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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 San Bernardino, California, two shooters opened fire at a social services center, killing 14 people and wounding at least 17. Two suspects, identified as married couple Syed Farook and Tashfeen Malik, were later killed by police. The shooting took place about 60 miles east of Los Angeles at the Inland Regional Center, a facility that provides services to people with disabilities. It was the worst mass shooting in the United States since the massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut, when a gunman killed 20 children, six adults, his mother and himself. San Bernardino Police Chief Jarrod Burguan said one of the suspects in Wednesday’s shooting, Syed Farook, was a county health department employee who had attended a department holiday party at the center earlier in the day. The chief said Farook left the party after some kind of dispute, then returned and opened fire. After the San Bernardino shooting, President Obama spoke with CBS News’ Norah O’Donnell.
President Obama: “The one thing we do know is that we have a pattern now of mass shootings in this country that has no parallel anywhere else in the world. And there’s some steps we could take, not to eliminate every one of these mass shootings, but to improve the odds that they don’t happen as frequently. We should come together in a bipartisan basis at every level of government to make these rare as opposed to normal.”
In 2015, there has been an average of more than one mass shooting a day, with a total of 462 people killed this year alone. We’ll have more on the shooting later in the broadcast.
British warplanes have begun bombing Syria, only hours after British lawmakers voted 397 to 223 to support Prime Minister David Cameron’s plan to join the U.S.-led bombing campaign. Defense Secretary Michael Fallon says the strikes hit oil fields in eastern Syria controlled by the self-proclaimed Islamic State. The strikes began after a 10-hour debate in Parliament on Wednesday, which divided the opposition Labour Party, led by Jeremy Corbyn. We’ll have more on the vote and the airstrikes later in the broadcast.
Meanwhile, the Pentagon says the new team of U.S. special operation forces to be deployed to Iraq will likely include about 100 soldiers. Army Colonel Steve Warren announced the troop figure Wednesday.
Col. Steve Warren: “Of course, we’re not going to go into exact numbers. I can tell you it will be—it will be, you know, probably around a hundred, maybe a little bit less, in fact, really fewer actual trigger pullers, if you will, actual real commandos. It’s really going to be a majority of support personnel.”
New Afghan government documents show that an elite CIA-trained Afghan force has killed at least six civilians during recent home raids in Khost province. In one raid on November 20, two U.S. advisers were present when two civilians—a woman and her husband—were killed. During another raid on November 7, the Afghan forces killed two innocent civilians: a 45-year-old man and his teenage nephew. When about 1,000 people attempted to march to the regional capital in protest of the Nov. 7 killings, they were allegedly told by the CIA-trained Afghan forces that they could be attacked by U.S. troops if they did not disperse. The CIA-trained Afghan forces have long been accused of carrying out human rights abuses and being unaccountable to the Afghan government.
Meanwhile, a government watchdog has accused the Pentagon of wasting nearly $150 million of taxpayer money on luxury private housing for U.S. government staff in Afghanistan. The report by the special inspector general for Afghanistan reconstruction details how the military spent millions of dollars putting up staff members in villas with private security in Kabul, rather than housing the staff on military or diplomatic bases. It also details lavish three-course meals for government events. This comes only a month after the same watchdog agency raised questions about the $43 million the Pentagon spent on a single gas station in Afghanistan. The United States has appropriated nearly $110 billion of public money for reconstruction in Afghanistan since 2002.
In India, catastrophic flooding in the southern city of Chennai has killed at least 269 people and cut off basic services for more than 3 million people as the army and air force continue rescue operations. The flooding is being described as the worst in more than a century. On Wednesday, one of India’s oldest newspapers, The Hindu, was not printed for the first time in 137 years because the flooding had made the printing presses inaccessible. Meteorologists have predicted the torrential downpours will continue for another three days. The flooding has also killed at least 54 people in the nearby state of Andhra Pradesh.
The Justice Department has dropped the manslaughter charges against two BP rig supervisors over the 2010 Deepwater Horizon rig explosion in the Gulf of Mexico, which killed 11 workers and caused the worst offshore oil spill in U.S. history. In total, four former BP employees faced criminal charges after the disaster. Two of the cases have already been resolved without the employees serving prison time. On Wednesday, prosecutors dropped the involuntary manslaughter charges against the other two employees, Donald Vidrine and Robert Kaluza.
In Zurich, Swiss authorities have arrested a handful of top FIFA officials in a pre-dawn raid on a luxury hotel. The top officials were arrested on charges of taking millions of dollars in bribes. At least two are being extradited to the United States. Their arrests are part of a massive corruption scandal that has led to the arrest of about two dozen top officials and the suspension of FIFA President Sepp Blatter.
South Africa’s top appeals court has ruled that Olympic and Paralympic runner Oscar Pistorius is guilty of murdering his girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp in 2013. Thursday’s ruling overturns a lower court’s decision to convict Pistorius on the lesser charge of manslaughter. Pistorius is currently under house arrest and is awaiting sentencing for the new murder conviction, which carries a minimum of 15 years in prison.
In Brazil, the Congress has opened impeachment proceedings against President Dilma Rousseff amid a growing corruption scandal that has rocked the government. The impeachment proceedings, which are the first in Brazil since 1992, were brought by House Speaker Eduardo Cunha, who faces his own corruption charges related to a million-dollar bribery scheme involving the state-run oil company Petrobras.
In Chicago, Mayor Rahm Emanuel is facing increasing questioning over whether he will resign amid the scandal over the police killing of 17-year-old Laquan McDonald more than a year ago. McDonald was shot 16 times by white police officer Jason Van Dyke. Chicago authorities withheld the police dash cam video of the fatal shooting and only released it last week under a court order. Officer Van Dyke was indicted on murder charges the same day. The video clearly contradicts police claims about the shooting, instead showing the teenager posing no threat and walking away from the officers at a distance as Officer Van Dyke jumps out of his police car and opens fire. On Tuesday, Emanuel fired Chicago Police Chief Garry McCarthy. But allegations about a potential cover-up have continued to plague Emanuel, as he faces questioning about a preemptive $5 million settlement with Laquan McDonald’s family during the mayor’s re-election campaign. On Wednesday, Mayor Emanuel maintained he would not resign.
Meanwhile, in Minneapolis, police have raided and bulldozed the protest site outside the 4th Police Precinct, where people have been camped out for weeks demanding the release of video footage of the killing of unarmed African American Jamar Clark. Police said Clark was shot after a scuffle with officers who responded to a report of an assault. But multiple witnesses have said Clark was shot while handcuffed. At around 3:45 a.m. Thursday morning, police in riot gear raided the camp. Video footage shows the police destroying tents with a bulldozer. About a half dozen people are reported to have been arrested. The destruction of the camp comes a little over a week after five Black Lives Matter protesters were shot and wounded at the encampment by alleged white supremacists.
And Harvard University has announced it will stop using the title “house master” to describe the heads of its residential dorms, following protests by students who say the term is tied to slavery. Harvard is one of many schools nationwide where protests have erupted over racism on campus. Princeton has also dropped the title “master” for its residential dorm heads. At Princeton, students are also demanding the renaming of buildings currently named after Woodrow Wilson. As president, Wilson ordered the resegregation of restrooms and cafeterias in Washington government buildings and mandated that screens be set up to separate black and white workers in federal offices. Wilson was also president of Princeton University. At Yale University, where administrators are also considering plans to abandon the title “master,” students are also demanding the institution rename the residential dorm Calhoun College, named after former Vice President John C. Calhoun, one of the most prominent pro-slavery figures in history.