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Both former Presidents Barack Obama and George W. Bush criticized President Trump on Thursday, slamming Trump’s divisive, nativist and hateful rhetoric. Neither of the former presidents named Trump directly, but both their speeches were clearly aimed at the current president. This is President Obama, speaking in Richmond, Virginia, while campaigning for Democratic gubernatorial candidate Ralph Northam.
Barack Obama: “Instead of our politics reflecting our values, we’ve got politics infecting our communities. Instead of looking for ways to work together and get things done in a practical way, we’ve got folks who are deliberately trying to make folks angry, to demonize people who have different ideas, to get the base all riled up, because it provides a short-term tactical advantage.”
That was former President Barack Obama. And this is former President George W. Bush, also denouncing President Trump, while speaking at a Bush Institute event in New York.
George W. Bush: “Bigotry seems emboldened. Our politics seems more vulnerable to conspiracy theories and outright fabrication. … We’ve seen our discourse degraded by casual cruelty. At times, it can seem like the forces pulling us apart are stronger than the forces binding us together. … We’ve seen nationalism distorted into nativism, forgotten the dynamism that immigration has always brought to America.”
The New York Times reports it is unprecedented in modern U.S. history for two former presidents to speak out so forcefully against the current sitting president.
President Trump is planning to depart for a 12-day trip to Asia in early November, amid rising tensions between the U.S. and North Korea. Trump is slated to visit China, Vietnam, Japan, the Philippines and South Korea. White House officials are divided over whether Trump should visit the Demilitarized Zone between North and South Korea during the trip, with concerns that a visit could further exacerbate the threat of nuclear war. In the Philippines, he’s slated to meet with Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte, who is presiding over a bloody so-called war on drugs that has left thousands of people dead.
In California, the state’s insurance commissioner says the unprecedented wildfires have caused over $1 billion in insured losses. The wildfires are the deadliest since record keeping began, killing at least 42 people, destroying thousands of homes and businesses, and scorching more than 200,000 acres—roughly the size of New York City. As of Thursday, more than 20,000 people are still displaced in Sonoma County.
Cal Fire is investigating the cause of the fires. Residents in Santa Rosa have sued the Pacific Gas and Electric Company, claiming the company’s failure to maintain its power lines sparked the blazes. The night the fires began, there were multiple reports of downed power lines and exploding electrical transformers.
Meanwhile, the Sonoma County sheriff has refuted false claims being spread by far-right-wing news outlets, including Breitbart News, that an undocumented man arrested for arson on Sunday may have sparked the blazes. Sheriff Rob Giordano said, “There’s a story out there he’s the arsonist for these fires. That is not the case. There is no indication he is related to these fires at all.” We’ll have more on the deadly wildfires after headlines.
In Puerto Rico, about 3 million residents still have no electricity from the power grid, and more than 1 million people still have no clean drinking water, now one month after Hurricane Maria hit Puerto Rico as a Category 4 storm. The official death toll now stands at 48. At least 113 more people are still missing. Across the island, residents say they are suffering from eye infections and gastrointestinal diseases as a result of exposure to contaminated water. On Thursday, President Trump said his administration deserves a “10 out of 10” for its response to the ongoing humanitarian crisis on Puerto Rico.
In California, the Los Angeles Police Department says it’s investigating disgraced movie producer Harvey Weinstein for sexual assault. The New York Police Department and Scotland Yard are also investigating multiple reports of sexual assault by Weinstein. More than 40 women, including some of Hollywood’s biggest stars, have now come forward with allegations of rape, sexual assault or sexual harassment against Weinstein, who had been one of the most powerful men in Hollywood.
One of his closest collaborators, prominent movie director Quentin Tarantino, has now come forward to admit he knew about Weinstein’s sexual harassment but didn’t take action because he wanted to continue making films with Weinstein. Tarantino told The New York Times, “I knew enough to do more than I did. … If I had done the work I should have done then, I would have had to not work with him.”
The U.S. Army is again facing scrutiny over sexual assault and harassment, after The Washington Post reported that a number of the troops and Army prosecutors tasked with preventing sexual assault have themselves been charged with rape in recent months. In September, Army prosecutor Scott Hockenberry, who is responsible for investigating sexual assault in the military, was charged with raping a woman twice, hitting her in the face and pressing a knife against her neck. Earlier this year, another soldier certified by the Army as a sexual-assault prevention officer was convicted in a military court of repeatedly raping a 12-year-old girl. The U.S. Army told The Washington Post that over the last year it has launched sexual assault investigations against eight other soldiers or civilians tasked with deterring or investigating sexual assault inside the Army.
In Spain, the Spanish government says it is convening an emergency Cabinet meeting Saturday to trigger Article 155 of the Constitution, which will allow Spain to suspend Catalonia’s autonomy and seize control of the region. The move comes after Catalonia voted to secede from Spain in a referendum Spain has called illegal. Article 155 has never been used before in Spain’s modern democratic history. This is Spanish government spokesperson Íñigo Méndez de Vigo.
Íñigo Méndez de Vigo: “The president of the government has called a special Cabinet meeting for next Saturday that will activate the Senate in order to protect the general interests of Spaniards, among them the citizens of Catalonia, all citizens of Catalonia, and to restore constitutional order in the autonomous region.”
In Colombia, Afro-Colombian community leader José Jair Cortés has been assassinated in the southern region of Nariño. He was murdered Tuesday in a rural area where, on October 5, at least seven coca farmers were killed during clashes with police at a protest over the government’s eradication of coca crops. The U.N. assistant secretary-general for human rights has condemned the killing of human rights and land defenders in Colombia, saying, “The armed conflict with the FARC may be over, but the country’s incredibly brave human rights defenders continue to be threatened and killed at an alarming rate.”
In Argentina, thousands of people marched to the Plaza de Mayo in the capital Buenos Aires on Thursday demanding justice and answers about the disappearance of indigenous rights activist Santiago Maldonado. On Thursday, a body was found in the river close to the site where Maldonado disappeared on August 1 during a protest against the eviction of indigenous people from lands claimed by the Italian clothing company Benetton. It is not yet known if the body is Maldonado’s. Eyewitnesses say Argentine security forces beat and arrested a person around the time of Maldonado’s disappearance.
The case has stoked painful memories of the military dictatorship of 1976 to ’83, when U.S.-backed security forces tortured activists and disappeared an estimated 30,000 people. This is Nora Cortiñas of the Mothers of the Plaza de Mayo.
Nora Cortiñas: “If President Mauricio Macri wasn’t interested in human rights before, Macri is president of all Argentinians now. He won with votes, not with boots, so he has to govern for all Argentinians. And Argentinians need to know that human rights are part of the government and are part of the state. So this is what we are asking, that they respect human rights.”
And in North Dakota, a judge has sentenced two water protectors to jail time after they were convicted on misdemeanor charges over an October 2016 protest at Standing Rock against the Dakota Access pipeline. Twenty-seven-year-old Alexander Simon was sentenced to serve 18 days in jail for obstruction of a government function, while 64-year-old Mary Redway was sentenced to six days in jail for disorderly conduct. The sentences were imposed by Judge Thomas Merrick despite the fact that the prosecution had not recommended the two serve jail time.
Meanwhile, journalist Sara Lafleur-Vetter was acquitted on misdemeanor charges stemming from her reporting on the protest on October 22. She was filming for The Guardian at the time of her arrest.
There are still hundreds of unresolved criminal cases related to the months-long resistance at Standing Rock. Three water protectors are currently imprisoned while awaiting trial: Red Fawn Fallis, Little Feather and Dion Ortiz.