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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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Lieutenant General H.R. McMaster will resign as Trump’s national security adviser and be replaced by John Bolton, former U.N. ambassador under President George W. Bush, the White House has announced. Bolton is a foreign policy hawk who has suggested the U.S. military should directly engage Iran and North Korea.
The White House previously denied media reports that President Trump was poised to fire McMaster ahead of a planned U.S.-North Korea summit in May.
John Bolton was named by President George W. Bush in 2005 to be the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations in a recess appointment, after Bush feared he would not be confirmed by the Senate. Bolton is a foreign policy hawk who has suggested the U.S. military should directly engage Iran and North Korea. He once said if the U.N. headquarters in New York lost 10 stories, “it wouldn’t make a bit of difference.” The position of national security adviser does not require Senate confirmation.
In Austin, Texas, authorities have identified the man they say was responsible for a series of six bombings that killed two people and injured at least six others, saying the bomber left behind a video confession. Police say Mark Anthony Conditt, a 23-year-old white man from Austin’s suburbs, died after he blew himself up in his car Wednesday morning as police surrounded him. In a press conference Wednesday afternoon with Texas Republican Governor Greg Abbott, Austin Police Chief Brian Manley described an as-yet-unreleased 25-minute video that Conditt recorded on his cellphone. Manley said the video shows Conditt describing details on how he built six bombs used in the attacks. Despite that, Chief Manley described Conditt as a troubled young man—rather than a terrorist or someone driven by hate.
Police Chief Brian Manley: “I know everybody is interested in a motive and understanding why, and we are never going to be able to put a ration behind these acts. But what I can tell you, having listened to that recording, he does not at all mention anything about terrorism, nor does he mention anything about hate, but instead it is the outcry of a very challenged young man talking about challenges in his personal life.”
The two people killed in the bombings were both members of prominent African-American families in Austin. In blog posts, Conditt described himself as a conservative who was anti-abortion, anti-marriage equality and pro-death penalty.
On Capitol Hill, lawmakers have reached a deal on a $1.3 trillion spending bill that would see a record expansion of the U.S. military—while failing to provide relief to immigrants who were brought to the U.S. as children. If approved ahead of a deadline at the end of Friday, the measure would avert a third government shutdown this year. The bill does not address the DACA program, which gives hundreds of thousands of young undocumented immigrants legal permission to live and work in the United States. President Trump tried to cancel DACA last year, although he has repeatedly been blocked from doing so by the courts.
Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg broke his silence over a burgeoning scandal Wednesday, telling CNN he’s sorry that his company allowed a voter-profiling company named Cambridge Analytica to harvest the data of more than 50 million Facebook users, without their permission, in efforts to sway voters to support President Donald Trump.
Mark Zuckerberg: “So, this was a major breach of trust, and I’m really sorry that this happened. You know, we have a basic responsibility to protect people’s data, and if we can’t do that, then we don’t deserve to have the opportunity to serve people. So, our responsibility now is to make sure that this doesn’t happen again.”
Zuckerberg’s apology came days after CBS reported that Facebook knew about Cambridge Analytica’s data harvesting two years ago but failed to report the practice to users. Cambridge Analytica was founded by billionaire Robert Mercer. Trump’s former adviser Steve Bannon of Breitbart News was one of the company’s key strategists.
Attorney General Jeff Sessions instructed federal prosecutors on Wednesday to seek the death penalty in drug-related cases, saying executions should be used as a deterrent to combat the opioid epidemic. The announcement came amid a push by President Trump to apply capital punishment to drug dealers—citing favorably the policies of Chinese President Xi Jinping and Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte, who has boasted of killing drug dealers himself.
In Israel, a military court reached a plea deal Wednesday with Ahed Tamimi, a 17-year-old Palestinian girl who became a hero to Palestinians after viral video showed her slapping a soldier near her family’s home in the occupied West Bank. The incident came just after Ahed Tamimi learned her 15-year-old cousin, Mohammed Tamimi, had been shot in the head at close range by an Israeli soldier using a rubber-coated steel bullet. Ahed Tamimi faced 12 charges, including assaulting a soldier and incitement to violence. Under terms of the plea deal, Ahed Tamimi’s lawyer says the 17-year-old will be sentenced to eight months in jail and must pay a fine of 5,000 shekels, or about $1,400. After the plea agreement was presented, Ahed Tamimi told reporters in the courtroom, “There is no justice under the occupation.” Her father, Bassem Tamimi, later told Reuters that the case attracted the attention of Westerners because of his daughter’s light skin and blonde hair.
Bassem Tamimi: “When the European people see my daughter, blonde and the blue eyes, they’re shocked, because they saw their children in front of them. It broke the stereotype of the image of the Palestinian in the international community, which they’re brainwashed by the media, formal media, done for the Palestinians. They saw the Palestinians like them.”
We’ll have more on the case of Ahed Tamimi with our guests after headlines.
In Burma, a pair of Reuters journalists reached their 100th day behind bars Wednesday, as they face up to 14 years in prison for allegedly violating Burma’s Official Secrets Act. Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo were arrested on December 12 as they investigated a massacre committed by the Burmese military targeting Rohingya Muslims in the village of Inn Din last September. As police led him away from a courthouse in Rangoon, Kyaw Soe Oo briefly held his young daughter and addressed reporters.
Kyaw Soe Oo: “I would like to record for my daughter that people who reported the truth were detained and put behind bars in Burma. I want my daughter to know when she grows up that this is a shame. Please record this, so that my daughter knows the things that happened with this government: The truth seekers were arrested, were put behind bars, and media freedom was curtailed.”
On Wednesday, members of Hong Kong’s Foreign Correspondents’ Club said it has gathered 42,000 signatures calling for the release of the journalists. Members of the club say Burma’s Embassy in Hong Kong closed its doors early on Wednesday in an effort to avoid receiving the petition.
In Nigeria, dozens of schoolgirls who had been kidnapped from their school in the northern town of Dapchi were released Wednesday, more than a month after they were taken during a raid by Boko Haram militants. Government officials say 101 of the 110 girls who were abducted on February 19 were returned and that at least five girls died during their ordeal. One witness said the five were crushed to death as militants herded them into vehicles to be returned. Many of the girls showed signs of dehydration and malnourishment.
In Peru, President Pedro Pablo Kuczynski resigned Wednesday, one day before he was scheduled to face an impeachment trial after videos surfaced showing his allies trying to bribe opposition lawmakers. In a national address, Kuczynski proclaimed his innocence even as he said he would step aside.
President Pedro Pablo Kuczynski: “In the face of this difficult situation that has developed and has unjustly made me appear guilty of acts that I have not participated in, I think the best thing for the country is that I resign as president of the republic.”
Vice President Martín Vizcarra will replace Kuczynski, who narrowly survived an impeachment vote late last year after he attempted to conceal his business ties to a Brazilian construction firm which is at the center of a massive corruption scandal that has spread across Latin America.
Back in the United States, the Federal Reserve on Wednesday raised interest rates by a quarter of a percentage point, in the first such hike since Fed Chair Jerome Powell replaced Janet Yellen as head of the U.S. central bank. Powell signaled the Fed is prepared to raise rates two more times this year—amid pressure from investors who fear that rising wages for blue-collar workers could add to inflation.
A veteran Fox News analyst has quit the cable news network, saying he can no longer work for the channel “in good conscience.” In an open letter released Tuesday, retired U.S. Army Colonel Ralph Peters writes that Fox News hosts routinely “dismiss facts and empirical reality.” Peters also blasted the network over its unwavering support for President Trump, writing, “In my view, Fox has degenerated from providing a legitimate and much-needed outlet for conservative voices to a mere propaganda machine for a destructive and ethically ruinous administration.”
The Washington Post reports more than 187,000 students have been exposed to gun violence at school in the 19 years since the Columbine High School massacre in 1999. Despite the high number, school shootings represent only a tiny fraction of U.S. gun violence, which claims more than 13,000 lives each year. The Post’s report comes days ahead of Saturday’s historic March for Our Lives rally in Washington, D.C., which will be led by student survivors of the Parkland, Florida, high school massacre. Tune in to our coverage from the Washington, D.C., rally. Democracy Now! will be there, broadcasting from noon to 4 p.m. Eastern Time.
In Tempe, Arizona, police investigators have released video from a self-driving car operated by Uber, showing an emergency back-up driver—a human—was not paying attention to the road in the moments leading up to a fatal crash. An external camera shows the car about to strike pedestrian Elaine Herzberg, who was pushing a bicycle across the four-lane road. An internal camera recording shows driver Rafaela Vasquez looking down and failing to pay attention to the road just before the car struck Herzberg, who is believed to be the first pedestrian killed in association with new self-driving technology.
In New York City, advocates for taxi workers say an immigrant cab driver committed suicide as he faced financial ruin due to a shift away from yellow cabs and toward ride-hailing app-based services like Uber and Lyft. Sixty-five-year-old Nicanor Ochisor, who drove a New York City yellow cab for nearly 30 years, was found hanged to death from a wooden beam in a Queens garage last Friday. Ochisor owned a taxi medallion and shared driving duties with his wife, who picked up morning shifts, while he worked evenings, in an unsuccessful struggle to make ends meet. The New York Taxi Workers Alliance says Ochisor’s death is the fourth such suicide of a driver in recent months. In February, livery car driver Douglas Schifter killed himself outside the gates of City Hall, after writing in a suicide note posted to Facebook, “I will not be a slave working for chump change. I would rather be dead.”
In Sacramento, California, police have released a pair of videos showing the moments before a pair of officers shot and killed 22-year-old Stephon Clark, an African-American father of two who was gunned down in his own backyard. At the time of the killing, officers were investigating a 911 call reporting someone in a hoodie in the neighborhood breaking the windows of cars. One newly released video, taken from a police helicopter, shows thermal images of Clark being pursued outside his home by two officers, who draw their pistols on him.
Officer 1: “All I can tell you is he’s got a hoodie on. He’s running toward the front yard at 29th Street, 29th Street. He’s looking into another car that’s in between the fence and the front yard.”
Another disturbing video, from a body camera worn by one of the officers, shows the moment Clark was killed in a hail of 20 bullets as both officers opened fire.
Officer 2: “Show me your hands! Gun! Gun! Gun! [gunshots] 5-7, shots fired. Suspect down!”
The Sacramento Police Department says officers waited for about five minutes before approaching Clark to administer medical attention after they shot him in his own yard. The officers initially claimed they opened fire after Clark advanced toward them holding an object they believed was a gun. In a separate statement, the department later said the officers believed at the time that Clark was holding a “tool bar.” Clark was found to have only a cellphone on him at the time of his death.
Mississippi Republican Governor Phil Bryant has named the state’s agriculture commissioner, Cindy Hyde-Smith, to serve as U.S. senator as fellow Republican Thad Cochran steps aside due to poor health. Hyde-Smith will become the first woman Mississippi has ever sent to Congress. She’s expected to begin campaigning immediately for a special election for the Senate seat in November.
New York City has launched an investigation into the real estate company formerly headed by President Trump’s son-in-law and senior adviser Jared Kushner, amid reports the company illegally falsified building permits. City officials are looking into an Associated Press report that Kushner Companies regularly claimed it had no rent-regulated tenants in its buildings, when it in fact had hundreds, in a move that allowed the company to skirt regulations. The AP reports the false documents were filed while Jared Kushner was running the company—and before he joined the Trump White House. New York City Councilmember Ritchie Torres says he’ll make a criminal referral if the city uncovers evidence that Jared Kushner committed a crime. If convicted on a local charge, Kushner would not be eligible for a presidential pardon. The probe came as a New York tenants’ rights group filed suit against Kushner Companies, alleging it neglected properties and used round-the-clock construction to force tenants out of rent-stabilized homes. This is Aaron Carr of the group Housing Rights Initiative, speaking Monday.
Aaron Carr: “It is abundantly clear that Kushner Companies made the lives of its tenants a living hell, from tactics that include around-the-clock construction, rodent infestation, potential asbestos exposure, black mold, collapsed buildings—and, yes, even collapsed buildings. Construction harassment is literally a form of physical and psychological torture. It is designed to make the living situation of a tenant unbearable, to the point where they are willing to give up the most valuable thing a tenant can have in New York City in the midst of an affordable housing crisis—affordability.”