A New York Times investigation reveals how the Department of Homeland Security is increasingly going global, with thousands of ICE agents and TSA officials deployed to more than 70 countries around the world. The New York Times reports hundreds more DHS workers are deployed at sea on Coast Guard ships or in the skies on surveillance planes. Some countries have accused DHS of attempting to export the United States’ restrictive immigration laws, with one German politician saying DHS’s interrogations and detentions at foreign airports constitute an extrajudicial travel ban.
The United States has imposed new sanctions on two North Korean officials—only days after the U.N. Security Council imposed another round of sanctions against North Korea in response to its recent ballistic missile tests. North Korea called the most recent U.N. Security Council sanctions “an act of war.” The new U.S. Treasury sanctions will freeze all U.S. assets of two North Korean officials accused of being behind the missile program. Russia has offered to act as mediator between North Korea and the United States amid the escalating conflict between the two countries. North Korea has repeatedly tested intercontinental ballistic missiles over the last year, while President Trump has repeatedly threatened to use nuclear weapons against North Korea, saying he would “totally destroy” the nation of 25 million people.
President Obama gave a rare radio interview conducted by Prince Harry for the BBC. While President Obama did not mention President Trump by name, Obama spoke forcefully about the importance of free speech and the dangers posed by increasing polarization of news and discourse, particularly online.
Barack Obama: “As a former constitutional lawyer, pretty firm about the merits of free speech, and the question, I think, really has to do with: How do we harness this technology in a way that allows a multiplicity of voices, allows a diversity of views, but doesn’t lead to a Balkanization of our society, but, rather, continues to promote ways of finding common ground? One of the dangers of the internet is, is that people can have entirely different realities. They can be just cocooned in information that reinforces their current biases. One of the things that I think I discovered, even back in 2007, 2008, is a good way of fighting against that is making sure that online communities don’t just stay online.”
In the radio interview, which was taped earlier this year but just released, former President Barack Obama also praised youth across the world.
Barack Obama: “This generation coming up is the most sophisticated, the most tolerant, in many ways, most embracing of diversity, the most tech-savvy, the most entrepreneurial. But they don’t have much faith in existing institutions.”
That’s President Obama speaking in a rare radio interview conducted by Prince Harry for the BBC.
Environmentalists are warning that fossil fuel corporations and other companies are investing a staggering $180 billion in the global plastics industry, threatening to propel a 40 percent rise in the production of plastics over the next 10 years. The Guardian reports the fossil fuel companies plunging money into plastics include ExxonMobil and Shell. Experts warn plastic production is already disastrously polluting oceans, causing what some environmentalists call an “ocean armageddon.”
Egypt has executed 15 people convicted of carrying out attacks on the Egyptian military in the Sinai Peninsula in 2013. The hangings, carried out on Tuesday, were the first mass execution in Egypt in two years.
Meanwhile, in more news from Egypt, labor lawyer Khaled Ali has announced his intention to run for president, pitting the left activist against authoritarian Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi. Khaled Ali was among the labor leaders who helped support nationwide strikes in Egypt in 2011 amid the uprising that toppled former military dictator Hosni Mubarak. This is Ali, speaking in a Democracy Now! interview in 2011.
Khaled Ali: “The workers have successfully launched and sustained the largest wave of labor mobilizations this county has seen, from 2004 until 2011. The workers are the ones who brought down the structures of this regime in the past years. Workers laid the ground for the emergence of this revolution, and I believe that any analysis which says otherwise is superficial.”
In Chile, a court has sentenced four retired military officials to prison in connection with the kidnapping of activist and university student María Angélica Andreoli Bravo in 1974, under Pinochet’s dictatorship. After being kidnapped, the student was transferred to multiple secret prison sites, tortured and then forcibly disappeared. The four retired military members were sentenced to between 10 and 13 years in prison.
Back in the United States, officials in Erie, Pennsylvania, have declared a state of emergency, after a staggering 63 inches of snow—or more than 5 feet—fell on the city over the last four days. Even more snow is expected today. The state is deploying national guardsmen with Humvee ambulances; because the snow is so high, regular ambulances and other emergency vehicles can’t traverse some streets. The massive snowfall has shattered multiple previous records. So far, Erie has received 97 inches of snow this month—nearly the amount of snow the city receives, on average, during an entire winter. Scientists have linked extreme precipitation—including snowfall—to climate change. Meanwhile, parts of the Northeast and Midwest are experiencing a bitter cold spell, with the temperatures on Christmas hitting record lows in Minnesota and meteorologists predicting more record-shattering cold days to come.
In Washington, D.C., whistleblower groups have expressed concern after the man charged with handling whistleblower complaints at U.S. spy agencies was put on leave and marched out of his office earlier this fall. Dan Meyer was the director of the Intelligence Community Whistleblowing and Source Protection program, before he was put on leave in late November. The Project on Government Oversight said, “This looks like a blatant attempt to get rid of him simply because he is doing his job.”