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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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The Greek coast guard is continuing to block any Gaza-bound ships from leaving Greek ports. On Monday, Greek authorities intercepted a Canadian ship which had set sail for Gaza carrying medicine. The action came three days after the Greek coast guard intercepted the U.S.-flagged ship, “The Audacity of Hope,” minutes after it set sail for Gaza. A group of international activists had hoped to bring humanitarian aid to Gaza aboard a 10-ship flotilla. But the ships have been unable to sail due to acts of sabotage and the ban by the Greek government. Jane Hirschmann helped organize the U.S. Boat to Gaza.
Jane Hirschmann, spokesperson for U.S. Boat to Gaza: “We’ll never give up, as long as Gaza is under siege and the Palestinian people are not free. It is our responsibility, when governments do not act correctly, for civil society to do the right thing. And we will never give up. We will continue to sail until Gaza is free.”
Huwaida Arraf of the Free Gaza Movement accused the Greek government of unfairly blocking the ships from sailing.
Huwaida Arraf, Free Gaza Movement organizer: “What we see is that the Greek government is using various forms of administrative delays to stop our boats, and these can’t last forever. They’ve been completely irrational in some of the demands that they’ve made from us, and yet we’ve run around and tried to satisfy them. And every time we satisfy one, they ask for something else. These administrative delays, we know, are a tactic, but in effect our boats are legal, our boats are seaworthy, they can delay us a day, a week, two weeks, but eventually our boats will get out.”
The Greek government defended its actions.
Gregory Delavekouras, Greek Foreign Ministry spokesman: “It’s, first and foremost, an issue of security, for the people themselves and for stability in the region. And this is why the international community in its entirety has taken the same position. Everybody believes that there is a real threat for life for those who participate in the flotilla and also a real danger of escalation in the region, which is right now in a very fragile position.”
In Montana, an ExxonMobil oil pipeline ruptured beneath the legendary Yellowstone River on Friday night, leaking as much as 42,000 gallons of crude oil. ExxonMobil initially said the oil spill only stretched for 10 miles of the river, but local news reports say the spill now stretches 150 miles. The pipeline was temporarily shut down in May after officials raised concerns that it could be at risk as the Yellowstone River started to rise. A year ago, the U.S. Department of Transportation notified ExxonMobil of seven potential safety violations and other problems along the pipeline.
African leaders have announced they will refuse to execute an International Criminal Court arrest warrant for Libyan leader Col. Muammar Gaddafi, meaning that Gaddafi will be able to travel freely across the continent without fear of being arrested. At a meeting of the African Union, African leaders said the arrest of Gaddafi would complicate efforts to find a peaceful solution to the Libyan conflict. In addition, several African leaders accused the ICC of unfairly targeting African leaders. The only other ICC arrest warrant out against a sitting head of state is for Sudan’s Omar al-Bashir.
There are some new developments in the case of the murdered Pakistani journalist Syed Saleem Shahzad. Unnamed Obama administration officials have told the New York Times that senior officials of the Pakistani spy agency, the ISI, ordered the killing of Shahzad in an effort to silence him. One U.S. official said, “Every indication is that this was a deliberate, targeted killing that was most likely meant to send shock waves through Pakistan’s journalist community and civil society.” Ali Dayan Hasan, the head of Human Rights Watch in Pakistan, first tied the ISI to Shahzad’s killing. In a recent interview with Democracy Now!, Hasan said Shahzad was targeted for reporting on links between the ISI and militant groups.
Ali Dayan Hasan, Human Rights Watch: “Saleem Shahzad investigated—essentially wrote about, because he wrote about al-Qaeda and the Taliban and that whole terrain of counterterrorism and terrorism in Pakistan. What he basically concentrated a lot on were links between Pakistani intelligence and military, on the one hand, and elements of al-Qaeda and Taliban, on the other, and infiltration both ways, but particularly in Pakistani intelligence structures and military structures, including the navy, air force and the military itself, the army itself.”
Officials of the Japanese Nuclear Safety Commission say around 45 percent of children in the Fukushima region have experienced thyroid exposure to radiation following the nuclear reactor disaster at the Fukushima Daiichi facility. But officials said only trace amounts of radiation were detected. The survey was done in late March and does not reflect any exposure since then. Meanwhile, a new survey of soil at four locations in the city of Fukushima found that all four samples were contaminated with radioactive cesium at levels well above the legal limit. One sample was found to be 90 times the legal limit and higher than the limit for compulsory resettlement after the 1986 Chernobyl nuclear accident.
The Wall Street Journal reports several Western companies, including Cisco Systems, are poised to help build a massive new surveillance project in China—a citywide network of as many as 500,000 cameras in the city of Chongqing. Officials say the sophisticated video surveillance will prevent crime, but human rights advocates warn it could target political dissent. Cisco is expected to supply networking equipment that is essential to operating large and complicated surveillance systems. Human rights advocates say Chinese police have used surveillance footage to identify people in political protests. Jailed Chinese artist-activist Ai Weiwei, who was released last month, complained before he was apprehended in April that police were using cameras to monitor him.
A new study of executive pay has found the median pay for CEOs at 200 large U.S. companies last year averaged $10.8 million, an increase of 23 percent from 2009. While CEOs earned an average of $207,690 per week last year, the typical American worker took home $725 per week at the end of 2010, a slight increase from a year earlier. Viacom CEO Philippe Dauman was the highes-paid CEO, making $84.5 million last year. CBS Corporation CEO Leslie Moonves received a 32 percent pay raise, resulting in $57 million in earnings.
Speculation is growing that charges will soon by dropped against former International Monetary Fund chief, Dominique Strauss-Kahn, who was arrested on charges of sexually assaulting a hotel maid in New York City. On Friday, Strauss-Kahn was released from house arrest. Prosecutors say they have major doubts about the credibility of the alleged victim, even though forensic tests found unambiguous evidence that a sexual encounter had occurred. Even if the charges are dropped, Strauss-Kahn’s legal problems may not be over. A French journalist and writer is preparing to file a lawsuit in France in connection with an alleged rape attempt by Dominique Strauss-Kahn in 2002. The woman, Tristane Banon, is the god-daughter of Strauss-Kahn’s ex-wife.
Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez has returned home from Cuba where he was recovering from cancer surgery for the past month. He addressed thousands of supporters on Monday night from his palace balcony.
Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez: “You know that I shouldn’t be up here for too long. I am submitted for some time to a very strict medical, scientific regimen. You all know the reasons why. We will also win this battle.”
As many as 15,000 people gathered in downtown Atlanta Saturday to protest a new law that aims to crack down on undocumented immigrants. The demonstrators were motivated by legislation that legalizes 15-year prison sentences and $250,000 fines for individuals who use fake identification to secure a job.