The Trump administration has once again slashed the number of refugees allowed to resettle in the United States. On Monday, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo announced the new cap on refugees would be a historic low of just 30,000 next year, down from the current level of 45,000. But the actual number of refugees allowed in to the country is expected to be far lower. Amnesty International decried the move as an “all-out attack against our country’s ability to resettle refugees both now and in the future.” Under President Obama, the refugee cap reached 110,000.
Senate Judiciary Committee Chair Chuck Grassley has announced the committee will hold another hearing on Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh next Monday following the accusations he attempted to rape a 15-year-old girl at a party while he was in high school. Both Kavanaugh and his accuser, professor Christine Blasey Ford, will testify. Ford told The Washington Post that Kavanaugh and his friend pushed her into a bedroom during a party and that Kavanaugh then forcibly pinned her down on a bed and tried to pull off her clothes. She says she tried to scream, but that Kavanaugh put his hand over her mouth to silence her.
Kavanaugh has denied the accusation. Ford identified Kavanaugh’s friend as the conservative writer Mark Judge. Judge once wrote a book about his high school days titled “Wasted: Tales of a GenX Drunk.” The book describes being an alcoholic in high school and even features a cameo by someone he calls “Bart O’Kavanaugh” who puked in someone’s car and passed out on his way back from a party. On Monday, Republican Senator Susan Collins welcomed the additional hearing.
Sen. Susan Collins: “Well, that does make it very difficult. And that’s why it’s important that there be a very thorough interview and that we see both individuals respond to the allegations. There are an awful lot of questions, inconsistencies, gaps. And that’s why, to be fair to both, we need to know what happened.”
In news from Syria, a Russian reconnaissance aircraft was shot down earlier today by a Syrian surface-to-air missile over the Mediterranean Sea, killing all 15 people on board. The incident occurred at the same time Israeli fighter jets were carrying out a series of bombings in the Syrian province of Latakia. Russia has accused the Israeli aircraft of pushing the Russian plane into the line of fire of Syria’s air defense system.
In news from Yemen, the U.S.-backed Saudi coalition is being accused of bombing a Yemeni radio station Sunday, killing four people, including three employees of the station. The Committee to Protect Journalists condemned the attack.
Tens of thousands of North Koreans welcomed South Korean President Moon Jae-in as he arrived in Pyongyang today for his third summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong-un. The leaders are reportedly working on a statement to declare the end of the Korean War—a move opposed by the United States.
The death toll from Hurricane Florence has reached 32, while the rivers in the Carolinas continue to rise from the record-breaking storm. Tens of thousands of homes have been damaged. The city of Wilmington, North Carolina, remains largely cut off from the rest of the state. On Monday, North Carolina Governor Roy Cooper warned the worst flooding may still be to come.
Governor Roy Cooper: “This is an epic storm that is still continuing because the rivers are rising in certain parts of our state. Some areas have not seen the worst flooding yet. So this is a monumental disaster for our state that affects many of our counties, many of our people.”
The rains have also swamped coal ash dumps and open-air hog manure pits, adding to the storm’s devastation. Duke Energy says 2,000 cubic yards of coal ash—not 20,000 cubic tons, as we reported on Monday—were released amid Tropical Depression Florence’s massive flooding in North Carolina. That’s enough ash to fill roughly 180 dump trucks. The toxic ash could run off into the nearby Cape Fear River.
Meanwhile, a massive typhoon in Southeast Asia has killed at least 74 in the Philippines and forced more than 3 million people to evacuate their homes in China. Scores more are feared dead following a landslide in the small Philippines mining town of Itogon. Many died in a chapel where they had taken shelter.
Meanwhile in Nigeria, at least 100 people have died as torrential downpour and floods continue to plague the south and central regions of the country. A national disaster has been declared in the most affected regions. Residents in the south-central port city of Lokoja were displaced due to the flooding. This is Blessing Solomon.
Blessing Solomon: “When the water was coming, we were thinking that maybe this was just an ordinary rain water, so we didn’t even think that maybe the water will come like this, you understand? So, just like the first room, the water that entered the first room, we thought this was a joke. Then, when the water came to my own room, that was when we knew that, yes, the water is very serious, you understand? So, everybody just like packed, because—even some people don’t even have where to go, just like me. I don’t have where to go, but I was just like, let me just squat with some of my friends in Felele.”
In Gaza, an Israeli airstrike killed two Palestinians near the border fence with Israel. The two men were discovered by medics on Monday night. The Gaza Health Ministry is reporting that at least 26 Palestinians were shot on Monday during protests. Meanwhile in the occupied West Bank, a 24-year-old Palestinian man died earlier this morning while in custody after he was arrested during an Israeli military raid.
Pakistan’s new prime minister, Imran Khan, has announced plans to grant citizenship to anyone born in the country. The announcement is a departure from the current policy and could drastically change the lives of Pakistan’s massive refugee populations. Khan said, “Those Afghans whose children are born here and have grown up in Pakistan we will also, god willing, get [passports] for them.” According to U.N. numbers, close to 1.5 million Afghan refugees who were born in Pakistan could benefit from the policy. Bengali refugees in Pakistan, which include the Rohingya community, would also be granted citizenship.
In Chicago, the trial of Jason Van Dyke, the police officer who killed Laquan McDonald, is underway. On the opening day of the trial, the jury was shown the now-viral dash cam video showing Van Dyke shooting the unarmed African-American teenager 16 times as he walks away from him. Van Dyke faces two counts of first-degree murder. He is the first police officer in Chicago to stand trial for killing someone on duty in 50 years. Last year, three Chicago police officers were indicted on felony charges for conspiring to cover up the facts of McDonald’s shooting. Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel has also been sharply criticized for his response to the killing, namely in the delayed release of the dash cam evidence.
The Miami Herald reports that a former police chief in Biscayne Park, Florida, pleaded guilty to a conspiracy charge of depriving three innocent black men of their civil rights by framing them. Raimundo Atesiano admitted to directing police officers to frame innocent men in cases of unsolved burglaries and break-ins to benefit his department’s crimes record. Atesiano had previously boasted about the department’s success rate. Atesiano reached a plea deal with the U.S. Attorney’s Office and will face sentencing in November.
President Trump has taken the unusual step of ordering the intelligence community to declassify a trove of documents and text messages related to the ongoing investigation into Russia’s alleged meddling in the 2016 election. The documents include the FISA warrant application targeting Trump campaign foreign policy adviser Carter Page, as well as the text messages related to the Russian probe of a number of former high-ranking FBI and Department of Justice officials, including former FBI Director James Comey, as well as Andrew McCabe, Peter Strzok, Lisa Page and Bruce Ohr. Congressmember Adam Schiff, the top-ranking Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee, criticized Trump, calling his move a “clear abuse of power.”
And in media news, Salesforce CEO Marc Benioff and his wife Lynne have purchased Time magazine from Meredith Corp. for $190 million. Time magazine is the latest publication to be purchased by a billionaire. Earlier this year, biotech billionaire Patrick Soon-Shiong bought the Los Angeles Times and San Diego Union-Tribune. Two years ago, conservative billionaire Sheldon Adelson bought the Las Vegas Review-Journal, and in 2013, Amazon’s Jeff Bezos acquired The Washington Post.
The Texas State Board of Education has voted in favor of removing certain content from the required social studies curriculum in order to “streamline” the curriculum. Historical figures that may be dropped include deaf-blind civil rights pioneer and socialist Helen Keller, and Hillary Clinton, the first female presidential nominee for a major party, who both scored low on the board’s grading system. The Republican-majority board’s decision will undergo a final vote in November after a period of public response.