Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt is facing a slew of new scandals over ethics violations and his environmental policies. On Tuesday, it was revealed a lobbyist arranged Pruitt’s controversial $100,000 trip to Morocco last year. The lobbyist, Richard Smotkin, also accompanied Pruitt on the whirlwind trip and organized meetings for Pruitt, including one with the head of Morocco’s state-owned phosphate mining company. The New York Times also reports the head of the highly conservative Federalist Society, Leonard Leo, planned Pruitt’s separate trip to Italy last summer.
The New York Times is also reporting that lobbyist J. Steven Hart, whose wife rented Pruitt a Washington, D.C., condo for only $50 a night, asked Pruitt to appoint three people to the EPA’s prestigious Science Advisory Board, which is tasked by Congress to evaluate the science used by EPA to craft policy. Two of Pruitt’s top aides have resigned in recent days amid widening scrutiny of the agency. The resigned aides are Pruitt’s chief of security, who organized Pruitt’s $3 million security detail, and Albert Kelly, a former banker who has been banned for life from the financial industry and was in charge of the EPA’s Superfund program. It’s also emerged Pruitt tried to set up an office in his hometown of Tulsa with a soundproof booth. Pruitt is already facing a spending violation probe over his decision to install a $43,000 soundproof booth in his Washington, D.C., office. Amid the inquiries, Pruitt is setting up a legal defense fund.
This comes as California and 16 other states have sued to stop the EPA from weakening fuel-efficiency automobile standards. California Governor Jerry Brown said Tuesday, “States representing 140 million Americans are getting together to sue Outlaw Pruitt—not Administrator Pruitt, but Outlaw Pruitt.” The fuel-efficiency car standards, put in place by the Obama administration, are a significant part of the United States’ effort to cut greenhouse gases and reduce pollution. Meanwhile, a new report from the World Health Organization reveals 90 percent of people on Earth are breathing polluted air and that air pollution kills 7 million people worldwide every year.
The acting director of the Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency, Thomas Homan, has announced plans to resign—only days after 18 Democratic lawmakers sent a letter to DHS asking why the agency has not answered lawmakers’ questions about the “radical—and in some cases possibly illegal—changes in immigration enforcement and practices.” Homan’s confirmation as permanent head of ICE had been stalled in the Senate. His decision to resign is widely seen as a way to avoid facing difficult questions from lawmakers during the required confirmation hearings. Homan has presided over President Trump’s campaign of mass deportations, ramping up ICE arrests nationwide, including at schools, hospitals and courthouses. He has also called on the Justice Department to prosecute officials in so-called sanctuary cities who refuse to collaborate with the Trump administration’s mass deportation efforts.
In more news on immigration, Texas and six other states have sued the Trump administration to try to force the end of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, known as DACA, which gives millions of young undocumented immigrants permission to live and work in the United States. The Trump administration has tried to cancel DACA, but has repeatedly been blocked by the courts.
Meanwhile, in California, immigration authorities are continuing to process a limited number of asylum applications from members of the transnational caravan, which was repeatedly criticized by President Trump. This is immigrant rights activist Alex Mensing.
Alex Mensing: “They let 11 more people in. That makes a total of 25 people. It continues to be a disgrace that they haven’t let in all these people, unfortunately. But we are hoping for there to be more movement, so that people can enter, for it to be a process of living that conforms with the law.”
At least 100 more caravan members, mostly from Honduras, are still camped out on the Mexican side of the border, waiting to apply for asylum. This all comes as The Guardian has revealed the U.S. government has paid out more than $60 million over the last decade to settle lawsuits involving Border Patrol agents who killed, injured, wrongfully detained or wrongfully deported immigrants and U.S. citizens.
In Nigeria, two suicide bombings at a mosque in the northeastern city of Mubi have killed at least two dozen people and injured over 50 more. The first suicide bomber struck while worshipers were praying inside. The second blast went off outside as people were fleeing the mosque. No group has claimed responsibility for the attacks, which come one day after four people were killed in a separate suicide bombing in Nigeria’s Borno State.
In the Central African Republic, thousands of people took to the streets to protest and mourn, after gunmen attacked a church in the capital Bangui Tuesday, killing 15 people. The attack came during morning mass. Among the victims was the priest, Albert Toungoumale Baba, whose body was carried by protesters toward the presidential palace.
In Armenia, tens of thousands of people protested nationwide Tuesday after the Parliament failed to elect opposition leader Nikol Pashinyan as the interim prime minister. The mass protests come amid two weeks of escalating anti-government and anti-corruption protests in Armenia, which forced the former prime minister to step down less than two weeks ago.
Back in the United States, the Sacramento County Coroner’s Office has released an official autopsy for Stephon Clark, the 22-year-old African-American man who was shot by police officers 20 times in his grandmother’s backyard in March. This autopsy says he was shot three times in the back, which contradicts the independent autopsy carried out by a forensic pathologist hired by Stephon Clark’s family. That autopsy said he was shot six times in the back by police.
In entertainment news, Kanye West has caused widespread outrage and controversy with his recent comments in a TMZ interview, in which he praised President Trump and claimed “slavery was a choice.” His interview was so incendiary and historically inaccurate that one member of the TMZ newsroom confronted Kanye West after the interview. Here is a clip of the interview, followed by the confrontation.
Kanye West: “When you hear about slavery for 400 years, for 400 years? That sounds like a choice. … Do you feel that I’m feeling—do you feel that I’m being free and I’m thinking free?”
Van Lathan: “I actually don’t think you’re thinking anything. I think what you’re doing right now is actually the absence of thought. And the reason why I feel like that is because, Kanye, you’re entitled to your opinion, you’re entitled to believe whatever you want, but there is fact and real-world, real-life consequence behind everything that you just said. And while you are making music and being an artist and living the life that you’ve earned by being a genius, the rest of us in society have to deal with these threats to our lives. We have to deal with the marginalization that has come from the 400 years of slavery that you said, for our people, was a choice. Frankly, I’m disappointed, I’m appalled, and, brother, I am unbelievably hurt by the fact that you have morphed into something, to me, that’s not real.”
That’s TMZ staffer Van Lathan confronting Kanye West.
A new ruling by the California Supreme Court will make it significantly more difficult for companies to classify workers as independent contractors—meaning companies like Uber may have to begin paying overtime, workers’ compensation and unemployment insurance. Monday’s ruling is being heralded as a victory for workers’ rights, and a blow to the so-called gig economy, in which companies avoid an array of labor laws by classifying their workforce as contractors.
Tuesday was May Day, or International Workers’ Day, and hundreds of thousands of workers took to the streets worldwide. Major mobilizations were held in Havana, Cuba; Paris, France; Manila, the Philippines; Jakarta, Indonesia; Istanbul, Turkey; and in Puerto Rico, where police attacked protesters demanding an end to austerity and U.S. colonial rule. We’ll have more on the protests in Puerto Rico, including a special report from the streets, later in the broadcast.
And Martín Espada, known as the “people’s poet,” has won the prestigious 2018 Ruth Lilly Poetry Prize, which honors a living U.S. poet for outstanding lifetime achievement. Espada is the first Latino poet to win the award since its inception in 1986. It comes with a $100,000 prize. The editor of Poetry Magazine said, “Martín Espada’s work and life tell the real and lived story of America, in which the importance of poems and legal rights go hand in hand.” This is Martín Espada reciting part of his poem “How We Could Have Lived or Died This Way,” about resistance to police brutality in the United States.
Martín Espada: ”I see the rebels marching, hands upraised before the riot squads, faces in bandannas against the tear gas, and I walk beside them unseen.
I see the poets, who will write the songs of insurrection generations unborn
will read or hear a century from now, words that make them wonder
how we could have lived or died this way, how the descendants of slaves
still fled and the descendants of slave-catchers still shot them, how we awoke
every morning without the blood of the dead sweating from every pore.”
That’s acclaimed “people’s poet” Martín Espada, who has become the first Latino poet to win the prestigious Ruth Lilly Poetry Prize.