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HeadlinesDecember 15, 2014

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U.N. Climate Deal for Nonbinding Emissions Cuts Lays Basis for Paris Talks Next Year

Dec 15, 2014

The United Nations climate summit in Lima, Peru, has ended with a deal that forms the basis for a new global agreement on climate change. The Lima Accord marks the first time all nations have agreed to cut back on carbon emissions, and says all countries have “common but differentiated responsibilities” to tackle global warming. But it is not legally binding and gives each country until next March to announce how much it will reduce. A final agreement will be negotiated at the climate summit in Paris next year. In a statement, the environmental group Friends of the Earth International criticized the Lima Accord, saying: “The only thing these talks have achieved is to reduce the chances of a fair and effective agreement to tackle climate change in Paris.”

Families of Slain African Americans Lead “Justice for All” Rally in D.C.

Dec 15, 2014

Tens of thousands marched across the country on Saturday in the largest day of protest since the killing of Michael Brown set off a national movement four months ago. From Oakland to New York City, protesters called for indictments in the case of police officers who’ve killed unarmed African Americans and broader reforms to policing and criminal justice. In Washington, D.C., the families of slain African Americans led a “Justice For All” rally and march on the White House. Among them were Lesley McSpadden and Gwen Carr, the mothers of Michael Brown and Eric Garner.

Lesley McSpadden: “Thank you. Wow, what a sea of people. If they don’t see this and make a change, then I don’t know what we’ve got to do. Thank you for having my back.”

Gwen Carr: “You know, our sons, you know, they may not be here in body, but they’re here with us in each and every one of you. You all brought them here today, OK? And I thank you, I thank you so much.”

Tens of Thousands Join “Millions March” NYC Protest

Dec 15, 2014

Saturday’s actions included a “Millions March” that drew tens of thousands to the streets of New York City. A massive crowd took over the streets after gathering in Washington Square Park, heading uptown before turning around and closing at police headquarters downtown. A smaller group of thousands then broke off to march across the Brooklyn Bridge. A CUNY professor and poet taking part in the march was arrested for allegedly assaulting two police officers, including one who reportedly suffered a broken nose.

Dozens Arrested in Boston, Oakland Protests

Dec 15, 2014

In Boston, dozens of people were arrested in a protest that drew hundreds of people. Around 45 people were also arrested after thousands marched in Oakland and San Francisco.

Senate OKs $1.1 Trillion Spending Bill Averting Shutdown

Dec 15, 2014

The Senate has approved a controversial spending bill that guts a key part of financial regulation. The $1.1 trillion “cromnibus” measure avoids a government shutdown before the end of the congressional term and funds most federal agencies through September.

Sen. Warren Blasts Citibank for Authoring Repeal of Dodd-Frank Rule

Dec 15, 2014

The congressional spending bill divided Democrats over the repeal of a major rule in the Dodd-Frank financial reform bill that limits risky trades by federally insured banks. The financial giant Citigroup reportedly authored the provision. Calling out Citigroup on the Senate floor, Democratic Senator Elizabeth Warren accused the financial giant of wielding too much power in Washington — and said it should have been broken “into pieces” under Wall Street reform.

Sen. Elizabeth Warren: “In recent years, many Wall Street institutions have exerted extraordinary influence in Washington’s corridors of power. Citigroup has risen above the others. Its grip over economic policymaking in the executive branch is unprecedented. … You know, there’s a lot of talk lately about how Dodd-Frank isn’t perfect. There’s a lot of talk coming from Citigroup about how Dodd-Frank isn’t perfect. So let me say this to anyone who is listening at Citi: I agree with you. Dodd-Frank isn’t perfect. It should have broken you into pieces.”

Warren introduced an amendment that would have stripped the Citigroup provision from the spending bill, but it was left out.

Obama to Sign Controversial Spending Bill After Backing Passage

Dec 15, 2014

Other controversial provisions that passed in the spending bill include a campaign finance rule change that increases tenfold the amount of money allowed for certain political donations. The bill also strips millions in funding for the Environmental Protection Agency and approves cuts to retiree benefits at some multi-employer pension plans. The Senate passed the measure 56 to 40 in a rare Saturday night vote. President Obama is expected to sign the bill after urging lawmakers to approve it. Speaking ahead of the Senate’s approval, Obama called the bill a compromise worthy of support.

President Obama: “This, by definition, was a compromise bill. This is what’s produced when you have the divided government that the American people voted for.”

Anti-Immigration Push by Senate GOP Opens Path to Confirming Stalled Nominations

Dec 15, 2014

The spending bill bill sets up a new showdown over “immigration reform,” with Republicans winning an effort to fund the Department of Homeland only through February. They intend to use a vote on new funding as leverage to fight President Obama’s deportation reprieve for up to five million undocumented immigrants. Republican Senator Ted Cruz tried to begin that challenge over the weekend, but that allowed Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid to exploit a procedural loophole and advance two dozen stalled nominations. These include Vivek Murthy, whose nomination as surgeon general has been held up for more than a year after the National Rifle Association opposed his support for gun control. Murthy called for tougher gun laws in the wake of the Newtown shooting massacre — which had its second anniversary on Sunday. The Senate will begin taking up Murthy’s and other stalled nominations today.

Cheney on CIA Torture: “I’d Do It Again in a Minute”

Dec 15, 2014

Senior officials from the administration of President George W. Bush are pushing back against criticism of their abuses and calls for their prosecution following last week’s Senate findings on CIA torture. Speaking to NBC’s “Meet the Press,” former Vice President Dick Cheney refused to label the CIA’s abuses as torture, and said he would not hesitate to use them again.

Dick Cheney: “With respect to trying to define that as torture, I come back to the proposition torture was what the al-Qaeda terrorists did to 3,000 Americans on 9/11. There is no comparison between that and what we did with respect to enhanced interrogation. … It worked. It worked now. For 13 years we’ve avoided another mass casualty attack against the United States. We did capture bin Laden. We did capture an awful lot of the senior guys of al-Qaeda who were responsible for that attack on 9/11. I’d do it again in a minute.”

Torture Memo Author: Abuses May Have Violated Law, But Weren’t Authorized

Dec 15, 2014

While Dick Cheney defended the CIA’s abuses, the Bush official who authored the legal memos behind the torture program admitted some CIA agents may have violated the law. But speaking to CNN, John Yoo also said torture methods such as forced rectal feeding, violent threats and week-long sleep deprivation were never authorized — and at the same time, he does not trust Senate investigators to confirm they were used.

John Yoo: “Well, those are very troubling examples. They would not have been approved by the Justice Department—they were not approved by the Justice Department at the time. But I have to question whether they’re true, because I can’t take at face value the committee’s report, because there were no Republicans involved. But I agree. Look, Fareed, I agree with you. If these things happened as they’re described in the report, as you describe them, those were not authorized by the Justice Department. They were not supposed to be done, and those people who did those are at risk legally because they were acting outside their orders.”

Senator to Unveil Anti-Torture Measure After CIA Director Says Future Abuses Possible

Dec 15, 2014

On Sunday, Democratic Sen. Ron Wyden said he will unveil a bill that calls for prosecuting any official who carries out torture in the future. Wyden said he was responding to CIA Director John Brennan, who last week left open the possibility of torture’s use under future U.S. presidents.

Standoff Continues After Gunman Takes Hostages at Australian Cafe

Dec 15, 2014

In Sydney, Australia, a gunman has taken an unknown number of people hostage at a cafe in the city center. The hostages were reportedly made to display an Islamic flag in the window of the Lindt chocolate shop and cafe. Five people have been seen fleeing from the scene after they either escaped or were freed. There are no reports of injuries so far. Police have surrounded the area and are reportedly negotiating to free the remaining hostages.

Elected Government Restored as Detroit Officially Exits Bankruptcy

Dec 15, 2014

Detroit has formally exited bankruptcy after 17 months. A recently approved debt adjustment plan kicked in last week, allowing the city to restructure finances, shed around $7 billion in debt and partially restore vital services. The plan was approved after city workers agreed to accept significant cuts to their pensions and benefits. Detroit’s emergency city manager, Kevyn Orr, welcomed the bankruptcy exit.

Kevyn Orr: “We are thankful that at this point the city will emerge later today, by the time I go to bed, from bankruptcy. We will exit. And we look forward, truly, to a better time for the city going forward.”

With Detroit no longer in bankruptcy, Orr returns formal authority to the mayor and the city council, whose power he has overrode for well over a year. Detroit’s finances will remain under strict state oversight.

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