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You turn to Democracy Now! for ad-free news you can trust. Maybe you come for our daily headlines. Maybe you come for in-depth stories that expose government and corporate abuses of power. Today Democracy Now! is celebrating our 23rd birthday. For over two decades, we've produced our daily news hour without ads, government funding or corporate underwriting. How is this possible? Only with your support. Right now, in honor of Democracy Now!'s birthday, every donation we receive will be tripled by a generous supporter. This means if you give $30 today, Democracy Now! will get $90 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. Thank you! -Amy Goodman
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This year’s Nobel Peace Prize has just been announced.
Berit Reiss-Andersen: “Good morning, everybody. The Norwegian Nobel Committee has decided to award the Nobel Peace Prize for 2017 to the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons.”
The International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons, known as ICAN, is a coalition of nongovernmental organizations in more than 100 countries. Launched in 2007, ICAN helped organize a landmark victory this year: the world’s first legally binding treaty banning nuclear weapons. The treaty was adopted by 122 U.N. member states in July, and signed by 51 countries during U.N. General Assembly Week in September. The treaty prohibits the development, testing and possession of nuclear weapons, as well as using or threatening to use these weapons. It was adopted and signed by dozens of countries despite the fierce opposition of the United States and other nuclear-armed nations. This is the executive director of the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons, Beatrice Fihn.
Beatrice Fihn: “We’re working very hard on trying to make nuclear weapons illegal. They are not yet prohibited by a treaty—nuclear weapons—and I think that we’re trying to change people’s minds. People have been accepting nuclear weapons as legitimate tools for providing security for, you know, 70 years now, and we’re trying to change the mindset, really, that it’s not acceptable to threaten to level an entire city, just to keep yourself secure.”
The Nobel Peace Prize announcement comes as The Washington Post reports President Trump is expected to “decertify” the landmark 2015 Iran nuclear deal next week, saying the agreement is not in the United States’ national interest. If this happens, Congress will decide whether or not to reinstate harsh economic sanctions against Iran. The move comes despite the fact the Trump administration begrudgingly certified that Iran has complied with its obligations under the agreement earlier this year—as has the International Atomic Energy Agency. Defense Secretary James Mattis has also said he’s in favor of sticking with the Iran nuclear deal.
President Trump’s potential sabotaging of the Iran nuclear deal is only one of a growing number of nuclear threats under the Trump administration. Tensions have also risen sharply between the U.S. and North Korea over its nuclear program. Trump has repeatedly threatened to destroy all of North Korea, a nation of 25 million people. After Trump took office, the scientists behind the Doomsday Clock, which tracks the likelihood of nuclear war and other existential threats, moved the clock’s minute hand 30 seconds closer to midnight. The clock is now the closest to midnight than at any time since 1953. We’ll have more on the Iran nuclear deal, the Nobel Peace Prize and the threats of nuclear war, after headlines.
Meanwhile, President Trump issued a cryptic threat Thursday night during a meeting with military leaders, saying this is “the calm before the storm.”
President Donald Trump: “You guys know what this represents? Maybe it’s the calm before the storm.”
Reporter 1: “What’s the storm, Mr. President?”
Reporter 2: “What does that mean?”
President Donald Trump: “Could be, the calm, the calm before the storm.”
Reporter 2: “What storm, Mr. President?”
President Donald Trump: “We have the world’s great military people in this room. I will tell you that. And we’re going to have a great evening. Thank you all for coming. Thank you.”
Reporter 2: “What storm, Mr. President?”
President Donald Trump: “You’ll find out.”
“You’ll find out”—that was President Trump’s answer when reporters asked him what he meant by his words, “This is the calm before the storm.” Trump’s comments follow his recent admonishment of his military leaders during a Cabinet meeting, telling them, “Moving forward, I also expect you to provide me with a broad range of military options, when needed, at a much faster pace.”
In news on climate change, at least 22 people have been killed in Central America by the powerful Tropical Storm Nate. The storm has sparked widespread flooding across Nicaragua, Costa Rica and Honduras. It also shut down several offshore oil rigs in the Gulf of Mexico. The storm is now barreling toward the U.S. Gulf Coast.
In Puerto Rico, doctors say the island’s health system remains severely damaged, two weeks after Hurricane Maria hit Puerto Rico, leaving more than 90 percent of the island without electricity and half of its residents without drinking water. That’s at least according to statistics published by FEMA on Wednesday. But on Thursday, FEMA removed data about access to drinking water and electricity in Puerto Rico from its website. Also on Thursday, billionaire Elon Musk, owner of the electric car company Tesla, said he thinks his company could resolve Puerto Rico’s energy problem through solar power. On Thursday, Puerto Rico Governor Ricardo Roselló replied to Elon Musk on Twitter, writing, “@elonMusk Let’s talk. Do you want to show the world the power and scalability of your #TeslaTechnologies? PR could be that flagship project.” The Puerto Rico electric company is currently the largest publicly owned utility in the United States, and the electric power industry has long sought to privatize it.
In a rare move, the National Rifle Association says it will support regulations for gun accessories known as “bump stocks,” which allow semi-automatic rifles to act like machine guns, capable of firing hundreds of rounds per minute. This comes following Sunday night’s mass shooting in Las Vegas. Stephen Paddock, a 64-year-old white man, killed 59 people, including himself, and injured nearly 500 people. Authorities say Paddock had at least 12 bump stocks. The NRA, however, does not want the regulation to go through Congress, but instead wants it to be imposed by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives. Both Republican and Democratic lawmakers are also pushing for regulations on bump stocks. This is White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders.
Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders: “We know that both—members of both parties and multiple organizations are planning to take a look at bump stocks and related devices. We certainly welcome that, would like to be part of that conversation, and we would like to see a clear understanding of the facts.”
Many say “bump stocks” regulation does not go nearly far enough to prevent future mass shootings. For example, this potential regulation would not address how Stephen Paddock was able to stockpile dozens of firearms, including buying 33 weapons in the past year alone, from Nevada, Utah, California and Texas.
USA Today is reporting President Trump’s son-in-law Jared Kushner and his daughter Ivanka Trump—both of whom also serve as senior White House advisers—rerouted their personal emails to computers run by the Trump Organization amid investigations into their use of private email accounts for White House matters. The rerouting came after they received a letter from Maryland Congressmember Elijah Cummings warning them not to delete emails sent over private accounts. They rerouted the emails through the Trump Organization, despite claiming that neither of them work for the organization any longer, now that they hold official roles in the White House.
Meanwhile, White House officials say they believe Chief of Staff John Kelly’s personal cellphone had been compromised, perhaps since as early as last December. The White House’s technical support staff reportedly discovered the potential hack after Kelly complained this past summer his phone hadn’t been working properly for months.
In more news from Washington, special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigators met earlier this year with Christopher Steele, a former British intelligence agent who created an unsubstantiated dossier about Donald Trump during the 2016 campaign. The 35-page dossier alleged the Russian government had a slew of compromising information that it could use to blackmail President Trump. The meeting with Steele comes as part of Mueller’s widening investigation into whether the Trump campaign colluded with Russia to influence the 2016 election.
A new bombshell report by The New York Times has revealed the powerful Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein has been the subject of sexual harassment and assault accusations for decades—and that he’s paid off at least eight women who confronted him about the alleged humiliating and degrading harassment. Among those who have accused him is award-winning actress Ashley Judd, who says that when she arrived for a professional meeting with Harvey Weinstein, he showed up in a bathrobe and asked if he could massage her or whether she would watch him shower. Weinstein is one of the most powerful producers in Hollywood, co-founding Miramax Films and The Weinstein Company. One of his employees, Lauren O’Connor, wrote in an internal memo alleging a pattern of sexual harassment within Weinstein Company, “There is a toxic environment for women at this company.”
Pennsylvania Republican Congressmember Tim Murphy has resigned, after revelations that the vehemently anti-abortion lawmaker had pressured a woman he was having an affair with to have an abortion. Forensic psychologist Shannon Edwards wrote to Murphy in January in the midst of a pregnancy scare, saying, “And you have zero issue posting your pro-life stance all over the place when you had no issue asking me to abort our unborn child just last week when we thought that was one of the options.” According to text message records from Murphy’s cellphone, he responded, “I get what you say about my March for life messages. I’ve never written them. Staff does them. I read them and winced. I told staff don’t write any more. I will.”
Meanwhile, the Trump administration is slated to sharply limit contraceptive coverage under the Affordable Care Act—a move that could eliminate birth control coverage for hundreds of thousands of women. The administration is expected to announce the rule change today.
A senior official within the Interior Department, Joel Clemente, has resigned in protest of Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke. Clemente was an Interior Department scientist focusing on the dangers that climate change poses to Alaska Native communities in the Arctic, until he was reassigned from his position and instead tasked with collecting royalty checks from oil and gas companies. Dozens of other scientists inside the Interior Department have also been reassigned. After he resigned, Clemente said, “Secretary Zinke is really acting against all of the issues that are important to the health and safety of Americans and natural resources.”
In international news, in Pakistan, a suicide bombing at a Shiite mosque killed at least 20 people on Thursday. The bombing was in a village in the southwest region of Balochistan. Twenty-five more people are wounded, some in critical condition. ISIS has claimed responsibility for the bombing.
In Syria, the International Committee of the Red Cross is warning of a “harrowing” spike in violence in regions across the country, including in Raqqa and Deir ez-Zor, where the U.S.-led coalition is launching daily airstrikes against ISIS militants. The Red Cross says the fighting is the worst since the siege of East Aleppo in 2016. At least 10 hospitals have been damaged over the last 10 days. The Syrian and Russian governments are accused of killing dozens of civilians in airstrikes in recent days in Deir ez-Zor. This is Red Cross regional director for the Middle East, Robert Mardini.
Robert Mardini: “Enough precautions are not taken, because we bear witness to the suffering of people. We get testimonies from civilians fleeing Raqqa, fleeing Deir ez-Zor, who have heartbreaking stories to tell every day. It is hard to meet one single family who have fled recently Raqqa and Deir ez-Zor who did not have a family member killed on the way to safety. And this is, of course, unacceptable.”
And California has adopted a so-called sanctuary state law, aimed at limiting police statewide from cooperating with federal immigration agents in carrying out President Trump’s mass deportations. The new sanctuary state law, signed Thursday, is the most expansive in the United States.