It's Friday; that means it is panel time!
Israel launches Gaza air attacks after rockets were fired at Tel Aviv. Israel's military says the attacks are in response to rockets fired by Hamas at Israeli civilians — a claim the group denies. Here's what I find interesting: according to Al Jazeera, Hamas has denied responsibility for the attack on Tel Aviv, saying the rockets were launched when the group's military wing was meeting with Egyptian mediators to try to strengthen a ceasefire with Israel. In an unusual step that indicated Hamas was attempting to prevent further escalation, the interior ministry in Gaza said the rocket fire went "against the national consensus" and promised to take action against the perpetrators. Islamic Jihad and the Popular Resistance Committees, two smaller Gaza armed factions, also denied responsibility. "These accusations are mere lies by the Israeli occupation," said Daoud Shihab, a spokesman for Islamic Jihad. "Our movement and its military wing, the Al-Quds Brigades, did not fire any rockets," he told Palestinian news agency Quds Network. With an Israeli election scheduled for April 9, I am more inclined to see this as a false flag operation.
At least 49 people were killed in an attack on two New Zealand mosques today by a gunman the authorities said professed white nationalist views, in the deadliest case of right-wing terrorism since 77 people were murdered in 2011 by an anti-Muslim extremist in Norway. A 28-year-old Australian has been charged with murder in Christchurch. A manifesto by a man claiming responsibility for the shootings said he had been inspired by Anders Breivik's 2011 Norway attack and a 2015 shooting of a black church in South Carolina that killed nine. The gunman produced a 17-minute video, filmed while apparently carrying out the attacks. The attack comes just five months after the shooting at a Pittsburgh synagogue that left 11 dead.
US President Donald Trump issued the first veto of his presidency today to secure federal money for the border wall he promised as a candidate and considers a crucial priority for reelection, capping a week of confrontation with both political parties. "Today I am vetoing this resolution. Congress has the freedom to pass this resolution, and I have the duty to veto it," Trump said. Twelve Republicans had joined Democrats to challenge Trump over his declaration of a national emergency at the US-Mexico border, which would allow the president to circumvent Congress and spend billions on wall construction.
Multiple nations and the European Union have grounded the Boeing 737 Max 8 after it was involved in two fatal crashes. President Trump finally announced Wednesday that his administration had grounded the Boeing 737 Max 8, making the United States became the last country to do so. Trump said, "The safety of the American people, of all people, is our paramount concern." The United States was the last holdout on grounding the aircraft after Canada on Wednesday joined the growing list of nations, including China, Britain, France and Germany, to make the call following an Ethiopian Airlines crash on Sunday that killed 157 people. The Federal Aviation Administration previously stood by the safety of the plane, saying it hadn't found any issues to merit a grounding order. In a statement issued after Trump's remarks, the FAA said the administration was reversing course based on "the data gathering process and new evidence collected at the site."
The United States has withdrawn all remaining diplomatic personnel from its embassy in Caracas as the crisis in Venezuela deepens. "Today, all US diplomats remaining in Venezuela departed the country. I know it is a difficult moment for them," US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said in a statement yesterday. Pompeo said earlier that diplomats were being removed because keeping them there limited US options.
Pompeo today said he has "every expectation" that the United States will continue diplomatic talks with Pyongyang, after North Korean officials said leader Kim Jong Un is reconsidering his moratorium on missile launches and nuclear tests. North Korean Vice Foreign Minister Choe Son Hui, addressing a meeting of diplomats and foreign media earlier this morning in Pyongyang, said the United States missed a golden opportunity when President Trump failed to reach an agreement with Kim at the leaders' summit in Hanoi, Vietnam, last month.
According to Choe, Kim will decide soon whether to continue negotiations with the United States. He has no intention of doing so, she said, unless US officials take measures that are commensurate with the steps North Korea has already taken, referencing the 15-month moratorium on launches and tests. Choe also suggested that Pompeo and US National Security Adviser John Bolton created an environment of hostility and mistrust at the Hanoi summit, while Trump was more willing to talk, the AP reported. Pompeo said Friday he does not think the allegations will hamper his ability to aid future negotiations.
Jim Kavanagh — Political analyst and commentator and editor of The Polemicist.
Caleb Maupin — Journalist and political analyst who focuses his coverage on US foreign policy and the global system of monopoly capitalism and imperialism.
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