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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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The U.S. Senate has wrapped up four days of open debate without advancing a single measure on immigration. In four separate votes Thursday, senators failed to reach the 60 votes needed to move forward on legislation that would have protected 1.8 million young undocumented immigrants known as DREAMers—while further militarizing the U.S.-Mexico border. The failed votes came after President Trump blasted a bipartisan bill as a “total catastrophe” and threatened a veto. This is Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, Democrat of New York.
Sen. Chuck Schumer: “There’s only one reason why the Senate will be unable to reach a bipartisan solution to DACA: President Trump. President Trump created this problem by terminating the DACA program last August. Since that decision, President Trump has stood in the way of every single proposal that could become law.”
A measure supported by President Trump got the least number of votes—just 39 out of 100. It would have sharply curtailed U.S. immigration quotas and expanded border militarization funding by $25 billion, while providing a lengthy path to citizenship for DREAMers. Unless Congress passes an immigration bill, hundreds of thousands of DREAMers could see their DACA status begin expiring as early as March 5—although two federal courts have ruled the Trump administration cannot end the program.
Meanwhile, DACA recipients and their supporters have launched a 250-mile, 15-day march from New York City to Washington, D.C., where they plan a mass protest ahead of DACA’s March 5 expiration date. This is DACA recipient Li Adorno, speaking at the start of the march in Lower Manhattan.
Li Adorno: “I feel like my parents and people around the country who are undocumented have sacrificed so much. And like to this day, they’re criminalized every night in the evening news, right? And we feel like that’s not fair. We’re asking for dignity and respect for everyone, right? Not just the DREAMers, because right now we’re getting a lot of attention. … Politicians keep promising us like reforms or fixes, but nothing ever happens, right? So this walk is not necessarily towards politicians to change their mind, but more towards the community. We see that the community responds better than they do.”
In Parkland, Florida, students and family members gathered for a candlelight vigil Thursday night to mourn the 17 people who were killed on Wednesday in one of the deadliest school shootings in U.S. history. The massacre at the Stoneman Douglas High School in Broward County, Florida, was the 18th school shooting this year. At least 15 other people were wounded in the attack by a 19-year-old former student named Nikolas Cruz, who used a semiautomatic AR-15 rifle and multiple magazines. On Thursday, Lori Alhadeff, the mother of 14-year-old shooting victim Alyssa Alhadeff, spoke on CNN.
Lori Alhadeff: “The gunman, a crazy person, just walks right into the school, knocks down the window of my child’s door and starts shooting, shooting her and killing her. President Trump, you say, what can you do? You can stop the guns from getting into these children’s hands!”
On Thursday, Nikolas Cruz confessed to carrying out the mass shooting, according to a police report. Cruz was a former member of Junior ROTC who was obsessed with guns and had been expelled from the high school. CNN reports that Broward sheriff’s deputies were called to the Cruz family home 39 times since 2010 for reports of domestic disturbances. Despite those calls and other warning signs, Cruz was able to purchase his AR-15 semiautomatic assault rifle legally at the Sunrise Tactical Supply gun store in Coral Springs, Florida.
At the White House, President Trump gave a speech Thursday in which he made no mention of guns, but instead spoke about mental health.
President Donald Trump: “Our administration is working closely with local authorities to investigate the shooting and learn everything we can. We are committed to working with state and local leaders to help secure our schools and tackle the difficult issue of mental health.”
President Trump’s comments sparked outrage from gun safety advocates, who pointed out that last February President Trump repealed an Obama-era regulation that made it harder for some people with severe mental disabilities to purchase firearms. According to the Center for Responsive Politics, the NRA spent over $52 million in political advertisements in the 2016 election—with more than $11 million spent in support of Trump’s campaign alone. We’ll have more on the Florida shooting and the United States’ epidemic of gun violence after headlines.
In South Africa, African National Congress leader Cyril Ramaphosa has been confirmed as the new president, after the former leader, President Jacob Zuma, resigned from office abruptly on Wednesday night amid a series of corruption scandals. This is Cyril Ramaphosa, speaking Thursday.
President Cyril Ramaphosa: “The issues that you have raised, issues that have to do with corruption, issues of how we can straighten out our state-owned enterprises and how we deal with state capture, are issues that are on our radar screen. Those are issues that we’re going to be addressing.”
Cyril Ramaphosa once led the National Union of Mineworkers under apartheid in the 1980s and later became one of Africa’s richest men as he built a business empire that included mining interests. Later in the broadcast, we’ll go to Johannesburg, South Africa, to speak with activist Koketso Moeti about South Africa’s change in leadership.
Ethiopia’s prime minister said Thursday he will step down from office, after a massive wave of protests undermined his party’s grip on power. The surprise resignation of Hailemariam Desalegn came just days after Ethiopia released senior Oromo opposition leader Bekele Gerba from prison and just weeks after Ethiopia’s government said it would release political prisoners and close an infamous prison in the capital, Addis Ababa.
In El Salvador, a court has released a woman who was sentenced to 30 years in prison after she gave birth to a stillborn baby. In 2008, Teodora del Carmen Vásquez was convicted on aggravated homicide charges after she went into labor while at work, tried unsuccessfully to summon an ambulance and passed out on the floor of a bathroom after miscarrying. This is Teodora Vásquez speaking just after her release Thursday.
Teodora del Carmen Vásquez: “I know my effort has been worth it, and now I’m very happy to go back to my family again. I was separated from them for 10 years, seven months, but now we’re back together again. Thank you for everything.”
A representative with Amnesty International welcomed the ruling but said at least 27 other women remain behind bars in El Salvador due to obstetric complications.
Back in the United States, a federal appeals court ruled Thursday that President Trump’s latest ban on travelers from six majority-Muslim countries unconstitutionally discriminates against people because of their religious beliefs. Writing for a 9-4 majority at the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, Judge Roger Gregory wrote that Trump’s travel ban was “unconstitutionally tainted with animus toward Islam,” adding, “On a fundamental level, the proclamation second-guesses our nation’s dedication to religious freedom and tolerance.” The Supreme Court has agreed to hear the case in April and has ruled that Trump’s travel ban can be fully enforced until it renders its decision.
The New Yorker reports that Donald Trump went to great lengths to cover up extramarital affairs in the years before he became president. Journalist Ronan Farrow reports that Trump used his close ties to American Media, Inc.—the publisher of the National Enquirer—to quash a story about a consensual sexual affair with Karen McDougal, a former Playboy Playmate of the Year. According to Farrow, the Enquirer paid McDougal $150,000 for the exclusive rights to her story and then buried the piece just before the election. The tabloid also reportedly paid McDougal to write a fitness column in an attempt to further buy her silence.
In New York City, NYPD Police Sergeant Hugh Barry was acquitted Thursday on murder charges in the fatal shooting of African-American woman Deborah Danner in October of 2016. Danner had mental health issues including schizophrenia. Police say she was shot and killed in her own home in the Bronx after a neighbor called 911. When police arrived, they found Danner naked in her bedroom holding a pair of scissors. Sergeant Hugh Barry fatally shot her twice in the chest, saying he feared for his life after the 66-year-old Danner picked up a baseball bat. Barry has been sued twice in recent years for brutality; he was acquitted by Judge Robert Neary in a bench trial after he waived his right to a trial by a Bronx jury.
Austin has become the first city in Texas—and the first in the South—to make paid sick leave a mandatory requirement for non-government employees. Austin’s City Council voted 9-2 early this morning for the measure, which will require employers to provide up to 64 hours of paid sick leave. Click here to see full coverage of the fight for sick leave in Austin and around the country.
And in Texas, supporters of 23-year-old asylum seeker Laura Monterrosa say she was put in solitary confinement for 60 hours at the T. Don Hutto detention center outside Austin in order to pressure her to recant her allegations that she was sexually assaulted by a guard. ICE says Monterrosa was under “medical observation.” But she later made a strange call to her lawyer from an unusual phone number. Grassroots Leadership shared a recording with Democracy Now!
Laura Monterrosa: “I wanted to call you, because I wanted to tell you that everything I had said was false, and I was forced to tell you that, because, if not, they were going to lock me again in that room, and I didn’t want to be locked again in that room.”
This comes as the FBI is conducting a civil rights investigation into the alleged abuse. After her call, dozens of supporters went to visit Monterrosa, who tried to commit suicide in January. She fled El Salvador to escape sexual persecution as a lesbian, and has been detained eight months.