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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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In a historic move, a federal judge has ruled that the “stop-and-frisk” tactics used by the New York City Police Department are unconstitutional. Judge Shira Scheindlin wrote that police have relied on a “policy of indirect racial profiling” leading them to routinely stop “blacks and Hispanics who would not have been stopped if they were white.”
Attorney General Eric Holder has officially unveiled a major policy shift to help certain low-level drug offenders avoid harsh mandatory minimum prison sentences. In an address to the American Bar Association, Holder confronted the issue of mass incarceration, noting that while the United States comprises just 5 percent of the world’s populations, it houses nearly a quarter of the world’s prisoners. Among other changes, Holder touted an expansion of the “compassionate release” program for some elderly prisoners. And he announced a review of racial sentencing disparities, citing a recent study that found black men received sentences nearly 20 percent longer than those imposed on white men convicted of similar crimes.
Eric Holder: “Today, a vicious cycle of poverty, criminality and incarceration traps too many Americans and weakens too many communities. And many aspects of our criminal justice system may actually exacerbate these problems rather than alleviate them. It’s clear, as we come together today, that too many Americans go to too many prisons for far too long and for no truly good law enforcement reason.”
A U.S. drone strike has killed at least two people in Yemen’s Shabwa province. A local official told Reuters the strike obliterated a car in which the victims were traveling. It was the latest in a surge of strikes that have killed dozens in recent weeks.
North Carolina Gov. Pat McCrory has signed a package of restrictions on voting rights seen by some as the harshest in the country. The new law requires voters to present a government-issued photo ID at the polls. It ends same-day voter registration, shrinks the early voting period by a week and eliminates pre-registration for teens who will turn 18 by Election Day. It allows any registered voter to challenge another voter’s eligibility, a provision critics say could enable vigilantism at the polls. It also weakens disclosure requirements intended to identify funders behind campaign ads, allows political parties to receive unlimited corporate donations and raises the cap on individual donations. It is the first set of voting restrictions passed by a state since the U.S. Supreme Court struck down a key provision of the Voting Rights Act in June. Already, groups including the NAACP and the American Civil Liberties Union have filed legal challenges, saying the law will disproportionately impact people of color.
John Kerry has kicked off his first trip to South America as secretary of state. In Colombia on Monday, Kerry faced questions from the government about National Security Agency spying following reports based on leaks by Edward Snowden that the surveillance extends throughout Latin America. Journalist Glenn Greenwald has reported that after Brazil, Colombia appeared to be the second biggest target of the spying. Kerry defended NSA practices at a news conference in Bogota.
John Kerry: “I am confident that I was able to explain thoroughly precisely how this has received the support of all three branches of our government, it has been completely conducted under our Constitution and the law, and how we have respected the concerns of other countries and will continue to.”
Kerry visits Brazil today. Meanwhile, the Obama administration is launching a formal review of NSA tactics. The review panel is being led by Director of National Intelligence James Clapper, who has been accused of lying to Congress about the spying.
Boubacar Keita has won Mali’s presidential election after his opponent, Soumaila Cissé, conceded defeat on Monday. Keita has vowed to restore order following last year’s military coup and the takeover of large swaths of Mali’s north by separatist and Islamist rebels. The turmoil prompted French troops and a small number of U.S. forces to deploy to Mali. The United Nations recently launched a peacekeeping mission there.
The defense team for U.S. Army whistleblower Bradley Manning has opened its case in the sentencing phase of his court-martial after government prosecutors concluded their case on Friday. Defense lawyers began by questioning the decision by Manning’s superiors to maintain Manning’s top-secret security clearance despite signs of mental distress, including one incident where he flipped over a table. Manning is expected to testify either today or Wednesday before the defense wraps. He is facing up to 90 years in prison for giving troves of documents to WikiLeaks.
Nobel Prize committee officials confirmed Monday they had received a petition signed by 100,000 people who support giving Bradley Manning the Nobel Peace Prize. Activist Norman Solomon hand-delivered the petition in Oslo, Norway, after Nobel laureate Mairead Maguire officially nominated Manning in June.
Mexico’s president has proposed a historic shift in the country’s state-run oil industry, potentially paving the way for foreign multinationals to gain a share of the profits from Mexico’s oil. In an address Monday, President Enrique Peña Nieto proposed letting private firms enter profit-sharing contracts with Mexico to drill for oil and gas. The shift would require changes to Mexico’s Constitution. But Peña Nieto insisted it would not amount to privatization.
Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto: “With this reform, Mexican Petroleum and the Federal Electrical Confederation (CFE) as companies are 100 percent the property of the nation. Pemex and the CFE, and I say this categorically, are not for sale nor up for privatization. This reform looks for a strengthening and modernization to once again allow them to become leading companies and fulfill their mission to benefit society.”
California Gov. Jerry Brown has signed legislation protecting the rights of transgender students in the state’s public schools. The new law allows students to play on sports teams, use bathroom facilities, and participate in other sex-segregated activities based on their self-identified gender. California is the first state to enshrine such protections in state law.
A federal jury in Boston has convicted notorious South Boston mobster James “Whitey” Bulger of a host of crimes including 11 murders. Bulger, who is 83, will likely spend the rest of his life in prison. Bulger served as an FBI informant, and the agency helped enable his reign of terror in the 1970s and 1980s. He fled from public view in the mid-1990s following a tip from an FBI agent about an upcoming indictment. In 2011, authorities found Bulger in Santa Monica, California, where he had more than $800,000 in cash stashed in the walls of his apartment.
In Chicago, Illinois, a group of immigrants who need organ transplants and their loved ones are calling on hospitals to stop denying transplants to undocumented people and those who lack health insurance. The group held a mock funeral procession and overnight vigil Sunday in honor of Sarai Rodriguez, a 25-year-old woman who was reportedly denied a kidney transplant. She died on Friday after a period of failing health. Sarai’s relatives were part of a group of patients and family members who launched a recent hunger strike to demand access to organ transplants for the undocumented and uninsured. The group has been negotiating with Chicago area hospitals to change the policies. A 2008 study found roughly 17 percent of organ donors lacked health insurance while less than one percent of people who received organs were uninsured.
The strict rules governing who gets organ transplants are also affecting an ailing 15-year-old boy in Georgia. According to local news reports, doctors say Anthony Stokes likely has less than six months to live. But he has been barred from receiving a heart transplant due to a so-called history of non-compliance. Family friends say they believe the designation stems from Anthony’s low grades and run-ins with the law. His mother, Melencia Hamilton, said she thinks the family’s lack of financial resources also played a role. Hamilton told Atlanta station WSB-TV the transplant is the only way to fix her son’s enlarged heart.
Melencia Hamilton: “They said that they don’t have any evidence showing that he would take his medicine, and he wouldn’t have any follow-up care. I know it’s wrong, because if they get to know him, they would love him.”
A Tennessee mother is appealing a judge’s order to change her infant son’s first name from “Messiah” to “Martin.” The baby’s parents ended up in court when they could not agree on his last name. But Child Support Magistrate Lu Ann Ballew said they had to change Messiah’s first name, replacing it with Martin — his mother’s surname. Judge Ballew told Knoxville TV station WBIR, “The word 'Messiah' is a title and it’s a title that has only been earned by one person and that one person is Jesus Christ.” She said Messiah’s name could “put him at odds with a lot of people” in the heavily Christian county. Interestingly, we have our own Messiah here at Democracy Now! – our video fellow Messiah Rhodes. We asked him to comment on the judge’s ruling.
Messiah Rhodes: “I was raised by a conservative Christian household, by my grandparents, and I never faced any hostility because of my name. It’s interesting this is happening in Tennessee, a state with a history of racial bigotry, from violent race riots to the formation of the KKK, to the assassination of Martin Luther King. It’s silly it’s about a name. But it’s more than just about a name. This is what happens when there’s no separation between church and state.”