In California, the death toll from the wildfires burning statewide has risen to 23 people, with hundreds more still missing. The nearly two dozen fires have consumed more than 170,000 acres, destroyed thousands of structures and forced tens of thousands of people to flee their homes.
More than 8,000 firefighters are currently battling the blazes, working up to 80 hours straight. Among them are prisoners, who are working for as little as a $1 a day. The firefighters have more than 500 fire engines, 73 helicopters and 30 airplanes—yet the uncontrollable fires are still spreading. Cal Fire Chief Ken Pimlott said, “These fires are literally just burning faster than firefighters can run.” This is Chief Pimlott.
Fire Chief Ken Pimlott: “We are still impacted by five years of drought. With the significant rain that we had last winter, those effects are gone of that moisture, and we are literally looking at explosive vegetation. These fires are burning actively during the day and at night, when one would expect a fire to subside. And make no mistake: This is a serious, critical, catastrophic event.”
Some of the most destructive fires are in Sonoma County, where officials are investigating Pacific Gas and Electric Company power lines as the potential source of the fire. On Sunday night, as the fires began, there were multiple reports of downed power lines and exploding electrical transformers. Pacific Gas and Electric Company’s failure to properly maintain its power lines has sparked fires in the past, including the 2015 Butte fire that killed two people.
President Trump has threatened to retaliate against NBC, following NBC’s report that Trump is seeking a tenfold increase in the United States’ nuclear weapons arsenal. On Wednesday, Trump tweeted, “With all of the Fake News coming out of NBC and the Networks, at what point is it appropriate to challenge their License? Bad for country!” The federal government licenses television airwaves through the FCC. Trump went on to tweet, “Network news has become so partisan, distorted and fake that licenses must be challenged and, if appropriate, revoked. Not fair to public!” The threats drew immediate concerns Trump is undermining the First Amendment. This is constitutional lawyer Floyd Abrams.
Floyd Abrams: “The idea of any president saying that broadcast licenses ought to be at risk because he disapproves of their news coverage raises a really dangerous First Amendment issue. This is unadulterated Richard Nixon. This is precisely the sort of thing that the Nixon administration did, threatening broadcasters with antitrust actions, threatening them with taking their license away, all to get better coverage. And it’s the most direct sort of threat to the First Amendment that President Trump has made since he was sworn in.”
The magazine Vanity Fair reports some of President Trump’s closest aides and advisers say he is “unstable” and “unraveling,” and that the White House is increasingly consumed by chaos. According to the article, former White House chief strategist Steve Bannon reportedly said he thinks Trump has only a 30 percent chance of finishing his first term and that the threat is the 25th Amendment—the right for Cabinet members to vote to remove the president. When Bannon mentioned the 25th Amendment to Trump, the president reportedly said, “What’s that?” Meanwhile, The Washington Post reports one of Trump’s closest friends, Tom Barrack, says he’s shocked by Trump’s behavior.
World leaders, senior U.S. officials and U.S. lawmakers are all pressuring President Trump not to decertify the landmark 2015 nuclear deal with Iran, which Trump is expected to do as early as Friday. Among those pressuring Trump is former Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak, known as an anti-Iran hawk, who nevertheless is calling the proposed withdrawal a mistake. U.S. Defense Secretary James Mattis has also urged Trump to stick with the deal, and the Trump administration itself has certified that Iran has complied with its obligations.
In Hollywood, new revelations about Harvey Weinstein have surfaced, showing his studio, Weinstein Company, knew for at least two years that he had been paying off women who accused him of sexual harassment and assault. Weinstein has been fired from the company, as a slew of women have come forward to accuse Weinstein of sexual harassment, assault and rape. Among his accusers are some of Hollywood’s top actresses: Ashley Judd, Gwyneth Paltrow, Angelina Jolie and Rose McGowan. Many are now asking why Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance refused to prosecute Weinstein after he confessed to groping Filipina-Italian model Ambra Battilana Gutierrez in an audio recording captured in a 2015 NYPD sting operation. One of Weinstein’s lawyers at the time donated $10,000 to Vance’s election campaign only days after Vance decided not to prosecute the case. We’ll have more on Harvey Weinstein after headlines.
In Syria, the U.S.-led coalition fighting ISIS in Raqqa said Wednesday it will not accept a negotiated withdrawal to end the fighting in the northeastern Syrian city that was once ISIS’s de facto capital. Thousands of civilians remain trapped in the 2.5 square miles still controlled by ISIS. Activists say more than 1,000 civilians have already been killed since the U.S.-led offensive to seize control of the city began in June. The journalistic monitoring group Airwars says dozens of civilians have reportedly been killed in the last week, including in a barrage of airstrikes on October 6, which reportedly collapsed a number of apartment buildings, killing up to 40 people. Meanwhile, in eastern Syria, tens of thousands of civilians have been displaced by fighting against ISIS in Deir ez-Zor. This is Alaa, speaking from a makeshift refugee camp.
Alaa: “Papers started falling on us from a plane saying to go to the first camp and surrender yourself and that you’ll feel safety there and receive medicine and medical care to sick children, that you just have to wave the white flag. We did as they told us, and showed up. On the road, I encountered landmines and suffered from cold and hunger. This road is called the death road. And if we stay here, this is death.”
President Trump says he plans to nominate Kirstjen Nielsen to serve as the next homeland security secretary. John Kelly, Trump’s previous homeland security secretary, now serves as Trump’s chief of staff. Nielsen is a longtime DHS official, recently serving as Kelly’s chief of staff. Under President George W. Bush, she was the senior director for preparedness and response at the White House Security Council ahead of Hurricane Katrina. She was subsequently singled out in congressional reports as one of the key figures in the Bush administration who had been warned about the impending catastrophe of Katrina, but failed to act. She’s also worked in the for-profit security industry, first at a firm called Civitas Group and then founding the security firm Sunesis Consulting.
The Boy Scouts have announced they plan to accept girls into the program beginning next year. This comes after the Boy Scouts first ended its ban on openly gay boy scouts and then transgender scouts.
And today, the state of Texas is planning to execute Robert Pruett. He has been imprisoned since he was 15 years old. He was sentenced to death for the murder of prison guard Daniel Nagle. He has always maintained his innocence, saying he was framed by corrupt prison guards. There is no physical evidence tying him to the murder.