In Mexico, a massive 7.1-magnitude quake struck 100 miles southeast of Mexico City Tuesday, collapsing dozens of buildings around the capital city and trapping schoolchildren, workers and residents beneath the rubble. The government said this morning at least 217 people are dead, but that number is expected to rise as rescuers with sniffer dogs work to cut through collapsed structures. Among the dead are at least 21 students at a primary school in southern Mexico City and 15 worshipers who died during a Catholic mass when the earthquake triggered an eruption at a volcano southeast of the city. The disaster struck just hours after an earthquake preparedness drill held to mark the 32nd anniversary of a 1985 earthquake that killed 5,000 people. It came less than two weeks after the most powerful earthquake in a century struck near the coast of the southern state of Oaxaca, killing at least 90 people and leveling thousands of homes.
In the Caribbean, Hurricane Maria struck the U.S. territory of Puerto Rico this morning as a major Category 4 storm—the most powerful hurricane to make landfall there since 1928. The eye of the storm made landfall on the island’s south and is headed for the capital, San Juan, home to 400,000 people. Overnight, Maria lashed the U.S. Virgin Islands, threatening to turn rubble and debris left over from Hurricane Irma into deadly projectiles. In Dominica, where Maria struck late Monday, over 90 percent of buildings were left damaged or destroyed in what the country’s prime minister called “mind-boggling” devastation. We’ll have more on Hurricane Maria and the earthquake in Mexico after headlines.
President Trump gave his first address to the U.N. General Assembly Tuesday, boasting about the size of the U.S. military, threatening to withdraw from the Iran nuclear deal, hinting at an intervention in Venezuela and threatening to “totally destroy” North Korea. The 40-minute speech was reportedly written by Trump’s senior adviser Stephen Miller and did not call out other authoritarian countries that are U.S. allies, including Egypt, Turkey and Saudi Arabia. In his sharpest of many threats, Trump called North Korean leader Kim Jong-un “Rocket Man” and said the U.S. was prepared to destroy an entire nation of 25 million people.
President Donald Trump: “The United States has great strength and patience, but if it is forced to defend itself or its allies, we will have no choice but to totally destroy North Korea. Rocket Man is on a suicide mission for himself and for his regime.”
North Korea’s ambassador walked out of the General Assembly just as Trump took the podium. Iran’s government condemned Trump’s remarks as “shameless and ignorant,” while Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro said from Caracas that Trump is the “new Hitler” of international politics.
Trump’s U.N. speech came a day after the U.S. Senate voted 89 to 8 to approve a $700 billion bill to fund U.S. wars and the Pentagon. The National Defense Authorization Act for fiscal year 2018 would boost military spending by $80 billion annually—far more than the $54 billion increase President Trump asked for. Critics note the spending boost is nearly double the cost of a bill sponsored by Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders that would make public colleges and universities in the U.S. tuition-free.
In Syria, at least three hospitals were hit by airstrikes Tuesday in the rebel-controlled province of Idlib, killing medical workers and cutting off access to healthcare for thousands of residents. Residents blamed either Russian or Syrian warplanes for the attacks. Meanwhile, the battle continues in Raqqa, where the local journalistic monitoring group Raqqa Is Being Slaughtered Silently reports U.S.-led coalition airstrikes have struck the Al-Shomati mosque and a college in Raqqa in recent days.
In Nigeria, the United Nations is warning of a new cholera outbreak in Borno state that’s killed at least 44 people and sickened about 2,300 others. The U.N. says the waterborne disease is spreading rapidly due to squalid conditions in camps for the 1.8 million people who have been displaced by fighting between the Nigerian government and Boko Haram. The new outbreak comes as the World Health Organization says the number of cholera cases in Yemen has reached 700,000, with some 40,000 suspected infections in the last week alone. And health groups warn Haiti could face new cholera cases due to flooding from Hurricanes Irma and Maria.
In Burma, the country’s de facto leader and Nobel Peace laureate Aung San Suu Kyi broke her silence Tuesday on the plight of the Rohingya Muslim minority, after more than 400,000 refugees crossed into neighboring Bangladesh in recent weeks, fleeing government-sponsored violence. During her address, Suu Kyi refused to criticize the Burmese military’s conduct—which the United Nations has called a “textbook example of ethnic cleansing.”
Aung San Suu Kyi: “I understand that many of our friends throughout the world are concerned by reports of villages being burned and of hordes of refugees fleeing. There have been no conflicts since the 5th of September and no clearance operations. We, too, are concerned. We want to find out what the real problems are. There have been allegations and counter-allegations, and we have to listen to all of them. And we have to make sure that these allegations are based on solid evidence, before we take action.”
In response, Amnesty International said in a statement, “Aung San Suu Kyi today demonstrated that she and her government are still burying their heads in the sand over the horrors unfolding in Rakhine State. At times, her speech amounted to little more than a mix of untruths and victim blaming.” We’ll have more on the crisis in Burma later in the broadcast.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan says President Donald Trump called him last week to apologize, after a grand jury indicted 15 members of Erdogan’s security detail on felony charges for attacking a group of peaceful protesters in Washington, D.C., last May. Video from the scene shows President Erdogan looking on during the assault outside the Turkish ambassador’s residence, which came just after Erdogan was welcomed to the White House by President Trump. This is Erdogan speaking with ”PBS NewsHour.”
President Recep Tayyip Erdogan: “I’m very sorry about that. Actually, President Trump called me about a week ago about this issue. He said that he was sorry, and he told me that he was going to follow up on this issue when we come to the United States within the framework of an official visit. The protesters were insulting us, and they were screaming and shouting. The police failed to intervene properly.”
It’s not clear if Erdogan gave the order for the attack, which left nine anti-Erdogan protesters hospitalized.
In privacy news, the credit monitoring company Equifax has admitted a security failure left personal information exposed to hackers last March—in a data breach separate from one reported earlier this month that exposed the private information of 143 million people. The latest breach involves employee tax records and threatens to spawn a rash of phony tax returns, as identity thieves may seek to steal tax refunds. Public filings show Equifax spent $1.1 million last year—and over $500,000 so far this year—lobbying Congress for legislation that would limit the amount Equifax would be forced to pay over data breaches.
And in New York City, three Democratic members of Congress were among 10 activists arrested at a nonviolent civil disobedience action outside Trump Tower Tuesday, as they protested President Trump’s plan to rescind DACA—an immigration program that shields 800,000 young immigrants from deportation. Among those arrested were Congressmembers Luis Gutiérrez of Illinois and Raúl Grijalva of Arizona.
Rep. Luis Gutiérrez: “We’re going to Donald Trump’s residence here in New York City, and we’re going to denounce the end of DACA, and we’re going to demand justice for our immigrant community, and for him to end his white supremacist, xenophobic attacks against our community.”
Rep. Raúl Grijalva: “You have to make the point. The point is that we need a clean DREAM Act, and we need it to be done immediately, and there’s urgency to it.”
Melissa Mark-Viverito: “We are here united. We are not going to stand for bigoted policies that rip our families apart. That is not what this nation is about, and that is not what this nation supports.”
That last voice was Melissa Mark-Viverito, speaker of the New York City Council, who was also arrested Tuesday along with Congressmember Adriano Espaillat of New York during the nonviolent civil disobedience action outside Trump Tower. To see Democracy Now!'s full report on Tuesday's protest in support of DACA and undocumented DREAMers, and our interview with Congressmember Luis Gutiérrez, visit our website at democracynow.org.