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Johann Hari: Everything We Know About the Drug War & Addiction is Wrong

Democracy Now - Wed 08 38 AM

As President Obama seeks $27.6 billion for federal drug control programs in his new budget, we talk to British journalist Johann Hari about the century-old failed drug war and how much of what we know about addiction is wrong. Over the past four years Hari has traveled to the United States, Mexico, Canada, Uruguay and Portugal to research his new book, "Chasing the Scream: The First and Last Days of the War of Drugs." His findings may surprise you — from the U.S. government’s persecution of Billie Holiday, to Vancouver’s success in addressing its heroin epidemic, to Portugal’s experiment with full decriminalization of all drugs.

Dean Baker: New Leftist Greek Leaders Being "Very Smart" to Challenge German-Imposed Austerity

Democracy Now - Wed 08 31 AM

Economist Dean Baker discusses last month’s victory of the left-wing Syriza party in Greece. This marked the first election victory in Europe of an anti-bailout party bent on reversing deep cuts demanded by international lenders. Baker praises the initial moves by the new government but warns Greece needs an "exit option" to leave the European Union.

An End to "Mindless Austerity": Obama Pushes for Taxing the Rich to Fund New Spending Programs

Democracy Now - Wed 08 12 AM

President Obama has unveiled a $4 trillion budget proposal for next year Congress that calls for raising taxes on the wealthy and corporations in order to help fund education and fix crumbling infrastructure. The plan includes tax cuts for some poor and middle-class families. It also seeks to recoup losses from corporations that stash an estimated $2 trillion overseas by taxing such earnings at 14 percent, still less than half of the 35 percent rate for profits made in the United States. Obama’s proposed budget also takes aim at the high cost of prescription drugs, proposes a new agency to regulate food safety, and seeks $1 billion to curb immigration from Central America. It also calls for a 4.5 percent increase in military spending, including a $534 billion base budget for the Pentagon, plus $51 billion to fund U.S. involvement in Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan. Speaking at the Department of Homeland Security, Obama said across-the-board cuts known as sequestration would hurt the military. We speak to economist Dean Baker, co-director of the Center for Economic and Policy Research and author of "Getting Back to Full Employment: A Better Bargain for Working People."

The New Arab Cold War: U.S. Policy Sows Conflict, Unrest Across the Middle East and North Africa

Democracy Now - Tue 08 42 AM

As the United States weighs a major escalation with potential military aid to Ukraine, we look at how American policy is sowing conflict across North Africa and the Middle East. Libya is run by two different governments, and the United Nations has warned of "total chaos" if ongoing unity talks fail. The U.S.-backed regime in Egypt continues a crackdown on political opponents, recently carrying out its worst killing of protesters since General Abdel Fattah el-Sisi became president last June. Iraq is coming off its deadliest month in years, while outgoing Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel has said the U.S. might need to send noncombat ground troops for the ongoing campaign against the Islamic State. In Syria, the world’s worst current humanitarian crisis, the U.S. has backed off its calls for the ouster of President Bashar al-Assad. In Lebanon, Hezbollah and Israel exchanged fire last week in one of their most violent clashes since the 2006 war. The incident was followed days later by a Washington Post report that the CIA and its Israeli counterpart, the Mossad, assassinated a senior Hezbollah leader seven years ago this month. Now a dispute over Iran has brought relations between President Obama and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to their lowest point so far. Following the death of King Abdullah last month, Obama led a large delegation to Saudi Arabia in a major display of U.S. support for the new repressive regime. And in Yemen, uncertainty prevails after last month’s resignation of President Abdu Hadi, with Houthi rebels now threatening to seize power. We discuss the state of the Middle East and North Africa — and the U.S. role in ongoing conflicts — with Vijay Prashad, professor of international studies at Trinity College.

Is Ukraine a Proxy Western-Russia War? U.S. Weighs Arming Kiev as Violence Soars

Democracy Now - Tue 08 14 AM

The United Nations has raised the death toll from fighting in eastern Ukraine to more than 5,300 people since last April following the ouster of Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych one year ago this month. Another 1.5 million people have been displaced. As fighting intensifies, the Obama administration is now considering directly arming Ukrainian forces against Russian-backed rebels. Washington already supplies nonlethal military equipment to Ukraine, but top officials are reportedly leaning toward sending arms, from rifles to anti-tank weapons. The role of the U.S. and European allies in Ukraine has prompted former Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev to accuse the West of dragging Russia into a new Cold War. We are joined by Stephen Cohen, professor emeritus of Russian studies and politics at New York University and Princeton University.

Dave Zirin on NFL Season's Lowlights: Domestic Abuse, Concussions and Seahawks' Super Bowl Screw-Up

Democracy Now - Mon 08 44 AM

The National Football League’s tumultuous 2014-15 season ended Sunday with the New England Patriots’ dramatic Super Bowl victory over the Seattle Seahawks. The game capped a year that saw growing scrutiny of the NFL, most notably its poor handling of domestic violence cases. More than half of players accused of domestic violence during commissioner Roger Goodell’s tenure have gone without league punishment. The NFL is also under fire for its handling of player safety, predominantly concussions. While fans still turn out in record numbers, four in 10 parents now say they would think twice about letting their own child play football. We are joined by Dave Zirin, sports editor for The Nation magazine and host of Edge of Sports Radio on SiriusXM. In addition to talking about these NFL controversies, Zirin discusses the Super Bowl’s closing moments, when the Seahawks chose not to give the ball to against-the-grain star running back Marshawn Lynch and opted for a risky play that cost them the game.

Amid Violence Against Journalists Worldwide, Egypt Releases 1 of 3 Jailed Al Jazeera Reporters

Democracy Now - Mon 08 33 AM

Al Jazeera journalist Peter Greste has been released from an Egyptian prison after 400 days behind bars. Greste and two of his Al Jazeera colleagues, Mohamed Fahmy and Baher Mohamed, were convicted on terrorism charges in a case widely denounced as a sham. Greste flew to Cyprus on Sunday following his release, but Fahmy and Mohamed remain behind bars. "We are relieved by this great news," says Delphine Halgand, U.S. director of Reporters Without Borders, of Greste’s freedom. "But we have to continue to work to assure the release of all journalists in Egypt who are detained on spurious charges." Halgand also discusses the violence directed against journalists worldwide in the first month of 2015, including attacks on journalists in France and Iraq and the beheading by ISIS of Kenji Goto, a Japanese reporter kidnapped in Syria last year. Video of Goto’s execution emerged over the weekend.

After Historic Victory, Greece's Leftist Syriza Party Begins Mandate Against "Vicious" Austerity

Democracy Now - Mon 08 14 AM

After a historic victory in Greece, the leftist Syriza party’s finance minister has begun a tour of Europe to push an anti-austerity message. The former economist Yanis Varoufakis has promised "radical" change as his government seeks to renegotiate Greece’s huge debt obligations and to roll back key parts of its international bailout. Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras says he is confident that Greece can reach a deal with creditors. We air an excerpt of our 2012 interview with Varoufakis and speak with Costas Panayotakis, a professor of sociology at CUNY and author of "Remaking Scarcity: From Capitalist Inefficiency to Economic Democracy." Panayotakis lays out the Syriza party’s historic rise to power and the challenges it faces in trying to restructure Greece’s economy.

"Vanguard of the Revolution": New Film Chronicles Rise of Black Panthers & FBI's War Against Them

Democracy Now - Fri 08 09 AM

With groups around the country taking on issues of police brutality and accountability, we go back 50 years to another movement confronting the same issues. We spend the hour looking at a new documentary that just premiered at the Sundance Film Festival called "The Black Panthers: Vanguard of the Revolution." It tells the history of the Black Panther Party through rare archival footage and interviews with party leaders, rank-and-file members, journalists — and even police and FBI informants. We feature extended excerpts from the film and speak with one its subjects, Kathleen Cleaver, who served as communications secretary of the Black Panther Party and is now a law professor at Emory University. We also speak with Stanley Nelson, the film’s award-winning director. The film is set to play in theaters and air on PBS later this year.

CodePink Attempts to "Arrest" Henry Kissinger for War Crimes in Vietnam, Laos, Chile and East Timor

Democracy Now - Fri 08 06 AM

Activists from the antiwar group CodePink attempted to perform a citizen’s arrest on former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger when he testified on global security challenges at a Senate Armed Services Committee meeting on Thursday. Kissinger served as secretary of state and national security adviser during the Vietnam War under presidents Richard Nixon and Gerald Ford. Arizona Republican Sen. John McCain lashed out at the protesters and called on the Capitol Hill Police to remove them.

Robert Redford Explores Aging in "A Walk in the Woods" and Fall of CBS Legend Dan Rather in "Truth"

Democracy Now - Thu 08 43 AM

Acclaimed director and actor Robert Redford discusses his new film premiering at the Sundance Film Festival, "A Walk in the Woods," in which he co-stars with Nick Nolte. It is a comedy about walking the Appalachian Trail — and getting older. "What are you going to do with what time you have left? Are you just going to sit?" Redford asks. "One thing you don’t want to do is be a guy sitting in a rocking chair on a stoop somewhere in a bathrobe and say, 'I wish I would've, I wish I could’ve.’ So, you make the most of your life." He also talks about his plans to play former CBS news anchor Dan Rather in the upcoming political drama, "Truth," based on Rather’s 2005 memoir about how he was fired after reporting that George W. Bush received special treatment in the U.S. Air National Guard during the Vietnam War. "CBS wanted a relationship with the administration. They asked him to back off," Redford notes. "He said, 'I can't do that. My job is to tell the truth.’" Redford also discusses the attacks earlier this month on Charlie Hebdo magazine.

"It Started as Just a Hope": Robert Redford on Founding the Sundance Film Festival

Democracy Now - Thu 08 30 AM

We speak with director, actor and Sundance Film Festival founder Robert Redford about the festival’s history, now celebrating its 31st anniversary. Sundance is now among the largest film festivals in the country, with some 50,000 attendees. However, it looked very different when it began more than three decades ago. "The first year, there was maybe 150 people that showed up. We had one theater, maybe 10 documentaries and 20 films, and now it’s grown to the point where it’s kind of like a wild horse," Redford says. We also discuss the festival’s efforts to promote women, people of color and young people — on both sides of the camera. This comes as the latest "Celluloid Ceiling" report from researchers at San Diego State University has found men directed 93 percent of the 250 highest-grossing films of 2014. Women directed just 7 percent, a decrease of 2 percent compared to 1998.

Robert Redford & Will Ferrell in Colorado River Spoof: Raise the River vs. Move the Ocean

Democracy Now - Thu 08 24 AM

We play excerpts from a spoof video standoff between Robert Redford and Will Ferrell about efforts to conserve the Colorado River, which provides much of the American West with water. Redford also discusses the documentary, "Watershed," that he narrated and made with his son, Jamie Redford. The Colorado River flows nearly 1,500 miles from its source in the Rocky Mountains to the Gulf of California. Along the way, most of its water is diverted by dams for agriculture and municipal uses, and now the river rarely reaches the Sea of Cortez. Redford notes the Native American and Mexican communities in the southern portion of the watershed "are being starved out. They’re having to move away because they can’t have agriculture there."

Oil Should Stay in the Ground: Robert Redford on Republican Climate Change Deniers and Keystone XL

Democracy Now - Thu 08 14 AM

As we broadcast from the Sundance Film Festival in Park City, Utah, we spend the hour with its founder Robert Redford, the Oscar-winning director, actor and longtime environmentalist. Our conversation begins with last week’s vote by nearly half of the Senate to refuse to formally acknowledge the existence of man-made climate change. "I think the deniers of climate change are probably the people who are afraid of change. They don’t want to see change," Redford says. "Too many in Congress are pushing us back into the 1950s." He also responds to the attempt by the new Republican majority in Congress to approve construction of the controversial Keystone XL pipeline. "I had a lot of experience with oil," he says, noting that he once worked in the oil fields. "I think it should stay in the ground. We’re so close to polluting the planet beyond anything sustainable."