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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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The European Union has called for emergency talks to address the rapidly growing number of people fleeing to Europe to escape violence and unrest in the Middle East and North Africa. On Sunday, 37 people died when a boat capsized off the Libyan coast. This came just days after another boat capsized off the Libyan coast killing more than 200 people. Meanwhile, investigators in Hungary and Austria are continuing to probe the deaths of 71 people who were found abandoned last week inside a truck on the main highway between Budapest and Vienna. Melissa Fleming, a spokesperson for the U.N. refugee agency, said the number of refugees and migrants crossing the Mediterranean to reach Europe has passed 300,000 this year.
Melissa Fleming: “The number of refugees and migrants in the Mediterranean this year has now exceeded 300,000. That includes 200,000 people landing in Greece and 110,000 in Italy. This represents a large increase from last year, when about 219,000 people crossed the Mediterranean during the whole of 2014.”
We’ll have more on the migrant crisis after headlines.
President Obama arrives in Alaska today for a three-day trip, becoming the first sitting U.S. president to visit the Arctic. Obama is expected to emphasize the impact of climate change on the heels of his administration’s decision to allow Shell to resume oil drilling in the Arctic, a move environmentalists warn will fuel climate change. We’ll have more on the visit later in the broadcast.
On the eve of his trip to Alaska, Obama announced the name of North America’s tallest mountain peak will be changed from Mount McKinley to Denali—its traditional Alaska Native name. Ohio’s congressional delegation had fought to defend the name McKinley, which honors former President William McKinley, who was from Ohio. But Alaska Natives have long viewed the name as imperialist.
Obama’s trip to Alaska comes amid the latest extreme weather fueled by global warming. Tropical Storm Erika battered the Caribbean island of Dominica late last week, killing at least 20 people and leaving 31 missing. Dominica Prime Minister Roosevelt Skerrit said the island had been set back 20 years by the damage, which he described as “monumental.” Scientists have warned climate change will cause tropical storms like Erika to intensify.
In Yemen, a Saudi-led airstrike has killed 36 civilians working at a bottling plant in the northern governorate of Hajjah. Another attack on the Yemeni capital Sana’a hit a house and killed four civilians.
The latest strikes in Yemen come amid new evidence the Saudi-led forces have used cluster munitions in Yemen. Human Rights Watch said it found U.S.-made cluster munition rockets likely used in at least seven attacks in Hajjah governorate between late April and mid-July. Dozens of civilians were killed or wounded, both during the attacks and later, when they picked up unexploded submunitions that detonated. Neither the United States, Saudi Arabia or Yemen have joined the global convention banning the use of cluster munitions.
In Egypt, Al Jazeera journalists Mohamed Fahmy, Baher Mohamed and Peter Greste have been sentenced to three years in jail for “spreading false news” that purportedly harmed Egypt following the 2013 military coup. The three were initially arrested as part of a crackdown on Al Jazeera following the ouster of President Mohamed Morsi in 2013. Fahmy and Mohamed were led away to begin their sentences after Saturday’s verdict. Greste was tried in absentia. The sentencing came as Egypt announced it will hold long-awaited parliamentary elections in October. We’ll go to Egypt to speak with Democracy Now! correspondent Sharif Abdel Kouddous later in the broadcast.
In Syria, the self-proclaimed Islamic State has reportedly destroyed part of the most important temple in the ancient city of Palmyra. It remains unclear how much of the 2,000-year-old Temple of Bel was destroyed by a large explosion reported in the area. ISIL has occupied Palmyra since May and recently destroyed another ancient building, the Temple of Baalshamin. The news came after Turkish warplanes joined the U.S.-led coalition against ISIL for the first time Friday, carrying out strikes in Syria.
In Japan, as many as 120,000 people took to the streets of Tokyo to protest new legislation to let Japanese troops fight abroad for the first time since World War II. Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has backed the effort to rewrite Japan’s pacifist constitution. On Sunday, in one of the largest demonstrations in Japan since World War II, protesters, including Mami Aoji, called for peace and Abe’s resignation.
Mami Aoji: “If I were to describe Japan with one phrase, it would be 'a peaceful nation.' But right now, the unimaginable, the unrealistic is happening, where peace is being destroyed. That fear is being cast upon this nation right now.”
In Malaysia, hundreds of thousands took part in protests against Prime Minister Najib Razak, calling for him to resign over a financial scandal. Organizers said 300,000 people turned out to protest reports the prime minister received about $700 million in his private accounts, which he has said came from a donor in the Middle East. Najib fired a number of officials critical of him, including the attorney general investigating the financial transfer.
In Texas, a man has been arrested and charged with murder for allegedly shooting a sheriff’s deputy at a gas station in the Houston area. Shannon Miles is accused of approaching Harris County Deputy Darren Goforth while he pumped gas and shooting him from behind. While no motive has been identified, Harris County Sheriff Ron Hickman placed blame on recent protests over police brutality.
Sheriff Ron Hickman: “Our system of justice absolutely requires law enforcement be present to protect our community, so at any point where the rhetoric ramps up to the point where calculated, cold-blooded assassination of police officers happen, this rhetoric has gotten out of control. We’ve heard black lives matter, all lives matter. Well, cops’ lives matter, too. So why don’t we just drop the qualifier and just say lives matter and take that to the bank?”
The suspect in the shooting had been arrested on a series of misdemeanor charges several years ago and had served time at the Harris County Jail, which is run by the sheriff’s office.
In other news from Texas, bystander video appears to show sheriff’s deputies near San Antonio fatally shooting a man Friday just after he raised his hands in surrender. Cellphone footage broadcast by a local ABC station shows a man suspected of domestic violence raising his hands in the air. The station froze the footage just before deputies opened fire, killing the man. Bexar County Sheriff Susan Pamerleau acknowledged the video is “cause for concern.” An investigation is underway.
In news from the West Bank, footage of an Israeli soldier pinning down a 12-year-old boy, while the boy’s female relatives fight to free him, has gone viral. The video and photos were taken Friday in the West Bank village of Nabi Saleh at a protest against Israeli settlements, which are considered illegal under international law. The footage shows the soldier putting Mohammed Tamimi in a headlock and pinning him down. The boy’s mother, aunt and sister scuffle with the soldier; at one point, the sister appears to bite the soldier’s hand, and he eventually releases the boy. The Israeli army said the child was throwing stones, a claim denied by witnesses.
On the campaign trail, Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders has continued to surge in popularity against Hillary Clinton. A new poll in Iowa shows Sanders running just seven points behind Clinton with 30 percent support. Clinton has lost a third of her supporters since the last survey in May, while Sanders has nearly doubled his share of the vote. An earlier poll in New Hampshire showed Sanders leading Clinton by seven points in that key primary state.
On the Republican side, Donald Trump has continued his lead, surging to 23 percent support in the Iowa poll. On Saturday, hundreds of immigrants rallied outside Trump’s speech in Nashville, Tennessee, protesting Trump for vowing to deport all undocumented people and for calling Mexican immigrants “rapists.” Fellow Republican candidate New Jersey Governor Chris Christie meanwhile told an audience in New Hampshire Saturday he would track immigrants like FedEx packages.
Gov. Chris Christie: “So here’s what I’m going to do as president. I’m going to ask Fred Smith, the founder of FedEx, come work for the government for three months. Just come for three months to Immigration and Custom Enforcement and show these people. Because guess what. Of the 11 million people who are here illegally, 40 percent of them didn’t come in over the southern border; 40 percent of them came in legally with a visa and overstayed their visa. We need to have a system that tracks you from the moment you come in, and then when your time is up, whether it’s three months or six months or nine months or 12 months, however long your visa is, then we go get you.”
Republican presidential contender and Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker has also made headlines with his most recent remarks on immigration, telling NBC’s Meet the Press building a wall between the United States and Canada is a “legitimate issue for us to look at.”
In Virginia, a mentally ill African-American man has been found dead in his jail cell after he spent four months behind bars for allegedly stealing $5 worth of food from a 7-Eleven. The Guardian reports Jamycheal Mitchell was arrested by Portsmouth police in April for allegedly stealing a Mountain Dew, a Snickers bar and a pastry. A judge had ordered Mitchell’s transfer to a mental hospital, but when there were no beds available, he was kept behind bars, without bail. He was found dead August 19. His family believes he starved to death after refusing medication and food in jail. He was 24 years old.
Jozef Wesolowski, the former Vatican ambassador to the Dominican Republic, has died while awaiting trial for sexually abusing boys. Wesolowski was accused of abusing and taking pornographic photos of poor shoeshine boys in the Dominican capital, Santo Domingo. He would have been the first high-level cleric to stand trial before a Vatican tribunal on charges of child sexual abuse. He was found dead in his Vatican home Friday of what officials say appear to be natural causes. He was 67.
The renowned neurologist and author Oliver Sacks has died at the age of 82. Sacks wrote the best-selling book “The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat,” among other works. He announced in February he was in the late stages of terminal cancer after a melanoma in his eye spread to his liver. He died at home in Manhattan on Sunday.
And as New Orleans marked the 10th anniversary of Hurricane Katrina this weekend, former President George W. Bush returned to the city, prompting protests over his delayed response to the disaster at the time. One protester held a sign with a well-known photograph of Bush, days after Katrina, looking out of an airplane window at the destroyed city. The sign’s caption read, “You’re early – come back in a week.” As Bush attended a memorial event Friday at New Orleans’ Warren Easton Charter High School, protesters outside chanted, “He let New Orleans drown.” Inside the school, footage showed Bush dancing to a marching band.