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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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Doctors Without Borders has released an internal report on the U.S. bombing of its hospital in Kunduz, Afghanistan. The U.S. airstrike on October 3 killed at least 30 people, including 13 staff members, 10 patients and seven unrecognizable victims yet to be identified. Doctors Without Borders has said the strike appears to be a war crime. The new report describes patients burning in their beds, medical staff who were decapitated and lost limbs, and staff members shot from the air while they fled the burning building. The report described doctors and other medical staff being shot while running to reach safety in a different part of the compound. Doctors Without Borders says it provided the GPS coordinates to U.S. and Afghan officials weeks before, and that the strikes continued for half an hour after U.S. and Afghan authorities were told the hospital was being bombed. Doctors Without Borders general director Christopher Stokes said: “The view from inside the hospital is that this attack was conducted with a purpose to kill and destroy. But we don’t know why.”
In Mexico, the Supreme Court has issued a strong condemnation of the U.S.-backed war on drugs and paved the way for the possible legalization of marijuana. On Wednesday, the court ruled four people who had applied for a license to grow and use marijuana have the right to do so. The case lays the groundwork for future legal action in Mexico that could lead to legalization nationwide. Uruguay legalized marijuana in 2013, and medical marijuana legalization bills are being debated in Brazil, Chile, Colombia and Costa Rica. Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto spoke after the ruling.
President Enrique Peña Nieto: “The government respects the definitions of the Supreme Court of the nation, and particularly on this issue. I am also clear that this position opens a wide debate for eventually discussing a regulation on the issue of the consumption of marijuana. This means for us that the deliberation now will be about the commercialization for consumption and the legalization of marijuana consumption.”
This comes as presidential candidate Bernie Sanders has introduced legislation that would end the federal prohibition on marijuana, allowing states the power to legalize and regulate marijuana in the same way state and local laws now govern the sale of alcohol and tobacco, without fear of federal impediment.
Presidential candidate Bernie Sanders also introduced legislation Wednesday to ban new drilling on public lands and waters. The Keep It in the Ground Act would prohibit offshore drilling in the Arctic and the Atlantic and stop new federal leases for oil, gas or coal extraction on federal lands. Sanders spoke out Wednesday.
Sen. Bernie Sanders: “So if we are serious about moving aggressively with the rest of the world, we have got to lead. And that says, as Senator Merkley has said so well, that we do not continue to extract fossil fuel from federally owned land. You can’t talk the talk and say, ’I’m concerned about climate change,’ and then at the same time, 'Oh, by the way, we're going to extract huge amounts of oil or coal or gas from federal land.’ You can’t do that.”
In Romania, Prime Minister Victor Ponta has resigned amid massive protests over a night club fire that killed 32 people. Following his resignation Wednesday, tens of thousands of people took to the streets of Bucharest to demand an end to corruption. One protester told Al Jazeera, “If the system doesn’t remove corrupt people by itself, people will make their own justice. If in 1989 people fought for liberty, in 2015 we are fighting for justice.”
Britain has unveiled a plan for sweeping new surveillance powers, which include giving the government the ability to monitor which websites people visit. Experts say parts of the new bill go beyond even the surveillance powers allowed in the United States. Home Secretary Theresa May called the new powers “unprecedented,” while also promising transparency.
Theresa May: “Mr. Speaker, the legislation we are proposing today is unprecedented. It will provide unparalleled openness and transparency about our investigatory powers. It will provide the strongest safeguards and world-leading oversight arrangements. And it will give the men and women of our security and intelligence agencies and our law enforcement agencies, who do so much to keep us safe and secure, the powers they need to protect our country.”
On Twitter, NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden said: “By my read, #SnoopersCharter legitimizes mass surveillance. It is the most intrusive and least accountable surveillance regime in the West.”
British Prime Minister David Cameron has said it is “more likely than not” that an explosive device brought down a Russian passenger plane in Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula over the weekend. The crash killed 224 people. Britain has suspended flights to and from the Red Sea resort of Sharm el-Sheikh. Both Russia and Egypt have pushed back against the claim that the plane was bombed. Russia said such theories are “speculation,” while Egypt said there is “no evidence” yet to support them. In an audio message, an affiliate of the self-proclaimed Islamic State took responsibility, saying it had “taken down” the plane. Anonymous U.S. officials are now claiming that intelligence suggests the plane was bombed by ISIL or one its offshoots.
In Turkey, the editors of left-leaning magazine Nokta have been arrested and charged with attempting to instigate a coup after it published a cover suggesting the results of Sunday’s national election could lead to a “civil war.” The party of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan regained its parliamentary majority on Sunday. The victory helps Erdogan strengthen a hold on power critics say has become increasingly authoritarian. Nokta editor Ismail Eren spoke out about the magazine cover and his colleagues’ arrest.
Ismail Eren: “We picked our cover with the idea that the results of the election may polarize the country and may bring the people to a breaking point. It was not an insult or a provocation. When you read the story, you can see that it is just the summary of what has been going on. But the prosecutor’s office interpreted that as abetment and decided to take our magazine out of circulation, and they also detained our editor-in-chief, Cevheri Güven, and editor Murat Çapan.”
Egypt’s top court has postponed the final trial of former Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak over the killing of protesters during the 2011 uprising against his rule. Mubarak was originally sentenced to life in prison for conspiring to murder demonstrators, but a retrial was ordered on appeal. The court has adjourned the retrial until January 21.
In Fox Lake, Illinois, an investigation has found police officer Charles Gliniewicz elaborately staged his suicide in September in order to look like he had been killed in the line of duty. The probe also reveals Gliniewicz stole and laundered money from a police department program for at least seven years. On the morning of September 1, the officer sent word over his radio that he was pursuing three people on foot. Three minutes later, he requested backup. When more officers arrived, they found Gliniewicz dead. The department then launched a massive manhunt, with more than 400 law enforcement officers raking through heavy woods on foot, in all-terrain vehicles and on horseback. The death was originally investigated as a homicide, but on Wednesday the Lake County Major Crimes Task Force commander announced the death was “a carefully staged suicide, [which] was the end result of extensive criminal acts that Gliniewicz had been committing.” Before Wednesday’s revelations that the officer had in fact killed himself, his death had been used by police groups to denounce the Black Lives Matter movement. In September, Fox Lake residents gathered after Gliniewicz’s death with signs that read “Police Lives Matter,” and the head of the national Fraternal Order of Police told The Washington Post: “There’s a hostile element within the community at large.”
Meanwhile, in Alabama, a second mistrial has been declared in the trial of a Madison police officer in a case that left an Indian grandfather partially paralyzed. In February, Officer Eric Parker and other officers approached Sureshbhai Patel as he was taking a walk, after a neighbor called to report a “skinny black guy” in the neighborhood. Dash camera footage shows police slamming Patel from a standing position face-first into the ground. On Wednesday, a judge declared a second mistrial after a jury deadlocked on a single charge against Officer Parker for violating Patel’s civil rights.
In Marksville, Louisiana, a 6-year-old boy has died and his father is critically wounded after city marshals opened fire on the family’s car. Authorities say city marshals were chasing the father, Chris Few, to serve him a warrant. When Few reached a dead end, he allegedly began to back into the marshals’ car. The officers then opened fire, killing first-grader Jeremy Mardis and critically wounding his father.
Award-winning film director Quentin Tarantino is refusing to back down from his criticism of police brutality, even as police unions have launched a campaign to boycott his films. Tarantino sparked controversy after he called fatal police shootings “murders” during the Rise Up October rally against police brutality in New York City on October 24.
Quentin Tarantino: “I got something to say, but actually I would like to give my time to the families that want to talk. I want to give my time to the families. However, I just do also want to say: What am I doing here? I’m doing here because I am a human being with a conscience. And when I see murder, I cannot stand by, and I have to call the murdered the murdered, and I have to call the murderers the murderers. Now I’m going to give my time to the families.”
Quentin Tarantino defended his remarks on MSNBC’s “All In with Chris Hayes” on Wednesday night.
Quentin Tarantino: “Now, in the case of Walter Scott, who was the man running in the park and was shot in the back, in the case of Sam DuBose, I believe those were murder, and they were deemed murder. And the reason—and the only reason they were deemed murder is because the incidences were caught on video. However, if they had not been caught on video, the murderers would have gotten away with their murder. In the case of Eric Garner, in the case of Tamir Rice, I believe that those were murders, but they were exonerated.”
Other prominent cultural figures have come out in support of Tarantino, including Mark Ruffalo, musician Tom Morello, Native American activist and journalist Simon Moya-Smith and author Joyce Carol Oates. We’ll get response from actor and writer Viggo Mortensen after headlines.
Former President George H.W. Bush has criticized former Vice President Dick Cheney and former Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld over their hawkish reaction to the September 11 attacks. In a forthcoming biography, Bush is quoted as saying Rumsfeld was “an arrogant fellow” and that Dick Cheney was “iron-ass.” The biography, “Destiny and Power: The American Odyssey of George Herbert Walker Bush,” by Jon Meacham, will be published next week.
Arizona Senators Jeff Flake and John McCain have released a report showing how the U.S. military has spent millions of dollars paying the NFL and other sports leagues for “paid-for patriotism” events and ceremonies. The report documents $6.8 million worth of agreements between branches of the armed forces and sports leagues over the last four years. But it says this amount is only a sliver of the $53 million the military spent on advertising with sports teams during that time.
In New York, protesters have rallied outside Manhattan’s Rockefeller Plaza to call on NBC to cancel presidential candidate Donald Trump’s upcoming performance on “Saturday Night Live.” A petition to “Dump Trump” has garnered nearly half a million signatures. NBC had previously said it would cut ties with Trump after he called Mexican immigrants criminals and “rapists.” But the candidate is now scheduled to guest host “Saturday Night Live” this weekend. Protester Juan Escalante spoke out at Wednesday’s protest.
Juan Escalante: ”NBC needs to stand by its previous stance, break all ties with Donald Trump, and they should not have—they should not provide him with a platform to continue to attack our communities, whether it’s Latinos, immigrants or other people. I think what Donald Trump continues to say about immigrants and Latinos is distasteful, it’s insulting. And bottom line, 'Saturday Night Live' should not be trying to make fun of what Donald Trump has said, because when Donald Trump says that he plans to deport 11 million people, he means that. When Donald Trump said that Mexican immigrants are rapists, murderers, drug dealers, he meant that. And there’s no way for them to take those clips and try to repackage them and pass them off as comedy.”
Police arrested more than 50 professors and their supporters during a rally for faculty on Wednesday in New York City. Protesters blocked the doors of the administrative offices of the City University of New York in Manhattan in protest of their lack of a contract and low wages. CUNY professors say they have not had a contract since 2010 and have not received raises in six years.
Hundreds of warehouse workers for New York City’s B&H Photo Video have voted overwhelmingly to unionize. Wednesday’s 200-to-88 vote to join the United Steelworkers union comes after the warehouse workers organized for more than a year with the support of the group, the Laundry Workers Center. The workers are now demanding a contract that will protect them from what they describe as dangerous working conditions inside B&H’s two Brooklyn warehouses.
And Canada’s new prime minister, Justin Trudeau, has announced a new Cabinet in which half of new members are women. One is a former refugee. An aboriginal woman will be minister of justice. An astronaut will be leading the Ministry of Transport. Trudeau answered a reporter’s question about the new Cabinet on Wednesday.
Reporter: “Your Cabinet, you said, looks a lot like Canada. I understand one of the priorities for you was to have a Cabinet that was gender-balanced. Why was that so important to you?”
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau: “Because it’s 2015.”