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Think Tanks as Lobbyists: Exposé Shows U.S. Groups Receive Millions to Push Foreign Nations' Agendas

Democracy Now - Mon 07 31 AM

A New York Times exposé reveals more than a dozen prominent Washington research groups have received tens of millions of dollars from foreign governments in recent years while pushing United States government officials. Some scholars funded by the think tanks say they faced pressure to reach conclusions friendly to the government financing their work. The groups named in the report include the Brookings Institution, the Center for Strategic and International Studies, and the Atlantic Council, and most of the money comes from countries in Europe, the Middle East and Asia, including the oil-producing nations of the United Arab Emirates, Qatar and Norway. Few of them have registered with the Justice Department as "foreign agents" that aim to shape policy, as required by the Foreign Agents Registration Act. We are joined by Brooke Williams, a contributing reporter at The New York Times who co-wrote the new article, "Foreign Powers Buy Influence at Think Tanks."

"U.S. Militarism Brings Chaos": As Obama Plans a War on ISIS, a Call for a Middle East-Led Response

Democracy Now - Mon 07 13 AM

President Obama has launched an effort to rally Congress and the public behind a sustained offensive against the militant group, Islamic State. Obama is set to meet with Congress on Tuesday followed by a national address Wednesday. The United States says it will lead the offensive against the Islamic State with a so-called "core coalition" of 10 countries. The White House says the fight could last beyond the end of President Obama’s term in early 2017. Meanwhile on Sunday, Arab League foreign ministers met in Cairo and announced they would cooperate with efforts to combat militants who have overrun parts of Iraq and Syria. Their resolution did not explicitly support the U.S. campaign against the Islamic State, but suggested it would back the effort.

We are joined by Rami Khouri, director of the Issam Fares Institute for Public Policy and International Affairs at the American University of Beirut and editor-at-large of the Beirut-based newspaper, The Daily Star. "Combining American militarism with Arab dictatorships is probably the stupidest recipe that anybody could possibly come up with to try to fight jihadi movements like al-Qaeda and the Islamic State and others," Khouri says. "It was that combination of Arab autocracy and American militarism that actually nurtured and let these movements expand."

Hundreds Arrested as Growing Fast-Food Workers' Movement Strikes for Living Wage, Unionization

Democracy Now - Fri 07 47 AM

Fast-food workers fighting for a $15 hourly wage and union rights took to the streets in 150 cities across the country Thursday. More than 400 workers and their supporters were arrested during the strikes as they engaged in nonviolent civil disobedience by blocking streets during rush hour. To discuss this growing labor movement, we are joined by two guests: Ashona Osborne, a fast-food worker at Wendy’s who was arrested Thursday during the fast-food worker strikes, and before that in May during protests at the McDonald’s shareholders’ meeting; and Mary Kay Henry, president of the Service Employees International Union (SEIU), which represents two million workers in healthcare, public and property services and has been a major backer of the fast-food worker strikes.

Profit over Safety: BP Faces Billions in Fines for "Grossly Negligent" Role in 2010 Gulf Oil Spill

Democracy Now - Fri 07 33 AM

A federal judge has ruled that BP was "grossly negligent" and "reckless" in the lead-up to the 2010 Deepwater Horizon explosion that killed 11 workers and caused more than 200 million gallons of oil to flood into the Gulf of Mexico. BP could face up to $18 billion in extra fines following the ruling. The ruling also found BP subcontractors Transocean and Halliburton "negligent" in the accident. BP says it will immediately appeal. In a statement on its website, BP wrote: "BP strongly disagrees with the decision? … The law is clear that proving gross negligence is a very high bar that was not met in this case. BP believes that an impartial view of the record does not support the erroneous conclusion reached by the District Court." We discuss the court ruling with Antonia Juhasz, an oil and energy analyst who has reported on the Gulf oil spill from its outset. She is the author of "Black Tide: The Devastating Impact of the Gulf Oil Spill."

Did Major Countries Agree Not to Disclose Key Details in Downing of Malaysian Airlines Flight 17?

Democracy Now - Fri 07 24 AM

Professor Stephen Cohen says new reports raise questions about why the Malaysia Airlines flight carrying 298 people exploded and crashed in eastern Ukraine, killing everyone on board. "There seems to have been an agreement among the major powers not to tell us who did it," Cohen says. While U.S. and Ukrainian officials say the Boeing 777 was shot down by a Russian-made surface-to-air missile, it is unclear who fired the missile. "There are reports from Germany that the White House version of what happened is not true, therefore you have to look elsewhere for the culprit who did the shooting down," Cohen notes. "They’re sitting on satellite intercepts. They have the images. They won’t release the air controller’s conversations in Kiev with the doomed aircraft. Why not?" See part one of this interview.

Ukraine Ceasefire Takes Hold, but an Expanding NATO on Russia's Borders Raises Threat of Nuclear War

Democracy Now - Fri 07 13 AM

The Ukrainian government and pro-Russian rebels are reportedly set to sign a ceasefire today aimed at ending over six months of fighting that has killed at least 2,600 people and displaced over a million. The deal is expected this morning in the Belarusian capital of Minsk as President Obama and European leaders meet in Wales for a major NATO summit. The ceasefire comes at a time when the Ukrainian military has suffered a number of defeats at the hands of the Russian-backed rebels. In the hours leading up to the reported ceasefire, pro-Russian rebels launched another offensive to take the port city of Mariupol, which stands about halfway between Russia and the Crimea region. The Ukrainian government and NATO have accused Russia of sending forces into Ukraine, a claim Moscow denies. The new developments in Ukraine come as NATO has announced plans to create a new rapid reaction force in response to the Ukraine crisis. We are joined by Stephen Cohen, professor emeritus of Russian studies and politics at New York University and Princeton University, and the author of numerous books on Russia and the Soviet Union.

New York Candidates Zephyr Teachout, Randy Credico, Tim Wu on Challenging Cuomo & Money in Politics

Democracy Now - Thu 07 39 AM

New York Democratic Gov. Andrew Cuomo is being challenged in his own party’s upcoming primary. We host a discussion with two candidates facing off on the party’s ballot. We are joined by Fordham Law professor Zephyr Teachout and her running mate for lieutenant governor, Tim Wu, who coined the concept of net neutrality. We are also joined political activist Randy Credico, also running for governor. While most of the Democratic establishment has backed the Cuomo ticket, the Teachout-Wu campaign has received some notable endorsements, including the Public Employees Federation, the state’s second-largest union of government workers, as well as the state chapters of the National Organization of Women and the Sierra Club. Credico, who has previously run for New York City mayor and U.S. Senate, is running on a platform calling for economic justice and the reform of the state’s drug laws. So far, Cuomo and his lieutenant governor candidate Kathy Hochul have declined all invitations to debate their challengers. We invited them to join us today for this discussion, but they declined.

A Victory over Justice System's Failure: Wrongly Convicted Brothers Freed After 31 Years in Prison

Democracy Now - Thu 07 11 AM

Two African-American half-brothers have been exonerated of rape and murder after more than 30 years behind bars in North Carolina. Henry Lee McCollum and Leon Brown were found guilty in 1984 of the rape and murder of an 11-year-old girl. There was no physical evidence tying them to the crime, but police obtained confessions that McCollum and Brown have always said were coerced. Police at the time failed to investigate another man, Roscoe Artis, who lived near the crime scene and had admitted to a similar rape and murder at around the same time. After three decades, the case saw a major breakthrough last month when testing by North Carolina’s Innocence Inquiry Commission tied Artis’ DNA to the crime scene. After a hearing presenting the new evidence Tuesday, the two brothers were declared innocent and ordered freed. Over the years, death penalty supporters have cited the brothers’ case in order to back capital punishment. In 2010, the North Carolina Republican Party pasted McCollum’s mug shot on campaign mailers. In 1994, Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia pointed to McCollum as an example of why the death penalty is just. We are joined by two guests: Vernetta Alston, one of the lawyers representing Henry Lee McCollum, and a staff attorney with the Center for Death Penalty Litigation; and Steven Drizin, clinical professor at Northwestern Law School and assistant dean of the Bluhm Legal Clinic, where for more than a decade he was legal director of the Center on Wrongful Convictions.

Journalist: Indiscriminate Bombing of Civilians by Iraqi Gov't Has Helped ISIS Recruit Supporters

Democracy Now - Wed 07 48 AM

The videotaped beheadings of American journalists James Foley and Steven Sotloff have heightened global concern about the militant group Islamic State and fueled talks of an international response to their advances in Syria and Iraq. We discuss ISIS with Mohammed al Dulaimy, an Iraqi journalist with McClatchy Newspapers. Dulaimy reported from Iraq for years and is now seeking asylum in the United States out of fear for his safety if he were to return.

Steven Sotloff Beheaded by ISIS, Becoming 70th Journalist Killed Covering Syria Conflict

Democracy Now - Wed 07 42 AM

The militant group Islamic State has released a video which appears to show the second beheading of a U.S. journalist in as many weeks. Steven Sotloff is seen wearing an orange jumpsuit similar to those worn by foreign prisoners at Guantánamo Bay. He kneels in the same position as ISIS’s previous victim, James Foley. As a masked person stands over him with a knife, Sotloff speaks directly to the camera and recites what appears to be a coerced statement about "paying the price" for U.S. airstrikes against the group. Sotloff was kidnapped about a year ago in Syria while working as a freelance journalist. To discuss the beheadings and the danger journalists face while reporting in Syria, we are joined by Robert Mahoney, deputy director of the Committee to Protect Journalists.

Behind Heated Rhetoric, Eastern Ukraine Faces Grave Humanitarian Crisis as Over 1 Million Displaced

Democracy Now - Wed 07 26 AM

We continue our coverage of Ukraine by looking at the humanitarian crisis on the ground. According to the United Nations, more than one million people have been displaced by the fighting. Some 800,000 Ukrainians have fled to Russia, another 260,000 are displaced inside Ukraine. We speak to Ole Solvang, senior emergency researcher for Human Rights Watch. He returned recently returned from eastern Ukraine and is the lead author of the new HRW report, "Ukraine: Rising Civilian Toll in Luhansk." The report details how both Ukrainian forces and Russian-backed rebels are contributing to the rising death toll in the besieged city where many residents have not had electricity, gas and running water for weeks. Food and fuel are running low.

Fmr. U.S. Ambassador: To Resolve Ukraine Crisis, Address Internal Divisions & Russian Fears of NATO

Democracy Now - Wed 07 10 AM

Ukraine has retracted an earlier claim to have reached a ceasefire with Russia. The office of Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko initially said he agreed with Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin on steps toward a ceasefire with pro-Russian rebels in eastern Ukraine. But the Kremlin then denied a ceasefire agreement, saying it is in no position to make a deal because it is not a party to the fighting. Ukraine has accused Russia of direct involvement in the violence amidst a recent escalation. The confusion comes as President Obama visits the former Soviet republic of Estonia ahead of a major NATO summit in Wales. On Tuesday, White House spokesman Josh Earnest outlined NATO’s plans to expand its presence in eastern Europe. Ukraine and NATO have accused Russia of sending armored columns of troops into Ukraine, but Russia has denied its troops are involved in fighting on the ground. We are joined by Jack Matlock, U.S. ambassador to the Soviet Union from 1987 to 1991.

Hong Kong "Occupy Central" Protests Call for Political Freedom After China Rejects Open Elections

Democracy Now - Tue 07 50 AM

Nineteen people were arrested in Hong Kong on Monday, one day after thousands protested calling for greater political freedom. The demonstration was organized by a group called Occupy Central after the Chinese government rejected demands for Hong Kong to freely choose its next leader in 2017. Under the new rules, Hong Kong voters will be allowed to choose the territory’s own chief executive, but all candidates must first be approved by a nominating panel. Activists fear the nominating panel will be controlled by pro-Beijing loyalists who will prevent opposition candidates from running. Protesters with Occupy Central are threatening to hold more demonstrations including a blockade of city’s central business district. We speak to Hong Kong legislator Claudia Mo, a former journalist who helped found the Civic Party.

As Jury Takes Up Blackwater Massacre in Nisoor Square, a Grieving Iraqi Father Recalls Son's Death

Democracy Now - Tue 07 22 AM

Jurors will begin deliberating this week in the murder and manslaughter trial of four former Blackwater operatives involved in the 2007 massacre at Baghdad’s Nisoor Square. The suspects are charged for the deaths of 14 of the 17 Iraqi civilians who died when their Blackwater unit opened fire. The trial featured testimony from witnesses who survived the attack and saw loved ones gunned down. In closing arguments last week, prosecutors said Blackwater guards had shot fleeing civilians and boasted of taking their lives. Nisoor Square is the highest-profile deadly incident involving Blackwater — or any private war contractor — and many Iraqis are watching the upcoming verdict to see how seriously the United States intends to hold its private security companies accountable for their alleged crimes. The first witness to testify in the Blackwater trial was Mohammed Kinani, who broke down in tears when describing how his nine-year-old son, Ali, was shot in the head while riding in the back seat of the family car. Kinani reportedly sobbed so uncontrollably when testifying that Judge Royce Lamberth temporarily dismissed the jury. We air a documentary that tells Mohammad and Ali’s story, "Blackwater’s Youngest Victim," by the Oscar-nominated filmmakers Jeremy Scahill and Richard Rowley.

Women's Health over Politics: Courts Block Laws Threatening Abortion Clinics in Texas, Louisiana

Democracy Now - Tue 07 11 AM

Over the past three days, federal judges have blocked a pair of new laws that could have closed most of the 19 abortion clinics in Texas and all five of the facilities in Louisiana. On Friday, a federal judge blocked a Texas law due to take effect Monday that would have required all abortion clinics to meet the same standards as hospital-style surgery centers — even those that offer non-surgical abortions with medication, and simple early surgical abortions. Last year, the controversial rule drew mass protest and an 11-hour filibuster by State Senator Wendy Davis, who is now running for governor. Meanwhile on Sunday, a federal judge in Louisiana issued a temporary restraining order just hours before a new abortion law would have begun forcing physicians who provide abortion services to have patient-admitting privileges at a hospital within 30 miles of their practice. We are joined by Amy Hagstrom Miller, CEO of Whole Woman’s Health, which operates five Texas clinics and was a party in this lawsuit.