Attorney General William Barr has directed the Department of Justice to resume the use of the death penalty, asking the Federal Bureau of Prisons to schedule executions for five death row prisoners. The federal government hasn’t put a prisoner to death since 2003. All five prisoners slated for death were convicted of killing children. Robert Dunham, director of the Death Penalty Information Center, says it appears they were carefully selected to tamp down public opposition to resuming federal executions.
Robert Dunham: “I think the fact that the five cases were selected because of factors that are irrelevant to federal jurisdiction underscores that these cases were not chosen because they justify the federal death penalty. They were chosen because they were designed to inflame the public.”
According to the Death Penalty Information Center, over 160 people in the U.S. who had been wrongly convicted and sentenced to death have been exonerated since 1973. We’ll have more on the Trump administration’s move to reinstate federal executions after headlines.
In Georgia, a 44-year-old Mexican man has died in the custody of Immigration and Customs Enforcement. Before his death Wednesday, Pedro Arriago-Santoya complained he was experiencing abdominal pain while jailed at the Stewart Detention Center in Lumpkin, Georgia. He was taken to a nearby hospital and died in intensive care two days later of cardiopulmonary arrest. Arriago-Santoya is the seventh person to die since October after being jailed by ICE. His death follows several others in recent years at the Stewart Detention Center, including two suicides. Attorney Azadeh Shahshahani of the group Project South said, “We have been raising the alarm about the horrific conditions at the Stewart Detention Center for many years. Our calls for accountability and redress have fallen on deaf ears. How many more immigrants should perish at this awful place rife with human rights abuses before it’s shut down?”
The Trump administration is threatening to impose a travel ban on Guatemalans unless leaders of the Central American country take drastic steps to curb undocumented immigration northward. On Wednesday, Trump also announced plans to take “severe” actions against the Guatemalan government, including enforcing tariffs on remittances sent by Guatemalans living in the U.S. Trump’s threats come after Guatemalan President Jimmy Morales failed to sign a safe third country agreement with the United States. The agreement would have required Guatemala to take in asylum seekers from around the world who originally had fled to the United States in hopes of finding refuge.
In Oklahoma, Republican Senator Jim Inhofe said Thursday that plans to jail 1,600 migrant children at the Fort Sill U.S. Army base have been halted. Inhofe’s announcement came just days after hundreds of protesters shut down the entrance to Fort Sill as part of a series of protests against Republican Governor Kevin Stitt’s efforts to imprison migrant children there. Fort Sill was used during World War II to incarcerate Japanese Americans. It was also once a prison for Native Americans.
In the Mediterranean, as many as 150 people are feared dead after a pair of boats overloaded with migrants capsized off the coast of Libya Thursday. This is Abdallah Ahmed Abdallah, a man from Eritrea who survived the disaster.
Abdallah Ahmed Abdallah: “There were 300 of us in the boat, and then water came in. One hundred people were rescued, but the rest all died. The women, children and girls all died. Glory to God, we started swimming for almost seven hours, and then we were rescued by fishermen, almost 100 people. We have been here for two days, and no one has come to take us. There has been a dead body here with us for the past two days. Glory to God, it is like we were fighting death in the sea, and now we are fighting death on the ground.”
It appears to be the deadliest shipwreck in the Mediterranean this year. The International Organization for Migration says nearly 700 people have died attempting the perilous crossing from North Africa to Europe in 2019.
In Europe, at least five people have died as a massive heat wave grips much of the continent, shattering record high temperatures—many of which were set during a previous heat wave just weeks ago. Thermometers in Paris clocked temperatures Thursday of nearly 110 degrees Fahrenheit, an all-time high, with new records also set in Belgium, Germany and the Netherlands.
In Alaska, a series of wildfires driven by record high temperatures has consumed more than 1 million acres of forest. Similar fires in Greenland and Siberia have combined to make 2019’s Arctic wildfires unprecedented in recorded history. The fires come as new climate data revealed that last month was the hottest June ever observed, with July on pace to become Earth’s hottest month on record.
California state officials have signed a deal with four major automakers to reduce greenhouse emissions from cars and trucks, defying a White House bid to roll back Obama-era fuel efficiency standards. The deal between California and Ford, Honda, Volkswagen and BMW would see passenger vehicles average about 50 miles per gallon by 2026. The Trump administration has proposed freezing auto efficiency at 2020 levels, or around 37 miles a gallon. Auto emissions are California’s single largest source of greenhouse gases, and improving fuel efficiency is critical to meeting the state’s goals on combating climate change.
Minnesota Congressmember Ilhan Omar on Thursday introduced a bill that would end the use of toxic landfills while transitioning the U.S. to a zero-waste economy as part of the Green New Deal. Congressmember Omar says the Zero Waste Act would create a federal grant program to help local cities invest in zero-waste initiatives.
Rep. Ilhan Omar: “Our country generates over 250 million tons of trash each year. Right now most of that trash does not get recycled or composted or reused. Instead it ends up in landfills, in incinerators, fueling our climate crisis and polluting the communities who live near these toxic sites. The only way to combat this crisis is to move to a zero-waste economy.”
The Zero Waste Act is co-sponsored by Democratic Congressmembers Deb Haaland of New Mexico and Earl Blumenauer of Oregon.
The Senate Intelligence Committee concluded Thursday that Russian hackers targeted election systems in all 50 U.S. states during the 2016 election—a much wider operation than previously reported. The committee’s heavily redacted report found no evidence that any votes were changed as a result of the hacking efforts, but it found hackers were in a position to delete or change voter data in the state of Illinois. The report came just one day after former special counsel Robert Mueller told lawmakers on Capitol Hill that the Russian government interfered in the 2016 election in a sweeping and systematic fashion. Despite Mueller’s latest warning, Senate Republicans blocked a pair of election security bills this week.
In Russia, Moscow police have raided the homes of several opposition politicians, including longtime Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny, ahead of a planned protest tomorrow calling for free and fair elections. The raids came just weeks after election officials in Moscow rejected the applications of dozens of opposition candidates to be on the ballot during upcoming city council elections.
In New York City, the CEO of a police and military supply company has stepped down from the board of directors of the Whitney Museum, after activists waged a campaign to have him removed. Warren Kanders, CEO of tear gas manufacturer Safariland, was the target of nonviolent protests staged both inside and outside the famed art museum. Activists say Safariand played a major role in suppressing popular movements in Standing Rock, Ferguson and Palestine, and that the company supplied tear gas fired at migrant families seeking asylum at the U.S.-Mexico border.
Federal authorities have placed the serial child sex abuser Jeffrey Epstein on a suicide watch, after he was reportedly found unconscious in his Manhattan jail cell with marks on his neck. It’s not clear whether the injuries Epstein received Tuesday were self-inflicted. Epstein has pleaded not guilty to federal charges of sex trafficking minors, after his arrest earlier this month. In 2008, Epstein was charged with molesting and trafficking dozens—and potentially hundreds—of underage girls in Florida. But he ended up serving just 13 months in county jail after Alex Acosta, the U.S. prosecutor in Florida—who later became Trump’s labor secretary before resigning this month—cut what’s been described as “one of the most lenient deals for a serial child sex offender in history.”
New details have emerged linking Jeffrey Epstein to other powerful men accused or convicted of sexual crimes. New York magazine reports Epstein repeatedly conferred with former TV news host Charlie Rose about hiring young women as assistants. Three of them were later hired, including one woman hired at age 22 who said of her experience, “I was being offered up for abuse.” Charlie Rose has been accused by 27 women of sexual misconduct spanning three decades. Another of the women referred by Epstein to Rose was described in a call log as “[the] world’s most perfect assistant she used to work for Harvey Weinstein.” He told Rose’s office Rose would be “lucky if he can get her.” Weinstein has been accused of rape, sexual assault and sexual harassment by over 100 women and faces trial on rape charges in New York in September.
Federal regulators have recalled textured breast implants manufactured by the pharmaceutical company Allergan, after linking them to an increasing number of deaths and illnesses. Medical researchers say the implants can lead to a rare form of lymphoma, an immune system cancer that begins in the tissues surrounding implant sites. According to the FDA, there have been 570 confirmed cases of the rare lymphoma worldwide, with four-fifths of the cases linked to Allergan implants.
Three white students at the University of Mississippi face possible federal civil rights charges after a photograph emerged showing the fraternity brothers posing with guns next to a bullet-riddled sign honoring Emmett Till, the 14-year-old African-American boy whose killing 64 years ago remains one of the most horrific examples of racial terror in the Jim Crow South. The photo posted to social media by one of the young men was taken at the site where Till’s body was recovered from the Tallahatchie River in 1955. It was the latest act of vandalism targeting the plaque set up by the Emmett Till Memorial Commission, after a similar desecration in August of last year. Thursday would have been Emmett Till’s 78th birthday.
And a 46-year-old graphic designer and registered Republican has been identified as the creator of an altered presidential seal mocking Donald Trump that briefly appeared behind the president at an event in Washington, D.C., this week. Charles Leazott told The Washington Post he doesn’t know how his creation ended up being projected on a screen behind Trump as the president addressed the Teen Student Action Summit on Tuesday, but he suspects a rogue staffer may have intentionally swapped out the image. The seal shows the traditional U.S. bald eagle with two heads—evoking the double-headed eagle in Russia’s coat of arms. Instead of arrows and an olive branch, the eagle is clutching golf clubs and cash in its talons. And the banner with the Latin phrase “E pluribus unum” has been changed to a Spanish phrase that translates as “45 is a puppet.”