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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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Police are searching for a gunman who opened fire inside a historic black church in South Carolina, killing nine people and wounding several others. The victims were attending Bible study at the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church when the attack occurred, shortly after 9 p.m. Charleston Police Chief Gregory Mullen called the massacre a hate crime.
Gregory Mullen: “We are looking for a white male, approximately 21 years old, sandy blonde hair. And he obviously is extremely dangerous. And what we are asking is that if anyone in the community has information about this particular individual, that he contact law enforcement immediately.”
Reporter: “Do you believe this was a hate crime?”
Gregory Mullen: “I do believe this was a hate crime.”
The known victims include the church’s pastor, the Reverend Clementa Pinckney, and his sister. Reverend Pinckney also served as a state senator. Just hours earlier, he had campaigned with Democratic hopeful Hillary Clinton in Charleston. After meeting with the victims’ families, Charleston Mayor Joseph Riley described a “heartbreaking scene.”
Charleston Mayor Joseph Riley Jr.: “As Chief Mullen said, our city police department, county police department, state law enforcement division, other municipalities, the FBI and others are all combined and working with us to make sure that we catch this awful person and bring him to justice as soon as possible. We just left speaking with members of the family, a heartbreaking scene I have never witnessed in my life before.”
Known as “Mother Emanuel,” the Emanuel AME Church is home to the oldest black congregation south of Baltimore. It was burned in the 1820s during a slave rebellion and has stood at its present location since 1872.
Eurozone finance ministers are holding crisis talks today over the threat of Greece defaulting on its debts and dropping out of the eurozone. The Greek government and European creditors are at odds over a deal before Greece’s current bailout expires at the end of month. The Greek government has rejected European demands for further pension cuts in exchange for a new loan to help Greece meet its obligations. Ahead of today’s meeting, European Commissioner Valdis Dombrovskis said the onus is on Greece.
Valdis Dombrovskis: “Technical preconditions for reaching the agreement are there. What is needed now is really a political will from the Greek side to do this final effort, to do the final push to reach the agreement.”
On Wednesday, thousands of people rallied in Athens in a show of support for the government’s rejection of more European-backed austerity.
A deadline has passed in the Dominican Republic for undocumented workers of Haitian descent to register their presence or risk mass deportation. Half a million people could be sent to Haiti under a ruling that stripped the citizenship of children born to Haitian immigrants in the Dominican Republic as far back as 1929, retroactively leaving tens of thousands stateless. On Wednesday, people lined up across the country to register before a midnight deadline. State officials say they will begin patrolling migrant neighborhoods to look for those who have not signed up. The Dominican Republic’s decision to denationalize hundreds of thousands of people has sparked an international outcry.
Attacks from a group linked to the Islamic State have killed dozens of people in the Yemeni capital of Sana’a. Militants targeted three mosques and a political office tied to the Houthi rebel movement, which has seized control of Sana’a and other parts of the country. The violence comes amid talks in Geneva to end Yemen’s internal conflict between the Houthis and the exiled government backed by Saudi Arabia. Houthi rebels are refusing to withdraw from captured territory, saying al-Qaeda militants could take their place. The deposed president, Abdu Rabbu Mansour Hadi, has demanded the Houthis’ unconditional withdrawal.
Some 80 percent of Yemenis are in need of aid. As the talks continue, Robert Mardini of the International Committee of the Red Cross called for a new humanitarian truce.
Robert Mardini: “So it’s been 80 days of chaos, death, destruction in Yemen. And ahead of the holy month of Ramadan, there is really little hope for the people of Yemen. Fighting is escalating everywhere in the country and is taking a heavy toll. Figures are very eloquent. Dozens are being killed every day. And at the end of the day or the week, whether a humanitarian pause is negotiated or not — and we really hope that this might be an outcome of this week — we have one main message here: The humanitarian work must go on, with or without humanitarian pause.”
The U.S. says it’s training less than one-third of the number of Iraqi troops needed to fight the self-proclaimed Islamic State as recruitment falls short. Testifying before Congress, Secretary of Defense Ash Carter said the U.S. seeks a “greater commitment” from the Iraqi government.
Defense Secretary Ash Carter: “We simply haven’t received enough recruits. Of the 24,000 Iraqi security forces we had originally envisioned training at our four sites by this fall, we’ve only received enough recruits to be able to train about 7,000, in addition to 2,000 Counter-Terrorism Service personnel. As I’ve told Iraqi leaders, while the United States is open to supporting Iraq more than we already are, we must see a greater commitment from all parts of the Iraqi government.”
The news comes one week after President Obama increased the U.S. military presence in Iraq to boost training for the Iraqi forces following ISIL’s capture of Ramadi last month.
A federal appeals court has reinstated a decade-old case that could hold senior Bush administration officials to account for their roles in the post-9/11 detentions, abuse and religious profiling of Muslim, Arab and South Asian men. The plaintiffs are among thousands of people rounded up and held after 9/11, many without charge. They have been attempting to sue Bush-era officials including former Attorney General John Ashcroft and former FBI Director Robert Mueller.
The Texas town of Denton has repealed a voter-approved ban on hydraulic fracking after pressure from state officials and corporate interests. Denton voters made their town the first in Texas to ban the drilling technique by approving a ballot measure last year. They were immediately threatened with lawsuits by the Texas Oil and Gas Association and the Texas General Land Office. Those same interests worked with state lawmakers and the American Legislative Exchange Council, or ALEC, to pass a recent law that outlaws fracking bans in Texas. In response, Denton officials have now voted to repeal their fracking ban, saying it’s unenforceable under the new state law. The council’s vote coincided with a protest at a Denton fracking site that saw several people arrested, including 92-year-old activist Violet Palmer. Adam Briggle of the anti-fracking group Denton Drilling Awareness said, “This is definitely not the end of the line. It is the beginning of a new chapter in our fight, and it’s one that’s going to be Texas-wide now.”
Hundreds of Harlem residents protested in New York City on Wednesday over what they call the state’s failure to protect them from soaring rents and neglect. A court monitor was created to oversee Castellan Real Estate Partners, the hedge fund-backed owner of more than 50 rent-stabilized apartments. But advocates say Castellan continues to squeeze tenants with higher rents and to ignore poor conditions at its buildings. María Aguirre of the Movement for Justice in El Barrio said she faces constant harassment.
María Aguirre: “I’ve been living in that apartment for more than eight years. There was another landlord, but the current one has been harassing us, and he is causing us a lot of problems. Last winter, I had problems with the heat and hot water. It was really cold in the winter, and they just said that we had to wait. It’s really complicated, especially for us, mothers who are single and work. We have to get home to cook for our kids when they come back from school, and without gas it’s impossible.”
Jason McKain, development director of the national, independent news network Free Speech TV, has died at the age of 42. McKain drowned Sunday while fishing in Colorado’s Boulder Creek, which is swollen and running swiftly due to intense rain and spring runoff. In addition to his work at FSTV, Jason McKain formerly served as co-executive director of the Colorado Progressive Coalition. He is survived by his wife, Hava Gordon, and their six-year-old twins, Oliver and Lael. We mourn Jason with our colleagues at Free Speech TV, which runs Democracy Now! We have known Jason for years.
Pope Francis has called for swift action to save the planet from environmental ruin, urging world leaders to hear “the cry of the Earth and the cry of the poor.” Earlier today, the Vatican published the pope’s long awaited encyclical on the environment and climate change. Pope Francis called for a change of lifestyle in rich countries steeped in a “throwaway” consumer culture, and an end to “obstructionist attitudes” that sometimes put profit before the common good. Watch our full segment with Naomi Klein and Nathan Schneider.