Congress approved an 11th-hour deal late last night to end the 16-day partial government shutdown and pull the nation back from the brink of an historic debt default. The spending measure passed the Senate and House of Representatives after Republicans dropped efforts to use the legislation to force changes in President Obama’s signature healthcare law. The spending bill offers only a temporary fix. It funds the government until January 15 and raises the debt ceiling until February 7. Rep. John Conyers says the focus should be on jobs, not debt. "We need a full employment bill. It is my hope that we can take the aim to create full employment for everybody in America and put it number one on our domestic agenda so that we create jobs and that we train people for important work," says Conyers, ranking member of the House Judiciary Committee. He recently celebrated nearly 50 years in Congress, the longest-ever by an African American.
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In a boon for military contractors, the United States is relaxing controls on military exports, allowing some U.S.-made military parts to flow to nearly any country in the world with little oversight. ProPublica reports that beginning this week, thousands of parts for military aircraft can be sent freely around the world, even to some countries currently under U.N. arms embargoes. Previously, military firms had to register with the State Department and obtain a license for each export deal. That allowed U.S. officials to screen for issues including possible human rights violations. But now, tens of thousands of items are shifting to the Commerce Department, where they fall under looser controls. The changes were heavily lobbied for by military firms including Lockheed Martin, Textron and Honeywell. "The whole globe, basically, is going to get an easier deal in terms of getting access to U.S. military technology without very many questions asked," says William Hartung, director of the Arms and Security Project at the Center for International Policy. The United States already heavily dominates arms exports market: In 2011, the U.S. concluded $66 billion in arms sales agreements — which accounts for nearly 80 percent of the global market.
The partial shutdown of the federal government has entered its 16th day, and the nation is now on the brink of a default as the government’s borrowing authority ends tomorrow. On Tuesday, Fitch Ratings warned it could cut the the U.S. government’s AAA debt rating if a deal to raise the debt limit is not reached. In a statement, Fitch said, "The prolonged negotiations over raising the debt ceiling ... risks undermining confidence in the role of the U.S. dollar as the preeminent global reserve currency, by casting doubt over the full faith and credit of the U.S." The Senate appears to be moving closer to a deal to reopen the government and raise the debt limit, but the Republican-controlled House of Representatives failed twice Tuesday to produce its own plan. As lawmakers continue to debate a possible deal to reopen the government, the impact of the shutdown is being felt across the country. North Carolina has become the first state to halt its welfare program due to the shutdown. "It’s meant a lot of pain for a lot of Americans — infants that have lost support for nutrition, children that have been thrown out of Head Start, safety measures that are not taken because the weather buoys are no longer manned. The list can go on, and the effects accumulate each day," says Robert Borosage, founder and president of the Institute for America’s Future and co-director of its sister organization, the Campaign for America’s Future. He recently wrote an article for Reuters called "Tea Party Zealots Hold the Public Debate Hostage." We are also joined by Amanda Terkel, senior political reporter and politics managing editor at The Huffington Post.
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- Philippines: Death Toll from Earthquake Rises to 144
- Iran Presents Plan to Curb Nuclear Program at Geneva Talks
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- Report: Pundits Who Urged Strikes on Syria Failed to Disclose Ties to Military Industry
- Guantánamo Prisoner Vows to Continue to Hunger Strike
- Report: Half a Million Dead Due to Iraq War
- Supreme Court Appears Poised to Uphold Affirmative Action Ban
- Supreme Court to Consider EPA Rules on Greenhouse Gases
- U.S. Trial Opens in Chevron's Lawsuit Against Ecuadorean Pollution Victims
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- Anonymous Joins Chorus of National Outrage over Rape Case in Maryville, Missouri
- Former San Diego Mayor Bob Filner Pleads Guilty to Sexual Harassment; Avoids Prison
- Son of Slain Sikh Temple President to Run Against Congressmember Paul Ryan
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In a Democracy Now! exclusive, we look at the case of multimillionaire American businessman and philanthropist Rick Bourke, who blew the whistle on a fraudulent scheme by international criminals to gain control of the oil riches of the former Soviet Republic of Azerbaijan — only to end up as the only person sent to jail by federal prosecutors in the massive conspiracy. Since May, Bourke has been held in a federal prison, serving a term of one year and one day for violating the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act for alleged knowledge of the bribery that allegedly took place in 1998. Other investors in the Azerbaijan scheme included former Democratic Senate Majority leader George Mitchell and major institutions including Columbia University and AIG, but no one else was jailed in the United States. High-ranking former U.S. and British officials from the CIA and MI6 have raised serious concerns about the conviction of Bourke in part because the key witnesses during his trial were allegedly intelligence assets working for the U.S. government. They are not the only ones who question Bourke’s guilt. Even the judge in his case has admitted having doubts. At the time of Bourke’s sentencing, Shira Scheindlin of the Federal District Court said, "After 10 years of supervising this case, it is still not entirely clear to me whether Mr. Bourke was a victim, or a crook, or a little bit of both." We speak to Bourke’s lawyer, the law professor and renowned attorney Michael Tigar, as well as former Washington Post reporter Scott Armstrong. "Why is it that they would go after the guy that blew the whistle on the thievery and bribery, Rick Bourke?" Tigar asks. "Why is it that the Czech citizen and the guy, the ex-patriot, and the German-Swiss lawyer all are walking free; the American citizen, philanthropist, and so on, is sitting in a minimum security jail? Well, investment in the Azerbaijan hydrocarbon industry is now safely in the hands of major petroleum companies. Is that a reason?"
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- Report: NSA Collects Millions of Email, Chat Contact Lists
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- Afghanistan: Governor of Logar Killed by Bomb
- Libyan Bomb Suspect Faces Arraignment in New York
- Talks on Iran's Nuclear Program Begin in Geneva
- Syria: Gunmen Release 4 of 7 Aid Workers
- Russia: Police Round Up 1,600 Migrants After Anti-Migrant Riots
- Russian Court Denies Bail to Greenpeace Captain, Activists
- U.S. Supreme Court Hears Case on Affirmative Action
In a Democracy Now! special, we spend the hour with four former U.S. intelligence officials — all whistleblowers themselves — who have just returned from visiting National Security Agency whistleblower Edward Snowden in Russia. They are former CIA analyst Ray McGovern, former FBI agent Coleen Rowley, former National Security Agency senior executive Thomas Drake, and former U.S. Justice Department ethics adviser Jesselyn Radack, now of the Government Accountability Project. On Wednesday, the group presented Snowden with an award from the Sam Adams Associates for Integrity in Intelligence. "In our visit, we told Edward Snowden that he had begun the debate by disclosing to American citizens what was going on — this massive spying upon American citizens," Rowley says. "We were happy to tell him the debate has begun, but he is very concerned, and this is actually the reason he has sacrificed so much: He wants to see these laws, these secret interpretations of the law, I should say, fixed."
For the first time in months, the National Security Agency whistleblower Edward Snowden has appeared on video speaking in Moscow. He warned about "dragnet mass surveillance that puts entire populations under sort of an eye that sees everything even when it’s not needed." Snowden’s remarks were made after four American whistleblowers traveled to Russia to give him the Integrity Award from the Sam Adams Associates for Integrity in Intelligence.
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- Groups Protest World Bank Support for Dams, Fossil Fuel Projects
- Air Force Fires General in Charge of Nuclear Missiles; 2nd Nuke Leader Fired in Days
- Powerful Cyclone Blasts India; Typhoon Heads for Vietnam
- Syria: Gunmen Kidnap 7 Aid Workers
- U.S. Citizen Detained in Egypt Commits Suicide
- Secret Court Extends NSA Phone Spying Powers
- NSA Critics "Adopt" Highway to Protest Data Center
- Kerry, Karzai at Odds over Immunity for U.S. Troops
- U.S. Soldier Shot Dead by Man in Afghan Uniform
- Malala Yousafzai: "Drone Attacks Are Fueling Terrorism"
- Chile: Indigenous People Protest Columbus Day
- Arizona: Immigrant Rights Protesters Block Court Proceedings
- "March Against Monsanto" Held in Dozens of Countries
- ACLU Challenges Anti-Choice Measures in Ohio Budget
- Hundreds Honor Angola 3 Member Herman Wallace at Funeral
The U.S. Supreme Court appears poised to strike down most of the remaining limits on massive spending by wealthy donors on political campaigns. On Tuesday, justices heard arguments in McCutcheon v. Federal Election Commission, which has been referred to as "the next Citizens United." Republican leaders and wealthy GOP donor Shaun McCutcheon wants the Supreme Court to throw out aggregate limits on individual contributions in a single two-year cycle, saying they violate free speech. "If these advocate limitations go down, 500 people will control American democracy. It would be 'government for the 500 people,' not for anybody else — and that’s the risk," says Burt Neuborne, law professor and founding legal director of the Brennan Center for Justice at New York University Law School. On Tuesday, Chief Justice John Roberts indicated he is prepared to strike down caps on donations to individual candidates, but perhaps not on donations to political committees. Justice Antonin Scalia appears to be set to back the lifting of all limits. "The Scalia side says, 'Look, if you're rich, you’re entitled to have as much influence as you can buy,’" Neuborne says. "And the Scalia side has won 5-to-4 consistently in recent years."
In its first report on press freedom in the United States, the Committee to Protect Journalists warns President Obama has ushered in a paralyzing climate of fear for both reporters and their government sources. Among the cases it details: Six government employees — plus two contractors, including Edward Snowden — have faced felony criminal prosecutions since 2009 under the 1917 Espionage Act for leaking classified information to the press, compared with just three such prosecutions in all previous U.S. administrations. The Department of Justice has also secretly subpoenaed and seized Associated Press reporters’ phone logs and emails, and New York Times reporter James Risen was ordered to testify against a former CIA officer who provided leaked information to him, or go to jail. We speak to the report’s author, Leonard Downie Jr., former executive editor of The Washington Post. He spoke with dozens of journalists who told him officials are "reluctant to discuss even unclassified information … because they fear that leak investigations and government surveillance make it more difficult for reporters to protect them as sources."
As the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons wins the 2013 Nobel Peace Prize, we look at international efforts to rid Syria and other countries — including the United States — of chemical weapons. While Syria recently pledged to sign the 1993 Chemical Weapons Convention, four other countries have not: Egypt, North Korea, Angola and South Sudan. Israel and Burma have signed the treaty, but not ratified it. Both Egypt and Syria say they maintained chemical weapon arsenals to counter Israel’s secret nuclear weapons program. Meanwhile, the United States and Russia, both signatories of the treaty, missed a 2012 deadline to destroy their remaining chemical weapons arsenals — which is some 95 percent of the global stockpile. We speak to 2013 Right Livelihood Award winner Paul Walker of Green Cross International and Stephen Zunes, professor of politics and international studies at the University of San Francisco, where he chairs the program in Middle East studies.
- Chemical Weapons Watchdog Wins Nobel Peace Prize
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- HRW: Syrian Rebels Killed 190 Civilians in Coordinated Attack
- Budget Stalemate Continues After Obama Meets with GOP
- GOP Approval Rating Lowest in Poll's History
- Salmonella Outbreak Sickens Hundreds While Health Workers on Furlough
- Radiation Level Near Fukushima Reactor Hits Highest Level in 2 Years
- French High Court Upholds Ban on Fracking
- North Dakota Governor Unaware of Massive Oil Spill Until Days Later
- Canadians John Greyson, Tarek Loubani Cleared to Leave Egypt
- Whistleblower Advocates Present Award to Snowden in Russia
- Snowden's Father Meets with Son
- Report: CIA Supervisor Warned About Snowden's Behavior in 2009
- PATRIOT Act Co-Author to Introduce Bill Curbing NSA Spying
- Pentagon's Second-in-Command to Step Down
- Survey: Most Americans Unable to Get Health Insurance Through New Exchange Sites
As lawmakers face increasing pressure to come to a resolution 10 days into the government shutdown, we are joined by Arizona Democrat Rep. Raúl Grijalva, co-chair of the Congressional Progressive Caucus. "This shutdown is contrived," Grijalva says. In speaking about shutdown, Grijalva objects to oil and gas exploration being allowed on federal land while the public remains locked out. He continues to push for the passage of comprehensive immigration reform that includes a path to citizenship. He was among eight Democratic lawmakers arrested on Tuesday in a large civil disobedience rally for immigration reform on the National Mall. "The fight over the debt ceiling and the budget is a harbinger of the fight over immigration," Grijalva says. "Those 30 to 40 to 45 tea party extremists have done nothing but to try to block any effort with threats within their own caucus on immigration reform ... The urgency is still there, and now I think it’s up to us and community organizations throughout this country to ratchet up the pressure."
As Edward Snowden’s father, Lon, arrives in Moscow to try to visit his son, we speak to American Civil Liberties Union Executive Director Anthony Romero about Snowden and the significance of his leaks about the National Security Agency. "Edward Snowden has done this country a service," Romero says. "He has kick-started a debate that we didn’t have. This debate was anemic." Hossam Bahgat of the Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights adds, "We are all affected by the NSA program. We cannot do our work in Egypt, in Canada or Israel or Kenya when we cannot communicate, when we know our emails could be intercepted by the United States security apparatus."
In a major new report, the International Network of Civil Liberties Organizations details a global crackdown on peaceful protests through excessive police force and the criminalization of dissent. The report, "Take Back the Streets: Repression and Criminalization of Protest Around the World," warns of a growing tendency to perceive individuals exercising a fundamental democratic right — the right to protest — as a threat requiring a forceful government response. The case studies detailed in this report show how governments have reacted to peaceful protests in the United States, Israel, Canada, Argentina, Egypt, Hungary, Kenya, South Africa and Britain. The report’s name comes from a police report filed in June 2010 when hundreds of thousands of Canadians took to the streets of Toronto to nonviolently protest the G-20 summit. A senior Toronto police commander responded to the protests by issuing an order to "take back the streets." Within a span of 36 hours, more than 1,000 people — peaceful protesters, journalists, human rights monitors and downtown residents — were arrested and placed in detention. We are joined by three guests: the report’s co-editor, Abby Deshman, a lawyer and program director with the Canadian Civil Liberties Association; Anthony Romero, executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union; and Hossam Bahgat, an Egyptian human rights activist and the founder and executive director of the Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights.
The White House has announced it will suspend some of its $1.5 billion in annual military aid to Egypt until the country ushers in a democratic government. Reuters reports that some of the items to be withheld include Abrams tanks, F-16 aircraft, Apache helicopters and Harpoon missiles. The United States has avoided the automatic suspension of all military aid to Egypt by refusing to deem Mohamed Morsi’s ouster a coup. Hundreds of Morsi supporters have been killed by state forces since his ouster in July. Egypt, meanwhile, has set a date of November 4 for Morsi to stand trial for inciting the murder of protesters. "We believe Morsi should be prosecuted. He should be held accountable for crimes that he authored during his one year in office," says Hossam Bahgat, founder and executive director of the Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights. "But the kinds of prosecutions we are seeing are completely selective and punitive. It makes no sense to see Morsi being prosecuted for having incited the killing of 10 protesters when 1,000 protesters were killed on August 14 and there isn’t even an investigation into it."
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- Syria On Pace to Meet Mid-2014 Target on Chemical Disarmament
- Libyan Prime Minister Freed After Brief Captivity
- U.S. Reduces Military Aid to Egypt
- Haitians Sue U.N. Over Cholera Outbreak
- Study: Global Temperatures Could Hit Unprecedented Levels by Mid-Century
- Russia to Bring Drug Charges Against Detained Greenpeace Activists
- Obama Unveils Yellen as Fed Nominee
- White House Climate Adviser Steps Down
- California Expands Abortion Access Through Nurse Practitioners, Midwives
- Family Says African American Slain by Georgia Police Was Unarmed
- Undercover Officer Arrested in New York Highway Incident Spied on OWS
Costa-Gavras joins us for the hour to discuss a nearly 50-year career that has earned him the reputation as one of the world’s greatest living political filmmakers. Born in Greece in 1933, the 80-year-old has won two Academy Awards for his films "Z" and "Missing." Other acclaimed films include "State of Siege," "Amen.," "Music Box," "The Confession," "Hanna K." and "Betrayed." For nearly five decades, Costa-Gavras has tackled some of the key political issues of the day. "Z" was a drama loosely based on the 1963 assassination of a Greek left-wing activist. "Missing," his 1982 film starring Jack Lemmon and Sissy Spacek, told the story of American journalist Charles Horman, who was abducted and killed after General Augusto Pinochet came to power in Chile in a U.S.-backed coup. In his film "State of Siege," Costa-Gavras looked at the controversial role of the U.S. Agency for International Development in Latin America. The film was based on the kidnapping and murder of a U.S. official named Dan Mitrione, who taught torture to Uruguayan officers. His latest film, "Capital," tells the story of a CEO of a large bank who lays off many of the employees and brokers a corrupt deal with the head of an American hedge fund.