In our news wrap Tuesday, the confirmed death toll in Puerto Rico rose to 43 nearly three weeks after Hurricane Maria wrecked the island. Authorities blamed infections and bad road conditions, among other factors. Also, President Trump denied he was undercutting Secretary of State Tillerson, despite proposing to Forbes magazine they compare IQ tests after Tillerson reportedly called him a “moron.”
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And in the day's other news: The confirmed death toll in Puerto Rico rose to 43, nearly three weeks after Hurricane Maria wrecked the U.S. territory. Authorities blamed infections and bad road conditions, among other factors.
At the same time, local officials said power has been restored to just 16 percent of the island's customers. Maria knocked out electricity to all of Puerto Rico.
President Trump today denied that he is undercutting his secretary of state, Rex Tillerson. The president spoke as he met with former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger. He told reporters, "I don't believe in undercutting people."
Earlier, in a "Forbes" magazine interview, Mr. Trump reacted to reports that Tillerson had called him — quote — "a moron." He said — quote — "If he did that, I guess we will have to compare I.Q. tests. And I can tell you who is going to win."
This afternoon, White House spokeswoman Sarah Sanders dismissed questions about the president's quip.
SARAH SANDERS, White House Press Secretary:
He wasn't questioning the secretary of state's intelligence. He made a joke. Maybe you guys should get a sense of humor and try it some time. But he simply made a joke.
He's been extremely clear, time and time again, despite the fact that you guys want to continue to bring this up and create a story. He's got 100 percent confidence in the secretary of state.
All of this came on a day when President Trump had lunch with Secretary Tillerson, and with Defense Secretary Jim Mattis.
The president also went after Democrats today over immigration reform. In a morning tweet, he charged, "The Democrats don't want secure borders," and he said, "They don't care about safety for USA."
Last month, Mr. Trump met with Democratic leaders about protecting young undocumented immigrants. He now says that a border wall and other measures must be included in any deal.
U.N. humanitarian agencies say they are on full alert, as a new exodus of refugees from Myanmar floods into Bangladesh. Some 11,000 Rohingya Muslims have made the crossing yesterday alone. Today, UNICEF said it's working to give 900,000 doses of cholera vaccines to the refugees. They are crowded into makeshift camps, where the disease is spreading.
A diplomatic row between Turkey and the United States heated up today. Overnight, the U.S. ambassador to Ankara condemned the arrest of a Turkish man employed at the U.S. Consulate in Istanbul. Today, Turkey's President Recep Tayyip Erdogan charged that the man was a spy. He also criticized the ambassador and the U.S. decision to halt visa services.
In Spain, the president of Catalonia stopped short today of declaring the region's independence. He called instead for negotiations. The region's government says that Catalans voted overwhelmingly to secede in a referendum on October 1.
The Catalan president addressed his parliament today and urged calm, after Madrid flatly rejected the outcome.
CARLES PUIGDEMONT, Catalan Regional President (through interpreter):
We propose that parliament suspend the effects of a declaration of independence, so that in the next few weeks, we start a dialogue, without which it is not possible to get to a concerted solution. We firmly believe that, at this moment, a de-escalation of tensions is necessary.
Spain's central government has warned that it will sternly oppose any attempt to secede.
Kenya's opposition leader, Raila Odinga, declared today he will not compete in a rerun of the presidential election. That leaves President Uhuru Kenyatta without a challenger. Odinga says the election commission has — quote — "stonewalled reforms" that are needed to ensure the vote is fair. Kenyatta won an August election, but the Kenyan Supreme Court overturned it.
Back in this country, owners of the National Football League's teams will consider making it mandatory for players to stand during the national anthem. Commissioner Roger Goodell told the executives in a memo today that the issue is dividing the league from many fans. The owners meet next week.
And on Wall Street, the Dow Jones industrial average gained nearly 70 points to close at 22830. The Nasdaq rose seven, and the S&P 500 added almost six.