The first full week of June began with a bang. On Sunday, a volcano in Guatemala blew its top, burying whole villages beneath a curtain of burning ash.
More on this disaster below. We’ll also take a quick look at nine other stories that really deserve your attention this week—from political upheavals in Europe and Africa to a brand-new billionaire plot to take on President Trump.
The Koch Brothers Announced A Multi million-Dollar Plan To Take On President Trump
This one will cause some head-scratching in certain circles. Following President Trump’s imposition of tariffs against Mexico, Canada, and the EU, the billionaire Koch brothers came out swinging Monday with a plan to spend millions combating the president’s move. Their proposal potentially puts the White House on a collision course with one of the GOP’s biggest support networks.
The Koch brothers are dyed-in-the-wool, free-trade libertarians. However, their Republican sympathies have meant that they’ve generally refrained from criticizing the president during his time in office, even when Trump has been in a protectionist mood. Apparently, Friday’s steel announcement was one step too far. The brothers’ powerful political network is now training its guns on Republicans backing the president’s position.
The Koch brothers are known for supporting causes that benefit their business interests. But their actions have sometimes sparked controversy. For example, rightly or wrongly, critics have accused the brothers of engaging in political and business activities that undermine minorities and immigrants while donating money to their causes and running misleading PR campaigns and education efforts.
It is unclear if this latest Koch initiative will fall into the same category that has been previously targeted by these critics. In other words, will the Koch position on tariffs be publicized as something that helps minorities and immigrants when it will ultimately hurt workers in these groups but benefit the business interests of the Koch brothers? We’ll have to see if the critics fire back at the billionaires again.
The brothers also made it clear that they despised Trump during the 2016 presidential election. Charles Koch compared the choice between Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton as the option to vote for cancer or a heart attack. So the dynamics are a bit more complicated that they initially appear.
Nevertheless, this story marks another step in the death of libertarianism among the GOP. With Paul Ryan on his way out and tariffs coming in, it’s starting to look like libertarian lawmakers will soon be out in the cold.
The Spanish Government Collapsed
If you haven’t been keeping up on your Spanish news, know that you just missed the craziest week that Madrid has seen in a long time.
Last Friday, the calls by the Spanish Socialist Workers’ Party (PSOE) for a no-confidence vote on Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy were joined by those of right-wing populists Ciudadanos. Together, the two parties were able to bring down Rajoy’s government after 29 officials from his People’s Party (PP) were convicted of corruption.
The sudden demise of Rajoy was meant to signal snap elections, a quick victory for Ciudadanos, and a new populist party in power in Europe. Instead, something far stranger happened.
The prospect of a nationalist Ciudadanos government seemingly put a fright into the Basque and Catalan parties, who feared less autonomy as a result. So they decided at the last moment to jump into bed with the PSOE. Other center-left and left-wing populist parties quickly joined them. Before anyone could get a grip on what was happening, PSOE suddenly had the numbers to form a government without new elections.
So they did. Spain is now led by Pedro Sanchez, who has already unveiled a female-dominated cabinet and initiatives on climate change. What the public makes of this is another matter. This is the first time that a Spanish PM has taken office mid-term and due to parliamentary machinations rather than a vote.
Guatemala’s Volcanic Eruption Wiped Out Whole Villages
On Sunday, Guatemala’s Fuego volcano exploded in a blast of superheated ash and flying rocks. There had been little warning of imminent danger, and many of the small villages built on the mountainside were wiped out in the blink of an eye. Before authorities in Guatemala City had even begun to get a handle on the disaster, reports were already being beamed across the world of a catastrophic death toll.
At the time of this writing, nearly 100 have been confirmed dead with close to 200 still missing. Searches for survivors have been repeatedly called off as the still-active volcano fires off new eruptions. By this point, though, it seems like there is little hope for the missing. Realistically, it seems that the final death toll will exceed 200.
In Guatemala, blame has already been directed toward the country’s civil emergency authority, which was still telling people that there was no need to evacuate mere hours before the blast.