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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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Warplanes from the Saudi-led coalition struck the Yemeni cities of Aden and Ibb early today despite a previous claim by Riyadh that it had ended its nearly month-long operation. Saudi officials said Wednesday they will limit their military role in Yemen but continue to respond to Houthi attacks. Human Rights Watch, meanwhile, reports Saudi Arabia appears to have deliberately bombed a humanitarian aid warehouse run by Oxfam that contained supplies to facilitate access to clean water for thousands of households. The International Committee of the Red Cross has warned the humanitarian situation in Yemen is “catastrophic.” We’ll have more on Yemen later in the broadcast.
In the European country of Malta, 24 unidentified migrants who died in the worst migrant boat disaster in the Mediterranean have been laid to rest. As many as 850 people drowned after their boat capsized while headed to Europe from Libya. In Britain, protesters climbed into body bags and lied on a beach to protest the migrant deaths. Karla McLaren of Amnesty International said European leaders need to take stronger action.
Karla McLaren: “Today, Amnesty International is remembering the people who’ve lost their lives in the Mediterranean, and we’re sending a really, really clear message to David Cameron and the other EU leaders that they need to act decisively and quickly in response to this crisis, and that means restarting search and rescue in the Mediterranean.”
European leaders are gathering in Brussels today for an emergency meeting on the migrant crisis. A leaked draft of the summit statement obtained by The Guardian shows only 5,000 refugees would be offered the chance to resettle in Europe. At least 150,000 others would be deported.
In Chile, thousands of people have been evacuated from a remote area in the south following the eruption of the Calbuco volcano. The volcano, which has lain dormant for over four decades, has now erupted twice in the span of hours. The initial eruption sent a spectacular plume of lava and ash shooting miles into the sky.
Authorities in Japan are investigating the appearance of a drone containing possible radioactive material on the roof of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s office. Radioactive cesium was detected in the area after the drone was found carrying a bottle of liquid bearing the symbol for radioactivity. The drone’s discovery came as a Japanese court approved the restart of a nuclear power station as part of Prime Minister Abe’s push to return to nuclear power following the Fukushima meltdown in 2011.
In the United States, Senate lawmakers are expected to approve Loretta Lynch as the first African-American woman attorney general today, after unanimously passing a human trafficking bill which delayed her confirmation. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell had refused to allow a vote on Lynch’s nomination until the trafficking bill passed. For six weeks, the bill stalled as Democrats objected to a provision they say would have expanded the ban on taxpayer funding for abortion by applying it to nontaxpayer funds. The compromise still blocks abortion funding for trafficking victims but does not extend the federal ban. Loretta Lynch has waited over five months for a confirmation vote, longer than any other Cabinet nominee in the last three presidential administrations. She would replace outgoing Attorney General Eric Holder.
Federal regulators appear poised to derail a planned merger between the nation’s two largest cable providers, Time Warner and Comcast. The Wall Street Journal reports FCC staff have thrown up a significant roadblock to the deal by recommending a procedural move to place it in the hands of an administrative law judge. The cable firms may still have a chance to weigh in before the proceedings advance, but the process is expected to be lengthy and appears to signal the FCC opposes the merger. If it was allowed, the takeover would grant Comcast a virtual monopoly in 19 of the country’s 20 top media markets.
A Senate panel has passed a bill to grant President Obama authority to rush the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade deal through Congress. The TPP is currently being negotiated between the United States and 11 other Pacific Rim countries. The fast-track measure would allow Obama to present the agreement to Congress for a yes-or-no vote, with no amendments allowed. The Senate Finance Committee eventually approved the measure late Wednesday, after a creative maneuver by Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders delayed it. By applying an esoteric and rarely used scheduling rule, Sanders blocked the committee from taking up the measure until at least 4:00 p.m. He said he wanted to give the American people time to understand the TPP.
Sen. Bernie Sanders: “Not only is there massive opposition to this TPP agreement, but there is a lot of concern that the American people have not been involved in the process, that there’s not a lot of transparency. So what we are trying to do here is to make sure that this debate takes place out in the public, that the American people have as much time as possible to understand the very significant implications of this trade agreement. And I, and I suspect others, will do our best to make that happen.”
A House panel is expected to consider fast-track legislation today.
Senate Republicans have introduced a bill to extend the National Security Agency’s bulk surveillance of call records. While bipartisan lawmakers have sought to reform the bulk spying program after it was exposed by Edward Snowden, the measure introduced late Tueday by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and Intelligence Committee Chair Richard Burr would fully reauthorize sections of the PATRIOT Act which let the NSA vacuum up million of Americans’ phone records every day. The authority expires June 1 unless Congress takes action.
In Baltimore, protests over the death of Freddie Gray have entered their fifth day. The 27-year-old African-American man died Sunday from spinal injuries, one week after Baltimore police arrested him. A witness has said police bent Gray like a pretzel, with a knee in the back of his neck. Six officers have been suspended in connection with his death. Only five have been interviewed. We’ll go to Baltimore for more after headlines.
The family of Michael Brown, the 18-year-old African American whose fatal shooting by police officer Darren Wilson ignited the Black Lives Matter movement, are suing the city of Ferguson, Missouri. The family will announce their civil lawsuit today, accusing Ferguson of liability for Brown’s “wrongful death.” Darren Wilson avoided both criminal and civil rights charges.
In California, the local chapter of the International Longshore and Warehouse Union has vowed to shut down ports on May 1 in a historic protest against police brutality. In a statement, the union said, “It is fitting that on May Day, International Workers Day, Bay Area ports will be shut down to protest the racist police killing of mainly black and brown people.” It’s the first time a union has taken such action. In 2008, the same union chapter shut down Pacific Coast ports to demand an end to the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
A deputy U.S. marshal is facing an investigation after he was caught on video smashing the cellphone of a woman who was trying to film police activity. A bystander’s video from the incident Sunday in South Gate, California, shows the marshal grabbing the cellphone out of Beatriz Paez’s hand as she tries to film, then throwing it to the ground and kicking it. Paez displayed her smashed phone as she spoke to local ABC 7 news.
Beatriz Paez: “He threw everything on the ground and smashed it with his foot. He stomped on it, and he kicked it.”
The Clinton family’s charities are refiling at least five annual tax returns after an investigation by Reuters found errors in how they reported donations from governments. Reuters found for three years in a row beginning in 2010, the Clinton Foundation reported to the IRS that it received zero dollars in funds from governments. But several foreign governments actually continued to donate tens of millions of dollars to the foundation. Meanwhile, another report has raised questions about the Clinton Foundation’s connection to the Russian takeover of a Canadian uranium mining firm. According to a New York Times report based in part on a forthcoming book called “Clinton Cash” by Peter Schweizer, the State Department, then led by Hillary Clinton, gave its approval to a deal which granted the Russians control of one-fifth of uranium production capacity in the United States. Amid the takeover by the company which became known as Uranium One, the Clinton Foundation received donations of over $2 million from the firm’s chairman.
A federal judge has approved a settlement to compensate National Football League players who suffer the impacts of repeated head injuries. The NFL estimates nearly a third of its players will suffer long-term cognitive problems, like Alzheimer’s. After 5,000 players sued the league, the NFL has agreed to pay up to $5 million to players who develop certain crippling neurological diseases. Critics say the settlement will exclude people whose conditions are not specifically covered. About 200 players have opted out.
In South Carolina, a transgender teenager has won the right to wear makeup in her driver’s license photo after suing the state’s Department of Motor Vehicles. Chase Culpepper said DMV employees forced her to remove her makeup to “look male” for her initial picture. Under the terms of a settlement, the DMV will allow people to be photographed however they typically appear. Culpepper called the settlement a major victory for transgender rights.
Chase Culpepper: “I’m thrilled to be standing before you announcing this historic settlement with the South Carolina DMV. From day one, all that I wanted was to get a driver’s license that looks like me. And now that I can finally have my photo taken with makeup, my new license will reflect that. I brought this case because what happened to me was wrong. It was hurtful to be singled out for being transgender.”
Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal has vowed to fight for the passage of a law that critics say would allow discrimination against LGBT people by preventing the state from punishing companies based on their religious views of marriage. In an op-ed in The New York Times, Governor Jindal, who is expected to seek the Republican presidential nomination, condemned Indiana and Arkansas for caving to protests from businesses and softening their own so-called religious freedom measures. IBM has already opposed Louisiana’s “Marriage and Conscience Act.” Jindal wrote companies are “free to voice their opinions, but they will not deter me.”
And here in New York, an environmentalist marked Earth Day Wednesday by swimming the Gowanus Canal, one of the most polluted waterways in North America. The Environmental Protection Agency has declared the canal a Superfund site, saying years of runoff, sewer outflows and discharge from industrial plants left it roiling with heavy metals, coal tar wastes and other contaminants. Christopher Swain spent nearly an hour swimming in the canal wearing a protective suit. He said his goal is to accelerate efforts to clean up the canal.
Christopher Swain: “This is a no-joke, big, difficult clean-up. So, what I’m here to say is, even though it’s discouraging and even though it’s difficult, let’s find the courage to do it anyway, whatever it takes. I’m also saying, let’s define clean-up differently. Let’s not clean it up part of the way. Let’s not make it sort of not bad. Let’s make it sparkle. Let’s make it a diamond. Let’s make it a jewel. Let’s make the standard of clean safe enough to swim in every day.”