Daily Briefing

10 things you need to know today: March 16, 2019

Tim O'Donnell
Jacinda Ardern.
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Lone gunman charged in Christchurch shooting

Brenton Tarrant, a 28-year-old Australian citizen, was charged with murder on Saturday following mass shootings at two mosques that killed 49 and left dozens more seriously wounded in Christchurch, New Zealand on Friday. Although three people were initially taken into custody, New Zealand Commissioner of Police Mike Bush said that at this stage there is no evidence that suggests there was more than one person involved in the shootings. Tarrant claimed responsibility for the attacks and posted links to a white-nationalist, anti-immigrant manifesto on social media, identifying himself as a racist. A list of names of the deceased has yet to be released, but many of the victims were reportedly migrants and refugees. Bush said that Tarrant possibly purchased his weapons legally, prompting New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern to announce that New Zealand’s gun laws "will change." [RNZ National, BBC News]


Trump vetoes resolution to block his national emergency declaration

President Trump on Friday issued the first veto of his tenure, overruling Congress' vote to block his declaration of a national emergency on the U.S.-Mexico border. Trump declared an emergency in an effort to access further border wall funding that congressional lawmakers did not grant him after a month-long government shutdown. The Senate approved a resolution to block the move 59-41 on Thursday; the House voted in favor of the termination, 245-182, last month. The vote was widely seen as an embarrassing rebuke on Trump, since lawmakers expected Trump to veto the resolution. Following the veto, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) said the House will vote March 26 to see if it can get the two-thirds majority it needs to override Trump. [Reuters, CNN]


Trump says white nationalism not a rising threat

President Trump was asked on Friday about whether, in his view, white nationalism "is a rising threat around the world," in light of the deadly shootings in New Zealand that targeted mosques. "I don't really," said Trump, saying "it's a small group of people" committing these crimes. "But it is a terrible thing," he continued. The alleged shooter in Christchurch, New Zealand, posted links to a white-nationalist, anti-immigrant manifesto on social media and identified himself as a racist. Advocacy groups have said hate group activity has been rising in the U.S. for the past few years. Defending his national emergency declaration, Trump called crimes "coming through our southern border" an "invasion;" the alleged gunman also referred to "an invasion" in his manifesto. [BuzzFeed News, The Washington Post]


Boeing software patch update expected within the coming weeks

Boeing will reportedly upgrade the stall prevention software on its 737 MAX 8 planes within "the coming weeks," a Boeing spokesperson told AFP on Friday. The updating process began after a 737 MAX 8 flown by Lion Air crashed just minutes after takeoff in Indonesia in October. But it has been expedited following the crash of a second 737 MAX 8 plane in Ethiopia shortly after takeoff last Sunday, which killed all 157 people on board. New evidence found at the crash site in Ethiopia points to connections between the two incidents, suggesting that both aircrafts potentially struggled with the newly installed automated system intended to prevent a stall. [AFP, The New York Times]


Dangerous flooding threatens Midwest

Several states in the Midwest declared emergencies on Friday as a result of severe weather and heavy rain. A "bomb cyclone" storm slammed the Midwest earlier this week, and the snow melt, combined with rain, has pushed waterways in the region beyond their limits, hitting record levels in Nebraska, South Dakota, Iowa, and Minnesota. The flooding forced some residents to evacuate their homes and shut down a major highway. At least one in person in Nebraska was killed by the floodwaters. Some locations experienced their worst flooding in decades. The situation is expected to improve swiftly in several places, though for others, such as eastern Nebraska, it remains a real concern. [The Weather Channel, The Associated Press]


Sanders campaign staff unionizes

The presidential campaign for Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) announced on Friday that its staffers will become the first ever major U.S. presidential campaign unit to have a unionized workforce. The United Food and Commercial Workers Local 400 will represent the staffers. Anyone below the rank of deputy directory will be able to join the bargaining unit. Sanders, who is well-known as a pro-union candidate, tweeted that he was "proud" of his staff’s unionization. "We cannot just support unions with words," he wrote. "We must back it up with actions." Contract negotiations will begin soon and the bargaining unit could ultimately reach 1,000 members. [CNN, Politico]


U.S. will deny ICC investigators' visas

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo announced on Friday that the United States will deny or revoke visas for International Criminal Court staff who are involved in an investigation into alleged war crimes and crimes against humanity perpetrated by U.S. troops in Afghanistan that launched in 2017. "The ICC is attacking America’s rule of law," Pompeo told reporters. The secretary also said that the U.S. is prepared to take further action against the ICC, including imposing economic sanctions. The ICC responded to Pompeo’s comments and said it will continue the investigation regardless. Pompeo said the U.S. has never joined the ICC "because of its broad unaccountable prosecutorial powers." [CNN, The Guardian]


Students around the globe protest climate change

Coordinated student-led climate demonstrations took place in more than 100 countries and territories around the world on Friday. As part of a growing global movement demanding tough action on climate change from their governments, tens of thousands of students walked out of school to join the protests, including in nearly every U.S. state. The movement began last year when a 16-year-old Swedish activist, Greta Thunberg, began holding solitary demonstrations in front of the Swedish parliament in Stockholm. Friday’s "strikes" provided one of the largest turnouts so far. Students mobilized via word of mouth and social media. [NPR, The Associated Press]


Supreme Court questions constitutionality of census citizenship question

The U.S. Supreme Court announced on Friday that it has agreed to decide whether the Trump Administration’s decision to add a citizenship question to the 2020 census violated the Constitution. The court had already agreed to decide on whether the question violated federal administrative law, but after a California judged ruled in March that the question violated the Constitution’s Enumeration Clause — thus preventing the government from recording an accurate count of every person living in the U.S. — the Supreme Court expanded the scope of the review. Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross, whose agency oversees the census, defended the question during a congressional hearing on Friday. He said the question was added to aid in enforcing the Voting Rights Act. [NBC News, Reuters]


Disney rehires James Gunn to direct Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3

Disney has rehired James Gunn to direct Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3, Gunn revealed on Friday. The director was removed from the Marvel sequel in July 2018 when offensive jokes he made on Twitter years earlier resurfaced; Disney CEO Bob Iger said in September that he never "second-guessed" the choice to boot Gunn. However, the decision to bring Gunn back was reportedly made "months ago," and Disney apparently never hunted for a replacement. Walt Disney Studios Chairman Alan Horn reportedly met with Gunn several times and was "persuaded" by his apology; Gunn had said that his old tweets were "totally failed and unfortunate efforts to be provocative" and that he has "regretted them for many years since." [Deadline, The Hollywood Reporter]