Top News Stories for Today – Sept 7, 2017
Hurricane Harvey aid
President Trump surprised Democrats and infuriated Republicans on Wednesday when he agreed to a Democratic proposal to attach $7.9 billion in Hurricane Harvey aid to a three-month spending package and debt-limit increase. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) reluctantly agreed to the deal and turned it into legislation Wednesday night, tacking on another $7.4 billion in community block grants to jump-start rebuilding efforts.
The Senate is expected to approve the package as early as Friday, then it would go back to the House, which has already approved the $7.9 billion for the Federal Emergency Management Agency and the Small Business Administration. FEMA could run out of emergency funds as early as this weekend, when Hurricane Irma is projected to hit Florida. The Washington Post, The Associated Press, The Week
Historic. Unprecedented. Devastating. No word seems strong enough to convey the damage that Irma has brought to the Caribbean. So far, the hurricane has killed nine people. About 95% of buildings on Barbuda are damaged. More than a million people don’t have power in Puerto Rico. And there are still millions in this monster storm’s path.
We still don’t know if Irma will hit the US, but people are getting out of the way. In Florida, there’s gridlock on the roads as people evacuate. Governors in North Carolina, South Carolina and Georgia have declared states of emergency.
And Irma, one of the strongest storms ever seen in the Atlantic, isn’t alone out there. There are two other hurricanes — Jose, out in the open Atlantic, and Katia, in the southern Gulf of Mexico. It’s the first time since 2010 there have been three active hurricanes at the same time in the Atlantic Ocean. And we’re only about halfway through the season. CNN
Trump Jr. Russia meeting
Donald Trump Jr., the president’s oldest son and executive director of the Trump Organization, will meet with the Senate Judiciary Committee on Thursday to discuss a June 2016 meeting he set up with a Kremlin-backed lawyer and other Russians promising compromising information on Hillary Clinton.
Trump’s testimony, originally scheduled for July, will be transcribed but held behind closed doors. The Senate Judiciary Committee, headed by Sen. Charles Grassley (R-Iowa), is one of three congressional panels looking at Russian interference in the 2016 election, but Grassley’s committee is focused more on potential obstruction of justice and issues surrounding foreign lobbying than possible collusion with Russia. Trump will be the first insider from his father’s presidential campaign to appear before the committee. Politico, The Washington Post
Facebook Russia probe
Facebook admitted Wednesday that it unknowingly sold $100,000 worth of ads to a Russian “troll farm” during the 2016 presidential election, The Washington Post reports. The ads began running in the summer of 2015 and link back to a St. Petersburg company called the Internet Research Agency, which has been known to push Kremlin propaganda.
Facebook informed congressional investigators Wednesday of the link to Russia; a total of 3,300 ads led back to the troll farm. “The report from Facebook that a Russian firm was able to target political messages is likely to fuel pointed questions from investigators about whether the Russians received guidance from people in the United States — a question some Democrats have been asking for months,” the Post writes. The Washington Post
Same-sex marriage in Australia
Australia is going to hold a national vote on same-sex marriage. It will be a mail-in vote, and ballots will be sent to Australians starting next week. Voters have until November 7 to mail in their votes, and the final result will be revealed on November 15 — but it won’t be binding.
Though a recent poll showed 63% of Australians supported same-sex marriage, domestic politics has stood in the way of making it legal. Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull has said he will introduce legislation to do just that if same-sex marriage is approved by voters, prompting several conservative politicians to promise to oppose it. CNN
North Korea sanctions
North Korea on Thursday pledged to take “powerful counter measures” to respond to US pressure or any new sanctions against it over its missile program, accusing Washington of wanting war. Pyongyang’s pledge, made in a statement by its delegation to an economic forum in Russia’s Far East, came after the United States said it wanted the UN Security Council to impose an oil embargo on North Korea, ban the country’s exports of textiles and the hiring of North Korean laborers abroad, and subject leader Kim Jong Un to an asset freeze and travel ban, according to a draft resolution seen by Reuters Wednesday.
North Korea also accused South Korea and Japan of using the Russian forum to play “dirty politics,” saying the event was meant to be about discussing economic cooperation in the region and not about criticizing its missile program. VOA
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