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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 Colombia, voters have rejected a peace agreement between the government and FARC rebels in a shocking turn of events that threatens to prolong the nation’s 52-year-old civil war. The peace deal lost by a margin of 49.8 to 50.2 percent. It was a stunning upset for a referendum that was expected to pass overwhelmingly. In Havana, where peace talks have taken place over the past four years, FARC leader Rodrigo Londoño promised his movement would continue to work toward peace.
Rodrigo Londoño: “The FARC maintains its willingness for peace and reiterates its position to use only words as weapons to work toward the future. To the Colombian people, who dream of peace, you can count on us. Peace will win out.”
President Santos sent his negotiating team back to Havana for talks and said a ceasefire with the FARC would remain in effect. Many of those voting “no” objected to the peace deal’s offer of amnesty, limited immunity from prosecution, and reduced sentences granted to FARC rebels. We’ll have more on Sunday’s historic “no” vote on Colombia’s peace agreement after headlines.
In news from the campaign trail, three of Donald Trump’s newly revealed tax returns show Trump claimed an income tax loss of nearly $917 million in 1995. The deduction means Trump could have paid zero federal income tax over an 18-year period. The Trump campaign has not challenged the authenticity of the documents, which were leaked to The New York Times, but said in a statement, “Mr. Trump is a highly-skilled businessman who has a fiduciary responsibility to his business, his family and his employees to pay no more tax than legally required.” Trump’s media surrogates defended the practice, including former New York City Mayor Rudolph Giuliani, speaking with CNN’s Jake Tapper.
Rudolph Giuliani: “You might remember a few years ago it was pointed out that GE paid no taxes.”
Jake Tapper: “Yeah.”
Rudolph Giuliani: “So, the reality is, this is part of our tax code. The man’s a genius. He knows how to operate the tax code for the benefit of the people he’s serving.”
Donald Trump’s tax records were sent to The New York Times by an anonymous source, with a return address listed as originating from Trump Tower. A lawyer for Trump threatened The New York Times with prompt legal action. Trump has refused to make his tax returns public, breaking a precedent followed by every presidential nominee since 1976.
Meanwhile, Donald Trump continued to lash out at critics, including former Miss Universe Alicia Machado, who says Trump’s criticism of her weight gains sparked an eating disorder. In a series of early morning messages on Twitter, Trump accused Machado of appearing in a sex tape. There’s no evidence Machado ever appeared in a sex tape. But there’s new evidence that Donald Trump has. In a softcore pornographic video unearthed by BuzzFeed, Trump makes a brief cameo, appearing fully clothed as he breaks a bottle of champagne over a Playboy-branded limousine.
Donald Trump: “Beauty is beauty. Let’s see what happens with New York.”
Elsewhere, a former Philadelphia Inquirer reporter alleged on Saturday that Donald Trump once called her the C-word in the 1980s. Jennifer Lin says Trump used the slur to her boss after she wrote a story about Trump’s business dealings in Atlantic City in 1988. Lin’s former editor, Craig Stock, confirmed the story.
In other campaign news, a leaked audio recording reveals Hillary Clinton told a group of donors she’s the center-left to center-right alternative to Bernie Sanders and Donald Trump. The candid remarks were recorded at a Clinton fundraiser in Virginia last February and leaked late last week to the conservative website Washington Free Beacon. In the remarks, Clinton says she is straddling the line between two extremes in American politics. On the Republican side, she says, is a “populist, nationalist, xenophobic, discriminatory” approach.
Hillary Clinton: “And on the other side, there’s just a deep desire to believe that, you know, we can have free college, free healthcare, that what we’ve done hasn’t gone far enough, and we just need to, you know, go as far as, you know, Scandinavia, whatever that means. And half the people don’t know what it means, but it is something that they deeply feel. So, as a friend of mine said the other day, I am occupying from the center-left to the center-right. And I don’t have much company there.”
In other remarks, Clinton explains the appeal of then-rival Senator Bernie Sanders to young voters, saying, “They’re children of the Great Recession. And they are living in their parents’ basement.” Sanders rushed to Clinton’s defense over the weekend, calling Clinton’s remarks “absolutely correct.”
In the Caribbean, a Category 4 hurricane named Hurricane Matthew is bearing down on Jamaica, Haiti and Cuba. Haiti urged residents in coastal areas to evacuate, and there are fears for the thousands still living in tents following the massive earthquake in 2010. In Cuba, the U.S. military says it’s airlifting 700 employees, and some family pets, from the naval base at Guantánamo Bay, although there are no plans to evacuate the 61 prisoners detained there.
In Syria, government forces and their allies advanced on Aleppo after a pair of barrel bombs hit the main hospital, knocking it out of commission and shutting off essential healthcare to most of East Aleppo’s 250,000 residents. U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has called the attacks on medical facilities war crimes. The violence came as residents described Aleppo as a living hell, with water, fuel, medicine and electricity all in short supply. Elsewhere in Syria, an airstrike in Idlib on Thursday flattened an apartment building, where a video posted online purports to show rescue workers with the “White Helmets” volunteers digging an infant out of the rubble.
Syrian Civil Defense worker: “We have been working for two or three hours. Thank God we found her alive. She is lucky she is still alive. One month old, the baby is just one month old. Two hours of work, that is it. She is 30 days old.”
Meanwhile, Russia warned the United States not to oppose its military campaign in support of Bashar al-Assad’s forces, warning that a U.S. intervention could lead to “frightening tectonic shifts in the Middle East.”
In Ethiopia, as many as 52 people died in a stampede after police shot guns into the air and fired tear gas and rubber bullets into a large anti-government demonstration Sunday. The protest began as an estimated 2 million people joined a religious festival in Ethiopia’s Oromia region––home to the Oromo people, who for the last two years have staged anti-government protests. In August, Ethiopian Olympic runner Feyisa Lilesa raised his arms in an “X” as he won a silver medal in the marathon to protest Ethiopia’s human rights abuses against his tribe, the Oromo people.
In the French port city of Calais, police fired tear gas and water cannons at refugees and their supporters on Saturday as the French government pressed ahead with plans to close the refugee camp known as “The Jungle.” About 200 refugees and 50 of their supporters held the demonstration to protest desperate conditions in the camp, which is home to some 7,000 people fleeing war and poverty. Some of the protesters hoisted British flags as they called on the U.K. government to accept more refugees. This is one asylum seeker.
Unidentified asylum seeker: “Open the U.K. border, let them through. That’s the political solution. In France there is no political solution, and we denounce that.”
In Hungary, a national referendum on whether to exclude refugees from the country failed when less than half the electorate turned out, rendering Sunday’s results null and void. Of those who voted, more than 95 percent sided with Prime Minister Viktor Orbán, rejecting European Union quotas on resettling asylum seekers. The government spent 16 million euros of taxpayer money on a campaign demonizing refugees and urging a rejection of quotas. Prime Minister Orbán has previously called asylum seekers “a poison” and has praised Donald Trump’s anti-refugee platform.
The state of Texas on Friday formally withdrew from the federal Refugee Resettlement Program. Republican Governor Greg Abbott cited security concerns, saying he wanted a promise from the federal government that refugees are fully vetted and do not present a security threat. The move is unlikely to stop the resettlement of refugees in Texas, but it will stop the state from disbursing federal dollars to local resettlement agencies. In December, Texas sued the federal government in a bid to block a Syrian family from resettlement in the state. A federal court dismissed that case, though Texas is appealing.
Police in the San Diego, California, suburb of El Cajon have released a pair of videos showing the death of unarmed Ugandan refugee Alfred Olango, who was killed by officers after his sister called 911 to report her brother was having a mental breakdown. The first video, captured on a security camera at a nearby restaurant, shows Olango confronted by El Cajon police officer Richard Gonsalves, who approaches Olango with his gun drawn. Olango is cornered near a parked pickup truck and a fence, as officer Gonsalves follows, raising his gun. A second video, taken on a cellphone camera, shows a second officer arriving on the scene and aiming a Taser, as Olango’s sister pleads with officers not to shoot her brother.
Woman: “Officer, don’t shoot him. Take your hands up! You’re f****** standing with me.”
Male Voice 1: “Keep your hands out of your—” [inaudible]
Male Voice 1: “You need to back up.”
Male Voice 2: “Shut the f*** up.”
[Four gunshots sound.]
Police say Olango pulled an electronic cigarette and pointed it at Officer Gonsalves, who mistook it for a gun and opened fire. Olango was shot about 40 seconds after police arrived. No Psychiatric Emergency Response Team was deployed, even though police knew the call was for a mental health emergency, and it took police 50 minutes to arrive. Protests continued throughout the weekend in El Cajon and in San Diego, where demonstrators are calling for a federal probe into the killing.
Meanwhile, in Charlotte, North Carolina, police say they will publicly release all dash cam and body-worn video of the killing of 43-year-old African American Keith Lamont Scott. The Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department says it is allowing Scott’s family to review the footage before it makes the videos public this week. Police previously released portions of video of the killing, and even the police chief admits the videos do not show Scott clearly holding a gun. North Carolina is an open-carry state. Meanwhile, Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton visited the Little Rock AME Zion Church in Charlotte over the weekend, where she appeared alongside 9-year-old Zianna Oliphant, whose testimony at a Charlotte City Council meeting about police brutality went viral.
In New York City, the man who recorded Eric Garner’s death is set to turn himself in to police today to begin a four-year prison sentence. Ramsey Orta says he was arrested on trumped-up drug and weapons charges as payback for filming the fatal police chokehold that killed Eric Garner on July 17, 2014. Orta is the only person at the scene of Eric Garner’s death who will serve jail time.
The chief justice of the Alabama Supreme Court, Judge Roy Moore, has been suspended over his defiance of a U.S. Supreme Court order on marriage equality. On Friday, Alabama’s Court of the Judiciary found Judge Moore guilty on six charges, after Moore ordered probate judges to violate federal law and refuse to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples back in January. The move effectively ends Justice Moore’s career on the bench, since a state law will prohibit him from running for a new term because of his age.
And a new report from the Bureau of Investigative Journalism says the Pentagon gave the controversial U.K. PR firm Bell Pottinger over a half-billion dollars to run a top-secret propaganda program in Iraq. Former Bell Pottinger video editor Martin Wells says the company would produce phony al-Qaeda videos, and then U.S. marines would plant the videos on compact discs during house raids, and anyone watching the videos later would have their IP address logged and their location recorded. Wells says Bell Pottinger employees also produced fake TV news reports that were designed to look as though they were made by Arab reporters rather than by a British PR firm.
Martin Wells: “The kind of stories: A bomb would go off. A car bomb would go off. People would die. We would have people out there filming it. It would come back. We would then edit it into stories that would then go out on various channels within the region. And we were to make it, as best we could, look as if it was made locally, which it is shot locally and is edited locally. It was more to make it look like it was Arabic.”
Wells said his Bell Pottinger’s content was signed off on by David Petraeus, then commander of the coalition forces in Iraq, and occasionally by the White House.