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HeadlinesDecember 23, 2019

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White House Halted Ukraine Aid 91 Minutes After Trump & Zelensky Phone Call

Dec 23, 2019

The Pentagon has released new emails revealing how the White House budget office ordered the Pentagon to halt all military aid to Ukraine only 91 minutes after President Trump’s July 25 telephone call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky. The heavily redacted emails show senior budget official Michael Duffey telling Pentagon officials Trump had become personally interested in aid and had ordered the hold. The emails were released after the Center for Public Integrity filed a Freedom of Information Act request. Over the weekend, Democratic lawmakers renewed demands for witnesses, including Michael Duffey, to testify at Trump’s Senate impeachment trial. This is Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer.

Sen. Chuck Schumer: “If there was ever an argument that we need Mr. Duffey to come testify, this is that information. This email is explosive. A top administration official, one that we requested, is saying, 'Stop the aid,' 91 minutes after Trump called Zelensky, and said, 'Keep it hush-hush.' What more do you need to request a witness?”

U.S. Considering Plan to Deport Mexican Asylum Seekers to Guatemala

Dec 23, 2019

In immigration news, the Trump administration is considering a controversial plan to deport Mexican asylum seekers to Guatemala. The proposal comes after the United States has already begun to deport Hondurans and Salvadorans who have arrived at the U.S. border seeking asylum in the United States to Guatemala under a “safe third country” agreement brokered with outgoing Guatemalan President Jimmy Morales. Human rights advocates say deporting asylum seekers to Guatemala is dangerous, particularly for female and LGBTQ asylum seekers. Guatemala has one of the highest rates of femicide — the murder of women — in the world.

WaPo: White House Pushes to Use Migrant Children to Ensnare Parents

Dec 23, 2019

The Washington Post has revealed a secret White House plan, pushed for by Trump’s immigration adviser Stephen Miller, sought to use the U.S. refugee agency to expand Trump’s mass deportation efforts. The plan would have included embedding immigration agents inside the program responsible for caring for unaccompanied children. Part of the plan was rejected by Department of Health and Human Services officials. But the Department of Health and Human Services is allowing ICE — that’s Immigration and Customs Enforcement — agents to collect fingerprints from adults seeking to claim custody of migrant children at government shelters. ICE can use this information to target the adults for deportation — meaning undocumented immigrants will be far less likely to claim custody of migrant children, and therefore prolong the detention of children and the separation of families.

Saudi Arabia Sentences 5 People to Death for Khashoggi’s Murder

Dec 23, 2019

Saudi Arabia has sentenced five people to death for the killing of prominent journalist and Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi. Three additional people were sentenced to prison over the brutal murder carried out inside the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul, which sparked international outrage. Saudi Arabia has not announced who has been sentenced to death or imprisoned. The CIA has concluded Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman ordered Khashoggi’s assassination, but the prince remains a close ally to the U.S. government.

ICC Takes Step to Investigating Israel for War Crimes

Dec 23, 2019

The International Criminal Court has taken a major step toward investigating Israel for war crimes against Palestinians. On Friday, the ICC’s prosecutor asked judges to outline the territorial jurisdiction of the investigation. While Israel is not a party to the International Criminal Court, an indictment could subject Israeli officials to international arrest warrants. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu slammed the investigation as anti-Semitic, while Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas welcomed the news.

President Mahmoud Abbas: “Today is a great day for us because we accomplished all that we need, because, from today, the International Criminal Court will start to accept all the issues.”

India: Protests Continue as Modi Defends “Anti-Muslim” Citizenship Law

Dec 23, 2019

In India, widespread protests are continuing against the controversial new citizenship law, which many say is a major step toward the official marginalization of India’s 200 million Muslims. The law provides a path to citizenship for immigrants from Afghanistan, Bangladesh and Pakistan — unless they are Muslim. On Sunday, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi tried to quell the protests by claiming the law is not aimed at marginalizing Muslims already living in India.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi: “The Muslims who were born on Indian soil or whose ancestors are children of Mother India, brothers and sisters, they have nothing to do with the citizenship law or the National Register of Citizens. The Muslims are not being sent to any detention centers, nor are there any detention centers.”

India has launched a crackdown against the protests. At least 25 people have been killed so far, and over 1,500 people have been arrested. Many of the demonstrators say the law goes against India’s secular Constitution.

Protester: “They have changed the Constitution. Tomorrow they are going to change something else. So this is basically a fight for democracy. This is not a fight for AMU. This is not a fight for JMU or Jamia, or this is not a fight, individual fight, for anybody. This is a fight for India. This is a fight for democracy, basically. We are fighting for democracy.”

India’s Supreme Court has agreed to hear a constitutional challenge to the law in late January.


Iraq: Thousands Demand Appointment of Independent Prime Minister

Dec 23, 2019

In Iraq, thousands of protesters poured into the streets of cities across southern Iraq Sunday, demanding the appointment of an independent prime minister, after former Prime Minister Adel Abdul-Mahdi was forced to resign amid massive anti-government protests. Security forces and militias have killed over 500 protesters and injured nearly 20,000 people since the protests erupted in October. There are also reports that prominent Iraqi human rights activists have been disappeared.


Reuters: Up to 1,500 Dead in Iran’s Bloody Crackdown Against Nov. Protests

Dec 23, 2019

Reuters is reporting the death toll from Iran’s brutal crackdown on anti-government protests in November was significantly higher than previously reported, with as many as 1,500 people killed during the two weeks of demonstrations. The figure was provided by Iranian Interior Ministry officials. It says the victims included at least 400 women and more than a dozen teenagers. Reuters also says the orders for the crackdown came directly from Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, who reportedly told a gathering of high-level officials, “The Islamic Republic is in danger. Do whatever it takes to end it. You have my order.”


Pentagon: U.S. Soldier Killed in Afghanistan

Dec 23, 2019

The Pentagon says a U.S. soldier was killed in Afghanistan today, and a second U.S. soldier was injured. The Taliban claimed responsibility for the killing in Kunduz province. The soldier’s death comes as Afghan officials released long-awaited preliminary results from September’s election, which show President Ashraf Ghani won just over 50% of the votes. His challenger, Abdullah Abdullah, is contesting the election, which he says was marred by fraud. Voter turnout was low, and some residents of the capital Kabul said they supported neither candidate.

Mullah Jan: “Both Ashraf Ghani and Abdullah haven’t done anything for us in the past five years. They just deceived the people, and we don’t want them anymore. They both have committed fraud, and the court must try them.”

French Unions Continue Strike over Holidays as Macron Refuses to Scrap Pension Overhaul

Dec 23, 2019

French President Emmanuel Macron is asking unions for a Christmas “truce” as the massive strike against Macron’s proposed pension plan heads into its third week.

President Emmanuel Macron: “Strikes are justifiable and protected by the Constitution, but I think there are moments in a nation’s life when it is good to observe a truce out of respect for families and family life. So I’m calling on everyone to have this sense of responsibility.”

President Macron has also said he will give up his own presidential pension as a concession to demonstrators who have launched nationwide strikes over Macron’s effort to overhaul the French pension system and effectively raise the retirement age for younger workers. The unions have ruled out a Christmas truce and are instead demanding Macron scrap the pension overhaul.


Video Shows California Deputy Fatally Slamming Motorist’s Head into His Own Car

Dec 23, 2019

In California, newly released body-camera video shows a Sonoma County sheriff deputy fatally slamming a man’s head into his own car. The sheriff deputy, Charlie Blount, and his partner, Deputy Jason Little, apparently thought the driver, David Glen Ward, had stolen the car — which he in fact owned. The two officers pulled him over, and then Deputy Blount reached through the window and pulled Ward by the hair and slammed his head into the car’s frame. Deputy Little tased him, and then Deputy Blount put him in a restraint until he became unconscious. Ward was declared dead shortly afterward. Deputy Blount has served a notice of termination.

Texas Grand Jury Indicts Officer Aaron Dean for Murdering Atatiana Jefferson

Dec 23, 2019

In Texas, a grand jury has indicted former Fort Worth police officer Aaron Dean for murdering Atatiana Jefferson in a case that sparked widespread outrage over police killings of African-American women. Officer Dean, who is white, was responding to a non-emergency call for a wellness check called for by a neighbor who saw Jefferson’s front door was open on a warm night in October. The 28-year-old graduate student was in her bedroom, babysitting her 8-year-old nephew. Soon after the officers arrived, Dean shouted through Jefferson’s bedroom window to put her hands up, and then immediately opened fire, killing her. He never identified himself as a police officer. On Friday, Atatiana’s mother celebrated the murder indictment. Atatiana’s father died in November of a heart attack, at the age of 58, less than one month after his daughter’s murder.

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