Mass Evacuations in California as Wildfires Kill at Least 10
In California, powerful winds and bone-dry conditions have fueled massive wildfires across the state, leaving at least 10 people dead, destroying whole neighborhoods and forcing 20,000 people to evacuate their homes. State fire officials say they’re battling at least 14 major fires in eight counties. One of the worst blazes was in the city of Santa Rosa in Northern California’s Sonoma County, where fire ripped through a trailer park, destroyed homes, restaurants and hotels, and forced medical teams at the Kaiser Permanente hospital to evacuate 130 patients as flames approached. This is Santa Rosa resident Dave Rollans.
Dave Rollans: “I mean, this is like apocalyptic, it seems. This is so out of the norm. Like, I’m from Southern California, and everything is dry out there, and I’m used to fires, but I’ve never seen anything like this in an urban area.”
Northern California hospitals report at least 170 people have sought medical treatment—mostly for smoke inhalation but also for burns. Meanwhile, another massive fire in Southern California’s Orange County spread across the Anaheim Hills Monday, forcing the evacuation of 5,000 homes. That blaze has scorched over 6,000 acres and is only about 5 percent contained. The wildfires come after the U.S. Forest Service warned last year that an unprecedented 5-year drought led to the deaths of more than 100 million trees in California, setting the stage for massive fires. Climate scientists believe human-caused global warming played a major role in the drought.
EPA Chief Scott Pruitt Repeals Obama-Era Carbon Emissions Rule
In Washington, D.C., the Trump administration said Tuesday it will end the Clean Power Plan, President Obama’s landmark rule on greenhouse gas emissions from power plants. EPA administrator Scott Pruitt made the announcement standing alongside Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell during a visit to a coal mining and construction firm in Hazard, Kentucky.
Scott Pruitt: “Regulatory power should not be used by any regulatory body to pick winners and losers. The past administration was unapologetic. They were using every bit of power, every bit of authority, to use the EPA to pick winners and losers in how we generate electricity in this country.”
Obama’s Clean Power Plan would have reduced greenhouse gas emissions in part by decommissioning coal-fired power plants. The plan would have helped the U.S. partly meet its obligations under the Paris climate accord, though critics say it didn’t go nearly far enough. Cancellation of the Clean Power Plan drew condemnation from environmentalists, including author and activist Bill McKibben, who tweeted, “Neither flood nor hurricane nor wildfire can keep these men from their task of dismantling environmental protections.”
Puerto Rico: FEMA Chief Dismisses San Juan Mayor’s Criticism as “Political Noise”
In Puerto Rico, the Trump administration has allowed a 10-day waiver of the Jones Act to lapse, restricting shipments of food, fuel and medicine from foreign-flagged ships as nearly half of the island still lacks clean water and nearly 90 percent lacks electricity more than two weeks after Hurricane Maria struck. The expiration of the Jones Act waiver came over the fierce opposition of San Juan Mayor Carmen Yulín Cruz, who on Sunday blasted the Trump administration’s slow response to the hurricane, tweeting, “Power collapses in San Juan hospital with 4 patients now being transferred out. Have requested support from FEMA. NOTHING.” Federal Emergency Management Agency chief Brock Long on Monday dismissed Mayor Cruz’s comments, telling reporters, “We don’t have time for the political noise.”
At Least 23 Rohingya Refugees Die as Boat Capsizes
In Bangladesh, at least 23 people are dead, and dozens more are missing, after a boat overloaded with desperate Rohingya refugees capsized off the coast near the country’s border with Burma. The migrants were attempting to join more than half a million Rohingya refugees who have fled an ethnic cleansing campaign backed by Burma’s military. This is Sayed Hossain, one of the survivors.
Sayed Hossain: “We were seven—my three kids, my wife, my father-in-law, my elderly mother and me. Among them, I alone survived. We all faced so much difficulty searching for food and surviving. They killed people and burnt down the villages and houses. We came here to save our lives.”
The latest deaths came as drone footage released by the Disasters Emergency Committee showed the scale of the Rohingya refugee crisis. The video shows a massive, sprawling camp of makeshift tents and shacks in Bangladesh stretching to the horizon.
Afghanistan: Red Cross to Pull Staff Amid Mounting Attacks
The International Committee of the Red Cross said Monday it’s pulling most of its staff out of Afghanistan after a string of attacks on its employees there. The move follows more than three decades of medical work by the ICRC in Afghanistan and comes as the Trump administration has increased the number of U.S. troops there. This is Monica Zanarelli, head of the the ICRC’s delegation in Afghanistan.
Monica Zanarelli: “Exposure to risk has become our greatest challenge and concern. We know that there is no zero risk in Afghanistan, and we are not aiming at that. We don’t want to build differently our security than we have always done. Our security is built on acceptance and dialogue, and the acceptance comes from meaningful services that can be provided to vulnerable people.”
Syria: Airstrike in Idlib Province Kills 11 Civilians
In Syria, at least 11 children were killed, including two children, after an airstrike ripped through a market in the northwestern province of Idlib. Video posted online by the Syrian Civil Defense—known as the White Helmets—showed rescue workers pulling a man and a child from a collapsed building in the city of Maarrat al-Nu’man. Local groups blamed Syrian regime warplanes for the attack.
French Public Employee Unions Strike over Job Cuts, Sick Pay
In France, all nine unions representing the country’s public employees are on strike today, protesting government plans to lay off 120,000 people and roll back sick leave while cutting take-home pay. The strike by some 5.4 million workers shuttered public schools in Paris and led airlines to cancel about a third of all flights across the country.
Google Says “Suspected Russian Agents” Bought Political Ads in 2016
Back in the United States, Google said Monday that “suspected Russian agents” paid for tens of thousands of dollars’ worth of political advertisements last year aimed at swaying the 2016 presidential election. The Washington Post reports the ads were aimed at spreading disinformation across Google’s many platforms, including its search results, Gmail service and YouTube. Managers at Microsoft said Monday they, too, were investigating whether Russian operatives paid for “inappropriate” pro-Trump ads on its Bing search engine and other platforms. Social media giant Facebook has said a Russian company placed thousands of ads on their network at a cost of more than $100,000, while Twitter reported last month it discovered about 200 accounts linked to a Russian campaign to influence the election.
Blackwater Founder Erik Prince Mulls Wyoming Senate Primary Challenge
Erik Prince, founder of the now-defunct private mercenary firm Blackwater, is preparing a challenge against Wyoming Republican Senator John Barrasso in next year’s primary election. Prince was reportedly urged to run by Steve Bannon, Donald Trump’s former chief strategist and editor of the far-right news site Breitbart. Prince has financial support from New York hedge fund manager and billionaire Robert Mercer and his daughter Rebekah, who are heavily invested in Breitbart and funded Donald Trump’s campaign. Prince recently made headlines when the White House indicated it was considering his plan to appoint a U.S. “viceroy” in Afghanistan while privatizing much of the war effort.
Deandre Harris, Beaten by White Supremacists in Virginia, Faces Felony Charge
In Charlottesville, Virginia, police have issued an arrest warrant for 20-year-old Deandre Harris, a black man who was brutally beaten by white supremacists in a parking garage last summer. Police say Harris is wanted on a felony charge of “unlawful wounding” for allegedly assaulting one of the far-right protesters who gathered in the city on August 12 in a rally that turned deadly when 20-year-old Nazi sympathizer James Fields plowed into a crowd of counterprotesters, killing Heather Heyer and injuring 19 others. Deandre Harris’s beating was captured on video; he later recounted his ordeal to photojournalist Zach Roberts.
Deandre Harris: “So I’m trying to get up and run, but I can’t. Every time I got up, I just lose consciousness and fall back out, ’til the last time I got to open my eyes, and I see all my friends there. And they pick me up and take me over there so I can get help. I was gashed in the head, broke my wrists, chipped my tooth, busted my lip, got a bunch of cuts and abrasions all on my knees and elbows. I got eight staples in my head.”
While photos and video show at least six white supremacists punching, kicking and beating Harris with large metal poles, only two of his assailants have been charged.
ESPN Suspends Anchor Jemele Hill After She Tweets Support for NFL Protests
ESPN has suspended “SportsCenter” anchor Jemele Hill for two weeks, after she criticized Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones for threatening to bench any player who participates in protests during the national anthem. ESPN said Hill violated the sports network’s social media policy, after she tweeted that fans should boycott the team’s advertisers, writing, “If you strongly reject what Jerry Jones said, the key is his advertisers. Don’t place the burden squarely on the players.” Hill, who is African-American, was publicly reprimanded by ESPN last month after she tweeted that President Trump is a white supremacist. White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders responded by calling Hill’s tweet a “fireable offense.”
50+ Cities Celebrate Indigenous Peoples’ Day as New Yorkers Protest Columbus
And more than 50 U.S. cities—including Los Angeles, Phoenix, Salt Lake City and Austin, Texas—celebrated Indigenous Peoples’ Day Monday, in place of the federal holiday honoring Christopher Columbus, the Italian explorer who massacred and enslaved Arawak indigenous people while opening the door to the European colonization of the Americas. In New York City, protesters rallied at a 115-year-old statue of Christopher Columbus near Central Park Monday, calling for its removal and for the city to make the second Monday of each October Indigenous Peoples’ Day. The protest came as the New York Police Department ringed the statue in metal barricades and said it was providing round-the-clock surveillance of the monument. This is Loaiza Rivera, a student activist at the City University of New York.
Loaiza Rivera: “I’m a CUNY student, and I’ve heard various times my professors say how Christopher Columbus was a hero, how he discovered us, how he should be honored. And in 2017, I can’t believe that that’s still going on. That’s ridiculous. And that’s why this is such a big deal, because it’s not just a statue, it’s not just a day. It’s a message that we’re constantly putting out that we’re OK with this kind of behavior, that we’re OK with Standing Rock, we’re OK with the colonial crisis in Puerto Rico. And we’re not.”
Courtesy of Democracy Now
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