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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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Pope Francis has kicked off his historic U.S. tour. During his six-day trip, Francis is expected to share his message of compassion and simplicity with the world’s richest and most powerful country. On Tuesday, both President Obama and Vice President Joe Biden personally greeted Pope Francis on the tarmac with their families after his plane landed at Joint Base Andrews near the capital. This is the first time the Argentina native has ever stepped foot on U.S. soil. We’ll have more on the pope’s visit after headlines.
Update: After this broadcast, it was reported both Baher Mohamed and Mohamed Fahmy have been pardoned.
In Egypt, President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi has pardoned 100 prisoners, including Al Jazeera journalist Mohamed Fahmy. Fahmy and his two colleagues, Baher Mohamed and Peter Greste, were sentenced to three years in prison last month for “spreading false news.” Greste was tried in absentia. They were initially arrested as part of a crackdown on Al Jazeera following the ouster of President Mohamed Morsi in 2013. Fahmy, who is a Canadian citizen, is reportedly the only one of the three to be pardoned. Baher Mohamed remains in prison.
In the United States, Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton has come out against the Keystone XL oil pipeline. Clinton had repeatedly refused to take a stance, citing her former role as secretary of state and the State Department’s key role in reviewing the pipeline. Rival candidates Bernie Sanders and Martin O’Malley have both opposed the pipeline, which would carry tar sands oil from Canada to the U.S. Gulf Coast. Clinton broke her silence Tuesday in Iowa.
Hillary Clinton: “I think it is imperative that we look at the Keystone pipeline as what I believe it is: a distraction from the important work we have to do to combat climate change and, unfortunately, from my perspective, one that interferes with our ability to move forward to deal with all the other issues. Therefore, I oppose it. And I oppose it because I don’t think — I don’t think it’s in the best interests of what we need to do to combat climate change.”
Senate Democrats have blocked a Republican bid to ban abortions after 20 weeks of pregnancy. The move comes as a push by Republicans to defund Planned Parenthood threatens to shut down the government at the end of the month. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has scheduled a vote Thursday on a measure to keep the government funded through December 11. But the measure also strips federal funding from Planned Parenthood. On Tuesday, New Hampshire Republican Senator Kelly Ayotte, who supports defunding Planned Parenthood, took to the Senate floor to scold her Republican colleagues for threatening to shut the government down again.
Sen. Kelly Ayotte: “I’m tired of the people on my side of the aisle who are pushing this strategy even though they know they don’t have the votes to have it pass the United States Senate, and they certainly don’t have the votes to override a presidential veto. And so, therefore, they can’t answer the question: What’s the end game for success here, even if you feel as passionately about these issues as we all do?”
The New Hampshire senator is up for re-election next year.
The European Union has adopted a plan for member states to resettle 120,000 refugees through a quota system over the next two years. The vote was staunchly opposed by the Czech Republic, Hungary, Romania and Slovakia. It follows an earlier agreement to distribute 40,000 refugees across the continent. Britain has refused to take part, instead issuing its own plan to take in 20,000 refugees over five years. Speaking Tuesday, European Commission Vice President Frans Timmermans said the vote is a step forward.
Frans Timmermans: “In and by itself, the decision we took today is not going to solve the refugee crisis. But without this decision, I think we would not have been in the possibility to now take the next steps to make sure that we do better at protecting our external borders, that we do better at registering people immediately when they arrive, that we do better at making sure that people who have a right to asylum stay, but those who don’t have the right to asylum are returned swiftly to where they came from.”
Nearly half a million refugees fleeing violence in their home countries have reached Europe this year.
In Yemen, the U.S.-backed, Saudi-led coalition bombed two houses in the capital Sana’a, killing at least 20 people. Similar airstrikes killed about 50 people on Monday. Meanwhile, former Yemeni President Abdu Rabbu Mansour Hadi has returned to Yemen to spend the holiday of Eid al-Adha six months after he fled amid an advance by Houthi rebels.
In news from Syria, the Pentagon says a U.S.-led airstrike killed a French-born militant with alleged links to al-Qaeda two-and-a-half months ago. David Drugeon, an accused member of the Khorasan group, was killed July 5. Meanwhile, retired General John Allen, the U.S. special envoy for fighting the self-proclaimed Islamic State, has stepped down, citing personal reasons.
The Obama administration has transferred a Guantánamo Bay prisoner who staged a nearly nine-year hunger strike back to his native Saudi Arabia. Abdul Shalabi was brought to Guantánamo in 2002, accused of being a bodyguard for Osama bin Laden. He launched a hunger strike in 2006 to protest his indefinite detention without charge. His release leaves 114 prisoners at Guantánamo, 52 of whom are cleared for release.
In Los Angeles, California, Mayor Eric Garcetti and members of the City Council have declared a “state of emergency” over homelessness and vowed to dedicate $100 million to address the issue. The plan reportedly involves increased hours at shelters and more rent subsidies. The declaration comes just weeks after Los Angeles was chosen as the U.S. candidate to host the 2024 Olympics.
In other news from California, President Obama has declared a major disaster for areas in Northern California scorched by the Valley Fire, the most destructive of the fires raging in the state. The Valley Fire has destroyed more than 1,200 homes, making it the third most destructive wildfire in California history. Governor Jerry Brown has connected the fires to climate change and California’s historic drought, saying, “This is the future.”
The former hedge fund manager who increased the cost of a life-saving medication by more than 5,000 percent has backed down on the price hike following a barrage of criticism. The drug Daraprim is used to treat toxoplasmosis, a parasitic infection which is particularly dangerous for people with HIV/AIDS. Martin Shkreli, head of Turing Pharmaceuticals, initially defended the decision to increase the drug’s cost from $13.50 to $750, but he backed down in an interview with ABC News.
Martin Shkreli: “We’ve agreed to lower the price of Daraprim to a point that is more affordable and is able to allow the company to make a profit, but a very small profit. And we think these changes will be welcomed.”
Martin Shkreli did not specify what the new cost of the drug would be. He has come under further criticism after it emerged his previous drug company bought the rights to a decades-old medication used to treat a rare and incurable kidney disease, and hiked the drug’s price by nearly 2,000 percent. Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton issued a plan to curb “price-gouging” by drug companies, while rival Bernie Sanders touted his long-standing push to lower the cost of prescription drugs.
The governor of Okinawa, Japan, has brought his battle against the construction of a new U.S. military base to the United Nations Human Rights Council in Geneva. Takeshi Onaga addressed the council Monday after he was elected last year on a platform to stop the base. Speaking Tuesday, Onaga urged the international community to oppose the new U.S. base as a violation of human rights and self-determination.
Gov. Takeshi Onaga: “The question is why the issue of bases and national security is a human rights issue. Let me tell you this: Japan placed Okinawa for 27 years under U.S. military administration. We were neither Japanese nor Americans. And during that time, many things happened, including a rape of a girl, a jet crashing into the ground of a primary school, and hit-and-run deaths by a U.S. soldier who was acquitted and sent home. And after the return, we found out there is a lot of pollution from toxins, like dioxins, and there is an environmental issue. And even to investigate that, we cannot do it because it is not possible during the U.S.-Japan agreement.”
Back in the United States, the Transportation Security Administration is defending its treatment of a transgender woman who says she was detained for 40 minutes at Orlando International Airport, harassed, repeatedly patted down and instructed not to record the ordeal, all because a full-body scanner flagged her penis as an “anomaly.” Shadi Petosky, who live-tweeted the incident Monday, ended up missing her flight. Advocates say transgender people are often subjected to invasive airport screening. When passengers go through a full-body scanner, TSA agents calibrate the scanners “male” or “female” based on their perception of the passenger. Genitalia that doesn’t conform to the scanner’s standards for that sex may be flagged. At one point, Petosky said an agent “told me to get back in the machine as a man or it was going to be a problem.” The TSA says its agents followed agency guidelines.
And a new survey has found more than a quarter of undergraduate women have been sexually assaulted during their four years of college. The survey commissioned by the Association of American Universities found more than 27 percent of female college seniors reported some form of unwanted sexual contact carried out by force or by incapacitation from drugs or alcohol since entering college.