2015-03-31 13:59:15

Democracy Now! - March 31, 2015

Negotiators meeting in Lausanne, Switzerland, over an Iran nuclear deal are set to issue a general statement that enough progress has been made to continue in a new phase aimed at a comprehensive agreement in June. Details of the talks have been kept under wraps. The United States had imposed a Tuesday deadline for a preliminary accord in order to help stave off congressional opposition, buoyed by the efforts of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Congress has vowed to impose additional sanctions if negotiators fail to reach a preliminary agreement, and the Senate is expected to take up a measure that would give Congress final approval. We go to Lausanne for an update from Trita Parsi, founder and president of the National Iranian American Council, who has been following the negotiations closely.

George Mitchell, the former senator and U.S. Special Envoy for Middle East Peace under President Obama, joins us to discuss the escalating U.S.-Israel standoff over Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s campaign against an Iran nuclear deal and open rejection of the two-state solution. Last week, it emerged Israeli intelligence spied on the Iran talks and then fed the information to congressional Republicans. Obama and other top officials have vowed to re-evaluate their approach to the Israel-Palestine conflict following Netanyahu’s vow to prevent a Palestinian state. U.S. officials have suggested they might take steps, including no longer vetoing U.N. Security Council resolutions critical of Israel. A first test of the new U.S. approach might come in the next few weeks when France will put forward a U.N. Security Council measure aimed at encouraging peace talks between Israel and the Palestinian Authority. Mitchell headed the U.S. role in the Mideast talks between 2009 and 2011. He previously served under President Bill Clinton, as the Special Envoy for Northern Ireland, where he helped broker the Belfast Peace Agreement of 1998.

We look at the case of Frederic "Rick" Bourke, who is considered a whistleblower after he was imprisoned for exposing corruption and bribery in the oil-rich region of the Caspian Sea. Bourke is known for founding the luxury handbag company Dooney & Bourke and is a philanthropist who has invested his wealth into ventures seeking novel cures for cancer. In the mid-1990s, he met a Czech national named Viktor Kozeny who recruited investors for the takeover of SOCAR, the state-owned oil company of Azerbaijan. Serious investors vetted the opportunity and sank huge sums into the enterprise, including our guest, former Senate Majority Leader George Mitchell. But the investment failed, and Kozeny absconded with the remaining funds. Bourke was recently released from prison, while Kozeny was never punished. When asked if Bourke should be exonerated, Mitchell responds, "I do not believe he should have been convicted in the first place."

Indiana is facing boycotts and fierce criticism following Gov. Mike Pence’s new measure that could sanction discrimination by allowing business owners to refuse service to LGBT customers in the name of "religious freedom." Connecticut is the first state to officially boycott Indiana over the move, now San Francisco and Seattle have also imposed bans on city-funded travel to the state. Nine chief executive officers, including the heads of Angie’s List and Eli Lilly, wrote letters asking Indiana state officials to "take immediate action" to ensure the act will not sanction or encourage discrimination. On Saturday, thousands of people marched in Indianapolis calling for Pence’s resignation. Critics have called for a boycott, and some, including former NBA star Charles Barkley, are calling for the upcoming Final Four college basketball championship, to be moved out of state. Supporters of the legislation have said 19 other states have similar laws and that Indiana is attracting undue criticism. Pence has said he will seek a new measure to "clarify the intent" of his new law, though he added that LGBT protections are "not on my agenda." We are joined by Eunice Rho, advocacy and policy counsel for the American Civil Liberties Union.

Imprisoned journalist and former Black Panther Mumia Abu-Jamal has been taken to the Intensive Care Unit of Schuylkill Medical Center in Pottsville, Pennsylvania, after he was removed from prison for a medical emergency without any notification to his family, friends or lawyers. Prison officials told his supporters he is in diabetic shock. We get an update from Abu-Jamal’s longtime friend, Johanna Fernández who first discovered he was in the hospital Monday morning when she went to visit him in prison and was told he had been taken to the intensive care unit. Fernández is a history professor at Baruch College-CUNY, and one of the coordinators of the Campaign to Bring Mumia Home.

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



Amy Goodman Democracy Now! Iran Mike Pence Mumia Abu Jamal Protests

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