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Philippines President Lowers Death Toll as Haiyan Survivors Seek Aid

Desperate survivors of Typhoon Haiyan in the Philippines are struggling to receive aid in the aftermath of one of the worst storms in history. In Tacloban, the city flattened by the typhoon, survivors marched in a contingent three miles long to seek water and food at the local airport. Eight people died in the province of Leyte when a crowd of thousands stormed a government rice warehouse in search of food. The victims died under a collapsed wall. On Tuesday, Philippines President Benigno Aquino cited a lower death toll for Typhoon Haiyan, saying he believes around 2,500 people were killed. Initial estimates put the toll at around 10,000. More than 670,000 people have been displaced. The United Nations, meanwhile, has launched a $300 million appeal for relief aid. Speaking in Manila, U.N. humanitarian chief Valerie Amos said the Philippines is facing its worst-ever crisis.

Valerie Amos: "This is such a major calamity for the Philippines, a country which over this year has already seen so many crises, but by all accounts, this one is the most deadly and destructive. While it’s still too early to tell the full scale of the destruction, it’s clear that the needs are huge."

Philippine Foreign Secretary: Typhoon a "Manifestation of Climate Change"

Appearing with U.N. humanitarian chief Valerie Amos, Philippine Foreign Secretary Albert del Rosario thanked international donors for providing aid. But he also issued an appeal for action on global warming, saying climate change worsened the typhoon’s scale and strength.

Philippine Foreign Secretary Albert del Rosario: "From the devastation, it is clear, though, that much more aid and assistance will be needed. And we thank the international community for its continued generosity and support. The unprecedented scale and strength of Yolanda, a typhoon that occurred at a very late time of the year, is a clear demonstration of the changing weather pattern. Whether the world faces up to it or not, this is a manifestation of climate change."

Philippine Climate Negotiator Continues Hunger Strike at U.N. Summit

The Philippine foreign secretary’s comments come as the country’s lead climate negotiator, Naderev "Yeb" Saño, continues a hunger strike to demand action on climate change. Saño spoke out Tuesday at the U.N. climate change summit in Poland.

Naderev "Yeb" Saño: "That loss and damage mechanism being agreed to and having and containing all of its essentials in terms of managing risk, assessing loss and damage, being able to provide compensation for countries that suffer loss and damage due to climate change. We will also want to see clarity on and clear numbers on finance pledges and means of implementation."

Democracy Now! will be on the ground in Warsaw, Poland, to cover this year’s U.N. climate summit next week.

Obama Admin Seeks Congressional Pause on Iran Sanctions

The Obama administration is asking Congress to delay a new round of sanctions on Iran amidst continued negotiations over the Iranian nuclear program. Lawmakers from both parties have vowed to move ahead with a measure targeting Iranian oil exports despite the recent progress in talks between Iran, the United States and five other world powers. Iran would see a limited relief in sanctions in return for suspending some nuclear activities. The negotiations are set to resume in Geneva next week. Secretary of State John Kerry is meeting with Senate Banking Committee members today in a bid to delay a sanctions vote. On Tuesday, White House Press Secretary Jay Carney said Congress should give the talks a chance rather than lead the United States on a "march to war."

Jay Carney: "This administration has imposed the most crippling sanctions in history against Iran, and we appreciate the leverage those sanctions have given us, and we appreciate the partnership that Congress has given us in that effort. But this is a decision to support diplomacy and a possible peaceful resolution to this issue. The American people, justifiably and understandably, prefer a peaceful solution that prevents Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon. And this agreement, if it’s achieved, has the potential to do that. The American people do not want a march to war."

Israel Freezes E1 Settlement Construction, OKs 20,000 New West Bank Homes

The Israeli government has frozen one of its most controversial settlement projects, while simultaneously expanding another in the occupied West Bank. On Tuesday, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu announced he is suspending building in the area known as "E1," which cuts off the northern West Bank from the south as well as from East Jerusalem. Its completion would bisect the West Bank and ensure the failure of forming a Palestinian state. Israel resumed E1 construction last year after the United Nations recognized Palestine’s status as an observer state. Israeli officials say they have frozen E1 to reduce tensions with the Obama administration amidst their push to block a nuclear agreement with Iran. But as it suspended building in E1, Israel announced plans to build some 20,000 new settlement homes on Palestinian land in the West Bank. In response, the Palestinian Authority said it would end involvement in peace talks if the new plans go through.

Afghan Gov’t Abandons Wardak Probe over Reported U.S. Stonewalling

The Afghan government has reportedly abandoned a probe into the killings of civilians after being refused access to the U.S. soldiers linked to the crimes. The investigation centers around the disappearances of 17 men seized by U.S. forces in Wardak province. The bodies of 10 of the victims were later found buried near a U.S. military base used by a unit called "The A-Team." A recent report in Rolling Stone magazine said the disappearances and killings could amount to some of the gravest war crimes perpetrated by U.S. forces since the U.S.-led invasion in 2001. According to Reuters, Afghan intelligence officers have stopped investigating after the U.S. military denied a request to interview U.S. Green Berets and their Afghan translators. Click here to see our interview with Matthieu Aikins, author of the Rolling Stone article.

Bangladeshi Workers Strike Grows, 250 Factories Closed

In Bangladesh, garment workers are continuing a massive protest against low wages at the factories producing cheap goods for Western firms. The protest has now led to the closures of 250 garment factories, up from 100 on Tuesday. Thousands of workers are taking part. More than 100 people were wounded today as striking workers clashed with police for a third consecutive day.

Hawaii Senate Votes to Legalize Same-Sex Marriage

Hawaii is poised to become the 15th state to legalize same-sex marriage. Hawaii’s State Senate overwhelmingly approved a marriage equality bill on Tuesday, days after its passage in the State House.

State Senator Clayton Hee: "We stand on the principles of equality and justice and liberty for all, and mostly we stand on the principle that all marriages are now equal."

State Senator Gilbert Kahele: "Same-sex relationships are a part of the very fabric of the Hawaiian people’s ancestors’ history."

Democratic Gov. Neil Abercrombie is expected to sign the measure today. After Hawaii, Illinois will be the next to legalize same-sex marriage with Gov. Pat Quinn expected to sign his state’s measure in a public ceremony a week from today.

GOP Blocks Another Obama Judicial Nominee

Republicans have blocked yet another of President Obama’s judicial nominees with a Senate filibuster. Georgetown Law Professor Nina Pillard would have been just the sixth woman to serve on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia. She is also the third-straight female nominee blocked by Republicans. During debate, Republicans cited past comments from Pillard arguing that reproductive rights strengthen gender equality. Several Democrats say the move could prompt a new showdown over Senate filibuster rules.

Supreme Court Refuses to Hear Challenge to Ruling Against Anti-Abortion Oklahoma Ultrasound Law

The U.S. Supreme Court has let stand a ruling striking down an Oklahoma law requiring women seeking abortions to undergo an ultrasound. The law would have forced women to view the ultrasound image and then have the image described to them in detail. On Tuesday, justices refused to hear a challenge to the ruling that barred the law last year. The move came one week after the court also let stand an Oklahoma court ruling striking down restrictions on the pill form of abortion.

Obama Taps New Head for Commodity Futures Trading Commission

President Obama has tapped government lawyer Timothy Massad as the new head of the Commodity Futures Trading Commission. Massad will lead the CFTC as it wields expanded authority under the Dodd-Frank Act that overhauled financial regulation after the financial crisis. If confirmed, Massad will replace Gary Gensler in January.

Justice Dept. Approves American Airlines-U.S. Airways Merger

A proposed merger between American Airlines and U.S. Airways has won Justice Department approval, paving the way for what would be the world’s largest airline. The airlines reached an agreement with federal regulators just two weeks before a scheduled trial. Under the deal, the two airlines would give up dozens of take-off and landing slots at several major airports to lower-cost carriers. The pact still needs approval from the Federal District Court in Washington, D.C., and the judge overseeing American’s bankruptcy case. If approved, more than 70 percent of the airline passenger business would fall under the control of four airlines.

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