Democracy Now!

Sweden Provides Free Higher Education, Universal Healthcare, Free Daycare — Why Can’t the U.S.?

Medicare for All and tuition-free universities have been at the core of the 2020 Democratic presidential campaigns, creating a stark division between progressive candidates and their centrist counterparts. Senators Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren have proposed to make Medicare for All and public universities cost-free by taxing massive corporations and the super wealthy, and earlier this year, Sanders introduced legislation that would cancel student loan debt. His plan would be paid for with a new tax on Wall Street, he says. It would also make public universities and community colleges free — a key pillar of Sanders’s 2020 education platform. These proposals are not radical ideas in Sweden, a country that has built one of the world’s most extensive social welfare systems. In Sweden, healthcare costs are largely subsided by the state. Daycare and preschool programs are mostly free. College and university are free. Public transportation is subsidized for many users. To explain how Sweden does it, we speak with Mikael Törnwall, Swedish author and journalist focusing on economic issues at Svenska Dagbladet, a Stockholm daily newspaper. His most recent book is titled “Who Should Pay for Welfare?”

Aminatou Haidar Honored For Decades of Peaceful Resistance in Western Sahara, Africa’s Last Colony

In Stockholm, Democracy Now! sat down with one of the winners of this year’s Right Livelihood Award: Sahrawi human rights leader Aminatou Haidar. For over three decades, Haidar has led a peaceful campaign to resist the Moroccan occupation of Western Sahara, which is often called Africa’s last colony. Morocco has occupied Western Sahara — a small region just south of Morocco in northwest Africa — since 1975. Thousands have been tortured, imprisoned, killed and disappeared while resisting the occupation. Peaceful protesters, led by women, are routinely beaten in the streets. Despite this violent repression, Haidar has led countless hunger strikes and demonstrations, and unflinchingly documented the abuses against the Saharawi people for more than 30 years. She is a former political prisoner who was jailed for four years in a secret prison. In granting her the award, the Right Livelihood Award Foundation cited her “steadfast nonviolent action, despite imprisonment and torture, in pursuit of justice and self-determination for the people of Western Sahara.” Haidar says it’s time for the international community to push for an end to the Morrocan occupation of Western Sahara. “My message is: Let’s put an end to our suffering. Let’s put an end to this injustice. Let’s give a voice to Sahrawi people, let them choose their future.”

Edward Snowden: If I Came Back to the U.S., I Would Likely Die in Prison for Telling the Truth

The Right Livelihood Awards celebrated their 40th anniversary Wednesday at the historic Cirkus Arena in Stockholm, Sweden, where more than a thousand people gathered to celebrate this year’s four laureates: Swedish climate activist Greta Thunberg; Chinese women’s rights lawyer Guo Jianmei, Brazilian indigenous leader Davi Kopenawa and the organization he co-founded, the Yanomami Hutukara Association; and Sahrawi human rights leader Aminatou Haidar, who has challenged the Moroccan occupation of Western Sahara for decades. The Right Livelihood Award is known as the “Alternative Nobel Prize.” Over the past four decades, it’s been given to grassroots leaders and activists around the globe — among them the world-famous NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden. At Wednesday’s gala, Amy Goodman interviewed Snowden in front of the award ceremony’s live audience via video link from Moscow, where he has lived in exile since leaking a trove of secret documents revealing the U.S. government’s had built an unprecedented mass surveillance system to spy on Americans and people around the world. After sharing the documents with reporters in 2013, Snowden was charged in the U.S. for violating the Espionage Act and other laws. As he attempted to flee from Hong Kong to Latin America, Snowden was stranded in Russia after the U.S. revoked his passport, and he has lived there ever since. Edward Snowden won the Right Livelihood Award in 2014, and accepted the award from Moscow.

Headlines for December 5, 2019

U.N. Report Finds Over 7 Million Children Worldwide Are Being Held in Various Kinds of Detention

A damning United Nations report says that 7 million children are deprived of their liberty worldwide, from children imprisoned on the U.S.-Mexico border to the missing children of ISIS fighters. The Global Study on Children Deprived of Liberty says that at least 410,000 of those children are detained in jails and prisons, where violence is “endemic.” The study also found that the number of children detained in the context of armed conflict has dramatically risen. The global study was published in November, on the 30th anniversary of the Convention on the Rights of the Child, the landmark international treaty affirming the world’s commitment to protecting children. It is the most ratified U.N. Treaty in history — the United States is one of the only countries that hasn’t ratified the convention. We’re joined by Manfred Nowak, lead author of the U.N. Global Study on Children Deprived of liberty. Nowak is also a human rights lawyer and U.N. independent expert. He served as the U.N. Special Rapporteur on Torture from 2004 to 2010.

Brazilian Indigenous Leader Davi Kopenawa: Bolsonaro is Killing My People & Destroying the Amazon

Democracy Now! sat down with Indigenous leader Davi Kopenawa, one of this year’s Right Livelihood Award honorees, along with the organization he co-founded, Hutukara Yanomami Association. Kopenawa is a shaman of the Yanomami people, one of the largest Indigenous tribes in Brazil, who has dedicated his life to protecting his culture and protecting the Amazon rainforest. He says indigenous people in the Amazon are under threat from business interests as well as politicians, including far-right President Jair Bolsonaro, who has a long history of anti-indigenous statements and policies. “He doesn’t like indigenous people. He does not want to let the Yanomami people to live at peace, protected. … What he wants is to extract our wealth to send to other countries.”

“Alternative Nobel Prize:” Right Livelihood Award Celebrates 40 Years Honoring Grassroots Activists

The Right Livelihood Award is marking its 40th anniversary. The award was established in 1980 to honor and support those “offering practical and exemplary answers to the most urgent challenges facing us.” It has since become known as the “Alternative Nobel Prize.” Over the past four decades, the award has been given to activists and grassroots leaders around the globe. A number of them have gone on to win the Nobel Peace Prize. This year’s winners are: Swedish climate activist Greta Thunberg; Sahrawi human rights leader Aminatou Haidar, who has challenged the Moroccan occupation of Western Sahara for decades; Chinese women’s rights lawyer Guo Jianmei; and Indigenous leader Davi Kopenawa and the Yanomami Hutukara Association, who fight for the Amazon’s biodiversity and the rights of Indigenous people in Brazil. In Stockholm, Sweden, we speak with Ole von Uexkuell, executive director of the Right Livelihood Foundation. He says the name of the award refers to “the idea of living lightly on the Earth, of not taking more than a fair share of the resources, and it means to bring change into the world through your practical actions.”

Headlines for December 4, 2019

Indigenous Protectors Are Defending the Amazon and "Paying With Their Lives"

This week we’re on the road in Stockholm, Sweden, where we’re covering the 40th Anniversary of the Right Livelihood Award, widely known as the “Alternative Nobel Prize.” One of this year’s recipients of the award is Yanomami indigenous leader Davi Kopenawa and the organization he co-founded, Hutukara Yanomami Association. The Right Livelihood Foundation has praised them for “their courageous determination to protect the forests and biodiversity of the Amazon, and the lands and culture of its indigenous peoples.” The award comes as indigenous forest protectors and uncontacted tribes in Brazil are increasingly under attack. Last month an indigenous forest protector named Paulo Paulino Guajajara was shot dead in the Amazon by illegal loggers. It was the latest incident in a wave of violence targeting indigenous land protectors since the election of Brazil’s far-right president Jair Bolsonaro last year. One month ago, human rights groups warned in an open letter that the Amazon’s last uncontacted indigenous people face “genocide,” amid raging fires and mounting incursions into their territories. Brazil’s Indigenous Missionary Council says the number of invasions of indigenous territories has doubled under Bolsonaro — with more than 150 such incidents since January. We speak with Fiona Watson, advocacy and research director for Survival International. The organization is a 1989 winner of the Right Livelihood Award for its work protecting the Amazon.

Meet Yetnebersh Nigussie: A Blind Ethiopian Lawyer Fighting for Global Disability Rights

December 3 is International Day of Persons With Disabilities. “Unfortunately, disability-based discrimination is still a global phenomenon,” says Yetnebersh Nigussie, a lawyer and disability rights activist from Ethiopia who in 2017 received the Right Livelihood Award, also known as the “Alternative Nobel Prize.” Nigussie is the director for advocacy and rights at Light for the World and the former chair of the Ethiopian National Association of the Blind women’s wing. She has been blind since the age of five. Yetnebersh Nigussie speaks with us in Stockholm. She is one of many former Right Livelihood Award recipients from across the globe who have gathered to celebrate this year’s recipients: Swedish climate activist Greta Thunberg, Sahrawi human rights activist Aminatou Haidar, Chinese women’s rights lawyer Guo Jianmei and indigenous leader Davi Kopenawa and the Yanomami Hutukara Association, who protect the Amazon’s biodiversity and indigenous people.

“We Are Facing a Global Emergency”: Greta Thunberg Arrives Back in Europe to Attend Climate Talks

From Stockholm, Sweden, we’re covering the 40th Anniversary of the Right Livelihood Awards, widely known as the “Alternative Nobel Prize.” This year’s recipients include 16-year-old Swedish climate activist Greta Thunberg, who arrived Tuesday in Lisbon, Portugal, after traveling for three weeks across the Atlantic in the 48-foot catamaran La Vagabonde, refusing to fly because of the high carbon footprint of air travel. Thunberg was on her way to attend COP25 in Santiago, Chile, when the conference was abruptly relocated due to mass demonstrations against a proposed subway fare hike. She sounded a rallying cry to fellow youth climate activists as she made landfall in Lisbon, promising to ensure that young people have a seat at the table at the upcoming climate summit in Madrid. “We will continue to make sure within those walls, the voices of the people … especially from the global South — are being heard,” she says.

My Generation Needs to Say "Enough": A Swedish Climate Striker Speaks Out About Fridays For Future

From Stockholm, Sweden, we’re covering the 40th Anniversary of the Right Livelihood Awards, widely known as the “Alternative Nobel Prize.” This year’s recipients include 16-year-old Swedish climate activist Greta Thunberg, whose school strike for climate started in Stockholm when she began standing outside the Parliament building every school day to demand bold climate action more than a year ago. Her act of resistance soon became a global movement, with millions of youth around the world leaving school and taking to the streets to demand swift action to halt the climate crisis. Greta has just arrived in Lisbon, Portugal, after a nearly three week-long boat journey across the Atlantic Ocean to participate in the 2019 United Nations Climate Change Conference, COP25, in Madrid, Spain. We speak with Ell Jarl, an 18-year-old climate activist with Fridays For Future Sweden and high school student who marched with Greta Thunberg in Stockholm. Along with other youth climate advocates, Ell will accept the Right Livelihood Award Wednesday on Greta’s behalf.

Headlines for December 3, 2019

Tariq Ali on U.K. Elections, Corbyn’s "Radical Social-Democratic Program" & Rise of Extreme Right

The British general election is just 10 days away and will have huge implications for the future of the country as well as Brexit. When voters cast their ballots later this month, they will choose between two dramatically different candidates: right-wing Conservative Party leader Boris Johnson and left-wing Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn. Corbyn recently unveiled an ambitious election manifesto promising to transform the country and resuscitate its public sector. The plan proposed a $100-billion tax increase on the wealthy to fund investment in infrastructure as well as increased spending on education and healthcare. We recently spoke with Tariq Ali, the acclaimed activist, filmmaker, author and an editor of the New Left Review. He says the Conservative Party has been “taken over by the extreme right wing” while Corbyn’s Labour is pushing a “radical social-democratic program.”

Youth-Led Protests Topple Iraqi PM as Demonstrations Calling for Overhaul of Government Continue

Anti-government protests are continuing in Iraq one day after the Iraqi parliament voted to accept the resignation of Prime Minister Adel Abdul Mahdi. On Saturday, protesters set off fireworks in Baghdad’s Tahrir Square when Abdul Mahdi announced he would submit his resignation, though he will remain in a caretaker capacity until a new government is formed. The resignation came two days after Iraqi security forces killed at least 44 people in the southern cities of Nasiriya and Najaf after the Iranian consulate was burned down on Wednesday night. Following the bloody crackdown, Iraq’s Shi’ite spiritual leader Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani urged the Iraqi Parliament to withdraw its support of the prime minister and warned that the escalating violence could lead to a civil war in Iraq. More than 400 Iraqi protesters have been killed and 15,000 injured since the widespread anti-government demonstrations began in October. We speak with Iraqi journalist Ghaith Abdul-Ahad, correspondent for the Guardian newspaper, and Sinan Antoon, poet, novelist, translator and scholar born and raised in Baghdad.

Headlines for December 2, 2019

David Byrne on His Broadway Show "American Utopia," Talking Heads, Reasons to Be Cheerful & More

An hour with David Byrne, the celebrated musician, artist, writer, cycling enthusiast, filmmaker and now Broadway star. He has a new hit Broadway show called “American Utopia.” The show grew out of Byrne’s recent world tour, which the British music publication NME said “may just be the best live show of all time.” Byrne talks about the production, his time in the groundbreaking band Talking Heads, his website Reasons to Be Cheerful, Greta Thunberg and more.

Arundhati Roy: It's Hard to Communicate the Scale and the Shape of This Shadow Taking India Over

Human rights groups are condemning the Indian government for carrying out widespread torture, extrajudicial killings, arbitrary arrests and other crimes in Kashmir after the region’s special status was revoked in August. We speak to the acclaimed Indian author Arundhati Roy about the crackdown in Kashmir, rising authoritarianism in India and other issues.

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