In Puerto Rico, Governor Ricardo Roselló has asked for more government aid in order to avert a total humanitarian catastrophe, six days after Hurricane Maria devastated the island. More than 3.4 million U.S. citizens in the territory remain without adequate food, water and fuel. The Category 4 storm brought record rainfall and catastrophic flooding, destroyed power lines and left the entire island in the dark. At least 13 people have died so far. San Juan Mayor Carmen Yulín Cruz said, “What we’re now seeing is that the aftermath is almost more horrific than the actual passing of the hurricane itself.”
On Monday night, President Trump appeared to blame Puerto Rico for its problems, writing, “Puerto Rico, which was already suffering from broken infrastructure & massive debt, is in deep trouble.. …It’s [sic] old electrical grid, which was in terrible shape, was devastated. Much of the Island was destroyed, with billions of dollars…. …owed to Wall Street and the banks which, sadly, must be dealt with. Food, water and medical are top priorities–and doing well.” These were Trump’s first tweets about the disaster in Puerto Rico, after Trump spent the weekend instead attacking NFL players for protesting against racism and police brutality. We’ll have more on Puerto Rico after headlines.
Tensions continue to escalate between the U.S. and North Korea. On Monday, North Korean Foreign Minister Ri Yong-ho said President Trump has declared war against North Korea.
Ri Yong-ho: “Because this comes from the current president of the United States, this is clearly a declaration of war. … All the member states participating in the United Nations General Assembly and the whole world should remember that it was the U.S. who first declared war on our country.”
Foreign Minister Ri Yong-ho also said North Korea has the right to shoot down any U.S. warplanes flying near the Korean Peninsula. The U.S. has been flying bombers off the coast of North Korea. The U.S. and South Korea also staged massive military exercises last month on the Korean Peninsula. The last time North Korea shot down a U.S. warplane was in 1969, killing all 31 crew members aboard. On Monday, the White House rejected the idea that President Trump has declared war on North Korea. This is White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders.
Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders: “We’ve not declared war on North Korea and frankly the suggestion of that is absurd.”
Reporter: “What is the White House’s reaction to North Korea’s threat to shoot down U.S. aircraft even if it’s not in their airspace?”
Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders: “It’s never appropriate for a country to shoot down another country’s aircraft when it’s over international waters. Our goal is still the same. We continue to seek the peaceful denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula. That’s our focus. Doing that through both the most maximum economic and diplomatic pressures is possible at this point.”
Monday’s escalation came one day after President Trump tweeted, “Just heard Foreign Minister of North Korea speak at U.N. If he echoes thoughts of Little Rocket Man, they won’t be around much longer!” “Little Rocket Man” is an apparent reference to North Korean leader Kim Jong-un.
On Capitol Hill, the Republicans’ latest effort to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act appears to be dead, after a third Republican senator, Susan Collins of Maine, came out against the bill. Republican Senators John McCain of Arizona and Rand Paul of Kentucky have also said they’d vote against the bill, leaving the Republicans one vote short. A preliminary analysis by the Congressional Budget Office says the Republicans’ plan, known as the Graham-Cassidy bill, would cause millions of people to lose their health insurance. On Monday, disability rights activists and healthcare advocates disrupted the one and only congressional hearing on the healthcare bill, chanting “No Cuts to Medicaid.”
Protesters: “No cuts to Medicaid! Save our liberty! No cuts to Medicaid! Save our liberty! No cuts to Medicaid!”
The Capitol Police say 181 people were arrested protesting inside the Senate Finance Committee hearing and in the halls of Congress. This is Colleen Flanagan of the disability rights group ADAPT.
Colleen Flanagan: “Save our liberty! No cuts to Medicaid! Save our liberty! No cuts to Medicaid! Save our liberty! No cuts to Medicaid! Save our liberty!”
Protests against racism, police brutality and President Trump continued to sweep the National Football League on Monday night. Members of the Arizona Cardinals locked arms, while members of the Dallas Cowboys took a knee before the anthem, along with their owner, billionaire Jerry Jones, who had previously tried to convince his players not to protest. NBA superstar LeBron James also celebrated the protests, while speaking Monday.
LeBron James: “I salute the NFL, the coaches, the players, the owners, the fans. Everyone that had anything or any association with the NFL yesterday was unbelievable. There was solidarity, and there was no—there was no divide. There was no divide, even from that guy that continues to try to divide us as people.”
In international news, the Iraqi government executed at least 42 people on Sunday, in the biggest mass execution of the year. The 42 people were hanged at a prison in the southern city of Nasiriyah. They were all Sunni Muslims convicted on terrorism charges. Amnesty International condemned the executions, saying, “Today’s mass execution is a shocking display of the Iraqi authorities’ resort to the death penalty to try to show they are responding to security threats.”
The Iraqi and Turkish armies are conducting joint military drills today, following Monday’s Iraqi Kurdish referendum on independence. Millions voted in Monday’s referendum. The results will be released this afternoon. They are expected to be resoundingly in favor of independence. The governments of Iraq, Turkey and Iran all oppose Kurdish independence in northern Iraq. On Monday, thousands of Iranian Kurds rallied in support of the Kurdish referendum vote in Iraq.
A new report by Human Rights Watch says the U.S. military killed at least 84 civilians in Syria in March, when it bombed a school and a marketplace in two towns outside Raqqa. On March 20, U.S. airstrikes hit a school where displaced people were taking shelter in the village of Mansoura. Two days later, U.S. airstrikes hit a crowded market and bakery in the city of Tabqa. Local residents told Human Rights Watch the death toll from the two attacks is likely far higher than 84 civilians, because bodies were still buried underneath the rubble.
In the Israeli-occupied West Bank, police say a Palestinian gunman shot and killed two Israeli security guards and an Israeli police officer at the entrance of the Jewish-only settlement of Har Adar. Police shot and killed the attacker. Jewish-only settlements in the occupied West Bank are considered illegal under international law.
In Peru, members of indigenous Achuar communities say they have seized control of at least 50 oil wells operated by the Canadian company Frontera Energy Corp. in the Amazon. They say they took over the wells, as well as an electric plant and oil tanks, to protest the Peruvian government’s failure to consult them about the extraction projects. They also said in a statement, “We have been living with oil pollution for 45 years, caused by the irresponsibility of the companies and the State. For decades we have seen that our waters, soils and resources are damaged with impunity.”
In Indonesia, nearly 60,000 people have been evacuated from the areas around Mount Agung on the island of Bali amid concerns the volcano could erupt within hours. The last time the volcano erupted, in 1963, more than 1,000 people were killed.
Back in the United States, The New York Times has revealed that at least six of Trump’s closest advisers—including Jared Kushner, Steve Bannon and Reince Priebus—have all used private email addresses for White House-related work. During the 2016 presidential campaign, Trump frequently attacked Hillary Clinton’s use of a private email server while she served as secretary of state, with many of Trump’s campaign rallies ending in chants of “Lock her up.” The New York Times reports Gary Cohn, Stephen Miller and Ivanka Trump have also all discussed work matters over private email addresses.
Former U.S. Army whistleblower Chelsea Manning says she’s been blocked from entering Canada. On Monday, Manning posted on Twitter a report from Canadian immigration authorities denying her entry. As a reason, it cites her 2013 court-martial conviction and reads, “if committed in Canada this offense would equate to an indictable offense, namely treason.” In response, Manning tweeted, “no walls, no borders, no bans, no deportations, no prisons. #WeGotThis.”
In Texas, an appeals court has ruled that parts of the harsh anti-immigrant law SB 4 can take effect, overruling a lower court’s decision to block much of the law, as the state continues to rebuild after Hurricane Harvey. Last month, a district judge blocked a handful of the law’s provisions, including requiring jails to hold people in custody for immigration authorities. But Monday’s ruling means jail authorities will now have to comply with most of ICE’s detainer requests. The ruling also allows Texas to enforce a part of the law that says local authorities cannot stop their employees from working with federal immigration officers. The law still faces legal challenges.
In Alabama, voters are heading to the polls today for a special Senate runoff race to fill the seat of now-Attorney General Jeff Sessions. The race between the Republican candidates, Senator Luther Strange and former state Supreme Court Justice Roy Moore, has divided both the Republican Party and the Trump administration. Strange has won the backing of the party establishment and President Trump. On Monday, Vice President Mike Pence spoke at Strange’s rally in Birmingham. President Trump has also rallied for Strange. But his rival, Roy Moore, has won the backing of former White House senior adviser Steve Bannon and the far-right wing of the Republican Party. The winner of today’s election will face Democratic nominee Doug Jones, a former U.S. attorney, in the general election in December.
Former New York Congressmember Anthony Weiner has been sentenced to 21 months in prison for sexting explicit text messages and photos of his genitals to an underage girl. Weiner stepped down from Congress in 2011 after initially lying to the public about explicit phone and internet contact with women he met online.
And in Georgia, lawyers for death row prisoner Keith Tharpe have launched a flurry of legal challenges ahead of his scheduled execution tonight at 7 p.m. local time. Tharpe, who is African-American, was convicted in 1991 of murdering his sister-in-law. Lawyers say the racial prejudice of one of the jurors violated his Sixth Amendment right to a fair trial. In an interview after the trial, the juror used the N-word and asked “if black people even have souls.” His lawyers also say his execution would be illegal because Tharpe is intellectually disabled. The state Board of Pardons and Paroles denied him clemency on Monday night, but several legal challenges are still pending.