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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 Afghanistan, the U.S. military has carried out two airstrikes in efforts to bolster the Afghan government’s attempts to retake the northern city of Kunduz. Kunduz became the first major city to be taken over by Taliban forces since 2001 on Monday. The Afghan government’s counter-offensive appears to be faltering. The U.S. strikes come despite President Obama’s declaration of an official end to the U.S. combat mission in Afghanistan.
President Obama and Cuban President Raúl Castro met Tuesday, marking the first time a U.S. president has met with a Cuban president on U.S. soil in more than 60 years. The meeting came one day after Castro called for an end to the U.S. embargo and a return of Guantánamo Bay in an address to the U.N. General Assembly. Cuban Foreign Minister Bruno Rodríguez said Castro reiterated the calls in Tuesday’s meeting.
Bruno Rodríguez: “The Cuban president reiterated that for Cuba and the United States to be able to have normal relations, the blockade or embargo, that has caused damages and hardships to the Cuban people and affects the interests of American citizens, should be lifted, and the territory occupied by the U.S. naval base in Guantánamo should be returned to Cuba.”
Meanwhile, British Prime Minister David Cameron has also called for Guantánamo to be closed and has welcomed the news British resident Shaker Aamer would soon be released. Aamer has been cleared for release since 2007. He is the last British resident to be held at Guantánamo.
Planned Parenthood’s president, Cecile Richards, faced off with Republican lawmakers before a House panel Tuesday amid renewed Republican attempts to defund the national health organization. During the hearing before the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, Richards responded to Utah Congressmember Jason Chaffetz’s claims that Planned Parenthood misuses federal funding.
Cecile Richards: “There’s been a great deal of misinformation circulated about Planned Parenthood recently, and I want to be absolutely clear at the outset: The federal funding that Planned Parenthood receives allows our doctors and clinicians at our health centers to provide birth control, cancer screenings, and testing and treatment for sexually transmitted infections.”
Cecile Richards then went on to testify that Planned Parenthood does not sell fetal tissue to researchers and that the videos Republicans are using to make these claims are heavily edited and do not serve as evidence.
Cecile Richards: “The outrageous accusations leveled against Planned Parenthood, based on heavily doctored videos, are offensive and categorically untrue. I realize, though, that the facts have never gotten in the way of these campaigns to block women from healthcare they need and deserve.”
The hearings come after Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell failed to secure enough votes to defund Planned Parenthood last month. A recent Reuters poll shows the majority of Americans support federal funding for Planned Parenthood.
In Georgia, Kelly Gissendaner was executed early Wednesday morning after the Supreme Court denied three last-minute requests to stay her execution. She is the first woman to be executed in the state of Georgia in 70 years. She was sentenced to death in 1998 for recruiting her boyfriend to kill her husband, Douglas. Her execution is the first time since the death penalty was reinstated in 1976 that Georgia has executed someone who did not personally kill the victim. Gissendaner had received a flurry of support in recent days, including from Pope Francis. Randall Savage of the local TV station WMAZ described her final moments.
Randall Savage: “She apologized for what she did. She said she was sorry that that amazing man lost his life because of her. And once after the execution started, she began singing 'Amazing Grace' and sang it all the way through.”
Kelly Gissendaner was the 21st person executed in the United States so far this year.
Two more people are slated to be executed in the United States in the coming days. Today, the state of Oklahoma is scheduled to execute Richard Glossip. In 1997, Glossip was working as a manager at the Best Budget Inn in Oklahoma City when his boss, Barry Van Treese, was murdered. A maintenance worker, Justin Sneed, admitted he beat Van Treese to death with a baseball bat, but claimed Glossip offered him money and job opportunities for the killing. The case rested almost solely on Sneed’s claims. No physical evidence ever tied Glossip to the crime. Sneed did not receive the death penalty.
Meanwhile, on Thursday, Alfredo Prieto is scheduled to be executed by the state of Virginia. The Salvadoran national is convicted of multiple counts of murder. His lawyers maintain Prieto has an intellectual disability that renders his execution unconstitutional. We’ll have more on Glossip’s execution later in the broadcast with Sister Helen Prejean and Glossip’s lawyer, Don Knight.
The governor of the Bank of England has issued a sharp warning about the financial risk of investing in fossil fuels. Mark Carney said Tuesday night that investors could face potentially huge losses if reserves of oil, coal and gas are deemed “unburnable.” Environmental groups have long warned companies of the financial risks of not divesting from fossil fuels. Carney said the window for fossil fuel divestment is closing.
Mark Carney: “The combination of the weight of scientific evidence and the dynamics of the financial system suggest that in the fullness of time climate change will threaten financial resilience and longer-term prosperity. While there’s still time to act, the window is finite and is closing.”
Carney’s warning comes as New York Mayor Bill de Blasio called on the city’s pension funds to divest from coal companies. The $160 billion funds currently have $33 million invested in coal.
Meanwhile, Republican presidential candidate Jeb Bush has promised to approve the Keystone XL pipeline and bolster the energy sector through deregulation during a campaign stop Tuesday at the shale gas company Rice Energy in Canonsburg, Pennsylvania. Promising to create 1 million manufacturing jobs, Bush said, “We need to embrace the energy revolution.”
Russia, Ukraine and the European Organization for Security and Cooperation have reached an agreement for the withdrawal of tanks and weapons from the front lines of the conflict in Eastern Ukraine. This comes one day after Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko blasted Russian President Vladimir Putin in a speech at the United Nations over the ongoing conflict.
The leader of the Colombian rebel group FARC, or the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, says all its members are committed to the peace talks. This comes after the Colombian government and FARC announced an historic breakthrough last week in the talks to end the five-decade conflict that has killed more than 200,000 people. FARC leader Rodrigo Londoño, known as Timochenko, said the group would continue to work to implement its agenda, but without violence.
Rodrigo Londoño: “We must create an environment where all of these fights will be continued—the fight for land, the fight for rural development, the fight for public services in the cities, the fight for better healthcare. The essence of all of this is for us to achieve these goals without shooting at one another.”
Jamaicans are calling for Britain to pay billions in reparations for its role in the transatlantic slave trade, ahead of British Prime Minister David Cameron’s first official trip to the island today. Writing in the Jamaica Observer, Hilary Beckles, chairman of the Reparations Commission of the Caribbean Community, called on Cameron to recognize the U.K.’s “legacies of slavery that continue to derail, undermine and haunt our best efforts at sustainable economic development and the psychological and cultural rehabilitation of our people.”
In the United States, Border Patrol agent Lonnie Swartz has been indicted on second-degree murder charges for the 2012 shooting of 16-year-old José Antonio Rodríguez. Agent Lonnie Swartz killed the unarmed Mexican teenager by firing through the border fence from the U.S. side. The teen was walking unarmed on the sidewalk in Nogales, Sonora, en route to buy a hot dog.
The lawyer for Rowan County Court Clerk Kim Davis is claiming Davis had a private meeting in Washington, D.C., with Pope Francis during the pope’s historic six-day visit to the United States. Kim Davis was briefly jailed in September for refusing to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples after the Supreme Court’s decision to legalize marriage equality nationwide. In a statement posted on the website of Christian lobby group Liberty Council, Kim Davis is quoted as saying she was “humbled” by the experience, and that she is “just a county clerk who loves Jesus.” Davis’ lawyer claims Pope Francis told Davis to “stay strong.”
A new six-month investigation by award-winning reporter Victoria Law has documented the inhumane treatment of pregnant women incarcerated in the United States. The investigation begins with the story of a woman who gave birth while locked in a Texas jail cell without any medical attention in 2012. The baby was born dark purple and unresponsive, with the umbilical cord wrapped around her neck. The baby later died. The investigation, published in In These Times, also revealed pregnant women are sometimes shackled during labor, even in states that have outlawed the practice. Tawanna Nelson, who was imprisoned in Arkansas, tells of giving birth while shackled in 2010.
Tawanna Nelson: “Once I arrived at the delivery room, the labor room, I was shackled. My feet were shackled to the bed, the metal post of the bed, and my hand was shackled to the IV rail. I asked for the chains to be removed. I asked for pain medicine. And I even asked—my pains were so tremendously, I asked for a cesarean. I didn’t have any pain medicine. The only thing I was given was two Tylenol. When the nurses came in, the guard would remove the chains, but as soon as the nurses would leave out of the room, the guard would shackle me back. So within a two-to-three-minute period, once they checked me and go chart the notes, the guard would put the chains back on me. And I felt that the guard somehow was trying to teach me a lesson of being pregnant and being in prison.”
And NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden has made his Twitter debut Tuesday. He has already attracted nearly 1 million followers. His first tweet, clearly alluding to NSA spying, but also to a Verizon phone advertisement, was “Can you hear me now?”