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You turn to Democracy Now! for ad-free news you can trust. Maybe you come for our daily headlines, or for in-depth stories that expose government and corporate abuses of power. We produce our daily news hour at a fraction of the budget of a commercial news operation, all without ads, government funding or corporate underwriting? This is only possible with your support. Right now every donation to Democracy Now! will be doubled by a generous supporter. This means if you give $25 today, Democracy Now! will get $50 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 in the coming year. Thanks so much. -Amy Goodman
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Both former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders campaigned in New York state Thursday, ahead of the New York primary later this month. During a speech at the State University of New York at Purchase, Clinton faced disruption from protesters who yelled, “If she wins, we lose!” Meanwhile, more than 16,000 people gathered in St. Mary’s Park in the South Bronx for a Bernie Sanders rally Thursday, where Sanders stressed his Brooklyn roots.
Sen. Bernie Sanders: “I went to public schools in Brooklyn, New York. I had a good education, and I want every kid in this city and in this state to have a quality, good public education. And that means that instead of giving tax breaks to billionaires or fighting wars we should not be fighting, we’re going to be investing in housing and education and healthcare.”
Sanders spoke alongside actress Rosario Dawson, director Spike Lee and Puerto Rican rapper Residente, one of the founders of the group Calle 13. He said he supports Sanders’ foreign policy positions.
Residente: “I support Bernie Sanders because he has spoken out against those Latin American dictatorships financed by the United States which left more than half a million people dead or disappeared. This means being opposed to a Pinochet in Chile, Ríos Montt in Guatemala, Videla in Argentina, just to name a few. … Thought of Hillary Clinton, who has dared to praise the likes of Henry Kissinger, the author of the most despicable Latin American genocide and the architect of Latin American dictatorships, responsible for all of those who disappeared in the '60s, ’70s and ’80s, it's enough for me not to vote for her.”
This comes as Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders head into a tight race in Wisconsin on Tuesday.
Meanwhile, Republican presidential front-runner Donald Trump met in Washington, D.C., with leaders of the Republican National Committee amid increasing tension between the GOP leadership and the party’s leading candidate. Trump is facing a wave of backlash in Wisconsin ahead of the Tuesday contest, with recent polls showing his rival, Texas Senator Ted Cruz, leading Trump by at least 10 points. This comes as Trump picked up an endorsement Wednesday from the National Border Patrol Council. It was the Border Patrol agents’ union’s first-ever presidential primary endorsement. Donald Trump has promised to build a wall across the entire length of the U.S.-Mexico border and to force Mexico to pay for it—a proposal which experts have said is not feasible.
Some major companies are reportedly reconsidering whether to sponsor the Republican National Convention in Cleveland in July. The New York Times reports Apple, Google and Wal-Mart are all reassessing their plans amid increasing turmoil in the GOP race. Under pressure from activists, Coca-Cola has already dramatically reduced its sponsorship of the event—from $600,000 in 2012 to only $75,000 this year. This comes as Cleveland is purchasing thousands of sets of police riot gear in advance of the RNC, using a $50 million federal grant. The city is also planning to rent enough interlocking steel barricades to stretch for three miles.
In Chicago, protesters rallied Thursday to denounce the police union for hiring former Chicago police officer Jason Van Dyke to work as a janitor, after Van Dyke was dismissed from the police department over the 2014 fatal shooting of African-American teenager Laquan McDonald. Officer Van Dyke shot 17-year-old Laquan McDonald 16 times while the teenager was at a distance and walking away, posing no threat. Van Dyke is currently facing six counts of first-degree murder. Three weeks ago, he was hired by the police union at an hourly rate of $12 an hour. Activist Ja’Mal Green said his hiring is a “slap in the face to Chicago residents.”
This comes as the Chicago Teachers Union is slated to launch a one-day strike today to protest the lack of state funding for education. The Chicago public school district currently faces a $1.1 billion deficit. Chicago Teachers Union President Karen Lewis said, “We are dying the death of a thousand cuts.”
The Pentagon continues to face questioning over its military presence in Iraq. The Daily Beast has reported there are at least 12 U.S. generals deployed to Iraq to lead a force that is officially supposed to consist of only 3,870 U.S. troops. A troop force of this size would usually be led by only a single colonel.
Five top U.S. women’s soccer players have filed a landmark lawsuit with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission accusing U.S. soccer of wage discrimination. The players say they earn only about 40 percent of what male players earn, despite the fact that the U.S. women’s national team has won three World Cups and four Olympic championships. The U.S. men’s national team, in comparison, has never even reached the World Cup finals. On Thursday, soccer player Hope Solo and her teammates spoke to Matt Lauer on NBC’s “Today Show.”
Hope Solo: “I’ve been on this team now for a decade and a half, and I’ve been through numerous CBA negotiations. And honestly, not much has changed. We continue to be told we should be grateful just to have the opportunity to play professional soccer and to get paid for doing it. And in this day and age, you know, it’s about equality. It’s about equal rights. It’s about equal pay. And we’re pushing for that. And we believe now the time is right, because we believe it’s a responsibility for women’s sports, and specifically for women’s soccer, to really do whatever it takes to push for equal pay and equal rights and to be treated with respect.”
The Mississippi Senate has voted to advance a piece of sweeping anti-LGBT legislation, which will allow organizations and businesses to deny people an array of services based on religious objections. Opponents of the legislation say House Bill 1523 would legalize discrimination against LGBT people seeking everything from wedding products to counseling services to housing. Erik Fleming with the ACLU of Mississippi says, “It is very broad and very dangerous. It basically sanctions religious discrimination.” This comes after North Carolina passed a sweeping law known as the “bathroom bill,” which bars cities and towns from passing laws prohibiting discrimination against LGBT people in public accommodations.
An imprisoned Colombian hacker has told Bloomberg Businessweek that he was paid to rig elections throughout Latin America on behalf of right-wing candidates—including the controversial 2012 election of Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto. Andrés Sepúlveda says he was paid to $600,000 to deploy an array of online techniques to bolster Peña Nieto’s campaign and to sabotage his opponents, including tapping the phones and computers of other candidates and managing tens of thousands of fake social media profiles and Twitter bots to drum up support for Peña Nieto. Speaking to Bloomberg, Sepúlveda said, “My job was to do actions of dirty war and psychological operations, black propaganda, rumors—the whole dark side of politics that nobody knows exists but everyone can see.” Peña Nieto’s office has rejected the claims. Sepúlveda said he was also paid to rig the re-election of Colombian President Álvaro Uribe and the election of right-wing Honduran President Porfirio Lobo Sosa, who was elected in 2009 following the U.S.-backed coup. Sepúlveda is currently serving a 10-year prison sentence for hacking crimes related to Colombia’s 2014 presidential election.
The scandal over sexual abuse by U.N. peacekeeping forces in the Central African Republic is growing. On Thursday, the United Nations announced 108 new allegations of sexual abuse. The majority of the victims are minors. The former director of the U.N. peacekeeping mission in the Central African Republic resigned last year amid similar allegations. Stéphane Dujarric, spokesperson for the United Nations secretary-general, spoke Thursday.
Stéphane Dujarric: “Good morning. Let me start with the situation in Central African Republic. And let me say at the outset that the secretary-general is shocked to the core at the latest allegations of abuse in the Central African Republic. His focus is on the victims and their families. We’re talking about women, young children, who have been traumatized in the worst imaginable way.”
In Nevada, eight people were arrested blockading two gates to the Creech Air Force Base. The base is one of several homes for the U.S. military’s lethal drone program in Pakistan, Afghanistan, Somalia, Yemen and other countries. Six of the eight protesters arrested Thursday are veterans. The action is the first in a two-week mobilization at the base demanding it be shut down.
In Vancouver, Canada, an activist has entered her third week on a hunger strike to protest the construction of an $8.8 billion hydroelectric dam project in northern British Columbia—the largest public infrastructure project in the province’s history. The Canadian company BC Hydro is behind the project. Speaking outside BC Hydro’s offices, hunger striker Kristin Henry called on Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to halt the project.
Kristin Henry: “I would also like to see Trudeau step up to his promises to reassess and redevelop relations with the indigenous communities here. You know, he’s allowing the permits to go through right now. This is a federal river, and he’s granting permits. And he made a lot of promises to get into office, a lot of them based on relations with indigenous communities, and he’s not owning up to them. And this is a perfect example of it, where he is letting industry blow through indigenous rights. You know, he’s in no way owning up to what he promised us.”
An in a historic victory for the “Fight for 15” campaign, both the state of California and New York City are poised to raise the minimum wage to $15 an hour in the coming years. On Thursday, the California Legislature voted to raise the minimum wage incrementally each year until it reaches $15 an hour by 2022. Governor Jerry Brown says he plans to sign the legislation on Monday. Meanwhile, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo says he has reached a budget deal that will hike the minimum wage in New York City to $15 by the end of 2018. In regions of upstate New York, the minimum wage will be raised to $12.50.