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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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At least two people have been killed in the latest NATO air strike on the Tripoli compound of Libyan leader Col. Muammar Gaddafi. It is the first known deaths at the compound since the attack that killed Gaddafi’s youngest son and three grandchildren late last month. The bombing came hours after the Libyan government released new footage of Gaddafi after a two-week lull. There are conflicting accounts, meanwhile, of clashes in the western city of Misurata. Rebel groups say they have captured the airport there, but the Gaddafi regime has rejected their claims.
At least 19 people have reportedly been killed in the Syrian government’s latest assault on widening protests. Using weapons and tanks, Syrian forces fired on residential areas in several flashpoints of protest to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. A human rights group says 13 were killed in the southern village of Al Harah, while six people were killed in the city of Homs. Earlier today, Syrian forces reportedly broke up a massive student protest in Aleppo, Syria’s second-largest city. Hundreds have been killed and thousands arrested in the Assad regime’s crackdown.
In other Syria news, Al Jazeera says it has received word missing reporter Dorothy Parvaz has been deported to Iran. Parvaz was detained late last month shortly after arriving in Syria to cover the unrest. Syria says Parvaz is now being held by the Iranian government in Tehran, but no one has heard from her directly.
State forces in Yemen opened fire on protesters in three cities Wednesday, killing at least nine people and injuring scores of others. A doctor in the capital city of Sana’a reported six people were killed and roughly 100 were wounded when shooters opened fire on a crowd numbering in the tens of thousands marching to the cabinet building. Speaking from a hospital ward filled with wounded protesters, one witness described the assault.
Witness: “So many people were hit by bullets. So many people are killed everywhere. So many people are killed. This regime doesn’t know mercy. I call on a revolution that destroys this regime. I call on an awakening of the people to destroy this regime and this killer (Saleh), who killed our martyrs.”
The violence came as protests against embattled president, Ali Abdullah Saleh, entered their fourth month.
In Bahrain, allegations have emerged of government forces attacking young schoolgirls in the ongoing crackdown against opposition protests. Speaking to Al Jazeera, Bahraini girls described raids on their school and threats of rape directed at girls as young as 12 years old. A 16-year-old student said she and three classmates were taken from school and severely beaten.
Student: “He hit and banged me against the wall to make me scream. Since we did not scream, we were beaten more and more, stronger and stronger. The beating was severe, but being afraid of what was coming next meant we were senseless to the pain. He pulled a hose out and started beating us. He hit me over the head. I started bleeding and fell down. He told them [the guards] to keep me in the restroom.”
The government of Bahrain has reportedly carried out at least 15 such raids targeting children. Bahrain is a key U.S. ally in the Middle East, hosting the Navy’s Fifth Fleet.
Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki has left open the possibility of an extended U.S. occupation beyond the withdrawal deadline for later this year. On Wednesday, Maliki said he will meet with Iraqi leaders to see if there is support for extending the occupation. The Pentagon has reportedly given Maliki a deadline of several weeks to decide whether to request a prolonged U.S. stay. There are currently some 46,000 U.S. troops in Iraq on nearly 70 bases, in addition to tens of thousands of private contractors.
Senate Democrats have reintroduced the DREAM Act for the first time since Republicans blocked its passage late last year. Under the measure, immigrant youth would obtain permanent residency with a chance for citizenship, provided they attend college for at least two years or enlist in the military.
The Republican-controlled House continues to advance measures that would speed the resumption of offshore oil drilling. On Wednesday, the House approved a bill that would force the U.S. Department of Interior to act within 60 days on all bids for drilling permits. Another Republican bill to resume drilling along the Atlantic, Pacific and Arctic coasts is expected to come to a vote today.
Congressional Democrats are pushing bills that would repeal at least $21 billion in tax breaks for the five largest oil firms. Executives from those companies—Exxon Mobil, Shell, BP, Chevron and ConocoPhillips—are scheduled to testify before the Senate Finance Committee today.
The Iranian government has delayed the trial of three American hikers who were arrested in June 2009 near the Iran-Iraq border. The trial of Shane Bauer, Josh Fatal and Sarah Shourd was due to begin Wednesday, but the Iranian government unexpectedly postponed the case. The hikers’ lawyer, Masoud Shafiee, said he had received no explanation on the delay.
Masoud Shafiee: “The head of judiciary is responsible for and should provide a logical reason as to why my clients have not been sent from prison to the courtroom, the date of which had been confirmed over five months ago. Is the prison at my disposal so that I can bring my clients from prison? Logically, the judiciary should oversee this.”
Bauer and Fatal are imprisoned in Iran, while Shourd is back in the United States following her release last year. She is suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder and has refused to return to Iran for the trial.
Uganda’s parliament has delayed consideration of a bill that would force gays and lesbians to serve life in prison. Debate on the bill has been moved to Friday after a parliamentary walkout over an unrelated matter. Originally put forward in 2009, the legislation once called for the execution of homosexuals. In addition to targeting gays and lesbians directly, the bill also mandates a seven-year prison sentence for anyone who “aids, abets, counsels or procures another to engage [in] acts of homosexuality.”
A new study estimates more than two million women have been raped in the Democratic Republic of Congo, a figure that translates to some 1,100 women every day, or nearly one woman every minute. The findings are based on extrapolations from a survey of 3,400 women conducted in 2007. The study authors say the figure is likely a conservative estimate, but the United Nations says it could be misleading because the sample group is too small.
A Federal Communications Commission commissioner is facing scrutiny for resigning her post to become a top lobbyist for the media giant, Comcast-NBC. The commissioner, Meredith Attwell Baker, joins Comcast-NBC just four months after voting to approve the companies’ controversial merger. In a statement, Craig Aaron of the media reform group Free Press said, “This is … perhaps [the] most blatant example of a so-called public servant cashing in at a company she is supposed to be regulating… The continuously revolving door at the FCC continues to erode any prospects for good public policy.”
A billionaire hedge fund manager has been convicted on 14 counts of fraud and conspiracy in the largest insider trading case to come out of the financial crisis. Using secretly recorded conversations and the testimony of co-conspirators, prosecutors argued Raj Rajaratnam of Galleon Management reaped profits by illegally tipping off associates. Rajaratnam could face up to 25 years in prison. Defense attorney John Dowd said he will appeal.
John Dowd: “Good afternoon. We’re going to take an appeal from this conviction. We started out with 37 stocks; we’re down to 14. So the score is, you know, 23-14 in favor of the defense. We’ll see you in the Second Circuit. Thank you.”
Former Republican House Speaker Newt Gingrich has announced his bid for the Republican presidential nomination. In a videotaped message, Gingrich touted his work under the Reagan administration and his later stint as the top Republican in the House during the Clinton administration.
Newt Gingrich: “I worked with President Ronald Reagan in a very difficult period. We got jobs created again, Americans proud of America, and the Soviet Union disappeared. As speaker of the House, I worked to reform welfare, to balance the budget, to control spending, to cut taxes to create economic growth… We’ve done it before. We can do it again.”
In New Hampshire, Democratic Gov. John Lynch has vetoed a measure targeting the collective bargaining of state unions. The Republican-backed bill would have stopped unions from requiring non-members to pay a share of bargaining and administrative costs.
Thousands of people are expected to descend on Wall Street today for a protest against austerity measures and financial industry wrongdoing. Organizers of the May 12 Coalition say they will call on New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg to close tax loopholes and regulate financial practices, instead of targeting the public sector with layoffs and budget cuts.