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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 Guatemala, ex-President Otto Pérez Molina has been jailed on charges of corruption only hours after he bowed to massive popular protest and resigned. In court Thursday, prosecutors played wiretapped conversations they say show Pérez Molina was part of customs fraud ring that pilfered tens of millions of dollars from the state treasury. Vice President Alejandro Maldonado has been sworn in as interim president until January, when Pérez Molina’s term was set to end. Maldonado had been vice president since only May, after he assumed the post when the former vice president, Roxana Baldetti, resigned over allegations of corruption. Like Pérez Molina, she too is now in jail awaiting trial. Meanwhile, presidential elections are scheduled for Sunday. Guatemalan Judge Miguel Angel Galvez announced the imprisonment Thursday.
Judge Miguel Angel Galvez: “This court considers it wise to order provisional prison for Mr. Otto Fernando Pérez Molina. This is effective of this judicial order and is not preventive detention but provisional custody ahead of trial.”
In Kentucky, Rowan County Clerk Kim Davis has been jailed after a federal judge ruled her in contempt of court for refusing to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples. Davis had stopped issuing all marriage licenses rather than comply with the Supreme Court ruling that legalized same-sex marriage nationwide. In an interview with the conservative radio program Crosstalk America, Kim Davis’ lawyer, Mat Staver of Liberty Counsel, compared the judge’s ruling to the actions of officials in Nazi Germany.
Saudi Arabian King Salman has arrived in Washington, D.C., today to meet with President Obama to discuss the Iran nuclear deal and other issues. This is King Salman’s first visit to the United States since he assumed the throne in January following the death of his half-brother King Abdullah. The group CodePink has planned a protest in front of the White House to coincide with the meeting to denounce the ongoing Saudi-led bombing of Yemen, which has sparked a humanitarian crisis. King Salman’s visit comes as the Pentagon and Saudi Arabia are finalizing a $1 billion arms agreement to provide weapons for Saudi’s campaign in Yemen, as well as its fight against the self-proclaimed Islamic State.
In news from Europe, leaders are planning another round of emergency talks about how to respond to the hundreds of thousands of people seeking refuge after fleeing violence in Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan, Somalia, Eritrea, Nigeria and other regions, as people across the world took to social media to demand nations do more to welcome refugees. This morning, British Prime Minister David Cameron pledged to accept thousands more Syrians after more than 250,000 people signed a petition created by the news outlet The Independent demanding that England “accept its fair share of refugees seeking safety in Europe.” This comes on the heels of news that more than 10,000 Icelanders have volunteered to house Syrian refugees in their own homes. The United States is also coming under fire for resettling only 1,500 Syrians since the violence began.
In response, some European governments rebuked the calls to accept more refugees. Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán pushed back against the calls, saying, “I think we have a right to decide that we do not want a large number of Muslim people in our country.” This comes as Hungary has herded people into camps after they believed their trains were headed west toward Germany. The Polish and Slovak governments also said they would only accept Christians.
Reuters is reporting that Hungary and Bulgaria have reportedly made inquiries about buying Israeli-designed fences to reinforce their borders. The chair of the United Nations Commission of Inquiry, Paulo Pinheiro, spoke out about the refugee crisis in Syria Thursday.
Paulo Pinheiro: “Civilians are suffering the unimaginable, as the world stands witness. Without stronger efforts to bring parties to the peace table, ready to compromise, current trends suggest that the Syrian conflict, and the killing and destruction it wreaks, will carry for the foreseeable future.”
In Canada, Prime Minister Stephen Harper has spoken out about the migration crisis after reports that the three-year-old Syrian boy Aylan Kurdi and his family were seeking to reach Canada when they drowned in the Mediterranean Sea earlier this week. Photos of Aylan Kurdi’s lifeless body lying on a Turkish shore have gone viral. Canada said that it had not received the family’s asylum application in response to initial reports that the application had been denied. Prime Minister Harper, who has come under fire for not taking in more Syrians, said Thursday that Canada would do what it can.
Prime Minister Stephen Harper: “We could drive ourselves crazy with grief if we look at the, as I say, the millions of people literally who are in danger, the tens of thousands who are dying. We could drive ourselves crazy with grief. Obviously, we do what we can do to help.”
In India, as many as 150 million unionized workers went on strike on Wednesday in protest over Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s labor reforms. Modi has proposed the largest overhaul of India’s labor laws in decades. The reforms would make it harder for workers to unionize and go on strike.
In the United States, the majority of the staff at Al Jazeera America’s digital newsroom have voted to unionize. The workers will join The NewsGuild of New York, which is part of the national union, Communications Workers of America. Al Jazeera America marks the fifth digital newsroom to unionize in recent months. The Guardian US editorial staff voted to unionize in July. Gawker, Salon and Vice have recently voted to unionize under Writers Guild of America.
New York City has announced it will pay nearly half a million dollars to settle a civil rights lawsuit filed by 27-year-old Robert Hinton, who was hogtied and beaten by corrections officers at Rikers Island in 2012. Hinton was imprisoned in the solitary confinement unit for men with mental illness when a beating from corrections officers left him with a broken nose, a fractured vertebra and a bleeding mouth. His case has already led to the firing of a captain and five officers involved in the beating.
In news from the campaign trail, Republican presidential contender Donald Trump has signed a pledge saying he will back the eventual Republican party nominee, ruling out the possibility of a third-party run if he does not gain the nomination. His announcement came after a meeting with the chairman of the Republican National Committee, which has been requesting all Republican candidates sign the agreement. Trump had resisted the pledge. During the first Republican presidential debate, he raised his hand when Fox News moderators asked whether the candidates would consider mounting a third-party run. In his announcement Thursday, Trump said, “What did I get from signing the pledge? Absolutely nothing, other than the assurance that I would be treated fairly.”
In news from South Carolina, prosecutors will seek the death penalty in the case against accused Charleston shooter Dylann Roof for the massacre of nine African Americans inside the historic Emanuel AME Church in June. The 21-year-old Roof faces nine counts of murder, three counts of attempted murder and the use of a firearm during a violent felony, in state court. Roof has also been indicted on federal hate crime charges. South Carolina Solicitor Scarlett Wilson announced the decision to seek the death penalty Thursday.
Scarlett Wilson: “While none of us, none of us, has the heart for vengeance, we all have the resolve to seek and to find justice in this case. … This was the ultimate crime, and justice from our state calls for the ultimate punishment.”
And Black Lives Matter activists are protesting the jailing of Pasadena organizer Jasmine Richards. The 28-year-old activist has been one of the key organizers demanding justice for Kendrec McDade, a 19-year-old African American who was shot and killed by Pasadena police in 2012 after officers mistakenly believed that he was armed. Jasmine Richards has been arrested twice in the past six months, most recently after a rally last week. She is currently being held on charges of terrorist threats, assault and trespassing.