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You turn to Democracy Now! for ad-free news you can trust. Maybe you come for our daily headlines. Maybe you come for in-depth stories that expose government and corporate abuses of power. This month, Democracy Now! is celebrating our 23rd birthday. For over two decades, we've produced our daily news hour without ads, government funding or corporate underwriting. How is this possible? Only with your support. Right now, in honor of Democracy Now!'s birthday, every donation we receive will be doubled by a generous supporter. This means if you give $30 today, Democracy Now! will get $60 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. Thank you! -Amy Goodman
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In the worst defeat for a ruling government in British history, Prime Minister Theresa May’s Brexit deal to withdraw Britain from the European Union was crushed Tuesday by 230 votes. John Bercow, the speaker of the U.K. House of Commons, called the roll.
Speaker John Bercow: “Order! The ayes to the right, 202. The noes to the left, 432. So the noes have it. The noes have it. Unlock! On a point of—indeed, point of order, the prime minister.”
Prime Minister Theresa May: “Thank you, Mr. Speaker. Mr. Speaker, the House has spoken, and the government will listen. It is clear that the House does not support this deal. But tonight’s vote tells us nothing about what it does support, nothing about how—nothing about how or even if it intends to honor the decision the British people took in a referendum Parliament decided to hold.”
Britain is scheduled to leave the European Union in 10 weeks, but the rejection of the deal leaves uncertainty about what will happen next. Shortly after Tuesday’s vote, Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn called for a vote of no confidence in May’s government to be held within 24 hours. Outside the Parliament, supporters of a second referendum on Brexit cheered Tuesday’s outcome. This is anti-Brexit activist Rebecca Ireland.
Rebecca Ireland: “I’m very happy. This is a first step. We need to have a people’s vote. There needs to be a choice on the ballot paper between Remain—remain in the EU—and Theresa May’s deal.”
After headlines, we’ll go to London to speak with journalist Paul Mason about Brexit.
The White House Council of Economic Advisers has doubled its estimate of how much the shutdown is likely to cost the economy, with many independent economists warning it could push the U.S. into a recession. The warning came as President Trump ordered nearly 50,000 furloughed federal employees to return to their jobs without pay, as the longest government shutdown in U.S. history entered its 26th day with no end in sight. Among those ordered back to work are food safety inspectors, aviation safety workers, and IRS employees who will process income tax refunds. On Tuesday, a federal judge rejected a lawsuit brought by unions that would have required the government immediately pay employees who are required to work.
On Capitol Hill, Republican Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell blocked a Senate vote Tuesday on a House-approved bill to reopen the federal government. It was the second time McConnell blocked a vote on ending the shutdown. Meanwhile, President Trump invited a handful of rank-and-file Democrats to the White House for a “working lunch” aimed at winning support for Trump’s border wall, but not a single Democrat showed up.
Meanwhile, the shutdown continues to wreak havoc on the basic functions of the U.S. government. Native American communities are reporting shortages of medicine as the Indian Health Service goes understaffed, while a federally funded food delivery program to Indian reservations has halted. Immigration courts have seen 20,000 cases per week added to an already record-high backlog. And the Transportation Security Administration said a man with a loaded pistol passed through airport security at Atlanta International Airport. TSA workers are being forced to work without paychecks, and hundreds have been calling in sick as the shutdown drags on.
A federal judge in New York City barred the Trump administration Tuesday from placing a citizenship question on the 2020 census, setting up a likely battle over the issue at the Supreme Court. Voting rights activists say the citizenship question is aimed at deterring immigrants from participating in the census, leading to a vast undercount in states with large immigrant communities, impacting everything from the redrawing of congressional maps to the allocation of federal funding. We’ll have more on the 2020 census later in the broadcast.
Senate confirmation hearings began Tuesday for William Barr, President Trump’s nominee for attorney general to replace Jeff Sessions, who was fired in November. Barr served as attorney general for George H.W. Bush from 1991 to 1993, but senators asked few questions about Barr’s past record while focusing heavily on his views about special counsel Robert Mueller’s probe into Russian meddling in the 2016 election. Barr vowed to allow Mueller to complete his probe, but suggested Mueller’s long-awaited report might not be made public. He also defended writing an unsolicited memo last year to Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein in which he criticized Mueller’s investigation. We’ll have much more on William Barr’s confirmation hearings later in the broadcast.
In Kenya, armed men burst into an upscale hotel complex in the capital Nairobi Tuesday, killing 14 people and launching a hostage crisis that stretched on for nearly a day. The Somalia-based militant group al-Shabab claimed responsibility for the attack. In 2013, a similar assault by al-Shabab killed at least 67 people at a Nairobi shopping mall. Last year, the Trump administration targeted al-Shabab with an unprecedented number of airstrikes across Somalia.
Former Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto accepted a $100 million bribe from drug traffickers. That’s according to a witness who testified Tuesday at the trial of the notorious Mexican drug lord known as “El Chapo” in New York City. The allegation came as the Colombian drug lord Alex Cifuentes Villa took the witness stand in a federal district court in Brooklyn. Peña Nieto has not responded to the claim but has previously denied charges of corruption.
At The Hague, former Ivory Coast President Laurent Gbagbo was acquitted Tuesday of crimes against humanity and will be set free by the International Criminal Court. Gbagbo faced charges of responsibility for the violence that killed more than 3,000 people after he refused to relinquish the presidency, despite losing elections in 2010. He was the first former head of state to stand trial at the ICC. His acquittal follows similar failures of prosecutors to win convictions against other African leaders in recent years.
The World Food Program has cut aid to Palestinians in the Israeli-occupied West Bank and Gaza, citing a critical lack of funds. The WFP said this week more than 25,000 Palestinians will no longer receive aid; a further 165,000 Palestinians will see their food aid slashed by 20 percent. Last year, the Trump administration eliminated more than a half-billion dollars in aid to the Palestinians; aid groups are warning further planned cuts threaten new projects including a playground for Gaza children and new infrastructure to provide clean water to Gaza homes.
The House of Representatives voted 424 to 1 Tuesday to condemn white nationalism and white supremacy, in a rebuke to Iowa Republican Congressmember Steve King. The vote came after King told The New York Times in an interview published last week, “White nationalist, white supremacist, Western civilization—how did that language become offensive?” Tuesday’s vote was not a formal censure of Steve King, who’s made similar remarks throughout his 16-year career in Congress.
Elsewhere on Capitol Hill, Democratic Socialist Congressmember Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez said Tuesday it’s time for Democrats to embrace a marginal tax rate of 70 percent on the wealthiest earners. Ocasio-Cortez says revenue from shifting the tax burden onto those who can most afford to pay could fund progressive legislation like universal healthcare or a Green New Deal. Speaking to The Hill on Tuesday, Ocasio-Cortez cited new polling data showing a majority of Americans support the idea.
Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez: “I don’t think it’s a case that I have to make, because it’s a case that the majority of Americans have already made. This is a policy that is already popular. And it’s time that we embrace working Americans, and it’s time that the Democratic Party fights, in a full-throated manner, for the working class in the United States. And to not support a marginal tax rate is to really just allow runaway wealth inequality to persist.”
New York Democratic Senator Kirsten Gillibrand said Tuesday she’s joining the race for the presidency in 2020. Gillibrand announced her run on “The Late Show with Stephen Colbert.”
Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand: “Well, I’m going to run for the president of the United States, because, as a young mom, I’m going to fight for other people’s kids as hard as I would fight for my own, which is why I believe that healthcare should be a right and not a privilege.”
Sen. Gillibrand’s aides say she’ll run on a platform supporting a Medicare-for-all healthcare plan. She’s also pledged to fight for universal paid family leave and publicly funded federal elections. Gillibrand was appointed as New York’s junior senator in 2009 after Hillary Clinton left the post to become secretary of state; she’s since won two elections to retain her seat. Gillibrand joined Congress as a conservative so-called Blue Dog Democrat with a favorable rating from the National Rifle Association but has since backed progressive legislation including the Green New Deal.
In Russia, LGBTQ activists are warning of a new crackdown on gays and lesbians, with at least 40 people arrested in December and reports of two people who were tortured to death. Chechen officials have denied the reports, which are based on interviews of victims by the Associated Press and other outlets. In 2017, human rights groups said as many as 100 people, mainly gay young men, were swept up by police and tortured in what was labeled a “gay pogrom” carried out by Chechen officials.
Second lady of the United States Karen Pence is working at a Virginia private school that explicitly bans LGBTQ workers and students. Pence started work this week at the Immanuel Christian School in the Washington, D.C., suburbs, where an employment application requires job candidates to pledge not to engage in homosexual activity or to violate the “unique roles of male and female.” The application also advises women that “a wife is commanded to submit to her husband as the church submits to Christ.”
And New York state lawmakers have approved a pair of bills aimed at protecting the LGBTQ community. One bill bans licensed mental health professionals from participating in so-called conversion therapy, a pseudoscientific practice that seeks to coerce queer youth into renouncing their sexuality. A second bill expands hate crimes to include attacks motivated by gender identity or expression. David Kilmnick, president of the LGBT Network, said, “Banning the harmful 'practice' of conversion therapy will save lives. New York has sent an important message to the rest of the nation today that no matter who sits in the White House, progress and the fight for equality and justice will move forward.” But some trans advocates are objecting to New York’s expansion of the definition of hate crimes. Chase Strangio of the ACLU argues that hate crimes laws disproportionately target communities of color—and could even be used to enhance sentences for trans and queer people convicted of what the FBI calls “anti-heterosexual” hate crimes.