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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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A sweeping set of changes to the New York City Police Department’s controversial “stop-and-frisk” program has been put on hold. In August, U.S. District Judge Shira Scheindlin found the program unconstitutional, saying police had relied on a “policy of indirect racial profiling.” She appointed a federal court monitor to oversee a series of reforms. But the city appealed her ruling, and on Thursday an appeals court stayed the changes, effectively allowing police officers to continue using stop-and-frisk.
Iraq’s prime minister is asking the United States to provide more military aid, including weapons, to help combat Iraq’s worst violence in five years. Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki is meeting with President Obama at the White House today. In an op-ed for The New York Times, al-Maliki wrote that he plans to “propose a deeper security relationship between the United States and Iraq.” Speaking Thursday at the Institute of Peace, al-Maliki asked for United States for help to fight terrorism.
Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki: “We don’t tell the world to stand by us and support us. Rather, we have a right to ask of the world, because we are part of them, and because if what happens in Iraq is not dealt with, it will expand, and what happens in Syria, if not dealt with, will also expand, and what happens in any country where the virus of terrorism lives, this virus will spread.”
According to the State Department, at least 6,000 Iraqis have died in violence this year.
A U.S. official has confirmed Israeli aircraft carried out a strike near the Syrian coastal city of Latakia. The unnamed official told the BBC Israel targeted Russian-made missiles it believed were bound for the militant group Hezbollah. It is believed to be the sixth Israeli attack on Syria this year.
In Texas, reproductive rights groups say at least a third of clinics that perform abortions in the state will be forced to stop providing them immediately after a federal appeals judge reinstated part of a new anti-choice law. Earlier this week, a federal judge struck down the measure requiring abortion providers to obtain onerous hospital admitting privileges, saying it lacked any medical purpose. But on Thursday, an appeals court granted an emergency request by Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott to reinstate the requirement while a lawsuit against it proceeds. The measure is just one piece of the law that sparked a people’s filibuster and a marathon stand by State Senator Wendy Davis over the summer. Rigid restrictions on pill-induced abortions and a 20-week ban also went into effect this week.
A German lawmaker who met with National Security Agency whistleblower Edward Snowden in Russia says Snowden could travel to Germany to testify about NSA spying if legal obstacles can be cleared. Germany has demanded answers after reports the United States tapped the phone of German Chancellor Angela Merkel. Anger over U.S. spying has spread to Asia after documents from Snowden revealed U.S. and foreign embassies across East and Southeast Asia are housing equipment used for U.S. surveillance. Indonesia summoned its Australian ambassador today after it was revealed the Australian embassy in Jakarta is a hub for the U.S. spy efforts.
On Thursday, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry issued some of his frankest remarks to date on National Security Agency spying. During a video appearance at a London conference, Kerry conceded some actions have “reached too far.”
John Kerry: “The president and I and others in government have actually learned of some things that have been happening, in many ways on an automatic pilot because the technology is there and the ability has been there, over the course of a long period of time.”
Edward Snowden is reportedly starting a new job today in Russia. His lawyer told a Russian news agency Snowden has been hired by a “major” Russian website.
The more than 47 million people who receive food stamps in the United States will see a decrease in their aid beginning today as a temporary boost from the 2009 stimulus expires. Dubbed the “hunger cliff” by critics, the drop will reduce monthly food stamps for a family of four by $36 each month. According to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, food stamps will now average less than $1.40 per person, per meal next year. The decrease comes two days after lawmakers opened talks on a farm bill that will likely cut food stamps even more. One-in-seven people in the United States rely on food stamps.
Newly revealed documents have provided hard numbers showing just how few people were able to enroll in health insurance through the new government website amid massive technical failures. The Obama administration says there were 4.7 million unique visits to the site in the first 24 hours. But according to notes from a meeting on the morning after the launch, just six people had successfully enrolled. By that afternoon, about 100 people had enrolled; 248 enrolled by the end of the day. The notes were released to a House panel under a documents request. They were first reported by CBS News Thursday, a day after Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius told a House panel there was no precise data on enrollments.
Senate Republicans have blocked the confirmation of two Obama nominees, one for a housing oversight post and the second to a powerful appeals court. In back-to-back votes Thursday, the Senate fell just shy of the 60-vote threshold to overcome Republican filibusters against Melvin Watt, a Democratic congressmember from North Carolina, who was tapped to oversee the home mortgage industry, and Patricia Millett, who was nominated for the D.C. Circuit of the U.S. Court of Appeals.
In Nairobi, Kenya, hundreds of people took to the streets to protest sexual violence after a 16-year-old girl was gang-raped and her accused rapists were freed. The victim, known as “Liz,” was beaten, raped and left for dead in a pit latrine in June. She suffered severe injuries including a broken back and is now confined to a wheelchair. Liz identified three of six alleged attackers. But their only punishment was being forced to mow the police station lawn. On Thursday, protesters marched to the police headquarters waving women’s underwear in an action dubbed “Keep off our panties.” Nebila Abdulmelik organized a global petition demanding justice for Liz.
Nebila Abdulmelik: “I think this is one step, but we still have a long way to go. It’s nice to see that our petition, which had over 1.2 million signatures, was received by the Office of the Inspector General, even though it wasn’t the Inspector General himself. And I’m also assured that they’ve asked us to come in for a sit-down meeting, because I think this is the opportunity now to sit down with them and set up benchmarks and time frames and timelines, and see how we can work together to strengthen the systems that have not protected us.”
In Niger, officials say they have recovered the bodies of 92 migrants who perished from thirst after their vehicles broke down in the Sahara Desert. The migrants were en route to neighboring Algeria, fleeing from poverty. More than 50 children were reportedly among the dead.
In Indonesia, workers launched a nationwide strike Thursday demanding a wage hike amid soaring inflation. A group representing labor unions said about two million workers are participating, although police put the number much lower. The strike shut down factories that produce garments and other goods, many of them for multinational firms. Indonesian factory workers are among the worst paid in Asia.
A federal prosecutor in Georgia has announced he is reopening an investigation into the death of Kendrick Johnson, a 17-year-old who was found dead inside a rolled-up wrestling mat in his high-school gym in January. Lowndes County sheriff’s investigators concluded Johnson died in a freak accident after becoming trapped inside the mat while trying to retrieve his sneaker. But his parents say he was murdered. A pathologist hired by the family to provide a second autopsy found Johnson actually died from blunt force trauma. In a bizarre twist, the pathologist also reportedly discovered Johnson’s organs were missing and his body cavity stuffed with newspaper. Attorney Benjamin Crump, known for representing the family of Trayvon Martin, spoke to CNN while standing behind the parents of Kendrick Johnson.
Benjamin Crump: “Make no mistake about it, his parents never accepted this explanation that he climbed into a wrestling mat, got stuck and died. It flew in the face of all common sense, logic and the laws of physics. What more likely happened, he was murdered, and there has been some conspiracy to cover up the truth here. This is a murder mystery, and we’re going to get to the bottom of it.”
U.S. Attorney Michael Moore said he would review Johnson’s death with the aid of the FBI.
The FBI has also launched a probe of the police killing of 13-year-old Andy Lopez in Santa Rosa, California. Lopez was shot dead last month after a sheriff’s deputy mistook the pellet gun he was carrying for an assault rifle.
The Florida city where Trayvon Martin was shot dead by neighborhood watch volunteer George Zimmerman is banning neighborhood watch members from carrying guns. New rules due to be announced next week will also bar volunteers from pursuing people they deem suspicious. Zimmerman was accused of racially profiling the unarmed teenager and following him before shooting him dead. A jury acquitted Zimmerman in July.
A 23-year-old activist who surrendered to U.S. immigration authorities as part of a protest calling for reform and a halt to record deportations has been deported to Mexico. Rocio Hernández Pérez was brought to the United States by her parents at the age of four. She was one of the so-called Dream 30 who crossed into Laredo, Texas, in September. The Dream 30 took action after another group of young people, the Dream 9, made a similar crossing in Arizona in July. The Dream 9 were released and cleared an initial hurdle to receive asylum. But a number of the Dream 30 remain in detention, with some facing possible deportation. Meanwhile, the head of the U.S. Border Patrol says the agency arrested roughly 420,000 people in the most recent fiscal year, a 15 percent increase from last year.
The graffiti artist Banksy has wrapped up a month-long residency in New York City. Bansky’s art on the city streets has included a moving slaughterhouse delivery truck loaded with squealing stuffed animals, a war-related mural set to audio from the “Collateral Murder” video of a U.S. helicopter attack on civilians, and a statue of McDonald’s mascot Ronald McDonald having his shoe polished by a live actor. A thrift-store painting that he modified and re-donated to the aid group Housing Works just sold for $615,000 online. Banksy apparently defied a campaign by New York City police to corner him. The audio guide for his final piece reflects his possible motives.
Banksy audio guide: “The world we live in today is run, visually at least, by traffic signs, billboards and planning committees. Is that it? Don’t we want to live in a world made of art, not just decorated by it?”