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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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President Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin agreed Tuesday during a phone call to work together to seek a ceasefire in Syria. According to the Kremlin, Putin and Trump agreed to meet in July to discuss a resolution to the protracted conflict. Reporters were not able to ask questions about Trump’s phone call on Tuesday, however, because White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer stormed out of the press briefing without taking questions, as reporters shouted “Sean! Sean!” as he departed. Trump and Putin’s phone call came the same day ISIS militants attacked a makeshift camp for displaced Syrians and Iraqi refugees, killing nearly 40 civilians and Kurdish fighters near Syria’s northeastern border with Iraq. We’ll have more on the ongoing conflict in Syria later in the broadcast. Meanwhile, President Trump is meeting with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas at the White House today. Trump already hosted Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in February.
In Afghanistan, at least eight civilians were killed and 28 more wounded in a suicide bombing in Kabul. Officials say the target of the attack was a NATO convoy. Three U.S. soldiers were wounded in the attack. ISIS militants claimed responsibility.
On Capitol Hill, the Republicans’ new bill to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act is facing major opposition from key members within the Republican Party, casting doubt on whether the latest effort will garner enough votes to pass the House. On Tuesday, Michigan Republican Congressmember Fred Upton came out against the legislation, saying it does not protect people with pre-existing conditions. Upton is the former chair of a House committee that helped draft an earlier version of the Republican healthcare bill. Trump has repeatedly claimed the latest bill guarantees coverage for people with pre-existing conditions, even though the bill would actually allow insurance companies to charge them significantly higher premiums. The Republicans’ previous effort to pass a healthcare bill failed in March due to party infighting.
In Baton Rouge, Louisiana, more than 100 people gathered for a vigil Tuesday after the Justice Department announced it will not bring charges against two white police officers for the 2016 killing of Alton Sterling, an African-American father of five. Bystander video shows Sterling was pinned to the ground by the two police officers when they shot him. His killing sparked nationwide protests. This is community organizer Arthur “Silky Slim” Reed speaking at the vigil Tuesday outside the Triple S convenience store where Sterling was killed.
Arthur “Silky Slim” Reed: “Let this be a wake up call to you. Don’t keep begging for justice. Show them what justice looks like. Stand up, be strong and refuse to bend! This is a unjust situation. Alton Sterling did not have to die!”
It was the Justice Department’s first high-profile decision on whether to charge police officers for killing civilians since President Trump took office. Trump has repeatedly vowed to be pro-police and pro-law enforcement. Hours after his inauguration, the Trump administration took down the White House website’s pages on civil rights and replaced it with a page entitled “Standing Up for Our Law Enforcement Community.”
Meanwhile, in Charleston, South Carolina, white former police officer Michael Slager has pleaded guilty to shooting and killing African American Walter Scott in 2015. Video footage shows Scott was unarmed and running away from officer Slater when Slager opened fire, shooting Scott eight times in the back, killing him. Slager pleaded guilty to a federal civil rights charge. He had also been tried for murder, but a judge declared a mistrial in that case in 2016 after jurors couldn’t reach a verdict. Slager now faces the possibility of life in prison. This is Walter Scott’s brother, Anthony Scott.
Anthony Scott: “We will never be able to share Walter again as a brother, his laughter, his jokes, him singing a song. We’ll never be able to share that, never again. That’s gone for us forever. But I hope he’s looking down and saying, 'Good job. Job well done. Appreciate you standing in there for me, brother and family. You all stuck it through, and you made sure that I got the justice.'”
Meanwhile, in Texas, the Balch Springs Police Department has fired police officer Roy Oliver, who killed 15-year-old Jordan Edwards on Saturday, shooting the African-American teenager in the head while he was in a car leaving a party.
Former acting Attorney General Sally Yates is slated to testify before a Senate panel next week, in which she’ll reiterate that she warned the White House about former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn nearly three weeks before he was fired. Yates says she told White House Counsel Don McGahn on January 26 that Flynn was lying both publicly and privately about whether he’d discussed U.S. sanctions on Russia in his conversation with Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak in December, and that she thought these lies made Flynn vulnerable to being blackmailed. Former House Intelligence Committee Chair Devin Nunes canceled hearings in March in apparent efforts to block Yates’s testimony, after she and former CIA head John Brennan, who was slated to testify at the same hearing, informed the government they would contradict some statements that White House officials had made.
During an interview Tuesday, former Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton claimed that FBI Director James Comey and alleged Russian hacking cost her the U.S. election.
Hillary Clinton: “I was on the way to winning, until a combination of Jim Comey’s letter on October 28th and Russian WikiLeaks raised doubts in the minds of people who were inclined to vote for me but got scared off. If the election had been on October 27th, I’d be your president.”
That’s Hillary Clinton, referring to the day before FBI Director James Comey sent a letter to lawmakers saying the FBI was once again investigating whether Clinton had sent classified information from her private email server while she was secretary of state. Comey is testifying to the Senate Judiciary Committee today. In response to Clinton’s comments, Trump tweeted: “Trump/Russia story was an excuse used by the Democrats as justification for losing the election. Perhaps Trump just ran a great campaign?”
In Greece, international creditors have once again forced the Greek government to impose austerity measures in exchange for another round of bailouts. The austerity measures include raising taxes and cutting pensions. This is an 80-year-old pensioner in Athens.
Andreas Drimalas: “When will pensioners finally stop paying for this? This is our money! We have been working for 40 years, and, unfortunately, they are taking it, and now we don’t have enough to live on. It’s a shame that they have reached such a level that they have to exploit people who are in the last stages of their lives. This is really terrible.”
The Washington Post reports that videos of President Trump and his daughter Ivanka promoting Trump Tower in the Philippines were featured on the skyscraper’s website—until this week. This is a clip of the video, which was filmed in 2013.
Donald Trump: “Trump Tower Manila will be something very, very special, like nobody’s seen before.”
This promotional video remained on the skyscraper’s website until The Washington Post asked about it earlier this week, and it was subsequently taken down. Trump developed the skyscraper outside the capital Manila with one of the Philippines’ most powerful real estate moguls, who is currently Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte’s top trade envoy. Over the weekend, President Trump invited Duterte to visit the White House, sparking outrage from human rights experts who say the invitation condones the thousands of extrajudicial killings in the Philippines since Duterte launched in his so-called war on drugs. Meanwhile, CNN has refused to air an ad from the Trump campaign that calls the mainstream media fake news. CNN says it won’t air the ad because it’s false. In response, the Trump campaign lashed out at CNN, accusing the network of censorship.
Kentucky Republican Governor Matt Bevin is threatening to close the state’s only remaining abortion clinic—meaning Kentucky could become the first U.S state without a single abortion clinic. The ACLU has sued Kentucky on behalf of the last remaining clinic, the EMW Women’s Surgical Center in Louisville. Kentucky has been forced to shutter 16 abortion clinics since 1978, amid a slew of increasingly harsh anti-choice legislation. It is now one of seven U.S. states with only a single clinic remaining. The others are North Dakota, South Dakota, Missouri, Mississippi, Wyoming and West Virginia.
In Washington state, imprisoned immigrant women continue a hunger strike at the for-profit Northwest Detention Center in Tacoma, Washington. Organizers say some of the hunger strikers have faced threats of forced transfers or forced medical treatment from GEO Group, the company that operates the prison. Organizers also say the strike has spread across state lines, to the NORCOR jail in Oregon, which contracts with the Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency, known as ICE, to imprison immigrants, including some transfered from the Tacoma prison.
Meanwhile, in Texas, a state representative has admitted that the anti-immigrant bill he introduced into the state Legislature was actually written by the for-profit prison company GEO Group. Republican state Representative John Raney said, “I’ve known the lady who’s their lobbyist for a long time. … That’s where the legislation came from.” The bill would allow Texas prisons that hold immigrant families to be classified as child care facilities, meaning ICE could imprison women and children for longer stretches of time. The legislation, if passed, would directly benefit one of GEO Group’s for-profit prisons: Karnes County Correctional Center in Texas.
Journalist and activist Barrett Brown has been released from federal prison, after he was arrested Thursday—only one day before he was slated to be interviewed for an upcoming PBS documentary. He was imprisoned for unknown reasons. His arrest came after he served four years behind bars on charges related to the hacking of the private intelligence firm Stratfor, which exposed how the firm spied on activists on behalf of corporations. Last year, Brown won the National Magazine Award for prison columns, for a series of columns he wrote for The Intercept.
United CEO Oscar Munoz and other airline executives testified to the House of Representatives Transportation Committee on Tuesday amid the ongoing fallout about the violent removal of a doctor who refused to be “involuntarily rebooked” from a flight. Viral video shows a bloodied Dr. David Dao being dragged semi-conscious down the aisle of a United jet by airline security officers. Dr. Dao reportedly suffered a concussion, a broken nose and lost teeth during the violent removal. Despite expressing outrage over the incident, lawmakers did not say they would move to impose more regulation on the industry, which was deregulated in the late 1970s, leading to massive mergers and near monopolies by the four major airline carriers. Instead, lawmakers called on the industry to self-regulate. This is Arkansas Republican Congressmember Rick Crawford.
Rep. Rick Crawford: “I don’t want to jump into a competitive model and apply re-regulation. But that means that the industry has to do some self-regulation to demonstrate that you don’t need interference from Congress.”
Oscar Munoz: “I couldn’t agree more.”
And that’s United CEO Oscar Munoz, saying he couldn’t agree more that the airline industry should regulate itself.
And in New York City, the historic Riverside Church has announced it will divest its $140 million endowment from fossil fuels. The church was founded by John Rockefeller Jr., the son of the founder of Standard Oil. In response, 350.org co-founder Bill Mckibben said, “Fifty years after Dr. King used its pulpit to call for an end to the war in Vietnam, Riverside Church now issues a call of its own: for a future free of fossil fuels, where the gospel call to 'love one's neighbor’ can be carried out effectively around the world.”