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This month Democracy Now! turns 27. Since our very first broadcast in 1996, Democracy Now! has been committed to fearless, independent journalism. We bring you the stories, voices and perspectives that you simply won't hear anywhere else. In these challenging times, with press freedom under attack worldwide, our reporting has never been more important. Can you donate $10 to keep us going strong? Today a generous donor will TRIPLE your donation, making it three times as valuable. Democracy Now! doesn't accept advertising income, corporate underwriting or government funding. That means we rely on you to make our work possible—and every dollar counts. Please make your gift now, and thank you so much.
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In Burma, as many as 100,000 anti-government protesters marched through Rangoon today in the largest protest against Burma’s military junta in almost 20 years. Thousands of Buddhist monks dressed in maroon robes led the march through Burma’s former capital. The monks have vowed to continue holding marches until they have “wiped the military dictatorship from the land.” On Saturday, monks marched to the home of Nobel Peace laureate and pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi, who has been under house arrest since 2003. Military authorities allowed Suu Kyi to briefly greet and pray with the monks. It was her first public appearance in more than four years. When monks tried to march to Suu Kyi’s home on Sunday, government security forces blocked access to her home by setting up barbed-wire barricades.
In Jena, Louisiana, a judge has refused to release Mychal Bell on bail. Bell is the only one of the Jena Six still behind bars. He has been in jail since December. The decision came down on Friday, a day after tens of thousands of protesters marched in Jena to demand justice for the Jena Six, the six African-American students who face a total of over 100 years in jail for allegedly taking part in a schoolyard fight. In June, an all-white jury convicted Mychal Bell of aggravated second-degree battery, but the 3rd Circuit Circuit of Appeals overturned the conviction because Bell was wrongly tried as an adult.
In the neighboring town of Alexandria, Louisiana, police arrested two white teenagers on Thursday night after they found nooses dangling from the rear of their pickup truck. One of the teenagers told police he had a KKK tattoo on his chest and said some of his relatives were involved in the Ku Klux Klan.
Meanwhile, the FBI is reviewing a white supremacist website that is essentially calling for the lynching of the Jena Six. The website contains the home addresses and phone numbers of five of the teenagers. The owners of the website said it posted the information “in case anyone wants to deliver justice.”
In labor news, 73,000 workers at General Motors have announced plans to go on a nationwide strike today at 11 a.m. unless the company agrees to address job security and other issues. The United Auto Workers union and General Motors are in the middle of contract negotiations. Workers have not staged a national strike at General Motors since 1970.
President Bush is expected soon to ask Congress for an additional $200 billion to pay for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Earlier in the year, the White House outlined a request for around $147 billion, but now the Bush administration admits more money is needed. The United States is now spending $720 million a day on the war in Iraq. A recent study by the American Friends Service Committee found the cost of war for one day could buy healthcare for over 420,000 children.
Private contractors working for Blackwater are back on the streets of Baghdad — one week after the Iraqi government threatened to expel the company for killing at least 11 Iraqis. On Sunday, Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki said Blackwater’s killing of Iraqi civilians challenge the nation’s sovereignty. But due to security concerns, Iraqi officials have allowed Blackwater to resume working in Iraq. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said the government will review the use of private security contractors, like Blackwater, in Iraq.
Condoleezza Rice: “We will review with — expeditiously, the procedures. We will review how we carry out our security. And we will have in this joint commission with the Iraqis, I think, an open and transparent view of what is going on. But it is extremely important to recognize that we’re doing important work there. We need protection for our diplomats. And I’m quite certain that with good will we can resolve this.”
Iran’s President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has arrived in New York to attend the United Nations General Assembly. In an interview on 60 Minutes, Ahmadinejad said Iran was not on a path of war with the U.S. and that Iran had no need of nuclear weapons. Protests are scheduled at Columbia University today where Ahmadinejad is scheduled to speak.
Leaders from 80 nations are expected to take part in a special United Nations meeting today in New York to jump-start talks on how to deal with climate change and how to replace the Kyoto treaty. President Bush has decided to skip the meeting, but he will attend a closed-door dinner tonight. Later this week, President Bush plans to host his own meeting on global warming. He has invited 15 countries that are major emitters of greenhouse gases to meet in Washington for two days. Bush hopes to persuade these countries to come to a consensus that would allow each nation to set its own policies rather than having limits imposed by a binding international treaty.
The Washington Post is reporting the Department of Homeland Security is collecting detailed electronic records on the travel habits of millions of Americans who fly, drive or take cruises abroad. The government is retaining data on the persons with whom they travel or plan to stay, the personal items they carry during their journeys, and even the books that travelers have carried. In an effort to assess the security threat posed by all travelers entering the country, the Department of Homeland Security keeps these records for 15 years in the department’s Automated Targeting System.
Cuban television has aired a new interview with Fidel Castro, the first in over three months. In the interview, Castro warned that the Bush administration could go to war with Iran.
Fidel Castro: “They are going to talk about all these topics, but the dangers I am referring to are underlying, the danger of an attack against Iran. The U.S. is making international organizations go there to Iran. They have total control.”
Castro has not been seen in public since July 31, 2006.
In other news from Latin America, Chile has extradited former Peruvian President Alberto Fujimori to Peru to face charges of corruption and sanctioning a death squad.
German authorities have dropped efforts to seek the extradition of 13 CIA operatives charged in the kidnapping of German citizen Khalid El-Masri four years ago.
A group of Chicago City Council members are calling on the Justice Department to investigate former police commander Jon Burge. He is accused of torturing prisoners in the 1970s and early 1980s.
And the world’s best-known mime artist, Marcel Marceau, has died at the age of 84. For decades he moved audiences across the globe without uttering a single word. Off stage, he often discussed the power of his art.
Marcel Marceau: “I’m sure that you can be young, and you have to be careful about your heart. And you can be old and have a young heart. But it’s very difficult to speak about this, because there is a certain injustice. Not everybody is equal. Not everybody has the same health. There are so many people who are in difficulty of life. But you have to bring them — through television, through films, through books or art, you bring them the mystery of still dreaming and hoping until the last moment, that life, I would say, can be beautiful, even if it is sometimes harsh.”