The Confederate battle flag that has flown on the South Carolina state House grounds for more than 50 years comes down today. Governor Nikki Haley signed a bill Thursday to permanently remove the flag, after the House and Senate overwhelmingly approved it earlier this week. The flag is scheduled to come down at 10 a.m. today, just over three weeks after the massacre of nine African-American churchgoers by suspect Dylann Roof, who embraced the Confederate flag. We’ll have more on South Carolina with the granddaughter of the late South Carolina senator and segregationist, Strom Thurmond, after headlines.
As South Carolina lawmakers voted to take down the Confederate flag, Republicans in the U.S. Congress blocked a measure to remove it from the U.S. Capitol, sending the resolution to a committee. House Republicans also introduced a measure to allow Confederate flags in national cemeteries. Republicans eventually withdrew the bid following protests by Democrats, including New York Congressmember Hakeem Jeffries.
Rep. Hakeem Jeffries: "The members of the Republican Conference who support the Confederate battle flag apparently argue that this is about heritage and tradition. What exactly is the tradition the Confederate battle flag is meant to represent? Is it slavery? Rape? Kidnap? Genocide? Treason? Or all of the above?"
In North Charleston, South Carolina, about two hours from the state Capitol and the debate over the Confederate flag, the mother of Walter Scott visited the site of her son’s death for the first time. Walter Scott was an unarmed African-American man shot dead in April by white police officer Michael Slager, who was charged with murder after video showed he shot Scott in the back as he ran away. Walter Scott’s brother Anthony spoke during the family’s visit to the fenced-in field where his brother died.
Anthony Scott: "It’s hard trying to face it with my mom and my dad, because I, for the longest, have tried to to keep them away from the site, but I know some closure has to come. And we’re getting closer to that time. We have to come and face it and look it head-on."
Michael Slager, the officer who killed Walter Scott, is in the same jail as Charleston massacre suspect Dylann Roof.
Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras has submitted a bailout proposal which includes harsh austerity measures just days after the Greek people overwhelmingly rejected such measures in a historic referendum. The proposal submitted to Greece’s creditors reportedly includes tax increases, pension cuts, a reduction in military spending and the privatization of public assets. It comes after Tsipras himself had urged the Greek people to reject creditors’ demands for further austerity. In exchange for the reforms, Greece would receive a three-year, $59 billion bailout package. Germany meanwhile appears to be yielding to demands to provide at least some measure of debt relief to Greece. European officials have expressed approval for the Greek offer ahead of a key meeting on Saturday. The Greek Parliament is expected to vote on the bailout proposal today, just five days after an overwhelming 61 percent of Greek voters rejected similar terms. We’ll have more on Greece later in the broadcast.
The United Nations has announced a humanitarian truce in Yemen to allow aid to reach civilians facing a possible famine. The truce calls for a pause in Saudi-led airstrikes and clashes with Shiite Houthi rebels beginning today and lasting until the end of Ramadan on July 17.
Iran and world powers are continuing talks to reach a nuclear deal in Vienna. The failure to reach an agreement before today means the U.S. Congress will now take 60, rather than 30, days to approve any deal, keeping U.S. sanctions in place in the meantime. Secretary of State John Kerry said he would not continue to negotiate indefinitely.
Secretary of State John Kerry: "We also recognize that we shouldn’t get up and leave simply because the clock strikes midnight. And I emphasize, given that the work here is incredibly technical and that the stakes are very, very high, we will not rush, and we will not be rushed, and we won’t let ourselves be rushed through any aspect of this."
The Obama administration has acknowleged a breach of government computer systems was far worse than they initally disclosed. Hackers stole information including fingerprints and Social Security numbers from 21.5 million people. The Office of Personnel Management said everyone who received a government background check over the last 15 years was likely impacted.
The U.S. Army has announced plans to eliminate 40,000 soldiers from its ranks. Army force management director Randy George announced the cuts.
Randy George: "Beginning this October, we will start reducing the active component by another 40,000 soldiers. Driven by fiscal constraints resulting from the Budget Control Act of 2011 and defense strategic and budgetary guidance, this reduction amounts to a cumulative cut of 120,000 soldiers from the regular Army, or 21 percent since 2012. This will also be accompanied by the reduction of approximately 17,000 Department of the Army civilian employees. These cuts will impact nearly every Army installation both in the continental United States and overseas."
The reduction in U.S. troops has drawn criticism from Republican lawmakers who voted in favor of budget cuts the Pentagon warned would reduce its ranks.
The Obama administration is reportedly poised to remove Malaysia from its list of the worst human trafficking hubs in a move that will ease negotiations over the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade deal. Last year, the United States downgraded Malaysia to a Tier 3 rating. But a measure by New Jersey Senator Bob Menendez bars the United States from enacting trade deals with Tier 3 countries. Despite protests from human rights groups, Reuters reports the State Department will upgrade Malaysia’s status, allowing it to remain part of the TPP.
Wisconsin Republican Governor Scott Walker is poised to sign a bill banning non-emergency abortions after 20 weeks of pregnancy, with no exception for rape or incest. As Walker prepares to launch his presidential campaign on Monday, he is also expected to sign a state budget which slashes funding for the University of Wisconsin, expands the voucher program for private schools, requires drug testing for welfare recipients and eliminates the state’s living wage law.
A super PAC backing Republican presidential contender Jeb Bush says it has raised a record $103 million in the first half of this year. In total, the super PAC and Bush’s campaign have raised more than $114 million, far outstripping Democratic and Republican rivals. The news comes as Bush is facing criticism for telling the New Hampshire Union Leader newspaper Americans need to work longer hours.
Jeb Bush: "Which means we have to be a lot more productive, workforce participation has to rise from its all-time, modern lows. It means that people need to work longer hours and, through their productivity, gain more income for their families."
Americans already work more hours than people in any other industrialized country. And despite a 25 percent rise in worker productivity over recent years, wages have flatlined. Bush later said he was referring to part-time workers unable to find full-time work.
Immigrants who were held at a private prison run by the GEO Group in Aurora, Colorado, have filed a landmark federal lawsuit, saying the company violated anti-trafficking law by forcing them to work for $1 a day under the threat of solitary confinement. This week, U.S. District Judge John Kane allowed the lawsuit to move forward. The immigrants say they spent hours cleaning toilets, mopping, and preparing meals. Attorneys say the lawsuit is the first of its kind.
A federal judge has scolded the Obama administration for stalling the release of footage showing force-feedings of Guantánamo prisoners. Attorneys for former prisoner Abu Wa’el Dhiab have fought for the tapes to be made public, saying he was force-fed over 1,000 times in retaliation for going on hunger strike. District Judge Gladys Kessler ordered the videos’ release back in October, but the government has said it needs months to redact faces and names of U.S. personnel. On Thursday, Judge Kessler accused the government of mounting "frivolous" challenges, and warned she would soon impose a timeline for the tapes’ release.
Pope Francis has denounced austerity and unbridled capitalism in a sweeping address in Bolivia. Denouncing the "new colonialism" of government austerity, Francis also apologized for the Catholic Church’s complicity in the oppression of indigenous people in the Americas.
Pope Francis: "I say this to you with regret: Many grave sins were committed against the native peoples of America in the name of God. My predecessors acknowledged this, CELAM (the Latin American Episcopal Council) has said it, and I, too, wish to say it. Like Saint John Paul II, I ask that the church 'kneel before God and implore forgiveness for the past and present sins of her sons and daughters.' I would also say, and here I wish to be quite clear, as was Saint John Paul II: I humbly ask forgiveness, not only for the offenses of the church herself, but also for crimes committed against the native peoples during the so-called conquest of America."
Bolivian President Evo Morales presented Pope Francis with a crucifix carved into a hammer and sickle. The cross was originally designed by Jesuit activist Reverend Luis Espinal, who was assassinated by suspected Bolivian paramilitaries in 1980. Francis stopped to pray at the site where Espinal’s body was dumped when he arrived in Bolivia on Wednesday.
Today marks the 30th anniversary of the bombing of the Greenpeace flagship Rainbow Warrior by French agents in Auckland, New Zealand. Greenpeace photographer Fernando Pereira was killed in the attack. France has never apologized. To see our interview with Peter Willcox, who was the captain of the Rainbow Warrior, you can go to democracynow.org.
A federal monitor who is overseeing the New York City Police Department says officers have been failing to document encounters with people they stop and question on the street. The monitor was appointed after the NYPD’s stop-and-frisk tactics were found unconstitutional. The report calls into question a recent drop in the official tally of stops. We’ll have more on the NYPD and New York Governor Andrew Cuomo’s landmark plans for a special prosecutor to probe police killings of unarmed civilians, later in the broadcast.
And James Bonard Fowler, the white former Alabama state trooper who shot and killed black civil rights worker Jimmie Lee Jackson in 1965, has died at the age of 81. Fowler shot Jackson in Mack’s Café in Marion, Alabama, on February 18, 1965. Jackson died eight days later. The killing was a seminal moment which set off the first Selma-to-Montgomery voting rights march, known as Bloody Sunday. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. preached at Jackson’s funeral. But it wasn’t until 45 years later, in 2010, that Fowler pleaded guilty to the killing, apologized and served five months in jail. Fowler died on Sunday.