Democracy Now!

MLK Day Special: Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. in His Own Words

Today is the federal holiday that honors Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. He was born January 15, 1929. He was assassinated April 4, 1968, at the Lorraine Motel in Memphis, Tennessee. He was just 39 years old. While Dr. King is primarily remembered as a civil rights leader, he also championed the cause of the poor and organized the Poor People’s Campaign to address issues of economic justice. Dr. King was also a fierce critic of U.S. foreign policy and the Vietnam War. We play his “Beyond Vietnam” speech, which he delivered at New York City’s Riverside Church on April 4, 1967, as well as his last speech, “I’ve Been to the Mountaintop,” that he gave on April 3, 1968, the night before he was assassinated.

Would You Patent the Sun? Polio Vaccine Inventor Jonas Salk's Son Urges More Access to COVD Vaccine

The total number of deaths from COVID-19 in the U.S. is set to top 400,000 before Joe Biden’s inauguration on January 20, but rollout of coronavirus vaccines has been slow, with many describing a vexing amount of red tape standing between them and the shot. We look at the development and distribution of another vaccine during the polio epidemic in the 1950s with Dr. Peter Salk, a physician and professor of infectious diseases and microbiology at the University of Pittsburgh, whose father, Dr. Jonas Salk, developed the first polio vaccine and famously declined to patent his invention. “The rest of the world and the countries that are less able to afford vaccines need consideration, as well,” says Dr. Salk. “There needs to be a creative cooperation among all of us, including the businesses, in order to find ways to satisfy the needs of these other countries.”

From Charlottesville to the Capitol: Trump Fueled Right-Wing Violence. It May Soon Get Even Worse

As security is ramped up in Washington, D.C., and state capitols across the U.S., the FBI is warning of more potential violence in the lead-up to Joe Biden’s inauguration on January 20. Federal authorities have arrested over 100 people who took part in last week’s deadly insurrection at the Capitol, and The Washington Post reports that dozens of people on a terrorist watch list — including many white supremacists — were in Washington on the day of the insurrection. “This was something that had been coming for a long time,” ProPublica reporter A.C. Thompson, who covers right-wing extremism, says of the January 6 riot. “If you looked at the rhetoric online … it was all about revolution, it was all about death to tyrants, it was all about civil war.”

Headlines for January 15, 2021

Dr. Ali Khan: U.S. Needs to Quickly Ramp Up Vaccinations as COVID Kills Over 4,000 in Single Day

As the United States breaks all records for coronavirus cases, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention warns another 92,000 could die in the next three weeks as complaints grow over the slow distribution of COVID vaccines. Across the country, hospitals are overflowing, and ICU beds are in short supply. In Los Angeles County, an epicenter of the outbreak, a staggering one in three residents has gotten the coronavirus since the start of the pandemic, according to new data. For more on the pandemic, we speak with epidemiologist Dr. Ali Khan, dean of the University of Nebraska Medical Center’s College of Public Health and the former director of the CDC’s Office of Public Health Preparedness and Response, where he oversaw the Strategic National Stockpile. He says that despite the grim statistics in the United States, other countries with more proactive pandemic responses have shown that it is possible to bring the virus under control and largely return to normal life. “We can do that same thing here in the United States if we use good science,” he says.

Keeanga-Yamahtta Taylor: Impeachment Is Late Attempt to Curb Violence & Racism at Heart of Trump Era

We look at the fight for accountability after a white supremacist mob attacked the U.S. Capitol and as President Trump is impeached for a historic second time for his incitement of violence. Supporters who took part in the January 6 attack — including current police officers — have been arrested across the U.S. for their involvement in the insurrection. Ahead of Joe Biden’s inauguration, the FBI is warning police chiefs around the country to be on high alert for right-wing domestic terror attacks. The Pentagon said it’s increasing the number of National Guard soldiers deployed to the nation’s capital to 20,000 — twice the combined number of U.S. troops in Iraq and Afghanistan — in stark contrast to the response to last week’s riot. “The impeachment yesterday is a culmination of sorts of the kind of violence and racism that has been at the heart of the Trump administration that finally boiled over,” says Keeanga-Yamahtta Taylor, assistant professor of African American studies at Princeton University and contributing writer at The New Yorker magazine. “We have a government that has completely spun out of control at the hands of Donald Trump.”

Constitutional Lawyer: Trump Is a Clear & Present Danger, a Senate Impeachment Trial Is Needed Now

The House of Representatives has voted to impeach President Donald Trump for inciting an insurrection at the U.S. Capitol in a bid to overturn Joe Biden’s Electoral College victory, and Trump will end his term in office with the distinction of being the first U.S. president to be impeached twice. Ten Republicans joined Democrats in the 232-197 vote to impeach, and Trump now faces a trial in the Senate. Constitutional attorney John Bonifaz says the House “did its duty” and that the Senate must move quickly to take up impeachment proceedings. “Those who did not vote to convict last time are responsible, in part, for allowing this president to stay in office, someone who has clearly abused his power time and time again, leading to this violent attack on the U.S. Capitol,” says Bonifaz, co-founder and president of Free Speech for People.

Headlines for January 14, 2021

As COVID Surges in L.A., Hard-Hit Indigenous Communities Fight to Preserve Life, Culture & Language

As Los Angeles County reports record COVID-19 infections, overflowing hospitals and record death tolls, we look at how Indigenous communities there are among the hardest hit in working-class neighborhoods, where many are essential workers. “Indigenous people, we don’t have the privilege to stay home and not go to work,” says Odilia Romero, co-founder and executive director of Indigenous Communities in Leadership, or CIELO, an Indigenous women-led nonprofit organization in Los Angeles. Romero also laments “the loss of knowledge” that comes with the devastation of COVID-19. “Some of the elders have passed away, and there goes a whole worldview,” she says. CIELO recently published a book documenting the stories of undocumented Indigenous women from Mexico and Guatemala living in Los Angeles in the midst of the pandemic.

"American Abyss": Fascism Historian Tim Snyder on Trump's Coup Attempt, Impeachment & What's Next

As the House votes to impeach President Trump, the FBI warns there could be a repeat of the violent insurrection he encouraged on January 6, with Trump loyalists planning to hold armed protests nationwide ahead of Joe Biden’s inauguration. We speak with Timothy Snyder, a historian of fascism, who says the riot at the U.S. Capitol was “completely and utterly predictable” given President Trump’s record of stoking extremism and undermining democratic institutions. “The American republic is hanging by a thread because the president of the United States has sought to use violence to stay in power and essentially to overthrow our constitutional system,” says Snyder.

Headlines for January 13, 2021

Will Lisa Montgomery Die Tonight? Sister Helen Prejean Calls for Trump to Halt Execution Spree

A federal judge has granted a stay of execution for Lisa Montgomery, who was set to become the first woman executed by the federal government in 67 years, but the Trump administration is appealing the decision. Two men are also scheduled to die this week. Since July, when the Trump administration revived the federal death penalty, the U.S. government has executed 10 people — more than in any presidency since 1896. “Time is running out for the Trump administration to go through with these three executions, and they know that, which is why they’re very insistent that they happen this week and not after January 20,” says Isaac Arnsdorf, a reporter at ProPublica. We also speak with Sister Helen Prejean, Catholic nun and one of the world’s leading death penalty opponents, who says Trump embarked on his late killing spree simply because “he has the power to do it.” “The death penalty needs to be abolished completely, and you have to take the power out of individuals’ hands,” she says.

America Has Entered the Weimar Era: Walden Bello on How Neoliberalism Fueled Trump & Violent Right

Democrats in Congress are pushing ahead with impeachment following the violent insurrection that killed five people at the U.S. Capitol on January 6. The single article of impeachment against President Trump cites his incitement of insurrection and accuses him of subverting and obstructing the certification of the 2020 election. This comes as authorities are warning of more right-wing violence around Joe Biden’s inauguration on January 20, with possible armed far-right protests planned at all 50 state capitols as well as the U.S. Capitol. We speak with Walden Bello, an acclaimed sociologist, academic, environmentalist and activist, whose latest column argues the United States has entered a “Weimar Era,” in which democratic elections are increasingly delegitimized as street violence becomes the norm. “This is not something that’s unusual that has happened in the Capitol. Right-wing groups, when they begin to lose electorally, … they resort to the streets and to violence in order to stop that process,” says Bello.

Headlines for January 12, 2021

Is Big Tech Too Powerful? Chris Hedges & Ramesh Srinivasan Debate Twitter & Facebook Banning Trump

Twitter, Facebook and other social media companies have removed President Trump from their platforms, after years of debate about the disinformation he shared to millions of followers from his accounts. While many are applauding the bans, author Chris Hedges warns they could backfire. “To allow these companies to essentially function as de facto platforms for censorship and manipulation … harkens back to the way civil liberties were eviscerated in the wake of 9/11,” says Hedges. “It’s always, in the end, the left that pays for this kind of censorship.” We also speak with UCLA professor Ramesh Srinivasan, director of the Digital Cultures Lab, who says Big Tech allowed right-wing extremism to flourish for years before acting and that lawmakers need to enact robust regulation. “All of these technology platforms, powered by their hidden algorithms that are indeed opaque, thrive on the amplification of polarization,” says Srinivasan. “It is incredible how much power we have given to a very small number of people who are essentially mediating pretty much every aspect of our lives.”

Fascism Scholar: Strongman Trump Radicalized His Supporters; Turning This Back Will Be Very Hard

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi is threatening to begin new impeachment hearings against President Trump if Vice President Mike Pence doesn’t invoke the 25th Amendment of the Constitution to remove Trump from office for inciting his supporters to storm the Capitol. Calls are also growing for Republican Senators Ted Cruz and Josh Hawley to be expelled or to resign for supporting Trump’s effort to overturn the election and fanning the flames ahead of last week’s insurrection, and authorities are warning about more right-wing violence ahead of Inauguration Day on January 20. Ruth Ben-Ghiat, a New York University historian whose work focuses on fascism, authoritarian leaders and propaganda, says the storming of the Capitol was “a logical result” of Trump’s legitimization and encouragement of right-wing extremism since 2016. “The threat to democracy is not outside our institutions only. It’s coming from inside,” Ben-Ghiat says.

Headlines for January 11, 2021

COVID Scientist Rebekah Jones Condemns Armed Police Raid on Her Home & Florida's Pandemic Response

As Florida sets new records for daily coronavirus cases, we speak with a whistleblower who was fired in May from the Florida Department of Health after she refused to censor information about the state’s COVID-19 outbreak. Rebekah Jones is a data scientist who helped build Florida’s coronavirus tracking dashboard, and she says her termination came after she refused to manipulate data to support the state’s reopening. In December, police raided Jones’s home in Tallahassee, seizing her computer and phone and holding her family at gunpoint, as part of an alleged investigation into a hacking of the Florida Health Department’s website. Jones says she had not had access to the website for many months and that the raid was in retaliation for speaking out. “The state has been dodging releasing information at every opportunity,” says Jones, who now runs the independent coronavirus data portal Florida COVID Action.

Survival of the Fittest? Florida Seniors Forced to Camp Overnight in Cars, Hoping for Vaccine

As the United States reports record COVID-19 deaths, Florida broke the record for the highest single-day increase in new cases Thursday. Across the state, long lines to get vaccinations against COVID-19 left senior citizens camping in their cars overnight in cold weather, after Governor Ron DeSantis lowered the priority age to 65, 10 years below the CDC recommended age of 75. Those aged 79 and older are reportedly four times as likely to die from COVID. We speak with John and Maria Luisa Schoch, aged 79 and 80, as they enter their second day in line waiting for shots.

"A Troubling History": Biden's AG Pick Merrick Garland Has Record of Not Holding Cops Accountable

Joe Biden has formally nominated Merrick Garland for attorney general. Garland has served on the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals for over two decades and previously worked at the Justice Department, where he prosecuted the Oklahoma City bombing case. President Obama nominated Garland in 2016 to serve on the Supreme Court, but the nomination stalled after Republican senators refused to put it up for a vote. Elie Mystal, justice correspondent for The Nation, says Garland is an “underwhelming” pick, given his judicial record. “People need to remember that Garland was picked for the Supreme Court because he was a compromise candidate,” says Mystal. “This is a centrist jurist who has a history — a troubling history, to me — of being deferential to police and being unwilling to hold police accountable for acts of brutality and misconduct.”

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