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November 22, 2017

After months of reticence, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson on Wednesday officially referred to the plight of the Rohingya Muslims in Myanmar as "ethnic cleansing." In a press statement, Tillerson reiterated his support for a democratic transition in the country, but added that the crisis in the northern state of Rakhine counts as "ethnic cleansing against the Rohingya."

In August, Rohingya insurgents attacked police posts in Rakhine, prompting a brutal retaliation from Myanmar's military which reportedly razed villages and indiscriminately attacked civilians. The violence led to the mass exodus of Rohingya people east to Bangladesh. Myanmar's government has claimed that the Rohingya decided to burn their own villages and then willingly self-deported to Bangladesh en masse — more than 600,000 have fled in the last three months — but that claim has been widely disputed and debunked by reporters on the ground.

The State Department had previously expressed concern over Myanmar's treatment of the Rohingya Muslims, but had stopped short of calling the situation ethnic cleansing. Rohingya Muslims in the majority Buddhist country of Myanmar have been denied citizenship since 1982 and are not officially counted as one of the country's official 135 ethnic groups.

The Hill speculates that Tillerson's decision to refer to the situation in Rakhine as ethnic cleansing will prompt the Trump administration to enforce new sanctions on Myanmar's government. But ultimately, ethnic cleansing holds no legal ramifications under international law. The U.N. recognizes genocide as a crime, but it is notoriously hard to prosecute and the international body is still deliberating whether the term is applicable for Myanmar's treatment of the Rohingya. Kelly O'Meara Morales

11:23a.m.

This whole immigration mess could be solved in a matter of minutes, President Trump claimed on Twitter Saturday morning, if those pesky Democrats would just do what he wants:

In past negotiations about specific immigration reform proposals, Trump has proven mercurial, taking a variety of rapidly changing and inconsistent positions and drawing critique even from within his own party.

Several additional Saturday tweets saw Trump endorsing a pair of GOP candidates for the midterm elections. He praised Ron DeSantis, the would-be Republican successor to Florida Gov. Rick Scott, and also backed Georgia Secretary of State Brian Kemp in his gubernatorial race. Kemp is embroiled in controversy surrounding his "exact match" system of maintaining voter registrations. The president claimed both men's electoral opponents would "destroy" their respective states. Bonnie Kristian

10:52a.m.

Alaska Gov. Bill Walker (I) announced Friday he and Lt. Gov. Valerie Davidson will not continue their re-election campaign.

"With more time, I am confident that Val and I could deliver a message and a campaign that could earn a victory in this election," he said. "But there are only 18 days remaining before election day. Absentee ballots have already been mailed, and Alaskans are already voting. In the time remaining, I believe we cannot win a three-way race."

Davidson took office Tuesday after former Lt. Gov. Byron Mallott (D) resigned over "inappropriate comments." Walker, a former Republican, endorsed Democrat Mark Begich against Republican Mike Dunleavy. Bonnie Kristian

10:35a.m.

A week after the remains of 11 babies were found in the ceiling of a shuttered Detroit funeral home, another 63 bodies of infants were discovered in a separate funeral home in the city.

So far, police say there is no apparent connection between the two facilities. The second funeral home has now been closed as well. "This is deeply disturbing," said Detroit Police Chief James Craig. "I have never seen anything like this."

Investigators are working to determine the identities of the infants as well as why they were not handled appropriately. One theory suggests the remains should have received a proper burial after donation for educational use at a nearby medical school.

While the first set of remains were uncovered thanks to an anonymous tip to state authorities, the second set came to light though a lawsuit against the funeral home alleging improper burial of an infant girl. Bonnie Kristian

10:24a.m.

At least 60 people were killed and dozens more injured when a speeding train plowed into a crowd of people watching fireworks at a religious festival in northern India Friday night.

Eyewitnesses say the victims did not hear the train coming over the booms of the fireworks display, and the train reportedly did not blow its whistle before striking the crowd. Locals say festival attendees sit on the tracks to watch the show every year.

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi offered condolences on Twitter:

An inquiry into the accident is ongoing. The Railway Board rejected responsibility on the grounds that people "are not expected to be on the tracks." Bonnie Kristian

10:10a.m.

The U.S. and South Korea on Friday canceled plans for a major joint military exercise previously set for December. The schedule change is intended to foster continued progress in diplomacy with North Korea.

"Secretary of Defense James N. Mattis and Minister of National Defense Jeong Kyeong-doo decided to suspend Exercise Vigilant Ace to give the diplomatic process [with North Korea] every opportunity to continue," said chief Pentagon spokesperson Dana White. She also reported Japan was consulted before the decision was made, and said Mattis and Jeong have "pledged to maintain close coordination and evaluate future exercises."

North Korea has long complained of such exercises, calling them "war games." While meeting with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un in Singapore this past summer, President Trump agreed to suspend some exercises while denuclearization talks proceed. Bonnie Kristian

8:40a.m.

President Trump targeted his ire at migrants who want to come to the United States and the Democratic Party at a campaign rally in Arizona Friday night.

Referring to the caravan of an estimated 4,000 people traveling on foot from Honduras to the U.S. border, Trump alleged "many of those people — a fairly big percentage of those people — are criminals."

"You think they're all wonderful people. You've got some bad people in those groups," Trump said. "You've got some tough people in those groups. And I'll tell you what, this country doesn't want them. Okay?" The caravan includes young children and pregnant women seeking to escape dire economic circumstances and even violence in their home countries.

The president claimed "cuckoo" Democrats want to give illegal immigrants the right to vote, along with "free welfare, free health care, and free education" and a luxury car, like a "Rolls-Royce, made not in America, so I hope that's not what we do." Polling shows a majority of Americans in both major parties oppose allowing non-citizens to vote. Bonnie Kristian

8:08a.m.

Saudi Arabia on Saturday conceded journalist Jamal Khashoggi died inside the Saudi consulate in Istanbul, as Turkey has alleged. Khashoggi went missing two weeks ago, and Riyadh previously denied all knowledge of his whereabouts.

"Discussions that took place between [Khashoggi] and the persons who met him ... led to a brawl and a fist fight ... which led to his death," said Saudi Attorney General Sheikh Saud al-Mojeb. "The investigations are still underway, and 18 Saudi nationals have been arrested."

An unnamed Saudi official also told Reuters a "group of Saudis" killed Khashoggi when they put him in a "chokehold" as they "were trying to keep him quiet."

Five Saudi officials have reportedly been fired in connection to Khashoggi's death. Saudi Arabia did not say where his body, allegedly dismembered, may be now.

Riyadh provided no evidence to support this account. Nevertheless, President Trump told reporters Friday night he found the explanation credible, calling it "a good first step" and "a big step." "Saudi Arabia has been a great ally," he said. "What happened is unacceptable." White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders issued a brief statement "acknowledging" the Saudi probe is "progressing."

Lawmakers on both sides of the aisle, including Trump ally Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), were more skeptical. "The Saudi 'explanation' for murdering journalist and Virginia resident Jamal Khashoggi in a consulate — a fistfight gone wrong — is insulting," said Sen. Tim Kaine (R-Va.), calling for congressional action. Bonnie Kristian

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