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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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Democrats made big gains in elections across the U.S. Tuesday, as voters turned against the Republican Party one year after Donald Trump was elected president. In New Jersey, Democrat Phil Murphy defeated Kim Guadagno in the race to replace the deeply unpopular Republican Governor Chris Christie.
In Virginia, Democrat Ralph Northam defeated Republican Ed Gillespie in a gubernatorial race that was widely seen as a referendum on President Trump’s policies. In response, Trump tweeted, “Ed Gillespie worked hard but did not embrace me or what I stand for.” Northam’s acceptance speech was briefly interrupted by immigration rights activists, who protested Northam’s pledge to sign a ban on sanctuary cities as governor. The protest prompted a security official to rush Northam off the stage.
In Maine, voters approved an expansion of Medicaid for low-income adults, defying Republican Governor Paul LePage and lending support to the Affordable Care Act.
In Ohio, voters rejected a measure that would have forced pharmaceutical companies to reduce the price of prescription drugs, after Big Pharma outspent its opponents by a three-to-one margin. In Washington state, Democrats have flipped the state Senate and will take control of the entire Washington state government.
In New York, voters rejected a convention to rewrite the state’s constitution, while in New York City, incumbent Mayor Bill de Blasio won a second term in office in a landslide election.
In Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, civil rights lawyer Larry Krasner has been elected district attorney. Krasner is a longtime opponent of capital punishment who opposes police stop-and-frisk policies. He’s represented protesters with Black Lives Matter, ACT UP, Occupy Philadelphia and other progressive groups.
And in Virginia’s Prince William County, Democrat Danica Roem is set to become the nation’s first openly transgender state lawmaker, after she was elected to represent the 13th District of Virginia’s House of Delegates. This is the former journalist Danica Roem speaking ahead of Tuesday’s election.
Danica Roem: “It shouldn’t be a revolutionary act to say, 'This is who I am. This is why I'm well qualified for office, as a longtime local reporter and as a lifelong resident of the district I’m running to represent.’ It shouldn’t be revolutionary to have to say, like, 'And I'm transgender.’ It is, yes, I am all of these things.”
With her victory, Roem will unseat 73-year-old 13-term incumbent Republican Bob Marshall, who has repeatedly called himself Virginia’s “chief homophobe.” Marshall authored an unsuccessful “bathroom bill” that would have prohibited transgender people from using public restrooms matching their gender identity.
President Trump told assembled leaders of South Korea’s government Tuesday that the United States stands ready to attack North Korea over its nuclear weapons program. Trump made the threat in a speech to South Korea’s National Assembly, in which he blasted North Korea over its human rights violations.
President Donald Trump: “The time for excuses is over. Now is the time for strength. If you want peace, you must stand strong at all times.”
To the shock of many, Trump also used his speech to promote his golf course in Bedminster, New Jersey, and he pressed South Korea to purchase billions of dollars in U.S. weapons. Trump’s South Korea trip continued to draw protesters, including hundreds who gathered as Trump toured the U.S. Army base Camp Humphreys.
Lee Eun-woo: “We do not want Trump to visit South Korea, because he keeps on talking about war in the Korean Peninsula and putting pressure on commerce and forcing weapons trading. How can we welcome someone like this to Pyeongtaek and South Korea?”
Earlier today, Trump arrived in Beijing for talks with Chinese President Xi Jinping, ahead of planned stops in Vietnam and the Philippines.
In Texas, new details have emerged revealing that Devin Patrick Kelley, the gunman accused of massacring 26 worshipers and injuring 20 others at a church in Sutherland Springs last Sunday, once escaped from a psychiatric hospital, threatened to kill his superiors in the U.S. Air Force and tried to smuggle firearms onto his base. Kelley’s attempted escape in 2012 came as he was being held for repeatedly assaulting his wife and fracturing his stepson’s skull. Despite these behaviors, Kelley was never placed on a list that would have prohibited him from purchasing the AR-15 semi-automatic assault rifle he used to carry out Sunday’s massacre. In fact, a Newsweek report finds the Pentagon has reported just one domestic abuser to the FBI’s federal gun database. The disclosure came as Texas Republican Senator John Cornyn—a staunch gun rights advocate—said he’ll introduce a bill that would strengthen the gun background check system.
On Capitol Hill, President Trump’s nominee for a high-level Pentagon post called it “insane” that civilians can buy semi-automatic rifles for personal use. Dr. Dean Winslow made the comment during his confirmation hearing Tuesday before the the Senate Armed Services Committee.
Dr. Dean Winslow: “But I’d also like to—and I may get in trouble with other members of the committee—just say, you know, how insane it is that in the United States of America a civilian can go out and buy a fully auto—well, a semi-automatic assault rifle like an AR-15, which apparently was the weapon that was used. And I think that’s an issue not as much for this committee, but elsewhere. So, again, obviously, you know, domestic violence—”
Sen. John McCain: “Dr. Winslow—”
Dr. Dean Winslow: “—is a serious problem.”
Sen. John McCain: “I don’t think that’s your area of responsibility or expertise.”
That last voice was Republican Senator John McCain, chair of the Senate Armed Services Committee.
New revelations from a massive trove of documents known as the Paradise Papers reveal Republican super-donors who stored much of their wealth in offshore tax havens pumped more than $350 million into the 2016 election. Some are well-known backers of conservative causes, like casino magnate Sheldon Adelson and Charles and David Koch. Others have sought to keep their activities out of public view, like Warren Stephens, the hidden co-owner of a payday lending company now under investigation for deceiving customers. And billionaire Robert Mercer and his family built a $60 million war chest for conservative causes inside their family foundation by using an offshore investment vehicle to avoid U.S. taxes. The Guardian traces the money directly to future White House chief strategist Steve Bannon of the far-right news outlet Breitbart Media. We’ll have more on the revelations contained in the Paradise Papers’ 13.4 million leaked documents later in the broadcast with Guardian reporter Jon Swaine.
In Yemen, residents are reporting severe shortages of food, fuel and medicine, after the U.S.-backed, Saudi-led coalition stopped all shipments by land, air and sea to the war-torn nation. Medical experts warn the clampdown puts millions at risk of starvation and will worsen Yemen’s cholera epidemic, which has sickened more than 900,000 people. This is U.N. humanitarian affairs spokesperson Jens Laerke.
Jens Laerke: “The situation is catastrophic in Yemen. It’s the worst food crisis we are looking at in the world today—7 million people on the brink of famine, millions of people being kept alive by our humanitarian operation. So this is a lifeline that must be continued every single day.”
In Afghanistan, gunmen disguised as police officers stormed a television station in Kabul Tuesday, killing two employees and forcing the station off the air for several hours. The attack came as NATO’s secretary general said the military coalition is adding 3,000 troops to its Afghanistan operations, with the U.S. supplying half of the troop increase.
In India, a thick blanket of toxic air pollution has covered the city of New Delhi, prompting a public health emergency. In some parts of the city, air quality readings reached the maximum score that instruments can measure—999—with a score above 100 considered unsafe by India’s government. The pollution is so bad, Delhi’s chief minister called the city a “gas chamber.” A recent study by the medical journal Lancet found air pollution kills a half a million Indians prematurely each year.
In Bonn, Germany, delegates to United Nations climate talks from nearly 200 nations have adopted a final agenda for the COP 23 convention, as they work to keep global temperature rise to less than 2 degrees Celsius. On Tuesday, climate activists staged a demonstration inside the convention space, saying governments aren’t doing enough. This is Dipti Bhatnagar of Friends of the Earth International.
Dipti Bhatnagar: “We’re seeing the poorest and the most vulnerable communities already facing horrific climate impacts. We need the developed countries to drastically reduce their emissions now. We need them to provide finance and means of implementation for us developing countries to be able to make the very much needed energy transformation.”
On Tuesday, Syria’s government said it would sign the Paris Agreement on climate change. The move by President Bashar al-Assad’s government further isolates President Donald Trump, as he seeks to pull out of the deal. A withdrawal would make the U.S. the only nation on Earth that’s not a part of the landmark 2015 agreement.
Hollywood movie mogul Harvey Weinstein hired a corporate intelligence firm and a secretive agency run by former Israeli intelligence officers to suppress allegations Weinstein sexually harassed and assaulted women. That’s according to The New Yorker’s Ronan Farrow, who reports one agent hired by Weinstein repeatedly met with the actor Rose McGowan, claiming to be a powerful executive launching an initiative to combat discrimination against women in the workplace. In fact, the agent was an undercover former officer with the Israeli Defense Forces and an employee of the firm Black Cube who was seeking information on McGowan’s contacts with the press. McGowan went on to tell reporters Weinstein raped her in a hotel room in 1997 at the Sundance Film Festival. In other instances, freelance journalists working for Weinstein called his alleged victims for interviews, only to report back on details of the conversations. Weinstein’s operation was partly overseen by David Boies, a powerful lawyer known for representing Al Gore in the 2000 Florida election recount and for successfully arguing for marriage equality at the Supreme Court.
On Capitol Hill, the head of the Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority, PREPA, abruptly canceled a planned appearance before a House committee Tuesday, as questions mount over his role in securing a $300 million no-bid contract for the Montana-based company Whitefish Energy. An executive with PREPA told the House Committee on Natural Resources that Ricardo Ramos is too busy overseeing reconstruction of Puerto Rico’s electric grid, which was totally destroyed by Hurricane Maria. The company Whitefish is based in the tiny hometown of Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke, and the head of the private equity company that backs Whitefish was a Trump campaign donor.
In Texas, Mexican national Rubén Cárdenas Ramírez is scheduled to die by lethal injection this evening, over the objections of Mexican diplomats who’ve called his planned execution “illegal.” Ramírez was sentenced to death after he was convicted of killing his 15-year-old cousin in 1997. But Mexican officials cite conflicting statements by witnesses at Ramírez’s trial and shoddy forensic evidence. This is Carlos Sada, Mexico’s deputy foreign minister.
Carlos Sada: “From our perspective, of course, the procedures have not been exhausted. The fact that there is a violation of due process, on the one hand, and, on the other hand, to the Vienna Convention, and not having the possibility of an interview with a consular officer, of course, is a violation. And that’s why it was sanctioned in this way by the International Court of Justice at The Hague, where they recommend proceedings be reopened.”
And in Washington, D.C., the Justice Department has dropped a case against a CodePink protester who faced up to 12 months in prison on “disruptive conduct” charges, after she let out a burst of laughter during Senate confirmation hearings for Jeff Sessions as attorney general. Desiree Fairooz was arrested in January after she laughed audibly when Sessions said he had a record of “treating all Americans equally under the law.” During the protest, demonstrators wore white hooded robes and chanted “No Trump! No KKK! No fascist U.S.A.!” Sessions has a long history of making racist comments, including reportedly saying he thought the Ku Klux Klan was “OK until I found out they smoked pot.”