The Federal Communications Commission, known as the FCC, has voted to dismantle landmark “net neutrality” rules designed to keep the internet free and open. The vote repeals rules established in 2015 after widespread organizing and protests by free internet advocates. These rules required internet service providers to treat web content equally and not block or prioritize some content over others in return for payment.
The repeal of these rules was widely opposed by the American public, with more than 20 million people submitting comments to the FCC. But Trump’s chairman of the FCC, Ajit Pai, had lobbied heavily to repeal the rules. On Thursday, he was joined by two fellow Republican commissioners, and the FCC voted 3-2 to repeal the rules. Thursday’s vote means internet service providers could now slow down internet speed and jack up prices. Thursday’s vote also means the government will no longer regulate high-speed internet as if it were a public utility, like phone service. On Thursday, New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman vowed to sue to block the repeal.
Attorney General Eric Schneiderman: “New Yorkers deserve a free and open internet. And that’s why my office will sue to stop the FCC’s illegal rollback of net neutrality. We’ll be filing a claim to preserve protections for New Yorkers—and all Americans—and will be working aggressively to stop the FCC’s leadership from doing any further damage to the internet and our economy.”
The FCC’s vote to repeal net neutrality rules is the latest and most controversial of a series of changes led by Chairman Ajit Pai. Over the last year, he has also loosened rules aimed at limiting media consolidation, and scaled back a program aimed at expanding broadband access among low-income Americans.
Secretary of State Rex Tillerson is speaking to the U.N. Security Council today, where he’s expected to again recommend talks and diplomacy with North Korea—a stance that puts him at odds with President Trump. Earlier this week, Tillerson broke with the administration and said the United States was ready to begin talks with the North “without precondition.” Only hours later, White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders contradicted Tillerson and said President Trump considers talks with North Korea “pointless.” The public rift between Tillerson and President Trump comes amid reports the White House is planning to oust Tillerson from the State Department and replace him with CIA Director Mike Pompeo.
The Trump administration is trying to claim Iran violated an international agreement on arms transfers—even though experts say the evidence presented Thursday by U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. Nikki Haley falls short of proving the claims. At a military base in Washington, D.C., Haley presented pieces of weapons she claims Iran supplied to the Houthi militia fighting in Yemen. Haley claimed the weaponry proves Iran violated a United Nations Security Council resolution passed in 2015. But military officials were not able to say when the weapons were transferred, when they were used or, in some cases, where they had even been found. Despite the inconclusive evidence, Haley used Thursday’s event as an opportunity to attack Iran and the landmark 2015 Iran nuclear deal.
Nikki Haley: “Everyone has focused on the nuclear deal, and Iran has hidden behind the nuclear deal, constantly threatening to get out of it. But these are the things they’re doing while we’re all looking the other way. And these are the things that will be dangerous, that will lead us to the next North Korea, if we don’t do something to stop it.”
In Washington, D.C., Republicans’ legislation to overhaul the U.S. tax code in order to shower billions of dollars upon the richest Americans and major corporations appears to be hanging by a thread. Two Republican senators—Marco Rubio of Florida and Mike Lee of Utah—have threatened to vote against the legislation, unless the child tax credit is expanded. Republicans are pushing for a vote as early as next week. Vice President Mike Pence has canceled a trip to Middle East so he can be in Washington, D.C., in case he’s required to cast the tie-breaking vote.
A fourth U.S. lawmaker has been forced from Congress over allegations of sexual harassment or assault. Texas Republican Congressmember Blake Farenthold says he will not seek re-election, after revelations he paid $84,000 of taxpayer money in a 2014 sexual harassment settlement with his former communications director, Lauren Greene. Greene says she’s been forced to resort to babysitting and other odd jobs to make ends meet, after Farenthold “blackballed” her from politics when she accused him of sexual harassment, gender discrimination and creating a hostile work environment.
Meanwhile, the Screen Actors Guild Awards will, for the first time, have only women present the 13 acting awards during the ceremony on January 21. The award ceremony will also feature a female host: Kristen Bell. This comes as actresses across Hollywood have spoken out about sexual harassment, assault and rape by Hollywood mogul Harvey Weinstein and other top directors and producers.
In Geneva, U.N.-sponsored peace talks aimed at ending the ongoing war in Syria have collapsed. U.N. special envoy Staffan de Mistura pinned the blame largely on the Syrian government, which refused to discuss constitutional changes or presidential elections. This is now the eighth round of U.N.-sponsored peace talks on the Syrian conflict. In the wake of the talks’ collapse, Syrian opposition chief negotiator Nasr al-Hariri appealed to the international community.
Nasr al-Hariri: “The international community needs a new approach; otherwise, this stalemate will continue, and, unfortunately, it will be at the expense of the Syrians, inside and outside the country.”
Top Mexican officials met Thursday with Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen to discuss increasing military and intelligence cooperation between the U.S. and Mexico in the ongoing so-called war on drugs. The meeting came only one day after Mexican Senate committees approved a highly controversial military bill that human rights groups say will give the Mexican armed forces excessive power. The United Nations, Amnesty International and human rights groups all oppose the legislation, saying it will further empower military forces that are already accused of widespread human rights abuses, including complicity in the disappearance of 43 students in the southern state of Guerrero.
Meanwhile, on Thursday, a caravan of Central American mothers searching for their children who disappeared in Mexico while trying to migrate to the United States protested outside the U.S. Embassy in Mexico City. Earlier this month, the United States withdrew from talks on a United Nations agreement promoting safe migration. This is Gloria Mariana, a Honduran mother whose son went missing in Mexico while trying to reach the United States.
Gloria Mariana: “It’s constant anguish. It’s an eternal anguish, you could say. It’s whenever you eat, whenever you sleep. Your mind is only thinking of them, on my missing son’s birthday, every Mother’s Day. For me, there is no Christmas. It is horrible, what you go through.”
In Argentina, widespread protests both inside and outside the lower house of Congress forced lawmakers to suspend a vote on President Mauricio Macri’s plan to slash pensions. Labor unions say the legislation will hurt retired workers and people on welfare. The unions had threatened a general strike if the measure passed.
The Rwandan government has accused the French military of widespread complicity in the 1994 genocide in Rwanda. The independent report released Wednesday accuses the French military of training and arming the Rwandan regime that killed 800,000 people, mostly from the Tutsi ethnic minority. The report says the French military continued to arm the genocidal regime, even after an arms embargo was imposed. The son of the French president at the time was a close friend of the Rwandan leader whose regime orchestrated the genocide.
Back in the United States, President Trump’s senior adviser Omarosa Manigault Newman has resigned, she says, after witnessing a series of upsetting incidents inside the White House. A former contestant on Trump’s reality TV show “The Apprentice,” she was the only African-American in Trump’s inner circle. There are conflicting reports about her departure only hours after the Roy Moore-Doug Jones Senate race in Alabama on Tuesday, with some reports saying she was forcibly removed from the White House and other reports saying she resigned voluntarily. In a series of interviews since her departure, she has criticized the nearly all-white administration, saying the members “had never worked with minorities [and] didn’t know how to interact with them.” Multiple reports said she objected to President Trump’s refusal to condemn the deadly white supremacist violence in Charlottesville, Virginia. This is Omarosa Manigault Newman speaking on ABC’s “Good Morning America.”
Omarosa Manigault Newman: “As the only African-American woman in this White House, as a senior staff and assistant to the president, I have seen things that have made me uncomfortable, that have upset me, that have affected me deeply and emotionally, that has affected my community and my people.”
The United States’ largest private landlord has been sued for violating the Fair Housing Act by refusing to rent to tenants with a criminal record. The lawsuit, filed by the Equal Rights Center, says the company’s policy of not renting to people with felony convictions—or even pending felony charges—has a disproportionate adverse impact on African Americans and Latinos. Mid-America Apartments owns at least 100,000 apartments nationwide.
And the Ohio Senate has passed a new bill that would make it illegal for women to have an abortion in cases where the fetus has Down syndrome. The legislation would make it a felony for doctors to perform abortions after tests reveal the fetus has the genetic condition. The bill is now headed to the desk of Ohio Governor John Kasich.