Brazil Swears In Far-Right President Jair Bolsonaro

Jan 02, 2019

In Brazil, far-right former Army Captain Jair Bolsonaro was sworn in as Brazil’s president on New Year’s Day, declaring “liberation from socialism” and promising to restore law and order to Brazilian society.

President Jair Bolsonaro: “It’s also urgent that we put an end to this ideology of defending the criminals and criminalizing the police. This has brought about an increase in violence in Brazil and in the power of organized crime, taking the lives of those who are innocent, destroying families and bringing insecurity everywhere. … We are going to restore order in this country. We are aware of this awesome responsibility and the challenges that we will face. We know where we want to go and the potential that Brazil has.”

Many fear Brazil’s young democracy is now at risk. For years Bolsonaro has praised Brazil’s former military dictatorship, while speaking in favor of torture and threatening to destroy, imprison or banish his political opponents.

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Gov’t Shutdown Enters 12th Day, Causing Chaos for Workers

Jan 02, 2019

The partial government shutdown enters its 12th day today as President Trump prepares to meet with congressional leaders just one day before Democrats take control of the House. President Trump has insisted on including $5 billion for border wall funding before he’ll agree to sign any spending measure. Eight hundred thousand government workers’ lives have been thrown into disarray by the shutdown, with 380,000 people furloughed and another 420,000 forced to work without pay since the House and Senate failed to pass an end-of-year spending bill on December 22. After headlines, we’ll speak with lawyers for the federal workers’ union that is suing the Trump administration, saying it’s illegal to make federal employees work without pay.

Border Agents Tear-Gas Migrants at U.S.-Mexico Border

Jan 02, 2019

U.S. border agents tear-gassed migrants at the U.S.-Mexico border early Tuesday. The attack occurred in the same area as the tear gassing in November, at the border between Tijuana and San Diego. The tear gas reportedly affected women and children, who were amid the group of targeted migrants. Meanwhile, President Trump addressed the deaths of two migrant children in U.S. custody Saturday. In a tweet, Trump blamed Democrats for the deaths, saying, “Any deaths of children or others at the Border are strictly the fault of the Democrats and their pathetic immigration policies that allow people to make the long trek thinking they can enter our country illegally. They can’t. If we had a Wall, they wouldn’t even try!”

Texas: Activists Block Access to Tornillo Youth Immigration Jail

Jan 02, 2019

In Texas, immigrant rights activists shut down the entrance to the Tornillo tent camp on New Year’s Eve, where several thousand immigrant youth are being detained. The activists have been organizing daily actions for the past two weeks under the banner of “Christmas in Tornillo.”

Denise Benavides: “So, my name is Denise Benavides. I am a Dallas County community organizer. And we are here at the Tornillo port of entry in front of a concentration camp for Central American minors who are teenagers between the ages of 12 and 17. … This is the only way we’re going to shut this place down, is with resistance, is with action. It’s with our voices, is with the stories that we hear. We’re tired of this. This should not be happening in America. We are the most incarcerated country in the world. And it’s sad that we celebrate freedom.”

The Tornillo facility has come under fire from immigrant and human rights activists, Democratic lawmakers and health professionals. Last month, the shelter operator, Baptist Child and Family Services, said they expected to close the facility by mid-January.

AZ: Prosecutors to Investigate Child Abuse at Immigrant Prison

Jan 02, 2019

Meanwhile in Arizona, the Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office referred apparent evidence of abuse at a children’s immigration prison to prosecutors Monday. Last week, a local publication posted surveillance video, reportedly dating from September, from the Hacienda Del Sol detention center in Youngtown, showing staffers dragging, slapping and pushing children. The facility, run by Southwest Key, was shut down at the end of October. The Arizona Department of Health Services had accused Southwest Key in September of failing to provide evidence of staff background checks.

Sec. of State Pompeo Reaffirms U.S. Military Relationship with Israel

Jan 02, 2019

U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo met with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in Brazil, where both men were in attendance for new Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro’s inauguration. Pompeo addressed Trump’s recent decision to withdraw U.S. troops from Syria.

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo: “The decision the president made on Syria in no way changes anything that this administration is working on alongside Israel. The counter-ISIS campaign continues. Our efforts to counter Iranian aggression continue. And our commitment to Middle East stability and the protection of Israel continues in the same way it did before that decision was made.”

U.S. officials said Monday that the military will have four months to withdraw troops from Syria, rather than the 30 days initially announced by Trump. The withdrawal will be overseen by Patrick Shanahan, a former executive at the weapons maker Boeing. Shanahan became acting secretary of defense on New Year’s Day, after the former Pentagon chief James Mattis resigned in protest of Trump’s foreign policies.

Israeli PM: Bolsonaro Pledged to Move Brazilian Embassy to Jerusalem

Jan 02, 2019

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu also met with President Bolsonaro in Brazil. Netanyahu said the newly inaugurated president told him Brazil would move their embassy to Jerusalem, following the U.S.'s move in May of last year. Bolsonaro reportedly said, “It's not a question of if, just a question of when.” Honduras is also reportedly considering moving their embassy to Jerusalem.

Gaza: Israeli Forces Kill Palestinian Man at Protest

Jan 02, 2019

In Gaza, mourners gathered at the funeral of 26-year-old Karam Fayyad Saturday, a Palestinian man who was killed Friday by Israeli forces during a protest at the separation barrier with Israel. Friday marked the 40th consecutive week of protests under the banner of the Great March of Return. Israeli forces have killed at least 240 Palestinian protesters and injured at least 18,000 others since March 30 of last year.

U.S. and Israel Formally Leave UNESCO

Jan 02, 2019

The United States and Israel are, as of yesterday, officially out of UNESCO, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization. The Trump administration announced the withdrawal in October 2017, citing “anti-Israel bias,” with Israel following suit immediately after. Both the U.S. and Israel had stopped paying member dues since 2011 after Palestine joined UNESCO.

North Korea: Kim Jong-un Offers Both Threats and Peaceful Overtures to U.S.

Jan 02, 2019

In a televised new year’s address, North Korean leader Kim Jong-un said he would like to meet with President Trump for a second summit on a possible denuclearization deal, while threatening to resume nuclear efforts if the U.S. did not offer any concessions on sanctions.

Kim Jong-un: “I am always ready to sit down again with the U.S. president at any time and will make efforts to produce an outcome that the international community would welcome. However, if the U.S. miscalculates our people’s patience, forces something upon us and pursues sanctions and pressure, without keeping a promise it made in front of the world, we have no option but to explore a new path in order to protect our sovereignty and achieve peace on the Korean Peninsula.”

In a historic summit in June, Trump and Kim pledged to work toward complete denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula but have since been at an impasse over the issue of lifting sanctions on North Korea.

Netflix Pulls Episode of Hasan Minhaj’s Show for Criticizing Saudi Arabia over Khashoggi Killing

Jan 02, 2019

Netflix is coming under fire for pulling an episode of U.S. comedian Hasan Minhaj’s show “Patriot Act” from Saudi Arabia, after officials from the kingdom complained to the streaming company. The episode, which became available in late October, a few weeks after Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi’s murder in the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul, was sharply critical of the Saudi royal family and, in particular, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.

Hasan Minhaj: ”MBS was shocked by all of the anger over the killing of one journalist. According to The Wall Street Journal, on a phone call with Jared Kushner, MBS asked, 'Why the outrage?' And frankly, MBS’s confusion is completely understandable. He has been getting away with autocratic [bleep] like this for years with almost no blowback from the international community.”

Minhaj slams the Saudi regime and the crown prince for their cover-up of Khashoggi’s killing, the persecution of women and human rights activists, and their central role in the ongoing war on Yemen. He also calls out the long-standing relationship between Saudi Arabia and the United States, and skewers the Western portrayal of the crown prince as a modern reformer.

Bangladesh: 17 People Killed in Election Violence as Ruling Party Wins Landslide

Jan 02, 2019

In Bangladesh, at least 17 people were killed during violent clashes between the leading party and its opposition as voters headed to the polls Sunday. The ruling Awami League party swept the parliamentary elections, ensuring a third term for Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina. Opposition leaders and election observers have called out gross irregularities in voting, alleging widespread voter intimidation, and restrictions on polling agents.

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Philippines: Flash Floods and Landslides Kill At Least 85

Jan 02, 2019

In the Philippines, flash floods and landslides killed at least 85 people since Saturday, when a tropical depression dumped torrential rain onto the country. Search and rescue teams are looking for survivors.

Indonesia: Landslide Kills At Least 15 on New Year’s Eve

Jan 02, 2019

Meanwhile, a landslide in Indonesia’s West Java province killed at least 15 people on New Year’s Eve, with scores still missing. This came just over a week after a devastating tsunami provoked by the eruption of the Krakatoa volcano killed at least 430 people.

Sen. Warren Announces 2020 Presidential Exploratory Committee

Jan 02, 2019

Massachusetts Democratic Senator Elizabeth Warren announced Monday she was launching an exploratory committee for a possible 2020 presidential campaign. She becomes the highest- profile Democrat to confirm her likely presidential bid in what is expected to be a crowded primary field. Her video announcement took on the familiar themes of economic inequality and reining in corporate greed. This is Warren speaking to reporters later that day.

Sen. Elizabeth Warren: “America’s middle class is getting hollowed out. And opportunity, for too many of our young people, is shrinking. So, I’m in this fight all the way. Right now, Washington works great for the wealthy and the well-connected. It’s just not working for anyone else. But I am optimistic. I believe in what we can do together. I’m going to build a grassroots campaign.”

On Tuesday, Senator Warren said she plans to visit Iowa this weekend. Iowa is a popular first stop for presidential candidates as it is the first state to participate in the primaries.

Democratic House Leaders Reject Green New Deal for Weaker Climate Committee

Jan 02, 2019

Climate activists pushing for the creation of a Green New Deal Committee when Democrats take control of the House this week were met with disappointment Friday when presumptive incoming House Speaker Nancy Pelosi announced the creation of another environmental panel instead. The Select Committee on the Climate Crisis is set to be led by long-standing Florida Congressmember Kathy Castor. Proponents of the Green New Deal have argued that the panel will be too weak, as it will not have legislative power and may not have subpoena power. The proposal for a Green New Deal also sought to bar congressmembers who accept money from the fossil fuel industry. At least 45 congressmembers have backed the Green New Deal, spearheaded by incoming New York Congressmember Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. High-profile senators including Bernie Sanders, Cory Booker and Elizabeth Warren have also come out in support of the proposal.

New EPA Rules Would Roll Back Regulations on Mercury & Other Toxins

Jan 02, 2019

The Trump administration has proposed rule changes that would make it far easier for coal-fired power plants to release mercury and other toxins into the atmosphere. The plan proposed by the Environmental Protection Agency on Friday would change how the federal government calculates the costs of pollution on human health—dramatically downplaying the financial burden to society from deaths and illnesses. The Obama administration estimated the rules now set to be overturned would prevent 11,000 premature deaths each year.

Romney Attacks Trump’s Character While Praising His Policies

Jan 02, 2019

Incoming Republican Senator Mitt Romney of Utah writes that President Trump “has not risen to the mantle of the office.” In a New Year’s Day op-ed published by The Washington Post, Romney says he supports Trump’s policies—including tax cuts, deregulation and the appointment of conservatives judges to federal courts. But Romney says that Trump has failed to show “honesty and integrity” as president, writing, “With the nation so divided, resentful and angry, presidential leadership in qualities of character is indispensable. And it is in this province where the incumbent’s shortfall has been most glaring.” Romney is among the freshmen members of Congress set to be sworn in by Vice President Mike Pence on Thursday.

Interior Dept. Tries to Limit FOIA Requests After Ex-Secretary Zinke Ethics Scandals

Jan 02, 2019

The Trump administration has taken steps to shield the Interior Department from public scrutiny, proposing rule changes that would allow it to deny Freedom of Information Act requests it considers too large or “unreasonably burdensome.” The Interior Department’s proposed rule changes were filed in the Federal Register on Friday—just two weeks after Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke was forced to step down amid 17 federal investigations into his suspected ethics violations and corruption.

Son of Yemeni Woman Who Sued to Get Travel Ban Waiver Dies in California Hospital

Jan 02, 2019

In California, the 2-year-old boy whose Yemeni mother was banned from entering the U.S. due to the Trump administration’s travel ban died Friday. Abdullah Hassan, who was an American citizen, had a rare brain disorder and was being treated in the U.S., but his mother, Shaima Swileh, had to sue in order to get a waiver to travel because she was from Yemen—one of the five majority-Muslim countries whose citizens are barred from entering the U.S. They were reunited just over a week before the toddler’s death. This is Abdullah Hassan’s father, Ali Hassan.

Ali Hassan: “We are here today because my government failed our family. I am a U.S. citizen. My son is a U.S. citizen. The Muslim ban kept my wife from coming to the U.S. for over a year. It forced me to choose between my son’s health and keeping our family together. We are not angry, and we know our son did not die in vain. We hope, through Abdullah’s struggle and passing, that people who are affected by the Muslim ban, from Yemen, Libya, Iran, Somalia and Syria—that we hope, through his life, policy will be changed and families will be reunited.”

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