President Trump on Thursday ramped up his threats of hitting North Korea with “fire and fury.” In a letter delivered to the State Department Thursday, 62 House Democrats called on Secretary of State Rex Tillerson to de-escalate tensions, calling Trump’s words “belligerent” and “reckless.” Elsewhere, a group of Korean-American elected officials sent President Trump a letter calling for diplomacy and dialogue. Among those signing the letter was Philadelphia City Councilmember Helen Gym, who wrote, “As we observe the 72nd anniversary of the atomic bombs that destroyed Hiroshima and Nagasaki, we remember that nuclear warfare is unacceptable and we must remember the lessons of history which is ‘never again.’”
President Donald Trump intensified his attacks on Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell Thursday, implying the Republican leader should step down if he fails to pass Trump’s legislative priorities. This is President Trump, speaking to reporters at his private golf resort in Bedminster, New Jersey.
President Donald Trump: “Well, I’ll tell you what: If he doesn’t get repeal and replace done, and if he doesn’t get taxes done, meaning cuts and reform, and if he doesn’t get a very easy one to get done, infrastructure, if he doesn’t get them done, then you can ask me that question.”
Trump’s criticism of Sen. McConnell came after Congress headed to its summer recess without passing any of President Trump’s major legislative goals—including a plan to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act.
In Minnesota, Democratic Congressmember Keith Ellison on Thursday condemned President Trump for not speaking out about Saturday’s attack on the Dar Al-Farooq Islamic Center in Bloomington—an act Minnesota’s governor condemned as terrorism. Speaking to the AP, Rep. Ellison said of Trump’s silence, “It suggests that his oath to protect and defend the Constitution of the United States, including the right to equal protection under the law, only extends to people who meet certain racial and religious criteria.”
Ellison’s comments came after Sebastian Gorka, deputy assistant to the president, suggested the Minnesota mosque bombing was a “false flag” attack. Gorka was speaking Tuesday on MSNBC.
Sebastian Gorka: “There’s a great rule: All initial reports are false. You have to check them. You have to find out who the perpetrators are. We’ve had a series of crimes committed, alleged hate crimes, by right-wing individuals in the last six months, that turned out to actually have been propagated by the left. So let’s wait and see. Let’s allow the local authorities to provide their assessment, and then the White House will make its comments.”
The Jewish newspaper The Forward reports Gorka has links to a Hungarian far-right, Nazi-allied group and supported an anti-Semitic and racist paramilitary militia in Hungary while he served as a Hungarian politician.
Returning to our top story, President Trump on Thursday ramped up his threats of hitting North Korea with “fire and fury,” saying if the North were to carry out an attack on Guam, the U.S. would retaliate with military action, “the likes of which nobody has seen before.” This is President Trump speaking to reporters from inside his private golf resort in Bedminster, New Jersey.
President Donald Trump: “And I think they—it’s the first time they’ve heard it like they heard it. And frankly, the people that were questioning that statement—was it too tough? Maybe it wasn’t tough enough. They’ve been doing this to our country for a long time, for many years, and it’s about time that somebody stuck up for the people of this country and for the people of other countries.”
North Korea responded in a statement calling Trump a “senile man who can’t think rationally.” The North also detailed its threat to strike Guam, saying it would launch four intermediate-range missiles into the waters off the U.S. territory. After headlines, we’ll go to Guam to speak with a peace activist.
In Cuba, the U.S. State Department says a group of its diplomats in Havana suffered severe hearing loss that intelligence officials believe was caused by an advanced sonic device. The bizarre incidents began last fall, when workers at the U.S. Embassy in Havana began complaining of headaches and deafness. Many were forced to leave their posts early due to their illnesses. U.S. intelligence officials concluded the hearing loss was due to a sonic device operating outside the range of audible sound, which was likely planted in or around the homes of the diplomats. On Thursday, Canada said at least one of its Havana-based diplomats was treated for hearing loss, as well. Cuban officials deny any involvement and say they’re cooperating with U.S. officials to investigate the incidents. Some are talking about a possible third-country involvement.
In Russia, a court sentenced investigative journalist Alexander Sokolov to a three-and-a-half-year prison term Thursday, after he called for a referendum to make politicians more accountable. Prosecutors accused the 29-year-old of running an “extremist organization” aimed at overthrowing elected officials. This is Alexander Sokolov speaking to reporters from inside a courthouse cage, after his sentencing.
Alexander Sokolov: “The idea of a referendum is considered to be extremism in Russia. And a grave crime has been committed against us, which is hindering the referendum. It is obvious that the people of Russia are prohibited from assessing the actions of those in power. Even the thought of evaluating a president and lawmakers is considered to be extremism.”
Sokolov’s conviction and harsh sentence drew condemnation from several human rights and press freedom groups, including Reporters Without Borders, who called it “disgraceful.”
In Arizona, U.S. immigration officials took 16 LGBTQ activists into custody Thursday after they crossed into Arizona from Nogales, Mexico, seeking political asylum. The activists—four gay men and 12 transgender women—traveled from Central America in an LGBTQ “migrant caravan” aimed at combating transphobia and homophobia in Latin America. This is Kimberly, a transgender woman from Honduras, speaking Wednesday at the U.S.-Mexico border.
Kimberly: “We have fled from our countries of origin because most people do not accept us as trans girls. The mistreatment against us begins in our families, when they run us from our homes. They take us out of our homes because we are trans girls. Many of us have been abused by gang members, even by the security forces. Even the police themselves have been mistreated us, raped us, beaten us.”
Members of the LGBTQ migrant caravan called on supporters to call ICE to ask immigration officials to release the activists on humanitarian parole while their claims for asylum are processed.
In the Arabian Sea, the U.N.'s migration agency says scores of migrants are missing and feared drowned, after a pair of incidents in which human smugglers ordered migrants off their boats and into the roiling ocean off the coast of Yemen. On Thursday, the International Organization for Migration said at least 19 migrants were presumed dead after smugglers pushed them into the sea away from the coast in an effort to avoid Saudi-led patrols off the coast of Yemen. Thursday's incident came a day after another smuggler ordered 120 passengers off his boat, many of whom drowned. This is Laurent de Boeck of the International Organization for Migration.
Laurent de Boeck: “So, there were only—it’s already too many, but five bodies today. But there are 50 others that we absolutely don’t know where they are. They’re certainly still in the sea, and we have doubts that they would be alive still.”
Most of the migrants were from Somalia and Ethiopia and were seeking to travel through Yemen to Gulf states.
In Ethiopia, the charity Oxfam warns an intense drought has pushed another 700,000 people to the verge of starvation. Oxfam’s warning adds to the U.N.’s earlier estimate that at least 8.5 million Ethiopians are in need of immediate food aid. The U.N. warns that climate change has made droughts in the Horn of Africa far more common, leading to food shortages like a 2011 famine that killed as many as 260,000 people.
In more climate news, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration—NOAA—confirmed in a new report Thursday that 2016 was the hottest year on record. NOAA’s report found record heat for both land and ocean temperatures, record high sea levels, an above-average tropical cyclone season and Arctic sea ice coverage at or near record lows. NOAA also measured record high levels of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, reaching nearly 403 parts per million.
Meanwhile, in Greenland, a massive and unprecedented wildfire continues to burn nearly two weeks after dried peat first caught fire on the island’s southwest. Scientists say climate change has led to less surface water in those parts of Greenland not covered in ice.
In Lincoln, Nebraska, activists delivered over 460,000 public comments Thursday to the state’s public service commissioners, urging them to reject a permit for the proposed Keystone XL pipeline to cross the state. The pipeline, which was resurrected in March by President Trump, has faced years of resistance from Native Americans, farmers, ranchers and environmentalists.
And in New York City’s financial district, five activists were arrested Thursday as they nonviolently blocked the entrance of the investment giant Goldman Sachs. The arrests came as about 200 protesters gathered to denounce a conference between Goldman Sachs and pipeline and fossil fuel corporations.
Pete Sikora “I’m Pete Sikora, and I’m with New York Communities for Change. We’re here in front of Goldman Sachs’s headquarters to send them a message that they should not be funding oil and gas pipelines and collaborating with the Trump administration. We’re holding an image that shows Native peoples, indigenous peoples, who are under attack by Goldman Sachs and the Trump administration, who’s trying to build and finance projects like Dakota Access and Keystone XL.”
Judy Allen: “My name is Judy Allen. I’m from Putnam Valley. And we just want to show up to tell them that there’s cleaner alternatives. There’s solar. There’s wind. There’s geothermal. There’s tidal. There’s all kinds of energy. They should invest in that.”
Anastasia Skiumtalx McAllister: “My name is Skiumtalx, otherwise Anastasia. I’m from the Colville Confederated Tribes, the Entiat band. There are pipelines underneath us right now. There are pipelines being built right now. The nature is being harmed by pipelines right now. This is something that we are living. And I am here as proof that Native people will always be standing here, whether it is facing colonization through war or facing colonization through pipeline.”
Again, five people were arrested at the nonviolent civil disobedience outside the Goldman Sachs pipeline conference.