Imelda’s Deluge Won’t Let Up Over Texas And Louisiana

Rain from Tropical Depression Imelda was still deluging parts of Texas and Louisiana on Thursday. Forecasters warned of life-threatening flash floods as an additional five to 10 inches falls through Friday, and predicted even “25 to 35 inches” in some places as the system moves slowly over the area.
 
Glenn LaMont, deputy emergency management coordinator in Brazoria County, south of Houston along the Gulf Coast, said he had seen no reports of flooded homes or people stranded despite heavy rainfall as of late Wednesday, but cautioned: “It’s too early to breathe a sigh of relief.”

Most of the heaviest showers had moved to the east of Houston, into Beaumont, Texas, and southwestern Louisiana, by Wednesday evening, but the storm’s remnants spawned several weak tornadoes in the Baytown area, about 25 miles (40 kilometers) east of Houston, damaging trees, barns and sheds and causing minor damage to some homes and vehicles.

Forecasters said the Houston area could still face some heavy rainfall on Thursday, even as the system’s center shifted to about 110 miles (180 kilometers) north of the city, moving north-northwest at 5 mph (7 kph).

Parts of East Texas could get up to 10 inches (254 millimeters) of rain through Thursday morning as the remnants of Imelda continue moving north and away from Houston, according to the National Weather Service.

Coastal counties, including Brazoria, Matagorda and Galveston, got the most rainfall so far. Some parts of the Houston area had received nearly 8 inches (203 millimeters) of rain, while the city of Galveston, which had street flooding, had received nearly 9 inches (229 millimeters), according to preliminary rainfall totals released Wednesday afternoon by the National Weather Service.

Sargent, a town of about 2,700 residents in Matagorda County, had received nearly 20 inches (508 millimeters) of rain since Tuesday.

Karen Romero, who lives with her husband in Sargent, said this was the most rain she has had in her neighborhood in her nine years living there.

“The rain (Tuesday) night was just massive sheets of rain and lightning storms,” said Romero, 57.

She said her home, located along a creek, was not in danger of flooding as it sits on stilts, like many others nearby.

In the Houston area, the rainfall flooded some roadways, stranding drivers, and caused several creeks and bayous to rise to high levels.

Many schools in the Houston and Galveston area canceled classes Wednesday. However, the Houston school district, the state’s largest, remained open. At least one school district Galveston said it was also canceling classes on Thursday.

The National Hurricane Center said Imelda, weakened after a tropical depression after making landfall Tuesday near Freeport, Texas, with maximum sustained winds of 40 mph (64 kph).
 
The weather service said Imelda is the first named storm to impact the Houston area since Hurricane Harvey dumped nearly 50 inches (130 centimeters) of rain on parts of the flood-prone city in August 2017, flooding more than 150,000 homes in the Houston area and causing an estimated $125 billion in damage in Texas.

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‘Deeply Sorry’ Trudeau Begs Forgiveness for Brownface Photo

Canadian leader Justin Trudeau’s campaign moved to contain a growing scandal Thursday, following the publication of a yearbook photo showing him in brownface makeup at a 2001 costume party. The prime minister apologized and begged Canadians to forgive him.

Time magazine published the photo on Wednesday, saying it was taken from the yearbook from the West Point Grey Academy, a private school in British Columbia where Trudeau worked as a teacher before entering politics. It depicts the then 29-year-old Trudeau wearing a turban and robe, with dark makeup on his hands, face and neck.

Trudeau, who launched his reelection campaign exactly one week ago, said he should have known better.

“I’m pissed off at myself, I’m disappointed in myself,” Trudeau told reporters traveling with him on his campaign plane.

The Canadian prime minister is but the latest politician to face scrutiny over racially insensitive photos and actions from their younger days. Earlier this year, Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam faced intense pressure to resign after a racist picture surfaced from his 1984 medical school yearbook page. He denied being in the picture but admitted wearing blackface as a young man while portraying Michael Jackson at a dance party in the 1980s. Since then, Virginia Attorney General Mark Herring has acknowledged wearing blackface in college, and Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey has publicly apologized for donning blackface during a college skit more than 50 years ago. None has resigned.

The photo of Trudeau was taken at the school’s annual dinner, which had an “Arabian Nights” theme that year, Trudeau said, adding that he was dressed as a character from “Aladdin.” The prime minister said it was not the first time he has painted his face; once, he said, he performed a version of Harry Belafonte’s “Banana Boat Song (Day-O)” during a talent show.

“I should have known better then but I didn’t, and I am deeply sorry for it,” Trudeau said. “I’m going to ask Canadians to forgive me for what I did. I shouldn’t have done that. I take responsibility for it.  It was a dumb thing to do.”

He said he has always been more enthusiastic about costumes than is “sometimes appropriate.”

“These are the situations I regret deeply,” Trudeau added.

The prime minister, who champions diversity and multiculturalism, said he didn’t consider it racist at the time but said society knows better now.

The photo’s publication could spell more trouble for Trudeau, who polls say is facing a serious challenge from Conservative leader Andrew Scheer.

Trudeau has been admired by liberals around the world for his progressive policies in the Trump era, with Canada accepting more refugees than the United States. His Liberal government has also strongly advocated free trade and legalized cannabis nationwide.

But the 47-year-old son of late Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau was already vulnerable following one of the biggest scandals in Canadian political history, which arose when Trudeau’s former attorney general said he improperly pressured her to halt the criminal prosecution of a company in Quebec. Trudeau has said he was standing up for jobs, but the scandal rocked the government and led to multiple resignations earlier this year, causing a drop in the leader’s poll ratings.

Following the release of the brownface photo, Trudeau said he would talk to his kids in the morning about taking responsibility.

His quick apology did not stem the criticism from political opponents, who took the prime minister to task for what they said was troubling behavior.

“It is insulting. Any time we hear examples of brownface or blackface it’s making a mockery of someone for what they live, for what their lived experiences are. I think he has to answer for it,” said Leftist New Democrat leader Jagmeet Singh, a Sikh who wears a turban and the first visible minority to lead a national party.

Scheer, the opposition Conservative leader, said brownface was racist in 2001 and is racist in 2019.

“What Canadians saw this evening was someone with a complete lack of judgment and integrity and someone who is not fit to govern this country,” Scheer said.

Robert Bothwell, a professor of Canadian history and international relations at the University of Toronto, said he was “gobsmacked” at the development and wondered how it would land in Parliament and with voters.

“We’ll just have to see how the party reacts,” he said. “I’m very curious to know how Liberal members of Parliament that are black will react.”

He added: “The case has never been conclusively made that Justin is a person of substance. I mean he may well be. But that impression is just not out there.”  

How the scandal will affect Trudeau’s campaign remains in question. Nelson Wiseman, a political science professor at the University of Toronto, said he didn’t think the photo’s release would cause people to vote differently. Wiseman said race and blackface play a much bigger role in U.S. politics than in Canada.

“I don’t think this will swing the vote, although the story will get a lot of media play for a couple of days,” Wiseman said.  “The Liberals may very well lose the election — they almost certainly will not do as well as in 2015 — but this is not the type of scandal that will drive voters to the Conservatives.”

 

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Algeria Army Chief Orders Clampdown on Protesters 

Algeria’s army chief has ordered a clampdown on those who head into the capital for weekly demonstrations. 
 
In a speech Wednesday at an army barracks in the south of the gas-rich nation, Gen. Ahmed Gaid Salah said members of the military, or gendarmes, should arrest protesters heading to Algiers for the demonstrations and seize their vehicles. 
 
Gaid Salah’s tough new stance came days after a Dec. 12 date was set for presidential elections, as he had demanded. 
 
In his speech that was published by the Defense Ministry, Gaid Salah said that, for some people, coming into Algiers from other regions has become a “pretext to justify dangerous behavior” and a way to swell crowds. 
  
Protest marches held in Algiers and other cities since Feb. 22 forced then-President Abdelaziz Bouteflika from office in April after two decades. Gaid Salah also called for the president, whose administration was mired in corruption, to stand down. 
 
In the past, gendarmes, have often blocked roads into Algiers, without making arrests. 
 
However, there recently have been arrests at the Friday protests, drawing condemnation from opposition politicians and human rights advocates. A former communications minister, Abdelaziz Rahabi, writing Tuesday on his Facebook page, called the arrests a “dangerous abuse” of power. 

‘The gang’
 
The army chief reiterated his claim that protesters were being manipulated by networks of “the gang,” a reference to those who held powerful positions under Bouteflika. The ex-president’s brother and two former intelligence chiefs have been jailed and are awaiting trial, starting Monday, on charges of plotting against the state. 
  
Gaid Salah, who has emerged as the authority figure amid a power vacuum, has consistently referred to a plot in his speeches, and suggested a foreign hand was involved. He has never elaborated on his accusation. 
 
He said a better future built “stone by stone” lies ahead for the nation, an apparent reference to the December presidential vote. 

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Swedish Teen Climate Activist Urges US Lawmakers to ‘Follow the Science’

Swedish teenage climate activist Greta Thunberg appeared before a U.S. Congressional committee Wednesday, urging law makers to “listen to the science” and take action on global climate change.

The 16-year-old Thunberg has been in Washington since last week when she joined U.S. and indigenous activists for a protest designed to build support for a global climate strike on Friday and put pressure on lawmakers to take action on climate change.

She was one of four students to appear Wednesday before a joint hearing of the House Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on Europe, Eurasia, Energy, and the Environment and the Select Committee on the Climate Crisis.

She submitted a report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change in lieu of her testimony, and told the lawmakers to “follow the science:”

“Well, well I don’t see a reason to not listen to the science, is such just such a thing that we should be taking for granted that we listen to the current best available united science. It’s just something that everyone should do. This is not political opinions, political views or my opinions, this is, this is the science, so yeah,” she said.

Later on Wednesday, Thunberg joined seven young Americans who have sued the U.S. government for failing to take action on climate change on the steps of the Supreme Court. They urged political leaders and lawmakers to support their legal fight and take action to phase out the use of fossil fuels.

Thunberg first gained notoriety last year when she began skipping school each Friday to protest outside the Swedish parliament. She was joined by other students and later founded the ‘Fridays for Future’ weekly school walkouts around the world  to demand government climate-change action.

Her organization of “climate strikers” reached 3.6 million people across 169 countries. She has been in the United States since last month when she sailed in to New York on a solar-powered boat to attend a U.N. climate summit.

 

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US Targets Three People, 16 Groups in New Venezuela Sanctions

The United States imposed sanctions on Tuesday on three people and 16 groups it says helped Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro and his government profit from food aid in the economically struggling country, the Treasury Department said.

The individuals are Amir Luis Saab, Luis Alberto Saab and David Nicolas Rubio, according to a Treasury statement.

In July, the Treasury Department said Colombian national Alex Nain Saab orchestrated a vast corruption network for food imports and distribution in Venezuela and profited from overvalued contracts, including the food subsidy program.

“This action increases pressure on Alex Saab and his network, which have profited off the hunger of the Venezuelan people and facilitate systemic corruption in Venezuela,” said Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin in the statement. “Treasury will continue to target those who corruptly profit at the expense of the Venezuelan people.”

 

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Chilean Former President Bachelet Denies Links to Brazil’s Car Wash Scandal

Michelle Bachelet, the U.N. human rights chief, has denied claims by a Brazilian businessman under investigation in Brazil’s massive Car Wash scandal that he paid $141,000 to cover debts incurred by her 2013 Chilean presidential campaign.

Leo Pinheiro is reported to have told prosecutors as part of a plea bargain that his engineering firm, OAS, paid the money at the suggestion of the former Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva.

FILE – Former Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva.

Lula is serving a 12-year prison sentence for taking bribes in connection with the scandal, which involved payoffs and political kickbacks on contracts with oil company Petrobras and other state-run companies.

Two other Brazilian presidents have been implicated in the scandal, along with two Peruvian presidents.

On Monday, Brazil’s Folha de Sao Paolo newspaper cited messages between prosecutors working on Pinheiro’s case in a report that claimed he told them OAS paid the money to Bachelet’s campaign to ensure a consortium it was involved in retained a contract to build a bridge to the Chilean island of Chiloe.

On Tuesday, Bachelet, a socialist who served from 2006 to 2010 and again from 2014 to 2018 and is the current United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, denied the claims.

“My truth is the same as always, I have never had links with OAS,” she told Chilean TV station 24 Horas in Geneva.

She highlighted the fact that Pinheiro had failed to mention his claims to tell a Chilean prosecutor investigating the potential involvement of Chilean businesses or politicians in the cross-continental scandal.

She also pointed to the fact that the Chiloe bridge contract was awarded by the government of Chile’s current president, Sebastian Pinera.

Pinheiro was sentenced to 16 years in prison for his role in the scandal but released after three years in custody last weekend after his plea bargain was ratified by Brazil’s Supreme Court.

Chile’s chief prosecutor, Jorge Abbott, said in a statement on Monday that he would await formal confirmation of Pinheiro’s claims from Brazilian prosecutors before taking any action.

“We will continue with our investigation to determine the veracity of this financing and to be able to advance any corresponding criminal complaints,” he said.

“Whoever is ultimately implicated in this testimony, no one is above the law.”

Representatives for OAS, Lula and Pinheiro did not reply to requests for comment. Bachelet’s spokesman at the U.N., Rupert Colville, said she would not comment further on the issue.

“Obviously, as this concerns her political career in Chile, it is not an issue for OHCHR itself to comment on,” he said.

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