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"This is Crazy": Ex-State Dept. Official Matthew Hoh Blasts Obama's Doubling of U.S. Troops in Iraq

Democracy Now - Mon 07 25 AM

As the nation prepares to commemorate Veterans Day, President Obama has authorized the deployment of an additional 1,500 troops to Iraq. The plan will more than double the current U.S. force in Iraq and will reportedly cost $5.6 billion. In a significant expansion of the U.S. military campaign against the Islamic State, military advisers will reportedly establish training sites across Iraq. The funding request will reportedly be presented to Congress during the lame-duck session that begins this week. In an interview on "Face the Nation" CBS broadcast on Sunday, Obama said the increased troop deployment to Iraq marks a "new phase" against ISIS militants — an offensive strategy, rather than a defensive one. The timing of the announcement has raised questions about whether the Obama administration waited until after the midterm elections in order to shield Democratic candidates from war-weary voters. We are joined by Matthew Hoh, a former Marine and State Department official who once served in Iraq. In 2009, he became the first known U.S. official to resign in protest over the Afghan War.

"I've Had Enough": Mexican Protesters Decry Years of Impunity After Apparent Massacre of 43 Students

Democracy Now - Mon 07 12 AM

Protests are continuing across Mexico after the apparent confession of gang members to the massacre of 43 teacher’s college students in the southern state of Guerrero six weeks ago. On Friday, the Mexican attorney general said suspects in the case admitted to killing the students and incinerating their bodies, leading investigators to the remains. The students disappeared following a police ambush, fueling public anger over government corruption and Mexico’s endemic violence. On Saturday, a breakaway group of protesters set fire to the door of the presidential palace in Mexico City after a march that drew thousands of people. Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto has drawn criticism for leaving Mexico to attend the APEC summit in China amidst the unrest. We are joined from Mexico by María Luisa Aguilar Rodríguez, coordinator of the advocacy unit for Tlachinollan, a human rights group working with the families of the 43 missing students.

Matt Taibbi and Bank Whistleblower on How JPMorgan Chase Helped Wreck the Economy, Avoid Prosecution

Democracy Now - Fri 07 17 AM

A year ago this month the U.S. Department of Justice announced that the banking giant JPMorgan Chase would avoid criminal charges by agreeing to pay $13 billion to settle claims that it had routinely overstated the quality of mortgages it was selling to investors. But how did the bank avoid prosecution for committing fraud that helped cause the 2008 financial crisis? Today we speak to JPMorgan Chase whistleblower Alayne Fleischmann in her first televised interview discussing how she witnessed "massive criminal securities fraud" in the bank’s mortgage operations. She is profiled in Matt Taibbi’s new Rolling Stone investigation, "The $9 Billion Witness: Meet the woman JPMorgan Chase paid one of the largest fines in American history to keep from talking."

New GOP Majority Backs Amnesty for Corporate Tax Dodgers, But Not Undocumented Immigrants

Democracy Now - Fri 07 15 AM

"The same Republican leaders who decry any mention of amnesty for undocumented immigrants are more than ready to grant amnesty to corporate tax dodgers," writes Juan González in his latest New York Daily News column looking at the renewed push to give tax amnesty to General Electric, Apple, Microsoft and Pfizer. Over the past decade, multinational companies have funneled more than $2 trillion in profits out of the United States and parked it overseas. Much of it is labeled “deferred taxes” and invested to make more money. They keep it overseas to evade paying our 35 percent federal corporate tax. Meanwhile, they are lobbying fiercely in Washington for a huge one-year tax reduction to only 5 percent before they’ll agree to repatriate their money.

Midterm Voters Reject U.S. Drug War with Victories for Marijuana Legalization & Sentencing Reform

Democracy Now - Thu 07 52 AM

A historic number of marijuana legalization measures were on the ballot Tuesday, and most of them passed. Voters in Oregon and Alaska joined Colorado and Washington to make pot available for adults to buy in retail shops, while voters in the District of Columbia approved an initiative that makes it legal for adults to possess two ounces of marijuana and grow up to six marijuana plants in their home. One medical marijuana amendment narrowly lost in Florida, while another in Guam won by 56 percent, making it the first U.S. territory to approve such a law. Meanwhile, California overwhelmingly voted to change six low-level, nonviolent offenses, including simple drug possession, from felonies to misdemeanors. We speak with Ethan Nadelmann, founder and executive director of the Drug Policy Alliance, whose lobbying arm helped draft and support many of Tuesday’s successful measures.

Ben & Jerry’s Co-Founder on Knowing Your GMOs: Changing a Label Costs "Essentially Nothing"

Democracy Now - Thu 07 41 AM

Jerry Greenfield, co-founder of Ben & Jerry’s ice cream, discusses the company’s campaign for a successful genetically modified food labeling measure in its home state of Vermont, as well as one in Oregon — where it renamed one of its ice cream flavors as "Food Fight Fudge Brownie" — that ultimately failed to pass on Tuesday. "We are really proud of the ingredients we use," Greenfield says. "It is just so hard to imagine that other food companies wouldn’t want to tell consumers what is in their food." Ben & Jerry’s plans to complete its transition to all non-GMO ingredients by the end of the year. "That transition to all non-GMO ingredients is not going to raise the cost of a pint at all to a consumer. So it can be done." We are also joined by one of the leading advocates of an initiative that passed in Hawaii to suspend the cultivation of GMO crops. "We are beyond labeling," says Dr. Lorrin Pang. "For us, it is really more of an environmental health issue."

Maui v. Monsanto: Hawaii County Voters Defy Agri-Giant's Spending to OK Landmark Ban on GMO Crops

Democracy Now - Thu 07 35 AM

Ballot initiatives to require labeling of foods with genetically modified ingredients, or GMOs, failed to pass Tuesday in Colorado and Oregon, after agribusiness giants Monsanto, PepsiCo and Kraft spent millions to help defeat the measures. But in a victory for food safety advocates, Hawaii’s Maui County passed one of the strongest anti-GMO measures ever, despite the opposition outspending supporters by a ratio of 87 to 1. The Maui GMO moratorium calls for a complete suspension of the cultivation of GMO crops until studies conclusively prove they are safe. Maui is often called "GMO Ground Zero" and the moratorium that passed Tuesday could have national implications because multinational seed producers, such as Monsanto and Dow AgroSciences, use the county to research and develop new seed varieties. Under the new measure, farmers who knowingly cultivate GMOs could be penalized with a $50,000-per-day fine. On Wednesday, Monsanto released a statement saying it plans to ask the Maui court to declare the initiative "legally flawed" and not enforceable. We are joined in Maui by Dr. Lorrin Pang, a public health official who helped draft and submit Maui’s successful GMO moratorium initiative.

Obama & McConnell Pledge Cooperation; Will Fast-Tracking Secretive TPP Trade Deal Top Their Agenda?

Democracy Now - Thu 07 13 AM

While the two parties have plenty to fight about in the new Republican Congress, Mitch McConnell, the possible next Senate majority leader, says he shares common ground with the president on international trade. What does this mean for the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP)? We get analysis from Lori Wallach of Public Citizen’s Global Trade Watch, who notes that while some analysts say GOP gains will accelerate the passage of fast-track legislation in Congress to enable an agreement on the TPP, “it is kind of hard for the Republicans to voluntarily delegate more authority to the guy they’ve been attacking as the imperial president who grabs power that’s not his.” The controversial so-called free trade deal involves 12 countries and nearly 40 percent of the global economy. Trade ministers from the 12 countries negotiating the trade deal are due to meet in Beijing ahead of the Asia-Pacific economic summit next week to continue negotiations.

Mark Udall, Leading Senate Voice on NSA Surveillance and Environment, Ousted in Heated Colorado Race

Democracy Now - Wed 07 53 AM

The Republican gains in a majority of the midterms’ tightly contested Senate races included Colorado, where Cory Gardner ousted Sen. Mark Udall, a leading Senate voice on the environment and National Security Agency surveillance of Americans. Outside groups poured millions of dollars into the campaigns. We’re joined from Denver by Susan Greene of The Colorado Independent, a longtime reporter and columnist.

Can Push for Single-Payer Healthcare Survive in Vermont After Shockingly Tight Governor’s Race?

Democracy Now - Wed 07 50 AM

In Vermont, incumbent Democratic Gov. Peter Shumlin has nearly been unseated in a shocking upset. In a process unique to Vermont, projections now show the governor’s race will be decided by the state Legislature after neither Shumlin nor his Republican challenger reached the necessary threshold of 50 percent. The state Legislature remains solidly Democratic, so Shumlin will likely keep his seat. But Shumlin was not considered a vulnerable candidate before last night, and Scott Milne, his challenger, was a relative unknown. The election is seen as a possible referendum on healthcare reform after Shumlin has vowed to make Vermont the first state with a single-payer healthcare system. The state’s embattled health insurance exchange implemented under Obamacare has been down since September. We are joined by Peter Sterling, executive director of Vermont Leads, an organization that advocates for single-payer healthcare in Vermont.

Sen. Bernie Sanders: The United States is on the Verge of Becoming an Oligarchy

Democracy Now - Wed 07 43 AM

We get reaction to the Republicans’ big midterm victory from Sen. Bernie Sanders, Independent of Vermont. "What frightens me is what Citizens United has done to the politics of this country and the ability of billionaires like the Koch brothers and others to put unprecedented sums of money into elections," Sanders says. "I fear that we may be on the verge of becoming an oligarchic form of society where a handful of billionaires control not just the economy, but the political life of this country. And that’s just something we’re going to have wrestle with."

Grassroots Activism Helped Elect Obama in 2008 — Will It Resurface to Push Him in Next 2 Years?

Democracy Now - Wed 07 33 AM

President Obama is facing a similar predicament as Ronald Reagan, Bill Clinton and George W. Bush — the last three presidents to serve two terms. They all governed for the final two years with the opposition controlling both chambers of Congress. "Presidents have the ability to define the last quarter of their second term, even if there is a strong opposition," says John Nichols, political writer for The Nation. "My fear with Obama is that he will let the Republicans do too much of the defining, and so this becomes an incredibly important moment for grassroots movements."

A Big Win for Climate Change Denial: Republicans to Target EPA Regulations After Taking Senate

Democracy Now - Wed 07 22 AM

With their newfound control of both houses of Congress, the Republican agenda includes a rollback of environmental regulations, including President Obama’s new rules limiting carbon emissions from coal-fired power plants. We discuss this prospect with Lee Fang, a reporting fellow with The Investigative Fund at The Nation Institute, and blogger about money and politics at the the Republic Report. "This Republican majority owes its fortunes to a small number of fossil companies who were very big campaign spenders," Fang says. "And the next Congress will see some of the most avowed climate change deniers taking control of key congressional committees in the Senate and in the House."

The Citizens United Senator: After GOP's Midterm Rout, Mitch McConnell Likely Next Majority Leader

Democracy Now - Wed 07 09 AM

Republicans have emerged from Tuesday’s midterm elections with control of Congress for the first time in eight years by winning key Senate seats and strengthening their majority in the House. Republican candidates won at least 10 of the day’s 13 closely contested Senate races, giving the party control of the Senate for the first time since 2007. Kentucky Sen. Mitch McConnell is expected to become the next Senate majority leader after defeating Democrat Alison Lundergan Grimes in one of the nation’s highest-profile contests. McConnell has played a leading role in fighting campaign finance reform and supporting the Citizens United decision, which opened the floodgates to unlimited election spending. The $4 billion price tag made this election the most expensive midterm in history. We look at the Kentucky race and what to expect out of a McConnell-led Senate with Phillip Bailey, a freelance journalist in Louisville.

GOP Threatens a Senate Takeover, But State Votes Could Bring Rejection of Right-Wing Agenda

Democracy Now - Tue 07 50 AM

While each House seat is up for grabs in today’s midterms, only a few dozen races are competitive enough to be in play. It is control of the Senate that hangs in the balance, coming down to around 10 key races. Republicans need to gain six seats to recapture Senate control, with a slight edge over Democrats in the advance polls. A few races are so close that they could go to a runoff. That potentially means we end Tuesday night with the Senate still undecided. Senate control is crucial, with Republicans vowing an agenda that includes more cuts to public spending, and repealing environmental regulations, such as the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s limits on emissions from coal-fired power plants and control of committees addressing global warming. But no matter how the Senate goes, we can expect mixed results at the state level as incumbent governors from both main parties face a voter backlash. The midterms will also see votes on 147 ballot measures, covering a number of key issues. Four states will vote on raising the minimum wage — Alaska, Arkansas, Nebraska and South Dakota. Polls show the measures will likely pass despite them all coming in Republican states. We get a roundup of the key issues from John Nichols and Lee Fang, contributors to The Nation magazine.

The Priciest Midterms Ever, Brought to You by "Dark Money" and Election Finance Out of Control

Democracy Now - Tue 07 40 AM

The most expensive midterms in history could see one of the lowest turnouts in years. Voting numbers will likely dip below the 40 percent mark of both 2006 and 2010. This despite a record estimate of $4 billion in spending. One quarter of that money, some $1 billion, will come from anonymous, so-called dark money groups. That money has gone into creating some two million television ads — most of them attack ads. We are joined by Lee Fang, one reporter attempting to follow the dark money trail. A reporting fellow with The Investigative Fund at The Nation Institute, Fang blogs about money and politics at the Republic Report.