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In Mexico, the death toll from the massive, magnitude 7.1 earthquake has risen to 250 people, as rescue workers continue to search for missing people amid the rubble. The earthquake struck just hours after residents participated in an earthquake preparedness drill marking the 32nd anniversary of a 1985 earthquake that killed 5,000 people. Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto has declared three days of national mourning. Tuesday’s quake caused dozens of buildings and at least one school to collapse. On Wednesday, residents gathered at the site of collapsed buildings, hoping for news about their missing family members.
Vanessa Rivera Rosales: “I am Vanessa Rivera Rosales, and I am looking for my brother in this building that fell down. He worked here, and we don’t know where he his. They told me that he is in a hospital with his wife, that they were able to get out of the building. But that is not true. His wife is in critical condition, but we don’t know if my brother went to look for my sister-in-law or where he is. We have been calling him, and it rings, but he doesn’t answer. If he was OK, he would have answered. This is all very sad. And we truly ask people to help us with supplies and water for all those that are here, and, if they know anything about Jaime Rivera Rosales, that they let us know, please.”
Millions of people are without power in Puerto Rico, after Hurricane Maria made landfall Wednesday as a Category 4 storm. It was the most powerful hurricane to hit the island in nearly a century. Maria brought record rainfall and catastrophic flooding to Puerto Rico. The National Weather Service warned early this morning of flash flooding risks across the entire island. Puerto Rico’s Governor Ricardo Roselló says at least one person has died on Puerto Rico and that the death toll may rise when communication with the southeastern part of the island is re-established. Meanwhile, the death toll on the island nation of Dominica has risen to 14 people. Maria caused widespread devastation there when it made landfall as a Category 5 storm. The storm also destroyed parts of the U.S. and British Virgin Islands and killed two people on the French island of Guadeloupe. Early this morning, Maria passed just north of the Dominican Republic and Haiti, lashing the island with winds up to 115 miles an hour. It’s now gathering strength as it barrels toward Turks and Caicos and the Bahamas.
At the United Nations headquarters in New York City, dozens of countries have signed on to a landmark treaty to ban nuclear weapons worldwide. The United Nations calls it the world’s first legally binding treaty banning nuclear weapons. It prohibits the development, testing and possession of nuclear weapons, as well as using or threatening to use these weapons. The treaty was approved by 122 U.N. member states in July, despite heavy U.S. opposition to the treaty. Following the treaty’s approval, the U.S., Britain and France published a joint statement saying they “have not taken part in the negotiation of the treaty … and do not intend to sign, ratify or ever become party to it.” The treaty will take effect 90 days after 50 U.N. member states have ratified it.
Meanwhile, President Trump told reporters Wednesday that he’s made a decision about whether he’ll take action to undo the landmark 2015 Iran nuclear deal—but refused to say what his plans are. NBC is reporting, based on unnamed sources, that Trump is leaning toward decertifying the deal, even though Secretary of State Rex Tillerson acknowledged on Wednesday that Iran is in compliance with the deal. All other parties to the Iran nuclear deal also agree Iran is in compliance. This is the European Union’s foreign policy chief, Federica Mogherini.
Federica Mogherini: “It has been a frank, open and in-depth discussion, during which we have agreed on the fact that all sides are implementing, so far, fully the agreement.”
On Wednesday, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani slammed Trump’s threats to undo the landmark deal.
President Hassan Rouhani: “I really don’t know whether a country or a power or an individual who tries to back out of this agreement, other than bringing embarrassment upon themselves, they will gain nothing from it. If the United States government exits the agreement, undoubtedly it will be condemned by the American people themselves. And before that, by the European Union, by all countries throughout the world, the condemnation will be equal. And even the allies of the United States will no longer have the courage to support America vis-à-vis this issue.”
President Trump met with Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi on Wednesday. Ahead of the meeting, Trump said he’s considering resuming military aid to Egypt. Last month, the U.S. denied Egypt nearly $100 million in military funding and other aid, and withheld another nearly $200 million in foreign military financing, saying the money would be released when the human rights conditions improve. Sisi’s government has launched a wide-ranging crackdown against human rights activists and press freedom advocates in Egypt.
Former President Barack Obama has slammed the Republicans’ latest effort to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act.
Barack Obama: “When I see people trying to undo that hard-won progress, for the 50th or 60th time, with bills that would raise costs or reduce coverage, or roll back protections for older Americans or people with pre-existing conditions, the cancer survivor, the expecting mom or the child with autism or asthma, for whom coverage once again would be almost unattainable, it is aggravating. And all of this being done without any demonstrable economic or actuarial or plain commonsense rationale, it frustrates.”
That was former President Obama, speaking Wednesday at an event sponsored by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. On Wednesday, the health insurance industry also came out against the Republicans’ plan, known as the Graham-Cassidy bill, warning it could cause chaos in the healthcare industry. Meanwhile, President Trump tweeted a flurry of support for the plan throughout the day, tweeting, “I hope Republican Senators will vote for Graham-Cassidy and fulfill their promise to Repeal & Replace ObamaCare. Money direct to States!’” Later he tweeted, “I would not sign Graham-Cassidy if it did not include coverage of pre-existing conditions. It does! A great Bill. Repeal & Replace.” In fact, healthcare experts say there is no guarantee the Graham-Cassidy bill will protect people with pre-existing conditions.
California has sued President Trump over the construction of his proposed border wall, saying the administration is not complying with state and federal environmental laws. This is California Attorney General Xavier Becerra.
Xavier Becerra: “The border between the U.S. and Mexico spans some 2,000 miles. The list of laws violated by the president’s administration in order to build his campaign wall is almost as long. The Department of Homeland Security would waive 37 federal statutes, as well as regulations that are related to those statutes, and he would also violate numerous state and local laws here in our great state of California.”
In the West African nation of Togo, hundreds of thousands of people took to the streets across the country on Wednesday to demand an end to decades of rule by the Gnassingbé family dynasty. Security forces attacked the protesters, shooting live bullets and tear gas into the crowds. Amnesty International says military forces shot a 9-year-old boy in the head, killing him, during the crackdown. Wednesday’s protest is the latest in weeks of massive demonstrations demanding President Faure Gnassingbé’s ouster and the reinstatement of constitutional term limits in Togo.
The Spanish government has dramatically escalated its crackdown against an upcoming independence referendum in Catalonia. On Wednesday, the Spanish police raided the Catalan regional government’s offices and arrested at least 14 people. The arrests prompted thousands of people to pour into the streets of Barcelona to protest the crackdown. About a thousand more protesters gathered for a solidarity rally in Spain’s capital, Madrid. The referendum is scheduled for October 1. The Spanish government says the referendum is illegal. This is Catalan President Carles Puigdemont.
President Carles Puigdemont: “These days, and especially today, the Spanish government has de facto suspended the self-rule of Catalonia and has de facto applied a state of emergency. … Freedom is being suspended and repressed. The government of Catalonia will analyze in the coming hours, with economic and social and civic institutions, the appropriate response to give. In any case, citizens are called to vote on October 1 to defend democracy before a repressive and intimidating regime, which we have, to give a massive and civic response.”
In Croatia, billboards depicting first lady Melania Trump have been removed, after she threatened a lawsuit. The billboards advertised an English-language school by showing an image of Melania Trump, along with the phrase “Just imagine how far you can go with a little bit of English.”
Back in the United States, former TV commentator Scottie Nell Hughes sued Fox News Monday, saying she was raped by longtime anchor Charles Payne and then coerced into maintaining a sexual relationship with him in exchange for airtime and career opportunities. In her lawsuit, Hughes says she was blacklisted by Fox News in 2016 after she ended the relationship and came forward with rape allegations. Fox News denied the charges, calling them “bogus” and “downright shameful.” It’s the latest sexual abuse scandal to rock the network. Host Eric Bolling was suspended last month amid accusations that he texted unwanted photos of his genitals to female co-workers. Former Fox News star Bill O’Reilly was fired in April amid revelations that he and Fox News had paid out $13 million to settle lawsuits by five women who accused O’Reilly of sexual harassment and inappropriate sexual behavior. And longtime Fox News head Roger Ailes was ousted last year after more than 20 women accused him of sexual harassment.
In North Dakota, local judges are petitioning the North Dakota Supreme Court to end a program that allows out-of-state lawyers to represent the hundreds of water protectors who were arrested amid the months-long resistance at Standing Rock against the Dakota Access pipeline. The Water Protector Legal Collective says ending the program could leave more than 100 water protectors without legal representation. More than 300 people are still facing criminal charges. The North Dakota Supreme Court is currently accepting comments on the proposal to end the right for water protectors to have representation from out-of-state lawyers.
And prominent Palestinian activist Rasmea Odeh has been deported from the United States, after living in the U.S. for more than 20 years. Odeh was convicted of immigration fraud in 2014 and sentenced to 18 months in prison and deportation for failing to disclose her conviction on bombing charges by an Israeli military court more than 40 years ago. Odeh says her conviction, more than 40 years ago, was obtained through weeks of torture and sexual assault in Israeli custody. Her supporters say she was targeted over her support for Palestinian liberation. On Tuesday, Rasmea Odeh addressed the crowd of friends and supporters who gathered at Chicago’s O’Hare Airport to say goodbye before she was deported to Jordan.
Rasmea Odeh: “I will continue in my struggle, and we will continue to contact each other, because our struggle is one struggle, wherever we are going. It’s difficult for me, not because they just want to take deportation, decision to deport me from the country, but to separate me from all of you and from all the people that I love, and they love me.”