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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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WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange remains in a London jail after Swedish officials challenged a British court decision to release him on bail. Assange has been detained since last week, when he was arrested in London on an international warrant to face sexual crime allegations in Sweden. His arrest came amidst an international uproar over WikiLeaks’ most recent publication of a massive trove of secret U.S. diplomatic cables. Assange’s attorney, Mark Stephens, said Assange could remain behind bars until a follow-up hearing within 48 hours.
Mark Stephens: “Finally, after two hours, we’ve heard that the Swedes won’t abide by the umpire’s decision, and they want to put Mr. Assange through yet more trouble, more expense, more hurdles. They clearly will not spare any expense but to keep Mr. Assange in jail. This is really turning into a show trial, and we will be in court again within the next 48 hours.”
WikiLeaks supporters continue to hold actions worldwide. As Assange appeared in court, hundreds of people rallied in support outside the U.S. Embassy in Sydney, Australia, his home country.
Organizer: “We have to take a stand here. This is his birthplace in Australia. If there isn’t a movement here, there won’t be one anywhere.”
The release of the classified U.S. diplomatic cables continues to fuel government censorship here in the United States. The U.S. Air Force has announced it is now blocking personnel from accessing the websites of more than 25 news outlets and blogs that have posted the cables so far. The censored outlets include the New York Times, The Guardian of London, Germany’s Der Spiegel, Spain’s El País and France’s Le Monde. Air Force personnel trying to read those websites are met with a message saying, “Access Denied: Internet usage is logged and monitored.”
The U.S. Air Force censorship comes as an incoming Republican Congress member has called for targeting news outlets that published the cables. In a radio interview, Rep.-elect Allen West of Florida called for censoring any news outlets that ran stories based on the cables’ release.
Allen West: “Here is an individual that is not an American citizen, first and foremost, for whatever reason, you know, gotten his hands on classified American material and has put it out there in the public domain. And I think that we also should be censoring the American news agencies which enabled him to be able to do this and then also supported him and applauded him for the efforts. So, that’s kind of aiding and abetting of a serious crime.”
In Iran, at least 38 people have been killed in a suicide bombing near a mosque in the southeastern city of Chabahar. More than 60 people were wounded in the attack. Witnesses on the ground say the death toll could rise.
At least 27 people have died after a boat believed to be carrying asylum seekers crashed in Australian waters. More than 40 people were rescued. The passengers were believed to be Iranians and Iraqis seeking asylum in Australia. Their boat was apparently trying to reach Christmas Island, where Australia has an immigration detention center. A witness said the crash was “terrifying.”
Witness: “It was terrifying to watch it, and there was nothing — nothing — we can do. You don’t know. They were lying down. They were obviously very, very sick. Some of them weren’t even moving, that would have been so sick. But I saw children on that boat. I saw children. And I can hear children screaming.”
Tensions are rising in the Ivory Coast over a disputed election between incumbent President Laurent Gbagbo and opposition leader Alassane Ouattara. Gbagbo is refusing to recognize election results from last month showing Ouattara won the race. Ouattara’s party has called on supporters to stage mass protests against Gbagbo this week. An Ivory Coast citizen said his country is in crisis.
Samuel Dougo: ’’This situation is very sad, especially for our country, which for 10 years has been plunged into a crisis situation. We thought, with these elections, we would leave the crisis behind, but unfortunately it seems to me that we have gone deeper into it—with this two-headed government. The two candidates from the last round (of voting) have proclaimed themselves president, and this is really difficult for the rest of us.”
The Ivory Coast military has backed Gbagbo’s attempt to remain in office. The African Union has suspended Ivory Coast’s membership in protest of Gbagbo, and the U.S. has threatened to impose sanctions.
The oil services giant Halliburton has reportedly reached a settlement deal with Nigerian prosecutors in a corruption case against former Vice President Dick Cheney. Last week, Nigerian prosecutors filed charges against Cheney in a $180 million bribery investigation stemming from his time heading the company before taking office. Cheney, Halliburton chief executive David Lesar and six others were indicted on 16 counts for the bribing of Nigerian officials to win a lucrative gas project. Former Halliburton subsidiary KBR pleaded guilty in the United States last year to bribery charges in the case. According to Agence France-Presse, Halliburton has agreed to pay Nigeria a $250 million settlement. The deal would first need approval from the Nigerian government.
President Obama is hosting a group of 20 top corporate executives for meetings at the White House today. The list of guests includes the heads of General Electric, Google Comcast, Dow Chemical and UBS.
The top U.S. Marine Corps general is facing calls to resign after claiming that allowing openly gay and lesbian servicemembers in the military could threaten the lives of U.S. troops. On Tuesday, Marine Commandant General James Amos said that repealing the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy could to lead to “distractions” for troops in combat situations.
Gen. James Amos: “When your life hangs on the line, on the intuitive behavior of the young man — and this is predominantly what we’re talking about right here — young man, that sits to your right and your left, you don’t want anything distracting that. I take that very, very seriously. I don’t want to lose any Marines to a distraction. I don’t want to have any Marines that I’m visiting at Bethesda (hospital) with no legs be a result of any type of distraction.”
Amos’s comments mark the first time a senior Pentagon official has suggested that repealing “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” could cost lives. In a statement, the Servicemembers Legal Defense Network said Amos should drop his opposition or step down from his post. A recent Pentagon review found that a clear majority of servicemembers have no opposition to lifting the ban, with more than 70 percent saying that a repeal would have “positive, mixed or no results.”
A federal appeals court has ruled that government agents must obtain a warrant in order to seize and search emails in a criminal investigation. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit found that emails are protected under the Fourth Amendment in the Constitution. In a statement, the Electronic Frontier Foundation hailed the ruling as a “landmark decision … that squarely rules on this critically important privacy issue.”
In Puerto Rico, armed police have occupied the main campus of the University of Puerto Rico in San Juan following the end of a two-day student strike. Puerto Rican officials say the officers will remain indefinitely to ensure non-striking students can attend classes. The strike was called in protest of a tuition hike that takes effect next month. Student activists have blasted the police operation as a militarization of campus and a crackdown on dissent.