President Trump reportedly approved, and then abruptly called off, military strikes targeting Iran on Thursday night. The New York Times reports U.S. warplanes were already in the air ready to attack when Trump called the plan off. Trump initially OK’d the strikes as retaliation for the downing of a U.S. drone by Iran on Thursday. Iran maintains the drone had entered its airspace, while the U.S. claims the drone was in international waters. Earlier on Thursday, Trump was asked about the incident.
President Donald Trump: “Iran made a big mistake. This drone was in international waters, clearly. We have it all documented. It’s documented scientifically, not just words. And they made a very bad mistake.”
On Capitol Hill, Democratic lawmakers insisted President Trump must get congressional approval before taking any military action. Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer spoke to the press after meeting with President Trump.
Sen. Chuck Schumer: “I told the president that these conflicts have a way of escalating. The president may not intend to go to war here, but we’re worried that he and the administration may bumble into a war. We told the room that the Democratic position is that congressional approval must be required before funding any conflict in Iran.”
The Republican-led Senate voted Thursday to block the sale of billions of dollars’ worth of weapons to Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates. Key backers of the bipartisan bill included Republican Senator Lindsey Graham and Democrat Bob Menendez, who spoke before the vote.
Sen. Bob Menendez: “We’ve heard that these weapons are humanitarian weapons. But when they are used to precisely target civilians, how can we possibly continue to sell them? These are components of bombs that we know have killed thousands of civilians in Yemen, patients in hospitals, children on school buses.”
The House is also expected to pass the bill, but President Trump has threatened to veto the legislation.
A British court has ruled that British arms sales to Saudi Arabia were unlawful because the government did not consider whether they would be used to commit “serious violations of international humanitarian law.” The court’s decision came in a case brought by the Campaign Against Arms Trade, which cited Saudi Arabia’s use of British arms in its devastating war in Yemen. Andrew Smith, a spokesperson for the Campaign Against Arms Trade, celebrated the ruling.
Andrew Smith: “What this ruling makes clear is that for far, far too long the U.K. government has looked the other way as tens of thousands of people have been brutally killed in the most devastating humanitarian crisis in the world.”
A federal court has ruled the Trump administration can go ahead with plans to strip federal funding known as Title X for Planned Parenthood and other clinics that refer patients for abortions or even mention abortion as an option. The so-called domestic gag rule could threaten healthcare for millions of women who rely on Title X health centers for primary and preventive care. Planned Parenthood President Dr. Leana Wen said, “The Trump-Pence administration’s gag rule is unethical, illegal, and harmful to public health.” Meanwhile, in related news, Rhode Island Governor Gina Raimondo has signed a bill to expand the protection of abortion rights in the state.
The Associated Press is reporting some 250 infants, children and teenagers have been locked up for up to 27 days without adequate food, water and sanitation at a Border Patrol station near El Paso, Texas. One local lawyer said a sick 2-year-old boy was being treated by three girls between the ages of 10 and 15 because no one else was helping him. Children have reportedly been fed uncooked frozen food or rice and have gone weeks without bathing or clean clothes. Attorney Holly Cooper said, “In my 22 years of doing visits with children in detention I have never heard of this level of inhumanity.”
This comes as the Trump administration argued this week in federal court that the government is not required to provide toothbrushes, soap or beds to children detained at the border. Justice Department attorney Sarah Fabian made this argument before a three-judge panel of the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco on Tuesday. All three judges repeatedly questioned the government’s claim. This is Judge Wallace Tashima.
Judge Wallace Tashima: “If you don’t have a toothbrush, if you don’t have soap, if you don’t have a blanket, it’s not safe and sanitary. Wouldn’t everybody agree with that? Do you agree with that?”
Sarah Fabian: “Well, I think it’s—I think those are—there is fair reason to find that those things may be part of safe and sanitary.”
Judge Wallace Tashima: “Not 'may be.' 'Are' a part. What do you say, 'may be'? You mean there are circumstances when a person doesn’t need to have a toothbrush, toothpaste and soap for days?”
Sarah Fabian: “Well, I think, in CBP custody, there’s—it’s frequently intended to be much shorter-term, so it may be that for a shorter-term stay in CBP custody that some of those things may not be required.”
Judge Marsha Berzon also pointed out that detained children have been forced to sleep on cold cement floors with just an aluminum blanket.
Judge Marsha Berzon: “Are you really going to stand up and tell us that being able to sleep isn’t a question of safe and sanitary conditions?”
Sarah Fabian: “Your Honor, I think what I’d like to—what I’d like to stand up and say”—
Judge Marsha Berzon: “Not really going to say that.”
Sarah Fabian: —”is the focus—is to focus the court on what—what the question is.”
In other immigration news, a group of Japanese Americans who were once held in U.S. internment camps are planning to protest outside Fort Sill in Oklahoma on Saturday. During World War II, the U.S. government imprisoned about 700 people of Japanese ancestry at the base. There were over 100,000 Japanese and Japanese Americans imprisoned around the United States. Earlier this month, the Trump administration announced it would soon start holding migrant children at Fort Sill.
Colorado immigrant rights activist Jeanette Vizguerra has been denied an application for a visa in her latest attempt to stay in the United States, where she has lived for almost 25 years. Earlier this year, Vizguerra took sanctuary at the First Unitarian Society of Denver church after her stay of deportation expired. She also spent 86 days in sanctuary at the church in 2017 before receiving her stay of deportation. She is the mother of four children, three of whom were born in the U.S. as American citizens. Click here to see our coverage of Jeanette Vizguerra’s case.
In news from Central America, Honduran President Juan Orlando Hernández has ordered the deployment of at least 25,000 military forces across the country as protests grow demanding his resignation. Anger against the authoritarian Hernández administration has been building for years, but recent unrest was triggered in April amid news of government plans to privatize healthcare, pensions and education.
An Ecuadorean judge has ordered the release of Swedish programmer and data privacy activist Ola Bini after over two months in jail. But Bini remains under investigation for allegedly hacking the Ecuadorean government and has been barred from leaving the country. Bini is a friend of WikiLeaks editor Julian Assange and was arrested in Quito on the same day Assange was forcibly taken by British authorities from the Ecuadorean Embassy in London. Bini briefly spoke on Thursday after the court hearing, before being removed by authorities.
Ola Bini: “I am not free. I’m out of prison tomorrow, but I’m not free as long as this illegitimate investigation is going on. As long as this illegal persecution is going on, I am not going to be free. But we will prove—we will prove my innocence, and this will be over. And they’re trying to censor me. They’re trying to stop me from talking to the press.”
British parliamentarian Mark Field has been suspended as a minister after he grabbed a female climate protester by the neck and shoved her. The incident occurred when dozens of Greenpeace demonstrators staged a protest at a speech by British Finance Minister Philip Hammond. Police are now investigating to determine whether Field should be charged with assault.
In California, the war crimes trial for Navy SEALs Special Operations Chief Edward Gallagher took a surprise turn on Thursday when a Navy SEAL medic testified that he—and not Gallagher—was responsible for killing a wounded captive ISIS teenage fighter in Iraq. The medic, Corey Scott, claimed he asphyxiated the teenager after Gallagher stabbed the victim. Scott described it as a “mercy killing.” Gallagher is also charged with attempted murder for shooting at an Iraqi schoolgirl and elderly man.
Firefighters in Philadelphia battled a massive fire overnight after a large explosion at a 150-year-old refinery in South Philadelphia. This marked the second time this month emergency responders were called to the Philadelphia Energy Solutions Refining Complex, which produces 335,000 barrels of crude oil every day. It’s said to be the largest such complex on the U.S. Eastern Seaboard. No injuries were reported, but nearby neighborhoods were ordered to shelter in place.
In health news, U.S. suicide rates have reached the highest level since World War II. The overall suicide rate has jumped by 33% since 1999. The crisis is most severe in indigenous communities. According to the Centers for Disease Control, the suicide rate for indigenous women has increased by 139%. For indigenous men, the rate is up 71%.
Eight peace activists were arrested Thursday while protesting U.S. drone strikes after they blocked the entrance to the Hancock Air National Guard Base near Syracuse, New York. The base is home to the Air National Guard’s 174th Attack Wing, which helps run overseas drone operations.