‘predictable and counterproductive’
On Wednesday, as Category 5 Hurricane Irma was battering Caribbean islands on its (possible) way to Florida, the US House of Representatives approved an $8 billion initial relief package for the areas of Texas and Louisiana damaged by Hurricane Harvey. That same day, Senate and House Minority Leaders Chuck Schumer (D-NY) and Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) announced a deal with President Trump to pair hurricane relief with a three-month postponement on a vote on the debt ceiling, “over the apparent objections of Republican leaders,” according to NPR. On Thursday, the Senate did just that, passing a $15 million relief package easily, 80-17, and delayed the debt limit discussion by three months.
And meanwhile, wildfires in Oregon and Washington state have been dropping ash on Portland and Seattle and a brush fire in Los Angeles has been mostly contained after burning through more than 7,000 acres – making it the largest fire in the city’s history.
At the New Republic, Emily Atkin argues that “we ought to politicize Harvey, Irma, and other extreme weather” because climate change exacerbates their effects.
North Korea – the world’s most dangerous game of chicken
On Sunday North Korea detonated a nuclear bomb at its test site in Pungyye-ri – the sixth such nuclear test and, as The New York Times reports, “by far [its] most powerful ever.” The test set off a tremor with a magnitude between 5.7 and 6.3, which would mean the explosion was at least five to six times as powerful as the previous test.
At The Atlantic, Krishnadev Calamur explores how North Korea’s missile and nuclear technology got so good so fast.
After reviewing a number of options for a response – including a series of military options – President Trump took to Twitter to criticize South Korea for its “talk of appeasement” and muse about “stopping all trade with any country doing business with North Korea.” Defense Secretary Jim Mattis, meanwhile, warned North Korea that “any threat to the United States or its territory, including Guam or our allies, will be met with a massive military response.” Significantly, as the same Times report observes, “there was no public discussion of pursuing a diplomatic opening to the North.” At an emergency meeting of the UN Security Council, US Ambassador Nikki Haley claimed North Korea was “begging for war” and that “enough is enough,” urging the Security Council to pursue a new sanctions package that Pyongyang would find “very painful.” South Korea, meanwhile, “launched a major military show of force” in response to the nuclear test, “including live-fire drills simulating an attack on Pyongyang’s nuclear testing site.” South Korean president Moon Jae-in also asked the UN to “consider tough new sanctions” against North Korea, despite Russian president Vladimir Putin’s insistence, after meeting with Moon at an economic summit in Russia, that resolving the crisis “is impossible with sanctions and pressure alone.”
On Tuesday, North Korea’s ambassador to the UN, Han Tae-song, taunted the US at a UN-sponsored conference on disarmament, claiming the recent missile and nuclear tests were a “gift package addressed to none other than the US,” and that they would receive more gift packages “as long as [the US] relies on reckless provocations and futile attempts to put pressure on” North Korea.
At the National Interest, Doug Bandow argues that President Trump should “follow his earlier instinct for engagement,” because a nuclear North Korea is here to stay.
On Tuesday President Trump announced he was ending Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or DACA, “the Obama-era program that shields young undocumented immigrants from deportation.” The program will be phased out in six months, giving Congress, Trump claims, enough time to enshrine DACA as law. Following the official announcement Trump tweeted that he was planning to “revisit” the issue if Congress couldn’t pass a law. On Wednesday, 15 states along with the District of Columbia announced they were suing the US government to block the move.
At the National Review, Rich Lowry argues that Trump’s decision “is a relatively modest way to roll back what is clearly an extralegal act.”
At the New Yorker, Jelani Cobb asserts that Trump’s real target “is the world created by the Immigration and Nationality Act of 1965, which eliminated the racialist immigration quotas” set by the Johnson-Reed Act of 1924.
This week in Russia
In what the Washington Examiner calls “the most significant escalation yet” in the push-and-pull between Congress and the FBI, the House Intelligence Committee has subpoenaed both the FBI and the Justice Department “for documents relating to the [Trump] dossier, the FBI’s relationship with dossier author Christopher Steele, and the bureau’s possible role in supporting what began as an opposition research project against candidate Donald Trump.”
Facebook this week conceded to selling $100,000 in ads to Russian-linked accounts during last year’s presidential election, a revelation that Virginia senator Mark Warner, the top-ranking Democrat on the Senate Intelligence Committee, warned could be “just the tip of the iceberg” of the exploration into how social networks were used to interfere in the election.
At a closed-door meeting with the Senate Judiciary Committee, Donald Trump Jr. “cast his meeting with a Russian lawyer last year as simply an opportunity to learn about Hillary Clinton’s ‘fitness, character or qualifications,’” and again insisted he did not collude with Russia on his father’s presidential campaign.
Last Thursday a pair of governors, Democrat John Hickenlooper of Colorado and Republican John Kasich of Ohio sent their healthcare proposal, “Blueprint for Stronger Health Insurance Markets,” to congressional leaders. The plan keeps the individual mandate and proposes to attract insurers to underserved counties by “giv[ing] them an exemption from the sales tax they are normally required to pay on premiums for health policies sold on the marketplace.” The proposal has received bipartisan support from six other governors: Brian Sandoval (R-NV), Tom Wolf (D-PA), Bill Walker (I-AK), John Bel Edwards (R-LA), Terry McAuliffe (D-VA), and Steve Bullock (D-MT).
On Wednesday the bribery trial of New Jersey senator Robert Menendez officially began. Menendez, a Democrat, “is accused of taking luxury trips, private jet rides and campaign donations from Salomon Melgen, a doctor in West Palm Beach.”