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You turn to Democracy Now! for ad-free news you can trust. Maybe you come for our daily headlines, or for in-depth stories that expose government and corporate abuses of power. We produce our daily news hour at a fraction of the budget of a commercial news operation, all without ads, government funding or corporate underwriting? This is only possible with your support. Right now every donation to Democracy Now! will be doubled by a generous supporter. This means if you give $25 today, Democracy Now! will get $50 to support our daily news hour. Please do your part. It takes just a couple of minutes to make sure that Democracy Now! is there for you and everybody else in the coming year. Thanks so much. -Amy Goodman
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Residents of the Gulf Coast are bracing for deadly winds, flooding rains and a storm surge as high as 13 feet, as Hurricane Michael is poised to come ashore as the biggest hurricane ever to hit the Florida Panhandle. Michael is forecast to make landfall somewhere between Panama City Beach and Port St. Joe early this afternoon as a Category 4 hurricane, with sustained winds of 140 miles per hour. Ahead of the storm, Florida Gov. Rick Scott urged residents to heed evacuation orders.
Gov. Rick Scott: “You cannot hide. There is no way to hide from storm surge. It’s impossible. So get prepared, and get out if an evacuation is ordered. Every family must be prepared now.”
Officials warn that the low-lying Florida Panhandle is extremely vulnerable to storm surge, with a geography that could concentrate vast amounts of ocean water and flood homes and businesses. The storm could deliver up to 8 inches of rain to parts of Florida and may spawn tornadoes. Climate scientists say global warming from human activity is raising ocean temperatures, making storms like Michael far more powerful.
U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley said Tuesday she will step down from her post at the end of the year. Haley made the surprise announcement at the White House Tuesday alongside President Trump.
Nikki Haley: “Look at what has happened in two years with the United States on foreign policy. Now the United States is respected. Countries may not like what we do, but they respect what we do. They know that if we say we’re going to do something, we follow it through.”
Haley’s resignation reportedly caught Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and other top officials by surprise. During Haley’s time as U.S. ambassador to the U.N., the United States withdrew from the Paris climate accord; the U.N. Human Rights Council; the Iran nuclear deal; UNRWA, the U.N. agency that provides humanitarian aid to Palestinians; and UNESCO, the U.N. educational and cultural agency. Haley’s resignation came just a day after a government ethics watchdog called on the State Department to probe her use of several free flights on private jets, paid for by three different South Carolina businessmen.
Trump told reporters he is considering several people to replace Haley as U.N. ambassador, including former deputy national security adviser and Goldman Sachs executive Dina Powell, as well as Trump’s daughter Ivanka, who currently serves as a senior adviser to the president.
President Donald Trump: “I think Ivanka would be incredible. That doesn’t mean I’d—you know, I’d pick her, because you’d be accused of nepotism, even though I’m not sure there’s anybody more competent in the world. But that’s OK. But—but we are looking at numerous people.”
Turkish officials have concluded that missing Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi was assassinated inside the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul eight days ago by a team of 15 Saudi operatives who used a bone saw to dismember his body before smuggling body parts out of the building. The New York Times cited an unnamed senior Turkish official who compared the alleged killing to the gruesome Quentin Tarantino film “Pulp Fiction.” The official told the Times the assassination was ordered at the highest levels of the Saudi royal court. Khashoggi is a columnist for The Washington Post who had been living in self-imposed exile in the United States. His disappearance has drawn condemnation from diplomats and heads of state around the world, but President Trump has yet to issue a formal statement—or even a tweet—about Khashoggi. Trump was briefly asked about the disappearance at the White House on Tuesday.
Reporter: “Mr. President, have you spoken to the Saudis about the missing Washington Post columnist?”
President Donald Trump: “I have not. No, I haven’t. But I will be, at some point.”
Reporter: “What do you know at this point?”
President Donald Trump: “I know nothing right now. I know what everybody else does: nothing.”
The U.N. has raised new alarm over the widespread malnutrition plaguing North Korea. The U.N.’s World Food Programme is one of the few humanitarian agencies allowed in the notoriously isolated country, but is at risk of cuts to its program due to funding shortages. This is a World Food Programme spokesperson.
Herve Verhoosel: “Ten million people—that’s 40 percent of the population—are undernourished and require humanitarian assistance. One in every five children is suffering of chronic malnutrition.”
A Minnesota court has acquitted three anti-pipeline activists who broke into an oil pipeline facility two years ago intending to cut off the flow of tar sands oil coming into the United States from Canada. In October of 2016, the so-called valve turners cut chains and turned manual safety valves on a pair of Enbridge pipelines to stop the flow of oil.
The activists say their decision to break the law was necessitated by the clear and present danger posed by climate change. They had hoped to call expert witnesses, including the former top climate scientist at NASA, James Hansen, to testify to jurors. But on Tuesday, a district judge agreed with a defense motion to throw out charges because the activists had not intended to damage the pipeline. This is Emily Nesbitt Johnston speaking just after her acquittal on felony charges Tuesday.
Emily Nesbitt Johnston: “I’m very relieved the state of Minnesota acknowledged that we did no damage and intended to do no damage. I also admit that I am disappointed that we did not get to put on the trial that we hoped for. You know, we very much wanted everyone to be able to hear—for our jurors to be able to hear—from our expert witnesses. We did this action almost two years ago to the day—Thursday will be the second anniversary—because the problem of climate change is so urgent that we have to start shutting tar sands pipelines down now.”
Later in the broadcast, we’ll go to Minnesota to speak with two of the valve turners, as well as their attorney and former NASA climate scientist James Hansen.
In immigration news, an Associated Press investigation has revealed that parents deported from the U.S. may lose their children to adoption without their knowledge. The AP found “holes in the system” that allow for state judges to put children of deported Central American immigrants in the custody of U.S. families without notifying the parents. This could also affect immigrants who crossed the border during the Trump administration’s “zero tolerance” policy, under which border officials routinely separated parents from their children as they entered the country.
An appeals court has sided with a federal judge’s order that Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross should be deposed over his role in adding a citizenship question to the 2020 census. The addition of the question has caused widespread condemnation by immigrant rights advocates, who say it will deter immigrants from participating in the census, and could help Republicans win more congressional seats.
Last month, Mother Jones reported that Wilbur Ross lied under oath to Congress about the citizenship question, telling lawmakers that the Justice Department requested the addition of the question. But surfaced emails contradict that statement, showing that Ross was the one who approached the DOJ about including the question after consulting with senior White House officials. The Trump administration recently requested that the Supreme Court block Ross from being deposed. Ross now has until Thursday to ask the Supreme Court directly to halt his deposition.
In more legal news, the Supreme Court ruled Tuesday it will allow North Dakota to enforce its new voter ID requirement during the 2018 midterm elections. A federal judge had temporarily blocked the stricter voter ID law, which will require voters to show identification demonstrating a residential street address, after Native American challengers argued the new rule disproportionately disenfranchises their communities. Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg wrote a dissent, joined by Justice Kagan. Newly seated Justice Kavanaugh did not take part in the decision.
President Trump has ordered the EPA to roll back limits on the amount of ethanol blended into gasoline, in a move that will benefit big agribusiness companies. Trump announced the ethanol rule change at a campaign rally in Iowa Tuesday evening, where he appealed to his Republican base to turn out during next month’s midterm elections.
At the rally, Trump mocked California Democratic Senator Dianne Feinstein, claiming she leaked a letter written by professor Christine Blasey Ford alleging Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh tried to rape her when they were teenagers. Trump then laughed as his supporters chanted, “Lock Her Up!”—referring not to Hillary Clinton, but to Senator Feinstein.
President Donald Trump: “How about Senator Feinstein? That’s another beauty. [crowd boos] That’s a beauty! Did you leak the documents? Huh? Huh? What? What? No, I didn’t do. Did we leak? Did we leak? No, no, no, we didn’t. Did you ever see? No—she goes, no—he just said, no, we didn’t leak.”
Audience: “Lock her up! Lock her up! Lock her up! Lock her up! Lock her up!”
In an unusual move, Trump wrote an op-ed Wednesday in USA Today asking Americans to vote for Republicans in the midterm elections. Trump wrote, “The new Democrats are radical socialists who want to model America’s economy after Venezuela. If Democrats win control of Congress this November, we will come dangerously closer to socialism in America.”
In media news, former White House communications director Hope Hicks is joining Fox as chief communications officer. Fox, which is a new company resulting from last year’s purchase of 21st Century Fox by Disney, will run Fox News, a channel preferred by many conservatives, including the president. Hicks resigned from the White House in April. In July, former Fox News co-president Bill Shine was appointed as the new White House communications director. He was ousted from the network after being accused of helping to enable and cover up sexual harassment by disgraced late CEO Roger Ailes.
Google said Monday it will not compete for a $10 billion project aimed at creating a cloud computing system that would expand the Pentagon’s ability to share data and wage war more effectively. In a statement, Google said it will no longer bid for the Joint Enterprise Defense Infrastructure project known as JEDI, in part because the company’s new ethics guidelines bar Google from using its advanced artificial intelligence software in weapons systems. Other tech giants, including Microsoft and Amazon, will continue to bid for the $10 billion project. Thousands of Google employees have publicly spoken out against their company’s past plans to work with the military. In July, Google dropped out of a Pentagon program that would have used artificial intelligence to improve the targeting of drone strikes.
And in California, the group of activist Catholic nuns known as “Nuns on the Bus” have launched a countrywide tour under the banner of a “Tax Justice Truth Tour.” They will appear at events around the country focusing on the Republican tax bill, which they say poses an existential threat to many Americans. They were joined by House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi at the launch event, who said, “If you want peace, work for justice—and there is no justice in this tax bill.” Click here to see our interviews with Sister Simone Campbell of the Nuns on the Bus.