North Korea Threatens Pacific H-Bomb Test as U.S. Brings New Sanctions
The Trump administration ordered new sanctions Thursday against North Korea over its nuclear weapons and ballistic missile program, promising to squeeze North Korean industries and cut off the country’s access to the international banking system. Trump said China had agreed to participate in the sanctions—a potentially major step, since China is North Korea’s main trading partner—though Chinese officials declined to confirm whether Trump’s claim was true. The new sanctions come after Trump mocked North Korean leader Kim Jong-un as "Rocket Man" during a speech at the U.N. General Assembly this week, threatening to "totally destroy" North Korea—a nation of 25 million people. On Friday, North Korean state television read a statement attributed to Kim in which he called Trump "a frightened dog" and a "gangster fond of playing with fire."
Ri Chun-hee: "I will surely and definitely tame the mentally deranged U.S. dotard with fire."
North Korea also said Kim was considering a plan to explode a hydrogen bomb over the Pacific Ocean in response to U.S. provocations.
Puerto Rico Under Curfew as Hurricane Maria Death Toll Rises to 32
In the Caribbean, the death toll from Hurricane Maria rose to 32 as the hurricane’s eye barreled toward the islands of Turks and Caicos as a Category 3 storm. In Puerto Rico, where a local newspaper reported 15 people died, Governor Ricardo Rosselló has imposed a dusk-to-dawn curfew through Saturday. Island-wide electric and telecommunications blackouts have made it difficult for recovery workers to survey the damage, but parts of Puerto Rico were left underwater in what many compared to last month’s flooding in Texas from Hurricane Harvey. President Trump told reporters Puerto Rico had been "totally obliterated," and said he is planning a visit to the island.
Mexico: Earthquake Death Toll at 273 and Climbing
In Mexico, the death toll from this week’s massive earthquake outside Mexico City has risen to 273. Rescue workers worked around the clock to search for anyone trapped alive in as many as 10 buildings around the capital city.
Iran Nuclear Deal Signatories Oppose U.S. Threatened Withdrawal
At the United Nations, signatories to the Iran nuclear agreement sought Thursday to shore up the landmark deal, after President Trump suggested he was seeking to renegotiate the deal or withdraw the U.S. entirely. This is German Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel.
Sigmar Gabriel: "How are we going to convince countries like North Korea that international agreements provide them with security and, in so doing, make them commit to further disarmament efforts, if the only international example for such an endeavor being successful—the agreement with Iran—no longer has effect?"
Iraq: Tens of Thousands Trapped in Hawija as U.S.-Backed Offensive Begins
Iraq’s military has launched a U.S.-backed offensive against ISIS in the northern city of Hawija. The U.N. warns as many as 85,000 people could be displaced by the fighting, and the aid group Save the Children says up to 30,000 children are in "extreme danger." The group’s deputy director said children were already suffering terribly under ISIS with food, water and medicine in short supply, adding, "Now families face a terrible choice of staying put as fighting intensifies, or risking their lives to flee on foot for up to 12 hours through minefields and snipers, then wade across a river to reach safety."
Amnesty International: U.S.-Made Bomb Killed Yemeni Civilians
In Yemen, Amnesty International is reporting that the bomb that destroyed a residential building in the capital Sana’a last month, killing 16 civilians and injuring 17 more, was made in the U.S.A. Amnesty International’s arms expert analyzed remnants of the weapon and found clear markings that matched U.S.-made components used in laser-guided, air-dropped bombs. The attack severely injured 5-year-old Buthaina, whose five brothers and sisters were among the seven children killed in the strike.
NYT: Trump Rolling Back Limits on Drone Strikes, Commando Raids
The New York Times reports the Trump administration is preparing to dismantle rules limiting CIA and military drone strikes and commando raids outside of conventional battlefields. The plan would remove so-called high-level vetting of proposed raids and drone strikes and would allow for the assassination of low-level foot-soldiers.
India: Muslims Protest Planned Mass Deportation of Rohingya Refugees
In New Delhi, India, hundreds of Muslims protested against a plan by India’s Hindu nationalist government to deport some 40,000 Rohingya refugees to Burma, where the Burmese army is carrying out a wide-scale ethnic cleansing. The protest came as India’s Supreme Court hears a challenge to the plan. The plan is backed by Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
Bangladeshi PM Lays Out Plan for U.N.-Backed Repatriation of Rohingya
At the United Nations General Assembly, Bangladesh’s leader laid out a plan Thursday to begin repatriating 800,000 Rohingya—more than half of whom have fled to Bangladesh since August 25. Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina said the U.N. should set up safe zones in Burma for returning refugees.
Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina: "We are horrified to see that the Myanmar authorities are laying landmines along their stretch of the border to prevent the Rohingya from returning to Myanmar. These people must be able to return to their homeland in safety, security and dignity."
In recent days, Bangladeshi authorities have sharply restricted the movements of Rohingya refugees, telling them they can’t leave their makeshift camps, ordering drivers not to transport Rohingya, and landlords not to rent to them.
Indian Journalist Killed on the Job in Northeast State
In India, a reporter covering political strife in the northeast state of Tripura was stabbed and beaten to death Wednesday as he reported on a road blockade by a political party representing indigenous tribal people. Shantanu Bhowmick is at least the second journalist murdered in India in recent weeks. Earlier this month, Gauri Lankesh, a prominent journalist and outspoken critic of right-wing Hindu nationalism, was assassinated on her doorstep.
Philippines: Mass Protests Oppose President Duterte's Authoritarianism
In the Philippines, tens of thousands of protesters rallied in cities across the country Thursday, warning that President Rodrigo Duterte was on the brink of imposing a dictatorship. The mass protests came on the 45th anniversary of nationwide military rule imposed by former dictator Ferdinand Marcos. Organizers pledged that future anti-Duterte rallies will be even bigger.
Vencer Crisostomo: "This is the biggest rally so far of the youth and people, and the rallies are bound to get bigger. And the Duterte government is bound to get more isolated and more exposed amongst the people, and soon will be ousted."
Duterte has already declared martial law over the Philippines’ Mindanao region, and he’s threatened to expand a bloody so-called war on drugs that’s seen police and vigilantes kill at least 12,500 people since Duterte took office last year.
France: Unions March as President Macron Plans to Cut Labor Protections
In France, tens of thousands of union members marched through the streets of Paris Thursday protesting President Emmanuel Macron’s plans to roll back labor protections by presidential decree. Macron is looking to give employers more power to set working conditions, and wants to roll back pension and employment insurance benefits.
Sen. Bernie Sanders to Debate Republican Authors of Healthcare Bill
Back in the United States, the authors of the Graham-Cassidy Republican Senate bill that would repeal the Affordable Care Act are set to square off Monday evening in a live 90-minute debate with Vermont independent Senator Bernie Sanders, who’s countering with a universal healthcare plan to bring Medicare to every American. Also joining the debate will be Minnesota Democratic Senator Amy Klobuchar, who has not endorsed the Sanders bill.
Children of Interned Japanese Americans Oppose Trump Travel Ban
In Washington, D.C., three children of Japanese Americans who were interned during World War II have asked the U.S. Supreme Court to reject the Trump administration’s ban on refugees and travelers from six majority-Muslim nations. Karen Korematsu, Holly Yasui and Jay Hirabayashi filed an amicus brief Monday arguing the travel ban violates the Constitution. In 1944, their fathers were litigants in Korematsu v. United States, an unsuccessful Supreme Court challenge to President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s mass incarceration of 120,000 Japanese Americans.
Ex-NFL Star Aaron Hernandez Had Severe CTE at Time of Suicide
In sports news, medical investigators who examined the brain of former New England Patriots tight end Aaron Hernandez said the NFL star had the most severe case of a brain injury known as CTE that researchers had ever seen in someone so young. Hernandez hanged himself last April in a prison cell after he was convicted of murder. CTE, which is caused by repetitive head trauma, has been linked to memory loss, depression, impulsivity and aggression. A recent study in The Journal of the American Medical Association found that of 111 NFL players whose brains were studied, 110 of them had signs of CTE.
Vice Media Workers Vote to Unionize
In labor news, hundreds of employees of Vice Media have voted to unionize. Thursday’s announcement brings the number of unionized staffers and freelancers who work on Vice’s website and cable TV programs to 430.
St. Louis: Protests Against Acquittal of White Police Officer Continue
In St. Louis, Missouri, hundreds of protesters rallied outside a Billy Joel concert Thursday evening in the latest protest against last week’s acquittal of white former police officer Jason Stockley for the murder of 24-year-old African American Anthony Lamar Smith. The latest protest came after press freedom groups condemned last weekend’s arrest of Mike Faulk, a 31-year-old reporter for the St. Louis Post-Dispatch newspaper, who was charged Sunday with "failure to disperse" after police kettled him along with a group of about 100 protesters. A photo of Faulk’s arrest shows him with his press badge clearly visible on a lanyard around his neck. St. Louis Mayor Lyda Krewson criticized her city’s police department for its aggressive handling of demonstrations, after officers were seen marching in formation while chanting, "Whose streets? Our streets!" and after Police Chief Lawrence O’Toole said police "owned tonight." Nevertheless, Krewson says she has confidence in the police chief.
Cornell University Black Students Protest Racist Incidents on Campus
And hundreds of black students marched into Cornell University’s Willard Straight Hall on Wednesday afternoon and occupied the building for several hours after delivering a list of demands to the university’s president in a protest reminiscent of the 1969 takeover of the same building. More than 300 marchers, led by Black Students United, silently climbed three flights of stairs in Day Hall and handed a list of demands to President Martha Pollack, who had met with BSU earlier in the day. The protesters, the majority of whom were black and most of whom were people of color, were responding in part to the assault on Friday of a black Cornell student who said a group of white men called him the N-word and bloodied him by repeatedly punching him in the face in Collegetown. Two weeks prior to the occupation, a resident of the Latino Living Center reported hearing chants of "build a wall" from a nearby fraternity, Zeta Psi.
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