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You turn to Democracy Now! for ad-free news you can trust. Maybe you come for our daily headlines, or for in-depth stories that expose government and corporate abuses of power. We produce our daily news hour at a fraction of the budget of a commercial news operation, all without ads, government funding or corporate underwriting? This is only possible with your support. Right now every donation to Democracy Now! will be doubled by a generous supporter. This means if you give $25 today, Democracy Now! will get $50 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 in the coming year. Thanks so much. -Amy Goodman
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Saudi-led airstrikes have killed at least 80 people in Yemen, marking the deadliest day of the two-month bombing campaign to date. The strikes battered the Yemeni capital Sana’a and the Bakeel al-Meer area near the Saudi border, where residents told Reuters at least 40 people were killed, most of them civilians. Arab planes and ships blasted Yemen’s largest military port in the city of Hodeidah, marking the worst attack on Yemen’s navy since Saudi Arabia launched its offensive on Iranian-aligned Houthi rebels in March. Saudi-led planes also targeted a car thought to be carrying Houthi leaders in central Sana’a. An eyewitness said the strike destroyed homes and injured residents.
Haj Hassan: “This is shrapnel that hit working men, not targets, not military bases. We must distinguish between the two. We must maintain our good senses. This was an attack on everything; this is an attack on the whole nation. What fault is it of the children and the women inside the homes?”
Concerns are mounting over the fate of a U.S. citizen held in a Yemeni military prison after a Saudi airstrike hit the compound where his attorneys believe he is imprisoned. The Guardian reports the U.K. human rights group Reprieve has asked the Obama administration to seek proof of life for Sharif Mobley, a father of three from New Jersey who has been detained in Yemen since 2010.
The self-proclaimed Islamic State has released new footage showing the renowned ancient ruins in the Syrian city of Palmyra apparently intact and unharmed. Despite international fears after ISIL seized the city last week, activists say ISIL has vowed to spare the structures and destroy only the statues. On Wednesday, ISIL reportedly shot dead nearly two dozen people accused of supporting the Syrian regime in the city’s Roman amphitheater.
Kentucky senator and Republican presidential candidate Rand Paul has blamed the Republican Party for the existence of the self-proclaimed Islamic State. Speaking on MSNBC, Paul pointed the finger at “hawks” like Senator Lindsey Graham.
Sen. Rand Paul: ”ISIS exists and grew stronger because of the hawks in our party who gave arms indiscriminately, and most of those arms were snatched up by ISIS. These hawks also wanted to bomb Assad, which would have made ISIS’s job even easier. They created these people. ISIS is all over Libya because these same hawks in my party loved — they loved Hillary Clinton’s war in Libya. They just wanted more of it. But Libya is a failed state, and it’s a disaster. Iraq really is a failed state or a vassal state now of Iran. So everything that they’ve talked about in foreign policy, they’ve been wrong about for 20 years.”
The death toll from a heat wave in India has topped 1,400 with scorching heat expected to continue. In the hardest-hit southern state of Andhra Pradesh, temperatures hit 47 degrees Celsius — or 117 degrees Fahrenheit — while the death toll topped 1,000 in that state alone.
The Justice Department has unveiled a sweeping corruption indictment against 14 soccer officials and marketing executives accused of exchanging $150 million in bribes and “corrupt[ing] the business of worldwide soccer.” Among those arrested in connection with the probe is Jack Warner, former vice president of soccer’s governing body, FIFA, who is accused of taking a $10 million bribe to cast his ballot for South Africa to host the 2010 World Cup. U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch said the corruption dates back to at least 1991, when soccer officials, including the then-presidents of two regional soccer confederations under FIFA, solicited bribes from sports marketers for commercial rights to their soccer tournaments. The indictment Lynch unsealed features 47 counts, including racketeering charges typically reserved for drug cartels and the Mafia.
Loretta Lynch: “The 47-count indictment against these individuals includes charges of racketeering, wire fraud and money laundering conspiracies spanning two decades. In short, these individuals, through these organizations, engaged in bribery to decide who would televise games, where the games would be held and who would run the organization overseeing organized soccer worldwide, one of the most popular sports around the globe.”
Longtime FIFA President Sepp Blatter is not named in the indictment, and Lynch declined to comment on whether he is under investigation.
Nebraska has become the first Republican-controlled state to ban the death penalty in more than four decades. Republican Governor Pete Ricketts had vetoed the ban on executions, but lawmakers from both parties overrode his veto by a vote of 30 to 19. Independent Nebraska Senator Ernie Chambers celebrated the move.
Sen. Ernie Chambers: “Had not the conservative faction decided that it’s time for a change, there’s no way that what is happening today would be taking place. This will be a shining moment for the Nebraska Legislature.”
Nebraska is the 19th state to ban executions and the first conservative state to do so since North Dakota in 1973. In a statement, the Death Penalty Information Center said, “The efforts and arguments of Nebraska conservatives are part of an emerging trend in the Republican Party, evidenced by the involvement of conservative Republicans in legislative efforts to repeal the death penalty in other states, such as Kansas, Kentucky, South Dakota, Montana, and Wyoming.”
A federal appeals court has struck down an Arkansas law banning abortion after 12 weeks of pregnancy. The ruling upholds an earlier decision against the 2013 law, which was among the most extreme abortion bans in the country. In a statement, the ACLU said, “This law was about banning abortion, plain and simple. Other states looking to pass similar laws should pay close attention.”
Former Pennsylvania Senator Rick Santorum has launched his second bid for the Republican presidential nomination. Santorum was the runner-up in the 2012 nomination race, after winning the support of evangelical Christians. Santorum announced his bid in Pennsylvania at Penn United Technologies — a company which makes equipment for the oil and gas industries.
Rick Santorum: “Working families don’t need another president tied to big government or big money. And today is the day — today is the day we are going to begin to fight back. I am proud to stand here among you and for you, the American workers, who have sacrificed so much, to announce that I am running for president of the United States.”
The Republican presidential field is set to get even more crowded today as former three-term New York Governor George Pataki is expected to announce his bid.
U.S. Army whistleblower Chelsea Manning has marked five years since her arrest by publishing her most detailed account of her trial and imprisonment to date. Writing in The Guardian, Manning describes how she was initially held in a “hot, desert cage” in Kuwait, and threatened by Navy guards with “interrogation on a brig on a U.S. cruiser off the coast of the horn of Africa, or being sent to the prison camps of Guantánamo Bay.” Manning also describes her nearly year-and-a-half-long battle to receive hormones for gender dysphoria. She announced her transition to living as a woman in 2013 after she was sentenced to 35 years in prison for giving secret files to WikiLeaks. Manning also discussed her motivation for releasing the documents, including information about the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. She wrote, “Once you come to realize that the co-ordinates in these records represent real places, that the dates are our recent history and that the numbers represent actual human lives — with all of the love, hope, dreams, hate, fear and nightmares with which we all live — then you cannot help but be reminded just how important it is for us to understand and, hopefully, prevent such tragedies in the future.”
Norway is divesting from coal over concerns about its impact on climate change. The Norwegian Parliament has reached a unanimous deal to divest its $900 billion sovereign wealth fund from companies which generate more than 30 percent of their revenues from coal. The fund, which is the largest of its kind in the world, is made up of taxes from oil profits. The Parliament is expected to formally adopt the divestment plan on June 5.
The Obama administration has issued new rules aimed at protecting the drinking water of millions of Americans. The rules seek to end confusion about which waterways are protected from pollution under the Clean Water Act, specifying protection for up to 60 percent of the nation’s streams and millions of acres of wetlands which were not clearly designated before. The group Environment America called the rules “the biggest victory for clean water in a decade,” while Republican House Speaker John Boehner blasted them as “a raw and tyrannical power grab.”
The Pentagon has acknowledged it accidentally sent live anthrax spores to up to nine laboratories across the United States and to a U.S. military lab in South Korea. The labs were supposed to receive inactive samples for research, but got live spores instead. Anthrax exposure can be fatal, but the Pentagon says there are no known infections to date.
In South Carolina, a grand jury has indicted a white police officer who fatally shot an unarmed 68-year-old African-American man in his own driveway. Former North Augusta police officer Justin Craven was indicted on a lesser felony charge of firing his gun into an occupied vehicle, after a grand jury previously refused to indict him for voluntary manslaughter. Authorities say Craven chased Ernest Satterwhite to his home, then fired repeatedly through Satterwhite’s car window almost immediately after he stopped in his driveway. Craven claimed Satterwhite reached for his gun. Police have refused to release dashboard camera footage of the shooting.
And an Indiana woman who drew international support when she was sentenced to death at the age of 16, and was later released from prison, has been found dead of an apparent suicide at the age of 45. Paula Cooper became the youngest person on death row in 1986 after her conviction for killing Ruth Pelke, an elderly Bible teacher. Her case drew calls to spare her life from people around the world, including the victim’s grandson, Bill Pelke. Shortly before her release for good behavior in 2013, Cooper told The Times of Northwest Indiana she looked forward to starting a new life.
Paula Cooper: “When I get out, I mean, I don’t care if I have to sweep floors, wash dishes or flip hamburgers; I’m going to take whatever I can get, you know, just to get on my feet and show people that I deserve a chance.”
Paula Cooper was found dead of an apparent self-inflicted gunshot wound in Indianapolis on Tuesday.