Democracy Now!

Headlines for November 27, 2019

"Her Gallantry Remains": Oprah Winfrey Remembers Acclaimed Writer Toni Morrison

Last Thursday, literary luminaries and social leaders from around the country gathered at the Cathedral of St. John the Divine in Manhattan to honor Toni Morrison, one of the nation’s most influential writers. She died in August at the age of 88 from complications of pneumonia. In 1993, Morrison became the first African-American woman to receive the Nobel Prize for Literature. She also won a Pulitzer Prize in 1988 for her classic work “Beloved.” Much of Morrison’s writing focused on the black female experience in America, and her writing style honored the rhythms of black oral tradition. In 2012, President Obama awarded Morrison the Presidential Medal of Freedom. Ta-Nehisi Coates, Edwidge Danticat and Oprah Winfrey were among those who spoke about Toni Morrison’s life and legacy. We air Oprah’s eulogy.

Iraqi Scholar Sinan Antoon: Anti-Government Protests Have Led to "Reclaiming of Iraqi Identity"

In Iraq, more than 340 people have died since anti-government protests began in early October. More than 15,000 Iraqis have been injured. Tires were set on fire Monday and main roads and bridges were blocked in the cities of Basra and Nassiriya. Over the weekend, security forces opened fire on civilians in Baghdad and other cities. Demonstrators are protesting corruption and lack of jobs and basic services, including clean water and electricity. In Baghdad, many university students are taking part in the demonstrations. To talk more about the protests in Iraq we are joined by the Iraqi poet, novelist, translator, and scholar Sinan Antoon. He was born and raised in Baghdad and his most recent novel is titled, “The Book of Collateral Damage.” “What’s really important is the reclaiming of Iraqi identity and a new sense of Iraqi nationalism that transcends the sectarian discourse that was institutionalized by the United States in 2003,” Antoon says.

"An Attack on the Human Rights Movement": Israel Deports Human Rights Watch Monitor

The Israeli government deported the director of Human Rights Watch’s Israel and Palestine office, Omar Shakir, on Monday. The organization said the move places Israel in an “ugly club” of authoritarian regimes. Israel has accused Shakir of supporting the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement, a nonviolent global campaign aiming to pressure Israel over its treatment of Palestinians. A 2017 Israeli law bans foreigners from Israel if they publicly support the BDS movement. Omar Shakir joins us from Stockholm to discuss his recent deportation and his plans to address the European Parliament regarding Israel’s systematic repression of Palestinians. “The Israeli government, for two and a half years now, has been trying to bar Human Rights Watch’s access to Israel and the occupied Palestinian territory,” he says.

Headlines for November 26, 2019

The President is a Domestic Enemy of the Constitution: Ellsberg Slams Trump For Pardoning War Crimes

U.S. Defense Secretary Mark Esper demanded the resignation of Navy Secretary Richard Spencer, one week after President Trump overruled military leaders and cleared three U.S. servicemembers accused or convicted of war crimes. The men included Navy Seal Eddie Gallagher, who has been accused of multiple war crimes, including shooting two Iraqi civilians and fatally stabbing a captive teenager in the neck. Gallagher was convicted of posing with the teenage corpse but was acquitted of premeditated murder. Trump criticized the Navy on Thursday for moving toward holding a review hearing to decide if Gallagher should be ousted. The New York Times reported Navy Secretary Spencer then threatened to resign after Trump’s backlash but there are also reports that Spencer attempted to reach a backroom deal with Trump that would have allowed Gallagher to keep his Trident Pin. In a statement on Sunday, Defense Secretary Mark Esper said he was “deeply troubled by this conduct.” We speak with Daniel Ellsberg, one of the world’s most famous whistleblowers. In 1971, he was a high-level defense analyst when he leaked a top secret report on U.S. involvement in Vietnam to The New York Times and other publications that came to be known as the Pentagon Papers and played a key role in ending the Vietnam War.

Pope Francis Calls Nuclear Weapons Immoral as Catholic Activists Face Jail For U.S. Nuke Base Action

Over the weekend, Pope Francis visited Hiroshima and Nagasaki, where the United States dropped the first atomic bombs in 1945, killing more than 200,000 people. Pope Francis said, “A world without nuclear weapons is possible and necessary.” The leader of the Cathoilc Church met with survivors of the Hiroshima and Nagasaki bombings and declared the possession of nuclear weapons to be immoral. The Pope’s visit comes as a group of seven Catholic peace activists are awaiting sentencing for breaking into the Kings Bay Naval Submarine Base in Georgia on April 4, 2018. The activists, known as the Kings Bay Plowshares 7, were recently convicted of three felony counts and a misdemeanor charge for entering the base armed with hammers, crime scene tape and baby bottles containing their own blood. We speak with Martha Hennessy, one of the Kings Bay Plowshares 7. She is the granddaughter of Dorothy Day, the founder of the Catholic Worker movement. We are also joined by Pentagon Papers whistleblower Daniel Ellsberg. His most recent book is titled, “The Doomsday Machine: Confessions of a Nuclear War Planner.” Daniel Ellsberg was blocked from testifying in the recent trial of the Kings Bay Plowshares 7.

Police Raid Egypt's Last Independent News Outlet Mada Masr Amid "Increasingly Hostile" Media Climate

Egyptian security forces raided the office of Mada Masr, the country’s last independent media outlet, and arrested three of its journalists this weekend. The raid began Sunday afternoon, when nine plainclothes security officers entered the Mada Masr office in Cairo, seizing phones and laptops and holding the staff in the building for more than three hours. They then arrested editor-in-chief Lina Attalah, managing editor Mohamed Hamama and reporter Rana Mamdouh. It came just a day after security forces arrested senior editor Shady Zalat at his home. All four journalists were released from detention Sunday night. The raid and arrests mark a sharp escalation in Egypt’s attack on press freedom under Egyptian president Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, who came to power after the 2013 overthrow of former President Mohamed Morsi. We go to Cairo where we’re joined by Mada Masr reporter Sharif Abdel Kouddous. He’s also a Democracy Now! correspondent and was detained with his colleagues on Sunday.

Headlines for November 25, 2019

"In Defense of Julian Assange": Why WikiLeaks Founder's Case Threatens Press Freedom

This week Swedish prosecutors dropped an investigation into sexual assault allegations against WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, stemming from 2010. Assange, who has always denied the allegations, took refuge inside the Ecuadorian embassy in London for over seven years to avoid extradition to Sweden on the charges. British authorities dragged him out of the Ecuadorian embassy in April and he has since been jailed in London’s Belmarsh prison on charges related to skipping of bail in 2012, when he first entered the embassy to avoid extradition to Sweden over the now-dropped sexual assault charges. The United States is still seeking Assange’s extradition to the U.S., where he faces up to 175 years in prison on hacking charges and 17 counts of violating the World War I-era Espionage Act for his role in publishing U.S. classified military and diplomatic documents exposing U.S. war crimes in Iraq and Afghanistan. A full extradition hearing will take place in February. We speak with the co-editors of the new book “In Defense of Julian Assange”: Tariq Ali, historian, activist, filmmaker, author and an editor of the New Left Review, and Margaret Ratner Kunstler, civil rights attorney in private practice.

U.N. Rapporteur: Julian Assange Has Faced Psychological Torture; He Should Not Be Extradited to U.S.

This week Swedish prosecutors dropped an investigation into sexual assault allegations against WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, stemming from 2010. Assange, who has always denied the allegations, took refuge inside the Ecuadorian embassy in London for over seven years to avoid extradition to Sweden on the charges. British authorities dragged him out of the Ecuadorian embassy in April and he has since been jailed in London’s Belmarsh prison on charges related to skipping of bail in 2012, when he first entered the embassy to avoid extradition to Sweden over the now-dropped sexual assault charges. The United States is still seeking Assange’s extradition to the U.S., where he faces up to 175 years in prison on hacking charges and 17 counts of violating the World War I-era Espionage Act for his role in publishing U.S. classified military and diplomatic documents exposing U.S. war crimes in Iraq and Afghanistan. A full extradition hearing will take place in February. We air remarks by U.N. Special Rapporteur on Torture Nils Melzer, who says his initial position of skepticism toward Assange’s case changed as he began to look more deeply at the evidence and charges against him. “As I scratched the surface a little bit, immediately, things did not add up with the images I had in my mind of this man,” Melzer said in a recent talk at Columbia University. “The deeper I got into this, the more fabrication I saw.”

Hundreds of Thousands Join National Strike in Colombia in Rebuke to Right-Wing President Iván Duque

In Colombia, hundreds of thousands of people took to the streets Thursday in the largest national strike the country has seen in years. Labor unions, students, teachers, Indigenous and Afro-Colombian activists joined in peaceful marches across urban and rural Colombia as anger mounts against right-wing President Iván Duque and his cabinet. The protests were triggered by Duque’s proposed labor reforms and cuts to the pension system, as well as a recent military airstrike against a camp of alleged dissident rebel drug traffickers, which killed eight children. Police responded to the movements with repressive tactics and tear gas in the cities of Bogotá, Cali and Medellín. Colombia’s borders with Venezuela, Ecuador, Brazil and Perú were shut down in response to the national strike. Indignation against Duque’s government has brewed since the U.S.-backed president took office in August 2018 and social activists have continuously denounced Duque’s sabotage of Colombia’s historic peace accords, which were signed in 2016 after half a century of war. We speak with long-time activist Manuel Rozental, who joins us from Cali, Colombia. He has been involved with grassroots political organizing with youth, Indigenous communities, and urban and rural social movements for four decades.

Headlines for November 22, 2019

Bernie Sanders Criticizes U.S. Relationships with Saudi Arabia and Israel at Democratic Debate

Ten Democratic candidates took the stage in Atlanta, Georgia, Wednesday for the party’s fifth presidential debate, co-hosted by MSNBC and The Washington Post. Toward the end of the evening, Senator Bernie Sanders criticized former Vice President Joe Biden’s support for the 2003 invasion of Iraq and laid out his foreign policy vision, including strong criticism of traditional U.S. allies Saudi Arabia and Israel. “It is no longer good enough for us to be pro-Israel — I am pro-Israel — but we must treat the Palestinians with the dignity they deserve,” he said. We speak with Phyllis Bennis, a fellow at the Institute for Policy Studies. She says the Democratic Party is undergoing a major shift on foreign policy. “There’s a growing recognition among the candidates that … the discourse has changed dramatically across the board on the Middle East,” she says.

2020 Candidates' Focus on Inequality Shows "Shift in the Conversation" Within Democratic Party

Ten Democratic candidates took the stage Wednesday for the party’s fifth presidential debate, held in Atlanta, Georgia, and co-hosted by MSNBC and The Washington Post. One of the most memorable moments of the night was a disagreement between Senators Elizabeth Warren and Cory Booker over Elizabeth Warren’s proposed tax on the wealthiest Americans. Her proposed wealth tax would kick in on assets of $50 million and higher. Both candidates agreed that inequality is a major issue in the U.S., but Booker said wealth taxes in other countries have not been effective and that there are better ways to raise revenue. The issue of economic inequality was a major theme throughout the debate. We speak with Gabriel Zucman, professor of economics at UC Berkeley. He is co-author of the new book, “The Triumph of Injustice: How the Rich Dodge Taxes and How to Make Them Pay.”

Joe Biden's and Pete Buttigieg's Records on Race Come Under Scrutiny at 5th Democratic Debate

Presidential candidate Joe Biden claimed on the Democratic debate stage Wednesday that he has broad support from black voters and the only black woman elected to the Senate, seemingly forgetting that 2020 candidate Kamala Harris is a California senator. Biden’s comment came amid multiple blunders during the debate, hosted by MSNBC and The Washington Post in Atlanta. For more on the 2020 candidates’ discussion of race in their campaigns, we speak with Rashad Robinson, executive director of Color of Change, and Ryan Grim, D.C. bureau chief for The Intercept.

Julián Castro: Gordon Sondland's Testimony Is "Nail in the Coffin" of Trump's Defense

During Wednesday’s impeachment hearing, U.S. Ambassador to the European Union Gordon Sondland told lawmakers that he was ordered by Trump to pressure the Ukrainian government to investigate Joe Biden and his son Hunter. Sondland also acknowledged there was a quid pro quo tying U.S. military aid to investigations, and said that Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Vice President Mike Pence were aware of the Ukraine pressure campaign. Democratic presidential candidate Julián Castro joins us to discuss these latest developments in the impeachment inquiry, which he describes as “blockbuster testimony” that could serve as “a nail in the coffin” of Trump’s defense. Castro was excluded from the Democratic presidential debate Wednesday because his campaign did not meet polling thresholds recently established by the Democratic National Committee.

Headlines for November 21, 2019

Transgender Day of Remembrance: "Celebrate the Living" While Honoring Loved Ones Lost to Hate

November 20 is Transgender Day of Remembrance, a day that honors the thousands of transgender and gender nonconforming people who have been killed around the world. The Day of Remembrance is also a celebration of the community’s resistance and a call to action to fight for policies and a shift in culture that protects trans lives. At least 22 transgender and gender nonconforming people have been killed in the United States this year, and over 3,000 transgender and gender nonconforming lives have been taken since 2008 around the world. We speak with LaLa B Zannell, longtime transgender rights advocate and the co-producer of the Womanity Project feature film “LaLa’s World,” an upcoming documentary series on the experiences of black trans women living in America.

Iran: Over 100 Feared Dead in Protest Crackdown as Authorities Impose Internet Blackout

In Iran, Amnesty International reports over 100 protesters have been killed in 21 cities by security forces during ongoing nationwide demonstrations sparked by a sudden hike in fuel prices last week. The death count may be much higher, the report warns, with some suggesting as many as 200 have been killed. According to Iranian state media, over 1,000 people have been arrested. On Thursday, Iran announced a rise in the cost of gas ranging from 50% to 300%. Soon after protests broke out on Sunday, Iran imposed an almost complete internet blackout, making it nearly impossible for protesters use social media to share images or information. From Washington, D.C., we speak with Negar Mortazavi, an Iranian-American journalist and the diplomatic correspondent for The Independent (U.K.).

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