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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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Five Democratic presidential candidates faced off Tuesday night in the first of six debates in the 2016 campaign. The participants were former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders, former Maryland Governor Martin O’Malley, former Virginia Senator Jim Webb and former Rhode Island Governor Lincoln Chafee. They squared off on topics including gun control, economic inequality, regulation of Wall Street and the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. In the most heavily tweeted moment of the night, Senator Sanders said the debate should focus on income inequality—not on Hillary Clinton’s use of a private email server.
Sen. Bernie Sanders: “Let me say something that may not be great politics, but I think the secretary is right. And that is that the American people are sick and tired of hearing about your damn emails.”
Hillary Clinton: “Thank you. Me, too. Me, too.”
We’ll have more on the debate after headlines.
In Afghanistan, the Taliban have announced their withdrawal from the city of Kunduz, to avoid what they called an “unnecessary waste of ammunition.” The Taliban held the city for 15 days after hundreds of militants managed to overtake thousands of government forces. The Taliban destroyed government buildings and women-run radio stations in Kunduz, stashed weaponry, freed prisoners and reportedly terrorized women in public positions, many of whom fled for their lives. The bid to oust the Taliban was backed by U.S. airstrikes and Special Operations ground forces. Of the dozens killed in the violence, about half died in a U.S. airstrike on a Doctors Without Borders hospital, which killed 22 medical staff and patients, even though U.S. officials had been informed of the hospital’s coordinates beforehand.
Obama, meanwhile, is reportedly rethinking plans to withdraw all but a small number of U.S. troops from Afghanistan and considering leaving up to 5,000 troops there. The Taliban now controls more of Afghanistan than at any point since the 2001 U.S. invasion.
The United States and Russia are planning to hold a third round of talks on air safety in Syria after it emerged combat aircraft from the two countries flew within 10 miles of each other on Saturday. The United States continues to call for the ouster of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, and criticizes Russia’s strategy of backing Assad. Meanwhile, officials say the Syrian army and allied Iranian and Hezbollah troops, backed by Russian airstrikes, are preparing a ground offensive against anti-Assad rebels in Aleppo. An anonymous official told Reuters thousands of Iranian troops have been arriving for the offensive.
Israeli troops are moving to lock down Palestinian neighborhoods in East Jerusalem today, amid a wave of stabbing attacks by Palestinians against Israelis and escalating violence by Israeli forces in the Occupied Territories. This comes as Israeli soldiers killed a Palestinian protester in the West Bank city of Bethlehem Tuesday. In total, at least 29 Palestinians and seven Israelis have been killed in the last two weeks. Human Rights Watch said the lockdown measures in Jerusalem will increase tension.
Sari Bashi: “The recent wave of attacks against Israeli civilians would challenge any police force, but locking down Palestinian neighborhoods in East Jerusalem is the wrong response. The checkpoints will restrict the freedom of movement of all residents, not just suspected attackers. And given the history of abuse and neglect by Israeli authorities in East Jerusalem, it’s only going to exacerbate tensions between residents and police. It’s exactly what we don’t need.”
In the United States, supporters of prominent Palestinian activist Rasmea Odeh are rallying outside an Ohio courthouse today as an appeals court considers arguments she was denied a fair trial. Odeh was convicted of immigration fraud and sentenced to 18 months in prison and deportation from the United States for failing to disclose her conviction on bombing charges by an Israeli military court more than 40 years ago. Odeh says her conviction was obtained through torture and sexual assault in Israeli custody. She has lived in the United States for more than 20 years. Her supporters say she was targeted over her support for Palestinian liberation. Odeh is free on bond pending her appeal.
Guatemalan authorities have called off the search-and-rescue operation for people buried under a massive landslide that killed at least 280 people near the capital about one week ago. At least 70 people are still missing.
In news from Japan, the governor of Okinawa has revoked the construction permit at the site of a proposed new U.S. military base, which the majority of residents oppose. Takeshi Onaga, who was elected on a platform of stopping the military base, said Tuesday the permit issued by his predecessor had “legal flaws.” Okinawa houses about 26,000 U.S. troops, and their presence has been the subject of protests for decades.
Planned Parenthood has announced it will no longer accept reimbursement for the cost of donating fetal tissue for medical research, even though the reimbursement is legal. The step comes after Republicans launched a series of hearings following an anti-choice group’s release of heavily edited videos showing Planned Parenthood officials discussing fetal tissue donation. Planned Parenthood said of its nearly 700 health centers, only two provide fetal tissue for research, and only one takes reimbursement. But in a letter to the National Institutes of Health, Planned Parenthood CEO Cecile Richards said Planned Parenthood would stop taking any reimbursement to “[preserve] the ability of our patients to donate tissue, and to expose our opponents’ false charges [that Planned Parenthood is profiting off the donations].”
In Wisconsin, a jury has ordered a gun shop to pay nearly $5 million to two Milwaukee police officers who were shot and wounded by a gun purchased at the shop. The jury found the store negligent for ignoring signs the purchaser was a so-called straw buyer, who was buying the gun for an 18-year-old who was too young to legally buy it himself. The teenager used the gun to shoot the two officers a month later. The case was closely watched by gun control advocates who say stores should be accountable for violence carried out with their guns.
Meanwhile, both Wisconsin and Michigan are considering new bills to allow people to carry concealed guns on campus, less than two weeks after a gunman killed nine people at Umpqua Community College in Oregon.
The American Civil Liberties Union has filed a federal lawsuit against the architects of the CIA torture program, accusing psychologists James Mitchell and Bruce Jessen of war crimes. Mitchell and Jessen reaped more than $80 million for designing torture techniques used by the the CIA. The lawsuit was filed on behalf of two torture survivors and the family of a third man, Gul Rahman, who froze to death at a CIA black site in Afghanistan. ACLU attorney Dror Ladin announced the lawsuit Tuesday.
Dror Ladin: “There has been no accountability for these men. They have received no apologies. They’ve received no compensation. And Gul Rahman’s family has never even received his body. And so now that the Senate torture report that came out at the end of last year provided enormous details about Mitchell and Jessen’s role in the torture program, now is the time that our clients thought was right to try to seek justice and accountability for what Mitchell and Jessen did to them.”
A new report by Credit Suisse says the wealthiest 1 percent of the world’s population now controls 50 percent of total global wealth. This is the most extreme concentration of wealth the bank has ever recorded. In contrast, the report shows average household wealth has fallen 17 percent in Latin America and 12 percent in Europe, amid austerity programs.
And the Deadline Club has announced Democracy Now! co-host and Daily News columnist Juan González will be inducted into the New York Journalism Hall of Fame. Juan is the first Latino journalist to be selected for the Hall of Fame. He will be inducted along with PBS host Charlie Rose, New York Times journalist Max Frankel, 60 Minutes correspondent Lesley Stahl, ProPublica founder Paul Steiger, and Time magazine journalist and editor Richard Stolley.