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You turn to Democracy Now! for ad-free news you can trust. Maybe you come for our daily headlines. Maybe you come for in-depth stories that expose government and corporate abuses of power. This week Democracy Now! is celebrating our 23rd birthday. For over two decades, we've produced our daily news hour without ads, government funding or corporate underwriting. How is this possible? Only with your support. Right now, in honor of Democracy Now!'s birthday, every donation we receive will be doubled by a generous supporter. This means if you give $30 today, Democracy Now! will get $60 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. Thank you! -Amy Goodman
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Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon has ordered the National Guard to leave Ferguson, as peaceful protests continue over the police killing of unarmed black teenager Michael Brown. Brown’s funeral is scheduled for Monday and is expected to draw a huge crowd. On Thursday, Missouri State Senator Jamilah Nasheed was threatened with arrest as she sought to deliver a 70,000-signature petition to prosecutor Bob McCulloch calling for him to be replaced by a special prosecutor in the case. McCulloch has extensive family ties to law enforcement; his father was a police officer killed by an African American. On Thursday, Attorney General Eric Holder assured residents the federal probe of the shooting will be independent.
Eric Holder: “The national outcry we have seen speaks to a sense of mistrust and mutual suspicion that can take hold in the relationship between law enforcement and certain communities. I wanted the people of Ferguson to know that I personally understood that mistrust. I wanted them to know that while so much else may be uncertain, this attorney general and this Department of Justice stands with the people of Ferguson.”
Michael Brown’s parents say they plan to march this weekend in New York City to demand justice for Eric Garner. Garner died last month after police in Staten Island placed him in a banned chokehold, then pinned him to the sidewalk, while he repeatedly said he couldn’t breathe. He was accused of selling loose cigarettes. Thousands are expected to attend Saturday’s protest led by Rev. Al Sharpton. Garner’s death is one of several that have brought police tactics to the forefront in cities across the country.
In Los Angeles, residents have mobilized around the case of Omar Abrego, who witnesses say was beaten by police for 10 minutes before he died, as well as the case of Ezell Ford, whose family says he was unarmed and lying on the ground when he was shot dead by police. Residents marched in Los Angeles Thursday as part of a National Day of Rage against police brutality and in solidarity with Ferguson.
Troy Isaac: “Because officers that are killing people that have no guns, that are illegal to do, they should go to jail just like everybody else should go to jail. And it’s not fair for them not to be in jail, while we’re out here protesting. They should be in jail.”
In Ohio, one of two police officers involved in the fatal shooting of a young black man inside a Wal-Mart in Beavercreek is back on the job. When the officers confronted John Crawford, he was reportedly holding a BB gun which was for sale at the store. The mother of Crawford’s two infant children told the local paper she was on the phone with Crawford and heard him say, “It’s not real,” before police opened fire. A special grand jury will convene in the case next month.
Israel is continuing its military assault on the Gaza Strip. The Palestinian news agency Ma’an reports five people have been killed today and at least 38 on Thursday, including three senior Hamas military commanders. Since the offensive began six weeks ago, at least 2,087 Palestinians have died, the majority civilians, while 67 people have died on the Israeli side, all but three of them soldiers. The renewed strikes have sent residents of Gaza fleeing to U.N. shelters yet again after some had returned to shattered neighborhoods.
Amal Ladiyali: “Every day, there are people — men, women, elderly and children — getting killed. Everybody. They mock us by giving us a bit of food to distract us. They are killing us and burying us at the same time.”
There are reports Hamas militants have executed 18 Palestinians accused of being collaborators with Israel, including seven reportedly killed in a public square.
The Obama administration is continuing to ramp up its rhetoric against the Islamic State following the group’s release of a video showing the beheading of journalist James Foley. On Thursday, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Martin Dempsey, hinted at possible intervention in Syria.
Gen. Martin Dempsey: “This is an organization that has an apocalyptic, end-of-days strategic vision and which will eventually have to be defeated. To your question, can they be defeated without addressing that part of their organization which resides in Syria, the answer is no. That will have to be addressed on both sides of what is essentially at this point a non-existent border. And that will come when we have a coalition in the region that takes on the task of defeating ISIS over time.”
Dempsey was also asked directly whether the campaign against the Islamic State, also known as ISIS, would require airstrikes.
Gen. Martin Dempsey: “It requires a variety of instruments, only one small part of which is airstrikes. I’m not predicting those will occur in Syria, at least not by the United States of America. But it requires the application of all of the tools of national power — diplomatic, economic, information, military.”
The United States has launched at least 90 airstrikes against Islamic State militants in Iraq since its bombardment began two weeks ago. On Thursday, the GlobalPost released the full text of the last email James Foley’s family received from the militants, which calls Foley’s execution a ”DIRECT result” of U.S. airstrikes. “You and your citizens will pay the price of your bombings!” they wrote.
The United Nations says the death toll from the three-year civil war in Syria has topped 191,000. That is an increase of more than 90,000 since last July.
In her final speech before the U.N. Security Council, outgoing U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay criticized the council’s response to Syria and other conflicts.
Navi Pillay: “Short-term geopolitical considerations and national interests, narrowly defined, have repeatedly taken precedence over intolerable human suffering and grave breaches of and long-term threats to international peace and security. I firmly believe that greater responsiveness by this council would have saved hundreds of thousands of lives.”
Two American missionaries sickened with Ebola while in Liberia have recovered from the virus and been discharged from a hospital in Georgia. Nancy Writebol was released on Tuesday. Dr. Kent Brantly spoke before he left on Thursday.
Dr. Kent Brantly: “Above all, I am forever thankful to God for sparing my life, and I’m glad for any attention my sickness has attracted to the plight of West Africa in the midst of this epidemic. Please, continue to pray for Liberia and the people of West Africa and encourage those in positions of leadership and influence to do everything possible to bring this Ebola outbreak to an end. Thank you.”
The World Health Organization says at least 70 people have died in the northern Democratic Republic of Congo from an outbreak of an Ebola-like illness. While the symptoms of the two illnesses are similar, experts say the death rate for the other illness is far lower than that of Ebola.
A Russian aid convoy has begun crossing into eastern Ukraine and heading toward the besieged city of Luhansk. While at least one part of the convoy had cleared customs, the trucks appear to have departed without authorization from Ukraine. The convoy has been held up at the border for more than a week undergoing inspections. Ukraine has accused Russia of using it as cover to mount a military incursion, while Russia says the trucks carry humanitarian aid for residents in dire need.
In Yemen, supporters of the Shiite Houthi rebels have begun massing in the capital Sana’a as talks continue between the government and the rebels’ leader in the north. Today marks the deadline issued by the Houthis for Yemen to roll back a hike in fuel prices, which has impacted the poor, and to dissolve the government, which they say is corrupt.
Tens of thousands of students marched in the Chilean capital Santiago Thursday to demand free education. Police fired tear gas and water cannons as a small number of protesters threw rocks and sticks. Student protests erupted in Chile in 2011 over demands for free and quality education for all. President Michelle Bachelet has vowed to reform the system, but students are demanding a greater voice in the process.
A congressional watchdog says the prisoner exchange that freed Army Sergeant Bowe Bergdahl from the Taliban was illegal. The Government Accountability Office says the Obama administration failed to give Congress enough notice before transferring five Guantánamo prisoners in the swap. Bergdahl has returned to active duty with a desk job at a base in Texas amidst a probe into his capture. His attorney says he wants to attend college and re-enter civilian life.
The Justice Department has unveiled a more than $16.6 billion settlement with Bank of America over its sale of toxic residential mortgage-backed securities, or RMBS. Attorney General Eric Holder said the deal is the largest civil settlement with a single entity in history.
Eric Holder: “As a part of this settlement, Bank of America has acknowledged that in the years leading up to the financial crisis that devastated our economy in 2008, it, Merrill Lynch and Countrywide sold billions of dollars of RMBS backed by toxic loans whose quality and level of risk they knowingly misrepresented to investors and to the United States government.”
The settlement includes $7 billion in relief measures for homeowners, meaning the bank’s actual burden is likely far less than the record total announced. Critics say very few homeowners will actually benefit compared to the millions who lost their homes to foreclosure during the financial crisis. The U.S. Public Interest Research Group says Bank of America could receive approximately $5.6 billion in tax deductions from the deal, a burden that would be shifted onto taxpayers.
A man in Brooklyn, New York, has won a $125,000 settlement in a federal lawsuit over his right to document police activity. According to the New York Daily News, Dick George used his cellphone camera to document a police stop-and-frisk in 2012. After he advised the young people who had been frisked to get the officers’ badge numbers next time, George said he was pulled from his car by police and told, “Now we’re going to give you what you deserve for meddling in our business.” He was then arrested and charged with disorderly conduct. Following last month’s fatal arrest of Eric Garner, which was caught on cellphone video, the NYPD sent a memo reminding officers the public has a right to record police actions. But Ramsey Orta, who shot the video of Garner’s arrest, and Orta’s wife have both reported being harassed by police and arrested on unrelated charges since their video was released.