The Darsch Report: March 18 – 24

Chick-Fil-A Banned from San Antonio Airport

On Thursday, March 21, the San Antonio City Council approved and amended a seven-year concessions agreement for new restaurants and businesses in Terminal A of the Texas airport with Paradies Lagardère, a travel retailer and restaurateur that works with more than 100 airports. The amended plan bars Chick-Fil-A from being one of the businesses able to be in the terminal despite the initial plan allowing them due to concerns over the company’s record regarding LGBT issues. The amendment was approved by a 6-4 vote.

In a statement after the vote, Councilman Roberto Treviño (District-1) stated that the decision “reaffirmed the work our city has done to become a champion of equality and inclusion. San Antonio is a city full of compassion, and we do not have room in our public facilities for a business with a legacy of anti-LGBTQ behavior.”

In a statement given to USA Today Chick-fil-A said that “the press release issued by the councilmember was the first we heard of his motion and its approval by the San Antonio City Council.”

“We wish we had the opportunity to clarify misperceptions about our company prior to the vote. We agree with the councilmember that everyone should feel welcome at Chick-fil-A,” the company said in the statement. “In fact, we have welcomed everyone in San Antonio into our 32 local stores for more than 40 years.”

This consideration was only made for Chick-Fil-A after ThinkProgress reported that they had donated $1.8 million to groups that discriminate against the LGBTQ community in 2017, including the Fellowship of Christian Athletes. However, since it was only Chick-Fil-A who was barred, it wouldn’t be that surprising is the company starts making claims of discrimination that they were discriminated against.

Mueller Finds No Trump-Russia Collusion

The investigation by led Robert Mueller into the Trump campaign and possible collusion with the Russian government has officially ended. The report was given to Attorney General William P. Barr and a summary of the special council’s key findings was made public on Sunday.

In the summary, Barr quotes the report stating that “[T]he investigation did not establish that members of the Trump Campaign conspired or coordinated with the Russian government in its election interference activities.” The summary states that there were two main Russian influencers in the 2016 election, the Internet Research Agency and the Russian government, but, “the Special Counsel did not find that any U.S. person or Trump campaign official or associate conspired or knowingly coordinated with the IRA in its efforts… [and] the Special Counsel did not find that the Trump campaign, or anyone associated with it, conspired or coordinated with the Russian government in these efforts, despite multiple offers from Russian-affiliated individuals to assist the Trump campaign.”

However, on the issue of obstruction of justice, the report states that “while this report does not conclude that the President committed a crime, it also does not exonerate him.” Because of the nature of the evidence presented to them, with it not pointing one way or the other, the special counsel left the decision of prosecution up to Deputy Attorney General Rosenstein and AG Barr. They concluded that “the evidence developed during the Special Counsel’s investigation is not sufficient to establish that the President committed an obstruction-of-justice offense,” so there will be no indictment and prosecution of President Trump regarding obstruction of justice.

This report flies in the face of many in the mainstream media and in politics who for the past two years have constantly talked about how Trump is guilty, even before all the facts were examined by the special counsel.

Trump Free Speech Executive Order

On Thursday, March 21, President Trump signed an executive order titled “Improving Free Inquiry, Transparency, and Accountability at Colleges and Universities” meant at improving free speech on college campuses.

The order makes clear that at colleges and universities, public or private, that receive federal funding must adhere to the first amendment regarding on-campus activities or risk having those funds pulled.

The order states that it is the policy of the government to “encourage institutions to foster environments that promote open, intellectually engaging, and diverse debate, including through compliance with the First Amendment for public institutions and compliance with stated institutional policies regarding freedom of speech for private institutions”.

Further, the order also states that it will help students and borrowers avoid mountains of student loan debt by making “available, by January 1, 2020, through the Office of Federal Student Aid, a secure and confidential website and mobile application that informs Federal student loan borrowers of how much they owe, how much their monthly payment will be when they enter repayment, available repayment options, how long each repayment option will take, and how to enroll in the repayment option that best serves their needs”.

This order, whether more symbolic or legitimate is a nice step toward promoting free speech on college campuses for everyone on the political spectrum. For more information regarding this please read about the experience of one of our editors who was invited to attend the signing of this executive order.

Houston Chemical Plant Fire

During the weekend, residents near the ITC plant in Deer Park, Houston were urged to stay informed as another fire broke out at the chemical plant and cleanup from the fires continued. The fire has been extinguished but, Francisco Sanchez, Harris County’s deputy emergency management coordinator, said: “Our hope is this does not happen again, but should it happen we’ll be ready to respond.”

As cleanup efforts continued throughout the weekend,  the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality has confirmed dangerous chemical levels in the waters near Buffalo Bayou and in the Houston Ship Channel.

In a Saturday press conference, officials stated that three tanks caught fire on Friday and more problems arose when a dike holding contaminated runoff from the firefighting efforts broke.

“Our main objectives today is to maintain safety, second thing is to do some remediation of the ditches, and then lastly, is to resume product removal,” ITC incident commander Brent Weber said.

The Houston Ship Channel will continue to remain closed, and officials said there’s no time table on when it will reopen after chemicals were released into the waterway.

There is no threat to the public drinking water in Houston but officials need to make sure that cleanup is done as swiftly as possible to mitigate the damage done to the Buffalo Bayou and the Houston Ship Channel. Officials also need to look more into the cause of not only the fire but the dike breakage as well as and come up with ways to prevents this from happening in the future.

US Economy

It was not a good week for US stocks over the past week. The Dow Jones decreased to 25,502.32 on Friday, decreasing by -346.55 points, or -1.34 percent under its Mar 15 close of 25,848.87. The S&P 500 decreased by -21.77 points or -0.77 percent on Friday. In addition, the Nasdaq decreased on Friday by -2.46 percent.

Fear of a recession and a global economic slowdown are the main forces behind the drop in the stock market over the past week. However, with China trade talks still going on and a delegation set to meet on April 3, a trade deal made between the US and China and an end to the tariff war between them will go a long way to cooling slowdown fears. Also with the Mueller investigation into the Trump campaign having ended the stock market may take it as a sign of a more stable government and bump stocks back into the positives over the next week.

The Darsch Report: Feb. 18 – 24

Cargo Plane Crash

On Saturday, Feb. 24, a twin-engine cargo plane carrying three people crashed into Trinity Bay near Houston. The Boeing 767-300 plane, operated by Atlas Air Inc., originated from Miami International Airport and lost radio contact approximately 30 miles southeast of Houston’s George Bush Intercontinental Airport.

As of Sunday, two of the bodies have been recovered with one being officially identified as Captain Sean Archuleta, who had been a pilot for Mesa since 2013 and had been riding in the aircraft’s jump seat.

“This is a sad day for the entire Mesa Family as we mourn the loss of Captain Sean Archuleta,” said Jonathan Ornstein, the company’s chairman and chief executive officer. “Our thoughts are with Sean’s family, the families of the two Atlas Air pilots, and the whole Atlas Air organization. This is a loss for all of aviation.”

The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) said in Sunday’s briefing that finding the plane’s black boxes are a “high priority” as investigators search through the debris field.

The cargo plane had been carrying packages for Amazon’s Prime Air service and had been told by air traffic controllers that they were approaching bad weather.

Hopefully, the black box will be found soon so that plane manufacturers and airlines can fix the issues attributed to the crash and prevent this from happening again.

All-Male Draft Found Unconstitutional

On Friday, Feb. 22, U.S. District Judge Gray Miller declared that the all-male military draft is unconstitutional, ruling that while historical restrictions on women serving in combat “may have justified past discrimination,” men and women are now equally able to fight.

The case was brought by the National Coalition For Men, a men’s rights group, and two men who argued the all-male draft was unfair.

Men who fail to register with the Selective Service System at their 18th birthday can be denied public benefits such as federal employment and student loans. Women are not required to register for Selective Service.

The ruling comes as the National Commission on Military, National and Public Service is studying the future of the Selective Service System, including whether women should be included or whether there should continue to be draft registration at all.

Miller said Congress has never fully examined whether men are physically better able to serve than women. In fact, he noted in a footnote, “the average woman could conceivably be better suited physically for some of today’s combat positions than the average man, depending on which skills the position required. Combat roles no longer uniformly require sheer size or muscle.”

Quoting the Supreme Court’s ruling overturning bans on same-sex marriage, Miller ruled that restrictions based on gender “must substantially serve an important governmental interest today.”

This ruling could prove to be a big step forward for the United States as it leaves the government with two choices. They can either acknowledge men and women as equals and require women to also sign up for selective service or do away with the military draft entirely.

US Economy

The Dow Jones increased to 26,031.81 on Friday, increasing by +148.56 points, or +0.57 percent over its Feb. 15 close of 25,883.25. The S&P 500 increased by +17.07 points or +0.62 percent on Friday. In addition, the Nasdaq decreased on Friday by +0.74 percent.

As it currently stands, trade talks between the US and China are still going well with President Trump tweeting that he will be holding off adding further tariffs on March 1 since there has been “substantial progress in our trade talks with China”. During these weekend talks, China has also committed to buying an additional 10 million metric tons of U.S. soybeans, according to US Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue.

Brett Busby Appointed to Texas Supreme Court

On Thursday, Feb. 21, Gov. Abbot announced his appointment of Brett Busby to the Supreme Court of Texas following last year’s retirement of former Justice Phil Johnson.

“It is a distinct honor to appoint Brett Busby to serve on the Supreme Court of Texas,” said Abbott. “Brett’s respect for the Constitution and his understanding that judges say what the law is, not what they would like it to be, will serve the people of Texas well as he ascends to our highest court. I am grateful to Brett for his dedication to the Lone Star State and his unwavering commitment to the rule of law.”

If the former Justice of the 14th Court of Appeals is confirmed by the Texas Senate he will serve a term through December 31, 2020.

Busby is a highly experienced and respected man who with his experience as a Court of Appeals Justice should make it relatively easy for the Texas Senate to confirm his nomination.

San Antonio State House Seat

On Friday, Feb. 22, Governor Greg Abbott announced that March 12 would be the day for the special election runoff to replace former state Rep. Justin Rodriguez in San Antonio’s House District 125.

The traditionally blue seat has come down to Republican Fred Rangel and Democrat Ray Lopez, the top two finishers in the initial five-way contest earlier this month.

Early voting for the HD-125 special election runoff begins March 4.

Rangel is a business owner whose campaign has been boosted by endorsements from Gov. Abbott and U.S. Sen. John Cornyn who wish to have a repeat of Pete Flores, the Pleasanton Republican who flipped a state Senate seat last year after advancing to the overtime round of a special election.

However, Democrats are confident that they will hold onto the seat since democratic candidates netted over 60% of the total vote.

“Texas House District 125 is a Democratic district and it will remain a Democratic district,” party Chairman Gilberto Hinojosa said in a statement.

If the Republicans are able to flip House District 125 it would be a rebuke to the 2018 election and a potential signal that Republicans will strengthen their hold on the state legislature and will continue to do very well electorally in Texas for many years to come.

Venezuela in Crisis

In Venezuela this week the situation internally has only been getting worse. There are two different people claiming the presidency: Nicolás Maduro and Juan Guaidó, with both calling for the other to step down.

Over the past week, multiple aid and humanitarian missions have been turned away or had they supplies destroyed by Pro-Maduro forces out of fear that they will help Guadio. A boat carrying US aid from Puerto Rico to Venezuela was forced to dock on the small Dutch territory island of Curaçao after it was intercepted by the Venezuelan navy off the northern coast, AFP news agency reports.

The vessel was reportedly loaded with nine cargo containers filled with food and medicine.

Venezuela’s opposition also tried to peacefully bring aid trucks over the borders with Brazil and Colombia but were met with hostile force by Venezuelan soldiers. The soldiers fired into the killing at least two and torched the aid trucks.

By Sunday, Feb. 25, there have been major protests in 24 states, 67 desertions, 25 dead, 285 injured and 2-4 trucks torched according to BNL News.

The US must stand with the people of Venezuela and help remove Maduro from power so that the country can begin to move toward a freer and richer society.

Space Force

On Tuesday, Feb. 19, President Donald Trump signed a directive for the Pentagon to officially create the United States Space Force, reportedly as part of the US Air Force. Now the Pentagon must draft legislation that will have to be voted on by Congress.

When signing Space Policy Directive 4 (SPD-4), Trump told reporters, “It’s the future, it’s where we’re going. I suspect whether we like it or not, that’s where we’re going – in space. That’s the next step.”

“We have to be prepared. Our adversaries, whether we get along with them or not, they’re up in space. And they’re doing it, and we’re doing it. It’s going to be a very big part of where the defense of our nation is going to be,” said Trump.

The Air Force has estimated that the Space Force could cost $13 billion over five years, but there were no funds designated for a Space Force in the 2019 defense budget.

The Space Force would likely mostly deal with monitoring Earth’s satellites as well as launching and maintaining military satellites. However, the creation of a new part of the military could help lead to further space exploration and colonization efforts.

Free use image with design by The Tower.

The Darsch Report: Dec. 31 – Jan. 6

Editor’s Note: The Darsch Report is a weekly news summary from Nathan Darsch, news editor. It will now begin to focus more on Texas-related news, but will still update on the economy and foreign headlines when appropriate. 

Hello and welcome to the first installment of the weekly Darsch Report for The Tower, this article will be providing some of the news for the week of Dec. 31st – Jan. 6th.

The US Economy

It was a standard week for US stocks this week with multiple gains in the stock market. The Dow Jones increased to 23,433.16 on Friday, increasing by +370.76 points over its Dec. 28th close of 23,062.40. The S&P 500 increased by +46.20 points, or +1.86 percent on Friday. In addition, the Nasdaq had an increase on Friday by +2.34 percent.

These figures are indicative of a great turn in the economy as a whole, and this change is also reflective in the latest jobs report. In December, the US economy added 312,000 non-farm payrollscompared to the expected number of 176,000. Wages have also increased by 3.2 percent compared to last year and the unemployment rate increased to 3.9 percent, with over 400,000 new workers entering the labor force and pushing the participation rate to 63.1 percent. This news comes just after the Atlanta FED GDPNow estimate dropped to 2.6 percent for the last quarter of 2018.

If December is anything to go off of, the US economy as a whole is and will continue to be great in 2019. However, I would advise everyone to be careful with stock investments as the market is very volatile at the moment.

Houston Shooting

On Sunday, Jan. 6th, police made an arrest related to the murder of seven-year-old Jazmine Barnes. Eric Black Jr., 20, admitted to being involved in the shooting that took place on Dec. 30th and says that the initial reports of the shooter were mistaken identity.

The death of Jazmine has been riled up by activists as a racially motivated incident with writer Shaun King even offering a $60,000 reward “for the person who turns in the murderer”. In court on Sunday, Black, who is African-American, admitted he was driving a Kia SUV when a passenger identified as “Larry” fired on a car driven by Jazmine’s mother, LaPorsha Washington. Harris County Sheriff Ed Gonzalez declined to confirm whether the alleged shooter was in custody, but he said it was likely charges would be filed against a second suspect.

My prayers go out to the Barnes family and anyone else affected by the shooting. Jazmine cannot be brought back but hopefully, the family can find justice for the murder of their child.

San Antonio Kidnapping

In San Antonio, 8-month-old King Jay Davila was abducted Friday night from a corner store parking lot near 351 Enrique Barrera Parkway. The father had left the car running and the doors unlocked as he went into a Friends Food Mart when the incident occurred. A large-scale investigation is currently underway by the San Antonio Police Department and San Antonio Fire Department in the area surrounding Rodriguez Park for any clues as to the whereabouts of the child after a baby bottle was found near the Leon Creek Trail.

The family has also began lambasting the San Antonio police for their claims that the family is being uncooperative and accusing the father of knowing the woman who took the baby. Jasmine Gonzalez, the mother, stated that “The police is saying a whole bunch of bull**** … They need to stop (expletive) putting some blame on someone that’s innocent and worry about finding my baby, that’s what they need to do”. As of Sunday night, the case still remains under heavy investigation.

My prayers go out to the family of this child and I pray for her safe return to her mother. If anyone has any information that may prove useful to the San Antonio Police Department then please send in a tip.

Yellow Vest Protests

This week marks the eighth week of the Gilets Jaunes, “Yellow Vests”, protest in France against the actions of the Macron administration and the rising cost of living. During this week, French authorities arrested and later released a key activist in the movement, Eric Drouet, for organizing a protest without declaring it prior. A protest the group says was a candlelight ceremony for those injured in the previous six weeks of protest across France. This prompted both the left and right in the movement to condemn the action as an “abuse of power”.

On Saturday, a march of 50,000 people took place through across France. There was abundant protesting in the streets, as well as burned trash bins and motorcycles, clashes between riot police and protestors, and a forklift which broke open the doors of the French Ministry for the Economy and Finance, which forced government officials to vacate the building.

I applaud the Gilets Jaunes for not only organizing one of the largest protests in recent French history but also being able to put up these protests for so long. If I had one recommendation for them it would be to try to keep rioting, looting, violence, etc. to a minimum as these actions can backfire on them and turn support against them and destroy the property that they use on a regular basis.

A Senator Goes Stumping

As New Years rolled around and people celebrated the beginning of 2019, Senator Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts announced that she was forming an exploratory committee to run for president in 2020. To many, this came as little to no surprise as the senator has been teasing a run for president to oust President Trump since the beginning of 2018.

Change Research’s most recent polling, Dec. 13-17, shows that Warren has around 7 percent of the vote both nationally and about 7 percent of the vote in the state of Iowa. However, their New Hampshire polling from Jan 2-3 shows that Warren is polling around 11 percent. Compare that to newcomer Beto O’Rouke, who is tied with Joe Biden nationally at 21 percent and polled 19 percent and 9 percent in Iowa and New Hampshire respectively. In all three polls, she is beaten by at least two other potential nominees.

She made her debut on Sunday in Iowa with five campaign stops across the state, including two locations in Des Moines. In her various stumps, the issues of getting Trump out of office, working families and the American middle class were brought up multiple times.

Personally, I do not believe that Elizabeth Warren will be the eventual Democratic nominee and, even if she is, I do not believe that she will be able to beat Trump in the general election seeing as how she may have trouble winning back Rust Belt voters that went to Trump in 2016.