White House officials have confirmed President Obama will nominate Ashton Carter as the next secretary of defense, replacing Chuck Hagel. An announcement will come after the official vetting process is complete, but Carter is said to be the only candidate left after two others withdrew from consideration. Hagel was pushed out last week amid reported differences with the administration’s military campaign in Iraq and Syria. A trained physicist, Carter has a long history at the Pentagon, previously serving as deputy defense secretary.
Congressional Republicans have reportedly settled on a plan to avoid a government shutdown through the start of the new year. The House would vote on a 2015 budget measure while holding a separate vote condemning President Obama’s recent executive action granting a reprieve to up to five million undocumented immigrants. But that vote will be symbolic as it stands no chance in the Senate, which Democrats still control until the new Congress begins next month. Republicans will then revisit their efforts to block the executive action when they control both chambers. Testifying before a House panel on Tuesday, Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson defended the president’s executive action.
Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson: “After clearing all their background checks, these individuals are eligible for work authorization and will be able to pay taxes and contribute more fully to our economy. The reality is that given our limited resources, these people are not, and have not been for years, priorities for removal. It’s time we acknowledge that and encourage them to be held accountable. This is simple common sense.”
Under the Republican plan, the Department of Homeland Security would only be funded through March, setting up a new a fight over President Obama’s executive action in the new year with Republicans in control of Congress.
Iraq’s central government in Baghdad has reached a deal with the semi-autonomous northern Kurds on sharing in revenues from the country’s vast oil wealth. The agreement resolves a dispute that began under former Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki and ends talk for now of the Kurds splitting off to form their own state.
An Egyptian court has sentenced nearly 200 people to die in a mass trial over the deaths of police officers in an attack last year. Defense attorneys say the accused were excluded from the courtroom and that no effort was made to prove anyone’s individual guilt. It is the third such mass sentencing of alleged Muslim Brotherhood supporters in less than a year, and comes just days after former dictator Hosni Mubarak was cleared of all charges in the deaths of hundreds of unarmed protesters rising up against his regime in 2011.
The French Parliament has approved a measure setting a two-year deadline to recognize Palestinian statehood unless a negotiated solution is reached. The symbolic vote calls for recognizing the state of Palestine unless Israel agrees to allow Palestinian statehood through peace talks. Britain, Spain and Sweden have advanced similar measures over the past two months.
The founders of Hong Kong’s Occupy Central protest movement have called on demonstrators to pull back from their encampment outside government buildings. Thousands of students have camped out for weeks in a campaign for the right to hold free elections. On Tuesday, movement co-founder Benny Tai said protesters should pull back to avoid more police repression, and said he and two others would surrender themselves to authorities.
Benny Tai: “We are furious at the government’s heartless indifference. A government that uses police batons to maintain its authority is a government that is beyond reason. For the sake of the Occupy’s safety, for the sake of our original intention of love and peace, as we prepare to surrender, we three urge the students to retreat, to put down deep roots in the community and transform the movement to extend the spirit of the umbrella movement.”
President Obama continues to lobby Congress for approval of a $6 billion measure to fight the Ebola outbreak in West Africa. Obama spoke Tuesday after a tour of the National Institutes of Health.
President Obama: “We cannot beat Ebola without more funding. If we want other countries to keep stepping up, we will have to continue to lead the way. And that’s why I’m calling on Congress to approve our emergency funding request to fight this disease before they leave for the holidays. It’s a good Christmas present to the American people and to the world.”
Police in Missouri say the stepfather of Michael Brown is under investigation for potential incitement. A video taken just after the grand jury decision not to indict Officer Darren Wilson for Brown’s death shows Louis Head in an emotional outburst. He is seen saying, “Burn this [bleep] down.” Police say they are looking into Head’s comments as part of a probe into acts of vandalism and arson that torched 12 buildings the night of the grand jury decision. Brown’s mother, Lesley McSpadden, has said her husband was speaking from a place of raw anger and should not be judged for his emotional reaction in the moment.
A new report says it is virtually impossible to keep track of how many people are killed by police in the United States. According to The Wall Street Journal, more than 550 police killings are missing from the FBI’s national tally between 2007 and 2012. In a few dozen cases, the FBI’s count failed to include the law enforcement agency involved.
In New York City, a grand jury decision is reportedly imminent in the case of Eric Garner, an African-American man who died in a police chokehold. A father of six, Garner died after police wrestled him to the ground and pinned him down. He was accused of selling loose cigarettes. The grand jury could vote as early as today on whether to indict the officers involved. (Update: The grand jury has decided not to indict the officer involved.)
Comedian Bill Cosby is facing his first lawsuit resulting from the new wave of allegations over the drugging, rape and sexual assault of more than 20 women. Plaintiff Judy Huth is suing Cosby for allegedly molesting her 40 years ago, when she was 15 years old. The suit claims Cosby forced Huth to perform a sex act on him without her consent. Her complaint says the incident has caused “psychological damage and mental anguish” in the decades since. It comes one day after Cosby resigned from the board of trustees of Temple University amid mounting claims from women who have come forward to accuse him of being a sexual predator.
A caravan of environmental activists traveling to the United Nations climate summit in Lima, Peru, has been stopped by authorities in Ecuador and had their bus seized. Activists with the group Yasunidos departed from Quito on Monday to denounce the extraction of oil from Yasuní National Park, an area of the Amazon renowned for its biological diversity. The group says they were subjected to seven stops in the first 24 hours of their trip, and ultimately stranded by the side of a highway last night, when Ecuadorean authorities seized their bus.