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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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Brazil’s lower house of Congress has voted to start impeachment proceedings against President Dilma Rousseff. The final vote was 367 to 137 in favor of impeachment. Early next month, Brazil’s Senate will vote on whether to put Rousseff on trial for manipulating budget accounts. José Guimarães, the congressional leader of Rousseff’s Workers’ Party, accused opposition lawmakers of waging a coup.
José Guimarães: “The coup has won in the lower house, but the fight has not ended. No matter if it’s in the streets and lanes or in the Senate, we will arouse the masses and communicate with the Senate. We believe the Senate will eliminate the attempts of the people involved in the coup, which is manipulated by someone with no morals.”
Brazil has been engulfed in a major corruption scandal, but Dilma Rousseff herself has not been accused of any financial impropriety. However, 318 members of the Brazilian Congress—including many who backed her impeachment—are under investigation or face charges. Leading the impeachment process has been Brazil’s Speaker of the House Eduardo Cunha, who has been accused of squirreling away $5 million into Swiss bank accounts. Prior to the vote, Dilma Rousseff said the charges against her were false.
President Dilma Rousseff: “The complaint against me that is under analysis in the National Congress is a fraud—the biggest judicial and political fraud in the history of our country. Without this, impeachment wouldn’t be voted upon. Brazil and democracy don’t deserve this farce.”
In Ecuador, rescuers are still attempting to pull survivors from rubble after the strongest earthquake to hit Ecuador in decades killed at least 272 people and injured more than 2,500 others. The death toll from Saturday’s quake is expected to rise as more bodies are uncovered.
Defense Secretary Ashton Carter has arrived in Baghdad as the Obama administration prepares to widen its military presence in Syria and Iraq in its fight against the self-proclaimed Islamic State. According to The New York Times, the Obama administration is preparing to send as many as 200 more special operations forces to assist Syrian rebels, in addition to sending more Army attack helicopters to Iraq.
Human Rights Watch has accused Turkish border guards of shooting at Syrian refugees fleeing fighting in northern Syria. In other news from Syria, the United Nations is warning as many as 10,000 civilians living in a Palestinian refugee camp near Damascus are trapped in their homes and are facing starvation and dehydration.
On Saturday, Pope Francis traveled to the Greek island of Lesbos to meet with refugees who have fled war and poverty in Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan and other countries. Refugees living in Lesbos described dire conditions on the island.
Ahmed: “In Moria camp, it’s like Guantánamo, because it’s very hard. The life is very hard here. The policemen are very good. The people here are very good. But the situation are very bad, very hard. We are like in jail. You feel yourself like in jail.”
Pope Francis called on European nations to do more to help refugees fleeing war.
Pope Francis: “To be truly united with those forced to flee their homelands, we need to eliminate the causes of this dramatic situation. It is not enough to limit ourselves to responding to emergencies as they arise. Instead, we need to encourage political efforts that are broader in scope and multilateral. It is necessary, above all, to build peace where war has brought destruction and death, and to stop this scourge from spreading.”
At the end of his trip, Pope Francis took three families of Syrian refugees, including six children, aboard his flight to Rome. He said, “It’s a small gesture, but one which we all need to offer to give a helping hand to those in need!”
Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton spent much of the weekend campaigning ahead of Tuesday’s primary in New York. On Sunday, Sanders spoke before a crowd of over 28,000 in Brooklyn’s Prospect Park in what the campaign described as Sanders’ largest rally ever. On Friday, Sanders took a break from the campaign trail to fly to the Vatican, where he addressed a conference on social justice.
Sen. Bernie Sanders: “Rather than an economy aimed at the common good, we have been left with an economy operated for the top 1 percent, who get wealthier and wealthier as the working class, the young and the poor fall further and further behind.”
Bernie Sanders and his wife Jane briefly met with Pope Francis on Saturday morning.
While Sanders was at the Vatican on Friday, Hillary Clinton spent part of the day campaigning in the Bronx, where she addressed the financial crisis in Puerto Rico.
Hillary Clinton: “We need to tell the hedge funds and the other creditors, who are just trying to make a profit off the misery of the Puerto Rican people, to go to the back of the line and stop blocking us from making a fair resolution of this crisis.”
On Friday night, Clinton flew to San Francisco for the first of two fundraisers hosted by George and Amal Clooney. Tickets at the head table went for over $350,000 per couple. On Saturday, protesters in California threw dollar bills at Clinton’s motorcade as she drove to one of the dinners. During an interview on “Meet the Press,” George Clooney admitted the amount of money he has helped Clinton raise was obscene.
George Clooney: “I think that—you know, we had some protesters last night when we—when we pulled up in San Francisco. And they’re right to protest. They’re absolutely right. It is an obscene amount of money. The Sanders campaign, when they talk about it, is absolutely right. It’s ridiculous that we should have this kind of money in politics. I agree completely.”
Bernie Sanders has released his 2014 tax return. The senator and his wife Jane made $205,000 in the entire year. That’s less than what Hillary Clinton earned for giving single speeches. According to The Hill, Clinton was paid $280,000 in 2014 for a speech to Deutsche Bank, $325,000 for a speech to the National Automobile Dealers Association and $225,000 for addressing General Electric.
In one of the most closely watched legal cases of the year, the Supreme Court will hear arguments today on whether President Obama overstepped his authority when he took unilateral action to protect millions of undocumented immigrants from deportation. The case pits the Obama administration against 26 states led by Texas that filed suit to block his 2014 immigration plan.
Saudi Arabia is threatening to sell off $750 billion in U.S. Treasury securities if Congress passes a law to allow the families of the victims of the September 11 attacks to sue the Saudi government for any role it may have played in the attacks. The kingdom’s threat comes just ahead of President Obama’s trip to Saudi Arabia on Wednesday. The Obama administration has lobbied Congress to block the bill’s passage.
The Pentagon has transferred nine Guantánamo prisoners to Saudi Arabia, bringing the total number of remaining prisoners down to 80. One of the nine men who were released was Tariq Ba Odah, who has been on hunger strike to demand his freedom since 2007. During his hunger strike, his weight dropped to only 74 pounds, and he was repeatedly force-fed by Guantánamo guards. After the nine men landed in Saudi Arabia, one of the former Guantánamo prisoners spoke out.
Former Guantánamo prisoner: “As soon as the plane landed, I didn’t feel I was at an airport. I felt at home, thank God. It’s as if I arrived at my home amidst my family. Thank God. From the first hours we arrived, we’ve been received in a way we couldn’t imagine. I thank all those who wanted to make this happen.”
In news from Afghanistan, The Wall Street Journal is reporting 12 people, including three children, were killed when Afghan and U.S. forces conducted a night raid on the house of a suspected al-Qaeda member in eastern Afghanistan.
Ethiopian officials say more than 140 civilians died after gunmen from South Sudan opened fire on Friday in the border region of Gambela. The region is home to thousands of refugees who have fled the ongoing conflict in South Sudan. Officials say the armed men also abducted 39 children. Security forces have killed at least 60 of the attackers.
Today is Tax Day, the day Americans must file their personal tax returns. The National War Tax Resistance Coordinating Committee is organizing a number of protests today across the country. According to the War Resisters League, 44 percent of all federal income tax goes to fund current and past military operations.