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This week, Democracy Now! is celebrating our 22nd birthday. Since our first show in February 1996, our daily news hour has brought you fearless journalism and hard-hitting news you can trust--all without ads or corporate underwriting. How is this possible? Only with your support. In fact, if everyone reading this gave just $4, it would cover our operating expenses for the whole year. Right now, a generous donor will TRIPLE every donation, meaning your gift today will go three times as far. Pretty amazing, right? Please do your part. Take a moment to give right now for our 22nd birthday.
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The world is mourning the loss of the music legend Prince.
Prince: “Dearly beloved, we are gathered here today to get through this thing called life. Oh, no, let’s go.”
That’s Prince performing “Let’s Go Crazy” at the 2007 Super Bowl. He died at his home in Minnesota at the age of 57. He became a global musical phenomenon in the 1980s, with albums such as “1999,” “Purple Rain” and “Sign O’ the Times.” His inventive music spanned funk, rock and jazz—while his gender-bending performances shattered expectations of gender and sexuality. On Thursday, President Obama released a statement saying, “Today, the world lost a creative icon. … Few artists have influenced the sound and trajectory of popular music more distinctly, or touched quite so many people with their talent.”
Across the country, fans and fellow artists celebrated Prince’s legacy, including Stevie Wonder, who spoke with CNN’s Anderson Cooper.
Stevie Wonder: “He just passionately loved music. It’s like when musicians can jam, there’s nothing like it in the whole world.”
Anderson Cooper: “I don’t want to put you on the spot. Is there any song you want to sing a little of or play a little of? Or, again, I don’t want to put you on the spot if you’re not up for it.”
Stevie Wonder: “Yeah, I think I would probably break down if I do a song right now. But, you know, he was incredible. And I’m just glad that I was able to say to him 'I love you' the last time I saw him.”
Today is Earth Day, and climate is on the world’s agenda as more than 60 heads of state will meet at the United Nations headquarters to sign the Paris climate agreement aimed at slowing climate change. This comes as the Earth has experienced 11 straight months of record-shattering temperatures. Experts say the greenhouse gas cuts promised in the Paris climate deal are insufficient to avert dangerous global warming.
Meanwhile, scientists say the Great Barrier Reef is more than 90 percent bleached, a result of warming ocean temperatures due to climate change. Severe reef bleaching kills coral, which is home to a quarter of all marine species. James Cook University professor Terry Hughes, who led the research, tweeted: “I showed the results of aerial surveys of #bleaching on the #GreatBarrierReef to my students, and then we wept.”
Meanwhile, Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto has proposed legalizing marijuana-based medicine and releasing some prisoners serving time on minor marijuana charges. This comes as a number of Latin American countries pushed back on U.S.-led “war on drugs” policies that have contributed to widespread violence and drug trafficking, during a special session of the U.N. General Assembly this week.
Suicide rates in the U.S. have hit a 30-year high, with particularly high surges in the rates for women and middle-aged people. Researchers said the spikes could be linked to a drug epidemic among white Americans and increasing economic instability. Harvard professor Robert Putnam said, “This is part of the larger emerging pattern of evidence of the links between poverty, hopelessness and health.”
In New York City, the chief clerk of the Board of Elections, Diane Haslett-Rudiano, has been suspended without pay, after the Election Board purge of more than 120,000 Brooklyn Democratic voters from the rolls. The state Attorney General’s Office received more than 1,000 complaints on Primary Election Day. Both his office and the city comptroller have launched investigations.
The head of a Western-backed rescue group in Syria known as the White Helmets has been refused entry into the United States, where he was slated to receive a humanitarian award. Raed Saleh landed at Washington’s Dulles International Airport on Monday, only to be told his visa was canceled. He was put on a flight back to Turkey. The State Department has refused to provide details. His group, Syria Civil Defense, is famous for coordinating thousands of volunteers to rescue people trapped in rubble after airstrikes.
FBI Director James Comey has suggested the agency paid around $1.3 million to hack into the iPhone of suspected San Bernardino shooter Syed Farook after Apple refused to offer the FBI a backdoor into the phone. The legal battle between the FBI and Apple ended when the FBI said it had cracked the iPhone without Apple’s help.
And family members and friends have launched a five-day vigil and hunger strike to mark the first anniversary of the death of Samuel Harrell, an African-American man who died on April 21, 2015, after as many as 20 corrections officers kicked, punched and threw him down a flight of stairs while he was incarcerated at the Fishkill Correctional Facility in Beacon, New York. The group of officers who assaulted Harrell are known as the “Beat Up Squad.” Activists gathered outside the prison Thursday night, where Jeff Golden spoke out.
Jeff Golden: “Exactly a year ago here tonight, a gentle 30-year-old man named Sam Harrell, who was doing time on a drug charge, was brutally murdered by as many as 20 corrections officers, all of whom are still on active duty.”