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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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Longtime USA Gymnastics team doctor Larry Nassar has been sentenced to up to 175 years in prison for sexually assaulting and abusing more than 160 young female athletes, including Olympic gold medalists, under the guise of providing medical treatment. This is Michigan Judge Rosemarie Aquilina.
Judge Rosemarie Aquilina: “I’ve just signed your death warrant. I need everyone to be quiet. I still have contempt powers. I told you I’m not nice.”
More than 160 women testified at Dr. Nassar’s sentencing hearing. The chairman of USA Gymnastics and several board members resigned amid the high-profile trial. Now, the president of Michigan State University, Lou Anna Simon, has also resigned. Dr. Nassar worked at Michigan State University from 1997 until 2016, and the university has faced widespread accusations of failing to investigate the accusations of his abuse. This is gymnast Kaylee Lorincz testifying on the final day of Dr. Nassar’s sentencing hearing about the complicity of Michigan State University and USA Gymnastics.
Kaylee Lorincz: “I guess I thought it would feel like I could close this chapter of the book. But I can’t. Not yet. Instead, it feels like I’ve been watching a 'Criminal Minds' episode, and although the team catches the serial killer, in the last few minutes of the episode you find out that the sadistic killer actually had accomplices, so the story does not end. So, why do I feel this way? You see, Larry Nassar had more than one accomplice. He was not only enabled by MSU and USAG, but they actually fed him his victims.”
The head of the U.S. Olympic Committee and many of the sexual assault survivors are now calling on all USA Gymnastics directors to resign in the wake of what’s being described as the worst sexual abuse scandal in U.S. sports history.
President Trump claims he’s looking forward to answering questions under oath as part of special counsel Robert Mueller’s ongoing investigation into whether the Trump campaign colluded with Russia during the 2016 election. This is Trump speaking to reporters on Wednesday during an impromptu briefing as he prepared to depart for the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland.
Reporter 1: “Are you going to talk to Mueller?”
President Donald Trump: “I’m looking forward to it, actually.”
Reporter 2: “You want—do you have a date set? Do you have a date set?”
President Donald Trump: “Here’s the story, just so you understand. There’s been no collusion whatsoever. There’s no obstruction whatsoever. And I’m looking forward to it.”
Shortly after the surprise briefing, one of President Trump’s lawyers, Ty Cobb, quickly tried to walk back Trump’s promise, saying Trump was “speaking hurriedly” and that Trump will be “guided by the advice of his personal counsel.” During Trump’s briefing, he also said he’s open to a path to citizenship after 10 to 12 years for the nearly 800,000 young undocumented immigrants known as DREAMers, whose DACA program Trump canceled last year, although Trump’s move has been temporarily blocked by a court. In response to Trump’s comments, the far-right-wing website Breitbart News attacked Trump, calling him “Amnesty Don.”
A group of mayors canceled a planned meeting with President Trump at the White House Wednesday, after the Trump administration again threatened to cut off police funding to so-called sanctuary cities, where local law enforcement refuse to collaborate with immigration agents in carrying out Trump’s mass deportations. Among the mayors was New York City’s Bill de Blasio, who tweeted he was skipping the meeting because “@realDonaldTrump’s Department of Justice decided to renew their racist assault on our immigrant communities.”
This is Mayor de Blasio.
Mayor Bill de Blasio: “This letter explicitly threatens our funding once again, threatens to subpoena our personnel, on the very day where, in principle, they were telling us they wanted to have an honest dialogue. This proves there was no intention to have an honest dialogue. I came down here ready to have a serious meeting, and what I got was a publicity stunt from the Trump administration.”
In more news on immigration, eight activists with the humanitarian group No More Deaths have been charged with a slew of federal crimes over their volunteer efforts to leave water and food in the harsh Sonoran Desert to help refugees and migrants survive the potentially deadly journey across the U.S. border. The charges come a week after the group No More Deaths published a report accusing U.S. Border Patrol agents of routinely vandalizing or confiscating this water, food and other humanitarian aid, condemning refugees and migrants to die of exposure or dehydration. Only hours after the report was released, one of the group’s volunteers, Scott Daniel Warren, was also arrested and charged with the federal crime of harboring people in the country.
In Oklahoma, the bodies of five oil workers have been found after an explosion at a gas well about 100 miles south of Tulsa on Monday. Authorities say the cause of the deadly explosion is not yet known. The well is owned by the company Red Mountain Operating and was drilled by the company Patterson-UTI Energy.
In Brazil, an appeals court has upheld the conviction of former President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva for corruption, dealing a blow to the highly popular left-wing leader’s bid to run in Brazil’s upcoming presidential election. The judges ruled Wednesday to increase Lula’s prison sentence, sparking protests across Brazil. Lula served as president from 2003 to 2011 and is currently leading in the polls for October’s presidential election. On Wednesday, Lula called the ruling politically motivated and said it makes him want to run even more.
Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva: “What I am starting to realize is that everything they do is to try to prevent me from being a candidate, not even to win, but to just be a candidate. But this provocation is so big that it’s giving me a little itch, and now I want to be a candidate for president.”
Pakistan has condemned a suspected U.S. drone strike which targeted an Afghan refugee camp inside northwestern Pakistan. Pakistani officials say the drone strike killed two alleged militants with the Taliban-linked Haqqani network. One of the men was allegedly killed as he was taking a shower early Wednesday morning.
Two doctors are warning WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange’s physical and mental health is dangerously deteriorating, amid his more than 5-year stay in the Ecuadorean Embassy in London. Assange first sought refuge there in 2012, when he faced possible extradition to Sweden amid a sexual assault investigation that has since been dropped. The doctors called for Assange to be granted safe passage to a London hospital.
In economic news, a new study by Americans for Tax Fairness finds the Koch brothers and their business empire could save as much as $1.4 billion on income taxes each year from President Trump’s tax overhaul, which was passed in December. The Koch brothers lobbied heavily to pass the tax cuts. They are already among the richest people in the world, each of them worth over $50 billion.
And in Germany, police have raided activists’ blockades in the ancient Hambach Forest, where activists have been camped out for years trying to stop the ongoing construction of the Hambach coal mine, the largest open-pit mine in Europe. The activists say at least 10 people were arrested in the police’s massive eviction operation. Democracy Now! visited the “occupied forest” during the U.N. climate conference last year. This is one of the activists, named Indigo.
Indigo: “We are in a treehouse village in an occupied forest. It has been occupied for over five years now. And the occupation has the aim to prevent the explanation [sic] of the mine. So, it’s not just about protecting the forest, but about fighting global warming, because this region of lignite mining and lignite power plants is the biggest source of CO2 emission in whole Europe.”
Amy Goodman: “And what does the company—how has the company responded to this occupation?”
Indigo: “Well, they say what they do is legal and what—because it’s like legalized by democracy, so they say what they do is right and what we do here is illegal. And so, they asked the police to evict us, what they have done in the past. But for us, that’s a strong sign that the problem is the system we live in. So, if it’s legal for a company to destruct our whole planet, that means that it’s time to also resist against state power.”