Funeral services are continuing to be held for the victims of Saturday’s mass shooting at Pittsburgh’s Tree of Life synagogue, where 11 Jewish worshipers were shot and killed in what has been described as the deadliest anti-Semitic attack in U.S. history. Services were held Wednesday for Joyce Fienberg, Melvin Wax and Irving Younger. More funerals are planned in the coming days.
The Pennsylvania man accused of killing the 11 Jewish worshipers was indicted Wednesday on 44 counts, including murder and hate crimes. Robert Bowers has a history of posting anti-Semitic and xenophobic content. Just before the shooting rampage, Bowers wrote on a far-right social media site, ”HIAS likes to bring invaders in that kill our people. I can’t sit by and watch my people get slaughtered. Screw your optics, I’m going in.” HIAS, formerly known as the Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society, is a nonprofit providing assistance to refugees.
Meanwhile, President Trump attacked the media again following massive protests in Pittsburgh during his visit to the Tree of Life synagogue Wednesday. Trump tweeted, “Melania and I were treated very nicely yesterday in Pittsburgh. The Office of the President was shown great respect on a very sad & solemn day. We were treated so warmly. Small protest was not seen by us, staged far away. The Fake News stories were just the opposite-Disgraceful!” Reports estimate several thousand protesters turned out to protest Trump’s visit. Many local leaders also publicly opposed the visit. On Wednesday night, protesters gathered at the University of Pittsburgh to rally against hate and gun violence.
In Kentucky, the white man accused of shooting and killing two African-American customers at a grocery store last Wednesday was indicted on murder charges. Before the deadly shooting, Gregory Bush was captured on a surveillance camera trying to force open the doors of a predominantly black church, the First Baptist Church of Jeffersontown, before turning his attention to a nearby Kroger supermarket, where he opened fire and killed Maurice Stallard and Vickie Lee Jones. Bush has a history of making racist slurs and has a long rap sheet of misdemeanor charges, including domestic violence, menacing and making terroristic threats.
President Trump said Wednesday he may send as many as 15,000 troops to the U.S.-Mexico border, as he doubled down on threats to the Central American migrant caravan, which has become a major flashpoint in the lead-up to the midterm elections. The number would exceed that of U.S. forces in Afghanistan and is almost triple the number of troops in Iraq. On Monday, White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders was asked if troops at the border would adhere to posse comitatus, meaning armed forces cannot be used in a domestic police role, but Sanders refused to give a definitive answer. This is Trump speaking to reporters Wednesday.
President Donald Trump: “As far as the caravan is concerned, our military is out. We have about five thousand eight [5,800]. We’ll go up to anywhere between 10,000 and 15,000 military personnel, on top of Border Patrol, ICE and everybody else at the border. Nobody’s coming in. we’re not allowing people to come in. If you look at what happened in Mexico two days ago with the roughness of these people.”
Trump is also doubling down on his recent claims that he could circumvent the 14th Amendment and end birthright citizenship through executive order, a move legal experts say is blatantly unconstitutional. On Wednesday, Trump attacked outgoing House Speaker Paul Ryan for saying Trump could not end birthright citizenship, with the president tweeting, “Paul Ryan should be focusing on holding the Majority rather than giving his opinions on Birthright Citizenship, something he knows nothing about!”
Meanwhile, President Trump tweeted an explicitly racist, anti-immigrant ad Wednesday, less than a week before midterm elections. The new ad features a Mexican man who was convicted of killing two California deputies earlier this year. In the ad, the man smiles and says, “I’m going to kill more cops soon,” as the text on screen reads: “Democrats let him into our country. Democrats let him stay.” The ad also shows apparent crowds of migrants pushing through a gated barrier. The ad has been described as the most racist political ad in three decades, with many denouncing it as fearmongering. Democratic National Committee Chair Tom Perez slammed the ad, saying it is a sign of Trump’s desperation. The man in the ad was deported twice, under Presidents Clinton and Bush.
All this comes as at least three new Central American caravans have formed and are making their way north toward the United States. One of the caravans has arrived in southern Mexico after violent confrontations at the Mexico-Guatemala border over the weekend, where Mexican police killed one Honduran man. A second caravan left El Salvador over the weekend, while a third has departed from Honduras and is now traversing Guatemala. Human rights advocates say the mass caravans help migrants stay safe along the perilous migration route and avoid paying traffickers thousands of dollars. This is Mexico’s Interior Minister Alfonso Navarrete.
Alfonso Navarrete: “We are going through an unprecedented situation in the country. This is not a caravan like the media has reported. It’s an exodus of migrants. That is how the government sees it, and it is responding as such. There have been few migratory crises in the country such as what is happening now. There was the ’80s with Guatemalans, which was under different conditions—there was a war. Here we are talking about a humanitarian crisis.”
In an interview with ABC Wednesday, Trump was asked if he kept his campaign promise of never lying to the public, to which Trump responded, “When I can, I tell the truth.”
President Donald Trump: “I mean, I do try. I think you try, too. You say things about me that are not necessarily correct. I do try, and I always want to tell the truth. When I can, I tell the truth.”
In the interview, Trump also addressed the size of the Central American caravan, saying, “You have caravans coming up that look a lot larger than it’s reported actually. I’m pretty good at estimating crowd size.” In fact, Trump has proven not to be very good at estimating crowd size, at least not for his own inauguration, which he claimed 1.5 million people attended. In fact, experts say the crowd was significantly smaller.
In North Dakota, the Native American Spirit Lake Tribe is suing to stop the state’s new voter ID law before next Tuesday’s election. The law requires voters to show identification demonstrating a residential street address, which many say disproportionately disenfranchises Native communities.
Slain Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi was strangled as soon as he entered the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul, before being dismembered and his body destroyed. That’s according to the official statement from Istanbul’s chief prosecutor. Turkish authorities are reportedly also investigating the possibility that Khashoggi’s body was destroyed with acid after it was dismembered. Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi entered the Saudi Consulate on October 2 to obtain documents for his upcoming marriage, but was never seen again. Saudi Arabia admitted last week that Khashoggi was murdered in a premeditated act, but has denied involvement of the Saudi royal family. Turkey maintains that Saudi officials have information on those responsible for the murder and the whereabouts of Khashoggi’s remains.
Meanwhile, U.N. human rights chief Michelle Bachelet called Tuesday for an international role in the investigation “free of any appearance of political considerations.” On Wednesday, Switzerland announced it was suspending arms exports to Saudi over Khashoggi’s killing.
This comes amid mounting calls for a ceasefire in the U.S.-backed, Saudi-led war in Yemen, which is described as the world’s worst humanitarian crisis. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo called for a ceasefire Tuesday night. U.K. Prime Minister Theresa May expressed support for “de-escalation” in Yemen while speaking to the British Parliament Wednesday, but stopped short of backing a full ceasefire. The U.S. and the U.K. are the largest military backers of Saudi Arabia.
The United Nations Security Council voted Wednesday to extend the mandate of MINURSO, the U.N. peacekeeping mission in Western Sahara, a territory in northwestern Africa that’s been occupied by Morocco since 1975. Thousands of Western Sahara’s indigenous people—the Sahrawi—have since been tortured, imprisoned, killed and disappeared while resisting the Moroccan occupation. Wednesday’s U.N. vote comes ahead of negotiations scheduled for December between Morocco and the Sahrawi liberation movement known as Polisario Front, along with Algeria and Mauritania. They’ll be the first such talks since 2012. Democracy Now! was able to break the Moroccan media blockade and report from Western Sahara; you can go to our website at democracynow.org to watch our special report, “Four Days in Western Sahara: Africa’s Last Colony.”
In Brazil, the newly elected governor of Rio de Janeiro, Wilson Witzel, has proposed extending and escalating the military intervention in Rio, including a proposal to authorize snipers to shoot anyone carrying a weapon in poor neighborhoods, known as favelas. Witzel won Rio’s gubernatorial race by allying himself with Jair Bolsonaro, the far-right former Army captain who won Brazil’s presidential elections Sunday. The military intervention in Rio has caused a surge of homicides, with police and soldiers killing at least 900 people over the last six months.
North Korea is preparing to open a key nuclear site to international inspectors, according to South Korean intelligence. North Korea had previously barred inspections, which became a sticking point in ongoing discussions between Pyongyang and Washington over a North Korean denuclearization agreement. This comes as the inter-Korean military agreement goes into effect today, banning all hostile activities between the two Koreas. South Korean Defense Minister Jeong Kyeong-doo and U.S. Defense Secretary James Mattis also said Wednesday the U.S. and South Korea are considering canceling joint military exercises, after a meeting at the Pentagon Wednesday.
In Colombia, feminist activist María Caicedo Muñoz was killed after being kidnapped last week by an unidentified armed group. Caicedo Muñoz was a member of several local peasant organizations in the southwest state of Cauca. Human rights groups say over 100 Colombian activists have been murdered so far this year.
Google workers are taking part in a worldwide walkout today over the company’s handling of sexual harassment cases. Last week, The New York Times published a report detailing sexual misconduct at Google, including by Android creator Andy Rubin, who allegedly forced an employee to perform oral sex on him. Google gave Rubin a $90 million exit package when he left the company in 2014 but never publicized the claims against him or the financial terms of his departure. A flier created by workers for the walkout reads, “I’m not at my desk right now because I’m walking out in solidarity with Googlers and other contractors to protest sexual harassment, misconduct, lack of transparency and a workplace culture that’s not working for everyone.”
In Seattle, activists gathered Wednesday outside Amazon’s headquarters to protest Amazon’s relationship with law enforcement agencies, including its facial recognition software which is being pitched to ICE as a tool for targeting immigrants. Demonstrators wore Jeff Bezos masks for the Halloween-day protest, which was organized by Northwest Detention Center Resistance and Mijente. Click here to see our recent interview with Mijente on the relationship between tech firms and ICE.
In New Jersey, Newark city officials have started warning some residents to avoid drinking unfiltered tap water, after a new study revealed lead may be leaching into the water supply. Officials have also begun distributing water filters across Newark. This comes after Newark officials spent the last year and a half claiming the city’s water was safe to drink, despite growing warnings and a lawsuit from environmental groups. Many say the case is reminiscent of the lead poisoning in Flint, Michigan, where officials also ignored residents’ concerns and tried to cover up the water contamination crisis. Many have been indicted in the Flint case.
In New York, more news is emerging about two Saudi sisters found dead in the Hudson River last week. Sixteen-year-old Tala Farea and 22-year-old Rotana Farea were found on October 24, their waists and ankles duct-taped together, though police say no obvious signs of trauma were found. The sisters were Saudi nationals who moved to the United States with their mother in 2015 and were living in Fairfax, Virginia. Rotana, the older sister, was a student at George Mason University but left in the spring. The sisters were reported missing in August. They reportedly went missing in 2017, as well, and were temporarily placed in a shelter. The AP reports the sisters’ mother informed police that she had received a call from the Saudi Embassy ordering the family to leave the U.S. because her daughters had applied for political asylum.
And in Washington, D.C., the National Archives has released a set of documents from the Watergate scandal, including new information relating to the indictment against President Richard Nixon. The draft documents, known as the Watergate Road Map, showed plans to charge Nixon with bribery, conspiracy, obstruction of justice and obstruction of a criminal investigation. Nixon was never charged with the crimes, though a number of his aides were. The documents were released after a lawsuit requested they be made public, citing their relevance for special counsel Robert Mueller if he decides to issue a report to Congress as part of the ongoing probe into whether the Trump campaign colluded with alleged Russian meddling in the 2016 elections.