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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, the death toll from the raging wildfire in Northern California reached at least 42 Monday, making it the deadliest in the state’s history. The Camp Fire burned down more than 7,200 structures—most of them homes—and razed most of the city of Paradise. At least 200 people are still missing. In Southern California, at least two people have been killed as the Woolsey and Hill fires continue to burn in Los Angeles and Ventura counties. On Monday, L.A. County Fire Chief Daryl Osby responded to Trump’s tweet over the weekend attacking California’s forest management and threatening to cut off federal aid, calling Trump’s remark “hurtful.”
Fire Chief Daryl Osby: “I can just tell you that we’re in extreme climate change right now. We don’t control the climate. We’re doing all that we can to prevent incidents and mitigate incidents and save lives.”
After headlines, we’ll go to California to discuss the links between California’s historic wildfires and climate change.
In Arizona, Democrat Kyrsten Sinema has won the race for a U.S. Senate seat, defeating Republican and former U.S. Air Force pilot and colonel Martha McSally. She will replace outgoing Republican Senator Jeff Flake, who is retiring. Sinema, who worked on Ralph Nader’s presidential campaign in 2000, will become the first openly bisexual senator and the first female senator from Arizona. Her victory is the first time a Democrat has won a U.S. Senate seat in Arizona in 30 years, and means Democrats will have at least 47 seats in the Senate—as results from Florida and Mississippi remain uncalled.
As the Senate and gubernatorial recounts continue in the state of Florida, President Trump said that both races should be called for the Republican candidates, claiming voter fraud without any evidence. Trump tweeted, “The Florida Election should be called in favor of Rick Scott and Ron DeSantis in that large numbers of new ballots showed up out of nowhere, and many ballots are missing or forged. An honest vote count is no longer possible-ballots massively infected. Must go with Election Night!” Trump’s tweet drew outrage and alarm. Vermont independent Senator Bernie Sanders responded on Twitter, “Donald Trump, like his friends in Russia, Saudi Arabia and North Korea, is an authoritarian leader who does not believe in democracy. The election officials in Florida, Georgia and Arizona must ignore the rantings of this president and COUNT EVERY VOTE.”
In Mississippi, Republican Senator Cindy Hyde-Smith came under increased pressure Monday as video went viral of a remark she made during a campaign stop earlier this month. In it, 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 for the Mississippi Senate seat is African American Mike Espy. Questioned by reporters Monday, Hyde-Smith repeatedly refused to answer questions about her remark.
Sen. Cindy Hyde-Smith: “We put out a statement yesterday, and we stand by that statement.”
Reporter 1: “Could you expand on it then, why you said it, what you meant by it and why people in the state should not see it as offensive?”
Sen. Cindy Hyde-Smith: “We put out a statement yesterday, and it’s available, and we stand by that statement.”
Reporter 2: “Senator, are you familiar with Mississippi’s history of lynchings?”
Sen. Cindy Hyde-Smith: “I put out a statement yesterday, and that’s all I’m going to say about it.”
Mississippi was once considered the lynching capital of the United States. Hyde-Smith and Espy will move to a runoff later this month, after neither candidate gained the 50 percent of votes needed to secure the Senate seat.
The Daily Beast is reporting that ICE is currently imprisoning a record 44,000 people—an all-time high. The figure is 4,000 more people than Congress has granted funding for ICE to hold. ICE and the Department of Homeland Security have not responded to requests to explain where the additional money was coming from. In September, Democratic Senator Jeff Merkley revealed the Trump administration transferred nearly $10 million from FEMA to ICE over the summer. This comes as The Washington Post is reporting that President Trump is preparing to oust Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen. Nielsen came under intense fire this summer over the Trump administration’s family separation policy, with Democratic lawmakers demanding her resignation. Trump canceled a visit with Nielsen to Texas this week to visit troops at the U.S.-Mexico border, after Trump deployed thousands of soldiers ahead of the arrival of several Central American caravans. This comes as human rights groups are seeking to halt Trump’s recent order banning immigrants who enter the U.S. outside of legal ports of entry from seeking asylum.
Details are emerging about the audio recordings that reportedly capture the last moments of slain Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi’s life—and could directly implicate Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman in his murder. A member of the Saudi kill team responsible for the assassination at the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul reportedly can be heard saying on the phone, “tell your boss” and “the deed was done,” after Khashoggi was murdered. The call is believed to be between Maher Abdulaziz Mutreb—one of the Saudi agents at the consulate—and an aide to the crown prince. On Monday, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau confirmed that Canadian intelligence officials had heard the recordings of Khashoggi’s death, after Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said he’d shared the recordings with the U.S., France, Germany, Saudi Arabia and others. Meanwhile, a reporter from the Turkish daily, pro-government Sabah newspaper told Al Jazeera that Khashoggi’s final words, as heard on the recording were, “I’m suffocating. … Take this bag off my head, I’m claustrophobic.”
Amnesty International has withdrawn the Ambassador of Conscience Award—its highest honor—from Burmese leader Aung San Suu Kyi in response to the military atrocities and ongoing persecution of Burma’s Rohingya minority. In a letter to Suu Kyi, Amnesty International Secretary General Kumi Naidoo writes, “You have chosen to overlook and excuse the brutal oppression and crimes against humanity committed by the military against the Rohingya … and your office has actively shielded the military from international scrutiny and accountability. We have also been appalled to witness your administration spread hate narratives against minorities, fostering rather than challenging discrimination and hostility.” This comes as the repatriation of Rohingya refugees from Bangladesh back to Burma is scheduled to start later this week. Many human rights groups warn that Burma is not able to guarantee safety to returning refugees, and many are reportedly fleeing camps to avoid having to return to Burma.
In Gaza, Israeli air attacks have killed six Palestinians, a day after a botched raid by Israel prompted deadly fighting. The airstrikes hit several residential and commercial buildings, including the Al-Aqsa Television studios. Israel says one 40-year-old man was killed when a rocket fired by Gaza militants struck a home in southern Israel. Israel says 70 other Israelis were wounded by Palestinian rocket fire, marking the worst violence since Israel’s 2014 assault on Gaza. We’ll have more on Gaza later in the broadcast with Palestinian writer, activist and student Muhammad Shehada.
In the Democratic Republic of the Congo, an outbreak of the deadly Ebola virus has become the worst in the country’s history. Congo’s health ministry says nearly 200 people have died of the infectious hemorrhagic fever. About half the victims are from the city of Beni, where recent attacks by armed groups fighting for control of Congo’s mineral wealth have slowed efforts by medical workers to halt the spread of Ebola.
The New York Times is reporting that North Korea is moving ahead with its ballistic missile program at 16 hidden bases that have been identified in new commercial satellite images. The Times cited photos taken from the company DigitalGlobe, which appear to show activity around secretive mountain bases. But the photos cited by the Times and then widely reported elsewhere were in fact taken last March—about two-and-a-half months before North Korean leader Kim Jong-un met with President Trump in Singapore and pledged to disarm his nuclear arsenal.
The Vatican has ordered U.S. bishops to halt a planned vote on a range of measures designed to address the ongoing child sexual abuse crisis in the Catholic Church. The order came as over 350 Roman Catholic bishops gathered in Baltimore for their annual conference, where they were set to debate and vote on the reforms. Survivors and sexual abuse survivor advocates condemned the move by the Vatican. This is Anne Barrett Doyle of the advocacy group Bishop-Accountability.org.
Anne Barrett Doyle: “I am stunned and disappointed at the lack of courage being shown by the conference. These are American children being hurt. These are American survivors. These bishops are American citizens. I know that they answer to the Holy See, but there’s a bigger imperative here, which is that children and victims need them to step forth and start being responsible leaders of this institution.”
Conservative writer, conspiracy theorist and Roger Stone associate Jerome Corsi said Monday he expects to be indicted by special counsel Robert Mueller. Corsi told listeners of his daily web show that he had given over 40 hours of interviews to Mueller’s team and had been recently told he would be indicted, possibly for lying to federal investigators. At least nine associates of longtime Trump adviser Roger Stone have been questioned by Mueller’s team as they investigate possible collusion of Russian agents with the Trump campaign during the 2016 presidential election.
Former first lady Michelle Obama’s highly anticipated memoir is released today. In it, Michelle Obama recounts how Trump’s “birther” conspiracy against her husband and his “underlying bigotry and xenophobia” endangered her family. Michelle Obama also takes aim at Trump’s sexism in the book and talks about the challenges of being the first black first lady of the United States. The Obamas reportedly received $65 million for a joint book deal last year, of which Michelle Obama’s “Becoming” is the first release.
The Wall Street Journal reports that retail giant Amazon has selected a pair of cities to host its new, expanded headquarters: Crystal City in Arlington, Virginia, and Long Island City in Queens, New York. Amazon’s decision came after a 14-month search that saw cities around the U.S. promise tax breaks, taxpayer-funded infrastructure and business-friendly ordinances in an effort to win what Amazon says will be $5 billion in new investment and thousands of jobs. The watchdog group Good Jobs First has blasted the New York and Virginia deals, writing, “Citizens have no idea what their elected officials have promised to a company headed by the richest person on earth. … But we do know that both deals were negotiated in secret, without any public input.”
The stock market took a steep plunge Monday, with the Dow Jones Industrial Average dropping 600 points, driven in part by a drop in tech stocks. President Trump took to Twitter to blame Democrats, writing, “The prospect of Presidential Harassment by the Dems is causing the Stock Market big headaches!”
And the famed comics writer Stan Lee, creator or co-creator of some of Marvel’s most well-known and beloved characters, died at the age of 95 in Los Angeles Monday. Stan Lee has been credited with helping to propel Marvel Comics to the world’s top publisher of comics. He served as editor-in-chief and later publisher for Marvel and created or co-created the widely popular characters Black Panther, Spider-Man, the Fantastic Four and the Incredible Hulk, among many others. Stan Lee was embroiled in some controversy over his career as some claimed he stole credit from other artists, focusing the spotlight on himself at the expense of his co-creators. In 1968, Stan Lee penned an essay about the threat of racism, writing, “Bigotry and racism are among the deadliest social ills plaguing the world today. But, unlike a team of costumed super-villains, they can’t be halted with a punch in the snoot, or a zap from a ray gun. The only way to destroy them is to expose them—to reveal them for the insidious evils they really are.”