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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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Black Lives Matter activists interrupted former President Bill Clinton during a speech in support of Hillary Clinton in Philadelphia on Thursday—challenging the Clintons on their support for the 1994 crime bill, which led to a massive expansion of incarceration in the United States. Activists shouted, “Black youth are not super predators”—a reference to Hillary Clinton’s 1996 comments about some youth. They also held signs reading “Clinton Crime Bill Destroyed Our Communities.” In response, Bill Clinton defended Hillary Clinton’s use of the term “superpredators” and accused the activists of defending criminals.
Bill Clinton: “Wait, wait. Whoa, whoa. Wait a minute, wait a minute. OK, I heard it. Can I answer? See these other signs? This is what’s a matter. I don’t know how you would characterize the gang leaders who got 13-year-old kids hopped up on crack and sent them out onto the streets to murder other African-American children. Maybe you thought they were good citizens. She didn’t. She didn’t. You are defending the people who killed the lives you say matter.”
This comes as Hillary Clinton is facing an increasingly tough challenge by Bernie Sanders in the New York primary on April 19.
Pope Francis has issued a widely anticipated proclamation on family life, in which he calls on priests to make the church more inviting to single parents, LGBT people and unmarried couples. He also calls on governments to provide public healthcare and education in order to support families. Pope Francis did not, however, advance the church’s position on a range of social issues, including contraception and the role of women in the church. He also makes a point saying that unions between same-sex couples are not marriages.
Afghan officials say at least 17 civilians were killed by U.S. drone strikes in Afghanistan on Wednesday. The first strike reportedly hit the truck of a local elder who was on his way to resolve a land dispute—killing the elder and 11 others. The second drone reportedly struck and killed two people were collecting their bodies. A third drone strike reportedly killed three more who had come to see what had happened. The Pentagon has confirmed two of the three drone strikes, but says there were no civilian casualties. Meanwhile, a U.S. oversight office has issued a damning report indicating the $113 billion effort to reconstruct Afghanistan has largely been a failure. The report details shoddily built structures, dangerous roads and hundreds of empty schools. U.S. Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction John Sopko, who was responsible for the report, said, “Fifteen years into an unfinished work of funding and fighting, we must indeed ask, 'What went wrong?'” Since 2002, the U.S. has spent more than $113 billion on reconstruction efforts—more than the total spending on the Marshall Plan to rebuild Europe after World War II.
In a surprise visit, Secretary of State John Kerry flew into Iraq today, amid increasing protests over government corruption. Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi has vowed to replace most of his Cabinet following weeks of demonstrations. This comes amid an ongoing U.S. airstrike campaign backing the Iraqi military’s attempts to retake control of Mosul from ISIL militants. U.S. officials are also warning the Mosul Dam is in dire need of repair and could collapse at any minute. If the Mosul Dam collapses, hundreds of thousands of people would be at risk of drowning, and more than 1 million people would be displaced.
In Syria, activists say ISIL militants have kidnapped at least 170 cement factory workers in Damascus. Their whereabouts are unknown. This comes as the United Nations has delayed the next round of Geneva peace talks until April 11.
The massive data leak known as the Panama Papers has revealed the law firm Mossack Fonseca set up more than 1,000 shell companies inside the United States, once again raising questions about the United States’ role as an offshore tax haven. The papers show more than 600 shell companies were set up in Nevada alone. Matthew Gardner of the Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy said, “We should be thinking about this as a very American problem, and a problem that arguably is worse here in the states than it is in Panama.”
This comes as an Argentine prosecutor is calling for an investigation into President Mauricio Macri’s finances, following Panama Paper revelations that Macri’s family is connected to two offshore shell companies. Argentine Congressmember Norman Darío Martínez spoke Thursday.
Norman Darío Martínez: “We understand that not only does he have to give an explanation for the Panama Papers case, for the two companies to which he is tied—one in the Bahamas and the other in Panama—but he should also hold an open news conference with questions from all the journalists, and he should explain this to the Argentine people, given the gravity of this topic. Regarding the court, whatever he has to show, he should have to explain it there.”
President Macri is claiming the companies belong to his father, and says he has not received income from them.
Meanwhile, British Prime Minister David Cameron finally admitted Thursday that he’s profited from an offshore trust set up by his father through the Panama-based law firm Mossack Fonseca. Cameron answered questions from reporters Thursday.
Reporter: “But, therefore, actually, you can’t be certain that some of that 300,000 didn’t come from offshore sources, presumably?”
Prime Minister David Cameron: “Well, he had investments in Blairmore Investment Trust—”
Reporter: “And money in Jersey.”
Prime Minister David Cameron: “That was because of another unit trust, again established to industry standard and all the rest of it, and many people have those investments. But in all of this, I’ve never hidden the fact that I’m a very lucky person and had wealthy parents who gave me a great upbringing, who paid for me to go to an amazing school. I’ve never tried to pretend to be anything I’m not.”
Labour Party Member of Parliament John Mann has called for Cameron’s resignation.
In Virginia, the Council of American-Islamic Relations has filed a class-action lawsuit on behalf of 18 people who have been placed on the U.S. government’s sweeping terrorism watchlist. The plaintiffs include a four-year-old child named “Baby Doe,” who has been on the watchlist since he was only seven months old. The suit accuses the government of “ensnaring individuals into an invisible web of consequences that are imposed indefinitely and without recourse as a result of the shockingly large federal watchlists.”
A new investigation by BuzzFeed has revealed the FBI and the Department of Homeland Security are flying dozens of federal aircraft over major U.S. cities every day. The agencies say they are not using the flights to conduct mass surveillance. But the BuzzFeed investigation shows the planes fly in slow circles and are outfitted with high-resolution video cameras. Some planes are also equipped with cellphone tracking devices.
In Wyoming, scientists say chemical contamination from fracking has poisoned the water supply of the small town of Pavillion. The scientists recorded benzine levels 50 times above permitted limit. This comes three years after the Environmental Protection Agency decided to halt its investigation about water contamination in Pavillion.
In New Orleans, former BP rig supervisor Donald Vidrine has been sentenced to probation, but no jail time, for crimes associated with the 2010 Deepwater Horizon rig explosion in the Gulf of Mexico, which killed 11 workers and caused the worst offshore oil spill in U.S. history. Vidrine was the last of four former BP employees to be prosecuted for crimes associated with the explosion. None are serving time in prison. This comes as the CEO of BP, Bob Dudley, is facing growing revolt from the company’s own shareholders over his record-setting $19.6 million paycheck for 2015. Some shareholders are expected to attempt to block Dudley’s pay raise during a vote at the annual shareholder meeting next week.
Meanwhile, the Justice Department has filed an anti-trust lawsuit to block a merger between energy giants Halliburton and Baker Hughes. They are the second and third largest oilfield service companies in the world. Environmental groups heralded the lawsuit. Food & Water Watch head Wenonah Hauter said, “It’s time for the DOJ to bust the energy trusts and for the U.S. Government to halt the industry’s damage to people and the environment.”
In Texas, the San Antonio School District has launched an investigation after a video surfaced of a school police officer body-slamming a 12-year-old girl to the ground. The cellphone video appears to show officer Joshua Kehm lifting up 12-year-old Janissa Valdez and then forcibly throwing her face-first into the floor. Officer Kehm then handcuffs her hands behind her back. On the video, onlooking students can be heard saying, “She landed on her face.”
In Washington, D.C., activists are delivering a petition calling for an investigation into the death of 16-year-old Palestinian American Mahmoud Shaalan, who was shot and killed by Israeli soldiers at a checkpoint near the Jewish-only Beit El settlement in the Israeli-occupied West Bank in February. Witnesses said that the soldiers continued shooting Shaalan even after he had fallen to the ground, and then prevented an ambulance from taking him to the hospital. Israeli soldiers say Shaalan tried to attack them with a knife.
This comes as the United Nations says the Israeli government has tripled the number of demolitions of Palestinian homes in the occupied West Bank over the past three months. The data shows a monthly average of 165 home demolitions since January. On Thursday, Hussein Kaabneh spoke out after Israeli authorities demolished his home in a village near Jericho.
Hussein Kaabneh: “At 9:00 in the morning, I was surprised by the (Israeli) police and the army. They came to demolish the structures. So I was very mad. I asked them, 'Why do you want to demolish it?' I did not get a warning or anything. And he told me, 'You are not legal.'”
And new data shows more than 40 percent of people with federal student loans in the United States are either behind on their payments or are refusing to pay entirely—a noncompliance rate that is raising serious questions about the federal government’s ability to ever collect on these debts. One in six people have defaulted entirely. The average student loan debt for last year’s college graduates was more than $35,000, making the class of 2015 the most indebted class in U.S. history.