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In a historic vote, the U.S. Senate has passed a resolution calling for an end to U.S. military and financial support for the Saudi-led war on Yemen. This represents the first time in U.S. history the Senate has voted to withdraw military forces from an unauthorized war using the War Powers Resolution. The measure passed 56 to 41. Democratic Senator Chris Murphy of Connecticut co-sponsored the bill.
Sen. Chris Murphy: “I think today is a watershed moment for Congress. We are reasserting our responsibility to be a coequal branch with the executive in foreign policy making. It’s a role that Congress has abdicated for decades. And what we showed in this vote today is that Republicans and Democrats are ready to get back in the business of working with a president—and sometimes against the president—to set the foreign policy of this nation.”
But the bill is not expected to pass the House this year. On Thursday, House Republicans narrowly passed a farm bill which included a provision blocking a War Powers Resolution vote on Yemen. The U.S.-backed Saudi war has devastated Yemen. A new report says half of Yemen’s 28 million people are now “food insecure.” Nearly 3,000 people died in Yemen just last month, making it the deadliest month in the past two years of war. On Thursday, warring parties in Yemen agreed to a ceasefire in the strategic port city of Hodeidah.
In another vote related to Saudi Arabia, senators again rebuked Trump.
Sen. Bob Corker: “This is now unanimously. Unanimously, the United States Senate has said that Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman is responsible for the murder of Jamal Khashoggi.”
That was Republican Senator Bob Corker, chair of the Foreign Relations Committee. President Trump and a number of top White House officials have refused to acknowledge Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s involvement in the murder of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi, despite the CIA concluding with “high confidence” that he was directly responsible for ordering the killing. Both Democratic and Republican senators have said for weeks they believe bin Salman is guilty. Khashoggi was a U.S. resident and columnist for The Washington Post. He was killed by Saudi agents after entering the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul on October 2.
The Washington Post is running a full-page ad today calling for “meaningful action” to be taken over Khashoggi’s murder. The ad reads, “A life is gone. The principles of free expression endure.”
A 7-year-old Guatemalan girl has died of dehydration and shock while in the custody of U.S. Border Patrol. She was detained last Thursday along with her father and other migrants who crossed into the country in a remote section of New Mexico. She was brought to the hospital only after her body temperature was over 105 degrees. Cynthia Pompa of the ACLU said, “The fact that it took a week for this to come to light shows the need for transparency for [Customs and Border Protection]. We call for a rigorous investigation into how this tragedy happened and serious reforms to prevent future deaths.”
Russian gun rights activist Maria Butina has pleaded guilty to conspiring to act as a Russian agent without registering with the Justice Department. Butina has been jailed since July after being accused of trying to infiltrate the NRA and other right-wing groups in the lead-up to the 2016 election.
The House of Representatives has overwhelmingly passed a resolution calling for the release of jailed Burmese Reuters journalists Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo. The vote came as journalists and press freedom advocates marked the first anniversary of the journalists’ imprisonment after they were arrested while investigating a massacre committed by the Burmese military targeting Rohingya Muslims in the village of Inn Din. They were sentenced to seven years in prison. In Yangon, more than 100 Burmese journalists rallied this week calling for their release.
Tha Lun Zaung Htet: “The government’s job is not to protect the military. The government is ignoring the fact that it needs democracy to develop the country the right way. Instead, the government is protecting a human rights violation committed by the army.”
On Monday, the journalists were honored as part of Time magazine’s Person of the Year feature, which was dedicated to persecuted journalists around the world.
In Iraq, Nadia Murad delivered a speech to high-level Iraqi officials, just days after she received this year’s Nobel Peace Prize.
Nadia Murad: “I come to Baghdad carrying the Nobel Peace Prize to say to all Iraqis that we are all victims of terrorism and Daesh (Islamic State) and their blasphemous minds. So, I call upon you to act as one confronting your enemy. I come to Baghdad to appeal to the new government to be a national government for all Iraqis regardless of their religion, ethnicity and language.”
Nadia Murad is a 25-year-old Yazidi Kurdish human rights activist from Iraq. She was kidnapped by the Islamic State and repeatedly raped as she was held as a sex slave for almost three months.
In Argentina, a court convicted two former Ford Motor executives of aiding in the kidnapping and torture of 24 workers during the country’s military dictatorship in the 1970s. Pedro Müller and Héctor Francisco Sibilla were sentenced to 10 and 12 years in prison respectively. They were found guilty of providing the personal information of workers to military forces, as well as allowing interrogations inside the Ford factory. The case is the first time executives of a multinational corporation were found guilty of human rights crimes in Argentina. Lawyers for the victims have said they may also sue Ford in U.S. courts.
In France, police have shot and killed 29-year-old Chérif Chekatt, the suspected gunman of Tuesday’s attack in the northeast city of Strasbourg which killed three and injured a dozen others. French authorities are referring to Chekatt as a terrorist and say he was being monitored and had been radicalized. Chekatt was reportedly scheduled to be arrested for an armed robbery and attempted murder charge on the day of the shooting.
In news from Africa, President Trump’s national security adviser, John Bolton, has called on Morocco to finally hold a referendum in the occupied Western Sahara. Morocco has occupied Western Sahara since 1975, and no other country on Earth recognizes its sovereignty over the territory. In 1991, the U.N. promised Sahrawis a referendum on self-determination. Since then, Morocco has blocked attempts to organize the vote. Bolton spoke on Thursday at the Heritage Foundation.
John Bolton: “All we want to do is hold a referendum for 70,000 voters. It’s 27 years later, the status of the territory still unresolved. … I’ve gotten to know the Sahrawi people. I have enormous respect for them. I have enormous respect for the government and people of Morocco and Algeria. Is there not a way to resolve this?”
Bolton’s comments came a week after Morocco and the Western Saharan liberation movement known as the Polisario Front held their first direct talks in six years. The two sides agreed to continue negotiations in the coming months. U.N. envoy Horst Köhler said, “A peaceful solution to this conflict is possible.” Over the past four decades, thousands of Western Sahara’s indigenous people—the Sahrawi—have been tortured, imprisoned, killed and disappeared while resisting the Moroccan occupation. Click here to see Democracy Now!’s exclusive documentary, “Four Days in Western Sahara: Africa’s Last Colony.”
Education Secretary Betsy DeVos will cancel $150 million in student debt after being forced to abandon efforts to block a rule that created protections for students whose for-profit college defrauded them or shut down. In October, a judge sided with attorneys general from 18 states and the District of Columbia who sued DeVos for delaying the Obama-era rule. The policy allows for students to automatically have their debt canceled without formally applying for the benefit.
And in North Carolina, the state Legislature has approved a bill requiring a new primary and election if the state’s election board calls for a revote in the contested 9th Congressional District race. The race pits Republican Mark Harris against Democrat Dan McCready. Harris initially appeared to be the winner, but the race was never certified, after evidence emerged of possible election fraud by Republicans, who are accused of tampering with absentee ballots. Politico is reporting that Republicans may try to run another candidate in place of the scandal-ridden Harris.