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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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Greek voters have overwhelmingly turned down the terms of an international bailout in a historic rejection of austerity. With a margin of 61 to 39 percent, Greeks voted no to further budget cuts and tax hikes in exchange for a rescue package from European creditors. Praising the outcome, Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras said his country had refused to succumb to blackmail.
Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras: “Today, all of us together turned a bright page in modern European history. We proved that even under the most difficult circumstances democracy cannot be blackmailed. Today, considering last week’s very difficult circumstances, you made a very brave choice. However, I am fully aware that the mandate here is not a mandate to break with Europe, but a mandate to strengthen our negotiation position to seek a viable solution.”
Polls had indicated a narrow vote, but the “no” side swept districts across the country. Thousands of people flocked to Athens’ Syntagma Square Sunday night in celebration. In voting against austerity, Greek voters have rejected measures that helped cripple the economy, but also turned down a financial lifeline for its struggling banks. The banks will remain closed today as the European Central Bank meets to consider new emergency loans.
Tsipras says he will seek a new round of talks with creditors in which restructuring Greece’s $267 billion debt is on the table. German Chancellor Angela Merkel is meeting with French counterpart François Hollande, followed by a European Union summit on Tuesday. Although some leaders have called for moving forward, Germany’s deputy chancellor, Sigmar Gabriel, said Greece has “destroyed the last bridges across which Europe and Greece could have moved toward a compromise.” In a surprise move, Greek Finance Minister Yanis Varoufakis announced his resignation today, saying Greece’s creditors no longer want him involved in the talks. Varoufakis said, “I shall wear the creditors’ loathing with pride.”
BP has reached an $18.7 billion settlement to resolve all government claims resulting from the 2010 Deepwater Horizon explosion, the worst offshore oil spill in U.S. history. The agreement covers damages sought by the federal government, the states of Alabama, Florida, Louisiana, Mississippi and Texas, as well as more than 400 civic entities along the Gulf Coast. The payment includes a $5.5 billion civil penalty under the Clean Water Act and $7.1 billion fine for environmental damage to the Gulf. If confirmed by a federal judge, it would be the largest environmental settlement in U.S. history and the largest ever by a single entity. Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi said it will avoid years of litigation.
Pam Bondi: “We’re thrilled with the settlement. This is a landmark settlement. I think $2 billion is a lot of money, based on what happened, and $3.25 billion is — this is a historic settlement, by the way. And again, had we litigated this, this would have — this is a rabbit hole, this is a black hole. We would have been in litigation for years. Regardless of any verdict, this would have been appealed for, again — probably our grandchildren would have seen the money.”
A federal judge last year found BP had engaged in “gross negligence” before the spill, making “profit-driven decisions” that showed “a conscious disregard of known risks.” In a statement, the Gulf Restoration Network welcomed the settlement, but said: “Although $18.7 billion is a significant sum, we have serious concerns about how much of this money is actually going to be allocated towards restoring the Gulf’s environment and impacted communities.” Charlie Tebbutt, attorney with the Center for Biological Diversity, added: “While $18.7 billion looks like a lot, just remember that BP makes that amount in net profit every three months.”
The Iran nuclear talks are continuing in Vienna after being extended last week. Negotiators say they aim to reach a Tuesday deadline, but the real deadline could be Thursday, the last day for President Obama to present an agreement to Congress before a mandatory review period of 30 days jumps to 60 days. Secretary of State John Kerry said that despite progress, the talks could go either way.
Secretary of State John Kerry: “We are not yet where we need to be on several of the most difficult issues, and the truth is that while I completely agree with Foreign Minister Zarif that we have never been closer, at this point this negotiation could go either way. If hard choices get made in the next couple of days, and made quickly, we could get an agreement this week, but if they are not made, we will not.”
Civilian casualties have been reported in one of the largest U.S.-led strikes against the Islamic State in Syria to date. At least 10 militants were killed along with a reported eight civilians in the ISIL stronghold of Raqqa. Meanwhile, more than 70 people have died in Iraqi government strikes on the ISIL-controlled cities of Ramadi and Fallujah. Iraq claims it was targeting ISIL fighters, but hospital officials say most of the dead were civilians. Meanwhile, at least 12 people have been killed or wounded after an Iraqi warplane accidentally bombed a residential area of Baghdad. Iraqi officials blamed mechanical failure.
South Carolina lawmakers are set to begin debate today on a measure to remove the Confederate flag from the state Capitol. It would take a two-thirds majority vote in both chambers of the General Assembly. Later in the broadcast, we’ll speak to Bree Newsome, the activist who scaled the Capitol flagpole to take down the Confederate flag just over a week ago.
Pope Francis has launched an eight-day tour of South America in his first foreign trip since unveiling a historic encyclical urging climate action. Francis is in Ecuador before going on to visit Bolivia and Paraguay. Born in Argentina, he has called this tour a “homecoming” to his native continent.
And an estimated 10,000 people gathered in Toronto, Canada, on Sunday to call for climate justice and a green energy revolution. Organizers of the March for Jobs, Justice, and the Climate called it the “most diverse climate mobilization ever” in Canada, with participants including frontline indigenous communities and the country’s largest unions.