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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 week 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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In the 2016 race for the White House, leading Republican Party establishment members met in Washington, D.C., Thursday to continue efforts to try to block a Donald Trump nomination. Led by RedState.com founder Erick Erickson, the group is calling for a unity ticket that could prevent Trump from winning the 1,237 delegates he needs to secure the nomination outright. This comes as the chair of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Joseph Dunford, described some of Donald Trump’s military proposals as illegal. Speaking to the Senate Armed Services Committee Thursday, Dunford answered questions from South Carolina Senator Lindsey Graham, who did not mention Trump by name but asked about tactics he has proposed.
Sen. Lindsey Graham: “What effect, if any, would this have on the war fighter if we started telling our men and women in uniform to intentionally target civilian noncombatants and engage in techniques such as waterboarding or more extreme forms of interrogation?”
Gen. Joseph Dunford: “You know, our men and women—and we ought to be proud of it—when they go to war, they go to war with the values of our nation. And those kind of activities that you’ve described are inconsistent with the values of our nation. And quite frankly, I think it would have an adverse effect. There’s many adverse effects it would have, one that would be on the morale of the force. And frankly, they would—what you’re suggesting are things that actually aren’t legal for them to do anyway.”
Meanwhile, on the Democrat side, President Obama reportedly threw his weight behind former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton by telling a group of Democratic donors to unite behind her. The New York Times reports Obama made the comments during a private meeting with donors after a fundraising event last Friday in Austin, Texas, for the Democratic National Committee. This comes as Sanders is favored to win a string of upcoming caucuses in Idaho, Alaska, Hawaii, Washington and Wyoming. Clinton currently leads Sanders in the delegate count: 1,139 to 825.
U.S. lawmakers called for Michigan Governor Rick Snyder to resign during congressional hearings Thursday over the ongoing crisis of lead-poisoned water in Flint, Michigan. This is Pennsylvania Congressmember Matt Cartwright.
Rep. Matt Cartwright: “I’ve had about enough of your false contrition and your phony apologies. Susan Hedman from the EPA bears not one-tenth of the responsibility of the state of Michigan and your administration, and she resigned. And there you are, dripping with guilt, but drawing your paycheck, hiring lawyers at the expense of the people, and doing your dead level best to spread accountability to others and not being accountable. It’s not appropriate. Pretty soon, we will have men who strike their wives saying, ’I’m sorry, dear, but there were failures at all levels.’ People who put dollars over the fundamental safety of the people do not belong in government, and you need to resign, too, Governor Snyder.”
The Pentagon says at least a dozen U.S. military members have received administrative punishments as a result of the October 2015 U.S. airstrike on a Doctors Without Borders hospital in Kunduz, Afghanistan, which killed 42 people—but none are facing criminal charges. The Pentagon continues to call the attack an accident, although a report from Doctors Without Borders concluded, “The view from inside the hospital is that this attack was conducted with a purpose to kill and destroy.” Human Rights Watch has called for a criminal investigation. Doctors Without Borders has called the strike a possible war crime.
Secretary of State John Kerry says that ISIL is committing genocide against Christians, Yazidis and Shiite Muslims in Iraq and Syria. This comes less than a week after the U.S. Central Command chief, General Lloyd Austin, told Congress the Pentagon wants more resources in the fight against ISIL, though he stopped short of explicitly calling for more U.S. troops to be deployed to Iraq and Syria. There are currently more than 4,000 U.S. soldiers in Iraq and at least 50 U.S. soldiers in Syria.
In news from Yemen, the United Nations said at least 119 people were killed in a U.S.-backed, Saudi-led airstrike on a market Tuesday—three times the previously reported death toll from the attack. The strike hit a crowded market in the northwest. At least 22 children were killed in the strike.
European Union leaders are proposing a controversial new plan which would entail deporting refugees who reach Greece back to Turkey. Human rights groups have criticized the plan, saying mass deportations violate international law. While the plan calls for European countries to commit to resettling Syrians currently living in Turkish refugee camps, there do not appear to be provisions for what to do with refugees coming from other war-torn countries in the Middle East and North Africa. This comes as British Prime Minister David Cameron has sparked controversy with his calls for more patrol ships in the Mediterranean to intercept boats carrying refugees and turn them back to Libya, where human rights groups say refugees face violence in the ongoing conflict and imprisonment by the government. On Thursday, the Libyan coast guard intercepted 123 refugees at sea and returned them to the capital Tripoli, where they were detained.
The United States and Cuba continue to ease diplomatic and economic relations ahead of President Barack Obama’s upcoming trip to Havana next week. Obama will become the first sitting U.S. president to visit Cuba in 88 years. On Wednesday, direct postal service between the two countries resumed after a half-century. On Thursday, Cuban Foreign Minister Bruno Rodríguez said Cuba would remove a 10 percent tax on U.S. cash dollars as soon as it verifies that the United States has lifted currency restrictions against Cuba.
SeaWorld has announced it will stop breeding killer whales—nearly three years after the documentary “Blackfish” sparked intense criticism of SeaWorld’s treatment of the animals and their trainers. Since the documentary aired, SeaWorld has faced increasing pressure from animal rights activists, including PETA, People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, to end the killer whale breeding program. SeaWorld’s announcement comes only weeks after the theme park operator acknowledged that it sent an employee to pose as an animal rights activist to infiltrate PETA. According to PETA, SeaWorld employee Paul McComb took part in numerous PETA protests against SeaWorld while undercover and repeatedly used social media in an effort to incite other activists, stating that it’s time to “grab pitchforks and torches” and time to “burn SeaWorld to the ground.”
And in France, as many as 150,000 students and union members participated in mass protests across the country over the government’s proposed labor reforms, which would lengthen the French work week and make it easier for bosses to fire employees. University student Arnaud Carbone spoke out.
Arnaud Carbone: “This is a law that will allow employers to do whatever they want with us and to decide our lives. And that’s simply not possible. Already, studies are a struggle. Today, students are struggling. Students are forced to get a job on the side, which makes them flunk out. We can’t allow them to worsen job instability.”