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The Syrian government says it’s temporarily suspended the evacuation of civilians from eastern Aleppo, after accusing the anti-government rebel fighters of breaking the terms of the ceasefire. One of the terms called for anti-government rebels to allow for the evacuation of wounded civilians in another part of Syria: two government-held towns in Idlib province, which have been besieged by rebels. About 8,000 people did successfully escape from eastern Aleppo Thursday before the evacuations were halted. There are also separate news reports of evacuation convoys being fired upon. On Thursday, dozens of United Nations workers staged a walkout in New York City to show solidarity with the Syrian people.
Dimitri Samaras: “We stand united in solidarity with the people of Syria. We call upon the member states of the United Nations, in particular the Security Council, to take urgent, practical action to end the horror in Syria.”
In the United States, President Obama has vowed to retaliate against Russia over Russia’s alleged meddling in the U.S. presidential election to help Donald Trump win. This is President Obama speaking to NPR Thursday.
President Barack Obama: “I think there is no doubt that when any foreign government tries to impact the integrity of our elections, that we need to take action. And we will, at a time and a place of our own choosing. Some of it may be explicit and publicized; some of it may not be. But Mr. Putin is well aware of my feelings about this, because I spoke to him directly about it.”
According to NBC, unnamed U.S. intelligence officials say Russian President Vladimir Putin was personally involved in the effort to meddle in the 2016 U.S. presidential election to help Donald Trump win. The CIA has accused Russia of intervening, and President Obama has ordered a review of Russia’s role. President-elect Donald Trump has called the claims “ridiculous.”
Donald Trump has tapped the far-right-wing bankruptcy lawyer David Friedman to be the U.S. ambassador to Israel. Many are calling Friedman an unprecedented pick for the position, given his hostility toward peace between Israelis and Palestinians and his disregard for international law. Friedman has no diplomatic experience. He supports Israel’s Jewish-only settlements in the occupied West Bank and says he doesn’t think it would be illegal for Israel to annex the entire Palestinian territory, despite the fact that it would be blatantly illegal under international law. On Thursday, Friedman also said he opposes a two-state solution for Israel and Palestine.
David Friedman: “A Trump administration will never pressure Israel into a two-state solution or any other solution that is against the wishes of the Israeli people.”
In response to the announcement, Jewish Voice for Peace said, “Friedman’s appointment is a distressing signal that the new administration will give the Israeli government a free hand to deepen its fundamentally undemocratic and abusive control over Palestinian land, resources and rights.”
Donald Trump’s Cabinet is the richest in history. The 17 people Trump has selected for either Cabinet or Cabinet-level positions so far have nearly $10 billion in combined wealth. That’s more than the 43 million poorest Americans have combined—and Trump still has not filled some key positions.
One of Trump’s top advisers has suggested that Trump may give his eldest daughter Ivanka and her husband Jared Kushner formal positions in the White House, claiming the Trump transition team believes they’ve found an exception to the United States’ anti-nepotism laws. Kellyanne Conway said, “The anti-nepotism law apparently has an exception if you want to work in the West Wing, because the president is able to appoint his own staff.” Trump has already sparked increasing concerns about conflicts of interest by including his adult children in key political meetings, including the vetting of potential Cabinet members, given his children’s role in running the Trump business empire.
In New York City, dozens of Native Americans and allies held protests at four separate bank branches Thursday to demand Wells Fargo, Citibank and TD Bank divest from the $3.8 Billion Dakota Access pipeline. The actions were organized by a group of Native Americans who traveled from Standing Rock to New York City, bringing with them a sacred drum from Wounded Knee. The group blocked traffic during rush hour. This is Saige Pourier from the Pine Ridge Reservation in South Dakota.
Saige Pourier: “Our plan here is to shut down Wells Fargo and Citibank. They are the biggest corporations that support the Dakota Access pipeline. And we’re telling them no, to divest. It’s for our future. It’s for our future. Mni Wiconi. Water is sacred. This is life. Without it, nobody can survive. We’re here for our children.”
The actions Thursday in New York City were part of a months-long campaign to target the major Wall Street banks funding the Dakota Access pipeline. This is Standing Rock Sioux Nation member Chase Iron Eyes during one of the disruptions.
Chase Iron Eyes: “We were never the aggressors. All we wanted was peace and to raise our families and to know the power of peace. But we don’t know peace, because your money is funding genocide in North Dakota right now. So take a long, hard look, and you’ll know why we’re here and why we’re never going away.”
Meanwhile, in Iowa, residents rallied in support of farmers and landowners who are fighting the Dakota Access pipeline company’s use of eminent domain to seize their land to build the pipeline. The 14 landowners argued in a state court Thursday that regulators should not have authorized the use of eminent domain in this case because the pipeline does not serve the public good. Energy Transfer Partners, the company behind the pipeline, is trying to argue this point is moot, given that the pipeline has already been built, despite residents’ resistance.
In New York City, a jury has convicted former Rikers correction officer Brian Coll of beating prisoner Ronald Spear to death in 2012. Officer Coll was accused of repeatedly kicking Spear in the head while two other officers held him down. During the trial, the prosecutors said not only did Officer Coll not regret killing Ronald Spear, but he was proud of it and displayed a framed article from The Village Voice about the killing in his bedroom. Officer Coll faces life in prison.
In Charleston, South Carolina, a jury has found Dylann Roof guilty on 33 counts of federal hate crimes for murdering nine black worshipers, including Pastor Clementa Pinckney, at the historic Emanuel AME Church in June 2015. The verdict, reached after the jury deliberated for less than two hours, came after 30 witnesses testified over six days. One of the witnesses was Felicia Sanders, who said she watched as Roof pulled out a Glock .45-caliber handgun and began shooting, striking and wounding her son and killing her aunt. She says she took cover underneath a table with her 11-year-old granddaughter and tried to cover herself and the girl in other people’s blood so Roof would think they were already dead. Roof embraced white supremacist views and was shown in photographs posing with the Confederate flag and a pistol. Roof is facing the death penalty. His sentence will be decided in the penalty phase of the trial, slated to begin January 3.
And in Chile, today is the launch of a new art exposition entitled “2054,” which reveals testimonies of survivors of torture under the Pinochet dictatorship that the government had sought to keep secret for decades. The stories were collected as part of a commission launched in 2003 to document torture under the dictatorship of U.S.-backed General Augusto Pinochet. In 2004, the Chilean government passed a law ordering the testimonies remain secret for 50 years, until 2054. But a project launched by Chilean artist Francisco Papas Fritas and torture survivors has now succeeded in declassifying these testimonies. This is torture survivor Scarlett Mathieu Loguercio.
Scarlett Mathieu Loguercio: “On London Street, I was held approximately 10 days. While I was there, I suffered all kind of tortures, specifically sexual political violence, psychological torture threatening me with the detention of my children, and psychological torture forcing me to listen to how they tortured other people, which is something very difficult to endure. Psychologically, you are left traumatized, because when they torture you, in some way, you are all the time resisting. But when you listen to how they torture other people—and I have talked about this with several people—it is one of the most difficult things to endure.”
On Thursday, Democracy Now! spoke with artist Francisco Papas Fritas about the importance of declassifying these testimonies.
Francisco Papas Fritas: “This is important for Chile, because it opens up the real chance for Chile to take control and to demand truth about what happened under the dictatorship. This is something that neither the executive branch nor the legislature, nor even the judiciary, which has had its hands tied, have been able to do. This is what the families are asking for: justice and the reconstruction of memory—above all, memory.”