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HeadlinesDecember 19, 2023

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Israeli Strikes on Jabaliya and Rafah Kill Dozens, Pushing Gaza Death Toll Toward 20,000

Dec 19, 2023

At least 13 Palestinians have been killed and 75 others wounded in an Israeli strike on the Jabaliya refugee camp in northern Gaza. Today’s deadly assault came after at least 110 Palestinians were reportedly killed in and around Jabaliya since Sunday. Meanwhile, in the southern city of Rafah, at least 29 people were killed, with many more trapped under the rubble, after Israel’s military bombed three residential buildings. With the latest attacks, the number of Palestinians killed since October 7 is rapidly approaching 20,000.

On Monday, Israeli officials allowed a few dozen trucks carrying desperately needed humanitarian aid through the Kerem Shalom border crossing from Israel into Gaza. It was the first time since early October Israel allowed aid in through the crossing — adding to a trickle of aid Israel’s military has allowed through Gaza’s border with Egypt. Truck drivers said the aid convoy was a tiny fraction of what’s needed.

Mohammed Al-Hato: “The aid coming through is not enough. It doesn’t come in every day, and time is short. Trucks wait 17 to 18 days at the crossing. … We hope that the world would allow for the aid to reach these poor people. Those living in the displaced camps are in a bad situation. They have no life.”

After headlines, we’ll speak with the Israel and Palestine director at Human Rights Watch, which has just published a report headlined “Israel: Starvation Used as Weapon of War in Gaza.”

Palestinian Journalists Adel Zorob, Abdullah Alwan and Haneen Al-Qashtan Killed by Israeli Strikes

Dec 19, 2023

Israeli strikes on Gaza have killed three more Palestinian journalists. Adel Zorob was killed as Israel bombed Rafah city overnight. He was reportedly known for his efforts to help wounded children. His death came a few hours after Abdullah Alwan was killed in an Israeli airstrike on his home in Jabaliya, northern Gaza. He was a commentator for a number of Al Jazeera Arabic programs. A third journalist, Haneen Al-Qashtan, was also killed in an Israeli strike on the Nuseirat refugee camp, along with her family. At least 97 Palestinian journalists have been killed by Israel since October 7.

In Tel Aviv, Pentagon Chief Calls U.S.-Israel Ties “Unshakable,” Pledges More Arms for Israel

Dec 19, 2023

U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin has reaffirmed the Biden administration’s support for Israel’s assault on the Gaza Strip, calling U.S.-Israeli ties “unshakable.” Austin made the remarks in Tel Aviv Monday, where he met with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Israel’s Minister of Defense Yoav Gallant and other members of Israel’s war cabinet. Their meeting came as Houthi fighters in Yemen launched drone attacks on two cargo vessels in the Red Sea — the latest in a series of assaults that Austin blamed on Iran.

Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin: “America’s commitment to Israel is unwavering, and no individual, group or state should test our resolve. … Iran’s support for Houthi attacks on commercial vessels must stop. Now, we’ll continue to provide Israel with the equipment that you need to defend your country, Mr. Prime Minister, including critical munitions, tactical vehicles and air defense systems.”

U.N. Security Council Delays Vote on Gaza Ceasefire Resolution After U.S. Delegation Objects

Dec 19, 2023

The United Nations Security Council postponed a vote Monday on a Gaza ceasefire resolution after U.S. diplomats objected to language calling for the “urgent and sustainable cessation of hostilities.” The U.S. delegation is demanding the language be changed to a “suspension” of hostilities. The Security Council has planned a vote on a resolution reflecting the watered-down language today. The U.S. previously vetoed a resolution calling for a humanitarian pause on October 18 and another calling for an urgent humanitarian ceasefire on December 9.

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott Signs SB4, Making It a Crime to Enter the U.S. Outside Ports of Entry

Dec 19, 2023

In Texas, Republican Governor Greg Abbott has signed a bill into law allowing local law enforcement to arrest immigrants and asylum seekers and charge them with a state crime for crossing the U.S.-Mexico border outside ports of entry. The new crime would be punishable by up to six months in jail, while Texas judges would have the authority to drop the charges if a migrant “agrees” to be returned to Mexico. Governor Abbott spoke from a section of border wall in the Rio Grande Valley Monday, where he also signed two other bills further militarizing the U.S.-Mexico border.

Gov. Greg Abbott: “The goal of Senate Bill 4 is to stop the tidal wave of illegal entry into Texas. It creates a criminal offense for illegal entry into Texas from a foreign nation. … Senate Bill 3 adds $1.54 billion more to build more border barriers and walls, like what we have here. It includes also $40 million for the Texas Department of Public Safety for border security operations and increased law enforcement presence.”

Texas Democrats and members of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus are urging the Justice Department to block Senate Bill 4. On Monday, they wrote in a letter to Attorney General Merrick Garland, “This bill is set to be the most extreme anti-immigrant state bill in the United States; it is clearly preempted by federal law and when it goes into effect will likely result in racial profiling, significant due process violations, and unlawful arrests of citizens, lawful permanent residents, and others.”

On Saturday, the White House hosted an online meeting with the Congressional Hispanic Caucus after members warned President Biden against agreeing to Republican demands to further crack down on immigrants and asylum seekers as part of a military aid package for Ukraine, Taiwan and Israel.

Egypt’s el-Sisi Claims Victory in Presidential Election After Barring and Intimidating Opponents

Dec 19, 2023

Egypt’s authoritarian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi has declared victory after a noncompetitive election. Human Rights Watch reports this month’s poll followed a campaign of arrests, intimidation and onerous requirements for candidates that effectively prevented any meaningful competition. In 2019, Egypt’s Constitution was amended to allow Sisi to run for a third term, while lengthening presidential terms to six years; he’s now set to remain in office until 2030. Sisi came to power in 2013 when he led the coup that removed Egypt’s first democratically elected president, Mohamed Morsi, opening a crackdown on dissent that’s been described as the end of the Arab Spring.

In September, the Biden administration approved $1.3 billion in military aid to Egypt, withholding just a small fraction of the aid — $85 million — even though the aid was contingent on Sisi’s government releasing some of Egypt’s tens of thousands of political prisoners, which it failed to do.

Pope Francis Allows Priests to Bless Same-Sex Couples But Won’t Budge on Gay Marriage

Dec 19, 2023

Pope Francis has formally approved a document from the Vatican’s doctrinal office that for the first time allows priests to bless same-sex couples, so long as the blessing does not resemble a wedding. Advocates hailed the move as a major step toward ending the Catholic Church’s discrimination toward LGBTQ+ people, but warned the church still holds the official position that marriage is between “a man and a woman” — and that same-sex couples are living in “sin.” Marianne Duddy-Burke is director of DignityUSA, which focuses on LGBTQ+ rights and the Catholic Church.

Marianne Duddy-Burke: “Obviously, for same-sex couples, sacramental equality is what would put us on the same footing as any other Catholics seeking recognition of their relationships. We’re not there yet. This is an important step, but it is yet another step on a journey that still has probably miles and miles to go.”

Earthquake Strikes Northwestern China, Killing at Least 118 and Injuring Hundreds

Dec 19, 2023

In China, at least 118 people have died after a 6.2-magnitude earthquake struck a mountainous region of the northwestern Gansu province. More than 500 people were injured as the quake collapsed buildings and severed roads and power lines. Rescue workers say freezing temperatures and rough terrain are hampering efforts to find survivors.

EPA to Review Safety of Vinyl Chloride in Wake of Ohio Rail Disaster

Dec 19, 2023

Here in the United States, the Environmental Protection Agency has launched a formal safety review of various chemicals, including vinyl chloride, one of the substances released into the air in eastern Ohio after a Norfolk Southern train derailed and triggered a massive fire earlier this year. Vinyl chloride has been linked to heightened cancer risk. It can be found in commonly used plastic products and in polyvinyl chloride plastic, or PVC. Following the February crash in East Palestine, Ohio, residents reported respiratory and other health problems. The incident brought scrutiny to so-called bomb trains that transport crude oil and other dangerous chemicals through communities across the U.S. The EPA review will take at least three years.

Judge Denies Trump’s Request to Toss Civil Fraud Trial

Dec 19, 2023

Here in New York, the judge overseeing Donald Trump’s civil fraud trial has rejected Trump’s request to have the case against him thrown out. On Monday, Judge Arthur Engoron blasted an expert witness called by the defense, noting that New York University accounting professor Eli Bartov spent 650 hours on the case at a rate of $1,350 per hour. Engoron ruled that Bartov had lost all credibility, writing, “All that his testimony proves is that for a million or so dollars, some experts will say whatever you want them to say.”

Former Election Workers Sue Rudy Giuliani Again After Winning $148 Million Defamation Suit

Dec 19, 2023

In Georgia, the former election workers, African Americans Ruby Freeman and her daughter Shaye Moss have sued Trump’s former attorney Rudy Giuliani for a second time. On Friday, a federal jury ordered Giuliani to pay Freeman and Moss $148 million in damages after he falsely accused them of tampering with ballots during the 2020 election, leading to harassment and death threats from Trump supporters. Their new lawsuit seeks a court order permanently barring Giuliani from defaming them again.

Meanwhile, a federal appeals court panel has rejected a bid by Trump’s former Chief of Staff Mark Meadows to have an election interference case against him in Georgia moved to federal court.

Italian Marxist Philosopher Antonio Negri Dies at 90

Dec 19, 2023

The famed Italian Marxist and political activist Antonio Negri has died at the age of 90. Negri inspired generations of leftist scholars and activists with his writings about the human desire for liberation and the self-organizational capacity of ordinary people to make change. Negri co-authored along with Michael Hardt the seminal book “Empire,” which argued for a contemporary understanding of imperialism beyond the limits of individual nation-states. Democracy Now! interviewed Antonio Negri in Venice, Italy, in 2015, concluding the conversation by asking Negri what gives him hope.

Antonio Negri: “The fact that the new generations, and not only them, have understood that they can fight, that they can move on the terrain of new capacities for action. I believe that these new generations, born out of communicative and intellectual labor, are much freer than our parents or my generation of factory workers. These are social generations, generations who communicate and build their future with language, with the word, with intelligence, and this is hope. Hope lies wholly within people and their ability to determine their own destinies.”

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