In Detroit, 10 presidential hopefuls took the stage Wednesday evening for the second Democratic debate, with nine contenders taking aim at former Vice President Joe Biden’s record on criminal justice, the Iraq War, immigration and women’s rights. The debate opened with Biden sparring with California Senator Kamala Harris on their healthcare plans, with candidates debating the merits of a Medicare for All healthcare plan for nearly 30 minutes. After headlines, we’ll play highlights of the debate, and we’ll be joined by renowned civil rights activist Dr. Cornel West and legendary labor leader Dolores Huerta, co-chair of Kamala Harris’s campaign.
Immigration rights activists abruptly interrupted Joe Biden during last night’s debate, chanting “3 million deportations!”—referring to the Obama administration’s deportation of at least 3 million undocumented people. The disruption came after CNN’s Don Lemon questioned the former vice president on his immigration record.
Don Lemon: “Vice President Biden, in the first two years of the Obama administration, nearly 800,000 immigrants were deported, far more than during President Trump’s first two years. Would the higher deportation rates resume if you’re president?”
Joe Biden: “Absolutely not, number one. Number two, everything landed on the president’s desk but locusts. I found that Julián—excuse me, the secretary, we sat together in many meetings. I never heard him talk about any of this when he was the secretary.”
Protesters: “Three million deportations! Three million deportations!”
Don Lemon: “Please be respectful. Please be respectful in the crowd.”
Protesters: “Three million deportations! Three million deportations!”
Protesters with the immigration justice group Movimiento Cosecha carried a banner that read “Stop all deportations on day 1.” Earlier Wednesday, 22 activists were arrested for blocking the nearby Detroit-Windsor Tunnel at the U.S.-Canada border protesting the federal government’s immigration crackdown.
There were other protests at Wednesday’s debate, as several activists shouted “Fire Pantaleo!” while New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio wrapped up his opening statement. It was a reference to Daniel Pantaleo, the New York police officer who five years ago choked Eric Garner to death as Garner gasped “I can’t breathe” 11 times. Pantaleo has remained on the police force ever since. This is Bill de Blasio defending his record on the killing later in the debate.
Mayor Bill de Blasio: “[The Garner family is] going to get justice. There’s finally going to be justice—I have confidence in that—in the next 30 days in New York. You know why? Because for the first time we are not waiting on the federal Justice Department, which told the city of New York that we could not proceed because the Justice Department was pursuing their prosecution. And years went by, and a lot of pain accrued.”
In fact, the Justice Department only requested that New York hold off on taking action on Pantaleo’s case, but it was not a legal requirement.
New York City’s medical examiner has ruled that Layleen Polanco, a transgender Afro-Latinx woman who was found dead in a jail cell at Rikers Island in June, died of complications from epilepsy. Polanco was arrested in April on misdemeanor charges and jailed for two months after she was unable to post $500 bail. She was found dead in a solitary confinement cell in early June. In a statement, the Epilepsy Foundation wrote, “Layleen Polanco’s death is an absolute tragedy, and her passing further underscores the dangers of solitary confinement, which isolates already medically fragile people from observation and care.” Click here to see our coverage of Layleen Polanco’s case.
The United Nations is warning that Syria’s government has dramatically stepped up bombing and shelling attacks on civilian areas of Idlib and Hama. This is U.N. humanitarian chief Mark Lowcock, speaking to reporters Tuesday after pleading with the U.N. Security Council to help stop the violence.
Mark Lowcock: “There’s been a bloody onslaught, in full swing now for more than three months, on the people of Idlib. And if it doesn’t stop, as I’ve said before, it has the potential to create the worst humanitarian disaster the world has seen so far this century.”
Activists say recent attacks in Idlib appear to be deliberately aimed at health facilities. A medical worker in the region told Doctors Without Borders, “Patients, their caretakers and hospital staff are all struggling psychologically. When planes fly over the hospital, they are extremely scared—some leave the building out of fear it will be hit.” Over the past three months, the assault has forced more than 450,000 people to flee north toward Turkey.
The Treasury Department has imposed sanctions on Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif, in the latest move by the U.S. to ratchet up tensions after the Trump administration backed out of the 2015 Iran nuclear deal. The highly unusual move to sanction another nation’s top diplomat comes ahead of the annual U.N. General Assembly in New York City in September. The State Department said it would decide whether to grant Zarif a travel visa on a “case by case basis.”
Sudan’s military rulers have closed schools across the country indefinitely, after soldiers on Monday fired on a peaceful protest of high school students, killing four students and an adult. The closures were announced a day after hundreds of Sudanese children—many of them in school uniforms—flooded the streets of Khartoum and other cities to protest the latest killings, which follow a deadly raid on a pro-democracy protest camp in the capital last month that killed an estimated 130 people.
In climate news, a massive heat dome that shattered all-time temperature records across much of Europe last week has settled in over Greenland, driving temperatures across the vast Arctic island to as much as 30 degrees Fahrenheit above normal. Writing in Rolling Stone in an article headlined “Greenland Is Melting Away Before Our Eyes,” meteorologist Eric Holthaus warns Greenland’s ice is expected to melt at its fastest rate ever recorded today, when “more than 12 billion tons of water will permanently melt away from the ice sheet and find its way down to the ocean, irreversibly raising sea levels globally.”
At Wednesday evening’s Democratic presidential debate, Washington Governor Jay Inslee promoted his climate justice proposal, which would create a 10-year, $9 trillion investment plan to combat the climate crisis, with $1.2 trillion earmarked to help frontline communities build a green energy economy. The plan would also phase out U.S. fossil fuel production and end coal power by 2030. This is Governor Jay Inslee.
Gov. Jay Inslee: “If we make defeating the climate crisis the top priority of the United States, we will have a fighting chance to save ourselves and our children’s future. It has to be our top priority. My plan is one of national mobilization, quickly bringing 100% clean energy to Americans, creating 8 million good union jobs.”
In Texas, at least 66 people sought medical attention Wednesday after part of a sprawling ExxonMobil refinery exploded and caught fire. The disaster in the city of Baytown, some 25 miles east of Houston, sent huge plumes of black smoke into the sky and prompted a shelter-in-place order for 5,000 people. This is longtime Baytown resident Agustin Loredo.
Agustin Loredo: “You have to close down your windows, close your doors, turn off your AC. If you can, seal the doors and windows with plastic and duct tape. And don’t leave until you’ve been notified that shelter in place has been lifted. And it’s really hard right now, especially in Texas, when it’s so hot.”
It’s the second disaster at an ExxonMobil plant in Baytown this year, after a refinery fire in March spewed toxic pollutants for more than eight days. Another fire that same month at a petrochemical plant in nearby Deer Park kicked up dangerous levels of toxic benzene.
The Federal Reserve is cutting interest rates for the first time since the Great Recession hit 11 years ago, amid fears of a slowing U.S. economy. After the Fed announced the quarter-point cut in its benchmark interest rate Wednesday, President Trump attacked his handpicked Fed chair, Jerome Powell, as not aggressive enough in cutting rates, tweeting, “As usual, Powell let us down.” Trump’s latest attack came after Powell suggested that President Trump’s trade wars are hurting the U.S. economy.
Puerto Rico’s disgraced governor, Ricardo Rosselló, nominated his likely successor Wednesday—two days before his resignation takes effect. If he’s confirmed in a special legislative session today, Pedro Pierluisi will become Puerto Rico’s secretary of state and will serve out the remainder of Rosselló’s term as governor. Pierluisi previously served as Puerto Rico’s resident commissioner—or non-voting representative—in Congress from 2009 to 2017. Pierluisi was one of the key advocates behind the creation of the Puerto Rico Oversight, Management, and Economic Stability Act—known as PROMESA—which created an unelected, federally appointed control board with sweeping powers to run Puerto Rico’s economy. This is Puerto Rico Independence Party politician María de Lourdes Santiago.
María de Lourdes Santiago: “I think it’s a great display of sarcasm. A leading slogan right now, 'Ricky, resign! And take the junta with you!' And the outgoing governor has left us with the financial oversight board’s lawyer, under the totally false premise that it’s better to have a figure that is less offensive than other possible candidates before the public eye. But if anything is clear, it’s that the high leadership of the party that promotes stability in Puerto Rico is a criminal organization, in which there are only puppets and puppeteers.”
Governor Rosselló announced his resignation a week ago, as hundreds of thousands of protesters flooded the streets to demand he step down. That followed the publication of hundreds of pages of text messages showing Rosselló and his staffers mocking Hurricane Maria survivors and using violent, homophobic and misogynistic language.