The World Health Organization is warning that the number of new Ebola cases in West Africa is growing faster than relief workers can manage. The organization says that thousands are at risk of contracting the virus in the coming weeks and more medical professionals are urgently needed to help contain the outbreak. So far, Ebola has claimed some 2,400 lives and continues to ravage Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea. It is the worst outbreak since the virus was discovered in 1976. Meanwhile, Sierra Leone has lost a fourth doctor to Ebola after efforts to transfer her abroad for treatment failed. The loss is a major setback for the impoverished country, which is already suffering from a shortage of healthcare workers. Since the Ebola outbreak began, approximately 144 healthcare professionals have died while serving affected populations. We speak to Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Laurie Garrett, senior fellow for Global Health at the Council on Foreign Relations.
A new report finds many talking heads who have been fanning the flames of war in the news media have ties to Pentagon contractors. Reporting for The Nation, Lee Fang details how television analysts including retired generals Jack Keane and Anthony Zinni and former Department of Homeland Security official Frances Townsend have appeared on television recently, but their ties to military contractors were not disclosed. Fang writes many of these commentators "have skin in the game as paid directors and advisers to some of the largest military contractors in the world." Keane, for example, is a special adviser to Academi, the contractor formerly known as Blackwater, and a board member to military manufacturer General Dynamics. He is also a "venture partner" to SCP Partners, an investment firm that works with defense contractors.
An international summit on combating militants from the Islamic State has opened in France, bringing together around 30 countries from a U.S.-led coalition. The Obama administration says several Arab League countries have signed on for airstrikes in Iraq and Syria, but no sustained campaign is imminent. President Obama has already asserted he does not need approval from the Congress to expand U.S. airstrikes into Syria. On Friday, the Obama administration says it derives legal authority for the war on the Islamic State from both the 2001 war on terror resolution as well as the 2002 vote authorizing the Iraq War. The White House made the claim despite President Obama’s previous call for repealing the war authorization measures. On Saturday, video was posted online showing a member of the Islamic State beheading British aid worker David Haines, the third Western hostage to be beheaded by the militants in less than a month. In the video, the Islamic State issued death threats against another captive British aid worker, Alan Henning. We are joined by Phyllis Bennis, a fellow at the Institute for Policy Studies.
On July 20, at least 90 Palestinians and 13 Israeli soldiers were killed in the Gaza City neighborhood of Shejaiya. Days later, former Israeli soldier Eran Efrati was arrested by Israel after he posted details about the massacre based on interviews he conducted with Israeli soldiers who were there. Today he speaks out about what he learned and talks about the killing of 23-year-old Salem Khaleel Shamaly. Activists with the International Solidarity Movement posted a video on YouTube showing the fatal shooting of an unarmed Palestinian civilian during the massacre. Family members later stumbled onto the video and identified the man as Shamaly. In the video, Shamaly is seen lying on the ground, apparently wounded by an unseen sniper. As Shamaly tries to get to his feet, two more shots ring out, and he stops moving. Efrati interviewed three of the Israeli soldiers who witnessed the killing of Salem Khaleel Shamaly. His sources within the Israeli Defense Forces reportedly informed him soldiers were deliberately targeting civilians as "punishment" and "retribution" for the deaths of fellow soldiers in their units. Efrati is a former Israeli combat soldier turned anti-occupation activist and investigative researcher.
Click here to watch part 2 of the interview.
In his address on Wednesday night, President Obama invoked the memory of two American journalists, James Foley and Steven Sotloff, who were recently beheaded by the Islamic State, as he outlined his case for expanded military actions in Iraq and U.S. airstrikes against the group inside Syria. We speak to Academy Award-winning filmmaker Haskell Wexler, who worked with James Foley in 2012 in Chicago while he was making a film about protests against the NATO Summit. "For the President to use Jim’s name and other journalists as reason to pursue the stated military policy to 'degrade and destroy the Islamic State so that it is no longer a threat' is an insult to the memory of James Foley and to the intelligence of the American people," Wexler wrote this week. We speak to Wexler and hear James Foley in his own words, from a video interview he did with Wexler.
The Pentagon has announced it will soon start flying bombing missions out of the Kurdish region of northern Iraq as part of an expanded U.S.-led military campaign against militants from the Islamic State. But it remains unclear when the U.S. will begin launching airstrikes in Syria. According to McClatchy, President Obama has not yet authorized the U.S. Central Command to conduct offensive combat operations in Syria as many questions over U.S. strategy remain unresolved. To talk more about President Obama’s plans to expand U.S. military operations in Iraq and to bomb Syria, we are joined by one of the nation’s leading peace activists, Medea Benjamin, founder of CodePink which held a protest outside the White House on Wednesday during President Obama’s speech. She is the author of "Drone Warfare: Killing by Remote Control."
What would Dr. Martin Luther King do? As debate continues over U.S. plans to launch airstrikes in Syria, we look at the final year of King’s life when he became a fierce critic of U.S. foreign policy and the Vietnam War, calling his government "the greatest purveyor of violence in the world today." We speak to public TV and radio broadcaster Tavis Smiley, author of the new book, "Death of a King: The Real Story of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s Final Year."
President Obama has authorized U.S. airstrikes for the first time in Syria and their expansion in Iraq against the militant group Islamic State. In a prime-time address, Obama vowed to hunt down Islamic State militants "wherever they are." Obama also announced he is sending 475 more U.S. military troops to Iraq, bringing the total to 1,600. He also called for congressional support to arm and train the Syrian opposition. We get analysis of Obama’s speech and this latest U.S. military foray into the Middle East with two guests: Peter Galbraith, a former U.S. ambassador to Croatia who has worked on issues involving Iraq since the 1980s and a former adviser to the Kurdistan Regional Government; and Vijay Prashad, professor of international studies at Trinity College and author of several books. Prashad’s latest article is "What President Obama Should Not Do About ISIS."
We look at the growing movement for drug decriminalization that is moving ahead in the United States and being amplified by former heads of state from around the around. On Monday, Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter said he would sign a bill that would make Philadelphia the largest city in the country to decriminalize marijuana possession. Just two weeks ago, the City Council in Santa Fe voted to decriminalize marijuana. Earlier this year, District of Columbia Mayor Vincent Gray signed a bill to decriminalize possession of up to an ounce of marijuana in the U.S. capital. Ballot initiatives on legalization of marijuana will go before voters in Oregon, Florida and Alaska in November. This comes two years after voter initiatives in Colorado and Washington state legalized recreational marijuana. Meanwhile, a group of former presidents and United Nations leaders gathered in New York Tuesday to call for an end to the criminalization and incarceration of drug users. Known as the Global Commission on Drug Policy, the panel includes the former presidents of Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Mexico, Poland, Portugal and Switzerland. The commission first made headlines in 2011 when it declared the war on drugs to be a failure. We are joined by two guests: Michel Kazatchkine, a member of the Global Commission on Drug Policy and the United Nations’ special envoy on HIV/AIDS in Eastern Europe and Central Asia; and Ethan Nadelmann, founder and executive director of the Drug Policy Alliance. Watch Part 2 of this interview.
If your favorite website seems to load slowly today, take a closer look: You might be experiencing the Battle for the Net’s "Internet Slowdown," a global day of action. The Internet won’t actually be slowing down, but many sites are placing on their homepages animated "Loading" graphics , which organizers call "the proverbial 'spinning wheel of death,'" to symbolize what the Internet might soon look like. Large Internet service providers, or ISPs, like Comcast, Time Warner, AT&T and Verizon, are trying to change the rules that govern the Internet. Some of the biggest companies on the Internet — Netflix, Mozilla, Kickstarter, Etsy and WordPress — are joining today’s Internet Slowdown to draw attention to net neutrality, the principle that service providers shouldn’t be allowed to speed up, or slow down, loading times on certain websites, such as their competitors. This comes as 27 online advocacy groups sent a letter to Federal Communications Commission Chairman Tom Wheeler Tuesday, calling on him to participate in town hall-style public hearings on net neutrality before ruling on the issue as early as this year. We are joined by Tim Karr of the group Free Press, one of the main organizers of the Internet Slowdown global day of action.
Two climate activists were set to go on trial in Massachusetts on Monday for blocking the shipment of 40,000 tons of coal to the Brayton Point power plant, a 51-year-old facility that is one of the region’s largest contributors to greenhouse gases. But in a surprise move, a local prosecutor dropped the criminal charges and reduced three other charges to civil offenses, calling climate change one of the gravest crises our planet has ever faced. We are joined by the activists, Ken Ward and Jay O’Hara, and the prosecutor, Bristol County District Attorney Sam Sutter. Days after they were to square off in court, the three now say they plan to march together in the upcoming People’s Climate March in New York City.
In a surprise move, District Attorney Sam Sutter of Bristol, Massachusetts, has dropped criminal charges against two climate activists who were set to go on trial Monday for blocking a shipment of 40,000 tons of coal. In May 2013, Ken Ward and Jay O’Hara used their lobster boat to prevent a delivery of the coal to the Brayton Point Power Station in Somerset, Massachusetts. For their trial, Ward and O’Hara had planned to invoke the "necessity defense," arguing that their actions were justified by how the coal industry worsens the climate change that threatens our planet. In an unprecedented announcement, District Attorney Sutter all but adopted their reasoning and dropped the charges. "Climate change is one of the gravest crises our planet has ever faced," Sutter said outside the courthouse, explaining his decision. "In my humble opinion, the political leadership on this issue has been sorely lacking.”
Tune in to Democracy Now! on Wednesday for our interview with the two climate activists, Ken Ward and Jay O’Hara, and District Attorney Sam Sutter.
As the fall school term begins, an Illinois college campus is embroiled in one of the nation’s biggest academic freedom controversies in recent memory. The University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign has sparked an outcry over its withdrawal of a job offer to a professor critical of the Israeli government. Steven Salaita was due to start work at the university as a tenured professor in the American Indian Studies Program. But after posting a series of tweets harshly critical of this summer’s Israeli assault on Gaza, Salaita was told the offer was withdrawn. The school had come under pressure from donors, students, parents and alumni critical of Salaita’s views, with some threatening to withdraw financial support. Thousands of academics have signed petitions calling for Salaita’s reinstatement, and several lecturers have canceled appearances in protest. The American Association of University Professors has called the school’s actions "inimical to academic freedom and due process." A number of Urbana-Champaign departments have passed votes of no-confidence in the chancellor, Phyllis Wise. And today, Urbana-Champaign students will be holding a campus walkout and day of silence in support of Salaita. We are joined by two guests: Columbia University law professor Katherine Franke, who has canceled a lecture series at Urbana-Champaign in protest of Salaita’s unhiring; and Kristofer Petersen-Overton, a scholar who went through a similar incident in 2011 when Brooklyn College reversed a job offer after complaints about his Middle East views, only to reinstate it following a public outcry.
We turn to the sporting news that has put a new spotlight on domestic violence and its lax treatment by the country’s most popular sport. Baltimore Ravens star running back Ray Rice has been cut by his team and indefinitely suspended by the National Football League after a new video showed him punching his then-fiancée into unconsciousness. But the details of the case have been known for months after a previous video from a different angle showed Rice dragging the unconscious woman out of an elevator and dropping her face-first on the ground. The Baltimore Ravens had defended Rice, while the NFL’s first response in July was to suspend him for just two games. A massive public outcry led NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell to apologize and change the league’s domestic violence policy. Why did it take the NFL so long to act? What did the league and the Ravens know, and when did they know it? We are joined by Dave Zirin, sports columnist for The Nation magazine and host of Edge of Sports Radio on SiriusXM. "This is about a National Football League that treats violence against women as a public relations crisis, not as a crisis about the ways in which the violence of the game spills over into people’s families," Zirin says.
Even as tobacco companies are legally barred from selling cigarettes to children, they are reportedly profiting from child labor. Investigations by The New York Times and Human Rights Watch reveal hundreds, if not thousands, of children are working on tobacco farms in the United States. Many suffer from "green tobacco sickness," or nicotine poisoning, which can cause vomiting, dizziness and irregular heart rates, among other symptoms. Children are especially vulnerable to toxic pesticides since their bodies are still developing. Workers can absorb as much nicotine as if they were actually smoking simply by handling wet tobacco leaves. We speak with Steven Greenhouse, longtime labor and workplace reporter for The New York Times, who went to North Carolina to meet the young laborers. "I was shocked that a lot of these kids said, 'I work in the fields from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m.,'" Greenhouse says of the 60-hour weekly schedules the young workers commonly endure, often in grueling heat. Under U.S. law, tobacco farms can hire workers as young as 12 years old for unlimited hours, as long as it doesn’t conflict with their school attendance.
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