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HeadlinesAugust 17, 2015

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Civil Rights Pioneer Julian Bond Dies at 75

Aug 17, 2015

Civil rights pioneer Julian Bond has died at the age of 75. Over more than five decades in the civil rights movement, Bond helped found the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee, co-founded and served as president of the Southern Poverty Law Center and chaired the NAACP. He spent 20 years in the Georgia state Legislature despite attempts by white colleagues to block him from sitting over his opposition to the Vietnam War. Julian Bond appeared on Democracy Now! multiple times, including in 2009, when he reflected on the 100th anniversary of the NAACP.

Julian Bond: “I’m constantly asked, 'What new thing is the NAACP doing?' because Americans like new things, you know. They want you to do something new every year. We do the same thing. We do it in new years. We fight racial discrimination.”

We’ll spend the hour remembering Julian Bond after headlines.

Documents Expose AT&T’s “Extreme Willingness” to Aid NSA

Aug 17, 2015

Documents from NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden have exposed how extensively the NSA relied on telecommunications giant AT&T for its vast spying operations. Records described by The New York Times and ProPublica laud AT&T’s “extreme willingness to help” the NSA’s spying efforts. The company supplied access to billions of emails flowing across its domestic networks and technical aid in carrying out a secret order allowing the wiretapping of all Internet communications at the headquarters of the United Nations — an AT&T customer. In 2013, the NSA’s top-secret budget for its partnership with AT&T was reportedly more than twice that of the next largest such program.

South Sudan Factions Face Deadline for Peace Talks

Aug 17, 2015

In news from Africa, South Sudan’s warring sides are meeting for peace talks in Ethiopia in a bid to end a civil war which has claimed tens of thousands of lives. South Sudanese President Salva Kiir and rebel leader Riek Machar face a deadline of today to sign a peace accord or face possible sanctions. The fighting erupted in 2013 between forces loyal to President Kiir and supporters of Machar, his former deputy. At least seven ceasefires have already been brokered and fallen apart.

Pakistan: Provincial Minister Killed in Suicide Attack

Aug 17, 2015

In Pakistan, a top provincial minister has been killed in a suicide attack along with 14 other people. Shuja Khanzada was the home minister for the province of Punjab. A Taliban-linked militant group has claimed responsibility, calling the attack retaliation for military efforts against the group.

Syria: Nearly 100 Killed in Gov’t Airstrike

Aug 17, 2015

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights says a Syrian government airstrike northeast of Damascus has killed 96 people, making it among the deadliest attacks in the four-year-long Syrian civil war. The strike hit a market in the rebel-held area of Douma. Hundreds were reportedly wounded.

49 Migrants Asphyxiated in Boat Trying to Reach Europe

Aug 17, 2015

Italian and Norwegian authorities have discovered the bodies of 49 migrants who appear to have asphyxiated to death in the hold of an overcrowded fishing boat as they tried to cross the Mediterranean to Europe. More than 300 people on deck were rescued, but those in the hold died amid exhaust fumes and suffocating heat. The war in Syria has helped fuel the worst refugee crisis since World War II; at least 2,300 people have died this year trying to reach Europe by boat.

Iraq: Panel Calls for Trial of Officials over Fall of Mosul

Aug 17, 2015

In Iraq, a parliamentary panel has called for former Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki and dozens of other officials to face trial for the fall of the city of Mosul to the self-proclaimed Islamic State last year. The call came after Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi ordered a court-martial for military commanders accused of abandoning their posts and allowing ISIL to claim another Iraqi city — Ramadi. Abadi also announced plans to cut 11 ministerial positions, reducing his Cabinet by a third in a bid to appease mass protests over corruption. Meanwhile, bombings across the Iraqi capital Baghdad killed at least 24 people. The bombings followed a truck bomb attack by ISIL which killed more than 70 people in Baghdad Thursday, marking the deadliest attack in the capital since Abadi took office a year ago.

Indonesian Plane Crashes with 54 People Aboard

Aug 17, 2015

In news from Indonesia, a passenger plane has crashed in the province of Papua with 54 people on board. Rescuers are still searching for the wreckage. The plane was also carrying nearly $500,000 in cash assistance for poor villagers in remote areas.

China: Death Toll from Chemical Blasts Hits 112

Aug 17, 2015

In China, the death toll from a series of explosions at a chemical warehouse in Tianjin has risen to 112. Nearly 100 more people remain missing, most of them firefighters. Authorities widened the evacuation radius to three kilometers after fresh explosions over the weekend. State media said the warehouse contained 700 tons of sodium cyanide — 70 times more than the allowed amount. Greenpeace has urged China to establish a wider, five-kilometer safety zone around the blast site, while hundreds of displaced residents have rallied to demand compensation for their losses. More than 700 people are hospitalized.

Kerry: Embargo Will Remain Until Cuba Improves Human Rights

Aug 17, 2015

The United States has raised its flag over the newly reopened U.S. Embassy in Cuba for the first time in 54 years. Speaking at a ceremony in Havana, Secretary of State John Kerry hailed the thawing of diplomatic relations between Cuba and the United States.

Secretary of State John Kerry: “My friends, it doesn’t take a GPS to realize that the road of mutual isolation and estrangement that the United States and Cuba were traveling was not the right one and that the time has come for us to move in a more promising direction. In the United States, that means recognizing that U.S. policy is not the anvil on which Cuba’s future will be forged.”

The U.S. trade embargo on Cuba remains in place. Speaking to reporters at the end of his visit, Kerry said there was “no way” Congress would vote to lift the embargo on Cuba if it doesn’t move to improve its human rights record.

Brazil: Hundreds of Thousands Protest Corruption, Austerity

Aug 17, 2015

In Brazil, hundreds of thousands of people took to the streets to protest corruption and austerity and call for the impeachment of President Dilma Rousseff. Brazil is mired in economic recession amid a vast corruption scandal involving the state oil company Petrobras. The protests took place Sunday in more than 200 cities across Brazil.

Puerto Rico: 60 Same-Sex Couples Wed in Mass Ceremony

Aug 17, 2015

In Puerto Rico, more than 60 same-sex couples tied the knot in a mass wedding Sunday in the capital San Juan. Puerto Rico had banned same-sex marriage, but in June the governor issued an executive order requiring compliance with a U.S. Supreme Court decision legalizing same-sex marriage across the United States.

IMF Chief Calls for “Significant” Debt Relief for Greece

Aug 17, 2015

The head of the International Monetary Fund has called for European creditors to provide “significant” debt relief to Greece, after Greek lawmakers accepted harsh austerity measures to secure their third bailout in five years. IMF Managing Director Christine Lagarde said Greece’s debt is unsustainable. She refused to commit the IMF to joining the bailout until it has had a chance to review the deal. Meanwhile, Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras appears likely to call a confidence vote after nearly a third of lawmakers from his own left-leaning Syriza party abstained or voted against the bailout.

Biden Calls TN Gunman “Perverted Jihadist,” Despite Lack of Evidence

Aug 17, 2015

Vice President Joe Biden has called the gunman who killed four marines and a sailor at a Tennessee reserve center last month a “perverted jihadist,” even though officials say they still don’t know the motive for the shooting. The FBI has said there’s no evidence Muhammad Youssef Abdulazeez was motivated by ISIL. He also suffered from mental illness and was preparing for bankruptcy. Joe Biden made the remarks at a memorial to the slain servicemembers on Saturday.

Vice President Joe Biden: “When this perverted jihadist struck, everyone responded — marines and sailors moving from room to room helping fellow warriors to safety.”

Joe Biden is said to be weighing a run for the Democratic presidential nomination.

Trump Calls for Deportation of All Undocumented Immigrants

Aug 17, 2015

On the Republican campaign trail, Donald Trump has released his policy on immigration. The plan includes forcing Mexico to pay for a border wall, deporting all undocumented immigrants, ending citizenship rights for children of immigrants born in the United States and revoking Obama’s executive orders on immigration. Trump spoke to Chuck Todd of NBC’s Meet the Press.

Donald Trump: “The executive order gets rescinded. One good thing about” —

Chuck Todd: “You’ll rescind — you’ll rescind that one, too?”

Donald Trump: “One good thing about” —

Chuck Todd: “You’ll rescind the DREAM Act executive order, the DACA?”

Donald Trump: “We’re going to have to. We have to make a whole new set of standards. And when people come in, they have to come in with” —

Chuck Todd: “So you’re going to split up families? You’re going to deport children?”

Donald Trump: “Chuck, Chuck, no, no. We’re going to keep the families together. We have to keep the families together, but they have to go.”

Chuck Todd: “But you’re going to keep them together out.”

Donald Trump: “But they have to go.”

Chuck Todd: “What if they have no place to go?”

Donald Trump: “We will work with them. They have to go.”

Jeb Bush Refuses to Rule Out Resumption of Torture

Aug 17, 2015

Fellow Republican candidate Jeb Bush has refused to rule out resuming the use of torture techniques employed under his brother, former President George W. Bush. Bush made the comments in response to a question in Iowa last week.

Questioner: “Do you believe that the CIA engaged in torture by the common definition, and would you bring those techniques back under any circumstances as president?”

Jeb Bush: “I don’t want to make a definitive, blanket kind of statement. This is something that is actually — I’m not struggling with. It’s — I’m running for president, not running for the Senate or running for, you know, governor. When you’re president, your words matter, and I’m cautious about making commitments without having all the facts, because this is a serious undertaking.”

The super PAC supporting Bush’s presidential bid will reportedly spend $10 million on its first major TV ad campaign beginning next month. Meanwhile, Trump has said he is willing to spend $1 billion of his own money on his campaign.

DOJ Secretly Blocks Bid to Release Guantánamo Hunger Strike

Aug 17, 2015

The Obama administration has blocked a legal request to free a Guantánamo Bay prisoner who has been on hunger strike for eight years. In a rare move, the Justice Department opposed the release of Tariq Ba Odah in secret through a filing which was kept under seal. Ba Odah has dropped to 74 pounds after years of refusing food and being force-fed through a nasal tube. He was cleared for release in 2009. In a statement, Ba Odah’s attorney with the Center for Constitutional Rights called the Justice Department’s secret filing to prevent his client’s release “a transparent attempt to hide the fact that the Obama administration’s interagency process for closing Guantánamo is an incoherent mess.”

Wildfires Rage in Western U.S. amid Latest Climate Change Warnings

Aug 17, 2015

Wildfires are raging across multiple Western states amid the latest scientific warnings about climate change. Montana declared a state of emergency over the fires, which also burned across Idaho, Oregon, California and Washington state. NASA has confirmed last month was the hottest July on record. Meanwhile, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration says warmer ocean temperatures could make this year’s El Niño the strongest ever recorded. El Niño is a climate phenomenon which can bring massive storms.


Texas: 1,200 Attend Funeral for Christian Taylor, Teen Killed by Cop

Aug 17, 2015

In news from Texas, 1,200 people packed into a church in Arlington to honor a 19-year-old, African-American college student shot dead by police on August 7. Christian Taylor was unarmed when Police Officer Brad Miller shot him four times at a car dealership which Taylor had allegedly broken into. Officer Miller claimed Taylor advanced toward him and he feared for his life. But Police Chief Will Johnson fired Officer Miller, saying he made a “poor decision” to confront Taylor without assistance or an arrest plan. It’s unclear if Miller will face criminal charges for the shooting.

NBC Cuts Off Singer Janelle Monáe During Black Lives Matter Speech

Aug 17, 2015

And NBC is facing criticism for interrupting singer Janelle Monáe as she spoke out against police brutality during a performance on the Today show. After finishing her hit song “Tightrope,” Monáe said, “God Bless America. God bless all who’ve lost lives to police brutality.” She continued to speak, but Today show anchor Savannah Guthrie cut her off, just as she said, “We will not be silenced.”

Janelle Monáe: “God bless America. God bless all who have lost lives to police brutality. We want white America to know that we stand tall today. We want black America to know that we stand tall today. We will not be silenced…”

Savannah Guthrie: “We’ll have much more from Janelle Monae and Wondaland coming up, but first, this is Today on NBC.”

Janelle Monáe recently released a song featuring the names of people killed by police.

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