The United Nations special envoy for Syria is meeting with the foreign ministers of Turkey, Iran and Russia in Geneva today, where he’s arguing for the fragile ceasefire in northern Syria to be respected.
Geir Pedersen: “We are strongly appealing for, you know, the ceasefires to be respected, and that we have also been appealing for a nationwide ceasefire to come into effect. And we do believe that the fighting going on is sort of — is just another proof of the importance of getting a serious political process underway that can help sorting out the problems in all of Syria, including in the northeast, and obviously also in Idlib.”
Turkey says that Syrian Kurdish fighters have not fully withdrawn from a swath of northern Syria near the Turkish border. Under the terms of the Russian-brokered ceasefire, these Syrian Kurdish fighters are supposed to leave this area by today. Hundreds of thousands of civilians have already fled northern Syria after President Trump abruptly withdrew some U.S. troops from the area, clearing the way for the Turkish invasion. The United States is, however, continuing to station troops in Syria to guard oil fields.
U.S. Defense Secretary Mark Esper said Monday the U.S. will respond with “overwhelming military force” to keep forces backed by Russia or Syria from taking control of these oil fields. On Sunday, President Trump said the United States is “protecting the oil.”
President Donald Trump: “The oil is, you know, so valuable, for many reasons. It fueled ISIS, number one. Number two, it helps the Kurds, because it’s basically been taken away from the Kurds. They were able to live with that oil. And number three, it can help us, because we should be able to take some also. And what I intend to do, perhaps, is make a deal with an ExxonMobil or one of our great companies to go in there and do it properly. … But, no, we’re protecting the oil. We’re securing the oil. Now, that doesn’t mean we don’t make a deal at some point.”
That was President Trump speaking on Sunday as he also announced the alleged death of ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi in a U.S. Special Forces raid in Syria. During his speech, Trump claimed al-Baghdadi was “whimpering and crying and screaming” before he detonated a suicide vest. But new details reveal that the Situation Room live stream of the raid did not have audio. The Daily Beast reports two Trump administration officials began texting each other amid Trump’s speech, saying, “Uh, where is he getting that?”
In news from Washington, Army Lieutenant Colonel Alexander Vindman is slated to testify to congressional lawmakers as part of the ongoing impeachment inquiry into whether President Trump withheld military aid from Ukraine in order to pressure Ukraine to investigate his political rival Joe Biden and his son Hunter. Vindman is the top Ukraine expert on the National Security Council. He is the first witness to testify who listened in on Trump’s July 25 phone call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, in which Vindman says Trump appealed to Zelensky to investigate Biden. Vindman registered two internal objections at the time. In a pre-released statement, Vindman said, “I did not think it was proper to demand that a foreign government investigate a U.S. citizen, and I was worried about the implications for the U.S. government’s support of Ukraine.”
In Iraq, masked soldiers opened fire with live ammunition early Tuesday on a crowd of anti-government protesters in the Shiite holy city of Karbala, killing 18 people and wounding more than 860. The latest assault brought the death toll of Iraqis killed since protests erupted in early October to over 220. In Baghdad, thousands defied an overnight curfew in Tahrir Square to protest government corruption and widespread unemployment. Iraqi security forces fired tear gas at students who joined the demonstrations.
Protester: “Today, youth are not asking for jobs or for services. The young men want a radical and real change of power. They’ve been ruling us for 16 years, but they have offered nothing. We are fed up with them.”
In Saudi Arabia, top Trump administration officials are joining financial industry executives at a Saudi investment forum, ignoring international calls for a boycott over the kingdom’s gross human rights violations, its disastrous war in Yemen and the murder of Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi by Saudi operatives one year ago. U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and President Trump’s son-in-law and senior adviser Jared Kushner are leading the U.S. delegation this week to the Future Investment Initiative — known as “Davos in the Desert.” Also attending are Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro, top hedge fund managers and the CEOs of Citigroup, Credit Suisse and HSBC.
On Capitol Hill, Boeing CEO Dennis Muilenburg is scheduled to appear before a pair of congressional committees for the first time since two deadly crashes of 737 MAX airliners, which killed a combined 346 people. His testimony follows a report in The Washington Post that top Boeing executives failed to intervene after two top pilots at the company identified problems with automated flight control software that would lead to the crashes in Indonesia and Ethiopia. The Justice Department is also conducting criminal investigation against Boeing.
Democratic presidential candidate Senator Bernie Sanders has endorsed Chesa Boudin for district attorney in San Francisco. Boudin is running on a platform of ending cash bail and dismantling the “war on drugs.” He is the child of Weather Underground activists Kathy Boudin and David Gilbert, who were imprisoned when Boudin was a child. Gilbert remains in prison. He was raised by former Weather Underground members Bill Ayers and Bernardine Dohrn.
In Silicon Valley, over 250 employees of Facebook have signed a letter calling on CEO Mark Zuckerberg to reverse a policy that allows politicians to post false and misleading advertisements. The letter calls on Facebook to hold political ads to the same standard as other ads, warning that Zuckerberg’s policy “allows politicians to weaponize our platform by targeting people who believe that content posted by political figures is trustworthy.”
Meanwhile, a San Francisco activist has registered as a gubernatorial candidate in order to run false Facebook ads of his own. Adriel Hampton registered for California’s 2022 election on Monday, two days after Facebook removed an ad that falsely claims Republican Senator Lindsey Graham supports the Green New Deal.
Sen. Lindsey Graham (fake ad): “Look at the science. Admit that climate change is real. Simply put, we believe in the Green New Deal.”
In more election news, a North Carolina state court has effectively thrown out the state’s congressional districts map over partisan gerrymandering to benefit the Republican Party. The three-judge panel ruled the maps, drawn by Republican lawmakers in 2016, violated the North Carolina state Constitution guaranteeing freedom of speech and free elections. The judges also said they were ready to postpone the primary elections, if necessary, in order to have the new district maps redrawn.
The Trump administration has extended work permits and deportation relief for more than 200,000 Salvadorans with TPS, or temporary protected status, until the beginning of 2021. The announcement came as the U.S. and Salvadoran governments signed agreements to further collaborate on anti-immigration policies. The steps include deploying U.S. Customs and Border Protection officers to El Salvador and expanding biometric data collection.
In Arizona, a 33-year-old Mexican woman has died while in the custody of U.S. Border Patrol. She’s the second person to die in Border Patrol custody within a week in the state of Arizona. The Pima County Office of the Medical Examiner said the Mexican woman likely died from profound dehydration and kidney failure, probably as a result of an extended journey through the desert. Immigration activists have long accused Border Patrol’s “Prevention Through Deterrence” policy of pushing migrants further and further into the deadly Sonoran Desert, where thousands of people have died or gone missing since the 1990s.
In France, an 84-year-old man attempting to set fire to a mosque in the southern city of Bayonne opened fire on worshipers Monday, injuring two people before fleeing the scene. He was later arrested. The man, Claude Sinké, previously ran in a local election as a candidate for the far-right National Rally party of the far-right French politician Marine Le Pen.
In Canada, 15 children and teenagers have sued the federal government over climate change.
Plaintiff: “I’m suing the Canadian government because their inaction is costing me my health and my future.”
That’s one of the 15 plaintiffs whose lawsuit argues that the Canadian government continued to contribute to greenhouse gas emissions despite knowing for decades that these emissions fuel climate change and disproportionately harm children.
In Peru, a graduate student has made history by becoming the first student to write and defend a doctoral thesis in the indigenous Quechua language. Roxana Quispe Collantes graduated from Lima’s San Marcos University, the oldest university in the Americas. She grew up speaking Quechua with her parents and grandparents and said the language is being resurrected in Peru.
Roxana Quispe Collantes: “Even before our memories, since the time of our ancestors, the Quechua language was present. Not only in technology, but in engineering, in cosmology, our ancestors and our language are very rich in knowledge, in wisdom. It is being rescued and revitalized.”
Protesters in more than a dozen cities across the country gathered Monday for a Day of Outrage to demand justice for black women who have been killed by police. The protests were honoring the life of 28-year-old Atatiana Jefferson, who was shot and killed inside her own home by a white police officer in Fort Worth, Texas, earlier this month. The officer shot her through her own bedroom window while responding to a non-emergency wellness check called for by a neighbor because Jefferson’s front door had been left open. This is activist Tamika Mallory at the protest in New York City, standing next to Atatiana’s sister.
Tamika Mallory: “They say that if we are silent, folks will believe that we are OK with the violence and oppression that is happening to our communities. And we are not OK with it. We are angry. We are frustrated. We are tired. And we are outraged.”