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You turn to Democracy Now! for ad-free news you can trust. Maybe you come for our daily headlines. Maybe you come for in-depth stories that expose government and corporate abuses of power. This week Democracy Now! is celebrating our 23rd birthday. For over two decades, we've produced our daily news hour without ads, government funding or corporate underwriting. How is this possible? Only with your support. Right now, in honor of Democracy Now!'s birthday, every donation we receive will be doubled by a generous supporter. This means if you give $30 today, Democracy Now! will get $60 to support our daily news hour. Please do your part. It takes just a couple of minutes to make sure that Democracy Now! is there for you and everybody else. Thank you! -Amy Goodman
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“A fantastic job”—that is how President Trump is describing his administration’s response to the catastrophe in Puerto Rico following Hurricane Maria a year ago. Trump made the comment on Wednesday, a day after Puerto Rico adjusted its official toll from the storm to almost 3,000—that’s 46 times higher than the earlier death toll of 64. During his brief comment, Trump made no reference to any of the deaths on the island.
President Donald Trump: “Yeah, I think Puerto Rico—I think we did a fantastic job in Puerto Rico. We’re still helping Puerto Rico. The governor is an excellent guy. And he is very happy with the job we’ve done. We have put billions and billions of dollars into Puerto Rico. And it was a very tough one. Don’t forget their electric plant was dead before the hurricane. If you look back on your records, you’ll see that that plant was dead, it was shut, it was bankrupt, it was out of business. They owed tremendous amounts of money. They had it closed up. And then, when the hurricane came, people said, 'What are we going to do about electricity?' That wasn’t really the hurricane; that was gone before the hurricane. But we’ve—we’ve put a lot of money and a lot of effort into Puerto Rico. And I think most of the people in Puerto Rico really appreciate what we’ve done.”
President Trump was responding to a reporter’s question about the death toll of nearly 3,000. In addition to not mentioning the new death toll, Trump also lied about the status of Puerto Rico’s electrical system. The island only lost power after the storm. Soon after the president spoke, the mayor of San Juan, Puerto Rico, Carmen Yulín Cruz, responded on MSNBC.
Mayor Carmen Yulín Cruz: “This is like telling somebody that’s gone through a fire that it’s their fault, that they didn’t run fast enough. No, it is your fault, Mr. President. Shame on yourself and your administration. You led us here to die because you were more concerned about the political spin than about the human reality that we were dying. And now that number, 2,975, will follow him wherever he goes for the rest of his life.”
The Washington Post is reporting the Trump administration is increasingly denying passports to U.S. citizens of Mexican heritage, throwing their citizenship into question. The Trump administration has even begun jailing some passport applicants who have official state-issued birth certificates, because the government is questioning their paperwork. In other cases, Americans of Mexican heritage have had their passports revoked while abroad, preventing them from coming home. In one case, the State Department denied a passport to a 40-year-old Army veteran named Juan who had a birth certificate showing he was born in Texas. According to the Post, Juan’s passport was rejected even though he had spent three years as a private in the Army, then as a cadet in the Border Patrol. He now works as a state prison guard.
The New York Times is reporting Education Secretary Betsy DeVos is preparing new policies on campus sexual misconduct that would bolster the rights of students accused of assault, harassment or rape, while lessening liability for institutions of higher education. The new rules would also narrow the definition of sexual harassment and only hold schools accountable for conduct occurring on campus.
Baylor University has been accused of infiltrating sexual assault survivor support groups on campus. According to PR Week, Baylor’s director of student activities, Matt Burchett, joined the sexual assault survivor support groups and pretended to help them organize demonstrations and vigils. But in fact Burchett was gathering intelligence on the groups and helping water down their critiques of the school. The Christian school was previously run by Kenneth Starr, who led the investigation of President Clinton in the 1990s. Starr stepped down in 2016 amid complaints of how the university handled sexual assault.
Texas police officer Roy Oliver has been sentenced to 15 years in prison for fatally shooting unarmed 15-year-old African-American student Jordan Edwards last year in Balch Springs. Police body cam video shows Oliver, who is white, fired his assault rifle into a car carrying five black teenagers. One of the car’s passengers says the officer never even ordered the boys to stop driving before opening fire.
California lawmakers have approved a measure to require 100 percent of the state’s electricity to come from carbon-free sources by the year 2045. If Governor Jerry Brown signs the bill, California will join Hawaii as the only states with goals to phase out fossil fuels. Earlier this week, Brown said the state must “confront the apocalyptic threat of irreversible climate change.” He made the remark after a state study revealed rising temperatures in California could lead to up to 11,000 additional heat-related deaths in the state every year by 2050. In September, Brown is hosting the Global Climate Action Summit. Democracy Now! will be broadcasting from San Francisco the week of the summit.
President Trump announced on Twitter Wednesday that White House counsel Donald McGahn will be leaving his post this fall. Trump’s announcement came less than two weeks after The New York Times reported McGahn has been cooperating with Robert Mueller’s investigation. Three of McGahn’s deputies have already left the White House, and a fourth leaves tomorrow. This will leave Trump with just one deputy counsel. According to the Times, Trump had asked former staff secretary Rob Porter several times over the past year if he would take McGahn’s position, but Porter declined the offer. Porter resigned in February after both of his ex-wives publicly accused him of domestic violence.
In news from Florida, Republican candidate for governor Ron DeSantis appeared on Fox News Wednesday and urged voters of Florida not to “monkey this up” by voting for his Democratic challenger Andrew Gillum, the first African-American gubernatorial nominee in Florida’s history.
Rep. Ron DeSantis: “The last thing we need to do is to monkey this up by trying to embrace a socialist agenda with huge tax increases and bankrupting the state. That is not going to work. That’s not going to be good for Florida.”
During the same interview, DeSantis referred to Gillum as an “articulate spokesman” for far-left views. Terrie Rizzo, the chairwoman of the Florida Democratic Party, criticized DeSantis’s comments, saying, “It’s disgusting that Ron DeSantis is launching his general election campaign with racist dog whistles.”
In other political news, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo and actor Cynthia Nixon sparred on Wednesday in their only debate before the September 13 Democratic gubernatorial primary. Nixon is challenging Cuomo from the left, running on a platform calling for Medicare for all, marijuana legalization and abolishing ICE. During Wednesday’s debate, the two Democrats repeatedly clashed.
Cynthia Nixon: “He stole hundreds of millions of dollars from the MTA budget for his pet projects that have nothing to do with it.”
Marcia Kramer: “Ms. Nixon, time is up.”
Cynthia Nixon: “He used the MTA“—
Marcia Kramer: “Your time is up.”
Cynthia Nixon: “He used the MTA like an ATM, and we see the result. He has had seven-and-a-half years to avoid this very avoidable crisis in our New York City subway, and he has done next to nothing.”
Marcia Kramer: “Governor, would you like to respond to that?”
Cynthia Nixon: “Why would the next four years be any different?”
Gov. Andrew Cuomo: “Marcia, Marcia”—
Marcia Kramer: “Governor, would you like to respond to that?”
Gov. Andrew Cuomo: “My opponent—my opponent lives in the world of fiction; I live in the world of fact. Let’s do—let’s just do a few facts, OK? The subway system is owned by New York City. The subway system”—
Cynthia Nixon: “The MTA has been controlled by the state since 1965.”
Gov. Andrew Cuomo: “Excuse me. Can you—can you stop interrupting? Can you stop interrupting?”
Cynthia Nixon: “Can you stop lying?”
Gov. Andrew Cuomo: “Yeah, as soon as you do.”
The United Nations has accused the Nicaraguan government of repressing and retaliating against government critics following wide-scale protests. According to a new report by the United Nations high commissioner for human rights, approximately 300 people have died and 2,000 have been injured since April. The U.N. report accused the government of carrying out extrajudicial killings, enforced disappearances, arbitrary detentions and torture. Zeid Ra’ad al-Hussein is the outgoing U.N. high commissioner for human rights.
Zeid Ra’ad al Hussein: “We’ve issued a report calling for urgent action to address the human rights crisis in Nicaragua, where the level of persecution is such that many of those who participated in the protests that erupted in April, defended protesters’ rights or simply expressed dissenting views, have been forced to hide, have left Nicaragua or are trying to do so.”
Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega dismissed the U.N. report, saying it has ignored violence carried out by anti-government forces.
President Daniel Ortega: “The international reports completely ignore the deaths caused by the murderous coup mongers. They want to rip up a peaceful population. The coup mongers have just come to kill public servants, Sandinistas, to destroy hospitals and schools.”
Brazilian President Michel Temer has announced plans to send troops to Brazil’s border with Venezuela to deal with the growing number of refugees entering Brazil.
President Michael Temer: “I decree today the use of the armed forces to guarantee law and order in Roraima state, naturally to offer security to Brazilian citizens and to the Venezuelan immigrants who are fleeing their country in search of shelter in Brazil.”
According to the United Nations, more than 1.6 million Venezuelans have fled the country since 2015, with most going to Brazil, Colombia, Peru and Ecuador. Venezuela is facing food shortages amid skyrocketing inflation caused in part by crippling U.S. sanctions, which have cut off Venezuela from billions of dollars of potential loans and some of its oil revenue.