A team of United Nations human rights experts have accused the U.S.-backed, Saudi-led coalition of committing possible war crimes in Yemen, including the bombing and shelling of schools, hospitals and markets. The report comes just days after the U.S.-backed coalition bombed a camp for civilians displaced by war, killing 31 people, including 22 children. Charles Garraway, one of the authors of the U.N. report, spoke earlier today.
Charles Garraway: “Individuals in the government of Yemen and the coalition, including Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, may have conducted attacks in violation of the principles of distinction, proportionality and/or precautions, which may amount to war crimes, and also acts that may amount to war crimes including cruel treatment and torture, outrages upon personal dignity, rape and conscripting or enlisting children under the age of 15.”
The U.N. report also accused the Houthi rebels of committing possible war crimes, including arbitrary detention, torture, ill treatment and the recruitment of child soldiers. The U.N. report on Yemen comes as the Pentagon is threatening to reduce military and intelligence support to Saudi Arabia following an airstrike earlier this month on a Yemeni school bus that killed 40 children.
North Korean officials are warning that denuclearization talks may fall apart due to reluctance from the United States to support an official end to the Korean War. CNN is reporting North Korea sent Secretary of State Mike Pompeo a letter stating, “The U.S. is still not ready to meet (North Korean) expectations in terms of taking a step forward to sign a peace treaty.” Pompeo had been scheduled to travel to North Korea this week, but Trump called off the trip after receiving the letter.
In a major victory for voting rights, a federal court has once again struck down North Carolina’s gerrymandered congressional district voting map, saying it was unfairly drawn to help Republican candidates. In 2016, Republicans won 77 percent of the state’s House districts despite receiving just 53 percent of the statewide vote. A redrawn map could put more seats into play for Democrats in November, but the case may first go back to the Supreme Court.
In education news, the top federal consumer watchdog for student loans has resigned and accused the Trump administration of siding with predatory lenders over the nation’s student loan borrowers. Seth Frotman worked as student loan ombudsman under Mick Mulvaney, the acting head of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. In his resignation letter to Mulvaney, Frotman wrote, “Unfortunately, under your leadership, the Bureau has abandoned the very consumers it is tasked by Congress with protecting. Instead, you have used the Bureau to serve the wishes of the most powerful financial companies in America.” Frotman’s resignation comes as outstanding student loan debt has topped $1.5 trillion.
Facebook has taken the unprecedented step of banning Burma’s commander-in-chief of the army from the social media platform, one day after the United Nations issued a report calling for Burma’s top military generals to be investigated for genocide against Rohingya Muslims. State-led violence in Burma last year led to the displacement of 700,000 Rohingya Muslims. The U.N. also criticized Facebook for being a “useful instrument for those seeking to spread hate.”
In trade news, the United States and Mexico have reached a preliminary agreement to revise portions of NAFTA, the North American Free Trade Agreement, but Canada has not yet agreed to any of the changes. On Monday, President Trump threatened new auto tariffs on Canada if talks don’t succeed. While the deal with Mexico is just a preliminary agreement, Trump claimed a new trade deal replacing NAFTA had been reached.
President Donald Trump: “I like to call this deal the United States-Mexico trade agreement. I think it’s an elegant name. I think NAFTA has a lot of bad connotations for the United States, because it was a ripoff. It was a deal that was a horrible deal for our country. And I think it’s got a lot of bad connotations to a lot of people. And so, we will, probably—you and I will agree to the name.”
On Monday, President Trump broke his near silence on the death of Sen. John McCain. At an evening dinner honoring evangelical leaders, Trump briefly spoke about the late senator who died on Saturday.
President Donald Trump: “Also, our hearts and prayers are going to the family of Senator John McCain. There’s going to be a lot of activity over the next number of days. And we very much appreciate everything that Senator McCain has done for our country. So, thank you very much.”
Trump had faced widespread criticism for initially rejecting a statement written by his aides praising McCain. The Trump administration also re-lowered the White House flag on Monday, after coming under criticism for not keeping it at half-staff to honor McCain. Trump had faced tremendous pressure from within his own party over his handling of McCain’s death. On the floor of the Senate, Republican Senator Johnny Isakson of Georgia warned against anyone speaking ill of John McCain.
Sen. Johnny Isakson: “But anybody who in any way tarnishes the reputation of John McCain deserves a whipping.”
Meanwhile, John McCain’s family has released the late senator’s final letter to the American people. McCain’s former campaign manager Rick Davis read the letter.
Rick Davis: “'We weaken our greatness when we confuse our patriotism with tribal rivalries that have sown resentment and hatred and violence in all the corners of the globe. We weaken it when we hide behind walls, rather than tear them down, when we doubt the power of our ideals, rather than trust them to be the great force for change they have always been.'”
In environmental news, a new scientific study has found air pollution can lead to a huge reduction in cognitive intelligence. One of the study’s authors, Xi Chen at Yale School of Public Health, said, “Polluted air can cause everyone to reduce their level of education by one year, which is huge.” The study, which was based in China, also suggests pollution can lead to increases in Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia.
In media news, CNN is reporting Bloomberg News reassigned a reporter who covered Wells Fargo after the bank’s CEO complained about a story where the bank was described as the “preferred financier for the U.S. gun industry.” The story revealed how the bank had helped two of the biggest U.S. firearm and ammunition companies access $430 million in loans and bonds since 2012. Sen. Elizabeth Warren reacted to the news by tweeting that Wells Fargo customers “would be better off if CEO Tim Sloan focused more on addressing the dozens of scandals plaguing his bank, and less on getting a good journalist reassigned for doing his job (which includes reporting on those scandals).”
In Egypt, a former ambassador and six other opposition activists remain in jail after being detained last week. The diplomat, Masoum Marzouk, was arrested shortly after he called for a referendum on President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi’s rule. Since the 2013 coup, el-Sisi has overseen the jailing of thousands of dissidents. On Monday, former Egyptian presidential candidate Hamdeen Sabahi openly criticized el-Sisi’s rule.
Hamdeen Sabahi: “We believe that this regime must be changed. This is a failed authority. This is a repressive authority. This authority opposes the interests of the Egyptian people. This authority has broken through the Constitution and disrespected it. This authority arrests opinion makers and puts them in prison just because they speak out with words of truth in the face of an unjust ruler. This authority harms the interests of the Egyptian people.”
And the celebrated Malian singer Khaira Arby has died at the age of 58. Known as the “Nightingale of Timbuktu,” Arby appeared on Democracy Now! in 2010 to talk about her music and to perform.
Khaira Arby: “When I hear of war, I sing so that the war may cease, because in the case of war it is women who suffer. Therefore, it is better for us women to sing against war and conflict between men and between countries.”
Khaira Arby died in Bamako on August 13. She was 58 years old. Click here to see our interview and her performance in the studios of Democracy Now!