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In Texas, Tropical Storm Harvey made a second landfall Wednesday near the border with Louisiana, bringing more rain and catastrophic flooding to the Gulf Coast as the death toll from the unprecedented storm rose to at least 38. On Thursday, the city of Port Arthur, Texas, which is 100 miles east of Houston, was completely underwater. Flooding even forced the city to evacuate one of its own shelters set up for people who had fled their homes. Port Arthur is home to the largest oil refinery in the nation. Meanwhile, a mandatory evacuation was ordered this morning for several subdivisions west of Houston near the Barker Reservoir area, which has already reached capacity. Up to 40,000 homes may been destroyed and a half-million cars totaled in the storm, with more than 32,000 people currently in shelters across Texas. Governor Greg Abbott said Wednesday the storm will likely be the most expensive disaster in U.S. history.
Gov. Greg Abbott: “My recollection is that the Katrina funding was well over $100 billion. I want to say it was over $125 billion. And so, if we go on a parallel standard, it should be far in excess of that amount.”
Elsewhere in Texas, a pair of explosions rocked the Arkema chemical plant northeast of Houston early Thursday, lighting the night sky and sending thick black smoke into the air. The Harris County Sheriff’s Office says 10 deputies were hospitalized after inhaling fumes. Officials had already evacuated residents within a one-and-a-half-mile radius of the plant in the town of Crosby, after it lost primary and backup power to its coolant system. The plant is believed to produce highly volatile chemicals known as organic peroxides, but the company’s CEO has refused to state precisely which chemicals were produced or how much of them were onsite at the time of the explosions.
Defence Secretary James Mattis said Wednesday the U.S. is “never out of diplomatic solutions” in dealing with North Korea—contradicting Donald Trump just minutes after the president tweeted, “The U.S. has been talking to North Korea, and paying them extortion money, for 25 years. Talking is not the answer!” On Thursday, the U.S. flew two nuclear-capable B-1 bombers near the Demilitarized Zone separating North and South Korea, accompanied by South Korean fighter jets. Meanwhile, North Korean state media warned that its test of a new missile fired over Japan this week was a prelude to more military operations directed at the U.S. territory of Guam.
Back in Texas, a federal judge on Wednesday blocked implementation of Texas’s new anti-immigrant law just two days before it was set to take effect. The ruling by U.S. District Judge Orlando Garcia is temporary and will give opponents of the law time to mount a court challenge. SB 4 would make it a misdemeanor for local police to limit cooperation with federal immigration agents. It also would ban “sanctuary cities” in Texas and allow officers to ask about the immigration status of anyone they detain. The law’s scheduled implementation raised concerns that many immigrants in Texas are not coming forward to seek help amid flooding from Hurricane Harvey because they fear being detained and deported.
In New York, hundreds of protesters marched to Trump Tower in Midtown Manhattan Wednesday, calling on the Trump administration not to cancel DACA—an immigration policy that protects nearly 800,000 undocumented immigrants who were brought to the U.S. as children. Trump is reportedly considering ending the 5-year-old program, after attorneys general from 10 states threatened to sue if the administration doesn’t end DACA by September 5. This is Angie Kim, a DACA recipient.
Angie Kim: “So, I come from a generation where it was before DACA, before we even had—used words like 'undocumented.' Right? So I know what it’s like to live life in a limbo where you don’t have the ability to work, make a living, support your family, go to school. So DACA meant everything to me. And now, five years later, I think I’m sort of back in that place where my life is back in limbo.”
The American Civil Liberties Union is warning that the Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency—ICE—is seeking permission to destroy 11 types of records, including information on sexual assaults by ICE officers, solitary confinement of prisoners and even the deaths of people in ICE custody. Immigrants’ rights activists say the request by ICE to the National Archives and Records Administration is aimed at covering up the agency’s track record of human rights abuses.
On Capitol Hill, Democratic members of the House Judiciary Committee are demanding a hearing into why President Trump pardoned the notorious racist Arizona Sheriff Joe Arpaio, who was convicted of contempt of court for defying a court order to stop his deputies from racial profiling. All 17 Democratic members of the committee signed a letter to Republican Chair Bob Goodlatte, calling the pardon a “gross injustice” and saying it’s “highly problematic for the President to simply dismiss a pending criminal matter.” The letter came as a federal judge refused to throw out Arpaio’s conviction for contempt of court—even though Trump’s pardon will keep him out of prison—ordering Arpaio to appear in court on October 4. Arpaio’s attorneys had asked U.S. District Judge Susan Bolton to vacate her finding that Arpaio is guilty of a crime.
In Afghanistan, a U.S. airstrike destroyed a home in the southeastern province of Logar Wednesday, killing at least 11 civilians and injuring 16 others. One resident put the death toll higher, saying at least 28 civilians were dead. The assault came just two days after airstrikes killed more than a dozen civilians in the western province of Herat on Monday. Meanwhile, the Pentagon said Wednesday the number of U.S. troops in Afghanistan has increased to more than 11,000—thousands more than previously known.
In Yemen, U.S.-backed Saudi coalition warplanes attacked a checkpoint outside the capital Sana’a Wednesday, killing at least five civilians. Witnesses said the attack came out of the blue.
Aly Abdullah: “We were surprised by the missile falling on the checkpoint, which injured innocent people in their car while they were on their way to celebrate the Eid holiday.”
The latest civilian deaths came as human rights groups asked the U.N. to establish an independent inquiry into war crimes and human rights abuses in the Yemen conflict, which the U.N. says has killed more than 5,000 civilians since March of 2015. The U.S.-backed, Saudi-led war and naval blockade has decimated Yemen’s health and sanitation infrastructure and has left 7 million Yemenis on the brink of starvation, while a cholera epidemic has killed more than 2,000 people and sickened more than a half-million others.
In Bangladesh, aid groups say more than 18,000 refugees from the majority-Muslim Rohingya community have fled violence in neighboring Burma in recent days, with thousands more trapped at the border and attempting to cross. The mass exodus came after Burmese security forces stormed Rohingya towns, opening fire on civilians, torching homes and forcing thousands to flee. Many of those arriving in Bangladesh Wednesday arrived sick or with bullet wounds.
Noor Symon: “The Buddhists are killing us with bullets. They burned our houses and tried to shoot us. They killed my husband with a bullet!”
Rohingya have long faced persecution and violence in Burma, where they are denied citizenship.
Back in the United States, another suspect in the brutal beating of a young African-American man during a white supremacist rally has been arrested. Thirty-three-year-old Alex Michael Ramos was arrested in Georgia and charged with malicious wounding for allegedly attacking anti-racist protester Deandre Harris during the Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, earlier this month. Photos and video show at least six white supremacists punching, kicking and beating Harris with large metal poles. Later in the broadcast, we’ll speak with Deandre Harris’s lawyer and a journalist who witnessed the beating.
Meanwhile, dozens of people are participating in a 100-mile march from Charlottesville, Virginia, to Washington, D.C. The marchers are demanding that Charlottesville Mayor Mike Signer resign, all Confederate monuments be removed and charges be dropped against people who were arrested protesting against a Ku Klux Klan, neo-Nazi and white supremacist rally in Charlottesville. They’re also demanding an end to stop-and-frisk, the cash-bail system and militarized policing.
A top United Nations official said Wednesday that Donald Trump is inciting violence against journalists, warning that freedom of the press is under attack from the president of the United States. U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad al-Hussein was speaking in Geneva.
Zeid Ra’ad al-Hussein: “And to call these news organizations 'fake' does tremendous damage. And to refer to individual journalists in this way, I have to ask the question: Is this not an incitement for others to attack journalists? And let’s assume a journalist is harmed from one of these organizations. Does the president then not bear responsibility for this, for having fanned this?”
U.N. High Commissioner Zeid also cited Trump’s attacks on women, Mexicans, Muslims and disabled and transgender people, warning Trump’s comments will embolden his supporters to sharpen their assaults on those communities.
The Los Angeles City Council voted Wednesday to eliminate Columbus Day from the city’s calendar and replace it with an annual holiday marking Indigenous Peoples Day, in an acknowledgement of the genocide that took place as European powers colonized the Americas. Wednesday’s 14-1 vote makes the second Monday of each October a day to commemorate “indigenous, aboriginal and native people.” Columbus has long faced criticism for massacring and enslaving Arawak indigenous people, and for opening the door to the European colonization of the Americas.
And members of the racial justice group Southerners on New Ground are bailing out black women in Atlanta and other Southern cities this week in order to celebrate Black August and call for an end to the cash-bail system. The action follows a similar nationwide “Black Mama’s Bail Out Day” in May, aimed at freeing as many black women from jail as possible in time for a Mother’s Day celebration with their families.