Wednesday morning news: August 21, 2019

Hong Kong leader vows dialogue with citizens » Facing pressure to end months of anti-government protests, Hong Kong’s leader pledged Tuesday to open dialogue with residents.

Chief Executive Carrie Lam said she’s setting up what she called a “communication platform,” but gave few specifics on how it would work.

LAM: It is not just fact finding to provide the sequence of facts. It also will provide the government with recommendations on how to move forward, and also to avoid the recurrence of similar incidents. 

A key organizer of the mass rallies dismissed Lam’s plan—noting she has offered no concessions to the protest movement. 

Twitter shuts Chinese accounts targeting Hong Kong protests » Meanwhile, Twitter said it has suspended more than 200,000 accounts. Those accounts appeared to be part of a Chinese government influence campaign, targeting the Hong Kong protest movement.

The company also said it will ban ads from state-backed media companies, expanding a prohibition it first applied in 2017 to two Russian entities.

Facebook also announced this week that it has removed seven pages, three groups, and five accounts—including some that portrayed protesters as cockroaches and terrorists.

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said the social media campaign fit with well-known Chinese behavior. 

POMPEO: We understand the challenges that China presents. We’ve asked them multiple times just to honor their word. We talked about that in Hong Kong, right? They have to honor what they’ve promised the Hong Kong people. 

A spokesman for the Chinese government on Tuesday denied the accounts were part of any government disinformation campaign. He said they belonged to individuals who—quote—“of course have the right to express their point of view.”

That in spite of the fact that Beijing’s internet censorship system blocks Facebook and Twitter in mainland China. 

Italy’s prime minister resigns » Italy’s government is in turmoil today—after Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte officially resigned on Tuesday. 

He stepped down just hours after blasting his deputy, Matteo Salvini, in a Senate speech. Salvini hoped to force an early election as his League party pushed a no-confidence vote against Conte. 

President Sergio Mattarella is holding talks today with political parties to chart the nation’s future. He’s exploring options to avoid another general election. Those include trying to form a new governing coalition that has the support of a majority in parliament.

If that proves impossible, the president will dissolve parliament and call an early election.

States sue over Trump admin green card rules » New York City, and the states of New York, Connecticut, and Vermont sued the federal government Tuesday. They’re hoping to stop new Trump administration rules blocking green cards for many immigrants who use public assistance—including Medicaid and food stamps. 

New York Attorney General Letita James blasted what she called an “unlawful reinterpretation of the public charge rule.”

JAMES: It’s important that we understand that we welcome to these shores immigrants who are not just rich, but immigrants, again, who are also poor. It’s critically important that we understand that this country is really all about equality. 

The states and New York City join a growing list of entities suing over the change. More than 15 other states have already challenged the rule, including California, Washington, and Pennsylvania.

Ken Cuccinelli, acting director of Citizenship and Immigration Services, said “We want to see people coming to this country who are self-sufficient.” He added—quote—“That’s a core principle of the American dream. It’s deeply embedded in our history” related to legal immigration.

More Epstein accusers file sue estate » Three more women have sued Jeffrey Epstein’s estate, claiming he sexually abused them. Two of the women say they were just 17 years old at the time. 

Meantime, records show that Epstein signed a will just two days before killing himself in a jail cell. The court papers filed in U.S. Virgin Islands list no details about beneficiaries, but valued his estate at nearly $600 million.

Also this week, Attorney General William Barr replaced the man in charge of the federal prison in New York where Epstein hung himself. WORLD Radio’s Kristen Flavin reports. 

KRISTEN FLAVIN, REPORTER: The attorney general has reassigned Prisons Bureau acting director Hugh Hurwitz to a lesser role. The move came amid mounting evidence that guards who were supposed to monitor Epstein left him unattended and then falsified log entries to cover their tracks.

Those guards have been placed on administrative leave. Barr also ordered the bureau last Tuesday to temporarily reassign the prison’s warden to a regional office. 

Kathleen Hawk Sawyer will take over as head of the bureau. She served as the prison agency’s director from 1992 until 2003. 

The FBI and the Justice Department’s inspector general are still investigating the circumstances around Epstein’s death.

Reporting for WORLD Radio, I’m Kristen Flavin. 

Extreme heat scorches parts of U.S. » Extreme heat is scorching some parts of the country. Josh Weiss with the National Weather Service said the last couple of days have seen record highs as far east as Baltimore… 

WIESS: Stretching back through the Tennessee Valley, the southern and Central Plains and all the way back into the desert southwest, where we had record highs as high as 115-116 degrees in parts of Arizona, Southern California and Nevada over the past few days. 

Weiss said the heatwave will persist for several more days, especially across the Southwest and lower and Central Plains. And he added that temperatures are likely to shatter more records before the end of the week.

(AP Photo/Vincent Yu) Hong Kong Chief Executive Carrie Lam speaks to reporters at a press conference in Hong Kong Tuesday, Aug. 20, 2019. 

WORLD Radio transcripts are created on a rush deadline. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of WORLD Radio programming is the audio record.

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