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Ukraine Moves to Retake Eastern Cities; Russia Accuses U.S. Firm of Secret Role

Authorities in Ukraine say they have regained control of a regional administration building in the city of Kharkov, one of three eastern cities where pro-Russian demonstrators have seized government sites. In the city of Donetsk, authorities remain in a standoff with demonstrators who have declared an independent republic and urged Russian President Vladimir Putin to send in troops. Donetsk is the hometown of ousted Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych. On Monday, State Department spokesperson Jen Psaki said Secretary of State John Kerry spoke to his Russian counterpart by phone.

Jen Psaki: "He called on Russia to publicly disavow the activities of separatists, saboteurs and provocateurs, calling for de-escalation and dialogue, and called on all parties to refrain from agitation in Ukraine. He made clear that any further Russian efforts to destabilize Ukraine will incur further costs for Russia. And the ministers also discussed convening direct talks within the next 10 days between Ukraine, Russia, the United States and the EU to try to de-escalate the tensions."

Russia’s Foreign Ministry claims Ukraine’s forces in the east have been joined by both right-wing nationalists and U.S. mercenaries from the private military firm Greystone. Greystone is affiliated with the private security firm Academi, formerly known as Blackwater, which has previously denied accusations its staff are working in Ukraine.

15 Killed by Roadside Bomb in Afghanistan

In Afghanistan, a roadside bomb killed at least 15 people Monday. The victims were civilians whose vehicles had been diverted from the main road after a previous attack targeting NATO troops. The attacks came two days after Afghanistan’s presidential election, the final results of which are not expected for weeks.

Iraqi Children at Risk as Polio Spreads from Syria

An outbreak of polio in Syria has officially spread into neighboring Iraq amid warnings scores of Iraqi children could be at risk. The disease was confirmed in a six-month-old baby boy in Baghdad late last month, marking Iraq’s first case in 14 years. Polio has paralyzed dozens of children in Syria where it emerged last year for the first time since 1999. The virus has been traced to Pakistan, where anti-polio workers have come under frequent attack after a polio vaccination campaign was used by the CIA to help find Osama bin Laden.

Egypt Court Upholds Prison Terms for 3 Top Activists

In Egypt, an appeals court has upheld the three-year prison terms of three top political activists accused of violating an anti-protest law. Ahmed Maher, Ahmed Douma and Mohamed Adel were sentenced in December under a new law that effectively bans public protest by requiring seven different permits. The activists helped lead the uprising that ousted Hosni Mubarak in 2011. Ahmed Douma’s health is said to be deteriorating in prison. His brother, Mohamed Douma, said the fight extends beyond opposition to individuals such as Interim President Adly Mansour and the presidential favorite and former military chief Abdel Fattah el-Sisi.

Mohamed Douma: "Our battle has never been against a specific regime, as we previously thought, whether the Muslim Brotherhood, military, Mubarak or Adly Mansour and Sisi. Our battle is against an oppressive state. All it cares about is suppressing and jailing opinions. All it knows is tyranny. All it cares about is corruption and oppression. Its role is to suppress and kill the revolution. Its only concern is its interests."

Day of Action Calls for Release of Al Jazeera Journalists in Egypt

Around the world on Monday, people took to social media to show support for four Al Jazeera journalists detained in Egypt for months. The global day of action marked 100 days since the arrest of Peter Greste, Mohamed Fahmy and Baher Mohamed. A fourth journalist, Abdullah Elshamy, has been held for more than seven months and on hunger strike since January 23.

Ban Ki-moon: "We Should Have Done Much More" to Stop Rwanda Genocide

Rwanda has begun a week of mourning to mark the 20th anniversary of the Rwandan genocide, when 800,000 people were killed over the course of 100 days. U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon spoke at Monday’s commemoration in Kigali.

U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon: "On my first visit to the Gisozi Memorial, I heard and felt the silence of death, the silence of all those lost and the silence of the international community in your hours of greatest need. Many United Nations personnel and others showed remarkable bravery, but we could have done much more. We should have done much more."

Click here for our full coverage of the 20th anniversary of the Rwandan genocide, including the Clinton administration’s refusal to call it a genocide at the time.

Jobless Aid Bill Passes Senate, Faces Battle in House

The Senate has voted to restore aid for 2.8 million Americans who have been unemployed for more than 26 weeks. Benefits for the long-term unemployed expired in December. The bill now heads to the Republican-led House, where Speaker John Boehner has indicated it is unlikely to get a vote.

Death Toll from Washington State Mudslide Hits 33

The death toll from a mudslide northeast of Seattle, Washington, has risen to 33. The local medical examiner’s office said three people still remain unidentified while 10 remain missing two weeks after disaster struck the town of Oso. Memorial services for the victims began over the weekend.

New Details Emerge About Shooting at Fort Hood

New details have emerged about last week’s shooting at the Fort Hood military base in Texas. Army Specialist Ivan Lopez fatally shot three people and injured 16 before turning the gun on himself. Officials have confirmed the shooting took place after an argument over the processing of Lopez’s request for a leave of absence to tend to family matters. They say the entire rampage lasted about eight minutes.

Supreme Court Rejects Appeal of Photographer Who Refused Service to Gay Couple

In a victory for LGBT rights, the U.S. Supreme Court has rejected an appeal by a New Mexico photography studio that refused to document a same-sex commitment ceremony. The decision leaves in place a ruling by the New Mexico Supreme Court which found the company violated state anti-discrimination law "in the same way as if it had refused to photograph a wedding between people of different races."

Ex-CIA Director Hayden Criticized for Calling Feinstein "Emotional"

Senate Democrats are criticizing former CIA Director Michael Hayden for describing Senate Intelligence Committee Chair Dianne Feinstein as "emotional" over her efforts to declassify a Senate probe on CIA torture and rendition. Hayden made the remarks on Fox News Sunday.

Michael Hayden: “That sentence, that motivation for the report, may show deep, emotional feeling on the part of the senator. But I don’t think it leads you to an objective report."

In response to Hayden’s comments, Democratic Senator Mark Udall of Colorado said, "I highly doubt he would call a male chairman too 'emotional' and to do so with Chairwoman Feinstein is unacceptable." Hayden’s comments are the latest chapter in a spat over the Senate torture report between the CIA and Feinstein, who has openly accused the CIA of spying on Senate staffers. Feinstein herself dismissed Hayden’s remarks as "absolute nonsense."

Philippines Supreme Court Upholds Free Contraception Law

In the Philippines, the Supreme Court has upheld key parts of a government plan to provide universal access to contraception. The Reproductive Health law was signed in 2012 after pressure from the Catholic Church blocked its passage for 13 years. It requires government health centers to provide free access to condoms and birth control, mandates sex education in public schools, and requires health workers to care for people suffering from the effects of illegal abortions.

Murder Charge Dismissed for Black Woman Who Gave Birth to Stillborn

A Mississippi judge has dismissed a murder charge against a young African-American woman who faced life in prison after giving birth to a stillborn baby. Rennie Gibbs was 16 years old when she was indicted for "depraved heart murder," accused of willfully causing her baby’s death by smoking crack cocaine. A medical examiner had ruled the death a homicide after finding traces of a cocaine byproduct in the baby’s system. But experts later concluded the death was likely caused by an umbilical cord wrapped around the baby’s neck. Despite those reports, a Mississippi prosecutor has suggested the state will now move to re-indict Gibbs for manslaughter. In a statement, Lynn Paltrow, head of National Advocates for Pregnant Women and a co-counsel on the case, said, "The biggest threats to life –- born and unborn –- do not come from mothers, but rather from poverty, barriers to healthcare, persistent racism, environmental hazards, and prosecutions like this one."

Author Peter Matthiessen Dies at 86; Final Novel Out Today

Peter Matthiessen’s final novel comes out today, three days after the celebrated author and naturalist died of leukemia at the age of 86. In his twenties, Matthiessen helped found The Paris Review, which he later admitted using as a cover for spying on Americans in France as a CIA agent. He wrote more than 30 books, including "In the Spirit of Crazy Horse," about imprisoned Native American leader Leonard Peltier. The book prompted lawsuits from an FBI agent and a former governor of South Dakota, both of which were later dismissed. He is the only writer to win the National Book Award for both fiction and nonfiction. His last novel, out today, is called "In Paradise."


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