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This week, Democracy Now! is celebrating our 22nd birthday. Since our first show in February 1996, our daily news hour has brought you fearless journalism and hard-hitting news you can trust--all without ads or corporate underwriting. How is this possible? Only with your support. In fact, if everyone reading this gave just $4, it would cover our operating expenses for the whole year. Right now, a generous donor will TRIPLE every donation, meaning your gift today will go three times as far. Pretty amazing, right? Please do your part. Take a moment to give right now for our 22nd birthday.
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Hundreds of thousands of protesters took to the streets Saturday in the October 15 Global Day of Rage inspired by the Occupy Wall Street encampment. Protests reportedly took place in 1,500 cities worldwide, including 100 cities in the United States. The day’s largest protest took place in Italy, where more than 200,000 took to the streets of Rome. While the protests were peaceful around the globe, in Rome some people set cars ablaze and broke the window of banks and shops, sparking the country’s worst riots in a decade. News reports said that some of the 12 arrested for the riots were believed to belong to right-wing soccer fan groups, while others were linked to anarchist groups. In Britain, thousands of protesters marched on the London Stock Exchange.
Spyro Van Leemnen: “The issue is global, so for the first time we have a truly global movement that is bringing together people from different countries focusing on one aim: to change the financial system and how it interacts with governments, because we feel that we’re not fairly represented through the democratic system as it is now, which seems to benefit a handful of banks as opposed to the 99 percent of the public.”
Here in the United States, police arrested hundreds of people over the weekend at demonstrations and occupations inspired by Occupy Wall Street, which began a month ago today in New York City’s Financial District. In Illinois, police arrested about 175 Occupy Chicago protesters after they refused to leave Grant Park, the site of President Obama’s election night victory rally. In Arizona, nearly 100 were arrested at Occupy protests in Phoenix and Tucson. Nineteen members of Occupy Raleigh in North Carolina were charged with trespassing for refusing to leave the State Capitol grounds. Twenty-four protesters were arrested at Occupy Denver. In Washington, D.C., Princeton University Professor Cornel West was one of 19 people arrested on the steps of the Supreme Court during a protest against money in politics. And in New York City, at least 92 people were arrested on Saturday during a day of action that saw tens of thousands march to Times Square. Earlier in the day, about two dozen people were arrested at a Citibank in Manhattan while they attempted to move their money out of the bank. The protesters were reportedly locked into the bank and then detained. Bank officials accused the protesters of being disruptive. Video shot outside the bank shows an undercover police officer dragging one woman into the bank and then arresting her.
Undercover police officer: “You were inside. You were inside with everybody else.”
Customer: “I’m a customer. I’m a customer.”
Witness 1: “She is a customer.”
Customer: “I’m a customer.”
Undercover police officer: “You were inside. Yes, but you were inside with the whole—no, no, no.”
Witness 2: “What are you doing? What are you doing? What are you doing? … She’s not doing anything! She’s not doing anything wrong! Oh, my god! This is wrong! This is wrong!”
In a major development from Africa, hundreds of Kenyan troops, backed by tanks and helicopter gunships, have invaded southern Somalia in Kenya’s largest military operation in years. The move comes as Kenya declared war on the Somali militant group al-Shabab. There are reports warplanes have already carried out air strikes on Shabab strongholds in southern Somalia. Kenya has blamed Shabab for a recent string of kidnappings of Europeans in Kenya.
President Obama has deployed about 100 “combat-equipped U.S. forces,” including special operations personnel, to central Africa to help fight against Uganda’s renegade Lord’s Resistance Army and its leader, Joseph Kony. In a letter to U.S. congressional leaders, Obama wrote, “I have authorized a small number of combat-equipped U.S. forces to deploy to central Africa to provide assistance to regional forces that are working toward the removal of Joseph Kony from the battlefield.” The 100 troops, primarily U.S. special operations forces, will reportedly assist forces from Uganda, South Sudan, the Central African Republic and the Democratic Republic of the Congo. In June, it was revealed the United States would provide drone aircraft to Uganda and Burundi as part of a $45 million military aid package. Uganda is also the site of a recent major oil discovery. Researchers estimate the Lake Albert basin holds between between 2.5 and 6 billion of barrels of oil. It is the largest onshore oil discovery in sub-Saharan African in more than two decades.
The United States is intensifying its drone war in Yemen. On Friday, the United States carried out at least five drone strikes targeting members of al-Qaeda’s Yemeni branch. Nine people were reportedly killed, including Abdul-Rahman al-Awlaki, the 21-year-old son of Anwar al-Awlaki, the U.S.-born cleric who was assassinated in a separate U.S. drone strike last month. Meanwhile, anti-government protesters in Yemen are continuing to come under attack by forces allied to President Ali Abdullah Saleh. At least 13 demonstrators have been killed since Sunday. The Guardian reports protesters are writing their names across their chests for identification in case they are killed in anti-Saleh marches.
The Obama administration has announced it is pulling the plug on a long-term home care program included in the 2010 healthcare reform law. The Community Living Assistance Services and Supports, or CLASS program, was designed to give the disabled and elderly cash to receive care at home instead of usually more expensive institutional care. The program was co-authored by the late Sen. Edward Kennedy and Democratic Rep. Frank Pallone of New Jersey. Pallone criticized the Obama administration’s decision, saying, “While we are fighting so hard against Republican attempts to cut Medicaid … abandoning the CLASS Act is the wrong decision. Soon enough, those in need will have nowhere to go for long-term care.”
In news from Alabama, a federal appeals court has blocked enforcement of parts of the state’s controversial anti-immigrant law that has already forced thousands of undocumented immigrants, primarily Latino, to flee the state. One temporarily blocked provision allowed state and local officials to check the immigration status of public school students.
The Israeli group Peace Now has condemned a plan by the Israeli government to build more than 2,600 housing units in a new urban settlement in Jerusalem. The Peace Now group said the plan was approved last week by a municipal committee, which had given the go-ahead for construction on the site. Hagit Ofran is the director of settlement watch at Peace Now.
Hagit Ofran, Peace Now director: “The plan is to build another new Israeli settlement in East Jerusalem for the first time since the '90s, when they built Har Homa. And this specific plan, if it's implemented, it might destroy the possibility for a two-state solution and land swap.”
Longtime Egyptian opposition leader Ayman Nour has been barred from running in Egypt’s upcoming presidential election expected to take place in 2013. A Cairo court ruled him ineligible because of a controversial forgery conviction. Nour was charged with the crime in 2005 ahead of his run against former Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak. Pro-democracy activists have criticized the exclusion of Nour at a time when former members of Mubarak’s National Democratic Party have been allowed to register unimpeded for parliamentary elections.
Tens of thousands gathered on Sunday for a dedication of the new Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. National Memorial in Washington, D.C. Speakers included members of the King family, veterans of the civil rights movement, and President Obama.
President Barack Obama: “It is right for us to celebrate Dr. King’s marvelous oratory, but it is worth remembering that progress did not come from words alone. Progress was hard. Progress was purchased through enduring the smack of billy clubs and the blast of fire hoses. It was bought with days in jail cells and nights of bomb threats. For every victory during the height of the civil rights movement, there were setbacks and there were defeats.”
President Obama also referred to the Occupy Wall Street protests during his speech at the MLK National Monument.
President Barack Obama: “If he were alive today, I believe he would remind us that the unemployed worker can rightly challenge the excesses of Wall Street without demonizing all who work there, that the businessman can enter tough negations with his company’s union without vilifying the right to collectively bargain. He would want us to know we can argue fiercely about the proper size and role of government without questioning each other’s love for this country, with the knowledge that in this democracy government is no distant object, but is rather an expression of our common commitments to one another.”
The dedication ceremony was originally scheduled for August 28, the 48th anniversary of King’s “I Have a Dream” speech in Washington, D.C., but was delayed because of Hurricane Irene.
The Native American elder and activist Elouise Cobell has died at the age of 65. A member of the Blackfeet Nation, she was the lead plaintiff in a landmark 1996 lawsuit claiming the U.S. Department of Interior had misspent, lost or stolen hundreds of billions of dollars meant for Native American land trust account holders dating back to the 1880s. After a nearly 15-year legal battle, the U.S. government settled for $3.4 billion, the largest government class action settlement in U.S. history. The beneficiaries are estimated to be about 500,000 people. Elouise Cobell also helped found the first bank to be owned by an American Indian nation, the Blackfeet National Bank, which is now the Native American Bank. In 2009 she spoke in Washington, D.C., when the landmark settlement was announced.
Elouise Cobell: “Although we have reached a settlement totaling more than $3.4 billion, there is little doubt this is significantly less than the full accounting to which individual Indians are entitled. Yes, we could prolong our struggle and fight longer, and perhaps one day we would know, down to the penny, how much individual Indians are owed. Perhaps we could even litigate long enough to increase the settlement amount. But we are compelled to settle now by the sobering realization that our class grows smaller each year, each month and every day, as our elders die and are forever prevented from receiving their just compensation.”