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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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In Charlottesville, Virginia, residents cheered and celebrated as workers covered two Confederate statues—one of General Robert E. Lee and another of General Stonewall Jackson—with black fabric on Wednesday in order to mourn the death of Heather Heyer, who was killed by a neo-Nazi during a white supremacist rally in Charlottesville on August 12.
Ann Marie Smith: “I feel like it’s progress. I’m concerned that it will be an invitation for people who disagree with shrouding the statue to come back here, and I have concerns about that. The real resolution that I would like to see is the statue coming down, and I think I feel really impatient about that at this point. But I also feel hopeful that all of this has tipped off something in our country, a shift of consciousness, and that is kind of the hope that I’m holding onto.”
The city councilors voted unanimously in favor of covering the statues earlier this week, after a highly contentious town hall meeting on Monday. Hundreds of residents ultimately shut down the meeting by protesting and demanding the resignation of city Mayor Michael Signer. Charlottesville is holding another town hall tonight with the Justice Department.
Meanwhile, white supremacist Christopher Cantwell has surrendered himself to Virginia police and admitted that he attacked an anti-racist protester with pepper spray on August 11, the night torch-bearing white supremacists, including Ku Klux Klan members and neo-Nazis, rallied at the University of Virginia. Cantwell is facing three felonies. This is Cantwell speaking with Vice reporter Elle Reeve about Ivanka Trump.
Christopher Cantwell: “I’m here to spread ideas, talk, in the hopes that somebody more capable will come along and do that, somebody like Donald Trump who does not give his daughter to a Jew. … I don’t think that you could feel about race the way I do and watch that Kushner bastard walk around with that beautiful girl?”
Meanwhile, the Trump administration has issued a permit for a white supremacist rally in San Francisco this weekend. On Wednesday, the National Park Service approved the rally, despite the objection of local leaders. The armed right-wing extremist group, the Oath Keepers, says they’ll send members to the rally. Major anti-racist counter-rallies are already being planned.
In Syria, the local journalistic group Raqqa Is Being Slaughtered Silently says the U.S.-led coalition has launched over 100 airstrikes in Raqqa over the last few days and that the airstrikes and U.S. artillery fire have killed dozens of civilians since the weekend. The major bombardment comes as Amnesty International released an in-depth investigation documenting how hundreds of civilians have been killed and injured since the U.S.-backed offensive began in June to seize control of the ISIS stronghold. Survivors and witnesses told Amnesty International that they were trapped between ISIS militants on one side and the U.S.-led coalition force’s constant barrage of artillery strikes and airstrikes on the other side. We’ll have more on the U.S.-backed offensive in Raqqa after headlines.
In Paris, friends and family members gathered for the funeral of Syrian actress, activist and poet Fadwa Suleiman, one of the most recognizable faces of the Syrian revolution. Despite being of Alawite descent like Syrian leader Bashar al-Assad, Suleiman rebelled against the regime and helped lead major nonviolent protests in Homs. She was pursued by state security forces and forced to flee Syria in 2012. She died of cancer last week at the age of 47. This is Syrian activist Mazen Alhummada.
Mazen Alhummada: “Fadwa is one of the brilliant Syrian women who have given us a beautiful example of the Syrian revolution, even though she was somewhat considered part of the Assad regime. But she rebelled against this regime after she saw her people demanding their freedom and dignity, joining them and the revolution, even leaving behind her popularity.”
In Yemen, a U.S.-backed, Saudi-led airstrike north of the capital Sana’a killed at least 41 people Wednesday when it struck a hotel. Local doctors say the victims were farmers and that there were up to 100 people inside the hotel at the time of the attack. Some witnesses, however, told the AP the victims included Houthi rebels. The death toll is expected to rise, as more than a dozen bodies are still buried under the rubble. This is emergency worker Yehia Hussein.
Yehia Hussein: “The Saudi-American aggressors targeted the hotel where khat traders were staying. They were approximately 100 people in the hotel. We found 35 martyrs and some body parts belonging to the victims. There are almost 13 wounded, and the rest of the victims are still under the rubble.”
President Trump’s son-in-law and senior adviser Jared Kushner visited Saudi Arabia on Tuesday, where he met with Mohammed bin Salman, the new crown prince and defense minister in charge of the ongoing Saudi bombing campaign in Yemen. Kushner also met with Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi in Egypt on Wednesday, following the U.S. decision to withhold some military funding to Egypt amid the country’s deteriorating human rights conditions. Despite withholding some funding, the United States continues to give massive military aid to Egypt. Amnesty International said, “Humvees, small arms, and tear gas provided by the U.S. are used to oppress critics of the Egyptian government and facilitate serious human rights violations like extra-judicial executions.” The White House has refused to say exactly where Jared Kushner is going during his Middle East trip, although it’s known he’s also met with Jordanian King Abdullah in Amman, the emir of Qatar in Doha, and that he’s slated to meet with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas today.
A White House memo has outlined some of the details on President Trump’s ban on transgender people serving in the U.S. military. The memo instructs the Pentagon to refuse to admit transgender people to the military and to stop paying for the medical treatments for transgender people who are currently serving in the military. The memo gives the Pentagon six months to implement the ban, which was first announced on Twitter by President Trump in late July, sparking widespread outrage. Five transgender military members have sued Trump over the ban. Thousands of transgender people are currently serving in the U.S. military.
The Indian Supreme Court has ruled in a landmark case that individual privacy is a fundamental right under the Constitution—a ruling that could threaten the future of the world’s largest biometric identification program. The case was over whether mandatory use of the national identity cards violated individuals’ privacy rights. The ID cards began as a voluntary program but then became required to receive social services, to open a bank account, to receive college scholarships and to access other government programs. The cards collect a slew of personal information and data. Activists say the Supreme Court ruling is a major victory for privacy rights in India.
The science envoy for the U.S. State Department, Dan Kammen, has resigned in protest of President Trump’s refusal to quickly condemn the deadly white supremacist violence in Charlottesville, Virginia, earlier this month. In his resignation letter, Kammen writes, “Your presence in the White House harms the United States domestically and abroad and threatens life on this planet.” The first letter of each paragraph of his resignation letter spells out the word “impeach.” This is now-resigned science envoy Dan Kammen, speaking to Democracy Now! during the 2016 climate change conference in Marrakech, Morocco, just after President Trump was elected.
Dan Kammen: “To be a climate denier in 2016 is to simply ignore science. A businessman is supposed to be flexible and thoughtful about opportunity. Clean energy is an economic boon, and it’s a boon for equity around the planet. And to turn your back on that is to put ideology over simple, good clean energy business and clean energy jobs.”
In Mexico, journalist Cándido Ríos Vázquez of the newspaper Diario de Acayucan has been murdered in the state of Veracruz. The longtime crime reporter had for years received death threats from a former local mayor, Gaspar Gómez Jiménez, because of Ríos’s reporting on corruption and the mayor’s alleged connection to the disappearance of a local clerk. His wife says hired men had beaten him up in his home and had threatened to cut out his tongue. This is his wife, Hilda Martínez.
Hilda Martínez: “I ask that justice is done and that they do a thorough investigation to see if it was personal or what. Since Gaspar Gómez Jiménez always threatened him with death, I am not too sure. I also want security for myself, so they don’t do the same thing to me.”
Cándido Ríos Vázquez was shot to death on Tuesday, despite being enrolled in a government program aimed at protecting the lives of journalists. He is at least the ninth journalist killed in Mexico so far this year.
Meanwhile, the dismembered remains of Swedish journalist Kim Wall have been discovered washed up on a Copenhagen beach. Wall was last seen alive on August 10, when she boarded the submarine of Danish inventor Peter Madsen, who has been charged with involuntary manslaughter in her death. Wall had written for The New York Times, Harper’s and The Guardian and had won an award for her reporting on climate change and nuclear weapons testing in the Marshall Islands. Denmark’s largest daily newspaper has called her death “the most spectacular murder case in Danish history.”
In the Philippines, major protests against President Rodrigo Duterte’s so-called war on drugs are spreading across the capital Manila, as thousands rally to demand justice for 17-year-old Kian Loyd delos Santos. The high school student was killed last week by police during anti-drug raids. While the police claim they shot the teenager after he pulled out a gun, footage shows two police officers dragging the unarmed student through the streets. Witnesses say the student’s final words before he was shot in the head were “Please stop. Please stop. I have a test tomorrow.” Duterte’s drug war has killed at least 12,500 since he took office last year.
Back in the United States, the pharmaceutical giant Johnson & Johnson has spoken out against its drugs being used in executions. Today, the state of Florida is slated to use an anesthetic drug developed by a division of Johnson & Johnson in the execution of death row prisoner Mark Asay. If carried out, it will be the first time this drug is used in a U.S. execution. In response, the Johnson & Johnson division said, “We do not condone the use of our medicines in lethal injections for capital punishment.”
A federal judge has again blocked Texas’s harsh voter ID law, saying the revised version of the law does not correct the discrimination in the earlier version, and in fact could even further restrict voting rights. The Texas law, first imposed in 2011, created a list of IDs required to vote that skewed heavily toward IDs carried by whites, such as gun licenses, while excluding IDs often carried by people of color, such as government employee IDs and public university IDs.
The new version does not expand the list of acceptable IDs. Instead, it allows people without the IDs to vote if they bring additional paperwork and sign an affidavit. But Judge Gonzales Ramos says the criminal penalties attached to lying on the affidavit could deter people from voting because they could fear prosecution if they make an honest mistake on the form.
In New York City, more than 1,000 people rallied in support of former San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick outside the National Football League headquarters in Manhattan Wednesday. Last season, Kaepernick began kneeling during the national anthem to protest racism and police brutality against African Americans. His actions sparked similar protests across the NFL and other professional sports leagues. He has yet to be signed by an NFL team for the upcoming season, which many believe is a retaliation for his activism. This is 15-year-old Luis Franco speaking during Wednesday’s protest.
Luis Franco: “My name is Luis. I’m here to watch the protest of Colin Kaepernick being whiteballed out of the NFL for taking a knee. There’s a lot of black people being killed with no justice. And they say justice for all. We’re all Americans. We all live here in America. He’s taking a knee for the people that are not getting any justice. And for the NFL to take him out and tell him that he’s not allowed to play, I think, is wrong. I play football myself for my town, my city, and I think what’s going on is wrong. I don’t think that he should have been in any trouble for taking the knee. I understand why he took the knee. I understand his reason for the knee. I would have done the same thing if I was in his position.”
And in the Marshall Islands, the longtime political leader and anti-nuclear activist Tony deBrum has died at the age of 72. DeBrum helped organize for his country’s independence from the United States and went on to serve in a number of top political positions during his 50-year career in government. He was one of the world’s most prominent voices confronting climate change, which threatens the future of the Marshall Islands. He also spent decades organizing against nuclear weapons, after having witnessed firsthand the United States’ nuclear testing on his homeland. This is Tony deBrum, speaking in 2015 as he accepted the Right Livelihood Award, known as the alternative Nobel Peace Prize.
Tony deBrum: “Decades after the conclusion of devastating nuclear testing in the Marshall Islands, I might be branded by some as a radical for my impassioned conviction against the use, testing or possession of nuclear weapons. But this is not radical. It is only logical. … I have seen with my very own eyes such devastation and know, with conviction, that nuclear weapons must never again be visited upon humanity. … Between 1946 and 1958, the United States conducted 67 large-scale nuclear tests in the Marshall Islands. That is the equivalence of 1.6 Hiroshima shots every day for 12 years.”
Tony deBrum died Tuesday in Majuro, the capital of the Marshall Islands.