Students across the world are walking out of class today in a global climate strike. Some of the first strikes occurred in Australia, where an estimated 300,000 people took part in rallies across the country. Participants include Gina Hale, a student in Brisbane.
Gina Hale: “In school, I am learning about the effects of climate change, and I’m learning that we need to do something. Yet I’m seeing that the people in charge and the people who are running our country aren’t doing anything. To me, this is confusing. So I’m here today to step up and say, 'No more.'”
In Thailand, hundreds of young people staged a die-in at the environmental ministry, demanding government action on climate change. Here in New York, the 16-year-old Swedish climate activist Greta Thunberg, who inspired the movement, will take part in a large march this afternoon. Meanwhile, workers at Amazon, Microsoft and other large firms have also pledged to take part in today’s strike. On Thursday, facing pressure from his own staff, Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos vowed to make the world’s largest retailer carbon-neutral by 2040 and to purchase 100,000 electric delivery vans.
At least two people have died in Texas after Tropical Depression Imelda dumped more than 40 inches of rain on the Houston area over three days. It’s being described as one of the worst freshwater floods in U.S. history. More than 1,000 people had to be rescued on Thursday from the fast-rising waters. The storm also forced Exxon to shut down its massive oil refinery in Beaumont. In some areas, the floodwaters rose higher than during Hurricane Harvey two years ago.
The Red Cross has shed new light on the escalating climate crisis. The Red Cross says an average of 2 million people need humanitarian aid every week due to storms, droughts and floods, and the figure is expected to double in coming decades if governments fail to cut emissions.
A shocking new study has found the United States and Canada have lost nearly 3 billion birds since 1970, a 29% population drop. Researchers blamed numerous factors, including widespread habitat loss and the use of agricultural chemicals. Peter Marra of Georgetown University co-authored the report.
Peter Marra: “Birds are the quintessential ecosystem indicators. They are the canaries in the coal mine. When something’s going wrong with birds, something’s going wrong with the environment. It’s just not healthy. And so, in this study, because we’ve seen so many declines across so many different types of birds, from warblers to thrushes to even house sparrows — these non-native species in urban areas are declining — that’s not a good sign. That’s an indication that something is really wrong with the environment.”
In news from the Middle East, Israel’s former army chief Benny Gantz has declared victory over Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu after Monday’s election. With 99% of the vote counted, Gantz’s Blue and White party has two more parliamentary seats than Netanyahu’s Likud party. Gantz has vowed to form what he called “a broad liberal, unity government,” and has rejected Netanyahu’s call for a power-sharing agreement.
Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has apologized again for wearing black and brownface on a number of occasions. Over the past 48 hours, two photos and one video emerged of him wearing racist makeup as recently as 2001. The scandal is breaking just days after Trudeau launched his re-election bid ahead of next month’s election. On Thursday, Trudeau said he could not rule out more photos coming to light.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau: “The fact is, I didn’t understand how hurtful this is to people who live with discrimination every single day. I have always acknowledged that I come from a place of privilege, but I now need to acknowledge that that comes with a massive blind spot.”
Canadian New Democratic leader Jagmeet Singh responded to the growing scandal.
Jagmeet Singh: “I can tell you that I am deeply troubled by what this means to Canada, that young kids are going to see not just one or two, but multiple images of the prime minister mocking their lived reality. This is so hurtful to so many Canadians.”
In Afghanistan, funeral services were held Thursday after a U.S. drone strike killed at least 30 civilians. Many of the dead were farmers who were resting in the fields after harvesting pine nuts. At least 40 civilians were also injured in the drone strike. Local Afghan residents questioned why the U.S. would target innocent farmers.
Ezatullah: “These people had gone to the fields to work, and their wages were very low. Don’t they, the Americans, see that these people are working and gathering pine nuts? Why do they attack workers?”
A pair of Kashmiri citizens have filed a lawsuit in the United States against Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi for carrying out extrajudicial killings and other crimes in occupied Kashmir. The lawsuit was filed just days before Modi is scheduled to speak at a major rally called “Howdy, Modi!” in Houston, Texas, where he will be joined by President Trump.
In other news on India, as many as 10 mass detention centers are being built in the northeast state of Assam. This comes just weeks after India stripped nearly 2 million residents of Assam of their citizenship.
More details are coming to light about a whistleblower complaint filed against President Trump by a U.S. intelligence official. The Washington Post reports the complaint centered on a conversation Trump had with the new president of Ukraine on July 25. Trump’s interaction with him reportedly included a “promise” that was regarded as so troubling that it prompted the unnamed official to file a complaint. The acting director of national intelligence has refused to provide the contents of the whistleblower complaint to the House Intelligence Committee despite being subpoenaed to do so. This comes as House Democrats are investigating whether Trump had urged Ukraine to reopen a probe of a Ukrainian company with ties to Joe Biden’s son, Hunter. On Thursday night, Trump’s personal attorney Rudy Giuliani acknowledged on CNN that he had asked top Ukrainian officials to investigate Joe Biden.
The gun maker Colt has announced it is suspending the manufacturing of sporting rifles, including the AR-15, for the consumer market. Pressure has been growing on the Connecticut-based company for years, as AR-15-style guns have been used in numerous mass shootings, including Newtown, Connecticut; Orlando, Florida; and Parkland, Florida. Meanwhile, on Capitol Hill, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has said he is awaiting guidance from the White House as to what President Trump thinks he’s comfortable signing regarding new gun control.
A prominent white supremacist from Florida has been arrested for making racist and violent threats to the co-founder of Black Lives Matter in Charlottesville, Virginia, who was considering a run for Charlottesville City Council. The threats forced the activist, Don Gathers, to drop out of the race. The white supremacist, Daniel McMahon, has a long record of threatening violence against antiracists and anti-fascists. He once dubbed himself the “antifa hunter.” Several of his online posts were shared by the man who attacked the Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh, killing 11 Jewish worshipers.
Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch and dozens of other groups are urging the U.S. Senate to reject the nomination of Marshall Billingslea for a top State Department post overseeing U.S. human rights policy. Billingslea openly supported the use of torture and harsh interrogation methods while working in the Pentagon during George W. Bush’s administration.
The Trump administration is threatening to cut federal funding to a Middle East studies program run jointly by Duke University and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. The U.S. Education Department recently wrote to the schools claiming its classes are unfairly promoting “the positive aspects of Islam” but not Christianity or Judaism. Education Secretary Betsy DeVos ordered a probe into the Middle East studies department after North Carolina Republican Congressmember George Holding accused the program of having a “severe anti-Israeli bias and anti-Semitic rhetoric.” Academic freedom advocates have criticized the Trump administration’s actions.
The United States has expelled two Cuban diplomats and placed tighter restrictions on everyone working at Cuba’s United Nations mission. The State Department accused the diplomats of conducting “activities harmful to U.S. national security,” but provided no details on what they did. Cuban Foreign Minister Bruno Rodríguez said the move was “categorically unjustified.” Meanwhile, a severe fuel shortage in Cuba has entered its second week. The Cuban government says the crisis is a result of U.S. sanctions against Cuba and Venezuela.
Former Tunisian dictator Zine El Abidine Ben Ali has died at the age of 83. He ruled Tunisia for 23 years before being ousted in 2011 during the protests that sparked the Arab Spring.
New York Mayor Bill de Blasio has dropped out of the 2020 presidential race. De Blasio had campaigned to fight for working families, combat climate change and take on Donald Trump, but his campaign never gained steam.