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You turn to Democracy Now! for ad-free news you can trust. Maybe you come for our daily headlines, or for in-depth stories that expose government and corporate abuses of power. We produce our daily news hour at a fraction of the budget of a commercial news operation, all without ads, government funding or corporate underwriting? This is only possible with your support. Right now every donation to Democracy Now! will be doubled by a generous supporter. This means if you give $25 today, Democracy Now! will get $50 to support our daily news hour. Please do your part. It takes just a couple of minutes to make sure that Democracy Now! is there for you and everybody else in the coming year. Thanks so much. -Amy Goodman
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In Afghanistan, the death toll in Wednesday’s massive truck bomb attack in Kabul has risen to 90, with over 400 people wounded, as Afghans mourn one of the worst single attacks since the U.S. invaded in 2001. No group has claimed responsibility for the bombing, which struck a busy intersection in the heart of the Afghan capital during the morning rush, flattening buildings, damaging embassies and shattering windows at the presidential palace. Many survivors blamed the government for failing to provide security.
Enayatullah Mohammadi: “We ask our leaders to ensure security in the country, or if they are not able to ensure security for us, we say they must resign. There should be someone in power who serves the country. Right now, thousands of our people are in mourning. Why and how much longer should we suffer from this current situation?”
On Thursday, Afghan President Ashraf Ghani issued a decree ordering the execution of 11 prisoners from the Taliban and the Haqqani network, which officials blamed for the attack.
Meanwhile, in Baghdad, Iraq, ISIS has claimed responsibility for a car bomb that killed at least 16 people and wounded 75 others when it ripped through an ice cream parlor on Tuesday. A second explosion in Baghdad Tuesday targeted Iraq’s pension office, killing 11 people and wounding 41 others.
In Washington, D.C., President Donald Trump reportedly plans to pull the U.S. out of the landmark Paris climate accord, a decision environmentalists warn would be a crime against the future of the planet and humanity. In a tweet, President Trump said he would announce his decision at 3 p.m. in the White House Rose Garden. In 2015, nearly 200 nations agreed in Paris to the global accord to curb rising greenhouse gas emissions blamed for warming the planet. On Wednesday in Brussels, Belgium, members of the European Parliament booed reports that Trump will likely pull the U.S. out of the deal. European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker said the administration will have a hard time withdrawing.
Jean-Claude Juncker: “That’s not how it works. The Americans can’t just leave the climate protection agreement. Mr. Trump believes that, because he doesn’t get close enough to the dossiers to fully understand them. It would take three to four years after the agreement came into force in November 2016 to leave the agreement. So this notion—’I am Trump, I am American, America first, and I’m going to get out of it’—that won’t happen.”
The Guardian is reporting that China and the EU plan to forge an alliance to take a leading role in tackling climate change in response to Trump’s expected decision to pull out of the agreement. The new alliance will reportedly focus on leading the energy transition toward a low-carbon economy. We’ll have more on President Trump and the Paris accord after headlines.
In Sri Lanka, the death toll has risen to over 200, with nearly 600,000 people displaced, amid the worst flooding in the country in the the last 14 years. Scientists have linked torrential rains and increased flooding in Sri Lanka to climate change.
Meanwhile, in Bangladesh, thousands of Rohingya Muslims from neighboring Burma were left homeless after a cyclone devastated their makeshift refugee camps. The storm prompted the evacuation of the Cox’s Bazar district on the coast, but many Rohingya refugees had nowhere to go. They were left without shelter after nearly all of the camps’ 10,000 thatched huts were flattened. Rohingya have long faced persecution and violence in Burma, where they are denied citizenship.
Back in in the United States, CNN is reporting that Attorney General Jeff Sessions may have had an additional private meeting with Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak during the presidential campaign. Sessions already faces charges he perjured himself during a Senate confirmation hearing in January, when he testified that he did not have any communications with the Russians ahead of the November election. In fact, Sessions had at least two meetings with Ambassador Kislyak, and if CNN’s report is true, there was a third such meeting, in April of last year.
The Wall Street Journal reports embattled chair of the House Intelligence Committee, Devin Nunes, unilaterally issued three subpoenas—to the FBI, the CIA and the National Security Agency—seeking to learn how the names of Trump associates were “unmasked” in classified intelligence reports. Nunes’ subpoenas are unrelated to his committee’s investigation into charges that Russia meddled in the 2016 election, and came without the approval of Democrats, who say Nunes is seeking to distract from the committee’s work. Nunes previously said he would recuse himself from the Russia investigation.
Meanwhile, The Guardian is reporting that far-right British politician Nigel Farage, who led the “Brexit” campaign to exit the European Union, has been named as a “person of interest” in the FBI’s investigation into Russia and the Trump Organization. The Guardian reports Farage is being scrutinized because of his relationships with individuals connected to both the Trump campaign and WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange.
At the White House, Press Secretary Sean Spicer said Wednesday he will no longer field questions about Russia’s ties to Donald Trump and his associates, and will instead refer reporters to Trump’s personal attorney, Marc Kasowitz. Spicer made the comments in an audio-only press briefing, after barring video coverage and declaring that networks should not broadcast his remarks live. During the briefing, Spicer was asked about a bizarre tweet posted by President Trump early Wednesday, which read, “Despite the constant negative press covfefe.”
Reporter: “Do you think the people should be concerned that the president posted somewhat of an incoherent tweet last night and that it then stayed up for hours?”
Press Secretary Sean Spicer: “No.”
Reporter: “Why did it stay up so long? Is no one watching this?”
Press Secretary Sean Spicer: “No, I think the president and a small group of people know exactly what he meant.”
The audio-only press briefing came a day after Spicer stormed out of Tuesday’s press briefing, when reporters drilled him over President Trump’s claims that their reporting constituted “fake news.”
In China, one labor activist was arrested and two others have gone missing—and are feared detained—as they investigated abuses at a factory that produces shoes for the Ivanka Trump brand. China Labor Watch said the activists uncovered evidence that factory workers were forced to work excessive overtime, were verbally abused and were paid wages below China’s legal minimum—with some workers receiving less than a dollar an hour. Amnesty International called on China to immediately release the three activists. The arrest and disappearances came just weeks after Ivanka Trump secured three new exclusive trademarks in China—the very same day she and her father, President Trump, had dinner with Chinese President Xi Jinping at Trump’s private resort in Florida.
The city of New York said Wednesday it will begin cutting its ties to Wells Fargo, following a scandal that saw thousands of employees set up more than 2 million phony bank and credit card accounts. New York came under intense pressure to divest from Wells Fargo by Native American activists opposed to the bank’s support for the $3.8 billion Dakota Access pipeline.
In Portland, Oregon, the mother of one of two men stabbed to death by a white supremacist as they defended a Muslim teenager on a train is calling on President Trump to condemn hate groups, many of whom support his presidency. Asha Deliverance, the mother of 23-year-old Taliesin Myrddin Namkai Meche, wrote in an open letter to Trump, “You have said that you will be President for all Americans. So, I ask you Mr. President to take action at this time. … Please condemn any acts of violence, which result directly from hate speech & hate groups.” The letter came after the suspect in the killings, Jeremy Christian, made a defiant statement at his arraignment Tuesday, shouting “Death to the enemies of America” and “You call it terrorism, I call it patriotism!”
In Washington, D.C., part of the Smithsonian’s National Museum of African American History and Culture closed for several hours Wednesday, after a noose was discovered in an exhibition on segregation. It was the second such incident in a week. Last Friday, a security guard found a noose hanging from a tree outside the museum.
In Los Angeles, police say someone spray-painted the N-word on a gate outside the home of NBA superstar LeBron James Wednesday. The hate crime came just one day before James and his Cleveland Cavaliers are set to take on the Golden State Warriors in the NBA finals. Speaking to reporters in Oakland, James said the incident was a reminder that being black in America is “tough.”
LeBron James: “And I think back to Emmett Till’s mom. Actually, it was kind of one of the first things I thought of. And the reason that she had an open casket is because she wanted to show the world what her son went through as far as a hate crime and being black in America. So it’s like it doesn’t—no matter how much money you have, no matter how famous you are, no matter how many people admire you, being black in America is—it’s tough.”
In New York City, a grand jury indicted police Sergeant Hugh Barry on a murder charge Wednesday in the fatal shooting of 66-year-old African American Deborah Danner last October. Danner had mental health issues, including schizophrenia. Police say she was shot and killed in her own home in the Bronx after a neighbor called 911. When police arrived, they found Danner naked in her bedroom holding a pair of scissors. Sergeant Barry has been sued twice in recent years for brutality. On Wednesday, Barry pleaded not guilty to charges of second-degree murder, manslaughter and criminally negligent homicide, and was released on $100,000 bail.
And in Maryland, the youngest person ever to head the NAACP entered the race for governor Wednesday. Benjamin Jealous is known for leading the NAACP’s successful campaign to abolish Maryland’s death penalty. He’s promised to pursue a broad agenda of civil rights, social justice and economic reform. Jealous announced his candidacy Wednesday outside of his cousin’s West Baltimore flower shop, which she opened after the 2015 uprising and unrest that followed the death of Freddie Gray in Baltimore police custody. In his first speech of his campaign, Jealous called for holding police accountable.
Benjamin Jealous: “We will cut the murder rate. We will lock up the shooters. And we will restore trust by both better training officers, but, yes, by also holding officers who kill unarmed civilians fully accountable.”