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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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In Bamako, Mali, special forces have stormed the American-owned Radisson Blu Hotel, after gunmen seized control of the hotel early this morning. The hotel has at least 140 guests and 30 staff. At least three people have been reportedly killed. State television reports that 80 hostages may have been freed. The U.S. military says U.S. special operations troops are working with Malian special operations forces.
The French Senate is expected to approve President François Hollande’s plan to extend the state of emergency by three months, and to grant Hollande a sweeping expansion of state powers. The measures include easing police raids without a warrant and allowing the government to strip citizenship from dual passport holders convicted of terrorism. French authorities say they carried out more than 414 raids on Wednesday, arrested 64 people and placed another 118 under house arrest.
Israeli spy Jonathan Pollard has been released from a North Carolina prison after 30 years behind bars. Pollard is a former U.S. Navy intelligence officer sentenced to life in prison for passing U.S. secrets to Israel. In 1999, Seymour Hersh of The New Yorker reported Israel was suspected of sharing some of Pollard’s material with the Soviet Union in exchange for continued Soviet permission for Jewish emigration to Israel. He had been granted Israeli citizenship while in prison, and he says he now hopes to move to Israel. The terms of his parole require him to stay in the United States for five years.
In Washington, the House approved legislation Thursday to impose significant restrictions on Iraqi and Syrian refugees seeking to resettle in the United States. The American Security Against Foreign Enemies Act passed the House with nearly unanimous Republican support and the backing of 47 Democrats. The legislation would require the secretary of homeland security, the FBI director and the director of national intelligence to personally approval every Syrian or Iraqi refugee’s application — in addition to the current 18-month screening process. After the vote, CNN global affairs correspondent Elise Labott was promptly suspended by the network for two weeks after she tweeted: “House passes bill that could limit Syrian refugees. Statue of Liberty bows head in anguish.”
Meanwhile, Republican front-runners Donald Trump and Ben Carson are both under fire for comments they’ve made about refugees and Muslims in the wake of the Paris attacks. On Thursday, Ben Carson used an analogy to “rabid dogs” in defending his opposition to the resettlement of Syrian refugees. Carson’s campaign also issued a map of the United States depicting the states where more than two dozen governors have said they oppose resettlement — but the map erroneously placed five New England states in the wrong location.
Meanwhile, Donald Trump took calls for a religious test on incoming refugees one step further, when an NBC reporter asked whether Trump would implement a database to track all American Muslims.
Donald Trump: “There should be a lot of systems, beyond databases. I mean, we should have a lot of systems. And today you can do it. But right now, we have to have a border, we have to have strength, we have to have a wall. And we cannot let what’s happening to this country happen any longer.”
NBC reporter: “But that’s something your White House would like to implement?”
Donald Trump: “Oh, I would certainly implement that. Absolutely.”
Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton has outlined her foreign policy proposals, which call for “intensifying and accelerating” President Obama’s strategy against the Islamic State. Speaking to the Council on Foreign Relations in New York, Clinton called for sending more U.S. special forces to Syria and for imposing a no-fly zone over Syria.
Hillary Clinton: “A more effective coalition air campaign is necessary, but not sufficient. And we should be honest about the fact that, to be successful, airstrikes will have to be combined with ground forces actually taking back more territory from ISIS. Like President Obama, I do not believe that we should again have a hundred thousand American troops in combat in the Middle East. That is just not the smart move to make here. If we have learned anything from 15 years of war in Iraq and Afghanistan, it’s that local people and nations have to secure their own communities. We can help them, and we should, but we cannot substitute for them.”
Clinton also proposed a “intelligence surge,” and called on technology companies to work with the government on issues of encryption. A growing number of officials have called on companies to offer government agencies a backdoor into their encrypted tools in the wake of the Paris attacks, even though officials have not presented any evidence that the Paris attackers even used encryption. Click here to see our recent interview with Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Glenn Greenwald on encryption, mass surveillance and the aftermath of Paris.
In Britain, prison authorities are investigating the death of a 21-year-old transgender woman who was found dead in the all-male Leeds prison in West Yorkshire last Friday. Vicky Thompson had identified as female since her mid-teens. She and her lawyer had repeatedly asked for her to be relocated to a women’s prison.
The FDA has for the first time approved a genetically modified animal as fit for human consumption and for sale across the United States. The genetically engineered salmon, known as the AquAdvantage salmon, has been genetically modified to grow to market size twice as fast as a real salmon. The approval comes despite fierce opposition from consumer and environmental activists.
Today marks the first anniversary of the death of Akai Gurley, the 28-year-old African-American man who was shot to death by NYPD officer Peter Liang in the dimly lit stairwell of a Brooklyn housing project. Officer Peter Liang has pleaded not guilty to second-degree manslaughter and other charges.
Meanwhile, in Michigan, white police officer William Melendez has been found guilty of assault and misconduct after pummeling and tasing 58-year-old unarmed African American Floyd Dent in January. Officer Melendez is nicknamed “Robocop” and has been sued repeatedly for excessive force.
In New Jersey, Princeton students have ended a 32-hour sit-in at the university president’s office after administrators signed a commitment to begin conversations about addressing campus racism. The sit-in began Wednesday amid massive national student protests. Princeton students are demanding the removal of Woodrow Wilson’s name. As president, he ordered the re-segregation of restrooms and cafeterias in Washington government buildings. In some federal offices, he ordered screens to be set up to separate black and white workers. His racist views were so widely known at the time, W.E.B. Du Bois wrote an Open Letter to Woodrow Wilson in which he called Wilson’s policies the “gravest attack on the liberties” of African Americans since Emancipation.
And in New York City, Democracy Now! co-host Juan González was inducted into the Deadline Club’s New York Journalism Hall of Fame yesterday at Sardi’s in Manhattan. Juan is the first Latino journalist to be selected for the Hall of Fame. He was 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.