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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. Today 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 tripled by a generous supporter. This means if you give $30 today, Democracy Now! will get $90 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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President Obama has ruled out the release of photographs showing the dead body of Osama bin Laden. Speaking to CBS News, Obama said he does not want to risk inciting bin Laden’s supporters.
President Obama: “There is no doubt that we killed Osama bin Laden. It is important for us to make sure that very graphic photos of somebody who was shot in the head are not floating around as an incitement to additional violence, as a propaganda tool. You know, that’s not who we are.”
The Pakistani government is claiming it warned U.S. intelligence two years ago about the compound where bin Laden was killed. In a statement, the Pakistani Foreign Ministry said it had shared intelligence with the CIA about the compound since 2009. The statement says, “The fact is that this particular location was pointed out by our intelligence quite some time ago to the U.S. intelligence.” Meanwhile in Pakistan, hundreds of people took part in protests Wednesday criticizing the United States for conducting unilateral attacks inside Pakistan’s borders.
Protester: “We want to convey that we are insecure. Today Americans came, they did what they wanted to. Tomorrow India will come and will do what they want to. Where is our security?”
American Indian groups are seeking an apology for the U.S. military’s use of the name of the legendary Apache warrior, Geronimo, as a codename for Osama bin Laden. It has been widely reported bin Laden was dubbed “Geronimo” in the operation that took his life. The real-life Geronimo defended tribal lands against U.S. and Mexican armies in the 19th century. He died as a U.S. prisoner of war in 1909 after more than 20 years in captivity. In a letter to President Obama, the Fort Sill Apache Tribe said, “To equate Geronimo or any other Native American figure with Osama bin Laden, a mass murderer and cowardly terrorist, is painful and offensive to our Tribe and to all native Americans.” The U.S. Senate Indian Affairs Committee is expected to address the controversy in a hearing today.
Forces loyal to Libyan leader Col. Muammar Gaddafi have attacked an aid ship attempting to rescue stranded civilians in the port city of Misurata. At least five people were killed in the attack and many more wounded. Hundreds of Libyans seeking evacuation were left behind after the ship was forced to pull away. Foreign ministers from NATO countries, meanwhile, are meeting in Rome today to discuss ways to finance Libya’s rebels. The rebel Transitional National Council has appealed for loans of up to $3 billion.
The chief prosecutor of the International Criminal Court appeared before the Security Council Wednesday to unveil his plan to seek charges against the Gaddafi regime for crimes against humanity committed in Libya. Luis Moreno-Ocampo said he would request arrest warrants in the coming weeks.
Luis Moreno-Ocampo: “In a few weeks, I will request before the judges of the International Criminal Court to issue arrest warrants against three individuals that, in accordance with our evidence, are the most responsible of the most serious crimes committed in Libya. Basically we presented a case on two aspects: crimes against humanity as murder, shooting civilians in demonstrations; and crimes against humanity as persecution, meaning illegal arrest, torture and forced disappearance of people in different cities under the control of the regime.”
The Obama administration is reportedly preparing to seek a major reduction in the corporate tax rate. According to Politico, U.S. Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner will issue a proposal to lower the top corporate tax rate from the current 35 percent to as low as 26 percent. An administration official said the proposal “would send a reassuring signal to the economy, and is something both parties should support in theory.” A business lobbyist called corporate tax reform “the easiest piece” of congressional negotiations on the economy “because you have people in both parties in the business community.”
U.S. House Republicans have passed a sweeping anti-abortion bill that would permanently bar federal spending for abortion care — including tax credits for private plans that cover abortion. Republicans argue the “No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion Act” codifies the government’s commitment to the Hyde Amendment, which bans federal funding for abortion but is up for review each year. Critics say the bill is effectively a punitive tax hike on insurance companies that cover abortion. Senate Democrats have vowed to reject the measure, and the White House has threatened a veto.
Illinois has become the first state to drop out of a controversial federal immigration enforcement policy that requires local police to forward fingerprints of every person they arrest to the U.S. Department of Homeland Security. The program, called Secure Communities, allows federal immigration officials to pursue deportation against those found to be undocumented or a non-citizen with a criminal record. Illinois Governor Pat Quinn says Immigration and Customs Enforcement has failed to answer complaints about the program. More than three-quarters of those targeted for deportation in Illinois were convicted of no crimes or misdemeanors. Speaking to the website Deportation Nation, Sunita Patel of the Center for Constitutional Rights said, “This [decision] shows state officials can stand up to the federal government. They can decide what’s best for their constituents, not what’s best for the federal authorities.”
Palestinian leaders gathered in Cairo, Egypt, Wednesday to mark the signing of a unity deal between the main factions, Fatah and Hamas. Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and Hamas leader Khaled Meshaal held their first face-to-face meeting since 2006. Palestinian activist Mustafa Barghouthi called on the international community to back the deal.
Mustafa Barghouthi: “What you’ve seen today is not only a sign of unity but, I hope you’ve read in the speeches that were made, a sign of moderation from all Palestinians, including Hamas, and that’s a very important step forward. I believe that Europe, the United States, everybody in this world should support the unity agreement. Israel, of course, is against the unity agreement, and that’s very clear. Why? Because Mr. [Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor] Lieberman, who doesn’t know how to speak diplomatically, said it very clearly. He said, 'We want Palestinians to remain divided so that they remain weak.' And we want to be unified so that we become powerful and strong, so that we can achieve real peace.”
Israel has rejected the Palestinian unity deal, with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu calling it “a tremendous blow to peace.” Israeli Vice-Premier Silvan Shalom said Israel will redouble its effort to oppose recognition of Palestinian statehood at the United Nations.
Silvan Shalom: '’What needs to be done these days is to prevent those efforts of the Palestinians to get the recognition in the U.N. Assembly to have a new Palestinian state, because if we will give them the recognition, it will help the Iranians to build one more front base here within the Middle East.'’
The Obama administration has also refused to back the unity deal. In Washington, U.S. State Department spokesperson Mark Toner called on Hamas to accept longstanding international demands.
Mark Toner: “We’ve been clear all along the principles to which we think any Hamas element in the government would have to adhere to. And that is, you know, recognition of the state of Israel, a commitment to nonviolence, and the acceptance of the previous agreements and obligations between the parties, including the road map. We’ve been clear about those all along, that if Hamas wants to play a meaningful role in the political process there, and indeed in the peace process, they need to — they need to adhere to these principles.”
Critics have long accused the United States of hypocrisy because neither the United States or Israel accept the same principles towards the Palestinians. With U.S. backing, the Israeli government has refused to recognize an independent Palestinian state in the occupied territories, commit to nonviolence, and accept previous agreements such as the road map.
The Syrian government is continuing its crackdown on pro-democracy activists. Around 300 people were reportedly arrested overnight in a raid on the Damascus suburb of Saqba. Syrian forces have also reportedly been deployed in new operations to other areas where protests have taken place. According to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, hundreds of detainees arrested in earlier raids received three-year prison sentences this week. Meanwhile, the Syrian government has acknowledged it is detaining Dorothy Parvaz, a journalist with the Al Jazeera English news network. Parvaz went missing Friday after arriving to cover Syria’s unrest. More than 500 Syrians are believed to have died since the protests began seven weeks ago.
Thousands of people gathered in the Yemen capital of Sana’a Wednesday to press their demand for the ouster of longtime President Ali Abdullah Saleh. The demonstrators also renewed calls for Saleh to be tried for the deaths of around 144 people since the protests began in January.
In Japan, workers have entered the damaged Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power facility for the first time since the facility was rocked by an explosion following a massive earthquake and tsunami in early March. According to the plant’s operator, Tokyo Electric Power Company, the workers have been tasked with installing ventilation in Unit 1 of the plant in order to absorb the radioactive air inside.
The private military firm Blackwater has hired former U.S. Attorney General John Ashcroft as the company’s new “ethics” chief. In a statement, Blackwater said Ashcroft will serve as “independent director,” tasked with overseeing accountability and promoting ethics and professionalism. Blackwater is currently under investigation for its involvement in a 2007 shooting massacre in Baghdad that left 17 civilians dead and more than 20 wounded. The firm has also been accused of falsifying documents to acquire unauthorized weapons, defrauding the government, and endemic use of steroids and cocaine. Ashcroft served as Attorney General during President George W. Bush’s first term. Blackwater now goes by the name Xe Services.