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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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President Obama has ramped up his push for Congress to approve the historic nuclear deal with Iran, comparing arguments against the deal to those heard in the lead-up to the invasion of Iraq. In his speech Wednesday, Obama said Iranian hardliners who reject the nuclear deal and chant “Death to America” are “making common cause with the Republican caucus.” Ultimately, Obama said, the decision to support or reject the nuclear deal comes down to a choice between diplomacy with Iran and war.
President Obama: “Rejection of this deal leaves any U.S. administration that is absolutely committed to preventing Iran from getting a nuclear weapon with one option: another war in the Middle East.”
In news from Europe, an overcrowded fishing boat carrying as many as 700 migrants capsized in the Mediterranean Sea off the coast of Libya Wednesday. At least 25 people died, and as many as 100 more are feared to have drowned, according to Italian officials. Human rights groups say at least 2,000 migrants have died this year trying to cross the Mediterranean to reach Europe.
Meanwhile, Australian officials have announced they have turned away more than 600 asylum seekers at sea under harsh border controls enacted under Prime Minister Tony Abbott. In addition to turning away boats, Australia has also sent migrants who do reach Australian shores to long-term detention camps on the islands of Papua New Guinea and Nauru. The United Nations has criticized the harsh border controls for potentially breaking international law. On Thursday, Immigration Minister Peter Dutton hailed the results of the measures.
Australian Immigration Minister Peter Dutton: “The fact that today we celebrate that we have not had a successful people-smuggling venture in a year, and that over the course of the last 18 months or so we’ve turned back 20 boats and stopped 633 people from arriving in our country, is a significant achievement of the Abbott government.”
Pentagon officials say the United States has launched its first drone strike into Syria from Turkey’s Incirlik Air Base. Turkey opened the airbase to U.S. strike aircraft last month, following the deadly attack in the Kurdish city of Suruc. The airstrike comes as the U.S. and Turkey are planning a joint campaign to push ISIL from a 60-mile-long strip of northern Syria along the Turkish border.
In Hiroshima, Japan, temple bells tolled this morning as a solemn crowd marked 70 years since the United States dropped the world’s first atomic bomb on the city. Shock waves, radiation and heat rays took the lives of some 140,000 people — nearly half of the town’s population. Hiroshima Mayor Kazumi Matsui marked the anniversary by calling for the abolition of nuclear weapons.
Hiroshima Mayor Kazumi Matsui: “In order for us to live together, we need to end the use of all nuclear weapons — the ultimate in inhumane, pure evil. And the moment to get this done is now.”
Three days after the atomic bombing of Hiroshima, the United States dropped a second atomic bomb on the Japanese city of Nagasaki, killing another 74,000 people. We’ll have more on the bombings with Nobel Prize-winning Japanese novelist Kenzaburo Oe after headlines.
In other news from Japan, at least 25 people have died amid record-breaking heat. Tuesday marked Tokyo’s fifth consecutive day of temperatures over 95 degrees Fahrenheit, making it the longest such heat wave on record.
In another sign of climate change, Puerto Rico is also facing an extreme drought. Dry conditions have prompted the government to extend water rationing, meaning a total of 400,000 residents will now receive water only every third day.
In California, meanwhile, the largest of many drought-fueled wildfires has grown to 106 square miles, crossing highways and defying attempts to bring it under control. This year is on pace to become the warmest on record.
At least four members of a Palestinian family have been killed and 30 other people wounded after a previously unexploded Israeli bomb detonated in a home in a refugee camp in Rafah. The bomb, thought to be from the Israeli assault of Gaza last year, reportedly exploded as workers helped the family clear rubble from a house destroyed in the assault. According to the Guardian, more than 70 Palestinians have been killed or injured by unexploded ordnance since the war ended.
A federal appeals panel has ruled Texas’ strict voter ID law discriminates against African Americans and Latinos and violates the Voting Rights Act of 1965. Wednesday’s ruling came one day before today’s 50th anniversary of the signing of the Voting Rights Act. Texas’ voter ID law is among the strictest in the country, requiring all voters to bring a government-issued photo ID to the polls. The appeals panel ruled the law has a discriminatory effect on voters of color. But in a partial defeat for voting rights advocates, the court also ordered a lower court to re-examine its previous ruling Texas lawmakers acted with racial discrimination in mind when they passed the law. If the courts ultimately do decide lawmakers acted with discriminatory intent, it could lead to the reinstatement of federal oversight over Texas voting laws, a mechanism gutted nationwide by a Supreme Court ruling in 2013.
In Tennessee, a SWAT team shot and killed a man with a history of mental illness after he set off pepper spray inside a Nashville-area movie theater. Vincente Montano was reportedly armed with a hatchet and pellet gun, but no one was seriously injured by his attack. He was shot dead by authorities while attempting to leave the theater through a back door.
Malaysia’s prime minister has announced that debris found on the French island of Réunion comes from Malaysia Airlines Flight 370. The Boeing 777 plane disappeared in March 2014 with 239 passengers aboard. Prime Minister Najib Razak spoke Wednesday.
Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak: “Today, 515 days since the plane disappeared, it is with a very heavy heart that I must tell you that an international team of experts have conclusively confirmed that the aircraft debris found on Réunion Island is indeed from MH370.”
In news from Mexico, police are holding one suspect in connection with the murders of photojournalist Rubén Espinosa, human rights activist Nadia Vera and three other women. According to human rights advocates, Espinosa’s death last week signals a new level of violence against journalists in Mexico, who had previously considered Mexico City a safe zone.
In the United States, the Securities and Exchange Commission has voted to adopt a rule that will require public companies to publish the pay ratio between CEOs and their workers’ median pay. The United States has the highest ratio between CEO and worker pay of any country. On average, CEOs in the U.S. make 350 times more than their workers.
The Republican presidential candidates are preparing for the first debate of the 2016 election season. Ten candidates will appear in a prime-time debate, while seven candidates who did not make the cut will participate in another debate in the afternoon. Fox News said it calculated its top 10 list by averaging five national polls, a process which came under fire from polling agencies earlier this week. The Marist Institute for Public Opinion temporarily suspended its polling, saying Fox’s criteria ignores the margin of error.