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Democracy Now! - September 3, 2015

After a massive public uprising, Guatemalan President Otto Pérez Molina has resigned. His resignation came just hours after a judge approved the attorney general’s arrest warrant for him. This follows the Guatemalan Legislature’s unanimous decision to strip him of immunity from prosecution, bowing to popular pressure. Prosecutors said Pérez Molina will be charged with illicit association, taking bribes and customs fraud. Attorney General Thelma Aldana said Pérez Molina was also being investigated for money laundering, which could lead to the freezing of his assets. Otto Pérez Molina’s former vice president and other government officials are facing similar charges. We speak to George Polk Award-winning journalist Allan Nairn in Guatemala City.

In Kentucky, the county clerk who has defied the Supreme Court and refused to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples is set to appear before a federal judge today to make her case for why she shouldn’t be held in contempt of court. Rowan County Clerk Kim Davis stopped issuing all marriage licenses rather than comply with the Supreme Court ruling in June that legalized same-sex marriage nationwide. On Monday, the Supreme Court denied Davis’ appeal that the court grant her "asylum for her conscience." The next day, same-sex couples went to Davis’ office. In a video that went viral, David Moore confronted Davis about her decision not to issue same-sex marriage licenses. We speak with Moore about how he and his partner, David Ermold, have been denied a marriage license on three occasions by Kim Davis and staffers in her office. We’re also joined by Chris Hartman, director of the Fairness Campaign, Kentucky’s statewideLGBT advocacy group, and Joe Dunman, an attorney who represented the plaintiffs and petitioners in several Kentucky marriage cases which were consolidated into the Supreme Court case that effectively made marriage equality the law of the land.

In a move to hold government officials accountable for torture, Canada has charged Syrian Colonel George Salloum with allegedly torturing Canadian engineer Maher Arar. In 2002, Arar was kidnapped by U.S. authorities during a layover at JFK Airport and then sent to his native Syria, where he was tortured and interrogated in a tiny underground cell. He was held for nearly a year. This is the first-ever criminal charge of torture brought by Canada against a foreign government official for acts committed abroad. Canada’s decision to pursue torture charges in Arar’s case may open the door to further such prosecutions, including of U.S. government officials. In 2007, Arar received a $10 million settlement from the Canadian government. The United States has yet to apologize to him. We speak with Maher Arar’s wife, Monia Mazigh, and Alex Neve, secretary general of Amnesty International Canada.

Click the link to continue watching full episodes of Democracy Now! https://www.freespeech.org/collection/democracy-now.



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Democracy Now! - September 2, 2015

In a major victory for prisoners’ rights, California has agreed to greatly reduce the use of solitary confinement as a part of a legal settlement that may have major implications in prisons nationwide. The decision on Tuesday came following years of litigation by a group of prisoners held in isolation for a decade or more at Pelican Bay State Prison, as well as prisoner hunger strikes. We speak to Dolores Canales, the co-founder of California Families to Abolish Solitary Confinement, whose son, John Martinez, has been held in solitary confinement at Pelican Bay for more than 14 years. We also speak with Jules Lobel, the lead attorney representing prisoners at Pelican Bay in the lawsuit.

In Guatemala, the Legislature voted unanimously to strip President Otto Pérez Molina of immunity from prosecution, clearing the way for his arrest. The ruling echoes the decision by the country’s Supreme Court last week and makes it possible to prosecute Pérez Molina as part of a corruption investigation that has sparked protests calling for his resignation. We’re joined from Guatemala City by Allan Nairn, a longtime journalist who has covered Guatemala since the 1980s.

Four decades after Henry Kissinger left office, his influence on the national security state can still be widely felt as the United States engages in declared and undeclared wars across the globe. Kissinger served as national security adviser and secretary of state in the Nixon and Ford administrations and helped revive a militarized version of American exceptionalism. We speak with Greg Grandin, author of the new book, "Kissinger’s Shadow: The Long Reach of America’s Most Controversial Statesman."

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Democracy Now! - September 1, 2015

President Barack Obama arrived in Alaska on Monday for a three-day tour during which he will become the first sitting U.S. president to visit the Alaska Arctic. On Monday, Obama highlighted the dangers posed by climate change in the region. "Arctic temperatures are rising about twice as fast as the global average," Obama said. "Over the past 60 years, Alaska has warmed about twice as fast as the rest of the United States." As the Arctic region warms, the geopolitical significance of the region is growing as new areas become reachable, spurring maritime traffic and oil drilling. Resources below the Arctic ice cap are worth over $17 trillion, the rough equivalent of the entire U.S. economy. According to investigative journalist James Bamford, the region has become the "crossroads of technical espionage" as the United States, Russia, Canada, Norway and Denmark battle for control of those resources. Bamford joins us to talk about his recent piece, "Frozen Assets: The Newest Front in Global Espionage is One of the Least Habitable Locales on Earth—the Arctic."

Human Rights Watch has accused Saudi Arabia of using U.S.-made cluster munition rockets in at least seven attacks in the Yemeni city of Hajjah between late April and mid-July. Dozens of civilians were killed or wounded, both during the attacks and later, when they picked up unexploded submunitions that detonated. Neither the United States, Saudi Arabia or Yemen have joined the global convention banning the use of cluster munitions. Kenneth Roth of Human Rights Watch criticized the U.S. stance on cluster munitions. "The U.S. thinks that cluster munitions are legitimate weapons," Roth said. "The U.S. still hasn’t signed onto the landmines treaty. So, the U.S. is very much behind the rest of the world."

The first time Jeff Smith appeared on the national radar, he was the subject of the critically acclaimed documentary, Can Mr. Smith Get to Washington Anymore?, which chronicled his 2004 campaign for the congressional seat of the retiring Dick Gephardt. Smith narrowly lost the race to Russ Carnahan, but his surprising performance in a crowded field of 10 made him a rising star in Missouri Democratic politics. Smith was elected state senator in 2006 and served until 2009, when he pleaded guilty to conspiracy for an election law violation tied to the 2004 campaign. Smith was sentenced to one year and a day in a Kentucky federal prison. He chronicles his experience in his new book, Mr. Smith Goes to Prison: What My Year Behind Bars Taught Me About America’s Prison Crisis, which he calls "a scathing indictment of a system that teaches prisoners to be better criminals instead of better citizens." We speak with Smith, now an assistant professor of urban policy at The New School, about what he learned in prison and his thoughts about criminal justice reform.

Full episodes of Democracy Now! can be viewed at the link: https://www.freespeech.org/collection/democracy-now.



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Democracy Now! - August 31, 2015

The European Union has called for emergency talks to address the rapidly growing number of people fleeing to Europe to escape violence and unrest in Syria, Libya, Somalia, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Iraq, sub-Saharan Africa and other regions. According to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, approximately 2,500 people are believed to have died or gone missing trying to reach Europe so far this year. On Sunday, 37 people died when a boat capsized off the Libyan coast. This came just days after another boat capsized off the Libyan coast killing more than 200 people. Meanwhile, investigators in Hungary and Austrian authorities are continuing to probe the deaths of 71 people who were found abandoned last week inside a truck on the main highway between Budapest and Vienna. We speak to Joel Millman of the International Organization for Migration in Geneva; Kenneth Roth, executive director of Human Rights Watch; and Dr. Chiara Montaldo of Doctors Without Borders in the Sicilian town of Pozzallo in Italy. She has been providing medical and psychological care to people rescued from boats in the Mediterranean.

Weeks after approving Shell’s plans to drill in Alaska, President Obama is heading to the state to warn about the dangers of climate change. "Alaska’s glaciers are melting faster, too, threatening tourism and adding to rising seas," Obama said in his weekly address. A protest is scheduled today in Anchorage to urge Obama to reverse his decision on Shell and stop all exploratory drilling in the Arctic. We speak to Richard Steiner, an Alaskan marine conservation biologist, who is speaking at the "Our Climate, Our Future" rally.

In Egypt, Al Jazeera journalists Mohamed Fahmy, Baher Mohamed and Peter Greste were sentenced over the weekend to three years in jail for "spreading false news" that purportedly harmed Egypt following the 2013 military coup. Fahmy and Mohamed were taken into custody on Saturday. Greste remains free in Australia. The three had already spent more than a year in prison before being released on bail earlier this year. We speak with Democracy Now! correspondent Sharif Abdel Kouddous in Cairo and with Kenneth Roth, executive director of Human Rights Watch. "The U.S. should stop cozying up to General—now President—Sisi," Roth says. "He is presiding over the worst crackdown in modern Egypt history."

Full episodes of Democracy Now! can be viewed at the link: https://www.freespeech.org/collection/democracy-now.



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Democracy Now! - August 28, 2015

We spend the hour today marking the 10th anniversary of Hurricane Katrina, the 2005 storm that devastated the Gulf Coast and New Orleans, killing more than 1,800 people, forcing more than a million people to evacuate. Ten years after Hurricane Katrina, New Orleans has become a different city. The population is now about 385,000—about 80 percent of its pre-Katrina population. The number of African Americans has plunged by nearly 100,000 since the storm. According to the Urban League, the income gap between black and white residents has increased 37 percent since 2005. Thousands of homes, many in African-American neighborhoods, remain abandoned. On Thursday, President Obama spoke in New Orleans, remembering what happened 10 years ago. "We came to realize that what started out as a natural disaster became a man-made disaster — a failure of government to look out for its own citizens,” Obama said. We speak to actor Wendell Pierce, Monique Harden of the New Orleans-based Advocates for Environmental Human Rights, and Gary Rivlin, author of "Katrina: After the Flood."

Just two weeks after Hurricane Katrina, the city fired 7,500 public school teachers, launching a new push to privatize the school system and build a network of charter schools. Many accused lawmakers of trying to break the powerful United Teachers of New Orleans union. Today former President George W. Bush will return to the city to speak at the Warren Easton Charter High School. We speak to the New Orleans actor and activist Wendell Pierce, whose mother was a teacher and union member for 40 years, as well Gary Rivlin, author of "Katrina: After the Flood." He recently wrote a piece for The New York Times titled "Why New Orleans’s Black Residents Are Still Underwater After Katrina."

New Orleans actor and activist Wendell Pierce looks at how insurance companies discouraged poor and black families from returning to New Orleans after Katrina by refusing to honor homeowner policies. Pierce, whose great-grandfather came to New Orleans as a slave in the 1850s, talks about how Allstate gave his parents just $400 after they paid premiums for 50 years. Pierce writes about his family in his new book, "The Wind in the Reeds: A Storm, a Play, and the City That Would Not Be Broken."

On Sept. 2, 2005, during a nationally televised telethon benefit for victims of Hurricane Katrina, hip-hop legend Kanye West went off script to directly criticize the media and the White House’s handling of the storm. "I hate the way they portray us in the media," he said. "If you see a black family, it says they’re looting. If you see a white family, it says they’re searching for food." West went on to say, "George Bush doesn’t care about black people." Bush later wrote in his memoir that this moment was an all-time low of his presidency.

Click the link to continue watching full episodes of Democracy Now! https://www.freespeech.org/collection/democracy-now.



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Democracy Now! - August 27, 2015

In Guatemala, a judge has ordered that former Vice President Roxana Baldetti must remain in prison while her corruption trial takes place. The ruling comes on the heels of the Guatemalan Supreme Court’s decision Tuesday to lift the immunity from prosecution for President Otto Pérez Molina, clearing the way for his impeachment. The court passed the impeachment recommendation along to Congress. A general strike has been called in Guatemala for today. We are joined by Allan Nairn, longtime journalist who has covered Guatemala since the 1980s.

President Barack Obama is in New Orleans today to mark the 10th anniversary of Hurricane Katrina. According to prepared remarks, Obama will declare: "What started out as a natural disaster became a man-made one—a failure of government to look out for its own citizens." In 2005, Democracy Now! was on the ground in the days following the storm that devastated the Gulf Coast, killing more than 1,800 people and forcing more than 1 million people to evacuate. We turn now to excerpts of Democracy Now!’s coverage of Hurricane Katrina.

Ten years after Hurricane Katrina, New Orleans has become a different city. The population of New Orleans is now approximately 385,000—about 80 percent of its pre-Katrina population. The number of African Americans has plunged by nearly 100,000 since the storm. According to the Urban League, the income gap between black and white residents has increased by 37 percent since 2005. In 2013, the median income for African-American households in New Orleans was $25,000, compared to over $60,000 for white households. Thousands of homes, many in African-American neighborhoods, remain abandoned. We speak to civil rights attorneys Tracie Washington of the Louisiana Justice Institute and Bill Quigley of Loyola University.

We continue our coverage of the 10th anniversary of Hurricane Katrina by speaking to Malik Rahim, co-founder of the Common Ground Collective and one of the founders of the Louisiana chapter of the Black Panther Party. In 2005, he and the Common Ground Collective helped bring thousands of people from all over the world to assist in the rebuilding of New Orleans. Just weeks after Hurricane Katrina hit the city, Malik took us around the neighborhood of Algiers, where he showed us how a corpse still remained in the street unattended, lying right around the corner from a community health center. Malik returns to Democracy Now! to talk about the storm a decade later.

Click the link to continue watching full episodes of Democracy Now! https://www.freespeech.org/collection/democracy-now.



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Democracy Now! - August 26, 2015

Today we spend the hour with David Simon, the man behind "The Wire," what some have described as the best television series ever broadcast. His latest project is titled "Show Me a Hero," a six-part mini-series now airing onHBO. It looks at what happened in Yonkers, New York, in the 1980s when the city was faced with a federal court order to build a small number of low-income housing units in the white neighborhoods of his town.

Ten years ago this week, Hurricane Katrina struck the Gulf Coast, killing more than 1,800 people. David Simon’s series "Treme" looked at New Orleans after the storm. We talk to the acclaimed TV writer and producer about the show and his love of New Orleans.

In his acclaimed TV show "The Wire," David Simon captured the city of Baltimore from the angles of street-level drug dealers, beat police officers and journalists covering corrupt politicians. Earlier this year, President Obama described "The Wire" as "one of the greatest, not just television shows, but pieces of art, in the last couple of decades.” Simon said he aimed to portray how "raw, unencumbered capitalism" devalues human beings. Nearly a decade ago in Slate, Jacob Weisberg wrote: "No other program has ever done anything remotely like what this one does, namely to portray the social, political, and economic life of an American city with the scope, observational precision, and moral vision of great literature."

Full episodes of Democracy Now! can be viewed at the link: https://www.freespeech.org/collection/democracy-now.



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Democracy Now! - August 25, 2015

Black Monday is how economists are describing Monday’s market turmoil, which saw stock prices tumble across the globe, from China to Europe to the United States. China’s stock indices fell over 8 percent on Monday and another 7 percent today. On Wall Street, the Dow Jones Industrial Average initially fell a record 1,100 points before closing down nearly 600 points. The decline also caused oil prices to plunge to their lowest levels in almost six years. To make sense of what’s really behind the fluctuations in the market, we are joined by economist Michael Hudson, president of the Institute for the Study of Long-Term Economic Trends, a Wall Street financial analyst and author of the book, "Killing the Host: How Financial Parasites and Debt Bondage Destroy the Global Economy."

Peace talks between South Sudan’s warring sides have failed to reach a deal to end a civil war which has claimed tens of thousands of lives in the world’s youngest nation. Last week, the United States proposed implementing a United Nations arms embargo on South Sudan and new sanctions unless the government signs a peace deal to end the conflict. Now the situation in South Sudan is the subject of a new documentary, "We Come as Friends," by Austrian director Hubert Sauper that provides an aerial view of the conflict in Sudan from a shaky, handmade two-seater plane. The film depicts American investors, Chinese oilmen, United Nations officials and Christian missionaries struggling to shape Sudan according to their own visions, while simultaneously applauding the alleged "independence" of the world’s newest state. What emerges is a devastating critique of the consequences of cultural and economic imperialism. We speak with Hauper and feature excerpts from the film, which debuts this week in theaters.

Legendary hip-hop artist Boots Riley has just published a new book, "Tell Homeland Security–We Are the Bomb,” of his songs, commentaries and stories from his work with the Oakland hip-hop group The Coup and the band Street Sweeper Social Club. Riley has been deeply involved in political activism for decades, from taking part in protests against police brutality to supporting Occupy Oakland to speaking out on Palestinian issues. Last week, he joined more than 1,000 black activists, artists and scholars in signing on to a statement supporting "the liberation of Palestine’s land and people." He also describes how his his cousin, Carlos Riley, who was accused of shooting a police officer in Durham, North Carolina, in 2012 was just found not guilty of shooting the police officer.

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Democracy Now! - August 24, 2015

The 2016 presidential race is shaping up to be the most expensive political race in history. Experts predict as much as $10 billion could be spent by candidates, parties and outside groups on the campaign. A recent analysis by The New York Times shows fewer than 400 families are responsible for almost half the money raised to date. The vast majority of the $388 million raised so far has been channeled to super PACs which can accept unlimited donations in support of candidates. According to the Times, the political network overseen by the conservative billionaires Charles and David Koch plans to spend close to $900 million on the 2016 campaign. That figure dwarfs how much the Republican National Committee and the party’s two congressional campaign committees spent in the 2012 election. Meanwhile, Hillary Clinton has a set a fundraising goal of $2.5 billion. Today we are joined by a law professor who is considering challenging Clinton in the Democratic primary. His platform is simple: Get money out of politics. Harvard professor Lawrence Lessig says that if he won the presidency, he would serve only as long as it takes to pass sweeping campaign finance reform. Then, he says, he would resign.

As members of Congress continue to debate the historic Iran nuclear deal ahead of next month’s vote, more attention is being paid to the three—possibly four—Americans imprisoned in Iran: Washington Post reporter Jason Rezaian, Saeed Abedini, Amir Hekmati and Robert Levinson, whose whereabouts are in question. During a recent press conference, President Obama defended his decision not to tie the nuclear negotiations to the release of the hostages, saying it would have encouraged Iran to use hostages perhaps to get additional concessions from the United States. We speak to Sarah Shourd, one of the three American hikers imprisoned in Iran for more than a year in solitary confinement. She was captured, along with her two companions, Shane Bauer and Joshua Fattal, in July 2009 while hiking near the unmarked Iran-Iraq border in semi-autonomous Iraqi Kurdistan during a week-long trip from her home in Damascus, Syria.

Since her 2010 release from an Iranian prison, Sarah Shourd’s work has focused largely on exposing and condemning the cruelty and overuse of solitary confinement in U.S. prisons. She has just written a play about solitary confinement in the United States titled "Opening the Box." It was performed Thursday at an event hosted by the Fortune Society in New York City, before an audience of many who had been in solitary.

In a recent article for The Daily Beast, "Facebook Now a Place for Prisoners, Too," Sarah Shourd looked at the growing debate on prisoners using social media. Facebook has been accused of being too willing to delete profile pages of prisoners at the request of U.S. authorities. The company recently changed its policy after complaints from the Electronic Frontier Foundation and other groups.

We turn now to Guatemala, where President Otto Pérez Molina is attempting to hold onto his office despite growing calls demanding for his resignation. The president has faced months of massive protests amid a multimillion-dollar corruption scandal in which importers paid bribes to Tax Authority officials to obtain discounts. Over the weekend, most of Pérez Molina’s Cabinet stepped down. The scandal has also led to the arrest of top officials, including Vice President Roxana Baldetti, who was arrested on Friday on corruption charges. On Saturday, crowds rallied outside the presidential palace chanting "Resign now!" and waving Guatemalan flags. On Sunday, the Roman Catholic Church joined in calling for the president’s resignation. Hours later, Otto Pérez Molina announced he would not resign. We go to Guatemala to speak with journalist and activist Allan Nairn about the current corruption scandal and Pérez Molina’s history as a U.S.-backed general implicated in the mass murder of indigenous Mayans during the country’s dirty war in the 1980s.

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In a Final Speech, Civil Rights Icon Julian Bond Declares: "We Must Practice Dissent"

In one of his final speeches, the late civil rights leader Julian Bond spoke at the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial on May 2, 2015, as part of the "Vietnam: Power of Protest" conference. He was introduced by the actor and activist Danny Glover. Julian Bond died on August 15 at the age of 75. Bond first gained prominence in 1960 when he organized a series of student sit-ins while attending Morehouse College. He went on to help found SNCC, the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee. Julian Bond would go on to co-found the Southern Poverty Law Center. He served as the organization’s first president from 1971 to 1979. From 1998 to 2010, he was chairman of the NAACP.

Full episodes of Democracy Now! can be viewed at the link: https://www.freespeech.org/collection/democracy-now.

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