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You turn to Democracy Now! for ad-free news you can trust. This weekend, we're broadcasting live from D.C. as students and people of all ages converge on the capital to demand action on gun control. Our coverage is produced at a fraction of the cost of a commercial news operation, without ads, paywalls, government funds or corporate sponsors. How is this possible? Only with your support. If you and everyone visiting this website gave just $4, it would cover our operating costs for 2018. Pretty exciting, right? Please do your part. It takes just a few minutes to make sure that Democracy Now! is there for you and everybody else.
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In the 2016 race for the White House, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders squared off in a debate at Miami-Dade College in Florida Wednesday night sponsored by the Spanish-language network Univision. The two candidates clashed on issues including immigration, Latin America and healthcare. The debate comes one day after Sanders’ surprise victory in the Michigan primary. We’ll have more on the debate after headlines.
Meanwhile, on the Republican side, the four remaining presidential candidates are slated to square off for a debate at the University of Miami tonight. This comes as front-runner Donald Trump is saying that if he wins the Ohio and Florida primaries next week, “it’s over.” Meanwhile, during an interview on CNN, Trump responded to Anderson Cooper’s question of whether Islam is at war with the West.
Donald Trump: “I think Islam hates us. There’s something—there’s something there that—there’s a tremendous hatred there. There’s a tremendous hatred. We have to get to the bottom of it.”
Meanwhile, in Washington, D.C., more than 100 people descended on the Democratic National Committee headquarters Wednesday to protest DNC Chair Florida Congressmember Debbie Wasserman Schultz’s support for a new bill that would gut proposed regulations for payday lenders. The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau is slated to introduce new rules to rein in the notoriously unregulated world of payday lending. But Schultz and other lawmakers are instead sponsoring legislation that would weaken the rules and delay their implementation for more than two years. On Wednesday, a protester spoke out about the predatory nature of the industry.
Protester: “I made my payments, and they offered me to reborrow, and that sent me into a cycle of debt. And that was a trap, because I had to go from one loan place to another to pay off the original loan. And for two to three years I was trapped in this cycle, which is designed purposely by the payday lending companies to keep people coming in for payments. They thrive off of 50 percent defaults of people. They want you to not be able to pay.”
The Pentagon says it launched two airstrikes last week targeting ISIL’s chemical weapons capabilities, after a captured ISIL chemical weapons specialist reportedly gave the U.S. information about the program. The Iraqi specialist was reportedly captured by U.S. special operations forces in northern Iraq three weeks ago. Unnamed military officials say that the specialist worked for Saddam Hussein’s now-dissolved Military Industrialization Authority before joining ISIL. U.S. officials say he also provided information about how ISIL has used mustard gas during attacks.
Unnamed officials say U.S. special operations forces and Somali troops carried out another raid at an al-Shabab training camp in Somalia, killing 19 militants. This comes only days after U.S. airstrikes in Somalia killed more than 150 people identified as militants at an al-Shabab training camp, marking one of the deadliest U.S. attacks to date in the so-called war on terror.
The U.S. head of Volkswagen has resigned amid the ongoing fallout from the auto giant’s emissions cheating scandal. Michael Horn served as the U.S. chief executive since 2014. This comes about six months after the global head of Volkswagen, Martin Winterkorn, also resigned. The Justice Department has sued German automaker Volkswagen after accusing it of installing devices in its vehicles to skirt U.S. emissions regulations. U.S. regulators say Volkswagen vehicles were emitting up to 40 times more pollution than U.S. standards allow.
In news from Europe, Macedonia has announced it is closing its border with Greece, only one day after Slovenia announced it was also closing its borders to refugees fleeing violence in the Middle East and North Africa. Croatia and Serbia have said they, too, will block refugees from entering their countries. The series of border crackdowns effectively seals off the Balkan route, which refugees have been using to reach northern European countries such as Germany. German Chancellor Angela Merkel has condemned the border crackdowns.
Venezuela says it is recalling its top diplomat to the United States following the White House’s decision to extend an executive order imposing sanctions on top Venezuelan officials. The executive order also declares Venezuela a national security threat. The U.S. and Venezuela have not had ambassadorial relations for years.
In more news from South America, Brazilian prosecutors have indicted former President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva as part of an investigation into corruption at the state oil company Petrobras. The growing allegations of a corruption scandal also threaten Lula’s successor, current President Dilma Rousseff, who is fighting off an impeachment attempt related to other charges. Lula says the charges are politically motivated.
In France, thousands of people took to the streets to protest the French government’s proposed labor reforms, which would lengthen the French work week and make it easier for bosses to fire employees. Despite heavy rain, students and unions flooded Paris’ streets Wednesday. Students also barricaded dozens of schools. The protest coincided with a rail strike, which shut down two-thirds of all trains. Student Juba Zemoul spoke out.
Juba Zemoul: “Already today, we want to make it clear to all students that we are against this law, and show them why we’re against this law. And we want especially to demonstrate to show the government that we are against it and that students, young people, we are all rallying against this law so it does not pass.”
Meanwhile, in Nigeria, oil workers staged a nationwide strike Wednesday after the Nigerian government announced plans to restructure the state oil company without having consulted the workers. Nigeria is the largest oil producer in Africa. The proposed restructuring calls for dividing the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation into multiple parts. Workers say they fear the plan could lead to mass layoffs.
And The Wall Street Journal has exposed that nearly half of the $110 billion Wall Street banks have paid in settlements in recent years has been pocketed by the federal government—and has not been paid out to homeowners. In recent years, the United States’ largest banks, including Bank of America, Wells Fargo, JPMorgan Chase and Citigroup, have paid billions of dollars to settle charges of financial crimes in the mortgage market in the years leading up to the 2008 housing crisis. Top regulators have lauded the record fines extracted in these settlements by saying the money would help homeowners struggling with their mortgages. Yet The Wall Street Journal’s new investigation shows that while about $45 billion did go to homeowner relief, even more of the settlement money, about $50 billion in total, has been simply pocketed by the federal government itself, with almost no disclosure of how the money is being spent.