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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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Forty-five days after killing the unarmed African-American teenager Trayvon Martin, George Zimmerman has been detained and charged with second-degree murder in Florida. Announcing the charges Wednesday evening, Special Prosecutor Angela Corey insisted that public outcry had nothing to do with Zimmerman’s arrest.
Angela Corey: “I can tell you we did not come to this decision lightly. This case is like a lot of the difficult cases we have handled for years here in our circuit. And we made this decision in the same manner. Let me emphasize that we do not prosecute by public pressure or by petition. We prosecute based on the facts of any given case, as well as the laws of the state of Florida.”
The charges against Zimmerman carry a minimum of 25 years. Trayvon Martin’s mother, Sybrina Fulton, who has campaigned tirelessly for Zimmerman’s arrest, welcomed the charges.
Sybrina Fulton: “We wanted nothing more, nothing less. We just wanted an arrest, and we got it. And I say thank you. Thank you, Lord. Thank you, Jesus. Secondly, I just want to speak from my heart to your heart, because a heart has no color. It’s not black, it’s not white; it’s red. And I want to say thank you from my heart to your heart.”
A deadline for a ceasefire in Syria has passed with violence reportedly coming to a halt in key areas. Despite the truce taking effect, the regime of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad has yet to fulfill a pledge to withdraw forces from besieged civilian areas. With Assad’s forces still in place, Syrian activists say they fear the violence could resume at any moment.
New clashes have broken out between Sudan and South Sudan in some of the worst fighting since South Sudan declared independence last year. Sudan has bombed the South Sudan town of Bentiu after South Sudanese troops captured the oil-rich border town of Heglig. The U.N. Security Council has called on both sides to halt military operations.
Mali has sworn in an interim president as part of a transition to civilian rule following last month’s coup. Parliamentary speaker Dioncounda Traoré took office today following a ceremony in the capital Bamako. Traoré says he’ll turn immediately to Mali’s new territorial divide following the independence declaration of Tuareg rebels in the country’s north.
Lawmakers in Connecticut have given final approval to a measure that would repeal the state’s death penalty. The bill now goes to Gov. Dannel Malloy, who has pledged to sign it into law. Connecticut would become the 17th state overall and the fifth in five years to abolish the death penalty, but the change would only apply to future cases. The 11 prisoners currently on death row in Connecticut would still face capital punishment. Under an amendment approved by the state senate, those no longer facing the death penalty would be held in conditions akin to solitary confinement in a bid to match the conditions of death row.
Newly obtained audio shows a man who died following a brutal altercation with North Chicago police was begging for his life during the arrest. Darrin Hanna died a week after the police beating last November. An autopsy found six wounds on Hanna’s face and 11 taser marks on his back. Hanna, an African American, can reportedly be heard on the tape saying, “I was down! I was down!” and “They’re killing me!” His family played the audio tape for a North Chicago City Council meeting Monday night and called for the officers involved to be fired.
In Arizona, two people trying to cross into the United States from Mexico have been killed in an apparent attack by an armed militia. According to the Pima County Sheriff’s Department, the victims were killed when a pickup truck carrying up to 30 undocumented immigrants near the Arizona town of Eloy was ambushed by “subjects in camouflage clothing armed with rifles.” The attack comes as Arizona lawmakers are considering a measure that would create a state-backed armed militia to work with Border Patrol agents along the U.S.-Mexico border to capture undocumented immigrants.
A new report strongly condemns police and administrators at University of California, Davis, involved in the controversial pepper-spraying of student Occupy protesters last November. The incident sparked a nationwide outcry after video was posted online showing a campus police lieutenant repeatedly pepper-spraying students in the face from only a few feet away as they sat on the ground. A university-appointed task force found the November 18 incident “should and could have been prevented.” The report questioned the legal basis for the crackdown and detailed multiple deficiencies, including a failure by the administration to consider alternatives to police action. A security consulting firm also found Lt. John Pike broke police rules by using a high-pressure pepper-spray canister that is not supposed to be used within six feet of victims.
Video has been made public showing an 18-year-old student at a school for people with disabilities and psychiatric problems being restrained on the floor of a classroom and electrically shocked more than 30 times. The video, filmed a decade ago, was screened in court this week as part of a lawsuit against the Judge Rotenberg Educational Center, a Massachusetts school for adults and children that has been the subject of multiple controversies over its punitive practices. Footage shows 18-year-old Andre McCollins screaming for help and writhing in pain. Andre’s mother, Cheryl McCollins, is suing the center, saying her son was “tortured, terrorized and abused.”
The U.S. Supreme Court has agreed to hear arguments in a case that could challenge its controversial Citizens United ruling. The 2010 decision opened the floodgates for unlimited corporate spending on election campaigns by casting political spending by corporations as free speech. Now, the Supreme Court will review a Montana Supreme Court decision that upheld restrictions on corporate election spending in that state. Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg wrote last month that the case “will give the court an opportunity to consider whether, in light of the huge sums currently deployed to buy candidates’ allegiance, Citizens United should continue to hold sway.”
The U.S. Justice Department has filed suit against the computer giant Apple and five major publishers for allegedly fixing the prices of electronic books. The lawsuit accuses Apple and the publishers of raising prices for millions of consumers by colluding to eliminate competition in the e-book market. Attorney General Eric Holder unveiled the case on Wednesday.
Eric Holder: “Beginning in the summer of 2009, we allege that executives at the highest levels of the companies included in today’s lawsuits, concerned that e-book sellers had reduced prices, worked together to eliminate competition among stores selling e-books, ultimately increasing prices for consumers. Now, as a result of this alleged conspiracy, we believe that consumers paid millions of dollars more for some of the most popular titles.”
A Bangladeshi labor activist who helped expose working conditions in the country’s garment industry has been brutally murdered. The body of 40-year-old Aminul Islam was found outside the city of Dhaka last week, but was initially buried because police could not identify him. Islam’s body showed signs of torture, with his hands and big toes having been smashed. Islam was arrested two years ago and tortured by police and intelligence services for protesting the garment industry’s low wages. Bangladesh is a major supplier of clothing for U.S. companies, including Wal-Mart and H&M, and has been gaining popularity among manufacturers as a lower-cost alternative to China. Dozens of workers have died in factory fires in Bangladesh in recent years.
Algerian independence leader and former president Ahmed Ben Bella has died at the age of 93. Bella helped lead the fight for Algerian independence from France and served as the country’s first president in 1962.