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You turn to Democracy Now! for ad-free news you can trust. Maybe you come for our daily headlines. Maybe you come for in-depth stories that expose government and corporate abuses of power. This month, Democracy Now! is celebrating our 23rd birthday. For over two decades, we've produced our daily news hour without ads, government funding or corporate underwriting. How is this possible? Only with your support. Right now, in honor of Democracy Now!'s birthday, every donation we receive will be doubled by a generous supporter. This means if you give $30 today, Democracy Now! will get $60 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. Thank you! -Amy Goodman
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Last night, Democratic presidential candidates Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton faced off at a PBS-hosted debate in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. It was the first Democratic debate since Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders’ decisive victory over former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in Tuesday’s New Hampshire primary. At the debate, Bernie Sanders drew a sharp distinction between himself and the former secretary of state on issues of foreign policy by highlighting Clinton’s close relationship with another former secretary of state, Henry Kissinger.
Sen. Bernie Sanders: “Where the secretary and I have a very profound difference, in the last debate and, I believe, in her book—very good book, by the way—in her book and in this last debate, she talked about getting the approval or the support or the mentoring of Henry Kissinger. Now, I find it rather amazing, because I happen to believe that Henry Kissinger was one of the most destructive secretaries of state in the modern history of this country.”
Hillary Clinton, meanwhile, cast herself as the candidate with more experience, and she deflected criticisms of her support for the Iraq War by reminding voters that President Obama picked her to serve as secretary of state.
Hillary Clinton: “As we all remember, Senator Obama, when he ran against me, was against the war in Iraq. And yet, when he won, he turned to me, trusting my judgment, my experience, to become secretary of state. I was very honored to be asked to do that and very honored to serve with him those first four years.”
We’ll have more on the debate after headlines.
The debate comes as the Sanders campaign says it has broken its own fundraising record by raising more than $6 million in just one day. The campaign says it brought in more than $6 million in the 24 hours after the New Hampshire primary polls closed. The campaign says the average donation amount for the period was $34.
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and other world leaders have announced they’ve made progress toward a “cessation of hostilities” in the ongoing conflict in Syria. The announcement comes amid a two-day meeting in Munich of the International Syria Support Group, whose members include the United States, the European Union, the Arab League, China, Egypt, Russia, Saudi Arabia, Turkey and other world powers. The meeting does not include the Assad government or any of the Syrian opposition groups. A different set of U.N.-hosted peace talks that included the Assad government and various members of the opposition fell apart last week. During the meeting in Munich, world leaders agreed to work to ease the fighting within one week and to allow humanitarian aid to reach besieged areas. Syrian opposition spokesperson Salim al-Muslat welcomed the announcement.
Salim al-Muslat: “We welcome the effort that our friends are making to relieve the Syrian people. It must be for all Syrians, We must see action on the ground. Once we see implementation, we will be ready for the political process.”
The meeting in Munich comes as intense fighting continues in the northeast city of Aleppo. The Assad government, backed by Russian airstrikes, has been carrying out an offensive on Aleppo, forcing tens of thousands of Syrians to flee to the border with Turkey. On Thursday, the Russian defense minister accused the U.S.-led coalition of also launching airstrikes on Aleppo on this week. U.S. officials deny the allegations.
In Turkey, the offices of two daily newspapers have been firebombed. On Thursday afternoon, attackers shot at and threw firebombs at the offices of pro-government newspapers. No one was hurt in either attack.
Pentagon officials say they have stepped up airstrikes against ISIL in Afghanistan, launching about 20 airstrikes in the eastern region of Afghanistan over the last three weeks. This comes after President Obama expanded the Pentagon’s authority to conduct airstrikes against ISIL in Afghanistan. Meanwhile, the Pentagon is sending 500 U.S. soldiers to Helmand province in southern Afghanistan to fight the Taliban. It’s the largest single deployment to Helmand province since President Obama declared an end to the U.S. combat mission in Afghanistan in 2014. The deployment does not increase the overall troop level in Afghanistan, which remains at just under 10,000 soldiers.
In New York City, a police officer has been found guilty of second-degree manslaughter in the fatal shooting of 28-year-old unarmed African American Akai Gurley. In 2014, NYPD officer Peter Liang shot Gurley in the darkened stairwell of a Brooklyn housing project. Gurley was walking down the stairs with his girlfriend because the elevator was broken. Following the shooting, Officer Peter Liang first texted his union representative before making a radio call for help. On Thursday, a Brooklyn jury found Liang guilty of second-degree manslaughter and official misconduct. He now faces up to 15 years in prison. He will be sentenced on April 14. After the verdict was announced, Akai Gurley’s mother, Sylvia Palmer, spoke out.
Sylvia Palmer: “I was very happy with the verdict. First, I want to thank God. And then I want to thank the District Attorney’s Office, the entire staff at the District Attorney’s Office. They did an awesome job presenting the evidence to the jury and the court. And I just want to say thank you, thank you to everyone, for all your support.”
In more news from New York City, public records obtained by the New York Civil Liberties Union shows the NYPD has tracked civilians’ cellphones more than 1,000 times without a warrant since 2008. The ACLU says the NYPD tracked people’s movements via their cellphones by using devices called “stingrays,” which mimic cellphone towers to obtain a cellphone’s location at a specific time. The NYPD does not have a policy guiding the department’s use of stingrays.
Meanwhile, a new report says 70 percent of the world’s population will have cellphones by 2020. The study by Cisco Systems estimates 5.4 billion people will own mobile phones within just four years. That’s nearly double the number of people worldwide who are estimated to have running water by 2020.
After 41 days, the occupation at the Oregon wildlife refuge has ended, after the remaining four antigovernment militia members surrendered to the FBI. On January 2, the militia members took over the wildlife refuge in support of two ranchers sentenced to prison for setting fires that burned federal land. The ranchers later turned themselves in to authorities. But the militia members continued their occupation. For weeks, local residents and the Paiute Tribe—which has treaty rights to the land—have called on the militia to leave. On January 27, the FBI arrested militia leaders Ammon and Ryan Bundy in a traffic stop that left group spokesperson Robert “LaVoy” Finicum dead. This week, the FBI also arrested Cliven Bundy at the Portland International Airport on charges of conspiracy and assault on a federal law enforcement officer during Cliven Bundy’s standoff with authorities at his Nevada ranch in 2014. In total, more than a dozen people are now facing federal charges related to the Oregon occupation.
Democratic lawmakers have introduced new legislation that would ban new coal, oil and gas extraction leases on U.S. public land. The introduction of the so-called Keep It in the Ground Act into Congress comes after a coalition of more than 400 organizations have called on the White House to stop issuing new fossil fuel leases on public lands and oceans. A similar version of the bill has already been introduced in the Senate by presidential candidate and Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders. Thursday’s introduction of the bill, which has 16 Democratic co-sponsors, is largely seen as a symbolic gesture, as the House is controlled by Republican lawmakers.
In news from Wall Street, banking giant Morgan Stanley will pay $3.2 billion to settle a slew of federal and state charges that the bank lied to investors about the value of residential mortgage-backed securities, which played a role in triggering the global financial recession that began in late 2007. This is the latest in a series of financial settlements by banking giants charged with lying about the value of the toxic mortgage-backed securities. President Obama set up a working group in 2012 to investigate wrongdoings in the mortgage market in the lead-up to the financial crisis. So far, this working group has led to Bank of America paying out $16.6 billion, JPMorgan paying out $13 billion and Citigroup paying out $7 billion in settlements, in addition to Morgan Stanley’s settlement announced Thursday. The investigations have not led to criminal charges or jail time for any banking executives involved.
In news from Flint, new emails obtained by The Flint Journal suggest Michigan Governor Rick Snyder told the Department of Environmental Quality to withhold information about the results of lead tests for nearly a week as Snyder’s office tried to determine the best way to present the information to the public. The emails obtained through a Freedom of Information request show that the Department of Environmental Quality withheld the lead test results from Genesee County health officials for at least six days. Agency officials later apologized to the health department officials for the delay, saying the Governor’s Office had asked them not to disclose the information until a scheduled press conference on October 8, 2015. This press conference was when Snyder announced that Flint would reconnect to Detroit’s water system. Under the direction of an unelected emergency manager appointed by Governor Snyder, the city had switched the source of its drinking water to the corrosive Flint River, which caused the city’s lead pipes to corrode, spiking the level of lead in the drinking water. Snyder’s office has denied that it withheld the information about the results of the lead tests.
In Australia, two women hung from a bridge and unfurled a giant banner over a Melbourne freeway reading “Let Them Stay,” as a protest against the government’s plans to relocate 267 asylum seekers from Australia to detention camps on Nauru. The group of asylum seekers who may be relocated include 37 babies who were born in Australia, as well as 54 children, the majority of whom are now attending Australian schools. On Thursday, Katherine Woskett spoke out before she lowered herself down from the Yarra Bend Bridge over the Eastern Freeway.
Katherine Woskett: “We encourage other Australians to take direct action to stand up for those who can’t. The government needs to let them stay.”
And in Chicago, mother Lesly Sophia Cortez-Martínez has reunited with her family after Border Patrol at O’Hare International Airport deported her last week, despite the fact that Cortez-Martínez had been granted a reprieve from deportation under President Obama’s executive action. Lesly Sophia Cortez-Martínez came to the United States when she was 15. She was granted a reprieve from deportation under Obama’s Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals Program, or DACA. Cortez-Martínez had reportedly received permission to visit Mexico, but when she was at O’Hare Airport last week, she was deported with her infant and another one of her children. On Thursday, she reunited with her family after receiving permission to return to the United States, although immigrant rights activists say she is still in deportation proceedings.