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You turn to Democracy Now! for ad-free news you can trust. Maybe you come for our daily headlines. Maybe you come for in-depth stories that expose government and corporate abuses of power. Today Democracy Now! is celebrating our 23rd birthday. For over two decades, we've produced our daily news hour without ads, government funding or corporate underwriting. How is this possible? Only with your support. Right now, in honor of Democracy Now!'s birthday, every donation we receive will be tripled by a generous supporter. This means if you give $30 today, Democracy Now! will get $90 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. Thank you! -Amy Goodman
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In Las Vegas, Nevada, a gunman opened fire with an automatic rifle from the 32nd floor of the Mandalay Bay casino hotel Sunday night, killing at least 50 people and injuring more than 200 others at a country music concert below. It was the deadliest mass killing by a single gunman in U.S. history. Videos shared on social media showed a chaotic scene as thousands of panicked concertgoers dove for cover or fled from repeated bursts of rapid gunfire. Police say a SWAT team used an explosive device to break into the hotel room where the shooter had holed up, killing him. Police later identified him as 64-year-old Stephen Paddock, a white male from the Las Vegas area. At the time of this broadcast, police said they had “located” a companion of Paddock’s, Marilou Danley, who’s been described as an “associate” of the shooter. The mass killing came as country music star Jason Aldean performed at the end of the three-day Route 91 Harvest music festival near the end of the Las Vegas Strip.
In Puerto Rico, a humanitarian catastrophe continues to unfold 12 days after Hurricane Maria struck the island. Over the weekend, the Pentagon said the percentage of Puerto Rico’s 3.5 million residents without access to clean drinking water rose to 55 percent. Only 5 percent of the island has electricity, while food and fuel remain scarce and about half of the island’s roads are impassable. This is Miriam Rodríguez, a resident of the city of Caguas.
Miriam Rodríguez: “This is a very disaster. I have no water. And very—I’m not buying food, because I don’t have a generator. My husband has apnea del sueño [sleep apnea]. I don’t know how I get a machine to have some air in my home. But I want to tell my family in Chicago that we’re doing well, but this is very disaster, because this is the first time I’m crying. I haven’t cried for a long time.”
On Thursday, acting Homeland Security Secretary Elaine Duke called the Trump administration’s response to the disaster “really a good news story.” That prompted San Juan Mayor Carmen Yulín Cruz to retort, “This is not a good news story. This is a people-are-dying story.” Cruz later pleaded for the world to come to Puerto Rico’s aid in an impassioned news conference.
Mayor Carmen Yulín Cruz: “We are dying here. And I cannot fathom the thought that the greatest nation in the world cannot figure out logistics for a small island of 100 miles by 35 miles long. … So I am asking the president of the United States to make sure somebody is in charge that is up to the task of saving lives.”
President Trump responded to Mayor Cruz on Saturday morning, tweeting from his golf resort in Bedminster, New Jersey, “The Mayor of San Juan, who was very complimentary only a few days ago, has now been told by the Democrats that you must be nasty to Trump. Such poor leadership ability by the Mayor of San Juan, and others in Puerto Rico, who are not able to get their workers to help. They want everything to be done for them when it should be a community effort. 10,000 Federal workers now on Island doing a fantastic job.” Trump later dedicated a trophy at the Presidents Cup golf tournament to hurricane victims. Trump’s response to Hurricane Maria drew widespread disbelief and condemnation. Many noted Trump used racially coded language to talk about Puerto Ricans, implying they are lazy. California Democratic Congressmember Ted Lieu tweeted, “Dear @realDonaldTrump: US citizens in Puerto Rico need water, food, oxygen tanks, medicine BUT NOT A GOLF TROPHY. You still don’t get it.” After headlines, we’ll go to Puerto Rico for the latest on the aftermath of Hurricane Maria.
In Spain, more than 800 people were injured Sunday after Spanish police stormed polling stations across the country’s Catalonia region and tried to forcibly prevent people from voting in a Catalan independence referendum, firing tear gas and physically attacking prospective voters. This is Ana María, a Catalan independence supporter.
Ana María: “The victims are here. We are the victims. The more than 700 people who went to hospitals, those are victims, and not the others. And here we have not been able to vote. We had to run from one place to another to go and vote. What is that? We are not criminals. We are not thieves. We are not corrupt like they are. We only wanted to vote.”
The Spanish government says the referendum is illegal. Ahead of Sunday’s vote, Spanish police seized control of ballots and fliers, raided the Catalan regional government’s offices and even shut down pro-independence websites. Late on Sunday night, the Catalan regional government said 90 percent of Catalan voters chose independence. The Catalan government now says it plans to unilaterally declare independence from Spain within 48 hours. Spain says it will recognize neither the results of the referendum nor a declaration of independence. We’ll have more on the crisis in Catalonia later in the broadcast.
President Donald Trump on Sunday publicly undermined an effort by the U.S. to open direct talks with North Korea over the country’s nuclear weapons program. Trump’s comments came a day after Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said from Beijing that the U.S. has two or three channels open to North Korea’s leadership and that he was pursuing dialogue. Trump responded to the news, tweeting, “I told Rex Tillerson, our wonderful Secretary of State, that he is wasting his time trying to negotiate with Little Rocket Man… Save your energy Rex, we’ll do what has to be done!” Trump has previously threatened to unleash “fire and fury” on North Korea and told the U.N. General Assembly he was prepared to destroy the entire nation of North Korea and its 25 million people.
The U.S. State Department says it’s withdrawing more than half its diplomatic staff from the U.S. Embassy in Cuba, after a series of unexplained health problems that embassy workers are suffering, including hearing loss and brain injury. The health problems appear to be caused by some form of sonic attack. Cuban officials deny any involvement in the apparent attack, which also affected Canadian diplomats, and Cuban officials are cooperating with U.S. officials to investigate the incidents.
Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price resigned Friday, following news reports that he and his wife traveled on military and private charter flights at a cost to taxpayers that may have exceeded $1 million. Price resigned after President Trump said he didn’t like the “optics” of the scandal and suggested he was prepared to fire his HHS secretary. Price’s resignation came as other members of Trump’s Cabinet are under scrutiny for chartering similar flights. Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin and his wife took a government jet to Louisville and Fort Knox, Kentucky, in August, where they watched the total solar eclipse from Fort Knox, and earlier this year Mnuchin requested a $25,000-per-hour government jet for his European honeymoon. Environmental Protection Agency chief Scott Pruitt and Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke and his aides also reportedly took noncommercial flights at taxpayer expense.
In Syria, a monitoring group says airstrikes on Saturday killed 28 people, including four children, in the rebel-held Idlib province near Syria’s border with Turkey. Video purporting to show the aftermath of the attack posted online by the Syrian Civil Defense rescue group—better known as the White Helmets—showed rescuers pulling a bloodied child from the rubble of a building and rushing toward an ambulance.
Iraq’s government has banned international flights to Iraqi Kurdistan and ordered joint military drills along the country’s shared border with Iran, in its latest retaliation for a vote by Iraqi Kurds to form an independent nation. The move came after nearly 93 percent of voters approved a referendum a week ago to break away from Iraq. Meanwhile, Turkey’s authoritarian president, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, said Iraqi Kurdish leaders would “pay any price” for their move toward independence.
President Recep Tayyip Erdogan: “They are not forming an independent state in northern Iraq. On the contrary, they are opening a wound in the region to twist the knife in. Ignoring this fact will do no good, neither to us nor to our Kurdish brothers in Iraq or other parties.”
In Cameroon, soldiers shot and killed at least eight people and wounded scores more Sunday in the latest crackdown on a separatist movement in English-speaking parts of the Central African nation. The violence came on the 56th anniversary of the unification of areas formerly colonized by Britain and France. Ahead of the anniversary, the government banned public gatherings, limited travel and disrupted internet service, cutting access to services like WhatsApp, Facebook and Twitter—after it ended a similar blackout last April that lasted 93 days. About a fifth of Cameroon’s 22 million people are English speakers, with many claiming discrimination at the hands of the French-speaking majority.
In Germany, same-sex couples married legally for the first time over the weekend as a new marriage equality law came into effect. Registry offices in several German cities opened a day earlier than normal—on Sunday—to allow for the ceremonies. Germany’s parliament approved a marriage equality law in June after Prime Minister Angela Merkel dropped her opposition to the measure.
In Argentina, tens of thousands marched through the capital Buenos Aires Sunday, demanding justice and answers in the case of a young activist who went missing two months ago. Twenty-eight-year-old Santiago Maldonado disappeared on August 1 during a protest against the eviction of indigenous people from lands claimed by the Italian clothing company Benetton. Eyewitnesses say Argentine security forces beat and arrested a person around the time of Maldonado’s disappearance. The case has stoked painful memories of the military dictatorship of 1976 to ’83, when U.S.-backed security forces tortured activists and disappeared an estimated 30,000 people.
Back in the U.S., lawmakers missed a weekend deadline to renew the Children’s Health Insurance Program, known as CHIP, throwing the fate of 9 million children who rely on the program for low-cost medical coverage into doubt. Republican leaders in both the House and Senate failed to act on a bipartisan bill to reauthorize CHIP, which provides access to routine checkups, immunizations, ER visits and dental and vision care. Without quick action to renew CHIP funding, the Kaiser Family Foundation warns that 10 states could run out money for the program by the end of the year.
In St. Louis, Missouri, police used a Taser weapon Friday to electrocute a protester, and pepper-sprayed others when they confronted officers over the incident, in the latest clash over the acquittal of white former police officer Jason Stockley for the murder of 24-year-old African American Anthony Lamar Smith. Friday’s incident came after protesters in St. Louis unfurled a banner at a Cardinals-Brewers baseball game reading “Stop Killing Us.”
And thousands of protesters took to the streets of Washington, D.C., and cities across the country over the weekend for a series of marches for racial justice. In New York City, hundreds marched Sunday over the Brooklyn Bridge. This is New York resident Carmen Perez.
Carmen Perez: “Racial justice is when we are working to intentionally ensure that the most marginalized communities are at the center. And so, when we think about economic justice, we also have to think about pay equity when it comes to women. We also need to think about the pay gap that happens when it comes to white women compared to Latina women and black women. … It’s really easy for me to stay in my silo and work on criminal justice reform or work on women’s issues, but I also have to be able to speak on the fact that Muslim people in this country are being mistreated, and I have to stand up for that, because even though it doesn’t personally affect me, it impacts my community.”