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.
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In Sisi's Egypt, Leading Dissident Gets 15-Year Term as Al Jazeera Reporter Languishes Behind Bars

Thu 07 47 AM

An Egyptian court has sentenced one of the country’s most prominent pro-democracy activists to 15 years in prison. Alaa Abd El-Fattah was found guilty of illegal protest and attacking a police officer for a rally against a draconian protest law last year. Twenty-four other defendants in the case received the same 15-year sentence. Since they were tried in absentia, they are entitled to a retrial. It’s the first conviction of a prominent activist since former army chief Abdel Fattah el-Sisi took office as president on Sunday. As El-Fattah faces a lengthy prison term, the Al Jazeera Arabic journalist Abdullah Elshamy is on a nearly five-month hunger strike in protest of his detention without charge. Elshamy has reportedly lost over a third of his body weight and is reportedly suffering from severe anemia, low blood pressure and the start of kidney failure. We go to Cairo to speak with Alaa Abd El-Fattah’s aunt, the famed Egyptian novelist Ahdaf Soueif, and Democracy Now! correspondent Sharif Abdel Kouddous. And we are joined by Abdullah Elshamy’s brother, Mohammed.

Iraq in Crisis: Militant Advance Sparks Mass Displacement as "Failed" U.S. Experiment Disintegrates

Thu 07 11 AM

Iraq is on the brink of disintegration as Sunni militants seize more towns and now set their sights on the capital Baghdad. In the past few days, al-Qaeda-linked Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) have seized control of Mosul, Iraq’s second-largest city, as well as Tikrit and Dhuluiya. Meanwhile, Iraqi Kurds have seized control of the northern oil city of Kirkuk. The Sunni militants now control a territory that stretches from the eastern edge of Aleppo, Syria, to Fallujah in western Iraq and now the northern city of Mosul. Their advance has caused a humanitarian catastrophe, displacing some 500,000 people in Mosul alone. Mosul fell in part because U.S.-trained Iraqi forces abandoned their posts. Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki has reportedly urged the U.S. to carry out airstrikes in recent months, but the Obama administration has declined the request so far. We are joined by two guests: Ned Parker, Reuters bureau chief in Baghdad, and Mohammed al Dulaimy, an Iraqi journalist with McClatchy Newspapers who reported from Iraq for years and is now seeking U.S. asylum out of fear for his safety if he returns. This is Dulaimy’s first TV interview after years of maintaining a low profile to protect his safety.

Debate: Is Human Rights Watch Too Close to U.S. Gov't to Criticize Its Foreign Policy?

Wed 07 19 AM

Human Rights Watch, one of the world’s largest and most influential human rights organizations, is facing an unusual amount of public criticism. Two Nobel Peace Prize laureates, Adolfo Pérez Esquivel and Mairead Maguire, and a group of over 100 scholars have written an open letter criticizing what they describe as a revolving door with the U.S. government that impacts HRW’s work in certain countries, including Venezuela. The letter urges HRW to bar those who have crafted or executed U.S. foreign policy from serving as staff, advisers or board members. Human Rights Watch Executive Director Kenneth Roth has defended his organization’s independence, responding: "We are careful to ensure that prior affiliations do not affect the impartiality of Human Rights Watch’s work. … We routinely expose, document and denounce human rights violations by the US government, including torture, indefinite detention, illegal renditions, unchecked mass surveillance, abusive use of drones, harsh sentencing and racial disparity in criminal justice, and an unfair and ineffective immigration system." We host a debate between HRW counsel Reed Brody and Keane Bhatt, a writer and activist who organized the open letter.

Eric Cantor Suffers Historic GOP Primary Loss in Anti-Immigrant, Anti-Corporate Backlash

Wed 07 10 AM

House Majority Leader Eric Cantor has lost Virginia’s Republican primary in one of the most stunning upsets in congressional history. Cantor fell to tea party challenger David Brat, whose campaign accused Cantor of being insufficiently right-wing. Cantor’s defeat could upend Republican politics while further endangering the prospects for immigration reform. Brat ran on a staunch anti-immigrant platform, citing Cantor’s mild support for a version of the DREAM Act. The House’s second most powerful Republican, Cantor had been the presumed next in line to replace Speaker John Boehner. Cantor’s campaign raised $5.4 million to Brat’s $200,000. It’s the first time a House majority leader has lost a primary since the position was created in 1899. Although his opponent painted him as a moderate, Cantor has played a key role in the Republican effort to thwart President Obama’s agenda, from healthcare reform to last year’s government shutdown. We are joined by John Nichols, Washington correspondent for The Nation.

Is College Worth It? New Doc "Ivory Tower" Tackles Higher Ed's Unsustainable Spending, Student Debt

Tue 07 50 AM

The cost of a college degree has grown by over 1,120 percent in the past three decades, far surpassing price hikes for food, medical care, housing, gasoline, and other basics. Coupled with $1.2 trillion in student debt, the U.S. is facing a crisis that threatens not just the economy but the nation’s education system itself. The issue is explored in the riveting new documentary "Ivory Tower," which argues the model for higher education in the U.S. has become unsustainable. The film contrasts the struggle for quality, affordable education with a growing corporate atmosphere on college campuses, where hundreds of millions of dollars go to football stadiums, lavish salaries, and high-end perks. We are joined by "Ivory Tower," director and producer Andrew Rossi. The film opens this Friday in New York City and Los Angeles.

As Obama Moves to Cap Student Debt Payments, Activists Push For Broader Write-Off of Crushing Loans

Tue 07 43 AM

President Obama has unveiled new executive actions to address what some have called the nation’s next financial crisis: the over $1.2 trillion in student loans. Obama’s order will expand the "Pay as Your Earn" program capping loan payments at ten percent of monthly income. The program also forgives any outstanding debt after twenty years of payments. The massive cost of U.S. college tuition has saddled millions with crushing debt and priced many others out of the classroom. Student loans now exceed all other forms of consumer debt except for home mortgages. This year’s graduate class is the most indebted in U.S. history, with borrowers owing an average $33,000. More than 70% of this year’s class has taken on a student loan, up from less than half of graduates twenty years ago. We are joined by two guests: Pamela Brown, a Ph.D. student in sociology at the New School and leading activist on the issue of student debt; and Andrew Rossi, director and producer of a new documentary on U.S. higher education, "Ivory Tower."

As Taliban Attacks Karachi Airport Again, Could Pakistan Fall Into Civil War With Militants?

Tue 07 31 AM

For the second time in 48 hours, Taliban militants have attacked Karachi’s international airport, the largest in Pakistan. Earlier today a group of gunmen on motorbikes opened fire on an academy run by the Airport Security Force. An assault by Taliban militants on Sunday left at least 38 people dead including the attackers. The Pakistani Taliban has claimed responsibility for both attacks, saying it was avenging military operations in North Waziristan and a U.S. drone strike that killed its leader, Hakimullah Mehsud, late last year. The Pakistani government moved toward peace talks with the Taliban earlier this year, but the process has faltered with a split inside the Taliban over whether to take part. We speak to Ayesha Siddiqa, a Pakistani political and defense analyst. Siddiqa is the author of "Military Inc.: Inside Pakistan’s Military Economy."

As Right-Wing Shooting Rampages Grow, U.S. Revives Domestic Terror Unit Shelved After 9/11

Tue 07 11 AM

Less than a week after Attorney General Eric Holder revived a task force to look at domestic terrorists, a married couple aligned with the anti-government Patriot movement shot dead two Las Vegas police officers, killed a civilian bystander, and then turned their guns on themselves. Jerad and Amanda Miller had recently spent time at the ranch of Cliven Bundy during his standoff with the federal government. Police say they proclaimed "the beginning of the revolution," and laid an American Revolutionary flag and a swastika symbol on the dead officers’ bodies. The Las Vegas shooting came just two days after a man tied to the “sovereign citizen” movement attacked a Georgia courthouse, throwing smoke bombs and shooting a sheriff’s deputy, who returned fire and killed him. Authorities say the shooter, Dennis Marx, had homemade explosives, and food and water, suggesting he planned to take hostages. Holder’s decision to revive the domestic terror unit comes five years after Republican outrage led the Obama administration to withdraw a key report on the resurgence of the radical right-wing. We are joined by Mark Potok of the Southern Poverty Law Center, which monitors U.S. hate groups and extremists."The [right-wing militia] movement is on fire at the moment, and it may get worse before it gets better," Potok says.

Freed From Prison, Bahraini Activist Nabeel Rajab Urges U.S. to Stop Backing Regime's Crackdown

Mon 07 46 AM

Nabeel Rajab, head of the Bahrain Centre for Human Rights, joins us after nearly two years behind bars for his role in pro-democracy protests. With the critical backing of the U.S. and neighboring Gulf states, the Bahraini government has waged a crackdown on opposition protesters since an uprising broke out in February 2011. "We have been abandoned by the American government, we have been ignored completely," Rajab says. "They support a dictatorship here... no one can change their policy except the American people." We are also joined by Human Rights Watch’s Josh Colangelo, author of a new report that finds Bahrain’s courts have played a key role in maintaining the country’s highly repressive political order, routinely sentencing peaceful protesters to lengthy prison terms.

Remembering Maya Angelou: Bill Clinton, Michelle Obama, Oprah Winfrey Pay Tribute to Legendary Poet

Mon 07 11 AM

The writer and activist Maya Angelou was remembered Saturday at a memorial service in North Carolina. Angelou died last month at the age of 86. Born in the Jim Crow South, Angelou rose to become one of the world’s most celebrated writers. After becoming an accomplished singer and actress, Angelou was deeply involved in the 1960s civil rights struggle, working with Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and Malcolm X. Encouraged by the author James Baldwin, among others, to focus on her writing, Angelou penned "I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings," her first of seven autobiographies. The book launched the phenomenal career for which she is known around the world as an award-winning author and poet. First Lady Michelle Obama, former President Bill Clinton and media mogul Oprah Winfrey were among the dignitaries to honor Angelou at Winston-Salem’s Wake Forest University, where she taught for three decades. "She showed us that eventually, if we stayed true to who we are, then the world would embrace us," Obama said. "And she did this not just for black women but for all women. For all human beings. She taught us all that it is okay to be your regular old self, whatever that is. Your poor self, your broken self, your brilliant, bold, phenomenal self. That was Maya Angelou’s reach."

As U.S. Frees Five Taliban Members, Questions Remain Over Future of Guantánamo

Fri 07 46 AM

The Obama Administration is defending its controversial prisoner-swap deal that saw five members of Taliban released from the Guantánamo Bay prison in exchange for the release of U.S. Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl by the Taliban. On Thursday, State Department Deputy Spokeswoman Marie Harf disputed some Republicans’ claims that the released detainees were the "worst of the worse." We speak to civil rights attorney Frank Goldsmith who represents one of the freed Guantánamo prisoners, Khairullah Khairkhwa. We also speak to reporter Andy Worthington, who recently wrote an article called, "Missing the Point on the Guantánamo Taliban Prisoner Swap and the Release of Bowe Bergdahl."

The Inside Story of Bowe Bergdahl: Afghan War Vet Matthew Farwell on "America's Last POW"

Fri 07 12 AM

As the controversy over the prisoner swap grows, new information has emerged about Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl’s time in Afghanistan. On Thursday, administration officials said Bergdahl’s life could have been in danger if details of the prisoner swap had been leaked. While some in the media have speculated that Bergdahl became sympathetic to his captors, new reports reveal Bergdahl actually escaped from his captors on at least two occasions, once in the fall of 2011 and again sometime in 2012. In another development, the New York Times reveals a classified military report concluded Bergdahl most likely walked away from his Army outpost in June 2009 on his own free will, but it stops short of concluding that there is solid evidence that he intended to permanently desert. The report also revealed that Bergdahl had wandered away from assigned areas while in the Army at least twice before prior to the day he was captured, including once in Afghanistan. We speak to Matthew Farwell, a journalist and veteran of the Afghan war who has been following the Bergdahl story for years. He helped the late Michael Hastings write his 2012 Rolling Stone article, "America’s Last Prisoner of War." Farwell came to know Bergdahl’s parents after they attended the funeral of his brother who served and in Iraq and Afghanistan and died in a helicopter accident in Germany.

EPA Moves to Cut Coal Pollution, But Critics Say Plan Falls Short on Real Emissions Reduction

Thu 07 51 AM

New environmental regulations unveiled this week are being described as the U.S. government’s most sweeping effort to date in curbing the emissions that cause global warming. The Environmental Protection Agency is seeking a 30-percent reduction of carbon emissions from 2005 levels at coal-fired power plants by the year 2030. But many environmentalists are urging the United States to take greater action on cutting greenhouse gas emissions. The Guardian reports some of the most coal-heavy states, including West Virginia, Kentucky and Ohio, will be allowed to maintain, or even increase, their emissions under the EPA plan. Meanwhile, the European Union said the United States must "do even more" to help keep global temperatures from rising more than 2 degrees Celsius. We are joined by Janet Redman, director of the Climate Policy Program at the Institute for Policy Studies.

Seattle’s Socialist City Council Member Kshama Sawant Hails Historic Vote For $15/Hour Minimum Wage

Thu 07 41 AM

Seattle made history this week by passing the $15-an-hour minimum wage — the highest rate in the country for a major city, and more than twice the federal minimum. The raise will be phased in over time. Seattle businesses will have three to seven years to implement it, depending on their size. The plan also includes several loopholes for businesses, which were fought until the last minute by Seattle City Council Member Kshama Sawant, the first socialist to be elected to the council in a century. Sawant ran for City Council last year on a platform of raising the minimum wage to $15 an hour. She join us from Seattle.

Veteran: Politicians Using Freed POW Bowe Bergdahl as "Chess Piece to Win Political Matches"

Thu 07 22 AM

The Obama administration is seeking to contain a congressional backlash over a prisoner exchange that saw the release of American soldier Bowe Bergdahl for five Taliban leaders. On Wednesday, top intelligence and military officials held a closed-door briefing for the entire Senate showing them a recent video of Bergdahl in declining health. The administration says the video helped spur action to win his release over fears his life was in danger. Opponents of the deal say the White House failed to give Congress proper notice, and may have endangered American lives by encouraging the capture of U.S. soldiers. The criticism has exploded as news spread through right-wing media that Bergdahl may have left his base after turning against the war. We are joined by Brock McIntosh, a member of Iraq Veterans Against the War who served in Afghanistan from November 2008 to August 2009. McIntosh applied for conscientious objector status and was discharged last month.