U.N. Climate Change Conference Concludes in South Africa amid Criticism

The United Nations Climate Change Conference in Durban, South Africa, has ended with an agreement for nations to start negotiations for a new legally binding climate treaty that would not come into force until 2020. Negotiators also agreed to a second commitment period under the Kyoto Protocol and the initial design of a Green Climate Fund. Tosi Mpanu Mpanu is the chief negotiator for the African Group.

Tosi Mpanu Mpanu, African Group chief negotiator: "It’s middle ground. It’s middle ground. We are standing at one end of the spectrum. Partners from the developed world were on the other end of the spectrum. I guess we met midway. Of course, we’re not completely happy about the outcome. We feel like it lacks balance. It doesn’t take into consideration enough CBDR. But we believe that it’s a step in the right direction."

Many environmental groups said the agreement does not do enough to deal with the climate crisis. Andy Atkins, executive director of Friends of the Earth, said, "This empty shell of a plan leaves the planet hurtling towards catastrophic climate change."

Tens of Thousands Protest in Russia Following Disputed Parliamentary Elections

Tens of thousands of Russians protested in Moscow and other cities on Saturday in the largest demonstrations Russia has seen in over a decade. Protesters are demanding the ouster of Prime Minister Vladimir Putin and have denounced suspected electoral fraud. In response to the protests, the Russian government has vowed to investigate allegations of fraud surrounding the nation’s recent parliamentary elections. Meanwhile, Russian billionaire Mikhail Prokhorov announced today he will run for president against Putin in the March presidential elections.

U.S. Special Ops Back Controversial Afghan Military Training Program

The Wall Street Journal reports the commander of U.S. Special Operations forces has backed the rapid expansion of a program to train and arm local Afghan militias despite criticism from human rights groups. Adm. William McRaven also said the number of Special Operations forces in Afghanistan could expand in the coming year while conventional forces withdraw. Meanwhile, the U.S. ambassador to Afghanistan confirmed Saturday U.S. combat troops could stay in Afghanistan beyond the 2014 deadline set by the White House. Ambassador Ryan Crocker said U.S. troops would stay longer if requested by the Afghan government. The war in Afghanistan is already the longest war in U.S. history.

Pakistan Pushes U.S. Troops from Remote Air Base Used in Secret Drone Program

The Pakistani government has succeeded in forcing the United States to vacate a remote air base in Pakistan used by the United States in its secret drone program. Pakistan called for the closing of the base in southwestern province of Baluchistan after a deadly NATO air strike killed 24 Pakistani soldiers.

L.A. Times Reveals Use of Drones by Domestic Law Enforcement Agents

The Los Angeles Times has revealed new details about how domestic law enforcement agents have begun using unmanned drones inside the United States. In June, an unmanned Predator drone helped local police in North Dakota with surveillance leading to the arrest of three people. According to the Los Angeles Times, the incident marked the first time American citizens have been arrested domestically with help from a Predator. Since June, local police in North Dakota say they have used the drones to fly at least two dozen surveillance flights. Officials say the FBI and U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration have also used Predators for other domestic investigations.

Occupy Protesters Plan to Shut Down Major West Coast Ports

Occupy Wall Street protesters are aiming to shut down a number of major West Coast ports from San Diego to Alaska today. The protest has not received the official endorsement of the International Longshore and Warehouse Union, but some longshoremen have vowed to take part in the action. Port blockades are being organized in Los Angeles, Oakland, San Diego, Portland, Tacoma, Seattle, Anchorage and Vancouver.

Authorities Clear Occupy Boston Encampment; 46 Arrested

Authorities in Boston cleared out Occupy Wall Street protesters camped out in Dewey Square over the weekend. Early Saturday morning, police arrested 46 people on disorderly conduct and trespassing charges as they dismantled the 10-week-old encampment. Boston Mayor Thomas Menino, who ordered the raid, said the protesters opened a dialogue on the issue of income inequality and acted with restraint when their demonstration was broken up.

Boston Mayor Thomas Menino: "In the interest of public safety, ultimately we had to act. We did so with patience and respect. I also want to recognize the people of Occupancy—Occupy Boston. They shined a much needed light, still needed, on the growing economic inequality in this country. In the act—in the end, they also acted with restraint. I thank them for that."

San Francisco: 55 Occupy Protesters Arrested as City Breaks Up Camp

In San Francisco, police arrested 55 people for illegal lodging as they broke up the city’s Occupy camp early Sunday morning. The space had been cleared by the city on several prior occasions, but protesters returned Thursday after authorities cleared the nearby encampment located at Justin Herman Plaza.

Newt Gingrich Defends Assertion that Palestinian People are "Invented"

Republican presidential hopeful Newt Gingrich is defending his claim that Palestinians are an "invented" people. The former speaker of the House made the comment on Friday during an interview with the Jewish Channel.

Newt Gingrich, Republican presidential candidate: "Well, I believe that the Jewish people have the right to have a state, and I believe that the commitments that were made at the time—remember, there were—there was no Palestine as a state. It was part of the Ottoman Empire. And I think that we’ve had an invented Palestinian people, who are in fact Arabs, and who were historically part of the Arab community. And they had a chance to go many places. And for a variety of political reasons, we have sustained this war against Israel now since the 1940s, and I think it’s tragic."

On Saturday, Newt Gingrich discussed his views on the Palestinians again during a presidential debate.

Newt Gingrich: "Somebody ought to have the courage to tell the truth. These people are terrorists. They teach terrorism in their schools. They have textbooks that say, 'If there are 13 Jews, and nine Jews are killed, how many Jews are left?' We pay for those textbooks through our aid money. It’s fundamentally time for somebody to have the guts to stand up and say, 'Enough lying about the Middle East.'"

Palestinian Protester Killed by Tear Gas Canister Allegedly Fired by Israeli Soldier

A 28-year-old Palestinian protester was killed on Friday when an Israeli soldier apparently shot him in the face with a tear gas canister. Mustafa Tamimi was taking part in a weekly protest against the encroachment of a nearby Israeli settlement in the occupied West Bank. In related news, Israel is moving ahead with plans to build 40 single-family homes near the West Bank settlement of Efrat.

Tens of Thousands March in New York City to Protest Right-Wing Efforts to Roll Back Voting Rights

As many as 25,000 people marched in New York City Saturday from the offices of Koch Industries to the United Nations to protest a right-wing effort to roll back voting rights. NAACP President Benjamin Jealous helped organize the protest.

Benjamin Jealous, NAACP president: "We’re here today to stand for freedom in front of the U.N., more than 25,000 people from a range of civil rights and religious and labor organizations all outraged about the massive attack on the right to vote in this country. This year we’ve seen more than 30 states attack the right to vote. We’ve seen 268 electoral votes, of the 270 needed to become president, potentially impacted by these laws. Disproportionately in each case, it’s black people and brown people and students who are being impacted."

Republicans Continue to Resist Efforts to Construct Consumer Financial Protection Bureau

Republican lawmakers are continuing to obstruct efforts to form a Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. Last week, Senate Republicans blocked the nomination of former Ohio attorney general Richard Cordray as the first head of the new agency. On Sunday, South Carolina Republican Senator Lindsey Graham compared the watchdog agency to "something out of the Stalinist era."

Carolina Republican Senator Lindsey Graham: "This consumer bureau that they want to pass is under the Federal Reserve, no appropriation oversight, no board. It is something out of the Stalinist era. The reason Republicans don’t want to vote for it is we want a board, not one person making all the regulatory decisions."

Christian Conservative Group Pressures Companies to Pull Ads from Muslim Family Reality Show

An evangelical Christian group has pressured the retail giant Lowe’s, along with dozens of other companies, to pull television ads run during a reality show about Muslim Americans. TLC’s show "All-American Muslim" follows the lives of five Muslim families living in the Michigan city of Dearborn. The Florida Family Association claims 65 of 67 companies it raised its concerns with have pulled their ads for the show, including McDonald’s, Wal-Mart, Dell and General Motors. Democratic California State Senator Ted Lieu has described Lowe’s decision as "un-American" and "naked religious bigotry." Lieu said he would consider legislative action if the company does not apologize to the Muslim community and reinstate its ads.

Blackwater Private Security Company Changes Name for Second Time in Under Three Years

In business news, the private security company once known as Blackwater has changed its name for the second time in less than three years. The company is officially changing its name from Xe to Academi.

Nobel Prize Historically Awarded to Three Women

This year’s Nobel Peace Prize was awarded to three women on Saturday: Liberian President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, women’s rights activist Leymah Gbowee, and Yemeni campaigner Tawakkul Karman. Opening the ceremony, the head of the Nobel selection committee, Thorbjorn Jagland, issued a note of warning to oppressive leaders in the Middle East.

Thorbjorn Jagland, Nobel Committee chairman: "The leaders in Yemen and in Syria who murder their people to retain their own power should take note of the following: mankind’s quest for freedom and human rights will never stop."

The first to accept the peace prize was Liberian President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, the first woman who was freely elected as a head of state in Africa.

Liberian President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf: "I am particularly honored to be a successor to the several sons and one daughter of Africa who have stood on this stage: Chief Albert John Luthuli, Archbishop Desmond Tutu, Nelson Mandela and F.W. de Klerk, Kofi Annan, Anwar al-Sadat, Wangari Maathai, Mohamed ElBaradei, as well as Barack Obama, Martin Luther King, Jr., and Ralph Bunche—Americans of African descent."

Mumia Abu-Jamal Speaks about His Removal from Death Row

Hundreds of supporters of the imprisoned journalist Mumia Abu-Jamal gathered on Friday in Philadelphia to mark the 30th anniversary of his arrest for the killing of a white police officer. The event occurred just two days after Philadelphia prosecutors announced they will no longer seek the death penalty for Abu-Jamal. On Friday, Abu-Jamal, a former Black Panther, called into the event to make his first public remarks since the prosecutor’s decision was announced.

Mumia Abu-Jamal: "For the first time in almost 30 years, I’m not on death row physically. I’m in a new block called an AC block. The cells are somewhat identical to death row, but no one on this block is on death row, including myself. It takes some getting used to, you see. I’m still acclimating myself."

Abu-Jamal was also asked about his reaction to having his death sentence converted to life without parole.

Mumia Abu-Jamal: "Well, I must admit to some surprise, because I was expecting a hearing. And by that, I mean a sentencing hearing. Even though many friends and supporters and even lawyers said there probably wouldn’t be one, I believed there would be one, and I continued to feel that way until I heard the news. I will be talking to my lawyers in a matter of days, and we’ll be, you know, going over precisely those kinds of questions. Because there will not be a hearing, there is some disappointment, because we thought we could make some things happen in that hearing and really give a good fight. But we’ll have to fight in other ways. I want to thank everybody who really supported us for so many years."

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