The World Food Programme says parts of Yemen have entered into famine, with 73,000 Yemeni civilians facing starvation, as the U.S.-backed, Saudi-led coalition has cut supply lines and decimated Yemen’s medical and sanitation infrastructure. The famine declaration comes as half of Yemen’s 28 million people remain on the brink of starvation. This is David Beasley, director of the World Food Programme.
David Beasley: “This report is devastating. It realizes our worst fears, that people are starving to death in Yemen. They need our help, and we are on the ground doing everything we can.”
The stark warning came as representatives of the Houthi rebel movement met in Sweden for U.N.-brokered talks with members of Yemen’s Saudi-backed government. It’s just the second time since the conflict began in 2015 that warring parties have met to discuss a political solution to the crisis. The talks came as the U.S. Senate is preparing to debate a measure that would restrict U.S. support for the Saudi-led campaign in Yemen.
In North Carolina, Democratic candidate Dan McCready has withdrawn his concession in a North Carolina congressional race where evidence is mounting that Republicans stole the election by tampering with absentee ballots.
Dan McCready: “Over the last week we have seen the criminal activity come to light, and we have seen that my opponent, Mark Harris, has bankrolled this criminal activity. And so, as of today, I am withdrawing my concession to Mark Harris. And furthermore, I call on Mark Harris to tell the American people exactly what he knew and when he knew it.”
A criminal investigation has already been launched, and calls are growing for a new vote to take place. The investigation centers on the actions of Republican operative Leslie McCrae Dowless, who ran an operation to illegally collect absentee ballots. Democrats fear Dowless collected Democratic ballots and then threw them away or filled out uncompleted ballots to vote for the Republican candidate, Mark Harris. On Thursday, Harris filed campaign finance documents showing he spent more than $34,000 for something called “reimbursement payment for Bladen absentee, early voting poll workers; reimbursement door to door.” Bladen County is where the absentee ballot effort took place. And it looks like the scandal is spreading to a second county in North Carolina.
The United States and Canada are continuing to refuse to say why a top Chinese executive was arrested over the weekend during a stopover in Vancouver, Canada. Meng Wanzhou is the chief financial officer of the telecommunications giant Huawei and the daughter of the company’s founder. The company recently surpassed Apple as the world’s second largest smartphone maker. She has been held in Canada since Saturday, waiting for extradition to the United States.
China condemned Washington for its “Hooliganism” and “despicable rogue’s approach.” Meng’s detention came on the same day President Trump met with Chinese President Xi Jinping in Argentina to discuss the growing U.S.-China trade war. Huawei has been accused of violating U.S. sanctions against Iran and North Korea, but it is unclear if that is why Meng is being held. She will appear in a Vancouver courtroom today for a bail hearing.
A new report finds Greenland’s ice sheet is melting at the fastest rate in centuries, as atmospheric carbon dioxide levels from human activity continue to increase to historic highs. Writing in the journal Nature, a team of international researchers warns that not only is Greenland’s melt beginning to add to global sea level rise, but the rate of the melt is accelerating.
This comes as the Trump administration moved to roll back an Obama-era conservation plan to protect a bird known as the sage grouse, which is close to endangered status. The rollback could open some 9 million acres of land in Western states to new oil and gas drilling.
In immigration news, BuzzFeed News reports that an unknown impostor stole the online identity of a prominent Honduran activist in order to organize the migrant caravan that became a central issue for President Trump and Republicans in the U.S. midterm elections. The activist, Bartolo Fuentes, says he hasn’t gotten any answers from Facebook about who stole his identity or how many messages were sent by the impostor account. But Fuentes’s identity was apparently central to a sophisticated campaign that organized the largest migrant caravan in history, with some 7,000 Central Americans participating at its peak. President Trump blasted the caravan as a horde of “invaders” and used the issue as a wedge to drum up support for Republican candidates. And Vice President Mike Pence used the caravan to lash out at Venezuela and “leftist groups.”
Vice President Mike Pence: “What the president of Honduras told me is that the caravan was organized by leftist organizations, political activists within Honduras, and he said it was being funded by outside groups, and even from Venezuela. And so, the American people, I think, see through this. They understand this is not a spontaneous caravan of vulnerable people, but it was organized by human traffickers and leftist groups.”
Pence was speaking on Fox News. This comes as Facebook is under fire for failing to prevent Russia and other foreign governments from operating phony accounts to sway the U.S. electorate.
Today is expected to be a big day in special counsel Robert Mueller’s Russia probe as he faces two deadlines. Mueller is expected to file paperwork detailing how Trump’s former campaign manager Paul Manafort violated his plea agreement after he pleaded guilty to several federal charges and agreed to cooperate with investigators. In addition, Mueller is expected to submit a sentencing memo for former Trump attorney Michael Cohen. Last week Cohen pleaded guilty to lying to Congress about Trump’s efforts to build a skyscraper in Moscow while running for president. In August, Cohen pleaded guilty to eight criminal charges, including tax evasion, bank fraud and campaign finance violations. Meanwhile, former FBI Director James Comey is expected to testify today behind closed doors before the House Judiciary Committee.
President Trump will nominate former television personality Heather Nauert as United States ambassador to the United Nations to replace outgoing Ambassador Nikki Haley. If confirmed by the Senate, Nauert will become one of the least experienced U.S. ambassadors to the U.N. in history. Before she joined the Trump administration as State Department spokesperson, Nauert worked as a news presenter on “Fox & Friends.”
President Trump is reportedly considering William Barr as his leading candidate for U.S. attorney general. Barr previously served as attorney general under President George H.W. Bush in the early 1990s. Barr has expressed sympathy for President Trump’s demand that Hillary Clinton be prosecuted over her use of a private email server.
An investigation by Mother Jones and The Trace reveals the Trump campaign and the National Rifle Association appear to have coordinated TV ads during the 2016 race in violation of federal campaign finance law. Documents show the NRA and Trump both used the conservative PR firm National Media Research, Planning and Placement to place the ads, and that same executive at the company authorized all of the ads. Former Federal Election Commissioner Ann Ravel said, “I don’t think I’ve ever seen a situation where illegal coordination seems more obvious.”
France is gearing up for more mass protests this weekend as the political movement known as the “yellow vests” continues to draw popular support across the country. The protests began as a revolt against President Emmanuel Macron’s tax hikes on fossil fuels. Macron has since delayed the fuel tax, but protesters are now pressing more than 40 other demands—including a minimum pension, a reduction in the retirement age and tax reforms. During “yellow vest” protests last weekend, 400 people were arrested, and 260 were injured, as hundreds of thousands took to the streets. French officials said they might deploy armored vehicles in Paris for the first time in 50 years if protesters follow through on plans to erect barricades this weekend.
Actor and comedian Kevin Hart has stepped down from plans to host the upcoming Academy Awards ceremony, following public outcry over his past homophobic tweets and comedy routines. The Academy named Hart host of the Oscars on Wednesday; less than 24 hours later, Hart was discovered to be rapidly deleting his past anti-gay social media posts amid a growing uproar. Hart initially refused to apologize over the comments, before offering his resignation from the Oscars ceremony with an apology.
In Chicago, over 500 teachers at the Acero charter school network have gone on strike, calling for smaller class sizes, more special ed staff, pay equity with Chicago Public Schools and protections for undocumented students. It is believed to be the first strike at a U.S. charter school.
And today is the 90th birthday of world-renowned linguist and political dissident Noam Chomsky, born in Philadelphia on December 7, 1928.