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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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President Obama has become the first sitting U.S. president to visit the Japanese city of Hiroshima since U.S. warplanes dropped the first atomic bomb on August 6, 1945. The bomb killed 140,000 people and seriously injured another 100,000. Three days later, the U.S. dropped a second atomic bomb on Nagasaki, killing another 74,000 people. Obama spoke today at the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park.
President Barack Obama: “Among those nations like my own that hold nuclear stockpiles, we must have the courage to escape the logic of fear and pursue a world without them. We may not realize this goal in my lifetime, but persistent effort can roll back the possibility of catastrophe.”
In news from the campaign trail, Donald Trump has officially secured the support of enough delegates to become the Republican Party nominee. Trump is now supported by 1,238 delegates—one delegate above the threshold required to clinch the nomination. He won’t become the party’s official nominee until the Republican National Convention in July. This comes as Trump spoke Thursday in North Dakota, where he pledged to push through the construction of the controversial Keystone XL pipeline. He also vowed to roll back the Paris climate accord.
Donald Trump: “We’re going to cancel the Paris climate agreement and stop—unbelievable—and stop all payments of the United States’ tax dollars to U.N. global warming programs.”
This comes as the sister of Vince Foster, a White House aide to President Bill Clinton who died in 1993, has written a scathing criticism of Donald Trump, after Trump revived conspiracy theories about Foster’s death earlier this week. Vince Foster committed suicide in 1993 after a struggle with depression. Yet, his death was the subject of multiple right-wing conspiracies at the time blaming Hillary Clinton for Foster’s death. Trump revived these theories in an interview with The Washington Post earlier this week, calling Foster’s death “very fishy.” In an op-ed published by the Post Thursday, Sheila Foster Anthony called Trump’s comments “beyond contempt,” writing, “This is scurrilous enough coming from right-wing political operatives … How could this be coming from the presumptive Republican nominee for president?”
This comes as the Trump campaign mistakenly copied a Politico reporter on an email to a Republican National Committee researcher asking him to “work up information on HRC/Whitewater as soon as possible.” Whitewater refers to a scandal involving the Clintons’ real estate investments during the late 1970s. A Trump campaign spokeswoman mistakenly copied Politico reporter Marc Caputo, not Trump campaign adviser Michael Caputo, on the email.
Meanwhile, Democrats are considering pressuring Democratic National Committee Chairwoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz to step down ahead of the national convention in July. Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders has long accused Wasserman Schultz of being biased toward Hillary Clinton. This comes as Wasserman Schultz is in a tight race against progressive challenger Tim Canova for her own congressional seat in Florida. In an unusual move, Sanders has backed Canova.
Two members of the Senate Intelligence Committee are warning that a new bill would expand the FBI’s ability to access Americans’ online records without a warrant. Oregon Senator Ron Wyden and New Mexico Senator Martin Heinrich say the 2017 intelligence authorization bill could allow the FBI to access email, chat and messaging records, as well as browser histories. On Thursday, Senator Heinrich called the bill a “massive expansion of government surveillance that lacks independent oversight.”
In Brazil, the interim government has announced plans to abandon the current limits on foreign land ownership, clearing the way for land grabs by multinational corporations. The interim government took power earlier this month after the Legislature voted to suspend President Dilma Rousseff and begin impeachment proceedings—a move that a growing number of residents and Latin American countries are calling a coup. This comes as Brazil’s powerful Landless Workers Movement, known as MST, has promised to launch a new wave of land occupations. Brazil already has vastly unequal land ownership, with 1 percent of the population owning nearly half of all the land.
In Israel, the environment minister has resigned over the appointment of right-wing, ultranationalist politician Avigdor Lieberman as defense minister. Environmental Protection Minister Avi Gabbay announced his resignation.
Avi Gabbay: “I was unable to swallow the frog that landed this week, a year after I was appointed—the sacking of General Moshe 'Bogie' Ya’alon and appointment of Avigdor Lieberman as defense minister. This is, in my eyes, an extraordinary move even for the cynical world of politics.”
Avigdor Lieberman is considered to be one of the most hawkish politicians in Israel.
A new report by the World Health Organization has found nearly 1,000 people have been killed in attacks on hospitals and other healthcare facilities or workers over the last two years. Most strikingly, the report found more than 60 percent of these attacks were deliberate. The greatest number of attacks on hospitals and health providers were in Syria, where recent bombings of Doctors Without Borders-supported hospitals have sparked international protests.
This comes as the United Nations is warning of the risk of starvation in government-besieged areas if the delivery of humanitarian aid continues to be blocked by the Assad regime. The United States, Russia and other countries have said they will begin airdropping aid by June 1 if the sieges are not lifted.
Meanwhile, the Italian coast guard says at least 20 people have drowned trying to cross the Mediterranean, while the coast guard rescued more than 4,000 additional people on Thursday. This comes as Greek officials have bulldozed the Idomeni refugee camp on the border near Macedonia. Authorities began forcibly removing thousands of refugees from the Idomeni camp earlier this week. The camp had been the site of frequent protests over Macedonia’s decision to close its border.
A new analysis of the Mexican military’s kill rate suggests the armed forces have engaged in summary killings and extrajudicial killings while waging the so-called war on drugs. The analysis is based on the government’s own figures. It shows the Mexican Army kills, rather than wounds, its enemies at a rate far higher than the average in modern warfare. The Mexican Armed Forces have also been accused of thousands of instances of torture, although only about a dozen cases have resulted in convictions since 2006. The analysis comes as the parents of the 43 missing Ayotzinapa Rural Teachers’ College students marched to mark the 20th month since their children disappeared on September 26, 2014. An independent investigation has found evidence the Mexican military was involved in their disappearance. Felipe de la Cruz, spokesperson for the parents of the missing students, spoke out.
Felipe de la Cruz: “We’ve come to remind the world that the Ayotzinapa case has not been resolved, and the Mexican government doesn’t want us to know the truth. Today we demand that the government accept the mechanism to continue the investigation, and for countries to witness the truth and allow for this mechanism.”
Louisiana Governor John Bel Edwards has signed a so-called Blue Lives Matter law, which expands the state’s hate crimes statute to add police officers, as well as firefighters and EMS personnel, to the list. The new law is the first of its kind in the country. Its signing sparked outrage by civil rights groups. Louisiana NAACP President Ernest Johnson said, “Hate crimes law is based upon a history of discrimination against certain groups of people, and a bill like this just tries to water down that reality, because there is not a history of discrimination against police and firefighters.”
In New York, a new lawsuit accuses the New York Police Department of intentionally profiling and harassing people who live on the streets. The suit was filed by the ACLU and the group Picture the Homeless. It says the NYPD is engaging in discriminatory policing by targeting people who live on the streets with so-called “move along” orders, in which officers tell people sitting or standing on the sidewalk to go somewhere else, even though they have broken no laws.
And Holocaust survivor and peace activist Hedy Epstein has died at the age of 91. Epstein was born in Germany and left in 1939 on a Kindertransport to England. Her parents died in Auschwitz. She later returned to Germany to work as a research analyst for the prosecution during the Nuremberg trials. She was involved in civil rights and antiwar movements throughout her life. In 2011, she was part of the Gaza Freedom Flotilla and was a passenger on the U.S.-flagged ship, The Audacity of Hope. In 2014, just days after her 90th birthday, she was arrested in St. Louis during a protest outside Missouri Governor Jay Nixon’s office over the police killing of unarmed African-American teenager Michael Brown. She spoke about her arrest on Democracy Now!
Hedy Epstein: “I know what it feels like to be discriminated against, to be oppressed, and I can’t stand idly by when I see there are problems. I can’t solve every problem, I probably can’t solve any problem, but I have to do whatever it is possible for me to do. I just cannot stand idly by, because if I did—and anyone that stand idly by becomes complicit in what is going on.”
That was Hedy Epstein speaking on Democracy Now! in 2014. She died of cancer in her home in St. Louis on Thursday at the age of 91.