In Texas, the 10 leading Democratic presidential candidates appeared on the same stage together for the first time Thursday night at a debate at Texas Southern University in Houston. It was the third debate of the primary season but marked the first time former Vice President Joe Biden and Senator Elizabeth Warren shared the stage. Biden repeatedly defended the policies of former President Obama as he clashed with his rivals over immigration and healthcare. Biden and other candidates targeted Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders over his “Medicare for All” bill, along with Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren, who supports it. Sanders said the current healthcare system is a disaster.
Sen. Bernie Sanders: “We need a healthcare system that guarantees healthcare to all people, as every other major country does, not a system which provides $100 billion a year in profit for the drug companies and the insurance companies. And to tell you how absurd the system is, tonight on ABC the healthcare industry will be advertising, telling you how bad Medicare for All is, because they want to protect their profits. That is absurd.”
After headlines, we’ll spend the rest of the hour airing highlights of Thursday night’s debate, and we’ll host a roundtable discussion.
Hours before Thursday’s debate got underway, nearly a dozen Greenpeace activists rappelled off the Fred Hartman Bridge above the Houston Ship Channel in a nonviolent civil disobedience action that brought shipping traffic to a halt in the largest oil export channel in the United States. The protesters were calling for presidential candidates to support the Green New Deal and for a just transition away from fossil fuels. One of the activists, Piper, streamed the action live on social media.
Piper: “All of the major oil companies depend on this terminal. That includes Exxon, BP, Shell, Chevron. They all depend on this terminal, and right now we are shutting it down.”
By late Thursday, police had arrested at least 15 of the activists. The Harris County Sheriff’s Office says they’ll face a number of charges related to obstructing roadways and waterways.
The United Nations is warning that 2.2 million people are expected to go hungry in Somalia and are at risk of starvation amid a massive drought that has withered crops, bringing harvests in the East African nation to 70% below average in some areas. The U.N. reports unreliable weather patterns and “climatic shocks” have coupled with widespread poverty to trap millions of Somalis in severe hunger and malnutrition.
This comes as a new report finds extreme weather events around the globe displaced a record 7 million people during the first six months of the year. The Internal Displacement Monitoring Centre warns in its midyear report, “In today’s changing climate, mass displacement triggered by extreme weather events is becoming the norm.”
The House of Representatives voted Thursday to block the Trump administration from opening up Alaska’s ANWR — the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge — to oil and gas exploration. The bill had the support of Native Alaskans who depend on migrating caribou herds for their subsistence. Members of the Gwich’in Steering Committee traveled to Washington, D.C., this week to lobby for the drilling ban. They said in a statement, “The Gwich’in and caribou have had a spiritual and cultural connection since time immemorial, the future of caribou and the future of the Gwich’in are the same. Harm to the caribou is harm to the Gwich’in way of life.” A companion bill to ban drilling in ANWR is not expected to pass the Republican-controlled Senate. This comes as the Trump administration has announced its final plan to offer oil and gas lease sales across more than a million-and-a-half acres of ANWR’s coastal plains. The plan calls for the creation of landing strips, drill pads, pipeline supports, a seawater treatment plant, 175 miles of roads, and other infrastructure in pristine wilderness along Alaska’s north coast.
Here in New York City, public school administrators say they won’t mark students as absent if they have a parent or guardian’s permission to join the Global Climate Strike on Friday, September 20. The youth-led protest will come just days before world leaders gather for a global climate summit at the United Nations headquarters. The strike was inspired by Greta Thunberg, a teenage climate activist who last year began skipping classes each Friday to protest outside the Swedish parliament demanding action on catastrophic climate change. Thunberg spoke on Democracy Now! earlier this week, after she sailed across the Atlantic in a zero-emissions racing boat to attend U.N. climate talks and to join protests in the U.S.
Greta Thunberg: “On Friday, I am going to — this Friday, the 13th, I am going to join the school strike for the climate outside the White House in Washington, D.C.”
This week, the head of Amnesty International, Kumi Naidoo, sent a letter to 30,000 schools around the globe asking them to allow students to join climate strikes worldwide.
The Trump administration has finalized the repeal of an Obama-era clean water policy that protects thousands of streams that flow into large rivers and lakes, as well as wetland areas that filter pollutants and absorb floodwaters. Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Andrew Wheeler — a former coal lobbyist — announced the rule change Thursday to thunderous applause during an event at the headquarters of the National Association of Manufacturers in Washington, D.C. Environmentalists say Trump’s move to rescind the 2015 regulation, known as the Waters of the United States rule, will remove pollution controls for 60% of U.S. bodies of water, endangering the drinking water of over 100 million people.
The Trump administration will allow a Michigan man to import the remains of a critically endangered black rhinoceros he shot and killed on a trophy hunt in Namibia last year. A photo circulated widely on social media shows the hunter, Chris Peyerk, and his family smiling as they pose over the corpse of the rhino. Conservation groups say only 5,500 of the animals remain in the wild. President Trump has repeatedly sought to ease U.S. restrictions on the importation of animal remains. Trump’s two adult sons, Don Jr. and Eric, are longtime trophy hunters, who have repeatedly posed for photos with dead animals they shot and killed in Africa.
On Capitol Hill, Democratic congressmembers voted Thursday to formally move forward with impeachment proceedings against President Donald Trump. Committee chair Jerrold Nadler said future inquiries would look beyond the findings of the Mueller report.
Rep. Jerrold Nadler: “We have a responsibility to consider allegations of federal election crimes, self-dealing, violations of the Constitution’s emoluments clause and the failure to defend our nation from current and future attacks by foreign adversaries.”
Democrats remain divided over whether to even call the Judiciary Committee’s expanded powers of investigation an impeachment inquiry. On Thursday, Democratic House Speaker Nancy Pelosi abruptly ended her weekly press conference after a reporter asked whether the House is conducting a formal inquiry, refusing to answer the question.
Mexico’s Foreign Minister Marcelo Ebrard said Thursday his nation will not change its immigration policies, after the U.S. Supreme Court allowed the Trump administration’s ban on most migrants seeking asylum at the U.S.-Mexico border to take effect.
Marcelo Ebrard: “The Mexican government’s position has been that we are not going to accept that. And we consulted with the Mexican Senate, and they will not accept it, either.”
This comes as tens of thousands of asylum seekers are stuck in border cities on the Mexican side, waiting to be processed for initial asylum proceedings in the United States. At the Tijuana-San Diego border alone, there are more than 10,000 migrants on the waiting list to turn themselves in to U.S. immigration officials. The binational legal aid group Al Otro Lado tweeted, “We r the only OTG org here providing legal aid. This is a death sentence for most our clients. Our hearts are broken + we’re exhausted.”
In Washington, D.C., protesters rallied outside the headquarters of Immigration and Customs Enforcement — ICE — on Thursday, denouncing the Trump administration’s anti-immigrant and anti-refugee policies. This is Jasmine Nazarett of the Fair Immigration Reform Movement.
Jasmine Nazarett: “This agency has done nothing but tear immigrant families apart. And the only way that we’re, as a community, as an immigrant community, as Latinos, as people of color — that we’re actually going to be truly free and united in this country that we call home is if Congress stops funding agencies like this, whose only mission is to tear our families apart.”
Activists later marched to the Washington, D.C., home of Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos to protest the mega online retailer’s decision to continue providing ICE with technology — including a database that helps track and apprehend immigrants.
In Russia, police raided the homes and offices of activists at 200 sites across more than 40 cities and towns Thursday in the most massive sweep yet against political groups aligned with the opposition leader Alexei Navalny. The government of President Vladimir Putin says the raids were part of a criminal money laundering investigation into Navalny’s Anti-Corruption Foundation. Also raided were the offices of Golos, an independent election monitoring group. Opposition groups call the charges trumped-up and say it’s an escalation of a crackdown on Kremlin opponents that included the mass arrest of more than 2,000 people during recent protests in Moscow.
In Iran, a woman who set herself on fire to protest her arrest for trying to attend a soccer match has died of her injuries. Sahar Khodayari was jailed for three days in March after she disguised herself as a man and tried to enter a Tehran soccer stadium. When Khodayari discovered that she faced up to two years in prison, she self-immolated outside a courthouse in Tehran. Her protest left her with burns on 90% of her body, before she succumbed to her injuries on September 8. Iran has no written laws barring women from soccer stadiums, but Human Rights Watch says a de facto ban is “ruthlessly enforced” by authorities. Sahar Khodayari’s death drew widespread outrage by Iranian social media users, who gave her the nickname “blue girl” after her favorite team’s colors. Her death also drew protests against the international soccer federation FIFA, which is accused of failing to hold Iran accountable for its discrimination against female fans and athletes.
Human rights groups are calling on the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation to rescind its award to India’s Hindu nationalist Prime Minister Narendra Modi. Modi is set to receive the Gates Foundation’s “Global Goalkeeper” prize in New York City on September 24 for his public sanitation and hygiene program, which has brought toilet access to millions across India. Yale University epidemiologist Gregg Gonsalves called the award “outrageous,” tweeting, “Bill Gates should be ashamed of himself. Narendra Modi is not worthy of any award. He is a despot-in-the-making, a human rights abuser. Everyone in public health should speak up.” Modi was once banned from the United States on charges he did not intervene in a massacre against Muslims in 2002 when he was governor of the Indian state of Gujarat. In August, Modi revoked limited autonomy for Indian-administered Kashmir, arresting thousands of people, setting up roadblocks, imposing curfews and cutting off the internet and other communications.
Back in the United States, California lawmakers voted Wednesday to ban private prisons statewide, in a major blow to the for-profit prison industry in the U.S. The legislation also orders the closure of four ICE prisons that can jail up to 4,500 immigrants. The bill now heads to Governor Gavin Newsom for his signature. Newsom said in his January inaugural address that California should “end the outrage of private prisons once and for all.”
Meanwhile, California lawmakers have approved a bill cracking down on “gig economy” companies that classify employees as independent contractors rather than hourly workers. Under the legislation, workers who are part of a company’s main business or who are directed by a company’s managers must be classified as employees instead of contractors, beginning on January 1. Governor Gavin Newsom has promised to sign the bill, which could see thousands of workers win a guaranteed minimum wage and workers’ compensation insurance. Executives at the ride-hailing apps Uber and Lyft said this week they have no plans to reclassify their drivers as employees.
President Trump was met with widespread protests Thursday as he traveled to Baltimore for a House Republican retreat. It was Trump’s first visit to Baltimore since he insulted the city in a July tweetstorm as a “disgusting, rat and rodent infested mess,” adding, “no human being would want to live there.” It was part of an attack on House Oversight Chair Elijah Cummings, one of the most prominent African Americans in Congress. Thursday’s protests against Trump featured a giant inflatable effigy depicting the president as a rodent clutching a cellphone.