Iran: 22 Dead, Hundreds Arrested Amid Mass Protests
In Iran, at least 22 people are dead and hundreds have been arrested, as authorities used tear gas and water cannons to quell the largest anti-government protests since 2009. The protests, which began last week and quickly spread to cities across Iran, are targeting high unemployment, income inequality and housing costs. Protesters have also targeted Iranian Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei and President Hassan Rouhani. On Sunday, Rouhani said Iranians have the right to protest, but said violence would be met with a firm response.
President Hassan Rouhani: “I ask all the security forces, the police forces, who have not behaved in a violent way toward the people, I ask them to exercise their restraint so that nobody is hurt. However, at the same time, in order to preserve our country, our nation, our tranquility and peace, for all of this, we must be firm and act decisively.”
President Donald Trump responded to the protests, tweeting, “The people of Iran are finally acting against the brutal and corrupt Iranian regime. All of the money that President Obama so foolishly gave them went into terrorism and into their 'pockets.' The people have little food, big inflation and no human rights. The U.S. is watching!” Trump’s tweets drew a rebuke from Iranian President Rouhani, who noted that Trump called Iran a “terrorist nation like few others” in a speech last year.
Trump Lauds Tax Cuts, Arctic Drilling in Exclusive New Year’s Gala
President Trump rang in the new year with his son Barron and first lady Melania at Trump’s Mar-a-Lago golf resort in Florida, where club members paid $600 apiece for a chance to join the president for a dinner gala. Speaking briefly to reporters outside the party, Trump boasted about Republican tax cuts for the wealthy and opening up ANWR—the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge—to oil and gas drilling.
President Donald Trump: “We’re off to a very good start, as you know, with the great tax cuts and ANWR and getting rid of the individual mandate, which was very, very unpopular, as you know. But we are going to have a tremendous year.”
Pakistan Summons U.S. Ambassador Following Trump Tweet
Meanwhile, Pakistan summoned U.S. Ambassador David Hale Monday to explain President Trump’s first tweet of the new year. Early Monday, Trump tweeted, “The United States has foolishly given Pakistan more than 33 billion dollars in aid over the last 15 years, and they have given us nothing but lies & deceit, thinking of our leaders as fools. They give safe haven to the terrorists we hunt in Afghanistan, with little help. No more!”
North Korean Leader Declares “A Nuclear Button is Always on My Desk”
North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un declared his nation a fully fledged nuclear power Monday, saying in a televised New Year’s Day speech he was prepared to launch a nuclear attack against his enemies—including South Korea, Japan or the United States.
Kim Jong-un: “The entire United States is within range of our nuclear weapons, and a nuclear button is always on my desk. This is reality, not a threat.”
Kim said North Korea would now focus on mass-producing nuclear warheads and ballistic missiles for operational deployment. Meanwhile, Kim made an apparent peace overture toward South Korea, saying he might send a delegation to next month’s Winter Olympics in PyeongChang. South Korean President Moon Jae-in welcomed the gesture, saying he’s asked North Korea to open high-level talks next Tuesday to discuss the Olympics and North Korea’s nuclear program.
Congo: At Least Seven Dead Amid Protests Against Joseph Kabila’s Rule
In the Democratic Republic of Congo, security forces have killed at least seven people amid protests over Joseph Kabila’s refusal to step down as president. Among those attacked by police were Catholic protesters, who were met with tear gas and concussion grenades as they marched through the capital Kinshasa following Sunday mass. President Kabila’s term expired in December 2016, and under Congo’s constitution he’s ineligible to seek a third term. But Kabila has delayed a new election to pick his successor until December. This is Maman Louis, a protester in Kinshasa.
Maman Louis: “We are tired. We have never had peace in this country. Nothing works. We don’t eat well. President Kabila is still young, and he can leave his place to someone else and come back later if he wants. He has worked a lot already. It’s enough. We don’t want him. He should go and rest.”
On Sunday, Congolese authorities cut off internet access and text messaging services in parts of the country in a bid to stifle dissent.
Gaza: Funeral Held for Man Killed by Israeli Forces While Protesting Trump
In the Gaza Strip, Palestinians held a funeral march Saturday for a 20-year-old man killed by Israeli forces during Friday protests against President Trump’s declaration of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital. At least 13 Palestinians have been killed in protests since Trump’s declaration. Elsewhere, Israeli forces fired tear gas at Palestinians in West Bank cities, including Bethlehem, Jericho and Ramallah, injuring at least 20 protesters. The protests came as Hamas fired three rockets into southern Israel, prompting Israeli tanks and a warplane to fire on southern Gaza. There were no reports of injuries in the exchanges.
Israeli Military Court Indicts 16-Year-Old for Slapping Soldier
Meanwhile, an Israeli military court has indicted 16-year-old Palestinian Ahed Tamimi on 12 charges, including throwing stones and aggravated assault, after a viral video showed her slapping a soldier in the occupied West Bank. The incident came after Israeli troops shot Tamimi’s 14-year-old brother in the head with a rubber-coated steel bullet and fired tear gas canisters into her family’s home. Mondoweiss reports that the soldier actually slapped the 16-year-old girl first, causing her to slap back. On Monday, Israeli prosecutors asked a military judge to keep Tamimi jailed while she awaits trial.
Afghanistan: Bomb Kills 15 at Jalalabad Funeral
In Afghanistan, a bomb blast ripped through a crowd of mourners in the eastern city of Jalalabad on Sunday, killing at least 15 people and wounding more than a dozen others. There was no claim of responsibility for the attack, which targeted the funeral of a local government official. The attack follows last week’s bombing of a Shiite cultural center in Kabul, which killed 41 people and injured dozens more.
Syrian Warplanes Pound Rebel-Controlled Damascus Suburb
In Syria, government forces are continuing a massive bombing campaign on the rebel-held Damascus suburb of Ghouta. Video uploaded to social media on New Year’s Day shows massive explosions ripping apart entire buildings in Eastern Ghouta, which has been besieged by Syrian government forces since 2013. There are currently about 400,000 civilians in Eastern Ghouta, where supplies of medicine, food and water are dwindling.
Egypt: Gunmen Kill 11 at Coptic Christian Church in Cairo
In Egypt, gunmen opened fire on worshipers at a Coptic Christian Church in Cairo on Friday, killing 11 people in an attack that was claimed by ISIS. Friday’s assault was the latest on Egypt’s Christian minority; it follows an attack on a Sufi mosque in Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula in November that killed 305 people.
Hong Kong Protests Decry Chinese Crackdown on Free Speech & Democracy
In China, an estimated 10,000 people marched through the streets of Hong Kong on Monday, protesting a crackdown on free speech and on the city’s autonomy under the “one country, two systems” policy. The New Year’s Day protest capped a year that saw Chinese authorities jail pro-democracy activists and oust elected officials.
Colorado: Ambush of Denver Police Officers Caps Year of Mass Shootings
In Denver, Colorado, a gunman used a rifle to fire at least 100 rounds Saturday in an “ambush-style attack” at police who were responding to a disturbance. The suspect, Iraq veteran Matthew Riehl, shot and killed Sheriff Deputy Zackari Parrish and injured four other officers as well as two civilians. The shooting occurred on the final day of a year that saw more than 300 mass shootings, including the deadliest in modern U.S. history in Las Vegas, which left 58 dead and more than 500 injured.
Hollywood Women Declare “Time’s Up” for Sexual Abusers
In Hollywood, more than 1,000 prominent actresses, writers and directors have launched a project aimed at combating sexual abuse and harassment in the film industry. The “Time’s Up” campaign follows on the heels of a torrent of allegations of rape, sexual assault and harassment against powerful men that began with reports into sexual abuse by movie mogul Harvey Weinstein. The initiative seeks to raise $13 million for a legal defense fund to help working-class women bring sexual abuse charges. It also seeks to bring gender parity to Hollywood studios and talent agencies, while penalizing companies that tolerate persistent harassment. The campaign also seeks to end the use of nondisclosure agreements that silence victims. Among those participating are director Ava DuVernay, producer Kathleen Kennedy, and actors Natalie Portman, Reese Witherspoon, Cate Blanchett, Eva Longoria and America Ferrera.
Trump Justice Department Pushes for Citizenship Question on 2020 Census
ProPublica reports the Trump administration is working to add a question on citizenship to the 2020 Census, a move that immigrants’ rights groups say would suppress participation in the census by immigrants—altering how congressional districts are drawn and cutting off federal dollars to areas with large immigrant populations. In a statement, Vanita Gupta, president of the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, said, “This request … suggests that at least some in the administration are trying to jeopardize the accuracy of the 2020 Census in every state and every community by deterring many people from responding, making the data collected in this crucial once-a-decade operation less accurate and useful for all of us.”
California: Legal Recreational Marijuana Sales Begin
In California, sales of legal recreational marijuana began with the new year on Monday, as about 100 dispensaries opened their doors in major cities. Under state law, adults 21 and over can possess up to an ounce of marijuana and can grow up to six plants at home. Marijuana sales are now allowed along the entire West Coast, including Alaska. Under federal law, marijuana remains a prohibited “Schedule 1” drug in the same category as heroin and LSD.
4.5 Million U.S. Minimum Wage Workers Get Raise with New Year
About 4.5 million U.S. workers will see a pay raise beginning this week, after 18 states and 19 cities increased their minimum wages. The increases range from 35 extra cents per hour in Michigan to an extra dollar per hour in Maine. Most of the increases came about as part of voter-backed ballot measures or new state laws.
New York Anti-Police Brutality Activist Erica Garner Dies at 27
And in New York City, anti-police brutality activist Erica Garner died Saturday after she fell into a coma following an asthma-induced heart attack. She was just 27 years old. Erica helped lead the struggle for justice for her father, Eric Garner, who was killed when police officers in Staten Island wrestled him to the ground, pinned him down and applied a fatal chokehold in 2014. His final words were “I can’t breathe,” which he repeated 11 times. In August, Erica Garner gave birth to her second child, a boy named after her late father. Doctors say the pregnancy strained her heart.
Courtesy of Democracy Now
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