The American Civil Liberties Union and other human rights organizations have launched a campaign asking President Obama to pardon NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden before Obama leaves office. Among those who have signed onto the campaign are Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak; actors Martin Sheen, Danny Glover and Susan Sarandon; writers Rebecca Solnit and Terry Tempest Williams; and Pentagon Papers whistleblower Daniel Ellsberg. At an event in New York City, ACLU Executive Director Anthony Romero called for a pardon for Snowden.
Anthony Romero: "Edward Snowden’s case presents one for President Obama to use the presidential power of pardon proudly and unequivocally, in recognition of one of the most important acts of whistleblowing in modern history. By standing up for the privacy rights of his fellow citizens—individuals who had no idea that the government had assumed such extraordinary and invasive powers in secret—Edward Snowden should be thanked, and not punished."
Full-page ads calling for the pardon also ran Wednesday in The Washington Post and Politico. Edward Snowden himself also appeared via video stream at the event in New York City Wednesday.
Edward Snowden: "I love my country, I love my family, and I have dedicated my life to both of them. These risks, these burdens that I took on, I knew were coming. And no one should be in a position to make these kind of decisions. That’s not the kind of place that we’re supposed to be. But it doesn’t have to be. Of course I look forward to coming home, but I cannot support the persecution of those charged under an Espionage Act, when they have committed no espionage."
In news from the campaign trail, Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump have both released more information on their medical history. Hillary Clinton released a letter from her doctor saying Hillary Clinton "continues to remain healthy and fit to serve as president of the United States." This comes as Hillary Clinton returns to the campaign trail with an event in North Carolina today, after spending a few days this week recovering from pneumonia. Donald Trump, in contrast, taped an interview with the controversial television persona, Dr. Oz, in which Trump shows him copies of some results from a physical last week. The full interview is slated to air today, but this is a clip.
Dr. Oz: "If your health is as strong as it seems from your review of systems, why not share your medical records? Why not let people see?"
Donald Trump: "Well, I have really no problem in doing it. I have it right here. I mean, should I do it? I don’t care. Should I do it? It’s two letters. One is the report, and the other is from Lenox Hill Hospital."
Meanwhile, Donald Trump has continued to refuse to release his tax returns.
In more campaign news, Donald Trump was confronted by a pastor while speaking in Flint, Michigan, Wednesday. Trump had been invited by Rev. Faith Green Timmons to speak at the Bethel United Methodist Church. This was Trump’s first visit to Flint, where a lead contamination crisis has poisoned many of the city’s residents, who are predominantly African-American. But when Trump veered off course and began to attack Hillary Clinton over her support for NAFTA, the pastor stepped in.
Donald Trump: "Hillary Clinton supported NAFTA, supported China’s entry into the World Trade Center."
Rev. Faith Green Timmons: "Mr. Trump, I invited you here to thank us for what we’ve done for Flint, not to give a political speech."
Donald Trump: "Oh, oh, OK. OK, OK, that’s good. And I’m going to go back onto Flint. OK. OK. Flint’s—Flint’s pain is a result of so many different failures."
Trump rapidly wrapped up his speech.
A trove of hacked emails released on the website DCLeaks.com continues to reveal statements made by former Secretary of State Colin Powell. In addition to a June 17 email in which he called Donald Trump a "national disgrace" and an "international pariah," Powell also attacked Trump in an email on August 21 for being one of the leaders of the "racist" "birther" movement, which falsely claims President Obama wasn’t born in the United States. In another email, Powell also called Dick Cheney and his daughter Liz "idiots," writing, "They are idiots and spent force peddling a book that ain’t going nowhere." The email was a reference to the Cheneys’ book "Exceptional: Why the World Needs a Powerful America."
The United States is slated to end economic sanctions against Burma after nearly 20 years. The move follows a meeting at the White House between President Obama and Burma’s de facto leader Aung San Suu Kyi. The lifting of the sanctions comes as Burma has transitioned to civilian rule, after being ruled for more than 50 years by the military. The Obama administration and Burmese human rights activists are continuing to advocate for changes in Burma’s constitution in order to reduce the military’s power, as well as ensure better treatment for Burma’s ethnic minorities, including the persecuted Rohingya, who are not considered citizens in Burma and are effectively stateless.
A flotilla bound for Gaza has set sail from the Spanish port city of Barcelona in efforts to break the ongoing Israeli blockade. Twenty-two female activists from across the world are aboard the Women’s Boat to Gaza. The two boats are also carrying medicine and food. Israel has maintained a blockade of the Gaza Strip since 2007. Last year, another Women’s Boat to Gaza was stopped and seized by the Israeli Navy.
A new report by the United Nations Refugee Agency says more than 3.5 million refugee children have no school to go to. The agency says the crisis grows more acute as children get older; while half of refugee children are able to attend primary school, only about 20 percent are able to attend secondary school, and only 1 percent are able to attend university.
In Uruguay, a former Guantánamo prisoner emerged from a coma early Thursday amid an ongoing hunger strike demanding he be allowed to leave Uruguay and reunite with his family in Turkey. Abu Wa’el Dhiab was released from Guantánamo in 2014, but he was barred from returning home to Syria. Instead, he was resettled in Uruguay. Earlier this year, he left Uruguay in efforts to return home. In July, he was apprehended in Venezuela and sent back to Uruguay. Now, Dhiab is on hunger strike, demanding he be allowed to reunite with his family. While in Guantánamo, Dhiab also launched a hunger strike to demand his freedom. He was among a group of prisoners subjected to forced feeding. The Obama administration is refusing to release video of the force feeding to the public, but did give the redacted video tape to a court, which reportedly shows graphic images of guards restraining Dhiab and feeding him against his will. Human rights groups have long said the forced feeding of Guantánamo prisoners amounts to torture.
In New York, hundreds of unionized professors are returning to work at Long Island University’s Brooklyn campus, nearly two weeks after the administration took the unprecedented step of barring them from campus after their contract expired. As part of the lockout, LIU cut off 400 professors’ email accounts and health insurance, and told them they would be replaced. The lockout sparked a wave of protests by both faculty and students, who arrived for the beginning of the school year to find their classes being taught by administrators with no experience in the fields. On Wednesday, the administration agreed to end the lockout, restore faculty members’ health insurance and permit them to return to their classrooms. Contract negotiations remain ongoing. To see our full coverage of the LIU lockout, go to democracynow.org.
In North Dakota, another eight people were arrested Wednesday after people locked themselves to heavy machinery to stop construction of the $3.8 billion Dakota Access pipeline, which has faced months of resistance from the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe and members of hundreds of other tribes from across the United States, Canada and Latin America. Wednesday’s action took place near Almont, North Dakota, about 80 miles away from the main protest camps along the Cannonball River. This comes only one day after more than 20 people were arrested on Tuesday also stopping pipeline construction around the same area. Dallas Goldtooth of the Indigenous Environmental Network said Tuesday’s and Wednesday’s actions reflect that "Our opposition is not just to the river crossing, but to the very premise of this pipeline." The Morton County Sheriff’s Department says it is pursuing felony reckless endangerment charges related to Wednesday’s protest, which carries a maximum penalty of five years in prison.
The Atlantic Coast Conference has announced it’s moving its sports championship events out of North Carolina in response to the state’s decision to pass the anti-LGBT law known as HB 2, or the "bathroom bill." The law nullifies ordinances protecting LGBT people from discrimination and prohibits transgender people from using the bathroom that matches their gender identity. This comes after the NCAA also announced it was moving its seven championship events out of North Carolina for this academic year.
Also in North Carolina, a UNC football player has turned himself in—seven months after he was accused of raping a fellow student. The 19-year-old woman, Delaney Robinson, went public to denounce the way the university treated her and handled the case. She says she was attacked on Valentine’s Day night by linebacker Allen Artis, who she says pinned her down and raped her. She says she went to the hospital the next morning and then reported the attack to university administrators, who she says asked her accusatory questions, including whether she led him on and how many men she had slept with in her life. She says she was later enraged when she heard the recordings of the administrators’ questioning of the football player in a strikingly different manner.
Delaney Robinson: "My humiliation turned to rage when I watched the recorded interview of my rapist by DPS investigators. Rather than accusing him of anything, the investigators spoke to him in a tone of camaraderie. They provided reassurances to him when he became upset. They even laughed with him when he told them how many girls’ phone numbers he had managed to get on the same night that he raped me. They told him, ’Don’t sweat it. Just keep on living your life and keep on playing football.’"
The football player, Allen Artis, has now been charged with two misdemeanors: sexual battery and assault on a female.