In Germany, more than 100,000 protesters flooded the streets of Hamburg as leaders of the world’s largest economies gathered for the G20 summit. Marchers carrying banners reading “Welcome to Hell” and “The World is Not for Sale” were met by heavily armed riot police, who used water cannons, tear gas and stun grenades to disperse the protests. Protests resumed earlier today as demonstrators staged sit-ins at key intersections in the city in an attempt to disrupt the first day of the G20, where President Trump is meeting with other world leaders. A German news agency reported first lady Melania Trump was unable to leave her hotel because of today’s demonstrations. This is a protester named Kemel who took part in the actions.
Kemel: “We are here today because we think that the G20 has no place here in Hamburg, has no place in the world. It is not needed. It is an organization of the ruling classes, of the imperialist system, that deepens exploitation around the world, that produces fascism and racism, particularly Trump, who presents himself as a racist and says, 'I am willing to use the nuclear bomb.' And to invite such a man here in the name of so-called capitalist democracy, and therefore legitimizing him, it is outrageous!”
Earlier today, Brazil, Russia, India and China—the so-called BRICS countries—called on the G20 to push for implementation of the Paris climate deal, despite Trump’s decision to pull the United States out of it. This is German Chancellor Angela Merkel, speaking as G20 talks opened.
Chancellor Angela Merkel: “We know the United States has withdrawn from the Paris Agreement. All others—or, at least as far as I know, many, many others—are still committed to the Paris Agreement. And how that turns out is something we will tell you at the end, when we have finished the communiqué.”
Meanwhile, President Trump is scheduled to meet later today with Russian President Vladimir Putin on the sidelines of the G20. Ahead of the meeting, Trump sought to deflect scrutiny over allegations his campaign colluded with Russia to interfere in November’s election. Trump took a swipe at former Hillary Clinton campaign chair John Podesta, tweeting, “Everyone here is talking about why John Podesta refused to give the DNC server to the FBI and the CIA. Disgraceful!” We’ll have more on the G20 summit and Trump’s meeting with Putin after headlines.
Just ahead of the G20 talks, Japan announced Thursday it will forge a new trade agreement with the European Union. The deal will cover about a quarter of the world’s economic activity, making it one of the largest trade agreements ever. It followed the collapse earlier this year of the sweeping Trans-Pacific Partnership, or TPP. In a statement, Greenpeace blasted the Japan-EU agreement, writing, “This trade deal, and others like it, smack of corporate protectionism at the expense of democracy and the environment.”
In Washington, D.C., the government’s top ethics watchdog abruptly resigned Thursday, months before his term was set to expire in January. Walter Shaub Jr. said he’ll leave his post as head of the Office of Government Ethics later this month and will take a job at a nonpartisan campaign finance reform group. Shaub told reporters he wasn’t pressured to resign, though he frequently clashed with the White House over his demands that President Trump divest from his vast business holdings. This is Walter Shaub, speaking in January about President Trump’s move to put his holdings into a trust operated by his adult sons.
Walter Shaub Jr.: “This is not a blind trust. It’s not even close. I think Politico called this a 'half-blind' trust, but it’s not even halfway blind. The only thing it has in common with a blind trust is the label 'trust.' His sons are still running the business, and, of course, he knows what he owns.”
After announcing his resignation, Walter Shaub said the Office of Government Ethics is ill-equipped to prevent conflicts of interest, telling NPR News, “The current situation has made it clear that the ethics program needs to be stronger than it is.” Shaub’s resignation opens the door for President Trump to name a replacement, pending confirmation by the Senate.
Shaub’s departure comes on the heels of the resignation of top Justice Department official Hui Chen earlier this month. Chen is a former corporate compliance watchdog who wrote in a social media post, “[O]n my mind were the numerous lawsuits pending against the President of the United States for everything from violations of the Constitution to conflict of interest … I wanted no more part in it.”
Secretary of State Rex Tillerson could soon be called to testify about a separate email account he used for years to discuss global warming while he served as CEO of ExxonMobil. That’s according to the Associated Press, which reports that New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman is prepared to question Tillerson as part of his probe into whether Exxon misled its investors about the impact of climate change. While at Exxon, Tillerson used the alias “Wayne Tracker” on a separate email account to discuss climate-related topics. Exxon officials have admitted that most of the emails from the account have been permanently deleted and that the company allowed months’ worth of Tillerson’s emails to be deleted even after the New York Attorney General’s Office requested they be preserved.
The Trump administration told a federal judge Thursday it plans to keep voter roll data it has requested from all 50 states on White House computers controlled by Vice President Mike Pence. The disclosure came after the Electronic Privacy Information Center sued to halt the requests for voter data made by Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach as part of the Presidential Advisory Commission on Election Integrity. Kobach’s request would gather the names, addresses, birthdates, Social Security numbers, party affiliations and felony conviction records of virtually all U.S. voters. Critics say the White House plans to use the data for large-scale voter suppression, and at least 44 states have said they will not fully comply with Kobach’s request.
At the United Nations, more than 120 countries are poised today to adopt a first-ever treaty banning the possession, use and threat of nuclear weapons. The landmark deal was negotiated without the participation of any of the world’s nine nuclear-armed states or NATO allies—with the exception of the Netherlands. The nuclear ban is based on humanitarian law, and its authors note that just 1 percent of the world’s nuclear weapons are enough to devastate the natural world and could lead to humanity’s extinction.
In the Sea of Japan, South Korean jets and warships fired a barrage of missiles Thursday in a major live-fire exercise that came just two days after North Korea successfully tested a new intercontinental ballistic missile. At the Pentagon, Defense Secretary James Mattis said the ICBM test didn’t mean the U.S. is closer to war with North Korea. The statement contradicted Donald Trump’s comment earlier in the day that he’s considering “pretty severe things” in response to North Korea’s missile test. Meanwhile, in the North Korean capital Pyongyang, thousands of people attended a mass rally and dance party organized to celebrate the country’s new weapon.
In Turkey, thousands of opposition protesters continued a 250-mile march from Ankara toward Istanbul Thursday, protesting the authoritarian government of President Recep Erdogan and his moves to detain and fire hundreds of former prosecutors and judges.
Protester: “We are not going to get tired. We will continue our march for justice. We will continue our struggle for it to the very end.”
The marchers are set to arrive Saturday for a mass rally in Istanbul amid heavy security. Their protest comes as Turkey continues to detain Idil Eser, the director of Amnesty International’s Turkey office, as well as other human rights defenders.
In Iraq, the head of the Kurdish autonomous region said Thursday he expects a new Kurdish state to emerge after an historic election on independence scheduled for September. Masoud Barzani was speaking with Reuters.
Masoud Barzani: “I don’t think anybody can stand against the big wave of the people of Kurdistan when they decide their destiny. Maybe there will be some attempts to foil it. We will try our best not to allow that to happen.”
The September 26 plebiscite could increase tensions in Turkey, Syria and Iran, countries with sizable Kurdish populations who fear an independent Kurdish state.
Meanwhile, in Mosul, Iraq, U.S.-backed Kurdish and Iraqi forces cornered the last of the city’s ISIS fighters in a tiny stretch on the banks of the Tigris River. An Iraqi commander said about 10,000 civilians remained trapped in the battle zone.
Back in the United States, the Christian craft chain store Hobby Lobby has agreed to pay a $3 million fine and return thousands of artifacts looted from Iraq. Federal prosecutors say Hobby Lobby spent over $1.5 million in 2010 to purchase more than 5,000 Iraqi artifacts from a dealer based in the United Arab Emirates. The sales violated a ban on the sale of Iraqi cultural artifacts in place since 2004. Hobby Lobby’s owners are conservative Christians who plan to open a Museum of the Bible in Washington, D.C., this fall. In 2014, Hobby Lobby won a landmark decision at the Supreme Court, which ruled that private companies that claim religious objections can refuse to provide birth control coverage to employees.
In Virginia, prison officials ended the life of death row prisoner William Morva Thursday night with a lethal cocktail of three drugs, after Governor Terry McAuliffe denied Morva’s final appeal for clemency. The execution relied on the drug midazolam, which has repeatedly failed to make prisoners unconscious in other executions, leading to painful deaths. This is reporter Drew Wilder, who witnessed the execution.
Drew Wilder: “He started gasping for air. His stomach came out, and it contracted pretty dramatically. His stomach came in and out a handful of times, maybe—maybe 10 times.”
William Morva was pronounced dead at 9:15 p.m. local time. His death sentence came despite a doctor’s finding that Morva suffered from a severe delusional disorder. In a statement, Amnesty International tweeted, “The execution of William Morva, a man with a severe mental disability, is appalling. The death penalty should be ended once and for all.”
In Illinois, lawmakers on Thursday approved a new state budget, ending a two-year stalemate that saw Illinois fall $15 billion behind on its bills. The deal came as the state House voted to override a veto by Republican Governor Bruce Rauner, who was increasingly isolated in his opposition to a state income tax hike. This is Governor Rauner speaking Wednesday.
Gov. Bruce Rauner: “This is not just a slap in the face to Illinois taxpayers, this is a two-by-four smacked across the foreheads of the people of Illinois. This tax hike will solve none of our problems. And, in fact, long run, it will just make our problems worse, not better.”
The budget impasse idled roadwork and infrastructure projects, left social service nonprofits unable to serve the poor and disabled, threatened to bankrupt public schools and threatened the accreditation of many universities. Even with passage of the budget, Moody’s Investors Service said Thursday it might still downgrade Illinois’s credit rating to junk status.