In his State of the Union address, President Obama called on the United States to "move off a permanent war footing," citing his recent limits on the use of drones, his withdrawal of U.S. troops from Iraq and Afghanistan, and his effort to close the military prison at Guantánamo Bay. Obama also vowed to reform National Security Agency surveillance programs to ensure that "the privacy of ordinary people is not being violated." Jeremy Scahill, whose Oscar-nominated film "Dirty Wars" tackles the U.S. drone war and targeted killings abroad, says Obama has been a "drone president" whose operations have killed large numbers of civilians. On NSA reform, Scahill says "the parameters of the debate in Washington are: Should we figure out a way to streamline this and sell it to the American people, or should we do more surveillance?"
At last night’s State of the Union, a DREAM activist was among the guests invited by first lady Michelle Obama. Twenty-three-year-old Cristian Ávila of Arizona fasted for 22 days to push for immigration reform as part of the "Fast for Families" campaign, which took place on the National Mall. But Obama made no reference to Ávila and limited his remarks on immigration to a short passage. "This has been the same rhetoric that we’ve been hearing for the last five years," says Lorella Praeli, director of advocacy and policy at the United We Dream coalition. "For us, we don’t need to give any room to the president on deportations, and we don’t need to give any more room to Republicans on immigration either. We have been waiting and fighting to get something done. The president’s remarks could have gone in deeper and set some legislative markers as well."
On issues from domestic inequality to foreign policy, President Obama delivered his fifth State of the Union with a vow to take action on his own should Congress stonewall progress on his agenda. But will Obama’s policies go far enough? We host a roundtable with three guests: Jeremy Scahill, producer and writer of the Oscar-nominated documentary "Dirty Wars: The World is a Battlefield" and senior investigative reporter at First Look Media, which will launch in the coming months; Bob Herbert, distinguished senior fellow with Demos; and Lorella Praeli, director of advocacy and policy at the United We Dream coalition.
In his fifth State of the Union address, President Obama vowed to bypass a divided Congress and take action on his own using his executive power. Obama announced a wage hike for federal contract workers, the creation of a "starter savings account" to help millions of people save for retirement, and plans to establish new fuel efficiency standards for trucks. On foreign policy, President Obama pledged to veto new sanctions on Iran while the interim nuclear deal is in effect and renewed his call for the closure of Guantánamo Bay. On Afghanistan, President Obama said this year would see the end of the U.S. war, but he acknowledged some U.S. forces would remain in the country to train Afghan troops and carry out counterterrorism attacks. We get reaction to Obama’s speech from three guests: "Dirty Wars" film producer and writer Jeremy Scahill; former New York Times columnist Bob Herbert of Demos; and Lorella Praeli of the United We Dream coalition. "The State of the Union address, historically, is sort of propaganda," Scahill says. "On the issue of foreign policy, there is a radical disconnect between what the president was publicly projecting with his remarks and what his policies actually amount to on the ground."
- Obama Seeks Guantánamo Closure, Support for Iran Deal in SOTU Address
- GOP Suggests Challenge to Minimum Wage Hike for Federal Workers
- Syria Talks Resume after Assad Regime Cites "Terrorist" Backing
- Homs Remains Without Aid Despite Gov't Pledge
- Egypt Orders Trial for 20 Detained Al Jazeera Journalists
- U.N. Security Council Approves European Troop Deployment to Central African Republic
- Latin American, Caribbean Leaders Meet in Cuba
- Tunisia Approves Landmark Constitution
- Study: 85 Richest People Hold Wealth Equal to 3.5 Billion Poorest
- GOP Rep. Resigns Following Cocaine Arrest
- Postal Workers Rally Against Gov't Contract with Staples
- College Football Team Seeks Unionization; Player Comes Out as Gay
- Supreme Court Halts Missouri Execution over Disclosure of Lethal Drug
- 11 Arrested Protesting Agri-giant Monsanto
The legendary folk singer and activist Pete Seeger died Monday at the age of 94. For nearly seven decades, Seeger was a musical and political icon who helped create the modern American folk music movement. We air highlights of two appearances by Seeger on Democracy Now!, including one of his last television interviews recorded just four months ago. Interspersed in the interviews, Seeger sings some of his classic songs, "We Shall Overcome," "If I Had a Hammer" and "Where Have All the Flowers Gone." He also talks about what has been described as his “defiant optimism.” "Realize that little things lead to bigger things. That’s what [the album] 'Seeds' is all about," Seeger said. "And there’s a wonderful parable in the New Testament: The sower scatters seeds. Some seeds fall in the pathway and get stamped on, and they don’t grow. Some fall on the rocks, and they don’t grow. But some seeds fall on fallow ground, and they grow and multiply a thousandfold. Who knows where some good little thing that you’ve done may bring results years later that you never dreamed of."
Seeger led an illustrious musical career. In the 1940s, he performed in The Almanac Singers with Woody Guthrie. Then he formed The Weavers. In the 1950s, he was blacklisted after he opposed Senator Joseph McCarthy’s political witch hunt and was almost jailed for refusing to answer questions before the House Un-American Activities Committee. Seeger became a prominent civil rights activist and helped popularize the anthem "We Shall Overcome." In the 1960s, he was a vocal critic of the Vietnam War and inspired generations of protest singers. He was later at the center of the environmental and anti-nuclear movements. With his wife Toshi, Pete helped found Clearwater, a group to clean up the Hudson River. Toshi died last year just weeks before their 70th wedding anniversary. In 2009, he and Bruce Springsteen performed Guthrie’s "This Land is Your Land" on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial at an inaugural concert for Barack Obama.
- Folk Icon, Activist Pete Seeger Dies at 94
- Ukraine's Parliament Repeals Anti-Protest Laws; PM Offers to Resign
- Syria Talks Still Deadlocked over Assad's Role; U.S. Says People Starving in Homs
- Egypt's Generals Back Army Chief for President; Gunmen Kill Aide to Interior Minister
- Obama to Raise Minimum Wage for Federal Contract Workers
- U.S. Loosens Gag on Secret Demands for User Info
- Snowden Docs Reveal British Spying on YouTube, NSA Targeting of Smartphone Apps
- Snowden: U.S. Conducts Spying for Economic Gain
- Deal on Farm Bill Would Slash Food Stamps, Keep Crop Subsidies
- Honduras: Thousands Protest Swearing-In of Right-Wing President Juan Orlando Hernández
- New York City: Gay Journalist Attacked in Possible Hate Crime
- Israeli Civil Rights Leader, Former Politician Shulamit Aloni Dies at 85
Legendary broadcaster Bill Moyers joins us to discuss his latest investigation, which explores how the influence of large, untraceable political donations known as "dark money" have become the greatest threat to democracy in the United States. In "State of Conflict: North Carolina," Moyers and his team explore how wealthy right-wing donors are greatly influencing state politics. "This is more than North Carolina," Moyers says. "It’s a harbinger of how organized money is the greatest threat to democracy because it unbalances the equilibrium. Democracy is supposed to check the excesses of private power and private greed, and if money disestablishes that equilibrium, we’re in trouble." Moyers, the host of "Moyers & Company," also talks about the long fight to secure voting rights. Fifty years ago, he was serving in President Lyndon B. Johnson’s administration at the time of the "Freedom Summer" campaign in 1964 and the formation of the Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party. Moyers has won more than 30 Emmy Awards. He also was a founding organizer of the Peace Corps, served as press secretary for President Lyndon Johnson, and was a publisher of Newsday and senior correspondent for CBS News.
In 2013, more than 1,000 people were arrested in North Carolina taking part in a series of protests called "Moral Mondays." For 13 weeks, demonstrators rallied in the state capital of Raleigh to fight moves by Republican lawmakers to attack voting rights, education, the environment, healthcare and women’s rights. Now organizers are planning their largest protest yet — the Moral March on Raleigh, scheduled for February 8. The protests in North Carolina are the focus of a recent special on Bill Moyers’ show "Moyers & Company." The documentary, "State of Conflict: North Carolina," reveals how untraceable political donations called "dark money" have pushed North Carolina far to the right politically and how citizen protesters are fighting back. We air an extended excerpt of Moyers’ report.
Moyers joins us in studio to talk about this investigation and much more. Click here to watch.
- 60 Killed in Clashes Marking 3rd Anniversary of Egyptian Revolution
- Syrian Gov't Pledges Safe Passage for Homs Civilians
- Assad Regime, Opposition Clash on Transition
- 70 Killed in Iraq Violence; 65,000 Displaced in Anbar over Past Week
- Afghan Gov't Frees Group of Bagram Prisoners over U.S. Objections
- U.S. Targets al-Shabab Leader in Somalia Strike
- Ukraine Opposition Rejects Power-Sharing Offer
- 3 Dead in Shooting at Maryland Mall
- Adviser: Snowden Won't Return Without Clemency
- West Virginia Orders Removal of Chemical Storage Tanks from Leak Site
- JPMorgan Chase CEO Awarded $20 Million in Pay
- Texas Hospital Removes Brain-Dead Pregnant Woman from Life Support Under Court Order
The romantic comedy "Obvious Child" is one of the most talked-about films at this year’s Sundance Film Festival in Utah. The film stars former Saturday Night Live cast member Jenny Slate as Donna Stern, a Brooklyn comedian who speaks openly about sexuality and other taboo topics on stage. When Donna gets pregnant, she decides to have an abortion. While one in three women in the United States will have an abortion, the topic is rarely dealt with in films. "Obvious Child" has been hailed as the first romantic comedy about abortion, but it is much more than that. In a week that marks the 41st anniversary of Roe v. Wade, we are joined by director Gillian Robespierre.
We Are the Giant: Bahrain's Top Family of Activists Pays Heavy Price for Challenging US-Backed Gov't
Reconciliation talks between Bahrain’s ruling monarchy and opposition groups have resumed amidst a continued crackdown on dissidents. The Bahraini government has waged a crackdown on pro-democracy protesters since an uprising broke out in February 2011. The U.S.-backed monarchy is home to the U.S. Navy’s 5th Fleet, which is responsible for all naval forces in the Gulf. Bahrain is a key strategic asset in the region because it directly faces Iran. "We are the Giant," a new documentary premiering at the Sundance Film Festival, looks at the situation in Bahrain through the lens of a prominent family of activists, the Alkhawajas. The well-known human rights attorney Abdulhadi Alkhawaja is serving a life sentence, while his outspoken daughter, Zainab, is also behind bars. We are joined by Maryam Alkhawaja, who currently serves as acting president the Bahrain Center for Human Rights, while living in forced exile.
After more than a month of violence that left thousands dead, rivals in South Sudan have reached a ceasefire agreement. The clashes began as a political dispute between President Salva Kiir and his former vice president, but quickly escalated into ethnic clashes that raised fears of a civil war. We turn to a new documentary that shows how South Sudan has become ground zero for contemporary colonialism in Africa. Director Hubert Sauper’s "We Come as Friends" provides an aerial view of the conflict in Sudan from a shaky, handmade two-seater plane. The film depicts American investors, Chinese oilmen, U.N. officials and Christian missionaries struggling to shape Sudan according to their own visions, while simultaneously applauding the alleged "independence" of the world’s newest state. What emerges is a devastating critique of the consequences of cultural and economic imperialism. We speak with Sauper about the film, which just premiered at the Sundance Film Festival.
- Congressional Panel: NSA Bulk Collection of Phone Records Illegal
- Holder Rules Out Snowden Clemency, Open to Plea Deal
- South Sudan Rivals Agree to Ceasefire
- Syrian Opposition Refuses Direct Talks with Assad Regime
- 5 Killed in Multiple Egypt Bombings Ahead of Uprising Anniversary
- Iranian President Calls for "Constructive Engagement" with U.S., Neighbors
- India's Top Court Orders Gang Rape Probe
- Study: U.S. Drones Killed Up to 4 Civilians in Pakistan, 29 in Yemen During 2013
- Appeals Court Rules Against Oil Drilling in Chukchi Sea
- Obama Launches Task Force on Campus Sexual Assault
- Virginia to Stop Defending Gay Marriage Ban in Court
- Family Seeks New Trial for Black Teen Executed in 1944
- Black Teen Charged After Suffering Genital Injury in Search by Philadelphia Police
A new film explores how African-American communities have used the medium of photography to shape how they are represented. "Through a Lens Darkly: Black Photographers and the Emergence of a People" is directed and produced by Thomas Allen Harris, who shares his own family’s history in the film. Allen Harris is also the creator of the related project, the Digital Diaspora Family Roadshow. Both were inspired in part by the book, "Reflections in Black: A History of Black Photographers 1840 to the Present" by Deborah Willis, who also produced the film. Allen Harris joins us from the Sundance Film Festival in Utah, where his movie is having its premiere.
Hundreds of people marched in Hattiesburg, Mississippi, on Wednesday to mark the 50th anniversary of Freedom Day. On Jan. 22, 1964, Fannie Lou Hamer and other civil rights activists marched around the Forrest County Courthouse in support of black voting rights. The rally was the beginning of a historic year in Mississippi. Months later, civil rights groups launched Freedom Summer. More than 1,000 out-of-state volunteers traveled to Mississippi to help register voters and set up what they called "Freedom Schools." Out of Freedom Summer grew the formation of the Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party that challenged the legitimacy of the white-only Mississippi Democratic Party at the 1964 Democratic National Convention. The period also saw the murders of three civil rights activists — Michael Schwerner, Andrew Goodman and James Chaney. Events are being held across Mississippi in 2014 to mark the 50th anniversary of this historic year. We are joined by Stanley Nelson, director of the new documentary, "Freedom Summer." An Emmy Award-winning MacArthur genius fellow, Nelson’s past films include "Freedom Riders" and "The Murder of Emmett Till."
"Cesar's Last Fast": How Cesar Chavez Risked Death to Protect the Lives of Farmworkers He Championed
As farmworkers continue to fight for fair wages and safe working conditions across the United States, we look at the life of legendary organizer Cesar Chavez. In 1962, Chavez founded the National Farm Workers Association, which would later become the United Farm Workers of America. He led the union for the next three decades and organized a series of historic strikes and boycotts. The new documentary "Cesar’s Last Fast" features never-before-seen footage of Chavez’s 36-day fast in 1988 to raise awareness about the dangers of pesticides in the field. We are joined by the film’s director, Richard Ray Perez, whose father was a farmworker laboring in the conditions Chavez fought to improve.
- Freedom Industries Discloses 2nd Chemical in West Virginia Spill
- Assad Regime, Opposition Clash in 1st Day of Syria Conference
- Kerry: U.S. Prepared to Increase Backing for Syria Rebels
- 1st Direct Talks on Syria to Include Prisoner Swaps, Aid Access
- Ukrainian Opposition Issues Ultimatum for Political Concessions
- Hundreds Protest Military Regime in Cairo
- Texas Executes Mexican National Despite World Court Ruling
- Psychology Body Rejects Torture Case Against Guantánamo Bay Doctor
- Court: No Factoring Sexual Orientation in Jury Selection
- Anti-Choice Activists Rally in D.C.; Courts Reject Abortion Curbs in NC, AZ
Could a pair of headphones change the lives of millions of Americans suffering from Alzheimer’s and dementia? "Alive Inside: A Story of Music & Memory," a new documentary at the Sundance Film Festival, follows a social worker named Dan Cohen who has launched a campaign to bring iPods and music therapy to nursing homes. One of the central characters he works with is a 90-something Alzheimer’s patient named Henry Dryer, who was featured in a video posted online that went viral in 2012, with nearly 10 million views. The clip begins with video of Dryer looking largely unresponsive to the outside world. Then he was given a pair of headphones to listen to Cab Calloway, his favorite artist. The music energizes him, awakens him and helps bring back old memories. We play clips from the film and speak with Cohen about his project, "Music & Memory," which he hopes to expand around the world. We are also joined by Michael Rossato-Bennett, the film’s director and producer.
Just days after a Utah police officer shot dead his wife, two kids and his mother-in-law before killing himself, a new HBO documentary premiering at the Sundance Film Festival examines the shocking nationwide epidemic of intimate partner violence, focusing on the struggles of survivors of abuse and the advocates who support them. Set in North Carolina, "Private Violence" follows Kit Gruelle, herself a domestic violence survivor, as she helps other victims seek healing, justice and social change. Gruelle joins us along with the film’s director, Cynthia Hill. "We’re so desensitized to violence in the United States that oftentimes women have to be beaten badly enough before our criminal justice system responds," Gruelle says.