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This week, Democracy Now! is celebrating our 22nd birthday. Since our first show in February 1996, our daily news hour has brought you fearless journalism and hard-hitting news you can trust--all without ads or corporate underwriting. How is this possible? Only with your support. In fact, if everyone reading this gave just $4, it would cover our operating expenses for the whole year. Right now, a generous donor will TRIPLE every donation, meaning your gift today will go three times as far. Pretty amazing, right? Please do your part. Take a moment to give right now for our 22nd birthday.
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Election Day was held Tuesday, deciding state and local races across the country. In Virginia, former Democratic National Committee Chair Terry McAuliffe was elected governor, defeating tea party-backed Ken Cuccinelli, the state’s attorney general. McAulliffe’s victory was seen as a rebuke of the tea party-backed government shutdown that impacted many of the state’s workers. In New Jersey, Republican Gov. Chris Christie easily won re-election, paving the way for a possible presidential run in 2016.
In New York City, Bill de Blasio won an overwhelming victory to become the city’s first Democratic mayor in two decades.
Bill de Blasio: “The challenges we face have been decades in the making, and the problems we set out to address will not be solved overnight. But make no mistake, the people of this city have chosen a progressive path. And tonight we set forth on it together as one city.”
Election Day also saw votes on a number of contested ballot measures. In Washington state, voters rejected an initiative that would have required the labeling of genetically modified foods. Major corporations and other opponents of GMO labeling spent more than $20 million to defeat the measure.
Backers of a measure to impose a $15-an-hour minimum wage at Seattle’s international airport and surrounding hotels have declared victory. New Jersey voters approved a constitutional amendment to raise the minimum wage by $1, to $8.25 an hour, and add automatic cost-of-living increases each year.
In Maine, the city of Portland became the first on the East Coast to legalize recreational marijuana. In Colorado, voters have approved a 25 percent sales tax on recreational marijuana after voting in favor of legalization a year ago.
Three out of four Colorado cities voted to ban the gas drilling process of hydraulic fracturing, known as fracking. A similar ban failed in two out of the three cities where it was on the ballot in Ohio.
Illinois is poised to become the 15th state to legalize same-sex marriage. The Illinois State Senate gave final passage to the measure Tuesday night hours after narrow approval in the State House. Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn has vowed to sign the measure into law.
President Obama continues a public campaign to rally support for immigration reform. On Tuesday, Obama hosted a group of corporate executives at the White House. Obama said he believes there is enough congressional support to overcome opposition from hard-line Republicans.
President Obama: “It’s my estimation that we actually have the votes to get comprehensive immigration reform done in the House right now. The politics are challenging for the speaker and others, and we want to make it as easy for him as possible. This is not an issue where we’re looking for a political win. This is one where we’re looking for a substantive win for the U.S. economy and the American people and the businesses that are represented here.”
The international peace conference in Syria has been delayed after initial hopes for a meeting this month. On Tuesday, U.N. envoy Lakhdar Brahimi said the United States and Russia have failed to agree on key details including participants and when the meeting would take place. Brahimi also said Syria’s opposition faces continued divisions.
Lakhdar Brahimi: “We were hoping that we would be in a position to announce a date today. Unfortunately, we are not. But we are still striving to see if we can have the conference before the end of the year. The opposition has a very, very difficult time. They are divided. It’s no secret for anybody. And they are facing all sorts of problems, and they are working very, very hard to get ready. And they are not ready.”
Iran has invited the head of the International Atomic Energy Agency for a visit as early as next week. Talks on establishing an inspections regime for Iran’s nuclear program have stalled since Yukiya Amano’s last visit in May 2012. On Tuesday, Amano presented his latest report saying his agency cannot verify Iran’s program is entirely peaceful.
Yukiya Amano: “The agency continues to verify the non-divergence of nuclear material declared by Iran under its safeguard agreement. However, we are unable to provide credible assurance about the absence of undeclared nuclear material and activities. The agency therefore cannot conclude that all nuclear material in Iran is in peaceful activities.”
Ahead of the IAEA’s expected visit, Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif says he believes Iran could reach a nuclear deal with international powers including the United States as early as this week. Iranian officials are meeting foreign counterparts in Geneva beginning on Thursday. It’s the second round of talks on Iran’s nuclear program since moderate President Hassan Rouhani took office in August.
Israel has reportedly told the Palestinian Authority the separation wall cutting through the occupied West Bank will serve as the border of their future state. Palestinian officials have long sought a state within the 1967 borders, before Israel conquered the West Bank, Gaza and East Jerusalem. The International Court of Justice has previously declared the route of the separation wall illegal for going beyond the 1967 borders to incorporate major Israeli settlement blocs. The Israeli declaration of the separation wall as the future border comes just as Secretary of State John Kerry has arrived in Israel to encourage ongoing U.S.-brokered talks. Kerry spoke after visiting a memorial for Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin.
Secretary of State John Kerry: “I come here without any illusions about the difficulties. But I come here determined to work with leaders, with the prime minister, with the president of the Palestinian Authority, to try to find a way forward, so that Israel can live the dream that President Peres and Prime Minister Rabin expressed so eloquently and beautifully in the tragedy of that day here and in many days before that. We will continue to work, and I can promise Israelis that America will stand by the side of Israel every step of the way.”
Hundreds of masked demonstrators gathered outside the White House on Tuesday for a protest dubbed the “Million Mask March.” Organized by the hacktivist group Anonymous, participants called attention to issues including National Security Agency surveillance and government corruption.
Similar rallies were held in cities worldwide as part of Guy Fawkes Day, the commemoration of a failed effort to blow up the British Parliament in 1605. In London, protesters gathered on the Westminster Bridge to collectively burn their energy bills in what organizers called a “Bonfire of Austerity.”
Owen Jones: “So what people are doing is piling energy bills on the bonfire, because at the moment energy bills are soaring, because the big six energy companies are effectively holding consumers across the country to ransom. They have hiked energy prices by up to over 10 percent in many cases, at a time of the longest fall in living standards since Queen Victoria sat on the throne of this country. It’s going to drive nine million people into fuel poverty. It is going to kill elderly people, as well.”
Republican Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky has announced a “restructuring” of his office practices after being accused of plagiarism. Over the past week, Paul has been found to have used other people’s language without attribution in a speech, an article, in congressional testimony, and in a section of his book. On Tuesday, Paul acknowledged his office has made “mistakes” and said he will ensure his public statements are properly footnoted from now on.
The mayor of Canada’s largest city is refusing to resign after admitting he used crack cocaine. Toronto’s Rob Ford has faced months of controversy following reports of a video showing him smoking from a crack pipe and making bigoted remarks. Toronto police recently announced they had recovered the video after arresting a Ford associate on charges of extortion. On Monday, Ford acknowledged his crack use to reporters.
Toronto Mayor Rob Ford: “Yes, I have smoked crack cocaine. But, no, do I? Am I an addict? No. Have I tried it? Probably in one of my drunken stupors, probably approximately about a year ago. I answered your question. You ask a question properly, I’ll answer it. Yes, I’ve made mistakes. All I can do now is apologize and move on. I don’t know — woah, guys, woah, woah, OK, can I just — all I can say is I’ve made mistakes. And you guys kept referring to alcohol. There was a couple of isolated incidents. There’s been times when I’ve been in a drunken stupor. That’s why I want to see the tape.”
During the course of their investigation, police surveillance documented Ford exchanging packages with the man ultimately detained for extortion. At a news conference hours after his admission of crack use, Ford apologized to Toronto voters but rejected calls to step down, saying he plans to seek re-election next year.