The Brazilian Supreme Court has rejected an attempt by former Brazilian President Luiz Inácio da Silva to stay out of jail while he appeals a controversial corruption conviction. The court voted 6 to 5 against Lula, who had been the front-runner in this year’s Brazilian presidential election. It now appears Lula may soon be arrested and jailed. Lula is a former union leader who served as president of Brazil from 2003 to 2010. During that time, he helped lift tens of millions of Brazilians out of poverty. Supporters of Lula decried the ruling, saying it’s a continuation of the coup that ousted Lula’s ally Dilma Rousseff from power last year.
Andrea Barbosa: “We are on Lula’s side today, protesting in the street and fighting for democracy.”
During an interview on Democracy Now! last month, President Lula said his prosecution is part of an attempt to criminalize the Workers’ Party.
Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva: “Now, what is behind that is the attempt to criminalize my political party. What is behind that is the interest in a part of the political elite of Brazil, together with a part of the press, reinforced by the role of the judiciary, in preventing Lula from becoming a candidate in the 2018 elections.”
President Donald Trump has signed an order directing the National Guard to deploy to the U.S.-Mexico border, claiming the situation at the border has now reached a “point of crisis.” Trump’s order comes as border crossings by undocumented immigrants are at their lowest levels since 1971. Trump becomes at least the third president in a row to send the National Guard to the border. Meanwhile, The Wall Street Journal reports the Trump administration is requesting that the U.S. military build walls for at least one military base along the U.S.-Mexico border. We will have more on Trump’s border militarization plans after headlines.
President Trump has backed off his plan to soon withdraw U.S. troops from Syria. On Wednesday, White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said the administration would not put an “arbitrary timeline” on withdrawal. Earlier this week, Gen. Joseph Votel, the head of U.S. Central Command, said, “The hard part, I think, is in front of us.” Meanwhile, the Associated Press reports U.S. forces have been spotted setting up front-line positions outside the strategic northern town of Manbij, where U.S.-backed, Kurdish-led forces are facing off against Turkish-backed Syrian fighters.
In Oklahoma, schools remain closed for a fourth day as teachers across the state continue to strike for better pay and increased funding for education. On Wednesday, teachers rallied inside the state House in Oklahoma City.
Oklahoma teachers: “We’re not leaving! We’re not leaving! We’re not leaving! We’re not leaving!”
Oklahoma teacher: “This is not enough. This simple Amazon bill or the ball-and-dice bill that’s being heard in the Senate are not enough to fully fund education and to make up for the breaks and for the cuts that we’ve had the past 10 years. And so, this is a great start, but educators will not leave this Capitol until education is fully funded again.”
More than 100 Oklahoma teachers have set off on a 100-mile, 7-day march from Tulsa, Oklahoma, to the state Capitol building, where they’ll join tens of thousands more teachers. Meanwhile, in related news, teachers’ protests continued yesterday in Kentucky’s capital, Frankfort. Two hundred protesters marched down Capitol Avenue, some invoking Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.’s legacy on the 50th anniversary of his assassination and urging Kentuckians to fight a move to gut their pension benefits.
Facebook has revealed it now believes the personal information of up to 87 million people may have been improperly shared without their permission with the voter-profiling company Cambridge Analytica, which worked to sway voters to support President Donald Trump. During a call with reporters on Wednesday, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg said, “We didn’t take a broad enough view on what our responsibility was, and that was a huge mistake.” Zuckerberg is scheduled to testify on Capitol Hill next week.
More than 3,000 Google employees have signed a letter urging the company to stop working on an artificial intelligence program with the Pentagon to improve the targeting of drone strikes. The letter reads in part, “We believe that Google should not be in the business of war.”
The Israeli human rights group B’Tselem has launched its first-ever campaign to urge Israeli soldiers to refuse orders to shoot at unarmed Palestinian protesters. The group has taken out ads in major Israeli newspapers, stating, “Soldier, the order to use lethal force against civilians who do not pose mortal danger is patently illegal.” The campaign was launched days after Israeli forces shot dead up to 18 Palestinian protesters during a peaceful demonstration in Gaza near the Israeli border. Meanwhile, the head of the Arab League has called on the International Criminal Court in The Hague to investigate Israel’s actions.
Macedonia has issued a formal apology to Khaled el-Masri, a German citizen who was wrongly seized by Macedonian intelligence services while on vacation in 2003, then handed over to the CIA. The CIA stripped him naked and drugged him, before flying him to a secret U.S. jail in Afghanistan where he was repeatedly tortured. Five months later—long after the CIA concluded el-Masri was innocent—he was flown to Albania and left by the side of a rural road in the middle of the night. The U.S. has never apologized or held anyone responsible for its role in his detention and torture.
A whistleblower known as the “Edward Snowden of banking” has been arrested in Madrid on an arrest warrant issued by Switzerland. In 2008, Hervé Falciani blew the whistle on a massive tax evasion scheme run by his former employer, the Swiss bank HSBC. Probes were launched around the world after Falciani provided French authorities with files on over 100,000 prominent clients of HSBC. While hailed as a hero by many transparency advocates, he was convicted two years ago of economic espionage in Switzerland.
Here in New York, police officers responding to a 911 call shot dead a mentally troubled African-American man on a street corner in Brooklyn on Thursday. At the time of his death, Saheed Vassell was holding a metal pipe that looked like a shower head. Police say they mistook it for a gun. The NYPD said four officers—three in plainclothes and one uniformed—fired 10 rounds at Vassell, a Jamaican immigrant. One witness said, “They didn’t say 'freeze, hands up, drop your gun,' none of that. They didn’t say nothing. All they did was start shooting.” Vassell’s father said his son was bipolar. Wednesday’s shooting sparked an intense standoff between angry residents who knew Vassell and police.
Protester: “Murderers! You guys kill us all! You guys kill us! A young man, in his own community, shot down yet again. Yet again!”
In related news, the city of Long Beach, California, has agreed to pay $2 million to the family of Mharloun Saycon, who was killed by police three years ago. Saycon was a Filipino immigrant who had been diagnosed as bipolar and schizophrenic.
More than 10,000 people marched in Memphis Wednesday to honor the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. on the 50th anniversary of his assassination. At 6:01 p.m., a moment of silence was held, then bells tolled 39 times, once for each year he lived. Gatherings were held across Memphis featuring associates of King as well as today’s civil rights leaders, who said King’s dream has still not been realized. This is the Reverend William Barber, who’s leading the new Poor People’s Campaign.
Rev. William Barber: “Black people are shot in the street by police, and others—and many other people die from low wealth and low income. Nothing would be more tragic than for us now, so we must be the resurrection.”
California Democratic Congressmember Barbara Lee was also in Memphis for the anniversary of King’s assassination.
Rep. Barbara Lee: “Each and every one of us must be engaged to be that light that outshines this darkness of chaos coming from the White House. And we must show the world that while an assassin’s bullet killed the dreamer on this sacred ground, on this day 50 years ago, he did not kill the dream.”