It’s official: Donald Trump has chosen the CEO of the world’s largest oil company and a man with no political experience for a top Cabinet position. This morning, Trump tweeted, “I have chosen one of the truly great business leaders of the world, Rex Tillerson, Chairman and CEO of ExxonMobil, to be Secretary of State.” Environmental groups have widely condemned the nomination. Exxon is facing multiple lawsuits over its role in covering up the science behind climate change. Tillerson is also known to have close ties to Russian President Vladimir Putin, who awarded Tillerson the country’s Order of Friendship decoration in 2013. Both Senate Democrats and Republicans have expressed concern and opposition to Tillerson’s nomination, which comes only days after President Obama ordered a review of Russia’s role influencing the presidential election. The CIA has reportedly already concluded Russia intervened in the election to help Trump win. One of the focuses of the Senate confirmation hearings will be Exxon’s $500 billion oil exploration partnership with the Russian government’s oil company, Rosneft. Considered the largest oil deal in history, the partnership can only go through if the U.S. lifts sanctions against Russia, which the Obama administration imposed over Russia’s intervention in Ukraine. Click here to see our full interview about Rex Tillerson with Bill McKibben, co-founder of 350.org; Erich Pica, president of Friends of the Earth U.S.; Carroll Muffett, president of the Center for International Environmental Law; and Joe Romm of the Center for American Progress.
In more news on Cabinet picks, Donald Trump has officially asked Goldman Sachs President Gary Cohn to be director of the National Economic Council. Cohn will become the third Goldman Sachs-linked member of Trump’s inner circle. Steven Mnuchin, Trump’s pick for treasury secretary, was a second-generation Goldman Sachs executive. Stephen Bannon, Trump’s chief strategist, is also a former Goldman Sachs executive. The Trump transition team also officially announced Monday that retired four-star Marine General John Kelly is Trump’s pick for secretary of homeland security. And The New York Times has reported Trump is considering former Hewlett-Packard CEO Carly Fiorina for director of national intelligence.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, Republican of Kentucky, and House Speaker Paul Ryan, Republican of Wisconsin, have both announced their support for an investigation into whether Russia intervened in U.S. presidential election to help Trump win. The chair of the Intelligence Committee, Republican Richard Burr of North Carolina, and the chair of the Armed Services Committee, Republican Senator John McCain of Arizona, are leading the inquiry. On Monday, White House spokesperson Josh Earnest said the Obama administration also supports the congressional investigation. Ten Electoral College electors—nine Democrats and one Republican—have sent a letter to CIA Director James Clapper demanding an intelligence briefing on Russian efforts to elect Donald Trump, before the Electoral College meets on December 19 to select the next president. Hillary Clinton’s campaign has backed their request. Donald Trump has called the CIA’s conclusions of Russian interference “ridiculous.” We’ll have more on the possibility of Russian interference in the election with Democratic California elector Christine Pelosi, the lead author of the letter to Intelligence Director James Clapper.
In Syria, rebel-held eastern Aleppo is on the brink of falling to the Syrian government. On Monday, Syrian government forces, backed by Russian airstrikes, and fighters from other regional allies, including Lebanon’s Hezbollah militia, continued to advance on the remaining rebel-held neighborhoods. In government-held sections of Aleppo, some people poured into the streets to celebrate what is expected to be the most decisive battle in the five-year civil war. Anti-government rebels report Syrian government troops carrying out summary killings during the ongoing offensive. The United Nations says at least 82 civilians, including women and children, have been shot on sight by Syrian government troops in recent days. In more news on Syria, U.S. Defense Secretary Ash Carter has announced the Pentagon will be sending 200 additional U.S. soldiers to fight ISIS militants in Syria. The new troops will join at least 300 U.S. soldiers already fighting in Syria.
On Monday, Defense Secretary Ash Carter also visited Israel for a ceremony marking the United States’ delivery to Israel of two U.S.-built Lockheed Martin F-35 fighter jets—regarded as the most advanced military aircraft in the world. Israel now becomes the only country outside the United States to have operational F-35 fighter jets. This is Secretary Carter speaking Monday at the Nevatim air base in the southern Negev desert.
Defense Secretary Ash Carter: “These F-35 stealth fighters are the first of 50 aircraft that will help build the future of the Israeli Air Force. And that’s thanks to an historic memorandum of understanding we signed this year in which the U.S. pledged an unprecedented $38 billion in security assistance over the next decade. And as of today, Israel is our first and only friend in the region that’s flying F-35, and it’s my honor to be here marking the delivery of these planes, the Adir, to America’s closest friend and ally in the region.”
Each Lockheed Martin F-35 jet costs more than $100 million—a price tag Donald Trump recently criticized, tweeting, “The F-35 program and cost is out of control. Billions of dollars can and will be saved on military (and other) purchases after January 20th.”
More than $5 trillion worth of investments are now pledged to be divested from fossil fuels. The analysis, issued Monday, details how nearly 700 institutions and nearly 60,000 individuals from across 76 nations have committed to divest their assets from the fossil fuel industry. This is Mark Ruffalo, speaking at a news conference in New York City.
Mark Ruffalo: “If you keep your money in the fossil fuel industry, you are hurting your children, you are hurting the future generations, and you’re hurting yourselves. You can’t say that you care about your children or your grandchildren and keep pouring money into this system.”
At Standing Rock in North Dakota, Native American elders fighting the Dakota Access pipeline have extinguished the Seven Council Fires, which has been burning for months at the main resistance camp, and young Native water protectors have relit a new fire, the All Nations Fire, as part of the continued resistance to the $3.8 billion pipeline. This is Standing Rock Sioux Tribe member Chase Iron Eyes.
Chase Iron Eyes: “There is probably a thousand people still here who are committed to staying until the pipeline is dead. They’re committed to staying to protect our treaty rights and to create a new existence for our people. They’re committed even to protecting American constitutional, civil and human rights. And so we approached the elders, and they told us how to conduct ourselves and to build a new fire. It’s all young people who came out.”
The water protectors are fighting the pipeline over concerns a leak could contaminate the Missouri River, which serves as a drinking source for millions. On Monday, North Dakota officials confirmed that another pipeline leak earlier this month has spilled more than 176,000 gallons of crude oil into the Ash Coulee Creek about 150 miles west of Standing Rock.
Meanwhile, in more news from Standing Rock, the Water Protector Legal Collective reports a North Dakota court has convened a federal grand jury and issued at least one subpoena against a water protector at Sacred Stone Camp. Angela Bibbens of the collective says it appears the grand jury is focused on the injuries of Sophia Wilansky, whose left arm was critically hurt during a November police attack in which she was reportedly hit by a concussion grenade—an account which the police deny. This is Angela Bibbens.
Angela Bibbens: “In response to the convening of a federal grand jury, the Water Protector Legal Collective has put together a committee of experienced attorneys who can represent water protectors who have been served with a subpoena. If you are a water protector out there who has been served, please contact our hotline at (605) 519-8180.”
The Seattle City Council has voted unanimously to advance to discussion a piece of legislation that would see the city break ties with Wells Fargo over its financing of the Dakota Access pipeline. Wells Fargo currently manages $3 billion worth of depository services for Seattle. The legislation was proposed by Socialist City Councilmember Kshama Sawant, who spoke about the water protectors at Standing Rock during a City Council meeting Monday.
Councilmember Kshama Sawant: “They have withstood blizzards, police repression and attacks from private militarized security forces. They have been bitten by attack dogs, pepper-sprayed, subjected to mass arrests, including for praying. But they have courageously stood strong and shown that when we build organized movements willing to fight, we can win. Elected officials nationwide owe it to the activists to stand with them. One clear way this City Council can do that is by divesting the city of Seattle from Wells Fargo, which also happens to be one of the principal financial backers of the Dakota Access pipeline.”
That was Seattle City Councilmember Kshama Sawant. The Minneapolis City Council is also currently studying ways to break financial ties with Wells Fargo and other banks financing the Dakota Access pipeline and other energy projects. Minneapolis activists locked shut the doors of a new Wells Fargo branch, which was slated to open Monday, demanding the bank divest from the Dakota Access pipeline.
Pipeline protests are spreading across the United States. Over the weekend, a military veteran was arrested in Live Oak, Florida, amid a series of protests against a $3.2 billion natural gas Sabal Trail pipeline that is slated to run from Alabama through Georgia and into Florida. Meanwhile, on Monday, two people were arrested after chaining themselves to construction equipment in Arkansas in efforts to stop the construction of the proposed 440-mile Diamond Pipeline, slated to carry oil from Oklahoma to Arkansas.
Land conflicts are growing increasingly deadly worldwide, with triple the number of land rights defenders murdered this year compared to 2015. This according to a new report by PAN Asia Pacific, which details how an average of almost 16 indigenous land defenders, farmers and activists were killed each month from January until November of this year.
In Bahrain, an appeals court has upheld a nine-year prison sentence against Bahraini opposition leader, Sheikh Ali Salman. Ali Salman is the secretary general of a main Bahraini opposition party. His arrest in December 2015 sparked protests and international condemnation. Bahrain is a close U.S. ally in the Gulf, home to the Navy’s Fifth Fleet.
In Brazil, President Michel Temer is facing accusations of soliciting nearly $3 million in illegal campaign contributions in 2014. The revelations come only one day after a poll showed the majority of Brazilians, 63 percent, want Temer to resign. Michel Temer rose to power earlier this year after the impeachment of Dilma Rousseff, in a process she and others have called a coup.
Back in the United States, the Supreme Court has denied a request to review the National Football League’s settlement with former players who say the league intentionally concealed the dangers of concussions. The court’s move means players with brain injuries due to concussions will begin receiving settlements of up to $5 million. A New York Times investigation earlier this year revealed the NFL hid more than 100 diagnosed concussions and then published studies based on flawed data. The investigation also exposed how the NFL shared lobbyists, lawyers and consultants with the tobacco industry.
The Free Alabama Movement reports incarcerated organizer Kinetik Justice was physically attacked and maced while handcuffed by two prison guards at Limestone Correctional Facility in Alabama on December 2. Justice was a key organizer in the nationwide prison strike this fall. Since then, he says he’s faced multiple transfers to different prisons, as well as retaliation from prison guards, including being denied water by prison officials at the Kilby Correctional Facility earlier this fall. Click here to see our full interview with Kinetic Justice on the nationwide prison strikes.
And a new report by the Committee to Protect Journalists reveals at least 257 journalists have been jailed worldwide this year—the most since the committee began record keeping in 1990. Nearly one-third of the journalists are imprisoned by Turkey alone. Since the failed military coup this summer, Turkish authorities have executed a widespread crackdown against the press, particularly against Kurdish newspapers and journalists. On Monday, Turkish authorities also rounded up and arrested as many as 200 members of the pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party, known as the HDP, after raiding the party’s offices in Ankara and Istanbul.