In more than three turbulent weeks at the White House, President Donald Trump has moved quickly to take a string of controversial initiatives.
However, he has suffered some stinging setbacks, from a court block of his bar on entry of people from seven Muslim-majority countries to the resignation of his national security adviser.
– Travel ban shot down –
On January 27 Trump issued a decree summarily denying entry to all refugees for 120 days, and travelers from Muslim-majority Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen for 90 days. Refugees from Syria were blocked indefinitely.
The measures triggered chaos at US airports and worldwide condemnation.
However, the decree was stayed by a court on February 3, a decision upheld on February 9 by the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco.
– Mexican wall –
Trump, who during his presidential campaign charged that some Mexican immigrants were “criminals” and “rapists,” signed an executive order on January 25 to set in motion the building of a wall along the 2,000-mile (3,200-kilometer) US-Mexico border.
Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto cancelled a January 31 trip to Washington over Trump’s insistence that Mexico pay for what he called his “big, beautiful” wall.
– Russia: Flynn falls –
In a first stunning departure from the president’s inner circle, National Security Adviser Michael Flynn resigned on February 13 amid controversy over his contacts with the Russian government.
The White House said Trump had accepted Flynn’s resignation amid allegations the retired three star general did not tell the truth about conversations he had about US sanctions against Russia with its ambassador to Washington before Trump took office.
The White House said on February 14 that it was informed in late January by the Justice Department of Flynn’s inaccurate account of his conversations. Still, Flynn was allowed to keep his job for weeks.
The sanctions in this case were imposed against Russia for allegedly trying to sway the 2016 presidential election in Trump’s favor by hacking emails of top officials of his rival Hillary Clinton’s campaign.
– New Iran tensions –
Trump has toughened the rhetoric against Iran considerably since coming to office and on February 3 introduced sanctions after an Iranian missile test.
Relations between Tehran and Washington had improved during the previous Barack Obama administration amid the historic accord on Iran’s nuclear programme.
Iranian President Hassan Rouhani warned on February 10 that those using “threatening language” against Tehran would regret it.
– China u-turn –
On February 9 Trump pledged in a telephone call with Chinese leader Xi Jinping to honor a decades-old position that effectively acknowledges Taiwan is not separate from China.
He had angered Beijing by suggesting a few weeks ago that he might jettison the “One China” policy, a major plank of Sino-US relations for decades.
– Obamacare targeted –
The day he took office, on January 20, Trump signed an executive order that sets the stage for limiting the Obamacare health law, Obama’s signature domestic achievement, which Trump and the Republican majority in Congress have vowed to repeal.
In the Republicans’ view Obamacare — which aimed to ensure healthcare for the millions of Americans who are not covered — marked a costly drift toward socialized, European-style medical care.
– Abortion hindered –
Abortion also has come under the axe. Trump signed on January 23 a decree barring US federal funding for foreign NGOs that support the practice.
In addition, he nominated to the Supreme Court conservative judge Neil Gorsuch, whom pro-choice groups fear might come out against abortion. Gorsuch’s record on the issue so far is thin.
– Conflict of interest –
Amid growing concern in Washington over the president’s potential conflict of interest, Trump’s sons are to inaugurate a branded golf course in Dubai on February 18, the first public launch for the business empire since Trump took office.
Since his November 8 victory, Trump has said he will remove himself from running his business empire and transfer corporate control to his two adult sons.
But the president has resisted divesting despite calls by ethics organizations.
– Standoff with media –
Since Trump came to office relations between the media and the White House have been at what some see as an all-time low.
After some news organizations called out Trump for “lies” on a variety of topics, the president disparaged journalists on his first day in office as “among the most dishonest human beings on earth.”
Trump’s tax law threatened TurboTax’s profits — so the company started charging the disabled, the unemployed and students
The 2017 tax overhaul vastly expanded the number of people who could file simplified tax returns, a boon to millions of Americans.
But the new law directly threatened the lucrative business of Intuit, the maker of TurboTax.
Although the company draws in customers with the promise of a “free” product, its fortunes depend on getting as many customers as possible to pay. It had been regularly charging $100 or more for returns that included itemized deductions for mortgage interest and charitable donations. Under the new law, many wealthier taxpayers would no longer be filing that form, qualifying them to use the company’s free software.
Trump’s packed Supreme Court backs ‘forced arbitration’ that bars workers from taking abusive bosses to court
Corporations are rapidly rendering sexual harassment, race and gender discrimination, life-threatening workplaces and wage theft immune to employee legal action.
They achieve this by forcing the vast majority of non-union private-sector workers to sign away their rights to go to court or use class or collective arbitration. Instead many millions of workers are being forced to forgo these efficient legal ways to resolve issues and to file individual arbitration claims.
A new report from the Economic Policy Institute and the Center for Popular Democracy says that by 2024 more than 80% of non-union private-sector workers will find courthouse doors chained shut by forced arbitration clauses that ban lawsuits and collective actions. (EPI is a nonprofit, nonpartisan think tank created in 1986 to press the needs of low- and middle-income workers in economic policy discussions.)
Corporations can legally put carcinogens in our food without warning labels — here’s why
A recent study by the Environmental Working Group revealed something horrifying: Glyphosate, the active ingredient in the popular weedkiller Roundup, was present in 17 of the 21 oat-based cereal and snack products at levels considered unsafe for children. That includes six different brands of Cheerios, one of the most popular American cereals.
I've written before about the limits of corporate free speech when it comes to public safety, but on that occasion I discussed this insofar as it involved corporate-sponsored climate change denialism. Yet here we have something more tangible, more direct: The safe glyphosate limit for children is 160 parts per billion (ppb), yet Honey Nut Cheerios Medley Crunch has 833 parts per billion and regular Cheerios has 729 ppb. While the potential risks of glyphosate are fiercely debated, many scientists believe that it is linked to cancer.