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Wednesday, December 11, 2013

  • ALEC’s "Institutional Corruption," From Backing Apartheid to Assault on Clean Energy, Public Sector

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    The secretive American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) has just ended a week-long meeting in Washington where corporate lobbyists worked with state lawmakers on model bills that will later be introduced in states nationwide. ALEC has reportedly drafted a number of new bills designed to prevent President Obama from cutting emissions, and to weaken state policies promoting clean energy. Now conservative groups across the United States are apparently planning a coordinated effort in six states to raise money for attacks on public sector rights and services in the key areas of education, healthcare, income tax and workers’ compensation. The proposals were coordinated by the ALEC-backed State Policy Network, an alliance of groups that act as incubators of conservative strategy at the state level. ALEC is struggling to re-enlist donors after an exodus prompted by its backing of Florida’s "Stand Your Ground" law. According to The Guardian, ALEC has lost nearly 400 state legislators from its network over the past two years and more than 60 major corporate donors. We discuss ALEC’s latest efforts, along with its historic opposition to divestment campaigns from apartheid South Africa, with Lisa Graves of the Center for Media and Democracy.

  • The Secret History of How Cuba Helped End Apartheid in South Africa

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    As the world focuses on Tuesday’s historic handshake between President Obama and Cuban President Raúl Castro, we look back at the pivotal role Cuba played in ending apartheid and why Castro was one of only five world leaders invited to speak at Nelson Mandela’s memorial. In the words of Mandela, the Cubans 'destroyed the myth of the invincibility of the white oppressor ... [and] inspired the fighting masses of South Africa.' Historian Piero Gleijeses argues that it was Cuba’s victory in Angola in 1988 that forced Pretoria to set Namibia free and helped break the back of apartheid South Africa. We speak to Gleijeses about his new book, "Visions of Freedom: Havana, Washington, Pretoria, and the Struggle for Southern Africa, 1976-1991," and play archival footage of Mandela meeting Fidel Castro in Cuba.

  • As Olympic Winter Games Near, Russian LGBT Activists Speak Out Against Anti-Gay Laws

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    With the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia, less than two months away, gay rights activists from around the world are using the games to put a spotlight on Russia’s new law criminalizing the so-called "promotion of homosexuality." The law allows Russian authorities to fine anyone accused of promoting "propaganda of nontraditional sexual relations among minors." One provision allows gay or pro-LGBT foreigners to be detained and then deported. We are joined by two prominent Russian LGBT activists: Anastasia Smirnova, coordinator of the Russian LGBT Network; and journalist Masha Gessen, who recently announced she is fleeing Russia due to the country’s repressive laws. Gessen is author of the book, "The Man Without a Face: The Rise and Rule of Vladimir Putin," and the forthcoming, "Words Will Break Cement: The Passion of Pussy Riot."

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