10 Mind-Blowing Things That Happened This Week (9/8/17)
Keeping up with the news is hard. So hard, in fact, that we’ve decided to save you the hassle by rounding up the most significant, unusual, or just plain old mind-blowing stories each week.
Hurricane Harvey was the major story of last week. Now we’re hoping that it wasn’t just the opening act for an even more devastating headliner. Also, President Trump wants 800,000 people out of the US, and a horrifying situation is developing in Myanmar.
10 President Trump Makes A Deal
President Trump’s time in office has been considerably shorter on deal-making and winning than he promised during his campaign, but this week, it was announced that he made a 90-day deal to raise the debt ceiling—with Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, Representative Nancy Pelosi, and the Democrats. Even though the deal means that the US government will continue to be funded through mid-December, congressional Republicans were stunned, blindsided, and decidedly unhappy.
While it didn’t take long for Democratic legislators to praise the move, the resulting grumblings among the president’s supporters and rebukes from his colleagues could hardly have come at a worse time. With an approval rating hovering in the mid-30s, he simply can’t afford to lose any more support, and even the most adamant of his supporters aren’t likely to take kindly to deals struck with “the swamp.” Nevertheless, a deal was struck, and the government will continue to run for a little while, which is . . . good?
9 NFL Star Alleges Racial Profiling
A number of NFL players have made waves over the last year by refusing to stand during the US national anthem (often instead kneeling or remaining seated) in order to protest the treatment of black communities by law enforcement. One of these players is Seahawks defensive lineman Michael Bennett, and if Mr. Bennett ever had any reservations about whether his protest was worthwhile, it’s safe to say he now has none. While in Las Vegas for the Mayweather/McGregor fight, he was caught in the middle of an incident in which he alleges Las Vegas police egregiously violated his civil rights.
In a letter addressed “Dear World” and posted to Twitter, Bennett explained that he, along with “several hundred” other people, panicked and ran across a street when they heard what sounded like gunfire. What he says happened next has become nauseatingly familiar: “A police officer ordered me to get on the ground. As I laid on the ground, complying with his commands not to move, he placed his gun near my head and warned me that if I moved he would ‘blow my [expletive] head off.’ ” A second officer then jammed his knee into Bennett’s back, making it hard for the football player to breathe.
Bennett related how he was terrified during the incident that he’d never see his family again. He was quickly released when the officers “apparently realized [he] was not a thug, common criminal, or ordinary black man but Michael Bennett, a famous professional football player.” The LVPD has disputed Bennett’s version of events, defending the officers’ conduct and saying that Bennett wasn’t singled out for his race but because he was acting suspicious and running from officers. An internal investigation, however, is taking place—including an examination of body cam video, which does indeed appear to show an officer holding something to Bennett’s head.
8 Hurricane Irma Blasts Caribbean, Heads For US
Hurricane Harvey cut a path of destruction through Texas and soaked several other Southern states last week, but it appears Mother Nature may have just been getting warmed up. Hurricane Irma, currently a Category 5 monstrosity, has spent the last few days completely devastating the Caribbean islands, with 13 confirmed dead so far and entire cities left in rubble. And it’s not done. It’s heading straight for Florida, where it is expected to land Sunday morning as a Category 4 storm.
Florida governor Rick Scott wasted no time declaring a statewide emergency, ordering an evacuation of both coasts and issuing a blunt warning to Sunshine State residents: “I want everybody to understand the importance of this. This is bigger than Andrew,” he said, referring to the 1992 storm which killed 65 and caused over $26 billion in damage. “This could be worse.”
Unfortunately, Irma has company. Hurricanes Jose and Katia are also gaining strength, the first time since 2010 that three active hurricanes have been present in the Atlantic basin. But Katia is expected to stick close to Mexico, while Jose will (hopefully) peter out over the Atlantic.
7 Walter Becker Dies At 67
Hall of Fame rockers Steely Dan—as it has been noted, the only band to ever be named after a sex toy from a William Burroughs novel—have long been a revolving constellation of crack musicians orbiting the twin suns of Donald Fagen and Walter Becker, the band’s founders and only original members. They’ve been described as prog-rock, fusion, and even jazz—but they’re all of that and more. With literary lyrics and extraordinary songwriting and musicianship, the Dan have earned the respect of even their rivals the Eagles. But after last week, the band will never be the same.
Becker died Sunday at age 67, it was announced on his official website; no cause of death was given. Fagen penned a moving tribute to his friend and stated “I intend to keep the music we created together alive as long as I can.” At least Steely Dan will live on, but the list of rock greats lost within the last year or so continues to grow longer.
6 China Sides With UN On North Korea; US Increases Pressure
The North Korea situation predictably did not get any less tense last week, and the rogue nation continues to put even its apologists into tough spots. Its latest nuclear test came less than 80 kilometers (50 mi) from China’s border, forcing China to step up radiation monitoring amid fears of exposure to nuclear fallout.
China has thus far been reluctant to take a tough stance on North Korea, but Foreign Minister Wang Yi said this week that the UN should take “necessary measures,” including more sanctions, to pressure the authoritarian regime back to the negotiating table. “We believe that sanctions and pressure are only half of the key to resolving the nuclear issue,” said Mr. Wang. “The other half is dialogue and negotiation. Only when the two are put together can it unlock the nuclear issue of the Korean Peninsula.”
For the United States’ part, lawmakers continued to explore any and all ways to put pressure on the regime, drafting a UN proposal for an oil embargo as well as a complete ban on its textile industry while considering ways to freeze the assets and restrict the travel of North Korean leader Kim Jong-un and his senior staff. Meanwhile, the regime announced this week that they have successfully tested a hydrogen bomb meant for missiles. Don’t worry, we’re sure all of this will be resolved by the time we round up the news next week.
5 A Little Girl Finds ‘Excalibur’
Let’s follow that up with a lighthearted, non-terrifying news item. Paul Jones of Doncaster, UK, took his young daughters on a day trip to Dozmary Pool in Cornwall, explaining to them on the way that according to folklore, this was the pool into which King Arthur threw the legendary Excalibur. The story was still fresh in seven-year-old Matilda’s mind as she was paddling around in the pool—and happened to notice a 1.2-meter-long (4 ft) sword lying on the bottom.
Mr. Jones told reporters, “She was only waist deep when she said she could see a sword. I told her not to be silly and it was probably a bit of fencing, but when I looked down I realized it was a sword. It was just there laying flat on the bottom of the lake.” The sword certainly looks like it could be the mighty Excalibur, although it is in suspiciously good condition; Mr. Jones suspects it could be “an old film prop,” but somehow, we doubt he’ll ever be able to convince his daughter of that.
4 Man Charged In Journalist’s Death Appears In Court
One of the most bizarre stories to surface in recent months got an airing in court this last week. On August 11, the partial remains of successful freelance journalist Kim Wall washed ashore in Copenhagen, not far from where she had boarded the private submarine of Danish inventor Peter Madsen for a profile the day before. He initially told investigators he had dropped her off, but he soon changed his story to the same bizarre account that he repeated for a judge on Tuesday.
Madsen, who has been in jail since shortly after the grisly discovery, explained that Wall died aboard his submarine in a freak accident when his grip on a 70-kilogram (155 lb) hatch slipped, causing it to fall on her head. He then “buried her at sea,” before becoming suicidal and sinking his sub while still aboard it. He soon changed his mind about this and called for help right around the time Wall’s nude torso—only her torso—was being discovered.
The judge was understandably skeptical and ruled that there was enough evidence to continue detaining Madsen on suspicion of murder. He’s due back in court within another four weeks as Denmark awaits the outcome of one of its strangest criminal cases in the last decade.
3 Youngest Follower Of Charles Manson Granted Parole At 68
Leslie Van Houten was only 19 the summer that her “family” participated in what would come to be known as the Tate-LaBianca murders, the highest-profile crimes of Charles Manson and his followers. She was present on the second of two consecutive nights of mayhem, during which she personally—as she admitted in court—helped kill Rosemary LaBianca by stabbing her 14 times. For this crime, she was sentenced to life in prison, but after her parole hearing last week, she may be all set to go free.
At least, that is her hope. The now-68-year-old went through this process last year, when a recommendation to grant parole was overturned by California governor Jerry Brown. She will now have to wait out a 120-day review, followed by another 30 days during which the governor can approve, reject, or not take any action on this latest decision. Law enforcement groups and families of the victim are, predictably and understandably, calling for Van Houten to stay locked up.
2 President Trump Moves To End DACA
In what critics are calling a truly heartless move, Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced this week that the Trump administration will be ending the federal program known as DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals), which had protected nearly 800,000 undocumented individuals who had been brought to the US as children. This essentially forces Congress to come up with a solution to the “problem” of what to do with these so-called “Dreamers”—seen by many as being as American as any other citizen—before they begin losing status and becoming eligible for deportation in March of next year.
While some Republicans defended the action, describing the current program as leaving participants in a recurring two-year cycle of uncertainty, Latino leaders have accused the administration of playing with people’s lives and of not being invested in any alternative to DACA. While immigration reform was a central component of President Trump’s campaign, it has proven to be a minefield during his time in office. If this is indeed a ploy to prompt Congress to action on that front, it seems unlikely to work, and the termination of DACA is already being challenged in court by 15 states and the District of Columbia.
1 Myanmar May Be Carrying Out A Genocide
The Rohingya are a majority-Muslim ethnic group that reside in the western part of Myanmar, the country formerly known as Burma. But they won’t reside there for long, if Myanmar’s military has its way. Since late last month, over 140,000 Rohingya have fled into neighboring Bangladesh in response to an absolutely brutal military crackdown against the population.
Rohingya are subject to severe restrictions to their basic rights in Myanmar, and the violence began in earnest when Rohingya vigilantes carried out attacks that killed 12 police officers. The initial response to that incident killed at least 370 Rohingya, and the bloodshed may now be reaching terrifying proportions. Some of those who have managed to make it over the border have brought with them stories of mass killings of men, women, and children and village after village being burned to the ground.
While Myanmar has defended its actions against threats from “extremist Bengali terrorists,” the UN is weighing an international response. Adama Dieng, the UN special advisor for the prevention of genocide, has said that the situation “could constitute ethnic cleansing and could amount to crimes against humanity. [ . . . ] We cannot say we are facing a genocide, but it is time to take action.”