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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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A new study has found that by the end of the century swaths of the Middle East may become so hot and humid, they will be “intolerable to humans.” Due to human-driven climate change from the burning of fossil fuels — much of it coming from oil-rich countries in the Middle East — cities across the Persian Gulf could reach a point where people cannot safely be outside for more than a few hours. The study in the journal Nature Climate Change comes as Catholic leaders from five continents have issued an appeal to negotiators at the upcoming Paris climate summit to adopt a “transformative” agreement to address climate change.
The death toll from an earthquake centered in northern Afghanistan has topped 300, with the majority of the deaths in Pakistan. At least 2,000 people have been injured. The tremors from the 7.5-magnitude quake were felt as far away as India. The death toll is expected to climb, with the devastation in remote villages still unknown.
After years of discord, the White House and Republican congressional leaders have struck a tentative budget deal to avert a looming default on the government’s debts. The deal reportedly raises spending by a relatively slim $80 billion over two years—not including an additional $32 billion in war funding. It includes cuts to Social Security disability benefits and Medicare payments to providers. New revenue would come from sales of U.S. strategic oil reserves and the use of public airwaves for telecommunications firms. The debt limit would be suspended until March 2017, after Obama leaves office. The budget still needs approval by the House and Senate.
A U.S. Navy destroyer has entered disputed waters in the South China Sea in a direct challenge to China’s claim over artificial islands in the region. China says the U.S. maneuvers near the Spratly Islands are illegal, but the United States says it’s defending freedom of navigation in international waters.
Indonesian President Joko Widodo has announced the world’s fourth largest country will join the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade deal, or TPP. He made the announcement during his visit to the White House Monday.
President Joko Widodo: “Indonesia is an open economy. And with the 250 million population, we are the largest economy in Southeast Asia. And Indonesia intends to join the TPP.”
The visit by Indonesia President Joko Widodo, known as Jokowi, comes amid raging forest fires in Indonesia, the world’s largest producer of palm oil. Fires are often set on purpose to clear land for palm oil, but amid dry conditions and the strongest El Niño on record, thousands of fires have burned into national parks and other sensitive areas. Environmentalists warn the fires are threatening a third of the world’s remaining wild orangutans. The fires have created a dense haze across Malaysia and Singapore and are believed to be responsible for up to 500,000 respiratory infections. We’ll have more on the fires and President Obama’s meeting with Jokowi later in the broadcast.
More than 30 academics from dozens of British universities have vowed to join the academic boycott of Israel. In a full-page ad in today’s Guardian, the scholars say they are “deeply disturbed by Israel’s illegal occupation of Palestinian land” and “intolerable human rights violations.” The scholars vow not to visit or take part in events organized or funded by Israeli institutions, but say they will still work with individual Israeli scholars. The move comes as violence continues in Israel and the Occupied Territories. Israeli forces have killed about 60 Palestinians, many of whom have been accused of attacking Israelis. About 10 Israelis have been killed.
Palestinian women in occupied East Jerusalem have issued a call to the international community for protection. The Jerusalemite Women’s Coalition said, “we feel displaced even at home, as the Israeli soldiers, armed settlers, border patrol and police invade our homes, attack our families, strip-search our bodies, and terrorize us all.”
In Colombia, the government has vowed retaliation against the National Liberation Army rebel group, or ELN, after rebels killed 12 state security personnel who were transporting regional election ballots. The attack came after President Juan Manuel Santos declared the elections “the most peaceful and least violent in decades.” They were the first regional elections since Santos’ government began negotiations with another rebel group, the FARC, three years ago.
The University of Mississippi has removed the state flag with its Confederate emblem from the school’s grounds. The move comes after the student government voted to remove the flag, which is the only state flag in the country that continues to feature a Confederate symbol. It’s the latest Confederate symbol targeted for removal since a white supremacist who embraced the Confederate flag killed nine African-American worshipers in Charleston, South Carolina, in June. On Monday, University of Mississippi interim Chancellor Morris Stocks said in a statement, “Because the flag remains Mississippi’s official banner, this was a hard decision.” We’ll have more with University of Mississippi student Dominique Scott later in the broadcast.
In Columbia, South Carolina, a series of videos posted to social media showing a police officer, employed as a school resource officer, slamming an African-American student to the ground and dragging her have gone viral. Officer Ben Fields has been suspended from the Richland County School District amid an outcry over the incident at Spring Valley High School. The video shows the girl sitting at her desk as Officer Fields grabs her around the neck and flips both her and her desk to the ground, before dragging her.
FBI Director James Comey has acknowledged he does not have evidence to support his claim added scrutiny and criticism of police officers have fueled an increase in crime. Speaking to police officials at a conference in Chicago Monday, Comey said the so-called Ferguson effect is just “common sense.” These are his remarks from Friday.
James Comey: “And so, the suggestion—the question that’s been asked of me is: 'Are these kinds of things changing police behavior all over the country, and is that what explains the map and the calendar?' The honest answer is I don’t know. And I don’t know that that explains it entirely. But I do have a strong sense that some part of the explanation is a chill wind that has blown through law enforcement over the last year.”
The White House, meanwhile, disputed Comey’s claims about the supposed connection between increased crime and increased scrutiny of police, saying, “The evidence we have seen so far doesn’t support the contention that law enforcement officials are shirking their responsibilities.”
In news from the Vermont capital Montpelier, three people were arrested Monday at the end of a three-day protest against a natural gas pipeline. Hundreds of Vermonters descended on the state Capitol over the weekend, and a smaller number blockaded the Department of Public Service building for two days. Rising Tide Vermont has called on the department to revoke approval of a pipeline that will carry gas extracted through hydraulic fracturing, or “fracking.” Vermont banned fracking three years ago amid health and environmental concerns. (Video credit: Ned McEleney)
A new investigation has revealed the Pentagon used a humanitarian NGO as a front for spying on North Korea. The Intercept reports the Pentagon paid Humanitarian International Services Group millions of dollars to infiltrate North Korea and spy on its nuclear program. But none of the Christian missionaries, aid workers or smugglers who were hired to move equipment as part of the effort were aware they were part of the secret Pentagon operation.
And the conference South by Southwest Interactive has cancelled two panels about sexual harassment and the gaming industry following threats of violence. It’s the latest chapter in the rampant online harassment of women who critique sexism in video games. South by Southwest said it cancelled the panels after “numerous threats of on-site violence related to this programming.”