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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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President Obama is continuing his historic trip to Laos—the first trip there for a sitting U.S. president—although he has so far refused to issue a formal apology for the secret U.S. bombing campaign in Laos during the U.S. war in Vietnam. Between 1964 and 1973, the U.S. dropped an average of eight bombs per minute on Laos, including as many as 270 million cluster bombs. Laos authorities say as many as one-third of these cluster bombs did not explode at the time. President Obama has pledged $90 million to help clear Laos of the unexploded U.S. bombs.
President Barack Obama “For all those years in the 1960s and '70s, America's intervention here in Laos was a secret to the American people, who were separated by vast distances and a Pacific Ocean, and there was no internet, and information didn’t flow as easily. For the people of Laos, obviously, this war was no secret. Over the course of roughly a decade, the United States dropped more bombs on Laos than Germany and Japan during World War II. Some 270 million cluster bomblets were dropped on this country.”
In Washington, D.C., a federal judge has ruled that construction on sacred tribal burial sites in the path of the $3.8 billion Dakota Access pipeline can continue. Yesterday, U.S. District Judge James Boasberg issued a temporary restraining order that halts construction only between Route 1806 and Lake Oahe, but still allows construction to continue west of this area. The ruling does not protect the land where, on Saturday, hundreds of Native Americans forced Dakota Access to halt construction, despite the company’s security forces attacking the crowd with dogs and pepper spray. This part of the construction site is a sacred tribal burial ground. As the ruling was issued in Washington, D.C., about 100 Native Americans again shut down construction on another part of the Dakota Access pipeline by obstructing equipment. Some of them locked themselves to the heavy machinery. Native Americans from across the U.S. and Canada continue to arrive at the resistance camps. This is Defender Eagle, a Lakota Sioux.
Defender Eagle: “I think that we’ve waited long enough, in various ways and means, to listen always to what the white man tells us to do. And the time is dawning, and the age is beginning, when we listen again to our indigenous femininity. So I’m waiting for the women, and I’m hearing the women keep telling us what to do. They’ll guide our course. So, I’m tired of waiting. I’m tired of listening to the white man tell us different forms of ’I’m not honoring the treaties,’ which are the law of the land.”
Green Party presidential candidate Dr. Jill Stein also was on the site of the protest and graffitied the excavating equipment. We’ll go to North Dakota and to Seattle for an update on the lawsuit and the actions after headlines, and we’ll go to Iowa, where the pipeline is also facing legal resistance over its use of eminent domain.
In news from the campaign trail, Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton will both speak at a public forum on national security this evening. This comes as Donald Trump’s campaign has released a list of 88 retired military leaders who have endorsed Trump. The list includes Army Lt. Gen. William Boykin, the right-wing leader of the anti-LGBTQ group the Family Research Council. He served as undersecretary of defense for intelligence under the George W. Bush administration. He’s described the U.S. war on terror as a “spiritual battle” between a “Christian nation” and Satan—rhetoric that sparked widespread outrage and a rebuke from President George W. Bush.
Trump continues to face questions about his financial relationship with Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi. In 2013, Trump donated $25,000 to a political group backing Bondi, only days after her office said it might investigate claims of fraud at Trump University. Following the donation, Bondi’s office said it would no longer investigate Trump University. Trump also hosted a $3,000-a-person fundraiser for Bondi in 2014 at his Mar-a-Lago beach resort. Trump University is now facing an ongoing lawsuit arguing the defunct for-profit school defrauded students.
This comes as a New York Times investigation has revealed multiple cases in which Donald Trump has been fined over illegal campaign contributions. The Federal Election Commission fined Trump in the 1990s for exceeding the limits on campaign contributions by tens of thousands of dollars. In 2000, the New York state lobbying commission slammed Trump with a quarter-of-a-million-dollar fine, after he did not disclose he’d spent $150,000 on ads opposing a casino in the Catskills that he feared would compete with his Atlantic City casinos. Political operative Roger Stone created the ads. The resulting $250,000 fine was the largest penalty the state lobbying commission had ever imposed. Trump was also subpoenaed by the New York state commission to testify about his lobbying in the 1980s. In that testimony, Trump admitted he used 18 different subsidiaries to get around corporate contribution limits.
Meanwhile, the FBI says it has uncovered at least 13 phones that Hillary Clinton may have used to send and receive email during her time as secretary of state. Yet the FBI says it’s been unable to recover any of those phones—and that at least two may have been smashed with hammers. This comes as Republican lawmakers call for another investigation into Hillary Clinton’s use of multiple private email servers during her time as secretary of state.
Fox has settled a sexual harassment lawsuit with Fox News host Gretchen Carlson for $20 million. In the lawsuit, Carlson said former Fox News Chairperson Roger Ailes repeatedly made advances toward her, calling her “sexy” and explicitly asking for a sexual relationship during a meeting in his office. She says that when she rejected his advances, Ailes retaliated against her by cutting her salary, curtailing her airtime and then refusing to renew her contract. Carlson first filed her lawsuit in July, paving the way for more than 20 women to also come forward and accuse Ailes of sexual harassment. Ailes resigned later that month, receiving a $40 million severance package—twice as much as Carlson has won in her settlement.
In Afghanistan, at least 35 people have been killed in a series of bombings in Kabul Monday. The Taliban has claimed responsibility for two of the bombings, both targeting the area around the Afghan Defense Ministry.
In Iraq, a car bomb killed 10 people and wounded dozens more in the Karrada district of Baghdad just before midnight on Monday. ISIS has claimed responsibility for the bombing.
In Syria, volunteer rescue workers known as the “White Helmets” have accused the Syrian government of dropping chlorine bombs from helicopters onto a neighborhood of Aleppo. No one died, but a video posted by the White Helmets shows civilians struggling to breathe. The allegations have not been independently verified.
In Ethiopia, at least 23 people have died under disputed circumstances at a prison in the capital Addis Ababa where many Oromo protesters are incarcerated. The Ethiopian government says the prisoners died of suffocation after a fire broke out, prompting a stampede. But local media is reporting that prisoners were actually shot by guards and that the sound of gunfire was heard at the prison during the time of the fire. Some believe the fire was set on purpose. For over two years, the Oromo have staged massive nationwide protests against the Ethiopian government. Ethiopian forces have responded with a brutal crackdown against the Oromo protesters. Last month, human rights groups say nearly 100 people were killed after government forces opened fire during a day of nationwide marches. Also last month, Ethiopian Olympic runner Feyisa Lelisa raised his arms in an “X” as he won a silver medal in the marathon to protest Ethiopia’s human rights abuses against his ethnic tribe, the Oromo people.
The U.S. State Department is calling for the release of prominent human rights activist Nabeel Rajab, who is reportedly facing new charges after he wrote an op-ed for The New York Times earlier this week. In the piece headlined “Letter from a Bahraini Jail,” Rajab says he was being held, in part, for having criticized the U.S.-backed, Saudi-led war in Yemen. He called for the U.S. to stop backing Saudi Arabia, writing that the United States’ “unconditional support for Saudi Arabia and its lifting of the arms ban on Bahrain have direct consequences for the activists struggling for dignity in these countries.” Rajab was rearrested this past June. He’s been imprisoned multiple times in recent years for participating in pro-democracy protests and for criticizing the Bahraini government. On Tuesday, State Department spokesperson Mark Toner called for his release.
Mark Toner: “We’re obviously concerned about Nabeel Rajab’s detention and the charges filed against him, and we call on the government of Bahrain to release him. We have concerns about the state of human rights, in general, in Bahrain, and we’re engaging with the government of Bahrain on all of these issues.”
Bahrain is a close U.S. ally, home to the Navy’s Fifth Fleet.
A prominent tenured professor at Northwestern says she’s been banned from campus—a move she says is retaliation for her activism. Professor Jacqueline Stevens is a scholar focused on private prisons, deportations and militarism. She has criticized U.S. universities’ increasing ties to the military-industrial complex. In a 2015 article last year, she criticized her own university, Northwestern, for its corporate ties. She also led a successful campaign to block retired U.S. Army Lt. Gen. Karl Eikenberry from being named the head of one of Northwestern’s research centers. Northwestern has so far refused to comment on the ban.
And in Bolivia, transgender activists are celebrating new laws that allow transgender people to receive ID cards that match their gender identity. It also allows them to update their names on the ID cards. This is Pamela Valenzuela, the first transgender woman in Bolivia to receive the card.
Pamela Valenzuela: “I have totally assumed my female identity. It took me more than 30 years for this change, and in these 30 years I have suffered so much discrimination, so much psychological, verbal and even physical violence. I believe that everything that has happened has borne fruit. I wouldn’t let myself stop in my fight until I arrived at this moment, until the state recognized all transgender people in accordance with their identity that we have completely assumed.”