The death toll from the Northern California Camp Fire has risen to at least 63, and authorities are now saying 631 people are missing—double the previous count. The wildfire has grown to 141,000 acres and destroyed a total of nearly 12,000 structures, including almost 10,000 homes, mostly in the decimated town of Paradise. Evacuated residents now face the challenge of finding shelter, as hundreds have taken to camping out in a Walmart parking lot. The Camp Fire was 40 percent contained by Thursday. Meanwhile, the Woolsey Fire in the Los Angeles area is now over 60 percent contained.
A massive cloud of smoke hangs over parts of Northern California. One environmental monitoring group says the region now has the worst air quality in the world. Residents and workers in Butte County and surrounding areas have been urged to remain indoors, as schools in Butte County have remained shut since the fire started. Dozens of schools across the Bay Area will be closed today due to the poor air quality.
The Justice Department has inadvertently revealed it has prepared an indictment against WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange. In an unusual development, language about the charges against Assange was copied and pasted into an unrelated court filing that was recently unsealed. In the document, Kellen S. Dwyer wrote, “Due to the sophistication of the defendant and the publicity surrounding the case, no other procedure is likely to keep confidential the fact that Assange has been charged.” The news broke on Thursday night just hours after The Wall Street Journal reported the Justice Department was planning to prosecute Assange. We’ll have more on this story later in the show.
In Florida, the Senate race is headed to a manual recount after a machine recount ended Thursday. Republican Governor Rick Scott maintains a narrow lead over Democratic incumbent Bill Nelson, but the margin between the two candidates is still less than 0.25 percent. Several counties missed the deadline for reporting machine recount tallies, including Palm Beach and Broward County, which missed the deadline by two minutes.
The Florida gubernatorial race has Republican Ron DeSantis ahead of Democrat Andrew Gillum by 0.41 percent, making DeSantis the likely winner, though Gillum has vowed to keep pushing for all votes to be counted, including a number of ballots rejected due to signature or other discrepancies.
In Maine, Democrat Jared Golden beat out Republican incumbent Congressmember Bruce Poliquin after the state’s new ranked-choice voting system put him ahead by a thin margin. The race was the first to use ranked-choice voting for a federal election, after Maine voted to implement the system in a 2016 ballot measure. The system allows voters to rank their preferred candidates in order of preference. Polinquin was the last Republican congressmember representing New England.
In California’s traditionally conservative Orange County, Democrat Katie Porter has scored an upset, beating out Republican incumbent Congressmember Mimi Walters and flipping another House seat for the Democrats. Porter is a consumer law expert and a protégée of Sen. Elizabeth Warren. Democrats have so far picked up 36 congressional seats, with a handful of races still uncalled.
The Trump administration announced sanctions against 17 Saudis on Thursday over the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi, who entered the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul, Turkey, on October 2 and was never seen again. The sanctions did not include the crown prince or any top Saudi intelligence officials. This came as Saudi Arabia’s public prosecutor announced indictments against 11 Saudi agents, saying it would seek the death penalty against five of those.
Meanwhile, reports emerged Thursday that the Trump administration is weighing efforts to extradite exiled Turkish cleric and opposition figure Fethullah Gülen in order to placate Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and reduce possible Turkish pressure on the Saudis. He lives in the Poconos in the United States.
More migrants from several Central American caravans have been arriving at the U.S.-Mexico border. One of the first groups to arrive at the border was a splinter group of LGBTQ migrants, who say they left the main caravan after facing discrimination and harassment. Texas-based migrant rights group RAICES provided buses to help bring the LGBTQ group from Mexico City to Tijuana. This is LGBTQ migrant Cesar Rico.
Cesar Rico: “We don’t want to jump over walls. We don’t want to violate U.S. law. We are a group of around 78 people from the sexually diverse LGBT community. We come fleeing from trouble. We come fleeing from discrimination. We come fleeing from a lot of violence in Honduras and Central America. So we ask, we plead: 'Help us! Open your doors!' We don’t come to do any evil. We come to help develop the United States even more.”
North Korea announced it will deport an American citizen who has been detained for over one month for entering the country illegally. The release is seen as a sign of goodwill from the North Koreans, who have previously held U.S. detainees for much longer periods, often using them as pawns in political negotiations. In more news from North Korea, leader Kim Jong-un has reportedly supervised a test of an advanced, high-tech weapon, according to North Korean state media.
In Bangladesh, plans to forcibly repatriate Rohingya refugees back to Burma were suspended after hundreds of refugees protested the plans, voicing fear of further persecution and killings by the Burmese military. This is one of the protesters.
Rahela Begum: “We will not go there until they recognize us as a Rohingya community. They must return our lands and houses. We will not stay in camps. The military kicked me, killed my child, which I was carrying, and shot and killed my son. We will not receive any NVC [Myanmar’s national verification card]. They must recognize us as Rohingya. If you force us to go, I will die along with my children under the wheels of a vehicle or will take poison to die.”
Earlier this week, the U.N. called on Bangladesh to delay the planned repatriation. Over 10,000 Rohingya were killed, while more than 700,000 fled Burma from August 2017 to August 2018, according to U.N. numbers.
In more news from Bangladesh, jailed photographer Shahidul Alam was granted bail Thursday after more than 100 days behind bars. The renowned photographer and activist was arrested in August on suspicion of engaging in “propaganda and false information,” after giving an interview to Al Jazeera about student protests in Bangladesh.
Shahidul Alam: “This has been going on for a very, very long time. It’s nonelected government, so they did not really have a mandate to rule, but they’ve been taking it on by brute force—the looting of the banks, the gagging of the media, you mentioned just now that mobile internet is currently switched off, the extrajudicial killings, the disappearances, the need to get protection money at all levels, bribery at all levels, corruption in education. It’s a never-ending list.”
Press freedom and humans rights groups have called out the Bangladeshi government’s crackdown on journalists. Dozens of journalists and hundreds of bloggers were prosecuted last year for publishing content deemed to be blasphemous or defamatory.
In the Democratic Republic of the Congo, militias killed at least seven United Nations peacekeepers during an operation targeting rebel forces in the city of Beni Wednesday. Multiple Congolese soldiers were reportedly also killed in the fighting. Beni is currently at the center of the country’s worst Ebola outbreak, which has killed around 200 people.
Back in the United States, seven women are suing Dartmouth College over rape, sexual assault, harassment and discrimination. Three male professors—Todd Heatherton, William Kelley and Paul Whalen—are accused of creating a “21st Century Animal House.” The three men allegedly coerced women into drinking, and groped, leered at and in some cases raped the women. The lawsuit alleges that a “predatory boy’s club” culture made female students feel trapped and forced into unwanted acts for fear of risking their careers. Dartmouth reportedly ignored reports of the professors’ conduct for 16 years, and the university allowed the men to either retire or voluntarily resign rather than face legal or disciplinary action.
In Kentucky, the white man who shot and killed two African-American customers at a grocery store last month has been charged with three hate crimes and three firearm offenses. 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 could face the death penalty for the hate crime charges.
The Food and Drug Administration has announced it will restrict the sale of most flavored e-cigarettes to businesses where minors are prohibited, in an effort to combat the surge in teen vaping. Many expected the FDA to announce a full ban on flavored e-cigarettes. FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb was questioned about his investments in a chain of vaping lounges during his Senate confirmation but has denied this had any bearing on the recent decision and said he is no longer an investor. The FDA is also seeking to ban menthol cigarettes and flavored cigars.
In Maryland, journalists from The Baltimore Sun, the Capital Gazette and the Carroll County Times have moved to unionize. The papers are all owned by Tribune Publishing. Staffers cite job cuts, low pay and lack of resources as reasons for their organizing drive, calling out poor decision-making from “distant corporations.” Organizers are asking for voluntary recognition of their guild from Tribune Publishing. The Capital Gazette in Annapolis was the site of a deadly shooting earlier this year, when a gunman shot and killed five journalists.
And in New York City, hundreds of housing rights activists and members of the Democratic Socialists of America came out in the freezing rain and snow Thursday night, calling for universal rent control. Protesters marched on Wall Street and in front of the nearby Real Estate Board of New York. Democracy Now! spoke with some of the protesters.
Delsenia Glover: “My name is Delsenia Glover. I’m executive director of Tenants and Neighbors. … What we are seeing is companies like Blackstone, for example, and what they are doing is buying up as much affordable housing as they can in New York and across the country. They buy this housing with people living in it. And they do that not for the intention of making that housing better for the people who live there. Their business model is predatory equity. Their business model is to displace the tenants who are there, so they can get more money.”
Erin Neff: “My name is Erin Neff. I am a member of the Democratic Socialists of America. … We’re calling for universal rent control, which would help the people of Queens, if Amazon was to move in. This would regulate all housing in New York City and New York state to keep housing affordable for people, so people can keep living in their homes when big corporations come in and try to push them out.”