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You turn to Democracy Now! for ad-free daily news you can trust. Maybe you come for our daily headlines, or our in-depth stories that expose corporate and government abuses of power. You need news that isn't being paid for by campaigns or corporations. We produce our daily news hour at a fraction of the budget of a commercial news operation—all without ads, government funding or corporate sponsorship. How? This model of news depends on your support. Right now, every new monthly sustaining donation to Democracy Now! will be tripled by a generous supporter. That means if you can give just $4 a month, Democracy Now! gets $12 today. Pretty amazing right? If you visit us daily or weekly or even just once a month, start your monthly contribution today. Thanks so much. -Amy Goodman
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The turmoil in the White House continues, as President Trump fired Secretary of Veterans Affairs David Shulkin and said he’d replace him with White House physician, Dr. Ronny Jackson, a rear admiral in the Navy. Dr. Jackson has no experience running a large agency. The Department of Veterans Affairs is the federal government’s second-largest department, with 360,000 employees. Shulkin had been facing criticism for various ethics violations, including using taxpayer money to pay for his wife’s airfare during a trip to Europe last summer. In a New York Times op-ed published Wednesday, Shulkin says he’s actually being ousted because of his opposition to privatizing the Veterans Affairs agency. He wrote, “They saw me as an obstacle to privatization who had to be removed. That is because I am convinced that privatization is a political issue aimed at rewarding select people and companies with profits, even if it undermines care for veterans.”
In Sacramento, California, the family of Stephon Clark is holding his funeral today, as massive protests continue against the police shooting that killed the unarmed African-American man in his grandmother’s backyard. He was shot by Sacramento police 20 times on March 18. Police first claimed he was holding a gun. But they later admitted they found only his cellphone near his body. On Wednesday, White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders called his killing “a local matter.”
Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders: “Certainly a terrible incident, this is something that is a local matter, and it’s something that we feel should be left up to the local authorities at this point.”
We’ll have more on Stephon Clark’s killing, and the protests demanding justice, later in the broadcast.
The leaders of North and South Korea have set the date for their upcoming high-level talks. The landmark summit between President Moon Jae-in and Kim Jong-un will be held on April 27 at Freedom House on the southern side of the Demilitarized Zone. This comes after North Korean leader Kim Jong-un traveled to Beijing in an armored train to meet with Chinese President Xi Jinping. It was the North Korean leader’s first foreign trip since taking office in 2011. During the four-day trip, the two leaders talked about denuclearization, with Kim reportedly saying he was willing to give up North Korea’s nuclear weapons. Kim is also slated to meet soon with President Trump, in what would be the first-ever meeting between a sitting U.S. president and a North Korean leader. Japan has also offered to hold a summit with North Korea. We’ll have more on the developments on North Korea after headlines.
A federal judge has allowed a lawsuit against President Trump to proceed, which is accusing him of flouting constitutional safeguards against corruption and illegally accepting gifts from foreign governments without congressional approval. On Wednesday, the Maryland judge ruled against the Justice Department’s request to throw out the case, which centers on the Trump International Hotel in Washington, D.C. In his decision, the judge said the accusation that Trump is illegally accepting gifts from foreign governments is “bolstered by explicit statements from certain foreign government officials indicating that they are clearly choosing to stay at the president’s hotel, because, as one representative of a foreign government has stated, they want him to know ’I love your new hotel.”’
The New York Times is reporting that President Trump’s former lawyer John Dowd repeatedly floated the idea of pardoning Trump’s former top advisers Michael Flynn and Paul Manafort, who are both under investigation by special counsel Robert Mueller. Critics say the idea of the potential pardons could interfere with Mueller’s investigation, making the two men less likely to cooperate with the special counsel if they know Trump will pardon them if they face charges for refusing to cooperate. The New York Times reports legal experts are divided about whether such offers might constitute obstruction of justice.
A federal judge in Manhattan has denied a motion from Saudi Arabia to dismiss lawsuits accusing the Saudis of providing financial support to those responsible for the September 11 attacks. His decision Wednesday means the lawsuit filed by the victims’ family members can continue. The 9/11 attack was carried out by 19 hijackers, 15 of whom were from Saudi Arabia. The Saudi government has long denied involvement in the attacks.
In Venezuela, at least 68 people have died in a fire in a prison in the northern city of Valencia. Prison officials say the fire erupted during an uprising at the prison. Throughout the day Wednesday, family members gathered outside the prison, demanding information about their loved ones. This is Carmen Caldera.
Carmen Caldera: “They haven’t told me anything. I want to know about my child. I don’t have any information on him. I don’t know anything. We want information about our family members. We need information. Look at how desperate we are.”
The Ecuadorean government has cut off Julian Assange’s internet access in the Ecuadorean Embassy of London, accusing Assange of breaking an agreement not to issue statements that might interfere in the politics of other countries. The suspension of his internet came after Assange challenged Britain’s accusation that Russia was responsible for the poisoning of a Russian spy and his daughter earlier this month. In a statement, the Ecuadorean Embassy said Assange’s social media statements “put at risk the good relations Ecuador maintains with the United Kingdom, with the other states of the European Union, and with other nations.”
Puerto Rico’s Governor Ricardo Roselló challenged Puerto Rico’s unelected, congressionally imposed fiscal control board in an impassioned speech on Wednesday, only hours after the board told the governor they were mandating additional austerity measures, including cuts to the island’s pension system. Roselló has repeatedly rejected the idea of any cuts to the pension system. The proposed additional austerity measures come as Puerto Rico is still recovering from Hurricane Maria.
And the world’s youngest Nobel laureate, Pakistani education activist Malala Yousafzai, has returned to Pakistan for the first time after she was shot by the Taliban for demanding education for girls. In 2012, Yousafzai was shot in the head by a group of Taliban gunmen who boarded her school bus. She survived the serious wounds and now campaigns around the world for girls’ education. During her four-day trip back to Pakistan, she is slated to meet with Pakistan’s prime minister and to inaugurate a new girls’ school. This is Malala speaking in Islamabad, Pakistan, today.
Malala Yousafzai: “I still can’t believe that this is actually happening. For last five years, I have dreamed that I can set foot in my country. Whenever I travel, in plane, car, I see the cities of London, New York, I was told, 'Just imagine you are in Pakistan, you are traveling in Islamabad, that you are in Karachi.' It was never true. But now, today, I see. I am very happy.”