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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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Baltimore City State’s Attorney Marilyn Mosby has announced she will drop all charges against the remaining three police officers charged in the death of Freddie Gray. Gray died in April 2015 of spinal injuries after he was arrested and transported in a police van. This is State’s Attorney Marilyn Mosby.
Marilyn Mosby: “Without real substantive reforms to the current criminal justice system, we could try this case a hundred times, and cases just like it, and we would still end up with the same result. Accordingly, I have decided not to proceed on the cases against Officer Garrett, Sergeant Alicia White, or to relitigate the case against William Porter. As a mother—as a mother, the decision not to proceed on these trials, on the remaining trials, is agonizing. However, as a chief prosecutor elected by the citizens of Baltimore, I must consider the dismal likelihood of conviction at this point.”
Gray’s death set off nationwide protests, but many activists had already lost faith any officers would be convicted. This is Baltimore activist Kwame Rose on Democracy Now! after the acquittal of Lieutenant Brian Rice, the highest-ranking officer to face trial.
Kwame Rose: “Well, you know, my thoughts on the verdict, it’s completely evident at this point that Marilyn Mosby charged these six officers only to stop protest. And what powers that be in Baltimore City feared was unrest that will continue to happen if they did not charge. So this was a crowd control. That’s what this measure was.”
Kwame Rose was convicted and fined on charges related to protests last year in favor of charging the officers. On Wednesday, New York Times columnist Charles Blow responded to the news that all charges against officers had been dropped by writing, “I am now incandescent with rage … I am at the screaming place.” We’ll have more from Baltimore later in the broadcast.
Here in Philadelphia, the Democratic National Convention has entered its final day. Last night at the Wells Fargo Center, President Obama called on Americans to support Hillary Clinton.
President Barack Obama: “Tonight, I ask you to do for Hillary Clinton what you did for me. I ask you to carry her the same way you carried me, because you’re who I was talking about 12 years ago when I talked about hope. It’s been you who fueled my dogged faith in our future, even when the odds were great, even when the road is long—hope in the face of difficulty, hope in the face of uncertainty, the audacity of hope.”
As Obama spoke, hundreds of people held signs protesting the TPP. Some protesters also unfurled a banner reading ”TPP Kills Democracy.” This is California delegate Alex White.
Alex White: “In October, when the full text released and it was made known to the public that there was a death sentence clause in it, that would basically mean that pharmaceutical companies would have a 20-year monopoly on medications, that would cause a single medication to cost anywhere between $50,000 and $100,000 a year. My wife was diagnosed with a rare form of lung cancer three years ago, and I have to do it for her and everybody who is diagnosed with cancer. I mean, I don’t want to mean any disrespect to President Obama, but I’ve got to stand up for people who are diagnosed with cancer. When they’re fighting for their lives, they shouldn’t have to fight to afford their medications.”
On Tuesday, Virginia Governor Terry McAuliffe, who is close to Hillary Clinton, told Politico he believed Clinton would change her position and support the TPP, if she is elected. We’ll have more on the TPP and Clinton’s economic policy with Nobel Prize-winning economist Joseph Stiglitz later in the broadcast.
Meanwhile, Wednesday night also featured a prime-time speech by Clinton’s running mate, Virginia Senator Tim Kaine, who spoke about the historic nature of their ticket.
Sen. Tim Kaine: “My fellow Democrats, this week we start the next chapter in our great and proud story. Thomas declared all men were equal, and Abigail remembered the women. Woodrow brokered the peace, and Eleanor broke down the barriers. Jack—Jack told us what to ask, and Lyndon answered the call. Martin had a dream, and Cesar y Dolores said, 'Sí se puede.' And Harvey gave his life. Bill—Bill built a bridge into the 21st century, and Barack gave us hope. And now Hillary is ready.”
During his speech, Senator Kaine also spoke about the nine months he spent with Jesuit missionaries in Honduras in 1980, saying, “I got a firsthand look at a different system: a dictatorship.” But what Kaine failed to mention, as professor Greg Grandin notes, is the U.S. role in the installation of that dictatorship and then backing it with millions in military funding. We’ll have more on Senator Kaine with Greg Grandin on Friday on Democracy Now!
On Wednesday, delegates also disrupted former CIA Director and Defense Secretary Leon Panetta’s speech by chanting “No More War!”
Protesters: “No more war! No more war! No more war!”
The arena eventually turned off the lights on the Oregon delegation, where many of the chants were coming from. But delegates shone the lights on their cellphones and continued chanting.
Meanwhile, on the Republican side, Donald Trump called on Russia to hack Hillary Clinton’s email.
Donald Trump: “Russia, if you’re listening, I hope you’re able to find the 30,000 emails that are missing. I think you will probably be rewarded mightily by our press.”
The comments come as U.S. intelligence agencies continue to blame Russia for the hack of the 20,000 leaked DNC emails. Speaking at the DNC Wednesday, retired Navy Rear Admiral John Hutson said Trump’s call to hack Clinton’s email was “criminal intent.”
Meanwhile, Donald Trump also doubled down on his calls to defend NATO allies only if they have spent enough of their GDP on defense.
Donald Trump: “These stupid people, they say, 'But we have a treaty.' They say, 'What would happen if Russia, somebody attacks?' I say, 'I don't know. Have they paid? Have they paid? Have they paid? Tell me: Have they paid?’ 'Well, they haven't paid, but we have a treaty.’ I say, 'They have a treaty, too. They have to pay.'”
Trump’s position squarely contradicts that of his running mate, Indiana Governor Mike Pence, who told PBS NewsHour last week, “We’ll uphold our treaty obligations, including the mutual defense agreement that is NATO.”
Former New York City Mayor Rudolph Giuliani, who is now a national security adviser to Donald Trump, has called for measures to force Muslims on the government’s terrorism watch list to wear electronic tracking bracelets. During the same news conference Wednesday, he also boasted about how he sent undercover agents to infiltrate mosques as early as 1994.
Fox News’s Bill O’Reilly has doubled down on his comments that enslaved Africans who built the White House were “well-fed.” He made the comments on Tuesday, in response to first lady Michelle Obama’s speech at the DNC Monday night.
Michelle Obama: “I wake up every morning in a house that was built by slaves, and I watch my daughters, two beautiful, intelligent, black young women, playing with their dogs on the White House lawn.”
That was Michelle Obama speaking Monday night at the DNC. This was Bill O’Reilly’s response.
Bill O’Reilly: “Slaves that worked there were well fed and had decent lodgings provided by the government, which stopped hiring slave labor in 1802. However, the feds did not forbid subcontractors from using slave labor. So Michelle Obama is essentially correct in citing slaves as builders of the White House, but there were others working, as well.”
Bill O’Reilly’s comments sparked widespread outrage and were seen as a defense of slavery. But on Wednesday, O’Reilly claimed the statements were “just a fact.” Actually, primary sources contradict his claims. In a letter from November 28, 1800, first lady Abigail Adams described enslaved Africans forced to labor on the White House’s construction as being “half fed, and destitute of clothing.”
The U.S. Labor Department says cafeteria workers who help feed senators at the Capitol will receive back pay totaling more than $1 million, after the department found two private contractors had underpaid them. David Weil of the Labor Department’s Wage and Hour Division said, “Workers in the restaurant industry are among the lowest-paid workers in our economy. They shouldn’t have to deal with paychecks that don’t accurately reflect their hard work.”
Turkey’s government has dismissed nearly 1,700 military personnel and closed more than 130 media outlets since a failed coup earlier this month. That number includes nearly half of all Turkish generals and admirals. Human rights groups have also reported widespread arrests and torture of suspected coup sympathizers.
The Pentagon says it will open a formal investigation into what Syrian monitoring groups say is the U.S.’s deadliest attack on civilians since the U.S. began bombing Syria nearly two years ago. The strike took place 10 days ago near the city of Manbij. The monitoring group Airwars said the strike killed between 120 and 150 civilians. Until earlier this year, the Pentagon claimed no civilians had been killed in its air campaign against ISIS, while at the same time claiming more than 20,000 ISIS fighters had been killed.
In New York City, all charges have been dropped against Democracy Now!’s Charina Nadura and Juan Carlos Dávila. The two were arrested in April while filming a protest at an anti-Trump rally in Manhattan. The police grabbed their camera and microphone and slammed them to the ground as they shouted “Press!” They had been charged with disorderly conduct.
The state of Kansas has sued the Department of Defense for information on plans for what it calls an “unlawful transfer” of prisoners from Guantánamo to the U.S. The federal prison at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas, is one of three sites the Pentagon is considering for possible transfers of some of the remaining 76 prisoners at Guantánamo. Kansas submitted a Freedom of Information Act request to the Pentagon in December 2015, seeking documents on the surveying of potential sites. The Kansas state attorney general says the request remains unfulfilled.
A former Guantánamo prisoner who disappeared last month in Uruguay has reappeared in Venezuela. Abu Wa’el Dhiab is one of six former Guantánamo prisoners who were resettled in Uruguay in 2014. A former lawyer for Dhiab said he is concerned about his wife and three children, and he had hoped to travel to Turkey to reunite with them.
The Guardian has reported that Eastern European countries have quietly approved the discreet sale of more than $1 billion worth of arms to Syria in the last five years. The CIA and U.S. allies have all made use of this arms pipeline to supply rebels fighting the Syrian government. Last year, the U.S. purchased millions of dollars’ worth of weapons from Bulgaria to train a now-defunct U.S.-backed militia. Some of the weapons have fallen into the hands of al-Qaeda and ISIS. The Syrian government has also made use of the pipeline to supply its own forces.
Turning now to Venezuela, thousands demonstrated on Wednesday demanding a recall vote for President Nicolás Maduro. The National Electoral Council was expected to announce Tuesday whether the opposition had enough signatures to go into the next phase of the recall process. The council has now postponed the announcement until next week. Wednesday’s march remained peaceful, but there was a heavy police presence as opposition leader Henrique Capriles addressed supporters.
Henrique Capriles: “If there is not a solution, anything could happen. This is a very dangerous situation that no one wants. That’s why we are here asking for a solution that is in the constitution, and we continue fighting for a peaceful solution. But they cannot continue playing with the patience of the people. We want an answer.”
And a judge has freed John Hinckley Jr., who attempted to assassinate former President Ronald Reagan in 1981. The now 61-year-old Hinckley wounded Reagan and three other people outside the Washington Hilton Hotel and was declared not guilty by reason of insanity. U.S. District Judge Paul Friedman said Hinckley no longer poses a danger to himself or others and will live with his mother upon his release.
And the first African-American author to win the Pulitzer Prize for fiction has died at the age of 72. James Alan McPherson was awarded the Pulitzer in 1978 for his book “Elbow Room.” McPherson grew up attending segregated schools in Georgia. He graduated from Harvard Law School. He pursued fiction instead of law after winning a short story contest. He was professor emeritus at the Iowa Writer’s Workshop at the time of his death.