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The New Arab Cold War: U.S. Policy Sows Conflict, Unrest Across the Middle East and North Africa

Democracy Now - Tue 07 42 AM

As the United States weighs a major escalation with potential military aid to Ukraine, we look at how American policy is sowing conflict across North Africa and the Middle East. Libya is run by two different governments, and the United Nations has warned of "total chaos" if ongoing unity talks fail. The U.S.-backed regime in Egypt continues a crackdown on political opponents, recently carrying out its worst killing of protesters since General Abdel Fattah el-Sisi became president last June. Iraq is coming off its deadliest month in years, while outgoing Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel has said the U.S. might need to send noncombat ground troops for the ongoing campaign against the Islamic State. In Syria, the world’s worst current humanitarian crisis, the U.S. has backed off its calls for the ouster of President Bashar al-Assad. In Lebanon, Hezbollah and Israel exchanged fire last week in one of their most violent clashes since the 2006 war. The incident was followed days later by a Washington Post report that the CIA and its Israeli counterpart, the Mossad, assassinated a senior Hezbollah leader seven years ago this month. Now a dispute over Iran has brought relations between President Obama and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to their lowest point so far. Following the death of King Abdullah last month, Obama led a large delegation to Saudi Arabia in a major display of U.S. support for the new repressive regime. And in Yemen, uncertainty prevails after last month’s resignation of President Abdu Hadi, with Houthi rebels now threatening to seize power. We discuss the state of the Middle East and North Africa — and the U.S. role in ongoing conflicts — with Vijay Prashad, professor of international studies at Trinity College.

Is Ukraine a Proxy Western-Russia War? U.S. Weighs Arming Kiev as Violence Soars

Democracy Now - Tue 07 14 AM

The United Nations has raised the death toll from fighting in eastern Ukraine to more than 5,300 people since last April following the ouster of Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych one year ago this month. Another 1.5 million people have been displaced. As fighting intensifies, the Obama administration is now considering directly arming Ukrainian forces against Russian-backed rebels. Washington already supplies nonlethal military equipment to Ukraine, but top officials are reportedly leaning toward sending arms, from rifles to anti-tank weapons. The role of the U.S. and European allies in Ukraine has prompted former Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev to accuse the West of dragging Russia into a new Cold War. We are joined by Stephen Cohen, professor emeritus of Russian studies and politics at New York University and Princeton University.

Dave Zirin on NFL Season's Lowlights: Domestic Abuse, Concussions and Seahawks' Super Bowl Screw-Up

Democracy Now - Mon 07 44 AM

The National Football League’s tumultuous 2014-15 season ended Sunday with the New England Patriots’ dramatic Super Bowl victory over the Seattle Seahawks. The game capped a year that saw growing scrutiny of the NFL, most notably its poor handling of domestic violence cases. More than half of players accused of domestic violence during commissioner Roger Goodell’s tenure have gone without league punishment. The NFL is also under fire for its handling of player safety, predominantly concussions. While fans still turn out in record numbers, four in 10 parents now say they would think twice about letting their own child play football. We are joined by Dave Zirin, sports editor for The Nation magazine and host of Edge of Sports Radio on SiriusXM. In addition to talking about these NFL controversies, Zirin discusses the Super Bowl’s closing moments, when the Seahawks chose not to give the ball to against-the-grain star running back Marshawn Lynch and opted for a risky play that cost them the game.

Amid Violence Against Journalists Worldwide, Egypt Releases 1 of 3 Jailed Al Jazeera Reporters

Democracy Now - Mon 07 33 AM

Al Jazeera journalist Peter Greste has been released from an Egyptian prison after 400 days behind bars. Greste and two of his Al Jazeera colleagues, Mohamed Fahmy and Baher Mohamed, were convicted on terrorism charges in a case widely denounced as a sham. Greste flew to Cyprus on Sunday following his release, but Fahmy and Mohamed remain behind bars. "We are relieved by this great news," says Delphine Halgand, U.S. director of Reporters Without Borders, of Greste’s freedom. "But we have to continue to work to assure the release of all journalists in Egypt who are detained on spurious charges." Halgand also discusses the violence directed against journalists worldwide in the first month of 2015, including attacks on journalists in France and Iraq and the beheading by ISIS of Kenji Goto, a Japanese reporter kidnapped in Syria last year. Video of Goto’s execution emerged over the weekend.

After Historic Victory, Greece's Leftist Syriza Party Begins Mandate Against "Vicious" Austerity

Democracy Now - Mon 07 14 AM

After a historic victory in Greece, the leftist Syriza party’s finance minister has begun a tour of Europe to push an anti-austerity message. The former economist Yanis Varoufakis has promised "radical" change as his government seeks to renegotiate Greece’s huge debt obligations and to roll back key parts of its international bailout. Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras says he is confident that Greece can reach a deal with creditors. We air an excerpt of our 2012 interview with Varoufakis and speak with Costas Panayotakis, a professor of sociology at CUNY and author of "Remaking Scarcity: From Capitalist Inefficiency to Economic Democracy." Panayotakis lays out the Syriza party’s historic rise to power and the challenges it faces in trying to restructure Greece’s economy.

"Vanguard of the Revolution": New Film Chronicles Rise of Black Panthers & FBI's War Against Them

Democracy Now - Fri 07 09 AM

With groups around the country taking on issues of police brutality and accountability, we go back 50 years to another movement confronting the same issues. We spend the hour looking at a new documentary that just premiered at the Sundance Film Festival called "The Black Panthers: Vanguard of the Revolution." It tells the history of the Black Panther Party through rare archival footage and interviews with party leaders, rank-and-file members, journalists — and even police and FBI informants. We feature extended excerpts from the film and speak with one its subjects, Kathleen Cleaver, who served as communications secretary of the Black Panther Party and is now a law professor at Emory University. We also speak with Stanley Nelson, the film’s award-winning director. The film is set to play in theaters and air on PBS later this year.

CodePink Attempts to "Arrest" Henry Kissinger for War Crimes in Vietnam, Laos, Chile and East Timor

Democracy Now - Fri 07 06 AM

Activists from the antiwar group CodePink attempted to perform a citizen’s arrest on former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger when he testified on global security challenges at a Senate Armed Services Committee meeting on Thursday. Kissinger served as secretary of state and national security adviser during the Vietnam War under presidents Richard Nixon and Gerald Ford. Arizona Republican Sen. John McCain lashed out at the protesters and called on the Capitol Hill Police to remove them.

Robert Redford Explores Aging in "A Walk in the Woods" and Fall of CBS Legend Dan Rather in "Truth"

Democracy Now - Thu 07 43 AM

Acclaimed director and actor Robert Redford discusses his new film premiering at the Sundance Film Festival, "A Walk in the Woods," in which he co-stars with Nick Nolte. It is a comedy about walking the Appalachian Trail — and getting older. "What are you going to do with what time you have left? Are you just going to sit?" Redford asks. "One thing you don’t want to do is be a guy sitting in a rocking chair on a stoop somewhere in a bathrobe and say, 'I wish I would've, I wish I could’ve.’ So, you make the most of your life." He also talks about his plans to play former CBS news anchor Dan Rather in the upcoming political drama, "Truth," based on Rather’s 2005 memoir about how he was fired after reporting that George W. Bush received special treatment in the U.S. Air National Guard during the Vietnam War. "CBS wanted a relationship with the administration. They asked him to back off," Redford notes. "He said, 'I can't do that. My job is to tell the truth.’" Redford also discusses the attacks earlier this month on Charlie Hebdo magazine.

"It Started as Just a Hope": Robert Redford on Founding the Sundance Film Festival

Democracy Now - Thu 07 30 AM

We speak with director, actor and Sundance Film Festival founder Robert Redford about the festival’s history, now celebrating its 31st anniversary. Sundance is now among the largest film festivals in the country, with some 50,000 attendees. However, it looked very different when it began more than three decades ago. "The first year, there was maybe 150 people that showed up. We had one theater, maybe 10 documentaries and 20 films, and now it’s grown to the point where it’s kind of like a wild horse," Redford says. We also discuss the festival’s efforts to promote women, people of color and young people — on both sides of the camera. This comes as the latest "Celluloid Ceiling" report from researchers at San Diego State University has found men directed 93 percent of the 250 highest-grossing films of 2014. Women directed just 7 percent, a decrease of 2 percent compared to 1998.

Robert Redford & Will Ferrell in Colorado River Spoof: Raise the River vs. Move the Ocean

Democracy Now - Thu 07 24 AM

We play excerpts from a spoof video standoff between Robert Redford and Will Ferrell about efforts to conserve the Colorado River, which provides much of the American West with water. Redford also discusses the documentary, "Watershed," that he narrated and made with his son, Jamie Redford. The Colorado River flows nearly 1,500 miles from its source in the Rocky Mountains to the Gulf of California. Along the way, most of its water is diverted by dams for agriculture and municipal uses, and now the river rarely reaches the Sea of Cortez. Redford notes the Native American and Mexican communities in the southern portion of the watershed "are being starved out. They’re having to move away because they can’t have agriculture there."

Oil Should Stay in the Ground: Robert Redford on Republican Climate Change Deniers and Keystone XL

Democracy Now - Thu 07 14 AM

As we broadcast from the Sundance Film Festival in Park City, Utah, we spend the hour with its founder Robert Redford, the Oscar-winning director, actor and longtime environmentalist. Our conversation begins with last week’s vote by nearly half of the Senate to refuse to formally acknowledge the existence of man-made climate change. "I think the deniers of climate change are probably the people who are afraid of change. They don’t want to see change," Redford says. "Too many in Congress are pushing us back into the 1950s." He also responds to the attempt by the new Republican majority in Congress to approve construction of the controversial Keystone XL pipeline. "I had a lot of experience with oil," he says, noting that he once worked in the oil fields. "I think it should stay in the ground. We’re so close to polluting the planet beyond anything sustainable."

As 18 Die on Anniversary of Revolution, Egypt Intensifies Crackdown on Activists, Journalists

Democracy Now - Wed 07 48 AM

At least 18 protesters have been killed as they marked the anniversary of the 2011 uprising in Egypt that toppled dictator Hosni Mubarak, in the bloodiest demonstrations since General Abdel Fattah el-Sisi came to power. A viral video also shows Shaimaa al-Sabbagh, a leading member of the Socialist Popular Alliance Party, being shot dead Saturday at a protest near Tahrir Square. "Like all social change, the fight for democracy in Egypt and across the region is going to continue," says Karim Amer, producer of "The Square," which documented the Egyptian revolution of 2011 from its roots in Tahrir Square and was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Documentary in 2014. "What keeps us optimistic is the same critical mass of young people you saw in 'The Square' ... are continuing to stand up." We also speak with film’s director, Jehane Noujaim, about Sanaa El Seif, an assistant producer who worked on "The Square" and is now in prison in Egypt.

Sen. Barbara Boxer on Campus Rape Bill, Climate Skeptics & Why She Supports Obama's War on ISIS

Democracy Now - Wed 07 30 AM

Amy Goodman interviews one of the Senate’s leading advocates for changing the way both universities and the military respond to sexual violence — California Democratic Sen. Barbara Boxer. Boxer talks about her proposed bill to require advocates for sexual assault victims on college campuses, her plans to retire from the Senate in 2016, and why she supports President Obama’s campaign against the Islamic State. "War is a last resort, never a first resort," Boxer says. "I don’t support going to war and sending combat troops. I support President Obama’s plan, which is not to do that, but to make sure we can help people fight against this terror group."

"The Hunting Ground": Film Exposes How Colleges Cover Up Sexual Assault and Fail to Protect Students

Democracy Now - Wed 07 10 AM

As a jury in Tennessee has convicted two former Vanderbilt University football players of raping an unconscious student in a dorm room, we look at a groundbreaking new documentary about sexual assault on college campuses across the country. Brandon Vandenburg and Cory Batey could face decades in prison after being convicted of a combined total of 16 felony counts, including aggravated rape. Two other former Vanderbilt football players, Brandon Banks and Jaborian McKenzie, are awaiting trial over their role in the rape. However, the court cases mark a rare example where students accused of sexual assault have actually faced punishment. Premiering at the Sundance Film Festival, "The Hunting Ground" shows how colleges and universities across the nation are covering up sexual assaults and failing to protect students from repeat offenders. We speak with the film’s director, Kirby Dick, and producer, Amy Ziering. Their previous film, "The Invisible War," which exposed the epidemic of sexual assault in the military, won the Audience Award at Sundance in 2012 and was nominated for an Academy Award.