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Amid State & Fed. Cover-Up, the Story of How Researchers & Residents Exposed Flint's Water Poisoning

Democracy Now - Fri 07 21 AM

For over a year, Flint residents have complained about the quality of the water, but their cries were ignored by state officials. In February, tests showed alarming levels of lead in the water, but officials told residents there was no threat. That same month, an EPA official named Miguel Del Toral wrote an email to the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality warning about lead contamination. No action was taken. He wrote another email in April to the EPA. Then in July, Governor Snyder’s chief of staff, Dennis Muchmore, wrote an email to health officials admitting that Flint residents are "basically getting blown off by us."

Poisoned Democracy: How an Unelected Official Contaminated Flint's Water to Save Money

Democracy Now - Fri 07 09 AM

In Flint, Michigan, a growing number of residents are demanding the arrest of Governor Rick Snyder over the ongoing water contamination crisis. Snyder declared a state of emergency for Flint Wednesday, after learning federal prosecutors had opened an investigation into lead contamination in the drinking water. The poisoning began after an unelected emergency manager appointed by Governor Snyder switched the city’s water source to the long-polluted Flint River in a bid to save money. Lead can cause permanent health impacts including memory loss and developmental impairment. Researchers at Virginia Tech who have been testing Flint water say the city could have corrected the problem by better treating the water at a cost of as little as $100 a day. On Thursday, the mayor of Flint revealed it could now cost as much as $1.5 billion to fix the city’s water infrastructure. We speak to Curt Guyette, investigative reporter for the ACLU of Michigan, who has closely covered the story.

Fort Dix Five: Prosecuted by Christie, Muslim Brothers Get Rare Day in Court in FBI Entrapment Case

Democracy Now - Thu 07 50 AM

In 2008, the Duka brothers—Shain, Dritan and Eljvir—were among five men from suburban New Jersey who were convicted of conspiring to kill American soldiers at the Fort Dix Army base. The three are serving life sentences, but their supporters say the men were entrapped by the FBI. On Wednesday, the three brothers appeared in a courthouse in Camden, New Jersey, for a rare court-ordered hearing to determine whether they received a fair trial and effective representation from their lawyers. We bring you voices from a rally organized in support of the three Duka brothers and speak with Robert Boyle, attorney for Shain Duka.

"A Travesty": Is Japan's Apology to Korean "Comfort Women" an Attempt to Silence Them?

Democracy Now - Thu 07 46 AM

Late last month, Japan and South Korea reached a deal aimed at addressing the demands of so-called comfort women forced into sexual slavery by the Japanese military during World War II. The deal includes an apology from Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and a more than $8 million fund for survivors. Survivors have said the deal falls far short of their call for Japan to admit legal responsibility and pay formal reparations. The deal has been met by protests in Seoul.

The Iran Model: Could Nuke Deal with Tehran Help Create Way to Address North Korean Crisis?

Democracy Now - Thu 07 38 AM

Nine months ago, the United States and other world powers reached a landmark nuclear deal with Iran. Could a similar deal be reached with North Korea? We speak with Joe Cirincione, president of Ploughshares Fund and author of "Nuclear Nightmares: Securing the World Before It is Too Late," and Christine Ahn, founder and executive director of Women Cross DMZ, a global movement of women mobilizing to end the Korean War.

As North Korea Says It's Tested H-Bomb, Is It Time to Restart Peace, Disarmament Talks?

Democracy Now - Thu 07 31 AM

North Korea is facing international condemnation after conducting a nuclear test on Wednesday. North Korea claims it successfully tested a hydrogen nuclear device for the first time, but U.S. and international experts have voiced doubts over the claim. North Korean state media described the action as an act of self-defense against aggressors. As the United Nations ponders a new round of sanctions, some peace activists say now is the time to push for a treaty to finally end the Korean War, 63 years later. We speak to Christine Ahn, founder and executive director of Women Cross DMZ, a global movement of women mobilizing to end the Korean War.

Mystery Meat: After WTO Ruling, U.S. Tosses Meat Origin Labeling Law, Leaving Consumers in the Dark

Democracy Now - Thu 07 26 AM

As TransCanada files a NAFTA claim for $15 billion against the U.S. government over the rejection of the Keystone XL pipeline, we turn to another case in which massive trade agreements have infringed on the U.S. government’s ability to pass legislation. In December, Congress passed a spending bill that included a repeal of a law requiring meat to be labeled with its country of origin. The repeal of the legislation came after the World Trade Organization threatened to impose billion-dollar sanctions against the United States, saying the label law violated trade deals. According to Lori Wallach of Public Citizen’s Global Trade Watch, this type of infringement is just the beginning if the Trans-Pacific Partnership is approved.

TransCanada Sues the U.S. for $15B for Rejecting Keystone XL. Will This Be the New Normal Under TPP?

Democracy Now - Thu 07 15 AM

On Wednesday, TransCanada Corporation filed a lawsuit in U.S. federal court alleging President Obama’s rejection of the Keystone XL pipeline exceeded his power under the U.S. Constitution. TransCanada also filed legal action under the North American Free Trade Agreement, or NAFTA, claiming the pipeline permit denial was "arbitrary and unjustified." It’s seeking $15 billion as part of its NAFTA claim. TransCanada’s lawsuit comes just days before President Obama’s final State of the Union address, where he’s anticipated to tout his controversial Trans-Pacific Partnership, or TPP, deal. The secretive trade pact between the United States and 11 Pacific Rim nations could govern up to 40 percent of the world’s economy. After TransCanada announced its lawsuit on Wednesday, the group Friends of the Earth released a statement saying, "This is why Friends of the Earth opposes the Trans-Pacific Partnership and other trade agreements, which allow companies and investors to challenge sovereign government decisions to protect public health and the environment." For more, we’re joined by Lori Wallach, the director of Public Citizen’s Global Trade Watch.

Will U.S. Deport Kurdish Activist Ibrahim Parlak Back to Turkey Where He Was Jailed & Tortured?

Democracy Now - Wed 07 46 AM

We turn now to a case of Michigan resident Ibrahim Parlak, who faces imminent deportation in an asylum case that stretches back more than 20 years. Parlak is a Kurdish man who came to the United States in 1990 fleeing persecution in his native country of Turkey, where he’d been arrested and tortured for his affiliations with the political arm of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party. Once Parlak reached the United States, he was granted political asylum. A year later, he was granted permanent residence. But all this changed in the years following 2001, when the FBI began to review old asylum files. In 2004, Parlak was arrested and threatened with deportation. But much to the surprise of the Department of Homeland Security, the community around him in Harbert, Michigan, rose to his defense. People built websites, organized letter-writing campaigns, held vigils and made so much noise that the agency released him. But now, his immigration case has suddenly come up again. The Department of Homeland Security has once again threatened Parlak with deportation and has ordered him to apply for residency to some other country. He fears he’ll be returned to Turkey, where the increasing crackdown on Kurdish communities has killed hundreds and displaced 200,000 from their homes. To talk more about the case, we’re joined in Chicago by Ibrahim Parlak, his daughter Livia, and their lawyer, Rob Carpenter.

Executive Action: Bush Opened Guantánamo Without Congress, So Why Can't Obama Close It?

Democracy Now - Wed 07 41 AM

As President Obama takes executive action on gun control without going through Congress, could closing Guantánamo be next? In January 2009, Obama ordered the closure of the Guantánamo Bay military prison in one of his first executive actions. Seven years later, 107 prisoners are still there. We speak with Caroline Fredrickson, president of the American Constitution Society for Law and Policy. "I think something that’s really important for people to remember is that President George W. Bush opened Guantánamo on his own say-so, without Congress, without any authorization, any legislation to do so," Fredrickson says. "Obviously, Congress can use the power of the purse … But in terms of the president’s basic authority, he certainly has that."

Gun Owners of America vs. American Constitution Society: A Debate on Obama's Gun Executive Orders

Democracy Now - Wed 07 27 AM

As President Obama announces plans to use executive actions to strengthen gun control regulations, we host a debate between John Velleco, director of federal affairs for Gun Owners of America, and Caroline Fredrickson, president of the American Constitution Society for Law and Policy.

"A Profound Day": Mother of Teen Who Was Shot Dead over Loud Music Praises Obama's Action on Guns

Democracy Now - Wed 07 14 AM

When President Obama spoke about gun control on Tuesday, he was surrounded by family members of people killed in shootings. Standing just behind him was Lucia McBath, the mother of Jordan Davis, the 17-year-old who was shot dead in 2012 in Florida at a gas station in a dispute over the volume of a car stereo. Lucia McBath has since become a leading gun control advocate.

"Every Time I Think About Those Kids It Gets Me Mad": Obama Tears Up as He Orders New Gun Control

Democracy Now - Wed 07 11 AM

President Obama has laid out his plans to take executive action in an attempt to cut gun violence. Part of his plan will result in mandatory background checks for individuals purchasing firearms online or at gun shows. The administration is also calling for the hiring of 200 new federal agents to enforce the nation’s gun laws and $500 million to increase access to mental healthcare. On Tuesday, Obama spoke at the White House surrounded by family members of people killed in shootings. It was one of the most emotional speeches of Obama’s presidency—at times he wiped back tears as he remembered children killed by gun violence.

When We Fight, We Win: New Book Showcases Social Movements & Activists Transforming the World

Democracy Now - Tue 07 48 AM

What do immigration raids and police brutality have in common? They’ve both sparked growing social movements demanding justice. Those linkages are examined in the new book, "When We Fight, We Win!: Twenty-First Century Social Movements and the Activists That Are Transforming Our World." The book looks at movements ranging from immigration to Black Lives Matter, to the Fight for 15, to LGBTQ rights. We speak with the book’s author, education activist Greg Jobin-Leeds; the book’s art director Deymirie Hernández; and two of the activists featured in the book—Jitu Brown, national director of the Justice Alliance in Chicago, and Isabel Sousa-Rodriguez, Ph.D. student at the CUNY Graduate Center and immigration activist.

"We Have Been Betrayed": Activist Who Refused to Shake Obama's Hand Decries Latest Immigration Raids

Democracy Now - Tue 07 38 AM

The Obama administration has begun conducting raids and detaining families as part of an effort to deport Central Americans who have fled violence in their home countries. At least 121 people have been detained so far. At one home in Georgia, Ana Lizet Mejia, a Honduran woman who fled the country after her brother was murdered by gangs, was taken into custody along with her 9-year-old son after an early-morning raid. "In the same way that we fled a country where people were disappearing in the middle of the night and being taken by members of the government, by armed individuals, the same things are happening today in this country, and it is terrifying," said Isabel Sousa-Rodriguez, a Ph.D. student at the CUNY Graduate Center and former youth organizer with the Florida Immigrant Coalition. "And it is the reason why we stand up and fight, because we refuse to be dehumanized any longer." We speak with Sousa-Rodriguez, who, in June 2010, was invited by President Obama to the White House to discuss immigration policy and prospects for immigration reform and refused to shake the president’s hand.

These Aren't the First Armed Whites to Take Over That Oregon Land: Just Ask the Native Paiute People

Democracy Now - Tue 07 33 AM

The armed militia members occupying a federally owned wildlife outpost in eastern Oregon have demanded that the land be "returned" to them. But who really has claim to this forest? We speak with Jacqueline Keeler, a writer and activist of Dineh and Yankton Dakota heritage who wrote about the 2014 Bundy ranch standoff for The Nation and is now working on a new piece which in part examines the history of the Paiute tribe’s treaty rights to the forest currently occupied by the nearly all-white militia.

Language Matters: #BlackLivesMatter Called "Thugs"; Why Aren't Oregon Militants Called "Terrorists"?

Democracy Now - Tue 07 19 AM

Critics are raising questions about what they say is the unique treatment that armed militia members have received in the mainstream press, including coverage that described the members of the group occupying a federally owned wildlife outpost in eastern Oregon as "peaceful" protesters. The Associated Press ran the headline, "Peaceful Protest Followed by Oregon Wildlife Refuge Action," but later removed the word "peaceful." CNN law enforcement analyst Art Roderick said the militants were being treated differently than Black Lives Matter protesters because "they’re not looting anything." We speak with Washington Post political reporter Janell Ross, whose recent article is "Why aren’t we calling the Oregon occupiers 'terrorists'?" "It’s certainly … very hard to imagine that the same kind of deliberate, slow, careful, methodical use of language would happen were there a group of, say, black protesters who had decided to take over a courthouse while armed and threatening to fight to the death," Ross says.