More than 400 fast-food workers and their supporters have been arrested in a national day of action for a $15-an-hour minimum wage. Workers staged a one-day strike in 150 cities across the country Thursday, from Las Vegas to Chicago and Detroit, to Little Rock, Arkansas, and here in New York City.
Dijon Thornton: “We’re getting awareness and showing people in Albany that we deserve $15 and a union, and that we’re angry about the minimum wage. We don’t believe in the minimum wage; we believe in a living wage”
Michael Gonzalez: “We’re asking and we’re demanding for $15. We’re not asking for so much. We’re just asking for about so much, so we can be able to live and survive in New York.”
Those arrested engaged in nonviolent civil disobedience by blocking streets during rush hour. In addition to a living wage, workers are also seeking the right to unionize and improved workplace conditions, including consistent working hours.
A federal judge has ruled the oil giant BP was “grossly negligent” in the lead-up to the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, the worst in U.S. history. The ruling could force BP to pay up to $18 billion in additional fines. Attorney General Eric Holder praised the ruling in Washington.
Attorney General Eric Holder: “We are pleased that the district court in New Orleans has found that the largest oil spill in United States history was caused by BP’s gross negligence and willful misconduct. The court’s findings will ensure that the company is held fully accountable for its recklessness.”
The ruling also found BP subcontractors Transocean and Halliburton “negligent” in the accident. BP says it will immediately appeal.
The Justice Department has formally announced a civil rights probe of the police department in Ferguson, Missouri, where the unarmed African-American teenager Michael Brown was killed last month. The announcement follows weeks of protests sparked by Brown’s death that brought to light allegations of racial profiling and other police abuses against African-American residents. On Thursday, Attorney General Eric Holder said his recent visit to Ferguson helped inform the investigation’s scope.
Attorney General Eric Holder: “I heard from them directly about the deep mistrust that has taken hold between law enforcement officials and members of that community. In meetings, as well as in listening sessions, as well as informal conversations, people consistently expressed concerns stemming from specific alleged incidents, from general policing practices and from the lack of diversity on the Ferguson police force. … In Ferguson, our investigation will assess the police department’s use of force, including deadly force. It will analyze stops, searches and arrests. And it will examine the treatment of individuals detained at Ferguson’s City Jail, in addition to other potentially discriminatory policing techniques and tactics that have been brought to light.”
The investigation is separate from another civil rights inquiry specifically into Brown’s killing at the hands of Ferguson officer Darren Wilson. The probe could expand to other areas surrounding Ferguson.
A federal appeals court has overturned marriage equality bans in Wisconsin and Indiana, the latest in a series of rulings since the U.S. Supreme Court struck down the Defense of Marriage Act last year. One judge on the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals said marriage equality bans are based on “hate … and savage discrimination” against LGBT people. The rulings bring the number of states upholding marriage equality to 21. In a rare victory for opponents of marriage equality, a separate court upheld Louisiana’s LGBT marriage ban earlier this week.
The Ukrainian government and pro-Russian rebels are reportedly set to sign a ceasefire today aimed at ending over six months of fighting that has killed at least 2,600 people and displaced over a million. The deal is expected this morning in the Belarusian capital of Minsk as President Obama and European leaders meet in Wales for a major NATO summit.
In Virginia, former Republican Gov. Bob McDonnell and his wife have been found guilty of multiple corruption charges for accepting gifts from a prominent donor. The McDonnells received more than $140,000 from Star Scientific CEO Jonnie Williams. Federal prosecutors contend McDonnell accepted the money in exchange for promoting Star Scientific’s products and providing other favors. McDonnell was offered a plea bargain earlier this year, but opted instead to go to trial. His defense strategy largely entailed placing the blame on his wife Maureen, who as a non-public official could not have been convicted of corruption charges on her own. McDonnell’s attorneys argued the couple were too estranged to have conspired in a criminal manner. But jurors found McDonnell guilty of all the corruption charges against him. After the verdict was announced, Virginia District Attorney Dana Boente said McDonnell had violated the public trust.
Dana Boente: “This is a difficult and disappointing day for the commonwealth and its citizens. Public service frequently requires sacrifice and almost always requires financial sacrifice. When public officials turn to financial gain in exchange for official acts, we have little choice but to prosecute the case.”
McDonnell is the first Virginia governor in history to be charged with a crime. His attorneys have vowed an appeal. Sentencing is scheduled for January 6.
Bob McDonell’s conviction comes days after another Republican-linked corruption case came to a close. Former Iowa state Senator Kent Sorenson has pleaded guilty to accepting a bribe for defecting from one presidential campaign to another right before Iowa’s 2012 Republican caucuses. Sorenson accepted $73,000 to jump from Michele Bachmann’s team over to rival candidate Ron Paul’s. Sorenson now faces up to 25 years behind bars. His guilty plea has had a domino effect in Kentucky, where Senator Mitch McConnell’s campaign manager, Jesse Benton, has resigned. Benton ran Paul’s campaign at the time of Sorenson’s bribe.
Former House Majority Leader Eric Cantor has landed a new job on Wall Street just months after his stunning primary loss. Cantor became the first House majority leader to ever lose a primary when he fell to tea party challenger David Brat. Brat ran on a staunch anti-immigrant platform, but some analysts say Cantor was done in by a voter backlash against his insider politics and close Wall Street ties. This week, the Wall Street investment bank Moelis & Company announced Cantor will serve as the company’s vice chairman and managing director for a base pay of $400,000 and a bonus of more than $1 million in stock and cash.
Newly disclosed emails show a national security reporter with the Los Angeles Times pre-cleared his stories with the CIA and promised the agency positive coverage. According to The Intercept, Ken Dilanian had a “closely collaborative relationship with the CIA,” that saw him send drafts of entire news stories prior to publication. In one case, Dilanian told a CIA press officer a story he was working on about congressional oversight of drone strikes “can present a good opportunity for you guys,” in “reassuring to the public.” In another exchange, Dilanian sent over an unpublished story in full with the subject header “does this look better?” The CIA’s response appears to have led to major changes in at least one article. A spokesperson for Tribune newspapers says Dilanian appears to have violated company rules barring sharing of stories prior to publication. Now a reporter for the Associated Press, Dilanian declined comment for The Intercept’s story.
Bahrain has detained the leading human rights activist Maryam Alkhawaja after she tried to enter the country. Alkhawaja says customs officials told her she no longer holds citizenship. Alkhawaja was trying to visit her ailing father, Abdulhadi Alkhawaja, who remains on a hunger strike in prison. Bahrain is a key U.S. government ally, hosting the Navy’s Fifth Fleet.
The comedian Joan Rivers has died at the age of 81. Rivers passed away Thursday days after going into cardiac arrest during an outpatient procedure. New York authorities are now investigating the clinic, Yorkville Endoscopy, where she was undergoing the operation, but no wrongdoing is suspected.
Some 51,000 children attended their first day of full-day, universal prekindergarten in New York City on Thursday, in a major expansion of public education led by new Mayor Bill de Blasio. Despite the quick rollout of the expansion, the school year started with limited problems. The city’s education department says there are pre-K classrooms in 1,655 public schools and private programs. The new pre-K program is being closely watched by educators across the country. Democracy Now! co-host Juan González is closely following the new education initiative and has written about it in the New York Daily News.