Hurricane Ian has made landfall on Florida’s Gulf Coast as one of the strongest hurricanes ever to hit the continental United States. The storm crashed ashore Wednesday afternoon near Naples just shy of Category 5 status, with sustained winds of 150 miles per hour, a 30-foot-wide eye wall and hurricane-force winds that extended 40 miles from the center. High winds and storm surges devastated coastal communities, while forecasters say torrential rains will continue to bring life-threatening flooding to much of Florida in the coming hours and days. The Lee County sheriff says hundreds of people may have died in the storm. Ian forced the evacuation of more than 1.8 million Florida homes and knocked out power to some 2.5 million people, many of whom lack clean tap water. After headlines, we’ll go to Florida for the latest.
At least 20 Cuban migrants are missing and feared dead after their boat capsized off the coast of Florida Wednesday amid heavy surf from Hurricane Ian. The Coast Guard says it rescued three of the asylum seekers, while four others managed to swim to shore on Florida’s Stock Island. This comes as Cuban officials are working to restore electricity to millions of people after Hurricane Ian caused the island’s entire electrical grid to collapse.
In Puerto Rico, an oil tanker will begin unloading 300,000 barrels of diesel fuel to the island, after the Biden administration granted a limited exemption to shipping restrictions under the century-old Jones Act. In a statement, the Department of Homeland Security said the fuel was needed to provide electricity to critical facilities, as Puerto Rico recovers from Hurricane Fiona. Nearly two weeks after the storm collapsed the island’s fragile electrical grid, about 20% of homes and businesses remain without power, and there are widespread shortages of clean drinking water.
Russia is poised to formally annex four regions of Ukraine seized by Russia’s military after its invasion in February. The Kremlin says President Vladimir Putin will announce the annexations during a speech in Moscow on Friday. This week, authorities in the four Russian-held regions said residents voted overwhelmingly in support of referendums on whether to become part of the Russian Federation. The votes were condemned as a sham and a violation of international law by Ukraine, the United Nations, and the U.S. and its allies.
Meanwhile, Ukrainian officials have finished excavating a mass burial site in a forest in the town of Izium, which Ukraine recaptured in a counteroffensive this month. Kharkiv’s regional governor said most of the 436 people buried at the site had their hands bound, with gunshot wounds and signs of torture. After headlines, we’ll speak with a Ukrainian journalist just back from Izium.
German officials are warning of an environmental disaster in the Baltic Sea, after the Nord Stream pipelines that carry Russian gas to terminals in Europe ruptured on Monday in what U.S. and EU officials have called an “act of sabotage.” Swedish scientists say they detected two large underwater explosions shortly before pressure through the pipelines plummeted. One of the leaks is producing a nearly half-mile-wide pool of bubbling seawater. Officials estimate some 300,000 metric tons of methane have vented into the atmosphere from that site alone, which would put it among the worst gas leaks in history. Methane is a significant contributor to global heating. It can linger in the atmosphere for decades before breaking down, with about 80 times the warming power of carbon dioxide.
Finland’s government says it will severely limit passenger traffic along its border with Russia and will ban Russian citizens traveling with tourist visas from entering Finland, beginning on Friday. The announcement came amid a mass exodus of military-age men seeking to avoid conscription into the Russian military, after President Putin announced plans to draft an additional 300,000 troops.
In a break from its allies in Moscow, Kazakhstan on Wednesday promised to ensure the safety of an estimated 100,000 Russians who have crossed its border. Meanwhile, tens of thousands more have crossed into Armenia, Georgia, Mongolia and other neighboring countries in recent days.
Vice President Kamala Harris has wrapped up her four-day trip to Asia with a visit to the demilitarized zone separating North and South Korea. Earlier today, Harris spoke after North Korea test-fired two short-range ballistic missiles, and as South Korean officials said the North was preparing its first nuclear weapons test in five years.
Vice President Kamala Harris: “The DPRK has a ballistic missile launch program, apparently, including just yesterday, and are destabilizing the peace and security of this region. Our shared goal, the United States and the Republic of Korea, is a complete denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula.”
Camp Humpreys, south of Seoul, is the largest U.S. overseas military base and one of several American bases in South Korea that together house almost 30,000 troops and materiel. Last year the Biden administration ruled out redeploying so-called tactical nuclear weapons to South Korean soil, though the U.S. military maintains a large arsenal of long-range missiles and naval-based nuclear weapons capable of devastating North Korea.
In the occupied West Bank, Israeli forces killed four Palestinians and wounded more than 44 others during a Wednesday morning raid on the Jenin refugee camp. It’s the latest in a series of near-daily raids that the Israeli military has been carrying out in Palestinian communities. Three of the four men who were killed were members of the armed group al-Aqsa Martyrs’ Brigade, according to Al Jazeera. This is Atta Abu Rmeileh, a Fattah leader in Jenin.
Atta Abu Rmeileh: “They were deliberately assassinated by Israeli occupation forces who stood on rooftops in the upper areas of the Jenin camp and targeted anything that moved.”
In Oakland, California, at least six adults were injured in a mass shooting on Wednesday. The shooting occurred at Rudsdale Newcomer High School, which serves students who are at risk of not graduating and have recently immigrated to the U.S. after fleeing their home countries “because of violence and instability.” Oakland’s Assistant Chief of Police Darren Allison says a suspect remains at large.
Darren Allison: “We are currently and actively looking for at least one shooter, although there may be other individuals involved. We have our ceasefire teams, as well as our violent crime operations teams, actively in this moment following up on leads, looking to bring to justice those responsible for this heinous act.”
In Illinois, wounded survivors and the families of three people killed in a mass shooting during a Fourth of July parade in Highland Park have filed a lawsuit against gunmaker Smith & Wesson, two gun stores, the man who’s been charged in the shootings and his father. The lawsuit charges the gunmaker and gun sellers acted with negligence and employed deceptive practices, arguing that the shooter was the type of young consumer susceptible to Smith & Wesson’s deceptive and unfair marketing practices, and that the shooting was both “predictable and preventable.”
In California, Governor Gavin Newsom signed legislation Wednesday making it easier for farmworkers to cast their ballots in union elections by mail — and protecting them from retaliation from their employers. In a statement, Newsom said, “California’s farmworkers are the lifeblood of our state, and they have the fundamental right to unionize and advocate for themselves in the workplace.”
Just last month, Newsom had threatened to veto the bill, known as AB 2183, but reversed his opposition after President Joe Biden and other top Democrats spoke in favor of it. That followed a long grassroots campaign waged by thousands of farmworkers and their allies, who in August marched over 300 miles to California’s state Capitol in Sacramento to demand protections for union supporters. United Farm Workers President Teresa Romero celebrated as the bill became law.
Teresa Romero: “This is an incredible victory. Starting next year, farmworkers can participate in elections free from intimidation and deportations. ¡Sí, se puede!”
Thousands of prisoners in Alabama began a labor strike this week to protest overcrowded, understaffed and dangerous prison conditions. The strikers warn that despite a 2020 intervention by the U.S. Justice Department, conditions within Alabama prisons remain “incredibly unsafe, inhumane, and exploitative.” The work stoppage, which also calls for sentencing and parole reforms, began on Monday after three months of planning by prisoners and with help from groups including Alabama Prison Advocacy and Incarcerated Families United.
Here in New York City, never-before-seen images show people incarcerated in the notorious Rikers Island jail locked in caged showers and sleeping next to a pile of feces. The pictures were obtained by the news outlet Gothamist after the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office requested them while investigating the consequences for people held at Rikers as they await trial, sometimes for months or years.
This comes as the Texas Jail Project has documented severe overcrowding at the Harris County Jail in Houston, which has surpassed Rikers with 19 custody deaths in the first eight months of 2022 — more than the total number of people who died in the jail in nine of the last 10 years.
Meanwhile, a federal court judge has ordered Los Angeles County to fix its massive backup and address squalid conditions in the jail’s overcrowded Inmate Reception Center after revelations of horrific treatment, and ruled that officers are now barred from chaining anyone to a chair for more than four hours, after some had been found to be chained for days.
The Right Livelihood Awards have announced their 2022 laureates, recognizing those who show that systemic change is “not only possible but outright necessary in the face of failing governance and the breakdown of international order.” This year’s laureates include a mother and daughter from Somalia fighting against gender-based violence; a Ugandan organization battling oil and gas companies in order to protect the environment; and a Ukrainian group documenting war crimes and human rights violations. Oleksandra Matviichuk and her Center for Civil Liberties were honored for their work promoting democracy in Ukraine in the face of Russia’s invasion.
Oleksandra Matviichuk: “We are fighting for our freedom in all senses. For a freedom to be independent country, for a freedom to be Ukrainians with our own language and culture, and a for freedom to have a democratic choice, which means to build and to develop our country, where human rights of everybody are protected.”
Longtime progressive journalist and antiwar activist William Rivers Pitt has died of a heart attack at the age of 51. For nearly two decades, Pitt served as managing editor and senior writer for the news site Truthout.org. In 2002, he co-authored the book “War on Iraq: What Team Bush Doesn’t Want You to Know” with former weapons inspector Scott Ritter. Pitt spoke out repeatedly against false claims by then-President George W. Bush that Saddam Hussein had acquired weapons of mass destruction.
William Rivers Pitt: “Well, in the State of the Union address in 2003, Mr. Bush said that there were — what was it? — 26,000 liters of anthrax; 38,000 liters of botulinum toxin; 500 tons, which is 1 million pounds, of sarin, mustard and VX nerve agent; 30,000 munitions capable of delivering the stuff; mobile biological weapons labs; and uranium from Niger for use in nuclear bombs. By the way, the page describing all of this is still up on the White House website today. It’s called 'Disarm Saddam Hussein.' You can go find it yourself. I said that’s a pretty big lie.”
William Rivers Pitt memorial fundraiser for his daughter Lola.