In a sharp reversal of more than 40 years of U.S. policy, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has announced the United States no longer views Israeli settlements in the occupied West Bank to be in violation of international law — despite a 2016 U.N. resolution declaring the settlements a “flagrant violation” of international law. Monday’s announcement sparked widespread condemnation from Palestinians. This is Palestinian chief negotiator Saeb Erekat.
Saeb Erekat: “Israeli colonial settlements in the occupied Palestinian territories, including East Jerusalem, are not only illegal under international law, they are war crimes. And the statement of Mr. Pompeo, the secretary of state of the United States, is absolutely rejected and must be condemned.”
Soon after Mike Pompeo announced the new U.S. policy, the U.S. Embassy in Israel issued a travel warning to Americans in Israel, the West Bank and Gaza. We’ll have more on the Israeli settlements and Pompeo’s announcement after headlines. We’ll speak with Palestinian human rights attorney and legal scholar Noura Erakat.
On Capitol Hill, four witnesses are slated to testify today as part of the televised impeachment hearings into whether President Trump withheld military aid from Ukraine to pressure the Ukrainian president to investigate Trump’s political rival Joe Biden and his son. This morning, congressional lawmakers will hear testimony from Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman, the top Ukraine expert for the National Security Council, and Jennifer Williams, a special adviser to Vice President Mike Pence and a member of his National Security Council staff.
Both Vindman and Williams listened in on the July 25 phone call between President Trump and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, which is at the center of the impeachment inquiry. In earlier closed-door testimony, Vindman said the White House transcript of the July 25 phone call omitted key words and phrases, including an explicit mention of Burisma Holdings by the Ukrainian president. Trump was trying to pressure the Ukrainian president to publicly announce an investigation into Joe Biden’s son Hunter and his role on Burisma’s board. Vindman also testified that his attempts to include the omissions in the transcript failed. In her previous testimony, Jennifer Williams called the July 25 phone call between Trump and the Ukrainian president “unusual and inappropriate.”
This afternoon, the two witnesses to testify will be former U.S. special envoy to Ukraine Kurt Volker and former National Security Council official Timothy Morrison. In a now-released text message, Volker wrote to one of President Zelensky’s aides only hours before the July 25 phone call, writing, “Heard from White House — assuming President Z convinces trump he will investigate / ‘get to the bottom of what happened’ in 2016, we will nail down date for visit to Washington.” Timothy Morrison had been the top Russia staffer on the National Security Council until he resigned last month ahead of his closed-door testimony in the impeachment hearings. Morrison also listened in on the July 25 phone call and later said he thought it could be damaging to U.S.-Ukrainian relations. He’s also said he was surprised to learn that the call’s transcript was put on a top-secret server, which many say was part of a White House cover-up.
These four testimonies today come after House Democrats released the transcript of the closed-door testimony of David Holmes, a senior political officer at the U.S. Embassy in Kiev. He told lawmakers Ukrainian officials “came to understand what was required” to access U.S. military aid and a meeting with President Trump. Holmes is slated to testify Thursday. On Monday, President Trump said he was strongly considering providing a written testimony as part of the ongoing impeachment inquiry. Democracy Now! will be live-streaming the impeachment hearings in full at democracynow.org.
The United Nations has condemned the United States for having the world’s highest rate of children in detention. The U.N. experts particularly condemned the Trump administration’s policy of forcibly separating children from their parents at the border and then detaining children away from their parents or family members. This is Manfred Nowak, who is leading the U.N. global study on children deprived of liberty.
Manfred Nowak: “Of course, separating children, as was done by the Trump administration, from their parents — and even small children — at the Mexican-U.S. border is absolutely prohibited by the Convention on the Rights of the Child. I would call it inhuman treatment for both the parents and the children. And there are still quite a number of children that are separated from their parents and where neither the children know where their parents are nor the parents know where their children are.”
Thousands marched across Bolivia Monday to demand the resignation of Jeanine Áñez, the right-wing senator who declared herself president of Bolivia last week after longtime socialist President Evo Morales resigned in what he and others have condemned as a military coup. The political crisis in Bolivia has sparked nationwide violence, with at least 23 dead, including nine people shot dead by the military at an indigenous pro-Morales march in Cochabamba Friday. In more news from Bolivia, indigenous Bolivian family members are in Miami today for a hearing urging the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals to reinstate a $10 million judgment finding Bolivia’s former President Gonzalo Sanchez de Lozada liable for the massacre of more than 60 unarmed indigenous people in 2003. We’ll speak to Bolivia’s ambassador to the United Nations later in the broadcast.
In Afghanistan, the Afghan government and the Taliban have carried out a prisoner exchange, freeing American professor Kevin King and Australian professor Timothy Weekes. Both had been professors at the American University of Afghanistan before being kidnapped in Kabul in 2016. In exchange, the Afghan government freed three senior Taliban members: Anas Haqqani, Hafiz Rashid and Haji Mali Khan.
In Hong Kong, dozens of student protesters remain inside Hong Kong Polytechnic University, which has been besieged by police for days. Over 1,000 students have been arrested as part of the siege. Many of the protesters were forced to surrender after being injured by police firing rubber bullets and tear gas. Others escaped by rappelling down a bridge and fleeing on waiting motorcycles. The standoff at the prestigious university is a dramatic escalation of the protests which began in June. On Tuesday, Beijing also condemned a Hong Kong court’s decision Monday to overturn a ban on face masks worn by the protesters. Beijing accused the Hong Kong judiciary of blatantly challenging the authority of China.
In China, a gas explosion inside a coal mine has killed 15 workers and injured another nine in the northern province of Shanxi. Last year a review of the mine found it failed to provide adequate training for workers. China’s mines are the deadliest in the world, accounting for about 80% of mining deaths worldwide. The Chinese mining explosion came on the heels of a gas pipeline explosion in Bangladesh Sunday, which killed seven people and hospitalized another 25 people southeast of the capital Dhaka.
Brazil’s National Institute for Space Research warns deforestation of the Amazon has skyrocketed since the election of far-right Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro. Between August 2018 and July 2019, the Amazon rainforests in Brazil lost an area of about 12 times the size of New York City, a 30% increase since the previous year and the highest total loss of rainforest habitat since 2008.
Syracuse University has suspended all fraternity activities for the rest of the fall semester following a pattern of anti-Semitic and racist incidents on campus. On Saturday, an African-American student was verbally harassed and called a racial slur by a group of fellow students, including members of a fraternity, according to a statement from the university. This is the sixth time there are reports involving racist language and symbols at Syracuse University in the last 10 days. This month alone, there have been at least 10 racist incidents reported on or near campus, including a swastika drawn in a dorm hall and other vandalism featuring racial slurs targeting black and Asian people.
In New York, four students at Columbia University with the global nonviolent action movement Extinction Rebellion launched a five-day hunger strike Monday. The students are demanding Columbia declare a climate emergency and pursue a community-led process to divest from fossil fuels. Over 400 people in 30 countries are participating in similar hunger strikes with Extinction Rebellion across the globe.
Former NFL San Francisco 49ers star quarterback Colin Kaepernick held a workout on Saturday at the Charles R. Drew High School south of Atlanta in front of NFL scouts and members of the media. Kaepernick’s workout came after a week of contentious negotiations with the NFL, which Kaepernick has accused of blackballing him for “taking the knee” during the national anthem as a protest against police violence and racism. Kaepernick’s move sparked racial justice protests that swept across the NFL and other major professional sports leagues, but resulted in him not being signed by a single NFL team and being out of the league for three years. On Saturday, Kaepernick refused to participate in the NFL’s hastily arranged workout, which was to be closed to the press. Instead, he went to a nearby high school and held his own workout, which one of the NFL scouts called “impressive.”
In New York City, hundreds of farmworkers and their family members and allies marched to the Manhattan offices of Trian Partners, one of the largest shareholders of the fast-food giant Wendy’s. The farmworkers are demanding Wendy’s sign onto the Fair Food Program, which would require the fast-food giant to purchase tomatoes from growers that follow a worker-designed code of conduct that includes a zero-tolerance policy for sexual harassment and abuse in the fields. Wendy’s is the only major fast-food chain that has refused to sign onto the Fair Food Program. This is comedian Amy Schumer, speaking at the rally Monday.
Amy Schumer: “And you are not alone. Actors and comedians, here in New York, in Hollywood, all around the United States, know about your struggle. And you’re fighting for your children. I know a lot of your own family members have struggled in the fields and at work. And we’re with you, and we’re going to fight and bring more and more awareness to this fight. There’s no excuse for Wendy’s having not joined the Fair Food Program.”