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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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North Korean leader Kim Jong-un has pledged to abandon his nuclear weapons if the United States agrees to formally end the Korean War and promises not to invade his country. This announcement comes after a historic meeting Friday between Kim Jong-un and South Korean leader Moon Jae-in at the Demilitarized Zone between the two countries. During the meeting, which was broadcast live on the Korean Peninsula and around the world, the two leaders held hands and pledged to work for peace and replace the 1953 armistice with a formal peace treaty. They also joked with each other, with Kim Jong-un promising he wouldn’t wake up Moon Jae-in anymore with early-morning missile launches. On Sunday, North Korea’s state media said Kim had vowed to immediately suspend nuclear and missile tests, and would dismantle one of its nuclear test sites. We’ll have more on the historic diplomatic breakthroughs on the Korean Peninsula after headlines.
In Afghanistan, a double suicide blast in Kabul this morning has killed 29 people, including eight journalists. ISIS has claimed responsibility. The first blast occurred in the central district of Kabul, which is home to NATO headquarters and a number of embassies. As first responders and journalists rushed to the scene, a second attacker disguised as a cameraman detonated a bomb, killing eight journalists and photographers.
Among the victims was Agence France-Presse’s celebrated photographer Shah Marai. He has been working with AFP in Afghanistan for two decades, beginning as a driver for the agency under Taliban rule and working his way up to become AFP’s chief photographer in Kabul. He was the father of six children, including a newborn daughter. The AFP global news director called Marai’s death “a devastating blow for the brave staff of our close-knit Kabul bureau and the entire agency.”
Last year, Marai wrote an essay about his and his family’s life in Kabul entitled “When Hope Is Gone.” In it, he wrote, “Life seems to be even more difficult than under the Taliban because of the insecurity. I don’t dare to take my children for a walk. I have five and they spend their time cooped up inside the house. I have never felt life to have so little prospects and I don’t see a way out.” Those are the words of AFP’s chief photographer in Kabul, Shah Marai, killed this morning along with seven other journalists in a double ISIS suicide bomb attack that killed at least 29 people in total.
Israeli soldiers shot and killed three Palestinians on Sunday along Israel’s heavily militarized border with Gaza. The killings came after Israeli soldiers killed three Palestinian protesters and wounded hundreds more on Friday, when the soldiers and snipers opened fire during the Palestinians’ weekly nonviolent protest near the Gaza border. On Saturday, a fourth protester died after succumbing to his wounds. The nonviolent protests demanding the right for Palestinian refugees to return to their land began on March 30. Since then, the Israeli military has killed at least 42 Palestinians, including two journalists, and injured thousands more. No Israeli soldiers or civilians have been injured in the nonviolent protests. Israel’s bloody crackdown has sparked international condemnation.
In the latest attack on environmental regulations, the Trump administration has drafted a proposal to freeze fuel-efficiency automobile standards beginning in 2021. The draft proposal would also challenge California’s power to establish its own stronger fuel-efficiency rules, setting up the latest potential clash between the state of California and the Trump administration. This is Sierra Club Executive Director Michael Brune, speaking on Democracy Now!
Michael Brune: “Right now Scott Pruitt is working on undermining the clean car standard, which is a standard that is supported by 90 percent of Americans—Democrats and Republicans—because it cuts air pollution, cuts water pollution and climate pollution, and it saves people money. What it does is makes cars more efficient. It helps people to transition to cleaner vehicles—hybrids, plug-in hybrids, electric vehicles—or simply more fuel-efficient vehicles that reduces our dependence on oil, and it makes innovating industries in the auto sector more successful.”
National Security Adviser John Bolton said President Trump has not yet decided whether the U.S. will withdraw from the landmark Iran nuclear deal, despite President Trump repeatedly threatening to sabotage the agreement. This is Bolton, speaking on CBS’s “Face the Nation” Sunday.
John Bolton: “Well, there are a variety of things that could happen, and I don’t want to get into a discussion of what the hypotheticals might be, but, certainly, withdrawal is under consideration. The president has said this repeatedly. His views on the nuclear deal have been uniform, consistent and unvarying since the campaign of 2016. And we’ll see what happens.”
?The National Rifle Association has announced all firearms will be banned from the arena during Vice President Mike Pence’s address at the NRA’s annual meeting on Friday in Dallas, Texas. The announcement has sparked widespread cries of hypocrisy, given that the NRA has for years opposed regulations banning firearms and has championed the claim that “a good guy with a gun” makes people safer. Students who survived the Valentine’s Day shooting massacre at the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School slammed the NRA, with massacre survivor Cameron Kasky tweeting, “The NRA has evolved into such a hilarious parody of itself.” Even some NRA members have criticized the protocol, with one self-identified NRA member writing on a message board for gun owners, “I realize it’s the VP, but still makes our whole argument look foolish.”
President Trump lashed out at the media, Democrats, the FBI and his other perceived enemies at a virulent campaign-style rally in Washington Township, Michigan, on Saturday night. He attended the rally instead of the annual White House Correspondents’ Association dinner, which he also skipped last year. Instead, in Michigan, he attacked journalists and the media.
President Donald Trump: “You know, in the old days, when the newspapers used to write, they’d put names down. Today they say, 'Sources have said that President Trump…' Sources. They never say who the source is. They don’t have sources. The sources don’t exist in many cases. They don’t have sources. And the sources, in many cases, don’t exist. These are very dishonest people, many of them. They are very, very dishonest people.”
Dr. Ronny Jackson will not return to his role as White House physician, after he withdrew from consideration as veterans affairs secretary amid a scandal over misconduct claims, including drinking on the job, routinely handing out prescription drugs to West Wing staff, creating a “hostile work environment” for his colleagues, and once drunkenly banging on the hotel room door of a female employee during an overseas work trip in 2015, until the Secret Service intervened. Navy officer Sean Conley has taken over the role as White House physician.
More than 150 Central American migrants have arrived at the U.S. border in Tijuana, Mexico, where they are petitioning to receive political asylum in the United States. The migrants are part of a transnational caravan that President Trump has repeatedly attacked. Trump has also deployed members of the National Guard to the border. As the migrants arrived, hundreds of U.S. citizens have offered to open up their homes and welcome members of the caravan to come stay with them, if they are allowed to enter the United States and pursue asylum claims.
Most of the migrants are from Honduras, where the U.S.-backed President Juan Orlando Hernández was recently inaugurated for a second term despite allegations of widespread election fraud in the November 26 election. The caravan began with more than 1,000 people, seeking safety in numbers along the dangerous 2,000-mile journey to the U.S. border.
British Home Secretary Amber Rudd has resigned amid an escalating scandal over how thousands of Caribbean immigrants who have lived in Britain for decades are facing discrimination and deportation despite having legally immigrated to Britain after World War II. Known as the Windrush generation, many of the immigrants never formalized their citizenship after they immigrated from former British colonies. Now, following harsh new anti-immigration laws enacted in 2012, many of them are facing eviction, unemployment and the possibility of deportation. Conservative politician Sajid Javid has been appointed to replace Rudd as British home secretary.
Back in the United States, the Arizona Education Association says teachers are on strike today for a third straight day to protest the $1 billion funding cuts to education in Arizona since the 2008 recession. Thousands of teachers in Colorado also rallied in Denver on Friday to demand better funding for education there. The protests come on the heels of teachers’ strikes in West Virginia, Kentucky and Oklahoma.
In business news, Sprint and T-Mobile have agreed to a $26.5 billion merger. If cleared by federal antitrust regulators, the merger would leave only three major wireless carriers in the United States. The two companies tried to merge back in 2014 but abandoned the effort after regulators signaled they would likely reject the deal. Experts say the potential merger would likely increase cellphone costs for customers.
In New York City, former Black Panther Herman Bell has been freed after spending nearly 45 years in prison. He was released Friday after a judge rejected efforts by the police labor union, the Patrolmen’s Benevolent Association, to keep him from being released on parole. Bell was sentenced to 25 years to life in prison for the killing of two New York City police officers in 1971. At the time, he was a member of the Black Liberation Army and a former Black Panther. Since then, he has mentored thousands of young men while behind bars and kept a clean disciplinary record. For years, activists have campaigned for his freedom. Following his release, his support crew wrote, “Let us hope that Herman’s release brings inspiration for more change. Herman is deeply humbled and grateful for the broad expressions of trust and support, but out of respect for the feelings of the victims’ families, he will not be making any public statements. We welcome him home.”
And Rev. Dr. James Cone, known as the founder of black liberation theology, has died at the age of 79. A longtime professor at Union Theological Seminary here in New York City, Dr. Cone was the author a series of groundbreaking books, including “Black Theology & Black Power,” “A Black Theology of Liberation,” “Martin & Malcolm & America: A Dream or a Nightmare?” and “The Cross and the Lynching Tree.” Professor Cornel West calls Dr. Cone “the greatest liberation theologian to emerge in the American empire.” We’ll have more on his life and his legacy later in the broadcast with Rev. Dr. Serene Jones, Rev. Dr. Kelly Brown Douglas and Rev. Dr. Raphael Warnock.