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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 continues to release more documents from its trove of some quarter million classified U.S. diplomatic cables. Among the new disclosures is a claim that the oil giant Royal Dutch Shell essentially infiltrated the Nigerian government to monitor and influence decisions related to its business in the Niger Delta. A cable from October 2009 quotes Ann Pickard, then Shell’s vice president in Africa, saying that the Nigerian government “[forgot] that Shell had seconded people to all the relevant ministries and that Shell consequently had access to everything that was being done in those ministries.” An earlier cable from 2008 shows that Shell passed intelligence claims to U.S. diplomats, including naming two Nigerian politicians the company said were backing Nigerian militants. Shell officials also asked the United States to relay information on whether Nigerian militants had acquired anti-aircraft missiles. In an ironic aside, one cable quotes the Shell executive, Ann Pickard, as saying she’s hesitant to talk to U.S. officials because the U.S. government is “leaky.” The cable continues, “She may be concerned that … bad news about Shell’s Nigerian operations will leak out.” In response to the cables, Celestine AkpoBari of the group Social Action Nigeria said, “Shell is everywhere. They have an eye and an ear in every ministry of Nigeria… They are more powerful than the Nigerian government.”
The WikiLeaks U.S. diplomatic cables also show heightened U.S. concerns over Chinese and Russian interest in African oil. In a meeting with oil company executives, Johnnie Carson, the assistant secretary of state for African Affairs, says, “China is a very aggressive and pernicious economic competitor with no morals. China is not in Africa for altruistic reasons. China is in Africa for China primarily.’’
Another leaked cable from Africa shows U.S. officials asked the Ugandan government to report plans to commit war crimes based on U.S. intelligence—but did not try to dissuade the war crimes from being committed. The U.S. ambassador to the Republic of Uganda, Jerry Lanier, wrote one year ago, “Uganda understands the need to consult with the U.S. in advance if the [Ugandan army] intends to use U.S.-supplied intelligence to engage in operations not [governed] by the law of armed conflict.” The cables give no indication the U.S. asked Uganda not to commit war crimes in the first place.
There are new reports that WikiLeaks is also in possession of a separate cache of documents containing extensive files on the U.S. military prison at Guantánamo Bay. According to Reuters, anonymous “media” sources say WikiLeaks has files on every Guantánamo prisoner. The documents allegedly show that some prisoners were released despite concerns they posed a threat.
WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange remains in a London prison following his arrest on an international warrant from Sweden. Assange has not been charged but is wanted for questioning on allegations of sexual crimes. Computer hackers supportive of WikiLeaks meanwhile have launched a number of cyber-attacks on the websites of companies and others who have acted against WikiLeaks and Assange. Calling the cyber-attacks “Operation Payback,” the hackers disrupted the web operations of MasterCard after the credit card giant pulled the plug on its dealings with WikiLeaks. The so-called “hacktivists” also targeted the websites of Visa, Swedish prosecutors and a Swiss bank that closed Assange’s account. WikiLeaks meanwhile is seeing a surge of online support, with more than one million fans listed on its Facebook page.
WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange continues to face threatening calls from a number of U.S. politicians and commentators since the release of the diplomatic cables. This week, Fox Business commentator Bob Beckel called for Assange’s assassination.
Bob Beckel: “We’ve got special ops forces. I mean, a dead man can’t leak stuff. This guy’s a traitor, a treasonous, and he has broken every law of the United States. The guy ought to be—and I’m not for the death penalty—so if I’m not for the death penalty, there’s only one way to do it: illegally shoot the son of a bitch.”
The U.S. House of Representatives has approved a measure that would prevent the transfer of Guantánamo Bay prisoners for trial in U.S. courts. The ban was approved as part of a catch-all spending bill that passed by a 212-206 vote.
The U.S. House of Representatives authorized passage of the DREAM Act, a provision that would grant undocumented young people a chance at citizenship. Under the measure, immigrant youth could obtain permanent residency with a chance for citizenship, provided they attend college for at least two years or enlist in the military. Democratic Congressmember Luis Gutiérrez of Illinois hailed the bill’s passage.
Rep. Luis Gutiérrez: “In the end, we all came together and we were victorious, and that’s what we have to celebrate tonight. And understand that if we’ve learned anything, it’s that we can—when it becomes difficult, when it gets a little desperate, when it gets a little dark, when it seems as though there is no avenue to success and to justice, we cannot turn inwards. We have to look outwards at where our enemies and the forces of resistance exist and go after them.”
A recent Congressional Budget Office report found that the DREAM Act would knock $1.4 billion off the federal deficit over the next decade. The U.S. Senate is expected to take up whether to begin debate on its version of the DREAM Act bill today.
Protests have erupted across Haiti over allegations of voter fraud in last month’s presidential election. At least two people were killed Wednesday as thousands of Haitians held demonstrations in the capital Port-au-Prince and other cities. This week Haiti’s election council announced a runoff vote between government-backed candidate Jude Celestin and former first lady Mirlande Manigat. On Wednesday, supporters of third-place candidate Michel Martelly erected barricades across Port-au-Prince to demand his inclusion in the second-round vote. One protester said the United States had helped advance Celestin’s bid.
Protester: “The Americans have elected Jude Celestin. They want to put him in power. If there is a second round, it is not for the people.”
In Maryland, a 21-year-old Baltimore resident has been arrested on charges of trying to blow up a military recruiting station in a bomb plot orchestrated in an FBI sting. Antonio Martinez was jailed Wednesday after allegedly trying to detonate a fake bomb supplied to him by undercover FBI agents. A recent convert to Islam, Martinez was targeted for the sting after the FBI was alerted to postings on his Facebook page. His arrest is the latest in a series of cases in which the role of government agents has sparked allegations of entrapment.