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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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President Barack Obama has signed into law the so-called PROMESA bill, which will establish a federally appointed control board with sweeping powers to run Puerto Rico’s economy.
President Barack Obama: “It’s not, in and of itself, going to be sufficient to solve all the problems that Puerto Rico faces, but it is an important first step on the path of creating more stability, better services and greater prosperity over the long term for the people of Puerto Rico”
While the legislation’s supporters say it will help the island cope with its debt crisis by allowing an orderly restructuring of its $72 billion in bond debt, critics say it is a reversion to old-style colonialism that removes democratic control from the people of Puerto Rico. In Puerto Rico, students, union members, politicians and environmentalists have launched a series of protests against the bill, including marches and an indefinite protest camp outside the U.S. Federal Court in Hato Rey, Puerto Rico.
This comes as a new Wall Street Journal analysis reveals how Puerto Rico has experienced a severe, decade-long depopulation. A quarter of a million Puerto Ricans have relocated to the mainland United States over the last 10 years, shrinking the labor force by 20 percent. It’s the most dramatic population decline the U.S. Census Bureau has seen since record-keeping began in 1920. Mario Marazzi of the Puerto Rico Institute of Statistics said the scale of the territory’s depopulation is comparable only to the genocide of indigenous Taíno people following the arrival of the Spanish colonists in the 16th century. We’ll host a debate over the PROMESA bill after headlines.
Defense Secretary Ashton Carter has announced the Pentagon is ending its ban on transgender people serving openly in the U.S. military.
Defense Secretary Ashton Carter: “Our mission is to defend this country, and we don’t want barriers unrelated to a person’s qualification to serve preventing us from recruiting or retaining the soldier, sailor, airman or marine who can best accomplish the mission. We have to have access to 100 percent of America’s population for our all-volunteer force to be able to recruit from among them the most highly qualified and to retain them.”
Under the new rules, the military will provide all healthcare, including surgery, to transgender troops. Many hailed the decision as a step forward in LGBT rights. Victoria Rodríguez-Roldán of the National LGBTQ Task Force said, “This decision is a great victory for the many trans people who have served and sacrificed in the military over the years.” But others criticized the decision. Award-winning writer Mattilda Bernstein Sycamore wrote, “How far we have come from the original goals of gay liberation as it emerged in the 1960s and 1970s—an end to the oppressive state, organized religion and the nuclear family—a rejection of war, racism, white supremacy and imperialism…” We’ll have more on the Pentagon decision with transgender veteran, Colorado Democratic congressional nominee Misty Plowright later in the broadcast.
Meanwhile, the Pentagon has confirmed the U.S. military and U.S.-led coalition forces carried out a total of 26 different airstrikes in Iraq and Syria on Thursday. The Pentagon has not released a death toll. On Wednesday, U.S.-led airstrikes killed as many as 250 people near the Iraqi city of Fallujah.
North Carolina lawmakers are moving to reserve a half-million dollars for the legal expenses of defending the anti-transgender law HB 2. The Obama administration has sued North Carolina over the law, which nullifies ordinances protecting LGBT people from discrimination and forces transgender people to use the bathroom that matches what they were assigned on their birth certificate.
In another victory for reproductive rights, a federal judge has blocked an Indiana law that would have banned abortions based on a fetus’s genetic anomalies or disabilities. The ruling is the latest in a series of decisions upholding women’s right to access abortions, following the Supreme Court’s landmark ruling to strike down Texas’s admitting privileges requirement and another provision requiring abortion clinics to meet the standards of hospital-style surgery centers.
Meanwhile, Republican presumptive presidential nominee Donald Trump has spoken out about the landmark Supreme Court ruling on abortion, while speaking with conservative radio host Mike Gallagher.
Donald Trump: “Now, if we had Scalia was living or Scalia was replaced by me, you wouldn’t have had that. OK?”
Mike Gallagher “Right.”
Donald Trump: “Would have been the opposite.”
Mike Gallagher “Right”
Donald Trump: “But, you know, there’s your first example right there of—and that’s going to be the first of many. And if she gets in, if she gets in, it won’t even be—”
Mike Gallagher “It’s going to get worse.”
Donald Trump: “You won’t even have to question—you won’t even have to bother going to court. You’re going to know the answers to many of these questions.”
Mike Gallagher “You know what will happen before it even gets here. So, just to confirm, under a Donald—a President Donald Trump-appointed Supreme Court, you wouldn’t see a majority ruling like the one we had with the Texas abortion law this week.”
Donald Trump: “No, you wouldn’t see that. And people understand that.”
In response to Trump’s comments, Dawn Laguens of the Planned Parenthood Action Fund said, “Electing Trump means he will fight to take away the very rights the Supreme Court just ruled this week are constitutional and necessary health care.”
Meanwhile, Trump is facing questions about a federal lawsuit in which a woman accuses Trump of raping her in 1994 when she was only 13 years old. The lawsuit alleges Trump raped her at a party hosted by billionaire Jeffrey Epstein. Epstein has been jailed on charges of soliciting sex from a minor and has paid out dozens of settlements over allegations of sexual assault at his infamous parties. Donald Trump has denied the allegations in the lawsuit, which was refiled in Manhattan federal court after it was dismissed by a judge in California last month. The suit has largely been ignored by mainstream media or dismissed as “bizarre.” But lawyer and author Lisa Bloom writes, “If the Bill Cosby case has taught us anything, it is to not disregard rape cases against famous men.” Meanwhile, on Wednesday, the University of Connecticut trustees voted unanimously to revoke Bill Cosby’s honorary degree in light of accusations from more than 50 women that Cosby drugged and raped them, some in cases dating back decades.
In more news from the campaign trail, a meeting on the tarmac of a Phoenix airport between Attorney General Loretta Lynch and former President Bill Clinton has ignited a political firestorm, with Republicans saying the meeting compromises the Justice Department’s continued investigation into Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton’s use of a private email server while she was secretary of state. Lynch spoke out about the meeting.
Attorney General Loretta Lynch: “I did see the president at the Phoenix airport the other night. As I was landing, he was headed out. He did come over and say hello, and speak to my husband and myself, and talk about his grandchildren and his travels and things like that. So that was the extent of that.”
The New York Times reports Lynch is set to announce today that she will accept whatever recommendation prosecutors and the FBI director make about whether to bring charges against Hillary Clinton.
A newly released internal CIA report has revealed how the agency arrested, imprisoned and interrogated German citizen Khalid El-Masri at a secret prison in Afghanistan, even though the CIA knew he was not the man they had been looking for. The report chronicles how the CIA seized El-Masri after Macedonian agents accused him of being a member of al-Qaeda traveling on a false passport. Yet no one from the CIA even looked at El-Masri’s passport for the first three months of his imprisonment, at which point agents determined his passport was real and that there was, as CIA agents wrote, “no basis to justify the continued detention of al-Masri.” Yet the agency continued to hold El-Masri for months because it could not decide on an “exit strategy.” Finally, CIA agents dumped him in Albania and told him to go home. El-Masri says he was tortured while imprisoned by the CIA. He is seeking an apology from the U.S. government.
Meanwhile, a human rights lawyer has accused the CIA of paying Romania millions of dollars to host secret U.S. prisons that were the site of CIA torture programs under the George Bush administration. The allegations were raised during a hearing of the European Court of Human Rights. Romania, a close U.S. ally, has denied the charges.
In Austria, the highest court has ordered a rerun of the presidential election, after the far-right candidate Norbert Hofer was narrowly defeated by former Green Party leader Alexander Van der Bellen. Hofer, who won 49.7 percent of the vote, ran on an anti-migrant platform and would have become the first far-right head of state elected in Europe since 1945. The court ruling opens up the possibility he may seize power in the new round of elections.
In Cameroon, the United States has paid compensation to the family of a 7-year-old boy who was fatally run over by U.N. Ambassador Samantha Power’s motorcade in April. The compensation includes two cows; hundreds of kilos of flour, onions, rice, salt and sugar; and about $1,700. The boy was killed after an armored jeep in Power’s convoy hit him at top speed.
In Maryland, a judge has granted a new trial to Adnan Syed, the subject of the first season of the award-winning podcast “Serial.” In 2000, Syed was convicted of murdering his ex-girlfriend, Hae Min Lee. He has long maintained his innocence. His lawyer celebrated the judge’s decision, while Hae Min’s family said, “It remains hard to see so many run to defend someone who committed a horrible crime, who destroyed our family, who refuses to accept responsibility, when so few are willing to speak up for Hae.”
In New York, Assemblymember Keith Wright has conceded to Dominican-born Adriano Espaillat in the U.S. congressional race to succeed longtime Representative Charles Rangel. Rangel is a founding member of the Congressional Black Caucus and has served as Harlem’s congressional representative since 1970. Wright was Rangel’s handpicked successor. This means that for the first time in more than 60 years the congressional seat of Harlem will not be held by an African American.
On Capitol Hill, water tests have found high levels of lead in the drinking water in the Cannon Office Building. At least one drinking fountain tested had lead levels three times higher than the EPA safety limit. A USA Today investigation, launched in the wake of the Flint water poisoning crisis, found nearly 2,000 water systems across the United States contained high levels of lead contamination.
And in Vermont, the nation’s first mandatory GMO labeling law goes into effect today. Coca-Cola has announced it will likely stop selling some of its products in the state. Multiple companies had sought unsuccessfully to block the law. Farmer and Vermont State Senator David Zuckerman spoke out.
Sen. David Zuckerman: “I’m here today to celebrate our GMO labeling law, which is going into effect, where consumers are going to have the right to know what’s in their product—straightforward, clear labeling on the packaging: 'This product contains GMOs or may contain GMOs.' I’m standing in front of a field of non-GMO corn here on my farm. But 90 to 95 percent, if not close to 100 percent, of the corn in Vermont is genetically engineered for cattle production. But also, across the country, huge amounts of corn, cotton, soybeans, beets, for sugar, are all grown with genetically engineered ingredients.”