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tv   Democracy Now  LINKTV  April 17, 2015 8:00am-9:01am PDT

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04/17/15 04/17/15 [captioning made possible by democracy now!] amy: from pacifica, this is democracy now! >> i think of a very good idea of who they were. this was a group that was a government militia, people who were loyal to president bashar al-assad. they are shiites. they were talking openly about the rourke -- loyalty to the government, openly expressing their shia faith. they are trained by iranians revolutionary guards.
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their allies with hezbollah. amy: that was richard engel three years ago. now, two years after being kidnapped in syria, nbc news chief foreign correspondent richard engel reveals he was actually seized by militants tied to the u.s.-backed free syrian army, not shia militias tied to the asad government. did nbc knowingly cover up the truth? we'll speak to asad abu khalil who openly questioned nbcl's -- nbc's claim back in 2012. then to the house the herman built. >> what you see before you is a model built to scale of herman wallace is cell. he spent years in solitary confinement for a crime he could not have possibly committed in louisiana. 27 of those years were spent in the cell. amy: we will speak to artist jackie summell about "herman's house," her collaboration with former prisoner and black panther, herman wallace.
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and we will get an update on the case of glenn ford freed from death row after 30 years. he is now dying of cancer in hospice care. while exonerated, he has not been compensated. but first, in an act of mass civil disobedience, tens of thousands of new york parents rebelled this week against years of standardized testing from the politicians in albany. we will speak to a parent and school superintendent. all that and more, coming up. welcome to democracy now!,, the war and peace report. i'm amy goodman. republican and democratic lawmakers have reached a deal to give president obama fast-track authority for the secret transpacific partnership trade pact. senate finance committee leaders republican orrin hatch and democrat ron wyden negotiated the deal with republican congressmember paul ryan. it will allow obama to negotiate the 12-nation pact, then present it to congress for a yes-or-no
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vote, with no amendments allowed. in a statement, lori wallach of public citizen said the bill introduced thursday would -- "delegate away congress' constitutional trade authority and give blank-check powers to whomever may be president during the next three to six years for any agreements he or she may pursue. wallach continued -- saying it is a corporate trojan horse which would serve multinational firms while undermining health and environment regulations. to see our interview with lori wallach and congressmember alan grayson on the tpp, you can go to iraqi security forces battled militants the self-proclaimed islamic state thursday inside iraq's largest oil refinery. the united states has been conducting airstrikes in the area around the refinery. meanwhile, a top iraqi military official told the associated press, iraqi forces have managed to take control of an area south of the refinery come a securing the towns nearby.
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the fierce fighting came as iraqi prime minister abadi was in washington to meet with vice president joe biden. lighten pledged to seek strategic partnership with iraq. >> mr. prime minister, we stand with you and your government ready to help and unite iraq but you are a sovereign nation, a sovereign government, and we are here to offer what you may want. it is for you to decide. what we have to offer, whether it is a value. amy: in yemen, al-qaeda fighters have seized an airport, military base and oil export terminal as , they continue to gain ground in the country's south. the militants appear to be taking advantage of the country's descent into chaos, as shiite houthi rebels battle forces loyal to ousted president abed rabbo mansour hadi, and face saudi-led airstrikes. meanwhile, a u.n. spokesperson announced the u.n. special
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adviser on yemen is stepping down. >> the special advisor jamaal ben amar, has expressed an interest in moving on. the secretary-general greatly appreciates the tireless efforts he has made over the years to promote consensus and trust on a peaceful way forward in yemen. successor is expected to be named in due course. until that time, the u.n. will continue to spurn our efforts to relaunch the piece price us -- process in order to get the political transition back on track. amy: wikileaks has published a full searchable database of over 170,000 emails from sony pictures entertainment. the documents first came to light last year following a hack u.s. officials blamed on the north korean government. wikileaks says the full database shows a close relationship between sony and the obama administration, with nearly 100 u.s. government email addresses in the archive. the emails show sony executives reacting to wikileaks'
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publication of a leaked chapter of the secret trans-pacific partnership trade deal, and discussing an upcoming meeting with u.s. trade representative michael froman. the archive also shows close ties between sony and the rand corporation, a military thinktank whose board members include sony pictures entertainment ceo michael lynton. in the latest tragedy facing african migrants seeking passage to europe, italian police have arrested 15 migrants they say threw christians overboard in the mediterranean sea. authorities say the muslim migrants attacked christians from nigeria and ghana. the killings followed news of a shipwreck which killed another 41 migrants. president obama has signed the so-called "doc fix" law to overhaul how doctors receive payment under medicare, the federal health insurance program for seniors and people with disabilities. the bill averts a cut in doctors' pay, shifting to a structure aimed at rewarding doctors for quality of care, rather than the number of office visits. it also extends a children's healthcare program for another two years.
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but the measure cuts billions of dollars from medicare and increases insurance costs for higher-income seniors. the group physicians for a national health program has criticized the measure as a step toward republicans' goal of privatizing medicare. students at wesleyan university in connecticut have occupied the office of president michael roth to demand the university divest from fossil fuel companies, the prison industry and the israeli occupation of palestinian territories. the action marks the anniversary of president ross only -- own participation as a wesleyan student in 1978. their sit-in comes as students at harvard university continued toblock the entrance of an an administration building after president drew gilpin faust offered to meet with them on the condition they end their blockade. a 61-year-old mailman who flew a onto the lawn of the capitol in a call for campaign finance reform has been released pending federal charges. doug hughes could face up to four years in prison on charges
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of violating national defense air space and operating an unregistered aircraft. homeland security secretary jeh johnson said hughes literally flew below the radar, going undetected, before landing on the capitol lawn. at thursday's press briefing white house press secretary josh earnest was asked president obama's reaction to the protest. >> i was in on the trip, so i did not see his initial reaction. it might have been, what they gyrocopter? i know that was my reaction. beyond that, i don't know what his reaction was. amy: the 61-year-old mailman said he was trying to deliver hundreds of letters calling for campaign finance reform to members of congress. the vatican has ended a five-year takeover of the largest group of u.s. nuns two years early, marking an apparent move by pope francis to heal ties with the leadership conference of women religious. in 2012, under pope benedict vatican officials accused the nuns of promoting "radical
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feminist themes" and appointed three male bishops to oversee them, sparking popular protests. another investigation of u.s. nuns ended in december with the vatican praising the nuns' role. in spain, authorities detained former international monetary fund director rodrigo rato and searched his home as part of a probe into money laundering. rato is also under investigation for suspected fraud during his tenure as head of bankia, the spanish bank which received a taxpayer bailout. rato led the imf from 2004 to 2007, during a period when argentina was struggling to recover from a financial meltdown many believe was brought about by imf-led policies. argentine president cristina fernandez de kirchner responded to news of rato's detention. >> they just announced that former international monetary fund director general rato, who is the former economy minister and vice president performer
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spanish prime minister, was just attain for laundering money, in prison for laundering money. that is used to come and tell us how we had to direct and manage our economy. amy: in the latest sign of the revolving door between wall street and government regulators in the united states, former federal reserve chairman ben bernanke has taken a post as advisor to citadel, one of the country's largest hedge funds. bernanke ended an eight-year stint as fed chief last year. meanwhile, another financial regulator will reportedly become chief financial officer of hillary clinton's presidential campaign. bloomberg reports clinton will tap gary gensler, former chair of the commodity futures trading commission, and a leading figure . a u.s. judge has advanced a lawsuit over the 1973 murder of musician victor jara in chile. pedro pablo barrientos nunez now a u.s. citizen living in florida, has been accused of torturing murdering jara in the days after the u.s.-backed coup against democratically elected president salvador allende.
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the judge's decision allows a lawsuit brought by his family to move forward. amnesty international has released a new report detailing what it calls a "chilling crackdown on dissent" in the u.s.-backed gulf kingdom of bahrain. despite promises of reforms, amnesty reports rampant abuses including torture, arbitrary detention of human rights activists and excessive force against protesters have continued in bahrain, following a 2011 uprising against the sunni monarchy. the report comes just days before bahrain hosts the formula one grand prix auto race. bahrain is a close ally of the united states, home to the navy's fifth fleet. republican presidential candidate jeb bush has called on congress to confirm the red alledge as attorney general after her nomination has been stall for 160 days. her fate remains on hold as republican seat passage of an anti-trafficking bill, which contains an antiabortion component the democrats have objected to. as said thursday, "i think
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president have the right to pick their team [captioning made possible by democracy now!] in massachusetts, the parents of an eight-year-old roy killed by the boston marathon bombings have asked the federal government to drop its pursuit of the death penalty for bombing suspect dzhokhar tsarnaev. in an essay published in the "boston globe," bill and denise richard wrote -- "we believe that now is the time to turn the page, end the anguish, and look toward a better future -- for us, for boston, and for the country." a leading jewish studies scholar has cancelled a lecture at university of illinois urbana champaign over the ouster of professor steven salaita. the university withdrew a job offer to salaita last year after he posted tweets harshly critical of the israeli assault on gaza. todd samuel presner, director of the center for jewish studies at ucla, criticized university chancellor phyllis wise's insistence on "'civility'" as the dubious touchstone for all academic discourse, citing examples of "uncivil speech acts" by prophets in the hebew bible who condemned injustice, nationalism and war.
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and in new york city, protesters continued the fight against income inequality following wednesday's historic protests for a $15-an-hour minimum wage and the right to unionize. on thursday, activists marched to one57, a luxury building where a condominium recently sold for $100 million, becoming the most expensive single residence ever purchased in new york city. the protesters targeted bill ackman, billionaire founder and ceo of pershing square capital who owns a condo in the building, for profiting off investments in burger king and private prison firm corrections corporation of america. >> stakeholders in poverty wages. >> real estate investment. they are banking on the occupation of these prisons to return their investment, which means they are banking on black and brown men, women, and children think put into these facilities so they can make money. amy: the protest came as house
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republicans in washington have passed a measure to effectively deepen income inequality by providing a $269 million tax break to the wealthiest .2% of americans. the house voted along party lines to repeal the federal estate tax, which only applies to estates worth over $5.43 million. president obama would veto the measure if it cleared the senate. and those are some of the headlines. this is democracy now!, the war and peace report. i'm amy goodman with juan gonzalez. juan: welcome to all our listeners and viewers from around the country and around the world. in an act of mass civil disobedience, tens of thousands of parents in new york state had their children boycott the annual english language arts exam this week. at some upstate school districts, abstention levels reached 80%. protest organizers say at least 155 thousand pupils opted out, and that is with only half of school districts tallied so far.
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the action is seen as a significant challenge to the education agenda of governor andrew cuomo and to standardized testing nationwide. amy: more than a decade after the passage of no child left behind, educators, parents, and students nationwide are protesting the preponderant reliance on high-stakes standardized testing, saying its -- it gives undue importance to ambiguous data and compromises learning in favor of test prep. teachers unions have also raised concerns about linking students test results to teacher evaluation scores. in january, special education teacher jia lee from the earth school in new york city testified before the senate about why half of the parents at her school are opting out of high-stakes testing. >> last to come over 50% of the parents at our school refused to allow their children to take the new york state common core assessments. what we now know nationally as opting out. in new york state, at least
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these tests have change from year to year. the cut scores have changed, which makes them flawed. in invalid. when cats and educators have voiced concern, they have been accused of coddling. i want to challenge that assumption. the great crime focusing on testing is taken valuable resources away from programming, social studies, art and physical education, special education services and other programs. at my school, we no longer have a library and an hour can association works full-time for the arts and music that are no longer covered by our budget anymore. juan: earlier this month, new york approved a new state budget containing many controversial educational changes backed by governor andrew cuomo. these include revisions to teacher evaluations, new rules for the dismissal of teachers deemed ineffective and changes , to the process by which the state can shutter schools it deems failures. amy: well, for more, we're joined now by two guests. jack bierwirth is the superintendent of herricks
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public schools. toni smith-thompson, led the boycott against standardized testing at central park east 1 elementary school, where she's co-president of the parents association. she recently wrote a piece for people's world called, "gutting teacher tenure hurts the children." i want to welcome dr. bierwirth and toni smith-thompson. dr. bierwirth, you are the superintendent. you supported the opt out? >> legally, i can't, but i absolutely understand what the parents and teachers are upset about. i'm involved in a lot of thing statewide and we have expressed deep concerns about the tests that new york state has put together and also about the evaluation system of teachers and administrators. teachers ought to be evaluated printable talk to be evaluated kids ought to be assessed, that they're much better ways of doing both. juan: what are some of your main
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concerns? clearly, standardized testing has become a major battleground across the state and across the nation. what are your concerns as an educator and administrator about the quality and importance of these tests? >> and a parent. i have always -- people said isn't it terrible to teach tests? it isn't if what is being measured on the test is what parents and teachers want the kids to know. if you're teaching something that really assesses fairly and accurately the things that we want our kids, whether they are our students or our own kids, if it is measuring that, then there's no problem with teaching to the test. the problem is, the current assessments are unbelievably long and there are real questions about how valid they are. and given the time there given and when we get the results there are almost useless. juan: what about that, the gap in time? >> in new jersey, the tests were
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given in the end of february the beginning of march. in new york, they're being given in april -- three months before the end of the school year. parents and teachers don't get the results until the end of august. when i was a kid and when i first started teaching, you tested at the end of the year to see how well the kids were doing over the course of the year, and that was part of what you sat down with the teacher and discussed. how did the year go? how did your kids do a biology? how did your kids compare with the other kids were taking biology? but if you are testing in april and teachers are going to get scores based -- even assuming they were accurate -- there being measured on six months worth of their work in three months worth of the teacher of the prior year's work. amy: who writes these tests? and what about the actual quality of the test? what about those who say, the
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kids got to know this stuff? >> i think you could do a whole lot better. i think it is been demonstrated that you can create a whole lot better assessments. i think education ought to be headed toward online adaptive tests where it adjusts for the students confidence and you can do that -- confidence and you can do that in 45 minutes or an hour and have results as the kids are walking out. and have results that teachers can use, parents can use. i'm not going to name the name of the tests, but there are plenty out there. and there are plenty of other countries that have come up with much better assessments systems that teachers value and that parents value. juan: toni smith-thompson, your school isn't eased harlem. -- is in east harlem. as i said in my column on wednesday and again today is, this is an extraordinary act by
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so many parents. because every individual parent has to send a letter into the school saying, i want my child exempted. everyone has to take affirmative action. talk about what happened in your school. >> we had a number of students opt out for the past few years small numbers, so parents were already concerned about the test. the links of the test, the quality, they were not age-appropriate. this year with the addition of the high stakes attached to the teacher evaluations really took it over the top. kids started talking about, if i fail, my teacher will get fired. kids should not be put in that position. really some of the conversations were started by the kids having conversations in class about what it means to have knowledge and education of power. they started conversations about whether or not these tests would be valuable for them. the parents and teachers echo those conversations.
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and to really get the information out to parents. for most parents, one, we have information about what was in the test, the length of the test like eight hours plus test prep, it was a no-brainer. juan: what were were the result of your school? >> 80% opted out. amy: how old are your kids? >> fourth grade and kindergarten. amy: explain the response. presumably, kindergartners don't test? you never know these days. >> you never know. at the beginning of the year when testing was first test testing first came out my fourth grader asked if she would be taking the test and said she didn't want to. i left the decision to her. as more information began to unfold about these tests, which are very hard because they are so secretive, when it got to that point i decided, i'm just when a make a decision for you.
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this is not a decision i feel you are going to have to make on your own. you're just not going to take this test. she was totally fine with that. we were proactive in the school to have conversations with the kids so the kids were clear that it didn't mean anything for them and their peers that some of them were taking the test and some weren't. it didn't -- amy: do they just not go to school that day? >> no, they go to school. there were alternative activities. juan: i want to ask about the secrecy issue of these tests. i got a copy of the instructions of the new york city teachers received on giving the test. in my column today, i quote that teachers were warned not to "read, review, or duplicate the contents of secure teaching test materials before, during, or after administration." i've never heard of a teacher being told you can't read the very test she is administering. what about this issue of
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insisting on complete secrecy of the test? and not even releasing publicly some of the data that independent researchers could be able to assess the quality of the tests? >> the me go back for half a second if i could. there are a lot of parents who are having their kids take the test. that doesn't mean they're supporting the test. i hope as this unfolds that people, the powers that be understand that there is widespread dissatisfaction with the quality of what is going on in new york state, whether people are having their kids take the test or not. and now to your question, based on my roles, as far as i can see it, the basic problem is that new york state and other states are not investing the amount of money that they need to in the test to develop large banks of
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questions. and because they're not paying for the questions, they cannot release many because if they did, then they could not have other versions of the test. there's another assessment we use, for example, that has a huge databank of questions. one of the people who was the leaders of that organization told me that he could publicly release every single question and every single answer, and it would make no difference because with hundreds of thousands of questions, no kids -- there is no point in memorizing the test. heart of our problem is that we're doing this on the cheap. -- part of our problem is that we're doing this on the cheap. with a limited number of questions, you have to be secret about what you've got because you have to use those questions again. amy: earlier this week, the chancellor of the new york state board of regents, merryl tisch, appeared on the msnbc show "all in with chris hayes." she defended high-stakes testing. >> the intent of the test is to
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get a snapshot of performance and allow parents to know where their children are at any given point in their educational career as compared to their peers. if you talk about income inequality in this country income inequality is directly tied to the achievement gap for our poor students. those students, if they are not given access and opportunity to high-quality education, they simply cannot move along. amy: tisch went on to suggest school testing informs teachers how much students are progressing the same way doctors visits tell parents how much their child is growing. toni smith-thompson? >> i don't think that is an accurate comparison. when you go for a checkup at the doctor, number one doctors are not graded and fired based on how healthy patients are. i don't know.
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i'm not sure. i just don't think it is an accurate comparison at all. amy: can we go to news of what has taken place in atlanta georgia? former educators in atlanta have been given prison sentences of up to seven years for their roles in a massive cheating scandal at public schools. prosecutors say teachers were forced to modify incorrect answers, and students were even allowed to fix their responses during exams. twenty-one other defendants avoided trial with plea deals, but the nine sentenced to jail rejected sentencing agreements so they can appeal. it is said to be one of the largest school cheating scandals in u.s. history. donald bullock, an educator who reached a plea deal, apologized for his role. >> i do hereby sincerely apologize to students, my fellow staff members, parents as well as the greater much collagen atlanta community -- a triple in atlanta trinity for my
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participation resorting and cheating or other dysfunctional ask. amy: dr. bierwirth, you're the superintendent of schools. can you talk about what happened there? do you know the superintendent there? >> axa, i did. her mother and my mother went to the same church, although, we did not know that for a long time and followed our arrears. yes, i knew her very well. it is sad. as a country, we need to figure out how to make our schools better and how to improve instruction. as a number of really smart people have said, we're not going to fire our way to excellence and we're not beating up on kids, beating up on parents isn't going to improve the schools -- and reading up on kids, beating up on parents isn't going to improve the schools.
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it is now much clearer than it was 20 years ago. you don't get it by rating teachers as a 78 or 79, you do it by hiring really good people and putting a massive amount of effort into professional development. there are high-stakes, but the high-stakes should be fair ones that measure kids accurately. that reflect what parents and teachers want kids to know and be able to do. it is a system that people understood, the people value. it is a test that is given at the end of the year. it is not a students whole grade. it is 20% or 25% of a student's grade. it is what they did in papers but the test is important. it is high-stakes.
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but interestingly, you think of the results of that test usually within two or three days. not four months. not five months. juan: one of the interesting things that has surprised me is the expense of this, which the revolt of standardized testing has occurred, even more in the suburbs -- long island, the suburbs of rochester and buffalo. in school districts that formerly were not considered to have problems. in reality what has happened, in 2009, state tests in new york showed over 70% of all schools the kids were at proficient levels. suddenly, the test was -- the test was change the following years and the numbers drop to 57%. in the new curriculum and the purpose and she does for vincent -- the proficiency has dropped even further. now you're told the kids are failing. i think that is had an impact on these parents were paying high
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taxes in the suburbs. >> i will tell you my colleagues in smallrural school districts who did not express it at the beginning are now expensing it to a higher degree many of them, then we are in the suburbs. even if everything that the state is doing is 100% correct the doubt in the protest are indicative of a massive failure on the part of the state to persuade people that what they're doing is right. i don't accept the first part, but even if you did, shouldn't people take a step back and say we really done a terrible job explaining what we're doing and why it is important to them as teachers and two kids? it has gotten bigger each year the last several years. i think because people don't buy the explanations they are given. amy: how would you grade the obama administration on education?
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>> d. >> toni smith-thompson? >> i probably know less than you do, but i think the board of education is totally wrong. i would echo what you said that the impact of these test, i mean, the movement has gained traction this year but really the impact has been felt for years under no child left behind act and the school that has been disproportionally impacted are struggling schools, struggling students english and which learners,'s national needs, and schools that have been closed and are ready, other struggling schools. we talked about the achievement gap, these are things to think about. it is not just blame the teacher because -- amy: we will leave it there, but we're not going to leave the story there. we will continue to follow these protests in education in this country. i want to thank dr. jack bierwirth the superintendent of herricks public schools
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and toni smith-thompson who led the boycott against standardized testing at central park east 1 elementary school, where she's co-president of the parents association. we willing to your piece called "gutting teacher tenure hurts , the children." and juan your columns in "the daily news" on the subject. we will be back in a minute. ♪ [music break]
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amy: "teach your children well," richie havens, with a live version of the crosby stills and nash song. a shout out to the classes who come to watch democracy now! today, columbia teachers college and john jay college criminal justice. this is democracy now!, the war and peace report.
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i'm amy goodman with juan gonzalez. juan: nbc news is at the center of a new controversy, this time focused on its chief foreign correspondent richard engel. back in 2012, he and five other members of an nbc news team were kidnapped by armed gunmen in syria. they were held for five days. just after his release, engel spoke on nbc news about his captors. cork i think of a very good idea of who they were. this was a group known as -- this was a government militia, people who are loyal to president bashar al-assad, shiite. they were talking openly about their loyalty to the government, openly expressing their shia faith. they are trained by iranian revolutionary guard. they are allied with hezbollah. juan: that was nbc news chief foreign correspondent richard engel speaking after he was released in december 2012. well, earlier this week, a "new york times" investigation prompted engel to revise his
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story and reveal he was actually captured by sunni militants affiliated with the u.s.-backed free syrian army. an article published on wednesday, he said they had "put on an elaborate ruse to convince us they were shiite shabiha militiamen." according to "the times" investigation, nbc knew at the time that engel and the others were held on a chicken farm widely known to be controlled by a sunni criminal group. nbc was also informed of the identities of two sunni men possibly involved in the kidnapping. but the network and engel never relayed this information to the public and repeatedly claimed the kidnapping was done by shiite militants linked to syria president assad. amy: "the new york times" investigation also raised questions about engel's rescue. engel originally said he was rescued by sunni rebels after his captors accidentally drove into a checkpoint. in fact, the shiite rebel groups holding the nbc crew created a ruse to free them and blame the
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kidnapping on the assad regime. the sunni groups that were holding him blamed it on the assad regime. engel had also previously said two of his captors died during a gunfight at the checkpoint. the controversy over engel's kidnapping comes just three months after nbc suspended "nightly news" anchor brian williams after admitting that a story he told about coming under fire on a helicopter during the iraq war was not true. on thursday, journalist glenn greenwald described nbc news' conduct in the engel case to be more troubling than the brian williams scandal. greenwald wrote -- "[t]he nbc story was quite likely to fuel the simmering war cries in the west to attack (or at least aggressively intervene against) assad. that's a far more serious and far more consequential journalistic sin than a news reader puffing out his chest and pretending he's rambo." we are joined now by asad abu khalil is a professor of political science at california state university, stanislaus. he runs the angry arab news service blog. he expressed serious doubts about the circumstances
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surrounding engel's captivity and release when the story first broke in december 2012. so, let's begin with what has been revealed now and what you were saying, asad abukhalil back in at the end of 2012 after the newsman were released. >> i was early on skeptical, not only about the conditions in which he was supposedly released in a statement he made at the time, but i will whisk article about the entire enterprise of western journalistic coverage of syria, particularly, by american correspondents in the region. a lot of stuff is being told in transmitted that contradicts what is happening on the ground. the free syrian army, they were in fact attacking people like myself and others, who were saying [indiscernible]
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in reality, we knew at the time that what the so-called free syrian army is no more than a coterie of criminal gangs and thugs that were running amok throughout the area of the so-called liberated sections of syria, and they were engaged in sectarian kidnapping, ransom murder, indiscriminate shelling. and sometimes would kidnap people and sell them to other gangs and so on. there is also something clinical. -- political. there was a war lobby. the people hedging at the time in order to get the united states to intervene militarily on the side of these rebels along with saudi arabia, the same allies we now have the so-called war on yemen. at the time, the statements the richard engel may -- made, and i should mention there's a political story in a journalistic story. the questions to be raised not only about the credibility of mr. ingle, but also bad
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judgment. this is a correspondent, one of the few who's fluent in arabic. he can speak it fluently and understand it. yet upon his release coming he did a video in arabic in which he made fantastic claims. i watched it yesterday to my amazement. he admitted that in fact he may have lied when he said he witnessed at the time of his rescue dead bodies. now he is saying he didn't. if you watch the video he taped for the free syrian army benefit, he claimed he saw more dead bodies upon being captured. he also told the fantastic story about how these shiite militias when about to parts of your life but they could not find enough -- burn some be aleppo cannot find enough gasoline. amy: let let's go to richard engel and his groupon being released. they were describing how they were ambushed by a group of
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about 15 gunmen while traveling with syrian rebels and held for 5 days in captivity. he then described how they were freed. >> we were being moved to yet another location around 11:00 local time. as we were moving along the road, the kidnappers, cross a rebel checkpoint, something they hadn't expected. we were in the back of what would be described as a minivan. we were driving along the road and the kidnappers saw this checkpoint started a gunfight with it. two of the kidnappers were killed. we climbed out of the vehicle and the rebels took us. amy: that was richard engel describing what happened hours after the release in december 2012. as'ad abu khalil, that description and how much it has changed -- and nbc, they used all of the resources to try to
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free these men, these reporters. talk about who they communicated with to show how they knew who the forces were, were holding him. the story now is that it was both sunnis that held him and sunnis that then staged this release. but both of them saying, it was shia affiliated with assad. when you say shia, people think iran as well. >> not only that, richard engel upon his release when out of his way to invoke the names not only of has below, but he said it early in the program -- has below has below and he said earlier in the program. he said their demands were the release of four iranians in syria as well as to militiamen from the shia [indiscernible]
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he would say repeatedly, we knew because they told us. that word means thug. this is the name given to pro-. -assad and armed rebels. imagine somebody identifying himself as himself or herself as a thug. that is the story we are led to believe. plus there was the footage of actual ruse in which their hostages held. you look at this and suddenly you see [indiscernible] he said in the segment aired they were explicitly worshiping in a shiite manner. did he in any way question why that was the case? many of these western correspondents happening gauged
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in part of the war lobby propaganda effort to champion the cause of the free syrian army. the free syrian army not only kidnapped the journalist -- at the time, they were kidnapping innocent lebanese on the base of their sex. some of them they were selling and some they were exchanging. there are two to michigan bishops from aleppo that nobody talks about. they kidnapped nun. there's so much [indiscernible] to the point where nobody wanted to believe that there are cases of such dastardly acts. it seems to me, so the story has the political and journalistic levels. in most cases, richard engel's that ability has sunk very low. in my judgment, if you watch the video and the things he was saying -- also, let us mention he in fact [indiscernible]
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a group that is the bin laden-ite group, calling them the word in arabic coming rebels or revolutionary. he even take a propaganda video for their benefit as well does she even taped a propaganda video for the benefit as well. in no way my saying that richard engel was part of the plot -- he looked genuinely scared and relieved but he made statements that we now know cannot be true. amy: as'ad abu khalil, thank you for being with us professor of , political science at california state university, stanislaus. he runs the angry arab news service blog. we willing to your blog at -- we will link to your blog at stay with us.
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♪ [music break] amy: music from the film "hermans house," by ken myhr. this is democracy now!, the war and peace report. i'm amy goodman with juan
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gonzalez. juan: we end today's show with a collaboration between new orleans-based artist jackie summell and former prisoner and black panther, herman wallace. as we reported in october of 2013, wallace died just days after his conviction was overturned and he was released from nearly 42 years in solitary confinement. he was a member of the angola 3 who was convicted for the 1972 murder of a prison guard, but long maintained his innocence and said they were framed for their political activism. amy: the project wallace worked on with sumell began when she asked him, "what sort of house does a man who has lived in a 6-foot-by-9-foot cell for over 30 years dream of?" you can see his response in the exhibit called "#76759: , featuring the house that herman built." it opened this week at the brooklyn public library's main branch and includes a life-sized replica of wallace's prison cell, selections from his correspondence with sumell books from his reading list, and in the library's main lobby, a model of the dream house that he
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designed. last night jackie gave us a tour , of the installation. >> i am jackie sumell, really honored to take you through my exhibition at the brooklyn library called, "#76759: featuring the house that herman built." what you see before you is a model built to scale of herman wallace's cell. herman wallace spent 41 years in solitary confinement for a crime he could not have possibly committed in the state of louisiana. 27 of those years were spent in this cell. the cell is framed out to the dimensions that herman describes in his letter, which is framed behind the cell. so i re-created the cell based on his drawings. when you engage with the cell specially, it is six foot by nine foot by eight foot. i have drawn the individual elements inside the cell in the same way herman through the
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individual components and elements in his cell. so to the left inside the cell is the bed, the sink, toilet combo. above that, the mirror. there is a florescent light in the upper right corner. and these two drawings are the desk and bench. one of the things herman complained about was that they were designed to be uncomfortable analyst impossible to sit at, so you would sit at this excruciatingly low bench and your knees barely fit under this really small desk. there was no way to move it. so it actually took up a lot of really important real estate within the cell and it was the nonfunctioning. herman says he would often take the mattress off of his bed and use his bed as his desk so he would sit on the floor. so the only space he could actually walk is up the center channel here and from side to side.
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one of the things i think is super beautiful inside the library is that they have brought together for the first time 108 of the books that herman asked to be in his library in his dream home. there's george novak. he has a lot of stalin and marx and it is not necessarily that this is the thought he subscribed to, but he felt like it was important for him to understand marxist theory. of course, "the house that herman built." i asked, if you could only read one of the books on your library list, what would it be? he said, of course, "wretched of the earth." now we are looking at a model of the house that herman wallace designed over the course of our 12 year correspondence. so he has this very large bottom floor. the top floor is predominately
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his master bedroom and an house greenhouse. there is an escape chute with an underground tunnel that leads to the bunker. the swimming pool with the black panther and the center. and there's a guest house. one of the more remarkable moment in our exchange was that when he first described the guesthouse and i sent him drawings of what i understood he wanted, he said it was too small and guests might feel claustrophobic, so let's build the front out of glass. to give you a sense of scale inside that bathroom in the master bedroom, he asked yet a hot tub that was six foot by nine foot. the cell he was currently and was six foot by eight foot. there are letters in an envelope from our exchange. the first time in a letter from myself has been exhibited
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because herman had them all. after he passed, the prison sent them back to me. it is really beautiful, just the small details of how much i doodled on his envelopes and how much he doodled on mine was a testament to our friendship. it is a mixture of herman's drawings and my drawings and some of the communication that went back-and-forth. and then here you can see some of the renderings of the house that them became a model that then became a cad model, which is much more formal. the house is ready to be built as soon as we have funding. and these cases, a continuation of the letter exchange between herman and i. thousand included herman's obituary in "the new york times" and his final statement where he remained a servant of the people until his last breath. i think it is incredibly brave for the library to host the
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exhibition because it is controversial in and of its content, and it is also incredible conversation piece. so it is a really great honor for me to be amongst the process of this space. as libraries redefine their purpose in society, the less people are checking books out this library in particular has been really courageous and cold of any conversations around incarceration and examining the culture punishment in the united states. to kick it off with this exhibition, is an incredible honor for me and i think absolutely courageous on their part. amy: that was artist jackie sumell giving a tour of her show "#76759: featuring the house that herman built," at the brooklyn public library's main branch. a special thanks to elizabeth press. an updated version of jackie's book, "the house that herman built," is also being released, as the commission of the last member of the angola three, albert woodfox, has also
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been overturned, but he remains behind bars as the state is now appealing his case for the third time. jackie sumell joins us now for more. very quickly, when herman wallace was released back in october 2013 by federal judge jackson who told the warden, if he doesn't release him, he was dying -- she was dying of cancer -- he would jail the warden. that is when the endless came up to the present and they took them out three days later. -- and three days later, he would die. talk about this project you have engaged in to remember herman and to talk about solitary confinement and where albert woodfox presented this. >> thank you so much for having me. it is an incredible honor to be here. the project itself has shifted its storyline slightly, because for the 12 years i was collaborating with herman as a living, breathing being, it was about giving him voice, despite
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the systems continued prosecution to remove his voice. and now this project is more about his legacy, which was legacy to abolish the per tall -- prolonged use of solitary confinement in our correction system. so this is why we shifted the name and we call it, how to reduce it to numbers. the number one goal is to dehumanize our families and numbers -- juan: how did you get involved with herman and bill this collaboration over so many years? >> i met an amazing man named robert king had just been released after 29 years of solitary confinement 31 years of wrongful conviction in angola and he came to san francisco where i was a graduate student. he addressed the audience with such grace and said jesus and was at peace with where he was met but -- what is so phenomenal
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and changing the system i recognized i needed to learn something from this man. this was an incredible person. i just asked him what i could do any said, write my comrades. so i started writing both herman and albert. at which time herman got thrown into the dungeon, which is actually more punitive in solitary confinement in angola. he got thrown in the dungeon this time for possession of contraband, which was a pamphlet from a black panther forty-year reunion. i started to see his condition dilapidated through his handwriting, his lack of ability to hold onto a sentence. his imagination started to drown. i realize and needed to do something. amy: albert woodfox is still in prison, although his conviction is been overturned three times? >> isn't that amazing? over woodfox conviction has been overturned three times. the state of louisiana -- amy: solitary confinement for 40
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something years? >> april 17, which i believe is today, 40 years solitary confinement. he is in west louisiana care should prison jail. in solitary confinement. because the state continues to appeal and right now they're contesting bail. he has a bail hearing. he has an application for bail in front of the federal court. amy: we just have a minute and also want to get to glenn ford was sentenced to death for the murder of a man. he was released from jail after the state admitted new evidence proves he was not the killer. last week, i spoke to the lead prosecutor in ford's murder trial, marty stroud, who recently wrote a three-page letter in the "shreveport times" calling on the state to stop refusing to compensate ford, who now has stage four liver cancer. you're one of the hospice partners.
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marty stroud has gone to meet and apologize to glenn for directly? >> yeah, i mean, marty stroud has apologized. after 30 years of conviction in solitary confinement -- amy: and the state still refuses to compensate him? >> is completely underinsured, his medical care is accommodation of volunteers like myself who are incredibly honored to be able to serve and work with glen, and then basic care from the state. amy: jackie sumell, we willing to your exhibit at the library that has just opened. the book has just come out again, "herman's house." and frontline is doing a story on glenn ford' tonight. that does appear our broadcast. democracy now! is looking for feedback from people who appreciate the closed captioning. e-mail your comments to or mail them to democracy now! p.o. box 693 new york, new york 10013. [captioning made possible by democracy now!]
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