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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 Supreme Court has dealt a major victory for marriage equality by rejecting appeals from five states that sought to ban same-sex marriage. The decision leaves intact lower-court rulings that struck down same-sex marriage bans in Virginia, Utah, Oklahoma, Indiana and Wisconsin. Rob MacPherson, a plaintiff in the Indiana case, celebrated the ruling with his husband, Steven Stolen.
Rob MacPherson: “We’ve been together for 27 years, and this just kind of makes it official. And we can check a few boxes and get some health insurance for Steven, because he needed health insurance; they can’t deny that for me anymore, or for him anymore, and our daughter is protected if something happened to us. So, that’s the most awesome thing.”
Within hours of the ruling, county clerks across the five states began issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples. The Supreme Court’s decision will also expand same-sex marriage rights to six additional states which are covered by the same federal appeals courts as the initial five: Colorado, Wyoming, Kansas, West Virginia, North Carolina and South Carolina. That will bring the total number of states where same-sex marriage is legal to 30 — a majority of the country.
U.S.-led warplanes are targeting Islamic State militants near the besieged Syrian town of Kobani along the Turkish border. Kurdish forces are struggling to push back the militants after they advanced into the town on Monday, claiming eastern neighborhoods and causing hundreds of civilians to flee. U.S.-led strikes in the area over the past two weeks have so far failed to halt the militants’ advance. If the militants capture Kobani, they will control a large swath of the Turkish-Syrian border.
According to U.S. Central Command, the United States and its allies have carried out more than 340 airstrikes in Iraq and Syria as of Monday, about 70 percent of them in Iraq. Apart from eight strikes aimed at the Khorasan group, all of the strikes targeted the Islamic State. Central Command says the airstrikes hit combat positions, training camps and arms caches and destroyed or damaged more than 300 vehicles, including dozens of U.S.-built Humvees taken by the Islamic State from Iraqi forces. Central Command also said it has begun flying helicopters in Iraq for the first time as part the campaign. The step could put U.S. troops at risk of fire from militants on the ground.
A new report finds a large percentage of the ammunition used by Islamic State militants in Iraq and Syria came from the United States. The London-based group Conflict Armament Research analyzed small-caliber ammunition recovered from the militants. While the cartridges it recovered originated in 21 countries, including China and Russia, nearly 20 percent of them came from the United States. The report states: “IS forces appear to have acquired a large part of their current arsenal from stocks seized from, or abandoned by, Iraqi defense and security forces. The U.S. gifted much of this materiel to Iraq.”
More than 100 people are missing after a boat carrying migrants from Syria and sub-Saharan Africa sank in the Mediterranean Sea off the coast of Libya. Dozens of other migrants were rescued. A report last month found more than 3,000 migrants have died crossing the Mediterranean Sea to Europe this year, more than twice the previous high from 2011.
A U.S. drone strike has killed six people in northwest Pakistan. Unnamed intelligence officials told Reuters the target was a suspected militant training camp in the Shawal area of South Waziristan. Tuesday’s attack was at least the third U.S. strike on the area in three days. The two earlier strikes killed five people each on Sunday and Monday.
Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta has announced he is temporarily stepping down in order to face charges of crimes against humanity at the International Criminal Court. Kenyatta and his deputy, William Ruto, both stand accused of inciting ethnic violence which killed 1,200 people after Kenya’s 2007 election. By turning power over to Ruto during a hearing this week, Kenyatta will avoid becoming the first sitting president to appear before the court. He said he took the step to preserve Kenyan sovereignty.
President Uhuru Kenyatta: “I now take the extraordinary and unprecedented step of invoking article 147.(3) of the constitution, and I will shortly issue the legal notice necessary to appoint honorable William Ruto, the deputy president, as acting president while I attend the status conference at The Hague in the Netherlands.”
The U.S. practice of force-feeding hunger-striking prisoners at Guantánamo Bay is receiving an unprecedented public hearing in civilian court. The case involves a Syrian hunger striker imprisoned for over a decade. Abu Wa’el Dhiab remains at Guantánamo despite being cleared for release in 2009. He has been on hunger strike periodically for seven years to protest his indefinite detention. Dhiab’s attorneys are challenging force-feeding practices including “forced cell extractions,” where prisoners are hauled from their cells for force-feedings by a team of soldiers in riot gear, as well as the use of what prisoners call the “torture chair,” where their heads and all four limbs are restrained as a feeding tube is inserted in their nose. The Justice Department tried to keep this week’s hearing secret on national security grounds, but U.S. District Court Judge Gladys Kessler rejected that request. She also ordered videotapes of Dhiab’s force-feedings to be publicly released after they are redacted.
Former Guantánamo prisoner Mozzam Begg has said he offered to help secure the release of British hostage Alan Henning, who was executed by Islamic State militants last week. Begg, who heads the prisoner advocacy group Cage, spent three years in U.S. custody without charge or trial and was recently rearrested and held for seven months on terrorism charges in Britain. He was released after the case against him collapsed. Before his arrest, Begg had begun talks with the U.K. Foreign Office over helping to secure the release of Henning, a taxi driver who was on an aid mission in Syria. Begg told the BBC he wanted to send a video message he believed the militants would heed.
Moazzam Begg: “If I could make a video message, deliver it in the language, the terminology, the wording that Islamic State would understand, to say that I myself was a former Guantánamo prisoner dressed in orange or facing execution possibly because the Americans had built the execution chambers, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi himself had been a prisoner of the Americans, so it was a very heartfelt, very direct statement that I wanted to make in the Arabic language.”
Begg said he had spent time in Syria before the rise of ISIS and secured the release of other hostages. He said the British government failed to look at his offers seriously due to “its attempt to demonize and criminalize me.”
The Mexican government has sent federal police to take over security in a city in the southern state of Guerrero following the disappearance of 43 students and the discovery of a mass grave with dozens of burned bodies. The students, who are from a rural teacher’s college, have been missing for well more than a week after police and unknown gunmen ambushed their buses near the small city of Iguala, where they had gone to solicit donations for their school. Twenty-two police officers have been detained, and the city’s mayor and police chief appear to have fled rather than face questioning. The police have been accused of collaborating with a drug gang called Guerreros Unidos. Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto vowed to bring the perpetrators to justice.
President Enrique Peña Nieto: “I particularly regret the violence that has occurred and, above all else, that they are mostly young students who have been affected and their rights violated in the municipality of Iguala. Mexican society, the families of the young people who unfortunately went missing are rightly demanding clarification on the incident and that justice be done, that those found be brought to justice and that there is no impunity in this case.”
Meanwhile, the families of the missing students have continued to protest the government, saying officials are not doing enough to find their loved ones. Macedonia Torres, the mother of a missing student, said authorities would do more if it was their child missing.
Macedonia Torres: “They will move heaven and Earth to find them. This is what we are going to do: We’re going to do whatever it takes to find them, and we will not rest until we do.”
Women’s health providers in Texas have asked the U.S. Supreme Court to block sweeping anti-choice restrictions that have gutted abortion access in the state. A decision by a federal appeals court last week allowed hospital-style building requirements to go into immediate effect, shuttering all but eight abortion facilities in a state that previously had more than 40. It also forced a clinic in the Rio Grande Valley that had reopened under a lower-court’s decision last month to close again. Abortion patients who arrived at Whole Woman’s Health in the city of McAllen Friday were told the nearest legal abortion facility was now about four hours north. Whole Woman’s Health and other providers have filed an emergency application asking the high court to intervene, saying, “We are being forced to turn women away from safe, compassionate health care simply because of our politicians’ ideological agenda.”
Immigrant women imprisoned in South Texas have accused guards of sexually assaulting them. The Karnes County detention center just opened in August. It is run by the private firm The Geo Group. The center holds more than 500 mothers and children, most of whom are seeking asylum after fleeing violence and persecution in Central America. A federal complaint filed last week says guards are promising women help with their immigration cases in return for sexual favors and removing them from their cells at night to sexually abuse them. We will have more on the new family detention center, as well as on the crisis of abortion access in Texas, on Wednesday, when we broadcast live from San Antonio.
Members of the Ohio Student Association have occupied the police station in the town of Beavercreek to protest the fatal police shooting of John Crawford. A 22-year-old African American, Crawford was killed inside a Wal-Mart in August when a 911 caller falsely accused him of pointing a gun at customers. In fact, Crawford had picked up an unloaded BB air rifle which was on sale at the store. A grand jury declined to indict the officer who fatally shot him. Last night, about 20 students slept in the lobby of the Beavercreek police department. They are demanding the firing of the officer who shot Crawford, and criminal charges against the 911 caller, Ronald Ritchie, whose account was contradicted by surveillance footage.
A federal judge has ruled police in Ferguson, Missouri, violated the Constitution when responding to protests over the fatal police shooting of 18-year-old African American Michael Brown. The case concerned the police practice of forcing protesters to remain in constant motion, telling them they were not allowed to stand still or that they were walking too slowly.
The activist, professor and writer Betty Reid Mandell, a longtime advocate for welfare rights, has died in Massachusetts at the age of 89. Known locally as the “fairy godmother” of the welfare office, Mandell distributed survival tips to help homeless people obtain aid, and published frequent articles challenging what she saw as a war against the poor. She was a former editor of the journal New Politics along with Marvin Mandell, her husband of 60 years.