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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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Forces loyal to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad are being accused of a new massacre, with more than 150 civilians reportedly slain in the province of Hama. The killings occurred in a village named Tremseh, with some reports saying up to 220 people died. It would be the worst known attack inside Syria since pro-government forces were accused of killing more than 100 civilians in Houla in May.
The alleged new massacre has boosted calls for the United Nations Security Council to pass a binding measure against Syria threatening sanctions and potential military action under Chapter VII of the U.N. Charter. Speaking during a visit to Cambodia, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton called on Russia to join more international pressure on Syria.
Secretary of State Hillary Clinton: “The regime is struggling to hold onto large parts of the country, so we do look to the Security Council and all of its members, including Russia, to join us in a serious resolution that gives special envoy Kofi Annan what he needs.”
More than 100 people were killed Thursday when a gasoline tanker crashed and exploded in Nigeria’s Niger Delta. Many of the victims lost their lives as they tried to scoop up the tanker’s oil as it leaked onto the ground.
An exhaustive independent probe has concluded top officials at Penn State University — including legendary football coach Joe Paterno — covered up sexual molestation allegations against an assistant coach 14 years before they finally came to light. The seven-month investigation reveals Paterno, Penn State President Graham Spanier and other school officials were aware then-assistant football coach Jerry Sandusky was accused of child molestation as early as 1998, but were only concerned with protecting the school’s image. The report concludes that a “culture of reverence for the football program” at the school led to a cover-up that “failed to protect against a child sexual predator harming children for over a decade.” Sandusky was finally arrested last year and found guilty of sexually abusing 10 young boys last month. Unveiling his findings on Thursday, former FBI director Louis Freeh said Penn State’s leadership had allowed Sandusky’s abuse to continue.
Louis Freeh: “Our most saddening and sobering finding is the total disregard for the safety and welfare of Sandusky’s child victims by the most senior leaders at Penn State. Misters Spanier, Schultz, Paterno and Curley also failed to alert the board of trustees about the 1998 investigation or take any other action against Mr. Sandusky. None of them ever spoke to Sandusky about his conduct. In short, nothing was done, and Sandusky was allowed to continue with impunity.”
The report’s findings show Paterno, who died earlier this year, made false statements to a grand jury and to the public about his knowledge of the allegations against Sandusky. An email by Penn State athletic director Tim Curley from 1998 — three years before Paterno said he first heard of the allegations — reads: “Anything new in this department? Coach is anxious to know where it stands.” After Sandusky was again accused of abusing a young boy on campus in 2001, Paterno reportedly convinced his colleagues that it would be most “humane” to deal with the matter internally instead of reporting him to police. A janitor at the school reportedly failed to report witnessing Sandusky abuse a young boy in 2000 out of fear he would lose his job. The janitor said, “Paterno has so much power, if he wanted to get rid of someone, I would have been gone. … Football runs this university.” In response to the report, Penn State is facing pressure to remove a statue of Paterno displayed prominently on campus. The report is also expected to fuel a number of civil lawsuits against the school on behalf of the victims. Curley, the former athletic director, and the school’s former Vice President Gary Schultz, still face criminal charges for failing to inform police about Sandusky’s abuse and for lying before a grand jury about their knowledge of it.
The banking giant Wells Fargo Bank has agreed to pay a settlement of at least $175 million for discriminating against African-American and Hispanic borrowers. The Justice Department says Well Fargo routinely carried out misleading lending practices to minority communities from 2004 through 2009, saddling them with subprime loans and pushing many into foreclosure. All told, Wells Fargo’s practices are said to have led to higher rates for 34,000 African-American and Hispanic borrowers in 36 states and the District of Columbia, solely because of their ethnicity. On Thursday, Deputy U.S. Attorney General James Cole said the settlement would bring relief to Wells Fargo’s victims.
James Cole: “With today’s settlement, the federal government will ensure that African-American and Hispanic borrowers who are discriminated against will be entitled to compensation, and borrowers and communities hit hard by this housing crisis will have the opportunity to access home ownership.”
Under the settlement terms, Wells Fargo will pay $125 million in compensation to borrowers and another $50 million in direct down-payment aid in parts of the country where rampant discrimination was found. In striking the deal, Wells Fargo refused to admit to any wrongdoing but said it wanted to settle the case to avoid a lengthy legal dispute.
Newly disclosed records show Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney remained at the helm of the private equity firm Bain Capital three years longer than he has previously disclosed. Romney has maintained he left Bain in 1999 to run the Winter Olympics in Utah. But the Boston Globe reports Romney retained control of Bain and earned a salary through 2002. President Obama’s re-election campaign says the report suggests Romney may have lied to the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission about his final years at Bain.
One day after Mitt Romney was booed at the NAACP convention in Houston, Vice President Joe Biden received a friendlier reception on Thursday when he delivered an address urging support for President Obama’s re-election.
Vice President Joe Biden: “He passed the Affordable Care Act, a goal strived for by presidents starting with Teddy Roosevelt. It required him, early on, to use up almost all of his political capital. He prevailed where no president had done before. He was right. He was right. He cut — it cut a hundred billion dollars, a hundred billion dollars from the federal debt over the next 10 years, providing access to affordable healthcare to 30 million Americans, eight million black Americans, who would never have had insurance.”
In Mexico, the runner-up candidate Andrés Manuel López Obrador has filed a legal challenge seeking to void the recent election victory of Enrique Peña Nieto. On Thursday, López Obrador officially accused of Peña Nieto of violating campaign finance laws and committing electoral fraud. The complaint says Peña Nieto helped manipulate television coverage of the election and worked with local officials to buy millions of votes.
The online whistleblower WikiLeaks says it has won a significant victory in challenging a financial blockade imposed by major financial firms. MasterCard, Visa, PayPal, Bank of America and others have blocked WikiLeaks’ donations since it began publishing classified U.S. government diplomatic cables in 2010. An Icelandic court has now ruled Visa and Mastercard broke laws in stopping WikiLeaks’ payments and has ordered the companies’ local partner to resume processing its donations.
The pioneering media activist George Stoney has died at the age of 96. Stoney’s career spanned more than half a century, producing film and television that focused on issues of racial justice, social responsibility, community and freedom of speech. An early advocate of video as a tool for social change, Stoney founded public access programs throughout the United States and Canada. In a 2005 interview with Democracy Now!, Stoney discussed his legendary career. [Photo Courtesy of Philip Pocock / Artists Rights Society (ARS)]
George Stoney: “I started in the state of Georgia with a little educational program, and before long, I found I was making films for people who should be making them themselves, but at that time, as you know, it was film and it was much more complicated. Now, with this user-friendly equipment, there’s no reason why people should not make their own programs. And now we have an outlet with public access. We look on cable as a way of encouraging public action, not just access. Social change comes with a combination of use of media and people getting out on the streets or getting involved. And we find that if people make programs together and put them on the local channel, that gets them involved.”