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It's Giving Tuesday. In these times of COVID-19, climate chaos and elections, independent news is more important than ever. You turn to Democracy Now! because you trust that when we're reporting on the pandemic or the uprisings against police brutality—or the climate crisis—our coverage is not brought to you by the fossil fuel, insurance or weapons industries or Big Pharma. We count on YOU to make our work possible. If everyone who visits our website gave just $8, we could cover our operating costs for 2021. Really—that’s all it would take. And today a generous supporter will TRIPLE your donation to Democracy Now!, meaning your gift will go three times as far. This is a challenging time for us all, but if you're able to make a donation, please do so today. Stay safe, wear a mask and thank you so much.
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The European Commission has proposed a sweeping new plan to address the climate crisis. The European Green Deal would be the biggest overhaul of European policy since the foundation of the modern European Union system. This is European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen.
Ursula von der Leyen: “We do not have all the answers yet. Today is the start of a journey. But this is Europe’s 'man on the moon' moment.”
The European Green Deal would seek to have Europe become the first climate-neutral continent by 2050. It would also seek to halve greenhouse gas emissions by 2030. European leaders are discussing the emissions goals at a summit in Brussels today. Environmentalists here at COP25 in Madrid, Spain, welcomed the plan but said it does not go far enough in cutting greenhouse gas emissions. This is Greenpeace campaigner Martin Kaiser.
Martin Kaiser: “The new Green Deal proposed by the commission today is not an adequate answer to the climate emergency we see already in Europe.”
Back in the United States, Justice Department Inspector General Michael Horowitz testified before the Senate Judiciary Committee Wednesday, where he reiterated his report’s key finding that the FBI’s opening of an investigation into President Trump’s 2016 campaign aides was not politically motivated. During the hearing, Republican lawmakers slammed the FBI over the myriad errors the report revealed about the FBI’s process of seeking approval to surveil former Trump campaign adviser Carter Page. These applications were filed to the secret FISA court created by the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act. Civil liberties experts have long warned of the court’s unaccountable and secretive nature for approving domestic surveillance, especially against Muslims. This is Justice Department Inspector General Michael Horowitz.
Michael Horowitz: “We found and, as we outline here, are deeply concerned that so many basic and fundamental errors were made by three separate handpicked investigative teams on one of the most sensitive FBI investigations after the matter had been briefed to the highest levels within the FBI, even though the information sought through the use of FISA authority related so closely to an ongoing presidential campaign, and even though those involved with the investigation knew that their actions would likely be subjected to close scrutiny.”
In West Africa, over 70 troops were killed in an attack on a military camp in Niger near the border with Mali. It’s the deadliest attack on the Nigerien military in recent history. No one has taken responsibility for the attack so far, but Islamist militants have carried out a string of attacks across the Sahel region in West Africa so far this year. The attack came only days before a planned security summit in France between the presidents of France, Niger and four other West African nations. The summit has now been postponed. France has at least 4,500 troops deployed to the region where the attack took place.
In Algeria, mass demonstrations rocked the country Wednesday as protesters demanded the cancellation of today’s presidential election to replace Algeria’s longtime President Abdelaziz Bouteflika, who was forced from power by a mass uprising in April.
Protester: “I won’t vote, because these elections themselves are a betrayal. Everyone who votes is committing a betrayal against our country, because the summit of stupidity is to try the same experience with the same people and tools and expect a different result.”
Extremely low turnout at the polls is expected today amid widespread calls to boycott the election, with demonstrators saying that all the candidates are part of Algeria’s long-ruling elite. On Tuesday, two previous prime ministers were convicted and sentenced to prison over a corruption scandal that also ensnared other top government officials and businessmen.
In Britain, voters are also heading to the polls today for a defining national election, which pits Conservative Prime Minister Boris Johnson against Labour Party Leader Jeremy Corbyn. At stake in the election is the future of Britain’s public health system and how to handle Brexit — Britain’s plan to leave the European Union.
At The Hague, Burma’s de facto leader Aung San Suu Kyi is attempting to defend the Burmese military from charges of genocide against Muslim Rohingya at the U.N. International Court of Justice. The Burmese military killed and raped thousands of Rohingya and forced more than 700,000 to flee into neighboring Bangladesh in a brutal army crackdown in 2017. During Aung San Suu Kyi’s speech, she never said the word Rohingya, and she claimed that no genocide had taken place.
Aung San Suu Kyi: “Regrettably, the Gambia has placed before the court an incomplete and misleading factual picture of the situation in Rakhine State in Myanmar. Yet, it is of the utmost importance that the court assess the situation obtaining on the ground in Rakhine dispassionately and accurately.”
Aung San Suu Kyi is a Nobel Peace Prize winner who was placed under house arrest for 15 years while campaigning against Burmese military rule. She is now defending that same military, while she continues to hold vast power in Burma. This is Rohingya refugee Shamsul Alam speaking from Bangladesh after watching Aung San Suu Kyi’s speech at The Hague.
Shamsul Alam: “Aung San Suu Kyi was in jail. She is afraid of that jail, so she is lying only to stay in power. She is lying to the ICJ court. We are carrying so much pain. We call upon the U.N. and all nations: please help us to get justice from this genocide.”
In India, the upper house of Parliament has passed the highly controversial Citizenship Amendment Bill, widely known as the “Anti-Muslim” bill. The legislation provides a path to citizenship for immigrants from Afghanistan, Bangladesh and Pakistan — unless they are Muslim. The bill is part of Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s right-wing Hindu nationalist agenda, and many say it’s a major step toward the official marginalization of India’s 200 million Muslims.
The Indian Union Muslim League is petitioning India’s Supreme Court to declare the bill unconstitutional. Widespread protests against the bill have swept across parts of India this week, especially in the northeast. The government has deployed the Army to the northeastern state of Assam. This is Binoy Viswam, a leader of the Communist Party of India, speaking from New Delhi.
Binoy Viswam: “Not only our party, not only the left, the whole country will oppose it, because that’s a legislation which runs against the basic content of the Constitution.”
In Israel, the Knesset has dissolved, and the country is headed toward its third national election in a year, after Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and rival Benny Gantz both failed to form a governing coalition. The election will be held on March 2. The political chaos in Israel comes as Netanyahu is also facing charges in three criminal corruption cases.
In France, workers are vowing to continue their strike, after French Prime Minister Édouard Philippe gave a televised address outlining the proposed pension overhaul. Philippe claimed the legal retirement age would remain 62 — although the proposed change would effectively raise the retirement age to 64 for all people born after 1974. Union leaders called the raising of the retirement age a “red line,” and many rail lines and schools remain shuttered today amid mass protests. Police unions have also joined the strike, which now stretches into its second week.
Here in Madrid, Spain, at COP25, the U.N. climate summit, hundreds of activists gathered Wednesday outside the conference’s main plenary halls to demand rich countries take more drastic action to address the climate crisis. Activists report being pushed and forced out of the building by police and U.N. security. More than 300 protesters were forced outside. A number of them had their credentials temporarily removed. We’ll have a full report on yesterday’s protests later in the broadcast.
Disgraced Hollywood mogul Harvey Weinstein and the board of his now-bankrupt company have reached a tentative $25 million settlement with dozens of women who have accused him of rape, sexual assault and sexual harassment. The deal would not require Weinstein to admit any wrongdoing, nor would Weinstein have to pay any of his own money to the dozens of actresses and female employees who have accused him of serial rape and sexual harassment. Weinstein is also facing criminal sexual assault charges in New York and is scheduled to attend court in early January.
The Federal Trade Commission has reached the largest-ever settlement with a for-profit college, the University of Phoenix, over charges of deceptive advertising and marketing false job opportunities to students. The university’s record $191 million settlement will include canceling $141 million in student debt. FTC member Rohit Chopra said, “Today’s action against University of Phoenix and future actions against scam schools will set the stage for canceling more student debt.”
President Trump signed a highly controversial executive order Wednesday aimed at cracking down on the growing Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement, known as BDS. The global nonviolent movement seeks to pressure the Israeli government over its treatment of Palestinians. Trump’s executive order will direct federal agencies to adopt a new definition of anti-Semitism to include criticisms of Israel, and then to penalize college campuses and universities that allow for conversations and debate about the Israeli government. Many prominent American Jewish groups oppose the executive order, even though it claims to protect Jews amid rising anti-Semitism worldwide. The Jewish group J Street said the order is designed to have a “chilling effect on free speech.” Other Jewish groups said Trump himself has fostered anti-Semitism and frequently repeated anti-Semitic tropes, and that this executive order is more about the administration’s support for Israel than to protect American Jews.
Immigration and Customs Enforcement, or ICE, has again attempted to issue fines as large as a half-million dollars against immigrants who have taken sanctuary in churches across the country to resist their deportations. ICE sent warning letters to seven immigrants, threatening them with fines and criminal prosecution. This comes after it tried to issue fines last summer but had to revoke them. David Bennion, an attorney at Free Migration Project working with some of the sanctuary leaders, said the fines are unconstitutional because they restrict freedom of speech and violate the Religious Freedom Restoration Act.