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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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In his first address to a joint session of Congress, President Donald Trump vowed to expand the United States military budget, end the Affordable Care Act and sharply restrict immigration into the United States. The Washington Post reports the 60-minute speech included multiple factual inaccuracies, which include Trump taking credit for jobs that were actually created under the previous administration, and misrepresenting statistics to make unemployment and crime rates appear significantly worse than they are. Trump also repeated his claim that he is “drain[ing] the swamp of government corruption”—a statement that caused some Democratic lawmakers to laugh, given that Trump’s Cabinet largely consists of millionaires and billionaires with unprecedented conflicts of interest.
Many Democratic congresswomen wore white to Trump’s speech to honor the women’s suffragist movement. Throughout the address, Trump reiterated his campaign’s extreme, nationalistic vision for the country, although he sought to soften his tone and delivery. Trump opened his speech by condemning attacks against Jews and the murder of an Indian man in Kansas last week.
President Donald Trump: “Recent threats targeting Jewish community centers and vandalism of Jewish cemeteries, as well as last week’s shooting in Kansas City, remind us that while we may be a nation divided on policies, we are a country that stands united in condemning hate and evil in all of its very ugly forms.”
That’s President Trump speaking last night to Congress, condemning the five nationwide waves of bomb threats targeting Jewish community centers, the desecration of hundreds of gravesites at two Jewish cemeteries, and the murder of an Indian man in Kansas by a white man who reportedly yelled “Get out of my country!” before opening fire. Trump has been under enormous pressure to condemn the threats and attacks.
But just earlier in the day, President Trump reportedly made a strange comment about the anti-Semitic threats during a meeting with state attorneys general, in which Trump appeared to question whether the Jewish community itself was behind the bomb threats. Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro says Trump said of threats, “Sometimes it’s the reverse, to make people—or to make others—look bad.” Shapiro said Trump went on to use the word “reverse” two or three more times. In response, Steven Goldstein of the Anne Frank Center said, “Mr. President, have you no decency? To cast doubt on the authenticity of anti-Semitic hate crimes in America constitutes anti-Semitism in itself, and that’s something none of us ever dreamed would disgrace our nation from the White House.”
During President Trump’s speech to the joint session of Congress last night, he announced plans to create a new office called VOICE—that’s Victims of Immigration Crime Engagement. Trump has previously directed the Department of Homeland Security to publish a list of crimes committed by immigrants—which some historians have compared to Germany’s Nazi-era policy of publishing lists of crimes committed by Jews. Trump invited family members of people killed by undocumented immigrants to his speech last night. Democrats, meanwhile, gave their tickets away to immigrants, including 16-year-old Angel Rayos-García and 14-year-old Jacqueline Rayos-García, whose mother Guadalupe was deported back to Mexico earlier this year, after she went to a routine ICE check-in. During Trump’s speech, he reiterated his campaign promises to crack down on immigration and immigrants living in the United States.
President Donald Trump: “My administration has answered the pleas of the American people for immigration enforcement and border security. By finally enforcing our immigration laws, we will raise wages, help the unemployed, save billions and billions of dollars and make our communities safer for everyone.”
But only hours earlier, Trump reportedly suggested during a meeting with TV anchors at the White House that he might be open to a form of immigration bill that would grant legal status to millions of undocumented immigrants. We’ll have more on Trump’s speech and immigration policies later in the broadcast.
President Trump is expected to sign a new executive order in the coming days limiting or barring entry into the United States by refugees or residents of some majority-Muslim nations. His first executive order banning people from Iraq, Syria, Iran, Sudan, Libya, Somalia and Yemen from entering the United States was blocked by the courts last month. According to the Associated Press, Trump’s new order will not ban Iraqi citizens from traveling to the United States.
Education Secretary Betsy DeVos is facing backlash and ridicule after she claimed that historically black colleges and universities are an example of “school choice,” following a listening session at the White House Monday with the presidents and chancellors of these historically black colleges and universities, often known as HBCUs. In a statement, she wrote, “HBCUs are real pioneers when it comes to school choice. They are living proof that when more options are provided to students, they are afforded greater access and greater quality.” On Twitter, many ridiculed DeVos’s comments, saying they displayed a lack of historical context. HBCUs were established because black students were prohibited from attending public colleges and universities throughout much of the United States’s history. One Twitter user wrote, “Betsy DeVos said HBCUs were about school choice. As if white/colored water fountains were about beverage options.” Another user joked that it was as if DeVos had said, “Rosa Parks is a real pioneer when it comes to seat choice.”
The backlash against DeVos’s comments come as White House counselor Kellyanne Conway has responded to criticism over a series of photos showing her kneeling on a couch in the Oval Office with her shoes on in the middle of President Trump’s listening session with the presidents and chancellors of HBCUs. In her response, Kellyanne Conway repeatedly used the wrong acronym to refer to the HBCUs.
Kellyanne Conway: “I was asked to take a certain angle and was doing exactly that. I certainly meant no disrespect. I didn’t mean to have my feet on the couch. I just want people to focus on the great work of the HCBU presidents.”
In India, crowds of people protested against Donald Trump at the funeral of 32-year-old Srinivas Kuchibhotla, an aviation engineer who was shot and killed by a white man in Kansas last week. Navy veteran Adam Purinton reportedly yelled “Get out of my country!” before opening fire on Kuchibhotla and his friend, who was wounded. Purinton apparently thought the two Indian men were Iranian. Purinton is white. At the funeral in the southern Indian city of Hyderabad, mourners chanted “Down with Trump” and held up signs reading “Down with Racism.”
In Colombia, the Constitutional Court has ruled in favor of the miners and residents of the town of Marmato, who have been fighting an open pit gold mine for 10 years. In their ruling Tuesday, the judges said the town’s Afro-Colombian and indigenous residents, who have been fighting the massive project, have the right to be consulted about whether the Canadian-based Gran Colombia Gold Corporation can continue parts of construction.
In Louisiana, news has surfaced that black transgender teenager Jaquarrius Holland was murdered last month, making her at least the third transgender woman to be killed in the state of Louisiana in February. Holland was 18 years old. She was initially misgendered in local news reports about her killing on February 19. She is at least the seventh transgender woman to be murdered in 2017.
Uber CEO Travis Kalanick is under fire after Bloomberg News published a dash cam video of Kalanick arguing with and insulting an Uber driver in an expletive-filled tirade. This is driver Fawzi Kamel, confronting Kalanick about his decision to lower the prices for rides for the company’s high-end service, UberBLACK.
Fawzi Kamel: “I lost $97,000 because of you. I’m bankrupt because of you.”
Travis Kalanick: “Look.”
Fawzi Kamel: “Yes, yes, yes. You keep changing every day.”
Travis Kalanick: “What have I—”
Fawzi Kamel: “You keep changing every day!”
Travis Kalanick: “Hold on a second! What have a changed about Black? Huh? What have I changed?”
Fawzi Kamel: “You changed the whole business!”
Travis Kalanick: “What? What?”
Fawzi Kamel: “You dropped the prices.”
Travis Kalanick: “On Black?”
Fawzi Kamel: “Yes, you did.”
Travis Kalanick: “[expletive]”
Fawzi Kamel: “We started with $20.”
Travis Kalanick: “[expletive]”
Fawzi Kamel: “We started with $20.”
Travis Kalanick: “You know what?”
Fawzi Kamel: “How much is the mile now? $2.75?”
Travis Kalanick: “You know what?”
Fawzi Kamel: “What?”
Travis Kalanick: “Some people don’t like to take responsibility for their
Fawzi Kamel: “I take responsibility!”
Travis Kalanick: “They blame everything in their life on somebody else.”
Fawzi Kamel: “But why are you changing the email for town car?”
Travis Kalanick: “Good luck!”
Fawzi Kamel: “Good luck to you, too.”
After the video surfaced, CEO Travis Kalanick said, “To say that I am ashamed is an extreme understatement.” Uber is also embroiled in a controversy over allegations of sexual harassment. On Monday, the head of the engineering department was fired, after it emerged he had failed to disclose that he’d left his previous job at Google amid sexual harassment accusations. His departure comes a week after a former Uber engineer said she endured sexual harassment on the job and that Uber’s HR department had refused to take action.
And today is legendary singer, actor and activist Harry Belafonte’s 90th birthday. For decades, Belafonte has been a leading voice for civil rights. He was one of Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.'s closest confidants and helped organize the March on Washington in 1963. More recently, he was an honorary co-chair of the Women's March on Washington, the largest protest after a president’s inauguration in U.S. history. In December, Harry Belafonte joined Democracy Now! for our 20th anniversary celebration at the historic Riverside Church here in Manhattan.
Harry Belafonte: “A group of young black students in Harlem, just a few days ago, asked me what, at this point in my life, was I looking for. And I said, 'What I've always been looking for: Where resides the rebel heart?’ Without the rebellious heart, without people who understand that there’s no sacrifice we can make that is too great to retrieve that which we’ve lost, we will forever be distracted with possessions and trinkets and title.”