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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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Yemen is facing political collapse following the mass resignations of President Abdu Rabbu Mansour Hadi, his prime minister and entire cabinet. Thursday’s exodus came just hours after Shia Houthi rebels stormed the presidential compound in the capital city of Sana’a. Hadi said he could not continue in office after Houthis allegedly broke a peace deal to retreat from key positions in return for increased political power.
King Abdullah bin Abdulaziz of Saudi Arabia has died at the age of 90. Abdullah was one of the world’s wealthiest and most powerful men, controlling a fifth of the known global petroleum reserves. The King’s half-brother, Crown Prince Salman, has now assumed the throne. We’ll have more on Abdullah’s death and Saudi Arabia’s future later in the broadcast.
The United States and Cuba have wrapped the first round of historic talks in Havana. The two sides met as part of the effort to restore full diplomatic ties for the first time in more than half a century. The head of the U.S. delegation, Assistant Secretary of State Roberta Jacobson, said while progress was made, there is no timeline for the reopening of a U.S. embassy in Havana.
Roberta Jacobson: “I can’t tell you exactly when that will happen. We are all working through the issues as quickly as we can, and we will do that as soon as we can resolve all of the functional issues that we need to address. On the issue of human rights, the president has spoken to the issue, and certainly that issue remains central to our conversations. We’ve made clear that we will continue to raise that issue, and I did discuss that issue today.”
Jacobson is the highest-ranking U.S. diplomat to enter Cuba in nearly 40 years. Josefina Vidal, head of U.S. affairs at the Cuban Foreign Ministry, said Cuba needs several outstanding issues addressed, including the lifting of the embargo and Cuba’s removal from the list of countries sponsoring international terrorism.
Josefina Vidal: “For our part in the process of these discussions, it’s a challenge to say that we have managed to re-establish diplomatic relations between Cuba and the U.S. while our country unfairly remains on the U.S. list of international state sponsors of terrorism. We also say that in order for us to open embassies, it is first necessary to resolve the banking situation faced by the Cuban Interests Section in Washington, which has gone almost a year without services.”
President Obama urged Congress to lift the embargo during his State of the Union address earlier this week.
The White House has confirmed President Obama will not meet with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu when he visits the United States in March. Netanyahu will address a joint session of Congress on Iran at the invitation of Republican House Speaker John Boehner. Netanyahu has backed new sanctions on Iran, despite Obama’s vow to veto them as he pursues a nuclear deal with Tehran. The White House says Obama will not meet with Netanyahu in line with protocol not to meet with foreign leaders close to an election in their home countries.
A journalist and activist accused of working with Anonymous has been given a five-year prison term and ordered to pay nearly $900,000 in restitution and fines. Barrett Brown was sentenced on Thursday after pleading guilty last year to charges of transmitting threats, accessory to a cyber-attack, and obstruction of justice. Supporters say Brown has been unfairly targeted for investigating the highly secretive world of private intelligence and military contractors. We’ll have more on his sentencing later in the broadcast.
Federal prosecutors have unveiled corruption charges against New York Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver following his arrest on Thursday. Silver is accused of using his law firm as a front to rake in millions of dollars in bribes and kickbacks for political favors. U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara said Silver had amassed a huge fortune through the abuse of his office.
U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara: “The complaint charges Speaker Silver in five counts with corruptly seeking legal business from a handful of people and entities with significant business or interests before the state and then corruptly profiting from the legal fees that were paid. All told, we allege that Silver corruptly collected some $4 million in bribes and kickbacks disguised as 'referral fees.' … Politicians are supposed to be on the people’s payroll, not on secret retainer to wealthy special interests they do favors for.”
A Democrat, Silver has been New York Assembly speaker for over two decades. A judge has issued seizure warrants to block him from accessing nearly $4 million spread out over eight accounts. In brief comments to reporters outside the courthouse, Silver maintained his innocence.
New York Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver: “I’m happy the issue is coming to be aired in the legal process, and I am confident that when all the issues are aired, I will be vindicated. Thank you.”
Silver is the latest in a series of New York lawmakers to face corruption allegations. His arrest has brought new scrutiny of Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s decision to abruptly shut down the anti-corruption Moreland Commission last year.