News Brief: Jerusalem Reaction, Franken To Resign, California Fires

Dec 7, 2017
Originally published on December 7, 2017 9:24 am
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RACHEL MARTIN, HOST:

We are following reaction to President Trump's decision to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel.

STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

Yeah, the president said it in a speech yesterday. He said he was just recognizing reality since Israel does use Jerusalem as its capital. And Trump insisted he was not endorsing specific future borders for Jerusalem. That is the big question since Palestinians want a slice of Jerusalem as the capital for their state. Palestinians, however, were not very impressed by that qualification and described the president's move as a sign the United States is no longer an honest broker for peace.

MARTIN: Let's bring in NPR's Daniel Estrin. He is in Ramallah in the West Bank for us this morning.

Daniel, just describe where you are and what you're seeing right now.

DANIEL ESTRIN, BYLINE: Hey, Rachel. I'm in a cafe overlooking Manara Square - which is the main downtown square in the city of Ramallah - looking at a demonstration of, I'd say, scores of people. I wouldn't say hundreds and hundreds. Someone on the microphone just - in the crowd just said, all you with suits and ties giving TV interviews, we don't need you on TV, we need you here - down here at the protest. So today and tomorrow are really going to be the big test whether opposition to Trump's decision on Jerusalem are going to - is going to bring Palestinians to the streets.

MARTIN: So the Palestinian Authority - the leader of the Palestinian Authority says the decision by the president means, essentially, that the U.S. can no longer play the leading role in brokering peace talks. Parse the implications of that statement. Does it mean the Palestinians are pulling out of the peace process altogether?

ESTRIN: Well, that's what we're waiting to find out. We haven't heard the Palestinian leadership say that. The president of the Palestinian Authority, Mahmoud Abbas, is meeting with the king of Jordan to coordinate strategy. The rival Palestinian group, the Islamist group Hamas in the Gaza Strip, is calling for an intifada, an uprising, beginning tomorrow. Now, the U.S. says it is working on a peace proposal it wants to present soon. And the question is, will the Palestinians walk away even before Trump presents his proposal? And if so, you know, what's next? What's the other strategy they'll pursue?

MARTIN: And you've been having conversations with people there in the West Bank. I mean, what are they telling you? What is their level of appetite for another intifada, another round of what could be really horrific violence?

ESTRIN: Well, I want you to take a listen to what 25-year-old Uday Abu Doha (ph) told me in this cafe.

UDAY ABU DOHA: (Speaking foreign language).

ESTRIN: He said, "the only solution I see now is a third intifada uprising because politics and negotiations have no impasse." So President Abbas is under major pressure now from his people not to take part in any peace process with the U.S.

INSKEEP: You know, the talk, of course, for many years has been of a two-state solution of Palestinian state alongside Israel. And as years and years have passed and that hasn't happened, people increasingly, on both sides, talk of a one-state solution, of denying Palestinians a state or Palestinians saying they simply want to go another way themselves.

ESTRIN: That's right.

MARTIN: NPR's Daniel Estrin, reporting this morning from Ramallah in the West Bank, where Palestinians are thinking about their future, whether or not they're going to take to the streets and protest President Trump's decision to make Jerusalem the capital of Israel. Thanks so much for sharing your reporting this morning, Daniel. We appreciate it.

ESTRIN: Pleasure.

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MARTIN: Minnesota Senator Al Franken is set to make an announcement today.

INSKEEP: Yeah, our colleagues at Minnesota Public Radio cite a single anonymous Democrat who says that Franken will resign. Now, Franken's own office, we should emphasize, insists that is wrong, that he has not made a final decision, that he's been talking with his family. But it's undeniable that Democratic Party leaders are saying Franken must go after multiple women said that he touched them in inappropriate ways. Those who want Franken out include New York's Kirsten Gillibrand.

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KIRSTEN GILLIBRAND: I think it would be better for the country for him to offer that clear message that he values women, that we value women and that this kind of behavior is not acceptable.

MARTIN: All right, NPR political editor Domenico Montanaro joins us now.

Hey, Domenico.

DOMENICO MONTANARO, BYLINE: Good morning, Rachel.

MARTIN: So these accusations aren't going away. In fact, they're mounting against Senator Franken. There were new reports just yesterday. Can you just start by laying out exactly what Franken is accused of?

MONTANARO: Well, you know, Franken's been accused of forcibly kissing or trying to do so to a couple women. And there've been these slew of others who've come forward to say that he was inappropriate with them during photographs, touching their bottoms or their breasts. And Franken denies some of these allegations but not others. And then this latest allegation that came out yesterday was, again, a situation where he was accused of forcibly trying to kiss a woman after a radio program. She was a Democratic aide in her mid-20s at the time, said she didn't know him. He denies some of the details of this. And again, we're not sure what he's going to exactly announce today, but, I mean, you know, having more than two dozen Democrats come out - his colleagues - and say he should resign now is pretty big.

MARTIN: Right. It was remarkable yesterday. Just monitoring Twitter, it just seemed like there was one after another. It was just this wave, which - of Democrats saying, you need to step down, which makes you wonder, I mean, what is it about right now? I mean, the first allegation against Franken came in mid-November. It was almost a month ago.

MONTANARO: Yeah. Well, it's sheer number, you know, as well as the seriousness of the allegation yesterday from Franken - you know, even Kirsten Gillibrand, the Democratic senator from New York who really has led this charge said - when she was asked yesterday what the bar is for someone needing to resign, what kind of behavior, how many accusations, she said she is not sure, precisely, but that enough was enough, she said, and there were too many piling up with Franken. I think to a larger point, though, a lot of people in workplaces are struggling to answer these questions.

Politically, Democrats are both wanting to take the moral high ground here, but they're also smarting at the fact that, you know, people like Roy Moore, the man running for the Senate in Alabama - Republicans seem to be rallying around him. And you have Donald Trump, who is still in the White House after being accused by more than a dozen women during the campaign of inappropriate sexual contact, sexual misconduct, assault and groping. And meanwhile, it's Democrats who are forcing out their members.

MARTIN: Right. Steve and I were actually just chatting about this before we went to air, that this is Democrats' way of differentiating themselves.

INSKEEP: They want to make a contrast, and this is, in many Democrats' minds, what is necessary.

MARTIN: Domenico, what happens next? I mean, if Franken resigns.

MONTANARO: Well, so here's the thing. The Democratic governor of the state, Mark Dayton, is a former senator himself. He would appoint a successor. That's expected to be Lieutenant Governor Tina Smith. She would only likely be a caretaker, though. That would mean a pretty competitive - not only primary, but possibly general election, giving Republicans a new target. And remember, this is a state Trump only lost by a point and a half, or about 40,000 votes.

MARTIN: Domenico Montanaro, NPR's political editor - thanks, Domenico.

MONTANARO: Hey, you're welcome.

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MARTIN: Now to Southern California, where it is really tough going for the firefighters trying to get this blaze contained there.

INSKEEP: And that's because of wind, in part. Several wildfires have already charred more than 100,000 acres, which is twice what it was just the last time we were talking about this story. 100,000 acres, forced the evacuation of entire communities - and now the Santa Ana winds are expected to get stronger.

MARTIN: Let's bring in Mary Plummer. She's a reporter at our member station KPCC in Pasadena.

Mary, what are conditions like where you are right now?

MARY PLUMMER, BYLINE: Well, you know, as you mentioned, the wind is really a big factor. Anyone in the Los Angeles area can feel that right now. And we've been dealing with extremely smoky conditions in some places, making air quality a real concern for everyone. You know, fighting a fire overnight is difficult. Crews are on the ground. They've been working round-the-clock. One of the fires I'm closest to right now is the Skirball Fire. This is impacting the Bel-Air neighborhood, where multimillion-dollar homes are threatened. A few have already been lost. There is a concern that the fire there may spread and cause additional evacuations, but that's just one of four major wildfires nearby.

MARTIN: Wow, four. So I mean, that means resources have got to be stretched thin, right? How are authorities prioritizing?

PLUMMER: You know, overall, resources have certainly been tapped. Thousands of firefighters from all across the state are on the ground. Several different agencies are involved and working to slow the flames. These fires are affecting a real range of geographic areas - some very urban, some very rural. So it's been a real logistical challenge.

The Thomas Fire is the biggest concern right now. This is taking place north of Los Angeles in Ventura County. It's been moving fast and consuming a huge amount of land, well over 90,000 acres. Many people are sheltering at the Ventura County Fairgrounds, which has been set up as an evacuation center. Patricia Hampton is one is one of them. She's homeless, and the tent she lived in burned down in the Thomas Fire.

PATRICIA HAMPTON: It was surreal. The entire town was pitch black. And I looked to my left. The hillside was on fire. I looked to my right, and it was just coming over the ridge - huge flames. We stood there for about 15 minutes, not sure what to do. It was unbelievable.

MARTIN: I mean, that's what's so crazy about this, right? You see pictures going around on social media. These flames are right next to major thoroughfares. They're right next to where people live.

PLUMMER: They really are. It's a really serious situation. We're hoping these fires get under control today, but it's likely we're going to see the fires expand, not shrink, because of the wind conditions.

MARTIN: All right, we will keep following this. Mary Plummer - she's a reporter at our member station KPCC in Pasadena. She has been following all of the news about the multiple wildfires that have ravaged Southern California. Mary, thanks so much.

PLUMMER: Thank you.

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