Authorities: Bomber Part of Larger Network
MANCHESTER, ENGLAND- English authorities are fearful that more terror attacks could be coming after Monday night’s bombing at an Ariana Grande concert. The terror threat level in Britain has been raised to “critical,” the highest level, as police warn that other attacks could be “imminent.”
British authorities also report that the attacker, 22 year-old Salman Abedi, was known to authorities before he blew himself up, killing 21 and injuring 59. Authorities also report that he was part of a larger network of terror, and police have conducted multiple raids and have made at least four arrests, all believed to be connected to this attack.
The French Foreign Minister, Gérard Collomb, stated that Abedi had “proven links to ISIS.” US officials report that Abedi made a recent trip to Northern Africa, staying in Libya for a few weeks, and he returned to the UK only a few days before the attack. Both al-Qaeda and ISIS have hundreds of fighters in Libya, raising the possibility that Abedi had contact with either terrorist group.
Tragically, police report that among the 22 dead is an eight-year old child, the youngest victim in this heartbreaking explosion. Authorities fear that many victims will be children and teenagers.
The Islamic State has claimed responsibility for the attack and called the attacker a “soldier of [the] caliphate,” but it remains unclear how deep any contact was between Abedi and the Islamic State. Recent attacks, such as the San Bernardino shooting and the Orlando Nightclub Shooting, have been inspired by ISIS, but no direct connections between the terrorist group and the individual attackers have been discovered.
Abedi attended nearby Didsbury Mosque, only miles away from his home. The mosque has released a statement on its website calling the attack “horrifying,” and offering prayers for the victims.
In response to the bombing, Ariana Grande tweeted that she was “broken” and “sorry” from the bottom of her heart. She has officially called off the remainder of her International tour in response to the attack.
The response from political leaders has been swift. The Queen has called this attack an “act of barbarity,” while President Trump has called the perpetrators of this explosion “evil losers.”
A vigil was held last night to honor the victims and their families.
Steven Q. contributed to this report. (Published on 5/24/17 at 11:29).
CBO: Millions of Americans Would Lose Health Insurance Under House Bill
WASHINGTON, DC- The Congressional Budget Office, a nonpartisan government agency, has released its long awaited review of the American Health Care Act, the recently passed bill replacing Obamacare. The CBO estimates that 23 million Americans will lose health insurance under the Republican plan.
The CBO also reports that this bill would save more than $100 billion from the federal budget over the course of a decade.
Democrats were quick to seize upon this report and criticize the Republican plan, emphasizing the need to keep Obamacare in place. Republicans, on the other hand, have mixed reactions.
Some Republicans, especially those in the Senate, have emphasized the need to start over on a new bill to repeal Obamacare. However, House Republicans have criticized the CBO’s analysis. These Republicans have asserted that CBO cannot be trusted since it was also wrong in its analysis of Obamacare. Others state that the limit in health insurance enrollment would be partially due to the removal of the requirement that people pay a fine if they do not purchase health insurance.
This report raises new questions about the future of President Trump’s agenda. Health reform was the first thing that the new Administration attempted to tackle, even going back to it after an initial failure earlier in his term. Many Republicans fear that time is against them, since they are running closer to the 2018 Midterm Elections.
Criticism from the CBO has also come from former politicians. Former House Speaker and former Presidential candidate Newt Gingrich has called upon Congress to abolish the CBO, calling it “destructive.” Gingrich also labeled the CBO “unbelievably wrong about Obamacare.”
The CBO also reports that health insurance premiums would decrease for younger and healthy Americans, while increasing for sicker and older people.
This report is only deepening the political divide among the members of the Republican Party. When President Trump hosted a celebration at the White House after the bill’s passage, those Republicans who did not vote for the bill, 20 in total, were not invited. These divisions could be another obstacle as Trump attempts to move forward on more controversial plans, such as a border wall and an import tax applying to goods coming from Mexico.
Given that the final healthcare bill will likely look much different than this one, since the Senate will likely pass a separate bill and then the 2 Houses of Congress will likely merge both bills into one, this report will likely weaken any support behind repealing Obamacare.
Steven Q. contributed to this report. (Published on 5/26/17 at 10:17).
PRESIDENT: Foreign Trip Was a “Home Run”
WASHINGTON, DC- Last night, President Trump concluded his nine-day foreign trip by landing back in the US. After visiting European and Middle Eastern countries, the President praised the success that he had on his trip, telling reporters that he hit a “home run.”
Mr. Trump made headlines by making Saudi Arabia his first stop on his first foreign trip, the only President to do so. While calling on Muslims leaders to expel terrorist from their countries and places of worship, he also called Islam “one of the world’s great faiths.” He also urged the leaders of Islam to address the the “crisis” of “Islamic extremism.”
While in Saudi Arabia, Mr. Trump also signed a $110 billion arms deal. This matches his call for Muslim leaders to take a larger role in fighting ISIS and “Islamic extremism” in the region.
From Saudi Arabia, the President traveled to Israel, where he reaffirmed his support for the Jewish democracy. He then traveled to the Western Wall, one of the holiest locations for the Jewish people. Mr. Trump is the first sitting President to travel to the Western Wall, whereas other Presidents have traveled there after leaving office.
The President faced criticism for traveling to the Western Wall without any officials from the Israeli government joining him, despite multiple requests. Mr. Trump then traveled to the Vatican, where he met with the Pope. Mr. Trump stated that it was a “very great honor” to meet with Pope Francis. While we do not know what issues they discussed, they likely talked about terrorism, climate change, and refugees, highlighting some differences between the conservative Mr. Trump and the more liberal Pope Francis.
Finally, President Trump meet with leaders of NATO, whom he criticized for not spending the required 2% of GDP on defense that is required by the group. Currently, only five countries pay this amount, including the US. There are a total of 28 countries in NATO. This criticism, while met with opposition from European leaders, matches the President’s tone on putting “America first,” as he promised to do on the campaign trail.
The President will be back in Washington this week, as criticism grows about possible collusion with the Russian government during the election. The President’s son-in-law, Jared Kushner, is now a person with whom the FBI would like to speak. Sources close to the White House say that the President has hired a personal lawyer to help him with this matter and will likely set up a “war room” to combat allegations of Russian involvement in his campaign.
Steven Q. contributed to this report. (Published on 5/28/17 at 11:45).
Portland Stabbing Suspect Yells “Get Out” In Courtroom After Killing 2, Injuring Another, After They Defend a Muslim Woman on Train
PORTLAND, OR- The man accused of killing two men that defended a Muslim woman on a train yelled today that his actions were “patriotism” as he entered a courtroom to face murder charges.
The man, Jeremy Joseph Christian, recently scolded Muslim women whom he saw on a rail train. In addition to telling the women that they should kill themselves, he reportedly told them to “go back to Saudi Arabia” and to “get out of his country.” After a few men on the train defended the Muslim women, one of who was wearing a hijab, he attacked the men with a knife.
Christian has been charged with two counts of murder, as well as with attempted murder. Prosecutors are also looking into whether he will be charged with hate crimes for the stabbing. If convicted, Christian could be executed for his crimes.
The mayor of Portland, Ted Wheeler, commended the men for their actions in defending the Muslim women. In addition to calling them “brave” and “heroes,” he stated that their actions “should serve as an example and inspiration to us all.” He called upon people to stand against this attack and denounce hatred and xenophobia.
In response to the attack, President Trump has called the attack “unacceptable.” He also stated that the victims were “standing up to hate and intolerance.”
Vice President Mike Pence tweeted similar comments, saying that “our thoughts and prayers are with the heroes in Portland and the loved ones they left behind.”
An annual report from the Alabama-based Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC), an organization that monitors hate crimes across the US, shows that the number of anti-Muslim hate groups across the US has tripled to 101 last year, up from 34 in 2015.
The report also singled out President Trump as a factor of this increase, stating that his proposal to ban Muslim from immigrating to the US encourage the rise of white nationalist groups.
A senior fellow at the SPLC, Mark Potok, noted that “Trump’s run for office electrified the alt-right, which saw in him a champion of the idea that America is fundamentally a white man’s country.”
Conservatives have been critical of the Southern Poverty Law Center for years, claiming that the organization is biased against conservatives. Conservatives point to the SPLC’s criticism of the Family Research Council, a group that fought the legalization of same-sex marriage, as a group that was labeled by the SPLC as a hate group to back up their claim.
Steven Q. contributed to this report. (Published on 5/30/17 at 20:32).
Explosion in Kabul Leaves 90 Dead and Hundreds Injured
KABUL, AFGHANISTAN- Authorities report that an explosion in Afghanistan that killed 90 and injured many more was caused by a car bomb in the capital of Kabul. The blast occurred in a secure, diplomatic area, raising concerns about security and the future of the US mission in Afghanistan.
The blast was so severe that many vehicles faced significant damage. In addition, buildings up to half a mile away from the blast experienced damage windows, showing the extent of the explosion. This leads authorities to suspect that whoever was behind the attack had pre-planned this explosion.
It remains unclear the motive behind the bombing. So far, no terrorist group has claimed responsibility for the attack. In fact, the Taliban has denied that it is responsible for the attack.
Afghani authorities believe that the bomb was hidden inside of a sewage truck. It remains unclear how the truck passed through multiple levels of security into the diplomatic area, given it contained a bomb.
This attack raises new questions about the security in Afghanistan. Since the US invaded the country in 2001 to eliminate the Taliban, the threat of terrorism is still significant. There are currently thousands of US troops in the country, mainly focusing on training Afghani forces.
Afghani sources believe that a Pakistani group affiliated with the Taliban was responsible for the blast, but there has so far been no claim of responsibility from that group.
Authorities also report that 11 US citizens were injured in the blast, but so far no US citizens have died from the bomb. However, a total of nine Afghani citizens who were contracted by a US company for security purposes have died.
Afghani President Ashraf Ghani said in a tweet that “our prayers are with the victims and their families of this inhumane and cowardly attack.”
Secretary of State Rex Tillerson has called this attack a “senseless and cowardly act.” He also reassured the Afghani government of continued US support.
President Donald Trump has called Ghani to express his condolences regarding the attack.
Steven Q. contributed to this report. (Published 6/1/17 at 11:25).
President Trump Withdraws From Paris Climate Agreement
WASHINGTON, DC- This afternoon, President Trump announced that he will withdraw the United States from the Paris Climate Accords, signaling a shift in environmental policy from the Obama administration.
The President made the announcement at a statement from the Rose Garden this afternoon.
Mr. Trump stated that although he is leaving the agreement, he will “begin negotiations to re enter either the Paris accords or an entirely new transaction under terms that are fair to the United States.”
The move joins the US with Syria and Nicaragua as the only nations that are not joined in the agreement. In total, 195 countries have signed this agreement, including the US under the Obama presidency.
While Mr. Trump made the move in the first year of his presidency, the process to withdraw will continue until November of 2020.
The President said that as “someone who cares deeply about the environment,” he cannot support an agreement that “punishes the United States.” He also called the agreement “unfair at the highest level to the United States.”
Pres. Trump’s decision is one that he promised back on the campaign trail last year. In his statement today, Mr. Trump stated that the Paris agreement “doesn’t eliminate coal jobs, it just transfers those jobs out of the United States and ships them to foreign countries.”
This decisions matches the President’s rhetoric of putting the concerns of the American worker ahead of global concerns. Recently, the President criticized European leaders for failing to pay the recommended 2% of GDP for defense under NATO, a move that faced criticism from the leaders of those same countries.
Critics of the Paris climate deal point to the lack of enforcement mechanisms behind the reduction of carbon emissions as proof of a poorly written agreement.
Supporters of the Paris climate deal point to the need of reducing carbon emissions to limit the warming of the planet to what scientists are saying are disastrous levels. Experts say that just another degree Celsius of warming will have extreme consequences for the globe.
Others countries, such as those in Europe and Asia, have indicated that they will remain a part the agreement, despite the pledge from President Trump to leave the deal.
Steven Q. contributed to this report. (Published 6/1/17 at 17:10).
Travel Ban Appealed To Supreme Court
WASHINGTON, DC- The Department of Justice (DoJ) announced last night that it has appealed a decision to prevent the Trump administration from implementing a ban on immigration from 6 Muslim-majority countries in the Middle East and North Africa.
The executive order, signed March 6th, has been one of the most controversial and debated topics surrounding Mr. Trump’s Presidency. The administration is arguing that the order should go into effect while its constitutionality is being decided.
So far, the Justice Department has faced a hostile judiciary, which has ruled on multiple occasions to bar the President from implementing his order. The rulings against the administration have been based off a conclusion that the ban was discriminatory and unfairly treated Muslims.
A spokeswoman from the DoJ has stated that “the President is not required to admit people from countries that sponsor or shelter terrorism, until he determines that they can be properly vetted and do not pose a security risk to the United States.” This echoes sentiment from the administration that immigration from these six countries would lead to an increase in terror attacks.
Critics of the ban state that it would disrupt relations with Muslim countries, preventing Mr. Trump from working with those countries to fight terrorism.
Vice President Pence reiterated his boss’s position in an interview this morning. He stated that “the ability to come to the United States is a privilege, not a right.”
It remains unclear how the high court will rule. The Court is currently composed of five conservative justices and four liberals justices, but it is possible that a conservative justice may side against the Trump administration. Court watchers are eyeing Justice Kennedy, the conservative justice who is most centrist, as a swing-vote. Kennedy was the swing vote on legalizing gay marriage two years ago.
While a ruling would focus on the travel ban, it also could force the court to rule on the extensions of Constitutional protections. Supporters of the ban believe that immigrants from other countries are not eligible to receive rights reserved for US residents and citizens.
Currently, the 4th Circuit Court has upheld a ban on the order, upholding the decisions from lower courts. All of the ruling against the administration have only temporarily prevented the administration from implementing this order, while a more detailed case is currently being litigated.
Steven Q.n contributed to this report. (Published 6/2/17 at 18:50).
7 Killed In Saturday Night Terror Attack in London
LONDON, ENGLAND- Two coordinated terror attacks in London killed 7 people and injured 48 others. Following the attacks, the three attackers were killed in a gunfight with police.
The attacks began just before 10 p.m. local time in the heart of the city. The first attack involved a van hitting pedestrians on London Bridge, followed by a stabbing in a nearby restaurant. Police have stated that the same people were responsible for the van attack and the stabbing.
The authorities have called the attack a “terrorist incident,” and ISIS has claimed responsibility for the killings. In its propaganda, ISIS has called for attacks during Ramadan, the the holy month for Muslims.
Authorities report that they have uncovered the names of the attackers, and those names will be released in the coming days as the investigation continues.
On Sunday morning, Police rounded up 12 people believed to be associated with the terrorists. More arrests could be coming in the following days as the investigation continues.
Prime Minister Theresa May said that Britain needs a tougher stance against terror, especially in cyberspace.
The attackers reportedly yelled “this is for Islam” and “this is for Allah,” suggesting an Islamist connection as the motive behind the attacks.
President Trump tweeted in response to the attacks that “we need to be smart, vigilant, and tough. We need the courts to give us back our rights. We need the Travel Ban as an extra level of safety!” Currently, the fate of the President’s travel ban is being decided by the Supreme Court.
In Manchester, Ariana Grande gave a benefit concert for the victims of another terror attack at a concert she had a few days prior. She told the crowd that “the kind of love and unity that you’re displaying is the medicine the world really needs right now.”
The terror attack in Manchester killed 22 and injured more than 100 people.
The attack on Saturday, as well as the recent attack in Manchester, raises significant security concerns for Britain. Theresa May has stated that she will keep the terror threat level at its second highest level, severe, but will not raise it to critical after the Manchester attack, which would mean that an attack is expected “imminently.” The severe terror threat level that Britain is currently under still means an attack is “highly likely.”
Steven Q. contributed to this report. (Published 6/5/17 at 11:24).