Last month was the hottest September worldwide, and 2015 is now virtually guaranteed to be the hottest year in recorded history. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration says the first nine months of this year have been the hottest such period ever recorded. Driven by warmer temperatures, the strongest El Niño on record is fueling extreme weather, from typhoons in the Philippines to historic summer rains and a looming winter drought in Hawaii. This all comes as negotiators prepare for the U.N. climate summit in Paris November 30. Democracy Now! will report live from the summit for the full two weeks.
Former secretary of state and current Democratic presidential hopeful Hillary Clinton is testifying today before the House Select Committee probing the 2012 attack on the U.S. diplomatic mission in Benghazi, Libya. The attack killed U.S. Ambassador Christopher Stevens and three other Americans. The hearing comes after California Congressmember Kevin McCarthy appeared to publicly confirm the Republican focus on Benghazi is aimed at scuttling Clinton’s presidential bid. We’ll have more on Benghazi later in the broadcast.
Vice President Joe Biden is not running for president. Ending months of speculation, Biden said he and his family had been coping with the death of his son and had run out of time to mount a campaign. Standing beside his wife, Jill Biden, and President Obama in the Rose Garden, Biden delivered what many saw as the speech he would have used to launch his campaign.
Vice President Joe Biden: "I believe that President Obama has led this nation from crisis to recovery, and we’re now on the cusp of resurgence. I’m proud to have played a part in that. This party, our nation, will be making a tragic mistake if we walk away or attempt to undo the Obama legacy."
The right-wing House Freedom Caucus has backed Wisconsin Congressmember Paul Ryan for House speaker, securing him the support needed to claim the post next week. The move comes after Ryan said he "cannot and will not give up my family time" as House speaker. Critics have noted Ryan’s record of opposing policies that help low-income parents spend more time with their children—including paid parental leave.
In Cape Town, South Africa, police deployed tear gas and stun grenades against students protesting university tuition hikes. Under the banner "fees must fall," the student protests swelling across South Africa are among the largest since the election of Nelson Mandela in 1994. On Wednesday, the students pushed through a gate outside Parliament, trapping lawmakers inside.
The United Nations has accused the Czech Republic of systematic human rights violations over its treatment of refugees. The U.N. says Czech authorities are detaining refugees for up to 90 days and strip-searching them for money to pay for their own detention. Separately, the United Nations has also said Britain must resettle more than 100 Syrian refugees who landed at a British airbase on the island of Cyprus.
Secretary of State John Kerry is meeting with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in Berlin today amid a rise in violence in Israel and the Occupied Territories. Today Israeli police said they opened fire on two men accused of stabbing and wounding an Israeli in the town of Beit Shemesh. One of the accused assailants died, while the other was injured. Separately, in Jerusalem, an Israeli soldier shot and killed a Jewish man he said he mistook for a Palestinian attacker. Police said the man tried to grab a soldier’s weapon.
The family of a U.S. citizen killed in an Israeli raid on a Gaza-bound aid ship in 2010 is suing former Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak for the attack. Attorneys for relatives of Furkan Dogan, a dual Turkish-U.S. citizen, say he was shot five times, including point blank in the head. Nine people were killed when Israeli commandos stormed the Mavi Marmara in international waters. A 10th died after four years in a coma.
WikiLeaks has released the first in a series of emails from CIA Director John Brennan’s personal account. The release includes documents on Iran and interrogation methods as well as a draft security clearance application which contained Brennan’s wife’s Social Security number, addresses of Brennan’s children and a phone number attributed to former CIA Director George Tenet. A teenager who claimed he hacked Brennan’s AOL account told the New York Post he was protesting U.S. foreign policy.
The Obama administration has unveiled a plan to address the debt crisis in Puerto Rico. The administration wants Congress to approve bankruptcy protection for the U.S. territory, expand Medicaid and impose a control board to oversee Puerto Rico’s finances. It’s unclear if Congress will back the proposal.
More than 130 police chiefs, prosecutors and sheriffs have called for curbing mass incarceration in the United States. New York City Police Chief Bill Bratton and Los Angeles Police Chief Charlie Beck were among those to call for ending mandatory minimums and creating alternatives to prison. Chicago Police Superintendent Garry McCarthy said the plan involves rethinking definitions of crime.
Superintendent Garry McCarthy: "It’s really clear that we can reduce violence, we can reduce crime, and at the same time reduce incarceration rates. And I really think that what we have to do in this country—and this may be a little bit radical—is to start really thinking about what constitutes a crime?"
Many of the police officials leading the efforts are facing allegations of police brutality and wrongful detention in their departments.
The largest-ever report on LGBT prisoners in the United States has found they are six times more likely to be sexually assaulted than the general prison population. The group Black and Pink surveyed more than than 1,000 LGBT prisoners. Eighty-five percent said they have spent time in solitary confinement, and nearly half said they were denied access to hormone therapy behind bars.
The American Civil Liberties Union has accused Biloxi, Mississippi, of running "a modern day debtors’ prison." In a lawsuit filed Wednesday, the ACLU said Biloxi "routinely arrests and jails impoverished people in a scheme to generate municipal revenue through the collection of unpaid fines, fees and court costs." In one case, a single mother was jailed for five days after failing to pay $1,000 in traffic fines and fees.
Ohio has become the latest state to advance a measure to defund Planned Parenthood. The move by Ohio’s Senate follows the release of highly edited videos showing Planned Parenthood officials discussing fetal tissue donation. Multiple investigations have found no wrongdoing by Planned Parenthood.
Meanwhile in New Hampshire, an intruder armed with a hatchet was caught inside a Planned Parenthood clinic early Wednesday morning after smashing computers, furniture, plumbing fixtures, medical equipment, windows and walls. The Claremont clinic, which provides a range of services, but not abortions, was spray-painted with the word "murderer" earlier this month.
Alabama has backed down slightly on a plan to shutter 31 driver’s license offices in majority African-American areas. The planned closures came after Alabama passed a law requiring a government-issued ID to vote. Birmingham News columnist John Archibald wrote: "Every single county in which blacks make up more than 75 percent of registered voters will see their driver license office closed. Every one." Following a national outcry, Alabama Governor Robert Bentley said the offices will be reopened at least one day a month.
President Obama has announced steps to address a surge in heroin and prescription painkiller addiction. During a visit to West Virginia, which has the highest rate of fatal drug overdoses in the country, Obama outlined plans to expand medication-assisted treatment and ease access to the life-saving overdose antidote naloxone. Heroin and prescription drug overdoses kill more people in the United States annually than car crashes.
Privacy activists are rallying in Washington, D.C., today to oppose a bill they say would expand mass surveillance. Critics say the Cybersecurity Information Sharing Act, or CISA, would allow corporations to share users’ personal information with the government under the guise of cybersecurity. This week, Apple joined the growing list of more than 20 top tech companies to oppose CISA, saying, "we don’t believe security should come at the expense of privacy." Oregon Democratic Senator Ron Wyden criticized CISA during a Senate debate Wednesday.
Sen. Ron Wyden: "I believe this bill is badly flawed, because it doesn’t pass the test of showing that when you share information you’ve got to have robust privacy standards, or else millions of Americans are going to look up and they’re going to say that’s really not cybersecurity. They’re going to say it’s a surveillance bill."