Puerto Rico has officially raised the death toll from Hurricane Maria last year from 64 to nearly 3,000 following the release of a study ordered by the governor of the island. This officially makes Maria one of the deadliest storms in U.S. history. Puerto Rican Governor Ricardo Rosselló acknowledged the higher death count on Tuesday.
Gov. Ricardo Rosselló: “I am announcing, as well, that we are—even though it is an estimate, we are officially changing the—or we are actually putting an official number to the death toll. We will make the 2,975 number as the official estimate for the excess deaths as a product of Maria.”
President Trump has so far not responded to the new official death toll, which is 46 times higher than the initial count. But in October, during a visit to Puerto Rico, Trump boasted about the low official death count.
President Donald Trump: “If you look at a real catastrophe like Katrina, and you look at the tremendous hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of people that died, and you look at what happened here with really a storm that was just totally overpowering—nobody’s ever seen anything like this—and what is your—what is your death count as of this moment? Seventeen?”
Gov. Ricardo Rosselló: “Sixteen certified.”
President Donald Trump: “Sixteen people certified. Sixteen people versus in the thousands. You can be very proud of all of your people, all of our people, working together. Sixteen versus literally thousands of people.”
While Puerto Rico is now putting the death toll at 2,975, other studies show the actual death toll from Hurricane Maria may be considerably higher. In May, a study published in The New England Journal of Medicine found the death toll to be at least 4,645—and perhaps as high as 5,740.
In Florida, progressive Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum pulled off a stunning upset in the Democratic primary for Florida governor. If he wins in November, Gillum would become Florida’s first African-American governor. Polls had predicted Gillum would place in fourth place. He was backed by Bernie Sanders and spent millions less than his better-funded opponents, including former Congressmember Gwen Graham—the daughter of Bob Graham, the former governor and senator. Gillum was the only nonmillionaire in the five-candidate race. On the campaign trail, Andrew Gillum had called for Medicare for all, abolishing ICE, reforming the criminal justice system, repealing Florida’s “stand your ground” law and increasing corporate taxes. He held a victory celebration in Tallahassee Tuesday night.
Mayor Andrew Gillum: “We, together—we, together with all of you—over the next several months, are going to make our way all across the state of Florida, to red counties, to blue counties, to purple counties, and we’re going to unite this state in ways that are unparalleled in the history of the state of Florida.”
Andrew Gillum will face off against Republican Congressmember Ron DeSantis, who won the Republican primary Tuesday after receiving the backing of Donald Trump. Democrats have now made history by picking three African-American gubernatorial candidates in this year’s primaries: Andrew Gillum in Florida, Stacey Abrams in Georgia and Ben Jealous in Maryland.
In Arizona, another Trump-backed candidate, Congressmember Martha McSally, easily won the Arizona Republican Senate primary, defeating Kelli Ward and former Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio.
In other election news, The New York Times is reporting President Trump warned evangelical leaders on Monday that Democrats will enact change “quickly and violently” if they take control of Congress in the midterm elections. During a private meeting at the White House, Trump went on to say, “They will end everything immediately. When you look at Antifa and you look at some of these groups, these are violent people.” The White House has refused to elaborate on what the president meant.
In Texas, former Balch Springs police officer Roy Oliver has been convicted of murder for killing unarmed 15-year-old African-American student Jordan Edwards last year. Police body cam video shows Oliver, who is white, fired his assault rifle into a car carrying five black teenagers as they drove away from the officer. One of the car’s passengers says the officer never even ordered the boys to stop driving before opening fire.
In education news, teacher strikes in two districts in Washington state forced the cancellation of the first day of school on Tuesday. Strikes are expected to begin in four more districts today. Meanwhile in Seattle, teachers and school staff have voted to authorize a strike next week if a tentative contract is not reached by the first day of school on September 5.
At the United Nations, U.N. Secretary-General António Guterres is urging serious consideration of a new U.N. report that called for Burma’s military commander-in-chief and other generals be tried for genocide for their targeting of Rohingya Muslims.
Secretary-General António Guterres: “Accountability is essential for genuine reconciliation between all ethnic groups, and these are prerequisites for regional security and stability. Regrettably, Myanmar has refused to cooperate with United Nations human rights entities and mechanisms, despite repeated calls to do so, including by members of this council.”
Meanwhile, displaced Rohingya have welcomed the U.N. report, saying that Burmese officials must be held accountable.
Mohammad Ayub: “The military committed most of the tortures, and there were also border guards and police. Actually, all the government forces committed all sorts of torture on us. They raped our women, killed people with bullets, threw and killed small children, burned our houses. And now there is no place to stay. We have nothing there. So we demand to the U.N. that they give us justice. We need our citizenship back.”
The Indian government has conducted raids across the country this week targeting prominent human rights activists, lawyers and critics of the the Narendra Modi government. At least five people were arrested. The novelist Arundhati Roy told the Hindustan Times, “That the raids are taking place on the homes of lawyers, poets, writers, Dalit rights activists and intellectuals—instead of on those who make up lynch mobs and murder people in broad daylight—tells us very clearly where India is headed.”
France’s environment minister resigned on Tuesday live on the air during a radio interview. Nicolas Hulot said he made the decision due to the country’s failure to adequately address climate change and other environmental threats.
Nicolas Hulot: “For the first time, I’m going to take the hardest decision of my life. I don’t want to lie to myself anymore. I don’t want my presence in this government to be taken to mean that we are doing enough to tackle the climate challenge. So I’m taking the decision to leave the government—today.”
The Atlantic magazine has revealed an immigration policy analyst with the Department of Homeland Security had direct ties to several prominent white supremacists, including Richard Spencer. The analyst, Ian M. Smith, worked at DHS up until last week. The news comes just two weeks after White House speechwriter Darren Beattie was fired after news broke that he had spoken at a conference alongside prominent white nationalists.
In immigration news, about 160 workers in Texas were detained in an ICE raid targeting the trailer manufacturing company Load Trail. One worker described ICE agents raiding the factory from every entrance. He said, “They drew their guns and told everyone to hit the ground.”
In Colorado, a 9-year-old boy died by suicide after reportedly being bullied by classmates after coming out as gay. Jamel Myles was a fourth grade student at Joe Shoemaker Elementary School in Denver. Jamel’s mother Leia Pierce said, “We have to stop bullying and teach people it’s OK to love each other. … We have to stop hating each other for differences, differences that make us equal and unique.”