In news from Washington, all four White House officials who were scheduled to testify to lawmakers today in the House’s ongoing impeachment hearings have refused to testify. The officials refusing to testify are John Eisenberg, deputy counsel to the president for national security affairs and legal adviser to the National Security Council; Robert Blair, assistant to the president and senior adviser to the acting chief of staff; Michael Ellis, senior associate counsel to the president and deputy legal adviser to the National Security Council; and Brian McCormack, associate director for natural resources, energy and science at the Office of Management and Budget. The impeachment inquiry is investigating whether President Trump withheld military funding to Ukraine in order to pressure the Ukrainian president to investigate Trump’s political rival Joe Biden and his son Hunter. The lawyer for the whistleblower who went public about Trump’s July 25 phone call with the Ukrainian president says he will answer written questions from Republicans, who are demanding the whistleblower testify in person. Trump has previously compared the whistleblower to a treasonous spy who deserved the death penalty, raising concerns about the officials’ safety.
In northern Syria, Turkish-backed forces have been accused of committing war crimes against Syrian Kurdish troops. In one graphic cellphone video, Turkish-backed troops are shown stomping on a dead woman’s body and calling her a “whore.” The woman, Amara Renas, was a member of YPJ, an all-woman unit that played a significant role in the battle against ISIS. Her unit and other Syrian Kurdish units were supported by the United States until President Trump abruptly withdrew U.S. soldiers from the region, clearing the way for Turkey’s invasion. U.S. officials say some of the actions depicted in the videos likely constitute war crimes. In Turkey, hundreds of people have been arrested for expressing opposition to the Turkish military offensive in Syria. The Pentagon has left some U.S. troops in Syria in order to secure control of oil fields there. On Sunday, U.S. soldiers came under fire from a Turkish artillery attack, forcing the U.S. troops to temporarily vacate the post.
Democratic presidential candidate Elizabeth Warren released details of her Medicare for All plan on Friday. The plan says she would raise investment gains taxes on the top 1% of American households in order to help pay for the program, which calls for $20.5 trillion in federal spending over a decade. She would also levy a 6% annual tax on net worth above $1 billion and collect about $9 trillion from employers. In response, presidential candidate Senator Bernie Sanders called his plan to fund Medicare for All more progressive and said he worried that Warren’s plan could have a negative impact on job creation.
President Trump has announced plans to nominate Dr. Stephen Hahn to be the next commissioner of the Food and Drug Administration. Hahn is a top executive at the University of Texas’s MD Anderson Cancer Center, which is considered one of the nation’s best cancer centers. An oncologist specializing in lung cancer and sarcoma, Hahn does not have significant policy experience.
The Environmental Protection Agency is slated to roll back key Obama-era regulations to protect waterways near coal-fired power plants from being flooded with toxic coal ash today. Coal ash contains mercury, arsenic and other toxic chemicals. Food & Water Watch has vowed to sue the Trump administration over the rollback of the rules, which it says would “lead directly to more water contamination, more birth defects, more childhood cancer and more pain and suffering for American families — all for the sake of a dirty industry’s last grasp at profits.”
A group of automakers, including General Motors, Toyota and Fiat Chrysler, is siding with the Trump administration in the ongoing fight between Washington and California over car fuel efficiency standards. California has sued the Trump administration after it revoked California’s right to set pollution limits on cars. A slew of other auto manufacturers, including Ford, Honda and Volkswagen, have sided with California in this battle. The ongoing dispute has left auto giants grappling with which fuel efficiency standards to follow over the coming decade.
The New York Times is reporting that the United States and Russia may be left without nuclear arms limitation treaties, which would allow the two countries to expand their nuclear arsenals without limits. President Trump pulled the United States out of the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces agreement. Now a Russian arms official says there may not be enough time to renegotiate and replace another more important nuclear agreement, the New START treaty, before it expires in early 2021.
In northern Mali, over 50 soldiers were killed in an attack on a military post Friday in one of the deadliest attacks on Mali’s military in recent years. The army called it a “terrorist attack.” ISIS has claimed responsibility. In a separate attack, a French soldier deployed to Mali was killed in a roadside bomb blast Saturday, which was also claimed by ISIS.
Anti-government protests continue to sweep parts of the Arab world. In Iraq, protesters blockaded parts of the capital Baghdad on Sunday. Iraqi protesters also stormed the Iranian Consulate in the Shia holy city of Karbala, hanging Iraqi flags and spray-painting “Karbala is free, Iran out, out!” Security forces killed at least three Iraqi protesters, bringing the total death toll to over 250.
In Lebanon, mass protests against the government continued over the weekend, with tens of thousands of protesters filling the streets of Beirut, Tripoli and other cities to demand the ouster of Lebanon’s political elite.
And in Algeria, tens of thousands filled the streets of the capital Algiers Friday to mark the 65th anniversary of the war of independence from France and to demand a “new revolution” rather than an upcoming election they say will be rigged.
Yasmine: “For a second republic and to liberate Algeria from traitors’ hands. We are against the elections with the current government. We don’t want traitors anymore. We don’t want an Algeria like the one of today anymore.”
In Brazil, indigenous leader Paulo Paulino Guajajara was shot dead Saturday in the Amazon in the northeastern state of Maranhão. Illegal loggers reportedly ambushed and then opened fire on land protectors with the group Guardians of the Forest. Another Guardian was injured in the ambush but escaped. Attacks against indigenous people have increased since Brazil’s far-right President Jair Bolsonaro took office and opened the Amazon up to increased logging, mining and agribusiness companies. We’ll have more on Brazil after headlines.
In Nepal, the United States’ “global gag rule,” banning U.S. funding to foreign NGOs that provide any information about abortion, has silenced Nepal’s most popular late-night radio host. Shikha Sharma is Nepal’s go-to person for women across the country seeking information about safe sex and reproductive health. But after President Trump signed an executive order reactivating the global gag rule in one of his first acts in office, Sharma was told she couldn’t even utter the word “abortion,” which is legal in Nepal, for the two days a week that her program was funded by U.S. aid.
Indian authorities are warning that Delhi has turned into a “gas chamber” with toxic smog blanketing one of the world’s most populated cities. Officials have declared a public health emergency and are distributing over 5 million gas masks to residents, who are worried about the physical and psychological impact of the pollution.
Delhi resident: “Apart from breathing issues, pollution is also pressurizing us psychologically. That’s what’s happening now. It’s not winter, so it’s definitely not fog. We’re walking around with masks.”
German officials in the eastern city of Dresden have declared a “Nazi emergency” as far-right movements continue to gain power. Dresden is the birthplace of Germany’s Islamophobic movement. In recent elections, more than a quarter of Dresden voters supported the anti-immigrant far-right AFD party. Meanwhile, in Norway, officials arrested American white supremacist Greg Johnson hours before he was slated to give a speech at a far-right conference in Oslo Saturday, saying Johnson’s hate speech posed a threat. Johnson has expressed support for Anders Breivik, a Norwegian right-wing terrorist who killed 77 people in 2011 in the deadliest attack in Norway since World War II.
In Milwaukee, a man was arrested after allegedly throwing acid in the face of a Peruvian man and calling him “illegal,” telling him to “get out of this country.” Mahud Villalaz is a U.S. citizen. Milwaukee says they are investigating the attack as a hate crime.
Saudi Arabia’s state-owned oil company, Saudi Aramco, has announced plans to go public in what could be the world’s biggest initial public offering. Saudi Aramco is planning to list on the Riyadh stock exchange. The company is estimated to be worth over $1 trillion.
The Philadelphia City Council unanimously voted to pass a Domestic Workers’ Bill of Rights. The new legislation would require employers to provide nannies, housekeepers and home health aides with a written contract detailing hourly wages, overtime benefits, meal breaks, weekly schedules and paid time off. The bill would affect more than 16,000 workers in Philadelphia. It must now be approved by Mayor Jim Kenney.
In New York City, a thousand people flooded the streets of downtown Brooklyn Friday to protest police brutality against residents accused of evading the subway fare. A recent viral video showed police officers tackling and arresting at gunpoint a subway rider for allegedly not paying the $2.75 entrance fee. This is Tiffany Ramos at Friday’s protest.
Tiffany Ramos: “There’s a lot of people who can’t make ends meet. They’re about to build like four new jails. How does the city have money to build new jails, to put more police out there? Why can’t we have more money and resources being devoted to education or to solve the homeless crisis, to fix our trains? This is not right, and we’re here to hold police accountable for their actions. And we’re here to make sure that no person of color gets criminalized for jumping the turnstile again.”
In sports news, members of baseball World Series champions the Washington Nationals are slated to visit President Trump in the White House today — but pitcher Sean Doolittle says he is boycotting the visit. Sean Doolittle has been an outspoken advocate for LGBT rights, refugees and disability rights. Doolittle, who has a brother-in-law who is autistic, said he was boycotting the visit over Trump’s mocking of a disabled reporter, as well as Trump’s anti-LGBT policies and his attacks on refugees. Doolittle told The Washington Post, “There’s a lot of things, policies that I disagree with, but at the end of the day, it has more to do with the divisive rhetoric and the enabling of conspiracy theories and widening the divide in this country. … At the end of the day, as much as I wanted to be there with my teammates and share that experience with my teammates, I can’t do it.”