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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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The United Nations warns in a new report that humanity is doing far too little to limit global temperature rise to less than 1.5 degrees Celsius, a target of the 2015 Paris climate accord that would prevent the worst effects of catastrophic climate change. The U.N. found the rate of global carbon dioxide emissions rose last year for the first time in four years and is expected to climb again for 2018, with the world on pace to see a global rise of 3.2 degrees Celsius—or nearly 6 degrees Fahrenheit—by the end of the century. Such a rise would see devastating droughts, floods and extreme weather, with higher sea levels, crop failures, mass migration and global conflict. The U.N. is calling for new investments in renewable energy and for governments to replace subsidies on fossil fuels with taxes to discourage their use. The stark warning came ahead of U.N. climate talks set for Katowice, Poland, next month. Democracy Now! will broadcast from the talks during the week of December 10.
In Mexico, the government of President-elect Andrés Manuel López Obrador has signaled it will hold Central American migrants on Mexican soil while they wait to hear whether their applications for political asylum are granted by the U.S. Mexico’s incoming foreign minister said Tuesday the Trump administration should, in return, pay at least $20 billion for a Marshall Plan-style program aimed at developing the economies of El Salvador, Honduras and Guatemala. It’s not clear what services Mexico would provide migrants hoping to win U.S. asylum. At the crossing between Tijuana and San Diego, U.S. officials are processing only about a hundred claims per day, even as thousands of migrants are living in squalid open-air camps near the border while they await their turn to apply for asylum. CBP says the migrants may have to wait up to six weeks to have their appeals heard.
This comes as the Trump administration defended the Border Patrol for firing tear gas into crowds of migrants—including mothers and children—as they tried to cross the U.S. border from Tijuana on Sunday. This is Ronald Colburn, president of the Border Patrol Foundation and former national deputy chief of U.S. Customs and Border Protection, speaking on “Fox & Friends” on Monday.
Ronald Colburn: “The type of deterrent being used is OC pepper spray. It’s literally water, pepper, with a small amount of alcohol for evaporation purposes. It’s natural. You could actually put it on your nachos and eat it. So it’s a good way of deterring people without long-term harm.”
Democrats are blasting the Trump administration for its treatment of asylum seekers. Democratic National Committee Chair Tom Perez tweeted, “shooting tear gas at children is not who we are as Americans.” But new findings reveal Customs and Border Protection fired tear gas dozens of times under President Obama. In a statement sent to Newsweek on Tuesday, CBP said it first acquired tear gas in 2010 and deployed the substance 126 times since 2012. The data show tear gas use has increased under President Trump. We’ll have more on the tear gassing of migrants on the U.S.-Mexico border later in the broadcast.
In Texas, a newly revealed memo shows the Trump administration waived rigorous background checks for all staff at a sprawling tent camp where migrant children are imprisoned in the desert outside El Paso. The memo from the Health and Human Services Department’s inspector general shows the Office of Refugee Resettlement approved a plan to sidestep requirements for FBI fingerprinting checks—along with child abuse and neglect checks—for 2,100 staffers at the Tornillo tent city. The camp was also allowed to sidestep mental health requirements, which require one mental health clinician for every 12 children. Tornillo has just one clinician for every 100 children. The Trump administration established the tent camp in Tornillo in June as a temporary shelter amid the administration’s “zero tolerance” policy, which included forcibly separating children from their parents. It has since expanded to contain 3,800 beds for migrant children, with officials saying they’re unlikely to meet federal plans to close Tornillo by New Year’s Eve.
In Mississippi, Republican Senator Cindy Hyde-Smith has won a runoff special election for the U.S. Senate seat vacated by Thad Cochran, who retired earlier this year for health reasons. Hyde-Smith’s victory came after she joked about hangings on the campaign trail, and after photos emerged showing her posing with a Confederate Army cap and rifle. Hyde-Smith captioned the photos, “Mississippi history at its best!” Hyde-Smith beat her Democratic challenger, former Congressmember Mike Espy, who’s African-American, with 53.9 percent of the vote. The outcome gives Republicans a 53-to-47 majority in the Senate, while Democrats will take control of the House after gaining at least 39 seats. There’s one more House seat in contention in California.
Russia is sending advanced surface-to-air missiles to the Crimean peninsula amid mounting tensions with Ukraine. The escalation comes after Russia’s Navy captured three Ukrainian ships Sunday and arrested sailors near a narrow waterway separating Russia from Crimea—which Russia seized and illegally annexed in 2014. On Tuesday, Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko said Ukraine faces the prospect of an all-out war with Russia.
President Petro Poroshenko: “These Russian tanks were not withdrawn yet. They remain at the Ukraine-Russia border. And that’s why I don’t want anyone to think that it’s entertainment or a game. The country is under the threat of a full-fledged war with the Russian Federation.”
The Trump administration said Tuesday it may end subsidies to General Motors—including for electric cars—after GM said Monday it will close factories and cut up to 15,000 jobs across North America. The announcement came as President Donald Trump blasted Federal Reserve Chair Jerome “Jay” Powell on Tuesday, telling The Washington Post he blamed the Fed for GM’s job cuts, as well as a recent fall in stock market prices. Trump told the Post, “I’m doing deals and I’m not being accommodated by the Fed. They’re making a mistake, because I have a gut, and my gut tells me more sometimes than anybody else’s brain can ever tell me. So far, I’m not even a little bit happy with my selection of Jay. Not even a little bit.”
In his wide-ranging Washington Post interview, Trump also said he was considering canceling a planned meeting with Russian leader Vladimir Putin in Argentina later this week over Russia’s attack on three Ukrainian ships off the coast of Crimea. Trump once again attacked his own administration’s report on climate change, released last week, warning of dire consequences of inaction on curbing greenhouse gas emissions. Trump said, “We have very high levels of intelligence but we’re not necessarily such believers. You look at our air and our water, and it’s right now at a record clean.”
And Trump once again defended Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, saying “maybe he did and maybe he didn’t” order the killing of The Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi. Trump’s comment came after the White House reportedly barred CIA chief Gina Haspel and other intelligence officials from briefing U.S. senators about Khashoggi’s killing. Today’s briefing will instead be led by Secretary of State Mike Pompeo—a staunch defender of the Saudi royal family. The CIA has concluded with “high confidence” that Crown Prince bin Salman is directly implicated in ordering Khashoggi’s murder, and Gina Haspel has reportedly heard audio of the killing intercepted by Turkish intelligence. At the White House, national security adviser John Bolton told reporters Tuesday he hasn’t heard the tape and would not be listening to it.
John Bolton: “No, I haven’t listened to it. And I guess I should ask you: Why do you think I should? What do you think I’ll learn from it?”
Reporter: “Well, you’re the national security adviser. You might have access to that sort of intelligence.”
John Bolton: “Yeah. How many in this room speak Arabic?”
Reporter: “You don’t have access to an interpreter?”
John Bolton: “Well, you want me to listen to it? What am I going to learn from—I mean, if they were speaking Korean, I wouldn’t learn any more from it, either.”
President Trump has also said he won’t listen to the tape, calling it a “suffering tape.”
Today’s briefing of senators will come ahead of a crucial Senate vote on whether to withdraw U.S. support for the Saudi-led war on Yemen, which has created what the U.N. calls the world’s worst humanitarian crisis in a half a century, with 14 million of Yemen’s 28 million people on the brink of famine. Today’s vote comes after CNN quoted two sources saying the U.S. “slammed the brakes” on a U.N. Security Council resolution on a ceasefire in Yemen, reportedly after the Saudi crown prince “threw a fit” over a draft resolution. Meanwhile, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman has arrived in Argentina for the G20 summit in Buenos Aires, where prosecutors are considering whether to use the legal doctrine of universal jurisdiction to charge him with war crimes and torture.
Thousands of Argentines rallied Tuesday near the site of the G20 summit to protest austerity measures being imposed by the International Monetary Fund—and backed by G20 member nations—in exchange for a $57 billion bailout of the Argentine economy. This is Argentinian activist Gastón Harispe.
Gastón Harispe: “The G20 is hunger and illegitimacy. This illegitimate and starving government launched this summit and comes to play a role of minor partner of this conglomerate of imperial countries that come to divide the world in the framework of the commercial war.”
Outgoing Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto said Mexico will bestow the country’s highest honor for foreigners on Jared Kushner, President Trump’s son-in-law and senior adviser, when Kushner arrives for the G20 talks. The move drew scorn from prominent Mexicans, including actor Gael García Bernal, who called the decision to award the Aztec Eagle award “tremendously shameful.” Previous winners include Nelson Mandela and Nobel Prize-winning novelist Gabriel García Márquez.
Syrian radio host and activist Raed Fares was shot dead in Idlib Friday, along with activist Hamoud Jneed. Fares founded Radio Fresh, an independent radio station broadcasting from inside opposition-held Syria. Fares joined the popular protests against the government of President Bashar al-Assad in 2011. In the following years, he documented the human cost of the war in Syria, exposing rights violations and the devastation of airstrikes on civilians. Fares was targeted by both the government and opposition militants. He survived previous assassination attempts, a kidnapping and torture.
Back in the United States, The New York Times reports lawyers for Donald Trump’s former campaign chair Paul Manafort briefed the president at the White House about Manafort’s cooperation with federal investigators working for special counsel Robert Mueller. The briefings by Manafort lawyer Kevin Downing were confirmed by Rudy Giuliani, one of President Trump’s personal attorneys. The meetings were not illegal but were highly unusual and reportedly infuriated investigators with Mueller’s team. On Monday, the special counsel’s office said Manafort violated his cooperation agreement with Mueller by repeatedly lying to federal investigators.
Meanwhile, lawyers for Julian Assange said the WikiLeaks founder will sue The Guardian newspaper for libel, after it reported Tuesday that Paul Manafort held secret talks with Assange inside the Ecuadorean Embassy in London on three occasions. The meetings allegedly occurred in 2013, 2015 and in March of 2016, around the time Manafort joined Donald Trump’s presidential campaign. Lead author Luke Harding cited a “well-placed source” as the basis of the report. In a statement, Manafort called the report “totally false and deliberately libelous.” WikiLeaks said in a tweet, “WikiLeaks is willing to bet the Guardian a million dollars and its editor’s head that Manafort never met Assange.”
Former Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt coordinated with the Fox News channel ahead of multiple appearances on “Fox & Friends,” where he was presented with pre-screened, non-confrontational questions. That’s according to The Daily Beast, which obtained emails showing that Fox News producers allowed Pruitt’s aides to dictate topics for interviews and even offered them script approval for Pruitt’s introduction. After the report circulated, Fox News said in a statement, “This is not standard practice whatsoever and the matter is being addressed internally with those involved.” It’s the latest example of Fox News coordinating directly with Republican politicians. Earlier this month, Fox News hosts Jeanine Pirro and Sean Hannity appeared on stage at a Trump campaign rally ahead of the midterm elections. Former Fox News executive Bill Shine now works as deputy chief of staff for White House communications, and former White House communications director Hope Hicks now works as head of public relations for Fox News’s parent company.
In Louisiana, a judge heard arguments Tuesday in an eminent domain case that could help determine the fate of the 163-mile Bayou Bridge pipeline being built by Energy Transfer Partners—the same company behind the controversial Dakota Access pipeline. Property owners whose land was seized for pipeline construction are suing Energy Transfer Partners, claiming it illegally stole and damaged private land for construction of the Bayou Bridge pipeline, which which would carry nearly a half-million barrels of oil per day across Louisiana’s wetlands. A judge is expected to issue a ruling today after more testimony.
And NASA’s InSight mission has landed on Mars. InSight will explore the interior of the Red Planet with the most sensitive seismometer ever built into a space probe. NASA engineers erupted into applause Monday as InSight made its landing after shedding its 12,000 mile-per-hour velocity to reach the surface safely in just under seven minutes. It’s the eighth successful landing on Mars by a NASA spacecraft.