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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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NATO is seeking to station more troops in eastern Europe in what Reuters reports could be the biggest military buildup on Russia’s borders since the Cold War. As part of a U.S.-backed plan, NATO is planning to send battle groups to Poland, Lithuania, Estonia and Latvia with forces ranging from armored infantry to drones. This comes as tension mounts between Russia and the United States over the crisis in Syria. On Tuesday, U.S. National Intelligence Director James Clapper said he fears Russia could shoot down a U.S. aircraft if a no-fly zone were imposed over Syria.
Donald Trump warned in an interview on Tuesday that Hillary Clinton’s policy on Syria could lead to World War III.
Donald Trump: “She has no plan for Syria. And, look, with her you’ll end up in World War III. She doesn’t know what she’s doing, just like with Libya, just like with everything else she’s done. So, Syria now is no longer Syria. Syria is Russia and the new Iran, that we built through the Iran deal, which is the worst—one of the worst negotiated deals I’ve ever seen.”
In other news on Syria, Amnesty International is reporting U.S. coalition airstrikes have killed as many 300 civilians in Syria since U.S. airstrikes began two years ago. Overall, the war in Syria has killed over 400,000 people.
The Guardian is reporting new details about Donald Trump’s close financial ties to Energy Transfer Partners, operators of the Dakota Access oil pipeline. Kelcy Warren, the chief executive of Energy Transfer Partners, has given just over $100,000 to elect Trump and another $67,000 to the Republican National Committee. In addition, Trump’s financial disclosure forms show he has between $500,000 and $1 million invested in Energy Transfer Partners, with up to another $1 million more in Phillips 66, which will have a 25 percent stake in the pipeline once it is built.
WikiLeaks is continuing to release more emails hacked from the account of Clinton’s campaign chair, John Podesta. One newly revealed email shows how Clinton’s aides privately handled the controversy around her use of a private email server while secretary of state. When President Obama was first questioned about the scandal last year, he replied that he learned of her private email server through news reports. Shortly after Obama made the comment, a top Clinton aide privately wrote to Podesta, “We need to clean this up—he has emails from her—they do not say state.gov.”
Defense Secretary Ash Carter has announced another offensive will soon begin—this time to take the city of Raqqa, Syria, which is seen as the de facto capital of the Islamic State. This comes as U.S. and Iraqi forces are planning the next stage in the fight to retake the city of Mosul. The United Nations Children’s Fund is warning that as many as 1.5 million people may be affected by the fight to recapture Mosul, half of them children. And humanitarian workers say some 200,000 people may need shelter during the offensive.
Pope Francis has made an appeal for the world to be more welcoming to refugees fleeing violence. He spoke one day after residents in the Italian town of Goro formed a blockade to prevent the arrival of 12 migrant women, including one who was pregnant.
Pope Francis: “In some parts of the world, walls and barriers are coming up. It seems sometimes that the silent work of the many men and women who, in diverse ways, are doing their utmost to help and assist refugees and migrants is obscured by the noise of others who are giving a voice to an instinctive egoism. But closing up is not the solution; in fact, it ends up helping criminal trafficking. The only solution is that of solidarity. Solidarity.”
In France, migrants set tents and shelters ablaze last night in Calais as authorities moved to clear the refugee camp known as “The Jungle.” Thousands of refugees from Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria, Somalia, Eritrea, Sudan and other war-torn countries have been living in the camp as they seek to reach England through the Channel Tunnel.
In the largest auto scandal settlement in U.S. history, a federal judge has approved a $14.7 billion settlement over the Volkswagen diesel emissions cheating scandal. The payouts include buybacks for impacted vehicles and cash compensation to U.S. car owners. Volkswagen has admitted to rigging some 11 million vehicles worldwide. U.S. regulators say Volkswagen vehicles were emitting up to 40 times more pollution than standards allow.
In healthcare news, the Obama administration has announced the average premium for Obamacare insurance plans sold on Healthcare.gov will rise 25 percent next year in the biggest jump since the Affordable Care Act was passed. Republican lawmakers jumped on the news, saying Obamacare should be repealed. Meanwhile, advocates of single-payer healthcare also reacted to the news. Former Labor Secretary Robert Reich wrote on Facebook, “We need a 'public option' allowing people to choose a less-expensive Medicare-for-all alternative.”
New details have emerged about how AT&T has been spying on Americans for profit. The Daily Beast is reporting AT&T is keeping private call records and selling the information to authorities investigating everything from the war on drugs to Medicaid fraud. The secret plan is called Project Hemisphere. AT&T reportedly has been retaining every call, text message, Skype chat or other communication that has passed through its infrastructure. Some of the records date back to 1987. Sheriff and police departments each pay upward of $1 million a year for access to the call records. No warrants are needed. The report comes as AT&T is seeking government approval for its $85 billion takeover of Time Warner.
In news from Venezuela, the opposition-led Legislature has voted to put President Nicolás Maduro on trial. At times, scuffles broke out on the floor of the National Assembly as opposition lawmakers accused Maduro of breaking the constitutional order. The vote is seen as largely symbolic as the Venezuelan government and Supreme Court have declared Congress illegitimate. The vote came a week after Venezuela’s Electoral Council blocked a drive for a referendum to recall Maduro. On Tuesday, Maduro accused President Obama of backing those who are trying to oust him from power. He said, “These attacks from the right are an attack by Obama because he is close to leaving.”
In news from Britain, climate activists are protesting plans to build a third runway at London’s Heathrow Airport. On Tuesday, activists staged a “runway blockade” outside Parliament. Protesters included Green Party MP Caroline Lucas.
Caroline Lucas: “It’s quite clear that an expansion of aviation at either Heathrow or Gatwick will be incompatible with the obligations that we have signed up to at the Paris climate talks scarcely a year ago. So, it’s a great shame that our political leaders don’t have a slightly longer memory and they don’t actually connect these things, because we know that aviation is the fastest-growing source of greenhouse gas emissions. We know that this massive expansion, as well as having lots of local environmental impacts, will certainly have global environmental impacts, as well.”
Video of Fox News’s Megyn Kelly interviewing former House Speaker Newt Gingrich is going viral. Gingrich is one of Donald Trump’s most vocal backers. He appeared on Kelly’s show last night.
Megyn Kelly: “If Trump is a sexual predator, that is”—
Newt Gingrich: “He’s not a sexual predator. You can’t say that.”
Kelly: “OK, that’s your opinion. I’m not taking a position on it.”
Gingrich: “You cannot defend that statement.”
Kelly: “I am not taking a position on it.”
Gingrich: “Now, I’m sick and tired of people like you using language that’s inflammatory, that’s not true.”
Kelly: “Excuse me, Mr. Speaker”—
Gingrich: “Donald—Donald—Donald Trump is not the”—
Kelly: “You have no idea whether it’s true or not. What we know is that there are at least”—
Gingrich: “Neither—and neither do you.”
Kelly: “That’s right, and I’m not taking a position on it, unlike you.”
Gingrich: “No, yes, you are. When you used the words, you took a position.”
Kelly: “So, what I said is”—
Gingrich: “And I think it’s very unfair of you to do that, Megyn.”
Gingrich: “I think that is exactly the bias people are upset by.”
Kelly: “I think that your defensiveness on this may speak volumes, sir.” …
Gingrich: “I mean, you want to go back through the tapes of your show recently? You are fascinated with sex, and you don’t care about public policy.”
Kelly: “Me? Really?”
Gingrich: “Well, that’s what I get out of watching you tonight.”
Kelly: “You know what, Mr. Speaker? I’m not fascinated by sex. But I am fascinated by the protection of women and understanding what we’re getting in the Oval Office.”