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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 U.S. military expansion in Iraq comes amidst conflicting reports over the fate of Islamic State leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi. Iraqi officials claim he was wounded in an airstrike on ISIS leaders in Iraq’s Anbar province. We will have more on Iraq later in the broadcast.
The United States and Iran have opened a new round of talks ahead of the deadline for reaching a nuclear agreement two weeks from today. A long-term deal would allow Iranian uranium enrichment and relief from U.S.-led sanctions in return for extensive international inspections. On Sunday, Secretary of State John Kerry met with Iranian counterpart Mohammad Javad Zarif in Oman. Zarif said easing the sanctions remains a critical issue.
Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif: “But I think the most important issues that need to be addressed are enrichment and sanctions. It is important for the West to understand that sanctions have never contributed to the resolution of this issue. Sanctions are not a part of solution. Sanctions are the most important part of the problem. They’re illegal in nature. They must be removed. They have not produced any positive result. The only thing that sanctions have produced for the West are about 19,000 centrifuges.”
Speaking to CBS News on Sunday, President Obama said there is still a “big gap” between the two sides and that a deal may not be within reach. It emerged last week Obama wrote a letter to Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei outlining a mutual interest in opposing the Islamic State and coming to terms on a nuclear deal.
President Obama has tapped Brooklyn federal prosecutor Loretta Lynch to replace Eric Holder as attorney general. Obama formally unveiled Lynch’s nomination at the White House on Saturday.
President Obama: “It’s pretty hard to be more qualified for this job than Loretta. Throughout her 30-year career, she has distinguished herself as tough, as fair, an independent lawyer who has twice headed one of the most prominent U.S. attorney’s offices in the country. She has spent years in the trenches as a prosecutor, aggressively fighting terrorism, financial fraud, cybercrime, all while vigorously defending civil rights.”
If confirmed as attorney general, Lynch would be the first African-American woman to hold the position. In brief remarks, Lynch thanked President Obama and pledged to defend the rights of all citizens.
Loretta Lynch: “Mr. President, thank you again for the faith that you’ve placed in me. I pledge today to you and to the American people that if I have the honor of being confirmed by the Senate, I will wake up every morning with the protection of the American people my first thought. And I will work every day to safeguard our citizens, our liberties, our rights and this great nation, which has given so much to me and my family.”
Two Americans have returned to the United States after being freed from imprisonment in North Korea. Kenneth Bae and Matthew Todd Miller were released in a deal reportedly brokered by Director of National Intelligence James Clapper. Bae made a brief statement upon their return.
Kenneth Bae: “It’s been amazing two years. I learned a lot. I grew a lot. I lost a lot of weight, in a good way. But I’m standing strong because of you and thank you for being there at such a time as this. So I just want to just say tonight thank you for all your support and prayer and your love, that is really, really encouraging for me and for others who are in the same shoes in DPRK and elsewhere. Thank you. God bless you.”
Both Bae and Miller had been sentenced to years of hard labor. North Korean state media claims the two were released after President Obama conveyed an “earnest apology” for their actions.
Protests have broken out in Arab-Israeli areas of Israel after the fatal shooting of a young man. The victim apparently tried to attack police with a knife after they came to arrest a relative. But video footage of the incident shows police shot him dead as he tried to run away. Arab-Israeli communities then observed a 24-hour strike beginning on Sunday. Earlier today, a Palestinian man allegedly stabbed an Israeli soldier in Tel Aviv, leaving the soldier critically wounded.
A committee within the Israeli Cabinet has approved a measure that would apply all Israeli laws to Jewish settlers in the occupied West Bank. The measure was backed by lawmakers who want to formally annex the West Bank settlement blocs into Israel.
In a symbolic gesture, a group of young Palestinian activists marked Saturday’s 25th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall by breaking through a portion of the Separation Wall that bisects the occupied West Bank. In a statement, the Palestinian popular committees said: “No matter how high walls are built, they will fall. Just as the Berlin Wall fell, the wall in Palestine will fall, along with the occupation.”
The fall of the Berlin Wall signaled the collapse of the Soviet Union and the end of the Cold War. At a 25th anniversary ceremony in Berlin, German Chancellor Angela Merkel said the historic event carries a message for today.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel: “It showed that we have the power to shape our destiny and make things better. That is the message of the fall of the wall. It is directed at us in Germany, but also at others in Europe and the world, especially to people in Ukraine, in Syria, Iraq and other regions where human rights are threatened or violated.”
Around 1.6 million people in the Spanish region of Catalonia have voted to back secession. Close to two million took part in the referendum, less than half of those eligible. The vote is nonbinding, and Spain says it will not be recognized.
The latest job figures show the official unemployment rate has fallen to a six-year low of 5.8 percent. Despite the improved job growth, Jason Furman of the White House Council of Economic Advisers acknowledged that wages remain stagnant.
Jason Furman: “You’d always love to see more job growth, but 229,000 jobs per month in 2014 is the fastest pace since the late 1990s. It’s consistent with a rapidly declining unemployment rate. And what we really want to see is it translating into even larger gains in wages.”
A Detroit judge has approved the city’s effort to restructure finances and shed around $7 billion in debt under its bankruptcy filing last year. The plan includes cuts to retiree pensions for city workers and around $660 million in funding from state and private sources. Detroit City Council President Brenda Jones said the city’s next phase of recovery should focus on community improvement.
Brenda Jones: “We must empower and employ the long-suffering people of Detroit. Just as we will work through a plan of adjustment after bankruptcy, a plan for our people is critical. So while we celebrate our city’s exit from bankruptcy, let’s refocus our efforts on getting citizens back to work, making our streets and neighborhoods safer, and rebuilding our population by creating a thriving and growing city.”
The deal ends 16 months of bankruptcy proceedings. It will let Detroit spend nearly $2 billion to restore some of the basic public services that have all but disappeared in recent years.