The state of Alabama has officially declared Democrat Doug Jones the winner of the highly controversial U.S. Senate race two weeks ago. On Thursday morning, a judge blocked the lawsuit of Jones’s rival, Republican Roy Moore, who was claiming voter fraud and demanding a new election. This is Alabama Secretary of State John Merrill.
Secretary of State John Merrill: “I would hope that Judge Moore would look at what we have done, and if he chose to have a personal conversation with me, I’d be happy to explain to him, as I have to you and many other people that are outside the sound of my voice right now, about what our process and our procedures are. … Because I don’t think there’s anybody—that anybody has a doubt. If they’ve been objective and they have looked at this, then they know what has occurred is legitimate.”
African-American voters helped propel Doug Jones to victory by more than 20,000 votes, after at least nine women accused Roy Moore of sexually harassing or assaulting them when they were teenagers, one as young as 14 years old.
As a record-breaking cold spell continues to freeze parts of the Northeast and Midwest United States, President Trump took to Twitter to try to use this week’s cold weather as an opportunity to cast doubt upon many decades of scientific evidence on global warming. Trump tweeted, “In the East, it could be the COLDEST New Year’s Eve on record. Perhaps we could use a little bit of that good old Global Warming that our Country, but not other countries, was going to pay TRILLIONS OF DOLLARS to protect against. Bundle up!” Scientists roundly refuted and ridiculed Trump’s tweet, with one climate scientist calling it “an ignorant misconception.” President Obama’s U.S. climate change envoy, Todd Stern, responded, “Of course it sometimes gets very cold. Five minutes’ worth of education would tell you that what matters are global averages, and those are going implacably up.” California Congressmember Ted Lieu condemned Trump, tweeting, “Either @realDonaldTrump doesn’t understand the science behind climate change, or he is intentionally misleading the American people.” The record-breaking cold has smashed temperature records in parts of the United States, including in International Falls, Minnesota, where the temperature hit a record 37 degrees Fahrenheit below zero earlier this week.
The Trump administration is slated to roll back safety regulations for offshore drilling that were implemented after the 2010 Deepwater Horizon disaster in the Gulf of Mexico, which killed 11 people and caused the most devastating oil spill in U.S. history. The Interior Department, led by Secretary Ryan Zinke, is considering a proposal that would scrap the Obama-era regulations for “blowout preventers,” which are intended to prevent explosions in undersea oil and gas wells. The Department claims the deregulation would save the oil industry more than $200 million over a decade. Environmental groups widely oppose the rollback of the rules. The Center for Biological Diversity said, “Reversing offshore safety rules isn’t just deregulation, it’s willful ignorance.”
President Trump complained about special counsel Robert Mueller’s ongoing investigation into whether the Trump campaign colluded with Russia, telling The New York Times during an impromptu interview Thursday that the investigation “makes the country look very bad, and it puts the country in a very bad position.” During the interview at the Trump International Golf Club, Trump also claimed 16 times that there had not been any collusion between his campaign and Russia.
Russia has accused the United States of breaking an arms control treaty by selling two missile defense systems to Japan. Russia’s accusation comes after Japan said it would buy two of the U.S. missile defense systems, amid rising tensions in the region over North Korea’s nuclear program. This comes as Russia has also accused the United States of interfering in Russia’s upcoming presidential election, after the U.S. condemned Russia’s decision to ban opposition candidate Alexei Navalny from running.
In New York City, at least 12 people have been killed, and four more are critically injured, after a fire broke out in an apartment near the Bronx Zoo. It’s the worst fire in New York City since 1990. This is New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio.
Mayor Bill de Blasio: “This is the worst fire tragedy we have seen in this city in at least a quarter-century. Based on the information we have now, this will rank as one of the worst losses of life to a fire in many, many years. At this moment, based on preliminary information—and again, there will be more information coming in, in the next few hours—but based on the information now, I’m very sorry to report, 12 New Yorkers are dead, including one child as young as 1 year old.”
Meanwhile, in India, at least 14 people have been killed, and 50 more were injured, after a fire tore through a restaurant in Mumbai early Friday morning. One of the survivors said the fire engulfed the restaurant in a matter of seconds. Criminal charges have now been filed against the restaurant’s owner over the lack of adequate emergency exits and evacuation instructions.
In Yemen, the United Nations says two U.S.-backed, Saudi-led airstrikes on Tuesday killed at least 68 civilians, including eight children. One of the airstrikes hit a crowded market in the southwestern province of Taiz. The second strike hit a farm in western Yemen, killing 14 members of the same family.
In Syria, about a dozen critically ill patients have been evacuated from Eastern Ghouta, a suburb of Damascus. Eastern Ghouta has been besieged by Syrian government forces since 2013. The majority of the critically ill patients evacuated this week are children. There are currently about 400,000 civilians in Eastern Ghouta, where supplies of medicine, food and water are dwindling. Meanwhile, in more news on Syria, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan denounced Syrian leader Bashar al-Assad as a terrorist mass murderer and said there’s no place for him in a post-conflict Syria. Erdogan’s comments Wednesday represent a shift away from the softer stance Turkey has taken toward Assad in recent years.
In the West African country of Liberia, supporters of ex-footballer George Weah celebrated as presidential election results showed him far ahead of his rival, Vice President Joseph Boakai. The former football star will now succeed Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, who was the first woman elected head of state in Africa. This year’s election marks the first peaceful transition of power in Liberia since 1944.
Back in the United States, in Pennsylvania, professor George Ciccariello-Maher has resigned from Drexel University, after receiving months of death threats and online harassment by white supremacists and right-wing media outlets. Ciccariello-Maher faced the torrent of criticism for tweeting about white supremacy, the U.S. military and how “Trumpism” was helping fuel the high numbers of mass shootings carried out by white men across the United States. This is Ciccariello-Maher, speaking after suspected shooter James Paddock, a 64-year-old white man, killed 59 people, including himself, in a mass shooting in Las Vegas in October.
George Ciccariello-Maher: “I think this is a question that we all need to grapple with: When you see these cases of sort of mass—this shocking mass brutality, what is it that makes white men so prone to this kind of behavior? And what might be going on today in our country, in which people are stoking a sort of victim complex among white men? You know, what might be happening today to encourage this kind of behavior and to radicalize these kind of actions? And I was immediately subject to a torrent of sort of abuse and threats from right-wing media outlets.”
This fall, George Ciccariello-Maher was banned from campus after speaking out about the mass shootings, in a move Drexel said was for the professor’s own safety. On Thursday, Ciccariello-Maher wrote on Facebook that his situation was “unsustainable” and “Staying at Drexel in the eye of this storm has become detrimental to my own writing, speaking, and organizing.”
And in New York City, anti-police brutality activist Erica Garner has suffered “major brain damage,” following an asthma-induced heart attack over the weekend. While some news outlets reported on Thursday that she was brain-dead with no chance of recovery, Erica’s family members rejected those accounts, saying they are still holding out hope and that the doctors have registered some brain activity. Erica 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. In August, Erica Garner gave birth to her second child, a boy named after her late father. Doctors say the pregnancy strained her heart. This is Erica Garner, speaking on Democracy Now! in 2016.
Erica Garner: “Well, when you deal with grief, when you talk about grief and you talk about family and how regular families deal with it, you know, families have problems. Family has trouble to—with coping with it. But it makes it so different because now we are part of this national scale. … I still haven’t accepted that my father is gone, even though I talk about my dad, but I talk about him in a case study, like I’ve been studying his case. For the latest updates, you can go to my website or to Twitter, OfficialEricaGarner.com or OfficialErica on Twitter. And, you know, you can see I’m constantly reading articles and doing the research on my dad’s case. But I’m not taking care of me.”