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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 families of an anti-al-Qaeda cleric and a police officer killed by a U.S. drone strike in Yemen have filed a lawsuit asking a U.S. court to acknowledge their deaths were “unlawful.” Salem bin Ali Jaber and Waleed bin Ali Jaber were killed in August 2012 in eastern Yemen during a meeting with three strangers suspected of being al-Qaeda members. Yemen paid the families of Salem and Waleed a total of $155,000 in compensation for their deaths, which the families believe came from the United States. But unlike the families of the two U.S. and Italian hostages mistakenly killed by a U.S. drone strike in Pakistan, the Yemeni families have never received an apology or explanation. Alka Pradhan, an attorney representing the families with the human rights group Reprieve, said the lawsuit seeks to clear the victims’ names, not obtain monetary damages.
Alka Pradhan: “This is a huge point of honor for the family. Salem, being who he was, being a well-known imam who preached against al-Qaeda, to have his name tarred as a militant, to have Waleed, who was a policeman, who enforced the rule of law, tried to enforce the rule of law as best as possible in Yemen, to have these two tarred as militants, the family really cannot live with that. They’re not asking for money. They want an acknowledgment that this is not the case.”
An airstrike by the U.S.-led coalition in Syria has reportedly killed a couple and their five children in the northern province of Aleppo. The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said the strike wiped out the entire family. Meanwhile, the observatory also reported airstrikes by the Syrian regime killed at least 49 people in Idlib province, including six children.
In Ukraine, hundreds of firefighters are battling a massive blaze at an oil depot outside the capital Kiev. At least one worker and several firefighters have been killed, and 16 fuel tanks reportedly remain on fire. Video shows a huge column of black smoke billowing into the air.
In the United States, the Supreme Court has struck down a law which would have let Americans born in Jerusalem list their birthplace as “Israel” on their passports. In a 6-3 decision, the court ruled the law infringed on the president’s right to make decisions about recognizing foreign nations. While Israel has occupied East Jerusalem since 1967, Palestinians claim it as the capital of any future Palestinian state.
U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has left Israel off a list of countries which kill or injure children during conflicts. The decision defies the recommendation of a U.N. special envoy and follows intense pressure from Israel and the United States. It comes despite the U.N.'s conclusion last summer's Israeli assault on Gaza killed about 540 Palestinian children, making it the third deadliest conflict for children included in the report, after Afghanistan and Iraq, and ahead of Syria.
Meanwhile, a report by the Israeli newspaper Haaretz reveals Israel recently detonated a series of so-called dirty bombs laced with nuclear material, purportedly to test the potential impact of a radioactive attack. The so-called Green Field project involved 20 detonations, most of them in the desert, over four years, ending in 2014.
A grand jury in South Carolina has indicted former North Charleston police officer Michael Slager for murder for the shooting death of unarmed African American Walter Scott. Slager had stopped Scott for a broken tail light when Scott fled on foot. Eyewitness video shows Slager shooting Scott in the back eight times as he runs away. The indictment came as hundreds of people rallied in McKinney, Texas, to protest a new video showing police officer Eric Casebolt wrestling an African-American teenage girl in a bikini to the ground, pulling her hair and sitting on top of her. Casebolt also pulled his gun on other teens. We’ll have more on McKinney and police abuses nationwide after headlines.
Officials in Boston, Massachusetts, have released surveillance video of a Boston police officer and FBI agent fatally shooting Usaama Rahim last week. Authorities say they had been monitoring Rahim as part of a terrorism probe when they overheard him talking about beheading an officer. They say he lunged at officers with a knife. Boston Police Commissioner William Evans said the video supports that account.
William Evans: “You know, there’s questions asked about why didn’t the officers use any other force. You know, this guy had a malicious intent, and our officers were really faced with that, both the FBI and the Boston. And the video will speak for itself.”
But Rahim’s family has disputed the police version, saying the video shows Rahim was not the initial aggressor. The grainy video makes it difficult to tell what happened or even whether Rahim has a knife.
A federal judge has ordered the immediate release of Lousiana prisoner and former Black Panther Albert Woodfox, the longest-serving U.S. prisoner in solitary confinement. Earlier this year, a Lousiana grand jury re-indicted Woodfox for the 1972 murder of a prison guard, a crime for which he and his late, fellow Angola 3 member Herman Wallace maintained they were framed for their political activism. Wallace died on October 1, 2013, just three days after he was released from prison. On Monday, Federal Judge James Brady not only called for Woodfox’s release, but also barred a retrial. Woodfox’s two previous convictions in the case were both overturned.
New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio says a young man who committed suicide after he was imprisoned for three years at Rikers Island jail without charge did not die in vain. Kalief Browder was just 16 years old when he was jailed at Rikers without trial on suspicion of stealing a backpack. He maintained his innocence, but was only offered plea deals while the trial was repeatedly delayed. The case was finally dismissed. On Saturday, Browder took his own life at the age of 22. Speaking at a news conference, de Blasio mourned him.
Bill de Blasio: “There’s just no reason he should have gone through that ordeal, and it’s a tragedy, and it has touched so many of us, and it’s going to lead to change. I wish we had not lost him. This is a tragic loss. But once his story became public, it caused a lot of people to act, and a lot of the changes we are making at Rikers Island right now are a result of the example of Kalief Browder. So, I wish, I deeply wish, we hadn’t lost him, but he did not die in vain.”
In Texas, an immigrant teenage mother who attempted suicide at a private family detention center after being denied asylum is being deported. Nineteen-year-old Lilian Oliva Bardales had sought refuge with her four-year-old son in the U.S. to escape years of severe domestic abuse in her native Honduras and after multiple rapes which she said went unprosecuted by Honduran authorities. After her asylum bid was denied, she cut her wrist and left a suicide note saying she has been “treated worse than an animal.” Her attorney told McClatchy she was quietly taken from the detention center Monday after being kept for days under medical observation without being taken to a hospital or allowed to meet with a lawyer.
In South Africa, authorities say Olympic and Paralympic athlete Oscar Pistorius is set to be released from prison in August after serving exactly 10 months for killing his girlfriend, Reeva Steenkamp. Pistorius claimed he mistook his girlfriend for an intruder when he shot her through a bathroom door. Prosecutors will challenge his acquittal on murder charges before an appeals court in November.
Last month was officially the wettest month ever recorded in the United States. Despite a record drought in California, states across the Midwest were hit by heavy rain in May, a pattern which has been linked to climate change.
The news came as the leaders of seven wealthy democracies known as the G7 wrapped up a summit in Germany with a call for “decarbonization of the global economy over the course of this century.” The plan contains few binding provisions or concrete details. As about 20,000 police kept protesters at bay, Greenpeace projected its demands onto a mountain near the castle where leaders were meeting. The message read: “G7 Go for 100 Percent Renewables.”
The Obama administration has announced it will forgive the federal loans of tens of thousands of students who attended schools run by the for-profit chain Corinthian Colleges, which shut down last month amidst scrutiny over fraud and predatory lending. The move follows protests by hundreds of former Corinthian students who refused to pay back their loans. Student activists had sought blanket relief of the loans, but the Education Department’s plan will instead force students to seek out and apply for debt forgiveness.
Kentucky Democratic Governor Steven Beshear has signed an executive order raising the minimum wage for employees of the state executive branch to $10.10 an hour. The order will raise the salaries of nearly 800 state workers beginning on July 1. Governor Beshear said the current U.S. minimum wage of $7.25 an hour is “simply not enough to support a family.”
Folk music fans are mourning the death of singer Ronnie Gilbert, one of four founding members of The Weavers, who helped popularize folk music and bring its message of social change to the world. In a documentary called “The Weavers: Wasn’t That a Time!” Ronnie Gilbert recalled the period around The Weavers’ founding after World War II, saying, “We still had the feeling that if we could sing loud enough and strong enough and hopefully enough, it would make a difference.” The Weavers were targeted by anti-Communist fervor, investigated by the Senate Internal Security Subcommittee and blacklisted. Fellow Weavers member Pete Seeger, who died last year, praised Ronnie Gilbert during an interview on Democracy Now! in 2004 as he remembered the founding of The Weavers.
Pete Seeger: “And we were fortunate to run into one of the world’s greatest singers, Ronnie Gilbert. She was in her early twenties, beautiful alto voice, and a strong alto voice. I’d have to be two inches from the microphone. She could be two feet from the microphone, and she’d drown me out.”
Ronnie Gilbert died on Saturday at a retirement community in the California Bay Area suburb of Mill Valley at the age of 88. Her death was confirmed by her partner Donna Korones, whom she married in 2004 during a brief window when San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom allowed same-sex marriages. Their marriage was later invalidated by the California Supreme Court.