Trump slams “wasteful” COVID bill, demands $2000 stimulus checks. Trump pardons Blackwater contractors who massacred Iraqi civilians. Triple whammy for UK from new COVID strain, transport bans, and looming no-deal Brexit.
That and more below.
Trump calls COVID bill “a disgrace”, “wasteful”; demands $2000 stimulus checks
President Trump seemingly caught Capitol Hill and even members of the administration by surprise by rejecting the new COVID relief package. Congress finally approved the package on Monday after months of wrangling and more than a dozen lost deadlines. Trump’s ire puzzled Congressional leaders who had negotiated the bill with members of his administration. The White House itself was in on every stage of the negotiation.
While he didn’t specifically threaten a veto, he called on Congress to send him a more “suitable” bill, and called this one a “disgrace”. However, it is unclear whether Trump’s objections will have any effect as the bill has sufficient support to override a veto.
“Ridiculously low” stimulus checks
Trump is calling for Congress to more than triple what he called the “ridiculously low” $600 stimulus checks to $2000 per person. Democratic leaders at least seemed enthusiastic about the idea. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi responded, “Let’s do it!”. The bill’s small stimulus checks have received much criticism online. Many expressed disbelief that Congress was considering such a low amount considering COVID’s economic devastation.
Trump also described the COVID bill as “wasteful”. For example, he questioned why the Kennedy Performing Arts Center in New York was receiving $40 million when it is closed. Presumably, that money is intended for the center’s furloughed staff.
Another objection Trump raised may be due to a misunderstanding on his part. He said the bill promised too much money to foreign countries and not enough to Americans. Except for a vague “international vaccine alliance” which receives a nominal sum, all other funding in the COVID bill is domestic spending. Trump went on to cite $billions in foreign aid to various countries in the bill. This caused observers to speculate that Trump had confused the COVID bill with the $1.4 trillion federal budget, to which it is attached. The federal budget includes considerable provisions for foreign aid.
Trump pardons Blackwater contractors jailed for Iraqi massacre
President Trump has pardoned four Blackwater contractors responsible for a 2007 massacre of Iraqi civilians. The contractors – Paul Slough, Evan Liberty, Dustin Heard and Nicholas Slatten – were convicted in 2015 of firing machine-guns and grenade launchers into a crowd of unarmed civilians in a Baghdad square. The attack killed four Iraqi civilians, including two children. The massacre in Nisour Square marked one of the lowest points in the US occupation in Iraq. Military leaders said at the time that the attack was “a grossly excessive use of force” that harmed the military mission in Iraq and further strained relations between US military and Iraqi civilians.
Trump has had a habit of pardoning soldiers responsible for killing unarmed civilians. Last year, he pardoned a former US army commando who was about to stand trial over the killing of a teenager, whose body he subsequently took a selfie with. He also pardoned a former army lieutenant who ordered his men to fire at three Afghan civilians.
Immigrant women file for class action against ICE over medical abuses
30 immigrant women have filed a complaint with a federal court in Georgia alleging medical abuse while incarcerated at an Immigration and Customs Enforcement facility. The center in question is the Irwin Country Correctional Facility in Ocilla, GA. Many of the women believed they were receiving treatment for routine gynecological complaints, only to learn later they’d had a full hysterectomy.
All of the procedures were ordered by the same doctor, Mahendra Amin. Amin works at a nearby hospital which has a contract with the correctional facility. The women say that ICE knew of the abuses as far back as 2018. Instead of investigating, ICE retaliated against those who spoke up. The agency attempted to deport several of the women, many successfully. Once whistleblower allegations hit the press, a lawyer representing ICE eventually agreed the agency would stop deporting complainants. However, ICE is currently trying to water down this agreement.
Ken Cuccinelli, a top immigration official at DHS attempted to defend ICE’s actions, but ended up damning them out of his own mouth. Cuccinelli said, “Every single procedure has to be approved by our medical teams… it would be essentially impossible first for something like what was alleged to go on without ICE knowing about it”.
Israel headed to fourth election in two years
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu failed to make a deal on a national budget with coalition partner Benny Gantz, leader of the Blue and White party. With the ruling coalition unable to move forward, the country will now hold its fourth round of national elections in four years. The election will take place in March, just one year after the last round.
Netanyahu is currently facing corruption and bribery charges. Over the past year, he has ignored numerous calls to step down from Gantz and even from members of his own Likud party. Nevertheless, polls show that while Likud has lost some support, Blue and White’s support base has collapsed. Theoretically, Likud is likely to garner the most votes, but will probably have to create a coalition with another party.
UK faces triple whammy from new COVID strain, transport bans, and looming no-deal Brexit
The emergence of a new more contagious COVID strain has added to Britain’s end-of-year woes. With a no-deal Brexit already likely, flight and transport bans from various countries over the COVID strain have created the possibility of goods shortages after the Christmas holidays. Thousand of trucks bound for the Continent have piled up in ports, waiting and hoping to either deliver or load goods across the Channel.
UK retailers have warned that they will face shortages of fresh produce starting on December 27. Retailers had hoped to stock up on other goods from the Continent ahead of the new year, anticipating a no-deal Brexit that will make many goods more expensive or harder to come by. However, there is no immediate fear of a food shortage as the UK grows much of its produce domestically.
The EU has urged its 27 member states that have instituted bans to relax them. So far, only France and Germany have made provisions to allow freight to travel to and from the UK.Benjamin Netanyahu, Blue and White, Brexit, COVID relief bill, EU, ICE, Israel, Liku, medical abuse, President Trump, Presidential pardons, UK, US news, war crimes, world news