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The Republican-controlled Congress is poised to pass a massive rewrite of the U.S. tax code, after Tennessee Republican Senator Bob Corker abruptly reversed his position and announced his support for the tax plan. Corker’s switch came as Republican leaders added a last-minute provision that slashes taxes on income from real estate LLCs. Corker is a real estate mogul. Florida Senator Marco Rubio also pledged to vote yes, after winning an expansion of the child tax credit, which Republicans reluctantly granted. The New York Times reports those who will most benefit from the Republicans’ tax bill are big corporations, multimillionaires, private equity managers, private schools, liquor stores, lawyers, tax accountants and President Trump and his family. We’ll have more on the Republican tax bill later in the broadcast.
The tax bill’s impending passage came as a top U.N. monitor issued a scathing report on poverty in the United States, saying the Trump administration and Republicans are turning the U.S. into the “world champion of extreme inequality.” Philip Alston, the U.N. special rapporteur on extreme poverty and human rights, warned the tax bill will transfer vast amounts of wealth to the richest earners while making life harder for the 41 million Americans living in poverty.
Philip Alston: “I think the 'American dream' is moving fairly rapidly towards the 'American illusion,' because social mobility in this country is now extremely low, by any Western standards. If you are born in poverty, guess where you’re going to end up. In poverty.”
In Honduras, the Supreme Electoral Tribunal has declared President Juan Orlando Hernández as the official winner of the November 26 presidential election, despite widespread allegations by opposition parties and international observers of vote-rigging. The tribunal concluded Hernández beat opposition candidate Salvador Nasralla by just over 1.5 percentage points, after early counts put Nasralla in the lead by 5 points. The Organization of American States has called for a new election, saying the first election was so filled with irregularities that it’s impossible to declare a winner. Sunday’s announcement sparked calls for renewed protests following weeks of uncertainty about the election result. On Friday, police fired tear gas at protesters who barricaded roads in Tegucigalpa, demanding a recount. This is Margarita Sauceda.
Margarita Sauceda: “We want them to recognize Salvador Nasralla now as president. He is our president. We elected him as our president, because he’s the best we have. He’ll be a change for this country.”
After headlines, we’ll go to Honduras to speak with independent journalist Allan Nairn; we’ll also talk to history professor and human rights specialist Dana Frank and a spokesperson for the Alliance Against the Dictatorship in Honduras.
In Pakistan, a pair of attackers stormed a Christmas service at a church in the city of Quetta on Sunday, killing nine people and wounding more than 50 others. Witnesses say one of the attackers detonated a suicide bomb, while the other sprayed gunfire on worshipers before he was shot dead by police. ISIS later claimed responsibility for the attack.
In Afghanistan, at least 11 police officers were killed Sunday after Taliban fighters stormed a checkpoint in the city of Lashkar Gah. Elsewhere, a suicide bomber targeted a NATO convoy in Kandahar, killing a woman who died when her home collapsed due to the blast.
In the Gaza Strip, thousands of Palestinians attended a funeral Saturday for a 29-year-old double amputee who was killed during protests against Israel and the Trump administration. Witnesses say an Israeli sniper shot 29-year-old Ibrahim Abu Thuraya in the head as he protested nonviolently. At the time of his death, Abu Thuraya was in a wheelchair. He lost both legs and a kidney in 2008 during an assault by a U.S.-made Israeli helicopter gunship. He was one of four Palestinians killed by Israeli forces during protests on Friday.
The United Nations’ top human rights official is investigating whether Burma’s military and the country’s de facto leader, Aung San Suu Kyi, committed genocide against Burma’s Rohingya Muslim minority. Speaking with the BBC, Zeid Ra’ad al-Hussein called for an international criminal investigation into a campaign that saw more than 600,000 Rohingya flee to neighboring Bangladesh to escape rape, murder and arson.
Zeid Ra’ad al-Hussein: “Given the scale of the military operation, clearly, these would have to be decisions taken at a high-enough level. And then there’s the crime of omission, that if you—it came to your knowledge that this was being committed and you did nothing to stop it, then you could be culpable, as well, for that.”
In Chile, billionaire former President Sebastián Piñera easily won a new presidential term Sunday in a runoff vote that pitted him against Sen. Alejandro Guillier. During his previous term, Piñera sparked massive protests by unions and student groups over his moves to privatize public services, including education.
Back in the United States, Nevada Democratic lawmaker Ruben Kihuen said Saturday he will not seek re-election next year, as a fourth woman stepped forward to accuse the freshman congressmember of unwanted sexual touching and sexual harassment. Kihuen, who denies the charges, made his announcement a day after the House Ethics Committee said it had launched an investigation.
Carolina Panthers owner Jerry Richardson said he’s put his team up for sale, after the NFL said Friday it has launched an investigation into allegations of racist comments and sexual harassment. Among the accusations reported by Sports Illustrated, Richardson ordered female employees to wear jeans to work and to line up for his inspection, telling them, “Show me how you wiggle to get those jeans up.”
Special counsel Robert Mueller has obtained tens of thousands of emails from members of Donald Trump’s presidential transition team, adding to speculation about whether more indictments could follow in the wake of the arrests of Michael Flynn, Paul Manafort and two other former Trump officials. Axios reports the emails include documents from seven different accounts, including one operated by Trump’s senior adviser and son-in-law, Jared Kushner. At the White House Sunday, President Trump blasted Mueller’s move, saying the situation was “not looking good.” But Trump said he has no plans to fire Mueller.
President Donald Trump: “My people are very upset about it. I can’t imagine there’s anything on them, frankly, because, as we said, there’s no collusion. There’s no collusion whatsoever. But a lot of lawyers thought that was pretty sad.”
One of Trump’s lawyers said in a letter to congressional leaders that Mueller had improperly received the emails, prompting a rare statement from Mueller, who defended his actions as part of an ongoing criminal investigation. The spat came as Congressmember Adam Schiff, the ranking Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee, accused Republicans of maneuvering to end the committee’s investigation into Trump-Russia ties.
The Trump administration has barred top federal health officials from using seven words or phrases relating to abortion, sexuality and science in official documents. The Washington Post broke the news Friday, citing an anonymous whistleblower who says policy analysts at the Centers for Disease Control were told of the banned words at a meeting last week. The words are “fetus,” “entitlement,” “vulnerable,” “diversity,” “transgender,” “evidence-based” and “science-based.” In a statement, Kaylie Hanson Long of NARAL Pro-Choice America said, “Forbidding scientists and researchers from using medically accurate terminology in order to push an extreme, ideological agenda is more 'dystopia' than ‘United States of America.’”
In California, fire officials say the Thomas Fire—the biggest of several blazes currently raging in the southern part of the state—is on track to become the largest wildfire in California’s modern history. Cal Fire officials say the fire is less than 50 percent contained, with 18,000 structures still under threat. The Thomas Fire has consumed an area larger than New York City, and it’s been blamed for at least two deaths. Climate scientists have linked California’s unprecedented December wildfires to warmer, drier conditions brought on by global warming.
In Georgia, a fire at an underground electrical facility knocked out power at Atlanta International Airport for 11 hours on Sunday, stranding passengers, plunging terminals into darkness and canceling more than 1,500 flights at the world’s busiest airport. The blackout left some passengers trapped aboard grounded planes for more than six hours.
And on Capitol Hill, police arrested seven DACA recipients and one of their allies Friday as they held a nonviolent sit-in protest inside the offices of Democratic Senator Chuck Schumer of New York and Republican Congressmember Carlos Curbelo of Florida. The activists were demanding the lawmakers commit to voting “no” on a spending bill this month unless it includes a version of the DREAM Act without concessions on funding for the border wall or enhanced border security. This is activist Erika Andiola, speaking at the start of Friday’s protest in Senator Schumer’s office.
Erika Andiola: “The DREAM Act can pass in December 22nd as part of the spending bill. Schumer can do this. He has the power to do it. And we’re tired of him playing political games with our lives. And that’s why we’re here. And we’re going to stay here, and we’re going to stay in jail, until he does that.”
The activists remain in jail and could face possible deportation. They say they’ll hold a hunger strike until their demands are met.