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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 Puerto Rico, almost all of the island remains without access to power, clean water, food and fuel, a week after Hurricane Maria devastated the U.S. territory. Puerto Ricans are U.S. citizens.
Many residents are criticizing the federal government and say aid has not been arriving fast enough. This is San Juan resident Joselyn Velazquez.
Joselyn Velazquez: “The aid is too slow. They say it is coming from the United States, but who are they giving it to? Because I haven’t received any at my house. No one has knocked on my door and said, ’Here’s some rice.’”
Under withering criticism, President Trump held a press conference Tuesday in which he congratulated himself on his response to Puerto Rico’s disaster, repeating nearly a dozen times that he was doing a “great,” “amazing,” “tremendous” and “incredible” job. Trump also says he will visit Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands next Tuesday.
The Trump administration has also denied a request from several members of Congress to waive shipping restrictions to help get gasoline and other supplies to Puerto Rico faster. The decision came even though the Department of Homeland Security waived what is called the Jones Act twice in the last month following hurricanes Harvey and Irma, which hit the mainland United States.
Maria was the most powerful hurricane to strike the island in nearly a century. It destroyed the island’s entire electrical grid and caused severe flooding and widespread damage to homes and infrastructure. Flights in and out of Puerto Rico are still severely restricted, and hospitals are struggling to provide care, with limited access to electricity and dwindling supplies. We’ll have more on the humanitarian crisis in Puerto Rico after headlines.
Senate Republicans have officially abandoned their latest effort to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act, after again they failed to muster enough votes to pass the legislation. The Congressional Budget Office says the Graham-Cassidy bill would have caused millions to lose their insurance. This is the latest in a series of failed Republican efforts to repeal Obamacare and replace it with plans that would slash funding for Medicaid and give the rich lavish tax cuts.
In Alabama, former state Supreme Court Justice Roy Moore won Tuesday’s Senate runoff race to fill Attorney General Jeff Sessions’ seat. The race divided the Republican Party—and the White House, with former White House senior adviser Steve Bannon backing Moore, and President Trump traveling to Alabama to campaign for his opponent, Senator Luther Strange.
On Tuesday, Trump deleted his earlier tweets supporting Strange. Judge Moore was twice ousted as Alabama’s chief justice—first in 2003 for refusing to remove a monument of the Ten Commandments in the rotunda of the Alabama Judicial Building. After being re-elected, he was again ousted in 2016, for ordering his judges to defy the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling legalizing marriage equality. Moore is also well known for his racist and Islamophobic positions. He was a proponent of Trump’s racist and discredited “birther theory” about President Obama. He also opposed Minnesota Representative Keith Ellison’s election to Congress because Ellison is Muslim. Just last week, Moore used racist language to describe polarization in the U.S., saying, “Now we have blacks and whites fighting, reds and yellows fighting.”
Meanwhile, on Capitol Hill, Foreign Relations Committee Chair Republican Senator Bob Corker of Tennessee has announced he will not run for re-election in 2018.
The Washington Post reports the acting head of the Drug Enforcement Agency is planning to resign in less than a week over President Trump and concerns about what he considers Trump’s lack of respect for the law. Last month, Chuck Rosenberg criticized Trump for condoning police brutality during his speech to police officers in Brentwood, New York. In response, Rosenberg sent an agency-wide memo reading, “We have an obligation to speak out when something is wrong.”
Meanwhile, in San Diego, California, construction has begun on Trump’s proposed border wall. Contractors working for the Customs and Border Protection agency are building eight different prototypes of the wall. The prototypes are between 18 and 30 feet high, and each costs $500,000 of taxpayer money to build. The entire wall’s cost would be an estimated $38 billion.
Officials say the Trump administration is planning to cap the number of refugees resettled in the United States over the next year at 45,000—the lowest level since 1980. Last year, under President Obama, the cap was 110,000 refugees. This comes amid the world’s worst refugee crisis since World War II.
President Trump has doubled down on his attacks on NFL players protesting against racism and police brutality.
President Donald Trump: “Well, I wasn’t preoccupied with the NFL. I was ashamed of what was taking place, because, to me, that was a very important moment. I don’t think you can disrespect our country, our flag, our national anthem.”
Trump also tweeted Tuesday, “The NFL has all sorts of rules and regulations. The only way out for them is to set a rule that you can’t kneel during our National Anthem!” Tuesday was the fifth straight day Trump has attacked the racial justice protests led by African-American athletes. On Monday, Trump appeared to celebrate his attacks against the players, telling conservative leaders at a White House dinner, “It’s really caught on. It’s really caught on.”
Meanwhile, right-wing pastor Robert Jeffress, who sits on Trump’s evangelical advisory council, said the NFL players should be grateful they aren’t shot in the head for protesting.
Robert Jeffress: “These players ought to be thanking God that they live in a country where they’re not only free to earn millions of dollars every year, but they’re also free from the worry of being shot in the head for taking the knee, like they would be if they were in North Korea.”
Tensions are rising between Iraq’s central government and the Kurdistan Regional Government in northern Iraq over Monday’s Kurdish independence referendum. On Tuesday, the Kurdish government said an overwhelming majority of people had voted for independence, although the full results have not yet been released. In retaliation, Iraq’s prime minister has threatened to impose an air embargo on international flights unless the oil-rich Kurdish region surrenders control of its two international airports by Friday.
In Mexico, anger is growing over the government’s handling of the massive magnitude 7.1 earthquake last week, which killed at least 333 people. Residents say government aid is concentrated in wealthier neighborhoods of the capital, leaving poor districts and surrounding areas without help. Residents also say government rescue operations were called off too soon—leaving both bodies and possible survivors buried under the rubble.
Meanwhile, crowds gathered across Mexico on Tuesday to mark the third anniversary of the disappearance of 43 students from the Ayotzinapa teachers’ college in the southern state of Guerrero. The students went missing on September 26, 2014, after being attacked by local police. International experts say the Mexican military and federal police also played a role in the students’ disappearance. The parents of the missing students arrived in Mexico City for the march in buses filled with supplies for victims of the earthquake.
And in Saudi Arabia, women have won a major victory: the right to drive. Saudi women have been organizing against the ban on women driving for nearly 30 years—often taking their protests to the streets, behind the wheel. This is one Saudi driver, defying the ban.
Saudi female driver: “We are in Al Najah Street. I am going to take my sisters to do some of their work, instead of waiting for the driver or someone to take them. They will be delayed, so we decided to do our work by ourselves. We are going to the salon now. I drive carefully and can drive very well. There is no danger to us, God willing.”
Women in Saudi Arabia will now be able to obtain driver’s licenses and drive legally by June 2018.