Bannon Booted
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Bannon Booted

Controversial Strategist Leaves the White House

Bannon gets the boot. Trump has removed Stephen K. Bannon, the embattled White House chief strategist. “White House Chief of Staff John Kelly and Steve Bannon have mutually agreed today would be Steve’s last day,” the White House press secretary, Sarah Huckabee Sanders, said in a statement. “We are grateful for his service and wish him the best.” The loss of Mr. Bannon, the right-wing nationalist who helped propel some of Mr. Trump’s campaign promises into policy reality, raises the potential for the president to face criticism from the conservative news media base that supported him over the past year.

Terror in Spain. Barcelona shuddered under coordinated terrorist attacks when a van drove down the city’s iconic Las Ramblas promenade killing at least 14 and injuring more than 100. Hours later, the Catalan police said they foiled a second vehicular attack, in the seaside town of Cambrils, 70 miles to the south, fatally shooting four people. A fifth died later of wounds, the police said. The suspects appeared to be wearing explosive belts, though these devices were later found to be fake, police said. Islamic State claimed responsibility for the attacks.

The Barcelona attack was at least the sixth time in the past few years that assailants using vehicles as deadly weapons have struck a European city.

Terror at home. Vehicular attacks are also a tactic increasingly endorsed by right-wing terrorists in the U.S.  Alex Fields Jr. is in custody after police and witnesses said he drove his Dodge Challenger into a crowd protesting the Neo-Nazi, white-supremacist rallies in Charlottesville, Va. Police say he killed one woman, Heather D. Heyer, and injured 19 on Saturday.

On July 10, 2016, an SUV driver in southern Illinois plowed through a group of Black Lives Matter protesters after yelling “All lives matter, not blacks, all lives.” Two days earlier, a driver had accelerated into a crowd of protesters outside the police department in Ferguson, Mo. In January 2015, a Minneapolis driver lurched into a Ferguson solidarity rally and ran over a 16-year-old girl.

Republican lawmakers in North Carolina, Tennessee and Texas have even introduced bills to absolve drivers of blame when they plow through protesting groups. Tennessee state Sen. Bill Ketron, who sponsored a measure in his state after a man drove through a group of anti-Trump protesters, said: “Protesters have no right to be in the middle of the road or our highways for their own safety and the safety of the traveling public.”

Confederate statues. Trump tweeted that it would be “foolish” to remove statues of Robert E. Lee and Stonewall Jackson. Statues are coming down across the nation. Sen. Bob Corker (R-Tenn.) questioned Trump’s stability. “The president has not yet been able to demonstrate the stability, nor some of the competence that he needs to demonstrate in order to be successful,” Corker said. Trump is tweeting about statues at a time when Republicans need to work on passing a budget and averting a government shutdown. Trump continued his attacks on fellow Republicans, calling Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C) “publicity seeking” and Sen. Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.) “toxic.”

Psychologists James Mitchell (left) and Bruce Jessen have settled a lawsuit brought by former detainees who were held in secret CIA prisons (ACLU photos).

CIA torture. A settlement was announced in a lawsuit against two psychologists who helped the CIA devise its brutal interrogation program. The terms of the settlement are confidential. The psychologists, Bruce Jessen and James Mitchell, were paid up to $1,800 a day and formed a company that was paid about $81 million to help operate the interrogation program. The techniques the two suggested using on terrorism suspects included waterboarding, stuffing prisoners into small boxes, forcing them to hold painful positions for hours and slamming them into flexible walls. The plaintiffs included the family of a prisoner who died in custody. Trump said as a candidate that he would bring back waterboarding but later said he would defer to Defense Secretary Jim Mattis who opposes torture.

Going dark. OSHA is shutting down a portal for employers to report injuries and illnesses. OSHA said this is a temporary measure caused by a possible security breach. Jordan Barab, a former acting head of OSHA and now the publisher of Confined Space, wrote that the posted information isn’t confidential. The website was originally supposed to go live in February, but that was pushed back to Aug. 1. The requirement applies to workplaces with 250 employees or more that already have to keep records for OSHA.

August 18, 2017