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HeadlinesDecember 31, 2019

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Protests Rage Outside U.S. Embassy in Iraq After U.S. Airstrikes Kill 24

Dec 31, 2019

In Iraq, thousands of people are protesting outside the United States Embassy in Baghdad, after a slew of U.S. airstrikes in Iraq and Syria killed at least 24 members of an Iranian-backed militia Sunday. Militia members marched on Baghdad’s heavily guarded Green Zone and demanded the United States withdraw all troops from Iraq. The embassy has been evacuated. In a tweet this morning, President Trump blamed Iran for “orchestrating” the protests outside the U.S. Embassy. Iraqi Prime Minister Adel Abdul-Mahdi said he warned the United States not to carry out the airstrikes Sunday but that his warning was ignored.

Prime Minister Adel Abdul-Mahdi: “The U.S. defense minister told me that the U.S. would carry out attacks on bases of Kata’ib Hezbollah, and this would take place after a few hours. I told him this is a dangerous matter and would escalate tension, and we should discuss such affairs.”

The U.S. airstrikes came after an American contractor was killed in a rocket attack in Kirkuk, Iraq, Friday. The United States has around 5,000 troops stationed in Iraq, as well as an undisclosed number of civilian contractors.

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Hate Crime Charges Filed Against Suspect in Hanukkah Stabbing in NY

Dec 31, 2019

Prosecutors have filed federal hate crime charges against a man accused of stabbing five Jewish worshipers during a Hanukkah gathering at a rabbi’s home in Monsey, New York, Saturday evening. Officials say they discovered anti-Semitic writing, references to Hitler and swastikas in the journal of suspect Grafton Thomas. New York Governor Andrew Cuomo has condemned the attack as domestic terrorism. Thomas’s friends and lawyer say Thomas is mentally ill.

Michael Sussman: “My impression from speaking with him is that he needs serious psychiatric evaluation. And that is the primary focus. I don’t know whether those who are making these charges have spent a moment speaking with him or relating to him, but my impression from what I have read and my conversation with him is these are severe psychiatric issues.”

Texas Church Shooter Had Long Criminal History

Dec 31, 2019

In Texas, authorities have identified the gunman who opened fire in the middle of a Sunday church service in White Settlement, Texas, outside Fort Worth. Authorities say Keith Thomas Kinnunen had a long criminal history that included arrests for assault, battery and theft. He was killed by armed parishioners, after fatally shooting two worshipers: 64-year-old Anton Wallace and 67-year-old Richard White. We’ll have more on the attacks at the West Freeway Church of Christ and at the rabbi’s home in Monsey, New York, after headlines.

NYT: Top Officials Failed to Convince Trump to Release Withheld Ukraine Aid

Dec 31, 2019

The New York Times has revealed the details of a previously unreported Oval Office meeting between President Trump and Defense Secretary Mark Esper, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and then-national security adviser John Bolton, where the three high-level officials tried to convince Trump to release U.S. military aid to Ukraine. The meeting in late August failed to convince Trump to release the aid, which was being withheld to pressure the Ukrainian president to investigate Trump’s political rival, Joe Biden, ahead of the 2020 election. The House has impeached President Trump for abuse of power and obstruction of Congress after an inquiry centered on the decision to withhold the nearly $400 million in military aid to Ukraine.

Death Toll from Crackdown on Protests in India Rises to 27

Dec 31, 2019

In India, the death toll amid the government’s crackdown on widespread protests has risen to at least 27 people, with over 1,000 more arrested. Demonstrators are protesting against the controversial new citizenship law, which provides a path to Indian citizenship for undocumented immigrants from Afghanistan, Bangladesh and Pakistan — unless they are Muslim. The law’s critics say it’s a step toward the official marginalization of India’s 200 million Muslims. This is the chief minister of West Bengal, Mamata Banerjee.

Mamata Banerjee: “We won’t let them kick anyone out. This is our promise. Center can make laws, but who implements it? States do. Center has no authority here. How will they implement the law here, if you see in India 90% of states are in the hands of their opposition parties, not in the hands of the BJP?”

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Five Kashmiri Political Leaders Released from Detention

Dec 31, 2019

Meanwhile, in Kashmir, the Indian government has released five Kashmiri political leaders after nearly five months in detention. But Kashmir’s three most prominent leaders remain detained, and the Indian-occupied territory remains on lockdown. There has been no internet access for nearly five months — marking the longest internet blackout ever imposed in a democracy.

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Sudanese Court Sentences 29 to Death for Killing Teacher in Anti-Protest Crackdown

Dec 31, 2019

In Sudan, a court has sentenced 29 intelligence officers to death for the torture and killing of Ahmad al-Khair, a teacher who was arrested for participating in protests against the longtime leader Omar al-Bashir. Sudanese security forces killed at least 170 people in the crackdown against the massive uprising, which ultimately toppled Bashir in April. This is a protester speaking after Monday’s sentencing.

Magdy Khalaf Allah: “The Sudanese judiciary proved today, without a doubt, its integrity and value. We hope the judiciary continues on the same path in all cases. As teachers, this ruling has cooled our fires. We hope, we hope, we hope the rest of the criminals who caused the widowing of women and orphaning of children are captured.”

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Thousands Flee to the Ocean to Escape Australia Wildfires

Dec 31, 2019

In Australia, 4,000 people were forced to flee to the beach as deadly wildfires scorched the southeast of the country Tuesday. Mallacoota residents were trapped between the ocean and advancing flames as smoke turned the morning sky black. The death toll from the fires rose to 12 after a father and son in the region died fighting the fires. Climate change-fueled fires in Australia have killed nearly 500 million animals and blanketed the country in smoke. Climate activists and scientists are pointing to Australia as an example of what’s to come in the decades ahead if radical steps aren’t taken to curb global carbon emissions.

This comes as the Bank of England governor, Mark Carney, warned that the world is on track to warm nearly 4 degrees Celsius, and urged financial institutions to stop financing companies that fuel climate change.

Mark Carney: “It’s talked about 2020 being a decade of action absolutely necessary on climate change. We want action on the finance side. We want, on that disclosure, companies doing that disclosure. We want that to become the norm.”

Former Nissan Head Flees Japan to Lebanon to Escape Trial on Financial Crimes

Dec 31, 2019

Former Nissan chief Carlos Ghosn has fled to Lebanon from Japan, where he faced charges of financial wrongdoing and was expected to stand trial in 2020. In a statement, Ghosn said, “I have not fled justice — I have escaped injustice and political persecution.” It is unclear how the former executive was able to leave the country after being forced to surrender his passports. Ghosn has Lebanese citizenship, and Lebanon does not have an extradition pact with Japan.

New York Settles Suit over Invasive Strip Searches for Jail Visitors

Dec 31, 2019

In New York, the city has agreed to pay $12.5 million to settle a class-action lawsuit with people who were subjected to invasive strip searches while visiting family members and loved ones in jails in Manhattan, Brooklyn and Rikers Island. Many of the women reported being penetrated by female guards or forced to drop their pants and show their sanitary napkins. The settlement marks the first time the city will pay damages to visitors of jails, who have long raised concerns about the invasive and humiliating strip searches.

Michigan State Police Settle with Family of Teen Who Died After Being Tased

Dec 31, 2019

The family of a teenager who died in 2017 after a Michigan state trooper stunned him with a Taser has reached a $12 million settlement with the Michigan State Police. Fifteen-year-old Damon Grimes was riding an ATV in a residential area of Detroit, when a police officer tased him for not pulling over fast enough. The teen then crashed into the back of a parked truck and died quickly after. This is the Michigan State Police Department’s largest-ever settlement for a single incident. A lawyer for the Grimes family said, “We hope this kind of money will act as a deterrent, but unfortunately it rarely does.”

Colorado Judge Orders Denver to Stop Enforcing Ban Against Camping

Dec 31, 2019

A Colorado judge has ordered the Denver Police Department to stop enforcing the city’s ban against camping, saying the ban amounts to cruel and unusual punishment. Several homeless rights organizations in Colorado celebrated the decision, which comes two weeks after the Supreme Court also upheld protections for people who sleep or camp outdoors by leaving in place a lower court ruling saying it was unconstitutional for cities to prosecute people for sleeping or camping outside unless the city provides shelter for every single unhoused person in their jurisdiction.

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Progressive Journalist William Greider Dies at 83

Dec 31, 2019

Prominent progressive journalist and editor William Greider has died. Greider spent decades reporting on politics, economics, civil rights and labor issues for The Washington Post, Rolling Stone magazine and The Nation. The award-winning journalist died on Christmas Day at his home in Washington, D.C., at the age of 83.

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WBAI Producer and Journalist Dred Scott Keyes Dies at 68

Dec 31, 2019

And in New York, longtime WBAI producer and journalist Dred Scott Keyes has also died. He won multiple awards from the National Federation of Community Broadcasters for his radio documentaries “The Gospel Truth: The Sam Cooke Story,” “Sweet Soul Music: The Roots of Southern Soul Music” and “Malcolm X Speaks to the Midnight Ravers.” Keyes also engineered and mixed the George Polk Award-winning documentary “Drilling and Killing: Chevron and Nigeria’s Oil Dictatorship.” At WBAI, he was known for mentoring fellow journalists and producers. Dred Scott Keyes died on December 18 at the age of 68.

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