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"A Peace Warrior": Poet, Civil Rights Activist Maya Angelou Remembered by Sonia Sanchez

Democracy Now - Thu 07 12 AM

The legendary poet, playwright and civil rights activist Maya Angelou has died at the age of 86. Born in the Jim Crow South, Angelou rose to become one of the world’s most celebrated writers. After becoming an accomplished singer and actress, Angelou was deeply involved in the 1960s civil rights struggle, working with Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and Malcolm X. Encouraged by the author James Baldwin, among others, to focus on her writing, Angelou penned "I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings," her first of seven autobiographies. The book launched the phenomenal career for which she is known around the world as an award-winning author and people’s poet. We look back at some of Angelou’s most celebrated poems and speeches, and speak to her close friend Sonia Sanchez, the renowned writer, activist and leader in the black arts movement.

Egyptian Regime Scrambles to Boost Low Turnout in Election Sealing General Sisi's Grip on Power

Democracy Now - Wed 07 53 AM

Egypt’s presidential election has been extended for a third day in an apparent bid to boost voter turnout. The outcome is believed to be a foregone conclusion with former army chief Abdel Fattah el-Sisi widely expected to win. But the conspicuously low voter turnout threatens to undermine the credibility of the election and has led the military-backed government to take desperate measures. On Tuesday, the government declared a public holiday to encourage voter participation. It also waived public transportation fares, encouraged shopping malls to close early, and threatened to fine Egyptians who did not vote. Local politicians took to the airwaves to repeat messages from Muslim and Christian leaders about a "religious duty" to vote. If Sisi wins the election as predicted, he will become the sixth military man to run Egypt since the army overthrew the monarchy in 1952. He led the ouster of democratically elected President Mohamed Morsi last year. Some Islamic and liberal political groups have urged Egyptians to boycott the election, arguing that the vote is unfair and illegitimate. We go to Cairo to speak with Democracy Now! correspondent Sharif Abdel Kouddous.

In Aiding Rescue of Kidnapped Schoolgirls in Nigeria, Will U.S. Expand Military Foothold in Africa?

Democracy Now - Wed 07 31 AM

In a speech today, President Obama is expected to lay out a U.S. foreign policy approach that avoids large wars like Iraq and Afghanistan, and shifts instead to partnering with countries on counterterrorism efforts. This comes as The New York Times reports the Obama administration has launched a program to train "homegrown African counterterrorism teams" in Libya, Niger, Mauritania and Mali. Just last week, the United States also deployed a battalion of 80 marines to Nigeria to help search for the nearly 300 missing schoolgirls there. The head of Nigeria’s military has said the military now knows where the abducted girls are being held, but has ruled out using force to rescue them for fear of endangering their lives. We discuss the situation in Nigeria and the growing fears that the schoolgirls’ kidnapping could be exploited to further U.S. militarism in Africa with two guests: Dayo Olopade is a Nigerian-American journalist and author of "The Bright Continent: Breaking Rules and Making Change in Modern Africa," and Carl LeVan is an assistant professor at American University’s School of International Service and author of the forthcoming book, "Dictators and Democracy in African Development: The Political Economy of Good Governance in Nigeria."

Obama Extends Nation's Longest War to 2016, Leaving Afghan Civilians in U.S.-Taliban Crossfire

Democracy Now - Wed 07 13 AM

President Obama has announced the longest war in the history of the United States will last another two-and-a-half years. On Tuesday, Obama said that the United States will maintain almost 10,000 troops in Afghanistan after its formal combat mission concludes at the end of this year. The United States will eventually withdraw troops until only a small residual force remains after 2016. By then, the war will have lasted more than 15 years. We are joined by Anand Gopal, author of the new book, "No Good Men Among the Living: America, the Taliban, and the War Through Afghan Eyes." A journalist and a fellow at the New America Foundation, Gopal has spent years reporting on Afghanistan.

#YesAllWomen: Rebecca Solnit on the Santa Barbara Massacre & Viral Response to Misogynist Violence

Democracy Now - Tue 07 42 AM

Santa Barbara is grieving after a 22-year-old man killed six college students just after posting a misogynistic video online vowing to take his revenge on women for sexually rejecting him. The massacre prompted an unprecedented reaction online with tens of thousands of women joining together to tell their stories of sexual violence, harassment and intimidation. By Sunday, the hashtag #YesAllWomen had gone viral. In speaking out, women were placing the shooting inside a broader context of misogynist violence that often goes ignored. In her new book, "Men Explain Things to Me," author and historian Rebecca Solnit tackles this issue and many others. "We have an abundance of rape and violence against women in this country and on this Earth, though it’s almost never treated as a civil rights or human rights issue, or a crisis, or even a pattern," Solnit says. "Violence doesn’t have a race, a class, a religion, or a nationality, but it does have a gender."

Will Election Unite Ukraine? Dozens Killed in Airport Battle as President-Elect Vows Russia Talks

Democracy Now - Tue 07 13 AM

At least 30 pro-Russian rebels have reportedly died in fierce fighting at the airport in the eastern Ukrainian city of Donetsk. The Ukrainian government bombarded the airport with air strikes, then paratroopers, after rebels seized it on Monday. The fighting began just hours after the pro-European billionaire candy tycoon Petro Poroshenko won Ukraine’s first presidential election since the ouster of Viktor Yanukovych. After his election, Petro Poroshenko said he was ready to negotiate with Russian President Vladimir Putin, but he ruled out any talks with pro-Russian rebels in eastern Ukraine. To discuss these developments, we are joined by three guests: Christopher Miller of the Kyiv Post, reporting just steps from the embattled airport in Donetsk; Jack Matlock, the former U.S. ambassador to the Soviet Union from 1987 to 1991; and Timothy Snyder, professor of history at Yale University, who just returned from Kiev and wrote the article in The New York Review of Books titled "Ukraine: The Edge of Democracy."

Remembering Vincent Harding, the Civil Rights Activist Who Wrote MLK's Speech Against Vietnam War

Democracy Now - Mon 07 30 AM

Today we spend the hour remembering the pioneering historian, theologian and civil rights activist Dr. Vincent Harding. He died on May 19 at the age of 82 in Philadelphia. He lived in Denver, but was in Pennsylvania where he had been teaching at Pendle Hill, a Quaker retreat center. Harding was a close adviser to Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and wrote King’s famous antiwar speech, "Beyond Vietnam: A Time to Break the Silence." King delivered the address at Riverside Church in New York City on April 4, 1967 — exactly one year before he was assassinated in Memphis.

"By the last years of his life, [King] was saying that America had to deal with what he called triple evils: the evil of racism, the evil of materialism and the evils of militarism," said Harding in this Democracy Now! interview in 2008. "And he saw those three very much connected to each other."

After King was assassinated, Harding became the first director of the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Center and of the Institute of the Black World. He later became a professor at Iliff School of Theology in Denver. Iliff Professor George "Tink" Tinker described Harding as "the most important civil rights leader not everyone has heard of." Democracy Now! interviewed Vincent Harding on April 1, 2008, three days before the 40th anniversary of King’s assassination. The interview took place during Barack Obama’s historic run for president. Hear Harding in his own words and an excerpt of King’s "Beyond Vietnam" speech.

Iona Craig: Dire Situation in Yemen as Backlash Grows from U.S.-Backed Offensive Against al-Qaeda

Democracy Now - Fri 07 48 AM

A U.S.-backed offensive against al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula rages on in Yemen. Yesterday, four civilians were killed and three were injured when their vehicle was shelled in the country’s southern Shabwa province. In April, Yemeni President Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi embarked on all-out war against al-Qaeda and began a series of heavy air strikes. Since then, an estimated 21,000 people have been displaced amidst the fighting. Meanwhile, the government has cracked down on local journalists and deported its last remaining foreign reporters. We are joined in studio by journalist Iona Craig, who was the last accredited foreign reporter in Yemen, until recently. She left the country last week after hearing from her sources that the government intended to deport her, too.

Exclusive: Chilean Robin Hood? Artist Known as "Papas Fritas" on Burning $500M Worth of Student Debt

Democracy Now - Fri 07 37 AM

You may know the adventures of Robin Hood and Zorro, outlaws fighting for the poor. Today we meet the newest member of that club, a Chilean activist who goes by the name Papas Fritas. Francisco Tapia, known as Francisco "Papas Fritas," or French fries, says he burned $500 million worth of debt papers from the private Universidad del Mar. Chilean authorities are in the process of shutting down the university over financial irregularities. But that has not stopped the school from collecting on its student loans. During a recent student takeover of the school, Papas Fritas says he took the debt paper records, burned them and displayed the ashes inside a van as an art exhibition. "It is a concrete fact that the papers were burned. They are gone, burned completely, and there’s no debt," said Papas Fritas in his first U.S. broadcast interview. "Since these papers don’t exist anymore, there’s no way to charge the students."

As Washington Focuses on Another Benghazi Probe, Could a Civil War Be Brewing in Libya?

Democracy Now - Fri 07 10 AM

While Congress is beginning its ninth investigation into the deadly 2012 attack in Benghazi, Libya may be confronting its worst crisis since the NATO intervention that ousted Col. Muammar Gaddafi in 2011. Fear is growing of an all-out war between militias aligned with the Islamist-dominated Parliament and forces led by a former general named Khalifa Haftar, who was reportedly once trained by the CIA. Haftar has accused the government of fostering terrorism and is calling for an emergency administration to oversee elections next month. Haftar, a former general under Gaddafi, says he wants to rid Libya of Islamists and led an assault against militant groups in Benghazi last Friday. On Sunday, forces allied to him took control of Libya’s Parliament building in the capital, Tripoli. At least 100 people have died since the fighting broke out last week. We speak to Mary Fitzgerald, a journalist based in Libya, and Sharif Abdel Kouddous, independent journalist and Democracy Now! correspondent reporting from Tripoli.

A Matter of Life and Death: Veterans Affairs Head Grilled over Delays in Care for Returning Soldiers

Democracy Now - Fri 07 46 AM

After news that dozens of U.S. veterans died during long waits for medical treatment, Veterans Affairs Secretary Eric Shinseki testified Thursday before a Senate committee about treatment delays and cover-ups at VA medical centers. The committee grilled him about recent claims that VA health clinics in Phoenix, Arizona, and Fort Collins, Colorado, used elaborate schemes to hide records of patients who waited too long for care, and suggested the problems may lead to a criminal investigation. We get reaction from Aaron Glantz, who covers veterans and domestic military issues for the Center for Investigative Reporting. We also speak with a VA whistleblower who says he was removed from his position as chief of psychiatry at a VA hospital in St. Louis after reporting unethical workplace conduct. Dr. Jose Mathews says he was demoted to the hospital’s basement where he now works on compensation and pension exams. He is joined by his attorney Ariel Solomon.

"Pushy": As NY Times Fires 1st Woman Exec. Editor, Decades-Long Bid for Newsroom Equality Continues

Democracy Now - Fri 07 29 AM

We look at the firing of Jill Abramson, the first female executive editor of The New York Times in its 160-year history, who had reportedly complained about earning less pay than her male predecessors. This apparently amplified unattributed characterizations that Abramson’s management style was "brusque" and "pushy," which critics took issue with since similar behavior from men in similar roles is often accepted, and even encouraged. "Jill put many, many women in top positions and was a role model for the younger women and all women at The New York Times," says our guest Lynn Povich, who was the first female senior editor in Newsweek’s history. "We know how upset they are to see the way in which she was dismissed." Povich also discusses the status of women in the media, which she helped shape when she led a lawsuit in 1970 against Newsweek for hiring women only as researchers, and rarely promoting them to reporter or editor. Following a victory in the case, women working at Time, Reader’s Digest, The New York Times, NBC and the Associated Press also sued their employers. Povich recounts the story in her book, "The Good Girls Revolt: How the Women of Newsweek Sued Their Bosses and Changed the Workplace." Since leaving Newsweek in 1991, she has been editor-in-chief of Working Woman magazine and managing editor/senior executive producer for MSNBC.com.

India Elects Hard-Right Hindu Nationalist as New Indian Prime Minister Backed by Corporate Interests

Democracy Now - Fri 07 11 AM

Early results from the largest election in the world show India’s opposition leader Narendra Modi has won a landslide victory to become the country’s new prime minister. Modi is the leader of the BJP, a Hindu nationalist party. "This is the result that the corporations in India wanted," says Siddhartha Deb, Indian author and journalist, noting that Modi "is very a pro-development politician, which basically means pro-business." Deb adds that Modi served as the chief minister of Gujarat, where anti-Muslim riots in 2002 left at least a thousand people dead. After the bloodshed, the U.S. State Department revoked Modi’s visa. Modi has never apologized for or explained his actions at the time of the riots. Deb’s recent article in The Guardian is "India’s Dynasty-Dominated Politics Has No Space for Dissent" and his nonfiction book is "The Beautiful and the Damned: A Portrait of the New India."

Walmart & Contractor Settle $21M Wage Theft Suit, Days After Obama Praises Penny-Pinching Retailer

Democracy Now - Thu 07 50 AM

Just days after President Obama praised Wal-Mart’s business practices in a speech at one of its California stores, more than 1,800 warehouse workers in the state have settled a major wage theft lawsuit against one of the retail giant’s largest contractors. On Wednesday, workers at three California warehouses used by Wal-Mart agreed to settle a wage theft lawsuit by accepting a $21 million settlement. The workers had sued Wal-Mart and Schneider Logistics, an outside company that owned and ran the warehouses. Schneider will pay the entire settlement. The lawsuit alleged that workers were often paid less than minimum wage, with no required breaks or overtime compensation. We speak with attorney Theresa Traber, who represented the warehouse workers, and Demos policy analyst Catherine Ruetschlin.

Fast-Food CEOs Oppose Worker Raises Despite Making 1,200 Times More Than Average Employee

Democracy Now - Thu 07 39 AM

Thousands of fast-food workers in the United States and around the world are staging a one-day strike today to demand a livable wage. A recent report found fast-food CEOs make 1,200 times as much money as the average fast-food worker, a disparity that maximizes short-term profit while harming worker security and the overall economy. We are joined by the report’s author, Catherine Ruetschlin, a policy analyst at Demos; and by Terrance Wise, who has worked at Burger King for nine years and is striking today in Kansas City, his fourth such action since last August.