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You turn to Democracy Now! for ad-free news you can trust. Maybe you come for our daily headlines, or for in-depth stories that expose government and corporate abuses of power. We produce our daily news hour at a fraction of the budget of a commercial news operation, all without ads, government funding or corporate underwriting? This is only possible with your support. Right now every donation to Democracy Now! will be doubled by a generous supporter. This means if you give $25 today, Democracy Now! will get $50 to support our daily news hour. Please do your part. It takes just a couple of minutes to make sure that Democracy Now! is there for you and everybody else in the coming year. Thanks so much. -Amy Goodman
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The United Nations has issued a report on killings and displacement carried out on a “massive scale” in South Sudan. Since violence between warring factions erupted in December, more than one million people have fled their homes and thousands have been killed. The report finds civilians have been directly targeted; in one case, more than 300 men from the Nuer ethnic group were rounded up and slaughtered. Amnesty International also issued a report on the crisis Thursday, saying ethnically motivated atrocities on both sides of the conflict constitute war crimes and crimes against humanity.
U.S. officials are arriving in Nigeria today to assist in the search for nearly 300 schoolgirls abducted by Boko Haram. The officials will join a U.S. team already on the ground. Secretary of State John Kerry said the United States will do “everything possible” to fight Boko Haram.
Secretary of State John Kerry: “Our interagency team is hitting the ground in Nigeria now, and they are going to be working in concert with President Goodluck Jonathan’s government to do everything that we possibly can to return these girls to their families and their communities. We are also going to do everything possible to counter the menace of Boko Haram. The entire world should not only be condemning this outrage, but should be doing everything possible to help Nigeria in the days ahead.”
Nigeria is hosting the World Economic Forum, which concludes today. Speaking at the forum Thursday, Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan praised international delegates for attending despite the crisis.
President Goodluck Jonathan: “If you refuse to come because of fear, the terrorists would have jubilated and even would have committed more havoc. But your coming here to support us morally is a major blow on the terrorists. And by God’s grace, we will conquer the terrorists.”
Security forces in Ethiopia have reportedly opened fire on students who are protesting a government plan to expand the boundaries of the capital, Addis Ababa. Witnesses say forces fired live ammunition against peaceful protesters last week during a security crackdown that coincided with a visit by Secretary of State John Kerry. The government has said eight people died during the protests in the state of Oromia, but a resident of the town of Ambo told the BBC security forces killed 47 people.
The United States has imposed sanctions on six Syrian government officials and a Russian bank over its transactions with Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. The sanctions came as Secretary of State John Kerry met with Syrian National Coalition President Ahmad Jarba in Washington. Jarba has asked the United States to supply heavy weapons to rebels fighting the Assad regime. He spoke to reporters after the meeting.
Ahmad Jarba: “We met with Secretary Kerry, and it was a positive meeting. And now we will meet with other officials in Congress and at the White House. The positive spirit was clear in this meeting. God willing, I think it will be fruitful for the Syrian people. And it’s clear there is wide U.S. interest in this visit, and the Syrian people are looking to all the American leaders and American friends. The Syrian people are looking to the most important superpower in the world to help us lift the suffering and end the humanitarian crisis that is affecting the Syrian people.”
Meanwhile in Syria, rebels set off an explosion that leveled a hotel where government soldiers were staying in the northern city of Aleppo.
Russian President Vladimir Putin is paying a visit to the annexed region of Crimea today as Russia celebrates the anniversary of its victory over Nazi Germany in World War II. The annual Victory Day celebration comes amid rising tensions as areas of eastern Ukraine occupied by pro-Russian forces prepare to vote on whether to secede on Sunday. There are reports of deaths in the eastern city of Mariupol today amid clashes between Ukrainian troops and pro-Russian forces.
In Venezuela, a police officer has been shot dead in clashes with anti-government protesters. The violence erupted after soldiers arrested 243 people as it sought to break up anti-government protest camps in the capital Caracas. More than 40 people have been killed since the protests erupted in February.
Police in Thailand have fired tear gas and water cannons at anti-government protesters two days after Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra was ousted by a court. The court found the prime minister had violated the constitution by reassigning a top security official. The protesters want leadership transferred to an unelected people’s council.
A U.S. journalist who has reported from Yemen for the past three years has been deported from the country. Adam Baron, who writes for McClatchy and The Christian Science Monitor, was deported a day after the United States temporarily closed its embassy in Sana’a over security fears. Iona Craig, who writes for The Times of London, tweeted Thursday, “There’s only one foreign journalist officially left in #Yemen. That’s me. Just waiting for the soldiers to come knocking.” Craig said while other journalists may be in Yemen, she and Baron were the only ones with official journalist visas.
The U.S. House of Representatives has voted largely along party lines to form a select committee on the Obama administration’s handling of the 2012 attacks in Benghazi, Libya, that killed U.S. Ambassador Christopher Stevens and three other Americans. The panel will include seven Republicans and five Democrats. This week, a Republican political committee launched a fundraising campaign called “Benghazi Watchdogs” prompting criticism from Democrats like Rep. Elijah Cummings of Maryland.
Rep. Elijah Cummings: “Republicans have selectively leaked documents and cherry-picked transcripts, excerpts, without any official committee consideration. How is that bipartisan? Republicans have also been doing something worse: They have been using the deaths of these four Americans for political campaign fundraising. I call on the speaker of the House to end that process right now.”
Oklahoma has agreed to stay the execution of prisoner Charles Warner for six months following the botched execution of another prisoner. Warner was due to be executed last week on the same night as Clayton Lockett, who died of a heart attack 43 minutes after the execution began. On Thursday, the Oklahoma attorney general’s office agreed to a request from Warner’s lawyers to stay his execution pending a state probe into the one that went awry. Warner is now due to be executed on November 13.
A majority of the jurors who convicted Occupy Wall Street activist Cecily McMillan of second-degree assault are asking a judge not to sentence her to any time in prison. McMillan was found guilty on Monday of assaulting a police officer. She says she struck out instinctively when her breast was grabbed from behind, and later suffered a seizure during her arrest. During the trial, the jurors were reportedly barred from researching the case, including potential sentences. Some were shocked to learn McMillan could face up to seven years in prison at her sentencing on May 19. One juror told The Guardian, “Most wanted her to do probation, maybe some community service.” The juror called the potential seven-year term “ludicrous,” saying, “Even a year in jail is ludicrous.” Nine of the 12 jurors who convicted McMillan have written to the judge asking for leniency, saying “it serves no purpose to Cecily or to society to incarcerate her for any amount of time.”
The Obama administration has issued updated guidelines reminding school districts they cannot deny access to students based on immigration status. The move follows a series of complaints against school districts across the country who have demanded parents and students provide documents that are out of reach for undocumented people. In 1982, the U.S. Supreme Court upheld the right of all students to receive public education, regardless of immigration status.
In Ohio, hundreds of gallons of drilling fluid have spilled into a creek from a shale well being prepared for fracking. Officials say the leak was discovered on Sunday. About 1,600 gallons of the fluid, known as “mud,” gushed out before the spill was contained on Wednesday. Nearby residents were evacuated amid fears of a natural gas explosion. The company, PDC Energy, said it still plans to move forward with fracking the wells.
The mobile messaging firm Snapchat has agreed to settle charges it misled users and secretly collected their data. Snapchat lets users send photos, videos and messages that disappear within seconds. Despite the company’s claims the messages “disappear forever,” the Federal Trade Commission says the messages remained accessible to users and outside parties. The FTC also said Snapchat collected users’ location and contacts, despite claims it was not doing so, and failed to secure user data, enabling hackers to gather millions of user phone numbers in a recent breach. The deal with the FTC requires Snapchat to make changes, but it will not face a fine.
Vermont Gov. Peter Shumlin has signed a law making Vermont the first state to require labeling of foods with genetically modified ingredients. The measure also bars foods with GMOs from being labeled as “natural.” It takes effect in July 2016.
More than 100 people gathered Thursday in Hearne, Texas, to protest the fatal police shooting of a 93-year-old African-American woman. Witnesses say Pearlie Golden, known as Ms. Sully, was shot at least five times outside her home on Tuesday. Authorities say Golden had a gun when a police officer arrived following a reported dispute with her nephew, who was trying to take away her car keys after she failed a driver’s test. The officer involved, Stephen Stem, previously shot dead an African-American man in 2012, but was cleared by a grand jury. Stem has been on the police force for less than two years. Protesters spoke to the local Eagle newspaper.
Resident: “Everybody treated fair. We went through the same thing last year and didn’t nobody do nothing about it. We just need something done. You can’t keep doing it and don’t nobody have consequences for their actions. We want something done, that’s it. Ain’t no threats or nothing being made out. We just want something done. We need help.”
William Foster III: “We’re thinking about justice and for us to find out what is going to be done about an injustice. That’s what we’re thinking about.”
Protesters: “What do we want?” “Justice!” “What do we want?” “Justice!”
Stem has been placed on paid administrative leave. Hearne Mayor Ruben Gomez says he will recommend the officer be fired at a city council meeting on Saturday.