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"Iraq Has Already Disintegrated": ISIS Expands Stronghold as Leaks Expose US Doubts on Iraqi Forces

Democracy Now - Wed 07 12 AM

Iraq remains on the verge of splintering into three separate states as Sunni militants expand their stronghold in the north and west of Iraq. The Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) declared itself a caliphate last month and now controls large parts of northern and western Iraq and much of eastern Syria. Recent advances by ISIS, including in the city of Tikrit, come amidst leaks revealing extensive Pentagon concerns over its effort to advise the Iraqi military. Iraqi politicians, meanwhile, are scrambling to form a power-sharing government in an effort to save Iraq from splintering into separate Shiite, Sunni and Kurdish states. We are joined by two guests: Reporting live from Baghdad is Hannah Allam, foreign affairs correspondent for McClatchy Newspapers, and joining us from London is Patrick Cockburn, Middle East correspondent for The Independent and author of the forthcoming book, "The Jihadis Return: ISIS and the New Sunni Uprising."

The Prosecution Gap: Corporate Polluters Rarely Criminally Charged for Violating Environmental Law

Democracy Now - Tue 07 55 AM

A new investigation by The Crime Report published Monday documents how corporations almost never face criminal investigations for violating environmental laws such as the Clean Air Act and the Clean Water Act. A survey of environmental violations tracked by the Environmental Protection Agency shows just one-half of 1 percent of them trigger criminal prosecution. Joining us to describe his investigation, The Crime Report’s Graham Kates describes how one company, Alpha Natural Resources, faced only civil fines after it racked up more than 6,000 violations between 2007 and 2013. Kates says prosecutions are hampered by limited government resources in pursuing corporate polluters. The EPA has just 200 agents nationwide, and the Environmental Crime Section of the Department of Justice has just 38 prosecutors.

Green Scare: Animal Rights Activists Face Terrorism Charges for Freeing Minks from Fur Farm

Democracy Now - Tue 07 48 AM

The government has unveiled federal terrorism charges against two animal rights activists accused of helping to free minks and foxes from fur farms in rural Illinois. In newly unsealed indictments, the prosecutors accuse Tyler Lang and Kevin Olliff of freeing about 2,000 mink from their cages on a fur farm and then removing parts of the fence surrounding the property so the mink could escape. The activists are also accused of spray-painting "Liberation is Love" on the farm’s walls. Lang and Olliff have been indicted under the controversial Animal Enterprise Terrorism Act (AETA), with each count carrying a maximum penalty of five years in prison and a $250,000 fine. We are joined by reporter Will Potter, who covers animal rights and environmental issues at GreenIstheNewRed.com. "It really doesn’t matter how you feel about animal rights groups or about these alleged crimes of stealing animals," Potter says of the AETA, which he argues is too broad while criminalizing protests and civil disobedience. "This is really about a corporate campaign to demonize their opposition and to use terrorism resources to shut down a movement." Potter also discusses his wildly successful Kickstarter campaign to purchase a drone for use in photographing abuses at factory farms.

After Palestinian Unity Deal, Did Israel Spark Violence to Prevent a New "Peace Offensive"?

Democracy Now - Tue 07 28 AM

It is widely thought that the flare-up in Israel and the Occupied Territories began with the kidnapping of three Israeli teens in the West Bank just more than a month ago. But our guests — author Norman Finkelstein and Palestinian political analyst Mouin Rabbani — argue that such a narrative ignores the broader context of decades of occupation and recent events highlighting the expansionist goals of the Israeli government in the Palestinian land under its control. "Whenever the Palestinians seem like they are trying to reach a settlement of the conflict — which the [Fatah-Hamas] unity government was — at that point Israel does everything it can to provoke a violent reaction, in this case from Hamas, break up the unity government, and then Israel has its pretext," Finkelstein says. Rabbani and Finkelstein are co-authors of the forthcoming book, "How to Solve the Israel-Palestine Conflict."

With 192 Dead in Gaza, Is Lasting Ceasefire Possible Under Israeli Occupation?

Democracy Now - Tue 07 13 AM

The next phase of the violence that has killed nearly 200 Palestinians in Gaza is in flux after a ceasefire proposal from Egypt. The Egyptian government proposed a temporary halt to violence and the reopening of Gaza’s border crossings, followed by talks in Cairo on a long-term truce. Israel’s Security Cabinet has endorsed the proposal, but Hamas has yet to officially respond. The Hamas military wing has rejected the pact as a "surrender," saying the ceasefire fails to meet any of its core demands. These include a lifting of the siege of Gaza, the release of prisoners recently detained in Israeli raids, an end to Israeli attacks on the Occupied Territories, and respect for the Palestinian unity government. But it is Hamas’ political wing that will have the final say. Earlier today, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu vowed to widen the attack on Gaza if Hamas rejects the ceasefire and if rocket fire continues. The potential for a ceasefire follows a week that saw Israel kill at least 192 Palestinians in a massive bombing campaign on one of the world’s most densely populated areas. The United Nations estimates more than 80 percent of Gaza’s dead are civilians, including 36 children. More than 1,000 rockets from Gaza have hit Israel over the same period, with just a fraction landing in urban areas. Around a dozen Israelis have been wounded. No casualties have been reported. We are joined from Ramallah by Amira Hass, Ha’aretz correspondent for the occupied Palestinian territories, the only Israeli journalist to have spent several years living in and reporting from Gaza and the West Bank.

"Your Body Is No Longer Your Own": Freed OWS Activist Cecily McMillan on Plight of Women in Jail

Democracy Now - Mon 07 49 AM

On July 2, Occupy Wall Street activist Cecily McMillan was driven to Queens, New York, and dropped off on the side of the road, with only a MetroCard, after serving nearly two months in Rikers jail. McMillan’s sentence for allegedly assaulting a police officer was the most severe served for any of the thousands of Occupy Wall Street protesters arrested over the course of the movement. She was detained in March 2012 as protesters tried to re-occupy Zuccotti Park, six months after the Occupy Wall Street movement began. McMillan says she felt someone grab her breast from behind, and swung out instinctively, striking her assailant, who turned out to be police officer Grantley Bovell. Nine of the 12 jurors who convicted McMillan of second-degree assault asked the judge for leniency, saying they did not think she should serve any time in jail. McMillan served 59 days, and has now become an advocate for the women she met behind bars, many of whom she says were denied adequate medical care. "Your body is no longer your own," she says of life behind bars.

Norwegian Physician Treating Wounded Civilians: Stop the Bombing, End Israeli Impunity in Gaza

Democracy Now - Mon 07 39 AM

Dr. Mads Gilbert, a Norwegian doctor, joins us from Gaza where he has been treating hundreds of victims wounded in Israel’s ongoing assault, including young children. Dr. Gilbert says hospitals are operating without electricity, water and proper medical supplies, but adds: "As a medical doctor, my appeal is don’t send bandages, don’t send syringes, don’t send medical teams. The most important medical thing you can do now is to force Israel to stop the bombing and lift the siege of Gaza." Gilbert recently recently submitted a report to the United Nations on the state of the Gaza health sector in 2014. "Where is the decency in the U.S. government allowing Israel this impunity to punish the whole civilian population in Gaza?" Gilbert asks.

"We are Human Beings": Gaza Doctor Pleads for End to Israeli Bombing of Civilian Population

Democracy Now - Mon 07 32 AM

Civilians are bearing the brunt of Israel’s attack on the Gaza Strip, with civilians accounting for more than 80 percent of the reported casualties. We go to Gaza for a medical update on the injured from Dr. Mona El-Farra, director of Gaza projects for the Middle East Children’s Alliance and health chair of the Palestinian Red Crescent Society of the Gaza Strip. El-Farra describes treating severe burns, unexplained wounds that suggest Israel may be using banned weapons, and the trauma endured by Palestinian children. "We are not just numbers, we are human beings," El-Farra says.

"Israel Targets Civilians, the Casualties Speak Volumes": Int'l Protection Urged for Besieged Gaza

Democracy Now - Mon 07 16 AM

Thousands of Gazans have fled their homes amidst a relentless Israeli bombing campaign that has now killed more than 170 people, most of them civilians, since it began a week ago. The United Nations estimates at least 80 percent of the dead are civilian, of whom 20 percent are children — at least 36 dead. More than 1,200 Palestinians have been wounded, nearly two-thirds women and children. Some 940 homes have reportedly been severely damaged or destroyed, 400,000 people are without electricity, and 17,000 people are displaced. Hamas has fired an estimated 700 rockets into Israel, causing no direct killings but leaving an Israeli teen critically wounded. We get reaction from Palestinian attorney Diana Buttu, who has served as a legal adviser to the Palestinians in negotiations with Israel and to Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas. "When Israel talks about who it’s targeting and what it’s targeting, they’ve never proffered any proof or any evidence for what it is they’re trying to hit," Buttu says. "At the end of the day, as much as Israel tries to claim they are not targeting civilians, they are — and the casualties speak volumes."

Gaza Debate: As Palestinian Deaths Top 100, Who's to Blame for Escalating Violence? What Can Be Done?

Democracy Now - Fri 07 42 AM

The death toll in the Gaza Strip continues to rise in the fourth day of Israel’s aerial offensive. Medical officials in Gaza estimate that at least 22 people were killed Thursday, bringing the number of Palestinian fatalities to 101, about half of them reportedly women and children. No deaths have been reported on the Israeli side. The Israeli military says it has dropped hundreds of tonnes of bombs on 1,000 targets throughout Gaza, more than during its eight-day assault in late 2012. The intensification of Israeli airstrikes has been met with a barrage of rockets fired from Gaza into Israel. We host a debate between Palestinian human rights attorney Noura Erakat and Joshua Hantman, senior adviser to Israel’s ambassador to the United States. "Israel is currently under attack," Hantman says. "Since 2005, over 8,000 rockets, missiles and mortars have been indiscriminately fired at our civilians." But Erakat says Israel’s bombardment of Gaza "amounts to a massacre." "Israel has precise weaponry and is targeting homes," she says. "This is a disproportionate attack, by what we consider the only democracy in the Middle East, by the U.S.’s most unique ally, to whom we provide $3.1 billion a year."

"Worst of the American Spirit": Advocates Decry Anti-Immigrant Protests, Urge Asylum for Children

Democracy Now - Fri 07 25 AM

As thousands of migrants continue to arrive in the United States seeking escape from violence in Central America, this week the Texas town of League City passed a resolution banning undocumented children from entering its municipality. The move echoes sentiments that flared up just before July 4 in Murrieta, California, when police blocked three buses of migrants from reaching a federal immigration facility there. The buses carrying dozens of children flown in from an overcrowded detention center in Texas were then surrounded by demonstrators who chanted anti-immigrant slogans. "A society is judged on how we treat our children, and what we witnessed that day was the worst of the American spirit," says Enrique Morones, director of the group Border Angels. This comes as reports show Honduran children are increasingly being targeted by gang violence and Border Patrol statistics indicate a strong correlation between Central American cities with high homicide rates and waves of children who come to the United States. “What we need to do is give them, as we would refugees anywhere else in the world, access to territory and access to procedures in order to establish their status and care for them as people who need international protection," says Shelly Pitterman, head of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees Office in Washington, D.C. He represents the office to the United States and Caribbean governments.

"We Should Be Protecting Children": Rep. Gutiérrez Supports Funds for Humanitarian Crisis at Border

Democracy Now - Fri 07 08 AM

President Obama has called for close to $3.7 billion to address the humanitarian crisis unfolding at the United States-Mexico border where more than 52,000 unaccompanied children have been detained since October. Part of the money will be used to speed up deportations as Republicans say they will only support the plan if it puts more emphasis on immediate repatriation. They want to change a 2008 immigration law — which originally passed with bipartisan support — that would let the United States deport children from Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador as fast as it does those from Mexico. "I think it is shameful that in the Congress of the U.S. we see members of Congress engendering and creating fear of children," says Democratic Rep. Luis Gutiérrez of Illinois, who supports Obama’s emergency supplemental bill. "We should be protecting children, not creating fear of them."

Spied on for Being Muslim? NSA Targets Named in Snowden Leaks Respond to U.S. Gov't Surveillance

Democracy Now - Thu 07 24 AM

A new report by The Intercept has identified five prominent Muslim Americans who were spied on by the National Security Agency. It cites an NSA spreadsheet leaked by Edward Snowden that shows nearly 7,500 email addresses monitored between 2002 and 2008, including addresses that appear to belong to foreigners the government suspects of ties to al-Qaeda, along with Americans accused of terrorist activity. But it also lists the email addresses of a former Republican operative and one-time political candidate, a professor at Rutgers University, and the head of the largest Muslim civil rights group in the country. We speak with Pulitzer Prize-winning reporter Glenn Greenwald, who broke the story for The Intercept based on documents leaked by Snowden. "The only thing they really had in common is that they are all politically active American Muslims," Greenwald says. "And that seems to be enough in the intelligence community to render these people suspicious." We are also joined by two people Greenwald names in the article: Asim Ghafoor, a prominent civil rights attorney who has represented clients in terrorism-related cases; and Faisal Gill, an attorney and former senior policy director with the Department of Homeland Security. When asked what needs to be done in response to the revelations, Gill argues Congress should step in and exercise its authority over how the FISA courts approve surveillance. "In our cases, I don’t think there is probable cause ... so the entire system needs to be examined," Gill says. "What happens is you paint somebody with a broad brush, and they’re tainted for life. … Nobody wants a lawyer that the government suspects of being involved in these type of activities."

"Indonesia is on a Different Path": U.S.-Trained General Defeated After Alleged Plot to Rig Vote

Democracy Now - Thu 07 12 AM

An initial count in Indonesia’s hotly contested presidential election shows Jakarta Gov. Joko Widodo has a several-point lead over former army general Prabowo Subianto. Prabowo has refused to concede defeat, and official results won’t be known until after July 20. The American journalist Allan Nairn recently reported Indonesian forces tied to Prabowo have waged a campaign to rig the election in his favor, including "ballot tampering, street violence and threats" against rivals. Prabowo, who received military training by the United States, has been accused of mass killings when he headed the Indonesian special forces in the 1990s. Nairn’s reporting on Prabowo became a major issue in the campaign, and Prabowo has filed criminal charges against him for inciting hatred against the Indonesian military. Joining us from Indonesia, Nairn argues that despite supporters that include "killer generals," Widodo will be more responsive to calls to reform the country’s corrupt political system if popular movements pressure him to do so. "It is very unlikely [Widodo] would respond by opening fire as the Indonesian army has in the past, and as Prabowo undoubtedly would," Nairn says. "He would probably respond by sitting down with people and saying, ’Let’s work something out.’"

Julian Assange on Aiding Snowden, Tiff w/ The Intercept & Whether He'll Ever Leave Embassy Refuge

Democracy Now - Wed 07 24 AM

WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange sits down with Democracy Now! inside the Ecuadorean Embassy in London, where he has been living in political asylum for over two years. Assange explains his critique of First Look Media and The Intercept for agreeing not to name a country targeted by bulk National Security Agency spying, following U.S. government concerns that doing so could lead to increased violence. Assange and WikiLeaks went on to reveal the targeted country, Afghanistan, which along with the Bahamas had all of its cellphone calls recorded. "That is as great an assault to sovereignty as you can imagine, other than completely militarily occupying a country, to record the intimate phone calls of every single Afghan citizen," Assange says. "My perspective is, [this is] up to the Afghan people." Assange also gives an overview of the close to eight million documents WikiLeaks has released since 2007 about nearly every country in the world; details how WikiLeaks helped Edward Snowden evade U.S. arrest and find political asylum in Russia; and addresses his prospects for ever being able to leave the Ecuadorean Embassy without fear of arrest.

Click here to watch part one of this interview.