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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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On Tuesday, President Obama visited Louisiana for the first time since the devastating floods that have killed 13 people and damaged 60,000 homes. The Red Cross has has called it the worst natural disaster in the United States since Hurricane Sandy. It also marked Louisiana’s worst flooding since Hurricane Katrina. Some neighborhoods still have up to two feet of standing water left. President Obama spoke in Baton Rouge.
President Barack Obama: “I just had a chance to see some of the damage from the historic floods here in Louisiana. I come here, first and foremost, to say that the prayers of the entire nation are with everybody who lost loved ones. As I think anybody who can see just the streets, much less inside of the homes here, people’s lives have been upended by this flood.”
While many climate scientists have tied the historic floods in Louisiana to climate change, President Obama made no link during his remarks. While Obama was in Baton Rouge, he also met with the family of Alton Sterling, who was killed by police on July 5, and with the families of three police officers who were killed by a former U.S. marine in a mass shooting in Baton Rouge on July 17.
But while Obama was speaking in Baton Rouge, four environmental activists were arrested in New Orleans on Tuesday while occupying the headquarters of the Interior Department’s Bureau of Ocean Energy Management in New Orleans. They were protesting the Interior Department’s decision to go ahead with a lease sale of up to 24 million acres in the Gulf of Mexico for oil and gas exploration and development. The sale is being held in the Superdome—the very building where thousands of displaced residents of New Orleans sought refuge during Hurricane Katrina 11 years ago. We’ll have more on the protests with Antonia Juhasz after headlines.
In breaking news from Italy, a 6.2-magnitude earthquake has killed at least 73 people, with the death toll expected to rise. The quake struck the central Italy town of Norcia, which is about two-and-a-half hours northeast of Rome. It caused homes and buildings to collapse as people were sleeping. Rescue crews are currently pulling people out of the rubble.
This comes as deadly extreme weather continues around the world. In India, at least 300 people have died in widespread flooding across eastern and central states. The flooding, caused by heavy rains, has closed schools, destroyed roads and submerged hundreds of towns and villages. Meanwhile, in Philadelphia, least four people died during last week’s heat wave, which broke four separate temperature records. And in Washington state, Governor Jay Inslee has declared a state of emergency in nearly two dozen counties amid raging wildfires, which he blamed on climate change, saying, “Our forests and wild lands are under attack from climate change.” Wildfires are also raging across parts of California. We’ll have more on climate change later in the broadcast with climate scientist Kirk Smith.
In news from the campaign trail, a new Associated Press investigation has revealed that while Hillary Clinton served as secretary of state, more than half of the private citizens she met with had donated to the Clinton Foundation. The analysis shows that at least 85 of 154 people Hillary Clinton had scheduled phone or in-person meetings with were Clinton Foundation donors. This does not include meetings Clinton held with U.S. or foreign government workers or representatives, only private citizens. These 85 donors contributed more than $150 million to the Clinton Foundation combined. Clinton has slammed the investigation, saying it “cherry-picked” information and that it “relies on utterly flawed data.” But the AP says it has been asking for the schedules for three years, and that what has been released thus far covers only half of her four-year tenure. This comes as the Clinton Foundation says it would “spin off” its international programs if Hillary Clinton wins the presidency. Bill Clinton has also said he’ll resign from the foundation if Hillary Clinton wins.
Donald Trump has repeatedly attacked Hillary Clinton over the Clinton Foundation. This is Trump speaking Tuesday in Austin.
Donald Trump: “It is impossible to figure out where the Clinton Foundation ends and the State Department begins. It is now abundantly clear that the Clintons set up a business to profit from public office. They sold access and specific actions by and really for, I guess, the making of large amounts of money. The specific crimes committed to carry out that enterprise are too numerous to cover in this speech.”
Trump himself, however, has donated $100,000 to the Clinton Foundation in the past.
A new Washington Post analysis of Hillary Clinton’s August schedule finds that she has raised at least $32 million over the last three weeks through a series of exclusive fundraisers. The events, held in wealthy areas such as Greenwich, Connecticut, Nantucket, Massachusetts, and Beverly Hills, California, frequently cost upwards of $50,000 a ticket.
In news on Guantánamo Bay, prisoner Abu Zubaydah has argued for his release at a rare hearing held via video stream Tuesday. Zubaydah has been held for 14 years without trial, during which time he was waterboarded more than 80 times. When he was captured in 2002, the CIA insisted he was a top al-Qaeda operative. The U.S. government has since admitted he was never an al-Qaeda leader, yet his imprisonment has continued. During Tuesday’s hearing, Zubaydah declared in a prepared statement read by a U.S. soldier that he “has no desire or intent to harm the United States or any other country.”
Graduate students won a significant labor victory Tuesday, when the National Labor Relations Board ruled graduate student teachers and research assistants at private universities have the right to unionize. The 3-1 ruling stemmed from a case brought by Columbia graduate students. It overturns a 2004 ruling that denied collective bargaining rights to some graduate student teachers. American Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten said, “The truth is graduate workers are the glue that holds higher education institutions together—without their labor, classes wouldn’t get taught, exams wouldn’t get graded and office hours wouldn’t be held.”
In news from Afghanistan, a U.S. soldier has been killed in a bomb explosion outside Lashkar Gah, the capital city of Helmand Province. This comes only days after more than 100 U.S. soldiers were sent to Lashkar Gah to fight the Taliban in what is believed to be the first deployment of U.S. troops to the city since 2014. The name of the U.S. soldier who died has not yet been released.
Turkey has begun a ground offensive into Syria, marking a major escalation of its role in the ongoing conflict. The U.S. military is backing Turkey’s incursion, which began at about 4 a.m. this morning, with an aerial bombing campaign. Turkey says the offensive is against ISIS-held areas along the border. But Turkey says it’s also concerned about Syrian Kurdish militias at the border. These militias are backed by the United States.
In Kashmir, another protester has died after reportedly being hit in the chest by a tear gas shell fired by police during a protest Sunday. Eighteen-year-old Irfan Ahmad is at least the 69th person to be killed amid the ongoing protests, which began more than a month ago after Indian security forces killed a Kashmiri independence leader. Indian soldiers and paramilitary forces have cracked down on the protests against Indian rule, opening fire during demonstrations and imposing a strict curfew. Among those who have been killed is a 30-year-old professor who was beaten to death in Indian army custody. Many others have reported being beaten by troops in their own homes.
In Mexico, a journalist has survived an attempted assassination in the eastern state of Veracruz. Freelance journalist Lucía López Castillo was about to enter her home Sunday night when she was approached by a masked man, who attacked her and then shot her. Veracruz is one of the deadliest areas of Mexico for journalists. At least 16 journalists have been killed in Veracruz since 2010; another three have disappeared.
In Newark, New Jersey, a story has surfaced about police traumatizing a 10-year-old child by chasing him through the streets with guns drawn. Fifth-grader Legend Preston was standing outside his home on August 14, when police say they mistook him for a robbery suspect and began chasing him down an alley. Preston says he thought the police were running after him because he’d chased a ball into the street without looking. He says neighbors then surrounded him to protect him, yelling, “This is a child.” This is 10-year-old Legend Preston.
Legend Preston: “Some police are coming from this way with guns pointing right at me, and then like I ran into the backyard. I ran because they thought that I walked the ball in the street on purpose, and they were just holding the shotguns at me like this, trying to shoot me.”
In California, Judge Aaron Persky has recused himself from another sexual crimes case, amid the ongoing controversy over his lenient sentencing of former Stanford swimmer Brock Turner. In June, Persky gave Turner a six-month jail sentence for sexually assaulting an unconscious woman behind a dumpster, saying he was concerned a longer prison sentence would have a “severe impact” on the Stanford University swimmer. Persky has also sparked controversy over his 2015 decision to give Robert Chain a four-day prison sentence, after Chain pleaded guilty to possessing child abuse images. Persky has now stepped down from Chain’s case, which has a hearing on Thursday over whether Chain’s charge will be reduced from a felony to a misdemeanor. More than 1 million people have signed a petition demanding Persky be removed from the bench.
In Pennsylvania, immigrant mothers have suspended their hunger strike at the Berks County Residential Center, citing intimidation by ICE officials. The women launched the hunger strike on August 8 to protest Department of Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson’s claims that the average time in family detention is only 20 days. By the end of this month, at least three families will have spent a full year in custody at the Berks facility. On Tuesday, the women suspended the strike, saying ICE officials threatened them by saying that if their health weakens, their children could be taken away. On Monday, Democracy Now! spoke with one of the hunger strikers inside Berks.
Berks hunger striker: “The head of ICE for this center, Mr. Thomas Decker, came. He came only to threaten us, to tell us that if we were a danger for this facility, for the other women who are not on strike, then he was going to be obligated to take action, such that they would send us to Texas, simply that they would send us to an adult prison, and that if we continue this way, if we continue refusing to eat, then, simply, there would arrive a point at which we would debilitate, and then he was going to be obligated to call the government so they would take away our children. I think this is a threat quite direct and quite strong. I think that it’s not fair, because we are only asserting our rights.”
And in West Virginia, residents are celebrating the permanent shutdown of a coal mine near a state forest. The announcement by the West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection comes after a two-year organizing effort by the Kanawha Forest Coalition, which sought to shut down the mine over issues of water contamination and other environmental impacts. This is Daile Rois of Loudendale, West Virginia, whose house sits less than 2,000 feet from the mine.
Daile Rois: “When I started this journey, I didn’t understand the apathy, the 'you can't fight coal’ attitude. Now I do. It’s not apathy. It’s weariness. It’s survivor mode. I’d love for this victory to be our victory, but that can only happen if people will hear this. We can fight for our personal rights. We can fight for our families, our communities, against these big companies and a nonresponsive government.”