In California, extreme winds of up to 60 miles per hour caused new fires to erupt across the southern part of the state Wednesday. In Ventura County north of Los Angeles, the so-called Easy Fire came nearly to the doorstep of the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library as hundreds of firefighters worked to control the blazes. This is Simi Valley resident David Pollack, one of 30,000 residents of the region forced to evacuate the climate change-fueled fires.
David Pollack: “As long as we get up, get out of here, get the car moving, everything else can be replaced, in theory. So, you know, breathing at the end of the day is better than not breathing at the end of the day.”
Chile’s President Sebastián Piñera announced Wednesday his nation will not be hosting the U.N. climate summit in Santiago in December as planned. The U.N. said it is now looking for an alternative venue. Piñera also canceled the scheduled Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation conference, APEC, as mass protests against inequality in Chile entered their third week. His announcement came as a shocking new report warned 300 million people are at risk from rising sea levels, three times more than previous estimates.
In Los Angeles, protesters interrupted JPMorgan Chase CEO Jamie Dimon Wednesday as he appeared at a forum on the campus of UCLA, chanting “Jamie Dimon, the world’s on fire,” and unfurling banners calling on the bank to end its investments in coal, oil and gas. The Rainforest Action Network reports JPMorgan Chase invested nearly $200 billion in fossil fuel projects after the Paris climate agreement was reached in late 2015.
On Capitol Hill, 50 youth climate activists with the Sunrise Movement occupied the offices of California Senator Dianne Feinstein and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi on Wednesday, demanding meaningful action on climate change. Organizer Claire Tacherra-Morrison said in a statement, “Democratic leadership is failing to treat this like the emergency that it is. Business-as-usual is killing us.”
In North Dakota, a breach in the Keystone pipeline Wednesday flooded a rural wetland with crude oil from Canada’s tar sands. Walsh County Emergency Management distributed photos of the massive spill, which it said was over a quarter-mile long and 15 feet wide. The agency said the pipeline’s operator TC Energy — formerly known as TransCanada — had yet to fix the leak by late Wednesday and that an unknown quantity of oil had leaked.
The House of Representatives is voting today to formalize the impeachment process, marking the first vote by the full House related to the impeachment inquiry of President Trump. This comes as the top Russia official on the National Security Council, Tim Morrison, is scheduled to testify on Capitol Hill today. On Wednesday, it was reported that Morrison will soon step down from his post. Meanwhile, House Democrats have asked Trump’s former national security adviser John Bolton to testify, but his attorney said he would not appear unless he is subpoenaed.
On Capitol Hill, Democrats on the House Oversight Committee grilled senior immigration official Ken Cuccinelli Wednesday over his agency’s moves to deport immigrants receiving life-saving medical treatment — including children and babies.
In September, following public outcry, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services reversed its decision to end deferred deportations for immigrants with serious medical conditions.
At Wednesday’s hearing, Missouri Democratic Congressmember William Clay pressed Cuccinelli, the acting director of USCIS, over the cases of parents of critically ill newborn babies who were told they had 33 days to leave the United States or face deportation.
Rep. William Lacy Clay: “You want them to leave the country? Pack up their stuff, take their sick child and go?”
Ken Cuccinelli: “Either that or make their case in the immigration process where it’s appropriate to do so” —
Rep. William Lacy Clay: “All in the middle of” —
Ken Cuccinelli: — “to stay. To stay.”
Rep. William Lacy Clay: “All in the middle of them being there, trying, hoping and praying that they save their child’s life?”
Ken Cuccinelli: “Which is why deferred action continues to exist elsewhere in DHS.”
Rep. William Lacy Clay: “How cruel! How cruel! Really? Really? I don’t believe this. I yield back.”
President Trump’s nominee to fill an open seat on the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, Nevada lawyer Lawrence VanDyke, broke down in tears Wednesday as lawmakers questioned him about the American Bar Association’s finding that he is “not qualified” to become a federal judge.
In a scathing letter to leaders of the Senate Judiciary Committee, the ABA determined VanDyke to be “arrogant, lazy, an ideologue, and lacking in knowledge of the day-to-day practice including procedural rules.” It went on to say he “lacks humility, has an 'entitlement' temperament, does not have an open mind, and does not always have a commitment to being candid and truthful.” The report also said VanDyke would not promise to be fair to members of the LGBTQ community. On Wednesday, VanDyke broke down in tears when asked about the findings at his Senate confirmation hearing.
Lawrence VanDyke: “No, I did not say that. I do not believe that. It is a fundamental belief of mine that all people are created in the image of God, and they should all be treated with dignity and respect.”
VanDyke has previously taken hard-line positions against gun control, marriage equality and abortion.
Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi tightened his control over Kashmir Wednesday, as his government announced plans to split the state of Jammu and Kashmir into two federal territories, controlled directly by New Delhi. Over the summer, massive protests erupted after Modi revoked the special status of the Indian-controlled part of the Muslim-majority region. Human rights groups say Modi’s government then carried out widespread torture, extrajudicial killings, arbitrary arrests and other crimes in Kashmir. Meanwhile, Kashmiri militants shot dead five construction workers from eastern India on Wednesday. The latest violence came as a group of European Union lawmakers from far-right parties toured Kashmir in a move decried by human rights groups as a “PR stunt.” The 27 parliamentarians, from countries including France, Germany, Italy, Poland, Spain and the U.K., met with Modi for a photo op on Monday.
The Pentagon has released video of the U.S. military assault on a compound in Syria that it says killed ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi and two of his children on Saturday when he blew up his suicide vest in a tunnel. The head of U.S. Central Command, General Frank McKenzie, said Wednesday that al-Baghdadi’s remains were buried at sea and that the U.S. was on alert for retribution attacks. The video does not contain any audio of the assault, casting further doubt on President Trump’s lurid account — made to a national audience on Sunday morning — that Baghdadi died “whimpering, crying and screaming.”
Colombia’s government says it’s deploying the military to the southwestern province of Cauca after five indigenous people were murdered on their reservation. Six others were wounded in Tuesday’s attack, after heavily armed assailants opened fire with guns and grenades on a convoy of people responsible for security in the semi-autonomous Nasa Tacueyo indigenous reserve. Among the dead was community leader Cristina Bautista. Colombian President Iván Duque traveled to the region on Wednesday, blaming dissidents in the FARC rebel group who oppose a peace deal. But police have made no arrests, and no suspects have been named in the murders.
Twitter says it will stop accepting all political advertisements worldwide beginning in November. CEO Jack Dorsey announced the change in a series of tweets Wednesday, writing, “While internet advertising is incredibly powerful and very effective for commercial advertisers, that power brings significant risks to politics, where it can be used to influence votes to affect the lives of millions.” Twitter’s move comes as Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg is under fire for accepting political advertisements — even when politicians like President Trump make demonstrably false or misleading claims.
A forensic pathologist hired by the brother of Jeffrey Epstein says the injuries that killed the multimillionaire sex abuser were consistent with strangulation — not a death by suicide as a New York medical examiner reported. Dr. Michael Baden says a broken bone in Epstein’s neck is “extremely unusual in suicidal hangings and could occur much more commonly in homicidal strangulation.” Epstein was found dead in his Manhattan jail cell in August as he awaited trial on federal sex trafficking charges. Epstein once counted President Trump and former President Bill Clinton among his high-profile friends.
In Britain, Labour Party Leader Jeremy Corbyn has formally announced he will challenge Prime Minister Boris Johnson in an election scheduled for December 12.
Jeremy Corbyn: “Today we launch the most ambitious and radical campaign our country has ever seen, to bring real change to all parts of this country. If you want to live in a society that works for everybody, not just the billionaires, if you want to save our hospitals, schools and public services from Tory cuts and privatization, if you want to stop the big polluters destroying our environment, then this election is your chance to vote for it.”
The Chicago Teachers Union reached a tentative contract agreement Wednesday with their city’s public school system, but returned to picket lines today after Mayor Lori Lightfoot refused their request to add extra school days to this year’s calendar to make up for class time lost to the strike. The tentative deal would bring Chicago teachers a 16% pay raise over five years and would add $35 million to efforts to reduce class sizes. In related news, SEIU Local 73, the union representing Chicago school support staff, approved their new contract with 97% of the workers voting yes and a strong vow to stay in solidarity with the Chicago Teachers Union. Their deal follows a seven-day strike.