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US Monthly Headline News December 2019 Page 1

A Muslim, a black woman, and a refugee, Ilhan Omar faces Islamophobia, racism, misogyny, and anti-immigration strains in American culture.
By Emily Stewart

Want to know how awful racism can still be in America? Look no further than the vitriol directed at Ilhan Omar.

Take, for example, the events of just the past several days. Last week, Twitter finally suspended the account of one of Omar’s Republican challengers, Danielle Stella, after she called for the congresswoman to be tried for treason and hanged if an unproven conspiracy theory that Omar gave sensitive information to Iran were confirmed. And Tuesday, the Tampa Bay Times reported that the campaign of Republican George Buck, a challenger to Democratic Rep. Charlie Crist in Florida, sent out a fundraising letter accusing Omar of secretly working for Qatar and reading, “We should hang these traitors where they stand.”

Racist threats and attacks are nothing new, but against Omar, they’re on overdrive.

It’s a depressing reversal from the triumph of the Minnesota Democrat’s 2018 watershed victory: Omar is a Somali refugee, and she and Michigan Rep. Rashida Tlaib were the first two Muslim women to be elected to the United States Congress. “I stand here before you tonight as your congresswoman-elect with many firsts behind my name,” Omar said the night of her election. “The first woman of color to represent our state in Congress. The first woman to wear a hijab. The first refugee ever elected to Congress. And one of the first Muslim women elected to Congress.”

By Megan Sheets For Dailymail.com

George Zimmerman, the neighborhood watch volunteer who was acquitted in the 2012 fatal shooting of unarmed black teen Trayvon Martin, is suing Martin's family and Florida prosecutors, claiming that they engineered false evidence in the homicide trial. The lawsuit filed Wednesday in Polk County Circuit Court seeks $100million in civil damages for defamation, abuse of civil process and conspiracy.

It alleges that the prosecution's key witness in Zimmerman's 2013 murder trial, Rachel Jeantel, was an imposter coached by the family and their lawyers.  The lead defendant in the suit is Sybrina Fulton, Martin's mother. Fulton gained national notoriety as an advocate for social justice and reducing gun violence in the wake of her son's death.

The family's attorney, Ben Crump, is also named as a defendant. He is accused of defamation and attempting to 'deprive Zimmerman of his constitutional and other legal rights'. Crump responded to the lawsuit on behalf of himself and Martin's parents in a statement Wednesday. 'This plaintiff continues to display a callous disregard for everyone but himself, revictimizing individuals whose lives were shattered by his own misguided actions,' he said.

'He would have us believe that he is the innocent victim of a deep conspiracy, despite the complete lack of any credible evidence to support his outlandish claims. 'This tale defies all logic, and it's time to close the door on these baseless imaginings.'

By Leada Gore | lgore@al.com

As many as 750,000 will be cut off from food stamps under a new regulation set to be announced Wednesday. The change will make it harder for states to receive waivers for requirements that certain able-bodied adults work or be enrolled in vocational training programs in order to receive benefits, Bloomberg reported.

Currently, states can request a waiver for work requirements for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, commonly known as food stamps, if an area’s unemployment rate is at least 20 percent above the national rate. The national unemployment rate in October was 3.6 percent. Alabama’s preliminary unemployment rate for October was 2.8 percent.

Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA) discusses call records between Rep. Devin Nunes (R-CA) and indicted Giuliani associate Lev Parnas. A Nunes spokesman did not respond to CNN's request for comment.

By Marshall Cohen, CNN

(CNN) Armed with never-before-seen phone records, Democrats on Tuesday accused President Donald Trump's allies of coordinating with a conservative journalist to peddle "false narratives" about Trump's opponents as part of his multi-pronged pressure campaign on Ukraine. The House Intelligence Committee's impeachment report -- which was made public Tuesday -- says the committee's top Repubican, Rep. Devin Nunes of California, was linked to that effort. The records, according to Intelligence Committee member Rep. Eric Swalwell, were subpoenaed from third-parties.

"Mr. Solomon was not working alone," the report said of conservative journalist John Solomon's articles throughout 2019 that spread Trump-backed conspiracies about Ukraine. "As further described below, there was a coordinated effort by associates of President Trump to push these false narratives publicly, as evidenced by public statements, phone records, and contractual agreements." The phone records, which are labeled in the report's endnotes as coming from AT&T, show a web of communications between Solomon, Trump personal attorney Rudy Giuliani, Ukrainian American businessman Lev Parnas, Nunes and the White House's budget office. CNN is owned by AT&T.

An advocacy group report criticises Alec, a group which brings together conservative lawmakers and corporate interests
By Ed Pilkington in New York

Alec, the rightwing network that brings conservative lawmakers together with corporate lobbyists to create model legislation that is cloned across the US, has been accused of spreading racist and white supremacist policies targeted at minority communities.A report published on Tuesday by the Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR) and other advocacy groups charges Alec with propagating white supremacy. In one of the sharpest criticisms yet levelled at the controversial “bill mill”, the authors warn that “conservative and corporate interests have captured our political process to harness profit, further entrench white supremacy in the law, and target the safety, human rights and self-governance of marginalised communities”.

The publication comes on the eve of the latest gathering of Alec, officially known as the American Legislative Exchange Council, which will be attended by hundreds of largely Republican state-level legislators and their big business allies. Rightwing taskforce secretly approves anti-environment resolutions

The four-day States & Nation Policy Summit will open at a resort in Scottsdale, Arizona, on Wednesday with an agenda touching on several of Alec’s core principles including “election integrity”, privatisation of education and support for homeschooling, and protection for pharmaceutical companies. Watchdogs have also learned of a dinner to be held on Wednesday and jointly hosted by Alec and the Alliance Defending Freedom, an anti-LGBT coalition devoted to re-criminalising homosexuality in the US in the name of Christianity.

The Alec summit will be picketed by protesters convened by organisations at the forefront of the race equality movement such as Black Lives Matter and Puente Arizona. The demonstrators will seek to highlight one of the most contentious legislative moves made by Alec: 2010 Arizona law SB1070, which heralded the most extreme crackdown on undocumented migrants then seen in the US under a model bill drafted at an Alec conference the previous year.

TV host doubles down on support for Putin after ‘joking’ about ‘rooting for Russia’ last week
By Conrad Dunca

Fox News host Tucker Carlson has backed Russia over Ukraine for the second time in a week and suggested some US journalists hate America more than Vladimir Putin. Mr Carlson said the US should “probably take the side of Russia” in a dispute between Mr Putin’s country and Ukraine, even though Ukraine is a US ally.

On Monday night, Republican congressman Jim Jordan denied suggestions that Donald Trump is helping Russia by pointing out that the Trump administration has placed sanctions on the country. However, the Fox News presenter quickly replied that he “totally opposed” those sanctions.

“I should say for the record, I’m totally opposed to these sanctions and I don’t think we should be at war with Russia… I think we should probably take the side of Russia, uh, if we have to choose between Russia and Ukraine,” he said.  Last Monday, Mr Carlson said on his primetime TV show that he was “rooting for Russia” in the conflict with Ukraine, before walking back that comment as a joke later in the episode. His support for Russia on yesterday’s show, which included a segment defending Mr Putin, did not come with that clarification.

By Kara Scannell and Erica Orden, CNN

New York (CNN)Two banks must turn over President Donald Trump's financial records to the Democrat-controlled US House of Representatives, dealing another blow to the President's efforts to block Congress' move to obtain his financial records, a federal appeals court in New York ruled Tuesday. The House Intelligence and Financial Services committees had subpoenaed the banks, Deutsche Bank and Capital One, for records including Trump's tax returns and those of his family members.

"The Committees' interests in pursuing their constitutional legislative function is a far more significant public interest than whatever public interest inheres in avoiding the risk of a Chief Executive's distraction arising from disclosure of documents reflecting his private financial transactions," the court said Tuesday. The split decision from the 2nd US Circuit Court of Appeals is another setback for the White House. Federal appeals courts have ruled House Democrats and a Manhattan grand jury can review Trump's tax returns from Mazars USA, his longtime accounting firm.

In this case, Trump sued to block a subpoena to Deutsche Bank and Capital One seeking financial records for Trump, his family and his business. A lower court judge denied Trump's request for a preliminary injunction and Trump appealed the ruling.

By Katelyn Polantz, Marshall Cohen, Kara Scannell, Evan Perez, Sara Murray, Jeremy Diamond and David Shortell, CNN

Washington (CNN)The Justice Department, responding to a lawsuit by CNN and BuzzFeed, released 295 pages of witness memoranda and notes from FBI interviews that were part of special counsel Robert Mueller's investigation into Russian election interference, including contacts with Donald Trump's 2016 campaign.

The witnesses include: former Trump lawyer Michael Cohen, former Trump 2016 campaign aide Rick Gates, former White House chief of staff John Kelly, former Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, former White House communications director Hope Hicks and former campaign aide Corey Lewandowski. This is the second release of interview notes from Mueller's special counsel investigation sparked by lawsuits from CNN and BuzzFeed.

By Paul Vercammen and Paul LeBlanc, CNN

(CNN) Rep. Duncan Hunter -- who is accused of illegally dipping into campaign funds to pay for vacations, video games and more -- will plead guilty in federal court on Tuesday, CNN confirmed on Monday. "I'm going to change my plea to guilty," Hunter said in an interview with CNN affiliate KUSI. One of Hunter's attorneys, Devin Burstein, confirmed to CNN on Monday afternoon that the plea will be guilty. "I think it's important that people know that I did make mistakes. I did not properly monitor or account for my campaign money," Hunter said. "I am responsible for my campaign and what happens to my campaign money," he added.

Citing the reasons for his change of heart, Hunter said, "I think it's important not to have a trial for three reasons and those three reasons are my kids." Hunter had long denied he had misused any campaign funds, despite federal prosecutors charging he had fraudulently spent more than $200,000 on expenses that included a $14,000 Italian vacation and thousands of dollars on routine items like groceries, bedding and other household items. Hunter's forthcoming guilty plea comes months after his wife, Margaret, pleaded guilty in June to conspiring with her husband to "knowingly and willingly" convert campaign funds for personal use and agreed to cooperate with prosecutors. Hunter had initially blamed his wife for the alleged campaign fund abuses, saying she was the one handling his finances. "She was also the campaign manager, so whatever she did that'll be looked at too, I'm sure," he said on Fox News in August 2018.

By Dave Goldiner - New York Daily News

A reporter was fired over her story that incorrectly claimed President Trump spent Thanksgiving golfing and tweeting — even though she says she was assigned the story in advance and told her editor that the president made an unannounced secret trip to Afghanistan. Jessica Kwong was terminated by Newsweek after Trump and Donald Trump Jr. mocked the botched story on Twitter.

“The story has been corrected, and the journalist responsible has been terminated,” a Newsweek spokesperson told the Washington Examiner. Kwong did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the snafu. She told reporters that she filed the story as instructed by her editors on Wednesday, based on Trump’s expected activities for the holiday. The story was headlined “How Did Trump Spend Thanksgiving? Tweeting, Golfing and More.”

Police eventually determined that Ronald Cyr, 65, was shot by a homemade device fitted to his front door.
By Kalhan Rosenblatt

A Maine man was killed after being shot by a device he had installed on the front door to protect his home from intruders. On Thursday evening, the Van Buren Police Department dispatched officers to the home of Ronald Cyr, 65, who reported that he had been shot, according to officials.

Officer Chandler Madore and the Van Buren Ambulance Service arrived to provide medical assistance to Cyr, and discovered that the front door of Cyr's home had been "outfitted with a device designed to fire a handgun should anyone attempt to enter the door," according to a press release.

By Eliott C. McLaughlin, CNN

(CNN) A shooter injured 11 people early Sunday on Canal Street, on the edge of New Orleans' French Quarter, and a person has been detained though not charged, police said. Ten of the victims were transported to local medical centers, and one walked into a local hospital. Two of the victims are in critical condition, the New Orleans Police Department said. "An individual was detained near the scene," police said, but her or his possible involvement in the shooting is under investigation.

“SNAP is related to hunger and getting people the nutrition they need,” one food bank representative said. “Food shouldn’t be a luxury.”
By Phil McCausland

Three proposed rule changes by the Trump administration could cause millions of poor people to lose access to food stamps and decrease the size of the benefit for millions more.

Over the past year, the Department of Agriculture proposed three changes to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, known as SNAP or food stamps. The new rules create stricter work requirements for program eligibility, cap deductions for utility allowances and “reform” the way 40 states automatically enroll families into SNAP when they receive other forms of federal aid.

A study by the Urban Institute released this week examined the three rules in combination for the first time and found that 3.7 million fewer people would receive SNAP in an average month, 2.2 million households would see their average monthly benefits drop by $127, more than 3 million others would see an average drop of $37 per month, and 982,000 students would lose access to free or reduced lunches.

“What we found is that overall the three proposed changes would reduce the number of households participating in SNAP by about 11 percent if this was implemented in 2018," said Laura Wheaton, a senior fellow at the Urban Institute who conducted the study. "It’s about a 9.4 percent reduction in the number of people participating and about an 8 percent reduction in overall benefits.”

Trump is destroying what commanders call "good order and discipline." It's malicious, stupid and destructive
By Lucian K. Truscott IV

Let me tell you why it’s so dangerous for Donald Trump to pardon or otherwise excuse war criminals. Because it makes the enforcement of lesser laws and regulations in the military much more difficult.

Trump has no idea what he’s dealing with in the military. The population on an average army post, say, isn’t like the population of the civilian town just outside the gates. To begin with, everyone on the army post is a trained killer. It doesn’t matter if a soldier is a front-line infantryman or a clerk in the division finance office or a wrench-twister in a motor pool or an information technology specialist or a quartermaster handing out olive drab underwear. Every single one of them went through basic training and qualified on a modern military rifle like the M-4, and many of them qualified on more weapons, like the 9mm pistol or the M-240 machine gun or the M-2 .50-caliber machine gun or the 81mm mortar.

Here is what military weapons training is intended to do. It makes soldiers comfortable around deadly weapons and gives them the ability to shoot them effectively without having to think about it. That’s who you’re dealing with if you are put in charge of soldiers in a platoon or a company or a battalion or a brigade. You’re dealing with a bunch of people who have gone through training that rewards aggression and gives them the skills to exercise it effectively.

The problem faced by military commanders has always been the same: to harness the aggression and killing skills of soldiers while maintaining what they call “good order and discipline.” It’s not easy. The primary way this is accomplished is with training. Training hones soldiers’ skills while instilling in them an instinct to follow orders and maintain discipline. It also builds esprit de corps and what they call “unit cohesion.”

By Tal Axelrod

A majority of Republicans say President Trump is a better leader than former President Lincoln, according to this week’s Economist/YouGov weekly tracking poll. Fifty-three percent of Republicans said Trump was a better president than Lincoln, while 47 percent chose the Civil War-era leader. Lincoln still overwhelmingly beats Trump among all Americans, 75 percent to 25 percent, with the vast majority of Democrats and independents choosing the former president.

While impeachment and other controversies surrounding Trump continue to dominate headlines, polls have shown the president maintaining a strong approval rating among Republicans. The Economist/YouGov poll found that 87 percent of those in the GOP either somewhat or strongly approve of the job he’s doing as president.

Trump in the past has boasted of his approval rating within the party, comparing his popularity to Lincoln's. “You know, a poll just came out that I am the most popular person in the history of the Republican Party,” Trump said in a July interview with The Sun newspaper in the U.K. - Republicans have lost their minds; Trump is a crook, a criminal, a con man. Lincoln was a great man Trump is not nor will he ever be.

By Daniel Politi

Sen. Kamala Harris’ campaign is in deep trouble. The senator was once seen as one of the most promising contenders for the Democratic nomination. Now she seems stuck in the low single digits. And those who know how her campaign has been run don’t seem exactly surprised. The New York Times talked to “more than 50 current and former campaign staff members and allies” who described in detail how the campaign seems to have made one bad decision after another while failing to manage personnel very effectively.

The unhappiness within Harris’ team was evident in the resignation letter of Kelly Mehlenbacher, the campaign’s state operations director, in November. “This is my third presidential campaign and I have never seen an organization treat its staff so poorly,” Mehlenbacher wrote, criticizing the leaders of the campaign for laying off staffers without notice. She went on to say that “with less than 90 days until Iowa we still do not have a real plan to win.” Even though Mehlenbacher emphasized that she still thinks “Harris is the strongest candidate” for the general election, “I no longer have confidence in our campaign or its leadership.”

By Audrey McNamara

Officials in southeast Texas have lifted a mandatory evacuation order that followed two explosions at a petrochemical plant on Wednesday. The evacuation displaced 50,000 people ahead of Thanksgiving, leaving residents to spend the holiday in hotels and makeshift shelters.  "We've lived here for thirty years and this is the first time this has ever happened," a member of the Parker family told CBS News' Omar Villafranca.

The plant, which manufactures butadiene, a chemical used to make synthetic rubber, is a common sight on the Texas Gulf Coast. The area has the highest concentration of oil refineries in the nation, and has been repeatedly rocked by dangerous accidents over the past year.

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