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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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In California, nearly 200,000 people have been forced to evacuate as drought-fueled wildfires tear across Southern California. Climate experts say the intensity of the winter blazes is linked to climate change. The fires caused the intermittent shutdown of the 101 and 405 freeways. Nearly 150,000 acres have been scorched so far by the fires. Authorities have warned residents to stay inside because of the dangerous air quality caused by smoke and cancerous ash from the fires. But a number of farms have stayed open, sparking concerns that farmworkers are laboring in hazardous conditions without proper equipment. On Wednesday, volunteers handing out free protective masks to farmworkers say they were kicked off some farms, despite the fact that the pickers were asking for the safety equipment.
Tens of thousands of Palestinians protested in the West Bank and Gaza Strip following President Trump’s announcement he was recognizing Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and initiating a process of moving the U.S. Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. Dozens of Palestinians were injured as Israeli soldiers cracked down on the protests. At least 16 protesters were hospitalized. Control of Jerusalem is one of the most contested issues between Israelis and Palestinians. 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. The U.N. Security Council is meeting today to discuss President Trump’s announcement. A top Palestinian official, Jibril Rajoub, has now said Vice President Mike Pence is not welcome to visit the Palestinian city of Bethlehem in the West Bank during Pence’s scheduled visit later this month.
Democratic Senator Al Franken of Minnesota is resigning, after being accused by at least seven women of groping them or forcibly trying to kiss them without their consent.
Sen. Al Franken: “Today, I am announcing that in the coming weeks I will be resigning as a member of the United States Senate. I, of all people, am aware that there is some irony in the fact that I am leaving, while a man who has bragged on tape about his history of sexual assault sits in the Oval Office and a man who has repeatedly preyed on young girls campaigns for the Senate with the full support of his party. But this decision is not about me. It’s about the people of Minnesota.”
Minnesota Governor Mark Dayton is expected to appoint Lieutenant Governor Tina Smith to replace Senator Franken.
Republican Arizona Congressmember Trent Franks has announced he’s also resigning, after learning the Congressional Ethics Committee was investigating him for sexual harassment. Multiple female staff members say Franks asked them if they would give birth to his children because he and his wife were having trouble conceiving. Franks is one of the most conservative members of Congress, part of Republicans’ far-right-wing Freedom Caucus. Meanwhile, Republican Utah Congressmember Mia Love is calling on her fellow Republican Congressmember Blake Farenthold of Texas to resign, following revelations he paid $84,000 of taxpayer money in a 2014 sexual harassment settlement with his former communications director, Lauren Greene.
Former USA Gymnastics doctor Larry Nassar has been sentenced to 60 years in prison for possessing tens of thousands of images of child pornography, including images of infants. Nassar has also admitted to sexually assaulting women and children, and is awaiting sentencing in two separate trials. Dozens of female athletes, including members of the U.S. Olympic gymnastics team, have accused him of penetrating their vaginas with his fingers and covering up the abuse by pretending it was part of a medical treatment.
In Alabama, a number of African-American lawmakers are planning to campaign for Democratic Senate candidate Doug Jones, who is running against Republican candidate Roy Moore in the contentious December 12 election. Among those who are planning to campaign with Jones this weekend are New Jersey Senator Cory Booker, Alabama Congressmember Terri Sewell, Georgia Congressmember John Lewis and former Massachusetts Democratic Governor Deval Patrick. Jones is in a close race against Roy Moore, who has been accused by at least nine women of sexually harassing or assaulting them when they were teenagers. Moore has been repeatedly endorsed by President Trump. Trump is holding a rally today in Pensacola, just four days before the special election. Pensacola is just 20 miles from the Alabama border, and it’s in the same media market as Mobile, Alabama.
White former police officer Michael Slager has been sentenced to 20 years in prison for murdering unarmed black motorist Walter Scott in North Charleston, South Carolina, in 2015. Video footage shows Scott was unarmed and running away from Officer Slager when Slager opened fire, shooting Scott eight times in the back, killing him.
An investigation by the Center for Investigative Journalism in Puerto Rico has revealed that nearly 1,000 more people died in the 40-day period after Hurricane Maria hit Puerto Rico compared to that same time period last year. These findings sharply contradict the September 20 storm’s official death toll of 62. Meanwhile, nearly 90 percent of schools have reopened across the island, following protests and political pressure from parents. But parents whose children attend the schools that still remain closed are concerned they may never be reopened and that the storm may be used to further privatize education.
Kelvin Coffie: “My name is Kelvin Coffie. I’m a father of a child with autism. And we are here right now at the Department of Public Education of Puerto Rico to see if we can resolve the issue with the school that my kid goes, that has been closed. And right now, we don’t have an answer why it has been closed, even though it didn’t have any structural damage.”
Protesters flooded the streets Thursday for a national day of action protesting the Federal Communications Commission plan to dismantle landmark regulations that ensure equal access to the internet. Protesters demanded the net neutrality rules stay in place at more than 100 rallies coast to coast, including here in Manhattan.
Ellen Skorka: “My name is Ellen Skorka. I’m from Manhattan. And I’m fighting for net neutrality, which will be voted on next week. And if the FCC gets their way, they will have more control over the internet, it will cost everyone more, and the only one who benefits will be big business. It will hurt small businesses; it will hurt individuals. And once again, the Trump administration is helping the top 1 percent and the corporations and hurting everybody else.”
Two African-American Democratic congressmembers, John Lewis of Georgia and Bennie Thompson of Mississippi, say they will not attend the opening of a new civil rights museum in Jackson, Mississippi, in protest of President Trump’s planned attendance Saturday. In a joint statement, the lawmakers said, “President Trump’s disparaging comments about women, the disabled, immigrants, and National Football League players disrespect the efforts of Fannie Lou Hamer, Aaron Henry, Medgar Evers, Robert Clark, James Chaney, Andrew Goodman, Michael Schwerner, and countless others who have given their all for Mississippi to be a better place.”
In New York City, hundreds of people rallied outside the Brooklyn courthouse Thursday to demand courtrooms prohibit undercover immigration agents from arresting people at or in the vicinity of courthouses.
Luis Mancheno: “My name is Luis Mancheno, and I am an immigration attorney at the Bronx Defenders, and I am also a member of the 5 Boro Defenders here in New York City. I’m here today because I’m joining all the public defenders here in our city to demand that our city courts and our courts in our state are free from the presence of ICE, because what’s happening right now is that during this year ICE has been arresting, in really, really high numbers, a lot of the clients that we represent in court. And the fact is that the immigrant community here in New York no longer has the trust that they need to have in order to be able to access justice in court.”
In California, advertisers are pulling their business with the award-winning alternative newspaper LA Weekly, after it was bought by a shadowy group of male investors, who fired every editor and all but one writer on staff last week. The LA Weekly is a long-running, left-leaning newspaper in Los Angeles. But the new owners, who refused to even reveal themselves at the time of the mass firing, are conservative investors based in Orange County, some of whom have donated heavily to the Republican Party.
And football player Colin Kaepernick accepted the Puffin/Nation Prize for Creative Citizenship Tuesday night, for having sparked a movement against racism and police brutality across the NFL after refusing to stand for the national anthem before NFL games.
Colin Kaepernick: “I would like to say, at this point in time, with freedom of speech and freedom of press being under attack in so many ways, in so many forms, The Nation Institute and the work that journalists and reporters are doing right now is more important than it ever has been. You truly are the pathway for the people to see the truth that’s going on. So, in this moment of time, my message to all of you is: Continue to speak just in an unjust room, regardless of the consequences, regardless of the backlash. We’re with you. We need that truth. And continue to spread that truth for us, because people need to know what’s truly going on, so we can game plan as far as how to fight against these oppressive forces.”