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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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Record cold temperatures are continuing across the eastern and midwestern United States today with a blast of Arctic air scientists warn is part of a pattern fueled by climate change. In Kentucky, temperatures are in the negative digits, about 40 degrees below normal. Here in New York state, Martin Napier was among those who visited the iconic Niagara Falls — which is frozen.
Martin Napier: “It was like a wall of ice, with lots of stalactites. There was a few stalactites and stalactites made of ice, you know, like icicles. So it was cool. It was completely different from when you’re there in the summer, when it’s just a wall of water, eh? So it was a wall of ice.”
The record cold follows what government scientists have just confirmed was the second warmest January on record worldwide. And while New York City may be among some 100 cities currently experiencing record-breaking cold, a new report from the New York City Panel on Climate Change finds average temperatures here could jump nearly 9 degrees Fahrenheit by the 2080s.
The White House has wrapped up a three-day conference on militant extremism. Speaking Thursday, Obama reiterated his message that groups like the Islamic State do not represent Islam.
President Obama: “At the same time, we must acknowledge that groups like al-Qaeda and ISIL are deliberately targeting their propaganda to Muslim communities, particularly Muslim youth. Now, Muslim communities, including scholars and clerics, therefore have a responsibility to push back, not just on twisted interpretations of Islam, but also on the lie that we are somehow engaged in a clash of civilizations, that America and the West are somehow at war with Islam or seek to suppress Muslims, or that we are the cause of every ill in the Middle East.”
The White House conference hosted representatives from countries that have faced global condemnation for the promotion of extremism or repression of their own citizens, including Saudi Arabia and Bahrain.
In Somalia, at least 20 people have been killed, including several members of parliament, after militants set off explosions and opened fire at a hotel in the capital Mogadishu. The militant group al-Shabab has claimed responsibility for the attack on the Central Hotel, saying they were targeting government officials.
European finance ministers are meeting today in Brussels for key talks on the financial future of Greece. On Thursday, Greece formally requested a six-month extension of its current loan deal, without making a firm commitment to the deep austerity cuts dictated under its international bailout. But German economy minister Sigmar Gabriel rejected the request.
Sigmar Gabriel: “We’ve recently received an offer from the Greek government, which has been made to all the EU member states as well as the Eurogroup, in which Greece for the first time accepts that without reforms there will be no European (financial) aid. That is a beginning. But we also have to say that this offer is insufficient because it lacks all specific measures in Greece. And that cannot happen. We cannot make it easier in Greece on the shoulders of German and European taxpayers. Over the next few days, especially tomorrow, we need to negotiate further to find an agreement on specific measures.”
A new investigation by The Intercept reveals the National Security Agency and its British counterpart, GCHQ, hacked into the internal computer network of the largest manufacturer of SIM cards in the world, stealing encryption keys used to protect the privacy of cellphone communications. The secret operation targeted the Dutch company Gemalto, whose clients include AT&T, T-Mobile, Verizon, Sprint and some 450 wireless network providers around the world. We will have more on the story later in the broadcast.
Wal-Mart has announced it will raise its minimum wage to $9 an hour in April, and $10 next year, in a move that will impact about half a million low-wage workers. The increase falls far short of the $15-an-hour living wage demanded by workers who have launched historic strikes against Wal-Mart — and reported retaliation from the company for joining the protests. A 2012 analysis found the six heirs to the Wal-Mart fortune have as much wealth as the bottom 40 percent of the United States combined.
Two women in Austin, Texas, have become the first legally married same-sex couple in the state, despite a longstanding ban on the unions. A state district judge ordered the Travis County clerk to grant a marriage license to Suzanne Bryant and her partner of 30 years, Sarah Goodfriend, saying the couple needed “immediate relief” from the ban because Goodfriend has ovarian cancer. Goodfriend and Bryant celebrated at a news conference.
Sarah Goodfriend: “This really is very, very meaningful to our family to have the kind of ability to make personal decisions, health decisions and financial decisions as a family going forward.”
Suzanne Bryant: “We’re just very grateful that we’ve had this opportunity to crack the door open in Texas. We hope it will swing wide for everyone very soon.”
Just hours later, the Texas State Supreme Court blocked the order allowing the couple to wed. Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton has declared the marriage void.
A federal jury in New Orleans has awarded $14 million to five Indian workers in a trafficking case involving the firm Signal International. In the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, Signal brought hundreds of people from India to work on repairs at its shipyard in Pascagoula, Mississippi. The workers say they spent their life savings to come to the United States under false promises of permanent residency. They were then forced to spend more than $1,000 per month to live in squalid work camps, with up to 24 men sharing a single unit with two bathrooms. Those who complained were threatened with deportation. The case is one in a historic series of labor trafficking cases led by the Southern Poverty Law Center.
In Missouri, a St. Louis police officer has been suspended after turning off a dashboard camera as her colleagues were kicking and tasing an African-American man during a traffic stop. Cortez Bufford has filed suit against police over the April arrest. Video shows police dragging Bufford from the car, then kicking and tasing him. At one point he shouts, “I can’t move.” Then, using the slang term “red,” to mean the dashboard camera is rolling, Officer Kelli Swinton tells her colleagues to wait while she turns it off.
Kelli Swinton: “Hold up! Hold up, y’all! Hold up! Hold up! Everybody hold up. We’re red right now, so if you guys are worried about cameras, just wait.”
The video then abruptly stops. Police, who had received a call about shots fired in the area, accused Bufford of speeding, making an illegal U-turn and abruptly parking. They say an officer kicked him to prevent him from reaching for a gun, which they say they found in his pocket. But all charges against Bufford were dropped after the prosecutor saw the footage. Police Chief Sam Dotson told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch he does not believe the officers did anything wrong. In addition to Swinton, he suspended a sergeant who was supervising the scene — for one day.
Former Florida governor and likely Republican presidential candidate Jeb Bush has drawn criticism for choosing his slate of foreign policy advisers directly from the presidential administrations of his father and brother. Of the 21 names on the list, 19 worked under George W. Bush or George H.W. Bush — or both. The list includes two of George W. Bush’s secretaries of homeland security — Tom Ridge and Michael Chertoff — and two of his former CIA directors, Porter Goss and Michael Hayden. Other key figures tapped from his brother’s administration include John Negroponte, who served as ambassador to Iraq and the first director of national intelligence; Paul Wolfowitz, a key architect of the 2003 Iraq War; and George W. Bush’s national security adviser, Stephen Hadley. All three worked for both Bush presidents. But speaking Wednesday, Jeb Bush said he is his own man.
Jeb Bush: “Look, just for the record, one more time, I love my brother. I love my dad. Actually, love my mother, as well. Hope that’s OK. And I admire their service to the nation and the difficult decisions that they had to make. But I’m my own man, and my views are shaped by my own thinking and my own experiences.”
Another name on Jeb Bush’s list of advisers is former Assistant Secretary of State Roger Noriega, a key figure in the overthrow of Haitian President Jean-Bertrand Aristide under President George W. Bush.
Hillary Clinton, seen as the likely Democratic frontrunner for president, has come under fire from environmental groups after it was revealed her nonprofit foundation has received millions in donations from fossil fuel companies, the governments of Saudi Arabia and Qatar, and a Canadian governmental agency promoting the Keystone XL oil pipeline. The Clinton Foundation, run by Hillary and Bill Clinton, and their daughter Chelsea, has raised nearly $2 billion since its creation in 2001.
Fox News host Bill O’Reilly has come under scrutiny amid reports he fabricated claims about reporting in Latin America. O’Reilly has blasted suspended NBC News anchor Brian Williams for his false reporting about his helicopter coming under fire in Iraq. But Mother Jones has uncovered problems with an oft-repeated O’Reilly story about the war between Britain and Argentina over the Falkland Islands, off Argentina’s coast.
Bill O’Reilly, in 2013 broadcast: “I was in a situation one time in a war zone in Argentina, in the Falklands, where my photographer got run down and then hit his head and was bleeding from the ear on the concrete. And the army was chasing us. I had to make a decision. And I dragged him off, you know, but at the same time, I’m looking around and trying to do my job, but I figure I had to get this guy out of there, because that was more important.”
At the time, O’Reilly was working for CBS, and it turns out no CBS reporter got into the Falkland Islands during the war. O’Reilly’s own book, “No Spin Zone,” which recounts his time in Argentina, makes no mention of witnessing any combat. O’Reilly denounced the Mother Jones report, saying he never claimed he was in the Falklands. O’Reilly does write in his book about a protest he covered in the Argentine capital Buenos Aires, after the fighting was over, where he claimed “a major riot ensued and many people were killed.” But multiple news reports, including the CBS News report from the time, which used O’Reilly’s footage, did not report any fatalities. Meanwhile, The Nation has published footage from O’Reilly’s reporting in El Salvador in the early 1980s, just after the El Mozote massacre, when some 1,000 civilians were slaughtered by U.S.-trained Salvadoran forces. Instead of reporting on El Mozote, The Nation notes, O’Reilly went to nearby Meanguera, the site of a supposed attack by leftist rebels. In his book, O’Reilly wrote Meanguera was “leveled,” with “no one live or dead.” But his own news report from the time shows several people walking around while the town remains largely intact.