Calls for Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross to resign are mounting after reports emerged Monday he threatened to fire staff at NOAA — the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration — for pushing back on President Trump’s false statements about Hurricane Dorian and its risk to Alabama. On September 1, Trump incorrectly tweeted that Alabama would “most likely be hit much harder than anticipated.” The statement was swiftly denied by the National Weather Service. Last Friday, NOAA issued a statement disavowing the National Weather Service’s denial.
The Washington Post reported over the weekend NOAA warned its staff not to publicly contradict President Trump’s false statements. The agency reportedly sent a similar message after Trump showed a doctored hurricane prediction map last week with a hand-drawn extension added by black marker to include Alabama.
NOAA’s acting chief scientist told coworkers Friday he is investigating whether the agency’s response to President Trump’s Dorian tweets constitute a violation of agency policies and ethics. The Commerce Department’s Office of Inspector General has also launched an investigation into the matter, according to The New York Times. Meanwhile, National Weather Service Director Louis Uccellini publicly backed NOAA forecasters at a meeting of the National Weather Association Monday for dispelling the falsehoods about Dorian’s threat to Alabama.
In related news, President Trump threatened Monday to create obstacles for entry for people seeking aid and refuge from hurricane-ravaged Bahamas.
President Donald Trump: “But we have to be very careful. Everybody needs totally proper documentation, because the — look, the Bahamas had some tremendous problems with people going to the Bahamas that weren’t supposed to be there. I don’t want to allow people that weren’t supposed to be in the Bahamas to come in to the United States, including some very bad people and some very bad gang members and some very, very bad drug dealers.”
Trump’s comments contradict those of Acting Commissioner of Customs and Border Protection Mark Morgan, who said just hours earlier the agency was already processing entrants without documentation. “This is a humanitarian mission, right?” Morgan said to reporters.
The death toll in the Bahamas has reached at least 50 people, though the number is expected to rise dramatically as thousands are still missing. An estimated 5,000 people have fled the Bahamas since the devastating hurricane. On Sunday, over 100 people seeking refuge in the U.S. were turned away after boarding a ferry bound for Florida. The ferry operator has since apologized for kicking the passengers off the boat. We’ll have more on this story after headlines.
The British Parliament is officially suspended for the next five weeks as the battle over Brexit continued to heat up Monday. Members of Parliament rejected for the second time Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s bid to call a snap election in October. Lawmakers opposing the move say measures blocking a no-deal Brexit must first be put into place. Also Monday, a bill to prevent a no-deal Brexit in October received royal assent and was passed into law. Under the law, Boris Johnson will be forced to seek a delay until January 31. Lawmakers also directed Johnson to hand over government documents relating to the suspension of Parliament and its plans for a no-deal Brexit.
As the official suspension of Parliament started in the early hours of Tuesday morning, some lawmakers protested by gathering around House of Commons Speaker John Bercow holding signs that read “silenced” and shouting, “Shame on you!” Speaker John Bercow announced Monday he will step down either on October 31 or at the next election, depending on which comes first.
United Nations human rights chief Michelle Bachelet has warned that the worsening climate crisis is the greatest threat to human rights around the world — and the window to fight the catastrophic effects of a heating planet is closing. Bachelet spoke Monday at the United Nations in Geneva, Switzerland.
Michelle Bachelet: ”WHO expects climate change to cost approximately 250,000 additional deaths per year between 2030 and 2050, from malnutrition, malaria, diarrhea and heat stress alone. In many nations, chaotic weather patterns and other manifestations of our environmental emergency are already reversing major development gains; exacerbating conflict, displacement and social tension; hampering economic growth; and shaping increasingly harsh inequalities. The world has never seen a threat to human rights of this scope.”
Bachelet also sounded the alarm on mounting attacks against environmental and human rights defenders, making particular note of activists in Latin America, as well as Swedish teen Greta Thunberg. Thunberg recently made the journey to the U.S. by sailboat to address the upcoming U.N. Climate Action Summit and the Global Climate Strike on September 20. On Friday, Thunberg and students from the New York City area took part in the weekly student climate strike in front of the U.N. headquarters.
Greta Thunberg: “Even though I have taken a sabbatical year from school, I have said that I am going to demonstrate every Friday, no matter where I am. So that’s what I am doing now.”
Meanwhile, a group of Amazon employees announced Monday they would be joining the youth-led climate strike to protest Amazon’s environmental policies.
Paraguay’s Justice Ministry has launched an investigation after human remains were found buried beneath a home that once belonged to the former dictator Alfredo Stroessner. Stroessner was a staunch U.S. ally who seized power in 1954, ruling Paraguay for 35 years. Human rights groups say his regime murdered or disappeared hundreds of people as part of a campaign of torture and terror against political opponents. Stroessner also provided a haven to several Nazi war criminals, including Dr. Josef Mengele, known as “The Angel of Death” at Auschwitz.
Bangladesh has imposed a mobile phone blackout on Rohingya refugees, further isolating up to a million displaced people living in refugee camps. By order of the Bangladeshi telecommunications minister, only residents with national identity cards will be allowed to possess local cellphone SIM cards. The order also bars the sale of cellphones in Rohingya refugee camps and will fine telecom companies that violate the order. Two years ago, hundreds of thousands of Rohingya fled to Bangladesh from Burma’s Rakhine State after Burmese authorities launched a campaign that the U.N. has described as a “textbook example of ethnic cleansing.”
North Korea has proposed restarting denuclearization talks with the U.S. later this month. Negotiations between the countries stalled in February after Trump walked away from a failed second summit in Hanoi. But in June, Trump visited the Demilitarized Zone with North Korean leader Kim Jong-un, where the two heads of state expressed renewed interest in resuming talks. This comes as North Korea launched two unidentified projectiles over the Sea of Japan Tuesday morning, the eighth such test since July.
The CIA extracted a Russian informant in 2017 who provided top-secret intelligence on Russia for decades, according to multiple reports. The intelligence included information on Russian meddling in the 2016 presidential election. The New York Times is reporting the informant helped U.S. intelligence determine that Russian President Vladimir Putin was directly involved in those efforts in a bid to help Trump win the presidency. CNN reported the decision to extract the informant from Russia was driven by U.S. intelligence concerns that Trump may have leaked classified information that would lead to the revelation of the informant’s identity, including during a White House meeting in May 2017 with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov.
The New York Times is reporting Trump has a deal with Scotland’s Prestwick Airport since 2014 to help increase air traffic at the struggling airport in exchange for sending flight crews to his Turnberry resort, some 20 miles away. The U.S. Air Force meanwhile struck a separate deal with Prestwick Airport to refuel military planes and help arrange local hotel accommodations for flight crews. This arrangement reportedly led to a seven-person Air Force crew en route to Kuwait staying at the Trump Turnberry in March. Stops by U.S. military planes at Prestwick soared in recent years. According to Politico, there were 95 stops and 40 overnights in 2015; that number had jumped to 180 stops with 116 overnights in 2017, and rose to 257 stops with 208 overnights last year. So far this year, 259 stops were recorded, which included 220 overnight stays. It’s still unclear how many of the overnights were at Trump Turnberry.
A federal court in California has reinstated a nationwide injunction against President Trump’s ban on most migrants seeking asylum at the U.S.-Mexico border. Last month, the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals partially rolled back U.S. District Judge Jon Tigar’s initial ruling on Trump’s ban, saying it applied only to California and Arizona. But yesterday Judge Tigar reissued his original injunction. Melissa Crow of the Southern Poverty Law Center said, “With this decision, regardless of where they cross the border, [vulnerable individuals and families] should be able to seek asylum. Sadly, while this ruling removes a major hurdle, far too many obstacles remain, as this administration’s war on asylum-seekers appears to know no bounds.”
In technology news, attorneys general from 48 states, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico launched an antitrust investigation into Google Monday. This is Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton speaking in Washington, D.C.
Attorney General Ken Paxton: “While many consumers believe that the internet is free, certainly we know from Google’s profits of $117 billion that the internet is not free, and this is a company that dominates all aspects of advertising on the internet and searching on the internet.”
Big Tech has come under increasing scrutiny as companies like Apple, Amazon, Google and Facebook are accused of stifling market competition through their search, social media and retail practices. Last week, New York Attorney General Letitia James announced multiple states were launching antitrust probes into Facebook and looking into whether the company “endangered consumer data.” The Federal Trade Commission, the Justice Department and the House Judiciary Committee are also investigating anti-competitive practices in Big Tech.
The White House announced last week the new U.S. Middle East peace envoy will be 30-year-old White House administrative assistant Avi Berkowitz. Berkowitz, who has no foreign policy experience, has been serving as the assistant to senior adviser and Trump’s son-in-law Jared Kushner. He will be replacing Jason Greenblatt — Trump’s former real estate lawyer — after Greenblatt announced he was resigning last week. Former White House spokeswoman Hope Hicks previously described Berkowitz’s duties as “daily logistics like getting coffee and coordinating meetings.”
Voters in North Carolina’s 9th District head to the polls today for a special election — the final uncalled election from last year’s midterms. Last November’s race was never certified, after evidence of voter fraud started to emerge and was linked to Republican Mark Harris’s campaign. Harris dropped out of the race in February. Democrat Dan McCready now faces off against pro-Trump Republican Dan Bishop. Trump spoke at a North Carolina rally in support of Republican Dan Bishop Monday night. During his speech, he railed against sanctuary cities and made false claims about illegal voting in California.