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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 Japan, helicopter teams are rushing to rescue people from their rooftops as historic flooding has forced more than 90,000 people from their homes. At least 12 people have been injured, and one person is missing. Homes and cars have been swept away by the torrents of water. Researchers at the University of Tokyo have linked increased frequency of flooding to climate change, particularly in Asia.
The California State Assembly has stripped a key provision from Governor Jerry Brown’s climate change legislation. The measure had sought to set targets to reduce gasoline use. It had been the subject of fierce opposition from the oil and gas industry, which had launched a statewide advertising blitz against the legislation.
The University of California has announced that it has sold off more than $200 million worth of investments in coal and tar sands companies. University officials say the move was prompted by concerns over environmental sustainability as well as the increasing riskiness of investing in the coal and tar sands industries, which have both seen their profits plummet in recent months. We’ll have more on climate change and the divestment movement with renowned climate activist Bill McKibben later in the broadcast.
The European Union has proposed a new plan to resettle 160,000 refugees as hundreds of thousands of people fleeing violence and war in Syria, Afghanistan, Iraq, Somalia, Eritrea and other countries have arrived on Europe’s shores this year. The new plan still has to be approved by the majority of EU governments. Germany, France, Spain and Italy have already expressed approval of the plan, although German Chancellor Angela Merkel has said the plan does not go far enough. The United Nations is now estimating at least 850,000 people are expected to cross the Mediterranean this year and next.
Meanwhile, in the United States, Secretary of State John Kerry has said the administration is considering increasing the total number of refugee visas issued from 70,000 in 2015 to as many as 100,000 in 2016. The increase is still far less than many have demanded. The International Rescue Committee has called on the United States to take in an additional 65,000 refugees from Syria alone.
In Turkey, prosecutors have opened a criminal investigation against Selahattin Demirtas, one of the leaders of the HDP, Turkey’s main pro-Kurdish political party. The charges against Demirtas include humiliating the Turkish people and insulting the president. This comes on the heels of a wave of nationalist violence that swept the country earlier this week as protesters attacked HDP headquarters in at least a half-dozen cities. Meanwhile, Turkey has deported a Dutch journalist after she was arrested while reporting on a protest at which activists denounced the increasing fighting between Turkish security forces and the Kurdistan Workers’ Party, known as the PKK.
In Nepal, an official says police have killed at least four people after opening fire on protesters demanding statehood on Wednesday. At least 30 people have died in protests over the last month, as different ethnic groups have protested for statehood in the drafting of Nepal’s new constitution.
In the United States, Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton has endorsed the Obama administration’s nuclear deal with Iran. In an address Wednesday, Clinton also vowed she would “not hesitate to take military action” if Iran moved toward developing a nuclear weapon. Meanwhile, Republican presidential candidates Donald Trump and Texas Senator Ted Cruz rallied against the Iran nuclear deal. While the deal is aimed at curbing Iran’s nuclear activities, Cruz invoked the threat of Iran developing a nuclear bomb.
Sen. Ted Cruz: “If Iran gets a nuclear weapon, the single greatest risk is they would take that nuclear weapon, they would put it on a ship anywhere in the Atlantic, and they would fire it up straight into the air into the atmosphere. They would set off what’s called an EMP, and electromagnetic pulse. It would take down the electrical grid on the entire Eastern Seaboard and kill tens of millions of Americans.”
The Iran nuclear deal has enough Democratic support to block Republican attempts to undo it in Congress.
Donald Trump meanwhile has come under criticism again for his comments about women. In an interview with Rolling Stone magazine, Trump said of rival candidate and former Hewlett-Packard CEO Carly Fiorina, “Look at that face! Would anyone vote for that?” Fiorina is the only woman running for the Republican presidential nomination.
The Justice Department has unveiled new guidelines intended to increase the prosecution of executives involved in white-collar crime. This comes after the Justice Department has faced protests for failing to criminally prosecute executives for financial crimes that led to the housing and economic crises. On Wednesday, Deputy Attorney General Sally Yates said, “Corporations can only commit crimes through flesh-and-blood people. It’s only fair that the people who are responsible for committing those crimes be held accountable. The public needs to have confidence that there is one system of justice and it applies equally regardless of whether that crime occurs on a street corner or in a boardroom.” The new policies are guidelines, not rules.
Puerto Rico Governor Alejandro García Padilla has outlined a new five-year plan to address Puerto Rico’s debt crisis. The plan includes raising the tuition at University of Puerto Rico, cutting investment in healthcare, and contracting for-profit companies to run public roads and ports. In return, the plan calls for debt restructuring that would require hedge funds and other creditors to voluntarily accept reduced payments. On Wednesday, Governor Alejandro García Padilla called on hedge funds to come to the negotiating table.
Gov. Alejandro García Padilla: “Now, the most important conclusion from this plan is that even if we impose all the measures in it, it would not be sufficient to meet the needed equilibrium. The massive public debt of Puerto Rico is an impediment to growth. That’s why the time is now that the creditors come to the table and share the sacrifice.”
In news from Pasco, Washington, three police officers who shot and killed an unarmed Mexican farmworker earlier this year in an incident which sparked protests will not face criminal charges. Police fired 17 shots at Antonio Zambrano-Montes. Cellphone video shows him turning to face police and raising his hands before he is shot. On Wednesday, Franklin County Prosecutor Shawn Sant said the shooting was “reasonable under the standards established in our state laws.” Sant said police killed Zambrano-Montes because he turned toward them with a rock in his hand. An attorney for Zambrano-Montes’ family said they were “sorely disappointed” and would be filing a lawsuit.
The Republican-controlled House Judiciary Committee held its first in a series of hearings on Planned Parenthood Wednesday following an anti-choice group’s release of heavily edited videos targeting the organization. The videos show Planned Parenthood employees discussing the sharing of fetal tissue with researchers. Speaking at the hearing, Democratic Congressmember Jerrold Nadler of New York said Planned Parenthood’s practices are legal.
Rep. Jerrold Nadler: “The laws surrounding fetal tissue donation are simple and clear. Planned Parenthood has consistently and clearly demonstrated that the affiliates who participate in fetal tissue research, which represent about 1 percent of all 700 Planned Parenthood health centers in just two states, comply with these laws, just as they comply with thousands of other federal, state and local laws and regulations every single day. That should be the conclusion of this hearing. But instead, before any inquiry, this committee has already declared Planned Parenthood guilty and chosen to capitalize on the sensational, unsubstantiated smears made in a series of unethical, possibly illegal, videos. The goal here is clear: to smear Planned Parenthood. Senator Joseph McCarthy would be proud of this committee today.”
Planned Parenthood was not invited to testify at the hearing on Planned Parenthood.
In related news, a Planned Parenthood health center in Pullman, Washington, was set on fire Friday in what investigators say was an arson attack. In a statement, Karl Eastlund, CEO of Planned Parenthood of Greater Washington and North Idaho, called the attack “a predictable ripple effect from the false and incendiary attacks that fuel violence from extremists.”