Following last week’s guilty verdict in Guatemala’s historic genocide trial, reporter Allan Nairn says the United States should follow Guatemala’s lead and indict the Reagan administration officials who supported the genocide under General Efraín Ríos Montt. "All of [these crimes] were crimes not just of General Ríos Montt, but also of the U.S. government," Nairn says. Former President Ronald Reagan once called Ríos Montt "a man of great personal integrity." After the verdict, Judge Yassmin Barrios ordered the attorney general to launch an immediate investigation of "all others" connected to the crimes.
Days after Guatemala’s former U.S.-backed dictator, Efraín Ríos Montt, was convicted of genocide, we’re joined by a woman largely responsible for making sure he was brought to justice. Rigoberta Menchú began the process over a decade ago with legal cases filed against Guatemalan generals for atrocities committed in the Mayan region. Her lawsuits helped culminate last week in Ríos Montt’s landmark guilty verdict and 80-year sentence for his role in the killings of more than 1,700 Ixil Mayan people. Menchú lost her father, mother and two brothers during the Guatemalan genocide, later winning the Nobel Peace Prize for her campaigning on behalf of Guatemala’s indigenous population. "The conviction of Ríos Montt may provide an opportunity to close a chapter of our lives, a chapter of profound pain, [allowing] us to begin a new relationship amongst Guatemalans," Menchú says. "Because during the genocide, we felt so alone, we felt powerless, and we felt that nobody had our back. ... The fact the genocide was committed is [now] recognized means that nobody will ever forget."
The Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Chris Hedges joins us to discuss what could mark the most significant government intrusion on freedom of the press in decades. The Justice Department has acknowledged seizing the work, home and cellphone records used by almost 100 reporters and editors at the Associated Press. The phones targeted included the general AP office numbers in New York City, Washington, D.C., and Hartford, Connecticut, and the main number for the AP in the House of Representatives press gallery. The action likely came as part of a probe into the leaks behind an AP story on the U.S. intelligence operation that stopped a Yemen-based al-Qaeda bombing plot on a U.S.-bound airplane. Hedges, a senior fellow at The Nation Institute and former New York Times reporter, calls the monitoring "one more assault in a long series of assault against freedom of information and freedom of the press." Highlighting the Obama administration’s targeting of government whistleblowers, Hedges adds: "Talk to any investigative journalist who must investigate the government, and they will tell you that there is a deep freeze. People are terrified of speaking, because they’re terrified of going to jail."
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Dr. Paul Farmer, an infectious diseases expert and a medical anthropologist, is known worldwide for helping to bring quality healthcare to some of the most impoverished areas of the globe. More than 25 years ago, Farmer helped found the charity Partners in Health to provide free medical care in central Haiti. Today, Partners in Health teams up with local groups to treat people with HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis, malaria and other conditions in Haiti and countries around the world. The South African Nobel Peace laureate, Archbishop Desmond Tutu, calls him "One of the great advocates for the poorest and sickest of our planet." Farmer’s previous book, "Haiti After the Earthquake," describes the massive suffering and ongoing recovery effort after the devastating January 2010 earthquake that killed hundreds of thousands of people. His latest, "To Repair the World: Paul Farmer Speaks to the Next Generation," collects a series of commencement addresses that Farmer has delivered to graduating college students going back more than a decade. Throughout, Farmer urges them to confront global problems through an approach that has long guided his work: a tireless commitment to social justice and solidarity with the world’s poor. Farmer joins us to discuss why he thinks a community-based health approach can help fix the U.S. healthcare system, how Rwanda’s model has drastically improved the lives of its citizens, and how to tackle the massive health problems in post-earthquake Haiti.
The Associated Press says the U.S. Department of Justice has secretly obtained a trove of journalists’ phone records in what its chief executive called a "massive and unprecedented intrusion." The Obama administration seized records for the work and personal phone numbers of individual reporters, for general AP office numbers in New York City, Washington, D.C., and Hartford, Connecticut, and for the main number for the AP in the House of Representatives press gallery. More than 100 reporters work in the offices. The records were from April and May of 2012. Among those whose records were obtained were Matt Apuzzo, Adam Goldman, three other reporters and an editor, all of whom worked on a May 7, 2012, story that revealed details about a CIA operation in Yemen which stopped an alleged terror plot. AP had delayed publication of the story at the government’s request. "It seems to be terrible intrusion on the freedom of the press," says Ramsey Clark, the U.S. attorney general from 1967 to 1969. "I don’t see how the press can operate effectively if the public and people that talk to the press have to assume that Big Brother is listening in or can seize the conversations they engage in."
Support is growing for imprisoned attorney Lynne Stewart to be released early from prison due to her worsening health. Stewart’s prison warden has recommended to the Justice Department that she be released to the Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center in New York City. The 73-year-old imprisoned grandmother is fighting stage IV cancer that has metastasized, spreading to her lymph nodes, shoulder, bones and lungs. Stewart is serving a 10-year sentence in a federal prison near Fort Worth, Texas. In 2005, she was found guilty of distributing press releases on behalf of her jailed client, Egyptian cleric Omar Abdel-Rahman, also known as the "Blind Sheikh," who is now serving a life sentence for conspiring to blow up New York City landmarks in 1995. We speak to former U.S. Attorney General Ramsey Clark and Democracy Now! producer Renée Feltz, who is just back from Texas where she interviewed Lynne Stewart in federal prison, the first face-to-face interview granted to a reporter. The call for Stewart comes at a time when the Federal Bureau of Prisons is facing increasing criticism for refusing to release terminally ill prisoners. A recent report from the Justice Department’s inspector general found the bureau’s compassionate release program is "poorly managed and implemented inconsistently, likely resulting in eligible inmates not being considered for release and terminally ill inmates dying before their requests were decided."
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Scientists are warning the planet has now reached a grim climate milestone not seen for two or three million years. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration says the amount of heat-trapping carbon dioxide in the atmosphere has topped 400 parts per million. The 400 ppm threshold has been an important marker in U.N. climate change negotiations, widely recognized as a dangerous level that could drastically worsen human-caused global warming. We speak to leading climate scientist Michael Mann, distinguished professor of meteorology at Penn State University and author of the recent book, "The Hockey Stick and the Climate Wars: Dispatches from the Front Lines." Mann warns, "We have to go several million years back in time to find a point in Earth’s history where CO2 was as high as it is now. ... If we continue to burn fossil fuels at accelerating rates, if we continue with business as usual, we will cross the 450 parts per million limit in a matter of maybe a couple of decades. With that amount of CO2 in the atmosphere, we commit to what could truly be described as dangerous and irreversible changes in our climate."
In a historic verdict, former U.S.-backed Guatemalan dictator Efraín Ríos Montt has been sentenced to 80 years in prison after being found guilty of genocide and crimes against humanity. Ríos Montt was convicted of overseeing the slaughter of more than 1,700 people in Guatemala’s Ixil region after seizing power in 1982. The ruling marks the first time a former head of state had been found guilty of genocide in his own country. The judge in the case has instructed prosecutors to launch an immediate investigation of "all others" connected to the crimes. Guatemalan President Otto Pérez Molina was among those implicated during the trial’s testimony after having served as a regional commander under Ríos Montt’s regime. We’re joined by investigative reporter Allan Nairn, who returned to Guatemala to cover the trial after reporting on the massacres extensively in the early 1980s. During a CNN interview in which he denied that a genocide took place, Pérez Molina was confronted with statements he gave to Nairn confirming his role in the Ixil killings three decades ago. "This was a breakthrough for indigenous people against racism and a breakthrough for human civilization," Nairn says of the verdict, which he adds could have major implications for Washington. "The judge’s order to further investigate everyone involved in Ríos Montt’s crimes could encompass U.S. officials [who] were direct accessories to and accomplices to the Guatemalan military. They were supplying money, weapons, political support, intelligence. Under international and Guatemalan law, they could be charged."
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The American Civil Liberties Union has obtained documents revealing that the FBI and IRS may be reading emails and other electronic communications of U.S. citizens without obtaining a warrant. This comes just as reports have emerged that the Obama administration is considering approving an overhaul of government surveillance of the Internet. The New York Times reported the new rules would make it easier to wiretap users of web services such as instant messaging. "The FBI wants to be able to intercept every kind of possible communication," says attorney Ben Wizner, director of the ACLU’s Speech, Privacy, and Technology Project. "The FBI basically wants to require all of these companies to rewrite their code in order to enable more government surveillance. … And in order to accomplish that, they would make the whole Internet less secure."
With Father and Sister Imprisoned, Exiled Bahraini Activist Maryam Alkhawaja Condemns Ongoing Abuses
The Bahraini government continues its crackdown on opposition protesters, with demonstrations repressed and scores of dissidents held behind bars. We’re joined by Maryam Alkhawaja, a leading Bahraini human rights activist. Her family has been highly critical of the U.S.-backed monarchy, and they have paid a heavy price. Maryam’s father, human rights attorney Abdulhadi Alkhawaja, is serving a life sentence in prison. He has already spent two years in jail. Her sister, Zainab Alkhawaja, is also imprisoned. A close friend of the family, Nabeel Rajab, is also in jail. Rajab had been the head of the Bahrain Center for Human Rights. "There has hardly been any real accountability of the Bahraini government of the human rights violations that have been going on in Bahrain for more than two years now," says Alkhawaja, who is now the acting president of the Bahrain Center for Human Rights.
UPDATE: 7:00 p.m. EDT Efraín Ríos Montt has been found guilty of genocide and sentenced to 80 years in prison.
A verdict is expected as early as today in the historic trial against U.S.-backed Guatemalan dictator Efraín Ríos Montt, the first head of state in the Americas to stand trial for genocide. He is charged with overseeing the slaughter of more than 1,700 people in Guatemala’s Mayan region after he seized power in 1982. On Thursday, Ríos Montt testified for the first time during the trial. "I declare myself innocent," Ríos Montt said. "I never had the intention or the purpose to destroy any national ethnic group." During the trial, nearly 100 prosecution witnesses described massacres, torture and rape committed by state forces. "If Ríos Montt is convicted, the next question becomes: What about [current Guatemalan President Otto] Pérez Molina, and what about the U.S. sponsors who were providing the weapons, the money, the bombs, the bullets and the political support for the crimes for which Ríos Montt may today be convicted of genocide?" asks investigative journalist Allan Nairn from Guatemala City. In the 1980s, Nairn broke many stories about massacres in Guatemala and the U.S. backing of the dictatorship.
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Closing arguments have begun in the historic trial against U.S.-backed Guatemalan dictator Efraín Ríos Montt, the first head of state in the Americas to stand trial for genocide. Ríos Montt is charged with overseeing the slaughter of more than 1,700 people in Guatemala’s Ixil region after he seized power in 1982. The trial has been revived after it was suspended due to intervention by Guatemalan President Otto Pérez Molina and death threats by army associates against judges and prosecutors. On Wednesday, prosecutors asked for Ríos Montt to be sentenced to 75 years in prison. Defense lawyers are expected to give closing arguments today. We’re joined by investigative journalist Allan Nairn in Guatemala City. In the 1980s, Nairn extensively documented broad army responsibility for the massacres.
Workers at the New Era Windows Cooperative are celebrating the grand opening of their new unionized, worker-owned and -operated business. Almost a year to the day after their window factory closed, a group of former workers have launched their own window business without bosses. They successfully raised money to buy the factory collectively and run it democratically. In 2008, some of the workers were involved in a famous six-day sit-in after Republic Windows and Doors gave workers just three days’ notice before closing the factory. The sit-in drew national attention and union workers reached a settlement where they each received $6,000 each. About 65 workers occupied the factory after their jobs came under threat again in 2012. We speak to two worker-owners of the just-opened New Era Windows Cooperative and a labor organizer who helped with their fight.
Cleveland kidnap victims Amanda Berry, Gina DeJesus and Michele Knight were allegedly subjected to years of physical and sexual abuse at the hands of suspect Ariel Castro. Questions are now being raised why the police did not investigate Castro more closely earlier, especially since Castro was accused in 1993 and 2005 of attacking his ex-wife Grimilda Figueroa. According to court documents, Castro apparently broke her nose and ribs, dislocated her shoulders, knocked out one of her teeth and battered her so badly that a blood clot formed in her brain. Jaclyn Friedman, executive director of Women, Action, and the Media and editor of the anthology, "Yes Means Yes!: Visions of Female Sexual Power & A World Without Rape," says the Cleveland case is "an extreme example of a pervasive dynamic in our culture which is one of toxic masculinity." Friedman explains: "It really expresses something that we see all over the culture, which is men trained to think that the way to be a man is to have power over and to dehumanize women." We also speak to Cleveland reporter Eric Sandy.
Did Police Negligence & Suspect Ariel Castro's Unpunished Domestic Abuse Prolong Victims' Captivity?
Ariel Castro was arraigned in a Cleveland court today on charges of kidnapping three young women and holding them captive in his house for 10 years. All three women — Amanda Berry, Gina DeJesus and Michele Knight — had vanished in seemingly separate cases when they were between the ages of 14 and 21. Berry’s six-year-old daughter, who was born in captivity, was also rescued. Officials said the three women were at times bound in chains or rope, and endured starvation, beatings and sexual assaults. Eric Sandy, a reporter at the weekly newspaper Cleveland Scene, joins us to discuss Castro’s background, including the brutal abuse of his ex-wife for which he was never jailed.
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