On Capitol Hill, the House Judiciary Committee will begin impeachment hearings next week into whether President Trump withheld military aid from Ukraine to pressure Ukraine to investigate his political rival Joe Biden and his son Hunter. The New York Times reports President Trump knew about the whistleblower complaint about his July 25 phone call with the Ukrainian president and that Congress had been informed, when Trump decided to unfreeze the withheld $391 million in military aid.
An Office of Management and Budget official testified to the House Intelligence Committee that two of his colleagues quit after expressing concerns and frustration about Trump’s decision to withhold the aid.
And an anonymous senior Trump administration official who has blasted the administration said they would reveal themselves before the 2020 election. The official is the author of the book “A Warning” and a viral New York Times op-ed entitled “I Am Part of the Resistance Inside the Trump Administration.”
In Colombia, anti-government protesters have called for another national strike today, after talks between a protest committee and right-wing President Iván Duque failed. Massive protests have rocked Colombia for six straight days. Last week, hundreds of thousands of people poured into the streets for the largest national strike Colombia has seen in decades. Four people have been killed so far, including 18-year-old student Dilan Cruz, who was shot in the head by a police projectile.
In Chile, President Sebastián Piñera sent a bill to lawmakers that would allow military troops to be deployed to the streets of Chile amid ongoing anti-austerity demonstrations. This comes as Human Rights Watch has condemned police and military brutality against anti-government protesters. At least 26 people have died in the 40 days of protests. This is Human Rights Watch Americas Director José Miguel Vivanco.
José Miguel Vivanco: “There are hundreds of worrying reports of excessive force on the streets and abuse of detainees, such as brutal beatings and sexual abuse, that cannot be left unpunished and should be quickly and vigorously investigated and punished by the Chilean judicial authorities.”
In Bolivia, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights says an independent commission should investigate possible human rights abuses against pro-Morales protesters, following the military ouster of longtime President Evo Morales. At least 33 people have been killed since the protests began, and the military has carried out at least two massacres against Morales’s indigenous supporters.
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has called on Egypt to respect freedom of the press, only days after Egyptian security forces raided the Cairo office of independent news outlet Mada Masr and detained staff members, who have now been released.
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo: “As part of our long-standing strategic partnership with Egypt, we continue to raise the fundamental importance of respect for human rights, universal freedoms and the need for a robust civil society. We call on the Egyptian government to respect freedom of the press and to release journalists detained in a raid last weekend.”
In Iran, videos of the Iranian security forces’ violence against protesters are emerging online, as Iran has partially restored internet access, which was almost entirely blocked for over a week. Amnesty International says over 100 people were killed in the crackdown against demonstrations sparked by a sharp rise in gas prices earlier this month. U.S. sanctions against Iran have contributed to the economic crisis. Iranian officials now say internet access in the country could be curtailed indefinitely.
British Labour Leader Jeremy Corbyn has again condemned anti-Semitism, after Britain’s Chief Rabbi Ephraim Mirvis accused Corbyn and his Labour Party of anti-Semitism ahead of national elections on December 12.
Jeremy Corbyn: “I made it very clear anti-Semitism is completely wrong within our society. Our party did make it clear when I was elected leader and after that, that anti-Semitism is unacceptable in any form in our party or our society, and did indeed offer sympathies and apologies to those that had suffered.”
Other British rabbis have disagreed with Britain’s chief rabbi and have expressed support for Corbyn. Meanwhile, the Muslim Council of Britain has accused the Conservative Party of allowing Islamophobia to “fester” in British society. British Prime Minister Boris Johnson has previously written that he believed Islamophobia is “natural.” Jeremy Corbyn also says he has obtained documents that reveal Britain’s National Health Service could be “up for sale” in a post-Brexit trade deal with the United States.
In Texas, at least three people were hospitalized after a chemical plant exploded in Port Neches, outside Houston. The cause of the explosion at the Texas Petroleum Chemical plant has not yet been determined. Meanwhile, an uncontrolled wildfire outside Santa Barbara, California, has burned more than 4,300 acres. Thousands of people have been ordered to evacuate.
The New York City Council has passed legislation that would make New York the first major American city to ban most flavored e-cigarettes. This is New York City Councilmember Mark Levine.
Councilmember Mark Levine: “The slow pace at which this country has responded to the teen vaping epidemic has been an epic failure. We did nothing as these sleek new devices with an intense dose of nicotine started to hit the market or as shelves started to fill up with every fruity, minty, candyish flavor you can think of, flavors that are clearly appealing to kids. We did nothing when Juul and other companies started to market their products on social media with stylish young people promoting 'Juuling' as a cool lifestyle choice.”
New York’s move came after President Trump reversed course and refused to sign a memo banning most flavored vaping products.