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Report from Iraq: U.S. Invasion in 2003 Helped Set Path for Crisis Pulling Nation Apart

Democracy Now - Fri 07 47 AM

A representative of Iraq’s most senior Shiite cleric, Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, has called on Iraqis to take up arms against what he called "terrorists" who have overrun large swaths of the country. The call comes just hours after Islamist militants seized two more strategic towns northeast of Baghdad, moving the country closer to disintegration. Over the past few days, fighters from ISIS, the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, have seized several major cities including Mosul and Tikrit. Meanwhile, Kurdish fighters have taken control of the oil city of Kirkuk in northern Iraq. On Thursday, President Obama said he won’t rule anything out, including a military response. The Wall Street Journal meanwhile reports Iran is sending units of its al-Quds forces into Iraq to help stop the Sunni fighters from ISIS. We go to the city of Najaf to speak to Sami Rasouli, founder and director of the Muslim Peacemaker Teams in Iraq. He left Iraq in the late 1970s and eventually moved to the United States and settled in Minneapolis, where he was a well-known restaurateur. He moved back to Iraq in 2004 after living abroad for nearly 30 years.

Children on the Run: U.S. Detains Thousands of Young Migrants Seeking Safety, Family Reunification

Democracy Now - Fri 07 12 AM

U.S. Customs and Border Protection reports over 47,000 unaccompanied children have been detained so far this year after crossing the border, almost double the number for all of 2013 and almost five times the number from 2009. President Obama has described the situation as a "humanitarian crisis." Some of the children have been detained in shocking conditions. Over 1,000 children are reportedly being held at a warehouse in Nogales, Arizona, some sleeping in plastic containers. We speak to Jose Luis Zelaya, who fled Honduras in 2000 at the age of 13 in search of his mother. He traveled unaccompanied through Central America and finally reached Texas four months later. Zelaya is now a Ph.D. student at Texas A&M in the Department of Education. We also speak to Sonia Nazario in Los Angeles, California. She is a Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist and author of "Enrique’s Journey: The Story of a Boy’s Dangerous Odyssey to Reunite with His Mother."

In Sisi's Egypt, Leading Dissident Gets 15-Year Term as Al Jazeera Reporter Languishes Behind Bars

Democracy Now - Thu 07 47 AM

An Egyptian court has sentenced one of the country’s most prominent pro-democracy activists to 15 years in prison. Alaa Abd El-Fattah was found guilty of illegal protest and attacking a police officer for a rally against a draconian protest law last year. Twenty-four other defendants in the case received the same 15-year sentence. Since they were tried in absentia, they are entitled to a retrial. It’s the first conviction of a prominent activist since former army chief Abdel Fattah el-Sisi took office as president on Sunday. As El-Fattah faces a lengthy prison term, the Al Jazeera Arabic journalist Abdullah Elshamy is on a nearly five-month hunger strike in protest of his detention without charge. Elshamy has reportedly lost over a third of his body weight and is reportedly suffering from severe anemia, low blood pressure and the start of kidney failure. We go to Cairo to speak with Alaa Abd El-Fattah’s aunt, the famed Egyptian novelist Ahdaf Soueif, and Democracy Now! correspondent Sharif Abdel Kouddous. And we are joined by Abdullah Elshamy’s brother, Mohammed.

Iraq in Crisis: Militant Advance Sparks Mass Displacement as "Failed" U.S. Experiment Disintegrates

Democracy Now - Thu 07 11 AM

Iraq is on the brink of disintegration as Sunni militants seize more towns and now set their sights on the capital Baghdad. In the past few days, al-Qaeda-linked Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) have seized control of Mosul, Iraq’s second-largest city, as well as Tikrit and Dhuluiya. Meanwhile, Iraqi Kurds have seized control of the northern oil city of Kirkuk. The Sunni militants now control a territory that stretches from the eastern edge of Aleppo, Syria, to Fallujah in western Iraq and now the northern city of Mosul. Their advance has caused a humanitarian catastrophe, displacing some 500,000 people in Mosul alone. Mosul fell in part because U.S.-trained Iraqi forces abandoned their posts. Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki has reportedly urged the U.S. to carry out airstrikes in recent months, but the Obama administration has declined the request so far. We are joined by two guests: Ned Parker, Reuters bureau chief in Baghdad, and Mohammed al Dulaimy, an Iraqi journalist with McClatchy Newspapers who reported from Iraq for years and is now seeking U.S. asylum out of fear for his safety if he returns. This is Dulaimy’s first TV interview after years of maintaining a low profile to protect his safety.

Debate: Is Human Rights Watch Too Close to U.S. Gov't to Criticize Its Foreign Policy?

Democracy Now - Wed 07 19 AM

Human Rights Watch, one of the world’s largest and most influential human rights organizations, is facing an unusual amount of public criticism. Two Nobel Peace Prize laureates, Adolfo Pérez Esquivel and Mairead Maguire, and a group of over 100 scholars have written an open letter criticizing what they describe as a revolving door with the U.S. government that impacts HRW’s work in certain countries, including Venezuela. The letter urges HRW to bar those who have crafted or executed U.S. foreign policy from serving as staff, advisers or board members. Human Rights Watch Executive Director Kenneth Roth has defended his organization’s independence, responding: "We are careful to ensure that prior affiliations do not affect the impartiality of Human Rights Watch’s work. … We routinely expose, document and denounce human rights violations by the US government, including torture, indefinite detention, illegal renditions, unchecked mass surveillance, abusive use of drones, harsh sentencing and racial disparity in criminal justice, and an unfair and ineffective immigration system." We host a debate between HRW counsel Reed Brody and Keane Bhatt, a writer and activist who organized the open letter.

Eric Cantor Suffers Historic GOP Primary Loss in Anti-Immigrant, Anti-Corporate Backlash

Democracy Now - Wed 07 10 AM

House Majority Leader Eric Cantor has lost Virginia’s Republican primary in one of the most stunning upsets in congressional history. Cantor fell to tea party challenger David Brat, whose campaign accused Cantor of being insufficiently right-wing. Cantor’s defeat could upend Republican politics while further endangering the prospects for immigration reform. Brat ran on a staunch anti-immigrant platform, citing Cantor’s mild support for a version of the DREAM Act. The House’s second most powerful Republican, Cantor had been the presumed next in line to replace Speaker John Boehner. Cantor’s campaign raised $5.4 million to Brat’s $200,000. It’s the first time a House majority leader has lost a primary since the position was created in 1899. Although his opponent painted him as a moderate, Cantor has played a key role in the Republican effort to thwart President Obama’s agenda, from healthcare reform to last year’s government shutdown. We are joined by John Nichols, Washington correspondent for The Nation.

Is College Worth It? New Doc "Ivory Tower" Tackles Higher Ed's Unsustainable Spending, Student Debt

Democracy Now - Tue 07 50 AM

The cost of a college degree has grown by over 1,120 percent in the past three decades, far surpassing price hikes for food, medical care, housing, gasoline, and other basics. Coupled with $1.2 trillion in student debt, the U.S. is facing a crisis that threatens not just the economy but the nation’s education system itself. The issue is explored in the riveting new documentary "Ivory Tower," which argues the model for higher education in the U.S. has become unsustainable. The film contrasts the struggle for quality, affordable education with a growing corporate atmosphere on college campuses, where hundreds of millions of dollars go to football stadiums, lavish salaries, and high-end perks. We are joined by "Ivory Tower," director and producer Andrew Rossi. The film opens this Friday in New York City and Los Angeles.

As Obama Moves to Cap Student Debt Payments, Activists Push For Broader Write-Off of Crushing Loans

Democracy Now - Tue 07 43 AM

President Obama has unveiled new executive actions to address what some have called the nation’s next financial crisis: the over $1.2 trillion in student loans. Obama’s order will expand the "Pay as Your Earn" program capping loan payments at ten percent of monthly income. The program also forgives any outstanding debt after twenty years of payments. The massive cost of U.S. college tuition has saddled millions with crushing debt and priced many others out of the classroom. Student loans now exceed all other forms of consumer debt except for home mortgages. This year’s graduate class is the most indebted in U.S. history, with borrowers owing an average $33,000. More than 70% of this year’s class has taken on a student loan, up from less than half of graduates twenty years ago. We are joined by two guests: Pamela Brown, a Ph.D. student in sociology at the New School and leading activist on the issue of student debt; and Andrew Rossi, director and producer of a new documentary on U.S. higher education, "Ivory Tower."

As Taliban Attacks Karachi Airport Again, Could Pakistan Fall Into Civil War With Militants?

Democracy Now - Tue 07 31 AM

For the second time in 48 hours, Taliban militants have attacked Karachi’s international airport, the largest in Pakistan. Earlier today a group of gunmen on motorbikes opened fire on an academy run by the Airport Security Force. An assault by Taliban militants on Sunday left at least 38 people dead including the attackers. The Pakistani Taliban has claimed responsibility for both attacks, saying it was avenging military operations in North Waziristan and a U.S. drone strike that killed its leader, Hakimullah Mehsud, late last year. The Pakistani government moved toward peace talks with the Taliban earlier this year, but the process has faltered with a split inside the Taliban over whether to take part. We speak to Ayesha Siddiqa, a Pakistani political and defense analyst. Siddiqa is the author of "Military Inc.: Inside Pakistan’s Military Economy."

As Right-Wing Shooting Rampages Grow, U.S. Revives Domestic Terror Unit Shelved After 9/11

Democracy Now - Tue 07 11 AM

Less than a week after Attorney General Eric Holder revived a task force to look at domestic terrorists, a married couple aligned with the anti-government Patriot movement shot dead two Las Vegas police officers, killed a civilian bystander, and then turned their guns on themselves. Jerad and Amanda Miller had recently spent time at the ranch of Cliven Bundy during his standoff with the federal government. Police say they proclaimed "the beginning of the revolution," and laid an American Revolutionary flag and a swastika symbol on the dead officers’ bodies. The Las Vegas shooting came just two days after a man tied to the “sovereign citizen” movement attacked a Georgia courthouse, throwing smoke bombs and shooting a sheriff’s deputy, who returned fire and killed him. Authorities say the shooter, Dennis Marx, had homemade explosives, and food and water, suggesting he planned to take hostages. Holder’s decision to revive the domestic terror unit comes five years after Republican outrage led the Obama administration to withdraw a key report on the resurgence of the radical right-wing. We are joined by Mark Potok of the Southern Poverty Law Center, which monitors U.S. hate groups and extremists."The [right-wing militia] movement is on fire at the moment, and it may get worse before it gets better," Potok says.

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KNON Twitter - Wed 12 36 PM
Cinco De Mayo KNON Party! Now at Club Carnival, this is going to be huge! BE THERE!!! http://t.co/57uF5UN0uC