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HEADLINES: JUNE 20, 2017

Courtesy of Democracy Now


Syria: Russia Threatens to Target U.S. Aircraft After U.S. Shoots Down Syrian Warplane

In Syria, tensions are rising after the United States shot down a Syrian warplane Sunday—escalating the possibility of a direct confrontation between the United States and Russia. On Monday, Russian officials threatened to target U.S. planes flying west of the Euphrates River. The Pentagon said it downed the Syrian government plane after it bombed U.S.-backed, anti-government rebels fighting ISIS. This is Joint Chiefs of Staff Chair General Joseph Dunford.

Gen. Joseph Dunford: "An incident occurred. We have to work through the incident. We have a channel to be able to do that, and I think it’s going to require some diplomatic and military engagement in the next few hours to restore the deconfliction that we’ve had in place. And again, the deconfliction that we’ve had in place is in our mutual interest, because it allows us to address what at least pro-regime forces have indicated is our common enemy, ISIS."

Airwars: U.S.-Led Coalition Airstrikes Reportedly Kill Parents & Children in Raqqa

Meanwhile, U.S.-backed coalition airstrikes continue in the Syrian city of Raqqa. The journalistic monitoring group Airwars says coalition bombing last Thursday reportedly killed a father named Ibrahim Ali Mohammed, his two sons Ayham and Iyad, and his 8-year-old daughter Amal, when an airstrike destroyed the family’s house. Also on Thursday, airstrikes reportedly killed two brothers, Mohamed Omar Hamdan and Mohannad Omar Hamdan. The family of Mohammed Khalaf al Kajawan, including his wife, their two daughters and their two sons, were also reportedly killed by either U.S.-led coalition airstrikes or shelling by the U.S.-backed Syrian troops that same day.

Iraqi Journalist Bakhtiyar Haddad Killed in Mosul

Iraqi journalist Bakhtiyar Haddad was killed by an exploding mine while he was working with a France 2 television crew covering the U.S.-led military coalition’s assault on the Old City of Mosul. Two French reporters and a freelance journalist were also injured in the explosion on Monday. The U.N. warns as many as 150,000 people remain trapped in a desperate situation in Mosul’s Old City amid the offensive. Elsewhere in Iraq, Airwars says as many as 19 civilians were reportedly killed when a U.S.-led coalition airstrike hit a mosque last Wednesday in Tal Afar, which is about 50 miles west of Mosul.

Report: One-Third of World's Population Now Exposed to Deadly Heat Waves

New research on climate change has revealed that nearly one-third of the world’s population is now exposed to deadly heat waves.

Heat Wave Shatters Records in California & Grounds Flights in Phoenix

The study, published Monday in the journal "Nature Climate Change," comes as airlines canceled more than 50 flights out of Phoenix, Arizona, because the scorching 118-degree heat made it impossible for the planes to take off. It’s expected to hit up to 120 degrees in Phoenix today. The heat wave also shattered temperature records across the West Coast, including in Sacramento, San Jose and San Francisco.

64 Killed by Raging Fires in Portugal

Meanwhile, in Portugal, soaring temperatures have fueled a deadly fire that has killed at least 64 people northeast of the capital Lisbon. Nearly half the victims burned to death when flames engulfed their cars as they tried to flee. This is resident Jose Lopes.

Jose Lopes: "We have fires every year, but this year that fire was not like the ones in the past. It was lightning from a storm. It wasn’t an arson. No one set this fire. We never saw one like this. I never saw. So many dead, so many disgraces. And still it’s burning."

Republicans Drafting GOP Healthcare Bill in Secret Closed-Door Meetings

In the United States, on Capitol Hill, Senate Democrats launched a flurry of motions, speeches and procedural maneuvers to bring the Senate floor to a halt Monday night in order to protest the Republicans’ plan to push through a new healthcare bill without any public debate. The Republicans’ bill would strip 23 million people of their health insurance, while giving billions of dollars in tax breaks to wealthy Americans. Republican senators have been drafting the final version of the bill in secret closed-door meetings. They are pushing for a vote on the bill before July 4. This is California Democratic Senator Kamala Harris.

Sen. Kamala Harris: "Now, I remember when our colleagues across the aisle said the Affordable Care Act was being rammed down the American people’s throats in the middle of the night. Well, the ACA went, in fact, through 106 public hearings. It incorporated more than 170 Republican amendments. The whole process took an entire year. But this healthcare plan involves no hearings, no bill text and no transparency at all."

Supreme Court to Consider Whether Partisan Gerrymandering is Unconstitutional

The Supreme Court has announced it will consider whether partisan gerrymandering is unconstitutional, in a case that could reshape U.S. politics. The case will consider whether the legislative map drawn by the Republican-controlled Wisconsin State Assembly unconstitutionally favored Republican candidates. The Supreme Court has previously ruled that racial gerrymandering is unconstitutional, but it has never before ruled against partisan gerrymandering, which is when lawmakers redraw districts in efforts to skew the power of either Democratic or Republican voters to benefit their own party.

Supreme Court Strikes Down Law Prohibiting Disparaging Trademarks

Meanwhile, the Supreme Court also ruled Monday against a federal law that rejects trademark protections for disparaging names. The case is expected to benefit the Washington football team whose name, the Redskins, is a racist slur against Native Americans. The ruling was based on a case of an Asian-American rock group called "The Slants." The group tried to register their band name in 2011, but it was rejected because officials said the name was disparaging to people of Asian descent. Rock band member Simon Tam has said his case was hijacked by the courts. Washington football team owner Daniel Snyder celebrated the Supreme Court ruling Monday. He’s faced years of resistance by Native American activists demanding he change the team’s name.

Voters Head to the Polls Today for Georgia's Special Congressional Race

In Georgia, voters are heading to the polls today to vote in the most expensive congressional race in U.S. history. Polls show Democrat Jon Ossoff and Republican Karen Handel are virtually tied in the race to fill the seat left vacant after Tom Price resigned to become secretary of health and human services. The election is widely seen as a referendum on President Trump. Civil rights leaders have expressed concern that voter suppression tactics could cost Ossoff the election. Click here to see a special Democracy Now! report by Greg Palast from Georgia on voter suppression and today’s election.

Student Otto Warmbier Dies, Following 17-Month Imprisonment in North Korea

University of Virginia student Otto Warmbier has died, a week after he was released from a North Korean prison and returned to the United States in a coma. On Monday, Warmbier’s family said in a statement, "Unfortunately, the awful torturous mistreatment our son received at the hands of the North Koreans ensured that no other outcome was possible beyond the sad one we experienced today." Warmbier was imprisoned for more than 17 months for trying to steal a propaganda sign at a North Korean hotel. North Korea claims Warmbier fell into a coma after contracting botulism and taking a sleeping pill. But American doctors said they found no evidence of the illness in his system.

Vermont: ICE Arrests 2 Farmworker Activists with Group Migrant Justice

In Vermont, demonstrators gathered outside a South Burlington jail on Monday to protest the arrest and possible deportation of undocumented activists Esau Peche-Ventura and Yesenia Hernández-Ramos. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents detained the two farmworkers on Saturday, after they walked 13 miles from Montpelier to the Ben & Jerry’s factory in Waterbury as part of an action organized by the group Migrant Justice’s "Milk with Dignity" campaign. The campaign is demanding fair working conditions for Vermont’s dairy workers. In the past year, ICEagents have arrested at least three other Migrant Justice organizers in what immigrant rights activists say is a targeted crackdown against undocumented activists in Vermont.

Seattle Police Kill Pregnant African-American Mother Charleena Lyles

Carmen Aristegui: "This is an operation by the state where the agents of the Mexican state, far from doing what they should do legally, have instead utilized our resources, our taxes, our money to commit serious crimes. And it has to be realized that the head of the Mexican states, that is the president of Mexico, that is the first."

Cuba Calls Trump's New Cuba Policy a "Grotesque Spectacle"

Cuba has responded to President Trump’s announcement Friday that he is reversing the normalization of relations between the U.S. and Cuba and reimposing travel and trade restrictions. Cuban Foreign Minister Bruno Rodríguez called Trump’s speech a "grotesque spectacle" and promised that Cuba would never extradite Americans who have received political asylum in Cuba, such as Assata Shakur.

Bruno Rodríguez: "Regarding the so-called fugitives from the U.S. in Cuba, I can reaffirm that, in the use of the national laws, the international law and Latin American tradition, Cuba has granted political asylum to fighters for civil rights from the U.S. Of course, these persons will not be returned to the U.S. There is no legal, political or moral basis to claim to these persons."

India: Police Arrest More Than 70 at Protest Against LNG Terminal in Kerala

In financial news, Amazon is planning to buy Whole Foods for $13.7 billion, in a deal that would further consolidate Amazon’s vast empire. The proposed merger might require oversight from federal antitrust officials. But The Intercept reports that top antitrust officials from both the Justice Department and the Federal Trade Commission have ties to law firms that represent Amazon or Whole Foods, and are expected to play major roles in the proposed merger.

NBC: Nixon Planned Physical Attack on Peace Activists in 1972

And NBC News has published an explosive Watergate-era document showing how then-President Richard Nixon planned a physical assault on peace activists in 1972, including famed Vietnam War whistleblower Daniel Ellsberg, who leaked the Pentagon Papers in 1971. The revelation came in an 18-page memo from the Watergate Special Prosecution Force, which detailed how Nixon operatives were planning an attack against demonstrators, including Ellsberg, at a rally at the U.S. Capitol. In response to the memo’s release, Daniel Ellsberg told NBC, "They used to say nobody got hurt in Watergate. That was not because they didn’t try."


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