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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 left the United States after a historic six-day visit. During his trip, Pope Francis addressed Congress and the United Nations General Assembly, fed homeless people in Washington, D.C., and met with immigrant families and people who survived child sex abuse by clergy. The pope said “God weeps” over the sexual abuse of children, although critics and some survivors of clergy abuse said that the pope’s meeting was not enough and pushed for more accountability among the clergy. Pope Francis also visited the Curran-Fromhold prison on the outskirts of Philadelphia.
Pope Francis: “It is painful when we see prison systems which are not concerned to care for wounds, to soothe pain, to offer new possibilities.”
Republican House Speaker John Boehner has announced he is resigning not only as speaker of the House, but from Congress. He has served in Congress for 25 years and as speaker of the House since 2011. During his tenure, Boehner has faced intense pressure from the far-right lawmakers in his own party. In an interview with CBS Sunday, Boehner dismissed members of the far-right Republican faction as “false prophets.”
John Dickerson: “Are they unrealistic about what can be done in government? That’s the discussion.”
Speaker John Boehner: “Absolutely, they’re unrealistic. But, you know, the Bible says beware of false prophets. And there are people out there, you know, spreading noise about how much can get done. I mean, this whole idea that we’re going to shut down the government to get rid of Obamacare in 2013, this plan never had a chance.”
Many expect House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy to assume Boehner’s position as speaker of the House. The California Republican has served in the House since only 2006. He would be the least experienced House speaker in more than a century.
In Spain, pro-independence parties in Catalonia have won a majority in regional elections, possibly paving the way for an independent Catalan state. Catalonia has long sought its independence from Spain. On Sunday, separatist parties won 72 out of a 135-seat regional Parliament. Catalan President Artur Mas spoke after the results were announced.
President Artur Mas: “The 'yes' has won, but democracy has also won. And that is very important—two victories in one: the 'yes' and democracy.”
France has carried out its first airstrikes in Syria against the self-proclaimed Islamic State, making it the latest country to to expand its anti-ISIL bombing campaign to Syria. The move is a reversal from France’s earlier position that international law prevented it from attacking targets in Syria. French Prime Minister Manuel Valls said the bombing would continue “as long as it’s necessary.”
Prime Minister Manuel Valls: “The targets, as I’ve said, and I’m going to leave it at this, are the refuges of Daesh, where those who target France are trained and come from. And you’ll understand that I’m not going to give any more information at this stage, but suffice it to say that obviously we will continue this action as long as it’s necessary.”
This comes as Russia has reached a new intelligence-sharing agreement with Iraq, Iran and Syria in the fight against ISIL. The accord is perceived to be the latest move by Russia to take control of the fight against ISIL. Russia and the United States have disagreed on the strategy in Syria. The U.S. is calling for the ouster of President Bashar al-Assad, while Russia is bolstering the Assad government with military aid. President Obama and Russian Vladimir Putin are expected to have their first formal meeting in more than two years at the U.N. today.
In Yemen, officials say that U.S.-backed, Saudi-led airstrikes killed 28 civilians in the northern Hajjah province on Sunday. Officials say the victims were mostly women and children. Saudi Arabia has denied responsibility. This comes as Saudi diplomats are attempting to fend off calls for a U.N. Human Rights Council investigation into possible war crimes and crimes against humanity in the ongoing conflict in Yemen. A U.N. Human Rights Commission report has blamed the U.S.-backed, Saudi-led airstrikes for the majority of the civilian casualties.
President Dilma Rousseff has pledged Brazil will cut greenhouse gas emissions by more than 40 percent by 2030. She also pledged during a speech at the U.N. General Assembly Sunday to work to end illegal logging in the Amazon, but she stopped short of declaring a freeze on deforestation.
Meanwhile, oil giant Shell has announced it will end its multibillion-dollar Arctic drilling program. The announcement comes after Shell’s exploratory well in the Chukchi Sea showed only traces of oil and gas. This summer, the Obama administration approved Shell’s permit to drill in the remote Arctic waters, despite fierce opposition from environmental groups.
German newspapers have reported that Volkswagen technicians had warned the company about emissions cheating in internal reports as early as 2007. The revelations come as Switzerland suspends sales of nearly 200,000 Volkswagen cars potentially equipped with illegal emissions devices designed to cheat emission tests, which have been installed in 11 million Volkswagen diesel cars worldwide.
In Europe, 12,000 refugees fleeing violence in their home countries of Iraq, Syria, Afghanistan, Somalia, Nigeria, Eritrea and other countries crossed the border on foot between Hungary and Austria Saturday. This comes as thousands more refugees arrived on Greece’s mainland over the weekend. Meanwhile, 17 people drowned Sunday when their boat sank off the Turkish coast en route to Greece. Nearly 500,000 refugees have reached Europe this year. António Guterres, the U.N. high commissioner for refugees, said Saturday attention should have been paid to the refugee crisis earlier.
António Guterres: “Well, you know, unfortunately, only when the poor enter the halls of the rich do the rich notice that the poor exist. And indeed, until we had this massive movement into Europe, there was no recognition in the developed world of how serious the refugee crisis was. If in the past we had more massive support to the refugees and more massive support to those countries in the developing world that have been receiving them and protecting them, this would not have happened.”
In response to the influx of refugees, thousands marched in Brussels Sunday in a “Refugees Welcome” solidarity march. This comes after, in Finland, dozens of nationalists, including one man dressed like a member of the Ku Klux Klan, threw fireworks and rocks at a bus filled with Iraqi refugees and Finnish Red Cross volunteers on Thursday. Nationalists also scrawled the words “Go Home” on the pavement outside the refugee reception in Lahti. Meanwhile, a Finnish man has been arrested for throwing a Molotov cocktail at an emergency refugee shelter in another part of Finland.
Back in the United States, in Winsted, Connecticut, the U.S’s first and only law museum of any kind has opened. The new American Museum of Tort Law was established by Ralph Nader in efforts to educate people about the hard-fought history of consumer protections. Longtime consumer advocate Ralph Nader spoke at Sunday’s opening in his hometown.
Ralph Nader: “We’ve opened this first law museum of any kind in North America, the American Museum of Tort Law, in order to enlighten and educate people about the great benefits to their health, safety and freedom that the law of wrongful entry, called tort law, has provided them over 200 years. Look at, we have the torts law broke open the whole tobacco marauding that takes 400,000 American lives a year, or the asbestos curses that have killed so many Americans in this corporate cover-up, and product defects in automobiles and pharmaceuticals, hospital malpractice, and lack of security for apartment buildings. All of these cases generated a message to the owners, the people who control these companies, that it’s cheaper to be safe than to be unsafe and inflict terrible injuries on innocent people, whether they’re customers, workers or just people living in a community. That’s what this museum is all about.”
In California, people have splashed paint on headstones and toppled the statue of Junípero Serra in a Catholic mission in Carmel, following Pope Francis’ controversial decision to canonize the 18th-century Spanish missionary. The canonization has drawn strong protest from many indigenous groups. At the mission, “greed” was written on a cross, and the words “saint of genocide” were scrawled on a headstone. The Carmel police say they are investigating the incident as a hate crime because people targeted “specifically the headstones of people of European descent, and not Native American descent.”
The children of Georgia death row prisoner Kelly Gissendaner are pleading for a stay of execution ahead of her scheduled death Tuesday. Gissendaner was sentenced to death in 1998 for recruiting her boyfriend to kill her husband, Douglas Gissendaner. She is the only woman on death row in Georgia. Many have called for a stay of her execution, including former Chief Justice of the Georgia Supreme Court Norman Fletcher. Kayla Gissendaner, Kelly and Doug’s daughter, called for her mother’s life to be spared in a CNN video.
Kelly Gissendaner: “She has grown, and the changes that she’s made are incredible. She’s been a way better mom to me. She’s so supportive of me. I can talk to her about anything, any troubles I have or anything that I want to celebrate, and I know that she’s my biggest cheerleader. My brothers and I really want my mom to live. She is all that we have left.”
In New York, police inspector Andrew Lombardo is facing scrutiny after it emerged that Lombardo served as a prison guard at Abu Ghraib during the time of the prisoner torture scandal. New York City activists have long accused Lombardo of excessive use of force, arbitrary arrests and intense questioning. Lombardo was active in the coordinated crackdown of Occupy Wall Street. Lombardo now works with the NYPD’s new Strategic Response Team, which is assigned to protests, particularly Black Lives Matter actions.
And in Mexico, tens of thousands of people marched Saturday to mark the first anniversary of the disappearance of the 43 students from the Ayotzinapa Rural Teachers’ College in the southern state of Guerrero. The students disappeared after coming under attack by local police in Iguala. The case has sparked massive protests in Mexico and across the world as the parents continue to demand answers. An international group of experts has rejected the Mexican government’s accounts of events, saying the investigation was deeply flawed and pointing to the role the federal police and military played in the students’ disappearance. On Saturday, the mother of student Julio César Ramírez Nava, who was found dead after last year’s attack in Iguala, spoke out.
Bertha Nava Martínez: “For me, it was the most valuable thing in life, my son, but they took him away from me. Here I am, and I am going to fight until I breathe my last breath. I have said this to that corrupt president, that we are not going to stop, and I especially am going to stop him. Every day I am going to keep searching for these 43 boys, because in this moment no one knew that they were going to sacrifice three boys leaving, two gravely injured and 50 other people injured. No one knew that they were going to take away 43, but they took them. These deaths will not be in vain, people. If it is necessary to give up my life, here I am giving it up, and I will continue to give it up.”
Bertha Nava Martínez’s son, Julio César Ramírez Nava, is not one of the 43 students who are still missing.