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HeadlinesMay 31, 2019

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Trump Threatens Tariffs on Mexican Goods in Bid to Halt Migrants

May 31, 2019

President Trump said Thursday he will impose a 5% tariff on Mexican goods—and will keep increasing trade sanctions each month until Mexico cracks down on Central American migrants heading for the U.S. border. The announcement caused the Mexican peso to plunge against the dollar, rattled markets around the world and set off fears of a broader trade war. Trump’s tariff threat could derail a trade deal known as the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement, negotiated as a successor to NAFTA at Trump’s insistence. Trump announced his plans for tariffs just hours after Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador sent lawmakers the renegotiated deal for ratification. In a statement, AMLO condemned Trump’s immigration actions and called his slogan “America First” a fallacy.

Trump Administration Plan Would Bar Most Central Americans from Seeking Asylum

May 31, 2019

This comes as the Trump administration is reportedly considering a plan to bar anyone who passes through a third country from seeking asylum at the U.S.-Mexico border. The move would effectively prevent most Central Americans from exercising their right under international law to seek refugee status in the U.S. Meanwhile, The Washington Post reports about half of the 2,000 unaccompanied minors imprisoned at U.S. border facilities are there beyond a 72-hour legal limit, with many spending more than a week in Border Patrol stations and processing centers.

Louisiana Governor Signs Anti-Choice Bill as Missouri’s Last Abortion Clinic Is Set to Close

May 31, 2019

Louisiana on Thursday became the fifth state in the nation to enact a six-week abortion ban, when Democratic Governor John Bel Edwards signed a bill that offers no exceptions for rape or incest. Meanwhile, Missouri is poised today to become the first state in the nation without a single clinic providing abortions, as a judge in St. Louis weighs a last-minute legal challenge to plans by state officials to revoke a medical license for Planned Parenthood’s St. Louis clinic. On Thursday, St. Louis police arrested 17 activists at a state office building as they held a sit-in protest demanding a license renewal. Hundreds more protested outside, chanting “My body, my choice!” This is Kawanna Shannon, director of surgical services at Planned Parenthood’s St. Louis clinic.

Kawanna Shannon: “State of Missouri, please keep your fingers out of our vaginas. Planned Parenthood also does vasectomies. Those men are able to come in with no hassle, no problems, no concerns, and they get their vasectomy free of choice, with no hurdles to jump over. And then a woman comes in, raped by a whole motorcycle gang, and you make her wait 72 hours to think about it.”

Five other states have only a single clinic offering abortions: Kentucky, Mississippi, North Dakota, South Dakota and West Virginia. Later in the broadcast, we’ll speak with Laura Kaplan, author of “The Story of Jane: The Legendary Underground Feminist Abortion Service.”

GOP Gerrymandering Expert Led Push to Add Citizenship Question to Census

May 31, 2019

Newly surfaced documents reveal a senior Republican strategist who specialized in gerrymandering was secretly behind the Trump administration’s efforts to add a citizenship question to the 2020 census. When the strategist, Thomas Hofeller, died last August, he left behind a computer hard drive full of his notes and records. Hofeller’s estranged daughter found among the documents a 2015 study that concluded that adding the citizenship question to the census “would be advantageous to Republicans and non-Hispanic whites” and “would clearly be a disadvantage to the Democrats.” Census officials have estimated 6.5 million people will not respond to the census if the citizenship question is added. This undercount could affect everything from the redrawing of congressional maps to the allocation of federal funding. In a court filing Thursday, plaintiffs challenging the citizenship question accuse two Trump administration officials of falsely testifying under oath about the Justice Department’s motivations for altering the census. The Supreme Court is set to rule within weeks on whether Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross had the authority to add the citizenship question to the census.

Civilians Flee Russian-Backed Syrian Assault on Last Rebel-Held Province

May 31, 2019

In northwestern Syria, a Russian-backed offensive by Syria’s military on the last rebel-held province of Idlib has intensified in recent days, prompting hundreds of thousands of civilians to flee toward Turkey, where officials have sealed border crossings, leaving refugees to fend for themselves in squalid camps as fighting rages nearby. The U.N. said Thursday more than a quarter-million residents of Idlib and neighboring Hama province have been displaced by fighting in recent weeks, with reports of at least 160 civilian deaths. The Union of Medical Care and Relief Organizations says the toll is even higher, with at least 229 civilians killed and more than 700 wounded.


North Korea Executes Special Envoy to the U.S. After Failed Trump Summit

May 31, 2019

North Korea has reportedly executed its special envoy to the United States, after President Trump walked away from a summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong-un in February without a deal on denuclearization. A major South Korean newspaper reports the envoy, Kim Hyok-chol, was shot to death by a firing squad in March at an airfield outside of Pyongyang along with four other North Korean Foreign Ministry officials, and that a translator at the summit was sent to a forced labor camp for committing a translation mistake. This comes as Kim’s sister is said to be “lying low” on her brother’s orders in the wake of the summit’s collapse. She hasn’t been seen in public since.

Colombia Releases Ex-Guerrilla Leader Wanted by the U.S. on Drug Charges

May 31, 2019

Colombia’s Supreme Court has ordered the release of Jesús Santrich, a senior guerrilla commander turned elected official, saying the former rebel could be sworn in as a congressmember under the terms of Colombia’s 2016 peace accord, which ended more than a half-century of civil war. The agreement grants limited amnesty to FARC rebels who lay down arms and confess crimes—including immunity to extradition. Santrich had been jailed at the request of the Trump administration, which is seeking to try him for cocaine trafficking based on an indictment by federal prosecutors in New York. Santrich’s release was a rare rebuke of the Trump administration by the right-wing government of President Iván Duque.

U.S. Drug Agency Targeted Honduran President in Cocaine Trafficking Probe

May 31, 2019

Honduran President Juan Orlando Hernández was targeted by the Drug Enforcement Administration in a large-scale drug trafficking and money laundering probe that began in 2013. Court documents filed by prosecutors in Manhattan earlier this week are part of an ongoing case against Hernández’s brother, Juan Antonio “Tony” Hernández, who was arrested in Miami in November. He is awaiting trial. Eight others were also named in the court documents, including Honduran Security Minister Julián Pacheco. President Hernández is denying the charges. Hernández is a key U.S. ally in Central America. The Trump administration recognized his 2017 victory in an election that was marred by widespread allegations of fraud.

Hondurans Continue Massive Protests Against Privatization Plans

May 31, 2019

Meanwhile, protests are continuing in Honduras against plans by President Hernández to privatize healthcare, pensions and education. Thousands of teachers, medical workers and students flooded the streets of Tegucigalpa again on Thursday, closing the capital city’s airport and drawing tear gas from police.

Protester: “I am here because people are suffering; because I have students who don’t have anything to eat, who come to class hungry. That’s why I’m here.”

Hundreds of Thousands of Brazilian Students Protest Education Cuts

May 31, 2019

In Brazil, hundreds of thousands of students took to the streets of Rio de Janeiro, São Paulo and other cities and towns nationwide Thursday in a massive protest against plans by far-right President Jair Bolsonaro to dramatically slash education spending. Bolsonaro dismissed similar protests earlier this month, calling student demonstrators “imbeciles” and “useful idiots.”

Bangladesh Charges 16 in Murder of Student Who Reported Sexual Assault

May 31, 2019

In Bangladesh, police have charged 16 people over the murder of Nusrat Jahan Rafi, a 19-year-old woman who was burned to death at her school after she filed a sexual assault complaint against her headmaster. The case has brought renewed attention to the plight of sexual assault survivors in Bangladesh and the impunity often granted to perpetrators of sexual violence. A police investigator said he’ll recommend all 16 of those charged with Rafi’s murder face the death penalty.

Trump Attacks Robert Mueller While Admitting Russia Aided His Election

May 31, 2019

Back in the United States, President Trump ramped up his attacks on special counsel Robert Mueller Thursday, appearing to inadvertently admit that Russia helped get him elected in 2016. Trump tweeted, “Russia, Russia, Russia! That’s all you heard at the beginning of this Witch Hunt Hoax…And now Russia has disappeared because I had nothing to do with Russia helping me to get elected.” Speaking to reporters on the White House lawn, Trump later backtracked from the claim, saying, “Russia did not help me get elected.”

Commodity Prices Surge as Severe Weather Hampers Spring Planting

May 31, 2019

At the Chicago Board of Trade, commodity prices for corn and soybeans have soared in recent days, as severe weather continues to hamper the spring planting season. Farmers across the Central United States report flooding and an unprecedented string of deadly tornadoes have left millions of acres of farmland impossible to sow. Environmentalist Bill McKibben tweeted, “Normally, at this point in season 90% of America’s corn crop is in the ground. But thanks to endless rain, it’s 58% this year. For soybeans, 29% planted instead of the usual 66%. A hotter planet=more rain and more drought (and horribly stressed farmers).”

Lone Republican Stalls $19 Billion Disaster Relief Bill

May 31, 2019

On Capitol Hill, a lone Republican lawmaker blocked a bill Thursday to provide $19 billion in disaster relief to U.S. states and territories hit by earthquakes, as well as hurricanes, wildfires and other natural disasters exacerbated by climate change. Congressmember John Rose of Tennessee denied unanimous consent to the bill, declaring it “too expensive.” It’s the third time the bill was halted by Republicans on procedural grounds. The bill is virtually certain to pass next week when representatives return to Washington; it came together after President Trump dropped his demand that lawmakers attach $4.1 billion in border security funding to the legislation.

New Hampshire Abolishes the Death Penalty

May 31, 2019

New Hampshire became the 21st state to outlaw the death penalty Thursday, as lawmakers voted to override a veto by Republican Governor Chris Sununu. New Hampshire hasn’t carried out an execution in 80 years, and has just one prisoner on death row.

House Committee to Convene Hearings on D.C. Statehood

May 31, 2019

In Washington, the House Committee on Oversight and Reform will hold a hearing on D.C. statehood in July. It’s the first time in a quarter-century that a House committee has taken up the issue. In a new Washington Post op-ed, House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer declared his support for statehood, writing, “I was hesitant about D.C. statehood. Now I believe it’s the only path forward.”


Exonerated Death Row Prisoner Harold Wilson Dies at 61

May 31, 2019

And Harold Wilson, who spent 17 years in prison—most of it on death row—for a crime he did not commit, died May 18 from complications from a stroke. He was 61 years old. In 1989, Harold Wilson was convicted of a triple murder and sentenced to death by a Pennsylvania jury. A decade later, Wilson’s death sentence was overturned due to ineffective counsel. However, his murder convictions were not reversed, and he remained on death row for years. Finally, in October of 2005, Wilson won a new trial and was acquitted of all charges after DNA evidence proved his innocence. Speaking to Democracy Now! just after his exoneration, Wilson said he was released with 65 cents and a bus token.

Harold Wilson: “It’s like, you know, after 18 years of dealing with the injustice system, all the abuse—the physical, mental abuse—I’m placed back in society with nothing, just the shelter of family. You know, no means of livelihood, no means of support, no financial bank account, no credit card. No compensation whatsoever.”

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