This week, Democracy Now! is celebrating our 22nd birthday. Since our first ever show in February 1996, our daily news hour has brought you fearless journalism and hard-hitting news you can trust. Maybe you rely on our daily headlines. Maybe you come looking for the in-depth stories that expose government and corporate abuses of power. One thing you know you can count on is that Democracy Now! is always free—you'll never hit a paywall. How is this possible? Only with your support. In fact, if everyone reading this gave just $4, it would cover our operating expenses for the whole year. Right now, a generous donor will TRIPLE every donation, meaning your gift today will go three times as far. Pretty amazing, right? Please do your part. Take a moment to give right now for our 22nd birthday.
This week, Democracy Now! is celebrating our 22nd birthday. Since our first show in February 1996, our daily news hour has brought you fearless journalism and hard-hitting news you can trust--all without ads or corporate underwriting. How is this possible? Only with your support. In fact, if everyone reading this gave just $4, it would cover our operating expenses for the whole year. Right now, a generous donor will TRIPLE every donation, meaning your gift today will go three times as far. Pretty amazing, right? Please do your part. Take a moment to give right now for our 22nd birthday.
We rely on contributions from you, our viewers and listeners to do our work. If you visit us daily or weekly or even just once a month, now is a great time to make your monthly contribution.
Please do your part today.
Congress has given final approval to a massive budget bill that will add hundreds of billions of dollars in military and domestic spending over the next two years—without an agreement to protect young undocumented immigrants. The deal was reached in the early-morning hours after a delay by Kentucky Republican Senator Rand Paul extended debate past midnight—leading briefly to a federal government shutdown, the second in recent weeks. This is Senator Rand Paul.
Sen. Rand Paul: “We have a 700-page bill that no one has read, that was printed at midnight. No one will read this bill. Nothing will be reformed. The waste will continue, and government will keep taking your money irresponsibly and adding to a $20 trillion debt.”
The bill failed to meet the demands of immigrant rights groups—and many Democrats—who wanted protection for young undocumented immigrants as part of any spending agreement. The House vote was 240 to 186. Among those voting no was New York Congressmember Nydia Velázquez, who tweeted, “My decision wasn’t easy but we are elected to take tough votes and leaving #Dreamers behind is simply unacceptable.” Despite her opposition and a “no” vote from Democratic Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, 73 House Democrats voted yes and helped the measure pass. We’ll have more on the congressional budget agreement and the fight to protect DREAMers after headlines.
On Wall Street, the Dow Jones stock market index fell by more than 1,000 points Thursday, in the second major loss for U.S. stocks in a week. The tumble brought stock prices down by over 10 percent in what economists officially call a “correction.” Shares in Asian and European stock markets were also sharply down.
In Pyeongchang, South Korea, the 2018 Winter Olympics have opened, with North and South Korean athletes marching together for the first time ever. The games are seen as a pivotal moment for relations between the two countries, who have been officially at war since 1950. In an effort to de-escalate tensions on the Korean Peninsula, North Korea has sent a 500-person delegation of athletes, musicians and performers to the Olympics. North Korean leader Kim Jong-un’s influential sister attended today’s opening ceremony and shook hands with South Korean leader Moon Jae-in; the pair are scheduled to have lunch together. But as the peninsula tries to de-escalate the threat of nuclear war, U.S. Vice President Mike Pence has warned the U.S. is slated to impose another round of sanctions against North Korea. We’ll have more on the 2018 Winter Olympics and tensions on the Korean Peninsula later in the broadcast.
Meanwhile, the Vice President’s Office is denying that Mike Pence offered to meet with openly gay U.S. men’s figure skater Adam Rippon but called off the meeting when Rippon refused—calling a report in USA Today “fake news.” The report was authored by journalist Christine Brennan, who spoke on ”PBS NewsHour” about her recent interview with Adam Rippon.
Christine Brennan: “I talked to him about many things, including Mike Pence being the delegation leader for the U.S. at the opening ceremonies. And Adam Rippon said that—he goes, 'Mike Pence, the same Mike Pence who funded gay conversion therapy?' He said, ’I’m not buying it,’ and was very critical of Pence and President Trump.”
The White House said Thursday that it mishandled the case of Rob Porter, who resigned as staff secretary this week after two of his ex-wives accused him of verbal and physical abuse. This is Deputy White House Press Secretary Raj Shah.
Deputy Press Secretary Raj Shah: “I think it’s fair to say that, you know, we all could have done better over the last few hours, or last few days, in dealing with the situation. But, you know, this was a Rob Porter that I and many others have dealt with, that Sarah dealt with, that other officials, including the chief of staff, have dealt with, and the emerging reports were not reflective of the individual who we had come to know.”
Shah’s statement came as multiple news outlets reported that senior White House officials—including Chief of Staff General John Kelly—knew for months that the FBI had heard testimony from Porter’s ex-wives about verbal and physical abuse. That contradicts Kelly’s account that he was not “fully aware” of the abuse until this week. Kelly initially supported Porter, describing him in a statement as a “man of true integrity and honor.” The statement was reportedly drafted in part by White House Communications Director Hope Hicks, who’s in a romantic relationship with Porter. Rob Porter stepped down Wednesday after The Intercept published photos of his first wife, Colbie Holderness, showing her with a black eye she says she suffered when Porter punched her during a trip to Italy in 2005. The photos’ release came as Porter’s second wife, Jennifer Willoughby, also went public to detail abuse. This is Willoughby speaking with The Washington Post.
Jennifer Willoughby: “I did know that my marriage was bad. I knew that it wasn’t healthy, that the fights and the verbal and emotional abuse that I was enduring was not, quote-unquote, 'normal.' But I don’t think that I had yet put myself in the category of someone whose husband laid hands on her, until that moment.”
The FBI denied Rob Porter permanent clearance to handle classified information, after it heard the domestic violence allegations from Porter’s ex-wives.
Meanwhile, The Washington Post reports dozens of other White House employees lack permanent security clearances as they pursue FBI approval to handle sensitive information. Among them is Jared Kushner, President Trump’s son-in-law and senior adviser, who failed to report over 100 foreign contacts on his initial application, which he has since revised three times.
In Guatemala, press freedom groups are demanding swift government action, after a pair of journalists was found murdered in an apparent execution. On February 1, the bodies of Laurent Ángel Castillo Cifuentes and Luis Alfredo de León Miranda were found in a field near the town of Santo Domingo. Their hands and feet were bound, and both had been shot in the head. In a statement, the Committee to Protect Journalists said the killings will “further chill the climate for press freedom in Guatemala, where journalists work with constant fear of intimidation and violence.” The Association of Journalists of Guatemala reported 11 media workers were killed in the Central American country last year.
Bermuda’s governor has signed a bill that rescinds the right of same-sex couples to marry. The new law reverses a ruling by Bermuda’s Supreme Court last May that allows any two people to wed, making the British territory’s government the first to take away marriage equality rights.
In Illinois, an avowed white supremacist and former Nazi leader is poised to win the Republican Party’s nomination for a U.S. congressional seat. Arthur Jones, who once headed the American Nazi Party, is running unopposed for Illinois’ 3rd Congressional District in Chicago’s suburbs. This is Arthur Jones being interviewed Thursday by CNN’s Alisyn Camerota.
Alisyn Camerota: “It is shocking to hear how vocally and unapologetically racist you are. Are you a Nazi?”
Arthur Jones: “Well, for the past 15, 20 years, I have not had anything to do with any National Socialist organization on a formal basis.”
Alisyn Camerota: “But do you call yourself a Nazi?”
Arthur Jones: “I did have a—I don’t call myself a Nazi. I call myself an American patriot and statesman.”
White supremacists in the self-styled “alt-right” movement are responsible for racist violence that’s left more than 100 people dead or wounded. That’s according to the Southern Poverty Law Center in a new investigation titled “The Alt-Right Is Killing People.” It finds 13 “alt-right”-related fatal episodes committed by young white men since 2014, including mass shootings in Charleston, South Carolina; Isla Vista, California; Roseburg, Oregon; and Quebec City in Canada. The Southern Poverty Law Center reports, “Websites like Breitbart, Reddit and 4chan have fueled the growth of the alt-right by spreading radicalizing propaganda designed to nourish white male resentment over cultural and demographic changes.”
Ohio’s attorney general filed suit against chemical giant DuPont on Thursday, charging the company with illegally dumping a toxic chemical from its Washington Works plant into the Ohio River for decades. The suit charges DuPont released the chemical, which is used in Teflon coating, even though it knew of the dangers of PFOA, also known as C8, which has been linked to cancer, thyroid disease, high cholesterol and low birth weight in babies. The Ohio lawsuit comes as the Environmental Protection Agency ordered DuPont to test water near its Washington Works plant for another chemical, GenX—which was billed as a replacement for C8 but which is linked to many of the same health problems. To see a full discussion about Teflon, DuPont and C8, you can go to our discussion at Sundance, when we interviewed those involved with the film “The Devil We Know.”
In Seattle, Washington, federal agents and local police have searched the home of a former U.S. Olympic swimming coach, after former world champion Ariana Kukors said she was sexually abused as a minor. Kukors says she was sexually assaulted by the coach, Sean Hutchison, on trips and during training sessions in Seattle, beginning when she was 16 years old. Kukor says Hutchison also took nude photos of her without her consent.
President Trump’s anti-immigrant policies led to a 30 percent jump in the number of arrests carried out by ICE last year, according to a new review of ICE data by the Pew Research Center. Even so, 2017 saw far fewer immigration arrests than many of the years that President Obama was in office—including 2009, when ICE arrested nearly 300,000 people, more than double last year’s total.
The Trump administration is considering a plan that could see immigrants who apply for several forms of U.S. government assistance barred from obtaining visas or green cards. A draft document from the Department of Homeland Security obtained by the website Vox shows the plan would target immigrants who enroll their children in Head Start or the Children’s Health Insurance Program, known as CHIP, or who apply for food stamps, housing, home heating or transportation subsidies. Immigrant rights groups say the draft rules could force many families to choose between subsistence and a chance to become permanent U.S. residents.
In Tacoma, Washington, at least 120 immigrants detained by ICE at the Northwest Detention Center have begun a hunger strike, protesting abuses at the hands of guards with the for-profit prison company GEO Group. The prisoners are demanding larger portions of edible, nutritious food; an end to arbitrary searches; and an end to the widespread use of solitary confinement at the prison.
And immigrant rights activist Ravi Ragbir, executive director of the New Sanctuary Coalition of New York, heads to court today in New Jersey, where he’s challenging his 2001 conviction for wire fraud—in a case that could see a judge stay an order for his pending deportation. Ragbir has been ordered to report to a check-in with Immigration and Customs Enforcement on Saturday in Manhattan, and supporters have secured a permit to protest at 9 a.m. This week, the New York City Council held a hearing about whether NYPD should have helped ICE agents escort Ragbir when they tried to deport him after his last check-in. This is Ragbir speaking Thursday.
Ravi Ragbir: “I have a lot of terror in my heart. My wife has a lot of terror right now that she is dealing with. Many of you who are here with me are feeling that terror together with me.”
This comes as Mayor Bill de Blasio wrote a letter to ICE this week saying the “beloved New York City community leader” should get to stay, and Congressmember Nydia Velázquez has introduced a private immigration bill that, if passed, would provide Ragbir with a path toward permanent legal immigration status.