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You turn to Democracy Now! for ad-free news you can trust. Maybe you come for our daily headlines. Maybe you come for in-depth stories that expose government and corporate abuses of power. This week Democracy Now! is celebrating our 23rd birthday. For over two decades, we've produced our daily news hour without ads, government funding or corporate underwriting. How is this possible? Only with your support. Right now, in honor of Democracy Now!'s birthday, every donation we receive will be doubled by a generous supporter. This means if you give $30 today, Democracy Now! will get $60 to support our daily news hour. Please do your part. It takes just a couple of minutes to make sure that Democracy Now! is there for you and everybody else. Thank you! -Amy Goodman
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Hundreds of thousands of immigrants took to the streets on Tuesday in protests in dozens of cities across the country. In Chicago, police said over 150,000 marched through downtown. In Phoenix, organizers put the crowd size at 100,000. In Milwaukee, Wisconsin, organizers estimated 60,000 took part in the city’s second annual civil rights march and boycott. Another 10,000 immigrants marched in Detroit and Denver. Los Angeles held two large protests on Tuesday. The afternoon protest in L.A. ended when police fired dozens of rubber bullets and tear gas into the peaceful crowd. Families with young children were forced to flee for their safety. Eyewitnesses said police gave little or no warning before firing the rubber bullets. The protests came on the first anniversary of last year’s historic May Day immigrant protests. In Los Angeles, organizer Norberto Martinez predicted protests over immigrant rights would continue.
Norberto Martinez: “It’s not an issue that will go away. We’re here. We’re here to stay. We’re not going anywhere, and we do need a solution, something that will give us permanent residency. If it doesn’t happen with the Bush administration now, it has to happen in the next administration.”
President Bush has vetoed a $124 billion war spending bill that would have imposed timelines to withdraw U.S. troops from Iraq. This sets up a showdown between Congress and the White House over the future of the Iraq War. On Tuesday afternoon, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi spoke at a special ceremony to mark the Iraq bill being sent to the White House.
Nancy Pelosi: “This legislation respects the wishes of the American people to end the Iraq War. I am pleased to sign this legislation which passed both houses of Congress with bipartisan support. I urge the president to sign the global war on terror supplemental so that we can refocus on fighting terrorism.”
The Democrats sent the bill on the fourth anniversary of the day that President Bush stood under a “Mission Accomplished” banner and announced that major combat operations had ended in Iraq. Last night, President Bush officially vetoed the legislation.
President Bush: “After forcing most of our troops to withdraw, the bill would dictate the terms on which the remaining commanders and troops could engage the enemy. That means America’s commanders in the middle of a combat zone would have to take fighting directions from politicians 6,000 miles away in Washington, D.C. This is a prescription for chaos and confusion, and we must not impose it on our troops.”
President Bush plans to host congressional leaders from both parties at the White House this afternoon.
Criticism of President Bush’s veto has come from an unlikely quarter — two retired generals who led troops in Iraq. Major General John Batiste said: “The president vetoed our troops and the American people. His stubborn commitment to a failed strategy in Iraq is incomprehensible.” Major Gen. Paul Eaton added: “The president of the United States is holding our soldiers hostage to his ego.”
In news from Iraq, CNN is reporting Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki has created an entity within his government that is apparently being used as a smokescreen to hide an extreme Shiite agenda that is worsening the country’s sectarian divide. The Office of the Commander in Chief reportedly has the power to overrule other government ministries.
The Iraqi government has sent a draft oil law to Parliament. The law would open up Iraq’s vast oil reserves to international oil companies. It would also force Shiites, Sunnis and Kurds to share oil revenue.
In media news, Rupert Murdoch is attempting to expand his global media empire. On Tuesday, he made an unsolicited bid to buy Dow Jones & Company, the publisher of The Wall Street Journal, for $5 billion. Murdoch’s News Corp. is already one of the world’s largest media companies. Its holdings include the TV network Fox, the book publisher HarperCollins, the New York Post, MySpace.com, The Weekly Standard and scores of other media companies. The Bancroft family, which controls the shareholder vote of Dow Jones, said it would oppose Murdoch’s deal.
In Alabama, federal authorities have revealed they have broken up a militia plot to attack a group of Mexicans living in a small town north of Birmingham. Last week six members of the Alabama Free Militia were arrested in a series of raids. The Birmingham News reported police uncovered truckloads of explosives and weapons, including 130 grenades, an improvised rocket launcher and 2,500 rounds of ammunition. The six men appeared in court on Tuesday. Despite the violent plot, police did not accuse the men of terrorism. Instead police charged them with conspiracy to make a firearm, which carries a maximum penalty of five years in prison and a $250,000 fine. The Anti-Defamation League said the weapons seizure was the largest in the South in years.
Newly released data from the Justice Department shows the government conducted a record number of secret searches last year. The Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court issued 2,176 secret warrants in 2006 targeting people inside the United States. The FISA court approved all but one search warrant requested by the Bush administration. The Justice Department, however, did not reveal how many times the FBI secretly sought telephone, Internet and banking records about U.S. citizens and residents without court approval.
Meanwhile, The New York Times reports senior Bush administration officials told Congress on Tuesday that they could not pledge that the administration would continue to seek warrants from a secret court for a domestic wiretapping program, as it agreed to do in January. Senior officials, including the new director of national intelligence, Michael McConnell, said they believed that the president still had the authority to once again order the NSA to conduct surveillance inside the country without warrants.
The Boston Globe is reporting a new study ordered by the Pentagon has warned that the rising cost and dwindling supply of oil will make the U.S. military’s ability to fight around the world unsustainable in the long term. The study concludes that the military must fundamentally transform their assumptions about energy, including taking immediate steps toward fielding weapons systems and aircraft that run on alternative and renewable fuels. The study found that it is imperative that the Pentagon apply new energy technologies that address alternative supply sources and efficient consumption across all aspects of military operations. The military is the largest single energy consumer in the country.
In Venezuela, President Hugo Chavez marked May Day by seizing control of the country’s remaining privately held oil projects, including what might be the world’s richest oil fields, the Orinoco Belt. President Chavez made the announcement before thousands of supporters. He said the move was part of an effort to reclaim the country’s resources for the people of Venezuela.
Hugo Chavez: “Today’s ceremony on May 1 is a historic act. And it’s going to permit us to intercede with force and weight in the new history that we are building every day. Today, we put an end to a perverse cycle that was opened here more than 10 years ago.”
The international oil companies ConocoPhillips, Chevron, ExxonMobil, BP and Total agreed to the transfer of operational control. Venezuela is allowing the private oil companies to remain in the country, but the state oil company has become the majority stakeholder in every project.
Cubans marked May Day with a massive march through Revolution Plaza in Havana on Tuesday. Hundreds of thousands attended. There had been rumors that Fidel Castro would make an appearance, but he did not attend the rally. Castro has not been seen in public since becoming sick in July.
In Oaxaca City, Mexico, a group of students marked May Day by taking over a university radio station in order to broadcast messages in support of APPO, the Popular Assembly of the People of Oaxaco. Last year the same radio station, Radio Universidad, served as the nerve center for the popular uprising in Oaxaca.
In Nigeria, thousands of people marked May Day by gathering in Lagos and other cities to protest the government for rigging last month’s presidential election.
Joe Okei-Odumakin, a leader of the Campaign for Democracy: “The Nigeria Labor Congress is having celebration, and as they are celebrating it, Nigeria is bleeding, and we are mourning the death of democracy as a result of our election that was rigged. It was a violent violation of our fundamental human right to choose who will govern us. So we are giving the government a two-week ultimatum to cancel the election. And our plan of action starts today, May 1st, with the mourning of democracy in Nigeria.”
The fairness of Nigeria’s elections have been widely criticized by international election monitors and members of the Nigerian opposition. Last week the Nigerian Nobel laureate Wole Soyinka called for a new vote.
In Europe, police have arrested 30 animal rights activists in a series of coordinated raids in Britain, Belgium and the Netherlands. Seven hundred police officers and staff took part in what is believed to the largest crackdown ever on animal rights activists in Europe. No charges have been brought against the 15 men and 15 women arrested. One police official accused the activists of waging a campaign of harassment and intimidation against the animal research industry. For years, animal rights activists have waged a successful campaign targeting the British company Huntingdon Life Sciences because it carries out medical tests on animals.
In news from Washington, a high-ranking Interior Department official has resigned after she was accused of pressuring government scientists. Julie MacDonald resigned as deputy assistant secretary for fish, wildlife and parks a week before she was scheduled to testify before Congress. Last year the Union of Concerned Scientists accused MacDonald of personally changing scientific reports to prevent endangered species from receiving protection.
Survivors of the 1970 massacre at Kent State are calling on officials to re-investigate what happened on May 4, 1970, when the National Guard shot four students dead at an antiwar rally. On Tuesday, one of the survivors, Alan Canfora, released an audio tape from the day of the shootings. Canfora said by closely listening you can hear a National Guard officer issue the command, “Right Here, Get Set! Point! Fire!” Following the command, the sounds of shots being fired can be heard. The FBI has never determined whether an order to shoot was given. Eight members of the National Guard were acquitted of federal civil rights charges four years after the shootings. Canfora said the reel-to-reel audio recording was made by a student on campus.
And in sports news, The New York Times is reporting a new academic study on the National Basketball Association has found that white referees called fouls at a greater rate against black players than against white players. The study claims that the different rates at which fouls are called is large enough that the probability of a team winning is noticeably affected by the racial composition of the refereeing crew assigned to the game. The NBA has rejected the study’s findings.