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In the Caribbean, at least 10 people are dead after Hurricane Irma, the largest Atlantic hurricane on record, brought devastation to small islands as it barreled toward the Dominican Republic, Haiti, Cuba and South Florida. The eye of the Category 5 storm struck the islands of Saint Martin and Anguilla Wednesday with sustained winds of 185 miles an hour, leveling more than 90 percent of all structures. On Barbuda, the prime minister declared the island “practically uninhabitable” and warned the entire population may need to be evacuated, as another storm—Hurricane Jose—could strike over the weekend. In Puerto Rico, more than a million people have lost power, as authorities warned some areas could be dark for up to six months, partly because the island’s electrical infrastructure has gone neglected due to Puerto Rico’s debt crisis. In Haiti, hundreds of residents of a tent city in the capital Port-au-Prince who were left homeless after a 2010 earthquake appealed to the government for shelter from the approaching storm.
Barthelemy Jeffline: “I have no place to go. I have to stay here. I will live or die, depending on how this storm hits us. If God wants to help us, he will. But we have no place to go.”
In Florida, more than 100,000 people have been told to evacuate their homes as some computer models predict Irma could make a direct hit on Miami as a Category 4 storm. Climate scientists say warmer ocean temperatures due to climate change likely added to Hurricane Irma’s power. We’ll have more on Hurricane Irma and climate change after headlines, as we speak with climate activist Bill McKibben.
In Texas, family members of prisoners in the flood-ravaged city of Beaumont say their loved ones were left for days in flooded cells with inadequate food, water and medical care after prison officials failed to evacuate them ahead of Hurricane Harvey. According to at least seven relatives of prisoners at the Beaumont Federal Correctional Complex, some cells filled with water calf-deep, temperatures spiked to nearly 100 degrees as air conditioners failed, and prisoners wrapped towels over their noses to avoid the stench of sewage from backed-up toilets.
In Washington, D.C., the House of Representatives voted 419 to 3 Wednesday to provide nearly $8 billion in initial emergency aid for relief and rebuilding from Hurricane Harvey, as Texas struggles to recover from what’s set to become the most expensive natural disaster in U.S. history. The relief bill is on track to go to President Trump for his signature by Friday, just ahead of Hurricane Irma’s expected landfall in South Florida.
President Trump traveled to North Dakota Wednesday to pitch a tax plan that would overwhelmingly favor the wealthiest Americans, while touting his administration’s role in slashing environmental protections and promoting the fossil fuel industry. Trump made the remarks at an oil refinery in Mandan, across the Missouri River from the state capital, Bismarck.
President Donald Trump: “In order to protect American industry and workers, we withdrew the United States from the job-killing Paris climate accord. Job killer. People have no idea. Many people have no idea how bad that was. And right here in North Dakota, the Dakota Access pipeline is finally open for business.”
Trump also touted his move to re-authorize the Keystone XL pipeline, which would carry more than 800,000 barrels of tar sands oil per day from Alberta, Canada, to U.S. refineries.
President Trump struck a three-month deal Wednesday with congressional Democrats to raise the ceiling on the national debt, postponing a looming fiscal crisis and shocking members of Trump’s own party—including his own White House aides. The deal left Republicans fuming, including Tennessee Senator Bob Corker, who last month questioned Trump’s competence and stability. The agreement sets up a showdown on the federal borrowing limit in December.
Fifteen states and the District of Columbia sued the federal government Wednesday seeking to block President Trump’s plan to end DACA—the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, which gives nearly 800,000 young immigrants permission to live and work in the United States. Among those pressing the suit is New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman.
Attorney General Eric Schneiderman: “We understand what’s going on in Washington. And we know that when bullies step up, you have to step to them and step to them quickly. And that’s what we’re here to do today. … By definition, DREAMers play by the rules. DREAMers work hard. DREAMers pay taxes. For most, America is the only home they’ve ever known. They deserve to stay here.”
Trump’s cancellation of DACA, which was announced Tuesday by Attorney General Jeff Sessions, set off mass protests in cities around the U.S. In Washington, D.C., Wednesday, activists outside the Department of Justice building toppled a Confederate monument-style effigy of Jeff Sessions perched atop a cardboard pedestal labeled “Living Monument of White Supremacy.”
In South Korea, hundreds of protesters clashed with police in Seongju County on Wednesday over the deployment of launchers for a U.S.-built missile defense system known as THAAD. Dozens of protesters were injured at the overnight standoff when police attempted to disassemble protesters’ campsites and forcibly remove road blockades. The protests came as South Korea’s government said it expects the North to test-launch another intercontinental ballistic missile on Saturday. We’ll cover the escalating tensions between the U.S. and North Korea later in the broadcast.
In Afghanistan, a suicide bomber detonated at a checkpoint near Bagram Airfield Wednesday, injuring six civilians. The Taliban claimed responsibility for the attack, calling it retaliation for an incendiary leaflet distributed by the U.S. military featuring a verse from the Qur’an superimposed over the image of a dog. The attack came as a senior U.S. commander, Major General James Linder, apologized, saying, “We have the deepest respect for Islam and our Muslim partners worldwide. There is no excuse for this mistake.”
Meanwhile, The New York Times reports at least 18 CIA operatives have been killed in Afghanistan—a previously undisclosed number of deaths that rivals the number killed during the Vietnam War. Among the dead are Brian Ray Hoke and Nathaniel Patrick Delemarre, who served as part of the CIA’s paramilitary arm, the Special Activities Division.
Bangladesh’s government said Wednesday the Burmese military has begun planting land mines in the path of thousands of Rohingya Muslim refugees fleeing a brutal crackdown by Burmese authorities—which U.N. Secretary-General António Guterres has said could spiral into an ethnic cleansing campaign. CNN published photos showing an activist holding what appears to be a pair of anti-personnel land mines, and refugees reported one Rohingya boy had a leg blown off Tuesday after a mine exploded near a border crossing. Aid agencies say more than 120,000 Rohingya have fled into neighboring Bangladesh in recent days. This is Duniya Khan, spokesperson for the Office of the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees.
Duniya Khan: “Some reported that their family members were burnt or shot or slashed to death. During their flight, many fled into the jungles or mountains, hiding and walking for days before they reached land or river and to cross the border. And some of them also told us that they’ve been walking for three days, and they didn’t have anything to eat, other than the rainwater or the water on grounds.”
In Mexico, 29-year-old journalist Juan Carlos Hernández Ríos was shot dead Tuesday night after he left his home in the state of Guanajuato. Witnesses say he was killed by two men dressed in black carrying large-caliber weapons. Hernández worked as an editorial assistant and photographer for the website La Bandera Noticias, which has received multiple threats in recent months over its news coverage. Hernández Ríos is at least the 10th journalist killed this year in Mexico.
On Capitol Hill, representatives of Facebook told lawmakers Wednesday the company unwittingly sold $100,000 worth of advertisements to a Russian company that aimed to polarize the U.S. electorate on issues of gun rights, immigration, LGBTQ rights and racism. The company was described as a Russian “troll farm” with a history of pushing pro-Kremlin propaganda. Democratic Congressmember Adam Schiff cited the move as evidence that Russia interfered in the 2016 election.
Meanwhile, Donald Trump Jr. is set to testify privately today with congressional investigators, as the Senate Judiciary Committee probes a meeting that the president’s eldest son arranged in 2016 with a Russian lawyer promising damaging information about Hillary Clinton. The closed-door session comes after special counsel Robert Mueller urged Congress to schedule witness testimony in public session only—to avoid the possibility that his investigators could be blocked from accessing information given to the committees privately.
In Kentucky, a federal judge heard arguments Wednesday in a suit by Planned Parenthood and a women’s health clinic in Louisville challenging a law that would shutter the state’s last remaining abortion clinic. Lawyers say the state’s requirement that abortion providers have “transfer agreements” with a hospital and an ambulance service is a thinly veiled attempt to cut off abortion access. Last year, the U.S. Supreme Court struck down a similar law in Texas.
In New York City, a Bronx prosecutor dropped charges against Pedro Hernandez Wednesday, after the 18-year-old was imprisoned for more than a year in the notorious Rikers Island jail awaiting trial for a crime he says he did not commit. Hernandez’s plight has drawn comparisons to the case of Kalief Browder, another Bronx teen, who committed suicide at the age of 22 after being held at Rikers for nearly three years without trial for a crime he did not commit.
And Seattle Seahawks star Michael Bennett said Wednesday that police officers assaulted him and threatened his life outside a boxing match in Las Vegas last month, as they arrested him while he joined a crowd of people fleeing the sound of gunshots. In a statement posted on Twitter, Bennett wrote that an officer threatened to “blow my f****** head off” and that “Las Vegas police officers singled me out and pointed their guns at me for doing nothing more than simply being a black man in the wrong place at the wrong time.” Bennett has joined a protest movement led by former 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick against racial injustice, sitting on the sidelines during the playing of the national anthem ahead of Seahawks games.