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Half a million people poured onto the streets of San Juan, Puerto Rico, Monday, shutting down traffic and major sections of the city in the largest demonstration yet since the text message scandal involving Governor Ricardo Rosselló broke just over a week and a half ago. A massive leak of messages showed Governor Rosselló exchanging sexist, homophobic and violent text messages with government officials, calling former New York City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito a “whore,” mocking victims of Hurricane Maria and joking about shooting San Juan Mayor Carmen Yulín Cruz. Rosselló said Sunday he will not seek re-election next year and was resigning as head of the ruling New Progressive Party, but he is refusing to step down as governor. This is a protester speaking from Puerto Rico yesterday.
Ernesto Marin: “I decided to come to be with the people, because we are tired. It has been disrespectful to the people. The government and his Cabinet has made fun of the gay community, women, handicapped people. The corruption, we are sick of the corruption. The people are tired. It has been years and years, and the people have awoken.”
We’ll have the latest from Puerto Rico after headlines with Carla Minet, executive director of Puerto Rico’s Center for Investigative Journalism, which published the 900 pages of Rosselló’s text messages, triggering the popular uprising.
Boris Johnson has been named as the next British prime minister. The election, which pitted him against Foreign Minister Jeremy Hunt of the Conservative Party, was the first time that a party’s membership directly chose the prime minister. The membership of the Conservative Party who voted for Johnson represents just 0.13% of the British population and is whiter, older and, obviously, more conservative. Johnson thanked outgoing Prime Minister Theresa May at a Conservative Party meeting in London where his win was announced.
Boris Johnson: “It was a privilege to serve in her Cabinet and to see the passion and determination that she brought to the many causes that are her legacy, from equal pay for men and women to tackling the problems of mental health and racial discrimination in the criminal justice system. Thank you, Theresa.”
Johnson vowed to bring a “new spirit of can-do” to his party and promised to defeat Labour Leader Jeremy Corbyn. Jeremy Corbyn tweeted, “Boris Johnson has won the support of fewer than 100,000 unrepresentative Conservative Party members by promising tax cuts for the richest, presenting himself as the bankers’ friend, and pushing for a damaging No Deal Brexit.” President Trump, meanwhile, congratulated Johnson and said he will be “great” as prime minister.
This comes as the U.K. is facing mounting tensions with Iran. Jeremy Hunt recently announced plans to deploy a European-led naval force in the Strait of Hormuz following Iran’s seizure of a British oil tanker in what Britain has called an act of “state piracy.” Iranian state TV aired footage of the crew captured on board the Stena Impero Monday. That capture was done in retaliation for Britain capturing an Iranian oil tanker and holding it in Gibraltar.
The Department of Homeland Security plans to expand “expedited removal” proceedings for immigrants, potentially denying due process to hundreds of thousands of undocumented people living in the U.S. The process would allow for removals without a hearing before an immigration judge and would be used against immigrants who have entered the country within the past two years. In addition, the individuals targeted could be asked to prove they have been in the U.S. continuously for more than two years to avoid deportation. The process has previously been reserved for immigrants who had only been in the U.S. for two weeks or less and who had been apprehended within 100 miles of the border.
Legal experts and immigrant rights advocates warn “expedited removal” is already a flawed practice that is regularly abused, putting people with strong asylum claims in danger. The Migration Policy Institute estimates nearly 300,000 people could be subject to expedited removal under the new policy, which is set to go into effect immediately. The ACLU and the American Immigration Council have said they will sue. Omar Jadwat of the ACLU’s Immigrants’ Rights Project said, “Under this unlawful plan, immigrants who have lived here for years would be deported with less due process than people get in traffic court.”
In more immigration news, Immigration and Customs Enforcement said Monday it has started using DNA testing at seven locations around the border. Officials say the testing is designed to identify migrants posing as families to facilitate entry to the United States. The testing is voluntary, but documents released earlier this year about the DNA program suggest families are more likely to be temporarily separated if they do not submit.
As lawmakers gear up for former special counsel Robert Mueller’s testimonies before the House Judiciary and Intelligence Committees Wednesday, the Justice Department warned Mueller in a letter to “remain within the boundaries” of the public version of the report. The letter also said that Mueller could not “discuss the conduct of uncharged third parties,” which includes President Trump, his family and his close associates. The Mueller report concluded the Trump campaign did not collude with Russia during the 2016 presidential campaign, but refrained from coming to any conclusions about obstruction of justice.
Meanwhile, FBI Director Christopher Wray is testifying before the Senate Judiciary Committee today on the origins of the Russia investigation.
Pakistan’s Prime Minister Imran Khan met with President Trump at the White House Monday as both men appeared to try to ease tensions following Trump’s cutting off of over $1 billion in security assistance to Pakistan last year. Trump told reporters Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi asked him to act as a mediator between Pakistan and India on the issue of Kashmir—a claim that was quickly denied by Indian officials.
Trump and Khan also spoke about the ongoing war in Afghanistan, with Trump saying Pakistan would help the U.S. “extricate” itself from the conflict. Trump also said he could win the war in Afghanistan and wipe the country “off the face of the earth” in 10 days, but that he doesn’t want to kill 10 million people.
President Donald Trump: “We’ve been there for 19 years, and we’ve acted as policemen, not soldiers. And again, if we wanted to be soldiers, it would be over in 10 days, one week to 10 days, if we wanted to. But I have not chosen that. Why—why are we—why would we kill millions of people?”
Khan, meanwhile, said the Afghan War must be solved politically and that “this is the closest we have been to a peace deal.” Deadly attacks have continued to plague Afghanistan amid the ongoing peace talks. At least 10 civilians were killed Friday in air attacks by Afghan security forces in the western Badghis province, while at least 10 others were killed and 30 injured after a car bomb went off near Kabul University.
In the Philippines, President Rodrigo Duterte called for lawmakers to bring back the death penalty for drug offenders during his State of the Union address Monday. Earlier this month, the U.N. voted to investigate abuses committed by Duterte’s forces in his war on drugs, which human rights groups say has claimed tens of thousands of lives. Butch Olano of Amnesty International said, “Extrajudicial killings remain rife in the Philippines. Talk of bringing back the death penalty for drug-related crimes is abhorrent, and risks aggravating the current climate of impunity.”
Tens of thousands took to the streets to protest against Duterte during his address. Protesters also objected to Duterte’s refusal to confront China over its sinking of a Filipino fishing boat last month and territorial disputes in the South China Sea. This is a member of the opposition movement New Patriotic Alliance.
Renato Reyes: “The people are quite fed up now with the excuses, with the killings, with the repeated subservience to China. And they just want those incidents and cases to stop. If not, then Duterte has really no business remaining as president, if he can’t defend the constitution, uphold the constitution and defend our sovereign rights.”
In more news from the Philippines, the libel trial for Maria Ressa, the award-winning editor and founder of independent news site Rappler, opened today. Ressa has been a vocal critic of President Duterte and his drug war, and has been systematically targeted for her reporting. Click here to see our interviews with Maria Ressa.
In Syria, airstrikes by government and Russian forces killed at least 50 people and wounded dozens of others at a crowded marketplace and in residential neighborhoods in Idlib Monday. A separate attack in the region killed another 12 civilians, according to local reports. The attacks came after more than 30 people were killed by government air raids Sunday around Idlib, according to the U.K.-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights and rescuers from the Syria Civil Defense. Idlib province is the last major rebel stronghold in Syria. The U.N. warns that it has become one of the most dangerous places for both civilians and aid workers. Over 300,000 people have fled the area over the past three months, according to the U.N.
In more news about Syria, the Committee to Protect Journalists is calling on Syrian authorities to immediately account for all detained journalists, including those who have died behind bars. This follows news of the death of independent photojournalist Alaa Nayef al-Khader al-Khalidi, whose family says he was tortured and killed in a military prison. The family learned of his death earlier this month but does not have any further details, including when he died. He had been imprisoned since 2016. Al-Khalidi reported on the Syrian war and worked with an organization that documented civilian casualties.
The Trump administration and congressional leaders have reached an agreement on a budget that would raise the debt ceiling and include increases for defense and domestic programs. Some deficit hawks within the Republican Party have criticized the deal that Congress must now pass. The two-year deal also includes provisions aimed at preventing another government shutdown.
The Trump administration is seeking to tighten restrictions on food stamps, in a move that could cut over 3 million people from the program. The Department of Agriculture wants to require some recipients of food stamps to pass a review of their income and assets to determine their eligibility. Currently, families who already receive federal assistance through the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families program automatically qualify for food support. Food stamps benefit some 40 million Americans, or about 12% of the total population. Experts say the new rule would overwhelmingly affect working families, older Americans and people with disabilities. Democratic Senator Debbie Stabenow, the ranking member of the Agriculture Committee, said, “This proposal is yet another attempt by this Administration to circumvent Congress. [It] would take food away from families, prevent children from getting school meals, and make it harder for states to administer food assistance.”
And Paul Krassner, writer, comedian and a leading figure of the “Yippie” counterculture movement, died over the weekend at his home in California. He was 87. He was the founder and editor of the underground satirical publication The Realist. The term “Yippie” emerged out of the Youth International Party, which Krassner co-founded. The group famously staged a performance-based protest at the 1968 Democratic National Convention—at the height of the Vietnam War—by advancing Pigasus, a 145-pound pig, as a presidential nominee. Krassner also set up a referral service for people who needed abortions at a time when the procedure was still illegal. He created the service when women started calling him for help in response to an interview he did with an an abortion doctor. Krassner was once described by an FBI agent as “a raving, unconfined nut”—a phrase that Krassner ended up borrowing for the title of his memoir. Comedian George Carlin later said, “The FBI was right. This man is dangerous—and funny, and necessary.”