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This week, Democracy Now! is celebrating our 22nd birthday. Since our first show in February 1996, our daily news hour has brought you fearless journalism and hard-hitting news you can trust--all without ads or corporate underwriting. How is this possible? Only with your support. In fact, if everyone reading this gave just $4, it would cover our operating expenses for the whole year. Right now, a generous donor will TRIPLE every donation, meaning your gift today will go three times as far. Pretty amazing, right? Please do your part. Take a moment to give right now for our 22nd birthday.
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Clashes between police and anti-government protesters are continuing in the Ukranian capital Kiev in the deadliest episode since protests began three months ago. At least 25 people have died, including at least nine police officers, and more than 200 have been injured since Tuesday, when protesters clashed with police near parliament. In the evening, police closed in on the protesters’ encampment in Independence Square, spurring protesters to set fire to the perimeter in a bid to defend the site. The protests erupted in November over the decision by President Viktor Yanukovych to strengthen economic ties with Russia instead of Europe. Earlier today, opposition leader Vitali Klitschko said talks with the president had broken down.
Vitali Klitschko: “I am very unhappy because it was no discussion and the president don’t want to listen opposition. They don’t want to listen, and it’s just one way opposition have, and all protesters have to stop protests, they have to stop this demonstration, he said. But right now, it’s very important to make a break and not fight anymore. Thank you.”
Klitschko is the opposition leader who U.S. diplomat Victoria Nuland was recently caught on tape discussing in a hacked phone call. In the leaked conversation, Nuland says, “I don’t think [Klitschko] should go into the government. I don’t think it’s necessary. I don’t think it’s a good idea.” European foreign ministers are holding an emergency meeting on Ukraine today in Brussels, where they are expected to discuss possible sanctions.
Deadly clashes erupted in Thailand Tuesday as police there attempted to clear protest sites. Five people were killed and at least 65 wounded. Protesters in Bangkok have been calling for the resignation of Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra, accusing her of being controlled by her brother, a former prime minister convicted of corruption, now living in self-imposed exile.
A court in Britain has ruled police acted legally when they detained the partner of journalist Glenn Greenwald at Heathrow Airport under an anti-terrorism law. David Miranda was carrying documents leaked by National Security Agency whistleblower Edward Snowden when he was detained for nearly nine hours. While acknowledging the detention marked “an indirect interference with press freedom,” the court upheld its legality. The ruling comes just days after Greenwald and three other journalists won the George Polk Award, one of journalism’s highest honors, for their reporting on the NSA. Greenwald said the court ruling makes it clear the top British spy agency was monitoring “the communications of myself, David [Miranda] and/or the Guardian.” He wrote, “It may be perfectly normal for a country lacking constitutional guarantees of press freedom (such as the U.K.) to have their surveillance agencies eavesdrop on the communications of journalists and their family members, but that conduct, by itself, is rather radical.”
A U.S. Border Patrol agent shot and killed a man near San Diego, California, Tuesday after the agent was hit in the face with a rock. Officials said the agent was pursuing a group of people suspected of crossing the border from Mexico. When a man threw a rock at him, the agent opened fire and killed him. The agent suffered minor injuries and declined hospital care. A September report released by the Department of Homeland Security’s inspector general showed U.S. border agents have been involved in 20 fatalities since 2010, eight of which —– that’s nearly half –— involved rock throwing. An uncensored copy of the report obtained by the Center for Investigative Reporting showed it featured a recommendation from a think tank that agents use restraint when dealing with rock throwers. But in the copy that was publicly released that recommendation was blacked out.
A former U.S. soldier convicted of raping and murdering a 14-year-old girl in Iraq after killing her parents and younger sister has been found dead in his prison cell in Arizona. Steven Dale Green was found hanging in an apparent suicide. In 2006, he and three fellow soldiers went to the home of an Iraqi family, where Green killed three people, then joined his colleagues in the gang-rape of 14-year-old Abeer Qassim al-Janabi, before killing her. Three years later, Green was sentenced to life in prison, becoming the first U.S. soldier convicted under a 2000 law allowing U.S. soldiers and contractors to face prosecution for crimes committed abroad.
President Obama has announced a new round of steps to develop tighter fuel efficiency standards for trucks. Speaking in Maryland Tuesday, Obama said he has instructed federal agencies to develop higher standards for medium and heavy trucks by March 2016.
President Obama: “Heavy-duty trucks account for just 4 percent of all of the vehicles on the highway. I know when you’re driving sometimes it feels like it’s more, but they’re only 4 percent of all the vehicles. But they’re responsible for about 20 percent of carbon pollution in the transportation sector. And improving gas mileage for these trucks are going to drive down our oil imports even further. That reduces carbon pollution even more, cuts down on businesses’ fuel costs, which should pay off in lower prices for consumers.”
President Obama is in Mexico today for the so-called Tres Amigos summit with Canada and Mexico. The three North American leaders are expected to announce an easing of border controls for corporate executives and to promote the neoliberal reforms of Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto, who recently opened the country’s oil sector to foreign companies. This week hundreds of Mexican teachers marched on the highway toward the summit site in Toluca to protest Peña Nieto’s education reforms. The meeting comes as President Obama faces pressure from Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper to approve the Keystone XL oil pipeline, which would carry Canadian tar sands oil to the U.S. Gulf Coast. The pipeline has faced mass protests in the United States from Native Americans and environmentalists who say it would fuel climate change and threaten communities. Another likely focus of today’s summit is the Trans-Pacific Partnership, a secretive deal among Pacific Rim countries to establish a free-trade zone encompassing nearly 40 percent of the global economy. Critics say the TPP would further entrench the failures of the North American Free Trade Agreement, which went into effect 20 years ago and caused mass displacement in Mexico.
Members of the Russian protest group Pussy Riot have been released following their detention in Sochi, Russia, where the Winter Olympics are underway. Nadya Tolokonnikova said she and fellow group member Maria Alyokhina have been detained three times in three days.
Nadya Tolokonnikova: “We have been in Sochi for three days now, and every day they detain us. We haven’t spoken out about it, as we are here as Pussy Riot and we can’t announce that to the public. But today it went overboard: They accused us of a crime. The police came to me today and told me specifically that I, Tolokonnikova, was accused of theft that took place at the hotel where I’m staying.”
Five members of the group emerged from the police station on Tuesday wearing brightly colored balaclavas and singing their new song, “Putin Will Teach You to Love Your Motherland.”
In the United States, an 84-year-old nun has been sentenced to nearly three years in prison for infiltrating a nuclear weapons site in a protest for peace. In 2012, three peace activists calling themselves the “Transform Now Ploughshares” broke into the Y-12 nuclear facility in Oak Ridge, Tennessee. They cut holes in the fence to paint peace slogans and threw blood on the wall, revealing major security flaws at the facility, which processes uranium for hydrogen bombs. More than two hours later, when security guards finally arrived, they found the protesters singing. The three were convicted last year of damaging a national defense site. Two of the activists, Michael Walli and Greg Boertje-Obed, received five-year sentences, while 84-year-old Megan Rice received 35 months.
A whistleblower who spoke out about safety concerns at a nuclear weapons site in Washington state has been fired from her job. Donna Busche had complained of retaliation after filing safety complaints related to the cleanup of the Hanford nuclear site, which is the most polluted nuclear weapons site in the United States. She was fired from the San Francisco-based firm URS Corp. on Tuesday. At least two other top project officials at the site have reportedly been fired or have left under pressure after raising safety concerns.