President Donald Trump sparked international outrage Thursday over a racist comment in which he said the U.S. should limit immigration from Haiti, El Salvador and African nations in favor of countries with majority white populations. While meeting with lawmakers at the White House, Trump reportedly said, “Why do we want all these people from Africa here? They’re shithole countries … We should have more people from Norway.” Trump’s latest racist comments came just after his administration announced it is ending temporary protected status for up to 250,000 Salvadorans who have been living in the U.S. since at least 2001. Last year, the Trump administration announced it is also ending temporary protected status for tens of thousands of Haitian, Nicaraguan and Sudanese immigrants living in the United States. The comments drew swift international condemnation. This is Haitian grassroots activist René Civil, speaking from Port-au-Prince.
René Civil: “Donald Trump is more than just a cancer on the world, and not just throughout the world, but particularly for the American people. … He’s a president who’s destabilizing, a president of vulgar words, who is unacceptable.”
Trump’s remarks prompted the New York Daily News to publish a banner headline featuring Trump’s likeness superimposed over a cartoonish “poop” emoji, with the headline, “S**T FOR BRAINS: Trump spews vicious slur against immigrants.” After headlines, we’ll have more on President Trump’s racist remarks. We’ll go to Florida to speak with acclaimed Haitian-American novelist Edwidge Danticat.
The White House said Thursday it will allow states to impose work requirement rules on many recipients of Medicaid, the federally funded healthcare program. The move could force low-income people in at least 10 states to find employment or risk losing access to healthcare. The White House insists the change would only target so-called able-bodied adults and would not affect children or people with disabilities.
The New York Times is reporting that President Trump will again stop short of reimposing harsh sanctions on Iran over the country’s nuclear industry, while imposing new sanctions over the country’s ballistic missile program. The report comes as Trump faces a deadline today on whether to certify that Iran is complying with a landmark 2015 nuclear deal. The deal was signed by a number of European countries, all of whom are urging President Trump to remain in the agreement. During the campaign, Trump repeatedly said he’d withdraw from the Iran nuclear agreement, calling it the “worst deal ever.”
British authorities have rejected a bid to allow Julian Assange safe passage from the Ecuadorean Embassy in London, after Ecuador’s foreign minister said he’d granted Assange citizenship. The move came as the minister said there were credible threats to Assange’s life from third-party states. Assange first sought refuge and political asylum in the Ecuadorean Embassy in 2012, when he faced possible extradition to Sweden amid a sexual assault investigation that has since been dropped. Assange denies the allegations and calls the investigation a pretext for his ultimate extradition to the United States to face prosecution under the Espionage Act.
In Hollywood, the studio behind the new film “All the Money in the World” is under fire, following reports it paid actor Mark Wahlberg 1,500 times more than the woman in its lead role, Michelle Williams, for a reshoot of several scenes. The reshoot came after director Ridley Scott chose to edit actor Kevin Spacey out of the nearly finished movie when more than a dozen men accused Spacey of sexual harassment and assault. After Scott cast Christopher Plummer in Spacey’s role, actor Michelle Williams was given a per diem of $80 for the reshoot, which kept her away from her family over the Thanksgiving holiday. Her co-star, Mark Wahlberg, was paid $1.5 million for the reshoots—in a supporting role. News of the pay disparity comes just days after more than 1,000 prominent actresses, writers and directors launched the “Time’s Up” project aimed at combating sexual abuse and harassment in the film industry. We’ll be speaking with some of them after headlines.
In the Netherlands, U.S. Ambassador Pete Hoekstra was grilled by Dutch reporters Wednesday about past Islamophobic comments in which he blamed Muslim immigrants for setting fires and creating “no-go zones” across Holland. “There are cars being burned. There are politicians that are being burned,” Hoekstra said at a conservative forum in 2015. Last December, Hoekstra denied making the remarks, telling a Dutch television crew the reports were “fake news.” When Hoekstra was then shown footage in which he made the comments, he denied he had even used the term “fake news.” On Wednesday in The Hague, Hoekstra spoke to Dutch reporters for the first time since he became U.S. ambassador, repeatedly refusing to answer questions about his false comments.
Reporter 1: “If you’re truly an honest and wise man, would you please take back the remark about burned politicians, or name a politician that was burned in the Netherlands.”
Pete Hoekstra: “Thank you.”
Reporter 2: “Why don’t you answer the question?”
Pete Hoekstra: “Yes.”
Reporter 3: “Why don’t you answer the question?”
Reporter 2: “Answer the question. This is not how this works, guys. Come on.”
Reporter 3: “This is the Netherlands. You have to answer questions.”
As a congressmember, Ambassador Hoekstra was co-founder of the House Tea Party Caucus. He supports the death penalty, opposes abortion rights and has spoken out against marriage equality and LGBTQ rights.
In Pakistan, protests have erupted nationwide after the body of a 7-year-old girl was found raped and murdered in a district south of Lahore. Zainab Amin was last seen in surveillance camera video holding a man’s hand as she walked near her home in the town of Kasur. Her body was later retrieved from a garbage dumpster. It was at least the 12th such incident in the district over the past year. On Wednesday, thousands joined a funeral for Zainab, protesting the failure of Pakistani authorities to stop the sexual assault and murder of children.
In the occupied Palestinian territories, Israeli forces shot and killed two Palestinian teenagers Thursday, as protests continue to rage over President Trump’s declaration of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital—and over U.S. plans to move its embassy to Jerusalem. Sixteen-year-old Amir Abu Musaid was shot dead at a protest near the Israeli border wall in the Gaza Strip; meanwhile, another 16-year-old, Omar Qadous, was shot and killed in the northern West Bank.The latest deaths came as Israeli officials gave final approval to plans for over 350 new homes in Jewish-only settlements in the West Bank, in defiance of international law and multiple U.N. resolutions.
Meanwhile, the City Council of New Orleans, Louisiana, passed a resolution Thursday pledging that the city will avoid investing in or contracting with companies that violate human rights. The resolution was drafted by the New Orleans Palestinian Solidarity Committee. Its passage makes New Orleans the first city in the South—and one of the largest U.S. cities—to join the BDS movement to boycott, divest from and sanction Israel over illegal settlements and over its treatment of Palestinians.
In Los Angeles, transgender activists are planning a “Vigil of Resistance” this evening, after a young trans Latina woman from Honduras was found murdered on Tuesday. Police say they found the body of Viccky Gutierrez in a Pico-Union district apartment and suspected foul play. She’s the second transgender person killed so far in 2018. On January 5, transgender rights advocate Christa Leigh Steele-Knudslien was found beaten and stabbed to death inside her home in North Adams, Massachusetts. Last year, at least 28 transgender people were murdered in the U.S., making it the deadliest year yet for the transgender community.
Walmart said Thursday it is closing more than 60 Sam’s Club stores nationwide and laying off thousands of workers. Many of the stores closed abruptly on Thursday without any warning to employees. The layoffs came as Walmart said it would increase its company-wide minimum wage from $9 to $11 per hour. The retailer lauded the massive tax bill recently passed by Republicans and signed by President Trump, saying its tax savings would allow it to pass along about $300 million to pay for higher wages. That’s a small fraction of the estimated $2 billion a year the company will save from the tax cuts, according to the United Food and Commercial Workers union. At the White House, Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin both dodged questions about Walmart’s layoffs while taking credit for the company’s wage increases.
President Trump is set to undergo the first medical exam since his inauguration. Today’s physical, at the Walter Reed Medical Center outside Washington, won’t include a mental health screening—even though Medicare recipients over 65 are routinely screened during physicals for cognitive function and possible safety risks. Trump is 71 years old. He recently boasted of being a “very stable genius” amid widespread reports over his declining mental health.
In Puerto Rico, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has acknowledged that armed federal agents entered a warehouse Saturday operated by PREPA—the Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority—where they seized a massive amount of rebuilding materials. A spokesperson for the Army Corps told The Intercept that PREPA “lacked transparency in inventory and accountability” in its rebuilding operations, prompting federal officials to seize supplies and begin distributing them to contractors. About half of Puerto Ricans still have no electric power 114 days after Hurricane Maria made landfall, devastating the island. Meanwhile, hospitals around the U.S. are reporting acute shortages of IV drip bags, just as the flu season reaches its peak, after a major factory in Puerto Rico that produces the medical devices was badly damaged by the hurricane.
In Peru, thousands of protesters marched through the streets of Lima Thursday demanding that President Pedro Pablo Kuczynski step down for pardoning the country’s former dictator, convicted murderer Alberto Fujimori. At the time of his pardon on Christmas Eve, Fujimori had been imprisoned for crimes including ordering massacres by death squads in the 1990s. This is protester Eliana Carlín.
Eliana Carlín: “Alberto Fujimori still has some trials pending. He has a trial in Pativilca, a place where he actually ordered to kill a group of farmers. And with the pardon that he just received, he’s not going to respond for that crime. And we think that that’s not justice.”
President Trump has canceled plans for a state visit to Great Britain next month to open the new U.S. Embassy in London, as British civil society groups promised to organize massive protests against any visit by Trump. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson is expected to attend in place of the president. In a Twitter post late Thursday, Trump falsely blamed President Obama for moving the U.S. Embassy, tweeting, “Reason I canceled my trip to London is that I am not a big fan of the Obama Administration having sold perhaps the best located and finest embassy in London for 'peanuts,' only to build a new one in an off location for 1.2 billion dollars. Bad deal. Wanted me to cut ribbon-NO!” In fact, it was President George W. Bush who ordered the embassy move, in 2008.