It is Election Day in the United States, where an estimated $4 billion has been spent on the most expensive midterms in U.S. history. Despite the record spending, voter turnout is expected to hit one of its lowest levels in years. Control of the U.S. Senate has boiled down to about 10 key races, some of which could result in runoffs. Current projections give Republicans about a 70 percent chance of netting the six seats they would need to retake the Senate from Democrats. Thirty-six states are choosing governors today. And voters across the country are deciding on 147 ballot measures, which include measures to decriminalize marijuana, restrict abortion, raise the minimum wage and require labeling of GMO foods. We will spend the rest of the hour on the midterm elections after headlines. Tune in tonight for the Democracy Now! election special broadcast 7 p.m. to midnight EST with coverage and analysis of the results.
U.S. drone strikes have killed at least 10 people in central Yemen. Agence France-Presse said at least 20 people were killed in the overnight strikes targeting militants near Rada. Reuters put the toll at 10, but said 10 more people were killed in clashes between the targeted militant group Ansar al-Sharia and Shiite Houthi rebels. The rebels have taken over the Yemeni capital Sana’a and advanced south into majority Sunni areas. While recent attention has focused on the U.S. wars in Iraq and Syria, the United States has continued its covert bombardment of supposed militants in Yemen and Pakistan.
An independent human rights probe in Liberia has faulted security forces for opening fire on protesters opposing an Ebola quarantine, killing a 15-year-old boy. The report obtained by The New York Times found Liberian forces acted with “complete disregard for human life.”
In Sierra Leone, another doctor has died of Ebola. Dr. Godfrey George is the fifth doctor to die of the virus in Sierra Leone since the outbreak began. More than 500 health workers have contracted Ebola in all of the countries impacted, including the United States; just over half of them have died.
In the United States, state officials continue to impose restrictions on health workers who have treated patients in West Africa. In Louisiana, officials told health workers who have recently been in the hardest-hit countries not to attend a tropical medicine conference this week, saying, “We see no utility in you traveling to New Orleans to simply be confined to your room.” Researchers say the move will hinder progress at the conference on fighting Ebola.
At least 24 migrants have drowned after a boat carrying them from Turkey toward Romania sank in the Black Sea. A number of people remain missing.
The Obama administration has condemned regional polls in eastern Ukraine which elected pro-Russian separatist leaders. Russia has recognized Sunday’s elections while Ukraine’s president has threatened to scrap an autonomy deal for the eastern regions of Donetsk and Luhansk. U.S. State Department spokesperson Jen Psaki said European countries have joined the United States in rejecting the poll.
Jen Psaki: “The United States deplores and does not recognize yesterday’s so-called separatist elections in eastern Ukraine, nor do we recognize any of the leaders chosen in this illegal vote. We also welcome statements from the European Union, United Nations, France, Germany and others, rejecting these illegal and illegitimate actions.”
The U.S. Air Force has fired two more commanders in charge of its nuclear arsenal. Col. Carl Jones was second in command of the 90th Missile Wing at FE Warren Air Force Base in Wyoming, which operates a third of the force’s Minuteman 3 intercontinental ballistic missiles. According to the Associated Press, Jones was fired for four separate transgressions, including one described as “shocking.” In the most recent case, he was accused of banging on the counter and shouting profanity at a volunteer-run thrift shop. Meanwhile at the 91st Missile Wing at Minot Air Force Base in North Dakota, which oversees another third of the Force’s Minuteman missiles, Lt. Col. Jimmy “Keith” Brown was fired for discrimination after he “made statements to subordinates that created a perception within his squadron that pregnancy would negatively affect a woman’s career.” Another commander at Minot has been disciplined. The news follows a cheating scandal at a base in Montana earlier this year and last year’s firing of the commander in charge of the entire intercontinental ballistic missile force for drunken misbehavior in Russia.
The U.S. Supreme Court heard arguments on a 2002 law that would let Americans born in Jerusalem list the birthplace on their U.S. passports as “Israel.” The Obama administration opposes the law, saying it would threaten its decision not to take a stance on Jerusalem’s status. Passports of U.S. citizens born in Jerusalem currently list only the city, not a country, but the parents of a 12-year-old boy born in Jerusalem want the Supreme Court to change that. While Israel has occupied East Jerusalem since 1967, Palestinians claim it as the capital of any future Palestinian state. The court hearing came as Israel advanced plans to build 500 new illegal settlement homes in East Jerusalem.
U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon says he will launch a probe into reports that Britain spied on fellow governments at global climate summits in 2009 and 2010. A document released by National Security Agency whistleblower Edward Snowden revealed a spy from the British intelligence agency GCHQ embedded with the British climate delegation. The news comes as negotiators meet in Venezuela ahead of the climate summit in Lima, Peru, next month. Last year documents from Snowden showed the NSA spied on foreign governments before and during the 2009 U.N. climate summit in Copenhagen.
The U.S. Supreme Court has allowed protections on reproductive rights to stand in two states by rejecting anti-choice appeals. In one case, the Supreme Court left in place a lower court ruling upholding a Colorado law that bars people from blocking entry to abortion clinics. In the second case, the court let stand a ruling which reinstated part of a New York City law requiring so-called crisis pregnancy centers to say whether they have a licensed medical provider on site. Crisis pregnancy centers often appear like medical facilities, but their goal is to deter people from abortion. A congressional study in 2006 found 87 percent provided false or misleading medical information.
In Oklahoma, laws restricting abortion have gone into effect reportedly leaving just one clinic providing abortions in the entire state. The laws mirror restrictions passed in Texas. One requires providers to obtain admitting privileges at a nearby hospital, which has proven impossible for some. The other restricts the pill form of abortion, imposing an outdated protocol and banning it after 49 days of pregnancy. The Center for Reproductive Rights is seeking an emergency injunction from the Supreme Court.
Prosecutors in Utah have ruled two Saratoga Springs police officers were justified when they shot dead an African-American man carrying a sword as part of a Japanese anime costume. County Attorney Jeff Buhman said 22-year-old Darrien Hunt swung his sword at officers, who opened fire. Hunt then ran away, and the officers chased him, ultimately shooting him six times. Buhman said police feared for their lives and for public safety. But Hunt’s family has vowed to file a civil rights lawsuit. They say the sword was a replica with a dulled edge which was purchased at a novelty shop.
Two police officers in Austin, Texas, have been caught on their own dashboard camera joking about rape. In footage posted to YouTube last week, one of the officers says, “Look at that girl over there.” The second officer then blows a whistle and says, “Go ahead and call the cops. They can’t unrape you.” Listen carefully.
Officer 1: “I want to report a robbery! You probably deserved it. Look at that girl over there.”
Officer 2: (blows whistle) “Go ahead and call the cops. They can’t unrape you.” (laughter)
Officer 1: “You didn’t turn your camera off, did you?”
Officer 2: “They can’t unrape you.”
The officers have been identified as Mark Lyttle and Michael Castillo. The Austin Police Department says it has launched an internal investigation and issued a “heartfelt apology to all victims of sexual assault.”
New York City has agreed to pay about $2 million to the family of a homeless veteran who died after being left unattended for hours in a sweltering jail cell at Rikers Island. Jerome Murdough died in February after temperatures in his cell topped 100 degrees. He had been arrested a week earlier for trying to sleep in a stairwell at a public housing project, where he had sought shelter from the cold. He had been unable to pay $2,500 bail for his release.
Former CIA analyst Ray McGovern is recovering from what he described as a brutal arrest by New York City police after he tried to attend a speech by former CIA director and retired Army General David Petraeus. McGovern says he had a ticket to the event late last week, but was told by security at the 92nd Street Y in Manhattan that he was “not welcome.” He told RT he was already suffering from an injured shoulder and police caused him to scream in pain as they tried to force his wrist behind his back. McGovern was held overnight in a jail cell and did not get to ask Petraeus the question he had planned.
Ray McGovern: “When you advertise a Q&A, as the 92nd Street Y did, then you risk having somebody ask real questions, and that’s what I intended to do, not to get into a debate with him, but just to ask, 'Now, David Petraeus, have you no shame? Have you no shame in advertising your successes, when Iraq is a disaster area and Afghanistan is soon to be the same?'”
In upstate New York, 15 people were arrested as they blocked the gates of a gas facility to protest plans to create a gas storage hub in the Finger Lakes region. Under the banner of “We Are Seneca Lake,” area residents are seeking to block plans by the Texas-based company Crestwood Midstream to expand storage of natural gas in underground salt caverns. They say the plan threatens both the climate and Seneca Lake, which provides drinking water to 100,000 people.
Tom Magliozzi, co-host of the NPR show “Car Talk” and one of public radio’s most familiar and beloved voices, has died after a battle with Alzheimer’s disease. He was 77. Tom and his brother Ray were known as “Click and Clack, the Tappet Brothers” on the weekly show they co-hosted for 35 years. They stopped making new episodes in 2012. While “Car Talk” was ostensibly about car advice, Tom Magliozzi was perhaps better known for his laugh.
Tom Magliozzi: “Do two people who don’t know what they’re talking about know more or less than one person who doesn’t know what he’s talking about?” (laughter)
Tom Magliozzi died on Monday in his home state of Massachusetts.