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David Byrne on His Broadway Show "American Utopia," Talking Heads, Reasons to Be Cheerful & More
An hour with David Byrne, the celebrated musician, artist, writer, cycling enthusiast, filmmaker and now Broadway star. He has a new hit Broadway show called "American Utopia." The show grew out of Byrne's recent world tour, which the British music publication NME said "may just be the best live show of all time." Byrne talks about the production, his time in the groundbreaking band Talking Heads, his website Reasons to Be Cheerful, Greta Thunberg and more.
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.
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.
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.
Twenty years ago this week, tens of thousands of activists gathered in Seattle to shut down a ministerial meeting of the World Trade Organization. Grassroots organizers successfully blocked world leaders, government trade ministers and corporate executives from meeting to sign a global trade deal that many called deeply undemocratic, harmful to workers’ rights, the environment and Indigenous people globally. On November 30, 1999, activists formed a human chain around the Seattle convention center and shut down the city’s downtown. Police responded by firing tear gas and rubber bullets into the mostly peaceful crowd. The protests went on for five days and resulted in 600 arrests and in the eventual collapse of the talks, as well as the resignation of Seattle’s police chief. The protests were documented in the film “This is What Democracy Looks Like.” Democracy Now! was in the streets of Seattle 20 years ago. During one live broadcast we spoke to two leading critics of the WTO: Indian physicist and activist Vandana Shiva and Lori Wallach of Public Citizen, who join us on the show today.
This week marks the 20th anniversary of the historic protests in Seattle that shut down a meeting of the World Trade Organization, but it also marks the time when the first Independent Media Center came to life. Amid the clouds of tear gas, hundreds of volunteer reporters documented what unfolded. That week indymedia.org received 1.5 million visitors — more than CNN — and produced a daily video report and newspaper. It was the first node in a global citizen journalist movement. We speak with those who know the story best. Jill Friedberg is co-founder of the Seattle Independent Media Center and co-produced the Seattle WTO documentary “This is What Democracy Looks Like.” Rick Rowley is an Oscar-nominated filmmaker and independent journalist with Midnight Films, as well as co-producer of “This is What Democracy Looks Like.” Tish Stringer and Renée Feltz are co-organizers of the 20th Anniversary Indymedia Encuentro taking place this weekend at the Rice Media Center. Stringer is Film Program Manager at Rice University and author of a book on Indymedia: “Move! Guerilla Films, Collaborative Modes and the Tactics of Radical Media Making.” Feltz was at the Seattle WTO protests and helped found the Houston Independent Media Center. She’s a longtime Democracy Now! producer and reporter, including for The Indypendent, a newspaper that grew out of New York City Indymedia.
Human rights groups are condemning the Indian government for carrying out widespread torture, extrajudicial killings, arbitrary arrests and other crimes in Kashmir after the region's special status was revoked in August. We speak to the acclaimed Indian author Arundhati Roy about the crackdown in Kashmir, rising authoritarianism in India and other issues.
Twenty years ago, tens of thousands of activists gathered in Seattle to protest the World Trade Organization and stop executives from signing a global trade deal that many felt was harmful to environmental and workers’ rights. Indian scholar and environmental activist Vandana Shiva reflects on the WTO's threats to food sovereignty — stripping farmers of their autonomy through corporate seed patents. The WTO "has given control to the poison cartel over our seed and food." She also says the WTO has contributed to today's global wealth inequality, consolidating the power of billionaires. "Bill Gates … got rules written so he would not have to pay taxes in transport or transfer. Jeff Bezos shipping goods around and pay no taxes anywhere — these trillionaires are children of the WTO rules," Shiva says, arguing that the uprisings against neoliberal austerity all over the world today are a part of the legacy of the WTO protests. "The brutality and limitless greed of the handful of corporations and billionaires is now really reaching ecocidal and genocidal limits."
The British general election is just 10 days away and will have huge implications for the future of the country as voters choose between right-wing Conservative Party leader Boris Johnson or left-wing Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn. Despite Johnson's efforts to center Brexit as the leading issue in the next election, the Labour Party is focusing on social and economic plans. Corbyn recently unveiled an ambitious $100-billion plan to reinvigorate the public sector by investing in infrastructure, education and healthcare. If he succeeds, Corbyn's election could show that it is "possible to reverse all of the damage inflicted by the neoliberal system, its economic policies, it's wars." To learn more about the U.K. elections, we spoke with Tariq Ali, the acclaimed activist, filmmaker, author and editor of the New Left Review.
From Stockholm, Sweden, we’re covering the 40th Anniversary of the Right Livelihood Awards, widely known as the “Alternative Nobel Prize.” This year’s recipients include 16-year-old Swedish climate activist Greta Thunberg, whose school strike for climate started in Stockholm when she began standing outside the Parliament building every school day to demand bold climate action more than a year ago. Her act of resistance soon became a global movement, with millions of youth around the world leaving school and taking to the streets to demand swift action to halt the climate crisis. Greta has just arrived in Lisbon, Portugal, after a nearly three week-long boat journey across the Atlantic Ocean to participate in the 2019 United Nations Climate Change Conference, COP25, in Madrid, Spain. We speak with Ell Jarl, an 18-year-old climate activist with Fridays For Future Sweden and high school student who marched with Greta Thunberg in Stockholm. Along with other youth climate advocates, Ell will accept the Right Livelihood Award Wednesday on Greta’s behalf. Thunberg made landfall in Lisbon Tuesday, promising to ensure that young people have a seat at the table at the upcoming climate summit in Madrid. “We will continue to make sure within those walls, the voices of the people … especially from the global South — are being heard,” she says.
The Right Livelihood Award is marking its 40th anniversary. The award was established in 1980 to honor and support those “offering practical and exemplary answers to the most urgent challenges facing us.” It has since become known as the “Alternative Nobel Prize.” Over the past four decades, the award has been given to activists and grassroots leaders around the globe. A number of them have gone on to win the Nobel Peace Prize. This year’s winners are: Swedish climate activist Greta Thunberg; Sahrawi human rights leader Aminatou Haidar, who has challenged the Moroccan occupation of Western Sahara for decades; Chinese women’s rights lawyer Guo Jianmei; and Indigenous leader Davi Kopenawa and the Yanomami Hutukara Association, who fight for the Amazon’s biodiversity and the rights of Indigenous people in Brazil. In Stockholm, Sweden, we speak with Ole von Uexkuell, executive director of the Right Livelihood Foundation. He says the name of the award refers to “the idea of living lightly on the Earth, of not taking more than a fair share of the resources, and it means to bring change into the world through your practical actions.”
A damning United Nations report says that 7 million children are deprived of their liberty worldwide, subjected to various kinds of detentions from orphanages to prisons. "The Convention on the Rights of the Child is clear. It says deprivation of liberty for children should only be allowed as a measure of last resort," says lead author and human rights lawyer Manfred Nowak, who adds that "stopping immigration detention" ought to be a priority for governments — particularly the U.S. — in rectifying the problem, because child immigration detention "is never a measure of last resort." To date, the U.S. is the only U.N. member state that hasn't ratified the convention. Nowak, who is also the former Special Rapporteur on Torture for the U.N., recounts the legacy of U.S. human rights violations starting from the detention of migrant children at the southern border and stretching back to detention-related war crimes — including prisoner abuse at Abu Ghraib — committed under the Bush administration.
The Right Livelihood Awards celebrated their 40th anniversary Wednesday at the historic Cirkus Arena in Stockholm, Sweden, where more than a thousand people gathered to celebrate this year’s four laureates: Swedish climate activist Greta Thunberg; Chinese women’s rights lawyer Guo Jianmei, Brazilian indigenous leader Davi Kopenawa and the organization he co-founded, the Yanomami Hutukara Association; and Sahrawi human rights leader Aminatou Haidar, who has challenged the Moroccan occupation of Western Sahara for decades. The Right Livelihood Award is known as the “Alternative Nobel Prize.” Over the past four decades, it’s been given to grassroots leaders and activists around the globe — among them the world-famous NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden. At Wednesday’s gala, Amy Goodman interviewed Snowden in front of the award ceremony’s live audience via video link from Moscow, where he has lived in exile since leaking a trove of secret documents revealing the U.S. government’s had built an unprecedented mass surveillance system to spy on Americans and people around the world. After sharing the documents with reporters in 2013, Snowden was charged in the U.S. for violating the Espionage Act and other laws. As he attempted to flee from Hong Kong to Latin America, Snowden was stranded in Russia after the U.S. revoked his passport, and he has lived there ever since. Edward Snowden won the Right Livelihood Award in 2014, and accepted the award from Moscow.
We broadcast from Madrid, Spain, where the United Nations Climate Change Conference, known as COP25, began Monday and will continue through next week, as environmental leaders from around the world gather to negotiate global solutions to the climate crisis. Activists have converged on Madrid for the conference and are hosting an alternative summit of their own: Cumbre Social por el Clima — the Social Summit for the Climate. The alternative summit has been organized by social justice and environmental groups to draw attention to the ongoing political repression in Chile, corporate influence on the climate summit, Spain's own failure to address the climate crisis and the Eurocentrism of the climate conference. This is the third year in a row that the conference is being held in Europe. We speak with Tom Kucharz, one of the organizers of the alternative climate conference. He is a journalist and activist with the group Ecologists in Action.
This week, we’re broadcasting from the 2019 United Nations climate change conference in Madrid, otherwise known as COP25. The conference was originally intended to take place in Santiago, Chile, but was moved to Madrid after hikes in the subway fare sparked a wave of nationwide protests. The decision to relocate was a “strategic move” on the part of the government to shift focus away from the mounting anti-government demonstrations, says Chilean activist Angela Valenzuela. “Our president was not willing to listen to people and have an open dialogue,” she says. Valenzuela is an artist and a coordinator with Fridays for Future in Chile.
Indigenous leader Davi Kopenawa is one of this year’s Right Livelihood Award honorees, along with the organization he co-founded, Hutukara Yanomami Association. Kopenawa is a shaman of the Yanomami people, one of the largest Indigenous tribes in Brazil, who has dedicated his life to protecting his culture and protecting the Amazon rainforest. He says indigenous people in the Amazon are under threat from business interests as well as politicians, including far-right President Jair Bolsonaro, who has a long history of anti-indigenous statements and policies. “He doesn’t like Indigenous people. He does not want to let the Yanomami people to live at peace," says Kopenawa. "What he wants is to extract our wealth to send to other countries.” The Right Livelihood Award, established in 1980, is widely known as the "Alternative Nobel Prize" and honors those “offering practical and exemplary answers to the most urgent challenges facing us.”
Morocco has occupied Western Sahara — a small region just south of Morocco — since 1975. Thousands have been arrested, tortured and killed resisting the occupation, and the Sahrawi activist Aminatou Haidar — one of this year's Right Livelihood Award honorees — has been on the front lines of that resistance for the last three decades. "We are in the struggle. Nothing stops us," Haidar says of the women who have been peacefully organizing against the occupation in the face of rampant sexual violence. "The Sahrawi woman is seen as the spine of the resistance, the driving force of the struggle." In an interview with Amy Goodman, Haidar recounts her years as a political prisoner and reflects on the possibility for a peaceful resolution to the conflict. The United Nations recently dialed back its diplomatic involvement in the region, which Haidar warns could create the conditions for a younger generation of rebels to take up arms. "Young Sahrawi today do not believe in a peaceful struggle anymore. There are mines around them, there are terrorists all around them. We need to guarantee our rights," Haidar says. "That's the reason why I try to say loud that measures should be taken to avoid a new war."
We broadcast from Madrid, Spain, where the 25th United Nations climate conference is in its second week and representatives from almost 200 countries have gathered for the final days of negotiations. The summit — known as COP25, or conference of parties — has so far focused on meeting the 2015 Paris Agreement to limit global temperature rise to "well below 2 degrees Celsius," or 3.6 degrees Fahrenheit. But climate scientists say the talks are failing to produce the drastic measures necessary to address the climate crisis. Since the Paris Agreement four years ago, greenhouse gas emissions have risen by 4%, and this year's summit shows no sign of arresting that trend. On Friday, as hundreds of thousands prepared to take to the streets of Madrid in protest, Swedish climate activist Greta Thunberg told reporters that the global climate strikes have "not translated into action" by governments. Protesters then marched through Madrid's city center Friday night in a massive climate demonstration led by indigenous leaders and youth activists. Democracy Now! was there in the streets.
In Spain, the country's biggest fossil fuel polluters are also some of the most generous sponsors for this year's U.N. climate talks. On Saturday, we joined activists on a "toxic tour" of Madrid from the Madrid stock exchange to Santander Bank. Activists explained that when Spanish President Pedro Sánchez announced that Spain would host COP25, he went to IBEX 35 — the 35 biggest listed companies in the Spanish stock exchange — offering them a 90% tax break on a $2 million sponsorship. Advocates say that these same companies "have deep and dirty links to the fossil fuel industry." But midway through, the police shut down the tour, threatening fines of over 3,000 euros if the peaceful tour did not disperse. Climate justice campaigner for Friends of the Earth International Héctor de Prado says he was shocked and "ashamed" by police halting the tour and silencing activists. "It is not normal," he says.
This week, Democracy Now! is broadcasting from inside the United Nations Climate Change Conference in Madrid, Spain, where representatives from almost 200 countries have gathered to negotiate solutions to the climate crisis. Known as COP25 for “conference of parties,” the summit offers a rare opportunity for all countries, especially those on the frontlines of the climate crisis, to have an equal say in negotiations. It comes four years after the 2015 Paris Agreement to limit global temperature rise to “well below 2 degrees Celsius,” or 3.6 degrees Fahrenheit. But as the summit heads into its final days, representatives from the Global South say that the United States and other rich countries are obstructing the talks and trying to avoid their obligation to assist poorer countries already facing the worst effects of the climate crisis. We speak with Harjeet Singh, climate change specialist at ActionAid, and Asad Rehman, executive director of War on Want. He has worked on climate change issues for over a decade. “The U.S. is in all streams of discussions that are happening, be it finance, be it loss and damage,” he says. “They’re everywhere. And everywhere they are obstructing and not allowing any progress to happen.”
We get response from London-based Asad Rehman, executive director of War on Want, on two major news developments: The United Kingdom — which will head the COP next year — is set to vote Thursday in what some are calling “the climate election,” and the Washington Post has published a confidential trove of documents that reveal how senior U.S. officials have lied throughout the 18-year war in Afghanistan, the longest war in U.S. history, while hiding evidence the war had become unwinnable.
During Democracy Now!'s live broadcast from the United Nations climate summit in Madrid, Spain, a protest erupted inside the conference venue representing indigenous leaders and other climate advocates from all over the globe. Tom Goldtooth from the Indigenous Environmental Network, who was also participating in the protest, said that the protesters are concerned about the "corporate takeover" of the conference, and fear that the conference "has nothing to do with addressing global warming, climate change" and more to do with "trading mechanisms." Some of the world's biggest oil companies — including Shell, BP and Chevron — are present at COP25, and Endesa, Spain’s biggest corporate greenhouse gas polluter, is sponsoring the event. It's "nothing but a grab for CO2 colonialism," Goldtooth said.
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