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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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Republicans are rapidly pushing forward with their efforts to pass President Trump’s tax plan, which would overhaul the code in order to shower billions of dollars in tax cuts upon the richest Americans, including President Trump’s own family. On Tuesday, the Senate Budget Committee passed the Senate version of the plan, with all Republicans on the panel voting for it and all Democrats voting against. Protesters disrupted the committee hearing Tuesday with chants of “Kill the bill, don’t kill us.” Several were arrested. The plan will now go to the full Senate for a vote as early as Thursday.
The Senate bill slashes the corporate tax rate and gives further tax cuts to wealthy business owners. It would also repeal a key provision of the Affordable Care Act: the requirement that most Americans have health insurance. Experts say recalling this provision, known as the individual mandate, would cause the cost of health insurance to skyrocket. A House version of the bill would also reclassify tuition waivers for graduate students as taxable income, meaning graduate students could be saddled with massive tax bills.
Graduate students at dozens of universities across the country are planning walkouts today to protest the measure, which they say would make higher education even more unaffordable. We’ll have more on the tax bill after headlines.
North Korea fired an intercontinental ballistic missile Tuesday, its first missile launch in two months. The missile flew nearly 600 miles before landing in the Sea of Japan. U.S. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis said it was the furthest missile launch by North Korea to date. This is South Korean President Moon Jae-in.
President Moon Jae-in: “North Korea fired a ballistic missile today. This action does not only increase tension on the Korean Peninsula but gravely endangers the international peace and security. We strongly condemn North Korea in continuing such reckless behavior.”
The launch comes after President Trump escalated diplomatic tensions by putting North Korea back on the list of state sponsors of terrorism. President Trump has also threatened to “totally destroy” North Korea, a nation of 25 million people.
As nuclear tensions between the U.S. and North Korea continue to escalate, Hawaii is preparing to test its early warning system aimed at warning residents about a nuclear attack. The test, slated for Friday, will be the first time Hawaii has deployed the warning system since the 1990s, after the Cold War ended. This is Hawaii’s administrator of emergency management.
Vern Miyagi: “The basic guidance, again, if you hear this, is get inside, stay inside and stay tuned. Now, this sounds simple, but when you have that short a time, about 12 minutes after we get the notification, 12, 13 minutes, that is about all you can do.”
The New York Times is reporting President Trump is continuing to promote a racist and discredited conspiracy theory that President Barack Obama was not born in the United States, and therefore is not eligible to be president. President Obama was born in the U.S. state of Hawaii in 1961. But for years President Trump has been a leader of the so-called birther movement, a far-right-wing fringe group, mostly of white supremacists, who question the validity of President Obama’s U.S. birth certificate.
Tensions are rising in Honduras, where the electoral court still hasn’t released the full results from Sunday’s presidential election. On Tuesday, the court released new partial results, showing the gap between opposition candidate Salvador Nasralla and conservative President Juan Orlando Hernández has narrowed, with Nasralla now leading by only 2 percentage points. Supporters and members of Nasralla’s coalition party, called the Alliance Against the Dictatorship, are accusing the government of trying to rig the vote in favor of President Hernández, who is backed by the United States. This is Guillermo Valle, the head of the Innovation and Unity Party, which is part of the coalition.
Guillermo Valle: “We’ve sent out an urgent alert. For us, it’s critical. It’s very serious, this situation where the conspiratorial traitors of the government are practically carrying out a coup d’état.”
We’ll have more on the situation in Honduras later in the broadcast.
The Pentagon has admitted there are thousands more U.S. troops in Iraq than previously acknowledged. In its quarterly report, the Pentagon said there were nearly 9,000 U.S. troops in Iraq—more than 3,000 more troops than the military has officially acknowledged.
In New York City, lawyers with the Legal Aid Society staged a walkout at the Brooklyn Criminal Court Tuesday, after Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents snatched a man from the hallway of the courthouse and took him into ICE custody.
Lawyers: ”ICE has got to go! Hell no, ICE has got to go!”
Immigration arrests at courthouses nationwide have surged since President Trump took office. The Immigrant Defense Project says the man, Genaro Rojas Hernandez, is at least the 70th person arrested by ICE inside or just outside a New York City courthouse. The lawyers are demanding ICE agents not carry out arrests inside or in the vicinity of courthouses.
Pope Francis gave a highly anticipated speech in Burma Tuesday, in which he chose not to speak publicly about the Burmese military’s ethnic cleansing campaign against Muslim Rohingya in the majority Buddhist nation. More than 600,000 Rohingya have fled Burma into neighboring Bangladesh amid the military’s campaign of murder, rape and arson.
On Tuesday, Pope Francis did not even say the name “Rohingya,” after church leaders warned him that using the highly polarized word could aggravate the Burmese military. The pope has also met in private with the head of Burma’s armed forces, as well as Burma’s de facto leader, Aung San Suu Kyi. He’s slated to meet with Rohingya refugees in Bangladesh later in the week.
Back in the United States, longtime NBC “Today Show” anchor Matt Lauer has been fired after he was accused of inappropriate sexual behavior in the workplace. NBC News chair Andrew Lack said, “While it is the first complaint about his behavior in the over twenty years he’s been at NBC News, we were also presented with reason to believe this may not have been an isolated incident.”
Meanwhile, there’s growing speculation that Michigan Democratic Congressmember John Conyers may step down, as he faces additional accusations of sexual harassment. Several Congressional Black Caucus members are urging him to resign as another woman has come forward to accuse the longtime civil rights leader of sexual harassment. Former staff member Deanna Maher says he repeatedly made unwanted sexual advances on her, including once removing all his clothes in front of her while the two were staying in a two-bedroom hotel suite while attending a three-day Congressional Black Caucus event. Conyers also reportedly settled a harassment complaint in 2015, paying out $27,000 to a woman who alleged she was fired from his Washington staff because she rejected his sexual advances.
And Illinois Democratic Congressmember Luis Gutiérrez announced Tuesday he will not seek re-election because he instead plans to focus on rebuilding Puerto Rico in the wake of Hurricane Maria.
Rep. Luis Gutiérrez: “I love Puerto Rico. And she’s in a lot of pain. And there’s a lot of people that have turned their backs on her. And she needs to be rebuilt, and I cannot be here in the 4th Congressional District and rebuilding the home of my mom and my dad, where my wife was born, a place that I love so much. And I’m going to work really hard until she’s completely rebuilt to 21st century standards. But I can’t do them both.”
Congressmember Gutiérrez also endorsed Cook County Board Commissioner Jesús “Chuy” García to replace him.
Meanwhile, the Associated Press reports that FEMA, the Federal Emergency Management Agency, gave more than $30 million in contracts to a newly created Florida company which failed to deliver any aid to Puerto Rico. Bronze Star, LLC was supposed to provide emergency tarps and plastic sheeting for repairs, but never delivered any supplies. FEMA canceled the contract without paying any of the money. But the months-long delay in getting tarps to people in Puerto Rico means many homes have been further and unnecessarily damaged by rainfall after the hurricane.