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In Los Angeles, over 30,000 public school teachers went on strike Monday, many of them braving the pouring rain alongside their supporters as they marched through downtown Los Angeles. Teachers are demanding smaller class sizes, higher pay, the regulation of charter schools and more nurses, counselors and librarians. The strike is the first such action in nearly 30 years. The strike, organized by United Teachers Los Angeles, has effectively shut down the nation’s second largest school district. This is Toby Smith, who teaches up to 200 students a day.
Toby Smith: “We are pinned up against the wall. We have no other choice. If we don’t, they’re just going to keep cramming us in to classes. They’re going to cram the kids in like sardines. They’re going to starve us out, and then charter schools will be the only schools. So, it’s now or never. It’s do or die for us.”
We’ll have more on the Los Angeles teacher strikes after headlines with strike leader and teacher Cecily Myart-Cruz and author and journalist Eric Blanc.
Senate confirmation hearings begin today for William Barr, President Trump’s nominee for the attorney general seat left open after Jeff Sessions’s firing in November. Barr, a former attorney general for George H.W. Bush, is known for his expansive view of executive power, but he is reportedly planning on reassuring senators he will protect special counsel Robert Mueller’s Russia probe, according to prepared testimony. Barr’s opening statement says that it is “vitally important” Mueller be allowed to complete his investigation. Democratic senators are expected to press Barr over an “unsolicited memo” he sent to Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein in June in which he criticized Mueller’s investigation. In addition to sending the memo to Rosenstein, Barr acknowledged he also shared it with most of Trump’s lawyers and discussed it with several of them. We’ll have more on this story later in the program with Vince Warren of the Center for Constitutional Rights.
The longest government shutdown in U.S. history enters its 25 day, as 800,000 federal workers are either working without pay or have been furloughed. No signs of a breakthrough are apparent in Washington as Trump continues to insist on $5.7 billion for border wall funding. Meanwhile in New York City, a number of prisoners at a downtown Manhattan jail launched a hunger strike Monday to protest the cancellation of family visits due to staffing shortages related to the government shutdown. Some prisoners at the Metropolitan Correctional Center have also reportedly not received medications. At a federal jail in Brooklyn, lawyers report not being able to visit their clients because of staff shortages.
In Poland, the mayor of Gdansk, Pawel Adamowicz, died Monday, one day after he was stabbed on stage during a charity event. The attacker, who has been charged with murder, reportedly yelled from the stage that he was wrongfully imprisoned under the government of the Civic Platform party, to which the mayor used to belong. Adamowicz had been the mayor of the port city of Gdansk since 1998 and was a staunch critic of the right-wing Polish government. He espoused liberal policies and ideas, defending LGBTQ rights and immigrant rights. Crowds gathered Monday to pay tribute to the murdered mayor. This is Donald Tusk, president of the European Council, originally from Gdansk, and a friend of the mayor.
Donald Tusk: “And today I want to promise to dear God, in all names, the people of Gdansk, Poles and Europeans, that for you and for everyone, we will protect our Gdansk, our Poland and our Europe, that hatred will not prevail. We will stand up against it. Goodbye.”
In Afghanistan, the Taliban claimed responsibility for a car bomb that killed at least five people and wounded at least 100 others in the capital Kabul on Monday. The explosion went off near a high-security international compound. Officials say most of the victims were civilians, and the wounded included scores of children.
In more news from Afghanistan, Human Rights Watch is calling for the international community to impose sanctions and investigate recently appointed Defense Minister Asadullah Khalid. Khalid, a former governor of Kandahar, is accused of committing war crimes and human rights abuses, including enforced disappearances, torturing prisoners and ordering the murder of five U.N. workers in 2007. The human rights group also says there is evidence Khalid committed acts of sexual violence against women and girls.
In Britain, members of Parliament are voting today on Prime Minister Theresa May’s highly contested Brexit deal. On Monday, May made a final plea to members of Parliament to support the deal.
Prime Minister Theresa May: “No, it is not perfect, and, yes, it is a compromise. But when the history books are written, people will look at the decision—people—people will look—people will look at the decision of this house tomorrow and ask: Did we deliver on the country’s vote to leave the European Union? Did we safeguard our economy, our security and our union? Or did we let the British people down?”
It’s unclear what will happen if the deal is rejected, although some have said the U.K. could hold a second referendum on leaving the European Union. Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn has called for a general election and a “new government” if May fails to get parliamentary backing for the existing agreement.
In Pennsylvania, a federal judge blocked new rules from the Trump administration Monday that would have severely limited women’s access to reproductive care by allowing employers to opt out of an Affordable Care Act requirement to provide birth control as part of female employees’ healthcare. Judge Wendy Beetlestone wrote in her opinion, “The negative effects of even a short period of decreased access to no-cost contraceptive services are irreversible.” On Sunday, a judge in California issued a similar injunction, but it it only applied to the 13 states and the District of Columbia which were part of that lawsuit.
Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg is missing oral arguments for a second week as she continues to recover after having two tumors removed from her lung last month. The Supreme Court said Friday Justice Ginsburg is cancer-free. The 85-year-old, now three-time cancer-surviving justice, has been reviewing arguments and weighing in on cases from home.
In California, Pacific Gas and Electric—or PG&E—will file for bankruptcy as it faces up to $30 billion in liability, as well as multiple investigations. California has experienced increasingly devastating wildfires in recent years. In November 2018, the Camp Fire—the state’s deadliest wildfire—decimated the town of Paradise in Northern California, killing at least 86 people. The California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection—known as Cal Fire—is investigating possible issues with some of the utility’s power lines and towers as the cause of the fire. Cal Fire previously found that many of the worst forest fires in Northern California in 2017 were caused by power lines, poles or other other equipment run by PG&E.
House Republican leaders have voted unanimously to block Iowa Congressmember Steve King from serving on any committees amid the outrage following his comments in a recent New York Times interview. King praised white supremacy, saying, “White nationalist, white supremacist, Western civilization—how did that language become offensive?” Meanwhile, House Democrats are preparing their own actions, including resolutions to censure King over the comments.
In environmental news, the Associated Press is reporting the Environmental Protection Agency referred just 166 pollution cases for prosecution in 2018, the lowest number in 30 years. The executive director of Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility, the group which released the data, said, “You don’t get closer to the core of EPA’s mission than enforcing the law. We’re reaching levels where the enforcement program is lacking a pulse.”
A new report from the Associated Press found that the U.S. government approved thousands of requests to bring underage brides into the United States over the past decade, a practice that results in numerous forced and abusive marriages. There is no minimum age requirement when making a spousal or fiancée immigration claim, as U.S. immigration services consider whether a marriage is legal in the spouse or fiancée’s home country. The marriage must also be legal in the state where the petitioner lives, and all U.S. states have either laws or exceptions allowing for a minor to be married. So you had men in their forties requesting and getting approval for 15-year-old child brides to come to the United States to marry them.
And in Connecticut, the families of six victims of the 2012 mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School scored a legal victory Friday when a judge ruled they can access internal documents from conservative conspiracy theorist and internet personality Alex Jones and his website InfoWars. The families of the victims argue that Jones fabricated and perpetuated lies about the Sandy Hook massacre, portraying the event as a hoax and the victims’ families as paid actors. They say Jones engaged in a “years-long campaign of abusive and outrageous false statements,” which resulted in online harassment and death threats against the plaintiffs. The massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary claimed the lives of 20 schoolchildren, ages 6 and 7, and six school staff members.