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The Trump administration has proposed a new rule that would allow migrant children and their caregivers to be jailed by U.S. immigration agencies indefinitely. The proposed rule seeks to overturn the 1997 Flores agreement, which puts a 20-day limit on migrant family detentions. Acting Homeland Security Secretary Keven McAleenan said Wednesday the new rule would serve as a deterrent.
Acting DHS Secretary Kevin McAleenan: “No child should be a pawn in a scheme to manipulate our immigration system, which is why the new rule eliminates the incentive to exploit children as a free ticket, or, as one gentleman in Guatemala told me, a passport for migration to the United States.”
The proposed rule drew intense condemnation from immigrant rights groups and human rights organizations. Amnesty International tweeted, “This is more than cruel. It’s beyond logic and humanity.” On Wednesday, President Trump once again said he’s looking into ending birthright citizenship for people born on U.S. soil — even though the right is enshrined in the Constitution under the 14th Amendment.
The Congressional Budget Office warned Wednesday the federal budget deficit is growing faster than predicted and is on course to reach $1 trillion for the first time since the Great Recession. This comes less than two years after Trump signed a $1.5 trillion Republican tax cut that overwhelmingly favors the wealthiest Americans, and as the Pentagon is set to receive a staggering $738 billion for the coming fiscal year.
Brazilian researchers say fires raging in the Amazon have reached their highest pace on record, as illegal loggers burn vast areas of rainforest to clear land for mining and cattle grazing. Brazil’s National Institute for Space Research says satellites have detected some 74,000 fires in Brazil so far this year — a more than 80% increase over the same period in 2018. There are fires raging in neighboring Bolivia, as well, where some 2,000 square miles have burned. The fires have sent massive plumes of smoke across much of South America, turning day into night in São Paulo, 1,700 miles away from the Amazon Basin.
On Wednesday, Brazil’s far-right President Jair Bolsonaro said, without evidence, that nongovernmental organizations were to blame.
President Jair Bolsonaro: “Regarding the fires in the Amazon, I’m under the impression that it could have been set by the NGOs, because they had asked for money. What was their intention? To bring about problems for Brazil.”
Bolsonaro has worked to deregulate and open up the Amazon for agribusiness, logging and mining since he came into office in January. His attempt to blame environmentalists for the fires drew widespread ridicule and outrage. It came as indigenous people used social media to document how illegal loggers are setting fire to their territories. This is a woman named Célia, a member of the Pataxó indigenous community, speaking in a video that went viral across Brazil this week.
Célia: “Look what they’ve done to our reservation. For two years we’ve been fighting to preserve this land, and now those troublemakers come here and set fire to our village. As if it were not enough, the Vale mining company kills our river, our people, our source of life, and now they’ve come and set fire to our reservation. We won’t stay quiet! Tomorrow we will close the road, and we want the media to defend us!”
Meanwhile, wildfires continue to rage in Alaska, where a thick blanket of smoke has darkened the skies over Anchorage. July was the hottest month ever recorded on Earth, when temperatures in Alaska averaged more than 58 degrees Fahrenheit — about 5.5 degrees above historic averages. Elsewhere, fires raging in the Canary Islands forced 8,000 people to evacuate. In Siberia, more than 21,000 square miles of forest have burned so far this month. There have even been large-scale wildfires in Greenland, which recently experienced its largest single-day ice melt in history.
Washington state Governor Jay Inslee has dropped his bid for the Democratic Party’s 2020 presidential nomination, saying it has “become clear” he is not going to become president. Inslee made combating the climate crisis the centerpiece of his short-lived campaign for the White House. Inslee clashed with the Democratic National Committee after challenging party leaders to host a debate solely focused on the climate. DNC Chair Tom Perez has declared that the party “will not be holding entire debates on a single issue area.” Writing in The Intercept, journalist Naomi Klein responded, “Having a habitable Earth is not a 'single issue'; it is the single precondition for every other issue’s existence. Humbling as it may be, our shared climate is the frame inside which all of our lives, causes, and struggles unfold.”
In San Francisco, progressive activists disrupted an event Wednesday honoring House Speaker Nancy Pelosi with a lifetime achievement award. Dozens rallied outside the InterContinental San Francisco Hotel, while inside four others interrupted the ceremony, calling on Pelosi to support the impeachment of President Trump. Demonstrators also protested Pelosi’s June approval of billions of dollars in funding for a Republican border security package. The activists were eventually removed by the police. No arrests were made.
Sudan’s military rulers have sworn in a new government as part of an agreement to bring civilian rule to the country after a popular uprising ended the 30-year reign of authoritarian President Omar al-Bashir earlier this year. Sudan’s sovereign council is composed of six civilians — two of them women — as well as five members of Sudan’s powerful military. Economist Abdalla Hamdok took the oath of office as prime minister. He was the favored choice of many pro-democracy activists whose protests toppled al-Bashir in April. Under a power-sharing agreement between protesters and the military, the sovereign council will govern Sudan for three years ahead of general elections scheduled for mid-2022.
In Hong Kong, riot police squared off Wednesday evening against demonstrators at a suburban train station, the site of an attack one month ago by masked men on protesters returning home from a pro-democracy march. Protesters say the assailants in the July 21 attack have ties to organized crime, and they say authorities colluded with the attackers by failing to prosecute them. Meanwhile, Chinese officials have acknowledged for the first time that an employee of the British Consulate in Hong Kong has been detained in mainland China for the past 15 days. Twenty-eight-year-old Simon Cheng went missing on August 8 after sending his partner an eerie message reading, “Pray for me,” as he rode a train bound for Hong Kong. His case has renewed fears over a now-suspended bill that would allow Hong Kong residents to be extradited to mainland China.
In Mexico, the Zapatista National Liberation Army announced this week that it is extending its leadership of autonomous indigenous zones to 11 more areas in the southern state of Chiapas. Some of the new autonomous communities will be established on land that the Zapatistas took during an uprising in 1994 following the signing of the North American Free Trade Agreement. A statement signed by Zapatista Subcommander Moisés called it “exponential growth that allows us to break the blockade again.” In the same statement, the Zapatistas referred to Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador as “the new overseer” and said that dozens of indigenous activists have been killed since AMLO took office on December 1. On Monday, AMLO called the expansion “welcome” and said it would benefit indigenous people. The Mexican president has been widely criticized by indigenous communities for his support of a massive infrastructure project that would extend a 950-mile rail network right through the heartland of Mayan indigenous land in southern Mexico.
President Trump attacked Danish Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen Wednesday, one day after announcing he had canceled a planned state visit to Denmark over the country’s refusal to discuss selling Greenland to the United States. This is Trump speaking to reporters outside the White House Wednesday on his way to Kentucky.
President Donald Trump: “No, Denmark, I looked forward to going, but I thought that the prime minister’s statement, that it was absurd, that was — that it was an absurd idea, was nasty. I thought it was an inappropriate statement.”
Danish politicians across the political spectrum have expressed disbelief over Trump’s bid to purchase Greenland — an autonomous Danish territory — as well as Trump’s sudden cancellation of the state visit. Following Trump’s latest remarks, a State Department spokesperson said Trump had merely “postponed” the trip, and said Secretary of State Mike Pompeo called the Danish foreign minister to express U.S. support for its NATO ally. Meanwhile former President Obama is scheduled to travel to Denmark next month.
On Wednesday, President Trump referred to himself as “the chosen one” as he discussed ongoing negotiations for a trade deal with China. This was after he retweeted a conspiracy theorist who compared Trump to the king of Israel and said Jews “love him like the second coming of God.” Meanwhile, President Trump doubled down on his claim that Jewish people who vote for Democrats are either ignorant or disloyal. Trump’s initial remarks came one day earlier, as he attacked Congressmembers Rashida Tlaib and Ilhan Omar, who were recently barred from entering Israel and Palestine at Trump’s urging. This is Trump speaking to reporters outside the White House Wednesday.
President Donald Trump: “In my opinion, you vote for a Democrat, you’re being very disloyal to Jewish people, and you’re being very disloyal to Israel. And only weak people would say anything other than that.”
Trump’s remarks drew condemnation from Democrats and a large number of Jewish organizations. Rabbi Alissa Wise of Jewish Voice for Peace said in a statement that Trump had repeated an anti-Semitic trope about Jewish people holding “dual loyalty,” adding, “His fake concern for Jews doesn’t fool us, as his actions have proven he is not concerned about Jewish safety, but in using Jews to win political points with his white nationalist base. In fact, by his continued encouragement of white supremacy and his daily racist attacks on immigrants and people of color, Trump is making the American Jewish community less safe by the day.”
A Southern California school district is under fire after administrators failed to inform parents about repeated incidents of hate speech by members of a high school water polo team captured on video. The incidents occurred at Pacifica High School in Orange County. In one video, 10 students are seen singing a Nazi song while performing a Sieg Heil salute during an awards ceremony. In another video, a student is seen wrapped in a Confederate battle flag. In a third video, two students are seen goose-stepping while waving a German flag. School district officials reportedly learned about the videos last March but failed to inform parents and teachers, and have refused to say if anyone was disciplined over the hate speech. On Tuesday, officials with the Garden Grove Unified School District said they have reopened an investigation.
Elsewhere in Southern California, police say they thwarted a mass shooting by a disgruntled cook at the Long Beach Marriott hotel who allegedly threatened to come into work to shoot everyone he saw. Long Beach Police Chief Robert Luna says officers found an arsenal of deadly weapons when they arrested 37-year-old Rodolfo Montoya at his home on Tuesday.
Police Chief Robert Luna: “Suspect Montoya had clear plans, intent and the means to carry out an act of violence that may have resulted in a mass casualty incident. A search of the suspect’s residence in the city of Huntington Beach led to the seizure of multiple high-powered firearms, hundreds of rounds of ammunition, as well as tactical gear, including an assault rifle and high-capacity magazines, which are illegal to possess in the state of California.”
The police were tipped off by a co-worker to whom the potential shooter spoke. There have been at least 30 arrests of people alleged to be planning massacres since the mass shootings in El Paso, Texas, and Dayton, Ohio, earlier this month.
Parkland student activists who survived the 2018 mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Florida have unveiled an ambitious plan to tackle gun violence. The March for Our Lives “Peace Plan” would create a national gun licensing and registry system, ban assault weapons and high-capacity magazines, and create a national buy-back program for firearms. It would also see federal officials declare a national emergency around gun violence, name a national director of gun violence prevention, and would register eligible voters and mail voter registration cards to all Americans when they turn 18.
The Washington Post reports that at least eight Bureau of Prisons officials knew that multimillionaire serial sex abuser Jeffrey Epstein was not to be left alone in his cell in a Manhattan federal jail, but the order was ignored during the 24 hours leading up to his death on August 10. The Post cites unnamed officials who say that supervisors and managers — and not just low-level prison guards — were aware of the directive. New York City’s medical examiner determined last week that Jeffrey Epstein’s cause of death was suicide by hanging, but Epstein’s lawyers have challenged that finding and are planning their own investigation.
In Huntsville, Texas, prison officials injected 48-year-old death row prisoner Larry Swearingen with a lethal dose of the drug pentobarbital Wednesday evening, killing a man who proclaimed his innocence to his dying breath. Swearingen was convicted of the 1998 murder of 19-year-old community college student Melissa Trotter, but at least five defense experts testified that Swearingen could not have been the killer because he was in jail on unrelated traffic violations at the time of the murder. They also testified that someone else’s DNA was found under the victim’s fingernails. But on Wednesday, Swearingen was put to death after the Supreme Court denied a stay of execution. In a statement sent to The Washington Post on Wednesday, Swearingen wrote, “Today the state of Texas murdered an innocent man.” He added, “I feel certain that my death can be a catalyst to change the insane legal system of Texas which could allow this to happen.”