As U.S.-Cuban diplomatic relations are officially restored after five decades, we speak to two activists who have spent decades opposing U.S. policy on Cuba: the actor Danny Glover and CodePink co-founder Medea Benjamin. Both have traveled to Cuba many times over the past decades despite the U.S. embargo. Benjamin lived on the island for four years and has written three books on Cuba. They are both in Washington today for the reopening of the Cuban Embassy after 54 years. The reopened Cuban Embassy was built in 1917, becoming the first diplomatic building in this neighborhood and helping to establish this area as a diplomatic center. Fidel Castro visited the embassy in 1959 after he overthrew Cuban dictator Fulgencio Batista. Two years later, in 1961, the United States unilaterally broke off relations with Cuba. The last time the United States and Cuba had diplomatic ties, President Dwight Eisenhower was in office. Today’s opening of embassies is just the first step in normalizing relationships between the two countries. On Wednesday, Cuban President Raúl Castro applauded the diplomatic renewal but called on Obama to use his executive powers to remove the ongoing U.S. trade and financial embargo. So far, the Republican majority in Congress has rejected Obama’s calls to lift the U.S. embargo on Cuba. Obama’s congressional opponents have also vowed to block any ambassadorial nominee to Cuba and have denounced the decision to formally remove Cuba from the U.S. list of state sponsors of terrorism.
Special Broadcast from Opening of Cuban Embassy in Washington as U.S.-Cuban Diplomatic Ties Restored
History is being made in Washington today when Cuba raises its flag and officially reopens its U.S. Embassy after 54 years. Hundreds are gathering for this historic moment, including U.S. and Cuban lawmakers and diplomats, activists and artists, scholars and historians. Cuban Foreign Minister Bruno Rodríguez is leading a delegation of over two dozen officials from Havana, including Cuba’s chief negotiator, Josefina Vidal. Also among the attendees is Cuban singer-songwriter Silvio Rodriguez and former Parliament President Ricardo Alarcón. This afternoon, Bruno Rodríguez will hold a joint news conference with Secretary of State John Kerry at the State Department, where Cuba’s flag was raised earlier this morning, joining the flags of more than 150 other countries that have diplomatic relations with the U.S. In Havana, the U.S. Embassy will also reopen its doors today. Kerry is set to travel there later this summer for the formal inauguration ceremony where a U.S. flag will be hoisted. Cubans have welcomed the diplomatic rapprochement with jubilation. For more, we’re joined by Cuban-American attorney José Pertierra and Peter Kornbluh, director of the Cuba Documentation Project at the National Security Archive at George Washington University.
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- Trump: McCain is "Not a War Hero" Because He Was Captured in Battle
- #BlackLivesMatter Activists Disrupt Sanders and O'Malley Speeches
- Family of Sandra Bland, Found Dead in Jail Cell, Orders Independent Autopsy
- Calls for Prosecution of Officer on Anniversary of Eric Garner's Death
- South Carolina: KKK and New Black Panther Party Hold Opposing Rallies
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On Thursday, a gunman opened fire on two separate military sites in Chattanooga, Tennessee. The rampage left four marines and the gunman dead and at least three people injured. The Tennessee shooting came as a jury in Colorado announced its verdict in one of the deadliest mass shootings in U.S. history. Almost exactly three years ago, on July 20, 2012, James Holmes walked into a movie theater in Aurora, Colorado, and opened fire, killing 12 people and injuring 70 others. On Thursday, the jury found him guilty of 165 counts of first-degree murder and attempted murder. Holmes now faces a lengthy sentencing process which could result in the death penalty.
After a two-year legal battle between the California city of Gardena and news outlets, a federal judge has ordered the release of police dash cam footage that shows local police officers shooting an unarmed man. In the video unsealed Tuesday, police order Ricardo Diaz-Zeferino and two other men to raise their hands in the air. The men comply. Diaz-Zeferino then lowers and raises his hands several times and removes his cap. His friends say he was trying to explain to the officers that they were on the streets looking for his brother’s stolen bicycle and were not bicycle thieves themselves as the cops incorrectly suspected. Three officers then open fire, killing him with eight bullets. They also wound one of the other men. The city of Gardena paid $4.7 million to settle a civil rights lawsuit with the victims’ families, but blocked release of the dash cam videos. In his ruling on Tuesday, Judge Stephen Wilson said there was a public interest in seeing the material. Gardena has since filed a notice of appeal with the Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, which issued a stay suspending the release of the videos; however, the videos have gone viral and remain available online. For more, we go to Los Angeles, California, where we’re joined by Sonia Mercado, a civil rights attorney representing the family of Ricardo Diaz-Zeferino.
Last Friday, an African-American woman was returning home from a job interview in Waller County, Texas, when she was stopped by police. Apparently, she had improperly signaled a lane change. Two days later, the woman, Sandy Bland, was found dead in a jail cell. A video taken by a bystander during the arrest shows Bland shouting that the officer had slammed her head into the ground. According to police, Sandra Bland was taken into custody and charged with "assault of a public servant." On Monday, police say Bland was "found in her cell not breathing from what appears to be self-inflicted asphyxiation." The announcement was made by Waller County Sheriff Glenn Smith. Meanwhile, reports have emerged that Smith was fired from his previous post as chief of police of Hempstead, Texas, amidst accusations of racism. Bland’s friends and family contest Smith’s account, saying the thought of her committing suicide by hanging is "unfathomable." Social media is now ablaze with people demanding answers about Sandra Bland’s death. The hashtag #SandraBland is now trending on Twitter, edging out the Emmys as a topic of discussion. We speak to Maya Schenwar, editor-in-chief of Truthout and author of "Locked Down, Locked Out: Why Prison Doesn’t Work and How We Can Do Better."
President Obama became the first sitting president in history to visit a federal prison Thursday when he toured the El Reno Federal Correctional Institution in Oklahoma. After passing through several security gates, Obama stepped inside a 9-by-10 cell and walked through a section called Cell Block B that houses prisoners who are part of a drug rehabilitation and prevention program. He also spent about 45 minutes meeting with six nonviolent drug offenders, which he described during a press conference afterward. Obama’s stop at the federal prison in El Reno comes amidst a broader, bipartisan push to end mass incarceration. On Monday, he commuted the sentences of 46 low-level drug offenders. Many of them had stories like our next guest, Jason Hernandez, who was sentenced to life in prison without parole in 1998 for his role in a drug conspiracy, starting when he was only 15. He was one of eight prisoners whose sentences were commuted by President Obama on December 19, 2013. We are also joined by Maya Schenwar, editor-in-chief of Truthout and author of "Locked Down, Locked Out: Why Prison Doesn’t Work and How We Can Do Better."
- Four U.S. Marines Killed in Shootings at Military Sites in Tennessee
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- Obama Makes History as First U.S. President to Visit Federal Prison
- #BlackLivesMatter Activist Found Dead in Texas Jail Cell
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- NASA Mission Captures First Detailed Images of Pluto
- Marlene Sanders, Groundbreaking Female Journalist, Dies at 84
Protests erupted in Greece Wednesday as the Greek Parliament approved harsh new austerity measures in exchange for a third European bailout. Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras won the parliamentary vote by a vote of 229 to 64. But 32 members of his own Syriza party voted against the plan, including former Finance Minister Yanis Varoufakis. Lawmakers approved the harsh austerity measures just days after voters rejected similar reforms in a referendum, including retirement age increases, tax hikes, public spending cuts, pension adjustments and collective bargaining restructuring in exchange for up to $94 billion. The vote came amid worker strikes, peaceful marches and violent clashes between protesters and police across Athens. We go to Greece for an update from Theodoros Karyotis, a sociologist, translator and activist who has been participating in grassroots movements and protesting austerity.
Texas says there is "no evidence" of wrongdoing after mass graves filled with bodies of immigrants were found miles inland from the U.S.-Mexico border. The bodies were gathered from the desert surrounding a checkpoint in Falfurrias, Texas, in Brooks County. An investigation was launched after the mass graves were exposed last November in a documentary by The Weather Channel in partnership with Telemundo and The Investigative Fund. The report also found many of the migrants died after crossing into the United States and waiting hours for Border Patrol to respond to their 911 calls. We speak with reporter John Carlos Frey, who found rampant violations of the law.
President Obama is defending the global agreement to curtail Iran’s nuclear program as critics of the deal are accusing the White House of appeasement. The deal reached Tuesday will see Iran reduce its stockpile of low-enriched uranium by 98 percent and cut its number of centrifuges by two-thirds. In exchange, Iran will see an easing of international sanctions that have battered the economy, causing food insecurity and medication shortages. Congress will have 60 days to review the agreement. "The deal has closed all possible pathways toward possible militarization, weaponization of Iranian nuclear program," says Iranian Ambassador Seyed Hossein Mousavian, a former nuclear negotiator. "If the opponents in the region used the Iranian model for all countries in the Middle East, this would be the only way to assure a nuclear weapon-free zone in the Middle East," Mousavian is now an associate research scholar at Princeton University’s Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs. He is the author of "The Iranian Nuclear Crisis: A Memoir" and, most recently, "Iran and the United States: An Insider’s view on the Failed Past and the Road to Peace."
- Protests Erupt as Greece Lawmakers Approve Harsh Austerity Measures
- Tens of Thousands of Migrants Stranded on Greek Island
- Obama: Iran Nuclear Deal Helped Prevent New Middle East War
- Israel Requests 50% Increase in U.S. Military Aid, Up to $4.5B
- U.S. Redoubles Strikes in Afghanistan, Despite War's "Official" End
- Japan: 100,000 Protest Push to Rewrite Pacifist Constitution
- NSA: Israel Assassinated Top Assad Aide Inside Syria in 2008
- Puerto Rico Misses Debt Payment, Gov. Says Island in "Death Spiral"
- Bank of America Profits Top $59M Per Day, Double Same Time Last Year
- Cost of Police Settlements in U.S. Soars to $1.4 Billion Since 2010
- Mexico Sells First Oil Contracts to Private Companies in 80 Years
- Natural Gas Ousts Coal as Top Electricity Producer for First Time
- Report: European Timber Industry Fuels Central African Republic's War
- House Republicans Launch Investigation into Planned Parenthood
- Violating 14th Amendment, Texas Denies Birth Certificates to Children
- SeaWorld Puts Employee Who Infiltrated PETA on Leave
- FIFA Official Extradited to U.S. Amid Senate Hearings into Corruption
- Obama on Cosby: Drugging People to Have Sex is Rape
The People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals has accused the popular animal theme park SeaWorld of infiltrating its organization by sending an employee on an undercover mission posing as an animal rights activist. According to PETA, the SeaWorld employee took part in numerous PETA protests against SeaWorld, including one at the 2014 Rose Parade in Pasadena when he was arrested along with other activists. One photo posted on Twitter showed him inside a police van along with other arrested activists. PETA activists knew the man as Thomas Jones, but his real name was Paul McComb. Unlike the other activists arrested that day, he was released without charge. His name never appeared on an arrest sheet. According to PETA, McComb also repeatedly used social media in an effort to incite other activists, stating that it’s time to "grab pitchforks and torches" and time to "burn [SeaWorld] to the ground." We speak to Matthew Strugar, director of litigation for the PETA Foundation; PETA volunteer Hal Weiss; and Will Potter, investigative reporter and author of "Green is the New Red: An Insider’s Account of a Social Movement Under Siege."
This week President Obama has launched a major push to reform the country’s criminal justice system. On Monday, he granted clemency to 46 men and women facing extreme sentences — in some cases life in prison — for nonviolent drug offenses. Tomorrow he is set to become the first sitting president to visit a federal prison. On Tuesday, Obama described what he called a "broken system" in an address at the NAACP’s annual convention. During his speech, Obama praised the "unlikely bedfellows" campaigning together for criminal justice reform from the left and right, including the Koch Brothers and Van Jones. We speak to Jones, Obama’s former green jobs adviser, and Mark Holden, senior vice president and general counsel for Koch Industries, where he is a close adviser to its leader, Charles Koch. We also speak to Shaka Senghor. He shot and killed a man in 1991. At the age of 19, he went to prison for 19 years, seven of which he spent in solitary confinement. He has used his experience to inspire and motivate others to understand the causes of youth violence.
On Tuesday, former Maryland governor and Democratic presidential candidate Martin O’Malley vowed to go beyond President Obama in using executive power to help the country’s 11 million undocumented immigrants. O’Malley’s plan would expand deferred action against deportation and sharply reduce the number of people jailed while awaiting deportation. Juan González met with O’Malley on Tuesday and discusses his plan.
- Republicans Vow to Fight Iran Nuclear Deal
- Netanyahu Slams Nuclear Deal as a "Historic Mistake"
- Ahead of Greek Parliamentary Vote on Bailout, IMF Criticizes Deal
- Obama: Criticizes "Broken System" of Criminal Justice
- California: Video of Police Shooting Released After Legal Battle
- Garner Family Renews Call to Charge Police over Chokehold Death
- Mentally Ill Man Accused of "Terror" Plot After Buying Guns from FBI
- ACLU Sues National Security Agency to End Bulk Phone Spying
- 3 Top Officials Depart APA After Damning Report on Torture
- Oskar Groening, "Bookkeeper of Auschwitz," Sentenced to 4 Years
We end today’s show with a new push by the White House to support bipartisan prison reform — this time by reducing punishments for nonviolent crimes. On Thursday, President Obama granted clemency to 46 prisoners, including 14 who faced life without parole. Many of the commutations went to crack offenders, including one African-American man who is 84 years old, and the mother of Denver Broncos wide receiver Demaryius Thomas. President Obama has now commuted 89 sentences, including 22 drug offenders who were granted release earlier this year and eight others in 2014. He is expected to call for more fairness in the criminal justice system when he speaks today at the annual convention of the NAACP. This Thursday he will become the first president to visit a federal prison when he tours the El Reno facility in Oklahoma. We speak to Cynthia Roseberry, director of the Clemency Project 2014, and Reynolds Wintersmith, who once faced life in prison for selling crack but was freed last year after receiving clemency.
We speak with John Nichols, political writer for The Nation, about the presidential candidacy of Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders. Nichols introduced Sanders at a recent event in Madison, Wisconsin, where the senator drew a record crowd of more than 10,000 people. "The key thing here is this 2016 presidential race, at least on the Democratic side, and I would even suggest on the Republican side, is being profoundly influenced by movements that are demanding that income inequality, wage gaps, wage stagnation be addressed," Nichols says. "Something big is happening, and I think that’s why people are turning out in these huge numbers."
Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker has become the 15th Republican candidate to formally announce he’s running for president. On Monday, Walker launched his campaign by touting his successful efforts to eviscerate public employee unions in his home state and later defeat a recall effort against him. He also extolled his record reducing taxes, cutting the size of the federal government and passing voter restrictions. On the domestic front, Governor Scott Walker promised to repeal Obamacare, build the Keystone XL pipeline, subject welfare recipients to drug tests, and roll back federal regulations. On the international front, he vowed to reject the nuclear deal with Iran, re-establish an "unshakable bond" with Israel, focus more on Islamic terrorism and less on climate change, as well as engage more aggressively with Russia and China. We go to Wisconsin to speak with John Nichols of The Nation. "If there is someone who has attempted to impose an austerity agenda in an American state, in many senses, it is Scott Walker," Nichols says.
Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras is facing protests from members of his own Syriza party after accepting harsh austerity measures in exchange for a new international bailout. In order for the deal to move forward, the Greek Parliament must accept pension cuts and other reforms by Wednesday, 10 days after voters rejected similar reforms in a referendum. On Monday, Greek Defense Minister Panos Kammenos accused Germany of staging a coup. We speak to Michalis Spourdalakis, professor of political science at Athens University and a founding member of Syriza.