Manic Monday Markup 3/21/16…
…And the World:
We begin today in Cuba, where President Barack Obama has undertaken an historic journey, the first sitting president to visit the island nation since Calvin Coolidge. The trip also included the first formal meeting between the leaders of the US and Cuba in well more than 50 years. Both Obama and Cuban President Raul Castro called for an end to the US embargo on the country. One of the hopes for this journey is that deeper US-Cuban relations will bolster the island’s growing private sector.
Air Force One prepares to land in Havana, and more from Obama's historic trip to Cuba https://t.co/7rvbwe3Rku pic.twitter.com/8dz2zOEqMX
— Reuters Pictures (@reuterspictures) March 21, 2016
An American reporter asked Castro if he would free political prisoners, to which the octogenarian leader testily said if presented with a list of such captives, he would release them by nightfall. The New York Times reported, however, that ahead of Obama’s trip, Cuba had cracked down on dissent. Perhaps reporters questions for Castro about political prisoners went according to Obama’s plan?
Last week, the lone assailant still at large after the terrorist attacks in Paris last week was apprehended in Brussels. Salah Abdeslam is said to be cooperating with authorities.
Israeli NGO, Breaking the Silence is under fire for allegedly leaking military secrets. Haaretz reports that the group, which distributes the stories of former soldiers who witnessed atrocities and bad behavior committed by the Israeli Defense Forces, has been accused of treason and milking soldiers for military intel. The group responds all of the details it releases are cleared by the Israeli military censor.
Following a deal brokered with Turkey, the European Union is to start turning back Syrian refugees, many of whom arrive via Greece. But the deal has not staunched the flow.
Pope Francis joins Instagram.
Disability cuts in Britain get the ax after the former Conservative minister for Work and Pensions, Iain Duncan Smith resigned on Friday because of the reductions would fall to heavily upon the poor. The new minister Stephen Crabb acknowledged Smith’s concerns and announced the cancellation of the cuts. However, valued at £4 billion ($5.75 billion), the rescissions blow a hole in the overall budget. No other cuts to welfare are planned to make up for the new gap. Meanwhile, Labour took the opportunity to slam Chancellor of the Exchequer, George Osbourne, the architect of much of Britain’s budget shrinkage and a possible successor Prime Minister David Cameron. Osbourne was not in Parliament when the disability reversals were announced.
In one-party Vietnam, independents seek seats in the National Assembly.
Politicians descended upon the American-Israeli Public Affairs for its annual Washington conference. Real estate tycoon and provocateur Donald Trump gave a boilerplate denunciation of former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Obama. Rabbis had threatened to boycott Trump’s speech.
Clinton’s speech by contrast indicated she would keep the Iran deal, but seemed especially hawkish on Israel’s security overall. Still, she reserved plenty of ammo for Trump, casting his scattershot from the hip foreign policy as dangerous for the tiny Middle Eastern democracy as well as America. But some felt Clinton’s embrace of Jewish-majority state went too far.
Trump also held high-level meetings with prominent Republicans. Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren was waiting too with a social media fusillade aimed at the curiously coiffed king of controversy. Trump returned fire with a racist and familiar slander.
Arizona votes tomorrow in its primary. Polls have Clinton and Trump in the lead and high early voting returns probably favor both. Clinton lashed Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio—a Springfield native and perhaps one of the original lead xenophobes behind current wave of anti-immigrant hysteria—in a speech in Arizona. Though she leads in what few polls there are, she has not taken the state for granted.
Sanders has spent much of the last week here since losing all five states that voted in last Tuesday’s election. His campaign, which is not making any moves toward surrender, has been banking an expected streak of wins in several white more sparsely-populated states. However, he has campaigned extensively in the Grand Canyon State.
Catch our editor-in-chief Matt Szafranski and The Republican’s Shannon Young’s roundtable on the presidential race. Joshua Clark and Joel McAuliffe’s guests included MSNBC reporter Alex Seitz-Wald and former RNC chair Michael Steele.
Chief Justice John Roberts decried the politicization of appointments to the Supreme Court weeks before Antonin Scalia’s death.
San Francisco grapples with a police shooting fatality that took the life of a young man in the neighborhood he grew up—and that is rapidly gentrifying.
Connecticut Senator Chris Murphy goes north…way north in the USS Hartford!
“Second Amendment Remedies” Sharon Angle is seeking the Republican nomination for the open US Senate seat in Nevada that Harry Reid is vacating.
The State of Things:
The leader of the state Senate’s study committee for recreational marijuana comes out against the November ballot initiative to legalize the plant.
East Longmeadow remains in political shambles after a coup ousted the Select Board chair and installed a new police chief and town administrator. The ruckus broke out when Springfield ex-councilor and ex-con Frank Keough surfaced in the police chief selection process, prompted those proceedings to be suspended. Select members William Gorman and Angela Thorpe (who will lose her seat next month due to her last place finish in a primary this month) dethroned Paul Federici from the board’s chairmanship, unsuspended the police search and initiated the appointments. The Attorney General’s office has been notified and the FBI is apparently looking into Keough’s role in the imbroglio.
After a two year closure for renovations, Boston’s Government Center T station reopens as a handicap-accessible station.
Our assessment of how the entry of Springfield City Councilor Thomas Ashe into the Sheriff’s race scrambles the assumptions about the race to succeed Michael Ashe (no relation).
Also in Hampden County: nowhere to go but up in health rankings within the state.
City Councilors approved a change to the residency ordinance that attempts to curve the use of waivers for candidates for city employment. City workers are required to live in the city, but many are exempted by union contracts. Those that are not can still get a waiver from the mayor. Mayor Domenic Sarno vetoed a similar provision in 2013. Tonight’s vote passed by a veto proof 10-1 majority.
Springfield’s annual budget hearings are set to begin.
From last week: our take on the rule of law in our city.
Sarno and Police Commissioner John Barbieri announced the largest police academy class in years with the hopes of bolstering the ranks of Springfield’s Finest ahead of MGM’s opening.
President Obama’s trip to Cuba is astounding in countless ways. The images of Air Force One touching down over the 50’s style cars that dominate Cuban streets are simply amazing. Three generations of Americans were born into a world in which the US and its neighbor 90 miles away effectively had their backs turned to each other. Today the leaders of both countries held a joint press conference. For evoking this head-spinnning change, former Obama advisor David Axelrod earns this week’s tweet prize.
As a child of the '60s, and all that conflict, it is remarkable to see Air Force One taxying down the runway in Havana. So much history.
— David Axelrod (@davidaxelrod) March 20, 2016
Alas it is not the only tweet that earns Axelrod our adulation. His observation that Trump all but contradicted himself in the space of a few hours between stops at The Washington Post editorial board and his speech at AIPAC. Such double-talk is troubling for any presidential contender, least of all one leading the nomination contest on one side. Truly, as Axelrod tweets, America goes from this day all the less reassured by showman turned showman politician.
In one head-spinning day, @realDonaldTrump messages at @washingtonpost edit board & AIPAC collide, which may leave no reassured.
— David Axelrod (@davidaxelrod) March 21, 2016