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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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Donald Trump has chosen Alabama Senator Jeff Sessions to be attorney general. Sessions is a former prosecutor who was elected to the Senate in 1996. As a senator, he’s consistently supported anti-immigration legislation. In 2010, he was a leading proponent of the efforts to repeal the 14th Amendment, which grants citizenship to everyone born in the United States. Jeff Sessions has also been a vocal opponent of the Voting Rights Act. In 1986, President Ronald Reagan nominated Sessions for a federal judgeship, but he was denied confirmation because of his history of racist comments, including reportedly saying he thought the Ku Klux Klan was “OK until I found out they smoked pot.” He has also called the American Civil Liberties Union and the NAACP “un-American” and “Communist-inspired.”
Meanwhile, officials from Donald Trump’s transition team have told multiple news outlets that Trump has offered Lieutenant General Michael Flynn the position of national security adviser. Flynn is well known for his anti-Muslim worldview, having called Islam a “cancer” and saying “fear of Muslims is rational.” Flynn is also on the board of advisers for ACT for America, an anti-Muslim organization that’s been designated as a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center. This position of national security adviser does not require Senate confirmation. Flynn served as the director of the Defense Intelligence Agency under President Obama, during which time some of his subordinates invented the term “Flynn facts” to refer to the false claims Flynn frequently made, including claiming Sharia law was spreading in the United States. Flynn was a key adviser for Donald Trump during the 2016 campaign, during which he refused to condemn Trump’s proposed use of torture. Human Rights Watch said his pick shows “a deeply disturbing disregard for human rights principles and the laws of war.”
Another controversial military figure, former CIA director and retired U.S. Army General David Petraeus, is reportedly in the running for secretary of state. In 2015, Petraeus was sentenced to two years’ probation and a $100,000 fine after pleading guilty to leaking highly classified information to his biographer and lover, Paula Broadwell. This comes after Trump has spent months calling for Hillary Clinton to be jailed for her use of a private email server when she served as secretary of state, despite being cleared of wrongdoing by multiple FBI investigations. Donald Trump also met with President Nixon’s secretary of state, Henry Kissinger, on Thursday at Trump Tower.
Director of National Intelligence James Clapper has submitted his resignation, sparking renewed calls for him to face perjury prosecution for lying under oath to the Senate in March 2013, when he was questioned by Senator Ron Wyden about the government’s secret surveillance program.
Sen. Ron Wyden: “Does the NSA collect any type of data at all on millions or hundreds of millions of Americans?”
James Clapper: “No, sir.”
Sen. Ron Wyden: “It does not?”
James Clapper: “Not wittingly. There are cases where they could inadvertently, perhaps, collect, but not wittingly.”
Clapper later defended himself by claiming he had answered the question in the “least untruthful manner.” His resignation will be effective on Inauguration Day: January 20, 2017.
The New York Times is reporting Donald Trump’s son-in-law Jared Kushner is weighing the possibility of joining Trump’s administration—a move that may violate U.S. anti-nepotism laws. Kushner is the husband of Trump’s daughter Ivanka. He’s been a key adviser to Donald Trump’s campaign and transition team. Most recently, he orchestrated a purge of New Jersey Governor Chris Christie and his allies from the transition team. Jared’s father, Charles Kushner, was sent to prison by Christie when Christie was New Jersey’s top prosecutor.
Meanwhile, the Democratic Party has elected New York Senator Chuck Schumer to be the Senate minority leader, despite opposition from protesters who say Schumer’s ties to Wall Street make him unfit to lead the Democratic Party’s opposition to Donald Trump. Earlier this week, protesters held a sit-in inside Schumer’s office, demanding he step aside and instead support Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders for the position of minority leader. Instead, on Wednesday, Schumer was elected minority leader and then tapped Bernie Sanders as chair of outreach for the Democratic leadership team. Meanwhile, Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren has become the latest Democratic Party member to endorse Minnesota Congressmember Keith Ellison as the next chair of the Democratic National Committee. He’s the co-chair of the Congressional Progressive Caucus.
In San Diego, U.S. District Judge Gonzalo Curiel will hold a hearing Friday to consider a request by Donald Trump’s lawyers to delay the class action lawsuit against Trump and his defunct for-profit Trump University until after the inauguration in January. The university has been accused of defrauding students. Trump is slated to testify at the trial, but his lawyers are trying to convince Judge Curiel to permit him to testify via a videotaped deposition. They’re also trying to withhold from evidence everything Trump has said, including in speeches and in tweets. During the campaign, Trump attacked Judge Curiel, saying his Mexican heritage makes him biased against Trump.
The largest bank in Norway, DNB, has sold its assets in the companies behind the $3.8 billion Dakota Access pipeline, and it’s considering whether to terminate three separate loans the bank has made to finance the project. The sold assets were worth $3 million. The loans under consideration finance up to 10 percent of the pipeline’s construction. Norway’s DNB is not connected to DNB First, which is based in Pennsylvania and is not involved in the Dakota Access pipeline. This comes as Energy Transfer Partners, the company behind the Dakota Access pipeline, is almost certain to miss the January 1, 2017, deadline by which it had promised oil companies it would have completed construction, opening up the possibility the pipeline company may lose its contracts with oil companies. In recent court documents, Energy Transfer Partners acknowledged that if the Army Corps of Engineers does grant the final permit to drill underneath the Missouri River, it would still take the company between three and four months to finish the project. It’s still not clear whether the permit will ever be granted. Even if it is granted, missing the January 1 deadline means oil companies will have the right to renegotiate or even cancel their contracts to have oil shipped through the Dakota Access pipeline. These cancellations are likely, given that Bakken oil production has fallen by 20 percent since its peak in December 2014—the same year the contracts were first signed. Energy Transfer Partners has acknowledged in court filings “loss of shippers to the project could effectively result in project cancellation.”
In Iraq, a suicide car bomb killed at least 30 people at a wedding Thursday. The Islamic State has claimed responsibility for the attack south of Fallujah. Among the dead was the groom, Seif Jumaa Maajal, who was the son of a local tribal leader who had been a vocal opponent of the Islamic State.
In China, workers have staged a series of strikes and protests against Wal-Mart, demanding better pay and working conditions. At least 20,000 of Wal-Mart’s workers in China have joined messaging groups, such as WeChat, in order to coordinate organizing against the company. This comes amid a wave of labor organizing in China’s service sector. Since July, workers have organized more than 120 protests and strikes targeting service companies, including Wal-Mart.
Palestinians are condemning two pieces of legislation being pushed by Israeli lawmakers. The first would ban mosque loudspeakers in efforts to silence the call to prayer, which sounds five times throughout the day. Right-wing Israeli lawmakers are claiming the call is noise pollution. The second piece of legislation would retroactively legalize Jewish-only settlements on Palestinian land in the Israeli-occupied West Bank. The measure violates international law. This is Palestinian leader Hanan Ashrawi.
Hanan Ashrawi: “We consider all settlements illegal, whether they are on public land or private land. But now it extends the confiscation of territory to private Palestinian land, where settlers and the illegal Israeli occupation can steal—outright theft—Palestinian land, whether for public Palestinian use or private Palestinian property, in order to expand its settlement project, destroy the two-state solution and at the same time impose greater Israel on historical Palestine.”
In Guatemala, a judge has ruled former U.S.-backed dictator Efraín Ríos Montt will face trial on charges of genocide for a massacre in 1982 that killed 273 indigenous people, nearly half of them children. On Wednesday, the judge ruled he will be represented by his lawyers, as he’s been ruled mentally unfit for trial. Ríos Montt was found guilty of genocide in 2013, but a court annulled his 80-year sentence less than two weeks later.
Britain says residents of the Chagos Islands in the Indian Ocean who were forcibly removed for the construction of a U.S. military base in the early 1970s will not be allowed to return home—despite four decades of organizing by the displaced residents who are demanding the right to return. In addition to serving as U.S. air base, one of the islands, Diego Garcia, has also played a critical role in the U.S. extraordinary rendition program. This week, the British Foreign Office minister said instead of the right to return home, the Chagossians will be offered 40 million pounds in compensation over the next decade. She also said the U.S. will be allowed to keep its military base on the island.
Back in the United States, the number of reported hate crimes continues to surge in the wake of Donald Trump’s election last week. The Southern Poverty Law Center has now documented at least 437 incidents of verbal and physical attacks, intimidation and harassment against Muslims, immigrants, African Americans, women and people of color. The most commonly reported place where physical or verbal harassment occurred continues to be in K-12 schools.
A for-profit immigrant family detention center in Karnes County, Texas, has banned migrant children held there from having access to crayons while their mothers meet with lawyers. Immigration authorities claim the ban is a response to children coloring on a table in the prison’s visiting area, which “caused damage to the contractor.” The facility is operated by the private prison company GEO Group, which saw its stock price jump after Donald Trump won the presidential election. Human rights advocates are calling for the Obama administration to cut ties with the private prison industry and end family detention before the close of his term.
Writer Colson Whitehead has won the National Book Award for “The Underground Railroad,” a novel about a young enslaved girl who escapes from a Georgia plantation. At the New York City award ceremony, Whitehead said, “We’re happy in here; outside is the blasted hellhole wasteland of Trumpland. Be kind to everybody, make art and fight the power.”
And in breaking news, The Washington Post is reporting that Donald Trump has chosen Kansas Congressmember Mike Pompeo as CIA director. Pompeo has opposed closing Guantánamo Bay prison. In 2013, he visited the notorious U.S. prison and said of the prisoners who were on hunger strike, “It looked to me like a lot of them had put on weight.” He’s also a vocal opponent of the Iran nuclear deal.