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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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At least three people are dead and 144 wounded, 17 of them critically, after two bombs exploded near the finish line of the Boston Marathon Monday. An eight-year-old boy is among the dead. The blasts took place about a hundred yards apart in the heart of downtown. Most of the 23,000 runners had finished the race when the bombings occurred. But the streets were still packed with runners and spectators cheering them on. No suspects have been arrested or identified, and no one has claimed responsibility for the attack, but police reportedly searched a residence in the city of Revere Monday night. This is Boston Police Commissioner Ed Davis.
Ed Davis: “I’d like to offer my sympathies to the victims and the families of this horrendous event. This cowardly act will not be taken in stride. We will turn every rock over to find the people who are responsible for this. The Boston Police Department is on the scene and has been there since this incident happened. There’s been a horrendous loss of life. At least three people have died in this event.”
National Guard troops have been deployed in Boston, and security is expected to be tight in the city today, with officials searching bags on public transit. Speaking on Monday, President Obama said those responsible for the attacks would be brought to justice.
President Obama: “We still do not know who did this or why. And people shouldn’t jump to conclusions before we have all the facts. But make no mistake: We will get to the bottom of this. And we will find out who did this. We’ll find out why they did this. Any responsible individuals, any responsible groups will feel the full weight of justice.”
In Iraq, at least 55 people died as dozens of explosions and a shooting ripped through provinces across the country Monday just days before elections. The worst violence struck the capital, Baghdad, where at least 25 people were killed by car bombs and other blasts. At least 14 political candidates have been killed in recent weeks ahead of provincial elections scheduled for Saturday. Monday’s toll was the highest in nearly a month after 65 people died in blasts on March 19, the anniversary of the U.S.-led invasion.
In Somalia, a militant group is threatening to carry out more attacks after at least 30 people were killed in coordinated bombings and shootings in the capital Mogadishu Sunday. The militant group al-Shabab claimed responsibility for the attacks, which included a series of explosions and an assault by gunmen on the Supreme Court complex and another car bomb near the airport. A spokesperson for the militant group told Reuters Monday, “More lethal attacks are coming.”
A federal judge has denied an emergency relief motion from a hunger-striking Guantánamo prisoner despite reports he is dying. A doctor said Yemeni prisoner Musa’ab al-Madhwani’s life could be in “imminent danger” and accused the prison of “deliberate indifference,” saying he had been placed in solitary confinement without daily monitoring after collapsing last week. U.S. District Judge Thomas Hogan said he did not have jurisdiction in the case and called the prisoner’s condition “self-manufactured.” Al-Madhwani has been imprisoned for more than a decade and has never been charged with a crime. He is part of a hunger strike that began in February and is reported to include nearly all of Guantánamo’s 166 prisoners.
A powerful earthquake struck Iran today and was felt across several countries in Asia, including in New Delhi, India, where it shook buildings for several seconds. The U.S. Geological Survey said the 7.8-magnitude quake was centered in Khash near the Pakistani border. So far no injuries or deaths have been reported.
A landmark nonpartisan report has confirmed it is “indisputable” the United States tortured people after the 9/11 attacks and says the highest officials in the George W. Bush administration are responsible. The Constitution Project says never before in U.S. history had there been “the kind of considered and detailed discussions that occurred after 9/11 directly involving a president and his top advisers on the wisdom, propriety and legality of inflicting pain and torment on some detainees in our custody.” The task force, led by two former congressmembers — a Republican, Asa Hutchinson, and a Democrat, James R. Jones — said it found no compelling evidence torture produced helpful information that could not have been found without it. It details how the CIA waterboarded not only al-Qaeda suspects but also at least one Libyan suspect, and says prisoners were slammed into walls, chained for hours in difficult positions and kept awake for days. The report also criticizes a lack of transparency by the Obama administration, saying its practice of hiding details about rendition and torture “cannot continue to be justified on the basis of national security.”
A bipartisan group of senators has canceled a news conference on immigration reform today because of the Boston bombing, but still plans to introduce the legislation. The bill will reportedly provide a 13-year path to citizenship for some undocumented people, but would require border controls criticized as near-impossible to be put in place first. According to McClatchy, applicants would have to pay upwards of $2,000 in fines and check in using a probation-style system. If they fell behind on their fines, they could lose their right to be in the United States. According to NBC News, the bill would allocate $4.5 billion for increased militarization and fencing along the U.S.-Mexico border and demand an enhanced version of the controversial “E-Verify” system to prevent undocumented immigrants from working.
Venezuelan opposition candidate Henrique Capriles is continuing to challenge the results of his presidential race against Nicolás Maduro, the chosen successor of late President Hugo Chávez. Maduro won 51 percent of the vote compared to 49 percent for Capriles. On Monday, Venezuela’s Electoral Council certified Maduro’s victory, despite a call by Capriles for a recount. A spokesperson for the U.S. State Department had supported a recount, calling it “an important, prudent and necessary step to ensure that all Venezuelans have confidence in these results.” Speaking at a news conference Monday, Capriles claimed he had defeated Maduro.
Henrique Capriles: “The fight here isn’t between people. The fight here is between the people versus an illegitimate government, a spurious president. We believe that we won the elections. The other electoral camp believes they won the elections, as well. Well, every one of us is within their rights. Every one of us has the right to count our votes. We have the conviction that we won the elections here.”
Syrian troops loyal to President Bashar al-Assad appear to have broken a rebel blockade of two key bases in the province of Idlib. According to opposition activists, up to 50 rebel fighters were killed in the clashes. Meanwhile, Syria’s main political opposition group says nearly 30 children were killed in a government air strike on Sunday.
A new European Union report says the problem of human trafficking is deepening in Europe, with the number of victims increasing as the number of convictions falls. Nearly 24,000 people were victims of human trafficking over a three-year period, according to the report, but its authors said the actual number is probably far higher, in the hundreds of thousands. On Monday, European Commissioner for Home Affairs Cecilia Malmström urged EU member states to take action.
Cecilia Malmström: “Unfortunately today, we know with certainty that the situation regarding human trafficking in Europe has deteriorated. The number of confirmed or presumed victims of trafficking increased by 18 percent between 2008 and 2010.”
President Obama has signed into law a measure critics say guts key transparency provisions from a law designed to combat insider trading by members of Congress. The new bill repeals a requirement in the Stop Trading on Congressional Knowledge Act that high-level federal officials disclose financial information online. But, according to the Center for Responsive Politics, it also removes requirements for the searchable and electronic filing of information related to potential conflicts of interest by the president, vice president, Congress and other officials. On its website OpenSecrets.org, the Center wrote: “Without the provisions, the STOCK act is made toothless. Insider trading by members of Congress and federal employees is still prohibited, but the ability of watchdog groups to verify that Congress is following its own rules is severely limited because these records could still be filed on paper — an unacceptably outdated practice that limits the public’s access.”
Mississippi’s only remaining abortion clinic will stay open for now after a federal judge temporarily blocked the state from revoking its license. U.S. District Judge Daniel Jordan III extended an injunction protecting the clinic as it challenges a 2012 law aimed at shutting it down. The law requires all abortion providers at Jackson Women’s Health Organization to have admitting privileges at a local hospital. Such a standard can be impossible for any abortion provider because abortion is so safe providers often do not admit enough patients to comply with hospital minimums. In Mississippi, all local hospitals have rejected requests for privileges from clinic doctors because they provide elective abortions. Two hospitals refused to even provide them with applications.
A group of New York City students, organizers and officials gathered Monday to condemn the school-to-prison pipeline they say is funneling students of color into the criminal justice system. Members of the Dignity in Schools Campaign have drawn attention to the disproportionate number of suspensions and arrests of African-American and Latino students as well as harsh penalties against students with disabilities. In the last school year, 52 percent of suspensions involved African-American students, who make up just 27 percent of the public school system. Democracy Now! spoke with 15-year-old youth leader Manny Yusuf.
Manny Yusuf: “My message to the next mayor is, you need to fix what Mayor Bloomberg did. You need to put more guidance counselors in our school. Take all the amount of student safety agents that you get in schools, take the amount of funding you give them, and give it to the school, give it to the Department of Education, so they can give it to our schools. If I was running a school, the perfect school for me would be more restorative justice, peer mediation, clubs in schools that actually the students actually want to go to and feel like they belong to, and no student safety agents and no metal detectors.”
The 2013 Pulitzer Prizes have been announced. Among the winners were the Florida Sun Sentinel for its coverage of reckless speeding by off-duty police officers and The Denver Post for breaking coverage of the Aurora movie theater shooting. The Brooklyn-based nonprofit InsideClimate News won an award for detailing the dangers associated with oil pipelines. And The New York Times won four Pulitzers, including two for its reports on business abuses committed abroad by Wal-Mart and Apple. You can watch our interviews with New York Times reporter David Barstow on his Wal-Mart reporting and reporter Charles Duhigg about Apple on our website.
Today marks the 50th anniversary of Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.'s “Letter from a Birmingham Jail.” The letter was written as a response to white Alabama clergy who criticized King's actions during the Birmingham Campaign, a series of nonviolent sit-ins and marches held to protest racial segregation. This is Dr. King reading part of the letter he wrote in jail after he was arrested for defying a judge’s ban on protests.
Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.: “You speak of our activity in Birmingham as extreme. Was not Jesus an extremist for love: 'Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you.' Will we be extremists for the preservation of injustice or for the extension of justice?”