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Hundreds more people fleeing violence in Syria, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Iraq, sub-Saharan Africa and other regions have reportedly died en route to Europe as the world grapples with what’s being described the worst migration crisis since World War II. As many as 200 people may have drowned when a boat headed to Southern Europe sank off the Libyan coast Thursday. Another boat with 50 people on board also reportedly capsized Thursday. Swedish officials say they also found the bodies of more than 50 people who died from breathing toxic fumes in the hold of another ship. The Mediterranean Sea has become one of the world’s deadliest borders, as more than 300,000 people displaced by war and violence have attempted to reach Europe this year.
On Thursday, German Chancellor Angela Merkel attended a summit with leaders from the Western Balkans about the migration crisis. Meanwhile, less than 30 miles away, residents held a vigil to commemorate the deaths of more than 70 people who apparently suffocated in a truck earlier this week while attempting to reach Northern European countries. One of the vigil-goers called for people to receive safe passage throughout Europe.
Dagmar Schindler: “Building up our borders or fighting even more against people smuggling cannot be the solution. We need safe passages for these people. These people have nothing to lose. Their choice is between taking the chance and coming to Europe or dying at home.”
On Thursday, President Obama spoke in New Orleans on the 10th anniversary of Hurricane Katrina, the 2005 storm that devastated the Gulf Coast and New Orleans, killing more than 1,800 people, forcing more than a million people to evacuate.
President Obama: “The storm laid bare a deeper tragedy that had been brewing for decades, because we came to understand that New Orleans, like so many cities and communities across the country, had for too long been plagued by structural inequalities that left too many people, especially poor people, especially people of color, without good jobs or affordable healthcare or decent housing.”
We’ll have more on Hurricane Katrina after headlines.
In Guatemala, tens of thousands of people marched through the streets Thursday to demand the resignation of President Otto Pérez Molina. It is the latest in months of massive demonstrations over a corruption scandal that has led to the resignation of the majority of the president’s Cabinet and the arrest of top officials. Earlier this week, the Supreme Court lifted the president’s immunity from prosecution, clearing the way for his impeachment, and passing the impeachment recommendation along to Congress. For our full coverage of the ongoing uprising in Guatemala, go to democracynow.org.
In news from Mexico, the parents of the 43 students who disappeared after being attacked and detained by local police last year are preparing to send a delegation to Philadelphia in efforts to meet with Pope Francis in September. The disappearance of the 43 young men, who were training at the rural teachers’ college of Ayotzinapa in the southern state of Guerrero, has sparked international outcry and prompted calls for President Enrique Peña Nieto’s resignation. On Wednesday, family members and residents marked the 11-month anniversary of the students’ disappearance. Felipe de la Cruz Sandoval, spokesperson for the families of the disappeared students, denounced the Mexican authorities’ handling of the case, including the alleged destruction of surveillance footage that may have captured the students’ kidnapping.
Felipe de la Cruz Sandoval: “First off, the fact that they made a [surveillance] video disappear from the Tribunal for Justice in Iguala. This evidence is the most important, because it is the moment when they stop the bus and take away some of the young people, the normalista students. By disappearing them, we see the protection and complicity that they want to give to the criminals of that night. We already knew we couldn’t confide in the Mexican government, and now, with these results, we can confide even less.”
American officials say a U.S. drone strike has killed a 21-year-old British citizen who was a member of the self-proclaimed Islamic State’s hacking team. Officials say Junaid Hussain, from Birmingham, England, was killed in Raqqa, Syria, on Tuesday. Meanwhile, Yemeni officials say U.S. drone strikes killed five people in the southeastern sea port of Mukalla on Wednesday. The dead are being described as suspected members of al-Qaeda.
In the United States, North Dakota has legalized the police’s use of drones armed with pepper spray, tear gas, sound cannons and tasers. The legislation, signed by the governor in April, also permits the police to use drones to collect real-time intelligence video after obtaining a search warrant.
The father of 24-year-old journalist Alison Parker, who was killed along with 27-year-old cameraman Adam Ward during Wednesday’s fatal shooting in Roanoke, Virginia, has demanded action on gun control. The two died after suspected gunman Vester Flanagan opened fire during the morning broadcast of local news station WDBJ. Flanagan was a former journalist at the station who was fired two years ago. He was African-American and had spoken out about racial grievance at WDBJ and other stations where he’d worked. Police say Vester Flanagan shot himself later Wednesday and died in the hospital. Alison Parker’s father, Andy, spoke out for gun control during an interview on Fox News.
Andy Parker: “Mark my words, my mission in life — and I talked to the governor today. He called me, and he said — and I told him, I said, ’I’m going to do something, whatever it takes, to get gun legislation, to shame people, to shame legislators into doing something about closing loopholes in background checks and making sure crazy people don’t get guns.’”
The National Labor Relations Board has issued a ruling that could clear the way for fast-food workers and other employees to collectively bargain with large corporations, such as McDonald’s, rather than with the individual franchises or subcontracting companies. The decision held that a California company called Browning-Ferris Industries was a joint employer of the subcontracted workers who had been hired to staff its recycling center. The ruling means that a union representing those subcontracted workers now have the right to collectively bargain with the top company. Labor lawyers are saying it could be one of the most significant rulings in the last 35 years.
NASA says that satellite imaging has already shown a dramatic rise in sea levels due to climate change and that more dramatic rises are in store. The panel announced that the worldwide sea level has risen an average of nearly three inches since 1992. Scientist Josh Willis explained that some predictions say sea level could rise as high as six feet by 2100.
Josh Willis: “Most scientists believe that about three feet by 2100 is probably the most likely amount of sea level rise we’ll have. But there are estimates as low as one foot and as high as six feet by 2100, which would be really devastating.”
In Chicago, relatives and community members held church services to commemorate the 60th anniversary of the death of 14-year-old Emmett Till, who was abducted, beaten and shot after he allegedly wolf-whistled at a white female store clerk named Carolyn Bryant while Till was visiting relatives in Mississippi. Till was a stutterer, and his mother had taught him to whistle any time he felt a stutter coming on. He was kidnapped from his uncle’s farm on August 28, 1955. His corpse was found three days later in the Tallahatchie River with a bullet hole in his head, barbed wire wrapped around his neck and a cotton-gin fan weighing down his body. Till’s mother, Mamie Till Mobley, held an open-casket funeral for her son in Chicago, and the published images of his brutalized body galvanized the civil rights movement. Store clerk Carolyn Bryant’s husband, Roy Bryant, and his half-brother, J.W. Milam, were tried and acquitted for Till’s murder by an all-white, all-male jury that fall. The two later confessed to the murder but have since died.
Meanwhile, Saturday is the first anniversary of the death of 17-year-old Lennon Lacy, who was found hanging from a swing set in a majority-white trailer park in the tiny town of Bladenboro, North Carolina, one year ago. Local authorities quickly ruled his death a suicide, a claim his family disputed. Lacy had been in a relationship with an older white woman, who has said that they often faced harassment for their interracial relationship. His death is being investigated by the FBI as a possible lynching.
And the U.S. attorney for the Southern District of New York has announced it is joining the investigation into the death of Samuel Harrell, a 30-year-old African-American man who died in April after as many as 20 corrections officers kicked, punched and dragged him down a flight of stairs while he was incarcerated at the Fishkill Correctional Facility in Beacon, New York. Harrell was diagnosed with bipolar disorder. The group of the officers who assaulted Harrell are known as the “Beat Up Squad.” In Poughkeepsie, New York, residents staged a protest Thursday to demand criminal charges be brought against the officers. Margaret Kwateng of the Hudson Valley Black Lives Matter Coalition spoke out.
Margaret Kwateng: “We’re here today to get justice for Samuel Harrell’s family. We’re here to demand that DA William Grady of Dutchess County press charges on all of the officers involved in his fatal beating. The officers continue to work in the facility, and they continue to harass and dehumanize the prisoners that are there. This is for Samuel Harrell and to make sure that his life matters and to make sure that he is brought into this Black Lives atter movement as a prisoner whose life often doesn’t seem to be counted in the same way.”
Samuel Harrell died in the hospital after the guard beating.