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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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Brazil’s Senate has voted to suspend President Dilma Rousseff immediately and begin impeachment proceedings against her on accusations of tampering with accounts to hide a budget shortfall. The 55-22 Senate vote followed more than 20 hours of debate. One politician described it as the “saddest day for Brazil’s young democracy.” Vice President Michel Temer will assume the presidency during Rousseff’s suspension. Temer himself has been implicated in Brazil’s massive corruption scandal; several of his top advisers are under investigation, and just last week he was ordered to pay a fine for violating campaign finance limits. Attorney General José Eduardo Cardozo called the vote a “historic injustice.”
José Eduardo Cardozo: “An honest and innocent woman is, right at this moment, being condemned. A judicial pretense is being used to oust a legitimately elected president over acts which have been practiced by all previous governments. A historic injustice is being committed; an innocent person is being condemned.”
During the Senate debate, military police fired tear gas at thousands of protesters who had gathered outside Congress, the vast majority whom were there to support President Rousseff. Teacher and protester Celma Pereira spoke out.
Celma Pereira: “It is revolting. We are here defending our democracy, and those yes-men spray us with tear gas. They are cowards.”
The pioneering human rights attorney Michael Ratner has died at the age of 72. For over four decades, he defended victims of human rights abuses across the world, from Haiti and Guatemala to Iraq and the Palestinian territories. Ratner served as the longtime president of the Center for Constitutional Rights. In 2002, the center brought the first case against the George W. Bush administration for the indefinite detention of prisoners at Guantánamo. The Supreme Court eventually sided with the center in a landmark 2008 decision when it struck down the law that stripped Guantánamo prisoners of their habeas corpus rights. In recent years he was the chief attorney for WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange and became a leading critic of the U.S. crackdown on whistleblowers, including Chelsea Manning and Edward Snowden. We’ll spend the hour honoring the life and legacy of Michael Ratner.
In Washington, D.C., presidential candidate Donald Trump is slated to meet today with Republican Party leaders, including House Speaker Paul Ryan, as the party faces a growing split over whether to support the presumptive presidential nominee. Ryan has said he’s not yet ready to support Donald Trump, whose calls to deport 11 million undocumented immigrants, to build a wall across the U.S.-Mexico border and to ban all Muslim immigrants and visitors from entering the U.S. have caused widespread backlash. House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi addressed today’s anticipated meeting, saying that Donald Trump’s platform is nothing new for the Republican Party.
Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi: “Since when have the House Republicans been so concerned about intolerant statements and discriminatory ideas? They appear to be shocked by their candidate, not just the front-runner, the presumptive nominee, but all of their candidates. They appear to be shocked by their rhetoric on the campaign trail. But year after year, Republicans have enthusiastically turned their intolerance and their discrimination into legislation.”
Wednesday marked the deadliest day in Baghdad so far this year as three separate car bombs killed at least 93 people across Iraq’s capital. ISIL has claimed responsibility for all three attacks. The largest car bomb killed 63 in a crowded market in the predominantly Shiite neighborhood of Sadr City. Hours later, two more bombs exploded at police checkpoints in different parts of the capital.
New government figures show the Obama administration has resettled only 1,736 Syrian refugees over the last seven months—despite President Obama’s pledge to resettle at least 10,000 Syrians by this coming September. In contrast, Canada has resettled more than 26,000 Syrian refugees since late 2015, while Turkey, Lebanon and Jordan have together taken in millions of Syrian refugees since the conflict began five years ago.
Human rights groups and the United Nations are accusing Turkish security forces of human rights violations, including deliberately shooting Kurdish civilians and Syrian refugees. Human Rights Watch has accused Turkish border guards of killing at least five Syrian refugees in the past two months. Separately, the U.N. has accused Turkey of intentionally shooting at civilians and destroying infrastructure in the largely Kurdish regions of the country’s southeast.
Kenya is vowing to close the world’s biggest refugee camp within a year, which could force up to 300,000 Somali refugees back into war-torn Somalia. Kenya justifies the closure, saying the Dadaab camp has been used by the militant group al-Shabab as a place to smuggle weapons. Human rights groups have decried the threatened closure. Kate Allen, director of Amnesty International UK, said, “Forcing [Somalis] back to violence and persecution is as immoral as it is unlawful, and risks increasing instability and displacement in the region.”
The Italian Parliament has approved a law recognizing civil unions for same-sex couples. The law falls short of legalizing same-sex marriages, and it will not allow people in same-sex civil unions to legally adopt their partner’s biological children. Aurelio Mancuso, president of Equality Italy, heralded the move.
Aurelio Mancuso: “Today is an historic day, historic like the historic days we had on divorce, on abortion, on family rights. Today, Italy will see a real change, civil rights will take a huge step forward. Our next objective is equal marriage rights. But today we are obviously satisfied.”
Oil giant Shell has announced it is abandoning all but one of its federal offshore leases for drilling in Alaska’s remote Chukchi Sea. Last summer, the Obama administration approved Shell’s permit to drill in the remote Arctic waters, despite fierce opposition from environmental groups. Shell dropped its leases after its exploratory well in the Chukchi Sea showed only traces of oil and gas. On Tuesday, Greenpeace campaigner Vicky Wyatt called for further protection of the Arctic, saying: “President Obama must seize this opportunity and place the entire Arctic and U.S. outer continental shelf off limits to the fossil fuel industry for good.”
George Zimmerman is planning to auction off the gun he used to kill unarmed African-American teenager Trayvon Martin. Zimmerman has listed the firearm on GunBroker.com with a starting price of $5,000. Bidding is scheduled to begin today. Zimmerman wrote in the listing that he would donate a portion of the proceeds to “fight BLM [Black Lives Matter] violence against Law Enforcement officers.”
A Colorado judge has found Robert Lewis Dear mentally incompetent and unfit to stand trial over the November shooting spree at a Planned Parenthood clinic, which killed three people and wounded nine others. Dear has admitted to the shooting, saying he targeted Planned Parenthood “because it’s murdering little babies.” The case is now on hold. Dear has been sent to a state mental hospital for treatment.
In financial news, the world’s top 25 hedge fund managers earned a staggering $13 billion last year. This means that only 25 men earned more than the entire economies of some countries, including Nicaragua and the Bahamas. Two men—Kenneth Griffin of Citadel and James Simons of Renaissance Technologies—each earned $1.7 billion last year. Both men have poured millions into the 2016 presidential race backing Republican candidates who have since dropped out. Simons is now backing Hillary Clinton, with more than $2 million in donations so far. Griffin has also been a major supporter of Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel. He was the biggest donor to Emanuel’s 2015 re-election campaign and has been quoted as saying that instead of closing 50 Chicago public schools, Mayor Emanuel should have closed 125 schools across Chicago.
And in upstate New York, climate activists disrupted a power plant conference and forced the chairman of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, Norman Bay, off the stage. The protesters were calling for fossil fuels to be kept in the ground. It’s the latest disruption targeting the little-known federal agency, which is responsible for regulating the natural gas industry, hydroelectric projects and oil pipelines. This clip begins with Chairman Norman Bay.
Norman Bay: “A case to be made for a market-based approach to further important public policies has to be made.”
Protester: “As you all know, the World Health Organization and the leading scientists on this planet have said, 'Keep it on the ground, or sign the death warrants of hundreds of millions of people.'”