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HURRICANE HARVEY AFTERMATH

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Fifteen people are dead and around thirty-thousand have been forced to seek emergency shelter in the wake of Hurricane Harvey.

Speaking at Corpus Christi, President Trump praised Texas’ response to Hurricane Harvey:

“We want to do it better than ever before. We want to be looked at in five years and ten years from now as, this is the way to do it. This was of epic proportion. No one has ever seen anything like this.”

President Trump went on to say:

“I just want to say in working with the Governor and his entire time has been an honour for us.”

President Trump then travelled to Austin where he spoke at an emergency operations centre:

“Probably there’s never been anything so expensive in our country’s history. There’s never been anything so historic in terms of damage and in terms of ferocity as we’ve witnessed with Harvey.”

President Trump continued:

“And the sad thing is the never seen anything this long, and nobody’s ever seen this much water in particular. The wind was pretty horrific, but the water has never been seen like this to the extent. It’s maybe someday going to disappear. We keep waiting.”

The National Weather Service issued a flash-flood watch for Houston on Tuesday evening. A spokesperson said:

“There is the potential for catastrophic flooding over the next several days as Tropical Storm  Harvey moves inland and slowly over southeastern Texas. Additional rainfall totals of 15-25  inches are likely with isolated amounts higher through mid next week.”

Meanwhile, Republican Congressman, Pete Sessions, has told MSNBC that east Texas and Lousiana are preparing for flooding. Sessions said:

“What lies ahead for everyone is to make sure that after the trauma of water that everybody has their tetanus shots, that they get their medicine, that we take care of children. Obviously when people get together we then — whether like it or not, we have diarrhoea problems, we have food problems, we have needs of people, we are prepared for the this. I believe the problem is  that people are having trouble getting out of Houston because of the bands of rain.”

Ken Storey, a Professor of sociology, has been fired from his job at the University of Tampa in Florida for tweeting:

“I don’t believe in instant Karma but this kinda feels like it for Texas. Hopefully will help them realise the GOP doesn’t care about them.”

Unsurprisingly, numerous mainstream news figures have associated Hurricane Harvey to global warming. Together with guests from the New York Timesthe Washington Post, and other news outlets, CNN and MSNBC anchors have sought to blame Hurricane Harvey on the Trump administration’s environmental federal policies.

TRUMP THREATENS A GOVERNMENT SHUTDOWN

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Tuesday – President Trump has threatened to shut down the government if Congress doesn’t pass a spending bill that includes financing for the US-Mexico border wall.

Trump stated at a political rally in Phoenix, Arizona, Trump stated:

“The obstructionist Democrats would like us not to do it, but believe me, if we have to close down our government, we’re building that wall.”

Trump went on to remind the crowd that he had been elected to bring down illegal immigration and boost national security.  He then accused the Democrats of hurting national security and putting American lives at risk, stating:

“Let me be very clear to Democrats in Congress who oppose a border wall and stand in the way of border security: you are putting all of American’s safety at risk.”

Trump’s immigration policy has received support from conservatives in the congress. House Freedom Caucus Chairman, Republican. Congressman from North Carolina, Mark Meadows, stated:

“I applaud President  Trump for his leadership on this issue and for his relentless commitment to keeping a promise that was central to his campaign. Congress would do well to join the President and follow through on our own promises by  including funding for a border wall in upcoming spending bills–anything less will show that we are not serious  about keeping our word to the American people.”

Similarly, Republican Congressman from Virginia, Dave Brat, stated in support:

“The American people placed their trust in the President and Republicans in Congress last November with the expectation that we would finally take action to secure the border. Our country is the melting pot of the world and I support legal immigration, but legal immigrants and American workers should not have to compete with illegal aliens for jobs. Our country was founded upon the rule of law and it is important that we hold to those principles. It is time for Congress to step up and keep the promises we made to the American people  by joining with the President to fully fund construction of a border wall and ensure the U.S. Border Patrol  has the resources they need to secure our border.”

Whilst, Republican Congressman from Texas, Louie Gohmer, urged the United States to work with Mexico to end illegal immigration:

“The best thing we can do for BOTH the United States and Mexico is to secure our border. Thankfully, we have a President who understands and is committed to that. A nation founded on laws that apply to everyone, where neither rich nor poor or supposed to be above the law, must have the law enforced to maintain its integrity,  fairness, justice and opportunity. If we secure and enforce our border properly, Mexico’s drug cartels are reduced dramatically, which reduces corruption and lawlessness in Mexico, and, thereby, helps Mexico finally achieve its place as one of the top economies and vibrant countries in the world.

A good neighbour would help Mexico in this way, which also returns America back to being a nation where the law matters and where we can continue to allow more lawful entries into the United States than any other country in the world. Thankfully, we have a President who not only understands the importance of security  and the rule of law, but is doing all he can to make such security, propriety, and opportunity a reality.”

US TO STAY IN AFGHANISTAN

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President Trump has gone back on his campaign promise to withdraw troops from Afghanistan and has instead decided to commit more troops the war-torn country. The change in policy came after a months-long campaign by members of the National Security Team to convince the President not to withdraw troops from the country.

The President, who was forced to admit that the office of the Presidency has changed his worldview, said in his Afghanistan speech:

“My original instinct was to pull out, and historically I like following my instincts, but all of my life I heard that decisions are much different when you sit behind the desk in the Oval  Office.  So I studied Afghanistan in great detail and from every angle.  After many meetings,  over many months, we held our final meeting last Friday at Camp David, with my Cabinet and  Generals, to complete our strategy.  I arrived at three fundamental conclusions about America’s  core interests in Afghanistan.  Our nation must seek an honourable and enduring outcome worthy of the tremendous sacrifices that have been made.

The consequences of a rapid exit are both predictable and unacceptable… A hasty withdrawal would create a vacuum that terrorists – including ISIS and Al Qaeda – would instantly fill, just as happened before September 11th.

I concluded that the security threats we face in Afghanistan and the broader region are immense.”

A spokesman for the Taliban in Afghanistan has responded to Trump’s tweet by stating that “Afghanistan will become another graveyard for the superpower.”

Democrats have expressed their concern with Democrat Congressman from Washington, Adam Smith, criticising it as a copy of the Afghanistan policies adopted by President George W. Bush and President Barack Obama. Smith said in a statement:

“This is not a plan. The President has announced that he is committing to an open-ended war effort in Afghanistan without clearly explaining to the American people or the service members he is sending into harm’s way what he wants and how intends to accomplish his goals. That is inexcusable.”

Similarly, Democratic Senator from Rhodes Island, Jack Reed, the leading Democrat in the Senate Armed Services, has criticised Trump’s policy for being too vague. Reed commented that “the President’s speech was short on the details our troops and the American people deserve.”

President Trump has, however, received support from members of the Republic Party. Republican Congressman for Texas, Mac Thornberry, referred to the policy as a “reasonable way ahead”, whilst John McCain called it a “big step in the right direction.”

BANNON BOOTED FROM WHITE HOUSE

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Stephen Bannon has been booted from his position as the White House Chief strategist following the Charlottesville tragedy and President Donald Trump’s alleged pandering to neo-nazis, white supremacists, and the alt-right.

Bannon confirmed the decision to Joshua Green, the author of Devil’s Bargain: Steve Bannon, Donald Trump, and the Storming of the Presidency, saying:

“If there’s any confusion out there, let me clear it up: I’m leaving the White House and going to war for Trump against his opponents – on Capitol Hill, in the media and in corporate America.”

White House Press Secretary, Sarah Huckabee Sanders, stated: “White House Chief of Staff John Kelly and Steve Bannon have mutually agreed today would be Steve’s last day. We are grateful for his service and wish him the best.”

A senior White House official told the Washington Examiner:

“I would say it is very unlikely that this decision was taken weeks ago, as has been reported.  This was also not going to be a unilateral decision made by the chief of staff, but a decision  that was taken by the president based upon those within the White House pressurizing the president  to fire him.”

Trump’s White House has seen the departure of nine of its major staff, including Chief Strategist Steve Bannon, Communications Director Anthony Scaramucci, Assistant Press Secretary Michael Short, Chief of Staff Reince Priebus, Press Secretary Sean Spicer, Communications Director Mike Dubke, Deputy National Security Advisor K.T. McFarland, Deputy Chief of Staff Katie Walsh, and National Security Advisor Mike Flynn.

TERRORIST ATTACK IN BARCELONA

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A terrorist attack in Barcelona has left at least thirteen people dead and more than fifty others injured.

The attack occurred when a white van careered onto the historic Las Ramblas Street street and drove five-hundred metres down the busy walkway. One witness told the BBC that the van was “weaving left and right, trying to hit people as fast as possible.” People ran from the area in fear of their lives.  The driver fled the scene leaving victims covered in blood and writhing in pain from broken limbs.

Marc Espearcia, a twenty-year-old student living in Barcelona, told the BBC:

“There was a loud noise and everybody ran for cover. There were a lot people, lots of families [at the site], this is one of the most visited sites in Barcelona. I think several people were hit. It was horrible, there was panic. Terrible.”

Another witness, Aamer Answer, said:

“I turned around and people were screaming — I could see a woman screaming with her kids —  people started running and jumping into shops. I ran for about 50 or 100 metres and stopped to see what was happening. The police were very quickly on the scene and getting people to move back. I could see chaos right at the top area and I spoke to a shopkeeper who had run down and was screaming. He was Bengali so I spoke to him in Urdu and he said a van had driven  into a crowd and he thought there were five to six people very seriously injured.”

Islamic State has claimed responsibility for the attack. According to Catalonia’s Regional President, Carles Puigdemont, two suspects have been arrested in connection to the attack.  Josep Lluís Trapero,  chief of Catalonia’s regional police, confirmed Puigdemont’s statement, but was quick to point out that the two men arrested were not the perpetrators of the attack:

“Two people have been arrested in relationship with this crime. That doesn’t necessarily  mean they carried out the attack in Barcelona but, yes, they are linked to the incident.”

Nihad Awad, the executive director of the Council on American-Islamic Relations, has condemned the terrorist attack.  President Trump, tweeted: “The United States condemns the terror attack in Barcelona, Spain, and will do whatever is necessary to help. Be tough and strong, we love you.” Similarly, King Felipe of Spain tweeted: “They are murderers, simply criminals who are not going to terrorise us.

FALLOUT OVER PRESIDENT TRUMP’S PRESS CONFERENCE

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President Trump has been heavily criticised for appearing to defend the alt-right in the wake of the devastating Charlottesville car attack in a press conference Tuesday afternoon.

Throughout the conference, Trump appeared agitated and defensive. When asked why it had taken him so long to condemn the Unite the Right protesters, Trump answered:

 “I didn’t wait long. I wanted to make sure, unlike most politicians, that what I said was correct. Not make a quick statement. The statement I made on Saturday, the first statement was correct a fine statement, but you don’t make statements that direct unless you know the facts.  It takes a little while to get the facts. You still don’t know the facts. It’s a very, very important process to me. And it’s a very important statement. So I don’t want to go quickly and make a statement for the sake of making a political statement. I want to know the facts.  If you go back to my original statement … I brought it.”

Trump went on to defend his statement on Saturday, saying:

“Excuse me, excuse me, take it nice and easy. Here’s the thing. When I make a statement, I  like to be correct. I want the facts. This event just happened. In fact, a lot of the event didn’t even happen yet as we were speaking. This event just happened. Before I make a statement, I need the facts. So I don’t want to rush into a statement. So making the statement when I made it was excellent. In fact, the young woman who I hear was a fantastic young woman, and it was on  NBC, her mother wrote me and said though I guess Twitter, social media, the nicest things. And  I very much appreciated that. I hear she was a fine, really actually an incredible young woman.  But her mother on Twitter thanked me for what I said. And honestly, if the press were not fake,  and it was honest, the press would have said what I said was very nice. But unlike you and  unlike the media, before I make a statement, I like to know the facts.”

Then Trump switched his focus to attacking the “alt-left”:

I’ve condemned neo-Nazis. I’ve condemned very different groups. But not all those people were”I’ve condemned neo-Nazis. I’ve condemned very different groups. But not all those people were neo-Nazis, believe me, not all of those people were white supremacists, by any stretch. Those people were also there because they wanted to protest the taking down of the statue of Robert E.  Lee. And you take a look at some of the groups and you see, and you’d know it if you were honest reporters which in many cases you’re not, but many of those people were there to protest the taking down of the statue of Robert E. Lee. I noticed that Stonewall Jackson is coming down.  I wonder, is it George Washington next week, and is it Thomas Jefferson the week after? You really do have to ask yourself where does it stop. But they were there to protest, excuse me,  take a look at the night before, they were there to protest the taking down of the statue of  Robert E. Lee.”

Republican Senator for Florida, Marco Rubio defended President Trump’s statement on twitter:

“Mr. President, you can’t allow #WhiteSupremacists to share only part of blame. This is  simple: we must condemn and marginalize white supremacist groups, not encourage and embolden  them.”

However, the reaction from both Republicans and Democrats has been overwhelmingly negative. Democrat Congresswoman from New York, Kathleen Rice, tweeted: “President Trump is a racist. Period. He’s gone out of his way to make that clear, so let’s not tip-toe around it. He’s a racist.” Similarly,  Democrat Senator from Hawaii, Brian Schaltz tweeted: “As a Jew, as an American, as a human, words cannot express my disgust and disappointment. This is not my president.”  Meanwhile, former House Majority Leader and Republican Congressman from Virginia, Eric Cantor criticised Trump for equating the counter-protesters with the alt-right.

Trump’s plight certainly hasn’t been helped by the support he has been receiving from white supremacists. Richard Spencer told the Washington Examiner that he was grateful to Trump for “defending the truth.”  Likewise, Ku Klux Klan leader, David Duke, tweeted:

“Thank you President Trump, for your honesty and courage to tell the truth about #Charlottesville and condemn the leftist terrorists in BLM/Antifa.”

There can be little doubt that President Trump deserves wide-spread criticism for his refusal to directly name and shame neo-nazis, white supremacists, and the alt-right for their role in the events in Charlottesville on Saturday. He rightly deserves criticism for refusing to condemn the alt-right during his Presidential campaign.

And the people who should be criticising him should be the American people, not the hypocritical mainstream media and political left who only seem to find their moral indignation when evil can be attributed to the right.

This, after all, is the same media that overhypes every threat of right wing violence and turns every crime committed by a right winger into a condemnation of all conservatives, but conveniently turns a blind eye to the violence committed by antifa in Seattle, Sacramento, and Berkeley.  The same media that has presented right wing violence as a bigger threat to people’s safety than Islamic terrorism, which has routinely downplayed its threat, and vilified anyone who wishes to talk about the issue as being an “Islamaphobe.”

Then there’s the left wing media’s remarkable lack of criticism towards Barack Obama. They did not condemn Obama’s speech in Dallas, Texas, where he blamed the murder of five police officers on the legacy of Jim Crow and slavery, and claimed the police were unfairly and systematically targeting African Americans.

Does President Trump deserve criticism for his refusal to name and shame those responsible for the violence on Saturday? Undoubtedly yes. But the mainstream media and political left have no moral authority to do so.

MORE INFORMATION ON THE CHARLOTTESVILLE TRAGEDY

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Americans are recoiling from the tragic events that occurred in Charlottesville, Virginia yesterday. The tragic succession of events, which saw violence between the Unite the Right protesters and counter-protesters and culminated in a vicious car attack,  left nineteen people injured and thirty-two-year-old Heather Heyer dead.

On Monday, President Trump bowed to pressure to name and shame those whose ideology inspired yesterday’s hate crime.  Trump stated:

“Racism is evil. And those who cause violence in its name are criminals and thugs, including the KKK,  neo-Nazis, white supremacists and other hate groups that are repugnant to everything we hold dear as  Americans. Those who spread violence in the name of bigotry strike at the very core of America.”

Political reactions have been swift and damning. Michael McCaul, Republican Congressman from Texas and chairman of the Homeland Security Committee, tweeted:

“We must condemn the hate fueling the violence in #Charlottesville. It does not define us as Americans. Those affected are in my prayers.”

Republican Senator from Texas, Ted Cruz, meanwhile, has called for the Department of Justice to investigate the events of Charlottesville as an act of domestic terrorism. Cruz stated:

“It’s tragic and heartbreaking to see hatred and racism once again mar our great Nation with bloodshed.  Heidi’s and my prayers are with the loved ones of those killed and injured in the ongoing violence in  Charlottesville. The First Amendment protects the rights of all Americans to speak their minds peaceably,  but violence, brutality, and murder have no place in a civilized society. The Nazis, the KKK, and white supremacists are repulsive and evil, and all of us have a moral obligation to speak out against the lies,  bigotry, anti-Semitism, and hatred that they propagate. Having watched the horrifying video of the car  deliberately crashing into a crowd of protesters, I urge the Department of Justice to immediately  investigate and prosecute this grotesque act of domestic terrorism.”

At a press conference on Monday, Charlottesville Police Chief Al Thomas claims police had planned to move the Unite the Right protesters to the rear of Emancipation park. The protesters had originally agreed to cooperate with police. However, police were forced to alter their plans when protesters began entering the park at different locations.

The perpetrator of the attack, James Alex Fields, Jr., a self-confessed admirer of Adolf Hitler, has been charged with second-degree murder, malicious wounding, and failure to stop at the scene of an accident resulting in death. He has been denied bail.

VIOLENT PROTEST IN VIRGINIA LEAVES ONE DEAD, NINETEEN INJURED

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A thirty-two-year-old woman has been killed, and nineteen others have been left with minor to life threatening injuries in Charlottesville, Virginia, after a day of protests between white nationalists, calling themselves “unite the right”, and counter-protesters culminated in violence.

The counter-protesters were reportedly celebrating driving the white supremacists from Emancipation Park when the attack occurred. Video footage shows a Dodge Charger accelerating into a crowd of counter-protesters. One witness claims the car was travelling at forty-miles-per-hour (sixty-four-kilometres-per-hour). Another witness, Brennan Gilmore, told NBC news:

 “It was very clearly intentional. From the far end of the street, it accelerated, slowed down right before the crowd and then slammed on the gas through the crowd sending bodies flying. And then it reversed back into the street dragging bodies and clothes.”

After the incident, the driver reversed the car at high speed and fled the scene.

President Trump, Vice-President Mike Pence, and First Lady Melania Trump have all condemned the violence.  Speaking at his private golf course in Bedminster, New Jersey, Trump stated:

“We condemn in the strongest possible terms this egregious display of hatred, bigotry, and violence on many sides, on many sides. It’s been going on for a long time in our country. There’s no place in America (for this). What is vital now is a swift restoration of law and order and the protection of innocent lives.”

Trump also stated on twitter:

“We ALL must be united & condemn all that hate stands for. There is no place for this kind of violence in America. Let’s come together as one!”

Vice-President Mike Pence tweeted:

“I stand with @POTUS against hate & violence. U.S is greatest when we join together & oppose those seeking to divide us.”

First Lady Melania Trump also tweeted:

“Our country encourages freedom of speech, but let’s communicate w/o hate in our hearts. No good comes  from violence.”

Governor of Virginia, Terry McAullife, declared a state of emergency around Charlottesville which began at noon. Police, meanwhile, are treating the incident as a criminal homicide investigation. They have arrested the driver of the car, James Alex Fields, Jr., and are holding him on a variety of charges, including second-degree murder and malicious wounding.

McAullife directed a statement to the white supremacists, saying:

“You came here today to hurt people. And you did hurt people. My message is clear: we are stronger than you.”

He went on to say:

“I have a message to all the white supremacists and the Nazis who came into Charlottesville today:  My message is go home. You are not wanted in this Commonwealth. Shame on you … You are anything but a  patriot.”

Police Chief, Al Thomas, has backed this up, stating that “premeditated violence that our community experienced today was completely unacceptable.”

TRUMP INCREASES RHETORIC ON NORTH KOREA

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President Trump has increased the force of his rhetoric against North Korea, warning the rogue nation that they would “regret it fast” if they kept threatening the US and her allies. Trump tweeted on Friday morning: “military solutions are now in place, locked and loaded, should North Korea act unwisely. Hopefully, Kim Jong Un will find another path.”

Trump told reporters at his private golf course in Bedminster, New Jersey:

“If he utters one threat in the form of an overt threat … or if he does anything with respect to Guam  or anyplace else that’s an American territory or an American ally, he will truly regret it, and he will  regret it fast.”

Trump went on to say:

“I hope that they are going to fully understand the gravity of what I said, and what I said is what  I mean. Those words are very easy to understand.”

President Trump has received support from the Australian Prime Minister, Malcolm Turnball. Others, however, have expressed concern. Chief of Staff to Colin Powell, former Secretary of State under George W. Bush, Colonel Lawrence Wilkerson told MSNBC that he is more concerned with Trump’s rhetoric than with North Korea’s nuclear capabilities.

Similarly, German Chancellor has expressed concern:

“I don’t see a military solution and I don’t think it’s called for. I think escalating the rhetoric is the wrong answer, I see the need for enduring work at the UN Security Council.”

However, North Korea seems to be in a fairly precarious position. The Global Times has warned Pyongyang that China would not resist a US attack on North Korea. In an editorial, the Global Times said:

“China opposes both nuclear proliferation and war in the Korean Peninsula. It will not encourage any side to stir up military conflict, and will firmly resist any side which wants to change the status quo of the areas where China’s interests are concerned. It is hoped that both Washington and Pyongyang can exercise restraint. The Korean Peninsula is where the strategic interests of all sides converge, and no side should  try to be the absolute dominator of the region.”

President Trump’s rhetoric is changing the dynamic of the argument. When North Korea threatened Guam, Trump threatened North Korea. Furthermore, a nuclear reprisal by the US on North Korea would probably wipe the rogue nation off the map.

TRUMP DECLARES WAR ON THE OPIOID CRISIS

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President Trump has declared war on the opioid crisis, authorising his administration to use all emergency and other authorities in their power to counteract the problem. This decision came in response to recommendations from the President’s Commission on Combating Drug Addiction and Opioid Crisis.

Commenting at his private golf course in Bedminster, New Jersey, Trump referred to the opioid crisis as a “tremendous problem in our country, and we’re going to get it taken care of as well as it can be taken care of, which hopefully will be better than any other country which also has the same problem or similar problems.”

Trump went on to say:

“The opioid crisis is an emergency, and I’m saying officially right now it is an emergency. It’s a  national emergency. We’re going to spend a lot of time, a lot of effort and a lot of money on the opioid crisis … We’re going to draw it up and we’re going to make it a national emergency. It is a serious problem the likes of which we have never had.”

Trump continued:

“You know, when I was growing up they had the LSD and they had certain generations of drugs. There’s never been anything like what’s happened to this country over the last four or five years. And I have to say this in all fairness, this is a worldwide problem, not just a United States problem. This is happening worldwide. But this is a national emergency and we are drawing documents now to so attest.”

Opioids are derived from the opium poppy, or a synthetic imitation thereof, and includes morphine, heroin, tramadol, oxycodone, methadone, and so forth. According to a CBS report from December 20th, more Americans died from drug overdoses in 2016 than anything else.