Syria Airstrike: Tensions High amid Tillerson Visit to Russia, G7 Meeting

The deadly chemical weapons attack in Khan Sheikhoun, Syria last week prompted a decisive response from the United States, with 59 cruise missiles fired at a Syrian military airfield, after the US government blamed the Syrian leader, President Bashar Al-Assad.

The gas attack, which killed dozens of civilians, and the following U.S. strike have flared tensions between the United States and Russia, an ally of Syria. U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson has also directly condemned Assad’s regime, saying his rule is “coming to an end.”

Tuesday’s G7 meeting of major western powers in Italy declined to impose sanctions on Russia or Syria until the conclusion of an international investigation. Immediately after that meeting, Tillerson headed to Moscow for talks with Sergey Lavrov, Russia’s Foreign Minister which were scheduled for Wednesday.

U.S. Officials have also claimed that the Russian government is attempting to cover up Syria’s use of chemical weapons, especially the deadly nerve agent sarin gas, which may have been used in the attack. In 2013 a successfully negotiated US-Russia agreement was intended to have destroyed all of Syria’s chemical weapons. However, Russian President Vladimir Putin claims that the U.S.  has planned so-called false flag chemical weapons attacks in order to justify their military intervention.

Also this week:

…From Local News

In a public hearing on Monday, Providence city council officials discussed an ordinance, proposed in 2014, to reduce racial profiling and alter other policing policies. The Community Safety Act had wide public support at the hearing, but some officials like Public Safety Commissioner Steven Pare expressed reservations. At the time of the hearing, a vote was not yet scheduled.

In Newport, construction is set to begin on a visitor’s center at the historic Breakers mansion despite opposition from some preservationists and members of the Vanderbilt family. The Newport Preservation Society which supports the initiative says the visitor’s center will provide more modern accommodations for tourists, but critics say the commercial building will harm the site’s historical integrity.

After Governor Gina Raimondo’s call for an increase in the Rhode Island minimum wage to $10.50 per hour, State Representative Kenneth Mendonca sponsored a bill that would set a lower minimum wage for people under 20 at $9.65 per hour. Proponents say this bill would make young people more competitive and secure in the labor market.  

…From National News

New York has become the first state to universally offer four-year public colleges and universities tuition-free. New York’s new Excelsior Scholarship program covers the full cost of tuition for all families who make less than $100,000 per year, increasing to $125,000 by 2019. Unlike other programs throughout the country, the only requirements for New York’s program are income and state residency.  

Neil M. Gorsuch, a judicial conservative, was sworn in this week as the next Supreme court Justice, taking Justice Antonin Scalia’s seat which has been vacant since his death in February 2016. Gorsuch, at 49 years old, is now the ninth and youngest member of the Court. The successful appointment comes after the Republican-controlled Senate lowered the threshold to confirm a Supreme Court nominee to a simple majority rather than 60 out of 100.

A shooting at an elementary school on Monday in San Bernardino, California has killed two adults and an 8-year-old boy. Described as a murder-suicide by police, the attacker, Cedric Anderson, shot and killed teacher Karen Elaine Smith, his wife; an 8-year-old child; and then turned the gun on himself. A 9-year-old student was also wounded. The school, North Park Elementary, was closed in the days following the shooting on Tuesday and Wednesday.

…From World News

The government of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea has responded with harsh criticism after United States Navy deployment in the region following North Korean missile testing. The naval show of force prompted North Korea’s vow of force following any US aggression, while tensions remain high between North and South Korea. China, North Korea’s closest ally, has also threatened even further economic sanctions if the nation continues weapons testing.  

After United Airlines forcibly removed a passenger from an overbooked plane by dragging him off the aircraft, the company has faced intense online criticism in the United States and internationally, especially in China and Vietnam. The man removed from the plane seemed to be briefly unconscious during the incident, and was later filmed bleeding when he re-entered the plane before being removed again.