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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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In California, at least 31 people are dead and more than 200 remain missing as three massive wildfires fueled by easterly winds and a historic drought continue to rage. In Northern California’s Butte County, the Camp Fire has become the state’s deadliest in 85 years, after at least 29 people died as the town of Paradise was almost completely destroyed. Recovery workers say some victims were reduced to bone fragments, raising the prospect of a much larger death toll, as some 228 Butte County residents remain unaccounted for.
In Southern California, a quarter-million residents of Los Angeles and Ventura counties were ordered to evacuate the Woolsey Fire, including the entire city of Malibu and parts of the San Fernando Valley. The fire tore through oceanside homes as panicked residents sought to escape through a massive traffic jam along the Pacific Coast Highway. The Woolsey Fire began near the Santa Susana Field Laboratory, site of a partial nuclear meltdown nearly 60 years ago. California’s Department of Toxic Substances Control said it did not believe the flames kicked up any radioactive materials.
On Sunday, Governor Jerry Brown said the fires were driven by climate change and that California needs to learn to adapt.
Gov. Jerry Brown: “We’re in a new abnormal. And things, things like this, will be part of our future, and this won’t be the beginning. It’ll be things like this and worse.”
The fires are so large they can be clearly seen from space. Smoke and ash have left millions of Californians exposed to air quality rated at “unhealthy” or “very unhealthy” levels, with residents of Los Angeles, Sacramento and the Bay Area warned against spending time outdoors.
President Trump responded to the fires by blaming California officials and threatening to cut off federal aid. Early Saturday morning, Trump tweeted, “There is no reason for these massive, deadly and costly forest fires in California except that forest management is so poor. Billions of dollars are given each year, with so many lives lost, all because of gross mismanagement of the forests. Remedy now, or no more Fed payments!”
Trump’s tweet drew outrage from first responders and state officials. California Professional Firefighters President Brian Rice called Trump’s tweet “Ill-informed, ill-timed and demeaning,” adding, “At a time when our every effort should be focused on vanquishing the destructive fires and helping the victims, the president has chosen instead to issue an uninformed political threat aimed squarely at the innocent victims of these cataclysmic fires.”
Among the Southern California communities evacuated due to the fires was Thousand Oaks—site of last Wednesday’s mass shooting by a former marine who opened fire at a country music bar, killing 12 people. New details about the shooter, Ian Long, have emerged. A former high school track coach says Long assaulted her and screamed profanities at her. She described Long as a “ticking time bomb” who constantly lost his temper, but her attempts to have Long thrown off the track team were overruled by a senior coach, who said that would compromise Long’s goal of joining the Marines. Sam Tanner, who later served in the U.S. Marine Corps with Ian Long, told The New York Times, “I’m not surprised someone I knew ended up doing a mass shooting. We had another guy recently committed suicide by cops in Texas. Guys struggle. We’ve lost more marines in our peer group to suicide than we ever lost in Afghanistan.” About 17 veterans a day kill themselves. We’ll speak with Suzanne Gordon, author of “Wounds of War,” about this later in the broadcast.
In Florida, vote recounts in the U.S. Senate and gubernatorial races are underway. In the Senate race, Republican Governor Rick Scott’s lead over Democratic incumbent Bill Nelson has shrunk to just 0.15 percent. In Broward County, Florida’s second most populous county, reports of “undervoting” have raised concern, with 25,000 more people apparently voting in the governor’s race than the Senate race. Some say this could be due to confusing ballot design or problems with the vote-counting machines. In the governor’s race, Republican Ron DeSantis is leading Democrat Andrew Gillum by 0.41 percent. Both President Trump and Republican Governor Rick Scott have claimed—with no evidence—that Democrats are carrying out widespread voter fraud. This is Democrat Andrew Gillum, responding to those claims on Sunday from a church in Fort Lauderdale.
Mayor Andrew Gillum: “The governor has filed another lawsuit to try to keep the votes that were counted in Broward County just yesterday from being added to the total tally. These are legal votes. These are legal votes that have been cast, and we are right now in court fighting to have those votes counted.”
Gillum originally conceded his race on election night but has since retracted the concession as his opponent’s lead narrowed. Florida’s recounts are scheduled to be completed by Thursday.
In Arizona, Democrat Kyrsten Sinema has increased her lead over Republican Martha McSally to almost 1.5 percent in the race to succeed Republican Senator Jeff Flake, but hundreds of thousands more votes remain to be counted. In the Georgia governor’s race, Democrat Stacey Abrams filed a federal lawsuit Sunday calling for rejected absentee and provisional ballots to be counted in a race that is still too close to call. Unofficial voting numbers put Republican Brian Kemp in the lead at 50.3 percent of the vote. If his lead shrinks to 50 percent or less, the race will go to a runoff. In Orange County, California, 15-term Republican congressmember and former speechwriter for President Reagan, Dana Rohrabacher, has lost his seat to Democratic challenger Harley Rouda.
The Mississippi Senate race will head to a runoff later this month, after neither Republican incumbent Cindy Hyde-Smith nor Democratic challenger Mike Espy received the 50 percent of the vote needed to declare victory. Hyde-Smith is coming under fire for a remark she made earlier this month during a campaign stop. In a video of the event, Hyde-Smith is seen campaigning with a cattle rancher, stating, “If he invited me to a public hanging, I’d be on the front row.” Hyde-Smith’s opponent Mike Espy, who is African-American, called the comment “reprehensible.”
The FBI is investigating a Florida company where Matt Whitaker, President Trump’s pick for acting attorney general, once served as a paid advisory board member. Last year the Federal Trade Commission shut down the company—World Patent Marketing Inc.—after a number of inventors, including military veterans, said the company cheated them out of their life savings. Whitaker was paid at least $9,300 to serve on the board of World Patent Marketing and appeared in promotional videos on behalf of the company. As acting attorney general, Whitaker will oversee the FBI, which is now investigating Whitaker’s former company.
The growing scandal came as Democrats questioned whether Trump’s appointment of Whitaker is constitutional. They also warned against any interference by Whitaker in special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation. Whitaker became Jeff Sessions’s chief of staff last year after he repeatedly spoke out against Mueller’s probe, saying it could be starved of funding.
On Friday, Trump was asked if he’d spoken to Matt Whitaker about the Mueller probe before appointing him acting attorney general.
President Donald Trump: “I didn’t speak to Matt Whitaker about it. I don’t know Matt Whitaker.”
President Trump’s comment Friday directly contradicted a previous statement he made one month ago. This is Trump speaking on “Fox & Friends” on October 11.
President Donald Trump: “I can tell you, Matt Whitaker’s a great guy. I mean, I know Matt Whitaker.”
Pressed further about whether he hired Whitaker in order to end the Mueller probe, Trump attacked reporters. This is Trump being questioned by CNN’s Abby Phillip.
Abby Phillip: “Do you want him to rein in Robert Mueller?”
President Donald Trump: “What a stupid question that is. What a stupid question. But I watch you a lot. You ask a lot of stupid questions.”
Abby Phillip is one of three prominent black women reporters Trump has attacked in recent days. Last Wednesday, Trump accused PBS reporter Yamiche Alcindor of asking a “racist question” at a White House news conference, after she asked Trump whether he was emboldening white nationalists. Trump went on to attack April Ryan of American Urban Radio Networks, whom Trump repeatedly told to “sit down” on Wednesday as she tried to ask a question about voter suppression.
President Donald Trump: “The same thing with April Ryan. I watched her get up. I mean, you talk about somebody that’s a loser. She doesn’t know what the hell she’s doing. She gets publicity, and then she gets a pay raise or she gets a contract with, I think, CNN. But she’s very nasty, and she shouldn’t be.”
In more news from the Justice Department, Jeff Sessions signed a last-minute order limiting the use of consent decrees Wednesday, hours before he was fired by President Trump. The order will restrict the ability of law enforcement officials to use court-enforced agreements between the Justice Department and local police departments to enact changes when the police departments have been accused of abuses and civil rights violations.
In Paris, President Trump joined world leaders Sunday as they gathered to pay tribute to the millions who died in World War I on the 100th anniversary of the armistice that ended the war. Speaking at a formal ceremony at the Arc de Triomphe, French President Emmanuel Macron warned that nationalism is the opposite of patriotism, in a clear dig against President Donald Trump. After the ceremony, over 70 heads of state attended the Paris Peace Forum. President Trump was reportedly the sole head of state present to skip it, returning to the U.S. instead. Trump also faced widespread criticism for his decision to cancel a visit to a U.S. military cemetery honoring Americans killed in World War I because it was raining. After headlines, we’ll speak to historian Adam Hochschild, whose article for The New Yorker earlier this month was headlined “A Hundred Years After the Armistice.”
In Yemen, aid workers are warning that a U.S.-backed, Saudi-led assault on the port city of Hodeidah threatens to cut off supply lines of food and medicine that are desperately needed by millions. The U.N. has called Yemen the world’s worst humanitarian catastrophe, with some 14 million people on the brink of famine. Over the weekend, the Saudi coalition intensified its assault on Hodeidah, with reports of at least 149 deaths, including civilians, just in the past 24 hours. This is Dr. Mariam Aldogani of the group Save the Children speaking from Hodeidah on Friday.
Dr. Mariam Aldogani: “In the last 30 minutes, there were more than 15 airstrikes. Fifteen. I visited today Al-Amal Hospital. I saw one child. He’s a teenager; he’s 15 years old. He’s totally paralyzed, because before three days he was walking in the street and there is a stray bullet penetrating his neck and cut the spinal cord. He’s totally paralyzed.”
The New York Times reports top Saudi intelligence officials close to Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman considered a $2 billion plan to hire private intelligence operatives to assassinate prominent Iranians. The Times cited three people familiar with discussions about plans to kill Qassim Suleimani, the leader of the Quds Force of Iran’s Revolutionary Guards Corps. The plan was reportedly discussed at a meeting arranged by George Nader, a Lebanese American who reportedly pitched the assassination plan to Trump White House officials.
In Somalia’s capital Mogadishu, suicide bombers and gunmen attacked a popular hotel Saturday, killing 39 people and wounding 40 others. The militant group al-Shabab claimed responsibility. The attack came as the Trump administration has stepped up attacks on al-Shabab, with at least 29 airstrikes in Somalia so far this year.
In the Gaza Strip, Palestinians say Israeli commandos in a civilian vehicle drove into the southern city of Khan Younis Sunday in a clandestine raid that killed seven Hamas members, including a commander. Israel said one of its soldiers had been killed in an exchange of fire before Israel called in tank fire and airstrikes while the commandos escaped back to Israel. After the fighting, Palestinians fired 17 rockets into southern Israel, none of which appear to have caused deaths or injuries.
Meanwhile, Israel allowed the government of Qatar to provide millions of dollars in aid to pay the salaries of thousands of Palestinian civil servants who’ve worked for months without a full paycheck. Israel has also allowed shipments of diesel fuel into Gaza—also paid for by Qatar—which has reduced the number of hours Gaza residents have spent without electricity. Even with the increased power supply, Gazans have only about eight hours of electricity per day.
And in Oklahoma City, a jury has ordered the insurance giant Aetna to pay over $25 million to the family of a cancer patient who died after she was denied cancer treatment. The jury ruled Aetna acted recklessly in 2014 when three of the company’s medical directors decided to deny radiation therapy to Orrana Cunningham, who had stage IV cancer near her brain stem. The directors called the treatment “experimental,” even though it’s covered under Medicare. Orrana died in 2015 at the age of 54; doctors think the treatment denied by Aetna might have dramatically extended her life.