Democracy Now!

Richard Wright's Novel About Racist Police Violence Was Rejected in 1941; It Has Just Been Published

Nearly 80 years ago, Richard Wright became one of the most famous Black writers in the United States with the publication of “Native Son,” a novel whose searing critique of systemic racism made it a best-seller and inspired a generation of Black writers. In 1941, Wright wrote a new novel titled “The Man Who Lived Underground,” but publishers refused to release it, in part because the book was filled with graphic descriptions of police brutality by white officers against a Black man. His manuscript was largely forgotten until his daughter Julia Wright unearthed it at the Beinecke Rare Book & Manuscript Library at Yale University. “The Man Who Lived Underground” was not published in the 1940s because white publishers did not want to highlight “white supremacist police violence upon a Black man because it was too close to home,” says Julia Wright. “It’s a bit like lifting the stone and not wanting the worms, the racist worms underneath, to be seen.”

"They Were Tortured": 4 Families Torn Apart by Trump Are Reunited. 1,000+ Still Separated, Missing.

This week, four parents from Honduras, Guatemala and Mexico were reunited with their children in the United States after being separated under former President Trump’s “zero tolerance” immigration policy. They were the first families to be reunited on U.S. soil since the Biden administration began its reunification process. “Although we love to see the reunifications and they’re very moving, we have to keep in mind what led to that and that it should never have happened in the first place,” says Carol Anne Donohoe, managing attorney for the Family Reunification Project at Al Otro Lado. We also speak with Lee Gelernt, deputy director of the ACLU Immigrants’ Rights Project, who leads the ACLU’s lawsuit over family separations. He notes more than 1,000 children are still separated from their parents, and adds, “We have not even found the parents of 455 children.”

Headlines for May 7, 2021

Shoshana Zuboff: Facebook's Oversight Board Is Not Enough. The Government Has to Regulate Big Tech

Former President Donald Trump will continue to stay off Facebook after the company’s oversight board ruled Wednesday that his ban was justified for creating “an environment where a serious risk of violence was possible.” Trump was banned shortly after the January 6 insurrection at the U.S. Capitol, which he helped foment by promoting baseless claims of election fraud. The oversight board also said Facebook should reassess its ban and make a final decision in six months. Shoshana Zuboff, professor emerita at Harvard Business School and author of the book “The Age of Surveillance Capitalism,” says that Facebook’s recent moves follow years of inaction by CEO Mark Zuckerberg. “He showed that he was willing to do just about anything to appease Trump … to keep regulation at bay,” Zuboff says.

"Nothing to Lose": Colombians Protest "Fascist Mafia Regime" Amid Deadly Police & Military Crackdown

At least 30 people in Colombia have been reportedly killed since a nationwide uprising erupted against the government of right-wing President Iván Duque. Protesters are vowing to remain in the streets amid a deadly crackdown by police and military officers. About 800 people have been injured and 87 people are missing in the midst of the demonstrations, which were initially sparked by a now-withdrawn tax reform proposal, but they have since expanded in scope. People in Colombia are also denouncing rampant police brutality and demanding broader social, economic and political reforms. At least 15 people were killed in a massacre in the city of Cali on April 30 after police repeatedly opened fire on protesters. “The country has been a place of repression,” says Emilia Márquez Pizano, sex and gender director with the Colombian nonprofit Temblores, which collects data on police violence in the country. We also speak with Manuel Rozental, a Colombian activist with more than 40 years of involvement in grassroots political organizing and member of the collective Pueblos en Camino. He says “Colombians are fed up” with what he describes as the “fascist mafia regime” of Iván Duque. “They have pushed Colombians into the streets because most Colombians have nothing to lose,” Rozental says.

"Monumental Moment": U.S. Backs Waiving COVID Vaccine Patent Rights After Months of Blocking Talks

The Biden administration has announced it now supports temporarily waiving the intellectual property rights for COVID vaccines, in what the World Trade Organization is calling a “monumental moment.” India and South Africa first proposed the waiver in October, but the United States and other wealthy nations blocked the WTO from even opening negotiations on the proposal. Supporters say the waiver is critically needed to increase the rate of vaccine production for the Global South as COVID-19 rapidly spreads in India, Latin America and other regions where few vaccines are available. Biden’s support for the waiver is “an incredibly pleasant surprise” and “late, but still welcome,” says Achal Prabhala, coordinator of the AccessIBSA project, which campaigns for access to medicines in India, Brazil and South Africa. “The proposal is monumental because what it does is it allows for more vaccines to be manufactured in the world,” Prabhala says. “The whole world faces a crippling shortage of coronavirus vaccines.”

Headlines for May 6, 2021

Walden Bello Warns of U.S. Warmongering as Tensions Escalate in South China Sea

China topped the agenda Tuesday when foreign ministers from G7 nations met in London. This comes as both China and the United States are accusing each other of escalating tensions in the South China Sea. Last week, the Chinese government claimed there has been a 40% increase of activity by U.S. planes in Chinese-claimed areas since Biden took office. Critics increasingly argue Biden’s policies on China are risk sparking a new Cold War. “Trump’s anti-China policy is now also being followed by the Biden administration,” says acclaimed Filipino scholar and activist Walden Bello, co-founder of Focus on the Global South.

Filipino Activist Walden Bello: Global Vaccine Disparity Shows "Irrationality of Global Capitalism"

The international disparity in vaccine access between rich and low-income countries highlights “the irrationality of global capitalism,” says acclaimed Filipino scholar and activist Walden Bello, who urges the Biden administration to sign on to an effort at the World Trade Organization to temporarily waive intellectual property rules on vaccine technology. He also discusses the COVID crisis in the Philippines.

"Millions of Lives Are at Stake": Pressure Grows on Biden to Back WTO Waiver on Vaccine Technology

Pressure is growing on the Biden administration to support a temporary waiver on intellectual property rights for COVID-related medicines and vaccines at the World Trade Organization. India and South Africa first proposed the waiver in October, but it was blocked by the United States and other wealthy members of the WTO. Big Pharma has also come out against the proposal and has lobbied Washington to preserve its monopoly control. More than 100 countries have supported the waiver, which they say is critical to ramp up production of vaccines, treatments and diagnostic tests in the Global South. Ahead of the kickoff of two days of WTO important meetings in Geneva, we speak with Lori Wallach of Public Citizen’s Global Trade Watch. “The big problem is simply not enough vaccines are being produced,” says Wallach. “The world needs 10 to 15 billion doses to reach herd immunity, and right now all of the global production together is on track to make 6 billion doses this year.”

Headlines for May 5, 2021

"Exterminate All the Brutes": Filmmaker Raoul Peck Explores Colonialism & Origins of White Supremacy

A new four-part documentary series, “Exterminate All the Brutes,” delves deeply into the legacy of European colonialism from the Americas to Africa. It has been described as an unflinching narrative of genocide and exploitation, beginning with the colonizing of Indigenous land that is now called the United States. The documentary series seeks to counter “the type of lies, the type of propaganda, the type of abuse, that we have been subject to all of these years,” says director and Haitian-born filmmaker Raoul Peck. “We have the means to tell the real story, and that’s exactly what I decided to do,” Peck says. “Everything is on the table, has been on the table for a long time, except that it was in little bits everywhere. … We lost the wider perspective.”

Headlines for May 4, 2021

As Global Pandemic Worsens, U.S. Keeps Blocking Vaccine Patent Waivers Amid Big Pharma Lobbying

Big Pharma has hired an army of lobbyists to pressure U.S. lawmakers to block an effort at the World Trade Organization to loosen intellectual property rules on COVID-19 vaccines, which would allow countries around the world to ramp up production, vaccinate more people and bring the pandemic to an end sooner. Dozens of countries from the Global South, led by India and South Africa, are demanding a temporary waiver on vaccine patents, but rich countries, including the U.S. under both the Trump and Biden administrations, have opposed the move. Lee Fang, investigative journalist at The Intercept, says there is a “glut” of vaccines going to wealthy countries while much of the rest of the world is left waiting. “These initiatives that are based on voluntary agreements with the pharmaceutical companies have not worked,” he says. Fang also discusses his reporting on the Biden’s administration’s ties to the vaccine makers: White House adviser Anita Dunn is co-founder of the consulting firm SKDK, which works closely with Pfizer; Biden’s domestic policy adviser, Susan Rice, holds up to $5 million in Johnson & Johnson shares; and White House science adviser Eric Lander holds up to $1 million in shares of BioNTech, which co-developed Pfizer’s coronavirus vaccine.

May Day 1971: Daniel Ellsberg on Joining Noam Chomsky, Howard Zinn at Historic Antiwar Direct Action

This week marks the 50th anniversary of the 1971 May Day protests, when tens of thousands of protesters demonstrated against the Vietnam War in Washington, D.C., and brought much of the capital to a standstill through acts of civil disobedience. The mass demonstrations terrified the Nixon administration, and police would arrest over 12,000 people — the largest mass arrest in U.S. history. Pentagon Papers whistleblower Daniel Ellsberg, who attended the May Day protests, says it was part of a wave of popular discontent about the war that mobilized millions. “There was a movement of young people who felt that what was happening in the world … was wrong, had to change, and they were ready to risk their careers and their lives to try to change it. And we need that right now,” Ellsberg says. He recently spoke with Amy Goodman at an event marking the 50th anniversary of the release of the Pentagon Papers. We play excerpts from that conversation, which also included National Security Agency whistleblower Edward Snowden.

Chicago Police Need "Overhaul" After Foot Chases Led to Alvarez & Toledo Killings Within 48 Hours

More than 100 people marched alongside the family of Anthony Alvarez in Chicago Saturday, calling for the police officer who shot and killed him to be charged. Newly released video reveals police killed 22-year-old Alvarez while he was running away during a foot chase. Police have not said why they initially confronted and then chased Alvarez, who was killed just two days after Chicago police shot dead another young Latinx male, 13-year-old Adam Toledo. This comes four years after the Department of Justice found foot pursuits by Chicago police were leading to too many deaths. Now Chicago’s mayor and police superintendent say a new police foot pursuit policy is underway. “We need to do a complete overhaul of our Chicago Police Department,” says Luis Gutiérrez, former Democratic congressmember for Illinois. “There is this real sense that Brown and Black lives, they don’t have the value that they should when Chicago police officers confront our youth.”

Headlines for May 3, 2021

Bone Rooms: How Elite Schools and Museums Amassed Black and Native Human Remains Without Consent

Revelations the University of Pennsylvania and Princeton hold the remains of a child killed by Philadelphia police in the 1985 MOVE bombing are the latest development in a conversation about demanding respectful treatment of African American remains in museum collections, especially those of the enslaved. The Penn Museum also apologized last week for holding more than 1,000 stolen skulls of enslaved people in its Morton Collection, and the president of Harvard University issued a letter in January acknowledging the 22,000 human remains in its collections included 15 from people of African descent who may have been enslaved in the United States, vowing review of the school’s ethics policies. “This is a really vast problem,” says historian Samuel Redman, author of “Bone Rooms: From Scientific Racism to Human Prehistory in Museums,” who also describes the repatriation of Native American remains after Congress passed the Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act in 1990. “There are individual instances like this that are horrific and we need to pay attention to, but it is a symptom of this much larger problem.”

After Protests over Unauthorized Use of MOVE Child's Bones, U. of Pennsylvania & Princeton Apologize

Following protests, two Ivy League schools — the University of Pennsylvania and Princeton University — have issued apologies for their handling of the remains of an African American child killed by the Philadelphia police in the 1985 MOVE bombing. Students at Princeton held a protest on campus to support the demands of the MOVE community, who held another protest at the same time at the Penn Museum in Philadelphia, and 70 Princeton professors signed on to a letter published in the campus newspaper that called on the university to act. “This routinely happens where vulnerable people are exploited in the name of research,” says Aisha Tahir, a Princeton senior who helped organize a protest on campus. “Princeton does not have practices in place which center the preciousness of human life.”

"A Threshold Crossed": Israel Is Guilty of Apartheid, Human Rights Watch Says for First Time

A major new report by Human Rights Watch says for the first time that Israel is committing crimes of apartheid and persecution in the Occupied Palestinian Territories. The international human rights group says Israeli authorities dispossessed, confined and forcibly separated Palestinians. “For years, prominent voices have warned that apartheid lurked just around the corner. But it’s very clear that that threshold has been crossed,” says Omar Shakir, Israel and Palestine director at Human Rights Watch. “It’s time for the international community to recognize the reality on the ground for what it is — apartheid and persecution — and take the steps necessary to end a situation of this gravity.”

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