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You turn to Democracy Now! for ad-free news you can trust. Maybe you come for our daily headlines, or for in-depth stories that expose government and corporate abuses of power. We produce our daily news hour at a fraction of the budget of a commercial news operation, all without ads, government funding or corporate underwriting? This is only possible with your support. Right now every donation to Democracy Now! will be doubled by a generous supporter. This means if you give $25 today, Democracy Now! will get $50 to support our daily news hour. Please do your part. It takes just a couple of minutes to make sure that Democracy Now! is there for you and everybody else in the coming year. Thanks so much. -Amy Goodman
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NATO leaders have approved a deal for a military transition in Afghanistan that would hand control to Afghan forces next year. Under the agreement, NATO would withdraw its combat troops by 2014 but leave thousands behind in a training and advisory role. President Obama hailed the deal as a way to bring the Afghan war to an end.
President Obama: “At the ISAF (International Security Assistance Force) meeting this morning, we agreed that Afghan forces will take the lead for combat operations next year in mid-2013. At that time, ISAF forces will have shifted from combat to a support role in all parts of the country. And this will mark a major step toward the goal we agreed to in Lisbon, completing the transition to Afghan lead for security by the end of 2014 so that Afghans can take responsibility for their own country and so our troops can come home.”
Despite the agreement for Afghanistan, NATO leaders were unable to resolve the ongoing dispute on reopening Pakistani supply routes to NATO — a step seen as essential to an orderly withdrawal. Pakistan has shut down NATO supply lines over the U.S. refusal to apologize for a raid last year that mistakenly killed 24 Pakistani soldiers.
Protesters wrapped up days of action around the NATO summit in Chicago on Monday with a march to the headquarters of the military contractor Boeing. Later in the day, demonstrators protested outside the headquarters of President Obama’s re-election campaign.
Aaron Weiner: “I think, like a lot of people here, I feel a little betrayed. The whole 'hope and change' dialogue was so prominent in his campaign, and yet there’s really been so little, and we’re still seeing all of this money being spent on security, being spent on various wars, and it’s just — there hasn’t been that change that we were promised.”
Attorneys for protesters in the week’s largest march on Sunday say more than 60 people were arrested and more than two dozen were treated for wounds at the hands of police. Four police officers were also treated for injuries.
The Obama administration has confirmed new details of its process for authorizing drone strikes on suspected militants overseas. The Associated Press reports counterterrorism adviser John Brennan will have a greater role than previously disclosed, consulting with other agencies before ultimately making final recommendations to President Obama. One official said there remains concern over “how easy it has become to kill someone” under the administration’s drone strike policy. The official says the United States has targeted alleged al-Qaeda operatives in lethal attacks for reasons including being heard in a conversation plotting an attack on a U.S. ambassador overseas. Had that conversation occurred in the United States, the suspect would normally be investigated instead of assassinated.
In other drone news, NATO has reached a deal with the military contractor Northrop Grumman for a $1.7 billion fleet of new drones. NATO’s “Allied Ground Surveillance” system will use the drones and their accompanying command stations at sites around the world. NATO says it will spend additional billions on the system’s operation.
The United States has begun selling pilotless drones to Iraq to help monitor the country’s oil reserves. Iraq says the drones will be used to protect its southern oil platforms from saboteurs.
Dozens of Catholic institutions have filed suit against the Obama administration over federal healthcare rules requiring employers to provide contraception coverage to employees. The University of Notre Dame, Catholic University of America and the Archdiocese of New York were among more than 40 groups to file lawsuits on Monday, saying the mandate violates their religious beliefs. The White House relaxed the contraception mandate following a backlash earlier this year, but the lawsuit says the changes do not go far enough. Twenty-eight states already have laws requiring insurers to cover birth control at the same levels of other medications.
The chair of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, Gregory Jaczko, has announced his resignation after a lengthy clash with the nuclear industry and his four industry-backed fellow panelists. Jaczko has consistently been in the minority on the five-person NRC board, opposing the Yucca Mountain nuclear waste dump in Nevada and calling for tougher regulation in the aftermath of Japan’s Fukushima disaster. Earlier this year, Jaczko was the sole NRC member to vote against two new nuclear power reactors at Southern Nuclear’s Vogtle site in Georgia, the first new reactors in the United States since 1978. In a statement on Monday, Jaczko said: “My responsibility and commitment to safety will continue to be my paramount priority after I leave the Commission and until my successor is confirmed.”
In Israel and the Occupied Territories, video has emerged of Israeli settlers shooting at Palestinians in the West Bank under the watch of Israeli soldiers. The video shows the armed settlers entering a Palestinian town from their nearby settlement. Palestinian youths are seen throwing rocks as the settlers approach from the hills. Shortly after an Israeli soldier enters the frame, the settlers shoot a Palestinian youth. At least two other soldiers were present on the scene, and none intervened to stop the settler shootings. The video was released by the Israeli human rights group B’Tselem. The Israeli military says it is investigating the incident.
Protests are continuing in the Canadian province of Quebec as students resist the government’s effort to end a three-month student strike. On Monday, thousands of people marched in Montreal in the latest protest against an emergency law requiring demonstrators to inform police of any protest route involving 50 or more people and barring the wearing of masks at protests. The rally came one day after more than 300 people were arrested in a similar protest on Sunday.
New research shows half of people falsely convicted of serious crimes in the United States in recent decades are African American. An archive assembled by law school researchers at the University of Michigan and Northwestern University reveals more than 2,000 people who were falsely convicted of serious crimes have been exonerated in the past 23 years. Of the nearly 900 for whom detailed information is available, half are African American and more than 100 were facing death sentences. Excluded from the registry are more than 1,100 additional defendants whose convictions were discarded after it was revealed police officers fabricated crimes.
A former Rutgers University student has been sentenced to 30 days in prison for spying on a gay classmate who later took his own life. Tyler Clementi jumped to his death from a bridge in September 2010 after two classmates shared a videotape of him having sex with another man in his dorm room. The students had recorded Clementi’s sexual encounter without his knowledge. He had just started his freshman year at Rutgers University. On Monday, Judge Glenn Berman sentenced one of the students, Dharun Ravi.
Glenn Berman: “There will be 300 hours of community service. This defendant will attend a counseling program relative to cyber-bullying and alternate lifestyles. There will be a $10,000 (U.S.) recessment paid over to the probation department. This, I hope, is the constructive part, though I doubt the defendant will see it that way. That sum will be allotted to a state-licensed or state-chartered community-based organization dedicated to providing assistance to victims of bias crimes.”
The U.S. Supreme Court has agreed to consider whether a group of human rights activists, journalists and lawyers have the legal right to challenge the U.S. government’s sweeping use of electronic surveillance. The plaintiffs, represented by the American Civil Liberties Union, say they have reason to fear their phone calls with clients and sources overseas will be monitored. Among the plaintiffs are lawyers representing prisoners held at Guantánamo Bay. The case relates to the broadening of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act by Congress in 2008, which allowed U.S. officials to monitor communications in the United States if one person involved is abroad and the targets are foreigners believed to be outside the country.
Attorneys general from nearly half of U.S. states have come out in support of a Montana law limiting corporate spending on elections. The century-old state law was struck down following the Supreme Court’s decision in Citizens United, which opened the floodgates for more corporate money for political campaigns. But the Montana Supreme Court later upheld the law. If the U.S. Supreme Court considers the case, it could change the way states are allowed to regulate corporate money in elections.