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Locked Up & Neglected After Fleeing Danger, Immigrant Women Detainees Launch Hunger Strike in Texas

Democracy Now - Fri 07 26 AM

Last week, 27 immigrant women detained at the for-profit T. Don Hutto facility in Austin began refusing meals, demanding an end to mistreatment and their immediate release. Most are asylum seekers from Central America, which has seen a surge in migrants fleeing violence and abuse. The detainees said they’ve faced threats and unjustified surveillance as they languish in custody without hope of freedom. Immigration officials have denied the hunger strike is even taking place. While exact figures are unknown, advocates say the hunger strike grew this week substantially, possibly into the hundreds. Hutto is run by the country’s largest private prison firm, Corrections Corporation of America. The hunger strike is the latest by immigrant detainees around the country, following three others in the past month. "Women are fleeing Central America and Mexico because they are in danger," says Cristina Parker, immigration projects coordinator for Grassroots Leadership. "We respond by putting them in a prison for profit that cuts corners, that serves bad food, that neglects people’s medical care and needs. This is the system that these women are exposing, and they’re doing so, so bravely."

Full Text of TPP Trade Deal Revealed -- and Critics Say It's Even Worse Than They Thought

Democracy Now - Fri 07 09 AM

The details are out on the the Trans-Pacific Partnership, and critics say the trade deal is worse than they feared. The TPP’s full text was released Thursday, weeks after the United States and 11 other Pacific Rim nations—a group representing 40 percent of the world’s economy—reached an agreement. Activists around the world have opposed the TPP, warning it will benefit corporations at the expense of health, the environment, free speech and labor rights. Congress now has 90 days to review the TPP before President Obama can ask for an up-or-down vote. We are joined by Lori Wallach, director of Public Citizen’s Global Trade Watch and a leading TPP critic.

Acclaimed Actor Viggo Mortensen on the Pope, Poetry and Art in Politics

Democracy Now - Thu 07 48 AM

Actor, poet, photographer and book publisher Viggo Mortensen, star of the "Lord of the Rings" franchise, reads his poem "Back to Babylon" from his newly reissued book, "Twilight of Empire: Responses to Occupation." Mortensen also shares his thoughts on the progressive bent of Pope Francis and speaking out about injustice while leading a creative life.

Actor Viggo Mortensen: On Foreign Policy, Democratic Candidates Aren't Too Far from the Hawks

Democracy Now - Thu 07 40 AM

Democratic presidential candidates Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders have voiced support for President Obama’s plan to keep U.S. troops in Afghanistan through the end of his term in 2017. Obama had declared an official end to the U.S. combat mission in Afghanistan last year, but announced last month he was halting the phased military withdrawal. "I wish Bernie Sanders would be president, for many reasons," says actor Viggo Mortensen. "I think in many ways he speaks truth to power, but even in foreign policy, in many ways, he is as hawkish as Hillary Clinton is."

"You Have to Speak Up": Viggo Mortensen Defends Quentin Tarantino's Criticism of Police Killings

Democracy Now - Thu 07 27 AM

Award-winning film director Quentin Tarantino is refusing to back down from his criticism of police brutality, even as police unions have launched a campaign to boycott his films. Tarantino sparked controversy after he called fatal police shootings "murders" during the Rise Up October rally against police brutality in New York City on October 24. Tarantino’s comments have come under intense criticism, with several major police unions calling for a boycott of his films. "[Tarantino] clearly saw what anybody with eyes on their head could see," says Academy Award-nominated actor Viggo Mortensen. "What’s troubling is the tacit condoning of these abuses of power by certain police officers by their bosses, by people who should know better." Mortensen also looks back on his own brush with a right-wing political backlash, after he famously wore a T-shirt on the PBS show Charlie Rose that said "No more blood for oil."

Actor Viggo Mortensen: Warrior-King in Lord of the Rings' Middle Earth is Peace Activist on This One

Democracy Now - Thu 07 16 AM

Viggo Mortensen, the actor known by millions for his portrayal of the warrior-king Aragorn in the blockbuster "Lord of the Rings" trilogy, joins us to talk about peace, the ongoing wars in the Middle East, U.S. empire, working with the late historian Howard Zinn, and his response to the growing police boycott of director Quentin Tarantino’s films for speaking out against police brutality. Mortensen is a vocal advocate of progressive causes, using his celebrity to speak out for social justice. On top of "The Lord of the Rings" trilogy, Viggo Mortensen has starred in numerous films including David Cronenberg’s movies "A History of Violence," "Eastern Promises," for which he received an Oscar nomination for Best Actor, and "A Dangerous Method," for which he received a Golden Globe Award. Mortensen is also poet, painter, photographer and book publisher who spotlights alternative voices. He is the editor at his own imprint, Perceval Press, which has just reissued the 2003 book, "Twilight of Empire: Responses to Occupation."

Power Wars: How Obama Continued Bush's National Security State After Campaigning Against It

Democracy Now - Wed 07 44 AM

With just over a year left in office, President Obama is running out of time to fulfill his longstanding promise to close the U.S. military prison at Guantánamo Bay. The imprisonment of foreigners at Guantánamo is one of several Bush-era policies that continue under Obama’s presidency. While Obama has shut down the CIA’s secret prisons and banned the harshest of Bush’s torture methods, many others—the drone war, presidential secrecy, jailing whistleblowers and mass surveillance—either continue or have even grown. The story of the Obama administration’s counterterrorism legacy is told in the new book, "Power Wars: Inside Obama’s Post-9/11 Presidency," by Pulitzer Prize-winning New York Times correspondent Charlie Savage.

With Historic Release of Drug Offenders & Help for Re-entry, US Takes "First Step" on Prison Crisis

Democracy Now - Wed 07 26 AM

In the largest one-time release of federal prisoners in U.S. history, more than 6,000 inmates have been freed early under a resentencing effort for people convicted of nonviolent drug crimes. Decisions by the U.S. Sentencing Commission last year reduced prison terms for certain drug offenses and applied those changes retroactively. Most have been released to halfway houses and home confinement, while close to one-third—about 1,700 people—are undocumented immigrants who now face immediate deportation. The release comes as President Obama has announced a series of steps to help former prisoners readjust to society, including "banning the box"—barring federal agencies from asking potential employees about their criminal records on job applications. We discuss the Obama administration’s steps and the societal challenges for newly freed prisoners with three guests: Susan Burton, founder and executive director of A New Way of Life Reentry Project, which provides support to former prisoners after their release; Five Mualimm-ak, a former prisoner and founder of Incarcerated Nation Collective, a collective of previously incarcerated people; Victoria Law, a freelance journalist and author of "Resistance Behind Bars: The Struggles of Incarcerated Women."

Election Day 2015: GOP Takes Kentucky, Ohio Rejects Pot Monopoly, and Houston Shuns LGBT Equality

Democracy Now - Wed 07 13 AM

Tuesday was Election Day in the United States as voters across the country decided ballot initiatives and elected city and state leaders. In one of the most closely watched races, tea party favorite Matt Bevin won the governorship in Kentucky, becoming just the second Republican to hold the post in more than four decades. In Houston, Texas, voters repealed a City Council measure barring discrimination over factors including sexual orientation and gender identity. Opponents ran what critics called a fear-mongering and anti-LGBT campaign. In Ohio, voters rejected a measure that would have legalized marijuana for medical and recreational use. Many legalization advocates ended up opposing the effort because it called for giving wealthy investors who funded the campaign the exclusive rights to growing commercial marijuana in Ohio. In San Francisco, voters rejected a measure to limit short-term rentals, which would have restricted the website Airbnb. We discuss Tuesday’s election results with John Nichols, political writer for The Nation.

Facing Health Crisis, Puerto Rico Protests Unequal Federal Payments for Medicare, Medicaid

Democracy Now - Wed 07 10 AM

A mass protest is set for Puerto Rico on Thursday over the federal government’s unequal payments to the island’s Medicare and Medicaid programs. For decades, Congress has capped federal reimbursements of Puerto Rico’s healthcare costs, bringing the system to the brink of collapse. The Obama administration has warned Puerto Rico faces a humanitarian crisis unless Congress takes steps to address its crushing debt. We get analysis from Democracy Now! co-host and Daily News columnist Juan González.

The Price We Pay: As US Becomes a Top Tax Haven, How Hiding Wealth Offshore Robs the People at Home

Democracy Now - Tue 07 44 AM

When it comes to sheltering the wealth of the super-rich, the United States is moving up the ranks. A new study says the U.S. is now the third most secretive country for offshore finances, trailing only Hong Kong and Switzerland. While recent U.S. laws force banks and other firms to disclose the assets of American citizens, Washington has been criticized for failing to share that information with other countries. A 2012 study by the Tax Justice Network on the "offshore economy" estimated that wealthy individuals and their families have between $21 and $32 trillion of hidden financial assets around the world in offshore accounts or tax havens. The actual sums could be higher because the study only dealt with financial wealth deposited in bank and investment accounts, and not other assets such as property and yachts. The new documentary "The Price We Pay" tackles the issue of tax havens and their cost to the societies losing out on trillions of dollars in revenue. We are joined by the film’s director, Harold Crooks, and economist James Henry, senior adviser with the Tax Justice Network.

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The Co-ops Collapse: How GOP & Insurers Undercut Obamacare's Nonprofit Option, Leaving 500K Uninsured

Democracy Now - Tue 07 21 AM

As the Obamacare open enrollment period begins, it’s the end for many healthcare co-ops, leaving hundreds of thousands of people scrambling to find coverage. The co-ops were founded to offer a cheaper alternative on insurance exchanges after Democrats stopped demanding a public option. But since going live three years ago, the co-ops have faced major cutbacks from the Republican-controlled Congress. Now the system is faltering, with at least eight health insurance co-ops shutting down. The co-op closures have left some 500,000 people without insurance—and a marketplace of fewer choices and higher prices. It’s the kind of scenario that advocates of a single-payer system warned about from the outset: With Obamacare relying on for-profit insurance companies to provide coverage, the market will find a way to squeeze out those who need it most. We are joined by three guests: physician, professor and single-payer advocate Dr. Steffie Woolhandler; Wendell Potter, a former insurance executive turned whistleblower; and Julia Hutchins, chief executive officer of Colorado HealthOP, a consumer-directed, nonprofit health cooperative in Colorado that was forced to shut down last month.

Have Protests Killed the Keystone XL? TransCanada Asks U.S. for Delay in Face of Likely Rejection

Democracy Now - Tue 07 12 AM

The corporation behind the Keystone XL oil pipeline has asked the Obama administration to suspend its long-running review of the controversial project. On Monday, TransCanada told the State Department it wants to wait until Nebraska, a state along the pipeline’s route, gives its approval. If the delay is granted, the decision on Keystone XL would be pushed until after the 2016 election—and possibly handed to President Obama’s successor. That’s led many to speculate TransCanada is throwing a Hail Mary in the hopes the next White House occupant is a Republican. We are joined by Bill McKibben, co-founder of 350.org, an environmental group that has helped lead the multi-year grassroots campaign against the Keystone XL. "In the end, this was never really about the power of the administration," McKibben says. "This was about the power of organized people to come together and change the script—and that’s what’s happened here."

Turkish President Erdogan Regains Parliamentary Majority in Vote Held Amid Violence & Fear

Democracy Now - Mon 07 52 AM

In Turkey, the party of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has regained its parliamentary majority in national elections. On Sunday, Turkish voters elected Erdogan’s Justice and Development Party—the AKP—to 330 of the Parliament’s 550 seats. It’s a major comeback for the AKP after losing its majority in the last campaign five months ago. The victory will help Erdogan strengthen a hold on power critics say has become increasingly authoritarian and divisive. We are joined from Istanbul by Patrick Cockburn, Middle East correspondent for The Independent, who has been reporting on the Turkish elections.

More Countries Than Ever Are Bombing Syria -- Will They Find a Way to Make Peace?

Democracy Now - Mon 07 44 AM

The new U.S. deployment to Syria comes more than a year after it launched a bombing campaign against the self-proclaimed Islamic State. It also comes weeks after Russia escalated its role by launching airstrikes against foes of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. Patrick Cockburn, Middle East correspondent for The Independent, says that while the military dimension in Syria is escalating, the foreign powers involved could be a step closer to seeking a diplomatic resolution.

Andrew Bacevich: Ongoing Wars in Iraq & Syria Continue Decades of Failed U.S. Militarism in Mideast

Democracy Now - Mon 07 31 AM

The U.S. deployment of a team of special operations forces to Syria comes after the first U.S. combat casualty in Iraq in four years. Just last month, President Obama reversed course in Afghanistan, halting the scheduled withdrawal of U.S. troops fighting in the nation’s longest war. In an escalation of the air war in Syria, the United States has also announced plans to deploy more fighter planes, including 12 F-15s, to the Incirlik Air Base in Turkey. On top of the wars in Iraq, Syria and Afghanistan, the U.S. continues to carry out drone strikes across the globe from Pakistan to Yemen to Somalia. "[Obama’s] policy has been one of mission creep," says Andrew Bacevich, retired colonel, Vietnam War veteran, and international relations professor at Boston University. "The likelihood that the introduction of a handful of dozen of U.S. soldiers making any meaningful difference in the course of events is just about nil."