Democracy Now

Democracy Now!
A daily TV/radio news program, hosted by Amy Goodman and Juan Gonzalez, airing on over 1,100 stations, pioneering the largest community media collaboration in the United States.
Updated: 1 hour 13 min ago

As Pot Decriminalization Advances in U.S., Former World Leaders Call for End to Failed War on Drugs

Wed 06 47 AM

We look at the growing movement for drug decriminalization that is moving ahead in the United States and being amplified by former heads of state from around the around. On Monday, Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter said he would sign a bill that would make Philadelphia the largest city in the country to decriminalize marijuana possession. Just two weeks ago, the City Council in Santa Fe voted to decriminalize marijuana. Earlier this year, District of Columbia Mayor Vincent Gray signed a bill to decriminalize possession of up to an ounce of marijuana in the U.S. capital. Ballot initiatives on legalization of marijuana will go before voters in Oregon, Florida and Alaska in November. This comes two years after voter initiatives in Colorado and Washington state legalized recreational marijuana. Meanwhile, a group of former presidents and United Nations leaders gathered in New York Tuesday to call for an end to the criminalization and incarceration of drug users. Known as the Global Commission on Drug Policy, the panel includes the former presidents of Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Mexico, Poland, Portugal and Switzerland. The commission first made headlines in 2011 when it declared the war on drugs to be a failure. We are joined by two guests: Michel Kazatchkine, a member of the Global Commission on Drug Policy and the United Nations’ special envoy on HIV/AIDS in Eastern Europe and Central Asia; and Ethan Nadelmann, founder and executive director of the Drug Policy Alliance. Watch Part 2 of this interview.

Internet Slowdown: Online Protest Warns Users of What's to Come if Net Neutrality Rules Redrawn

Wed 06 38 AM

If your favorite website seems to load slowly today, take a closer look: You might be experiencing the Battle for the Net’s "Internet Slowdown," a global day of action. The Internet won’t actually be slowing down, but many sites are placing on their homepages animated "Loading" graphics , which organizers call "the proverbial 'spinning wheel of death,'" to symbolize what the Internet might soon look like. Large Internet service providers, or ISPs, like Comcast, Time Warner, AT&T and Verizon, are trying to change the rules that govern the Internet. Some of the biggest companies on the Internet — Netflix, Mozilla, Kickstarter, Etsy and WordPress — are joining today’s Internet Slowdown to draw attention to net neutrality, the principle that service providers shouldn’t be allowed to speed up, or slow down, loading times on certain websites, such as their competitors. This comes as 27 online advocacy groups sent a letter to Federal Communications Commission Chairman Tom Wheeler Tuesday, calling on him to participate in town hall-style public hearings on net neutrality before ruling on the issue as early as this year. We are joined by Tim Karr of the group Free Press, one of the main organizers of the Internet Slowdown global day of action.

Exclusive: DA Joins the Climate Activists He Declined to Prosecute, Citing Danger of Global Warming

Wed 06 13 AM

Two climate activists were set to go on trial in Massachusetts on Monday for blocking the shipment of 40,000 tons of coal to the Brayton Point power plant, a 51-year-old facility that is one of the region’s largest contributors to greenhouse gases. But in a surprise move, a local prosecutor dropped the criminal charges and reduced three other charges to civil offenses, calling climate change one of the gravest crises our planet has ever faced. We are joined by the activists, Ken Ward and Jay O’Hara, and the prosecutor, Bristol County District Attorney Sam Sutter. Days after they were to square off in court, the three now say they plan to march together in the upcoming People’s Climate March in New York City.

The Climate Change Defense? Citing Global Warming, DA Drops Charges Against Anti-Coal Activists

Tue 06 55 AM

In a surprise move, District Attorney Sam Sutter of Bristol, Massachusetts, has dropped criminal charges against two climate activists who were set to go on trial Monday for blocking a shipment of 40,000 tons of coal. In May 2013, Ken Ward and Jay O’Hara used their lobster boat to prevent a delivery of the coal to the Brayton Point Power Station in Somerset, Massachusetts. For their trial, Ward and O’Hara had planned to invoke the "necessity defense," arguing that their actions were justified by how the coal industry worsens the climate change that threatens our planet. In an unprecedented announcement, District Attorney Sutter all but adopted their reasoning and dropped the charges. "Climate change is one of the gravest crises our planet has ever faced," Sutter said outside the courthouse, explaining his decision. "In my humble opinion, the political leadership on this issue has been sorely lacking.”

Tune in to Democracy Now! on Wednesday for our interview with the two climate activists, Ken Ward and Jay O’Hara, and District Attorney Sam Sutter.

University of Illinois Urged to Reinstate Professor Steven Salaita, Critic of Israeli War in Gaza

Tue 06 37 AM

As the fall school term begins, an Illinois college campus is embroiled in one of the nation’s biggest academic freedom controversies in recent memory. The University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign has sparked an outcry over its withdrawal of a job offer to a professor critical of the Israeli government. Steven Salaita was due to start work at the university as a tenured professor in the American Indian Studies Program. But after posting a series of tweets harshly critical of this summer’s Israeli assault on Gaza, Salaita was told the offer was withdrawn. The school had come under pressure from donors, students, parents and alumni critical of Salaita’s views, with some threatening to withdraw financial support. Thousands of academics have signed petitions calling for Salaita’s reinstatement, and several lecturers have canceled appearances in protest. The American Association of University Professors has called the school’s actions "inimical to academic freedom and due process." A number of Urbana-Champaign departments have passed votes of no-confidence in the chancellor, Phyllis Wise. And today, Urbana-Champaign students will be holding a campus walkout and day of silence in support of Salaita. We are joined by two guests: Columbia University law professor Katherine Franke, who has canceled a lecture series at Urbana-Champaign in protest of Salaita’s unhiring; and Kristofer Petersen-Overton, a scholar who went through a similar incident in 2011 when Brooklyn College reversed a job offer after complaints about his Middle East views, only to reinstate it following a public outcry.

It's Not Just Ray Rice: Dave Zirin on the NFL's History of Condoning Domestic Abuse

Tue 06 13 AM

We turn to the sporting news that has put a new spotlight on domestic violence and its lax treatment by the country’s most popular sport. Baltimore Ravens star running back Ray Rice has been cut by his team and indefinitely suspended by the National Football League after a new video showed him punching his then-fiancée into unconsciousness. But the details of the case have been known for months after a previous video from a different angle showed Rice dragging the unconscious woman out of an elevator and dropping her face-first on the ground. The Baltimore Ravens had defended Rice, while the NFL’s first response in July was to suspend him for just two games. A massive public outcry led NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell to apologize and change the league’s domestic violence policy. Why did it take the NFL so long to act? What did the league and the Ravens know, and when did they know it? We are joined by Dave Zirin, sports columnist for The Nation magazine and host of Edge of Sports Radio on SiriusXM. "This is about a National Football League that treats violence against women as a public relations crisis, not as a crisis about the ways in which the violence of the game spills over into people’s families," Zirin says.

Big Tobacco's Child Workers: Young Laborers Endure Health Risks, Harsh Conditions on U.S. Farms

Mon 06 46 AM

Even as tobacco companies are legally barred from selling cigarettes to children, they are reportedly profiting from child labor. Investigations by The New York Times and Human Rights Watch reveal hundreds, if not thousands, of children are working on tobacco farms in the United States. Many suffer from "green tobacco sickness," or nicotine poisoning, which can cause vomiting, dizziness and irregular heart rates, among other symptoms. Children are especially vulnerable to toxic pesticides since their bodies are still developing. Workers can absorb as much nicotine as if they were actually smoking simply by handling wet tobacco leaves. We speak with Steven Greenhouse, longtime labor and workplace reporter for The New York Times, who went to North Carolina to meet the young laborers. "I was shocked that a lot of these kids said, 'I work in the fields from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m.,'" Greenhouse says of the 60-hour weekly schedules the young workers commonly endure, often in grueling heat. Under U.S. law, tobacco farms can hire workers as young as 12 years old for unlimited hours, as long as it doesn’t conflict with their school attendance.

Think Tanks as Lobbyists: Exposé Shows U.S. Groups Receive Millions to Push Foreign Nations' Agendas

Mon 06 31 AM

A New York Times exposé reveals more than a dozen prominent Washington research groups have received tens of millions of dollars from foreign governments in recent years while pushing United States government officials. Some scholars funded by the think tanks say they faced pressure to reach conclusions friendly to the government financing their work. The groups named in the report include the Brookings Institution, the Center for Strategic and International Studies, and the Atlantic Council, and most of the money comes from countries in Europe, the Middle East and Asia, including the oil-producing nations of the United Arab Emirates, Qatar and Norway. Few of them have registered with the Justice Department as "foreign agents" that aim to shape policy, as required by the Foreign Agents Registration Act. We are joined by Brooke Williams, a contributing reporter at The New York Times who co-wrote the new article, "Foreign Powers Buy Influence at Think Tanks."

"U.S. Militarism Brings Chaos": As Obama Plans a War on ISIS, a Call for a Middle East-Led Response

Mon 06 13 AM

President Obama has launched an effort to rally Congress and the public behind a sustained offensive against the militant group, Islamic State. Obama is set to meet with Congress on Tuesday followed by a national address Wednesday. The United States says it will lead the offensive against the Islamic State with a so-called "core coalition" of 10 countries. The White House says the fight could last beyond the end of President Obama’s term in early 2017. Meanwhile on Sunday, Arab League foreign ministers met in Cairo and announced they would cooperate with efforts to combat militants who have overrun parts of Iraq and Syria. Their resolution did not explicitly support the U.S. campaign against the Islamic State, but suggested it would back the effort.

We are joined by Rami Khouri, director of the Issam Fares Institute for Public Policy and International Affairs at the American University of Beirut and editor-at-large of the Beirut-based newspaper, The Daily Star. "Combining American militarism with Arab dictatorships is probably the stupidest recipe that anybody could possibly come up with to try to fight jihadi movements like al-Qaeda and the Islamic State and others," Khouri says. "It was that combination of Arab autocracy and American militarism that actually nurtured and let these movements expand."

Hundreds Arrested as Growing Fast-Food Workers' Movement Strikes for Living Wage, Unionization

Fri 06 47 AM

Fast-food workers fighting for a $15 hourly wage and union rights took to the streets in 150 cities across the country Thursday. More than 400 workers and their supporters were arrested during the strikes as they engaged in nonviolent civil disobedience by blocking streets during rush hour. To discuss this growing labor movement, we are joined by two guests: Ashona Osborne, a fast-food worker at Wendy’s who was arrested Thursday during the fast-food worker strikes, and before that in May during protests at the McDonald’s shareholders’ meeting; and Mary Kay Henry, president of the Service Employees International Union (SEIU), which represents two million workers in healthcare, public and property services and has been a major backer of the fast-food worker strikes.

Profit over Safety: BP Faces Billions in Fines for "Grossly Negligent" Role in 2010 Gulf Oil Spill

Fri 06 33 AM

A federal judge has ruled that BP was "grossly negligent" and "reckless" in the lead-up to the 2010 Deepwater Horizon explosion that killed 11 workers and caused more than 200 million gallons of oil to flood into the Gulf of Mexico. BP could face up to $18 billion in extra fines following the ruling. The ruling also found BP subcontractors Transocean and Halliburton "negligent" in the accident. BP says it will immediately appeal. In a statement on its website, BP wrote: "BP strongly disagrees with the decision? … The law is clear that proving gross negligence is a very high bar that was not met in this case. BP believes that an impartial view of the record does not support the erroneous conclusion reached by the District Court." We discuss the court ruling with Antonia Juhasz, an oil and energy analyst who has reported on the Gulf oil spill from its outset. She is the author of "Black Tide: The Devastating Impact of the Gulf Oil Spill."

Did Major Countries Agree Not to Disclose Key Details in Downing of Malaysian Airlines Flight 17?

Fri 06 24 AM

Professor Stephen Cohen says new reports raise questions about why the Malaysia Airlines flight carrying 298 people exploded and crashed in eastern Ukraine, killing everyone on board. "There seems to have been an agreement among the major powers not to tell us who did it," Cohen says. While U.S. and Ukrainian officials say the Boeing 777 was shot down by a Russian-made surface-to-air missile, it is unclear who fired the missile. "There are reports from Germany that the White House version of what happened is not true, therefore you have to look elsewhere for the culprit who did the shooting down," Cohen notes. "They’re sitting on satellite intercepts. They have the images. They won’t release the air controller’s conversations in Kiev with the doomed aircraft. Why not?" See part one of this interview.

Ukraine Ceasefire Takes Hold, but an Expanding NATO on Russia's Borders Raises Threat of Nuclear War

Fri 06 13 AM

The Ukrainian government and pro-Russian rebels are reportedly set to sign a ceasefire today aimed at ending over six months of fighting that has killed at least 2,600 people and displaced over a million. The deal is expected this morning in the Belarusian capital of Minsk as President Obama and European leaders meet in Wales for a major NATO summit. The ceasefire comes at a time when the Ukrainian military has suffered a number of defeats at the hands of the Russian-backed rebels. In the hours leading up to the reported ceasefire, pro-Russian rebels launched another offensive to take the port city of Mariupol, which stands about halfway between Russia and the Crimea region. The Ukrainian government and NATO have accused Russia of sending forces into Ukraine, a claim Moscow denies. The new developments in Ukraine come as NATO has announced plans to create a new rapid reaction force in response to the Ukraine crisis. We are joined by Stephen Cohen, professor emeritus of Russian studies and politics at New York University and Princeton University, and the author of numerous books on Russia and the Soviet Union.

New York Candidates Zephyr Teachout, Randy Credico, Tim Wu on Challenging Cuomo & Money in Politics

Thu 06 39 AM

New York Democratic Gov. Andrew Cuomo is being challenged in his own party’s upcoming primary. We host a discussion with two candidates facing off on the party’s ballot. We are joined by Fordham Law professor Zephyr Teachout and her running mate for lieutenant governor, Tim Wu, who coined the concept of net neutrality. We are also joined political activist Randy Credico, also running for governor. While most of the Democratic establishment has backed the Cuomo ticket, the Teachout-Wu campaign has received some notable endorsements, including the Public Employees Federation, the state’s second-largest union of government workers, as well as the state chapters of the National Organization of Women and the Sierra Club. Credico, who has previously run for New York City mayor and U.S. Senate, is running on a platform calling for economic justice and the reform of the state’s drug laws. So far, Cuomo and his lieutenant governor candidate Kathy Hochul have declined all invitations to debate their challengers. We invited them to join us today for this discussion, but they declined.

A Victory over Justice System's Failure: Wrongly Convicted Brothers Freed After 31 Years in Prison

Thu 06 11 AM

Two African-American half-brothers have been exonerated of rape and murder after more than 30 years behind bars in North Carolina. Henry Lee McCollum and Leon Brown were found guilty in 1984 of the rape and murder of an 11-year-old girl. There was no physical evidence tying them to the crime, but police obtained confessions that McCollum and Brown have always said were coerced. Police at the time failed to investigate another man, Roscoe Artis, who lived near the crime scene and had admitted to a similar rape and murder at around the same time. After three decades, the case saw a major breakthrough last month when testing by North Carolina’s Innocence Inquiry Commission tied Artis’ DNA to the crime scene. After a hearing presenting the new evidence Tuesday, the two brothers were declared innocent and ordered freed. Over the years, death penalty supporters have cited the brothers’ case in order to back capital punishment. In 2010, the North Carolina Republican Party pasted McCollum’s mug shot on campaign mailers. In 1994, Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia pointed to McCollum as an example of why the death penalty is just. We are joined by two guests: Vernetta Alston, one of the lawyers representing Henry Lee McCollum, and a staff attorney with the Center for Death Penalty Litigation; and Steven Drizin, clinical professor at Northwestern Law School and assistant dean of the Bluhm Legal Clinic, where for more than a decade he was legal director of the Center on Wrongful Convictions.