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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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The legendary folk singer and activist Pete Seeger has died at the age of 94. Seeger helped found the American folk music movement. He played with Woody Guthrie and The Almanac Singers in the 1940s, stood up against Senator Joseph McCarthy’s witch hunt in the 1950s, and opposed the Vietnam War in the 1960s, inspiring generations of protest singers to come. We’ll spend the hour remembering Seeger after headlines. Click here to watch.
Ukraine’s parliament has voted to repeal a round of anti-dissent laws in an effort to calm opposition protests that have gripped the country. The measures are unlikely to appease protesters who have demanded the resignation of President Viktor Yanukovych. Earlier today, Ukranian Prime Minister Mykola Azarov offered to resign. Yanukovych had previously offered Azarov’s post to an opposition leader, who rejected it.
Talks in Geneva between the two sides in Syria’s conflict remain deadlocked over the future role of President Bashar al-Assad. Another issue at stake is the delivery of aid to the besieged city of Homs. U.S. State Department spokesperson Jen Psaki said the situation there is desperate.
Jen Psaki: “We firmly believe that the Syrian regime must approve the convoys to deliver badly needed humanitarian assistance into the old city of Homs now. The situation is desperate, and the people are starving. What the regime has proposed, an evacuation of women and children from the old city, is not sufficient. Civilians must be allowed to come and go freely, but the people of Homs must not be forced to leave their homes and split up their families before receiving much-needed food and other aid.”
Egypt’s top military body has given its approval for military leader General Abdel Fattah el-Sisi to run for president after he led the coup that ousted President Mohamed Morsi last year. Morsi appeared in court today for the second time since his ouster to face charges related to his escape from prison in 2011. He was shown inside a metal cage in the courtroom. Earlier today, a senior official with Egypt’s Interior Ministry was gunned down outside his Cairo home in the latest sign of growing activity by militants.
President Obama is set to announce an executive action to raise the minimum wage for some federal contract workers from $7.25 an hour to $10.10. Obama will make the announcement during his State of the Union address tonight. He is also expected to renew his push for immigration reform.
The Obama administration has loosened restrictions on what Internet companies can reveal about how frequently the government secretly demands information about users. But the new rules still bar companies from revealing details, including the nature and amount of data collected by the government. The new rules come after tech companies sued for permission to release more data on the requests. The American Civil Liberties Union called the rules a “critical step,” but said more transparency is required, including about requests the tech companies are not aware of.
A new report from Glenn Greenwald and NBC News based on leaks from Edward Snowden reveals the British government can spy on social media sites, including YouTube, in real time, without the knowledge of companies. Another round of news reports based on Snowden’s disclosures found the National Security Agency and its British counterpart are targeting smartphone apps —– including the popular game Angry Birds –— for personal data on users, from their location to their sexual preferences.
Edward Snowden has continued to denounce U.S. spying from Russia, where he has temporary asylum. In an interview that aired this past weekend, Snowden told a German broadcaster the United States conducts spying for economic gain.
Edward Snowden: “I don’t want to pre-empt the editorial decisions of journalists, but what I will say is there’s no question that the U.S. is engaged in economic spying. If there is information at Siemens that they think would be beneficial to the national interests, not the national security, of the United States, they’ll go after that information, and they’ll take it.”
House and Senate lawmakers have reached a deal on a new farm bill that would continue heavy subsidies for crops like corn and soybeans while slashing food stamps by about $8 billion over the coming decade. The bill would end billions of dollars in direct payments to farmers while expanding government-subsidized crop insurance. Anti-hunger groups say the bill boosts corporate welfare while gutting food aid for many families by about $90 per month. The House is set to vote on the measure on Wednesday.
In Honduras, right-wing President Juan Orlando Hernández has been sworn into office despite claims of election fraud by the opposition. Hernández has pushed for militarizing Honduras as part of the fight against drug cartels, raising concerns about potential human rights abuses. Thousands of people protested outside his swearing-in Monday, including members of parliament, while soldiers stood by in close proximity. The protest was led by former President Manuel Zelaya, who was ousted in a coup in 2009 and whose wife, Xiomara Castro, ran against Hernández with the LIBRE Party.
Manuel Zelaya: “No one can detain a people organized in resistance. All that the LIBRE Party owns has been gained. Four years ago, we were repressed in the street. Today, we are a recognized institution, and we are walking forward little by little in order to overthrow the dictatorship from power in Honduras.”
In New York City, police are investigating an attack on an openly gay journalist as a possible hate crime. Randy Gener has reported and written for National Public Radio, The New York Times, the New York Daily News and other outlets. Earlier this month, he was found lying on the ground unconscious with a massive head injury that required him to undergo brain surgery. His sister told New York’s WABC her brother could not remember the assault.
Jessica Blair Driessler: “He can’t answer the questions of what happened that night. He doesn’t really exactly know who we are. And it’s really very painful to see him, hear the way that he is, because he’s the most articulate person.”
The attack on Randy Gener comes amid a spike in apparent hate crimes against LGBT people in New York City, including the murder of Mark Carson last May and the killing of Islan Nettles, a transgender woman, last August.
The Israeli civil rights leader and longtime politician Shulamit Aloni has died at the age of 85. Aloni was a longtime champion of Palestinian and women’s rights in Israel. She served as a member of the Israeli Knesset for nearly three decades, holding a number of Cabinet posts. In 1991, Aloni helped found Israel’s Meretz Party after splitting with the Labor Party. Appearing on Democracy Now! in 2002, Aloni called on the U.S. government to end its support of the Israeli occupation of Palestinian land.
Shulamit Aloni: “The only thing is when your government will understand that the only backing they have to give to the conflict in Israel is to stop the occupation, to stop the settlers, to tell Mr. Sharon to stop the crimes against humanity and against individuals, and to stop taking away citizenship from people, which is a criminal thing to do.”