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NYT: Pentagon Readies Plan to Deploy 120,000 Troops as U.S.-Iran Tensions Mount

May 14, 2019

As tensions continue to mount between the United States and Iran, The New York Times reports the Pentagon has drawn up a plan to send as many as 120,000 troops to the Middle East if President Trump decides to take military action against Iran. The U.S. recently deployed a carrier strike group and a bomber task force to the region, claiming there was a “credible threat by Iranian regime forces.”

Meanwhile, the European Union is urging the Trump administration to show “maximum restraint” following a meeting Monday between Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and EU diplomats in Brussels. Iran has announced it will stop complying with parts of the landmark 2015 nuclear deal if others signatories of the deal do not take action to shield Iran’s oil and banking sectors from U.S. sanctions. We’ll have more on Iran after headlines.

Trump and Far-Right Hungarian PM Orbán Celebrate “Similar Approaches” at WH Meeting

May 14, 2019

President Trump welcomed Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán to the White House Monday. The far-right nationalist leader is known for his hard-line anti-immigrant policies and rolling back democratic institutions and checks on his power. This is Orbán and Trump speaking from the Oval Office.

Prime Minister Viktor Orbán: “We have some similar approaches. And I would like to express that we are proud to stand together with the United States on fighting against illegal migration, on terrorism, and to protect and help the Christian communities all around the world.”

President Donald Trump: “I know he’s a tough man, but he’s a respected man. And he’s done the right thing, according to many people, on immigration. And you look at some of the problems that they have in Europe that are tremendous because they’ve done it a different way than the prime minister.”

Trump’s predecessors, Presidents Obama and George W. Bush, declined to host Orbán over concerns about his leadership. Orbán has closed down Hungary’s southern border, building a razor wire fence to keep out refugees, many of them from Syria, and deported refugees already in the country.

U.S.-China Trade War Ramps Up as China Retaliates with Raised Tariffs

May 14, 2019

China announced Monday plans to raise tariffs on $60 billion worth of U.S. goods starting June 1. The announcement came after the two nations failed to reach a deal as trade negotiations closed last Friday and as Trump followed through on his threat to hike tariffs on $200 billion of Chinese imports. Trump also says he plans to raise tariffs on the $325 billion worth of remaining Chinese imports. The stock market tumbled following the news, with the Dow dropping over 600 points Monday.
Trump told reporters Monday he would use some of the expected tariff revenue to help subsidize farmers, saying, “They can sell for less and make as much money until it’s straightened out. Our farmers will be happy.” Economists and Trump’s own economic adviser Larry Kudlow have refuted Trump’s claims that China will bear the economic brunt of the increased tariffs, saying U.S. consumers will in fact suffer the most.

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Philippines Midterms Bolster Authoritarian President Rodrigo Duterte

May 14, 2019

In the Philippines, early results from Monday’s midterm elections indicate strongarm President Rodrigo Duterte has further consolidated his power as his allies lead in races across the country. The results could tilt the government’s makeup in his favor, removing political barriers to some of his more draconian proposals.

The president’s oldest daughter, Sara Duterte, was handily re-elected as mayor of Davao City, while most of the senatorial candidates she supported have also won their races. She is seen by many as next in line to head the country. According to independent Filipino news site Rappler, an election watchdog reported incidents of violence, machine malfunctions and voter disenfranchisement throughout the day.

In related news, Maria Ressa, the award-winning editor and founder of Rappler, was arraigned today on one count of cyber libel. Ressa, who has been a vocal critic of President Duterte and his drug war, has been systematically targeted for her reporting. Her lawyers say the case may head to the Supreme Court. Click here to see our recent interview with Maria Ressa.

Sudan: At Least 6 Protesters Killed in Clashes with Security Forces

May 14, 2019

In Sudan, at least six protesters and a member of security forces were killed when security and paramilitary forces opened fire on crowds outside military headquarters in the capital Khartoum Monday. Dozens more were injured. Earlier in the day, the Transitional Military Council said they reached an agreement with protest leaders on a transitional power structure. Demonstrators have been demanding a transfer from military to civilian rule. This is protester Rasha Ali.

Rasha Ali: “We will not accept being treated like we have been treated by the previous and current regimes, whether Bashir or others. We have been treated in ways that are unacceptable by anyone. This scenario will not be repeated.”

Also on Monday, deposed President Omar al-Bashir was charged in the killing of protesters during the popular uprising which led to his overthrow last month. One of the deaths being investigated is that of a doctor who was shot dead while assisting injured protesters.

Sri Lanka: Mounting Anti-Muslim Violence Leads to Curfew, Social Media Ban

May 14, 2019

In Sri Lanka, a Muslim man was killed Monday in North Western Province as ongoing violence and attacks against Muslim targets have led authorities to impose an indefinite curfew in the region. A nationwide curfew in the rest of the country has been relaxed.

A number of Muslim-owned businesses, homes and places of worship have been vandalized after two days of rioting in North Western Province as Muslims celebrate the holy month of Ramadan. In response, Sri Lanka also again blocked popular social media networks and apps they say were responsible for the violent acts, including Facebook and WhatsApp.

Tensions in Sri Lanka have been on the rise since last month’s Easter suicide bomb massacre, which killed at least 257 people in churches and hotels.

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SCOTUS Rules Users Can Sue Apple for Allegedly Monopolizing Apps Market

May 14, 2019

Back in the U.S., the Supreme Court ruled Monday that consumers can sue Apple for exercising a monopoly over the apps market. The court, however, did not determine whether or not Apple does in fact have a monopoly on the market, and a class-action lawsuit will likely now move ahead in lower courts. Apple charges a 30% sales commission to app developers while excluding them from making sales outside its “App Store.” Meanwhile, Apple has its own set of competing services like Apple News+ and an upcoming streaming service. Justice Brett Kavanaugh joined the liberal justices in their 5-4 ruling.

Reports: Israeli Security Firm NSO Group Hacked WhatsApp

May 14, 2019

In more technology news, WhatsApp urged its 1.5 billion users to update their apps after it was revealed hackers found a way to remotely install surveillance software on smartphones and other personal devices via the popular messaging app. The attack was reportedly orchestrated by Israeli security firm NSO Group. NSO has been implicated in surveillance efforts on behalf of the Saudi and Mexican governments. The Committee to Protect Journalists warned that journalists, lawyers, activists and human rights defenders were the most likely targets of the attack. WhatsApp is owned by Facebook.

AG Barr Assigns Federal Prosecutor to Look Into Russia Probe

May 14, 2019

The New York Times is reporting Attorney General William Barr has assigned federal prosecutor John Durham in Connecticut to look into the origins of the FBI’s investigation into possible ties between the Trump campaign and Russian interference in the 2016 election. Barr has referred to the FBI’s court-authorized activities as “spying” during congressional testimony, raising alarm among Democrats who have accused Barr of acting as Trump’s personal attorney in the wake of his handling of the Mueller report. Two other investigations into the Russia probe are ongoing.

CA Jury Orders Monsanto to Pay Over $2 Billion in Roundup Cancer Lawsuit

May 14, 2019

In Oakland, California, Monsanto has been ordered to pay its highest damages yet in the third lawsuit over the popular weed killer Roundup. A jury has ordered Monsanto, which is owned by German pharmaceutical giant Bayer, to pay more than $2 billion in punitive damages to Alva and Alberta Pilliod—a couple who were both diagnosed with non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma cancer after using Roundup on their properties for over 30 years. The main ingredient in the herbicide is glyphosate and is said to cause the cancer. Attorneys for the plaintiffs estimate that there are tens of thousands of similar cases against Roundup pending in courts around the country. This is attorney Brent Wisner speaking after the verdict was announced.

Brent Wisner: “Monsanto keeps denying that it causes cancer. And these two fine people here are casualties of that deception. This is going to continue, until Monsanto, and now Bayer, takes responsibility for its product. People are dying. People are getting sick. And they have no idea that it’s being caused by Roundup.”

Earlier this month, the EPA said that glyphosate is not carcinogenic. However, other scientific studies and the World Health Organization have found that human exposure can in fact lead to cancer.

Carbon Levels in Atmosphere Reach Highest Ever in Human History

May 14, 2019

In more environmental news, carbon levels in the atmosphere registered 415 parts per million over the weekend—a level that has not been seen in over 3 million years. The reading was observed at an observatory in Hawaii and is the latest indicator of the fast-growing threat of atmospheric carbon concentration driving climate change. Meteorologist Eric Holthaus tweeted, “Not just in recorded history, not just since the invention of agriculture 10,000 years ago. Since before modern humans existed millions of years ago. We don’t know a planet like this.”

NYPD Holds Disciplinary Hearing for White Officer Who Killed Eric Garner in 2014

May 14, 2019

In New York City, a disciplinary hearing is underway for a white police officer who killed unarmed African American Eric Garner in 2014 by putting him in a chokehold and refusing to let go even as Garner repeatedly gasped “I can’t breathe.” Officer Daniel Pantaleo never faced criminal prosecution, after a grand jury decided not to indict him. He has remained on the police force but could lose his job if found guilty of violating NYPD procedures, which ban the use of chokeholds.

Montana Gov. Steve Bullock Enters 2020 Democratic Race

May 14, 2019

Montana Governor Steve Bullock is the latest Democrat to enter the crowded field for the 2020 presidential nomination. Bullock is hoping his electoral success in a red state can help boost his appeal among primary voters who now have nearly two dozen candidates to consider. He previously served as Montana’s attorney general.

In his announcement video, Bullock vowed to fight corruption in D.C. and put an end to big money in political campaigns. Although more of a centrist than many of his fellow contenders, Bullock has pushed progressive policies like expanding Medicaid and protecting public lands in Montana. Steve Bullock came under fire earlier this year after it was revealed he failed to disclose that a former employee was fired for sexual harassment, after the employee was hired by New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio.

Police Raid Activists Occupying Venezuelan Embassy in D.C.

May 14, 2019

And in Washington, D.C., four activists remain in the Venezuelan Embassy after police raided the building Monday night. Activists with CodePink, ANSWER Coalition and other groups had been occupying the building since late April at the invitation of Venezuela’s government in order to prevent it being taken over by Venezuela’s U.S.-backed opposition, led by Juan Guaidó. Last week, authorities cut off water and electricity to the embassy.

As they were on the verge of being raided, activists released a video statement, vowing to continue the fight.

Kevin Zeese: “We are not going to leave voluntarily. We came here to protect the embassy. We’ve been here for 34 days. We will stay longer, if necessary. We hope that this still results in an agreement between Venezuela and the United States to protect this embassy from the fake government, the fake coup nongovernment that the U.S. is pushing forward. So, we’re here. We’re still resisting.”

That’s Kevin Zeese of Popular Resistance.

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