In these times of elections, climate chaos and COVID-19, independent news is more important than ever. You turn to Democracy Now! because you trust that when we're reporting on the pandemic or the uprisings against police brutality—or the climate crisis—our coverage is not brought to you by the fossil fuel, insurance or weapons industries or Big Pharma. We count on YOU to make our work possible. Today, a generous supporter will DOUBLE your new monthly donation to Democracy Now!, meaning your gift will go twice as far. This is a challenging time for us all, but if you're able to make a monthly donation and provide us with support we can rely on all year, please do so today. Stay safe, and thank you so much.
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.
The U.S. Justice Department has asked authorities in Gibraltar to halt their planned release of an Iranian supertanker seized by British marines in July, in the Trump administration’s latest escalation of tensions with Tehran. Iran condemned Britain’s seizure of the Grace 1 ship last month, saying it was a violation of the landmark nuclear deal from which the Trump administration withdrew last year. Britain accused the tanker of transporting oil to Syria in breach of European Union sanctions. Iran retaliated days later by impounding a British tanker in the Strait of Hormuz.
In China, hundreds of paramilitary soldiers have massed at a sports stadium in Shenzhen as pro-democracy activists continue to hold protests day and night in neighboring Hong Kong. Video shows scores of military-style vehicles and hundreds of uniformed members of the People’s Armed Police Force in riot gear conducting exercises earlier today. On Wednesday evening, Hong Kong riot police fired tear gas to clear protesters who flashed laser pointers at a police station. Local officials threatened to jail protesters for life, and the ruling Communist Party’s official newspaper called on authorities to use the “sword of the law to stop violence and restore order.” Meanwhile, President Trump offered to mediate a solution to the Hong Kong crisis, writing in a tweet, “I know President Xi of China very well. He is a great leader who very much has the respect of his people. He is also a good man in a 'tough business.' I have ZERO doubt that if President Xi wants to quickly and humanely solve the Hong Kong problem, he can do it. Personal meeting?”
On Wall Street, the stock market took its largest single-day loss since October, with the Dow Jones dropping 800 points — or more than 3% — amid mounting fears that a recession may be around the corner. The drop in share prices came as Germany announced its economy contracted during the last quarter and as news emerged of a key economic indicator known as an “inverted yield curve” that has preceded the last seven U.S. recessions.
In more economic news, a new study finds that corporate CEOs in the United States have seen their income grow exponentially over the past four decades, while ordinary workers’ salaries have largely stagnated. The Economic Policy Institute found income for top U.S. executives has increased by nearly 1,000% since 1978 — even when adjusted for inflation. A typical worker’s salary increased by less than 12% during the same period. CEOs at the 350 largest U.S. companies have salaries that are 278 times higher than the average worker. Among the biggest beneficiaries: the Walton family, heirs to the Walmart fortune. Bloomberg reports the family’s combined wealth has reached $191 billion, with the Waltons earning $70,000 per minute, $4 million per hour, or $100 million per day.
Facebook secretly paid hundreds of contractors to transcribe audio clips shared by users in private messages. That’s according to Bloomberg News, which reports the practice rattled the contract workers, who were often subjected to vulgar and intrusive recordings and were not told whose conversations they were transcribing or why. In a statement, Facebook said the practice was aimed at improving its artificial intelligence transcription service, but that the company had “paused human review of audio more than a week ago.” An Irish data privacy commission said Wednesday it’s investigating whether Facebook violated European Union privacy laws. Bloomberg reported earlier this year that Amazon, Apple and Google similarly hired thousands of workers to listen to users’ recorded audio.
Mexico City’s mayor has ordered the suspension of six police officers as part of an investigation into charges that officers raped two teenage girls. The officers’ suspension came a day after hundreds of women protesters marched on the offices of Mexico City’s prosecutor to demand justice. Some of them doused Mexico’s security minister with pink glitter, while others broke glass windows in the prosecutor’s office.
In the Mediterranean, a Spanish rescue ship is headed for an Italian port with 147 migrants on board, after a court overturned the Italian Interior Ministry’s order keeping the ship out of Italian waters. The ship, Open Arms, was trapped at sea for nearly two weeks after it was banned by far-right Interior Minister Matteo Salvini. Another rescue vessel, the Ocean Viking, has more than 350 migrants aboard a ship equipped to hold no more than 250 people. Both Malta and Italy have denied a berth to the ship since it rescued migrants over two weeks ago. Aid groups say more than 600 migrants have died at sea trying to reach Europe from North Africa.
NBC News is reporting that Immigration and Customs Enforcement, or ICE, is holding more than 8,000 migrants in 13 new jails in Mississippi and Louisiana — a nearly fourfold increase since late 2017. It’s believed to be the largest population of ICE detainees outside of Texas.
Meanwhile, in Pasadena, California, hundreds of protesters rallied Wednesday outside a federal appeals court, calling on judges to uphold an injunction against President Trump’s attempts to end TPS, or temporary protected status, for more than 300,000 immigrants. The injunction was ordered last October by a U.S. district judge, who ruled that Trump’s move to cut off protections to people from El Salvador, Haiti, Nicaragua and Syria may have had a “discriminatory purpose.” On Wednesday, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals considered the Trump administration’s challenge to that order. This is Martha Arevalo, director of the Central American Resource Center.
Martha Arevalo: “This is just a temporary fix to make sure that families are not separated and that children, like the little girl you saw here today, don’t have to make the choice whether to live without their parents in their country or to live in exile just so they could be with their parents. That is not justice. That is not the American values and principles that we have been sold. That is not right.”
Police in Philadelphia have arrested a gunman who sparked an almost eight-hour standoff after he opened fire on officers serving a warrant for drug crimes, injuring six officers. A 36-year-old suspect was taken into custody around midnight after a SWAT team fired tear gas into the building where he’d holed up. The man was reportedly heavily armed and had an AK-47 assault rifle. This is Philadelphia Mayor Jim Kenney.
Mayor Jim Kenney: “It’s aggravating. It’s saddening. And it’s just something that we need to do something about. And if the state and federal government don’t want to stand up to the NRA and some other folks, then let us — let us — police ourselves. But they preempt us on all kinds of gun control legislation. Our officers deserve to be protected, and they don’t deserve to be shot at by a guy for hours with an unlimited supply of weapons and an unlimited supply of bullets.”
In Boardman, Ohio, the FBI says an 18-year-old man who frequently praised mass shootings online had 10 pistols, more than a dozen rifles and some 10,000 rounds of ammunition when agents raided his home last week. Justin Olsen was arrested after he wrote online he would “shoot every federal agent in sight.” The FBI says Olsen also praised the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing and discussed violence against Planned Parenthood clinics. Olsen’s arrest came just days after mass shootings in Dayton, Ohio, and El Paso, Texas, left 32 people dead.
Iowa Republican Congressmember Steve King made incendiary remarks about sexual violence Wednesday, asking whether without rape and incest, there would be “any population of the world left.”
King was speaking to a conservative group in a suburb of Des Moines, defending his proposed bill to outlaw abortion — without exceptions for rape and incest.
Rep. Steve King: “What if we went back through all the family trees and just pulled those people out that were products of rape and incest? Would there be any population of the world left if we did that? Considering all the wars and all the rape and pillage that’s taken place and whatever happened to culture after society?”
Congressmember King’s comments sparked a fresh round of calls for his resignation, not only from prominent Democrats and 2020 presidential hopefuls, but also from many Republicans. King has frequently shared racist posts on social media and has made allies of far-right politicians in Austria, Canada and the Netherlands. In January, House Republican leaders stripped King of his committee assignments after he praised white supremacy in an interview with The New York Times.
Planned Parenthood says it may be forced to pull out of the Title X program, which funds family planning services for millions of low-income people, unless a federal court blocks a Trump administration rule barring federal funding for any organization that provides abortions or refers patients for abortions. Trump ordered the sweeping changes to Title X in February, and recently the Department of Health and Human Services ordered all Title X recipients to sign a pledge by Monday, August 19, promising to comply with the rule. Planned Parenthood says it will refuse. Acting president Alexis McGill Johnson said in a statement, “Unless the Ninth Circuit intervenes, this gag rule will destroy the Title X program — putting birth control, breast and cervical cancer screenings, and STI testing and treatment at risk for millions of people struggling to make ends meet.”
Newark, New Jersey’s water crisis grew worse as authorities temporarily halted their distribution of bottled water to families whose tap water is contaminated with lead. Earlier this week, the Environmental Protection Agency told city officials to distribute bottled water “as soon as possible,” after it determined that water filters were ineffective at safely filtering lead from the water supply of thousands of homes. State and local officials began offering free bottled water to 15,000 Newark households, and hundreds of people queued in long lines in the summer heat for their allotment. But the officials stopped handing out the water after discovering many of the bottles had exceeded their best-by date.
A new study finds tiny pieces of plastic pollution permeate the Earth’s atmosphere, falling down to earth in snowfall even in the most remote corners of the globe. Samples taken off the remote Arctic island of Svalbard showed an average of nearly 1,800 microplastic particles per liter of snow, with pollution levels at some European sampling locations more than 10 times higher. Writing in the journal Science Advances, researchers called for more studies on the effects of plastic pollution on human health. They cited a 1998 study that found inhaled microplastics may contribute to the risk of lung cancer.
The world-renowned Swedish climate activist Greta Thunberg has set sail from southwestern England, bound for United Nations climate talks in New York City next month. The 16-year-old Thunberg sparked a global movement of weekly “student strikes for the climate” last year when she skipped classes each Friday to stand outside the Swedish parliament demanding action to confront the climate crisis. Thunberg refuses to fly because of the heavy carbon footprint of air travel; she’s instead making her ocean voyage aboard the Malizia II, a 60-foot racing yacht covered in solar panels. Thunberg hopes to be in New York in time for the U.N. Climate Action Summit on September 23, before moving on to South America for more U.N. climate talks in Santiago, Chile, in December. Just before setting sail, Thunberg dismissed climate deniers who’ve launched an online campaign seeking to discredit her activism.
Greta Thunberg: “I’m not concerned about reactions. What I am concerned about is whether we will do something or not, whether the people in power will react and act with necessary force.”