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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 Trump has begun talks with Chinese leader Xi Jinping in Beijing, following a lavish welcome on Wednesday that was billed as a “state visit-plus” and included the first state dinner for a U.S. president inside the Forbidden City. The welcoming ceremony outside Beijing’s Great Hall of the People was broadcast live on state television—unprecedented treatment for a visiting leader. Trump used the talks to call on China to sever ties with North Korea.
President Donald Trump: “The United States is committed to the complete and permanent denuclearization of North Korea. So important. China can fix this problem easily and quickly. And I am calling on China and your great president to hopefully work on it very hard. I know one thing about your president: If he works on it hard, it will happen. There’s no doubt about it. They know.”
China insists it is already fully enforcing U.N. sanctions. Human rights activists and even Trump’s fellow Republicans have urged him to use the trip to challenge China over its crackdown on dissidents and call for the release of political prisoners. Trump is on a five-nation tour in Asia and will next head to Vietnam, where he’s expected to meet with Russian President Vladimir Putin. Trump will wrap his Asia trip in the Philippines. After headlines, we’ll go to Beijing for more on Trump’s visit to China.
The Trump administration has slapped tough new restrictions on U.S. citizens visiting Cuba, barring Americans from staying at scores of hotels, while blacklisting dozens of Cuban businesses. The move reverses much of President Obama’s thaw in relations with Cuba. The restrictions won’t end direct flights between the U.S. and Cuba, but will make it extremely difficult for Americans to travel individually to the island. The sanctions were immediately condemned by Cuban officials. This is Josefina Vidal of the Cuban Foreign Ministry.
Josefina Vidal: “Unilateral sanctions do not work. Unilateral sanctions affect people. They hurt people. So we are very opposed to unilateral sanctions, so you will never see the Cuban government adopting these kind of sanctions against other countries, other people, including the United States.”
In Washington, D.C., the labor union representing foreign service employees warns the Trump administration is undermining U.S. diplomacy at a “dizzying speed,” as it reduces the number of senior diplomatic positions while pressing a hiring freeze across the State Department. Since Trump took office, three of the State Department’s five career ambassadors have retired or quit, and nearly half of career ministers—the next rank down—have also left. In a letter to members of the American Foreign Service Association this week, Ambassador Barbara Stephenson writes, “The talent being shown the door now is not only our top talent, but also talent that cannot be replicated overnight. The rapid loss of so many senior officers has a serious, immediate, and tangible effect on the capacity of the United States to shape world events.”
In Texas, Vice President Mike Pence met Wednesday with the families of victims of Sunday’s massacre at a church in the town of Sutherland Springs, in which shooter Devin Patrick Kelley used a semi-automatic assault rifle to kill 26 people while wounding 20 others. Kelley was able to purchase his rifle even though he’d been convicted by a military court on domestic abuse charges. Pence blamed “mental illness” and “bureaucratic failures” for the assault.
Vice President Mike Pence: “In just a few moments, we’ll meet with families of the fallen and put our arms around them and assure them that every American has them in their hearts. … It was a crime that the assailant was ever able to purchase a firearm in the first place. He lied on his application, had a history of mental illness, and there were bureaucratic failures.”
Pence is a longtime NRA member with an “A” rating from the gun lobby group. As a congressmember, he voted to block individuals from suing gun manufacturers, loosened rules on interstate purchases and voted for national legislation that would have allowed gun owners to carry concealed weapons.
Spain’s government said Wednesday it will consider constitutional changes that would allow for regional governments to hold referendums on independence, like the banned vote on October 1 that sparked a political crisis in Spain’s Catalonia region. The apparent olive branch came as pro-independence activists called a general strike Wednesday. In Barcelona, riot police arrested students who stormed a train station and shut down high-speed rail service. Police also removed demonstrators who blockaded roads and highways across the city. This is Adriana, a Barcelona student who said the protesters are demanding the release of Catalan political leaders who’ve been arrested on charges of rebellion and sedition.
Adriana: “In order to break with the picture of normalcy, as if nothing was happening here, to demand the freedom of the political prisoners and to keep on taking the streets, because the republic which has been declared needs to be defended, we need to stay organized and keep demonstrating.”
Egypt’s highest appeals court has upheld a sentence of five years in prison and five years’ probation for Alaa Abd El-Fattah, one of the country’s most prominent pro-democracy activists. The ruling is final and cannot be appealed. El-Fattah has served three-and-a-half years of the sentence already, so he will spend the next year and a half in prison. The probation means he will have to spend up to 12 hours a day in a police station for another five years once he is released. El-Fattah was convicted of inciting a 2013 protest that broke a law barring public gatherings without government approval. He is also on trial in another case of insulting the judiciary, with a verdict scheduled in December. According to Human Rights Watch, the U.S.-backed government of President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi has arrested or charged at least 60,000 people, forcibly disappeared hundreds for months at a time, handed down preliminary death sentences to hundreds more and sent more than 15,000 civilians to military courts.
Back in the United States, a Black Lives Matter activist and citizen journalist whose protest photo went viral has been elected to serve on the City Council of Charlotte, North Carolina. The photo of Braxton Winston from last year shows him raising a fist in front of a line of riot police as he joined protests against the killing of Keith Lamont Scott, an African-American father who was shot by a Charlotte police officer who was later acquitted over the killing. Winston has promised to focus on economic development and police accountability.
In Texas, 47-year-old Mexican citizen Rubén Ramírez Cárdenas died Wednesday evening after prison officials injected him with a single lethal dose of the drug pentobarbital. Cárdenas’s execution came two decades after he was convicted of murdering his 16-year-old cousin. The execution came over the strong objections of Mexican diplomats who say Texas violated Cárdenas’s due process rights, failed to consider conflicting testimony by witnesses at his trial and refused to allow new DNA testing.
In Indiana, the University of Notre Dame has reversed a plan to stop covering birth control for faculty, staff and students, following protests at the Catholic university. Notre Dame’s attempt to restrict contraceptive coverage came less than one month after the Trump administration sharply limited birth control coverage under the Affordable Care Act.
In Hollywood, more than a dozen men have stepped forward accusing actor Kevin Spacey of sexually harassing or assaulting them. The latest allegations came Wednesday, as Boston TV news anchor Heather Unruh said Spacey sexually assaulted her son last year in a Nantucket bar.
Heather Unruh: “It happened late night inside the Club Car restaurant and bar on Nantucket island. The victim, my son, was a starstruck, straight, 18-year-old young man who had no idea that the famous actor was an alleged sexual predator or that he was about to become his next victim.”
On Wednesday, director Ridley Scott said he’s removing actor Kevin Spacey from the finished film “All the Money in the World” and will reshoot his scenes with Christopher Plummer taking on Spacey’s role.
In Texas, an asylum seeker at the private, all-women T. Don Hutto detention center says she was sexually assaulted by a guard and fears retaliation for speaking out. The woman alleges a female guard who worked in the recreation area groped her on repeated occasions. In a letter given to an advocate during visitation hours, the woman wrote that the guard “took advantage of every moment she could to touch my breasts or my legs,” and “what she did with me, she did with other residents.” The group Grassroots Leadership reports the woman was treated with suspicion when sheriff’s deputies interviewed her this week, as immigration authorities looked on. About 500 women are held at Hutto, a jail run by CoreCivic, formerly known as Corrections Corporation of America.
And a federal judge says one of the first DREAMers to be arrested during an immigration raid under President Trump has the right to challenge the government’s actions. Daniel Ramirez Medina had permission to live and work in the United States under the DACA program, but authorities revoked his legal status after the raid in February. The government argued it can terminate someone’s DACA at any time for no reason. But Ramirez claims his due process rights were violated. On Wednesday, Judge Ricardo Martinez refused to dismiss the case, saying, “The representations made to applicants for DACA cannot and do not suggest that no process is due to them, particularly in [Ramirez’s] case where benefits have already been conferred.”