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HeadlinesAugust 31, 2023

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Tropical Storm Idalia Weakens After Lashing Florida, Still Carries Threat as It Moves North

Aug 31, 2023

After barreling through Florida, the downgraded Tropical Storm Idalia lashed Georgia and South Carolina, inundating coastal towns and leaving 300,000 customers without power across all three states as of early this morning. As Idalia moves offshore and up the Atlantic, North Carolina residents are bracing themselves for more heavy downpours and possible tornadoes. Officials warned dangerous storm surges are still possible. Two people died in Florida in car crashes linked to the extreme weather. In Florida’s Big Bend region on the Gulf of Mexico, some evacuated residents returned to utterly destroyed homes, including this mother and daughter in Horseshoe Beach.

Daughter: “What matters is what I’m holding right here, OK?”

Mother: “I know. But it’s” —

Daughter: “It’s just material stuff.”

Mother: “I know. But this is our retirement” —

Daughter: “I know.”

Mother: — “our whole life. Twenty-three years.”

Daughter: “It’s material. We’re going to rebuild.”

Mother: “Twenty-three years.”

Daughter: “It’s going to be good. It’s going to be good. It’s going to be fine.”

President Biden spoke at the White House on the federal response to the storm and other climate disasters.

President Joe Biden: “I don’t think anybody can deny the impact of the climate crisis anymore. Just look around. Historic floods — I mean historic floods — more intense droughts, extreme heat, significant wildfires have caused significant damage like we’ve never seen before.”

Gabon’s Military Rulers Announce Transitional Leader Following Coup

Aug 31, 2023

In the Central African nation of Gabon, the military junta has announced General Brice Oligui Nguema will serve as transitional leader following Wednesday’s coup that ousted Gabon’s President Ali Bongo, whose family had ruled the oil-rich former French colony for over 50 years. Many residents of Gabon celebrated Bongo’s ouster, but the African Union and the United Nations have condemned the coup, which came just days after a contested election. The ousted president remains under house arrest and appeared in a video Wednesday pleading for help. We will have more on Gabon after headlines.


Johannesburg Building Fire Kills at Least 73 People, Including Children

Aug 31, 2023

In South Africa, at least 73 people died as a massive fire tore through a five-story building in downtown Johannesburg that housed squatters living in cramped, makeshift conditions. Many of them were believed to be migrants. Officials say at least seven children are among the dead. Harrowing scenes showed scores of lifeless bodies lined up on the street as rescue teams continued to search for people. Witnesses and survivors described the chaos as people tried to flee the burning building.

Kenny Bupe: “The actual fire escape was closed, so the people — there was a lot of people, you know, a lot of people, smoke. People suffocated. A lot of people died because of the smoke, because there was a lot of pressure at the gate. Some of the gates were closed.”

The building was once an apartheid government checkpoint for Black workers. The scarcity of affordable housing in Johannesburg has driven people to take shelter in unsafe and overcrowded abandoned buildings, which often lack sewage, electricity and other basic amenities.

U.N. Says Recent Fighting in Ethiopia’s Amhara Region Killed 183 People

Aug 31, 2023

The U.N. says fighting between Ethiopia’s military and the regional Fano militia in the Amhara region has killed at least 183 people over the past month. A state of emergency was declared in the region early this month, leading to the arbitrary arrest of more than 1,000 people, many believed to be young people of ethnic Amhara origin. The latest conflict broke out after Ethiopian forces reclaimed major towns and cities in the northern region. Amhara soldiers fought on the side of the Ethiopian military during the two-year conflict in northern Tigray.


Migrant Death Toll Near El Paso Hit Record High as Heat Waves Scorched the Southern Border

Aug 31, 2023

Migrant deaths around El Paso, Texas, reached a 25-year high this year, with at least 136 deaths, roughly 100 of which were recorded starting in May as temperatures started to soar. The death toll is at least 87% higher than last year. The area in question spans the U.S.-Mexico border from just east of metropolitan El Paso in Texas across New Mexico’s southern border. Some deaths were caused by people falling off border fences, but most of them are attributed to extreme heat. Ground temperatures as hot as 150 degrees have been recorded this summer amid record-smashing heat waves.

Texas Judge Blocks Law Barring Cities from Requiring Worker Water Breaks

Aug 31, 2023

A Texas judge just ruled a new state law barring cities from making a wide range of local decisions unconstitutional. Among other things, it would have prohibited local governments from requiring water breaks for construction workers. Texas’s HB 2127, dubbed the “Death Star” bill, was set to go into effect Friday and was part of an effort by the state’s Republican Party and Governor Greg Abbott to control increasingly progressive and Democrat-led cities. The law was challenged by Houston, San Antonio and El Paso. Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner celebrated the decision, saying, “This self-defeating war on cities needs to end.” Texas’s attorney general has already appealed the ruling.


Labor Dept. Proposes Lifting Salary Threshold for Mandatory Overtime Pay from $35K to $55K

Aug 31, 2023

The Biden administration unveiled a new rule that would see some 3.6 million new workers entitled to overtime pay. The Labor Department is proposing raising eligibility to salaried workers who earn up to $55,000 per year — up from around $35,500. Those employees would be guaranteed time-and-a-half pay after working more than 40 hours in a week. The change would benefit workers across a range of industries including manufacturing, healthcare and retail. Some trade groups condemned the rule and could seek to challenge it in court. The Congressional Progressive Caucus welcomed the move but urged increasing the salary threshold to workers making up to $80,000 a year.


Mitch McConnell Freezes During Press Conference for Second Time in Two Months

Aug 31, 2023

President Biden said he would speak to Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, whom Biden called a “good friend,” after the 81-year-old Republican leader froze for around 30 seconds while speaking to reporters in Kentucky before two aides intervened.

Minority Leader Mitch McConnell: “I’m sorry. I had a hard time hearing you.”

Reporter: “That’s OK. What are your thoughts on running for reelection in 2026?”

Minority Leader Mitch McConnell: “What are my thoughts about what?

Reporter: “Running for reelection in 2026.”

Minority Leader Mitch McConnell: “Oh. That’s…”

Aide: “Did you hear the question, Senator? Running for reelection in 2026?”

Minority Leader Mitch McConnell: “Yes.”

Aide: “OK. All right. I’m sorry, y’all. We’re going to need a minute.”

It’s the second such incident in a little over a month as questions mount over McConnell’s ability to finish out his term. The senator froze in late July while speaking to reporters in the U.S. Capitol and had to be escorted away. McConnell suffered a concussion from a fall in March, and at least two more falls since then.

NY Attorney General Says Trump Inflated His Wealth by $2.2 Billion

Aug 31, 2023

New York Attorney General Letitia James said that Donald Trump had inflated his net worth by as much as $2.2 billion in order to secure loans and business deals. James said in a motion to a judge that there was already sufficient evidence Trump and his associates committed financial fraud, and a trial was not necessary. Meanwhile, Trump’s lawyers argued the case should be thrown out altogether, because the loans in question are too far in the past to be considered by the court. If the judge does not side with either party, Trump’s New York trial will go ahead as planned in October.

Rudy Giuliani Found Liable in Defamation Lawsuit Brought by Georgia Election Workers

Aug 31, 2023

A federal judge found Rudy Giuliani liable in a defamation lawsuit brought by two Georgia election workers, after the disgraced Trump lawyer failed to turn over information sought in subpoenas. Giuliani accused Ruby Freeman and her daughter Shaye Moss of committing fraud as they tallied ballots in Atlanta during the 2020 election. It was part of the Trump team’s effort to overturn the former president’s loss in Georgia. Wednesday’s ruling means the defamation case against Giuliani can proceed to a trial, where damages will be considered.

Indigenous Groups Rally in Brazil as Top Court Considers Pivotal Challenge to Ancestral Land Rights

Aug 31, 2023

In Brazil, Indigenous groups from around the country rallied in Brasília Wednesday as the country’s Supreme Court resumed hearings yesterday in a pivotal case that could strip Indigenous rights to their ancestral lands. The case is being pushed by agribusiness-backed lawmakers, who argue Native groups are only entitled to land that they physically occupied when the 1988 Constitution was signed. Many Indigenous communities were expelled from their ancestral land over the years, including during the military dictatorship. This is Joenia Wapichana, a member of the Wapixana tribe and president of the National Commission for the Defense of the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.

Joenia Wapichana: “There is a constitution, and it must be respected. So, in that vein, we hope that the Supreme Court does justice with the lives of Indigenous peoples and protects Indigenous lands for Indigenous people and all living beings.”

If enacted, the measure could have dire consequences not just for the Indigenous peoples of Brazil, but for the preservation of the Amazon and the entire planet.

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