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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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Israel has reopened the Al-Aqsa Mosque compound in Jerusalem’s Old City after its closure sparked protests and calls to reopen from countries, including the United States. Muslim men under the age of 50 are still barred from participating in prayers today over supposed security concerns. Israel shut down the compound Thursday for the first time in years following the shooting of far-right activist Yehuda Glick. Hours after Glick was shot and wounded, Israeli forces shot and killed a Palestinian suspected in the shooting, accusing him of opening fire when they sought to arrest him. But the Palestinian Ma’an News Agency reports the suspect, Mutaz Hijazi, was shot and injured, but still alive, when Israeli soldiers confronted him on his rooftop, then killed him by dropping a water tank on him. The Fatah movement in Jerusalem has called for protests today over Hijazi’s death.
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry has publicly blasted the unnamed “senior [Obama] administration official” who recently called Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu a “chickens—t.” Speaking to The Atlantic magazine, the official said Netanyahu “won’t do anything to reach an accommodation with the Palestinians or with the Sunni Arab states.” Kerry called the remarks “disgraceful.”
John Kerry: “I think we need to work quietly and effectively, and we condemn anybody who uses language such as was used in this article. It does not reflect the president. It does not reflect me. It is disgraceful and unacceptable, damaging. And I think neither President Obama nor I — I’ve never heard that word around me in the White House or anywhere. I don’t know who these anonymous people are who keep getting quoted in things, but they make life much more difficult.”
In Iraq, the bodies of 150 members of a Sunni tribe which battled the Islamic State have reportedly been found in mass graves. Officials told Reuters ISIS militants took the men from their villages to the city of Ramadi and executed them. The discovery came as the U.S. chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Martin Dempsey, called for the expansion of a U.S. training and advisory mission into Anbar province, but said the Iraqi government would first need to arm the Sunni tribes. Meanwhile in Syria, the first wave of Iraqi Kurdish troops have passed through Turkey to help beat back an advance by ISIS in the city of Kobani.
A monitoring group says bombings by the regime of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad have killed more than 200 civilians over the past 10 days alone. On Thursday, U.S. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel acknowledged U.S. airstrikes in Syria may be aiding the Assad regime.
Chuck Hagel: “As we and the coalition go after ISIL to help the Iraqis secure their government, but also the Middle East, yes, Assad derives some benefit of that, of course. But what we’re talking about is a longer-term strategy that’s effective and doing what we think, and the people of the Middle East, as to what’s required to stabilize and secure that part of the world in effective and inclusive governments.”
The United Nations is warning foreign fighters are flocking to militant groups in Iraq and Syria on an “unprecedented scale.” A U.N. report obtained by The Guardian finds 15,000 people from more than 80 countries are fighting alongside the Islamic State and similar groups.
In Egypt, the mother and daughter of a prominent pro-democracy activist are on hunger strike to demand his release and the release of his imprisoned sister. Laila Soueif and Mona Seif have been on a partial hunger strike since September. They stopped eating and drinking water on Monday when Alaa Abd El-Fattah was detained yet again for breaking an anti-protest law. El-Fattah has been imprisoned multiple times since Egypt’s 2011 revolution, missing the birth of his child and, more recently, the death of his father. His sister Sanaa has been sentenced to three years in prison and has been on hunger strike for more than 60 days.
In the United States, Kaci Hickox, the nurse who was quarantined in New Jersey after returning from treating Ebola patients in Sierra Leone, has violated quarantine rules in her home state of Maine. After Hickox went on a bike ride with her boyfriend, Maine Gov. Paul LePage vowed to use “the full extent of his authority allowable by law” to keep her in her home.
In Nigeria, the Islamist militant group Boko Haram has captured the northeastern town of Mubi, forcing thousands to flee. Reuters reports the militants burned down the main market and killed dozens of people, including a university lecturer and his entire family.
In Burkina Faso, protesters opposed to the president’s 27-year rule have gathered in the capital again, a day after setting parliament ablaze. The protests erupted over a plan by President Blaise Compaoré to extend his rule. The military opened fire on demonstrators, and up to 30 people have been reported killed in the unrest. President Compaoré has agreed not to seek re-election, but he has defied calls to resign immediately. A military spokesperson announced the current government would be dissolved and a curfew imposed overnight on Thursday.
Military spokesperson: “The National Assembly is dissolved. The government is dissolved. A transitional body will be set up in consultation with all the forces of the nation in order to prepare for the return to normal constitutional order within a period of 12 months at the latest. A curfew is in place across the country starting today, from 7 p.m. to 6 a.m., to preserve the safety of persons and property.”
Hungary has canceled plans to tax Internet use after tens of thousands took to the streets in protest. Mass demonstrations began Sunday when protesters flung computer parts at the headquarters of Hungary’s ruling party.
Russia, Ukraine and the European Union have reached a deal to resume the flow of Russian gas to Ukraine. The $4.6 billion accord ensures gas supplies until March, both for Ukraine and European countries on the receiving end of its pipelines. The gas will be paid for with help from the International Monetary Fund and what the European Commission called “unprecedented levels” of aid from the European Union. The deal comes amidst escalating tensions as pro-Russian separatists plan to hold elections Sunday in eastern Ukraine.
Lawmakers in Argentina have passed legislation to attract foreign oil and gas companies. Argentina has the third largest deposits of shale oil and natural gas in the world. The measure provides longer contracts and other incentives for multinationals to exploit those reserves. In related news, Mexico’s Supreme Court has rejected a request to hold a national referendum on reforms passed earlier this year that opened Mexico’s oil and gas sector to private multinationals for the first time in 76 years.
Three American siblings who went missing in the Mexican state Tamaulipas of nearly three weeks ago have been confirmed dead after their bodies were identified. Witnesses reported seeing the victims being abused and then seized by members of a local police unit called Hercules, which provides security to officials in the city of Matamoros.
A new probe finds federal officials severely botched the investigation of a suspected arms smuggler and allowed him to funnel grenade parts into Mexico. The probe by the Justice Department inspector general involved the Phoenix, Arizona, division of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives — the same unit involved in the botched gun-sting operation Fast and Furious. In this case, federal agents intercepted shipments of grenade parts, but allowed them to be delivered to alleged smuggler Jean Baptiste Kingery. Some of the parts later turned up at a crime scene in Mexico.
The FBI is quietly seeking a broad expansion of its power to hack into, spy on and control computers in the United States and around the world. The Guardian reports the Justice Department is seeking the change before an obscure regulatory body called the Advisory Committee on Criminal Rules. Civil liberties groups say the change, which is being sought without congressional approval or public debate, would effectively give the FBI a green light to hack into computers anywhere in the world.
In Pennsylvania, prosecutors say they will seek the death penalty against a survivalist who has been on the run for seven weeks after allegedly ambushing state troopers, killing one of them. Eric Frein was captured by police on Thursday.
South Carolina Republican Senator Lindsey Graham is facing controversy over remarks he made at an all-male dinner at a private club. CNN played an audio recording of Graham’s comments, which were made earlier this month.
Senator Lindsey Graham: I’ve tried to help you with your tax status. I’m sorry the government’s so f——ed up. If I get to be president, white men who are in male-only clubs are going to do great in my presidency.”
Graham’s campaign said the statement about helping white men was a joke that was taken out of context. Graham is seeking re-election to a third term on Tuesday.
Apple CEO Tim Cook has come out publicly as gay. In an article for Bloomberg Businessweek, Cook wrote: “I’m proud to be gay, and I consider being gay among the greatest gifts God has given me.”
A top lobbyist has been caught on tape encouraging oil and gas industry executives to dig up embarrassing details about environmentalists and to exploit emotions like fear. An executive gave The New York Times a secret recording of the speech by Richard Berman, a lobbyist who creates nonprofits, then covertly uses them to advance a range of corporate agendas. Berman made the speech in June as he raised millions to fund an ad campaign called Big Green Radicals, which has run pro-fracking ads in Colorado and Pennsylvania.
Warren Anderson, who was CEO of Union Carbide during one of the worst industrial disasters in history, has died at the age of 92. On December 3, 1984, about 40 metric tons of toxic gases leaked from a Union Carbide plant in Bhopal, India. While the official death toll is nearly 4,000, campaigners say it is closer to 25,000, with many still suffering. Anderson never faced trial for the disaster although India tried multiple times to extradite him. In 2012, activists rallied in New York to call for Anderson to face charges in India. Twelve-year-old Akash Viswanath Mehta of the group Kids for a Better Future addressed Anderson directly.
Akash Viswanath Mehta: “I would like today to appeal to Warren Anderson’s conscience, his guilt and his grief, and ask him to stand beside me. If he is truly haunted by the disaster that happened on his watch, which destroyed an entire community, I ask him to come forward and make a moral statement about what the right thing is for Dow and Union Carbide to do.”
Anderson died in September at a nursing home in Vero Beach, Florida. His family did not announce his death, and it nearly went undetected until The New York Times saw an obituary in the weekly newspaper in Vero Beach. The headline read: “Warren Anderson dies here in obscurity.”