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The Bahamas have been left utterly devastated after the Category 5 Hurricane Dorian ravaged the island nation. The death toll has gone up to at least seven people in the Bahamas as the island continues its rescue efforts. Dramatic images reveal the extent of the damage, with entire neighborhoods decimated by Dorian. On the islands of Abaco and Grand Bahama, as many as 13,000 homes have been destroyed or heavily damaged. Some reports say 70 to 80% of the affected areas remain underwater, including the Grand Bahama International Airport. New York Congressmember Alexandra Ocasio-Cortez tweeted about the disaster, “This is what climate change looks like: it hits vulnerable communities first.” Residents of Florida, Georgia and the Carolinas are now bracing for the storm as it heads toward the U.S. as a downgraded Category 2 storm. We’ll have more on Hurricane Dorian after headlines. Meanwhile, Tropical Storm Fernand formed in the western Gulf of Mexico Tuesday and is expected to make landfall in northeastern Mexico today, bringing heavy rainfall and floods to the region.
Hong Kong Chief Executive Carrie Lam has formally withdrawn the highly contested extradition bill today, after months of mass protests.
Chief Executive Carrie Lam: “The government of special administrative region will officially withdraw the bill and eradicate the worries of people. The security chief will propose a motion to withdraw the bill after the legislative meeting is back. … From this month onwards, I and all the officials will visit the community and speak to the people from all walks of life who have different beliefs in politics and different backgrounds, and using that as a communication platform for them to voice their discontent and find ways to address the problems.”
Demonstrators have engaged in over 13 weeks of organized protests, triggered by the extradition bill that critics warned threatened the semi-autonomous territory’s sovereignty. Protest demands have since expanded to include a number of pro-democracy reforms, Lam’s resignation, and accountability for police aggression against demonstrators.
In Britain, Prime Minister Boris Johnson faces an uphill battle as lawmakers prepare to vote on whether he will have to go back to European Union leaders to negotiate a new withdrawal date for Brexit. This comes one day after a stinging defeat Tuesday, in which rebel Conservatives joined with the opposition in an attempt to block a no-deal Brexit and saw Johnson lose his working majority in Parliament. Conservative Member of Parliament Sir Nicholas Soames — Winston Churchill’s grandson — was one of the 21 lawmakers who defied Johnson. Johnson expelled the rebel lawmakers from the party. Soames called his expulsion “the fortunes of war.” Boris Johnson is expected to call for a general election if he loses the upcoming vote. This is opposition Labour Leader Jeremy Corbyn.
Jeremy Corbyn: “We live in a parliamentary democracy. We do not have a presidency, but a prime minister. Prime ministers govern with the consent of the House of Commons representing the people in whom the sovereignty rests. There is no consent — there is no consent in this house to leave the European Union without a deal. There is no majority for no-deal in the country.”
Protesters have been taking to the streets in London and around the U.K. this week for “Stop the Coup” and anti-Brexit demonstrations.
Back in the U.S., Walmart announced it will stop selling ammunition for handguns and short-barreled rifles, which can be used in military-style semiautomatic assault weapons. It also will stop selling handguns in Alaska, the only remaining state where it sells handguns. In addition, the retail giant said it would discourage openly carrying firearms in its stores and back calls for stronger background check laws, as well as a debate on an assault rifle ban. A recent Quinnipiac poll shows 60% of Americans back an assault rifles ban. Walmart will, however, continue to sell long-barreled hunting rifles and shotguns, as well as ammunition for those weapons. Walmart CEO Doug McMillon sent a letter to Congress Tuesday outlining the company’s policy changes. The announcement follows a spate of deadly mass shootings, including last month’s anti-immigrant massacre at an El Paso, Texas, Walmart, which killed 22 people.
The Kroger grocery chain has also announced it will request shoppers stop openly carrying firearms. Kroger stores previously adhered to local laws on the matter. Last year, Kroger ended sales of guns and ammunition in its stores in Alaska, Idaho, Oregon and Washington.
In another mass shooting, just days after the western Texas rampage which killed seven people, a 14-year-old teenager shot and killed five family members at their home in Alabama Monday. The boy then called the police to confess to killing his father, stepmother and siblings, according to reports. The victims included a 5- and 6-year-old and a 6-month-old baby. Authorities have not yet determined where the teenager obtained the handgun he used.
The Pentagon agreed Tuesday to divert $3.6 billion from its budget to put toward President Trump’s border wall. The funds will come out of 127 military construction projects in order to build 175 miles of the wall on the U.S.-Mexico border. Defense Secretary Mark Esper’s formal authorization means the reappropriation of funds can go ahead without approval from Congress. In February, Trump declared a national emergency in order to justify using federal money to build his wall. Democratic lawmakers blasted the move. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said it violated the separation of powers and “undermine[s] our national security.” The ACLU vowed to challenge “Trump’s latest effort to raid military funds for his xenophobic wall.”
In more immigration news, the Trump administration appeared to reconsider a move to force immigrants receiving critical medical care to leave the U.S. Last month, Citizenship and Immigration Services started denying “medical deferred action” exemptions to immigrants with serious illnesses and their families. In letters sent to applicants of the program, the agency told them they must leave the country or face deportation. The move came without any advance notice or public announcement and sparked severe backlash from immigrant rights groups, medical professionals and Democratic lawmakers. On Monday, officials said that no deportations had been initiated since the policy change and that it would “reopen previously pending cases for consideration.” However, it’s unclear what the longer-term fate of the program will be.
In Guatemala, the runner-up in last month’s presidential election, Sandra Torres, was arrested at her home in Guatemala City early Monday morning. According to Guatemala’s attorney general, Torres is suspected of breaking campaign finance rules and unlawful association in the 2015 elections, the year Torres lost the presidential bid to outgoing President Jimmy Morales. More recently, she lost to right-wing leader Alejandro Giammattei, who will be inaugurated in January 2020. Former first lady Sandra Torres’s political career has been plagued by allegations of corruption and ties to criminal organizations. Her arrest came on the eve of Guatemala’s U.N.-backed anti-corruption commission CICIG’s formal expulsion from the country. CICIG had led the investigation against Torres. CICIG issued a final report describing the country as being “captured” by corruption at the hands of a “mafia coalition” involving politicians, the business community and wealthy elite that is “willing to sacrifice Guatemala’s present and future to guarantee impunity and preserve the status quo.”
Italy has reached an agreement to form a new government, avoiding snap elections following the disintegration of its right-wing ruling coalition last month. Members of the anti-establishment Five Star Movement have approved a deal to share power with the center-left Democratic Party. The new government means far-right, anti-immigrant leader Matteo Salvini will lose his powerful role within the government for now. Giuseppe Conte will stay on as prime minister, after initially resigning following Salvini’s attempted power grab. He is expected to seek presidential approval of the deal today.
As commemoration ceremonies took place over the weekend to mark the 80th anniversary of Germany’s invasion of Poland, President Trump sent a message of congratulations to Poland for the Nazi invasion. At a Sunday press conference, Trump said, “It’s a great country with great people.” Meanwhile, German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier asked Poland for forgiveness and referred to the German invasion of Poland in 1939 as a “war crime.” Trump had been scheduled to be at an official ceremony in Warsaw this weekend but canceled the trip due to Hurricane Dorian. Vice President Mike Pence was in attendance.
Senator Elizabeth Warren has unveiled her plan to tackle the climate crisis Tuesday, ahead of tonight’s 2020 CNN town hall on climate change. The plan adopts ideas put forward by Washington Governor Jay Inslee, who put the climate crisis at the center of his campaign before dropping out of the presidential race last month. The $3 trillion plan — which would be paid for by reversing Trump’s tax cuts for the wealthy — includes zeroing out carbon emissions for commercial and residential buildings, as well as most passenger vehicles, in the next decade, switching to renewable electricity by 2035, and creating unionized clean energy jobs. Senators Cory Booker, Amy Klobuchar, Kamala Harris and former Housing Secretary Julián Castro have also released climate plans in recent days.
In a victory for voting rights advocates, a North Carolina court unanimously rejected a gerrymandered legislative map Tuesday, giving state officials two weeks to redraw North Carolina’s district map. The three-judge panel accused state Republicans of violating North Carolina’s Constitution and engaging in “extreme partisan gerrymandering.” The group Common Cause, which brought the case before the court, celebrated the ruling, saying “politicians in Raleigh will no longer be able to rig our elections” and that they would continue to make sure the Legislature’s new districting efforts are fair and transparent.
The founder of a well-known, so-called gay conversion therapy program has come out as gay and apologized for his role in the harmful practice. McKrae Game founded the faith-based Hope for Wholeness, previously known as Truth Ministry, in 1999, which aims to change a person’s sexuality through counseling and other interventions. An estimated 700,000 people have gone through so-called conversion therapy, according to a UCLA study. Eighteen states and over 50 cities and counties have enacted laws or rules against the practice, according to Human Rights Campaign. This is McKrae Game speaking in an interview with The Post and Courier.
McKrae Game: “Conversion therapy is not just a lie, but it’s very harmful. But when it takes it to the point of 'You need to change, and here's a curriculum. Here’s how you do it. And, you know, you haven’t changed yet. Keep at it. It will happen.’”