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[Weekly Review]

Weekly Review


Theresa May’s Brexit proposal was rejected; Trump suggested raking to prevent forest fires; Jair Bolsonaro insulted Cuban doctors working in Brazil

The British prime minister, Theresa May, capped more than a year of fraught negotiations by introducing a document titled “Draft Agreement on the withdrawal of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland from the European Union and the European Atomic Energy Community,” a blueprint for the process known as Brexit, for which Britons voted in a 2016 referendum.1 The agreement, which included the suggestion that the United Kingdom temporarily remain inside the European Union’s customs area to avoid a border check between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland until a better work-around is devised, was attacked by both Brexit supporters and opponents; inspired the resignation of two of May’s cabinet secretaries, including the chief Brexit negotiator, Dominic Raab; caused members of her own party to write letters calling for a vote of no confidence in her leadership; and inspired intraparty pressure upon May to return to the EU negotiating table.2 3 4 Hard-right Conservative member of Parliament Jacob Rees-Mogg said the deal would make the United Kingdom “not a vassal state but a slave state,” while Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn disdained what he characterized as the agreement’s vagueness, “a leap in the dark, an ill-defined deal by a never-defined date.”5 6 The United Nations special rapporteur on extreme poverty and human rights, who normally reports on conditions in the developing world, released an audit of the United Kingdom’s welfare system and inequality caused by austerity measures, excoriated the system as “cruel, inhuman, and degrading” and “misogynist,” and called the levels of child poverty “not just a disgrace, but a social calamity and an economic disaster.”7

After over a week of vote counting, Stacey Abrams, the Democratic candidate for Georgia governor, ended her candidacy in a speech to supporters, stopping short of conceding victory to the Republican, Brian Kemp, who oversaw his own election while serving as secretary of state of Georgia, “because concession means to acknowledge an action is right, true, or proper. As a woman of conscience and faith, I cannot concede that,” and vowed to file litigation challenging election policies.8 After a machine recount showed Republican Ron DeSantis as the winner of the Florida gubernatorial race, the Democratic candidate, Andrew Gillum, conceded for the second time and congratulated his opponent in a video posted to Facebook.9 Also in Florida, sitting Democratic senator Bill Nelson conceded to current Florida governor Rick Scott after a long recount, though Republicans elsewhere were less fortunate in the post-election-night tallying, losing the senate race in Arizona and surrendering crucial house seats in Virginia, Nevada, New Mexico, and California, among other states.10 11 12 While visiting Paradise, a town where dozens of people lost their lives and thousands of houses were destroyed in the northern California Camp Fire, and with hundreds of people still missing, President Trump suggested that forest managers should take a page from Finland and “rake” the forest floors, elaborating by saying, “I was with the President of Finland and he said, ‘We have a much different — we’re a forest nation.’ He called it a ‘forest nation.’ And they spend a lot of time on raking and cleaning and doing things, and they don’t have any problem. And when it is, it’s a very small problem.”13 When asked if, in his view, climate change contributed to the fires, Trump said that “a lot of factors” were involved, and “we’re going to make it a lot better.”14 Trump intends to nominate Andrew R. Wheeler, a former coal lobbyist, to be the permanent administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency; Wheeler has previously lobbied for the administration’s withdrawal from the Paris climate agreement and the rolling back of President Obama’s Clean Power Plan, which was designed to curb emissions from coal plants and encourage renewable energy.15 In a White House ceremony, Trump awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom to seven Americans: Orrin Hatch, George Herman “Babe” Ruth, Antonin Scalia, two football players, Elvis, and the wife of a Trump campaign donor.16 At least seven LGBTQ couples who were part of the migrant caravan were married in Tijuana, Mexico.18

A UN-backed tribunal convicted two leaders of Pol Pot’s Khmer Rouge regime in Cambodia of genocide despite the insistence of one of them, Nuon Chea, the regime’s resident ideologue who oversaw numerous purges, that “we only killed the bad people, not the good.”19 Cuba will pull out doctors working in Brazil, who had been deployed as part of a program to assist the South American country’s poorest regions, following comments by Brazil’s far-right president-elect Jair Bolsonaro that characterized the help as “slave labor.”20 President Trump and his administration have been seeking ways to expedite the extradition of an exiled cleric living in Pennsylvania who is an enemy of Turkish president Recep Erdogan, in an attempt to placate Turkey and convince Erdogan to go easier on Saudi Arabia for the extrajudicial killing of a journalist at the Saudi consulate in Istanbul, a killing that the CIA concluded was ordered by the Saudi crown prince.21 22 New York governor Andrew Cuomo, who campaigned for reelection on the promise that he would repair New York City’s deteriorating subways, joked that he’d rename himself “Amazon Cuomo” while offering Amazon nearly $1.7 billion worth of financial incentives and a private helipad for Jeff Bezos, the world’s richest person, so that the company would locate their new “HQ2” in Queens, New York.23 24 Researchers at the Georgia Institute of Technology in Atlanta determined that wombats produce cube-shaped feces because the the last section of the intestine does not stretch evenly.25Justin Stewart

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