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Tension between the U.S. and North Korea escalated sharply Tuesday after President Trump suggested he was prepared to start a nuclear war, threatening to unleash “fire and fury” against North Korea.
President Donald Trump: “North Korea best not make any more threats to the United States. They will be met with fire and fury like the world has never seen. He has been very threatening, beyond a normal statement. And as I said, they will be met with fire, fury and, frankly, power, the likes of which this world has never seen before. Thank you.”
Hours later, North Korea threatened to strike the U.S. territory of Guam in the western Pacific. Guam is home to 163,000 people as well as multiple major U.S. military bases. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson is traveling to Guam today amid the escalating tensions. In response to the threats, China has called on all sides to de-escalate their rhetoric, with the China Ministry of Foreign Affairs issuing a statement encouraging the U.S. and North Korea to “avoid remarks and actions that could aggravate conflicts and escalate tensions.”
The threat of nuclear war between the U.S. and North Korea has been escalating in recent weeks. Over the weekend, the U.N. Security Council imposed a new round of sanctions against North Korea over its test launches of two intercontinental ballistic missiles last month. The sanctions ban North Korean exports of coal, iron, lead and seafood, which could slash up to one-third of the country’s export revenue.
Meanwhile, The Washington Post reported Tuesday North Korea has successfully produced a miniaturized nuclear warhead that can fit inside its missiles. The Post said the finding was made by U.S. intelligence officials in a confidential assessment. In North Korea on Tuesday, residents spoke out against the sanctions and threats by the United States.
Kim Yong Kun: “The so-called big countries, which have fabricated the sanctions, are the ones who have conducted most of the nuclear tests and test launches of intercontinental ballistic missiles whenever they want. We cannot ever accept such illegal resolution, which are trying to incriminate the development of our self-defensive nuclear force.”
This morning, North Korea also released imprisoned Canadian pastor Hyeon Soo Lim, who was the longest-held Western prisoner in North Korea.
The escalating tension comes as, in Japan, residents marked the 72nd anniversary of the U.S. atomic bombings of Nagasaki on August 9, 1945, and Hiroshima on August 6, 1945. Over the weekend, nearly 50,000 residents and world leaders gathered to mark the anniversary of the Hiroshima bombing, which killed 140,000 people. This is Hiroshima Mayor Kazumi Matsui, calling for dialogue to avoid nuclear war.
Mayor Kazumi Matsui: “The government should work in earnest to act as a bridge between nuclear and non-nuclear states and manifest the pacifism which is upheld in Japan’s Constitution, so that the ratification of a nuclear weapons convention can be promoted.”
We’ll have more on the rising tensions between the U.S. and North Korea after headlines.
In news on Syria, former top war crimes prosecutor Carla del Ponte has quit the United Nations Independent Commission of Inquiry on Syria, saying the U.N. Security Council lacks the political will to bring the perpetrators of war crimes to justice. Del Ponte formerly served as a war crimes prosecutor in tribunals on Rwanda and Yugoslavia. She said, “Right now it looks as if President Bashar al-Assad will escape justice if we want to negotiate peace. … But one day he will have to face justice. Justice must do its work because without justice there is no real peace.”
Meanwhile, Syrian human rights lawyer Noura Ghazi Safadi has announced that her husband, prominent Syrian-Palestinian internet activist Bassel Khartabil, was executed by the Assad regime in 2015. The news of his death has sparked international outcry and mourning, particularly among internet activists. Khartabil was an open-source software programmer who fought for an open internet and helped Syrians evade regime censorship and surveillance. In 2012, Foreign Policy magazine listed him as the 19th most influential thinker of the year for “insisting, against all odds, on a peaceful Syrian revolution.” He was arrested by the Syrian military in 2012 in Damascus.
The White House is considering an unprecedented plan to privatize the war in Afghanistan at the urging of Erik Prince, founder of the now-defunct private mercenary firm Blackwater. Prince told USA Today the plan would include sending 5,500 private mercenaries to Afghanistan to advise the Afghan army. It would also include deploying a private air force—with at least 90 aircraft—to carry out the bombing campaign against Taliban insurgents. Prince says the plan would cost $10 billion a year of taxpayer money, which would presumably be funneled directly to private mercenary firms. The Trump administration is divided over the plan, with Trump’s chief strategist Steve Bannon supporting it, and national security adviser H.R. McMaster and Defense Secretary Jim Mattis—both former military generals—opposing the plan. The plan’s consideration comes as a federal appeals court has overturned the prison sentences of former Blackwater contractors who were involved in a 2007 massacre in Nisoor Square in central Baghdad, killing 17 civilians when they opened fire with machine guns and threw grenades into the crowded public space.
The International Red Cross has issued a rare statement saying it is “extremely alarmed” by the recent wave of airstrikes in Yemen, which have killed dozens of civilians and hit homes and public spaces such as markets. The airstrikes are being carried out by the U.S.-backed, Saudi-led coalition. This comes as the U.N. is calling on the Saudis to end its year-long blockade of Yemen’s main airport, demanding commercial flights be allowed to bring in aid and allow sick patients out. The blockade and bombing of Yemen’s hospitals and critical infrastructure has sparked the world’s worst cholera epidemic.
Vice News is reporting that President Trump receives a 20-page propaganda folder twice a day filled with positive news—about himself. Three current and former White House officials who spoke with Vice News said the folder includes positive tweets, fawning news stories and sometimes even just photos of Trump looking good on television. According to the article, the propaganda file had been delivered personally by former Chief of Staff Reince Priebus or former White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer. Spicer has disputed the article, although he refused to say which parts are inaccurate.
President Trump has retweeted a Fox News article that includes classified information leaked to a reporter by anonymous U.S. officials. The article is about the military activities of North Korea. Trump’s retweet comes as he and his attorney general, Jeff Sessions, have launched an administration-wide crackdown on leakers and journalists.
In technology news, a sexist manifesto written by a former Google engineer has sparked outrage for claiming that women are biologically inferior, making them less capable of assuming leadership roles in the tech industry. In the manifesto, now fired Google software engineer James Damore also argued against programs to promote more women and workers of color in the tech industry. Damore emailed his manifesto to his co-workers on Friday, sparking widespread condemnation.
The American Civil Liberties Union has filed a lawsuit against Maine Governor Paul LePage over his practice of deleting comments and blocking people from his official Facebook page in order to censor dissent. The ACLU says, “Free speech must be protected from government censorship on Facebook just as is it in any other public forum.”
In Kenya, early election results show current President Uhuru Kenyatta leading the vote against his challenger, former Prime Minister Raila Odinga. Odinga is disputing the news, claiming an overnight hacking effort has manipulated the election results. Odinga’s supporters organized a handful of protests as the election results were released. Some fear the election may spark violence in the coming days.
The United Nations is warning there are early signs of a possible genocide in the Central African Republic, as violence in the country continues to worsen. In May, fighting between various militias killed at least 300 people and displaced 100,000 more. The Central African Republic has been plunged into violence since 2013, much of it sparked by a three-year-long military intervention by the country’s former colonial ruler, France, aimed at ousting a Muslim-majority rebel group from power.
Meanwhile, the United Nations is also warning of a humanitarian crisis in the Democratic Republic of the Congo amid fighting between the government and rebel groups. The U.N. has accused the government forces of carrying out massacres that could spiral into ethnic cleansing. Opposition groups in the Congo have launched a general strike in order to demand new elections by the end of the year. This is market seller Maman Jeanne, who backs the call for new elections.
Maman Jeanne: “Sir, they want to kill us for our own country. They are just lying to us. They distract us. But we want to have elections being organized, so we, the people, could elect someone to be our president, someone in whom we can trust, so our children would have a better life. This is what we want. We do not need wars or useless conflicts. We really do not need that. We just want to have elections being organized. That’s all I have to say.”
In Tunisia, a group of fishermen have stopped a ship of far-right, anti-immigrant European activists from docking, in a protest aimed at preventing the ship from carrying out its goal of blocking boats of refugees from reaching Europe. The boat, called the C-Star, is manned by white far-right-wing activists with the French group Generation Identity. In response to its planned docking to refuel at Tunisia’s Zarzis harbor, workers and fishermen organized protests and vowed to blockade the refueling channel, forcing the ship to turn away. One port official told the BBC, “Us let in racists here? Never.”
In Bolivia, environmentalists and community leaders have launched emergency protests against the government’s move to resurrect plans to build a controversial highway through indigenous territories and a national park in the Amazon. Opponents of the highway say it will further the deforestation of the Amazon and destroy the land and livelihoods of indigenous communities. Widespread protests defeated the plan in 2011, but the Bolivian Congress has voted to revoke the protections won in 2011. This is indigenous leader Fernando Vargas.
Fernando Vargas: “With the approval, the destruction of the habitat of the indigenous people—the Moxeños, Yuracaré and Tsimané—has begun. Secondly, this is the start of the destruction not only of the TIPNIS national park, but also of the 22 protected areas nationally and of indigenous territories. Therefore, the indigenous people, we’re going to make our territory and our habitat be respected.”
In Ferguson, Missouri, dozens of people gathered Tuesday night to build a memorial on the spot where unarmed African-American teenager Michael Brown was killed by white police officer Darren Wilson three years ago today, sparking an uprising in Ferguson and nationwide protests against police brutality. The memorial of teddy bears, candles and handwritten notes sits on the exact spot where Michael Brown’s body lay in the street for more than four hours after the fatal shooting.
And beloved Mexican cartoonist Eduardo del Río, known to the world as Rius, has died. For five decades, Rius authored dozens of books and thousands of comic strips satirizing politicians; educating people about politics, environmentalism and history; and expressing solidarity with revolutionary movements across Latin America. He’s the author of the best-selling book “Marx for Beginners.” He died in Morelos, Mexico, at the age of 83.