On Wednesday, 11 states sued the Obama administration over its recent directive requiring that public schools grant transgender students access to bathrooms and locker rooms consistent with their gender identity. Nine of the 11 states are run by Republican governors. The lawsuit alleges, "Defendants have conspired to turn workplaces and educational settings across the country into laboratories for a massive social experiment, flouting the democratic process, and running roughshod over commonsense policies protecting children and basic privacy rights." The Human Rights Campaign responded to the Texas-led lawsuit by calling it "a shameful attack on transgender youth across the state and the nation." The Texas-led lawsuit comes shortly after the Obama administration sued the state of North Carolina over the state’s anti-transgender law HB 2, that nullifies ordinances protecting LGBT people from discrimination and forces transgender people to use the bathroom that matches what they were assigned on their birth certificate. We speak to Chase Strangio, staff attorney at the ACLU.
Bill McKibben was just named by Bernie Sanders to serve on the platform committee at this year’s Democratic National Convention. He joins Sanders’ other four appointments: scholar and racial justice activist Cornel West; Native American activist Deborah Parker; Minnesota Congressmember Keith Ellison, who chairs the Congressional Progressive Caucus; and Palestinian rights activist and scholar James Zogby, who founded the Arab American Institute. We speak with 350.org co-founder Bill McKibben about how he’ll seek to translate his activism into Democratic Party platforms in Philadelphia in July.
On Wednesday, ExxonMobil shareholders rejected a series of resolutions calling for climate action. It was the first Exxon annual meeting since a series of revelations that for decades the company covered up its own scientific findings linking rising carbon emissions to dangerous climate change. For more, we’re joined by Bill McKibben, co-founder of 350.org. His recent piece for The Guardian is headlined "Let’s give up the climate change charade: Exxon won’t change its stripes." McKibben was once arrested in a one-person protest outside an Exxon gas station, where he was holding a sign that read: "This pump temporarily closed because ExxonMobil lied about climate."
At its annual meeting in Dallas, ExxonMobil shareholders rejected a series of resolutions Wednesday calling for climate action, including resolutions backed by CalPERS, the California Public Employees’ Retirement System, as well as New York state Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli and the Church of England. Shareholders did pass a measure to let minority shareholders nominate outsiders for seats on the board, raising the possibility that a climate activist could someday become a director at Exxon. It was the first Exxon annual meeting since a series of revelations that for decades the company covered up its own scientific findings linking rising carbon emissions to dangerous climate change. At the shareholders meeting, the granddaughter of a former Exxon scientist questioned the CEO of Exxon about the company’s record. We speak to the woman, Anna Kalinsky.
An internal government watchdog has concluded Hillary Clinton broke government rules by using a private email server without approval while she was secretary of state. That was the key finding of a long-awaited report by the State Department inspector general. The report concluded that Clinton would not have been allowed to use a private server in her home had she asked department officials in charge of information security, because it posed "significant security risks." This contradicts claims by Clinton that use of a home server was allowed and that no permission was needed. The report also criticized Clinton for not properly preserving emails she wrote and received on her personal account. According to the report, Clinton and eight of her deputies, including Cheryl Mills, Jake Sullivan and Huma Abedin, declined to be interviewed for the inspector general’s investigation. Clinton’s use of a private email server for State Department business is also the subject of an ongoing FBI investigation. We speak to journalist Michael Tracey.
In Peekskill, New York, just about an hour north of New York City, residents have launched a blockade in efforts to stop the construction of a gas pipeline slated to run only hundreds of feet from the aging Indian Point nuclear power plant. The proposed project has sparked concerns from residents and nuclear experts that a pipeline break could cause a catastrophic nuclear disaster that would threaten the entirety of New York City. The pipeline is being built by Spectra Energy and is officially known as the Algonquin Incremental Market Project, or AIM pipeline. Well, only hours ago, Peekskill residents and activists escalated the campaign to stop this pipeline’s construction by installing a fully sustainable shipping container at the entrance of Spectra’s work yard—complete with two activists living inside. Democracy Now! was there as the blockade was launched.
Today marks six weeks since nearly 40,000 Verizon workers went on strike along the East Coast, from Massachusetts to Virginia, marking one of the biggest U.S. strikes in years. The workers have been without a contract since August amid attempts by Verizon to cap pensions, cut benefits and outsource work to Mexico, the Philippines and the Dominican Republic. On Tuesday, Verizon CEO Lowell McAdam admitted the company’s second-quarter earnings may take a hit because the strike has resulted in the company falling behind on new internet and television installations. This comes as financial analysts are projecting the strike will cost Verizon $200 million in profits this year and a loss of $343 million in revenue in the second quarter alone. The Verizon strike is being organized by two unions: the Communications Workers of America and the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers. We speak to Verizon worker Pamela Galpern and Bob Master, assistant to the vice president of Communications Workers of America.
A key figure in Brazil’s interim government has resigned after explosive new transcripts revealed how he plotted to oust President Dilma Rousseff in order to end a corruption investigation that was targeting him. The transcripts, published by Brazil’s largest newspaper, Folha de São Paulo, document a conversation in March, just weeks before Brazil’s lower house voted in favor of impeaching President Rousseff. Romero Jucá, who was then a senator but became a planning minister after Rousseff’s ouster, was speaking with a former oil executive, Sérgio Machado. Both men had been targets of the so-called Car Wash investigation over money laundering and corruption at the state-controlled oil firm Petrobras. In the conversation, the men agree that ousting President Rousseff would be the only way to end the corruption probe. In the transcript, Jucá said, "We have to change the government so the bleeding is stopped." Machado then reportedly said, "The easiest solution is to put Michel in"—a reference to Vice President Michel Temer, who took power once Rousseff was suspended. We speak to Maria Luisa Mendonça, director of Brazil’s Network for Social Justice and Human Rights.
Students at Riverside High School in Durham, North Carolina, are gathering on Capitol Hill today to demand the release of their undocumented classmate, 19-year-old Wildin Acosta. Acosta was detained by immigration agents in January while he was on his way to class. He had no criminal record and was in his final semester of high school. Acosta’s family is from Olancho, Honduras, one of the most violent regions in a country with one of the highest murder rates in the world. Wildin was scheduled to be deported in March, but his teachers and peers gathered together, held vigils, lobbied their local representatives and took to social media. Wildin Acosta remains detained in Georgia’s notorious Stewart Detention Center. He is one of several teens in North Carolina sometimes referred to as the "NC6," who have been targeted by Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents as part of the Obama administration’s Operation Border Guardian. All this comes amid reports that ICE is launching a brand new month-long campaign of raids specifically aimed at rounding up and deporting undocumented Central American mothers and children. We’re joined from Washington, D.C., by Paromita Shah, the associate director of the National Immigration Project of the National Lawyers Guild, and Axel Herrera, a senior at Riverside High School in Durham, North Carolina, where Wildin Acosta was also a student.
We speak with Annie Bird about Hillary Clinton’s role as secretary of state during the 2009 coup that ousted Honduran President Manuel Zelaya. "There’s no other way to categorize what happened in 2009 other than a military coup with no legal basis," Bird says. "The U.S. was not willing to cut off assistance to Honduras, and that is the only reason it was not called a coup, a military coup. At the time, activists like Berta called for the assistance to be cut off, and today her children are calling for it to be cut off, because the U.S. assistance is actually adding fuel to the fire and stoking the economic interests of the people behind the coup."
Department of Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson has returned from a visit to Tegucigalpa, where he met with Honduran President Juan Orlando Hernández to discuss migration and security. Johnson’s visit comes as a growing number of activists in Honduras and in the United States are calling on the United States to stop funding the Honduran military, over accusations that state security forces have been involved in human rights violations, extrajudicial killings—and the murder of internationally renown environmentalist Berta Cáceres. Before her death, Berta and her organization COPINH was long the target of repression by elite Honduran security forces and paramilitary organizations. Earlier this month, four people were arrested in connection with her murder, including Army Major Mariano Díaz Chávez and Edilson Duarte Meza, who is reportedly a retired captain. Press accounts report Díaz Chávez graduated from the prestigious U.S. Ranger-supported Honduran special forces course TESON, raising questions about whether U.S.-trained troops were involved in carrying out Berta’s murder. We speak to Annie Bird, director of Rights & Ecology, a project of the Center for Political Ecology.
A Baltimore police officer has been acquitted on all charges for his role in the arrest of Freddie Gray, who died of spinal injuries last year after he was arrested and transported in a police van. Officer Edward Nero faced misdemeanor charges of second-degree assault, reckless endangerment and two counts of misconduct in office. Nero was one of six officers charged in Gray’s death. Judge Barry Williams handed down the verdict in a bench trial on Monday, ruling that "the state has not met its burden" to prove Nero’s guilt "beyond a reasonable doubt." The ruling was met with little surprise from the community in a case that many said was the state’s weakest. We speak with Gray family attorney Billy Murphy, who recently won a $6.4 million settlement from the city of Baltimore for the family of Freddie Gray, and Rev. Heber Brown III, pastor of Pleasant Hope Baptist Church and member of Baltimore United for Change.
Pentagon whistleblower John Crane talks about how the actions of his grandfather nearly a century ago helped give him courage to expose misdeeds at the Pentagon. "In the 1923 Beer Hall Putsch, Hitler tried to seize the whole Bavarian government. Hitler walked into the beer hall and fired a gun into the ceiling, saying that he was taking control. My grandfather stepped in front of him, saying, 'Mr. Hitler, this way he will never control Germany.' And then Hitler simply put his gun down, went to the front, captured the whole senior leadership. My grandfather then helped to have the actual countercoup established, put down Hitler’s uprising, and then he was a witness at the trial for the government that, of course, put him in jail."
Mark Hertsgaard broke the story of Pentagon whistleblower John Crane in his new book, "Bravehearts: Whistle-Blowing in the Age of Snowden." The book details how senior Pentagon officials may have broken the law to punish National Security Agency whistleblower Thomas Drake for leaking information about waste, mismanagement and surveillance. "I think that’s what’s important about John Crane’s story, is it puts the lie to what Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton are saying and have been saying about Edward Snowden from the beginning," Hertsgaard said.
In a Democracy Now! broadcast exclusive, we speak with a former senior Pentagon official about how his superiors broke the law to punish a key National Security Agency whistleblower for leaking information about waste, mismanagement and surveillance. His account sheds light on how and why Edward Snowden revealed how the government was spying on hundreds of millions of people around the world. John Crane worked 25 years for the Department of Defense Office of Inspector General, which helps federal employees expose abuse. He now says whistleblowers have little choice but to go outside the system, and is speaking out about what happened to NSA whistleblower Thomas Drake, who revealed the existence of a widespread illegal program of domestic surveillance. Crane describes how in December 2010 Drake’s lawyers filed a complaint with the inspector general alleging he had been punished in retaliation for his whistleblowing, and that the crimes Drake was later charged with were "based in part, or entirely," on information he provided to the Pentagon inspector general. Mark Hertsgaard recounts Crane’s story in his new book, "Bravehearts: Whistle-Blowing in the Age of Snowden," and shows how Drake’s persecution sent an unmistakable message to Edward Snowden: Raising concerns within the system meant he would be targeted next. Edward Snowden has responded to Crane’s revelations by calling for a complete overhaul of U.S. whistleblower protections. "To me, the main issue is: Can we have a workable system that lets whistleblowers follow their own principled dissent without having them destroyed in the process?" asks John Crane. We are also joined by Mark Hertsgaard.
We host a roundtable discussion in Toronto about how indigenous and Black Lives Matter activists in Canada are working together to address state violence and neglect, and media coverage of their efforts. Last month, First Nations people occupied the offices of Canada’s indigenous affairs department to demand action over suicides as well as water and housing crises in their communities. The protests came after the Cree community of Attawapiskat declared a state of emergency over attempted suicides. Protesters set up occupations inside and outside the offices of Indigenous and Northern Affairs Canada in Toronto, Regina, Winnipeg and Gatineau, Quebec. Among those who took part in the occupation of the office here in Toronto were local Black Lives Matter activists who just weeks earlier had launched a 15-day encampment outside police headquarters following news there would be no criminal charges for the police officer who fatally shot a South Sudanese refugee named Andrew Loku last July. Among those who turned out in force at the encampment outside Toronto police headquarters were First Nations activists. We are joined by Erica Violet Lee an indigenous rights activist with the Idle No More movement and a student at the University of Saskatchewan; Hayden King, an indigenous writer and lecturer at Carleton University’s School of Public Policy in Ottawa; LeRoi Newbold, a member of the steering committee for Black Lives Matter Toronto and director of the Black Lives Matter Toronto Freedom School Project; and Desmond Cole, a journalist and columnist for the Toronto Star and radio host on Newstalk 1010.
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