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Residents who live near areas of oil and natural gas fracking have long complained that the industry has poisoned their water with toxic chemicals. Now a new investigation is shedding light on another concern: air quality. The new report, "Fracking the Eagle Ford Shale: Big Oil & Bad Air on the Texas Prairie," is the result of an eight-month investigation by InsideClimate News, the Center for Public Integrity and The Weather Channel. We speak to David Hasemyer and Lisa Song, two of the reporters who worked on the investigation.
In a major victory for civil rights advocates, Arizona’s Republican Gov. Jan Brewer has vetoed a bill that would have allowed businesses to deny service to LGBT people in the name of religion. The bill was passed by both houses of the Arizona Legislature earlier this month and sparked outcry not only from human rights activists, but also from major corporations, and eventually even from some of the Republican lawmakers who voted for it. Delta, PetSmart, American Airlines Group, Marriott and Apple were among the many companies that urged Brewer to block the bill. The Arizona bill is similar to measures that have failed in other states. In another victory for LGBT rights advocates, on the same day as the Arizona veto, a federal judge in Texas declared that state’s same-sex marriage ban unconstitutional. We are joined by one of the country’s most well-known champions of gay rights: the legendary actor, author and activist, George Takei, best known for playing Hikaru Sulu on Star Trek. He recently wrote a scathing essay headlined "Razing Arizona," promising to boycott Arizona if Brewer had allowed the controversial anti-gay bill to pass into law. Takei also talks about his role as World War II veteran Sam Kimura in "Allegiance: A New American Musical." The musical tells the story of a Japanese-American family who is relocated from their farm after the attack on Pearl Harbor and placed in an internment camp in Wyoming. This parallels part of Takei’s own family history. At the age of five, his family was shipped to a Japanese-American internment camp in Rohwer, Arkansas.
We end today’s show with news that Japan has announced a major push to revive its nuclear energy program, just weeks before the third anniversary of the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear disaster. This comes just a week after it was revealed about 100 tons of highly radioactive water have leaked from one of the hundreds of storage tanks at the Fukushima nuclear power plant. Here in the United States, the Obama administration announced last week it approved $6.5 billion in loan guarantees to back construction of the country’s first new nuclear power plant in more than 30 years. This comes as a nuclear waste disposal site is set to reopen in New Mexico following an unexplained leak of radioactive material. We speak to Edwin Lyman and Susan Stranahan, co-authors of the new book, "Fukushima: The Story of a Nuclear Disaster."
In Mississippi, the city of Jackson is grieving today following the sudden death of Mayor Chokwe Lumumba, less than a year after he was elected. He suffered from heart failure on Tuesday. A longtime black nationalist organizer and attorney, Lumumba had been described as "America’s most revolutionary mayor." Working with the Malcolm X Grassroots Movement, Lumumba advocated for participatory democracy and the creation of new worker-run cooperatives in Jackson. Over the past four decades, Lumumba was deeply involved in numerous political and legal campaigns. As an attorney, his clients have included former Black Panther Assata Shakur and the late hip-hop artist Tupac Shakur. As a political organizer, Lumumba served for years as vice president of the Republic of New Afrika, an organization which advocated for "an independent predominantly black government" in the southeastern United States and reparations for slavery. He also helped found the National Black Human Rights Coalition and the Malcolm X Grassroots Movement. We air our June 2013 interview with the then-newly elected Jackson mayor and speak to several of his close associates.
A new documentary reveals how the Mississippi state government spied on civil rights activists in the 1950s and 1960s. A little-known state agency called the Mississippi Sovereignty Commission hired spies to infiltrate the civil rights movement and squash attempts to desegregate the state and register African Americans to vote. Some of the spies were themselves African American. The Commission generated more than 160,000 pages of reports, many of which were shared with local police departments whose officers belonged to the Ku Klux Klan. The film, "Spies of Mississippi," also looks at how some of those reports contributed to the 1964 deaths of Freedom Summer activists James Chaney, Andrew Goodman and Michael Schwerner, 50 years ago. For more, we speak with Jerry Mitchell, an investigative journalist for the Jackson Clarion-Ledger. He won the release of more than 2,400 pages of Commission records in 1989, and used those to reopen many cold cases from the civil rights era. His work helped lead to the 1994 conviction of the killer of Mississippi NAACP leader Medgar Evers, and paved the way for 23 more convictions. We are also joined by Dawn Porter, the award-winning producer and director of "Spies of Mississippi," which is now streaming online at PBS Independent Lens.
More details have come to light showing how the U.S. military infiltrated and spied on a community of antiwar activists in the state of Washington. Democracy Now! first broke this story in 2009 when it was revealed that an active member of Students for a Democratic Society and Port Militarization Resistance was actually an informant for the U.S. military. The man everyone knew as "John Jacob" was in fact John Towery, a member of the Force Protection Service at Fort Lewis. He also spied on the Industrial Workers of the World and Iraq Veterans Against the War. A newly made public email written by Towery reveals the Army informant was building a multi-agency spying apparatus. The email was sent from Towery using his military account to the FBI, as well as the police departments in Los Angeles, Portland, Eugene, Everett and Spokane. He wrote, "I thought it would be a good idea to develop a leftist/anarchist mini-group for intel sharing and distro." Meanwhile, evidence has also emerged that the Army informant attempted to entrap at least one peace activist, Glenn Crespo, by attempting to persuade him to purchase guns and learn to shoot. We speak to Crespo and his attorney Larry Hildes, who represents all the activists in the case.
Is the National Security Agency breaking into computers and tampering with unpublished manuscripts? Award-winning Guardian journalist Luke Harding says paragraphs of his writing mysteriously disappeared when he was working on his latest book, "The Snowden Files: The Inside Story of the World’s Most Wanted Man." "I wrote that Snowden’s revelations had damaged U.S. tech companies and their bottom line. Something odd happened," wrote Harding in The Guardian. "The paragraph I had just written began to self-delete. The cursor moved rapidly from the left, gobbling text. I watched my words vanish." Harding joins us to talk about the computer monitoring and other times he believes he was being tracked.
Ukraine is in a state of crisis two days after the country’s democratically elected president was ousted following months of street protests that left at least 82 people dead. On Saturday, Ukraine’s Parliament voted to remove President Viktor Yanukovych, a move Yanukovych described as a coup. Earlier today, Ukraine’s new leaders announced the ousted president was wanted for mass murder of peaceful protesters. Russia condemned the move to oust Yanukovych and recalled its ambassador to Ukraine. Meanwhile, Europe has embraced the new government. European Union foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton is traveling to Ukraine today to discuss measures to shore up Ukraine’s ailing economy. One of Yanukovych’s main rivals, former Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko, was released from custody. We speak to Timothy Snyder, professor of history at Yale University. His latest article for The New York Review of Books is "Fascism, Russia, and Ukraine." We also speak to University of Rhode Island professor Nicolai Petro, who is in Odessa, Ukraine.
A new exposé in The Nation magazine reveals that much of the lobbying money spent on shaping policy in Washington is going unreported. For the third straight year, the official amount spent by lobbyists has declined, and the number of registered lobbyists is the lowest its been in more than a decade. But these numbers are misleading, says reporter Lee Fang, author of the "The Shadow Lobbying Complex: On paper, influence peddling has declined. In reality, it has gone underground."
We speak with a University of California scientist Tyrone Hayes, who discovered a widely used herbicide may have harmful effects on the endocrine system. But when he tried to publish the results, the chemical’s manufacturer launched a campaign to discredit his work. Hayes was first hired in 1997 by a company, which later became agribusiness giant Syngenta, to study their product, Atrazine, a pesticide that is applied to more than half the corn crops in the United States, and widely used on golf courses and Christmas tree farms. When Hayes found results Syngenta did not expect — that Atrazine causes sexual abnormalities in frogs, and could cause the same problems for humans — it refused to allow him to publish his findings. A new article in The New Yorker magazine uses court documents from a class-action lawsuit against Syngenta to show how it sought to smear Hayes’ reputation and prevent the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency from banning the profitable chemical, which is already banned by the European Union.
Human Rights Watch has revealed as many as 12 civilians were killed in December when a U.S. drone targeted vehicles that were part of a wedding procession going towards the groom’s village outside the central Yemeni city of Rad’a. According to HRW, “some, if not all those killed and wounded were civilians” and not members of the armed group al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, as U.S. and Yemeni government officials initially claimed. The report concluded that the attack killed 12 men, between the ages of 20 and 65, and wounded 15 others. It cites accounts from survivors, relatives of the dead, local officials and news media reports. We speak to Human Rights Watch researcher Letta Tayler, who wrote the report, “A Wedding That Became a Funeral: U.S. Drone Attack on Marriage Procession in Yemen” and Jeremy Scahill, co-founder of the TheIntercept.org, a new digital magazine published by First Look Media. He is the producer and writer of the documentary film, "Dirty Wars: The World is a Battlefield," which is nominated for an Academy Award.
Eighteen years ago, on February 19, 1996, Democracy Now! aired for the first time. We began as a daily election-year show on Pacifica Radio and a handful of community radio stations. Democracy Now! was supposed to stay on the air for nine months. However, 18 years later, we are now a TV, radio and Internet news hour that millions of people worldwide rely on every day. We air a clip of that first episode before co-hosts Amy Goodman and Juan González are surprised with a birthday cake live on-air.
To celebrate our 18th birthday, we are asking our listeners and viewers to submit a photo or video that describes why Democracy Now! is important to you, starting with "I need Democracy Now! because…" Take a picture of yourself holding a sign or shoot a 30-second or shorter video telling us your name, where you live and why you tune in to Democracy Now! Click here to submit your photo or video. We’ll highlight our favorites online, live on air, or on our social media networks.
While the United States, Mexico and Canada held a major summit in Mexico on Wednesday, U.S. border policies are back in the spotlight after a U.S. Border Patrol agent shot and killed a man near San Diego, California, on Tuesday. Officials said the agent was pursuing a group of people suspected of crossing the border from Mexico. When a man threw a rock at him, the agent opened fire and killed him. The agent suffered minor injuries and declined hospital care. The Department of Homeland Security’s inspector general recently found U.S. border agents have been involved in 20 fatalities since 2010, eight of which — that’s nearly half — involved rock throwing. For more, we’re joined by John Carlos Frey, an investigative reporter who has long reported on immigration, and more recently on killings of migrants at the U.S.-Mexico border.
In Venezuela, at least six people have died in recent days during a series of anti-government protests. The latest casualty was a local beauty queen who died of a gunshot wound. The protests come less than a year after the death of Hugo Chávez and present the biggest challenge to Venezuela’s new president, Nicolás Maduro. Earlier this week, right-wing opposition leader Leopoldo López turned himself in to the National Guard after authorities issued a warrant for his arrest last week, accusing him of inciting deadly clashes. On Monday, Maduro ordered the expulsion of three U.S. consular officials while claiming the United States has sided with the opposition. Our guest, George Ciccariello-Maher, looks at the recent history of the U.S. role in Venezuela opposing both the Chávez and Maduro governments. He is author of "We Created Chávez: A People’s History of the Venezuelan Revolution" and teaches political science at Drexel University in Philadelphia.
A short-lived truce has broken down in Ukraine as street battles have erupted between anti-government protesters and police. Last night the country’s embattled president and the opposition leaders demanding his resignation called for a truce and negotiations to try to resolve Ukraine’s political crisis. But hours later, armed protesters attempted to retake Independence Square, sparking another day of deadly violence. At least 50 people have died since Tuesday in the bloodiest period of Ukraine’s 22-year post-Soviet history. While President Obama has vowed to "continue to engage all sides," a recently leaked audio recording between two top U.S. officials reveal the Obama administration has been secretly plotting with the opposition. We speak to Stephen Cohen, professor emeritus of Russian studies and politics at New York University and Princeton University. His most recent book, "Soviet Fates and Lost Alternatives: From Stalinism to the New Cold War," is out in paperback. His latest Nation article is "Distorting Russia: How the American Media Misrepresent Putin, Sochi and Ukraine."
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