The House of Representatives is poised to pass a massive rewrite of the U.S. tax code today that will overwhelmingly benefit corporations and the wealthiest Americans. The bill would also end the federal health insurance mandate, endangering the Affordable Care Act, while opening up drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. On Capitol Hill, hundreds of protesters flooded the offices of lawmakers Monday in civil disobedience protests. Among those arrested was Cincinnati resident Megan Anderson, who uses a wheelchair and has a degenerative neuromuscular disease. Anderson says the tax bill will lead to Medicaid cuts that could shorten her lifespan.
Megan Anderson: “I am begging the people that work for us to not kill me. This disease continues to get worse. I will one day need a tracheotomy, a ventilator. Please allow me that, so I can continue to laugh, continue to share tears of joys with my family, my friends and my community.”
The protests came as a new analysis by the Tax Policy Institute found that, by 2027, the top 1 percent would get 83 percent of the tax cut, while two-thirds of middle-class Americans would see a tax increase. The Senate is expected to vote on final passage of the bill later this week.
In Washington state, a high-speed passenger train on its inaugural trip from Seattle to Portland derailed Monday, leaving at least three people dead and injuring 70 others—10 of them seriously. Federal investigators say the Amtrak train was traveling at 80 miles per hour when it barreled off the tracks in a 30-mile-per-hour zone. The accident sent some of the train’s cars tumbling onto a major highway below, with others left dangling on a steep embankment. This is West Pierce Fire Chief Jay Sumerlin.
Fire Chief Jay Sumerlin: “It took a lot of extrication tools. It wasn’t easy for the firefighters to get through. They were using jaws of life. They were using air chisels and different forms of saws to be able to get into some of the crushed cars to get access to people and get them out. Some of the rescues were done by ladders. It was just a difficult place to be.”
The National Transportation Safety Board says it’s too early to tell what caused the derailment and that its investigators would spend a week or more scouring the wreckage for clues. Ahead of the crash, the mayor of the city of Lakewood raised safety concerns about the new rail line, predicting earlier this month it could lead to multiple deaths. The train was not utilizing positive train control—a technology mandated by Congress, but rarely operating in Amtrak trains—which could have prevented the crash. After the derailment, President Trump tweeted, “The train accident that just occurred in DuPont, WA shows more than ever why our soon to be submitted infrastructure plan must be approved quickly. Seven trillion dollars spent in the Middle East while our roads, bridges, tunnels, railways (and more) crumble! Not for long!” In fact, President Trump’s proposed budget for next year would cut federal funds for the Federal Transit Administration’s capital investment program, including Amtrak projects.
President Trump outlined his blueprint for national security Monday in a speech trumpeting U.S. military might—but failing the mention the threat posed by climate change. Trump’s national security strategy calls for the U.S. to respond with nuclear weapons to non-nuclear attacks; Trump said he was seeking to put “America first” by expanding the U.S. military to counter the growing power of Russia and China.
The United States vetoed a United Nations Security Council resolution Monday calling on the Trump administration to withdraw its declaration that Jerusalem is Israel’s capital. The vote was 14 to 1, with U.S. Ambassador Nikki Haley exercising a lone veto. The Israeli military seized control of East Jerusalem in 1967 and has occupied the territory ever since. Palestinians, however, have long seen East Jerusalem as the capital of their future country, and both the U.N. Security Council and the General Assembly have passed dozens of resolutions calling for Israel to end its occupation of East Jerusalem.
Meanwhile, Vice President Mike Pence has delayed a planned trip to the Middle East, saying he’ll remain in Washington, D.C., to preside over passage of the Republican tax bill this week. Pence’s announcement came after Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas canceled a planned meeting with Pence in Bethlehem and called for an “angry” demonstration to protest President Trump’s decision on Jerusalem. Pence now says he’ll visit Egypt and Israel in February.
Honduran Vice President Ricardo Álvarez has rejected calls for a revote in the November 26 election, after incumbent President Juan Orlando Hernández was declared the winner by the election tribunal his office controls.
Vice President Ricardo Álvarez Arias: “This is an autonomous and sovereign country. This is a country that is not going to do what anybody from an international organization tells it to do. I will say it again: The only other election this country will have, the next one, is on the last Sunday of November 2021. There’s not another election.”
Vice President Álvarez’s comments came despite charges of voter fraud by opposition candidate Salvador Nasralla and a call for a new vote by the Organization of American States, which said the first election was so filled with irregularities that it’s impossible to declare a winner. Protests continue to rage across Honduras. In the capital Tegucigalpa Monday, police fired tear gas and pepper spray at protesters who burned tires and set up barricades in the streets.
In Vienna, thousands of people rallied Monday to protest Austria’s newly seated far-right government, which includes members of the anti-immigrant Freedom Party, which was founded after World War II by former members of the Nazi party. Outside the presidential palace, police used water cannons to turn back protesters who chanted, “Refugees welcome” and “Nazis out.” This is protester Fam Fiskal.
Fam Fiskal: “I believe Austria should remain open. Clearly, we’re a small country and can’t take everyone in, but we should also avoid producing general suspects and being generally hostile to migrants and refugees.”
Puerto Rico’s government said Monday it’s launching an official review of the death count from Hurricane Maria. The storm devastated the island on September 20, and since then the government has put the official death toll at 64. But several investigations have revealed that nearly 1,000 more people died. This comes as the Center for Investigative Journalism in Puerto Rico reported this week that, close to three months since the storm, 45 people are still listed as missing, and efforts by Puerto Rico’s police to locate them have been minimal or almost nonexistent. After headlines, we’ll go to San Juan to speak with Puerto Rican journalist Omaya Sosa.
One of President Trump’s nominees to a lifetime appointment on the U.S. District Court in Washington has withdrawn from consideration, after widely circulated video showed he was unable to answer basic questions about the law and had never tried a case in court. This is Louisiana Republican John Kennedy questioning Matthew Petersen at a Senate Judiciary Committee confirmation hearing last week.
Sen. John Kennedy: “Have you ever tried a jury trial?
Matthew Petersen: “I have not.”
Sen. John Kennedy: “Civil?”
Matthew Petersen: “No.”
Sen. John Kennedy: “Criminal?”
Matthew Petersen: “No.”
Sen. John Kennedy: “Bench?”
Matthew Petersen: “No.”
Sen. John Kennedy: “State or federal court?”
Matthew Petersen: “I have not.”
Matthew Petersen’s withdrawal came after the Judiciary Committee rejected two of President Trump’s other nominees this month: Texas lawyer Jeff Mateer, who has called transgender children evidence of “Satan’s plan,” and blogger Brett Talley, who was rated “unanimously unqualified” for a judicial post by the American Bar Association.
In California, federal appeals court Judge Alex Kozinski said Monday he’ll retire, after at least 15 women accused him of sexual harassment, unwanted hugging, kissing or groping, in incidents spanning decades. Judge Kozinski was appointed to the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals by President Ronald Reagan in 1985.
Current and former women contributors at the Fox News channel are speaking out against sexual abuse in the workplace, after media mogul and Fox News owner Rupert Murdoch dismissed widespread charges of rape, sexual assault and harassment at the network as “nonsense.” Murdoch made the comments in an interview on the Sky News channel, which he founded.
Ian King: “How harmful has the whole raft of allegations about sexual harassment at Fox News been for the business? Has it?”
Rupert Murdoch: “Oh, that’s all nonsense. There was a problem with our chief executive, sort of over the years, but isolated instances. As soon as we investigated it, he was out of the place in hours. Well, three or four days. And there’s been nothing else since then.”
In fact, it took Fox News three weeks to force out its former chief executive, Roger Ailes, after former host Gretchen Carlson filed suit against Ailes and left with a $40 million settlement. Ailes was also accused of sexual harassment by more than 20 other women. Rupert Murdoch also failed to mention the case of former Fox News host Bill O’Reilly, who settled sexual harassment claims with at least six women—paying out $32 million to settle one suit alone—before he was eventually fired last April. Fox News host Eric Bolling was suspended by the network in August over accusations that he texted unwanted photos of his genitals to female co-workers. And former TV commentator Scottie Nell Hughes says in a lawsuit she was raped by longtime anchor Charles Payne and then coerced into maintaining a sexual relationship with him.
And feminist activist Tarana Burke, the founder of the #MeToo movement, will preside over the ceremonial countdown ringing in 2018 on New Year’s Eve in New York City’s Times Square. Ten years ago, Tarana Burke began “Me Too” as a grassroots movement to aid sexual assault survivors in underprivileged communities, where rape crisis centers and sexual assault workers were not going. In a statement, the president of the Times Square Alliance said, “Tarana Burke’s courage and foresight have changed the world this year, and, we hope, forever.”