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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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The Obama administration has granted Shell conditional approval to begin offshore oil drilling in the Arctic this summer, despite protests by environmentalists and a spate of safety problems. Shell was previously allowed to begin Arctic drilling in 2012, but its attempts were beset by mishaps, including an oil rig which ran aground. The Interior Department found the company “screwed up,” failing on a number of basic tasks, including supervision of contractors. But the department will now allow Shell to drill in the pristine and highly remote Chukchi Sea, off the coast of Alaska, an area roiled by extreme weather which would be extremely difficult to reach in an emergency. Environmentalists soundly condemned the government’s decision. Rebecca Noblin of the Center for Biological Diversity said, “Scientists tell us that if we want to avoid the worst effects of climate change, we need to keep Arctic oil in the ground. Arctic drilling gives us a 75 percent chance of an oil spill and a 100 percent chance of climate catastrophe.”
In Yemen, Saudi-led airstrikes pounded the capital Sana’a and the southern port of Aden, targeting Shiite Houthi rebels, hours before today’s ceasefire was due to take effect. The Saudi government offered the five-day truce to allow delivery of humanitarian aid amid the mounting civilian toll caused by its airstrikes and blockade. On Monday, Houthi rebels said they had shot down a Moroccan fighter jet participating in the Saudi-led campaign. Meanwhile, both the Saudi and U.S. governments rushed to reject perceptions of a rift following the announcement Saudi King Salman will not attend President Obama’s summit of Gulf nations this week. In what is seen as a message of protest over Iranian nuclear talks, Saudi Arabia will instead send lower-level officials. White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest denied the move was a snub.
Josh Earnest: “Again, they have said — the Saudis themselves have said that that’s — that the reason for the change in the king’s travel schedule is not related at all to the substance of the meeting. I think what they have indicated is that he has said that he’d prefer to remain in Saudi Arabia to monitor the implementation of the humanitarian pause in Yemen.”
Another major earthquake has struck Nepal, killing at least four people, setting off landslides, collapsing damaged buildings and sending panicked residents running into the streets. The 7.3-magnitude quake struck the town of Namche Bazaar, near Mount Everest. It comes just over two weeks after a 7.8-magnitude earthquake killed more than 8,000 people.
In Bangladesh, another blogger who supported secularism has been murdered. Ananta Bijoy Dash was reportedly attacked by men wielding sharp weapons. His death marks at least the third killing of a Bangladeshi blogger in less than three months. Dash wrote for a website moderated by Bangladeshi-American blogger Avijit Roy, who was murdered in February.
In the United States, the Senate is expected to hold a key procedural vote today on a measure to give President Obama fast-track authority to negotiate the Trans-Pacific Partnership, or TPP. The 12-nation trade pact would encompass 40 percent of the global economy and is being negotiated in secret. Critics say the deal would hurt workers, undermine regulations and expand corporate power. Senate lawmakers who support the deal need 60 votes to begin a full debate.
A Swedish court has rejected WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange’s appeal of an arrest warrant which has kept him holed up in the Ecuadorean Embassy in London for nearly three years. Assange sought refuge over fears the warrant on sex crime allegations could lead to his extradition to Sweden, and then to the United States. He has not been charged with a crime. Sweden’s Supreme Court rejected the appeal Monday after granting him the right to submit it last month. Swedish prosecutors are preparing to travel to London to interview Assange, after refusing to do so for years.
Former CIA officer Jeffrey Sterling has been sentenced to 42 months in prison for leaking classified information to New York Times reporter James Risen about a failed U.S. effort to undermine Iran’s nuclear program. Risen later exposed how the risky operation could have inadvertently aided the Iranian nuclear program. In January, Sterling was convicted of nine felony counts, including espionage, becoming the latest former government employee jailed by the Obama administration for leaking information. We’ll have more on Sterling later in the broadcast.
Freed Al Jazeera journalist Mohamed Fahmy is suing Al Jazeera for $100 million over its roles in his imprisonment in Egypt. Fahmy, who is Egyptian-Canadian, spent more than a year in prison along with two other Al Jazeera journalists. In a lawsuit filed in Canadian court, he accused Al Jazeera of giving him misinformation about his legal status in Egypt and airing his reports on its Egyptian channel, which was banned.
Mohamed Fahmy: “Egypt put us three journalists on trial instead of punishing the network, but I will not be as lenient as Egypt, and I am here to announce that I will set the record straight and put Al Jazeera on trial in Canada’s top court. The network not only deceived us journalists, breached contract and acted negligently toward us before the arrest, they also failed to reimburse me for my full legal fees.”
In Nebraska, two prisoners have been found dead after authorities reclaimed control of a prison following an uprising over the weekend. Prisoners had seized control of half the housing units at the Tecumseh State Correctional Institution on Sunday, setting fires and tearing down walls, ceiling tiles and security cameras. A prisoner told the Lincoln Journal Star newspaper the uprising took place after repeated attempts to get prison officials to address poor conditions at the overcrowded prison, including a lack of access to jobs and exercise. Prisoners said they had intended to deliver a petition demanding improvements. Authorities say the revolt began after a staff member tried to break up an unauthorized gathering.
A new report finds Baltimore police routinely ignore injuries suffered by the people they detain. Following the death of Freddie Gray from spinal injuries in police custody, The Baltimore Sun found over the past few years 2,600 people have been denied admittance to the city jail because their injuries were too severe. That includes 123 people with visible head injuries.
The findings came as the United States faced questions over police violence at the United Nations Human Rights Council in Geneva. The questioning came as part of a universal periodic review, which takes place every four years. Member states grilled the United States over its failures to close Guantánamo prison, prosecute perpetrators of CIA torture and address violence against Native American women. But the review focused on racism and police brutality, an area where U.S. Justice Department official James Cadogan acknowledged the United States must improve.
James Cadogan: “The tragic deaths of Freddie Gray in Baltimore, Michael Brown in Missouri, Eric Garner in New York, Tamir Rice in Ohio and Walter Scott in South Carolina have renewed a longstanding and critical national debate about the even-handed administration of justice. These events challenge us to do better and to work harder for progress through both dialogue and action.”
Attending the review of the U.S. human rights record in Geneva was the brother of Rekia Boyd, a 22-year-old African-American woman fatally shot in the back of the head by an off-duty Chicago police officer in 2012. Last month, Dante Servin was found not guilty after killing Boyd and shooting and injuring her friend. Servin claimed he thought the friend had a gun, although none was found. Martinez Sutton called for justice in his sister’s death.
Martinez Sutton: “I just want to see some justice take place. I just want to see justice. You know, they let this guy walk free, not guilty. My sister is dead. They tried to blame it on the guy that got shot in the hand, but all the charges was dismissed against him, so who’s going to take this? My sister didn’t kill herself. You know? I would love for the Department of Justice to take in and take a look at this case.”
George Zimmerman, who was acquitted of murder after fatally shooting the unarmed African-American teenager Trayvon Martin in 2012, has suffered minor injuries after police say he was shot at while driving in Central Florida. Zimmerman was struck by flying glass and debris, not by a bullet. The man accused of shooting at him was involved in a previous encounter with Zimmerman last year, when he said Zimmerman threatened to kill him and asked him, “Do you know who I am?” Zimmerman has had repeated run-ins with police since his acquittal, including two arrests on allegations of domestic violence.
An African-American man has been found hanging from a tree in the rural town of Greensboro, Georgia. The man, Roosevelt Champion III, had been questioned last week in connection with the murder of a white woman, but had not been charged. Authorities say there is “nothing to suggest any foul play” in his death, but they are continuing to investigate.
Here in New York, an unknown amount of oil has leaked into the Hudson River following an explosion and fire at the Indian Point nuclear power plant in Buchanan, north of New York City. A transformer fire over the weekend in a non-nuclear section of the plant caused a holding tank to overflow, spilling thousands of gallons of oil. The fire marks at least the third at the plant in the past eight years. The Riverkeeper clean water advocacy group said in a statement, “Indian Point has a long, disturbing history of operational and environmental problems. The plant’s aging infrastructure has caught up to it and we must see that it is closed or these problems will only worsen with potentially catastrophic results.”
New York State Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos has stepped down from his post following his arrest on federal corruption charges. Skelos is accused of soliciting payments for his son in exchange for political favors. His resignation comes months after New York Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver resigned following charges he took millions of dollars in bribes.
The chief of police in Gloucester, Massachusetts, is traveling to Washington, D.C., today to meet with lawmakers and tout the city’s new approach to handling drug addicts. In a Facebook post that’s received two million views, Police Chief Leonard Campanello announced earlier this month Gloucester police will no longer criminally charge drug addicts who seek help, instead guiding them immediately toward detox and recovery. The police department has also reached a deal with a local pharmacy to cover the cost of the life-saving overdose antidote Narcan for the uninsured, using money seized from drug dealers. Campanello discussed the plans with local news station WCVB.
Leonard Campanello: “We wanted the police department to be one of the safe havens that you could walk in when you are ready, and we don’t want to waste that moment when the addict is ready. We’re done with an addict being criminally charged for the offense of addiction. We’re going to take that extra step and make sure that they get the treatment that they need.”
Verizon has announced plans to buy AOL in an estimated $4.4 billion deal. The purchase will reportedly let Verizon expand its mobile video and advertising plans.
And a new report has revealed Wal-Mart is getting its bottled water from California, despite a historic drought. The drought recently prompted the state’s first-ever mandatory water restrictions. Communities have been ordered to slash their water use by as much as 36 percent, but the curbs do not apply to agriculture and other industry. Local news station CBS13 found Wal-Mart is drawing its bottled water from the Sacramento Municipal Water Supply at a massive profit. Starbucks has also been drawing bottled water from California, although it recently vowed to move production to Pennsylvania after the practice came to light.