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This week, Democracy Now! is celebrating our 22nd birthday. Since our first show in February 1996, our daily news hour has brought you fearless journalism and hard-hitting news you can trust--all without ads or corporate underwriting. How is this possible? Only with your support. In fact, if everyone reading this gave just $4, it would cover our operating expenses for the whole year. Right now, a generous donor will TRIPLE every donation, meaning your gift today will go three times as far. Pretty amazing, right? Please do your part. Take a moment to give right now for our 22nd birthday.
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President Trump has signed into law the Republicans’ tax plan, which will shower billions of dollars of tax cuts upon the rich and major corporations, while ending a central pillar of President Obama’s signature healthcare law.
President Donald Trump: “So what’s happening is, we’re going to sign this. This is a little picture of it. It fits nicely in the box. … And I consider this very much a bill for the middle class and a bill for jobs. And jobs are produced through companies and corporations. And you see that happening. Corporations are literally going wild over this, I think even beyond my expectations, so far beyond my expectations.”
That was President Trump, signing the legislation into law on Friday in the Oval Office.
He is expected to personally benefit from a tax cut of up to $15 million a year. After signing the legislation, Trump traveled to his ritzy Mar-a-Lago resort in Florida, where he reportedly told his friends dining at the expensive private club, “You all just got a lot richer”—in reference to the tax law. The initiation fees for Mar-a-Lago cost $200,000, and annual dues cost $14,000. Experts say the $1.5 trillion tax cut will overwhelmingly benefit big corporations, multimillionaires, private equity managers and President Trump and his family, while hurting the elderly, low-income families, immigrants, people buying health insurance, and the island of Puerto Rico. The legislation will also repeal the Affordable Care Act’s individual mandate, which experts say will cause health insurance premiums to skyrocket. The legislation also opens up drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. A recent NBC News/Wall Street Journal found only 21 percent of Americans think the tax plan is a good idea.
The Republican tax plan’s passage has sparked protests on Capitol Hill, as well as in Los Angeles, where a psychologist named Robert Strong said he hand-delivered a gift-wrapped package filled of horse manure to the home of Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin on Sunday night—Christmas Eve—in order to protest the tax plan.
Robert Strong: “I didn’t sent it; I hand-delivered it. … This new tax law that’s going to kick millions of people off of healthcare and ultimately going to give the corporations tons of money at the expense of the average working poor family, I felt like I needed to do something that was equally absurd.”
That was Los Angeles psychologist Robert Strong.
In California, students and activists have launched a statewide campaign to gather signatures for a ballot measure that would reinstate California’s inherited estate tax in order to provide free tuition for public universities and community colleges across California. They launched the grassroots initiative only days after Republican lawmakers voted to slash the federal estate tax as part of Trump’s tax plan. This is one of the student organizers.
Cynthia Diaz: “My name is Cynthia Diaz, and I currently attend City College in San Francisco. College for All is a ballot initiative that will make college tuition free all across California, which includes UCs, Cal States and community colleges, by taxing the inheritance of the rich. It prioritizes low-income students, but it also includes undocumented students under AB 130, formerly incarcerated students and nontraditional students, those who do not go to college directly from high school.”
The New York Times reports President Trump made derogatory and false claims about a number of different immigrant groups during an Oval Office meeting in June. Trump reportedly fumed about Haitians who had received U.S. visas, falsely claiming “they all have AIDs.” He also complained about Nigerians who had received visas, saying that after they came to the U.S, they would never “go back to their huts” in Africa. Trump also called Afghanistan a “terrorist haven.” The White House has denied Trump made the derogatory statements.
In Seattle, a federal judge has partially lifted President Trump’s latest travel ban, after the ACLU and the Jewish Family Service argued the ban causes irreparable harm and prevents people from Muslim-majority countries from reuniting with family members living in the United States. The ruling by Judge James Robart came only one day after a three-judge appeals panel also ruled that the latest version of the ban is in violation of federal law. The latest ban prohibits the entry of most citizens of Iran, Libya, Syria, Yemen, Somalia, Chad and North Korea, along with some groups of people from Venezuela.
The deputy director of the FBI, Andrew McCabe, is expected to resign within the next few months. McCabe was the right-hand man of former FBI Director James Comey, and he briefly ran the agency after President Trump fired Comey. McCabe has now faced months of escalating pressure and attacks from Republican lawmakers. Unnamed sources have told The Washington Post that McCabe plans to retire as soon as he’s eligible for full pension benefits. Over the weekend, President Trump took to Twitter to repeatedly criticize McCabe, in a tweetstorm that experts say could constitute witness intimidation. McCabe may be called as a witness in special counsel Robert Mueller’s ongoing investigation into whether the Trump campaign colluded with Russia and whether Trump committed obstruction of justice by firing former FBI Director James Comey. Richard Painter, who served as chief White House ethics lawyer for President George W. Bush, tweeted, “Using Twitter on Christmas Eve to intimidate a witness (McCabe) in a criminal investigation is not a very Christian way to celebrate the holiday. But it does make Mr. Mueller’s job easier and that’s a nice thing to do. Merry Christmas!”
The leadership of the Miss America Organization has resigned, after The Huffington Post published a series of emails in which the organization’s CEO and its employees referred to the women contestants as the C-word and “malcontents,” called former winner Gretchen Carlson a “snake,” and shamed another former winner about her weight gain. In response to the exposé, 49 former Miss Americas called on the organization’s CEO, Sam Haskell, and other leaders to resign. Haskell and other members of the leadership then resigned over the weekend.
The U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, Nikki Haley, is claiming the U.S. helped push the United Nations to cut its budget for the upcoming year by $285 million. Haley’s statement on Sunday came only days after President Trump threatened to cut off funding to countries if they voted against the United States’ decision to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel. Despite Trump’s threats, the U.N. General Assembly voted overwhelmingly against the U.S. last week.
In Yemen, residents say U.S.-backed, Saudi-led airstrikes killed more than 70 civilians in a 48-hour period this weekend. The residents say the bombing killed women and children in the capital Sana’a and flattened buildings in other residential neighborhoods. Airstrikes also reportedly injured civilians attending a demonstration against President Trump’s decision to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.
In Afghanistan, a suicide bombing in the capital Kabul killed at least 10 people on Monday. ISIS has claimed responsibility for the blast, which occurred near an office of the National Directorate of Security.
Human Rights Watch says the Syrian government and Russia have escalated their bombing campaign against Eastern Ghouta, a suburb of the capital Damascus. The rebel-held area has been besieged by the Syrian government since 2013. There are currently 400,000 people living in the besieged region, where supplies of food, water and medicine are in short supply.
Protests have erupted in Peru, after President Pedro Pablo Kuczynski pardoned former president Alberto Fujimori, who was imprisoned for crimes including ordering massacres by death squads in the 1990s. He has now been released from prison. Many saw the pardon as a quid pro quo. Only days earlier, lawmakers aligned with Fujimori helped the current president, an ex-Wall Street banker, avoid being impeached on corruption charges. This is a protester speaking from a demonstration in Lima on Monday.
Peruvian protester: “We are demanding Peruvian President Pedro Pablo Kuczynski’s resignation and the reconviction again of this practitioner of genocide, Alberto Fujimori, everyone in the Fujimorist and Aprista, the American Popular Revolutionary Alliance, groups, really everyone in Congress. The Peruvian people are within all their rights to unite in a national insurgency.”
In the Philippines, more than 200 people have died after Typhoon Tembin hit the southern region of Mindanao on Friday. The tropical storm caused landslides and widespread flooding. At least 100 more people are still missing, and more than 50,000 people spent Christmas in mandatory evacuation camps. The storm is now heading toward Vietnam, where thousands have evacuated. In more news from the Philippines, at least 37 people have died in a fire at a shopping mall in the southern city of Davao. All 37 were workers at a call center that was based inside the mall. Unions say the fatalities were caused by a failure to enforce labor laws, including workplace safety inspections.
In the disputed territory of Kashmir, Indian troops have killed a man they claim was the commander of a Pakistan-based militant group. The news of the killing sparked protests in which at least six protesters were injured by Indian soldiers firing tear gas and pellet guns. This year has been the deadliest year in a decade in Kashmir, with at least 350 people killed amid India’s military offensive, dubbed “Operation All Out.”
Back in the United States, in Texas, police shot and killed a 6-year-old child only days before Christmas. The boy, Kameron Prescott, was killed when a stray bullet shot by a sheriff’s deputy tore through the wall of his family’s mobile home in a small city outside San Antonio. The sheriff says the officers were at the mobile home park after receiving a call about a stolen vehicle. There, deputies encountered a suspect, a 30-year-old woman, and opened fire, killing her and the 6-year-old boy. The woman was unarmed except for a small pipe. The sheriff calls the killing of the child a tragic accident but claims the deputies followed departmental policies. The Washington Post’s database says at least 952 people have been killed by police so far this year in the United States.
In New York City, 27-year-old activist Erica Garner is in a coma after suffering a heart attack. Erica Garner is a nationally recognized anti-police brutality activist who has helped lead the struggle for justice for her father, Eric Garner, who was killed when police officers in Staten Island wrestled him to the ground, pinned him down and applied a fatal chokehold in 2014. His final words were “I can’t breathe,” which he repeated 11 times. Erica’s mother says her daughter was hospitalized on Saturday after an asthma-induced heart attack. This is Erica Garner, speaking on Democracy Now! last year.
Erica Garner: “I’ve protested. I’ve spoke on panels. I traveled across this nation. I exhaust all avenues. I even endorsed Bernie Sanders to get my message out. And it’s like we keep having a conversation I exhausted for two years. And, you know, how much talking do we need to have? The Black Lives Matter movement been very compassionate, patient, and basically begging the nation. You know, we are under attack as black people. We are being gunned down every day. And these officers are not being held accountable. And no charges, from Tamir Rice to my dad to Freddie Gray, you know, has been.”
That’s Erica Garner, speaking on Democracy Now! last year. She is now in a medically induced coma after suffering an asthma-induced heart attack. Only months earlier, she gave birth to her second child.
Photographer Don Hogan Charles has died at the age of 79. He is most famous for his photographs of the civil rights movement, including the iconic image of Malcolm X holding a rifle while peering out of the window of his home in Queens, New York. Charles was the first African-American photographer hired by The New York Times. He died earlier this month in East Harlem.
And Christians around the world celebrated Christmas this weekend. On Sunday night, Pope Francis called for peace in Jerusalem and a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict during his Christmas Eve Mass.
Pope Francis: “On this festive day, let us ask the lord for peace for Jerusalem and for all the holy land. Let us pray that the will to resume dialogue may prevail between the parties and that a negotiated solution can finally be reached, one that would allow the peaceful coexistence of two states within mutually agreed and internationally recognized borders.”
Pope Francis’s call comes amid ongoing protests across the Israeli-occupied Palestinian territories after President Trump announced the U.S. would recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and move the U.S. Embassy there. An Israeli military crackdown against the ongoing protests has killed at least 12 Palestinians so far. During Pope Francis’s Christmas Eve Mass, he also lifted up the plight of refugees worldwide and called for peace for the Muslim-minority Rohingya, who have been the victims of a brutal ethnic cleansing campaign by the Burmese military.
Pope Francis: “I see Jesus again in the children I met during my recent visit to Burma and Bangladesh, and it is my hope that the international community will not cease to work to ensure that the dignity of the minority groups present in the region is adequately protected.”
The U.N. General Assembly has voted overwhelmingly in favor of a resolution demanding Burma end the military campaign against the Rohingya, grant the persecuted minority group full citizenship rights and ensure the safe return of the hundreds of thousands of Rohingya who have fled into neighboring Bangladesh.