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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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House Majority Whip Steve Scalise of Louisiana remains in critical condition this morning, after he and four other people were wounded Wednesday when a gunman opened fire at a baseball field in Alexandria, Virginia. The lawmakers were practicing for tonight’s charity congressional baseball game when Scalise, the third-ranking Republican in the House, was shot in the hip.
The gunman, who was shot dead by Capitol Hill police, has been identified as a 66-year-old white man named James Hodgkinson from Belleville, Illinois. He has a history of being arrested for domestic violence and has also made violent threats online. In one recent Facebook post, he wrote, “Trump is a Traitor. Trump Has Destroyed Our Democracy. It’s Time to Destroy Trump & Co.” Reports indicate Hodgkinson also once volunteered for Bernie Sanders’s presidential campaign. Hodgkinson received a license to have a gun earlier this year despite being arrested in 2006 for domestic battery and discharge of a firearm.
We’ll go to Capitol Hill for more on the Virginia shooting after headlines.
The shooting in Virginia came the same day that a worker opened fire at a UPS facility in San Francisco, killing three people before fatally shooting himself in the head with an assault pistol when the police arrived inside the facility. The gunman has been identified as 38-year-old Jimmy Lam. He was wearing a UPS uniform during the massacre and had worked as a driver for the company. ABC reports he had filed an internal grievance in March saying he was working excessive overtime. Two other people were also wounded in the shooting.
President Trump is now under investigation for possible obstruction of justice. The New York Times also reports special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation is looking into whether President Trump’s associates, including Jared Kushner, have committed any financial crimes, including money laundering aimed at hiding possible financial payoffs that might have been part of a cooperation between Trump associates and Russian officials. Special counsel Robert Mueller will be questioning top intelligence officials, including Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats and National Security Agency head Michael Rogers.
This morning, Trump slammed the investigation, tweeting, “They made up a phony collusion with the Russians story, found zero proof, so now they go for obstruction of justice on the phony story. Nice.” Members of the Trump administration and the Republican National Committee have been attacking Mueller in recent days, in an apparent effort to discredit his investigation. This comes as the Senate voted 97 to 2 Wednesday to approve a new round of sanctions against Russia over alleged interference in the 2016 U.S. election.
United Nations investigators say U.S.-led coalition airstrikes have killed at least 300 civilians in and around the Syrian city of Raqqa over the last three months. The deadliest attack was a March 21 airstrike that killed as many as 200 civilians when it struck a school housing displaced families in the town of Mansoura. The U.N. investigators say the escalating U.S.-led bombing campaign has also displaced more than 150,000 civilians. This is Iman Faisal.
Iman Faisal: “[We fled] because of the airstrikes, and there were Daesh [ISIS] bases near to our homes, so we escaped through Al Jazra Street. There are a lot of clashes because of Daesh. What we want is to safely go back to our homes and find them intact. That is all.”
U.S.-led coalition airstrikes also continue in Iraq amid the ongoing battle to retake the city of Mosul from ISIS. The monitoring group Airwars says U.S.-led bombing and attacks by the U.S.-backed Iraqi military have reportedly killed dozens of civilians over the last week.
On Monday, 12 members of an extended family were reportedly killed after an alleged coalition airstrike destroyed their house in Mosul’s Borsa neighborhood. Dozens more civilians were reportedly killed on Sunday amid airstrikes and shelling in multiple neighborhoods, including in Zanjili, where Iraqi forces reportedly found a child alone in his house, after the entire rest of his family was killed. On Saturday, 13 civilians, including engineer Abdullah al-Mazouri, reportedly died after airstrikes in Mosul’s Shifa neighborhood, while, on Friday, at least 18 civilians reportedly died after airstrikes hit their homes and they were buried underneath the rubble in the center of Mosul.
The Pentagon has confirmed launching at least one airstrike in and around Mosul every day over the last week.
The United States has agreed to sell $12 billion worth of U.S.-manufactured F-15 fighter jets to Qatar amid a major diplomatic crisis in the Persian Gulf. The jets are made by the American weapons contractor Boeing. Qatar is facing regional isolation after Saudi Arabia and other Gulf neighbors cut diplomatic ties with Qatar earlier this month.
Back in the United States, in Michigan, five state and local officials have been charged with involuntary manslaughter over the deaths that resulted from the poisoning of the Flint water system. The highest-ranking official to face the felony charge, which carries up to 15 years in prison, is Nick Lyon, director of Michigan’s Department of Health and Human Services. He’s also charged with misconduct in office for trying to cover up the water poisoning rather than warn Flint residents about the deadly Legionnaires’ disease. A sixth official, Michigan chief medical executive Eden Wells, has been charged with obstruction of justice and lying to police. Flint’s water crisis has been linked to at least 12 deaths from an outbreak of Legionnaires’ disease, as well as the lead poisoning of residents, including children, across Flint. The crisis began when Flint’s unelected emergency manager, appointed by Michigan Governor Rick Snyder, switched the source of the city’s drinking water in order to save money. Governor Snyder said Wednesday he supports Lyon and Wells and will not suspend them—even as many Flint residents are continuing to call for criminal charges to be brought against Governor Snyder himself.
The Standing Rock Sioux Tribe has won a major legal victory in federal court on Wednesday, which may have the power to force the shutdown of the $3.8 billion Dakota Access pipeline. On Wednesday, District Judge James Boasberg ruled that the Trump administration failed to carry out an adequate environmental review of the pipeline, after President Trump ordered the Army Corps to fast-track and greenlight its approval. Washington, D.C., District Judge Boasberg has requested additional briefings next week on whether the pipeline should be shut off until the completion of a full review of a potential oil spill’s impacts on fishing and hunting rights, as well as environmental justice.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has vowed the Israeli military will occupy the Palestinian West Bank indefinitely—a promise that precludes the possibility of a two-state peace deal. Netanyahu said, “In any agreement, and even without an agreement, we will maintain security control over the entire territory west of the Jordan River.” Meanwhile, Israel’s security cabinet has cut down on the electricity it sells to the Gaza Strip, leaving residents living by candlelight and unable to keep food from spoiling. Before the reduction, Gaza residents only had about an average of four hours of electricity a day. Now the 2 million Palestinians living in Gaza will only have about three hours and 15 minutes of electricity daily. This is Naji Zoroub.
Naji Zoroub: “Life is dead, because now when we look at ourselves, our food and work, there is no work and no food. The leftovers of the food that we have—and we are fasting—we put it in the fridge, and the next day we want to take it out at night, we find that it is rotten. And now we do not know what to do.”
In Somalia, up to 19 people were killed in an al-Shabab attack on a popular restaurant in the capital Mogadishu Wednesday. Twenty people were also taken hostage in an adjacent restaurant. Somali soldiers killed the five attackers and retook control of the restaurant after several hours.
In London, the death toll from a massive fire at a 24-story apartment building has risen to 17. Another 30 people are still hospitalized, 17 of them in critical condition. It took hundreds of firefighters a full 24 hours to put out the blaze, whose cause is still unknown. The Guardian reports that a number of safety warnings about the dangerous living conditions and fire risks in the building were ignored in the lead-up to the blaze. Among the dangers was that there was only one fire escape for the entire 24-story building.
In financial news, a slew of new lawsuits accuse banking giant Wells Fargo of changing the terms of people’s mortgages without their consent or knowledge, putting families at risk of default and foreclosure. The changes involved increasing the total amount families would have to pay back to the bank by extending the duration of people’s loan payments by decades. The lawsuits come as Wells Fargo is already facing widespread protests over its funding of the Dakota Access pipeline, as well as a massive scandal over the creation of more than 2 million fake consumer accounts.
In Tennessee, Christian minister Robert Doggart has been sentenced to 20 years in prison over his plot to massacre Muslims at a New York mosque. Doggart was also a 2014 congressional candidate. In 2015, FBI agents discovered Doggart was stockpiling weapons and plotting to travel to upstate New York to kill Muslims using explosives, an M-4 assault rifle and a machete. According to a federal investigation, Doggart saw himself as a religious “warrior” and wanted to kill Muslims to show his commitment to his Christian god. Doggart was not charged with terrorism, and at his sentencing Wednesday, Judge Curtis Collier told him, “You are not a monster. … In many respects, you lived a life of honor.”
In Argentina, thousands of unionized workers marched in the capital Buenos Aires on Wednesday to protest austerity imposed by Argentine President Mauricio Macri. This is Hugo Godoy of the State Workers’ Association.
Hugo Godoy: “We are protesting so that the government stops the application of economic and social policies which harm the working people. There is a group of large transnational companies which take all the wealth out of the country by the load, with benefits from the governing policies which harm the workers. Poverty and unemployment have risen. It has become more serious in the last year and a half, since this policy was applied.”
And journalists across Mexico are gathering today to commemorate the one-month anniversary of the killing of award-winning reporter Javier Valdez, who was dragged out of his car and shot 12 times in Culiacán, Sinaloa, on May 15. Valdez founded a newspaper in Sinaloa and also wrote for La Jornada. He was at least the sixth Mexican journalist to be killed this year amid a surge of violence against media workers in Mexico.