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Lawmakers are on Capitol Hill today amid the third day of a partial government shutdown. Hundreds of thousands of so-called non-essential government workers are furloughed, meaning they are barred from working and won’t be paid during the shutdown. The two agencies hardest hit by the government shutdown are HUD, the Department of Housing and Urban Development, and the EPA, the Environmental Protection Agency. The government shut down at midnight on Friday night after lawmakers failed to reach a budget deal. At the heart of the showdown is President Trump and the Republicans’ failure to compromise on a plan for the 800,000 young undocumented immigrants known as DREAMers. Trump rescinded DACA, the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, last year. Democrats have refused so far to agree to a budget deal that doesn’t include a resolution on DACA. The Senate is slated to vote today at noon on a resolution that would fund the government for the next three weeks.
Hundreds of thousands of women took to the streets across the country on Saturday to mark the first anniversary of last year’s historic Women’s March protesting President Trump’s inauguration. In New York City, 200,000 people took to the streets. Among them was Desiree Jordan, who was protesting violence against queer women of color.
Desiree Jordan: “We’re here basically to say the names of the black women, the black lesbians, that were murdered recently, and there’s been no media coverage, particularly women that are silenced. I mean, it’s horrific not to hear these women’s names mentioned. We all know Trayvon Martin. We all know all the men—Eric Garner—that was murdered. We need to know the names of the women and the lesbians, black lesbians particularly, who are murdered in this country, and there is nothing in our media. And it’s just horrific to think about women being killed just for being who they are.”
Saturday’s march comes amid the nationwide #MeToo and Time’s Up movements, in which women across industries and class and racial lines have joined their voices to denounce pervasive gender-based violence and to demand an end to sexual harassment and abuse. In Los Angeles, tens of thousands of women protested, including Academy Award-winning actress Viola Davis.
Viola Davis: “Listen. I am always introduced as an award-winning actor. But my testimony is one of poverty. My testimony is one of being sexually assaulted and very much seeing a childhood that was robbed from me. And I know that every single day, when I think of that, I know that the trauma of those events are still with me today. And that’s what drives me to the voting booth. That’s what allows me to listen to the women who are still in silence.”
That’s Academy Award-winning actress Viola Davis. At a Women’s March rally in Morristown, New Jersey, on Saturday, the new first lady of New Jersey, Tammy Murphy, said she was a survivor of an attempted sexual assault while she was a sophomore in college. In total, there were protests in hundreds of cities across the United States and around the world, including in Frankfurt, Germany; Kampala, Uganda; and Osaka, Japan. We’ll hear more voices from the Women’s March in Park City, Utah, after headlines.
In Michigan, female gymnasts who survived sexual assault and abuse by former USA Gymnastics team doctor Larry Nassar continue to testify against the doctor in court. Nassar has already admitted to sexually abusing the athletes when they were children and adolescents, and then covering up the abuse by pretending it was part of a medical treatment. This is Olympic gold medalist Aly Raisman, testifying Friday.
Aly Raisman: “I am here to face you, Larry, so you can see I’ve regained my strength, that I’m no longer a victim, I’m a survivor. Now is the time to acknowledge that the very person who sits here before us now, who perpetrated the worst epidemic of sexual abuse in the history of sports, who is going to be locked up for a long, long time, this monster was also the architect of policies and procedures that are supposed to protect athletes from sexual abuse. Abusers, your time is up. The survivors are here, standing tall, and we are not going anywhere.”
During her testimony, Olympic gold medalist Aly Raisman also attacked USA Gymnastics and the U.S. Olympic Committee for allowing the sexual abuse to continue for decades.
Aly Raisman: “Your abuse started 30 years ago, but that’s just the first reported incident we know of. If, over these many years, just one adult listened and had the courage and character to act, this tragedy could have been avoided. Neither USA Gymnastics nor the USOC have reached out to express sympathy or even offer support, not even to ask, 'How did this happen? What do you think we can do to help?' Why have I, and others here, probably, not heard anything from the leadership at the USOC? Why has the United States Olympic Committee been silent?”
At least one woman has also testified that she reported the sexual abuse to officials at Michigan State University, where Larry Nassar also practiced sports medicine. A growing number of the sexual assault survivors, current students and even one Michigan State University trustee are calling on university President Lou Anna Simon to resign over questions about what she and the university knew about Nassar’s systematic sexual assault of female athletes on campus.
Palestinian leaders are boycotting Vice President Mike Pence’s visit to Israel, refusing to meet with him in protest of the Trump administration’s recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and its plans to move the U.S. Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. Pence has already met with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and is slated to speak to the Israeli parliament today. Arab members of Israel’s parliament are planning to boycott Pence’s address.
In Afghanistan, at least 18 people were killed in a 14-hour siege of the Intercontinental Hotel in Kabul. The Taliban has claimed responsibility for the attack. Among the dead was peace activist Ahmad Farzan, who was in Kabul teaching classes and working at Afghanistan’s High Peace Council.
Turkey has launched a bombing campaign and ground offensive against the Syrian Kurdish city of Afrin in northern Syria. The U.S.-backed Kurdish militia controlling the area says at least 10 people were killed—seven civilians, including one baby. The bombing comes after the United States announced plans to provide military backing for thousands of Syrian Kurdish fighters to form a border security force along the border with Turkey. Turkey has accused the Syrian Kurds of being terrorists.
In Honduras, protesters staged another round of nationwide demonstrations Saturday against alleged widespread voter fraud in the re-election of incumbent, U.S.-backed President Juan Orlando Hernández. Demonstrators blockaded dozens of roads and highways nationwide. The Honduran military has killed at least a dozen protesters since the demonstrations erupted after the November 26 election, including a 60-year-old man, who was killed at a blockade on Saturday. This is opposition candidate Salvador Nasralla.
Salvador Nasralla: “We’re going to continue protesting throughout this entire week, but logic tells us it’s going to be difficult, because people don’t have enough to eat, and then you add in that the regime is killing people, like the man they killed yesterday in Sabá, and all the people they’ve beaten up. All of that is now in the hands of the United Nations and the human rights organizations. That said, I’m not convinced that these organizations have the capacity or the combativeness needed to resolve this. I’m getting the impression—and I hope I’m wrong about this—that these international organizations are primarily decorations and that they’re scared, because they’re funded by the United States.”
In Africa, protesters staged nationwide demonstrations on Sunday in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, demanding the resignation of President Joseph Kabila, whose term officially ended in December 2016. At least six people were killed during a military crackdown against protesters. Dozens more were wounded. It’s the second mass demonstration in recent weeks over the continuation of Kabila’s presidency and the delay of new elections.
In India, at least 17 workers died after a blaze broke out at a firecracker factory on the outskirts of the capital, New Delhi. Officials say workers were trapped inside the building when the fire broke out, because grills had been illegally installed on exits, ostensibly in order to prevent theft. Police have arrested the owner of the factory.
A new report by Oxfam says global economic inequality widened last year, with 82 percent of all wealth created going to the richest 1 percent. In contrast, the poorer half of the entire world’s population received none of the new wealth at all. The report also says 2017 saw the biggest increase in billionaires in history. Ninety percent of all billionaires are men.
The Department of Justice has dismissed charges against 129 protesters who were facing the possibility of decades in prison for protesting at President Trump’s Inauguration Day “Disrupt J20” protests one year ago. However, 59 protesters are still facing multiple felony charges. The group Defend J20 Resistance says the 59 defendants are facing up to 60 years in prison. To see our full coverage of the J20 trials, go to democracynow.org.
And journalists at the Los Angeles Times have voted overwhelmingly to unionize. Journalists are demanding equal pay for women and people of color, lower health insurance premiums and better salaries. Shortly after the vote’s results were announced Friday, the newspaper’s parent company announced the L.A. Times’ publisher, Ross Levinsohn, is taking a leave of absence amid an investigation into reports he was a defendant in two sexual harassment lawsuits while working at previous companies—the search engine company AltaVista and Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp.