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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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The Pentagon says it is investigating evidence an airdrop of arms intended for Kurdish fighters has ended up in the hands of Islamic State militants. Pentagon spokesperson John Kirby responded to a video posted on Youtube, which appears to show the militants with a cache of weapons.
John Kirby: “They are certainly of the kinds of material that was dropped, with small arms ammunition and weaponry. So, it’s not out of the realm of the possible in that regard. But again, we’re taking a look at this, and, you know, we just don’t know. And when we have something definitive that we can provide in terms of an assessment on that, we’ll do that. I do want to add, though, that we are very confident that the vast majority of the bundles did end up in the right hands. In fact, we’re only aware of one bundle that did not.”
Kirby said the United States had targeted the one bundle that went astray with an airstrike. The airdrops come as part of an effort to defend the Syrian town of Kobani. The Obama administration had previously said Kobani was not a part of its “strategic objective.” But The Wall Street Journal reports the United States was actually working very closely with Syrian Kurdish commanders in secret to defend Kobani.
Islamic State militants have renewed their assault on Yazidi religious minorities around Sinjar Mountain in Iraq. Back in August, the militants’ advance stranded thousands of people on the mountain. Obama cited their plight when he authorized U.S. airstrikes in Iraq. On Tuesday, a senior U.N. official said the Yazidis appear to be facing an attempted genocide.
The World Health Organization has announced plans to begin trials of experimental Ebola vaccines with tens of thousands of people in West Africa as early as January. Initial safety trials have already begun and are set to expand to hundreds of volunteers in the United States, Europe and Africa. Earlier today, a top Red Cross official said the Ebola epidemic in West Africa can be contained in four to six months.
The Obama administration has imposed new travel restrictions for passengers from the countries hardest-hit by Ebola. The rules force passengers coming from Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone to pass through one of the five U.S. airports which have implemented enhanced screening.
An American cameraperson being treated for Ebola in Nebraska and a Spanish nurse, who was the first person to contract the virus outside Africa, have both been declared Ebola-free.
The cultivation of opium poppies in Afghanistan reached an all-time high last year, despite more than $7 billion in U.S. funds to combat the drug trade. In a new report, the special inspector general for Afghanistan reconstruction, John Sopko, said the record levels “[call] into question the long-term effectiveness and sustainability” of U.S. efforts.
North Korea has released an American prisoner who had been held for five months. Jeffrey Fowle was arrested in May for leaving a Bible in his hotel room. State Department spokesperson Marie Harf said the United States is continuing to push for the release of two other Americans still imprisoned in North Korea — Kenneth Bae and Matthew Miller.
People around the world are joining an international day of action today over the disappearance of 43 students ambushed by police in the Mexican state of Guerrero. The Mexican government has offered rewards for information on the students who have been missing for over three weeks. In a separate case, Mexico’s Human Rights Commission has concluded soldiers carried out a mass execution and attempted to cover it up. The Mexican army claimed it killed 22 suspected gang members in a shootout last summer in the state of Mexico. But the commission found 15 people were likely executed, a number of them lined up and shot. Three soldiers are facing murder charges.
A U.S. marine suspected of murdering a transgender woman in the Philippines has been transferred to a military camp in Manila after protesters said he was receiving special treatment. Joseph Scott Pemberton was previously being kept on a U.S. Navy ship while Philippine authorities investigate the murder of Jennifer Laude. He has been moved to an air-conditioned van where he is guarded by fellow marines. Protests have targeted the Visiting Forces Agreement which lets U.S. soldiers in the Philippines remain in U.S. custody throughout judicial proceedings. President Benigno Aquino defended the accord.
President Benigno Aquino: “The treaty serves a purpose for our country, as it serves a purpose for America. And we are imperfect beings, and this is an imperfect world. One instance of things that nobody, I believe, really wants to happen has happened, but the tragedy will be settled, in that the guilty will be made to answer for the crime.”
In the United States, federal safety regulators are urging the owners of 7.8 million vehicles made by 10 different companies to “act immediately” to replace defective airbags. The airbags, made by the Japanese company Takata, can explode when activated, spraying occupants with sharp metal fragments. The defect has been linked to four deaths.
Wyoming has become the 32nd state where same-sex marriage is now legal. The move is part of the fallout from a U.S. Supreme Court decision earlier this month rejecting appeals from five states that sought to ban marriage equality.
Former Washington Post editor Ben Bradlee has died at the age of 93 of natural causes. Bradlee served as executive editor of the Post from 1968 to 1991, presiding over its publication of the Pentagon Papers and its coverage of the Watergate scandal, which forced President Richard Nixon to resign. In 1971, Washington Post reporter Betty Medsger received documents stolen by activists from an FBI office in Media, Pennsylvania — including one bearing the mysterious term ”COINTELPRO,” which turned out to reveal the FBI’s counter-intelligence program. Medsger spoke on Democracy Now! about how Bradlee fought to publish the story, even though the Post’s publisher, Katherine Graham, initially had qualms.
Betty Medsger: “It was the first time that she had been faced with a demand from the Nixon administration that she suppress a story. And she did not want to publish. And the in-house counsel, the lawyers, also did not want to publish. But two editors, from the beginning, realized it was a very important story and pushed it — Ben Bradlee and Ben Bagdikian.”