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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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Pope Francis continues his first-ever trip to the United States by heading to Capitol Hill today to become the first pope ever to address Congress. He spoke at the White House Wednesday about immigration, poverty and climate change.
Pope Francis: “It seems clear to me also that climate change is a problem which can no longer be left to a future generation. When it comes to the care of our 'common home,' we are living at a critical moment of history.”
On Wednesday, Pope Francis also canonized the 18th-century Spanish missionary Junípero Serra. The move has drawn strong protest from many indigenous groups. Serra founded nine of the 21 missions in California. Hundreds of thousands of people died after the missionaries arrived.
Seven activists have been arrested in a civil disobedience in Washington, D.C., to call for the pope to recognize the rights of women to be ordained. We’ll be joined later in the broadcast by one of the four female priests who was arrested Wednesday during the protest.
Meanwhile, a video of a little girl delivering a letter to Pope Francis during his papal procession down Constitution Avenue in Washington, D.C., has gone viral. Five-year-old Sophie Cruz is a U.S.-born citizen whose parents are undocumented immigrants from Mexico. She slipped past the barricades Wednesday and delivered a written plea to the pope asking him to help keep her family together. She later read the letter to The Guardian.
Sophie Cruz: “I am an American citizen with Mexican roots. I live in Los Angeles, California, in the heart of agriculture. My parents are immigrants from Oaxaca, Mexico. Pope Francis, I want to tell you that my heart is sad, and I would like to ask you to speak with the president and the Congress in legalizing my parents, because every day I am scared that one day they will take them away from me.”
We’ll have more on Pope Francis’ historic six-day visit after headlines with the granddaughter of Catholic Worker founder Dorothy Day and Maryknoll publisher Robert Ellsberg.
The chief executive of Volkswagen, Martin Winterkorn, has resigned amid the growing emissions cheating scandal. His resignation comes as Germany’s transport minister says Volkswagen has admitted using the same fake emissions test in Europe as it used to falsify results in the United States. The Justice Department is reportedly conducting a criminal investigation into the reports Volkswagen illegally installed devices in certain diesel cars in a deliberate bid to avoid EPA emissions rules. Congress says it will also conduct hearings into the matter.
Chinese President Xi Jinping is arriving in Washington today ahead of Friday’s meeting with President Obama. His arrival comes as the U.S. Office of Personnel Management has announced that hackers stole the fingerprints of 5.6 million federal employees, far more than previously thought. U.S. intelligence officials have blamed the attack on Chinese hackers. Earlier this week, President Xi Jinping met with technology executives in Seattle, including Amazon founder Jeff Bezos and Apple CEO Tim Cook.
Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton is facing a new round of scrutiny over her use of a personal email server while she was secretary of state. FBI investigators say they have recovered a slew of emails that had been deleted from her account. Anonymous officials told Bloomberg News the recovered emails are both personal and work-related. Hillary Clinton has apologized for using the private server.
In Saudi Arabia, officials say at least 700 people have died in a stampede near Mecca on the first day of Eid al-Adha, as millions of people were making their pilgrimage to the holy city for the holiday. The stampede occurred during the ritual known as the “stoning of the devil” in a tent city about two miles outside Mecca.
The U.S. State Department says it welcomes the announcement that Saudi Arabia will head a U.N. Human Rights Council panel. The news comes amid a growing international outcry over the scheduled beheading and crucifixion of Ali Mohammed al-Nimr, who was arrested at the age of 17 and convicted of encouraging pro-democracy protests in 2012 during the Arab Spring. Al-Nimr is the nephew of a prominent cleric, Sheikh Nimr Baqir al-Nimr, who has also received a death sentence following pro-democracy protests. U.S. State Department spokesperson Mark Toner was questioned about al-Nimr Tuesday.
Reporter: “Yesterday Saudi Arabia was named to head the Human Rights Council, and today I think they announced that they are about to behead a 21-year-old Shia activist named Mohammed al-Nimr. Are you aware of that?”
Mark Toner: “I’m not aware of the — of the trial that you — or the verdict, death sentence.”
Reporter: “Well, apparently, he was arrested when was 17 years old and kept in juvenile detention, then moved on. And now he’s been scheduled to be executed.”
Mark Toner: “Right. I mean, we’ve — you know, we’ve talked about our concerns about some of the capital punishment cases in Saudi Arabia in our human rights report, but I don’t have any more to add to it.”
Mark Toner went on to say the United States would “welcome” Saudi Arabia’s position on the panel because “we’re close allies.” Saudi Arabia has executed more than 100 people already this year, mostly by beheading.
In Mexico, parents of the 43 missing students have set up a protest camp in the center of Mexico City and are slated to launch a 43-hour hunger strike Saturday to mark the first anniversary of the disappearance of their children. The students went missing in the state of Guerrero after coming under attack by local police the night of September 26. An international group of experts has rejected the Mexican government’s accounts of events, saying the investigation was deeply flawed, and pointing to the role the federal police and military played in the students’ disappearance. Activists in Chicago have announced they will also hold a 43-hour hunger strike over the weekend.
In Yemen, local officials say a U.S. drone strike has killed two people in Marib province, east of the capital Sana’a, on Tuesday night. The officials are describing the victims as suspected members of al-Qaeda. Meanwhile, Yemeni officials say at least 25 people have died in Sana’a after a suicide bomber attacked a Houthi-controlled mosque during prayers for the Eid al-Adha holiday Thursday. The attack comes a year into the fighting between the Houthis and the U.S.-backed, Saudi-led coalition forces, which has killed more than 4,000 people.
In Burkina Faso, President Michel Kafando has resumed control of the country following an attempted coup last week. Kafando was briefly detained by the presidential guard, which is loyal to Burkina Faso’s former longtime president, Blaise Compaoré.
In news from Europe, EU leaders have wrapped up a summit meeting addressing the influx of refugees fleeing violence in Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan, Somalia, Nigeria and other countries. Leaders agreed on a modest plan to resettle 120,000 refugees across the member states. This comes as tens of thousands of people are attempting to make their way across the continent amid continued border crackdowns. Croatia and Serbia have banned cargo travel between the two countries, as Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán has mobilized soldiers and prisoners to work on the fence running along the border with Croatia. Hungary has also placed ads in Jordanian media outlets warning refugees not to come to Hungary and that crossing is punishable by imprisonment.
In the West Bank, hundreds of people have gathered for the funeral of Palestinian student Hadeel al-Hashlamun, who was killed by Israeli soldiers at a checkpoint in the city of Hebron Tuesday. The Israeli military claims the 19-year-old student had attempted to stab a soldier. But eyewitnesses say the soldiers had demanded to see the student’s bag, but she had not understood Hebrew and had been unable to heed their directions.
Fawaz Abu Aisheh: “The number of soldiers became six, aiming their weapons at her and screaming at her. I told them, 'Give me a minute to speak to her,' but they refused, and one of the soldiers sniped and shot her left leg, so she fell on the ground. Then he shot her right leg. Then, seconds later, he fired four bullets at her.”
The city of Charleston, South Carolina, has renamed part of the street in front of the historic Emanuel AME Church where nine African Americans were killed when accused shooter, white supremacist Dylann Roof, opened fire during Bible study in June. On Wednesday, residents gathered for the ceremony to rename part of Calhoun Street, named after Vice President John Calhoun, one of the most prominent pro-slavery figures in history. The new name of this two-block stretch is “Mother Emanuel Way Memorial District.” Roof faces the death penalty on multiple counts of murder, as well as federal hate crime charges.
And longtime civil rights attorney Elizabeth Fink has died at the age of 70. Fink served as the lead attorney for the Attica prisoners after the 1971 prison uprising. The rebellion lasted from September 9 to September 13, 1971, and ended after New York state troopers opened fire, killing 43 prisoners and guards and injuring hundreds of others. More recently, Fink represented the cyber-activist Jeremy Hammond. This is Elizabeth Fink speaking about the crackdown by state troopers in the film “Ghosts of Attica.”
Elizabeth Fink: “State troopers just took their clubs and beat them down the stairs, broke people’s legs, hit them on the tibia and broke tibias. On their back, on their head, in their genitals, on their front—you know, wherever they could hit them, that’s where they beat them.”