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After Vowing to End Combat Mission in Afghanistan, Obama Secretly Extends America's Longest War

Democracy Now - Mon 07 18 AM

President Obama has secretly extended the U.S. role in Afghanistan despite earlier promises to wind down America’s longest war. According to the New York Times, Obama has signed a classified order that ensures U.S. troops will have a direct role in fighting. In addition, the order reportedly enables American jets, bombers and drones to bolster Afghan troops on combat missions. And, under certain circumstances, it would apparently authorize U.S. air-strikes to support Afghan military operations throughout the country. The decision contradicts Obama’s earlier announcement that the U.S. military would have no combat role in Afghanistan next year. Afghanistan’s new president Ashraf Ghani has also backed an expanded U.S. military role. Ghani, who took office in September, has also reportedly lifted limits on U.S. airstrikes and joint raids that his predecessor Hamid Karzai had put in place. We go to Kabul to speak with Dr. Hakim, a peace activist and physician who has provided humanitarian relief in Afghanistan for the last decade. We are also joined by Kathy Kelly of Voices for Creative Nonviolence, who has just returned from Afghanistan.

Viggo Mortensen Helps Mark 10 Years of Howard Zinn's "Voices of a People's History"

Democracy Now - Fri 07 45 AM

Actors including Viggo Mortensen, Peter Sarsgaard and Kelly Macdonald are gathering in New York today for a reading of "Voices of a People’s History of the United States," based on the late historian Howard Zinn’s book "A People’s History of the United States" — which has sold over a million copies. The event marks the 10th anniversary of publication of "Voices," which was edited by Zinn and Anthony Arnove. Mortensen, an Academy Award-nominated actor whose credits include The Lord of the Rings trilogy, has appeared in numerous performances of "Voices" and is a cast member of the television documentary version, "The People Speak." He joins us along with Anthony Arnove to discuss the 10th anniversary of "Voices" and its continued political relevance today.

Food Chains: New Film Tracks How Immokalee Workers Won Fair Wages from Corporate Giants

Democracy Now - Fri 07 34 AM

Opening today around the U.S., the new film "Food Chains" documents the groundbreaking partnership between farm workers, Florida tomato farmers and some of the largest fast-food and grocery chains in the world. We are joined by one of the film’s key players, Gerardo Reyes-Chávez, a farm worker and organizer with the Coalition of Immokalee Workers. Reyes-Chávez has helped lead the group’s success getting 12 corporations to join their Fair Food Program — including McDonald’s, Taco Bell and, most recently, the retail giant Wal-Mart. Participants agree to pay a premium for the tomatoes in order to support a "penny per pound" bonus that is then paid to the tomato pickers. Soon, the Fair Food label will appear on Florida tomatoes at participating stores.

As Mexicans Protest US-Fueled Drug War, Sanctuary Movement Backs Church Refuge for the Undocumented

Democracy Now - Fri 07 24 AM

People from around the world joined a day of action on Thursday to demand justice for the 43 Mexican students from Ayotzinapa teacher’s college who have been missing since September following a police attack. Earlier this month authorities said two suspects had confessed to killing the students and incinerating their bodies, leading investigators to badly burned remains, which are still being analyzed. Outrage erupted across Mexico Thursday, as caravans of the missing students’ families and classmates converged in Mexico City. Tens of thousands rallied in the main square, and a 30-foot effigy of President Enrique Peña Nieto was set on fire. We are joined by one of the organizers of the day’s events, Juan Carlos Ruiz, a priest and community activist who serves as immigration liaison with the Episcopal Diocese of Long Island. Ruiz is also one of the co-founders of the New Sanctuary Movement, which supports immigrants across the country who have taken refuge in churches to avoid deportation.

Obama's Action Marks Historic Victory for Immigrant Rights, But Activists Warn of a Long Way to Go

Democracy Now - Fri 07 09 AM

In a prime-time speech Thursday night, President Obama outlined his plan to take executive action granting temporary legal status to up to 5 million undocumented immigrants, protecting them from deportation. Under the plan, undocumented parents of U.S. citizens and legal permanent residents will be allowed to temporarily remain in the country and work legally if they have lived in the United States for at least five years and pass a background check. But the new plan will not provide relief to the parents of undocumented children, even those who qualified for deferred action in 2012. The executive order will also not provide undocumented immigrants any formal, lasting legal status. Many will receive work permits, which will give them Social Security numbers and the ability to work under their own names. But they will have to reapply after three years. We get analysis from Democracy Now! co-host and New York Daily News columnist Juan González, who watched the speech with a large group of undocumented immigrants Thursday night. We are also joined from Seattle by a family team of activists: Maru Mora Villalpando, an activist and undocumented immigrant with the group Latino Advocacy, and her daughter, Josefina Mora, a U.S. citizen.

"Just Mercy": Bryan Stevenson on Ferguson, Prison Reform & Why the Opposite of Poverty is Justice

Democracy Now - Thu 07 44 AM

As Ferguson awaits the grand jury’s decision in the Michael Brown shooting in Missouri, we speak to attorney Bryan Stevenson, author of the new book, "Just Mercy: A Story of Justice and Redemption." With growing focus on the failures of the criminal justice system, Stevenson has been fighting those injustices case by case. He is founder and executive director of the Equal Justice Initiative, a group based in Alabama that represents some of this country’s most marginalized people — the poor and the wrongfully convicted. Stevenson has won relief for dozens of condemned prisoners and argued before the U.S. Supreme Court six times. In 2012, he won a landmark Supreme Court case that barred states from giving mandatory life sentences without parole to children. The Nobel Prize-winning South African Archbishop Desmond Tutu has called Stevenson "America’s young Mandela." Others have compared him to Atticus Finch, the fearless, fictional hero of Harper Lee’s seminal novel, "To Kill a Mockingbird." Stevenson’s book tells many stories, but focuses in particular on his battle to free an African-American man named Walter McMillian, who was falsely convicted and condemned to die for killing a white woman in Harper Lee’s hometown of Monroeville, Alabama. Stevenson joins us to discuss his work, the situation in Ferguson, and why he argues that the opposite of poverty is not wealth, but justice.

The Life and Mind of Mark DeFriest: New Film Captures Florida Prisoner's Shocking Ordeal Behind Bars

Democracy Now - Thu 07 26 AM

We look at the shocking case of Mark DeFriest, known as the Houdini of Florida prisons because he has tried to escape 13 times — seven of them successfully. In 1979, DeFriest’s father died and left him a set of tools. He picked them up before they were probated. The teenager was arrested for stealing and sentenced to four years in prison. Thirty-four years later he is still there, having spent 27 of those years in solitary. He spent much of it in the notorious “X wing” of Florida State Prison, where he went for years without seeing the sun. We are joined by Gabriel London, director of the new film about the case, "The Life and Mind of Mark DeFriest."

From Hottest October to Coldest November, Is Climate Change Behind the Extreme Weather?

Democracy Now - Thu 07 11 AM

Record cold temperatures have been recorded across the country this week. The most extreme weather is hitting western New York, where at least seven people have died. At least six feet of snow has already fallen on parts of Buffalo, and another two to three feet is expected today. Tuesday was the coldest November morning in the country since 1976. Temperatures dropped below freezing in every state including parts of Hawaii on Tuesday and Wednesday. This comes just days after NASA reported last month was the warmest October on record. We look at the link between extreme weather and climate change with Eric Holthaus, a meteorologist who writes about weather and climate for Slate.

As Sioux Tribe Calls Keystone XL an "Act of War", TransCanada Hires PR Firm to Probe Critics

Democracy Now - Wed 07 45 AM

In a dramatic showdown Tuesday, the Senate narrowly missed a 60-vote threshold required to approve construction of the Keystone XL pipeline. Fourteen Democrats supported the measure along with all 45 Republicans. With just 59 aye votes, the measure failed to pass. After Democratic Sen. Elizabeth Warren announced the tally, a man reportedly with the Lakota Tribe of South Dakota burst out in song, followed by protesters who called out Democrats who voted in support of the pipeline. After Tuesday’s vote, Republicans vowed to immediately bring the bill back in January, when they will hold the Senate majority. This comes as newly leaked documents reveal the company behind the Keystone XL pipeline is engaged in a "perpetual campaign" to mobilize support for another pipeline connecting the tar sands oil fields to an ocean port, this one entirely inside Canada — bypassing opposition in the United States. Strategy documents drafted for TransCanada by the public relations firm Edelman, the world’s biggest privately held PR firm, also detail its lobbying strategy and efforts to mobilize some 35,000 supporters. We speak to Cyril Scott, president of the Rosebud Sioux Tribe in South Dakota, and Suzanne Goldenberg, environment reporter at The Guardian.

"Palestinians Always Live in Fear": Jerusalem Killings Follow Months of Tensions, Settlement Growth

Democracy Now - Wed 07 27 AM

In the aftermath of Tuesday’s attack that killed five Israeli civilians in a Jerusalem synagogue, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu accused Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas of inciting violence in the city and said the killings were part of a "battle over Jerusalem." Abbas has condemned the attack, which came after weeks of unrest fueled by a dispute over Jerusalem’s holiest site, known to Muslims as the Noble Sanctuary and known to Jews as the Temple Mount, as well as the continued expansion of Israeli settlements. We discuss the worsening tensions in Israel and the Occupied Territories with two guests: Rashid Khalidi, Edward Said Professor of Arab Studies at Columbia University and author of several books, and Eran Efrati, a former Israeli combat soldier turned anti-occupation activist and investigative researcher.

Jerusalem Unrest Threatens Wider Flare-Up After Deadliest Attack on Israeli Civilians in 3 Years

Democracy Now - Wed 07 12 AM

The unrest that has gripped Jerusalem has escalated after a deadly attack on five Israeli civilians. The victims were killed when armed Palestinians stormed a synagogue during morning prayers. It was the deadliest attack on Israeli civilians in more than three years and the worst in Jerusalem since 2008. The dead included three U.S.-born rabbis, a British-born rabbi and a Druze police officer. Seven worshipers were injured. The assailants were shot dead by police. The attack came after weeks of unrest fueled in part by a dispute over Jerusalem’s holiest site, known to Muslims as the Noble Sanctuary and known to Jews as the Temple Mount, as well as the continued expansion of Israeli settlements in East Jerusalem. After the synagogue killings, Israeli settlers launched reprisal attacks in the occupied West Bank, targeting a school near Nablus and Palestinian motorists on a road near Hebron. At least five Palestinians were wounded after Israeli forces fired rubber-coated bullets. We are joined from Jerusalem by Ha’aretz correspondent Amira Hass, the only Israeli journalist to have spent several years living in and reporting from Gaza and the West Bank.

No Debate: Antiwar Voices Absent from Corporate TV News Ahead of U.S. Attacks on Iraq & Syria

Democracy Now - Tue 07 55 AM

A new analysis of corporate TV news has found there was almost no debate about whether the United States should go to war in Iraq and Syria. The group Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting found that of the more than 200 guests who appeared on network shows to discuss the issue, just six voiced opposition to military action. The report, titled "Debating How — Not Whether — to Launch a New War," examines a two-week period in September when U.S. involvement in Iraq and Syria dominated the airwaves. The report also finds that on the high-profile Sunday talk shows, out of 89 guests, there was just one antiwar voice — Katrina vanden Heuvel, editor of The Nation. We speak to Peter Hart, activism director at FAIR.

The FBI vs. Martin Luther King: Inside J. Edgar Hoover's "Suicide Letter" to Civil Rights Leader

Democracy Now - Tue 07 40 AM

It was 50 years ago today that FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover made headlines by calling Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. the “most notorious liar in the country." Hoover made the comment in front of a group of female journalists ahead of King’s trip to Oslo where he received the 1964 Nobel Peace Prize, becoming the youngest recipient of the prize. While Hoover was trying to publicly discredit King, the agency also sent King an anonymous letter threatening to expose the civil rights leader’s extramarital affairs. The unsigned, typed letter was written in the voice of a disillusioned civil rights activist, but it is believed to have been written by one of Hoover’s deputies, William Sullivan. The letter concluded by saying, "King, there is only one thing left for you to do. You know what it is. … You are done. There is but one way out for you. You better take it before your filthy, abnormal fraudulent self is bared to the nation." The existence of the so-called "suicide letter" has been known for years, but only last week did the public see the unredacted version. We speak to Yale University professor Beverly Gage, who uncovered the unredacted letter.

Return of the Ferguson War Zone? Missouri Enacts State of Emergency Ahead of Mike Brown Grand Jury

Democracy Now - Tue 07 13 AM

Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon has declared a state of emergency in advance of the grand jury’s pending decision in the Michael Brown shooting case. On Monday, Nixon issued an executive order to activate the state’s National Guard in response to what he called "the possibility of expanded unrest." Nixon cited the protests in Ferguson and the St. Louis area since Brown, an unarmed black teenager, was killed by police officer Darren Wilson on August 9. The grand jury has been meeting for nearly three months, and protests are expected to escalate if they choose not to indict. But while state officials say they fear violence, protesters say they fear a return to the militarized crackdown that turned their community into a war zone. As the grand jury nears a decision and all sides prepare for the unknown under a state of emergency, we are joined by two guests: Jeff Smith, a New School professor and former Missouri state senator whose new book is "Ferguson: In Black and White," and Montague Simmons, chair of the St. Louis-based Organization for Black Struggle and a key organizer in the movement that has emerged since Brown’s killing.

Terror at the Top of the World: Is Climate Change Leading to More Attacks by Polar Bears in Arctic?

Democracy Now - Mon 07 50 AM

We look at a new investigation by the Pulitzer Prize-winning website, InsideClimate News, titled “Meltdown: Terror at the Top of the World." It tells the story of seven American hikers who went on a wilderness adventure into polar bear country in Canada’s Arctic tundra — and faced a harrowing attack. But despite taking proper steps to protect themselves, a polar bear came to their camp in the middle of the night and pulled one of the hikers out of his tent. Scientists say that climate change is greatly impacting polar bear habitat, which may be the cause of increased polar bear attacks on humans. We speak to Rich Gross, a Sierra Club guide on the trip, and Sabrina Shankman, a reporter with InsideClimate News and author of the new ebook.