Questions are mounting about the relationship between the massive private prison contractor GEO Group and the Trump administration. The Washington Post has revealed GEO Group held its annual leadership conference last week at President Trump’s private Miami-area golf resort, the Trump National Doral. GEO Group was also a major backer of the Trump campaign, giving $225,000 to a pro-Trump super PAC and then another quarter of a million dollars to Trump’s inaugural committee. The company then secured a new multimillion-dollar contract from the Trump administration. Its stock price has tripled since last year, when the Obama administration announced efforts to end the use of private prisons.
USA Today is reporting the Trump administration is slated to declare the opioid crisis a public health emergency today. The order would allow states to shift federal funds to address the opioid crisis, which killed 64,000 Americans last year. Click here to see our full interview about the Sackler family—the secretive family that has made billions off the opioid crisis.
The Washington Post is reporting the establishment Republican Party has declared “open warfare” on President Trump’s former chief strategist Stephen Bannon. Bannon is the head of the far-right news outlet Breitbart Media, which has been described as an online haven for white nationalists. He is also the leading figure in the insurgent far-right wing of the Republican Party. The establishment wing of the Republicans, led by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, have now formed a super PAC called the Senate Leadership Fund ahead of the 2018 congressional elections, with the aim of specifically attacking and discrediting Bannon.
In more news from Capitol Hill, Senate Chaplain Barry Black indirectly called upon more lawmakers to speak out against President Trump, during his prayer before the Senate morning session Wednesday.
Barry Black: “Lord, we praise you for ethically congruent lawmakers who, in their inmost beings, are true and honest. Give us more senators who are true to duty as the needle to the pole. Give us more legislators who are not afraid to call sin by its right name.”
His prayer comes after two prominent Republican lawmakers—Arizona Senator Jeff Flake and Tennessee Senator Bob Corker—slammed President Trump on Tuesday, with Flake calling Trump’s behavior “reckless, outrageous and undignified,” and Corker saying Trump’s lying and bullying is “debasing to our country.”
In Kenya, voters are heading to the polls for a rerun of the contested presidential election between incumbent President Uhuru Kenyatta and opposition leader Raila Odinga. Odinga is boycotting the rerun, after his demands for changes in the electoral process were not met. The Supreme Court overturned the results of the first election in August, citing mismanagement by the electoral commission.
In Tanzania, journalists are demanding President John Magufuli overturn a 90-day ban on the popular daily newspaper the Tanzania Daima. It’s the fourth newspaper to be shut down in recent months, and its shutdown comes amid a mounting crackdown against the free press in Tanzania.
In Brazil, President Michel Temer has narrowly avoided being put on trial for corruption. Temer and his associates have been accused of pocketing nearly $200 million in bribes and covering up their crimes. On Wednesday, Brazil’s lower house of Congress voted not to try the president, even though a secretly recorded tape captured him approving hush-money payoffs for a powerful politician jailed on corruption charges. Temer has pushed right-wing and neoliberal policies that are deeply unpopular, and he currently has an approval rating of about 3 percent.
In Indonesia, dozens of people have been killed in an explosion at a firecracker factory outside the capital Jakarta. The Thursday morning fire has killed at least 47 people so far, with the death toll expected to rise.
U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley cut short her visit to South Sudan, after hundreds of people protested against South Sudanese President Salva Kiir at Haley’s event. Her departure came after Haley said the U.S. has lost trust in Kiir’s government—which the U.S. has supported since South Sudan’s independence in 2011.
Nikki Haley: “We’re disappointed by what we’re seeing. This isn’t what we thought we were investing in. What we thought we were investing in is a free, fair society where people could be safe. And South Sudan is the opposite of that.”
The United Nations warns an ethnic cleansing campaign carried out by the South Sudanese government has killed thousands of civilians, triggering a massive refugee crisis.
In Pakistan, officials say multiple U.S. drone strikes along the Afghanistan-Pakistan border killed more than two dozen people last week. Officials told Reuters four unmanned drones fired six missiles on October 16, killing up to twenty people. The same official said another round of strikes the following day killed another 11 people.
Puerto Rico’s federally imposed financial oversight board is planning to install an emergency manager to take control of the daily operations of the Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority. On Wednesday, the board said it plans to appoint retired Air Force Colonel Noel Zamot to run Puerto Rico’s power company, which is currently the largest publicly owned power utility in the United States. This comes after revelations that the tiny Montana firm Whitefish Energy won a $300 million contract to rebuild the grid. Whitefish Energy is linked to Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke. The company is backed by the private equity firm HBC Investments, whose founder was a Trump campaign donor.
The NAACP has issued an advisory warning black passengers about a pattern of racist incidents on American Airlines flights. The NAACP cites multiple instances in which African-American women were removed from flights or switched from first class to coach. It also cites an instance in which an African-American man was forced off a flight for responding to the racist comments of fellow white passengers. The NAACP says these events “suggest a corporate culture of racial insensitivity and possible racial bias on the part of American Airlines.” American Airlines says it does not tolerate discrimination.
Former President George H.W. Bush has apologized for repeatedly groping women, after being accused of sexual assault by two actresses. Actress Heather Lind says that when she met the president in 2014, “He touched me from behind from his wheelchair … He told me a dirty joke. And then, all the while being photographed, touched me again.” Actress Jordana Grolnick then also accused the former president of groping her during a photo in 2016, saying, “He reached his right hand around to my behind, and as we smiled for the photo he asked the group, 'Do you want to know who my favorite magician is?' As I felt his hand dig into my flesh, he said, 'David Cop-a-Feel!'”
In response to the accusations, Bush’s spokesperson said, “To try to put people at ease, the president routinely tells the same joke—and on occasion, he has patted women’s rears in what he intended to be a good-natured manner. Some have seen it as innocent; others clearly view it as inappropriate. To anyone he has offended, President Bush apologizes most sincerely.”
NBC’s senior political analyst, journalist Mark Halperin, has announced he’s “stepping back” from his job, after five women accused him of sexually harassing them when he was ABC’s top political journalist. Meanwhile, the publisher of Artforum magazine has resigned, after nine women sued him for sexual harassment. Knight Landesman served as Artforum’s publisher for more than 30 years and was a major player in the international art world. Following the revelations, Artforum’s editor-in-chief also resigned. In recent days, a slew of men have resigned or been blacklisted in the wake of sexual harassment accusations, including high-profile photographer Terry Richardson, celebrity chef John Besh, influential tech industry figure Robert Scoble and Amazon Studios programming chief Roy Price. All this comes after dozens of women came forward to accuse now-disgraced movie producer Harvey Weinstein of sexual harassment, assault and rape—ending the career of one of Hollywood’s most powerful men.
Then, the long-awaited JFK assassination files. The federal government will begin releasing the final cache of secret documents about the 1963 assassination of former President John F. Kennedy. Historians say the secret CIA and FBI files could also reveal details about U.S. attempts to assassinate late Cuban President Fidel Castro.
The undocumented teenager whom the Trump administration attempted to prevent from having an abortion has finally obtained the procedure—after having to fight the federal government for a month. The 17-year-old, known as Jane Doe, is detained in a refugee resettlement shelter. She had the abortion on Wednesday after a U.S. appeals court ruled in her favor. We’ll have more on her case later in the broadcast.
And rock 'n' roll star Fats Domino has died at the age of 89. The Creole French musician was born in the Lower Ninth Ward of New Orleans in 1928. He taught himself piano and became part of a group of black musicians in New Orleans who pioneered the rhythm and blues style that became the foundation of rock 'n' roll. Throughout the 1950s and '60s, Fats Domino sold 65 million singles, making him one of the most popular artists in the world. He was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1986 and won a Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award the following year. When Hurricane Katrina hit New Orleans in 2005, Fats Domino refused to leave his beloved hometown. He was rescued from the floodwaters by family members. This is Fats Domino, performing one of his most famous hits, “Ain't That a Shame.”
Fats Domino: “You made me cry when you said goodbye / Ain’t that a shame / My tears fell like rain / Ain’t that a shame.”
Fats Domino died on Tuesday at his home in Harvey, Louisiana—just across the Mississippi River from New Orleans—at the age of 89.