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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 death toll is continuing to rise in Haiti after the massive Category 4 Hurricane Matthew hit the island. More than 330 bodies have been discovered so far as the waters recede. Hurricane Matthew was the most powerful storm to hit the Caribbean in a decade. Across the country, 15,000 people have been displaced and 350,000 more are in need of assistance. The storm knocked out most electricity and phone service across Haiti. It also washed out a major bridge connecting southern Haiti to the rest of the country. Haiti is the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere and is still recovering from a devastating earthquake six years ago that left more than 300,000 dead and twice as many people displaced. We’ll have more on Haiti after headlines with Haitian-American novelist Edwidge Danticat.
Hurricane Matthew is now bearing down on the Florida coast. The tropical storm’s wind gusts of 107 miles per hour and torrential downpours have already knocked out power for 300,000 people in Florida. Meteorologists are warning of devastating storm surges. One wave 17 feet high has already been spotted off the coast near Cape Canaveral. President Obama has declared a state of emergency for Florida, Georgia and South Carolina. Florida Governor Rick Scott has activated the 3,500 members of the National Guard. Scott also urged residents living in mandatory evacuation zones to flee, warning, “This storm will kill you.” More than 3 million people in Florida, Georgia and South Carolina are under evacuation orders. We’ll go to Florida for more on the latest on Hurricane Matthew later in the broadcast.
Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos has been chosen to receive this year’s Nobel Peace Prize for his role in pursuing a peace deal to end Colombia’s 52-year-old civil war. The move comes as a surprise after Colombians narrowly rejected the peace deal just this past Sunday in a nationwide referendum. FARC leader Timoleón Jiménez did not also win the Nobel Peace Prize. The conflict between the Colombian government and the FARC began in 1964 and has claimed some 220,000 lives. More than 5 million people are estimated to have been displaced. Last year, the Colombian army was accused of a long-running scandal of extrajudicially killing unarmed civilians and then identifying them as FARC rebels in order to portray the government as winning the war against the FARC. President Santos’s top military generals were accused of being implicated in the so-called “false positives” scandal. We’ll go to Colombia for more on the Nobel Peace Prize announcement later in the broadcast.
The United Nations special envoy for Syria, Staffan de Mistura, is warning the entirety of eastern Aleppo could be destroyed by Christmas if the ongoing bombing campaign by Russia and the Syrian government is not stopped. In a speech in Geneva, he called on Russia and the Syrian government to stop the airstrikes.
Staffan de Mistura: “In the eyes of the world and of the public opinion, are you really ready to continue this type of level of fighting using that type of weapons and, de facto, destroy the whole city, eastern city of Aleppo, ancient city of Aleppo, with its own 275,000 people, for the sake of eliminating 1,000—1,000—al-Nusra fighters?”
Staffan de Mistura also said he’d personally accompany al-Nusra fighters out of Aleppo if that would end the Russian and the Syrian government’s bombing campaign, which he warned could become “another Srebrenica, another Rwanda.”
The Italian coast guard says it rescued a staggering 11,000 refugees trying to make the deadly crossing from Libya into Europe this week alone, amid the greatest refugee crisis since World War II. The coast guard says at least 50 people died in the crossing, including 20 people who reportedly suffocated in the hold of a boat. An aid worker has compared the conditions in the cargo holds of the overcrowded fishing boats used to transport refugees to those of slave ships. This is the deputy mayor of the Italian coastal town of Pozzallo.
Francesco Gugliotta: “From what I know, among the victims, there was also a very unlucky pregnant woman, who lost her life. I think the death of these people is to be blamed on the terrible conditions they are made to travel in.”
The Justice Department has launched an investigation into the Alabama prison system amid a series of strikes by both prisoners and guards. The probe focuses on living conditions and physical and sexual abuse of prisoners. Alabama prisoners have been leaders in the organizing of the nationwide prison strike launched on September 9. On September 24, guards at the Holman Correctional Facility in Atmore, Alabama, also went on strike, refusing to show up for the evening shift, amid safety concerns and overcrowding. Click here to hear our interview with incarcerated organizer Kinetik Justice, speaking from inside Holman about the prison strike.
President Obama has commuted the sentences of 102 federal inmates, bringing his total number of commutations to 774. Many of the 102 prisoners have been serving life sentences on drug-related charges. Their sentences will now end in October 2018.
Activists in cities across the country gathered for two days of action Wednesday and Thursday to support Bresha Meadows, a 15-year-old girl who allegedly killed her abusive father. Jonathan Meadows, Bresha’s father, reportedly made life for his family a living hell, routinely attacking his wife—Bresha’s mother—breaking her ribs, puncturing her blood vessels, blackening her eyes and slashing her body. Meadows now may face life in prison. This week, activists gathered for rallies and letter-writing campaigns to support Meadows in Chicago; Boston; Milwaukee, Wisconsin; Warren, Ohio; and up and down California, including in Los Angeles, Davis and Riverside. Organizers say Meadows is currently on suicide watch in jail.
In North Dakota, land defenders opposing the $3.8 billion Dakota Access pipeline are facing increasing repression. On Thursday, Morton County Sheriff Kyle Kirchmeier announced he may call on law enforcement agencies from outside North Dakota to come assist North Dakota deputies, saying, “We have basically tapped the resources to a level that we’ve never seen here in North Dakota for one particular incident.” The announcement came as land defenders again shut down construction at multiple construction sites Thursday. In recent weeks, police have begun deploying military-grade equipment, including armored personnel carriers and surveillance helicopters. Meanwhile, the first person to lock himself to active Dakota Access pipeline construction equipment is now facing felony charges, after his misdemeanor case was dismissed and then refiled as a felony case. Dale “Happi” American Horse locked himself to an excavator on August 31, stopping construction for hours. Democracy Now! spoke to him a few days later, on September 3, as we visited the Sacred Stone encampment in North Dakota.
Dale “Happi” American Horse: “I couldn’t stand by and watch this pipeline go through, get torn through the Mother Earth. And it’s a hard thing to stand by and watch. And I couldn’t take it anymore, so we used nonviolent direct action to delay them in any way for as long as possible.”
In South Africa, growing student protests against a proposed 8 percent tuition fee hike for 2017 have shut down classes at campuses across the country this week. The “Fees Must Fall” campaign is demanding free education. It’s facing an increasing crackdown by police, who deployed stun grenades, rubber bullets and tear gas against protesting students in Johannesburg on Tuesday. This is Wits University student leader Fasiha Hassan.
Fasiha Hassan: “We’ve just been opened fire with stun grenades, tear gas, totally unprovoked. We were just marching as students. Then they trapped us in a small space.”
This comes as a nationwide teachers’ strike continues in Belize for a fifth day. On Thursday, the teachers’ union held demonstrations in multiple cities. Teachers are demanding a 3 percent salary increase, as well as anti-corruption measures and workplace safety.
In news from the campaign trail, one in every 40 Americans will not be able to vote in this November’s presidential election as a result of state laws that prohibit people with felony convictions from voting, even after they have served their full sentences. The states in which the greatest percentage of people will not be able to vote are Florida, Mississippi, Kentucky and Tennessee.
In San Francisco, the Council on American-Islamic Relations has filed a complaint against Southwest Airlines with the Transportation Department, calling for an investigation into whether the airline company is racially profiling Muslim Americans. This comes after recent UC Berkeley graduate, Khairuldeen Makhzoomi, was pulled off a Southwest Airlines plane after another passenger complained about him speaking in Arabic on his cellphone. The passenger claimed he was using words related to an attack. In fact, he was using the word “inshallah,” which means “God willing” or “hopefully” and is one of the most common words in the Arabic language. Makhzoomi is an Iraqi who has been living in the U.S. since 2010. He says he was pulled off the plane and then interrogated by police officers.
And in Virginia, 23 people were arrested amid a three-day protest in front of Gov. Terry McAuliffe’s mansion Wednesday, demanding action to address climate change. The protesters are demanding McAuliffe reject two proposed fracked gas pipelines, force companies to clean up toxic coal ash ponds and invest in renewable energy. The protest was organized by Chesapeake Climate Action Network. The activists were arrested after they blocked the doors to his mansion.