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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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Pope Francis has arrived in New York, where he will speak today at the United Nations General Assembly. On Thursday he became the first pope ever to address a joint session of Congress, where he discussed poverty, hunger, climate change, refugees, immigration, the arms trade and U.S.-Cuba relations. After the congressional speech, Pope Francis skipped an offer to dine with lawmakers in order to eat with homeless residents of Washington, D.C. Speaking at St. Patrick Parish, Pope Francis spoke about the immorality of lack of housing.
Pope Francis: “I want to be very clear: We can find no social or moral justification, no justification whatsoever, for the lack of housing. There are many unjust situations, but we know that God is suffering with us, experiencing them on our side. He does not abandon us.”
Throughout his activities in the United States, the pope has been traveling in an unorthodox Popemobile — a little black Fiat that many say represents Pope Francis’ spirit of humility. We’ll have more on the historic visit after headlines with Kumi Naidoo, director of Greenpeace International; Sister Simone Campbell, director of NETWORK, a Catholic social justice group; and Robert Ellsberg, publisher of writings by Dorothy Day and books on Thomas Merton.
The Colombian government and FARC, the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, have announced a historic breakthrough in the ongoing peace talks to end the five-decade conflict that has killed more than 200,000 people. The agreement, brokered in Havana, establishes peace tribunals and a reconciliation commission. It is expected to be signed within six months. The announcement comes only days after Pope Francis urged the two sides to reach a peace deal during mass on Sunday in Havana’s Revolution Plaza. The chief negotiator for the Colombian government celebrated the breakthrough Thursday.
Humberto de la Calle: “I believe that we can say, without exaggerating, that Colombia is about to burst into peace. I think we have begun the countdown toward ending the war and allowing life to triumph.”
Volkswagen is expected to fire three top executives today over the growing scandal that Volkswagen illegally installed devices in 11 million diesel cars worldwide in a deliberate bid to avoid emissions rules. This comes two days after Volkswagen CEO Martin Winterkorn resigned. The Justice Department is reportedly conducting a criminal investigation. The crisis has cost the company nearly a third of its market value.
Chinese President Xi Jinping is arriving at the White House for a state visit with President Obama today, where President Xi is expected to commit to implementing a cap-and-trade system to limit China’s greenhouse gas emissions in 2017. A cap-and-trade system is a market-driven strategy in which governments cap emission levels and then allow companies to buy and sell permits to pollute. Environmental groups are saying the announcement is a step in the right direction, but that more needs to be done.
Saudi Arabia has announced it will conduct an investigation into the deadly stampede near Mecca that killed more than 700 people on the first day of Eid al-Adha. The stampede occurred during a ritual at the tent city of Mina as millions of people were making their pilgrimage to Mecca for the holiday.
Meanwhile, Saudi diplomats are attempting to fend off calls for a U.N. Human Rights Council investigation into possible war crimes and crimes against humanity in the ongoing conflict in Yemen. The one-year-old war between Houthi rebels and U.S.-backed, Saudi-led coalition forces has killed more than 4,000 people. A U.N. Human Rights Commission report has blamed the Saudi-led airstrikes for most of the civilian casualties.
In Mexico, parents of the missing 43 students have met with President Enrique Peña Nieto ahead of the one-year anniversary of the students’ disappearance. The lawyer for the parents said that the government’s comments during the meeting show the government is not following recommendations by international experts on how to conduct a new investigation into the students’ death.
In Michigan, a graphic video has surfaced of a 32-year-old man slowing dying inside a Macomb County jail after he was jailed for inability to pay a driving ticket. David Stojcevski was sentenced to 30 days in jail last June after he was unable to pay a $772 fine. While imprisoned, Stojcevski went into extreme withdrawal caused by lack of his prescribed methadone treatment. He lost more than 50 pounds and was eventually transferred to a medical unit, where he was kept naked and under constant video surveillance. He stopped breathing on June 27, 2014, and was ultimately transferred to a local hospital, where he died. Local Detroit television station WDIV published the video Thursday.
Baltimore County police are facing criticism after an officer fatally shot a man who had pointed his finger at them as if it were a gun. The police say they were chasing the man, whose name has not yet been released, after he attempted to obtain cough syrup using a fake prescription at a pharmacy in Reisterstown, Maryland, Wednesday. Police say no weapons were found at the scene of the shooting. The officer has been placed on administrative leave.
Meanwhile, in Delaware, police in the city of Wilmington are also facing criticism after a video surfaced of officers fatally shooting an African-American man in a wheelchair. The cellphone video, filmed by a bystander, shows officers yelling at 28-year-old Jeremy McDowell as they approach, followed by the sound of a gunshot. McDowell then appears to reach into the front of his jeans as several officers open fire. Police say they were responding to a 911 call that McDowell may have tried to shoot himself, and that they recovered a handgun at the scene. Family members say McDowell had been in a wheelchair since he was shot and paralyzed at the age of 18.
The universities of Fordham and Marquette have both rescinded honorary degrees from Bill Cosby, who has been accused by more than 50 women of drugging and raping them in cases that go back decades. Both schools say it is the first time they have ever rescinded an honorary degree.
New evidence has emerged in the case against death row prisoner Richard Glossip, who narrowly avoided execution last week after he was granted a last-minute stay only hours before he was slated to die. In 1997, Glossip was working as a manager at the Best Budget Inn in Oklahoma City when his boss, Barry Van Treese, was murdered. A maintenance worker, Justin Sneed, admitted he beat Van Treese to death with a baseball bat, but claimed Glossip offered him money and job opportunities for the killing. The case rested almost solely on Sneed’s claims. No physical evidence ever tied Glossip to the crime. This week, one of Sneed’s former cellmates, Joseph Tapley, came forward, saying that Sneed had framed Glossip to avoid the death penalty. This comes after Michael Scott, who had also spent time with Sneed in prison, came forward in August saying it was “common knowledge that Justin Sneed lied and sold Richard Glossip up the river.” Glossip’s new execution date is September 30.
NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden, Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Glenn Greenwald and other privacy activists have launched a new campaign to establish global privacy standards. The proposed International Treaty on the Right to Privacy, Protection Against Improper Surveillance and Protection of Whistleblowers would require states to ban mass data collection and implement public oversight of national security programs. The treaty would also require states to offer asylum to whistleblowers. It is being dubbed the “Snowden Treaty.” Edward Snowden spoke about the need for the treaty via teleconference from Russia at Thursday’s launch in New York.
Edward Snowden: “This is not a problem exclusive to the United States or the National Security Agency or the FBI or the Department of Justice or any agency of government anywhere. This is a global problem that affects all of us.”
Meanwhile, The Intercept has published new documents leaked by Snowden revealing a British mass surveillance operation known as ”KARMA POLICE.” The Intercept reports that the operation seeks “to record the website browsing habits of every visible user on the Internet.” It was launched in secret seven years ago, without any public debate.