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A Sliver of Light: Freed U.S. Hikers on Captivity in Iran & Activism Against Solitary Confinement

Democracy Now - Tue 07 08 AM

In a Democracy Now! special, Sarah Shourd, Shane Bauer and Josh Fattal recall their harrowing ordeal as American hikers imprisoned in Iran. Detained after setting out on a hike in the summer of 2009 in Iraq’s Kurdish region near the Iranian border, Bauer and Fattal were held for 26 months, while Shourd — now married to Bauer — was held for 13 months, much of it in solitary confinement. The three tell their story in a new memoir, "A Sliver of Light: Three Americans Imprisoned in Iran."

Snowden Docs Expose How the NSA "Infects" Millions of Computers, Impersonates Facebook Server

Democracy Now - Mon 07 53 AM

New disclosures from Edward Snowden show the NSA is massively expanding its computer hacking worldwide. Software that automatically hacks into computers — known as malware "implants" — had previously been kept to just a few hundred targets. But the news website The Intercept reports that the NSA is spreading the software to millions of computers under an automated system codenamed "Turbine." The Intercept has also revealed the NSA has masqueraded as a fake Facebook server to infect a target’s computer and exfiltrate files from a hard drive. We are joined by The Intercept reporter Ryan Gallagher.

Endless War? As Syria Conflict Enters 4th Year, Deadly Stalemate Favors Assad Regime

Democracy Now - Mon 07 41 AM

The conflict between Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and rebels seeking his ouster has just entered its fourth year. The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights says more than 146,000 people have been killed since the Syrian conflict began on March 15, 2011, roughly half of them civilians. The conflict has displaced more than nine million people, with 2.5 million refugees living outside Syria and 6.5 million displaced within the country. We are joined by Patrick Cockburn, Middle East correspondent for The Independent, who has just returned from several weeks of reporting from Syria.

After Crimea Votes to Secede, How Will U.S. & Russia Handle Gravest Crisis Since Cold War?

Democracy Now - Mon 07 10 AM

The United States and the European Union are warning Russia not to annex Crimea after voters there overwhelmingly backed a referendum to leave Ukraine. Crimean authorities say 96.8 percent of voters supported the referendum to join Russia, but many members of the ethnic Ukrainian and Muslim Tatar minorities stayed home in a boycott. The Obama administration has threatened sanctions on Russia if Crimea follows through and secedes. But Russia has vowed to approve Crimea’s bid in a parliamentary vote. On Saturday, the Russian government vetoed a U.S.-backed Security Council resolution declaring the referendum invalid. Russian forces also seized a natural gas terminal in Ukraine, just outside Crimea’s regional border. The situation in Crimea has sparked the gravest crisis in East-West relations since the Cold War. We discuss the Crimea vote and its diplomatic fallout with three guests: Oliver Bullough, Caucasus editor for the Institute for War and Peace Reporting; Nicholas Clayton, a freelance journalist who has been reporting from Crimea and covering the South Caucasus since 2009; and Dmitri Trenin, director of the Carnegie Moscow Center.

Remembering British MP Tony Benn, a Lifelong Critic of War and Capitalism

Democracy Now - Fri 07 51 AM

Tony Benn, the former British Cabinet minister, longtime Parliament member and antiwar activist, has died at the age of 88. He was the longest-serving member of Parliament in the history of Britain’s Labour Party, serving more than half a century. He left Parliament in 2001, saying he planned to "spend more time on politics." In 2009 he appeared on Democracy Now! to talk about the war in Afghanistan and Britain’s fight for a nationalized healthcare system. "You’ve got to judge a country by whether its needs are met and not just by whether some people make a profit," Benn said. "I’ve never met Mr. Dow Jones, and I’m sure he works very, very hard with his averages — we get them every hour — but I don’t think the happiness of a nation is decided by the share values in Wall Street."

Caught in the Crossfire: U.S.-Mexico Border Militarization Threatens Way of Life for Native Tribe

Democracy Now - Fri 07 42 AM

President Obama has deployed thousands of new U.S. Border Patrol agents to the southern border of Arizona, a state known for its controversial crackdown on immigrants. Caught in the middle of the border militarization are about 28,000 members of the Tohono O’odham Nation. Their federally recognized reservation is about the size of the state of Connecticut, and for a 76-mile stretch it spans both sides of the U.S.-Mexico border. Broadcasting from Flagstaff, we speak with both Klee Benally, a Diné (Navajo) activist, and Alex Soto, a member of the Tohono O’odham Nation and organizer with O’odham Solidarity Across Borders. He is also a member of the hip-hop duo, Shining Soul. "The Tohono O’odham people, which translates to desert people, are caught in the midst of colonial policies that are now militarizing our lands, from just the amount of Border Patrol agents, to checkpoints, to drones, to just the overall surveillance of our community," Soto says.

"A Slow Genocide of the People": Uranium Mining Leaves Toxic Nuclear Legacy on Indigenous Land

Democracy Now - Fri 07 23 AM

The iconic Grand Canyon is the site of a battle over toxic uranium mining. Last year, a company called Energy Fuels Resources was given federal approval to reopen a mine six miles from the Grand Canyon’s popular South Rim entrance. A coalition of Native and environmental groups have protested the decision, saying uranium mining could strain scarce water sources and pose serious health effects. Diné (Navajo) tribal lands are littered with abandoned uranium mines. From 1944 to 1986, 3.9 million tons of uranium ore were chiseled and blasted from the mountains and plains of the region. More than 1,000 mines have closed, but the mining companies never properly disposed of their radioactive waste piles, leading to a spike in cancer rates and other health ailments. Broadcasting from Flagstaff, Arizona, we speak with Taylor McKinnon, director of energy with Grand Canyon Trust, and Klee Benally, a Diné (Navajo) activist and musician. "It’s really a slow genocide of the people, not just indigenous people of this region, but it’s estimated that there are over 10 million people who are residing within 50 miles of abandoned uranium mines," Benally says. Benally also describes the struggle to preserve the San Francisco Peaks, an area considered sacred by 13 Native tribes, where the Snowbowl ski resort is using treated sewage water to make snow.

"Utah's Carbon Bomb": State Plots Massive Tar Sands & Oil Shale Projects Despite Climate Concerns

Democracy Now - Fri 07 12 AM

While the fight over the Keystone XL pipeline and the Alberta tar sands has galvanized the environmental movement, far less attention has been paid to a related story here in the West. The state of Utah has begun making preparations for its own major tar sands and oil shale extraction projects. According to one U.S. government report, land in the region could hold up to three trillion barrels of oil — that’s more recoverable oil than has been used so far in human history. Critics say Utah is sitting on a tar sands carbon bomb. The Utah Water Quality Board has recently begun giving out permits for companies to extract from the state’s tar sands reserves. We speak to Taylor McKinnon, energy director of the Grand Canyon Trust.

A War on Campus? Northeastern University Suspends Students for Justice in Palestine Chapter

Democracy Now - Thu 07 46 AM

The Northeastern University chapter of Students for Justice in Palestine has become the latest student group to face reprimand for organizing around the Palestinian cause. Northeastern has suspended the group until 2015, barring it from meeting on campus and stripping it of any university funding. The move comes just weeks after student activists distributed mock eviction notices across the campus during Israeli Apartheid Week. The notices were intended to resemble those used by Israel to notify Palestinians of pending demolitions or seizures of their homes. We speak to Northeastern Students for Justice in Palestine member Max Geller and Ali Abunimah, co-founder of The Electronic Intifada and author of the new book, "The Battle for Justice in Palestine." His new book includes a chapter titled "The War on Campus."

"Obama Is Trying to Vanish Us": Immigrants Fight Record Deportations with Protests, Hunger Strikes

Democracy Now - Thu 07 34 AM

As the number of deportations under President Obama approaches two million people and immigration reform lags under Republican obstruction, undocumented immigrants are fighting back through acts of civil disobedience. Hundreds have gathered at the U.S.-Mexico border this week to support a group of undocumented youths and families seeking re-entry into the United States. Much further north, in Tacoma, Washington, a hunger strike at the Northwest Detention Center that started with as many as 750 participants has entered its sixth day. The privately owned facility used by Immigration and Customs Enforcement is owned by the GEO Group. The hunger strikers say they are protesting record deportations and prison conditions that pay them as little as $1 a day. We are joined from Seattle by Maru Mora Villalpando, an undocumented immigrant and activist with the group Latino Advocacy.

New York City's Charter School Showdown Reignites National Debate on Privatized Education

Democracy Now - Thu 07 11 AM

The battle over charter schools is heating up after New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio blocked three privately run charter schools from using rent-free space inside public schools. The city also announced it will cut $210 million in charter school construction funding and use the money toward universal pre-K and after-school programs. The moves have set off a fierce debate in New York and the country and have even pitted de Blasio against New York Governor Andrew Cuomo, a fellow Democrat. We are joined by former public school teacher Brian Jones and Steve Barr, founder of the Green Dot Public Schools, a charter school network.

"Giving Hypocrisy a Bad Name": NSA-Backing Senate Intel Chair Blasts CIA for Spying on Torture Probe

Democracy Now - Wed 07 39 AM

The spat between the CIA and its congressional overseers has intensified after Senator Dianne Feinstein took to the Senate floor to directly accuse the CIA of spying in an effort to undermine a probe of the agency’s torture and rendition program. The Senate Intelligence Committee’s report has yet to be released but reportedly documents extensive abuses and a cover-up by CIA officials. Feinstein says the CIA broke the law in secretly removing more than 900 documents from computers used by panel investigators. She also accused the CIA of intimidation in requesting an FBI inquiry of the panel’s conduct. CIA Director John Brennan has rejected Feinstein’s allegations. Meanwhile, former National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden has weighed in by accusing Feinstein of hypocrisy for criticizing alleged CIA spying on U.S. senators while condoning government surveillance of private citizens. We host a roundtable discussion with three guests: former FBI agent Mike German, former CIA analyst Ray McGovern, and Pulitzer-winning journalist Julia Angwin, author of the new book, "Dragnet Nation: A Quest for Privacy, Security, and Freedom in a World of Relentless Surveillance."

Nader on Senate's Climate Stance, "Insanity" of U.S. Nukes, & Why Obama's Min. Wage Hike Falls Short

Democracy Now - Wed 07 24 AM

Ralph Nader, the longtime consumer advocate, corporate critic and former presidential candidate, joins us to discuss a number of key issues: the Senate’s marathon filibuster to promote climate action and attendant failure to challenge President Obama on the Keystone XL; new disclosures revealing U.S. regulators hid concerns and uncertainty around the safety of U.S. nuclear plants in the aftermath of the Fukushima crisis three years ago this week; and why he believes President Obama’s call for a $10.10 federal minimum wage falls well short of what workers deserve. Nader is author of the forthcoming book, "Unstoppable: The Emerging Left-Right Alliance to Dismantle the Corporate State."

"A Culture of Timidity": Ralph Nader on How Regulators Ignored a GM Safety Defect Tied to 13 Deaths

Democracy Now - Wed 07 11 AM

After hundreds of complaints and 13 deaths, the Justice Department has launched a criminal investigation into how the nation’s largest automaker, General Motors, may have covered up deadly safety defects in its compact cars. Six GM models made from 2003 to 2007 suddenly turned off while being driven — leaving drivers with no engine power, no power steering, no breaks and no air bags. For 11 years, GM reportedly treated the defect as a matter of customer satisfaction, not safety. Federal regulators also failed to take action, declining to investigate despite a flood of complaints. GM finally announced a massive recall of some 1.6 million vehicles last month. We speak with consumer advocate Ralph Nader, who is no stranger to GM. After writing "Unsafe at Any Speed: The Designed-In Dangers of the American Automobile," he won a major settlement against the auto giant for spying on him and trying to discredit him. Nader faults what he calls "a culture of timidity" in the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, "bred by the lack of backing by the Bush White House and, to some similar extent, by the Obama White House." He adds: "That of course leads to a reluctance to follow up on the evidence, to stand tall for the American motorist. That is not why we established the auto safety agency in 1966, so maybe this will help turn it around. Often it takes a tragedy like this to turn it around."