In a surprise move, District Attorney Sam Sutter of Bristol, Massachusetts, has dropped criminal charges against two climate activists who were set to go on trial Monday for blocking a shipment of 40,000 tons of coal. In May 2013, Ken Ward and Jay O’Hara used their lobster boat to prevent a delivery of the coal to the Brayton Point Power Station in Somerset, Massachusetts. For their trial, Ward and O’Hara had planned to invoke the "necessity defense," arguing that their actions were justified by how the coal industry worsens the climate change that threatens our planet. In an unprecedented announcement, District Attorney Sutter all but adopted their reasoning and dropped the charges. "Climate change is one of the gravest crises our planet has ever faced," Sutter said outside the courthouse, explaining his decision. "In my humble opinion, the political leadership on this issue has been sorely lacking.”
Tune in to Democracy Now! on Wednesday for our interview with the two climate activists, Ken Ward and Jay O’Hara, and District Attorney Sam Sutter.
As the fall school term begins, an Illinois college campus is embroiled in one of the nation’s biggest academic freedom controversies in recent memory. The University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign has sparked an outcry over its withdrawal of a job offer to a professor critical of the Israeli government. Steven Salaita was due to start work at the university as a tenured professor in the American Indian Studies Program. But after posting a series of tweets harshly critical of this summer’s Israeli assault on Gaza, Salaita was told the offer was withdrawn. The school had come under pressure from donors, students, parents and alumni critical of Salaita’s views, with some threatening to withdraw financial support. Thousands of academics have signed petitions calling for Salaita’s reinstatement, and several lecturers have canceled appearances in protest. The American Association of University Professors has called the school’s actions "inimical to academic freedom and due process." A number of Urbana-Champaign departments have passed votes of no-confidence in the chancellor, Phyllis Wise. And today, Urbana-Champaign students will be holding a campus walkout and day of silence in support of Salaita. We are joined by two guests: Columbia University law professor Katherine Franke, who has canceled a lecture series at Urbana-Champaign in protest of Salaita’s unhiring; and Kristofer Petersen-Overton, a scholar who went through a similar incident in 2011 when Brooklyn College reversed a job offer after complaints about his Middle East views, only to reinstate it following a public outcry.
We turn to the sporting news that has put a new spotlight on domestic violence and its lax treatment by the country’s most popular sport. Baltimore Ravens star running back Ray Rice has been cut by his team and indefinitely suspended by the National Football League after a new video showed him punching his then-fiancée into unconsciousness. But the details of the case have been known for months after a previous video from a different angle showed Rice dragging the unconscious woman out of an elevator and dropping her face-first on the ground. The Baltimore Ravens had defended Rice, while the NFL’s first response in July was to suspend him for just two games. A massive public outcry led NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell to apologize and change the league’s domestic violence policy. Why did it take the NFL so long to act? What did the league and the Ravens know, and when did they know it? We are joined by Dave Zirin, sports columnist for The Nation magazine and host of Edge of Sports Radio on SiriusXM. "This is about a National Football League that treats violence against women as a public relations crisis, not as a crisis about the ways in which the violence of the game spills over into people’s families," Zirin says.
- U.N.: Greenhouse Gas Levels Reach Record High
- Report: Southwestern U.S. at Higher Risk of "Megadrought"
- Iraqi Lawmakers Approve New Government
- EU OKs New Sanctions on Russia; Report Finds MH17 Hit by "High-Energy Objects"
- Yemeni Police Fire on Protesters, Killing 7
- Chile: Bomb Injures 7 in Subway Station
- Obama Extends Embargo on Cuba Despite Global Condemnation
- Top Anti-Logging Activist Murdered in Peru
- Report: Israel Unlawfully Coercing African Migrants to Leave
- U.S. Senate Advances Amendment to Overturn Citizens United
- Documents Show Secret U.S. Plans to Spy for the Benefit of Corporations
- SAC Capital Ex-Trader Sentenced to 9 Years in Prison
- Ray Rice Suspended from NFL After Video Shows Him Punching Then-Fiancée
- City of Ferguson to Adopt Reforms After Death of Michael Brown
- New Witness Confirms Michael Brown Fled, Put Hands in Air
- Video Shows NYPD Officers Beating Latino Man After Stop-and-Frisk
- Oklahoma: Cop Accused of Sexually Assaulting 8 Women Released from Jail
- Pennsylvania Mother Sentenced to Up to 18 Months for Helping Daughter Get Abortion Pills
Even as tobacco companies are legally barred from selling cigarettes to children, they are reportedly profiting from child labor. Investigations by The New York Times and Human Rights Watch reveal hundreds, if not thousands, of children are working on tobacco farms in the United States. Many suffer from "green tobacco sickness," or nicotine poisoning, which can cause vomiting, dizziness and irregular heart rates, among other symptoms. Children are especially vulnerable to toxic pesticides since their bodies are still developing. Workers can absorb as much nicotine as if they were actually smoking simply by handling wet tobacco leaves. We speak with Steven Greenhouse, longtime labor and workplace reporter for The New York Times, who went to North Carolina to meet the young laborers. "I was shocked that a lot of these kids said, 'I work in the fields from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m.,'" Greenhouse says of the 60-hour weekly schedules the young workers commonly endure, often in grueling heat. Under U.S. law, tobacco farms can hire workers as young as 12 years old for unlimited hours, as long as it doesn’t conflict with their school attendance.
Think Tanks as Lobbyists: Exposé Shows U.S. Groups Receive Millions to Push Foreign Nations' Agendas
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."
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."
- Obama Delays Executive Action on Immigration, Denies Midterms as Factor
- Immigrant Rights Group: Obama Delay "a Betrayal of Latino Community"
- Obama to Push Expanded Offensive Against Islamic State
- Al-Shabab Names New Leader, Vows Revenge for U.S. Strike
- Ukraine-Rebel Ceasefire Holds Despite Sporadic Violence
- Amnesty: Both Sides Committing War Crimes in Ukraine; Imagery Proves Russia Role
- African Union Holds Emergency Talks as Study Points to Potential Vaccine
- Obama: U.S. Military Will Assist Global Ebola Response
- Bush Memo: "Congress Cannot Curtail" Warrantless Spying
- NBA Owner to Sell Team after Email Seeking to Attract Racist Audience
- Federal Judge Approves $41 Million Central Park Five Settlement
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.
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."
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
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.
- Over 400 Arrested in National Fast-Food Workers' Strike for Living Wage, Unionization
- BP Faces Billions in Extra Fines over "Gross Negligence" in Gulf Oil Spill
- Justice Dept. Opens Civil Rights Probe of Ferguson Police
- Appeals Court Overturns Marriage Equality Bans in Wisconsin, Indiana
- Ukraine, Rebels Reportedly Agree to Ceasefire
- Ex-VA Gov. McDonnell, Wife Convicted in Corruption Case
- McConnell Aide Resigns after Former State Senator Pleads Guilty to Bribery in GOP Primary
- Former House Majority Leader Cantor Signs on to Wall Street Firm
- Emails: L.A. Times Reporter Cleared Stories with CIA, Promised Positive Coverage
- Bahrain Detains, Strips Citizenship of Human Rights Activist Maryam Alkhawaja
- Comic Joan Rivers Dies at 81; Clinic Under Investigation
- NYC Launches Major Public Education Expansion as 51,000 Kids Start Universal Prekindergarten
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.
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.
- Obama Blames Russia for Ukraine Violence Ahead of NATO Summit
- Obama: U.S. Aims to "Degrade and Destroy" Islamic State
- Biden: U.S. Will Follow ISIS "to Gates of Hell"
- U.N. Confirms Ebola Toll Tops 1,900
- Justice Dept. Launches Civil Rights Probe of Ferguson Police
- Detroit Resident Sentenced to 17 Years in Shooting Death of Renisha McBride
- Study: Federal Program Speeding Deportations Has No Effect on Lowering Crime Rates
- Palestinians to Seek Security Council Deadline for End to Occupation; Poll Shows Hamas Surge
- U.S. Claims "Opposition to Settlement Activity" Following West Bank Seizure
- Columbia University Senior to Carry Dorm Mattress Around Campus in Call for Rapist's Expulsion
- Fast-Food Workers Holding National Strike for $15 Wage
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.
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.
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.
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.