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HeadlinesDecember 18, 2018

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Government Shutdown Looms as Trump Demands $5 Billion for Border Wall

Dec 18, 2018

President Trump signaled Monday he won’t support a 1- or 2-week spending bill to avoid a government shutdown over the holidays, as the White House continues to demand at least $5 billion to expand the wall on the U.S.-Mexico border. Democrats have offered about a quarter of that amount. With Christmas approaching, more than 380,000 federal employees face the prospect of unpaid furloughs, while a further 420,000 so-called essential federal employees could be required to work without pay. David Cox, president of the American Federation of Government Employees, said, “Congress and the President should not hold agency funding hostage to controversial policies unrelated to the budget. … Our members are asking how they are supposed to pay for rent, food, and gas if they are required to work without a paycheck. The holiday season makes these inquiries especially heart-wrenching.”  

Yemen: Fragile Ceasefire Takes Hold After Hodeidah Fighting Dies Down

Dec 18, 2018

In Yemen, a U.N.-brokered ceasefire agreement appeared to be holding early Tuesday after the Saudi-led coalition fought pitched battles with Houthi rebels in the strategic port city of Hodeidah for a few hours after the truce was due to take effect at midnight. The fragile ceasefire comes as the U.N. warns tens of thousands of Yemenis are enduring famine conditions, while half of Yemen’s 28 million people are on the brink of starvation. Last week, the Senate voted 56 to 41 to end U.S. support for the war in Yemen, but a similar bill in the House is not expected to pass this year.

Yemeni Mother of Dying 2-Year-Old Child Is Denied U.S. Entry

Dec 18, 2018

The Trump administration is barring the Yemeni mother of a 2-year-old boy with a rare brain disease from visiting her dying son in California one last time. Doctors have put Abdullah Hassan on life support and say the boy will not survive much longer. Abdullah and his father, Ali Hassan, are both U.S. citizens, but the boy’s mother, Shaima Swileh, is a Yemeni citizen who now lives in Egypt. Under the Trump administration’s travel ban—which was upheld by the Supreme Court in June—people from five majority-Muslim countries—Iran, Libya, Yemen, Syria and Somalia—are barred from entering the U.S. The family is seeking a waiver for Swileh so she can visit her son in a hospital in Oakland, California. Ali Hassan told the San Francisco Chronicle, “All she wishes is to hold his hand for the last time.”

Ex-Associates of Michael Flynn Arrested over Illegal Turkish Lobbying

Dec 18, 2018

A federal judge is set to sentence former Trump national security adviser Michael Flynn, who’s pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI about conversations he had with Russia’s ambassador to the U.S. before Trump took office. In a sentencing memo filed earlier this month, special counsel Robert Mueller said he is not seeking jail time for Flynn, citing his “substantial assistance” with the probe into Russian interference in the 2016 election and at least one other investigation. On Monday, the FBI arrested two of Flynn’s former business associates and charged them with illegally influencing U.S. lawmakers on behalf of the Turkish government. Prosecutors say Bijan Kian and Ekim Alptekin failed to register as foreign agents and lied to the FBI about their efforts to have the Turkish cleric Fethullah Gülen extradited to Turkey from his home in the Pocono Mountains of Pennsylvania.

Senate Committee Claims Russia Targeted African Americans on Social Media

Dec 18, 2018

The Senate Intelligence Committee says social media companies—including Google, Facebook and Twitter—misrepresented the degree to which Russian trolls sought to spread fake news and sow discord ahead of the 2016 election. A pair of bipartisan reports published by the committee Monday claim Russia’s government targeted African Americans in particular, in an effort to suppress the turnout of voters likely to cast ballots for Hillary Clinton. The reports came as the NAACP said it would begin a 1-week digital protest, starting today, organized under the hashtag #LogOutFacebook. The civil rights group says Facebook has a history of data breaches that unfairly target users of color; it also says Facebook lacks diversity among its executives.

Nicaraguan Government Raids Journalists’ Office, Human Rights Group

Dec 18, 2018

In Nicaragua, press freedom groups have condemned the government of President Daniel Ortega after police raided the office of a journalist and government critic last Thursday, breaking open locks before seizing equipment. The raid came as Nicaraguan police also seized the headquarters of a prominent human rights group, and after lawmakers outlawed nine NGOs critical of Ortega’s government. This is Carlos Fernando Chamorro, a prominent TV news host and editor of the digital newspaper Confidencial.

Carlos Fernando Chamorro: “The objective is to silence us. The idea is, they want to snuff out ideas. They want to shut up and shut down a media outlet. But they won’t succeed. We are going to continue to inform the public. We’re going to continue denouncing and investigating the abuses of the Daniel Ortega dictatorship.”

U.N. Appeals for Palestinian Aid as Trump Withdraws U.S. Support

Dec 18, 2018

In Palestine, the United Nations is appealing for $350 million in emergency humanitarian relief, after the Trump administration cut funding to UNRWA—the U.N. relief agency for Palestinians. The U.N. says the funds are urgently needed for 1.4 million Palestinians most in need of food, shelter, healthcare, clean water and sanitation.

Australia Recognizes Jerusalem as Israel’s Undivided Capital

Dec 18, 2018

The appeal came as Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison formally recognized Jerusalem as the undivided capital of Israel, even though Israel has illegally occupied East Jerusalem since 1967.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison: “Australia now recognizes West Jerusalem, being the seat of the Knesset and many of the institutions of government, is the capital of Israel. West Jerusalem is the capital of Israel. And we look forward to moving our embassy to West Jerusalem when practical, in support of and after final status determination.”

In May, the Trump administration drew international condemnation when it moved the U.S. Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem—a city that Palestinians want as part of a future state.

U.S. and Hungary Dissent as U.N. Votes 181 to 2 for Refugee Pact

Dec 18, 2018

At the United Nations General Assembly, the U.S. voted Monday against a framework agreement aimed at protecting the rights of refugees around the world. The vote on the Global Compact on Refugees was 181 to 2, with only the far-right government of Hungary joining the Trump administration in rejecting the refugee pact. Among other things, the compact seeks to find alternatives to jailing asylum seekers, especially children. The Trump administration is currently detaining about 15,000 immigrant children in government custody.

Hungary: Thousands Protest “Slave Law” in Budapest

Dec 18, 2018

In Hungary, thousands of protesters took to the streets for a fifth straight day on Monday in opposition to far-right authoritarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán. The protests were sparked after Orbán’s government created a new court system controlled by his party. Protesters are also furious over new rules that allow employers to demand their employees work up to 400 hours of overtime, giving employers up to three years to pay for the extra work. Critics have called the rules “slave laws.” This is Andi, a 26-year-old student in Budapest.

Andi: “I think that discontent is growing, and, with this, not only anger and frustration, but also those voices which would like to make change. I think this is a process where we are trying to come up with new ideas.”

Monday’s protests targeted state-run TV and radio stations over their one-sided support for Prime Minister Orbán. Guards ejected two independent lawmakers from Hungary’s state television building after they demanded the broadcaster read out a petition from the protesters.

Trump Administration to Scale Back “Quiet Skies” Surveillance Program

Dec 18, 2018

Back in the United States, the Trump administration is rolling back a federal surveillance program known as “Quiet Skies,” but U.S. air marshals will continue to track airline passengers whom they deem suspicious. In July, The Boston Globe revealed the existence of the domestic surveillance program run by the Transportation Security Administration, or TSA, which has been shadowing U.S. citizens on planes and in airports since 2012. Under the “Quiet Skies” program, federal air marshals collected information about U.S. travelers’ common behaviors, like using the bathroom repeatedly, sleeping on flights or sweating heavily. Under changes announced Monday, air marshals will continue to profile passengers but will no longer report many of their observations to other intelligence agencies.

CBS to Deny $120 Million Golden Parachute to Ex-Leader Les Moonves

Dec 18, 2018

CBS said Monday it will withhold all of a $120 million severance package for Les Moonves, former chair and CEO of the media giant. Moonves resigned in September after The New Yorker published an article detailing a slew of previously unreported sexual assault and sexual harassment allegations. His resignation came as the longtime executive producer of CBS’s “60 Minutes,” Jeff Fager, was fired for bullying and sexually harassing women employees, and less than a year after CBS’s star anchor Charlie Rose was also ousted after being accused of sexual assault and harassment.

States Ask Pennsylvania Prosecutors for Info on Catholic Church Abuses

Dec 18, 2018

Attorneys general from 45 states are asking Pennsylvania prosecutors for information about sexual misconduct by Catholic priests, as well as efforts by the church hierarchy to cover up the abuses. This comes as Jesuit provinces in Maryland and the Midwest released the names of 84 clergy members who are credibly accused of sexually abusing children. The latest lists bring the number of Jesuits accused of sexual crimes since the 1950s to 230.

West Virginia Transgender Student Says He Was Bullied by High School Administrator

Dec 18, 2018

In West Virginia, a high school administrator is under fire for allegedly bullying a transgender student who used the boys’ bathroom. Fifteen-year-old sophomore Michael Critchfield, who identifies as male, says he was cornered in an otherwise empty boys’ bathroom at Liberty High School by Assistant Principal Lee Livengood, who challenged him to use a urinal to prove that he was a boy, before saying, “Not going to lie. You freak me out.” The superintendent of Harrison County Schools has said Livengood acted “inappropriately” and “was insensitive” during the encounter. The ACLU warns that over 50 percent of trans male teens attempt suicide during their teenage years.

Missouri Judge Orders Serial Poacher to Watch “Bambi” Once a Month

Dec 18, 2018

In Missouri, a judge has ordered a serial poacher, who illegally shot and killed hundreds of deer, to watch the Walt Disney film “Bambi” at least once a month over the course of a 1-year prison term. Authorities say over a 3-year period David Berry Jr. left hundreds of bodies to rot after beheading the deer for hunting trophies.

Canada: Indigenous Activists Brace for Raid on Anti-Pipeline Blockade

Dec 18, 2018

In British Columbia, Canada, indigenous activists who’ve been physically blocking the construction of the largest fracking project in Canadian history are bracing for a police raid on their encampment. Members of the Unist’ot’en Clan stopped TransCanada Corporation workers from entering their territory on November 20 to work on the planned $4.7 billion Coastal GasLink pipeline, but a judge has ruled that TransCanada can begin construction on First Nations lands.

Seattle Protest Targets JPMorgan Chase over Pipeline Investments

Dec 18, 2018

The fight has drawn supporters from both the U.S. and Canada. In Seattle, Washington, on Friday, about 60 protesters laid a 50-foot-long pipeline through the executive lobby of JPMorgan Chase’s Pacific Northwest headquarters and created a mock oil spill in a protest against the bank’s financing of TransCanada and other pipeline companies. This is Rachel Heaton, a Muckleshoot tribal member who joined the protest.

Rachel Heaton: “This is about our future generations. And that’s why I have my 5-and-a-half-month-old boy out here. It’s because ultimately the decisions that these banks are making, that we’re making, all have to do with their future. And, you know, the idea of them not having clean air to breathe or clean water, it’s such a horrible thing to think about, but the fact that it just doesn’t bother some people… And so we have to come out here and talk about this. And so, really, this fight isn’t just about attacking the issue of pipelines, but it’s also about what are we doing for our future generations.”

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