it in 11 years, but he went under the radar because he didn’t make a statement about it.
To Be Fair …
I have never really been comfortable for Kap’s protest myself.
For one thing, besides the message, I’m not convinced Kap knows what his doing or has a particular goal in mind. On that level, it’s completely fair to question his motivation and his vision.
Secondly, in many ways, Kaepernick is still immature. This is the same guy, who had a mini controversy when he tweeted “I told you the 7torms were comin’” after a severe storm hit Houston a few years back. And last year, he was seen wearing a shirt with Fidel Castro’s face on it.
He has a long way to go.
And granted, it doesn’t help his case when his girlfriend posted a meme comparing Ravens owner Jim Biscotti and former Ravens linebacker Ray Lewis to a slave master and his slave ….
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