In Louisiana, Hurricane Laura roared ashore early this morning as an extremely dangerous Category 4 storm, bringing storm surges up to 20 feet and sustained winds of 150 miles per hour. It’s the strongest storm to hit Louisiana in over a century. The storm made landfall south of the city of Lake Charles near high tide, bringing what meteorologists called an “unsurvivable” wall of water as high as a two-story building. Hundreds of thousands evacuated ahead of the storm, but emergency workers say 150 residents of Cameron Parish refused to leave their homes. Their fate remains unknown.
As the storm bore down on the Gulf, the oil and gas industry scrambled to secure refineries and shut about 300 offshore drilling platforms, taking over a million-and-a-half barrels of oil per day off the market and raising fears over new oil spills. The storm arrived almost exactly 15 years after Hurricane Katrina struck southeastern Louisiana, leaving 80% of New Orleans under water. It’s the seventh named storm to make landfall in the United States so far this year — a record pace for late August.
Vice President Mike Pence headlined the third night of the Republican National Convention on Wednesday, formally accepting his party’s nomination for a second term. Speaking at Fort McHenry in Baltimore, Pence vowed to install law and order across the country.
Vice President Mike Pence: “President Trump and I will always support the right of Americans to peaceful protest. But rioting and looting is not peaceful protest. Tearing down statues is not free speech. And those who do so will be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law.”
Vice President Pence made no mention of police brutality or the recent police shootings that have sparked protests across the country — from Jacob Blake in Kenosha, Wisconsin, to Breonna Taylor in Louisville, Kentucky, to George Floyd in Minneapolis, Minnesota. Pence condemned the killing of federal security officer David Patrick Underwood in Oakland in May, but he failed to mention that Underwood was killed by an Air Force staff sergeant with ties to the far-right “boogaloo” movement.
In other news from the Republican National Convention, The Wall Street Journal has revealed that two of the women who became U.S. citizens during an unprecedented televised naturalization ceremony during the convention did not know the ceremony would be aired as part of a political event.
In Wisconsin, the U.S. Justice Department said Wednesday it will launch an independent investigation into the police shooting of Jacob Blake, whose shooter was identified Wednesday for the first time as Kenosha police officer Rusten Sheskey. Sheskey, who is white, shot Jacob Blake — an unarmed Black man — in the back seven times as he was getting into his car on Sunday, leaving him paralyzed from the waist down. Sheskey has been placed on paid administrative leave and has not been charged with a crime.
The shooting has sparked massive protests across the country. Overnight, protesters in Kenosha defied a 7 p.m. curfew and marched for a fourth straight night; while in Minnesota, Governor Tim Walz called out the National Guard to Minneapolis as protesters took to the streets, breaking windows and removing merchandise from downtown stores. The Minneapolis protests began after a false rumor circulated on social media that police had shot and killed a man who was wanted on homicide charges. In fact, the man died by suicide, fatally shooting himself as police closed in to arrest him.
Police have arrested the white teenager who opened fire on Black Lives Matter protesters in Kenosha on Tuesday, killing two people and injuring a third. Seventeen-year-old Kyle Rittenhouse, a self-declared militia member and avid Trump supporter who was spotted front row at one of the president’s rallies in January, was apprehended in Antioch, Illinois, Wednesday and charged with murder. On social media, Kyle Rittenhouse posted frequently in support of the pro-police “Blue Lives Matter” movement, posed with guns, and appeared in a photo when he was just 15 years old wearing a police uniform as part of a “Public Safety Cadet Program.”
Eyewitness videos of Rittenhouse’s rampage show a shooter with a long gun falling to the ground and shooting into a crowd as protesters attempt to disarm him. Later videos show that police then allowed Rittenhouse to leave the scene even as people attempted to identify him as the shooter.
At a news conference Wednesday, Kenosha Police Chief Daniel Miskinis blamed protesters for the deadly assault. This all comes as damning video from earlier in the night show Kenosha police offering armed vigilantes water.
Police officer: “We got to save a couple, but we’ll give you a couple. We appreciate you guys. We really do.
Armed vigilantes: “Thank you! Thank you!”
Professional basketball, baseball and soccer games came to an unprecedented halt Wednesday, after Milwaukee Bucks players refused to take the court for a playoff game against the Orlando Magic to protest the police shooting of Jacob Blake. The NBA then canceled all three of Wednesday’s playoff games. On TNT, former basketball star and commentator Kenny Smith walked off the set of “Inside the NBA” in solidarity with protesters.
Kenny Smith: “As a Black man, as a former player, I think it’s best for me to support the players and just not be here tonight, and figure out what happens after that. I just don’t feel equipped to do that.”
Ernie Johnson Jr.: “And I respect that.”
The WNBA also canceled three games Wednesday, after members of the Washington Mystics arrived wearing T-shirts, each with seven bullet holes in the back, with the fronts of the shirts spelling out the name Jacob Blake. This is Mystics guard Ariel Atkins.
Ariel Atkins: “This isn’t just about basketball. We aren’t just basketball players. And just because we are basketball players doesn’t mean that’s our only platform. We need to understand that when most of us go home, we still are Black.”
Three Major League Baseball games and most of Wednesday’s Major League Soccer games were postponed, as well, following player protests, and the Western & Southern Open tennis tournament also suspended matches after superstar Naomi Osaka — whose father is Haitian — withdrew to protest against racial injustice.
In economic news, just two U.S. states have begun distributing a $300-per-week federal supplement to weekly unemployment benefits — even though Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin promised on August 10 that “most states” would have the program up and running within two weeks. President Trump set up the makeshift $44 billion program by executive order after Republican lawmakers allowed enhanced unemployment benefits to expire one month ago.
Meanwhile, a federal moratorium on evictions expired Monday ahead of September 1, when rent and mortgage payments come due for 30 million Americans left unemployed during the pandemic. Princeton University’s Eviction Lab estimates up to 40 million people are now at risk of eviction in the coming months.
A new national survey finds one in five small business owners expect to close if economic conditions don’t improve in the next six months. And a study by the Economic Policy Institute finds some 12 million Americans have lost their employer-based health insurance since the start of the pandemic.
In New Zealand, a court has sentenced a self-professed white nationalist gunman to life in prison without the possibility of parole, after convicting him on 51 counts of murder, 40 counts of attempted murder and engaging in a terrorist act. In March of last year, 29-year-old Australian Brenton Tarrant emailed out a racist manifesto minutes before he opened fire with an assault rifle at two mosques in the city of Christchurch, live-streaming his massacre on Facebook. Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern welcomed the sentencing.
Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern: “The trauma of March 15 is not easily healed, but today, I hope, is the last where we have any cause to hear or utter the name of the terrorist behind it. His deserves to be a lifetime of complete and utter silence.”