The death toll from unprecedented fires raging across California, Oregon and Washington has risen to 35, as smoke from the record-shattering blazes brought some of the world’s most polluted air to Portland, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Seattle and other cities. Nearly 5 million acres have already burned, with entire towns consumed by flames.
President Trump is visiting California today but is refusing to link the fires to the climate crisis. California Governor Gavin Newsom says there is no question about what is fueling the fires.
Gov. Gavin Newsom: “California, folks, is America fast forward. What we’re experiencing right here is coming to a community all across the United States of America unless we get our act together on climate change, unless we disabuse ourselves of all the BS that’s being spewed by a very small group of people.”
On Friday, Governor Newsom signed a bill allowing former prisoner firefighters to have their records expunged, paving the way for them to get jobs as municipal firefighters.
In immigration news, The Washington Post reports Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents flew imprisoned immigrants to Virginia in order to also fly Department of Homeland Security tactical teams to the Washington area to suppress protests around the capital. ICE employees are barred from traveling on such charter flights unless detainees are also on board. Dozens of immigrant prisoners tested positive for COVID-19 after the transfer, and over 300 prisoners became infected at the Farmville, Virginia, ICE jail. One person died.
The World Health Organization has announced a record one-day rise in new coronavirus cases around the world. Nearly 308,000 confirmed cases were reported over the past day, with a total caseload now topping 29 million and a death toll topping 924,000.
Israel is imposing a three-week nationwide lockdown as cases there continue to surge. Israel is the first country to reimpose a second nationwide lockdown. Ninety U.N. peacekeepers in southern Lebanon have tested positive for the novel coronavirus. Meanwhile, the U.N. refugee agency says it is stepping up measures in Syrian refugee camps in Jordan after the first five cases were confirmed last week.
In France, which confirmed a record 10,500 coronavirus cases on Saturday, police fired tear gas at protesters in Paris as the “yellow vest” demonstrations returned to the capital.
In medical news, Oxford and AstraZeneca are resuming their coronavirus vaccine trial, after it was halted last week when a participant developed severe neurological symptoms. The Brazilian state of Bahia says it will test Russia’s coronavirus vaccine and plans to buy 50 million doses.
A federal appeals court Friday blocked hundreds of thousands of Floridians with fees and fines from past felony convictions from registering to vote. The ruling comes less than two months before the November election in a major swing state where those votes could tip the outcome. Florida voters overwhelmingly supported Amendment 4, which reenfranchised people with felony convictions, in a 2018 ballot measure. Nicole D. Porter of The Sentencing Project said, “The ruling undermines democracy. Efforts to disenfranchise citizens with felony conviction histories intentionally minimizes the Black electorate.”
In other election news, the Wisconsin Supreme Court temporarily blocked absentee ballots from being mailed last week, one week before the deadline, while the court decides whether to add the Green Party’s candidate to the ballot. Meanwhile, in Pennsylvania, election officials are not able to send out ballots due to a slew of lawsuits and other issues.
President Trump is defending the fatal police shooting of Portland anti-fascist activist Michael Reinoehl as “retribution,” after he was accused of killing a far-right Trump supporter. Trump’s remarks to Fox News came after a witness said Reinoehl did not appear to have a gun and was not threatening officers, who never announced themselves or gave commands before killing him in a hail of gunfire on September 3.
President Donald Trump: “This guy was a violent criminal.”
Jeanine Pirro: “A lot of them out there.”
President Donald Trump: “And the U.S. Marshals killed him. And I will tell you something: That’s the way it has to be. There has to be retribution.”
Democratic Senator Brian Schatz of Hawaii called out his Republican colleagues for refusing to condemn Trump’s remarks. He tweeted, “Extrajudicial killings are something many Republican U.S. Senators oppose if they happen outside of the United States. But they won’t say anything about this.”
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is in Washington, D.C., today ahead of Tuesday’s White House ceremony, where he will sign the U.S.-brokered normalization deals between Israel and the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain. Palestinians protested over the weekend following the announcement of the deal with Bahrain Friday, just weeks after it was announced Israel and the UAE would establish diplomatic relations. This is Saeb Erekat, the secretary general of the Palestine Liberation Organization.
Saeb Erekat: “The Bahrain-American-Israeli agreement to normalize relations is now part of a bigger package in the region. It’s not about peace. It’s not about relations between countries. We are witnessing an alliance, a military alliance, being created in the region. Maybe they want to call it an Arab-Israel-NATO.”
Analysts have pointed to a clause in the accords that leaves the door open to allowing Jewish prayer at the holy mosque of Al-Aqsa, which is now forbidden, and could be seen as a major act of aggression.
The long-anticipated intra-Afghan talks officially launched in Doha Saturday. Members of the Afghan government and the Taliban will meet after months of delays and derailed peace talks as violent attacks have continued to plague the war-torn nation. The two sides will have to reach an agreement on major issues including women’s rights, civil liberties, democracy and security.
In Spain, a former Salvadoran Army colonel was convicted Friday for the 1989 murder of five Jesuit priests. Inocente Orlando Montano served as El Salvador’s vice security minister. He was sentenced to 133 years for ordering the attack that was carried out by a U.S-trained counterinsurgency force. Montano lived in the United States for 16 years, was extradited to Madrid in 2017. The death squad killed six Jesuit priests, their housekeeper and her daughter, but five of the Jesuit priests were from Spain. It was their murder that he was convicted of.
In Peru, lawmakers have opened impeachment proceedings against President Martín Vizcarra, who is accused of trying to obstruct an investigation into the allocation of government contracts to a relatively unknown singer. Lawmakers say President Vizcarra may have intervened to award the singer the contracts for motivational talks. This comes as Peru is grappling with a major economic crisis and one of the world’s worst COVID-19 outbreaks, ranking fifth in confirmed cases despite a population of just 32 million.
In Pakistan, outrage is mounting after two violent rapes that took place over recent days. One was of a 5-year-old girl who was kidnapped, raped and set on fire in Karachi. The other involved a woman who was gang-raped in front of her children after her car broke down. The Lahore police chief blamed the woman for traveling at night without a male companion and not making sure she had enough gas in her car. This is human rights activist Tahira Abdullah speaking at a protest in Islamabad Saturday.
Tahira Abdullah: “A woman gets gang-raped in front of her children, in a big metropolitan city of Lahore, and the chief police officer blames her instead and says she shouldn’t be out on the road at night, she shouldn’t be driving alone, she should have taken this road, not that road, etc., etc. I think it is a shame.”
In the Democratic Republic of Congo, at least 50 people have died after heavy rains caused a gold mine to collapse in South Kivu province. Deadly accidents are not uncommon in the mostly unregulated artisanal mines. In addition to gold, Congo also produces 60% of the world’s cobalt, used in cellphones and other electronic devices.
A sheriff’s deputy in Georgia has been fired after being filmed beating a Black man, Roderick Walker, during a traffic stop near Atlanta in front of his two children. He was a passenger in a ride-share. Two deputies can be seen on top of Walker, with one punching him repeatedly.
In Compton, Los Angeles, two L.A. sheriff’s deputies were shot by an unidentified gunman who walked up to their parked car, opened fire and ran away. Both officers survived and are out of surgery.
In August, Compton Mayor Aja Brown said of the deputies, “They terrorize the community and then they cover their tracks. It is unacceptable, we will not take this.” Mayor Brown, who is Black, was herself pulled over by sheriff’s deputies last year and searched, despite doing nothing wrong.
Meanwhile, KPCC reporter Josie Huang, who was covering the shooting and protests in response, was tackled and arrested by deputies, who pinned her face-down into the pavement.
Congress is launching an investigation after a series of deaths at the Fort Hood military base in Texas. Nearly 30 soldiers have died so far this year, including Vanessa Guillén, who was sexually harassed before she was murdered. The main suspect in her case died by suicide. Two soldiers from Navajo Nation have also died at Fort Hood this year.
In Texas, hundreds of Trump supporters drove through the city of Laredo on Saturday in support of the U.S.-Mexico border wall. The “Trump train” demonstration was partly organized by the National Border Patrol Council, which planned to drive over a giant street mural reading “Defund the Wall. Fund Our Futures.” They canceled those plans after veterans of the U.S. military mobilized to repaint and defend the mural.
In Charlottesville, Virginia, a crowd cheered Saturday morning as workers took down a statue of a Confederate soldier near the site of the deadly, white supremacist “Unite the Right” rally in 2017. Virginia’s Supreme Court will decide the fate of two other Confederate statues in Charlottesville — of Generals Robert E. Lee and Thomas “Stonewall” Jackson — after defenders of the Confederacy successfully blocked the city from removing them.
Portland, Oregon, has become the first U.S. city to ban the corporate use of facial recognition surveillance. The ban will bar public agencies and private businesses from using the technology in public spaces. Facial recognition has been found to reflect racist biases and violate basic freedoms.
Oracle has won its bid to acquire U.S. operations for the popular video-sharing app TikTok, beating out Microsoft. Trump moved to ban TikTok, which is owned by the Chinese company ByteDance, unless it was sold to a U.S. company by tomorrow, September 15. The deal must still undergo a White House review.
In sports news, tennis superstar Naomi Osaka won the U.S. Open Saturday, her third Grand Slam title. During the tournament, Osaka — who has a Japanese mother and a Haitian American father — donned seven masks, each bearing the name of a Black person who was killed: Breonna Taylor, Elijah McClain, Ahmaud Arbery, Trayvon Martin, George Floyd, Philando Castile and Tamir Rice. This is Naomi Osaka speaking to ESPN’s Tom Rinaldi.
Tom Rinaldi: “What was the message you wanted to send, Naomi?”
Naomi Osaka: “Well, 'What was the message that you got?' was more the question. I feel like the point is to make people start talking.”