In North Carolina, South Carolina, Virginia and Georgia, millions of residents are bracing for today’s arrival of Hurricane Florence, which meteorologists are warning could unleash life-threatening storm surges and historic flooding across a wide swath of the East Coast. While Florence has now been downgraded to a Category 2 hurricane, experts are still warning its impact could be “catastrophic.” This is North Carolina Governor Roy Cooper.
Gov. Roy Cooper: “This monster of a storm is not one to ride out. When you’re looking at a storm surge of this magnitude, where the National Weather Service says that the damage is going to be unbelievable, and that they cannot emphasize that enough, we know that that’s a message that we should listen to.”
Hurricane Florence is also expected to cause widespread environmental damage, including triggering catastrophic waste spills from sewage treatment plants, hog waste lagoons and chicken farms that line the Carolinas coast. In North Carolina, the billion-dollar pork industry is clustered in the eastern part of the state, directly in the line of the storm. Many of these factory hog farms store their waste by spraying it on nearby fields and neighborhoods, or by depositing it in lagoons that can overflow during hurricanes, causing the toxic pig manure to pour into nearby waterways. At least nine nuclear facilities also lie in the storm’s path, including Duke Energy’s Brunswick nuclear plant in North Carolina. Brunswick’s boiling water reactors are similar to ones that melted down at the Fukushima nuclear plant in Japan in 2011, after a massive tsunami there. Meanwhile, evacuations are underway in the Philippines where Super Typhoon Mangkhut has reached the strength of a Category 5 hurricane. The storm already caused power outages and flooding on Guam, where the governor has asked President Trump for federal aid. The typhoon is expected to make landfall in the Philippines Saturday before barreling toward China, Vietnam and Laos. We’ll have more on Hurricane Florence after headlines.
President Trump is facing widespread backlash after he tried to claim Tuesday that his administration’s response to Hurricane Maria in Puerto Rico last year was “an incredible unsung success,” in response to questions about what we could learn from Hurricane Maria as Hurricane Florence approaches the Carolinas coast.
President Donald Trump: “The job that FEMA and law enforcement and everybody did, working along with the governor, in Puerto Rico, I think, was tremendous. I think that Puerto Rico was an incredible, unsung success.”
Hurricane Maria killed up to 3,000 people—if not more—making it the deadliest storm in U.S. history. This is San Juan Mayor Carmen Yulín Cruz, responding to Trump.
Mayor Carmen Yulín Cruz: “The world has seen, and the majority of the American people have seen, how neglectful he was towards the people of Puerto Rico. If he calls a success, or an unsung success, 3,000 people dying on his watch, definitely he doesn’t know what success is.”
Trump once again attacked San Juan Mayor Carmen Yulín Cruz, tweeting: “We got A Pluses for our recent hurricane work in Texas and Florida (and did an unappreciated great job in Puerto Rico, even though an inaccessible island with very poor electricity and a totally incompetent Mayor of San Juan). We are ready for the big one that is coming!” But it wasn’t only the mayor who criticized Trump. His ally, Puerto Rico’s Governor Ricardo Rosselló, also attacked Trump, saying, “No relationship between a colony and the federal government can ever be called 'successful' because Puerto Ricans lack certain inalienable rights enjoyed by our fellow Americans in the states.” Meanwhile, the Trump administration’s response to Hurricane Maria faced even more criticism Wednesday after the publication of new photos showing millions of bottles of water meant for hurricane victims still sitting unused on a tarmac nearly a year after the hurricane made landfall.
In immigration news, The New York Times reports more migrant children are currently detained than at any other time in recorded U.S. history. The Times says at least 12,800 migrant children are currently imprisoned inside over 100 federally contracted facilities across the country—a fivefold increase over this time last year. Most of the children arrived in the United States without their parents and are now in the custody of the Health and Human Services Department’s Office of Refugee Resettlement, as the Trump administration has resisted releasing them to live with their families or other sponsors in the United States.
Meanwhile, in a major victory for migrant families forcibly separated by immigration officials at the border, up to 1,000 of these asylum seekers will receive a new chance to have their claims heard. The settlement comes after asylum seekers filed multiple lawsuits saying they were forced to argue for asylum while traumatized by the fact that their children had just been torn away from them.
The New York Times is reporting former Environmental Protection Agency administrator Scott Pruitt is in talks to work as a consultant for the Kentucky coal tycoon Joseph Craft III. Pruitt was forced to resign from the EPA amid an onslaught of financial and ethics scandals and widespread opposition to his campaign to roll back key environmental protections, including regulations around coal mining. He was replaced at the EPA by former coal mining lobbyist Andrew Wheeler.
In news on the U.S.-backed war on Yemen, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has certified that the governments of Saudi Arabia and United Arab Emirates are taking sufficient steps to protect Yemeni civilians, meaning the U.S. will continue providing crucial mid-air refueling and other military support for the ongoing war. In a memo, Pompeo cited the U.S. training of the Saudi Royal Air Force to justify the decision, which flies in the face of widespread evidence that the coalition is indiscriminately killing Yemeni civilians, including children. In August, a coalition airstrike hit a school bus, killing 51 people, 40 of them children. In response, Oxfam said, “This administration is doubling down on its failed policy of literally fueling the world’s largest humanitarian crisis.”
In Guatemala, the government deployed thousands of police and soldiers to the streets of Guatemala City Wednesday amid growing mass protests against efforts by Guatemalan President Jimmy Morales to shut down the United Nations-backed anti-corruption commission investigating high-level politicians and elites. President Morales has defied Guatemala’s highest constitutional court by barring the head of the commission, Iván Velásquez Gómez, from entering Guatemala. The commission had been investigating Morales for illegal campaign financing. The commission’s investigations also helped oust Morales’s predecessor, former President Otto Pérez Molina, in 2015.
President Trump’s son Eric Trump is facing backlash after he used anti-Semitic language while talking about longtime investigative journalist Bob Woodward’s explosive new book about the Trump White House. This is Eric Trump speaking on “Fox & Friends” on Wednesday.
Eric Trump: “Don’t you think people look through the fact that you can write some—a sensational, nonsense book, CNN will definitely have you on there because they love to trash the president? It’ll mean you sell three extra books, you make three extra shekels. I mean, at the behest of the American people, at the behest of our country.”
The longtime executive producer of CBS’s “60 Minutes,” Jeff Fager, has been fired after being accused of sexually harassing women employees, fostering a culture of sexual harassment at “60 Minutes” and bullying one of CBS’s own reporters when she reached out to him for comment for a story about the sexual harassment scandals rocking CBS. At least six former women employees told The New Yorker Fager had groped or touched them without their consent. He also sent a threatening text message to CBS correspondent Jericka Duncan, who was reporting on these sexual harassment accusations, texting her, “Be careful. There are people who lost their jobs trying to harm me and if you pass on these damaging claims without your own reporting to back them up that will become a serious problem.” Fager’s firing comes only days after CBS head Les Moonves was ousted after being accused of sexual assault and harassment, and less than a year after CBS’s star anchor Charlie Rose was also ousted after being accused of sexual assault and harassment.
In Germany, a new report reveals that over 3,600 children have been sexually abused by clergy of the Catholic Church and that at least 1,670 clergy members have been involved in the abuse over the past seven decades. The report was commissioned by the German Roman Catholic Church Bishops’ Conference. It comes in the wake of a larger child sexual abuse scandal rocking the Catholic Church worldwide. On Wednesday, Pope Francis called for a conference at the Vatican in February with international heads of the church to discuss the crisis.
In Russia, Pyotr Verzilov, a member of Russian punk protest band Pussy Riot, has been hospitalized for what is suspected to be a poisoning. Fellow Pussy Riot member Veronika Nikulshina told Russian press that Verzilov lost “First his sight, then his ability to speak, then even his ability to walk.” In July, Verzilov was arrested and jailed for 15 days after he rushed the field with other members of the band during a World Cup match to protest Russian police brutality and human rights abuses.
And in New York, voters are heading to the polls today for a Democratic primary in which several candidates hope to continue the progressive insurgency to unseat powerful Democratic incumbents. Actress-turned-activist Cynthia Nixon is challenging Governor Andrew Cuomo. New York City Councilmember Jumaane Williams is taking on Lieutenant Governor Kathy Hochul. And anti-corruption activist Zephyr Teachout and New York City Public Advocate Letitia James are among four Democrats running to replace Attorney General Eric Schneiderman, who was forced to resign in May after being accused of physically assaulting at least four women.