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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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Today the United States and Cuba are taking the next step in restoring diplomatic relations with each other. Secretary of State John Kerry arrived in Havana this morning to attend a ceremony marking the reopening of the U.S. Embassy there. Joining him are three marines who lowered the flag at the embassy in 1961, when the U.S. cut off ties to Cuba after Fidel Castro toppled the U.S.-backed government of Fulgencio Batista in 1959. These same marines will raise the flag over the embassy. We’ll have more on Cuba after headlines.
The Greek Parliament passed a $95 billion bailout deal around daybreak this morning after a contentious all-night debate. The draft terms of the agreement include harsh austerity measures. It does not include any debt relief. The program passed by a wide margin. But Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras faced a growing rebellion within his own left-leaning Syriza party, which came to power promising to fight against austerity. Nearly a third of Syriza lawmakers voted against the bill, including former Finance Minister Yanis Varoufakis, who blasted the vote as “humiliating” and “non-viable.” Officials say Tsipras is planning to hold a vote of confidence next week, and some suspect the government could be toppled. One of the dissenting Syriza lawmakers criticized his own party during the debate.
Syriza lawmaker Panagiotis Lafazanis: “And what is the Syriza-Independent Greek coalition government doing? After all the anti-austerity struggles they led, they are now introducing another lovely bailout. So what kind of government is this, where whatever the Greek people vote for, no matter what they fight for, or what the outcome of referendums is, yet still the bailouts always win? It has a name: the annulment of democracy, the dictatorship of the eurozone over the neo-colony called Greece.”
Meanwhile, the terms of Greece’s bailout, which will be the third in five years, are also facing growing criticism from European institutions, who say they have “serious concerns” about Greece’s long-term sustainability. In a new analysis, both the European Commission and the European Central Bank advocate for debt relief measures, which have been opposed by Germany.
Meanwhile, Nobel laureate economist Joseph Stiglitz has spoken out about Puerto Rico’s debt crisis, as dozens protested in New York City in the latest action against hedge funds that have bought up the island’s debt. In an op-ed in The Wall Street Journal, Stiglitz compared the crisis in Puerto Rico to that in Greece, writing, “Greece chose to join the eurozone; Puerto Rico never chose to become an unincorporated U.S. territory. … [T]he U.S. must take responsibility for its imperialist past and neocolonial present.” At a protest Thursday outside the Manhattan offices of hedge fund Paulson & Co., protesters echoed the call for the United States to acknowledge the role of colonialism in Puerto Rico’s debt crisis.
Lurdes Garcia: “Puerto Rico has an economic crisis, with the $72 billion debt that is being charged to Puerto Rico, to the people, despite Puerto Rico being a colony of the United States, and the debt is owed to U.S. corporations. We’re here to protest the actions of shareholders, such as Paulson, who is one of the major shareholders taking money from Puerto Rico today.”
Britain has announced plans to challenge Ecuador’s decision to provide asylum to WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange in its London embassy. On Thursday, Hugo Swire of the British Foreign Office said in a statement: “Ecuador must recognize that its decision to harbor Mr. Assange more than three years ago has prevented the proper course of justice.” In response, Ecuador’s Foreign Ministry released a statement saying it is saddened Assange’s confinement has lasted so long, adding that its government had offered “31 times” to facilitate an “open judicial process” in Sweden. This comes just a day after Swedish prosecutors dropped part of their sexual assault inquiry against Assange, but the most serious part of the probe remains in place, although he has never been charged with a crime. We’ll have more on Julian Assange later in the broadcast.
Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has expressed “profound grief” over Japan’s actions in World War II, echoing apologies made by previous Japanese leaders. Abe’s remarks were closely watched by China and South Korea, which endured Japanese occupation and colonial rule. As Japan marks 70 years since its surrender following the U.S. nuclear bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, Abe pledged Japan would never wage a war again.
Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe: “We must never again repeat the devastation of war. Aggression, war — we shall never again resort to any form of threat or use of force as a means of settling international disputes. We shall abandon colonial rule forever and respect the right of self-determination of all peoples throughout the world.”
Despite his remarks, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has pushed for a rewriting of Japan’s pacifist constitution to allow Japanese troops to fight abroad for the first time since World War II.
In Germany, migrants are experiencing an increasing number of hate crimes. In the first half of this year, the Interior Ministry recorded more than 200 attacks on the housing of refugees, including arson and vandalism. Activist groups say there have also been nearly 50 attacks on individual migrants. Nearly 180,000 people have applied for asylum in Germany this year, many of them Syrians. The interior minister has called the pattern of crimes “unacceptable.”
German Interior Minister Thomas de Maizière: “At the same time, we also know that there is a growing number of attacks against asylum seekers and institutions for asylum seekers, less so in Eisenhüttenstadt, but in other places. That is incomprehensible, unacceptable and undignified for our country. We will work against this with all the strength of the rule of law and political power that we have.”
In news from Texas, police are investigating the murder of Shade Schuler, a 22-year-old African-American transwoman. Her decomposed body was discovered in late July in a field in northeast Dallas. It has taken police two weeks to identify her. Schuler is at least the 13th transgender woman to be murdered this year.
In news from Ohio, a new video has surfaced of 37-year-old African-American woman Ralkina Jones pleading with Cleveland jail authorities to administer her medication only hours before she was found dead in her cell. Jones was arrested after a dispute with her ex-husband in late July. When she entered jail, she told authorities she needed to take her three medications: the generic version of the sedative Xanax, the ADHD medicine Adderall and an anti-epilepsy drug. She was found dead in her cell two days later. In the video released Tuesday, Ralkina Jones tells a jail guard it’s important for her to have her medication administered correctly because “I don’t want to die in your cell.”
Ralkina Jones: “I’m not asking any exception to any rules. But I will tell you this: I don’t want to die in your cell.”
Jail authority: “Are you going to have a seizure, or are you taking medication, or what — what’s going on?”
Ralkina Jones: “I haven’t had my medication, one. Two, I have a brain injury.”
California Governor Jerry Brown has signed into law two measures on police accountability introduced earlier this year. The first measure bans the use of secret grand juries in deciding whether to indict police officers who kill people while on active duty. The second measure affirms people’s right to film the police. Other measures such as the use of police body cameras are stalled in the state Legislature.
Meanwhile, the Connecticut Supreme Court has declared the death penalty unconstitutional. In 2012, the governor signed legislation abolishing the death penalty in the state. But the law exempted prisoners who were already on death row. On Thursday, the state’s Supreme Court ruled 4-3 in favor of arguments that executions carried out after the abolition of the death penalty represent cruel and unusual punishment. The decision spares the lives of 11 people currently on death row.
In Ecuador, indigenous groups organized nationwide strikes and demonstrations Thursday to protest President Rafael Correa’s efforts to change the constitution so he can seek a fourth term in office. Groups blocked the Pan-American Highway and other major roads, as labor unions refused to work. A leader of the protests spoke out.
Julio César Pilalumbo, president of the Cotopaxi Indigenous Movement: “We will continue to fight indefinitely. We will defend ourselves. This has been resistance. And today we have come together under the flag of struggle, the flag of resistance.”
Meanwhile, in Paraguay, an 11-year-old girl has given birth after she was denied an abortion at 10 years old. Her pregnancy drew international attention after Paraguay, which bans abortion except in cases that endanger the life of the mother, refused to allow her to have the procedure. Her stepfather has been accused of raping the girl, resulting in the pregnancy.
Back in the United States, the nonprofit behind the beloved children’s show “Sesame Street” has announced it will be airing the program on the premium cable pay-TV network HBO for the next five years. HBO will exclusively air all new shows for nine months of each year, after which they can be run on PBS, which has been home to the show for the last 45 years. Critics have raised concerns the deal means low-income families without HBO will no longer have the same access to the educational program that has raised generations in the United States.
In news from the campaign trail, former vice President Al Gore is reportedly considering joining the 2016 presidential race. Gore lost the 2000 election to George W. Bush, despite winning the popular vote. The speculation about a potential run in 2016 surfaces as both Democratic and Republican candidates are soapboxing at the Iowa State Fair today and into the weekend.
And 21 young people in the United States have sued the Obama Administration over climate change. The federal lawsuit argues climate change violates the public trust doctrine, which requires the government to protect resources essential to the survival of future generations. In the suit, the 21 youths demand the court order federal agencies to develop a plan to decrease concentrations of carbon in the atmosphere to 350 parts per million by the year 2100. Renowned climate scientist James Hansen, who is a co-plaintiff on the suit, argues that it is essential to reduce carbon levels to this target in order to avoid the most catastrophic impacts of climate change.