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This week, Democracy Now! is celebrating our 22nd birthday. Since our first show in February 1996, our daily news hour has brought you fearless journalism and hard-hitting news you can trust--all without ads or corporate underwriting. How is this possible? Only with your support. In fact, if everyone reading this gave just $4, it would cover our operating expenses for the whole year. Right now, a generous donor will TRIPLE every donation, meaning your gift today will go three times as far. Pretty amazing, right? Please do your part. Take a moment to give right now for our 22nd birthday.
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A new investigation by the Pulitzer Prize-winning outlet InsideClimate News suggests that nearly every major U.S. and multinational oil and gas company was aware of the impact of fossil fuels on climate change as early as the late 1970s. Earlier exposés by InsideClimate News and the Los Angeles Times have revealed that Exxon scientists knew about climate change as early as 1977, and for decades Exxon concealed its own findings that the burning of fossil fuels causes global warming, alters the climate and melts the Arctic ice. Now, internal documents obtained by InsideClimate News reveal that the entire oil and gas industry had similar knowledge. From 1979 to 1983, the oil and gas industry trade group American Petroleum Institute ran a task force to monitor and share climate research. The group’s members included senior scientists and engineers from not only Exxon, but also Amoco, Phillips, Mobil, Texaco, Shell, Sunoco, Sohio and Standard Oil of California and Gulf Oil, the predecessors to Chevron. The documents show that as early as 1979, the task force knew carbon dioxide in the atmosphere was rising steadily. The task force even briefly considered researching how to introduce a new energy source into the global market, given the research about fossil fuels’ impact on global warming. But in 1983, the task force was disbanded, and by the late 1990s, the American Petroleum Institute had launched a campaign to oppose the Kyoto Protocol, which was adopted by many countries to cut fossil fuel emissions but was never ratified by the United States.
This new investigation comes as the Chinese port city of Tianjin has issued its first-ever “red alert” for air pollution. Earlier this week, Beijing was also on “red alert” for air pollution, leading to suspended classes for millions of students and restrictions on driving. Beijing resident Zhang Qunchou spoke about the need for broader action.
Zhang Qunchou: “Pretty worried. But in such a serious smoggy day, I don’t think the restrictions on odd-even license plates provide a fundamental solution. I think smog should be tackled in some broader perspectives. And schools are closed on red alert days. What should parents do then? Today I have no place to send my children to.”
Meanwhile, in the United States, extreme and unseasonal storms have unleashed tornadoes, heavy rain and hail across the South and Central regions, killing at least six people. In Tippah County, Mississippi, the heavy storm destroyed the county fire department and EMS center. Joey Jackson, a member of the volunteer fire department, spoke about the damage.
Joey Jackson: “It’s going to devastate it. I mean, we don’t have any—we run EMS and fire both, and we don’t have anything. We’ve got this tanker and one pumper. We got—dug it out with a backhoe just in case we have a fire.”
This comes as the United States’ northeastern seaboard is experiencing an unprecedented winter heat wave, shattering high temperature records across the region. Tonight, it is expected to be 73 degrees in New York City, 10 degrees hotter than the previous all-time record, dashing hopes of a snowy Christmas.
In California, state officials are warning of ecological disaster as a runaway natural gas leak from a storage facility in the hills above Los Angeles continues to emit methane gas. Some 150 million pounds of methane have escaped so far. Methane is a powerful greenhouse gas that contributes to global warming. Tim O’Connor with the Environmental Defense Fund said, “It is one of the biggest leaks we’ve ever seen reported. It is coming out with force, in incredible volumes. And it is absolutely uncontained.” The breach has forced the evacuation of 1,700 homes and two schools. The exact cause of the leak is unknown.
In Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, a 19-year-old has been indicted on terrorism-related charges after the FBI accused him of using Twitter to spread ISIL propaganda. In the criminal complaint, an FBI Joint Terrorism Task Force special agent alleges Jalil Ibn Ameer Aziz “commonly uses his Twitter accounts to spread pro-ISIS propaganda, including news from ISIL sources as well as execution photos and videos.” The complaint also claims Aziz tweeted about wanting to visit ISIS-controlled territory and encouraged people to provide money to the group. As a result of this Twitter activity, Aziz has been charged with conspiring and attempting to provide material support or resources to a designated foreign terrorist organization.
In Afghanistan, U.S. warplanes have carried out two attacks in Helmand province amid continued fighting between the Afghan army and the Taliban. This comes after British troops were dispatched to join the NATO and U.S. special operations troops already in Helmand province.
In Jerusalem, Israeli soldiers have shot dead two Palestinians who Israeli authorities say carried out a stabbing attack outside the Old City. Israeli police say three Jewish Israelis were wounded in the attacks, although one may have been wounded by police gunfire, not by stabbing.
Internal State Department documents show that in the months of talks leading up to the Iran nuclear deal, the U.S. inflated the human rights ranking of Oman in order to reward a close Arab ally for helping broker the historic agreement. According to Reuters, the documents show the State Department overruled its own staff’s assessments of Oman’s forced labor and human trafficking abuses and intervened to boost Oman’s human rights ranking in a congressionally mandated report. This news comes after allegations this summer that the State Department also upgraded Malaysia’s human trafficking rating to ease passage of the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade pact. Malaysia, one of 12 countries in the secretive trade pact, was previously given the worst trafficking rating, but a new measure bars the United States from negotiating trade deals with the worst-ranked countries.
The Department of Homeland Security is reportedly preparing for a national operation to round up and deport hundreds of Central American families who have fled violence in their home countries. Citing unnamed government officials, The Washington Post reports the wave of raids by Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents could begin as early as January. The officials say the proposed operation has been highly controversial inside the Obama administration and that it has not yet received final DHS approval. In response, Gregory Chen of the American Immigration Lawyers Association said: “This administration has never acknowledged the truth: that these families are refugees seeking asylum who should be given humanitarian protection rather than being detained or rounded up. When other countries are welcoming far more refugees, the U.S. should be ashamed for using jails and even contemplating large-scale deportation tactics.” The news of the possible raids comes on the heels of the Obama administration’s announcement Tuesday that it had deported over 235,000 people in the 2015 fiscal year. It’s the lowest number of deportations in one year since President Obama took office.
In New York City, the father of one of the 43 Mexican students who went missing from the Ayotzinapa Rural Teachers’ College in the Mexican state of Guerrero more than one year ago is launching a 48-hour hunger strike today at the Mexican Consulate to demand an end to violence and impunity in Mexico. Antonio Tizapa is the father of Jorge Antonio Tizapa Legideño, who went missing along with the other students on the night of September 26, 2014, after being attacked by local police. The Mexican government has claimed the students were killed and incinerated by a local drug gang. But Mexican news reports and an independent investigation have cast doubt on the Mexican government’s account and pointed to the role of the Mexican military and federal police in the students’ disappearance. Tizapa says his fast also seeks to bring attention to the Mérida Initiative, the multibillion-dollar U.S. program used to fund the so-called war on drugs in Mexico, which has led to more than 100,000 deaths and disappearances over the last decade.
New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio has announced the city will offer six weeks of fully paid parental leave to 20,000 public employees starting in 2016. The new plan applies to all new mothers and fathers, including workers who adopt or begin fostering a child. The plan only applies to non-unionized city workers for now. City Hall says it will negotiate with municipal labor unions about extending the benefits to the city’s 280,000 unionized workers, as well.
In Minnesota, hundreds of Black Lives Matter activists shut down sections of the Minneapolis airport, the light rail and parts of the Mall of America Wednesday in a protest of police killings of African Americans and of rising Islamophobia. Actions against police brutality also took place in Washington, D.C., Los Angeles, San Francisco, Chicago and Chattanooga, Tennessee. In Minneapolis, protesters say they used the planned Mall of America protest as a diversion in order to actually disrupt travel at the Minneapolis airport on one of the busiest travel days of the year. Several people were arrested. Speaking on Democracy Now! just before Wednesday’s action, organizer Kandace Montgomery recounted the death of unarmed 24-year-old Jamar Clark by North Minneapolis police.
Kandace Montgomery: “On the night in which Jamar Clark, many of which are saying was executed by the Minneapolis Police Department, witnesses are overwhelmingly accounting that he was handcuffed while shot in the head. Following that immediately, community called for action. They held a march, and then Black Lives Matter began the occupation of the 4th Precinct in North Minneapolis, Minnesota. And that was held for 18 days, until shut down by the Minneapolis Police Department and our mayor, Betsy Hodges. And, you know, around that, we are really continuing to demand the release of the tapes into the incident, to ensure justice for him, as well as long-term structural change for black folks in the community.”
That was Kandace Montgomery speaking just before Wednesday’s action. Earlier this week, the Mall of America lost a legal attempt to block the Black Lives Matter protest and force organizers to post on social media that it was canceled.
And the longtime civil rights activist Ozell Sutton has died at the age of 90. In 1957, Sutton helped enroll nine African-American students at Little Rock Central High School in Arkansas. He marched alongside Martin Luther King Jr. in Selma, Alabama, in 1965 and was at the Memphis hotel when Dr. King was assassinated in 1968. Sutton also worked as a journalist for the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette. He died Saturday in Atlanta, a week after celebrating his 90th birthday.