South Africa has begun a week of remembrance for Nelson Mandela, who died last week at the age of 95. President Obama is among the foreign dignitaries attending a memorial on Tuesday at a soccer stadium in Soweto. On Sunday, South Africans held a day of prayer for Mandela in congregations across the country. The Archbishop Desmond Tutu paid tribute in Cape Town.
Desmond Tutu: “We are relieved that his suffering is over, but our relief is drowned in our grief. We pray that he will rest in peace and rise in glory. People cared about Madiba, loved him because of his courage, convictions.”
The commemorations will end with Mandela’s burial Sunday in his home village of Qunu. We’ll have more on Nelson Mandela’s life and legacy later in the broadcast when we speak with Rev. Jesse Jackson.
A new report says the Obama administration may have misled the public on the chemical attack in Ghouta, Syria, earlier this year. Writing in the London Review of Books, investigative reporter Seymour Hersh says the Obama administration “cherry-picked intelligence” to justify its threatened attack on the Assad regime, which it ultimately never carried out. Hersh says the administration failed to disclose it knew Syrian rebels in the al-Nusra Front had the ability to produce chemical weapons. Evidence obtained in the days after the attack was also allegedly distorted to make it appear it was gathered in real time. We’ll have more on this story with Seymour Hersh after headlines.
At least 11 people have died in a massive winter storm across the Southwest and Southeast. Thousands of people in Texas and Arkansas were left without power as a cold front moved across the country.
New figures show the official U.S. unemployment rate has hit a five-year low of 7 percent. Employers added 203,000 jobs in November, higher than expected. In his weekly address, President Obama urged Republican lawmakers to back an extension of unemployment benefits for those seeking work.
President Obama: “Extending unemployment insurance isn’t just the right thing to do for our families; it’s the smart thing to do for our economy. And it shouldn’t be a partisan issue. For decades, Congress has voted to offer relief to job seekers, including when the unemployment rate was lower than it is today. But now that economic lifeline is in jeopardy, all because Republicans in this Congress, which is on track to be the most unproductive in history, have so far refused to extend it. So this holiday season, let’s give our fellow Americans who are desperately looking for work the help they need to keep on looking.”
An extension of jobless benefits would come as part of a new budget bill, which faces a deadline of mid-January.
The World Trade Organization has reached the first global trade agreement in 20 years. The pact centers around reducing trade barriers such as import duties and customs rules. Addressing delegates gathered on the Indonesian island of Bali, WTO president Roberto Azevedo praised it as historic.
Roberto Azevedo: “For the first time in our history, the WTO has truly delivered. We have achieved something very significant. People all around the world will benefit from the package we have delivered here today.”
Criticizing the WTO deal, the World Development Movement called it “an agreement for transnational corporations, not the world’s poor.” In a statement, the British group War on Want said: “The negotiations have failed to secure permanent protection for countries to safeguard the food rights of their peoples, exposing hundreds of millions to the prospect of hunger and starvation simply in order to satisfy the dogma of free trade.” As the talks continued over the weekend, hundreds of protesters marched against the WTO in Bali.
Vencer Crisostomo: “There should be no deal in Bali, and we should junk WTO with finality. And we should stop the exploitation, stop the injustice, stop the abuse being done to the poor nations. And we should end monopoly, capitalism, and we should end imperialism of the United States and the big countries.”
As the World Trade Organization meets in Indonesia, negotiators and lobbyists from the United States and 11 other countries are also in Singapore for secretive talks on the proposed Trans-Pacific Partnership. The TPP would establish a free trade zone stretching from Vietnam to Chile to Japan, encompassing nearly 40 percent of the global economy. The Huffington Post reports the United States has received almost no support for a series of proposals that would grant “radical new powers to corporations.” Internal memos from an unnamed government involved in the talks show the Obama administration has tried to push through guarantees for corporations to sue governments for lost profits in a private court. The administration has also called for new intellectual property regulations that would give pharmaceutical giants long-term monopolies over medications, freezing out cheaper generic alternatives. Another U.S. proposal facing resistance would limit governments from negotiating lower prices with pharmaceutical companies. On bank regulation, the United States has faced opposition for seeking restrict “banking controls,” a series of measures that can help a government respond to financial crises. Activists observing the talks, meanwhile, say the United States has been trying to push through an agreement by January 1, hosting secretive invite-only sessions with key delegates.
Massive protests are continuing in Ukraine over the government’s rejection of closer ties with the European Union in favor of Russia. On Sunday, hundreds of thousands of people took to the streets in the country’s largest demonstrations since the Orange Revolution of 2004.
Thailand Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra has dissolved Parliament and called for new elections amidst the country’s worst political crisis in three years. Yingluck has faced protests over an amnesty bill that would have eliminated a corruption conviction against her brother, who himself led Thailand until his ouster in 2006. Anti-government protesters are seeking to replace the Thai government with an unelected so-called “people’s council.”
At least eight people have been killed and 22 have been wounded in a bombing today in Iraq. The attack comes one day after violence around Baghdad left at least 39 dead. Iraq is facing its worst violence since 2008, with more than 6,300 killed this year.
In Venezuela, the government of President Nicolás Maduro has won a majority of victories in local elections nationwide. Maduro’s coalition won 196 of 337 mayoral races, although it lost in Venezuela’s two largest cities. Maduro’s opponent, Henrique Capriles, had billed the local races as a referendum on Maduro’s government, but received just 42 percent of the overall vote compared to Maduro’s 49 percent. Maduro beat Capriles in presidential elections earlier this year shortly after the death of Hugo Chávez. Venezuela is facing major economic challenges with high inflation, power cuts and shortages of basic goods. Maduro has vowed to deepen a government campaign to force major retailers to cut prices on essential goods after accusing them of price fixing.
The oil giant Chevron has suspended gas drilling in a Romanian village following protests by local residents. Hundreds of people have been staging anti-fracking rallies near the Romanian town of Pungesti for several months, and clashes erupted with riot police last week.
An 85-year-old veteran has returned to the United States after being freed by North Korea. Merrill Newman was detained for over a month after visiting North Korea as a tourist. The North Korean government accused him of war crimes for serving in the Korean War 60 years ago. Newman addressed reporters after arriving in San Francisco.
Merrill Newman: “Good morning. I’m delighted to be home. I want to thank the Swedish embassy in Pyongyang and the American embassy in Beijing for all their help. It’s been a great, great homecoming, and I’m tired but ready to be with my family now. And thank you all for the support we got, and very much appreciate it.”
At least one other U.S. citizen is detained in North Korea, the Christian missionary Kenneth Brae, serving a 15-year sentence of hard labor for “crimes against the state.”
Prosecutors in upstate New York have dropped charges against three black teenagers who were arrested for waiting for their school bus. The three were standing on a sidewalk where they were to be picked up and taken to their team’s basketball game. When they refused a police order to disperse, they were arrested for disorderly conduct. One of the students and their coach spoke out last week.
Wan’Tauhjs Weathers: “We tried to tell them that we was waiting for the bus, but we wasn’t catching a city bus, we was catching a yellow bus. And he didn’t care. He arrested us anyways.”
Jacob Scott: “These young men were doing nothing wrong, nothing wrong. They did exactly what they were supposed to do, and still and yet they get arrested.”
After reviewing the case, the Monroe County district attorney said she is dropping the charges. The Rochester Police Department has refused to apologize for the teens’ arrest, saying it was justified.