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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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Labor and immigrant groups were joined by Occupy demonstrators nationwide on Tuesday in May Day rallies for economic injustice and humane immigration reform. In New York City, a long day of separate actions converged in a rally at Union Square and then a march down to Wall Street, where the Occupy movement began last year. At least 40 people were arrested. In Los Angeles, thousands of people gathered for a march that snaked through the downtown streets. In the Bay Area, Occupy demonstrators canceled plans to shut down the Golden Gate Bridge and instead joined picket lines organized by labor groups. The protests turned confrontational in Oakland, with demonstrators vandalizing property and police firing tear gas. In San Francisco, the Occupy movement was blamed for a night of violence in which cars and small businesses were vandalized. And in Seattle, black-clad protesters allegedly used sticks to break downtown windows and ran through the streets disrupting traffic. May Day was also observed with large protests across South America, Europe, the Middle East and Asia.
President Obama made a surprise visit to Afghanistan on Tuesday to sign a strategic agreement with the Afghan government and deliver an election-year address touting the end of a more than decade-long war. The Strategic Partnership Agreement signed with Afghan President Hamid Karzai pledges U.S. support for Afghanistan for 10 years after the withdrawal of the last U.S. soldiers at the end of 2014. In an address to the U.S. public from Afghanistan, Obama said the war will one day come to an end.
President Obama: “Today I signed a historic agreement between the United States and Afghanistan that defines a new kind of relationship between our countries, a future in which Afghans are responsible for the security of their nation and we build an equal partnership between two sovereign states, a future in which war ends and a new chapter begins.”
Hours after Obama’s departure, the Taliban claimed responsibility for several bombings in Kabul that killed at least seven people.
At least 11 people have reportedly been killed and dozens more wounded in Egypt today in clashes between protesters and unidentified attackers outside the Defense Ministry in Cairo. Many of the protesters were supporters of the ultra-conservative Islamist candidate Hazem Salah Abu Ismail who was ejected from the presidential race because his mother has dual Egyptian-U.S. citizenship. The clashes lasted for several hours with reports of gunfire as well as clubs and firebombs being used. Egypt’s elections are scheduled for later this month.
A Chinese activist who escaped from house arrest and was believed to be taking shelter at the U.S. embassy has now arrived at a medical facility in Beijing where he will be reunited with his family. A U.S. official confirmed Wednesday Chen Guangcheng will remain in China after receiving promises he will be treated as a normal citizen and allowed to study at a university. Chen is a blind activist who helped expose forced sterilizations and other abuses near his rural village. China has accused the United States of meddling in its internal affairs by sheltering Chen and has demanded an apology. The news of Chen’s freedom comes as U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton arrives in Beijing for talks with Chinese leaders.
A watchdog group has urged the Federal Communications Commission to revoke the U.S. broadcast licenses of media giant Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp. after a scathing British parliamentary report found Murdoch was not fit to run a major media company. The report accused Murdoch and his son James of “willful blindness” about the massive phone-hacking scandal at the News of the World tabloid. In a letter Tuesday, Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington called on the FCC to revoke News Corp.’s 27 Fox broadcast licenses based on character deficiencies unveiled in the report. News Corp. condemned the parliamentary findings in a statement as “unjustified and highly partisan.”
Bolivian President Evo Morales has announced plans to complete the nationalization of the country’s electrical supply by wresting control of its main power grid from a Spanish-owned company. Under the banner of International Workers’ Day, Morales ordered soldiers to occupy holdings of the Spanish-owned company, Red Electrica. The move comes after Argentina has acted to take control of its oil company from the Spanish energy corporation, Repsol.
A Bosnian-born U.S. citizen has been found guilty of planning a suicide bombing on the New York City subway system on behalf of al-Qaeda. Adis Medunjanin faces up to life in prison. U.S. Attorney Loretta Lynch said the plot was just days away from being executed when the arrests were made.
Loretta Lynch: “Today, the would-be suicide bomber, Adis Medunjanin, has been convicted for his crimes, for his choices, I must emphasize, in joining the radical group, al-Qaeda, and plotting to bring destruction into New York City. The evidence at trial has established that the defendant and his co-conspirators were literally days away from conducting coordinated suicide bombing attacks on the New York City subway system. This trial has afforded a rare glimpse into the inner workings of al-Qaeda, how they look for those who have connections to our homeland, how they recruit those who are disaffected and seeking a place to go, and how they will stop at nothing to try and implement further attacks on our soil.”
One of Medunjanin’s co-defendants, Najibullah Zazi, was convicted two years ago. An Afghan immigrant, Zazi has said the plot was intended to highlight the U.S. killings of civilians in his native country. Outside the courtroom, defense attorney Robert Gottlieb said the completion of the jury trial highlights the importance of trying terror suspects in civilian courts instead of before military tribunals.
Robert Gottlieb: “Now that the jury has reached a verdict, I feel even more strongly today that the most appropriate comment is that the world should take note, our government should take note, the government leaders, and everyone else should take note, that the way issues in our criminal justice system about whether or not the government has met its heavy burden of proving somebody guilty is properly in the hands of citizens of a public jury.”
The FBI has arrested five self-described anarchists for allegedly seeking to blow up a Cleveland-area bridge. FBI Special Agent Stephen Anthony said the suspects were detained after planting and detonating what they thought were active bombs. It turned out the bombs were fakes supplied by FBI informants.
Stephen Anthony: “They ultimately negotiated with FBI undercover agents and purchased two inert — I say inert — improvised explosive devices, IEDs, which were presented as C4-based, remote-activated IEDs. Last night, the co-conspirators placed the two inert IEDs at the base of a concrete support pillar for this Brecksville-Northfield High Level Bridge and attempted to remotely detonate the devices from a location that they deemed safe and one that would possibly give them an alibi. All five co-conspirators were taken into custody last night by the FBI and JTTF shortly after they attempted to remotely detonate these inert devices.”
The role of FBI informants in supplying the fake bombs mirrors that of previous cases where government entrapment has been alleged. Some of the suspects reportedly had ties to Occupy Cleveland and were said to have been disgruntled with the group’s nonviolent tactics. After the charges were announced, the group Occupy Cleveland canceled its planned May Day march.
A federal appeals court has reversed a ruling by a lower court judge blocking Texas from de-funding Planned Parenthood and excluding it from a government-funded health program for low-income women simply because they also provide abortions. The two separate rulings came within hours of each other on Tuesday. In the initial ruling, Judge Lee Yeakel said the Texas ban is “likely unconstitutional” in barring contracts between the state health commission and entities that are affiliated with abortion providers. The program offers cancer and health screenings as well as birth control services to some 130,000 low-income women, about 40 percent of whom are served through Planned Parenthood. In a statement, Planned Parenthood president Cecile Richards welcomed the ruling, saying: “For many women, we are the only doctor’s visit they will have this year. This ruling affirms what women have known all along: politics simply doesn’t have a place in women’s health.” But later in the day, Federal Appeals Judge Jerry Smith granted Texas an emergency stay blocking Judge Yeakel’s ruling from taking effect. Judge Smith sided with arguments from Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott comparing Planned Parenthood to a terrorist organization. Abbott had written: “[The] First Amendment does not prohibit application of federal material-support statute to individuals who give money to 'humanitarian' activities performed by terrorist organizations.”
A spokesperson for Republican front-runner Mitt Romney has resigned after opposition from far-right religious groups over his gay sexual orientation. Richard Grenell was hired just last month, sparking immediate calls from evangelical groups for his dismissal. In a statement, the group People for the American Way said: “If Romney will cave to the far-right fringe on this, is there anything he won’t give them when they ask?”
The Hillman prize for journalism in the service of the common good was awarded on Tuesday to a number of recipients. The honorees included Seth Wessler of the Applied Research Center for his report on thousands of U.S.-born children separated from detained or deported immigrants parents. Wessler discussed his findings on Democracy Now! last year.
Seth Wessler: “There are at least 5,000 children who are now stuck in foster care, and they’re stuck there because their parents have been detained or deported. The United States has, in the last year, deported a historic number of people: 400,000 people. And one of the most troubling collateral effects of that, that we found after a year-long investigation, is that many children are now separated from their mothers and fathers for extended periods of time, sometimes permanently. Sometimes they never see their parents again.”