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“This one just looks like a bomb dropped.” That’s how one search-and-rescue worker described the catastrophic devastation wrought by Hurricane Michael, the Category 4 storm that has killed at least six people and has devastated communities across Florida’s Panhandle. Michael is the third most powerful storm to ever hit the U.S. mainland, and meteorologists say it was supercharged by warmer-than-usual water in the Gulf of Mexico. Some of Florida’s seaside communities, like Mexico Beach, are completely flattened, with homes destroyed and fishing boats flung ashore by the 155-mile-an-hour winds. This is Emily and Elizabeth Hansen, two residents of Mexico Beach.
Emily Hansen: “It’s pretty devastating. Like everybody we know lost their house—everybody—and their jobs.”
Reporter: “And did you guys evacuate?”
Elizabeth Hansen: “No, we stayed. We stayed in our home. Yeah, it was terrible. It was scary. We lost our chimney, so we have some…”
Emily Hansen: “Flooding damage throughout the entire house.”
On Thursday, Michael was downgraded to a tropical storm as it barreled through the Carolinas. States of emergency have been declared in Alabama, Georgia, the Carolinas and Virginia. Click here to see our full coverage of Hurricane Michael and its link to climate change.
The Washington Post is reporting the Turkish government has told U.S. officials it has audio and video evidence that Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi was killed inside the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul. Officials say the recordings show a Saudi security team snatching Khashoggi as he walked into the consulate on October 2 and then killing him and dismembering his body. The audio and video recordings have not yet been released. Khashoggi had written critically about the Saudi government and the Saudi crown prince, Mohammed bin Salman. The Washington Post has also reported, based on U.S. intelligence intercepts, that Mohammed bin Salman had directly ordered an operation to lure Khashoggi back to Saudi Arabia. Khashoggi’s alleged murder has sparked a diplomatic crisis for the Trump administration, particularly Trump’s son-in-law and senior White House adviser Jared Kushner, who has cultivated an extremely close relationship with Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.
In Washington, a growing number of lawmakers are demanding the United States halt weapons sales to Saudi Arabia over the incident, but on Thursday, Trump rejected the idea.
President Donald Trump: “I don’t like stopping massive amounts of money that’s being poured into our country on—I—I—I know they’re talking about different kinds of sanctions, but they’re spending $110 billion on military equipment and on things that create jobs, like jobs and others for this country. I don’t like the concept of stopping an investment of $110 billion into the United States, because you know what they’re going to do? They’re going to take that money and spend it in Russia or China or someplace else.”
Even before Jamal Khashoggi’s suspected death, the Trump administration had been under pressure to halt arms sales to Saudi Arabia over its catastrophic war on Yemen, which has killed thousands of people, pushed millions of Yemenis to the brink of famine and sparked the world’s worst cholera outbreak, with as many as 10,000 new cases of cholera appearing every week. We’ll have more on Khashoggi’s suspected death and U.S.-Saudi relations after headlines with California Democratic Congressmember Ro Khanna.
In immigration news, a new report by Amnesty International says the Trump administration forcibly separated 6,000 families at the U.S.-Mexico border between April and August, a far higher number of children and parents torn apart by immigration officials than previously thought. The report says the administration “is waging a deliberate campaign of human rights violations against asylum-seekers, in order to broadcast globally that the United States no longer welcomes refugees.” Click here to see our full coverage of the Trump administration’s family separation policy, including our report from the U.S.-Mexico border.
In more immigration news, the Associated Press is reporting the U.S. Army has discharged over 500 immigrant enlistees over the last year. The enlistees were recruited for their language and medical expertise, and were initially promised a fast track to citizenship for serving in the U.S. military. After their discharge, many of the recruits now say they were deliberately targeted for their immigration status. They also say the Army’s reasons for their discharge—which include refusing to enlist and failing security clearances—were not accurate or fair.
Kanye West launched into a 10-minute expletive-riddled rant at the White House Thursday during a meeting with President Trump, during what was ostensibly an Oval Office meeting to discuss employment and workforce training programs. This is a clip of Kanye West, who was wearing a red “Make America Great Again” hat.
Kanye West: “But there’s times where, you know, it’s something about—you know, I love Hillary. I love everyone, right? But the campaign ’I’m with her’ just didn’t make me feel, as a guy that didn’t get to see my dad all the time, like a guy that could play catch with his son. It was something about—when I put this hat on, it made me feel like Superman. You made a Superman.”
Kanye West has come under intense criticism over the last year for praising President Trump and for claiming during a TMZ interview that “slavery was a choice.”
In other celebrity news, Taylor Swift delivered a political plea to vote in the midterm elections during her “artist of the year” acceptance speech at the American Music Awards Tuesday.
Taylor Swift: “And I just wanted to make a mention of the fact that this award and every single award given out tonight were voted on by the people. And you know what else is voted on by the people is the midterm elections on November 6th. Get out and vote. I love you guys.”
Taylor Swift also posted on Instagram endorsing two Tennessee Democratic candidates: Phil Bredesen for Senate and Jim Cooper for House of Representatives. Her social media post appears to have sparked a surge in voter registration, particularly in Tennessee.
Pope Francis accepted the resignation of the archbishop of Washington, D.C., Cardinal Donald Wuerl, over his role in two clergy sexual abuse scandals. One of the scandals was detailed in the explosive report released in August by a Pennsylvania grand jury, which accused Wuerl of covering up for his predecessor, a known sexual abuser. Last week, Pope Francis kicked off a month-long international gathering of bishops to discuss the ongoing sexual abuse crisis in the Catholic Church.
In news on Syria, aid workers say thousands of Syrian refugees stranded near the Jordanian border are running out of food, as the Syrian Army has tightened its siege of the camp in Rukban. About 50,000 refugees live in the camp; most are women and children. Jordan has also blocked aid delivers to the camp through its border. The siege comes as, in the northwest Syrian province of Idlib, Al Jazeera reports rebel groups are pulling heavy weapons out of parts of the province under a deal brokered between Turkey and Russia aimed at staving off a full-fledged ground offensive in Idlib. The U.N. has warned a Russian-backed Syrian Army offensive against the province, the last major opposition-held territory in Syria, could cause a massive humanitarian crisis.
Human Rights Watch says an Egyptian-American limo driver from New York has been subjected to torture and rape at the hands of Egyptian security forces. Khaled Hassan was reportedly arrested in January as he was visiting his wife and children in the Egyptian port city of Alexandria. Egyptian authorities are accusing Hassan of joining the Islamic State, a charge he has denied.
In Colombia, human rights groups are denouncing the assassination of yet another human rights activist: Otto Valenzuela, one of the leaders of an environmental community organization in the Colombian Amazon. The activist was found shot to death on October 8. Human rights groups say over 100 Colombian activists have been murdered so far this year.
Back in the United States, Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts has referred more than a dozen misconduct complaints against newly confirmed Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh to a circuit appeals court in Colorado. The 15 misconduct complaints reportedly center on whether Kavanaugh was dishonest and “lacked judicial temperament” during his Senate testimony. Legal experts say it is “unprecedented” for a newly confirmed Supreme Court justice to be facing misconduct complaints in a lower court, which could rule it does not have jurisdiction now that Kavanaugh is on the nation’s highest court.
In financial news, the stock market continued to fall Thursday, with the Dow Jones Industrial Average dropping over 1,000 points since Wednesday morning. As investors speculated on a range of reasons for the recent meltdown, including the Trump administration’s trade war with China, the president lashed out at the Federal Reserve and its decision to raise interest rates.
President Donald Trump: “But I think the Fed is far too stringent, and they’re making a mistake, and it’s not right. And it’s despite that we’re doing very well. But it’s not necessary, in my opinion. And I think I know about it better than they do, believe me.”
The state of Washington has become the 20th state to ban the death penalty, with Washington’s Supreme Court ruling it unconstitutional “because it is imposed in an arbitrary and racially biased manner.” Thursday’s ruling commutes the sentences of eight men currently on death row in Washington state.
A New York judge has dismissed one of the six charges against disgraced movie mogul Harvey Weinstein, who has been accused of rape, sexual assault and sexual harassment by over 100 women. The case involved the alleged sexual assault of aspiring actor Lucia Evans in 2004. Harvey Weinstein, who is currently free on $1 million bail, was arrested in May on a number of charges of sexual assault and rape. He has pleaded not guilty to all charges.
In election news, Georgia’s Democratic gubernatorial candidate Stacey Abrams is calling for Secretary of State Brian Kemp to step down following an Associated Press report alleging voter suppression ahead of the upcoming November election. The state’s “exact match” system—where even a minor discrepancy in a voter’s registration and their official ID could bar them from casting a ballot—has resulted in 53,000 voter applications being put on hold. The highly anticipated race pits progressive African-American Democratic candidate Stacey Abrams against Kemp. Kemp’s office oversees key aspects of voting in the state, including the controversial verification law. Seven out of 10 of the stalled applications are for African-American voters in a state where less than one-third of the population is black.
And in Arkansas, a sheriff’s department is facing widespread criticism after being accused of forcing prisoners to pose for mugshots in Nike T-shirts to mock former San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick, who sparked NFL-wide protests against racism and police brutality, and recently became the new face of Nike’s “Just Do It” campaign. The Union County Sheriff’s Office removed the photos of the prisoners wearing the T-shirts after journalist Shaun King tweeted about them. Yesterday, Harvard University awarded Colin Kaepernick the university’s W.E.B. Du Bois Medal, which is awarded to individuals who have made significant contributions to African and African-American history and culture.