Do Friday’s Matter Anymore?
Hi there. I would say, “Thank goodness it’s Friday,” but I’m not sure Friday matters that much anymore. The news keeps churning and we’ll be watching it all through the weekend. I’m up at 4:00 AM every morning making sure the world hasn’t completely blown up while we were asleep. There really should be at least six people doing all this work, but it’s just me. Yes, I’m patting myself on the back, and perhaps that’s the value of Fridays. Find a reason to pat yourself on the back, even if it’s only because you managed to survive the other four days of the work week.
We’re skipping over the war between North Carolina’s governor and it’s state legislature for now. We’re also refusing to enter into the speculation of what cabinet nominees might or might not do. We only work with news we can verify as being accurate and you should be doing the same. So, that being said, let’s take a look at our top five stories for today.
1. The White House Says Russia Hacked US
One of the many questions we have this morning is whether the whole Russian hacking scandal has gotten out of control? If you were watching yesterday afternoon, White House spokesman Josh Earnest told reporters, “Only Russia’s senior-most officials could have authorized these activities,1” in reference to reports from three US intelligence agencies that not only was Russia involved in hacking the servers of political parties, but that Putin himself knew and directed the attacks. That the White House would officially support the intelligence reports is a pretty big deal since both the Kremlin and the president-elect has been denying them.
If you’re listening to NPR this morning, you’re hearing President Obama tell Steve Inskeep, “I think there is no doubt that when any foreign government tries to impact the integrity of our elections … we need to take action. And we will — at a time and place of our own choosing. Some of it may be explicit and publicized; some of it may not be.”2
If the statement from the president sounds just a little ambiguous, it is. That might be because, at least from a public information perspective, actual evidence of Russian involvement is a little ambiguous. Yes, the White House likely has access to evidence that the public does not. What we see on this side of the fence, though, is a bunch of anonymous sources, none of which can be confirmed. We need some names, we need some faces, and we need their butts sitting in front of a Congressional hearing to give validity to all these accusations.
Furthermore, there is no precedent for how to react to this situation if the reports are indeed true. There’s nothing in the Constitution that adequately covers direct intrusion into an election by a foreign power. What President Obama might have up his sleeve isn’t clear, either, but we know he doesn’t have long if he’s going to do something before he moves out of the White House.
2. Venezuelan Parents Are Giving Away Their Children
We talked earlier this week about the Venezuelan government confiscating some four million toys and promising that “every child will get a toy.” News coming out of the beleaguered country yesterday shows us that those toys may be all many Venezuelan children have. Reuters is reporting that three local councils and four national welfare groups are all confirming a rise in parents giving their children away, sometimes to other family members, sometimes to neighbors, because they can no longer afford to feed them and keep them safe3.
If you’re a parent or plan on ever being one, I want you to stop and think a moment about just how desperate one has to be and how devastating it must feel to have little choice but to give up your child. Average wages in Venezuela are less than the equivalent of $50 a month. Normally, in places where wages are so low, we see food prices around the same level. Not here. Food prices are in some cases higher than they are in the US, and that’s when food is available. Food scarcity across the country has caused unrest there for over a year.
Children’s rights groups say that the increase in parents giving away children is exponential, with many of the children already suffering from malnutrition. Plunging oil prices are partly to blame, as well as social policies of president Nicolas Maduro. Yet, more than politics, this is a humanitarian disaster of untold proportion. Some parents are simply abandoning their children, leaving them to die on the streets.
So much for a merry fucking Christmas.
3. Dyllan Roof Found Guilty Of Murder
We knew when the jury left the South Carolina courtroom yesterday that they would come back with a guilty verdict. Roof has been convicted of a total of 33 counts involving hate crimes in the shooting of nine people in a Charlotte, South Carolina church4. He never shied away from the fact that he was guilty. In fact, at one point during the trial, he fired his attornies and disastrously tried defending himself. Immediately after the verdict was announced, Roof fired his attornies again.
The jury returns on January 3 to determine exactly what his sentencing will be. There are only two options available: life in prison or death by lethal injection. Roof has already said he doesn’t want to introduce embarrassing evidence that might save his skin. Yet, as we saw last week, lethal injection hasn’t necessarily been going all that well with multiple botched attempts around the country over the past couple of years. There are also plenty of arguments against capital punishment.
One thing for certain is that this horrible massacre has left a lasting impression upon the state of South Carolina. The confederate flag no longer flies at the state capitol. The effects of hate are very visible and efforts to defuse that hate are strong. Dyllan Roof is a good example of why we cannot allow the alt-right white supremacy movement to go unchecked. We don’t need another incident like this to happen anywhere in our country. Ever.
4. A Colorado School Approves Guns in the Classroom
As incredible as it may seem, a school district in Colorado has actually approved a measure allowing some teachers and other school employees to carry guns inside classrooms5. That this decision would come the same day as the third anniversary of the massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary shouldn’t be ignored. The Board of Education for Hanover School District #28 voted 3-2 to approve the resolution on Wednesday night.
Now, before we all go off on some knee-jerk reaction, we should be aware that the Hanover School District is very small and very remote. The board’s president, Mark McPherson, who didn’t vote in favor of the plan, told the press that it was the town’s distance from any kind of assistance that fueled support for the resolution. The school is 30 minutes away from the nearest law enforcement. The resolution lists “national events” and, get this, potential trouble from marijuana grows, as the justification for the action.
Now, for any teacher or staff member to actually carry a gun on campus, they must first volunteer for extra duty as a security officer. Then, they must complete training before receiving their permit to carry. There is no limit as to how many of the school’s 20 teachers can carry weapons. Let’s just hope their finals weeks never get too stressful.
5. And Finally …
Facebook announced yesterday that they’re going after fake news and enlisting a number of partners, including Snopes, the Associated Press, and ABC News, to help validate stories6. The announcement comes as the world’s most dominant social media company attempts to wrestle with accusations that fake news shared on its site contributed to the outcome of the US presidential election.
Understand, Facebook has yet to say that it would actually remove content that is flagged as being fake. Instead, the content will be marked as “disputed” with a link to the reasons for the decision. In fact, they’re only focusing on what they call “the worst-of-the-worst” of fake news producers, those who create deliberate lies for financial gain.
However, this hasn’t kept publications with a right-leaning tilt from going all boo-hoo over the new policy7. Ben Shapiro, editor-in-chief of the conservative-leaning Daily Wire wrote, “It’s an attempt to restore gatekeepers who have a bias as the ultimate arbiters of truth.”8 Perhaps someone should tell the whining little brats that if they’re not producing fake news then they don’t have anything to worry about. Facebook’s efforts are gentle compared to what they could have done. Hell, you’ll still get in more trouble for posting a picture of women’s nipples on your profile than you will for distributing blatantly false news. Some alleged news sources need to grow the fuck up.
But hey, this whole fake news thing is exactly why we bother bringing you these reports every morning. We always verify our stories and provide links to our sources. We want news we can trust and know that you do as well. Thank you for your time. Here’s hoping your Friday kicks some ass.