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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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On Wednesday, only hours before the Trump administration’s new travel ban was set to go into effect, a federal judge in Hawaii issued a nationwide halt to the executive order, which would have temporarily suspended refugees and people from six majority-Muslim nations from entering the United States. This morning, a federal judge in Maryland also blocked part of the travel ban, dealing a second legal blow to the Trump’s executive order. On Wednesday, Hawaii Attorney General Doug Chin celebrated the ruling by Hawaiian federal judge Derrick Watson.
Doug Chin: “That’s a big reason why Hawaii brought this case, is because it’s really something that hits us to the core. If you have an order that’s coming out there that’s taking us back half a century to a time when there was discrimination by nations of origin or by religion, that’s something that we have to speak up against.”
This is now the second time President Trump’s executive orders banning refugees and travelers from majority-Muslim countries have been blocked by the courts. On Wednesday, President Trump criticized the ruling in Hawaii.
President Donald Trump: “This ruling makes us look weak, which, by the way, we no longer are. Believe me. Just look at our borders. We’re going to fight this terrible ruling. We’re going to take our case as far as it needs to go, including all the way up to the Supreme Court.”
We’ll have more on Trump’s blocked travel ban after headlines.
President Trump is set to send his proposed budget to Congress today. The budget calls for an unprecedented $54 billion increase in military spending, as well as a $2.8 billion increase in funding for the Department of Homeland Security, largely to pay for Trump’s expanded border wall and the hiring of 1,500 new Border Patrol and ICE agents.
The budget slashes funding for the Environmental Protection Agency by 31 percent and funding for the State Department by 28 percent. It also proposes cutting billions in funding for the Department of Housing and Urban Development and the Department of Health and Human Services.
The Education Department would see $9 billion cut from its budget—even as so-called “school choice” programs would receive $1.4 billion more in funding. Trump’s education secretary, Betsy DeVos, has been a major backer of such programs, which include vouchers for private and religious schools that divert public funding out of the public school system.
Trump’s budget also proposes entirely eliminating funding for the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, which supports public radio and TV stations nationwide; the National Endowment for the Humanities; the National Endowment for the Arts; and the Legal Services Corporation, which funds free legal aid nationwide. The proposed budget is expected to face fierce opposition in Congress.
Meanwhile, on Wednesday, House Speaker Paul Ryan admitted the Republicans’ plan to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act will have to be changed if it’s to pass the House. The plan has been losing support since the Congressional Budget Office released a report Monday saying 24 million Americans would lose their insurance under the plan within 10 years.
On Capitol Hill Wednesday, top Republicans rejected President Trump’s unsubstantiated claims that President Obama ordered the wiretapping of Trump’s phones during the 2016 presidential campaign. House Intelligence Committee Chair Devin Nunes said he does not think Obama tapped Trump’s phones. Attorney General Jeff Sessions said he has not provided any evidence to Trump that would substantiate the president’s claims. Senate Judiciary Chair Charles Grassley and South Carolina Senator Lindsey Graham both threatened to block Trump’s nomination of Rod Rosenstein for deputy attorney general unless the FBI answers lawmakers’ questions about the wiretap claims.
President Trump spent part of Wednesday in Nashville, Tennessee, where he honored former President Andrew Jackson, laying a wreath at Jackson’s tomb site and comparing himself to the former president during a visit to Jackson’s plantation, the Hermitage. President Jackson was a slaveholder who also signed the order to forcibly remove 16,000 Native Americans from their lands in what became known as the Trail of Tears. Trump’s words and visit drew condemnation from many, including members of the Cherokee Nation, who called Jackson “a destructive man, to not just Cherokee people, but Native people in general.”
The Senate has voted to approve the confirmation of former Indiana Senator Dan Coats as director of national intelligence. In 2003, Coats served as U.S. ambassador to Germany, where he pressured the German government not to oppose President George W. Bush’s invasion of Iraq. He is also a vocal enemy of Planned Parenthood, saying in 2015, “The barbaric practices of Planned Parenthood should not receive a dime of taxpayer money.”
Reporters are expressing outrage over the State Department’s decision to allow only one reporter to travel with Secretary of State Rex Tillerson on his trip to Asia. The only reporter allowed to travel with Tillerson was Erin McPike of the conservative news outlet the Independent Journal Review, which was founded by two Republican political consultants. McPike has only been working for the outlet for a few weeks, and she doesn’t typically even cover the State Department.
In the Netherlands, Prime Minister Mark Rutte fought off a challenge from the xenophobic, far-right-wing politician Geert Wilders in a closely watched election Wednesday. Dutch voters turned out in record numbers, showing Rutte’s party far more support than expected by pundits.
With 95 percent of the votes counted, Rutte’s center-right People’s Party for Freedom and Democracy has won 33 parliament seats. Wilders’s anti-immigrant, anti-European Union Party for Freedom, whose slogan was “Make the Netherlands ours again,” won only 20 parliament seats. This is Prime Minister Mark Rutte.
Prime Minister Mark Rutte: “This is also a night when the Netherlands, after Brexit, after the American elections, has said 'stop' to the wrong kind of populism.”
The Dutch left party, GreenLeft, also won big in Wednesday’s elections, increasing its seats in parliament from four to 14. The party is headed by 30-year-old Jesse Klaver, whose father is Moroccan and mother is of Indonesian descent. After the election, Klaver said, “To all my left-wing friends in Europe: Don’t try to fake the populace. … Be pro-refugee. Be pro-European. We’re gaining momentum in the polls. And I think that’s the message we have to send to Europe. You can stop populism.”
In more news on European elections, France’s right-wing presidential candidate François Fillon has been charged with multiple counts of embezzlement over allegations he gave his wife and two of his children fake jobs as parliamentary aides. He is currently polling third in the race, behind far-right-wing candidate Marine Le Pen and former economy minister Emmanuel Macron. Meanwhile, France’s left candidate, Jean-Luc Mélenchon—who has been compared to Bernie Sanders—says he’s received the 500 endorsements from elected officials required to run in the first round of France’s presidential elections on April 23.
A United Nations agency has published a report accusing Israel of imposing an “apartheid regime” of racial discrimination on the Palestinian people. The report was commissioned and published by the U.N. Economic and Social Commission for Western Asia (ESCWA), which is comprised of 18 Arab states. This is the head of the U.N. agency, Rima Khalaf.
Rima Khalaf: “The importance of this report is not only because it is the first of its kind, that is published by one of the United Nations’ bodies that clearly and frankly concludes that Israel is a racist state that has established an apartheid system that persecutes the Palestinian people, but also it sheds light on the essence of the Palestinian cause and the conditions needed for accomplishing peace.’’
In response, Israel’s U.N. Ambassador Danny Danon said, “The attempt to smear and falsely label the only true democracy in the Middle East by creating a false analogy is despicable and constitutes a blatant lie.”
Meanwhile, Palestinian novelist Khalida Ghosheh has been released, after Israeli forces raided her home in East Jerusalem and subjected her to hours of detention and questioning on Saturday. The acclaimed novelist says the questioning centered on her upcoming novel, “The Jackal’s Trap,” which deals with Palestinian informants working for the Israeli government in the Israeli-occupied territories. She has been released on bail and is awaiting unspecified future charges. We’ll have more on Israel and Palestine later in the broadcast.
Cambodia’s prime minister says he will resist a demand by the U.S. government that Cambodia repay a 50-year-old loan to a government that came to power through a U.S.-backed coup. Prime Minister Hun Sen said this month the U.S. is pressuring the International Monetary Fund to withhold loans to Cambodia unless it repays approximately $500 million in U.S. loans paid to the Lon Nol dictatorship, which used the money to buy weapons it used to kill its own citizens. The loans came as the U.S. government dropped 500,000 tons of explosives on Cambodia as part of President Richard Nixon’s escalation of the Vietnam War.
In Syria, more than 30 people were killed in two suicide bomb attacks in the capital Damascus Wednesday. More than 100 people were also injured in the attacks on the Palace of Justice and a local restaurant. No group claimed responsibility for the bombings. This comes as The Washington Post, citing unnamed U.S. officials, is reporting the Pentagon is considering deploying up to 1,000 more U.S. troops to northern Syria in the coming weeks.
In breaking news from France, at least one person has been injured in an explosion after opening an envelope at the headquarters of the International Monetary Fund in Paris this morning.
Back in the United States, the Texas Senate passed an anti-LGBT “bathroom bill” Tuesday, which would prohibit transgender people from using public bathrooms that match their gender identity. The legislation, SB 6, is similar to North Carolina’s HB 2 “bathroom bill,” which has caused widespread protests and boycotts of the state. The Texas bill now heads to the state House of Representatives.
And the San Francisco Board of Supervisors has unanimously voted for legislation aimed at divesting up to $1.2 billion from banks financing the contested $3.8 billion Dakota Access pipeline.
Other U.S. cities, including Seattle, Alameda, Santa Monica and Davis, and Native American nations, including the Muckleshoot Tribe in Seattle, the Nez Perce Tribe in Idaho and the Mille Lacs Band of Ojibwe in Minnesota, have approved similar divestment legislation.
A $70 billion pension fund owned by Norway’s public sector employee unions has also announced it will divest from its shares in the Dakota Access-linked companies Energy Transfer Partners, Phillips 66, Enbridge and Marathon, citing “an unacceptable risk of contributing to serious or systemic human rights violations.”