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Is Filming a Police Officer a "Domestic Threat"? Austin Activist on Trial for Videotaping an Arrest

Democracy Now - Wed 06 49 AM

A jury in Austin, Texas, is set to issue its decision today in a case that centers on a person’s right to film police officers. Antonio Buehler says he was at a gas station in the early morning hours of New Year’s Day in 2012 when he used his phone to take pictures of a woman being arrested and crying out for help. Ultimately, Buehler’s attempt to document what he felt was apparent police abuse ended with his own arrest when the officer said he felt Buehler spit on him. He faced a felony charge of "harassment of a public servant," and two to 10 years in prison. Last year, a grand jury cleared Buehler of the felony, but in an usual twist, it came back with a charge of "failure to obey a lawful order," a Class C misdemeanor punishable by a $500 fine. The order was for Buehler to put his hands behind his back as he tried to take pictures. Since then Buehler has co-founded the group Peaceful Streets Project, whose members record police and post the videos online, and train others to do the same. He has been arrested several more times while videotaping officers and has filed a federal civil rights lawsuit against the Austin Police Department. Buehler is an an Iraq War veteran and graduate of West Point and Stanford University with no prior arrests. Just moments before a jury is set to issue a verdict, he joins us from Austin.

UPDATE: After four days of proceedings and more than five hours of jury deliberation, Antonio Buehler was found not guilty the evening of Oct. 29, 2014. Buehler sent us this this statement in response to the verdict:

“I don’t feel vindicated, nor do I think I ‘won.’ The cops who committed crimes that night were never tried, arrested, fired, disciplined, or even reprimanded. Instead, Norma and I were charged with a total of six crimes we did not commit, and it took nearly three years to make them disappear. And I still have three more trials coming up for the ‘crime’ of filming the police. The city had eight prosecutors in the courtroom trying this case, and about a dozen police officers were in there to intimidate the jury. When cops and prosecutors are willing to expend such tremendous resources to prosecute a Class C Misdemeanor for political purposes, all Americans should fear their government.”

Arming the Warrior Cop: From Guns to Drones, Inside the Booming Business of Police Militarization

Democracy Now - Wed 06 30 AM

In a new cover story for Mother Jones magazine, "The Making of the Warrior Cop," senior reporter Shane Bauer goes inside the corporations and government departments involved in enabling police departments to acquire anything from bayonets to semi-automatic rifles and drones. Reporting from the exposition called "Urban Shield" — which organizers call the largest first-responder training in the world — Bauer says that the equipment police departments have received from the military pales in comparison to the amount of gear purchased from private companies. The Department of Homeland Security has provided some $41 billion in funding to local police departments to buy the equipment from various corporations, on top of more than $5 billion from the Pentagon since 1997.

Will Mike Brown's Killer Avoid Charges in Ferguson? Cops Stockpile Riot Gear Amid "Troubling" Leaks

Democracy Now - Wed 06 14 AM

There are conflicting reports out of Ferguson, Missouri, over the fate of embattled police chief Thomas Jackson. Unnamed government officials told CNN that Jackson is expected to step down as part of efforts to reform the police department following an officer’s killing of unarmed black teen Michael Brown in August. But Chief Jackson and the city’s mayor say the reports are false. This comes as a grand jury weighs whether the officer, Darren Wilson, should face charges in the killing of Brown. The investigation has sprung a number of leaks, with unidentified sources divulging information that seems to corroborate Wilson’s account of what happened that day. The Justice Department has condemned the leaks as "irresponsible and highly troubling," adding, "there seems to be an inappropriate effort to influence public opinion about this case." The recent disclosures have heightened tensions between the protesters and police, with protesters saying the leaks are part of a broader strategy to prematurely diffuse public discontent ahead of any decision not to indict Wilson. Meanwhile, the St. Louis County Police Department has reportedly stocked up on tear gas, grenades, pepper balls and plastic handcuffs in anticipation of massive protests when the grand jury reaches its decision in November. We are joined by Antonio French, St. Louis alderman of the 21st Ward, longtime community advocate and founder of the new organization Heal STL.

Monsanto, BigAg Spend Millions Fighting Colorado, Oregon Ballot Measures to Label GMO Foods

Democracy Now - Tue 06 48 AM

Colorado and Oregon could soon become the first states in the nation to pass ballot initiatives mandating the labeling of food products containing genetically modified organisms. Earlier this year, Vermont became the first state to approve GMO labeling through the legislative process, but the decision is now being challenged in the courts. Numerous items are already sold in grocery stores containing genetically modified corn and soy, but companies are currently not required to inform consumers. Advocates of Prop 105 in Colorado and Measure 92 in Oregon say GMO foods can be harmful to human health due to pesticide residues and the altered crop genetics. Opponents say the effort to label genetically modified food is overly cumbersome and will spread misinformation. Leading corporations opposing the labeling measures include Monsanto, Kraft Foods, PepsiCo Inc., Kellogg Co. and Coca-Cola. By some accounts, opponents of labeling have contributed roughly $20 million for campaigning against the proposed laws, nearly triple the money raised by supporters of the initiatives. In Oregon, the fight for GMO labeling has turned into the most expensive ballot measure campaign in the state’s history. We speak to Tufts University professor Sheldon Krimsky, editor of "The GMO Deception: What You Need to Know about the Food, Corporations, and Government Agencies Putting Our Families and Our Environment at Risk."

As Indonesia's New President Takes Office, Cabinet Includes Officials Tied to Atrocities of Old

Democracy Now - Tue 06 31 AM

Indonesia’s new president, Joko Widodo, has held his first Cabinet meeting amidst criticism from human rights activists for picking a new defense minister who once defended military killings of civilians. In July, the former Jakarta governor known as "Jokowi" defeated the U.S.-trained former army general Prabowo Subianto, who had been accused of mass killings when he headed the Indonesian special forces in the 1990s. While human rights groups hailed the defeat of Prabowo in July’s election, the new president is facing opposition for picking former Army Chief of Staff Ryamizard Ryacudu to be Indonesia’s new defense minister. Over the past decade, Ryamizard has defended the military’s actions in West Papua and Aceh and publicly claimed that civilians become legitimate army targets if they "dislike" army policy or have "the same voice" as anti-government rebels. We are joined from Indonesia by veteran investigative journalist Allan Nairn, whose dispatches shook up the presidential race when he reported on human rights abuses committed by Prabowo and the U.S.-trained general’s statement that Indonesia needs "a benign authoritarian regime" because the country was “not ready for democracy." Nairn also discusses his latest major report, revealing that a top adviser to Indonesia’s new president has admitted "command responsibility" in the 2004 assassination of the country’s leading human rights activist, Munir Thalib.

Attack on Canadian Parliament Fuels "Anti-Terror" Laws, Ignoring Ties to Mental Illness, Drug Abuse

Democracy Now - Tue 06 09 AM

As Canada mourns the death of a soldier gunned down while standing guard at the National War Monument in Ottawa, Prime Minister Stephen Harper is pushing new antiterrorism legislation that would expand surveillance and intelligence sharing with foreign governments. In the days since the shooting, the gunman, Michael Zehaf-Bibeau, has been identified as a convert to Islam with a history of drug abuse, criminal activity and mental illness. The incident came two days after another violent attack on Canadian troops in Quebec. Martin Couture-Rouleau, also identified as a "radicalized" Muslim convert, drove a car into two soldiers, killing one of them. The incidents have sparked fears of blowback shortly after Canada joined the U.S.-led war against Islamic State militants in Iraq. But the violence has also raised questions about Canada’s treatment of the mentally ill and others on the margins. Zehaf-Bibeau had been dealing with a serious crack-cocaine addiction and living in and out of homeless shelters. On Monday, the Canadian government introduced an antiterrorism measure that was to have been unveiled the same day as the Ottawa attack. We are joined by two guests: Ihsaan Gardee, executive director of the National Council of Canadian Muslims; and Harsha Walia, a social justice activist, founder of No One Is Illegal, and author of the book, "Undoing Border Imperialism."

Mumia Abu-Jamal Speaks Out from Prison on Pennsylvania's New Law Censoring Convicts' Speech

Democracy Now - Mon 06 44 AM

Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Corbett has signed into law a bill that critics say tramples the free speech rights of prisoners. The "Revictimization Relief Act" authorizes the censoring of public addresses of prisoners or former offenders if judges agree that allowing them to speak would cause "mental anguish" to the victim. The measure was introduced after one of the state’s most famous prisoners, journalist and former Black Panther Mumia Abu-Jamal, delivered a pretaped commencement address for graduating students at Vermont’s Goddard College earlier this month. The speech was opposed by the widow of Daniel Faulkner, the police officer who Abu-Jamal was convicted of killing. The American Civil Liberties Union of Pennsylvania has criticized the new measure, calling it "overbroad and vague," and unable to "pass constitutional muster under the First Amendment." Speaking to us from prison, Abu-Jamal says that "by signing that bill into law, [Gov. Corbett] has violated both of his oaths as governor and as an attorney."

From Fear-Mongering to Crippling Debt, Lapses in Politics and Health Hurt Global Effort on Ebola

Democracy Now - Mon 06 23 AM

The World Health Organization says nearly 5,000 people have now died from Ebola out of 10,000 known cases. But the actual death toll may be significantly higher in Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone, the three worst-hit countries. The virus is now threatening Ivory Coast, which shares a border with Guinea and Liberia. The World Health Organization has sent experts to Ivory Coast and Mali to help prepare for a possible outbreak. Meanwhile in the United States, hospital officials say the first Ebola patient in New York City, Dr. Craig Spencer, is in serious, but stable, condition at Bellevue Hospital. Spencer recently returned from treating Ebola patients in Guinea with Doctors Without Borders. On Friday, the states of New York and New Jersey announced they would automatically quarantine medical workers returning from Ebola-hit West African countries. We discuss the latest news in the Ebola crisis with two guests: Jeffrey Sachs, a leading economist and director of The Earth Institute at Columbia University, who is working with the government in Guinea to battle the Ebola epidemic, and Nancy Kass, professor of bioethics and public health at Johns Hopkins University.

Back from West Africa, a U.S. Nurse Says Quarantining Medical Workers Threatens Ebola Response

Democracy Now - Mon 06 10 AM

The governors of New York and New Jersey are facing federal pressure to reverse new quarantine rules on medical workers returning from West Africa. Under the policy, arriving passengers with a risk of Ebola exposure will be placed in a 21-day quarantine. White House officials lobbied New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie and New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo over the weekend, saying the rules would discourage workers from joining the Ebola response in West Africa. On Sunday night, Cuomo announced a slight easing of the restrictions, saying the workers can be quarantined at home. A nurse named Kaci Hickox became the first health worker isolated under the rules after returning to New Jersey from Sierra Leone. Hickox has been placed in an isolated tent inside a Newark hospital despite testing negative for Ebola. She has threatened to fight her 21-day quarantine in court, saying the order violates her constitutional rights. We are joined by Carissa Guild, a nurse with Doctors Without Borders (MSF) who has just returned from Guinea, where she took part in the Ebola response effort.

European Privacy in the Age of Snowden: We Need a Debate About What Intelligence Agencies Are Doing

Democracy Now - Fri 06 48 AM

As the movie "Citizenfour" about National Security Agency whistleblower Edward Snowden opens in theaters in the United States, we look at the impact his leaks have had on the debate over online privacy in Europe. The Austrian newspaper Der Standard reports the NSA has accessed nearly 70 percent of telecommunications in Vienna, home to thousands of diplomats from around the world. Earlier this year, Germany ordered the removal of a top U.S. intelligence official in the country after leaks from Snowden showed the United States was monitoring the communications of millions of Germans and tapping Chancellor Angela Merkel’s cellphone. In a victory for digital privacy, the European Court of Justice struck down a rule that required telecommunication companies to store the communications data of European Union citizens for up to two years. The ruling happened on the same day Snowden addressed the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe from Moscow. We are joined by Andreas Krisch, president of European Digital Rights.

Former Weapons Inspector in Iraq Questions Claims that Iran Hiding Nuclear Tests

Democracy Now - Fri 06 32 AM

We are broadcasting from Vienna, where the six world powers leading nuclear negotiations with Iran have set a November deadline to reach a deal to constrain Iran’s nuclear program in exchange for easing Western sanctions. Earlier this month, a report by the International Atomic Energy Agency found Iran is meeting its commitments under a temporary deal. But Western diplomats say Iran has refused to provide information about alleged experiments on high explosives intended to produce a nuclear weapon. Information on the experiments is reportedly contained in an intelligence document the IAEA is investigating, but the document itself remains unverified, and at least one member of the IAEA community has raised concerns about its authenticity. Our guest, Robert Kelley, was part of the IAEA’s Iraq Action Team in 2003 and says he is speaking out now because "I learned firsthand how withholding the facts can lead to bloodshed." Prior to his time in Iraq, Kelley was a nuclear weapons analyst based at the Los Alamos National Laboratory in New Mexico.

Obama Promised a "World Without Nuclear Weapons," But May Now Spend $1 Trillion on Upgrades

Democracy Now - Fri 06 15 AM

We are on the road in the historic city of Vienna, Austria, not far from the Czech Republic where President Obama gave a major address in 2009 that called for a nuclear-free world. His disarmament efforts were cited when he won the Nobel Peace Prize, but since then advocates say little progress has been made. A recent New York Times investigation found the United States is on pace to spend as much as $1 trillion over the next three decades to modernize its nuclear arsenal and facilities. This week, more than 150 countries at the United Nations signed a joint statement calling on nuclear powers to attend the third major conference on the humanitarian impact of nuclear weapons scheduled this December in Vienna. The United States has yet to attend one of the meetings. We are joined by Elena Sokova, executive director of the Vienna Center for Disarmament and Non-Proliferation.

Jeremy Scahill: Blackwater Execs Remain Free as Guards Convicted for Killing 14 Iraqis in Massacre

Democracy Now - Thu 06 50 AM

A federal jury has returned guilty verdicts against four Blackwater operatives involved in the 2007 massacre at Baghdad’s Nisoor Square. On Wednesday, the jury found one guard, Nicholas Slatten, guilty of first-degree murder, while three other guards were convicted of voluntary manslaughter: Paul Slough, Evan Liberty and Dustin Heard. The jury is still deliberating on additional charges against the operatives, who faced a combined 33 counts. The operatives were tried for the deaths of 14 of the 17 Iraqi civilians who died when their Blackwater unit opened fire. We speak to Jeremy Scahill, author of the best-selling book "Blackwater: The Rise of the World’s Most Powerful Mercenary Army." His most recent article published by The Intercept is "Blackwater Founder Remains Free & Rich While His Former Employees Go Down on Murder Charges."

Citizenfour: Inside Story of NSA Leaker Edward Snowden Captured in New Film by Laura Poitras

Democracy Now - Thu 06 11 AM

"At this stage I can offer nothing more than my word. I am a senior government employee in the intelligence community. I hope you understand that contacting you is extremely high risk … This will not be a waste of your time." This was one of the first messages Edward Snowden wrote to filmmaker Laura Poitras beginning an exchange that helped expose the massive surveillance apparatus set up by the National Security Agency. Months later, Poitras would meet Snowden for the first time in a Hong Kong hotel room. Poitras filmed more than 20 hours of footage as Snowden debriefed reporters Glenn Greenwald and Ewen MacAskill. That footage — most unseen until now — forms the backbone of Poitras’ new film, "Citizenfour." She joins us to talk about the film and her own experience with government surveillance. The film is the third installment of her 9/11 trilogy that also includes "My Country, My Country" about the Iraq War and "The Oath" about the U.S. military base at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba. Poitras’ NSA reporting contributed to a Pulitzer Prize for Public Service awarded to The Guardian and The Washington Post. We also speak with Jeremy Scahill, who appears in the film reporting on recent disclosures about NSA surveillance from a new, anonymous government source. Scahill, along with Poitras and Greenwald, founded The Intercept, a new media venture to continue investigating whistleblower leaks.