President Obama has issued his strongest statement to date in favor of a free and open Internet. In a video message, Obama called for the the Federal Communications Commission to uphold the principle of net neutrality by classifying the Internet as a public utility. He said such protections would prevent Internet service providers, or ISPs, like Comcast, from blocking access to websites, slowing down content or providing paid fast lanes for Internet service.
President Obama: “Cable companies can’t decide which online stores you can shop at or which streaming services you can use. And they can’t let any company pay for priority over its competitors. To put these protections in place, I’m asking the FCC to reclassify Internet service under Title II of a law known as the Telecommunications Act. In plain English, I’m asking them to recognize that for most Americans the Internet has become an essential part of everyday communication and everyday life.”
Press freedom groups have soundly praised Obama’s statement, which bolsters calls by nearly four million commenters who have urged the FCC to protect net neutrality. Free Press said in a statement, “[The president] may have saved the Internet at the moment it was in the greatest jeopardy.” Obama’s message comes in the wake of nationwide protests after reports the FCC planned to adopt a “hybrid” model that would apply expanded protections only to the relationship between Internet providers and content firms, like Netflix, and not to the relationship between providers and users. The FCC is an independent agency, meaning Obama cannot directly control its actions. Obama’s appointed chair of the FCC, Tom Wheeler, a former lobbyist for the cellphone and cable industries, says the agency will need more time to craft its new rules.
A militant group in Egypt has pledged allegiance to the Islamic State. The declaration by the group Ansar Beit al-Maqdis comes amidst rumors over the fate of Islamic State leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi. Iraq’s defense minister has said al-Baghdadi was wounded, and his deputy killed, by a U.S. airstrike. The Pentagon has not confirmed any details.
Iraq War veteran and antiwar activist Tomas Young has died just weeks before his 35th birthday. In 2004, Young was shot and paralyzed in Iraq. Last year, 10 years after the Iraq invasion, Young announced his intention to take his own life due to immense suffering from his injuries. He wrote a letter to former President George W. Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney, which he read in a Democracy Now! interview.
Tomas Young: “My day of reckoning is upon me. Yours will come. I hope you will be put on trial. But mostly I hope, for your sakes, that you find the moral courage to face what you have done to me and to many, many others who deserved to live.”
Young later decided to live. He died this week at home in Seattle. We will talk more about Young after headlines with Phil Donahue, who co-directed a film about him called “Body of War.”
As the United States marks Veterans Day today, the Department of Veterans Affairs has announced it may fire 1,000 staffers amidst a scandal over wait times and other healthcare failures. Newly appointed VA Secretary Bob McDonald said care for veterans has improved.
Bob McDonald: “We’ve developed something we call the 'Blueprint for Excellence' to re-establish VA’s leadership in healthcare. And we’ve begun what may become the largest restructuring in the department’s history.”
In Nigeria, a suicide bomber disguised as a student has killed nearly 50 boys at a boarding school in the town of Potiskum. The militant group Boko Haram is suspected of carrying out the attack.
In India, at least eight women have died, and nearly 70 others are hospitalized, after receiving sterilization surgeries with infected instruments as part of a government-run program. More than 80 women were reportedly operated on over a six-hour period by a single doctor in the central state of Chhattisgarh. India offers free sterilizations as a way to curb population growth, often giving cash incentives that amount to the equivalent of a week’s salary for the poor.
Outrage continues in Mexico over the apparent massacre of 43 students by police and a drug gang in the southern state of Guerrero. On Monday, protesters blocked the international airport in the resort city of Acapulco for three hours after clashing with police.
U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has announced the creation of a panel to investigate deaths and damage at U.N. facilities during this summer’s Israeli assault on Gaza, which killed nearly 2,200 Palestinians, mainly civilians. The inquiry will be led by a former Dutch general. The news comes as Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has vowed to wage a crackdown after Palestinians killed an Israeli soldier and a woman in separate attacks in Tel Aviv and the West Bank.
In the United States, a leading Palestinian activist has been jailed after she was found guilty of concealing her conviction on bombing charges by an Israeli military court more than 40 years ago. Rasmea Odeh says her confession to the bombings was obtained through torture and sexual assault in Israeli custody. Odeh moved to the United States in 1995 and serves as an associate director at the Chicago-area Arab American Action Network. Her supporters say she was targeted for prosecution on the immigration charge because of her role as a prominent supporter of Palestinian liberation. Odeh was declared a flight risk and taken into custody ahead of sentencing in March. Her attorneys have vowed to appeal.
A New York City doctor who was diagnosed with Ebola after treating patients in Guinea is due to be released from the hospital today after being declared Ebola-free. Dr. Craig Spencer was the city’s first and only known case of Ebola.
New York City is changing its response to marijuana possession. Police Commissioner William Bratton said instead of being arrested, people caught with small amounts of marijuana may receive a summons to appear in court and pay a fine if found guilty. But Bratton also noted exceptions to the policy.
Bill Bratton: “Under the new policy, persons found to be in possession of this amount of marijuana, 25 grams or less, may be eligible to receive a summons in lieu of arrest. So a summons instead of being arrested. However, I point out there are exceptions to the provisions of this new department policy. It should be made very clear that persons who are burning and/or smoking marijuana in public will still be subject to arrest.”
New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio criticized low-level marijuana arrests during his campaign, but according to the Drug Policy Alliance, police conducted more arrests for marijuana possession from March to August, under de Blasio, than during the same period the previous year under Mayor Michael Bloomberg. Eighty-six percent of those arrested for marijuana possession in the first eight months of this year were African-American or Latino.
Imprisoned journalist and former Black Panther Mumia Abu-Jamal has filed a lawsuit challenging a new Pennsylvania law he says violates his free speech. The measure was introduced after Abu-Jamal gave a pretaped commencement address at Vermont’s Goddard College. His speech was opposed by Pennsylvania officials and the widow of Daniel Faulkner, the police officer whom Abu-Jamal was convicted of killing. The law authorizes the censoring of prisoners’ public addresses if judges agree that letting them speak would cause “mental anguish” to victims.
A 30-year-old audio recording has been released publicly for the first time that captures then U.S. President Ronald Reagan apologizing to British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher over the U.S. invasion of Grenada. The United States invaded the small Caribbean nation in 1983 after the assassination of leftist President Maurice Bishop. Within months, a pro-U.S. government was installed. While the fighting was still underway, Reagan called Thatcher to apologize for not warning her in advance of his plan to invade Grenada, which is part of the British Commonwealth.
President Ronald Reagan: “If I were there, Margaret, I’d throw my hat in the door before I came in.”
British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher: “There’s no need to do that.”
Reagan went on to apologize for any “embarrassment” caused to Britain.
Three civil rights activists murdered by the Ku Klux Klan in 1964 after traveling to Mississippi to register black voters have been posthumously awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the nation’s highest civilian honor. The murders of James Chaney, Andrew Goodman and Michael Schwerner shocked the country and propelled the passage of the Voting Rights Act in 1965. Other recipients of this year’s Medal of Freedom include Chilean novelist Isabel Allende, Native American activist Suzan Harjo, and the actress and activist Marlo Thomas.