At the United Nations, over 120 countries defied President Trump Thursday by voting in favor of a resolution calling for the United States to drop its recent recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital. The final vote was 128 to 9. Thirty-five nations abstained, and 21 countries did not cast a vote. The eight countries voting with the United States were Israel, Guatemala, Honduras, the Marshall Islands, Micronesia, Nauru, Palau and Togo. Trump had threatened to cut off financial aid to countries that voted against the United States. On Thursday, Nikki Haley, the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, reiterated Trump’s threat after the vote.
Nikki Haley: “America will put our embassy in Jerusalem. That is what the American people want us to do. And it is the right thing to do. No vote in the United Nations will make any difference on that. But this vote will make a difference on how Americans look at the U.N. and on how we look at countries who disrespect us in the U.N. And this vote will be remembered.”
In response to the U.N. vote, Palestinian politician Hanan Ashrawi praised the international community for standing up to the United States.
Hanan Ashrawi: “Well, I’m extremely encouraged that the vast majority of the states, of the members of the United Nations General Assembly did not succumb to American threats and blackmail, and did not accept the Israeli insults being hurled at them, and they stood up for justice and for the rule of law and for what is right.”
Former CIA Director John Brennan responded to the vote, posting a message on his new Twitter account saying, “Trump Admin threat to retaliate against nations that exercise sovereign right in UN to oppose US position on Jerusalem is beyond outrageous. Shows @realDonaldTrump expects blind loyalty and subservience from everyone—qualities usually found in narcissistic, vengeful autocrats.” We’ll have more on the U.N. vote after headlines with Columbia professor Rashid Khalidi.
In a major setback for Spain’s government, Catalan separatist parties have won a slim majority in the Catalan Parliament. Voters went to the polls Thursday in a snap election called for by Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy, who had sacked the previous separatist government. The deposed Catalan President Carles Puigdemont spoke on Thursday from Belgium, where he has been living in exile.
Carles Puigdemont: “The Spanish state has been defeated. Rajoy and his allies have lost and have received a slap in the face from the Catalan people. They have lost the plebiscite, through which they wanted to legalize their coup d’état of the 155, and Catalonia has not helped them to make that possible. Rajoy has sunk in Catalonia. The prisoners must leave the prison right away, and the legitimate government must return right away to the Generalitat palace, which is our home, where our citizens want us to be.”
We’ll have more on Catalonia later in the program.
In news from the Middle East, the International Committee of the Red Cross is reporting the number of suspected cholera cases in Yemen has reached 1 million, making it the worst cholera epidemic on record. At least 2,200 people have already died from the outbreak, which began in April amid the U.S.-backed, Saudi-led bombing campaign, which began just over 1,000 days ago. According to the Red Cross, more than 80 percent of Yemenis now lack food, fuel, water and access to healthcare.
A new investigation by the Associated Press has found as many as 11,000 civilians were killed in the U.S.-backed battle to recapture the Iraqi city of Mosul from the self-proclaimed Islamic State. The figure is far higher than official estimates. The U.S.-led coalition has claimed it is responsible for just 326 deaths, but the coalition never sent anyone to investigate civilian casualties. Chris Woods of the monitoring group Airwars described the attack on Mosul as “the biggest assault on a city in a couple of generations.”
Meanwhile, Vice President Mike Pence made an unannounced trip to Afghanistan, where the United States is fighting its longest war in history. He vowed the 16-year-old war would continue.
Vice President Mike Pence: “We vow to win this war, on our terms, on this soil. And together with our allies, we came here to Afghanistan to liberate its people and prevent the terrorists from ever threatening our homeland again. And we are staying in that fight, and we will see it through to the end.”
A jury in Washington, D.C., has acquitted the first six people to stand trial after being arrested at protests during President Trump’s inauguration. The defendants had faced up to 50 years in prison if they had been convicted. More than 180 others are still awaiting trial. We will have more later in the program.
A federal judge has thrown out an ethics lawsuit against President Trump. The suit had alleged Trump had violated the Emoluments Clause of the U.S. Constitution in part by accepting foreign government money via the new Trump International Hotel on Pennsylvania Avenue, just blocks from the White House. The group that filed the lawsuit, CREW, Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, has vowed to appeal the ruling.
In news from Capitol Hill, the Senate has approved a short-term spending measure to avert a government shutdown. The bill included a temporary extension of the Children’s Health Insurance Program, but it did not include the DREAM Act, which would grant legal status to recipients of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, or DACA. On Thursday, eight DACA recipients and five allies were arrested inside the U.S. Capitol as they urged Democratic lawmakers to take action.
In other news from Capitol Hill, Minnesota Democratic Senator Al Franken gave his final speech from the Senate floor on Thursday. He announced earlier this month he would resign, after at least seven women said he groped them or forcibly tried to kiss them without their consent. Franken accused President Trump and Republican lawmakers of misleading the American public on a host of issues, from tax reform to election integrity to climate change.
Sen. Al Franken: “Before I came to the Senate, I was known as something of an obsessive on the subject of honesty in public discourse. But as I leave the Senate, I feel that—I have to admit that if feels like we’re losing the war for truth. And maybe it’s already lost. And if that’s the case, if that’s what happens, then we have lost the ability to have the kinds of argument that help build consensus.”
For the first time in over a half a century, life expectancy in the United States has dropped for the second year in a row, as the nation’s opioid crisis intensifies. According to the National Center for Health Statistics, over 63,000 died from drug overdoses in 2016. Drug overdoses are now the leading cause of death for Americans under the age of 55. In October, President Trump declared the opioid crisis a public health emergency, but he did not request any money to address the crisis.
More than three months after Hurricane Maria battered Puerto Rico, about one-third of the island remains without power in what is by far the longest blackout in modern U.S. history. Officials say power won’t be fully restored until the end of May. Many Puerto Ricans are now preparing to celebrate Christmas in the dark.
Jennie Muñiz Pardo: “We still don’t have power, even three months after the hurricane. We’re living without light. We’re living off a generator. And when we don’t have money for gasoline, we’re making due with batteries, with little battery-powered decorations for the tree, because we Puerto Ricans are very family-oriented, and we like to celebrate everything.”
In Memphis, Tennessee, statues of Confederate President Jefferson Davis and former Ku Klux Klan leader Nathan Bedford Forrest have been removed following a campaign led by a group called Take ’Em Down 901. On Wednesday night, the Memphis City Council voted to sell two city parks where the statues were located to a private nonprofit. Soon after, the statues were removed. The sale was done in order to get around a state law barring the removal of memorials from public property. Memphis Mayor Jim Strickland said he had wanted the statues removed before April, when the city will mark the 50th anniversary of the assassination of Martin Luther King Jr., who was shot dead in the city on April 4, 1968.
In media news, New York Public Radio has fired two of the best-known hosts on WNYC: Leonard Lopate and Jonathan Schwartz. Both men had initially been suspended two weeks ago, following allegations of sexual harassment.
Don Hazen, the head of the popular progressive news website AlterNet, has been placed on indefinite leave after BuzzFeed revealed he had a long history of sexually harassing young female journalists who worked at AlterNet. Five former AlterNet writers and editors spoke on the record describing Hazen inappropriately touching them, sending explicit emails and, in one case, showing a female staffer a photograph of his erect penis. Hazen told BuzzFeed he denies most of the allegations. One of the women who spoke to BuzzFeed now works as a producer for Democracy Now!
And in sports news, the pioneering professional baseball player Mamie Johnson has died at the age of 82. She was the only woman known to have pitched in the Negro Leagues. Over three seasons with the Indianapolis Clowns in the early 1950s, she won 33 games, while losing just eight. In 2009, Mamie Johnson spoke to the Visionary Project.
Mamie Johnson: “I used to dream about playing professional baseball. And then I used to think, 'Hey, I know I can't do this, because they won’t even let the white boys play with the black boys, you know. And the black boys not even playing, so I know I’m not going to make it there.’ So, you know that I kept playing and playing. I says, 'One day, I'm going to play baseball.’”