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You turn to Democracy Now! for ad-free news you can trust. Maybe you come for our daily headlines, or for in-depth stories that expose government and corporate abuses of power. We produce our daily news hour at a fraction of the budget of a commercial news operation, all without ads, government funding or corporate underwriting? This is only possible with your support. Right now every donation to Democracy Now! will be doubled by a generous supporter. This means if you give $25 today, Democracy Now! will get $50 to support our daily news hour. Please do your part. It takes just a couple of minutes to make sure that Democracy Now! is there for you and everybody else in the coming year. Thanks so much. -Amy Goodman
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The Obama administration has granted Royal Dutch Shell final approval to resume drilling for oil and gas in the Arctic Ocean for the first time since 2012 despite widespread protests from environmental groups. Shell first obtained drilling permits in the Arctic during the George W. Bush administration, but drilling stopped in 2012 after a series of mishaps. The permit was issued Monday after Shell’s icebreaking ship arrived at the drill site carrying a required piece of equipment known as a capping stack. The equipment arrived on the same ship Greenpeace protesters temporarily blocked from departing Portland, Oregon, by hanging suspended from the St. Johns Bridge for more than 40 hours. Shell now says it may drill its first well as early as this summer. The Interior Department has said that there is a 75 percent chance of “one or more large spills” once Shell begins drilling. We’ll have more on Arctic drilling later in the broadcast.
The Obama administration is expected to announce as early as today the first-ever federal regulations requiring the oil and gas industry to cut methane emissions. Methane is a powerful greenhouse gas that fuels global warming. The regulation would cut the emissions of methane 40 to 45 percent over the next decade from 2012 levels. The move comes after the Obama administration announced plans earlier this month to cut emissions of carbon dioxide, another greenhouse gas, by 32 percent by 2030.
The Pentagon says it is planning to ramp up its use of drones by 50 percent over the next several years. The increase will rely on the use of the U.S. Army and private contractors to fly the unmanned aircraft. Currently, the U.S. Air Force flies about 65 drone missions a day. The Pentagon is looking to increase that number to 90 missions. The Pentagon says the private contractors would only fly surveillance drones, not lethal strike drones.
The United Nations Security Council has approved an initiative to renew peace talks in Syria, marking the first time in two years the 15-member council has agreed on a political statement to address the crisis. The move came as the Syrian government launched fresh airstrikes on a rebel-held district northeast of Damascus, a day after killing about 100 people at a market in Douma. The attack appears to be among the deadliest in the four-year conflict. Speaking Monday in Damascus, U.N. humanitarian chief Stephen O’Brien said he was “horrified” by the attacks on civilians.
U.N. humanitarian chief Stephen O’Brien: “Last week we heard of shelling of Damascus by armed groups. While I have been here, we have heard appalling reports of new airstrikes on the besieged area of Douma. Yesterday’s airstrikes on the central market area caused scores of civilian deaths, and hundreds of people were injured. Hospitals are scrambling to treat them. I am absolutely horrified by the total disregard for civilian life by all parties in this conflict.”
In news from Thailand, at least 20 people have died after a bomb placed inside a Hindu shrine exploded Monday night in the capital Bangkok. The Erawan Shrine is a popular tourist destination. Authorities have called it a deliberate attack on civilians. The bombing is the worst in a series of explosions that have rocked Thailand since the military seized power in a coup last year. Authorities are now hunting for a suspect identified on surveillance video. Police reported a second explosion in Bangkok this morning, with no injuries.
In news from South Sudan, President Salva Kiir has declined to sign a peace agreement aimed at ending a civil war that has claimed tens of thousands of lives. President Kiir and rebel leader Riek Machar faced a deadline Monday to sign a peace accord or face possible sanctions. But late Monday, President Kiir said he needed more time, and proposed returning within 15 days. The fighting erupted in 2013 between forces loyal to President Kiir and supporters of rebel leader Riek Machar, his former deputy. U.S. State Department spokesperson John Kirby said Monday the office would consider ways to increase the pressure for a peace agreement.
U.S. State Department spokesperson John Kirby: “We call on the government to sign the agreement within the 15-day period it requested for consultations, and as the president has stated, if there was no agreement signed today, we consider — we would consider ways to raise the cost for intransigence. We’re going to work with our regional and international partners on next steps and on ways to increase pressure, especially against those that are undermining the peace process or opposing this agreement.”
The IRS says hackers have gained access to the personal data of as many as three times more U.S. taxpayers than previously thought. In May, the IRS said hackers accessed the tax return information of about 114,000 people in 2015. But a new review shows that the total figure is closer to 330,000. The agency says that it processed 15,000 fraudulent tax returns this year as a result of the data breach.
A State Department review of Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton’s emails has flagged 305 messages which require further scrutiny because they may contain classified information. Clinton has been under fire for relying exclusively on a private email server while she was secretary of state. She has denied sending or receiving emails marked classified on the private account.
In news from Mexico, a team of independent experts says authorities have blocked them from interviewing soldiers who may have witnessed the disappearance of 43 students in the southern state of Guerrero almost a year ago. Investigators with the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights say authorities did not inform the families of the 43 students that some of their clothing had been discovered shortly after their disappearance. Investigators also said it is possible that security video of the incident may been destroyed. The 43 young men, who were training at the rural teachers’ college of Ayotzinapa, went missing last year after being detained by local police. A member of the Inter-American Human Rights Commission spoke Monday.
Claudia Paz y Paz: “We have special concern for loss of evidence in the case. We have informed the authorities of the Attorney General’s Office about the existence, at the time, of a video recording at the scene of the police intervention that led to the disappearance of a group of students.”
Meanwhile, in the southern Mexican state of Veracruz, a journalist was killed by armed gunmen in a bar last Thursday, two weeks after the death of another journalist from Veracruz sparked international outcry. Juan Heriberto Santos, who had worked as a correspondent for Televisa Veracruz for 10 years, died after gunmen opened fire in a bar, killing the journalist and five others. Human rights groups say he is at least the 18th journalist from Veracruz to be killed since 2000.
The National Labor Relations Board has dismissed a bid by Northwestern University football players seeking the right to unionize. The move deals a major blow to the movement of college athletes who are arguing that the massive profits generated by sports like college football make them university employees who should have the right to collective bargaining. In a unanimous decision Monday, the National Labor Relations Board said it dismissed the players’ petition in part because if the Northwestern players had the right to unionize, it would be “difficult to imagine any degree of stability in labor relations.” The Northwestern players are not allowed to appeal the decision, but college athletes are allowed to bring similar cases in the future.
The Obama administration has announced a new initiative to address the epidemic of heroin overdoses in the United States. Heroin-related deaths have nearly quadrupled over the past decade, in part because people are turning to cheap heroin after becoming addicted to prescription painkillers. The new initiative focuses on 15 hard-hit Northeastern states and involves hiring both drug intelligence officers and policy analysts. In a statement, the Drug Policy Alliance said, “Half of what they’re doing is right — the focus on health and overdose prevention — but the other half, the side that focuses on the failed arrest and incarceration policies of the past, is destined to ruin lives and fail.”
In Kansas, a man is in police custody after bringing an improvised explosive device and knives into an abortion clinic in Wichita. The man had the items in his backpack when he entered the South Wind Women’s Center, the recently reopened former clinic of Dr. George Tiller, the abortion provider who was assassinated in 2009. No one was injured in Monday’s incident.
This comes as states are ramping up efforts to defund Planned Parenthood following an anti-choice group’s release of heavily edited videos showing Planned Parenthood employees discussing the sharing of fetal tissue with researchers, a practice Planned Parenthood says is performed legally and never for profit. On Friday, Arkansas became the fifth state to try to end its contract with Planned Parenthood for low-income residents covered by Medicaid.
In news from upstate New York, an autopsy report obtained by The New York Times determined that the death of a prisoner from the Fishkill Correctional Facility four months ago was a homicide caused by a “physical altercation with corrections officers.” Samuel Harrell, an African-American prisoner with bipolar disorder, died on April 21 after as many as 20 corrections officers kicked, punched and dragged him down a flight of stairs while he was handcuffed, according interviews conducted by The New York Times. Officers then called an ambulance and told the medical crew Harrell may have overdosed on synthetic marijuana, known as K2. Harrell died that night in a nearby hospital.
In South Africa, prosecutors have asked for Olympic and Paralympic runner Oscar Pistorius to be charged with murder, just days before he is due to be released from prison less than a year after being convicted of killing his girlfriend, Reeva Steenkamp. Pistorius opened fire on Steenkamp through a locked bathroom door, then claimed he thought she was an intruder. He is due to be released Friday after serving 10 months of a five-year sentence for manslaughter. He’ll be kept under a form of house arrest at a three-story mansion.
And in Texas, a memorial service was held Monday for eight people killed in the latest mass shooting related to domestic violence. On August 8, David Conley killed his ex-partner, Valerie Jackson, along with her husband and her six children in their Houston-area home. Conley had a history of domestic abuse. He faces murder charges. An estimated three women are killed every day in the United States by their male partners or ex-partners.