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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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The White House has confirmed plans to increase the U.S. military presence in Iraq. On Wednesday, the Obama administration announced the deployment of up to 450 U.S. troops to train and back Iraqi forces in the fight against the self-proclaimed Islamic State. The new U.S. contingent will operate out of a military base in Anbar province. White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest announced the move.
Josh Earnest: “I think what it represents is a conclusion by the president and his national security team that the situation on the ground in Iraq would benefit from more trained Iraqi security forces and more Sunni tribal fighters that are operating under the command and control of the Iraqi central government, who are — who have received advice and assistance and equipment from the U.S. military. There is no environment in which I would downplay the risk that these military — that these military servicemembers will face in Iraq. We’ve been direct about the fact that the security situation in Iraq is tenuous, particularly in Anbar province.”
The U.S. will also speed weapons deliveries to Iraqi forces, including tribal fighters under Iraqi command. Efforts are expected to focus on recapturing Ramadi, which fell to ISIL last month. The new deployment brings the official count of U.S. soldiers in Iraq to 3,550.
Deadly clashes have escalated between the Islamic State and the Lebanese group Hezbollah along Lebanon’s border with Syria. Dozens of ISIL fighters were killed in violence on Wednesday. In a speech, Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah vowed to uproot ISIL from the Lebanon border, saying: “The fight with ISIL has begun.”
Pope Francis has authorized a new Vatican panel to judge bishops accused of concealing or not preventing child sexual abuse within the church. A Vatican spokesperson unveiled the new mandate.
Father Federico Lombardi: “The thing that is new is that a specific procedure is now indicated for these questions that may have to do with a bishop’s abuse of office. This certainly was not before an ordinary and clear path. This is the real new aspect.”
The tribunal’s establishment marks Pope Francis’ most forceful action to date in confronting child sexual abuse by clergy and meets a key demand sought for years by victims and advocates.
FIFA has suspended the bidding contest for who will host the 2026 World Cup following the corruption scandal that’s thrown the world soccer body into turmoil. FIFA Secretary General Jérôme Valcke announced the decision.
Jérôme Valcke: “There was a decision to allocate this World Cup in 2017 and to start the bidding process soon. Due to the situation, I think it’s nonsense to start any bidding process for the time being. And we will postpone this bidding process for, again, the time being.”
Probes are underway into where bribes influenced the awarding of the next two tournaments to Russia and Qatar.
The news comes as the Women’s World Cup is underway in Canada. Despite protests alleging gender discrimination, concerns over potential injury, and a lawsuit withdrawn earlier this year, the women are being forced to play on artificial turf, not on grass, as the men do. Just before kickoff at the opening game Saturday, the artificial turf measured 120 degrees Fahrenheit, on a 75-degree day, just two degrees under the level studies have shown is unsafe, because skin can burn within seconds.
Talks have resumed in Berlin on reaching a peace deal between Libya’s two rival factions. The country has been torn apart since the NATO intervention four years ago, with two governments claiming authority and scores of militant groups controlling territory in between. U.N. envoy Bernardino León said, after months of talks, Libya is out of time to avoid a resolution.
Bernardino León: “Libya has no more time. This is my first message. And for all those who are listening from Libya, it’s very important to understand and to translate this in concrete action, in saying very clearly that enough is enough and that the time has come to make a deal.”
The Texas police officer who resigned over his aggressive response to African-American teens at a pool party has blamed emotional duress for his behavior. Eric Casebolt stepped down after being caught on video wrestling an African-American teenage girl in a bikini to the ground, pulling her hair and sitting on top of her. Casebolt also pulled his gun on other teens. On Wednesday, Casebolt’s attorney said the officer had been distraught after responding to two suicide-related incidents earlier in the day. While offering an apology, Casebolt also put part of the blame on teens whom he said were being disorderly.
Jane Bishkin: “He believed that those who fled were possible suspects. He was not targeting minorities. In fact, he also detained a white female who you do not see on the video. His efforts to gather information was hampered by some teenagers who were instructing others to defy police instruction. He is apologizing that his conduct offended. He recognizes, and I think I said this, that he does recognize that his emotions got the best of him and that the prior suicide calls put him in an emotional place that he would prefer not to have been in when responding to this call.”
Georgia authorities have dropped murder charges against a woman whose labor was induced after taking an abortion pill. Twenty-three-year-old Kenlissa Jones was arrested for allegedly self-inducing an abortion with the pill Cytotec, which she apparently bought from a Canadian source. She gave birth to a live fetus who died shortly after. Jones was initially charged with “malice murder,” but the charge was dropped after a public outcry. She is still accused of possessing a dangerous drug. Advocates say Jones’ case exemplifies women’s limited options as abortion access is restricted and health funding is slashed. Lynn Paltrow of the National Advocates for Pregnant Women said: “It is shocking each and every time we see an attempt to deny pregnant women their human rights and to treat them and the fact that they are pregnant as a crime rather than a public health issue.”
Florida Governor Rick Scott has signed a bill into law forcing women to wait at least 24 hours to have an abortion. Exceptions will be made if women can document rape, incest, domestic violence or human trafficking. Opponents argue such measures burden women who have already made their decision or who live too far away from clinics to make repeated visits affordable. We’ll have more on abortion rights later in the broadcast.
New York authorities have expanded a manhunt for two prisoners to neighboring Vermont six days after their escape. The two convicted murderers used power tools to drill through the walls and break out of the Clinton Correctional Facility in Dannemora. Police say a prison employee may have helped them. Joseph D’Amico of the New York State Police said an extensive search continues.
Joseph D’Amico: “We won’t stop until we have these convicts captured. To date, we’ve received more than 500 leads, and we’re thoroughly investigating each and every one. That means looking behind every tree, under every rock and inside every structure until we find these men. Today, the public will have noticed an increased police presence both in the village of Dannemora and in Willsboro, in Essex County. We continue to go door to door, checking homes and seasonal residences. And we continue to do vehicle checks at a number of roadblocks in the area.”
At six days, the jailbreak is now the longest in New York history.
Two corrections officers at the Rikers Island jail have been arrested for the 2012 beating death of prisoner Ronald Spear. A federal indictment alleges one of the guards repeatedly kicked Spear in the head while two others held him down. The coroner found Spear died from “blunt force trauma.” New York paid $2.75 million to settle a lawsuit brought over Spear’s death last year.
A retrial is underway for a U.S. marine in the 2006 killing of an Iraqi civilian. The victim, Hashim Ibrahim Awad, was dragged from his home, shot, and then planted with a weapon to make it appear he was planning an attack. Sgt. Lawrence Hutchins had been the only one of seven U.S. servicemembers involved in the killing to receive a murder conviction. But his conviction was overturned in 2010 on the grounds his attorneys were improperly dismissed before trial.
And Juan Felipe Herrera has been named the new poet laureate of the United States. He is the first-ever Latino to hold the position. Born to Mexican migrants, Herrera previously served as California’s poet laureate. He writes in both English and Spanish.