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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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On Capitol Hill, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has scheduled a vote on the Republican healthcare plan today—after multiple previous efforts to put the Republican legislation to a vote failed amid dissent within the Republicans’ own party. Arizona Republican Senator John McCain is set to return to Washington, D.C., for the vote, only a week after being diagnosed with an aggressive form of brain cancer. The Senate will technically be voting to proceed with a version of the Republican healthcare bill passed narrowly by the House, and then the Senate floor will be open to debate and amendments on the legislation. It’s not clear if Republicans even have enough votes to proceed to a debate. If they do, they could vote on anything from the House bill, which would cause 23 million people to lose their health insurance over the next 10 years, to a plan to repeal the Affordable Care Act without replacement legislation, which could lead 32 million people to lose their insurance over the next decade.
Trump’s son-in-law and senior adviser Jared Kushner is returning to Capitol Hill today for a second day of testimony in front of the Senate Intelligence Committee amid the ongoing investigation into Trump’s ties to Russia. On Monday, Kushner testified for two hours during a closed-door session. He then spoke to reporters outside the White House.
Jared Kushner: “Let me be very clear: I did not collude with Russia, nor do I know of anyone else in the campaign who did so. I had no improper contacts. I have not relied on Russian funds for my businesses, and I have been fully transparent in providing all requested information. Donald Trump had a better message and ran a smarter campaign, and that is why he won.”
After Kushner left the Senate Intelligence Committee hearing, he was confronted by a protester, Ryan Clayton of the group Americans Take Action.
Ryan Clayton: “Sign my Russian flag, please! Sign my Russian flag! I’m here today, because that man right there conspired with the Russians to steal an American election. That should be unacceptable. If we don’t want billionaires buying our elections, why are we letting foreign governments and foreign agents and the people who conspire with them stand in the White House next to the president? It’s despicable! We must do something about this. Impeach this president! He must resign immediately!”
Trump’s eldest son, Donald Trump Jr., and Trump’s former campaign manager, Paul Manafort, are slated to testify before the Senate Judiciary Committee tomorrow during a closed-door session in which they will reportedly not be under oath.
President Trump is intensifying his attacks against Attorney General Jeff Sessions over the ongoing investigations into Trump’s ties to Russia. On Monday night, Trump tweeted, “So why aren’t the Committees and investigators, and of course our beleaguered A.G., looking into Crooked Hillarys crimes & Russia relations?” Then, during a Twitter rant this morning, Trump lashed out at both Sessions and acting FBI Director Andrew McCabe, tweeting, “Attorney General Jeff Sessions has taken a VERY weak position on Hillary Clinton crimes (where are E-mails & DNC server) & Intel leakers!” He also tweeted, “Problem is that the acting head of the FBI & the person in charge of the Hillary investigation, Andrew McCabe, got $700,000 from H for wife!” This comes after Trump said last week he never would have nominated Jeff Sessions to be attorney general if he had known Sessions was going to recuse himself from a Justice Department investigation into Trump’s ties to Russia. The Washington Post is reporting Trump and his advisers are considering replacing Sessions and that Texas Senator Ted Cruz and former New York Mayor Rudolph Giuliani are among the candidates being considered as Sessions’s replacement.
In Iowa, two Catholic Workers said Monday they had carried out multiple acts of sabotage aimed at stopping the construction of the $3.8 billion Dakota Access pipeline, which stretches from North Dakota through South Dakota, Iowa and into Illinois. Jessica Reznicek and Ruby Montoya said that on Election Day last year, the two set fire to five pieces of heavy machinery being used to construct the pipeline. The two then taught themselves how to destroy empty pipeline valves, and moved up and down the pipeline’s length, destroying the valves and delaying construction for weeks. The two say they are claiming responsibility for the sabotage in order to inspire more to take action. This is Catholic Worker Jessica Reznicek.
Jessica Reznicek: “We are speaking publicly to empower others to act boldly, with purity of heart, to dismantle the infrastructures which deny us our rights to water, land and liberty. We, as civilians, have seen the repeated failures of the government, and it is our duty to act with responsibility and integrity, risking our own liberty for the sovereignty of us all.”
Ruby Montoya: “Some may view these actions as violent, but be not mistaken. We acted from our hearts and never threatened human life nor personal property. What we did do was fight a private corporation that has run rampantly across our country seizing land and polluting our nation’s water supply.”
And that was Catholic Worker Ruby Montoya. The two were speaking in front of the Iowa Utilities Board office. After delivering their statement, the two used a hammer and a crowbar to damage the letters of the Iowa Utilities Board sign in protest of the board’s decision Friday to reject a lawsuit by environmental groups seeking to have the pipeline’s state permit revoked, which would have forced the pipeline to shut down. The two women were arrested Monday for damaging the sign, and are being held on $1,000 bond. Oil is now flowing through the Dakota Access pipeline after the project was greenlighted by President Trump, despite months of massive nationwide resistance against the pipeline, led by the Standing Rock Sioux of North Dakota.
Meanwhile, in California, two protesters were arrested as a dozen people blockaded the gates of the Kinder Morgan oil terminal in Richmond Monday morning to protest the company’s plans to expand the Trans Mountain tar sands pipeline in Canada. Activists locked themselves to oil barrels and a 12-foot-long mock oil pipeline that read “No Consent. No Pipeline.” Kinder Morgan’s proposed Trans Mountain pipeline expansion is facing widespread resistance from First Nations in Canada.
In San Antonio, Texas, truck driver James Matthew Bradley Jr. appeared in court and was charged with transporting undocumented immigrants for the purpose of private financial gain—after dozens of undocumented immigrants were discovered packed into the back of a sweltering tractor trailer he had been driving. When the group of migrants was discovered in a Wal-Mart parking lot in San Antonio, eight men were already dead. Two more men died later, and 29 remain hospitalized. Authorities say they are investigating it as a human trafficking case.
Survivors say as many as 200 people were sandwiched into the back of the truck at times during the deadly journey and that the truck’s cooling system was broken. As the temperature soared in the back of the truck, survivors say they banged on the walls to try to get the driver’s attention, but the truck did not stop. Migrants began to pass out and then die from asphyxiation and heat exposure. The youngest victims were just 15 years old.
The truck driver claims he was unaware that people were packed into the back of his his tractor-trailer until he parked outside the Wal-Mart to use the bathroom and heard loud banging noises. If convicted, Bradley could face the death penalty or life in prison. We’ll go to San Antonio for more on the story after headlines with Eddie Canales, director of the South Texas Human Rights Center. We’ll also speak to Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Sonia Nazario.
In Pakistan, at least 26 people were killed in a suicide bomb attack at a vegetable market in Lahore Monday. The attack, claimed by the Taliban, was targeting police officers and killed at least nine officers.
Israel is removing metal detectors from the al-Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem, after massive protests by Palestinians who say the security measures were part of an effort by Israelis to seize control of the holy site. The move comes after the U.N. Security Council held an emergency meeting over the mounting protests and violence. At least seven people—four Palestinians and three Israelis—have been killed since Friday. This is U.N. Middle East envoy Nickolay Mladenov.
Nickolay Mladenov: “I call on the parties to refrain from provocative actions, show restraint and work towards finding a solution. It is extremely important that a solution to the current crisis be found by Friday this week. I think the dangers on the ground will escalate if we go through another cycle of Friday prayer without a resolution to this current crisis.”
Israel says it will replace the metal detectors with another form of security measures. According to the website Electronic Intifada, some right-wing Israeli extremists have been calling for the expulsion of Muslims from the al-Aqsa Mosque entirely. The group, known as the Temple movement, has issued a statement saying, “We must liberate the Temple Mount from the murderous Islam and return it to the people of Israel.”
Meanwhile, a rabbi and four other members of an interfaith delegation to Israel and Palestine were blocked from boarding the plane in Washington, D.C., to Israel, in what appears to be Israel enforcing its travel ban against people who support the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions—or BDS—movement, an international campaign to pressure Israel to comply with international law and respect Palestinian rights. Rabbi Alissa Wise, deputy director of Jewish Voice for Peace, said, “We were told at check-in that the airline has a letter from the Israeli government saying we are not allowed to fly to Israel.”
Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte vowed to continue his bloody drug war during his State of the Nation address Monday.
President Rodrigo Duterte: “The fight will be unremitting, as it will be unrelenting. Despite international and local pressures, the fight will not stop until those who deal in it understand that they have to cease, they have to stop, because the alternative are either jail or hell.”
Filipino security forces and vigilantes have killed more than 7,000 suspected drug users and dealers since Duterte launched his so-called war on drugs one year ago. During his State of the Nation, Duterte also attacked multiple Filipino media outlets, including the popular Filipino-owned website Rappler, which Duterte falsely accused of being American-owned. On Sunday, the Philippines Congress also granted Duterte’s request to extend martial law in the southern region of Mindanao until the end of the year.
Back in the United States, in Michigan, federal Judge Mark Goldsmith has halted the deportation of more than 1,400 Iraqis, ruling the immigrants could face torture or death if returned to Iraq. The ruling gives the immigrants more time to try to convince courts to overturn their deportation orders. The Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency, known as ICE, has rounded up hundreds of Iraqi immigrants in Michigan in recent months, after U.S. and Iraq reached a new agreement that allows the U.S. to deport Iraqis even if they don’t have valid Iraqi travel documents.
And in Baltimore, a group of high school students are tackling the drug overdose epidemic by building a cellphone app that alerts people when a toxic batch of heroin is being distributed in their area. The students, who are mostly African-American, helped design and build “Bad Batch Alert,” which sends text messages to alert Baltimore residents when people in their area are overdosing at a higher rate, likely from a tainted batch of the drug. The app also allows users to text for help, allowing drug users an alternative to calling 911 in the event of an overdose.